Madness

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Summary

In this short story, Jessop, a man already frayed in his perceptions of reality falls victim to an evening of unforeseen events, suffering nothing short of madness all the while doing so during a masquerade in his honor. Will he survive the evenings revelations or cave in and lose his mind all together?

Genre:
Horror / Thriller
Author:
J. M.A. Quinn
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
1
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
16+

Untitled chapter

Madness

Illuminated in the baleful light of the wooden moon, my shadow arced across the second patterned floor in deathlike silence. Reaching the old door and twisting its iron tumblers into their locked position, a sigh escaped me into the dark and soundless resting chamber. This slight flirtation with the sound barrier frightened my feline as it scampered off, hidden already from sight to a more obscured site somewhere near my family’s heirloom, an old oak bureau. The shocking level of cemetery silence piqued now as my own heart deceived my ears by beating its utter terrors! Dread resounded throughout my rattled mind, furthermore shoving ice through many miles of meaty veins.

I shook in sheer horror.

I shuddered to step away from the now barred door. Immediately I thought of further barricading it as I crept across the wooden floor toward the heirloom bureau; my weight created a cacophony of unwitting noise sounding the floorboard. Whatever now resided inside my home tonight heard my most unfortunate commotion! Upon my erring, it released such calamity in the downstairs living room, revealing that I knew that it knew I knew it was there.

It moved.

Frozen went my footsteps at the sheer horror of its bearing as it crept through the emptiness of my modest dwelling. It neared the stairs; I had to retain control of my mind and continued with further barricading the door with the old bureau. As I first moved the bureau, the thing downstairs released a defiant roar as if knowing I intended to beset the terrible abominations wretched intention. My feline bolted from obscurity to obscurity yet again as the visitor roared once more, the sound of it akin to the lonely lapping sound of tidal waves. As I heaved, the bureau fell over into an unnatural setting, landing across the foot of the door.

I froze again with fright! It stepped down upon the first step; the stair moaned in a sad twist of impending fracture under the entity’s cumbersome weight. And then another; the other footfall fell.

The rage that pushed through my thawing veins sought out a fear that forever ran alongside it, shadowed in parallel. It found existence in what dark recesses lingered deep inside the subconscious discovery of my mired mind. I fought at keeping both at bay when the monster’s encroachment landed its tertiary footfall. My heart jumped from its thoracic encasement fleeing clear to my throat, binding me from releasing sound rebirthed through the generated resonance of desperation. As I held one back, quickly, another escaped from its bay.

The fourth footfall!

I shook as fear escaped its vermiculated grave. Its skeleton hand coiled around my spine, rising slowly, unleashing pandemonium inside my tormented mind. I awaited its further discourse.

Its pace upon the stairs increased as if realizing my exact position. It moved with hurried diligence while grunting, revealing its hideously ravenous hunger. Did it seek to feed?

I could no longer control my loosed rage as this too escaped me harboring it at bay: fury knows no length in restraint. Upon reaching the second-floor landing, the beast grew quiet; the air inside my resting chamber changed thickly with piqued anticipation.

What in God’s name haunts me? I attempted shortly to ponder this through the thick fog of fear; the room trembled with a disembodied growl. Fear coldly pursued victory over my heart doubling its efforts as my wrath unknowingly fell by the wayside.

I haunt you; it replied, chewing out the words it pushed through its seething jaws.

I spoke none of that aloud!

Now knowing it certainly knows of me, I do not know what to do. Haste! Make haste!

There is no escape, Jessop. You are home; its terrible voice barked, filling my head with hellish imagery hitherto unseen.

Do you think of Hell?

It mocked me as I knelt near the foot of the bed, tucking around the side opposite the barred door. The moonlit glow illuminating the cross floor held a secret containing one philosophy of life.

With death now afoot, I threw a moments glance at my life hitherto: life since I felt akin to carting the cumbersome rood tree to the garden tomb. An observation, to say the least, however, subsequently, should I survive this night – You will not – I shall forever commit to that invariably constant.

The deathly-white lesser light dimmed, passing behind a vast forest encompassing my mired mansion.

Fear fueled my anticipation of the unknown as I rose; it reached the bedroom door.

‘We are here now,’ it grumbled through clenched teeth; come closer to me!′ it demanded, ‘you reek fear-laced, forlorn.’ It knows of me, at least superficially: more than I of it do.

‘You’re correct in your futile assumptions. I do know you! You are blind in your fleshy discernments. Had you the eyes to see, one might distinguish my presence here tonight,’ it violently rattled the doorknob. As if it would be that easy, it ceased, further kicking at the lower part of the door. It carried on: How am I doing playing the role? Scaring you witless: flaring violent to usher your fear to its surfaced horripilation: scaring your cat; are these morbid machinations working?′

It taunted me now, inside my head. – Par for the course!

It mocked me, as well. – Too tempting a snare!

It plans to – please do continue. I am dying to know – murder me. – Scrupulously disappointed!

‘What is it I fail to see, I within the blind?’ Rage accompanied my bounding fear to venture into the question. ’The fact that you think I am here to murder you reveals enough to me about you that we need not converse any further; it’s time. I am coming through the door!

I felt my spirit push against its earthly tomb in an effort fruitless of the flight it sought; I chose for it to remain trapped therein.

Not our best idea!

’Meager attempts of attack are, shall I use your word, – OUR name – blind.′

Suddenly, somewhere inside the dank, rotting recesses of my subconscious mind sparks threw light. Perhaps I do know the monster! I waited for it to respond crudely.

- Nothing; deafening cemetery silence.

‘Are you still there?’ I poised, curiously antagonized.

If you truly knew, then the understanding that I cannot leave would have pardoned that question from passing your damning lips.

Initially, this stemmed from the pure, simple fright of the unknown. Now, leagues hitherto unfathomed, Madness sought sentient autonomy at a cost no longer within my current purview to tolerate; it would be ill of me to distend toward submission.

I can hear its wet suspirations beyond the barred bedroom barrier – Can you feel our hunger? The inevitable lust for the need to feed: to feed on living contrary to life. The meals last longer and are so much sweeter bursting its bleed across our famished tongues!

Wretched monster! Of what horrors do you speak! Focused fury shifted inside me to dispassionateness that I greedily embraced within my beating blood-filled bosom.

What horrors WE speak!

We speak; whatever you say, it is a pure simulacrum, contrary in every way save the form.

Lies! You spread lies, wretched beast! Incoherent fabrications meant to strip me of my inviolacy. I give no quarter to you or your feeble infernal fables!

You will provide more than that, I promise you. We are only moments from us and your diligence to refute it wanes with the passing bone-white glow of that nightly luminary weeping through the window beyond.

Immediately following its sound emission, it relentlessly rapped at the barred door with thunderous might. The force which shortly pushed the top of the barrier out of its jamb threw light from the hallway into my darkened chambered in terrifying simultaneous flashes. Pounding out its aggression, the upper left-hand section of the door broke and flew quickly across the room, shattering one of two minutely filigreed windows opposite in wept moonlight so thick and warm as I crept through the descending beam.

“Of course, it’s warm! Are you alright, Jessop?”

What fell out from Hell this evening, climbed from its abode into my living quarters as if invoked by invitation, by ritual or worse, revenge.

Suddenly, as if luck had passed on by hearing the shattering glass windowpane, someone outside now rapped gently on the front door. Who could it be? And at this hour? Who would dare venture through the forest ignorant of its well-known lore? Myths shall not trifle away!

Peering over at the door where it recently broke off and flew, I could see nobody out there. Not by the flesh, nor by shade as the lantern-lit hallway threw abundant light. I strained hard to listen and see if I could hear or feel the corrupted creature that beckoned me so only moments ago.

And again, nothing.

What if - God, no - What if the creature sought out the late-night transient seeking refuge in my abode this dire eve?

“Woe to thee that cannot be and leave well-enough alone!”

Those words escaped my lips; eagerly, they shared as I have withheld much thus far.

Creeping over to the broken glass window and casting down a quick perception, living room light thrown from the front door fell long into the grass out in front of it; lightly, I could discern voices; two displaying amity yet one in, out, and in with the other? And what of this creature that invites my fright? The same one Hell loosed upon my humble dwelling this night.

How does it not kill the transient that happened by, instead, change places with it to the outside?

Why will not this creature simply leave me be; it taunts me and tempts me to kill or flee cowardly.

“I must get out of here.”

Moving without care to the chamber door, I knelt to clean the mess of the bureau I made earlier. However, it paid off keeping that beast at bay! Standing it back to its purposeful state, I reloaded the old bureau with the newly unfolded laundry and slid it back to its original static location.

With the passing of the wooden moon’s light, the light dimmed my sleeping quarters back to the mesmerizing aura of candlelit light. Nothing seemed to stir except the cruel fear gripping my pounding heart. So, I moved closer to the barrier, barring entry to the hallway.

Leaning towards the door, I turned my ear to listen; extrapolate whatever I could ascertain before heading out into danger. The entry is cold to the touch, and its old white paint severely cracked mainly around the doorknob; all things in time wear their age. As far as ascertaining any movement out in the hall, I heard nothing. Freeing the tumblers from their wrenched-on locked position, they slowly sank, and the battered door creakily crept open.

Flickering illumination filled the wallpapered hallway clear to the downward stairwell. Thoughts of taking immediate flight and rush forward without stopping ’til I reach the front door had my heart fleeing its thoracic cage, becoming a still lump in my throat.

“This is driving me mad.”

Moving slowly down the lengthy hallway, passing another resting chamber on the left, I could not help but think that those words I just spoke might be the death of me.

“Is there somebody out there?” A female voice sounded out coming from my restroom! I do not know if I should respond or just – “Hello!” My steps ceased from making progress. “Is somebody playing a trick on me?”

My mind seems to be ripping itself further in two! On the one hand, how dare act as if this trick roasts her when I am the one walking through this Hell! On the other hand, I would be quite mad to consider what is haunting her is me? This abode is my abode, and I will be damned if I will hide any longer!

Pulling myself free from sidling down the hall and up to the lavatory? I stood outside its door now with growing ferocity at the events that hitherto have unfolded. I will no longer keep restrained the monster made in me!

Grabbing the glass doorknob with a death grip that stretched the skin covering my knuckles a bone white, I felt the cold old glass crack within my grasp. Turning the knob with the intent of a killer, I finally claimed my post in life’s little masquerade tonight!

“Wait, please! I am not fully dressed!” cried out the female with a sincere tone. Much to my chagrin, however, I no longer felt any sentiment for the heathen’s behavior taking place in my modest dwelling. It was damn near the time that I caught it unawares and – “What are you doing?” cried out as I released the knob, and the lavatory door swung quietly open.

Good Lord, what have I done!”

Standing in there with a demeanor that shouted violation, rage and retaliation stood a ghastly wretch in a bloated blue carcass that, at its bottom, spread out in a curtainlike manner. As I moved my eyes to contact hers, her face remained hidden behind the façade of a brown furry sun.

“Get out!” her furry face cried, her arms flailing like vicious tentacles crashing into the décor of my once exquisite bathroom; the vanity, its mirror, etc. all smashed. In her fit of rage, she dropped to all fours writhing as if undergoing abnormal growth.

I kept my courage up and stepped inside the threshold, separating the hallway from the bathroom. Upon doing this, the lady in the restroom her head whipped upward, staring directly back at me! For a moment, I thought that I might know the lady becoming the beast.

Her head dreadfully twisted and jerked much to the hideous din of bones popping or breaking. As her fit peaked, and I stood in awe at this hellish distraction, her gaze met mine once more. Her sky-blue eyes grew with anticipation as she released a godawful scream; her body grew as did the hair on her face! It spread out its four cardinal points; peaks of stretched fur that further accentuated the furry sun’s shine unfurled like chaos and wrapped itself back around her striated, bulbous mass.

Keeping what little courage this has yet to strip from me, I backed up, again crossing the threshold back into the hallway. Without a second’s expiration, the bathroom barrier slammed brutally shut, crushing the door it struck stuck well within its jamb. The wood splintered under the force as a bit flecked off and at me. Moving quickly, I leaped back to the wall opposite and crept off towards the descending stairwell. The last I left her, she roared still.

I am approaching the stairwell that bent slightly towards the east, making the full sight of the landing at the bottom impossible without descent. God, not a thing stands in my favor tonight!

Crashing filled the dark dimensions behind me as I reached the double doors leading downstairs; last I was here, I left one open. Lending an ear to the now shut doors, I strained to hear the one that entered the beast’s stead. I could at first hear nothing; however, this evening proved that that meant almost nothing. Opening the one door, moving into the stairwell, I shut the door behind me and began my descent.

An hour burned since the terror of the evening started to unfold.

I was yawning while attentive to the noise I would make, with bated breath pushing step after step. Slowly sounds began filling my ears. Sounds resembling a great crying inside the tumult of another rhythmic beating. This beating, quite akin to the house, has its own heart.

Reaching the doors at the bottom of the stairs, I crack it just open enough to see what unfolded in my living quarters this night. The light fell in the slit and watered my peering eye, but I refrained from blinking. With blurred vision, I gleaned what I might. The floor in my living quarters roared with life, and those trampling on could not have been more dead ornamented in their cute and crooked costumes.

What appeared to me on sight as dread and dolorous behavior could easily misconstrue as amity and happiness. Without the presence of tears to accompany their otherwise apparent miseries, it made it far more difficult to ascertain the herds hived demeanor. So, I stayed post and kept watch a few moments longer.

And what sights did I see!

As above crashing came falling, so below, did it in the simulacrum. What have I done to unleash such pandemonium in my dwelling tonight? What cursed events have the Fates’ beset against me?

The dead, they danced in my house this eve and frolicked, drinking what looked like blood. With their faces turned upside down, they somnambulated in ignorance, intoxicated, all as Hell gained ground. While swaying to the tumult that shook both floors, a knock again rapped at the living room door. It ceased the herd in their dance, as if this time by luck, that what just occurred should not have taken place. That rapping fell inside once more. Singling out one of their own, they isolated the fellow by forcing him from the group.

Again, it rapped with a bit more intent.

The well-dressed fellow, clad in purple passed me by unnoticed and went for the door with great hesitation. Reaching for the doorknob, the herd gasped and fled deeper into my abode, exhaling in a strained hush. He twisted the knob and opened the heavy door, distantly shuffling and whispering crept out from the dark heart of my place.

“No. Not yet,” the moon headed man responded cautiously, his purple attire shined inside the door light. “You are certainly welcome to wait, should you choose.”

How is it that the uninvited dead invite more dead to any other place than another grave?

The door opened more expansive, and the moon-headed man clad in royal purple stepped aside. Before it crossed the threshold and entered my house, I quickly shut one stairwell door and opened the other for another view: a better idea of the stranger.

The herd shuffled back into my living quarters, keeping in a tightly-knit group. Every awkward mask gawked at the opened front door as if their faces, frozen with terror at first seeing who has now returned, struggled to emote once more without realizing their real paradox.

Dead is dead. Yet tonight, without cause or effect, they gathered here in celebration of God knows what. A motley band in merriment or sorrow reckoning a holiday, and night, in the land of the living! If I did not know any better, I would say I brought this on myself!

“You did, Jessop. We did!”

I immediately took flight and returned upstairs, where I have always felt most safe. However, this night I feel the least secure as hells I have never come to know came to know me tonight. They howled, danced, imbibed, extend libations, fornicated spiritually (witnessed), all relentlessly and without a moment’s respite.

“You still do not understand, do you, Jessop? You still do not get it?”

“Still do not get what?” I responded like a fool. Now I am talking to myself, I think.

“What brought us here.”

“Hell?” I responded mockingly.

“Oh, that again?”

“Have you seen their faces?” I retorted puzzlingly.

“And you would have it no other way!”

“I rather would,” I again responded, acting a fool!

“We await you.”

It walked off this time; I will not fall far for this ploy to lure me out. I will act the fool, no more!

Sounding out behind me in a concert of noise among an inhuman level, the lady, last I saw she transformed into a raving wildebeest bulging at its seams; she had trashed the lavatory to its utter destruction. Jamming shut the door into its jamb, I last left it, her, to whatever she succumbed. By the sounds of it, she endured in the least more pain and ire.

Atop the upstairs landing, it watched back toward the lavatory for any sign of her -its – escape. At least she is not whispering guilt and lies inside my tormented head.

“She has done this to you more than I could even withstand.”

“As I have just stated, lies ergo guilt. What would you know of the lady, or it, anyway?”

“I know everything that is happening tonight. From the terrifying start to its ultimate finale.”

Its words were provocative; they moved me to rage in a moment mocking with its know-how to tantalize, to criticize me as if it were friend or worse, family.

Her pain and her ire must have subsided; her cries had fallen silent as did the thrashing of my lavatory. I hesitated to move back in that direction, but not for long. I must return to my resting chamber to find and draw out my feline friend, Irenaeus! No longer more thoughts, just move!

Reaching my sleeping chamber, it held a residue from the earlier events that made it feel haunted; the air was electric with memory as a chill crept up my spine.

Without thinking, much beyond movement anyway, I left open the resting room door open, and my friendly feline fled the safety of its darkened dwellings. For whatever its cause, it ran directly for the resting chambers coupled with the thrashed lavatory and, without my realizing the door was ajar, Irenaeus tucked her ears back and squeezed her face into the jamb. The barrier blocking this guest bedroom opened gently, and Irenaeus vanished in the inside darkness.

“You should enter in and seek her out.”

Hello, Madness.

“You should enter in to seek what her curiosity sought, Jessop.”

I crept back out into the hall. The wall-lit sconces flickered the low firelight as shadows capered on the long walls in the light’s absence.

“Jessop.”

Madness?

“Enter. Now.”

As I now stood outside the otherwise empty room, I reached out my arm and index finger nudging the door to swing open. “Irenaeus?” I called. “Here, here, little lady,” I suggested to her in the darkness blanketing the room.

Half a step forward, I peered into the darkness as a meow sounded out from what appeared to be the other side of the room. Feeling on my person for a pack of matches, I managed to carry a box with three matchsticks remaining.

“Your twilit routine; light the upstairs first before the downstairs. As downstairs holds your only safe exit, should reality fail you.”

It is not the reality that fails us; it is our minds.

“That difference being what, Jessop?”

“The room, Jessop. Someone awaits you.”

Striking lit the first of the three matches, I entered the guest room and lit the lantern on the shelf above the dresser. The thrown light doubled as cries sounded from the looming three-D space behind me. Before I turned to witness this oddity, Irenaeus started purring. Grabbing hold of the lantern, I turned to my left, and the light arced round.

Sitting there in a red dress several decades old, sat what appeared to be a ghost; she wept into her hands, hiding her face from sight. Her image seemed not only familiar but also felt familiar, a lost friend, or a family member? Maybe it is merely a residual playback, a haunting ignorant of all things save its linear recurrences time and again.

Her cries began to form words. These utterances of her pushed my taxed mental faculties to wit’s end; “Help me … oh, God, no. Please, somebody, help me.” It went like that only a few moments when to my surprise Irenaeus leaped up onto the bed and walked over to the apparition before me and meowed at her. Even more surprising to me than that was that this apparition responded to Irenaeus! Almost as if the two knew each other, as if they were familiars.’

Turning to respond to my cat, she spun to her left, unfortunately, the only direction facing away from me. Still, she wept as the air of familiarity sank deeper and deeper; from my mind, it fell clear to my heart. Is this illusion – was this? – my beloved wife!

“It was – is! – Jessop.”

This time was the first time that Madness did not feel to be threatening.

“I should not.”

I looked away from her to offer more attention to the ruse in play.

“Ruse, you say?”

If she is my bride, then she is not dead; prevaricator! Your lies are as much afoot as your hideous physical form! Leave me, my thoughts, my house, and my memories are! You’ve no right to exploit any of these!

“What if I told you that you asked for it?”

My blood ran cold at the torturous voice, correlating an inkling I already began developing. Or is it that it is playing off what it already knew I knew? This effort to remain both aware and cognitive as the world goes sour is one more effort than I care to participate furthermore.

“Can you hear that, Jessop?”

I knew that I could. “You know that I can!”

“You asked for this,” it reminded me, twisting my thoughts into purgatory.

I moved back towards the dresser by the door. I entered and remained fixed, looking at its transparent reflection interacting with my cat. The ghost treated it kindly and, in a way, that Irenaeus reciprocated lovingly.

“Irenaeus,” I called out. “Come here, my dear. Irenaeus?”

She spun and turned back again as if brushing her scent against the ethereal entity sitting upon the guest bed.

She stopped petting Irenaeus, keeping her back facing my low-lit level of the illuminated area; the darkness inside the room swelled two-fold. Irenaeus slowly stopped purring and walked towards the foot of the bed and hopped down. I watched her exit the room and turn to the right, back towards my resting chamber; I could not help but think that that is not a bad idea. However, and as usual, I did not follow my gut and held fast my post.

Looking back at her, she now faced me still sitting upon the bed. She was mostly now a silhouette outlined in a penumbral view, her shoulders slightly heaving as if breathing deeper. This view is unsettling. I crept lightly towards the door while she watched on. Reaching the door, it slammed shut directly in front of me, sealing me in with her.

The lantern light flickered as a latent instinct kicked in somewhere inside me and sent my heart off racing once more. If my mind does not end first, I swear that my life will before this Godforsaken night ends!

Rolling a tapping of her finger atop the gray comforter covering my guest bed, she applied what little weight is contrary to the pushing off the couch to resume her upright posture. There wafted an air of jasmine as she stood and moved towards me; I could not be sure enough to scream or flee, so I froze in place.

A second’s breadth away from me and she stopped dead – again – in her tracks at the terrible sound of what could be presumably the hideous beast residing in the lavatory. The structural wood inside the wall separating these two rooms swelled its convexity toward us: its whine, a cacophonous whaling horror!

As the strained wood flexed to cracking, the wall blasted inward, heaving all things in its wake to the left side of the room. The beast broke two windows in its calamitous movements, as a cold night air swept in, spreading the dusty maelstrom further around.

With muted light fighting in from the lavatory, it flickered in and out as the fur-covered beast slid itself inside the hole, it birthed in curiosity. Much to my chagrin, the noise it made moving in here remains indescribable.

Struck with horror, more horror than the previous fear only moments old, it turned its gaze toward her. It focused its – her – attention on my wife. Good God, I know not which way to turn for fear of my body further denying any movement, but I must try to help her!

“It hears you, Jessop.”

“What does it want,” I pleaded, as this night had already formed an eve dawning over my extended cognition; I could no longer think straight to save my life! I ask you again, Tormentor! What does she want!”

“Watch now, Jessop. All of this is for you.”

Horror tonight stood out in front of me as I watched it redefine its context through the age’s old interpretation of the consummation of flesh. Imbibing what looked to be blood with a distinct possibility that in the awkward slip of me in err, there is always the chance it could be spirits.

Creeping closer and closer to the apparition of my wife, who was standing there watching it near her position, awaited it like a loving mother; in a flash of the lavatory lights weeping through the dust, I witnessed her shed a tear.

Both larger and taller than the apparition of my bride, the sun-shaped head of this monstrosity stretched and contorted, writhing with rage. It slowed its vile contortions and brought its hellish face bearing down on her with a fire burning in its eyes; contrasting its angry white eyes, the fur around each orb glowed black. The wretched abomination reached out for her slowly, as if contemplating moment by moment, its actions.

Its gripped hold of her!

“Keep your wits about you, Jessop. Pay your attention to the beast!”

It hoisted her into the air in front of it, it postured, bringing her face to its face. Grotesque in all its fur and fury, the sun-faced demon tilted my bride headfirst and opened its flaring jaws in an act that no other should ever bear witness. It opened its mandible to the degree that it must have dislocated to expand enough to force in the apparition in a silence I never witnessed before. And then it began chewing.

Amid the brown furry beast eating inside my guest bedroom, I watched in sheer hysteria as the furry-faced sun tossed its jaw side. Masticating the apparition that once was my bride, Evelyn, each time its godlike mouth opened while consuming, it threw light filling the darkened room in blinding flashes.

In between the flashes, its fiery eyes burned back into whatever remaining darkness filled the room. Its gaze now found me by the entry, my hand upon the inside doorknob. Its rotund girth as it moved heaved the bed quickly out of its path; the sound it made in its movements scraped the wooden floor to splintering planks and the room filled with the smell of decaying flesh. It bore down on my position as I turned the knob and, half-turning, opened the door and escaped the room shutting the door behind me. I quickly moved to the wall across the hall, looking both up and down it for any more surprises to no avail. However, before I could catch my breath, the guest room door swelled its convexity outward and before I knew it -

“It hears you, Jessop. Remember this.”

“Torturer! Leave me to my thoughts!”

“If she escapes, consuming you as well, this will all be over before you know it. Heed my words, Jessop!”

The door buckled in length; splintering bits flew fast all around me; some of them leaving lesions upon my hands and, closing my eyes, I felt them form upon my face. Opening my eyes once more, I witnessed the door fall in pieces, some of the debris slid down and around the decaying body of the thing leaving the guestroom.

“We are here, Jessop. We are coming up.”

The end is nigh. To new beginnings comes the end of old ones, and I have yet to fall blindly into Madness. Even the aid of those who came, those who left – both mortal coil and purgatory – to higher realms or lower dimensions soars to stoops all spirit.

The evil beset in those descended to ascend and the good who have ascended to have that ascension end met tonight on the median.

“The middle, you say?”

“I do,” I replied vocally.

Torn between reality, illusion, and mired guilt stemming from the byproduct of fear, I do say, you demon.

“Oh, that again; Hell, and its eternal resident seeking companionship in the frailty of the flesh? Come on, Jessop. I am no demon! You know I am greater than that!”

Somewhere downstairs, my late grandfather’s clock chimed the small hour; one a.m. in the morning? Only the beginning of what remained the longest night and even something as trivial as the chime of the clock leaves its stark reminder of isolation.

“You’re never alone, Jessop.”

The sun-faced furry demon pushed and pulled itself through the doorway, cracking the casing on its sides. It tightened shut its eyes and roared as it ripped itself free crossing the threshold; the sound it released shook the house to its foundation, distorted any kind of thought process causing my hesitation to flee to cease.

I ran.

“You took flight.”

My resting chamber: the air still held its awkward energy from the event earlier. When this whole damned fiasco unleashed its pandemonium, I must humbly admit my mindset was that of the unconscious; and that stemming from an accomplished pigeon-eyed demeanor. Only moments after I woke up to Irenaeus jumping up on the bed, the voice began it relentless, and rhetoric rantings ushered my cognition into overdrive. I now fear that the last thing I will find here is any further respite.

“We’ve reached the second floor, Jessop. Come out into the hallway as all shall now reveal ourselves to you.”

Temptation; a wonderfully mad enticement! What a party we could have on that single facet alone! What a glorious feast!

Come out into the hallway, Jessop. We await you. Your bride awaits you.”

“Prevaricating! She too must have been a sweetened feast for that sun-headed beast you have brought with you tonight! Prevaricator!

“Evasive? Yes. Cryptic? Cryptic serves more the point. Shall we not forget what brought us here, Jessop. These displays all have ensued for you.”

I could hear the floor out in hallway cry under their weight. The meandering, motley dead still are not too far from the stair top landing.

Are you all threatened by the sun-faced demon you let loose in my house tonight? Why the slow walk to capture me?

A gust of wind pushed in through the broken window and extinguished the flames in the wall sconces leaving only one lantern lit in the chamber.

“As I have already mentioned before, meet us out in the corridor, Jessop. Seeing will make it easier for you to discern true reality from this, our, derided illusion. Come and get acquainted with us.”

Sidled right next to the door, I heard their footsteps cease from their approach. Struggling for any last vestige of courage I may have left inside, I instead moved as if possessed by an iota of the ill that currently haunts my house.

We, as in those dead that danced in my living quarters hellbent on sinful despair, blasphemous oblation through abominable libation? They feared your second coming the moment of you rapping it on the front door. What of that, greater-than-demon?

“Jessop, we have all a role to play tonight. Is not life ornamented and placed upon its stage accordingly? Is not being, according to whichever manual we so choose, a record of events written in the flesh? Experienced in it, as well as indulged? Are not these mechanisms to be exploited to enhance our pursuits of truth? I ask you, Jessop, are you interested in the pursuit of truth, in knowing the totality of your Madness called for not only by your voice by sealed in writing by your hand. What of those realities you endured of which your drunken mind cannot recall; are those truths or fabrications, Jessop?

If it is true, what you say then, about roles, then I would be curious to know if this is not just all some act. Some sort of sick ruse? Subterfuge by almost any means to what end?

There came back to me no response to my inquiry. The upstairs now held a silence beyond the pale.

I opened the resting chamber door and peeked my head out into the hallway. Standing midway up the corridor, blocking all passage by to the stairwell downstairs, stood the hellish herd that haunted me, hunted me. For lack of more light, many of them were all bent in odd-shaped silhouettes and remained mostly quiet; the only one quite evident enough to point out was the hideous sun-headed beast. Grabbing the last lantern inside my resting chamber, I move out into the corridor, closing shut its door behind me. God, help me!

Out of the looming darkness ahead came a costumed man about six-foot-six, dressed in a black tuxedo trimmed and lined in what looked like bright bloodred. The mask he wore, wicked in its design, bore the face of a devil; the static smile carved into it portrayed a cunning satisfaction as if still reeling from the ecstasy that preceding its downfall from grace. Walking confidently right up into the lantern light, he spoke an all too familiar voice crushing the silence. “Nice to finally meet you in your flesh, Jessop.” The mask was no mask; it moved with his vociferations.

What lies in wait henceforth? Is this the hour of my death, the end of it all?

“As I mentioned earlier,” the devil spoke smooth and sure, “I was not and am not here to kill you tonight.” I no longer believed in much after the amount of torment thrust upon me this evening. I would play the fool once more if I submitted myself to it any longer.

“Do your worst.”

The sun-headed beast’s eyes shined like two furious torches in the drab hallway lighting. White raging flames witnessing my every move, the creature squinted rage at my statement and, quicker than earlier seen, approached my position with ravenous stead. It did not halt its approach until the devil commanded it with a gesture from his risen right hand.

“You know, as do I, that she is to feast upon your corpse tonight, here in these small hours. Your consummation of love in life has her having already eaten much of yours hitherto. You do see this, right?”

I could hear the sun-headed beast’s entrails growl in anticipation of its killing and consuming me. It was a hideous moment to behold; the thought of it doing to me what it did to my Evelyn, so I stepped back slowly away from the devil and moved back closer to my resting chamber. This retreat displeased him greatly.

“Jessop. I will not let his play out any longer. Run to the room and find your hiding place. This charade ends now!”

I ran to my resting room door, threw it open, and, once inside, slammed shut the door splitting more of what remained. I again slung over the family bureau, blocking the lower section of the door. I sought out a place to hide and heard them moving towards the bedroom door. Once they reached what remained of the barrier blocking their entrance, I hid between a hutch buffet and a winged-back chair awaiting whatever may come.

It was not long before the sun-headed beast in all its might destroyed the remnants of the door and yanked its gargantuan girth into my resting chamber. Following closely behind shambled in the rest of the dead that filled my house tonight. Tightening up into a secure position, drawing as close to the wall as possible, I sat gripping my legs with all the strength that I had remaining. The beast thrashed at my bed, flipping it up and out of the way, taking its place in its stead as the devil once more approached. He moved slow and confident as if the surety of the end now finally fit into place.

Reaching the area in which I hid, he knelt, employing some unseen force to move whatever furniture blocked me from his path. Peering at me with the dead eyes of a serpent in disguise, he rubbed at the goatee on his chin and began laughing.

“You know how this ends. No more surprises are waiting for you, Jessop. Now you only have to agree to give up that which you claimed to have already given away once, and we all know you lied!”

Give up what, my soul? How cliché! The age-old tale of the devil seeking to devour men’s souls until the oncoming days of Judgment. Should there be any truth to this theology, then tell me why I should agree to coercion with the devil when my indestructible soul is apparently up for grabs?

He tightened the slits in his eyes and clenched his teeth. He was setting one knee on the floor directly in front of me as well as his left hand and leaned forward, coming fully into view.

“I’ll ask you again to agree to give up your ghost to me, and I guarantee you the fastest trip off this cold hard stone with as little pain possible. Waste time and squander my offer as it stands, and you’ll never know death. Neither you nor your bride.”

The rest of the dead moved toward us, now filling in all the space behind him. He sat quietly, awaiting my response as the silence grew deafening; the only thing crossing my mind was Evelyn.

“She’s dead. Evelyn is dead.”

“Maybe she is dead. She certainly does not have to stay that way.” His offer slowly found its way into my consideration. Somehow, unseen to me in all my observations, I did not notice the moment his charisma turned me against myself. Perhaps it was my love for Evelyn that roused it awake; I might never know.

“I can give you what you want, an end to this malarkey, an end to all of this uproar as you called it, and all you have to do is agree to give up your ghost, freeing it to me. Your answer now!”

After considering the events that have transpired thus far and the incredible loss, I suffered at the death of Evelyn, and I finally decided that his offer is about as good as life gets from here on out.

“Free yourself from the weight of wearing that sinful skin, Jessop, and donning masks to hide your true self. The collective herd needs told when to think and how to do so, and so we whisper them into proclivities of a debasing nature; we nudge you all into destroying your lives only to hide from ever submitting to truth and rebuilding the loss. Humans no longer care about salvation and welcome the masks! Remove yours and free your burdens!”

The room grew smaller now as they crammed closer and closer for my final moment on this mortal coil. Mere moments as soon as the devil crept closer now, practically upon my lap, that he looked at length into my eyes.

“Are you ready, Jessop? Are you prepared to see what awaits you in revelation?”

The devil, without so much the bat of an eye cautiously reached up towards my face, his bloodred claws twitching with phantasmal excitement. Some of the oddities grouped behind him had their hands up covering their twisted mouths otherwise excited by what would follow the devil’s reveal. The anticipation grew as even I wondered what might follow.

Grabbing hold of my throat, I shut my eyes, and his grip slowly tightened to almost cutting off air to my trachea. Furthermore, he tugged and pulled at something around my shoulders, my neck, and my head. My heart rate increased, and my palms began sweating as the jerking increased. Mere moments passing by, I took in a deep breath and finally ceased breathing.

By the time I came back to consciousness, I had placed upon my bed. Surrounding me, dressed clad in full attire for a clandestine masquerade! Looking around at all the curious and caring faces, my friend, Nickolas, dressed in a tuxedo trimmed an lined in bright bloodred walked into the resting chamber and directly over to me. Ushering terror into my veins, he wore a mask that was an exact duplication of the face of that devil. Realizing his mask’s effectiveness, he quickly threw it off and assured me all is well.

After filling everyone in on my interpretation of the events that transpired here in my house this evening, they could not believe their ears! What I told them had occurred was as vivid as life itself. No matter the assurances, the proofs, and the like, I will always be under the suspicion that nothing short of Madness happened here tonight.

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