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Gaius Baltar

The House, Part II

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With some additional furniture and cables for the computers, the computer room shaped up nicely. I even added a side table and shelf's to store some odds and ends while writing and gazing out the window.

The unit was my old Dell XPS Gen4. A monster of a machine in its time but well past its prime now. Unfortunately, the original hard drive was gone, replaced almost a decade ago so none of the original software was installed. Instead there was a basic Windows XP and some older packages that survived the years. Some graphic software and some older word processing files. I had actually set it up as a media computer many years ago and that was how it was being used until she had passed away. It was still serviceable playing music and movies either from the hard-drive or disk.

I would have to shut the curtains to get anything done. I often wondered why she had chosen this smaller, downstairs room as a computer area, the massive picture window let in so much light it was almost impossible to read from the screen while it was open. And it faced west catching the light of the setting sun which was so much more brilliant. As I moved over to pull the cord, I regarded the room with its blue paint and walk-in type closet to the south side. Actually, I’m not sure what the room would be good for, the large window dominated everything. Given its proximity to the kitchen I assume it could have been a dining room of some fashion many years ago before the remodel.

Having set the room up I paused, something was missing. A glass of wine! So off I go to the wine cellar to look for tonight’s sacrifice. Literally to the other side of the house down the hallway and to the right, end of the hallway, there. The door was old, wooden and massive. I creaked open the deadbolt and slid it into place on the wall. The hinges creaked as I opened them, and shafts of dust slid past me into the fading light of the hallway. The light switch wasn’t working for some reason, so I picked up the battery powered lantern and carefully made my way down the short flight of wooden steps into the cellar. The dim light illuminated the shelf's and benches but wasn’t powerful enough to expose the whole room. I squinted and looked for the crates of 84 Merlot that I knew were stacked against the west wall. Moving closer I could make out the outline of the boxes and was frustrated that I was unable to open one by hand. I propped my lantern up and looked around for something I could use as a lever to crack them open. I moved my hands past some older wooden staves laying in the corner, odd, they were sharpened on one end and hard, like stone, and cold. Curious I picked one up, and that’s when I heard it…soft at first..then slowly becoming more insistent…like an animal scratching on the wall… the wall…

I paused and listened. Nothing. Well maybe I was just hearing things. I looked around, saw nothing.

Ok, well I used one of the oddly shaped wooden staves to open the crate. Hallelujah! I dusty bottle of 1984 Robert Mondavi gleamed in the muted light. I gently picked it up and cradling it in one hand moved back to the door. At the top of the stairway I paused. A muted sound, soft, like the falling of snow. I couldn’t place it. Must be the wind. I moved back up the steps and after stashing my loot on the floor, I moved the heavy door back into place and shut the bolt into position. She had always insisted upon this. “Make sure”, she would say, “the door must be closed and bolted shut”. Well, ok, no reason to leave it open anyway.

There its was again, a soft scratching sound. From the other side of the door? Stopping to listen again, no, nothing.

I picked up my prize and returned to the computer room. With great relieve I opened the bottle and poured a glass of dark red wine. The effect was immediate, as the warm liquid soothed my throat and started that fuzzy feeling, we all long for.

Looking into the computer screen I noticed my lips were a dark color. Darker than usual. I arose, went across the hallway and looked into the mirror.

My lips were bloody, like someone had just smashed them with a rock. I swiped them with my finger, just wine. A dark, dark wine.

Just then then wind picked up and the sound of branches grating against the roof. Perhaps a storm was coming.

I returned to the computer room and sat down. As I unhibernated the screen I saw the eyes in the reflection and realized I wasn’t alone.