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The Hotwells Horror

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Victorian science left a dangerous legacy...

Horror / Mystery
Age Rating:

The Hotwells Horror


BRISTOL: Police have launched an investigation after a member of the public found two bodies outside of one of the historic properties of the Colonnade.

Officers received the call at 8am on Sunday morning, from a person reporting human remains lying outside the front door, near to the main A4 Hotwell Road.

Subsequently, a further fourteen bodies have been discovered within six other properties at the Colonnade.

The deaths are currently being treated as unexplained, and an investigation has now been launched.

A huge police response was at Hotwells throughout the day on Sunday, with one lane of the A4 closed and the entire Colonnade cordoned off to the public, and officers conducting patrols.

Donald Collins, the force incident manager for Avon and Somerset Police, said: "At this moment in time we don't know how these people died. It is too early in the investigation to make a useful statement, other than to say we do consider foul play to be involved.

"We were called at 8am this morning by a member of the public. I can confirm the bodies of a man and woman who were initially discovered.

“When officers began to canvass the neighbouring properties, further remains were discovered. A total of sixteen bodies have now been found.

"Crime Scene Managers have set up a mobile command centre in Hotwells and have begun their investigation."

Police have refused to confirm the nature of the victims’ injuries, their age, or what they were wearing at the time they died, due to the potentially sensitive investigation.

It is the second “unexplained incident” to take place in Hotwells over the weekend – three young men were taken to hospital on Saturday night after suffering some kind of gas-attack within their home on Christina Terrace which left them screaming and delirious. A fourth man was found dead inside the house, in a condition the police have so far refused to comment on. All three men are in a critical condition.

Christina Terrace is only several hundred metres from the Colonnade.

The Colonnade curves into a cliff beside the Avon. Built as a shopping arcade for spa visitors in 1786, it is all that remains of the old Hotwell complex.

He found the box hidden in a secret compartment within the bathroom of the aged house; beneath the belly of the cast iron rolltop bath. It was a strange place to conceal it but Miloš suspected the large metal receptacle possibly helped to hide the box from those who had intended to find it first.

For him, the discovery was an accident, an intriguing surprise in the midst of a dull task, and the start of a brief mystery. A prelude to the horror.

He would soon come to wish to God he had never found it. Terrible consequences unfurled from that moment of blind curiosity.

The house belonged to his late uncle: Silas Smolák. He was there to clear the man's personal items and ensure the property was in a good condition for viewing and sale. There were no relatives to speak of. For either of them. Anyone who had been kin was now either dead or disowned from family fold.

Somewhat oddly, it had been 18 months since his uncle passed away. Killed by a single, nerve-shredding stroke. Probate had taken forever to complete, delaying the proposed sale, due to complications over the estate. Specifically, when the firm of solicitors Quort, Menahem, Wexler had requested a detailed inventory of the dead man's things. This involved a thorough survey of the house in Sneyd Park, something which bizarrely included the use of expensive structure-penetrating radar, and thermal scannning equipment.

Had they been looking for the box? It was the first thought that came to Miloš’ mind when he discovered it.

His discovery had occurred when he'd gone to clean the bathroom. He'd removed his wedding ring (wife long deceased) so it wouldn't snag on the flimsy rubber gloves he'd found beneath the kitchen sink. Placing the ring on the edge of the rolltop bath it had tumbled onto the floor, rolled and come to rest against the side of a low platform upon which the bath itself stood.

It was when he went to pick up the ring that he noticed it seemed to cling to the wood, not with any stickiness, but with a feeling of magnetic attraction. Which just didn't make any sense at all.

Miloš had knelt there, and played with the effect for a minute or so, holding the ring between his gloved fingers, moving it back and forth feeling the ring caught in some sort of field that exuded from the wooden platform... or from within it?

That was when he'd decided to find some tools to open up the platform and take a look.

Tucked away between two wooden joists was a rectangular box of smoky grey metal, reflective in a dull way, like pewter but not so soft.

Why had his uncle Silas hidden it there? What or who was he hiding it from? Quort, Menahem,Wexler? But who did they represent?

Reaching through the opening he had made, Miloš had lifted out the box, surprised by how heavy it was. He'd actually struggled to get it out.

But now he had it on the floor beside him.

Miloš sat there, with his back against the stud wall, the solid weight of the box resting across his thighs. The midmorning sun was streaming in through the small window above and to his left. The day was mild despite the lateness of year, and he felt comfortable, relaxed and warm.

The box was about the length of his forearm and almost as wide; quite deep, it had hinges concealed amongst elaborate decorative details. Miloš suspected the metal was not ordinary, and the unusual design suggested the box had a special purpose.

He was drawn to it, in a very particular way. It was as if it had some influence over him. A fact he was consciously aware of, but felt inclined to ignore. A palpable aura of risk: of hidden things, of secrets, locked away for good reason. Not to be opened. Not meant to be discovered at all.


Or maybe it was intended to be found when the right person came along?

Was he the right person?

His mind felt off-balance; his thoughts jumbled and confused. He stared down at the box as if a great decision hung over him.


There was no lock, just an ornate hasp mechanism. Making an abrupt decision he swung the lid open.

Inside he found the box contained a stack of paper documents and an object that initially looked like a fist-sized lump of quartz.

He examined the documents first.

Old sheets of paper that had been through a typewriter and some more modern laser-jet computer prints. No hydrogel or softscreen items, no so-called smart paper.

Each document featured an ink-stamped reference to a certain Project Huld. Together they appeared to represent a historical record of construction carried out in the 19th century. Schematics and engineering diagrams showed cross-sections of a large shaft dug at a specific angle of elevation; complex machinery that looked like something from a Jules Verne story supposedly occupied this tunnel-like void.

Then Miloš realised what he was looking at and his roaming paused, his scalp tightened and a deep frown carved through his brow. The documents related to the Clifton Rock's Railway, but suggested the original structure had been created not as a railway but as the home of a magnificent, mysterious machine.

What the hell..?

He knew of Clifton Rocks Railway. It had opened in the 1890s, as far as he knew as a funicular to connect the lofty mansions of Clifton to Hotwells below. But these documents claimed the opening of the actual railway was planned with an intentional delay. A delay to allow the creation and activation of the machine called the qS-Probe.

Flicking through pages at random, Miloš learned the entire project was orchestrated by a group calling themselves the Large Cosmos Fraternity. It seemed this group had existed for centuries and Miloš’ uncle had been a member of it, possibly a senior one. According to the paperwork Silas had been responsible for maintaining the ongoing operation of the machine and the measurements it continued to undertake, even after a century.

But what about the Clifton Rocks Railway? How could such a machine operate and remain hidden whilst the small funicular train line had been running? Miloš sat there and searched for answers in the documents.

Collusion between project members had kept those responsible for building the huge shaft and internal workings entirely in the dark. A fabricated complication over planning had facilitated the required delay. Nobody questioned it. Every person involved in the official construction felt they were merely doing their job, unaware they were facilitating the secret desires of the Large Cosmos Fraternity.

Once finished, the qS-Probe was activated and left to run.

Meanwhile, the public face of the Clifton Rocks Railway trundled into motion.

No details as to what the qS-Probe was measuring but there were clues.

Miloš was aware of a creeping discomfort sitting there hunched over the box, its contents spreading across the bathroom floor.

He pulled everything together and moved downstairs. That was when he examined the curious quartz-like object. Standing by a small desk in his uncle's former study, Miloš held the item between both hands and slowly rotated it under the bright beam of a tall reading light.

It had a highly ordered property, as if perhaps it was made of crystal, and yet the weight of feel of it reminded him of a metal; also, there were angular protrusions, like thick, curving fronds, which were both artistic and yet seemingly functional - certainly they had been crafted, cut with a laser or some kind of energy that left perfect edges, creating an overall symmetry of form. It was pleasing to hold. As if he was wielding great power between his hands. He just didn't know what kind of power yet. Miloš went back to the documents.

Using his PA to run search queries through the Internet, he checked every name mentioned. He discovered that the original members of the Large Cosmos Fraternity consisted of a handful of exceptionally wealthy individuals with a background in Astronomy, Mathematics and Engineering, including electrical engineering - with references to the work of Bell, Bláthy, Edison, Ferraris, Heaviside, Hertz, Jedlik, Lord Kelvin, Parsons, Siemens, Swan, Tesla and Westinghouse. Other, less familiar and more esoteric names were listed, and searching through some of these revealed a shocking association to occult and paranormal studies of the late Victorian period.

It was unsettling, to think of so much money, effort and energy, wrapped in secrecy and dedicated to a machine that nobody had any awareness of. Nobody except the Fraternity.

Knowledge of the qS-Probe was handed down to successive members as generations passed.

None of the documents included details on current membership or their activity.

His uncle Silas seemed to be a missing link in a chain stretching back to the early-nineteenth century.

Why had he broken it?

The answer was there in black and white.

Final page in the stack of papers from the box; a handwritten letter, addressed to "whoever finds this repository of lunacy & methodical stupidity".

It was rambling and chaotic, but the message in it was clear. A warning.

"Man's reckless push against the boundaries of places he should never venture will only lead to a catastrophic breach of the Quantisphere. From those places will come the hordes and minions of the Outer Chaos, creatures with wicked intellect and wild, relentless hunger. They will feast upon the warm blood and soft flesh like travellers gorging on milk and honey of a newly discovered land. And behind them, tumbling from the Void, such mercy I implore at what we have done. We have come close to oblivion. Listen to these words and pray to whatever god of yours may listen. Pray! "

Reading the entire letter placed a chill deep within Miloš’ bones. It was fantastical and yet it appeared his uncle believed these events were entirely true.

The purpose of the machine built by the Large Cosmos Fraternity was to fire an energy beam that could probe the outermost layers of the fabric of the universe. Not the edge of the universe itself but the shape of the dimensions that bound it together. The machine existed out of phase with mundane reality. Its physical structure had been shifted onto a higher-plane, allowing it to coexist for a century and more with the Clifton Rocks Railway. The railway had never run at a profit and closed a few decades after opening - a situation ascribed to the unusual energy (and mood) radiated by the machine's operation.

The motive behind building machine was apparently an academic one. To “map” higher-dimensionsal space.

According to the letter in Miloš’ hand, the project was, and continued to be, a success; providing the Fraternity with a drip-feed of sometimes explosive data. Tantalising hints about the structure and forms beyond the known dimensions. His uncle's role required him to regularly visit the machine's control room, ensure calibrations were in order and retrieve the latest measurements. The fist-sized object from the box was in fact the key that allowed a custodian to step up, out of mundane reality, into the control room which, like the machine itself, existed in a sort of no-place on the edges of our universe.

The machine was still here. Just out of phase with the physical world around it.

This is where the letter took on a strange and disturbing tone.

About three months before his death, his uncle became aware of new phenomenon when he climbed up into that "control room" within the no-place. Initially he put it down to imagination, or some periodic output of the machine, but over successive visits he became aware of an increasing feeling of being observed; as if something was watching him from a great distance, a distance that was shrinking. Then came sounds - a deep, chord-like thrumming, as if an enormous piano string had been struck and the sound was reverberating through limitless gulfs of space to strike the walls. The control room was never detailed in the letter, although Miloš did find references to it in some of the engineering drawings; triangular in shape, with a wedge-like profile in height... wrought iron panels held together with industrial rivets. His uncle described his last visit to the no-place.

"The corners of that black chamber were no longer visible but merely intersecting curves... the longer I stared the less anything I was seeing made any sense. This room is a terrible construct, a mote in the eye of a great beast that must surely blink and dig some awful appendage to pluck and claw this thing away. I cannot return here any longer. I do not believe it is safe. The sounds that vibrate the walls, a pulsing beat of an approaching horror. It is coming. Our beam has touched something... out there, beyond...it has taken an interest and now it is following this damned machine back to the source. It is coming and if we open a way from our world to this no-place then not even Hell will have refuge for our damned souls."

The letter stated how his uncle had tried to warn the Fraternity but nobody wanted to listen. When he locked down the no-place and hid the key, they threatened him.

Miloš stared at the lengthy letter between his fingers, aware that his hands were trembling. His gaze drifted to the object he'd placed on the small table near the lamp.

There was an implication in the dead man's words. That his life had come into danger; that grim-faced forces were lining up against him.

All of this seemed so far fetched that Miloš considered whether it wasn't some sort of elaborate hoax; or if his uncle had simply gone mad.

Yet he had the object, the so-called key. If there was one way to find out for certain if there was even the slightest shred of truth to this nonsense, it was to take the key and go to the place it supposedly opened.

It was late afternoon. The sky was cloudless and pastel blue, the sun skimming low along the autumnal horizon to cast long shadows. Sneyd Park was an oasis of quiet streets, hedgerows, managed trees and small mansions. The air was already growing chilly and smelled of damp leaves. Miloš carried the box and its contents to his car; dumped them in the boot, everything except the key which he kept with him.

He drove across the Downs, then down Blackboy Hill, Whiteladies Road and Queens Road, filtering right to get onto Jacob’s Wells where thousands had been buried in open pits after the Black Death decimated Medieval England. He had always found this area suffered from an odd aura, a slightly oppressive atmosphere that lingered even on warm sunny days. Now he wondered if it was something to do with this machine which wasn't that far distant.

Jacob's Wells took him down onto Hotwells Road, a main thoroughfare that was itself a bottle-neck as it squeezed between the natural basin of the landscape and the urban developments stacked alongside.

It took nearly an hour to find a parking place and it was almost dark. Miloš left the car on Christina Terrace, beneath the imposing terrace of properties that rose up like a claustrophobic wall of brick, old windows and sagging roofs of grey slate. Carrying only the quartz-like lump of the key, he strolled towards the nearby harbour, and followed the edge onto the Portway; street-lights reflecting off the deep water.

The Portway, a thin strip of blacktop crowded with vehicles, was a chaotic continuation of the main thoroughfare, pressed tightly between the edge of the river and the mighty rock cliffs that formed Clifton Gorge. River and gorge meandered several miles towards the cargo port of Avonmouth.

The entrance to Clifton Rocks Railway was only a short walk along this Portway, just past a curving row of Georgian buildings known as the Colonnade. Quaint in architecture and aspect, they suffered terribly from the tens of thousands of vehicles that trundled past each day. A black grime clung to every surface and Miloš could feel his lungs soaking up the stinking fumes.

It was strange to be a pedestrian here, forced to walk a narrow pavement only metres from such heavy traffic, headlights pushing away the gloom but creating a churning flow of shadows.

Moving beyond the Colonnade the pavement became nothing more than a cycle lane, cars and trucks whooshing past within reaching distance to his left, and the near vertical wall of the gorge, brushing against his right shoulder, rising up vertically nearly 100 metres. There was an immense sense of being dwarfed by scale, and insignificant against the volume of vehicles.

And yet...

Miloš felt the weight of the key clenched within his fist, its metallic crystal aspect and irregular yet crafted protrusions digging into the flesh of his palm and fingers. A power existed here. He had no doubt now. There was an acute sense of the physical world around him responding to the key's presence, shifting.

The doorway to Clifton Rocks Railway was ahead of him. Rusting metal bars in a rusting metal frame; apparently locked, Miloš wasn't concerned.

At first it had just been the absence of shadows, a change in the way the headlights and taillights of the traffic affected the wall of gorge around the doorway. Then he saw there was another doorway superimposed upon this one. An outline sketched in vague illumination that Miloš couldn't tell was from a light source or the incandescence of heat. The air around him appeared to buckle and shimmer, as if boiling, but did not affect his breathing or burn his skin. He continued to walk forward, passing through the corroded metal bars as if they did not exist. Or as if perhaps he no longer existed on the same physical plane. He was apparently within the walls of the gorge. Darkness framed by edges of heat and light. A tunnel that ascended in a giant sweeping curve, yet walking forwards felt like descending an angled ramp. There was a smell like burned sugar and engine oil. Sounds crackled in his ears, often distant but sometimes very close within the looming darkness. Against this was a background of mechanical humming, as if a cyclopean generator was at work some astronomical distance away.

He continued to walk, his pace becoming a full stride as fear diminished and confidence grew. Optical distortions created tiny flares of light and vision of the tunnel twisting in a spiralling shape that broke all laws of rationality and logic.

Up ahead, if that term even made sense now, was the notion of a room forming. Outlines oozing through the darkness to knit together into a solid structure. It was as if he was looking down at the schematics of a constructed place from above, seeing it as well as seeing through it. He was striding forward yet descending, coming closer.

But Miloš began to perceive the room wasn't forming correctly. The corners where the edges of black metal walls intersected kept writhing and squirming, bulging and bubbling as if being manipulated into some other shape.

Miloš began to slow his stride as the thought reached him:

It was as if something on the other side was forcing itself up against the metal...trying to break through.

Miloš stopped, suddenly wanting to turn away and run. To flee. Yet a gruesome fascination had a hold of him. He wanted to know more. He wanted to see what this place was and what his uncle had become so fearful of.

It came from within an abrupt protrusion ahead of him, like boil of glistening greyness pushing out from the black nothingness of this no-place. A sinewy, hairless thing with a long anaemic tail and a vague resemblance to a hound, tumbled from that sphere like a slime-covered suckling spilling from the burst womb of a dead mother. The stench washed over him and nearly knocked him flat. Scrambling up onto writhing, insect-like limbs, the monstrous hound snapped the gelatinous mass of its head towards him, as if smelling or sensing him. Contrails of evaporating slime followed in the wake of its movements, like smoke rising from a fire. The thing was semi-solid, made of a dark matter, outlines pulsing with a repulsive ultraviolet colour.

Featureless, the head was just a horrible blunt ovoid of ridges, now flickering with more of the ultraviolet. The head angled to one side, fixed on him, as the rest of the body cautiously circled around; it was lining up to attack.

Miloš staggered backwards, half-falling, and managed to turn and stumble into a run. Gagging and choking out a scream of terror, his arms pumped by his sides as he forced his legs to carry him faster from this nightmare.

It chased him on multiple limbs, large claws held up, whilst spongy, slime-coated paws made almost no sound.

Running full-tilt. Vague glimpse of headlights up ahead. Growing stronger as he neared the exit point. He still had the key clenched within his hand. It was now his only weapon if the thing behind him tried to strike.

Something punched through him. From behind. Like a spear. That then ripped backwards, tearing parts of him with it. The strength vanished from Miloš’ legs and he tumbled to the non-existent floor.

Lying there on his back, propped up on elbows, he gasped for breath with a horrible wheezing, gurgling sound. Clutching the key, he watched helpless as the hound padded towards him; stooped, head lowered and jutting forward...whilst a ghostly tongue or proboscis snaked in and outwards of the featureless face.

That tongue dripped with a sticky red fluid, and Miloš realised with dismay that it was his blood. The hound was tasting it, savouring it.

Miloš glanced behind him, crying out in pain, and saw that the exit point was only a few metres away. He could crawl, he was sure... but what then?

The hound came up to him and then slithered over him where he lay, forcing Miloš to flop down onto his back. The freakish, semi-solid surface of its hide smeared off onto his clothes like a luminous paste, glaring ultraviolet and pulsing black. Miloš cried out, instinctively raised his hands, one wrapped around the key, and tried to push the hound off him.

As soon as his flesh came into contact with the vile body, his skin went ice cold and appeared to melt away, blistering, darkening, separating and then becoming a bluish smoke that drifted from the exposed bones. Miloš made a shrill, high--pitch howl of agony and terror, wanting to disbelieve what his eyes were showing him. But he was literally turning into vapour where he was sprawled. Tiny breathing holes, inverted pustules, quivered open in the flanks of the hound and inhaled the puffs of blue smoke coming from his demise. It was consuming him. Feeding from him.

The key dropped away from what was left of his hand. But he no longer cared.

His legs thrashed. His body tried to turn. But the grotesque stains the thing had left across him were now eating through his clothes.

He died in the vague wash of headlights sweeping along the Portway, as the hound scooped up the key within a monstrous fore-claw and then swung its sensory organs towards the open doorway.


Large Cosmos Fraternity

From: Sampson Nikolajsen

To: all LCF members

Re: Purple Dawn Foundation

I am preparing a summary of conclusions and actions following an investigation into the Hotwells incident. Investigation was completed by Albin Holst, with assistance from the Purple Dawn Foundation - as per discussion between Grand Master and Senior Secretary on the matter of integrity versus security. The Foundation has been forthright in their opinions and has not held back on help, where it has been required. However, they do hold the LCF entirely at fault for the incident in Hotwells and insist that funds are set aside to assist the families that have been affected, and to any that may be affected in the future as the incident is not entirely closed.

You may not be aware that Wassim Umbra, director the Foundation, travelled from Egypt with a member of his staff on loan from the Miskatonic University in America. They visited the site of the qS-Probe and were able to re-render the gateway, in so far as it was necessary without actually opening it. The Foundation has sealed the gateway with enchantments and wards. This way is now closed, and the machine is lost to us. Umbra was hoping to attend a meeting of the Quorum but he has to return to Giza due to a crisis of global magnitude.

Hotwells was lucky. Something much greater in magnitude was breaking through the fabric of the control room. Umbra explained that ahead of it came something related to the Hounds of Tindalos that occupy the angles of time and roam the spaces between the curves of different planes. Whatever came through the gateway did the damage it did before seeking shelter at dawn. It has slipped away into some place within Hotwells but not a part of Hotwells. It is still there, however, and so may reappear at some point. Umbra intends to send one of his team to meet with me and Holst to review a plan to tackle this. It will not be easy. We have caused a fracture in the membrane that binds our world together and protects it. In essence, the LCF must come to an end. We have learned much, about the fragile nature of reality but we pushed too hard, too far into territories we should actually fear to tread!

I will send through the full report in due course.

Xiku Xikoth – Provenance!

Sampson Nikolajsen

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