Sailing Away

This Week’s Prompt :57. Sailing or rowing on lake in moonlight—sailing into invisibility.
The Resulting Story: The Wind Blew Out From Bergen


Moonlight and invisibility are strong themes of these last few prompts. If I had the money to acquire a copy of Mr. Lovecraft’s letters, I’d wonder what possibly prompted this set of thinking or line of inquiry. As it is, we will press on. This prompt does have the benefit of being distinct from those before in at least one respect. The invisible no longer haunts us, nor is it revealed. Rather, we see the visible become invisible.

The beginning notion of sailing or rowing into invisibility, being lost to the sight of humanity, has some interesting parallels in the border space of folklore and urban legend. The basic premise is not too strange. After all, the sea is full of strange monsters, of sirens calling out to drown men, of ancient rebels against the gods, and more. But disappearances at sea? Those are old.

The most famous disappearance locale for American’s is actually far more recent then you might suspect. The Bermuda Triangle’s record only begins in the 1950s. But if there is a place more synonymous with “lost at sea” in the modern day, I’ve not heard of it. The triangle has it’s points at Bermuda, Florida, and Puerto Rico. It’s reputation of consuming ships is famed enough that I will stop here to say that in all likelihood, the probable cause is the sheer number of ships traveling those waves.

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The related Devil’s Triangle in Japan is another recent notion of seas that enjoy sinking ships. It too has only been reported in the early 1950s, as has the notion of twelve of these paranormal vortices. While no doubt these can be sources of inspiration, their newness ought to be remembered.

Even ignoring these paranormal sightings, sailing to the land invisible is not so unusual. Odysseus did so, and found even stranger lands in the journey there. And funeral barges of Vikings and Egyptians alike were supposed to go on to the dead. King Arthur was sent out sailing to an unseen land, attended by three women. Like wise Väinämöinen built a ship of copper, with an iron bottom, to leave the land and sail to the heavens, out of the mortal(visible) world. Quetzacouatl left the realm of the living, in some versions, on a barge or boat of snakes! Such are the strange contraptions needed to reach the heavens.

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But outside the realm of myth, folktales from various places talk of the dead as invisible sailors. Near Brittany, some report the dead are gathered in great invisible boats to be taken to the Isle of the Dead. On the Breton coastline, skiffs come out manned by the invisible dead. This is typically an ill omen. A German folktale reports that these dead voyages can do what is implied by the prompt, and fly towards the moon. Rabbi Amram asked, reportedly, to be placed in a coffin and allowed to flow wherever the river took him. The coffin, much to the world’s surprise, floated up the river!

And if it is rending ships invisible by their sinking, then the Devil must have his due. Multiple demonic forces or malicious spirits are thought to sink ships when angered or displeased. The devil himself was once sighted at sea with a sword in hand. Other times, demons take the crew themselves!

The devil, according to a story from Schleswig-Holstein,still ferries people across Cuxhaven bay. He does this to liberate himself from the consequences of a certain compact.He had procured a ship for a certain captain, the latter to yield himself up with the ship, which was to be kept busy so long as there was a cargo. This Satan tried to find, so as to keep the vessel cruising until the compact expired, but the was outwitted at the end of the first cruise by the captain’s son, who crowded sail on and let the anchor go. The fiend tried to hold the anchor, but went overboard with it.” Reports Fletcher Basset, citing an older text (Schmidt-Seeman Sagen, which I did not have time to check).

Flying Dutchman.png

We then can consider also those ships that are now invisible, having made the journey. The Flying Dutchman, who made a deal with devil long ago and now serves as a sort of sea-bound Wild Hunt, has been mentioned before. But let us look at him at length. The Flying Dutchman is a man-of-war, a terrifyingly vast warship that emerges from the storm to assault ships as bad weather strikes. Another name for the ship is Carmilhan, with the goblin Klabotermen as it’s pilot. The ship has no crew except invisible ghosts, no sails but rags, and hounds ships to the end of the earth. Other times, the ship is a former slave-ship, which was struck by the tragedy of the plauge.

Related is Falkenberg, who sails the world and played dice for his soul with the devil. In some cases, Falkenberg is the Dutchman himself.

One amusing tale tells of a group of pirates that, in the stylings of Scooby Doo, pretend to be the Flying Dutchman, only to be assailed by the real thing. As the storm blows in, the demon ship is unflatered by it’s rival and engages in combat. The results are sadly one sided, as the demon ship lays them to waste with ease.

BewitchedCano.png

But the Flying Dutchman is not the strangest of it’s kind. There is still the Bewiched Canoe. Yes, a magically canoe. From French Canada comes the story of a huntsman who so enjoyed the hunt, he made a pact with the devil to continue it forever. Not only is he in a canoe, but the canoe flies through the air.

Larger than these, is the ship Chasse Foudre, a French vessel that takes seven years to tack. It is so vast, it shifts all wild life around it. Her nails along the hull allow the moon to pivot, and climbing her masts take lifetimes. She is crewed by men so large, that their smallest pipe is the size of a frigate. A Swedish ship of similair size, the Refanu, is so big that horses are used to relay orders. Her crew is thus of a relatively normal size, as opposed to giants that lumber about other such world ships.

More strange vessels under sail include one recroded by Ibn Battuta, the Lantern Ship. Once the ship was a demon that, on occasion, demanded sacrifices. It has since lost it’s powers, and is forced back by recitations of the Quran by local visitors or a priest.

All these vessels then serve as the start for our own. But what start is that? I think the two more modern moments that this prompt calls ot mind are from Tanith Lee’s Darkness’s Master and H.P. Lovecraft’s own Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath. In both, there is a celestial voyage to the heavens aboard a special craft. And I think, for both, the journey is more of an atmosphere of wonder or fear then it is a narrative. If we are to go to the moon, to the invisible world, a horror or fantasy that is mainly derived from strange monsters or explicit dooms is not the best. Better, I think, for something tinged with dread. A glimpse of the invisible, that unfolds. Something subtly moving, something just a little out of place. Of course, such writing is difficult. It’s not what I am used to, frankly, and doing something with subtly is not my strength.

Still, a story of a slowly vanishing ship under the moonlight, perhaps draped in mist, needs something more subtle then perhaps I would normally do.

Bibliography:
Basset, Fletcher S. Legends and Superstitions of the Sea Throughout History. Marston,Searle, and Rivington, 1885

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St. Silvanus, Pt 2

This Week’s Prompt:56. Book or MS. too horrible to read—warned against reading it—someone reads and is found dead. Haverhill incident.

The Relevant Research:Forbidden Texts And Wild Men

Find Part 1 here.

The branches and roots made an effort to scratch and trip me as I went, following Charles’s map as best could be managed. The air was empty, the wind having wasted away any crickets. The warm blooded creatures of the wood stayed silent as I went through, either hiding to pounce or hiding from tooth and claw. There was only the crunch of my feet in the hillside wood, with a fog slowly setting in.

Eventually, I made out through the fog crags that were circled in Charles’ map. For a moment, I saw a huddled mass waiting at the top of the crag, leading up to the rectangular stone building at the top. I saw women and children and men in rags as pales as the moon with gasping mouths and pleading eyes staring up ward to the structure.

The Shrine.png

But as I drew close, my flash light illuminating them, the masses faded away into piles of stones, stacked one on top of the other and draped in leaves or rags. The leaves shook to give the impression of murmuring as I approached, the wind whipping this way and that. I wondered how, with so many trees to get in the way, the wind managed to stay so strong.

It wasn’t grand. It was a few slabs of stone, arranged and stacked into an almost crude shelter. Peering inside, however, I had to stifle a scream.

A body lay at the center of the hexagonal room, flesh having darkened with cold. A rotted tongue was still slumped out the side of his mouth, and much of his face had become bone, maggot holes punctured along it. I slowly walked closer, transfixed at the mutilated remains of Charles. If his body was clawed or cut, I couldn’t tell. Clearly, some thing had fed on him, and not that long ago.

As I recovered…Well, as I regained my ability to suffer and search, instead of suffer in stillness, I looked around the room cautious for the culprit. My light quickly found the statue, at who’s feet Charles lay. It was a robbed man, with curved ram horn, a thorny carved club in one hand, while the other pulled back a veil of hair. Beneath those locks, there was nothing. A blank stone, unmoved and unmarked, faced me. I want to say it stared at me, but there were no eyes, no even vauge lines that I could make into eyes. It didn’t grimace, it had no mouth. It was just the void, reaching out into my mind. It was disconcerting, so I looked down back at the body with some sense of shame.

Carefully examining the body, I found Charles’s hand clutched around something. Leaning close, it was a rolled piece of…something. It was a bright green scroll with a sweet smell strong enough that it overpowered the odor of death around the hand. I lightly kicked it with my shoe, and it fell out of his hand. A think coating of light green sludge coated it, the left overs of decay.

Holding my breath, I slowly took the sheet. It looked like paper, but it felt smoother than paper. I kept it rolled and turned to leave, planning on reading more when I slipped back into Morgant’s room. My light turned towards the entrance, out towards the woods, and the howling wind. The fog was still heavy on the ground and the grass crunched as I walked. And all the while, I felt the statue reaching down with it’s formless face, seeing without eyes. A hundred small eyes feeling down my back.

The crackling of the grass stopped in the forest, where all seemed softer. My mind slowly began to realize what I’d seen, what I’d done. Charles’s dead body, left at the altar, called out and I saw signs of it’s decay everywhere. The brown leaves reminded me of rotting flesh and breaking skin. He was dead. He was dead, and no one knew. Or worse, the thought that had been buried deep returned. Everyone knew. Everyone knew he was dead when I got here, and had tried to hide it from me. Morcant knew, but didn’t know I’d find the body.

The scroll, I realized, the scroll was the only proof I’d been there. But they’d find out I took it. If they all knew Charles was dead, and had left him there so long, they’d know the scrolls, the strange green thing in my hand, should be there. I’d have to leave immediately.

It was as this ran through my head that I heard them. A distant set of pipes, playing softly. Standing still, I heard an accompanying set of steps, slowly echoing mine almost perfectly. When my light turned about I saw only dimly something in the woods, a pair of eyes staring at me through the darkness. The owner of the eyes was at least six feet tall and drawing closer, not breaking eye contact. That was the last I could bear.

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My legs out paced my mind, and my memory of fleeing out of the woods and to Morcant’s house. My hands dropped the light at the base of the tree, gripping and scurrying up into the branches in order to get to safety. As the window closed behind me, I began to breath again. Laughter bubbled up in my throat, out of nowhere. Laughter and sobbing while leaning on the wooden bear that guarded the bed. I pulled myself up, and turned back to the window. The moon was still gibbous and full, and as I sighed, I looked down upon the ancient wood and at the edge I saw it, for a moment. Glimmering eyes staring towards the house from the depths of wood, before vanishing into darkness.

With that in mind, and my heart still racing, I collapsed back onto the bed. Sleep wasn’t comfortable, and I don’t know if ever entirely came. There were moments that felt like waking, staring out the window to see a thing walking up right like a man, with ram’s horns and a leonid face. It’d pace the floor around the tree, it’s clawed hand outstretched and feeling the little marks I made when I climbed. Other times it’d stare up with very human eyes, beckoning me down with an outstretched hand and playing a set of pipes. Other times, I’d feel awake, but surrounded by darkness, and music would come from the floors.

I was relieved when, finally, the cold grey winter sun woke me. My legs ached from running, and my back was killing me. I stretched and, nervously stared out the window. Nothing but the old tree, and some scratches that were either from me last night or a startled wild cat. A black bird was on the branch, not yet left for winter.

After I got changed, the smell of syrup began to waft into the room from down stairs. Morcant was smiling, making pancakes that were maybe an inch thick. Coated with syrup and topped with a small mound of butter, I nearly bolted down the stairs with exhausted hunger. Morcant chuckled as I nearly toppled over the chair.

Sleeping exhaust you that much or did you skip supper?” Morcant said, as I pulled myself up.

Uh, yeah.” I said, yawning. “Kept me up a bit even.”

As Morcant served an inch thick pancake to me, I forgot most of the night before. It faded into a vauge notion of something terrible having happened. Something awful, like a nightmare. And the ‘like’ slowly faded as we talked about the weather and chatted about Charles and the differences between this cosy hill town and the city. Both had a tendency, I observed, to become a washed out, gray place.

Well, perhaps, but here at least spring brings green things.” Morcant said with a laugh. He picked up the plates, and asked if I was staying any longer. At the sound of green, something reminded me. That I needed to leave.

No, no, I’ll be heading home. Don’t want to impose.” I said, wiping my face with a napkin. “And without any leads, I think I’d better head back. See if I can find someone more proffessional.”

I packed my things without interruption after that. I tucked the slimy green paper in my trunk, careful to leave it bound. Something might be stuck inside, and some impulse, a memory wraned me against reading it. There was something powerful bound up in that small leaflet. Next to it I put the new manuscripts, figuring post-mortem publishing would be best. I couldn’t remember, quite yet, the circumstances I found him in. But I knew Charles wasn’t going to be editing his thesis any time soon.

Well, tell me if you need any help to the station.” Morcant said, as I lugged my case down the stairs. I politely said I could get myself home.

The road to the station was covered in sleet and snow, muted as I walked and pulled my trunk along. The only sound I could make out was the was the fluttering of wings. As I trudged that long walk back, train station in sight, I saw one more unusual sight. An owl. A large, white horned owl. Staring at me sleepily as I walked. As I sat, waiting for the train, it seemed to never move. It’s two eyes held fast to me, even as the train was heard coming closer to that old wood.

When I returnd to the city, the birds were strange there as well. The moment I set on the sidewalk home, a pair of pigeons cooed and followed me. They walked at my fight and, unafraid of my imposing stature, pecked at my shoes. A number of their fellows watched on from a wire, dozens of little eyes training on me and my trunk, as we came at last to my apartment. A number sat on the branches of the tree rising not far from my house, like feather fruit on an apple tree. A brave black bird sat atop the lamp post, staring pensively at my door and squawking when I went inside.

I spent the afternoon reading my mail, and preparing dinner to replace the lunch I missed on the train. Trains always make me sick when eating on them, so I’d grown accustomed to making large meals at the top of the three story apartment. And my aches from carrying the trunk with me all day were pressuring me towards sustenance even more. Either that, or collapsing on my bed.

After the hearty meal, I retired to bed, expecting nothing more to happen that night.

I awoke in the later hours of evening, to the sound of a thumping on the roof. Starting up, I rushed to the kitchen with a light. I intended to get a knife to fend off the intruder, whoever he was. Further, the kitchen had the most immediate window, looking out onto the street. I would see him if he made for a get away.

When I entered the kitchen, my light hit the window and immediately I was transfixed. A large face, leonid in form and with shimmering eyes, stared back at me.

KitchenAtNightBeast.png

The creature was evidently hanging from the roof tiles, staring in with those treacherous eyes. My heart seized as it, almost gently, scratched at the window. The sound cut through the air, claws carving into the glass. I wanted to scream, but my voice had already taken flight. The thing’s gaze held me fast as it brought forth a gnarled and thorned branch, a crude club. With a single blow, the glass was shattered on the floor.

The beast was too big to fit in the window, but like a rat squeezing it’s skeleton through the smallest of spaces, it managed. At this, my sense regained and I turned to run, opening the door to the stairs and slamming them behind me. I ran down the entire stair case, still in nothing but my night clothes, never looking back to see if that beast was still descending behind me. Never looking, in case those glowing eyes caught me again.

After reaching the outer most door, I stumbled into the cold winter night, and turned towards the building, the rush a bit to much for my lungs. Desperate to catch my breath, I saw that lumbering thing emerge from the window. It paused, crouched like a gargoyle on the roof tops. And then, it vanished like fog in the daylight.

When I returned to my room, I found everything in dissaray. Most notably, the beast had smashed open my trunk, splintering the top. The contents of the trunk were tossed everywhere, and bits of Charles’s manuscript were smashed onto the floor. All, however damaged, was accounted for. Except, the small green scroll.


This story is one I’m proud of in concept, and a degree execution. The original draft would have taken us into 6000 words, and that simply would have been too far over the goal. I intended to cut this down further, but ran out of time to edit, and only presenting on half of either story seemed unwise. So, another two parter.

Come back next week, for research into unseen ships at sea that reach into the sky.

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Saint Silvanus, Part 1

This Week’s Prompt: 56. Book or MS. too horrible to read—warned against reading it—someone reads and is found dead. Haverhill incident.

The Prior Research: Forbidden Texts And Wild Men

It is a well known but rarely discussed fact that a good number of local traditions practiced by in nomine Christian men and women are in fact of older and more pagan origin.”

The first draft of my good friend Charles’s paper began with that somewhat uncertain line. He had begun conducting research, detailed to a good degree in the paper proper, on an unusual example of such a “survival”. A small, local icon of a Saint Silvanus, nestled where it had been “found” years prior. The research was not terribly interesting to me. But I was not a native as Charles was, and thus perhaps lacked his fascination with this small miraculous icon and it’s pre-Christian or at the least pre-Niceaen potency.

All this was secondary, however. I was on a train bound for the nearest road to that old hill village for entirely personal reasons. Charles had sent me his drafts of his paper, and I’d done my best to edit the work into something respectable. I’d sent my revisions to him, expecting to hear back in a month.

The response never came.

At first I reasoned that Charles may be stewing, my red ink having perhaps drawn some genuine blood. Then worry that Charles might not have received my edits began to sink in. After my letter of reassurance received no reply, I began to suspect that either the postman was guilty of some strange academic sabotage, or that Charles had encountered a great deal of difficulty. I decided then to visit him personally, or at the least to begin the process of tracking him down.

The post office had confirmed my edits had been delivered to the last residence of Charles. Charles’s land lady there had explained that last she heard, he was headed back into the field, perhaps re-invigorated with questions, or searching for the semi-mythic shrine he had detailed in his notes. Where exactly the field was took even more work. But at last, I was on this train to the crumbling remains of an old town.

The town was, per Charles’s notes, about two hours walk from the train station. I, personally, would not have described it as “mushrooms rising from the corpse of a dying industrial town”, but I suppose Charles wasn’t wrong per se. It was his home to decry as he wished.Trunk in hand, I looked for the house that Charles had said he’d resided in during his research.

I found Charles’s informants house. It took a bit of seraching, but the two story house was recognizable with it’s white bark trees growing around it. After a few knocks, I had given up and was about to try the neighbors when a man shouted at me from the road.

Wait, wait! At least let me here what your selling!” He had a beard down to his waist, and looked like someone had draped skin and muscle over a carefully arranged set of barrels. Smiling, he walked to the house and held out an expectant hand. We shook lightly.

Well, I’m not selling any—”

No? Well, your not from around here. And I don’t think the Jacobs are selling yet. Census already?” He said, suddenly less amused.

No, no, not with the Census. Um, I’m actually looking for someone.” I said, rummaging in my jacket pocket and producing a picture of Charles. “He said he was staying here about six months ago. Haven’t heard from him sense, and I’ve been sending mail his way for a while now. Have you seen him?”

The man leaned down to look at the picture for a moment. An owl that landed on the branch of a nearby tree, rustling the leaves loudly. Normally nothing of note, but the sounds of the town were muted by the snow.

Horned Owl1.png

Hm, yeah, Charlie. Thought he went back already. Or away I guess. That’s Charlie, always going where winds are taking him.” the man said, frowning and scratching his beard. “Well, its getting dark out. Why don’t you come inside for a bit, it’ll be cold out soon.”

The wind was getting stronger, and the sky seemed read to disgorge more snow. I decieded to take the risk, and see if Charles had left anything behind from his stay. Letters, notes, hints at habitation.

The inside was toasty, a fireplace in the front room. Off to the side was a kitchen and table, with some stairs leading up to where I presumed the bedroom was. At least two, judging by the windows outside. My host, who it slowly dawned on me was still nameless, lay down his tool set and sat down on the couch by the fire place to warm up.

So, you know Charlie? Where from?” He asked, glancing over.

Met him at university. Never talked about home much, and uh, for ethical reason’s his paper doesn’t say who he was staying with.”

Ethics, huh? Nice of him I guess. Names Morcant Mael. Parent’s wanted a Celt name.” He said, waving off my look of confusion. “Get a lot of them around here. Hell, Charlie’s birth name was Cartacos, then he started going be Carl, then Carly, then Charlie. Guess he got around to changing his name properly.”

You knew him for a long time then?” I asked, sitting down near the fire.

It’s a small town. Everyone at least knows everyone. Sometimes more. So, you read the stuff Charles was writing?” He said, clapping his hands together and rising, “And would you like anything? Coffee, tea, beer?”

Ah, a warm tea would be wonderful. Winters are cold up here.”

Well, the winds come right over the coast. So how is his writing?”

Lucky it has an editor. The man rambles in some parts, and leaves out whole sections in others it seems.”

Like folks names?” Morcant called from the kitchen.

Again, thats becoming a bit standard. More like, he just alludes to the story he was studying as ‘famous and well documented’, but never prints it.” I said back. Morcant emerged with a pot of tea and placed it on the coffee table between us.

Oh? Strange. I guess he forgot about it. He was looking into the statue of St. Silvanus, way out in the woods right?”

Yeah, that’s the one.” I said, sipping the tea. After a moment’s pause, I continued the thought. “Can you tell me what it’s story is ? For context?”

I suppose so. It’s no big secret really. Back when the town first got going, it was one of the few to stay with the old church, back with Rome. And the times were not good to be part of the old faith. People didn’t trust Cathloics more than almost anyone. Couldn’t have Mass, couldn’t settle, couldn’t vote, everyone thinking you were a spy for the pope. Most of them fled to Pennsylvania, I hear. But anyway, rumor happened that a bunch of rowdy Puritans, out of Indians to shoot and witches to burn, were going come and sack the town. Everyone figured now was the time to pack up and leave.

But this one woman goes out in the forest, trying to get to gripes with it all, and suddenly heres a crashing sound. Looking towards it, she sees something falling from the empty sky onto the ground. A statue!One of those old Italian ones, with horns coming off the old man’s head.” Marcont mimed two horms curling out of his head. “She thought it was Moses, but when she prayed at the shrine, the statue told her he was Silvanus. The statue asked why she was weeping in the woods, and she told him everything. The statue told her, go and have the town promise me one priest and one feast day, and God will deliver you from the English dogs.

PreachingSketch.png

An image from another folktale of St. Silvanus. Charles recorded more than a few.

So she goes, and the town’s desperate enough to have faith again. So they pray to the saint, and send off some lad to be a priest and clean up the statue. And then, just as they can see the mob coming, there’s this roaring sound. Some beast emerges from the woods, looking like a bear with the head of a mountain lion, horns of a ram, and the arms of an ape. The whole mob runs off as this huge thing chases them back. Some stories say it killed a few of them even, and ate them then and there. Story says it was a holy thing, an angel made to terrify and protect the town. Statue’s still there, though I’ve not seen it in a while, and folks around here claim to see the creature every now and then. Local bigfoot, you know.”

And Charles was looking into it?” I said, thinking back to the manuscript. “Yeah, that makes sense. No reason not to mention the whole story though.”

Well, Charles wanted to find it I guess. Its out in the woods, somewhere.”

And he stayed here?”

Sure did. Charles knew the place pretty well, and the rent was free. His room’s still free if you need somewhere to spend the night.”

The rattling wind outside filled the air with tinge of cold over the firelight. I had planned on making the stop and then immediately heading back to the train. But the darkness had washed over the town faster than I expected. The dirt paths and paved roads from here to the trains station would only be lit by moonlight or the stars, and clouds could cloak those at any time.

Yeah, if that’s alright, just for the night.” I said. Morcant nodded understandingly, and showed me Charles’s room upstairs. It’d been Morcant’s son’s room before that but the boy was off with his mother for the next few weeks anyway.

Honestly, it didn’t look that childish. The waxing moon illuminated the barren room, the dust flowing up into a little bit of mist or frost amongst the trees. With the flick of the switch, the illusion was gone. The bed was big enough for a grown man, maybe two next to each other. The woodwork was hand made, with carvings on each post of bears. Probably the boy’s favorite animal. I could imagine them, like Silvanus, coming at night to protect him from the sorts of things that lurk down in the nightmares of children.

Inspecting the drawers as Morcant closed the door, I found what honestly was to be expected at a place of Charles’s habitation. Well kept coffee grounds and a few packs of cigarets stored between clothes. A hidden habit everyone knew about. But what was more intreasting was on the bottom drawer, beneath a large coat. My manuscript notes had made it, it seemed, covered in red ink as they were. More pressing were the pages written in Charles’s tight and squished hand writing.

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I carefully removed them and laid them on the desk, away from the window to read. An owl had landed there, and something unnerved me about the birds of this place. They were watching me. I just didn’t know for who yet.

The notes Charles had left behind, apparently undiscovered, included a detailed recounting of the story of Saint Silvanus, with a notable change. Charles refereed to the thing that came from the woods not as an angel, but as a “beast of god”. Given his theorizing in the margins, that this Silvanus icon was really an image of the god Pan that had only recently been rechristened in his Roman name, that wasn’t too surprising. What was more suprising was his reference to a “Green Bible”.

As I read through the notes in earnest, the citations of this text made it clear that Charles thought he had found the primary source, some great ur-text in the woods that if read would reveal everything. His sources on the book itself included mainly a few town elders who talked about a Bible belonging Diana—his name for the woman who first found the statue—that she had hidden away holy power in and left for the priest attending the church. The Bible supposedly held all sorts of secrets meant only for the priest.

I admit my first response to this nonsense was to shake my head at Charles’s overabundant conspiratorial mindset. While a secret Bible with unearthly powers wasn’t uncommon in the wide scheme of the world, presuming that because some older townspeople mentioned it exists was woefully naive. However, it was fairly apparent that Charles had gone out searching for this Green Bible. And hadn’t returned.

The room seemed to shrink with that realization, the gaurdians of the bed now grimacing at me as I flipped through the pages to find the map of the area. He had marked a spot with some scribblings I couldn’t make out. No doubt that was where he intended to go. As I considered whether to rest or pursue him into the cold immediately, a thought began to dawn on me.

Morcant must have known Charles was heading into the woods. Or had, at the least. Given all that had been left behind, he was no doubt still somewhere in that woods. Looking out the window, I figured I could make it across to the tree outside. Even with the wind. Morcant certainly didn’t know about Charles’s notes, and couldn’t have suspected that I’d find anything giving away what might have happened.

So I flicked off the light, and climbed on the window ledge. I wrapped myself in a jacket with a scarf hiding most of my face as I opened the window and exposed myself to the cutting winds again. As quietly as I could manage, I slipped out of the house, onto the tree branch. The branches were difficult, but there was something familiar about setting my feet down on the soft grass. I turned and slipped into the moonlit and snow crusted forest.

Continue to Part 2 here.

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Forbidden Texts And Wild Men

This Week’s Research:56. Book or MS. too horrible to read—warned against reading it—someone reads and is found dead. Haverhill incident.
The Resulting Story: Saint Silvanus, Part 1 ,St. Silvanus, Pt 2

At long last the short prompts have given way to something more substanttive! We even have a particular place to begin our examination from, and I suspect a potential narrative of Lovecraft’s to examine in the wider mythos. Always delightful to dig into particulars and details, isn’t it?

To begin with, the “Haverhill Incident”. There are a handful of notable facts about Haverhill, Massachusets. It was the home of a key judge who recused himself from the witchcraft trials of Salem, as well as the potential witch John Godfrey. Mr. Godfrey has a more interesting history, but we will save both of them for a bit on witch craft later.

During it’s early days, it was home to a still controversial figure, Hannah Duston who killed a number of natives that she claims kidnapped her. Haverhill was also home to the abolitionist movement in the 18th and 19th century, early in the nations history. It suffered a severe winter fire, that was too large to be contained and striking when the wells had dried. For those interested in politics, Haverhill also boasts the first socialist mayor.

This is a long way of saying, I have no clue what the “Haverhill” Incident is. 1919 puts it before the outbreak of the Haverhill diesease, which involved bacteria commonly found in rats. It could have, knowing Lovecraft’s fascinations, reffered to any number of the above. Or it could have reffered to some of the stranger things. In order to avoid delving into too many topics, we will table witchcraft for now. Looking at the prompts, we will return to witches broadly on 99 and 110.

The Wild Man of Haverhill is an individual reported by authorities in the early 1900s and the 1800s. In 1826, a local man was struck mad with fever and fled into the woods. Authorities later had reports of a man causing a disturbance in the area. Believing this to be the unfortunate man, a Mr. Fink, the authorities were shocked to find an unrelated individual described as a wild man. Another report of a wild man comes in 1909, although much briefer and only from a small newspaper clipping. The Wild man was again approached by authorities, but nothing came of it that is recorded. And wild men are…interesting.

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The wild man dates back, arguably, all the way to the Epic of Gilgamesh, with Enkidu. Medieval European takes on this archetype include both those cursed to the wilderness by God and those who retreat into the wilderness for ascetic reasons. Thus both Nebachanezzer and a saint are wildmen like. One might even argue that John the Baptist, who lived off honey and curds in the wilds, was one of these wildmen. A more modern wild man of the saintly mold would be the folk hero Johnny Appleseed, who was both missionary and spreader of the apple crop throughout the United States.

More benign wildmen, at least as understood by modern audiences, include satyrs and fauns. To put it lightly, satyrs are much more the wild man cursed then the wild man who is a saint. Despite what perhaps has been presented, the average satyr was a rather unpleasant and often extremely sexual creature that was not well liked. Fauns on the other hand were more like shepherds as we imagine now, less crazed but more decent.

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It is sadly accurate for a Satyr to look at you like that.

Other famed examples of men from the wilds, often extremely strong ones, include the likes of Grendel who at least partly resembles a fierce man stalking in the mire. In Ireland, there are records of a cryptozoological creature that resembles a large hairy man outside of social bonds, the Grey Man. The creature’s height varies, sometimes up to ten feet tall.

The creature does resemble another breed of wildmen, more in Grendels lineage then satyrs: the great apes. Sasquatch for instance falls into this category. The sasquatch or bigfoot has some precedent in the stories of First Nations, including the skookum, a group of cannibalistic wild men. The idea of great apes lurking in the wilderness can be found elsewhere however. In Nepal, the equally famous yeti exists. The Yeti, a large furred creature in the mountains, has unclear origins. At least one author suggests it is a creature that was once revered as a lord of the hunt. Others have posited that it, along with sasquatch, is really a form of bear that has been misidentified.

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Quite a photophobic family.

The Almas, a group reportedly not that far from the Yeti, bears a more human resemblance. Interestingly, it is only 6 feet tall, well within human heights. Further, it is rather sophisticated. While it lives in “squalor”, it seems to possess habitations more advanced then most supposed wild men. Also, its mute. A strange trait to give a great ape. Details like this help separate the variations.

Orang Pendak is another wild race, this time from Indonesia. The Orang Pendak, depending on describer, is a large ape that has lived in the jungle for large amounts of time. The Orang Pendak often has reversed feet, and is a herbivore that raids farms frequently. Resembling more an ape than a wildman, the Orang Pendak almost resembles a large orangutan, with long arms and short legs.

In Pakistan, there is the Barmanou, a creature that resembles a great ape and sits between the Yeti and the Almas. Unlike the other creatures described, however, the Barmanou has a desire to mate with human women or at least abduct them, a trait that has…strange implications that Lovecraft would approve of. But we will get to Lovecraft’s assorted takes on this in time. There is more to unearth.

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Looks Lovecraftian, don’t he? (Image from:http://www.freaklore.com/legends-of-the-mapinguari)

In Brazil there is what might be the strangest of these creatures. The mapinguari is silent, has the hide of a crocodile, emits a terrible noise when startled and smells horrible. Its feet are backwards and it has a lizards long claws, and maybe strangest of all, it has a mouth on it’s belly. The creature cannot cross water, and while carnivorous does not eat humans.

It is interesting to note, as a brief aside, that there was once a group of hominids that matched these massive heights, and at least one species of great ape that grew truly large. Densiovians were, by some estimates, eight feet tall and in the Himalayas region. Not much is known, but at least some mention of scientific grounding might be nice. We also know of prehistoric apes that grew to insane sizes.

Lovecraft himself features these sorts of creatures in many distinct forms. The first is the white apes, a species of ape in the Congo that can interbreed with humans. The questionable facts arising from this are…well, need less to say we will not pursue Mr. Lovecraft’s taste in this direction. Its…less than appealing. The mythos does have three more distinct and stranger connections.

The Gof’nn Hupadgh Shub-niggurath, creatures of Mr. Campbell’s creation, are describe as worshipers of the Black Goat of a Thousand Young who she swallows and then spits out, rendering them immortal and bestial like the satyrs and nymphs. They thus resemble wild men the most closely, without being…disturbed. The capacity for horror with these creatures needs only a return to form, of wildness, barbarity, chaos, and lack of control in an environment. The horrifying wild man is the wild and part of a man, and in such interactions are dangerous. If we take away the racist fear of miscegenation, we can still produce a horror of giving into baser instincts or the animal within –werewolves do this to, by the way.

In some cases, the yeti in particular resembles the Wendigo. The wendigo, in real life, is a creature of folklore that is cannibalisitic. The details of the Wendigo varies from story to story. Often, they are floating, but sometimes they are possessing spirits like we discussed here. The wendigo in mythos is known as Ithaqua. Ithqua is a creation of Dereleth, a creature of the far north that often steals his victims away into far off worlds for his amusement, siring children with mortals, and generally being a terror where he can be. But Lovecraft himself has the strangest addition.

Migo

Yeah, I can totally see the Yeti connection…

The Migo are not what one thinks of when one thinks of abominable snow men or wild men. They are crustacean like creatures, that also resemble insects and fungus. They fly through the space on wings, they have claws like crabs, the have a colony on Yuggoth, the 9th planet of the solar system(Pluto was discovered after Lovecraft wrote the first story. He wrote that maybe Yuggoth was found after all). The Migo have some startling qualities, however, that might be interesting. They are devotees of Shub-Niggurath at times, and thus have some commonality with the wildness earlier described. One of their better known traits is the capacity of mimicking voices to lure others towards them. And Lovecraftian authors have advanced the Migo as a number of folkloric creatures origin point. These include not only the yeti above, but also the Greek goblin kallikantzaros, a creature who’s resemblance to a corpse crab insect I do not see. Another wonderful blog, Lovecraftian Science, has spent a good deal of time with these creatures, their biology, and their customs.

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But there is another Lovecraft mythos connection, returning to the prompt. The book that must not be read is a trope in Lovecraft that becomes manifest in a number of ways. Most comparable to this one is the King in Yellow, a dramatic play tied to the horror of ambiguous nature that is Hastur. The King in Yellow is a play and the character of the play and the name for an anthology which the play is found in, by Robert Chambers. The themes of the stories are various, but the mythos has taken the King in Yellow as a dreadful, decadent, nihilist, and decaying force in the world. And, as frequently known, to read the play is to invite misfortune at large. Hastur’s name was made ineffable via the Dungeons and Dragons book Deities and Demigods, who asserted that to repeat it three times was to conjure the mysterious old one and doom us all. This attribute has appeared since in various stories. There are also dangerous texts such as the Necronomicon, who’s knowledge cost it’s author his life(but more on that when it arises), and various records of the Cthulhu cult, which invite death from it’s members.

All in all, a lot to work with. And we are out of space to discuss the many story possibillities! But do not worry. The wild woods will beckon soon. Oh! And before carrying on, to my amusement, there is a local to Haverhill story about Mr. Lovecraft’s “youthful escapades”, and how he bribed a young woman he was dating to visit him with promises of the dread Necronomicon. The layers of impossible that are at play there are hilarious.

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What Was It?

This Week’s Prompt:55. Man followed by invisible thing.

The Relevant Research:The Little People In Life

The two men squatted in the bushes across the old house in the woods. For the last ten years, it had been assumed that no one lived in the woods, and that this house had long been abandoned.

“Alright, so review. Old man’s on the second floor, behind the blue door. You run up there and…deal with him, in case he tries to get something on either of us. Vergil said, flick the sack open for the third time. Only one sort of person lived this far from the world, in derlict houses.

“Then I put everything that looks vaguely valuable in the sack. You get his books from his room, and any of the weird stuff he has up there. We make a break for it, and if anyone asks, he broke your kids leg.”

“I thought the fall did that.”

“Then he caused your kid to fall. Look, witches are strange like that.”

“Aren’t women witches?”

“Remember Godfrey? He was a witch, stole all that cattle and got so big.”

“Okay. So I kill-”

“Deal with.”

“Deal with the old man and steal all his magic stuff. Why do I wanna do that?”

“So we can give it to the church to get rid. You know. In case he’s bound some stuff in the pages. Don’t wanna burn it all and make things worse, letting loose Lord knows what, right?” Vergil said. Of course, Dominic would forget all about it when they got back with the loot. Vergil could get to work getting himself some of the old man’s magic, and all that came with that.

The two men rushed quietly from the bushes. The front door of the building was locked, but it was an old wooden door and Dominic had a hatchet. Cutting open the front,they were able to get in and get to work. Vergil busied himself with tossing silver into the bag—there was a lot, Vergil noted, probably to facilate his witch craft—as well as a number of knives and carved wooden plates. He examined a well made drinking horn when he heard thrashing from up stairs. Vergil sighed, looking around for anything more valuable before seeing an iron glint near the fireplace.

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A spear was held across a shield with carefully scrawled runes along its edge. Something from the old country. Something mighty from the old country. Vergil decided that this was also his and no way in hell was Dominic to know of it. He dropped his bag and took the spear down carefully, before running out the door and jamming it beneath some old and bending roots. All the better, he thought, to come back to later. Judging from the noise, Dominic still had some work to do.

The two had no difficulty removing the rest, and Dominic didn’t bother asking about the books when Vergil gave him some silver. No, all was well. That night, Vergil hid all his plunder beneath his bed and wasted the night away doing his best to make sense of the books letters and pictures. All seemed well.

In the midst of the night, Vergil’s breath left him. He awoke, cold and transfixed, gasping for air. Around him the room seemed to swell and deflate, his lungs taken out of his chest and made into the entire house. Footsteps ran across his stomach, like a herd of cats waiting, clawing and prodding him as he was trapped and struggling. Eventually, he collapsed back, into a dreamless sleep.

Mare

When he awoke, he found his limbs ached in every which way. Vergil pulled himself up from his bed, his knees no longer obeying him entirely. He pulled himself along the ground as a seal, blood painfully returning to his still waking legs. At last, he managed to grab a walking stick, and struggle to his feet. Taking a deep breath, he pushed himself along the road. The morning mists were still on the ground, hiding the occasionally loose stone that scrapped his hands when he fell.

Vergil had already concluded he was cursed.

With stings in his side, hungry and tired, he arrived at Dominic’s home. Best to see if both theives had been struck down, Vergil reckoned. He rapt on the door with his staff, supporting himself with the wall. Dominic opened the door, coughing slightly, his skin a slightly sickly green.

“Okay, so, maybe he was actually a witch.” Vergil said, with a pained smile. Dominic grimaced and nodded.

“So now what? We go to the priest?” Dominic asked, the door still in hand.

“What, and confess? No. No, we just…ah!” Vergil said, snapping his fingers together. “I know! We must have forgotten to bury him. Right, of course. He’s restless, that’s all. We bury him, read some scripture over him, and there you go.”

“Right, but don’t we need a priest for last rites?” Dominic asked, scratching his chin.

“What’s with you and getting clergy involved?” Vergil muttered.

“What is it with you and avoiding them?” Dominic asked, looking towards the church and giving Vergil a sidelong glance.

Vergil eventually relented. The two went and fetched Father Lionel, and explained that they had come across a deceased old man in the woods. Neither made much mention of sickness, and Vergil did his best to hide the pains in his joints. The priest was shocked such a grizzly robbery could occur, and agreed to come and help in the burial of the poor dead man.

The old man hadn’t moved from his bed. Vergil was almost dissapointed. By now, use of his legs had returned to him in no small measure, and he was able to assit dominic in wrapping the body in his bloody sheet. The makeshift cloth coffin was carried down the stairs, to the aghast priest. The priest, of course, agreed to bury the man here, nearer to home. The church cemetary was nearly full in those days, as Vergil and Dominic well knew.

The three of them then stood round the empty plot. Dominic and Vergil slowly lowered the body into the ground as the priest read the rites allowed. Just as the body settled, before the dirt was shoveled in, Vergil’s grip on his staff was pricked with thorns. Letting out a yelp, he stumbled into the grave, onto the dead man’s rotting form. Vergil struggled to pull himself back out, scrambling backwards out of the grave and pushing himself back up with his stick, out of breath and sweating in pain.

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The priest assumed it was the face of mortality that drove Vergil to gnashing and cursing on the ground in pain. He was, in a fashion, correct.

Vergil and Dominic slumped back to their haunts, and there decided to share bread. The burial of the old man had exhausted both of them, and in his misery Vergil had forgotten to eat in the morning. Dominic let Vergil rest as he acquired the bread and broke it between them. Vergil, near starving, ripped half his portion off with one bite, before turning and spitting it up.

“What the hell?” Vergil said, staring at the chunks of what for a moment looked like rat, before realizing it he was mold spread over the entirety of his meal. Dominic’s eyes widened as the mold spread over the bread in Vergil’s hand, and the smell of decay filled the air.

“I…I don’t think it was the ghost.” Dominic said slowly.

“Course it was! We just…the priest missed something.” Vergil said, rubbing his temple and trying to ignore the pleading in his stomach. “Beat you he wasn’t holy enough anyway. I’ll sort it out tonight, find something in the stuff we stole, and then this will be done with.”

“You’ll starve.” Dominic said gravely.

“I’ll go hungry a day to get a ghost off my back. Whatever that old man did, I’m sure he wrote down a cure or some such. After all, what’s the point of curses if they don’t have a cure?”

“Cursing folks.” Dominic said, frowning.

“That’s half it. Any good or smart wizard knows you curse people to get what you want. Then, you get’em to pay you to fix it. It’s like that priest down in south France. He’ll curse a family for you for a soverign. And if the family want’s to get cured, he’ll fix it for twice that much. If you pay thrice, he’ll never curse you in the first place.”

“What if they just wanna kill you?” Dominic said, scracthing his chin.

“We got axes and swords and poison for that. No need to wait till your beyond the grave for that.” Vergil said, pulling himself up and limping down the road.

The day seemed darker then before. His shadow ran long infront of him, the sun dimly red to his back. Vergil heard every sound now, his sickness having sharpened his ears at the cost of all else. The wind rustling between the leafs and branches held conspiracies and laughter. The creek giggled at his expense. Distant travlers and townsfolk sounded like a crowd all around him, and the birds whistled in horrible tones as he passed. Squirrels scurried up the trees, their tails flat and teeth bared. How rarely, Vergil noted, had he considered the close kinship between rats and squirrels until that long walk home. At last, beneath the wooden ribcage of the forest, he arrived at his home and set about sorting through the magician’s things.

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He noted the spear as a cause at once. Such a fortunate and fine looking tool, a ghost might be jealous of it. The latin letters glimmered as he continued to dig. The books as well, but he was slow to part with those. Then there was the old horn. That might be the cause as well. Some spell worked on it, although a horn being the cause of his agony seemed less likely then a spear.

Gathering these around him, Vergil now wondered how to go about speaking with the dead man, or appeasing him. The strange thought occurred to him, to go out to the new grave. Yes, to the new grave. There, he could leave these, and get on with his life. The ghost would take them or not, and all would be well.

So, with spear and book and bent back, Vergil went walking into the woods at night. The moon was high, and if it weren’t for his coughing and clean shaven chin, a strange might have thought that in the woods walked Wotan, returned from his grave work. In the silence of night, puncuated by the hacking of his illness, Vergil at last came to the freshly turned grave and slumped down, to rest from the walk. The sickness had sapped his mind and body of it’s cohesion, such that his spirit would wander off at the slightest touch. Looking at the starry heavens, Vergil decided to rest.

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He awoke, held in place by a hundred thousand pins and needles. He tried to scream in pain, but his mouth was sewn shut as well. Above the stars seemed to draw closer. But gone was their luster. Now they became shimmering eyes full of malace, glittering fangs stretching out in hunger. The array swirled around him, a sea that engulfed him and tore at his skin and muscle. Frozen and screaming, Vergil saw himself die.

Dominic found Vergil’s remains the next day in the woods. Neither horn nor spear nor book had been moved from his frost covered corpse, which defied the July sun. Not a thing out of place. Dominic rushed to Vergil’s house, convinced that the spirit had found what it wanted. And there, a great tree had been felled onto the house.

Inside the crushed remains of Vergil’s hovel, was the overturned bag. It did not take long for Dominic to notice what was missing. All the silver was there, neatly stacked despite the chaos around it. All that was missing were the knives.

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The Little People In Life

This Week’s Prompt:55. Man followed by invisible thing.

The Resulting Story: What Was It?

The nature of the invisible, the unseen and perhaps only barely felt, is so vast that we might have some difficulty. Demons, angels, ghosts, gods, jinn, giants, the entire genre of tales concerning little people are all examples of invisible things that may follow someone home. To ease our ability to work in this context, it would serve us well to examine a piece of fiction that Mr. Lovecraft had in mind when he wrote this prompt, one that he is known to have held in high esteem. I mean the French story, the Horla.

The Horla is an alien creature, or rather an “Outsider”. The novel does not detail it’s origins, but does give a good amount of description of it’s abilities. The Horla is a sort of vampire. It is an invisible presence that haunts the protagonist and alienates him from others around him. The Horla itself feeds on the life energy of the main character as he sleeps, and drinks water while remaining utterly invisible. The Horla’s arrival is eventually traced to a ship from Brazil that the main character happened to wave at as he passed it. This sort of little gesture with vast consequences is common in stories of invisible forces haunting ones life. The Horla renders the man’s life so intolerable that he schemes either to kill the horla itself, himself, or both if that is what it takes.

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From the Wikipedia Article on the Horla.

We’ve talked about the sort of insomnia the Horla generated before. But a better description, particularly when pared with a vampire, might be those creatures that are considered responsible for sleep paralysis. Jinn fall into this category, as do a variation of the witch who manifests as a cat in Italy. In old English, the term for this state is being “hagridden”, as one was…well, ridden by a hag while they sleep, leaving them paralyzed and drained in the morning. Hags of this sort can be found around the world, although a nice summary of them is here.

Other traditions from the Germans and Swedes assign this role to a goblin, the Mare, that sits atop someone’s chest as shown below. The Mare would ride non-human things as well, including even trees. In the early thirteenth century, there are accounts of a king losing his life to a sorceress’ mare that drove nightmares upon him.

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Nightmare by Henry Fuseli

Another variation in the northern European climes is the Alp. The Alp has the distinction of drawing it’s power from a magical hat it wears at all times. The Alp will drink the blood of sleeping children and men, while drinking the breast milk of women it’s preferred victims. The Alp in many ways resembles a demon, being able to shape-shift and driven off by the cross. The alp has one more connection that is of an interest: the term Alp is etymological cousins with the term “elf”.

It is often hard to remember that elves, as we know them, are a frankly rather strange conflation. The tall, beautiful, haughty race that we find in Oberon and Titania and the Lord of the Rings are drawn from the nobles of a lineage, while expunging the parts of elves and little people who spoiled milk, that waylaid travelers, dance with them until they died, or even stole children. Even Shakespeare maintains some of the awfulness and pettiness of elves, with Puck and Oberon enchanting a man to have an asses head and conspiring to have Titania fall in love with him.  The danger of elf shot, a chronic pain in the limbs, was quite real. The line between elf and vampire, now rather clearly drawn in modern fiction, was less clear.

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A variation of Nightmare, above. It is weirdly hard to find pictures of these guys.

A non-European example of such little people, one that is more pertinent to our invisible condition, is the Pukwudgie. The Pukwudgie is capable not only of invisibility, but also of sowing confusion, creating fire, becoming dangerous animals, inflicting injuries with a gaze, and damaging the memory of their victims. While their temperament seems variable depending on locale, the capacity to wreck such havoc on the life of a human being is considerable. Why, at this rate, all they need is the want to steal life energy, and their almost a horla!

The Netsilik people have two invisible people around them. The Taglerqet are shadows that resemble human beings in appearance and society. They are visible only when they are slain. The more standard ivigut are humans who, when seen, turn into stone to hide their appearance from others. They are rumored further to feed on the stones themselves.

With that in mind, do we have a direction for our narration? Do we have a place for our story to be going? The conflict no doubt should be the sudden attraction of this invisible thing, this nameless force that follows our protagonist and does…something. While the obvious answer is to make it a hostile power, akin to the forces that follow in a number of tales from disturbing tombs of elder civilizations, the means of harm should be more precise than that. The sickening of milk, the rotting of wood, the chronic pains, the fevers, and the headaches. An invisible force that drives someone to madness and ruin over a slight, perhaps unknown or unintended, is a good basis for horror.

To dive a bit into the nature of the fear of the invisible, it does partly relate to a fear of the unknown or a fear of the unseen forces that shape the world. There are economic owners, there are cultural institutions, there are unseen forces of society and humanity that do in fact operate in the world and can drive someone to ruin without any notice. These abysses aren’t completely mysterious, but the complexity of the world can often hide the true agent of harm.

But to me, the more relatable fear that can be exaggerated from this is the fear of well…How to say this in a way that is not silly? The fear of social mores. The fear of unseen rules of conduct violated. The fear that, without meaning to, you have made a powerful enemy or offended someone. It’s a fear of the unknown, I suppose, but more concrete than that. It’s not that you don’t know, it’s that not knowing will invariably lead to you coming to harm.

In this mold, than, our main character should have offended these forces in a way that is hidden in the narrative. No special attention can be given to it, or the offense and the anxiety of the unknown is too great. It would serve even better to hide the small offense that drew the invisible down by having the main character do some great insult to another power. The paranoia that could fester at chasing the wrong issue as the source of misery would be a good source of tension and gives the story some structure. We begin with the offense, then move to the consequences, then seeking remedy in the wrong source, more consequences, and the final revelation of the true source of the suffering.


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