“What? Why would you bring us back here?” Jon cried. “After everything I did to get you out of there…we have to go, now!”

He tried to lean over to grapple for control of the car, but was interrupted by a sudden sheet of flame which erupted from the back seat, filling the car with acrid smoke and causing the exposed metal to glow cherry red almost immediately. Jon and Laure spilled out the doors, the latter coughing violently.

“The house doesn’t want me, Jon,” Laura said, walking slowly through the smoke and sparks of the car’s spontaneous combustion. “It never wanted me.”

Jon waved her back in fear, still doubled over from smoke inhalation. “That can’t be…you were there…I saved you…”

Laura gestured to the house, looming silent and dark in the dusk a few paces away. “I don’t know if it was denial, or naivete, or projection, or what. But you were so dead-set on ‘protecting’ me that you didn’t see. You couldn’t see.”

In trying to respond, Jon was racked with another fit of coughs.

“It’s been you all along, Jon. It’s you the house wants.” Laura seized the nape of Jon’s collar and dragged him toward the door of the house they had recently given everything–even lives–to escape.

In his weakened state, Jon could only offer feeble resistance. He tried to dig in his heels, to fight off Laura’s iron grip, but in moments he found himself bodily up against the front door, with its ominous brass accoutrements leering at him from all angles.

Laura’s hand was on the doorknob. “It’s the only way to get our lives back, to stop the madness.”

“No! Don’t!”

“I’m sorry.”

The door swung open, but instead of the entrance hall with its tattered drapes and forlorn chandelier, there was–impossibly–a yawning abyss speckled with starlike points of light. Jon tottered on the threshold for a moment, clawing at the doorjamb, before toppling forward. Spinning end over end, he was quickly lost in the darkness, a point of light among the others claimed by the darkness.

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