Laid to Rest

“If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.” – Job 14, 14

I

It is said that when you are about to die your whole life passes through before your eyes. But those, who are alive and say this must be lying, because they truly weren’t about to die: they were about to live. For who can say what passes through the eyes of a dying man? Not the dead, that is for certain. But what about the undead? Who can say what thoughts and images flow through an empty skull, free of the gelatinous mass of gray brain matter, which rationalizes your every action and every single action performed?

There once existed a man who lived for a great number of years, but is dying forever.

You may or then again may not wonder who I am and how do I know this. Well there’s no hiding it – I knew the man to whose door arrived a doom immeasurable by any gulf or chasm of despair. I also know the fact that the only chance to drag these dreadful events into the starlights and the sights of common men is by applying, what could be named literarily reversed psychology. If matters will take their due course, then this narrative shall without doubt, partly because of its most unbelievable chain of events, published in a weird fiction magazine.

To me, there is no real difference in the number of those, who might consider the following dealings with the uncanny as real. It is sufficient if there is even a single man to allow his train of thought derailed into the wilderness of the word ‘maybe’. Sure, I am selfish, as is every next man on this planet, selfish enough to satisfy the desire to at least give it a chance as fiction and tell the world, the living world of what yawns its rotten jaws beneath our shaky, clay feet and illusions of peace forever-lasting. To have been witnessing a cadaver growl and a ghoul drool is an explosive in the brain – C4 to finish you off with imploding if not released by disarming.

If what I have seemed to be gone through has been so horrible why have I not taken my own life, a skeptic slowly getting overrun by boredom may ask. Dear Sir or Madam: a grave is not a safe place, especially for a corpse and as long as my last wishes shall be honored my dead body will be incinerated and ashes scattered into the wind to avoid a foul deed that the sorcerers take great professional joy and pride of completing with.

Without further ado I will tell all of you a story of death after life and of what lies between.

To imagine and to forget – surely the greatest pleasures submitted to us by the Great Unknown that sows havoc through the Universe. Still we are blind to see the invisible; still we are too numb to feel alive. We yearn for knowledge, for it is power. Though power we hope to gain control, control over our own actions and what is most important – over all others. And sometimes this sinister urge is so great, so malicious, that it becomes dominative over all other wishes and needs. I should know, shouldn’t I?

By the evening of the 21 st of August Harozslaw had all the samples and papers gathered, including his last will and testimony that he had so much difficulty in writing. When the sun sank and darkness fell I stepped into his house just as the last maid walked out bumping into me, face gloomy with grief and a bag of her belongings in her hand. What I had secretly feared had now obviously found confirmation: he was indeed dying.

I had always been by his side, even when his wife passed on and I felt it to be my, however painstaking, to stand by his side in his final hours.

Sadly the disease had taken its toll by the mouthfuls since the last time I saw him at his laboratory – he now was a mere shadow of his former self. His caved in eye sockets, that were usually filled with an ingenious spark of wisdom gathered by his passing years had now a shade of a moonless night under them as a mischievous boy had drawn with his dirty fingers a line under the man’s eyes. If I were a little boy, I would surely been scared of this old man, who in reality was nothing short of patience, persistence and kindness. He raised his arm, weakly and slowly, to invite me into his former study, where the bed at his requests had been also moved.

“Marcus, my good boy, you came,”

Hanging up my hat and coat, I pulled up a smile as fake as a liar’s promise.

“Fine, fine. A nudge better than you, I suppose?”

“You could say that, yes.”

I was glad to see the old man had retained his peculiar sense of humor. He caught my glance that aimed for his desk, which was filled with stacks of papers and books.

“Now now, I don’t want to hear that speech about overworking, Marcus. I’ve heard that old story out of the nurses I let go thousands of times. Its not as if I could develop more severe symptoms from it as to those I own now, can I?”

He was right and I knew it. I tried to pity him but somehow his gleeful mood, even on his darn deathbed got the better of me.

“I suppose not. Hey, the boys and of course Maude,” I winked at him. “They send their greetings and hope you’ll get better soon.”

There was some sort of a morbid smoke of a burning irony emitting from both of our faces. We both knew he wouldn’t recover, not when the cancer had turned his insides out as much as it had by now. Silence filled the room as an inescapable monster.

“Listen – I know it is uncomfortable for you to be here, now especially. You are too good of a friend for me to let you see me like this… unless. Unless I have something important to trust into your hands, Marcus.”

I stood at the tall window with my hand slightly pushing away the dark blue curtains that painted the room and its inhabitant into merciful shadows.

“What is it?” Getting right to the point always worked well when you needed to get something over with quickly and for good. There were some children playing outside the building, chasing a wheel with a stick. They were laughing with sharp voices, when I in a sudden flood of morbidian mood tried to imagine all those little people lying in graves, under all that dirt like we all soon will be, with carrions crawling through the tunnels they have chewed through them. I shook it off.

“See there, on the table. The paperback book under the left pile. Pull it out and tell me its title.”

I complied.

It was quite worn-out, as if read by numerous people who all weighted a grudge against everything out of paper and not wrinkled.

“The Outsider and Others”.”

“I want you to have it.”

Obviously his tone of voice expected some sort of a reaction from me. I had to disappoint him.

“What can I say?”

“Nothing, until you have listened to what I have to say. It has also been written down in my will, but I think what I have to tell you personally would sound, well – believable. Sit down.”

Letting out a silent sigh, I took a seat and numbly opened the book, flipping through it. It was a mere science-fiction book, which could been told by its covers, that were not so much as horrid and repulsing but overdone and ridiculous. Then I remembered reading it at the state library between the study sessions. That time I had taken quite a fancy at this sort of literature.

“Are you familiar with this book?”

Timidly I nodded, because this genre was hardly reading material for an educated man.

“Turn to the story “The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward”.”

A smug grin appeared on my face. He didn’t have to tell me to read the story. Even without straining my memory I recalled myself younger and more easily excitable, sitting in the half-lit library in a lonely corner reading through Lovecraft’s stories with a feverish rush that left me wanting more and then again, with a sense of disturbing foreboding of the mental aftershock his fiction affected upon me. Especially that particular one.

“Yes, I’m familiar with this one, I think. Its about that wizard or magician who came back from the dead and so on?”

“Right you are. That was some fiction. The book itself, I mean that printing, has become a collectors item itself. Not to mention the almost cult-like status of the author.”

“So you’re saying you collect his books?” The idea of being a supervisor of his extensive collection of books seemed quite a burden.

“Oh no, no such thing. Although his tales are very gripping I prefer to collect more rational stuff, you know that. Already I have made arrangements for the Tulphious Institute to receive my Genealogy and the Molecular Biology collection. Don’t you worry about it – I have my own legacy for you to inherit you with.”

Why did I sense a note of secrecy on his voice?

“And I guess I will have to wait until you’re six feet under to find out what that is, right?”

“Quite so, my friend. But nonetheless let us return to that particular story. Do you know what made those sorts of tales so believable? I mean Lovecraft’s? No? Well I’ll tell you: facts. And I know your response, I know that you are a skeptic, but I must add – facts mixed with fable, my dear friend. Of course what takes place in the stories between these covers and in any other phasmagorically based fairy-tales is from the imagination of the author, but in this case,” he lowered his voice, “the story contains more science than fiction.”

There was a pause, a very short one but still the more meaningful. Before I could add anything, he continued.

“Now you must understand all I am saying is connected with my will. I am not trying to pull some sort of a prank on you neither. You suspect and doubt everything. That is why you were my best of students and that is why you are the only one I can entrust you with this. Now, from the chair that is behind the work-desk, there is something on it. Pick it up.”

I walked to the chair and saw a tiny jar, a very strange one, on it. It was made of copper, I think, for it had carvings upon it and was very heavy.

“What is it? It looks old?”

“It is an urn, to be precise.”

I looked at him.

“So are someone’s… remains in it?”

“Of course.”

“And whose might they be?” I wasn’t sure how one hinted at someone’s ashes: in plural or in singular.

“Joseph Curwen’s.”

Not a muscle in my face moved.

“You’re awfully quiet. Say something.”

I kept staring at those carvings that had spread themselves over the surface of the copper urn. The images were depicting skeletons or puppets holding hands in the middle of a circle of dancing flames. The case of the urn had a curios flower petal on it.

“What could I say: you, an expert on biochemistry show me this little book and then reveal to me that you hold the ashes of Curwen in your possessions? Personally, I think you have been swindled. Just the other day I read the news that some idiot proclaimed to own the shroud of Jacques de Molay.” I hadn’t come here to argue with a dying man.

“You must believe me that its contents are valid! I was as skeptical as you were when I…. Well, I know you need some convincing and that I can easily do. You do trust me, don’t you?”

“Of course. Especially now that you are… in this condition. I don’t see any reason why you would lie about anything like this.”

“Right you are. Especially when this discovery seems to complete my life’s work, mind you. About these ashes, you know, I bought them for a pound, believe it or not! Marcus, you don’t know how difficult it was to go through all of Lovecraft’s stories and then double-check everything he had named. The books, places, and people – the list was endless. Finally I came to a stop in Pawtuxet. I had several private investigators on the case, who I made sure were unaware of anyone like Lovecraft and his creation at all. Hard work indeed, almost all my savings have went down the pipe. Except for the solid evidence you hold in your hand.”

What had been going through his mind? The fool – but I guessed that it could have been induced by his final days on this earth, living with the knowledge of soon-to-be-arrived Death. Like he needed the money where he was going.

“When one of my so-called ‘agents’ reported that indeed in the town of Pawtuxet public records revealed one Joseph Curwen as resident in the area somewhere from the 18 th century. And Lovecraft researchers know as a fact that he had made several trips to the place before writing that story. Who knows where he got the imagination to make the story to what it is today, but we now know that the Olney Court estate still stands in its original form. Not torn down, not burned down in flames as a result of a raging mob. It is all there; it has been there through all the centuries that have passed this Earth. Anyway long story short – I purchased the place and my people found this in the attic of the house.”

“Sounds like you have some agency or a huddle of people all working in order to bring something out to the light of day.” There was a dry, sarcastic tone in my voice.

“You are more right than you know. To this date I have been convinced that life could be suspended until the wish of the suspender dies. You know what I speak of?”

Of course I did. The directional board remembered well that scandal that had successfully been repressed later on because the negative shade it casted upon the facility. To say he had revolutionary ideas in the field of cloning was to say that the medieval witch-trials were a few, loosely linked riots. Luckily his experiment failed, with the ashes of that unfortunate human, whose identity was never discovered, were secretly scattered away – my teacher liked to believe that cloning was not the thing of the future, but of the past. He believed, that even dead bodies could be raised up for they contained much richer a variety of cellular structure, tissue matter and even some parts of the brain that emitted magnetic, weak but still something, impulses. Of his thoughts not much was discussed about and it was not like he provoked the idea himself, as he was too educated for foolishly speaking heresy in medicine. I don’t even know where he got those ideas, but some point to the change for the stranger sort upon his arrival from his trip to the Mongolian plains and Tibetan mountains. His behavior was excused though, due to his brilliance in his work and successes. And now, even before his death he couldn’t give that nonsense a rest.

“You have been convinced. And now you say… what?”

“I am saying nothing, Marcus. I know what you’re thinking. It’s quite alright; it is only normal to doubt and to suspect, whether it is fraud or a sham. You must think of me as quite the simpleton, eh?”

I turned around and looked into those caves, where from the depth still two eyeballs stared back at me, with a notion of sadness in them.

“Honestly I don’t know what to think. I have been by your side when you wrote that thesis about the possibility of human replicating. And proving it, at least to the point they allowed you.”

“Yes, they are stubborn, aren’t they? Clinging on to their God and ethics, that are long crumbled to dust, are they not?”

“I’m not here to discuss these things. I came to see you off. After this I am going straight to the office to clear out my things and then… maybe to the creek, to fish or anything…. It just feels meaningless to continue on without you. You were my mentor. When you pass away there is no motivation left. Even now I feel being drained, drained weaker and more apathetic. The dean already knows, I am taking a sick leave.”

“Good for you because you are going to need it. Take this,” He pulled out a paper envelope from the pocket of his robe. “Inside you will find an address and a key. The house is yours. Now go. I must get some rest.”

I was baffled to say the least.

“But – “

“Go. Farewell…”

So I went. It was obvious the conversation was over. Besides I didn’t feel like arguing with an ill man and I couldn’t stand anything sentimental. If he would have gone and started reminiscing the past I would have taken my coat and hat and mumbled some excuse, and left. Simple as that. No looking back, no needless feelings. On the way down I thought he said something, more to himself than to me, about meeting me again soon. I frowned. Not the sort of a last meeting that I had expected. Mumbo-jumbo about horror-stories and whatnot. Not like he was going to die at all. I opened the envelope and found a small, but a rusty house key. There was nothing extraordinary about it. If I would have known but what extraordinarily dimension of daemonic inhumanities, depraved and decadent revelations of earthly perversities that simple key would unlock for me, I had done nothing but forget that accursed old man on his deathbed and his nauseating legacy. But that is the greatest thing about future – there is none.

II

I never had an eye for architecture. I understood that the aesthetics of it and the historical value of some of the older buildings raised by the hands of, that could have very likely been owned by one of my ancestors, the settlers in these parts but I never could fully appreciate it. The deepening emotion of everything decaying around me had really hit me upon old Harozslaw’s funeral. The first signs of the autumn frost showed themselves on the roses left on the casket, freezing the drops of water on them. The breeze blew through my coat like glass needles, leaving me damn the weather that mocked my grief. In the reading of the will I was still feeling the cold, but I was unsure if it came from the pain of losing a dear friend or the menacing season that haunted me with its presence. Over the doorstep of Olney Court I stepped with a foot of lead. Through the door the chill carried in the scent of Death that had clanged on to me from the funeral – there was no other explanation to the fetid atmosphere that oozed forth from every crevice of the house I had been inherited with.

The interior would have easily been thought to have been inhabited by the homeless unless one forgot to check the barred windows and locked doors. Indeed there was mess and hubris in the former house of one Joseph Curwen.

The lack of dust on the floor must have been the result of the movers that had carried boxes and the equipment down into the old cellar. I closed the door and the escaping draft. In the corner there laid smashed chairs and clearly an old table, perhaps colonial, that was pushed against the wall. The hall was completely void of furniture, which remains had been brushed against the walls so they wouldn’t obviously hinder the moving builders that had taken care of Harozslaw’s equipment.

Why anyone would have thrashed what had seemed to be at least very valuable furniture I did not comprehend. As the whole house looked like it was only being held together by paint alone I knew once I would get settled in at the small hostel a mere block away from this place I would start making plans for tearing this whole building down. I turned away and out the door again. The place gave me the creeps and I had plenty of those at the funeral.

I didn’t look back but I thought I heard a shutter in the second floor close, as the house itself went back to its undisturbed sleep that was filled with the wandering dead and the echoes of the history’s yesteryears. There was no wind. I got the creeps.

From the weed-grown path that leads away from the Olney Court one can take many paths to the old town. Some paths are more violent, some less unsafe. A man can get lost amongst the atmosphere that has settled in the very spot the first settlers grounded their shovels in. Cypress groves with their branches waving in the slow-motion wind, threatening to stop if you do not get a little bit scared of what they are; old houses crippled by worms in the wood begging to collapse for once and for all; and the dead swimming underneath and through the earth – letting themselves be known by the mysterious sigh here and there among the wilderness and deserted alleyways, where no man lays his habitat.

“The Seven Son’s” hostel had been built into a former warehouse, which were scattered around and amidst the town as the place had once been thriving with merchants and goods from the ships that anchored themselves in the wharf.

My room was adequate to be stayed in for a week or so: well, for the time I had acquainted myself with the house I had been inherited with. There were little or any other guests present and with the quaint little, mustached man that ran the hostel as a family business I became quite the friends. He was the one that helped me see the backwatered state of the place in a larger picture – he even insisted me of tearing Olney Court down in a quicker pace I had imagined. Explaining how the place was hardly worth anything in its present state and that there was no-one in particular seeking a place to found their home in the town anyway, the best plan would have been to level the house completely and fill the basement floor with concrete.

Here I think I should emphasize how it always felt that when talking to him, he always talked of the place with a quieter tone, so if he had had to write of the house he would have surely written “The House”. The reason for this I never discovered or cared about because in a week’s time I would be gone from the place anyway. Afterwards I did a deed not common with my nature: calling back to my lawyer I had him check if not the hostel keeper hadn’t made an offer on the house himself. That I became suspicious and a little paranoid of the man’s overall manner of suggestion towards the house had a part to play in my distrust, I guess. Usually I would not have given him a time of day, because someone was going to have to buy it anyway and me sell it. Since the incident I was, in a forgotten part of my conscience, disturbed by it and ashamed, which I tried to even with me paying him two weeks rent ahead regardless of the fact I was leaving in fewer days than of those. In fact, within four or five days my real-estate broker would arrive and give the place an estimated value in total. Of course it was a rotten thing to do, selling the house just as I had gotten it, but the surroundings suitable for Harozslaw were not the ones cut out for me.

The next morning I prepared myself for a stroll to the outer-leading paths of the town when descending from the stairs I heard the hostel door close with a bit of a bang and the kind keeper’s voice hushing the guest or guests to ‘pipe down or he would hear us’. Needless to say I at once knew that whoever those guests might be they were surely talking of me as no other guests were registered and besides, the ones coming in were spoken to in a tone that suggested a long friendship between each other.

“Is the poor man still sleeping?” It was an old, tired voice. The man must have been at least seventy years old.

“He hasn’t come down yet so it is safe to assume. That doesn’t mean that you can make a racket here. I’m not especially keen on explaining him why half the township is here holding a secret meeting. For the Heavens, I feel like I am a conspirator or a crook.” Unmistakably it was the hostel keeper, who’s own rooms lay just below mine.

“Don’t you go having second thoughts. Telling him would only complicate things even more. We don’t want him go around with wild ideas in his head. I saw him as he drove in: quite ordinary fellow, city folk. His sort will think we’re out for ourselves. He would never believe us.”

Kneeling down and making sure that my feet weren’t showing, I was eager to catch every word – this was very bizarre to say the least!

“I’ve just come back from The Farm. The noises died down although I am not sure the source of it did.” A short but unconvincingly weak giggle escaped the throat of the younger man, with a most high-pitched voice. “The flood probably broke in from the southern side. The old masonry wasn’t easy to break but it had a little help from mister Crowbar here.”

I could just barely see the man’s feet and then I made out that it was a crowbar in his hand as he lowered it after demonstrating it to others. What did he mean by saying that?

“The new lead-plated doors didn’t give in. The doctor must have paid the men to install them at night, crossing the river with barges. He must of known what we were up to. Clever of him.”

The hostel keeper disrupted the youngster.

“What do you want here? I understood we had a meeting only after the flood had done the work. Let the water flush that darkness out of there.”

“We can’t count on it now. Judith said the doctor had written a letter to the man warning him not to sell the place. That it was not meant to pass onto the hands of some random, dim-witted merchant or commoner. Only days before his death he fired all the nurses and Judith had a very hard time ‘misplacing’ the letter. No, we have to risk it and blow the doors in the southern hills. It is not too late to let this entire business end well. It is not roaming yet. I checked. The seals were intact.” The old man was clearly a leader of this obnoxious gang, although to this point I was uncertain what was this all about? Clearly they were talking of the hills and Olney Court as they were as one, but surely they must have know those two were miles apart and that the hills had no path or ditch leading to Olney Court, so they must have been mistaken when saying the recent flood had reached the building. And did they mean it when they said they had had a sort of an insider nursing Harozslaw?

There was something sinister at work here, possibly topping my imagination in their devious and complex patterns. My head went quite pale as the phrase paranoid crossed paths with conspiracy – I, until then, did not consider myself to be easily excitable but this blew all consideration. What was their purpose? What had I gotten myself into?

“We came here to tell you that you urge him to tear The House down. Or else we will set fire to it once again. Hank heard a sound coming from the place earth is now thinnest and where the old fiend used to trek at night with his shovel.”

“Yeah. And it weren’t the rats either. It sounded like someone clawing and scraping against the marble slabs the others buried around it. It will soon find a way out. And then the singes of the pits of Tartarus might engulf this town again. No, it should not happen again. I propose we meet here an hour before midnight and send one of us into The House to see for sure. We must not lose our vigil, I cannot stress that enough. If what the doctor concocted down there was sufficient in its deviance and blasphemy the grimmish days may be upon us all as once they threatened our ancestors.”

After the old man said that as with a whisper I barely heard, a brief moment of silence emerged, where everyone most probably said amen or praise to their forefathers. With that the spontaneous meeting must have ended for I quickly drew back at the sound of the steps leaving the hostel and the outer door slamming shut.

Immediately I drew back to my room as quietly as possible. I splashed some water on my face from the bowl I had put on my cupboard. Different actions crossed my mind like freight trains, each one on collision course with the other due to their absurdities. Was I supposed to call the police office? Reporting what? There was too little to know to even myself and too soon to act on based what I had heard. The only rational decision in a non-rational situation was to simply play along.

After a half an hour I wondered downstairs retaining my cool. I drank some coffee and made chitchat with him. Then I headed back upstairs, locked the door and started to look for a piece of paper to make some plausible notes on the situation surrounding me. Failing to find one among my belongings I had in my bag I was already planning to trek downstairs and ask the hostel keeper for it, I passed my coat that was hanging by the door and brushed against something that I had not noticed to be there before.

A piece of paper was sticking out of my left pocket. In a frenzy of feverish thought I impatiently pulled it out without wondering how it had gotten itself into my coat and started scribbling.

The first words I drew in the center were Olney Court. Beyond doubt this was the distortion factor in the whole affair. I circled it. The second set of words spelled Harozslaw. Yes, undoubtedly he was connected with Olney Court. Why had he been drawn to this place and how was I in relation with it? I drew also the names Joseph Curwen and even Lovecraft, then frowned and deleted the first and wrote it in the same section I had written that authors name. Then as the last figure I wrote ?. Finishing them, I connected the bubbles with the central cloud of Olney Court. The question mark represented the… oh I couldn’t even name it: a sort of a nameless, shapeless and a voiceless form of a constantly mutating and pulsating amoeba of the unknown – owning to his only constant the factor of change, willing to change at once upon the alert of your suspicion gaining a more convincing foothold.

Tapping the pencil at the paper I wondered about everything I had heard and experienced, when suddenly another streak of thought struck me. What the hell was this anyway? I didn’t remember stuffing paper sheets into my coat pockets. I turned it around and saw it had been closely folded in half and that in repetition in two too. Opening it I was very short of a gasp: it was that letter those folks were whispering about downstairs earlier. It was the last letter Harozslaw had ever written. They said something about nurses getting fired and one of them deliberately misplacing the letter for some reason. And that woman walking into me when visiting the man? Was it that the way it happened? I hoped the letter would explain it all. How wrong I was.

Dear Marcus,

This letter is meant to reach you after you get to visit Olney Court. Yes, I am leaving you the place with a favor I need to ask you, it being that you won’t sell the house. It is of the utmost importance that you will not demolish it or harm it in any other way. Respect this wish as the last wish of a dead man. But we will see to that shortly.

There were things that I did not tell you of when you last came to see me for these things would have sounded too unbelievable for that time being. I have been going through some things, very emotional ones. Do you remember the day I got the answer back from the hospital? Of course you do, you were there with me. As a friend, you always have been by my side, through my life. But now I am dead.

There is a matter that I am hesitant to speak of, even to you – one of my greatest students. All I can say is that I have had some funding and aid from a group of people across the sea. Without them the feat I had undertaken would have been impossible. You will have to go to Olney Court now. Look under the third step of the outside stair for the basement key. All shall be cleared up there, my friend.

But watch out: do not have traffick with the townsfolk!

They have seemed to hinder my progress so far by minor tricks and meddling but who knows what those superstitious folk may be capable of.

This concludes my last words in this life. Excuse this old man his flair for theatrics.

Until I see you again,

Harozslaw.

Pondering about the, especially the last ending lines, I sat on my bed and flipped the paper around over and over again. I laid down to rest for a while and thought I heard someone knocking on my bolted door, then dismissing the thought with the realization that the pounding came from inside my skull as the aftermath of an awakened migraine. What master plan of the most malicious intents was at play here? How the hell had I gotten myself into it in the first place? I wasn’t a catholic or belong to any church but the previous thought came as a blasphemy on the dearly deceased’s account. I opened my eyes and didn’t see gray clouds gently hovering themselves over me, then wrapping their damp clutches around me, as into a cocoon – sleep, the most merciful of servants of a troubled mind.

III

I believe I have seen the graves vomiting out their insides. I don’t have faith in calling out the name of any god for my protection in the most perilous and threatening of cases. And the least, the furthest of the truths I have known is the belief in eternal rest. To rest eternally is a hope so sacred that on that thought alone a weary man can walk down his road of demise and still cling on to it, holding on to it and using it as the last consolation when all others fail. Lose trust in the chance that at one time all suffering of this flesh-barred prison will end, that the world that is indifferent to your agony will cease to be for you perceptions, and into the chasm of torment upon the stale Earth you have already fallen.

For what reassurance will he, who has seen the devils of the Outer Gulfs deliver any soul demanded by the sages of diswisdom, commanders of the dead words and dead eyes, have that even in death, even through the cold ground he can be disturbed and tortured by means immeasurable for an ordinary mind? It seems to be that the answer does not exist for I surely have searched through all what might have hold of it.

Of course that was not what I was thinking at time. It is only my sorry little mind wondering off again. Who was that brilliant mad-man who confessed that of all the things he lost he missed his mind the most? In reality I wasn’t thinking at all when I fell asleep. Instead I remember…

I remember I thought I was getting up but then I realized I was in fact falling down. Then I realized I wasn’t realizing anything because I wasn’t thinking at all. With every idea that perceived me I instantly saw purple spheres, with the occasional flicker of golden water on their surfaces, passing me by in blinding speed, only to discover they were bubbling from the once oblong and then bubbling mass of what was me.

Trying to reach out an arm or something reminding of a gelatinous garden hose, I thought of touching those ball-like things – then from Nowhere, or Everything – which ever came first – another sphere with no proportions appeared, colliding with the other, canceling each other out. With every new and excitingly unmatched idea appeared other apparitional appendixes of geometrical expressions, fading my interest in great haste.

Focusing my senses upwards, the only direction in the middle of mixed and amalgamated tens of different dimensions; I perceived that I was in no other dimension than a dot. Everything I was in, everything that filled the nothing around me was singular and infinite, as a dot on a paper page. Staring into it, I saw no end, nor felt any gravity or effect of physical force. The idea I now gave birth to was enormous: being at least the size of Mars, sparkling with golden and yellow strings, that had spread over it with multi-seconds of minutes, it bolted up from me and flew in no particular direction but inwards. Yes, the dot I was in was a one-dimensional infinity – directionless, motionless, and endless. I had once but nearly fell into a well. Same visions applied here – a black, infinite hole that fooled you with being in a three-dimensional space and on a page of paper, no less! The huge, gigantic sphere now grew more static and threw off sparks the size of something very large and hectic.

Without speed or motion I tried to move in the dot of infinity but found myself being pushed by the purplish spheres. One rammed against my supposable shoulder, the other soon followed to hit my supposable head as the result of being in crash course with it.

Some impertinent little god threw suddenly a very large quantity of navy blue paint over Everything, leaving the dot itself blurred and ambiguous. It looked like slime. Before I knew it I was in it – knee deep. Trying to move through it I stumbled and fell. The cold and rubbery surface gave my face a hideous kiss. I yelled.

There was nobody to hear it as no one rushed to my aid. Laying flat on my face on the rough carpet beside my bed I knew the nightmare that had held a brief moment of possession over me was gone. Dizzy, I rose up and opened my eyes only to witness the emerging twilight that crawled curiously over the mountains. After pulling the shades before the window and rushing out I found the reception table empty.

The outside door creaked on his moving hinges as the autumn wind made another victory invading another household. Lighting the lamp I saw my watch stating half past ten. How could I have slept through the whole day like that? Accounting it on the tiring experiences and troubling thoughts haunting me throughout the day before and the start of this one, I left the “Seven Son’s” hostel in a hurry. Then cursing my absent-mindedness I rushed back in to the counter and rummaged its shelves and drawers. Having found the flashlight, I was about to venture into the dark, when I stopped on the doorstep. Was it not foolish to just wander out there, although driven by the elemental urge to protect my worldly possessions from being damaged, in the dusk armed with only a hint of shroud of doubts and a flashlight? What if I had misunderstood those people downstairs? The hostel-keeper did not sound lunatic to me, neither the others by the sound of it. Still, if they were to harm my house, and it was really ‘my’ house, then I had to check if their actions reached their verbal skills. After that step outside there was no going back – I was determined to get the fetid chapter of my life through with as much sternness and conviction as possible.

By the time I had started to leave the town behind me I had had one and a half panick attacks. The first time I started to inhale with effort for I saw the sun set with three times faster than it should have been – unnatural light that was the dark opened its rotting tooth-ridden mouth and swallowed Pawtuxet. In my searches for the fantastic and the adventurous in the library I had even sought the bible for condolence from boredom. There had been a queer battle and the soldiers of Jehovah had sudden help from their master, who shaded the source of all our heat, enabling his followers to brutally slay all who opposed him. Fear had me in a suffocating chokehold: was I now on the side of the almighty or the barbarous, ancient people who enjoyed human sacrifice?

It was a trek lengthy a mile or two, which I completed with some difficulty for my incapability to orientate in a landscape I had only briefly visited once and that too had been while it was still light outside. There were neither crickets nor wind. Ghastly and grotesque shadows ran beside me as the electric torch was shaking and stirred in my hand, which trembled feverously.

Then, stumbling upwards from the path that had made its way over the last hill yielding Olney Court from my sight, I forced my breath to restore and take very quiet steps, for what I saw demanded caution of the most mortally threatening of kind: around the old colonial house were with two-meter spaces men from the town, holding torches in one and rifles or some other firearms that I couldn’t make out in the light, in the other hand. Busy holding their posts, I put out my flashlight and started to sneak closer half-crouched. What were the bastards up to? I wondered if -. Then I did not wonder anything because a sort of a thumping sound was heard from somewhere behind me. With no fear, but amazement I turned myself around to see who was making that entire racket. Through a red fog I glimpsed a young man standing behind me holding a rifle like a club. As I was passing out I realized he had already swinged.

IV

What had my head have to endured during that horridly vivid day and night? If I would have been my head I’d surely had move out and onwards from my body, leaving that mischief-loving torso and limbs to themselves. My head had been subject to headaches, baseball training and unused to terror, that my head and I couldn’t even precisely name or sort into a category. Only lurking fear walked like an uncomfortable rubbery caterpillar down my spine during when I let myself to conclude the wildest of phantasies of mine, connecting that wretched Lovecraft book, the reality of Olney Court and unconfirmed malady resonating from those polite-on-the-surface townsfolk.

“Get up,”

The voice was vaguely familiar.

“But be quiet. We don’t want to provoke whatever is there to provoke in there.”

It was the old man from the hostel. In the dim torchlight I saw his wrinkled face, ridden with lines and troublesome impressions.

“You’re… you are trying to burn down my house… bastards…”

Failing to get up, my shaky feet that were the result of that cunning back-attack gave up and I dropped down again.

“It is not your house, man. Its previous owner has not even departed yet.” The younger lad wielding that rifle chuckled nervously as to his own private joke.

A faint crackle was heard, smothered and distant. The ground shook slightly.

That seemed to distract the old man somewhat for he stared in the direction of the rumble, and then pulled me up by the shoulders. Strangely I sensed no danger from him or the others, even though they looked like a mob waiting for some to come around and then be lynched.

Around the faces that surrounded me I noticed a change in rigidness. White knuckles grasped the torches; white also were their faces that were illuminated by the light.

“They have already blasted the doors then,” The older man said it as to himself. “Okay, torch the place now.”

I tried to object but the hands held me at place like pincers.

“Dont struggle, sir. Believe me, its for greater good. Its for the greater good.”

With anger-ridden eyes I witnessed one of the townsfolk run closer to the house until its walls were in his reach. He lowered the torch to one of the wooden beams, old and grey from the centuries past. Every glance had turned to the man, who had held the blazing torch next to the beam long enough for it to heat up and burst into flames.

“It won’t burn!”

His voice was filled with gruesome fear, like the house had thrown its evil eye upon him, threatening to do more than stand to still and endure the licking flames.

“It won’t burn! It won’t! Look at it!” The man was hysterical, clearly, and holding the torch not as it was supposed to be in order to set something on fire.

“The house is evil, evil from the beginning it was built! Even now when so many years and people have passed,” The elderly man, to whom some of the suspicious-looking mob addressed to as obviously the leader of the town, whispered it to me. Flames, flickering flames reflected from his eyes, or had those been put there by some unknown fear?

Some yelling issued from the direction where the blast had come from earlier, the sort of a yelling that had issued once before from the throats of the uncoverers of that fatefully dreaded tomb of the Black Pharaoh in Yemen; and from the mouths of the first spanian conquerors, that had to face the ancient guards of the golden city of Qtuetzhelu’huu – the guards that had tottered out of the tombs.

“If anything comes to plain sight, just shoot it! Be vigil!”

He started to push me, taking slow steps among the rugged landscape that hid trippable objects.

“You came to this town searching what? What did you want from this place, this house?” As he spoke he kept shoving me in the back with what I guessed to be the barrel of a .45.

“The place is legally mine, I inherited it… from my dearest of friends…”

“Not from a friend, but a fiend! Scientists, sorcerers – what’s the difference? Both meddling in business that is none of your or human concern… Damned it be! Why couldn’t you folk just leave this place alone?”

“I was going to sell it, sell the house, you have to believe me – I can sell it to you exclusively if you desire it so-“

We had reached the stairs leading to the house itself and there we stopped.

“We don’t want the house! We never wanted it! Damned that writer for visiting our village and snooping around here like he had any business rebuilding myths that were born of history! If it wouldn’t not have been for him your ‘friend’ would never had the brains to search the graveyards and houses for it.”

“It?” I turned around, not sure if he was going to shoot me or not. He hadn’t stricken me as a killer, none of these people had. A vague aura of desperation hung in the air, sources unknown. “What are you doing with that gun? Are you going to shoot me? That’s what you’re doing, aren’t you? Shoot me and then leave me in the smoldering ashes of the building!”

“You idiot! We’re not planning to kill you. We are not murderers, for Gods sake! It is just an unfortunate crossing of paths that history repeats itself.

You are the friend of that scientist-devil, aren’t you? To you he wrote that letter, did he not? Now you must go into the house and see for yourself if and what has that bastard done. I am not putting my people in danger.”

He threw me a pistol.

“Take it. Shoot whatever is inside. The farm ruins are soon flooded. The morning rain will wash away the ashes and the sins. Now go, go I tell you!”

Nothing did I grasp in this turn of events, except that they were all crazy and it wouldn’t be possible that they who held their guns on me before gave me a loaded gun.

“What should I expect to find there? Ghouls and goblins?” They were going to shoot me or burn me in. And not necessarily in that order. Why not be sarcastic in, what could turn out to be, my last few minutes? Crouching down and feeling around with my left hand I found the old key from under the third step, hanging from a crooked nail.

“You shouldn’t kid with such things, mister Big City Man! That writer-man did too, until he found that accursed old drunken preacher Sands from the edge of the town. He blabbered out far more things that we needed to remain buried and forgotten. I guess it was our own fault we let the lore of this town become stranger than fiction. But thank our forefathers for making the fact into lore in the first place!”

Opening the door, all the torchlight from far behind me threw thick and murky light into the thrashed hall.

“Hey!”

I turned around and catched the flashlight.

“And remember,” he said. “The most terrible things the writer didn’t just add, the terrible were the things he did not dare to include at all!”

The door closed behind me, leaving me all alone into the darkened, silence-emitting hall of the dreadfully fictious Olney Court.

I don’t know how long I stood there, holding the gun and the flashlight – and I think I would rather have had gone mad without the torch than the weapon. To the basement I could get through the library – that much I knew. Also the thought of using The Outsider and Others as a valid guide for navigating inside the house was ridiculous, as no one really knew what Lovecraft had added from the figment of his own imagination or from the explorations of the place itself. Gripping the torch firmly, I crossed the hall and turned left into the old library. Letting the light slide over the dusty paneling and shelves the obvious conclusion followed – whoever Joseph Curwen had been, he had given his books to someone instead of letting them rot here. From the outside I still heard silent commands and once a shaking feeling, this time being another explosion. Madmen! What was the point of flooding those tunnels? If there even were any. Underground passages and tunnels – nonsense. What could have the point of them been anyway? Unless you were a bootlegger. But there wasn’t any of that back in Curwen’s time.

Between two huge shelves lay a brand new metallic door. It now became apparent that whatever Harozslaw had been doing here had involved repairing and securing the lower floors. I noticed that I had become to breathe kind of slowly and with woe, as waiting for something to go pop that would give me permission to snap and scream without embarrassment. Hurrying decisively to the door I unlocked it and stepped through it…

Instantly a flood of smells struck me rising up from downstairs. What loathsome stench! First I recognized several chemical substances that Harozslaw and I had used in certain embryologic and genealogical experiments; with mice only, of course. A sad event it was that only for him it had not been enough. And yet…. Something else, a sort of a foul, organic smell. I couldn’t quite place it, to put the smell and an object together. Or did I dare not to?

Standing in place I finally found that there was a small switch near the door and I pushed it, making halogen lights flicker on unwillingly. Newly installed wooden-planked steps betrayed detailed care of the house’s sublevel but an unpleasant surprise occurred when the first slow steps downwards were stopped by a crushing sound similar to stepping on empty nutshells. Backing up I felt my stomach turn as I saw a pile of scattered maggots; huge fly-larvae had somehow gotten to the upper stairs and taking a closer look I noticed they were crawling on every step. How they had managed to get there by themselves I didn’t have clue. Taking great caution to avoid those nasty little creeps I took exactly fifteen steps. Funny how little things like that can stay in your memory storage system that is the brain. Fifteen steps on a downward spiral.

Halogen lights give the illusion of illuminating every shade different of light, but the artificity of it only painted the walls and the surroundings grotesque. A humming sound emitted from somewhere beyond my mind. It must have been a small generator built to support the lights and various other instruments in the lower floors. There were maggots vaguely spread over the floor as I descended. And I needed no spider to welcome me through the open door before me that yawned without light and age. In the far corners of the basement floor a huge bulk of pulsating flesh trembled on its own inertia, whispering backwards its carnivorous night-dreams. I turned away because I did not want to know how that thing got to earth without God having created it.

Dim light began here; the electric power seemed to have no control beyond the door – a bent nail was the hanger for the oil lamp to dangle from. Lighting it, I sensed with the primitive senses, that ought to have died out of us by millennia’s now, how a shadow dematerialized into form of some sort: as I had now invaded into the private dimension of unearthly experiments and maybe succeedings?

Here in the corner besides the door were stacks of boxes; large and small with sizes between, labeled either ‘mater.’ or ‘samples’. Every step was too followed by a nasty crunching sound and I knew the disgustingly wiggling and blind worms had found foul lair here by means unnatural. Illuminating the floor before me seemed daft for I had a weak stomach concerning insects.

Raising my hand with the lamp I saw that it was neither reason nor normality that he had delivered here in search of something driven by his obvious obsession about death and life – and the state between. Crude shelves lay left and right of me loaded full of cardboard boxes, empty glass jars and smaller medical equipment like bandages and scalpels. The walls oozed with humidity and dripped down evil sludge, gelatinous and fungi-filled. What had been going on here had not been concerned with neatness and sterility. Before me was a table, made of steel, that did not glimmer in the light. Instead smudged and dirty was its surface as a conscience of a medieval devil-trafficker. I imagined its drainage pipes were coagulated with the substance crusted over the table and thought with marvelous horror upon what had been performed surgery here. Again, left and right were doors that were closed with rusty and formidable locks centuries old. Just ahead, through an old archway that had in its sides carved flames of hell or just harmless weed or vines, yawned open. I took a step towards it but bounced back as running into an undetectable glass wall when the oil lamp could not illuminate the darkness inside the archway. I swallowed the saliva that was clinging onto the top of my mouth, almost leaving the mouth dry, drier than a mummified crocodile that had not been one before the dark hands of the people from under the pyramids had had their way with, drier than burned ashes. Outside my mouth I was wet: sweating not because of the unbearable humidity of the cellar but of the pressure of a presence with origins unknown – and the constant and at first unnoticeable lifting of feet even when standing still showed me with no shame how the house was getting under my skin, driving out the ordinary, letting in the normality of another place – of a crypt.

Backing away from the archway I decided to break one of the locks of the two doors. Pulling the handle I found it open. Letting my breath out the room was not filled with something to go ‘bump’ into me, but a simple table with papers and a pencil upon it. A box of candles and a small urn were in the corner and also, what amazed me, a bath filled with weird liquid. By my overdriven imagination I thought it to be blood but a dissolving and hissing nickel that I threw into it proved that it was some sort of strong acid. What could have been its purpose here I dared not to guess or think but passed it out of my thoughts by taking a look at the papers on the table. They were undisturbed. An envelope was placed on an unopened book – a notepad.

August13 th.

Did not find the ribcage and left fragment of the skull. Bone material that could be the missing fingers of the left hand found by diggers behind the cherry trees before the house: could belong to some other animal. Use with immediate caution.

August 14th.

Failure again! What came was not bearable for the eye to see: I shot it and carried it to the tub when it could not mumble and twist. NOTE: must get lid for the tub: some specimens splash with appendixes and produce sprays of dissolving acid. Most harmful for the living beings in the room at that time.

August 15th.

Returned from the cardiologist with no good news. Must speed up the research. Found the old supplies of J. Totally unusable. Is the work of him lost still? I do not have time to get to the point where he left off. Had news from the Group. They are sending me possible remains of J.C. but how could they have been in Prague when H.L. wrote in his letter to C.A.S. that J. was mangled and buried in pieces by the order of the Pentacle around the house? All I can do is wait for Life but I am waited too. By the manifestation of death, the wretched cancer.

August 18th.

A miracle! The devil performs them too! Locked it into the Cleansation Room. It should not break out by force. Although it was horrid: it crawled as a newborn baby and blabbered in tongues. Could not get any answers. Must use more painful bindings. Promised to send them to me by the Watchman Of The Night. If it succeeds, there will be no end!

August 20th.

Feel tired and weak. Will reach my apartment by six o’clock. Should call Marcus for preparing him. Farewell and see you again, world.

The handwriting wore off. Completely dazzled, I did not bother to read the dates before the month of August. The content of the envelope is irrelevant. After that I shot three times into the dark archway. What lumbered out I did not see for the maggots. The maggots were on it, festering and roaming violently through and in it. Never again had I been so appalled and thankful for seeing those grave pets for surely the thing they hid by feasting in it was much more vivid in the coat of horrors than the face of that huge crawler by the basement stairs.

As it tottered around in no direction worms dripped off of it revealing only spots of black skin, reminding me later that the things only eat on dead flesh, yet the thing walked! The urn I emptied into the bathtub making sure the dead remained dead. Harozslaw’s ashes I threw into the wind too, afterwards. He was obsessed and insane. And the generator for his experiments ‘overheated’. That is what the papers say caused the explosion in Olney Court. How sorry I am the house crumbled down filling the basement with dirt. Sorry for the living dead moaning under it and sorry for the fact I ever saw the life in eternal death!


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