Cassiopea Couldn't Stay Out of Grandfather's Study

Submitted into Contest #95 in response to: Start your story with someone being presented with a dilemma.... view prompt


Suspense Horror

Morning light filled the grand mansion’s wide halls. Cassiopea fully understood that her grandfather would be furious at her violating his private study. She also knew that the moment his final breath gave out, her family members would break down the door and plunder every valuable inside. History had shown that the vapid of her bloodline would sell everything for the latest couture being hocked by the equally vapid social media “influencers.” Neither decision felt good enough for her heart.

Her hand turned the key, activating the door’s secure tumblers. A simple click registered access would be hers when she spun the ornate doorknob. She quietly banged her fist against the thick maple, hating the violation of his privacy to plunder family heirlooms she long ago promised never to encounter. Cassiopea remembered back to when her teenage self had gotten caught sneaking into the study. Her usually loving grandfather turned surprisingly cold. He pinned her by her throat against the oak wall, staring directly into her eyes.

“Now, if you ever enter my study again, I will be forced to slit your stomach until your intestines spill out onto the carpet.” He ran his finger across her shirt over her belly button.

“I’m sorry, Grands.” She responded in a choking voice.

“Bet you’ll be if you ever enter this room again.”

He shoved her against the oak wall to drive his point home. She looked at him with with shock. Later that night he took her out for their evening stroll through the gardens as if nothing ever occurred. The guilt of her entering his study rattled her decades later. He had made the point clear to all the family that entering his study would be the deepest breach of trust.

Cassiopea turned the knob. The room opened up as identical as she remembered. She thought that his private study would appear smaller, now being older. The forty foot ceilings with paintings adorned to the top were still equally impressive. Her younger self lacked the time to truly appreciate the gallery of disturbing oil paintings around the perimeter. Time wasn’t kind in the moment to allow a similar luxury. Her grandfather fought for his breaths as the family vultures circled his lukewarm body. The door shut behind her.

She hastily swung off her deep bottom backpack. Cassiopea hurried to collect anything that looked important. She began at his wide desk, assessing that the most personal of items would be here. The top of the desk had been left covered with journals and maps. Cassiopea slid them into her pack. She eased a key from under her dress. The key slid perfectly into the desk’s keyhole. A wide drawer slid out, revealing a single book. Necronomicon. A passing dread coated her emotions as the manual became added to the collection. Cassiopea moved around the room. She took possession of all manner of amulets, trinkets and a small bust of a tentacled form sitting on a cube. She lacked ample time to decipher the foreign language, outside of noting the words Cthulhu and R’leigh.

A dull thump sound caused her to turn towards the bookshelves. On the exquisite, Oriental carpet lay a statue of a small demon, face down inches from the base of the three story bookcase. Cassiopea slowly moved to the item, confused about how it could have fallen on its own. Her hand trembled as she lifted the weighted piece into her grasp. She turned the smiling demon form over. A terrifying vision of a goat-legged monstrosity passed through her mind’s eye. Cassiopea shrieked into the spacious room, aware that her eyes were crying. She fell to her knees clutching the sculpture. Minutes passed before she became able to sufficiently catch a breath. Her hand slid the relic into her bag.

A driving desire to finish and vacate the room pushed her ahead. She lacked understanding as to why she chose to grab each random book and valuable. Her watch told her that she would be missed soon, forcing her sneakier family to demand answers for her extended absence. Cassiopea exited the room. The key re-locked her grandfather’s privacy and went into her pocket. She apologized to the door as if the barrier passed onto him hearing her plea. She placed the full bag deep in a nearby,vacant servant’s room closet. Cassiopea exited the room to see a younger cousin coming through the hall.

“Cassie, whatca doin’ in there? Stealing from the help before we get a chance?” Her cousin asked as she closed in.

Cassiopea kept her cool. Jinny had the reputation of being a sneak who would take any sign of weakness to her parents.

“Oh, I was hoping that she might’ve left some tampons. Go ahead in there if you want, everything is in its place.”

“Nah, I don’t need to smell your dirty cooch.” Jinny made a disgusted face as she turned to leave. She walked away down the long hall talking to herself about all the riches she would soon be receiving.

Cassiopea took the winding stairs up towards her grandfather’s room. She had hoped her hasty exit had been quick enough so that she would be close to him for his last breaths. Family members were scattered around the massive room, making small talk with one another. Her grandfather’s family nurse tended to his last moments as she entered the master bedroom.

“Cassie? Where is my Cassie?” The frail man repeatedly called from his bed.

“Here, Grands. I’m here.” She moved to his side.

“You looted my study, didn’t you?” He whispered so that only she could hear. His eyes went blank.

Cassiopea watched as her grandfather’s last sounds faded into silence. His head tilted to its side on the satin pillow.

“Move.” The nurse called out with urgency.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Cassiopea said to herself. She looked deeply at his stiffening face feeling every bit of guilt.

The young woman moved out of the nurse’s path. The family nurse attended to his body, attempting to prolong a life already vanished.

“Let the fucker go.” Her Uncle James said casually inspecting his nails out of boredom.

“James!” Her Aunt Lori objected.

“He’s dead. Why are we prolonging what, um, nature demands?” He nonchalantly glanced for others’ support.

Cassiopea’s Aunt Heidi began wailing as if auditioning for a movie role. Her daughters took this cue and followed her lead. Jinny returned just in time to add to their theatrics. The nurse backed away from his still body. She respectfully pulled the bed sheet over his head.

“Ok, when’s the will reading? I have a company to get back to managing.” Her Uncle Chaz anxiously offered from the back wall.

A family squabble commenced between those who were flagrantly looking for a payout and those hiding their desire for the same payout behind alligator tears. Cassiopea left his bedside. She walked out of the bedroom with her head hanging in shame. The arguing became dulled as she put more steps ahead of her. Cassiopea looked forward to the will reading so the vultures could get their pieces of the monetary corpse and fly back out of her existence.

Her grandfather had privately told her that most of his fortune would be given to charity. He confided that each person would get no more than ten thousand dollars from his estate. She felt secretly disappointed in his decision, feeling that she had been with him through the good times and bad, possibly deserving a sweeter piece of the fortune. Cassiopea felt selfish relief to know that her piece remained hidden in the servant’s closet.

The funeral for the deceased occurred as a solemn event in the afternoon. His final planning had been prepared months ago when the medical team agreed that all of his life extending treatments had failed. Her grandfather had been most insistent on being buried the same day he died, time allowing. His immense, township donations helped pave through the bureaucratic red tape. The family quickly changed into their black ensembles. Some in attendance showed up with dressed in obligatory tears and wailing. Cassiopea represented one of the few people in attendance who offered her grandfather sincere, heartfelt tears.

The will reading occurred early that same evening. Family members had already booked plane tickets home, scheduled for a few hours afterwards. Many had made high end purchases, paid with money from their expected wealth of his estate. The will reading became a shock to the people in the room. Most of the family received a few thousand dollars, enough to put a down payment on a new car. The fired servants each received a couple hundred thousand dollars for their years of dedicated service. Cassiopea received the lion’s share of nearly a million dollars. The rest of the estate, including the house and its possessions, had been held back to be auctioned with the proceeds going to a local Masonic charity.

A final letter from their grandfather had been caused to be read. The deceased explained the justification for the amounts portioned off, calling out the family for their callousness. He warned that anyone who went into his private study after the reading would be subject to multiple lawsuits and repossession of their inheritance. The letter acknowledged that he expected the family to raid the house’s possessions before the auction, telling them that when they crossed outside of the building, they weren’t allowed to re-enter ever again. He explained that armed security guards had been stationed at all the entrances during the reading.

At the conclusion of the reading, the lawyer left the home in her sedan. Family members fell over themselves plundered any valuables that looked re-sellable. Cassiopea calmly walked to the servant’s room. She removed the bag from an unused closet. Sounds of screaming and fighting could be heard through the home. The noise of a fragile treasure breaking on a floor above her echoed through the spacious halls. Sounds of people yelling increased. The felt heavier on her back as she made her way out of the room. Cassiopea thought that she felt a hint of movement from inside. Jinny saw her cousin exiting the doorway with a bag in tow from the balcony of the winding staircase.

“I knew it, I knew it, you sneak.” Anger dripped from her words from above. “Get back here you dirty bitch. Let me see what’s in that bag. You already got a million bucks. I want your bag.”

Cassiopea looked at her aggressive cousin with fear. She hoped to have avoided her family, especially her family’s most unbalanced relation. Jinny bolted for the top of the staircase. Cassiopea took flight through the main hall, hoping to outrun her pursuer through the front door. Jinny easily descended the staircase onto the polished, oak floor. Cassiopea’s survival instincts gave her a much needed adrenaline boost. Her cousin closed the distance fueled by the need to know what could be snuck out of her hands. Cassiopea swung the backpack off her shoulders onto her front to make sure Jinny couldn’t make a last effort grab for her.

The large, double doorway loomed just ahead, giving the young woman hollow confidence that she would make her way past the guards. Jinny dove in desperation. Her small hand connected with the heel of her target’s dress shoe. Both young women fell forward, landing on the hallway carpet runner. Cassiopea held the bag in her arms. Both women looked at one another from the ground. They lay panting. Cassiopea became the first person upon her feet. Her bag felt as if the overall weight equaled a hundred pounds. She threw open the door and ran past the doorway. Jinny jumped up and down like a child having a tantrum.

“You fucking cheating bitch whore! I’m telling my mom!” The twenty year old spilled verbal venom in defeat.

Cassiopea walked down the entrance steps, slowly catching more of her breath. She ignored the ongoing spoken assaults. Her focus became getting the backpack to her car before anyone brewed up similar ideas. Silence filled the ride home. Her mind went to work processing all that had happened within the last hours. She thought about violating his study, the odd item that inexplicably fell to the floor, the horror that passed through her mind, his last words to her, the family vultures and being attacked on her exit. The three hour ride evolved into a blur of inner reflection.

Disturbing dreams of her grandfather ravaged her usually uneventful sleep. A large, goat legged monstrosity danced menacingly around him as he sat in a leather backed chair from his home. A deep expression of fearfulness rested on his face. He looked directly at her. “Why were you in my study, Cassie, why?” The nightmare ended with her waking in a cold sweat. Cassiopea had the same dream nightly for a month, ever since she had arrived home. The dream details varied. The chair style changed. Her grandfather altered in age. The exterior took place sometimes in his gardens, sometimes in the home, sometimes in his study. The creature always showed up the same. It’s body looked dark and pulsating, at least nine feet tall with a hysterical jumble of tentacles extended from every part of the upright, oval torso. Cassiopea tried every remedy to push past the dream. Sleeping pills made the dream crisper, as if she truly witnessed his fate.

Her grandfather’s estate lawyer showed up at Cassiopea’s office weeks later with several other professional women. She explained that someone had been in the study by account of some missing items. The lawyer asked with a stern politeness if the young woman had taken anything from his study. Cassiopea felt the intimidation that the lawyer and her group intended. She denied having ever been in the study, making the excuse that she didn’t have the key. The lawyer easily saw through the lie.

“Ok, when the dreams get too bad and you want them to end, give me a call. He deserves better than to be tortured by that ‘thing’.” She passed Cassiopea her business card. “There is another looking for the book. It won’t be as cordial as we’ve been. For your sake, I hope you call me with the truth sooner than later.”

The lawyer and her team left Cassiopea’s meeting room. She arrived home determined to hand the book over to the lawyer. Her living room appeared darker than normal as she put her keys in the table bowl. Every aspect of the inside of her home felt off. The floor appeared connected to the wall in cube like pixels. The air around her smelled like moldy, burnt cinders. Cassiopea began to feel dizzy.

“I think you should have a seat in here, Cassie.” A graveled voice called out from her spare room which served as her personal library.

She felt her heart sink. Her dead grandfather had been the single person to address her by that name. Cassiopea didn’t recognize the silken voice. She cautiously made her way down the hall, looking for anything that could be used for defense.

“There’s nothing in this house you can use against me, Cassie. Come in and have a seat. We have lots to talk about.”

Cassiopea peeked around the door frame into her spare bedroom. A two foot creature stood on the pile of her grandfather’s books. It’s body represented a mass of slender appendages with multiples of mouths that opened and shut in rhythm. Six visible goat-like legs underneath held the form standing. Yellowish eyes opened and shut all over its body.

“For your sake, you really should’ve told the lawyer about having the book. Unfortunately Cassie, that opportunity had been wasted. The lawyer will be here soon. By then, it won’t matter. The totem will be with me and you will be as dead as your grandfather. The good news is that you both will be together forever. Though, I’m sorry to tell you that you won’t like the company who will be dancing around you both.”

The creature spun around as if to dance in a mocking display. A cold streak of panic poured down her spine.

“No.” Cassiopea uttered with every sense of defeat. Her eyes stayed locked onto the creature in shock.

“Oh, yes. Let’s talk.” The creature’s mouths smiled in unison.

The door to the study gently closed by itself. Cassiopea screamed. Her body exploded inside the room, painting the walls, books and furniture with warm blood, organs and tissue. A sedan pulled up the house’s front curb. The lawyer saw the inside of the study window covered with a thin coat of dark liquid paste. Larger chunks of red material slid downward across the wide window.

“Too late. Damn.” She cursed to herself, banging her fist on the steering wheel.

The smiling creature measuring watched the car pulled away with wide smiles through the visceral splattered window.

May 28, 2021 15:21

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