Skull Family Legend
Theodore read the letter again. His English wasn’t very good, but he certainly understood that his position in life had just changed drastically. ‘Inheritor of the Estate’, that sounded good. ‘Last living male relative.’ What about his cousin, surely she would be getting something. Well, he would go and claim whatever it was. He had never been to England and had only heard second hand stories of that branch of the family. He knew that they were rich which was far better than the nothing he had here.
The ship slowly pulled away from the dock. Teddy took a long, last look at the Scandinavian coast, hope filled his lungs as he deeply breathed the crisp air. He was bound for North England to see his newly inherited estate and meet his distant mourning cousin.
The trip had been long and tiring and the air was damp on the heath. Teddy peered again from the frosty window of the carriage. Still darkness – nothing more. Wait, along the horizon he began to make out a silhouette of a tall and domineering building. He rapped his cane upon the box. The driver opened the hatch and looking down spoke through it
“Are we close?” Teddy asked.
“Aye, that’s her now along the sky. Ye’ll be getting out t’next crossing. I don’t go no futher.”
Teddy dragged his trunk through the mud along the road leading to the house. Yes, there was an air of elegance about the manor. He left the trunk in the mud, climbed the stairs and pulled the knob next to the great doors. A resonating chime sounded eerily through the air. No one came. He tried the handle, turning slowly. The hall was cold as though no fire had burned for weeks. He wandered through the echoing halls wondering where the servants could be. An acrid smell stung his nostrils as he climbed the stairs. The pungent odor grew strong as he neared the large door at the end of the hall. He found the source as he pushed the heavy door open.
The woman was petite, her beautiful face now twisted to a horror, frozen in pain. He touched her leg and she spun slowly upon the rope. “Alas, cousin,” he whispered. “It seems the inheritance is mine alone.”
The Manor, called Skull Manor by the locals, was dark and dreary having a chill that no fire could lift. Teddy was uncomfortable here. It was his grieving cousin, Rebecca, who had hung herself in the master bedroom in madness over her deceased husband and son. The Skull family was feared, not loved. Rebecca’s childhood friend and neighbor, Georgette Dupris, had been the only other person at Rebecca’s funeral.
The next October, in the season when spirits speak, as he entered the bedroom he heard a noise. He peered into the darkness, his flickering lamp casting long shadows about him. He saw nothing, but a disembodied voice came from the darkness. “Get out! This is my room!” it rasped. Teddy jumped, the lamp falling from his grasp. A burning trail of oil sped towards the tapestry and he ran propelled by fear and confusion. The manor suffered massive damage from the fire.
The sprawling estate on the heath grew nothing but wild and intemperate things. A vein of iron ore had provided the family’s wealth but the vein had ended and he soon found himself in debt. How was he to rebuild his fortune? Georgette, he’d marry Georgette, not because he loved her, but because he needed her money. Her father was Squire of Bimmley, an estate adjoining Skull Manor. Her dowry paid for the reconstruction of Skull Manor and her father’s death added to Teddy’s lands. Over the years he did come to love her. Yes, he loved her dearly and she him but the union was cursed from the beginning. With the birth of each child Georgette grew weaker and weaker. By the time their last and third child was born she succumbed completely, giving her life for her offspring.
Teddy was never the same. He turned his grief inward and smoldering, it became hate. His children suffered in neglect. He took his remaining money and renovated the Manor and added to the family factory. It was rumored that foreign workers were used to ensure the secrecy of the newly dug dungeon rooms. Teddy alone knew what went on within those walls but the machinery was heard churning night after night and flames reached high into the night sky from the billowing stacks.
Throughout the years, generations of Skulls shed their family’s blood to secure their fortunes. The darkest of all was Archemedes. Even as a child he had an air of greatness and an aura which disturbed all in his presence. His father would often realize the hair on the back of his neck was standing up only to find Archemedes staring intently at him from a corner, his black eyes darkly reminiscent of Georgette’s side of the family.
It was at one of the yearly carnivals on the Bimmley Estate that Archemedes met the crone. He was happily munching on a leg of mutton, when a grimy old woman softly tugged at his sleeve. “Sir, you ‘ave darkness about you.” She stared into his eyes. “Yes, you are powerful, but still you need help. A benefactor, if you will. I will help you in exchange for a promise.” She led him up the rickety stairs of a tall, painted caravan cart that was black and windowless. He sat as she bade him at a small, crooked table with a short, drippy candle. “I ‘ave been waitin’ for you.” said the hag. “Give me yer hand.” She said as she grabbed it and slid the knife across his palm. And a deal was struck.
Archemedes had always loved watching his Uncle Winnie work in his lab at Skull Industries. The locals had nick-named the lab Code Blue due to the numerous siren-provoking incidents. The tubes and beakers provided entertainment when he mixed the contents. He spent a great deal of time learning his uncle’s experiments. But Uncle Winnie was short-sited. He wasted his time on small thoughts.
Archemedes had greater designs; he would create the perfect formula for obedience. He tried a multitude of chemical combinations, studying the brains of his test subjects for signs of success. The crone provided carnival workers and Georgie procured unwary Skull family members as test subjects. His experiments on old Uncle Manfried’s brain finally brought success. For whatever reason, Manfried’s was the brain tissue that worked on the dark day that the juice was born. He knew it as soon as he gave it to Georgie. Georgie’s face lighted at the first sip. He could see the formula taking effect almost instantaneously and it wasn’t long before Archemedes saw that Georgie would do anything for more.
Archemedes perfected the process and then he automated it. Soon he would own it all – he would have his own kingdom on the heath. The Juice was the means to his ends. The Juice - everyone needs “The Juice”, and Biotoxichem would be glad to sell it to you. BioJuice, Toxi-Talc, ChemTabs the answers to the publics needs. Whatever your desires, Biotoxichem can help. Biotoxichem can ease your cravings, manage your temperament and control your children. The Juice will give you energy, improve your memory and attract love. As Albert "Toxic Shock" Doyle the Ad Man said, Biotoxichem is the Chemistry of Modern Life.
Unfortunately, Archemedes was not always successful in his experimentation. A dark monument to these failures took the shape of Biddlestone Asylum. Archemedes built the asylum after Madame Lobotomy wandered into the heath and was missing for days. Thankfully, Shamus MacGruder found her. He had been working just the other side of the hill around 1:00 am when she walked right into the grave, no well that he was digging. "Dagnabit!, ‘he c'mon now lassie, theres'nt enough room for two o' ye in there. Get out, ya stoopid womon! Aye, crapper pixies! Oh, it's all crap. Get out o' ma hole!"
Biddlestone Asylum, often referred to as 3-D Chaos, was constructed on the grounds of the mansion to house the Biotoxichem employees. The odd shaped building stands far away from the Manor. It was less a facility for caring for the “patients” than it was a holding area for inmates. Archemedes kept it dark to lessen the inhabitants outbursts. The Juice had a tendency to cause light sensitivity and he felt his subjects grew to enjoy the unnatural settings.