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Jessica Bilchick The Curse of Erebus It has been a long time since the Erebus castle gates have opened. A long time indeed. The hosts shut their doors to the outside world decades ago. Some speculate that they are dead, others that they have fled, but no one really knew. Not a single carriage ever left the house. Not a single voice was heard from inside its walls. It remained perpetually in darkness, and the castle fell into disrepai
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  Jessica Bilchick The Curse of Erebus It has been a long time since the Erebus castle gates have opened. A long time indeed. The hosts shut their doors to the outside world decades ago. Some speculate that they are dead, others that they have fled, but no one really knew. Not a single carriage ever left the house.  Not a single voice was heard from inside its walls. It remained perpetually in darkness, and the castle fell into disrepair. Ivy crept up its walls, and cracks splintered its stone towers. A treacherous forest grew around its borders, obscuring it from outsiders. Its branches grew so thickly as to shroud its depths from even the touch of sunlight. A sea of thick fog hovered over the ground. There were terrible stories about this forest  –   stories of a beast residing within, tearing to pieces anyone who lost themselves inside these woods. Villagers claimed to hear horrible, howling shrieks at night, shrieks that did not sound human or animal. A few brave souls  –   poor, wretched souls  –   have ventured into the woods, announcing obstinately that they believed neither in or curse nor monster. None ever returned. Our story, however, does not begin in this cursed forest, but within the stone walls of the castle, long, long ago. The day the gates were closed and the lights extinguished forever. The Erebus family was in ecstasy. “That’ s it, Nico! Now come to papa! ”  A father knelt next to the crackling fire, watching his small son take stumbling steps across the living room carpet. He reached his mother, who turned him gently around, and he started for his father. He wore a toothy grin and giggled as he drew near his father. “That’s my boy!” exclaimed the man as the bo y fell into his arms, laughing. Rain howled outside, making the candle on the windowsill flicker, but it did nothing to diminish the happiness  of the family.  Nico’s eyes gleamed with excitement, and he looked from his mother to his father, as if not knowing what to do next. He was mid-laugh when his eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed on the floor. The mother gave a scream and rushed to the child. “Is he breathing?” she cried, checking  his pulse. Nothing. His blood was still in his veins. His skin was icy. “His heart isn’t beating,” wailed the mother, turning the limp child over onto his back. She pressed on his chest frantically, willing him to breathe again, to do anything  –   As soon as it started, it was over. The boy sat bolt upright, wide-eyed. The mother gave a weak laugh of relief and threw her arms around the child, but she jumps back, horrified, upon finding no heart beat in his chest. No breath issuing from his mouth. His skin remained cold to the touch. The child cocked his head sideways, and his eyes took on a cloudy green hue. They stared forward unseeing. He opened his mouth and started to speak, but it was not his voice  –   indeed, Nico had not yet learned to speak  –   but a low, snake-like voice speaking through him. “I am Khalida, goddess of Deat h ,” hissed the voice. The eyes turned to the mother, who stared  back in horror. “ Furnisher of the flames of hell, torturer to the living. Your son is mine .”   “No, Nico, please,” the mother whispered, but her lips didn’t move. She tried to touch her son, but his small hand, with inhuman strength, pushed her roughly away. He stood and kicked her sharply in the side, making her moan in pain. Meanwhile, the father inched slowly toward the cabinet, where a sharp, serrated knife lay on display. He got it shakily out of its casing. “Your son will be my servant,” whispered the voice. “He will do my bidding.”   “Never,” spat the moth er, hatred boiling in her chest.  A strange smile crossed the boy’s face. For a moment, the green in his eyes flashed and was gone, leaving only little Nico, eyes widened in fear, before the spirit regained control. The  boy twitched, gasped, and his body began to mutate. His eyes sunk into his flesh, leaving animal eyes where his had once been. His muscles bulged, his skin disappeared, and a scaly layer of flesh formed in its place. His face became long and hairy, its nose protruding from its face. The beast whimpered and fell silent, licking itself. The mother found with horror that she did not recognize her son, but the horror soon turned to pure fear as the beast turned on her,  baring his teeth. “It is your turn to die,” crooned the voice, and the beast opened its fist to reveal long, sharp claws. The mother whimpered. “Please, just spare my son,” she  pleaded . “Let him go! Take me instead!”  T he beast’s face contorted with anger. “Khalida will take whomever she wants,” it hissed. “You stood in my way, and now you shall join me in hell.”  There was a shout behind them, and the father came charging toward the beast, a knife in hand. He wheeled back to throw, knowing he had only a few seconds before the beast reacted. It knelt over the mother, lowering its razor-sharp claws down to her skin. The beast blinked, surprised for a moment. It made no move to flee. It simply flickered and was gone, disappearing into thin air as if it were merely a projection. A few moments later, it appeared at the back of the room, unscathed, a nasty grin on its face. In a moment, it had fled the room, and the father realized for the first time where his knife had landed. Finding no beast, the knife had continued its course and plunged itself into the woman’s chest.  The father screamed, a tortured screech that echoed through the house. The monster took off into the woods, and the gates of the Erebus castle clanged shut for the final time. It disappeared into the forests, whose branches began curling around him to hide his presence.  The mother lay face-first on the floor, a knife protruding through her rib cage. Blood soaked into the rich living room carpet, and she trembled as the life began to drain out of her. A cold wind swept across the grounds, pervaded the house, made the mother shiver where she lay. The crackling fire flickered and died, leaving only a pile of burning coals in its  place. The windowsill candle’ s flame wavered a moment, and then was extinguished forever.
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