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Yesterday I was sitting, staring out of the barred window and daydreaming about the times I used to go canoeing down the Coosa River when Percy snuck up beside me and started talking about Roba el Khaliyeh and G’nar’ka. How could he know those names! My will was at its lowest and I lost it. I began striking him over and over. He fell to the ground and I pounced on him like a wild dog on its prey. I continued pounding my fist into his face. Blood flew and he curled up into a ball but I never relented. When the orderlies pulled me off of him he just laid there in the fetal position shaking and whimpering. The last time I felt that relieved was the night I set upon Billingsley and Hall with the ax. They moved me to solitary confinement, which is a goddamned blessing. Now, at least, I don’t have all of the crazies to deal with.

*

Professor Hall’s research paralleled Dr. Billingsley’s in many ways. Hall had studied Native American culture for numerous years with a particular focus on the tribes of the Creek Nation that once lived in modern day Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida. This is what brought him to be a professor at Coosada University. Just within the local area were some of the locations of the larger Creek communities: Coosada, Wetumpka, Tallassee, Tuskegee, and Tukabatchee. Professor Hall had presided over a major archaeological dig across the Coosa River in the town of Wetumpka at what used to be the capitol of the Creek Nation known as The Hickory Ground. When the Poarch Band of Creek Indians wanted to put up a casino on the land, he was at the forefront of the faction of archaeologists and Creeks who wanted the sacred site preserved.

Where his research left the mainstream and really began to sound eerily familiar to Billingsley’s work was in his research of the burial customs of the Choctaws. The Choctaws had amongst their people the strange men called the bonepickers. They were unique in their role amongst their tribe. They covered themselves in tattoos that were unique to the bonepickers and grew their fingernails long and pointed. Whenever someone died, a tall scaffold was built near his or her home. The body was placed atop the scaffold for a set period of time – in most villages the time was four months but could be shorter or longer. It was typical for the women to visit the scaffold and wail and moan their plaintive sorrows.

When the allotted time had passed, it was time for the bonepickers to appear for their gruesome task of cleaning the bones of what remained of the rotted and decayed flesh. Once the bones were picked clean, they were gathered into a box or bundle and placed in a common house with other Indians who had died from the village. There would be much crying and chanting during this ritual, but once the bones were deposited in the village charnel house, then the mourning period was officially over for the family.

Somehow, Professor Hall claimed he had uncovered evidence that indicated that the bonepickers’ ritual didn’t end with just cleaning the bones. He believed he had the proof to show that the bonepickers were a completely different sect of the Choctaw society who had their own deity and their own, unique worship practices. But most amazing was the claim that they too engaged in ritualistic cannibalism.

*

You have no idea what it’s like to be terrified so bad that you must scream or go mad! I try to scream but it’s impossible to do because I’m suffocating and struggling to just breathe. I imagine myself gasping like a fish out of water, my eyes wide from the terror of the chaklah’i closing in.

*

My real interest in what Hall and Billingsley were up to didn’t begin with the letter. It did spark my curiosity, however. That was further fueled when I saw the two men and Billingsley’s swarthy companions meet on the lawn. At that point I hadn’t done all the research on Hall and Billingsley to start piecing together what sort of monstrous work they were concocting. It was a few nights later that things took a sinister change.

It was during the wee hours of the night – probably one or two a.m. I heard a loud noise next door that woke me up. As I lay in bed listening I could hear voices as if in an argument. Fortunately, I didn’t turn on any lights or I’m afraid of what sort of attention would’ve been brought upon me. I crept from my bed to the window and cautiously peeked through the blinds. My room is on the second story on the same side of the house adjacent to Professor Hall’s house. From my vantage point I could see the side and back yard of his house. I beheld Hall and Billingsley engaged in an argument while the two thugs carried what appeared to be a large canvas bag between them. They were struggling with the load while Hall and Billingsley gesticulated over what appeared to be the direction which the two men should carry their bulky load. As I watched, I saw the two men readjust their load and this caused the end of the sack to open and a portion of a human body flopped out! This caused Hall and Billingsley to both erupt into a torrent of curses hurled at the two henchmen, and while they scrabbled to replace the body, Hall and Billingsley looked frantically about. I recoiled from the blinds thinking Billingsley had spotted me and sat against the wall curled beneath the window with my heart thundering in my chest. I expected a pounding on my door at any moment but, thankfully, none came.

*

You may wonder why I never went through the official channels and notified the police. They are inept and a corrupt bunch of fools. That’s why. When my dear wife Lizzy was murdered by some degenerate little thug for the mere contents of her purse, the police treated the investigation in a slipshod and half-assed manner. It was a damnably frustrating ordeal just to get one of their bungling lot to take the time to speak to me about their progress in the investigation much less to actually get off their lazy asses and attempt to find the little bastard who shot and killed her. It was my impression that they assumed that it was impossible to find the murderer when there was little evidence found at the scene of the crime. They didn’t even bother to try. So I decided to do my own investigative work and figure out just what sort of horrible crimes Hall and Billingsley were up to so that when I did decide to call the authorities, all of the evidence against them would be collected already.

*

The Voynich Manuscript is one of the most enigmatic books in existence. It has a strange history and has thwarted all the best cryptologists in the world who have attempted to decipher it. The historical record first mentions it being associated with that strangest of alchemical noblemen, Rudolph II of Bohemia. Rudolph reportedly paid an unknown seller the amount of three hundred gold ducats in 1586 to procure the manuscript. This was an extremely high price for the day to pay for one book. Some theorize that the unknown person had forged a fine fake and pulled the wool over Rudolph’s eyes. But while Rudolph was an eccentric man – he was known to employ astrologers, had a regime of giants in his army, and was fascinated by games and codes – he knew alchemy and astrology well enough to be able to detect a phony. Besides, the manuscript was accompanied by a letter of inspection signed by none other than John Dee attesting to its merit and claiming that Dee believed the manuscript to be written by Roger Bacon himself. Rudolph entrusted the manuscript to his director of botanical gardens Jacobus de Tepenecz. Jacobus was entrusted with not only the task of growing all of the alchemical herbs and vegetables that Rudolph required, but was also overseer of Rudolph’s alchemical cuisine. At some point the manuscript mysteriously passed into the possession of a Jesuit monastery where it was placed and forgotten in their library. It wasn’t until 1912 that the scholar named Voynich discovered and presented it to the world to try and decipher. But no one was able to crack the language. One can imagine the ripple made through the Antiquarian community when Billingsley announced he had made a complete deciphering of the Voynich Manuscript. This excitement was quickly followed by waves of horror when it was discovered that his translation revealed the manuscript to be a spell/recipe book for a fiendish cult of cannibals.

*

Being removed from the other lunatic inmates was a welcome relief at first but at least they offered some semblance of human contact. Now I just spend my days brooding in isolation. Last night I had a dream about Lizzy. She was radiant in her beauty and smiling at me. I approached her and we kissed a long lingering kiss. And then to my horror I began to suffocate and tried to pull away from her. Her face and hands grew and closed around my head. It seemed like an eternity that I struggled unable to draw a breath. Finally I woke as if being yanked from submersion to the darkness of my cell. But just before I woke, I caught the glimpse of Lizzy. She was transformed into a hideous bat-like creature.

*

The next day after I saw the body flop out of the bag, I set up a watch on Hall’s house. It was just before noon that the four men left the house. I didn’t have long to act so I screwed up my courage and determined to take my camera into Hall’s house to take a photo of the victim. I snuck over the fence in my backyard that adjoined Hall’s yard and crept up to the back of the house. My adrenaline rush caused my heart to race and I felt exposed as I tried the back door. It was locked so I began to test each of the windows. It dawned on me that I didn’t really have a fully formulated plan on how to proceed should all of the doors and windows be locked. Then, to my surprise, one of the windows lurched up a couple of inches as I applied pressure to it. I managed to get it up high enough to wriggle through. Upon entering the house I paused to formulate an exit strategy should the group of four return. I shut the window I had entered through and then I located the back door and opened it. I locked it but left it open an inch or so. If they returned I would sprint out the back door closing it behind me and have to vault the fence back to the safety of my own backyard.

I wasted no time in scouring the house. Each room on the main and upper floors held no indication of any nefarious activity, though. The only other place to look was the cellar and as I opened the door onto the stairwell descending into its dark and musty depths, a cold shiver swept over my skin. There was a solitary light bulb that I turned on but it only seemed to add more ominous shadows to the stairs rather than dispel the dark. I was in a hurry, though, and I decided to quickly climb down and plunge into whatever might be waiting in the cellar.

I reached the bottom and found a switch, which lit another lonely bulb in the cellar. What it illuminated was a horribly grotesque altar that seemed to be dedicated to the worship and practice of some occult black magic. I was repulsed by the blasphemous nature of the whole décor of the cellar. There were strange idols all around, sconces of black candles, strange shapes and symbols adorned the floor and walls, and a table in the center of the room contained many books and several large knives. I knew immediately that this was where they had brought the body to do what now appeared some sort of dark ritual; however, I could find no trace of the body anywhere. All the signs of foul play screamed to me from this dark cellar. I felt ill at ease and knew that I could afford little time searching too thoroughly. I decided to take several pictures of the room. As I took pictures of the several books littering the table in the center of the room I paused tempted to browse their contents, but I figured that I could research them at my leisure if I took photos of their titles. There was the copy of what I would learn was Billingsley’s supposed translation of the Voynich Manuscript, the Cultes de Goules, the Necronomicon, the Nocturnicon, the Song of Morrighunb, and the Book of Nod. I suppressed my urge to open these strangely named tomes and got out of the house as quickly as possible.

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