Reading Time: 11minutesThe point of me writing all this is because I don’t want any of my story to go without hearing, or any of my actions to go without seeing. I honestly don’t even know where to start as I’m anxious for this night to be over already. If you’re reading this, then things didn’t go as I had planned and there should be an attachment explaining where to go with this information. Anyway, here are the events that have unfolded in my house with a quick explanation at the end to kind of wrap things up on what I hope will occur. Then again, if you’re reading this, something must be wrong and I hope no one else canis in danger. Here we go…
It was mid October and my manic episodes started to kind of creep up on me like they have in past years. I’ve sort of gotten used to it though and I guess my dad knew as well and instinctively dialed the numbers to my on and off therapist. We can never really recall a specific initiating event that caused my disorder… which never helped the episodes go away (they sort of just dissipate over time). My dad always insists that it was my mom’s death that lead to it but I would never let him bring it to that. Even if my mom’s unforseen murder caused the episodes, talking about it with my dad would only really make him more depressed… right?
My best (and only) friend Micheal goes and lives with his grandparents for the fall and winter holidays and they haven’t had working Wi-Fi in their house for 5 years. The landline for their house is said to only be used for work so the only way to really contact Micheal was through the mail. I got really lonely around this time with no one to talk to besides my dad and my therapist, of whom I didn’t exactly like talking to when they were always bringing up my manic episodes. I sort of got into this dreaded routine of school and sleep with terrible conversations to fill in the gaps between them.
I was coming home late from my therapy session one night (I had to drive myself as my dad went out with friends to a bar and I didn’t think he was coming home sober if at all) and it had been rather quiet when I entered the house.When I had left, it was still bright outside so none of the lights were needed to be on. I only really bothered turning on the kitchen light when I got in so that I could grab a glass of water before I fell asleep. I didn’t even bother changing when I entered my bedroom and plopped onto my bed. I was tired as hell from the arguing I had with my therapist who was certain that I needed to take 7 different pills every day. I quickly but comfortably tucked myself under my covers and rolled onto my side to position my eyes to a corner of my bedroom… where do I even begin. I had walked in and gotten into bed so fast that I hadn’t even noticed the tall slender figure staring at me from the corner of my room. Its eyes were so big and wide that it seemed as if the figure didn’t have eyelids, or at least didn’t have a need for them. It also had a wide grin, but not the type of grin you’d see on a child with a present, no this was a menacing and distorted grin that provoked unknown intentions. It stood taller than the ceiling so that its head had to hunch down where the wall met the ceiling. It was sort of tucked in to the corner with its arms spread out against the walls and its feet parallel to the walls adjacent to them. I would tell you that I screamed but I didn’t, or couldn’t at least. Instead I just laid there paralyzed in fear of what stood before me. We locked eyes for what seemed like hours as I was unable to move.
I don’t remember falling asleep but I woke up to light beaming in from my window. It was Saturday so I didn’t have to go to school, instead I was tasked with finding where my dad was. He never came home last night and I had no idea which bar he went to, but I had a hunch that he had hung out with his drinking buddy Darrel. I called Darrel who confirmed that my dad spent the night at his place. Sometimes I wonder if my therapist would be better off with my dad than with me. After I hung up the awkward phone call with Darrel I immediately remembered the figure that haunted me last night and felt the urge to tell someone, anyone. I hadn’t mailed Micheal much besides the occasional friendly gesture just to let him know I still exist, so I decided I’d tell him about the event. I left it unknown on whether I thought it was a dream or not so to make sure he didn’t think I was a lunatic who needed more than a therapist. I honestly thought that if I were to have gone to someone and told them that I thought all of this were real, I would be put into a mental asylum.
About a week has past since the incident and I had almost completely swept it under the rug when all of a sudden I checked the mail and I got a response from Micheal. Apparently he was more concerned about the figure than I was and totally believed that I needed to see a priest or whatever. My family has never been big on religion even when my mom was alive so I didn’t happen to believe in any of that mumbo jumbo nonsense. I needed to make some kind of cloture for all this though so I decided to just google what had happened and find some sort of medical excuse to make sense of it. The best I could find was sleep paralysis as it made the most sense considering I was unable to move. Once I declared that’s what it was, I felt a little bit better about the whole thing and tried to ignore that it happened. Big Mistake. After I did all that research it was late at night and I had found it very easy to fall asleep. I did my normal routine of brushing my teeth, washing my face, and getting into my night time clothing. You could tell I was still a little frightened by the whole thing and before I got into bed I checked the corners, closets, and under my bed… nothing, so I sunk into my bed and drifted to sleep.
I awoke around 2:15 am and I moved to make sure I wasn’t having sleep paralysis, I was in the clear. I got out of bed and moved towards the door to go use the bathroom like I usually do at this hour, only… standing in front of the door staring into my dreaded soul was the tall figure again. The figure looked a little more red this time, and it also seemed a little distraught, but in a creepy maniacal way. Its hands had sharp fingers that seemed predator like. This time I hadn’t frozen in fear so naturally, I screamed for help knowing that my dad was actually home and somehow sober this time. The figure was aware of what was happening and for the first time I saw it move. It was very agile and it swiftly jumped and clung to the ceiling. The figure remained in full eye contact with me which caused its head to be 180 degrees backwards like an owl. As soon as the figure performed this movement my dad swung open the door ready to pounce on whatever was intruding in on our house. He saw me point towards the ceiling at the shadow figure, but… my dad was confused. The figure was still there but my father could not see it staring straight at me with its gleaming eyes. My father was seriously pissed at my behavior and told me if I just wanted attention I should join the circus. The figure was thoroughly pleased and I swore I saw its grin get bigger when my dad closed the door behind him. I was still standing there in shock as I tried to make out what the actual fuck was happening. I decided to not try and interact with the figure and to go sleep; this happened to work last time. So I hopped into bed and turned my body to its regular sleeping position only for the figure to now be about 10 inches away from my face laughing at my painful fright. It was crouching on the ground to where its head met the height of mine. It took awhile but the figure watched me fall asleep to its creepy face.
As soon as I woke up I didn’t wait to check every possible location that the figure might be hiding in. I didn’t know what to do and my father was not going to help at all… so I did some more digging. I skipped school to soar through online forums searching for an answer as to what this thing is and what the hell it might want from me. Maybe it just likes inflicting fear upon its victims, maybe it wants to harm me, or maybe it was made by the government to spy on me. These were all answers I got from random forums I found on the internet but none of them were good enough or specifically answered my burning questions. Before I knew it, it was midnight and I had to go to school the next day. Using bipolar disorder as an excuse to not go to school would only work once in a blue moon. I tried to stay up anyway figuring I could just sleep the class away, but alas, I fell victim to fatigue.
I woke up this time around 3 am and there the figure was again, crouched on the ground, its head next to mine staring at me. The figure seemed pissed this time, like it knew what it wanted and tonight it was going to get it. This time the figure made sure I wasn’t going to make any sudden alerts to my father and before I screamed, the figure reached out with its slender arm and blocked my mouth from making a sound. The claws were slimy but furry against my face, almost as if it were a werewolf, but no, I would way rather have a werewolf come and eat me then what awaited me. I tried to get up but the figure anticipated this as well and climbed into my bed and on top of me, while remaining in eye contact with its immovable grin. Next thing I know, the figure… it was… hugging me… but not with a normal warm fuzzy feeling you get from a normal hug. As soon as the figure hugged me, I felt deep despair fill my body, everything that was happy now became awful and dark. My gut was just shot and there was an empty void that could never be filled. I felt alone even with the figure choking my body. This was the opposite of a hug. I could no longer breath and I knew this was the end, I just knew it, but I couldn’t suffocate. I laid there, depressed and unable to breath for hours until once again I fell asleep.
I woke up making sure I wasn’t violated in any way, but it seems as though nothing occured. I went through my daily routine of waking up, eating breakfast, taking my antidepressants, arguing with my dad about random unimportant shit, went to school, came home, did my homework, and ate dinner. I didn’t tell anyone as I didn’t want people to think I was insane, I was already labeled as an outcast and didn’t want another target on my punching bag. The whole day all I could think of was the figure and how I might have to go through all that again or maybe it’ll just kill me and end this shit. But when I finally did everything and went to bed, I couldn’t allow myself to sleep. My body was too frightened to feel tired, and because of this I just laid in bed staring at the corner of my bedroom with no figure in sight. It was about 4 am and I figured I was in the clearing when all of a sudden my door opened and in came my dad drunk as ever. I got up and helped him back into bed nice and carefully trying not to startle his fragile system. I got a glass of water and went back to bed knowing perfectly well I wasn’t going to sleep when yet again my door opens and in comes my drunk- I turn my head to see the tall figure moving rapidly towards my bed. My gut fell through the floor as the stare filled my body only to make it feel empty as ever. I thought I was in the clear, but here it was again already climbing into bed and wrapping itself around me… smiling… menacingly. Yet again I couldn’t breathe but did not suffocate as if instead of taking in oxygen I was taking in anguish. I once again fell asleep in the arms of a monstrous version of Achlys.
A couple weeks had gone by where I couldn’t escape these night terrors, no matter what I did, the figure always came back as if it needed to feed off of my soul, as if it needed to feed off of my happiness. The only problem with that theory is that with my bipolar disorder, there ain’t much happiness to take in. I’d tell it to go leech off my dad but recently he’s been visiting the bar more often and spending more nights with Darrel. It’s been a couple weeks and I still haven’t gotten used to the figure. Every night is the same, it comes in, climbs in bed, and wraps itself around me. The only difference in every night is how much progress the figure has made towards me when I wake up. Sometimes the figure is in the corner when I wake up, while other times I wake up to it already clinging to me, already showing me the ways of true terror.
I’m not big on self defense and once the figure is wrapped around me, all hope is pretty much gone so I hadn’t ever really tried resisting… until this one night. I didn’t grab any kind of weapon but I guess I figured I had nothing to lose and enough was enough… boy was I wrong. It was 3 am and I could tell the figure was about to make it’s way from the corner of my room to my bed, but this time was different. I got out of bed after the figure made its first step towards me and I followed up with a firm “stop.” Yet again, my dad was either at a bar or in his bed blackout drunk so he wouldn’t be able to hear me or do anything if he did. What the tall figure did next made me regret my decision to resist. The figure stared at me… but this time it’s eyes seemed bigger and next thing I knew, the creature’s head slowly began to tilt to the side like a puppy who’s puzzled, except this tilt didn’t put a warm smile on my face, instead I felt regret take over my body. The figure sunk into the ground and vanished only for it to regrow out of the floorboard inches away from me. The figure stretched out one of its arms ready to slice its claws at me… and that it did. I laid on the ground with scratches across my stomach and tears in my shirt. I didn’t want to get up so I just laid there hoping that the figure would think I was dead.
The next morning I quickly changed so that my dad wouldn’t end up seeing my fucked up shirt. The shirt was always a little big on me anyway so throwing it out didn’t hurt much. Instead the only things that hurt were the new scars that stretched across my body with dried blood on them. I didn’t bother cleaning it as I figured it would hurt like a bitch and it had already started to scab anyway. Yet again, I obviously didn’t tell anyone, not even my therapist. I was afraid that either my dad or I would get sent to a mental asylum for either self harm or child abuse. At this point I was out of ideas and I didn’t want to try and resist again as I was afraid I might actually die of a heart attack before the creature could even get to me. So I started to play it safe and didn’t ever resist… for now
Another two weeks went by, my dad lost his job for going in to work drunk AND hungover again. I couldn’t afford to see my therapist anymore which I actually didn’t mind at all but this meant I had more time at home with my dad and the figure. Micheal and I got into a fight about some pointless issue that I can no longer recall and we slowly stopped talking. The visits from the figure seemed to be the only interesting thing going on in my life, and that was not a good thing. When the only eventful thing in your life happens to be depressing and painful, then your view on life seems to differ and depression takes over. I needed to end this whether that meant killing the figure or die trying. But I couldn’t let it know I was going to resist, as it would kill me swiftly. I needed to surprise it, with a weapon.
This story has now caught up with the present and I will now share my plan on getting rid of this vermin. I have made a sort of knife vest with knives poking out of the chest area so that when the figure goes to wrap around me, it will be stabbed in the chest by 3 blades. I have never seen the figure hurt, and the only expression on its face has been a menacing grin, so I don’t know what will happen tonight, but wish me luck. Then again… if you’re reading this, my vest didn’t succeed, and the figure is still out there somewhere… staring at its next victim with its wide grin. Or hey, maybe we both end up dead… who knows? All I know is that if this keeps going, I will end up insane or end up shooting myself. Neither of which sound any better than dying from the creatures claws. This may not be the expected and fulfilling ending you wanted, but I might not be able to write this after tonight, as I might be dead. Thank you for listening to my story, please proceed on to my requested will.
Reading Time: 4minutesThe alleyway was dark. Jay could do almost nothing under the weight of the other boy. He kicked and thrashed, but nothing could help him now.
“Hush, now would ya, boy?” the other above him said.
“Please, let me… let me go,” Jay panted. The other looked like he was thinking, then started laughing. Jay knew he wasn’t getting out of this unharmed. Or even alive. He laughed softly. “Calm down,” he said soothingly. Jay breathed in, trying to calm his movements. He didn’t know what was going to happen.
The other sighed. “I’m not going to do this all night. If you’d calm down it’d be over faster,” he told him.
“What.. do you mean?” Jay asked, still slightly out of breath. The boy smiled.
“You got real pretty eyes, huh, kid?” he said, even though Jay thought he couldn’t see anything under the cover of darkness. He let his hand creep down to Jay’s eye, making Jay’s chest heave again. Before Jay knew what was going on, the other boy stuck his fingers in Jay’s socket and gouged his eye out. He screamed out in pain, yelling and crying, reaching up to his eye. His scream was awful, something straight from a horror movie. The boy laughed and got up, walking away.
Jay woke up in a bright place, and that was all he could tell. He had some odd thing over his eyes, something he’d only seen online. He panicked again.
“Where am I?” he half-yelled.
“It’s okay. You’re in the hospital. We’re taking care of your eye for you, mmkay?” said a nurse, softly. He took a deep breath in, nodding.
“You should be okay in a little while, but until then you’ll have to stay here,” she told him. He nodded once more, wishing he could see himself.
A while later, he was released from the hospital. He was told to keep a bandage on it, but as soon as he was out of sight he ripped off. As he walked home he started noticing things, mothers pulling their children away from him, people saying rather rude things to him. “Freak.” One called him, “Psycho.” said another. He sighed, pulling his hood over his head and quickening his pace.
As he arrived home, he could hardly wait to see the damage. He went into his bathroom so he could see in the mirror, and he regretted it. He could feel himself crying, but he wasn’t making noise. He reached up to touch where his left eye had once been, but hesitated, stopping at his cheekbone. He shut the lights off, turning to go out the door. He went to his room and plopped down in his bed. He knew he’d stay here awhile. It’d been a few days now, he hadn’t left the house. He looked over when his phone rang, and picked it up with a sigh. It was his best friend, Aaron.
“Hello?” Jay said when he put the phone to his ear.
“Hey, man. You doing okay? I haven’t seen you in awhile, and you haven’t been to school,” Aaron responded. Jay let out another sigh.
“I.. can you come over?” he didn’t really know how to ask, or how he’d even tell Aaron, but he knew he had to.
“Yeah, sure, I’ll be there soon,” Aaron told him, then hung up.
When Aaron arrived, he just came in the door. Jay heard him come in, but stayed in the position he’d taken on the couch long ago. “Jay?” Aaron called out.
“In here,” Jay called back, voice shaking slightly. He pulled the hood over his head, brushing his hair out to where Aaron wouldn’t see his eyes right off.
“Hey, man!” Aaron yelped out in excitement.
“Hey,” Jay said softly.
“Dude, I gotta tell you something,” Aaron said, still slightly hyper.
“Hm?” Jay hummed.
“Everyone has been talking about this kid who was waking around the other day, said he was probably a weirdo. Didn’t have one of his eyes. Weird huh?” Aaron said. They stayed in silence for a moment.
“Jay?” Aaron questioned.
“That’s why I haven’t been to school,” Jay said suddenly.
“You afraid of him?” Aaron said, laughing slightly.
“No..” Jay said, trying to say something else, but trailing off. “I am him.”
Jay lifted his head up, taking his hood off and brushing his hair out of the way. Aaron gasped, backing away slightly. Jay uncomfortably shifted. “You can’t tell anyone.” He stated firmly. Aaron promised not to, and Jay proceeded to tell him what happened.
When Monday rolled around, of course Aaron didn’t keep his promise. He told everyone he knew. He told them how horrible and terrifying Jay looked. Everyone spread the news fast, and now Jay was getting texts and messages on other apps constantly, teasing him or asking for pictures. He became infuriated. He huffed loudly, growling. He threw his phone down and ran to the bathroom. “I’ll show ‘em..” he muttered to himself. He began to pick at his other eye, shoving his finger into the socket. He screamed in pain, letting out groans. Once it was out, he was completely blind. He could feel his socket pulsing, then he began to laugh. Softly, at first. Then it became a loud, wild, maniacal laughter. He calmed himself down, walking out of the bathroom, feeling around in front of him awkwardly. He knew what he had to do. He had to punish his friend.
The next morning came about, and Aaron woke with a groan to his alarm clock. He stood up, stretching, turning his alarm off. In the corner of his room, in the shadows, stood Jay. Eyeless and awful, almost helpless. Aaron looked over to his computer desk, gagging as he saw an eye. “What the fu-“ he yelped, before being interrupted.
“He was right. I do have some pretty eyes, don’t I?” Jay laughed, emerging from the corner.
“Jay, please..” Aaron said softly. Jay lunged at the sound of his voice, tackling him. Jay felt for Aaron’s eyes, beginning to slowly gouge them out as he screamed out in pain. “This is what you get you.. you traitor!” Jay screamed as he removed one eye. Aaron was thrashing wildly, crying. Jay removed the other eye, shoving one in his mouth and laying the other on the ground beside him. “See ya later. Oh, wait..” Jay began to cackle. He felt around for the window he’d come in, jumping out, and running off.
Fear of the unknown… a fear that almost all humans feel, an outcome that is uncertain. The fear of darkness is something that is mysterious, something we experience every single night. Each and every person has their own nightmares they encounter throughout their life. But what exactly are they and what do they look like? Why can’t we recognize some people in our dreams? When we see an entity with a blurry face in our dream, is it someone we’ve never met?
In this story, you are about to read how a detective named Richard Laycox, often mentioned as Rick, will come face to face with the said problem, following an eerie night that will change his life forever…
Being a detective means sacrificing a lot in life, the biggest problem being balancing a family life alongside it. There are big chances the detective’s family might get hurt, and that’s why sometimes detectives decide to abstain from having one, and so they live their life alone… The following story tells what kind of consequences Rick will face as well as find the one and only reason to have a family.
Rick begins his career working as an ordinary police officer. After being on the job for a while, he is assigned to one of the hardest cases he has ever seen. Rick’s job is to investigate and study the case of the master executioner in the “Sleepwalkers” mafia, one of the most notorious groups of criminals around. At the age of thirty-one, he arrests the executioner, Mitch, and puts him behind bars. Mitch is sentenced to life imprisonment for all the heinous crimes he has committed, and shortly after solving the case, Rick is promoted to a detective for his stellar work, now known as one of the best detectives in Blackbert City.
What is he ready to do to solve the problems that await him?
Prologue Fateful Night
It all begins with a single 911 call. Someone reports a gunshot heard next door. The police hastily make their way to the specified location. Detective Richard arrives at the crime scene, sent to investigate the case. He enters the room and sees a man lying down on a table. As he explores more of the scene, he finds out that there are no neighbors in the building. Therefore, the emergency call becomes immediately suspicious.
Rick’s eye is caught by a tape recorder next to the dead body. He turns it on and hears a male voice saying “I can’t take this anymore” followed by the echoing sound of a gunshot. He goes to the other policemen and asks if anyone has touched the tape recorder. Everyone denies. Rick remembers that he had only pressed the ‘play’ button to listen to the tape recorder and not the “rewind” one. He straightforwardly knows that the tape is a decoy for murder set up as a suicide by a very skilled killer.
Rick leaves the building and encounters the chief officer at Blackbert City Police Department, Jerylin, an African-American woman. She tells Rick that it’s Christmas and that he should go home to spend more time with his family and get some rest as he has already made too much effort for the day.
Located in the suburbs of Blackbert, lives the Laycox family. On the beautiful Christmas Eve, Rick, along with his wife Ashley and their six-year-old daughter, Amygail, celebrate Christmas time together. While celebrating, enjoying Christmas dishes and talking to each other, on the TV screen is a live broadcast on the “Sleepwalkers” mafia, showing one of the local markets in Blackbert being sabotaged. After a moment the faces of the main members of the mafia, Martin Di Fatta, Mitch Caulton, and Zander Maddison (founded by Martin; the name being made up regarding the fact that he never sleeps, hence a “Sleepwalker”) are shown, too. The criminals are seen moving towards the TV reporter and the cameraman and obliterating them. Rick is terrified of the situation because he recognizes explicitly one of their faces, the master executioner, Mitch. He is shocked to see him out of prison.
Amygail asks her father what’s going on, but he tells her not to worry and that everything is fine. A few moments later, Amygail goes to her room, then comes back playing with the music box that Rick had bought her when they were at a carnival.
After some time, Rick can no longer control himself because of what he had just seen on the broadcast, so he fumes at his daughter, explaining that that is no toy, but a music box. He grabs it and goes to her room, intending to put it away. But as he goes up the stairs, his nose catches a bizarre, yet familiar smell. Approaching his daughter’s room, he feels the scent getting sharper. Having reached the door, he sees smoke trails underneath it. He puts his hand on the doorknob, but at the first touch, he is forced to pull back his hand… For some reason the doorknob is heated up. Quickly he gives it another shot, twists it and what he sees is terrifies him: smoke, flames and a wave of heat meet his face.
Rick calls for his wife, asking her to immediately call 911 as he goes inside and tries various ways of extinguishing the fire, but it is uncontrollable. In his rush to think of ways to gain control over it, he drops his daughter’s music box on the floor. Met with no success, he decides to rush out of the room and downstairs to inform his family that there is a fire. They report it to the authorities and ask them to send help, but the telephone line is interrupted. Rick tries to find a way to get his family out of the house but fails. The flames grow and spread rapidly, and within seconds, cover most of the upstairs floor. As Rick gets lost in thinking of how to approach the situation and is filled with adrenaline, a part of the house collapses and lands right in front of him.
Separated from his wife and daughter by the burning debris, Rick yells at them to stay calm and that he will find a way to get them out. As he twists and turns in panic, figuring out what to do, one of the building’s support beams collapses under the heat, hits him in the head and knocks him down, unconscious. Once Rick awakes everything is blurry in front of him. Laying down on the floor, he suddenly feels a hand grab his arm, belonging to one of the firefighters, who rescues him as the rest of the rescue forces make their way into the house. Together they pick Rick up, but as they drag him out of the smoldering remains of his living room and into safety, Rick sees his wife and daughter still locked inside, knocking on a window for help. Unable to do or say anything apart from some mumbling, they close him up in the back of the ambulance, sirens blaring while making their way to the nearest hospital.
Act 1 The Worst Nightmare
After the event, Rick wakes up in the local hospital and tries to remember the past events. In the room he is situated, he sees a nurse and his sister, Rachel. He immediately asks his sister where his wife and daughter are, but she does not reply. He asks her the same question once again, this time in a much more anxious tone, but as she is about to answer, they get interrupted by his partner Aleksei entering the room.
He is happy to see that Rick is awake since he had been in a coma for several days. Once more, Rick poses the same question, but this time directed at his partner, Aleksei, asking where his wife and daughter are. Aleksei tells Rick that he needs to rest and he will be informed about the situation once his mind is cleared, afterward suggesting that everyone leaves and gives Rick some time alone.
As he makes his exit, Aleksei turns on the TV so that Rick is not bored. The tv is set to show the local news channel, and displays a statement at the bottom: “The house of detective Richard Laycox set on fire!”. The news reports that he is housed in a local hospital, but his daughter and his wife were found too late and passed away in the fire. Rick does not believe what he hears and starts to panic. He tries to get up but is unable to do so. As he pushes his upper body forward, he realizes he is restrained to the bed. The nurse, Rachel, and Aleksei enter the room and try to calm him down, but to no avail. Rick starts screaming and having fits of panic, followed by an attempt at throwing himself out of bed with his full body force. The nurse quickly reaches for an injection to put him back to sleep.
Entering the dream world, Rick finds himself with Ashley and Amygail in a local park. He sits next to his wife on a bench while Amygail is on the swing. While they are talking, they hear a mighty squealing coming from the direction of the swing as their daughter cries out: “Dad! Daddy! Dad! “. As he is about to get up from the bench to see what is happening, he wakes up and sees a black silhouette of his daughter repeating: “Dad!, Daddy!, Dad!,” but the silhouette vanishes the moment a bolt of lightning hits the ground. He notices the restraints are no longer there, gets out of his bed and sees that the room he is situated in now looks much more different. Something seems strange to him, for as Rick gets up, he becomes aware that he is not in his hospital clothes, but outfitted in his work attire. He yells for his sister Rachel and is met with nothing but silence.
Darkness, cold, and emptiness are what Rick sees and feels. He leaves his room cautiously and once more calls out if anyone is there, yet again met with nothing but his own voice echoing down the halls of the hospital. After having left his room to investigate what is going on, his daughter’s silhouette appears again, which Rick tries to follow along the way. He walks around to looks for any sign of life, but the building looks twisted, black and there’s blood everywhere.
It looks like there had been a massacre, but not a single body lies on the floor. Rick is in shock and does not know what’s going on. As he slowly walks through the halls, he hears a loud shatter from a door nearby. In fear, he opens the door and sees a shadow of a man being killed and blood is shed only on the shadow. As he turns around to check his surroundings, he sees a doctor who works at the hospital running in panic and throwing objects around. Rick goes over to him, sees the doctor’s blood and asks him what is going on there, why he is injured. The doctor tells him that the shadows had attacked him and are chasing him down. As he finishes his sentence, a specter with no defined appearance enters the doctor’s mouth, and he then starts to scream with pain.
Rick watches the doctor’s skin become dark and quickly makes his way into the room he had just entered to hide behind the table. The doctor’s skin becomes even darker, and it begins to look like he’s being overtaken and transformed. All around the doctor’s body grow small shadowy tentacles, as he can no longer control himself. His face becomes blurry, and his hands a bit longer than usual. The movement of this creature does not seem human-like, and fumes with hostile intent. As Rick is crouched behind the table, he cannot believe his eyes and what had just happened. Before he could come to his senses, he sees the entity turn its head towards him. Having noticed Rick hiding behind the table, it charges towards him.
Fortunately, in his work uniform, Rick has his tools on him, and as he reaches for a knife from the belt, he decides it’s ‘kill or be killed.’ As he stabs the haunted creature multiple times, it shatters in a million pieces and vanishes into thin air.
Rick is totally shocked by what unfolds before his eyes and decided it is time to get the hell out of the hospital. While exiting the room and silently making his way through the building, he encounters more of these haunted creatures. Rick sees an elevator and decides to make a run for it. In his rush, he presses every button in there, and the elevator takes him three floors below. The doors open and as he exits and walks down the corridor, he sees the black silhouette of his daughter appear once more, signing that he should follow it.
Suddenly it comes to a stop and vanishes before his eyes. Rick turns his head around to see where it has taken him and notices that on his right there are huge windows, covered by torn up white curtains, swaying up and down, as if they are being blown by the wind, but he feels not a single gust of air. On one of the windows, his wife appears in a half-form of a silhouette, with burns on her body. He sees her head twisting at a very high speed and knows that he’s experiencing the worst nightmare he’s ever had. He tries to approach the window, but as he gets closer, she vanishes. He looks behind and spots a similar black creature to the one he had previously encountered, but this time its magnitude is much higher. Around him, he notices something similar to a fire, but it’s made out of a black shadow, and a lot of dark and twisted hands start engulfing his body.
Suddenly the whole building begins to shake. As Rick turns to looks back at the elevator for a way out, he notices that it had disappeared and is now just one extended hallway engulfed by shadowy flames. He decides to run in the opposite direction from the massive creature behind him, as it tries to grab him with its long, dark, twisted hands, but he dodges out of the way.
As everything around him falls to the ground and starts to break, Rick sees a single window at the end of the corridor and jumps through it. While he falls, he sees the creature looking down at him from the window as it has missed its opportunity. He turns his gaze back to the ground, but there is no bottom. Everything turns to light. Suddenly, Rick wakes up and realizes that it had just been a dream.
Act 2 Insanity or Reality?
After Rick wakes up, he realizes that it had just been a dream, but it’s not clear to him how it felt so… real, as if he were in the existing world. He turns his head and sees his sister Rachel, and asks her how long he was sleeping. She tells him that he had only been asleep for a few minutes and that they had to give him an injection that would put him to sleep in the first place, so he could calm down. She tells him that his daughter and wife were found dead in the house and Rick begins to cry. Unable to believe the terrible news, he starts to blame himself.
While talking, the television news broadcast reports something very odd. On the same night when the detective’s house was burnt down, the deadliest mafia member Mitch has been found dead nearby. The news reporter declares that he had died of an overdose. Rick starts to boggle his mind about what might have happened that night, but his sister breaks his train of thought by suggesting that they go to the graveyard together, to the place where his daughter and wife are buried. After reaching the cemetery as they walk towards the graves, Rachel tells him in details what had happened that night. Rick again blames himself for the situation, but his sister tries to convince him that it had just been an accident. Rick doubts it.
When they finally arrive at the graves, Rick still has a hard time believing what is happening and starts to break down. He begins to recall all the joyous moments he had had with his wife and daughter as tears start pouring down his cheek. His sister tries to calm him and tells him that he will be fine and that he should stay at her place because he doesn’t have anywhere else to go.
While she speaks to him, Rick falls deeply into thought. As Rick stares at one of the other nearby graves, where his colleague Brian is buried, he sees himself in the grave through the shadow of the funeral plaque, and it’s as if a black figure passes. His spiral of emotions and thoughts gets interrupted when Rachel touches his shoulder and asks if he has heard what she was telling him, Rick returns from his thoughts and confirms. After they leave the cemetery, Rick and Rachel get into her car. While she drives, Rachel tells Rick that he can make himself at home at her place, that he’s her brother after all, but in the middle of her sentence, Rick begins to lose consciousness. As he does, his sister turns to him and cries out his name, but to Rick, she doesn’t appear the same as before. Rachel looks just like the creatures from his dream, completely dark and shadowy.
Rick is afraid, and his sister again notices that he has slipped away from reality. She asks whether he is listening to her. Rick starts to explain what he dreamed of and that the same thing is happening right then and there. Rachel is tired and thinks that what Rick sees is only a coping mechanism because he has experienced a tragic event and tells him that she will bring him to one of the best psychiatrists, Carl. Rachel tells him that Carl will take care of him.
As soon as they arrive, Rachel introduces Rick to Carl, and from then on, she leaves them alone. Rick explains to Carl that what he sees seems realistic and that this place he dreams of is dark, cold, and empty. Carl puts the metronome on the table and tells him to breathe along with the ticks he hears. Carl explains to Rick that it had just been a dream and that the unusual things he saw are a consequence of the tragic event he experienced. As the metronome begins to tick, Rick starts drifting off, and the psychiatrist suddenly disappears as he is speaking.
Rick enters that other world again. He does not understand what is happening and goes out of the psychiatrist’s office. As he opens the door of the clinic to explore the surroundings, he sees that it leads to a forest. Rick explores the woods and finds more of those same haunted creatures. This time, he has his gun with him, and there’s a flashlight attached underneath it. Barely able to wield the weapon, his hands shake from all the things he had been going through of late. As he manages to get a hold of himself, he aims the barrel of the gun, flashlight underneath it, at a figure closing in on him. The figure stops in his tracks and suddenly lets out an eerie shriek, though Rick hasn’t fired a single bullet yet. His mind pieces it together, and he figures that everything has a weakness, and for a world covered in darkness, the weakness could only be its complete antipode – light.
Rick notices the other figures were attracted by the loud shriek. He shoots at them and disables them successfully, though, to his shock, temporarily. The areas of their shadowy figures which Rick managed to hit, tear up and fade away, but as they fall to the ground afterward, their parts are regenerated, and they reanimate. Rick figures that for now, he may have found a weakness but not one that is able to end them. Rick makes a run for it while the figures are in the process of their regeneration, realizing he only has so many bullets in the clip and it’s pointless to waste them all on a futile task.
After some exploration of the forest, Rick finds a cabin and enters it with caution. Inside, after making sure the area is clear, he finds a piece of paper in the kitchen drawer with a message: “Silver is their biggest weakness.”. Next to the sheet, there is a box of hollow point silver ammunition. As he stares at the box, his mind recalls what happened in the hospital when he stabbed such a haunted creature with his knife, and it shattered into thousands of particles. He figures that the knife he has must be made of silver and is given to him by his father who had once been a policeman, just like him.
When Rick leaves the cabin, after a short time he encounters a wolf, but something seems odd about it. It is not black, like the other shadowy creatures, so he figures he is looking at another living being. Suddenly the wolf notices Rick’s existence, turns its head towards him and starts to growl. As it hovers toward him, its fur starts transforming. It appears false hope had struck Rick. The creature slowly turns black, just like everything else in this forsaken place.
Rick fires his gun, loaded with the silver ammunition he had just picked up. At the point of impact where the bullet connects, a visible black wound appears, looking as if the wolf’s skin is burnt, accompanied by a loud howl from the creature. It charges towards Rick, teeth showing and charging at full speed. After shooting several more bullets, the wolf shatters into many parts.
Following some exploration of the forest, Rick encounters some more haunted creatures, mainly wolves, although, along the way, he also notices silver bear traps which at first scare him. But Rick starts to lose that feeling, coming to terms with the fact that whatever this place is, everything he encounters will likely result in a ‘kill or be killed’ scenario.
On his way, a haunted man appears who speaks in a distorted voice and says to Rick that he should never have come here. Rick is ready to shoot anything he encounters at will, but before drawing his firearm, he notices something off about this man. He wields a hunting rifle strapped to his back, his leg has a visible wound, and on his body, there’s a bloody bear paw as if he’s carrying a trophy from his hunt. Up until now, all the haunted creatures that had attacked him had no weapons or showed any signs of communication. The haunted man stumbles towards Rick and suddenly comes to a stop right in front of him.
After Rick fights down that haunted man, and as he shatters, a light appears, and Rick wakes up in the psychiatrist’s office. He notices that both Rachel and Carl are sitting near him, both of their eyes glued to him, patiently waiting to hear what had just happened. Rick, covered in sweat and still not done panting, tells Carl that he’d seen the same world again, but this time he was in the woods nearby. Rick tells Carl that this time he had not only seen those haunted human-like creatures, but he’d also seen a variety of animals that displayed the same hostile behavior as everything else he had encountered. After explaining what exactly had happened along the way, he tells Carl that near the end, he saw something that looked like the shadowy figures, but appeared to be a hunter. Carl replies with confusion and says that what Rick is experiencing is just a nightmare, that such things are impossible.
Act 3 Paralyzed
After the event in the psychiatrist’s office, Rick decides to go to the police station to find out more about Mitch’s death. Having arrived there, Rick goes to his own office where he encounters his partner, Aleksei. He tells him about what he’d experienced so far, and Aleksei displays concern about Rick’s wellbeing. Meanwhile, Rick asks him if he has any information about Mitch’s death, to which he replies that according to the autopsy it has been confirmed that he died of a drug overdose. Aleksei tells Rick that the symbol Mitch carried on his hand had a strange form and that his body is in the morgue. Rick says he’ll check it out and let him know.
Paying a quick visit to the office armory, Rick picks up a shotgun as reinforcement, after which he leaves the police station to go to the morgue where Mitch’s body is being held. Rick’s exceptional skills, acquired over the span of his career, have a significant role during the investigation of this case. At the end of the research, Rick wants to check Mitch’s hand.
On his hand is the symbol of the mafia. Inside a circular shape – half sun, half-moon, there is a tree, whose half on the side of the sun is blooming, and the other half is withering. As the tree moves downward and enters the moon, it starts to look more and more sere. Around the circle, there are seven runes, each representing one of the seven deadly sins. Every member of the “Sleepwalkers” mafia has the symbol tattooed on the outer part of their palm or on their wrist and thus give the oath of loyalty.
What’s odd about this particular case of the symbol on Mitch’s body is that it looks like it’s been burned into his skin, not tattooed beneath it. Rick touches the emblem, and suddenly the world around him changes. As he is being transferred to the outer world, the drawers of refrigerators, in which the other dead bodies from the morgue are stored, begin to open and close rapidly.
Rick enters this outer world once more. He leaves the morgue, and as the door opens, a great light suddenly appears, but when Rick gets a clear vision, he is baffled. He finds he has ended up in the courtyard of the hospital for people with mental illnesses, known as Mirror Lake. As Rick enters the hospital to investigate his surroundings, he once more encounters many haunted creatures, but this time they are outfitted in white doctor’s uniforms. After Rick defeats them, he investigates the hospital and finds material that contains information about Mitch. In that documentation, he reads about the history of Mitch’s life.
“At the age of 17, in Blue Land, Mitch killed his parents while they were asleep. After doing so, he called the police to turn himself in for murder. He was immediately arrested. Because he had always said that he had done this because of the nightmares, he was sent to Mirror Lake Mental Asylum. While being housed there, he’s killed every single person in the facility, but it is said that there had been someone who collaborated with Mitch. There is currently no trace of that person.”
After Rick reads the information, he hears an object moving and instinctively pulls the gun to check it out. Rick notices that something moves at a tremendous speed, but he cannot see it, because it’s faster than the blink of an eye. As that “something” stops near him, out of nowhere, Mitch appears, who grabs Rick’s gun-wielding hand and paralyzes him. Rick is unable to believe what he’s witnessing. He feels his whole body get paralyzed and is left unable to act. Mitch, just like every other being in this world is completely dark, but unlike theirs, his face has a human-like form. Only around the eyes, there are black stains, one of his eyes being yellow, while the other brown.
Rick and Mitch are former greatest rivals. Mitch is the executioner of the “Sleepwalkers” mafia, and Rick was the one to put Mitch behind bars, thereby earning his promotion to detective. Mitch tells Rick that the call he received for the suicide case was actually him committing the murder. The call was just something to draw Rick’s attention, while Mitch prepared himself to set his house on fire as a sign of revenge. He tells Rick that he enjoyed the “show,” as he watched his wife and daughter burn and scream to death. His goal is, as much as he can, to provoke Rick because he knows where his greatest pain lies.
Shortly after, Mitch throws Rick’s gun on the ground, pulls out his black knife and tells him that the same fate as his family awaits him. To mock Rick, he releases him from paralysis, unknowing of Rick’s concealed weapon. He quickly and efficiently pulls out his silver knife and parries Mitch’s black one before it could pierce his body. As they collide, the blade of Mitch’s knife shatters, and he quickly teleports to another location, warning Rick to watch his back.
After the confrontation between them, Rick encounters problems that need to be solved to reach him. Soon, having settled this multitude of problems, Rick reaches Mitch. It’s still not clear to him whether he’s dead, so Mitch denies it. Following their short conversation, they both face one another to finally settle their rivalry once and for all. Once Mitch is eliminated, he evaporates in particles, the light reappears, and Rick returns to the real world.
Act 4 Beyond Good and Evil
Rick returns to the police station. He tries to find Aleksei to tell him about what he had seen. He fails in doing so, for Aleksei had already gone home. While Rick is in the police station, it’s time to find out more information about the “Sleepwalkers” mafia. He enters Aleksei’s office and tries to find some clues because he knows that he had been there at the crime scene when Mitch was found dead. Searching through the office, Rick comes across many documents among which there is one with details about Mitch. As he returns them, his eye catches a record that he doesn’t know about. It contains information Aleksei has gathered about a laboratory located in Novgorod. The record contains information from the moment he learns about such a laboratory until the moment he was thrown out of the case, even though he had never really given up. Even though Aleksei was already kicked out of his native country, it was his goal to resolve the mystery that was behind this particular case.
As Rick reads what his partner had written down, he moves on to the pictures. Suddenly one of the photos of the laboratory shifts into a shadow and Rick returns to the same dark world. This time he is in the police station, which is completely destroyed but replicated from the real world.
Rick goes through the police station, but as he walks, he enters some tunnels. Rick passes through the tunnels and suddenly finds himself in the same place he saw in the photos, that is the laboratory Aleksei has researched. As Rick investigates through it and uncovers the mysteries hidden in the lab, one of the documents reads that the laboratory was used for experiments on people who wanted to link several bodies in one, to make a living mutation. While Rick is reading all of this, a spider-shaped creature moves on the wall, much larger than any he has met before.
Three human bodies connected as one; the central body part, having two heads, one on the front, one on the back. On each side of its body, there are three hands. Above the thorax, there is a carrier body in an undefined form, that resembles a sphere in which the other two bodies are connected. In the middle of that spherical form is the third head, which is the central core of the creature and looks humanoid.
Rick barely manages to defeat the creature. After he has beaten the beast, Rick goes deeper into the laboratory and hears shooting. From the location where the shots are coming, he sees a man running. That man is Aleksei. Rick is confused because he had not seen many real human faces in that world until now; the only one he had met so far had been the doctor in the hospital he watched transform into a dark being. He tries to explain to Aleksei about what he’d learned from the laboratory, to which Aleksei replies that he already knows. Rick and Aleksei together as a team move through the laboratory and face the haunted creatures of that world.
As they go deeper into the laboratory, suddenly, the same black creature that Rick saw in the hospital appears. The same large form, a black flame around him, black hands protecting his body. Rick does not run this time. Having gained knowledge about this world’s beings from his previous encounters, he is confident, having a weapon with ammunition that has been proved to kill such atrocities. But after hitting multiple shots, he sees that nothing happens to the dark creature. It does not die like the other ones, and Rick is confused. The big creature summons an undefined specter figure and vanishes. The specter moves at a tremendous speed, leaping straight into Aleksei’s mouth. Rick sees a repeat of what he saw in the hospital.
Aleksei suddenly starts to tremble and transform all over from the specter’s influence and the dark world, turning into one of those haunted creatures. He loses all sense, becomes aggressive towards Rick and attacks him. Rick is reluctant to defend himself, he tries to calm Aleksei down and does not want to retaliate because he knows who is hiding behind the dark specter. Rick gets put into a corner with nowhere else to go, he has no choice but to defend himself with his knife. He cuts up Aleksei’s transformed body, which in turn makes the specter more and more aggressive. Given no other choice, Rick eventually decides to eliminate it. As Rick ends the being, the undefined apparition dies and with it, so does the body that had been overtaken. Aleksei passes in the real world as well.
Act 5 Hidden in Plain Sight
After Aleksei dies, his funeral the next day is attended by his family and Rick. During the ceremony, Rick is worried about what might have happened and how Aleksei could have died in his sleep, with a bullet passed through him. While Rick is lost in thought, he starts to hear whispers, turning into voices, and suddenly the world begins to shift and once more he is in that cruel, dark world. He gets up and goes to the place where Aleksei’s body is covered, but the body is gone, and Rick is confused. While he stares in confusion, behind him appears the silhouette of his daughter, which tells Rick to follow her. Rick does as he is told, but from time to time he sees a vision of his wife, the same one he saw at the hospital. Over time, he gets a flashback from the fire in his house and his family burning.
Rick faces his biggest nightmare because he’d just lost his partner, Aleksei, and his family, but somehow manages to calm down. He continues to follow the silhouette of his daughter who leads him to an abandoned building of medium size. Rick enters it and faces one of those undefined specters. However, right before it attacks him, someone behind it shouts for help. The specter changes the direction to that man, takes him, and turns him into a haunted creature. Rick successfully defeats it.
He further explores the insides of the building and finally enters the cellar. Down there, he notices something completely different: the floorboards. Rick notices that it does not look like an ordinary basement: the boards are painted in a different color and finds a door in the floor, tied to a chain, that leads somewhere. He cuts the chain, opens the door and goes down the stairs. Once Rick descends, he is in an underground cemetery, some sort of catacombs. He is confused as to why the building is connected to such a structure.
While down there, he finds inscriptions which read “The big haunted man with many hands, shaped by shadows around him,” and several undefined apparitions. On the wall carvings, he sees what the world looks like, and some kind of people with black coats and crow masks on their faces. When Rick rotates the knob on the wall 180 degrees, that world now looks just like the real one. Rick recalls the moment when he defeated the creature and the giant being called the undefined specter in front of his eyes that overtook his partner.
After recalling all of this, Rick finds out that the world in which he is and the real world are connected and that he is the cause of Aleksei’s death – he was the one who killed him! Rick falls to the ground on his knees, devastated by what he has done, and begins to feel guilty of all that has happened. Once more, his daughter’s silhouette appears, and Rick follows it, but that’s the only thing that’s not clear to him. As he follows, he finds himself in a vast room, and the silhouette vanishes.
He hears some voices and quickly hides to see what is going on in the distance. From afar, he sees people in black mantles gathered in a circle, doing some kind of a ritual. At that moment, one of the undefined black apparitions silences the voices, and the rest of them seize one of their bodies, making it impossible for it to move. The voices stop and in front of Rick appears the one, represented as the master of the world. Rick suddenly returns to the cemetery, at the moment of the funeral ceremony of his partner Aleksei, to the real world.
When the ceremony ends, they leave the cemetery and Rick sees the same building which he entered in the other world. He sees an ambulance in front of him. Rick strives to see what is happening and sees something he had forgotten before. That one man who shouted for help back in the other world is found dead, and thus Rick knows that both worlds are directly connected, therefore every action he takes in the other world also affects reality.
Act 6 The Archivist
Rick goes to his sister’s house. He tells her about the experience he had during the funeral. Finally, Rachel begins to believe him. Rick recalls that his sister is an archivist and asks her for help gathering more information about the “Sleepwalker” mafia. She tells him to go to the attic because she keeps all her newspapers and videotapes up there. He climbs upstairs to search around in some boxes and after a while finds a box containing the newspapers as mentioned earlier and videotapes. He opens one of the papers and sees Zander’s massacre combined with an image of where his first crimes had taken place.
Rick takes one of the videotapes and sees Zander torturing a squirrel. As he fast forwards through the tape, Rick sees occasions where Zander tortures people as well, afterward ending their life, all of which he records onto a videotape. Being left disgusted by what he had just seen, Rick gets down from the attic and nervously approaches Rachel. He asks her where she got the videotapes, to which she rebukes that the video records were left by some unknown person a long time ago and that she that they mustn’t be seen by anyone. Rick assures her that everything will be fine and that he will take care of it.
Rick goes to sleep, but after a while, he hears footsteps, and when he opens his eyes he sees many of the haunted creatures he has previously seen. Rick cannot move or speak, but he can only see. Surrounded by all sides, as they begin to approach him, Rick shifts to the other world and the creatures disappear. He comes out of the room, and after opening the door, he is in Lochedge, the location where Zander committed his crimes. He is on a farm that has a vast amount of scarecrows, for reasons unknown.
As he moves through the village, he feels that something is wrong, because it is quiet and it’s unusual in that world for it to be so. After a while, the loud sound of a chainsaw is heard blaring through the air, and as Rick looks behind, he sees Zander, who is twice his size. He starts running, quickly turning it into a sprint across the farm’s field and entering a barn to hide. As Rick makes it inside and barricades the door, the sound of the chainsaw stops. It remains silent for a while, Rick being confident enough that Zander has left, he decides to leave the barn.
As he exits, he sees those haunted creatures again and faces them. This time there are not only specters but also animals shaped by dark apparitions which represent the nightmares of Zander; every animal and every man that’s tortured and killed by him, but nothing can stand in Rick’s way.
In the end, he reaches a large wooden gate. Before entering, he hears the sound of a hammer. Rick thinks he had seen all the horrifying capabilities of this world, but yet another gruesome scene presents itself before him. As he enters the gate, he sees that living people are being tormented by various devices. The combined noise of people screaming, crying and bones cracking echoes through the room. At the end of the room stands Zander, keeping a man captive, crushing his hand with a hammer and with his bare hands ripping the nails straight from his fingertips. Rick loudly shouts Zander’s name. He interrupts Zander’s work and charges towards him, but this time Rick is encouraged and will not run away because he does not want to face the nightmare again. Rick overcomes Zander, and so he wakes up again in the real world, in which Zander dies at the same time. Zander had forgotten to use synthetic drugs to stay awake, and so Martin remains alone.
Act 7 The Nightmare Realm
When Rick returns to the real world, he wants to find out more information about the other world, the world by which he is surrounded all the time. He recalls an essential detail from when the accident happened, the fire in his house. He remembers that when he’d exited his daughter’s room, the music box fell from his hands. Rick starts to gather pieces of the puzzle, starting from the music box and the way it looked, all the way to the marked symbol on Mitch’s hand. He realizes that the element of the music box he gave to his daughter is on the marked part of Mitch’s hand. Rick also remembers that he bought the music box from a carnival he had previously visited with his daughter, as she loved the gift too much and that Rick had no other choice but to buy it as her Christmas present.
Rick immediately heads off to the carnival and tries to find the person whom he purchased the gift from. When he arrives at the carnival, he enters a red tent to ask about the music box. Rick cannot see whom he is talking to, because it is too dark. The only light source is the candle that is placed on the table itself, dimly lighting the surroundings. He only sees white frizzy hair, because the person to whom the tent belongs to has a cloak on her head. He listens to a sharp female voice explaining to him what the music box actually is and she tells him that everything is his fault. The cloaked person states that the music box is part of a ritual. The candle’s flame extinguishes, Rick is frightened and runs out of the tent. Before he knows it, he starts shifting to the other world, but this time “not by his own will.” He has once more entered the world of nightmares. In there he faces many haunted creatures from the carnival, and after having eliminated them, the creatures of the past nightmares begin to emerge around him. The animals and villagers that Zander has killed, the doctors who Mitch has killed at the hospital, the mutations about which Aleksei tried to find out.
Rick, affected by his deep agony, eliminates everything that stands in his way, after which he reaches the park of the carnival and encounters a dead end. He gets attacked by a throng of apparitions and haunted creatures. Rick attempts to retaliate by firing his flare gun in front of him to make a small barrier. The specters, once aggressive, suddenly become passive and retreat. A strong screeching is heard from nearby, followed by an echo of the steps. The big black creature with shadowy arms around him comes, and his name is Jack. He passes straight through the flare barrier, unaffected by it, leaving Rick terrified. Jack gives a command to the apparitions to retreat. Rick is flabbergasted at what is going on. At that moment Jack stretches out his left hand, and on it with his right hand begins to form small shadows showing 3 figures in a shape of people moving.
There is a crossfire between his gang and another English gang. All the other members die, except him. Jack succeeds in saving himself, and he finds the old pagan lady, Anastasia. She promises to save him and that she can pull him out of the situation, giving him a necklace with a symbol that was found on Mitch’s hand (Half-moon and half sun with a big tree in the middle that separates them. The left part of the tree is withering where the moon is and, the right part of the tree is blooming, where the sun is. The whole circle is surrounded by seven runes that mark the seven deadly sins). The necklace he receives is cursed, and it means that he will not be able to die, but after he dies, he will go to that other world and be reborn. He goes from England to Blackbert City.
After a year, he meets Martin and founds the “Sleepwalkers” mafia. He becomes the Mafia’s ‘brain’ and comes up with all the plans as to how the mafia will succeed. From here on, he becomes Martin’s right hand. The Mafia’s logo is the symbol on Jack’s necklace. After exactly 17 years (2010), Mitch and Zander, jealous of Jack’s position, decide to set him up so his plans would fail. These two destroy some of the factories (which were hidden) for the production of synthetic drugs, making it look like some other gang had done it. It is not possible for others to find out about the location of those factories, so Martin doubts that Jack sabotages him and is a spy from another Mafia. The event happens after Mitch escapes from jail and accuses Jack of being the reason he was imprisoned for the detective to succeed.
When Martin finds out, Jack is heinously tortured to death. He is tied to the back of the chair, there is a tiny strap on his throat, one with a sturdy rod with a spike on each side. Jack is tortured so he does not fall asleep, because if he does, he will bend his head and the spike will pierce straight into his throat and his chest. He managed to withstand for a few days, but Zander loses his patience, which is not typical for someone so in love with the act of torture, so he decides to tie a small cauldron around his body with a rat inside it. Afterward, he starts to heat the bottom of the cauldron, forcing the rat to panic and eventually to begin gnawing into his belly to find salvation.
With this torture, Jack starts to pass out slowly followed by his unconscious body dropping straight into the spike, as it pierces his throat he eventually dies. When the spike is pinned, the logo of the chain is broken into two parts (one stays on him, one falls to the ground). After dying here, his curse by the pagan old lady appears and becomes too powerful in the afterlife so-called “the nightmare world.” Zander and Mitch take the remaining part and throw it into a trash bin outside. From there, this part is found by the pagan old lady, Anastasia. “Rick learns that the person with whom he spoke in the tent is actually Anastasia.”
When Jack shows the story to Rick and what had actually happened, he gives him the necklace, the second half of the element. As he hands it to Rick, the lower part of the blade of the silver knife he carries is engraved with the whole element in the form of shadows. Rick knows that the next step is to kill Martin by getting rid of this world. Jack immediately sends Rick back into the real world.
Act 8 The Gift
After Rick finds himself in the real world, he goes to the Mafia mansion to eliminate Martin to be released. As he enters the estate, one of the Mafia’s henchman approaches Rick. With a swift slice, he kills one of the members with his knife. He sees how this man slowly turns black and starts becoming one of the specters, but this time it is different. The haunted creature does not attack Rick but instead turns on other members of the Mafia. This is because he has accepted the gift from Jack and to help him eliminate Martin since Jack cannot reach or influence him in the real world, now that Martin is constantly awake.
Rick moves through the Mafia mansion and eliminates their members with the help of the haunted creatures. Were he to be alone in his efforts, this would’ve been a suicide mission. The Mafia, after all, is filled with skilled, cold-blooded killers. Rick enters the central part of the mansion, and the haunted creatures start to shatter. There is a great source of light which the dark cannot survive, and in turn, they burn. Rick enters the room where Martin is and faces him.
Martin is one of the most notorious and capable criminals ever. He is too skillful in what he does best, killing.
After the massive massacre that he made in Florence in 1990, he had no choice but to leave the country and escape to Blackbert City. While sleeping, he pursues nightmares of what he has done, trying to overcome it but he cannot. He finds a way to deal with it – drugs. To supply himself with the drug that will never make him sleep, he needs vast amounts of money, so he decides on various major robberies. He forms the mafia that he calls “Sleepwalkers.” He gets the name because he encounters the “other” members that share a common interest – never sleeping. Over time, his mafia becomes one of the strongest in Blackbert City. He is continuously producing this synthetic drug, which, by consuming, will keep you awake forever. So that the nightmares may never return again.
When Rick enters the room, Martin tells him that he has been awaiting this day his entire life. Rick loses the battle at every move because Martin is much more skilled than him, but as Martin is about to finish him off, Rick is reminded of his knife. He drives it through Martin, though nothing happens. Martin knows about the “gift” that Rick got from Jack and merely laughs, even though he cannot move. Martin tells Rick that he is only a small part of the game they’re playing and that he is being used. Rick does not understand why Martin does not turn into a shadow creature. Rick believes and then pardons Martin, followed by putting his gun down on the ground. Martin is immobilized, yet insatiable, so he reaches for the gun and pulls the trigger to kill Rick.
All that is heard is the sound of a click, an empty magazine and no bullet in the chamber. As Rick is about to leave, he heard the sound of the gun and realized what Martin had tried to do. He sharply turns around and goes back to Martin followed by pushing the knife through his main artery. Martin is killed and sent to Jack, to the other world.
Epilogue The Devil’s Pawn
Rick, released from the world of nightmares, is back in his sister’s home. When he enters, he notices that there is no one there, and sits down to rest. He checks in his uniform to see the necklace that Jack gave him but notices that it’s gone. Shortly after, Rick feels a sharp pain in his back, in the same spot where he was hit by the beam during the accident. He goes to the bathroom to check it out and sees the same sign that Mitch carried, now on his back. Rick returns to the house where the accident occurred. Before entering it, he again feels the sharp sting in his back and falls down on the ground, losing consciousness.
Rick opens his eyes and sees himself in his own home where everything is normal, accompanied by his wife telling him to wake up. Rick goes down the stairs, and everything feels like the very beginning, but the voices of his daughter and his wife begin to sound distorted as if he is in the other world. Suddenly his wife and daughter fade away, and everything starts to shake. There is an unknown voice in the background which tells him that everything is his fault.
He runs through the house and suddenly finds himself in a neutral world where everything is black, and he sees himself killing Martin. He sees the moment when he accepts Jack’s gift, eliminates Zander, eliminates Mitch, but the last thing Rick sees in front of him is his house burning, the beam collapses on his back, and he falls to the floor. Above him hovers Jack who marks him on the back while lying on the floor. With the marking itself, Jack can “throw” the person in the world of nightmares whenever he wants without them being asleep, but they must not be awake at the moment of the initial marking, and herefrom we know how Jack marked Mitch.
Suddenly everything fades away, and Rick sees Martin talking to someone much bigger than him, his feet are in the form of hooves, and on the head, there are horns. Rick hears Martin apologizing to his “master,” called so by Martin himself. The creature before him raises its hand, and Martin starts to float up in the air. For a few seconds, he screams as if he feels immense pain, and then… Martin shatters in a million pieces. Martin gets punished by one of the masters of the 7th pantheon, Mammon, the demon carrying the sin of greed. (No man can serve two Gods; he will either hate one or love the other. No man can be a “servant” to God (Jesus) and Mammon at the same time.)
Rick manages to wake up and enters his home, which is not entirely ruined. Once inside he hears steps from above. Rick runs upstairs to check and enters his daughter’s room. He sees Jack standing right there in front of him, in the real world, holding the music box and taking the second element. Rick does not understand how Jack got into the real world, but realizes he did use Rick for his own gains all this time; Martin was right, Jack was using him all along. Within a moment from Rick’s realization Jack joins the two elements together with the chain and is now able to influence the real world. He suddenly disappears, and Rick rushes to the window, he sees Jack moving toward Blackbert City.
The real world and the world of nightmares are now merged into one, this being the beginning of the nightmare world taking over and corrupting the city…
Crepuscular. ADJECTIVE: of, resembling, or relating to twilight; ZOOLOGY: (of an animal) appearing or active in twilight. Synonyms: Half-light, semi-darkness, gloom, dusk, murk, sundown, nightfall, sunset, shadowy.
Uncanny. ADJECTIVE: something which treads the boundary between normal and abnormal, causing anxiety by virtue of its not quite normal character; a humanoid creature or figure which is not quite human; strange or mysterious, especially in an unsettling way. Synonyms: eerie, unnatural, unearthly, preternatural, supernatural, otherworldly, ghostly, mysterious, strange, unsettling, abnormal, weird, bizarre, surreal, eldritch.
Chiaroscuro. NOUN: pictorial representation in terms of light and shade without regard to color; the arrangement or treatment of light and dark parts in a pictorial work of art; the interplay or contrast of dissimilar qualities (as of mood or character); the interplay of light and shadow on or as if on a surface; the quality of being veiled or partly in shadow
It is perhaps fitting to ponder these three terms – words which usher images of shadow and soft light, of blurred lines and hazy recognitions – before we begin a discussion of the subject of this book. His writings depict lands, minds, and souls drenched in the murky gleam of twilight – a purgatory where extreme meet and merge into uncanny hybrids. Good and evil. Conscious and unconscious. Light and dark. Love and hate. Life and death. Sex and murder. His world was a crepuscular universe cast in deep shade and obscurity, where the night-things of the borderlands – death, the unconscious, fear – came out of the shadows to reign unopposed. It was a twilit purgatory populated by the crepuscular archetypes of humanity’s deep insecurities and horrors.
His villains were uncanny: marionettes eerily operated by a higher, evil order. They leer unblinkingly, endeavor to hide predatory fangs and outrageous talons, are marked by unsightly blemishes and cadaverous pallor, bloated to absurdity, illuminated by red halos, and frozen in a perpetual rictus that sets them apart from the ordinary pedestrians of the human walk. They are weird, otherworldly, and – in a word – marked as unnatural. The world they prey on is equally uncanny, and the mood of his writing is an uncomfortable blending of realism and fantasy that results in what Hawthorne coyly called the “Romance,” Freud the “Unheimliche.” His imagery is deeply influenced by the dramatic chiaroscuro portraits of Caravaggio, Schalcken, Dore, Goya, Rembrandt, and Vermeer, whose canvases featured grim voids broken intermittently by smears of light, but largely composed of vague twilight: a dusky red face peering out of a black canvas, the only brightness coming from a gleaming candle, its reflection in the glassy eyes, and the flashes of yellow skin where its rays smolder on the lips, cheeks, and eyelids. His universe is painted in just such a rich chiaroscuro, and his name is J. Sheridan Le Fanu.
The man – even outside of the usual romantic legends that become attached to figures in his field – was a walking enigma, remembered by the fittingly sensational sobriquet “The Invisible Prince”: a reference to his reclusion in later life. His politics, philosophies, religion, and aesthetics were blurred richly into seeming contradictions and anachronisms, and it was perhaps this life lived in the margins and borderlands between disparate elements of Victorian life that permitted him to have the powerful grasp of the uncanny which ensured his legacy. He was massively influential to the generation that later processed what has become known as the Golden Age of the English Horror Story – an era that begins with Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – which was influenced by “Green Tea” and “Mr Justice Harbottle,” comes to full steam with Henry James’ Turn of the Screw – which found inspiration in “Ultor de Lacy,” Uncle Silas, Carmilla, and The House by the Churchyard – and Dracula – an amalgam of Carmilla, “Ultor de Lacy,” “Schalken the Painter,” and more – and closes with the supernatural fiction of E. F. Benson, M. R. James, H. R. Wakefield and Oliver Onions – four men who revered Le Fanu and praised him in their writings. Benson, one of Le Fanu’s greatest pupils from the Interwar Era deftly explained the appeal that so many of his contemporaries found in a man who had been all but forgotten to mainstream critics:
[T]here is one author, far too little known by those in search of creepy lore, who seldom fails in his high mission : his name is Sheridan Le Fanu. He produces, page for page, a far higher percentage of terror than the more widely read Edgar Allan Poe, and whether he deals in ghosts direct or in more material horrors, his success in making his readers very uneasy is amazing. Though we may already know the story we select to give us some insupportable moments on a lonely evening, there is a quality about most of his tales which seldom fails to alarm : familiarity with them does not breed comfort. Many ghost stories arc efficacious for a first reading, but few, when we already know the worst that the author has to tell us, preserve untainted the atmosphere of horror as do the tales in In a Glass Darkly. The best of these, “Green Tea,” ” The Familiar,” and ” Mr. Justice Harbottle,” are instinct with an awfulness which custom cannot stale, and this quality is due, as in The Turn of the Screw, to Le Fanu’s admirably artistic methods in setting and narration. They begin quietly enough, the tentacles of terror are applied so softly that the reader hardly notices them till they are sucking the courage from his blood. A darkness gathers, like dusk gently falling, and then something, obscurely stirs in it… This quiet, cumulative method leading up to intolerable terror is characteristic of all Le Fanu’s best work, and it is that which makes him so wholesale a fear-monger. He employs this technique not only in his short stories, but when he is engaged on a full-length novel… his best work is of the first rank, while as a -flesh-creeper he is unrivalled. No one else has so sure a touch in mixing the mysterious atmosphere in which horror -darkly breeds.
He was a powerful force of influence on most supernaturalists who wrote during the Late Victorian, Edwardian, and Interwar eras, and while many of his contemporaries – Wilkie Collins, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Elizabeth Gaskell, etc. – have shown signs of aging, Le Fanu’s ghost stories remain among the best and most effective in the language. His use of subtlety and ambiguity presage Henry James’ psychological realism, and his use of existential horror predate Lovecraft and Blackwood by half a century. E. F. Bleiler, the renowned critic, anthologist, and editor, considered him the foremost ghost story writer of the entire century, ranking him alongside Charlotte Riddell, Amelia B. Edwards, and his niece Rhoda Broughton. According Bleiler, none of them begin to approach his ability to craft nuance and psychological terror as well as he does, however. On answering the question of what made him so exceptional in his generation, Bleiler had this to say:
Of all the Victorian authors who wrote ghost stories, only LeFanu [sic] seems to have recognized that there must be an aesthetic of supernatural terror. He obviously thought deeply about the nature of fictional supernaturalism and was aware of the implications that supernaturalism would have for the other dynamics of the story. Most of his fellow authors felt that they had done enough if they declared a house haunted … Le Fanu seems to have been alone in rejecting [Gothic clichés]; to him alone it occurred that the personality of the beholder could be just as important and perhaps just as supernatural as the manifestations themselves. In his best work LeFanu [sic] was primarily a psychologist…
His mode of thought hearkened back to the earlier nineteenth century, where theorists like Schubert and Carus were dividing the mind into conscious and unconscious levels, and seeing in dream, madness, and vision emergences of both a “hidden nightside of nature” and the supernatural… [He] was concerned with the hidden recesses of the psyches of his characters and mapping out the strange areas where the sense of reality can manifest itself to cover equally what is perceived and not perceived. Within his better fiction LeFanu [sic] so blended and intertwined the natural and the supernatural that his work is a fugue of strange states of consciousness, linkages between the outside world and man, and a hidden, often diabolic morality, that will not suffer evil to go unavenged or unbetrayed.
This is what made Le Fanu so unique in his age – so different from Collins and Bulwer-Lytton who saw ghosts as plot agents, adversaries, and obstacles. To Le Fanu they were mirrors, psychological symbols, and avatars of the interior. Rev. Jennings’ demon monkey is not a villain to be defeated, but a mindset to be reckoned with – a manifestation of repressed passions that say far more about Jennings than they do about the monkey. Carmilla appears almost as if summoned to help Laura sort out her burgeoning sexuality and womanhood: not as an opponent, but as a reflection. Judge Harbottle is not haunted so much by the ghosts of his victims as he is by the vision of his own doppelgänger – his brooding Super-Ego – which condemns him internally rather than externally. Like his pupils Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson, Le Fanu’s works are far more about blurring and blending reality – about confronting contradictions, acknowledging repressions, and exposing hypocrisies – than restoring order between two well-divided worlds (the natural and supernatural) or ensuring victory of good over evil (this is where Stoker loses steam). Rather, it is the crepuscular landscape of the human soul – the twilight world of shadows that casts reality in a murk of biases, lusts, fears, and denials: in an uncanny chiaroscuro – that gives Le Fanu his frighteningly confrontational universe.
Le Fanu’s life and artistic vision was most deeply influenced by two twin stars that both guided him into their orbits and crushed him with punishing gravity. Fittingly enough for someone whose fiction so frequently presaged the theories of Freud, those two stars were his father and wife. Thomas Le Fanu was a Church of Ireland clergyman who kept his family in poverty (despite their comparative wealth) through poor business decisions and a flaky detachment from physical life. It is perhaps remarkable that despite his full name – Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu – and considering the many versions of this appellation that circulate, Le Fanu neatly evicted his father from his signature, never calling himself J. T. S. Le Fanu or J. Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu, but almost surgically banishing the influence of a man whom he frequently viewed as fanatical, judgmental, and cruel. Despite his Anglican employment, Thomas was deeply motivated by Calvinist theology which celebrated predestination: the theory that God had preselected the Elect and the Damned, and that – from the moment of conception – nothing a man could do could prevent him from receiving his preordained destination. Hence a mass murderer and pedophile might have been elected to heaven while a devout widow and philanthropist might awake from death in hell. The only way to know which one you were was to detect your intrinsic motives (did you WANT to do good naturally, or was it an act?).
Ironically, this resulted in chronic hypocrisy among Calvinist circles: in spite of the theory which asserted that it was impossible to detect someone’s predestination, self-conscious Calvinists strove to have their piety noticed by being loudly religious and charitable in public, in hopes that others would suspect them of being among the Elect. Yet in private, it literally did not matter what one did: in public loud prayers and posing ensured their good reputations, but sin in private was utterly excused: the Elect could never sin so much that God damned them, and the Damned could never be good enough to win God’s forgiveness. Also raised Calvinist, Robert Louis Stevenson depicted this brazen hypocrisy in his treatise on the socially-sanctioned dual life, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Le Fanu’s relationship with this stern man was mixed: he digested his library voraciously (until the beloved collection had to be sold to cover his ludicrous debts), a vast bibliography of theology, spiritualism, and philosophy that is depicted in Rev. Jennings’ study in “Green Tea.” But the man was impractical in the extreme, always in debt, and seemingly disinterested in his children, whom he berated and shamed at the slightest displeasure. He died a pauper, leaving his children with few fond memories and vast debts, but his reflection – the stern, penurious mystic out of touch with reality but deeply interwoven into a dark and sinister spiritualism – shows up repeatedly in Le Fanu’s works, while his depressing theology forms the keel of his son’s fictional universe: one driven by a God unimpressed and immune to goodness, but obsessively attentive to every slip up and wrong doing – uninterested in forgiveness but maniacally devoted to punishment.
The second great influence was his wife, a woman who similarly displayed an imprudent obsession with spiritual matters at the cost of her waking life. Unlike Thomas Le Fanu, whose religion was unshakable, Susanna Le Fanu was wracked with a disbelief that terrified her. It was a contradictory credo that contributed to Le Fanu’s artistic obsession with contradictions: the agnostic who is convinced that her lack of faith will send her to hell. She had no doubt in the existence of damnation, it seems, though she frequently questioned the resurrection, salvation, and the existence of God. But the existence of the Inferno never seemed to be a matter of controversy. We find this precise scenario in the case of Captain Barton, whose atheism in no way seems to conflict with his belief in “a terrible God.” He is no more convinced that his atheism is incorrect, or that his fear of damnation is invalidated by his disbelief: he is an atheist, and expects to go to hell. Such was the case of Susanna Le Fanu, though she would not have called herself an atheist. She was just as fanatical as her father-in-law, if not more so, becoming obsessed with religion to such a degree that she earned her husband’s disgust and resentment. Le Fanu was so repelled by her morbid obsession with spirituality, that her death following an episode of mania – one as mysterious as any in his novels – hounded him to his own demise.
Susanna had steadily become a victim of mental illness, growing hysterically terrified by the thought of death and her eternal destination. Famously, in an episode that would be reflected in so many of Le Fanu’s own stories, she awoke to see the vision of her dead father peering at her slyly through the bed curtains, and fearfully asked him his business. The response calls to mind E. F. Benson’s “The Bus Conductor,” for he grinned horribly and informed her that there was space for her in her family crypt. She did not survive very long after this supernatural encounter (one just as vague and possibly psychological as any of Le Fanu’s own ambiguous hauntings), and died under unclear circumstances after a night of terrified ravings. Her death broke Le Fanu’s heart, and he became a hermit from then on out, only leaving the house at intervals (usually to collect books), convinced that his wife could have survived if her husband had been more sympathetic. The doomed innocent lured to her fate as a result of her loved ones’ ignorance and neglect is a regular motif in Le Fanu (Carmilla, Schalken, and Ultor de Lacy are among the most notable examples), and it finds its origin in Susanna Le Fanu – a woman who lived in a Purgatory of her own invention, whose desire for salvation was darkened by her fear of damnation, a lost traveler in a land of twilight, dependent on the fading glow of a world destined to descend into darkness.
Le Fanu frequently strands his characters in a crepuscular landscape which employs his favored chiaroscuro effect: light and shadow are equally enhanced and underscored, drawing attention to their uncomfortable proximity and their diametrically opposed natures, creating a convenient metaphor for good and evil, public and private, conscious and unconscious. His is a world where opposites meet in a borderland where their essential qualities blur and dilute one another until the weakness is so great that a powerful change is exacted: light and dark blend into twilight; good and evil fade into moral ambiguity; heaven and hell blur into purgatory; sinners and saints merge into homeless souls; conscious and unconscious fuse into waking nightmares; the dead and the living merge into the dead man who is animated by lust and the live man who longs for death; city and country crosshatch into suburban landscapes that feel as desolate as settlements on the verge of a forbidding wilderness. His universe is shadowy, but perceptible, lit but ill defined – one which demands that we squint and peer. And what do we see when the murk seems to thin and our sight breaks through the darkness? Horrors that punish our imprudent curiosity.
His fiction, like that of his pupils – the Benson brothers, M. R. and Henry James, Robert Louis Stevenson, E. Nesbit, Rhoda Broughton (his niece), Algernon Blackwood, W. W. Jacobs, H. R. Wakefield, Ramsey Campbell, Bram Stoker, Oliver Onions, Walter de la Mare, and more – is profoundly subtextual, being more psychological commentary than spooky entertainment, more existentially upsetting than gruesome, and more dedicated to suggesting philosophical terrors – phantoms that torment the mind and soul – than exposing visual horrors which twist the stomach and gullet. His few forays into body horror are typically precise and tidy: a wrenched neck, the sound of flabby, naked feet descending the stairs in an empty house, dark marks on a girl’s throat which suggest the dried blood of a laceration. But when he does choose to pack a punch of grisly imagery, it is powerful and difficult to forget: the ghost of a suicide whose skull cap is a blown open, the flesh charred; the grinning phantom who unwinds his cravat to reveal his throat “cut across like another mouth, wide open, laughing”; or the vampire who returns home from a feeding “in her white nightdress, bathed, from her chin to her feet, in one great stain of blood.” Le Fanu taught an entire generation of supernaturalists to use restraint and suggestion; but like a good boxer who conserves his energy by sticking to short, intentional, controlled bouts of power, he also knows when to go for a blinding hay bailer – and when he does, it is usually in the form of an image that sticks with you for hours and days.
Ever the walking contradiction, Le Fanu’s fiction is largely defined by clashes and blurrings between diametrically opposed elements: light/dark, life/death, conscious/unconscious, good/evil, public/private, heaven/hell, God/Satan. His universe is a great Purgatory – a no-man’s land claimed by warring factions but dominated by no single force. The same could be said about his own biography. He was an urban, Anglo-Irish, Conservative, Protestant who sympathized with and romanticized the rural, Celtic-Irish, Finnian, Catholics, instilled from an early ages with equal doses of fanatical Calvinist, fashionable Anglican, and superstitious Catholic theologies, and driven by a deep patriotism for his liege – the British Crown – his homeland – Ireland – and his community – the hybrid Anglo-Irish. Le Fanu frequently set his fiction in bygone eras (principally the Late Jacobean and Early Georgian periods) which (like M. R. James’ nostalgic Georgian settings) seem to both repel and attract the author.
He seems to find an allure in the era when men wore periwigs and embroidered banyans, swaddled their throats in voluminous cravats, and met in chaotic Enlightenment coffee houses rather than tidy Victorian tea rooms. He is drawn to the order of the feudal countryside which was becoming extinct around him – replaced by industrial centers and manufacturing hubs. And yet he was repulsed by its cronyism, corruption, and lawlessness, detecting the same culprits in that time plying the same trades in his own, now sanctioned by society and the law where they had formerly been protected by the perhaps less revolting powers of the privileged aristocracy. In the place of violent squires, sadistic hanging judges, sinister earls, murderous rakes, and decadent countesses he saw selfish men of business driven by materialism rather than the more romantic motives of power and fame. The Great Famine was brought on not by Le Fanu’s fantastic villains of the past – his almost lovably wicked gentry (one can sometimes picture Vincent Price in a cravat sneering at a trembling Irish milkmaid locked in a Radcliffean abbey) – but by disinterested politicians, greedy capitalists, and a self-absorbed middle class. It lacked drama, it lacked motive, it lacked panache, villainy, romance, or power. It was a tragedy of inattention and Dickensian ignorance, and it drove Le Fanu to despair.
Le Fanu’s reputation waned in the thirty years following his death as his particular brand of blustery, dark romanticism went out of fashion in favor of domestic, erudite realism, but his cause was championed by two of the era’s most noteworthy supernaturalists – and men who shared a surname, though no relation – the transatlantic master of the psychological ghost story, Henry James, and the recognized dean of the English ghost story, M. R. James. Their contemporary, E. F. Benson, famously compared Le Fanu’s supernatural oeuvre to Henry James’ deeply opaque, proto-Freudian ghost stories. James was unquestionably influenced by Le Fanu when he penned his own spook tales: “The Turn of the Screw,” “The Real Right Thing,” “The Ghostly Rental,” “The Romance of Certain Old Clothes,” “The Way it Came,” and so on – stories that are energized by their lack of certainty: are the ghosts real, imagined, hallucinated, invented, purely literary, or – horror of horrors – a combination of the previous? Like Le Fanu, Henry James’ supernatural tales highlight terror over horror, suggestion over revelation, ambiguity over certainty. James’ protagonists are also haunted by their past sins (“The Ghostly Rental,” “Sir Edmund Orme,” “The Jolly Corner,” etc.) and hounded by apparitions which represent their moral failures. While not nearly as gushing as M. R. James, the American realist was known to delight in Le Fanu’s novels – though perhaps as a guilty pleasure – mulling gleefully over the prospect of spending a dark night curled up with the “customary novel of Mr Le Fanu for the bedside; the ideal reading in a country house for the hours after midnight.”
For his part, M. R. James was single handedly responsible for preserving Le Fanu’s legacy as a ghost story writer: he was known as a sort of melodramatic Gothic mystery writer in the vein of Gaston Leroux, Edgar Allan Poe’s detective stories, and the sensational thrillers of Bulwer-Lytton and Wilkie Collins, and his forays into supernatural fiction (other than “Carmilla” and “Green Tea” – though both were objectionably amoral and hence more renowned as morbid curiosities than good art) were all but forgotten. James, who adored his short fiction, was bothered by the lack of in-print anthologies of his idol’s works, and edited together Madam Crowl’s Ghost and Other Tales of Mystery – the work which resurrected Le Fanu’s reputation when it was published in 1923. In his typically vague-yet-authoritative way, James described what, in his opinion, gave Le Fanu a unique edge:
As to his peculiar power: I think the origin of it is not far to seek. Le Fanu had both French and Irish blood in his veins, and in his works I seem to see both strains coming out, though the Irish predominates. The indefinable melancholy which the air of Ireland and its colouring inspire – a melancholy which inspires many Irish writers – is caught by Le Fanu and fixed in words with an almost complete success. He dwells very fondly and very frequently on sunset scenes over a horizon of dark hanging woods, on moonlight shining on a winding river with wooded banks, on a heavily-timbered park, a black tarn in a lonely glen, an old air heard in the distance at night, a ruined chapel or manor-house, a torchlight funeral in a gloomy church. Pictures like these strike his fancy and he makes them stand out for his readers. They have been made commonplace enough by worse writers; but we indeed have [bad] pictures of ruined castles on the Rhine or Melrose Abbey by moonlight, yet it is possible to have good pictures of these subjects, and most likely had there been no good pictures of them there would have been no bad ones. I think Le Fanu’s are good pictures, and I am certain they have inspired a great many that are not good.
But how does he contrive to inspire horror? It is partly, I think, owing to the very skilful use of a crescendo, so to speak. The gradual removal of one safeguard after another, the victim’s dim forebodings of what is to happen gradually growing clearer; these are the processes which generally increase the strain of excitement. “The Familiar” and the concluding chapters of Uncle Silas are the best specimens of this. And again the unexplained hints which are dropped are of the most telling kind. The reader is never allowed to know the full theory which underlies any of his ghost stories, but this Le Fanu has in common with many inferior artists. Only you feel that he has a complete explanation to give if he would only vouchsafe it.
As to how Le Fanu influenced James, it is almost too profoundly to set down in writing. There are the settings, the cadence of the plot, the Freudian subtexts, the twilit rendezvous between disparate elements, eras, and cultures, the countryside horrors, the malicious, predatory phantoms, the affinity for the 18th century, the focus on moral corruption, the contrast between the feudal past and the industrial present, an emphasis on folklore and dialect, and much more.
Le Fanu’s influence on the English ghost story has been so seismic that his role in shaping the golden age of Late Victorian and Edwardian horror – the realm of Machen and Blackwood, Onions and Hodgson, James and James, Benson and Stoker, Stevenson and Bierce – literally cannot be overemphasized. What sets Le Fanu apart from the majority of his peers is a threefold combination of unique qualities: his dedication to a sometimes bawdy, always palpable realism, his aversion to moral fables and cautionary tales, and his creation of a distinct universe populated by corruptive, malevolent, and misanthropic supernatural powers hellbent on foiling every plan of mankind (whether it be noble or perverse). Le Fanu’s tales are draped in the moonlight and shadows of romanticism, but his tone is reporterly, his observations detached, his commentary straight-forward and more often than not bereft of sympathy or compassion. His fiction is not at all like that of the 18th century Gothicists who reveled in sentimentality and affectations, or even his contemporaries who used specters to vindicate the innocent, punish the evil, and illumine truth. In Le Fanu’s universe a ghost is far more likely to corrupt the innocent, punish the well-meaning, and obscure truth.
His world, deeply shaped by his Calvinist and Conservative cultural milieu, was one darkened by threatening shadows – one which bred mysteries and adversaries in the empty spaces between the puny patches of light cast by science, faith, or civilization. In his vision of the universe – not unlike Lovecraft’s – we were spared by our ignorance and protected by our lack of cultivation: rural peasants fare far better in his stories than educated urbanites or ambitious aristocrats, and those paupers living in the near-feudal conditions of the Irish countryside – as miserable as they may be – are protected from spectral interference not by a watchful God or a Wordsworthian purity-of-spirit, but by their own stupidity and a lack of hubris. The few peasants who are punished in Le Fanu’s universe are those who break free – if ever so little – from their expectations and attain the hubris of ambition: prideful Laura Silver Bell, exceptional little Billy who “went with the fairies,” a number of alcoholic sextons who ventured greedy bargains with Satan, and bedeviled Dickon who had the temerity to defy the wishes of a long-dead squire (just to name a few). Those who suffer most are those who were foolish enough to raise their profile and attract the humiliating agents of Le Fanu’s universe – ghosts, demons, and goblins whose mission it is to crush the human spirit and prevent any from challenging the submissive cynicism of their culture.
Like the Malebranche devils who soar above Dante’s Eight Circle of hell, (whose job it is to guard the lake of boiling pitch and to shove down the head of any corrupt politicians who have the gall to surface and seek respite from their pain), the agents of Le Fanu’s fiction have no regard for specifics, make no exceptions for pathos, and have little concern for the results of their punishments: to them this is just a job; they are merely bailiffs to some Great Dark Power, executing a sentence like a game warden who casually shoots a barking dog whose noise has disturbed his master’s reading. Sometimes these agents are literal ghosts: the spirits of vengeful human beings bent on punishing the living (“Ultor de Lacy,” “Squire Toby’s Will”) or lingering spirits who are forces of corruption and misery, tormenting innocent strangers and spreading a contagion of hopeless terror (“Aungier Street,” “Ghost of a Hand”). Sometimes they are demonic handlers carrying out an infernal commission (“Sir Dominick,” “Robert Ardagh”), sometimes they are monomaniacal supernatural entities who roam the world with a mission of self-pleasure that usually ends in the corruption or death of a harmless stranger (“Schalken,” “Carmilla”). Frequently they are parasitic fairies or ghosts who act on human beings no differently than cancer or tuberculosis or flus: attaching themselves to a life source, draining it for sustenance, then moving on to a new victim with all the maliciousness of a tapeworm (“Laura Silver Bell,” “Child … Fairies”). Other times they are incredibly subtle psychological manifestations of the unconscious, written with all the ambiguity, elegance, and restraint of Henry James – specters who may just as easily be products of a troubled mind as denizens of hell (“Green Tea,” “The Familiar”).
Overall, Le Fanu’s fiction seeks to unsettle and discombobulate those who are spiritually comfortable: those assured of divine protection, those secure in their moral blamelessness, those convinced of their eternal destination. Not even atheists are allowed to be at peace: unlike Lovecraft who viewed godlessness as the ultimate terror (“how small humans would feel if they only knew how unimportant they are!”), Le Fanu located the deeper horror in an overly watchful Divine Order which swatted and punished with severity. Some people comfort others with the certainty that the good we do in the world matters; others comfort those who are in existential crises with the certainty that nothing we do matters. Le Fanu divests both theories of their comfort by proclaiming that it is the bad we do which ultimately matters: goodness is never rewarded in his stories, and wickedness is monitored to the point of lawyerly obsession (in “The Sexton’s Adventure” a purely rhetorical comment – “divil carry me if I drink a drop” – is attended to with absurd seriousness, resulting in a horrifying bout of temptations, all designed to get the sexton to break his “contract” with his wife and shuttle his soul to hell). For Lovecraft, the terror lurks in the possibility that mankind is meaningless and unimportant. In our postmodern culture there is almost a cozy snuggliness (one against which some atheists stroke up protectively or curl onto comfortingly) about this idea: “pah! It doesn’t matter what you do; YOLO. Live fast die young, etc. da capo.” Le Fanu would concur (though not with Lovecraft) because it is the idea of a policing deity who puts the greatest interest in your flaws and stumblings which terrifies him.
And yet, Lovecraft and Le Fanu are absolutely in synch with their basic theses: humanity is ignorant of the greater systems that exist beyond our ken, which hum and move and operate independent of our actions, and of which we understand only the slightest bit, but were we ever to have a fuller view of the reality beyond our own little world, it would shatter our minds. That is why the atheistic Captain Barton in “The Familiar” is too terrified of the idea of a Creator to acknowledge his existence – because a Creator who holds merciless grudges against sinners is as terrifying to an atheist as the idea of a world without reason is to a religious person. Barton’s staggering credo is perhaps one of the most definitive lines in all of Le Fanu’s corpus: “there is a God—a dreadful God—and that retribution follows guilt. In ways, the most mysterious and stupendous; by agencies, the most inexplicable and terrific; there is a spiritual system—great Heavens, how frightfully I have been convinced!—a system malignant, and inexorable, and omnipotent, under whose persecutions I am, and have been, suffering the torments of the damned!—yes, sir—yes—the fires and frenzy of hell!”
Le Fanu’s horror fiction can be catalogued into many different subgenres: demon lovers; spectral tormentors; vengeful ghosts; parasitic vampires; haunted houses; Faustian bargains; Irish folklore (cautionary tales woven into the less morally reliable Lefanuvian universe); stories of pathos told to travelers a la the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (e.g. “Dickon” and “Sir Dominick”); and anthologies of urban legends (“Lough Guir,” “Chapelizod,” “Tiled House,” etc.). In this book I have divided them into two sections: Ghost Stories (Ghosts, Goblins, and Haunted Houses) and Weird Fiction (Vampires, Devils, and Doppelgängers). Of course there is frequent overlap (“Carmilla,” “Squire Toby’s Will,” “The Ghost of a Hand,” and others could easily belong to either class), but there are some qualifiers that help to distinguish between these two breeds: the ghost stories all involve the return of a dead person’s spirit to make an impression on the world of the living. The haunting is usually straight forward (it is the image of the dead person; no peculiar manifestations), and usually is dedicated to the disruption of a single person (“Sexton,” “Familiar”), or building (“Tiled House,” “Authentic Narrative”), or piece of land (“Dickon,” “Lough Guir”), or even an object (“Wicked Captain Walshawe”).
In each case, a spirit is separated from its body and clings possessively to one of these people, properties, or items, exerting their will on the living and forcing others to acknowledge them (and more importantly, what they represent: typically universal sinful urges that the Victorian gentry considered themselves to be removed from by virtue of upbringing). These ghosts teach us that human beings are corrupt to the core, petty and merciless, and devoid of grace – masquerading monsters, whose exterior lives may be genteel and refined, but whose hearts are vile shadowlands darkened with repressed appetites and hidden agendas. Madam Crowl is a child murderess who starved her adopted son like a caged rat for money. The eponymous rum-head in “The Drunkard’s Dream” goes to hell and escapes on parole under the condition that he not drink again. He returns to his loving family and is changed; but his vice proves too great, and he is marched back to damnation. “Squire Toby’s Will” follows the most pathetically petty family imaginable (the story itself is an allegory of the Seven Deadly Sins, which are represented in the behavior of the envious, violent, lustful, prideful, gluttonous, slothful, greedy trio), who rob one another and justify their cruelty through “rights” and the “law.” These are stories which examine the ghosts of human nature – particularly the ghosts of the rural, feudal, violent past which Le Fanu knew to lurk under the urban, industrial, socialite exteriors of Victorian Britons.
Then there are the tales of weird fiction, some of which are ghost stories, all of which are a little atypical and unique. Most of these stories involve possession – literal possession, as in slavery – and the demands of a supernatural entity which hopes to absorb and command the life of a living person. These stories include Faustian pacts and encounters with Satanic forces as well as vampires (defined here as an undead entity which seeks out, peruses, claims ownership over, and drains power and life from a human being) – other than “Carmilla” there are vampires in “Ultor de Lacy” (an equal partner with Carmilla in influencing Dracula), “Child who went with the Fairies,” “Laura Silver Bell,” “Schalken the Painter.” These vampires can also be termed – more accurately, too – demon lovers. Demon lovers are supernatural entities – some are ghosts, some goblins, some demons, some elves, some fairies, some are vampires, and some are Satan himself – who pursue and woo (or otherwise – in fact more frequently – abduct) a beautiful woman after which they spirit them away into the Night-World, never to be heard from again.
These are cautionary tales told as a reminder to young women that silver-tongued strangers who beckon them into the forest or outside of the village for a romp in the hay might not have their best interests in mind. This trope has been popular in almost every strain of European folklore, and was made mainstream by German Romantics like Bürger (“Lenore”) and Goethe (“The Erlking”) before it worked its way into English and Irish mainstream fiction. Charles Dickens’ “To Be Read at Dusk,” Fitz-James O’Brien’s “The Demon of the Gibbet,” and E. F. Benson’s “The Face” are two of the best examples of this supernatural genre. Le Fanu’s own niece, Rhoda Broughton, wrote a disturbing take on the legend which easily suggests a kinship to “Schalken the Painter” called “The Man with the Nose” about a young woman’s recurring nightmare of a predestined, supernatural abductor. For Le Fanu who adored the concept of innocence being irrevocably corrupted (or otherwise sullied, broken, or crushed), the trope occurred over and over again in this fiction: “Schalken” is his most sympathetic take, with Rose – probably his most likeable and pathetic character ever written – falling victim to the forces of paternalism and greed, while “Ultor” and “Laura Silver Bell” feature vain coquettes being lured away by grisly seducers masquerading as dashing bravos.
“The Child who Went with the Fairies” takes on Goethe’s similarly pedophilic-themed “Erlking” (a poem about a man riding home on a dark night with his young son; the boy complains that the Elf King is chasing them and promising him comfort and treats and trinkets, but is too afraid to accept the offer; the father begins to worry as the boy grows hysterical, but ultimately takes interest too late: the child is dead (and hence spirited away to be the Elf King’s plaything) when they arrive home) by spinning it with Irish legends of the fairies and a heavy dose of Anglo-Irish political allegory. Also written in the style of Goethe (or more accurately, Christopher Marlowe) are the Faustian tales which follow an aristocrat hard on his luck who makes a pact with the Dark Forces only to bridle when his debt is called forward. An ancient story that has been used by everyone from Washington Irving and Nathaniel Hawthorne to Mikhail Bulgakov and Robert Johnson, Le Fanu dips liberally into centuries of folklore to make acerbic social commentaries and lament the political corruption of the Anglo-Irish middle class which he saw as having a deleterious effect on Ireland.
We find these stories in “Robert Ardagh,” “Sir Dominick,” and “The Dead Sexton” (not printed in this collection). Then there are the similarly vampiric phantoms that haunt grown men in their nightmares – less for sexual reasons (typically) and more as extensions of their own violently guilty Super-Egos. “Aungier Street” is haunted by floating portraits, bloated, humanoid rats, and the sound of flabby, naked feet climbing down the attic stairs – less a typical ghost than the more conventional phantoms in the first half – while drinking copious amounts of additive-ridden, sleep-robbing “Green Tea” causes a respectable parson to envision his hateful alter-ego in the form of a sadistic monkey, and the hanging-judge “Mr Justice Harbottle” is hauled to an infernal court where he is put on trial by a massive doppelgänger under the shadow of a gargantuan gallows littered with the corpses of his victims.
One of Le Fanu’s greatest legacies is one which still sours many scholars: his influence on the horror fiction of Bram Stoker. The dominance of Dracula as a primary text in the field of horror fiction is still something of a sore point to many Lefanuvians who note that the novel lacks the grace, subtlety, power, and uncanniness of its source material, the novella “Carmilla” and the short stories “Ultor de Lacy,” “Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street,” and “Schalken the Painter,” and that Stoker – a relatively weak writer with a handful of successes and a flair for purple langue and maddening characters – should remain heralded as one of the holy trinity of horror fiction (alongside Mary Shelly and R. L. Stevenson) is a source of irritation to Le Fanu’s supporters. Dracula most certainly owes its plot, details, and dynamics to Le Fanu – and not merely to “Carmilla.” In the notes for “Ultor de Lacy” I draw parallels to the two sisters and Stoker’s Lucy and Mina, the use of sleep walking, and the method of regular nocturnal seduction.
Harker’s relationship to Dracula shares characteristics with that between the resident of “Aungier Street” and the murderous ghost who haunts his bedroom, and the character of Vanderhausen is Draculean in too many ways to detail in the space allotted here. This is to say nothing of Stoker’s use of “Aungier Street” and “Mr Justice Harbottle” in his only other masterpiece, “The Judge’s House” (the title is even directly lifted from chapter two of “Harbottle”), not to mention parallels between his gory tale of feline vengeance, “The Squaw,” and Le Fanu’s folk story, “The White Cat of Drumgunniol.” And yet Le Fanu owes a debt to preserving his memory and keeping him – or rather, “Carmilla” – in print as “the man whose lesbian vampire inspired Dracula.” Carmilla herself is a drastically fuller fleshed, more complex character than the rather flat-if-charismatic Count. Carmilla’s motives are vague, her intentions suspicious yet conflicted, and her origins tragic and endowed with as much pathos as Dracula’s are with repulsion.
One of the most important but least recognized or appreciated subtexts of Le Fanu’s oeuvre is his powerful and sometimes deeply bitter use of political satire. His supernatural fiction is frequently engineered to lampoon, critique, or indict the volatile relationship between the British Crown and her Irish subjects – and more specifically the relationship between the urban, Protestant, middle class Anglo-Irish and the rural, Catholic, lower class Celtic-Irish. Some of this is casually subtextual: “Carmilla’s” Styria may be interpreted – with its disparity between a poor, rural, superstitious, Catholic peasantry and a comfortable, urbanized, well-educated, Protestant gentry – as an encoded analog for Ireland; Wicked Captain Walshawe is an English rogue and poseur who tricks his way into seducing and ruining both the spiritual and financial legacy of a pious Irishwoman – a tidy analogy for the perceived chicanery that led to the unbalanced union between Britain and Ireland; “The Child that Went with the Fairies” – a healthy, shining, idealized Irish boy (who goes alternatively by the English diminutive Billy and the Irish pet name Liam, both short for William, the name of one of the most controversial English kings in Irish history) is lured to starvation and slavery by the cheap presents of a beautiful fairy queen (Victoria?) accompanied by a ghoulish black woman (the specter of colonization?) in what many see as a parable for Ireland’s treatment as an occupied colony, the abduction of her most promising sons (into the army, navy, colonial services, prisons, and more), and the horrors of the Great Famine; and I personally interpret “Squire Toby’s Will” – a story about a father’s lopsided will and the sibling rivalry that leads a family to damnation – as being a full-fledged political allegory for the dysfunctional relationship between the bullying, favortist British Crown (Squire Toby), the unfairly favored Anglo-Irish Protestants (Handsome Charlie), and the disenfranchised Celtic-Irish Catholics (Scroope). Other stories are far more overt with their symbolism: “Robert Ardagh,” “Child that Went…,” “Ultor de Lacy,” “Sir Dominick,” and “Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street” reference Irish Jacobitism, the Williamite Rebellion, and the ravages of the so-called “Potato” Famine, bringing the clash between Catholic Ireland and Protestant Britain into the mechanics of the plot.
Le Fanu’s stories of the past frequently center around this trinity of Irish tragedies – three recurring nightmares of British history which continual reappear in his fiction: the brutal Williamite Rebellion following the Great Revolution of 1688 (that saw William III and Queen Mary dethrone her father, James II); the Jacobite Rebellions of 1715 and 1745 which are more associated with Scotland, but which led to the exodus of many Irish aristocrats and Catholic Tories to France, leaving a vacuum soon occupied by negligent English landlords; and the Great Famine – a controlled genocide which traumatized Le Fanu and shook his faith in a variety of beloved institutions. By and large Le Fanu was always poised for a moment of philosophical catastrophe, because he was himself a political anachronism – an old-fashioned Tory who believed in the social contract between the peasantry and the gentry – who adored the rural aristocracy, had deep faith in the noblesse oblige, and identified with old families who had lost their lands, there money, and their staff, but clung to their titles and loyal servants with a sort of childlike naïveté that believed unshakably in the sanctity of social quality. To Le Fanu, the classist hubris of the pauper aristocrats of rural Ireland was preferable to the materialistic greed of the nouveau riche, and he seems to have believed that the feudal order of pre-industrial Ireland – where the peasants feared but respected their masters and the gentry despised but patronized their serfs – was preferable to a money-grubbing, English middle class that had no protective instinct towards the starving hoards in the Irish countryside.
Le Fanu’s crepuscular universe is ultimately one which both mourns and reviles the past, one which both resents and clings to the future, and one which unwaveringly dreads the future. It is a universe cast in deep shadow, lit faintly by the few pockets of light that humanity has been capable of engineering: science, religion, love, comfort, technology, art, friendship, civilization. But these are mere guttering candles causing more confusion with their fluttering illumination, not flaring lighthouses promising security. There are times when Le Fanu suggests that it might be better to snuff the lights and banish the twilight murk in favor of dead night – better to live a hopeless life devoid of refuge or reference points than one dimly illuminated by false fires and vanishing will-o-the-wisps.
His dark world is haunted by the ghosts of the past – a magnetic force that prevents the present from breaking free and becoming the future, a power that ensures the execution of predestination and prevents the operations of free will. Le Fanu’s cosmos is the one envisioned by his father – bleak, unforgiving, and unyieldingly merciless – and his wife – unknowable, predatory, and cruel – and it is shaped by their respective struggles: his father’s detachment from reality, surrender to fate, and gleeful anticipation of a Judgement Day, and his wife’s wavering faith in God, unswerving belief in Damnation, and helpless terror of death. In some ways, these obsessions worked their way into Le Fanu’s own perception of humanity, and he adopted their cynicism and insecurities – bitter fears which choked is later years and breathed imagination into his art. These values bristle with contradiction and anxiety, and such a worldview would gladly welcome in the uncanny phantoms which stalk his benighted universe.
You can find out annotated and illustrated edition of Le Fanu’s best ghost stories and weird fiction HERE!
Reading Time: 6minutesLet me start this whole thing of by saying that I am a going to university in Germany. I am living in the dorms here but they are a little different from the typical American ones that most people tend to think about when they hear the word.
They are more like flats that are shared by multiple people, with each one having their own room. There are many different kinds. In some up to eight people live together. Others, like mine, are limited to only three people. Ever since I moved in I had the good luck that I shared the place with only one roommate. The flat was in one of the older dorm buildings and since the number of students had gone back in the past years, not many people wanted to stay here. Well, the building really is pretty old, the place isn’t the nicest and it is a little further off campus. The upside was the really cheap rent.
My roommate Chris was a pretty awesome guy and a first year student too. I wouldn’t call us best friends, but we got along pretty well. We’d often hang out, get drunk, go to parties or have people over at our place. Life was pretty damn good during the first semester. University work wasn’t too tough and I only had two exams I needed to pass.
Things changed when the second semester started. When I returned from my semester break, Chris was already back, but he was behaving strangely. I had brought some beers to celebrate the beginning of our second semester, but he didn’t welcome me back and simply went along with his business as usual. I was somewhat pissed at him, but I assumed he was either preparing for the new semester or had to finish up some work before classes started. I knew his first semester had been tougher than mine. Or maybe he was just in a bad mood for whatever reason. I shrugged it off for the time being.
Things got a little better when the semester started, but overall he seemed disinterested and almost spaced out at times. His way of speaking and his voice were almost too monotonous. It was really weird considering how well we had gotten along before. Whenever I asked him if something went wrong, he’d either give me a one word answers or he ignored me completely.
I even went out of my way to ask him if he’d come to the semester opening party with me, but I was ignored again. This was absolutely not like him, but by that point I had enough and simply told myself ‘screw him’ and go have some fun.
The party was pretty amazing. A typical opening party, meaning I ended up pretty drunk and only returned home in the early morning.
It took me a while to unlock the door, but when I opened it I saw a dark figure at the end of the hallway. It was Chris, I realized after a while. He was just standing there, looking at me in the dark, before I turned on the lights. I told him to go fuck himself with his creepy shit and went to bed.
When I thought about it the next day I couldn’t help but feel a little weirded out by the whole thing. I told myself that Chris probably just woke up from the noise of me fidgeting with the lock or maybe he just went to go to the toilet. I still couldn’t help, but to feel that there was something off about it.
I didn’t see Chris for most of the next day. He returned in the late evening and the clothes he was wearing were weird. It was not the outfit per se, but it was weird for him. Chris was the type of guy who was always worried about the impression he made on others. So seeing him come back home in sweatpants and a worn old shirt made me raise my eyebrows. I looked at him and wanted to ask him about it, but he walked right past me, treating me as if I was air again. I started to get upset. I reached out for his shoulder to confront him about his behavior. Before I could even touch him, he turned around and looked me straight in the eyes. I froze up and for a second there was complete silence.
“Something wrong?” he asked me.
The voice was as toneless and empty as before. It sounded somewhat wrong and strange as if certain vowels were a little too drawn-out. I answered with a no and he turned around right away and went back to his room. When the door closed I started breathing again. Something was seriously wrong with him.
This happened yesterday. Tonight I spent most of the evening talking to some old friends via Skype. We just hung out and played some games together. I don’t see them often, so it is a nice way to catch up and spend the evening. It was about midnight when we ended the call.
It was at that time that I had to go to the toilet. As I opened the door and stepped outside I saw him. There was my roommate Chris, standing in the dark at the end of the hallway, simply looking at me. He was absolutely still, almost as if he was frozen. It was the same thing that had happened when I came home from the party, only this time I was sober.
I saw his eyes resting on me. His head was tilted to the side, almost in a ninety degree angle. The whole way he carried himself was just wrong. It looked as if he had too many bones and joints in his body. He was leaning forward a little into my direction, as if he was lying in wait for me.
“Stop that shit man.” I called out to him but nothing happened.
“Okay man, what’s your problem? You trying to fuck with me?”
Again I got no reply. He was just watching me. I had only taken a few steps, when the head moved to the other side. Then his mouth opened for a moment, but there was no sound. A few seconds later, I heard a voice. It wasn’t his voice. It was the voice of someone else that came out of his mouth.
“Hey, come closer”
It was only those first few words, before it changed back to the monotonous version of his’ and he continued.
“there is something I want to show you.”
It was enough to freak me out. I went back into my room and locked the door. What the hell was with that voice? For a moment it was a completely different voice. That was not Chris imitating a different voice to fuck with me. The voice I had heard first was high-pitched, like that of a girl. Only after the first couple words did it adjust back to the monotonous version of Chris’ voice. What the hell was this?
I stayed up after that. There was no way I was able to go back to sleep. My friends were offline by now, so I couldn’t talk to them. I expected Chris to bang against my door, to call out to me or to tell me something, but everything was quiet. After a long while I took a look through the keyhole to check if he was standing in front of my door but nothing.
Sleep wouldn’t come and I could see myself staying up all night after this. I decided to have a look at my emails to kill some time.
Most of it was bullshit. Newsletters, welcome-emails and one by the student-union, sent to me a couple of days ago. The email told me that they were planning on relocating some students. Since I was living in this flat by myself, they planned on moving me to a different one. I didn’t read the rest.
What did they mean by living here alone? It made no sense. Chris was right here. Was he behaving weirdly because he was staying here without permission and trying to keep a low profile? If so, what was with his behavior and that voice? It wasn’t my fault if he had been thrown out or was in trouble.
Then, with shivering hands, I reached out for my phone.
It was just a random thought. I prayed that I was just being a paranoid idiot and imagining things. I dialed Chris’ number and was expecting to hear a phone ring at the other side of the apartment or hearing him answer from the hallway.
It rang for quite some time before someone answered. It was Chris, but there was loud music playing and I didn’t understand a word he was saying. After a while the music was gone.
“Sorry man, things are pretty loud here. I didn’t call you yet, but you got the Email, right?”
“What are you talking, Chris?” I asked him.
“The Email about me transferring to the Humboldt University of Berlin.”
I froze up.
“What are you talking about, stop joking around with me.” I told him with a broken voice.
“You missing me that much already?” he said laughing “Can’t handle living alone?”
“Stop fucking around man, this shit is not fucking funny.” I yelled at him.
“Tell me right now, that you are out there in the hallway.”
He stopped laughing.
“Hey mate, what is going on over there?” he asked, being serious now.
It was right at this moment that I heard is voice form the hallway as well. It was the same voice only not coming from my phone but from outside.
“Something is wrong. Come out and help me.”
In sheer shock my phone slipped from my hands and crashed down on the floor. It was an old piece of shit and as luck wanted it, this was one too many times and it didn’t turn on anymore.
Outside the voice continued talking.
“Come out, see what is wrong.”
The tone of the voice had changed to be more decisive than before now. I am writing this to keep myself calm. The voice is getting louder. It was right outside my door now.
I have no way out. The apartment is in the seventh floor, so the window is no option. I don’t know what is going to happen. There is just one thing I want to know. What the hell have I been sharing this place with for these past few weeks?
Reading Time: 6minutesSo, I’ve lived with my parents in the same house for over twenty years. Nothing exciting really, just the same little neighborhood they raised me and my sisters in. Sometimes it’s nice, I know every backroad and where to find whatever I’m looking for, though it can be a pain in the ass at times. You notice who’s moved on to bigger and better things, and who’s still stuck waiting for opportunities. I’m sure you can all tell that I fit the latter.
After my older sister moved across the country to go to college, the house grew quiet. It was just my parents and I, and they didn’t have much to say to me. I’m in my late twenties, not interested in racking up a debt for an education, have no car, and in all honesty… I’m not really sure what my main goals in life are. I guess the back story isn’t really needed to push this along, but I figured I’d just fill you all in.
My sleep schedule is messed up due to binging Netflix and having nothing to fill my days. I wake up around five PM and kind of just let my time drift by. Which I didn’t mind at all until a few weeks ago. Now, my parent’s house has two living rooms, and with my siblings all off doing their own things, they pretty much gifted half the house to me. One day I was sitting, ass planted firmly on the couch, when the doorbell rang. The front door was just outside of my parent’s living room, so, I figured one of them would answer it. They were rarely ever anywhere else. You see, my parents were both retired and spent their days how I spend mine: With their butts on a couch watching their favorite shows. The only time they ever left was when they would go upstairs to sleep.
A few minutes passed before the bell rang again. I paused my show and walked over to the door. As I walked, I passed the small opening leading into my parent’s Livingroom. I stopped when I saw them both quietly staring at the television. squinting with slight confusion, I asked them if they heard the doorbell. They both assured me that the didn’t hear anything. I found this to be odd considering the door was less then four feet from them, but I shrugged it off. I opened the door and what I saw made me smile a bit. A tall man wearing a lovely green jacket with expensive looking polished gold buttons lining its left side; a nicely tucked black turtleneck sweater; brown Khakis; freshly polished black dress shoes; and a bright red tophat. I mean, writing it all down here doesn’t really do it justice, because I can Imagine how much that clashes in your heads, but it worked quite well on this man.
I answered with an awkward smile and a hello. He took off his hat and spun it as he bowed. “Hello, darling”. He said still bowing. I leaned back and called for my father. I mean, I wasn’t exactly scared, I just assumed he was there to see my mom or dad. I would soon find out that I was wrong once my father walked over and asked me what I needed. I gestured to the man and asked if he was a friend. My father asked me what I was talking about. I looked back at the man and then to my father
“I mean the man in the green jacket. Who else?”
My father was never one for jokes. He rolled his eyes and walked back over to the couch, scolding me as he did so. My heart began to pound and I turned back to the man on my doorstep. The fact that my dad didn’t joke around, threw the idea of him fucking with me out the window. I stared for a few moments before the man spoke again.
“What’s wrong, kid?”
I slowly shut the door and walked back into my Livingroom. I wasn’t scared of the man per se, more so the idea that I was going or had gone insane. A few minutes passed and the doorbell rang again. I just sat on my couch in deep thought. That damn bell rang every minute for the next few hours, and no one could hear a thing except me. I barely got a wink of sleep that night, but even so, the next morning I told myself that the entire thing was just a weird dream. That is until I hear the doorbell ring again. I peaked into my parent’s Livingroom and noticed that they were again, both sitting on the couch. I looked through the peephole and there he was… The same man with the green coat.
“Okay, you got me. I’m freaking out and it’s not funny anymore.”
I leaned against the wall and folded my arms, staring at my parents with slight anxiety. My dad paused his show and looked at me confused.
“What are you talking about, Sweetie?”
My heart sank and tears filled my eyes.
“Calm down, what’s going on?”
My dad stood up and embraced me, begging me to calm down and speak. I told him that everything was fine and I just needed some air. I grabbed a jacket and exhaled sharply before I opened the front door.
“Hello again, darling.” A voice spoke. My back was still turned as I exited the house, but I knew who it was.
“Who are you?”
The man giggled and clapped his hands.
“I’m no one, my dear.”
I know this whole thing sounds stupid. Why did I go outside, why didn’t I explain it to my parents? I don’t really know the answer to those questions. I wasn’t compelled by any magical force or anything like that, I just… I don’t know. I stared at the man for a few moments. His wrinkled face was pushed into a smile, and his baby blue eyes reflected the sun as he stood there unblinking.
“Why can’t they hear the doorbell or see you?”
He poked my forehead with a cane that he hadn’t had before I asked the question, and smiled.
“Because I’m not here for them, darling.”
I was a little upset with myself at first. Out of all the hallucinations my brain could’ve manifested as it slipped into insanity, this was the best it had? A frail wrinkled man in a weird suit? I chuckled slightly.
“You’re here for me then, is that it?”
My hands shook with anxiety and I felt a lump in my throat.
“What do you want with me?”
“I can’t say. Just come with me and find out.”
He gestured to the street, and smiled.
I didn’t feel safe, and without saying a word I spun around and ran inside my house, slamming the door shut behind me. I then ran into my room and locked the door, crawled under my blanket and cried. The doorbell rang for hours; occasionally I would peek through my blinds and he’d make eye contact with me, waving and smiling as he continuously pressed the doorbell. After a while I couldn’t take the ringing, I slid open my window and screamed at him.
“Stop pressing the fucking doorbell!”
He smiled right at me and kept pressing it.
“It’s three in the morning! What the fuck do you want from me!?”
He smiled again and placed his arm at his side.
“I just want you to come with me, dear.”
“And where would we be going!?”
“I sure would hate to spoil the surprise. Why not just join me?”
He reached his hand toward me and stood silently on my doorstep smiling. I was beyond mad, or was it scared? Whatever I was feeling wasn’t good. Something appeared on my doorstep and refuses to leave unless I go with him to who the hell knows where? I’ve had it, I ran out of my room and into my garage. I grabbed my dad’s hammer from his work bench and threw open the front door.
“Are you coming?” He asked as I jumped onto the porch. I swung the hammer at him, but it just fazed right through him. The force of the spun me around and I landed on my ass.
“Be careful my dear, that can be dangerous.”
He began laughing and wiped his nose as he stared at me. I got up and began striking the doorbell with the hammer repeatedly, refusing to stop until finally my father ran out and restrained me.
The man watched with a smile as I fought with my father. I didn’t give up, I kept struggling, taking any shot I could to strike that damn bell. Finally my dad was able to pull me back inside and set me on the couch.
“Would you like to explain just what the fuck is going on young lady?!”
I pulled my knees to my chest and sobbed. I didn’t know what to say to him, so I just told him the truth. He listened without interrupting and nodded with understanding. When I was finished he scratched his head and hugged me. I stayed at a mental hospital for the next two weeks, explaining to psychologists and counselors the same story over and over again. None of them believed me, but they were extremely comforting and nice about it. Was I supposed to be mad at them? I didn’t mind one bit because I slept like a baby. You know what wasn’t connected to my room? A doorbell…
I’ve since been released and am currently back at my parents house. I feel terrible for them because they’re an awesome support group and just want to see me get better. It’s just that last night the doorbell started ringing again and no one can hear it but me. Sometimes I just stare through the peephole and I know he knows I’m there. He looks right into it and smiles at me. Chuckling as he speaks. “Come with me, everything will be okay.”
It’s been sixteen hours and the bell hasn’t stopped once. M…Maybe if I go with him it won’t be so bad.
Reading Time: 10minutes“I want to hear about the Spindler.”
Logan listened as the voices of his three friends talked. He watched as the fire before him dwindled.
“You sure you wanna do that, Lexi? In these woods?”
Logan’s back was firmly set against the back of a broad, old oak; he sat on the ground between its roots. His fingers dug unconsciously into the dirt as the flames flickered.
“Yes, Adam, I do! It’s why we came here!”
Night was upon them now. In the forest, it caught between the branches like silk, threatening to fall in around Logan the moment the dim light faded. The fire wouldn’t hold it back for long.
“Okay, okay. Guess you’re right about that.”
Somewhere above the treetops surely sat stars, shining bright as ever, but not through the canopy. Not through that physical night. Logan could feel it pressing down on him like the weight of the ocean.
“Then let’s do it! You want to start us off, Adam?”
She stood on the other side of the fire, pacing back and forth, looking to Logan’s right.
“No, Lexi. No, that’s a Dom thing, man. Ask Dom.”
Adam sat there, lazily sprawled sideways across the arms of an old lawn chair. He pointed a beer bottle across the flames, to Logan’s left. A voice there responded.
“I’m not feeling it tonight. Sorry, guys.”
Logan flinched as the fire reared unexpectedly. A long stick, held by Dom, prodded the fire’s heart. The flames hissed and lashed against it like angry vipers. Dom’s voice came again.
“Fire’s not long for this world anyways, so no, Adam. Sorry, Lexi.”
The stick retracted from the fire, having failed to bring it any new life. Logan glanced towards where Dom sat; rested on an old stump, stick in hand, fire reflecting off his glasses. He just shook his head.
“Come on, Dom! Please! Do it for me?”
Logan felt nauseous as Lexi’s voice pleaded. Adam’s followed.
“Yeah, man. Do it! Might as well, right? And who cares about the fire anyways? Makes it better without it. Darker. Scarier.”
Logan felt Lexi’s eyes on him from across the fire. He turned his gaze down, away from the fire and into his lap. He shuddered when he heard her voice ask, “You ok, Baby?”
He closed his eyes. There was laughter to his right.
“Is he ok? I think it’s pretty obvious he’s not. Look at him!”
Logan wrapped his arms around his chest as the weight of the night became a cold sting on his skin. The hair on his arms stood erect, and his chest shuddered as Lexi’s voice yelled, “Adam! Stop it!”
She was moving, to his left, around the fire. Towards him.
“Adam has a point, Lexi. This might not be best for—”
She sat down, right next to Logan. He gasped. Her hand was on his shoulder, massaging him. The other one slipped in through his matted hair.
“This is exactly what he needs. He was the one who wanted to come up here in the first place. To face his fears. Right, Baby?”
Logan didn’t move.
“Yeah, but what’s the point if he don’t play along? Look at him, Lexi! He won’t even listen to the story. He’s just gonna play along. That’s that. Sorry, Dom. Logan won’t play.”
The hands crept down his body: one down his neck and one down his arm. The one on the arm wrapped around his bicep and squeezed. Then a whisper.
“You’ll be fine. Just play along.”
The trees rustled, but Logan felt no breeze. He kept his eyes closed, tightly. Lexi’s voice grew louder.
“He’s going to be fine, Dom. Please, tell the story.”
Logan heard the stick enter the fire once more. It brushed against ashes. Charred logs fell. Embers hissed as they floated away. Drowned by the night.
“Logan, can you look at me?”
They waited, but Logan knew they wouldn’t wait long. The hand gripped around his arm gave a tender, but meaningful, squeeze. The kind that meant, without saying the word, “please.” A familiar kind of squeeze. One that had lost all of its magic.
“Baby, look at Dom, please.”
Her words were a special kind. Light to hear, but heavy with an implication; the implication that she wouldn’t ask again. Logan opened his eyes.
“What do you know about the Spindler?“
Logan could see Lexi’s hair, the outline of her face that glowed like amber in the dying light of the fire. Her eyes were hidden by shadow. Dom pushed his glasses back up his nose with his free hand, gripping his long fire prod that sat resting on his lap with the other. He shifted a little around the stump he sat on, waiting on an answer.
There was only one answer to give, but Logan didn’t want to give it.
“Don’t.” Logan shook his head. “Please, don’t.”
Her hand caressed his hair. Air whistled across the mouth of the beer bottle. Laughing again from Logan’s right.
“Told you, didn’t I? Told you. He won’t play.”
Taunting. Abrasive. Just like Adam. The hand fell to his neck. Logan felt the nails scratching his skin, gently. Very gently. Then, less so.
“I only know its name!” Logan stated quickly. “That’s it. I swear. I only know its name.”
He remembered she wouldn’t ask again. The nails stopped scratching, and the hand relaxed.
Logan continued, “You don’t talk about it. You don’t. Kids do, when they’re young. When they’re bad. It’s like sex. You talk about it when mom’s back is turned. You talk about it in the dark. You giggle about it with friends. You lie. I know nothing about the Spindler, I swear.”
Her arm wrapped around his waist. He shuddered as her head touched his shoulder.
“Good job, Baby.”
There was a glimmer from the bottle, and a chuckle. Logan couldn’t help but look. Adam was hunched over in the seat now, staring down at the ground. Between his legs, he toyed with the beer bottle. Spinning the base around in circles. He raised it to his lips.
“That’s a lie, Logan. You know more than that, man. You gots to. You know more than a name. Dom knew more than that. Lexi knew more than that. You know it lives here! In these woods! Where mommy and daddy tell you not to go.”
He lifted the bottom of the bottle to the shadows above. He sighed in refreshing satisfaction.
“He’s not totally lying, Adam. I don’t think anyone knows anything about the Spindler. Not really. Hell, I’d be surprised if either you or Lexi knew anything more than this: no one goes in these woods, not since long ago. But, I guess we’re proof that even that isn’t true. Lots of people go in here. Lots of people. And most never come out.”
Lexi’s head shifted.
“How long ago?”
Logan squirmed. Lexi’s hand was cold on his back. She held him tight. He had no energy to fight back. In Dom’s lenses, the flames were almost mesmerizing, but still fading. Flames barely crackled as the answer was given.
“Ancient. The Spindler is ancient, and so is this forest. No one can imagine how long. No one would want to. When the Natives came, they found it. They let it be. Can you imagine? With how many tales you’ve heard of skinwalkers, wendigos, and every evil spirit they could have imagined, would you ever believe there was one so bad that they just pretended that it never existed?”
The question was punctuated by a crack outside the dome of safe light, somewhere beyond. Nothing followed it. Nothing emerged. Nothing else moved. Not even bugs chirped in the dark. Silence. Logan turned, but only he moved. The only part of Lexi that moved was her mouth.
“Is that why we avoid it? Because they did?”
“No, Lexi, I would guess it’s got something to do with instinct. I mean, I know Logan feels it. The weight of this place. Other forests have a pulse. They’re alive, in motion. This one? It’s static. It’s dead. Like the world doesn’t move here. Almost a thousand acres. And I think it particularly unnerves people when something is dead yet it still looks back at you.”
The flames came less and less. A deep orange burned at the heart of the embers, but nothing more. Logan could almost feel the cold night lapping against his back, like cold, black waves. Soon, not even the tree would make him feel safe.
“That’s nice and flowery and all, Dom. But what is it? The Spindler. What is it, man?”
Over Adam’s voice, he heard something more. Was that another crack? Logan couldn’t bring himself to look. It had come from the other side of Lexi, higher than the ground, surely. Her head didn’t move.
“It all depends on what you’ve been told, I suppose. Some say it’s a spirit. A rather mundane explanation, if you ask me. Others say it’s evil incarnate, but I think that’s a bit too presumptuous. A little melodramatic. I think that it just is.”
Lexi’s jaw moved.
“What do you mean?”
Dom fixed his glasses once more with his free hand, his face angled up towards the canopy.
“Hell, if I know, but it’s the senseless that makes the most sense when it comes to the Spindler. You have to think a bit outside the box.”
His face snapped down towards Logan as a question was asked.
“What do you think the Spindler looks like, Logan?”
Logan didn’t want to answer, even though he could. The image in his head lived horribly there, and even worse, it fit just beautifully in the darkness above. He pictured it there, sitting, watching.
He pictured, and said, “A spider. A giant spider.”
There was a sigh. Logan held his head down, away from the canopy.
“That is what most people assume. I’ve heard the same many times. A spider with a thousand eyes, and a beaming, human smile. One that crawls across the canopy, living between the tops of the trees. Maybe one with legs as thick around as tree trunks. But I’ve also heard that it looks like a man. Monstrous, with fangs and claws for fingers. Then, I’ve heard more. Some more man-like, others more beastly. And yet, some follow none of those. The most intriguing of tales will tell you that the Spindler is an abstraction.”
There was surely another crack. Maybe two! In the woods, beyond the fire, past an impenetrable wall of night, something lurked. Logan was the only one who cared. There was a chuckle from Adam’s side of the fire.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean? You know what he’s talking about, Lexi?”
Logan felt her shoulders rise in a shrug.
“It means, Adam, that the Spindler just is, but it isn’t. It has a form when it wants, and when it doesn’t then it simply isn’t. It doesn’t live in the canopy. It is the canopy. The darkness that blocks the sun. The stars. The darkness that follows you, and descends upon you with claws and teeth.”
Logan’s breaths came in rasps. Lexi’s hands had stopped massaging him. Logan didn’t even realize, nor did he notice that only a lone flame still flickered in the firepit. He didn’t even notice that the snapping in the distance, the footsteps of someone or something, had become regular. He could only focus on the layer of night that loomed above. Thick enough to block the heavens. Sounds came from there as well.
“Do you know why people think it looks like a spider?”
Lexi’s arm raised, ready to answer Dom’s question.
“Oh! I know! It’s because of the webs, isn’t it? The black webs.”
Perhaps the sounds were natural, but Logan didn’t believe that at all. The sounds surrounded them. Logan’s eyes darted around, and they caught something different. Adam was standing, holding the bottle up to his lips.
“Yes, the black webs. The Spindler always leaves them about the forest, hanging them in single strands wherever it chooses.”
Adam didn’t say a word, not anymore. He just lowered his bottle, and his face hung towards the fire. Only the voices of Lexi and Dom continued.
“And you get stuck in them, right, Dom? People get stuck in them.”
The sounds were getting closer. Footsteps. They had to be. But in the trees as well?
“Like helpless flies, Lexi. People go into these woods, and the Spindler sees that they never come out. You see, the webs are made out of the same darkness that is the Spindler itself, and they are so thin that you can only ever see them if you are looking for them. Yet, once they have you, they won’t let go. You can scream. In fact, it lets you scream. The Spindler. It watches it all…”
Footsteps. Too many to count. Every direction.
“…And then, when it has you, it keeps you. You belong to the Spindler, Lexi. Logan, you belong to the woods.”
Tears welled in Logan’s eyes.
“What does it do with those it keeps, Dom? Tell us about them. The scarecrows!”
Logan’s heart dropped. Too hard to breathe. He gasped.
“The scarecrows are what the Spindler does for fun. You listen to those the Spindler lets leave the forest, because that’s the only way you get out. It has to let you. Listen to those lucky few, and they’ll tell you about the scarecrows. The scarecrows are the ones it mutilates, twists, and contorts. They’re the ones it hangs. Hanged by the same black threads they were ensnared on to make it easy for the Spindler to do whatever it pleases with them. And it likes to do a whole lot with them. It likes to drop them, right in front of people, far away in the distance. Doesn’t matter, because it’ll make them move. Just a bit, by tugging on their strings. Maybe it’ll make them dance, run at you. Some say it copies voices well enough that it sounds all-too human when the corpses scream at you in vain. They shout warnings. It tells you to run. Run right into its traps. Using its victims’ voices!”
Logan tried to stand. He tried to run, but Lexi held him down. Her face didn’t look away from Dom.
“Hold on, Baby. We’re almost at the end. What else does the Spindler do, Dom? It’s not just silly scarecrows, is it?”
Logan struggled, but her grasp was firm.
“Well, like I said, it only makes scarecrows out of the boring ones. Loners. Losers. The rest? Well, it does keep them a bit longer. What it does with them in the long run? Who knows. They don’t leave here. Their bodies aren’t found. Maybe they become a part of it. Maybe they’re fuel that keeps it going. Until then, it makes use of you. It plays with you. Toys with you. For as long as it can…”
The advancing footsteps reached a crescendo. Logan knew they were surrounded. No way out. The flame died, and the noises stopped. Almost like they were waiting.
“…It makes you a puppet…”
Dom stoked the flame, and for just a moment, Logan saw them. Surrounding the firepit, on every side, faceless, naked bodies. The footsteps had stopped, leaving only Dom’s voice clinging to the chilling air.
“…And it’s really good at it. Really good. Good at voices…”
Adam laughed, bringing the bottle that had been empty for the last hour up to his lips.
“…Good at motions…”
Dom, his hand wrapped closed irreversibly around the long stick, drew it from the firepit, and set it on his lap. His voice finished, from somewhere up above.
“…And it’s very, very good at making it seem all so real.”
As the light faded, for the last time, Logan felt Lexi’s hand on his chin. It made him look. He saw them again, as he had hours before. From Lexi’s pale eyes, from the center of her pupils, emerged two, thin strands of black webbing. They reached upwards, into the night, to the Spindler.
Her mouth moved before the darkness crashed around him, and a voice echoed from somewhere up above.
In Germany we have a range of traditions that seem weird to other countries. We use fireworks on New Year’s Eve to scare away the evil spirits of the old year. On Easter we burn stakes to drive out the winter demons. There are also dozens of local traditions in which people disguise themselves as witches, ghosts and demons for a variety of reasons. But few know the background of one of the strangest annual rituals we have.
The legend goes as follows: 1700 years ago a burglar broke into the house of a rich man. His attempt was interrupted by a guard. On his getaway he was badly injured and at the brink of death. At this point, his story would have ended and his name would have been long forgotten if it wasn’t for a demon to show up. The demon offered him a bet. If the man could break into 10 houses of the nearby village until sunrise, the demon would give him another year on earth. But if one of the inhabitants raises the alarm, the demon would throw his soul into hellfire. The man, fearing for his life, accepted the bet. His wounds were healed and he set off.
He found 9 houses whose inhabitants were not at home. But as the first sunrays already gleamed over the horizon, he panicked and entered the next house on his way. He was already on the way out when the daughter of the family living there appeared in front of him. The man did not hesitate and cut her throat. Her blood colored his coat red.
He returned to the demon to claim his prize.
But he should have known, that demons don’t play fair.
The blood of his innocent victim painting his clothes red until the end of time as a reminder of what he had done. And since the demon only gave him one additional year, the man is now doomed to gamble with the demon every year to save his soul from purgatory for another year.
Since then, he roams the earth.
As his story spread, people began to put their boots on the doorstep. They hoped that if the burglar knew that the inhabitants were at home, he would not enter their house. A pair of boots to keep the man out, who gambled with a demon for his soul.
Have you never heard of this man?
Times change and so do stories. Again and again over the centuries. In some versions of the story, he isn’t a burglar, but a saint, in others, he’s a warrior who fought a demon and won.
And with every change in the story, his name also changes. But don’t get fooled. Even with a different name, he still is willing to murder innocent people to remain unseen.
European emigrants took his story over the Atlantic.