Following up on my last post, I thought I’d continue celebrating the upcoming release of book five by sharing a sample from book 2 of The Temple of the Blind. Taking place nearly a year after the events of The Box, Gilbert House introduces new characters, new settings and new terrors.
Gilbert House: Book Two of The Temple of the Blind
by Brian Harmon
The second floor of Gilbert House was nearly identical to the first. It had the same wide hallways, the same tiled floor and ceiling and the same eerie atmosphere. But like the basement, it lacked the spacious common room in the middle. Apparently, these existed only on every other floor. Albert supposed that this was probably why they were designed so much larger than the lounges at Lumey. They would have had much more traffic.
Albert and Wayne started down the hallway, sweeping away the stubborn shadows with their flashlights.
“I don’t like this,”
Wayne murmured. “It’s wrong.”
“So you keep saying,” replied Albert.
“Yes, I do. And I’ll keep saying it until I leave.”
“Nobody’s keeping you here.” Albert glanced back and realized that the girls were no longer right behind him. He turned and saw that they both were standing in the middle of the hallway near the stairwell, shining their lights up at the ceiling.
“What’s up,” Albert asked, but was shushed by Brandy.
“We heard something upstairs,” Nicole whispered.
“What kind of something?” Albert asked.
“Sort of like footsteps,” Brandy replied.
Albert remembered again the way the doors had been opened ahead of them, as though someone had beaten them here. Could that intruder still be here somewhere, stalking around in the darkness?
The four of them stood silently, their eyes and flashlights fixed on the ceiling tiles.
“Probably nothing,” Brandy said after a while, but the tone of her voice was not convincing.
Albert walked back to the stairwell and shined his flashlight up into the darkness. There was nothing up there. At least nothing he could see. He couldn’t help but remember the temple, however, and how they had never really been alone, even though they never saw anyone.
When he returned from the stairwell, Brandy took his hand and leaned against him, as if craving his warmth. “I don’t like it in here,” she confessed. “It doesn’t feel right. It’s not like the temple at all.”
Albert nodded. There was something different about this place.
The four of them started forward again, their flashlights still gravitating now and then toward the ceiling. Albert, always alert, always aware, noticed that
Waynelagged purposefully behind. He was considering turning back, perhaps without even telling them. He did not very much trust these three strangers he’d found snooping around Gilbert House’s ruins.
But the temple had been calling them back. The first journey had been dangerous, but they weren’t completely unprepared. They had the box. And the box was the map that kept them on the path. Whoever sent them there did not send them to die. If so, they never would have made it home. Albert was fairly certain that they would never have left the sex room if the strange man with no eyes hadn’t removed the flashlight and left them unable to see the statues.
At least, he assumed it was the man with no eyes; he never saw anyone else.
His mind kept returning to the statue between the sex room and the frigid water through which they’d been forced to swim. He called it the faith statue. It encouraged them to have faith, to push forward regardless of the discomfort that waited for them in the passage ahead. And looking back now, it was their faith in the box that kept them safe. Sure, there were other dangers. The deadly pit of spikes had been waiting for them at the hate room’s exit, for example. And there were those creatures…
But he’d trusted the box. And he’d trusted those strange, stone sentinels. And now he was trusting the envelope that the girl with the pierced nose and eyebrow gave to him.
Besides, it wasn’t like he had much choice. The only thing that awaited him at home was more of those eerie telephone calls.
Albert opened the door to one of Gilbert House’s second floor rooms and looked inside. For a moment he only stood in the doorway, not quite understanding what he saw. The room was as dark as a grave, just as the ones below it had been, but its window was not covered. Dusty glass reflected the beam of the flashlight back at him, a slightly distorted reflection of himself looked back at him with his own puzzled expression.
There had to be something blocking the sunlight. They hadn’t been in here long enough for it to have gotten dark. It was not yet even six.
Brandy and Nicole peered in after him as he walked across this empty room and shined his light through the glass. He expected to find another wall on the other side of the window pane, but there was none. His flashlight’s beam passed through the glass and planted a weak disk of light on the ground two stories below.
“What is it?” Brandy asked, stepping up behind him.
“It’s the ‘Alfred Hitchcock Dimension’,” Albert replied, borrowing the phrase from Nicole. “Wherever we are, it’s nighttime.”
Brandy and Nicole peered past him and out into the darkness beyond the glass. After a moment,
Waynealso joined him at the window.
Very little could be seen of that dark, outside world, but what could be made out was vastly different from the landscape that surrounded Gilbert House when they were outside. Through this window, sizable trees could be seen nearby, their limbs bare of leaves. But there were no trees of that size within many yards of the building as they had seen it, and those farther away had not yet even begun to turn their autumn colors. Also, the ground beneath them appeared to be void of the grass and brush that had overrun the forest floor for as far as they could see. There was nothing out there but naked earth.
It should have been startling, staring out at a nighttime scene when the sun should be burning brightly in the sky, but after facing the reality of Gilbert House’s multiple floors, they were numb to this shock. Each of them, after all, had already contemplated the idea of some alien world lurking beyond these walls.
And yet, the logical part of their minds continued to deny it. Perhaps it was still an illusion. Perhaps this entire building was still somehow underground, and all they were looking at was a cavern floor and some fake trees. But that wouldn’t explain how they could be so far underground without knowing that they had descended.
Albert considered breaking the glass and taking a good look at whatever was out there, but that might be a mistake. He knew nothing about this place. Just like when he was exploring the temple, he didn’t dare do anything reckless. For all he knew, the air out there could be poison.
Wayne, at last stepping away from the window, “I still don’t know where we are but I know where we’re not.”
“That’s the first step,” Nicole said smartly and turned away from the window.
“Come on guys,” Albert said. “Let’s check out the rest of this…” He paused, still shining his flashlight through the window.
“What is it?” Brandy asked, concerned.
Albert shook his head. “Thought I saw something out there.”
“If you did,” suggested Nicole, “maybe you should keep it to yourself.”
“Don’t worry. It wasn’t anything. A little breeze in the trees, I think.” But thirteen months ago, he learned never to dismiss anything, no matter how unlikely or bizarre it might seem, and he continued to stare through the window as he backed away.
The four of them exited the room and walked on down the hallway, pausing at each door to peer behind it.
“Did you hear that?” Nicole asked, shining her flashlight at the ceiling again.
“I heard it,” Brandy confirmed.
“I’ve been hearing it for a while now,”
Wayne said, “but I didn’t want to alarm anyone.” He looked up at the ceiling, visibly nervous. “Footsteps.”
“Following us since we left that first room,” said Albert, loath to admit it, but seeing no point in keeping it to himself.
“What is it?” Brandy wondered.
“I don’t like this at all,” Nicole said.
Albert opened one more door and peered inside, then closed it again. “Okay guys, this is getting a little weird. I don’t think we can keep pretending we’re alone in here. If anyone wants to bail, now would be the time.”
The three of them looked at him, surprised.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Brandy asked. There was a distinct edge to her voice, but Albert ignored it.
“I’m talking about you and Nicole going back down those stairs and back outside where you know it’s safe.
Wayne, too, if he wants.”
Nicole looked doubtfully at
Wayne and Albert saw that she wanted to go. She was very brave, but she was getting scared. Hell, so was he.
“I’m going to check things out. If I’m not out in a couple hours, get the police. They won’t buy it, but they’ll figure things out for themselves once they’re inside.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Brandy insisted, and there was a flush in her cheeks that Albert rarely saw. She was afraid, but she was also mad. She was mad at him for even suggesting such a horrible thing, that she were to abandon him and run away, leaving him to face whatever might lurk in Gilbert House alone.
Albert sighed. “It might not be safe in here, okay. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“I’m not leaving you!” Brandy exclaimed, her voice loud enough to echo.
Upstairs, there was a shuffle, followed by movement. Whatever it was, it was now moving away from them.
“I’m not going anywhere, either,” Nicole said, and if not for the way her eyes jittered toward the ceiling, Albert might have believed that she hadn’t heard the noise.
Albert nodded. “Okay then.” He looked at
Wayne. “You’re still free to go.”
“All right, then,” Albert said. He looked up at the ceiling. “What do you suggest we do now?”
“This might seem a little crazy,”
Wayne said. “But maybe we should go upstairs.”
Albert, Brandy and Nicole exchanged a surprised look.
“There’s something up there,”
Wayne explained. “It might be a squirrel or a rat. It might be some guy in a hockey mask. I don’t know. But I know we probably outnumber it.” His eyes lifted apprehensively to the ceiling. “Besides,” he added, “we’ll have to check out the next floor eventually anyway.”
“He’s got a point,” Albert said. “And besides, maybe that’s what we’re in here to find.” He turned and walked on down the hallway. Another stairwell loomed in the shadows ahead.
“I don’t like it,” Nicole said. “It seems risky.”
“It is,” agreed Albert. He stepped up to the foot of the stairs and looked up into the darkness with his flashlight. For just an instant, he thought there was something up there, something just disappearing into one of the upper hallways, but it was gone before he could register it. He remembered that feeling of being watched that he’d felt while examining the concrete wall at the bottom of the other stairwell and wondered again whether he’d really imagined it. “I’ll go first.”
They began to ascend the steps to the third floor, Albert in front, Brandy and Nicole close behind and
Wayne at their backs.
The third floor was different from the first. Instead of a single double doorway at the center of the wall on the left, the entire wall between the restroom and the shower room was a row of large, glass windows. At the very center, a single pair of glass doors allowed access into the room, which looked to Albert like a solarium except for the fact that there seemed to be no sun to shine into it.
Albert stepped into the hallway and shined his light around. Aside from the glass wall, everything on this floor was the same as those below it. He turned and looked back at the others. Brandy was standing near him. Nicole was just at the top of the steps behind her.
Waynewas waiting several steps below her. They were all watching him, waiting to for him to tell them it was safe.
What happened next happened extremely fast.
Something plunged out of the darkness of the stairwell and landed on the steps with a resounding impact that shook the very floor beneath them. A large, hulking shape lunged as the darkness became a chaos of darting flashlight beams. The silent hallways of Gilbert House were suddenly filled with piercing screams and a horrible, guttural howl.
Find Gilbert House at any of these bookstores (or simply search for “Brian Harmon” at your favorite online bookstores).
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004YEY1V2
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004YEY1V2
Amazon Germany: https://www.amazon.de/dp/B004YEY1V2