The Round Room - Prologue
Featuring Cover Art and Illustrations by Riverance
With special thanks to my beta readers Fyrmaiden & Corinna
Pairings/Characters: Kurt, Carmen Tibideaux, Blaine Anderson, Daphne (Vogue), others in less prominence, various friendships, some complicated Kurt/Blaine
Genre: Horror/Science Fiction/Fantasy (Canon divergent AU Fusion)
Warnings: angst, horror elements including (in no particular order) mental instability and mental health issues, grisly occult artifacts, minor character death, accidental death of an animal, zombie animals, monsters, suicidal ideation, desecration of human remains, blood, violence, and injury, self harm, self mutilation, body modification, and psychological trauma
Summary: Something's not right with Carmen Tibideaux. After a strange encounter with her after hours at NYADA, Kurt cannot shake the sense he's being stalked: a whisper in his mind; a strange, cloying scent; a prickle on the back of his neck; and the return of an old, forgotten nightmare. Kurt finds clues in both his past and in his present, but none of them prepare him for the truth of what's out there. A Glee centric fusion with Cthulhu-esque horror and Star Trek: TNG. Canon divergent after 4x09 "Swan Song". Written for the 2014 kurt_bigbang
[ Prologue - Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV - Epilogue - And in the end ]
On Valentine's Day, Blaine arrives home in the afternoon. He's just returning from the reception for Mr. Schuester and Miss Pillsbury's wedding. He had a good time with Tina, but the day has left him tender hearted, and he couldn't stay any later. He's missing Kurt, who he hasn't seen since Christmas. They haven't spoken on the phone in weeks. He's received a few inconsequential texts—mostly excuses and apologies for not sending anything more; he gets few replies to what he sends back. Burt says he hasn't heard much more than that from Kurt either, and he urges Blaine to be patient. Kurt gets like this when he's got so much going on in his life. He's always been this way, Burt tells him. And of course, Blaine knows very well that Kurt's busy with Vogue and NYADA (and Kurt had made some mention about maybe needing to get a part time job to help pay for tuition), but Blaine knows Kurt too, and he can't help but worry.
There's fresh snow in the driveway, but it's not so deep he can't park in the drive. The leather soles of his shoes slip on the fine layer of powder as he walks to the mailbox. Since it is Valentine's Day, he's been nurturing a hope for something from Kurt today, a card maybe, some kind of acknowledgment of the day. He picks his way carefully down the length of the driveway. He'll need to shovel it before his parents get home.
The cold of the winter afternoon is bitter on his face, and his breath fogs around him. The metal of the mailbox chills his fingers even through the fine wool knit of his gloves. He pulls out the wad of bills; there's no colorful card sized envelope, but he shuffles through the stack anyway, hoping. He freezes when he gets to a thick, battered business envelope that's hand addressed to him. He recognizes the handwriting; it's as familiar to him as his own. It's what he hoped to see, but it's not a card.
After weeks of so little communication, why would Kurt mail him a letter? Blaine hurries back to the house—nearly falls twice—eager to get inside and find out. His hands are numb and his heart flutters nervously. He dumps his bag on the floor in the foyer with his coat, scarf, and hat. He pulls his gloves off with his teeth as he heads to the kitchen. Drops all the mail but for Kurt's envelope on the end of the counter, and stops for a moment to gather himself. Carefully, he lays the envelope down before going to the coffee machine and setting it up for a couple of cups.
"Right," Blaine says. He takes the letter upstairs and sets it on his bed while he changes out of his dinner suit and into something more comfortable. Then he grabs his replica dagger letter opener from his desk, sits down on his bed next to Kurt's letter, and picks it up.
He runs his fingers over the envelope. The paper is soft with wear, as if the letter has been carried around for a long time before being mailed. The corners are frayed; there are smudges of dirt and a small smear of dull reddish brown that might be blood? But Kurt's handwriting is crisp and bold as ever. Then Blaine notices something strange: the postmark is Lima, dated just two days ago. So Kurt didn't send this from New York, he's in—or has been in—Ohio. Why hasn't he called? Blaine slides the dull blade of the letter opener neatly along the narrow end of the envelope and pulls out the thick sheaf of paper.
It's twenty pages at least, and written in small, cramped letters, as if Kurt's tried to fit the most words possible on each page. It's hard to read, and it takes Blaine's eye a while to adjust to the cadence and shapes of Kurt's script.
It's been a while, I know, and I know you're probably worried about why I've been out of touch, but, please, Blaine, please read all of this letter before you consider telling anyone about it or that you've heard from me. What I'm writing is for your eyes only. I need to talk to someone who trusts me. The things that have happened to me recently defy easy belief, but I need you to try to believe me, no matter how crazy it may sound. It's hard to know where to start. I've written and rewritten this letter so many times. I always come back to the same thing.
Did I ever tell you about the recurring nightmare I had as a child? The one with the bird? No, I'm sure I didn't, because I don't remember ever telling anyone, not even my Dad. But someone needs to know about it, and about everything that's happened to me these past weeks, and you're still the person I trust most.
So the nightmare was about a bird, and it was always the same. I was very small, maybe three or four? And this little bird—it was a sparrow or a finch? She flew right into the glass sliding doors that led out on the back patio. I was playing inside on the floor, and I saw it. I heard the awful crunching thunk, I saw the smear of blood on the glass, and the tiny body lying still on the concrete. It was the first time I saw something die.
I cried, and I called for my mother, but she didn't come. I called for my Dad. He didn't come either. So I got up and struggled with the heavy door, went outside and looked at the bird. My parents had told me never to pick up birds because they're dirty, but the little thing, with its neck bent all wrong, didn't look dirty to me, so I picked her up.
She was so light in my hands, like there was nothing to her but air and feathers. And she was very dead. I didn't want her to be dead. I could feel the warmth lingering in her tiny body, and I closed my eyes and cupped my hands around her and wished as hard as I could that I could keep that body warm with mine, that I could make her heart beat again and she could fly away, off up into the hawthorn tree where she liked to eat berries in the fall and where she'd sing in the spring.
There was movement, then, in my hands. A soft flutter of motion, feeble but unmistakable. Amazed, I opened my eyes. Had I been mistaken? Was the bird not as badly injured as I thought? Was my body heat enough to revive her? Happiness and relief filled my heart.
Except, no. Not exactly. What moved in my hands wasn't the sprightly little sparrow, but a lurching marionette. Her eyes were milky, her head hung to the side, and a black liquid drooled from her open beak. She struggled spasmodically and her tiny talons bit into my palms. Then she pecked my thumb—hard—and drew blood. I yelped in pain and surprise. She pecked again at the same spot, tore my skin and swallowed it. Horrified and in pain, I dropped her, but undeterred, she hopped toward me making the most awful pained sound. And I guess, the bird really wasn't a she any more, but some kind of reanimated thing. It attacked my bare foot. I screamed and kicked it as hard as I could. It came back at me with one wing broken and dragging.
There was a loose brick nearby. I was crying when I picked it up in both hands. It was heavy. I hope I don't need to tell you what I did. It sickened me. I felt, in that moment, as thought I had been unutterably cruel. I had committed a terrible evil.
I buried what remained of that little bird under the gardenia bush on the south side of the house. I don't know why my dream didn't just stop when the bird pecked me, but I remember burying her. The sweet pall of the gardenia, the chunky dry mulch, the gritty loam under my fingernails, mixing with my blood and my tears, the ruined little body I tucked away like a terrible secret into the ground.
I've told myself, over and over, that this was a nightmare, and eventually I stopped having it. Until recently, shortly before Christmas, I started having it again. It was something I shouldn't have forgotten, something I needed to know about myself.
Blaine blinks and lowers the pages to his lap, exhales a long, unsteady breath. His phone is on his dresser. Should he call Kurt straight away? This is... strange—more than strange—and not like Kurt, not in any way that's familiar to Blaine. But, he decides, Kurt will have expected him to read the whole letter because he trusts Blaine. So Blaine turns the page and keeps reading.
When I try to pinpoint when this all started, I come back to one particular night in mid December. I was at NYADA with Rachel, Carmen Tibideaux's office light was on, and I thought I'd go see her to thank her for my admissions letter...