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Build Me To The Heavens

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1946 - Deanna

The party was dynamite, as usual, until some lecherous old geezer tried to put his hands around Deanna’s hips to “steady” her as she lined up to take her shot.

“Get off of me!” she protested, a little more stridently than she might ordinarily have done. Not only was he going to blow her play, but he was genuinely foul, and he stank of something sour and unpleasant. Not the sort of person old Mrs. Rimbauer usually had at the house, anyway.

He took a step back and held his arms up in surrender, but his face was ugly. “Calm down, sweetheart,” he told her. “Nobody’s trying to push you out of a window.”

It was a strange comment, and his face was so vicious that Deanna ended up ruining her shot anyway, scratching so badly that her cue nearly tore through the felt and the cue ball rolled off the table and fell to the floor with a clunk.

Rose Red was beautiful, not old enough to be in need of repair, and constructed in such a classic style that it would never look outdated. But the billiards room must have been built on a slope, or maybe Deanna had hit the table with even more force than she realized, or some joker’s steel-tipped boot had gotten in the way and given the escaped cue ball a little extra push. The ball went rolling across the heavy wood beams, narrowly missing several saves by partygoers who had imbibed a little more than they ought to have done.

“I’ll get it,” Deanna said, resigned. “It was my rotten shot, after all.” She flashed George Henley an impatient sort of smile, and no one stopped her as she stepped out into the hall, after the ball.

Compared to the crowded billiards room, the hall was cool and dark. The door closed behind Deanna without her quite realizing that she had pulled it shut, and the noise from the party faded immediately. A cool breeze passed over her face and bare arms, leaving goose pimples in its wake.

“I suppose there’s a window open, to cause the draft,” Deanna said to no one. By the soft yellow light of the wall sconces, she could only see a foot in either direction. The hallway spread out to her left and right, and there was no sign of the missing ball.

“Damn,” she said, still speaking aloud into the silence of Rose Red. She chose to go right, because the hallway almost seemed to angle south (if it angled at all, and if that was indeed south.) But she thought it was the way she had come, and she felt with her feet as she walked, stooping and peering around the baseboards underneath the lights where she might be able to spot something.

“I’m sure they have another cue ball,” she told herself. Really, there was no point in continuing to look for this one. During daylight, that was when it would be found. A few more hours of drinking and dancing, then sleep in one of Ellen Rimbauer’s downy guest beds until the sun came in through the window… And Mrs. Rimbauer certainly knew her well enough to put her in a room facing west, even if Deanna could hardly keep track of directions in this house.

She had almost persuaded herself to go back, to rejoin the laughter and the excess and, yes, the alcohol. She was in the very process of turning her heel when the hammering began.

It was no secret that Ellen Rimbauer kept up with the construction night and day, and yet Deanna had always thought that to be a figure of speech. After all, what sort of building could possibly be going on at this hour, on a cold January night? And yet the noise was unmistakable.

It was near to the billiards room, nearer than Deanna had thought any construction could be, and she knew, with a sudden certainty, that she wanted to see it. That meant continuing down the dimly lit hall, her right hand trailing along the paneled walls to steady herself as she walked.

She almost missed the staircase, pitching forward to catch herself on the railing at the last minute, and if she had decided to turn back, it would have happened then. But she righted herself and kept going, and at the bottom of the flight, she could see, there was a much more brightly lit foyer. The sound of hammering was growing louder to her ears, until she was at the base of the staircase and found herself facing only another flight of stairs, this one going up. Then the pounding went silent.

Deanna hesitated, cocking her head, until she heard the sound of a child’s scream. She had no choice then, and she hurried up the staircase, scared instantly sober. There were no children at Rose Red, she knew. There had been none for years. And yet Deanna couldn’t think who else could have given such a high-pitched, frantic cry.

She found herself, without really remembering how she got there, in a small room several stories up. The room was circular and cozy, like the top of a turret, and yet Deanna was certain she had never seen a turret at the house. A new addition, within the past year, maybe? Perhaps it was only visible from the courtyard and not the gate.

A black woman in a red turban was sitting in a rocking chair by the bay window, and she looked up at Deanna and smiled.

“Ah, Miss Petrie,” she said, the words only slightly accented. “You are expected.”

“I’m sorry, are you… one of the servants here?” Deanna guessed. She had never laid eyes on the woman before, of that she was certain, but she was accustomed to people recognizing her from her pictures, and it was entirely possible that old Mrs. Rimbauer had mentioned she would be staying the week.

“Something like that,” the woman said. “I am a friend of the house.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean…” Deanna started, fumbling over her words, but the woman didn’t seem to have taken offense.

“I am called Sukeena,” she said. “Miss Ellen and I, we are very close. And I know she would like you to help us build.”

“Build the house?” Deanna asked. She couldn’t recall being so taken aback in a conversation in years, not since she was fifteen and stepped off the bus in California and knew, knew she would dance her way to the top.

“Of course,” Sukeena told her, with a smile that said that Deanna might be just a little slow on the uptake. “Miss Ellen is a great admirer of your work, as are all of us here at Rose Red. Will you help us build?”

“I… of course,” Deanna said, with a nervous giggle.

The giggle was cut off before she had finished.

 

1917 – Rose Red

Rose Red had no understanding of loss. She understood protection, and the urge to hold on too tightly to whatever remained after a loss. She understood the need to build, to expand, to carve out a place in the world. A sacred place, she whispered to herself, that could never be defiled. And Rose Red understood love, for it was a love - fierce, protective, and yes, even sacred - that she had for Ellen Rimbauer.

April was special, right from the start. Although her mother cursed John and the African sickness for April’s withered arm, anyone with eyes could see how Ellen adored the girl.

Rose Red had eyes: windows not into her own soul, for she had no soul to call her own, but into Ellen’s.

Ellen was besotted by April, and one night she wished to herself that April could always be so charming, so light - untouched by the world of men and their cruelty. She wished that April would never leave the safety of her home.

And it was love - not jealousy, never jealousy - that inspired Rose Red to make Ellen’s wish a reality.

It was only coincidence that the action of taking April for her own (swallowing her up, secreting her away, sheltering her) ensured that Ellen Rimbauer would never leave Rose Red.

 

1921 – Sukeena

After the Rose Tower was completed, the stained glass finally put into the frame and the dust from the workmen's boots swept away, Sukeena knew it would be nearly impossible to persuade Ellen to come down. She was not wrong.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" Ellen asked, not turning away from the window as Sukeena ascended the stairs.

"Beautiful," Sukeena agreed. Nothing could be seen from the window, unless you pressed your nose right up to the glass, certainly not from where she was standing. But for all that it was a tower, Ellen had never wanted a view of anything outside that house.

That house, for that was how Sukeena thought of Rose Red these days. She was always watching them, testing them, finding them all lacking except for Ellen. And, so far, for Sukeena herself. But Sukeena was careful, and she shielded her thoughts as best she could.

"Do you think April will like it?" Ellen asked Sukeena. She turned then, giving a hopeful smile, and Sukeena found herself nodding in response.

"Oh yes, Miss Ellen. She will like it very much." And if April had still been in sight, they would have seen her, Sukeena was sure, having tea parties every afternoon in the tower room. A great girl of ten or no, the Rose Tower was every girl's dream. It had been furnished with a sense of the whimsical and delightful, with a rocker and a plush armchair in the nooks about the tower, a full-length mirror and a child-sized little table. The red cut glass cast a warm glow over the space, painting everything in shades of rose.

"And do you like it?" Ellen asked. She was like a child herself sometimes, so eager for praise. Praise for Rose Red.

"Of course I like it, Miss Ellen," Sukeena said. "It is... very beautiful. The house needed a rose." She realized the truth of the words as she spoke them.

"John thinks it's silly," Ellen said, her mouth setting in a frown. "I heard him talking with one of the maids. "'Now that the tower folly is done,' he said. The tower folly."

"If he cannot appreciate what is in front of his own eyes, what is that to you?" Sukeena asked. "You already knew it to be true."

"I did, didn't I?" Ellen asked. She gave a small sigh. "I suppose I've known since Africa." She crossed over to the rocking chair and sat down, still gazing at the stained glass rose.

"It is nothing to do with you," Sukeena reminded her. She came behind Ellen then, placing her hands on Ellen's shoulders. "There are so many other people who can see things for what they are."

"Like you," Ellen said. She reached one hand up and squeezed Sukeena's fingers in hers, and there was a world of emotion in the gesture. Only Sukeena and Rose Red knew what building the tower had cost her.

"Like me," Sukeena agreed. She leaned down then, and pressed a kiss to Ellen's temple.

Ellen twisted and looked at her then, really looked at her for the first time since the bricks had been laid for the tower. “Sukeena,” she said, her voice lowered with regret. “I’m afraid I’ve been so busy with the building….”

“You do not need to apologize to me,” Sukeena assured her, but Ellen was already rising to her feet, then clasping Sukeena in a warm embrace.

“What could I do without you?” Ellen murmured, as they held each other close.

“Everything,” Sukeena answered her quickly. “You could do – ”

But her words were cut off as Ellen kissed her lips. Sukeena’s head shouted and screamed at her to think of Rose Red, to think of who could hear them. But it had been too long since Ellen had looked at her, had touched her in the way that was unique to the two of them, and so she returned the kiss. She breathed deep into the scent of Ellen’s perfume, and felt the softness of Ellen’s lips.

“You should not rely so much on me,” she said softly, as she broke off the kiss.

“We won’t speak of it now,” Ellen answered, or didn’t answer. Her eyes flicked to the stairs, then back to meet Sukeena’s. “No one will bother us here. John hates the tower.”

It was an invitation, one Sukeena could not persuade herself to refuse, and the Rose Tower saw many of their trysts from that moment on.

 

1923 – Rose Red

John Rimbauer should never have followed Sukeena into the tower.

John Rimbauer had done many things, under Rose Red’s watchful eyes, that he should not have done. And Rose Red had taken action, though she remained powerless to kill Ellen’s husband. And death was what he deserved; indeed, death was too good for a man such as John Rimbauer. Rose Red would never take him into herself. It would have been akin to ingesting a poison, destroying all that she stood for. And yet he was the builder, and he was Ellen’s husband, and he could not be touched.

But the Rose Tower was sacred, to Rose Red, and to Ellen, and Sukeena, too, was sacred to Ellen. And John Rimbauer may have been the builder, but he was not sacred.

Rose Red never laid a finger on him. She didn’t have to.

 

1923 – John

John Rimbauer was a redblooded American male, even past fifty. He saw his continued virility, his thick head of hair and his healthy appetite as his birthright. What wasn’t his by birth - the house, the land, the money that came of timely entree into the oil business - he had rightfully earned. And with this power came certain privilege. Regardless of Ellen Rimbauer’s flights of fancy, her seances and her staircases to nowhere, her husband was still master of Rose Red.

It was with this understanding that John followed Sukeena up into the attic that winter’s morning. No one had any business in the attic, and fewer people still could have business in his wife’s tower.

In hindsight, John should have known it was too obvious a scenario. Ellen would never have sent Sukeena up to tidy or dust the Rose Tower. Sukeena, for all she was a paid companion to Ellen, was treated like a member of the family: some poorer cousin or a maiden aunt. Chores were beneath her, in Ellen’s eyes if not John’s. But at the time he saw an opportunity and took it, encouraged by the hint of seduction in the African’s smile as she realized he pursued her.

He ascended the stairs more slowly than she did, hampered by a growing tension in his left knee. Not so young as I used to be, he acknowledged ruefully, hearing the cracks in the bone as he bent and straightened. But he was young enough still for this.

John reached Sukeena in the middle of the tower room, and he took her in his arms without hesitation. She understood his meaning; oh, she understood it well, for her heart was pounding, and her breasts heaved. She met his eyes without blinking.

He kissed her without speaking, the assured kiss of a man who knows what he wants and what he is due. And she kissed him back, with full, soft lips, and he began to feel his blood grow hot. His fingers wrapped around her wrist, and he could feel her pulse through the pad of his thumb, beating quick and insistent.

From there, time seemed to accelerate, the moment between hearing a sound behind him and what happened after.

“I can explain,” he said hastily, turning abruptly to face his wife. It wasn’t the first time he had been caught in a damning position, and really, who could blame him?

Ellen could blame him, and would, but it was her own coldness that had driven him to it, time and again. Still he raised his voice, to tell her sharply that the woman had seduced him, but as he was finding the words, Sukeena’s mouth was on his again, hot and persuasive, and his body responded, leaving his mind empty and his defenses wide open.

He couldn’t have said for sure how they pushed him through the window, or even if it had been just the two of them, weak women that they were, without help of some kind. One moment he was standing there, caught between his head telling him to push Sukeena away and his body’s reaction to her closeness, and the next – had they placed their hands on his shoulders? Kicked his feet out from under him? He couldn’t say. But they managed it, somehow, and he tried to turn his head in midair to look back at them, but he was already descending far too rapidly.

He knew the fall would kill him as he went, and the certainty didn’t bring about terror so much as an abstract fascination, and the question of how he would land. It took an eternity and it took an instant. And even as he was falling, falling forever, the shards of glass all around him, and surely some of them had caught and cut him -

He tumbled in midair, cracking his skull against the lower roof as he went, and he could feel the skin giving way, flapping loose with the momentum. There was no pain yet, his senses overcome by shock and adrenaline.

He landed heavy, and it must have been on his back, because he felt his scalp flip over, and the blood ran down over his face, covering and clotting his open eyes, and then John Rimbauer saw no more.

 

1923 - Rose Red

Rose Red had not taken John Rimbauer, nor had any hand in his death, and yet, with the damnable tendency of the dead to do as they would, she could not wholly be rid of him. He never helped build - and why would he? - But from time to time he showed up and made a general nuisance of himself.

One thing Rose Red could do was to keep him away from Ellen, and this she did with diligence. The house was big enough for anyone to pass through it like ships in the night, particularly when one party was living and another dead. And then of course there was the third category of residents: those Rose Red had taken for her own.

 

1928 – Rose Red

The woman, once she realized what was happening, pursed her lips in anger, but she knew it was no use arguing with Rose Red.

“So,” she said, in her accented English, and her voice trembled with outrage. “You finally got what you wanted. Me out of the way, and Ellen to yourself.”

Rose Red said nothing. Houses need only to whisper to the living; for people like Sukeena, their consciousness now immutably linked to Rose Red herself, the answers were there for the taking.

“You think I am afraid of you?” Sukeena demanded. “You think I am just going to give in to you without a fight?”

Sukeena was not fearless. There were things that disturbed her: monstrous large snakes, men with wandering hands, and being separated from the only home she had left. But she was not afraid of the dark, she was not afraid of hard work, and she was not afraid of Rose Red. Contrary to what Sukeena seemed to believe, that made it easier. Rose Red was not a harsh mistress, but a force that aimed to persuade.

Sukeena looked at the hammer with undisguised contempt. “You’ve been building,” she said. “You and the other girls.”

Rose Red did not need to answer, to confirm what Sukeena already knew. But she answered anyway, after a fashion, spinning Sukeena to the perspective hallway, the room of illusions the woman had drawn up herself.

“She would love it so much,” Rose Red whispered then, “if you could build for her another room like this one.”

Sukeena belonged to Rose Red forever now, and Rose Red saw the images as soon as Sukeena herself did: of a library, circular, with mirrored floor and ceiling, so that everywhere you looked, it seemed the room went on forever. From the doorway, it would seem that you might fall down an endless rabbit hole of bookcases, that you might be falling forever.

Rose Red was not humorless, and the thought of an eternal fall gave her no small measure of satisfaction.

The construction began almost before Sukeena had finalized the idea in her mind.

 

1950 – Ellen

It happened more and more these days, that Ellen was becoming forgetful. She began down a corridor and was then quite certain she had meant to go another way, after all. She had never been lost inside Rose Red, but on occasion, she wondered whether she could be quite so forgetful as all that.

She was wearing her white dress, as she did every January 15th, and she had no small measure of pride that after forty-nine years and two children, she had never had it let out once. This would be her fourth year without a party, a celebration to call attention to herself and Rose Red and the dress, and she found that she rather missed them.

She missed Deanna, too, of course; that was why the parties had stopped to begin with. But one couldn’t mourn forever, and the house was beginning to feel dreadfully empty.

“Good evening, ma’am,” said the maid, a young girl whose name Ellen had forgotten as soon as she learned it. It wasn’t that she was too old and forgetful, at least in this case: it was more a matter of practicality. The new servants never stayed long at Rose Red. Some lasted a few months; others only days. Then they would make their excuses (paltry excuses indeed, more often than not) and the household would be left scrambling to find a replacement.

At least the serving girls vanished far less frequently, Ellen thought, ever since John - but no, that had been years ago now. She shook her head faintly, and found herself still standing in the corridor, the maid looking at her, waiting for a response.

“Good evening,” she said, and she drew herself up to her full height - now a little less than it had been in her youth, when she first walked through the doors and into Rose Red. “It was forty-nine years ago this very night that I moved into Rose Red, you know.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the girl answered. Ellen wondered whether she had already told the girl this, or whether news of the mistress’s eccentricities had spread throughout the staff, although she was fairly certain that only the groundskeeper had been with her a year ago today.

“Tell me, how do you like my home?” she asked.

“It’s beautiful, ma’am,” the girl said, a note of surprise in her voice, but Ellen knew she was being honest. Rose Red was the most beautiful house in all the world, and she would keep growing, and growing, and she would never be finished. Ellen was quite sure of that.

She bestowed a vague smile on the maid, then continued on her way to the small upstairs parlor, where she thought she might ring for a cup of tea.

But Ellen must have become turned around in this place, when the maid distracted her, of course, and she was no longer quite certain she was going in the right direction. She looked down at the floor, which should have been carpeted in rich Oriental rugs of red and gold, but was instead marble tiled, and when she looked back up, she found herself facing the health room.

Ellen had avoided the room since Sukeena’s disappearance, and she could no longer deny what was happening. She could have argued, she supposed, or she could have tried to turn and run - well, walk, as quickly as she was able, back in the direction of the small upstairs parlor. Instead, she asked Rose Red a question.

“Why me?” she asked. “I know what you’ve been doing, all these years. Looking out for me, protecting me. Keeping the people I loved close, even if I could no longer see them. Why me, and not John?”

And Ellen heard, distinctly, the house whisper back to her. “You named me," Rose Red said, and the words seemed to come from the walls themselves, in every direction. You named me. The voice, when it fell on Ellen’s ears, was her own.

“I named you,” Ellen repeated, and it was true. She had loved Rose Red from the moment she laid eyes on her, still half-constructed, not yet born from the brick and mortar, and she had seen what Rose Red could become, and she had seen it through. Was it really through?

“Is this it, then?” she asked. “Have we finished building?”

“We will never finish building,” Rose Red whispered back to her, and Ellen, with a wave of gladness and reassured belonging, saw the familiar shape of someone she had not seen in over twenty years, waiting for her, just behind the plants in the health room.

 

1972 – Liza

Although the Historical Society toured Rose Red annually, and many of the members whispered throughout the presentation and socialized more than observed, this was Liza Albert’s first visit to the mansion. At 62, she had only recently retired from the railroad and been able to join the Historical Society and Friends of the Library, and she was still reveling in the opportunities the organizations presented.

Rose Red was magnificent, and the projector slides with pictures and news stories from years past were genuinely fascinating. The phrase if these walls could talk could have been coined to describe Rose Red. Romantic engagements, movie stars, a dash of scandal and tragedy! Really, Liza thought, the house had seen everything in under fifty years.

Liza lagged behind as the group left the projection room (which would likely have become a home theater, the guide told them, if Mrs. Rimbauer had been able to continue construction through the 1950s.) Liza wasn’t yet friendly enough with any of the other women to feel comfortable joining in on their whispered conversations, all ducked heads and knowing smiles. She focused instead on the architecture and exquisite decor, although she returned a friendly smile from Dorothy Goodwin, who seemed to glance behind her every few rooms to make sure Liza was still with the group.

Perhaps it was this, more than anything else, that made Liza all the more determined to keep her own pace. Besides, there was simply so much to see that she could never have gotten it all done, and she might as well make the most of the time available to her. Mrs. Rimbauer - the original Mrs. Rimbauer, of course, not the daughter-in-law - had collected beautiful souvenir plates and spoons during her honeymoon, on display down one hallway. An enormous ballroom was done up in “classic Art Deco style,” the tour guide explained. It looked to Liza like the fashions of her own childhood.

The whole house was suffused with a quiet, even with the entire Historical Society tromping through the halls. It was the soft of muffled quiet one finds when a piece of machinery cuts off, on a warm summer afternoon, where the absence of sound almost becomes a sound itself. Liza wasn’t always much of one for quiet, but instead of shaking her head or snapping her fingers by her ear, she found herself relaxing into it. Sunlight streamed in through the long, narrow windows of the next series of rooms, and Liza closed her eyes briefly, almost basking in the moment.

She barely caught herself in time to follow the tour group upstairs, earning an encouraging, sympathetic smile from Dorothy Goodwin. But as the guide’s voice continued at the front of the party, describing “a typical afternoon among a family of the Rimbauers’ social status,” Something broke through the stillness all around the group. Just the smallest sound, like the clink of a teacup against a saucer, but unmistakably, a sound.

It came from behind a heavy wooden door, just slightly ajar, and with one cautious look to Dorothy Goodwin’s back, Liza pushed the door open and stepped forward into a small parlor.

Sure enough, a woman was sitting in a peach-colored chaise, stirring a silver spoon in a cup of tea.

“Hello, dear,” she said, when she saw Liza. “Are you lost?”

Liza froze for a moment. The woman was young, probably no more than half Liza’s age, with dark hair and a face that looked familiar in a way that Liza couldn’t quite place. She started with horrible embarrassment, color rising to her cheeks.

“I’m so - so sorry,” she stammered, quite taken aback. “You must be a member of the Rimbauer family?”

The woman smiled at her. “I married into it,” she confirmed.

“I didn’t realize the house was still occupied,” Liza apologized again, but the woman didn’t seem offended at having her tea interrupted.

“Oh, yes, I’ve been here since I married,” she said. “Though we seldom have visitors. Won’t you sit down and have a cup of tea?”

“I’m with the Historical Society… I should really be getting back,” Liza said, but it seemed the height of rudeness to dismiss herself, when she had already wandered into a room that was clearly not part of the tour, and she wasn’t entirely surprised when the woman - Mrs. Rimbauer - protested.

“Oh, they won’t miss you, dear,” she assured her. “Do have a seat with me, won’t you? There’s enough tea for two.”

Liza crossed the room and sat obediently in the chair matching Mrs. Rimbauer’s, on the other side of the small table, and allowed the woman to pour her a cup of tea. It was amber and steaming hot, and the china pattern was, suitably, a circle of red roses.

“Thank you,” she said, still somewhat embarrassed by her faux pas. She set her handbag down by her feet, and accepted the cup of tea.

“Do you take cream or sugar?” Mrs. Rimbauer asked her cordially.

“Oh, no, thank you,” Liza answered, because the table had no cream or sugar bowl in view, and she wouldn’t have wanted to put the woman to any further trouble. She held the teacup in her hands and wondered whether it was bad manners to cool a drink by blowing on it. She thought it might be, and so she twisted the cup in her hands, feeling the heat in her fingers.

“So,” Mrs. Rimbauer said, looking at her warmly. “You must tell me how you like my house.”

“Oh, it’s lovely,” Liza said with sincerity. “And all the furniture and decor from - your mother-in-law? Grandmother? Anyway, they’re perfect. You must love it here.”

“I loved it the moment I laid eyes on it,” Mrs. Rimbauer told her. The truth of the words rang in her voice, and Liza imagined for a moment what it must be like, to come from a family like the Rimbauers, with all their wealth and glamour. What a life young Mrs. Rimbauer would have ahead of her.

“It’s very kind of you to let the Historical Society tour the house,” she said. “It’s magnificent.”

“Oh, if you think so, then you must see the tower,” Mrs. Rimbauer told her. Her eyes glittered animatedly, and she brought her hands up to gesture. “The tower is everything to Rose Red. It wasn’t a part of the original structure, but it really has become the heart of the house.”

“I’m sure it’s lovely,” Liza agreed. She felt she must have used the word “lovely” more in five minutes than in the previous six months, but she was still finding it difficult to feel at ease, in this quiet room with a woman who treated her like a friend rather than a gawking tourist. “Is it a part of the tour?” she asked, belatedly.

“I’ll show it to you myself, when you’ve had your tea,” Mrs. Rimbauer promised. “It makes such a difference, having someone who really knows a house, don’t you agree?”

“Of course,” Liza said automatically, and she lifted her tea to her lips. It was still quite hot, and it must have steeped a little too long, for the taste was astringent and almost musty, but she swallowed half of it in one gulp, feeling it travel hot down her throat.

“Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, dear?” Mrs. Rimbauer asked. Her voice was becoming somehow fainter, fading in and out of the room’s quiet and stillness. A trick of the acoustics, Liza thought.

“There’s not much to tell,” she said. Her own voice was sounding a little distant now, too. “My name is Liza. Liza Albert. I’ve just retired after forty-five years working at the railway.”

As she spoke, she was unaware of the rushing sound that came up from below her chair.

Later, they would find Liza Albert’s purse, half-chewed and bloodstained. And that would be all that was left.

2001 – Epilogue

The consciousness that was Joyce Reardon lingered the longest at the window, watching the survivors with a sour expression. It wasn’t that she had ever been in love with Steve, but it still rankled and stung her pride to see him, on her very doorstep, with someone who had no ounce of her scientific vision.

The inhabitants of Rose Red had not overlooked the sign that had gone up on the building, stark against the red brick and creeping ivy. But somehow, they did not find it a concern. Monday morning, the wrecking ball would come in, crashing through the walls, demolishing columns. Steven Rimbauer had not even returned to the house to retrieve any precious heirlooms, of which there were many, and so those would be caught up in the rubble too.

On Monday morning, Rose Red would be razed to the ground. And on Monday night, Rose Red would begin rebuilding.