A respite from hell

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: The Dark And Suspenseful

Tales from beyond the shadows..

Submitted: September 14, 2018

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Submitted: September 14, 2018



Joseph Mayer was a genuine man of mystery; no one could really say where he came from. As a matter of fact, a troll through his meager public records would show very little about him, very little apart from the fact that he apparently never existed prior to arriving in the town twenty years before. He had just shown up one day at the local police station claiming he had no memory of his past. Old sheriff Cummins could never be accused of leaving any stone unturned when it came to a mystery, but try as he would he could not find any background on the man. He circulated photographs through all the local police departments and hospitals but no one remembered ever setting eyes on the man.

Had anyone ever come into contact with Joseph, they would be sure to remember. His stand out features were the terrible burn scars on his face and arms, somewhere in his past Joseph Mayer had received agonizing burns. These scars made it hard to put an age on him, but Cummins decided he was probably in his mid-sixties. Cummins allowed Joseph Mayer’s to stay in a vacant cell while he tried to get some background on him, but days passed into weeks and he became none the wiser about his unwanted guest. Not that Mayer’s was any real bother, but secretly Cummins got a cold shiver down his spine whenever he looked at the man.

Joseph spoke perfect English but with a hint of a European accent, but even this was hard to trace as the burns around his mouth caused him to speak in a lisping voice. One thing Cummins did find out was the man had been a horologist in his previous life. The sheriff kept a family heirloom on his desk, an ancient pocket watch. The watch had not worked for as long as he could remember, but it was one of the few items he had left from his parents. One morning he came into work to find Joseph had taken the watch apart using a letter opener; his first instinct was to lay his billy club across the man’s skull. But the way Joseph meticulously dismantled the watch and cleaned the parts, fascinated him and he left Joseph at it. Later that evening as he was about to leave for the night, Joseph handed back the watch and it ticked away like new.

This was how the scared man was to eventually make a good living in the town, he repaired antique time pieces and bought and sold valuable old clocks and watches. A new generation of people now lived in the area, and Joseph Mayer was just another local business man to them. People had grown accustomed to the mild mannered old man with the horrific scars, and only very young children gave him a second glance when he walked down the street. Those who made more than a passing acquaintance with him swore he genuinely had no idea about his past, and these people would have been right. He was often heard to say he no longer even tried to remember where he came from before arriving here. All in all those who had any dealings with him considered Joseph to be an extremely likeable fellow.

Joseph had his back turned when the small bell above the door sounded; he was in the process of turning to greet his customer when the feeling came over him. A feeling of impending doom and anguish the likes of which he had never experienced before, whoever or whatever had just entered his small shop terrified him beyond belief. He found himself frozen to the spot, and the scar tissue on his face and arms burned as if he was once again engulfed in flames. Joseph struggled to find his voice, he wanted to tell whoever had entered that he was closed for business but all that came out was a moan of agony. The bell above the door sounded once again, and just as quickly the pain left him but the fear remained. It was quite a while before he got the courage to completely turn and face the door.

The room was empty just as he knew it would be, and the faintest smell of something hung in the air. A scent he had smelled before but he could not remember where or what it was, but that smell intensified his fear even more. After what seemed like an eternity he managed to move from behind the counter on shaky legs, he moved as quickly as he could to the door and locked it and slid the bolts in place. This small achievement gave him some respite from the fear, but even this was short lived. The moment he laid eyes on the small package on the counter he was physically sick and his trembling legs gave way from under him, his mind just shut down and he drifted into darkness.

The darkness can be an escape for some, but Joseph Mayer found himself in an even more terrifying situation. With his recent lapse into unconsciousness he found himself dragged into a world vaguely familiar and frightening beyond words. Images of cruelty and suffering that would rival Botticelli’s visions of hell crowded his mind. When he did eventually come to his senses, it was to the sound of his own weeping. Joseph Mayer lay in a fetal position on the floor until the cold had seeped into his very bones. The only thing that eventually galvanized him into picking himself up was the fear of slipping into unconsciousness again, and finding himself back in the nightmare world he just woken from.

 With great difficulty he managed to gain his feet and make his way upstairs to his living quarters. Joseph crawled into bed and cocooned himself in the blankets; there he laid shivering and trying to make sense of what had just taken place. The most pressing thing on his mind now was trying to stay awake; he was terrified of facing those awful visions again. But in the end he drifted off to sleep without even realizing it, when he eventually woke a low winter sun brightly illuminated the room.

 Lying there with the sunshine on his face he could easily have dismissed last night’s events as a bad dream; however the feeling of foreboding still hanging over him and the fact that Joseph never dreamed served to discount the bad dream theory. When he did manage to pull himself out of bed he lingered as long upstairs as he could, but Joseph was aware he would have to open the shop sooner or later. So he showered and put on clean clothes before going downstairs.

The faint acrid scent still hung in the air from last night, and the small package was exactly where the unwanted visitor had left it. He was in the process of unwrapping the package with trembling hands when the thought struck him. Sulfur! That faint smell in the shop was sulfur, and the answer brought an even deeper sense of fear to him. But with that new fear, came the overwhelming urge to find out what exactly was happening here, he tore at the brown wrapping of the package now. The leather covered presentation case was embossed with a gold eagle and the eagle held a swastika in its claws, Joseph held the case in his hand and a feeling of nostalgia washed over him. The pocket watch inside looked very familiar; before he even looked at the engraving on the back he already knew the watch was his.

The engraving on the back of the watch was in German. It was his name and SS rank and was emblazoned with the death’s head insignia. For the first time in a very long time Joseph Mayer was overwhelmed with memories, it was like looking back at an old news reel and he was the main attraction. But the strangest thing about it was in his new found memories Joseph remembered his own death, surely none of this could be right.

 He was still sitting there in shock when the bell above the door sounded, the smell of sulfur in the room was overpowering this time. Joseph looked up to find a man approaching the counter; his angular features were made even sharper looking by the black Vandyke beard. The tall stranger stood before him, and his impossibly dark eyes seemed to stare into Joseph’s very soul, a soul that was long since corrupted by evil. It was when the stranger spoke that Joseph began to wail and cry. Joseph pleaded with the grinning stranger that he did not want to go back to hell.  




© Copyright 2018 Patrick G Moloney. All rights reserved.

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