The Unknown Umbra
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The tale I am about to share is of most questionable verity.  I can assure the reader that this story is true, for I have experienced it.  I am aware that my word fails to be undeniably true, it’s only up to the reader to decide whether or not what I am about to say is authentic.  This is a warning for those who have doubted the power in which the most sinister of us can utilize.  I have seen things that I have not been able to conjure up in the darkest of all my nightmares.  Things that weaken the constitution and instill fear of things that we cannot even begin to comprehend.
The baroque, and possibly archaic, way in which I am attempting to write is not a normal prose of mine, rest assured.  Its purpose is to supersede my traditional prose to keep the more perceptive of my readers ignorant of my true identity.  I must not only keep my name hidden, but my exposition as well.

I’m a writer by trade, a horror writer more specifically.  I enjoy dabbling into the genre that sparks our oldest known emotion: Fear.  It is an emotion that lets us know we’re alive, it’s something that cannot be felt in the oasis that is Heaven, and it’s prevalence will no doubt stagnate in Hell.  It let’s us grow more aware of the attachment we have to this mortal plane, while also dreading it.  Nothing is more complicated, ugly, beautiful, bittersweet.  And I have chosen to weave it into my tales of death and macabre; it is a most empowering feeling.

The year is 1922; unexpectedly, I began to grow tired of racking my mind of its horrifying resources.  Imagination can only go so far, and I needed to experience truth; truth is the one thing that is indeed stranger than fiction, thus more terrifying.
I scoured my expedients for news of anything that may be manipulated into a story of intrigue and fright.  I went on for three months looking for something; all the while merely scribbling down the ideas I had for a story on paper for later usage only.  I was dedicated to finding some true fear in this dark world of ours.  If I had known then what I know now, I would have burned all of my means of trying to find a story.

I stumbled upon a story of profound intrigue and mystery.  Serial kidnappings and murdered livestock.  I had been craving good investigation since I quit my journalism career many years ago.  I took a train to the town that I won’t name, for fear of encouraging some of the more daring readers to visit the settlement.  I shall simply refer to it as Alibim.
I went by myself, of course.  I had no fear of becoming the fiend’s next victim.  I had a sidearm with me, just in case of an extreme emergency though.  I remember that all I did on the ride there was study the documents (which dated back two years ago) and drown myself in whiskey out of sheer boredom.  The train’s rocking and the alcohol in my system combined to make a feeling that was pleasant at first, but soon caused a noxious feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I somehow ushered myself to sleep for the rest of the trip.  The dreams I had were in relation to the abysmal crimes that had been committed.  The contents of the dreams were completely forgotten upon awakening, and they still remain hazy.

I awoke, still mildly inebriated, when the brakes of the train grinded to a halt.  Their screeches had stirred me awake.  It was early in the morning; still dark.  I stumbled out of the train, I remember being embarrassed because of the smell of cheap whiskey which must have acted as a sort of rank cologne at the time.  I fumbled through every procedure afterwards and continued my way to a small motel just outside of town.  I went to the room and collapsed on the bed, exhausted.  I woke up early enough the following morning.  I was sober, no hangover; I didn’t drink enough to have one.
I was acquainted with a decent breakfast that morning, I had a busy day ahead.  All of my meetings were already scheduled, so it would be all work and no tame planning.
I took an automobile into the quaint town.  I recall having thoughts of how the town seemed so innocent and small.  Children played in sand boxes in the front yards of their houses. Mothers hung laundry out to dry and fathers kept an eye on their entire family.  Fear had caused overwhelming paranoia.  I saw two fathers on the porches with guns in hand while I was on my way to the police station where I met the captain.
The town had a safe, but somehow eerie vibe that made my skin crawl with what could be debated as anxiety.  Houses mostly looked the same.  They decorated most every street with their drab repetition.  It had crossed my mind that their entire mission was to make the town unremarkable.  Each house had an aura that indicated an unnatural theme of immaterialism.  The lack of personal customization of each person’s house, and even their yards signified each person’s desire to be as conforming and as humble as possible.  The road was made of dirt and nothing else.  Its other antiquated features began to get under my skin, as some say.  Alibim seemed to be stuck 40 years in the past, yet a town like this during that period would still be looked at as abnormal.  The surprisingly small cathedral drew the most attention.  It was no doubt a holy place, but seemed to radiate with a certain malevolence.  It was a place that would give the common outsider a feeling that it housed dark secrets best left unearthed.  It had a tower that jutted above the roof of the houses and became the tallest and most recognizable landmark that Alibim had to offer.  On the front was a gigantic pane made of stained glass.  The glass seemed to depict Jesus Christ holding a cross in his right hand and holding his left hand up to expose his palm.  He was draped in a white cloth and looked forward with a hypnotic stare that hinted at pure benevolence, contrasting with the dark and sinister appearance of the rest of the cathedral.

I arrived at my destination fairly quickly.  It was a small building, the police station, I remember being somewhat surprised at its infirmity.  I walked in and saw a well-built middle-aged man surrounded by younger law enforcement officials.  I had figured out that that was the captain by the age and stress scars decorating his face.  He looked up at me and motioned for his underlings to move to the side to allow me to speak to him closer.
We exchanged names and pleasantries and got caught up on each others plans.  He was acquiescent to allow me to write a story about the events plaguing their frail town.  He claimed it was disrespectful to the victims, to which I assured him that my story was not a direct interpretation but merely the result of the inspiration I had received from the town.  He asked me why I asked for his permission, and I had answered that I wanted as much current information as possible.
He didn’t want to share much information, decided it was up to the families of the victims.
The families of Tanya Garter,  Jacob Marston, and Devon Hathaway.  Two were teenagers, one was a young man.
Tanya was out with her boyfriend, Devon Hathaway.  Tanya had snuck out to meet Devon behind a bar.  Neither of them ever came back.  They are presumed dead.  Jacob on the other hand, was in a drunken stupor and had apparently passed out on his way home the night he was taken.  The disappearances happened in such rapid succession that people stopped going outside after sundown.
Livestock were victims for two years.  Every precautionary practice to protect them had been done, but to no avail.  Livestock were commonly found mutilated and eaten.  They were usually decapitated and limbs were almost always torn from the bodies.
Teeth marks from a human were sometimes found on the animals’ carcasses.  The knowledge of the ins and outs of each detail had unnerved me to a point where I no longer wanted to stay tin the town.  Every other part of my body wanted me to find the story.  My reasons for doing so were always ridiculous and juvenile.  I might find the culprit, I might write a masterpiece.  Who knew?
The anxiety of actually following through with my plans of doing what everyone asked (and sometimes begged) me not to do had rendered me too terrified to do as such.  I went back to the hotel at the same time everyone started heading indoors.

Some would always stay out, with firearms, but the lurker would never show.  It almost seemed as if he could detect innocence.
It was that night that a little girl was abducted from her room.
I stayed out of the town once I found out.  I had an alibi for that night, nobody thought it was me, but I didn’t want to see the repercussions.
I had the feeling that I had caused this.  Like I goaded the creature out into the open.  Did he know that I was searching for him?  Was he goading me to come out and start searching? That’s how fear got in the way of me returning to that town for three whole days as I merely scrawled notes of the crimes while still remaining in the safety of the motel.  Nothing happened in those three days, and nobody came to see me.  I cannot explain why.

Chapter 2

The guilt of the girl’s abduction began to eat away at me.  I knew it had to be my presence that caused it to happen somehow.  Who knew I was here?
I had to assure myself that it was not me.  It had nothing to do with me.  He had to strike again soon anyway I though.  He got impatient waiting for people and had to do it again.  Coincidences happen.
I stepped out of the motel for the first time after three days.  I was greeted with backwoods simplicity.  Nobody was accusatory; it seemed I was becoming my own worst enemy.  People came nowhere close to claiming I was responsible for the abduction of 9-year-old Charity Craft.  While I cannot literally be blamed, I was expecting them to shift it towards me being here and provoking the menace into striking.
I’m still not aware of the parents’ take on my presence and my possible provocation of their daughter’s abduction.
I wanted to leave.  I craved relinquishment of my memories of this town, and absence of any more briefings that I may hear later on.  Something, which I believed at the time to be a sort of ‘Writer’s instinct’, kept me adhered to the town.  Once I left the motel room and made the trip to my automobile with plans of using it to flee from the town, some force, some internal inclination, prevented me from reaching the key to my departure from what I had now considered a cursed town.
The intuition I had almost seemed to request that I audit the town’s documents to educate myself on its history.  More so, it’s history of crime.
The library housed several journals and other records containing the voice of long-dead pioneers and settlers.  The town had formed in the mid 19th century, toward the end of the Civil War.  Settlers from the East had migrated West throughout the Civil War to avoid inevitable participation.  The populace of the town were pacifists and cowards, run by leaders of the same principles.  It had a neutral stand on most of the issues that blood was shed over.  The most infamous reason, slavery, had not been touched on in the pages I read.  I figured the most logical reason for this was that the town simply did not have the means to participate in that fiendish market.

It’s quite remarkable really, the town had practically ceased to exist on paper until the beginning of the 20th century.  Even then, it remained hidden in shadows.  I was even ignorant of the town’s existence until ascertaining the mysterious and nondescript reports of the town’s menace.  The records of its past could only be found in this town.  It almost seemed to be its own country.
Remarkably little is told about its history as a nomadic town.  Mostly just the viewpoints of the common settler that felt the need to record his thoughts and experiences on their trips.
After the Civil War details about the community were unsheathed.
The story is that the town had no political leader at any point in time.  The person whose word had the most influence was the pastor of the cathedral.  I refuse to give the authentic name of this man, I will simply call him Pastor Kaspar Perses.  Pictures and paintings of him show a man of rather unremarkable appearance and form.  His forehead square as it was matched the rest of his face.  His nose had a crooked bridge the slid down to a convex tip.  His philtrum and the space accompanying it was of a small size, which made his chin much more pronounced and long.  The protrusion of his jaw matched with his substantial chin perfectly.  His eyes, while beady, seemed to glisten in a shade of blue that could easily be seen in the darkest of settings.
Perses’ beliefs dated back to a much darker time.  To a time when Puritanism reigned as the majority religion.  His ideals managed to captivate a small group of people who joined in his caravan to the west.  The more he traveled the more people joined.  His influence spread like a cancer across the middle of this country.  But those who believed in what he had to say, refused to remain in the locations in which they heard his word; they would always accompany him and become one of his followers.
He preached God’s disgust for us, and his temptation to cast us into Hell.  He compared our existence in this world to spider’s crawling on God’s hand.  He has a desire to clench his fist and destroy us with one quick motion and damn us to the fires.  It was only in our piteous attempts at purity that he relinquished his thoughts.  To live our lives for God and his will.  To sacrifice meaningless objects of recreation and to surrender our bodies for God so that we may find peace in Heaven.
I cannot find a specific excerpt from his sermons, but it’s most likely for the best.  Sharing his word may leave clues as to his true identity.

With the ever increasing popularity of the infamous theory of evolution, Perses sought to prove his word to be true beyond a reasonable doubt.  Though at first, his intentions were reasonably pure.  To instill hope in mankind of an afterlife and to save the people who would otherwise be condemned to hellfire.  It was soon that his intentions surpassed that and became morbid curiosity.  His primary goal was not to prove the existence of God, but Lucifer.  He had resorted to a form of terrorism that no normal person dare experiment with.  His practices had teetered on satanic at points.  He requested that people bring him livestock to sacrifice.  The people, under his thumb, obliged him without hesitation.  It is rumored that he had sacrificed a man toward the end of his days.  The person he had sacrificed was a lecherous fool of the town, put in prison for harassing a young woman incessantly for a matter of days.  It wasn’t hard for Perses to collect the man for his dark deeds.  In 1898 Perses died under mysterious circumstances shortly after, leaving very little of his research behind.  He was merely found laying on his back in bed, fully clothed, eyes open and glistening.  He was as “stiff as a board” from the testimony of the woman who found him.  He was only 56-years-old.  To die by the hands of nature and no other reason was indeed strange, but not investigated by the town’s officials.
I had a strong feeling in the pit of my stomach that the things happening here had something to do with him.  I am no believer in the supernatural, but the similarities between the acts of Perses and the fiend are too plentiful to be mere coincidence…

Chapter 3
There was a lingering paranoia that I was being watched.  I had first felt it when I entered that horrid place.  The deeper into my investigation that I got, the more I felt foreign eyes gazing at me.  I had first dismissed it as fact, but was only victim of the stares of the town’s scared inhabitants.  I didn’t look like the rest of them – they were stuck 40 years into the past, and I was dressed in a modern-day attire.  Another possibility, I thought, was that I had an automobile – a luxury that the none of the folks in the settlement had; most likely due to their radical immaterialist ways.  But that feeling didn’t dissipate even when I was accompanied by no one.  The nights alone in my motel room were… unnerving to say the least.  At first, I eventually drifted into sleep without much concentration; fatigue would ultimately do away with the disturbing, almost foreboding feeling of foreign gazing.  It wasn’t long before my nerves alone would keep me awake all night.  Toward the end of my stay, I had stayed awake for 31 hours.
I would ride my automobile around the ominous town with the nagging persistence of eyes glaring upon my person…  I even resorted to checking the backseat on occasion.
I knew it was Alibim  doing this to me.  I could feel the evil, xenophobic flare of the inhabitants, and my natural instincts pleaded that I evacuate myself from the town if I wished to continue living.  I had to leave.  I got into the automobile, checked the backseat, and sped south down a deserted road leading toward legitimate civilization.

I went on for a mere five minutes before I noticed the hair on my arm beginning to stand.  Perspiration dripped from my face and onto my lap.  My lungs were closing; it was getting harder to breathe.  The temperature of the vehicle felt as if it was rising dramatically.  The barriers of the automobile began to close in on me, triggering a sort of claustrophobia that I have never experienced before.  My vision began to blur, thus rendering me unable to drive further for fear of crashing.  I pulled the car over to the side of the road and let my hands slide down the steering wheel and onto my lap.  But as I began to let my arms go limp, my hands became stuck to the steering wheel.  Was it really so hot that the material on my steering wheel is melting?  I soon wished that had been the case.
With little force I was able free my hands from the adhesive wheel, but not my palms.  The skin on the palms of my hands had peeled off and remained attached to the wheel.  I flung my hands up in panic and disbelief to observe the most certainly horrid sight.  The entirety of my palm had been removed and was now seemingly dripping off of the wheel.  The skin on the underside of each of my fingers on both hands met the same fate.  The removal of the flesh was surprisingly pain free.  If I had been a blind man, I would surely have not the slightest clue to the mutilation.  I stared in consternation at the exposed bones, muscles and tendons.  My mutilated hands began trembling and soon my whole body followed.  Tears swelled around my eyes and I let out a most blood-curdling scream of unmatched proportions.  My fingers twitched hysterically, thus making visible the organic mechanisms of my hands in horrifying detail.  The yellowness of some substance in the hand had triggered a noxious feeling reminiscent of the intestinal pains from the inebriation made worse by the annoying oscillation of the train that I had ridden to that God-forsaken town.  I vomited on the interior of the vehicle and upon myself.  I desperately reached for the handle of the door, with a fear of the so far nonexistent pain that might ensue upon irritating the flesh that was meant to remain internal.  The fear went unfounded as the feelings that I had dreaded did not present themselves, only more panic.  When I threw my left leg out of the car, it had broken off; causing me to crash to the ground with tremendous force.  I looked over and my disembodied leg was severed just under the knee.  Out of the fresh new opening of the leg a series of pungent fluids oozed out like thick vomit.  My kneecap had escaped from my body at the same time as the leg; merely sliding off the bone as if there was never an attachment.  I quickly glanced at the stub and saw the disgusting process that was being undergone in my body.

I flopped onto my back again and put my hands to my sides, palms up.  I screamed frantically for help to no avail.  I knew it.  I was to die on this highway.  That town had cursed me with some awful plague unheard of by normal and decent men.

I turned my head to the right and vomited up blood, mucous, and somehow pus.  My cheek had become stuck to the pavement, I jerked my head to the left without thinking and tore the right side of my face off.  The cheek was gone, only connected by gelatinous strings of bodily fluid, popping systematically as I distanced myself more and more from the severed flesh.  My skin from my temple and bits of my hair had stuck to the pavement with the same kind of grotesque method of adhesion.  Once I centered my head perfectly, I felt my face slithering off the bone.  My face was soon to be but a skull.  After only 20 seconds or so, my face laid flat on the pavement under my white skull.  My eyes were beginning to feel horribly dry.  I found myself anticipating when they would fall out as well.
I was amazingly in no pain as I was falling apart.  Maybe due to shock or blood-loss.  I wasn’t contemplating it too much as I lay on the pavement, under the scorching sun.
The slimy fluids from my wounds had begun to bubble due to the collection of heat on the road that they pooled on.  I felt anger boiling deep within me that I did not have the strength to release.  I could only think.
What is happening to me?  Am I melting? No.  I am rotting!  Alive, yet rotting at an accelerated pace, due to some damned curse that the villagers must have laid on me for reasons unknown!  I hope you continue to feel the fear and paranoia that’s plaguing your town, you miserable abominations of all of humanity!!  I curse your name!!  I hope your children suffer unimaginable deaths at the amazing hands of the saint that is wiping out this disgrace to the Earth!!  I hope each and every one of you encounter deaths more horrendous and agonizing than the darkest mind of the Earth couldn’t even begin to fathom!!!  I pray that you all burn in Hell with that radical puritan, Perses, and encounter a fate in the underworld more terrible than any of the tortures that have already taken place and have been subjected to the wicked!!
My eyes had shriveled and were of no more use.  They merely receded back into my skull and I couldn’t feel them anymore.
I pushed myself up in one final exertion.  The skin on my torso began to rip and stretch in the front.  I felt like I was being pulled down by something.  It then occurred to my that my organs were trying to escape, and the skin from my torso was keeping them inside. It was acting as a bag of some sort, and the few remaining strands of skin on my chest were the handles.  After a few seconds, the skin gave way, and my innards flopped moistly onto the ground, splashing my internal fluids on the bones in my back.  My rib cage was visible, exposing my still beating heart and whatever organs were left.  I inhaled, and let out one final scream, spewing bits of my insides and some noxious fluids into the sky and back onto my skull.  I collapsed backwards onto my assortment of… myself.  Inhaled, exhaled, inhaled, exhaled.  They were growing closer.  I could feel death wrapping me in his embrace.  I would have smiled, but I couldn’t, for obvious reasons.  I exhaled weakly one last time, then died.

Chapter 4
I awoke and quickly threw myself upward from the floor of my apartment; I was dripping with perspiration.  I had been fully dressed; I must have passed out, I figured.  Going days without sleep would do that to most.
I rose completely and saw the silhouette of my person in the carpeting where it had soaked up the moisture.  The level of relief that it was simply another night terror was unfathomable unless the reader has experienced it for him/herself.  I walked to the dingy bathroom of my motel room and retrieved a towel from the metal bar.  I pressed it against my face and neck to wipe away some of the sweat.  I peered at myself in the mirror after slowly removing the towel.  The side of my face was enflamed and irritated, no doubt from the chaffing and rubbing of my face against the carpeting during my nightmare.
After noticing that, it came to mind that I was drenched with my own perspiration.  I didn’t notice the way I smelled, but I figure it couldn’t have been pleasing or modest in the slightest.  I undressed immediately and sought the shower for some amount of comfort.  The water was cold.  It almost felt good in contrast with the intense heat of the motel room and the infinite torridity from outside.
I stepped out and immediately got dressed in an outfit, while less formal, was much more casual.
I spent the entire morning thinking about the dream.  Not because it felt real, or because it felt supernatural; but because it indicated a sort of chronic perturbation that was no doubt provoked by this town and the events taking place.  The writer in me needed to preserve the memories I had of that dream while they were still intelligible. I jumped to my desk and hurriedly brushed through my writings to find a blank sheet.  I commenced writing immediately.  Remembering every little detail and not letting up until I enumerated every conceivable factor.  Tedious as it was, I knew that it would be useful in concocting a story for later use… In later years, I did write that story.  But I never released it to the public.  The reasons for doing so are simply my own.

.    .    .

Before I knew it, I had realized that my stay in this town had exceeded three weeks.  While the days ached by slowly as they did, it felt as if the days should have been less copious.
In that time, my time had grown to be more occupied deciphering the town’s past than journaling the actions of the fiend and the repercussions it had on the town.  It became less about a story, and more about me and my obsessions.  The town had grabbed hold of me and I seemed to be obliging its commands, while dreading them invariably.
I found that I had avoided the cathedral for the longest time because of its forbidding glow and its malevolent aura.  In the three weeks of my stay, I had noticed that my implicit assumptions of the townspeople being enduring and zealous churchgoers weren’t incorrect.  Sunday mornings, the town was deserted and nobody could be found outside the church walls.
The only sounds would be the muffled voice of the preacher and the occasional chants of the attendants, and that’s if one were to occupy the immediate space of the church walls.
On Monday, my inquisitions of the secrets of the church temporarily overcame my fears.  I ventured in to find an empty room lined with a dozen or so rows of pews.  Cloth draped certain furnishings of the church in scarlet.  The tall and numerous windows allowed beams of sunlight to enter in through the areas where the decorative bars had not hindered the lights venture.  At the front of the church and behind the podium where the pastor had no doubt led his sermons, was a cross; about 12 feet high and the arms reaching at 7 feet across, approximately, of course.
I made my way down the isle, toward the cross.  I wish I could say I was being drawn to it by the same force that was preventing my departure, but that would be a lie.  I don’t know why I felt drawn to the front of the room, but it was within my own will that I proceeded to the cross.  Going around the podium, and gazing upon the top of the cross, I felt overwhelmed with a sort of ethereal presence.  Not of Heaven or Hell, but of the wonders of Earth.  Reminding me of the insignificance that we of the Human race most likely qualify for in the scheme of the universe.  It was an unnerving feeling that I often contemplated even before my visit to Alibim.

I soon forgot about my irrelevant ponderings when my eyes happened upon a statuette of Madonna.  The back of the depicted woman was facing the cross, and her front was facing the immediate wall behind the cross.  The distance between the statuette and its stand towards the wall was small.  So small, it couldn’t be seen at a distance much greater than the one I was maintaining. The statuette was small, about the length of my forearm, it’s width being proportionate to its height.  It’s attention to detail, though not unseen, was impressive.  Charmed by the statue’s beauty, I proceeded to life it to satisfy a juvenile urge to inspect it in full.
She was wearing a hood and robe, disclosing her womanly features, and keeping into view only her face, and locks of hair.  It was a face of innocent beauty, as is the face of virgins.  Large eyes peered down at the baby in her arms with care and maternity.  The sight of the infant had made the statuette smile with kindness.
Not more than a few seconds after lifting the statuette, and peering at it, I noticed a hexagonal divot in the stand in which it had been placed.  The divot matched the bottom of the statuette perfectly.  The stand had been designed for this statuette.  The side closest to the wall had a small, square extension connected to it.  I peered at the front of the statuette and noticed a small extension that would only allow the statue to fit into the divot if the two extensions were to be on the same side. Surrounding the divot, was an engraved circle.  Some sort of architectural or perhaps logistic instinct in me whose origins I can scarcely begin to imagine requested of me to return the statuette to its place.  Upon doing so, the same instinct petitioned me to turn the statuette while locked in its place counterclockwise.  The area in which the statuette accompanied gave way and turned with some ease.  I could hear the grating of stone as I turned the statuette and the specific area of the stand.

It became impossible for me to turn the statuette anymore once Madonna’s face had been turned completely around so that she would have faced the crowd if the cross had not impeded her view.  The sudden stop was followed by a clicking sound to the right of me, right next to the stand.  A doorway hidden in the walls had began to open slowly.  Dust and the like cascaded down as the wall moved inside the accompanying wall to reveal a dark and small passageway.
Once the opening had ceased to reveal itself more, I looked around the room of the church to see if any had also seen what I had just done.  The room was still empty.
I discovered that the passageway went only but a small ten feet.  At the end was a hole in the ground and a ladder going down it.  I looked down the hole and saw a small light at the bottom.
My body ceased to be my own; for if it was, I would have exited the church immediately.  I grabbed the ladder and slowly went down.  I anticipated and feared what I would observe once I reached the bottom.
Once I did, I was in a small room.  Lit only by a few candles on a desk that had some time left before they extinguished.  In the room, the walls were lined with book cases and pictures.  The bookcases contained various books from times past.  Bibles were plentiful.  The pictures were painted with eerie realism.  They depicted small families at the time of the town’s colonization.
From the admittedly unreliable information I had gathered from the paintings, I had learned that the town’s first building was this cathedral.  The houses and the like merely followed in turn.  The colonists slept in this building at night and worked on their homes during the day.  My fascination and fear continued to escalate, as they had been during my entire stay in this town.
In one of the corners of the room hid a doorway.  Next to the doorway was a painting of Pastor Kaspar Perses.  His face had been plagued by sores and carbuncles during the time of the painting.  His hair grew silvery and withered.  His shining blue eyes were now engulfed in blackness.  His eyes no longer had whites.  Blackness is all that remained in his eyes.  Black beads.  His gaze drew a demonic air.  I felt him eyeing me.  Watching me. His very appearance filled me with terror, and the consciousness of the painting had a more severe impact.
I couldn’t allow this painting to exist.  I grabbed it by the borders, refusing to touch the painting itself.  I hovered it over the candles, and after a while, it began to burn.  My actions called upon my conscience to question the repercussions of my actions, whether they be good or bad.

Suddenly a shriek of a thousand banshees entered the room and made me jump back toward the wall adjacent of the doorway that shielded me from whatever produced the sound.  I held my whole body against the wall tightly as tears of sheer horror streamed down my face.  My hand fell on the flames that I had started and it was engulfed.  I was able to put it out before it proceeded up my arm, but I couldn’t save it from the scarring it sustained.
Scratching at the doorway commenced and it caused me to scream with blood-curdling ferocity.  The door swung open violently and it flew off its hinges.
Inside was a horrifying inferno the likes of which I couldn’t even begin to imagine.  Bodies strewn about, bloodied and mangled.  They hung from meat hooks, and lay impaled on stalactites jutting from the ground.  Those still living screamed in pain.  One in particular had the flesh of his face burned off.  Revealing mostly muscle, with some bone.  He looked at me with unguarded eyes and reached toward me with his mutilated hands.  He could go nowhere, for his torso was nailed to the wall.  He reached for my help, which he would never receive.  I was in too much shock from the gory and blazing horror that lay before me.
The stone wall of the room on which the door accompanied was ripped violently, as if by a tornado.  Bricks flew everywhere in the fiery room and smashed into walls and the people that were trapped in the place.  The ceiling followed.  It was then I realized that I was not peering into a mere room, but a world.  A world that we have heard of but most have not actively feared, and some refused to believe.  I was staring into Hell itself.
A man of medium height and stature slowly walked toward me; stopping about 20 feet away.  He was a most handsome man, sporting jet black hair and a goatee.  His masculine appearance was so charming that it had temporarily distracted me from the contents of the world that I was now neighboring.
His mouth slowly opened, revealing a collection of small, pointed teeth that grew as his mouth opened more and more.  His mouth soon opened to an unbelievable size and exposed monstrous fangs that could have torn me to shreds.  His eyes turned pitch black, like the eyes of Perses and grew slowly.  The blackness of his mouth and eyes filled me with the most fear, even as his face slowly grew more and more hideous.  His nose had disappeared somewhere along the line and his hair was now matted and clumped.  He began advancing toward me rapidly.  His legs weren’t moving and his black robe concealed the activity that allowed him to move without use of his legs.  Suddenly, his mouth released a shriek of banshees, like the one I heard earlier.  My adrenaline surged and I was finally able to jump towards the ladder and make my way up.  I had made it back to the cathedral and had turned the statue to its original position, covering up the opening into Hell.  I ran out of the cathedral and to my car.  I started the engine, and blacked out.

.    .    .

I awoke on a train.  My first thought was that it had to be a dream.  My level of relief was extraordinary.  That’s when I felt a burning in my right hand.  I looked down and saw the burn marks from the fire.

Chapter 5
I soon found out that I was on a train back home, away from Alibim.  What had just happened was indeed real, and I would never forget it.
That is why I write this now.  I know now that there is a Hell.  The kidnapped townspeople were dragged there for reasons that I haven’t contemplated.  I do not know if there is a Heaven to rival it, but there is a Hell.  I do not know who is destined for it, and what qualifies you for it.  I do know that Perses had somehow gained access into it, and it ultimately killed him.  He built that room and lived there.  When he opened the doors to Hell, he was overcome with fear and it ultimately led to his death after he managed to escape.  He has opened a doorway to Hell that can never be closed, now, he’s burning in that hell.
I have taken residence, ironically, in a church.  The church does not harbor the secrets of Alibim’s, and remains a holy place.  It is a place that I cannot bring myself to leave.
Whoever is reading this, I warn you.  I know now that there is a Hell.  And I have a feeling that it’s only a matter of time before it engulfs the mortal plane.  I’ll be in my sanctuary when it does.




7 Responses so far.

  1. Avatar of Ann Ann says:

    I just joined this website to comment on your story. It is so good, I honestly can’t believe it. I love reading short stories as a hobby from very well-renown, great authors – but your short story is by far one of the best I have ever read.

    Though it’s length probably turned everyone away. Hence why there’s no comments and barely any ratings, I have to assume they checked the story out and didn’t even read it.

    The number of minutes it took for me to read this just blew by. It starts off simple, then splits off into so many different tangents – the author’s sanity, history of the town, behavior of the town, that whole thing about Perses. It was all wrapped up so tightly at the end without taking the easy way out, yet not giving the reader a feeling of relief. All revelations of the truth are disturbing and apocalyptic. This has all of the elements that a horror story should have. I have questions that aren’t inquiring about holes in the story, and that’s such a good thing. It’s making me think instead of just scaring me off to the next story. I’m sitting here wondering what the themes all were, what all of the events were caused by – the writer’s mind, demonic possession… WHAT!?

    Then I got to thinking. This author is such a coward. He (or maybe she???) is one of the most timid and incompetent protagonists I’ve ever seen. That all is obvious in the narrative and how he’s losing his mind as the story progresses. Then I read “My body ceased to be my own.” And it shed light on everything. Why is he staying in the town? Why is he delving further into the mystery? It’s because of the Umbra! You give it away in the title, yet we all overlooked it. It’s the Unknown Umbra that is forcing him deeper into the mystery despite what he wants. Is the Umbra that of Heaven or Hell? With each new revelation there are more questions which indicates that this story is so much deeper than it lets on and is easily the deepest short story I’ve ever read. Maybe not necessarily the best (it’s close), but definitely the deepest.

    • Avatar of Ann Ann says:

      Oh yeah, you’re sentence structure is so beautiful and poetic. It’s like H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe mixed together with modern day writers. Great job there too.

      P.S. Are there references to other horror classics in this story? If there are, you may want to make them a bit more strong, but I get the feeling there are tons of homages and references here.

    • Wow. That’s a real self-esteem builder. Thank you so much for enjoying it and actually thinking about it. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but too many people think that short stories are all simple and to the point and when they get one that’s complicated and has a bit of depth, they underestimate what it’s really going for. I’m glad to see that not everyone thinks that way.

      Why don’t you try submitting stories of your own on here. You seem like you know what you’re talking about.

  2. Suzi says:

    Wow captivating from the very start, to be honest this is one of few stories here that really scared me as a someone who’s beeno n a constant search for novels/short stories that are actually frightening (I would love some recomendations too, to add to a one previous comment made)

    It was very much the realism that captures good horror and you have this down pat. The way you belnd reality slowly into horror, one minute your driving in your car the next your rotting on the side of a road, one minute your in a church basement, the next your in hell.

    Just wow, bravo. :)

  3. Suzi says:

    Wow captivating from the very start, to be honest this is one of few stories here that really scared me as a someone who’s beeno n a constant search for novels/short stories that are actually frightening (I would love some recomendations too, to add to a one previous comment made)

    It was very much the realism that captures good horror and you have this down pat. The way you belnd reality slowly into horror, one minute your driving in your car the next you’re rotting on the side of a road, one minute you’re in a church basement, the next you’re in hell.

    Just wow, bravo. :)

    • Thank you very much. I see you noticed the dual nature of everything that I tried to incorporate. You know, hell under a church, realism shifting to supernatural on a dime, the author’s ever changing bravery, etc. You’re one of the only people who noticed that theme, so thanks for not only giving it a chance, but actually reading into it and enjoying it.

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