I’ve felt it more and more.
I am all but gone.
The force is inside me, stretching, expanding, releasing me from this frail shell.
Soon it shall come for me and I will leave this plain.
But till then, let me think my last human thoughts.
The last cognitive mutterings of who I was, who I am and will no longer be.
My carcass will be picked over and maybe even mourned for.
It would be touching, if I truly cared or felt.
Now there is only the hollow.
I am full of holes that burn with unearthly hunger.
A hunger that cannot be sated here in this meekest form.
But first, let me take you back a while, to a life lived.
While we have a little time.
But may I suggest that you do not follow me to the very end.
When it comes for me, it may sense your presence, with me, here and now.
Consciousness is an extension of itself after all.
My words and thoughts are now conscious within you and I sense you’re focus here with me.
We are together for a brief period.
Do turn it all off when the time arrives, cease reading.
Do not hesitate.
You will not want to go where I am going.
The local peasants talk so much. They live to gossip about the family and I with our riches and excessive grandiose lives.
Mainly me, of course. The dandy, the flamboyant Lord. He who lies with men.
The great advantage, one of the many blessings of obscene wealth and influence, is the ability to do what one pleases.
It’s 1935, and here I am cavorting with my male lovers free from the audible disdain of others. The simple folk would be driven or done away with for such behaviour. But me?
I am beyond reproach or judgement.
This fact became abundantly clear to me with each lavish party hosted. The cream of culture gathered as we played graduated games of daring and indulgence.
Even those rule makers and highest judges in the land liked to party and nowhere was better than with me and mine.
I am high society, an artist and devourer of literature. I write, although my poetry, I fear, will only receive the acclaim it deserves after my demise. Such is the lot of a genius. Or so I used to quip. Even as the critics sneered at my work.
I recall one such stinging critic more than any other, Harry Bell.
The fool was the beginning of this story in many ways. A working-class journalist come good, who himself sold out to take a job firing cheap pot shots at the likes of me.
He once wrote of my work, ‘This latest floundering mess, is the desperate pretentious attempt of an over privileged fool. Waving his so-called work around as if it were a ticket to THE Ball, a gathering plied only with those infinitely more talented and hard-working than he. Status most certainly does not equate to talent. There is no more room at The Ball, I am afraid.’
A man that helped steer proceedings to where you find me now. To where you reside here in my consciousness. Lucky little devil you.
Do stop reading before my mortal end. You’ll know when.
You’ll feel it on the back of the neck.
Where were we?
Ahh yes, Harry Bell.
His savage jealousy masquerading as a review. It hurt me ever so deeply.
Among the wild parties and celebration’s, amidst my relentless narcotic fornicating driven state, was the spectre of Harry Bell’s proud and spiteful face. Mocking me. I could almost hear him laughing whenever I was alone. I constantly pictured him doing so should my mind wander.
I became convinced he’d cast a spell on me. This was more than public poisonous words. They became a part of me, a constant winding wringing blot on my otherwise wonderful existence.
Then came a light. For it was during this same period I met a curious gentleman at a gathering in Germany.
Such a name.
I instantly enjoyed Crawl. His whole demeanour and spirit. He was an aside from everyone else yet a striking presence in the instant. As if having vision for the first time.
He pushed Harry Bell’s cackling firmly into the background as soon as I laid eyes on him.
We got talking at a strange old gathering, with can you believe, a few Nazi general’s present. They were researching black magic and were entertained by Crawl and rather taken by him. His works were appreciated it seemed. I didn’t mind their presence in the slightest. They were jolly decent fellows. Fetching too. They didn’t want to go war with Britain, at least not yet, but they did want to learn. Especially from finer gentleman such as me. High living, high society in Britain, these were circles they wished to influence upon ingratiating themselves.
But oh Crawl. Augustine Crawl. He was something altogether different.
A black magician, a deepest purveyor and practitioner of the dark arts.
For reasons unknown to my good self, it seems we are bound to dramatically state ‘the occult’ for it to register, a convenience for people to categorise and compartmentalise, to understand what one means without truly gaining any real insight.
But nothing should go unexplored. No boundaries for the likes of me.
Augustine Crawl’s knowledge of what lies between life and death was opaque, in and out of reach and exponentially more than a mere term. So many black butterflies to grasp. Each more tantalising than the last.
Once I’d seen Augustine’s aura that night in Munich, I plunged for it and made Crawl my purpose. He could open doors of the other, what lay beyond or beneath.
I needed new in life.
I invited him to come stay at the Castle and he was naturally delighted to accept. He knew me by reputation and welcomed it. Within two days we headed home and left the Nazi generals with warmest wishes. Some of those fine young men came to visit too just a few months later. So much had changed by then… What a time was had!
But I digress.
Augustine Crawl became a central figure in my Castled home. A revered guest turned co-host.
He was charismatic in an understated way. Not a handsome chap and certainly not my type. Not that I had one. But his sheer depth and knowledge made a mockery of such superficial observations. Augustine drew stares with his robed attire. He was bald and had an immaculately trimmed beard, not a common look, especially on such large shoulders. To some he might appear brooding or even intimidating, but he was far from either. He seemed not to care for traditional dress or belongings, but he was one with hygiene and the beard clearly took time to maintain.
Of course, my wife, sweet Helena, grew to resent his presence, or rather his influence.
We were married in name only, obviously. She was of no sexual interest to me whatsoever, but Helena was a fondest childhood friend. It was the perfect marriage of convenience for us both.
Helena feared not Crawl, but me. She informed me of this one evening.
Helena even insinuated that Crawl himself had become nervous of me. I was of course incredulous at the mention. Absurdity.
I loved her so dearly as my friend and confidante for many years, but such ties could not prevent my progress. Doors had indeed opened. Of what lies between life and death.
Helena would not begin to grasp that I was getting closer to what awaits us.
Helena claimed, with good reason might I add, that my dark works had inebriated the Castle and its grounds.
I knew. I was proud despite previously downplaying to her the spreading influence of our experiments. The Castle home was changing without doubt. Sometimes I’d find myself in an entirely different corridor to where I’d set off while time was losing itself. I could be in my private quarters one moment, the next in one of the kitchens or on a few occasions I found myself in the gardens.
At night when the shadows came, the castle seemed to breathe. You could feel it all around you, pushing in and out. A few of the staff had claimed to see forms moving from afar, figures that disappeared as soon as they were sighted.
One even claimed to have seen a ghost of, prepare yourself, a ghost of me. Though I was quite alive!
What added to the silly fear of those around the grounds was the presence of my new creatures. You see, I had exotic animals imported to the castle. I did think about sharing the joy of these majestic creatures with the plebs. A public stunt to foster good will. But then I regained my senses and kept them all to myself.
We used a few of the animals in our first summoning. Crawl knew of a spell, that in theory could summon spectral forces. We knew little of the void from where these spectral creatures would apparently emerge, but Crawl knew how to create and open a portal. He’d been reticent to do so but with me in tow, he’d found the spirit and will to push harder in the practical application of his knowledge.
We appreciated these spectral beings required a body and consciousness to inhabit, a simpler form than a human, to truly exist here on this plain. What better animals to use than our exotic collection of fabulous beasts? I had grown fond of them but, needs must.
We took the animals down into the Magic Room, into the very bowels of the castle. I’d had the room made especially, so that we may practice uninterrupted in our exploration.
I believe Helena and the staff thought it a nonsense initially, another one of my self-indulgences that would eventually float away out of mind. How wrong they were.
Crawl and I performed the summoning. It was beyond our wildest dreams. Too far beyond Augustine’s, I now realise.
Etched on the stone floor was the portal symbol which we’d agonisingly detailed. We spent weeks on our hands and knees carving and cutting until our hands were blistered and our backs bent. I cannot tell you it’s description I am afraid or where it came from. Such precise knowledge cannot be carelessly shared with any Tom, Dick or Harry. Although, Harry, Harry Bell that is, would discover the forces we’d unleashed and much to his cost.
And my satisfaction.
What I can tell you about that relentless, gloriously chaotic terrifying night, is that the portal worked.
There we stood, chanting complete. Coldest still air surrounded us. The portal symbol burst into light and turned itself aflame, before sinking through stone floor and into ancient earth.
I’ll always remember my beautiful beasts wailing and crying as they tried to beat the tethers. They could not. Iron chains and bars ensured there was no escape. There they were screaming in fear and instinct. Lined up were a zebra, two kangaroos (a mother and baby), an ostrich and my adorable pygmies. All screaming and shrieking in unadulterated fear.
I’ll admit this now at the end. But I found this din of terror from the animals, such wonderful creatures that I had rendered helpless, almost unbearable. I’d say it was unbearable, but then of course I stayed.
Augustine, I noted, was taking deep shallow gasps while frozen to the spot.
Then the earth opened entirely and as I peered down into the endless black, I saw frantic ghastly lights. No. That is incorrect. I could hear them. The spectral beasts were roaring as the lights rushed towards us and their calls intertwined with the cries of my animals. Then the crescendo of hungriest laments and terrified wails clattered against the basement brick walls while we cried and screamed with them. Crawl was weeping. I believe I was laughing and salivating. But one can’t be sure in moments such as these.
All I know is the sheer force of other, a scratching the surface of the unknown, swamped my very soul.
The lights swirled about and through us. My God. They were seeking and searching our hearts and minds, and in that moment, I knew they were indeed beast like, exotic other worldly creatures seeking symbiosis. These seething light forms descended upon my terrified loves and slid into them seemingly, like a forming liquid, seeping through the eyes, ears and nostrils. Their mouths forced open and invaded by the thickening fluid lights.
The howling stopped as the air settled.
I looked to the void, but it had closed to the point of non-existence.
A never was.
But the spectral creatures?
They are here.
I could see new sight behind the old, staring through the eyes of my animals whose shape had become shadowed yet ever so present. One couldn’t quite focus on their form as they seemed to flicker and change but with such baffling subtlety. The pygmies were one then separate, jumping up and down in perfect silence. The zebra’s stripes were slick, like oiled eels, shimmering and crossing one another on the surface of its form. The kangaroos cocked their heads to the side, mother and child in perfect unison, before exhaling steam, while the ostrich extended itself to its full height. It was taller than I remembered. Its neck thick and rippled, moving almost independently from the body as a vulgar snake .
I stepped forward to calm and stroke them, to set them free. They responded favourably by not tearing me to pieces, but instead working as a collective, they smashed free of the iron chains with a collective force. They gathered around me and stared with such intensity that my veins felt like ice.
I smiled at my involuntary bodily reactions. Such new sensation.
I opened the large basement door and watched as they sped past me into the night, instantly forming part of the moonless canvass before me.
Those bizarre other world creatures never left the Castle.
The grounds their home and the darkness gathering around it, theirs to take.
Sometimes they wandered into the Castle, unnerving the occupants, bar me. They liked to watch me, in bed, in the bath, at study. My veins freezing each time and infiltrated with some new spirit that coursed its way through my blood. I felt like a new-born in their presence and knew they could bring me closer to what dwelled beneath us all.
In the void.
I felt it down there in the black when the spectral creatures were summoned.
It was everything I’d never known, staring up at me with unseen eyes from an unimaginable being of unfathomable size. I don’t know if it was a physical being, but it was omnipresent. Magnificent and terrifying in the briefest possible encounter.
In that flashing of a second it pulled something from me. A name. My mind a flower as it reached up and effortlessly plucked a petal. I felt myself think that name, just for a millisecond. Whether I offered or it took it, I don’t know. But I felt my lips mumble and tremor the name, “Harry Bell.”
A few days after the summoning Augustine and I met in the Magic Room and discussed what had happened. At least I did, Augustine was quiet for the most part. I assumed he was receptive to my theories and reflections as I talked excitedly about the new beings in the Castle, the effect they had on the animals and how we must pursue our studies now the dust had settled.
Crawl’s silence I took for a lack of enthusiasm, which perplexed me. It was he who had embraced me and taken us down this path, yet he appeared to be retreating instead of pursuing our discoveries. I needed to fire him up, reenergise my mentor, so I shared with him the moment when I sensed that other down there and gave it Harry Bell.
At the very mention of the name Augustine Crawl turned white, shaking his head furiously. Tears welled in his eyes and he got up and told me to stay right where I was. “You need to see this,” he said and stormed off.
I didn’t like his tone so followed him, “I’ll see whatever it is you have the moment you find a fucking backbone. What is wrong with you Augustine? We’ve done something miraculous and barely scratched the surface, yet you act as if its all too much trouble! Are you with me or not?” I demanded.
We were back in the Castle main hall by this point as I strode after him and into the large dining room. One of the staff, a young chap named Jonas, was in the room clearing the table and quickly retreated to the kitchens upon seeing us. It struck me briefly that young Jonas was the first staff I’d spied in days. I was aware Helena had left after our impasse and staff had complained of feeling scared around my animals, and of the Castle generally, but I hadn’t quite appreciated that this many had left so quickly.
Augustine swept up a copy of the newspaper from the large dining table and rattled it in my face. “Look at this, this story right here. Now!”
I snatched it from him, rolling my eyes at Augustine’s melodrama, and looked to the report he was stabbing his finger at.
It was front page:
Ghastly remains of literary critic, Harry Bell, found in home.
I looked briefly at Augustine whose expression was rather hopeless. I shook my head at him tutting and read on:
After complaints from neighbours of hearing screaming and loud thudding, police entered with force the home of Harry Bell, a well thought of journalist and critic for the London Times.
Harry Bell was brutally murdered in a manner beyond description. With police keen to find the perpetrator/s, they were reluctant to provide comment. But an inside source revealed, ‘A sickening attack and murder the likes of which we’ve never seen. Whoever did this, and we don’t know whether it’s one or more attackers, are deeply disturbed and beyond humanity. It was a murder of appalling demonic brutality. Never have we witnessed a scene like it. Mr Harry Bell was found two nights ago at 5 a.m. Upon entering his abode, Mr Harry Bell’s remains were found in his living room. His veins had been removed and were placed around his body, which had been relieved of its skin. Harry Bell had been left in a seemingly deliberate pose, his hands clutching open the folds of his own chest. His heart was exposed and contained a great many contusions. Even more horrifying was the discovery of heart tissue and skin found under Mr Bell’s own fingernails. It suggests that Mr Bell may somehow have been alive during a fair proportion of this atrocious attack and may have even been forced to partake in his own torturous murder.’
I didn’t get to read more as Augustine snatched the newspaper from my grasp. “Your smiling?”
I was excited, this was thrilling. “My God, do you think it was?” I trailed off.
I knew it was, of course it was, but I wished to calm my associate.
Augustine sank into one of the dining room chairs, “This is sheer madness. Look around us? Hmm? There is barely anyone left in the castle. Whatever we did stops now. No more. I can’t sleep, I can’t think straight with those God awful animals padding around the place as if they own it. Hanging around corners and in shadow. They just appear without warning. And this home of yours. It’s changed. The air, even the shape and the smell. I’m scared to be on my own, to even go to the lavatory alone. At night I can hear things in the dark and see shadow move. I’m losing my mind! And now this murder of Bell? Jesus Christ. Murder doesn’t do it justice. We have to stop, demolish that room and leave this place.”
I was horrified but remained calm, nonetheless. For in that moment I had perfect clarity.
Augustine Crawl was a great man. Was, being the operative word.
He was of no use to me now. Our great works together in the darkest arts were at an end. Crawl had shown me the path but could go no further. He was just like all the others. Too human. Trapped within his own perceived limitations. Excess had all lost meaning to him. He could not go where I wished to tread and that was clear not only in his protestations and fear, but in his eyes and whole demeanour. Used up.
Such a pity.
I calmed Augustine Crawl in that moment, behaved like a friend. It was perhaps my last act of real empathy, although convenience was upmost in mind.
“Augustine, I understand. Some time away would do us both the world of good.”
He looked pleadingly at me with an element of relief, “I…I can’t…I need to just clear my mind and…I mean we might be responsible for the death of Harry Bell!? After what you’ve told me, the void, that…thing down there,” Crawl burst into tears.
This was tiresome.
“Augustine, you go. You are right, we just might be responsible for what happened to Bell.”
Crawl panicked, “But the police, the newspapers. They know all about you and Bell, what he’d written. They know about the stories of you and I, the occult. We’re in trouble my friend, we’ve gone too far,” he cried.
“Be calmed. This is my life man. Continually in the public eye, relentlessly dealing with ill-informed reports and questions from police and press alike. You go on, take that time away as will I. After I deal with all the noise. You are correct of course.”
I walked around the room, feigning concern and an awakening, whatever he wanted, “My God I didn’t think about what may follow or such consequences. Let me deal with this please Augustine. I’ve not been quite myself these last few months I appreciate. You showed me the way, but I’ve taken advantage. I should have respected the enormity of what might happen, of what we’d find. Well I’m back now Augustine and I shall take care of business here then take my leave. Go, get your things together.”
Crawl hugged me with such gratitude. I stood limp feeling absolutely nothing for the man. I wanted him gone and out from under my feet as quickly as possible. He eventually let me go from his death grip and as he did, my loyal creatures, the beasts from the beyond, stalked silently into the room, gathering around me while appraising Augustine with those curious eyes.
Augustine Crawl looked like he had something more to say then thought better of it before scuttling away.
I never saw him again.
Within the hour the Castle was all mine bar a smattering of staff who were content to stay out of my sight and carry out their tasks dutifully. That or perhaps they were quietly running amok, stealing valuables and food from the kitchens.
It mattered little, such trivial earthly things were of no consequence.
I had somewhere special to go.
My beauties had told me so. Each time they stared into me I sensed the other from deep in the void. It was nearly with us. Fixed on me. Such a presence, regarding little old inconsequential me in its sights.
The spectral creatures were preparing me. I understood this after a few days in their company. My veins turning to ice was in fact its shadow or a sense of being. It felt how the void should feel if one were to travel through or even dwell there. It infiltrated my blood and soul.
I felt too tight in my skin, as if I were being stretched from within, ready to break free.
Soon it would come for me and set me free.
The Magic Room, where we opened the void. I’d wait for it there. I realised you see, that the changes inside me was in fact a type of pregnancy. The void was inside me now, waiting to escape, to be born not into the world but to the ultimate being down there in the vastness.
It would welcome me into its world and take me down with it, my black-eyed saviour.
And so here we are reader.
The End Game.
My transformation is almost complete.
I am the void. The void is me.
We are in the Magic Room.
It is coming.
The animals lay dead and unoccupied while the spectral beings are all around me.
Such mind-bending sounds.
They call for the one.
I am staring at cold stone floor which is starting to disappear before my very eyes.
I can see slats of the void coming through.
The spectral screams rising.
Can you hear them?
My flesh is tearing itself. Oh such sweet relief.
The void below is open.
It is coming for us.
Bone reveals itself to me, I am entirely stripped, see the flesh slide from my body into the black.
You feel them too?
The shadow of the void, its stretching towards us.
Those eyes. Vast liquid in an endless night.
Shadow limbs, eternal. Reaching. Embracing.
We are merging.
Two become one.
And Three become……(?)
diov ruo ni
tsal ta dne tuohtiw htaed
su nioj lliw uoy