Year after year, they all knew what was coming; it was the usual for them all and it had been so for countless years, far before even the farthest memory of their oldest relatives. Thus no one knew exactly when did this become so. And no one knew when their neighbourhood came to be either. And every time an interloper brought up the question, they would be turned away or the question would be ignored all together. Outsiders are not welcomed, here.
On the same night of each year, every resident knew what to do and no one twattled about it; it was a part of life, an automatism. And the next day it would be as if nothing had happened, as if nothing had been waiting outside and lurking. And no one ever talked about it.
And outsiders are not welcomed, here.
But when old Mathilda croaked, her nice vintage home was announced for sale by oblivious real estate brokers. She had outlived all of her seven children and none was left to inherit the old, creaking house that liked to sing at night. It had a personality of its own, old Mathilda would say. It cooed and hummed along with the wind and its voice followed every step she made. And she dreaded the day she would succumb to her old age and her beloved home to be sold to a stranger who would fail them all.
And all of Curglaff street’s residents stood appalled outside their front doors as all of these aliens were crawling like ants here and about in their neighbourhood. For it had been many a generations since a house had sold, here. Old Mathilda and her husband had inherited it from her parents, and them from theirs, and so on until no one could remember who had built it.
Once the old woman’s sack of bones had been taken away, the real estate brokers swarmed in like flies on a corpse; evaluating the worth of the house, hammering a ‘For sale’ sign on the front lawn… A few families came to visit, but most of them were sensitive enough to the unheard voices of the street calling to them to walk away. Or perhaps was it the neighbours and their glares through curtains that made them turn their heels. But at once came a lonely writer who would not think twice about the very low price of old Mathilda’s house. The deal was sealed quickly and Curglaff street became quiet again. No one came to greet the writer and the writer never went to greet anyone. And life resumed normally for everyone…for a while.
The writer was a quiet one, a recluse of society who would have been a perfect match for Curglaff, but to whom no one ever dared to acquaint with about that night, but who had a dreadful habit of wandering outside every night of the year. A clear head of fresh air for sleek writing.
The first months were well spent in the silence of his new home, the floor boards subtly shifting and moaning along with each step, and singing its new tenant goodnight, something he did not enjoy as much as old Mathilda did. He occupied each day of every month hitting letter after letter on his typewriter. He had little to no hobbies but his walk at night.
At last came the day every neighbour has been preparing for, a day not unlike any other day of the year for the writer. This day, like each one, he spent typing, not giving a peek through his window as the sun descended from its zenith as it did every single evening. And as the warm burning sphere disappeared from sight and let the moon take hold of the sky, the writer’s drumming fingers stopped. He took advantage, as usual, of the very last remnant of light to walk out the door and into Curglaff street. He walked past the same houses as he did yesterday and the day before. When in every window he saw faces watching him and eyes following him, today he saw none. He saw drawn curtains when he would usually see judgement and resentment.
Because outsiders are not welcomed here.
And something odd, too, stood out. Something that had not once caught his attention, for he had never seen them before. On each door of each house on Curglaff, there was now a large mark painted in red. The writer’s brows furrowed at the sight, his mind puzzled and searching for answers in this eerily quiet twilight and suddenly he felt as if he had been standing there, staring, waiting, for what seemed like an hour…and the sun had completely gone out of sight. Never would he have thought something so futile, something so ordinary as a short walk, would seal his fate.
A swift, almost indistinguishable movement caught his eye. And another. And another. Until he felt surrounded by things indiscernible in the deep black of the night that had suddenly imposed itself without his knowledge. His throat suddenly became tight and he struggled to breathe, his fingers were itchy, his palms sweaty and his legs were trembling with fear. With a sharp inhaling of the night’s crisp and cold air, the writer turned his heels to walk back home. The sight that awaited his eyes defied any potential explanation that his racing mind could ever fathom. Even as a writer himself, the monstrous scene that stood before him could not have been described by any words his fingers could ever produce. At first it seemed like a very dark, and very low, cloud gorged with rain, like an imminent storm at eye level. And then it seemed like smoke lazily floating over the cracked asphalt of Curglaff and swirling toward him. And then, albeit faint, he heard, or so he thought, a soft, shy voice calling his name. Could it be a neighbour? He thought. But then a new voice, a little higher, called his name again. They sounded gentle, almost alluring, and he took a step forward the cloud of thick dark smoke, intently staring, petrified with fear yet fascinated by the sight of it.
And they came surging out of it like a giant, floating, hovering, and throwing him off his feet in slow motion, cluster of pain and misery; screaming his name and shrieking in agony, shrilling sounds of torture and grating calls for help, O God, help us!, amidst a thousand incoherent disembodied voices talking in reverse, haunted, croaking voices, the most ear-shattering noises he had ever heard and would ever hear.
And at last his back came in breaking contact with the sidewalk.
And everything he saw were wisps of mist with unnaturally distorted faces and shrieking mouths wide open like deep black holes, frantically moving before him and on every side of him, scraping at every fragment of his skin, as if the movements were only images switching one after the other and over again just as a bad quality stop-motion animation would look like. The sheer terror emanating through them felt unlike anything his human mind could ever begin to understand, as if life was nothing but arrant and constant anguish, an ever lasting symphony of torment. And as the wreathed and translucent hands of the tortured souls tore him asunder whilst relentlessly wailing, an array of gloomy voices from beyond the grave kept howling at the writer. Please! Why?, one whimpered. No!, and an other, O God!, and again an other. There was naught else he could hear or see or think or feel, but the staggering pain from every inch of his flesh and the affliction of his soul. A warm, dark liquid covered his burning skin, pooling all about him on the sidewalk; his screams were caught in his throat and no sound came out of him; only the wailing and the cries of the unreal spectacle tearing him apart.
And he could not comprehend it. Could not make sense of it, as his mind had left him in the gutter, unable to rationalise anything it beheld. And the ashen ghostly faces grew wider and wider, and closer and closer, so close, in fact, he could witness the torments to which they were subjected to in the pits of the cold and dead black gashes they had for eyes. Torments unimaginable, indescribable and inconceivable to living eyes, beyond the most delirious of men’s wildest nightmares. And he could see even farther away, and over an ocean of atrocious shrieks of barbaric suffering and wailing souls, countless of screaming, bodiless and misshaped heads in a sea of black. He could even feel the hot, stagnant and heavy air surrounding the tortured ones, the stench of their own decaying flesh that they were trying to rip apart. And even beyond that to the sharp edged mountains, where persecuted spirits were climbing on barefoot, their thick and black ectoplasm feeding the ocean of anguish, from which the mephitic stench arose. And beyond again until the end of time and space; only inhuman agony until there was nothing left of you.
But there is always something left of you.
And he could see farther and farther away, and sank deep and low into the pits of Hell, swallowed into the hundred mouths of the ill-fated former residents of Curglaff, each year after the other and as far as the memory could reach and for as long as they will remember, clawing for the sole fortuity of liberation over and over again.
And then there was not a trace left of him. And no one every heard or spoke of him again, his newly acquired home left abandoned for the next buyer to purchase and brave the same fate as its previous owner, their own faces adding to the diabolical torments of this star-crossed night…
Strangers are not welcome here.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, R. CasthavianWrite a Review