There was a mysterious tapping at the window, and a sudden silence fell over the four people sitting by the fireplace. It was as if a cold chill had invaded the warmly lit room to remind them of the threatening storm and dark outside. The two brothers and their wives have been talking of this and that, but really thinking about Adrian Hopewell. They did not speak of him often, and for good reasons. But on that day twenty years ago, he had disappeared from their lives, and they could not help but reminisce. Just then, a strong gust of wind blew the windows open and extinguished all the candles in the parlor as well as the grand fireplace. Fear tightened its grip on the merry party, so palpably that they all gave a little shout as cold air rushed into their lungs like a sharp knife. Again, they heard a faint tapping at he window, beckoning them forward. Worry began gnawing at the now-frightened group. Suddenly, Wilbur stood up, declaring, "Jean, dear, I'll be right back. I'll go see who that is." His bravery calmed the party somewhat, but at the same time they knew he was only whistling in the dark. His usual boldness and decisiveness was gone, replaced by fear and uncertainty. The stout man strode to the entrance room and promptly opened the door. His round face went white with fear as he found himself face to face with a corpse, a ghost of his past.
The last time he had seen Adrian had been twenty years ago: an angry, confused and frightened young man being taken into police custody. Now, he looked haggard and maddened. There were long shadows and thick bags under his eyes, and his face was all but buried in a bushy, unkempt beard. His eyes were those of a man who had not slept for one thousand years, and the film of madness was upon them. His clothes were a bundle of rags hanging loosely about him. Almost a full minute elapsed before either man spoke. Regaining his calm outward appearance, Wilbur beamed a rather painful grin as if welcoming an old friend and addressed the wild man standing before him. "Hello, Adrian!" he began in a voice sweet as honey and soft as silk before Adrian's hoarse, rusty voice cut him off. "Quiet, fool. I did not come here to talk. Wipe that painted-on smile off your face. You know what I came for." Wilbur frowned, regarding the decrepit, wretched creature before him. "Yes then." he replied. "What do you want? Sugar, tea?" "Do not be fatuous, Wilbur. I care for none of your… your, false domestic comforts!" Adrian spat. "Or do you not recall," he raised an eyebrow, "your betrayal of my brotherhood?" Wilbur's face drained of color, and he stood dumbstruck. "You thought I'd forgotten?" Adrian inquired. "How predictable. But how should a king forget about the downfall of his empire?" Wilbur's silence was shattered as his anger finally bubbled to the surface. "Your empire? Adrian, you were disturbed. You are disturbed!" "Out group was so close to achieving perfection, reaching Destination Zero." Adrian continued his monologue. "Your group, no, your cult, was out of control! Insane!" "Our group was almost there. So close." "Adrian, you are mad!" Adrian looked at Wilbur and laughed a dark, humorless laugh. "Again you use mad. How I hate that world! I was simply Enlightened, and that is why they took me away, that is why the Institution punished me. Because you told them. " "You were killing people, Adrian!" Wilbur roared back. "Yes, the Institution tried to take it from me. In that White Room, in that White House. But they did not, they could not cure my… Enlightenment." said Adrian, wearing a curious smile. "I escaped after fifteen years. Fifteen years in the System. Then, for the last five years, I have been hunting, laboriously and meticulously hunting you. Preparing for this moment." The moon glinted off a piece of cold steel Adrian gripped. "Tell the others. This way it's fun," he whispered, a devilish glint in his eye. In a voice filled with dread, Wilbur announced, "It's Adrian." The anxiety that had been slowly eating away at the party turned into full-fledged fear, and the terror of the moment seized them as they screamed in unison. Their shrill cries plunged into a grotesque crescendo as the lifeless body of Wilbur Harkin fell to the velvet carpet with a muffled thump. Their morbid choir of screams was only broken for a moment by the enraged roar of Adrian, a sound of pure fury that could only be emitted by a creature as deranged and twisted as himself. Then the eerie howling of the wolves, the children of the night, suppressed the ghastly yells, and by the time the howling hushed, all was silent.