Friday, October 31, 2014

The Tale of Henry Ward

It was nothing special that drew Henry Ward to the castle. It was no love of history or exploring. The old stone walls that still stood expire centuries of wear did not particularly catch his eye. He was unaware of its colorful and grim history. He was vaguely aware that the old ruin in the middle of nowhere was suppose to be haunted, or something.

No, what drew him there on a cloudless night with only the full moon for light was the two goth girls that accompanied him. One was tall and whip thin. The other was shorter, but curvey. She also made up for her friend's silence with some vague chatter about the celestial bodies lighting their way. History held no thrall over him. It was his lusts that brought him along. Nothing special.

The walk up the hill ended as the trio passed through the old gate that had stood through the centuries. The wood of a great door had long ago rotted away, leaving nothing but rusty hinges. Past the half crumbled wall was a small court yard of overgrown grass. Despite the years and neglect, the interior still stood strong. The central structure was no different than any other old castle that dotted the countryside except for the blackened walls. It looked as though someone had attempted to burn the structure and no amount of weathering had been able to erase the mark. However, the tall thin girl said that there true destination was the tall tower that lumed over the rest of the structure.

The talkative girl start to ramble with more excitement as they stepped into the castle. Her voice was the only thing stopping it from being as silent as a mausoleum. Henry listened some as he clicked on a flashlight. They trod over dusty, dirty floors and through cobwebs as the girl told some of the castles history.

She recounted how the castle had been built by an eccentric family that had risen to landed gentry. No one was sure how they had managed to acquire their wealth and power. It had seemed as though they had some secret source. The family kept to themselves though, and for the most part no one paid them much mind. Generations passed and the family became more eccentric and odd. People claimed that there was madness in the bloodline, or possibly witchery. The accusation always occurred when something strange happened about the neighboring lands.

The family’s fall came on a night when three people disappeared. People said that the missing had been seen being taken to the castle. When the mob arrived, they said the family had been in the midsts of some demonic rite. Small minded fools, of course. So they burnt the family in their castle. Some claimed the fires burned so hot because the family had drawn forth Hell itself. Times after that, it was often attributed to the accursed family’s ghosts. No one wished to come to the castle, afraid that some taint might follow them home.

As they made their way through the eerie atmosphere, Henry began to wish he had tuned the story out. He was not given to believing in boggarts and ghosts, there was an unsettling air to the place that made the story quite believable. He was in too deep to turn back now. His desires and pride won out against a screaming instinct for survival.

The girls led him to a room that seemed to have once been a library. The remnants of burnt tomes still remained. Even the fires of Hell apparently were not enough to banish these books. Henry looked closer at a leather bound book that seemed to have survived quite well. Occult runes covered the cover, which disturbed him for a reason that he could not quite put a finger on. There was a familiarity to the leather that made his skin crawl.

When he looked up, he realized that the girls were gone. He was alone in a darkness that seemed to be closing in around him. Gritting his teeth he focused. The girls must have headed for the top of the tower. This was just a disturbing way of teasing him. That is what he told himself.

He pressed on until he found the stairs that wound around the inside of the tower towards the top. The darkness seemed to be trying to crush him as he went up. It was like it was draining away the light of his flashlight. Part of him feared that the light might well give out to the draining darkness. It did not flicker or die though. It continued to light his way, but it provided no warmth for the chill running down his spine.

The steps seemed off, as though they were tilted. The walls, were wrong as well. Some strange visual illusion was his hope. A trick of his mind, but it did not stop his equilibrium from being thrown off. The higher he climbed, the walls ceased to be plain stone blocks. They were inscribed with strange symbols. Much like the walls, something seemed wrong with them. They offended his senses on some primal level. The lines did not seem to connect where they should, as they were purposefully drawn to make the eye hurt. It was all giving him a headache.

Relief flooded him when sounds other than the fall of his feet breached the darkness. He was nearing the top and the girls. He was nearing the end of the gauntlet for a long awaited reward. He tried to hurry. The sounds grew clearer, the girls were chanting in latin or something. He wanted to turn and flee. The whole night was turning into some unsettling mess. It was too late though. He could not turn back. He had to swallow the gnawing in his gut that this was all not right.

Pale light poured down onto the steps as he finally reached the top. It was no great unburdening. The girls were indeed at the top. They had dawned black robes, though they seemed to have stained splotches on them. Their chanting continued as he stepped out into the light, but wicked smiles spread across their faces. They had drawn some kind of occult diagram on the rooftop. Candles were spaced irregularly around the circle.

He watched, almost hypnotized as they lifted their hands to the stars above. Their chanting reached a fever pitched. His hackles were raised as he waited for whatever it was that was coming. He knew now that he would be witness to something. The final note rang through the air and his breath caught in his chest.

Heart beats passed. Nothing happened. He waited for what felt like an eternity. Nothing happened. All of his nerves and stress had been built up. The trepidation was for nothing. As a mix of relief, regret, and even disappointment flooded his fear wracked body. He let out a mad laugh that rung through the night.

It was that maddened laugh that seemed to be the final component. The sound of it seemed to physically crack the air inside of the circle. In fascinated horror, Henry watched as the space before him tore and warped. It was like a piece of paper was pinched in the middle the ripped open to show what was on the otherside.

What he saw seemed to stretch on for eternity. It was the blackest of the deepest void. His eyes peered on into something to vast for the human mind to fully comprehend. Worse yet, he saw what had torn the fabric of time and space that should have separated him from that which he was not meant to know.

He collapsed to his knees, laughing and crying all at once. He wanted to turn and run, but all of his will was sapped by the vision before him. He could not resist, fight, or escape. His mind was paralyzed by something that he could not put a name too, for it was something to which a name was meaningless.

So he was forced to hold still as inhuman appendages reached forward for him. He screamed and laughed as he was pulled to the void. His struggles were futile in the grip of the nameless horror and madness that gripped him mind, body, and soul. He was drawn through the sundered space which quickly closed again as the universe enforced its order once again. His final scream echoed through the keep, joining the countless echos of all the rest who had been pulled through to the void.