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The Encyclopaedia Salesman

The Encyclopaedia Salesman


Estimated reading time — 40 minutes

I can’t claim I was at a low point in my life when the salesman came knocking on my door. It would be easy to say I was desperate and emotionally vulnerable and therefore fell afoul of his dark powers. It’s true that I wasn’t entirely satisfied with my life. I had a decent job and a nice home, having inherited a decent amount of money after my mother passed.

I missed my mum of course, but I’d dealt with my grief as best as I could and moved on. And relationships were always a challenge for me. I’d had girlfriends but never married and had no children. Hell, I didn’t really have any close friends – plenty of acquaintances, but no-one I could trust with my inner thoughts and dreams.

Still, this social isolation never truly bothered me. Since childhood I’d always been an introvert and content to keep my own company. But it was more than that. I always felt that I was different from other people – an entity who lived amongst humanity but wasn’t truly with them. I sensed there was something within me that wasn’t quite natural.

For a long time, I believed this feeling was a form of mental illness or the result of some kind of repressed childhood trauma. There was so much my mother hadn’t told me about my background. In the end, it was the salesman who told me the truth about my heritage. For better or for worse, pandora’s box has been opened and my life has changed forever.

My story spans many generations and links our mortal world with realms beyond human comprehension. But for me, it all began on one quiet Saturday afternoon when the enigmatic salesman came to my front door.

I only vaguely recall what I was doing on that fateful day. To the best of my recollection, I was searching for holiday deals on my laptop and sipping on a cold beer, while a football match blared in the background. I do remember the annoyance I felt when I heard the loud banging on my solid oak door, loud enough to be heard over the television and inside of my living room.

Saturday afternoon was my time, and I wasn’t keen on receiving visitors – especially unexpected ones. I have a ring doorbell installed but the visitor chose not to use it, instead banging on my door with an unnecessary force.

I shook my head in irritation as I opened the app on my phone, only to discover that I couldn’t access the camera feed. I suppose I should’ve been concerned by this sequence of events. But in that moment, I was more angry than anything else, particularly as the knocking continued and increased in volume.

I put my laptop down, paused the match, and got up onto my feet – stomping along the corridor as the knocking continued and I shouted – “All right! I’m coming, damn it!”
I was still furious as I twisted the handle and opened the door, preparing to give the unwanted visitor a piece of my mind. But all my anger just melted away as soon as I cast my eyes upon him.

It’s difficult for me to explain the impact of seeing the salesman for the first time. He was not a particularly attractive or attention-grabbing individual. In fact, he took the appearance of a small and physically meek elderly man – his body stooped over, his hair white, and skin wrinkled. He wore a musky smelling tweed suit and bowtie and propped himself up with a walking stick in one hand, whilst carrying a leather briefcase in the other.

My visitor sported a disarming but somehow unnerving smile on his crusty lips, and his brown eyes were lit up with the passion and energy of a much younger man. I didn’t find him threatening at first glance – far from it. Before the salesman even spoke a word, I found myself at ease in his presence and was no longer annoyed over his intrusion upon my afternoon.

I’d never met the man before and yet he seemed very familiar to me – like he was a long-lost relative who’d suddenly and unexpectantly walked back into my life. I struggled to find the words to address the old man, eventually stuttering my greeting.
“Hello…can I help you?”

The visitor’s smile widened as he spoke in an amicable yet somehow chilling voice.
“Good afternoon sir. It’s a pleasure to meet your acquaintance.”

He held out his bony hand which I took after only a second’s hesitation. I expected his palm to be ice-cold and so was surprised by the warmth of his palm, feeling like a surge of energy had passed from his body to mine.

“My name is Mr Black.” he said in the way of introduction, “and I am a purveyor of rare books and encyclopaedias. I believe my products will be of great interest to an intelligent and open-minded gentleman such as yourself. If you have the time, I would love to come inside and tell you more.”

My hand was still in his as I looked into his deep brown eyes, seeing a spark of malice in them for the first time. I experienced a wave of emotions in that moment – curiosity and wonder, but also apprehension and more than a hint of fear. I don’t know how exactly, but I realised that the decision I made in the next moment would define the rest of my life.

I could tell the mystery man to leave and go back to my quiet life of ignorance. On the other hand, I could invite him inside and hear what he had to say. And of course, I chose the latter.

“Sure, come on in.” I said nervously.

The salesman – Mr Black, or whoever he really was – released my hand, continuing to smile as he nodded his head and walked across the threshold. I moved to one side, allowing him to pass and watching as he slowly marched down the wood floored corridor, his walking stick clicking as he went. I meant to call out to him and tell my visitor where to go. But bizarrely it seemed like he already knew his way around my home, as he immediately walked into the living room, leaving me to follow him inside.

Now, before I continue my account, I should explain a couple of things. First of all, I knew very well that Mr Black wasn’t an encyclopaedia salesman. Apart from anything else, the profession is obsolete in this modern age of online shopping and access to unlimited digital information.

Secondly, I did realise my visitor was potentially dangerous, although not in the conventional sense. ‘Mr Black’ was not physically imposing and I thought it unlikely that he was armed. He might be a conman of course, but I sensed his interest in me came from something deeper.

I cautiously followed him into my living room, noting how he’d already taken a seat in the far corner. He raised his hand, pointing at the couch opposite while saying – “Please sir, take a seat.”

It was as if our roles were now reversed, and I was a guest in my own home. And yet, I obeyed his instruction without comment, taking a seat while I watched him lift and open his briefcase. It was only later that I realised all the electronic devices in the room – my television, laptop and smart phone – were all now switched off, with their screens turned to black. Even then, I didn’t understand the significance of why this had occurred.

I continued watching in awe as the salesman pulled a fine, leather-backed, red book from his briefcase, holding it so carefully, as if it was his most prized possession. I was instantly drawn to the mysterious book which my visitor held in his bony hands. The cover was unremarkable – a maroon colour without any motif or title that I could see. The pages were stained yellow, which gave an indication as to its age, and it had that rather pleasant musky smell you get in old bookstores or university libraries.

I’d like to claim that the cover was made from dried human skin or covered by some kind of magical runes, but there was nothing that dramatic. The book itself looked very ordinary and yet I couldn’t avert my eyes from it, somehow sensing that the words contained within were of great importance.

“Behold sir, the greatest encyclopaedia ever written!” the salesman suddenly announced, drawing my attention back to his grinning, wrinkled face and bright eyes. “All the answers you will ever need are contained within these pages.”

I frowned, looking again at the book and noting its thickness. I reckoned it was around five to six hundred pages in length, which hardly seemed substantial given the claims the salesman was making.

“So, this is what you’re selling?” I asked cynically.

The salesman laughed jovially, shaking his head before replying. “Oh no sir, I’m afraid not. This book is priceless and sadly not for sale.”

I scowled, becoming increasingly suspicious of my enigmatic visitor.
“You said you were a salesman.” I snapped back.

“I did.” he replied, seemingly picking up on my increasing hostility. “The truth is, I have held many positions over the years – preacher, historian, emissary, salesman…In all cases, the common thread is story telling.”

I scoffed dismissively before replying. “So, what? You’re here to tell me a story?”

“Oh yes sir.” he beamed with enthusiasm as he began to open the cover, “I can tell you many stories. This wonderful book is full of them.”

“I see.” was my cynical reply, “Let me ask you something old timer, have you ever heard of Wikipedia?”

I was being deliberately factious of course, challenging the salesman’s assertion that this book contained long sought after answers when I could literally access all the information in the world with the mere touch of my finger. The mysterious Mr Black looked confused for a moment, as if my question made no sense to him, but eventually he cottoned on and answered in his typically jovial manner.

“Oh, you mean the world wide web? Well sir, I’m afraid I am something of a technophobe! But let me assure you sir, the tales within these pages will not appear on your internet.”

He paused briefly to let this sink in. I might have laughed aloud at his audacious claim, but there was a doubt in my mind. I glanced back towards my phone, laptop and television – noting how all had switched off as soon as the salesman entered my home. This couldn’t be a coincidence, and the implications brought a chill down my spine.

The salesman didn’t seem to notice my change in demeanour however, as he was engrossed in his precious encyclopaedia, carefully and lovingly turning the pages, his eyes lighting up whilst they scanned the contents – such was the power of the words contained within.
“Now, let’s see. What story would be of interest to you, good sir? Perhaps the tragic saga of Emilie de la Rocque and her exile to the legendary Isle of Demons?” he flicked through the pages before offering another suggestion, “Or will I tell you the rules of the shadowlands, where the damned stand in line between heaven and hell whilst they await the Almighty’s judgement.”

He turned another page, looking up from the book as he shot me a twisted grin and a sly wink.

“But let’s not beat about the bush, good sir. I know the story you wish to hear. The story of you…your past, your present, and of course – your future.”

I snorted again, but with less confidence than before. I still thought he was full of crap, but doubts were creeping into my mind. I tried to make a joke out of it, but my voice was trembling when I asked my next question.

“You’ve got a chapter about me in there?” I asked.

The salesman’s smile faded somewhat, as did the spark in his eyes as his energy seemed to diminish.

“Yes.” he said in a more solemn tone, “You sir, have a very prominent role in my book.”

He proceeded to read my full name and date of birth, along with cursory details of my early life and education. I raised an eyebrow in suspicion. Of course, these were details he could have obtained through several sources, and – on the surface – the whole thing seemed like a scam. But there was more. The salesman was somehow able to confirm my death of death, which he claimed would be the 13th of July 2066.

I laughed nervously at this revelation before saying – “So, you’re a fortune teller as well as a storyteller?”

“Oh no.” he replied with a dry chuckle, “I cannot tell the future. I merely go by what’s in the book. But it’s never been wrong yet.”

I took a deep breath to compose myself once I realised my body was physically shaking with anticipation. The whole situation was insane, and my logical brain told me that none of this could be true. And yet, I fully trusted the mysterious salesman in that moment. I don’t know whether he’d bewitched me with his black magic or because, deep down, I’d always yearned for this self-validation…but at this point, I was hanging on his every word.

“What else does the book say about me?” I demanded impatiently.

But the salesman didn’t answer, instead looking up from his sacred text and towards the mantlepiece on the far side of my living room. He slowly lifted his right hand and pointed towards the framed picture which took centre place.

“Your mother?” he asked in a sympathetic tone.

I looked to the picture, seeing my mum’s smiling face and sparkling eyes, and I experienced a twinge of grief as I remembered how much I missed her.

“Yes.” I replied with a lump in my throat.

I wondered why my visitor had changed the subject and felt frustrated at his lack of answers.

“She never told you about your father, did she?”

I paused momentarily, confused by the question but also feeling like he’d hit a raw nerve.
“She did.” I answered defensively, “My father died shortly before I was born.”

The salesman shot me a sympathetic half-smile. “That’s not true though, is it? You’ve always known this deep

down, but you couldn’t bring yourself to confront your mother, not even when she lay on her death bed.”

I swallowed deeply, trying to control the flood of emotions I was experiencing. I believe the salesman allowed me a moment to process these feelings before he continued to talk.
“You wish to know your future, but before you do, you must understand where you come from.”

I thought over his cryptic words for only a moment before snapping impatiently.
“Tell me! Tell me everything!”

His reaction surprised me, as the salesman frowned, his smile disappearing as his expression darkened.

“Hmm…I think not sir. I came here with honest intentions, but now I see you are not ready for the truth.”

My jaw dropped in astonishment. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and stated as much angrily.

“No! You can’t leave me hanging like this! I must know!”

“I will leave you with two names.” the salesman replied cryptically, “Charles Robinson and Fatima Abraham.”

“Who the hell are they?” I shot back in anger and confusion.

“You have the names.” was his answer, “Seek them out and hear their stories. Piece by piece, the truth shall be revealed to you. But, for now sir, I will wish you good day and good luck.”

With that, the salesman carefully stood up from his seat and slowly walked towards the door. I was literally baffled, not believing that our bizarre encounter could end like this. I had a rush of blood to my head, deciding that I could not let him leave without first obtaining the answers I needed so badly.

In an instant, I jumped up from the couch, reaching for the elderly salesman and grabbing him firmly by the arm.

“No more bullshit old timer!” I cried out furiously, “You’re not leaving! I want to read what’s inside that damned book!”


I didn’t expect much resistance from the elderly man and so were astonished when he reacted violently, exerting a near superhuman strength as he pulled free from my grasp and physically shoved me to the floor. I looked up fearfully, seeing the salesman transformed into something monstrous – his eyes black and his mouth opening to reveal a gaping dark hole.

He hissed at me like a cat. And when he spoke, his words were deep and almost inhuman.
“Damn it sir!” he cried in fury, “Do not test me! Lay your hands on me again, and you will live to regret it!”

I froze in terror, averting my eyes from his hideous second face. I didn’t need to be told twice, remaining on the floor as the salesman left the room, his briefcase and walking stick in hand as he slowly walked down the corridor. I heard the door slam shut and my heart sank, because I knew that this bizarre encounter had changed my life forever.

You won’t be surprised to learn that I was grasped by a frantic obsession following the salesman’s visit. I tried to track him down, searching and contacting every bookstore and sales company in a one-hundred-mile radius, all to no avail. I could not find the mysterious Mr Black or his unidentified encyclopaedia no matter how hard I tried.

And so, all I had to work with was the two names he’d provided me. It’s no exaggeration to say that I spent months attempting to track down ‘Charles Robinson’ and ‘Fatima Abraham’. Despite the salesman’s distrust of the internet, I used this resource extensively during my long and frustrating search. Obviously, there are thousands of individuals on social media with these names and I had no additional information, such as their ages or geographical locations.

I quickly realised it was pointless contacting random people online, and my best bet was targeting forums which specifically dealt with bizarre or supernatural occurrences. Even then I faced many frustrations and dead ends, but eventually I was able to find the correct Charles and Fatima amongst the host of trolls and scammers.

How could I be sure, you ask? Well, both had received their own visits from the enigmatic Mr Black and were able to confirm details about the salesman and his precious encyclopaedia without being prompted by me. I was therefore confident that all three of us had shared the same – probably supernatural – experience, having been picked out by the ghoulish salesman for whatever reason.

It’s possible that all three of them were in it together and I was their mark. I did consider the possibility it was all an elaborate hoax, but for what purpose? I also did my own independent research on the two individuals, and I’m sure they checked me out too. By all accounts, Charles and Fatima were unremarkable people who didn’t stand out from the crowd. This was my first impression at least.

There was no obvious connection between the three of us. I won’t reveal where I live but can provide some details about my companions. Fatima Abraham lived in London, having been born and raised in the UK capital. Her mother was English and her father an Egyptian. Fatima wasn’t married and had no kids. She didn’t even own a pet as far as I knew. She worked in finance and had few friends.

Meanwhile, Charles Robinson hailed from the American Mid-West, where he worked as a locksmith and ran his own small business. Again, he was unmarried and childless. I suppose the three of us did share some characteristics. We were all single introverts around the same age. All of us were suspicious of other people to the extent we could be described as misanthropists. Likewise, we all had comfortable livelihoods but felt unfulfilled – but it was more than that.

Fatima, Charles and I all believed there was something missing from our lives…some dark secret which had been kept from us. We all desired to learn this secret, and this was surely why the salesman had sought us out. Because he had the answers we thought we so desperately needed.

As the three of us communicated through private messages and it soon became apparent that Fatima and Charles had more information than I did. The salesman had left me hanging, hinting at the identity of my father and my ultimate destiny. On the other hand, secrets were revealed to my companions that changed their lives forever.

I have made the decision to share their stories here, if only because their fates are linked to my own. I will share their own words which I received in the form of direct messages, up until the point they broke off contact.

###


Charlie’s Tale

I don’t know what to tell you guys about my upbringing. My family weren’t rich but I was brought up right. I didn’t know much about my heritage. Mum and Dad were always cagey on that subject. I knew that my grandfather had changed his surname as a young man but never knew why, and no-one would ever talk about it. I reckoned there was likely a dark family secret which had been kept from me. This wasn’t something I dwelt on however.

I was a difficult kid – that would be fair to say. I remember being angry much of the time but never truly understood why. I would frequently get into fights in school and was in no end of trouble. My parents were very concerned about my behaviour. It was almost like they were afraid of me.

I guess I always felt this rage inside of me. I got better at controlling it as I grew older, but my inner thoughts were often consumed by violent fantasies. These feelings worried me and contributed to my anxiety, but I never talked about them or sought professional help. In fact, this is the first time I’ve shared any of this.

Anyway, my adult life hasn’t been anything special. I’ve survived but never been happy. I just existed and played the game. I don’t know why I started working as a locksmith. I’m not a people person and I secretly hate most of my customers, but the idea of being able to access their homes excited me on some deep level. I was able to intrude upon their private domains and so held a secret power over them.

You’re probably seeing a lot of red flags here, and you’d be right to do so. But still, I’d repressed these dark impulses and might well have continued to do so, if it hadn’t been for the salesman’s visit. You guys know the score, so I won’t repeat it here. When that freak came knocking on my door and started talking about encyclopaedias, I was just about ready to tell him to go to hell – but I held my tongue and let him inside my home.

I can’t explain why, but you guys have been through the same experience, so I know you’ll understand. Somehow, I felt like I could trust this stranger, and I needed to hear what he had to say.

The next bit you know too. He took that damned book out of his briefcase and started reading. There were a couple of weird stories he started off on. I remember some talk of a hidden museum of the future apocalypse and a phantom bus full of ghosts and ghouls. I don’t recall all the details, but these stories scared the shit out of me. But he soon moved onto my own sordid family history.

It all goes back to my great grandfather you see. His name was Ivan Robson and he was notorious around these parts. Between 1922 and 1930, Ivan carried out at least eleven brutal murders in the tri-state area. Eleven is what he confessed to anyway, although the true number may have been much higher.

Ivan was one of the earliest known serial killers in the Mid-West, practising his ghastly trade with a butcher’s knife – cutting his victim’s throats from ear-to-ear in savage but meticulously executed attacks. His trademark was to break into the victim’s homes while they were out and lay in wait, launching his murderous assaults once they returned home.
And guess what? Ivan trained as a locksmith, just like I did. This was how he gained access to the victim’s homes, and he used his profession as a cover for travelling from town to town, scoping out his targets while he planned his murders.

It’s difficult for me to describe my emotions as I listened to these revelations – shock of course, and more than a little fear. But the most extraordinary part was how the salesman told the story. He wasn’t just reading the words from the book. Well, he was…but it was more than that. When the salesman described the murders to me, he didn’t just cover every vivid and gory detail. The words he spoke seemed to hold some kind of dark power.

Somehow, I was transported to the murder scenes, feeling the knife in my hand and the adrenaline pumping through my veins. I was in my ancestor’s body, hiding in a stranger’s home and waiting for them to return. I vividly recall the terror in their eyes as I revealed myself, charging them with my blade in hand. Some fought back fiercely, meaning I had to stab them multiple times before they fell. Others cowered and begged for mercy. It made no difference in the end, because I slaughtered every victim without a second thought. In truth, I enjoyed reliving my ancestor’s heinous crimes – from the screams of his victims to the smell of their blood. It was like a part of me which had been buried deep inside was finally released, and now I knew who I was.

But the bloody string of murders came to an inevitable end when the police up with my great grandfather during the early years of the Great Depression. The detective who caught him was called Underwood – a rising star in the local police force who later joined the FBI.
As the salesman described the arrest, I was once again taken back – possessing my late relative’s body as I was thrust into a tight, windowless interrogation room during the hot summer of 1930. Underwood was standing over me, his face red with fury and this shirt covered in sweat as he screamed in my face.

I remember being terrified by his overbearing and intimidating presence. It wasn’t just that Underwood was physically imposing. There was also a malice in his eyes which was truly chilling. I didn’t need to imagine what my great grandfather was feeling in that moment. I knew he was scared. It’s a crazy thing to imagine a serial killer being afraid of a mere cop, but there was a darkness within Underwood that was frightening.

When my great grandfather didn’t confess, Detective Underwood beat him without mercy. The torture went on for hours and I felt every blow my ancestor suffered. In the end, he was forced to sign a confession for the eleven murders. I experienced a great anger once I learnt how my ancestor was subjected to this treatment, even though I realised he was in fact guilty.

Ivan Robson was executed on the 15th of September 1932. The salesman described the execution to me in great detail, and once again I was transported back in time, finding myself strapped into the electric chair, shaking uncontrollably as they read me my last rites and pulled the lever.

The electricity flowed through me, causing me excruciating pain as my body cooked from the inside out. And then it all went dark, and I was thrust back to the present, sitting on my couch as the salesman finished reading, before he put the book carefully back in his briefcase and made to leave.

I tried to stop him, of course I did. There were still so many unanswered questions in my head. But you know how that goes. The old man doesn’t look like much, but he packs a mean punch! And then he left me, having turned my life upside down in the course of one afternoon.

I couldn’t go back to the way things were, not after everything I’d learnt. So, I started doing my own research much like the two of you. As you can imagine, there’s been a lot written about my late ancestor. I also came onto these paranormal forums and started asking questions about this salesman guy. That’s how I got in touch with you guys, obviously.

I appreciate having you both to talk to about this crazy shit. I haven’t spoken with my parents. Frankly, I feel betrayed by them both, because they hid the truth from me for so long. It’s difficult for me to describe my emotions at this time…but what I feel more than anything else is rage.

That anger and lust for violence is no longer buried deep in my psyche. Now, it’s at the forefront of my consciousness, and the rage has consumed me. My greatest desire is to seek vengeance on behalf of my ancestor Ivan, and I believe it’s my duty to continue his legacy.

The focus of my hatred has a name, and it’s Underwood. The cop who caught my great grandfather is long dead of course, but his descendants still live in this area. In fact, his great grandson is an attorney right here in my hometown. I knew where he lives, and I can get inside. The fire burning within me cannot be diminished. I will have my revenge.


###


As you can imagine, both Fatima and I were left shocked and deeply disturbed by Charlie’s final sign off. If we took his words at face value we’d have to assume that Charlie would commit a murder in the near future. So, what did we do with this information? I suppose the correct course of action would have been to contact the police, and yet we didn’t do so.
When we discussed his posts we decided the murder threat was likely a hoax or that he wouldn’t go through with it. Deep down though, I think we both knew this was a lie. I can’t speak for Fatima, but I didn’t report the murder plot because I wanted to see what would happen. I never did hear from Charlie again but I was able to piece together the rest of the story through court documents and news reports.

On the 23rd of March of this year, a 32-year-old locksmith named Charles Robinson illegally gained access to a private residence in Kansas City. In his subsequent confession to detectives, Mr Robinson admitted to breaking into the home with the intention of ambushing and murdering the owner – the well-known defence attorney, Caleb Underwood.

The accused believed the home would be empty at the time but was confronted by Mr Underwood’s maid, 25-year-old Isabella Rodriguez. A struggle ensued which ended in a brutal murder, as Robinson stabbed his victim thirteen times in a frenzied attack, killing her in the master bedroom.

The accused expressed remorse over the murder of Miss Rodriguez but decided to follow through on his original plan, moving the maid’s corpse to the bathroom before waiting for his target to come home. Detectives investigating the case have praised the bravery of Mr Underwood, who was able to overpower, disarm, and subdue the suspect until the police arrived.

Mr Robinson has been charged with murder and attempted murder and has been denied bail. It is noted that he is a distant relative of Ivan Robson, the infamous serial killer who committed eleven murders across three states during the 1920s and was executed by the electric chair in 1932.

This was the news report from the time, and I don’t mind telling you that the account shocked me to my very core. Charlie had played out his violent fantasises and carried on his great grandfather’s bloody legacy. But he’d badly botched his murder plot, slaughtering an innocent woman before getting himself caught.

Charlie might well have been executed like his ancestor, but he never made it to trial. The last report I read confirmed that Charles Robinson was found dead in his jail cell on the morning of April 14th. The authorities claimed he’d taken his own life, but I’m not so sure.
In any event, one of my contacts was dead and I still didn’t have the answers I needed. I suppose I should’ve felt disgusted over the whole affair but in truth I was frustrated to have hit another brick wall. Now, my only hope was Fatima, and she was able to bring another piece to the puzzle. So, let me tell you this young woman’s story in her own words.


###


Fatima’s Tale

There’s not much to say about me. Sure, I could recount my childhood in minute detail, but what would be the point of that? I will say that my parents divorced when I was still young. During my adolescence, I turned my back on my father’s faith. We fell out over this disagreement and haven’t spoken in years.

The truth is, I never had much time for religion. During my student days I was a committed atheist, filled with a youthful arrogance and anger against the establishment. In later life I became much more conformist, although I never considered myself a spiritual person.

I suppose I had a decent relationship with my mum. We saw each other regularly and I continued to visit my mother until her sudden passing from a stroke. I grieved the loss, but in all honesty we were never that close.

I had one serious boyfriend after university. We lived together for about five years but gradually grew apart. I remember the day he broke up with me, saying that I’d become cold and distant. I didn’t argue and let him go. A big part of me was relieved.

I used to be bothered by things like this. It concerned me that I couldn’t maintain a relationship and had no close friends. I reckoned there must be something wrong with me and did seek professional help in my lates 20s, but multiple psychiatrists couldn’t provide the answers I needed.

In the absence of meaningful human interaction I threw myself into my career. I was always good with numbers and so pursued this line of work, taking a job as a financial analyst after college and working my way up the corporate ladder.

I worked long hours and made good money. By any measure, my career has been a great success. But guess what guys? I was still not satisfied. You both know the feeling all too well – to feel like a stranger in your own life…a zombie merely going through the motions and pretending to be a human being.

And then the salesman came to my door. My introductions to this mysterious stranger were much the same as yours. I was highly suspicious but I let him into my home. I guess I was still apprehensive up to the point he took the book out of his briefcase and started to read.

From that point onwards, I was transfixed and hanging on his every word. He told me several tales of the unexplained and paranormal, speaking of a red phone box that can communicate with the afterlife, a cursed model village which consumed its creator, and a parallel universe which has become the resting place for countless lost ships and planes.

I normally don’t go in for such fantastical stories and conspiracies. Throughout my life I’ve considered myself an educated and logical woman who had no time for the superstitions of the past. And yet, the salesman’s powerful words struck a chord with me, and I felt like he’d reached something deep inside of me – awakening emotions I’d long since buried. And this was before he revealed my true identity.

My connection to the past wasn’t as direct as it was for Charlie. The dark tragedy in my family’s history did not occur within living memory. Instead, the salesman took me back to the 17th century, where a long-forgotten ancestor on my mother’s side suffered a grave injustice.

My ancestor’s name was Mary Clayburn and she was a minster’s wife and young mother of two. Mary lived in Norwich, Norfolk county, during the 1640s, and her short life was not a happy one. Her husband was a puritan – a real fire-and-brimstone type who didn’t believe in sparing the rod when it came to disciplining his children, or his wife for that matter.

The way the salesman vividly described the violence and abuse…it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I can relate to Charlie’s account because I felt the immense power of the salesman’s words as he read from the encyclopaedia, and somehow I was transported back in time, experiencing my ancestor’s torments as if they were happening to me.

I’ll never forget the terror of being in that isolated rural cottage, facing the cold nights under candlelight as I fought to protect the young children – son and daughter – from the uncontrollable rage of the minister. It was particularly chilling to realise there was nobody I could call…no-one I could turn to for help. I was on my own against this monster.

But my ancestor Mary was not entirely helpless. She had powers you see – the type of powers I would have previously dismissed as nonsense…But now I know that magic is very real.

Mary was able to do extraordinary things – communicate with animals, read people’s thoughts, and make objects move without touching them. She used her powers in small ways but was careful to hide her actions from her husband and the wider community, knowing all too well the serious consequences if she was caught.

But the minister knew something was amiss, and this only added to his fury. Once night, he came home in a blind rage, ranting about the Devil’s influence and the unholy corruption of his family. He charged up the stairs, his face red as he grasped hold of his wooden cane.

Mary confronted her husband at the top of the staircase but was violently shoved out of the way, as her husband made for the children’s bedroom. I was in my ancestor’s body in that moment, experiencing her acute pain, fear, and anger. I channelled those emotions, using my powers in an act of violent retribution. Without moving from the floor, I unleashed a surge of energy – a righteous, invisible force which threw the minister back down the stairs.

This was Mary’s action but we were as one in that moment. I was in control, and I felt such power. I enjoyed seeing the shock and terror in the minister’s eyes as he tumbled down the stairs, savouring every crack and cry of pain before he hit the bottom, his neck breaking as he collided with the hard floor.

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I looked down at his dead eyes and felt no remorse – only a grim satisfaction that the monster’s life was ended. But then I turned my head and saw Mary’s young children standing in the doorway – their teary, shock-filled eyes looking upon the violent scene in disbelief.

The salesman dispassionately continued his reading and confirmed Mary Clayburn’s fate. On the 12th September 1645, my ancestor was sentenced to death in Norwich Crown Court after being convicted of murder and witchcraft. She was to be burnt at the stake. Given what I now knew about Mary’s life and all she’d suffered, I was naturally outraged at the sentence passed down against her. But there was more.

Through the salesman’s words I was once again transported back in time to the day of the trial. There I was – in Mary’s body – terrified as a baying mob called out for my blood. The magistrate restored some degree of order by loudly banging his gavel, but he soon launched into a furious tirade in which he described Mary as a whore and witch in the service of Satan, before he gleefully sentenced her to burn.

I remember the pure hatred and malice in the magistrate’s dark eyes as he looked upon me with utter contempt. His hateful glare chilled me to my bones and made me question who was really in league with the Devil.

But the final memory was of course the worst, as I was pulled back to the night of Mary’s execution. Once again, I possessed my ancestor’s physical form as I was tightly tied to the post with a pile of firewood below me. My whole body shook as I fought against my binds and cried out for mercy. But I would get none from the hateful mob of puritans assembled before the pyre, their eyes full of self-righteous anger as they wielded pitchforks and torches and called me every vile name under the sun.

A minister spoke some words before the horror began. I can’t recall the exact text but believe he finished on the phrase – “May God have mercy on your soul…”, or words to that effect. And then, three men stepped forward and set the pyre alight.

I cried out, louder this time – my body sweating and eyes bulging as I watched the flames quickly spread. I felt the heat of the fire – starting with a burning of my toes and feet but soon growing more intense as the flames shot up the stake and engulfed me, melting my skin and flesh in a horrifying inferno. I know that this atrocity happened to my ancestor and not me, but in that memory I could feel her agony – and it was the most intense pain I’ve ever suffered.

And, before I blacked out, I saw the magistrate in the crowd watching Mary’s fiery death – a twisted smile etched across his face as he took a perverse pleasure from her suffering.

This was when the salesman brought me back to the present day and – as you probably guessed – he left my home without elaborating on why he’d told me this gruesome and tragic tale. But there was one more detail he revealed before leaving me. I thought it was irrelevant at the time and its significance only became apparent after I heard Charlie’s story. Because you see, the magistrate who sentenced Mary Clayburn was called Underwood.

As you can imagine, this revelation has caused me many sleepless nights. I’ll confess to having a similar experience to Charlie as I became obsessed with the words and visions the salesman had shared with me to the point where every other part of my life was neglected. I took a leave of absence from my job and spent every waking hour pursuing the mystery.

I can find no direct connection between Caleb Underwood in Kansas City and the Norfolk magistrate who burnt my ancestor at the stake. I have been able to trace the lineage of Magistrate Underwood however. His aristocratic family is a prominent one in English society, and one of his descendants is now a UK government minister.

I know this sounds crazy, particularly after what happened to Charlie, but I too have become obsessed with the desire for revenge against Underwood. I’ve tried to tell myself that it’s madness and I need to let it go, but I can’t do this.

I also realise the risks are great, but I am not powerless. I see now that my ancestor’s blood runs through my veins, and I have inherited her great power. I’ve been practising over the last number of weeks and have honed my natural-born skills, learning the ways of my ancestors as I plot my revenge. I can do this. I need to do this – for Mary.


###


That was the last communication I received from Fatima and sadly you can probably guess what happened next. I didn’t need to go searching for news this time, because the story received international coverage.

On the 15th May, UK Education Minister Thomas Underwood was attacked and seriously wounded during a public appearance outside a secondary school in South London. The assailant has been identified as 31-year-old Fatima Abraham, a finance worker from the city with no previous criminal convictions.

Witnesses say Ms Abraham approached the minister as he was greeting press and members of the public. She was somehow able to slip past Underwood’s security team and stab him with a knife concealed under her sleeve. Mr Underwood was wounded but not incapacitated, managing to fight off his attacker and throw her down to the pavement.

Ms Abraham then picked up her weapon and launched a second attack despite warnings from police officers on scene. She was subsequently shot by a plain clothes detective. Officers attempted to perform CPR on the assailant but she died at the scene.

Meanwhile, Mr Underwood was rushed to hospital where doctors performed surgery upon a deep stab wound in his right shoulder. A government spokesman has since confirmed that the minister’s injuries are not life-threatening, and he is expected to make a full recovery.
The Metropolitan Police have stated that Ms Abraham has no history of violence and no known links to any extremist or terrorist groups. Investigating officers are currently looking for a motive.

I deleted all my messages from Fatima after reading about her botched attack. By this point I was in a state of disbelief. The salesman had provided me with two names and now they were both dead – both having attempted to murder men called Underwood.

The name did resonate with me. But, as hard as I racked my brains, I couldn’t remember where or when I’d first heard it. I threw myself into frantic research and did find many important public and private individuals called Underwood – men and women in politics, the media, finance and so forth. These Underwoods were seemingly unconnected and spread throughout the English-speaking world. And there were many other variations of that surname in various different languages. Still, there was no common thread that I could identify.

It’s no exaggeration to say I was driven to the edge of insanity by this seemingly unsolvable mystery. I could not sleep at night, because every time I closed my eyes, I saw the salesman’s grinning face, Charlie hanging in his jail cell, and Fatima bleeding to death on the street. I just couldn’t understand why this was all happening and what the hell it had to do with me.

It was during one of those sleepless nights when the salesman returned. I was lying fully clothed on my bed, staring up at the dark ceiling – exhausted, but unable to sleep. The clock had just turned to 3am and that’s when I heard a familiar loud knocking on my front door.
I instantly shot up from my mattress, all my senses heightened as a surge of adrenaline shot through my veins. I practically ran to the front door, sparing no thought for my personal safety as I opened it and came face-to-face with the shadowy figure standing on my doorstep.

His face was illuminated by my porch light, but even so it took a moment for me to recognise him. It was the salesman of course – the apparently paranormal entity who went by the name of Mr Black. But he looked different from the last time I’d seen him. Gone was the spark in his eyes, and his wide grin had disappeared. Instead, the poor man looked as if he’d been dragged to hell and back and was practically on the brink of death.

I stood in the doorway, my jaw dropping in shock as I found myself lost for words. In the end, it was the salesman who broke the silence, speaking to me in a deep and raspy voice.
“Good evening sir. I apologise for the late hour of my visit. May I come in?”

I paused for only a second before replying enthusiastically. “Yes, of course.”

I made way for the elderly visitor, watching with some degree of sympathy as he struggled down the corridor whilst relying on his walking stick to keep him steady. It seemed that his physical condition had deteriorated in the months since his last visit. But my primary interest was the familiar briefcase he carried in his left hand, because I knew what it contained – the knowledge I desired most in the world.

I followed him into my living room, turning on the lights as I impatiently watched the salesman struggle over to his seat. I was frustrated that he didn’t open his case and pull out the encyclopaedia. Instead, he simply stared at me with his bloodshot eyes. There was another tense pause before he spoke, and I sensed a sadness in his words when he did so.

“So, you tracked down Charles and Fatima?” was his question.

“I did.” was my brief reply.

“And you know what happened to them?” he continued.

“I do.”

“So, there’s a question you want to ask me?”

“There is.” I said firmly, “Who the hell is Underwood?”

The salesman appeared deep in thought for a moment, breaking eye contact as he slowly nodded his head.

“Hmm…Underwood. Yes, my employer has used this name for some time…”

He trailed off without offering a further explanation.

“But there are hundreds of Underwood!” I exclaimed in angry frustration, “The name comes up again and again throughout history, but there’s no connection.”

“No connection you can find.” the salesman corrected, “You think of these Underwoods as individuals. But in actual fact they are all vessels of my employer. All are one and the same…be it the magistrate, the detective, the attorney, the government minister…and of course, your father.”

Those last two words hit me like a ton of bricks. I was shocked of course, but also filled with an excitement I can hardly describe as the truth was finally revealed to me.

“My father.” I repeated in astonishment, “How is this possible?”

“Oh, it’s possible.” the salesman answered solemnly.

I noticed how he took little to no pleasure in revealing this information to me. In fact, he almost seemed guilty as he struggled to meet my gaze.

“Your mother no doubt had her reasons for keeping the truth from you.” he continued, “But my employer’s blood runs through your veins. Your heritage brings great power with it, but also considerable expectations…”

“What do you mean?” I demanded. I was quickly growing tired of the salesman’s cryptic answers.

I noted how his tone darkened before he continued.

“My employer has worked tirelessly throughout the centuries to shape the history of humanity. During this time, he has attempted to recruit many mortals to his cause, but the results have been…disappointing. Take Mr Robinson and Ms Abraham as two examples. We had high hopes for both, but alas…they both came up wanting.”

“What the hell does that mean?” I demanded angrily.

“Your friends were tested and they failed.” was his stern reply, “My employer expects you to do much better. You are his flesh and blood after all.”

“What does he want me to do?” I asked impatiently.

The salesman shot me a half grin, and for a moment I thought I could see some of the spark come back into his sunken eyes. He didn’t answer my question – not directly anyway.

Instead, he changed the subject and asked a question of his own.
“You look unwell sir. Have you been sleeping?”

I was baffled and irritated, struggling to find the words to reply.
“No, of course I haven’t!” I shot back.

“Hmm…” he said thoughtfully, as he carefully reached into his briefcase. I yearned to see the encyclopaedia emerge, but instead he surprised me by pulling out what looked like a business card.

I looked on in confusion as the salesman sat up from his chair and struggled across the room towards me with the card in hand.

“You really should see a doctor sir. You can’t take your health for granted, not when there’s so much important work ahead of us.”

With that, he carefully placed the business card on the coffee table in front of me before heading towards the door. I looked over at him and was tempted to shout out, but instead I glanced down at the card on my table, and then I understood.

Because the text read – ‘Dr Mark Underwood, MD. Family Physician. Open to new patients.’
I heard my front door slam shut as the salesman walked out into the night. But now it no longer mattered. I knew what had to be done, and it was up to me to prepare for the grisly task to come.

I didn’t waste any time in planning my next move. After obtaining all the information I could on my target, I destroyed my electronic devices, donned gloves, a scarf, and a baseball cap, and armed myself with a 38 revolver and stiletto dagger.

Because you see, it wasn’t my intention to confront this Dr Underwood and demand answers. My plan was to kill him.

People reading this confession might be confused by this sudden and dramatic escalation in my actions. After all, I am a man with no previous criminal history or inclination towards violence. I had no reason to hate Dr Mark Underwood or wish him harm.

The salesman had informed me that a man called Underwood was my father, and I believed him. But this Dr Underwood was the same age as me, and so couldn’t possibly be my parent. None of that mattered however. It seemed that all of these Underwoods were one and the same – vessels for a greater, unseen power.

All of the pieces were in front of me now and I finally understood what was required of me. Charlie and Fatima had both failed in their missions. They’d both come from a place of anger, seeking vengeance against those who’d wronged their ancestors. But I was going into this with a clear head, and I felt no moral qualms about ending the vessel’s existence. I would kill him and fulfil my destiny.

I arrived at the address on the card which was located off a busy commercial street, and I slowly walked along the pavement with my head down and the cap covering my face as I tried to avoid attention and conceal my identity from any CCTV cameras.

My weapons were hidden in my jacket pockets. The gun was my primary and the dagger my backup, but I wouldn’t draw my revolver until the last possible moment. I arrived at the front entrance of the surgery, pausing as I read the motif name printed on the glass door and confirmed I had the right address.

I’d purposefully arrived at lunchtime when the surgery would be closed and near empty. I therefore expected the door to be locked and so was surprised to find it left open. It all seemed a little too easy, and I’ll admit to feeling a pang of apprehension in that moment, but this soon passed as I carefully pushed open the door with my gloved hand.

I entered the reception area and found it abandoned. Even the front desk was unattended as presumably the receptionist was out for lunch. So far so good, I thought.

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Next, I walked behind the reception and soon found Dr Underwood’s surgery, discovering the door wide open. I hesitated for a time as I cast my eyes upon my target, watching him as he typed on his keyboard and remained engrossed in his work.

Underwood was a handsome man – neat and well turned out, but surprisingly unremarkable. There was nothing to mark him out as a paranormal entity or indeed anything other than a dedicated family physician. I had serious doubts in that late moment, fearing I’d made a terrible mistake, and I stood frozen with indecision in the doorway – my hand on the butt of my gun as I desperately tried to decide what to do next.

It didn’t take long for the doctor to notice me. He must have sensed my presence or spotted the shadow I cast, because he called out to me without looking up from his computer screen.

“I’m afraid the surgery is closed. Please come back later.”

I didn’t answer, instead slowly removing the gun from my jacket pocket. He tutted in annoyance, turning his head away from his monitor. But, once he saw me, Dr Underwood’s eyes lit up with recognition, even though I’d never met him before.

“Ah, it’s you!” he exclaimed amicably, “I was wondering when you’d turn up.”

He frowned when he saw the gun in my now shaking hand.

“So, that’s how you plan to do it?” he asked, more with curiosity than concern. “Well sir, let’s get on with it then.”

With that, he surprised me by leaping up from his chair and physically jumping on top of his desk. He crouched on all fours, his eyes filled with a predatory zeal as he hissed like an angry cat and showed me his concerningly sharp teeth.

I was frozen in shock, reacting too slowly as I raised my gun and aimed. A split second later, the doctor-turned-monster launched himself off the desk and leapt towards me with his eyes wide and fangs exposed. I screamed in terror, firing a single shot which missed the target.
Underwood hit me like a freight train a second later, pushing me out of the room and pinning my body to the carpet while the gun was simultaneously knocked out of my hand. He was on top of me now, saliva dripping from his fang-filled maw as he held me down firmly.

“Come on my boy!” he snarled in cruel mockery, “Is that all you can muster?”

With that, he wrapped his hands around my throat and started to squeeze. I couldn’t breathe as he slowly straggled me, and I gasped for air as my eyes bulged. I must have been close to blacking out, but I was determined not to die like this.

Digging deep into my reserves, I reached into my pocket and withdrew the dagger, thrusting it deep into my attacker’s thigh. He cried out in pain and loosened his grip upon my throat. This gave me an opportunity, and I kicked out with all my strength, forcing Underwood off me.

He staggered as blood poured from the wound in his leg, but Underwood was far from beaten. I went for him again with the dagger, but he easily dodged the attack, punching me hard on the nose and throwing me back into the office.

I pulled myself up from the floor and turned just as Underwood launched a new attack. I held out the knife but he grabbed my wrist and twisted hard, forcing me to drop the blade. I barely had time to recover before he hit me again and shoved me back down to the ground. Stunned and terrified, I watched as Underwood calmly walked over to where the knife had fallen, stooping over to pick it up.

“Very disappointing.” he said solemnly, “I expected so much more from you, my son.”

That certainly struck a nerve and I knew it was now or never. I scanned the floor, catching sight of my silver revolver only inches from where I lay.

Underwood was now advancing upon me, knife in hand as he prepared to finish the job. I darted across the floor, grabbing hold of the gun and rolling over before I lifted the weapon and aimed. Underwood was right on top of me, but this time I had the drop on him.

I squeezed the trigger – firing one, two and then three shots. Underwood was struck three time in the chest. He barely reacted at first, looking down in surprise at the blood leaking from the bullet wounds and seeping through his previously white shirt.

He looked at me in his last moment, managing a half smile as he said – “Well played sir.”

And with that, he dropped heavily to the floor and didn’t get back up again. I continued to hold the smoking gun in my shaking hand, hardly believing what I’d just done. And suddenly I became aware of a new figure standing in the doorway. I span around and aimed but held my fire once I recognised a familiar face.

It was the salesman, his trusty briefcase in hand, and his sunken eyes emotionless as he looked over the dead Dr Underwood before turning his attentions towards me.

“Congratulations sir.” he said dispassionately, “You have succeeded where so many others have failed. Now, I believe it’s high time that you met my employer.”

I was still trying to work out what he meant when I suddenly became light-headed, my eyes slowly closing as the darkness took me.

I awoke in a strange and frightening place, experiencing a stifling heat as I pulled myself up from a rocky surface and adjusted my eyes to my new surroundings. Inexplicably, I had been transported to a dark and foreign realm, finding myself inside what looked like a great hall carved from rock and dimly illuminated by burning torches.

I slowly and cautiously walked upon my shaking legs, scanning the hall in fearful awe whilst noting the high ceiling above my head. The light from the wall-mounted torches allowed me to see the guards lined up on either side of a long walkway which cut down the middle of the hall.

These soldiers looked like men, although I suspected they weren’t of the mortal realm. They all wore bronze armour and helmets like those of a Roman centurion, and each was armed with a long spear and round shield. The guards stood in tight formation, not moving a muscle as I sheepishly walked past them, although I noticed how their dark, menacing eyes closely followed my progress.

I continued walking towards the front of the hall which was dominated by a great throne of cold iron. And upon it sat a giant wearing black robes – bald-headed but with a crown of thorns placed on top of his huge skull. Again, he took the appearance of a man but must have been at least eight foot tall and was well-built to boot, with his bulging muscles visible underneath his robes.

He was eating when I approached him, greedily devouring a large slab of red meat on the bone, the blood pouring down his chin while he washed his meal down, taking large gulps from a substantial golden tankard filled with God knows what.

He finished eating and thoughtlessly tossed the bone onto the ground. I watched as a ragged man in chains scurried across the floor and scooped up the discarded bone, while a second figure – a woman – refilled the giant’s tankard without comment. Both appeared to have the status of slaves in this hellish realm, and they soon meekly disappeared into the shadows.

A fourth figure was also present – a small man who cowered behind the throne and would not meet my eye. It was only when I got closer that I recognised this meek individual. It was the salesman, his head bowed as he maintained a tight grip on his book of red leather – the fabled encyclopaedia which was the source of his power and knowledge.

But the salesman was obviously submissive to the giant sat upon the throne, and so I focussed my attention upon him.

The giant saw me approach – his cold eyes of icy blue lighting up in anticipation as he formed his still bloody lips into a crude smile.

“Ah, here he is!” he announced in a booming voice which echoed throughout the huge hall. “Here is the man of the hour! My own flesh and blood, come to claim his rightful place by my side.”

I stood at the foot of the mighty throne, looking up in awe as I struggled to find the words to respond.

“Who…or what are you?” I spluttered nervously.

The giant bellowed laughter before answering.

“Come now. You are an intelligent young man and so can surely guess my identity. In truth, I go by many names, both in this realm and the world above. I am king here, but you may call me…father.”

That last word hung in the air and the chilling implications made me feel sick to the stomach. What in hell had I gotten myself into? Was this the destiny I had sought for so long?

“What do you want from me?” I eventually asked.

The demon’s sadistic grin widened before he replied.

“I want you to be the man you were born to be. You have passed your first test, but there is still much work to be done. Bring me the book.”

He clicked his fingers and the salesman sheepishly walked up to the throne, reluctantly handing over his precious encyclopaedia which his master snatched up in his huge hand. He aggressively flicked through the pages while his servant slinked back into the shadows, and then the demon who claimed to be my father started to read.

And his spoken words transported me to another place and time, as I witnessed visions of my future. Firstly, I found myself standing on a podium decorated with banners and flags, giving a victory speech to a fanatical crowd of cheering supporters – my supporters, a cult dedicated to serve me.

Next came a vast military procession down a wide city street which I observed from a balcony high above. Thousands of black clad troops marched in tight formation, saluting towards me as they goose-stepped upon the asphalt. They were soon followed by tanks and other military hardware while a squadron of fighter jets flew above our heads.

Then came a vision of a prison camp surrounded by barbed wire fences and guard towers. Inside of the cordon were thousands of emaciated, beaten down prisoners – their eyes filled with fear and hunger as they pleaded for mercy they would surely not receive.

It’s fair to say that I was extremely disturbed by the images filling my head, but it only got worse, as the demon’s chilling words brought me to some very dark places. I saw a city engulfed by flames – a mushroom cloud towering above the ruins as millions were surely killed in a nuclear inferno.

More horrific images of war and suffering followed, and I realised that I was responsible for this future apocalypse. And eventually, I abandoned the devastated Earth, looking down upon the planet’s ravaged surface from orbit as I was blasted into the stratosphere.

And finally, I stood within a vast, domed biosphere, looking out upon a red, lifeless desert. Those living beside me were my most fanatical and loyal supporters. These folk were dedicated to me and my vision, and here to help me build a new world, while billions were left behind to suffer and die on our doomed home planet.

With that, I was returned to the hellish throne room, my body shaking as I looked into the ruthless blue eyes of my demonic, so-called father. I was revolted and felt a fiery defiance deep in my belly, finding the courage to stand up to the monster sat before me.

“This is horrifying!” I exclaimed emotionally.

The demon merely shrugged his shoulders before responding.

“That depends on your perspective. I consider this as the necessary march of history.”

“It’s monstrous, and I will not be part of it!” I cried.

I instantly regretted my outburst as I expected the demon to react with fury, but instead he retained his cool composure – his horrific grin barely faltering as he spoke his words through clenched teeth.

“Oh, I think you will, my child. You forget that my blood runs through your veins. And in truth, I know you better then you know yourself. I know the darkness which dwells deep inside of you. The savagery, cruelty and lust for absolute power just waiting to break out…”

He paused briefly to let that ominous sentence sink in. “And there’s another reason. The events you’ve witnessed – the words in this book and the events of the war to come. This will happen with or without you. And you don’t want to disappoint me, my son. Failure comes with a heavy price.”

He clicked his fingers and two figures emerged from the shadows behind him. It was the two slaves who had served his food and drink – the man and the woman. I had barely looked at them before, but now I saw their terrified faces and their mad, bloodshot eyes.

There was a sudden spark of recognition in my exhausted brain as I thought back to the photographs on the social media accounts and news reports. The chained slaves were Fatima Abraham and Charles Robinson. They had both failed the demon king and were now condemned to serve him for all eternity, trapped at the whim of his cruel sadism in this hellish realm. And I knew this would be my fate too, if I refused him.

I was left speechless, looking down at the rocky ground as I couldn’t bear to see the suffering of my former companions.

“Well.” said the demon in a more conciliatory tone, “Now you know the truth, my boy. It’s time for you to return to the mortal realm. Think carefully about what I’ve said and know that I am always with you.”

He clicked his finger once again and I was consumed by darkness. I lost consciousness, and when I awoke, I was back on the couch in my front room…back where this had all begun.
I’ve had much time to think since my extraordinary experience, but I can’t find any logical explanation for what I’ve been through. The murder of Dr Underwood went unsolved. The police and media believe he was killed during an attempted robbery gone wrong. There was no evidence of my involvement in the murder, or any links discovered between Fatima, Charlie and me. It was like everything had been covered up by a hidden power.

The only conclusion I can come to is that it’s all genuine. It’s not just what I’ve seen and heard. I can feel it deep in my bones. The darkness inside me is all too real, and I can’t supress it any longer.

I don’t know whether the future I’ve seen is set in stone. Perhaps the apocalyptic war can be avoided. Maybe I can prevent it, if I make different decisions. Or alternatively, the world could well be doomed, and the best I can do is to save a select few who can start again.

One thing’s for certain however. I have been chosen for this great task and I’ve proven my worth in my father’s eyes. The future is mine to shape and I will not fall short. I’ll never tell you my name, but you will come to know me very well in the coming years. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an election to campaign for.

Credit: Woundlicker

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