Walter was sitting on the steps of the courtyard as the Psychai flew aimlessly about the garden. He was catching up on his reading before he began writing the essay Archibal had assigned them. He would glance at the Psychai every so often not really focusing his attention at her. He was deeply engrossed in his book that he didn’t see something approaching him, but the Psychai saw and in fright hid behind Walter. He was about to ask her why she was hiding when a strange shadow moved in front of him and like a black mass of nothing, it expanded and grew into a hideous dark form.
Alarmed by the sight, Walter grabbed his books and ran inside, slamming the door behind him. The Psychai was shivering and shaking at his side. He locked the door and ran back to his room. “What — what was that?” he said to her. It had happened so quickly he didn’t have time to apprehend the situation. “Was that him?” The Psychai could only nod. “What did it want? Why was it coming after me?” his head was spinning, boggling his thoughts. If he ever needed Archibal it was now. He paced in his room trying to figure out what to do when the door to his room opened. Walter froze in trepidation. Had it followed him? He thought of his ring and just vamoose out of there, anywhere but here.
“Walter,” it was his mother. “Dinner is ready.”
Walter sighed in relief. He couldn’t respond to her, his heart was still dashing from the fright.
“Is there something the matter?” she said curiously.
Walter could only shake his head no.
“You looked like you’ve seen a ghost,” she said. “Honestly Walter you shouldn’t believe in all these falderals floating around lately. You’ll be jumping in fright at every sound. Then you’ll start having nightmares. You should start growing up, Walter and helping me more often with the chores. Now go get your dinner before it gets cold. I’m going to take a nap before I start my late shift.”
Walter nodded. He wasn’t surprised his mother didn’t believe in it and wondered if she saw anything the others saw. What about Bonifacious? Was he a figments of everybody’s imagination? He wasn’t about to convince his mother otherwise. She was inexorable and lately ornery. That’s how she was when she was overworked, and when she overworked, it meant she was trying to save up money.
Walter gulped at the thought. It was just an indication that they might be moving soon. That was the last thought he wanted to think of. Move away from Uncle Obel and Aunt Edith, Alden, Asbjorn, Cadi and Archibal. That took away the fear of the shadow and replaced it with a new fear. He was hoping she was busy because the inn was more active than usual. He would just have to wait and see. He headed to the kitchen to get his dinner. Maybe Mildred and Gertrudes’ happy disposition might cheer him up if not maybe their food would.
Walter had fallen asleep with his books open when he entered the realm of dreams. Walter is somewhere and in a whisper tells it to take him to Archibal’s manor. He materializes in the foyer but it seems nobody is home. The place is dark and lifeless, nothing moves or stirs in the manor, not even a single light glows. “Archibal,” Walter calls out but nobody answers, not even the discarnate voice that shouts out. “Is anybody home? Archibal?” Walter walks into the parlor but it is empty. He starts to get an eerie feeling. He walks toward the library and it also show no signs of life.
“Walter,” calls out a male voice.
Walter recognizes that voice. It’s his father. “Dad?” Walter says. “Dad, is that you?” Walter runs back to the foyer.
“Walter, is that you? Where are you?”
The voice seems to be coming from the top of the stairways. Walter can’t see anything but immediately runs up the steps.
“Walter, I can’t see you. Where are you?”
“Dad! I’m here,” Walter walks down the corridor. He tries to open the doors but none seem to budge. He comes to the end of the corridor where he sees a figure. “Dad, it’s me. Dad?” Walter approaches the figure.
“Come a little closer son, so I can see you better.”
He comes closer and closer but the figure does not move. Then unexpectedly the figure transforms into the crocotta with its angry eyes and huge wolf like body. “So, we meet again, boy,” it hissed.
“What do you want?” Walter said.
“I want you,” it said and jumped to attack Walter.