Days of Darkness (Part 2) lost hours and hidden knowledge

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: The Dark And Suspenseful

The death of the old priest takes Kerrigan on a journey out of the city, a journey he will lose all memory of.

One moment the figure in the fireside chair was deep in a troubled slumber, and the next instant he was wide awake. The fire had burned down to glowing embers and his exhaled breath formed vapor in the frigid air. Unmoving he strained his ears in an attempt to identify any sound that might have awoken him, but the only thing that broke the silence of the room was the ticking of the mantle clock. At any other time, the old priest might have contributed his abrupt awakening to a disturbing dream, or the urgent need to use the bathroom. But something about the atmosphere in the room felt different, the standing lamp in the corner projected a narrow circle of light and the shadows beyond this appeared ominous. The ticking of the clock remained the only sound in the otherwise silent house, and the old man began to believe the feeling of dread over him was just a projection of the stress he was living under. He was safe here in his house, just lately he had new locks fitted on the doors and windows.

This thought brought a brief reprise from the anxiety until he suddenly remembered the stranger that had brought him home. The man had left while he dosed in the chair, which meant that the deadbolts had not been engaged on the door. Disjointed images of the preceding hours played hide and seek in his mind, of late he had sought solace from the brandy bottle and this led to gaps in his memory. He sat forward in the chair and for the briefest of moments he hoped the man had been a dream; that he had only dreamed he left the house earlier. But the two empty brandy glasses on the side table quickly dissolved this theory; the feeling of foreboding came flooding back. Hurrying as quickly as his decrepit body would allow, he struggled from the chair, his only thought now was to reach the front door and engage the deadbolts. The last thing the old priest saw in this world was a deeper shadow in the darkness of the hallway, a flash of light, and the bullet entered his right eye and took the back of his head off.

Kerrigan left The Greasy Spoon café feeling slightly nauseated; it was not that food was bad; this particular café was renowned in the area for the quality of its food. The problem was more to do with that the fact that for quite a while now, his stomach had grown more accustomed to a liquid diet. What he ate these days was barely enough to ward off malnutrition, so this afternoon he forced himself to eat a substantial meal. Standing on the pavement he lit a cigarette and found his attention being drawn to Murphy’s select bar on the opposite side of the street, but the fullness in his gut prevented him from making his way there. Instead, he turned and headed back towards the office, stopping only to buy the afternoon edition of the local rag. He had decided to do a bit of cold calling over the phone this afternoon, it sometimes paid off to touch base with some of the lawyers he did work for. He badly needed some work, as much for his mental wellbeing as his financial security.

By the time he had worked his way through the first half of the list, any enthusiasm he had felt, was well and truly gone. To make matters worse the next three calls he made, did not get past the reception desk. “I will get him to call you back Mr. Kerrigan: have a nice day Mr. Kerrigan”. In the end, he abandoned the task with five names still on the list; the exercise was serving no purpose other than to dampen his mood. There was another source of funds available to him; all it would take was his signature. For the past three years, a substantial amount of money and a brownstone building in one of the better areas of town was his for the taking and all it required was a trip uptown to a law firm. It would be a simple matter of walking in and signing some documents, but he had sworn he would never touch a penny of his father’s estate. As the sole heir and beneficiary of a will made by his parents when he was only a child, Declan Kerrigan inherited all their belongings. The only keepsake he took belonging to the old man was the 38 special in the top drawer, and he had a purpose for that particular keepsake.

This train of thought was rapidly leading his mind down spiraling darkness, and he picked up the paper he had bought earlier. He leafed through the pages scanning articles without taking much in until a photograph drew his attention; it took a moment before he realized the significance of what he was looking at. The photograph was a few years old, a younger version of the man, the lines of worry was yet to appear on his face and the haunted look was absent. But there was no mistaking that it was the priest he had brought home last night, Kerrigan felt a coldness in the pit of his stomach as he read the article. Fr Malachi Curtis was murdered last night, in what the reported surmised was a burglary gone wrong. The article was short on details other than the old man, was found dead this morning with a gunshot wound. Most of what the old priest spoke about last night made little sense, the ramblings of a troubled mind. But on more than one occasion he reiterated that his life was in danger, dark demonic forces were threatening his life. Kerrigan was certain that the old man believed what he said, but most of what he spoke about was so far out there, that he had dismissed them as delusionary.

His first instinct was to curse the fact that he had got involved at all with the old priest; he should have minded his own business. However that ship had already sailed, so now he had to make a decision, the obvious course of action would be to contact the police and make a statement. However, there were still quite a few people on the force who would relish the opportunity to pin this one on him, besides the murdered man had told him that people in authority were plotting to kill him. This sounded farfetched to him, but a voice of caution in his mind warned him to tread carefully with this one. A thought suddenly struck him; the old man had insisted he take a parcel from him last night. Kerrigan had taken the package just to appease the old man; suddenly the thought of having that package in his possession filled him with dread. The memory of what he did with the package would not come to him and he looked about the office, the package was nowhere to be seen and the anxiety began to grow in him.

He finally located the package upstairs in the apartment; it was on the floor by the side of the armchair. Kerrigan stood staring at the parcel wrapped in brown waxed paper, for some unknown reason he found himself hesitant to pick it up. Some part of his mind believed that whatever was contained in that package would be somehow detrimental to him; an irrational urge came over him to leave the apartment and go to the pub. But the annoying little voice at the back of his mind reminded him that the package would still be there when he returned. He picked up the package and weighed it in his hand, a book he thought, it was the correct shape and size, but why would the old man insist on giving him a book. Now that he had it in his hand the curiosity was getting the better of him when the most logical thing to do would be to walk down to the docks and toss it in the water. But in the end, the curiosity won out, and he convinced himself that the package might hold a clue to who had killed the old man.

The wax paper was old and had become brittle in places; the old man had wrapped it some time ago. The book inside was bound in soft black leather and his first thought was that it was a bible, even though it had no sign of the cross on the cover. Perhaps the old man had seen into his soul and was trying to bring him redemption, but it would take more than an old bible to save his soul. If the book was a bible then it was written in a language that Kerrigan had never seen before, it was not Latin, as he was familiar with Latin since his days as an altar boy. Leafing through the book only served to bring a growing sense of frustration over him, especially since he now remembered the old priest hinting that whatever was in the package would help him decide on a course in life. The sad fact was dawning on him now that the old man was delusional after all, perhaps his murder had been just a burglary gone wrong, and that was a fairly common occurrence in this town. Out of pure frustration, he turned the book upside down and shook it; a faint feeling of satisfaction came over him when the envelope dropped out of the book.

The envelope like the waxed paper showed signs of age, it was of good quality but a yellowish tint had crept into the once white paper. It was addressed on the front “To Whom It May Concern”; the handwriting was no more than a spidery scrawl as if the hand of the author had been shaking badly as he wrote. Kerrigan studied the envelope, and a faint feeling of disappointment settled over him, had he been expecting the correspondence to be addressed directly to him? None of this made the slightest bit of sense to him; perhaps in his melancholic state, he had convinced himself that divine intervention would change his life. His mind was filled with snatches of thought that just chased each other in ever decreasing circles, a myriad of nonsensical deliberations that sought to make sense of a life that had lost all meaning. Without any conscious decision, he found his fingers tearing at the sealed envelope, inside was a single sheet of paper with an address printed on it. Yet another pang of disappointment flashed in his mind, but a thought suddenly came to him that someone at that address may need to know what became of the old man.

The old Cadillac was sluggish driving through the uptown traffic, but once he reached the outskirts of the city, the engine sounded happier. Kerrigan couldn’t remember the last time he had taken the old car on a decent run, ever since he had his knee shattered long drives were uncomfortable. He had only a vague idea where exactly he was going and had to consult the Esso road map, but at least that pointed him in the general direction of the address. It was dusk before he reached the town, he had made a couple of wrong turns and the journey had taken close to two hours. Even though the coastal town was only an hour from the city; after another thirty minutes, he located the house he was looking for. The house was a big three-story detached structure that stood on a leafy suburban street, it had a deserted air about it and he silently cursed himself for a fool’s errand. The upstairs rooms were in darkness and heavy drapes concealed the interior of the downstairs rooms, were it not for the infernal ache in his leg where the brace bit into his thigh, he would have turned the car and driven back. Instead, Kerrigan needed to get out of the car and get some circulation back in his damaged limb.

Standing on the pavement he lit a cigarette and made his way to the gate. The front path was flanked on both sides with an overgrown hedge, and the front gardens had long since reverted to nature. Before he had even thought about it, he opened the wrought iron gate which squealed like a wounded animal on its rusty hinges. The protruding branches of the overgrown hedge snatched and scraped at the skin of his face, like the clawed fingers of an angry lover. By the time he made it to the front door, he had the weird feeling that he had left the outside world far behind him. A part of his mind fretted that by even coming this far, he had stepped outside the mortal realm. The door was once a holly green but the paint had faded and peeled over the years showing the bare wood in places, and remnants of an older color in others. The wrought iron door knocker was fashioned into a symbol that was annoying familiar but he could not place what it was. The sound of the knocker hitting the plate echoed eerily in the depths of the house, he knocked three times but only darkness remained behind the stained glass of the door.

The light had faded now and it was full dark, the faint glow of a street light through the overgrown vegetation seemed impossibly distant. It reminded him of looking out at night onto the sea and catching the faint lights of a passing ship. Standing there in the eerie silence Kerrigan felt as if the world had withdrawn leaving only the darkened house, and the overgrown gardens. For some unfathomable reason he kept wondering how long he had been stood on the doorstep, the rational part of his mind told him it was mere minutes, yet he felt as if it been a very long time. The path back to the pavement outside had now taken on a daunting appearance, and for some reason, the thought of running the gauntlet of the overhanging branches in this darkness filled him with trepidation. The irrational fear building inside him triggered the anger that dwelled always just beneath the surface, the anger this time was directed at himself for allowing himself to fear the darkness like a child. But that nagging nervous would not cease, taking a deep breath he stepped onto the path, just as the front door creaked open.

In the silence, the creaking sound tore through his brain like a piece of shrapnel, and he gave an involuntary shiver. The door opened onto a reception hall barely illuminated by a table lamp at the farthest end, the silhouette of a woman appeared and stood in silence for what seemed to be a very long time. When she spoke her voice carried the traces of a language foreign to these shores, “Come in I have been expecting a caller, for quite a while now.” Her voice was soft and seductive. The moment he stepped inside the front door it closed behind him, it took a moment for Kerrigan to realize that his hostess was standing at the far end of the hall. A nervous glance over his left shoulder confirmed they were alone, and a sound like the tinkling of a crystal bell came from the woman and he realized she was laughing softly. The woman opened a door to her left and a little more light crept into the hallway, the hallway was wider than he had thought at first and the walls were hung with original oil paintings. Antique furniture dotted the hallway and gave the impression of past wealth, but there was a forlorn air about the place. He followed the woman through the open door and found himself in a large drawing-room; the room was lit by some table lamps that never quite illuminated the entire room.

The woman sat in a winged back armchair by the side of the large ornate fireplace, she beckoned at the chair opposite her and he sat down. She sat back in the chair and her features were lost in the shadows, only now did he realize that he had only seen the woman as a silhouette, a shapely outline of female curves. He could feel her eyes on him but she remained silent, several times he attempted to break that silence but nothing that made any sense would come to mind. In the end, it was the woman who spoke first. “So Malachi has finally departed this life, the day of judgment he had always feared has caught upon him”. The words were spoken in a low voice scarcely above a whisper; the tone of the voice showed neither sorrow nor surprise. The woman fell silent again for a brief moment before the sound of nylon rubbing against nylon whispered in the room as she rose from the chair. Kerrigan watched the swaying of her full hips as she crossed the room to the drinks cabinet, she filled two crystal tumblers and returned and handed him one. For the briefest of moments a flash of indignation entered his mind, she had just presumed he was a drinker, but in the end, he raised the glass in thanks and took a sip, it was Irish whiskey and a good brand at that.

Kerrigan fished the pack of cigarettes from his pocket and offered the woman one; it was only when she bent forward to accept a light that he had a good view of her face. Her makeup was expertly applied and her lips looked full and inviting in their ruby lipstick. But the faint lines at the corners of her eyes and mouth belied her youthful figure, having said that, the woman was still a seriously attractive lady. She inhaled deeply on the cigarette and held the smoke in her lungs for a long while when she exhaled it was with a long sigh and a curtain of smoke hung in the air between them. From behind this curtain, her soft seductive voice whispered to him. “Malachi strayed from the path of his beliefs, and I don’t mean a few minor indiscretions. Malachi crossed from the light, to dwell among the darkest of shadows. At first, he did not even realize that the people he was mixing with were beholding to a darker force, he was seduced by their wealth and influence. But in the end, when he realized the power of these people, Malachi was too weak and cowardly to say no to them.” The soft dulcet sound of her voice had a seductive quality to it and combined with the warmth inside of him from the whiskey it was hypnotic. At some stage Kerrigan closed his eyes and the world disappeared, nothing remained but her seductive words.

The woman’s name was Katherina and she had knowledge of the entities that dwelled beyond the shadows, she spoke of watchers and hybrids.  She told him of things that walked among the humans and used them for dark purposes, the very things that had seduced the old priest. Katherina explained how a cabal of extremely powerful people was intent on preparing the world for the coming of their dark master, and how they organized horrifying ceremonies to enhance their powers. He learned how they traded and feasted on the children and the most vulnerable. Malachi as the head of several orphanages over the years had facilitated their unspeakable crimes, and when he wanted out, he had sought Katherina out to help. Her voice continued a sweet seductive monologue that brought terrifying truths and images to his mind. Kerrigan stirred in the chair attempting to rouse himself from the dream-like state, but his eyelids were heavy and his muscles unresponsive.

 At some stage he felt her warm breath against his ear; he smelt the nicotine on her breath and the subtle scent of her expensive perfume. Her soft voice faded to barely a whisper and her hands grasped his shoulders in a gentle embrace, her whispering taught his mind to see a world that up until now had remained hidden from him. Kerrigan drifted further into a place where her murmured words guided him through visions that would have driven most men insane, yet her proximity reassured him. Eventually, he ceased to hear her voice, the visions faded and he drifted into a dreamless sleep. The next time Kerrigan opened his eyes he was sitting behind the wheel of his car, which was parked in a layby of a secondary road thirty minutes from the city. He had no idea how he had gotten there, and his last conscious memory was of buying a newspaper from a street vendor. Blackouts were familiar events in Kerrigan’s life but something about this felt very different; it was as if his mind were a blackboard that had been wiped clean of recent memories. Eventually, he stopped trying to remember and drove home. A growing feeling inside told him that something very fundamental had taken place in the lost hours, and the shadows of the city appeared darker and more ominous.

Submitted: August 24, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Patrick G Moloney. All rights reserved.

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