Switching the light on, it shoots a strong beam into the hall as Stephen and Zsofia, once again, enter the darkness of the many walls and corridors of the manor. Quickly making their way past the door to the dining room, they walk close to the wall until they reach the spiral staircase located near the mudroom of the kitchen.
“If I remember correctly, we can take this all the way to the fourth floor.” Stephen says as they enter the small room.
He allows Zsofia to lead, but not out of fear, as they begin to climb the stairs. He feels this is the best way to protect her for he can reach around her at any minute to pull her to him. In addition, if something is following, he will be the first target, not her. In order to be as protective as possible, he stays only one step behind, moving his feet at exactly the same time as hers. Once they reach the second floor, she stops.
“Where do you think the Guta is?” Zsofia questions in a whisper as she looks back at Stephen.
“I don’t know, but we need to speed up and get to Klara as soon as possible.” Stephen replies as they both focus on their mission and quickly climb to the third floor.
“One more to go.” Zsofia says as she quickly swings around the railing and starts up the last section of the staircase.
“Don’t you let anything happen to her.” The old man says to Stephen in a serious almost demanding tone about his granddaughter.
The look in Laszlo’s eyes seems bitter somehow, as if he is angry with Stephen, when clearly he should be upset with himself. After all, the only reason he is here today is due to his own part in this crime. Yet, he stares at Stephen without wavering his intense glare.
“Understood,” Stephen replies in a cold manner even though Laszlo’s statement angers him immensely.
How dare this old man, who plays such a large role in creating this entire horrible situation for both families, even think for one minute Stephen would let something happen to Zsofia! He would much rather she stays here, safe in the light and with her brother. Yet, on the other hand, he does not want to step back into the dark corridors of the manor alone either. Selfish? No, to him it is safety in numbers, yet his need for Zsofia to be unharmed is far greater than his own fear of doing this alone.
“You don’t have to do this.” Stephen says to Zsofia as she looks up at Klara.
“Neither do you,” she replies with a smile. “But we better hurry before she gets much further.”
“Here, take this, it was over by the generator.” Laszlo states as he hands a large flashlight to Stephen.
“She is going to fall.” Stephen says as he starts to walk toward the iron spiral staircase that winds its way upward with connections to each level of walkways.
“No, Stephen.” Zsofia says as she grabs his arm stopping him. “As unstable as the platforms are, you stepping on the staircase may be too much for it.”
“I can’t just stand here and watch her fall. Someone needs to steady the cables to keep the platform from moving so much.” He says, as he looks Zsofia in the eyes, she seems to read his thoughts and nods that she understands.
“Okay, I know, but we will have to go another way.” She does not adjust the gaze of her eyes or the loving look in them until she glances at her grandfather.
“No Zsofia, we all need to stay together.” Laszlo pleads as he takes her by the hand to hold her back.
“Grandfather, we have to help her. Whatever it is she is trying to do, we cannot step back and simply allow her to get hurt.
“You are right, I know, but you and Stephen. . . the Guta.” He starts to say as a fearful look comes across his face.
“It is because of the Guta we have to help.” Zsofia says softly. “Klara is doing this for a reason, grandfather. And if she knows a way to free us all from this trap, we need to do our part as well.” Zsofia says with much wisdom and with a nod from her grandfather, Laszlo releases his hold on her.
Sitting on a bench nearby is Tamas. He is looking up, watching the old woman as she tries to steady the platform. Off to the left is a mechanical humming sound coming from an old generator, which is adding even more difficulty in hearing this unrestrained conversation.
“What is she doing up there?” Stephen asks as he looks around at the various steps and closest doorways to the area where she is standing.
“She’s after the rope.” Laszlo says as he looks down at his hands.
“Rope? What rope?” Zsofia asks as she touches her grandfather’s arm.
With a loud snap followed by a high-pitched screeching sound, a section of the platform, only a short distance from where Klara is standing, falls away crashing down on the decking of the third floor pathway. Stephen and Zsofia heard this exact sound just before entering the conservatory and it is now obvious the unstable walkway is rapidly falling apart.
“That landing may give way at any moment.” Stephen says as he watches the old woman steady herself. “What the hell is she trying to do?” He asks as he watches her but directs his next question to Laszlo. “Where is this rope you’re talking about?”
He then sees it, the item in such demand that an old woman is willing to risk her life for it. Hanging from the platform, where the suspension cable attaches to the decking, and to Klara’s right, is a long thick rope with a straight cut end that has slightly frayed over time.
As soon as Stephen and Zsofia’s feet touch the main floor of the entrance hall, there is a loud sound in the conservatory, as if something heavy fell from high above. Laszlo’s words are inaudible as he once again yells an angry phrase. This time they hear a reply and it is from Klara.
“If you have better idea’s then speak them!” The old woman yells from where she is standing on the fourth floor walkway of the conservatory.
The iron supports are squeaking as she moves and the entire suspension of the section she is on is swinging back and forth, as she holds on tightly to the railings.
“Grandfather, what is going on?” Zsofia quizzes as she rushes to his side.
The old man turns, taking his granddaughter in his arms holding her tightly. This moment is genuine and filled with strong emotions.
“Why did you run off? I was so worried about you.” He says in a harsh yet loving way.
“I had to find Stephen.” She replies without any hesitation.
There is a brief pause in the conversation between Zsofia and her grandfather. They stand facing each other, looking eye to eye until Laszlo nods yes with understanding as he moves his head up and down.
Zsofia pulls herself to Stephen so tightly that it sends a sharp pain through his injured side causing him to wince in pain and Zsofia instantly pulls back.
“I am so sorry; I didn’t mean to hurt you.” She says as she holds his arm.
“It’s alright.” He responds but even he can hear the lie in his words.
“I’ve been trying to find you, I got turned around and,” She pauses as she stops to listen carefully and then whispers, “Now that we have found each other, we need to get downstairs.”
Once again, she looks up at him in this extreme darkness as she stares into his eyes. He does not even have to look at her because through her touch, he can tell she is pleading with him. Leaning slightly to tip his head out of the small inset they are standing in, he glances down the hall in the direction of the main staircase that will lead them to the ground level.
With one quick glance down the hall in the opposite direction, Stephen takes Zsofia’s hand and together they promptly make their escape. As they approach the staircase, they hear loud voices coming from the conservatory.
“That’s grandfather, he sounds angry.” Zsofia says as she picks up the already fast pace, pulling Stephen along with her.
“I don’t care anymore.” Stephen grumbles now hoping his time has come. “I’ve lived in your shadow my entire life!” He yells as he marches forward and lightning flickers again. “Come on! Just do it!” He challenges.
“Shhhh!” Zsofia says as she jumps out at him placing her hand over his mouth, pulling him into a small alcove in the wall. “What are you doing?” She questions nervously.
Looking into her eyes, Stephen sees nothing but fear. Her pupils are wide and the whites of her eyes red from lack of sleep, as she keeps her hand to his lips. They are standing only inches apart as they stare at each other without blinking. Slowly Zsofia shakes her head back and forth and then tears well up in her blue eyes.
As if a wave of compassion covers him, Stephen’s temper calms and he takes her in his arms. She is trembling and her skin is cold to the touch as he pulls her in tight. He has no idea why she is alone but it is apparent to him that she too is confused about what has happened. He thinks to himself that maybe she did not leave him after all; maybe she too is a victim of the games at play here.
“What’s going on?” He questions as he looks out at the dark hall.
“I. . . I’m not sure.” Zsofia says in a weak and quivering voice. “Tamas was running, I went after him, I heard you yell out and. . . everything went black.”
The clamminess of the dwelling is prominent and thick as it encompasses the halls and conservatory of the manor. Stephen has been standing here in this dark yet open spot, for several fearful minutes but to him, it feels as if an hour or more has passed.
He cannot fathom taking another strike from the devilish creature that is in control of the lives here. With his newfound knowledge of the past and of this horrid folktale come to life, he now understands why the demise of his great-uncle was such a welcomed event for friends and family. If the torture he felt today was the same as what his uncle endured, over and over, day after day, and for many months. Then death would indeed feel like a blessing and a relief.
Light from the storm flickers in through the window and for that split second it illuminates the hall brightly. Stephen is not fully convinced that he is alone, but he did not see the monstrous beast, nor did he see any of his friends.
“I’ve got to get to the conservatory.” He mumbles to himself.
He is angry with the others for leaving him behind, but most of all hurt that not even Zsofia stayed by his side. The depressive state and anxious actions that have been with him his entire life are consuming him now. It is with this rush of anger that he no longer cares what becomes of him as he takes careful and deliberate steps along the corridor.
As Stephen takes a step to get closer to the window for a better view, his foot hits the bottle of pills causing it to roll slightly. Lightning flashes brightly in through the window and there on the floor he sees his addictive vice.
“There you are.” He says.
Quickly he snatches it up and presses his back up against the wall as if trying to flatten himself to it. Now that he retrieved what he felt was essential, he pours three pills into the palm of his hand, then quickly drops them on his tongue.
“Down the hatch.” He says to himself as he begins to force them down without any liquid.
Almost gagging, he swallows them in a dry harsh and sour manner. As cold and damp as the air has become, he is burning up with terror and apprehension. Just as he straightens up and leans back to observe the activity in the conservatory, the wet and bare sound of pattering feet on the floor run past him. He did not see anyone or anything but the noise was undeniable. The Guta is here in the hallway with him.
Holding his breath, he does not blink nor does he attempt to move in any direction. His body is still aching from the severity of the last attack, which led to his now distant and confusing separation from the group. Why has that happened, how could they just leave him there on the floor alone and vulnerable to the demon?
Once in the hallway, it is apparent the manor has taken on a peculiar and threatening atmosphere. Aside from the heavy rain pouring down outside, there is only silence in the rooms and corridors as Stephen slowly passes by. There are no voices to follow nor lights to see by and he feels as if hands are reaching out, brushing against his clothing ever so slightly.
The thought of this actually happening has him reaching a panicked state. He trips and falls causing the ever-present bottle of pills to slip out of his pocket and roll across the floor, clattering and tumbling its contents inside. This is quite a welcomed sound for during his dreamlike experience, he feared he had lost them completely.
On his hands and knees, he searches in the dark patting his hands on the cold floor as he tries to locate the bottle that is now somewhere in the shadows of the hall. Moving to the right he feels the coolness of the large stones that make up the outer wall closest to the conservatory. Running his hands past the stones, he begins inching his way along the wall.
“Where is everyone?” He whispers to himself as he glances out the window to view the conservatory.
Standing just inside the glass, on the suspended walkway of the second floor, he sees Klara. She is looking at the levels above her as if contemplating on how to reach them. Oddly enough, the enclosed garden is well-lit, for he can see her as plain as day behind the thick condensation that has gathered on the window.