The Room Behind the Mirror

“Charles, the walls are whispering to the furniture again. They’re conspiring to deprive us of comfort!” Millie enjoyed throwing her brother off balance with balderdash. She revelled in his wan face and the fear in his eyes as he tried to rationalise her nonsense and wonder if she was the desperate cuckoo darting out of the clock face.

“Millicent, for the last time, can you try to walk through the door marked ‘normal’ in the morning?”

The brother and sister lived in a beautiful red brick town house on the corner of a park festooned with cherry blossom trees and triumphant bulges of hydrangea. 

Their days were spent exploring and hiding and finding adventures to new worlds, gently mixed with what they knew of the real world like a delicate cake mix.

The idyllic childhood was theirs to enjoy, riding the clouds of imagination as if they were on the back of a marauding dragon.

“Charles, I found a letter in the red room under the floorboards. I can’t tell the language but the writing is reddy black, it has weird shapes in the margins and it smells funny. Perhaps it’s a bible addressed to the mice  warning them about worshipping cheese?”

Charles slinked down the stairs and across to the drawing room, his sarcastic frown, permanently painted onto his face, was curling upwards like a stale sandwich. 

“Millicent, how did you find this little room? I never realised there was a door behind the full length mirror. It’s so odd that we haven’t found it until now.”

“Everything is red and there’s a huge star on the floor with little winged men with horns and a big rams face and I think they kept chickens in those cages the feathers are lovely colours.” Millicent took a gulp of air after her long sentence. She pulled at the tiny latch in the corner of the mirror and it swung open from right to left with a deep throated creak.

The pair gawped at the tiny room daubed in thick, maroon paint and odd symbols from floor to ceiling. A solitary book lay on the shelf sideways with the title, ‘The  book of the law’. White dust had collected in the corners and the eyes of the ‘big ram’ inside the star seemed to follow them everywhere. The room smelled very musty like old fish and on the ceiling was a triangle with a swirling eye in the centre and flashes of lightening sparking from all round it. 

In the corner, next to the chicken cages, was a splintered trapdoor. 

After about ten minutes of frantic whispering, they both decided to look inside even though they were scared out of their wits.

The silver star latch clicked and the sprung door heaved upwards revealing a dark blue staircase leading into the darkness of the wardrobe at night.

Milly stood staring into a pantheon of imagined monsters and muttered to Charles,

“I can’t see the floor. Maybe there is no floor? Maybe it’s a staircase to the bottom of the world and through another trap door to space and we have to swim through the stars forever?” 

Charles ignored his babbling sister and lit a long black candle set with silver sevens, he found on a stone plinth, then started down the steps. 

“Are you coming to explore or are you going to stand there like a tailor’s dummy thinking up rubbish to make my ears burn?” Snapped Charles, his eyes flashing at her with patriarchal disapproval. 

“Let me put my hand on your shoulder, Charles, so I’m safe from the clutches of Professor Midnight.” 

The Professor was Milly’s arch nemesis at bedtime and she would be awake long into the early hours trying to discern his willowy figure from the branches waving in the lamplight outside. 

“Just stay close, Millicent and not a peep. If Nanny Gravestock finds us in here she’ll tell Uncle Ernest and we’ll get the buckle end of the strap.” Uncle Ernest had kindly taken the children in when their parents were killed in a motorway pile up which saw them roasted to death in the debris. They did not get the chance to see them buried and Charles suspected that Milly’s quirks were protection from the spectre of grief. 

As they reached the bottom step, a wave of dread filled their hearts. The thumping of blood making a death march in their ears, they entered a room exactly as the one above but the floor and ceiling designs were switched around. In the centre of the room were two coffins on trestle tables draped with silver cloths. 

“Charles, maybe they’re umpires?”

“Millicent, that’s vampires! They are for the dead and not the undead. We are going back up the stairs and…”

The candle blew out and the trap door slammed shut leaving them swallowed by blackness and utterly terrified.

“Charles…Charles…Please answer me!” 

Silence was abruptly punctuated by two heavy thumps on the floor followed by dragging and the horrifying wheezing of laboured breaths. Not one, but two. 

Milly dragged herself to the steps and began to crawl up slowly. Her heart almost jumped out of her chest when she felt two hands upon her shoulders and she clambered to the trap door. Pushing as hard as she could, the sprung door popped open and slammed onto the floor. She bolted to the door of the red room and, looking back briefly, she caught a bleary glimpse of two cooked corpses carrying her screaming brother.

Milly fell to the floor and tried to crawl out of the room before all her senses failed her and she blacked out. Already her vision was through the bottom of a wine glass and her brother was having his skin removed by one of the charred ghouls whilst the other had reached into his chest cavity, tearing his heart out through the gaping wound. Huge blood bubbles spattered the walls as a cacophony exploded beneath the floor. Milly gasped as several brightly coloured cockerels scurried out of the trapdoor and began feasting on errant flesh scattered around the big ram’s head. 

Finally, Milly succumbed to the numbing of her senses. She closed her tear streaked eyes just as a huge black shape  lumbered up the stairs from the darkness below.

“Nati sunt autem videtis me adhuc Virgo cordibus vestris”

(Virgin hearts will see me born again.)

Her dreams were a string of disjointed scenarios culminating in the skinned and mutilated Charles offering her his heart, perched upon a huge blue and silver seat atop filth and skulls. Suddenly from behind it, a giant ram peered round with piercing yellow eyes and hissed, 

“You are my world flesh, child.” 

A shaggy claw snatched the heart from Charles’ hands and bit into it with long fangs that gleamed when set against a purple black tongue. With a chilling cockerels cry, Charles then burst into flames and white dust blasted into her eyes. The white out cleared into black stars and white stars emerged from black shapes. Finally, two charred bodies, hands and feet tied with sticks in their mouths, sunk to their knees before the ram. The book on the shelf opened with a lion’s roar and the entire scene was sucked into its pages only to be silenced by the cover slamming shut. 

Her uncle, clad in a deep blue cowl, picked up the book and winked at her through a sneer.

When she woke, Milly was in the master bedroom bathed in golden evening light. The ornate coving and cornices around the ceiling shone in their metallic coats and the room had the heady scent of cotton lavender to soothe her furrowed brow. 

“Nanny, is that you? Nanny where’s Charles? I had such an awful dream. Where is he? Did the burned people take him?”

“Shhhh…Millicent. Try not to speak. You’ve had a nasty fall. Have a sip of water and rest. Your Uncle Ernest had the doctor look you over and he…”

“They screamed out the children’s names when the fire began to roast their lungs. Little orphans alone in the wicked world with the smell of burned flesh in their noses. Dear Nanny, with your secret trysts, you were never loved and never kissed.”

Milly sat leering at her horrified carer. The sweet scent of the lavender had curdled to an acrid stench of eggs and, as a deep grey cloud passed in front of the sun, the shadow of her form sunk into a deep green hue and ludicrously curled rams horns grew steadily from her head. The windows splintered into frosted shards and an eerie gloom descended on the room like a blanket being thrown over a fire.

“My dearest Coleen, faithful nanny to the darling children, where do your thoughts wander when you are alone at night? Do they wander with your body to Ernest’s room to be humiliated? We know him and his ways. He aspires to be with us in legion and made bloody murder in that accident he arranged. There are no worse monsters than those who conspire to be one by design. The lies are smeared into the darkness like salt into stab wounds. Run along now, nanny Coleen, he can’t wait for too long.”

Leaping three stairs at a time, the nanny landed at the foot of the staircase with a sickening crunch as her right foot twisted round and her ankle bone sheared through her tattoo, folding it like a limp turkey neck onto the side of her foot. Her agonising yelp was fired into the front door as she scrambled for the latch and fell onto the road outside, her head resting on the kerb stone. It was only a moment later that a bus stopped beside her head and, as it set off from alighting two oblivious passengers, her hair caught in the wheel and she was dragged under the huge tyres to become a clotted jam smear across the damp Tarmac.

Milly descended the staircase and crouched down to lick the blood pool and droplets trailing to the door. Rising from the hardwood floor, her blue tipped toes squeaked as they slid along up to the long mirror and stopped still. She stared longingly at her fluctuating reflection smiling as her eyes changed from powder blue to a fiery yellow. Long blue veins snaked up under her skin and across her body with blisters and lesions swelling to a head and weeping bile coloured pus into a pool beneath her feet. Her nails split and putrid black razors sprung out like cats claws and, as the evening light cowered behind an awful darkness, she reached forward and rapped three times on the mirror. 

The whole house began to shudder, the pipes knocked loudly, glass splintered into frosted panes and the temperature plummeted to visible curls of evil breath seeping from cracked lips and a vesicles pocked tongue.

Her three knocks on the mirror were answered from the other side and the glass became transparent to reveal a huge shaggy goat with large arms and talons, a jaw full of jagged teeth and eyes that matched in colour and intensity.

“I am you now, child. I have seeped into your bones and skin and run through your blood. My fall into the depths was an eternity ago. Now I have a soul and my despair shall be broadcast like seed in the fields. I shall kill their hope and hang it on the roadside for the carrion to feast upon. Enter my domain, child.”

She passed through the mirror and into the red room to find the two immolated figures feasting on Charles’ heart. 

“Welcome, Millicent – our second born.” 

Milly drifted over and took a slice of her brother’s heart, shredding it with her sharpened teeth and hideous talons. 

“We gave our lives to reach Abadzrael and he made his choice when you found the scarlet letter. Humanity is ripe now to turn on the father, their faulted god. Go forth and mystify, child. Your uncle Ernest is the key to the power on earth. Kill him then take the helm of his empire.”

Milly waved her arm and the trapdoor flew open allowing her parents to return to under the red room and rest for eternity.

Gliding through the mirror, she dragged the black chill of frozen space behind her. 

Milly was the beast in shadow form but her body remained that of a child. 

As she ascended the stairs, the paper on the walls peeled and split and the pictures bubbled in their glass frames. Her talons dug deep into the bannister rail, curling lacquered wood upwards with the squeal of flailing mouse in the fangs of a huge spider. Her skin was now cyan which made her eyes burn bright in their sunken sockets and green vapour grew in wisps from her mouth and nose. Hellish shapes flanked her form, creeping across the ceiling and frost pricked the fibres of the carpet beneath.   

“Eeeeerrrrrnesssssssssst! I seek the lascivious captain of industry. I am the queen of cups and will fill yours to overflowing with horror.”

Three hard knocks blasted into his bedroom door and Ernest woke from a slumber, staring intensely into the gloom. The doorknob rattled and the key dropped to the floor.

“Hide under your flimsy sheets, old man and I will slither between your toes, up your leg, across your belly and sit upon your chest to nip your breath.”

The door began to shake violently and a strange green miasma wafted beneath it and through the keyhole. It crept across the floor and up the walls, carving a hideous face on the shattered window.

Outside the orange street lights began to flicker as though moths were gathered around them and all at once they were extinguished.

Slowly, the door creaked  opened. 

Ernest was aghast at the shadows edging in and across the walls as a faint crescent moon, behind rain clouds, provided a hint of the invader.

His heart was squeezing blood through his ears as two deep yellow eyes lit up in the dark doorway and a they drifted in like they were down feathers on a draught. 

“Wh-at d-do y-you want with me?” He crowed, indignation lacing the terror in his voice.

“I’m here to get what was promised to me in your little red shrine, Ernest Caulfield. You and your acolytes reached out to me in the void and I saw my resurrection in your little Millicent. I want your power and influence amongst the killers in their suits and position. 

You are no more than bacteria that spoils the gut. Your perversions remain in this darkness and your rube nanny is a dead thing now.

You found the key in the teachings and I was released. You have served me a vessel and it must be rid of you.”

Ernest reached into his night stand and pulled out a small pistol, aimed it between the eyes and pulled the trigger. The screeching roar that emanated from the darkness was followed by the soft gasp of a small voice. 

“I built my empire from a run down store. Screw you if you think you’re just taking it.” Ernest placed the gun into his nightstand and looked towards the door just as long nails dug into his face and slammed his head against the headboard.

“I am impervious, you deviant! I shall be renewed by sunrise after I have eaten your heart.”

The bed slammed and tipped forward throwing Ernest across the floor and into the doorway. He scrambled to the corner by the window and choked as a little girl raised from the floor, floating towards him and flanked by black spectres. The frost was creeping up his body and the sight of her yellow eyes in a battered body with long talons and green breath, was too much and he grasped his chest in agony.

“Heart giving out, Ernest? Here, let me help you with that!”

He flipped over and arched his back as sinew and bone snapped and popped. His agonised screams were mocked by the creature until his rib cage was forced out through his thin skin and it snapped back like a bear trap being tripped. His organs bubbled out and slopped onto the floor and he began to rise up in front of the window. His last view was a slender arm with black talons reaching into his chest and wrenching out the heart. The window shattered onto the floor and his body flew out, across the street and landed in the park. Within seconds a pack of stray dogs were furiously tearing at it, ripping it apart like a rag doll and scattering in all directions to feast on pallid chunks.

The child returned to the room behind the mirror to feast on the heart of the old man. Her natural colour was returning to her body and her eyes glistened a powder blue.

Swallowing the last mouthful, she reached into her night dress and pulled out the scarlet letter found in the red room.

Opening it up, a broad smile with straight white teeth flashed across her face and she began to laugh, ascending octaves to her natural voice. 

The letter had become a last will and testament of Ernest Caulfield who bequeathed his fortune and position on the board to his darling Millicent. 

She climbed onto his bed and curled up to sleep, eyes open wide and broad grin stretched from ear to ear.

“Tomorrow is the first day of the descent of man and the shadow world will come forth against him. Power corrupts and absolute power is the ultimate corruption.”

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The Score

“Oh for pity’s sake, Camille, Andrew Culdrake is a crushing bore. He’s as easy to get rid of as sharpie from silk pajamas. Please, don’t pair me up with that gargoyle with halitosis!” Lewis coughed a half laugh as he pleaded into his old Nokia, his loose roll-up cigarette frayed and glowing between pale, cracked lips. 

“Lewis, dahling, the studio made an epic. A festering buffet of  perverse occult splatterfication for twisted mouth breathers and their social media saprophytes. They want you to score the theme and Andrew to preen it with sound effects. Think of it as you are the mighty rhino and he is the fussy little Oxpecker foraging for ticks around your hind quarters.”

Lewis cracked a broad smile, the first of his self imposed sobriety and wiped the condensation from his windowpane to stare, doe-eyed, at the swollen river past the parade of willows. 

“Oh he’s a pecker alright. I had to sit through a whole evening of him extolling the virtues of the sodding Audio plug-in world and how it’s making the big studios extinct along with that infernal fake amp. I grew up with craftsmen that treated sound like a marble statue or the ceiling of the Vatican. They…”

“You’re a purist, dahling, we all get it but time marches on and, as your agent and manager, I insist that we seize this as a gong is almost assured. We can finally take the elevator to a high profile and tables at decent restaurants around town. Do this for your lovely Camille, Lewis, and I’ll move your photo to my desk and not in the bloody hallway.”

“Oh Camille, If I’m to be sober for this ordeal, then we will do this on the lake in Alan Parson’s boat. He owes me for rescuing his last album. I want it stocked with cream soda and honey mustard pretzels… and anything Rupert Neve made! Thank You Camille, sweetheart. I love you dearly.”

“The screening is at one today in the Belvedere Theatre and you and Andrew must arrive with a clear head and an open mind. The uncut movie has allegedly claimed eight people’s sanity. It is on its third director and this one, from France, is an unknown so he probably won’t be an arsehole. It’s reputed to be worse than Billy Friedkin’s flick, which must be a nerve shredder! You ace this meeting and I’ll get Parsons to hand me the keys to his floating Shangri La. What do we always say, Lewis…?”

“Score one more for the bad guys. Bye Camille.”

Lewis moved outside to the deck above the caramel waters and closed his eyes tight.

“Chanel, my beautiful muse. I think this one will be pure torture but your honey tones humming in my ears will take me to our pier at sunset. Just me and you dangling our feet in the orange waters, fingertips touching lightly. We’d sing the whole score gently into the big red disc as it hit the boiling horizon and let the stars remove the needle from the record. I miss you every day and each score is infused with you, with beautiful you.” 

Lewis dressed for the occasion in a suit from Saville Row, a werewolf T-Shirt he won in a fight with a Goth and his lucky 

tan leather Grenson shoes. As he left his home, he took a stuttered breath of foreboding, as though someone had walked over his grave. 

“This is different!” He quipped to himself and stomped the cigarette into the mottled stone pathway.

Cross-town traffic wasn’t as cool as Jimi made it in his song. The slow crawl in the taxi, with the overpowering scent of sweat and jasmine, allowed Lewis to peer at the life outside his bubble. The teeming streets, filled with all manner of folk weighed down by their demons, only made him yearn for his muse more. 

“Hey! I’m walking here. I’m a person with the right to walk and breathe so don’t hit me, okay?” A rasping voice bellowed from the tiny frame of a bag lady pounding on the front of the cab. As the driver drove his fist into the horn, shouting what Lewis was sure was obscenities,

she locked eyes with Lewis and fell silent. Her face dropped and her jaw began to tremble. 

“Mercy. Have mercy on me. Don’t send them for me. Don’t let them…” 

Her last word streaked ahead in traffic as a bus slammed into her body and burst it open like a ripe melon. 

“Christ…what the…?” Lewis yelped as the driver turned and smiled insidiously, 

“One less crazy, eh mister?They’re waiting for you at the theatre. We must not disappoint him.”

Lewis paid the driver who was rubbing his star necklace and humming a strange, yet familiar tune. 

“All part of the design, sir.” 

Then, like stirring powder into water, he blended into the liquid traffic and Lewis bounded up the dark grey steps to the auditorium.

“Lewis. It’s good to see you again. I enjoyed our little to and fro at the last party. You should come to my studio and look at the new toys. Go on, it won’t kill you to catch up with the digital age!”

Andrew Culdrake stepped from the shadow of the doorway, extending his hand to greet the still shaking Lewis. 

“Andrew, how are you? This is a surprise. So, we’ll be working on an epic together. It’s jinxed apparently so we might last until the end of the screening.”

Lewis chuckled into the stone features of a less than amused Andrew.

“David Cholmondley and Daniel Sarkutt died on the set, Lewis. They were hit by a lighting rig that snapped, swung down and sliced them both in two. The studio nearly pulled the plug on this twice but both execs died before they could stop it. A new vision, a French guy, stepped in and completed it. No one has seen this thing in its entirety yet. 

That’s our honour.” 

“Some honour, Andrew. It sounds like the devil’s making a comeback on the big screen. He doesn’t like the attention, you know?  It makes him…vengeful. Come on, let’s get comfortable and take in the show. We can compare notes afterwards. Hey, if you die, you could rig the coffin to have the sound 

of knocking and screaming coming from inside!”

Andrew grimaced then smiled uncomfortably. He found Lewis crass but tolerated it for his artistic integrity.

The theatre was a beautifully restored music hall with high, vaulted ceilings and a pit with a Wurlitzer below the stage which held the screen behind giant red velvet curtains. As the two men sat in the roomy, sprung seats, a deep voice with a thick  accent came over the address system. 

“Bonjour, my friends and welcome to the Belvedere. The significance of this theatre is that before it was a picture house, it was a music hall and before that it was a house 

of ill repute. But best of all, this place was built on a worshipping ground for Belial, a very powerful spirit. The movie you are about to see and you are required to score and 

provide sound effects for, is perhaps the closest to the truth of the devil and his works. Lights please and watch without a blink of an eye.”

As the movie rolled, Lewis and Andrew sunk into a stunned, chilled trance of shallow breaths and saucer- eyed terror. They were aware that as the movie descended into dark scenes, all of the seats were filled with black spectres and fleeting  whispers stabbed their pricked ears with wet palmed menace. 

When the movie finally concluded, the two men drew long breaths and cleared their dry throats. 

“So gentlemen, you see the task ahead. I will ask you to sleep on this viewing before you are issued with the disc to begin your work. I must ask you that no one else may view this work and that you do not discuss it in any form, verbal or digital. Shout ‘yes’ if you agree to the terms?”

Both men shouted “Yes” loudly into the chilly auditorium before hurriedly leaving the theatre.

Outside, the taxi that brought Lewis was waiting and both of the men were ushered inside. 

“Monsieur, Shangri La is moored and waiting for you both at the lake. Miss Camille asked me to give you the key and the instruction that you both must remain on the boat, which is anchored in the centre of the water, until completion. Merci, and now we must get there before sundown.”

The boat shone a blood orange riding rippling red flecks as the late evening sun carved monstrous shadows across its impressive length and washed the windows in heated gore.

“Here you are, gentlemen. I bid you adieu.” Whispered the driver, still playing with his star necklace. 

The two men walked steadily across the gangplank and onto the broad deck with imposing cockpit and a single light above the porthole picking out a sign that read, 

‘If music be the food of love – gorge thyself!’ 

Andrew chuckled quietly as Lewis opened the door leading to the stairs down below where Camille had worked her magic. 

The dimmer switch slowly revealed a plush, spacious lounge area and studio complete with huge recording desk, midi keyboards and a giant fridge filled with Doctor 

Pepper and assorted cold cuts.

“I asked for diet DP, Andrew, dammit. I’ll be as big as a house!” Lewis growled as Andrew set up the equipment with an excited yelp. 

“Lewis, how are we going to score this without a…?”

Lewis grabbed a long, black remote control from the desk and aimed it behind his shoulder. Instantly, a giant screen above the desk lowered and a digital projector 

flickered white light onto its blank expanse. 

“Now that’s something else.” whispered Andrew, reaching into his pocket for a boiled sweet. 

“Right, we’ve got our bearings now we do as the French guy said and get some shut eye. Tomorrow we start our demonic odyssey and, should we survive, it’s gong city and you can bury yourself in plug-ins and fake amps!” snarled Lewis through a sideways smile. 

“May your eyeballs turn to cubes and pus at the corners!” Andrew replied and both men howled with laughter.

That night their dreams were a pastiche of grisly and mind bending horrors. That was until 3:45am when a huge thud on deck had them clumsily falling from their bunks and careering up the stairs. What greeted them on the pristine boards was a goat’s head, with silver coins for eyes and a plain package between its teeth.

“What manner of cheesy bullshit is this, Andrew?” Lewis croaked through a dry throat.

Andrew stood silent, his deep, sunken eyes peering from beneath a furrowed brow before delivering a cool, monotone line,

“We shall begin our task right away. We must marry what we see with a soundscape from the darkest part of the psyche. Take the package and toss the head into the drink.” 

Ripping apart the paper, Lewis gasped at the ice cold, deep red case. Inside, a black disc had the word Lucifugus written in glossy black ink across it and it smelled like rotten eggs and patchouli.

It was an intense month as the men pored over the movie meticulously, soaking in the scenes and furiously composing and creating all manner of sounds from an extensive library. Animal and human, mechanical and plain surreal merged to generate all manner of bizarre and horrifying sounds. 

Andrew did not sleep. 

Not one single wink. 

He laboured day and night, his eyes sinking further back into his head and his body odour becoming so rancid that Lewis retreated to the starboard side of the top deck after two weeks. Lewis couldn’t find his muse, Chanel but instead had the strange tune the taxi driver hummed bouncing round his skull. He coupled it with an odd time signature and detuned 

strings and, at 3:16 am on a Wednesday morning, his bone-chilling theme slithered out of his head and onto the midi keyboard.

The two men became walking wrecks, reduced to almost survival rations and silent in their pursuits.

It was a damp Saturday evening when Lewis noticed Andrew had gone. He was nowhere to be found, even after an extensive search of Shangri La. 

He went back to the desk and saw that the red disc box was open. He looked inside and there, on top of the movie, was a second black disc with the words, ‘Sonat est Diabolo’. 

“Sounds for the devil…dear Lord, Andrew, you really bought into the hype but where the hell are you?”

Lewis sat at the keyboard and played one last time, calling for his muse and thinking about the bag lady, the goat’s head, Andrew gone and…

Thud! 

“That came from the deck. What the he…” 

Lewis had just completed bouncing his score down to a disc and placing it in the red case with the other two, when he heard the commotion.

Climbing the stairs and flinging open the door he faced a large moon and a curled up figure on the deck, naked and clutching a star necklace in one raised hand  whilst humming an all too familiar tune.

It was the taxi driver.

He was laughing maniacally  and pointing to the shoreline. There, standing in a row holding hands, were several hooded figures swaying and chanting. Lewis looked back at the driver only to find that he was gone and instead the mangled body of the bag lady lay twitching and bleeding out, all the while whispering,

“Don’t send them, don’t send 

them…”

Lewis looked to shore again and, to his horror, the figures lay dead but for one flying through the air, over the water and straight for the boat. He stepped back and fell against the door, dropping to the floor as the world beneath the moon became a swirling nightmare.

The hooded figure glided gently onto the deck and landed on the bag lady that burst into a dust cloud. 

“You have completed the task set by my envoy?” The voice was familiar yet deeper, causing a sense of dread to course through Lewis’ body. 

“Y…yes…we completed our work. It is below in…”

The figure thrust an arm through the pulsing dust revealing the red disc box clutched by long slender fingers.

“How…how did you do that?” Lewis choked, desperate to be as far away from Shangri La and the score from hell as he could possibly get.

“Let me introduce myself…” 

The figure removed the hood and the sunken features of Andrew Culdrake stared at him intensely for several terrified, silent seconds.

“I don’t understand. Andrew, were you in on this all along. Are you part of the design?”

“Lewis, I am pleased with your work. You picked up on my servant’s tune in the taxi and made it come alive. I am Andrew but not Andrew. What you see is a glamour to hide my true form that would surely send you mad. I have a gift for your service. Look behind you.”

Lewis turned to see his beloved muse, Chanel alive and in the flesh. She glowed silver in the moon’s glare and he turned to thank Andrew, who had vanished into thin air along with the score. 

Lewis threw his arms around Chanel and kissed her passionately.

“This was my only wish for so long, Chanel. You have returned to me alive.”

She gazed up at Lewis and smiled a broad grin. Then, in a smoky voice, whispered in his ear,

“It’s me, Lewis, Camille. 

I got my wish too!”

A Gathering of Seers

“Be welcome in the circle of light, my sorority of the awareness. We are touched by the eternal energies and have gazed into the astral plane. Be quieted in your earthly desires and seek only answers kept by those who have lived in flesh and passed to vapours. Please, enter the dining hall and be seated at Vulgate, the great table. Muster your sharpest senses and clearest vision for tonight we, the sober five points of light, shall call upon Zizzithicus, the gatekeeper of the damned to reveal the compendium x ferris, the names of all demons. This will be our weapon to cast them out when infestation occurs.”

Sliding open the huge polished chestnut doors to the great hall,  Callandria Shillington breezed through in her long green velvet dress, plumes of incense smoke trailing behind from an ornate thurible. 

Her four guests, Dame Shelba Treskett, Bryony Elura, Mistress Hundreth Pask and Silver Tariffe emerged from the miasma like ghost ships from pea soup fog and into an eerie port. 

“Be seated please, sisters with the sight while I take a nip of golden sunshine.”

Callandria had a penchant for a beautiful lemon liqueur, Limoncello from Sorrento in Italy. She always carried a hip flask full of it and bared her top teeth with a satisfied hiss after each eye-rolling sip. 

The five carefully drew intricately carved seats from beneath the huge, gleaming round oak table almost in unison and each exhaled a cathartic breath in readiness. The chairs were lovingly carved with spiny serpents winding from the cloven hoofed feet, round the legs and up the high backs to winged lions. Deep red velvet seats with embroidered pentagrams made them plush and very comfortable. 

In the centre of the table was a silver chalice with a huge snake wrapped around a man and woman who were holding aloft the sun and moon topped with an almond shaped flame.

“Cally, this table belonged to whom again?” Crowed Mistress Hundreth Pask in her gravelled voice, thick with a West Country accent.  

“Dearest Hundreth, it was commissioned by Aleister Crowley for his home that’s now inhabited by a Led Zeppelin! 

He is reputed to have conjured Lilith and, for about an hour, learned the whereabouts of the ‘in gradibus ad infernum’ the stairs to hell. Apparently, somewhere in New York!” Cally and Hundreth shared a rare giggle, albeit a decadent, smoke infused and filthy one!

Callandria sauntered over to the table and lit a huge red candle that had burned to a gnarled glob, spattering wax at the base as though it was a ravaged torso. 

Once the assembled seers had taken their impressive seats, Callandria beseeched the ether to select one of them as the channel and to be the host for the gathering. 

The darkness, surrounding the table, became a zoetrope of confused shadows punctuated only by the orange glow dancing on the life of each face, now swaying like a swing seat in a storm.

“To thee between the light of pure love and inflagrante delicto, I ask that a voice be chosen to host your spoken will. Send forth the Spark of Electus to the hands of the host and speak freely and clearly, save the spirits are content to be elsewhere and we be made derelict.”

The candle flame surged and danced as though a light breeze had breathed life into it and above their heads faint whispers circled the chandelier. 

The unseen fingers of paranoia jangled ornate cut glass and took delight in teasing a faint glow from the bulbs. Suddenly, from the corner of the dining room, the sound of beasts thundering  towards the table at a pace had the ladies grasping their hands tightly and panting heavily with fright. The thurible swung violently sending thick incense high into the air which formed a horrifying face in the cloud. With a violent hiss, candle flared and snarled with spite as burned edge paper prayers fell like snow from the chandelier. 

A chill wind blew across from the darkest corner and a deep green flame erupted from inside the mouth of the smiling incense cloud snaking down into the hands of Mistress Hundreth Pask, who shook with shocked delight.

“Thank you, dear spirits, for we can begin the task. Mistress Hundreth Pask, please recite the prayer of St John Vianney. It is to protect the soul and prevent the will from corruption and harming the flesh” growled Callandria, accompanied by “Oui!” from Dame Shelba, Bryony Elura and an ashen faced Silver Tariffe.

Mistress Hundreth Pask lay supine across the table, shuddering and cawing like a wounded crow. Her fingers writhed and her head twisted from side to side with the whites of her eyes shining a waxy red in the candle light. Her palms, scratched by invisible nails, blanched into a fervent prayer. That was the secret prayer of the demon fighting saint, John Vianney and the open line into the abyss.

“Find my compass, my magnetic draw and fly to it as would a moth to the black behind the light. You who would communicate with shining souls in the abyss of corrupted flesh. Be with us and share the depths and breadth of eternity.” 

Silence nipped their ear drums and gently reawakened them with the jangling of the chandelier. 

Seconds from the grandfather clock thumped the silence until they noticed that it was moving in reverse. 

Ever so slowly, the chandelier began shaking which built to a heavy rattle then a stream of foul smelling ectoplasm poured onto the table, pooling around the red candle as though it was a lighthouse in a stinking pus ocean.

“I am summoned by thee with one half in the darkness and one half in the light. There are four that are pure and one holding the Sceptre of Flames. She is a deceiver. 

Your candle is near snuffed so 

thou shalt be the flame.  

Rise!”

Silver Tariffe lifted from her seat a shuddering limp creature, twitching limbs beneath her black dress and bleeding profusely from her startled eyes. Her joints twisted and cracked and dark smoke peeled off her tongue like sea mist rolling ashore on a beach of battle corpses.

“Do not break the circle!” screamed Callandria, as Silver grabbed her hip flask of liqueur from her hand on the way to the table. She poured it into her nose and mouth before throwing it at Mistress Hundreth Pask and growling, “Here, ’tis as dry as your womb, harlot!”

Landing upon the table in the pool of ectoplasm, Silver grabbed the candle with both hands shoving it into her face with force

“lux lucis rectum visiones.” 

Releasing it from her grip, her bellow flared a large flame from her innards and out through her eyes, nose and mouth. The remaining four seers stared in horror at the site of a leering Mistress Hundreth Pask whispering incantations to Silver, arms outstretched by her side and head facing upwards completely engulfed in flames.

“And god said ‘Let there be light’ and it was a bitch on fire!” Mistress Hundreth Pask was swaying from side to side, pursed cracked blue lips and jet black eyes sunk into her sockets.

“STATE YOUR NAME, SPIRIT!” screamed Callandria, grasping the hands of Dame Shelba and Bryony into pale cobbles, her deep brow pointed at the wraith manifesting itself through her dear friend. But Mistress Hundreth Pask was in the throes of violent spasms and, reaching round the blistering Silver Tariffe, she lit the discarded red candle from Silver’s burning tongue and began sealing her own mouth up with scalding wax. Once it was a ghastly red scar across her lips, a deep rumble rose up from inside which manifested into a combined screech, growl and an insidious raw throated voice.

“You know me like you know messages in smoke. I am infestation and desecration. I walk in the cloven prints of the fallen lord and his terrible bride. What is it you seek and, in return, sacrifice. Speak hags and let the dark eat your words and worship the silence thereafter.”

The three aghast women shuddered and began whispering a protection prayer, releasing wisps of frozen breath laced with terror into the evil shadow filled room.

“You are the gatekeeper are you not?” Asked Callandria through short bursts of petrified breath.

“I am Zizzithicus. I am manifest to keep the demons in the unending agony. My mistress once faced a great Ipsissimus at this table and he is with us now.” The voice was above and around Mistress Hundreth Pask who continued to spasm but had risen from her seat, head swaying from side to side and hair matted and stuck to her head with foul smelling ectoplasm.

“You have the burning traitor and the barren mute. They are the bishops of hell. I require the gutted cuckold to make the trilogy and then I can claim what I have travelled so far to get. Now to make an abandoned crone truly hollow.” The voice seemed to circle around Mistress Hundreth Pask as her sunken eyes shed bloody tears of wax that solidified on her cheek. 

Bryony was writhing in her seat, foaming at the mouth and, as she tore the dress from her body, two long silver carving knives lurched forward from the dark surroundings and she grasped them in her shaking hands. 

“Give those to me, Bryony Elura, THIS INSTANT!” Callandria was on her feet and boiling with rage at the ghastly outburst.

“YOU WILL DIE!” Dame Shelba was standing on her chair as it stamped in a foul temper like a precocious child. Callandria let go of her hand and fell from her seat and onto the polished oak parquet floor with an undignified thud!

“BRYONY…ask for the forgiveness of saints – en Francais. BRYONY!”

Slicing from either side of her midriff, Bryony carved deeply, drawing thick red blood down her cream dress. As the knives drew deeper and upwards, her steaming guts spilled onto the cold floor and puffed into dark ash, releasing beetles and spiders to scurry into the gloom. 

“YOU DARE TO CHALLENGE THE GREAT IPSISSIMUS, YOU BLOODY WRETCH?” Dame Shelba was suspended in mid air, an evil grin ingratiating her regal features now transformed into those of Aleister, the magick priest.

Mistress Hundreth Pask sat bolt upright then flew into the air and across to Dame Shelba with a lion’s roar. 

“Ahh…here he is. The parlour trickster with his grand symbols. You eluded my grasp through deception but I have found you between the lantern above and the fire below. I claim thee for his legions to be held until his will to rise.”

Dame Shelba began to spin violently as hallucinogenic images of mythical beasts, painted with infernal symbols and decorated by the sounds of creatures long before the advent of mankind, swirled like cream in coffee.

Slowly, a tune arose from the centre of the table. Faint and light at first but building in intensity until it was at madness inducing decibels. Callandria, who was laying propped up against a tall antique cabinet, covered her ears and screamed. 

“It is my song of departure, my captor. I had served his highness with single purpose devotion. But now I am to be corralled with all the charlatans. I am weary of wandering the endless night and long to hold court with the first of the fallen. Lead the way, gatekeeper and rid my ears of this bloody noise. I despise the Immigrant Song.”

As the dulcet tones of Robert Plant drifted to the edges and beyond, Dame Shelba spat out fell to the floor. Mistress Hundreth Pask slumped onto the table and smashed the wax lip seal, letting out a fierce retch whilst gulping a lungful of burned flesh. 

The chandeliers burst into bright light and Callandria Shillington, Dame Shelba and Mistress Hundreth Pask ran to each other and hugged tightly, wailing with relief and open wound grief. 

Looking round they saw Silver burned to thick globs and charred bone. They saw Briony gutted and covered in a myriad of feasting insects. They saw five chairs felled in a star formation and seated in the centre was the great goat himself, Nicodemus. 

He raised his left claw and all went black and unconscious. 

Morning came in jagged red splinters through the window and the three awoke together, reaching for each other in hysterics.

As they left, Callandria stopped Mistress Hundreth Pask and placed a steady hand on her stomach. 

“He has restored you. He has given you a gift. It is the white light in the centre of the flame. Be well!”

Days later, Callandria set about the task of clearing the dining room of the table and chairs. They had a new purpose now to serve a new master. She labelled each as sold and smiled as she whispered the penned the address,

“10 Downing Street

London, England.”

Christmas for horror in almost November

Blood orange skin on a silver dust ghost 

The night is a darkroom developing creeps 

The summer sap’s streaking like  space rock remembered  

And coroner’s custom are snug in their sheets 

The just after nightfall and just before daybreak

Is gloss on a cold stare that’s matt black and tender 

The make your own devils are gutted and lit 

It’s Christmas for horror in almost November

Ambergris porch goons they grimace at goodness 

Vortex eyed children trawl bountiful seas 

The winds curse their candour as much as curmudgeons 

Then settle on fright like it’s nectar for bees 

Tribute paraders and niche movie raiders 

Are beasts from a video age half remembered 

With catapult eyeballs and slinky spring tongues 

It’s Christmas for horror in almost November 

Clotted black cloudscapes daub  visceral notions 

On jewellery box cities and cat blinking streets 

Sketching the monsters from crime scenes in dream land 

The dead are a sour breath  seeping from meat 

Samhain is Beltane in devil head lanterns 

The infernal totems are business agendas 

The dead world on rook’s wings are brought through the membrane 

It’s Christmas for horror in almost November 

Haunts with a dark web vibe  

ice down the backbone 

Retrograde movies 

Bizarre and unnerving  

The blood moon draws psychos that pander to cliches 

Hell throws a party for damned souls still living 

Sorrow has ransacked  nightmare’s relief chest 

Deadly things conjured are returned to sender 

Stabbing stick treetops slash deep in the skyline 

It’s Christmas for horror in almost November 

Mystery box people internalise death’s hold  

Orange and green and black is their flag 

What’s at the heart of this tribute to terror? 

What’s in the twisted mind?

What’s in the bag? 

When squash become fur fiends  

With black septic juices 

Their ghastly cut faces distressed and distended 

‘Tis the very season for demons to slay here  

It’s Christmas for horror in almost November.

What Jack saw from his box

Inside is deeper than outside is dark 

Jack with his peepers of torches and shrieks 

A glockenspiel heartbeat in sub zero breaths 

And terror is steeped into each throaty creak

His long splintered fingers curve over the lid 

Scratching the red paint to bloody his claws 

Tin toys are tooth shine in midnight’s malaise 

The window, steamed curses and slams shut the door 

Here in the nursery 

Rhymes are discordant

He wished with his eyes shut 

And hoped they would hear

Fear in the nursery 

Peeled and unkept 

Something came forward 

That everything feared 

Jack in his box with his torches for peepers 

Waiting for someone to fall 

fast asleep here 

The rumble of thunder through cotton stuffed ears 

Is Jack’s dreadful box as it slides on the boards 

The toys are all facing the wall for protection 

The night creatures dare not look out from the woods 

Curled in the bed to get in 

from the cold 

A soul that has fallen on desperate times 

Out of the box grew the villainous Jack

With shadows of nightmares, like spiders, they climb 

Here in the nursery 

Vacant and musty 

Black plumes like funeral feathers explode 

Fear in the nursery 

Hate spangled foul breath 

Stranger than wisp light and 

Stronger than death 

Jack in his box with a host of dark horrors 

With passed away smiles and no hope for tomorrow 

Infesting the room from the skirting to cornice 

Terrible shapes from Jack’s foul  dwelling place 

Things with a sharpness and things with a whisper 

Things even Death would not look in the face 

Gathered above as the wolf 

to the piggies 

A congress of unseen and unmentioned frights 

They tear at the fabric that is the immortal 

And fill, like a cushion, with gut wrenching sights 

Here in the nursery 

Shaking and screaming 

A wandering soul that’s infested with hell 

Fear in the nursery 

Retching and snapping 

A vessel for stricken with madness that swells 

Risen with white eyes that roll into black 

Risen with front that has twisted to back 

Risen with riot and devilry’s blast 

The toys and the creatures are silent, 

Steadfast 

Around and around goes the handle of Jack’s box 

The tune is the wailing of damnations throng 

His fingers red tipped as he sits there behind it 

Under the lid is his eyes and his tongue

Hissing and screaming and growling and snarling

The wanderer now is Jack out of his box 

Filled with the mayhem of all whom dwelt in there 

He winds and he winds and he winds 

Then he stops…

Can you hear him? 

Go to your wardrobe… 

Open it slowly… 

Out he 

POPS!

The fogbound doorway

In autumn’s stippled changeling pallet 

Sweet smoke leaks from blue green fields 

Casting trees as long clawed villains 

Picking clouds in rootball heels  

Welted leaves slick back roads journey 

To a transept arch of woods  

The distance cloaked in mist’s resistance 

Beckons me to gone for good 

And through that fogbound doorway is a pantheon of hellish  shapes 

My full imagination lighting  monsters in my eyes 

They swirl like cream in coffee in this vapour of iniquity 

Then overtake my pilot calm to giddy romance of the flight 

They come at me in jazz club smoke 

That snakes around the spotlight’s glare 

They knock upon my windows with talons made from dreams 

Their features are the struggle to remember 

When the nightmare ends 

Hypnotic eyed propellor flights 

A cloud of railroad whistle steam 

And through the other side of it To morning’s yolk of stinging  howdy 

My rough stone fright is burnished to a smooth intake of breath 

The rear view is a twilight world 

Where villain trees frame doors of weird 

Imagined things of conscience jabs and all of what’s to come 

Is most to fear. 

*********************************

Why the woods are sacred.

Listen 

There are choirs singing descant in the slivered scales of Sylvania   

Harking back to a world before the bold ascent of man 

Hands that drew the water up to hands spanned for the sun 

Inside their deep ridged hide blooms the last breath of 

The damned 

Those with no love left in their hearts

No battle left inside their souls 

Are made of timber’s shadow black 

And frost that never thawed 

At all 

I am the wild man in the uprights 

Sure of foot and strong inside  

And if you stray into the  denseness

Let your instincts be your guide 

Listen 

The craft of nature works in silence and sleight magic 

Changing faces beneath the patterns of a spying sun 

Trickled light runs tentatively into rootball gullets 

Thrusting fibres, linking fingers, find the source of 

Everyone 

Those with no purpose or direction 

No mantra and strength to draw upon 

Are left immersed in inkwell  plunge pools 

To be seduced by nature’s 

siren songs 

I am the wild man in the stories 

Fierce of face and bold in stride 

And if you find me in the denseness 

Hold your screaming fear inside 

Listen

Uncountable old gods live and die in gnostic regions 

They huff the smoke of mountains only to breathe out pure love 

Between each Titan a new legend is spun in darkened gossamer 

And wings that spanned the ancient ones still circle high above 

Those with no watchers or believers 

No light to reach for at the end 

Are lured into the all is lost 

To secret places that the night defends 

The sacred places upon which 

Our heart’s depend

Listen.

Infernal inheritance

Spells are susurration in the thickets and hedgerows   

The threatening 

The looming cling

Of something  

Deliberately slow

Of something that we know but dare not show

On my door a painted hand 

And on its palm infernal cuts

Blackthorn sticks in bundles hiding 

Parts of little dead things 

Polished stones an outer circle 

To a strange distorted skull 

And in between the teeth 

A letter tied with chords 

That made it sing 

With secrets resonating 

In its strings 

‘Danse for joy as sun departs 

Thou servants of the Great Despot 

Without a stitch nor worldly shame 

On weight of earth then sometimes not 

There bestow your inside shine 

Around the ruff of horned Noire 

And in thy frenzied offering 

Be not afeared of monster’s flair 

Under stark divested leaf 

When children scream themselves awake 

That draws the swell of turpitude 

In fire and blood and rail of crake  

Swine that are designed as we 

With fang of wolf and talon’d hand 

And will that is there influenced 

From blood to blood in saraband

Withered gasp of final breath 

Clotted blood of stillness bound 

Teller’s tongue, like extremes, blue 

Secrets laid into the ground  

Three by three again by three 

Is knowledge that is sacrosanct 

By keys that are, in earnest, sought 

Bestowed to leaders of the rank 

Fat and rope make incandescence 

Snuffed before invaders glance 

Be you in your pot, above 

You be nothing more than chance 

Powers of the single point 

Grant a view beyond the seal 

Powers of the night, assault 

The charlatans that claim to wield 

Summon dragon kings to heel 

A charge against thine enemies 

Summon forth the tempest queen 

To unleash sceptered furies 

Fall to earth when breaks the dawn 

Turn your eye from beast to man 

Slough the slather from your limbs 

Swear your deeds to other plans 

Thou art born a Capricorn 

And with this scripture from the Law 

Be you on the left hand path 

A birthright set before you 

At your door’

In my hands a vellum page 

And on my palm, infernal cuts

The mark of sorcerers of old 

Resurrecting little dead things 

Stones that smoothed inside the gut 

Jewels of this distorted world 

And between the caw of murder birds 

A distant voice plucks terror 

On its strings.