Molars make excellent decorations, if only one knows how to arrange them. Esca, personally, liked to add them to the taxidermied heads of the years-dead deer which adorned her mansion’s walls. Nothing unsettled guests more than molars and Esca made it a point to keep her company on edge so as to soothe her own nerves. This very same tactic had served her well over the years, starting from the first time she attended a dinner party of a distant cousin from Curitiba, Brazil. She’d stuck a molar in his wine glass while he flirted with a young servant lad in the halls. Poor cousin of Curitiba. He thought the tooth was his own. Her bum was blue for a month. But the spectacle made it every bit worth the ginger seat-sitting she’d endured.
Esca drank drama for every meal of the day.
And always had a second helping for dessert.
Many years had passed since she caused a stir at her cousin’s dinners; now she lived alone and rarely bothered with the facade of dinner-time socialization. However, beside the remains of her evening tea sat a skull her brother brought her and it was drying, turned upside down, so the impromptu-dentistry would set before she displayed it at the corner of her desk. In her hands she held The Preditorium which she poured over with avid attention.
That is, until she was rudely interrupted.
Interruptions were irregular. Esca lived alone: without a servant, pet, or friend to interrupt the cacophony of old infrastructure. This house, oriented in a disposable block of a town called Este, had ample overgrowth to deter most pamphleteers and peddlers. Hardly ever did she hear from scouts or salesmen (except those salesmen who brought her molars and other assorted items like bread and finger cymbals). However, on this tenebrous evening—an evening when even the bats and the owls and the other creeping things of darkness had opted to stay in, preferring to go hungry one night longer rather than drag themselves out into the pounding rain of early Aprils—a tiny, tinkling, trembling noise tore Esca’s attention from her beloved Preditorium, the company of cooling tea, and the reek of tackish gluestuffs.
Glass broke beyond the parlor doors. Then, silence.
Sighing, Esca sat down her literature and unfolded herself from the warm embrace of her armchair. She stood herself up, throwing her arms over her head with a stretch and a suppressed yawn before letting her hands swing back into place by her sides. Her bones felt like a breeze of manure—musty and crusting; they were only lightly used. Esca tilted her ear, listening for further signs of intrusion in her home.
The bookshelf creaked mockingly.
“It’s not a big deal, Diggings” she snapped.
Her house, she spoke to it regularly. She called the house—it was more of a mansion, full of rooms where Esca stored excessive amounts of dust bunnies but little else—Diggings. The house hated the name. But plugged toilets were a small price to pay for her personal amusement. As if reading her thoughts, the pipes gurgled.
“Don’t be so sensitive,” Esca huffed.
Diggings grumbled like a disturbed cat.
“I could sit back down and let you settle it,” she threatened. “How do you like the sound of that, huh? I was getting to the meaty bits of my title.”
Except she wouldn’t ‘sit back down and let [Diggings] settle it.’ She was too much a spook to not explore her own mansion at midnight. So Esca snuffed out the candle, preferring to make her way by memory so as to not alert the glass-smasher of her approach. In the dark, she slunk towards the parlor doors. Her moppish hair tangled around her ears and throat in unkempt knots which she brushed away from her eyes; then, adjusted her shift so it sat square on her shoulders as she padded to the entryway. Behind her, the room illuminated with a strike of lightning followed by a snarl of thunder. At the racket, the timbers rattled a moment longer than they should have.
“Wuss,” she goaded.
The chandelier jangled in offense, but lacked conviction.
“Ridiculous,” Esca snorted. “You’re bigger than anything in you. And yet you call me (this word she emphasized by grabbing a broom) to steward for your splintered ass? Should have found yourself a carpenter, Diggings. I know I wasn’t the only one reading those adverts you put in the paper. Why pick a girl? I learned domestics from my mum, not repairs. Do you know how much it cost me to get someone in here to do up your shingles? You need a handyman. Maybe a widower so they won’t make as much a mess.”
The picture beside her swung, unprompted.
She caught it with a thumb and a finger.
“That’s vintage,” she said. “Don’t break what I have to buy or replace.”
With the picture back in its spot, she let herself out of the parlor. The whole house lit up with another bolt of lightning but this time the thunder mewled distantly. Esca’s shift swished around her kneecaps as she marched to the first flight of the staircase. Although the kitchen (and it’s mountain of unwashed dishwares) squatted on the left side corner of the first floor, it sounded as though the glass-splinterist’s symphony came from the library. The library lived upstairs. Directly over the parlor’s ceiling.
Currently, however, the library’s door was shut. Alas, she could not see inside. She’d have to open the door. Classic horror.
Gave herself goosebumps of excitement at the thought.
She stole up the final steps and put an ear to the door. From within she heard nothing but curtain-rustling and drafts. Sniffing, she smelled nothing of interest over her own unwashed odor. Not seeing, hearing, or smelling anyone, she stood back and shrugged.
“Guess there’s no one here,” she said.
The house shuddered.
“That’s for the best that there’s no one here,” she said with forced loudness.
Her voice raced laps around the hallways and lurched down into the main foyer with an intensity she rarely used. She only raised her voice to reprimand Diggings for its antics; it wasn’t as if she could leave this wimp of a hovel to its own devices. Without anyone knocking her her doors, she wasn’t about to willingly leave to knock on someone else’s. There wasn’t much to do in the microcosm of Este, anyhow. She wasn’t missing out on much except uncomfortable outfits and undesirable conversation.
“The house eats anything at two in the morning,” she advised no one in particular (since there was no one in the house). “Anything that’s not in my room, of course. Good thing there’s no one else in here or they’d be bed n’ breakfast. You see what I did there, Diggings. Get it? You see it’s a joke about… nevermind, you had to be there….”
The house creaked questioningly.
She set down the broom, itched her bum, and went to her room. With her trap laid, she nested herself between her pillows to wait while the rainstorm sang against her window panes. The clock in the foyer struck one and Esca heard the distant jiggle of a doorknob. She chuckled to herself as she realized the house had locked itself up for the evening.
“You’re a tease,” she told Diggings.
The floorboards wheezed with a woody chuckle.
Half an hour later, the doorknob to her own room jiggled. She’d taken up the novel on her bed desk. The story of Antoire and Finnidella’s escape from the clutches of certain doom became the creak of an oily hinge, jolting Esca to the present.
“You know it’s rude to interrupt,” she grumbled without looking up.
“I’ll kill you,” gritted a voice from the door.
It wasn’t a particularly intimidating voice, however. It didn’t make her fingertips tingle, and it lacked a certain level of grunge which one needed to truly incite terror into the spectator. Esca glanced in the direction of the door, hoping the vision might inspire something more chilling inside her. However, the shadows of the hallway clung to a figure of medium height and a build not worth mentioning.
It may or may not surprise the reader to know that Esca didn’t get skittish when spotting a shadow-clad figure in her doorway. It was because she had the unfortunate fortune that she’d never experienced any hardship to drive her to skittishness.
Esca rolled her eyes and in the book she read that Finnidella reached toward Antoire’s outstretched fingertips desperately, their eyes conveying what words could not as Tr’vold tightened the noose around their feeble attempts a—
“Are you listening?” demanded the glass-fragmentor, tearing the book from her hands.
They threw the book down on the mattress with an “umph” of dust but no lasting damage to the volume’s exquisite cover art. All the same, Esca huffed, crossing her arms over her chest. She sat up further against her pillows so that she was almost upright.
“I wasn’t,” Esca replied flatly to the question. “What did you say?”
Lightning outlined the shape of a knife and wild eyes. Esca felt a thrill of excitement and she clapped her hands together in one thunderous crack.
“Oh, you were being serious when you said you’d come to kill me?” she exclaimed. “How unexpected! Do I at least get to know the reason why? Is this a crime of passion? Or necessity? And what do you plan to do with the body? Did you know there’s a patch of protected flowers on my back porch? They’d make excellent coverage for whatever mound might crop up in the yard. It’s planting season, after all.”
The knife lowered. With their face obscured, Esca couldn’t make out the expression of her romance-interrupting guest. The lightning, when it wriggled its bright-winked fingers across the windowpane a second time, lit the outline of her intruder but not the facial features of the house’s surprise, nighttime guest.
“… Are you clinically insane?” the figure asked.