Think me mad if you so choose, neither your incessant stares nor blind questions shall cause me the least bit of grief. I never asked to experience the unimaginable visions of that ominous place, nor would I wish it upon the most loathed criminal of earthen birth. And had it not been the sudden disappearance of my childhood friend, Arthur Dumont, I would never have ventured into such a foreboding place! No I would not be here in this cell, locked away for saying what others refuse to believe!
…Please forgive that rather abrupt and unprovoked outburst, seeing as I have been rather poorly treated the past few days. The officers who watch over me jeer each and every chance they get, because they haven’t seen what I have! How can the police begin to understand the world beyond what human eyes and ears can sense? They’ve neither heard the bone-chilling howls of frightful daemons from the darkest pits of hell nor witnessed them feed on the blood of the righteous in a furor of gnashing jaws! Never will they be haunted by landscapes of reddened seas and fire lapped skies; or feel the vacant, accusing presence of souls lost forever to damnation eternal!
To say it all began with Arthur’s disappearance would be inaccurate and wholly illogical. For while my incident was just starting his had been growing exponentially for months within his home. I will concede that I was taken back at first by his sudden fits of insane babble, spouting wild and outlandish tales of forgotten rituals on an altar in snow. And to think I had once been granted the luxury of scoffing at such claims! His change in manner was as abrupt as his withdrawal from the world of man. He shut himself away within his home, not being heard of for sometimes weeks. Had it not been for my concern for his well being the revelation of his disappearance would have never found the ears of the town!
It was an ill-fated night when I decided to brave the street that led to my friend’s home. It had been more than three weeks since I had even caught a glimpse of Arthur, and as I take it others close to him had claimed longer. Memories of our previous meeting lingered uneasily as I approached his property; oh how I wish I had listened to him then, for his fevered descriptions of the diabolical are all too true! I eventually stood at the wrought iron gate, and ventured a timid glance at the imposing grounds before me. The grass hadn’t been cut in months, and was waist high in places. As my eyes moved towards the building the grass became increasingly wild, almost giving off the impression of untamed evil hidden within its blades. The few trees planted haphazardly about the yard had begun to wither; their once vibrant leaves of deep green now a dried brown of death. Finally my eyes fell upon the house and at once I stifled a gasp of horror, for I knew not how a building could decay so much in such little time.
Perhaps it was just the darkness, a mere trick played on anxious eyes. Yet I cannot deny the sensation of lurking horror within those vine covered walls. Every inch of that seemingly diseased home, which I had often entered without fear, overwhelmed my senses with bombardments of pure hatred and something bordering on the oppressive. I no longer saw darkened rooms, which may contain my absent friend, but rather black holes ever ready to erase my life from the infinity of existence. A feeling of dread swept over me as I began to believe that should I enter that now wicked place I would not return.
Despite my own doubts, I withdrew a flashlight and pushed the rusting gates apart. The grass had long ago claimed the paved path to the house, forcing me to wade out into a sea of green tendrils. For an instant, perhaps it had never happened for I am unsure, my hand brushed against what I can only describe as a gelatinous orb of matter, colder than that of ice. No doubt my already wide eyes instantly grew larger still, and I found myself frantically searching the surroundings with the meager beam of the flashlight. For what seemed like an eon I stood motionless,trying to calm the laborious breathing of my lungs. Maybe I heard a faint sound, much like that of a twig snapping from a tree, but my nerves had somewhat returned and I soon found my legs moving towards the front steps of the house.
I stood now next to the large doors of Arthur’s once humble household. The metal knockers, once crafted into the hideous shapes of gargoyles from the most deprived mind of humanity, had long ago fallen victim to the forces of nature. Now nothing more than rusted lumps of the one time disturbing figures remained, and it was the first time that I did not wish for them to return. With one last furtive look back across the jungle of tangled greenery, I raised my fist to the door and knocked with force. The response was immediate, for at the first booming rapture on the door and low, menacing growl came from somewhere within the grass. Once again I found myself frozen to my spot, too afraid to do any more than draw shaky breaths. Shining the light onto the yard I came to realize that there was something swiftly approaching,as the telltale sign of movement in the grass grabbed hold of my heart forcing it to skip a beat! In mindless panic I groped blindly for the doorknob and having found it threw the heavy doors aside and lunged into the blackness within the house.
My feet, having touched the dust covered wooden floor of Arthur’s main hallway, quickly spun to allow me to slam the door. I could not see what was hounding me as I quickly shut the door to the outside world, but the thing called out in a fury that chilled my soul. I hurriedly latched the deadbolt in place and held my breath in uncertainty as to whether the old bolt would hold up to such an assault. Fortunately whatever the creature was that had chased me within the confines of the sepulchral building had called off its pursuit. Yet I could hear a disquieting snorting that accompanied the scratching of the wild animal on the thick wood. Shaking in realization that I had very nearly met my end, I merely slumped to the floor to regain what little courage remained within me.
As the swirling chaos within my mind slowly calmed to that of merely a disorganized confusion I stood. With the aid of the flashlight I found the hall’s light switch, but I soon found that a surge of power had knocked the breaker out. Resigned to the use of the pathetic beam of yellow light, I ventured throughout the house searching for my friend. I called out to him, shattering the uncomfortable silence that had settled in the halls. With only the sound of my footsteps accompanied by the sporadic calling for Arthur I began to feel my stomach tighten in fear.It was as if an all seeing eye had descended upon my mind, sifting through thoughts long forgotten. All about me I felt the presence of others but no matter how hard I searched it was always for naught. For no matter where the light from my insufficient flashlight landed there was nothing to be seen!
I know not how long I searched, but I do know that my wanderings led eventually to Arthur’s study. I had been within those large oak doors but once, upon Arthur’s request to give an opinion on some archaic scripture within one of his decaying texts. Now I found the doors locked fast, and neither did I have a key or did I believe I possessed the skill the pick the large lock. As I walked away a faint click caught my ear, soon followed by an ear-piercing screech. Turning I watched in awe as the oak doors opened inward to allow me passage, yet as I took that first step towards the chamber and soft sigh forced me to spin around.Still there was nothing there! My heart beating heavily within my chest I carefully stepped into the study.
Oh how it had changed since my last visit! The bookshelves that had once been catalogued and ordered, bookshelves that Arthur refused to allow me near, had been stripped clean. Spread out in huge piles across the floor was the books that had been so precious to my missing friend! In the far corner his large red chair, which I had always imagined him spending countless hours pouring over his ancient lore, had been over turned and several books had been mangled beyond repair. It was quite obvious that some struggle had taken place, but as to the time of which I had no true idea. I slowly knelt to retrieve a battered text whose cover had been lost years ago, only to jump as the doors to the study slammed shut behind me.
My light quickly found those oaken doors, and just as quickly I dropped the flashlight in shock. Hands quaking in terror I retrieved the light and moved to exam what had been carved into the hard wood. They were runic symbols of nothing I had ever seen or fancied in my life. The angles, lines, whorls and waves all assaulted my senses in fury, sending me reeling to the floor. Crawling now I touched the deep engravings and withdrew in horror as blood and skin flaked off and I realized that the nails of a man had created them!
“I’m sorry to have dragged you into this rather bleak situation,” a familiar yet hauntingly empty voice spoke from a dark recess within the room. Turning my light caught the figure of Arthur, but I shrunk back in fear. For his figure didn’t appear to be that of any matter known to man, it was eerily translucent and shimmered brightly in the light of my flashlight.
“Arthur,” I began, surprised that my lips were able to emit a sound while quivering so, “what’s become of you.”
The figure of my friend shook its head and moved closer, and it was then that I noticed the unbearable cold that had spread throughout the room. It outstretched a hand, “Take my hand… and you will come to know all. I looked down at the almost invisible hand and shrank away once again. Somehow, I’m not sure how, I managed to pull myself from the terror that had paralyzed my brain and took hold of the ethereal hand.
The experience was that of being dropped in the chilled waters of the Arctic. Yet I felt no discomfort at all, only the welcome sensation of floating high above those that were forever damned to walk the earth. I dared to open my eyes and found myself looking down upon a scene totally unexpected. It was the altar Arthur had spoke of in his final conference with me, but now I no longer shook them off as merely the rantings of a demented mind! All about, spread further than my eyes could see were pillars of red, each having a rune carved into the thick stone. I instantly recognized the symbols as those that had been scratched into the oaken doors! Weaving between the pillars were the figures of hooded men, chanting inarticulate babble to the shrill call of the winds. Down I looked now, down towards an altar crafted from some unknown purple stone, and in surprise I saw two figures one that of Arthur and the other of a woman clothed in white.
Suddenly I was next to Arthur and saw that in his left hand he clutched a hideous dagger of bone and metal. Tears were streaming down his face as he looked down at the woman, bound to the altar by a coarse rope which tore into her skin! Her eyes filled me with sorrow, for they didn’t seem to be afraid as Arthur raised the dagger over his head. No they were filled with pity! The chanting about us had risen to a cacophony of chaotic sensations, and for an instant Arthur wavered. Then in the next moment the dagger descended, not on the woman, but into his heart!
All at once the chanting of the figures ceased, and Arthur slowly fell across the woman in white. His blood ebbed out in spurts, slowly spreading across the woman’s dress of pure white. The woman closed her eyes as a single tear fell down her cheek and onto the purple stone beneath her. All about the inhuman howls erupted as the woman moved,seemingly unabated by the bonds that held her down. She placed her head next to Arthur’s, whose eyes were glazing over as the Reaper descended to claim him, and spoke in an angelic voice, “I’m so sorry for your suffering…please forgive me.” I ripped my eyes from the morbid scene only to see the cloaked figures toss aside their coverings to reveal unspeakable monstrosities beneath! In the eyes of those creatures I saw a world of despair! Where salvation is laughed at and despair eternal!Where rivers run red with the blood of the innocent and the sky is perpetually shrouded in storm as fire laps at the sky! I watched as those daemons descended on Arthur’s corpse and ripped it into a mangled heap of meat all the while the woman in white watched in pity! I had looked deep into a hellish world that would forever scar my existence on earth!
In an instant I found myself outside Arthur’s home watching it burn to the ground. My vacant gaze never leaving the sight, and in the end it took three officers to pry me from my petrified state. I know not of how I fled that building, nor do I remember how it burst into flames. I wish I could believe that what I had seen ended with the destruction of the house, of those books, of Arthur’s existence. But at night I see that place of snow and stone. I see the woman in white and the dagger that ultimately claims her life! Perhaps you think me only mad, and that these are the ravings of a man whose reason has fled. With every fiber of my being I pray you are right for even now I hear the callings of those daemons cloaked to hide their existence among men!
And thus ends this meandering walk through these three short stories. The previous narrator has gone missing, leaving us with another unknown speaker. Not terribly original but it makes a bit of sense since the narrator wouldn’t say his own name repeatedly throughout the story. And it ends on a… I want to say more positive note than the previous stories. At least Arthur went out on his own terms, defying what he had been seeing for months. Even though the woman knew that it would come to this in the end.
Originally I think I planned to have a followup told from the perspective of one of the police officers watching over him. Perhaps I still will, as the ending is horribly viscious and unsettling. I can’t go into it too much but the wheels are turning again and I’m starting to really feel that drive to write a lot of new things. I have a comic take on the Fantasy genre bubbling in my mind, have a short story that I need to finish (that has… a music theme to most of it), and some other short stories and a novel that I’m getting closer to figuring out how its plotted out. Now if I could pull myself away from Fallout 3 I’d be all set.