I don't know how to explain what I saw at Rose Hill that day. Perhaps there aren't really words to express it... but I'll start at the beginning.
It was a rainy afternoon when Mr. Tsubarov came to visit. I was working on a sundial for Mrs. Schell's garden, and didn't actually hear him come in. It was the tap on my shoulder that got my attention. I must've jumped a good five feet, because Tsubarov was laughing as I turned to face him. His laughter revealed a row of crooked teeth, stained from nicotine, and I was a little surprised that such an otherwise fastidiously tidy man would have such bad teeth.
He said something about how I looked like a "skeered rabbit," then started rambling. Now, I'd known Tsubarov for years, and I'd never known him to ramble. I was starting to wish he'd get to the point, so I could get back to work, when he told me.
"Well, m'boy," he'd said, "I'm gonna give you the opportunity of a lifetime." It turned out that he was a member of a group of very special friends, one of whom had died recently, and they wanted to commission me to make the tombstone. If I did a good job, they'd consider bringing me into the group to replace the dead man.
Now, I was a young man, then, just starting out, and that commission money sure sounded good... but something made me really uneasy as Tsubarov talked, some inner squeamishness that I couldn't entirely ignore. Tsubarov and his friends were, according to him, the most powerful people in the county. I couldn't help but think how it would be to rub elbows with high and mighty judges and officials, but that inner sense, so hard to ignore even for a man who didn't believe in such things, clearly told me that this was Not Good.
In the end, I took the assignment. That tombstone would bring in enough money to feed my family and pay off the last of the hospital bills from when Duo, my pride and joy, my only son, was brought into this world. There wasn't anything I wouldn't do to give my boy the best of everything, so I pushed the uneasiness to the back of my mind and told Tsubarov I'd be proud to do the job, and shook his hand.
That was when he told me what the tombstone was to be. A pyramid, built to very detailed specifications, and placed *just so* over the grave. A white pyramid. The uneasiness rose up again, bleeding through all my other feelings like spilled bleach, but I had given my word, and Marquises may run and hide, but we never lie.
I shook Tsubarov's hand again as he was leaving, and it's a good thing my hair was long, because it hid the way the skin all along the back of my neck was crawling. It was late afternoon by then, still storming something fierce, and I went back to put the finishing touches on Mrs. Schell's sundial, feeling ill at ease.
My wife asked me, when I went home that evening, whether anything unusual had happened. Her dusky-violet eyes were shadowed, and I wondered what had clued her in, because she seemed to *know* something was not right.
"Finished Mrs. Schell's sundial, and got a commission," I said truthfully, but in a falsely casual tone of voice. "That was about it. Anything new here?"
Noin smiled, and told me about her day as she went about getting dinner on the table. I could tell she was relieved by my answer, so I let her go on being relieved. I smiled, and acted as though everything was just fine, while all along that uneasiness was bleaching through my entire being. It was the closest I'd ever come to lying to her. I'd even been painfully honest with her about Wufei and Treize... but that's a different story. She'd asked me once, in the dead of night, whether I would still have married her if Treize and Wufei were still alive.
I hadn't answered her; instead, I kissed her, reassuring her the only way I could without lying. I did love her, do love her still... but Treize and Wufei...
Well. That night, the night after Tsubarov commissioned the pyramid, I had the first of the Dreams. I dreamed about the pyramid, white and cold and perfect in my mind's eye; I didn't have to check the measurements to know that the pyramid had been crafted perfectly to the specifications, because there was no other way for it to be.
In the Dream, the pyramid slowly tilted, and a great darkness flowed from underneath it, and Tsubarov and his 11 friends crowded around me, wanting me to become the 13th member of their little group. I fled, running through the maze of Rose Hill cemetery, past the Confederate tombstones, around past the statue of Martha, holding roses the color of blood...
And then I was there, at the pool where *it* had happened, and the darkness overwhelmed me. Darkness and the scent of rancid patchouli rose up to smother me, and I ran then, ran for my life, past Martha, who had dropped her roses. I ran uphill and downhill, past the Confederate graves, past the statue with the missing hand...
...and ended up right in front of the pyramid, frozen in the chill of its shadow.  I screamed, and that was when I woke up.
The clock read 3:33am. Noin slept like the dead, and I eased out of the bed to creep to Duo's room. The little guy was fast asleep, one chubby little hand clutching the stuffed tiger I'd given him for his birthday.
I stayed for a long time, watching my son sleep, and letting the sweet serenity ease my spirit. Just as dawn began to break, I stole back to my room to get at least another hour of rest.
I began work on the pyramid that morning, deliberately ignoring my misgivings and the dream of the previous night. The stone was icy cold under my fingertips, and it was with many a shudder that I started working. After all, a dream was only a dream, and I had given my word.
I dreamed the same thing that night. Every night in the weeks that followed, my dreams were haunted by the same vision: the pyramid, the darkness, the scent of rancid patchouli, the desperate race through Rose Hill that ended up right back at the pyramid again.
Every night I woke up at 3:33am.
When the pyramid was finally finished, I could honestly say that it was the best work I'd ever done. It gleamed in pure white perfection, cold and flawless and horrible, and I couldn't wait to be rid of it. I hired a bunch of men to help me move the thing, a group of big, strong fellows with honest reputations. Together we heaved that thing up into the carriage - it had to be transported by carriage, not car, according to the orders Tsubarov had given me. Other than attracting attention as we made our way Riverside Drive to the cemetery, the carriage ride was uneventful. We wound our way down the narrow roads of Rose Hill, and found the grave where the pyramid was to be, and all the while a sense of dread was steadily growing in the back of my mind.
Hauling that thing out of the carriage and onto the grave was enough of a chore, and we all stopped for a while to catch our breath, leaving the pyramid crooked. Now there had been very specific directions for how many degrees toward the river the thing was to face, so I marked out how it needed to be repositioned. The horses got nervous as the men and I started to shift the stone...
When we lifted it, a mass of spiders poured out from under it, each one bearing the distinctive red hour-glass markings of a Black Widow. We dropped the pyramid, needless to say, each of us scampering away from the deadly creatures. The others jumped up onto the carriage and the horses took off; I was separated from them by the river of spiders. I backed away, somehow unable to tear my eyes away. The ground opened up, a series of holes like shocked, screaming mouths, and the spiders ran into them and disappeared. I stared at the ground where they had been, and it was smooth and undisturbed.
I don't know how long I stood there staring, but I took to my heels at some point, tearing around the bend and along the road that ran by the ravine... and then I saw it, the pool where *it* had happened, and I swear as God is my witness, I *saw* them, the two bodies twined together in death. Wufei looked up at me with those huge, soulful, sorrowful eyes, eyes you could drown in, eyes that begged me for help, and then *SHE* rose up shrieking.
"You took my brother from me!" she screamed, rushing towards me with the knife in her hand, her clothes covered with mud and green muck from the bottom of the pool. "Both of you! And now you'll get what's coming to you!"
I ran then, ran for my life, all the way past Martha, and God help me, but she was holding blood-red roses, just like in the Dream, and I don't mind admitting to you that I was whimpering with terror between gasping breaths. Just as the road began to curve upwards, *she* was there in front of me, and I wheeled and pelted back the way I'd come, and sure enough, Martha's roses were on the ground. I saw, as I tore past her, that she hadn't dropped them. The stems were still clutched in her stone hand, sliced short by a sharp knife.
The scent rose up around me, rancid patchouli, and I'm sure I screamed. Then I was back at the pool, and Wufei called out, "Zechs! Please! Help me!" and I dashed back around the bend...
...and there was the pyramid, horrible and cold and perfect, and I froze, just as I had in the Dream, even as I felt *her* gaining on me.
"ZECHS!" Wufei screamed, tormented and anguished, and I ran, ran like I was trying to escape Hell itself... and perhaps I was.
I don't know how I missed the road leading to the entrance; I'd been to Rose Hill a million times in my life, knew all the turns and bends like my own backyard, but I missed it. I ended up, choking with terror, right by the Confederate cemetery, one of the most sad and peaceful parts of the whole place. I could feel *her* cold breath on me as I ran past the Confederate plot and made my roundabout way to the entrance. There it was, just a little uphill, and I staggered towards it, lungs seared with the effort to breathe, heart pounding with terror. My legs burned as I forced them, step by step, uphill to the entrance.
"NO!" *her* voice cried behind me, closer than I'd thought. "I demand JUSTICE!!!"
I felt a horrifying, icy, burning pain along my calf, and I tumbled out through the gateway, my head ringing with the shriek of pure malice and thwarted evil that *she* let loose.
Mumbling a prayer of thanksgiving that *she* couldn't follow me past the gates, I shakily staggered to the road and flagged down a ride. Luckily I was able to get straight to the hospital, where I had to get 56 stitches to close up the wound that had almost crippled me. I couldn't explain how I'd cut myself, and they ended up deciding it was a jagged rock or some such nonsense.
There was never any mention of the spiders after that; the men who had been there simply refused to talk about it, and I didn't blame them. I didn't want to talk about it, or think about it... and I sure as Hell didn't intend to ever set foot in that place again. I hired new men to go reposition the pyramid, and sent a bouquet of flowers with them to give to Martha, because I figured I owed her. They reported nothing unusual, and seemed pleasantly surprised by the hefty bonus I gave them for their work.
Tsubarov approached me, and I respectfully declined his offer, explaining that unfortunately I'd be moving with my family. Not even the vaguely-worded threats he offered could sway me, because I knew I wanted nothing to do with his coven, or whatever you call a group of warlocks.
We were gone within a month, despite Noin's protests and the hassle of getting settled in a new place. All I knew was that I didn't dare continue to live and work in the shadow of that cemetery, in the town Tsubarov and his friends occupied. From that day to this, I've never set foot in that place, or at least not in my waking life. My dream self goes there nightly, walking with the limp *she* gave me, and while I lie in bed in my wife's arms, my soul is near Treize and Wufei, helpless in terror and the loss of eternal separation. The sight of Wufei's dark eyes haunts me, Treize's melancholy expression... and always, in my dreams, always there is the shadow of the pyramid and *her*.
And I always wake up at 3:33am.
 From what I'm given to understand, a "scared rabbit" is a rabbit that sees you coming and tears out of harm's way, lickety-split. A "skeered rabbit" is one that sees you coming and freezes in sheer terror. ^_~ "Skeered rabbits" are much more likely to end up in a stew pot. >_< [back]
 If you check out the chart of Rose Hill, you can
see that Zechs is literally running around in circles. The ravine
and the Confederate plot are on about opposite sides of the cemetery.
In going the long way around, he's covering more than a mile,
most of it uphill. [back]
On to "Rose Hill"