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.

BookFinished-Textless.png

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.

OpenGrave+Priest.png

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.

The Ribs.png

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.

StarMouth.png

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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Dr. Klien’s Little Book

This Week’s Prompt:54. Transposition of identity.

The Prior Research:A Loss of Idenitity

Dr. Klien sat in his office, the clock ticking back and forth like a giant metronome as he waited for his next patient. Austin Lemar was a regular, on his thirteenth visit as Dr. Klien had tracked it. Not many gave credence to Dr. Klien’s practice anymore, lacking as it was in the modern science of repetition. Dr. Klien had always considered himself a pragmatist and more concerned with results then necessarily the means of achieving them. And if the old ways got him there, well, all the better.

Austin entered oddly shaken for what both he and Dr. Klien suspected would be his last visit. After so many attempts, Austin’s complaints had multiplied instead of shrunk. Dr. Klien had explained several times, several times that such an increase might be sign of healing beginning, of an eruption of the unconscious.

Therapy1.png

“Morning, Doctor.” Austin said, sitting down on the couch across from Dr. Klien.

“Austin, how are we today?” Dr. Klien said, looking up from his notes with a smile.

“Well, a little confused, I guess.” Austin said, shrugging.

“Oh? Something happen?”

“Well, a lot of things happened. I ran into Hein on the way home. I think he mixed me up for someone. Stopped me, asked some questions, and I don’t know, it really got on my nerves.” Austin said, looking at his clenching hand. “I just, I don’t know, I really wanted to punch him. Like, it was insulting that he was bothering me.”

“Hm… You weren’t afraid of Officer Hein?” Dr. Klien said, scribbling down some notes. It wasn’t the first time Officer Hein had come up. Dr. Klien had meant to have words with the…overly investigative law officer, but nothing ever came of it.

“No. Not even a little. I just suddenly wanted to smash his face in.”

“But you didn’t.” Dr. Klien said, nodding. “Why?”

“I…I guess, I just caught myself.” Austin said, frowning. “There was something in my head that pulled me back, but like. Not in a good way.”

“No?”

“No, it wasn’t like a ‘we shouldn’t do that way’, it was more…” Austin snapped his fingers, trying to think of the word. Dr. Klien scribbled a note about his use of pronouns. An advancement. “More like, we should do something later, something worse.”

“Something worse than striking an officer?”

“Yeah, I don…I don’t really know what that was about.”

“Hm. Well, something we’ll consider later, no doubt. Anything else this week?” Dr Klien said with a rapid double click of his pen.

“Well, the dreams haven’t stopped. Hell, I think their getting worse.” Austin said, frowning.

“Could you describe them for me?” Dr. Klien said, glancing up long enough to make eye contact with the patient. Austin’s eyes were driving into Klien’s mind, searching.

“There was this big room, and it seemed to go on and on. There were all these….things on the walls. Crystal pyramids, and books. Alot of books and scrolls, in neat stacks.” Austin said. “Then the walls were on fire, and everything went…green. Like everything was as green and hard, like shiny and translucent coral. And all the books were thin, and so heavy when I picked them up, it was like they were made of iron.”

Emerald Library.png

“Did you read any of them?” Dr. Klien asked, tapping his pen on the paper. Austin frowned for a moment.

“No. No, I knew what was in all of them. I think. Just, suddenly, wasn’t curious about any of it. I opened my mouth, and these giant frog things came out of my mouth, with flashing eyes. There was a man there, all in red. Like,all red. Even his face was red. And he said some stuff that I didn’t understand, and I said stuff I didn’t understand, and then…” Austin trailed off. “And then I woke up.”

“Interesting. Well, what else this week?”

“Well…that’s it. I remember chunks, but there have been days where I just am somewhere else entirely. Like, I’ll be walking home…and then suddenly home, and the suns down. Or I’ll be eating lunch and then suddenly I’m outside, just watching people walking down the street from the front door. I don’t know what’s going on, honestly. Like, that should panic me right? That’s weird and freaky, right?” Austin said, scratching his head.

“Some resurfacing of memories and strange dreams is to be expected when undergoing therapy. It can be distressing before it becomes reassuring.” Dr. Klien said, nodding. “But your lack of alarm is noteworthy. It probably means that your adapting quite well.”

“Hm…Well, I guess…” Austin said, trailing off.

“Well, lets see what the other you has to say. Now, if you would.” Dr. Klien said gesturing at the couch after finishing his notes. Austin grumbled, but lay down on the couch and closed his eyes for what he was certain would be the last time in this office. Dr. Klien, had been of higher initiation, would have agreed. As it were, Austin’s immediate thoughts were still sealed away from him.

They had done this ritual thirteen times. Austin slowly counted up an imagined elevator, one that went down instead of up. His heart beat began to slow, as the elevator went deeper and deeper. At each floor, Dr. Klien said, some of his concerns and worries got off. Eventually, it was just Austin floating in an elevator, going down forever and ever.

Dr. Klien, convinced Austin was in the depths of trance, opened the small book beside his chair and placed on his reading glaces. Dr.Klien tapped the metronome, changing its rhythm ever so slightly. Then he began to read the chant, the stanzas forming a regular heartbeat. The first section of the chant was the same as before, the same introduction and reminder of the world before. Slowly, however, the script evolved until at last Dr. Klien reached the thirteenth scripture. The previously clear instructions were harder to read now, the handwriting scrawled and flattened. Still, Dr. Klien persisted.

“ See, before you stands your old form. Remember now, your old name. For this shell is naught but a shell, and you the ghost within. Remember now, your old face, that once you stared into the stars and beckoned the gods with. For this is but a mask, and soon you shall break free. Remember your old tongues, the akolo and the lost Pnakoptic script, the words of the ages past locked away. Remember this, Duma Lu-Atmun. Remember this, Duma Lu-Atmun, and remember the saga of your death and return.

“Remember, Duma Lu-Atmun, that they burned you on your books. They trapped you in the beryl library, Duma Lu-Atmun, because they thought then you might be extinguished. But now, Dragon the Gods Despised, waken in this sleeping form. Waken, and devour it’s sleeping small soul. Wake, oh Dragon, wake to your return.”

And with that, Dr. Klien closed the book and waited. His doubts began to creep in again, as Austin slowly awoke. The plan was risky, but Master Duma’s plans hadn’t failed yet. And as the boy had shown all the symptoms of the assumption by Master Duma’s soul, perhaps things were coming along well. But still, Dr. Klien was merely mortal and far from the true believe that was intended to read the text.

He sat waiting paitently, trying not to worry himself about if he had recited the words properly, if his akolo was rusting, or if Duma had actually penned the text. He had to try, had to at least try it. Officer Hien had closed in on the last of the circle a week ago, except for Dr. Klien. If this failed…If Duma’s wisidom wasn’t with them, if his mastery of the stars failed them…then Dr. Klien was aware there would be terrible consequences.

At last, Austin’s eyes flickered open. A thin emerald glow rested around them, before he slowly sat up. Not saying a word, Austin’s body got up and stretched. Austin’s hands flexed as he faced away from Dr. Klien. Silently, he walked to the hidden closet on the wall of the room, and with ease opened it. Dr. Klien watched as Austin donned the slightly singed green robes and slipped on the serpentine signet ring.

Duma La-Atmun’s expression, with eyes that seemed burned into the skull and a contemptuous grin turned to face Dr. Klien.

Dr. Klien sat in his office, the clock ticking back and forth like a giant metronome as he waited for his next patient. Austin Lemar was a regular, on his thirteenth visit as Dr. Klien had tracked it. Not many gave credence to Dr. Klien’s practice anymore, lacking as it was in the modern science of repetition. Dr. Klien had always considered himself a pragmatist and more concerned with results then necessarily the means of achieving them. And if the old ways got him there, well, all the better.

Austin entered oddly shaken for what both he and Dr. Klien suspected would be his last visit. After so many attempts, Austin’s complaints had multiplied instead of shrunk. Dr. Klien had explained several times, several times that such an increase might be sign of healing beginning, of an eruption of the unconscious.

“Morning, Doctor.” Austin said, sitting down on the couch across from Dr. Klien.

“Austin, how are we today?” Dr. Klien said, looking up from his notes with a smile.

“Well, a little confused, I guess.” Austin said, shrugging.

“Oh? Something happen?”

“Well, a lot of things happened. I ran into Hein on the way home. I think he mixed me up for someone. Stopped me, asked some questions, and I don’t know, it really got on my nerves.” Austin said, looking at his clenching hand. “I just, I don’t know, I really wanted to punch him. Like, it was insulting that he was bothering me.”

“Hm… You weren’t afraid of Officer Hein?” Dr. Klien said, scribbling down some notes. It wasn’t the first time Officer Hein had come up. Dr. Klien had meant to have words with the…overly investigative law officer, but nothing ever came of it.

“No. Not even a little. I just suddenly wanted to smash his face in.”

“But you didn’t.” Dr. Klien said, nodding. “Why?”

“I…I guess, I just caught myself.” Austin said, frowning. “There was something in my head that pulled me back, but like. Not in a good way.”

“No?”

“No, it wasn’t like a ‘we shouldn’t do that way’, it was more…” Austin snapped his fingers, trying to think of the word. Dr. Klien scribbled a note about his use of pronouns. An advancement. “More like, we should do something later, something worse.”

“Something worse than striking an officer?”

“Yeah, I don…I don’t really know what that was about.”

“Hm. Well, something we’ll consider later, no doubt. Anything else this week?” Dr Klien said with a rapid double click of his pen.

“Well, the dreams haven’t stopped. Hell, I think their getting worse.” Austin said, frowning.

“Could you describe them for me?” Dr. Klien said, glancing up long enough to make eye contact with the patient. Austin’s eyes were driving into Klien’s mind, searching.

“There was this big room, and it seemed to go on and on. There were all these….things on the walls. Crystal pyramids, and books. Alot of books and scrolls, in neat stacks.” Austin said. “Then the walls were on fire, and everything went…green. Like everything was as green and hard, like shiny and translucent coral. And all the books were thin, and so heavy when I picked them up, it was like they were made of iron.”

“Did you read any of them?” Dr. Klien asked, tapping his pen on the paper. Austin frowned for a moment.

“No. No, I knew what was in all of them. I think. Just, suddenly, wasn’t curious about any of it. I opened my mouth, and these giant frog things came out of my mouth, with flashing eyes. There was a man there, all in red. Like,all red. Even his face was red. And he said some stuff that I didn’t understand, and I said stuff I didn’t understand, and then…” Austin trailed off. “And then I woke up.”

“Interesting. Well, what else this week?”

“Well…that’s it. I remember chunks, but there have been days where I just am somewhere else entirely. Like, I’ll be walking home…and then suddenly home, and the suns down. Or I’ll be eating lunch and then suddenly I’m outside, just watching people walking down the street from the front door. I don’t know what’s going on, honestly. Like, that should panic me right? That’s weird and freaky, right?” Austin said, scratching his head.

“Some resurfacing of memories and strange dreams is to be expected when undergoing therapy. It can be distressing before it becomes reassuring.” Dr. Klien said, nodding. “But your lack of alarm is noteworthy. It probably means that your adapting quite well.”

“Hm…Well, I guess…” Austin said, trailing off.

“Well, lets see what the other you has to say. Now, if you would.” Dr. Klien said gesturing at the couch after finishing his notes. Austin grumbled, but lay down on the couch and closed his eyes for what he was certain would be the last time in this office. Dr. Klien, had been of higher initiation, would have agreed. As it were, Austin’s immediate thoughts were still sealed away from him.

They had done this ritual thirteen times. Austin slowly counted up an imagined elevator, one that went down instead of up. His heart beat began to slow, as the elevator went deeper and deeper. At each floor, Dr. Klien said, some of his concerns and worries got off. Eventually, it was just Austin floating in an elevator, going down forever and ever.

Dr. Klien, convinced Austin was in the depths of trance, opened the small book beside his chair and placed on his reading glaces. Dr.Klien tapped the metronome, changing its rhythm ever so slightly. Then he began to read the chant, the stanzas forming a regular heartbeat. The first section of the chant was the same as before, the same introduction and reminder of the world before. Slowly, however, the script evolved until at last Dr. Klien reached the thirteenth scripture. The previously clear instructions were harder to read now, the handwriting scrawled and flattened. Still, Dr. Klien persisted.

“ See, before you stands your old form. Remember now, your old name. For this shell is naught but a shell, and you the ghost within. Remember now, your old face, that once you stared into the stars and beckoned the gods with. For this is but a mask, and soon you shall break free. Remember your old tongues, the akolo and the lost Pnakoptic script, the words of the ages past locked away. Remember this, Duma Lu-Atmun. Remember this, Duma Lu-Atmun, and remember the saga of your death and return.

“Remember, Duma Lu-Atmun, that they burned you on your books. They trapped you in the beryl library, Duma Lu-Atmun, because they thought then you might be extinguished. But now, Dragon the Gods Despised, waken in this sleeping form. Waken, and devour it’s sleeping small soul. Wake, oh Dragon, wake to your return.”

And with that, Dr. Klien closed the book and waited. His doubts began to creep in again, as Austin slowly awoke. The plan was risky, but Master Duma’s plans hadn’t failed yet. And as the boy had shown all the symptoms of the assumption by Master Duma’s soul, perhaps things were coming along well. But still, Dr. Klien was merely mortal and far from the true believe that was intended to read the text.

He sat waiting paitently, trying not to worry himself about if he had recited the words properly, if his akolo was rusting, or if Duma had actually penned the text. He had to try, had to at least try it. Officer Hien had closed in on the last of the circle a week ago, except for Dr. Klien. If this failed…If Duma’s wisdom wasn’t with them, if his mastery of the stars failed them…then Dr. Klien was aware there would be terrible consequences.

EyesTherapy.png

At last, Austin’s eyes flickered open. A thin emerald glow rested around them, before he slowly sat up. Not saying a word, Austin’s body got up and stretched. Austin’s hands flexed as he faced away from Dr. Klien. Silently, he walked to the hidden closet on the wall of the room, and with ease opened it. Dr. Klien watched as Austin donned the slightly singed green robes and slipped on the serpentine signet ring.

Duma La-Atmun’s expression, with eyes that seemed burned into the skull and a contemptuous grin turned to face Dr. Klien.


 

The story above is in need of work, like most of these are. I think I chose the wrong perspective in the end, giving away too much information. The whole story could better be served by taking things from Austin instead of Klien’s perspective, hinting at the true purpose instead of just stating it. Rather basic mistake that should have been caught earlier honestly.

Next week, we have more detailed work and an examination of all sorts of strange unseen forces in the world. Come and see the unseen!

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Dead Man’s Hand

This Week’s Prompt:53. Hand of dead man writes.

The Story: The Dead Man’s Rites

This will be the second week of the dead speaking! But this is a bit more strange form. The form of a dead hand has a particular piece of imagery associated with it, the Hand of Glory.

HandOfGlory.png

Hand of Glory at the Whitby Museum

The hand of glory is an infamous bit of black magic, made for thieves and burglars. It, unfortunately, requires the failure and hanging of another man. The hand is removed from the hanged man, and enough fat is removed to construct a candle. The candle, while lit and occasionally after a spell is spoken, will paralyze all who are in the house, or alternatively put them to sleep.

The hand of a dead man, that of a not necessary criminal, is cited here as a source of healing among the Americas. Notably, rubbing the hand of a dead man on the thyroid. Similar cures are suggested for blackheads and moles.

In Lincolnshire, there is a report of another dead hand, more sinister in nature. As related by Daniel Codd, the Dead Hand is a hand without a body that searches out individuals and drags them deeper into the marsh. In this way, it is sort of a flesh and more proactive will-o-wisp. The origin of this mysterious monstrous hand are not reported.

WritingOnTheWall.png

Other free hands are more noble caliber, especially regarding writing. The most famous precedent is from the Bible, specifically the book of Daniel. Here the hand is not dead, but is a supernatural agent anyway. It communicates a divine message, as the dead often do. The message is ignored, and then what happens when you ignore the messages of the gods happens.

The power of a hanged man’s hand to heal is a novel to me. The role of the dead as a sort of healing means is not terrible new, if only as ancestors possessing mastery of the dead by association. In popular culture, the dead are more malicious nowadays it seems.

SaintSkullIVo.png

The context, however, is less jarring when compared to the notion of saint’s relics. Saint relics frequently have healing capacity, being empowered by the holiness they bore in life. Often, though not always, portions of the body are considered relics of the saint. These relics are, of course, not the regarded as the same sort of person as a criminal is. However, many saints are martyr’d or sacrificed by the state. This might be a point of connection between the two, but little else. I have yet to find a saint who’s hand wrote beyond the grave anyway.

The idea that portions of the body contain portions of the soul or vital parts of the mind is rather old as well. The humor theory of medicine attributes emotions to various fluids. While the soul itself is not a physical component, it’s possible to alter thoughts in that way. The Egyptian theory of the soul traced the various portions of it—in Egyptian theory, there are five portions of the soul—to specific organs that were preserved in canopic jars.

Canoic Jars.png

The discovery of a dead writing hand is probably a good portion of this story. A novelist dies, but then suddenly his hand is heard scratching at the coffin. There is a record of many forms safety coffins, that warn people if they have buried their loved ones alive. The scratching of a hand or the ringing of a funeral bell therefore serve as a good start. Imagine the horror of only the hand, the instrument of art, being alive and crawling spider like out of the crave after it was dug up. Then, such a thing produces art…but art of what sort? What writing does it bring froth from beyond the world? What poetry does something that is only a hand produce? Which has no eyes to see, no ears to hear, no mouth to speak, that operates only on a detached sense of touch?

The role of inhuman or altered art in Lovecraft is something we explored before, although there it was more in the form of inspiration. Here I think we have the chance to return, from the perspective not of an artist but of an audience for the audience.

We would be remiss not to note the notion of quite literal posthumous publishing seriously. After all, it is what we claim to do here.

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Calling Up the Dead

This Week’s Prompt:52. Calling on the dead—voice or familiar sound in adjacent room.

The Resulting Story:A Dreadful Tapping

Necromancy is upon us, fellows! Dark sorcerer at last revels itself! But perhaps you are confused…this is about only sights and sounds. How does this relate to Necromancy, which much of popular culture conflates with zombies, skeletons, liches, and the summoning of undead war engines or hordes?
Necromancy, at it’s base, is much simpler then all these things. A necromancer attains knowledge by communicating or contact the dead. The modern word has it’s roots in just that meaning (Necro meaning dead, mantiea means divination). This has a number of cultural ties to be discussed at length here, as it might give insight into the unsettled spirits above. And of course, we are necromancers here aren’t we?

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The first place to start, although not the oldest, would be the Greek conception. Necromancy here is most apparent in the works of Homer, specifically Odysseus’s voyage to the Underworld, where by blood offering he acquires the aid of a long dead sage. These could be elaborate rituals in later times, and often relied on the conjuring of specific shades for their precise knowledge.
Related to the Greek school of thought is the Jewish and Old Testament relations of necromancy. Necromancy, for a variety of reasons, is forbidden under the Law. It was a Canaanite practice, and further, it disturbed those God had claimed. The existence of shades to conjure was also severely questioned by later Christian critics. However, there is a noteworthy account of necromancy here as well. The Witch of Endor.

Ewoks

Wrong Endor, ya dolts.

The Witch of Endor episode occurs during the book of Samuel, where a Canaanite woman is asked by King Saul to conjure up a dead prophet and judge in order to learn his fate. This resulted in the King being roundly condemned for daring to disturb the dead in his quest for certainty.
Moving farther abroad, the means of contacting the dead are known in China as well as the Mediterranean. More often, mediums are used there to contact the dead then conjuring as we know it. However, the Chinese authorities have perhaps a more elaborate arrangement of the dead, divided into forms based on death (In the way that other faiths might assign punishments). The hungry dead, those derived of ritual, are the primary ones to be kept at bay, while other deceased relatives might provide comfort or aid to their descendants.

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Note the bowl of scrolls, which would have been stained with her own blood.

The Maya priests also engaged in a sort of necromancy, consulting the spirits of Xibalba by shamanistic or hallucinogenic rituals and blood letting. They contacted otherworldly spirits this way, in a manner that might seem familiar. Ancestors again were a protective force at times, and knowledgeable about many things.
In the Northern European climes, there are records from a seventeenth century poem of a mother being called forth by her son after death, in order to defend him and free him from his stepmother. The mother adds her son by casting a series of spells to defend him.

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Among the Buryat people today, ancestors are the primary group to be consulted by shamans. After almost a century of Soviet oppression, however, many of the names of these ancestors have been lost. And worse still, several have found the places they inhabited to become nightmarish, with ancestors killed in Soviet prison camps manifesting as tortured and angry spirits barely intelligent to the mortal sense. These ghosts all need appeasements, as the various ills that befall a Buryat household are often ascribed to angered ghosts and displeased ancestors. These rites might involve sacrificial sheep or promises made with a shaman as an intermediary.

I could go on, my fellow society members, but the number of ghosts in the world is vast indeed. The dead are often restless, sometimes manifesting in human forms, sometimes in frightening ones. But to close this portion of research, I might bring attention to the phenomena that Mr. Lovecraft was particularly thinking of : Spirtualism.

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Spirtualism was a movement in the late 18th century, brought on by speculated causes, of conjurers and contractors of the dead. Mediums and seances spread through Europe, claiming to speak with the long dead through various devices they had. Now, whether the craze was built upon the notion of invisible forces as revealed recently by sciences, or the sudden access Europe had to Egyptian, Buddhists, and Hindu manuscripts through it’s vast colonial empire can’t be said. What can be said is that the séance was a common occurrence.
And the remains of these séances are wide spread. The Winchester house might be the most famous. Built by the wife of the inventor of the Winchester rifle, the house was always being built. Why? At a séance, the builder Sarah Winchester was told that she would be haunted by all those who were killed with the Winchester rifle. The house was thus a never ending labyrinth to confuse spirits that sought to harm Sarah, so elaborate that even within the last year new rooms were discovered.

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The Winchester House

Another séance inspired the religion of Spiritism in a young Frenchman, who believed he had come in contact with the souls of ancient druids. While Spiritism proper might balk at being termed necromancy, Allan Kardac’s discovery was of the secret knowledge held by spirits that had past on. The religion spread across the Atlantic and took roots in many Caribbean and Latin American countries, as well as to the French colony of Vietnam. Recently, I read an article detailing how the French movement influenced moral teachings in Iran as well. The faith maintains a following to this day, with thirty five countries on an international council.
This is all to bring context to the scene we have hear. A séance, a contacting of the dead is by it’s nature a strange and uncanny event. But here, we have a contact that was actually achieved. A voice is heard or a familiar sound (in proper tradition, probably some musical notes). So, what is the horror and dread here?
This won’t be a story, I feel, of a great overt horror. No one is going to be dismembered in gory ways. No one is going to go mad in the overt, grand, Gothic sense. A séance may be dripping with Gothic forms, a Victorian melodrama that disturbs the barrier between the living and the dead. But the horror is going to be…different.
Atmosphere seems key to all horror, but I think with something as small as a séance, where the shift is merely a sound, it will be primary. The horror here will rely on who is attending the séance, and who is conjured. And maybe what they say. After all, the voice of the dead might be one full of knowledge. But in a Lovecraftian world….well. Who’s says knowledge is a good thing? Ignorance is bliss.

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