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The Landlady Continuation
As if on command, Billy’s vision darkened, and all at once his body lost tension. His head collided with the table with a loud thunk.
Ouch! Billy thought. He could see nothing but darkness. He tried to move what he sensed to be his fingers but to no avail. He couldn’t speak, but could faintly hear something rustling nearby. He could still taste the Landlady’s bitter tea on his tongue.
Am I dead? He thought, with a growing fret.
He racked his brain to try to understand what had just happened. Somehow, like a cloud had been lifted from his mind, he was able to think clearly again. What am I doing here?! He thought, Why would I ever trust this woman? All the alarms that should have gone off ages ago were finally making some noise in Billy’s head
“Oh, dear.” The Landlady uttered, wiping the spilled tea off of Billy’s polished shoes. She retrieved his fallen teacup from the floor and clicked her tongue as she saw the mess on the carpet.
Billy could hear the Landlady’s complaints, though they sounded quite muffled, like he was hearing through a brick wall. Billy took this as a sign to assure himself that he was not dead, but instead on some line between consciousness.
“Never mind that now,” she said, and she heaved Billy’s ragdoll body back onto the cushions, trying to arrange his limp arms into a dignified position. She examined the red lump that began forming on his forehead where he struck the table.
“Such a shame,” she sighed, “And you had such nice skin.” The landlady ran her fingers through his hair in an attempt to cover the bruise.
“That will have to do.” She tapped her chin with her pointer finger. “Now… how will I get you upstairs…” She continued to mutter to herself, and Billy could only make out a few words; something about a spell, and how she hated her forgetful brain.
After a few moments her face lit up with a realization. She then whisked her pale hand and with one swift movement, Billy’s unconscious body levitated. From her fingers erupted dark tendrils of smoke, long black snakes sailing through the air. They wrapped themselves snugly around Billy, securing him. They constricted his breathing, which only furthered his anxious state. Levitating in the air made his stomach ride several loops. He wanted to scream, yet no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t pry his lips open.
The Landlady started up the stairs, with Billy’s floating body trailing close behind, like a scared puppy at its owner’s heels. She climbed each step with caution, careful to steer the hovering boy around the walls to avoid any more injuries.
Billy’s mind was racing. He had no way of knowing where he was going or what the madwoman would do to him. His heart beat faster and faster as he kept recalling the mistakes that led him to this point.
He wondered how he could have been so ignorant. Five and sixpence a night! It was too good to be true, and he should have known that. Yet somehow, it had been like his instinctual intuition had been shut off.
Some official I would have made, he thought ruefully, Tricked by the first person I saw! And now, who knows what it will cost me.
They traveled up all three flights of stairs, before meeting a dark polished door. The Landlady reached her bony fingers out to the door handle. She pulled and the door let out a menacing creek. She stepped inside, checking to be certain that Billy was following.
The door opened to reveal a long, shadowy, hallway. The Landlady’s eyes took a moment to adjust before she could clearly see her galley. She flashed a cold smile.
“Hello my darlings,” she called out in a sickly-sweet singsong tone, “I’ve brought a new guest.” She spoke to the myriad of silent statues: her victims’ stuffed bodies.
They were arranged near the wall, the nearly one-hundred of them, so that there was a clearing for the woman to walk through.
The statues were all dressed in very proper clothing: suits, ties, and briefcases being almost mandatory. Of the handsome variety they were, for the Landlady was more than just a bit choosy and particular.
The men’s poses were fairly standard; some stood as if their picture would soon be taken, others were walking briskly with briefcase in hand, holding an expression that showed they had somewhere to be. The taxidermy made the men appear so alive that it was uncanny. It was almost like walking through a moment paused in time.
Billy, however, could not see this strange assortment of statues and therefore had no clue as to who the Landlady was speaking to.
She didn’t get a response, he worried. That can’t be good.
The typical poses started to fade out as the stroll through the corridor went on, however. The further the hall went, the more unsettling the atmosphere became. Not for the Landlady, of course, but to anyone in their right mind it was appalling. Even Billy felt more uneased then he already was.
The brisk business facades disappeared and were replaced by men frozen in horror, screams, and what seemed to be tears.
The Landlady hummed a pleasant tune and kept striding through the passage, stopping only once to adjust a shrieking boy’s hat. She was the only motion and sound in the large room; a fluttering crow in a silent forest.
Towards the end of the hall, the statues became absolute horror. Their limbs were contorted in all directions and their faces were frozen in agony. Some had collapsed to their knees, some were facing the walkway clearing with their arms outstretched, as if their malformed bodies would pounce on the next person who walked by. It was a ghastly sight indeed. If Billy was still able to see, he surely would have died of agony at the sight.
The gallery tour was abruptly brought to an end as the Landlady turned to a small door on the left side of the wall.
“Here we are,” she told Billy’s body, who was still floating lazily beside her. She entered the door into a large space.
The room reeked of leather and antiseptics. Billy felt sick to his stomach. The Landlady drew a long breath of the air and sighed happily.
The room had a large table in the center, the surface being a bit larger than the average human lying down. Propped against the back wall was a large wooden cabinet. The room had a lingering ambience of sorrow. Billy could sense it.
The Landlady carefully set Billy’s body onto the table, and threw open the large cabinet. It was lined with needles of every size, knives, bottles of chemicals, fake hair, spare clothes, and more. She spoke to him as she rummaged through its contents.
“I’m so glad you saw my sign,” she said to him, “I was beginning to worry my charm wouldn't work. I could sense you there, you nearly pulled away… Oh well, that doesn’t matter! You're here now, and you'll be here forever! That’s all that matters.” She paused for a moment. “Oh, and don’t worry, you won’t have to hear my voice for much longer if you’re still in there. Soon you’ll join Mr. Temple and Mr. Mulholland and the rest of my collection. Just wait for the tea’s effects to kick in.” And with that, she brought over a needle from her cabinet and placed it down eerily close to Billy.
Billy laid, unmoving on the table, feeling like he was about to vomit. She had bewitched him, and he had just let it happen! He hadn’t trusted his feelings of uneasiness, and now he was going to die here, becoming another forgotten name in the madwoman’s collection.
He wanted to scream, to cry; to do anything, but despite how much he tried, he could not. He felt dizzy, and nothing seemed real anymore. So he let the hopelessness sink in as he laid, waiting for it all to be over.
The Landlady went back for more supplies, and as she did so, she made a face like she could see something that was not really there. She reached for a bottle of arsenic.
A fly has landed.
She grabbed a large knife off of a low shelf.
The web has tightened.
She set both items down on the table.
The prey was in her clutches.
Her pale lips tightened into a horrid smile.
The Landlady’s spell had worked.
She quickly disappeared without a word. Billy could no longer hear her slow, raspy breathing. He wondered where, or more how she had gone.
He didn’t bother wondering for long though. Just as he had begun to think he might have a chance and escape, his panicked heart began to slow. He was hit with a tidal wave of dizziness.
The tea, he thought, What- what did she say about the tea…
Billy could no longer think straight. He tried to grasp onto what he had just been thinking, but it was like trying to remember a dream. His mind had become a sluggish mess.
Soon, all he could do was take slow, deep breaths, until even that became a challenge. He managed to draw in one last shaky breath.
Everything he perceived to be the world around him melted away.
And he was gone. A lifeless body laying on a taxidermy table.
Without missing a beat, the Landlady reappeared at her front door, just as the bell rang.
She opened it to see a dashing man wearing polished shoes and a gray overcoat. His dire expression told her he was in need of a place to stay.
“Hello, dear,” she said pleasantly, still smiling, “I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve been waiting for you.”