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I knew that Heather couldn’t take it forever and that it was just a matter of time before she finally grew tired of me suffocating her.

Did I tell her about the thing? God no! She would’ve thought me a kook and sent me packing.

Heather had become suspicious of my behavior. Her friends had finally got the nerve to say something about how I never let her out of the apartment without being tied to her hip. Girls night out, I suppose was the thing that started it. Her friends had been hounding her for several months.

I knew that I would eventually have to cave in or else it would be over with us. So I finally gathered my resolve and decided to endure an evening alone while Heather enjoyed a night out with her girls.

I tried to pretend I wasn’t alone. I put on the television and turned up the sound so that it filled the empty space. But the feeling crawled into my awareness. Just a strange little gnawing that someone was with me. Somewhere hovering out of sight. Like a presence in my periphery.

At first I tried to ignore it and tell myself that it was silly. That I was being paranoid and over thinking the sensation. But it was impossible to push it away. And then it just grew! My heart started racing and I felt those awful eyes boring into me. I kept looking around trying to figure out just where it was located but there was nothing there. Nothing I could see, anyway. But I tell you, it was there! It was there in the room with me!

I fled the apartment. I knew where Heather and her friends would be and I went there. A part of me knew it was a terrible idea to crash her and her friend’s night out, but the irrational portion of my brain drove me to find my companion who I knew would help me to drive the thing away as she’d done for so many months.

Well, you can guess the disaster that ensued when I came barging into the club, frantic and unnerved. The joyous mood of their night out was immediately spoiled. Heather was embarrassed and flew into a mad rage. She berated me and I could do nothing but take it. I really don’t blame her for her reaction.

She told me that when she came home she didn’t want to find me still there.

I walked the city streets in a stupor, ashamed of my behavior and my juvenile actions. I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t my fault. It was the damn thing that haunted me. It had haunted me ever since that night I gazed into that grotesque painting of Kesner’s while those tittering witches chanted over that Ouija board!

Then, suddenly, I was stirred from my reverie and realized that while I was still walking through the city, I was completely alone. There were no pedestrians, no cars going by, no people to be seen anywhere around me. And like a raging tsunami, the feeling of the thing’s presence slammed into me! My gaze darted here and there. There were just so many places that it could be. It was overwhelming! I was fraught with terror! I began to hurry and then jog and then I was running, desperately searching for someone. Anyone at all!

Then I passed the alley and had to stop, frozen in terror. It was exactly as Kesner had depicted it in the painting! The buildings framed the alley like some strange, alien structure. The shadows were deep and I knew it was in there. Buried in the shadows watching me. And as I stared, I beheld those hate-filled eyes emerge from the shadows. And then the rest of its head emerged from the shadows! It was horrible and inhuman! What kind of ghoulish, nightmare creature I cannot say, but I ran!

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I don’t recall what happened next. I was a raving maniac, though. I blacked it all out. Somehow, I’m told, the authorities intervened and I was brought in. That led to my current arrangement. As I said, at first it was against my will, but after I settled down and took stock of my situation, I found I rather enjoyed the fact that there is always someone around me. And that was the state of affairs for the last couple of months.

Then, last night, things took an even more sinister turn. It happened while Albert and I were playing chess in the game room. Of course the thing was there too. As I said, it’s always there but it doesn’t exert as much of an influence when other people are present. Then, the game was interrupted by the shrieks of Gladys. She had been sitting across the room engaged in some other activity. She was pointing and screaming as she tried to back out of the room. I turned to look at what she was pointing at and realized that she was pointing at where I felt the presence to be. She saw it!

Several members of the staff rushed into the room to try and discern the source of her distress and I heard her say, “Can’t you see it? Can’t you see the creature? Its eyes! My God, its eyes!” Gladys was quickly removed from the room and, no doubt, sedated.

This served to unnerve me to such a degree that I could hardly function. I left the game and went into the T.V. room, which held many more people. I paced the room and tried to focus on the show playing on the T.V. Eventually, I calmed down enough to sit down and watch the movie.

It wasn’t long, however, before Big John, who has quite lost his faculties, patted me on the leg and said, “Why is that thing looking at you so hard?”

“You can see it?” I asked incredulously.

“Well, of course. He’s right there,” he said pointing.

I didn’t sleep at all last night. The implications of these events were too horrible. Obviously, the fragile minds in this place lack some crucial filter that allows them sight beyond the normal person’s perceptions. I’m afraid it’s just a matter of time before I descend to their ranks.

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Today there were several more incidents. Darryl, Emily, and Calvin all claimed to witness the beast’s presence. I cannot tolerate this existence. It seems the one place where I could reside surrounded by companions who would help save me from my plight has become a prison, a hell too excruciating to endure.

Even now, the beast sits beside me, staring at me with the hatred of a legion of demons. Cruel, vile, and maddening! And now I will place this statement in the box upon your door and I will stroll off into peace of oblivion – all for the simple fact that I can never be truly alone.

Nash Farragut

Dear Dr. Harris,

By the time you read this you will have, no doubt, heard of the details of my suicide. It was no small feat to arrange the necessary method in this institution, the security measures being what they are. But, as they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way. It is my final wish that you read this explanation of my condition and share it with my family so they understand as well. I’ve tried on numerous occasions to express what is presented here to you and your staff, but I am received with skepticism and patronizing dismissals.

Just so you know, up until last night, I was happy in my confinement here at the Castle Rock Sanitarium. The events that led to my institutionalization I will recount here. While I was initially placed here in a state of great emotional anguish, I grew quite happy with the arrangement. Why? Well, that’s because I am literally never alone here. But something changed last night and in order to understand that, you must hear the whole tale.

Everything came to a head when my girlfriend Heather finally had enough. She said I was smothering her. She’s right, you know. That’s exactly what I was doing. Hell, I meant to do it. It was my plan all along. I don’t mean that I literally tried to smother her. I wasn’t trying to choke her or anything. I meant that I needed to be with her constantly. And not out of some driving passion or exceeding love. I mean, I did love her. I suppose it would have never evolved into anything serious, though. I don’t know, but the reason I smothered her was because I needed her companionship.

I went so far as to take a job that had a schedule that was as close to hers as possible. And if she left the apartment I had to go too. While we were at home I had to be wherever she was. I couldn’t help it. I knew she would tire of it sooner or later. I can’t blame her.

Again, the whole reason is because I can’t tolerate being alone.

Why? Because I’m being haunted by something. I know it sounds absurd and I know it’s probably all in my mind. But a part of me knows it’s out there and not in here. And I feel it’s always watching. As long as I’m with someone else, it’s not so bad – like it’s watching from a distance – but when I’m alone! God, when I’m alone, it’s right beside me! Leering at me!

I can’t see it. It’s just a presence I feel. Surely you’ve experienced the feeling before? Maybe you’ve been alone in your room and you have a sudden feeling that something is watching from the darkness of the closet, or you’re in the bathroom and you have a sudden sensation that when you look up into the mirror that there will be something behind you in your reflection, or maybe you’re walking alone at night and as the realization of your isolation dawns on you, it’s quickly followed by the feeling that something, somewhere around you is watching you. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Now imagine that feeling turning into a palpable, ever present, and hideously chronic feeling! A horrible feeling of being stared at. An overwhelming feeling of alien eyes probing you. A gnawing at your brain! Good God, don’t you see? There’s no difference in whether it’s a real haunting or a fabrication of my mind! Because either way, it’s driving me mad!”

I can pinpoint when it started. It was one night back in September of last year. Have you ever heard of the artist Shaun Kesner? He enjoyed a temporary fame among the eccentric artists. Kesner was a talented enough artist but had too much of a bent toward the dark and melancholy for most people’s tastes. I hear he eventually went loony himself.

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Anyway, George Degnan, an acquaintance of mine, acquired one of Kesner’s pieces. So back in September, George has this house party and I go. The party was fine enough. Not much to speak of really. In the wee hours, after the party had thinned out a bit, this girl – I seem to recall her name was Daphne or Diane or something like that – pulls out a Ouija board.

Now, I didn’t sit and mess with the silly thing, but I do believe that it is somehow part of the cause. Things began to get really weird. Very surreal, you know. These people are gathered around the Ouija board in almost like a trance and there’s music blaring almost hypnotically, I’m drunk, and then I feel this wave of nausea just hit me like a huge wave at the beach. So I race to the bathroom but there’s someone in there. I have to go into George’s room. He has another bathroom in there.

I barely make it to the bathroom before losing it. It was horrible but I felt a little better. At least well enough to attempt to get home. So I’m walking through George’s bedroom when the feeling hits me. Something is watching me from his closet. Just a little fleeting feeling, but enough to make me go investigate the closet. I open it and turn on the light and my attention is drawn to Kesner’s painting. It was on the floor propped against the wall and covered with a cloth. I mean, I didn’t know it was Kesner’s painting under there. I was just compelled to uncover it and see it.

It was a horrible, suggestive thing. It was a dark figure buried in the shadows of some strange structure. The only light cast upon it revealed a portion of its hate-filled eyes. I don’t know how long I stood there staring at it while the music throbbed and the people chanted over that damn Ouija board; but I finally broke the gaze and proceeded to destroy the painting!

Yes, I ripped it to shreds. George doesn’t know it was me. Hell, he may not even know that the painting has been destroyed because I covered the frame back up and placed it back in the closet. Even if he did discover it, there were so many people in and out of the place all night long that it would be impossible for him to know it was me.

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What happened next? I fled the party. I went home and was so drunk and felt so awful that I fell into a deep sleep. But when I woke up the thing was there.

Not physically there. I mean its presence was there. I felt it watching me again. Just as if I were looking at that awful painting all over again.

That’s when the nightmare began. Since that time I haven’t had a single moment of solitude. The first few weeks were the worst because that was before Heather. I was living alone and, God, it’s so much worse when I’m alone. It’s oppressive. It watches, constantly glaring at me from some indeterminate place. I went without sleep for days until I literally fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. I couldn’t go on like that! I had to get out of there!

I sought out places where there were people so I wouldn’t be alone with it. I still feel its presence even around people, but it’s not as palpable as when I’m alone.

I feel it now! Of course I do. It never leaves me alone. Never for a moment. It’s here with me right now. The damned beast!

I began going to stores, the mall, restaurants, clubs, anywhere that people would be. I eventually began to spend a lot of time at the library. It became my haven. A place where I felt unbothered, yet still around a crowd. That’s when I began to research just what I could be dealing with.

Of course I had to determine if it was just my imagination. I admitted to myself that I could be off my rocker. A loose nut in the head, a crossed wire in the circuits, some hypnotic suggestion from the Ouija group, or subliminal message planted into my subconscious. But I finally thought that it could be one of a handful of irrational phobias spun out of control in my head.

I can name all the pertinent ones. Fear of being alone: Autophobia, Isolophobia, and Monophobia. Fear of eyes or being stared at: Ommetaphobia, Ophthalmophobia, Scopophobia. Oh, Psychiatrists have names for all sorts of fears. But, in the end, there was more to my predicament.

I wasn’t truly afraid of being alone. I want to enjoy the peace of being alone, for God’s sake! It’s just that when I’m alone, it’s always there too. So I’m never truly alone. And I don’t mind eyes or being stared at. I don’t feel like I’m being stared at by anyone else. You see my point? I just don’t enjoy being leered at by him. It’s like he’s studying me, taunting me, tormenting as he bides his time for some final blow!

I finally found a case, though. A case similar to mine. It was such a comfort to know that I wasn’t crazy!

The case was about one Mr. Raymon. He began to be haunted by a presence one night when he returned home to find a visitor sitting in front of his fireplace. Upon going to greet the visitor he discovered that the chair which held the form was empty. From that night onward his experiences were quite similar to mine.

What happened to him? How did he overcome it?

Well, that’s the strategy I was pursuing up until Heather and I broke up. Mr. Raymon married for the only reason of having a constant companion to minimize the opportunities of being alone. After I fell upon this simple, yet effective strategy, I began searching for someone in eagerness.

Here are the final pdf versions of the stories “Shockley House” and “The Land of Nod”. These are two horror stories set in insane asylums.

Shockley House

The Land of Nod

I was down the hall when the commotion broke out in the Activities Room. I heard people screaming and yelling and as I ran towards the sounds, people were already running away from the room. I reached the door and saw that Branner man with the knife. Now, I didn’t see the attack on Johnny, the orderly who was monitoring Branner, but apparently Branner had somehow gotten a hold of a big kitchen knife and used it to slice Johnny’s throat. Anyway, I reached the door and saw Johnny’s body laying on the floor. There was blood everywhere. Everyone had pretty much ran out of the room except for Old Charlie who was still sitting at one of the tables. He’s pretty much checked out and was oblivious to what was happeneing. Old Charlie and that girl Shelly. She was back against the window looking scared as a deer caught in headlights. Branner was advancing on the girl with the knife in his hands and I saw that there was no way for me to stop him before he reached her. I tried anyway, though. I sprinted across the room dodging tables and chairs and just before I reached him I saw him take her hands, wrap them around the knife’s handle and then he grabbed her hands and stabbed himself right in the heart. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. As he did he said something to her that I couldn’t hear and then he just fell down and died. That poor girl was beside herself with shock. I reached her and pulled her away trying to shield her from the sight of Branner lying there with the knife sticking out of his chest. And just as we got about halfway across the room, I heard this loud noise at the window. I looked back and there was all these crows flying right into the window. Then, all of the sudden, the window pain cracked and shatterd inward. All of them crows flew into the room and landed right there by Branner – like they were inspecting the body or something. It was damn crazy. And then they just took off back out of the window.

Murder of Crows

THE END

Conflicted in my emotions, I approached my interactions with Shelly with great caution. The greater part of me was drawn to her allure and refused to believe that she could be an interloper sent by the vile Silent Redding. But the small part that whispered in my mind to remain vigilant for any sign, any slip, or so much as a hint of her complicity in his twisted machinations would prevail.

It happened one day when she was trying to make small talk. The stooge was monitoring us, of course. Shelly said, “What are you writing in your little black book?” And that was it. My heart plummeted down a bottomless pit. I excused myself as waves of conflicting emotions slammed into me.

***

My last night in Nod was both immeasurably sad and breathtakingly exhilarating. It began on the path to the hill overlooking the ruined city. The Plague Doctor emerged like a proud bird from the shadow of the trees and greeted me.

“I heard the unfortunate news and I pity your plight, but I think that you are prepared. Your soul has been tempered in the crucible of this land. You know what you must do and all it will take is an unshakable will and the City on the Hill will welcome you.”

It was hard to hear these words. Tears welled in my eyes because I knew what he said to be true.

“I want to give you something before you go. My psychopomps Raven, Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Blackbird, and Magpie shall see you off. Goodbye, Jimmy Branner.”

And then I felt the familiar tug as I began to be drawn away, but this time the crows pursued me like a flurry of black smoke. I sped up and the crows managed to keep pace. When I got to the point when I could sense that the City on the Hill was behind me I tried one last time to glimpse it just as I had struggled every time before. But this time the crows rushed towards my face and I despaired that I had been tricked by the Plague Doctor.

The crows crowded upon the left side of my face and I then realized that they were not trying to occlude my vision, but trying to assist my efforts. I grit my teeth and strained and the crows flapped and fluttered, pushing me ever so much more than I could on my own accord. It was just enough for me to catch a glimpse before I entered the Waking World.

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Words can’t describe that momentary vision. It was the most incredible sight I had ever beheld. I awoke drained both physically and emotionally. All that I could do was smile and cry tears of rapturous joy.

It was freezing cold and sleeting when Count Orlok met me on a darkened road in the woods.

“Come, She wants to talk to you.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. I was finally going to meet Life-in-Death. I grew weak and Count Orlok had to assist my shaking body into the horse-drawn carriage waiting for us.

Her abode was majestic. It was a mass of contradictions of life and death. Great pillars of bone. Clinging vines upon gray, dead statuary. Giant bas reliefs etched into dull stones depicting scenes of struggle between the living and the dead. The most prominent symbol in all of this orgy of architecture was the large, looming half-closed eye.

We entered the great hall of the fortress and a tinkling as of small chimes played above me. Looking up I beheld a vast web of memento mori, each suspended by a thread from the darkness of the ceiling and ending in a casing of a silver frame.

And then She appeared. Walking from the far end of the hall, she greeted us. It was the strangest visage I had ever beheld. She had golden hair flowing out of her fleshless skull. Inside the sockets were bright blue eyes and cherry red lips adorned the mouth. But these seemed alien upon the ivory of the bone and somehow stood out in starker contrast than if they were on a normal face.

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She wore a flowing, green gown that reminded me of lichen or moss and from this ornate dress her bony, delicate hands protruded. Each bony finger ending in a finely painted nail.

So many questions had been humming in my brain but they all vanished into silence in her presence. I was struck dumb before her elegance.

“We finally meet, James Branner. I am Life-in-Death, the Lady of the Land of Nod. You’ve overcome so much to get where you are but something has come to light of such importance that I felt you needed to hear it from me. Will you walk with me?”

I managed to produce a cracked “Yes”.

She dismissed the Count and then she led me out into a strange garden of bizarre vegetation juxtaposing gorgeous flowers with ruthless weeds.

“You well know that Silent Redding has been sowing discontent throughout this land. But he has not been idle in the Waking World either. By the way, I don’t blame you for not killing him. You did the best with the circumstances you were given. It’s just unfortunate, however, because now, you still must deal with his handiwork.”

“His handiwork?”

“Yes. And he is more devious than I had imagined. What I have to tell you, James, will surely come as a great shock, but you must overcome the denial and the anger to find the truth. For it is certainly true.”

“What is true? What must I do to reach the City on the Hill?”

“While you were away, Silent Redding was busy putting things in order for your failure. He knew, after you tore his throat out, that you had the drive, the desire, and the wherewithal to end his quest to replace the Ochre King. Did you really think he would just forget that?”

“No,” I whispered.

“Oh, No, he didn’t. So when I tell you that he meticulously contrived to plant his agent in your path, he did so with the utmost evil in mind. He has beguiled you with that vixen Shelly. She is his agent who is even now working her way towards your demise.”

“No!” I screamed. I clamped my hands over my ears and fell to the ground screaming at her to stop spouting her hated lies. I spit at her, cursed her, and tore my hair in anger. But she only shook her head in sorrow for me.

Eventually, my ranting turned to sobbing and wailing. Then, bending close my ear she whispered, “You know what you must do, James.”

I’m always fascinated by Dr. Frankenstein’s work and the things in his laboratory. I was peering into one of the tall beakers filled with some amorphous, fleshy object submerged in a bubbling, yellowish liquid when it struck me that colors had ever so slowly crept into Nod. I never noticed it before and it saddened me for some reason. I suppose because I failed to notice something so momentous. Suddenly a question flashed into my mind and I blurted it out to the doctor.

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“Why can’t I look upon the City on the Hill?”

“Ah, my young boy, you aren’t ready to yet. When your will is strong enough, you will. And when you do, the site of it will tear you down again. But don’t worry, the tearing down will be a release. A rebirth.”

I pondered this while I browsed his lab some more. Then I asked, “Who is the Ochre King?”

At this, Dr. Frankenstein stopped his work of sewing an appendage onto one of his flesh golems and looked at me. “He is the Savior. The one who will set things aright. The Repairer of Reputations. The one orchestrating everything behind the scenes. He walks freely between worlds and affects everything he touches with true sight. He is your salvation from Her. But you already knew this didn’t you, Mr. Branner?”

I just nodded my head.

***

I have to admit that the Shadow Man has taught me how to communicate without uttering a sound. I use that knowledge to “talk” to Shelly. She is very good at it too. But today we actually were able to have a real conversation and I now feel as giddy as a school girl experiencing her first crush. If all of this anguish and torment have been a prelude for our fates to intertwine, then it was all worth it. Every second of every torture, pain, and immolation.

The most amazing part is that she approached me. That just confirmed that my infatuation with her is equally reciprocated. Of course the ruffian who was escorting me intervened when she approached our table, but she asked him if she could speak to me and he agreed as long as we remained on opposite sides of the table. Then she sat down. “I just wanted to thank you for picking up Sarah,” she said indicating her doll.

“You’re quite welcome,” I said winking at her knowingly. “I know your name is Shelly. I’ve overheard them say it. My name is Jimmy and I find you simply captivating.”

She bent her head smiling but I knew she was just being coy. “Thank you. How long have been here?” she asked.

“I lost track of the time a long while ago. I remember my family was somehow terrible. I remember a funeral of a girl. But she’s not really important. I remember drives around the city. And then the city grew haunted so they brought me here. I know about many things that they hide from me. I also know about things many of them don’t know or can never know. I wish I could say more but . . . not right now, at least. How about you? Why are you here?”

“I would rather not talk about it. It’s very hard. I would rather talk about nice things.”

And so that’s what we did. We talked about all manner of frivolous things. But I know she really wanted to talk about things that we couldn’t mention in front of others. Still, it was wonderful. It was pure bliss.

I found myself in the midst of one of the ruined cities where I knew the zombies were lurking. It was just a matter of time before their presence was announced. But, suddenly, the Plague Doctor appeared above me on a balcony, his retinue of crows fluttering about him. He laughed through his strange mask and said, “I heard you’ve made the hard choice.”

“What choice did I really have?” I retorted.

“True. True. Still, it was a choice you made and all. I need to tell you, though. Things will change as a result. You’ve grown a bit complacent through all this.”

“What do mean? I haven’t even been here for so long.”

“That doesn’t matter. You have figured out too many patterns and that leads to expectations. I’m here to help you. I have the remedy. I’m here to treat you.”

He said the last as if he were relishing the task.

Later, as the zombies tore my flesh I thought back to my childhood. I used to dread the dentist. Most kids do. But this dentist was a sadistic bastard. His name was Dr. Zeigler. One time he didn’t give me enough Novocain when he numbed my mouth for a cavity to be filled. Of course, I began to flinch when he hit the nerve. I remember him growing irritated at my wiggling and wincing. I pushed his hand away and that just made him madder. One of the nurses made a comment about me needing more local anesthesia and he merely said, “I’m almost finished, just hold him down and I’ll only be a second.” I couldn’t even cry properly as they held me down and forced my mouth open. And, of course, it took Dr. Ziegler much longer than a second.

***

My journey through the Waking World is now an escorted journey. I am never without one of the ruffians who stopped me from my mission with Silent Redding. Because of this, it makes it difficult for me to talk to Shelly. But I did manage an exchange. It left me exhilarated and I’m sure she felt it too. I was walking by the table she was sitting at when she dropped her doll. It’s a little dark-haired double of her that I suspect is her messenger. I gathered this from the fact that she sent it into my path by the table as a message that she wants to make further contact. I picked it up and went to hand it back to her when the goon on my left intervened. But she took the doll and said, “Thank you.” It was spoken so soft and warm. I said, “You’re welcome.” And we stared at each other while the goon dragged me back to my room. Hopefully she can send her messenger to me again.

Her name is Shelly and her allure is one of melancholy. I only know her name because I’ve overheard it. She reminds me of a gray dove amongst a murder of crows. We’ve never spoken. When we make eye contact she just makes a slight, sad grin that lets me know she’s aware of my struggle. She’s of the Waking World. I wonder how she would like Nod. Maybe she’s already been there.

***

I can’t help but stare at Santa Muerte’s face when I’m in her presence. It’s captivating. She led me into a church in the forest – it was a small, brick church with a quaint graveyard beside it. Once inside she told me that she wanted to show me something and that I would have a choice to make. Then she led me to a tall piece of furniture covered by a cloth that sat in front of the pulpit.

“You must decide if the chase will continue,” she said. My blood raced! Of course I wanted the horrible chase to end. There was no question about it. Then she continued, “You must understand that the chase serves the purpose of strengthening your soul so that when the time comes, you’ll persevere and overcome the push to the City. But if you choose to forego the chase, there is no guarantee that your soul will be ready.”

“Right now, your soul is afire with the chase. Look now into the mirror and see what happens when your soul is not ready.”

With this, she pulled the cloth from the piece of furniture and a tall, ornamented, full-length mirror was revealed. A wave of fear spread through me because I didn’t want to see. Santa Muerte took me by the shoulders and guided me in front of the mirror. I instinctively clenched my eyes shut. Then she gently, with her boney fingers, pried by eyes open and I beheld my face transformed into a gaunt, sad specter of my former self. But it was the eyes that horrified me. They were empty, deep pits that swallowed the world into an abyss of hopelessness. I stared for what seemed an eternity into their depths of depression and tears began to stream down my face. Finally, I wiped the tears and it was enough to break the spell. It was then that I noticed Santa Muerte’s reflection behind my shoulder. Her skeletal face was replaced by a face so hideous that I screamed and tore myself from her grasp as I threw my fists into the mirror. The glass shattered and Santa Muerte threw her head back in laughter at my antics.

Mirror

“Continue the chase,” I managed to say through the panting and the sobs and the blood.

Bells. Deep, dark, full, earthy bells that reverberate from some distant place. Slowly the darkness gives way to a dim, twilight world of malformed shapes. Trees swaying. A chill wind and the smell of moist leaves. I struggle to shake away the confusion until a realization creeps into my mind. I’ve been away for too long. Far too long. Nod feels different somehow. I sit upon the ground and heave a long sigh of weariness. Did I succeed? I don’t even know if Redding is dead or alive. Did he survive and make it to the City on the Hill?

I certainty comes over me that I cannot shake away. I was banished from Nod but I’m back now. Does that mean that I failed or succeeded? If I succeeded, then why was I banished? If I failed, why am I back?

Confusion. Weariness. The bells tolling on and on.

***

Nyarlathotep was the one who explained things to me. He brought me to Nod and placed me in his great labyrinth underneath the sands. Deep inside some great structure that was the tomb of some long forgotten god-king. It was the first time I had seen him in his true form and I cried in fear for a long time telling him I was sorry for whatever transgressions I had made. I groveled. Tears streamed. He bade me to stand and listen. And so his deep, sonorous voice filled the dead spaces of the crypt and I learned the horrible truth of Silent Redding.

Nyarlathotep

He told me how I had failed to kill Redding. But I had at least given Nod a reprieve. I lay in a coma unable to enter either world. While I floated in Limbo, Nod was left to carry on with neither me nor Redding coming nor going.

The Ochre King was flummoxed. Life-in-Death was perplexed. How would the fate of the Land of Nod ever be resolved?

And then I had awakened. Things were prepared for my return. Nyarlathotep, Dr. Frankenstein, Count Orlok, Santa Muerte, Shadow Man, and the Plague Doctor grew anxious. Their followers were stirring and restless. But then something happened.

A full moon appeared in the sky over Nod. It was a blood moon, full and foreboding. And then Silent Redding was seen in various parts of Nod. Fleeting, elusive, like a portent of doom.

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