The Many Morbid Tales of Spookinite Valley
Ghastly and Veiled
Written by Benjamin Fouché
Quite abruptly, I received a letter from a dear friend who requested that I care for his dwelling while he traveled to deal with earnest family matters. And indeed, my response was to accept and look after his abode. Moreover, he would pay me in recompense for my loyalty. I thus commenced my day’s journey to the remote estate of my friend, William Pope. In the recent years, the only blood relative of William Pope—his sister, Phoebe—had grown increasingly ill. When word was delivered to him, William became confounded and sought after an individual to guard his manor during his absence. Of course, 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 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 sooner. But regardless of the time, and after dismounting my steed, I stood before the Gothic edifice. The porte-cochére greeted me 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 house’s key was left underneath the shrubbery. I scrutinized the garden, when quite suddenly, a draft whirled about the leaves, causing the shutters to swing open and shut—and they knocked violently against the brickwork. During this moment, there came a singular impression—a pervasion of utter darkness.
I paused for a few seconds and observed my surroundings. By this time, it was quite difficult to discern the sylvan landscape beyond the fields; the shades of the night were already drawing over the earth. If there lingered another presence, I was certainly unable to distinguish it. I made haste to find the mansion’s key. When my fingers felt a heavy metallic object under a bush, I knew I had found it. Seizing it, I inserted the key into the lock and turned it. After sounds of ancient iron grinding, the two doors were unlocked. I pushed them open, and entered my friend’s vacant mansion. 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 bolted them. I then felt as if my lonesome spirit stood within an impenetrable fortress. And yet, as I exited the antechamber, I was confronted by many unwelcoming faces that hung upon the walls. Their sharp eyes peered into my heart—needless to say, they were, of course, solely portraits of the long-deceased ancestors of William Pope. I wondered if one of the painted figures would protrude from his or her frame and wail for me to leave—but they all simply did not. The 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 suddenly, I caught a glimpse of a face peering at me from outside one of the tall windows. My instinctive response was to turn away. But for several drawn-out moments, I refused to move. A silence rang. Yet when I finally seized the courage to face the window once more, I realized that the phenomenon was nothing more than my reflection. As I 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 reflection—it was discernibly human and female, yet of an unearthly dimension. A sensation of fright overcame my spirit, and thus I hurried off—horrified that the specter might follow me.
After I made my way into the library, I shut its door and chose to spend an hour or two reading to ease my worries. I 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 by which my friend was so oddly fascinated: 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 I had miraculously uncovered were dust-coated volumes of rare lore—possessing tales of curses, ghouls, 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 fear, wondering if the apparition would glide towards me. After a few dreaded moments passed, the ethereal being faded into the gloom. I endeavored to comprehend the occurrence. Knowing that the spirit was lingering about the library, I decided to retire for the night. Cautiously ascending the manor’s staircase, I watched as the flame of my candleholder cast the shadows of the stairs’ spindles upon the surrounding wall.
At length, I reached the top landing. The floorboards beneath my feet groaned. I knew the guest bedchamber was on the third floor, and so I would have to move through the must-scented apartments of the second story. 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 had I remained in one of the silent rooms for too long—for these thoughts only wrought a relentless disquiet. The dark shapes the candlelight threw from the furniture were 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 radiance flickered within the woodlands.
At the sight of the vanishing light, I became inert and my breathing ceased. 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 flights of stairs and arrived on the third floor. The guest bedchamber was through the doorway to the left, at the end of the hallway. Upon entering my prepared quarters, I shut the door—but before I could lock it, I realized that I did not possess the room’s key. My initial presumption was that William had left the key in the room for me. Nevertheless, my attempts to find this 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, gazing upon my bedchamber’s door—when without warning, the same mist-like figure from the library hazily appeared before me. But this time, the specter seemed 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 forewarn you.”
“To forewarn me of what?” I asked.
“I am Phoebe, the spirit of your friend’s sister,” she said, dolefully.
I was astounded by her words—I did not know what was happening. “Wil—William P-P-Pope’s sister?” I enquired.
“Yes, I fear so,” declared she. “I must admonish you that my brother is not whom 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 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. I therefore traveled to this place to visit my beloved brother. Yet, 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 police where they may find it—for if you do not, many others will perish here, including you.”
The numbness left, and I could soon respond to the revelation. I also began to understand: 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 asked.
“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.
All of a sudden, we heard the sound of faint footfalls. Phoebe’s perception was certainly profounder than my own—her ghostly figure dimmed. She whispered, “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 on to the manor’s roof. “You will be safe once you are on the roof. After you climb on to the ledge, I shall shut the window; they will never know your whereabouts,” she said.
I thanked Phoebe and crawled through the window frame and on to the stone ledge. The window was closed, and slight relief befell me. 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 real. And I do believe that the worst aspect of my predicament was 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 going to find Phoebe’s remains—if they were still recoverable—and for this I hoped. But her corpse could have been anywhere on the grounds of the demesne—the idea of searching the whole estate was overwhelming. Still, my conscience was obstinate and the decision was made. I crawled over the slate shingles until I reached an arched window, from which I could reenter the home. Rather carefully, I slid the window open and climbed back in.
The room in which I found myself was a study—and strewed upon an exceedingly disorganized desk were the writings of an unintelligible language. William Pope’s wife had always made apparent her 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 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 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 mansion.
The next chamber was cluttered with antique furniture—it smelled of dust and decay from long-elapsed centuries. It proved difficult to move through such little space. But the next room was even worse: the floor was in immense disrepair, as many of the floorboards were missing. I then crept through a doorway and into a stairwell. I wished Phoebe would reappear to me, for I was lost in an arcane dominion. After descending the winding stairs, I wandered through endless corridor after endless corridor.
When I, at length, made it back down to the first story of the manor, the footsteps of either William or Virginia resounded—this sound was enough to place any mortal upon the very edge of his 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 heart became louder. The sound of his heavy shoes created a forbidding rhythm: CLUMP—THUD—CLUMP—THUD. It drew me mad—it led unto me an illness from the shadows—and never would this mental disease spare its victim!
But lastly, the terrible noises ceased—it appeared that I was spared. I wanted nothing more than to leave my former friend’s abode—yet I could not allow others to fall asleep under William and Virginia’s deception. I had to find poor Phoebe’s cadaver, for I could not abandon her ghost. Furthermore, I was obliged to end the lunacy of the Pope family. I could not begin to envision how many others had hitherto met their demise at this purgatory. These thoughts weighed upon my shoulders—but willingly, I carried them. After a few more moments of waiting, I stepped into the hallway. The cellar would be my next place of the home to investigate. Perhaps I would find Phoebe’s body there.
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 haunting—comparable to the unhallowed sound of souls shrieking in one great profusion of agony. The damp floor and walls of the cellar were constructed from limestone—and the stonework was quite uneven. It appeared some portions of it had already collapsed. At the bottom of the crumbling steps was a cavity—and one area had been swallowed by a subterranean, black, ink-like lake. I searched for quite some time. Alas, Phoebe’s body was nowhere to be found. I even stepped into the ebon waters and moved my hand through the slime and muck. Yet the corpse of Phoebe was not recovered.
I began to doubt: mayhap, her body was burned to ashes, or buried far away. It was impossible to know where it was located—or what was done to it for that matter. Was my journey futile? I knelt upon the cold cellar floor. I eyed my distorted reflection in the dull, underground pond, struggling to comprehend the events. But all at once—in the midst of my self-pity—there called out a half-audible cry. It was Phoebe. I hastened up the stairwell and back into the interior of the house. Yet again, I heard the imploring screams of Phoebe. Onwards, I rushed through several corridors and up the staircase to the second floor of the home.
Phoebe wailed again—the anguishing sounds were more acute by this time. Advancing forward, and up the second stairwell, I heard the cries begin to die—where was Phoebe? As I heard one final imploration, I understood her voice was emanating from the attic—but I did not know where the entrance to the attic was. While I opened each door, looking for the attic stairway, another voice pierced my ears: it was Virginia—William’s equally cruel wife,
“William and I have something quite fascinating to present to you—I think you will find amusement in our wondrous discovery,” she said.
I took backward steps, 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 uncertainty.
There was a cracking sound. She spoke again, “Phoebe is in the attic—come see the gift that we so generously bestow upon you.”
The 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 a compulsion to flee—yet I ascended the attic’s steep stairway. Upon entering the attic, I saw William Pope standing before me with a grin upon his face. Phoebe’s corpse drooped over 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 for your stay here at Pope Manor. Virginia, please come join us for the grand demonstration.”
Virginia 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 soon be answered.
“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 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 outlandish language—it did not even sound as if his tongue were 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 enwrapped us all. Phoebe’s ghost emerged from the blackness and drifted gracelessly towards her physical body. However, Phoebe’s spirit appeared to be in a state of misery and reluctance. She held her hands tightly over her eyes, and screamed for her brother to stop.
“Please, my beloved sister, this is purely the advent of your splendor!” exclaimed William.
Phoebe’s corpse animated in an unnatural manner—both her soul and body screeched simultaneously—it was a dimensional instability between the material and spiritual worlds.
“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 too,” William said to me.
“This is lunacy—please spare me!” I yelled.
But William did not listen—he neared me, uncaring.
“Your soul shall, incarnate, absorb The 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 shuddered and felt an influence surge through my veins—I could no longer bear my immeasurable fear. Lunging towards William, and after a fight, I strangled him—his strength weakened. Slowly. Slower. And slowest. Then, his breathing ceased. I felt anger and grief when I saw my friend’s dead, unmoving eyes. Virginia was speechless. I looked towards her, wanting to end her life as well. She thus made haste down the attic stairway. I too rushed down and pursued her through the house until I heard a cry proceeded by a loud crash. I hurried over to the stairwell leading to the second story and peered downward: upon the oaken floor, Virginia’s pale, white corpse lay brokenly, with a crooked neck. Then, an insidious shadow rose from her stiff, ascending towards me. The wraith’s shroud swirled and a grim pumpkin head stared at me from within the hood. His gaunt finger impaled my chest—a sharpened smile grew upon his face, with fiery embers aglow inside both scowling eyes. Yelling, aghast, I was thrown against the wall, and the entity vanished altogether…
I awoke the following morning, lying upon the hard floor. A sharp ache clutched my heart. All was silent and undisturbed throughout the house. I sat up, deliberating upon what had occurred—did I truly witness everything that night? As I peeked over the stairwell railing, I once more saw Virginia Pope’s cadaver—her arms were bent—and the neck, twisted. After re-ascending the attic stairway, I was confronted by William Pope’s corpse. I then recollected what I had done and felt guilt, fear, and dismay—yet I solely committed the act to defend myself. Furthermore, the curiosity that William and Virginia had developed ultimately delivered them to their tragic deaths. Indeed, this was all I could say to comfort myself and evade my punishing conscience. Phoebe’s body still reposed within the chair—but I do believe her 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 deemed me responsible for William, Virginia, and Phoebe’s deaths. Therefore, 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, Pope Manor stands in decay, as a testament to the deathly consequences of an infernal desire. The knowledge of which William and Virginia had uncovered destroyed 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 unveiled. And a ravenous thirst for this knowledge has spread throughout my heart. Each time I feel my pulse, there is a wickedness that slithers through my fingers. I dream of the phantom that rose from Virginia’s body—its carved, pumpkin face remains vivid in my mind. And these memories evoke a 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; for my inner soul feels their dejection. But I am afraid that one day, I shall find myself once again standing before their decrepit home. I confess, unto me, The Dark Sickness was borne.
© Spookinite.com - All text, music and photographs by Benjamin A. Fouché