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Purgatory

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As the turquoise sedan jostled along the bumpy dirt road, Daisy peered out the passenger's seat window. "Are we there yet?" she chirped.

Rosalina, her roommate and temporary chauffeur, chuckled lightly. "We're almost there. It's only a 15-minute ride."

Daisy sighed, "I hope this is worth my time. I have homework, you know."

"Hey," The other girl answered, "Who was it who begged me to show her the place?"

"That was before I knew it would take so long to get there."

Rosalina gave a playful smirk. "15 minutes is long? Okay, so maybe it's more like 20 minutes at this speed. I don't dare drive any faster on this road. I don't want to ruin my car."

Daisy sat up suddenly when she spied a partially crumbled wall. "Hey, finally something other than trees! Is that part of the mansion's property?"

Rosalina smiled. "Yup. Wait for it…"

As Daisy continued to watch their surroundings, a small hill emerged slightly above the treescape. Perched on top was a very large, but dilapidated building. "Woah, it's huge! Hey stop the car! I want to get out and look!"

Rosalina obliged and parked her car along the crumbling wall. The pair exited the car and walked to the black iron gate embedded into the wall, gazing up at the old mansion.

Daisy turned to Rosalina and grinned, "Spooky."

Rosalina sighed a little. "Yeah, I guess. Seeing this old place makes me more sad than scared, though. Such a beautiful building with so many stories, left to decay. Even if most of those stories are pretty macabre." Rosalina heard a scuffling noise. "Daisy?" When she turned to look at her friend, she saw the younger girl hoisting herself over the wall. "Daisy!"

"What?" the freshman answered, struggling slightly as she climbed, "We come all this way just to look from a distance? I want to see what it's like up close and personal!"

"But we can't go inside! Didn't you see the 'No Trespassing' sign? We could get into trouble!"

"Oh, please," Daisy said dismissively, "No one's around to see us. And how can we really be trespassing when no one lives here? Wait in the car if you like. I'm going in!"

Rosalina sighed. "Wait for me," she said in a resigned way, knowing she couldn't stop her stubborn friend. "I can't let you go alone." With some effort, the tall blonde followed her shorter friend up and over the wall. The pair briskly made their way up the pathway to the entrance.

Daisy glanced over to the left side of the mansion. "Whoa, it even has its own graveyard! This place is legit! It's pretty overcast. Wouldn't it be awesome if a thunderstorm started?"

"No, we'd get wet," Rosalina answered flatly. "Does it feel colder all of the sudden? Daisy, I don't like this. Maybe we should go back."

"Oh, come on!" Daisy coaxed cheerfully, "Where's your sense of adventure? I can't believe you've lived here for two whole years without actually exploring this place!" She smirked. "Unless… you're afraid of the ghosts?"

"More like I'm afraid the building could collapse on top of us at any time," Rosalina said practically.

Daisy grinned again. "It's stayed standing this long. At any rate, I'm going in! Even if you drag me back to your car, I'll just come later in my own car."

"Alright, alright. Just a quick peek."

Daisy eagerly climbed the steps and tried the door handle. She happily cheered when she found the door unlocked. With Rosalina close behind her, she stepped into a foyer. While some light from outside leaked into the house, the room was still quite dim. "Dang it! Why didn't I think to bring a flashlight?"

"Actually, I think I have one in the car," Rosalina said.

"Nice try," countered Daisy.

"No, really, I do." Rosalina sighed again, "If you insist on being here, I guess we'd be safer actually seeing where we're going. I'll be right back."

"That's Rosie, all right. Always prepared," Daisy thought as she peered around the room. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could make out some of the environment. A grand staircase spanned the entire room, with steps on both sides leading to a second story landing. A large, foreboding doorway stood across from her, and she could see a cracked old mirror in the corner. Above her hung a large chandelier. She glanced to her left and saw a light switch. "Huh," she thought to herself, "One of the previous owners must have installed electricity at one point." She curiously flicked the switch, but she wasn't really surprised when nothing happened. It wasn't like anyone paid the electric bill around here.

Rosalina returned with her flashlight and shone it around the room, illuminating motes of dust. The foyer was pretty empty other than the mirror, but with the additional light they could now make out the stained and peeling wallpaper on the walls, marred in some spots with graffiti. Daisy grinned. "Well, should we get started?"

"If we must," answered her friend resignedly, "But we're not staying long enough for it to get dark outside."

"Oh, so you are afraid of ghosts," Daisy teased in a light tone as she made her way to the center doorway. Locked. "Dang it," she muttered. Perhaps she'd have better luck with the doors at the top of the stairs.

Rosalina reluctantly followed her as she began climbing to the top. "Okay, the way these stairs are creaking is definitely not making me feel any better about our survival rate."

Daisy chose not to answer her as she opened the center door. "Yes! It's unlocked!" she cheered. Let's do this!"

The girls entered and found themselves in a dark parlor. "Hmmm," said Rosalina, "Obviously there's been some looting and vandalism, but I'm honestly surprised that there hasn't been more. Some of this furniture and artwork could really be worth a lot."

"The ghosts must have scared off any looters before they could get too far," Daisy grinned as she helped herself to a worn out, maroon velvet armchair. A sizable cloud of dust billowed around her as she sat, causing her to cough a little. The dust didn't seem to faze her much, however, and she smiled up eagerly at her friend, like a child expecting a treat. "Alright, Rosie," she said, "fill me in on some of those macabre stories you mentioned earlier."

Rosalina claimed the other chair in the room, which was placed close to Daisy's, sitting more carefully so she wouldn't find herself coughing in a dust cloud. "Okay. What stories have you heard so far about this place?"

"None!" answered Daisy, "I only just found out that this place exists today, and that it's supposed to be seriously haunted."

Rosalina allowed herself a smile. She had begun to enjoy herself a little, in spite of herself. Of course, she would never admit this to Daisy. "Okay, I'll tell you all I know about this place, but I warn you. It's not for the faint of heart."

"Just how I like it!" Daisy answered excitedly, "Tell me all you know, and don't hold back!"

"Alright," Rosalina began. "So, this house was built sometime in the 1890s, by a man named Thaddeus Grimmly. He inherited a huge fortune and planned to live his life comfortably in this mansion. He was cranky and reclusive; not popular at all with the locals or even his own family. He lived in this huge mansion with no one except his longtime butler and an orphaned niece named Melody. Melody was a beautiful and talented pianist who went by her stage name, Melody Pianissima. Although modestly successful as a concert pianist, she was said to possess a rather cold and temperamental personality.

"Anyway, Thaddeus Grimmly died at the age of forty-five, only five years after he first moved into the mansion. He died of a mysterious illness. Some speculate that he was in truth poisoned by his butler, who hoped he would inherit some of Grimmly's money."

"So, the butler did it?" Daisy interrupted in a bored voice.

"That's what they say," continued Rosalina. "When Grimmly died, the house went to young Melody. She was more social than her uncle. She immediately hired more servants and under her ownership, the mansion saw various parties and social events. Melody could be charming when she wanted to be, but as I said, she could also be very surly. She was full of herself and looked down her nose at those not of her class and talents.

"Melody soon discovered that she made a mistake in keeping her uncle's old butler. He was completely infatuated with her and made several inappropriate advances towards her. With her uncle gone, he felt he could get away with such behavior and win her heart. She, of course, turned him down flat. Although, I don't blame her in this case. The guy was in his seventies or something.

"Melody soon lost her patience with him and ordered him out of the mansion. The night she fired him, he came to her room while she slept. As he carelessly watched her sleep, his candelabra brushed against her bed curtains, setting them ablaze. The butler cried out in shock and dropped the candelabra on the bed. A spark caught his own sleeve and soon he was running down the hall screaming, engulfed in flames. Of course, the servants heard all the commotion. Thankfully, they managed to put out the fire before it caused too much damage to the mansion, but it was too late to save the butler and Melody."

"So, the butler did it again," commented Daisy.

"Yes, although it was an accident this time," answered Rosalina. "After Melody died, the mansion passed to one of her cousins, a nephew of Thaddeus Grimmly. This new owner had a younger brother who was a frequent visitor. Everyone called him 'Slim' due to his lanky physique. He was fond of gambling. He played cards, dice, but his favorite game was billiards. Once, at a party in the mansion, one of his brother's guests accused him of hustling. A fight broke out, made worse by the fact that everyone had been drinking. The angry guest pulled out a revolver and shot Slim dead. After the incident, Slim's older brother shut the mansion up and left it for good, saying he couldn't bear to be in the same house where his brother was killed. As for Slim, they say he still haunts the billiard room, waiting in vain for new opponents." Rosalina paused, awaiting Daisy's reaction.

Daisy looked at her with a somewhat bored expression. "That's it?"

"What?" answered Rosalina, "I'm just telling you the stories I've heard."

"I think I give that ghost story a C. Wait. Make it a C-."

"Okay, Okay. I'm not done. There are plenty more stories about this place. So, the house stood empty for about twenty years. Eventually, it passed to Neville Portrait and his wife Lydia. Lydia was another niece of the original owner, Grimmly. They only lived in part of the house, though. Some of the rooms they rented out to boarders, so there was a variety of people living here at one point. Lydia and Neville spent a lot of money remodeling and installing modern conveniences, so they hoped to make some of that back by renting out rooms.

"The first tragedy for them struck when Lydia, who was over eight months pregnant at the time, mysteriously fell from a third story window, killing both her and her unborn child. Though officials recorded her death as an accident, some say she was actually pushed by her jealous husband after he found out she had cheated on him with one of their boarders. This theory has never been proven, however. Now, both Neville and Lydia haunt the mansion, but they tend to stay in separate rooms. Lydia in their bedroom, and Neville in his study. Sounds of a baby crying can be heard from the supposedly unused nursery, where the child would have slept had it lived. Some have even claimed to see a phantom baby in this house, crying out in pain or throwing tantrums."

"Okay, that's a little better," smiled Daisy, "but I'm still not quite impressed."

"Oh, don't worry," countered Rosalina, "I'm just getting started. The Portraits were also the parents of young twin boys, who sometimes played with a little girl named Sue Pea."

Daisy snorted. "Sue Pea?"

"Shhh. Listen," Rosalina continued, "One day, when she was playing with the boys, she decided to take a nap. But she never woke up. A gas leak had formed and flooded part of the house, killing several of the occupants including the children and Neville. After that incident, the mansion changed hands a few times before it was closed up for good.

"The last living occupant was an old man named Vincent. He first moved into the house as a boarder when the Portraits were still alive. I don't think he ever technically owned the house, but after the gas leak, the other surviving boarders left. Understandably, the house had developed quite a stigma at this point and most people tended to avoid it. Vincent was the only one who stayed, and frankly, he just added to people's reasons to stay away.

"He claimed to be an artist, though he never had any luck selling his paintings. He was said to be deep into the occult as well. He welcomed the paranormal activity, and some say he even summoned some of the ghosts here himself."

"But, like, how?" questioned Daisy, "Did he use a Ouija board or something?"

"Possibly," answered Rosalina, "No one's really sure how he did it. Some say he did it through his paintings, but that always sounded a bit far-fetched to me."

Daisy giggled, "There are ghost stories that aren't far-fetched?"

"Well, you know what I mean," smiled Rosalina. "Far-fetched is one thing, but magic paint just makes no sense."

"So, if this Vincent guy was the last living occupant," said Daisy, uttering the last four words in a mock-spooky voice. "Does that mean you've told me all you know?"

Rosalina smiled. "Well, I do have one more story for you," she said. "This last one is the tale of the Martelli brothers.

"Vincent died sometime in the 1950's, and the house stood empty and abandoned for twenty years or so. It was at this time the Martelli brothers' fate became intertwined with this mansion.

"The older brother was named Mario. He was outgoing, friendly, and popular with everyone he knew. His younger twin brother was named Louis." Rosalina hesitated. "Well, at least, I think his name was Louis. The girl who told me the story couldn't remember for sure. She knew it was something that began with a 'lu' sound. Anyway, Louis, or Lou, was also well liked, but his circle of friends was much smaller. He was shy and awkward and timid. Mario had pretty much looked out for him his entire life. The brothers lived in Brooklyn and ran a plumbing business together."

"Because of course we know," interrupted Daisy in her spooky voice, "The plumber is always the first to die in these stories." She giggled. "Seriously, plumbers? This dramatic ghost story is about a couple of middle-aged guys who unclogged toilets for a living?"

Rosalina smiled and rolled her eyes playfully. "Plumbers are people too, you know. And I never said they were middle-aged. They were… Actually, I never really thought about how old they were."

"All the plumbers I've known have been middle aged," Daisy said sagely, "I hope these guys at least had the sense to wear belts."

"Okay, okay," answered Rosalina with a slight laugh, "If it distracts you that much, pretend they were something else. Like doctors or carpenters or something. Their occupation isn't even important to the story. So, the story begins when Lou received a letter saying he'd been anonymously selected as the winner of an historic mansion."

"Because that's not suspicious at all," snarked Daisy.

"Well, Mario actually thought it was kind of suspicious, but he and his brother agreed that there would be no harm in checking it out, so they made the trip up to the mansion. Mario got there first because Lou was delayed by a plumbing job."

Daisy snickered.

Rosalina rolled her eyes again, "I mean, he was delayed at the hospital they worked at because of course they were glamourous sexy doctors. And stop laughing. You're ruining the mood.

"When Lou arrived here, Mario was nowhere to be found. The frightened brother began searching the dark mansion, desperately crying for his brother, and was soon plagued by the many ghosts who reside here. What happened next is unclear. The only thing people agree on is that Lou hanged himself at some point. Some say the ghosts slowly drove him insane until he hanged himself in desperation. Some say he found Mario's mangled body and committed suicide in despair. Remember, Mario had protected and helped him his entire life, so the poor guy was lost without him. The third theory is that he found Mario alive, and the brothers got into an argument. Lou, fueled by a secret jealously he harbored towards Mario, became angry and killed his brother. When he realized what he had done, he hung himself out of guilt. I don't really like that last theory though. I don't think it makes much sense. Anyway, all we really know is that the police eventually found their decomposing bodies in this mansion, and Lou's body was hanging from the ceiling.

"They say to this day, the sorrowful spirit of the younger Martelli brother wanders the rooms of this decaying mansion, still searching in vain for his lost brother."

Daisy smiled and lifted her hands to applaud when she was interrupted by a shrill, otherworldly cackle. "Woah, what was that?" she asked in a whisper.

Rosalina opened her mouth to reply, but before she could answer the duo heard a deep voice saying, "Get out…Get out!"

Rosalina stood up. "I think that's our cue to leave."

Daisy rolled her eyes. "C'mon Rosie, obviously some punk is in here and trying to scare us."

"Well, of course, but I don't feel like dealing with some punk right now, especially when we have no idea who he is."

Daisy stood up and made her way towards the door opposite the one they came in.

"Daisy, stop!" Rosalina cried out, "Where do you think you're going? And don't leave me without the flashlight!"

Daisy turned to Rosalina with a determined expression, "I'm going to give him a piece of my mind, of course!"

"Daisy…" Rosalina moaned, but the auburn-haired girl was already gone, the door shutting itself behind her with a firm click.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Daisy entered a gloomy anteroom and looked around. "Alright, jerk, we know you're here somewhere. Why don't you show yourself? We're not afraid of you!"

A deep chuckle seemed to emanate from all around her. "Brave girl. Do you know what happened to the last person who tried to stand up to me? Oh, that's right. He died!"

Daisy felt something whiz past her right ear. She stared in shock at the knife embedded in the wall before her.

"I missed on purpose, you know," the deep voice said behind her.

For the first time since entering the property, Daisy felt a prickle of fear run down her spine; but she would rather die than let whoever owned the deep voice know it. She slowly turned around and forced her voice to be steady. "Stop it! This isn't funny."

An apparition materialized before her. Daisy froze as her jaw dropped. He appeared to be a somewhat pudgy middle-aged man, with glowing yellow eyes, blue skin, a brown coat, and an angry scowl. "Who's laughing? You're a trespasser here! Do you know what happens to living souls stupid enough to enter here? Unless you want to join us in death, you'll get out of my house immediately!"

Daisy dropped the flashlight and slowly backed away in shock when she felt a frigid wind blow past her. Or at least, what felt like a frigid wind. Whatever blew past her materialized into another apparition next to the first. This one was pure white and round, with glowing blood-red eyes. It cackled gleefully. "Going soft, eh, Grimmly? You're really encouraging her to escape? I thought we might have a little fun with her. Besides, we could use another pretty girl around here besides that niece of yours!"

Grimmly gazed at the second ghost with a grouchy expression. "Oh, shut up! This house belonged to me first. Why do I have to put up with so many interlopers?"

The second ghost's smile morphed into a glare. "Remember who you are talking to, Grimmly. You should be honored to share your haunt with me. As for the others, well, getting rid of ghosts isn't so easy once they're tied to a haunt. You'll just have to grin and bear it, eh?"

Grimmly seemed unfazed by the ghost's glare and not likely to grin anytime soon. "I'm going back to my room. I only hope you and the rest leave me alone."

The second ghost pouted playfully. "Awww… I thought you might join me and the girl for some fun!"

"What girl?" Grimmly deadpanned, "I don't see any girl."

The round ghost spun around in surprise. "What! Where is she?"

"I don't see why you're so surprised," answered Grimmly in a bored voice, "You've been gabbing so much she seems to have recovered her senses and ran away. Now if you'll excuse me." Grimmly faded into nothing as the round ghost cursed loudly and sped out of the room.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Daisy's heart was beating so fast, she feared it would leap out of her chest. This couldn't be real. Ghosts didn't exist. This had to be an elaborate prank. Those two ghosts were just projections, right? She shuddered. The knife was certainly real enough. She ran through a room containing several wardrobes and racks and found herself on a small balcony. She gasped as her heart sank. A dead end. Her face drained of all color when she heard that high pitched cackle again. The round ghost appeared before her.

"Going so soon?" he cooed, "I thought we might have a little fun before I kill you. Oh, come on. It's not such a bad afterlife in here."

"S-stay back!" Daisy backed up and pointlessly stretched her arms out, as if she could push him away. She inwardly cursed herself for stuttering, and for the tears she could feel dribbling down her cheeks. What had she gotten herself into? She didn't want to die. And where was Rosalina? Had she been found, too?

As the ghost leered and floated towards her, Daisy suddenly felt an icy hand grasp her arm and pull her back into the wardrobe room. Daisy gasped in surprise and spun around to see the deathly pale, almost bluish face of a young man, who gazed at her with luminous blue eyes. "You hafta get outta here! It's dangerous! There are ghosts everywhere!" he squeaked in a panicked voice.

The round ghost floated through the doorway and towards them with an angry scowl. "YOU!" he growled at the young man, "You dare to interfere? You're really a pain in the backside, you know that?" The young man pulled out a flashlight and shone it directly into the apparition's eyes. The round ghost let out a frustrated yell and covered its eyes with its stubby arms. The young man pulled out the hose of the solid, red vacuum cleaner strapped to his back and proceeded to suck the ghost into the bag of the vacuum. Daisy's eyes widened at the absurdity of it all.

"What the…? You…vacuumed it? And…it actually worked? But…" The man shrugged the vacuum off his shoulders and pulled Daisy away amid her stuttering.

"It won't hold him for long! He's too powerful! You gotta get outta here!"

The duo ran back to the parlor amid a cacophony of otherworldly sounds. Daisy heard creaking, children crying, music and even a little laughter. The man before her suddenly came to a halt. He faced her with frightened eyes, his entire form shuddering uncontrollably. Daisy's eyes were suddenly drawn to his neck, which was marred all the way around by horrible bruises and bright red scratches. He pointed to the door in front of them. "This leads to the foyer. I-I c-can't come with you. I have to find m-my b-brother! I have to save him! Who knows w-what they've done to him!" He looked like he was on the verge of a breakdown, but he closed his eyes and looked like he was trying to force himself to be calm. "H-here," he continued, "You d-dropped this." He handed her the flashlight and ran out of the room. Daisy gazed stunned at the retreating form.

Thankfully, another otherworldly cackle jolted her out of her trance. She swallowed heavily and spun around towards the door, eager not to waste the opportunity the terrified man had given her. She twisted the doorknob with a shaky hand and quickly moved back into the foyer. A figure dashed towards her and collided into Daisy. Daisy whimpered, afraid another specter had found her, but soon realized that this person was warm and kindly wrapping their arms around her.

The figure broke the hug and stepped back, revealing herself to be Rosalina. "Oh, my gosh! Daisy! Are you okay? I tried to follow you, but the door wouldn't open no matter how I tried. I heard voices and yelling, but I didn't know how to get to you, and I couldn't see so I came back out here. I-I tried a few other doors, but they were either locked or led to nowhere. I was so scared!" Rosalina paused to take a breath and examine Daisy. "Daisy?" she continued in a gentle voice, "Are you alright? You're crying."

Daisy wiped her eyes quickly. "I-I'm fine."

"No, you're not. You're shaking, and you never cry. You look like you've seen a ghost!"

Daisy gave a humorless, slightly hysterical chuckle at that comment.

Rosalina rubbed Daisy's back and continued, "Breathe, Daisy. I don't want you going into shock. What did you see back there?"

"Never mind that! We have to get out of here. NOW!" Daisy answered shakily.

"Okay, let's go," Rosalina nodded and led her shaking friend out the door.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Daisy stared ahead of her silently for the first ten minutes of their car ride home, Rosalina giving her worried sideways glances from time to time from the driver's seat. Suddenly, Daisy swallowed and spoke in a quiet voice. "Rosalina, I saw him."

"Saw who? That jerk who was trying to scare us?"

"No, no. Well, sorta, but…No. I saw that plumber guy."

Rosalina's eyes widened as she gripped the steering wheel. "The plumber guy from the story?" she asked slowly and disbelievingly.

"Yes!" confirmed Daisy in a louder voice, "H-he was slightly transparent, a-and had pale bluish skin…Well, I guess he doesn't really have skin anymore, but you know what I mean. He had blue eyes, and reddish-brown hair, and a mustache. And an accent. Yes! He spoke with a bit of an Italian accent, and he looked so, so scared…"

"Daisy, stop!" Rosalina interrupted, "You're starting to scare me!"

"I'm telling the truth, Rosie. I know what I saw!" Daisy said frantically.

"Daisy…" Rosalina began in a kind, but slightly exasperated voice, "There are no ghosts, it's just a story. Someone, or probably a group of someones, was just trying to scare us."

"I know what I saw!" Daisy repeated, "A-and he wasn't the only one. There were two others. A grumpy middle-aged man, and a horrible round ghost with sharp teeth!"

Rosalina glanced at Daisy incredulously. Whoever those punks were, they sure did an elaborate job. "Daisy, please. With today's technology…"

"I know what I saw," Daisy interrupted stubbornly, glaring down at her lap.

Rosalina sighed. "Never mind. Let's just go home and forget this whole thing ever happened."

The girls drove in silence the rest of the way back to their shared apartment.