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 The Many Morbid Tales of Spookinite Valley

Morley
Written by Benjamin Fouché

I.

The baleful occurrences commenced during the autumn of the year.  It was during the unforgettable month of October; the veil was thin and all peculiarities were feasible.  It wasperhapsthe most anticipated of all four seasons: a time in which the profoundest of dark fancies are romanticizeda time in which grim stories are whispered to one another.  Indeed, in this mortal realm, there are dreams that are given life only during the blackest hour of night.  But perhaps, it would be rather foolish to use a vague word such as ‘dream’ to describe these terrors.  Mayhap, there is not a single word of any tongue which can illustrate them.  But these fears certainly exist, as our forefathers passed down the curious warning of The Dark Sickness.  The mere enquiry of where he comes from is unfathomable.  Nevertheless, one may discover that the question of why he exists is twice as incomprehensible.  What is certain is that he has chosen and spawned fiends into our world.  Little did the townsfolk in the desolate Vermont community of Hemlock know that they would be confronted by such a fiend one dark October.

To begin with, this particular fear came from Spookinite Valley.  A yearning for terror and torment bade him forth and agitated his thirst for wickedness.  Leaves of orange, gold, and ruby dwindled from the trees that overlooked Hemlock from the mountainsides.  The leaves soared into the cobblestone streets, whispering the hymn of autumn and stirring the dreams of the restless.  Pumpkins rested upon the stoops and doorsteps of the humble houses.  The wind brushed against the slate shingles and seized the smoke whence drifted from the chimneys.  Horses trod, carriages trundled, pies were baked, children hurried about to and fro; it was indeed a majestic season.  Alas, the townsfolk knew not of the advent of this wretched fearthe fear that was borne again from the proceeding, silent nightfallthe fear that was borne again from the quiet evening of October 5th, 1851.

This nightstalker arrived in the farmlands outside of Hemlock during the lull of the nocturnal hours.  Crisp drafts twirled the leaves down the pathways, causing them to dance in a rather ghostly profusion.  The trees whistled whilst the winds rushed through the heavens.  Dark clouds streaked across the moon and cast shadows through the pallor of the silver rays.  One may have considered this night to be ideal for a frightful tale.  Indeed, the night of October 5th would have been a quite potent inspiration for the aspiring poets and writers of Gothic Romanticism.  But perhaps this forbidding preciseness was the direct cause of the imminent fear.  And this fear’s name was Morley. He roamed about like a lone jester in his antique, puppeteer wagon.  The cat-like pupils of Morley’s crimson eyes gazed upon the landscape.  And each eye was decorated with a black streak of paint that ran from the bottom of the forehead to the top of the cheek.  He stared further upon the helplessness of the temporal world, and a half-leer grew from his black, ink-like, painted smile.  His ashen hands quivered with excitement while he thought threatening thoughts.  Developing within his sullied heart was the longing for madness; the screams and implorations of the living were carols to his ears. 

Hitherto October 5th, all slept restfully.  But during the evening of the 5th, all rested quite uneasily.  The gusts brushed the emerald-silken, curled hair of Morley as he dismounted his carriage.  His wicked desires enthralled him.  He glanced north.  He glanced south.  He glanced east.  He glanced west.  Every soul yonder all sight would be his.  All that Morley needed now was for the inquisitive to become imprisoned within their curiosities forevermore.  How amusing these looming times would be.  And yet, it is unfortunate to acknowledge how horrific the events would be for the townspeople of Hemlock.  Nonetheless, there would be much hilarity to be found in the terror.  Of course, only by Morley.  He adjusted his four, oversized buttons upon his purple clothing.  His pasty, bare feet protruded from underneath the wavy cuffs of his outfit.  Breathing, Morley hurled out his arms in an embracing manner, knowing that his demesne of lunacy was to claim Hemlock.  Morley paced along the lonely road, when suddenly, a farmhouse seized his attention.  Upon a hillock stood the simple dwelling.  Smiling, Morley advanced towards the house and entered uninvited.  There were several agonizing shrieks and violent thuds until all had quieted.  A cauldron was lit in the scythed field, and its liquids boiled.  Whatever transpired that night at the poor farmer’s abode was indeed ghastly.  Morley’s reign of fear was ignited.  And such darkness was spilled into the soil, poisoning the earth with a sprouting sickness: a Dark Sickness.  Very soon, all would seeall eyes would open and remain fixed upon the amuser of insanity.  And the dark wraith would encourage and provoke Morley to carry forth his unhallowed deeds. 

II.

October 6th did not offer any sunlight; instead, an overcast masked the heavens.  It was near four o’ clock p.m. when the stranger was first discerned among the townsfolk.  A singular wagon stood before the fork of two pathways.  The worn shutters of the carriage’s show window were open.  And behind the glass hung draperies concealing the many arcane marvels that were to be exhibited.  Soon, rolling towards the fork was old Mrs. Clara in her dray; as usual, she was heading into town to fetch a few goods.  She halted her steed while studying the odd carriage with her old, vulture-like eyes.  An enchanting force allured her forward.  Why was this wagon here to begin with?  And to whom could it conceivably belong?  It was as if the only importance of this moment were to understand the purpose of the wagon.  The curtains behind the shadowed window cloaked something.  Something dark.  Something bewildering.  Something she had never seen in all of her lifetime.

While she stared upon the carriage, its door came open.  The lone jester gazed upon the aged gentlewoman as he stepped down.  Bowing, Morley held out his pale hand, beckoning down Mrs. Clara.  Feeling alarmed, she made her steed turn away, countering Morley’s poor attempt at friendliness.  And yet, there still lingered about a sensation of magnetism regarding the stranger.  The old woman eyed the wagon, and then Morley once more.  Without uttering a single word, Morley seized an item from a pocket on his ridiculous outfit: a silver pocket watch.  Opening the item of antiquity, Morley presented it to Mrs. Clara with his finger placed upon five-thirty.  She understood what the stranger meant by his gesture: the show was to begin at five-thirty p.m.  Nodding, Mrs. Clara replied, “I shall return then.” Morley, too, nodded, with the blood-red glare in his irises.  He thereafter crept back into his carriage.  The old woman hurried off into Hemlock to retrieve her items at a shop on the main street.  While riding into town, she peered over her shoulders on several occasions, as if expecting to see the stranger behind her.

Upon opening the shop’s door, she was greeted by the keeper, Mr. Godwyn, with a cheerfulness that appeared to frighten away her fear.

“Greetings, Mrs. Clara.  How may I assist you on this dreary afternoon?” Mr. Godwyn asked.

“I’m in need of a pound of flour, a jar of molasses, half a pound of butter, and two sacks of coffee beans,” she said, with the usual gloomy expression illustrated upon her face.

“Will that be all?” asked Mr. Godwyn.

“Yes,” replied Mrs. Clara. 

“This day has been rather odd,” whispered the shopkeeper.

Mrs. Clara spoke, “Yes, it has.  While I was heading into town, I came upon something.”

“What was it?” questioned Mr. Godwyn.

“I found myself within view of a show wagon.  It stood at the fork.  I slowed my horse to get a better look, but someone came out of the wagonthe owner, I supposebut he didn’t speaknot even a murmur.  However, he did take out a pocket watch and pointed to five-thirty.”

“Five-thirty this evening?” he asked.

“Yes.  I can only assume that he was indicating the time of his show,” answered Mrs. Clara.  She then added, “He is dressed like a jester, yet there is no hilarity to be found in him.  I didn’t feel at ease being near the stranger.”

“Did you feel as though he wanted to harm you?” Mr. Godwyn asked.

“I’m not certain.  Perhaps that’s the reason for my concern,” answered the elderly gentlewoman.

“Why has he come here to Hemlock?” thought aloud the shopkeeper. “A hidden town.  I thought it would be rareor nonexistentfor visitors to find this small community.” Pausing for a brief moment, Mr. Godwyn continued, “What kind of amusing acts does this clown perform?”

“I’m not sure what he does.  All that I saw behind the window were curtains,” she said.

“Well then, I shall have to come along with you and see whatever it is that this jester offers.  The store will close half an hour early today,” spoke Mr. Godwyn.

“Then I shall leave at that time as well,” stated the old woman.

The shop closed at four-thirty p.m. after Mrs. Clara purchased her items.  She thus set off with the shopkeeper to see what wonders the inexplicable clown would offer.  Two other residents of Hemlockthe owner and assistant of the town theater, Mr. Hibbard and Mr. Tarranthad overheard the conversation in the shop and chose to follow Mr. Godwyn and old Mrs. Clara.  All agreed to take precaution when approaching the lone jester’s wagon.  Through the twilight, the four advanced towards the fork outside of Hemlock.  The fallen leaves of the Silver Maples and Red Oaks swept away from the pathway as they continued.  And ghosts and ebony cats lingered hauntingly about the small cemeteries.  At length, they found themselves upon the carriage.  A light could be distinguished through the curtains, and many crimson candles had been placed atop the wagon.  The flickering glow from within irradiated the seeping, ruby candlewax on the window.  The townsfolk nervouslyand hesitantlywaited for the stranger to appear before them.  At five-thirty, the stranger still had not yet made an appearance outside his wagon.  And soon thereafter, Mr. Godwyn, Hibbard, and Tarrant doubted Mrs. Clara. 

Nonetheless, before the three residents of Hemlock chose to abandon her, the carriage door came ajar.  A ray of light shone upon the four figures that stood within the darkness.  And while the ray widened, the stranger descended the four steps of his wagon.  Bowing, Morley thereafter approached the inhabitants and stared into their eyes.  All feared to make the slightest of any movement.  Morley did not speak, and perhaps this was the reason he inflicted such fear within the four occupants of Hemlock.  Once the eccentric initiation had ceased, Morley walked back into his carriage.  The anticipation was of the unknown.  The stranger did not explain the acts that he would be performing.  Morley’s shadow could be seen from behind the draperies.  He appeared to be drawing something unseen from the side into the view of the show window.  The object hung from the wagon’s ceiling.  Morley’s shadow then faced the window, as if ready to heave the curtains aside.  And all at once, the curtains opened.

Morley proudly stood beside a horrid and torturous thing.  Suspended from the ceiling, inside the carriage, was what appeared to be the body of an old man.  The head leaned over the arched shoulders, facing the floor with its widened mouth and hollowed eye sockets.  Thin ropes had been thrust and tied through holes in the thing’s wrist and ankle bones.  Two less visible threads had been sewn through the grisly creation’s jawbones: it was a puppet.  A pipe organ stood behind the grotesque figure.  Morley peered at them through the glass, and thereupon stepped towards the organ.  Seating himself, he began to emanate distorted melodies from the windpipes and manipulate the dangling figure, causing it to make unnatural movements.  The puppet dispersed noises: lengthy, whispery, unbearable, and deathly inhalesas if suffocating.  Perhaps what chilled the very marrow within the bones of the four guests was the person they saw within the puppet.  It was dear, old Farmer Butler.  For countless years he had sustained his venerable reputation among the other prosperous residents.  But now, to see this odious representation of Mr. Butlerit was sickening!  This abominable thing could not have possibly been Mr. Butler?  Oh, but it was indeed!  Morley smiled even morelistening to his audience’s beating hearts.

They all endeavored to disperse what they believed were to be their very own shrieks and implorationsyet no breath could escape their tightening lungs.  A numbness slithered through their nerves while they all made futile attempts to mount their horses.  One by one, they collapsed upon the earth.  They were only rendered their vision and consciousness.  Morley leapt from his carriage and neared the unmoving inhabitants of Hemlock.  How they longed to cry out in fear.  And yet, they could not.  Contrary to their own sentiments, it was humorousto Morley, of course.  One by one, they were each seized and hurled over the fiend’s broad shoulders.  When the final victim was carried into the wagon, Morley shut its door.  The draperies were drawn over the window, and the shadowed figures of each miserable soul could be scarcely seen hanging from the carriage’s ceiling.  But the candlelight faded, and all went silent.

 

III.

While the children rushed together to the old schoolhouse on October 7th, one of the boys paused and glanced towards Mr. Godwyn’s shop—something was not right.  Curious, the young boy approached the store and peered through the shadowed window.  The interior was dark, quiet, and dead.  It was not customary for the shop to still be closed by seven o’ clock.  Where had Mr. Godwyn gone?  But a voiced thundered from behind the boy, “Step away from the window, lad.” The child turned to face the direction of the voice; he realized that it was the shopkeeper. “Get out of my sight, brat!” The young boy made haste to get far from him.  Mr. Godwyn stared upon the boy, thereafter opening his shop.  As noon shifted into afternoon, Mrs. Clara rode into town on the southeastern street of Hemlock.  Her eyesmore venomous.  Her scowlgrimmer than before.  And her nosesharper.  The aged woman’s steed even shared parallel features.  While two young girls, who would always greet Mrs. Clara, played on the side of the street, they sensed a darkness about the elderly woman.  In their observant minds, it was as if Mrs. Clara had become a witch.  This brooding mistress glared upon the two, small girls.

As Mrs. Clara approached the shop, she stared in many directions, curious to see if another fellow patron was nearing the store too.  When she entered, the shopkeeper shared a dark glance.  Both waited, until a young gentleman, Mr. Winfield, moved through the doors.

“Good afternoon, sir,” spoke Mrs. Clara to the shopkeeper while she purchased a few goods.  She thus continued, with very distinct language so that Mr. Winfield might notice, “You could not begin to invest faith into what it was that I saw while traveling to your store.”

“What was it that you saw, Mrs. Clara?” Mr. Godwyn asked quite loudly. 

“My eyes beheld a fascinating sight: it was a show wagon,” she spoke, hoping to seize the attention of the other patron in the store.

“Perhaps there might be a show tonightwhat type of show do you suppose it shall be?” enquired Mr. Godwyn.

“A show with many amusing puppets,” replied the old woman.

It was by this exact time that young Mr. Winfield overheard the shopkeeper and elderly woman’s conversation.  He moved closer towards them.

“And at what time will this puppet show begin?” enquired the shopkeeper, knowing the other patron was listening.

“At five-thirty this evening,” answered Mrs. Clara, making certain that Mr. Winfield heeded her words.

“Well then, I shall have to close at four thirty this eveningI am quite eager to see the show,” spoke Mr. Godwyn.  He thus continued, “Oh, and where will this show take place?”

“On a plot of land at Mr. Butler’s farm,” responded Mrs. Clara.

“Very well then.  Shall I see you there tonight?”

“Yes.” After saying this, she departed with her items.

Mr. Winfield walked to the shopkeeper’s counter and placed his goods on the scale. “A puppet show, you say?”

A smile lit up upon Mr. Godwyn’s face. “Yes, evidently,” he spoke. “I presume you shall be heading there tonight as well?”

“Yes, I shall indeed,” declared Mr. Winfield. “I shall bring my betrothed, Annabelle, as well.  She has always been charmed by puppets.”

“Very goodI hope to see you two there tonight as well,” said the shopkeeper.

Mr. Winfield left the store, and the shopkeeper was alone.  He grinned insidiously.

By four-thirty, the shop closed, and dusk settled upon the earth.  The streets of Hemlock were dim, and the encircling countryside was shadowy.  Mr. Winfield and Miss Annabelle set off on horseback to witness the alleged spectacle.  The night encompassed their bearingsbecoming blacker and blacker.  The lantern which Mr. Winfield wielded proved to be of vain use, as his vision was nearly lost.  But lastly, upon nearing the entrance to Mr. Butler’s farmstead, the couple felt a sensation of uneasiness slither into their bones.  While they proceeded beyond the open gates, the two dared to continue along through the stillness of dusk.  In a field, Morley’s enticing wagon stood lonesome.  The delicate curtains were, of course, shutbut the silhouettes of large, puppet-like figures could be distinguished from behind them.  There were two chairs placed before the show wagonreserved for the two young souls who were awaiting the much-anticipated performance.  Mr. Winfield and Miss Annabelle thought it was unusual: why only two chairs?  And where were Mr. Godwyn and Mrs. Clara?  Perhaps they would soon be joining.  In the meantime, Winfield and Annabelle seated themselves.

They waited.  But stillwithout seeing the old woman, nor the shopkeeper, vast apprehension whelmed their souls.  Mr. Winfield nervously took out his pocket watch to observe the time.  In the weak glow of the candlelight, he could discern what appeared to be five-thirty p.m.  But the door of the carriage swung open, and before the anxious couple was none other than Morley.  Bowing, Morley extended his arms in a welcoming manner.  Thereafter, the odd jester trudged back into his wagon.  The clown thereupon returned with two small, glass flasks, filled with a violet liquid: they were elixirsa gesture of appreciation towards his two guests.  He approached both Mr. Winfield and Miss Annabelle, attempting to give them the elixirs. “No thank you,” spoke Winfield, with a fearfulness in his voice, as he declined Morley’s selfless offer.  There was an offended expression upon Morley’s face, despite his black, poorly painted smile.  In an instant, Morley grew vengeful and bitter; he flung the two elixirs upon the ground, causing them to shatter.  The two visitors’ steed was frightened and galloped away.  Eyeing the gentleman, Morley clutched on to him.  They both struggled, but at length, Morley proved to hold the most strength.  The young woman shrieked while she hastened away from the carriage.  Morley’s attention forsook the now-unconscious Mr. Winfield and fastened on to poor Miss Annabelle. 

Rushing through the hilly field of pumpkins and severed corn roots, the young woman freed many screams.  She stumbled upon hardened vines and scythed corn roots.  Morley was becoming nearer by the second.  Perhaps if Miss Annabelle hurried farther, she would be able to leap over the fence.  Alas, without warning, a pumpkin vine caught her foot, and she plummeted on to the earth.  Morley snatched her while she cried aloud.  However, Morley did not care the slighteston the contrary, she amused him as he dragged her farther into the shadowed field.  Her screams were fruitless, for nobody could hear them.  Miss Annabelle and her soon-to-be husband were thereafter reunited: both were bound to their chairs with a rope.  After Mr. Winfield awoke from the pandemonium, Morley resumed his show.  The curtains were drawn apart and there before the couple hung two unnatural beings.  Nevertheless, they were quite recognizable: Mrs. Clara and Mr. Godwynthey dangled like puppets.  Morley grinned at his two guests through the window, afterwards hurrying towards his pipe organ.  While Morley commenced the manipulation of his repulsive crafts, Winfield and Annabelle both wailed.  This agitated Morley.  Ceasing his performance, he approached his two visitors, seized two old cloths from his pocket, and gagged them.  When his ears could no longer hear the sound of their irritating voices, he returned to his carriage.

Dismantling the puppets, Morley hurled the two unhallowed creations over his shoulders and brought them forth to Mr. Winfield and Miss Annabelle.  He then hung the corpse-puppet of old Mrs. Clara before Annabelle and the corpse-puppet of Mr. Godwyn before Winfield.  The poor participants’ inaudible shrieks endured for an unsparing eternity, until two other figures stepped out from both sides of Morley.  Indeed, they were the impostors seen earlier that day at the store.  The two disturbed victims’ eyes widened.  Were they truly experiencing this lunacy?  The figures became a mist and swirled through the window of the carriage into the pipe organ.  It emanated uninviting melodies and the puppets in Morley’s hands moved convulsively.  Each of the two hollowed-out, body dummies inhaled—it seemed the eyeless eye-sockets were also gasping, as if they too were mouths.  Both victims perished of excessive anguish and fear.  Morley smiled and thus began his work to construct new ones.


IV.

October 8th came upon the calendars of the Hemlock townspeople.  This particular day of the month seemed ordinary in every respect.  Nothing appeared to be out of place.  The residents all went about their day, hurrying amongst themselves to and fro.  Outside the town were the festival grounds.  On special occasions, the majority of the inhabitants would meet there for entertainment.  The owner of the theater and festival grounds, Mr. Hibbard, and his assistant, Mr. Tarrant, were to host ‘a grand illustration of dancing figures’ on the evening of October 8th.  At morning, the two went their ways to spread the word.  Mr. Hibbard strode to several shops to hand out invitation pamphlets.  Those who were invited became quite fond of the idea that a spectacle of puppets was to take place.  Mr. Tarrant halted several townsfolk on the streets, pleading with them to come see.  Many more became intrigued, and before dusk, nearly everyone desired to witness this marvelous show.  Mystical puppets, elixirs of immortality, humorous acts, and cheerful musicmany things were promised to those who would come.  And as the day diminished beneath the twilight, the occupants of Hemlock followed one another to the festival grounds.

But soon, fear, reluctance, and disquiet were the emotions that were summoned upon the minds of those walking nearer and nearer.  Half-audible melodies could be heard emanating from the distance.  What furthered the fear was the familiarity in the distorted melodies.  Sluggishly, the music became more distinct and offensive.  Mists soon rose—churning about the shadowy landscape.  When the townsfolk arrived at the festival grounds, they all observed the carriage and a large canvas tent.  Candlelight flickered from inside the tent and around the wagon.  The peculiar music was prolonged while everyone entered and seated him or herself.  Many waited, watching for Mr. Hibbard and Mr. Tarrant.  Yet neither became present that evening.  Even so, there was a rather unwholesome host.  And his name was Morley.  Thus, he silently paced through the audience and into the center of the tent.  When all beheld his appearance, they developed a sentiment of uncertainty but were willing to stay and see what amusements the clown had to offer.  Morley stood among all of them, with his painted, ebon, grin.  His blood-red eyes peered into the fearful souls of those staring back.  He breathed deeper, drawing each inhale and exhale through his violet, bulbous, ball-like nose. 

Without speaking a word, Morley bowed towards the inhabitants of Hemlock—gratified that they had come to his show.  Morley thereafter leapt through his onlookers and out of the tent.  The music stopped, and all were left in silence.  The occupants of Hemlock whispered amongst each other—curious to see what was to happen next.  Then, the pipe organ music penetrated the stillness once more—and shadowed, dangling bodies descended from the darkness above.  As the inhabitants of Hemlock saw the figures lower from the shadows, they all whispered to one another.  When the candlelight shone upon the first puppet, panic and horror was the immediate response of the crowd.  An empty body dangling in the air created wretched sounds, as if breathless—gasping for air through its hollow eye sockets and mouth.  Soon, the second cadaver-puppet dropped—Mr. Butler.  Then a third, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, and a seventh!  All of these hanging dummies bore familiar faces—these faces were all too well-acquainted—they were real.

Shrieks, screams, and cries arose from the festival grounds.  The puppets extended their gaunt hands outwards and brushed against the shoulders and necks of the townsfolks, who were by then fleeing out of the canvas tent.  Morley exited his carriage and beheld the extraordinary sight of everyone running in fear—he could only wonder why the living were so foolish.  Without sparing a moment, Morley skulked into the panicked crowd unseen.  Each person was soon afflicted by a vertigo of horror—witnessing illusionary visions.  The mists encircled all who hastened through them, seizing their senses and replacing each one with a hallucination.  Forms and variations of darkness wriggled and darted in many directions while the amethyst hazes rose higher.  Those affected felt something graze against their backs and arms.  Indeed, one may have heard an imploration for mercy from the distance as he or she wandered farther away, into the vast unknown—and how amusing this was to Morley.  Many other screams of suffering cried out over the midnight landscape during the whole of that evening.  Morley took each victim and dragged him or her to the wrought-iron kettles that he had placed across the fields.  And into the silence, there came several sounds of boiling liquid—many cauldrons had been ignited altogether.  Morley leered; he thrust each victim into the scorching pots.  And the victims felt a paralysis sidle through their bodies whilst their heads were submerged into the crimson, glowing liquids.  Morley worked on them one by one.  Later that night, he stood, observing his puppets with such pride.

The final resident to remain in Hemlock was Mayor Copperfield, who refused to attend the puppet show earlier that evening.  After remaining in his office for several additional hours, he left the town hall.   While walking down the main thoroughfare of Hemlock, the shadows stalked about—peering out from within the darkness of the narrow alleyways as they did.  Mayor Copperfield quickened each step that he took.  He quivered in the coldness that enwrapped his spirit and hurried, but the scuttling shadows were faster.  As he neared his house, he eyed his surroundings.  Seeing nothing, the mayor seized the key from his waistcoat’s pocket and inserted it into his door’s lock.  The mechanism made a wretched noise while he turned the key—this was very odd, for the lock of the mayor’s door had never done this in the past.  Perhaps the house was simply an aged structure—for what else could Mayor Copperfield have told himself?  He moved on to the floor of his foyer.  Igniting the wick of his candleholder, he peered into the three doorways leading from the antechamber, as if he feared somebody were lying in wait for him. 

The parlor to the left was empty, as was the dining room to the right.  The kitchen, too, was without the presence of another soul.  Once gratified by his belief that no other living being was present, he ascended the stairway.  And upon entering his bedchamber, he was greeted by someone: the draperies of his window were swirling in such a way that one might have suspected someone was standing behind them.  The mayor was inert as he watched the hangings undulate before him.  Mayhap, the window was only left open—of course it was!  Chuckling to himself, Mayor Copperfield approached the curtains.  But before he was even able to pull them apart, he noticed something that caused his heart’s beating to end once more—two broad, bare, pale feet protruded from underneath the drapes.  During that moment, it felt as if time itself had died—a quietness rang through his ears.  The mayor dared not advance further, for he feared the entity behind the draperies would lunge outward.  For a moment, he deliberated upon all of the horrifying possibilities—who was it that was standing behind the curtains and what did the encroacher want?  Mayor Copperfield could not have known. 

He was only rendered the option to act then.  And finally, all at once, he made up his mind: he was going to flee.  As the mayor rushed out of his bedchamber, he heard the footfalls of the being pursuing him down the staircase.  Mr. Copperfield bolted from his home and cried out.  Yet it appeared no one could hear his wails.  And down the main street, thousands of darkened shadows inched forth, pulling Morley’s wagon.  The violet vapors danced over and under the carriage.  The puppet corpses of every resident then descended from the heavens and stared at the mayor.  He beseeched, but they all grabbed on to him while Morley watched.  With many wails and cries, Mayor Copperfield unwillingly joined Morley’s ill-willed carnival.  And the puppets promptly hollowed him.  Those watching through their windows in the rural outskirts heard the bells tolling from the town’s church steeple.  Hundreds of whirlwinds swept through the countryside, emanating from Hemlock while Morley and his parade marched forth.  The gale only strengthened and countless leaves scattered through the hilly landscape.  The shutters knocked against the farmhouses.  Time was indeed fading, for Morley’s ghastly parade had already dispersed.  The windows of each home were soon shattered, and the puppets’ emaciated hands reached inwards.  The residents shrieked in torment as they fled their abodes.

Making haste, the misfortunate inhabitants hurried through the gusts of wind.  But not far behind, the puppets followed.  Morley grinned with such pleasure as he heard the faint screams and bellows of his deplorable victims.  They were such fascinating creatures.  Many of the people collapsed upon the earth—overwhelmed by the puppets.  Only a young woman and her widowed mother held enough perseverance to outlast Morley’s grand finale—yet their minds were broken.  Morley neared each paralyzed victim and knelt beside him—he peered into their inert eyes, thereupon dragging the bodies away, and hurling them into his carriage.  Thunder from yonder sounded, and the powerful air subsided as Morley eyed his surroundings.  It was no more that Hemlock was a town—it had died within three nights.  But nobody would have ever known—for Hemlock remained unnoticed by all until the end of October.  It was one stranger alone that deprived Hemlock of all.  And even if—perchance—Hemlock were to reestablish its once prosperous township, nevermore would it be the same.  While Morley marched to his carriage, he smiled as The Dark Sickness grimly whispered into his ear, “I am rather amused.”

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