There were three sisters: a young one, a middle aged one, and an older one. They all slept together in the same room and had the custom of surrounding their bed with roses. One day they ran out of roses and decided to go buy some from their friend Rigel. Rigel didn't have any red roses, but he had some black roses. The sisters bought them and went home. That night they surrounded their bed and went to sleep. They woke up in the middle of the night to screaming and saw the oldest sister was dead with an knife in her heart. The younger sisters had a funeral and were very dejected.
The next night they slept together and the youngest woke up to screaming and saw the middle sister had a knife in her heart. The youngest sister was left alone and scared. That night, she stayed up all night with a large blade to catch the murderer. In the middle of the night, she saw a hand come out of one of the black roses holding a knife. She screaming and cut the hand off with her blade and told her mother. Her mother went to Rigel to buy red roses and Rigel only had one hand.
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Once there lived three sisters. There was the youngest, the oldest, and the one in the middle. Their family was very rich and they owned a grand mansion and many servants, but one day their father caught an unknown illness. The mother was forced to sell the mansion and fire all the servants because they could never afford to pay them. After some searching and compromise, the family moved into a one-bedroom apartment in the city.
In fear of catching the illness and thus leaving the girls orphans, the mother sought help to prevent the illness. She contacted a doctor within the city, Doctor Herr, that was recommended to her by her peers at the factory she now worked in.
When she first saw Doctor Herr, however, she was rather taken aback: the man's desk was a mess, with papers scattered everywhere, concealing all manners of personal belongings. She swore she even saw a cedar-hilted knife hidden beneath the labyrinth the piles of medical papers. Even stranger, she could even see that a few of those papers concerned obituaries, wills- no papers that belonged in a doctor's office at all. Nevertheless, she trusted her peers. But she did not hesitate in knocking the door from the front of the room to grab the doctor's attention instead of instantly sitting down at the chair- she would rather not trust her personal space with him until she could fully trusted him.
After a few hours of collecting the symptoms of the illness that had made her a widow, the doctor nodded a bit more before tearing off the piece of paper he had been scrawling upon for the past period of time.
"I can't believe this!" he said, seemingly exasperated, as he threw the paper onto the ground. It floated, revealing a bit of itself to the mother. She saw meaningless doodles and scribbles- certainly no educated notes a doctor would take. Doctor Herr, however, was her only hope right now, so she played along.
"What?" she asked.
"This... this illness you have told me of. I would not give you the full medical name, of course, but it had struck my home village a number of years ago, far before I even moved to the city. The people at my village called this illness... unsichtbar. Invisible."
"Because it kills without you knowing of it killing. When your... husband... died, he did not display any visible symptoms, as you mentioned before. Unsichtbar. It kills silently." A slight pause from the doctor, which he used to scratch his balding head with. He took off his glasses and placed them on the table. "Contagious."
That word took the mother by surprise. "But... but why am I not affected by this-"
"I don't know... I don't know."
There was a moment of silence between the two. The mother still did not know whether or not to trust this man or not. Her peers said he was unorthodox-
He lifted his head once more. "My village... we had a custom of placing roses down on the floor between the front door of the house and the... bedroom."
"Roses, you say?"
He didn't nod. "It... after we placed the roses down- enough to make a pathway- not one single soul died of the illness ever again."
He looked up. "There's a flower shop down the street from here. At the intersection. I want you to go there and buy... buy the black roses. Go home and lay them down between the front door and the bedroom."
She rose to go. "Thank you, Do-"
"House key." And then, after another one of those pauses, "Children?"
His eyes shifted to her purse which was one of the only things she kept from the mansion, her past life.
"Do you have children?"
"Yes, I do- what was that you said about the house key?"
"I- this disease is fatal, as you might know. But... I must... check in, sometimes, to see if you are okay, that is. Yes okay. Do you have a will?"
"So no house key? Do you have a will?"
She opened the door. "Doctor, I do not want to say more about these matters. These are very personal questions that should be kept to one's self. I will go and buy the roses as you have asked, but I will not give you my house key."
"You don't want to do this the hard way."
She tilted her head. "What?"
"No, no- I'm sorry- I said, uh-"
"Good day, doctor," she said. She closed the door not as gently as she had opened it a while back.
Being the eldest of the three, Rose was, in her mother's opinion, the only girl that should be entitled to schooling. Unlike Skylar or Kelsey, she would not stay at home, washing and cleaning her way through the days. No. Instead, she would follow in her mother's footsteps, and one day, she would buy back that mansion.
One day, that is.
School in the city seemed to be harder than being homeschooled by father in the mansion. The table wasn't as clean or big, to start. Then there was the hourly train that came by and woke everyone in the district up and ensured that everyone went to work groggy with sleep. And then there was the lighting.
Oh, if there was a thing that Rose hated about school, it was the fetching of the oil from the kitchen at night if she had to light the lamp. It scared her to go out in the dark to the kitchen. And it wasn't worth the effort, anyway- the lamp gave off almost no lighting at all. Still, it was a source of light, and was the reason why she barely managed to go through school.
It had been a busy day. Her Literature class had given her an assignment to write poetry, and oh how she loved poetry! The way she could make the words flow from one line to another, write the letters in such a way as to tell a story only her mind could envision. And mother had come home and spread roses all over the house! Rose thought it was weird of mother to spread the roses from the front door to the bedroom, but she thought nothing of it. She would let Skylar and Kelsey tell her after dinner.
But there hadn't been enough roses, and mother had cursed and swore and said she'd kill the weird doctor man the next time she saw him- and she stormed out of the house! Rose thought she would be back in an hour's time, but two had passed already, and mother hadn't come home.
Well, she was the eldest daughter, the one who could go to school and not wash dishes and beat the laundry every day. She reached into her apron pocket and pulled out some money.
"Here, Kelsey, Skylar!" she called. The girls came running into the study- or more like a small space in the corner of the dining room.
"What's happening, Rose? Why isn't ma home?" Kelsey, the youngest, asked.
"Yes, what's going on with all the roses and mom leaving home?" Skylar, the middle daughter, followed up.
Rose ignored their questions- she knew the answer no better than they did. "Skylar, I would like you to take Kelsey to go out and eat supper."
Skylar stood there stunned in silence. "But- but we never get to eat out! Mom says it's too-"
"Well mother isn't home, Skylar. Hurry up- she'll be back any minute and she'll give me a good scolding if she finds out I've been spending my pocket money on you two."
"Thank you, Rosie!" Kelsey piped up. Skylar continued to stand there in disbelief.
"But, but what would you eat, Rose-dear?"
"I don't need to eat. I have homework to do. Now go on. Get your bellies full."
Kelsey laughed and snatched the money from Skylar's hands and ran out the door, scattering roses as she leapt down the stairs into the streets. Skylar, seeing as she had no better alternative, quickly followed- but not before snatching one last (and the last) glace at Rose. Rose, of course, did not see Skylar. Rose was too busy being enthralled in the wonders of writing her own poem. Maybe she would even get Hans', the most handsome boy in class, attention. She spent a good deal of time revising and drafting to create the perfect poem.
Mother came home after a few hours, exhausted from her second trip to town. She barely managed to close the door before staggering to the table to regain her balance. Rose perked her head up at the sound and rushed to her mother's aid.
"Mother, are you alright?" she half-asked, half-wondered aloud.
"Do I look alright to you? For all I know I could be infecting you two with the illness..."
"What illness, mother? Speak sense, for God's sake!"
She looked out the window, then rapidly turned her head back towards Rose. "Where's Kelsey?" After a short delay, "Where's Skylar? Did you..."
"Mother, they were hungry, and there's nothing to eat in the house."
"There's nothing to eat? Oh bother. You gave them your money?"
"Where did they eat?"
"I'll go take a quick bath. It's late and it's getting dark, Rose. You should hurry up with this homework of yours and head to bed."
Rose smiled and returned back to her poem, too preoccupied to remember to ask her mother about the roses.
It wasn't long after that Rose realized that mother hadn't really bothered to lock the front door, but she didn't mind. Who would come in, anyway? Mother was sound asleep in bed, and whoever would come in would have to pass by Rose first.
It also wasn't long before Rose found it harder and harder to read the letters on the page. By then it was almost pitch dark outside and in the house.
Rose sighed and picked up the lantern to fill. She walked a few steps across to the kitchen and opened the cupboard where they kept their oil.
At this point, Kelsey and Skylar were laughing their way up the apartment when they were pushed aside by a man in a weird black coat who seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere. Kelsey noticed a cedar-hilted knife hastily tucked into the man's coat pocket.
Rose opened the tin oil box. It reeked and she had to step back a bit whenever she opened it, but it was worth the 5 second wait. She grasped the spoon inside the box.
The man in black took a look around before testing the doorknob. Surprisingly, it was open.
Rose poured the oil into the lamp. It was a laborious process (but it was still primitive compared to the task of beating laundry or washing the dishes)- and a noisy one, too.
Kelsey and Skylar laughed about the wonderful meal they had.
She closed the lamp and fiddled around for the matches. She lit one and lit the lamp with it. The area around the lamp was bathed in welcoming light.
"Rose is such a borehead- but oh she's so kind!"
She turned around and started to walk to her study desk again. Her footsteps were almost silent when she walked across the roses, she noticed.
The man in black waited.
She sat down, not really wondering why the window was blocked off. They didn't have curtains, did they?
Mother, they're so flowery and nice, why can't we get them?
why can't we
They didn't have curtains.
She looked up just in time to realize that her view from the desk to the curtain was blocked off, too.
Mom was awakened from a deep sleep by the soothing sound of her Kelsey. Her Kelsey, 10 years of age, a pretty freckled-face girl with blond hair. All the women in the family had blond hair.
Kelsey had just noticed that when she lifted up the blond hair of the girl on the desk to see who it was. It wasn't really pure blond hair, of course. It had ugly splotches of red on it- something Rose didn't have on her hair.
But, it was Rose nevertheless.
They held a silent funeral in the backyard of the apartment. A few co-workers of the mother came, too. They had loved Rose. They had all loved Rose.
"Such wasted potential."
"Why did she have to die so young?"
The days went by for Skylar. She was quiet. But she was more quiet now than ever before. Kelsey tried to brighten up her days.
"Skylar, I am sending you to school."
"No, mom, I don't want to go to school!"
"But don't you want to be dumb like Kelsey-"
"Kelsey isn't dumb!"
It was not going well for her. It was not worth mom's money. But it made mom happy.
They recovered, slowly.
It was only after a full month and a half after Rose's murder that mom left the house.
She said, loud and clear at the dinner table one morning,
"I'm going to the factory again."
Skylar looked up. Kelsey, who was somewhere in the background doing something irrelevant, probably didn't look up. Like the selfish, spoiled brat she was.
"Mom, you can't. You look horrible."
"And so do you two. You girls need some better food than the sawdust-pudding the mayor hands out as an excuse in helping our city."
"Mam I can work! Ma I can go to the fact-"
"SHUT UP!" Skylar screamed.
There was a suffocating silence that followed. And then mom rose from the dinner table.
"You two behave well after I'm gone. I'll be back. With new roses, of course, don't worry."
Mom started to reach for her back when Skylar muttered, "It's the doctor-man, isn't it?"
"Dear, not this again," mom sighed.
"He's the one that asked you to spread the roses. Does it do something to the arteries? Does it make us bleed or something? Because if it's not-"
"I see school has been teaching you well, Skylar."
Mom rose. "I am going out for the day, as I mentioned before. I am going to get new roses, as Doctor Herr advised us to do. You don't want to die like your father, now do you?"
"It's better than dying by that murderer's hand, anyway."
"Go... go do whatever you want to do, mom. I don't give... I don't care a damn if you do or don't, anyway."
"Go, mom. Get us our food so we can grow to be healthy girls. I don't care anymore. We'll all die anyway."
Mom sighed again. "You two behave well. I'll make sure to lock the bolts and such. And, if I don't come home, be in bed when the sun goes down. You hear me? When the sun goes down."
Kelsey was now looking upon the scene with curiosity.
"Yes, ma!" Kelsey almost shouted.
"Yeah, mom," Skylar grunted.
The day passed quickly, and since it was a weekend, Skylar didn't have to go to school. The beating of the laundry didn't take that much time anyway, mostly due to the fact that Rose- who was almost the age of an adult- was gone now. Instead, Skylar played around with the roses that the doctor-man had suggested that mom put around the house. She didn't know if the roses would work or not, but she didn't have the guts to see what would happen if she removed them.
Of course, she also didn't have the guts to see what would happen if she didn't do a thing about it. Wasn't that the reason why Rose died?
Before Skylar knew it, it was night time. Kelsey had been staring out the only window the entire day. Any attempts at conversation were quickly struck down by the depressed Skylar.
"Oh of course mom isn't home," Skylar grumbled. "Hurry up, finish your dinner."
"But it tastes bad!"
"Well not as bad as the cow-shit the beggars down there have to eat."
Skylar had been saying these weird words for a while now, but Kelsey didn't know what they meant. So she just played along and smiled as if nothing had happened.
Kelsey then asked Skylar the same thing that she had been asking for a month and a half now: "Skylar, I'm going to go take a bath. Can you help me?"
Kelsey always got the same response.
"No," Skylar said. "You're a big girl now. Go handle your own things. I'm not Rose and I'll never be Rose. So go."
Kelsey took about a half-hour to bathe- most of it was spent singing in the bathtub. Skylar knew. She had nothing better to do than to listen on the going ons of the bathroom whenever someone was inside. Eventually, Kelsey came out, and always said the same thing:
"Your turn, Sky!"
Skylar didn't measure the amount of time she took in the bath tub. All she did really was sit there and stare into the water. And then she'd drain the tub and leave. And then she'd say the same thing to Kelsey after that:
"Ready for bed, Kelsey?"
To which Kelsey would always, regardless of the truth, reply,
Skylar would then get dressed for bed herself before settling in for the night.
That happened for approximately ninety days straight, and it did not happen any different this day, regardless of the fact that today was a special day.
"Stop pushing me around."
"No you stop pushing me around."
Skylar continued to argue with her sister in the not-so-cramped bed when she heard a crash from outside.
She sat up. "Did you hear that?"
"Sort of, why?"
Skylar laid back down and waited for the footsteps of her mother to the bathroom. But they never came. Sleep almost overcame Skylar when the front door opened.
Did she close it when she came from the bathroom?
She did... she almost always did.
She tried to sleep but there was a draft coming from the outside.
A draft from where? The window? That was closed and certainly not broken-
The front door.
It would make a loud noise whenever it opened- and it would make a louder noise whenever it closed.
And the only people who knew that...
...were people who had been inside this house before.
She tried to scream, but it was too late.
Kelsey woke to the sound of screaming.
It was not the first sound of screaming she had heard in her life. Her mother screamed plenty, clawing in the air for her husband. Skylar had screamed at someone she called the "duck-ter man"
But this screaming was new.
Kelsey had heard this scream from somewhere before. Somewhere before in her not-so-long stay on this earth.
When was it... oh yes, the day Rose died.
A scream of pain and anguish and lost- only today, it was amplified a hundred times.
Kelsey opened her eyes to light. She looked around. A man with a notepad was in the corner of the room, jotting down notes. There were also a few policemen loitering around. Her mother was right beside her.
And so was Skylar.
Although it was not the Skylar Kelsey knew.
"Ma'am, we will try our best to protect the boundaries of this apartment- although we have no guarantees," one of the police-people said. The man in the notepad jotted furiously.
"Do you have any suspects to who might have done such a thing, Miss Abel?"
Ma looked like she would answer but she only cried, and that made Kelsey sad.
"What about the duck-ter-man, ma?" Kelsey said. Skylar had mentioned him a few times- although Kelsey could not see how a duck could have done such a thing.
"Yes, yes," ma said. "Doctor... he never told me his first name. Herr. You can start there. I have suspicion of foul play around that man."
"We will start there, ma'am. Thank you for your assistance. We are sorry for your loss."
Most everything that happened after that happened like a blur to Kelsey. First the constable handed ma a gun, and told her how to use it. And then ma thanked him, and when they left she shut the door and said to Kelsey,
"I want you to listen to me very carefully.
"There is a bad man going around.
"He wants to kill us.
"And by us, that also includes you, dear Kelsey.
"If you see the bad man, you take this toy here
"You point it at him, and you pull this button here as hard as you can.
"Just listen to me. Let's go to bed. I'll go with you."
Kelsey didn't like the weight of the gun and how she had to sleep with one, but ma argued that since ma slept so soundly, Kelsey should have the gun.
And ma knew that the man would be coming today, and the man knew that the cops would be raiding his place today.
He packed his bags and dug out the cedar-hilted knife from under the pile of papers that dotted his room.
And then he threw a match onto the papers.
He was messy, or pretended to be, for a reason.
Today was unlike many other days. Today was a good day.
It was not a good day because he had "helped" so many patients today. In fact, he saw more patients today than any of the other days he had spent pretending to be a doctor.
It was not a good day because he touched his head and found that a few new hairs had been growing instead of a few more hairs falling out.
It was a good day because he planned to kill two people today.
First, he killed the mailman.
The mailman was a young boy, probably fresh out of the war, out on his rounds through the neighborhood. The man planned to leave the city today, so he had no hesitation to shoot the boy when he asked the boy to come over for a second. He dressed into the mailman's clothes, took the bike, and biked over to the apartments.
It was getting dark when he shot the mailman, and it was almost pitch black when he pulled into the narrow street of the apartment. Ditching the bike on the sidewalk, he hurriedly nodded to the policemen surrounding the building and rushed upstairs. They'd probably have already searched the place and surmised that he, Doctor Herr, was missing and somewhere out there, which would prompt them to send more guards to the building. Three didn't seem like a lot of policemen, so Herr decided he would have to hurry to kill the young girl.
Strangely, he found in himself a feeling of loathing. Usually, these killing were for the money. The will. But ever since the woman had made it so hard for him- made him feel so insecure, so naked- he had wanted to kill her. And do things to her. Tonight, he would finish her and her child.
They had replaced the locks with better ones, but they were no problem to break.
And neither was the hard tiled floor a problem.
Because of the soft texture of the roses, he could make his way throughout the house during his killings relatively silently. Silent enough to creep behind the tallest of the three, anyway.
He slowly made his way to the bedroom, and opened the door.
There lay on the bed a snoring woman and a silhouette of a young child. From the snoring woman, he assumed that both of them were sleeping. He raised the cedar-hilted knife-
-and felt a sudden pain in his leg, followed by a blinding flash of light in his eyes and a deafening roar in his ears. He crashed to the ground.
"Police! Surrender now!"
He looked up and saw the faces of multiple constables surrounding him. It was the end tonight.
He left the building tied up in handcuffs, and despite his pleas, he was forced into the back of a van and driven away.
The van never reached its destination. An investigation that took place 10 years later found the van on the side of a deserted road, its driver having a cedar-hilted knife through his ribs.
The mother continued to buy roses from that day, since she still believed that the tale had a hint of truth behind it. And, with only one daughter, the mother wanted to keep her. And that included keeping her from the sickness to which there was no other cure she knew of rather than to lay down roses around the house.
The youngest daughter, Kelsey, eventually went to university- something her mother could never, and did never, do- and she eventually settled in a small town, where she continued to buy roses to lay around her house. She had a wonderful family and a nice job with a great income. So great was the income that she could afford to pay the man who sold the flowers and had a limp in his leg the full amount for the roses in addition to a hefty tip.