The darkness was omnipresent, lit only by a single candle in the gloom. The old lady sat passively in its light; her blind eyes reflecting it like polished marble.She did not move or speak, she hardly seemed to breathe. Her waxen skin and archaic clothes looked for all the world like a portrait come to life, a statue given the disturbing semblance of flesh.
Presently, a second figure stepped into the candlelight; a young gentleman in a dark suit and bowler hat. His long hair was neatly combed and a pair of rimless spectacles sat on a sharp nose. He held a deck of cards in his right hand, which glowed a sinister green. The old woman stirred at his approach.
"Have you been to the town, my dumpling?"
Nicodemus Whateley smiled infernally and began shuffling his deck from one hand to the next. The cards moved with a life of their own, flying across the space like bats across the moon.
"It is as the book says, grandmother. Gomorra is a nest of scorpions, striking at each other with mad impunity."
"What of the law?", she asked.
"We have nothing to fear from the law. They believe we have come here to mine ghost rock. The sheriff believes we will keep the dominant company - Sweetrock, I believe they are called - in check. He has no inkling of our true purpose."
"And the others?"
"Ready to tear themselves to pieces. A few well placed lies will set them against each other like dogs"
"Excellent", she cackled with glee. "You've done well, pretty poppet. The time of prophecy is close, and the dark one grows impatient. The dead have begun to walk the streets here, and the horrors of the night will soon converge like wasps to honey. With the sheriff diverted, and the Sweetrock fools obsessed with their lovely baubles, the town will tear itself to pieces."
"It has already begun, grandmother," Nicodemus leaned in close to her - close enough to kiss. "Even now the bodies have begun to pile up."
"As was foretold, child, as was foretold."
The young man fell silent suddenly, his gaze dropping away from the matriach.
"And what of the Confederate - Stoker?"
"What of him?" she retorted.
"He is powerful, grandmother. He knows far more than he should."
"He is foolish and alone. He cannot harm us."
"Are you willing to stake all our plans on it?"
"Have faith, my child, have faith. When the time is right, he will serve us more faithfully than any willing ally."
Nicodemus closed his eyes as he pondered her words.
"Then what do we do now, grandmother?" he said at last.
"We watch what happens. We watch, and we revel in the storm before the calm."
For the briefest instant, something rippled under Nicodemus's clothes, distending the buttons on his vest before vanishing as if it had never been. He bowed low before his grandmother, then retreated into the darkness as suddenly as he had arrived.
"Soon, my chicklings," Wilhelmina whispered after him. "Very, very soon..."