The Red City

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
H.P. Lovecraft inspired story of a man exploring areas best left undisturbed.


Submitted: June 15, 2012

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Submitted: June 15, 2012



What I write now is not to become famous or gain notoriety with any scientific journals or periodicals, but as a warning to others that choose to follow my path; to warn them of the dangerous series of events that I have put myself in inadvertently and wish upon no man.

It all started in 1826 as I was finishing up my tenure for the Arkham University; I had recently finished my PhD in Cryptology and was eager to flex my academic muscle, travel the world and see the ancient sites. Maybe even uncover an ancient civilisation not yet discovered.

I realise now my folly, and should have stayed at the University, taken up the gracious offer of my fellow colleagues to stay and teach the eager young minds that poured in. But hindsight is a marvellous thing; I look back upon my misadventures not with distain or regret, but see it as an opportunity to warn others not to venture too far into the depths of history, lest they find something of unimaginable horror staring back at them. But I digress.

I decided to start my ‘adventures’, if you could call them that, in Marrakesh. I had heard rumours of an English expedition deep in the medina that had found something of great interest, and while I knew I would be unable to join the expedition in mid-exploration, I was confidant in my abilities to explore the recesses of the medina myself whilst avoiding the English.

I arrived in the more modern part of Marrakesh, the Gueliz, and found a room to let located above a small antiques shop. The owner of the building was rather old and frail, but friendly enough to foreigners to accept my coin without much trouble. After paying for a month’s worth of stay I proceeded to explore the Gueliz in an effort to gain some information about the medina, but unfortunately I was only able to find tourist spots and souvenir shops.

Determined to find anything on the medina, and any possible treasures contained within, I doubled my efforts the next day, eventually finding a small cartographer shop in a conspicuous alley. He was very forthcoming with information, speaking well enough English, and explaining some of the history of Marrakesh. I was particularly interested in his stories of the old world and the name the city had before modern times: Red City. He eventually inquired of my interest in the history and I told him the reason for my trip. He grew rather silent after that, refusing to answer any more of my questions. With some gold persuasion I was, however, able to get a map of the medina. After I parted with my money the cartographer pulled me close and said in a harsh whisper:

‘There is a reason it was called the Red City. Be careful of the medina, foreigner. Even we do not dare go into the darkest areas’.

With that cryptic message he ushered me quickly from the store and promptly closed up shop, even though it was only mid-afternoon.

That night, lying with the window open trying to get the room to cool down after the oppressive sun had warmed it up during the day, I slept little; the excitement of starting out my expedition kept me up, the cartographers words long gone from my mind.

With the sun rising over the Gueliz I was already packed and ready for my adventure into the medina. I made my way through the streets, the vendors beginning to set up their stalls for a day of haggling with tourists. I could already hear the call of the local newspaper boys, trying to get prospective buyers to ‘snap up’ their tabloid. ‘English expedition to Medina lost!’, I heard one cry. I thought nothing of it, reasoning that they must have set up camp in the medina, perhaps because they found something of great interest. That little self-analytical thought flamed the fires of my own exploratory desire.

Pouring over the map the cartographer gave me the day prior, I saw an alternate entrance to the medina located deep within the Gueliz. Deciding to avoid the British expedition as much as I could, I made a bee-line to the portal to the medina.

The portal opened up into a red stone-wall corridor leading down. The walls were cracking and the wooden stairs were worn and creaking, many of them broken. With no light, natural or otherwise, all I was able to see was as far as the morning sun shone down. Beyond that was darkness. Steeling my nerve I took out my torch, lit it, and proceeded down the stairs, avoiding the more rotted and weak planks of wood.

With the only light coming from my torch, I exited the corridor and surveyed the surroundings. It was tight and claustrophobic; a single lane that looked like it would go on forever with old stone houses on both sides, almost closing in on the lane. They were painted a strange, almost ethereal red. The light from the torch reflected off the paint in odd patterns, making it look as if the red was moving. I followed the lane down for what seemed like hours but I did not notice the time, for I was too busy admiring the ancient architecture of the houses. It was not until thinking over the events of that day do I realise that everything was far too well kept, especially for an ancient civilisation.

Eventually the lane began to open up, revealing a large domed structure. Resembling the Pantheon in Rome, the building looked as if it was a central point with roads leading away from it in all directions. Taking off my pack and rummaging inside I found my sketchbook and pencil and began to take notes, of the surrounding houses, of the ground underfoot, and of the building itself. Every so often I would hear a noise, unidentifiable, but I dismissed it as my imagination or the English expedition.

A long series of pillars stood outside the entrance to the building and as I studied them, always taking notes, I noticed small, strange glyphs engraved into the stone. Many of them I did not recognise, but some I knew as rare dialect of ancient Latin. I walked all around those pillars, writing down as much as I could, trying to transcribe the strange curls and awkward lines of the characters.

Once I finished with the pillars I gathered my pack and wondered into the building. As soon as I walked over the threshold into the large dome I was struck with a feeling of awe and wonder. The noises in the background were fazed out of my mind as I took in the alien architecture. Words would not be able to accurately describe the way the dome stood high above my head. The walls were painted in this strange shade of red, the same colour that the houses in the alley were. On the roof was painted a mural; holding my torch up high I strained to see it. What I could make out were humanoid shapes, kneeling and praying in front of a large creature that looked like a mixture between a wolf and a man. I scribbled out a facsimile in my notebook, occasionally pausing to listen to the strange noises, that I now associated to the medina settling and groaning with the weight of the Gueliz above it, that seemed to grow and ebb in the background

As I leaned against the wall, dumb struck, something moved out of the corner of my eye. Shifting my focus towards the disturbance I found nothing, but as I looked something moved again just out of my visual range. I shifted focus again and again I found nothing. I brought myself off the wall and onto my feet, curious of what could be moving in the distance. I called out for them to come out of the shadows but I received no response. Holding my torch tightly, I moved further into the building, the strange architecture now a backdrop and inconsequential to the movement.

I reached the middle of the domed building when something moved again. This time I was quick enough with my eyes and torch and was able to finally spy what it was. As I did, I dropped my torch and covered my mouth to stop myself from screaming.

It was jet black, covered in thick spines that glistened in the torch light. It moved on all fours, its back legs bending inwards as it ran. It was as large as any man, with powerful forearms and long black hair covering its shoulders and back. But that was not what turned my spine to jelly; it was the ripped jacket with the union jack insignia embroidered on the sleeve it wore.

Backing away slowly, ignoring my dropped torch, I crept back towards the front of the building. As if my sudden realisation of the creatures triggered something, I could make out more shapes and figures in the darkness, the number of them rapidly rising. As I reached the entrance the creatures stepped into the dying light of the torch I had dropped and I saw them for a brief second before one stepped on the torch and extinguished the light.

I scarcely remember their specific look but there is one detail about them I will never forget: each one of them wore tattered remains of clothing. Some had the jacket with the union jack, some wore the clothing the locals wore in the Gueliz, some even wore strange robes the same colour as the walls of the dome. It did not matter at that point, for as soon as the light was extinguished I broke and ran; ran as fast as I ever have and will.

Barrelling down the small laneway, I quickly reached into my pocket and pulled out my lighter, if only so I could see my way. I could hear inhuman shouts from behind, and the sound of hundreds of feet on the ground, all following me. I made it to the stairs and began to climb them three at a time, knowing that if I slowed down for a second I would be killed by those monsters.

Just as I was at the top, with the afternoon light streaming through the doorway, I stepped on the last stair and my foot collapsed through it. In a chain reaction, the stairs behind started to collapse and break as well. In the dust and chaos I lost my balance and tipped over, quickly grabbing stone doorway. There I hung, trying to pull myself up as I felt the creatures gather below me. They roared and screamed at me, as I yelled out into the street, hoping somebody would come by and help me. I felt a sear of pain as one clawed at my legs, its sharp talons ripping easily into flesh and bone. As if that act gave me the additional adrenaline I needed, I finally managed to pull myself up, falling onto the dusty street of the Gueliz.

As I laid there, panting heavily and bleeding profusely some of the locals turned up and came rushing to my side. Some of them picked me up and began to carry me to the hospital; all I could do was ramble about monsters and scream at them of the horrors just through the doorway to the medina.

My hospital recuperation was long and painful. The wound I received from the monster was deep; it had torn many ligaments and fractured bone. The surgery required to fix the damage took hours to repair, and event at its completion I was given the grimmest of prognoses: I would never be able to walk correctly again. I was forced into a rehabilitation program to try and restore movement to my leg. The only way I was able to get through the gruelling sessions was the liberal application of painkillers such as opium. And even then the pain, both mental and physical, was overwhelming.

After months in the Marrakesh hospital I was released. I returned to Arkham and stayed with an old university college who allowed me to reside in his attic. It was sparsely populated with furniture but it sufficed well enough.

Thanks to the doctors at Marrakesh I had become addicted to painkillers. Morphine was readily available at the chemist and I used it often, if only to escape the recurring thoughts of my ordeal. In that attic my mind would reel back to the medina; shadows in the corners would jump out at me in the horrendous shape of the monsters, and the wind against the walls and windows would morph into other-worldly screams.

Morphine dulled the screams and destroyed the shadows, leaving my mind blank and numbing my body, but every night when I went to sleep I would dream of the medina, of those monsters, of me being torn apart by their hungry claws, and most disturbing of all, a monster wearing the tattered remains of my clothes.

Weeks have passed since my return to Arkham and no matter what I do I cannot escape what I have seen, nor can I run from the sounds I hear every night. There is only one course left for me; one action that I must take so that I can have peace. And for those who find this journal I give a warning: stay away from that place, and may God have mercy on your soul.

© Copyright 2017 Doc Holland. All rights reserved.

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