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 The Many Morbid Tales of Spookinite Valley

The Winston Manor Mortuary
Written by Benjamin Fouché

"Dark Remembrance " by Morbus Tenebris

I.

The lull and dismal hour of that late October evening had arrived unexpectedly––just a mere knocking on my parlor’s door, and then, to my surprise, there lay a coffin upon my mortuary’s stoop.  Grimly leaning against the coffin was its lid; a melancholy reminder of one’s demise.  And a note, tucked underneath the narrow, gaunt fingers of the corpse. Oddly enough, it gave me the directions to where its burial was to take place.  The paper specifically stated that the lid should be nailed atop the coffin at the grave site.  My delivery was to be prompt, and if I arrived on time, my pay would be rather handsome.  Of course, despite how unusual this may have seemed, I undertook the task. Before becoming fully aware of the morbid actuality, I was already chauffeuring my patron in the hearse.  I remember questioning myself; at such a late hour of the evening, where could this undertaking possibly lead me?  The gray, oppressive gloom had lingered in the heavens that day, but shortly after nightfall, it had transfigured into a thick, ebony shroud which enveloped the twilight in the vast horizon.

From what I can recall, there was a disconcerting draft of cold air that lightly brushed the draperies of my hearse––but what uneased my spirit most was the corpse lying in the back––there was no lid, and thus a baleful sensation trickled down my spine.  Perhaps I feared it would abruptly rise from its reposing position––watching me––with such an unnatural grin.  The visions were all too lurid in my mind, and so, I peered over my shoulders.  As anticipated, the body was soundless and unmoving.  There was no moonlight to help us gain our bearings. Only the vague, wavering flame of my sconce could guide us through the persisting darkness.  My steeds persevered through the opaque duskiness, and above us hung tree limbs.  They appeared as draping shadows––spiny claws and talons––but all they seemed to be was purely by my very own imagination. Nothing less, and nothing more.

While steering my hearse through the unrelenting dreariness, I passed through the sullen cemetery gates.  My surroundings had noticeably altered quite quickly––the menacing breeze had deadened and the only discernible noise was the clucking of my horses’ hooves upon the cobblestone path.  At the very top of the hill was where I was to lay the body to rest.  The black haze had obscured most of my sight, and thus, I was unable to tell if someone was above, awaiting my arrival upon the shaded hillock.  The darkened landscape that encircled me seemed to shift after every movement––black shapes and figures stirring hither and thither wherever my light shown.  The lofty trees scattered about hung their gnarled arms over many graves.  Their roots had slithered through the soil over a hundred years, and slowly claimed the tombstones––causing them to become crooked and crumbled.

Farther on, we began ascending the bleak hillside.  The path was exceedingly steep and it weaved through a dense woodland. Many of the strangled headstones were buried among dead leaves––some of which were even swallowed by the remorseless earth.  Surprisingly, there were no restless critters––nothing crawling through the withered leaves––no perched owl hooting––not even the chirping of a lone cricket.  It was all too disquieting.   While nearing the end of the desolate path, I became immensely unnerved––for I did not see a single lantern in sight.  And where was the one who wrote the note attached to the corpse?  I cautiously stepped down from my hearse and calmed my horses.  Over the insufferable quietness, I softly called out many times, but alas; there was no reply.  Henceforth, it was quite evident that I was the only soul standing amidst the isolation of the deserted graveyard.

Swiftly turning back towards the hearse, I suddenly realized that something was indeed out of place––the coffin was empty. In an instant, my eyes widened––I quivered and felt my heart tighten.  My breathing intensity consumed my lungs whilst my heartbeat was strangled by an anxiety of great acuteness; I was not alone––for I knew that I would soon be confronted by this living cadaver.  Aghast and dismayed, I turned in many directions.  My struggle to evade the unnatural occurrence inexorably endured.  And all at once, I sharply came face to face with the thing I had previously presumed to be a dead body.  Upon the corpse's timeworn face was a downhearted frown.  He curiously stared into my bemused eyes for a few moments, and then spoke dolefully.

“What are the deceased?”

I could not answer, and for a while, we both remained silent.  A weak whirlwind disturbed the leaves around us as he began abhorrently leering in the light of the hearse’s sconce.

“All we are, my friend, is merely a reminder of the past.  So what does your insight say about this place, and your work?”

As foolish as I was, I could not grasp his philosophical question.

“You must open your eyes, good sir.  Among the earth are many mysteries and secrets––buried, concealed and long forgotten. They are far beyond the realm of the living’s simplistic comprehension.  Now then, do you understand?”

I shook my head, still unable to see the things that he could see.

A few stretching clouds parted and a gleam of majestic moonlight gracefully descended upon us.  While I was watching him, I realized that there was an uncanny characteristic about his face––it was aging drastically.

“All that we seem to be when we live is no different from when we are dead.”

There before me now stood a rapidly decaying corpse; the skull began to protrude from the crisp skin that was shedding.  His fingers were now long and skeletal––no longer encased in flesh.

“Do not let the earth fool you.  The deceased can lie, but they hold a sincere truth.  And now, you will remember this night eternally.”

II. 

Disrupting thoughts seemed to have haunted my mind all night long––and to no end.  My dark reminiscence of what occurred at the cemetery was rather vague and only a few solitary memories became apparent.  I remembered that there was a bewildering corpse and the directions to its grave site––but all of the rest of my thoughts blurred as I strained my memory, endeavoring to recall the other details.  However, as the day wore on, something caused me to remember precisely what had transpired during my unexpected nocturnal outing.  There was a knocking on my parlor’s door, and from thence, my memory sluggishly improved. Just a mere knocking on my parlor’s door.  “Yes, yes. That was it––and then what?” I enquired to myself while I quietly trudged over to the door.  Upon opening it, I greeted my new patrons and invited them inside.  Directing them towards my workplace, I shut the door––and suddenly, there was yet another remembrance.  And then, to my surprise, there lay a coffin upon my mortuary’s stoop.

I sat down at my desk, and we discussed the funeral arrangements.  As we were conversing, another memory that profoundly daunted me was recollected. My delivery was to be prompt, and if I arrived on time, my pay would be rather handsome.  “That was the reason why I delivered the corpse,” I told myself aloud.  My patrons paused a moment with a perplexed expression.  “Forgive me. Sometimes I speak my very own thoughts,” I said.  That afternoon, I retrieved their deceased one––the funeral was to be held the following morning, and this, of course, meant that I would be preparing the body during the evening.  As I gently laid the stiff down in my mortuary’s room of preparation, I remembered again; the corpse that I delivered was alive.  Most of what he said to me was hazy, but I specifically remember him asking a question: “All we are, my friend, is merely a reminder of the past. So what does your insight say about this place, and your work?”

I studied the new corpse, on which I worked, pondering upon what I was told by the living cadaver at the churchyard.  I wondered if it was all purely a dream––no, a nightmare.  But the longer I remained in thought, the whole of that wicked and phantasmagoric night came back to torment my mind.  The experience was all too vivid––for I felt the cold, crisp air––I saw the wriggling fingers of the shadows––and I peered into the eyes of the stiff's undead and decomposing face.  It all had indeed happened––no doubt whatsoever.  My only wish was to forget the outlandish incident, but how could I?  Carrying on with my work, I rested the body inside the coffin.  The night was intolerably endless and I could not rest easily.  The following daybreak, I rose from bed early and arranged the parlor for the viewing.  After this, the mourners and I proceeded to the cemetery where the funeral was to be held.  As the coffin was carefully lowered into the grave, I knew that forever would he rest beneath the earth––or at least I thought so.

I heard the coffin’s bell ringing as the dirt was being shoveled back into the grave––the chilling chime of the coffin’s bell. I saw it swaying back and forth––but for some remarkably odd reason, it seemed that nobody else could hear the melancholic sound––nor see the bell moving.  “He is alive! Quick, pull the coffin back up to the surface!” I exclaimed.  They all stared at me––as if I was trying to make humor of the solemn ceremony.  I aggressively snatched the shovel and unearthed what was already atop the coffin.  After unnailing the lid, I realized that the body only gave the impression of being soulless.  His pallid hands were folded––just as I had done with them while he was being postured.  The body was stiffened and the skin was cadaverously pale.  He had not rung the bell, but more conspicuously, he was as dead as a coffin nail.  I knew that everyone would allege me to be a meager fool.   All of the mourners gawked upon what I had done, and I had no reasonable explanation––not even a feasible excuse.  But even worse, I could not explain my own thoughtless actions to myself.

Shamefully stepping from out of the grave, I hastily brushed the dirt off my coat.  Clearing my throat and adjusting my cravat, I permitted the grave diggers to carry on.  For a short while there was an obstinate silence, but eventually the procession of grief resumed.  Afterwards, everyone left in an extraordinarily unpleasant manner.  Nobody requested the groundskeeper to keep watch over the grave––but I believe it was dreadfully unmistakable that the body was without a doubt, dead.  During the evening, I was severely anguished––daunting my spirit was the memory of what I heard while the burial began.  The sound of the bell was as clear as day––the frightening ring resounded in my restless mind––was he still alive?––And could he still be alive?  Suddenly, I recalled the corpse’s question from that ethereal reality that I had suffered those few nights ago. “All we are, my friend, is merely a reminder of the past. So what does your insight say about this place, and your work?”  After this resonated in my head, the indescribable horror of that evening intensified profoundly.

All at once, I heard the distinct ringing of the coffin’s bell.  Troubled and distraught, I sprung out of bed. Scurrying down the stairway, I seized a candelabrum from the wall.  Wrenching the closet door open, I clutched a shovel in my hand tightly.  After charging headlong to the stable, I climbed atop one of my horses and galloped onward, into the ink-like heart of midnight.  I knew unerringly that the body’s old soul did not depart––and I was the only one who held the critical responsibility of saving him from the reaper’s harvest.  Upon arrival, I heard the ringing become deliberate.  His ghost was surely saying goodbye to the mortal realm. I leapt from my steed and rushed to the fresh grave site.  Excavating the soil, I prayed––for the ringing was little by little decreasing.  When I entirely uncovered the coffin, I began detaching the lid and thereafter threw it off.  To my disbelief, the body was in the same position as it had been since I prepared it.

But without prior notice, someone called out––and it was not the corpse––it came from the cemetery groundskeeper.  Holding his lantern over the grave in which I was crouching, he recognized that I was the mortician.

“Taking from the dead, are we?  Now, now, how greatly disappointed I am in you.  Out of everyone I know, I would assume you to respect the deceased the most.  But how reprehensible this is, indeed.”

I was irredeemably speechless.  What such words were I supposed to articulate?  Who would believe me?  Especially after the odd incident during the funeral.  Everyone would consider me to be undeniably mad and morbid.

“Do not move an inch, you ill fiend!”

My heart began beating against my ribcage. I shuddered, and wished this to only be a dream.  But alas, it was the reality in which I dwelled.

“Foul ghoul!” he jeered.  “Have you no remorse for your heartless actions?”

I began to feel something down inside me––it was dark and intense; I found pleasure in it.

“Perhaps I am a ghoul––or a fiend,” I said quietly to the groundskeeper.

For a while, the crickets chirped, and neither of us spoke––but unexpectedly, I lunged at him.  My heart pounded vehemently as I threw him to the ground.  After strangling him, I hurled the groundskeeper into the coffin with the corpse.  Then, after tossing the lid on, I became dead in my very own movements.  “What am I doing?” I gaspe
d.  Whatever I did was finished––my deed was only to protect myself from being persecuted by my entire town.  I shoveled the dirt back into the grave and afterwards rushed home on horseback.  I vowed never to look back upon the happening of that unendurable night forevermore––and I also knew it would become a secret that I would have to forever obscure in my own filth.  “Everyone keeps a skeleton or two in their closet,” I told myself reassuringly.

Crawling back into bed, I blew out the candle on my nightstand.  There was a vastly unsettling sensation and I could not drift into slumber.  Unendingly I tossed and turned––my anxiety bore forever.  As this continued, there was scratching in the walls––almost as if someone was trapped––like sharp fingers or claws scraping against the grain of wood.  At first, the ghastly noise was at its own leisure, but then, it increased.  Eventually, it seemed as if there were many hands trapped within the walls; all scraping to make known their presence!  But there in the dimness of my bedchamber, the door creaked ajar––and then, it opened wider.  Standing in the doorway was the cemetery groundskeeper––I was baffled––horrified––sickened!  He began skulking nearer to my bedside and then peered down towards me.  His face was an ethereal-white.

“Why?” he asked in a whispery––yet emotionless voice.

I shrieked loudly, until the lucid reality diminished, and I then recognized that the occurrence was only a dreadful and horrid dream.

III.


The chime of the coffin’s bell was something very, very real––and perhaps that is why I went to bed, preoccupied with the thought of a premature burial.  What happened in the dream terrified me––however, it was not the ringing, nor the groundskeeper returning from the grave.  What disturbed me most was what I felt; a darkness manifesting itself within my spirit.  It was as though I possessed a grisly capability––and what I told him was unlike anything that I had ever said to anybody––“Perhaps I am a ghoul, or a fiend.”  The dream was unfolding time after time in my head––it lingered like an irredeemable specter.  And although my attempts at ignoring it were in vain, I had to begin my day.  There were two new bodies to retrieve and prepare, and thus my schedule became exceptionally unforgiving.  Late that evening, I decided to rest for only a mere moment.  While reclining in the comfortable chaise longue in front of my fireplace, I heard the flames crackle over the masonry of the hearth.  The warmness was too tempting, and therefore, I gradually allowed my tired eyelids to shut.

As I was almost napping, there was suddenly a pattern of gentle footfalls resounding from the downstairs.  As I listened warily, it was soon very perceptible that there was not one presence, but two.  I silently rose from my chair and lightly crept over the floor so that whoever had intruded into my mortuary could not hear me.  I continued listening while I approached the staircase––the stirring was deadening; conceivably, they must have realized that they were causing too much of a commotion.  When I was halfway down the stairway, the footsteps discontinued altogether.  I felt the unease of not knowing who had encroached inside.  Although the mortuary was my place of practice, it was also my home, and accordingly, I had to protect it from trespassers.  But little did I know that when I entered the parlor, I would once again make contact with The Dark Sickness that had already commenced its war over my sanity.

Lying on the sofa in an unnatural position was one of the bodies that I had prepared earlier.  But even more disconcertingly, suspended from the ceiling was the second corpse––it hung upside-down by its ankles from a rope that had been tied to the chandelier.  They both had ghost-like faces––all of it was beyond my comprehension.  My only wish then was to scream, but all efforts proved to be futile.  I was afraid––afraid of the misery that had been stalking me throughout the past evenings.  What was I to do?  The corpse lounging on the sofa was in an excruciating position––I could not bend the arms back the way they once were––nor the legs.  The entirety of the stiff was indeed severely mangled.  But the question that was of most dire concern to me was what would the family think of the body’s permanent disfiguration?  I would indisputably be to blame.  Nonetheless, there was a way to escape this peculiar predicament––I had to rid myself of the twisted and gnarled cadaver.

My plan was rather ingenious; I would bury the body in a distant and heavily wooded ravine.  And from thenceforth, I would woefully state to my patrons that the body was merely stolen––my idea was going to be infallible.   However, the only apprehension that I felt was The Dark Sickness.  Perchance, it would follow me?  What other devious forces would it use against my spirit? 
Unfortunately, there was no other choice rendered to me––I was to either hide the body and come up with a logical excuse or become blameworthy––and possibly thereafter convicted.   And we all know that I was not going to give up my hope.  And thus, carefully, I removed the corpse from the sofa and enfolded it in an old, tattered cloth.  I carried the swaddled body over my shoulders and placed it on the back of my steed.  After tying the bundled corpse to the saddle, I took my shovel and hurriedly mounted myself atop the horse.  He hastened through the bitterness of that miserable evening.

I kept my lantern dim while we galloped onwards––for I had to remain unseen––but alas, I was not unseen to all eyes; The Dark Sickness was always watching me and I could perceive that it would stay persistent as usual.   The knotted arms of the dark oaks hung over the pathway from both sides.  They towered high overhead, into the nightly heavens.  As we ventured farther into their unwelcoming depths, the blackness grew heavier.  It weighed down my timid and feeble soul.  The farther we traveled, the narrower our path became.  As we were descending a vertiginous trail carved into the secluded hillside, there were menacing whispers calling from here and there.  Upon reaching the bottom, I halted my horse and warily eyed my surroundings––there was no sign of any living existence.  Watchfully, and at my own precautious leisure, I dismounted my steed––and again, I heard the resonating whispers.  A few moments after they deadened, I finally began searching for suitable ground to bury the stiff.

When I found the perfect soil, I returned back to my horse and untied the enshrouded corpse.  While lugging the body through the leaves and twigs of the forest’s floor, I heard a few more whispers disperse into the air.  Thus, I hurried on, endeavoring to ignore the harrowing sounds.  Upon reaching the patch of smooth earth, I immediately went to work with my shovel ––and eventually, when the hole was deep enough, I softly laid the body to rest. “I––I am dearly sorry––I am certain that you understand what I have to do.  Why this is happening to me is beyond my own understanding.” Shoveling the dirt back into the grave, I began to despise The Dark Sickness greatly––for he was the one causing me to commit the repulsive deed.  When the task was complete, I knelt down and stared upon the fresh grave.  “Forgive me,” I said mournfully, raking the leaves over it with my bare hands.

Hastily, I mounted my horse and took off into the dismal hollows.  As we ascended the trail, back through the shadowed thickets, I wished that I would never again have to do such an unendurable thing––but I was unsure of this.  Ever since the mysterious night where the lidless coffin had been anonymously delivered to me, it seemed as though I had inherited a gruesome misfortune that I would have to carry upon my shoulders for an eternity.  Upon arriving at the mortuary, I rushed inside so that I could safely remove the other corpse hanging by its gaunt ankle. The rope it dangled from twisted one way, then the other.  The hands of the suspended corpse were cold and had long-hardened. I was certain that gloom had wavered its fingers over my dominion––and now, it would be forever stained in the unhallowed shadow of horror.

I seized the ladder from my cellar and brought it back up into the parlor.  Every minute of taking the body down from the chandelier was as grim as it was loathsome.  While I was lowering the body, a horrendous accident occurred; something abruptly shredded––it was the rope––and before I knew it, whatever happened was finished.  The rope snapped in half, and thus, down fell the corpse head-first.  Upon the body’s impact, there was a cracking sound.  I was aghast at the sight––the neck was broken.  Now, and sadly, the lie which I would have to tell would become even more earnest; it was decided that two bodies had to have been stolen.   The relentless and unforgivable dread stretched onwards while I took the same cloth which had enwrapped the previous cadaver and sheathed the other body in it tightly.  Grieving every moment, I bound both ends and left on horseback.  Far into the leafless undergrowth of the murky timberlands, I came across another area that was perfect for burial.

After exhuming the second oblong hole that night, I placed the corpse inside it.  Saying goodbye, I shoveled the earth back in and spread the shriveled leaves overtop the gravesite.  Leaving gloomily, I could not stop wondering what other unutterable things I would have to undertake––these visions of the future perturbed my soul.  For a while, I assumed that I was on my way back to the main trail, but insidiously, my sense of direction crept away.  I became lost; a condensed mist rose from the surface and ingested most of my sight.  I raised the wick of my lantern, yet the merciless fog withstood its radiance.  Eventually, I dismounted my steed and lead it through the wooded hummocks.  We moved observantly, listening over the stillness––until it was unsettled.   Wind gusts began whistling through the barren groves––and for a few moments, I could have sworn that they were calling out to me.  The wails and moans of the blustery weather cried out a lengthy “Why?”   My instinctive thoughts of reason uttered to me that the cry must have belonged to the enraged spirits of the bodies I had buried.

“Leave me alone!” I cried. “I had no other choice––what I have done is finished!”  Emerging from out of nowhere came one of the corpses––and I distinctly remember that it was the one who had fallen from the rope. The head was crookedly leaning against its shoulder,

“If you would be so kind, as to give me your neck bone,” said he.

The undead being was nearing me––I shrieked loudly, yet the thunderous gale had stifled my voice.  The tall trees around me violently shuddered as the other corpse appeared before me, stepping out from the shadows.

“I shall have to mangle your arms and legs,” it declared menacingly.

I fell to my knees, imploring for the madness to cease.  But unexpectedly, a blaring roar of thunder awoke me from my nap––I was relieved and grateful––it was all just another irrepressible dream; nothing had changed.  Even so, I had to be sure.  After hurrying downstairs, I went into the preparation room to assure myself that the bodies were still as they had been.  And indeed, they were lying in their coffins; motionless, hushed––and dead.  Chuckling to myself, half-asleep, I realized how late it was.  After snuffing the final lamp out in my mortuary, I went off to retire for the evening.  The following day, the first funeral was held mid-morning, and the second was held late that afternoon. Thankfully, evening had arrived rather quickly.  It was delightful––that is, until my peace was disturbed once again.   There was a forceful knocking echoing from the downstairs––The Dark Sickness had come to visit me.  Nevertheless, I was not afraid of him this time––I had grown quite tired of its tortures and demented deceptions––but furthermore, I was not going to allow his wickedness to bother me any further.  While descending the staircase with my candle holder in one hand, I heard the familiar whispers stirring.  As I strode down the second flight, there were more whispers followed by another series of loud knocking––they came from the main hallway.

I continued my fearless stride into the obscured halls of the old mortuary.  There was an intensifying pressure of a vile presence. “I am here, now what is it that you want from me?”

But without warning, The Dark Sickness sprung out and impaled my soul with his sharp index finger.  He glared into my horror-stricken eyes with such a malevolent grin.  His low whickering reverberated throughout every room of the drafty funeral home.  The dark wraith said to me, “I do not desire anything of you; it is the part inside you that wants something magnificent, but as of this moment, only I can discern what it is.  You shall come to recognize it, in time.”

IV.

The proceeding morning, I awoke in bed as if nothing had happened––but whatever transpired was not a dream––for I could recall all details.  And now what I dreaded mostly was the idea and probability of my very own soul becoming sullied with an aberrant sickness that had always existed within my heart.  True I was sure this was––for there had come a strange sensation when The Dark Sickness pierced my spirit––and the most fearsome part of all was that the feeling appeared to have subconsciously amused me.  My struggle and journey had already commenced.  The only hope I had was to remain brave and to also retain the courage and dignity that was eroding away.  However, the difficulty that had already viciously condemned me from the past evenings would strengthen by the wanes and waxes of the moon’s luminous stages.  There would be very little rest during the night––for that is when The Dark Sickness would harass and taunt my sanity.  It was obvious that his unrelenting fury would haunt me unto my final hour.

Business was rather slow during the first several days in November.  There were no departures of anyone from this earth.  And deplorably, the dust of idleness fell upon my mortuary.  The grandfather clock ticked in the corner as I grew weary from boredom.  For seven days and nights, nothing as I would have expected transpired; there were no patrons––nor unwanted visitors of the supernatural.   It was Thursday morning when the Reaper finally harvested once again––and for this I was very grateful.  The family and I discussed the unfortunate event for a while and then arranged the funeral for Friday.  As usual, I would have to preserve and clothe the body. 
Nothing of any odd nature occurred that evening––I slept well, and felt as if I were at everlasting peace.  During dawn’s break, I prepared the parlor for the viewing.  Then after, the funeral was held at noon––and oh––were there many, many mourners.  The misery was rather overwhelming––they were everywhere––it was impossible to gaze away from them––everywhere I looked, there they were.  It all became so much that I could not bear to linger there another second. Clandestinely, I disappeared and retreated to the inner-sanctum of my mortuary.  Becoming at ease, I remained undisturbed in my parlor.  Although I was unsure of what had caused the uneasiness at the funeral, whatever had happened to me was of little to no concern. 

During the proceeding morning, while I was straightening my pillows and comforter, there was a loud beating at the door.  Wondering whoever it may have been, I hurried downstairs to answer.  Upon opening it, I realized that it was the family from the funeral––and they demanded an explanation for why I had left so abruptly.  Calmly, I explained to them how overwhelmed I felt––yet the family questioned me further––they all wished to know how something such as a funeral could have possibly overwhelmed me; especially considering the fact that I operated a mortuary.  Becoming agitated, I stated to them that it was over and I was dearly sorry.  They all hustled off––not giving me an inch of their forgiveness.  I shook my head, vexed by their foolish impatience.  Slamming the door, I proceeded to my workplace.  Around five o’ clock, I was approached by yet another family in woe.  The arrangements were made for their deceased one’s viewing and funeral––I retrieved the body and began freshening it up.  While carrying on, I gazed into the stiff’s emotionless eyes.  Studying the corpse, I began to conjecture if it would move or speak––but none of this it did.  After retiring for the evening, and the painful hours went by, I felt that the night only lengthened––it was all too quiet.   Sitting erect in bed, I doubted and feared.  Perhaps it was the realization that nothing unusual was befalling me––was this the cause of my immense uneasiness?  Or was it that I knew I was going to be consumed by this supposed morbidity of the soul?  Nothing was certain, and while I wondered more and more, slowly, I fell asleep.

After the persistent hours of that endless night, daybreak scarcely rose into the heavens.  Gray, thickened clouds were spread as far as the eye could see; the atmosphere was perfect for a funeral––oppressing and gloomy––just as it should always be.  The viewing was held in the parlor, and afterwards, the gathering of mourners and I moved to the cemetery.  As they lowered the coffin into the grave, I could not help but slightly grin––for I do not believe it was because I found hilarity in the fact that the body was dead, but rather that the mourning was pointless.  What good would result from shedding tears for a corpse that would soon decay beneath the earth?   Besides, its immortal ghost had been freed.  When the funeral had ended, I turned in for the evening.   Unfortunately, however, the unredeemable stillness was too agonizing to withstand. “Why must you torment me through dead silence?” I asked. “I am unsure if I shall be able to endure anymore of this wretchedness.  Where must I look to find you?” Of course, and as expected, nothing happened.  But suddenly, there came a rather imaginative idea––was it possible that I could write a letter to The Dark Sickness?  Surely he would soar over my mortuary and retrieve it––surely he would delicately open and read it––surely he would reply and I could resolve my intolerable issues.  Hurriedly crawling out of bed, I lit the candle on my nightstand and crept to my workplace.  Dipping my quill in ink, I composed the letter on a single sheet of paper.

Every word––every sentence––and every paragraph was so wisely written and thought out––for I wanted to reason with The Dark Sickness.  And if he was to listen to me, then I would have to be particular about what it was that I desired from him.  It came and flowed smoothly––I was even impressed with myself.  Writing my signature at the very bottom of the sheet, I then tenderly folded the letter.  Sliding it into an envelope, I sealed the mere paper with a crimson wax, and lastly, gently placed it upon the windowsill.  As I pulled open the window, a light breeze moved the draperies––I knew that The Dark Sickness would come––why would he not?  Feeling satisfied, I went off to bed and my restlessness vanished.  Early the next morning, I hurried over to the window.  And to my surprise, the letter was gone––but to be certain, I warily examined the garden below; the letter was nowhere to be found.  In all likelihood, I would receive a reply in return that night.  During the day, I coordinated my papers.  Sorting and organizing different files, I spent hours in my workplace.  After placing the last few folders in their designated drawers, I heard my grandfather clock chime; it was time to retire.  I thus advanced to my bedchamber.

However, before snuffing out the candle, I realized that there was indeed something on my nightstand––he had delivered his letter earlier than I had initially assumed.  Straightaway, I snatched my paper-knife.   Carefully––very, very carefully––I unsealed the envelope.  The paper was old, thin, and crisp––for all I knew, it was over a hundred years of age.  As I unfolded the yellowed sheet, my heart raced.  The handwriting was neat and exquisite.  Every word––oh, so beautifully penned.  The letter read:

Greetings,

Yes––I am indeed aware that a part of you is altering quite rapidly, and it wondrously flourishes inside the essence of your heart.   You must not fear the person you shall become––you must embrace it, and moreover, you must embrace the gift that I bestow upon you.  Your morbidity craves the gruesome acts of which you are very much so capable.  I think we both know that you long for this as well.  The more you struggle, the trickier your quandary will become. It is a much wiser choice to remain calm and watch yourself as you transfigure gloriously.

Sincerely and evermore, The Dark Sickness

Whatever was going to whelm my soul could not be prevented––and for some strange purpose, I suddenly liked it.  I liked it, very, very much.

V.

The following morning, I decided that I would have to reply to the letter that I had so promptly received the preceding night.  While I began compiling each word into the first paragraph, I was rudely disrupted by an unforeseen rapping at my door.  And thus, instantly, a frown fell upon my face.  Reluctantly, I trudged over to open it––and once again, I had to converse sorrowful business matters with a family.  Afterwards, I pessimistically rode out in my hearse to collect the body.  It was only instinctive to hurriedly finish the letter before I began my work.  Why, you ask?  Because, my true purpose exceeded all other matters.  Getting my word out to The Dark Sickness was simply more important than my business with the dead.  I did not have time to place the body in the room of preparation right away, so I decided to give my new patron a seat while I concluded the letter.  Before I resumed, I looked him in the eyes, and slightly smiled. “I hope you find yourself comfortable.”

I continued to pen, dip my quill, and pen some more––yet lastly, I revised it with such precision––it was brilliantly composed, and I could not have surpassed it to a higher degree in the art of language––each word illustrated my thoughts so perfectly. Satisfied, I slid the letter into an envelope, and before sealing it, I glanced over at my patron who sat motionless and silent. “Now, tell me, do you think I have done well with this letter?” I asked.  Yet alas, he refused to compliment my work.  “Discourteous,” I mumbled quietly, annoyed by his impolite mannerism.  I proceeded upstairs, and upon arrival into my bed chamber, I rested the letter atop the windowsill.  I remember that evening being exceptionally wintry for November.  There was an impenetrable frost upon the thin glass of my window and I felt the bitter cold leaching through it.  I returned downstairs to dress and prepare the body.   Thereafter, I turned in for the night and climbed into bed, feeling weary and weak.  I fell heavily into a sleep comparable to a corpse’s rest.

I rose earlier than usual, only to discover that the letter was gone.  Delighted by this, I properly dressed myself for the viewing and funeral.  The parlor was prearranged as it should have been and the body was in its coffin.  Undoubtedly, I had arranged the morose scene hundreds of times during my occupation as a mortician––and I knew that I would continue to do so, over and over again.  When the requiem began that morning, there was a sensation of great despair upon every mourner.  The procession columned to the cemetery through the enshrouding gloom––and during the course of the burial, a sentiment of anxiety overcame me.  When the service had ended, I crept away unnoticed from the gathering of mourners.  Taking a stroll so I could breathe the air unsullied of dejection, I chose a path that led me to the older section of the graveyard.  While continuing on, I stumbled upon something that was actually quite fascinating.

Among many of the weatherworn headstones were swallowed graves––the soil had long collapsed into the deteriorated coffins below, scarring the grounds with coffin-shaped hollows.  It was evident that these gravesites had been in their sinking conditions for many years––perhaps even decades.  Browned leaves and evergreen needles had fallen down into the deathly cavities.  I peered down into one of them, and as the wind began stirring, I noticed something protruding from the desiccated decomposition.  Warily stepping down into the recessed resting place, I began brushing the leaves and dirt aside.  Soon, I realized it was the gaunt finger of a skeleton.  I continued to move my hand over the surface and felt something else extending from the earth; it was the skull.  I then crawled to the narrow end of the coffin-shaped sinkhole to find two cadaverous feet partially rising upwards.  What I had uncovered was incredibly peculiar, yet remarkably enthralling.

I was determined to return to the cemetery very late that night.  Climbing aloft, I prowled from the scene and made haste to my mortuary so that I could plot my attempt at taking possession of the bewildering corpse.  Although I was not sure what it was that I wanted with it, I knew this was what The Dark Sickness sought of me––and I did not dare question his cryptic ways.  Around midnight, I revisited the cemetery––a threadbare sack hung over my shoulder, and closely, I held my lantern.  While advancing farther into the ancient churchyard’s melancholy depths, I felt the cold air swiftly brush against my ears and over my tophat, followed by it returning and pitilessly gnawing at my nose.  Thin clouds spread over the nightly heavens and translucently swathed the moon while the barren trees all around appeared to be corpselike hands reaching out, endeavoring to snatch a misfortunate, wandering soul.

The dried leaves crunched beneath my feet as I walked forth––farther and farther, into the heart of the boneyard.  After a few moments of seeking out the grave I had stumbled across that morning, I finally rediscovered it; there in the dim glow of my lantern was the very same lonesome finger pointing upwards––the very same boney feet sticking out––and the very same skull, which seemed to sincerely welcome me with its darkened eyes. “Hello again,” said I, embracing its mysterious existence.  This peculiar curiosity that I felt was a wondrous work of The Dark Sickness––it was as if he extended his shadowed arm and affectionately heartened my spirit and mind.  I lightly clutched its two feet, and with much care, began heaving them.  Joined to the feet, were of course, its legs––but without warning, they broke apart from the knee joints; there was a crack that followed their separation. “Why must you vex me now?” I asked impatiently. “This will not do––no, not one bit!”

Although the situation aggravated my temper, I found slight humor in it–––or perhaps much humor.  I could not help but laugh as I held the two halves of the detached legs in my hands; especially after seeing the way the pallid and boney feet began breaking from the ankles as I shook the legs from the ends of the shin-bones.  Dropping them down into my frayed sack, I then eagerly gazed upon the next set of relics that I would have to unbury.  The skull’s forehead was broad and the lower jaw stretched wide––the rich soil had poured into its mouth over time.  The nose shared a resemblance with that of a hollowed hickory nut––the eyes were empty––even so, they seemed lively.  What most could not discern in a mere skeleton was something that was actually very conspicuous to my sophisticated eyes––I could appreciate the charm that dwelled within the dead.  With much care and steadiness, I unearthed the skull.   When I finally held it within the palms of my cold hands, I heard many vague––yet familiar whispers resound from behind the copses of knobby and twisted trees.  I was not afraid––for I knew it was only a sign of The Dark Sickness’ presence.  By the time I excavated the rest of the desiccated remains, all of its parts were utterly disconnected.  But this did not concern me by any means––I was an aspiring soul with a passionate desire to bring forth my creativity.

All at once, in an abrupt instant, I felt the stony hand of The Dark Sickness heavily rest upon my shoulder.  Bearing no fear, I turned around and faced him unlike anytime that I had faced him before.  However, this was not a confrontational approach––it was nothing more than a humble greeting.
 
“Where do you come from?” I asked, baffled by his manifestation.
 
There was a brooding grin carved upon his coarse, pumpkin-head resting within the sharpened hood.  A dim gleam lit up his two sinisterly scowling eyes.  Dusky smoke drifted from his skeletal nostrils as he breathed calmly.

“I come from every corner of the world.  I have survived through evoking the morbid curiosity of mankind.  I am but a mere fascination for everything grim.”

“Who are you, then?” I asked in awe.

He stared deeply into my inquisitive eyes.  Smoky breath wafted from his sharpened mouth as he inhaled and exhaled––the glow within his eyes seemed to become much brighter.  After a few moments of silence, he spoke once more, and as he spoke, it was as if a fire of superiority ignited inside his ominous soul.
 
Who am I, you ask? Why, I am simply known to those whom I shepherd as, The Master”.

While he declared this, there was a vigorous gust that disturbed the stillness of his hooded, dark-violet shroud.  The shredded bottom and sleeves of his phantasmal cloak blew about harshly in the preternatural wind.

“Will you not tell me more, specter of the night?” I asked with such admiration.

“I am indeed who and what I have revealed to you.  My time here grows rather short––daylight shall break soon.  This is not my final farewell––for I shall see you again.”

I bowed my head as he soundlessly glided away into the nightly shades of the woodlands.  The withered leaves below his ghostly gown whirled as he menacingly soared farther into the gloom.  When he vanished, the foreboding sounds of his presence had ceased.  I stood immersed in the cemetery’s solitude for a while, deliberating upon The Dark Sickness’ spellbinding revelation.  It meant something to me––something astounding––something that no mortal had ever dared dream––I had gained so much wisdom in only one entire evening––and though I did not clearly understand his mysterious way of expressing words, I could acknowledge the reasoning behind them.  But most prominently, I could acknowledge my own purpose––and I was to live the destiny I was given.

VI.

Before the hour of daybreak, I returned to my mortuary so that I could withhold from the public what I had unburied from the cemetery grounds.  The attic was the cleverest place to hide the pieces of the petrified stiff.  If for some odd reason all of the town was to deem me of stealing the skeleton from the grave, they would never suspect that I was veiling the bones underneath the floorboards in my attic.  They all would simply walk over the remains, having absolutely no knowledge of where I was keeping them!  Such fools would they be!  While I strode forth into the shadows of the attic, I felt quite at home.  My candlestick scarcely illuminated the vast surroundings of murky darkness, ocassionally illuminating the tattered cloths hanging from the sturdy timbering above. In addition, old and antique furniture from my childhood home rested in despair with old sheets cloaking them.  It was somewhat sorrowful seeing them in their forsaken state.  The floors did not make even one creak as I prowled farther into the manor’s loft––they were rather sturdy––instead, the consequence of every step was a soft footfall that resounded throughout the high-ceilinged attic. The shadows cast upon the walls by my light also appeared to leisurely follow me.  Yet suddenly, I found what I was seeking.  There in the midst of the attic, I stepped upon a floorboard that released a croaking groan.  Slightly grinning, I stepped aside and laid the bag upon the floor––this was where I was to obscure the skeleton.

Strenuously, I heaved open the floorboard; the wood cracked as the nails became detached from the supporting timber below––and finally, with a rupturing split, the board had become entirely separated.  Throwing the broad plank aside, I hastily snatched the bag and emptied it of its dead contents.  The spinney-ribcage, thorny-fingers, rounded-skull, boned-toes––all of the skeleton––it was poured into the deep and narrow space below the attic’s floor.  I looked upon the pile of bones for a few moments before concealing them.  While returning back to my workplace, I walked passed a mirror in the attic and saw an image that I had not seen before.  I retraced my gait and paused in front of the mildly tarnished mirror––staring upon what was surprisingly my very own reflection; I no longer recognized the face that I once knew––I saw something else.  The eyes encircled by a sinking darkness––the nose in acute decay––the cheeks, emaciated to the bone––the skin, of an ashen hue––and the lips, thinning.  Why, the appearance of my skull was, to a degree, visible.

The Dark Sickness was right; what he spoke of in the letter came to me during that moment: “I am indeed aware that a part of you is altering quite rapidly, and it wondrously flourishes inside the essence of your heart. You must not fear the person you shall become––you must embrace it, and moreover, you must embrace the gift that I bestow upon you.”   The more I intensely looked my reflection in the eye, the more I saw––an enlightenment emerged from the vagueness––I was not only altering spiritually, but I was also altering physically.  As I continued onwards, back to the first floor, the day began at a slothful pace.  However, as noon was imminent, a patron came by––then, precisely an hour later, another one approached my mortuary––then another––and another!  By nightfall, I had had six bodies to retrieve.  It all gave me the impression that the reaper was at its toil once again.  Riding out, on into the descending dusk, I retrieved each body.  Soundless corpse, after soundless corpse, the heavens grew blacker and the moon died within the grasp of the dense and unpitying billows.

By nine o’ clock, I was nearing the final house of that evening.  Unlike the previous houses that I had been to, this one stood solitarily upon a hill beyond town.  The masonry of the charming Gothic structure had been strangled in ivy, and the unlit, gaping windows seemed to overlook my hearse while I was advancing upon the lot’s brush-strewed pathway.  A convivial awareness became apparent while my hearse proceeded under the porte-cochére.  Although most would have been greatly depressed by such a dismal feeling, I cherished the unredeemable grimness.  I delightedly jolted the grand door knocker against the sturdy door.  I patiently waited until the servant greeted and allowed me to come forth and enter the commodious domain.  The foyer was poorly illuminated by the well-waned candles.  Their weakened flames glimmered in the dispersed drafts of the vast home.

The servant insisted that we hurry onward and asked that I followed him up the stairway.  We moved through a dimmed hallway, and thereafter ascended another flight of well-aged stairs.  They sharply curved and were narrower than the last set.  I felt an increase in anxiety before the servant opened the door to the bedchamber in which the fresh corpse reposed.  Upon entering, I could feel the apprehension intensify.  I gazed upon the bed that stood before me––on it lay the recently deceased body with a sheer, whitish shroud covering it from head to toe.  As I walked over to the bedside, the servant left the room in a sudden manner.  When the door quietly shut, the nervousness became greater than before.   I looked over at the body once more––it never moved––but of course it never moved!  Not that I would have expected it to do otherwise!

Reclining in a grand chair next to the nightstand, I continued to nervously eye the covered cadaver for quite some time.  What was it that I was imagining I would see? “Are you sure you have nothing to say?” I asked uneasily.  The body remained unresponsive, and so, I tightly grasped both ends of the sheet, and paused a second. The disquiet endured––the coldness slithered through my nerves––and the dread I felt became insufferable.  In an instant, I vehemently lifted the covering.  It was dead––unmistakably dead.  I was almost certain that it was not going to tell me anything––but to make sure of this, I whispered into its ear, “You are free express your thoughts.  I shall listen––for I am a patient listener.” Still––and predictably––there was nothing.  After removing the body from the house, and before departing, I was halted by the servant; he thus confided in me that there were no descendants, nor family––not even a dear friend.  I eased his troubles by telling him not to worry, for I would bury him myself––and with such great sincerity.

Upon approaching the lull and sullen cemetery, I happily steered through the wraith-guarded, wrought-iron gates.  My hearse caused the leaves to scatter here and there.  I was like a shrilling wind whose gusts disturbed the quietness of lonesome isolation––I was a lone ghost venturing into the pitch-blackness of an abyss––I was the deliverer for the Reaper––a deliverer carrying the next mortal who would be taken to the realm yonder this one.  The graves’ shadows were haunting; they were as entryways from which the dark-hooded figures could imperceptibly dart to and fro––they were phantoms of the dead––specters who taunted the living to come forth and join them in their unworldly purgatory.  While passing by the endless rows of headstones, I heard the wolves of the foothills cry out to one another.  Their enduring carols were such melodies to my ears––I cherished their ghoulish songs while nearing the burial site.

The recent grave marker had already been staked into the soil.  It stood beneath a remarkably tall hickory.  “What a charming place to bury one,” I said to myself as I halted the horses.  Stepping down from my hearse, I joyfully marched over to the back and warily dragged the coffin next to the headstone. For about an hour and a half, I excavated the grave––it would be shallow, but deep enough, nevertheless.  Finally, when it was time to say goodbye to my patron, I said while pushing the coffin into the grave, “Sleep well, my dear friend.” After this, I thus began tossing the earth back in––but without warning, the corpse implored to be released––it fearfully scratched at the lid––shrieking in a panicked manner that chilled the very marrow in my bones.  Immediately, I threw aside my shovel and with all of my might and determination, wrenched the wooden lid from the coffin––but to my disbelief, it was unmoving, and furthermore––dead.

It was perplexing!––preposterous!––appalling!  How could it be?  How could it be that this cadaver I presumed lifeless make such a distressing commotion?  What was happening?  Oh, how enraged and sickened was I!  I could not bear to hear another sound as dismaying as that––the poor soul could not be buried––but where would I keep him?  Had The Dark Sickness turned against me, or was it a mere trial?  None of my questions could be answered, but the only reasonable thought was to bring the stiff back to my home.  Carrying the body to my hearse, I suddenly heard many more severely-disturbing and unearthly screams and screeches coming from the graves all over the graveyard.  The scratching and clawing was as clear as day––all of the occupants of the cemetery wanted out––but what was I to do?  There was not enough time. “No, please!” I begged.  “Stop it!” I yelled.  “Enough with this agonizing absurdity!” All at once, the unhallowed noises ceased and the unlively silence returned.  I gazed around, overcome with shock––and shortly after, began deliriously laughing to myself.  My unremitting trepidation was over.  And thus, I retreated to my mortuary.

VII.

The unimaginable horror that went on that night at the cemetery was one of the most unsettling experiences during my lifetime––however, and at length, I understood precisely what had occurred; The Dark Sickness did not forsake me––nor was it a trial.  The wretched event helped me gather much wisdom––a wisdom that regarded the deceased––it was all very clear to me––the words spoken by the corpse who began this very journey: “All we are, my friend, is merely a reminder of the past. So, what does your insight say about this place, and your work?”  He was not referring to my occupation of being a mortician when he enquired about my work; he was rather implying what it was that I had to do.  “You must open your eyes, good sir.  Among the earth are many mysteries and secrets––buried, concealed and long forgotten.  They are far beyond the realm of the living’s simplistic comprehension.  Now then, do you understand?” I understood unerringly––I understood everything––The Dark Sickness was truthful.  My real spirit had shed its temporal coat and I was free––I was now the person I had always been.

Standing before the oval-mirror in my bedchamber’s corner, I gazed at my reflection.  What I saw was a changed man––my skin was of a pallid and thin texture––my nose, now only two triangular cavities––my ears had shrunk inwards––my mouth, of an exceedingly slender proportion––and my eyes, black and hollow; my irises were the only portion visible, and they almost retained a golden radiance.  My fingers seemed to have extended, but it was all a meager illusion, for my skin had withered, causing my bones to become more observable.  There was much work to be done; the misfortunate souls imprisoned deep inside their graves needed to be free––and all along, my purpose had been to salvage them.  I wondered how I could have been so foolish all these years––burying the deprived corpses in an everlasting prison beneath the earth.   But I could indeed make amends with the dead––I was now able to do good––and that is exactly what I did the forthcoming nightfall.

The heavens possessed a thunderous fury upon my arrival.  In the vast distance, violent thunder bellowed and blazes of the bright lightning ignited within the foreboding clouds.  The brisk squall remorselessly shook the bleak treetops scattered among the boneyard as I hurriedly rushed to my first grave.  A simple headstone stood aslant at the foot of a single maple––I heard my beloved fiend clawing and shrieking from underneath the hallowed grounds. “Do not worry,” I called out to him, “I shall reach you very shortly.”  Impaling the well-worn nose of my shovel into the earth, I knew my quest of redemption began, but alas; the unforgiving tempest drew nearer.  By the time I finally reached the very bottom, the lid was especially rotted and thus I could easily tear it open with my fingers.  While I dug my nails into the decomposing wood, the cadaver welcomingly greeted me with a ghastly grin.  I pulled my new fiend out and carried him over to the hearse's seat.  Just as I was about to search for another grave, I realized that I was directly below the edge of the storm.

“I shall return tomorrow!” I called out, hurrying over to my hearse.  The rain began to pound in sheets upon the soil.  Lightning struck trees and leaves were caught within the whirlwinds’ forceful grasp.  Blackened thunderclouds descended upon the landscape, roaring with such power.  I scarcely made it out before the cemetery was whelmed by the unrelenting gale.  “Thank heavens,” I said to my precious fiend, who was seated next to me.  Just as I had done with the other corpse from the preceding night, I took my new fiend into the attic.  While positioning him in a spindled chair, I could not help but marvel at his skeletal smile––it brought much happiness to me.  As the rain continued to thrash against the roof, I carefully placed a melting candlestick in his stiffened hand.  Wrapping his shriveled fingers around its bottom, I saw the wax slowly trickle down––this would permanently meld his hands to the candle.

While admiring my fiend, I realized that there came an ingenious and rather delightful reverie––it all made perfect sense; the bones that I had exhumed could be used to bring forth my creativity.  They were underneath the loose floorboard––and therefore, I promptly went over to retrieve them.   Throwing the sturdy plank aside, I snatched many of the bones and laid them before my fiend.  Thoroughly, I measured his arms and legs––and lastly, my craftsmanship began.  With a frayed rope, the bones were firmly tied to my fiend’s arms and legs.  I bound the collarbone against his thin shoulders, and then placed the skull atop his head––the jawbone was sewn beneath his chin and pieces of the ribcage were skewered into his chest; it was a beautiful sight. When I was finished adorning my fiend with the splendid decor, I was yet again profoundly inspired.

A bat was fluttering hither and yon throughout the attic, when abruptly, it soared by me.  I reached out and gently felt its light, furry wings––and oh!––the comfort it brought me.  Visions of different and extraordinary creations swarmed into my mind––the bat’s velvety wings propelled the conception of what it was that I could craft––a fine and exquisite work of art––something beyond belief itself.  These wondrous thoughts assisted me as I sketched an image that was borne from the depths of my supreme imagination.  Around eleven o’ clock at night, I set out to the cemetery––for I knew that many of the fiends would wish to help me if I unearthed them.  My toil began, and I thus spent hours without end disinterring the coffins.  The fiends’ cries and howls were worrying, but I told them that one day they would all be released––this I sincerely promised.  When the deed was finished, I had uncovered a total of six coffins.   My fiends all laughed with me while riding back to the mortuary.

Back in the attic, in the dull, flickering candlelight, I knotted a durable rope around each of their gaunt ankles––and one by one, they hung upside-down.  Upon my work-table were the instruments that I would use to begin the crafting.  In the center was carefully lain the paper that I had drawn upon––I studied it for a while, and then examined my fiends.  When my brilliant plan was in place, straightaway, I began.  There were countless screams and shrieks, but I could not stop; it was all too amusing.  Limbs were cut––bones were pulled out––pieces were sewn on––dried flesh was peeled––I became so immersed in the magnificent things that I did.  After many nights of endless work, my admirable masterpiece had been completed.  Hanging like a bat, this imaginable creature brought such charm into the world. 

But unexpectedly, there was a loud banging at my mortuary’s front door––I could hear the sound from all the way up in my attic––and, of course, I became tremendously irritated by this rude disturbance––my enjoyment had only begun, but now, in all probability, I had to tend to the woeful concerns of the living.  Reluctant, I descended each stairway and then pretentiously welcomed my new patron.  He became aghast at the sight of me and fled through the lot of my mortuary, screaming in terror––this I found humor in––much humor.  Shutting the door, I chuckled and shook my head, exasperated by how easily frightened he was.  They were all fools––and foolish fools at that. 

Undoubtedly, I had been occupied with this new obsession––I was up past midnight, but as the grandfather clock tolled one a.m., I knew that I had to get decent rest.  There were innumerable nights since I had adequately slept, but now, I finally was able to rest my exceptionally drowsy mind.  My slumber remained rather peaceful and undisturbed until several dreams sluggishly transitioned into nightmares.  The worrying visions that occurred seemed endless––however, they all had a purpose; in the horrific dreams, there was a violent pounding on the main entrance in the foyer.   When I went down to open the doors, I was taken by a strengthening force and locked away in an opaquely pitch-black room.  All of the other dreaded details became faint, but I could still recollect the direness of the merciless sensations that they gave me.

What these dreams were was the forewarning of the future––The Dark Sickness gave the nightmarish revelations to me purely because everyone was becoming suspicious of what it was that I did during the nocturnal hours.  I was certain rumors of my work had spread like a remorseless plague.  The residual question was simply this: when would they condemn me?––If a word such as condemn would be appropriate for the imminent injustice.  Nothing had been assured and only time would tell.  Nevertheless, I was indeed prepared for the public’s reproach––and I was already preparing my escape.  My plan was to soundlessly crawl out of my window and down into the backyard.  From thence, I would silently hurry away into the gloom that I so greatly adored.  Of course, I loathed the idea of leaving behind my fiends, but what other choice was I rendered?  They certainly could not accompany me while I fled from the public.  Indeed, the time soon came to say my farewells––and that is exactly what I did during the evening that the pathetic townspeople came to my doorsteps.

It was around eleven o’ clock p.m. when I heard several imposing knocks against my doors.  As I listened, my instinctive reaction was a laugh––how foolish could they have believed me to be?  I shook my head in vexation.  Hurrying upstairs to say goodbye to my dear, loving fiends, I listened further to the knockings––and afterwards, I vanished.  I chuckled to myself once again as I leapt out of my window and into the heartwarming blackness of that mid-November nightfall.  Through the draped shadows of the towering trees, and the duskiness of the dismal ravines, I wandered to where I was ordained to be; my soul was called from beyond and I was to carry forth my marvelous legacy which began at the place that I shall forever call home; The Winston Manor Mortuary.

Gruesome Discovery At Winston Manor

On November 13th, 1872, an investigation was conducted at The Winston Manor Mortuary in Hemlock, Vermont.  The desecration of thirty-one gravesites at the cemetery outside of town led investigators to the mortuary’s melancholic doorsteps.  The main suspect was none other than the mortician himself, [NAME EXPUNGED], who was allegedly seen riding out in his hearse towards the cemetery prior to the night of the investigation.  Many of the locals had reported witnessing dim lights flickering from the attic’s window and additionally hearing unbearable shrieks during the late evening.  Indeed, it is horrendous to envision what could have possibly gone on inside the old funeral home.  However, what they discovered inside was beyond the darkest corner of anyone’s imagination.

Investigators knocked countless times before forcing the doors open.  Upon entering the lifeless halls of the mortuary, detectives assumed everything seemed in place.  That is, until they made their way up into the attic.  When they entered the mortuary's loft, immediately, they were greeted by an arrangement of disturbing and grisly fixtures.  Corpses had been severely disfigured.  Their arms were twisted backwards, torturously curving to the protruding hipbones.  Their jaws had been stretched wide, nearly to the point of separation.  Many of the unrested cadavers were sadistically adorned in bones; in some instances, broken ribs had been impaled into the stiffs’ withered chests.

Another unsettling fact about the ghoulish investigation was that some of the corpses were suspended upside-down from the ceiling.   Delicately crafted from peeled skin and sharpened bones were what appeared to be bat-like wings deeply sewn into the shoulders of the desiccated bodies.  One can only wonder how someone could possess such morbid creativity.  Detectives say that they were certain something of a bizarre nature was occurring inside Winston Manor, but they could not have been prepared for the horrid decorations strewed all over the attic.  Precisely seven-hundred-seventy-six pieces of evidence were collected that night.  Moreover, twenty-eight cadavers were traced back to the disinterred graves at the cemetery, but unfortunately, three corpses remain missing.

And as if the circumstances could not have been stranger than they already were, perhaps the most bewildering aspect of the ghastly case was what they found in [NAME EXPUNGED]’s office.  Locked away inside the secretary were many cryptic letters sent by a mysterious contact.  Full details of the letters have been withheld from the public.  Nonetheless, one detective did state that whatever had been written within the letters was pure nonsense.  As for [NAME EXPUNGED], he has disappeared without a single trace.  There is no known information on where he is hiding as of this time.  Please contact Hemlock officials if you have any knowledge regarding his whereabouts.

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