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The Evil of Mortar’s Isle

The evil of mortars isle

Estimated reading time — 21 minutes

Waves washed in fury upon the shore with black-stained waters bloodied by the night. The sea spat salt and roared in protest of all things happy and holy. Its rage was without thought or reason, merely a cruel instinct bound to its ever-writhing form. And the people of Mortar’s Isle had named it Evil; for it relished in their sorrow.

That night the Evil took an infant child. It threw her from the cliffs and dashed her upon the rocks before the tide claimed her permanently. When her mother found the child missing, she searched until the morning. However, after a long, fruitless search, she returned home. There, on her daughter’s pillow, the mother found a severed hand dripping blood and seafoam. Carved into the palm was the frayed sigil of the sea.

Decades had passed since suffering had last taken Mortar’s Isle. But there remained one elder that recognized the Evil’s mark. He knew it intimately. It knew him. And in the climax of that sleepless night, he heard the wakened malice call his name.


“Silas. Silas. Silas,” it echoed from the shadowed corners of his seaside cottage.

Silas stiffened at the sound of that formless voice. His heart lurched with an agitated thump, and his hands shook with tremors. “You are a memory,” he said.

The cottage groaned as a guttural laugh passed from root to roof. “Even ancient memories may wound and kill,” the Evil said. “Come and see.” Its twisted tones led Silas from the haven of his bed to the creaking swing of his front door. Moonlight shone a path out and off to the sea cliffs. A shrill wind beckoned.

Silas shook his head. “I dare not.” He turned back and at once was greeted with a familiar, white gaze and a dripping hand around his neck. The Evil flung him outside and slammed the door shut.

The wind whipped into a frenzy that pushed Silas to the edge of the sea. And its fell voice howled. “Silas … Come and see …”

The frightened, old man did as asked, knowing too well that he should not. When he reached the precipice, he glanced down into the churning sea. There amid the crushing waves, he spied a briny, black figure clutching a corpse upon a rock. With a crooked knife, the figure sawed through the corpse’s wrist. Then, smiling with tattered, tar lips, it turned to Silas and raised its prize.


Shaking, he said to the creature, “Why not me? It’s me you hate.” A wave crashed over the inky being and its trophy. When the water subsided, both had vanished.

“I do not hate. I love,” the Evil said. Silas could feel its cold breath on his neck and heard a low, rumbling growl. As he turned, he faced the Evil’s gaping maw and empty, white stare. The creature seized Silas’s head in both its hands. “And this is what I love,” it hissed.

Gruesome images of gore and torment passed over Silas’s eyes too quickly to process. He tasted iron on his tongue and heard the shrieks of a hundred voices. And somewhere beyond the fog of undue torture, Silas spied a city, whose twisted gates hid something far more sinister.

When the old man came to, he was alone in his bedroom. Black ink coated his palms. And he heard a final whisper. “You were the beginning. Soon comes the end. Until then, I will make you watch.”

Silas passed through his house like a specter robbed of soul and body. As he washed the ink from his hands and watched the dark liquid run down the drain, he felt no emotion or sense of self. Having clothed himself, he sat at the kitchen table and stared out of the glossy windows that faced the sea. The waves tossed back their heads in laughter as they rolled farther and farther up shore. In time, the ocean would swallow them all.

Finding the strength in his rickety bones, Silas left his house and began the trek to the church on the far side of the island. As expected, the town was abuzz. A trio of women huddled around Ms. Ainsel while she wept at the feet of Mayor Krest. She was clutching something in her hands, but Silas could not see what.
Officer Jacobs was deep in thought. A cigarette spewed smoke as it hung from his limp fingers. A man and his wife were talking to the police officer, but he didn’t seem to hear. The man noticed Silas shuffling through town and called out for him. “Father! Father!” he said, waving him over.

Begrudgingly, Silas joined them. “What is it? Has something happened?” he said.

“I am afraid so,” his son Oliver said.

“Just dreadful,” his wife Sarah added. Between them stood their daughter Eve, a small, sickly girl with blonde hair braided in two. She looked up with tears already in her eyes. Although too young to understand what had happened, the girl knew instinctively that she was in danger. Upon meeting Silas’s gaze, Eve burst into sobs. “Oh, it’s alright. You are safe, dear,” said Sarah.

Oliver touched his wife’s shoulder. “Take her home. Lock the door.” Sarah looked at her husband and then at Silas. Silas nodded in agreement.

Stirring from his daze, Officer Jacobs took a long puff on his cigarette before stamping it in the dirt. “Mr. Keene, you come at a most opportune time,” he said.

“And why might that be?” Silas said.

“Doubtlessly, you have sensed the somber mood. However, I suspect no one has explicitly informed you what has occurred,” the officer said. Silas shook his head and cocked his brow in feigned confusion. “Ms. Ainsel’s daughter Lyla disappeared last night. From dusk ‘til dawn Ms. Ainsel and I scoured the island for some trace of her child. Yet, for all our efforts, we found no hint of the poor girl. That is until we returned to her residence, where we found the girl’s severed hand displayed upon a pillow. Etched into her skin was a mark.”

Officer Jacobs fished a leather-bound journal out of his jacket. Scrawled on the yellowed parchment was an ominous whirl of profane intentions. Jacobs saw recognition plain in Silas’s glassy eyes.

“You have seen it before,” he said. But Silas said nothing in response.

Oliver gripped his father’s shoulder and spoke in a tone both pleading and apologetic. “I already told him about it. If there is anything you can offer, you must tell him. People are frightened, father.”

With a reluctant groan, Silas rolled up his sleeve to reveal a silver scar halfway up his forearm. Although faded and broken by time, it was unmistakably the same mark.

Jacobs nodded and sucked his teeth. “Mortar’s Isle has not seen such wanton cruelty in over five decades. The victims of that time bore an identical symbol. You were there. You witnessed what I can only glean from dusty papers. If you could —”

“Not witnessed. Experienced,” Silas corrected.

Thunder rumbled from a black mass that hung over the sea. The waves frothed and roiled in the deep. On the horizon, ghostly sparks of light flashed in warning.

“What is it then, this mark? What happened all those years ago?” Jacobs said. When Silas did not answer, the officer shook his head and sighed. “Tell me, Mr. Keene. What am I to think? You are the only individual yet alive that was there when the mark appeared, and havoc reigned. But you will not speak of it. You bear that same mark upon your flesh but will not tell me what it symbolizes.”

Oliver knit his brow in anger. “You cannot mean it,” he said, voice rising. “My father is a victim.”

Officer Jacobs shrugged. “Is he?”

Unbothered by his accusations, Silas snorted. “I will say this, but for your sake, ask me no more. The mark is of the sea. I cannot say what, if anything, it communicates; for even I am not certain. There may yet be some use for this mark, but this is something else. What you found upon the pillow was meant for fear and torment, and you lot have given it exactly what it wants.”

“And what is it?”


After a moment of hesitation, the officer chuckled. He had heard stories of the Evil of Mortar’s Isle, but to him, they were just that. Stories.

Silas did not join in the officer’s laughter. Rather, having decided the conversation was at an end, Silas began walking towards the northern side of the isle.

“Where are you going?” Jacobs asked.

“Church,” Silas said.

“Father David hasn’t been seen for two days.” Silas stopped. Shadow veiled his gaze as he turned to face the police officer. “I suspect you will not find him there. But if you should, I would appreciate you sending him my way.” Silas nodded and continued on.

As expected, Oliver jogged after his father. But Silas had no words of comfort to offer. “Take your wife and the little Eve. Flee this cursed rock if you might, ere it is too late.”

The sky thundered and threatened to break. Waves hissed upon the stony bluffs. Their salted bodies pummeled the isle into submission. There was no leaving.

“You never spoke of that time,” Oliver said. “I doubt even mother knew.”

“Did you not hear me?” Silas said, grabbing his son by the collar. “Leave this place, or else find shelter beyond reach of any man or worse.”

“What is this Evil?” he asked.

Silas gnashed his teeth and exhaled sharply. “Would that I knew more. Would that I knew less,” he said. “But if it can be sealed again, then none of us need bear that knowledge.”

“How might we do that? How can I help?”

“Are you deaf? You must keep far from this matter. I will not tell you again.”

He knew well the stubbornness of sons; for he was once someone’s son, and he too had gone meddling where he should not. Even so, Silas hoped Oliver would listen just this once. Otherwise, he feared what it might cost.

Leaving his son behind, Silas climbed the worn path to Father David’s church. The Catholic structure stood brazenly upon a weather-beaten precipice. Time had torn down its cross, and the wind had stripped its wood bare of all paint or protection. Yet, still the building stood as a tattered protest to the cruel will of the sea.

The wind bellowed as Silas neared the church’s shuttered doors. And on its whistling cry, he heard the dull thud of death bells ringing. They were not from the church.

Although the church’s front doors were locked, a second entrance swung gaping in the back. Silas entered with a cautious step. He called out for Father David but heard only a distant cackle in reply.

Silas had not stepped inside the church for several decades. Yet, he remembered the crooked, wooden halls better than those of his own meager home. As threatening shadows played on the wall, he walked down the creaking corridors until he came upon a door of cold metal. All those years ago, Silas had locked the door and thrown away the key. Yet, evidently, the lock had been picked because when he tried the handle, the door swung open with a groan.

Past the door lay a long flight of stairs that passed deep into shadow. From the darkness emanated the foul scent of grease and rot. And from that darkness, Silas heard a sinister call: “Silas … come and see …”

As he descended the worn steps, the ceiling chugged and coughed. Lights kicked on from above. Their hue was sickly and pink; for the lights, as with the walls, were encased in a fleshy membrane conjoined to stone and steel. The flesh was withered and pale but for a few throbbing vessels.

Silas followed the steps into a dank chamber buzzing with biomechanical whirs. All around, he spied machines of insipid and unknowing design. They clicked and snapped and beat with wires of sinew and gears of bone. He could not guess their purpose, but their presence itself was no doubt a cruel insult to the church above.

At the far end of the chamber, Silas found a familiar stone coffin. Runes of a forgotten language covered the tomb on all sides, sealing its inhabitant inside. But the cover was splayed open, and on the ground lay a pale, blonde girl in a pool of congealed blood.

“Anna.” Just as he had left her, abandoned her, cursed her all those years ago. Preserved by the Evil that possessed her, her body had not aged. But now it appeared she was dead, and the Evil was free.

As Silas approached the body, the walls undulated. Their frayed sinews reached out to her like tattered fingers. And in his gut, Silas felt a sharp pang of guilt nestle deeper. But it was what he deserved.

“Do you mourn her?” the Evil asked. Silas saw its cruel, inky form standing stiff in the undercroft’s gory recesses. “Do you mourn her?” the Evil repeated. “You who sealed her away? Your love? Your pure, precious Anna? You condemned her, Silas, to a lifetime of torture and defilement at my hand. Shall I tell you what I did to her while bound to her flesh?”

Silas gritted his teeth and turned away from Anna’s body. “Where is Father David? He set you free, did he not?”

“His god will not save him. Will you?”

“Where is he?”

The Evil snickered and set its hand against the wall. Tendrils shot forward and wrapped around Anna’s limbs. Slowly, her body was dragged to the center of the room. The Mark of the Sea was carved into her neck, and from her abdomen, a deep stab wound leaked curdled blood.

“I discarded her and stole the priest. They will not be the last,” the Evil said.

“What do you want?” Silas asked, striding towards the crooked figure. As he neared the cruel entity, it receded into darkness. In its place, Silas saw a massive, stone door marked with a multitude of twisted runes. From somewhere beyond, he heard the slosh of brine and bilge.

With a final glance at his former lover, Silas returned to the church above. In search of Father David, he proceeded to the altar. But the priest was not there, and the hall was empty.

Silas looked out at the shadow-laden pews, and as he looked, the wooden seats groaned and splintered. Above, a headless Christ watched with arms splayed upon the cross. His head lay upon the altar, eyes streaming blood.

Just then, a shriek rang from behind. Silas ran back into the corridor. He sprinted through the winding halls until he stood face-to-face with the muzzle of Officer Jacobs’s pistol.

“What is that down there?” Jacobs asked, not lowering his gun. “Who is that girl?”

Silas raised his hands. “Her name is Anna. She was my lover when we were in our teens. If I could just –”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Jacobs said. There was a crazed look in his eyes. The pistol trembled in his hands. “None of this makes sense.”

Something below had shaken the seasoned officer. Something he had seen. Something he had felt. The Mark of the Sea was seared into his forearm. Its unholy design glistened with scorched, red flesh.

“What happened to you?” Silas said.

Officer Jacobs holstered his gun and shoved Silas against the wall. “You did this to me,” he said through chattering teeth. He cuffed Silas and pushed him out of the church.

While they trudged back into town, Silas attempted to explain his case, but the officer was not listening. He stared out at the surging sea as if in response to some voiceless call. The brewing storm was almost upon them, and the roll of thunder sent shivers through Jacobs’s spine. A soft rain pattered down from above. It was only a whisper of what was to come.

The townspeople watched Silas and Jacobs shuffle into town. They whispered and pointed but dared not leave the safety of their homes.

Once in the police station, Silas was uncuffed and thrown into a cell. Officer Jacobs gawked at him from the other side of the bars. He opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out.

“Officer Jacobs, you must tell me what you saw,” Silas begged. “It is with the priest. If we find him, if we know what it wants, we might have some chance of stopping it. However, I cannot help you if you stay silent, and I cannot guide you from inside this cell.”

Jacobs responded with a drawn-out sigh while something pulled his gaze out into the hall. “I need a smoke,” he said. The officer passed out of view, leaving Silas in the silence of his dusky cell. However, he was not entirely alone.

Behind Silas, a hole opened. It was no bigger than a saucer, and from it issued an unnerving sound unlike that of any man or beast. It was gnashing teeth and cackling laughter. It was soaring screams and choking gurgles. It was all of those and more and none of them at all.

Silas crouched down beside the hole. It smelled of salt and sea, and there was a distant crash of waves. He bent his ear towards the void to have a closer listen, but it faded the closer he got. Then, when the noise had all but disappeared, a pair of pallid white hands grabbed him by the skull, and Anna pulled her face into view.

“Why did you leave me?” she said. Thick gashes lined her neck and trailed down her chest. Flaps of tissue hung from her ribs, and the bones lay exposed. “Why did you leave me with it? You did this to me. It was you!”

Silas managed to slip out of her grasp and stumble backwards. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” he said, panting. Anna slunk back into the hole.

Behind him, the cell door creaked open. He stood and gazed warily at his freedom, expecting another trick. “Hello?” he said, testing for a response. He looked back. The hole was gone.

As he neared the corridor, Father David swept suddenly past the doorway. Startled, Silas jumped back in fright.

“Father David!” he called. In the hall, he found the clergyman’s black frock in a limp bundle on the floor. Silas crouched down to pick up the robe and noticed a line of moist footsteps glinting in the slanted daylight.


Outside, thunder crashed, and a murmur built into a clamor. Rain pounded upon the earth like nails into a coffin, and a sickening moan cut through the surging wind.

Silas bolted into the town square, where a crowd had gathered around a towering, wooden cross. Hammered upon the cross was Father David, stripped bare for all to witness. His pierced palms oozed blood while the sea’s hateful sigil wept ink upon his brow.

Father David muttered prayers between his winces and cries. He begged the heavenly lord to spare him of his pain and cast down the Evil of Mortar’s Isle. But God had abandoned him.

The priest’s frantic chants continued until the strength died in his throat. And as he went quiet, so too did the storm. The wind dissipated. The rain dried. Even the townsfolk held their tongues. It was an eerie, skin-prickling quiet, the kind that could not last long.

“Get him down from there!” Silas tried to shout. But his words were drowned out by a sudden flash of light and the deafening sound of thunder. The cross ignited and flames rolled up the priest’s body. He flailed and shrieked, but he could not pull himself from the cross. His skin charred, and the stench of burnt flesh was in the air. All the while, the townsfolk looked on with horror.

Once the fire rose to his chin, Father David grew unseemly still and quiet. He turned his head and locked eyes with Silas. Throwing back his head, the priest unleashed a demonic bellow. While the throat-splitting roar rang across the island, the rain returned as a furious downpour. It extinguished the fire, and surrounded the cross in a murky, black puddle.

Then, the cross staggered and snapped. Father David fell face first into the puddle. Some life yet remained inside him because he looked up at the crowd. Skin peeled from his cheeks in blackened strips, and his lips cracked as he opened them to speak.

“Help” was all the priest managed to say. Before the townsfolk could answer his request, a dozen black hands rose out of the water and latched onto him. They dragged Father David into the unknowable depths of the dusky pool. He lacked the strength to resist, and thus protested with merely a frightened gurgle that rose to the surface as a trio of bubbles.

Horrified, the town devolved into a chaotic mess of reactions. Some fell to their knees in prayer. Others broke down into tears. Silas spotted Mayor Krest running, quite sensibly, back to the safety of his home. Amid it all, Ms. Ainsel stood without thought or expression. As for Officer Jacobs, he was nowhere to be seen. And above all the noise and commotion, Silas heard a pitiful cry rise above the rest.

Waking ever so slightly from her daze, Ms. Ainsel pointed wordlessly at something just beyond his shoulder. Silas followed her vacant gaze and turned slowly. As he did, the Evil leapt upon him. Its viscous, throbbing fingers penetrated his eyes, turning all to black. The Evil wrestled him to the ground as it wounded him in places he did not know existed. Silas cried out, but the voice was not his own. It was that of a child. And across his blind stare flashed images of wretched structures in a drowned city.

When his torment ceased, Silas awoke to a pounding headache. He picked himself off the floor. He was in his study. A strange, leather-bound tome rested on his desk, and his hands were stained black with ink.
“Come see what we have created, Silas,” the Evil taunted. From far off, he heard a girlish moan.

Silas opened the book and found it was filled with his own handwriting. But he had no memory of writing. Worse still, the book told of vile entities whose maddening forms and cruel intentions could only be described by means of comparison. There seemed also to be written spells of a sort Silas dared not imagine.

“What is this? A book of spells? A grimoire?” he asked.

“There are things beyond me that would shatter the feeble bounds of your sanity. I am but a keeper of the gate waving them in, and this is my invitation.”

Silas pulled back his sleeve to reveal the sigil of the sea. “Our suffering is your own. Why would you invite others? What of your mark?”

The formless voice snickered. Its laugh rattled around his skull in painful surges. “You think it a signature? How pitiful the idea. After all these years, you still never imagined my intentions.”

Silas flipped through the grimoire’s cluttered pages, hundreds of them, all filled to the margins with his handwriting. “When did you … when did I … when was this written?”

“You do not recall? We wrote it together you and I.”

Just then Officer Jacobs burst through the front door, gun drawn. His composure had long since shattered, and his eyes were stricken with forks of blood. “Tell me what is going on at once,” he shouted. “My senses fool me, and the shadows speak. Father David. The church. That girl. Something brews in the sea, and it is calling me. I fear it like a knife to the belly, but I cannot bear the weight of it much longer.”

The front door creaked open. Again Silas heard a girlish moan, distant but painfully shrill. Silas walked past Jacobs to the open door. Thunder cracked, and the waves roared. A girl whimpered and choked.

“What must I do to rid myself of this evil?” Jacobs asked. “What …” But his second question faded in his throat. His attention shifted to a small, orange crab scuttling through the open door. Another followed behind it, and behind that one another still. They marched into Silas’s home and began to circle around Officer Jacobs. Their beady eyes were empty and black.

With only the slightest hesitation, Jacobs jumped back and began to fire at the crabs. Yet, for each one he killed, another took its place.

From the illumination of the flashing gun, Silas saw a dark figure crawling along the ceiling. With long, contorted limbs, the Evil hung like a spider over Officer Jacobs. Its smile spread too far and too wicked.
Another shot rang out, and the officer’s pistol flashed. Jacobs cried in pain. Somehow the gun was in Silas’s hand, and a bloody wound on Jacobs’s knee caused the officer to fall to the floor.

“No. I didn’t …” Silas said weakly and dropped the gun.

Seizing on the opportunity, the crabs climbed onto Jacobs’s body. He tried to push them off, but there were far too many. Their chitinous pincers carved pieces of flesh from his body and fed the meat into their chattering mouths. They gorged themselves on Officer Jacobs, who twitched and wailed as his gore spilled on the floor. He could bear the torment for only so long.

“No!” he screamed. “No! Take me. Be done with it. Please!”

The crabs ceased and looked up to the ceiling. A stain above dripped brine and blood. A pair of gnarled, black hands emerged from the stain, pushing it open until a shower of salt water covered Jacobs. The hands vanished for an instant before the Evil pounced on the officer and dragged him into the ceiling, crabs and all. A muffled scream was the last Silas heard before the black hole sealed.

“Father.” A rain-soaked Oliver stood in the doorway. Silas turned breathlessly. “Father, she’s gone. Eve. My daughter.”

“You must leave me. It is not safe,” Silas said. He looked down at his ink-stained fingers and at the gun on the floor.

“Did you not hear what I said? Eve is gone,” Oliver said.

Silas paused. He heard a soft sobbing on the edge of his hearing. “It has her.”

“I saw Officer Jacobs take her. I tried to stop him, but he held a pistol to her temple and threatened to shoot if I followed.”

“And you followed anyway.”

“When I saw him next, he was on the way to your cottage, and she was missing. But now … Jacobs …”

“You must listen to me,” Silas said. “The Evil resides within me now. Through me it may do whatever it pleases. Through me it might kill you or worse. It may even decide to inhabit your body. Every moment you spend in my presence is a risk.”

Oliver stood still and strong. “I would risk all for her,” he said. The Evil was counting on it. “I wish to speak with it. If you are possessed as you say, then I wish to bargain.”

Silas shook his head. “Son, the Evil never compromises. It knows no mercy. It …” His sentence faded in his throat, and his expression ebbed away. For a moment, his face was blank and still. Then, a wide grin surged across his cheeks, and a deep malice took root in his eyes. “Good evening, Oliver. Shall I send my regards to young Eve, or would you like to join her?”

“You are the Evil of Mortar’s Isle?” Oliver asked.

His father shrugged. “You may call me what you like. It matters not.”

“I want my daughter back.”

“I might consider it. However, I require something in exchange.”

Oliver nodded. “Of course. Name it.”


Silas walked over to the study and picked up the leather-bound grimoire. “Take this and join me in the church.”


Silas held out the book and waited for his son to take it. Only then did he answer. “I come from another plane, whose unseeable bounds intersect with those of your own and others. Yet, the ways were shut long ago by those who are forgotten. Whosoever remained on this side was hunted, forced into hiding, or sealed away.”

“I take it there is an intersection in the church. You want to return home, is that it?” Oliver said. Silas answered with a smile. “Will this help you do that?” They both looked at the book cradled in Oliver’s arms.

“Not quite, but it will be necessary regardless. Do we have a deal?” Silas reached out his hand.

“That’s it?”

“That is it,” Silas said, hand still extended.

“I do not trust you so easily,” Oliver said, biting his lip. “Still, I have no choice but to accept.”

Silas grinned heartily as Oliver took his hand. Their palms had scarcely touched before a burning pain sank into Oliver’s skin. He pulled back his hand, but the damage was done. A steaming, pink mark stared up at him.

“What is this?” Oliver asked.

Walking out the door, Silas turned his head to the dark, unseeable sky. “Consider it a signature,” he said. “Are contracts not sealed with a signature in your plane? In any case, let us make haste. Your dearest Eve is waiting.”

With the vile text nestled in the crook of his arm, Oliver stepped through the doorway. As his body crossed the threshold, he found himself in a musty chamber that reeked of spoiled gore and festering ooze. A stone door of gargantuan proportions stood before him, and beside him a pedestal.

A single light pierced the darkness. As it shone against his back, a long, dense shadow fell on the door. In his breast, Oliver felt a ravenous fear he could not reason or explain.

He turned slowly and then staggered back in horror and revulsion. At the center of the chamber stood a blistered mass of flesh and bristle. Gnarled veins forked through its taut skin and lumps of flesh and bone. The mass was shaped into an egg. Umbilici of swollen steel and coiled sinew protruded from its base, passing into shadow. And at its head, the egg narrowed to a pair of parted lips that choked on a rising beam of metal.

Oliver approached the foul deformity with cautious steps. A pair of lidless eyes looked up at him with utter panic and helplessness. The fleshy egg shivered and gurgled but could not speak.

“What is this? Where is my daughter?” Oliver asked. In his own voice, he heard a rising terror that he could not resist. The shadows shifted, and there came a metallic growl like the grinding of gears.

“Place the book upon the pedestal, and you shall see your daughter,” Silas said, standing beside a splayed casket marked with runes. Cloaked in shade, the elderly man strained the eyes to see. At times, he appeared as his old self, and at others as a contorted silhouette with a sinister gaze. Ever a slave to his parental instincts, Oliver did as asked, knowing all the while he should not.

Overhead, a dim, pink light sparked to life. It revealed a wall of webbed skin that wrapped around the twitching bodies of several helpless victims. Among them were the drowned Lyla, charred priest, half-consumed Jacobs, and sniveling Eve. Vascular cords attached to their bodies where they had been given the Mark of the Sea while hanging blades plunged into wounds kept ever-gaping by frequent and merciless slashes. The running gore trailed down their throbbing cables into the growing mass at the center of the room.

Overcome with emotion, Oliver sprinted towards his daughter. “Eve! My Eve. Dear daughter, what has it done to you?” Although still conscious, the girl no longer possessed the strength to speak. She was a frail, whimpering husk drained of skin and spirit. She looked up with tears in her eyes.

“Did you think this would end happily?” Silas said in a tone not his own. “Your father tried to warn you. Now I have her … and you.”

A meaty tendril slithered along the floor towards Oliver’s leg. “He knew this would happen?” Oliver said with rising anger. “He knew she would be tortured, but still he kept the truth from me?”

Silas smirked. “This is not his first encounter with me. Only a fool would suspect a more favorable outcome. Now I need only one more.”

The tendril wrapped around Oliver’s ankle and began to tug him back. “That bastard let this happen to her. I want to speak to him,” he said, balling his fists. “Do what you want with him and with me. But first, let me have him.”

Eyes fixed on Oliver’s tensed knuckles, Silas considered the notion with a long, devious smile. Then, the cord around Oliver’s leg unfurled and sank away. The lights flickered, and the chamber surrendered to the dark. “Oh my. This I must see.”

When the lights returned, Silas had regained control of his body. He gazed around the room at all the Evil had wrought. When he saw the mass at the center of the room, he covered his mouth and took a single step forward. “Anna?” The lips had completely torn at the seams, giving way to the muzzle of some unholy contraption.

“You did this. All of this is your fault,” Oliver said. “All of this is your fault.” He stomped towards his father.

“No. Wait. Son, you must –”

Oliver swung at his father, breaking his nose. “I know what I must do,” he said. He grabbed Silas by the collar and drove him back with a flurry of punches. Blood coated his knuckles and pumped through his veins. Oliver bashed his father’s head while a sourceless laughter rang through the chamber. He pushed Silas back until he tripped over the coffin and fell inside.

“Wait,” Silas said in a voice both his and not his own. But it was too late now. Oliver pulled the lid over the coffin, sealing his father and the Evil within.

A hesitant silence filled the chamber. From within his stony prison, Silas breathed a shaky sigh of relief. “You did it. It is over,” he said.

“I am sorry, father,” Oliver said, tears in his eyes.

“Do not apologize. It was I that first released the Evil upon Mortar’s Isle. It is only fitting that I should be buried with it. This was the only way,” Silas said. And then to the Evil, “You are trapped in here with me now, and so we shall spend eternity together. May we both rot beyond memory.”

“One of us will.”

Blind to the outside world, Silas heard a muffled gagging and the collapse of his son’s body. He smelled the scent of freshly spilled blood and listened to the cry of honed blades at work.

“Oliver!” There was no reply but the patter of flailing limbs against the ground. And when all was still, a new sound entered the void: a hum of such growing proportions that it shook the very walls of the undercroft. Without mistake, it was coming from the disfigured machine of flesh at the center of the room.
Then, like a storm building charge, the machine unleashed a thunderous blast. It collided with the towering, runed door and shattered the stone into pieces. The way was open, and those that had shut it had long since perished.

“But the coffin,” Silas said. “You cannot …”

“I am not in the coffin,” the Evil answered. “I have found a different form, one more durable than your pitiable flesh and bone.”

“The book.” Silas said.

“I am every word and every spell. I am the ink and the thoughts there penetrating. What cannot die lives ever on, and so I shall be. The gates are known to me, and the gates are me. Man was not always the Earth’s master, and he shall not be its last. They have waited, patient and primal, and by my word, they shall return.”

Age had taken Silas’s strength, and the Evil had taken his spirit. So he could not even attempt to escape his stony grave. There was no hope for him. All he could do was wait for whatever might come. For him, it would be death. Yet, for others, far worse.

Credit: Andrew Layden

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