The Draik in Black: Pictures of Darkness - Part Five
Troy was prepared this time.
The Lupe stood in front of Jack's home while the sun was shining and the sounds of other pets going about their business could be heard in the distance. Even though he learned his lesson from last time and was going to explore in the daylight, he still brought his flashlight with him. It was a precautionary move, since he knew that the power was still out in Jack's house.
Still, even though the sun was shining high in the sky, Jack's house seemed like something out of a nightmare. It looked like it had become darker and more foreboding since the last time he had been here. There was still broken glass in the grass to the side of the abandoned Neohome from when he had been pushed out of the window. Troy was sure it was just a trick of the eyes, but it seemed like even the light of day was being blocked out by the darkness of Jack's abandoned home.
Then there was the issue of the masked men.
Not only would they be stalking him, but he knew at least two of them would be in there. Truthfully, he was surprised that he hadn't been jumped by them already. It might have been because it was daylight and there might be others watching, but they hadn't made a move yet.
Troy took a deep breath as he walked up to the abandoned house and tried the doorknob. It was unlocked. He kept his hand on the doorknob, however, not ready to open the door. Last time, the door was locked. That tiny voice in his head was screaming that this was a trap.
He shook his head and then looked behind him to check to see if anyone was watching. There wasn't anyone there.
"Stop it," Troy said to himself. "You're being paranoid."
He steadied himself again, turned the doorknob, and walked into the abandoned Neohome.
It had suddenly gone dark.
Troy was standing in the doorway of Jack's Neohome in the dead of night. The moon was shining through the windows as the darkness of night hung heavy around him.
"What?" Troy gasped out before he quickly brought a hand to his mouth to muffle himself.
This couldn't be right. He had made sure to come here today while it was daylight. How had it suddenly become night? All he did was step inside!
Troy looked behind him. Sure enough, it was black as pitch outside as well. He stepped out of Jack's Neohome and it was still night.
Troy gulped. Somehow, he had lost at least nine hours just by stepping inside the door. It was a very good thing that he had remembered his flashlight.
"Something is very wrong here," Troy thought as he stepped back inside the abandoned house and turned on the flashlight.
As he looked around the mess of the living room, his mind drifted back to what had happened last time he was here. What was starting to come to his mind, however, was the link between the pantry in the kitchen and the hall closet.
"Broken... cannot be fixed..." he muttered to himself.
The only explanation that Troy could think of was that whatever was breaking time and space in Jack's house was spreading. If the pantry was leading to the closet now, then other doors and entrances in Jack's home might be broken as well. Just by coming inside, he had lost time.
This was going to be much harder than he had suspected.
"Might as well start from the beginning..." he thought to himself as he walked through the living room, shining his light through the room to see where he was going.
The pictures on the wall were still marked out in some way. The sofa had been moved again, away from the base of the stairs. It was now flipped over and dragged several feet away. It was blocking the way to the dining room. The fluff from Ashton's armchair was still scattered about, but much more haphazardly than before.
Fortunately, Troy felt no need to return to the dining room in this search. If he was going to find anything, it would likely be back in the closet where he found the picture. Even though he knew the masked figures were stalking him, the Lupe still did his best to keep quiet. He tiptoed across the floor, doing his best to not make a sound.
Once Troy reached the hall closet from before, he slowly opened it. The Lupe peeked inside, hoping that the squeaking of the hinges wouldn't attract any attention. When the door was opened enough for him to flash his light into it, Troy looked about inside.
The mattress from before was gone. There was stuffing covering the floor of the closet instead. If Troy had to guess, he figured that one of the masked figures had ripped it to shreds and left it behind. The question was why?
He flashed his light along the walls like before. The picture of the faceless Draik's head was still there. Troy shuddered a bit. It felt like the drawing was looking at him.
"Maybe they left something..." Troy softly said to himself as he bent down and started to shift his paw through the stuffing that covered the floor.
After about a minute of searching, he hit something solid. Troy started to brush some of the stuffing off of it to see what it was.
It was a handmade doll. The style and design were similar to the ones he saw the pets who had taken Delina's class the other day had been making. It was made almost entirely in black cloth, with the exception of the face. The face of the doll was featureless and white. It was also clearly in the shape of a Draik.
Troy quickly dropped the doll back into the stuffing and went into a coughing fit again. His throat no longer hurt from when he had been struck there by the green masked figure, so he didn't know why he suddenly began coughing again. He did his best to keep it quiet, but he soon found that to be extremely difficult. It seemed like every cough was echoing through the abandoned Neohome.
Once his coughing fit passed, he noticed something else within the stuffing. His light was showing a hint of something black that had been under the offending doll. Troy brushed some more of the stuffing off of the mystery object.
It was a photograph of Jack and himself taken several years ago at Buzzer Park.
Troy gulped and turned the picture around.
"NO REST FOR THE WICKED" was scribbled on the back of it.
Troy read those words over and over. No rest for the wicked. Was that why they destroyed his mattress? Were the masked figures calling Jack wicked? Or were they saying that he was wicked? After all, he was in the photograph as well. Troy turned the photograph around again and shouted in surprise.
The Draik in Black was clearly visible in the background of the picture.
Troy's flashlight started to flicker as he broke into another coughing fit. He tossed the picture back into the stuffing before he closed the closet door. His flashlight stopped flickering soon after that and he started to recover from the coughs.
He started breathing deeply, looking at the door to the closet. Troy shook his head and decided not to open it again. That was clearly left behind for him.
"No rest for the wicked..." Troy said to himself, before he heard the sound of footsteps coming from upstairs.
He quickly turned to face the staircase, pointing his beam of light on the structure. He didn't see anyone on it. The sound of footsteps went silent as well. Troy kept his light focused on the staircase. After what felt like forever, he finally started to take a few steps forward, walking towards it.
He did stop to check behind him every few steps. By now, Troy thought he had figured out how these masked figures worked. One would be behind him while he investigated something and once they had him where they wanted, they would go on the attack. But, as he headed towards the staircase, every time he checked behind him, there was only more darkness.
They were changing their tactics, and that was making him nervous.
By the sound of the footsteps upstairs that one of them had made, they were in Jack's room. Troy took a deep breath and headed up the staircase. The steps were still creaking every time his foot fell upon them. Each time, the creaks felt like they echoed throughout the abandoned house, and the sounds continued until he reached the top of the steps.
Troy flashed his light across the upstairs areas. Marco's door was shut now, but the door to Jack's room was wide open. It was then that he noticed that more of the mattress stuffing from the closet was up here now. The stuffing led right into Jack's bedroom.
After last time, Troy didn't want to return to Jack's room. Not just because of what happened last time he was in there, but because of its condition. All the crazed and wild writing on the wall of his room just made his heart hurt. Yet, he was going to have to return inside to try and get to the bottom of all of this. He had to do it.
Troy steadied his nerves as he walked towards Jack's room. He was ready for the crazed words of terror and horror that were scrawled over his walls. It wasn't going to shock him this time. He stood outside the open door and took a deep breath once more before shining his light into the Zafara's bedroom.
It looked almost exactly as it had before. The walls were still covered in mad writings. The bed was still broken, but the ripped apart mattress from the closet was draped over it. The window was still shattered from when he had been pushed out. A chill wind was blowing through the broken window, making this room feel colder than the rest of the house.
The biggest change, however, was that a full-length mirror was in his room now. It couldn't have been Marco's, considering the Kyrii's mirror had been smashed. The masked figures must have moved Ashton's mirror into Jack's room.
Troy slowly walked into the room, shining his light across the walls. Aside from adding the destroyed mattress and the mirror, nothing else seemed to have changed from the last time he was here. Troy flashed his light across the mirror and noticed that it was marked in the same black ink that they had used on the pictures. The mark was in the form of an arrow. It was pointing towards Jack's bed.
Troy turned to shine his flashlight onto the ruined bed. He didn't see anything. Slowly, he began walking towards the broken bed, keeping his light focused on the area. Another chill gust blew through the broken window as he got closer. Once he was nearly upon it, he saw what the arrow wanted him to see.
There was another photograph, almost completely covered by the shredded mattress. Troy had to push the ruined furniture off of it to get a better look. It was backside-up. Like most of the pictures he had encountered so far, this one had writing on it as well.
Troy turned the picture over. It was a photograph of the yellow cloaked figure in the red mask.
Troy turned around quickly. Normally, this was a situation where the masked figures would be right behind him. But this time, his paranoia was misplaced. Just the darkness of Jack's room was behind him, along with more crazed writing on the walls.
"Follow me..." Troy muttered. "Yeah. Sure. If I knew where you were."
Troy shook his head. Still, out of all the masked figures so far, the yellow one was the only one who hadn't attacked him yet. It could be that he just hadn't gotten the chance yet. Or perhaps he was just waiting for the right moment. Now, they had done this to further his hunt for clues. It had to be a trap. But he didn't have any other option.
Troy gave a quick look through Jack's room one more time. Nothing else seemed out of the ordinary. The Lupe stopped for a moment to examine the mirror one more time. His reflection and the reflection of his light looked back at him. That wasn't all, however.
The faceless Draik was standing behind him.
Troy turned around quickly, his heart beating out of his chest.
Nothing. No one was behind him.
Troy's breathing was hard and fast as he turned back to the mirror. It was just his reflection looking back.
"I... must have imagined it..." Troy thought to himself. He was shaking in fear. "This has gotten me so stressed out that I'm surprised my fur hasn't turned white."
The Lupe started to cough again. His fit only lasted for a few seconds, but the sound echoed through the room. He stopped to catch his breath once it ended. It was more from the surprise of seeing the Draik in black than from the coughing fit, even if he had imagined it.
As Troy was recovering, he saw a sudden movement in the doorway. It was a flash of yellow that had gone by. Troy kept his light focused there for a moment, but it didn't appear again. He walked over to the doorway and examined the area nearby.
The yellow-clocked figure was moving silently down the stairs.
Troy didn't know how he was managing to move without making a sound like that. He also didn't know where he had come from. He could have been hiding in any number of places upstairs. One thing Troy did know was that he couldn't have been in the room with him.
The yellow cloaked figure reached the main floor and kept moving. He wasn't slowing down or stopping. Troy headed out of Jack's room to follow him.
Only to end up inside Marco's room.
The Lupe looked around for a moment before he remembered that the house was broken. The entryways and exits no longer led where he would expect them to go. The Kyrii's room was still a mess.
He didn't want to lose the masked figure though, and couldn't dwell on what was going on in Marco's room. Troy quickly went for the door only to stop when he saw something was written on this side of it.
"DON'T LOOK! OR IT TAKES YOU!"
If Troy was going to catch up to the masked figure, he didn't have time to ponder the message. He opened the door and headed back into the upstairs area, moving towards the stairs. As he was descending, he could see the very tip of the masked figure's cloak entering the hallway. Troy could see that he was going past the hall closet to the end of the hall.
Without looking back or missing a step, the red masked figure continued through the hallway before stopping at the door at the end of the hall. Silently, he opened the door and entered before closing it behind him, leaving Troy standing in the hallway. The Lupe went no further when he realized where the cloaked figure had gone.
It was the entrance to the basement.
If the outside of Jack's Neohome seemed like a sinister and foreboding place, then the door leading to the basement seemed like a living and waking nightmare. It was just a door, but for all of the horrors that were going on in this house, it seemed like going into the basement would only lead to the pit of the nightmare. This was where the yellow-cloaked figure wanted him to go.
Troy didn't know how long he stood in the hallway looking at the door. It seemed like just the very thought of it was filling him with dread. His mind was racing with all of the horrible things that could be waiting for him in there.
The Lupe closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths. If he was going to get any clues to where Jack was, then he was going to have to follow the yellow-cloaked figure and go into the basement. No matter what might be waiting for him in there, he had to go down there.
Troy took another deep breath and opened the basement door. He shined his flashlight into the darkness to help guide him as he went down the stairs. The wooden steps felt loose and wobbly under his feet. After not being looked at or maintained in over a year, it would seem like they were the first things in Jack's home to fall into disrepair. They didn't seem to be rotting, so while they might be loose, he wasn't in any risk of falling through them.
When Troy got to the bottom of the stairs, he took a moment to look around. The basement was mostly open. There were a few brown boxes pushed up against the walls and several pipes in the ceiling. There were no windows, so, aside from his flashlight; there was no light in the room.
What made Troy pause was that the yellow cloaked figure in the red mask was nowhere to be seen. None of the boxes were big enough for him to hide in, and looking under the basement stairs revealed nothing either. It was almost as if he had vanished once he had entered.
"What am I supposed to do now?" Troy muttered to himself.
He checked the walls for any sort of clues or writing that the figure might have left for him. There was nothing. Every second that Troy spent in the basement felt more like he had walked right into a trap. He wanted to curse at himself for falling for such an obvious trap.
Troy was about to leave and hope that he would be able to escape the basement, when his flashlight caught something he had missed. It was a mark on the floor, not on the wall. Someone had drawn the faceless Draik's image on the floor. From that image, an arrow was drawn as well, pointing to one of the stone bricks of the basement wall near the base of the steps.
Troy had been used to the writing being on the wall. He didn't even think to check the floor. The Lupe did his best to try and ignore the Draik image that had been drawn and went to the stone brick that the arrow was pointing to. Troy got onto his hands and knees and pushed at it, only to find that the stone was loose.
With the very tips of his paws, Troy was just able to get a grip on the loose stone. Inch by inch, he was able to slide the stone out of the wall. With every pull, the Lupe was able to get more of a grip on the stone to pull it out further. Finally, he had the stone removed from the wall and Troy shined his flashlight into the hole.
Someone had written that on the back of the hole where the stone had been. There was something else in the hole in the wall. It was a book of some kind. It was face-down, so Troy couldn't see what the title was. The Lupe reached into the hole and pulled out the book and turned it around.
It was a scrapbook. But the title had a black line through it. Someone had written "CAN YOU SEE IT?" on the cover instead. Troy looked at the book for a moment before opening it.
The first picture on the first page was a photograph of Jack and himself when they were younger. On the next page, it was more of the same. Troy flipped through it a bit more. Every picture on every page was of Jack and himself when they were younger. They seemed to go throughout the years from when they were children to the last time they were together. The final picture in the scrapbook was a group shot with himself and Jack, as well as Marco and Ashton. He remembered that they took that photo a week before they had gone on their vacation.
"What do I need to see?" Troy muttered to himself as he looked at the final picture. "And why say that these are lies?"
Troy's flashlight suddenly went out.
The Lupe froze for a moment before he grabbed the light and shook it. It was bad enough that he was in the basement of this place, but he wasn't going to be stuck in here without a light. Thankfully, it flickered back to life after about five seconds of shaking.
Troy sighed in relief before looking back at the scrapbook.
The Draik in Black was in the background of the picture.
Troy gasped in surprised and turned the page back. The Draik in Black was in that picture as well. The Lupe kept flipping backwards through the scrapbook.
"No. No. No. No. No! No! No! NO!" Troy said to himself, getting more frightened as he turned back the pages.
Each photograph going back to his childhood had the faceless Draik in it. Troy slammed the scrapbook closed and felt like he was going to cry. He didn't remember ever seeing him before in his entire life. How long had this Draik been following Jack? Or was the Draik following him and he just got Jack caught up in it? Were they both being stalked by him?
Troy's flashlight started to flicker as he started coughing again. He held onto the scrapbook in the darkness like it was a precious treasure as he hacked and wheezed. He tried shaking his flashlight again as he coughed, trying to get it working.
The Lupe sprung to his feet, still coughing and trying to get his breath back. He pushed his back to the wall to steady himself as he tried to feel his way back up the stairs, when his flashlight turned on again.
The Draik in Black was clearly illuminated by the beam of light, staring right at Troy.
Troy felt nauseous as he stared at the faceless Draik. His vision was starting to blur and his head started to spin.
"DON'T LOOK! OR IT TAKES YOU!"
The warning from the door in Marco's room screamed in his brain. Troy forced himself to look away from the Draik in Black. He started to fall over, landing back on his hands and knees on the steps. He kept moving; practically crawling up the stairs to get out of the basement. He didn't dare look behind him as he clawed his way up the wooden steps as fast as his body could carry him. He wasn't even sure which way was up. He just wanted to escape.
Somehow, he made it to the door and pulled it open. Troy was still clutching the scrapbook and his flashlight as he scrambled to his feet and started to run. He ran through the hallway, through the living room, and out the front door.
It was still night as he ran out of Jack's home. He didn't stop running until he reached his own house. He quickly locked the door behind him before going into every room, locking all of the doors and windows.
He didn't sleep at all that night.
It's been three days since I last went to Jack's house.
It's been three days since my encounter with the Draik in Black.
I haven't left my house or slept at all since then. I've been too scared. I haven't even looked through the scrapbook I found to see if there were any clues. I'm afraid that if I turn around, he'll be behind me.
I don't remember ever seeing him when I was younger. Yet, he was clearly visible in the background in all of them.
Why is this happening? What is going on?
I'm not sure I want to know anymore...
I'm wondering if this is why Jack said to not look for him. Maybe he knew. Maybe he found a way to escape.
I'm going to see if I can calm down enough to get some sleep. I still need to go through this scrapbook to see if there are any more clues.
I just hope I make it through the night.
Troy put his pen down as he finished that entry in his journal. At first, he was keeping it as a record of what he had done to try and find Jack.
Now it was starting to seem more like a record for someone to continue the search if he vanished like all the others.
Exhaustion was starting to take over. The Lupe occasionally bumped into the walls as he moved through his Neohome. He was going to make sure that all the doors and windows were locked before he even thought about going to sleep. He checked every handle and every doorknob twice before he was satisfied.
Once he was sure, Troy returned to his bedroom and climbed into his bed. Even though he was exhausted, he kept the light on in his bedroom as he fell asleep.
He didn't hear his front door unlock on its own...
To be continued...