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91
Ritual / One-Man Hide and Seek by Saya Yomino
« on: February 19, 2019, 10:04:10 PM »
Introduction:

The one-man hide and seek, aka the one-man tag, is a ritual for contacting the dead.

The spirits which are wandering restless on the earth are always looking for bodies to possess. In this ritual you summon such a spirit by offering it a doll instead of a human body.

Warning: If you have psychic abilities you may feel unwell or be prone to accidents during the ritual.

Things you need:

+ A Stuffed Doll with limbs
+ Some Rice (enough to stuff the doll full)
+ A Needle and a Crimson Thread
+ A Sharp-Edged Tool (such as a Knife, a Glass Shard, or Scissors)
+ A Cupful of Salt (natural salt would be best)
+ A Hiding Place (preferably a room purified by incense and ofuda)
———————————————
Preparation:

1. Take all the cotton (or whatever it is stuffed with) out of the doll, and stuff it instead with rice*1.
2. Clip a bit of your nails and put them inside the doll, and sew the opening up with the crimson thread. When you finish sewing, tie up the doll with the rest of the thread *2.
3. Pour water into a bathtub.
4. Place a cup of salt water inside the hiding place.
———————————————–
How To Do It:

1.Give a name to the doll (the name could be anything but your own)
2.When it is 3 am, say to the doll “__(your name) is the first it,” three times.
3.Go to the bathroom and put the doll into the water-filled bathtub.
4.Turn off all lights in the house, go back to the hiding place and switch on the TV.
5.When you have counted ten with your eyes closed, go back to the bathroom with the edged tool (a knife, etc) in your hand.
6.When you get there, say to the doll ,“I have found you, __(the doll’s name),” and stab the doll with the edged tool*3.
7. Say “You are the next it, __(the doll’s name),” as you put the doll back in its place.
8.As soon as you have put the doll down, run back to the hiding place and hide.
——————————————
How To Finish It:

1. Pour half the cup of salt water into your mouth (don’t drink it; keep it there)*4 and get out of the hiding place and start looking for the doll. The doll is not necessarily in the bathroom. Whatever happens don’t spit out the salt water.
2. When you find the doll, pour the rest of the salt water which is left in the cup over it, and then spray the salt water in your mouth over it as well.
3. Say “I win,” three times.

This supposed to end the ritual.
After this make sure you dry the doll, burn and discard it later.

MOST IMPORTANT
Please don’t stop this ritual halfway. You must do it through to the end.
This is a dangerous ritual and I will not be responsible for what happens to you if you try.
———————————————
Other things to keep in mind:
+Don’t go out of the house until you have done the finishing ritual.
+You must turn off all lights.
+Keep quiet while hiding.
+You don’t need to put the salt water in your mouth all the time. You only need to do it during the finishing ritual.
+Remember, if you are living with someone you might put them in danger too.
+Don’t continue this ritual for more than one or two hours.
+For safety reasons, it might be best to keep all the doors in the house unlocked (including your front door) and have some friends close by so that they can come and help you at a moment’s notice, if you ever need them. Keeping a mobile close at hand would be a good idea too.

———————————————
NOTES:
*1 - the rice represents innards and also has the role of attracting spirits.
*2 - the crimson thread represents a blood vessel. It seals the spirit(s) up inside the doll.
*3 - by cutting the thread off, you break the seal and release the spirit(s) you have trapped.
*4 - if you go out of the hiding place without salt water, you might encounter “something wandering around” in your house which might harm you in some way. Apparently the way to feel the presence of the “something wandering around” is to watch “what happens to the TV.”

92
Ritual / Want by TheWizardOfTheWoods - CC-BY-SA License
« on: February 19, 2019, 10:03:32 PM »
Have you ever heard of the Many Worlds Theory? If you haven't, basically it means that for every decision mankind has ever had to make, a reality exists for every outcome. So, if you had to decide between Froot Loops and Frosted Mini Wheats, for example, you created two universes, one for each outcome.

Some theoretical physicists believe that the Many Worlds Theory holds weight, while others believe that it simply isn't the case. As it turns out, it's only partially right. Other universes do exist. The fallacy is in believing that only universes based on human decision are real. Universes exist based on many things.

All things, in fact.

That's right. For every decision, every thought, every belief that has ever existed, there is a universe that is the embodiment it. The same goes for things that don't exist and never have, but could. Basically, if it's possible, there's a universe for it.

So, why am I telling you about this? Well, it's because I want to help you, of course. I want to make sure that we are on the same page before I start in with the really important stuff.

You see, based on what I've said, there is an entire universe, functionally infinite in size, that is the embodiment of everything you could ever want. That's right. You wanted a bike for your birthday? The perfect bicycle is in that universe. So is the chocolate cake you wanted, even though your parents bought vanilla. Your soulmate exists in that universe, and they are hoping to meet you one day. Or, if that doesn't suit you, the universe will instead be populated with people that you find unbelievably attractive, and who are interested in having a good time with you.

These are only examples. A universe like this exists for every living thing that ever was and ever will be, and all of them are unique and filled to the brim with things that that creature wanted.

Of course, we never really interact with those other universes, do we? Actually, it happens more often than you think. The universes are fluid in nature, and they overlap with one another sometimes. In the case of one another, this means that multiple people can have a Want universe populated with the same thing. When this happens with our universe, the result is pretty predictable; you get something that you want.

These overlaps with our universe tend to be brief, though the overlap is stronger on one's birthday and on holidays like Christmas or Hanukkah; The reason for this should be obvious. Beyond that, though, these universes are generally locked away from us.

But every lock has a key.

That's right. You can unlock the inter-dimensional barrier between our universe and your Want universe. You can spend your entire life exploring an infinite reality filled with everything you have ever wanted, currently want, and could ever want. This could mean any number of things depending on what type of person you are, and what is worth wanting for you. Just to give an example, I've been in my Want universe for a while, and I've found all sorts of treasures and people. I wanted to let others know about these places, and there, in front of me, was a computer that was capable of saving this memoir somewhere that anyone could find it. All I had to do was want it, and there it was. Lucky you!

I really do mean lucky, though. You see, while simple enough in concept, the act of breaking through one of these barriers is FAR more difficult in practice. It was not easy getting here. I don't think I could make a return trip, even if I wanted to. Then again, maybe if I did want to, the universe would just let me go. I'll have to try that when I tire of this place, though I expect that that will never happen.

As for you, there is a very specific way to get to your Want universe, and there is a journey you must complete before entering. So, let's get right into it.



Firstly, you will want to prepare yourself, as the path ahead is treacherous. All you will need, as far as material things go, is a pencil, pen, or other writing utensil, though I believe that chalk will work best. Oh, you will also need a key. Any key will do, but just to be on the safe side, you may want to go out and steal one. Hey, I said this was going to be dangerous. No one said the dangers only started after attempting this rite.

Anyway, stealing a key is preferred because the more valuable the thing that the key unlocks, the better your trip will be. The reason for this will be apparent soon. Basically, think of the thing that you want the most that has a key. Then, go get that key, by any means necessary.

All set? Good. One more thing. I recommend that you start performing the rite on one of the days I previously mentioned: your birthday, or a holiday filled with gifts. Technically, any day will work, but these are your best bets.

Now that you are here, take a minute and ask yourself, 'Do I really want to go through with this? Am I truly prepared for what's ahead?' Asking this works for two purposes. The first is to ensure that you are absolutely ready; that you really want to attempt this, knowing that it's going to be dangerous, and that the consequences of failure could be dire. If you asked yourself these questions, and found that there was doubt, you should stop immediately, return the key you stole, and go back to your normal life. There is no room for error, and wussing out partway through will only end badly for you.

If, instead, you found that you did indeed want to do this, then immediately go to any nearby wall, take your chalk, and draw an arching doorway. The sooner you do this after affirming that your are ready, the better the results will be. The door doesn't have to be perfect or pretty. All it needs is the basic shape, as well as a knob and keyhole, drawn by you. You can probably guess what the next step is. Without hesitating, you must take the key and attempt to unlock the door. One of two things will happen.

If the key behaves normally, then the rite has failed. You will know if this is the case if the tip of the key stops at the wall, and scratches it up as you attempt to turn it. This can happen for a number of reasons, though most commonly it's because you didn't follow all of my recommendations. If you did not steal the key to the thing you wanted most, if you did not perform the rite on one of the recommended days, if you took too long after assuring yourself that you were ready, or if there was an amount of doubt in your mind large enough, there is a high likelihood that you failed. Don't beat yourself up about it. You can try again later, when you are properly prepared. Honestly, it's probably better that it's this way. You weren't ready for what comes next, and this way, you won't have to deal with the consequences of success. All it means is that, today, you didn't get what you wanted.

However, if the key does not behave normally, then the rite was successful. This will be evidenced by the key sinking into the wall with no resistance whatsoever, and the sound of clicking gears as you turn it. These gears will sound like what you most expect them to sound like. If you expected metal workings inside the door, they will tink and click and clank. If you expected stonework, you may hear a light scraping and dull grinding. Maybe, for some reason, you expected the door to work via pulley system, which a squeaking from within the door will confirm.

In any case, with the door unlocked, you have reached the point of no return. Unlocking the inter-dimensional barrier in this way is dangerous in and of itself, and it cannot be left like that. The results would be odd at best and catastrophically chaotic at worst. You cannot simply re-lock the door after coming this far. These barriers exist for a reason, and the powers that put them there don't open them lightly.

They have seen how much you desire. They took note of your preparations. How smart you were to choose a day where the universes overlapped so much. How wise you were to choose a key that reflected your greatest desire. How prudent, to ensure the overlap would be it's strongest by ensuring that your greatest want was your final thought before crossing over.

Oh yes, they have taken note of all of this. And as reward for this hard work, they have helped you in finding your way. Oh, you didn't do all of that, but the door still opened?

*sigh*

You're gonna wish you had. The beings in charge of the barriers are busy. They can't just lend their help to anyone that wants it. But they still took note of you. Of that, you can be sure.



Now that your journey has truly begun, I cannot say for sure what will happen to you. Even though I want to, my universe can't give me clairvoyance. It did, however, give me a list. This list contains every possible place that you may end up in while traveling to your Want universe. It's rather extensive, but I'll go over some of the highlights.

Firstly, you may wind up in someone else's Want universe. This could be good, or it could be very, very bad. What it will not be, however, is the place you set out to reach when you started this ritual. So, how do you know if you've wound up in a place like this. Well, depending on whose universe it is, it could be pretty easy. See something revolting? Not your Want universe.

It could be tricky though, if you end up in a universe that seems like it could be yours. You could be surrounded for miles with things that you've wanted your whole life, as well as things that entice you that you didn't know you wanted until you saw them. So, how can you know? Well, you've got two options.

The first option is to simply jump ship and hope that you were right. Basically, do the rite again in this place and go somewhere else. If this wasn't your Want universe, then you have no worries, since it's just another place that you'll have to pass through on your trip. However, you had better be damn sure that you are not in your Want universe before you do this. If you leave, and you were wrong, you won't be able to return. 'That might not be so bad,' you might say, 'depending on where I ended up next.' You could end up in a pretty good place; It would be someone else's Want universe, but it could be pretty good, if you're lucky.

Welllll, you may want to rethink that idea, because I still haven't mentioned your other option in this situation. Hopefully, this will help you realize the problems with option A.

If you don't try to leave right off the bat, your other option is to wander the universe you've found yourself in until you find something that you don't want. Again, depending on where you landed, this could days, months, years, decades, or even centuries if you can survive that long. I mean, there are a few people in the world that want to live longer, so it's totally feasible in a place like that.

The entire time you're looking, you could be surrounded by things that you've wanted your whole life, and things you never knew about, but are just really fucking cool and you want them too. Just remember, though, that this universe may not be meant for you. If, at any point, you decide that this universe is your Want universe, and you are wrong, you will be in for a rude awakening.

Your desires will corrupt this universe for you. All of the things that you wanted will crumble away to dust, and the infinite amount of things that are left will move in to fill the space again. From that point onward, you will be surrounded on all sides, for an infinite distance, by everything that the appropriate person wanted that you didn't. No doubt, this will include many things that simply don't interest you, but it will also certainly include things that you would never want. Some of these things may be dangerous. Some of them may be hostile.

If you find yourself in a situation like this, I only hope you have a way to end it all. Even a painful death is preferred. This shouldn't be a problem, if you make the decision to kill yourself early enough. No one ever really wants to die, so finding something to seal the deal should be pretty easy. Waiting too long can cause problems, however. If you try to hold out hope for too long, you will eventually succumb to the realization that this torturous place will never end. Once that happens, you will probably want to kill yourself. But once you want it, the universe will take away any possibility of it. Anything that you could possibly use to kill yourself would crumble to dust long before you got your hands on it. And all that would be left is the same endless hellscape, except now, there really is no escape.

Oh, and it should probably be obvious, but if you are mistaken in leaving your Want universe, ending up in anyone else's will result like this. So use caution.



Another possibility is that you will end up in a universe of Want. This is not the same as your Want universe. The difference in the name may be small, but the practical difference is massive. A universe of Want is a place that is designed to leave you wanting more. You can end up in anyone's universe of Want, and as you can imagine, they vary widely from person to person.

For an example, you may find yourself in a desolate desert, lacking any food, water, or reprieve from the blistering heat. You may instead find yourself in an alleyway filled with garbage bags, many of them ripped open, exposing the contents to the down-pouring rain and exuding a horrible stench that you cannot escape. If you're lucky, you won't wind up in your universe of Want. If you do, there is likely no escape. An unfortunate circumstance to be sure, but the odds are in your favor.

If you should find yourself in a place like this, you should move quickly. You must find something in this universe that you want. This can be easy, or it can be very difficult. If you are in your personal universe of Want, it will be impossible. The object you seek can be anything. Food, a Ferris wheel, a game system; it really doesn't matter. It may not even be an object; it could be generosity from a stranger, or a pat on the back from someone you barely know. But you are on a time limit here.

The universe of Want is designed to make you weaker, to siphon away your strength and resolve and leave you wanting. You must find whatever it is you are seeking before this happens. Otherwise, you will collapse into a conscious, seeing, feeling pile of meat. You won't be able to move, as the universe has taken your strength. You will want to, but that will only make it more impossible.

If it's any consolation, a pile of meat may be something the next person wants. At least you'll be helpful to someone else.

If you should happen to be successful, however, you will find that the object you seek is concealing a doorknob. If you happen to find an intangible thing that you wanted, something given by another person, that person will kindly help you to the doorway that will help you along on your journey.



It is also possible that you will find yourself in a Greed universe instead. This is especially likely if you did not follow the instructions properly. The beings that govern the inter-dimensional barriers will be very angry that you wasted their time, and this is one of the places they may send you to teach you a lesson. Remember, I warned you that preparation is important.

In a Greed universe, you will be surrounded by a sea of people. Old people, young people, tall people, short people, people with hair, people without hair, people whose skin is covered in tattoos, people whose skin is smooth and unmarred; these and an infinite number of others will gather around you. Their chattering will be deafening, as all of them are trying to talk to you. Each of them wants something from you. Not all of them will be kind in asking for it, but you are permitted to say no. You can refuse to give anyone anything that you have, if you choose.

So, why would you bother? Well, they know how you can leave this universe. You see, in every Greed universe, there is a single person who wants absolutely nothing from you. This is the person you need to find, and the other inhabitants here know the way. However, they will not tell you anything, unless you give them something they want. Even then, not all of them are honest, and looks can be deceiving. That kind-looking elderly woman is just as likely to lead you astray as the heavily tattooed biker is to help you.

These people are very greedy, and they all want something. It may be something that you have, or something you don't, in which case that particular person cannot help you. They may want something material or something less tangible, and you may not always be able to give it to them. More than one person may want the same thing from you, meaning you have to guess which one, if any, will lead you in the correct direction.

You could be here for a very long time, depending on who is around, and how truthful they are. Still, it is possible that you will find the person you are looking for. This person will be easy to identify. They could be male or female, and they can be of any race. However, they will be seated, not standing among the crowd like all the others. This person will be silent, a welcome change from the constant noise that led you there. They will seem in a state of utter calm and contentedness.

Approach this person. They will open their eyes and look up at you. A light smile will grace their face. They will invite you to sit with them. Accept this invitation, no matter how much you have given, no matter how irritated you have become by the voices all around you. Be polite; this person can lead you toward your Want universe. They will ask you, "What do you want the most?" Tell them that you wish to go to your Want universe. They will then ask, "What more will you give up to get there?"

You may choose to offer this person anything you choose. The more precious the thing you offer, the better the results will be. No matter what it is, the person will humbly accept, setting it aside if it is an object, or closing a nearby container if it is something intangible. They will then stand up and lead you into a nearby building. They, too have drawn a door, and they are willing to let you use it. Retrieving an insignificant-looking key from their pocket, they will open the door for you, and you will be on your way.

Now, it would be a severe error if I didn't tell you some of the things that you should never, under any circumstances, give away. For the most part, physical things are fine. There are two exceptions, however: your key and your writing utensil. If you give these things away, you may find yourself in a situation where you cannot escape. You obviously don't want to be trapped in the wrong universe, right? Safeguard these objects, no matter how much longer the journey takes.

Additionally, there are some intangible things that you should never give up. Your consciousness, your awareness, your strength, your will, and your desire all fall under this category. Anything similar should also be treated as such. Additionally, you should not give away your empathy or your generosity, as these are necessary for dealing with the person you are seeking in this universe. Give those up, and you will be just as trapped as if you'd given away your key.



There are several other types of universes that you may find yourself in as you progress toward your ultimate goal. Perhaps a universe where you suddenly desire everything you never wanted before. You could be forced to sit in the dimensional equivalent of a waiting room, forced to be patient and wait for what you want. There may be a place where everyone starts giving you things, and you have to find a way to hold all of them until you can escape. Of course, there is always a way out, if you're careful. Persistence is your greatest ally.

So, what else do you need to know? I've warned you of the dangers involved, told you about how to get to your Want universe, and helped you out of some dangerous spots. What's left? Well, there is one itty bitty detail I haven't covered yet. Namely, the beings that govern the barriers, and what they can do.

Call them whatever you want. Gods, aliens, overlords, cosmic horrors; none of it matters. They are none of these things, and yet all of them. They were born from the convergence of many, many universes, each populated by, and representing, one of the aforementioned types of creatures. They have no real name or title, but rest assured that they are immensely powerful.

So, how do they come into play? Well, depending on how much preparation you did, and how well you handle the obstacles placed before you, they may be inclined to assist you. If they find you worthy enough, they may move some universes out of your path, or maybe plant small hints in the universes you come across. For example, if you end up in someone else's Want universe, they may move an object that you do not want a bit closer to you, helping you realize where you are and move on faster. If you end up in a universe of Want, they may take pity on you, and provide the help you seek. If you find yourself in a Greed universe, you may notice small, innocuous arrow all throughout the space, helping to direct you.

However, the opposite can also happen. Their time is precious, and they have a duty to uphold. If you are sloppy in your performance of the rite, they may go out of their way to make things difficult for you. Usually, this involves redirecting you to some less savory universes, but that is not the limit of their ability to meddle. They can, and likely will, add extra challenges for you. This can include, but is certainly not limited to, moving objects away from you, adding extra people to misdirect you, or simply draining away your will to continue. Because of this, I strongly suggest staying on their good side.

If you can make your way through everything listed above, then congratulations! You very likely have found your Want dimension. From this point forward, everything you could ever want is now at your fingertips. Take a moment and reflect on what brought you here. There is a reason for going through all of this, but maybe that isn't all that apparent to you. That's okay. You've made it. And that's all you really wanted, right?

93
Ashcan Horror / Purple Clouds Disperse Grey Cloudy Dreams by MaskEyesHide
« on: February 19, 2019, 09:59:53 PM »
“What the hell did you just say?” Aaron asked his avian friend, his tail curling up between the chair.
“Purple Spells Disperse Grey Cloudy Dreams,” Brent replied back, a smile on his fluffy face, “That’s what Mr. Eisner said about the new parade float. He said that it would have Queen Grimhilde over her cauldron, creating the poisoned apple to give to Snow White.You and I will have to get that thing working before the parade starts at 1:00 pm tomorrow. Thank God we have tonight to work on it.”
Aaron sipped a little more of his black coffee, the bitter taste making him grimace like it always did. He looked at his watch to make sure that he was still on his lunch break, and saw that he had 20 more minutes before he had to get back to the Epcot center. He was also glad his next break would be during the parade. He worked his ass off so he didn’t have to work in the parade.
A thought crossed his mind. “Do you have any idea if Susan is working near the entrance?”
“Susan?” Brent replied, gulping down a root beer within an uncomfortably fast amount of time, “You mean the short dragon girl at the entrance? Yeah, she is. Why?”
“I just want to give her a card since it’s her birthday coming up?” Aaron replied, his tail wagging back and forth fervently.
“Nah dude quit lying. We all know, since you two are dating, that you want to…(Brent looks around and sees many children around, then moves closer to Aaron) get it down in boogeytown with her.” Brent replied with a twinge of laughter in his voice.
Aaron blushed a little, knowing that Brent would say that, and then replied, “Yeah, that, but it is her birthday coming up, so I got her a card.” Aaron moved in his chair and, after a small scuffle with his jeans(“I swear to God they need to make these pockets larger,” he scoffed while Brent snickered.), pulled out the small 2 inch x 3 inch envelope, an outline of a card presenting itself. “I’ll probably give this to her before I have to get back to the Epcot center.”
Aaron then looked at his watch and saw that he had 10 minutes before break ended, so he told Brent he was heading to the entrance to meet Susan. As he got near the entrance, he saw a young red panda fall in front of Ella, who was playing Cinderella, and start to cry because he got a scrape on his knee. He saw Susan and, trying to rub off the frown he had and greeted her with a hug, even though he wanted to kiss her, but it was an unspoken rule here at the park.
“How ya doing,” he asked her, refraining himself from saying something cliché to her.
“My usual self, which is good,” she replied, her smile lighting up his heart. After they were done hugging, Susan turned towards the injured child and frowned towards the mother.
“I’m glad most of the children are already inside so I can say this: That women over there is a total cunt. She’s been complaining to Ella for the past 10 minutes because her son wasn’t getting a photo with her. Now she’s blaming her for her child falling down. I swear if this kid ends up being a dick to others in his later life I’m blaming it on his mom.”
“Man you women sure hate other women,” Aaron said back, a blank expression on his face. He thought by saying that he would get a little punch on the shoulder(if they were back at his place it probably would’ve been a slap on the face), but she just shrugged her shoulders.
“Drawing from my own experience, trying to reason with another woman, especially a mother of a young child, is like trying to reason with Stalin. They might listen to you, but they would rather put you somewhere else and want to tear you shreds before they would listen to you.” Susan remarked back, her eyes wandering from the child to a Dip-and-Dots vendor parallel from her. She hadn’t had Dip-and-Dots in a while, and the thought of getting one once her shift ended started to take centerfold in her mind. Aaron’s coughing due to his asthma brought her back to reality. Aaron took out his inhaler and took a huge breath before releasing the trigger. His lungs expanded as the medicine took effect.
“God asthma is like the poor-man’s cancer. It’s not visible on the outside, but man is it visible on the inside,” Aaron remarked as he sat down on a bench to rest for a very small amount of time. Susan stood next to him, greeting guests as they came into the Magic World. She gave him a few small pats on the back as reassurance, which he appreciated. It’s what he liked her: even though she came off as intimidating, she was friendly when you talked to her and cared for the people around her.
Aaron then checked his inhaler and saw that it was empty. “Fuck,” he muttered to himself and then looked at Susan.
“Hey since me and Brent are working on that float tonight, do you mind if you get one of the refills that I have in my medicine cabinet? I’ll give you one of the spare keys to my apartment. Call me when you have it.”
She agreed, and he gave her one of the silver spare keys with a Dali mustache on it(it was a sticker, as Aaron loved Dali) and gave her a hug.
“Are you sure I won’t come in to see just copies of Dali paintings littered about and maybe a copy of Destino lying around?” she said sarcastically. He smiled and responded, “No, just the Destino dvd and two reprints of Dali’s works, ‘The Dream’ and ‘The Hand.’ Don’t touch them, as those were pretty costly(around $50 each).”
As he left she waved to him, her smiling burning an image of happiness in his heart.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

   After his shift at Epcot was done, and once the park had shut its doors for the night, Aaron walked briskly towards the warehouse that housed the parade floats. He passed by the statue of Walt Disney himself, looked at it for a bit, then walked on. He came to work here due to a friend’s mention of a job offering in the phone, and a week after being interviewed he got the job. He always loved animation as a kid, especially the independent creators like the UPA, Don Bluth, Ralph Bakshi, and many others. He felt that he could escape himself and the small Ohio town he lived in, which would not have anything go on, which became an inside joke between him and his classmates. He would always joke that there was so little going on in small town Ohio that the next big headline from the local newspaper was how a  local little league’s team did well after 10 seasons of losses, and then were found out to be scamming the other teams and eventually forfeiting all of their wins.
   These things dispersed as the cranky and noisy doors to the warehouse zoomed into Aaron’s ears, and the voice of Brent calling out to him.
   “‘Eyo, smartass,” Brent said, “Meet the next Einstein at Epcot?”
   “No, but did you meet your crackdealer?” Aaron remarked back with a smug look on his face.
   “Hey that person was breaking the rules that you can’t spread ashes here. The wind blew just in the precise way where it got into my face. Thought the ashes would come alive and try to bury their memories in with mine.” Brent was a little ticked, but brushed it off as the two hopped onto the float to get everything rigged up.
   “So what are going to make the smoke color with?” Aaron asked, the fur on his arms already covered in fur, “Are we gonna make it with Disperse red 9 or Violet?”
   Brent, after making sure the hydraulics were in working shape, replied, “Violet. Manager said it would make it spookier.”
   The two men worked on the float for the next two hours, making sure that everything was in order. The final act was to make sure the smoke worked as intended.
  “Alright,” Aaron said to Brent, who was holding the controls, “let ‘em rip.”
   Brent nodded and pressed the on switch. A churning sound came from the underbelly of the float, as if the thing was groaning. Then, as if a volcano cam alive, purple smoke started to flow its way down, eventually, in the span of three minutes, covering the small warehouse. Aaron was pleased with this, even though he thought this much smoke was unnecessary, but he didn’t have a say in it.
   As he went to call out for Brent to shut it off, a shadow in the smoke caught his eye. It stood about 20 yards away from him, standing with something in its right arm. Aaron’s security instinct took in as he called out, “HEY! You’re not supposed to be here!”
   “What is it?” Brent replied, an unease in his voice crawling out. Aaron could hear his footsteps heading towards the stairs.
   As he was about to tell Aaron what was going on, the figure then started to ran towards him, in which the only two things he could discern was an agape mouth and a noose, which quickly surrounded his neck. It locked on tight, and dragged him towards the float, near the cauldron. Aaron’s voice couldn’t cry out for help, almost as if it was lost in the smoke with him. The figure then stopped near the cauldron, and looked at the lamppost above the cauldron. It quickly took off the lamp and tied the noose around the post. Aaron was now in full panic mode, squirming and trying to hit the figure, but his fists seemed to always miss the figure. As the figure finished tying the noose, it then stepped back to watch Aaron squirm.
   Aaron knew he didn’t have much time before he lost consciousness, so he grabbed the robe and pull it off him, but it was as if it was made of metal, unmoving. His breathing became more rapid, which was starting to trigger his asthma. As he felt his body go limp, an arm materialized out of the smoke and grabbed him, somehow freeing him from the noose. A shriek could be heard from behind the two men as they ran outside, closed the door to the warehouse, and sank onto the ground.
   “Brent,” Aaron coughed out with as much energy he could, “Call Susan and tell her to get here immediately with my refill.”
   Brent scrambled to get the phone from Aaron and dialed Susan in a hurry. After ten minutes, Susan, along with a small security team, ran towards the two men, Aaron barely breathing, but still conscious. He grabbed his inhaler and took a whiff.
   “Asthma’s still a bitch,” he remarked to lighten the mood, the security team going in to stop the smoke. The three people started for the exit, knowing that they could go home after such an incident.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Aaron, even though getting about 3 hours of sleep, came back to Disney World the next day, a look of gloom on his face. He tried to wipe the memory of last night out of his mind while working, but he couldn’t. He could still feel the burns of the rope on his neck.
   Like the day before, he went to the same place where him and Brent talked to each other. To his surprise, Brent was already there with Susan, their faces looking like they’ve been through a warzone.
   “Hey,” Aaron said quietly to them, “How’s...How’s it going?”
   Susan was the first to speak after a minute of silence, “Not well. I’m surprised you didn’t hear what happened this morning.”
   “Wait, what happened,” Aaron said back, a look of discomfort and suspicion on his face.
   Brent’s wings drooped a little as he spoke, “The handyman, Randy, was found hung on the float. He went to check up on it about 4 hours after we left, just around the time the park opened, and someone went to check on him 10 minutes later and saw his body hanging there. They decommissioned the float and are currently investigating the incident.”
   Aaron jaw wanted to drop, but because of last night it wouldn’t. Sad as it was to hear Randy being killed, he was glad that the float was being decommissioned, so as not to endanger others.

94
Ashcan Horror / Accusations Over a Body by MaskEyesHide
« on: February 19, 2019, 09:59:20 PM »
"Fellows, Fellows, what happened here?"
The Policeman said drawing near
The four men then fell silent and sat in fear
With one of them crying at a broken mirror.

"Stand up, you cowardly four!
What has happened to this loathsome bore?"
The four looked down, wanting nothing more
than going out with a bastardly whore.

The first man, J., took a stand.
He was a small and cowardly man
Afraid to be struck down by God's hand.
He then spoke as if coughing out sand,

"Mr. officer, I don't mean to be shy
but we found this body on the Rhine
as bloodied as Venetian  Wine
More blood than I've seen in my life."

"We all sit here to collect our thoughts
All wondering what this bore sought.
From what I can see him and his attacker fought
and the attacker plunged a knife, making his heart stop."

Then J.'s friend, U., stood up
and walked over to J with a confident strut
and slapped J without making a fuss
and spoke to the policeman thus,

"Sorry, officer, my friend is a git
One little thing and he becomes a tick
If only his head wasn't so thick
We wouldn't be in this."

"J.'s is lying about the death of the bore
We believe he had an eyesore*
And he fell while in a snore
and a sharp rock pierced his lonely heart's core."

U's mate, S., then grew mad
He stood up with a scowl and said,
"Officer they lie like two scummy rats
And they are here for the table scraps."

"What happened here is something from a work of art.
He had already been stabbed from the start.
what these two say is nothing but a farce.
It has swelled up from the bottoms of their hearts."

T., the most noble of them all,
Heard the sky's cunning call
and, during a sudden stall,
told the officer in a voice so tall,

"He died while on a walk
Believing his life was the most egregious fault.
He came under this tree to sulk
and plunged the knife into his heart."

"Well, come with me and we'll talk,"
The policeman said starting off.
And while the four made their way towards the rocks
the policeman smiled as he hid the knife within his poc+

*cataracts
+pocket

95
Ashcan Horror / Rumormill by TheLawliet01
« on: February 19, 2019, 09:58:36 PM »
My  wife and I couldn’t wait until the baby was born, and we closed on the deal for the house just outside of Coal City the day after we saw the price. A good acre of land surrounded the two story, light blue farmhouse, which was filled with three bedrooms and two baths. It was just what we needed to start our new life after moving out of Dallas, not to mention we were less than twenty minutes away from my mother. We packed up everything we thought we would need, asked Jessica’s sister to watch our apartment for a week, and booked the first flight out to O’Hare the next morning.
It didn’t take long to land, my Jessica gripping my hand like a vice the whole time, and it took even less time to spot my mom’s Chevy Malibu. It was the same off yellow color as the car I grew up with, but a newer model that actually had its’ fender intact. After the usual hardy hugs and twisting drive from the city, I started to see familiar territory. Long stretches of corn fields, the small horse farm my mother and I passed every time we went to Morris for groceries, the small clinic that Riverside had gotten built on the very edge of town, it all reminded me of why I wanted my kid to be raised in the same place I was. My wife saw this, and put her hand on my knee before giving me a smile that reassured that we both made the right decision.
Mom took a right the second we got to the intersection of 113 and Carbon Hill Road, taking it until we were a little past the middle school, and stopped right in front of out new place. As we got out, we noticed it had another floor than the pictures didn’t show, and our realtor, Patsy, greeted us with a smile as she got out of her car. From what she explained, the house was going to remain the price that we agreed on in our emails, and that the extra level was something the owners added on and forgot to update on the website. I asked mom why she never told us about the attic from when we asked her to check it out for us, but she told us that we never said how many floors the place was supposed to have. Jessica and I just shrugged it off, in our minds the extra space didn’t really cost us anything. In fact, the second Pasty showed us the top floor I fell in love with it.
“As you can see,” the older woman began, “the room was a study before the Cichi’s moved out. From what Greg told me, the desk is completely made of oak.” I walked closer, wide eyed at the solid computer desk and the tall backed leather chair in front of it. The rest of the house was as perfect as it could be for us: hardwood floors, plenty of counter space in the kitchen, and it was well kept by the realty company up until our purchase last week. Patsy handed us the keys, and a bottle of cheap champagne, before heading out to her car and wishing us a good night. Mom offered to buy us our first meal in the new house, and by the time my orange chicken came I was starving. We all lost track of time quickly as we caught up over chinese, but it was all the usual questions about the baby’s name, how my first book was coming along, how Jessica was adjusting to life outside the city, and how her new job as an algebra teacher in Braidwood was going to turn out.
When mom left it was almost eleven, and she rushed out the door hoping to make it back before the dog left her a surprise by the back door. Jess and I where pooped to say the least, the whole flight had taken a lot out of us, and our clean sheets where begging to be draped across the new mattress in our master bedroom. Even if we had the cable or internet hooked up, I think we would’ve passed out the second we layed back on the bed anyway. Compared to Cantrea Creek in the city, the lack of car horns and bustling streets was a welcomed change for our bodies apparently.
The next few days were filled with the usual work that came with getting a new place: cable and internet hook up, stocking the fridge with more than just take-out and a bottle of booze, and getting a rental car so we wouldn’t have to rely on my mother. August was getting closer, and Jess was already wearing long sleeves because of the ‘freezing Illinois weather’. I couldn’t help but laugh as I drove us home in our rented Ford Fusion, ideas for the plot of my novel bouncing around in my skull.
A few days passed, and the word document on my HP laptop was as blank as snow. My eyes burned as I stared at the screen, three empty bottles of water piled up on the right of my new oak desk, as I racked my brain for an idea. My agent wanted the outlined for the new story by next week, to pitch to a few of the publishers who he basically sold me to, but every idea I thought of ended with a big blank space. My back popped as I stood, my hands started to rub my temples as I looked down at my notebook. The ink had pressed deep into the paper, a page with ‘ideas’ at the top in capital letters was full of scribbles, and the only words left where basic genres like ‘fantasy’ or ‘horror’. I leaned back in the large, plush, leather chair the former owners of my house had left before tossing the college ruled notebook aside, a small cloud of dust puffed up as I heard it smack against the floor.
I needed a break, it had been up in that attic for at least four hours since my wife left for work, and I was already starving. The wood stairs were cold under my bare feet, thanks to the AC, and I headed into the kitchen to see what we had. I flung open the fridge door, my eyes scanned the tupperware and take-out boxes on the clear, plastic shelves. My hands fell on a couple of take out containers, pulling them out to drop them in the trash. It had been a month since Jess and I cleaned out the fridge, and after I dropped a black foam box with what I assumed was a burger in it I felt like pizza was on the menu. The closest place was La Piazza, a small Italian place that was owned by a pair of Arabic brothers and staffed by mostly teens and college kids. They had the best calamari in town, and I knew Jessie had been hungry for some squid since she started showing last week, so it was worth the short drive into town after calling the place for a medium Hawaiian pie with extra cheese with the fried squid.
As soon as I pulled into the parking lot, I could smell the aroma of spaghetti, steak, and pizza mixing in the air. The bell over the front door of the restaurant jingled, and the kid behind the counter looked up at me. He was a nice looking kid with thick brown hair with a tan, but his eyes were hidden behind a pair of glasses.
“Welcome to La Piazza, how can I help you sir?” he asked, his voice sounded tired.
“Yeah, I placed an order about twenty minutes ago, under Davis.” I replied, my hand moving to my jeans pocket for my wallet.
“Oh, right!” the kid turned around, looking through a long window fixed into the wall behind him, before turning around with a pizza box with a smaller foam one on top of it. “I was actually expecting my little sister’s math teacher.”
“Probably my wife.” I pulled my wallet out and opened it, fishing out a couple of twenties, “It was like thirty-seven bucks, right?”
“Yep, thirty-seven fifty.” He put the pizza on the counter and moved towards the register, “You guys moved into the old Cichi place, right?”
I looked at the kid and cocked my eyebrow while I handed him the bills, “Yeah… Why do you ask?”
The cashier took the money and pressed a few buttons, “Because, well,” He leaned forward a bit as he looked towards the kitchen, probably trying to keep tabs on where his bosses where, “I was just kind of surprised, since people say some bad stuff happened in that place.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle a little, stopping myself when I noticed how serious this young man looked. I knew what this kid was talking about, word about the Cichi Murder had reached my school too. I grabbed the pizza box and told the cashier to keep the change, and headed back to my car. I didn’t turn the radio on as I started home, I had to try and focus on my outline.
Jess was home when I walked in, and she wrapped her arms around me the second she saw that I had gotten dinner. We sat on the couch and turned on the TV, switching it over to the news just for the sake of noise as we talked about our days. For my wife it was a normal day: a few kids didn’t turn in their homework, one got into a fight in the hall, and her favorite student was out with a cold. After Jess had finished, I took a sip of my off-brand Dr. Pepper and told her of my pizza adventures, until she cut me off.
“Wait, what bad stuff? We’re not living in an abandoned crack house, are we?” she asked, only half joking.
“No, it’s just some dumb rumor that a few kids spread around that got to the next town over.” I said, a bit of pineapple crunching between my teeth, “Basically, the guy who owned the house before us thought his wife was fucking someone else, so he cut off her head and buried it in the basement.”
Jessica looked at me like I had told her I wanted a divorce for a solid minute, until she sat back and said “We don’t have a basement.”
“Exactly baby, it’s all just shit that gets spread around because it’s a small town. Like how all the single dads in town want to get the hot, new algebra teacher’s number.” I winked before stealing a kiss from her.
Jessie gave a giggle, and kissed me back a bit harder, “You better step up your game then, Mark, or I might just get swept off my feet.” I didn’t waste any time before picking her up bridal style and heading up the stairs. We didn’t exactly want to risk mom showing up while we were in the middle of things.
The next morning, I woke up with the rumors still stirring in my head. Jessica had already headed out, and left me a note on the microwave that told me to have a great day. I smiled as I popped a couple pieces of bread into our toaster, opened up my idea notebook, and started to finally scribble down an outline for my new murder-mystery story. A husband killed his wife , hid her head on the property, and it was up to a rookie detective and his older partner who was a friend of the husband. I already had a plan for the two to come into conflict once they figured out the case, with it all coming to a head in the second to last chapter. After finishing my toast, I copied the notes into a proper outline, and emailed my agent. By Friday, I had cranked out about seven chapters since I had gotten a publishing deal with Chicago Review Press.
It felt like I had a voice whispering in my ear, telling me every detail of how things could go. My rookie was slowly becoming closer and closer, but the killer had been smart and put on the ‘grieving widower act’ as the voice told me. I skipped lunch and didn’t eat dinner until I was about to hit the sack, and I had barely said a word to my wife within that time. Saturday was supposed to be my break, but I was about to hit an important point in the story. The partner was about to figure out the killer was his buddy, and he was going to hide that information. My fingers flew over the keys as I watched the words appear on the backlit screen of my small computer, so I didn’t noticed Jessica until she tapped me on the shoulder. I screamed out in surprise, and it must’ve scared her.
“Sorry, sorry! I didn’t mean to-”
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?!” I yelled, cutting off my wife. I could see her face get a bit darker after I stood from my chair.
“I was trying to see why you were working when we were supposed to be at your mother’s an hour ago for dinner and a movie, but if you’re going to be like this, never mind.” She glared at me, and I could feel the hot breath of the voice on the nape of my neck as it told me how she didn’t get it, that I needed to keep going. I told her exactly this, that I had finally gotten a breakthrough and I needed to get my words out, but she just shook her head like I was a child saying he wanted a toy. It made my blood boil, and my hands grabbed her shoulders the second the voice told me to.
The sound of meat slamming against hardwood made my temper cool, and my rage filled vision cleared the second Jess reached the bottom step. I could see my wife, her face bruised and bloody as she clutched her belly and started to cry. I could see my mother rushing over to my bloodied Jessie, putting her head on her lap, and looking up at me like I had just killed a child in front of her. I did kill a child in front of her, and I looked down at my hands to see the invisible blood on them.
The police came at the same time as the ambulance, and I knew I would be going with them and not to the hospital. I took a few steps towards my mother and wife, but both of them screamed for the police and I was tackled down on the hard, cold floor. I kept hearing the voice in my ear, telling me the same thing happened to him. His wife was getting in the way, he finished her off, but the cops never caught him after the basement was filled. It wasn’t long before I was on my way into town in the back of the police cruiser, the pair of cops driving me there barely talked after reading me my rights. As they pulled me into the station, past the desk duty officer, I noticed something that made me scream. I rushed towards the poor police woman behind the desk, but three cops finally took me down with the help of a taser. I had read the name plague on her desk, and for some reason it didn’t make sense to me.
When the detective asked me why I charged the woman, I could only tell him what I saw that set me off: her name.
“Miranda Cichi.”

96
My Hearth's Warming Doll fell right into the fire. I tried to save it, but I singed my hoof, it hurt real bad, there was nothing I could do but watch the flames devour my poor little Hearth's Warming Doll, there was nothing anypony could do as the flames tore into the blue fabric engulfing the white cotton stuffing in seconds turning it all black then glowing red, orange, back to black, grey, and then dust. And as the fire consumed the doll I felt colder and colder until I froze solid, I didn't thaw out until Spring. And that's what happens if your Hearth's Warming Doll falls in the fire. True story.

97
/r/ShortScaryStories / Good at Counting by SirGroinPain
« on: February 19, 2019, 09:50:25 PM »
71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78 My mother 79 used to be very proud of how quickly I learned to count, 80 I think I was about, actually I shouldn't say that, I might lose track of where I was. 81 Things really started to pick up when I hit double digit 82 back when I was a youngster I liked to count animals in my backyard 83 my mother thought to 84 send me to a psychi.pysciatris ..Excuse my spelling, it's really not my forte. 85 In the end she decided not to, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95 that she can handle it with a bit of tough love, wich now as a fully functional adult I find a bit funny, I never needed help(thanks autocorrect for helping me spell right) so I continued counting in secret so I dont96, 97, 98, 99 anger mom psychiatrist! I got it right! Anyways my mother was happy, I was happy, everyone was happy. So why am I sharing this with y'all? Well I got bored of animals and I switched over to people and I just hit 100 and the police are after me, so I thought that I should share my story before I just burn the whole place. See you soon mom I miss you!

98
/r/ShortScaryStories / A Long Drive by TheLawliet10
« on: February 19, 2019, 09:49:22 PM »
“Johnny, stop kicking the back of the seat, or I swear to God-” My hands gripped the wheel tighter as I felt my seat bounce hard against my aching back. I could tell the kid was bored, but we were only twenty miles away from our last stop and I didn’t want to pull over again so soon. Johnny and Robert where always excited when it came to stuff like this, and my husband Diego could tell Johnny’s ‘enthusiasm’ was starting to grate on my last nerve.
“Sweetie, maybe I should take the wheel for a bit.” Diego’s hand brushed my shoulder, trying to calm me like he did after a long day, “You’ve been driving for hours, it’s not good for you.”
“I’m fine, honey.” I told him through gritted teeth, “Johnny just needs to stop kicking my FUCKING SEAT!” I felt another hit and a stifled giggle from behind me as I shouted. I reached back, taking my eyes off the road for a split second, to slap him. I instantly regretted it after turning back around, and seeing Diego’s annoyed expression at my actions.
I sighed, “Johnny, I’m sorry. It’s just… It’s really stressful driving for so long, and kicking my seat is just making it worse.”
Johnny didn’t say anything, and I could see Robert looking at him with pity in his eyes. The silence didn’t help me feel any better, and when I reached for Diego’s hand he just pulled it away and looked out the window. Finally, I heard Johnny’s voice crack up.
“It’s ok boss. I’m just, you know, restless.”
“Yeah,” Robert piped up, “and I think we need to pull over soon anyway. The people we took this Ford from are starting to stink up the place.”

99
/r/ShortScaryStories / Night Shift by Citrate
« on: February 19, 2019, 09:47:42 PM »
The graveyard shift was the worst shift a pilot could get stuck with on the old rusty cargo ship, and Simon had 3 more "nights" of this. He sighed, reflecting that perhaps eating the captains last bar of chocolate hadn't been his brightest move, but how could he resist? The real food had run out weeks ago and the next star port was another two away, One more pack of ration paste would have driven him over the edge, if anything the crew should be thanking him for sparing them his madness.

Simon dejectedly glanced around the empty bridge, looking for something, anything that might take his mind off the endless dark expanse of boring in front of him.  Nothing. He couldn't even focus on his work really, this system was surprisingly barren. Not even an asteroid field to navigate around. He'd just locked into the next warp location and was lazily floating towards it, another hour or so and he'd get to engage the Faster-Than-Light drivers, what fun. Slouching back in the chair he reflected that he probably should have brought a book or perhaps some music, anything to distract him from the drudgery.

The sensors suddenly chimed, flashing an alert up on his display. Taking a quick glance at the flashing screen to see what all the excitement was about. The sensors told him that if he continued in this direction for much longer he'd collide into an asteroid, it happened from time to time, no big deal. Leaning forward he gently tilted the control yoke and lazily listed out of the way, he'd course correct in a few minutes.


Just as he settled back into his reverie, the sensors pinged again. He was on a collision course with an asteroid, in fact if the stats the sensors were showing were anything to go by it was the same one. Same dimensions, same material composition. Now that he was really looking he saw that some materials were difficult for the sensors make sense of, probably rare, if this were a mining ship they'd stop to drill. He gave the control yoke a firmer tug, creating greater distance between the ship and the asteroids trajectory. Again the sensors chirped,  and again the same asteroid was on a collision course. Suspicious, Simon stood up and instinctively squinted through the front window, a pointless move as any object would be too far away to see in any detail until it was too late to do anything about it.

Cursing softly to himself, he Instead fired up the long range imager, targeting the asteroids position.
He looked through the imaging scope and his eyes bulged at what he saw. he jumped back from the device in shock, and had to shake off a strange nausea, as if he had looked at a twisted optical illusion for too long. He stood still, paralysed to the spot, shaking and his breath heavy. A shudder shot down his spine and spread throughout his body followed by a wave of goose bumps breaking out across his skin. Jolting himself out of his stunned stupor he lunged for the controls and harshly yanked the yoke, turning the ship around the way it had came. The sudden turn caused a bit of a shudder but Simon did not care, he had to get away from that thing. That thing had looked at him somehow when he'd looked through the imager, he knew it, he could still feel its hateful gaze on him and it sent another shiver down his spine.

He gripped the controls as tightly as he could as he pushed the ship faster and faster, using them to steady his own shakes as much as the ships. There was no way he was dealing with this on his own, he brought his fist down on the alarm and the klaxon flared to life, ringing shrilly throughout the ship. Soon he would have help. It would take some time to leave the system the way he had arrived but as long as he kept a good distance between him and the pursuer Simon didn't care. Through the alarms repetitive ringing he heard a sound that was almost completely drowned out. A sound that made his blood run cold. He looked down at the sensors. He was on a collision course. With another asteroid.

100
/r/LetsNotMeet / The Smiling Man by blue_tidal
« on: February 19, 2019, 09:44:56 PM »
About five years ago I lived downtown in a major city in the US. I've always been a night person, so I would often find myself bored after my roommate, who was decidedly not a night person, went to sleep. To pass the time, I used to go for long walks and spend the time thinking.

I spent four years like that, walking alone at night, and never once had a reason to feel afraid. I always used to joke with my roommate that even the drug dealers in the city were polite. But all of that changed in just a few minutes of one evening.

It was a Wednesday, somewhere between one and two in the morning, and I was walking near a police patrolled park quite a ways from my apartment. It was a quiet night, even for a weeknight, with very little traffic and almost no one on foot. The park, as it was most nights, was completely empty.
I turned down a short side-street in order to loop back to my apartment when I first noticed him. At the far end of the street, on my side, was the silhouette of a man, dancing. It was a strange dance, similar to a waltz, but he finished each "box" with an odd forward stride. I guess you could say he was dance-walking, headed straight for me.

Deciding he was probably drunk, I stepped as close as I could to the road to give him the majority of the sidewalk to pass me by. The closer he got, the more I realized how gracefully he was moving. He was very tall and lanky, and wearing an old suit. He danced closer still, until I could make out his face. His eyes were open wide and wild, head tilted back slightly, looking off at the sky. His mouth was formed in a painfully wide cartoon of a smile. Between the eyes and the smile, I decided to cross the street before he danced any closer.

I took my eyes off of him to cross the empty street. As I reached the other side, I glanced back... and then stopped dead in my tracks. He had stopped dancing and was standing with one foot in the street, perfectly parallel to me. He was facing me but still looking skyward, smile still wide on his lips.

I was completely and utterly unnerved by this. I started walking again, but kept my eyes on the man. He didn't move. Once I had put about half a block between us, I turned away from him for a moment to watch the sidewalk in front of me. The street and sidewalk ahead of me were completely empty. Still unnerved, I looked back to where he had been standing to find him gone. For the briefest of moments I felt relieved, until I noticed him. He had crossed the street, and was now slightly crouched down. I couldn't tell for sure due to the distance and the shadows, but I was certain he was facing me. I had looked away from him for no more than ten seconds, so it was clear that he had moved fast.

I was so shocked that I stood there for some time, staring at him. And then he started moving toward me again. He took giant, exaggerated tip-toed steps, as if he were a cartoon character sneaking up on someone. Except he was moving very, very quickly.
I'd like to say at this point I ran away or pulled out my pepper spray or my cellphone or anything at all, but I didn't. I just stood there, completely frozen as the smiling man crept toward me.

And then he stopped again, about a car length away from me. Still smiling his smile, still looking to the sky.
When I finally found my voice, I blurted out the first thing that came to mind. What I meant to ask was, "What do you want?!" in an angry, commanding tone.

What came out was a whimper: "Whaaat…?"

Regardless of whether or not humans can smell fear, they can certainly hear it. I heard it in my own voice, and that only made me more afraid. But he didn't react to it at all. He just stood there, smiling.

And then, after what felt like forever, he turned around, very slowly, and started dance-walking away. Just like that. Not wanting to turn my back to him again, I just watched him go, until he was far enough away to almost be out of sight. And then I realized something. He wasn't moving away anymore, nor was he dancing. I watched in horror as the distant shape of him grew larger and larger. He was coming back my way. And this time he was running.

I ran too.

I ran until I was off of the side-road and back onto a better lit road with sparse traffic. Looking behind me then, he was nowhere to be found. The rest of the way home, I kept glancing over my shoulder, always expecting to see his stupid smile, but he was never there.

I lived in that city for six months after that night, and I never went out for another walk. There was something about his face that always haunted me. He didn't look drunk, he didn't look high. He looked completely and utterly insane. And that's a very, very scary thing to see.


101
H.P. Lovecraft / The Music of Erich Zann
« on: February 19, 2019, 09:37:26 PM »
I have examined maps of the city with the greatest care, yet have never again found the Rue d’Auseil. These maps have not been modern maps alone, for I know that names change. I have, on the contrary, delved deeply into all the antiquities of the place; and have personally explored every region, of whatever name, which could possibly answer to the street I knew as the Rue d’Auseil. But despite all I have done it remains an humiliating fact that I cannot find the house, the street, or even the locality, where, during the last months of my impoverished life as a student of metaphysics at the university, I heard the music of Erich Zann.
 That my memory is broken, I do not wonder; for my health, physical and mental, was gravely disturbed throughout the period of my residence in the Rue d’Auseil, and I recall that I took none of my few acquaintances there. But that I cannot find the place again is both singular and perplexing; for it was within a half-hour’s walk of the university and was distinguished by peculiarities which could hardly be forgotten by anyone who had been there. I have never met a person who has seen the Rue d’Auseil.
 The Rue d’Auseil lay across a dark river bordered by precipitous brick blear-windowed warehouses and spanned by a ponderous bridge of dark stone. It was always shadowy along that river, as if the smoke of neighbouring factories shut out the sun perpetually. The river was also odorous with evil stenches which I have never smelled elsewhere, and which may some day help me to find it, since I should recognise them at once. Beyond the bridge were narrow cobbled streets with rails; and then came the ascent, at first gradual, but incredibly steep as the Rue d’Auseil was reached.
 I have never seen another street as narrow and steep as the Rue d’Auseil. It was almost a cliff, closed to all vehicles, consisting in several places of flights of steps, and ending at the top in a lofty ivied wall. Its paving was irregular, sometimes stone slabs, sometimes cobblestones, and sometimes bare earth with struggling greenish-grey vegetation. The houses were tall, peaked-roofed, incredibly old, and crazily leaning backward, forward, and sidewise. Occasionally an opposite pair, both leaning forward, almost met across the street like an arch; and certainly they kept most of the light from the ground below. There were a few overhead bridges from house to house across the street.
 The inhabitants of that street impressed me peculiarly. At first I thought it was because they were all silent and reticent; but later decided it was because they were all very old. I do not know how I came to live on such a street, but I was not myself when I moved there. I had been living in many poor places, always evicted for want of money; until at last I came upon that tottering house in the Rue d’Auseil, kept by the paralytic Blandot. It was the third house from the top of the street, and by far the tallest of them all.
 My room was on the fifth story; the only inhabited room there, since the house was almost empty. On the night I arrived I heard strange music from the peaked garret overhead, and the next day asked old Blandot about it. He told me it was an old German viol-player, a strange dumb man who signed his name as Erich Zann, and who played evenings in a cheap theatre orchestra; adding that Zann’s desire to play in the night after his return from the theatre was the reason he had chosen this lofty and isolated garret room, whose single gable window was the only point on the street from which one could look over the terminating wall at the declivity and panorama beyond.
 Thereafter I heard Zann every night, and although he kept me awake, I was haunted by the weirdness of his music. Knowing little of the art myself, I was yet certain that none of his harmonies had any relation to music I had heard before; and concluded that he was a composer of highly original genius. The longer I listened, the more I was fascinated, until after a week I resolved to make the old man’s acquaintance.
 One night, as he was returning from his work, I intercepted Zann in the hallway and told him that I would like to know him and be with him when he played. He was a small, lean, bent person, with shabby clothes, blue eyes, grotesque, satyr-like face, and nearly bald head; and at my first words seemed both angered and frightened. My obvious friendliness, however, finally melted him; and he grudgingly motioned to me to follow him up the dark, creaking, and rickety attic stairs. His room, one of only two in the steeply pitched garret, was on the west side, toward the high wall that formed the upper end of the street. Its size was very great, and seemed the greater because of its extraordinary bareness and neglect. Of furniture there was only a narrow iron bedstead, a dingy washstand, a small table, a large bookcase, an iron music-rack, and three old-fashioned chairs. Sheets of music were piled in disorder about the floor. The walls were of bare boards, and had probably never known plaster; whilst the abundance of dust and cobwebs made the place seem more deserted than inhabited. Evidently Erich Zann’s world of beauty lay in some far cosmos of the imagination.
 Motioning me to sit down, the dumb man closed the door, turned the large wooden bolt, and lighted a candle to augment the one he had brought with him. He now removed his viol from its moth-eaten covering, and taking it, seated himself in the least uncomfortable of the chairs. He did not employ the music-rack, but offering no choice and playing from memory, enchanted me for over an hour with strains I had never heard before; strains which must have been of his own devising. To describe their exact nature is impossible for one unversed in music. They were a kind of fugue, with recurrent passages of the most captivating quality, but to me were notable for the absence of any of the weird notes I had overheard from my room below on other occasions.
 Those haunting notes I had remembered, and had often hummed and whistled inaccurately to myself; so when the player at length laid down his bow I asked him if he would render some of them. As I began my request the wrinkled satyr-like face lost the bored placidity it had possessed during the playing, and seemed to shew the same curious mixture of anger and fright which I had noticed when first I accosted the old man. For a moment I was inclined to use persuasion, regarding rather lightly the whims of senility; and even tried to awaken my host’s weirder mood by whistling a few of the strains to which I had listened the night before. But I did not pursue this course for more than a moment; for when the dumb musician recognised the whistled air his face grew suddenly distorted with an expression wholly beyond analysis, and his long, cold, bony right hand reached out to stop my mouth and silence the crude imitation. As he did this he further demonstrated his eccentricity by casting a startled glance toward the lone curtained window, as if fearful of some intruder—a glance doubly absurd, since the garret stood high and inaccessible above all the adjacent roofs, this window being the only point on the steep street, as the concierge had told me, from which one could see over the wall at the summit.
 The old man’s glance brought Blandot’s remark to my mind, and with a certain capriciousness I felt a wish to look out over the wide and dizzying panorama of moonlit roofs and city lights beyond the hill-top, which of all the dwellers in the Rue d’Auseil only this crabbed musician could see. I moved toward the window and would have drawn aside the nondescript curtains, when with a frightened rage even greater than before the dumb lodger was upon me again; this time motioning with his head toward the door as he nervously strove to drag me thither with both hands. Now thoroughly disgusted with my host, I ordered him to release me, and told him I would go at once. His clutch relaxed, and as he saw my disgust and offence his own anger seemed to subside. He tightened his relaxing grip, but this time in a friendly manner; forcing me into a chair, then with an appearance of wistfulness crossing to the littered table, where he wrote many words with a pencil in the laboured French of a foreigner.
 The note which he finally handed me was an appeal for tolerance and forgiveness. Zann said that he was old, lonely, and afflicted with strange fears and nervous disorders connected with his music and with other things. He had enjoyed my listening to his music, and wished I would come again and not mind his eccentricities. But he could not play to another his weird harmonies, and could not bear hearing them from another; nor could he bear having anything in his room touched by another. He had not known until our hallway conversation that I could overhear his playing in my room, and now asked me if I would arrange with Blandot to take a lower room where I could not hear him in the night. He would, he wrote, defray the difference in rent.
 As I sat deciphering the execrable French I felt more lenient toward the old man. He was a victim of physical and nervous suffering, as was I; and my metaphysical studies had taught me kindness. In the silence there came a slight sound from the window—the shutter must have rattled in the night-wind—and for some reason I started almost as violently as did Erich Zann. So when I had finished reading I shook my host by the hand, and departed as a friend. The next day Blandot gave me a more expensive room on the third floor, between the apartments of an aged money-lender and the room of a respectable upholsterer. There was no one on the fourth floor.
 It was not long before I found that Zann’s eagerness for my company was not as great as it had seemed while he was persuading me to move down from the fifth story. He did not ask me to call on him, and when I did call he appeared uneasy and played listlessly. This was always at night—in the day he slept and would admit no one. My liking for him did not grow, though the attic room and the weird music seemed to hold an odd fascination for me. I had a curious desire to look out of that window, over the wall and down the unseen slope at the glittering roofs and spires which must lie outspread there. Once I went up to the garret during theatre hours, when Zann was away, but the door was locked.
 What I did succeed in doing was to overhear the nocturnal playing of the dumb old man. At first I would tiptoe up to my old fifth floor, then I grew bold enough to climb the last creaking staircase to the peaked garret. There in the narrow hall, outside the bolted door with the covered keyhole, I often heard sounds which filled me with an indefinable dread—the dread of vague wonder and brooding mystery. It was not that the sounds were hideous, for they were not; but that they held vibrations suggesting nothing on this globe of earth, and that at certain intervals they assumed a symphonic quality which I could hardly conceive as produced by one player. Certainly, Erich Zann was a genius of wild power. As the weeks passed, the playing grew wilder, whilst the old musician acquired an increasing haggardness and furtiveness pitiful to behold. He now refused to admit me at any time, and shunned me whenever we met on the stairs.
 Then one night as I listened at the door I heard the shrieking viol swell into a chaotic babel of sound; a pandemonium which would have led me to doubt my own shaking sanity had there not come from behind that barred portal a piteous proof that the horror was real—the awful, inarticulate cry which only a mute can utter, and which rises only in moments of the most terrible fear or anguish. I knocked repeatedly at the door, but received no response. Afterward I waited in the black hallway, shivering with cold and fear, till I heard the poor musician’s feeble effort to rise from the floor by the aid of a chair. Believing him just conscious after a fainting fit, I renewed my rapping, at the same time calling out my name reassuringly. I heard Zann stumble to the window and close both shutter and sash, then stumble to the door, which he falteringly unfastened to admit me. This time his delight at having me present was real; for his distorted face gleamed with relief while he clutched at my coat as a child clutches at its mother’s skirts.
 Shaking pathetically, the old man forced me into a chair whilst he sank into another, beside which his viol and bow lay carelessly on the floor. He sat for some time inactive, nodding oddly, but having a paradoxical suggestion of intense and frightened listening. Subsequently he seemed to be satisfied, and crossing to a chair by the table wrote a brief note, handed it to me, and returned to the table, where he began to write rapidly and incessantly. The note implored me in the name of mercy, and for the sake of my own curiosity, to wait where I was while he prepared a full account in German of all the marvels and terrors which beset him. I waited, and the dumb man’s pencil flew.
 It was perhaps an hour later, while I still waited and while the old musician’s feverishly written sheets still continued to pile up, that I saw Zann start as from the hint of a horrible shock. Unmistakably he was looking at the curtained window and listening shudderingly. Then I half fancied I heard a sound myself; though it was not a horrible sound, but rather an exquisitely low and infinitely distant musical note, suggesting a player in one of the neighbouring houses, or in some abode beyond the lofty wall over which I had never been able to look. Upon Zann the effect was terrible, for dropping his pencil suddenly he rose, seized his viol, and commenced to rend the night with the wildest playing I had ever heard from his bow save when listening at the barred door.
 It would be useless to describe the playing of Erich Zann on that dreadful night. It was more horrible than anything I had ever overheard, because I could now see the expression of his face, and could realise that this time the motive was stark fear. He was trying to make a noise; to ward something off or drown something out—what, I could not imagine, awesome though I felt it must be. The playing grew fantastic, delirious, and hysterical, yet kept to the last the qualities of supreme genius which I knew this strange old man possessed. I recognised the air—it was a wild Hungarian dance popular in the theatres, and I reflected for a moment that this was the first time I had ever heard Zann play the work of another composer.
 Louder and louder, wilder and wilder, mounted the shrieking and whining of that desperate viol. The player was dripping with an uncanny perspiration and twisted like a monkey, always looking frantically at the curtained window. In his frenzied strains I could almost see shadowy satyrs and Bacchanals dancing and whirling insanely through seething abysses of clouds and smoke and lightning. And then I thought I heard a shriller, steadier note that was not from the viol; a calm, deliberate, purposeful, mocking note from far away in the west.
 At this juncture the shutter began to rattle in a howling night-wind which had sprung up outside as if in answer to the mad playing within. Zann’s screaming viol now outdid itself, emitting sounds I had never thought a viol could emit. The shutter rattled more loudly, unfastened, and commenced slamming against the window. Then the glass broke shiveringly under the persistent impacts, and the chill wind rushed in, making the candles sputter and rustling the sheets of paper on the table where Zann had begun to write out his horrible secret. I looked at Zann, and saw that he was past conscious observation. His blue eyes were bulging, glassy, and sightless, and the frantic playing had become a blind, mechanical, unrecognisable orgy that no pen could even suggest.
 A sudden gust, stronger than the others, caught up the manuscript and bore it toward the window. I followed the flying sheets in desperation, but they were gone before I reached the demolished panes. Then I remembered my old wish to gaze from this window, the only window in the Rue d’Auseil from which one might see the slope beyond the wall, and the city outspread beneath. It was very dark, but the city’s lights always burned, and I expected to see them there amidst the rain and wind. Yet when I looked from that highest of all gable windows, looked while the candles sputtered and the insane viol howled with the night-wind, I saw no city spread below, and no friendly lights gleaming from remembered streets, but only the blackness of space illimitable; unimagined space alive with motion and music, and having no semblance to anything on earth. And as I stood there looking in terror, the wind blew out both the candles in that ancient peaked garret, leaving me in savage and impenetrable darkness with chaos and pandemonium before me, and the daemon madness of that night-baying viol behind me.
 I staggered back in the dark, without the means of striking a light, crashing against the table, overturning a chair, and finally groping my way to the place where the blackness screamed with shocking music. To save myself and Erich Zann I could at least try, whatever the powers opposed to me. Once I thought some chill thing brushed me, and I screamed, but my scream could not be heard above that hideous viol. Suddenly out of the blackness the madly sawing bow struck me, and I knew I was close to the player. I felt ahead, touched the back of Zann’s chair, and then found and shook his shoulder in an effort to bring him to his senses.
 He did not respond, and still the viol shrieked on without slackening. I moved my hand to his head, whose mechanical nodding I was able to stop, and shouted in his ear that we must both flee from the unknown things of the night. But he neither answered me nor abated the frenzy of his unutterable music, while all through the garret strange currents of wind seemed to dance in the darkness and babel. When my hand touched his ear I shuddered, though I knew not why—knew not why till I felt of the still face; the ice-cold, stiffened, unbreathing face whose glassy eyes bulged uselessly into the void. And then, by some miracle finding the door and the large wooden bolt, I plunged wildly away from that glassy-eyed thing in the dark, and from the ghoulish howling of that accursed viol whose fury increased even as I plunged.
 Leaping, floating, flying down those endless stairs through the dark house; racing mindlessly out into the narrow, steep, and ancient street of steps and tottering houses; clattering down steps and over cobbles to the lower streets and the putrid canyon-walled river; panting across the great dark bridge to the broader, healthier streets and boulevards we know; all these are terrible impressions that linger with me. And I recall that there was no wind, and that the moon was out, and that all the lights of the city twinkled.
 Despite my most careful searches and investigations, I have never since been able to find the Rue d’Auseil. But I am not wholly sorry; either for this or for the loss in undreamable abysses of the closely written sheets which alone could have explained the music of Erich Zann.


102
H.P. Lovecraft / The Rats in the Walls
« on: February 19, 2019, 09:36:47 PM »
On July 16, 1923, I moved into Exham Priory after the last workman had finished his labours. The restoration had been a stupendous task, for little had remained of the deserted pile but a shell-like ruin; yet because it had been the seat of my ancestors I let no expense deter me. The place had not been inhabited since the reign of James the First, when a tragedy of intensely hideous, though largely unexplained, nature had struck down the master, five of his children, and several servants; and driven forth under a cloud of suspicion and terror the third son, my lineal progenitor and the only survivor of the abhorred line. With this sole heir denounced as a murderer, the estate had reverted to the crown, nor had the accused man made any attempt to exculpate himself or regain his property. Shaken by some horror greater than that of conscience or the law, and expressing only a frantic wish to exclude the ancient edifice from his sight and memory, Walter de la Poer, eleventh Baron Exham, fled to Virginia and there founded the family which by the next century had become known as Delapore.
 Exham Priory had remained untenanted, though later allotted to the estates of the Norrys family and much studied because of its peculiarly composite architecture; an architecture involving Gothic towers resting on a Saxon or Romanesque substructure, whose foundation in turn was of a still earlier order or blend of orders—Roman, and even Druidic or native Cymric, if legends speak truly. This foundation was a very singular thing, being merged on one side with the solid limestone of the precipice from whose brink the priory overlooked a desolate valley three miles west of the village of Anchester. Architects and antiquarians loved to examine this strange relic of forgotten centuries, but the country folk hated it. They had hated it hundreds of years before, when my ancestors lived there, and they hated it now, with the moss and mould of abandonment on it. I had not been a day in Anchester before I knew I came of an accursed house. And this week workmen have blown up Exham Priory, and are busy obliterating the traces of its foundations.
 The bare statistics of my ancestry I had always known, together with the fact that my first American forbear had come to the colonies under a strange cloud. Of details, however, I had been kept wholly ignorant through the policy of reticence always maintained by the Delapores. Unlike our planter neighbours, we seldom boasted of crusading ancestors or other mediaeval and Renaissance heroes; nor was any kind of tradition handed down except what may have been recorded in the sealed envelope left before the Civil War by every squire to his eldest son for posthumous opening. The glories we cherished were those achieved since the migration; the glories of a proud and honourable, if somewhat reserved and unsocial Virginia line.
 During the war our fortunes were extinguished and our whole existence changed by the burning of Carfax, our home on the banks of the James. My grandfather, advanced in years, had perished in that incendiary outrage, and with him the envelope that bound us all to the past. I can recall that fire today as I saw it then at the age of seven, with the Federal soldiers shouting, the women screaming, and the negroes howling and praying. My father was in the army, defending Richmond, and after many formalities my mother and I were passed through the lines to join him. When the war ended we all moved north, whence my mother had come; and I grew to manhood, middle age, and ultimate wealth as a stolid Yankee. Neither my father nor I ever knew what our hereditary envelope had contained, and as I merged into the greyness of Massachusetts business life I lost all interest in the mysteries which evidently lurked far back in my family tree. Had I suspected their nature, how gladly I would have left Exham Priory to its moss, bats, and cobwebs!
 My father died in 1904, but without any message to leave me, or to my only child, Alfred, a motherless boy of ten. It was this boy who reversed the order of family information; for although I could give him only jesting conjectures about the past, he wrote me of some very interesting ancestral legends when the late war took him to England in 1917 as an aviation officer. Apparently the Delapores had a colourful and perhaps sinister history, for a friend of my son’s, Capt. Edward Norrys of the Royal Flying Corps, dwelt near the family seat at Anchester and related some peasant superstitions which few novelists could equal for wildness and incredibility. Norrys himself, of course, did not take them seriously; but they amused my son and made good material for his letters to me. It was this legendry which definitely turned my attention to my transatlantic heritage, and made me resolve to purchase and restore the family seat which Norrys shewed to Alfred in its picturesque desertion, and offered to get for him at a surprisingly reasonable figure, since his own uncle was the present owner.
 I bought Exham Priory in 1918, but was almost immediately distracted from my plans of restoration by the return of my son as a maimed invalid. During the two years that he lived I thought of nothing but his care, having even placed my business under the direction of partners. In 1921, as I found myself bereaved and aimless, a retired manufacturer no longer young, I resolved to divert my remaining years with my new possession. Visiting Anchester in December, I was entertained by Capt. Norrys, a plump, amiable young man who had thought much of my son, and secured his assistance in gathering plans and anecdotes to guide in the coming restoration. Exham Priory itself I saw without emotion, a jumble of tottering mediaeval ruins covered with lichens and honeycombed with rooks’ nests, perched perilously upon a precipice, and denuded of floors or other interior features save the stone walls of the separate towers.
 As I gradually recovered the image of the edifice as it had been when my ancestor left it over three centuries before, I began to hire workmen for the reconstruction. In every case I was forced to go outside the immediate locality, for the Anchester villagers had an almost unbelievable fear and hatred of the place. This sentiment was so great that it was sometimes communicated to the outside labourers, causing numerous desertions; whilst its scope appeared to include both the priory and its ancient family.
 My son had told me that he was somewhat avoided during his visits because he was a de la Poer, and I now found myself subtly ostracised for a like reason until I convinced the peasants how little I knew of my heritage. Even then they sullenly disliked me, so that I had to collect most of the village traditions through the mediation of Norrys. What the people could not forgive, perhaps, was that I had come to restore a symbol so abhorrent to them; for, rationally or not, they viewed Exham Priory as nothing less than a haunt of fiends and werewolves.
 Piecing together the tales which Norrys collected for me, and supplementing them with the accounts of several savants who had studied the ruins, I deduced that Exham Priory stood on the site of a prehistoric temple; a Druidical or ante-Druidical thing which must have been contemporary with Stonehenge. That indescribable rites had been celebrated there, few doubted; and there were unpleasant tales of the transference of these rites into the Cybele-worship which the Romans had introduced. Inscriptions still visible in the sub-cellar bore such unmistakable letters as “DIV . . . OPS . . . MAGNA. MAT . . . “ sign of the Magna Mater whose dark worship was once vainly forbidden to Roman citizens. Anchester had been the camp of the third Augustan legion, as many remains attest, and it was said that the temple of Cybele was splendid and thronged with worshippers who performed nameless ceremonies at the bidding of a Phrygian priest. Tales added that the fall of the old religion did not end the orgies at the temple, but that the priests lived on in the new faith without real change. Likewise was it said that the rites did not vanish with the Roman power, and that certain among the Saxons added to what remained of the temple, and gave it the essential outline it subsequently preserved, making it the centre of a cult feared through half the heptarchy. About 1000 A.D. the place is mentioned in a chronicle as being a substantial stone priory housing a strange and powerful monastic order and surrounded by extensive gardens which needed no walls to exclude a frightened populace. It was never destroyed by the Danes, though after the Norman Conquest it must have declined tremendously; since there was no impediment when Henry the Third granted the site to my ancestor, Gilbert de la Poer, First Baron Exham, in 1261.
 Of my family before this date there is no evil report, but something strange must have happened then. In one chronicle there is a reference to a de la Poer as “cursed of God” in 1307, whilst village legendry had nothing but evil and frantic fear to tell of the castle that went up on the foundations of the old temple and priory. The fireside tales were of the most grisly description, all the ghastlier because of their frightened reticence and cloudy evasiveness. They represented my ancestors as a race of hereditary daemons beside whom Gilles de Retz and the Marquis de Sade would seem the veriest tyros, and hinted whisperingly at their responsibility for the occasional disappearance of villagers through several generations.
 The worst characters, apparently, were the barons and their direct heirs; at least, most was whispered about these. If of healthier inclinations, it was said, an heir would early and mysteriously die to make way for another more typical scion. There seemed to be an inner cult in the family, presided over by the head of the house, and sometimes closed except to a few members. Temperament rather than ancestry was evidently the basis of this cult, for it was entered by several who married into the family. Lady Margaret Trevor from Cornwall, wife of Godfrey, the second son of the fifth baron, became a favourite bane of children all over the countryside, and the daemon heroine of a particularly horrible old ballad not yet extinct near the Welsh border. Preserved in balladry, too, though not illustrating the same point, is the hideous tale of Lady Mary de la Poer, who shortly after her marriage to the Earl of Shrewsfield was killed by him and his mother, both of the slayers being absolved and blessed by the priest to whom they confessed what they dared not repeat to the world.
 These myths and ballads, typical as they were of crude superstition, repelled me greatly. Their persistence, and their application to so long a line of my ancestors, were especially annoying; whilst the imputations of monstrous habits proved unpleasantly reminiscent of the one known scandal of my immediate forbears—the case of my cousin, young Randolph Delapore of Carfax, who went among the negroes and became a voodoo priest after he returned from the Mexican War.
 I was much less disturbed by the vaguer tales of wails and howlings in the barren, windswept valley beneath the limestone cliff; of the graveyard stenches after the spring rains; of the floundering, squealing white thing on which Sir John Clave’s horse had trod one night in a lonely field; and of the servant who had gone mad at what he saw in the priory in the full light of day. These things were hackneyed spectral lore, and I was at that time a pronounced sceptic. The accounts of vanished peasants were less to be dismissed, though not especially significant in view of mediaeval custom. Prying curiosity meant death, and more than one severed head had been publicly shewn on the bastions—now effaced—around Exham Priory.
 A few of the tales were exceedingly picturesque, and made me wish I had learnt more of comparative mythology in my youth. There was, for instance, the belief that a legion of bat-winged devils kept Witches’ Sabbath each night at the priory—a legion whose sustenance might explain the disproportionate abundance of coarse vegetables harvested in the vast gardens. And, most vivid of all, there was the dramatic epic of the rats—the scampering army of obscene vermin which had burst forth from the castle three months after the tragedy that doomed it to desertion—the lean, filthy, ravenous army which had swept all before it and devoured fowl, cats, dogs, hogs, sheep, and even two hapless human beings before its fury was spent. Around that unforgettable rodent army a whole separate cycle of myths revolves, for it scattered among the village homes and brought curses and horrors in its train.
 Such was the lore that assailed me as I pushed to completion, with an elderly obstinacy, the work of restoring my ancestral home. It must not be imagined for a moment that these tales formed my principal psychological environment. On the other hand, I was constantly praised and encouraged by Capt. Norrys and the antiquarians who surrounded and aided me. When the task was done, over two years after its commencement, I viewed the great rooms, wainscotted walls, vaulted ceilings, mullioned windows, and broad staircases with a pride which fully compensated for the prodigious expense of the restoration. Every attribute of the Middle Ages was cunningly reproduced, and the new parts blended perfectly with the original walls and foundations. The seat of my fathers was complete, and I looked forward to redeeming at last the local fame of the line which ended in me. I would reside here permanently, and prove that a de la Poer (for I had adopted again the original spelling of the name) need not be a fiend. My comfort was perhaps augmented by the fact that, although Exham Priory was mediaevally fitted, its interior was in truth wholly new and free from old vermin and old ghosts alike.
 As I have said, I moved in on July 16, 1923. My household consisted of seven servants and nine cats, of which latter species I am particularly fond. My eldest cat, “Nigger-Man”, was seven years old and had come with me from my home in Bolton, Massachusetts; the others I had accumulated whilst living with Capt. Norrys’ family during the restoration of the priory. For five days our routine proceeded with the utmost placidity, my time being spent mostly in the codification of old family data. I had now obtained some very circumstantial accounts of the final tragedy and flight of Walter de la Poer, which I conceived to be the probable contents of the hereditary paper lost in the fire at Carfax. It appeared that my ancestor was accused with much reason of having killed all the other members of his household, except four servant confederates, in their sleep, about two weeks after a shocking discovery which changed his whole demeanour, but which, except by implication, he disclosed to no one save perhaps the servants who assisted him and afterward fled beyond reach.
 This deliberate slaughter, which included a father, three brothers, and two sisters, was largely condoned by the villagers, and so slackly treated by the law that its perpetrator escaped honoured, unharmed, and undisguised to Virginia; the general whispered sentiment being that he had purged the land of an immemorial curse. What discovery had prompted an act so terrible, I could scarcely even conjecture. Walter de la Poer must have known for years the sinister tales about his family, so that this material could have given him no fresh impulse. Had he, then, witnessed some appalling ancient rite, or stumbled upon some frightful and revealing symbol in the priory or its vicinity? He was reputed to have been a shy, gentle youth in England. In Virginia he seemed not so much hard or bitter as harassed and apprehensive. He was spoken of in the diary of another gentleman-adventurer, Francis Harley of Bellview, as a man of unexampled justice, honour, and delicacy.
 On July 22 occurred the first incident which, though lightly dismissed at the time, takes on a preternatural significance in relation to later events. It was so simple as to be almost negligible, and could not possibly have been noticed under the circumstances; for it must be recalled that since I was in a building practically fresh and new except for the walls, and surrounded by a well-balanced staff of servitors, apprehension would have been absurd despite the locality. What I afterward remembered is merely this—that my old black cat, whose moods I know so well, was undoubtedly alert and anxious to an extent wholly out of keeping with his natural character. He roved from room to room, restless and disturbed, and sniffed constantly about the walls which formed part of the old Gothic structure. I realise how trite this sounds—like the inevitable dog in the ghost story, which always growls before his master sees the sheeted figure—yet I cannot consistently suppress it.
 The following day a servant complained of restlessness among all the cats in the house. He came to me in my study, a lofty west room on the second story, with groined arches, black oak panelling, and a triple Gothic window overlooking the limestone cliff and desolate valley; and even as he spoke I saw the jetty form of Nigger-Man creeping along the west wall and scratching at the new panels which overlaid the ancient stone. I told the man that there must be some singular odour or emanation from the old stonework, imperceptible to human senses, but affecting the delicate organs of cats even through the new woodwork. This I truly believed, and when the fellow suggested the presence of mice or rats, I mentioned that there had been no rats there for three hundred years, and that even the field mice of the surrounding country could hardly be found in these high walls, where they had never been known to stray. That afternoon I called on Capt. Norrys, and he assured me that it would be quite incredible for field mice to infest the priory in such a sudden and unprecedented fashion.
 That night, dispensing as usual with a valet, I retired in the west tower chamber which I had chosen as my own, reached from the study by a stone staircase and short gallery—the former partly ancient, the latter entirely restored. This room was circular, very high, and without wainscotting, being hung with arras which I had myself chosen in London. Seeing that Nigger-Man was with me, I shut the heavy Gothic door and retired by the light of the electric bulbs which so cleverly counterfeited candles, finally switching off the light and sinking on the carved and canopied four-poster, with the venerable cat in his accustomed place across my feet. I did not draw the curtains, but gazed out at the narrow north window which I faced. There was a suspicion of aurora in the sky, and the delicate traceries of the window were pleasantly silhouetted.
 At some time I must have fallen quietly asleep, for I recall a distinct sense of leaving strange dreams, when the cat started violently from his placid position. I saw him in the faint auroral glow, head strained forward, fore feet on my ankles, and hind feet stretched behind. He was looking intensely at a point on the wall somewhat west of the window, a point which to my eye had nothing to mark it, but toward which all my attention was now directed. And as I watched, I knew that Nigger-Man was not vainly excited. Whether the arras actually moved I cannot say. I think it did, very slightly. But what I can swear to is that behind it I heard a low, distinct scurrying as of rats or mice. In a moment the cat had jumped bodily on the screening tapestry, bringing the affected section to the floor with his weight, and exposing a damp, ancient wall of stone; patched here and there by the restorers, and devoid of any trace of rodent prowlers. Nigger-Man raced up and down the floor by this part of the wall, clawing the fallen arras and seemingly trying at times to insert a paw between the wall and the oaken floor. He found nothing, and after a time returned wearily to his place across my feet. I had not moved, but I did not sleep again that night.
 In the morning I questioned all the servants, and found that none of them had noticed anything unusual, save that the cook remembered the actions of a cat which had rested on her windowsill. This cat had howled at some unknown hour of the night, awaking the cook in time for her to see him dart purposefully out of the open door down the stairs. I drowsed away the noontime, and in the afternoon called again on Capt. Norrys, who became exceedingly interested in what I told him. The odd incidents—so slight yet so curious—appealed to his sense of the picturesque, and elicited from him a number of reminiscences of local ghostly lore. We were genuinely perplexed at the presence of rats, and Norrys lent me some traps and Paris green, which I had the servants place in strategic localities when I returned.
 I retired early, being very sleepy, but was harassed by dreams of the most horrible sort. I seemed to be looking down from an immense height upon a twilit grotto, knee-deep with filth, where a white-bearded daemon swineherd drove about with his staff a flock of fungous, flabby beasts whose appearance filled me with unutterable loathing. Then, as the swineherd paused and nodded over his task, a mighty swarm of rats rained down on the stinking abyss and fell to devouring beasts and man alike.
 From this terrific vision I was abruptly awaked by the motions of Nigger-Man, who had been sleeping as usual across my feet. This time I did not have to question the source of his snarls and hisses, and of the fear which made him sink his claws into my ankle, unconscious of their effect; for on every side of the chamber the walls were alive with nauseous sound—the verminous slithering of ravenous, gigantic rats. There was now no aurora to shew the state of the arras—the fallen section of which had been replaced—but I was not too frightened to switch on the light.
 As the bulbs leapt into radiance I saw a hideous shaking all over the tapestry, causing the somewhat peculiar designs to execute a singular dance of death. This motion disappeared almost at once, and the sound with it. Springing out of bed, I poked at the arras with the long handle of a warming-pan that rested near, and lifted one section to see what lay beneath. There was nothing but the patched stone wall, and even the cat had lost his tense realisation of abnormal presences. When I examined the circular trap that had been placed in the room, I found all of the openings sprung, though no trace remained of what had been caught and had escaped.
 Further sleep was out of the question, so, lighting a candle, I opened the door and went out in the gallery toward the stairs to my study, Nigger-Man following at my heels. Before we had reached the stone steps, however, the cat darted ahead of me and vanished down the ancient flight. As I descended the stairs myself, I became suddenly aware of sounds in the great room below; sounds of a nature which could not be mistaken. The oak-panelled walls were alive with rats, scampering and milling, whilst Nigger-Man was racing about with the fury of a baffled hunter. Reaching the bottom, I switched on the light, which did not this time cause the noise to subside. The rats continued their riot, stampeding with such force and distinctness that I could finally assign to their motions a definite direction. These creatures, in numbers apparently inexhaustible, were engaged in one stupendous migration from inconceivable heights to some depth conceivably, or inconceivably, below.
 I now heard steps in the corridor, and in another moment two servants pushed open the massive door. They were searching the house for some unknown source of disturbance which had thrown all the cats into a snarling panic and caused them to plunge precipitately down several flights of stairs and squat, yowling, before the closed door to the sub-cellar. I asked them if they had heard the rats, but they replied in the negative. And when I turned to call their attention to the sounds in the panels, I realised that the noise had ceased. With the two men, I went down to the door of the sub-cellar, but found the cats already dispersed. Later I resolved to explore the crypt below, but for the present I merely made a round of the traps. All were sprung, yet all were tenantless. Satisfying myself that no one had heard the rats save the felines and me, I sat in my study till morning; thinking profoundly, and recalling every scrap of legend I had unearthed concerning the building I inhabited.
 I slept some in the forenoon, leaning back in the one comfortable library chair which my mediaeval plan of furnishing could not banish. Later I telephoned to Capt. Norrys, who came over and helped me explore the sub-cellar. Absolutely nothing untoward was found, although we could not repress a thrill at the knowledge that this vault was built by Roman hands. Every low arch and massive pillar was Roman—not the debased Romanesque of the bungling Saxons, but the severe and harmonious classicism of the age of the Caesars; indeed, the walls abounded with inscriptions familiar to the antiquarians who had repeatedly explored the place—things like “P.GETAE. PROP . . . TEMP . . . DONA . . .” and “L. PRAEC . . . VS . . . PONTIFI . . . ATYS . . .”
 The reference to Atys made me shiver, for I had read Catullus and knew something of the hideous rites of the Eastern god, whose worship was so mixed with that of Cybele. Norrys and I, by the light of lanterns, tried to interpret the odd and nearly effaced designs on certain irregularly rectangular blocks of stone generally held to be altars, but could make nothing of them. We remembered that one pattern, a sort of rayed sun, was held by students to imply a non-Roman origin, suggesting that these altars had merely been adopted by the Roman priests from some older and perhaps aboriginal temple on the same site. On one of these blocks were some brown stains which made me wonder. The largest, in the centre of the room, had certain features on the upper surface which indicated its connexion with fire—probably burnt offerings.
 Such were the sights in that crypt before whose door the cats had howled, and where Norrys and I now determined to pass the night. Couches were brought down by the servants, who were told not to mind any nocturnal actions of the cats, and Nigger-Man was admitted as much for help as for companionship. We decided to keep the great oak door—a modern replica with slits for ventilation—tightly closed; and, with this attended to, we retired with lanterns still burning to await whatever might occur.
 The vault was very deep in the foundations of the priory, and undoubtedly far down on the face of the beetling limestone cliff overlooking the waste valley. That it had been the goal of the scuffling and unexplainable rats I could not doubt, though why, I could not tell. As we lay there expectantly, I found my vigil occasionally mixed with half-formed dreams from which the uneasy motions of the cat across my feet would rouse me. These dreams were not wholesome, but horribly like the one I had had the night before. I saw again the twilit grotto, and the swineherd with his unmentionable fungous beasts wallowing in filth, and as I looked at these things they seemed nearer and more distinct—so distinct that I could almost observe their features. Then I did observe the flabby features of one of them—and awaked with such a scream that Nigger-Man started up, whilst Capt. Norrys, who had not slept, laughed considerably. Norrys might have laughed more—or perhaps less—had he known what it was that made me scream. But I did not remember myself till later. Ultimate horror often paralyses memory in a merciful way.
 Norrys waked me when the phenomena began. Out of the same frightful dream I was called by his gentle shaking and his urging to listen to the cats. Indeed, there was much to listen to, for beyond the closed door at the head of the stone steps was a veritable nightmare of feline yelling and clawing, whilst Nigger-Man, unmindful of his kindred outside, was running excitedly around the bare stone walls, in which I heard the same babel of scurrying rats that had troubled me the night before.
 An acute terror now rose within me, for here were anomalies which nothing normal could well explain. These rats, if not the creatures of a madness which I shared with the cats alone, must be burrowing and sliding in Roman walls I had thought to be of solid limestone blocks . . . unless perhaps the action of water through more than seventeen centuries had eaten winding tunnels which rodent bodies had worn clear and ample. . . . But even so, the spectral horror was no less; for if these were living vermin why did not Norrys hear their disgusting commotion? Why did he urge me to watch Nigger-Man and listen to the cats outside, and why did he guess wildly and vaguely at what could have aroused them?
 By the time I had managed to tell him, as rationally as I could, what I thought I was hearing, my ears gave me the last fading impression of the scurrying; which had retreated still downward, far underneath this deepest of sub-cellars till it seemed as if the whole cliff below were riddled with questing rats. Norrys was not as sceptical as I had anticipated, but instead seemed profoundly moved. He motioned to me to notice that the cats at the door had ceased their clamour, as if giving up the rats for lost; whilst Nigger-Man had a burst of renewed restlessness, and was clawing frantically around the bottom of the large stone altar in the centre of the room, which was nearer Norrys’ couch than mine.
 My fear of the unknown was at this point very great. Something astounding had occurred, and I saw that Capt. Norrys, a younger, stouter, and presumably more naturally materialistic man, was affected fully as much as myself—perhaps because of his lifelong and intimate familiarity with local legend. We could for the moment do nothing but watch the old black cat as he pawed with decreasing fervour at the base of the altar, occasionally looking up and mewing to me in that persuasive manner which he used when he wished me to perform some favour for him.
 Norrys now took a lantern close to the altar and examined the place where Nigger-Man was pawing; silently kneeling and scraping away the lichens of centuries which joined the massive pre-Roman block to the tessellated floor. He did not find anything, and was about to abandon his effort when I noticed a trivial circumstance which made me shudder, even though it implied nothing more than I had already imagined. I told him of it, and we both looked at its almost imperceptible manifestation with the fixedness of fascinated discovery and acknowledgment. It was only this—that the flame of the lantern set down near the altar was slightly but certainly flickering from a draught of air which it had not before received, and which came indubitably from the crevice between floor and altar where Norrys was scraping away the lichens.
 We spent the rest of the night in the brilliantly lighted study, nervously discussing what we should do next. The discovery that some vault deeper than the deepest known masonry of the Romans underlay this accursed pile—some vault unsuspected by the curious antiquarians of three centuries—would have been sufficient to excite us without any background of the sinister. As it was, the fascination became twofold; and we paused in doubt whether to abandon our search and quit the priory forever in superstitious caution, or to gratify our sense of adventure and brave whatever horrors might await us in the unknown depths. By morning we had compromised, and decided to go to London to gather a group of archaeologists and scientific men fit to cope with the mystery. It should be mentioned that before leaving the sub-cellar we had vainly tried to move the central altar which we now recognised as the gate to a new pit of nameless fear. What secret would open the gate, wiser men than we would have to find.
 During many days in London Capt. Norrys and I presented our facts, conjectures, and legendary anecdotes to five eminent authorities, all men who could be trusted to respect any family disclosures which future explorations might develop. We found most of them little disposed to scoff, but instead intensely interested and sincerely sympathetic. It is hardly necessary to name them all, but I may say that they included Sir William Brinton, whose excavations in the Troad excited most of the world in their day. As we all took the train for Anchester I felt myself poised on the brink of frightful revelations, a sensation symbolised by the air of mourning among the many Americans at the unexpected death of the President on the other side of the world.
 On the evening of August 7th we reached Exham Priory, where the servants assured me that nothing unusual had occurred. The cats, even old Nigger-Man, had been perfectly placid; and not a trap in the house had been sprung. We were to begin exploring on the following day, awaiting which I assigned well-appointed rooms to all my guests. I myself retired in my own tower chamber, with Nigger-Man across my feet. Sleep came quickly, but hideous dreams assailed me. There was a vision of a Roman feast like that of Trimalchio, with a horror in a covered platter. Then came that damnable, recurrent thing about the swineherd and his filthy drove in the twilit grotto. Yet when I awoke it was full daylight, with normal sounds in the house below. The rats, living or spectral, had not troubled me; and Nigger-Man was quietly asleep. On going down, I found that the same tranquillity had prevailed elsewhere; a condition which one of the assembled savants—a fellow named Thornton, devoted to the psychic—rather absurdly laid to the fact that I had now been shewn the thing which certain forces had wished to shew me.
 All was now ready, and at 11 a.m. our entire group of seven men, bearing powerful electric searchlights and implements of excavation, went down to the sub-cellar and bolted the door behind us. Nigger-Man was with us, for the investigators found no occasion to despise his excitability, and were indeed anxious that he be present in case of obscure rodent manifestations. We noted the Roman inscriptions and unknown altar designs only briefly, for three of the savants had already seen them, and all knew their characteristics. Prime attention was paid to the momentous central altar, and within an hour Sir William Brinton had caused it to tilt backward, balanced by some unknown species of counterweight.
 There now lay revealed such a horror as would have overwhelmed us had we not been prepared. Through a nearly square opening in the tiled floor, sprawling on a flight of stone steps so prodigiously worn that it was little more than an inclined plane at the centre, was a ghastly array of human or semi-human bones. Those which retained their collocation as skeletons shewed attitudes of panic fear, and over all were the marks of rodent gnawing. The skulls denoted nothing short of utter idiocy, cretinism, or primitive semi-apedom. Above the hellishly littered steps arched a descending passage seemingly chiselled from the solid rock, and conducting a current of air. This current was not a sudden and noxious rush as from a closed vault, but a cool breeze with something of freshness in it. We did not pause long, but shiveringly began to clear a passage down the steps. It was then that Sir William, examining the hewn walls, made the odd observation that the passage, according to the direction of the strokes, must have been chiselled from beneath.
 I must be very deliberate now, and choose my words.
 After ploughing down a few steps amidst the gnawed bones we saw that there was light ahead; not any mystic phosphorescence, but a filtered daylight which could not come except from unknown fissures in the cliff that overlooked the waste valley. That such fissures had escaped notice from outside was hardly remarkable, for not only is the valley wholly uninhabited, but the cliff is so high and beetling that only an aëronaut could study its face in detail. A few steps more, and our breaths were literally snatched from us by what we saw; so literally that Thornton, the psychic investigator, actually fainted in the arms of the dazed man who stood behind him. Norrys, his plump face utterly white and flabby, simply cried out inarticulately; whilst I think that what I did was to gasp or hiss, and cover my eyes. The man behind me—the only one of the party older than I—croaked the hackneyed “My God!” in the most cracked voice I ever heard. Of seven cultivated men, only Sir William Brinton retained his composure; a thing more to his credit because he led the party and must have seen the sight first.
 It was a twilit grotto of enormous height, stretching away farther than any eye could see; a subterraneous world of limitless mystery and horrible suggestion. There were buildings and other architectural remains—in one terrified glance I saw a weird pattern of tumuli, a savage circle of monoliths, a low-domed Roman ruin, a sprawling Saxon pile, and an early English edifice of wood—but all these were dwarfed by the ghoulish spectacle presented by the general surface of the ground. For yards about the steps extended an insane tangle of human bones, or bones at least as human as those on the steps. Like a foamy sea they stretched, some fallen apart, but others wholly or partly articulated as skeletons; these latter invariably in postures of daemoniac frenzy, either fighting off some menace or clutching other forms with cannibal intent.
 When Dr. Trask, the anthropologist, stooped to classify the skulls, he found a degraded mixture which utterly baffled him. They were mostly lower than the Piltdown man in the scale of evolution, but in every case definitely human. Many were of higher grade, and a very few were the skulls of supremely and sensitively developed types. All the bones were gnawed, mostly by rats, but somewhat by others of the half-human drove. Mixed with them were many tiny bones of rats—fallen members of the lethal army which closed the ancient epic.
 I wonder that any man among us lived and kept his sanity through that hideous day of discovery. Not Hoffmann or Huysmans could conceive a scene more wildly incredible, more frenetically repellent, or more Gothically grotesque than the twilit grotto through which we seven staggered; each stumbling on revelation after revelation, and trying to keep for the nonce from thinking of the events which must have taken place there three hundred years, or a thousand, or two thousand, or ten thousand years ago. It was the antechamber of hell, and poor Thornton fainted again when Trask told him that some of the skeleton things must have descended as quadrupeds through the last twenty or more generations.
 Horror piled on horror as we began to interpret the architectural remains. The quadruped things—with their occasional recruits from the biped class—had been kept in stone pens, out of which they must have broken in their last delirium of hunger or rat-fear. There had been great herds of them, evidently fattened on the coarse vegetables whose remains could be found as a sort of poisonous ensilage at the bottom of huge stone bins older than Rome. I knew now why my ancestors had had such excessive gardens—would to heaven I could forget! The purpose of the herds I did not have to ask.
 Sir William, standing with his searchlight in the Roman ruin, translated aloud the most shocking ritual I have ever known; and told of the diet of the antediluvian cult which the priests of Cybele found and mingled with their own. Norrys, used as he was to the trenches, could not walk straight when he came out of the English building. It was a butcher shop and kitchen—he had expected that—but it was too much to see familiar English implements in such a place, and to read familiar English graffiti there, some as recent as 1610. I could not go in that building—that building whose daemon activities were stopped only by the dagger of my ancestor Walter de la Poer.
 What I did venture to enter was the low Saxon building, whose oaken door had fallen, and there I found a terrible row of ten stone cells with rusty bars. Three had tenants, all skeletons of high grade, and on the bony forefinger of one I found a seal ring with my own coat-of-arms. Sir William found a vault with far older cells below the Roman chapel, but these cells were empty. Below them was a low crypt with cases of formally arranged bones, some of them bearing terrible parallel inscriptions carved in Latin, Greek, and the tongue of Phrygia. Meanwhile, Dr. Trask had opened one of the prehistoric tumuli, and brought to light skulls which were slightly more human than a gorilla’s, and which bore indescribable ideographic carvings. Through all this horror my cat stalked unperturbed. Once I saw him monstrously perched atop a mountain of bones, and wondered at the secrets that might lie behind his yellow eyes.
 Having grasped to some slight degree the frightful revelations of this twilit area—an area so hideously foreshadowed by my recurrent dream—we turned to that apparently boundless depth of midnight cavern where no ray of light from the cliff could penetrate. We shall never know what sightless Stygian worlds yawn beyond the little distance we went, for it was decided that such secrets are not good for mankind. But there was plenty to engross us close at hand, for we had not gone far before the searchlights shewed that accursed infinity of pits in which the rats had feasted, and whose sudden lack of replenishment had driven the ravenous rodent army first to turn on the living herds of starving things, and then to burst forth from the priory in that historic orgy of devastation which the peasants will never forget.
 God! those carrion black pits of sawed, picked bones and opened skulls! Those nightmare chasms choked with the pithecanthropoid, Celtic, Roman, and English bones of countless unhallowed centuries! Some of them were full, and none can say how deep they had once been. Others were still bottomless to our searchlights, and peopled by unnamable fancies. What, I thought, of the hapless rats that stumbled into such traps amidst the blackness of their quests in this grisly Tartarus?
 Once my foot slipped near a horribly yawning brink, and I had a moment of ecstatic fear. I must have been musing a long time, for I could not see any of the party but the plump Capt. Norrys. Then there came a sound from that inky, boundless, farther distance that I thought I knew; and I saw my old black cat dart past me like a winged Egyptian god, straight into the illimitable gulf of the unknown. But I was not far behind, for there was no doubt after another second. It was the eldritch scurrying of those fiend-born rats, always questing for new horrors, and determined to lead me on even unto those grinning caverns of earth’s centre where Nyarlathotep, the mad faceless god, howls blindly to the piping of two amorphous idiot flute-players.
 My searchlight expired, but still I ran. I heard voices, and yowls, and echoes, but above all there gently rose that impious, insidious scurrying; gently rising, rising, as a stiff bloated corpse gently rises above an oily river that flows under endless onyx bridges to a black, putrid sea. Something bumped into me—something soft and plump. It must have been the rats; the viscous, gelatinous, ravenous army that feast on the dead and the living. . . . Why shouldn’t rats eat a de la Poer as a de la Poer eats forbidden things? . . . The war ate my boy, damn them all . . . and the Yanks ate Carfax with flames and burnt Grandsire Delapore and the secret . . . No, no, I tell you, I am not that daemon swineherd in the twilit grotto! It was not Edward Norrys’ fat face on that flabby, fungous thing! Who says I am a de la Poer? He lived, but my boy died! . . . Shall a Norrys hold the lands of a de la Poer? . . . It’s voodoo, I tell you . . . that spotted snake . . . Curse you, Thornton, I’ll teach you to faint at what my family do! . . . ’Sblood, thou stinkard, I’ll learn ye how to gust . . . wolde ye swynke me thilke wys? . . . Magna Mater! Magna Mater! . . . Atys . . . Dia ad aghaidh ’s ad aodann . . . agus bas dunach ort! Dhonas ’s dholas ort, agus leat-sa! . . . Ungl . . . ungl . . . rrrlh . . . chchch . . .
 That is what they say I said when they found me in the blackness after three hours; found me crouching in the blackness over the plump, half-eaten body of Capt. Norrys, with my own cat leaping and tearing at my throat. Now they have blown up Exham Priory, taken my Nigger-Man away from me, and shut me into this barred room at Hanwell with fearful whispers about my heredity and experiences. Thornton is in the next room, but they prevent me from talking to him. They are trying, too, to suppress most of the facts concerning the priory. When I speak of poor Norrys they accuse me of a hideous thing, but they must know that I did not do it. They must know it was the rats; the slithering, scurrying rats whose scampering will never let me sleep; the daemon rats that race behind the padding in this room and beckon me down to greater horrors than I have ever known; the rats they can never hear; the rats, the rats in the walls.

103
H.P. Lovecraft / The Outsider
« on: February 19, 2019, 09:35:45 PM »
Unhappy is he to whom the memories of childhood bring only fear and sadness. Wretched is he who looks back upon lone hours in vast and dismal chambers with brown hangings and maddening rows of antique books, or upon awed watches in twilight groves of grotesque, gigantic, and vine-encumbered trees that silently wave twisted branches far aloft. Such a lot the gods gave to me—to me, the dazed, the disappointed; the barren, the broken. And yet I am strangely content, and cling desperately to those sere memories, when my mind momentarily threatens to reach beyond to the other.

I know not where I was born, save that the castle was infinitely old and infinitely horrible; full of dark passages and having high ceilings where the eye could find only cobwebs and shadows. The stones in the crumbling corridors seemed always hideously damp, and there was an accursed smell everywhere, as of the piled-up corpses of dead generations. It was never light, so that I used sometimes to light candles and gaze steadily at them for relief; nor was there any sun outdoors, since the terrible trees grew high above the topmost accessible tower. There was one black tower which reached above the trees into the unknown outer sky, but that was partly ruined and could not be ascended save by a well-nigh impossible climb up the sheer wall, stone by stone.

I must have lived years in this place, but I cannot measure the time. Beings must have cared for my needs, yet I cannot recall any person except myself; or anything alive but the noiseless rats and bats and spiders. I think that whoever nursed me must have been shockingly aged, since my first conception of a living person was that of something mockingly like myself, yet distorted, shrivelled, and decaying like the castle. To me there was nothing grotesque in the bones and skeletons that strowed some of the stone crypts deep down among the foundations. I fantastically associated these things with every-day events, and thought them more natural than the coloured pictures of living beings which I found in many of the mouldy books. From such books I learned all that I know. No teacher urged or guided me, and I do not recall hearing any human voice in all those years—not even my own; for although I had read of speech, I had never thought to try to speak aloud. My aspect was a matter equally unthought of, for there were no mirrors in the castle, and I merely regarded myself by instinct as akin to the youthful figures I saw drawn and painted in the books. I felt conscious of youth because I remembered so little.

Outside, across the putrid moat and under the dark mute trees, I would often lie and dream for hours about what I read in the books; and would longingly picture myself amidst gay crowds in the sunny world beyond the endless forest. Once I tried to escape from the forest, but as I went farther from the castle the shade grew denser and the air more filled with brooding fear; so that I ran frantically back lest I lose my way in a labyrinth of nighted silence.

So through endless twilights I dreamed and waited, though I knew not what I waited for. Then in the shadowy solitude my longing for light grew so frantic that I could rest no more, and I lifted entreating hands to the single black ruined tower that reached above the forest into the unknown outer sky. And at last I resolved to scale that tower, fall though I might; since it were better to glimpse the sky and perish, than to live without ever beholding day.

In the dank twilight I climbed the worn and aged stone stairs till I reached the level where they ceased, and thereafter clung perilously to small footholds leading upward. Ghastly and terrible was that dead, stairless cylinder of rock; black, ruined, and deserted, and sinister with startled bats whose wings made no noise. But more ghastly and terrible still was the slowness of my progress; for climb as I might, the darkness overhead grew no thinner, and a new chill as of haunted and venerable mould assailed me. I shivered as I wondered why I did not reach the light, and would have looked down had I dared. I fancied that night had come suddenly upon me, and vainly groped with one free hand for a window embrasure, that I might peer out and above, and try to judge the height I had attained.
All at once, after an infinity of awesome, sightless crawling up that concave and desperate precipice, I felt my head touch a solid thing, and I knew I must have gained the roof, or at least some kind of floor. In the darkness I raised my free hand and tested the barrier, finding it stone and immovable. Then came a deadly circuit of the tower, clinging to whatever holds the slimy wall could give; till finally my testing hand found the barrier yielding, and I turned upward again, pushing the slab or door with my head as I used both hands in my fearful ascent. There was no light revealed above, and as my hands went higher I knew that my climb was for the nonce ended; since the slab was the trap-door of an aperture leading to a level stone surface of greater circumference than the lower tower, no doubt the floor of some lofty and capacious observation chamber. I crawled through carefully, and tried to prevent the heavy slab from falling back into place; but failed in the latter attempt. As I lay exhausted on the stone floor I heard the eerie echoes of its fall, but hoped when necessary to pry it open again.

Believing I was now at a prodigious height, far above the accursed branches of the wood, I dragged myself up from the floor and fumbled about for windows, that I might look for the first time upon the sky, and the moon and stars of which I had read. But on every hand I was disappointed; since all that I found were vast shelves of marble, bearing odious oblong boxes of disturbing size. More and more I reflected, and wondered what hoary secrets might abide in this high apartment so many aeons cut off from the castle below. Then unexpectedly my hands came upon a doorway, where hung a portal of stone, rough with strange chiselling. Trying it, I found it locked; but with a supreme burst of strength I overcame all obstacles and dragged it open inward. As I did so there came to me the purest ecstasy I have ever known; for shining tranquilly through an ornate grating of iron, and down a short stone passageway of steps that ascended from the newly found doorway, was the radiant full moon, which I had never before seen save in dreams and in vague visions I dared not call memories.

Fancying now that I had attained the very pinnacle of the castle, I commenced to rush up the few steps beyond the door; but the sudden veiling of the moon by a cloud caused me to stumble, and I felt my way more slowly in the dark. It was still very dark when I reached the grating—which I tried carefully and found unlocked, but which I did not open for fear of falling from the amazing height to which I had climbed. Then the moon came out.

Most daemoniacal of all shocks is that of the abysmally unexpected and grotesquely unbelievable. Nothing I had before undergone could compare in terror with what I now saw; with the bizarre marvels that sight implied. The sight itself was as simple as it was stupefying, for it was merely this: instead of a dizzying prospect of treetops seen from a lofty eminence, there stretched around me on a level through the grating nothing less than the solid ground, decked and diversified by marble slabs and columns, and overshadowed by an ancient stone church, whose ruined spire gleamed spectrally in the moonlight.

Half unconscious, I opened the grating and staggered out upon the white gravel path that stretched away in two directions. My mind, stunned and chaotic as it was, still held the frantic craving for light; and not even the fantastic wonder which had happened could stay my course. I neither knew nor cared whether my experience was insanity, dreaming, or magic; but was determined to gaze on brilliance and gaiety at any cost. I knew not who I was or what I was, or what my surroundings might be; though as I continued to stumble along I became conscious of a kind of fearsome latent memory that made my progress not wholly fortuitous. I passed under an arch out of that region of slabs and columns, and wandered through the open country; sometimes following the visible road, but sometimes leaving it curiously to tread across meadows where only occasional ruins bespoke the ancient presence of a forgotten road. Once I swam across a swift river where crumbling, mossy masonry told of a bridge long vanished.

Over two hours must have passed before I reached what seemed to be my goal, a venerable ivied castle in a thickly wooded park; maddeningly familiar, yet full of perplexing strangeness to me. I saw that the moat was filled in, and that some of the well-known towers were demolished; whilst new wings existed to confuse the beholder. But what I observed with chief interest and delight were the open windows—gorgeously ablaze with light and sending forth sound of the gayest revelry. Advancing to one of these I looked in and saw an oddly dressed company, indeed; making merry, and speaking brightly to one another. I had never, seemingly, heard human speech before; and could guess only vaguely what was said. Some of the faces seemed to hold expressions that brought up incredibly remote recollections; others were utterly alien.

I now stepped through the low window into the brilliantly lighted room, stepping as I did so from my single bright moment of hope to my blackest convulsion of despair and realisation. The nightmare was quick to come; for as I entered, there occurred immediately one of the most terrifying demonstrations I had ever conceived. Scarcely had I crossed the sill when there descended upon the whole company a sudden and unheralded fear of hideous intensity, distorting every face and evoking the most horrible screams from nearly every throat. Flight was universal, and in the clamour and panic several fell in a swoon and were dragged away by their madly fleeing companions. Many covered their eyes with their hands, and plunged blindly and awkwardly in their race to escape; overturning furniture and stumbling against the walls before they managed to reach one of the many doors.

The cries were shocking; and as I stood in the brilliant apartment alone and dazed, listening to their vanishing echoes, I trembled at the thought of what might be lurking near me unseen. At a casual inspection the room seemed deserted, but when I moved toward one of the alcoves I thought I detected a presence there—a hint of motion beyond the golden-arched doorway leading to another and somewhat similar room. As I approached the arch I began to perceive the presence more clearly; and then, with the first and last sound I ever uttered—a ghastly ululation that revolted me almost as poignantly as its noxious cause—I beheld in full, frightful vividness the inconceivable, indescribable, and unmentionable monstrosity which had by its simple appearance changed a merry company to a herd of delirious fugitives.

I cannot even hint what it was like, for it was a compound of all that is unclean, uncanny, unwelcome, abnormal, and detestable. It was the ghoulish shade of decay, antiquity, and desolation; the putrid, dripping eidolon of unwholesome revelation; the awful baring of that which the merciful earth should always hide. God knows it was not of this world—or no longer of this world—yet to my horror I saw in its eaten-away and bone-revealing outlines a leering, abhorrent travesty on the human shape; and in its mouldy, disintegrating apparel an unspeakable quality that chilled me even more.

I was almost paralysed, but not too much so to make a feeble effort toward flight; a backward stumble which failed to break the spell in which the nameless, voiceless monster held me. My eyes, bewitched by the glassy orbs which stared loathsomely into them, refused to close; though they were mercifully blurred, and shewed the terrible object but indistinctly after the first shock. I tried to raise my hand to shut out the sight, yet so stunned were my nerves that my arm could not fully obey my will. The attempt, however, was enough to disturb my balance; so that I had to stagger forward several steps to avoid falling. As I did so I became suddenly and agonisingly aware of the nearness of the carrion thing, whose hideous hollow breathing I half fancied I could hear. Nearly mad, I found myself yet able to throw out a hand to ward off the foetid apparition which pressed so close; when in one cataclysmic second of cosmic nightmarishness and hellish accident my fingers touched the rotting outstretched paw of the monster beneath the golden arch.

I did not shriek, but all the fiendish ghouls that ride the night-wind shrieked for me as in that same second there crashed down upon my mind a single and fleeting avalanche of soul-annihilating memory. I knew in that second all that had been; I remembered beyond the frightful castle and the trees, and recognised the altered edifice in which I now stood; I recognised, most terrible of all, the unholy abomination that stood leering before me as I withdrew my sullied fingers from its own.
But in the cosmos there is balm as well as bitterness, and that balm is nepenthe. In the supreme horror of that second I forgot what had horrified me, and the burst of black memory vanished in a chaos of echoing images. In a dream I fled from that haunted and accursed pile, and ran swiftly and silently in the moonlight.

When I returned to the churchyard place of marble and went down the steps I found the stone trap-door immovable; but I was not sorry, for I had hated the antique castle and the trees. Now I ride with the mocking and friendly ghouls on the night-wind, and play by day amongst the catacombs of Nephren-Ka in the sealed and unknown valley of Hadoth by the Nile. I know that light is not for me, save that of the moon over the rock tombs of Neb, nor any gaiety save the unnamed feasts of Nitokris beneath the Great Pyramid; yet in my new wildness and freedom I almost welcome the bitterness of alienage.

For although nepenthe has calmed me, I know always that I am an outsider; a stranger in this century and among those who are still men. This I have known ever since I stretched out my fingers to the abomination within that great gilded frame; stretched out my fingers and touched a cold and unyielding surface of polished glass.

104
Edgar Allan Poe / The Tell-Tale Heart
« on: February 19, 2019, 09:33:21 PM »
TRUE! -- nervous -- very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses -- not destroyed -- not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily -- how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

    It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture --a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees -- very gradually --I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

    Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded --with what caution --with what foresight --with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it --oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly --very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man's sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! --would a madman have been so wise as this? And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously --oh, so cautiously --cautiously (for the hinges creaked) --I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights --every night just at midnight --but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

    Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch's minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers --of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back --but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

    I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out --"Who's there?"

    I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening; --just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

    Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief --oh, no! --it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself --"It is nothing but the wind in the chimney --it is only a mouse crossing the floor," or "It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp." Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel --although he neither saw nor heard --to feel the presence of my head within the room.

    When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little --a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it --you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily --until, at length a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.

    It was open --wide, wide open --and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness --all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.

    And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over acuteness of the senses? --now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man's heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

    But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man's terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! --do you mark me well? I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me --the sound would be heard by a neighbor! The old man's hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once --once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.

    If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

    I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye -- not even his --could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out --no stain of any kind --no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all --ha! ha!

    When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o'clock --still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart, --for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbor during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

    I smiled, --for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search --search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

    The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct: --it continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definiteness --until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

    No doubt I now grew very pale; --but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased --and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound --much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath -- and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly --more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men -- but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed --I raved --I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder --louder --louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! --no, no! They heard! --they suspected! --they knew! --they were making a mockery of my horror! --this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! --and now --again! --hark! louder! louder! louder! louder! --

    "Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! --tear up the planks! --here, here! --it is the beating of his hideous heart!"

105
Edgar Allan Poe / The Raven
« on: February 19, 2019, 09:32:20 PM »
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
   While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
           Only this and nothing more.”

   Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
   Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
   From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
           Nameless here for evermore.

   And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
   So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
   “’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
           This it is and nothing more.”

   Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
   But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
   And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
           Darkness there and nothing more.

   Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
   But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
   And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
           Merely this and nothing more.

   Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
   “Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
     Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
           ’Tis the wind and nothing more!”

   Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
   Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
   But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
           Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
           Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

   Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
   For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
   Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
           With such name as “Nevermore.”

   But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
   Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
   Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
           Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

   Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
   Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
   Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
           Of ‘Never—nevermore’.”

   But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
   Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
   Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
           Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

   This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
   This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
   On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
           She shall press, ah, nevermore!

   Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
   “Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
   Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
           Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

   “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
   Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
   On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
           Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

   “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
   Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
   It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
           Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

   “Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
   Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
   Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
           Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

   And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
   And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
   And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
           Shall be lifted—nevermore!

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