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Albert’s Letter



Estimated reading time — 16 minutes

From the author:

READ HORROR, RAISE MONEY FOR CHARITY:

One of the communities we used to work with in Zambia have been in touch to say that they are really struggling to pay for masks, sanitiser, soap and even food for the school kids. I know everybody is having a hard time right now, but since nobody is going to be trick or treating this year (booo!) We thought a few folks might want to use the money they would have spent, to ‘treat’ these people to things that should just be basics.

But we’re not asking you to do this for nothing…

Make a donation and get a free collection of horror stories written by Eleanor Sciolistein just in time for Halloween.

Go to this link to download free collection of five horror stories. Then go here to leave a small donation to pay for them, this can be as big or as small as you like and every single penny raised will go towards getting who really need it.

Or if you’re feeling’ generous but don’t like scary stories you can skip the stories and go straight to the link and make a donation.

Thanks for your help and…Happy Halloween!

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Dear Mother, 

I should begin by saying that I’m sorry. 

I know that Marie’s death hit you hard and in the days after the funeral. All you needed in the world was the shoulder of your son to cry upon. I know I wasn’t there. I know that I should have been, and for that I am truly sorry. 

Moreso however, I am sorry for the circumstances that lead to my absence, the reason I couldn’t be there and the reason I can never let you weep for your child on any shoulder of mine. 

I know that when you read these words you will most likely throw down this letter in disgust, disregarding the rest of its message and so, I will tell you now. Throw it down. Walk away in tears, vow to disown me and erase all memory that I ever was your child, but please, do not destroy this letter. 

In days, weeks, months or years to come when the sting has faded a little, the wound at least partially healed, you can come back to this letter and read what remains after the hurt. 

It is my story, my confession and my reasons. First however I need to tell you. I killed Marie. 

As I anticipate that you will be returning to this letter, possibly damaged, after a long interval, please allow me to again say that I am sorry. It was not my intention to hurt you or indeed Marie. Whom I feel, in some ways perhaps, I may have granted a mercy.

I am sorry for the pain I may have caused you and any I may have caused her. I am not sorry for what I did and indeed,I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. 

Fear, dear mother, is an excellent motivator. Through one fear we can be pushed, coerced or persuaded to overcome others. Like a man forced to walk the plank, The threat that pursues, forces us forward, sometimes down roads paved with terrors. I have faced fear mother. Horror beyond what you can imagine and yet, I hold no regret. Call me a coward, but fear forced my hand, a hand I can still move. Marie was not so lucky. 

Do you remember mother, that really hot summer? When we filled buckets and mugs from the taps and had water fights in the street? How you scolded us, half heartedly, for wetting the floor, then spurted us with water from an empty bottle of washing up liquid,laughing and running into the street yourself. I can see your apron sodden your hair, usually so tidy and neat, falling wildly out of place as you chased on cobbled stones. Marie loved that. 

I remember her that day. I romanticise it. In my memory her hair, hanging in straggly, knotted strands, drips water that catches the sunlight, and she, laughing and giggling as only little girls can, deliberately shakes her head so that the droplets fly at me. I watch her laugh in memory, watch her run away. Run. Laugh. That’s how I want to remember her. Not as what she became. 

I know there is a God. I don’t believe, I know. If the dark things exist, and mother, they do, then the light things must too. When I looked at Marie though, I often wondered which, dark or light, our God was supposed to be. 

How could a God, a real, loving God who cares for his children do that to someone?   People talk of Jesus as a shepherd, caring for his flock. They forget that every shepherd sends some lambs to slaughter. I never forgot. When your supposedly loving God, is so recklessly, needlessly cruel, well, it’s time to find a new God. 

I knew she was in there of course. Long after the body shut down. Locked in syndrome they call it nowadays. Locked in, but in there. Her brain was aware. She was aware, but she couldn’t move a muscle. Her only access to the world a strained  blinking of one blue eye. Trapped, caged and tortured. Jesus wept. 

When I looked at her I still saw Marie. But all I could think about was our scruffy old dog, Pixie. Do you remember Mother when she was hit by a car? Her tiny body spun horizontally and landed on the pavement with a thick wet slap. I carried her into the house. Holding her was like holding a huge bag of carrots, the tiny bones had no rigidity anymore, the pieces, broken and unattached within the sack of skin tumbled and slipped over each other. I laid her in front of our old electric fire and watched her as she died. 

If ever you doubt, need proof of the soul, watch something die. You see, in a second, the ‘life’ disappear. The body is emptied, vacated, transformed.  Becomes a shell, an echoing husk, still, inanimate and empty. Pixie’s carcass wasn’t Pixie, Pixie was somewhere else.  

I saw the same in Marie, that seperation of body and soul. But she, she wasn’t somewhere else. She had stayed, here, awake. 

The body, the shell, was reduced to a husk.  The spark, the animation, the spirit and essence that was ‘her’ remained.  It lived within its vessel of flesh, its vehicle body that fades when we die. Caught and cursed to living death.

We are no more our bodies than a driver is a motorcar Mother. The car can be crashed, dismantled and sold for scrap, whilst the driver who controlled it, made it race and spin, stop and start, gave it life, gets out and goes on.  Marie’s soul  gave her car life, until the car was crushed with the driver still inside. 

God shows us the soul is seperate from the body by trapping one within the other. It’s his cruelest joke. I never laughed and Marie, poor Marie, couldn’t. Run. Laugh. Nothing. That isn’t fair. 

I wrote those words on my bedroom wall. Behind the bookshelf, they’re still there now. ‘Run. Laugh. Nothing’. Of all the symbols I have used, all those dark and twisted signs, it’s those words and the accusation they hold, against God and his supposed purpose that  remain the  darkest. 

Marie saw me do it. I’d carried her, dead weight but far from dead, into my room and placed her on my bed. I wanted her to know that I knew she was in there, to know what the doctor had told me, why I was planning to do what I did  and that I knew she was in there  and able to hear me. 

It was Doctor Linson. The same Doctor who gave me a sticker for being brave when I was small, who burned the wart off my back and gave me syrup for my cough. The same doctor I trusted and respected as a friend. It was the very same, who told me. 

“It’ll happen to you”. Some ‘round here have called me a witch. But he, a doctor , like oracles of old told me the future not as a guess but in iron, terrible certainties. “It will happen to you”. 

He’d done the tests. Could tell from the blood. Suddenly the warmth was gone and just like God, this familiar figure who, in a way, I knew and loved, crushed everything that was me and mine into powder and wiped the dust from his hands. 

I would be inside. Trapped like Marie. Run, laugh. Nothing. It would happen to me.

But it hasnt. Because, unlike Marie I have had help. My God doesn’t love me, but my god, at least, is fair. 

In many ways a doctor is similar to a witch. Both have their herbs, their potions and their books and both can show what time seeks to conceal. Both, at times, are tiny gods. 

Where they differ is how they treat whispers in the dark. A Doctor says they don’t exist, a medium might turn an ear to listen. A witch and only a witch, would choose to whisper back.

It took me a year to pay for that book. I had some savings squirreled away but only one half of the price he wanted. I showed him my wage-slips. Offered, if he would let me, to pay off the remainder in installments. For me the clock was ticking. For him, it was not. 

He was unmoved. He’d made that mistake before and in his experience, with a few noteable exceptions, those acquiring such books weren’t around long enough after receiving them to pay off their debts. Not those owed to him anyway.  I explained that being one of those exceptions was the crux of my plan. 

“Isn’t it always?” he sighed, before adding by way of caution ” If the book works, you’ll have debts enough. Full payment in advance. No exceptions”. And so Mother, I waited. 

Over that year, I read. Devoured with omnivorous greed every mention I could find of the occult, demonology and esoteric ritual magic. At first I refused to pay for other books, my sole object being to purchase that one volume that would give me what I needed, and instead travelled many miles, often walking, to numerous libraries and bookshops. Sometimes I would set off at night and walk untill dawn. I’d stay all day, simply reading and making notes and then, when night fell, I would walk back.  At length  however, I discovered that with parsimony verging on torture, I could afford to put more aside. 

Some days I ate only bread, but if it came to the choice, bread or books, I ate nothing at all. But I bought the books, scores of them. You will remember mother, how my body changed. How your boy with ruddy cheeks, withered and shrank across the months, until he appeared as nothing more than a skeleton upon which someone had crudely painted a skin. By the end of the year I looked like Marie and I began, to feel like her too. 

 It started in my hands. A quick spasm or a finger that wouldn’t, when commanded, angle or bend as it should. 

Sometimes the simple act of lifting a spoon from a meagre bowl of soup became a near impossible task. My hand, as if held by some other force, would twitch and tremble ‘till I strained and pulled the sinews of my wrist, trying in vain to control it. 

One terrible morning, I awoke to find I couldn’t lift my head. The muscles in my neck, as if dissolved in the night, seemed to have liquified, losing all tension, all control.

Eventually, with a screaming wrench I rolled to my side and the feeling finally returned. I lay on the bed sobbing wildly, the panic and fear like nothing before. I looked down to find that I’d soiled myself for the first time since I was a child and you had calmly cleaned me up.

I panicked at the thought that I hadn’t felt it, so hard gripped had I been with fear. Fear that I had waited too long. The doctor had said around three years, had I been cheated? Was it too late? To add to my indignity I vomited loudly. That, mother, is what real terror feels like. How, after that, could I ever fear the dark? 

That night I bought the book. At first, for a month, nothing happened. Weeks before, I’d cleared my room. All that remained was a ragged mattress and a single ringed camping stove.The floor, I had etched with circles and signs. Symbols and names in salt and chalk. Some from above, some from below, though I knew my calls would go one way. 

I stopped going to work. Every night I’d read the words and share the signs. Standing naked with only a candle I’d trace the 5 point star in the air, open the space for all to come. 

I’d face and bow to the points required, move at junctures from one circle to the next tracing geometries with my steps as incantations foul and fair spilt from my lips, proud and clear. Still nothing happened. When, each morning, I was forced with the light of  the dawn, to trace that star backward again, to close the ritual,  I would retreat to my corner and cry. 

Two weeks in, I told Marie. I like to think she understood. That she could see, despite it all, where and why I’d birthed my plan. Once, as I fed her, my hand began to shake. 

Her eyes were fixed, but something in them changed, I knew, she saw. I knew that she knew. It would happen to me. 

I told her my plan. Picked up the chalk and walked to the wall. ‘Run. laugh. Nothing’. I read the words  aloud, less for her than me. 

I stood before them, my back to her, allowing their horrible, unbent, truth to seep and sink through each of my pores. 

“Is this it?” I asked her the question. Like all that I asked her, it became rhetorical. “Is this God’s plan?” Suddenly an anger, a fear and a spite boiled like venom up and seared through my veins. Taking the chalk, beneath I scrawled “I choose no. I CHOOSE NO”. I stared again at the wall, then I turned and looked at Marie. “Free will?” I asked her empty stare.” He, I added, is no God of mine”. As expected, both Marie and God, said nothing. 

Later that night, I tried again. Nothing. Just a boy, naked in the dark. Desperate and thin, reaching for anything. 

As the first streaks of  dawn began to colour the sky, I  knew that tears would follow. I  began to believe it was over. That all hope was lost. For the first and only time,I considered ending it all. Rather death than this. I’d always been taught that suicide was a sin. The ultimate rejection of God’s ultimate gift, but then, what gift was this? A present whose wrapping made the contents unuseable? 

Was Marie, was I, supposed to be grateful? To give the Almighty thanks for this broken gift? To consider myself lucky to view God’s creation in rigid silence? To cry exaltation for the endless procession of ceilings we’d see? I rolled onto my side and  pressed my face against the bare wood, salt and chalk crusting my cheek as curling, fetal, naked and pathetic I sobbed to myself, muttering over and over that “I choose no.”

It is only the trembling fawn,the smallest, weakest lambs that catch the eyes of the wolf. So it was with me and so it must be always. For only in the pit, the depths of desperation, clawing the sand at this, my  lowest ebb, then and only then, did someone hear my call. For the first time in my life I heard whispers in the dark. It wasn’t God who answered. 

At first, I thought I’d dreamt it. That, as I had so many nights before, I’d cried myself to sleep, and somehow I had dreamt that thin and whispering voice. I propped myself up and stared into the darkness, staring toward the corner and I knew, toward the cupboard. 

I thought how, as a child, I’d peeked from under the bed clothes. Watched that door in horror, listening for a creak, watched for it to open just a tiny crack. For hands, to slither snake-like out to grasp my leg.  Now, sitting naked, a candle by my side, I stared again at the door as something in there, spoke.

The candle by my side I knew was almost spent. Soon, it would expire and  I’d  be there alone, groping in the dark. I held my breath and listened. Straining now, to hear, clawing at the silence to the edge of sound. I sat in perfect stillness, every muscle taut. Looking at the cupboard, listening for sounds, behind the cupboard door, something called my name.

I stood, slowly, drenched in freezing sweat. I felt my breathing quicken, as I forced myself to step, inching ever closer, as my stomach seemed to melt. I felt a wave of nausea rising from its pit and swallowing hard, wiped at my mouth with the back of one hand. The voice was tinny, somehow sounding thin. As I padded closer it seemed somewhat to change and somehow through the shift in pitch, I heard the speaker smiling. 

I placed my hand upon the handle, and felt a pang of doubt. Was there really, here, behind this flimsy door,  something I had conjured up? That through my lines and symbols my mutterings and murmurs, I’d suceeded in dragging up to here from hell?

 And if it was, if all of that were true, did I really want to see it?  This fiend from the pit?. Did I want to see to prove all of this was real. All the good and evil, all the gods and monsters? In truth I didn’t know. Did I really want it?  It didn’t matter anyway. I knew what I didn’t want.

So, as my candle flickered and waned, I slowly turned the handle and drew back the door. The cupboard in my room was a room of its own. A recess, or cubby hole built into the wall, it stretched back for several feet. 

Now, standing before it, I peered into the dark. For a moment, behind the door, dark was all there was. Just a square of blackness cut from the cloth of night, but then, a glimmer, maybe four feet up. A highlight in the blackness – the teeth of a smile. 

There was nothing else, or nothing I could see, just the mouth and lips. The edge of the chin, hanging in the darkness, like some wicked Cheshire cat. All the rest was darkness, all around was black,  so the mouth just hung there, a sickly, sickening grin. 

The gums were swollen, bloated and pink, of a shade you would usually not find there. A slightly putrid rose, they bulged, firm and plump with jagged, spaced out teeth.The skin around was milky white, which made the teeth seem yellow, stretching out to wicked points like the fangs of an animal. I stood in the darkness and felt my bowels give way. 

It never gave a name. It wasn’t always there and after each conversation it made me close the door, as if it didn’t want me to see what it was doing. 

The voice was hideous, every wretched syllable curled in clicks of spit, gobs of drool spilling over those red lips in long elastic stretches that disappeared below. 

“Hello Albert” it said with a smile that made me wretch. I spoke into the darkness, to this lonely light.

 “I want it to stop. I want it not to happen. You can do that , you can make it stop?”

“Yesssh” it spilled in awful, liquid sounds. The light veered madly as the candle in my hand, shook with my trembling and flicked wax onto the floor. I tightened my grip on it’s waxy firmness and steadying my hand, raised my chin imperiously. I swallowed hard and stiffened my resolve. 

“Okay”. I said  “ Tell me how”.

I wanted to ask that first night. To tell this thing what I wanted, needed and have it take the prospect away. But I had read for nearly a year, by then I knew better. 

I know Mother, that you might not believe. Things in the cupboard. I’m sure you think me mad. But I am not mad mother, I tell you it was there. As real as you and I. I could have reached forward and touched it. It was there Mother and it knew my name. 

Demons, I’d read, are not to be believed. If they can, they’ll trap you.  If you give them chance. To tell them what I wanted, I needed to be sure. Any request I made must be very carefully wrought. With just a single stray word, one turn of phrase, it can twist the meaning and then it will have you. So on that morning I managed not to tell. I was brave and waited mother. In a way, you would be proud. 

I knew already, what the thing would want. Nothing is shown for nothing, nought is done for nought. It would need a sacrifice, some spilling of blood. But when it finally told me, it hurt me just the same. 

I wrote my wish upon the wall, just as I’d done at Marie’s. I scratched and changed and mixed the words, working, toiling to get the phrasing right. There must be no error, no room for manouvere. 

It needed to be clear and it needed to take place.“ For the next sixty years, this is my wish. I do not want to end up like Marie. No locked in syndrome will ever touch my body. In that time, I want my soul to be encased in moving tissue. to be able to go outside. To feel the sun upon me. To interact with the world around me. I will grow old, healthy and, strong.I want my limbs to move. ”   In the event, I lost myself. Deviated slightly. Still my words were clear and I know that thing was listening. A slow mocking laughter, before I heard it say “Thy will be done master.Thy will be done”.

It was two days later, that I finally killed Marie. The thing had said it needed it. For all I wished to happen. In the softest way, a pillow across her face. I watched again as the soul left the flesh. Unmoving tissue, limbs that do not move. Never able to go outside, to feel the sun upon her. Never interacting with the world around her.  

I took her life and offered it to that thing, in exchange for mine, so I could be free. I chose no. Our Marie died at ten past four o clock. As far as I’m concerned, for years she’d never lived.

The following night,  I closed the ritual. Waved the pantangle backward. I dismissed that thing that asked such a price. 

It’s a been year since that night, all my symptoms have gone. The new doctor says, it won’t happen to me. Yet I’m still not happy. For how could I be mother? My Marie is gone. Gone to who knows where.

As the thing left that night, slithering back from wherever it came, it smiled again and laughed. Then it hissed the words that cut me to the bone. 

“You will get your miracle. All that you have wished. You who never asked, that both of you be well.” I know I didn’t mother. I will always know. That will be my punishment, for the next sixty years.

I love you Mother.  

Your son, Albert

The words I’ve reproduced above were written some time in the early 1960’s. They represent a letter that extends to multiple pages and which, as you have read, takes a very unusual direction.  

I found this letter in 2001, pressed between the pages of a bible belonging to my Great Aunt. 

Despite having never been close to her, and indeed, only having a faint memory of having met her once during my childhood, as her only surviving relative, I was left both her house and its contents in her will. 

It was whilst clearing the house and looking through her sundry belongings that I stumbled across the words I have transcribed above. It is worth noting that in the form that I possessed them, these pages were in a poor condition, having been torn and later taped back together. Clearly the writer of these words correctly anticipated his mother’s reaction and her subsequent return to the words at a much later date. 

The letter itself is now in the British museum. I donated it alongside another much stranger item found at around the same time. When preparing the house for sale, I was required to cut down an old yew tree that stood within the grounds. 

A section of the tree was part of my donation. Within it, somehow, encased in its trunk, workers found the body of a sickly looking young man. The trees living tissue had grown and moved around him, he’d been able to feel the sun and able to go outside. His limbs, the limbs of the tree, forever moved, in any breeze that blew. Albert it seems got his miracle.

I hope beyond hope that soon enough he died. That his soul, trapped in the body, did not t live on inside, as the tree grew old, healthy and strong. I fear, however, that from some dark place I hope never to go, a thing I hope never to meet, sees that tree and smiles.

Credit : Eleanor Sciolistein

From the author:

READ HORROR, RAISE MONEY FOR CHARITY:

One of the communities we used to work with in Zambia have been in touch to say that they are really struggling to pay for masks, sanitiser, soap and even food for the school kids. I know everybody is having a hard time right now, but since nobody is going to be trick or treating this year (booo!) We thought a few folks might want to use the money they would have spent, to ‘treat’ these people to things that should just be basics.

But we’re not asking you to do this for nothing…

Make a donation and get a free collection of horror stories written by Eleanor Sciolistein just in time for Halloween.

Go to this link to download free collection of five horror stories. Then go here to leave a small donation to pay for them, this can be as big or as small as you like and every single penny raised will go towards getting who really need it.

Or if you’re feeling’ generous but don’t like scary stories you can skip the stories and go straight to the link and make a donation.

Thanks for your help and…Happy Halloween!

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