“Well, ain’t that a sad sight if there ever was one,” I said with a wonder-whistle leaving my lips as I beheld the forlorn house, the Elmwood Estate, in all its dereliction. It looked creepy, it looked unwelcome. A saner man would’ve ditched it upon sight and would’ve gotten the hell out of Dodge, but back then I wasn’t very sane in the head, and I was already out of Dodge; I was standing in rural Maine.

I was not sure of what to expect when I first stepped through the doors of the late Professor Elmwood’s Estate. The anthropology teacher, whose career spanned over three quarters of a century, over multiple Ivy League institutes and three continents, never married. As are most super-normal human beings of a higher intellect, he too was a loner. Isaac Newton died a virgin. It came as a surprise to his notable colleagues, distant relations and his more favored students when in his will, he left me the house. There was a public outcry, but as most public outcries go, this one too simmered down after everyone realized that it was no use crying over milk that had long since evaporated after being spilt.

The house was by no means glamorous. Truth be told, I was taken heavily aback when I first set my eyes on it. Most of my communion with Professor Elmwood took place in the confines of his musky smelling, claustrophilic, leather bound office which comprised for the most part of books than it did of walls. He smoked a pipe, and the coroner’s report stated that that was the cause of his untimely demise. However, I think to myself upon times of self-reflective introspection, demise is never untimely, is it? He was fifty-three when he died of a cardiac arrest in the living room of his house. All by his lonesome in the warmly lit yet dim house. I imagine it must have been one hell of a spook for him, when he beheld the faceless phantasm of death, coming to greet him the same way he greeted most of his morning lecture students: with grimness. There was no fun in that man’s life. Except, well, fun is a relative term now, isn’t it? What most of his post-grad students thought to be dull credit-hour filling work was the bread and butter he so heartily adored.

Enough about him, I sense I am boring you with this dreary monologue. The house, yes. It was not a fine one, as I’ve said. Why do people like him- and by people like him I mean eccentrics- choose the loneliest of places to build their homes? This location of which I speak, it was in the far corner of the Bangor exurbia, surrounded for the most parts with untamed forestry, with only one road leading to the house. This was around the time of fall when I first went to his house. Fall leaves lay scattered on the driveway where his Datsun stood. His old, rust-eaten Datsun. It had already begun gathering dust, just like (and that’s a gross presumption on my part, but I cannot help my macabre way of thinking, perhaps that’s one of the reasons why the late professor favored me more than others) the corpse of the old man had started decomposing under the ground.

I lit the lights in the lounge, observing every detail my eye caught with the uncanny judgmental eye of a sullied skeptic. The man clearly had no notion of being a cleanliness freak. The place looked like Bilbo’s hole in the ground, only it lacked very much in terms of warmth and the feeling of homeliness. Notes, papers, books and bundles of bestiaries lay scattered on the tabletops, the chairs and every other surface the professor could find. Did I mention that the lights were exceedingly dim and nonfunctional in their purpose? I closed the door behind me, muting the sound of canaries and mocking jays alike, and squinted my eyes to adjust in the darkness.

A cold, clawed hand grasped me from behind, plunging its tendrils in my shoulder. I dared not turn my head around for the irrational fear of seeing my attacker. But daring never helped a man in the face of terror. Courage did, and they’re two different things. David had courage when he went against Goliath. David Blaine, the American street magician, has daring, but I bet if one of his tricks backfired on him, he’d shit his pants. Just like I was shitting my pants right now.

A mortifying drawl rung into my ears. It sounded like it belonged to an old man. An angry old man, or perchance his ghost.

“LEAVE NOW!”

I turned more out of shock than fear and to my distinct horror I saw that there stood no one behind me.

“Fuck,” I said to myself as I realized that the involuntary sphincter relaxation had left my trousers soiled to the point that they were smelling like a gothic gutter. I should have left the house at that very moment; I should have heeded the advice of that ghoulish voice.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda…

*

I did not sleep that night. That was the first and last time I stayed into the house. Months after the events that transpired there had become last-page news in the papers, I sold the house to overzealous Stephen King fans who wanted to live and breathe in the same Maine air as the maestro of horror! Fucking assholes. You cannot induce skill and dexterity based upon your location. I remember that the first novel, Carrie, was written by King in the most dubious of circumstances. Without any sliver of motivation. Talent, as the King said, was cheaper than table salt, and if you really wanted to work hard for something, you had to do so without waiting on your muse. When you got to work, your muse came of its own accord.

More about the night. Sorry, I get sidetracked easily. I guess its my brain’s natural response to the fearful, fitful, phantasmal thoughts that clog my mind whenever I think about that night. It wants me to sidetrack to less viler topics. Can’t blame the brain, it wants what’s good for us, unlike the heart, which wants what it wants with an unhealthy propensity.

I was in the bed alright, after having changed my pants into the only other leg-wear that I had brought with me; the pajamas. And the bed was tremoring wildly. As if the titans of Olympus itself were jolting it off the ground.

I tried getting off the bed, but the floor had taken the hue of lava. Yes. I kid you not. The floor was burning, the bed was creaking, and in my ears, the phantasm who had earlier groped me was shrieking. Shrieking the same rant that over and over again.

“LEAVE NOW LEAVE NOW LEAVE NOW LEAVE NOW”

I was crying out of fitfulness, I was sobbing out of remorse for having come into the house in the first place. This vengeful spirit was demanding that I leave , and then it was at the same time making it impossible for me to do so. It made no sense. Unless… there was more than one spirit residing in here.

“Please stop!” I cried out. And laughably so, it did stop for a minute. Only to resume again, magnified in all senses. The jolting, joltier, the floor, hotter, the screams, shriller.

The rafters that held the roof began to give away. Dust started falling on me. Ancient dust from the time the house was first built. If I didn’t grow a pair of balls in the next few minutes, I was going to die. Whether by fear, or by the falling of the roof on my head, I was going to die.

“Show your fucking self!” I demanded with the wisps of waning strength that remained in me.

I might have chosen better words had I known that it was the spirit of my late professor haunting me. Even in death, I had respect for the man. He materialized semi-translucently in front of me in midair, a ghastly echo of the man he once was, with his hair flailing, his eyes bloodshot, and his hands and feet mutated into a post-necrosis abomination.

“Sir! What is going on?” I said, despite the fact that my bed hoisted itself up and down and the wafts of humid heat rose from the floor.

“Leave Nathan! It’s real! The curse of Astra is real! Beings from the UnderEarth, they killed me… They’ve taken residence in my stead! Leave! I am sorry for having written you in my will!” the professor said and disappeared in a whiff of ghastly grey aura. What ensued right after was what I presume was the curse of Astra that he so fearfully spoke of.

The walls became blood red, the floor hot-orange. Seams began to rip in the wooden panels that comprised the wall, and from them, giant, black tentacles erupted by the dozens, and shot towards me. Unholy cackle started resounding as the Cthulhu-like appendages aimed for me. I began to scream, wanting escape from this devilish nightmare. But oh, it had only just begun. The wall facing my bed crashed of its own accord, and in the darkness, that was presumably the space between my bedroom and the bathroom, there emerged a quartet of eyes. Red, blazing, unforgiving eyes of Lucifer himself.

“Ash Nazr!” said the voice that belonged to this ungodly creature in a most hollow, earsplitting intonation.

The ramparts began closing in. The ceiling began falling downwards. The spectral being erupted forth from the darkness, with its limbs suffocating me in their snare, and I felt one tentacle crawl inside my body and prod around gruesomely up and up till it reached my nasal passage. If only it had stopped there, this story would have been much more easier to tell. But the surgical tendril erupted instead, from behind my eyeball, plunging it out along with itself. I was screaming with pain. From my other eye, I saw my detached eyeball roll on the floor where in a matter of seconds, it boiled, exploded and splattered.

As I write this account, I write so with only one eye to aid me in tapping the keys of my laptop, with hands that tremble of post-traumatic stress that won’t ever leave me.

The patron saint of lost causes, Saint Jude the Apostle came to my help in a way I had not predicted.

“Jesus Christ help me!” were the words I remember distinctly speaking before I tripped over the brink of unconsciousness. But with my closing eyes (oops, eye) and my forsaking perception, I saw a silver shrouded man come in through the door. The lava did not affect him. He wore garbs that resembled medieval hunters of old lore, and a cap that went with them. In one hand, he had a blade broad, wide and etched with Latin writing. I saw with one eye as this patron saint took out of a metal cross half the length of his sword and jutted it into the monster’s face.

“The power of Christ compels you!” the man said in a deep voice and plunged the sword in between the space of the quartet eyes. A deafening scream erupted from the beast’s mouth and it crashed to the ground, and upon doing so, it disappeared in a mist of shimmering green droplets.

The floor regained its wooden stature, the walls went back to being lifeless walls, and my shaking bed regained its stagnant port. My eye did not come back sadly. I think to this day, that had I not been blinded in one eye, I would have eventually forgotten the events and passed them off as wild imaginations on drunken night.

I know now, just like I know that the man who helped me was none other than Saint Jude, that I was not drunk nor imagining the horrors that unfolded in front of me.

I…

I could tell you more about everything. I could tell you of what Astra was, I could tell you how and where the professor met his fate which led to his death and the unleashing of the curse, I could tell you how and why the savior divine came to aid me the way he did…

I could tell you more.

But I don’t feel like it; the strain of it all on my nerves is just too much. If I delve any more into the past, I fear I will go mad, or lose whatever visibility I have left in my good eye at the expense of crying in fear.

This half-written story has been a way of purging myself from the memories that have stained the canvas of my mind. I advise you to burn it after reading.

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