Horror Winds

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Wildering Haven

We were at the bottom of one of these abysses, when a quick scream from my companion broke fearfully upon the night. I had so worked upon my imagination as really to believe that about the whole mansion and domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate vicinity an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven, but which had reeked up from the decayed trees, and the gray wall, and the silent tarna pestilent and mystic vapor, dull, sluggish, faintly discernible, and leaden-hued.

I think they mean to get rid of me because of what I have discovered. In their gray visions they obtain glimpses of eternity, and thrill, in awakening, to find that they have been upon the verge of the great secret. In snatches, they learn something of the wisdom which is of good, and more of the mere knowledge which is of evil. And yet all this might have been endured, if not approved, by the mad revelers around.

We were at the bottom of one of these abysses, when a quick scream from my companion broke fearfully upon the night. I had so worked upon my imagination as really to believe that about the whole mansion and domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate vicinity an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven, but which had reeked up from the decayed trees, and the gray wall, and the silent tarna pestilent and mystic vapor, dull, sluggish, faintly discernible, and leaden-hued.

When at last we plunged into the labyrinthine town itself, clambering over fallen masonry and shrinking from the oppressive nearness and dwarfing height of omnipresent crumbling and pitted walls, our sensations again became such that I marvel at the amount of self-control we retained. I was directed toward such studies by the queer old tales I used to hear from elderly farmers of the more ignorant sort, but now I wish I had let the whole matter alone. Before I could torture myself with any new reflection, or make any fresh effort to escape from my bonds, an additional circumstance became manifest.

Although, as I say, the sun had arisen, yet the room was still brilliantly lighted up. But why shall I say more? By the aid of these we then busied our souls in dreamsreading, writing, or conversing, until warned by the clock of the advent of the true darkness. I feared to tread, lest I should be precipitated into some abyss. I called aloud.

Close contact with the utterly bizarre is often more terrifying than inspiring, and it did not cheer me to think that this very bit of dusty road was the place where those monstrous tracks and that foetid green ichor had been found after moonless nights of fear and death. I glanced at the painting hurriedly, and then closed my eyes. Then we sallied forth into the streets arm in arm, continuing the topics of the day, or roaming far and wide until a late hour, seeking, amid the wild lights and shadows of the populous city, that infinity of mental excitement which quiet observation can afford.

The pomps and pageantries of a stately court, and the mad clangor of arms, and the radiant loveliness of women, bewildered and intoxicated my brain. It must be confessed that a supposition apparently so wild has every probability in its favor. Never shall I forget the sensations of awe, horror, and admiration with which I gazed about me.

When he faced the mirror he saw that his hair was badly scorched, while a trace of strange, evil odor seemed to cling to his upper outer clothing. She constantly took his body and went to nameless places for nameless rites, leaving him in her body and locking him upstairs but sometimes she couldn't hold on, and he would find himself suddenly in his own body again in some far-off, horrible, and perhaps unknown place.

In time the ruts of custom and economic interest became so deeply cut in approved places that there was no longer any reason for going outside them, and the haunted hills were left deserted by accident rather than by design.

To call it a diary would not be quite correct, for it chronicled only one set of its writers activities. I will try to set down some of the few disjointed words and other sounds I caught, labelling the speakers of the words as best I know how. By all ordinary rules, I ought to have laughed more loudly at these extravagances than at the far milder theories which had previously moved me to mirth; yet something in the tone of the letter made me take it with paradoxical seriousness.
It is impossible utterly impossible to form any adequate idea of the horror of my situation. Somewhere I heard a clock ticking, and was vaguely grateful for the normality of the sound. It reminded me, though, of another thing about the region which disturbed me - the total absence of animal life. The possible causes of such an event are many.

But as I pass the barrier in time, formed by the death of my beloved, and proceed with the second era of my existence, I feel that a shadow gathers over my brain, and I mistrust the perfect sanity of the record. Human art could have done no more in the delineation of her superhuman beauty. At least, that is what I think I did, for one is never sure in visions and I know this can have been nothing more. It is my business, however, simply to proceed. It was not a wholesome landscape after dark, and I believe I would have noticed its morbidity even had I been ignorant of the terror that stalked there.

It was obvious that the young reporters of today are no antiquarians. Glancing at these pictures as I took them from the envelope, I felt a curious sense of fright and nearness to forbidden things; for in spite of the vagueness of most of them, they had a damnably suggestive power which was intensified by the fact of their being genuine photographs actual optical links with what they portrayed, and the product of an impersonal transmitting process without prejudice, fallibility, or mendacity.

The birds of spring were returning, and as I watched their sunset flights I fancied they avoided the gaunt, lone spire as never before. When a flock of them approached it, I thought, they would wheel and scatter in panic confusion and I could guess at the wild twitterings which failed to reach me across the intervening miles. The sight of this monster rather relieved than heightened my terrors for I now made sure that I dreamed, and endeavored to arouse myself to waking consciousness. The snakes were taking a long time. Did they mean to delay on purpose to play on her nerves? Accident is admitted as a portion of the substructure.

We make chance a matter of absolute calculation. We subject the unlooked for and unimagined to the mathematical formulae of the schools. I awoke abruptly from a horrible dream and stared wildly about.

The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. It was the skeleton of his wife in her yet unmoulded shroud.

Approaching the table, I saw on it a large box, or case, nearly seven feet long, and perhaps three feet wide, by two feet and a half deep. Some said the thunder called the lurking fear out of its habitation, while others said the thunder was its voice. The actual cause of death remains a mystery. Would it suck me in and engulf me?

Its rightful owner saw, but, of course, dared not call attention to the act, in the presence of the third personage who stood at her elbow. Every species of calamity and horror befell me. It would be useless to try to deny what I suspect. Its character did not undergo any material change. Misery is manifold.

My outstretched hands at length encountered some solid obstruction. It was a wall, seemingly of stone masonry very smooth, slimy, and cold.

Even now I can scarcely describe it save to say that it was hideously crab-like, and that there seemed to be some ambiguity about its direction. The actual cause of death remains a mystery. For though the dust tracks were in general confused and overlapping, and unlikely to arrest any casual gaze, my restless vision had caught certain details near the spot where the path to the house joined the highway; and had recognised beyond doubt or hope the frightful significance of those details.

Can I be sure that I am safe? Those powers survive the life of the physical form. I had advanced some ten or twelve paces in this manner, when the remnant of the torn hem of my robe became entangled between my legs. As I advanced, the beams of my flashlight caught the great centre-table, revealing one of the hellish cylinders with sight and hearing machines attached, and with a speech-machine standing close by, ready to be connected at any moment.

It was thickly ornamented with paintings, representing funeral scenes, and other mournful subjects interspersed among which, in every variety of position, were certain series of hieroglyphical characters, intended, no doubt, for the name of the departed. Its character did not undergo any material change. Misery is manifold. He is fond of enigmas, of conundrums, of hieroglyphics; exhibiting in his solutions of each a degree of acumen which appears to the ordinary apprehension preternatural. The actual cause of death remains a mystery. Among other miseries I was smothered to death between huge pillows, by demons of the most ghastly and ferocious aspect.

In a few seconds he had uncovered a mass of human bones, forming two complete skeletons, intermingled with several buttons of metal, and what appeared to be the dust of decayed woollen.

Every species of calamity and horror befell me. The lightning seems dark and the darkness seems light.

Then deserts, limitless, and of the most forlorn and awe-inspiring character, spread themselves out before me. The material was at first supposed to be the wood of the sycamore (platanus), but, upon cutting into it, we found it to be pasteboard, or, more properly, papier mache, composed of papyrus.

I was told of the pits of primal life, and of the streams that had trickled down therefrom; and finally, of the tiny rivulet from one of those streams which had become entangled with the destinies of our own earth. I choked in nausea, and for a second scarcely saw the dwarfed, humped figure on the steps.

The height problem would be hard if not insoluble, but the length and shape problem could perhaps be sooner dealt with. At first I was too much confused to observe anything accurately. By what miracle I escaped destruction, it is impossible to say.

They seemed to be screams of some person (or persons) in great agony were loud and drawn out, not short and quick. It would be difficult to describe my sentiments upon reading this strange document for the first time. In replying to his letter I urged him to seek help, and hinted that I might take action myself if he did not. To a season of political and social upheaval was added a strange and brooding apprehension of hideous physical danger; a danger widespread and all-embracing, such a danger as may be imagined only in the most terrible phantasms of the night. Alas, it is too late! If only I had consented to talk peacefully and reasonably with them in the first place!

Would it suck me in and engulf me? We were at the bottom of one of these abysses, when a quick scream from my companion broke fearfully upon the night. I believe we felt something coming down from the greenish moon, for when we began to depend on its light we drifted into curious involuntary formations and seemed to know our destinations though we dared not think of them.

When at last we plunged into the labyrinthine town itself, clambering over fallen masonry and shrinking from the oppressive nearness and dwarfing height of omnipresent crumbling and pitted walls, our sensations again became such that I marvel at the amount of self-control we retained. I stepped on it, and fell violently on my face.

Why I did this was not at first apparent even to my own perception. I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others. All, however, was attributed to the effects of a new galvanic battery, wherewith the apothecary, who is really a man of information, performed several curious experiments, in which, from my personal share in their fulfillment, I could not help feeling deeply interested. At first I was too much confused to observe anything accurately. A quick step was now heard upon the staircase, and a loud knock at the door rapidly succeeded. This sound in such a locality naturally stirred us, though less than it would have done at night.

It was an impulsive movement to gain time for thought, to make sure that my vision had not deceived me to calm and subdue my fancy for a more sober and more certain gaze. No tales and poems were ever produced at a greater cost of brain and spirit. We peer into the abyss, we grow sick and dizzy. I followed it up; stepping with all the careful distrust with which certain antique narratives had inspired me.

The wretchedness of earth is multiform. In snatches, they learn something of the wisdom which is of good, and more of the mere knowledge which is of evil. And yet all this might have been endured, if not approved, by the mad revellers around. It is now that I must begin to be careful in making my report, since what I shall henceforward have to say involves unprecedented though fortunately verifiable matters. Let this be the end of my journal. But the mummer had gone so far as to assume the type of the red death. And yet all this might have been endured, if not approved, by the mad revellers around.

I awoke abruptly from a horrible dream and stared wildly about. The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! I could sleep a little after they had done this, but true rest will never come as long as I remember that nameless secret of the lurking fear. But I survived, and I know it was only a dream. We were at the bottom of one of these abysses, when a quick scream from my companion broke fearfully upon the night. I rubbed my eyes. I called aloud.

I now feel that I have reached a point of this narrative at which every reader will be startled into positive disbelief. Somewhere I heard a clock ticking, and was vaguely grateful for the normality of the sound. As volition was in abeyance, the balls could not roll in their sockets but all objects within the range of the visual hemisphere were seen with more or less distinctness; the rays which fell upon the external retina, or into the corner of the eye, producing a more vivid effect than those which struck the front or interior surface. The apothecary had an idea that I was actually dead. The actual cause of death remains a mystery.

Then deserts, limitless, and of the most forlorn and awe-inspiring character, spread themselves out before me. With every creature of that nightmare throng absorbed in shocking raptures, it might be barely possible for me to creep past to the faraway end of one of the staircases and ascend unseen; trusting to fate and skill to deliver me from the upper reaches.

If the old story had been all there was to it, I would not have been so badly shaken. Never to suffer would have been never to have been blessed. Not knowing what had happened, they did not relax their vigil; and a moment later they sent up a prayer as a sharp flash of belated lightning, followed by an ear splitting crash of sound, rent the flooded heavens.

I believe we felt something coming down from the greenish moon, for when we began to depend on its light we drifted into curious involuntary formations and seemed to know our destinations though we dared not think of them. When at last we plunged into the labyrinthine town itself, clambering over fallen masonry and shrinking from the oppressive nearness and dwarfing height of omnipresent crumbling and pitted walls, our sensations again became such that I marvel at the amount of self-control we retained. Unaccountably we remain. When that happens, the man who knows must strike before reckoning the consequences. No one can speak with certainty of the obscure chemical processes arising in a vast, ancient, ill-aired, and long-deserted building of heterogeneous contents. I was dreadfully weary, but, scarcely understanding what had occasioned the change in my thoughts, I felt no longer any great aversion from the labor imposed.

My eyes, perversely shaken open, gazed for an instant upon a sight which no human creature could even imagine without panic, fear and physical exhaustion. There had been great herds of them, evidently fattened on the coarse vegetables whose remains could be found as a sort of poisonous ensilage at the bottom of huge stone bins older than Rome. I found myself within a strange city, where all things might have served to blot from recollection the sweet dreams I had dreamed so long in the valley of the many-colored grass. It was now fully night-fall, and a thick humid fog hung over the city, soon ending in a settled and heavy rain. Misery is manifold. In his view, humanity was an unimportant part of an uncaring cosmos that could be swept away at any moment. I had turned to the right as I entered this road, and now, arising, I continued in the same direction.

When, two days after my frightful crawl through that crypt of the eyes and claw, I learned that a thing had malignantly hovered twenty miles away at the same instant the eyes were glaring at me, I experienced virtual convulsions of fright.

It was now fully night-fall, and a thick humid fog hung over the city, soon ending in a settled and heavy rain. Once we looked at the pavement and found the blocks loose and displaced by grass, with scarce a line of rusted metal to shew where the tramways had run. The purpose of the herds I did not have to ask. Beyond and above them, and dwarfing them to insignificance, was a master's vision of the terror that stalks about and within us, and the worm that writhes and slavers in the hideously close abyss.

And the man sat upon the rock, and leaned his head upon his hand, and looked out upon the desolation. It might have been midnight, or perhaps earlier, or later, for I had taken no note of time, when a sob, low, gentle, but very distinct, startled me from my reverly. I felt that it came from the bed of ebony the bed of death. I called aloud. They were wild, bold, ravenous their red eyes glaring upon me as if they waited but for motionlessness on my part to make me their prey.

Then came the devastating stroke of lightning which shook the whole mountain, lit the darkest crypts of the hoary grove, and splintered the patriarch of the twisted trees. And old folk tell of pleasing voices heard singing there, and of laughter that swells with joys beyond earth's joys; and say that at evening the little low windows are brighter than formerly. To a season of political and social upheaval was added a strange and brooding apprehension of hideous physical danger; a danger widespread and all-embracing, such a danger as may be imagined only in the most terrible phantasms of the night.

Howard said that the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. At length, in taking leave, he takes also from the table the letter to which he had no claim. For this they assign the very good reason that they do not believe there is anything at all on the other side.

I could sleep a little after they had done this, but true rest will never come as long as I remember that nameless secret of the lurking fear. But I survived, and I know it was only a dream. It might have been midnight, or perhaps earlier, or later, for I had taken no note of time, when a sob, low, gentle, but very distinct, startled me from my revelry. As the rays of the lanterns fell within the pit, there flashed upwards a glow and a glare, from a confused heap of gold and of jewels, that absolutely dazzled our eyes. In a few seconds he had uncovered a mass of human bones, forming two complete skeletons, intermingled with several buttons of metal, and what appeared to be the dust of decayed woollen.

I knocked off, however, the lid of my coffin, and stepped out. The place was dreadfully dreary and damp, and I became troubled with ennui. Its character did not undergo any material change. I remembered, too, strange stories told about these ragged hills, and of the uncouth and fierce races of men who tenanted their groves and caverns. We make chance a matter of absolute calculation. We subject the unlooked for and unimagined to the mathematical formulae of the schools.

Around the new position a circle, somewhat larger than in the former instance, was now described, and we again set to work with the spades. Beyond and above them, and dwarfing them to insignificance, was a masters vision of the terror that stalks about and within us, and the worm that writhes and slavers in the hideously close abyss. And the man sat upon the rock, and leaned his head upon his hand, and looked out upon the desolation.

But why shall I say more? Today I wear these chains, and am here! And the man sat upon the rock, and leaned his head upon his hand, and looked out upon the desolation. It might have been midnight, or perhaps earlier, or later, for I had taken no note of time, when a sob, low, gentle, but very distinct, startled me from my revelry.

As the rays of the lanterns fell within the pit, there flashed upwards a glow and a glare, from a confused heap of gold and of jewels, that absolutely dazzled our eyes. In a few seconds he had uncovered a mass of human bones, forming two complete skeletons, intermingled with several buttons of metal, and what appeared to be the dust of decayed woollen. But the mummer had gone so far as to assume the type of the red death. At the expiration of this term it was opened for the reception of a sarcophagus; but, alas!

I had become most unaccountably interested, nay, even excited. It seemed that I had newly awakened from a confused and exciting dream. At first I was too much confused to observe anything accurately. By what miracle I escaped destruction, it is impossible to say. I learned that a thing had malignantly hovered twenty miles away at the same instant the eyes were glaring at me, I experienced virtual convulsions of fright. I rubbed my eyes.

Around the new position a circle, somewhat larger than in the former instance, was now described, and we again set to work with the spades. The pomps and pageantries of a stately court, and the mad clangor of arms, and the radiant loveliness of women, bewildered and intoxicated my brain.

I knew the heritage of evil lore it masked, and with the knowledge my vision ran riot in queer new ways. But the mummer had gone so far as to assume the type of the red death. Morning after morning he would lie on the cliffs and look over the worlds rim at the cryptical aether beyond, listening to spectral bells and the wild cries of what might have been gulls. If this fly had a human intelligence, where did that intelligence come from? By what miracle I escaped destruction, it is impossible to say.

My evil destiny pursued me as if in exultation, and proved, indeed, that the exercise of its mysterious dominion had as yet only begun. Glancing at these pictures as I took them from the envelope, I felt a curious sense of fright and nearness to forbidden things; for in spite of the vagueness of most of them, they had a damnably suggestive power which was intensified by the fact of their being genuine photographs actual optical links with what they portrayed, and the product of an impersonal transmitting process without prejudice, fallibility, or mendacity. The possible causes of such an event are many.

Had the sleep-waker, indeed, during the latter portion of his discourse, been addressing me from out the region of the shadows?

It might have been midnight, or perhaps earlier, or later, for I had taken no note of time, when a sob, low, gentle, but very distinct, startled me from my revelry. We were at the bottom of one of these abysses, when a quick scream from my companion broke fearfully upon the night. I rubbed my eyes. I called aloud.

We dug very steadily for two hours. I threw myself upon my face, and clung to the scant herbage in an excess of nervous agitation. Of wild creatures there were none, they are wise when death leers close.

I knew the heritage of evil lore it masked, and with the knowledge my vision ran riot in queer new ways. Volition had not departed, but was powerless. Unaccountably we remain. When that happens, the man who knows must strike before reckoning the consequences. No one can speak with certainty of the obscure chemical processes arising in a vast, ancient, ill-aired, and long-deserted building of heterogeneous contents. I was dreadfully weary, but, scarcely understanding what had occasioned the change in my thoughts, I felt no longer any great aversion from the labor imposed. Often I look back to that night and feel a touch of actual humor in those repeated lapses of consciousness; lapses whose succession reminded me at the time of nothing more than the crude cinema melodramas of that period.

If, however, I followed up the strange current, I would undoubtedly arrive at an aperture of some sort, from whose gate I could perhaps work round the walls to the opposite side of this cyclopean and otherwise unnavigable hall.

He leaps! He shrieks! He is here!

When he faced the mirror he saw that his hair was badly scorched, while a trace of strange, evil odor seemed to cling to his upper outer clothing. The snakes were taking a long time did they mean to delay on purpose to play on her nerves? She constantly took his body and went to nameless places for nameless rites, leaving him in her body and locking him upstairs but sometimes she couldn't hold on, and he would find himself suddenly in his own body again in some far-off, horrible, and perhaps unknown place. They harmed only those earth-people who got too near them or spied upon them.

Approaching the table, I saw on it a large box, or case, nearly seven feet long, and perhaps three feet wide, by two feet and a half deep. It was oblong, not coffin-shaped. I knocked off, however, the lid of this coffin, and slowly the dark form rose up.

The ancient folklore, while cloudy, evasive, and largely forgotten by the present generation, was of a highly singular character, and obviously reflected the influence of still earlier tales. In snatches, they learn something of the wisdom which is of good, and more of the mere knowledge which is of evil. It was oblong, not coffin-shaped.

The possible causes of such an event are many.

Some said the thunder called the lurking fear out of its habitation, while others said the thunder was its voice. Now I can but wish for that which once was mine; that which every man blessed of god ought to have at death; that which I saw in that awful moment in the ancient burial ground when I raised the lid on the coffin to reveal my own shrunken, decayed, and headless body. Can I be sure that I am safe?

 


Submitted: October 18, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Robin James. All rights reserved.

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