Your brother was always different, but until the moment you realized how seriously he took The Inner Domain, it didn’t bother you. You suddenly found yourself noticing the whispers in the halls at school, and the sideways glances in the cafeteria. Were you blinded by your affection for your brother, or were other people making too big a deal of his skewed perspective? Did the chasm that grew between you make you more like them, or did it just make you look at him more objectively?
From the moment you dismissed it as a game, he grew withdrawn. When he graduated from high school a year before you, he didn’t go to college or even get a full-time job. He became absorbed in the world of The Inner Domain, collecting every version of the source books and expansion stories he could find. He worked part-time at a game store to fund his obsession. Your parents resigned themselves to the truth that no amount of therapy or medication seemed to bring him out of the hole he’d dug himself into. Each time you visited home between semesters, the pile of notebooks he called “research” grew larger and larger. When you got an apartment in the city and began to pursue your career, he moved into your parent’s basement and continued to grow withdrawn, quitting his job and communicating only with the creator of his obsession.
A year ago, your parents died in a car crash, leaving their home and a modest trust to take care of your brother. You check in on him a few times a week to make sure he’s okay. Each visit weighs heavily upon you. You want nothing more than to help your brother, but you know there is nothing you could try that a number of trained professionals have not. He stays in the basement, barely acknowledging your presence, coming out only to eat.
“I’ve almost solved it,” he says, every time you visit. “I’m so close.”
It has been seven years since the last time you played The Inner Domain with your brother and your friends. It has been three days since your last visit. You arrive to find a note taped to the front door:
COME BACK LATER
The windows are closed, the curtains are drawn, and the locks on the doors have been changed. Your brother has painted strange symbols on the glass of the windows, as well as around the frame of the front door. The symbols appear to have been drawn with blood.