The House of Skulls
Ellen gazed into the Chinese crystal. Its blue depths reflected the shifting colors of the old witch-woman's hut.
Ellen gazed into the Chinese crystal. Its blue depths reflected the shifting colors of the old witch-woman’s hut. The ball was ancient. It had been the property of the Emperors of China, and before that, of the legendary rulers of Sunken Lemuria. Into its depths had gone the sights and sounds of thousands of years of human history and horror. The crone sitting opposite Ellen laughed harshly.
“You want to see your lover again, eh? He whom they shot to death? I can do it… for a price!” She chuckled again, and rubbed her dried old hands.
Ellen had to find out the answer from the dead. There was a fortune in loot hidden by the man the cops had cut down.
“Gaze into the crystal, girl.” The old witch’s yellow eyes glared at the girl. “Gaze deep and watch, watch!”
Ellen stared into the ball’s glow until she felt dizzy. The hut was whirling around her, vanishing into fog. The ball grew before her eyes. A greenish light seemed to flow from its depths and sur- round her, and then…
She was no longer sitting in the hut. She was standing on a stony path under the glare of a burning sky. Before her stretched a wall, a wicker-work of bones, yellow-brown and dusty. On top ran a line of skulls, leering at her through empty eye-sockets. There was a gate in that wall, and toward it she walked, reached out a hand as in a dream and opened it. She walked through.
She was in a garden out of a nightmare by Poe. A stony path led up to a small house. The path was bordered by skulls. Plants like snakes writhed and hissed in that garden, and there was the croaking of toads and the scuttling of crablike spiders amidst this living foliage.
She walked slowly toward the house… It was ghastly, incredible, yet it was vividly real. This was no dream. She knew that she had actually been transported-s om e- where!
A figure came out of the house, stopped in the doorway, and looked at her. It was tall, thin. At a distance it looked like her Arnie. She called out his name. The figure raised its head, started down the path.
She walked towards it, then hesitated, stopped. It was Arnie, alive, walking, but…what a change! He looked as if he had lain in a grave for many months,” drying, rotting, crumbling. Shreds of dried flesh clung to bones from which the life had long ago fled. The face was not that of the man she had known…only the eyes, the bright eyes rimmed in red, re- mained wide, glittering. The thing that had been Arnie came toward her. It open- ed its jaws, called her name in a crack- ling, grating voice.
She screamed then, wildly, frantically. She turned and fled from the man who had been her lover in life. She had a glimpse of an endless expanse of fire before her, then suddenly…
She was lying on the floor of the little hut and the witch was bending over her. Ellen got slowly to her feet, moaning. The crystal was shrouded in black. “Did you ask him what you wanted?” the witch whispered.
Ellen turned a horror-struck face towards the old crone. She shook her head slowly.
She had had the courage to go directly to the land beyond the grave in her search of greed. But she had not realized that there can never be a question of money or earthly loot in the eternal torments of Hell!