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 The Many Morbid Tales of Spookinite Valley

Ghastly and Veiled
Written by Benjamin Fouché

 

Quite abruptly, I received a mere letter from a dear friend, who requested that I would care for his dwelling while he traveled to deal with earnest family matters. And indeed, my immediate response was to willingly accept and caringly look after his abode. Moreover, he would rightfully pay me––in recompense for my loyalty. Therefore, I commenced my day’s journey and rode upon horseback to the remote estate of my friend, William Pope. In the recent years, the only sibling of William Pope––his sister, Phoebe––had grown increasingly ill. When word was delivered to him, William became rather confounded, and thereupon sought after an individual to sentinel his manor during his absence. And indeed, I was that individual—for why else would I be telling you this story? I swore an oath to him and Virginia, his wife, that I would keep their dwelling sound and intact. They were accordingly grateful, and departed.

I arrived the proceeding afternoon—or perhaps it was early evening—I do believe it was around four o’ clock, during the season when the daylight hours wane unceasingly. But regardless of the time, and after dismounting my steed, I stood—at length—before the Gothic edifice. The shadow-draped porte cochére greeted my daunted soul at the house’s entrance, and the arched, oaken doors stood soundly. I dared not gaze upon the unilluminated windows, for I feared another face would stare back. William had explained in his letter that the domain’s iron key was left veiled underneath the dense shrubbery. I began scrutinizing the garden, when quite suddenly, an enveloping draft whirled about the autumnal leaves, causing the askew shutters to swing open and shut—they knocked violently against the time-faded masonry. During this precise moment, there came a rather pronounced and singular impression—a pervasion of utter darkness.

I paused for a few seconds, and warily observed my surroundings—by this time, it was quite difficult to discern the sylvan landscape; the shades of the night were already drawing over the earth. My eyes endeavored to study the shadowing lot. If there lingered another presence, I was certainly unable to distinguish it. A fearful perception was imbued within my mind, and thus I made haste to find the mansion’s key. When my fingers finally made contact with a rusted and brittle material, I knew unerringly that I had discovered what I was seeking. Without the slightest hesitation, I inserted the house’s key into the door’s old, timeworn mechanism, and hurriedly turned it. After innumerable sounds of ancient iron grinding, the two sturdy doors were unlocked. With great precaution, I meekly pushed both doors open, and entered my friend’s vacant dominion. Only one solitary candle flickered within the antechamber. Every other vast apartment possessed only an ink-like blackness.

When both doors of the manor’s entrance shut, I deliberately bolted them. I then felt as if my lonesome spirit stood within an impenetrable fortress that reflected all of the abiding menaces of the mortal realm. And yet, as I exited the antechamber, I was confronted by many unwelcoming and malign faces that hung upon the walls. Their sharp eyes peered fixedly into my heart—needless to say, they were—of course—solely portraits of the long-deceased ancestors of William Pope. I began to wonder if one of the delicately painted figures would protrude from their frame and wail threateningly for me to leave—but they simply did not. The melancholy manor was uttermost silent, and all sounds from the outside had long subsided.

After preparing and eating my supper, I walked through the main hall—and rather suddenly, I caught a glimpse of a face peering directly at me from outside one of the tall windows. My instinctive response was to hurriedly turn away. For several drawn-out moments, I refused to move—a piercing silence rang irredeemably. I finally seized the courage to face the window once more when I conceived the phenomenon to be nothing more than my meager reflection. As I meticulously studied one of the thin, wavy window panels, a translucent image of myself gazed back. However, while I continued to observe the window, an additional face materialized beyond my vague reflection—it was discernibly human, yet of an unearthly dimension. A sensation of malevolence overcame my spirit, and thus I hurried off—horrified that the latent specter would unrelentingly follow me.

As I made my way into the formal library, I swiftly shut its door. After my remarkably abnormal encounter, I chose to spend an hour or two reading so that I could ease my worries. I desirously hoped that whatever I saw out in the dreary night would stay there, where such entities ought to remain. For nearly an hour and a half, I read through various tomes of which my friend was so oddly fascinated by—morbidities known to man, the composition of the mortal body, and hand-written post-mortem studies. It was slightly intriguing, but quite repulsive for my own personal liking. The only works of literature that I had miraculously uncovered were dust-coated volumes of unremembered lore—possessing tales of curses, rituals, and unutterable acts committed by only the most uncivilized of humankind.

While I began reading one of the curious books, I began to nod—nearly drifting into the inexplicable realities of slumber—when all at once, there came into view a wraith-like figure in the corner of the chamber. I stood up in acute fear, wondering if the apparition would glide towards me. After a few dreaded moments passed, the ethereal being faded into the condensed gloom. I became severely unnerved, endeavoring to comprehend the uncanny occurrence. Knowing that the spirit was lingering about the library, I wisely decided to retire for the night. Cautiously ascending the manor’s narrow staircase, I watched as the feeble flame of my candleholder cast the murky shadow of the stairs’ spindles upon the surrounding wall—they shifted hither and thither.

At length, I reached the top landing—and the floorboards beneath my feet groaned sluggishly. The guest bedchamber was on the third floor, and so I would have to vigilantly move through the must-scented apartments of the second story. Attentively, I stepped through a lofty chamber—and the shadows were like sentient figures, stalking about to and fro. I shook away all frightful visions of what I might have seen if I had remained in one of the dusky, silent rooms for too long—for these thoughts only wrought a relentless disquiet. The opaque darkness that the weak candlelight threw from the furniture was already too unsettling; my heart beat wildly against my chest. As I neared the second stairway of the Gothic dwelling, I overlooked the grounds below through a window—a dull luminescence flickered within the obscured woodlands.

At the sight of the vanishing light, I became utterly inert, and my breathing ceased entirely. For what felt to be a century, I pondered upon what the spectral radiance could have feasibly belonged to. My own conjecture was an unexplained natural occurrence—for what else was I to tell myself? Hurrying onward, I rushed up the precipitous flights of stairs and arrived on the third floor of the enormous structure. The guest bedchamber was through the final doorway to the left, at the end of the imposing hallway. Upon entering my prepared quarters, I instantaneously shut the door—but before I could lock it, I realized that I did not possess a key. My initial presumption was that William had simply left the key in the room for me. Nevertheless, my attempts to find this conceptualized key were purely in vain.

It was rather difficult to fall asleep, well aware that my door would stay unlocked for the whole night—and alas, there was no chair to shove underneath the door’s knob. I sat upward in bed, earnestly gazing upon my bedchamber’s door—when without warning, the same mist-like figure that manifested in the library began to hazily appear before me. But this time, the specter appeared seemingly more human—discernibly a young woman. I was in a state of apprehension, wishing it all to be a dream—but regrettably, it was my undeniable reality. She stared upon me, and spoke thus, “I plead with you, do not fear my presence. I am here not to distress you, but to merely forewarn you.”

“To forewarn me of what?” asked I, nervously in reply.

“I am Phoebe, the spirit of your friend’s sister,” said she, dolefully.

I was extraordinarily astounded by her words—I did not know what was happening. “William Pope’s sister?” I enquired.

“Yes, I fear so,” declared she. “I must admonish that my brother is not who he seems, nor his wife. They both share the grim obsession of death—and are planning to kill you on this very night. You saw the flicker of their lantern in the forest earlier.”

I could not respond—my voice choked upon a knot that remorselessly grew in my throat.

“I was never truly ill—they lied to you in the letter. My fragile life was snuffed out three nights ago, by both of them—unfortunately, I was unaware of their dastardly plot. They invited me to stay a couple evenings here, and so, I therefore traveled to this place to visit my beloved brother. I was fully unaware of their intentions when my life was stolen from me—others have met similar fates here as well.”

I was still unable to articulate a single word. Phoebe continued to speak to me.

“Please, you must uncover my body and tell the authorities where they may find it—for if you do not, many others will perish miserably here.”

The numbness of which I felt began to sidle away, and I could soon respond to the horrific revelation that was bestowed upon me. It began to make sense—why else would William have had a library filled with such forbidden and sickening knowledge?

“Do you know where your body might possibly be?” I questioned gravely.

“I feel heavy despondency telling you that I do not—my body could be located anywhere throughout this house—but I beg of you to hurry and find it, for they are coming—their malignant presences are drawing nearer by the minute,” she explained urgently.

All of a sudden, our ears both reaped the sound of faint footfalls. Phoebe’s perception was certainly more profound than my own—her ghostly figure became dimmer, and she spoke quietly, “William and Virginia are here—you must leave this room at once. Follow me.” Phoebe silently led me into a chamber a few doors down, across the hall. It was an additional bedroom—and a window was left open. Beyond the window was a ledge from which I could climb down onto the manor’s roof. “You shall be safe once you are on the roof. After you climb onto the ledge, I shall soundlessly shut the window—they will never know your whereabouts,” said she. I promptly thanked Phoebe and crawled through the window frame and onto the stone ledge. The window was closed, and slight relief befell me. But even so, I could not believe what was transpiring.

Although my circumstances felt as if they belonged in a work of fiction, I knew that they were indeed very real. And I do believe that the worst aspect of my condition was the fact that William and Virginia were fiends with an insatiable, morbid thirst—and my death would quench their thirst. Why was this? How was this? The events were inconceivable. However, I was unwaveringly going to find Phoebe’s remains—if they were still recoverable—and for this I longingly hoped. But her corpse could have been anywhere on the grounds of the demesne—the idea of searching the whole of the estate was purely overwhelming. Still, my conscience was obstinate and the decision was made. I stealthily crawled over the slate shingles until I reached a towering gable with a curved window, from which I could reenter the domain. Rather carefully, I slid the window open and climbed back into the loathsome home.

The room of which I found myself in was a study—and strewed upon an exceedingly disorganized desk were what appeared to be the writings of an unintelligible language. William Pope’s wife had always made apparent her passionate interest in deciphering long-extinct languages—it was of no surprise to discover these cryptic documents. Nonetheless, what was of concern were detailed sketches of an intolerably unworldly face; these dark illustrations gave the fancy of a malicious existence, eyeing me while I observed them—even as I am telling you this, the remembrance of these sketches perturbs my soul. At once, I made haste to leave the study, when quite abruptly, in the adjoining chamber, I saw the figure of William Pope standing motionlessly, facing an arched window—he seemed to be observing the house’s lot. Fortunately, William did not sense my presence—and thus, I silently advanced into yet another room of the bleak, mouldering mansion.

This chamber was cluttered with antique furniture—it smelled of dust and decay from centuries long elapsed. It proved difficult to move through such insignificant space—but the worst aspect of this chamber was the floor—it was in immense disrepair—many of the floorboards were missing, and the few wooden beams that were surprisingly wide enough for my feet to stand upon felt as if they would collapse. Imperceptibly, I crept through a doorway and into a vertiginous stairwell. I began to yearningly wish Phoebe would reappear to me—I was lost in a singularly arcane dominion. After descending the winding stairs, I wandered through endless corridor after endless corridor—but the madness was prolonged—and the quietude became more oppressive than prior.

When I, at length, made it back down to the first story of the unnerving manor, the odious footsteps of either William or Virginia began to resound perpetually—this sound was enough to place any mortal upon the very edge of their sanity—and indeed, I was no exception. Without a moment’s hesitation, I hurried into a nearby room and threw myself into a butler’s pantry—wishing that I would remain undiscovered by whoever was approaching. My drubbing heart became louder, for my death could have undoubtedly been a plausible outcome. The sound of his heavy shoes became a forbidding rhythm—CLUMP—THUD—CLUMP—THUD—oh! How it drew me mad—it led unto me a Dark Sickness—an illness from the shadows—and never would this psychological disease spare its unmerited victim; me.

But lastly, the terrible noise ceased—it appeared that I had rather scarcely been spared. I wanted nothing more than to leave my former friend’s abode—yet I could not allow others to fall asleep under the Popes’ unpitying deception. I had to find poor Phoebe’s cadaver—I could not abandon her disoriented and mournful ghost—she was in dire need of closure, and I swore to bring her that closure—furthermore, I was obliged to end the unspeakable lunacy of the Pope family. I could not even begin to envision how many others had hitherto met their premature demise at this grievous purgatory—these thoughts weighed unforgivingly upon my weakened shoulders—but willingly, I carried them. After a few more prolonged moments of waiting, I observantly stepped into the hallway. The cellar would be my next place of the home to investigate—perhaps I would find Phoebe’s body there.

Alertly, and with only a humble candlestick, I made my way down into the dank, unlit cellar of Pope Manor. I could faintly hear the trickling of water—its melody was quite haunting—comparable to the unhallowed sound of forsaken souls, shrieking in one great profusion of unceasing agony. The damp floor and walls of the cellar were constructed from limestone—the stonework was quite uneven—it even appeared some portions of it had already collapsed. At the bottom of the crumbling steps was a vast cavity—and one area had been swallowed by a subterranean, black, inky lake. I wearily searched for quite some time, inspecting every inch with the wavering glow of candlelight. But alas, Phoebe’s body was nowhere to be found. I even weighed in the stagnant, ebon waters, and moved my hand through the repugnant slime and muck that had accumulated over the past decades. Yet the corpse of Phoebe was not recovered.

I began to sorrowfully doubt; mayhap, her body was burned to ashes, or buried far away—it was utterly impossible to know where it was located—or what was done to it for that matter. Was my journey futile? Great despair fell upon me as I knelt upon the cold, merciless cellar floor. I eyed my distorted reflection in the dull pond, struggling to comprehend my woeful actuality. I became exceedingly sickened by what had befallen me—I was undeserving of such treachery and insanity. But all at once—in the midst of my self-pity—there called out a half-audible, torturous cry—it was Phoebe. Expeditiously, I hastened up the eroded stairwell and back into the funereal interior of the dark house. Yet again, my focused ears garnered the imploring scream of Phoebe. Onwards, I rushed through several corridors and up the staircase to the second floor of the home.

Phoebe distressingly wailed again—the anguishing sounds were becoming more acute by this time. Advancing forward, and up the second stairwell, I heard the sullen cries begin to die—where was Phoebe? As my ears reaped one final lengthy imploration, I understood her voice was emanating from the attic—but I did not know where the entrance to the attic was. While I hurriedly commenced my search for a trapdoor in the high ceiling, another voice pierced my ears—it was Virginia—William’s equally sadistic wife,

“William and I have something quite fascinating to present to you—I think you will find amusement in our wondrous discovery,” said she.

I took backward strides, for her words brought upon me an inexplicable horror. She leered madly and gestured, “The attic door is this way—why do you exhibit such hesitation?” Virginia strode off, through a shadowed doorway, and I was left alone amidst the ominous uncertainty.

There was a cracking sound, followed by a lurid thud—and then, she spoke again, “Phoebe is in the attic—come see the gift that we so generously bestow upon you.” The otherworldly shrieks of Phoebe started up once more—but this time, the thunderous voice of William proceeded her cries, “My dear friend, please, I ask only that you come retrieve your reward.” I felt an incessant compulsion to step forth—I became nearer to the attic’s ladder—I climbed up into the mildew-scented loft—and promptly, there before me stood William Pope pridefully—with an unredeemable grin upon his face. Phoebe’s corpse was posed in a chair behind him.

“It is so wonderful to see you again. And I can assure you that I did not lie—you are to be rewarded in compensation for your stay here at Pope Manor. Virginia, please come join us for the grand demonstration.”

Virginia quickly moved from behind me and joined William. I could only stare upon Phoebe’s lifeless stiff—did her screams belong to her temporal body, or her spirit? These thoughts would be answered momentarily.

“The soul and body are in communion—they are the same, are they not?” queried William. “Well, this question used to disrupt my sleep during the night—I would lie awake in bed—doubting. It was—perhaps—the most haunting thought—and clemency this particular thought would not offer—its bounds were without remorse. And I merely could not accept this—I refused to remain ignorant of a knowledge that was obtainable. It was then decided that I would learn—and my wife, Virginia, too would learn. You see, we both are very patient individuals—we have all of the time that we need in this mortal world. For several years, we had made countless attempts to pry open the reality from which this knowledge resides. But after many disappointments, we have finally discovered the truth—and that truth was always sealed away in my dear sister—Phoebe.”

William stepped nearer to Phoebe’s corpse—he placed his slender hand upon her forehead, and spoke in an incredibly outlandish language—it did not even sound as if his tongue was articulating the harrowing noises originating from his mouth. He then opened her eyelids and requested his wife to assist him. Virginia held out a paper—and on it was another sketch of the very same menacing face, which I had seen in the study earlier. William proceeded to speak in his bizarre tongue. As this ensued, a pitiless cold began to enwrap us all—drafts swept the accumulated dust here and there. But all at once, Phoebe’s ghost emerged from the encircling blackness, and drifted gracelessly towards her physical body. However, Phoebe’s spirit appeared to be in a state of inordinate misery and reluctance. She held her hands tightly over her eyes, and screamed beseechingly for her brother to end his unnecessary madness.

“Please, my beloved sister, this is purely the advent of your splendor!” exclaimed William.

Phoebe’s corpse began to animate in an unnatural manner—both her soul and body screeched simultaneously—it was a dimensional instability between the material and spiritual demesnes.

“I have yet to master this practice—and I believe you, my friend, can aid me. I sense the wisdom of your soul—I sense its power—I listen now, and hear you breathe—we must extract your essence,” spoke William to me.

“This is uttermost foolishness—please spare me!” I yelled.

But William did not listen—he began to near me, smiling rather grimly. I did not understand why or how this had all transpired, but it was indeed too late—I dwelled within the only reality which I was rendered—there simply was no leaving the baleful pandemonium.

“Your soul shall, incarnate, respire a Dark Sickness for the very first time—please, do not fear me—I am not mad—I have only a deeper understanding of this life, and beyond. You too will be able to see outside your deplorable flesh,” declared William. “I am dreadfully sorry to say that you cannot decline my offer—this has always been your fate.”

After these words were spoken to me by William, I began to shudder irrepressibly, and felt a negative influence surge through my veins—I could no longer bear my immeasurable fear. Lunging towards William, and after a belligerent quarrel, I began to strangle him pugnaciously—his strength weakened—slowly—slower—and slowest—until his breathing ceased. I felt immense anger and grief. Virginia’s eyes and mouth were agape. I looked towards her, and straightaway she made haste down the attic ladder. I too climbed down and began to pursue her through the house until I heard a blaring cry, proceeded by a loud crash. I rushed over to the stairwell and peered downward—upon the oaken floor, Virginia’s corpse lay brokenly, with a crooked neck. An insidious shadow rose from her gnarled stiff, ascending towards me. The wraith’s shroud swirled spectrally, and a grim pumpkin head reposed within the pointed hood. Its gaunt index finger began to impale my chest—a sharpened smile grew upon its face, with fiery embers aglow inside both jagged eyes. Crying out, aghast by this whelming darkness, I was viciously thrown against the wall, and the entity vanished as a billowing smoke altogether.

* * *

I awoke the following morning, lying upon the hard floor—and a sharp ache clutched my heart. All was silent and undisturbed throughout the house; the leadenness that had once hung over Pope Manor was forever lifted. I sat up, deliberating upon what had occurred—and I began to wonder if the events had actually befallen me. As I carefully peeked over the stairwell railing, I once more saw Virginia Pope’s cadaver—her arms were bent severely—and the neck, twisted. After re-ascending the attic ladder, I was confronted by William Pope’s strangulated corpse. I then instantly recollected what I had done—I felt an admixture of guilt, fear, and dismay—yet I solely committed the act in self-defense. The curiosity that William and Virginia had developed ultimately delivered them to their tragic and misfortunate deaths. Indeed, this was all I could say to comfort myself. Phoebe’s lifeless body still reposed within the same chair—but I do believe her delicate soul had found everlasting rest.

What happened was beyond anything that my mind could have ever conjured from its most abysmal corners—but I needed not comprehend the events—they had concluded. The authorities would have never understood—nor believed—my story. They would have indubitably deemed me responsible for William, Virginia, and Phoebe’s deaths. Henceforth, I retrieved the letter that William had received from me, and departed on horseback—leaving no trace of my presence. I did not even look back once. Their corpses were left to rot with the mansion—and to this day, the brooding Pope Manor stands in decay, as testament to the deathly consequences of an infernal desire—a desire which no mortal should ever hold close to their hearts. The knowledge of which William and Virginia had uncovered unarguably disrupted their lives. I do not believe they were insane, but somehow their minds helplessly became a host for this preternatural wisdom.

I must confess that periodically, I find myself pondering upon the knowledge that William and Virginia had unveiled. And regrettably, a ravenous thirst for this knowledge has infectiously spread throughout my heart. Each time I feel my pulse, there is a wickedness that inexorably slithers through my fingers. I dream of the phantom that rose from Virginia’s body—its carved, pumpkin face remains vivid in my mind—always shall I remember him. These memories evoke a downhearted shadow. I fear that it has become an irreversible fascination—and one day, perhaps it will lead me to a hopeless death. I do not wish to meet the same fate of my friend and his wife—my inner soul feels their dejection. But I am greatly afraid that one day, I shall find myself once again standing before their decrepit home, and spend another evening inside its morose interior. Unto me, a Dark Sickness was borne.

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