Black Sun Finale: The Account

This Week’s prompt:25. Man visits museum of antiquities—asks that it accept a bas-relief he has just made—old and learned curator laughs and says he cannot accept anything so modern. Man says that ‘dreams are older than brooding Egypt or the contemplative Sphinx or garden-girdled Babylonia’ and that he had fashioned the sculpture in his dreams. Curator bids him shew his product, and when he does so curator shews horror. Asks who the man may be. He tells modern name. “No—before that” says curator. Man does not remember except in dreams. Then curator offers high price, but man fears he means to destroy sculpture. Asks fabulous price—curator will consult directors. Add good development and describe nature of bas-relief.

Read part 1 and part 2

The account thus written was never known to the board of directors or to Derelth, and so we must leave them be. It was found amongst the belongings of the recently deceased Mrs. ____ as the only article left to the public from her estate.

“We, for Queen and Country, approached the Veronan hills. The good governor was the old sort for the region. His daughter had run off in the night, out to the hills and forests, and he was dearly concerned. A superstitious old man, he feared that the people and things that lived between the hills and trees would do the most dreadful things to his lost daughter. So we made our way, Roger, George, Edward, John, and myself, under orders, with naught but a rifle each.

“The way up the hills was one of laughter and jokes. More than likely, John said, the girl had run off to rendezvous with a native lover. Or perhaps she had to hide away some store of jewels. The dogs we had brought were chipper, barking at hares and rodents that scurried in the tall grass. Crossing over the hills, to where the forest was in sight.

“The woods of on the other side of Vernonan hills are a strange sort. There bark was like ink or ash, more a painted on effect than something real. And on this night, a cloudy new moon, they were almost invisible. A few lanterns hung near the houses, marking the cottages near the woods. There was still no sight of the girl. We reckoned it’d be best to check the houses, then the woods. After all, bandits of all sorts could lurk the woods with their wild beasts and wicked weapons.

“Roger was the strongest, so he forced the doors. They were all locked of course. We’d been here before, cleaning up squatters and checking in on debts owed to the Company. We didn’t wear anything to hide our prescence and the barking dogs surely gave them warning. So we searched each house, one at a time. Not a soul was found. Now, there were around twenty men and maybe fifteen women in that little squalid site. No children or chickens either.

“When we got to the decaying fields of wheat, we at last found a man. He was shambling in the distance, his eye-catching the light of our lanterns like a cat. Our dogs immediately pulled and in frustration, we set them on him. Do not worry, like good hunting dogs, they only surrounded and tackled their prey down.

“At closer look, he was a rather old man. He had an old factory hat on, and a nice leather vest for the are. His hands were a farmer’s hands, and his face the face of lost solider. All together, he certainly had suffered worse than dogs being set upon him. We still took our time approaching.

“George whisteled for the dogs to relent while me and Edward stood the old man up. John asked most of the question. Rather simple ones, really, though the poor man barely seemed to understand some of them.

“ ‘Have you seen a nice lady come through?’ John would ask. The man would smile and say he has seen many nice ladies in the hills. John got a bit more specific, and the man would get quiet for a bit. Then Roger did somethings that were, admittedly, a little unbecoming of our station. I have heard it said by wise men that the capacity for good is measured in equal part by the capacity for evil. If there is ever a testament for how civilized the Empire can make a man, none is more damning than Roger’s behavior.

“ ‘Have you seen the nice lady, the governor’s little lady come through here?’ John asked slowly this third time. The man was still catching his breath when we stood him up, a bit bruised. Roger had aimed for the chest, and for a moment I feared he’d broken the man’s lungs. John held up his hand as Roger prepared another round.

“ ‘The nice lady? She’s not that little or that nice.’ the man said with a chuckle, holding up his hand as Roger pulled back his fist. ‘Yes, yes, she came by tonight, she had bad dreams and knew, she knew we were people of dreams.’

“ ‘She had bad dreams?’ John said, raising his eyebrows as best as I could tell in the light. ‘Stand him up proper.’

“ ‘No, no, she did! Terrible dreams. And tonight, of all nights? It was a sign.’ he said as we hefted him up. He shouted for us to stop, but Roger wasn’t restrained. He was coughing horribly when John spoke to him again.

BlackSunFinale2.png

“ ‘I’m telling the truth!’ he managed to get, crumpled on the ground. ‘You imbeciles don’t see it. She had terrible dreams of things we knew. The Black Sun, she is rising to fill the world with beautiful forms again. To cast a shadow, that a multitude might grow.’

“ ‘So she’s in the forest?’ John asked, more annoyed than anything. The man nodded. At the time, I thought it strange, that he should comply after such rude treatment. I learned that night he had complied, but only for our own doom.

“ The wood was thick as we went in. The branches stifled the already dim stars, and caught the lantern light like flies in a spider’s web. More strikingly, there was not a sound that night. Not a single leaf crinkled beneath a foot. Not a single breeze blew, not a branch rattled, not a twig snapped. No rabbit hopped. Not a wolf howled, not a whisper was heard. Even when we spoke, it was like whispers struggling against a breeze. We eventually resorted to simple hand gestures, keeping an eye for even the slightest shimmer.

“It must have been hours in that dreadful space. I entertained the idea that perhaps the sun rose and set and we hadn’t noticed, so dark were the woods. Then the smoke began to come from the distance, though still we saw no fire. Simply a tendril of the darkness stretching into our hallowed sphere of light.

“But the smoke quickened our minds. We knew, we knew that smoke came only from fire. So we followed it, covering our mouths to not inhale it. Slowly color intruded on the wood, red sigils painted on the trees, carvings carefully colored white as corpses. Sound came necks, drumming sounds, and the braying of the hounds, the crack of twigs and the crunch of crushed leafs all returned. And we beheld a dreadful sight.

BlackSunFinale.png

“There was a great pillar of stone there, crude volcanic stone. Around it danced men and women with madness, masks like pigs and goats and other unclean characters. Above them was a pulsing cyst of the sky, a tumorous mass. I have heard tell that among savage or decadent magicians, there is much desire for the hair a woman has devoured and has calcified. I can only imagine they would love this strange growing mass, with its hairs and scales and eyes and mouths. It grew crooning outward, singing and moaning as it spread. Lumps fell down to the earth and out sprung vermin and slugs and leeches in swarms.

“And we saw the governor’s daughter there, directly beneath, utterly indecent. Tar sputtered from the ground and filth fell from the sky and she reveled in it. Her form swelled, nearly to the point of bursting as we watched. And that, beneath the deep shadow, was the last of it. John, the religious sort, let cry a ‘Deus vult!’ and at once we let a salvo loose and forgot our dogs.

“The heathens were not quiet in their departure, however. Quickly, easily even, they drew knives and daggers and set upon us. And while we bore guns, they had numbers. Blood quickly watered the ground, both ours and savages. As it did, the ground grew hard, and the thing above seemed to squirm and flicker. Until, at last, as Roger fell to an ax to the shoulder, the thing pulled itself back into the pillar.

“Whence it came and went I do not know. But the forest must be raised, and the hills demolished. Dark things live in those places, and we can abide them no longer.”

It has been a long celebration, my brothers and sister! But I hope it was not too bad. Next week, we return to our regular schedule and regular research. What did you drum up from this classic corpse? Did you find some sea drenched beast? Or was your tale more mundane in it’s terrors?

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The Valley Vathek

Castle

This weeks prompt is:15. Bridge and slimy black waters.

The Research: Water under the Bridge

It is a known fact with each age, the world becomes more finite and measured. That is the noble duty of existence, to combat the hordes of infinity and probability into certainty, and in so doing, make the world bearable. It was for this purpose, good brother, that myself and my associate Mr. Slim went out to the woods of Eastern Europe, in search of a lost land, Vathek.

A strange land, any account of Vathek will say. Or rather would say. A subject of the Turk, then the Tzar, then the Turk again, Vathek by all accounts was a middling castle on a cliff-side, defensible and alluring. It was a rich city, by all accounts we had when setting out. But the curiosity was not in the city, but in its ending. No record continues Vathek’s line past seventeen sixty, well past the time of excusable errors or time’s hungry maw. It is inexplicable that the destruction of such a place, by famine, plague, or cannon has not been marked. So we went to Vathek.

The valley was cut out of mountain by some glacial passage aeons past. Our guide, who only called herself Sibyl, told us that the forest overrunning it on all ends was older then the rocks. The woods was without green, but rather bark like dust and pitch; no light touched the trunks of the trees and no fruits grew on their branches, only endless thorns. Our guide warned us that there were no well laid paths here, people having abandon the woods for decades.

“It is a wicked place,” she replied when we asked, “full of…how do you English call them? Fae things.”

“Certainly not, there were castles here, and people,” I objected. Any local who warns you of fae in such novel places is a liar, brother.

“They were not here when the Prince ruled in Vathek. But he listened to foreign men, Turks and tartars, and turned away from God. So they came and have stayed since, by invitation.”

“That doesn’t– ah –,” I said, being pricked by the thorns, “explain a thing! The Turks can’t just make a forest spring from the ground.”

“Not anymore,” Sibyl said. I decided to let the matter drop. At last we got deep enough, that we set about making camp. The trees were so tightly packed that there was no sign of the moon, let alone the great cliff face that Vathek proper sat on. Still, wood was easy enough to find, if hard to cut free. The twigs were full of thorns and seemed to delight in stabbing my hands, while the branches were hard to break free.

Sibyl was silent and slept well through the night, but the interlocking branches made the little wind whistle greatly, a terrible harsh noise to my ears. What manner of woman Sibyl was, that such dreadful piping was a lullaby, I cannot say. But I have my suspicions.

In that darkest of nights, where star nor moon came down from above, I saw a twinkling in the distance. A flickering and fluttering light, as if some cruel child had engineered a way to trap a butterfly to a candle. To and fro it flowed, carried by the disharmonious music. They kept me wake all night, staring at them and only just not following after.

In the morn, I asked my Sibyl about the strange sight. She was greatly alarmed by the notion, crossing her heart in the Russian fashion before speaking.

“They are lantern men, who haunt these woods, hunting and waylaying travelers, witch fire that lures men from the woods into hell. Do not follow them, whatever you do. Wicked, they are, and in service of more wicked things. In these woods, they are footman to higher things.”

“Some swamp gas then,” I muttered to my companion. He had a laugh at that. Such stories, he told me, where common amongst those who grew far from noble and Providence protected sorts. The Irish, the Cornish, those near Cornwall, the French, the German all had some version. Not peculiar at all, he explained, that near such a strange place, strange stories would bubble up.

And so we drew through the woods, till at last we saw the castle, though I will not call it such anymore. It was a massive growth of stone, spreading walls like a spider web, adorned in finery. Black blocks tightly packed, great emplacements and cannons that seemed to be bronze or steel. Might towers adorned with brass and silver, iron gates and ramparts in abundance. Keeps sprouted like mushrooms off some fetid corpse, and the armaments made light moss all along the floor. The river, the river was muck and mire, with dark ash running over the surface. Hundreds of arching bridges, worthy of the Thames, stretched over it. As we approached from the shore, I felt the heat blistering off of it, the stench of spoiled eggs sputtering out.

The bridge was covered in grime, such that your hands were stained by the merest touch. We walked carefully across. Vathek proper, I believe, had either torn down the entire cliff-side, or been built so large that the cliffs themselves had sunk. Its walls were now clearly shattered, despite out growths of blade like vines and coral formations growing between the wounds.

“There, you have seen it, British, let us go,” Sibyl said, gesturing at the gate. I stared out onto ashen covered waste, glimpsing bone white at times prodding through the darkness. And squinting I saw it for just a moment. Great looming eyes of fire, on some reptilian frog rising from the deep. A low bellow rung out, a thousand moans of agony or pleasure, dulled into a sing stroke. Dear brother, I saw that strange beast belching and burning. I saw faces. I hear voices and names in that valley.

The island of our knowledge, the place of measured things, is finite and clear. For on that bridge, I heard my own voice echoing back across the shore, I felt the throat of my companion in my hands, and I smelled blood as fresh as slaughterhouses. And dear brother, I cannot say what haunts that place. It is beyond heaven and below the earth, like the ancient Greeks Oceanus or the dread Babylonian Tiamat. Fear that valley, brother, for it has stained your kinsman’s soul.

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The Parade

Dance in the Wild Wood

This Week’s Prompt:11. Odd nocturnal ritual. Beasts dance and march to musick.

The Research: Into The Woods

Between misty hills in the north of England, far from castle and home, rode Sir Aldrich on horse with chain and sword in hand. Court had grown tiresome, as it often does to those who’s eyes extend as far as a spear, or perhaps an arrows fall at the best, and no farther in time then a heartbeat. So for adventure he rode, to seek out giant, or dragon, or damsel in a high tower. Perhaps with an elderly father who was heirless or the like. Or at least a bandit lord, whistling in the forest. Something in the wilds called to him that day.
So Aldrich rode, until the sun finished its journey across the sky. HE made camp for the night, eating salted meat on fire. That was, until a strange noise approached, a trumpeting march from the dark. Sir Aldrich stared at the sound, as marching music grew louder and louder. And lo! A bear, with a marshal’s cap emerged, trumpet to its lips and a mayor’s cape flowing behind him. Behind him, walking like a man, came a boar and wolf.
“By God, I’ve gone mad,” Sir Aldrich said.
“Are you coming today, good sir?” the boar asked, pausing as they passed.
“To what?”
“To the parade of our Mother of course!” the boar said, continuing on his way. The knight stared off into the distance as they marched off. And convinced he had entered some delusion, he lay to rest. And would have been save in Hypnos’ domain if it were not for a persistent drumbeat.
Da-dum-da-dum came the beating of the drum. And out they came, marching through the black, leaving behind them a golden track of pennons. Upright came a flight of hawks and vultures, beating drums as they flew overhead. A man atop an alligator lead them, waving at the shadows.
“What in God’s-”
“Do not worry sire, we will be along. The parade is today! We must, must be on our way. Come along, you must see the parade!” he said, as the army ants crawled behind him, a mass of blistering red.
“Parade? It is night, why it is Sabbath night! What parade are you holding?”
“Why our father’s parade, our fair father!” the man atop the alligator said, tipping his large conical hat.
“Well, tell your father I need my rest! Hold his parade at some goodly hour, and get you gone!” Sir Aldrich said, gesturing anon toward the hills.
“We will, good sire, we will if we see him tonight.”
And so Sir Aldrich lay down to rest. And no drums beat, no trumpets blared, no marching feet were heard. But Sir Aldrich felt hands, great hands shake him awake, and a voice whisper in his ear.
“Tell me, traveler, tell me, are you on your way?”
Starting, with sword in hand, he confronted the shriveled old man, bent with age. Tired and exhausted, the knight forgot himself.
“No, sirra, I am not on my way! Were I to have my way, the next creature to disturb my rest, especially one in search of a ‘parade’ or in any way resembling a beast, I swear by high heave, I would smite with my sword and fists!” he bellowed, towering over the man.
“I am sorry, sire, but I have lost my way. Come, can you point me to the parade?” the old man asked. “For I wish to get there in all haste. I have an appointment.”
“They went north, yonder toward the hills. By the moon, its passed midnight. What parade could require such a night?” Sir Aldrich asked, turning to the sky.
“Come round and see. Or don’t. It will be gone before you hear it,” the old man said.
Sir Aldrich assented, driven within by a desire to dash all things that had disturbed him against the rocks. And so he followed the old man, sword by his side, to the great hills were a stone monolith stood. But it stood tall and large, large as a great mountain. And emblazoned on it were many images, images of beasts that the knight had not heard of nor seen on any shield or banner. Round it circle men who barked as beasts, and beasts who’s howls bore sembalnce to the speech of men. A great cacophonous song rose up from the spot.
Sir Aldrich turned to his companion, who stared disspassionately at the shifting waves of flesh, fires flickering between flies and ferocious wolves, trumpeting bears and women beating breasts. They whirled faster and faster, sweat and the moisture of their breathe making a fog of exhaustion. The old man waited.
“What, what on earth-”
“Oh, worry not about that place. It will rise back to you shortly. Sleep well, good Sir Aldrich. For you among all of Adam’s sons, has looked upon me and remembers,” the old man said, he mouth flashing teeth that were red, and his hands like wise and sharp claws. His face bore fur, scale, and stem, and in that moment, he was not he nor she, but a splendid spilling of blood and ichor.
And Sir Aldrich awoke, in a distant castle, in court, far from any dragon or giant or wild place.

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Into The Woods

BeastDance

This Weeks Prompt:11. Odd nocturnal ritual. Beasts dance and march to musick.

The Resulting Story: The Parade

This is a bit more of a corpse than the last few, and thus requires a little less explanation and a little more stitching. The first is what such displays resemble, in folklore. The role of odd nightly rituals has in the tradition of the West at least, belong to witches. Walpugisnacht, or the Witch night, is the most famous of the strange music and bestial rites at night. It is featured prominently in Faust, where it prevents the titular character from achieving his redemption. And then there is the Call of Cthulhu, by our good Mr. Lovecraft, who’s second act discusses a nightly ritual of witches. And lastly, in that Lovecraft vein, there is Shub-Niggurath, who has many beast associations as the Goat with a Thousand Young. Her followers engage in nightly and bestial ritual often, occasionally giving rise to terrible beasts of earth and sky.

ShubNiggurath.png

The beasts here, however, preform uniquely human behaviors. The dance and march to music, in a way reminisce to a parade. A surreal scene to say the least, one that blurs the line between man and best. And there’s an animal for that. The ape.
In medieval times, and since, the ape has been recognized as something between man and animal. It looks, and acts, like both at times and earns an unsettling place in our hearts that way. There is a dichotomy embodied in the ape, of animal passion and human rationality. Which way it falls depends greatly on the story. Certainly, such a parade would be an interesting scene.

ApeMedieval.png
But would it make a story? The ritual it seems, assuming it has human participants, is either invited to or stumbled upon. If invited, we must ask by who and for what purpose? To be in some way a victim? No, this to me seems cliche. To be invited as a sort of initiation, into some strange mystery cult? That is more plausible.
If stumbling upon, it becomes a bizarre story. The protagonist finds the scene, is perhaps drawn in, and is left confused at its end (Assuming the participants don’t descend on him). Perhaps afterwords he sees the people again, or the animals, and recalls the night. Perhaps when beasts and men dance, the two become hard to tell apart, and he fears the wolf and the man with the wolfish mask as well.
Who is another manner entirely. We could return to an old corpse, the servant of the Caliphate. He has already shown an interest in strange customs and practices. An anthropological mind would probably examine such a rite, especially in newly earned lands.
Or, we could go the route of a new protagonist. We could go far into Britain, where witches might lurk with faery creates. The region has several Lovecraftian locales, with Berkely castle holding a terrible toad, and the Severn Valley having its strange nature. There is an entrenched legacy of Mr. Lovecraft here, and this could be mind.
Which do you think would be better? A return to a older protagonist, another round for the bureaucrat, or a new face from the far off isle?

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Mr. Keen’s Road

Mr. Keen's road

This Week’s Prompt:5. Narrator walks along unfamiliar country road,—comes to strange region of the unreal.

The Research:The Wild Wood
I know that the road goes from Matthew’s farm to Martin’s store. I know this like I know the shape of a house, or that the ring on my hand has a matching one on my wife’s hand. I know this, and this I know. But last Thursday, it wasn’t. It was the same road, the same mile of stone and dirt through woodlands, at first.

In fact, it seemed rather dull and familiar. Not a noise along the entire way as I stumbled along. It wasn’t well lit, but I knew the path well. A river runs beside it, so its hard to get lost. In time, I saw another ligh in the distance. A flickering signal of another traveller coming the other way. I grew tense, and should have trusted my heavy heart beat then and there. But I was cordial as the man drew near.

“Howdy, fine night isn’t it?” I said as he drew near. His face was long and his eyes seemed pushed back into his head. He smiled, a mouth full of yellow stone teeth. He had on a small hat, an old cap like you see Civil War men wear. A coat of dulled red slumped over his body, with faded gold touches.

“An excellent nocturne indeed. Do you mind if I share it with you?”

“Share it?”

“I believe I have been misled. Is this the way to Matthew’s barn?”

“Your going the wrong way, friend. I can show you there,” I said, gesturing with my head behind him.

“Misled indeed. Yes, that would gracious of you,” he said,turning the other way.

We walked a good way in silence, his boots dropping beside mine to keep pace. I tried, as best I could, to discern his age. His hair, if he had any was tucked underneath his cap. His face looked worn by the sun, but there were lines that could be wrinkles, but could be from lack of sleep. Nothing that betrayed his age, his steps an even disciplined pace.

“What brings you out this late?” I said, smiling as best I could.

“I have a private time to keep this hollowed night,” he said, smiling back.

“Down with the Matthews?”

“No, no, beyond the fields of the Matthews family,” he said, smiling still, “Your own person?”

“I have poker with Jim Matthew and some of the farmhands every Thursday,” I said with a shrug.
“Ah, something similair with myself. I always get lost on the roadways, though,” he said turning his head about.

“Really? How do you manage that if its every Thursday?”

“Roads, the world over, are all the same in form as they are in substance. Even Plato could reason that. I mistake roads for their erstwhile kindred, typically in different places,” he said, in the sort of matter of fact tone that you use when explaining things to a kid at a college.

“Poor sense of direction, I gotcha. Never noticed much passed Matthew’s barn except the field,”

I said, shrugging off the response.

“Its off past the horizon, my good man. Far past the agricultural institute that Mr. Matthew runs.”

We came to a big tree, hobbled over in the road. It was an old Southern oak, branches gripping the ground like an octopus trying to stay at the bottom of the ocean floor. A second road struck out to the side, one I did not recall being there.

“I’m afraid I did not receive your nominative, good anthropos,” the man said turning to me.

“Anna what?”

“Never wonder, apologies. Your name?”

“Jacob, yours?”

“They call me Mr. Keen, Jacob,” he said, now turning to the tree.

“Did someone make you aware yet, good Jacob, that this tree is an unfortunate plant. Ten score ago, maybe fewer, men in carnal and wanton malignancy hung grown children from its arms like puppets. It was so robed in tenebrous corpses that from afar a cemetery it seemed to be,” he said, tracing the thin lines and creases on the tree.

“No, I didn’t know any of that. You said you were going past the Matthew’s farm?”

“Affirmative, Mr. Jacob. Would you care to attend?” he said, gesturing at the second road.

“I don’t know, crossroads are bad places to make decisions.”

“I have always found crossroads the most serendipitous and serene of places. Come, you will enjoy our company,” he said, taking me by the arm. And I ought to have known better, but my mind was addled and I felt dizzy, my ankles bending in on themselves. I struggled to walk with my new friend down the road.

The trees, the trees became first columns. Tall, perfect columns of bone white stone, a great rib cage jutting out of the now dark black grass. The road ran along hills and vales I had never seen, and in the distance I saw it, the Matthew’s house. Far far away. Briefly, I thought Mr. Keen’s legs grew rather than walked. Grew and shrank to simulate stepping feet as we seemed to fly. Eventually, though, he began slow.

“Where are we?” I asked, as I survyed the surroundings. The bushes were great polyps and mass of meat, bleeding from the sides.

“We are past the fields you know, to the fields of mine. I, after all,have an appointment to keep,” he said. And he walked again, as if nothing had changed.

But the grass was black and sharp, and things loped from tree to tree. Smoke seemed to rise form the earth, despite there not being a pothole insight. I turned my eyes to the heavens, and only the moon looked down. A dark blue moon shined down, its lights dancing among stars of yellow and green. None were arranged in constellations I had seen, not a dipper nor a bear nor a dragon to be found.

“Mr. Keen, what buisness do you have out here? This is far from the Matthew’s farm,” I asked, not taking another step. My traveling companion halted but yard past.

“I have compacts with a man of fraternal relation. And as I disclosed, I am easily confused by roads. Do not worry, the lands known to men are not far yet. We are simply at the woods that Sothan keeps. They are habitable to men such as you, I swear by long dead Jove,” he said, twirling about to face me. His head was tilted down, his hat hiding his eyes.

“Pardon me, Mr. Keen, but this place seems far from hostpitable,” I said, backing down the road again slowly.

“Dear Jacob, sweet Jacob, amorous, gracious, kind, humble, and luminous Jacob. You are free to find the road again,” he said, gesturing out a hand, now with a thin white glove.

I looked behind, and in the distant hills I saw something like a house, perhaps it was Matthew’s farm. But from here, it could be nothing more than a pile of stones.

“If I follow, will you return me home?”

“I will lead you to your place, I swear by the deepest of places,” Mr. Keen said, rotating to point down the road. Slowly, I followed. The road seemed to seep beneath my plodding feet. Like mud, but with stiffer.

As we went, the ground began to bleed and seep black tar. In time, I saw a great pale tree, branchless, rising from the surface. A huge spire that we approached, growing larger and larger as we drew near. It seemed to pierce the sun.

And it moved. The great needle like tooth moved, roots ripping themselves free of the ground, cracking and splinter stone. A hundred small grasping hands wrenched free now clambered out toward Mr. Keen and me.

“Ah, so the appointing rendevous makes himself known. Mr. Jacob, stay but a while, and you may learn a bit,” he said, turning toward the structure.

I ran. I ran and ran and ran and ran. I ran until my legs were a blurr beneath me. I ran until the trees melted into a long corridor of pale wax walls around me, until the ground felt solid and the sky was blue. I ran back to the fields I knew.

I stopped when I was home again, in bed praying to a God who was too far away to care. I stayed up all night, looking for his face in the window. Mr. Keen, I thought, surely would find the path to my home. After a week, I left my refuge. After a month, I took the road again.

But now, along the second path is still clear, waiting like an extended tounge. And sometimes, in the distance I see Mr. Keen’s shape walking along. And a taller shape, a great bent beast shuffling behind him.

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The Wild Wood

Dark Woods by Narcostock
Dark Woods by Narcostock

This Weeks Prompt is :5. Narrator walks along unfamiliar country road,—comes to strange region of the unreal.

The Resulting Story: Mr. Keen’s Road

The prompt speaks to a mythological motif, the odd country. Its one we have lost in this modern mapped world. In the ancient times, there was the Otherworld of the Celts, a fairyland that one could stumble into at any time. Fairyland was, however, a place of many less than fortunate things. As Emerich Rich and Mr. Pratchett can tell you, fairies are not as you now know them.

The enchanted woods in medieval times, where the Graal and other monsters and mystic castles lie, was an echo of this old motif. The woods holds potency and power, and surround (if not engulfs) orderly lands. Dwarfs, dragons, giants, and demons walk side by side with the fey in the woods. The Green Knight, a towering figure in the story of Gawain, looms with his headsman’s axe to play his foul game. The marshes of Cambridge are likewise inhabited, with strange lantern men and demon dogs that wait for their prey. The wild, chaotic, and mad realms were always just down the road or across the sea.

Our story then, will be tapping into an old strain. Another strain we may discover is that narrative of describing a faraway place. This runs the risk of the Utopia, of being conflict free and plot-less. Still, we have other options. Strange dealings can occur, as well as bizarre wagers. Dealings that go awry, with powers beneath the earth. Or we have the classic danger of being trapped in this wondrous place, or worse, leaving and being locked out.

Being locked out of fairyland often results in discovering that time has flown past. Decades or centuries might slip by, with the protagonist none the wiser. And when the unfortunate man (and in the old stories, sadly, it is always a man) sets foot on mortal soil, he ages at once. And, typically, expires.

How to do this in the modern age, with GPS and MapQuest and cellphones and other life lines to civilization, will be difficult. We could of course set it in any earlier era, even just four decades ago. But that, frankly, seems to ruin the fun. A source, for possible horror in the modern information filled age, might be the phenomenon of creepypasta. Set in today’s era (typically) in rather urban environments at times, creepypasta’s might be handy for how to turn the web of knowledge into a knot in the throat of the reader.

Mr. Lovecraft, for his part, did not paint alien vistas that were pleasant, as is readily apparent by Ry’leh and Yuggoth. His own version of this tale The Shadow Out of Time does similar, sending Mr. Randolph Carter to a number of strange and foreign lands and time. Yet…yet perhaps we might. Our wayward traveler might seek stranger countries than they suspect.
Continue reading “The Wild Wood”