It matters not how many times you barbarians demand me to restate how my friend Joshua Braden met his demise; the fact remains that you have neither the understanding nor the open mind to accept the truth. You merely wish to find a scapegoat to hold responsible for the inhuman savageness of the murder in question, even if it means disregarding facts and believing fiction! And I’ll restate, if only to appease your primitive minds, that I am innocent of these charges that you incompetent buffoons have accused me of. It is easy to sit in blissful ignorance and reject what I say as merely the ravings of a lunatic; you are merely afraid of what the world might actually be, should what I speak be true! Shield yourself from reality if you will, the horror that stole my friend’s life is out there still while you pester me with meaningless questions!
While I’d like to pass over the incident that occurred on route to our destination briefly, for it was nothing more than a minor event compared to the dastardly act, I know that you primitive apes, that these rustic locals pass off as officers of the law, will once again wish me to delve in with more zeal than need be applied. As I have already stated, that dreadful experience neither began in a decrepit graveyard nor darkened alley within the bowels of a city. No it began in the most unremarkable way, as merely a weekend excursion to a ski resort deep within these mountains far from our homes. Initially we planned it to be nothing more than an outing between Joshua, my wife, and myself. However, my wife was abruptly called away to New York on business, leaving only the two of us. Still, my wife did insist that I go with Joshua on this trip as he had been slowly removing himself from his normal circle of companions. When faced with this fact I agreed that it would be best that I go.
You must understand gentlemen that Joshua was, at the time, not the same man I had known most of my life. No… certain tragedies had come upon him that slowly hacked away athis former self. First was the unexplained murder of his parents, their eviscerated remains found within something akin to a panic room despite the lock still holding fast. This alone caused Joshua much grief, as much for the death of his family as well as the act being thoroughly impossible; the door to the room could only be locked from the inside and it had taken well over a day for the local fire department to break their way through! Next was the disappearance of his fiancé, and the four-month search that followed before her body was pulled up from a river in some nameless valley, her remains were much like his parents’ in the brutality of the act. I can’t say I know what it was like for him, officers, only that I have heard that he was seeing a psychologist as was in the use of sleeping pills.
With those thoughts in my mind we left the sanctity of our abodes early in the morning three days ago. Our mode of transportation was a matter of some conflict between us; I favored the speed of flight over the monotonous traversings of a mere car, while Joshua’s passion for picturesque landscapes was admirable, and it was obvious that I would not win the argument. I won’t deny that I did enjoy seeing sights uncommon to the eyes of an urbanite, but the sheer length of the trek was enough to cause me great discomfort. Along the way we made periodic stops to stretch our cramped bodies, to find sustenance, or to refuel Joshua’s aging Cadillac. But it was during one such break that we came upon a disturbing discovery that I now know to be a warning for us to return!
While I had taken leave of the car to find something less than nutritious to stave off hunger, Joshua was seemingly possessed with inspecting his vehicle. For what reason I couldn’t fathom at the time, but I thought that as long as it kept him occupied I was more than willing to let it pass as merely one of his odd characteristics. However when I stepped from the squalor of the rural service station Joshua bade me to look at something near the rear of the car. Wishing only to appease his excitable nature I made the distance without haste despite his frantic urgings. Yet when I did finally step beside Joshua’s stricken frame my eyes fell upon a curious sight.
Roughly in the center of the Cadillac’s trunk I saw three deep gouges, perhaps a foot and a half in length each. Perplexed by what had done this, as I had felt neither jolt nor bump that could have possibly caused such damage. I outstretched my hand to touch the jagged surface. Before my fingers could settle upon the chilled metal, cooled by winter’s icy fury, I felt a preternatural energy repel my advancing hand. Instantly I withdrew with an overwhelming fear of the unknown, one that I know all to well now. This was no foul thing of my imagination, gentlemen, for even after taking numerous steps away I could feel the sickly energy upon me! I tell you I felt every hair upon my body stand on end as one, until it felt as if my entire body was livid with electricity! Then without cause or explanation the strange aura about the trunk disappeared, leaving Joshua and myself in stunned silence. Joshua suddenly forced me back into that vehicle, which was tainted in my mind by some foul perversion of the laws of nature, but whatever his reasons were we left that service station gladly behind us.
It was then that I looked seriously at the changesin personality of my long time friend. No longer did I see the kindness that had once lingered within his blue eyes; they now seemed sunken and severe, darting about with an accusing gaze upon every form of life. Likewise, his once broad shoulders had slumped under some unknown burden, one that seemed to drain him of vitality and spirit. What the cause was I could not say but only imagine, yet I believed that it was somehow connected to our unwanted discovery. Did I inquire about his condition? Do you take me for a fool, officer? Of course I questioned him about his well-being, and neither did I get a response nor even the slightest gesture from him. He was distracted beyond reproach, to the point where I was forced to take the wheel in his stead.
Time passed at a rate seemingly unheard of, for one moment I was aware of the sun’s presence high above and the next the moon rose prominently on the distant horizon. It had been a number of hours since that first incident, and still my friend had not emitted the smallest of sounds. Now imagine the shock I received when the first sign of life from my companion was a swift lunge for the wheel, forcing us to the side of the road. Instantly I turned on him and demanded an explanation for his reckless act, as we were no more than a quarter of an hour away from our destination. He offered none, never saying a word nor even acknowledging my demands by gesture, glance, or word! No… he merely sat in his seat staring forward with eyes darting about in fright.
I will admit that I was disgusted with my friend’s behavior at that point, if only for its unpredictability and inconvenience. As I was about to return the car to its original route a lone sign to my right grappled for control of my mind! What it was… I do not know. Who crafted it, I also lack that knowledge. But there in the desolate realm of evergreens and snow it stood in mockery of everything holy. How can a sign instill such fear and loathing into the minds of mortal men? Once again I cannot be sure, and only know that it did by some method foreign to those of earthen birth.
The sign stood no more than five feet from Joshua’s Cadillac, the post cracked and weathered from what I assumed to be decades of service. But to what service I know not for on top there was neither letters nor symbols that I could recognize, only an ominous design of a blatant blasphemous nature. Never before had I seen such a thing, for while its shape was roughly circular it seemed to cast aside any set pattern. Where one would expect to see a curve it was straight, where one would expect lines to join they separated to the wildest degree, and where one would expect to see continuation of a it disappeared entirely! Whorls appeared throughout the design; placed haphazardly about with such irregularity that one could assume the artist, if such a term could be deemed to such hideous work, was indeed insane. Yet, it wasn’t only the unnerving sensation brought about by the sight of the sign, for I also felt upon me the same strange energy that had seemed to emanate from the Cadillac’s trunk. Out of blind terror I drove, eyes on the road but mind always on the sign!
Needless to say we both found this omen rather disturbing, as one could expect. However, we managed to compose ourselves before we checked into the hotel where we planned to be spending the next two nights. Within the relative safety of our room, Joshua finally seemed to regain his former manner. He talked endlessly about the most trivial facts, obviously trying to distance himself from the odd phenomenon from our trip up. This change in him was welcome, and helped ease my own fears. We planned to be on the slopes no later than nine in the morning and that we’d stop by the resort’s lounge close to noon. By this time it was quite late, and while Joshua wished to turn in for the night I decided that I was entitled to a relaxing drink. Taking the key with me I left my companion, who was already embracing sleep’s outstretched arms.
The lounge itself and its accompanying bar were rather sparsely populated when I arrived. In the back an old fashioned jukebox stopped for a moment to change the selection while the fireplace on the opposite wall contained a rather hearty flame. Most of the patrons were relaxing about the fire, with one or two sitting at the bar itself. I strode over to the bartender and managed to give a pleasant greeting, or at least what I thought of as one. Perhaps it was my appearance or a quiver in my voice, I am no longer certain, but the rather large man who handed me my glass of liquid courage asked if I was all right. Having taken my blessed drink from him I merely stated that it was just a rather rough trip up. What good would it have done to tell this man about our journey, for I have told you, and you useless interrogators seem to be unwilling to accept it! I merely sat there at the bar brooding over the incidents all the while somewhere in the back of my mind quotes of Lovecraft and Poe taunted my efforts. The wild and outrageous tales of the macabre from those literary masters struck down every logical explanation, and in frustration I ordered another round. It was then, as I took hold of the promised second round, that I first felt the ominous presence that will forever terrorize my dreams.
My reaction was swift and erratic and perhaps comical for I could not see what made my blood run cold; a sudden leap from my stool and a more than frantic spin did nothing more than draw attention to myself. My hands were quaking uncontrollably, so much so that the majority of my drink found refuge upon the floor. I faltered for a moment, dropping to my knees while a patron to my left quickly rushed to my aid. My glass slipped from weakened fingers as this comrade helped me towards a seat closer to the fire.
There I sat, no more than a meager few feet from the blaze and not an ounce of discomfort fell upon me. For while I am certain the heat was beyond the bearable limits of the human body, all that besieged my confused mind was a feeling that some unseen assailant was violating every pore upon my body. The room and people in it became disturbingly skewed. I gazed about, in what I can only imagine to be as close to an accusing glare as I could have made in such a state, but the faces of the others slowly melted away as an unnatural darkness closed in on me.
It crept from the shadows of every glass, bottle, and person massing in the central section of the floor. No… those were not the only places the darkness slithered forth… it emerged from the fetid catacombs of the human soul, where devil and demon hold sway above all else. Beyond the blur the dark mass continued to grow, to a size that would instill fear into the blackened heart of Lucifer himself. And as I gazed in awed fear my eyes failed to register the slightest bit of recognizable contours. Like the sign, there seemed to be no logic to its construction or design, leaving the able minded reeling in confused delirium. Yet it was not the size or the lack of definite shape the dark being possessed… it was the diabolic aura that both the sign and Cadillac possessed that chilled the morrow of my bones, and left me screaming in mindless panic as it engulfed me whole!
The darkness, oppressive with latent fury, neither moved to strike nor took any recognizable action. I merely found myself floating lazily in a vast span of nothingness, all the while the aura ate slowly away at my sanity like acid. How far the blackness covered I neither cared to know nor was willing to venture into. Yet as I drifted about I began to notice a sense of pressure upon my chest. It did not take long for me to realize that it was neither relenting nor pausing. It continued to constrict, leaving me struggling to draw air. Whatever the force was it seemed adamant on choking out my very soul. In vain I struggled, flailing about madly, for I knew that should I succumb to the inky void my eternal spirit would forever be trapped in that limbo of black.
I swung in mindless fear as the ever-growing pressure continued to crush my lungs and when the first solid object brushed against my hand I clasped on with strength only derived from an adrenaline-induced effort to stave off the reaper. That broke the spell… if it was such a thing… The shadows retreated and before my darting eyes the lounge once again took shape. I saw that I now clung to a woman who looked as shaken as I felt, and who looked at me with fear of what I may do next! Whatever caused that horrible daemon of the shadows to come forth was close… Somehow I knew, something gnawing away within me told of this… and that, good sirs, is why I ran.
Yes ran! Why do you question what even a child can understand! Should you look into yourselves, deep behind the tangible thoughts and memories long forgotten you will find it! Neither your stubbornness to disbelieve nor my own knowledge can save us against such a creation! How do you fight what you can only fear? Is it not feasible to take flight when faced by the mind-shattering torrent of the unknown?
Corridors blurred. Walls melted away as I passed, leaving me with nothing to brace myself with while the floor beneath me heaved and bucked. I stumbled many a time, and fell more that that. Still, even with such clouded thoughts and a fear racked brain one thought alone drove me: the realization that Joshua was defenseless in his sleep! I had barely escaped myself, how could a sleeping man possibly protect himself? But how to protect him was the problem for as I have said I knew of no way to even harm that abomination… The only plan I had, if such an embarrassing thought could be given such a respectful term, was to wake him with the hopes that together we may have stood a chance!
I returned to our room as quickly as possible, yet as I approached the door I felt a dark presence creeping into my mind. An involuntary shudder racked my already trembling body as I reached for the key. Looking at the door I sensed the ominous presence of that vile entity. I froze, the key no more than a hair’s width from the door, and in a single instant I considered fleeing to save myself from another experience like the one I had just endured. Yet despite this all-consuming fear I steadied my hand and deftly unlocked the door, some odd resolve now showing itself. Slowly I pulled open the door, shedding the light from the hall into the dark room at the most minute of speeds.
What assaulted me was no foul beast of the fetid pits of hell but merely the chilled winds of our own mortal realm. Yet, I thought quite rationally, why would my friend leave a window open when he would have known the cold instantly? Slipping my hand through the opening I fumbled for the lights, but when I flipped the switch neither was I rewarded with the soothing sight of darkness being cast aside or the retreat of fear. No, all I received in return was the continuation of darkness and a soft electrical crackle. Still I knew that my friend was inside, and whether I liked it or not I had to make sure that he was safe. Thus with this, and many more soothing lies running through my mind, I stepped through the threshold.
The shadow cast by my form hid the majority of whatever light managed to penetrate the doorway. Yet even still I spotted shards of glass glinting about the floor. The curtains, on the opposite wall, flitted about madly as the icy winds of winter pushed in through an evidently broken pane of glass. I took another step, deliberate and loud despite the terror that sapped my strength. With legs of rubber, I continued to force myself farther into the unknown. I crept deeper into the darkness, until I was near the closest bed. Glancing down I could see that there was indeed someone within the blankets, but just as I did so the door behind me slammed shut leaving me in the most unnatural darkness. My strength finally fled, and my weakened legs collapsed beneath me. Trying to brace myself against the dresser to my left I instead hit my head against it. I hit the floor, and in a daze of fear and the onset of loss of consciousness saw the eyes. Eyes that glowed with the very hatred and vile vengefulness of every creature spawned by the devil’s hand! As the world continued to fade out, to become less the chaotic existence of everything to being the harmony of singularity, I saw an enormous form leap out the window. Then I saw nothing…
I awoke several hours later, with throbbing temples and the vague hope that everything had been merely a horrible dream. Immediately I looked about my surroundings, trying to believe that what I now saw was really true. For in the corner the window was intact. No glass shards called the floor home. For an instant I truly believed it had all been a nightmare and rejoiced. But that quickly turned to disappointment, for I noticed small differences; like the color of the chair near the window had changed or the nightstand was now on the opposite side of the room. As I sat there, my bewildered brain slowly began to realize that even shape of the room had slightly changed… it was not the room we had checked into the night before.
Nausea crippled me while my mind grappled with this realization, and I quickly fell back to the bed that I had not crawled into on my own. Where was Joshua, came the only coherent thought from my uncertain mind. A quick scan was fruitless; for neither was he with me nor did the second bed look like it had been disturbed. There I lay in uncertainty, filled with anxiety as to the fate of my friend. Worry over the possibility of his demise due to my inability to aid him consumed me. Gradually, as my mind continued to clear and thoughts began to become rational, instead of random thoughts of the unknown, the worry changed to merely an uneasy belief that he was at least all right. For who else would have found me unconscious on the floor?
It wasn’t long after this realization that Joshua did indeed turn up. However, despite my immediate relief upon seeing him, I was once again worried about his well-being. He now looked deathly pale, dark circles under his eyes revealing a sleepless night. Gazing into his eyes I saw something I could not place my finger on, but now believe it to be repressed fear. Perhaps… perhaps it was merely the effects of my injury but I detected an almost imperceptible tremor in his right hand.
He greeted me warmly enough, but with such rigidity that it was hard not to see he was forcing himself to do so. He remarked candidly on the days events to follow, saying that the light snow of the night before, of which I had been unaware, in tandem with the morning’s exceptional weather were ideal for numerous runs down the slopes. Immediately I questioned him, regarding the change in room as well as the creature that had obviously broken in. Yet Joshua feigned ignorance, insisting that no such creature had ever existed let alone burst into our room. Instead he offered a much more plausible… believable… explanation, he had merely opened the window for the room had been to hot and it had fallen after he had let go. From there he had requested another room and had been quite surprised to find me lying unconscious on the floor.
You know not how I wished to believe his story, officers. I tried with all my might to forget, to convince myself of his tale. But in the end the eyes of that form that I had seen were all to real to write off as a figment of my imagination. For even a mad man, whose reasoning and mind is far more diseased than my own, would not, could not, dream up something so soul shatteringly evil! That, sirs, is why I ended up buying that accursed knife that you say I mutilated Joshua with!
Forgive me… I’m getting ahead of myself. I did not press the matter further with him, for I was unsure of whether or not he was lying to protect me or was doing so to hide something he wished me not to see. Regardless of my suspicions I allowed Joshua to lead me down to the lounge where we would eventually eat a rather hearty breakfast. Why did I return to the place where my life had very nearly ended? You must believe me that it had taken considerable force from Joshua before I would even budge from the lobby! I still sensed that dark presence, and as we were seated I could do nothing but eye the shadows, watching for the first sign of that infernal being.
Midway through our meal, Joshua quickly left for certain… reasons. It was during this time that I ran into a friend of my wife’s, a Jill Lawless. We had met numerous times in the past and had a friendly relationship, and I suppose my wife had spoken of our plans to her. When I explained to her that my wife had not come due to work Jill did seem disappointed. In turn she sat down and asked tactlessly why I looked so frightened. I could not bring myself to tell her out right what I had experienced thus far, and merely replied that it had been an unpleasant event of the night before. She of course tried to get more detail, but I was adamant about not wanting to go over it. From there one thing lead to another, and before Joshua had returned Jill had gotten me to agree that she was more than welcome to join us on the slopes… a mistake that I’ll regret for the rest of my life.
Yes… if I could be held responsible for any of my actions over those few days it would be that. What? Did I kill her? I admit to getting her involved in something that even I can’t admit to fully comprehend, nothing more! You say you can’t find her, that I caused her disappearance and probable death… I’ll admit to a degree that I am responsible for bringing her into danger… but not the act of murder!
That is beside the point, as you well know, if you would allow me to continue, officer, for I am doing this not for myself… Good. Of course around the time I agreed to allow Jill to tag along Joshua was just reentering the lounge. If I had been worried before I know not what I felt after seeing how quickly his appearance had decayed! Before he had left there had been the very slightest of color upon his face, now he had a look about him as if his blood had been completely drained away! His walk was unnaturally stiff, and coupled with his odd vacant stare created nothing less than an unnerving sight.
Jill and I shared a worried glance as he sat. A thin trail of spittle crept down his chin all the while he stared at some far off point with glazed eyes. I hailed him countless times to try and receive even a hint of reaction. But all attempts ended in failure… and as a last resort I reached out and lightly slapped him across the face.
At last I received a reaction, yet not one that I wished to get. For everything happened so fast that I can scarcely say I saw any of it at all. What I can discern is that almost immediately afterwards Joshua had me pinned to the table, armed with a knife perched over my left eye. It lasted no more than an instant, before he withdrew and seemed to slowly return to his normal self. Despite his constant reassurances that he had no idea of what he had done, I couldn’t bring myself to be near him. For I had looked into his eyes in that instant of unbridled rage and saw the same hatred that had dwelt within the eyes of the creature the night before!
I’ll make no attempt to hide it, for I am not ashamed of what I felt. In that instance of uncontrolled anger I could no longer worry about him, I could only fear him! And why not? Within a span of less than twenty-four hours I had seen things that should not exist in a sane world! Then, in my friend of more than twenty years, I saw THAT manifest within him! The how and why escaped me nor did I attempt to search! Nothing more than a wasted effort when knowing it to be true is far more relevant that explaining why it’s so!
Of the matter of perhaps the next hour there really is little to remark on. We did however leave the lounge and did get suited up close to ten. We were on the lifts shortly after half past, and while I still admit to being more than a bit nervous around Joshua, I was slowly beginning to force past its constraints, for I was naive enough to believe our friendship was all important.
Of the three of us Joshua had perhaps the most experience when it came to skiing. That is not to say that both Jill and myself were mere novices, we all had over seven years of experience. But in an attempt to show that we were at least trying to cope with the previous incident, we allowed Joshua to pick the first trail…
From the ten regular slopes available, Joshua opted for what could be considered to be a scenic yet obscure route. I’d been on it before, and while it was a regularly combed trail very few actually ventured through it. Perhaps because it discards the thrill of speed for the scenery… actually one could go so far to say it was more of a cross-country trek than anything else. But we had allowed him to choose, and we were not about to go back on our word… and like sheep we followed.
There was something disquieting about the trail that day, something I hadn’t noticed on my previous excursion. Perhaps my experiences had caused my mind to create evils that did not exist, but I immediately disliked how narrow the path now seemed. At points it became no wider than the span of my arms, and the trees… never have I felt so utterly entrapped! Their branches were clasped, held together as if something meant to rend them apart, creating a barrier against the sky! Why had he chosen such an isolated trail? Even while the trail could have been said to be unique… it was more haunting than picturesque.
We only made the one trip down that trail; the remainder was of the more mundane variety. Still, not understanding Joshua’s actions fully managed to rob me of the pleasure I normally get from such events. At the time I know I had been contemplating leaving the resort, to flee before something new came to test my sanity. But I felt compelled to stay, to see things through. From where this feeling emerged is difficult to say, for you’ve noticed I’m more cowardly than courageous. Why of all times did I finally grow a backbone then? I now suspect that I was merely influenced by that dark shadow’s own vile will for me to remain…
Regardless of my inner turmoil we stayed. Noon came after what seemed like an eternity, and once again I entered the lounge reluctantly. Joshua disappeared immediately leaving Jill and myself alone again. This was a welcome chance, for it allowed us to discuss things freely between ourselves. I allowed Jill to speak first, for I felt at the time that I owed it to her for getting her involved in the preternatural occurrences that had been happening. What is with Joshua? Why did he attack you? Why does he look so sick? What’s going on? All questions I had no answers to, yet I attempted to shed some light for her. I spoke of the car, the sign, the shadows of the lounge, the ability to actually feel the hatred wherever I went, and finally of the thing that had broken in the previous night. I explained all in the minutest way, much like I’ve done for you here. Except instead of jeering like you buffoons, she nodded in agreement.
What she said next only strengthened my belief that I was wholly sane. For she too had sensed some foul aura within the lounge the night before, and now felt something similar around Joshua. This was something I had been unaware of myself, but it was more than possible, for I had already used our friendship to put the morning’s attack behind me.
We got no further with that discussion for Joshua returned in a manner that was just as zombie-like, if you will, as the last time. However, I was unwilling to interfere with him, his violent outburst once again surfacing in my mind. In the end I ordered his food, a stack of pancakes, which I knew he would enjoy. The fact that he did not snap out of his daze until the food actually arrived caused an uncomfortable silence. What he did then… it can only be described as a primal frenzy. He immediately grabbed one pancake, and forced the entire thing into his mouth, quickly followed by a second and third. It was as if he hadn’t eaten in ages when it had only been roughly three hours!
In silence Jill and myself ate, all the while Joshua viciously tore at his own food. It was then that I decided to buy the knife… After Joshua calmed down into a coherent state I told him that both Jill and myself wished to make a trip into the neighboring town. There was a brief moment of fear in his eyes along with understanding. He did nothing to stop us, saying it was just as well we’d leave him be. He stated that while we were away he’d take the opportunity to get some needed rest.
With haste we left the lodge, and in Jill’s white Saturn we drove through the winding hillside. There were a number of things I noted on our exit. The first being, the sign of no known design was now gone. In fact there was no evidence that there had ever been a sign there! The second, and most calming, was the realization that the further we got from the slopes the less I felt of that dark aura.
If I were given the choice again… I’d have rather acquired a gun instead of the long hunting knife that I bought. Yet it was all that was available… and its weight did bring comfort… even if it was a simple minded comfort. For in that blade I saw strength… that I was no longer powerless against such a foe. I no longer saw death as a close companion! In short that knife filled me with hope for my survival. Perhaps… I was far too happy to have bought the knife… I understand the clerk who sold it to me remarked that I had a crazed look about me. When you feel the abyss approaching, ready to throw you from this mortal existence into blasphemous domains, you do not hide joy when something fortunate comes along. You rejoice!
I know not what Jill thought of that purchase, nor did I care. For it had not been done for her protection. It sounds selfish I admit, but it isn’t as if I did not fear for her safety at all. For during our trip back I rallied for her to leave, to return home as soon as god would allow. She fought back with every ounce of her being; why was it that she should flee while I stay? What plan did I hope to carry out, and how could I be sure it would work? And what of Joshua? No I did not have a plan, and once again I did not know Joshua’s life would come to such a vile end. But my will was set and I neither retracted nor changed my demand; the end result being her acceptance of my order… if more than a bit grudgingly. Thus after we returned to the lodge she gathered her possessions and fled… and has since vanished according to you…
Immediately I searched for Joshua, for I still knew not how involved he was in the evil happens of late. Yet our room was empty, the bed untouched by any sort of disarray. The search I then carried out was just as fruitless, for I even braved the lounge alone to find him! Yet with his whereabouts still unknown I accepted the most probable solution and quickly went to retrieve my skiing gear. I did not hold much hope in tracking him down on the slopes, for they were packed to access with every age of the average day visitors. Still, it was the only option available, and it did seem favorable to merely waiting for his return. Stepping out into the snow, a faint wind sent a shiver down my spine as I gazed up at the oblivious crowds on the hillsides… this was around two-thirty in the afternoon…
By four I had scoured very nearly every inch of the trails available; the one Joshua had chosen in the morning had now been blockaded. For what reason I could only imagine, and it received nothing but a sigh of relief from me upon my first glance at it. The possibility that I had missed Joshua on the other trails was extremely high, and the logical action would have been to wait at the lodge, for it was quickly approaching dinner. There was something there though, an itch in my mind that beckoned me to that trail. Fear once again took hold, but the reassuring weight of the knife at my side abated it somewhat. Yes… I climbed over the barricade and slowly made my way though the small trail.
What I noticed first was how dark it had become, and the next was the speed of the change, seemingly bordering on the supernatural. I could no longer see deep into the forests at my sides, now my vision was limited to only a few feet within them. Yet I steeled myself and continued deeper down the trail despite my protesting stomach. I continued in silence, of which was caused by pure fear, and very nearly fell in shock at the sight of a lone tree before me. For in the bark of that tree the tell tale sign of three deep gouges had torn through. I sensed the familiar acidic aura from where I stood and made a careful pass around the tree. Even still I felt its affects, for now a new sensation took hold for I could feel eyes upon me! Hundreds, thousands of eyes – how many I could not tell but I knew something had fixed its gaze upon me! With every inch I moved the belief that I was under watch only intensified! No I was not merely paranoid! Should you ever have the misfortune to live through what I have, and by all that’s holy I hope you do officers, then you would not jest as you do now!
What lay ahead for me was something that I had no intention of finding, and until I find the eternal peace of the grave I shall hold onto that belief. The fact that I continued instead of fleeing… only shows how much I had changed over such a short period. I can only say that the same force that refused to allow me to leave for how now bade me forward deeper into the darkening forest… at least that is what I believe.
What I found ahead, leaning against a tree shrouded in shadow, was the man I had been searching for. The snow beneath him was stained red with blood continually bubbling from his mouth and nose, dripping into frozen puddles on the ground. His labored breathing seemed dry and cracked, each breath drawn sending convulsions throughout his weakened body. I immediately rushed to his side as he collapsed as his energy gave out, leaving Joshua face first in his own frozen blood.
I hurredly opened my jacket and tore my shirt to clean his face, all the while trying to prop up his limp head. What was the source of the blood, I questioned as I dabbed at his crimson face. Oh to soon did I find the answer for Joshua began to emit pitiful gurgling sounds that were wholly in comprehensible, when his eyes finally recognized me. Slowly, remembering his violent outbursts of the day, I opened his maw. What I saw made me quake in apprehension, for his tongue was no longer housed within!
I felt the hidden eyes upon me narrow as I helped him stand. Taking much of his weight and giving him the ragged cloth to tend to the blood we made our way down the trail. I knew in my mind that the unseen eyes now gazed upon me with hateful revenge; my life was now in more jeopardy than it had ever been before! Yet with Joshua unable to speak and bleeding from such a horrid wound I did not care, what mattered… what my single purpose now was to get him medical aid as soon as possible. And in that I did succeed for we emerged from the trail mere minutes later, and with the aid of passers by were in the lodge soon after that where he was treated.
Why there? If he was injured so whywas he not sent to a hospital? You and I know full well that moments before we arrived an avalanche had covered the only road from the lodge with snow and debris. Of what caused this you say a shift of the ground; that it was a mere coincidence that it happened just when Joshua needed to be taken away. You blind yourself against the fact that the forces at work there created it as a measure of making sure we did not escape from the fate they had chosen for us! Regardless, we were told that it would take at least until the following mid-day before the road would be cleared to get Joshua to the town’s hospital. There were some trained medical staff on hand however, and they patched him up as best they could. And while he’d require better treatment, he’d live to receive it… or so I thought.
After having injected Joshua with painkillers the medical staff promptly left our room. He was far-gone, the shock and painkillers creating a disturbing, far off gaze much like the two I had seen before. But unlike those times he was coherent to a degree, at least in his motions for what had remained of his tongue had been stitched to help stop the bleeding prevented him from attempting to speak. At first he seemed content with what had transpired since his rescue… but then he began to act as if he had something that needed to be communicated in any means necessary. Beckoning for a pen and paper, he set out feverishly writing… stopping when I tried to see what it was he wished for me to know I took this as a sign to leave him be, for there were still things I wished to ponder on by myself.
Of all the places I could have went to think, never would you think that I’d willingly go to the lounge. Regardless, that is where I found myself… sitting on a stool with a coke and rye once again. As I gazed down at my drink, trying to rationalize what had just happened… I was overwhelmed. Something told me that whatever the outcome of this was… neither of us would ever be the same. For knowing as much as we did, I assumed at the time that Joshua did indeed know, was more than any man, woman, or child should ever know! I tried to deny it! I wanted to believe that everything could be forgotten; that I could live a lie. That’s when I saw it.
Was it something tangible? No. Was it something that could in fact cause pain? No. What was it? A vision… if you wish to call it such. It was an experience like none that I’d ever had before, for it sent me reeling back off my perch! Images flitted into my mind, yet not whole! Just mere glimpses of objects! A tree, Joshua’s eyes, darkness! I clumsily crawled backwards in fear as another hit me! My knife, red, black! I backed into a table, hitting my head in the process. As I nursed the bump on the back of my head another vision rocked my mind. Joshua, me, death! Hands shaking and knees buckling I fled the lounge for the last time!
I immediately returned to our room, and vainly tried to unlock the door with unsteady hands. Behind that door was a scene I had seen before, the window broken and Joshua missing. Yet now on the desk in the corner there lay sheets of paper, which I ran too. Upon them, in the shaky handwriting of Joshua’s, was a graphic recount of all that had plagued him for the last several years of his life. The disappearances of hundreds of people he cared about, all turning up dead. Sudden blackouts, only to revive in a murderous rage. What had been happening to me over the weekend had been happening to him for years! He documented numerous times when he caught sight of dark forms following him at night. Times when he felt dark presences stalking him in his dreams! He too had been captured in that wicked black realm, on more occasions that I would wish on my worst foe!
Yet nothing came to such a horrific conclusion than the last page of his confession to me. For in it he described what had happened to him on that secluded trail. What had removed his tongue was a mystery I had no intention of knowing… ever. But I read still, and it filled me with such soul rending horror that I wept on the spot. Joshua… had gone to that trail to die! He wished to be rid of the fear he suffered endlessly, and he allowed the dark form to catch him! He did not come on this trip as a matter of vacation; this was the place he wished to die! The creature, which Joshua went into detail as being a formless shape whose touch could very well be that of the Reaper’s itself, had taken great pleasure in torturing him in the trail; peeling back layers of flesh on Joshua’s tongue before taking hold and ripping it clean out! Cringing in realization I did not move from my spot, despite what I knew to be true. Joshua had gone back to that trail… and had requested I not follow.
Yes… he requested that I no longer get involved in what he had found himself in. Why then you ask did I go to him… I did so because I still believed that there was some way to save him. Whether or not you have believed a word of what I have said up until this point is irrelevant. What I am about to tell you, officers, is what happened whether you are willing to believe or not.
As I said despite Joshua’s plea for me to remain where I was, I headed up to the trail. The darkness had begun to set in even more as the sun began to fade over the horizon, leaving me with nothing more than the sense of fear. I drew the knife then, readying myself for what may come. I heard far ahead a strange symphony of sounds, all familiar yet disturbingly alien! My walk became a run, all fear now lost as each moment that pasted brought Joshua closer and closer to the brink!
I found him in the same spot as I had previously. He stood staring up at the canopy of branches and before my eyes they parted, allowing a sight of the rising moon! I called out to him then, drawing his attention. He… mouthed something; I’m not sure what it could have been though. One minute I’m making my way to him the next I’ve been flung with immense force into a far off tree. Somehow… I dropped the knife, either from the impact on the tree or during the flight. However, it lay before me a few feet away and I crawled through the snow to it in frenzy!
My heart stopped at the screams that erupted from Joshua as some nameless beast of the night pounced on him. Large claws slashed down on him in rapid succession while I stumbled to my feet. In a run I grabbed the knife and lunged on top of the beast, bringing down the knife hard! Yet the creature was unfazed! Repeatedly I thrust that knife into its skull with no effect in the least; it merely thrust its razor like claws through Joshua’s eyes! I tried the thing’s abdomen next; slashing it with every once of strength I could muster even as the creature tore into Joshua’s own! I know the knife went in deep, for it was a struggle to slice through but never did it leave a mark on that beast! Time and time again I brought down the knife stabbing wildly about trying to find some way of hurting that accursed creation of the damned!
In the end I was powerless to stop it. After it had finished with Joshua it had merely tossed me off with a swift motion of its right arm. I know not what happened to the knife… you say it was embedded to its hilt in an old pine tree twenty feet from Joshua’s bloody remains. I was fortunate to have been tossed in a snow bank, for such force would have likely killed me had I been knocked into a tree like that of the knife. Whatever that thing was… it had left… leaving the defiled corpse of what had been my old friend. The blood glistened in the moon that hung overhead, and as I knelt next the Joshua’s remains I cried for I had failed him! That was how I was found, officers, I hope you can at least admit to believe that!
That is my story. Believe it or not, like it or not, it doesn’t matter. Your skeptical minds delude you into thinking such things are impossible! What of Joshua’s car? What of the eye witness accounts of those in the lounge when I experienced the inky void? What of Jill’s car that you say you found mere miles from the resort; whose roof had been torn open by three long gouges! What of the letter he left! You have so much evidence in your hands that collaborate my story yet you refuse to believe. Why? Why are you so willing to disbelieve? You say Joshua’s blood was on the knife but I swear it never once touched his flesh!