My shaking hand prevents me from writing too fast in case I cannot make myself clear. What I am to be setting down is an account of the findings that I unwittingly uncovered whilst hunting for a few antiques in the West country, and the horror that I have found waiting for me here. At this present moment in time I feel that I am not in any danger but that the abhorrence shall soon be closing on me, and that there is nothing I can do to prevent it's coming. That I am alone is plainly clear. Time is non-existent. The very air of this place is oppressing, heavy like the calm before a tremendous thunderstorm with the promise of events to come.
Days ago, it seems so long, I took some holiday from my employer so that I may have two or three weeks to pursue a favourite hobby of mine, antique hunting. I do not have an extensive knowledge of rare or ancient objects but I do know what I like. Perhaps some of that knowledge would have prepared - or at least warned - me of that which I am to face. Value of antiques is not of any real interest to me. Curiosity holds more value in my book; something with a little bit of strange history to talk about and amaze friends with. Amongst my small but modest collection are various scriptures, sketches by supposed mad princes, articles of clothing and jewellery holding some strange secret, a rather intriguing wood-carving and the mirror. That fucking mirror…
The wooden carving was acquired in Scotland three weeks ago in a small shop situated near Loch Ness, on it's own and rather out of the way. I had been staying with relatives who at the time could not place the shop I described to them.
It was not only a shop but also a tea house, or so said the small neatly painted sign above the front door. Feeling that I had taken in enough of the countryside for one day I decided to stop for some refreshment before returning to my kin. Entering the green wooden door, I thought that I had walked into what appeared to be someone's living room. A small bell above and behind me tinkled gently as the door slowly closed itself. Countless odds and ends, books, miniatures and other knick-knacks were scattered in a haphazard fashion either on shelves or in piles on the floor or tables. Untouched and unused were words that sprang to mind.
As I was glancing over the room a small, balding man, who was in his late eighties by the look of him, walked through a door opposite me. He beamed a smile, not surprised to see me standing there. That smile seemed quite genuine at the time but when I think back it feels that he knew me or knew something about me, or had possibly met me before. Maybe…
"Tea?" he asked.
"Yes, thank you" I replied, smiling back. The old man looked about the room.
"Feel free to have a look around. If anything takes your fancy just let me know when I bring your tea."
"You mean that everything in here is for sale?" I queried.
"Of course. I'm sure you will find something to your liking." He turned and walked back through the door by which he had entered.
I stood for a few seconds before walking over to a large oaken bookshelf, lined with some old paperbacks, new paperbacks, pulp novels and musty old leather bound volumes, some of which having no titles on their covers or bindings. One in particular was rather worn, covered in a deep red leather. It was very heavy for its size and felt warm to the touch.
The front cover announced its title as:
Translated notes of the
Original Latin version
No author was mentioned anywhere on the book. Inside, as I turned the crackling pages, I saw strange sketches drawn inside the margins and round the outer edges. Creatures, produced from an obviously fantastic imagination, swam, flew, ran, lumbered and fell upon other smaller beings, devouring them with a cannibalistic evil and seeming utter disregard. Those creatures were mainly octopoid in appearance, with thin tentacles or feelers twisting from their faces. Fat bloated bodies suspended by huge bat wings.
And the eyes. Dark, evil, brooding eyes that stared out from the page. Deep yellow they were. Hypnotic, all seeing and appallingly devilish. Glancing closer at one of the tentacled heads I could swear that it was reaching out for me…
I was brought around from the trance or miasma when I heard the door open once more and close rather loudly. Spinning round in surprise, I had momentarily forgotten that I was in the shop.
"Intriguing, isn't it?" This was spoken as more of a statement than a question.
"Mmm, yes…yes it is," I replied, unsure now as to what I had seen on that first page.
The old man had set my cup of tea and a plate of assorted biscuits down on a table. I took up my cup whilst the old man spoke. Referring to the book, he said, "Two hundred years old that book is, and it's a translation of words far, far older. But I'm afraid that book is the only item here not for sale. But there are plenty of other curios I think you would be interested in; if you liked the book." Whether I had liked the book or not I could not say, only that it had held me in awe? Wonder? I could not remember.
The shopkeeper took from one of the shelves a small carved figurine, the like of which I had never seen before. Or had I? The detail of the piece was so intricate that it appeared as a sort of still life'. This had most certainly been a painstaking task to carve. Standing ten inches it had a fat bloated body perched like a bird atop a large rock with it's clawed, webbed feet gripping the stone. Short taloned arms hung loosely at its sides, and behind it were folded a pair of great bat wings. The whole thing vaguely resembled a flying frog, or would have if it had not been for the beasts head, for this mirrored the head of the creature I had glimpsed in the Notes of the Necronomicon. After studying it closely for a few moments I fancied that the figure quivered and moved ever so slightly.
"Forty two pounds." The shopkeeper had obviously noted my apparent interest. "It is a fine piece, after all."
"I only have thirty with me." I think I feigned my financial standing at that time, and put on an air of hopelessness.
"Thirty it is then," he replied, "and I'll throw in the tea and biscuits." I gladly handed over the figurine and the money and finished my refreshment whilst the shopkeeper wrapped up my purchase. I noticed that my hands had become wet after holding the carving. Sweat? After several minutes he handed me the neatly bound parcel, and I bid him good day.
"Before you go, sir," he beckoned me back, "I do believe that there is some small amount of paperwork dealing with the history of your figurine. If I could take down your address I shall forward it to you as soon as I have found it." Pleasantly surprised at hearing this I wrote my address down for the old man. When I think back…was that a mistake?
It was a week after this that saw me in Portloe, Cornwall. When away for two or three weeks at a time, my Mother stays at my house in Hastings, giving her the chance to visit some old friends. I had asked her to forward any post for me to The Ship Inn, where I would be spending the better part of a fortnight.
Portloe is a quiet fishing village nestled amid hills, trees and coastal cliffs, tucked away from prying eyes. Traffic is rare and the people are friendly.
My room at The Ship was small, but extremely comfortable, with a double bed covered in the plumpest and softest of blankets and a bedside table tucked to one side with a small brass lamp. An old but equally cosy armchair sat in one corner, slightly lower to the floor than normal, but this added to its comfort. And opposite this a small chest of drawers. The bedroom window looked out over a narrow road that immediately fronted the Inn, and then across to a well kept garden, at the back of which ran a small stream which spilled out into the sea at the harbour. The noise of a stream bubbling and trickling is a splendid thing to wake up to in the morning.
The first couple of days were taken up by exploring the surrounding countryside and seemingly secret cliff walks, known only to those who spared the effort to look for them. Forgetting my camera was a shame, for the scenery around this part of the country is always a pleasure and makes me feel at home, and at ease.
On the third day I decided to visit Falmouth, with a mind to see Fowey, Mevagissey, Truro and a number of other towns and villages at a later date until I found something that took my fancy or until I ran out money. Enquiring of the landlord about transport he told me that a bus called in to the village at around a quarter to nine, and left at approximately nine a.m. This was the only bus to Falmouth so it was essential to catch it on time.
I was up and breakfasted early and waited a little way up from the Ship. The morning sun had not quite warmed up the early air but it certainly promised to be a good day.
My bus journey was a pleasant one, shared with several other passengers who were picked up or dropped off at various stops along the way. We passed along plenty of narrow lanes, all too common in the West country, suitable for one vehicle at a time only to pass. Here was some of the most wonderful countryside that would have graced an artists canvas.
The bus travelled North then Northwest towards Truro before rounding back to Southwest towards Devoran, Penryn then finally to Falmouth.
We eventually arrived, being dropped off in the centre of the town, and were told that the bus would be returning at four o'clock. Our journey to Falmouth had taken around two hours, so that left me plenty of time for browsing the impressive selection of shops.
Turning off of the main road I followed a smaller but equally busy side street. Gentlemen's tailors of the highest standard were there, catering for the business and country gent alike; countless bakers and confectioners; women's salons; fresh fish sold straight from the trawlers; and two antique shops. The first of these dealt solely in furniture and looked like it was a fairly new shop. I entered for a perusal, not noticing the slight mustiness you often get in these places. Spotless inside, and all the furniture was polished to a shine. The owner, quite a young man, mentioned that he had indeed just set up shop here two months ago. After a last glance round I exited and continued past two paper stalls and a bakers until I saw the second of the antique shops.
I assumed that this shop was well established here for its windows were dusty or misty and had certainly not seen a damp cloth for some time. Even the cobwebs looked like they had been resident for years as they seemed to have picked up their own layer of thick dust. So bad was it that it was not very clear what sort of items were proffered within. Giving the outside a brief glance up and down I reached for the door.
That was all I could remember before I found myself inside with the door closed behind me, and a small bell tinkling above it. The opening of and passing through the door was a haze, a dream. Turning and looking back out of the window onto the street proved to be of little use for it seemed that I could see less of the street from inside than I could of the shop from the outside. It was that bad that the passing of people was not at all obvious. Back inside the shop the very air felt heavy. Tiny dust motes gently whirled slowly through the air where my entrance had disturbed them, pinpointed by whatever light managed to penetrate the soupy windows.
A stillness smothered everything within, halting it in time. Strong, deep smells of foreign woods and spices assailed my nostrils, overshadowing an underlying odour. This was perhaps what I associated more with antique shops but not in quite such an oppressive manner.
Turning my head slowly about the shop I was reminded of the one I had visited in Scotland, with the goods in an apparent lack of order and disarray. More piles of books, small boxes, curios, figurines, newspapers and items of jewellery were placed haphazardly. Shelves were few and far between. It actually looked more like a jumble sale or flea market.
Everything had a thin coating of dust. I dragged my finger across a small side table and looked at it. The dust was tinged with a grease or oil. Smelling it made me catch my breath. Rotten. Something certainly smelt so. Cleaning my finger on my handkerchief I continued to look the shop over.
In one corner was an old leather topped desk with a small lamp, shaded with green glass, and in the opposite corner was an old cash register. From a door behind these came a shuffling. Presumably the owner…
…looking back now I remember that all sounds from outside the shop had ceased, not even the lapping of the sea or the engines of the ships was conspicuous…
From the doorway at the rear of the premises stepped a man of slight build with greying hair and of perhaps about sixty years of age. His eyes seemed dark in the gloom of the shop and showed no surprise at seeing my standing there.
The sudden overpowering smell of dead fish wafted across the room but, as good manners dictate, I made no mention of it and tried to show that I not noticed it even though it became fouler by the second. I remember hoping that the shopkeeper had not noticed the look of distaste that must have surely crossed my face.
Walking over he shook my hand. "Good of you to come" he beamed, with a smile like a Cheshire cat. If it was at all possible, the stench grew stronger as he approached. Fighting back the bile, I introduced myself.
"Harding. James Harding. And you are…?" I prompted his name and his smile grew wider.
"Hobbs" he answered. "Did you say James Harding?" He then gave me a queer look. Did he suspect?
"Yes" I replied, a touch curious.
"Well, Mr Harding, do look around. I'll be just through that door there if you have need of my assistance." Mr Hobbs walked over to his leather topped desk and pulled out a small book and a pen. He wrote in it briefly, muttering my name. I began to feel slightly anxious. Hobbs saw the look on my face and spoke. "I merely like to keep a record of who…or rather how many people visit my shop." This did not make me feel any easier. Was he telepathic?
He closed his book and placed it back in the desk drawer before locking it, then exited the room through the door he had indicated. The fishy reek noticeably lessened as he left.
It was a few moments before I began looking the shop over. I was after a picture, something in an occult or macabre fashion to go with my figurine. Most of the framed pictures were of typical country scenes. There were various old newspapers and several card folders containing prints or sketches. And a few large books, which turned out to be albums or portfolios of some artists work. One of these held several small pictures drawn in black ink, signed by one artist, dated between 1670 and 1700. They depicted the burning of what I assumed were witches, until I examined more closely the faces of the executioners. They were not quite right, most being hairless with large eyes and wide mouths, with disproportionately large heads. Not inhuman looking, just scary.
Another picture showed the chasing and then killing of one of the odd looking folk by normal looking people. And another, with a priest standing over one more of these odd people who had been staked to the ground in an effort to restrain them. An exorcism? Maybe. There was no indication of where these scenes took place, if they were supposedly true. They were also strangely titled. There was one called "Du Dower Ros", which pictured a ritualistic ceremony on a small outcropping or island just off of the coast. And another titled "Dagonne O Bos Pol" had hundreds of prostrate worshippers atop a huge semicircular headland of the coast praying or chanting to whatever was beginning to creep up out of the dark sea over the cliff head.
Each of these sketches was incredibly detailed, which was reflected in the price. Eighty pounds per sketch was forty pounds more than I was readily willing to pay. For quite some time I just stood there, trying to make up my mind as to whether or not I could afford just one of them, until I decided to look around the shop again. Another twenty or so minutes passed and still nothing had come to light. It was when I'd felt ready to give up and take one last look at the album when I caught a glimpse of a small round mirror, twelve inches across and slightly convex. The actual mirror itself was unremarkable but the frame struck in me a chord of recognition…
A being, obviously not of this world but born of a frantic imagination, spanned at least half the circumference of the mirror from the top down. The creatures head was at the top of the mirror gazing outward, flaying out tentacle like, but very thin, appendages down each side of the frame as if embracing that which it owns. The face of the beast could not be described with ease except that it was most definitely aquatic, of octopoid origin. Its eyes, small and piggish, radiated an evil such as I had never found before in any piece of art or antiquity. Below this malevolent creature and filling the rest of the frame were bi-pedal beings, but still portraying their aquatic origins with gills and webbed hands or feet, diving in or emerging from the water. Thin lipped with short fat necks and bulging lidless eyes, I stared at them for quite some time. And then I fancied that the glass shimmered.
Jerking suddenly I broke my daydream. Feeling a little foolish I checked the mirror for a price tag. The creatures on the framework were too closely related to those I had seen in Scotland, and to that which I purchased there. Disheartened to find no price tag, the mirror was replaced. Anyway, it was a picture that I was after.
Returning to the photo album, I removed the picture that I required and walked over to the door where Mr Hobbs had said he would be should I need him. He was arranging a bookshelf when I entered, and turned when my toe scraped the floor.
"Ah, Mr Harding. Any luck?" I was becoming distinctly irritated by the way he kept on emphasizing my name whenever he spoke. Have they followed me?
"Yes," I answered, producing the picture.
"Was that all, James?" Or did anything else catch your eye?" Jesus, how fucking familiar did he want become? Was he trying to provoke me? I replied, almost cautiously.
"Well, Mr Hobbs, there was a mirror that rather struck me as being a peculiar piece, but it was not price marked, and it did look expensive. Besides, I was only really looking for a picture." Hobbs beckoned me back through the door onto the shop floor over to where I had placed the mirror.
"Would this be the item?" he questioned. I said it was so, and he proceeded to pick it up and walk over to the old desk. From a drawer he produced some old newspaper and began to wrap it. He continued. "I was not asking much for the mirror by any means, and seeing as you are spending eighty pounds on that picture then I will let you have it for nothing." On reflex I almost began to protest but instead kept quiet, giving Hobbs a perfunctory "thank you, that's most kind". The mirror was wrapped and neatly bound, and the picture was slipped into a cardboard sleeve whilst I counted out eighty pounds.
That was two days ago now, the 24th. I remember very little of the journey back to Portloe, only that I had felt so lucky as to have received a gift that must surely have some worth to someone. I have since, I think, found its worth. Certainly not monetary worth, for the recent occurrences point to it being vaguely alien. An eye for spying. Is Hobbs a spy?