Hey there, whoever is reading this. I should probably warn you, this story is a little on the long side, but I figured that seeing as I enjoyed writing it, someone out there might possibly enjoy reading it. It’s nowhere near as creepy as it was as it played through my head, but it should still be enjoyable none the less..
So, for your reading pleasure, here’s…
The Devil in Providence
By: Andy Lucas
The road seemed to stretch on forever ahead of Ben as he drove on the road home. The afternoon sun shone brightly through a scattering of trees, reflecting off of the fresh paint of his black 1967 Chevy Impala. He wasn’t much of a car enthusiast, but after seeing the car repeatedly featured in one of his favorite shows, he had to own one. He thought it almost perfectly fit his profession. Trees and wide wooden fences dotted more and more of the land on either side of the road as he sped past them. Ben looked up at the afternoon sky as newly rolled in clouds began to briefly obscure the sun’s rays.
He began quietly humming a nameless tune from his childhood, whose words were long since lost to him. What seemed like countless farms slowly faded away behind him as he drove. ‘I don’t remember the scenic route being so…rustic’ he thought to himself. Finally, when he thought he might have missed a turn some miles behind him, he spotted a farmhand working at a nearby farm. Deciding he’d rather ask for directions and admit to being a little turned around than end up being completely lost, he pulled up to the side of the fence and got out of the car.
“You lost or something?” asked the farmhand as he looked up from his work to see a stranger walking towards him from a parked car. “To be honest” replied Ben, “I think I’m a bit turned around at the moment.” The farmhand looked at him quizzically. “I’m looking for a town called Providence. You wouldn’t happen to know where it is, would you?” In a gruff almost nasty voice he said “You mean Provincetown. Anyway, gas station’s back a bit up the road you came in on. You can get a map there.” The farmhand turned around to get back to his work. “Excuse me, Mr.…” said Ben, annoyed at the treatment he was receiving. “Reece” supplied the farmhand. “Reece, I meant Providence, not Provincetown. Believe it or not, I’m not some annoying tourist come to gawk at locals or bother everyone in my path. I’m actually from around here.” The farmhand eyed him skeptically. “Name’s Benjamin Edwards” said Ben, “though most people prefer to call me Ben.” He stuck out his hand in greeting, hoping to smooth things over with the farmhand.
Much to his pleasure, the farmhand’s disposition changed noticeably and he shook his hand. “Edwards huh?” he asked, “You wouldn’t happen to be related to Noreen and Phil Edwards, would ya?” “Yeah” replied Ben, “they’re my parents.” “I’m sorry for your loss” he said, then paused for a moment. “You’re not far from town” said the farmhand, changing the subject as he noticed the hint of pain in Ben’s eyes. He scratched his chin as if trying to recall some far off detail. “Just keep following the road for about 6 or so miles and you’ll be there. Mind the woods though.” With an almost thoughtful look he said “Then again, you’re from around here, so you know.” With that, he went back to his work, leaving Ben alone. Ben hopped got back into his car and continued on towards town. As he rode on, the farmhand looked up again from his work, his eyes trained on Ben in his car. Trained and full of secrets, dangerous secrets.
His driving took him past a rustic looking sign, pointing to either side of the road. “Black Woods” The farmland seemed to shrink away near the sign, till it wasn’t there anymore. As he passed the sign, he remembered being warned as a child never to go out too far into the Black Woods at night and never ever to go in alone. Anyone in town who’d even so much as looked at a map could tell you there were high cliffs at the edge of the woods that bordered the Atlantic. A few years back, a boy had somehow wondered into those same woods late one night and that was the last anyone had seen of him. According to crazy old man Hatcher, the town’s historian; it was the sea that lured that boy away in the middle of the night and the sea that took him. Shaking himself from his short reverie, he sped up a little. With the farms and the sign slowly trailing away behind him and Providence growing slowly closer, he reverted to a more relaxed speed.
Finally he’d reached Providence, his hometown. Slowly, its antiquated charm started to work its way on him. It seemed like time had been kind to the town and its people since he’d left for college six years ago. As he drove in through town, he saw many of the same faces he’d seen when he left. Some people smiled at him as he drove into town. Maybe they remembered him or maybe they were just being friendly, he couldn’t tell. He spared little time as he made his way through the center of the town and his destination; the Governor Hotel, at the edge of town.
Pulling up to the hotel, he couldn’t help but notice just how creepily quaint the place was. He pulled his car around back and parked, grabbing what few bags he’d brought with him and heading into the hotel. Before he’d driven into town, he’d thought about staying with his brother Kyle, but figured they’d see one another when the time came. There wasn’t any animosity between the two, but over the years, they’d grown somewhat distant. Maybe he’d try to fix that during his stay in town. Ben shut the car door, heading inside to check in.
He remembered the hotel from his childhood. There were some in the town who’d tell you the Governor hotel had been part of the town since its establishment. Supposedly the Governor was originally intended to be the governor’s mansion when the governor of Massachusetts was in town. It almost looked like something out of a picturesque fairytale. It had its own dark past however. From the first day the foundation of the building had been laid, there were strange accidents and deaths on site. All his time living in Providence, he’d never once stayed in the hotel or even set foot in it, but now he’d have his chance. It was the perfect place for him to work.
The lobby of the hotel was beautiful, in a rustic, small town sort of way. Ben looked around; taking it all in. All around him were old pictures of the hotel and the town. Walking over to the front desk, he spotted a woman who sat behind it. “Welcome to the Governor, how I help you?” asked the cheerful woman. “Hi, I’m here to check in” said Ben, still admiring the surroundings. “I’m Benjamin Edwards” The woman looked took a few short moments to confirm his reservation, then took his credit card. “Looks like you’re here with us for three weeks. Check out is at noon on the 22n’d. She handed his credit card back, along with his room key. It was made of brass which took him by surprise “You’re in 1301” she told him; the friendly smile on her face never once faltering. “Enjoy your stay.” “Thank you” he replied.
He took his room key and bags to the elevator and headed up to his room. The speakers in the elevator played “The hotel was fairly quiet, which wasn’t surprising. Providence wasn’t really a tourist destination. Not with Salem and its well-known history so close by. The elevator ride didn’t feel as long as he’d thought it would, especially with the ever present elevator music playing. There was something genuine yet deeply haunting about the song, but he paid it no mind.
“They used to tell me I was building a dream
And so I followed the mob
When there was earth to plow or guns to bear
I was always there, right on the job
They used to tell me I was building a dream
With peace and glory ahead
Why should I be standing in line
Just waiting for bread?
Once I built a railroad, I made it run
Made it race against time
Once I built a railroad, now it’s done
Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower up to the sun
Brick and rivet and lime
Once I built a tower, now it’s done
Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once in khaki suits, gee, we looked swell
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell
And I was the kid with the drum
Say, don’t you remember? They called me ‘Al’
It was ‘Al’ all the time
Why don’t you remember? I’m your pal
Say buddy, can you spare a dime?
Once in khaki suits, ah, gee, we looked swell
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell
And I was the kid with the drum
Oh, say, don’t you remember? They called me ‘Al’
It was ‘Al’ all the time
Say, don’t you remember? I’m your pal
Buddy, can you spare a dime?”
Walking from the elevator to his room, he couldn’t help but be impressed with its design and hopeful. “This’ll do nicely” he said, pleased as he opened his room door. He dropped his bags over by his freshly made bed and sat down. He wished he could have flown into town, but there wasn’t anything close to a commercial airport anywhere in Providence. Just small local fields for crop dusting and things of that nature. Still, he was glad to be home; more for his new book than anything else. Still, he reached over and grabbed the phone on the night stand near his bed. He might as well call Kyle.
“Well well well” the voice on the other end of the phone said “look who decided to call his big brother. What’s the special occasion?” “Yeah yeah yeah” replied Ben, unsurprised by his brother’s reaction. “I know, I never write, I never call. It’s not like I don’t care ya know?” said Ben, settling into their age old argument whenever the two managed to speak. “You couldn’t even find the time to come home for either of their funerals” argued Kyle. He was right of course. He was always right it seemed. And that fact annoyed Ben more than anything else about his older brother. “Look” said Ben, finally tired of their old song and dance. “I’m sorry, ok. I know sorry doesn’t turn back the hands of time or fix broken things, but I’m sorry.” “You’re right” replied Kyle, “it doesn’t fix broken things…” There was a long silence and Ben had about all he was going to take from his brother. “But it’s a start.” Kyle finished.
Ben let out a sigh of relief. He knew how difficult his brother could be, and for him to relent so quickly was something new to Ben. “Seeing as you’re in town ‘n all, maybe you could see yourself to coming over for dinner sometime before you leave?” asked Kyle. Been couldn’t tell fi it was an empty invitation or a genuine one, but he’d hoped it was genuine. He didn’t’ hate his brother of course. “Sounds like a plan” he said. They talked more; for what seemed like hours, catching up on some of the things that’d happened in their lives, but not wanting to tell too much over the phone. They wanted to leave something for when they sat down in person after all. “I’d better hit the hay” said Kyle. “I’ve got an early day tomorrow. “Alright” said Ben. “I should probably get my things unpacked before I do the same. “One last thing” said Kyle. “I’m glad you’re home.” After that, they hung up and Ben called down to the front desk, requesting a wakeup call for the early morning. He then started unpacking his bags and got ready to call it a night himself.
Ben stood in a dimly lit cavern, at the edge of eerily placid waters. A strange, dark mist oozed its way out of the water, slowly undulating; swirling its way about the vast cavern. The mist seemed to seep into the very walls of cavern as it grew thicker, denser; going about its unknowable business. The cavern would have been an awe inspiring sight if not for the mist. The dim, soft glow of the cavern seemed to change as the inky abomination set to work, defiling a once beautiful site with an unholy rot. Ben stood there, frozen in curiosity and in fear. He wanted to scream; shriek, but no sound would leave his mouth.
Then as the mist began to fill up more and more of the cavern, he caught a glimpse of something within it. The sight of unholy abomination coming towards him sent chills down his spine. As he stood, rooted to the spot, tears fell slowly from his eyes, rolling down his cheeks. Slowly, he put his hand up to his face. When he pulled his hand back, there was a red, almost sticky substance on his hand; it was blood. He began to back away from the darkness as it stretched and yawned its way wickedly and with purpose towards him. Turning his back on the scene before him, he tried to run and was thankful for the ability to move. He ran as quickly as his legs could carry him he could more feel the horror behind him than see it as it reached out to him to grab him. He only barely escaped its grasp.
A knock at his bedroom door shook him out of his sleep. “Mr. Edwards” the voice boomed from the other side of the hotel room door, “is everything ok in there?” The voice sounded concerned. Ben looked around the room groggily, still half asleep. “Mr. Edwards?!” the voice boomed again, this time a little louder than before. “I’m up, I’m up” he managed to say, his voice slightly slurring. The room door opened slowly. “Mr. Edwards” said the voice a third time, this time not in a boom, but in a softer pleading tone. Ben looked up to where the voice came from. It was a young man in the uniform of the hotel. “Wha…?” asked Ben, confused, “What’s wrong?” “You called down last night for a wakeup call sir and the front desk called you.” The look of confusion didn’t leave Ben’s face. “We’ve been calling your room all day sir. It’s already 2pm and well, some of us wondered if something might be wrong.”
Ben looked over at the clock across from him. Its red digital numbers read 2:00PM. “Tha…thank you” he stammered. “Must have slept right through you calling. Sorry about that.” He got up out of the bed, unashamed to be seen in his underwear in the least and reached into his pants pocket for his wallet. “Here ya go” he said, pulling out a ten dollar bill and handing it to the young man at the door. “It’s not much, I know, but still, thanks for waking me up” said Ben. Leaving, the young man closed the door behind him and went on about his work for the day, a large smile on his face.
Realizing what a late start he’d gotten on the day, he rushed a quick shower and got dressed. The whole time, the song from the elevator the night before played in his head, causing him to hum a bit of it since he didn’t’ know the words. He shaved, got dressed and grabbed his car keys, heading out to town. It’d been a long time since he’d really spent any time in town, so he might as well get in the sights, maybe even visit Kyle while he was at it.
He headed out of the hotel and down along the road towards downtown. ‘I’ve gotta find some kind of inspiration for this book.’ he told himself. Looking around him as he drove along, he watched the people go about their daily routines. Rounding a corner on Main St. he slowed down so he could get a better look at the stores around. At the end of the corner, he spotted the place he’d been looking for. He found a parking spot and almost jumped right out of the car.The sign, in faded blue and gold read “Midwitch Finds”. It was one of the local antique shops, though he couldn’t guess why it was named after the town of Midwitch. Full of hope, he walked into the store. Quaint sounding chimes tinkled as the door opened.
There wasn’t a single person in the store as Ben walked in. Nearing the counter, he noticed a little bell with a little folded sign next to it. The small sign read “Please ring bell for assistance” so, he did, and he waited. One minute went by, then another, and another. There wasn’t a response. ‘Guess the owner stepped out’ he thought as he started looking around the shop. Everywhere he looked, he saw both the old and the new; everything from paintings and small porcelain figurines to collectable baseball cards and toys for all ages of children. It was a veritable hodgepodge of things. As he headed back towards the counter he noticed a particularly beautiful painting hanging on the wall across from where he stood. A loose floorboard groaned beneath his foot as he neared it.
It was a painting of the town of Providence, full of men, women, children and the elderly. They were all sitting around long tables at what looked like a feast of some sort. ‘Looks like Thanksgiving’ he thought as he stared intently at the painting. It almost seemed as if one of the people seated turned his head, staring straight at Ben. He rubbed his eyes, sure it must have been a trick of the light. Looking at the painting again, everything was as it should be. No one was staring at him. A door beside the front counter opened and out came an old man.
The old man raised a trembling hand to his glasses as he adjusted them on his face. He shot Ben an appraising look. “I know you” he said, his voice frail but sure. “You’re that Edwards boy, the other Edwards boy I mean.” He shook his head, affirming his own rightness. “That’s me” said Ben. “Sorry mister, but I don’t recall your name” said Ben to the shop owner. “Name’s Gaunt” he replied, “Eustace Gaunt. “Ahh…Mr. Gaunt” began Ben, “you’ve got quite the store here.” Eustace shook his head in proud agreement as a small smile crossed his face. “So, Edwards, what brings ya to my little slice of heaven?” he asked.
“Well” replied Ben, “I’m a writer now ya see. I was hoping to find something in your shop that I could use for inspiration for my latest novel. “Inspiration, huh?” he asked as he scratched the side of his head absently. Ben pointed over to the painting on the wall. “How much for that?” he asked. What makes ya think you’d get any from this old thing?” “Call it a hunch” said Ben, shrugging. “It really is a beautiful old painting” he added. Eustace shrugged lightly. Ben paid for the painting, thanking him and slipped it into his backpack before riding back up to the house. The day seemed to go by abnormally fast as he peddled back.
He got back to his hotel lobby and there was no one anywhere in sight. So, he hung the painting in his in the room, hoping it would spark some sort of inspiration in him. Hours later, as he sat by his laptop, still trying to come up with a beginning for his story, his hope paid off. The images in his mind seemed to flow through straight to his fingertips as he typed furiously. He barely noticed the slow trickle of blood that dropped from his nose till it hit his sleeve, but he continued writing. As he wrote, he felt himself slipping away, into the images in his mind. Then he stopped typing all together.
Looking back up at the painting, he couldn’t help but notice a change in it. There seemed to be fewer people in the painting than he remembered. And who were left somehow different; altered. Gone were the happy and hopeful looks they’d adorned. What replaced them were angry, almost maddening smiles and grimaces. ‘It’s all in my head’ he told himself. ‘It all comes with being a horror writer.’ Looking over at the clock, he realized two hours had passed by. He took a break from writing and decided to go visit his brother; not noticing the blood that had slowly dripped from his nose..
He’d called ahead and gotten no answer, but decided he might surprise his brother instead. By the time he got to the house, it was as if a blanket of silence had fallen over it. He went to the front door to knock, but it was wide open, swaying in the breeze. Looking inside, there wasn’t a soul to be seen; the house was completely empty. He passed the old grandfather clock that his grandparents had given his parents so long ago. It was the only thing in the house that made a sound. “Kyle” he called out, hoping to get his brother’s attention, but there was only the ticking of the old clock in response. Guess he’s off doing something’ he thought. He checked the upstairs levels, even looking in his parents’ old bedroom in case he was in there, but nothing. Heading back downstairs he decided to check the back yard. As he walked into the kitchen, he saw a drop of red fall onto the kitchen floor. Reaching up, he touched his nose and as he pulled his hand back, revealing wet blood on his finger.
Rushing over to the sink, he grabbed a paper towel and wet it, taking care of his nose as best he could. As if it had been there the entire time and he was only now aware of it, a slight buzzing, humming noise that sounded somewhat like a lawnmower attracted his attention. It was coming from the back yard. Looking out the back yard window, he saw Kyle, sitting atop their father’s riding lawnmower. “Kyle” he called out again, trying to raise his voice above the sound of the machine, but he didn’t respond. He just sat there on the mower, riding in a circle. He rode in that circle over and over again, cutting the same grass for what must have been an hour at least, before he finally snapped out of it, stopping the mower in its tracks.
“Huh?” he asked as he looked at Ben, a fog seemingly lifting from his eyes. “I’ve been trying to get your attention for a few minutes here. You ok?” “Uh…sure” replied Kyle. “How long’ve you been on that mower anyway?” asked Ben, “You were going in a circle, cutting that same grass the entire time I’ve been calling for ya, and who knows how long before that. “Oh, I uh…I don’t know what to tell ya. One minute I was about to mow the entire lawn and the next thing I know, I see you yelling at me while I’m going around and around in a circle.” Kyle replied. “Sounds like you could use a break, and a cold one” suggested Ben. “Best idea I’ve heard all day” said Kyle.
Kyle took the mower back to the garage, locking it up. In the living room, the two brothers sat down to their beer and talked throughout the rest of the day. It’d been a long time since they’d really enjoyed one another’s company like this. “So, is this new story of yours going to be anything like your last one?” “My last one?” asked Ben. “You read my last one?” he asked, genuinely surprised. “Of course I did. I’ve read all the books you’ve written so far; wouldn’t be much of a brother if I didn’t.” Ben thought to himself for a second. “This one’s going to be as different from the last one as possible. It’ll be a genuine horror; none of that needlessly gory slasher stuff.” “Good” said Kyle. “I liked your last one, but I’ve never been a huge fan of slasher stories.” With a wry smile on his face, Ben looked at his brother. “You may like this one then. It’s about Providence.” “A horror story about Providence?” asked Kyle. “There hasn’t been anything spooky in this town since… well…” Kyle thought to himself. “The Black Woods” he said. “I’ll bed it’s got something to do with those woods.” “You’re almost right” said Ben. It’s mostly about a fictional version of the town. I’m calling this one The Devil in Providence. Thought the title sounded…catchy.” Kyle scratched his chin for a moment, then nodded his approval. “You know, there’re a few people around town who might not like their quiet little town being the spot for a horror story; no matter how well written” said Kyle. Ben knew his brother was right. It was getting late and the two parted ways, but not before Kyle reached out his hand to his brother, and the two shook.
The night was fairly dark and Ben lay in bed, thinking about his book, the town, and his parents. He kicked himself for not coming back to see them before they’d died and he’d kicked himself for not coming to their funeral. The rain came down heavy as his bedroom window was pelted with raindrops. Then he thought about Kyle. He couldn’t think of what could have brought on anything like that. As far as he’d known, his brother was in good health. Even he would have said something if he’d been getting sick. After the two had spoken for most of the day and enjoyed a beer or two together, Ben was sure of it. Lightning flashed furiously outside the hotel. It was one of Providence’s famous summer storms. Often times he’d listen to music as he slept, so he looked around the room till he found the radio. Most of the stations were static, or political radio; neither of which he was fond. Finally he found a station; the classical music station. They were playing Tartini’s the Devil’s Trill Sonata. It was one of his favorite pieces. Sitting back down on the bed, he allowed himself to relax, till his eyelids grew too heavy to stay open. As he drifted off to sleep, Ben slipped into a dream.
Ben stood once again at the edge of the almost stagnantly placid waters in the dimly lit cavern. This time, something felt different. It almost felt somehow peaceful; almost peaceful enough for him to have lain down right where he stood and fall asleep. Then everything just stopped. The feeling of peacefulness and calm jut evaporated as if into thin air as he stood there. A feeling of what he could only call pure and unadulterated dread washed over him. He wanted to leave the water’s edge; he wanted to leave the pond. He wanted to run away from it as fast as possible, but he couldn’t even budge. Breathing as steadily as he could, he tried to calm himself, but it only barely worked.
Then he sensed it before he could actually see it. It was the same strange, dark mist from the last time he’d had this dream. Swirling about, here and there, it slowly wound its way from the water at the furthest side of the cavern. He stared into the mist, squinting as best he could, then he felt something looking back at him. A feeling told him to run. Once again he tried to run; only this time, his legs obeyed him fully. He turned around from the water and began to slowly run away, picking up speed as he went. He could feel the mist or the thing, inside of it making their way towards him. He could feel them watching him, following him. When he round run no more, he stopped, bent over and retching. When he could finally stop retching, he looked up in front of him and there was a flight of stairs that seemed to spiral upwards. Looking back over his shoulder he saw a sight that took him completely by surprise. It was his brother, but it wasn’t his brother. He had a look of almost serene madness in his eyes as he waded through the water and the mist, walking slowly towards Ben.
His white robe dripped with water as he stepped out and onto the ground. It was as if someone or something else was wearing a perfectly tailored Kyle suit, complete with mask. The only difference was the strange black substance that seemed to branch out about his skin, as if it were alive. There was a wound on his chest, over his heart that seemed to almost ooze the black substance with each step he…it took. Then it stopped where it stood. Ben heard a sound, a whisper in his ear. The voice was so familiar, yet sounded distant; as if it were miles and miles away. “Run!” said the voice, “Turn around and run Ben, it isn’t me.” The thing that wasn’t Kyle started making its way towards Ben again. It never said a word, but he doubted it wanted a conversation. Backing up step by step, Ben turned around and ran. He wanted nothing more than to stay out of the reach of this thing; whatever it wanted.
Ben woke up in a cold sweat; his sheets were lightly damp from his perspiration. Frantically, he looked around him, getting reacquainted with his surroundings. It was still dark outside, except for the occasional flash of lightning in the still stormy night sky. Quietly he got out of bed and threw a robe and some slippers on and went to find a vending machine. He often had a late night craving for some junk food or another. As he walked to where he thought he remembered spotting a vending machine earlier, he noticed how quiet the hotel was. It wasn’t the typical quiet you’d find at night; it was a strange, different kind of quiet. It unsettled him. But then he thought about his book, and this could only help his story. He managed to find a vending machine, grab a snack, and head back to his room.
The lightning outside flashed as if the heavens were in the midst of a battle of biblical proportions, though nothing about this night felt biblical to him at all. A breeze flew in through his bedroom window, rustling the curtains. ‘I don’t remember leaving that open’ he thought, concerned. Cautiously he looked around the bedroom for some sign of entry, but found none. He walked over to the open window, ready to close it. Despite the violent flashing of the lightning, the crashes of thunder, and the almost seemingly unending rain, it looked like a beautiful night. He looked down onto the empty front lawn as a flash of lightning arched across the sky, illuminating the entire front lawn of the hotel for him to see. There on the lawn stood a host of people, all in black hooded robes, staring up at him; their faces hidden in the shadow of their hoods. He wasn’t quite sure who they were, but their presence bothered him. Another bolt of lightning danced its way across the sky and the people were gone, as if they’d vanished into the darkness of the night or as if they had never been there to begin with.
Ben slammed the window shut and the breeze was cut off, leaving the curtains of his bedroom lifeless and unruffled. ‘Am I going mad or what?’ he asked himself, worried that some sort of madness might slowly be taking a hold over him. The lightning flashed again outside his window, brilliantly illuminating the room. The hairs on the back of Ben’s neck began to stand on end as he turned around. With each flash of lightning, the painting hanging on the wall over his computer could be seen, with almost crystal clarity. “What the hell?” he said in surprise. The painting had changed again. The men and women were somewhat tattered and bloody. They had weapons in their hands as they stood over others, women, children, the elderly; as if they meant to hack them all to pieces.
The closer Ben got to the painting, the more he noticed that there was another change in the painting, the settlers were deformed; twisted and distorted versions of their former selves. ‘Kyle’ he thought. “What the hell is going on in this town?” he said aloud, wishing that somehow he could have an answer. He was sure though that whatever the answer was, he wouldn’t like it. He took down the painting and threw it onto the floor, by the window. He’d be damned if he had to look at it one more time. He feared what he might see the next time he glanced at it. Overcome with exhaustion, he slowly made his way over to his bed and fell asleep.
The next day passed by pretty uneventful. Ben spent most of the day at the small desk provided for him in his hotel room and typed away at his story. His room phone rang, causing him to stop what he was doing. He hadn’t been expecting a phone call, but decided to answer anyway. “Hey Ben” said the voice on the other end of the phone. It was Kyle. “What’s up?” asked Ben. “Town’s having the annual carnival tonight; you know, the Founder’s Day carnival?” “That’s tonight?” asked Ben. “Yeah, sure is” said Kyle, “And you’re coming. Before Ben could even protest, Kyle added “It’s not up for discussion. You spend far too much time cooped up in that old hotel working on your story and not enough time in the fresh air.” Ben wanted to argue, but he and his brother had begun reconnecting. He didn’t want anything to ruin that. Looking over at his clock, he was surprised to see how late it had gotten. It was already four thirty. “Alright, I’m coming” said Ben, finally. “I’ll see you there.”
Children ran through the park, full of laughter and childlike mischief as the dusky night lit up with the light from a small fireworks display. The town’s annual Providence Founders Day carnival was in full swing. The park was full of town’s people, either running a booth of some sort or just having as good a time as possible. Ben and Kyle walked around, taking in the festivities sights. They shook hands and Ben reacquainted himself with some people he hadn’t seen in years and met a few new along the way. “I’m glad you talked me into coming” said Ben to his brother, as he took a deep breath of air. “Believe it or not, it’s been a long time since I’ve been to a carnival.” Kyle laughed deeply and for a moment, it was like when they were little kids again. “Think of it as an unofficial welcome home party” said Kyle with a wide grin on his face.
A few people that Ben didn’t recognize, came over to him and his brother as they stopped for a few seconds to look at one of the carnival games. Noticing them, Kyle looked up and smiled. Ben could tell there was something off about the smile. It wasn’t one of his brother’s usual lighthearted smiles. “Ben” he said, “this is Zeke and Paul. Zeke, Paul, this is my little brother, Ben.” They shook hands and exchanged pleasantries for a moment. “Sorry Ben” said Zeke, “we hate to be a bother and all, but could we steal your brother away for a few minutes, we’ve got a few things to discuss.” Ben shot his brother a concerned look, but Kyle barely reacted. “I’ll find ya in a bit” he said. “Alright” replied Ben, “See ya in a few.” His brother and the two others disappeared in the crowd of town’s people enjoying the festivities. “Might as well enjoy myself” he mumbled to himself as he went on his own, exploring what all the carnival had to offer.
Ben managed to dunk the man at the dunk tank three times in a row; receiving a vigorous applause from those waiting for a turn at the game. He wasn’t used to getting much praise for anything other than his books and he had to admit, he liked the way this felt. The longer he’d spent in town, the happier he was that he’d decided to visit. An hour passed by and he hadn’t seen his a sign of his brother yet. He began to wonder where he might have gone off to. Stepping away from the dunk tank, he scoured the crowd, trying to pick out his brother from among the multitudes of people. Then he remembered that his brother wasn’t alone, he was with two other men, so he looked for all three of them. Finally, he managed to find them, off in a corner of the park; talking. Kyle didn’t look too happy with the other two though. From where he stood, Ben could see the way Kyle’s arms moved angrily.
He navigated his way through the crowd of people, trying to get to his brother. “Kyle” he yelled out, barely able to hear his own voice above the sounds around him. He decided that waving in his brother’s direction might catch his attention and it did. Kyle stormed off from Zeke and Paul and headed for his brother. “You ok?” asked Ben, “You looked pretty angry over there.” “Oh that? Yeah, I’m fine” he replied. “You know” said Ben, concerned, “you’re a piss poor liar.” Kyle started laughing, catching his brother by surprise. “What’s so funny?” asked Ben. “You’ve got that look like you’re ready to take on the world.” “What can I say…”said Ben, letting his words trail off.
“Looks like I’m gonna have to make another early night of it” said Kyle. “Bed? This early?” asked Ben. “It must be tough being old.” He chuckled lightheartedly. “Just you wait” replied Kyle, “you’ll be old before ya know it.” He then joined in the chuckling, patting his brother on the back. “Before you leave town, we’ll spend some real time together” he promised Ben. “Alright then” said Ben, “I’m holding ya to just that. Ben walked off towards the house. Looking around, he couldn’t help but notice that the other two, Zeke and Paul had disappeared too. “I wonder what that was all really about.” he thought to himself. As he made his way back to his car and to the hotel, he couldn’t escape the nagging feeling that something was wrong, though how wrong, he didn’t know.
Deep asleep, he dreamt again, though this was nothing like he’d experienced before. Ben stood at the bottom of the stairway to the cavern, somewhat hidden in shadow. From there he could make out the shapes of people dressed in hooded black robes and what looked like a large stone altar of some sort near the edge of the water. As he squinted he could make out stairs going up the altar facing him and on either side of it, leading to a flattened top. In the center of the altar, there was a modest fire that seemed to outshine the cavern’s once beautiful, natural dim glow. There was a stone table in front of the flame. A cold chill ran up his spine as he watched the sight before him. The people danced around and around the big stone altar, chanting; their robes swaying this way and that as they moved. Their voices reverberated as they bounced off the far walls of the cavern. Ben could hear them, but he couldn’t understand a word they’d said. All he knew was that whatever it was he was hearing, it wasn’t any better than what he was seeing. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t natural.
Ithak rugu utlegoi olked.
Kad lo-ug bogoy tog otekigo.
Seg amasti dhak-ysat elog.
Shutho-ili! Shutho-ili! Shutho-ili!”
He looked on with horrified curiosity as one of the black robed figures; he thought it was a man, walked up the stone stairs of the altar leading a young man in a white, hoodless robe behind him. The black robed figure walked the young man to the table, laying him down. Once that was done, candles at the four corners of the altar were lit one at a time. An unholy black flame leapt up from each lit candle and sputtered, though it could scarcely be heard over the din of collective voices. A feeling of unbelievable terror began to fill Ben as he stood there almost rooted to the spot. The chanting grew louder and louder, echoing till he could hear the words they spoke, as if he were right next to them.
Ben wanted to yell, to stop what he saw from continuing, but he couldn’t. He was vastly outnumbered. The person who stood atop of the altar, next to the stone table, removed what looked like a dagger from his belt. He walked over to each of the sputtering black flamed candles, kneeling in front of them, holding the blade steadily over the ebony flames. When he was done, the blade itself shone as black as the flames of the candles. Holding the dagger carefully, so as not to touch the blade, he plunged it into the fire at the altar’s center. No sooner than he plunged the ebony blade into the fire, it roared to life, as if it was alive, and hungry. The fire began to grow in size and its colour darkened till it was as black and unnatural as the flames that danced atop the candles bordering the altar. He pulled the blade from the flames and walked over to the young man lying on the stone table, joining in with the mad chanting of the others. As he held the blade over the man’s body, he grew louder and louder, till Ben could hear his voice above those circling the altar.
Alka Kad lo-ug!
Nadu es ùri.
Alka Kadseg! Alka Kadseg!
With a look born from madness and ecstasy, he plunged the dagger deep into the heart of the person on the altar. There was a loud scream, though not one of horror or pain, but of joy, or so it sounded to Ben’s ears.
Ben couldn’t watch any longer and stepped back, horrified. A pebble rolled from beneath his foot as he stepped back. He gasped as he realized what happened. The chanters were far too caught up in their business to even notice the sound of an errant pebble on the ground from the shadows of the stairway. For fear that his next step might actually be heard, he froze in the spot where he stood; helpless to do anything more than watch the scene unfold in front of him. The flame in the center of the altar danced wildly, swaying to and fro, almost undulating. The sound of the chanting died down to a whisper as Ben looked on in surprise.
From the waters near the altar it came. It was pure corruption given form and unintelligible form and substance. Like a living rot, it spread from the waters onto the ground near the altar. Slowly, it made its way up the back side of the altar, branching out this way and that, blackening every inch of stone it touched. The darkness wrapped its way around the stone table where the now lifeless young man lay. Slowly it crept up his cold arm and into the wound in his chest, filling his body with its very being. The young man slowly began to rise from where he lay. Ben couldn’t see his face, but he could feel even from where he stood that there was something different about him; something dark and impure. The black robed man who was closest to the figure in white yelled out in a thunderous voice. “Kadseg!” Those below, at the base of the altar yelled “Ia, Ia Kadseg!” in response. He reached out an arm, touching the black robed man only for a second. He twitched and convulsed where he stood, as he was filled with corruption from the inside out. The black robed man fell to the floor of the altar.
From where he stood, Ben could barely see the change that the man was undergoing, but he could fully feel the presence of evil in the cavern growing stronger. The black robed man rose, but there was something different about him. Not as different as the young man who not too long ago was dead atop the altar, but still, different. He pulled back the hood of his robe, revealing the change for all to see. Ben couldn’t believe his eyes, what little they could see from that distance.
The young man turned away from the man-thing that was once the black robed man and faced the waters of the cavern with her hands upraised. He never said a word, but Ben could hear what had to be his voice in his head and he understood the only two words it said. “The End.” The water behind the altar began to boil and steam. As the steam rose, it became darker and darker in colour, till it was inky black. Ben knew that something wicked, something purely evil was coming, and it made him scared.
Ben could stand it no more, so he turned to face the stairway and ran, hoping he had remained unnoticed by the mad chanters. Upward and onward he flex, hoping to escape the madness he had just witnessed. He could hear no sound behind him of anyone…anything giving chase and as he went to slow down, he tripped over the final step of the stairway, falling face first onto the hard floor beneath him.
Ben woke up, frantic. He got out of bed looking all around the room till his eyes found what they sought. It was the painting. He never wanted to look at it again, but now he had to. Picking it up, he turned on the hotel room light to get a better look at it. His eyes shot open wide. There were no more people in the painting, only deformed monstrosities where people once stood. Off in the background of the painting, he could see a building, the Governor hotel, surrounded with trees of different type and a lush green grass in front. Despite looking picturesque, the building seemed evil to him. He wanted to hold on to the illusion that his fears were nothing more than the fruit of too much time spent writing horror, but no matter how much he wanted to, he couldn’t. He stayed up the rest of that night, drinking cup after cup of coffee in hopes that he wouldn’t fall back to sleep.
The sun finally rose in the morning sky. Ben walked to the kitchen window, greeting the new day with bloodshot eyes. There was a knock at his door. “Funny” he thought, “I don’t’ remember hearing anyone stop outside my door.” A piece of white paper was slipped underneath his door, into the room. As quickly as he could, he rushed over to the door, swinging it open. To his surprise, there was no one on the other side. There was only the note that had been slipped underneath his room door. He looked up and down the hallway, but it was empty. Closing the door, he picked up the strange note sat down in a chair by the window. Opening the letter, he noticed it was typed out, not hand written.
“Writer, If you know what’s best for ya, you’d better leave town and soon. For your sake and for your brother’s, leave.”
“Short and to the point at least” he thought, trying not to let what he’d read bother him too much. It was easier said than done of course. First his dreams, then his brothers bizarre behavior, now this cryptic missive. He picked up the phone and dialed for his brother. “Finally up I see” said Kyle, jokingly as he answered the phone. “I’ve been up all night. Haven’t slept much.” “What’s wrong” Kyle asked, the levity leaving his voice. “Don’t know really. And if I told you what I did know, or at least what I believed, you’d probably tell me I’d been working on my book too hard.” Ben paused for a second. “You’d be wrong” he added. “There’s something wrong here Kyle.” “Ben” replied Kyle, “Look, maybe you should cut your trip a bit short and head home.” “Why would I wanna do that?” asked Ben, both confused and curious. “There’s something you’re not telling me; I know it.” “Look” said Kyle, his voice kind, but stern, “If I’m not telling you something, it’s for your own good.” Ben didn’t know what to think. Now his brother was suggesting that he leave town. He was more sure now than before that there was something going on in his sleepy little home town.
“Two more days” said Ben, “One at best. Then I’ll be out of town and out of your hair. You can tell me there’s nothing going on in town till you’re blue in the face, but it won’t change the fact that there is. I’m…I’m gonna go into town and ask around about a few things.” “Ben…” said Kyle, his voice trailing off. “Be careful. I’m not kidding. This may be home, but you don’t live here anymore. You know we deal with things the way we deal with things.” “And you know I can’t let sleeping dogs lay asleep” replied Ben, his voice full of tired determination. Kyle sighed heavily. “I know…I know” he said. Ben heard a sound from the other end of the phone, there was a knock at Kyle’s door. “Look, little brother, there’s someone at the front door. I’m gonna have to go. I’ll talk to ya later though. Oh, and promise me you’ll be careful.” “You know I’ll be as careful as I can” said Ben. “I know, that’s what I’m afraid of” replied Kyle with a lighthearted chuckle. Ben could tell that it was forced though. He decided it’d be best to hang up on that note and they ended the conversation.
After their conversation, it seemed like that was that. Ben took one last sip of his coffee, now far from piping hot and headed out of his room. He drove out into town, determined to talk to the one man who might be able to help him clear out all this mess. Windows down, the wind blew his hair about, making a neat mess of it as he went on his way. As he drove, his eyelids grew just a little too heavy, causing him to swerve a little to the right. Luckily, he regained control and was back on course on the street. “Not even that much coffee can keep me awake forever” he mused. A strange all too familiar feeling overcame him in that instant. He couldn’t understand why, but he was suddenly afraid.
He breathed and exhaled deeply, trying to calm himself. The last thing he wanted was to end up crashing the car because of some unfounded fear. Along the road, he drove by what looked like a half-naked woman. She stumbled about, lost or blind; he couldn’t tell which. “What the hell?” he yelled. “I’d swear that was young man who woke me up after my first night in the hotel; shambling along the roadside, almost stark naked.” He stopped the car and looked in his rear view mirror. There was nothing but the street behind him; no shambling half-naked anyone.
The rest of the drive was uneventful. Ben began to wonder if it was the town that was going mad or if it was he who had begun to go mad. Every corner he rounded, he saw signs of madness. The people of the town seemed to be stricken by some illness. It was as if they were the people from his dreams; the people in the cavern. He swore he’d even seen a man walking around the town carrying what looked like a long black robe. “It could just as easily be a long black dress” he told himself. Thoughts of his brother streamed throughout his mind as he drove. He wanted to believe his brother wouldn’t succumb to the madness that seemed to be seeping into the very foundations of the town.
Finally he arrived outside of one of the two churches in town. He hoped that father Harris; the local priest could help him figure out what was going on. He walked into the church, expecting to find at least one person inside praying, but the nave was empty. Behind him, the church door swung absently as an unexpectedly chilled breeze blew in from outside. In case there was anyone anywhere else in the church, he didn’t want to be too noisy, so he decided to look for the priest. Stopping by one of the pews, he noticed what looked like graffiti. He shook his head in disbelief that someone from town could vandalize house of worship. Looking closer, he noticed that they weren’t words, but weird symbols that almost looked like they were repeating. He went closer to the pew till he could touch the symbols with his own hands.
A shock ran up his arm causing him to shake uncontrollably. Strange images and words flashed before his eyes. When he stopped shaking and came to, his fingertips were red from the symbols on the pew. That was when he could smell it. It was blood. It wasn’t graffiti; it was something worse. He was sure it was a part of whatever was going on in town. “It’s spread in here already?” he asked himself aloud, though it seemed there was no one inside to give reply. Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw movement near the altar, but he couldn’t see anything there. He followed it to the priests living quarters. There it was again, the smell of blood. There was no mistaking it. “Father Harris” he called out in almost a whisper. “Father Harris?” The only response was the sound of shuffling coming from the room the priest used as his living space. Gathering all the courage he could muster, he slowly pushed open the door to father Harris’s room.
Shock and horror washed over him as he looked on at the scene in front of that had unfolded. Father Harris stood there, with blood on his face and hands; a wild look on his face. “Ahh…” he said, as if he’d been expecting Ben. “Come to see the lord’s latest handy work?” he asked, a gleam of madness in his eyes. “Father…father Harris, are you…” his speech died there as he glanced behind the priest. There, hanging from the wall of his room was man. He could hardly tell the age though. From where Ben stood, he could see strange symbols that’d been cruelly carved into the flesh of the man dangling on the wall. “What the hell Harris?” demanded Ben. As he yelled, he noticed the knife in the priest’s hand, still red, dripping with the other man’s blood. “Hell you say?” asked the priest. His voice dripped with a mixture of madness and fear. “What do you know about hell, hmm? Have you seen him?… You have, haven’t you? I’m sure of it. He’s seen you too; and your brother.” He smiled a toothy grin at the mention of Ben’s brother. “He’s coming…darkness is rising” said the priest. “He? What the hell do you mean he?” asked Ben. That started the priest up all over again, but Ben cut him off. “The whole town’s gone insane! I came here to get help from you and…and…” Ben barely knew what to say as he stood there staring from priest to tortured hanging body.
“Why?” demanded Ben, reeling from the shock of the gory scene that lay in front of him. “Tell me damnit, why!?” “You want to know why, little man?” asked the priest, the bloody knife still in his hand. “I’ll tell you why.” He took one step towards Ben and ben in return took a step away from him. “You’re smart to be afraid” said the priest, menacingly. “That’s why I did it, you know. I was afraid.” “Of what?!” demanded Ben, not wanting to draw out the conversation. “Tell me what made you, a priest so afraid that you had to go and kill an innocent man and leave him hanging on a wall?” For a brief moment, Ben’s eyes burned with the fire of righteous indignation. Even the priest could feel his anger, and he withdrew a step; Ben stayed where he stood.
“Yes, damnit!” yelled the priest, “I was afraid. I’m still afraid” his voice had gone to almost a whisper. “It started with a dream…”his voice trailed off for a second and he lowered the knife. “Do you believe in evil” he asked Ben. “I’m a horror writer, of course I believe in evil” Ben replied. “I don’t mean the evil that men do, boy. I mean pure evil, chaos; the things that nightmares are afraid of. I don’t mean the devil; I mean true evil.” The priest once again took a step towards Ben, the knife still lowered, hanging idly from his hand. “We invented the devil; you and I…and the church of course. We needed a boogeyman to keep us in line; something to… blame for all the bad things that happen in the world.” He paused for a moment, lifting the knife up to his chin; scratching as if deep in thought.
“What the hell’s that all supposed to mean?!” demanded Ben. The priest looked at him, seemed to look right through him to someone or something else entirely. “The dream…” offered the priest. “There was a man who came up to me, but he wasn’t a man you see; he was something…inhuman. I could see it in his eyes. He showed me things, terrible things; and they’ve all happened. The last thing he said…before I awoke, was…” his words trailed off.
Ben didn’t stay for any further explanation, as the priest slowly began to pace towards him, a look of murderous madness on his face. “It’s the madness you see; the madness!” he screamed. Slamming the door shut, he turned and left. As Ben ran past the altar, he could hear shouts coming from the room he’d left. “Alka Kadseg!” the voice yelled. He was afraid; terrified even. As scared as he was, he couldn’t help but think that all of it would have made for one hell of a book.
Rushing out of the church, he looked up to the sky as it seemed to darken earlier than normal. The sun was still up, but it seemed as though a shadow had suddenly covered the entire town. He walked hurriedly back to the car, wanting to get as far away from the father Harris as possible. Nearing the car, he heard the sounds of laughter as a small group of children played almost beside his car. A small red ball rolled out towards him. Stopping it with his foot, he bent over to pick it up. The laughing children came from the other side of the car and stood there with blank, emotionless faces. Ben held onto the ball as he noticed what was on their faces, blood. “What happened to you? Are you ok?” he asked. The children wouldn’t answer; they only stood there, with a strange smile crossing their faces. Then, as if snapping out of a trance, all at once they stopped smiling. “Can we have our ball back Mr.?” one of them asked. He was the messiest, bloodiest of the lot.
Ben threw the ball back to them and they went on their way, playing. “It’s only gonna get worse from here” he told himself. He knew he had to leave town, but he couldn’t leave without taking Kyle with him. Maybe it wasn’t too late for his brother. The rest of the town be damned, he wouldn’t let the only family he had left die in this place. When the creepy, blood faced children were far enough away, he got into his car as fast as he could, slightly fumbling his keys as he tried to start the engine. Finally, the engine revved to life and he gave silent thanks to who or whatever might be listening to him in the universe.
One thought ran through his mind on his way back to the hotel. Why wasn’t he acting as strange and mad as everyone else seemed to be behaving? Sure, he had the strange and horrifying dreams, but that was the most of it. He desperately wanted to have an answer. If he had that, he had no doubt he could save Kyle from ending up like father Harris and whoever the deranged priest kept babbling about. He stopped by the hotel, he had to grab whatever he could then go get his brother. He didn’t want anything of his left in town when they drove off.
The hotel was quiet as he walked in through the front doors; eerily quiet. Over the lobby’s speaker system, he could hear the song statically playing.
“They used to tell me I was building a dream
And so I followed the mob
When there was earth to plow or guns to bear
I was always there, right on the job..”
He cautiously walked by the front desk and the woman sitting there. She absently hummed along to the song over the loud speaker. “I’m checking out” said Ben, hoping to make this as quick as possible. He got no response, only more humming. “Excuse me” he said, louder. Then the humming stopped and the woman at the front desk who had once looked at him with a smile as warm as any kindly old grandmother could manage stared at him. Her eyes were intensely focused on him. She didn’t move an inch; she just stared at him. Then as if forgetting he even existed, she lowered her head and went back to her humming along with the song.
Nearing the elevator, he heard what sounded like a thud, followed by a whimpering sound. He stood in the hallway near the elevator, listening as the sound repeated itself again; once, twice, three times. The urge to see what the noise was overruled his better judgment as he turned around and headed back towards the lobby. It was coming from the front desk. The woman sitting there, still humming though the song over the loud speaker had stopped. She hummed to herself as she kicked at something beneath the desk. She kicked and kicked at whatever it was beneath the desk till Ben couldn’t take it any longer. He ran behind the desk and stopped in his tracks. If he hadn’t seen with his own two eyes the gory scene that was father Harris’s doing he’d have been shocked now.
The woman’s leg s and feet were spattered with blood. Looking at where she kicked, he saw a familiar face, but it took him a moment to remember who it belonged to. It was the young man who had woke him up when he’d managed to sleep through most of the day. He didn’t know the boy well, but he still couldn’t help but be saddened by what he saw. Ben looked at him as he lay there, bloodied and bruised and broken. He looked at him as the woman continued to kick him. He couldn’t take it any longer. Filled with an anger he’d never before experienced, with the pressure of the town’s madness closing in on him, he snapped. He gave in to his anger and struck the woman in the face. That moment, she stopped. She stopped humming and kicking the lifeless body by her feet. “I…I’m sorry” said Ben, surprised at his own actions. He stepped back. “I…you kept kicking him and…he’s dead. You killed him” he said. The look in the woman’s eyes told him he should probably run. He didn’t have to be told twice, so he ran.
Not wanting to chance walking past the woman to leave out the front, he thought he’d go out the back door, only he didn’t remember there being a back door to the hotel. There had to be though. There had to be some other way out of the building. He walked quickly down the hallway, looking for another way out. He was in far better shape than the woman at the desk, but so was the young man who lay dead at her feet. It didn’t seem to mean much for him. The sound of heavy breathing came from the direction of the front desk, then he heard a shuffling sound. It was getting closer. The woman from the desk must have decided to come after him. A breeze caught his attention and he looked for its source. This part of the hall was poorly lit; as if the light couldn’t fully touch it for some reason.
He’d never been in this part of the hallway before, but he didn’t remember it looking like it stretched as far as it seemed to now. At the end of the hallway, there was an odd looking door that stood slightly open. “Funny” thought Ben, “I don’t remember seeing that door in this hallway before.” A feeling in his gut told him there was something off about the door, but he couldn’t figure what it could be. Not wanting to stick around much longer, he walked towards it. Nearing the door, he stopped. Pushing the door further open, he was surprised. It was nothing like the rest of the hotels interior. He saw what looked like a long set of old stone spiral stairs that went who knew how far down. “That door might as well have had abandon all hope carved into it.” he thought.
He stood there in the doorway for what seemed like an eternity, unmoving. Finally, the sound of breaking glass coming from the storefront urged him onwards, down the long set of stairs. He’d rather not wait around to find out the noises cause. The stairway was dimly illuminated but he couldn’t see the light’s source at all. It was as if the stones themselves lining the walls of the stairway were glowing. He was careful enough not to trip over anything as he continued his decent into the unknown. Ben couldn’t tell how long he’d been walking down the stairs. Time seemed to expand and contract all at once with each step he took, though he had to be nearing his destination. “The stairs couldn’t go on forever, could they?”
Just when he’d about given up continuing on along the stairs, he heard a low hum reverberate through the steps beneath his feet and the stones along the wall. Some force beyond his understanding compelled him to go on, so he did. Vaguely, he could see a light up ahead of him. It wasn’t what he’d call bright, but it was brighter than the dim glow of the cave walls on either side of him. He followed the light, ready to turn and run at a moment’s notice if need be. As the source of the light was a few mere feet ahead of him, the hum grew louder, till he no longer recognized it as a hum, but as the voices of people. With each step he took he began to recall the last dream he’d had and the large stone altar in the cavern.
“There’s no way this is real…any of it.” he told himself, “It was just a dream, that’s it…just a dream.” He kept telling himself that, over and over again in his head. He wanted desperately to believe that nothing he’d experienced since coming into town had happened; that it was some sort of fevered dream. Deep in his heart though, he knew it was all real, and as he neared his destination, he hated that knowledge.
Finally, he stopped, standing at the bottom of the stairway to a vast underground cavern. He had no idea how far beneath the hotel he’d traveled. The sight in front of him was all too familiar. His heartbeat began to increase as sweat coalesced on his forehead. It was by no means hot where he stood, yet he continued to perspire. At the edge of the stairway’s landing, he stood there hidden in shadow as he looked on ahead of him. He could hear a voice echoing off in the distance from what looked like a dilapidated old ruin near the edge of what looked like a vast underground lake. Instantly, he recognized the words he was hearing.
Ithak rugu utlegoi olked.
Kad lo-ug bogoy tog otekigo.
Seg amasti dhak-ysat elog.
Shutho-ili! Shutho-ili! Shutho-ili!”
“Oh god” he thought, as the alien words bounced off of the stone walls of the cavern around him. The changing, the stone altar; it was all happening in front of his eyes and this time he wasn’t dreaming. Above the din of the chanting voices in the cavern, he recognized one. “Kyle?” he thought. “It couldn’t be…I left him back at the house.” As if hearing his thoughts about his brother, a figure in white turned in his direction. There was no denying, it was his brother standing up there. If Kyle had seen him though, he didn’t do anything to show it. He simply turned back around, facing the stone table as he climbed onto it; awaiting a fate that Ben was all too familiar with.
Ben still had no idea what the strange, alien words that were being chanted meant, but he knew without a doubt what their ultimate result would be. The last living member of his family would be slain and an evil abomination would take his place. Then he remembered one of the words he’d heard the chanters saying; Kadseg. “That must be what this thing is, it’s name” he reasoned. He was sure of it. Ben wasn’t sure how, but he knew he had to stop the ceremony from finishing.
The chanters around what remained of the altar were far less than in his dream and their black, hooded robes were far older and dustier than he’d remembered. He’d never been much for feats of bravery, always preferring to find some other way to handle things, but it seemed that he had little in the way of a choice now; if he wanted his brother to live through this. Cautiously, he stepped forward from the dim shadows of the stairway, taking a deep breathe so he wouldn’t lose his nerve. Then he ran. He ran towards the small group of black robed chanters and towards the altar. The chanters didn’t notice him till he was a few feet away from them, but he still ran. “Kyle!” he yelled at the top of his lungs, hoping to get his brother’s attention. His brother just lay there, waiting. Ben pushed through black robed figures with little ease, none of them tried to stop him, though he didn’t stop to think why.
Ben ran up the stairs of the altar as the black robed figure lit the last of the sputtering, black flamed candles, making his own way towards the stone table where Kyle lay. Below the altar, the small group of chanters circled, closing in on the altar stairs; though none of them set a foot on the stone steps. Only when he reached the stone table did he realize how late he was. As he looked down at the bleeding wound over Kyle’s heart, the black bladed dagger laying beside him, he looked at the hooded, black robed figure across from him. Full of anger, he rushed at the man, knocking him off balance and into the flames by where he stood. This time the look on the man’s face was not a look of madness or of ecstasy, but of unspeakable pain. The flames danced about every inch of the man’s body, devouring his black robes entirely, as well as his flesh. His screaming was short lived though as the flames took him hungrily.
He hadn’t managed to save Kyle’s life, but at least he’d managed to put an end to the evil that his brother’s death would have brought about. Ben was determined to carry his brother’s lifeless body out of the cavern and up into the town above. He was determined to give him a proper burial; the burial he deserved. As he went to pick up his brother’s cold, limp body, he felt something lightly hit the top of his head. He brushed it off and it hit the ground. It was a small piece of rock. Then another small piece of rock fell and hit the floor of the altar beside him. He wasn’t sure what to make of it. As if awakening from some long slumber, the earth began to shake, lightly at first, then more and more violently. The chanters had long since stopped their chanting. A large stalactite fell from the cavern ceiling; impaling one of the black robed figures around the altar as screams erupted from the others.
More and more pieces of the cavern ceiling began to fall, landing here and there. The scene below the altar was frantic; robed figures running this way or the other, trying to avoid being impaled or crushed to death. Ben heard a strange sound as a crack began to form beneath his feet. He stepped back as the crack spread in front of him. A large chunk of rock fell, landing on the crack in between him and the table where his brother lay. When things looked as if they could get no worse, they did. The large chunk of rock that had just fallen; widened the crack between him and the table. Everything on that side of the crack had broken off, falling into the waters behind the altar; taking Kyle, the stone table, and the chanters that had been behind the altar down together.
Ben cried out for his brother as he watched him fall into the deep waters of the cavern, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to reclaim the body for burial. He ran down the trembling stairs of the altar, past the dead bodies of the black robed chanters that lay around the cavern floor. He reached the entrance to the stairway and looked back only once. The stairs began to shake just like the rest of the cavern. Ben made his way up the stairs as quickly as he could, fighting back the slew of emotions that hit him all at once. He couldn’t stop though. He had to make it out and to safety. As he made frantically made his way up the stairs, he noticed that the dim glow of the walls beside him began to get dimmer and dimmer. The lights were his only way to see his way safely up the stairs so he continued running. Every now and again, his pace would slow as the stairway and the cavern below shook, but he held his ground. He could hear the sounds of rocks falling further down the stairs as the entrance to the cavern was cut off.
Continuing up the stairs, he wondered if anyone would ever believe his story. “Probably not” he thought. He only wanted inspiration for a novel, not horrible nightmares, a crazy cult bent on unleashing an ancient evil, and a dead brother. The latter of which hurt him the most. He could only hope that his brother was somewhere better now; away from crazed cults and far far away from this town. The least he could do was to get away for both their sakes. Finally, he made his way to the top of the stairs. The entire stairway began to shake even more violently than before, causing the hotel to shake as well. With the increased tremor, came the collapse of the stairway.
He turned to face the door and his face grew deathly pale. There was no stairway, blocked off or otherwise. There wasn’t even a door; just a bare wall. “This can’t be!” he yelled aloud. In frustration, he pounded his fist against the wall where just moments ago there was a door. Ben had to believe that there was a door there, somewhere beneath the layer of wall. The only explanation was that he was losing his grip on reality. In and out he breathed, deeply, trying to calm himself and his nerves which were already frayed. Deciding to cut his losses, he decided the front door would be the best way out, so he ran. He didn’t stop to look at the woman at the front desk or the poor dead young man that probably lay still behind it, but he could still hear the kicking thud. That sound told him he hadn’t lost his mind; not yet at least.
He stood in the doorway as the hotel began to tremble. It was the cavern all over again, pieces of the ceiling began to fall to the floor and a deep crack ran up the wall closest to him. He bolted from where he stood, determined not to be trapped beneath a fallen beam or some other piece of debris. Spotting his car, he made a mad dash to it, leaving the cavern, stairway, and hotel behind. Turning around for one brief moment, he looked at the spot where the once quaint hotel should have been, there was an empty, vacant patch of undisturbed land. He could feel the car shake beneath him as he thought of his book; gone with the building. The town was doomed, he knew it. He could feel it in his bones. As he drove, he chanced a glance in his rear view mirror. Now, it wasn’t just the hotel that was gone, other buildings had started to disappear as well. He could hear screams filling the air, only to shortly die off as if they had never taken flight in the first place. If he didn’t move quickly, he could only imagine what would happen to him. He sped on as quickly as his car would go. After what felt like an eternity, he was out of the town and on the highway. He drove past the farm where he’d talked to the seemingly good natured farmhand, or at least where the farm should have been. He didn’t bother to look at the vast and empty space Ben had escaped the town with his life and his sanity. There was at least that to be thankful for, though he began to question his sanity.
The cool summer night air blew through his hair as he drove down the highway. He looked down at the gas gage on his car and realized he’d need to put in more gas. The nearest gas station wasn’t for a few miles from where he was, but in time he made it there, right before the gage landed on E. The night was quiet, almost eerily so. Something about it rubbed him the wrong way, so he turned on his radio before he got out to swipe his card and pump his gas. As the radio came on, there was nothing but static, no matter what station he turned to. “This can’t be right” he said aloud, confused at the lack of a radio signal. Even the static began to die out, leaving only silence. He finished filling the tank and hopped back into the car. As he drove on towards his new destination, he couldn’t help but think about his brother and everything that had happened. He found himself getting strangely tired, unable to keep his eyes open, despite every attempt to do so. Suddenly, he his eyes shot open and he realized he was too late to do anything as his car swerved into a telephone pole. Slowly he began to slip out of consciousness and his eyes closed.
He was surrounded on all sides by emptiness. Each and every word or thought that came from him echoed around him. Then he heard another voice, it was unfamiliar, but kind. “Mr. Edwards” said the voice, “can you hear me…Mr. Edwards?” Slowly, Ben opened his eyes and the emptiness was replaced by an almost blinding light, and a fuzzy form that seemed to hover above him. “Doctor, he’s awake” said the kind voice. “Wha…where am I?” Ben asked, finally able to see his surroundings. “Take it easy” said a young woman; the kind voice belonged to her. “You were in a bad accident, Mr. Edwards.” “I was?” asked Ben, trying to get his bearings straight. “That’s right sir. You ran into a telephone pole at a pretty dangerous speed.” “The pole…I remember it.” “Well, looks like you’re doing fine now” said another voice just entering the hospital room. “What were you doing out there in the middle of nowhere anyway son?” asked the doctor. Ben let out a deep and heavy sigh. “I was in Providence, Massachusetts…there was a terrible accident and my…my brother died.” The nurse and the doctor looked at one another, confused. “Providence?” asked the doctor. Ben shook his head slowly. “Son, there’s never been a town or city called Providence in this state. You must have meant Rhode Island.” “It’s In Massachusetts!” demanded Ben, “I know my own home town doctor.
“Settle down.” suggested the doctor. “Ask anyone in this hospital and they’ll tell you the same thing as I just did. Ben lay there in his hospital bed, wondering what was going on. “Here” said the doctor, “this’ll help you relax a bit.” He injected Ben with a drug to calm him and help him relax. Then the room grew quiet, as both the nurse and doctor left. Had his entire life been a figment of his imagination, or had something far more sinister been at play. Lying there, he thought he saw a shadow from the corner of his eye. He turned, to see what it was, but there was only the blank and sterile hospital room wall to greet him. Breathing a sigh of relief, he turned back to face the now closed hospital room door. There stood Kyle, or the thing that used to be Kyle, draped in the same white robe he’d left him in down in the cavern in Providence.
The thing that had now possessed Kyle’s body stood motionless as it watched him. Ben wanted to jump from the bed and run, or do something, but the drugs the doctor had given him were starting to make him feel a little drowsy. He fought to stay awake, but each time his eyes would close, it seemed the figure would appear closer when his eyes opened. The room seemed to darken slightly behind the man in white. “You can’t be here!” yelled Ben. “You’re dead…I saw you die in the cavern.” “It’s not real, it’s not real, it’s not real…” he repeated in his head, over and over again as he shut his eyes, trying to will the image before him away. “You’re not real!” he yelled even louder. Daring to open his eyes, he was confronted by the pleasant site of the hospital room door. There was no figure in white, though in his mind he could picture him, silently mocking him as Ben tried to deny his existence.
He lay there, as tortured by the presence of the man in white as he was by its absence. His head full of horrifying thoughts and questions he doubted he truly wanted the answers to, the radio in his room started to act up. He hadn’t noticed the radio much, till now. There was a strange static sound that seemed to interrupt the classical music that had been playing. When the static finally died down, he heard what sounded like old-timey radio music. He was in the room alone, unable to tell if the music was all in his head or truly playing. Either answer would lead him to an unsettling truth.
“They used to tell me I was building a dream
And so I followed the mob
When there was earth to plow or guns to bear
I was always there, right on the job
They used to tell me I was building a dream
With peace and glory ahead
Why should I be standing in line
Just waiting for bread?
Once I built a railroad, I made it run
Made it race against time
Once I built a railroad, now it’s done
Brother, can you spare a dime?…”