Weird Book entries

The Weird Book, Chapter 23, The Preying cities

After the Darkness, a flood of strange stories surfaced concerning cities that behaved more like predacious beasts than hamlets hewn of brick and glass. The most conspicuous of such a city’s attributes, which ultimately allows for a tidy paranormal categorization, lies in its eerie mobility. The “preying city” label speaks directly to a supernatural town’s capacity to mobilize its wickedness, appearing anywhere and with nary an outward sign of its intrinsic foulness. However, many Dark Scholars have been quick to point out that such cities are not endemic to the Post Noctum period (anytime after the Great Darkness), and have been reported as early as prehistoric times. For instance, the malefic and creeping city known as “Wrotha,” with its gigantic and terrible occupants—the Hanuminn—has been persistent within a number of the earliest known myth cycles, and its crawling likeness even appears painted across prehistoric cave walls, where primitive men are known to have drawn shelter from the elements.
Of course, traditional historians remand such stories of monstrous cities into the hands of folklorists, and find that the Darkness has had the troubling effect of shifting the boundaries between academia and the arcane, for after the Darkness very little is understood to be without its intrinsic strangeness.

An excerpt from Brian Cleveland’s short story, “The Tale of the Hunting City”

“The city drifted into view, revealing at first only the typical trappings of a city lost to the country side and denuded of modern attire. It was like a ramshackle rube sitting in the scrub brush of an uncombed field, patiently attending to the cultivation of weed and willow. Its humble appearance was disarming and recalled quaint memories of childhood forays into the countryside and berried thickets. But as the city was drawn more sharply against the fading sky, solidifying beyond the fragrant smokes of childhood recollection and flotsam of dream, the strange town found it difficult to conceal its perversion.  It now seemed to swell from the unkempt field like a tumor of poisonous skin, threatening to reach beyond its broken buildings and cracked, weed punctured roads. It wanted to free itself into the wind, spreading spores of broken glass and wood-rot to draw together and grow in distant fields, and to haunt the open hills with the lurching forms of olden, dead houses.
I saw more of the squatting and wicked hamlets peering out from behind thickets and from between narrow hills, growing up from broken stone and weathered wood. And I knew that no human population had ever wandered those city streets, or lit lamps in its dark rooms to ward off the darkness of night, and that no men had ever carved its infant timbers into the mature shapes of houses.”

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Weird Book entries

From Chapter 5 of the Weird Book: Black Helen, The Mother of Dead Children

Few things in life are as devastating as the loss of a child. Children are humanity’s foremost symbol of innocence: icons of purity wrapped in rosy cheeks, pigtails, and silly conversations. So it is no wonder that the human psyche would create deities—divine mechanisms through which impossible feats can be performed—to return those children lost prematurely to the perils of the world. While whispers of such an entity have crept across the world for quite some time, some whispers have been known to escalate into prayers, and sometimes even screams, especially within the small British hamlet of Troy. Legends of “Black Helen, The Mother of the Stillborn,” and her gruesome family line, abound in this small village, as evidence of her darkness can be recalled from virtually any corner of the nearby and foul Eeling Woods, which some say holds some special significance to the deathly goddess. The reason for this wicked sentimentality may have something to do with the ruins of a strange temple that was discovered sometime in the early 18th century (well before the construction of Troy), hidden away within one of the more remote locations of the Eeling Woods. Also, and most tellingly, the temple was reported to be possessed of a curious Egyptian build, and appeared to exalt, through a number of impressive reliefs and statuary, a woman who seemed unwholesomely preoccupied with the death of children. 

Black Helen’s origins are thought to be tethered to the biblical tale of Moses and, specifically, his curse upon the Egyptian people’s first born. While the Bible states that it was an angel who slew the Egyptians’ firstborn (those whose households were not marked with lamb’s blood), various other, albeit small, religious sects contend that it was none other than the monstrous Black Helen who soared over those ill-fated houses; and it was beneath her cold, stygian shadow, that the spirits of the firstborn are said to have been stolen. 

According to the aforementioned and fringe belief systems, the spirits of the Egyptian children were not destroyed, but were taken away—to be rebirthed into un-death by the demonic goddess; as at the very moment of the children’s apparent death, their souls were transmitted to the dark hollow of Black Helen’s stagnant womb, where they would be transformed, and later—given to an awful birth. This hideous rebirth is said to have taken place within some soaring, black pyramid, which is now believed lost to the vast reaches of the Arabian desert. 

Known as the “Ancient Children,” the reborn first sons and daughters of Egypt are said to be gigantic, hideous reincarnations of their previous selves, serving their new mother by culling the lost souls of children. These young, plucked souls are then returned to the dark matron and left to gestate in the vile amnion of her womb, only to be reborn into the world as her undead broodlings, “The Darkborne.”

The City of Troy has become especially significant to those who hold to the belief in the death goddess, as desperate believers from all over the world have been known to occasionally invade the quiet banality of the city, to place their loved dead within the Eeling wood, near the ruined temple, beneath a tiny blanket of soil, hoping the dark mother of child death might raise their fallen children from their graves, and renew them of life, limb and happiness. Such actions might have struck the citizens of Troy as simply morbid, if not for the whispered stories of lit-eyed and undead children that ride upon the backs of wild dogs, calling out the names of Troy’s most recent mothers; or the rumors of tall women wreathed in flowing black silk, pushing dark baby carriages through the benighted city streets, where the occasional claw, or fanged maw, can be dimly glimpsed to slip from the blackened recesses of her child’s conveyance. 
While Troy remains the primary source of these ghastly tales, new idols of Black Helen have been discovered all over the world, and it should come to no one’s surprise that the recent surge in the deity’s popularity and presence arrived directly after the Great Darkness. One such statue stands in a small glen located only a short drive from New Victoria, where hundreds of grieving parents have been known to flock, despite the gruesome legends of the dark mother, hoping that Black Helen will graciously return their beloved children to both home and health.

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Part 4: Of Legends and Shadows, Uncategorized

Chapter 10: Thanks for the Memories

A man’s voice:
Children are merely the larval dead, Donald, waiting to bloom into full-fledged corpses, dried and colorless. But while in that larval phase, they are fat with the stolen nectars of lost dreams, conserving it, I now believe, for their long crawl across the face of a dead world, finally draining the last of that wonderful elixir for no greater purpose then to grow transparent wings and a taste for rancid flesh, and to forever worry at the flaccid and rotted bosom of Mother Death. It’s a rather sad and senseless journey, really, but it’s that rote effort that supplies us, you and I, with the brittle bones of our frailest hope. We take their burden from them, you see, ending their painfully protracted and wholly pointless metamorphosis. And unlike them, we employ that potential to a purposeful end: We create wonder. Like the magician devil, standing upon the shore of the burning lake, dipping his fiery hand into a bottomless black hat, we conjure flowers for the damned. This is our art, Donald: to spite the world—by painting all the corpses the color of dreams, and deifying death with the beauty from another world. Just you and I, my boy.

Donald:
Am I ever going into the gallery? I can feel myself getting older…I don’t want to go to waste.

A man’s voice:
Oh yes, definitely. But not just yet. I still have need of you in this world, my little wolf in sheep’s clothing. After all, I must have supplies if I’m to conjure miracles.

Donald:
Why do the other children hate me? Is it because I tricked them, like you taught me, to make art for the artless?

A man’s voice:
It’s because they don’t understand like you do, the importance of what we’re doing. And they are such little flies, anyway, the lowest hanging fruit, really; You shouldn’t pay them any mind. They’ll all thank you once they’ve gone into the gallery, I promise you.

Donald:
I had a dream last night. I dreamt that mother was coming to visit us, but she looked different. Really different. And she was dressed in the prettiest fire. And when I hugged her I didn’t burn. She said she was coming to see you, and that she was going to give me a new father. Oh, and I had little sisters, too! You should have seen how they smiled at me! Can mother even come back from the gallery?

Donald’s father:

I woke up.

I was standing in the middle of a hallway that was choked with red debris. My father was in my right hand, covered in steaming blood. My sisters were asleep at my sides, exhausted. Every muscle in my body burned, and I could hear the echo of my father’s terrible laughter disappearing into an inner darkness, where he waited to lay his giant hands upon the world. On the other side of my senses, there was the smell of burning flowers…

My mother’s perfume.

As I stood in stunned silence, mentally pushing away my insipient and desperate curiosity, I watched the pale hands of moonlight struggle through the gore-sprayed windows, sifting through the devastation, slightly reddened by their journey beyond blood. And I could feel the killing-dream still lingering over me. Tom Hush was still alive, and nearby.

I heard a vehicle start. I ran in the direction of the sound, towards a barred window. As I dashed across the corpse-littered floor, I heaped darkness and silence upon that raw, reopened memory, hoping to drown it away, forever. The sound of my flesh overcoming steel bars and concrete did well to mute the shouting children, cursing me. The ruin of the wall was swept up in my wake, following me out upon the rooftop, three stories above the ground. The reawakened memory was right behind me, burning with a merciless recollection.

Below, I could see a single pair of headlights piercing the night. I leapt into the darkness, my father stretched-out in front of me; and forsaking silence, I roared through my parched throat, making a sound like thunder falling down a mountain. I watched my shadow soar across the pavement beneath me, framed in moonlight, closing on what I quickly recognized as an ambulance.

My father and I crashed through the cab of the vehicle, my body raked by the riven steel and glass. The back of the vehicle smashed down upon the road from the weight of my fall, calling up a geyser of sparks. Glass and steel fragments were still turning through the air when I returned my father to his rest. Then I plunged my open hand beyond the small window that looked into the driver’s compartment. My fingers closed over the intervening steel partition, tearing away the divider as if it were paper, revealing the driver: a hapless professor of folklore, overfilled with the unwholesome essence of a god of secrets.

Tom Hush produced a pistol and emptied some of its contents into my body, all while laughing hysterically, and calling out to me above the din of screaming, sundered steel and shrieking rubber. “Do you feel their hatred, Donald?! Their righteous rage reaching out from your own broken mind, demanding retribution?! The god’s aim was terrible, and his shots struck something volatile behind me, causing it to explode, splashing fire and glass and serrated steel across, and into, my back.

I didn’t care.

The ambulance was careening out of control as it skidded into a tight knot of busy traffic. The weight of the barreling emergency vehicle prevailed over the smaller cars caught within its zigzagging path, smashing them high into the moonlit darkness, where they wheeled and corkscrewed; the impact also hurled me through the windshield, but not before I caught hold of Tom as we both tumbled through space, my fingers passing through the flesh of his shoulder and alighting upon bones that broke like twigs beneath my grip.

My free hand seized the overhang of the vehicle, and I pulled Tom and myself flush with the remaining glass of the flaming ambulance, even as it flew across lane after lane of angry, blaring traffic. I drew him close to my face, which was intermittently outlined in blazing firelight and glowing streetlamps, and growled my declaration: “I will crush whatever lives you hide behind, creature, until there’s only yours left to kill, but before I’m finished with you, you will know pain beyond skin and screams. This I promise you.”

Tom’s stolen face twisted into a blistering expression of hatred that outstripped his host’s ability to articulate, and so Tom’s pale coating of erudite professor was shred into gory flaps of hanging facial flesh, revealing the death-mask the antlered god was far better known for wearing. And when the meat of his face had all but retreated from his cleft, glistening skull, Tom’s cracked teeth and bloody tongue came together around the words of his counter proposal: “And I’ll have forgotten your name moments after you’ve failed, little killer.”

Before I could sink Tom’s new face into, and beyond, the steel of the vehicle’s hood, the ambulance violently hurdled over a concrete street divider and proceeded to thunder down darkened inner-city streets, and all throughout, my dream-fueled strength kept the god and I secured to the vehicle. But when the ambulance struck a large truck, and flipped and rolled, over and over, until it finally went crashing through the mostly glass façade of a luxury hotel and came to rest within its glittering lobby, I finally relinquished my grip upon vehicle and god.

I rose from the conflagration, glaring at the possessed man-thing standing only inches away from me, whose wavering smile was only barely serviced by his scarcely remaining flesh. More gunshots rang out as Tom produced another pistol, and bullets splintered some of my favorite bones and roared through my mangled and smoking flesh.

I still didn’t care.

I didn’t care about the shepherd’s game, nor the massing army of police forming at my back. Not even the terrible memory that burned through the halls of my mind like poison fire gave me pause. All I desired was currently backpedaling away from me, wearing a ruined folklorist…and wondering how a simple man should rise from a bloodstained alter, bearing fire and vengeance against the gods.

Uncategorized, Weird Book entries

From Chapter 6 of the Weird Book: The Elvicsteins and the Deadnaut

The following interview was recorded by the famed weird journalist, Arthur W. Hague, in Norwich, Britain, 1964. Mr. Hague had tracked down and found an individual claiming to have information regarding the strange rumors surrounding the Elvicsteins—a reclusive German family surrounded by rumors of mysticism and forbidden scientific experimentation, especially as it pertains to their activities during the Second World War. The individual whose testimony you will read below requested that Mr. Hague not divulge his identity, and so his name was never tendered in his report:

“I’m not a looney, y’know? I’ve a sound mind despite my love for the drink. Besides, I was sober as a judge the night it happened; ya’ gotta be when you’re on a job– theivin’ ain’t something you can do when you’re three sheets to the wind. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it takes a meticulous sort to be robbin’ folks the way I do, so there ain’t no way what I saw wasn’t real– it was as real as you, me, and this bloody shot of whiskey right here.
Now, as you know, the Elvicsteins have always been a curious bunch. Sure, Germany’s got their fair share of weirdos (especially with all of those ex-Nazis peekin’ about), but none of them hold a candle to the rumors floatin’ ’round about those Elvicstein blokes. Rumor is that the patriarch, Heinrich, worked on some pretty shady stuff during WWII; while others say that the family ain’t even human, and that they cavort, among other things (if you catch my meaning), with the dead. But regardless of what tall tale you want to believe, every single one of them claims those Elvicstein fellas are sitting on a pile of money. That’s why I went up there, y’see– I was hired to rob them.

Now, I usually don’t like to travel too much for a job, but this bloke I was working for was offering up a pretty penny, plus 20% of what I managed to find. So of course I went, despite having to travel all the way out to Quedlinburg. Bloody Quedlinburg! And on the outskirts no less! I can’t say that it wasn’t scenic, but these people were recluses, and I wasn’t too fond of the idea of being out in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of people rumored to be ‘cavorting with the dead.’ Y’know what I’m saying?
Anyway, I parked my car in a thick patch of trees about half a mile out and, when night fell, made my way to the Elvicstein estate. Now I’ve got to admit, the place was pretty posh, but there was just something about it that caused my blood to curdle. It was like the place gave off a coldness, a kind of emotional deadness that slips in and stows itself away in the darker parts of your brain. That’s really the only way I can describe it.

Anyway, a quick inspection of the place told me that it was sealed up good and tight. So, like any good burglar, I snuck around the back to find another way in. That’s when things took a turn towards Strangeville. Y’see, I’d never really been the superstitious sort, so I thought all of them stories about the Elvicsteins was just bunch of bollocks. But I’ll admit it– when I saw that the back end of the property was nothing less than a massive cemetery, headstones and all…well, I started to feel a little unnerved to say the least. The worst part about it? I had to walk through it in order to get to the back gates. But a deal’s a deal, right? And in my line of work you don’t walk away from a job just ‘cos your score is a bunch of eccentric bumpkins. So, I decided to move forward.

While I kept my calm for a good bit of time, I slowly began to feel it trickle away once I reached the graveyard entrance which read, ‘Elvicstein Cemetery.’ Like I said before, I’m not one to hold my breath around graveyards, but as I walked past the tombstones I felt that same coldness I mentioned before. It was like emotional rigor mortis, really–a stiffening of the heart strings if you can understand what I’m sayin’. Quite frankly, it was hard to muster even the will to go on, like I’d been caught in emotional quicksand. But I managed to trudge through, and that’s when weird turned into just downright terrifying.

The ground started to shake, y’see, and there was this huge, terrible thumping noise coming from the west side of the cemetery, and it was coming fast. Well, o’course, I hurried my arse behind the largest gravestone I could find. I thought it might of been some weird machine or something, since that ol’ bloke Heinrich had supposedly been tinkering with some weird stuff back in WWII. But what I saw wasn’t no machine, and it sure as hell weren’t no man either: standing out there in the dark, with strange wisps of glowing fog coiling around it, was this behemoth…monster. The thing couldn’t have been less than 12 feet tall, and all over its body were bones, human ones, snaking all around its pale, dead flesh. And those bones weren’t just wrapped around it, oh no! They were coming out of it, like they was part of its body or something! But that weren’t it; remember that coldness I keep talking about? Well wouldn’t you know it– when that thing showed up it felt like bloody winter had arrived! And not just physically either. For a few moments I felt absolutely nothing; hell, I didn’t care whether I lived or died! It sounds strange, but all I wanted to do was slip away– it was like death was singing me a lullaby and all I wanted, more than anything, was to drift into the music of it all. But then another loud thud jolted me out of it, and I ran as fast as I could out of that godforsaken place and towards the forest line. When I built up the courage to look back, which was long after I had escaped the company of all those graves, I could see that the entirety of that accursed cemetery was covered in that strange frosty blue mist. I swear on my pop’s grave that not only could I still see the shape of that lumbering undead thing, but also a collection of floating shadows–each one with a pair of beaming cobalt eyes! And to top it all off, I could have sworn I’d seen another pair of those horrible glowing eyes peering out from one of the estate’s top floor windows! Suffice to say to say, once I got in my car I just kept driving, and I didn’t stop until the sun started to peek overtop of the hills.

Now o’course you’re wondering, ‘Well what happened with the guy that hired this theivin’ bloke? He must’ve been infuriated, right?’

Well, that’s the curious twist to this freakish little tale. When I got back to report the bad news, one of the middlemen I was working through said that my most recent employer, and apparently his men, had gone missing. And get this: the only thing that was found at their headquarters was a large, unearthed headstone; it was just lying there right in the middle of the bloody living room! And what’s more, the tombstone had a single word etched into its surface: ‘Elvicstein.’

Since then, I’ve never stepped foot across the German border, nor do I ever intend to. No sir, when I’m dead I prefer to be buried at the foot of my own grave, not someone else’s.”

Part 4: Of Legends and Shadows, Uncategorized

Chapter 9: All In the Family

My sisters were innocents in all of this, carved from the cleanest darkness, and smiling out of the softest love for blood, spilled only for fun and family. I could not bring them before our father, not like this. And as the Lord of Secrets hedged his bets by flooding the hallway with more of his madness-transformed orderlies, I thrust my sisters into the metamorphosed flesh of two of the nearest abominations. Instantly my sisters’ sweet smiles transferred themselves from steel and bone and into insanity-infected flesh, and their new bodies dripped with the honeyed and horrible laughter of the Devil’s children. They were beyond Tom’s reach, dispossessed of worldly knowledge, having chosen to fill their minds only with the brightest, sharpest thoughts a child could kill with.

As for my father, our battle would commence in the appropriate vein, where our weapons would be will and strength alone. But first I would have to relieve him of his weapon, trapped as he was within the stolen, dead body. The axe moved with prehistoric brutality, smashing about furiously, ceaselessly. But behind the apparently mindless violence worked the minds of two slaughter-honed monsters, each one’s wit whetted upon the broken bones of countless victims. With each swing of the giant weapon, my death drew closer and closer.

The dream that unfurled around us translated my father’s seething indignation into fire, which poured upwards and spilled across the ceiling; and pent within the raging flames was visible the shape of my father’s ruined face, filled with fury and stretched apart by the smile of a horned god.

I found a drifting patch of shadow and called it into my service, moving the itinerant darkness between myself and the deadly axe. And then I discovered a surging vein of silence that had been concentrated by the surrounding cacophony, and I quickly submerged myself into its ghostly rhythms, disappearing into the collected quiet.

My sisters sugarcoated the scene with wildest laughter and the squeals of the dying and mad monstrosities. My god, how beautiful the two of them were, free and feral, like animals of wildest fire, laughing and killing and dancing for the love of their dearest brother. They spun and leapt as they called out to our father. “Unburden yourself of your secret, father, and join us! What good is a secret but to ruin those who keep them? Secrets want to be told! Look at what fun our sweet brother has given to us! Look at us, father! Look at us killing and dancing and singing! Hurry and join us, before we’ve used it all up and there’s nothing left for you!”

My father’s burning eyes looked to his deadly daughters, where they played with death like two clever cats toying with wounded rodents. His envy ran thicker than the fire that poured from his dead flesh. It was then that I struck, springing from shadow and silence, seizing the handle of his axe and tearing it from his momentarily distracted grip. But the axe was sent crashing to the floor when my father’s fist collided with my face, detonating across my skull like solid thunder. His strength was brilliantly monstrous, and I knew instantly that my skull had been cracked from the blow. That being said, my own fist answered his bone-cracking attack by smashing open his dead, flaming mouth; and despite his hatred at being used as a puppet, I could see that my father thrilled at the prospect of a good fistfight.

And then Tom rudely violated the purity of our contest, smiling words into my father’s burning, broken mouth. “What secrets your father could tell you, boy! My goodness, what a horrible and wonderful thing that mother of yours was. That is, of course, if she is indeed your mother.” I could feel Tom’s hand moving around inside my mind, seeking out a secret for the seizing. That’s when I felt his power washing through me.

He found something.

“What’s this?! Tell me, who are all those children in the cages? Who put them in there, I wonder? Care to tell me?” I only half remembered what he was referencing, but his power was, with each passing moment, polishing off the horrible thing I had been made to forget, and his claim over me increased with each pass of his hand across the emerging face of the tarnished memory. Tom forced my arms down to my sides, allowing my father’s blazing fist to crash into my face, crushing my left eye into wet, pulpy blindness, and freeing three of my teeth into the air. Tom bellowed through my father’s fire-breathing mouth, “Who put them into the cages…. Donald!”

My Name. He found it. He was running amok through my mind, carelessly flinging secrets to the wind like a child pillaging a toy box. and, strangely, I found myself trying to mentally reinforce the barriers around the secreted memory, even though I wanted nothing more than to see through the fog and alight upon the truth, horrible or not.

My father carefully studied my face, even as he went about destroying it, blow after bone-smashing blow. But I could tell that the eyes that now looked upon me belonged only to my father, and that something powerful was stirring deep within them.
Another layer to the hidden memory was torn away beneath a storm of Tom’s laughter, and a terrible knowledge began to trickle into my once ruined recollection. I remembered that the cages were filled with little…muses. There were also paintings, such beautiful paintings, filling the walls of a wine cellar. I remember looking out from my own cage, which hung from the ceiling by a rusty chain.

He put us all in there…

Before the memory could reach its terminus, my father roared like never I’ve heard, his stolen body freezing, disallowing even the slightest twitch. He was trying to fight back the secret-eater’s grip. Tom only Laughed at my father’s efforts, but perhaps sensing change in the wind, the god-thing chose to rip my memory free of its prison, rather than waiting for the slow process of painful recollection to conclude its awful course.

A man’s voice emerged into the blacked-out spaces of my mind. “Donald, what a fine collection of cherubs you’ve led me to. That raw sugar of innocence! Oh how I admire the sweet crudity of childhood, its vast potential mixed with little limbs and soft skin. They will do nicely, my boy. Very nicely, indeed. There’s a showing next month, in a gallery not far from here, and my mind is already alive with the art from another world. Those lovely little ones will brighten my paints and bless my canvas, allowing dreams to flow like blood from the deepest wound, and all the world will love me for it!”

My body trembled as poison memories began to master my body. What had been done to me? What had I done? The man’s voice belonged to no one I could clearly remember. Tom was laughing again, holding my secret in his hand and squeezing it over my head, allowing its terrible juices to fall over me, seasoning my soul for the eating. I knew that once I remembered completely, I would be over, just an unhappy tenant of Tom Hush’s churning bowels.

“Poor little Donald, all alone with your terrible truth. No mother to whisper to you. No fiery father to save you. Your sisters all but lost to their darkest passions. Oh where, oh where has your family gone…Family Man?” Tom almost sang the words to me.

I looked to where my sisters whirled and laughed, splattered with death, having forgotten me within their wild, red dance. And then I moved my eyes to my father, where he struggled against the power of his captor, apparently in vein. I was almost entirely the property of the antlered god. I was no longer a wolf, but merely a caged animal…again, it would appear.

I could feel the finale of my once-forgotten and demonic memory fast approaching, the maw of Tom Hush widening; and I could feel myself falling across the bloodied alter of ancient stone, where man sacrifices to the horned god of darkest secrets.

Uncategorized, Weird Book entries

Chapter 6 of the Weird Book: Dr. Theodore Willard

While murderous doctors are certainly a common archetype used in both past and contemporary horror stories, few compare to the actually events that took place in the early 1900s in a small English town called Willard. A direct descendent of the city’s founders, which was established sometime during the late 1500s, Dr. Theodore Willard was the town physician and medical expert. In fact, his surgical expertise was known far and wide, and it wasn’t uncommon for people to travel long distances in order to receive his care. However, in the summer of 1917, Dr. Willard’s hospital was burnt to the ground (the cause of the fire was never determined), and what responders found in the debris was nothing short of horrifying: strange writings, bizarre torture devices, and countless bodies (in various states of hideous disrepair). While little is known about the specifics of Dr. Willard’s misdeeds, hints of his atrocities were left in a small personal journal recovered from the site of the fire. The following are excerpts from the journal of Dr. Willard himself:

February 17, 1889
“Sadism is as old as man itself. Somewhere along the line, while our monkey ancestors were scrambling up the rungs of the evolutionary ladder, it became adaptive—no, preferable—to delight in the pain of others. So no, I feel no shame in being the recipient of such a formidable (not to mention enjoyable) psychological gift. Nor has any member of my family for that matter, not in all the years that they drew breath, or robbed others of their own. It reflects a wonderful kind of efficiency If you think about it: all that pain, all those agonizing screams—they would just go to waste without people like me, disappear into the ether like fumes into the sky. Yes, of course, I evoke the anguish, but such is the nature of all living things: for one to live, sometimes others must die (but hopefully not too fast; dying is a regrettable side effect of experiencing so much pain, I would do away with death altogether if nature permitted).”

June 12, 1897
“Something peculiar happened today, something wonderfully peculiar. I was experimenting with one of my new methods on Ms. Johansson today—a lovely woman who has delivered me hours of uninterrupted fun—and when she cried out I noticed something different about it. Yes, stimulating the sciatic nerve directly with extreme heat is bound to summon a couple of unique wails, but once I began to remove Ms. Johansson’s fingernails…well, I could swear I heard something else in those screams. A voice, a terribly wonderful voice, speaking through the shrieks somehow. Speaking to me! It was so bloody wonderful! I’m usually not one to give into fanciful delusions, no matter how delectable they may seem (in my line of work it pays to be meticulous and careful, falling prey to whimsy can quickly spell one’s undoing), but this certainly merits further investigation. Sadly, poor Ms. Johansson won’t be joining me on the exciting journey she helped begin, as I’m afraid she has given all that she can give. I’ll burn what’s left of her in the crematorium tomorrow.”

June 15, 1897
“Oh what a joyous, joyous day! I’m so excited I can barely write this, but I must! I MUST! If for no other reason than to re-visit these pages again and bask in their wonderful meaning! After days of trying, days of pain stricken screams and endlessly red floors, I have done it! But I must calm myself! I have to record these moments just right, lest the words not paint as vivid a picture the next time I read them.
It wasn’t until I found the Brinkmires, a family I found living in the back alleys of London, that I was able to summon the voice again. I promised the whole bunch of them, a family of six, a place to stay. The only catch was that they let me run a couple basic medical tests on them (it always amazes me how desperate poverty makes people). Of course, next thing they knew they were strapped tight to a series of my steel tables, each family member directly adjacent to the other so that they might see the twisting faces of those they love (pain is as much psychological as it is physical, after all). Oh, how beautiful they looked: a fleshy circuit of interconnected anguish where each one’s wails set off the next, looping over and over, hour after hour. Their shrieks were nothing less than a symphony, a carefully orchestrated aria of fear, pain, and utter desperation. And I was its conductor, desperately hoping to evoke the response of a very particular audience. And I did! Through the cacophony of so many howling lungs came a voice crafted from the purest agony, a horrific yet oddly saccharine tone steeped in a hurricane of bloodcurdling screams. My god, to hear it brought me to my knees! It was a voice made from a thousand screams, all calling my name! Oh, and what things it had to say, such wonderful things! It told me secrets of the most delicious and tantalizing kind! There is no time to waste, no time at all! I have new patients coming, and a new era of pain to let spill into this world.”

October 24, 1899
“I now sleep to songs of saws and rusty machinations—lullabies for the sadist. But ‘sadist’ is such a primitive estimation of what I am now, isn’t it? I no longer seek pain for its mere enjoyment; I seek it for its sustenance, its oh-so-sweet flavor that dances along my taste buds at the faintest sense of another’s discomfort. I haven’t eaten real food in months, and yet I am fat with the spoils of torture. My palate has become a delicate aficionado of only the finest cuisines of pain, none that traditional techniques could ever tease out. No, these flavors can only be appreciated by those who have gone beyond the threshold, to that magnificent sphere of screams, where the Pain Eaters (that’s what I call them) dwell. It is they who have blessed me; they who have whispered to me the formulas of cruelty; they who have shared with me the great and terrible miracles of their prized pain engineering—the ‘Tortuaries.’ Where once there were walls of white, now there are rusted halls, rooms and pits fitted with the most nightmarish of machines; vats of strange green acid housing scores of screaming visitors; red hot Iron Maidens teeming with bizarre hooks and teeth; gigantic drills that burrow into the secreted spaces of man’s most elusive pain centers; but the miracle of this feat of black engineering is not its capacity to kill, but its capacity to keep its victims alive! I have fed from those who should have died a hundred times over, each time their pain more succulent than the last!”

September 29, 1909
“I think I’ve found a fitting protégé. Not only do I no longer have a capacity to feel pain, but I’ve a sense of those who find its infliction as enticing as I do. He’s a rather portly young fellow, but his knack for conjuring screams is uncanny! He was a natural from the start! It took only a few months for the Pain Eaters to introduce themselves, but when they did the man didn’t hesitate one bit, not one bit! Ever since, we’ve both delighted upon the screams of the infirmed. HAHAHA! I dare say the young chap has gotten even fatter since he lost his taste for earthly foods—his gluttony applies to pain even more than it does to pies!”

March 22, 1917:
“My understudy has finally journeyed out on his own, leaving me, yet again, to my own devices. It’s a comforting feeling really, as we both seem to be the solitary type. Besides, I’ve little tolerance for those for who would attempt to pilfer my spoils, and Neeman, I’m afraid to say, was quite the glut.
I let my most recent prisoner, Gregory, escape yesterday (at least that’s what I let him think)—the pain is so much more agreeable when it’s been spiced with hope. But it was that same hope that got me thinking about my own aspirations. I dream of one day entering that screaming abyss and seeing its many wonders: the ‘Angels of Mercy’; the infamous ‘Isle of Fatted Calves’; and the ‘Great Hall of Pain,’ itself. Oh, how I would give anything to walk through the ‘Pastures of Broken Hope,’ or perhaps peruse the legendary ‘Libraries of Agony,’ with their burning books and flesh-seared pages. My goodness, how I dream of that day! I keep telling myself ‘someday, Theodore, someday.’ I hope that ‘someday’ comes soon.”

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SNEAK PEEK AT THE NEW HORROR SERIES: DEVIL’S CLAY

The soil there has always been a peculiar thing. Of course, you wouldn’t think so just by looking at it. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to pinpoint a single distinguishing feature that separates it from its more banal, and quite frankly, nurturing, cousin. No, most of you would just see plains of brown mire and swaths of red dirt: An inconvenient place to walk should you accidentally track its remnants into your newly carpeted home.

Stay awhile, though, and you start to notice things, like the particularities of its flora, or the wickedly formed trees bedeviling its woods. By the time you’ve decided to move on, you might have even noticed a certain unnerving quality—a fleeting sense that just below your feet lies an old and smoldering darkness. But when you’ve finally decided to leave, and you peek back to gain one last glimpse at that peculiar little town, it might reveal to you (for only the briefest of seconds) a sliver of its true nature: You might notice that the houses you saw were really the bent reflections of places far more sinister; that the weird people you met were nothing more than fleshy marionettes, beholden to some unseen puppeteer in the sky; that under the ground where you stood, only moments ago, thrives a black and industrious ecosystem feeding the land with the distilled essence of long buried evils. Then, and only then, might you have an inkling of an idea of what terrors reside in the town of Devil’s Clay.

As an inhabitant of Greywitch, I have the unfortunate displeasure of always being close to that wretched place; for our town clings to its demonic borders, and as such, is often host to its parasitic appetites. I sometimes wonder if the earth itself senses its presence, if it, like us, yearns to somehow cut that fiendish hamlet from the rest of it’s body. Sadly, it seems that whatever forces prevail in that accursed burg, they are strong enough to humble even the world itself, stilling its will and keeping us both firmly drawn to its fangs.

But Devil’s Clay is not simply home to some wicked form of darkness—it is also a beacon of sorts, a dire lighthouse to which lost evils are drawn. Over the years it has offered its dark hospitalities to many strange visitors, most of whom have traveled through our town, each one swallowing our humble ranks beneath their stygian shadow. Stories abound regarding these weird figures. For instance, two years ago a strange woman strolled into a local tavern and performed a song, that according to the stories, caused attendants to see “visions” of a “burning universe.” Witnesses claimed they saw scores of behemoth things writhing in the flames, their screams dwarfed only by the maddened laughter of some unseen, cosmic arsonist. Another account took place in an abandoned barn on the edge of town, where Ray Borniak swears that he saw a man being burned alive in a giant, weird looking “lantern.” Ray went on to claim that the owner of the man-sized lamp then used the flames to cast a bizarre and frightful “shadow puppet show”—an orgy of black shapes that played on the wood-rotted walls of a dying barn. And it was only a few weeks ago that some of us saw that rusted-out old car drive by, the motor of which not only lacked the conventional hum of similar vehicles, but instead, seemed to operate through some horrific form of black engineering. The sounds coming from beneath the car’s hood were unforgettable; for they could only have been the pain stricken screams of tortured men, women, and sadly, children.

For centuries, the people of our community have been held in silent bondage by that awful town, and there has been little done to stop it. Until now. As I write this, several people are plundering our town records for insights, while others are trying to excavate old stories and clues from local elders. There are even a few of us, myself included, who will be going into the town of Devil’s Clay itself; otherwise, no one will ever come to believe us, and, consequently, we will never stand a chance of receiving help. It’s this last point I would like to stress. You see, we are not simply here to share our plights with you, we are here to plead for your help. But please believe me when I say inaction on your part will not only doom us, but everyone. For make no mistake—the reach of Devil’s Clay is far, and after we, the people of Greywitch, have finally been swallowed by it’s hungry shadow, the rest of the world will not be far behind.