After the close of the Great Darkness of 1999, reports of a bizarre entity terrorizing a small community in Killarney, Manitoba became national news. It all began in the summer of 2002, when several residents reported the discovery of large holes punctuating their backyards. When local authorities finally investigated the claims, they quickly realized that what they were looking at was much more than a simple case of destruction of property. Specifically, each hole was stuffed with a veritable menagerie of desiccated animals, which included missing neighborhood pets and a wide array of wildlife; all of which were found in varying states of decay. But perhaps most disturbing was that each carcass was wrapped in a tapestry of thick webbing, as if they’d been spun into a cocoon…and then drained of all their juices by some sort of gigantic spider.
In addition to the bizarre “burrows” being dug into residents’ lawns, sightings of a peculiar man loitering in those same areas began to pour in. Descriptions of a tall, gangly man wearing a long duster and whistling old nursery rhymes began to circulate throughout the community. In fact, his presence seemed to foreshadow the appearance of the aforementioned holes: anytime police received word of a sighting, they could be sure the next day would bring hours of sifting through webbing and drained animal corpses.
However, as time went on, sightings of the man became more bizarre: one story had eight long and spindly legs extending out from the strange man’s coat, which he used to quickly scuttle up the side of a neighbor’ house, and disappear beneath the shade of a crumbling chimney. Another account has the weird man trying to break through a heating vent in a local resident’s living room, where a little girl claimed to have seen the crooked grin of a hideous “bug man” pressing his face against the grate. In this last account, the eight legs were reported sprouting from the sides of the man-monster’s head, and framed the image of the strange entity, leading to the fashioning of the name the creature would be remembered by: Mr. Spider-head.
However, none of these instances compare to the events of September 26, 2002, which resulted in the disappearance of a six-year-old boy, Toby Meyers, from his home. At approximately two that morning, the father, Alfred Meyers, claimed to have heard sounds echoing up from the bottom of his house. Upon reaching the cellar stairway, Mr. Meyers said he heard a muffled scream, and a barrage of loud “thuds.” He rushed down the steps, concerned that something might be wrong, and entered the dank spaces of his basement. He was greeted by a scene of unparalleled horror: There, dangling out from a small rusted pipe, was Meyer’s son, frantically kicking his legs in an attempt to escape whatever it was that had him. Mr. Meyers desperately tried to pull his boy out from the pipe, but he quickly saw his son disappear into the emptiness the drainage pipe, wrenched from his grip by something that moved through the deepest darkness, and left webs and dried corpses in its wake. According to the boy’s father, the last thing he heard were the fading words to “itsy bitsy spider,” echoing out from the blackness. Toby Meyer’s body was never found, and the dreadful “Mr. Spider-head” was never seen again.
As many people know, the City of Wrotha was discovered in 2010 by a farmer in Greenland. However, after a lengthy legal battle regarding the ownership of the ruins, the ancient city eventually came under the ownership of the Denmark government. As such, a research team was sent in to investigate the site’s historical significance. However, in late January of 2015 the impossible happened: the half mile long city disappeared, along with the research team that was in it. Upon investigation of the site, the journal of a one Dr. Timothy Fisker, the lead Archeologist of the research team, was found buried near the site. The following is the content of that journal:
Journal Entry: November 2, 2015
As an archaeologist, I’ve been privy to some of the world’s most impressive architectural feats—the pyramids of Egypt; ancient Incan ruins in Peru; buried cities in Sudan—but as I sit here, surrounded by the peculiar statuary of a mysterious and bygone people, I find myself taken aback in ways that I’ve never experienced. Most places tell their stories using the same old lexicon, speaking in buried bones, excavated rock and motes of coughed up dust. Things are different here, though. There is an aura, a conflagrant sense of something ancient, but still very much present. I can’t quite put my finger on it, not yet.
They call this place the “Garden City of Wrotha.” How it got that name is almost as peculiar as the name itself, as the owner of the land it was discovered upon claimed to have heard it in a dream. A day later he discovered the city (you can see why a story like that might stick). Of course, the legal battle between Mr. Bystrom (the owner of the land) and the local government regarding the ownership of the ruins was decidedly less garish. But much to Mr. Bystrom’s chagrin, “the man” won and he was forced to relocate for only a pittance of what his property was actually worth. And while I believe that such a unique landmark deserves governmental protection, I can’t help but feel bad for Mr. Bystrom. At least the name remained (that’s something, I suppose).
Anyway, I can’t wait to dig deeper into this place. At the risk of being too presumptuous, I believe we might be looking at one of the most important archaeological finds since the end of the Great Darkness.
Journal Entry: November 7, 2015
This place is bigger than we thought. Phillip, our team geologist, says it goes all the way down into the ice shelf. How it got down there is a matter of speculation. We’re also not sure how it managed to migrate so close to the surface that a farmer was able to see it simply by turning over the soil. According to Phil, this place actually rose up from the glacial shelf and settled into the local sediment, instead of being unearthed gradually through the process of erosion (as is usually the case in these instances). Phil postulates warming arctic waters may have caused large ice sheets to shift, effectively pushing other sheets towards the surface (it couldn’t have just risen up by itself, after all).
In addition to the bizarre circumstances surrounding its discovery, the place itself is quite strange. For one, the statues and monuments punctuating its labyrinthine hallways and giant rooms are clearly inhuman (yet somehow display some influence of humanity, however miniscule). These beings, for lack of a more specific designation, seem to be paragons of a sort—large, majestic creatures, muscular in build, with strange elongated skulls, which sometimes displays marking not unlike tattoos or brands. And the craftsmanship is spectacular, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Strangely, which is a word that is all to frequently uttered in this place, we haven’t been able to discover how they were made. The substance, whatever it is (Phil has yet to identify it), does not seem particularly malleable, and there is no evidence of chiseling or stonecutting of any sort. It’s as if these statues were not hewn, but instead were naturally occurring (this is clearly an impossibility, and it is only a matter of time, I suspect, before we determine the specific manner through which these effigies were made).
This place never ceases to amaze me.
Journal Entry: November 17, 2015
Phil is missing and several members of the team have become…paranoid. Nancy Lindholm, an archeologist of some repute, keeps raving about hearing voices in the deeper areas of the structure (I’m inclined to believe they’re coming from inside her head, rather than the spacious chambers lining these ruins). Others swear that the hallways are somehow shifting, re-configuring themselves so as to (seemingly) prohibit travel into certain areas. While I certainly don’t believe the building is metamorphosing (I’m not a lunatic), I do know that this place is huge and can, as a result, easily lead to someone getting lost within its complicated corridors. That is why, no doubt, Phil is missing.
Still, with all of the superstitious ramblings, and Ms. Lindholm’s ludicrous claims of ancient denizens lurking in the bowels of these ruins, I can’t help but feel a bit shaken-up myself. I just need some sleep.
Journal Entry: January 18, 2015
It’s all true! All of it! I didn’t want to believe it, but then I began to hear voices, just like the ones Dr. Lindholm claimed to hear. But they weren’t just disembodied whispers, or echoes floating like ghosts down some old cobwebbed hallway; they were coherent, and they were directed at me. Not through any traditional means, mind you; but through some sort of telepathy. There’s no other way to explain it!
A few days ago, Lindholm and I finally decided to go look for Phil, so we made our way down into the deeper recesses of the structure. After some time, we finally happened upon a sealed room. It would have never even drawn our attention if it weren’t for the faint emerald glow leaking out from beneath its doors. We quickly drew out a crowbar and, after much effort, managed to pry the stone entrance open. We should never have opened that door.
In front of us was a jungle of wires and electronic ligature. Standing against the far wall, punctuating a thicket of winding coils and tangled circuitry, were large liquid-filled vats. Inside them were floating…things. Horrific, indescribable things. Together they stood there, stolid and titanic, like quiet sentinels standing watch over a meek habitat of silicon and beeping machines. It wasn’t until we got closer that we noticed a capsule of smaller proportions, sitting just below the larger ones. Phil was in it—unconscious—floating like a fetus in the amniotic ether. I felt terrible for him. In that moment, all I could think about was his state of being: was he alive? Or had he succumbed to the lunacy of it all, and acquiesced to sleep and the paraformaldehyde dreams that would allow him to wash away this world in exchange for another?
The next instant was nothing more than a flash and a scream. I turned only to see Dr. Lindholm pointing the smoking barrel of a pistol (I didn’t even know she had one) toward something large on the far end of the room. And although I couldn’t gain a clear look at whatever startled her, I was certainly witness to its terrible capabilities.
Dr. Lindholm was lifted into the air like a fallen leaf in the autumn wind—weightless and whimsical. But as she floundered, desperate to find some kind of footing, I could sense a pressure mounting, the kind you might feel right before an explosion, or when a jet takes off. That’s when I heard her bones begin to crack and the wet song of her flesh and organs being forced into one single, tiny space. As visual creatures, you would think it was the image of watching her body crumple into a small, dripping ball that would disturb me the most. But it wasn’t. It was the sounds that she made, the desperate cacophony of screams and wails, and the sound of a culminated life, bold and bright, concluding with a single, unceremonious “thump.”
I closed my eyes and waited for my turn to die. But it never came. Instead, my mind became a rarely traveled road into places both unseen and unknown. Whatever it was that ended Dr. Lindholm’s life decided to reveal to me another. It saw my thoughts, and as a result, it afforded me a glimpse of its own. Its mind is another world, the plains of which I have only begun to explore.
Since the disappearance of Phil, and now Lindholm, the team has become scared. As a result, I’ve had to assuage there fears for the past couple of hours, just until my new friends from below have made sure they can’t leave. For you see, to gain new knowledge, there are sacrifices that must be made. I’ll miss my team; they were good people.
Final Entry: December 2, 2015
So much is known to me now! I’ve seen landscapes made from midnight; seas of roiling fluids brimming with hunting, carnivorous shapes; I’ve even seen peeks and glimpses of the Great Darkness (a sight that, if witnessed, would surely send man back to the padded white corridors he sought so desperately after that un-remembered year).
Yesterday I saw one of the entities. They look exactly like their stone depictions, except even more regal…and ferocious. I know now why the members of my team (God rest their souls) thought the “walls were moving.” For that matter, I also know why the statues embellishing this entire place did not show any evidence of being sculpted or cleaved. You see, these things are not slaves to reality, they are masters of it. I’m not sure how to explain it, but these creatures cannot just manipulate matter, they can create it (or at least rearrange it in such a way that it takes an alternative form). They call it “psycho-incarnation.”
But perhaps the most revelatory thing I’ve discovered is what these entities claim to be. To put it simply: they are the first men. While they will not allow me the full extent of their history, I know that they are…human. The original men.
I have also heard of their maker, a thing beyond even their vast understanding, living somewhere in the hidden heart of the great city. When they speak of this being—their “father,” as they call him—their nearly inscrutable faces appear, if only momentarily, within the visible spectrum of human understanding: fear.
But if this is all true, and they are indeed the first humans, the question remains: what are we?
While most of the established literature regarding the Great Darkness’s effects focus on cultural, religious, and social changes, little information has been gathered regarding how another important facet of society has been altered: crime. In specific, little data exists pertaining to how various organized crime groups—such as mafias, drug cartels, or syndicates—have been altered as a function of the events of 1999.
In a particularly strange account, recorded in the interrogation room of a police office in Agrigento, Sicily 2003, a member of the notorious Napoleone crime family, Salvatore Idoni, describes a confrontation with rival family, the Furios. According to him, shortly after the Darkness, the Furio family underwent an abrupt change in leadership, one that seemed to drastically alter the nature of the two family’s conflict. The following is a transcribed and translated account of that interview:
Investigator Selmo: It looks like you’re in a bit of tight spot, huh Salvatore? After last night’s fiasco, I think you’re gonna want to start talking. Why don’t you give us something on the Napoleones and the Furios, huh? Give us something actionable, y’know what I mean? Then maybe we can help you out, maybe keep you away from certain people who might suspect your current whereabouts, hmm?
Salvatore: …Doesn’t matter anymore…. You ain’t gonna be able to protect me…
Investigator Selmo: Well, we’ll see about that. Start spilling.
Salvatore: Just a short time after the Darkness, we heard that Giovanni disappeared—
Investigator Selmo: Giovanni Furio? The head of the Furio Family?
Salvatore: Yeah, who else?! (Chuckling) You telling me you guys didn’t even know that Gio’s gone!?
(Silence fills the room)
Salvatore: Anyways, that’s when things started to change. These new guys started to muscle-in on our territory.
Investigator Selmo: Names, Sal, give me names.
Salvatore: (Chuckling again) Sure thing boss! It was those two new families that joined the Furios. The ones no one ever heard of before—the Dragonetti and Demovincci families. But I’ll tell you what, ain’t nothing you and your boys are gonna do to stop them. They ain’t normal.
Investigator Selmo: Not normal?
Salvatore: Yeah, not normal, as in not freakin’ human! They killed my men like they was nothing, ripped them apart and left them to rot. Wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it for myself, a few months ago. They wear these weird vials around their neck, ya see? And when they take a swig from one of them…well, ya’ better get used to dodging body parts is all I gotta say.
Investigator Selmo: You expect me to believe that?
Salvatore: I don’t care what you believe. The truth is that I’m already dead. We either join the Furios, or we get buried, or worse. That’s just how it is now. But go ahead, check it out for yourself. I’d be happy to introduce you to them.
(The Investigator let’s out a long sigh)
Investigator Selmo: So tell us what happened last night? What happened at the Napoleone vineyard? What happened to the men there? And where is Don Angelo Napoleone?
Salvatore: (a long pause) Ain’t nothing you’re gonna believe…Don’t know if I believe it myself…
(Another long pause fills the room)
Salvatore: Our numbers were dwindling. I mean, half of us were either already dead, or defected to the other side. The few of us that were left all went to the Vineyard, where we were protecting Angelo. We figured we had the numbers for one big, last stand. Angelo ain’t never been one to back down, y’know?
Investigator Selmo: Keep going.
Salvatore: It was about 10 at night when it happened. I heard the guards near the forest line start firing…and then I heard screaming…I never knew men could make sounds like that. Anyway, I went outside to check on things and… I swear to God, I ain’t never seen anything like it. Out there in the woods I could see this giant…thing! It looked like a wrinkled old man, but he didn’t have any freakin’ eyes! He was wearing one of them weird burial shrouds, too! Looked like something you’d see in one of those history channel documentaries, or at some old-fashioned funeral. And I can’t be sure…but I think…I think I even saw a pair of giant, grey wings!
Investigator Selmo: You’re saying you, and the rest of the Napoleone family, were accosted by a giant, winged geriatric, is that right Sal? That’s the story you wanna tell? Tell me, did he beat you all to death with his walker? (Laughing) Maybe he drowned your friends, and Mr. Napoleone, in his giant bedpan. Are you seriously going to stick with this story!? C’mon!
Salvatore: (a nervous chuckle) I know how it sounds, but that’s the god’s honest truth. In fact, Mr. Napoleone and the boys had the same reaction when I told them. But that all changed when the door burst open….
Investigator Selmo: Well, don’t keep me waiting, Sal! I’m dying to hear how this bull-crap story ends!
Salvatore: It was the same elderly guy I saw in the woods, but now he was smaller, about eight feet tall. My memory’s a bit foggy, but I remember that he was just dripping with dust. I mean, he was covered in tons of the stuff! After that, things are a bit spotty. I remember…I remember my friends screaming when that old man just walked through their bullets. And when he touched them… It’s like they just started to wither into loose skin and bones! It’s like he freakin’ aged them or something! Hell, some of them literally exploded into piles of dust!
Investigator Selmo: (long sigh) And how exactly did you manage to escape, Sal? A magic carpet?
Salvatore: Even easier, I slipped out the back door. After all of the commotion died down, I went around the house to see if everything was clear. It wasn’t. Out in front of the house were some of the Demovincci and Dragonetti. I could tell because of the vials around there necks. They were helping the old man into this huge…machine. It looked like a gigantic Iron Lung, except that it had weird inscriptions carved all over it. After that, I just ran for the woods. About an hour later, you idiots picked me up.
Investigator Selmo: I’m going to ask you this once, Sal. Where’s your boss?! Where is Angelo!?
Salvatore: (loud laughter) You guys really are thick, aren’t you?! You’ve already got’em!
Investigator Selmo: All we have is a bunch of dust-piles, and an old man who doesn’t seem to know who, or where, he is!
Salvatore: that’s just it, Einstein. That old man IS Angelo!
Two weeks later, Salvatore Idoni, who was only 32 years of age, was found unconscious in an alley way in east Agrigento. Upon being admitted to the hospital, he was found to be suffering from the advanced stages of Alzheimer disease.
Investigator Selmo was last reported entering a well-known Furio hang-out, presumably to question some of its members. All that was ever found of him was his name tag, and a pile of dust.
“Dark Hat” is a slang term used to describe members of the religion known as “Domus Tenebris et in Umbra,” which translates from the Latin as, “Shadows in the House of Darkness.” The religion is said to have predated the Great Darkness of 1999, however only very small bands of extremely reclusive groups are known to have practiced it, or some form of it. The religion did not enjoy any formal representation until 2003, when the numbers of its followers became significant enough to warrant official recognition. In 2006, the resources of the group were revealed significant enough to purchase sufficient land and materials to erect an entire city, now known as “Nighthead.” While many other Darkness-related religions and orders are known to have contributed to this effort, it was the “House of Nox” that facilitated the majority of the resources required to raise the city.
Much of the order is seated within Nighthead, with only a few, and much smaller, orders found in other, neighboring municipalities. The core beliefs of this religion are largely shrouded in mystery, with its most conspicuous views apparently consisting of an aversion to sunlight, and the donning of dark, light-blocking clothing. Beyond these few superficial details, the majority of the group’s beliefs are unknown, which has caused for much, sometimes quite negative, speculation as to the group’s nature and ultimate purpose.
The city, and perhaps the origin of the religion itself, surrounds one of the largest Darkness artifacts currently known, the Great Pyramid of Nox. The artifact is many times the size of any other known pyramid, and is hewn from many layers of black, lusterless stone. Virtually nothing (official) is known about the innards of the structure, as the moment it was discovered it was purchased from the landowners whose lands it rambled across. The buyer was later revealed as Winston Marcato, one of the founding members of the “Order of a New Darkness,” a sub-group in the larger religion that was unified under the aforementioned Latin designation.
One of the most persistent rumors concerning the Dark Hats and their city, concerns another, darker city that is said to dwell just beneath Nighthead: Unduur. This subterranean city is said to be the home of extra-galactic beings who dwell in the “First Darkness,” the darkness that existed before “its contamination by the torches of the universe, the stars.”
While most people have come to avoid the Dark Hats, one reporter, Cliff Laurens, attempted to gather more information on the elusive group. Below is a brief report of his investigation:
“No one likes the Dark Hats, and I mean no one. Not only does their presence frighten the locals, but their persistence after the conclusion of the Great Darkness was considered, by many, to be…well, in bad taste. So, like any good journalist, I sought to kick up some controversy, and get a bit more familiar with our hat-loving friends. It was, perhaps, the single worst decision I ever made.
For the most part, I did what most reporters do: I skulked around, shadowed persons of interest, and snapped off some pictures when no one was looking. It was a routine snoop job, really. I even broke into one of the Dark Hats’ ‘churches’, and that’s when my curiosity shifted from journalistic to morbid. Usually, I’m not one to be easily spooked, but when I crossed the threshold of that cold chapel, and saw the inhuman statues that were sculpted from coal, I started to wonder if there wasn’t something to all the rumors. But it wasn’t just the monstrous statues that gave me the creeps, but the weird darkness that was so thick it seemed to drip and ooze from the corners of the place. There were no light switches to be found anywhere, not even a lamp. My first thought was that it was a courtesy paid to the darkness, and my next was that no light would be strong enough to clear away all that gloom.
I don’t know how to describe it, but it felt like I was in some kind of greenhouse, where a species of exotic darkness was being grown in the place of flowers. I left that place, terrified, feeling not only the gaze of strange, stone statues, but the weird darkness that seemed like it was being…cultivated.”
While he is often depicted as human, “Jack Plague” is generally believed to be a force of nature, one that is housed in the shape of a strange, yellow-garbed man. Similar to other harbinger-like paranormal entities (Mothman, Banshee, Barguest, etc.) Jack Plague’s appearance is often brief and associated with calamitous events. Specifically, this bizarre entity is said to appear just before the occurrence of an outbreak or epidemic, casually strolling about, tapping out a happy tune with his strange cane, which has been occasionally described as an inverted caduceus, sometimes aflame with sickening, yellow fire. While Jack Plague’s existence is largely attributed to the effects of mass hysteria, there is a curious consistency across reports that have led some to believe in the authenticity of said sightings. One such report takes place in Venezuela, 1992, where an outbreak of an unknown and lethal strain of smallpox wiped out 3,000 in the small town of Caigua. Doctor Carlos Huerta, a doctor treating patients at a local hospital, tendered the following report just a day before the outbreak:
It was about two in the morning when I heard something strange, like singing. At first I thought it was one of the security guards, but the singing had an accent to it, and all of the guards I knew were local. When I decided to come out of my office and look, I saw, to my surprise, all of the hospital staff lying on the floor. Not only that, but I could hear moaning and terrible retching sounds coming from all of the patients’ rooms. It was only when I rushed down the hall, panicked, to look for more on-duty doctors that I saw something weird: there, standing in an elevator, was a man dressed in a nauseating yellow suit and coat, but what was stranger than that was that he was holding a yellow-flaming staff that was shaped like a caduceus. I don’t know how, but the man also exuded a sickening sort of heat, like the kind one might feel if they have a fever. It was at that point that I started feeling dizzy. And as I began to pass out, the man stepped into a waiting elevator, where he paused a moment, looking at me, smiling. Finally, he tipped his hat to me, as if he was bidding me farewell, and then the elevator doors closed. After the elevator started to descend, and right before I passed out, I could hear the man whistling to himself, amid the screaming and dying. I woke up weeks later, eventually discovering that I was one of only a few people to survive an outbreak of, what seemed to be, an exotic strain of smallpox.
Furthermore, in 1994, within the town of Malmsbury, England, a never before seen and pestilence-borne disease abruptly emerged and killed 2,500 people, almost completely wiping out the entire village. Henry Lofthouse, once a happy occupant of the small town, told officials a wild tale concerning a very unusual man that he believed was the source of the disease:
Like every Tuesday afternoon, I was at the café taking a break from the office. After gulping down my latte, I noticed a very strange individual sitting a few tables to my right. He was peculiarly dressed, wearing a vintage Edwardian suit, along with an awful yellow coat and hat. I remember him taking a drink from his cup and then reeling from it; he was clearly repulsed by whatever he just drank. He stewed with a certain aristocratic condemnation—the type of repugnance you would expect from a rich man having eaten an ordinary, homemade meal. Anyway, he got up from his chair, clearly dissatisfied, and began to swipe at his arms, as if he was trying to push something out from beneath his sleeves. And then it happened: out from the man’s gaudy, saffron sleeves poured a deluge of rats and flies! Hordes of them! They endlessly poured from his sleeves, collar and pant legs! And all the while the man just stood there and smiled, apparently amused by the sight of so many people getting buried beneath squirming heaps of his pests. At some point in the chaos, I saw the strange man turn back to his cup, frown with that same snobby disapproval, and threw the cup to the floor. Then, as if to add insult to injury, he flipped a penny onto the table and walked away. Of course, I ran when I was presented the opportunity, which occurred when the pests parted long enough for me to leap out a window. As I ran down the street, I turned back just in time to see what I first took to be a massive yellow cloud falling over the city behind me; but then I realized the cloud was nothing of the sort, but was actually a gigantic, glowing swarm of yellow locusts, descending.
Hundreds of such accounts exist, and as such, a plethora of theories have formed regarding who, or what, Jack Plague might be. Conspiracy theorists contend that he might be a government experiment gone rogue; some other groups think he’s “Pestilence,” one of the four horseman of the apocalypse; others believe he’s a vengeful avatar of the earth, spreading disease, such as the notorious “Corpse Flower Plague” that spread furious across the American South, as punishment for man’s treatment of the environment. But regardless of who, or what, he may be, one thing is for sure: if he appears, death and disease are sure to follow.
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.”
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.