A Lightless Room At Night

This Week’s Prompt: 103. Sealed room—or at least no lamp allowed there. Shadow on wall.

The Resulting Story: FORTH COMING

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This prompt is an interesting one—and one that has a number of routes we’ve covered before. The most apparent to me is the hidden rooms of Eros and Bluebeard—often here, the bedroom of the husband or some other secret room is forbidden. In the case of Eros and Pysche is even specific about the oil lamp that wakes and frightens off Eros. We’ve also discussed Balkan Vampires—ones that in fact do fear light or are kept in secret places and pits. However, there is no shortage of strange and monstrous creatures in the night. And one I would like to go over tonight is a vampire from another part of the world: The Philippines.

The creature in question is the aswang—a vampire like creature that has a long tongue with a sharp tip, which it uses to suck blood or viscera from a victim. There are other sorts of creatures called or compared to the aswang in the Philippines, which we will discuss further on. The vampire, however, has some key and common traits. Vampiric aswang are often foreign husbands or wives, who feed on their partner or use their partner as a home base from which to work their havoc. The vampires that are dead returned to the living live in distant forests by day, and come to feed at night.

Viscera Sucker

The viscera sucker, sometimes called naguneg in Iklo and kasudlan in West Visayan, like wise has a long mosquito like proboscis or long tongue—but this isn’t sharp. At night it’s arms become wings and it abandons its legs to go hunting. It leaves these in a closet, on a bed, or hidden in a banana grove—if they are disturbed or salt is tossed on them, the creature will die. The viscera sucker targets pregnant women and the sick, drinking phlegm or feeding on internal organs using it’s straw like mouth. They may live in a jungle, hanging from the trees or in small huts, but a number live as wives in villages. Unlike the vampire, their fears are clearly documented—spices, light (as our prompt requests), big crabs, sting ray tails, salt, fire, guns, and knives.  I find these last three fears to be well founded in general, frankly. Salt of course is a weakness of the creatures—and marine life reminds them of that dangerous mineral. Lastly, a bamboo stake in the back of such a creature will kill it instantly. One becomes a vsicera sucker by either eating food spat up by another viscera sucker, or by eating a creature that emerges from a dead viscera sucker’s mouth that resembles a black chick.

A comparable creature, with the same fears, is the weredog. This creature resembles a man during the day, but at night becomes a large dog or cat. It sets upon people in their homes and—perhaps a bit tellingly—on youngsters who are too loud. The weredog and the witch however especially fear the sting ray whip—wounds it suffers from the whip appear again when it becomes a man. Villagers suspect wandering salesmen and laborers on government projects are suspected of being weredogs often.

The next creature of the aswang variety is a witch. The witch is a vindictive man or woman—usually woman—who slips cursed items and talismans into people’s orifices to get their revenge. Witches are described as having eyes like a cat or snakes, which reflect images upside down. They therefore avoid eye contact. They are also shy and live on the edges of town, in abandoned houses. They employ insects as agents to spy on victims or plant curses, and some cases argue they also make use of dogs for this purpose.

The last of these creatures is a ghoulish one. These creatures have long nails, fetid breath, and sharp teeth. They can hear the groans of the dying miles away, and eagerly gather at night around trees in cemeteries to feast on the corpses within. If they come across a funeral, ghouls freely make off with the living and the dead. Loud noises and fire frighten off the creatures, however, so proper celebrations keep them at bay. If they manage to get the corpse, they will turn it into a pig and make off with it—and try to feed it to another human being, turning them into a new ghoul.

The aswang first came to my attention from an episode of Grimm. I don’t remember any of the other elements of that episode, but the image of the long tongued creature horrified me. I don’t believe it separated its body as it does in these stories, but the distinctive appearance and feeding habits have made the aswang famous. There is even a resource on Philippines folklore and mythology, the Aswang Project, named for the creature.

A story from nearby Java also caught my attention. Here two men are lead to a cavern, to marry a magical serpent. They went to a spirit gateway, and after burning incense and making offerings, they were told to close there eyes. One obeyed, the other kept his eyes open. The one who closed his eyes waited until told to open them—and found the cavern replaced by a great palace, the dirt road a grand highway. He was invited in and asked to choose a princess to marry. They were married and agreed to meet Monday and Thursday, and she would give him money each time until she ran out. After that, he would return to serve in the palace.

Candi Naga

The friend who kept his eyes open saw none of this—just a cave full of large snakes. He of course didn’t have the heart to tell his fellow about the illusion. Here the revelation isn’t dangerous itself—rather it denies one the benefits and luxury they might have had.

Our story is thus about finding and revealing secrets, although the sort that are perhaps not disclosed in full. The prompt mentions a shadow cast on the wall, which calls to mind an onlooker. Crouched near the opened door frame, looking into this forbidden room. Another has come into the darkness. A light is lit—and their familiar silhouette appears on the wall. Only, moments later, something horrific wakes. Perhaps a winged shape emerges, or perhaps long clawed appendages reach out. And the intruder is gone.

There is a Lovecraftian creature this reminds me of—the Haunter of the Dark. This creature, associated with the artifact the Shining, can go anywhere abroad at night. It cannot emerge during light, and thus modern electrical lights leave it trapped in an abandoned church. Yet when the power grid comes out, it seeks the one who freed it—on black wings, with three eyes, on a whirlwind it arrives. This creature has since been viewed as an embodiment of the great Nyarlathotep, which then possessed the body of the viewer. He and it perished luckily when lighting struck.

Haunter in the Darkn.png

This Lovecraft story is situated between two other stories by Robert Bloch, which feature an invisible vampiric creature that rides on cold winds to devour a man from Providence after being summoned and a Doctor Ambrose Dexter being possessed by the lord of a thousand forms. While working on nuclear weapons, which of course is a horror all its own. The details of this creatures functions can be found examined on Lovecraft Science here.

Our story could be instead arranged around this as a midpoint. The discovery of a strange monster in the darkness of a room—one that, drawing upon the Bluebeard stories and Vampire ones, wants its presence hidden—could serve not as the rising climax but as the discovery that incites action. In the middle of the night, you might see strange shapes coming from the older house or the abandoned churches, down from the hill in between flashes of lighting. I do think Lovecraft’s idea, a blackout in a modern city allowing it free and a thunder storms lighting bolts revealing the creature for mere moments, before it flees and moves away. That’s a strong way to build tension in a very visual way—one that I think can be communicated in writing, albeit in a way that would be more clipped than my normal writing.

Oh the terror.

What creatures of the night do you know and dread? What things fear the light or despise it’s presence? Comment below!

Bibliography

Ramos, Maximo. “The Aswang Syncrasy in Philippine Folklore” Western Folklore, Vol. 28, No. 4 (Oct., 1969), pp. 238-248.

Wessing, Robert. “Spirits of the Earth and Spirits of the Water: Chthonic Forces in the Mountains of West Java” Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 47, No. 1 (1988), pp. 43-61.

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A Humming in The Dark

Mrs.Vel.png

This Weeks Prompt: 14. Hideous sound in the dark.

The Research: In The Dark of the Night

The year is one thousand nine hundred and sixty-eight. And something isn’t right. Mrs. Vel knows this, as she sits in her house, staring out the window into the night. She’s known it for quite some time. The neighbors have stopped coming to visit. They’ve not left their houses for days. Mrs. Vel knows this, she’s watched every morning.
“I wager they’re just down with some sickness dear. Don’t worry much on it,” Mr. Vel said when she asked. Mrs. Vel was smarter than that though. There wasn’t any sickness coming through.
She’d seen the Spanish flu came rolling through, and polio, and the Asian flu. She’d seen what a cold looked like, what sickness smelled like. And the neighbors certainly weren’t sick. No,something else was going on.
Mrs. Vel watched for cars at night too. Sometimes black ones would drive by, with their front lights off. She’d see them in a glimmer or two, or under a street lamp for half a moment before they faded away. Black long cars, tinted windows. Always driving the same way, down the block.
“They just circle around somewhere else. No need to make a u-turn in a suburb,” Mr. Vel said when she mentioned it one night. Mrs. Vel doubted that too, however. So many cars, and they couldn’t be the same car. Unless that particular car was able to circle the lot in a matter of seconds. No, that wouldn’t make sense at all.
At night, there were noises too. Deep humming noises, somewhere in the distance. She swore it started eleven years ago, but Mr. Vel said otherwise, as you might have guessed. Mr. Vel, in his button up and perpetual slouch, little more than a jelly roll of a man, never believed her. But she heard it. A deep, resonance in the air. Like someone had left the fan on miles away.
“Weren’t there more bees?” she asked one day, staring again outside. It was daylight, though the streets were empty.
“What?” her husband asked, looking up from the paper.
“Weren’t there more bees when we grew up? I hardly see any anymore,” Mrs. Vel replied.
“Course there were, but we were in the country then. Less wild things in the suburbs,” Mr. Vel said with his predictable shrug.
Mrs. Vel bit her lip. No, no something had happened to the bees. Something smoked them out. Maybe they heard the humming too?
And in 1965 the lights started. In the distance at first, great orbs of light humming through the sky. Mrs. Vel would see them, or maybe their shadows, floating above houses. Houses no one lived in anymore, and that Mr. Vel asserted no one ever had. Failed public housing, he would say. But they had neighbors, she knew that.
Mrs. Vel wondered at all this, as the dull humming in the night continued. Sometimes at sunset she would feel it before she heard it.186. 186. 1234567890. Sometimes she thought if she listened close enough, awake in her bed, that she would understand it. That it was saying something.
She started seeing things out in the houses. Men with strange long tongues hanging out, and big wide mouths gaping. Mr. Vel always looked bemused when she pointed at them, hand to her mouth.
“They’re neighbors, dear. Sure, little funny looking, but hey, it could be worse. Not any homos or blacks among them,” he’d say.
“Look at them, Bill! Look at them!” she whisper in panic. They weren’t people, not proper people. Hunched over and carrying crates in. Mrs. Vel stared as they unloaded things. Their TVs made horrible blue lights, with tik-tiking sounds on the static. Mrs. Vel knew they weren’t what Bill said. She’d park her car outside, peering inside. She saw them, flat faced, big eyed, big-mouthed creatures. Monsters, she’d mutter.
Mrs. Vel knew monsters. Her father had a cleft jaw. Her grandfather had some illness that made him swing about wildly. Something he caught overseas. She’d seen the sort of people who came back not-quite-right from the wilds. She knew them well.
She talked to a friend on the phone about moving.
“Nothing like that no,” she heard from the other end. Yes, Mrs. Vel’s friend hadn’t heard the humming either. But it was perfectly natural, she said, just the sound of so many jets these days. Did she know how many more jets flew these days?
Mrs. Vel called her son. Her son, off in college, told her that he had seen them too. She was relieved, until he told her he had seen them inside out. That they had flashing lights inside their hearts, and only ate honey. He had seen it, he explained in his dead-eyed way, in all his dreams.

When Bill didn’t come home one day, Mrs. Vel boarded up her house. She knew they did it. The humming did it. She wouldn’t go outside, she ate what she had in cans. She’d stare out the window, certain they were coming. She didn’t know if they left there homes. Maybe they were sick.
Mrs. Vel was certain that something had gone wrong. The humming was doing something to the world. It had smoked out the bees, it had messed with people’s minds. This wasn’t normal. The year was one thousand nine hundred and sixty-nine, and something wasn’t right.
Mrs. Vel saw men in suits, in every shadow. They came to her door, right up to her door, at her door with suit cases and papers. Mrs. Vel never answered. They might have made the noises. She kept as steady as ever, unmoving if she could. Mrs. Vel only made noise to nail in boards. More boards, covering everything except the window she looked through.
When Bill returned a few days later, he’d wonder at his neighbor, who never came out anymore. Poor thing, he thought, must have gotten sick. And then he would get back to his paper. And Mrs. Vel, across the street, would scream silently at night.

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In The Dark of the Night

This Week’s Prompt: 14. Hideous sound in the dark.

The Resulting Story:A Humming In The Dark

Dear Necromancers and affiliates, this is a particularly frustrating topic. Hideous sounds are…well common. As staples of horror go, strange sounds in the dark are about as standard as lights flickering. So, to compensate, let’s look at the nature of sound.

A dangerous sound, or ‘Brown Note’ as tvtropes calls it,is a rather common motif. There are of course, the sirens of Greek myth who lure men to their death. Like wise with some mermaid stories, where the sound is alluring more than hideous and draws men to drown themselves.

For simply horrifying noises, there is always the Poe story of the Tell Tale Heart (included below for your viewing pleasure), who’s beating drives the guilty mad. The image of madness inducing music comes in Mr.Lovecraft’s work as well, with the Music of Erik Zann.

And classically, there is the music of Pan’s pipes, which brought madness with them. We should never forget that part of Pan, lest his woodland nature trick us. From him come’s that dreaded Pied Piper after all. And of course, the ritual cries of Dionysus’s companions There is thus potency in these sounds to affect the mind, and there hideousness maybe more than simply uncomfortable.

The Greeks do not have monopoly on this horrifying trope however. The banshee’s cry signals impending death, an inevitability rife with material to mine. Notably, there is disagreement in regards to causation. Does the banshee wail for the foreseen death, or does the wail cause the death? Do they curse or confirm?

Then there is the Aswang. Oh, the aswang. Briefly, brothers and sisters, indulge in something that terrified me upon discovery. The aswang makes a terrible tik-tik noise as it stalks through the night looking to eat babes and unborn children. But importantly, the noise is louder the farther away it is (a trick the fae employ as well), allowing this predator to confuse its prey. The sound invokes no more terror then these shape-shifting monsters do on their own, but such noises in the dark are worth a mention.

All this in mind, a monster may be necessary for this story. A monster tied with madness and certainty, it seems, an inevitable creature. Poe’s Tell-Tale is inevitable, Pan’s pipes always play, and the Piper must be paid, and the banshee sees that inevitable death (or creates it). We have a strong theme, then, of trying to resist fate. Of going mad when forced to, pardon me, face the music.

Darkness is likewise a potent symbol of inevitability. Death is often, in the West, dark cloaked, and the realms of the dead are dark places. Night comes, and in darkness the world goes when it ends. A creeping darkness, there fore, with its strange music and piping is a potent embodiment of fate and death.

What sort of man fights death then? What woman resists fate? Perhaps a certain Russian?

Is the fate death literally, or some death of hope? Some misery of unhappiness that cannot be escaped?

I find the second more entertaining. What terror awaits, my fellows? Tell me what you think.

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