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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Dark · #1975109
Intended to be short horror with an old world feel. As yet unfinished, criticism welcome.

                                                                                  THE TALE#1

My dearest nephew, I must firstly apologise for the length of time which has passed since the occurrence of which you have been partly informed, and your receipt of this letter. For the severity of my state of being since undergoing such a harrowing experience has, up until recently, left me bed ridden and of such a debilitating mental capacity as to render me quite incapable of any form of coherent communication. I am told now that it is as if my very sanity had fled me, to be replaced, or indeed, left behind only the ramblings of which those nurturing me perceived to be of such a nonsensical nature that a full and complete return to my senses was in grievous doubt.

I am therefore both relieved and cautiously gratified that my recovery is, at present, as such that I am now sufficiently capable of conversing. Though I have made, indeed do make daily, a conscious effort to steer both thoughts and words away from the horrors of that night. Least my careers and colleagues perceive some relapse or return to my previous maelstrom of a mindset, which I know they are fearful of, and as such ever vigilant against. Be that as it may, and guarded as they may be, as the only other living member of our bloodline I feel my needs must set this tale before you. Not in the want of comprehension you understand. No. For the sheer incredulity of what transpired that night is in itself so staggeringly out of the ordinary as to render either comprehension or belief virtually impossible.

Indeed if this tale were to be recounted to me I can quite definitely state that I would be left with no recourse other than to declare its teller an utter fantasist, or madman.

Yet despite my trepidation I set pen to paper in order that I may exorcise these unwanted unbidden recollections, whilst at the same time provide words of warning and caution to any and all who would venture to spend their night atop that accursed tree ringed hill top.

Before I begin my tale I must assure you that first and foremost I am safe well and in good health, physically at least. That is to say I am sound of body, my minor lacerations and myriad contusions notwithstanding, no breakages or lasting damaged was incurred by my person. Though my mind remains pensive mistrustful and somewhat ill at ease. The ordeal, or episode as my physician has taken to calling the event, has left me more than a little disquieted and unsettled.

Though, the doctor’s medications provide a modicum of relief in that I am calmed and almost carefree when its effects are upon me. Yet despite the soporifics my mind still recalls and deems to taunt me with flashbacks and remembrances of that fateful frightful evening upon the Tor. And thus my attempt to purge the lingering darkness circling my sanity commences in my endeavour to lift this foul stain from my soul.

The evening had begun pleasantly enough, I dined with the Reverend Willis and Mr and Mrs Jones of the parish council. A modest formal affair. Mrs Bakerstaff, the Reverends housekeep had prepared for us a simple spread of roast duck in plum sauce accompanied by roast potatoes and steamed vegetables. A deliciously well cooked meal, hearty and filling. Though I must confess I left ample reserve for a double helping of Mrs Bakerstaffs rosette winning victoria sponge. After the delightful confectionery and many compliments to a blushing bashful Mrs Bakerstaff for her exemplary culinary skills, the portly Reverend led us to the drawing room where we began to discuss topics at large over a glass or two of fine sweet sherry. The conversation was light hearted and jovial, with Mr Jones recounting humourus tales of animal husbandry and various pickles and predicaments he had found himself in as the town’s veterinarian, and Mrs Jones recalling similar anecdotes as the local school mistress.

The evening wore on and I was preparing myself to announce my departure where upon the Reverend remarked upon rumours concerning a local landmark known as the Devils Throne, a small hill mounted with a crown of Cedars Ash and Poplars sited just on the outskirts of town. There had been sightings of fires and lights of strange colours upon the hill, and talk of activities of an unwholesome nature taking place within the wooded enclosure. With my penchant for mystery and strange phenomena my imagination was thoroughly piqued and I began to question the good Reverend regarding the site and all he had heard of it. He informed me that it was of some historical interest and was believed by scholars to be a site of Neolithic origin, and as such held not only archaeological, but also a strong pagan religious significance. There were many old tales and ghost stories surrounding the Throne. However, attempts to study the place had so far been unsuccessful due to a series of unfortunate, if not unusual occurrences. On the first day of such an expedition, the Reverend stated, one of the scientists had stumbled whilst carrying equipment up the hill and had broken an ankle. Reducing the team to three. All of which reported hearing strange noises during their first night. The Reverend leaned forward and reached for the decanter sitting between us. “Kept them awake all night.” He remarked. “They say the noises were unearthly.” He said as he began pouring another round of sherry. Mrs Jones politely declined. Mr Jones held his glass out and scoffed at the Reverends statement. “Unearthly.” He quipped. “I’ve heard the rumours and tales Reverend. I don’t believe there is anything unnatural or unearthly about the Throne, nothing that couldn’t be explained away rationally and logically.” He paused, nodded, thanking the reverend for his top up. “Go on...” The reverend encouraged. “Foxes!” Declared Mr Jones triumphantly as he sat back in his chair. “Foxes?” Asked the reverend. “Indeed, during the mating season they cry and scream like Banshee from the bowels of hell itself, if you’ll pardon the expression reverend.” He Blushed. The Reverend smiled indulgently. “Not at all.” He replied with a slight incline of his head. Mrs Jones tutted disapprovingly. Mr Jones shrugged and continued. “A most ungodly and quite disturbing commotion indeed.” The reverend nodded knowingly. “I have heard the foxes myself and must admit that if I hadn't been aware of them being foxes my imagination would have conjured all manner of fantastical phantoms.” Mr Jones spread his hands in a gesture of placated satisfaction, quite pleased that the good reverend had supported his theory.

The reverend looked at me and smiled. “The strange thing is.” He remarked. “They were unable to capture any of these strange sounds on their recording instruments.”

“Faulty equipment is all.” Quipped Mr Jones. “Maybe, maybe.” Nodded the reverend. “They say that on the second day the remaining scientists began to complain of varying degrees of dizziness nausea and migraine like headaches. Which apparently increased to such a state of discomfort and distress that they were forced to abandon their study.” Mr Jones again grunted in derision and began to explain how they must have all contracted the same virus or head cold during their journey to the tor. “Ah.” Said the reverend. “A plausible if not entirely agreeable explanation.” He concurred. Mr Jones frowned. Before he could interject the reverend continued. “Then of course,” He said matter of factly. “There are the reports of paralysis and levitation………”

“Poppycock!” Blurted Mr Jones cutting in. “Samuel Jones!!” Admonished his wife. “Well...” He returned. “Levitation! Paralysis!” He declared with utter disbelief. “Apparently so.” Returned the reverend unruffled. “Two of the scientists stated witnessing the third immobilised and somehow raised approximately two feet into the air, where he remained motionless for some thirty to forty seconds.” The reverend threw up his hands defensively “I know how this sounds, but these were men of science. The gentleman suspended spoke of being in inscrutable pain and admitted he could not recall how long he had remained in that curious state. Indeed he reported that it felt like hours.” Mr Jones remained thankfully silent, instead choosing to drain the last of his sherry.

“A truly remarkable tale.” I admitted. “Quite fascinating.” The reverend smiled and nodded slightly. “I will dig out the old news clippings for your next visit if you like?” He replied. “Balderdash.” Mumbled Mr Jones, Mrs Jones coughed politely and the reverend turned the conversation to other matters.

Time wore on and I informed them of my intent to depart, saying my farewells I elited the reverends small cottage.

It is not without a certain irony that I am reminded of the sense of well being and general  good cheer which suffused my person upon my egress from the reverends home and good company. The late evening sky was cloudless and the sun had almost set, the horizon was ablaze with musty russet reds deep purples and dark ocean blues. A heart warming visage indeed. An occasional gentle breeze accompanied me, cool crisp and refreshing. Setting hedgerows and branches swaying softly, dancing in the twilight as I meandered my way through the quiet village towards home.

It was on the outskirts of the village, a mere half a mile from my home that I came to be thinking of the Throne. It wasn't very far from my home and the tale of the scientists had thoughraley fascinated me. I felt a shiver of excitement as the thought crossed my mind to pay the site a visit. With the sun now set, and the newly waning moon hanging low on the cloudless horizon, the night was clear and bright. I resolved to indeed take advantage of both the beautiful night and my adventurous mood and investigate the wooded hill for myself.

In recalling the reverends tale - the accident and physical symptoms of distress - I agreed in part with Mr Jones, could be sufficiently explained with science. As the so called unearthly sounds could with logic and reason. But, it was the occasion of paralysis and supposed levitation that played on my mind, eerily so, due to the accompaniment of intense pain and the inability to gauge the passage of time. Strange indeed I thought to myself in boyish anticipation.

If only I had known, dear nephew, what awaited me. If only some inkling of the peril I was walking into had occurred to me as I strode purposefully towards the nightmare ahead.

As such I approached my destination distracted with fantasy and fact. So it was that I came upon the ancient tree ringed tor all of a sudden. My mind being lost in fanciful thoughts of ghosts ghouls and spectres versus methane pockets, group hallucinations and other natural explanations. My breath caught in my throat as the rising moon sat cresting the trees atop the hill, silhouetting them like some oriental puppet display. Long sinuous shadows stretched down the hill towards me like dark fingers or talons reaching out into the night. The backlit effect of the trees was both beautiful and sinister. Goosebumps erupted up my arms and a shiver of dread stole up my spine. I shook myself mentally and laughed quietly at my own gullibility. Yet still, I was filled with that disconcerting feeling of quiet discomfort, that certain sense of unease that settles in the pit of your stomach.

Chiding myself for allowing childish superstition to overcome reason I continued up the hill towards the trees, into the embrace of the shadow cast claws. I glanced around sheepishly, looking, sensing for that out of place something that had stirred a primal fear within me and set the hairs on the back of my neck to attention. Steeling myself I reached the top of the rise. Standing there just outside the tree line I felt eyes upon me, an awareness or consciousness watching me, waiting with malign intent. It was then that I should have run, I should have listened to that subconscious, elemental fear growing steadily within me. Turned and fled back down the hill. Instead I strode forwards, a mixture of nerves and nonchalance, straight into the Devils Throne.

Shadows skittered around me as the nights breeze followed me into the tree line, dancing through the branches teasing my periphery with glints and hints of something I knew was not quite there, accompanying whispers drifted down from the boughs above me, my nonchalance fading as careful caution suggested itself to my mind. The breeze seemed to pick up somewhat, stirring the fallen leaves and brush at my feet, something swiped at my ankle snagging my trouser leg as I passed. Glancing down I could just make out a thick blackberry vine as it attempted to snare me in the moonlight. I yanked my ankle free; a short sharp pain seared my calf as the needle like thorns penetrated the thin cotton of my leg ware, tearing at both the material and my bare flesh beneath. I felt the warm trickle of blood as it seeped from the minor racking I had sustained. Raising my knee I pulled up my trouser leg to inspect the damage, as I have already stated, it was minimal. Yet still was I compelled to give it a brief though vigorous rub.

The darkening shadows seemed to draw tighter and the salient whispering almost sounded like gentle laughter to my ears. I stomped my foot down, away from the vine, and continued through the trees towards the clearing, cursing under my breath as a gentle throb radiated a light stinging sensation every time my foot hit the ground. My sense of unease continued to grow, creeping clawing up behind me. The clearing was visible just ahead now and although the moon was newly waning, the glade seemed somehow darker, gloomier than the copse I was at present traversing, thinking it nothing more than some visual illusion occasioned by my current position and maybe growing mental disposition I continued onwards. Whispering laughter turned to a strange whining which filled the air around me, growing rapidly in intensity volume and pitch. I stopped dead in my tracks fear froze me to the spot. The breeze now more than a gentle wind whipped up all around me hitting me from all directions at once, running circles around me, enveloping me as it tugged and pulled at my clothes and hair, it felt as if a thousand spiteful invisible hands were tearing and grasping at me all over.  I am not ashamed to say that a peculiar panic overcame me and I fled mindlessly through the remaining few feet of trunks and low branches, my clothing snagged and caught as I blundered onwards, scratches and small cuts appeared on the back of my hands, my face and neck, marking my fearful flight like a macabre map. Arms flailing all around me, I tripped stumbled and staggered my way blindly into the clearing, and onto my knees. There I stayed for a moment, eyes shut tight trying to calm my mind and draw it away from the irrationality which now crowded it.

Slowly, sense began to override adrenaline. I stilled my hammering heart somewhat and opened my eyes to look around me, with occasional nervous furtive glances back over my shoulder to the dark threatening trees behind me.  The harsh wind dropped, the branches stilled and the high pitched mewling ceased, darkness spewed out of the trees surrounding me, the sudden silence which filled the clearing seemed almost to deafen me with its immediacy.

Shadows and that uneasy quietude throbbed all around with unbridled intensity. My eyes darting to my peripheries in voiceless startled panic straining to pierce the silent darkness as my head whipped manically from left to right. I could hear short heavy breaths in my ear, immediately my skin prickled my palms ran slick with sweat, a breeze brushed across my skin, an involuntary shiver ran through me and an almost animal instinct of deep set terror threatened to again overwhelm my senses before I understood the breathing was my own.

What was happening to me? Nothing tangible had presented itself, no great phantom or ghoul had manifest itself before me. In short there was no rationality for my progressive sense of intense doom, the silent sinister haunting presence I could neither rationalise nor justify hung thick in the air around me, persisted still to cloy at the pit of my stomach and the very depths of my mind with its insistent invisible menace. I was afraid beyond all reason or logic. This place held a secret unfathomable aura of dread. I was determined to override this confounded unfounded disquietude. As I knelt there, the soft earth soaked my knees with a damp chill, clearing my head a little.

I rose and took a look around the clearing before me. To my left a small mound of what looked to be large stones stood before the broken collapsed remains of some unidentifiable structure, maybe an old temple or early church I thought to myself. Hadn’t the reverend mentioned that the site was of some religious significance in ages past? The night’s shadows danced here too, lending the same eerie sense of daunting peril that seemed to suffuse this entire hilltop. Again a shiver of unnameable fear stole through me. I found myself staring inanely at the ancient ruins my eyes not falling on any particular part of the construction they just seemed to waver in front of me. Shaking the strange mesmeric effect I blinked hard and pulled my eyes away.  Ahead lay clear ground for some fifty feet before a wall of thick, twisted gnarled and knotted trunks sprang from the black earth. Dark sinister sentinels leered down at me in the bleak night light. To my mind a menacingly tortured distorted version of nature swam in the blackness before me. My mind felt cold with fear, I found myself suppressing an urge to scream yet still no culprit, corporeal or otherwise could I discern. The clearing continued round to my right and apart from a feint worn overgrown path leading back to the ruins on my left the glade was bare. I stole myself and turned once again to the mound of stones and the ruins just beyond. I strode forwards.

Ignoring screaming warnings from what seemed every cell in my body I progressed as my incessant curiosity pulled me onwards. Step by step my trepidation grew. The eerie silence now more unnerving than the whispering laughter and strange keening whine I had hallucinated or experienced coming through the trees. My footfalls began to feel heavy and my body seemed weighted somehow, movement became a gradually increasing effort until I had to literally drag my feet forwards as if through a thick bogey mire, or a concoction of slowly thickening gloop. My arms and shoulders too, had a peculiar density about them, as did my head, it felt heavy and befogged yet ever forwards I struggled. My defiance against the physical impossibility I was experiencing was soon to come to a heart rending arrest. Laughter erupted in the air around me, loud strange guttural chuckling deep with nuisance and foreboding. There was a goading in the voice as it echoed around me.

Terror crowded my mind, seeped in to steal my resolve and drain my will to continue. I turned to leave, suddenly defeated in my need to know what this strange place held that was dark in its appeal and sinister in its reeling in of my being. Any closer I felt and answers unimaginable would descend upon me in ways that would threaten not just my sanity but the very foundations of reality as I knew it. It was then that I found myself incapable of movement. My legs arms and even my head seemed frozen in place. My heart raced threatening to burst through my chest, or so it felt. Terror washed over me and the suppressed scream I had recently held in now poured silently from my mouth as I found myself in that very state of paralysis I had earlier questioned without satisfactory resolve.

Beyond the soul freezing terror, my mind recalls a tingling sensation which stirred deep inside me, like the pins and needles you get as when a limb is returning to life after blood flow returns to it. Spreading ever outwards I was devoured by the sensation as it seemed to swallow me, pulling my consciousness deeper and deeper into its embrace until my entire awareness seemed only to focus upon its crawling presence just beneath my skin. It felt as if a great swarm of bees crept with agitation, restlessly marching across each and every muscle and sinew upon my frozen frame, irritating tissue and tendons, bubbling and buzzing angrily wanting, waiting to tear free from the prison of my epidermis, and then they stung me, or so my mind fancied. Every single particle of my being erupted in a wave of flaming agony as in unison each individual tiny embodiment of hate filled rage plunged its tiny fatal stinger deep into my nervous system injecting black vitriol which burned with a bright intensity not of this world.  Pain now racked my body, a cold merciless feeling as though my veins and every corpuscle they carried burned like a hydrochloric acid, or some such. Coursing through me, racking and stripping every nerve I possessed. Pain beyond definition or description filled my being, overriding every sense I owned. I felt as though I were being eaten away from the inside out slowly definitively, definitely devoured. As the excruciating infernal agony reeked havoc upon my senses I felt as though passing beyond consciousness was my only recourse, my sole release, but the anguish would not free me. Unconscious oblivion was denied me.

Taken beyond my means, I was left in the darkest heart of human suffering. A peril the deepest depths, of which my eternal soul had never known or experienced, or would again. No matter how many lives I lived in the perpetual cycle of life death and rebirth. No matter how many cycles of generation and dissolution the great mind had allotted me in my everlasting span of eons, never I was certain, would I again experience this almost exquisite height of agony.

Dark flames erupted all around me and the stench of brimstone filled my nostrils. I began to feel a pulling sensation, a wrenching from the inside as if the essence of me; my very being was being sucked out of the flesh which enveloped it. 

Oh, how my heart leapt nephew. With an admixture of pure terror and the ecstatic thrill of discovery I perceived that here, after all my years dedicated to seeking out doorways and paths to go beyond the veil, I finally, found myself on the very threshold of such revelations and wonders too few before me had been privileged to witness or experience.  Yet before my mind had chance to comprehend, I was at once buffeted by a force outside, a force that seemed to pass right through me shaking me to my very core somehow loosening that which should never be loosened until death claims the flesh; and I was rattled within my being as a nut is rattled in its shell.

As if a great gale of ephemeral power had swept me from this prison of flesh and bone, I flew backwards only to be confronted with a vision of a body hanging motionless, suspended mere feet above the earth arms outstretched head lolled forward, like a dark and twisted parody of the Christ. Dark shadows circled the body flew around it in silent torment, weaving in and out of the legs up around the torso around the head and back down. Many separate beings of some malign energy there seemed to be, swarming the figure, chasing each other it seemed to me in a sinister dance which held no intent or meaning that I could discern other than to bury the poor victims physicality beneath the fast flowing stream of what I know sensed was a living darkness, made up of many parts yet with one mind.

It was a revelation of complete and utter dread that this figure now suffused before me with these demonic like tendrils, was in fact my very own mortal coil.

The clearing vanished and a complete transformation occurred as reality seemed to melt away revealing a truth which instinctually I knew lay just beyond the veil of mortal perception, beyond the comprehension of most men,  yet known to a few tortured souls who had dared as I to venture into the unknown.

Suffering persisted to torture and render my very essence, even as I recognised that I had been torn from myself. Stolen from my own being, my consciousness ripped from its physical encasement was now excruciatingly relocated in or on a plane or dimension that of which I had no knowledge recollection or parallel from which to draw. Then came the final episcal realisation. I had been transferred. Delivered unto that once fantastical, much imagined and theorised arena mankind had come to refer to as hell. That place of damnation beyond redemption. That cold harsh place the human psyche could only equate with true evil. I was delivered unto the realm of the darkest, the kingdom of the fallen the abode of the morning star. Satan’s realm, my never deified soul was now entrenched, ensconced, trapped in the great leviathans mansion. Around me the darkness swirled and folded in upon itself like some foul living beast, within its dark heart there raged a fire the intensity of which burned my disembodied self.

Why had I come to this place? What foul machinations had delivered me here? I had the certain feeling of being watched again, studied even, as though some piercing penetrating presence bore into me with eyes unseen. A malign consciousness probed deep into my thoughts, creeping, crawling across my psyche leaving a stain so foul that I could almost taste it. I imagined dark tendrils of the fire hearted darkness enwrapping me, surrounding me. Pulling and tearing at my very soul, threatening to tare me to pieces for its own black pleasure.


A screaming cry of salvation and deliverance erupted from the silent depths of my core. Chorusing the highest, I petitioned with all my worthless devout less spirit and the very spheres opened above me. From the most sacred, the final inner mystery of the outer, the outermost most truth of the inner, through the eighth and up beyond the great chorus unto the ninth my cry echoed.  And so with a renching that seemed to shake the very foundations of the universe, my soul was torn asunder and at once the host of the eternal mind illuminated, revealing its divine presence and for reasons beyond my mortal understanding or comprehension, released my pitiful soul from the bowels of the mansion of eternal darkness unto my mortal self, hence returning me to the realm of men and clay. So the spheres sealed and one by one closed high above me, locking me, confining me once again to this prison of flesh which now unsteadily yet thankfully I inhabit.

And I fell, as if thrown or cast, down onto the dark earth beneath me and oblivion claimed me as unconsciousness swept thankfully over me. I awoke back in my own residence, in my own bed and have been assured that for a number of three full nights and days I have lain delirious and fevered ranting insanely about the living darkness with the heart of eternal fire that dwells within the gateway of the Devils Throne. 

This place holds an ancient heart of energy that had either once turned, or always had been, nothing short of evil, and this dear nephew as you know is a concept I have always struggled to accept and as such has always driven me to indulge in matters of unexplained phenomena and strange occurrences. Well my dear boy I can emphatically state that I have experienced a continued and increasing sense of discomfort and dread that I cannot account for, I have found it quite impossible to quantify or qualify the feelings that almost drowned my sanity and have left a definite and most delible mark upon my psyche, that is to say within my very soul there now dwells a corner of such melancholy and deep set fear as to leave me with no doubts or qualms as to the fact I have indeed been tainted by the presence of utter evil. As I write this my hands again begin to shake and the self doubt instilled in me that night creeps ever to the forefront of my thoughts. 

For the sake of my now brittle yet thankfully restored sanity I must believe that nothing short of the very hand of divinity could have possibly saved me that night. And I know now that any sanctity or holiness that may once have dwelt on that cursed hilltop had fled long ago, heavens eyes were turned from that place, indeed I wonder now if they had ever been upon it, for surely no benevolent being could permit the existence of an abomination such as the horror I encountered that night. My dear nephew I implore you not to doubt the validity of the seeming insanity I impart here, nor can I qualify the legitimacy of this statement other than to include with this letter reports from the physicians and doctors who have tended me since I was retrieved from there.  For as I have stated I have no physical evidence for the supporting of this tale. 

More than this I dare not remember or recall, if even it is within my power to do so, I dare not. For it is enough for me to acknowledge that with the eyes we hold within, the eyes that see beyond seeing, that I have beheld that which has been hidden from mankind in the physical. That which dwells beyond and below has clawed at my soul, dragged me below and gifted or cursed me with a glimpse of that which Dante himself did not dare imagine or perceive, the greatest of all abominations has tasted of my soul and beyond its existence I have beheld. My curiosity has indeed been satiated, dulled numbed and castrated until time itself folds in upon itself and all creation succumbs to its equal and opposite and all that is becomes not.

Therefore beware my blood nephew that flows in your very veins, seek not that which remains hidden, unseen and unspoken of. For it exists in the darkness for a reason. Indeed it should forever remain unseen, unknown, beyond mortal comprehension and understanding, though your blood may be, as was mine, aflame with curiosity and wanting of knowledge which seems hidden to other men seek, not the forbidden and the hidden.

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