“It looks like you are lucky.” The old man says as he wraps two fingers around the butterfly looking piece of jewelry. “It didn’t hit your artery.”
“I don’t feel lucky. Get this thing out of my neck!” Stephen says with disgust.
“Okay, roll from your side to your stomach and stay calm. This might hurt.” The old man says as he begins to pull on the item.
Zsofia takes hold of Stephen’s hand and he squeezes it in preparation of the pain he is about to receive. Laszlo applies pressure around the item and pulls on it slowly as its blood stained stem lifts from Stephen’s skin. Once the item is clear, he takes a handkerchief from his pocket and applies pressure to the wound.
Zsofia runs her fingers through Stephen’s dark wavy hair as he lies face down with her grandfather pressing on the back of his neck. The handkerchief slowly turns red in the middle as blood begins to fill the fibers. Looking up at her grandfather with questioning and worrisome eyes, her elder shakes his head as if telling her not to say a word.
“Is it out?” Stephen asks as he starts to turn his head to the side.
“Just stay still, we’ve got a little blood to contend with.” Laszlo says as he continues to press on the cloth.
“My neck, oh. . . it hurts.” Stephen says with difficulty as Zsofia gently lifts his head to feel the backside of his neck.
“Ouch!” She says as she touches something sharp that slices across her finger. “Can you roll onto your side?” She asks in a calm manner trying to not upset or worry him.
“Yeah, what is it? What did that thing hit me with?” Stephen asks in a weak voice as he turns sideways.
“It’s a large hat pin.” Laszlo says as he slowly kneels down next to his granddaughter as she cradles Stephen’s head and shoulders. “It’s. . . it’s your grandmother’s hat pin, one that I bought her when we were young.” His voice trails off.
“Well get it out of me!” Stephen yells as he reaches for it and begins to panic. “Where is the Guta?” He rushes to say as he starts to roll over to look at the doorway but Laszlo applies pressure to hold him in place.
“You have to hold still, this is in a bad spot and we don’t want you bleeding out on us.” The old man says in a stern way.
As he inspects the area the thick pin punctured, Zsofia holds her breath. Very carefully, Laszlo wiggles the pin slightly as he leans down very close to Stephen’s neck to look at the depth of the object in the skin.
Stephen quickly turns putting his arm around the elderly woman’s waist pulling her with him as they run for the safety of the prepared room. He feels something hard brush against his shoulder with great force and then a pain to the back of his neck that thrust him to the floor. Klara steps into the room as Zsofia and Laszlo each take Stephen by the arm dragging him across the threshold severely disturbing the line of salt.
“No!” Klara yells as she grabs the jar of salt off the table.
She shoves her hand into it with such force it breaks a piece of glass off embedding it into her skin. While moving forward she throws a handful of the tiny white beads at the doorway and a deafening, not human or animal sound screeches loudly into the room as all four adults cover their ears in pain.
Thunder vibrates heavily as trinkets and items sitting around the room clank together from the intense rumble much like the aftershocks of an earthquake. Stephen rolls over onto his back as the pain in his neck sharpens and throbs with each pulse of his heartbeat. He groans as he tries to open his eyes and see exactly what is going on around him.
“Oh no, oh no, Stephen. . . are you alright?” Zsofia says as she immediately slides down onto the floor cupping his head in her hands.
Running at a sprint, Stephen lunges at the old woman with his arms stretched out in front of him. His body hits the floor with a loud thud as he grabs hold of Klara’s left ankle. Oddly, the Guta releases her as soon as Stephen takes hold and it stands calm and very still in the darkness of the hallway, only an arm length away. All the blood is rushing to Stephen’s head causing him to feel dizzy as the pressure of his adrenaline builds but he manages to stand up, pulling the old woman up next to him.
“Stephen!” Zsofia yells as she and her grandfather stay just inside the room but lean out to view the events in the hall.
“No, stay back Zsofia!” Stephen commands as he holds his hand up without losing eye contact with the wicked beast staring at him.
Droplets of thick saliva ooze from the mouth of the beast like a dog preparing for a fresh carnivorous meal. It wheezes as it laughs but does not blink its deep-set lifeless eyes, not once. Slowly Stephen pulls Klara to his side and then gently maneuvers her so she is now behind him. Together, slowly and deliberately, they back away from this frightening demonic presence. Its breaths are changing from slow gurgling intakes to more of a quick pant.
“It is going to pounce, the energy is strong.” Klara says as Stephen nudges her to hush.
“Isssstvan,” it hisses as Stephen tries to pick up the pace and speed the process of walking backwards, pushing Klara along.
“We need to move. . .” Stephen says as he takes hold of Klara’s hand. “We need to move, NOW!”
“A demon cannot be harmed by the meager touch of man.” The old woman says as fact as she walks in the direction of the open door to the hall and pauses in her footing and speech. “Is it near, Istvan? I can feel it, but not see it.” She says softly as she places her hand on the door frame.
Stephen looks up just as the Guta steps forward but being mindful not to cross the ironwork and wood or the dusting of salt on the floor. It stands within inches of the old woman, its hideous features distorted by the poor lighting and its stature smaller than her as it looks up. The fierce expression in its eyes is somewhat devious, like a child trying to trick a parent but then it reaches up, holding its hand out as if to touch Klara’s face.
“Klara, you should move back!” Stephen yells as he stands up. “It’s going to touch you!”
As soon as the warning words leave his lips, the Guta grabs for Klara, easily plucking her from the room as if she weighs nothing. With her screaming and kicking, the beast drags her down the hall at such a pace that before Stephen steps over the line of salt; she is nearly at the end of the long dark corridor.
“You too have been marked by the shadows of Guta, but you chose to rise above it.” Klara winks at Zsofia as if she is pleased in using her own words. “You had Tamas, who needed you and needed your graceful energy so you freely gave it to him. Your demeanor blossomed despite the pressure of distress, but not Istvan. No, he was scared and has carried this burden of suffering throughout his life.” She looks sad now as if she could cry at any moment but her eyes stay fixed on Stephen and no one says a word.
“The moment of your return to this place arose when your great-uncle was overcome by his greed.” Says Laszlo as he breaks the awkward silence in the room. “I don’t know if age played a part but he became diligent on finding some hidden treasure in these walls. Just look at the place, it is full of items that could be sold and if he needed money, he could have come to me!” The elderly man stands up.
“Was he broke or something?” Stephen asks as he tries to conceal the glance he made at the hallway.
Laszlo sees where his eyes diverted to and immediately sits as if scolded. Bowing his head down, he clears his throat and makes eye contact with Stephen. He moves his eyes as if asking if the Guta is near and Stephen nods his head up and down ever so slightly. Laszlo then begins to whisper.
“He thought there was a huge sum of money to be had and went mad looking for it. I could not tell him to stay away from the room in the basement for that would have driven him right to it!” He lowers his voice even more. “If I knew of a way to kill it, I would do it, but. . . it isn’t really living now is it?”
This entire conversation has been leaning toward Laszlo as the beasts’ main focus, but to Stephen in looking at this monsters wicked stare, realizes it is still very much in pursuit of him.
“The shadows of Guta hang over you boy. You need to look away.” Klara gravels in a very low voice without looking at Stephen.
“You keep saying that.” Stephen says in response to her statement. “What does that mean, the shadows of Guta?” He questions as Klara slowly turns around to face him.
“The first time I physically met you, your skin was shallow and your eyes anxious.” She speaks softly as she walks to where Stephen and Zsofia are sitting. “There was grayness around you, a mist of sorts, and disappointment in your eyes.” She stares at him a moment and without blinking then says, “You are oppressed by the shadows of Guta from its depth of madness and fear to its paranoid and apprehensive waves of torment.”
“Even though, for all these years, he has not been around it?” Zsofia questions and the old woman grins slightly as she turns toward her.
Stephen realizes it has been several hours since this entire span of time and extensive conversation began. Much of the time spent has been here, in this single room. The windows show the sky is growing even darker than before as the thickness of the storm clouds stifle any afternoon sun.
It has been many minutes since Stephen last looked out at the bleak and foreboding hallway. He has not heard the tapping sounds from the feet of the Guta nor does he see it at this moment. With much deliberation into what he is learning, Stephen is not sure if this conversation is more or less frightening than the attention he is receiving from the creature watching him.
Focusing on the darkest portion of the hall, he stares at the blackness. After several seconds, when he is about to convince himself that nothing is there, he sees it. The deep red color of the creature blends in well with the colorless backdrop and its eyes glisten as the candlelight flickers in them. They are deep dark liquefied circles of inertness and evil.
As the clarity of Stephen’s gaze increases, he realizes this corrupted menace is grinning while looking directly at him. Its mouth wide across its face with only a small slit for an opening. This challenging moment seems to delight the Guta for it begins to grin wide showing dark teeth inside a black stained mouth.
“The pieces of it have all come together for me now.” Klara smiles, but only slightly, as she speaks softly. “I finally understand the things I have seen in my readings and mind. I now identify with the directions I have been pulled.” She looks down at her feet and clasps her hands together at her chest.
“I can tell you it is not what I expected.” She whispers as if speaking to herself. “It is not only Istvan it wants. . . it has been you all this time Laszlo. It wants to cast its revenge onto you.” She points at him much like a judge condemning the man and a transparent current explodes in the room causing everyone to become tense and uncomfortable.
“You dear boy, are a victim of your grandmother’s evil doing.” Klara points at him as if giving him a command and her voice lowers. “When someone has been cursed and is held in the shadows of Guta, they do not function like others.” She says as she reaches out, taking his hand in hers. “Yes, it was a curse that she laid upon all of us!” The old woman’s hands begin to quiver. “We must find a way; yes. . . we must find a way.”
“A way to what? What are you talking about?” Stephen asks as he quickly pulls his hand away, but the old woman merely stands up and walks to the bedroom door to look in on Tamas.
“Your Grandmother, Stephen, she had not changed.” Laszlo continues. “She simply wanted me to think she had. The moving of your Grandfather to the gatehouse was all for show to make her look like a devoted wife and grandmother to her visiting son and grandson.” Laszlo looks at Klara. “She thought she could control it but as a demon, it once ran free across the land and had done so for centuries.” The aging man shakes his head back and forth. “With her summons, the Guta was forced to stay close by and it followed her everywhere. After the death of your grandfather,” he looks at Stephen, “she found herself living in fear and then it began to beat on her.
“I was the one who finally trapped it again in the small cell in the basement.” Laszlo runs his hand down his face from his brow to his chin. “I followed her steps perfectly and was able to do it by myself.” He leans his chin on his hand as he tries not to cry.
“Why didn’t she help you, grandfather?” Zsofia quizzes.
“Because she was already dead!” The old man yells and then pauses as if his entire body has gone numb. “She hung herself from the fourth floor walkway in the conservatory. It was all because I shunned her. I fell out of love once I realized how evil she had become. Yet even after all of this, with my feelings toward her changed, I told her I would help her capture the beast that had now turned on her.” He begins to sob. “I helped her create this and now, after all these years, understand why she took her own life.”