The Merton Account

March 23, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Dear Mr. Valentine,
As per your request, I’ve collected reliable morsels of information from the many and often incoherent accounts that detail the events which transpired in Merton on September 2nd, 1996. It is only with great reluctance that I reveal this information to you, for I fear for my life that I am pursued with the intent of execution. Yet, I am a professional, and as such I will hold up my end of this terrible bargain, but I warn you that you may be better off unaware of the events which transpired in Merton on September 2nd, 1996.

August 31st, 1996
According to the more reliable sources, even with which corroboration was a cruel goal, the event began on August 31st when the librarian, Ms. Laurie Lasalle, came across a leather bound book called Apocriphex which she believed to be worth quite a great deal of money, for it’s binding and contents suggested great age. The book, though I now dread to speak of it, was written in a language which Ms. Lasalle could neither understand nor distinguish. Determined to discover it’s value, she brought to the nearest university, LSU at Shreveport, where she presented it to some of the faculty for appraisal. Among them (the varying sources cannot seem to agree between the presence of three faculty or four) was Dr. Vance Ridley who told me in my interview with him in 2004, “I felt a deep uneasiness about Apocriphex and could tell Dr. Smith [alias] felt the same way. I’m not a religious man, but the closest I’ve come to belief in the spiritual was when I beheld that ancient book, and now I am glad to believe not, though Dr. Smith believes I do so foolishly.” According to Dr. Ridley, an authority in cryptanalysis and linguists, the book was written in some perversion of Latin and Occitan. The bastard language was very pleasant to hear, nearly musical. Though Dr. Ridley assured me that the translation, though he could only produce a rough one, was not so easy on the ears. The document which contained the translation has since been lost before it could be shipped to me, though Dr. Ridley has told me that the tome was a collection of old alchemical recipes, perhaps written by an Aquitainian monk in the 9h century, though it’s condition would seem to place it a much more recent date. He assured me that the translation bordered on nonsense, though from out conversations, Mr. Valentine, I am lead to believe that you would disagree. I am still searching for the translation.

September 1st 1996
On September 1st, early in the morning, Ms. Lasalle retrieved Apocriphex from the University who warned her to take caution with the book, for it was a priceless artifact; considering it’s bizarre contents and pristine condition. This information was relayed to many friends of Ms. Lasalle on their September 1st book club meeting. I have spoken with many of those women, and it is from them that I have gathered much of this information regarding Apocriphex, though the current location of the original copy alludes us all. After her book club, which ended around noon, Ms. Lasalle went home and showed the book to her boyfriend, Mr. Gary Rogers, who owns that quaint diner on the bluff near Caddo Lake. Mr. Rogers, excited by the nature of Ms. Lasalle’s find, urged her to bring Apocriphex to the city-wide picnic to be held near the lake. She agreed to do so. This information regarding Apocriphex cannot be tied directly to the event which would transpire the next day, though the arrival of the old book only two days before the event seemed too ominous to ignore and with this suspicion I present this report. Ms. Lasalle died on September 2nd, 1996, and so I could not question her. Mr. Rogers spoke with me briefly before suggesting I leave the town, which name has since changed (as you know) and which I am obligated not to report here.

September 2nd, 1996
At 9:00am, then Mayor, Frederic Murphy went out to the site of the picnic near Caddo lake with two wildlife experts and four members of the city council, one of whom still serves to this day. It was a clear day and the lake was calm. The wildlife experts confirmed that there were no alligators in the area and set up a monitoring station in the thicket of some nearby trees to watch for any unwanted wildlife that may intrude about the picnic. The city councilman whom I could reach for questioning reported nothing unusual during this precaution.
At around 10:00am, volunteers began setting up tents, tables, and chairs. A local extermination company was hired by the city to treat the area for mosquitoes and did so. Some of the volunteers think that the chemical used to repel and kill the mosquitoes may have somehow been connected with the event. Scattered reports claim there was an altercation between one of the exterminators and volunteers, both of whom were in the process of divorce. None of the exterminators who were present that day still worked there when I reached them for questioning, but the manager, who was only present for the treating and not for the picnic itself, suggested that the volunteers had set up the grill too close to the water’s edge. Comments from the former mayor suggests that neither of these reports are reliable since he recalls a distinct division between the exterminators and volunteers regarding the nature of the divorce.
At 10:30 am, Merton Police arrived and began setting up cones. Most of the police officers who were present are now deceased, but one survivor, Officer Daniel Patton, says that nothing seemed out of the ordinary besides having to escort a hysterical woman off of the lot.
At 11:00 am, residents of Merton who were taking place in the annual chili competition were allowed to set up a their tents. According to Mr. Rogers and a few volunteers, Ms. Lasalle was quite a contender for this event and showed up early to set up her station. Officer Patton reports that there still seemed to be nothing of note occurring at this point. According to Mr. Rogers, she had brought Apocriphex with her. At some point between 11:00 and noon, the wildlife experts had to chase away an alligator who had come to close to the lot. According to the wildlife experts, it was rare for alligators to travel so far away from the deeper channels of Caddo Lake, though it certainly wasn’t unheard of. Otherwise, they reported nothing of note.
At noon, the picnic was officially open to the public. Before 1:00, a good portion of the residents (the population of Merton was 426 as of 1990) had arrived and begun setting up their areas. Many witnesses report a general uneasiness, though this likely only a sentiment believed to be felt in hindsight. Officer Patton recalls seeing Apocriphex when sampling Ms. Lasalle and Mr. Rodger’s chili, but didn’t think much of it. This is the last reported sighting of the book before the incident, though Mr. Rodger insists that Ms. Lasalle had shown the book to several people who had stopped by for chili. When pressed for names of people who may have remembered having contact with the book, he could only provide names of individuals who have since passed away. This is where reports begin to vary. According to the wildlife experts, there were two alligators swimming quite a distance from the shore who were being closely monitored. According to Officer Patton, reports to the police ranging from one to seven alligators required for most of the Merton Police force to be stationed at the shore to watch for alligators. Most of the residents I interviewed were unaware of the alligators or stated there were none at all.
At 1:00 pm, on September 2nd, 1996; disaster struck in Merton, Louisiana. What happened exactly is nearly impossible to say but I have tried with the utmost meticulousness to string together what seem to be incoherent and unrelated reports for the sake of clarity, though I believe this to be a laudably hopeless pursuit. Most witnesses recall the picnic being interrupted by what sounded like a large nearly muted horn above the clouds. This phenomenon has been reported all over the world at various times, and has even been documented on video if you are interested in researching it further. These sounds, according to witnesses were comparable to two enormous pieces of machinery grinding together. Next, a few reports claim that a swift wave swept over the lake, but the wildlife experts watching the lake disagree that this ever happened. The horn sounds ended abruptly, and many witnesses recall- often with a shiver or a reflective sigh- the brief and stunned silence that settled over them. Then, the waterfront erupted in noise. The police officers began firing into the water, panicked. Officer Patton claims that one of the officers screamed and began firing into the water, leading to a sort of hysteria amongst them. Once the firing began, he quickly left his post to make sure the residents didn’t get hurt in the panic. Most witnesses attempted to flee once the gunfire began, but some faced the water to determine what the threat was. Scattered reports say that an alligator emerged from the water to grab one of the officers. Whatever the case, it was only moments after the firing began that an impossibly large wave burst from Caddo and swept the officers into the lake. The water rose so rapidly that it flooded around half of the picnic site and swept many residence, including Ms. Lasalle, off of their feet. Many were dragged into the lake when the wave receded. Witnesses report that dozens rushed in to try and help those being washed towards the water when a second impossibly large and rapidly forming wave crashed over the picnic, this time covering a wider area. One witness who was swept into the water recalled, with bitter tears, screaming as those trying to swim back to the shore were dragged under the surface of the lake by powerful jaws. In the horror of the frenzy, many witnesses, guided by Officer Patton, fled to the parking lot. Officer Patton returned to the scene to find a horrific mass of writhing bodies, hoping against hope itself to reach dry land. The water was red from blood and swimming calmly between the wildly thrashing figures were the scaly spines of reptilian predators. A third (though some insist it was the fourth) wave washed over the scene and dragged many more of the citizens and officers into the depths of the lake where massive jaws were bursting forth from beneath the water and crushing flesh and bone before dragging the helpless victims below the surface. Finally, six survivors clambered to the shore where they were treated by Officer Patton and a medical team who had now arrived. Witnesses report that after the survivors had escaped, there was an eerie silence which seemed to last for several minutes. Though the water was dark red from the blood of the slain, no bodies, or even articles of clothing, were ever recovered from the lake. The incident was so crushing that most of the witnesses left Merton, which would later be renamed. Of the six survivors, one committed suicide, two were admitted into mental institutes, one joined a cult, and once died of cancer two years later. The event was never published in any paper and those who died in the incident were said to have died of natural causes. You and I both know, of course, how detestably unnatural this entire ordeal was. Perhaps the most disturbing detail of all came from the wildlife experts, who were safe in their perch. Across the lake, in a mass of swampy foliage, alligators were watching the carnage intently, though the experts claim that no alligators ever neared the shore. Worst of all, the experts tell me, is that no alligators were present during the attack at all.
Mr. Valentine, I beseech you not to look any further into the matter. One of the eyewitnesses I interviewed has since sent me several death threats and has made claims so wild that I dare not publish them in this report. Please, sir, if you value your life and your sanity, be satisfied with the account I have provided you and above all, please do not seek after Apocriphex. I am a professional and as such have fulfilled my contract with you. I will not further investigate the events which transpired in Merton on September 2nd, 1996, less I suffer a fate worse than the now constant terror that grips me even as I write this letter. God bless you, sir, and God help us all.

-Mr. L

Credit: Alex Lowe

The Unfamiliar

March 8, 2017 at 12:00 AM

The darkness is insurmountable here. The air reeks of saltwater, decaying fish, and other human stenches that I cannot even begin to imagine even if I felt the desire to. An unearthly black fog has settled over the city, as it does every night, and I yearn for a daylight that feels as though it may never come. The night in Malaveara is oppressive, almost as though it were not night at all, but rather the natural state of the world around the city. Of course, there is hardly a problem with the town itself.

The problem is what inhabits the town.

Beneath the cover of darkness that invades the streets every night, I can hear the sounds of shuffling, weary feet drunkenly stumbling toward some unknowable destination, if one actually exists. From outside, I can hear the sharp words of ghouls wandering around, starting fights and wreaking havoc. The one place that they never venture is Port Luna, for all of Malaveara knows never to descend to the seaside before the sun had broke over the horizon; stories of disappearances and unexplained occurrences led to the superstitions and urban legends of deceiving demons and malevolent spirits haunting the area. Instead, these creatures (for they could never be called human) roam the streets throughout the rest of the city, a nightly disease that infects the city once dusk falls that is purged as soon as the sun rises. Life here is almost unthinkably dangerous.

And yet, I call Malaveara home.

The grim undertakings of the nocturnal do not consist of life in Malaveara, rather as a mere part of life. During the day, the city is an entirely different place. The oceanside air carries a scent of tranquility and freshness through the streets. The people who fill the roads with the daily hustle and bustle are polite and kind, and I used to have friends among them. The sun overhead shines down, and when I look out to sea from the port and behold the glistening waters shimmering beneath the warm sunlight, I think that there is no jewel upon this Earth that can rival its beauty.

If the city truly is cursed, it only reveals itself at night. When the sky takes on that dark blue hue, the clouds fade under the cover of night, families retreat into their homes and lock the doors, and the sea loses that glimmering beauty, I too barricade myself in my quarters to wait out another night. It has been that way for as long as I can remember, and it will be this way until the ocean itself rises, seizes the city in its wet grip, and drags Malaveara down to the briny depths.

I would be content with this crude system, were it not for a particular night that I spent outside the safety of my home. I am a man who has survived a Malavearan night, but at the unexpected cost of my very sanity. Whatever still dwindles within my head presents you with what I can recollect of that terrible night, but with this dire warning.

Never go outside in Malaveara at night.

I was a young man of about twenty four years when it happened, and, I am ashamed to admit, I was not of an agreeable reputation. Indeed, I had made mistakes in my life regarding my career choices, though were it not so damned easy, I would not have been bothered. At my side was a fellow whom I had long revered and called a friend. His name was Amicus, and together we managed to successfully swindle many sailors out of their money.

Our original scam was a relatively simple one: in addition to docks holding large ships from faraway places, Port Luna also held a thriving market that began at dawn and ended shortly before dusk. Sailors would come to trade with the local merchants, and Amicus and I would disguise ourselves as such in order to fool the sailors into buying our goods. The items in question, such as fruit or spices, were actually purchased from other stalls. We would then sell them to eager sailors for twice the price, which meant that we would purchase a dozen apples or oranges for six pieces, and then sell them to sailors for twelve or thirteen on days that we felt particularly bold. On one occasion, we sold a dozen oranges to a group for thirty pieces. They were outraged, but begrudgingly paid the thirty pieces after we informed them that, due to a drought, it had been a difficult season for harvest. The sailors, who had been out to sea for so long that they had become desperately in need of fruit, were pitifully easy to fool.

Over time, our scams became more elaborate. We would take simple balls and paint them to resemble fruit before filling a crate with them, stacking real fruit on top in order to conceal the deceit. We would then deliver the crate to a newly-arrived ship for the ludicrous price of fifty pieces, and the captain, upon inspecting the fruit on the top, would pay us. Soon, we realized that painting all of the balls was unnecessary effort, and instead wedged a large piece of cardboard halfway into the box, filling the bottom part beneath it with sand to make up for the difference of weight and give the illusion of it being full of fruit.

We garnered a notorious reputation around Port Luna, though our tricks continued to prove effective for many months, as sailors would not fathom our treachery until they had long departed out onto the sea, at which point it was far too late to voyage back to Malaveara. Of those who were so infuriated that they returned to the port to seek us out, we would simply leave the port and not return until we were absolutely sure that it was safe.

It was in this fashion that we operated for months, until the day came that I had never anticipated would find me trapped on the streets of Malaveara after dark. Amicus and I were convincing the captain of a crew of newly arrived sailors of the quality of “our” product (which, for the curious, was a simple crate containing a dozen or so oranges, our carefully made fakes, and the sand) when a delivery boy happened to pass from the same stall that had sold us the oranges a week prior. He caught on to our trick once he spotted the oranges and loudly informed the captain of our attempted trickery and stated that the oranges were not only soon to be overripe, but were no longer fresh. However, the captain still seemed uncertain, and we may have still salvaged the scam with our pride intact had the delivery boy not gestured to Amicus’s face and declared it a “dishonest face”. This short remark irritated Amicus so fiercely that he, holding the crate with one arm, made to grab the boy with the other hand and was so careless as to let the crate fall from his grip. Upon hitting the dock, the crate broke in half, spilling ripe fruit, balls, and sand at the captain’s feet. He must have been warned of our scams by other sailors, for at the revelation of our deception, his face became quite red and he reached for the cutlass at his belt. The first few raindrops of a seaside storm fell as Amicus and I hurried away, leaving the crate where it lie like a monument of our shameful falsehoods on the dock.

Amicus and I were forced to flee from the wrath of not only the sailors, but the police overseeing the market when the delivery boy alerted them to our tricks. Amicus and I tore out of Port Luna into the streets, spurred onward by that fabled adrenaline rush of fear as the sailors yelled profanity as they pursued us, and the policemen blew their whistles as they attempted to maintain order. I remember roughly bumping into a woman on the street as I hastened to keep pace with my friend, knocking her to the ground and sending the foods that she had been carrying in a basket into the air, though I hardly noticed at the time. Instead, all that mattered was our escape.

Fortunately, at that moment, the clouds opened and a downpour of rain fell. Seaside storms are hazardous, and in the chaos as people fought for shelter, Amicus and I believed that we would make our getaway down an alleyway until we heard the captain’s boots still clamoring after us in a determined hunt. I could feel the polished blade of his cutlass whistle through the wind behind me. At that very moment, much to my relief, his foot landed on a recently made puddle of rainwater and he slipped and fell onto the cobblestone. Amicus and I were free to make our getaway, but at that moment some fool pulled a large horse carriage at the end of the alley and stopped, blocking our route of escape.

Behind us, I could hear the captain rising to his feet to resume his chase. Our time to escape was limited, and I began to panic. The driver had stopped his carriage with the wheel blocking any hope that we had of climbing beneath it. Amicus did not hesitate; with his superior height, he leapt into the air and seized hold of the carriage’s roof. His boots kicked the side of the carriage as he pulled himself atop it, and he looked back to cast me one last pitying look before he disappeared over the other side of the carriage, leaving me to my fate.

The captain advanced upon me, but at that moment, a policeman appeared at the far end of the alleyway, loudly blowing his whistle. The captain lowered his cutlass in confusion, and turned away from me to face back to the policeman. Behind me, the door to the carriage opened and a man in a black hood, a man whom I presumed to be the carriage driver, peered out at the scene in the alleyway.

I wasted no time in pushing the man out of my way and climbing into his carriage before opening the door on the other side and tumbling out, falling to the ground in the process and dirtying the sleeve of my jacket with flecks of mud. Behind me, the man in the black hood closed the doors to the carriage and whipped the reins, spurring the horses onward. I fought to climb to my feet, and I fled, leaving the encounter with the captain behind me.

I wandered through the streets of Malaveara, but there was no sign of Amicus. The rain fell like a veil, cloaking the figures on the street from my view, making it even more difficult to find my friend. The storm was overpowering me now; a screaming gale nearly forced me off my feet. I knew at once that I should seek shelter. Unfortunately, or through some cruel karmic retribution by the will of an angry God, my residence was on the other side of Malaveara. The storm was growing in intensity, so much so that debris was beginning to fly amongst the fierce winds. Water was flooding the streets as puddles formed, overflowed, and grew to consume the bricks.

I was desperately in need of a place to wait out the storm, so I began searching the shops that adorned the sides of the street for one that was open, to no avail. It was getting far too late for any respectable establishment to have its doors open to customers. Rather unwillingly, I found myself huddled deep in an alleyway. The rain soaked my clothes and chilled me down to the bone. It was there that I suffered for an unknowable amount of time, though the buildings around me weakened the wind to a slight, frigid breeze, and the downpour was barely tolerable.

By the time the rain stopped, I was shivering. My clothes were damp, and each movement that I made sent droplets of water flying from my body. My shoes were nearly ruined from being submerged for so long in the growing ocean that had once been the street, and my toes were numb from the icy temperature. When I exhaled, a cloud of white mist emerged from my mouth and my spine would quiver. I was shaking, though I know not if it was from the unbearable cold, or the sudden realization of my predicament.

Even from where I was hidden in an alleyway, I could see the sky above, though even though I already knew what would be waiting for me, my stomach sunk deeper and deeper as I slowly left my refuge for the Malavearan streets, my gaze still fixated on the sky.

A waning gibbous moon, cloaked behind clouds of stone, hung within an abyss of black that sparkled with white stars.

I was in disbelief, though I could not tear my eyes from the sight of a night sky. I hadn’t seen one in so long, and believed that I never would so long as I lived in Malaveara, but here I was. I was so suddenly overcome with emotions of such a powerful fear that when I finally did manage to tear my gaze from the moon, my face contorted in a wide smile and I began to laugh until tears were streaming down my cheeks and my breathing had turned ragged and tired.

A memory of an event that had taken place mere months before that night had come to mind as I stood, shaking, in the frosty night. I had been in my den, taking shelter for the night, when from outside came a sudden ruckus. A panicking man was running from house to house, banging on the doors. Even now, so many years later, I can remember the sound of his screams.

“I’m not one of them! I don’t belong out here!” he was shouting, pleading to be let inside. I had the blinds pulled over the windows, yet I still ducked down in front of my desk when he came to my door and rapped his fists on the wood. “Please! Somebody! They’re coming!”

I froze in place; I did not dare to rise from my chair to cross the room. From where I was safe inside my own home, I listened to the man attempt to rush to the next house, but I never heard him knock on the door.

He began to scream, and then his screams turned to howls, and the howls to whimpers before all outside was silent. As quietly as I could, I rose from my chair and went to my bedroom before closing and locking the door and tiredly climbing into bed where I would toss and turn for the rest of the night.

The morning after, I left my home to see a tattered jacket lying in the street in the same area that the man had been shouting. People trampled on it as they made their way down the street.

Was that to be my fate? To fall victim to whatever foul nightmares prowl the streets in the darkness? It appeared that my only chance for survival would be to seek shelter in my own home on the other side of Malaveara. I feared that if I remained in place much longer, whatever unseen monstrosities that I had heard every night would soon be upon me.

I had no time to waste, and began my long trek. I strode along the streets, weary to be travelling in plain sight. I looked to the shadows of the alleyway, thinking that they would prove an invaluable hiding place, but the darkness was so absolute that I could not tell if there was anything moving within the shadows, and it was then that I caught my first glimpse of a denizen of the night.

He looked to be old, as his hair was ashen and his black eyes seemed sunken and filled with a hollowness dug through years. His crooked teeth smiled at me beneath a wide-brimmed black hat, and his black trenchcoat seemed long, almost too long. He was a tall man, so tall in fact that at first I believed he was levitating in the air.

Startled by his sudden appearance, I quickened my pace, leaving that vile alleyway behind me. I dared not look back over my shoulder, for fear that he would be following. It wasn’t until I reached the end of the street that I ventured a quick glance over my shoulder and saw- to my immense relief- that there was no one. My relief was short lived, as I looked back down the street and was met with a shock.

I was fully aware that the amount of nighttime ghouls wandering the streets of Malaveara was vast, though I was not aware of the full scope until that very moment. The street was lined with a wide array of strange creatures, and I now knew that my assumption of these nighttime stalkers not being human proved true.

The pungent stench of decay and squalor filled my nostrils as I stood paralyzed by the horrifying sight before me. Creatures sat in doorways, motionless, paced the streets, restless, or stood huddled in unsettlingly close circles, whispering in indiscernible voices. None of these nocturnal freaks seemed to pay me any attention, however, so I wondered if it might be possible to simply walk down the street. My only other option was to detour through an alleyway, but without knowing what sinister entities lurked in the shadows, I could not bring myself to enter the alley.

Trying to keep myself from shaking so harshly, I began walking down the street and past the ghouls.

As I wandered past a circle of people who had no color to them whatsoever, not on their skin or clothing, I could catch only a few select words (Catalyst, Crystal, Gates, Oblivion) before the group went silent when I approached while keeping their heads bowed in the circle, unmoving. I passed by a man in a faded gray cloak who was lying against a shop and peered at him as I passed, only to discover, to my horror, that he had no face beneath his hood, though as I stared, two eyes began to push outwards through his skin before the skin opened, pushing the eyeballs out onto his face where their brilliant blue radiance watched me. When more eyes began to appear on his cheeks, forehead, and chin, I walked a little faster and hurried away while feeling the heat of their intense gazes on my back.

It took everything that I had to not break into a sprint, though my face glistened with sweat, and I now buried my hands in my pockets to hide the shaking. My breathing was heavy, and I struggled to quiet my gasps. At this point, I hadn’t even made it halfway down the street. Nothing about this was natural. The monsters were real, and they had come.

I passed another circle of Colorless People, catching a few more words (Ends, Corsair, Syndicate), but I was almost wheezing. Finally, I reached the end of the street where a raven-haired woman wearing black clothing and holding a white umbrella was standing with her back to me. She looked around at me, and caught my eye. Her face was pale, her skin almost ghostly. The lady turned to face me, slowly reaching out a weak hand.

“Please… are you here for me…?” she asked in a voice that was little more than a whisper. “So empty… so cold…”

“N-No,” I stammered, backing away as the empty lady slowly moved closer, her hand still extended. “I’m sorry, I can’t help…”

Suddenly, a rough hand clamped down on my shoulder and pulled me so violently that I was nearly yanked off my feet. Instead, I whirled around to find that a sailor, covered completely from head to toe in a muddy grime, had grabbed me in his cold, unyielding grasp. His eyes flashed darkly, filled with a bitter malevolence, but his beard seemed to be made of something other than hair. I felt my stomach sink when I saw his beard move and realized that it was made of fingers, some twitching, others pointing toward me as if trying to grab me.

“Ye ain’t one of us,” he croaked in a hollow, gravelly voice that sounded as though it had come from an abyss at the end of the ocean floor. “Ye don’t belong here…”

“Let go of me!” I struggled to pull away from his hold. The empty lady was still crooning behind me. He was slowly pushing his face closer to mine, and the fingers reached out for me. At the last second, I pulled my head back and threw it forward, feeling a satisfying crack where his nose was as he stumbled back, releasing me from his powerful grip, but the clammy fingers seized hold of my face. Shrieking, I pulled away, but the fingers did not relinquish their hold. His beard stretched as though he had a long arm protruding from his face, and I could hear the gruesome sailor’s cackling in my ears. It was only when I opened my mouth and bit down on the fingers trying to climb inside that he howled in pain, and the fingers retracted. Disoriented, I scrambled to get away, my footsteps sounding like thunder on the bricks as I ran for my life.

I paid no attention to the freaks lining the streets or the circles that went silent as I neared. Instead, I was so caught up in my mad dash to even remember which direction I was going. All that mattered was getting away from the monsters, but that feat was impossible in a city filled with them.

My fearful run began to garner the attention of the creatures. Some seemed uninterested, others called after me, but some lunged to catch me. A woman with long, greasy black hair dove at me from a familiar alleyway, her lips parting sideways to reveal jagged, broken teeth, and she hissed at me. Panicking, I nearly lost my balance trying to turn in a new direction and ended up running beneath an archway into…

Port Luna.

The nocturnal forbidden area where no stalkers would dare wander after dark, for forces far more chaotic and malign than they inhabited this area. For a moment, I thought I caught sight of the ghostly sailor wandering the edge of the port with a lantern in hand, but his beard was not as proclaimed and he was wearing the garb of a captain.

The sudden howling of a wolf somewhere nearby startled me, and I reflexively tensed up at the sudden sound before it abruptly stopped. Everything seemed so quiet in the port, which I thought was odd at the time, but the reason why did not occur to me until much later. During the day, in addition to the rowdiness of the market, there was the constant crashing of waves against the docks and the squawking of seagulls. That night, the ocean was impossibly silent, and the only living things were watching from the shadows, their presence felt, but unheard.

I so desperately wanted to run from that unholy place, but my feet seemed locked in place. I was paralyzed with fear, my whole body tingling with shivers. It suddenly became very cold. When I looked out over the ocean, the moon did not illuminate the waves; instead, the water was blacker than the sky, so it more resembled an endless abyss yawning over the horizon. It felt as though my blood were turning to ice as I stared, numb, at the unnatural, unrecognizable sight before me.

Rather unexpectedly, I felt an ancient presence nearby, and all of the other malevolent entities seemed to disappear as it drew nearer. Sweat rolled down my brow as I felt it moving over the cobblestone to my side, but I did not dare to look. Instead, I stood in mute terror, trembling and squeezing my eyes shut, praying that tonight was not the night that I met an untimely demise.

When I opened my eyes, the ancient creature passed me by, and I caught my first sight of its massive form. From what little that I can remember, it had skin whiter than anything I’d ever seen, and it seemed to be twisted and pulsating while it prowled on four legs. Whether they ended in paws or claws or some other appendage, I did not see. It turned to face me with a deformed face, though I could somehow tell that it held a mildly interesting, musing expression. Its eyes were hollow, but all-seeing. Its mouth was permanently open, as though it had not finished what it had to say and it never would.

This indescribable creature surveyed me for a moment, and then it spoke in a voice unlike any human’s. This was a voice that a human would be incapable of making, for it resonated with eons of life and whispers of debilitation. It did not move its mouth to say those three words that have haunted me ever since that night, echoing in my dreams and hiding between the sentences of everything that anyone has spoken to me since.

At once, I regained control of my body and turned to flee from that repulsive port, and I have never returned. I do not recall how exactly I returned home, for my mind was a spiral of madness for many months after my encounter with the ancient entity, but despite my slow recovery, I have not remembered. Even most of the creature’s form is a blur in my memory, as the mere sight unravelled my mind for quite some time. From what I have been told, I was found in my house the next day, raving like a madman and laughing to myself. I spent many years in a recovery clinic, and I have not seen Amicus since his abandonment that night.

Now, years later, I live my life quietly in Malaveara. I’ve found honest work, and am often inside my house hours before and after night falls over the fair city. Somehow, I know that I will never be able to leave.

But those three words that the creature spoke are forever engraved in my mind. Even writing them now sends shivers down my back and a dull pain through my head. Despite my uncountable nightmares about the ancient entity saying those three words, I’ve tried to forget. I now write them, hoping that I find some solace in revealing my knowledge and praying whomever reads them will someday find that they do not remember these three words.

Welcome home, human.

Credit: Alex Sorrow

Stories of the Black Count, Part I: Deathless Days

February 20, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Stories of the Black Count, Part I: Deathless Days

Credit: Michael Vrazitoulis

The Asylum

January 9, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Far beyond the reaches of our Earth, amongst the eternal aether of the cosmos, lasts beings of true power and magnitude who lay beyond the comprehension of our minds. Beings that shape and warp the fabric of space, and distort the reality in which we live. To gaze upon their eyes is to gaze upon the eyes of infinity. To describe their figure is to describe the universe. To witness their power is to witness the power of the cosmos.

I was but only a young man when I was first stricken with the devilish fever that had previously claimed my family. I was to be considered lucky, as the great Plague of Bloodletting did not bring about my end. It was only the insanity and fear of the cosmos that came with it that ailed me, and that insanity ails me to this very day. To my kin, the true fever and pain of the Plague would be their end. My mother was the first to go, she had sliced her wrists in a fit of hysterical madness while my sister and I were away at school. It was my father who found her, falling to her body in a futile struggle that some divine interaction would bring them back together. As it turned out, that divine interaction would simply be the contact of my mother’s tainted blood.

On the night that my father expired, the swelling of blood to his brain caused, what I had first believed to be delusions, visions of great cosmic and aetherial horrors. Fearing their awesome power over the mind of man, he too took to the blade, ending his life face down in a pool of plagued blood. My sister was awoken by his fit of insanity and treaded barefoot into his room, but before the light of her candle could illuminate the void of the room, her feet felt the blood, and she knew.

I was the only one who could care for my sister, as we had no other family. Having turned fourteen the month prior, my sister was a small, frail child who could be frightened merely by the sight of her own shadow. She did not last as long as mother or father, who fought the Plague for nearly a week. My sister hardly last beyond the third day, and a part of me wishes I never witnessed the fourth.

I shall refrain from describing how my sister passed, as the brutality and gore of the event left me in such fragile mind that I was admitted to the Providence Asylum of the Insane. It was here that I first began to experience the true nature of the Universe and its unforgiving forces. As I mentioned, I was stricken with fits of madness and insanity, but not by the Plague. If such were the case, I believe this manuscript would not be here, to unleash the knowledge of horrors that it holds.

It was during the first month of my admittance into the hospital that I met an artist by the name of Joseph B. Wilcox. I never learned the reason that Joseph too was admitted to the hospital, only that he felt the need to be there to protect someone, be it himself or family. He was a tall, skinny fellow, a neatly cut head of brown hair, and a pair of delicate blue eyes. His hands were soft and slender, like that of a woman’s, a clear sign that he prefered the intellectual arts of painting and clay sculpting over the more physical and manual labours of other young men of his age.

We became quick friends, realizing that we were of the more stable bunch within the hospital. Joseph would tell stories of life in the small village outside of Providence, whose name escapes my thought, and would often gift me with small sketches to decorate the drab and numbing room in which I stayed. I would tell stories of working in the family shop behind the counter to help reach the jars of sweets that neither my mother or sister could reach, or of the kind old woman who often came to purchase candles and soaps, and how she would always find my youthful exuberance a charming quality I should not let go of so easily.
Twas the night of March 8th when Joseph entered my room, his footsteps slow and monotonous as he crept to my bedside. I did not hear him enter, I only felt has he laid one of his feminine hands on my arm and shook me. When I awoke to see him standing over me, I shot up, frightened by the scarred and blood stained face that stood before me.
In his madness, Joseph had crafted a shiv from his bed frame and carved queer sigils along his face and arms. His eyes were bloodshot and his mouth curled into a sinister smile. He placed the shiv on my lap and laid his hand on my shoulder, whispering some sort of terrible mantra into my ear. His hand drifted to the shiv and he beckoned me to join him in a Paradise lost a millennium ago. Blood drained from my face and I felt my arms grow cold as I witnessed a wretched abyss manifest beyond him, and what seemed like that which is beyond the normal world.
A rush of hatred and anger overtook me as I plunged the shiv into his gut, the gargled and raspy voice of my once-friend slowly fading as he fell limp on the molded and rotting floor. Fear overtook as I was too terrified to remove my eyes off the body before me. When I finally broke the trance and looked up, the asylum of which I was confined had warped and twisted into a vista of blackened skies and gray earth below me.

Above the vast Purgatory that I stood floated a being that still haunts me in my thoughts and memories of it, and maddens me in my dreams of it. Swirling, churning, gurgling, and writhing like a mass of blackened earth worms in a rotting corpse was the Daemon Sultan, who so repugnantly controlled the Skies and Cosmos as one. I was amongst a land of predators, and I was not worthy enough to even be thought of as prey. I felt as the frail mind of mine shattered, my eyes rotting from the sight of such an eldritch terror that no man would ever know.
The wardens found Joseph’s body and the shiv under my cot, and there was no fighting what was already apparent. The horrors I witnessed remain with me in life, and when my body shall soon convulse in the noose place around my wretched throat by the hangman, so too shall the horrors assault me in death, for Earth is not our home. Our Earth is merely an asylum of the fragile minded who are too weak to gaze upon the awesome terror and power of the Universe.

The Facility

December 15, 2016 at 12:00 AM

It only took her a moment to figure out that this wasn’t where she wanted to be. The paint chipped and wallpaper peeled down as if bowing its head in resignation to the dilapidated state of the facility. She walked gingerly up the hall, dodging the debris that lay scattered across the yellowed laminate floor. An old, rusted wheelchair sat propped against a side door that led to nothing but darkness, as far as she could tell as she passed it. A pair of crutches leaned against the jamb of another door to her right, this one wide open to a room much more visible in the diminishing daylight. She made her way cautiously toward that door, nearly tripping over a loose section of flooring. When she got to the doorway, she peered in and felt her stomach churn with revulsion.

There was a solitary window letting in the sickly, pale yellow sunlight through its dusty pane. The shadows from a tree outside played across the dirty floor and broke up the lazy dance of dust motes in the stale air of the room. Along the far wall was a single, iron bed frame. Long ago, it had been painted a clean, clinical, crisp white; now the bars rusted and chipped, the white long since turned to dusty gray covering the dingy metal. The mattress sitting on it was sagging in the middle, striped and so dirty she couldn’t tell what colors it was originally intended to be. There were rumpled sheets that clearly never fit the thing at all, with a blanket and pillow tossed into the corner of the bed. Under it was the barest shadow of an old suitcase, its leather straps long ago sacrificed to the rot of this humid climate and the neglect of years passed.

In front of the bed, on the floor, was a pair of dusty shoes from a bygone era. They sat cockeyed, as if just slipped off by a young girl or boy whose feet turned inward from some shyness or infirmity. The toes of the shoes nearly touched and the dust made the old leather look soft, between the cracks. She had the impression that if she were to walk over and touch the shoes, they would crumble before her eyes. They certainly added to the smell in the air, of dust and old. She found herself wondering for the first time about the most recent inhabitants of this facility, the rats and spiders and other such creatures. Were they still here? Would they come out to meet her when the light dimmed enough for them to feel safe? She shuddered at the thought.

As if bidden by her thoughts, an emaciated rat scurried across the floor in the room. Where it had come from, she couldn’t say, but it seemed quite familiar with the surroundings as it dodged trash and equipment around the room to reach its destination— a small hole in the corner of the wall nearest her, next to the open closet. She willed herself to not scream, or jump, and watched the rat’s experienced maneuverings with a strange, morbid curiosity. When it dove into its hole, she found herself perversely drawn to crawl over to it and peer in, perhaps to see a family of rats sitting down to supper. She fancied the rat she saw was just going home after a long day at the mill (wherever that equivalent was in this place), and would soon put its feet up on a bit of fluff it had taken months back, ready to relax for the evening.

It was at this point that she realized her mind was going to places she would rather it didn’t, needing to keep her wits about her in this place. They had warned her that it would play tricks on her, that her mind would try to trap her here somehow. She silently cursed her imagination and went back to searching the room with her eyes. She refused to enter that space unless absolutely necessary, and unless what she sought was in the room, she wouldn’t enter it at all. She craned her neck around to see into the dark closet, where the door to the little cubbyhole was blocking the sunlight and turning it into a gaping maw of darkness.

“Damn.” She whispered when she realized she wasn’t going to get a good view unless she entered the room.

Keeping her eyes down and watching the floor for debris, she picked her way across this floor the same way she had in the hall. Something caught her eye for an instant and her toe tapped the corner of a tin can, sending it rattling a few feet away. She held her breath, hoping the noise wasn’t enough to elicit a response from the facility, and waited. 10…20…30. When there was no reaction, she let out her breath and turned her full attention back to the floor between her and the open closet door. She took a step closer, and felt the floor rumble slightly. Her heart fell as she realized the sound had indeed woken it up, deep in the bowels of the building, and it was coming.

The sound was faint at first, like rolling thunder. Except instead of coming from outside the dingy window, it was coming from further inside the building. As it drew near, the sound grew and changed. It sounded like rusty pipes breaking, or children screaming. Then it sounded like the whole place was groaning, straining to contain the thing.

She leapt to the other side of the room, far away from the door, and reached inside her coat for something. She wasn’t worried about making noise anymore; it already knew where she was. She cursed aloud as she fumbled with a trinket that caught the sunlight and gleamed softly for just an instant. She could hear it coming up the hall now, bashing carelessly against the walls as it filled the space.

It reached the doorway to the room she was in and hesitated for only a moment, the last fading sunlight repelling it. As the sun sank, her heart sank with it, knowing her best defense was gone. It turned then, facing her fully, and she almost shrieked in mind-numbing terror.

It was surrounded by a black miasma, like smoke. Its head was impossibly high, easily 8-10 feet, and there was too little of it for what should have been this thing’s head. That’s when it hit her; the face was that of a child. That’s why the head was too small, it was that of a small child atop this monstrosity! There were arms in the miasma that reached out for her, each of them capped by a hand with a face, a face that screamed in horror and pain.

The top head leered at her and the whole thing lunged through the door. In the last possible instant, her hand went up instinctively to ward it off, to protect her face, she had no idea. It just went up, still with the trinket clutched in it. But though the sun had left, the trinket still gleamed and glowed! The creature shrieked and hissed, backing away but filling too much of the door; it was stuck. It crawled backward, up the wall and away from her. She looked in her hand at the trinket, saw the glow, and thrust it out at the creature.

It hissed and spat, its venomous saliva bubbling on the floor before the door. Slowly, it managed to back away out the door, with the paladin following, still holding out the amulet of Amon-Ra to push it back. At the doorway, she stepped in the bubbling venom without a notice, her entire focus on the creature and pushing it back out of the room. The bubbling venom fizzled and was still, crystal clear as water on the floor.

The creature pulled farther back down the hall, through another doorway, and then disappeared. She could hear it moving, feel the floor still shaking with its many handed steps. Eventually they faded to nothing and she breathed a sigh of relief, replacing the amulet in her interior pocket. She had hoped to not have to show her hand so soon, but if that was the guardian here, things might be worse than they had thought at the priory. She would need to consult with the monks back at the monastery before venturing any further in, much as she detested the delay.

She made her way back up the hall to the front doors, pulling the pitted and rusty handle gently to open the large portal. As she gained the dusk outside, she heard a whimpering whine from deep in the facility, and knew that for the moment, the creature would hide and lick its wounds, rather than chase.

Credit: J. Svogar


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