Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Old Sculptor

As of late, I have been busy with my law practice and with summer here in the National Capital Region, I have been trying to enjoy the warm weather with my wife and have neglected my paranormal researches. My dreams have been prosaic recently and I have thought that perhaps the eeriness of the last few years have been due to work related nerves. Until my friend Worthingham sent me a frantic email a weeks ago and the slow skulking confusion once again entered back into my idyllic life. Friend Worthingham told me a tale that was both peculiar and absurd. If I had not known him since our days together in law school, I would have thought him insane. Allow me to start from the beginning…

It was during the first week of May when I awoke one morning, checking my email before breakfast, as is my morning routine. Most of the emails were spam or announcements from various professional associations I belong too. One email address stuck out though. The email was from my old law school friend, Henry Worthingham of the IP law firm: Spittle, Sachs and Worthingham. Worthingham had made partner five years ago and we had lost contact with one another ever since that time, due to busy schedules.

I clicked on the email in my inbox and I found the message to be both terse and frantic. This was unusual since old Worthingham was always an affable and playful chap. The message merely read: PLEASE!!! SEE ME TOMORROW NIGHT AT OUR OLD HAUNT, 8 PM SHARP, I NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE WHO UNDERSTANDS!!!

I did not know what to make of it. My first thought was that Worthingham was in some sort of financial trouble. I emailed him back immediately that I would of course meet him at The Continental, our old English style pub in Old Town Alexandria, near the Potomac River. We hadn’t had a pint in there in years but I knew it was still in business and I am always willing to assist a friend in his time of need.

The following day was both cold and rainy. The weather report from the previous day had predicted a warmer and partly cloudy day, but no rain. I drove my BMW slowly down King Street, probing for serviceable on-street parking, finding none, I resigned to parking in a gritty garage. The parking garage was overseen by a half-asleep, uninterested Ethiopian attendant who casually tossed me my parking ticket. I walked to the pub in my trench coat and umbrella, trying to avoid the tenacious, dark puddles of water springing up around me like land mines.

The Continental was warm inside, with a few patrons milling around the dart board and some government workers in dark suits dawdling at the bar, nursing their Black and Tans. Many of the booths were empty, except a few invaded by tourist families with little to see at that hour. Worthingham was standing at the bar, holding a Bass, staring out into space. He looked in a dreadful state, his dark, threadbare suit was wet and rumpled, clearly he had not bothered with either a rain coat or umbrella. Worthingham had always been a ginger haired fellow of good size girth and ruddy checks. The man standing before me was a gaunt, pale and almost bald imitation of the jovial Worthingham I once knew. I walked up to him and greeted him.

He looked up at me, his eyes reddish and unblinking. His half-hearted attempt at a smile was more of a severe grimace, as if he were in constant physical pain. I ordered a Strongbow Cider and suggested we find a booth. I did not want Worthingham to unburden himself to me with a group of strangers milling about in earshot. Worthingham nodded his consent and after the barkeep placed my cider in hand, we walked to a corner booth, far from the lackadaisical patrons. We sat down and before I could say another word, Worthingham’s bloodless lips parted and he began his harrowing account.

Do you remember how much I loved art, Old Son? It used to bring me such pleasure to go to a museum or to find some artist’s gallery to peruse. Well…no longer, now I stay as far away from any artist workshop or building that contains anything of an imaginative nature. Do you believe? Do you believe, Old Son that art can contain evil? I’m not just talking about depicting evil; anything by Hieronymus Bosch can display that! I’m talking about actually contain evil in its very fiber! Four months ago, I would have laughed at anyone suggesting just a ridiculous concept. In fact, I used to read your blog for amusement and imagine the crackpots who use to believe such superstitious drivel.

He turned his eyes downward at the old pockmarked wooden table. Worthingham took a deep breath, more of a wheeze really and continued.

I don’t laugh at you anymore. In fact, I think you will understand what I am about to confess to you. Take from it what you will. However…know this, I won’t live to see the fall, Old Friend.

Just after the new year, I decided one Tuesday to ‘play hooky’ from my firm. Ever since Elyse left me for that damn quack psychiatrist, I found that on occasion, I needed an art related distraction. So I drove out from the District and decided to peruse the old Torpedo Factory Art Studios. I had not been there in a long time and I knew that it being winter and a week day, few tourists or art lovers would be around. I know you’re not much of an art amasser and probably have never been there.

You see, Old Son… as you know…the torpedo factory, by the Alexandria waterfront, built torpedoes for the U.S. Navy in World War II. For many years that hulking structure stood dormant at the terminus of Old Town, until a group of artists, along with the city decided to turn it into a place that housed various art studios with a wide mixture of art mediums. All of the studios have large window facing outward where casual passersby can observe the artists at work.

I had not been there in a few years and decided this would be the perfect distraction for the day…a decision I truly regret. I found a parking space close by due to the few individuals lurking around that cold winter day. I walked inside and found the structure almost vacant of artists, many of the studios closed for the day. A painter here or there but no one who stood out to me. I took the stairs and sauntered about the second floor for a bit, when I observed an eerily glow from a small corner studio, the peculiar light emanating inside drew me towards it.

When I reached the studio, I stared into the large window and observed a most peculiar looking artist. He was a bald, very gaunt looking man, dressed in a simple white cotton shirt and jeans, his feet were bare and he wore a large weathered leather smock, giving him the appearance of an old fashioned butcher. I could not see his face because his back was towards me. He seemed to be a sculptor of some sort, since he was working with a type of clay, which I was not familiar. The clay itself was sickly, yellowish in pigment, unlike the typical earthy brown clay of a pottery artist. I could not see the work of art fully, since the artist was in front of it, working deliberately and diligently.

The studio was weirdly lit due to many of the overhead fluorescent lights malfunctioning in a weird sort of cadence. Only one would remain lit at one time while several others would blink on and off. I don’t know why but I felt my hair on the back of my neck and arms stiffen. My tongue grew dry in my mouth and my heart began hammering against my chest. I was rooted to that stop, outside that large display window in the hallway. Any thought of knocking on the studio door quickly vanished. In fact, the very thought of stepping into that studio filled me with an existential dread that I have never experienced.

As if on cue; the artist suddenly stopped. He stood straight up, he must have easily been well over six feet and he turned. For the first time I saw that terrible countenance. The skin of the artist was very dark and his features very angular. From behind, I had assumed he was African in origin, but his nose was long and pointed and his lips thin and cruel looking. He had no eye brows and his eye color…well, I simply cannot describe the color because I have never viewed such a color in all my years on this earth. He smiled at me, I would not believe that such a face could appear even more terrible but when he smiled, I glimpsed ancient yellowish teeth which were sharp, jagged and animal looking. He appeared ancient, not so much in the physical sense but in a strange sort of cosmic manner that I cannot intellectually explain, even now as I sit here.

It was at this point of the tale that Henry Worthingham began to quiver, he eye lids began to twitch and his hands reached out and grasped my wrists. Worthingham’s fingers curled around my shirt cuffs and as he began to speak again, his nails dug into fabric. I could not break his stout grip and as he continued, he fell into a near psychotic state.

For the first time I saw…I saw what he was working on so diligently. It was a large bust… it was a large bust of a man…a man screaming in terror. The mouthed was agape and aimed at the sky, his large curls cascading down towards the floor, the lips pulled back in pure agony and his eyes bulged from their sockets. And the face! My god! Even frozen in such passionate suffering…I still recognized my own face!
I don’t remember how I came to be outside, a full four blocks west of the factory, on King Street. I was told a police officer on patrol had found me in a back alley, sometime in the evening, covered in my own vomit, crying and muttering to myself. I was transported to Alexandria Hospital where I was examined by an ER physician, then transferred to a psychiatric ward where I spent the night. The next day after passing some mental status exams, I was allowed to be discharged and given the name and phone number of a local inpatient substance abuse clinic. I went home and called my secretary advising her that I going to be out for the next week on sick leave. I must have slept the entire week.

I told Worthingham that it was quite a tale and he was lucky to survive such an apocalyptic experience. Worthingham regained some composure and released his grip. He consumed the rest of his drink and took a few deep breaths and continued.

Oh, but my tale isn’t finished, Old Son. You see, once I had regained some soundness of mind and body, I decided to find out more about this dark, old sculptor and his “art work.” I knew I could not physically go back there. Instead, I found a phone number for the Torpedo Factory and called it, I spoke to a volunteer who was little help. She advised me that she thought that the studio space I described was vacant but gave me an email address of the director of this artist enclave.

Immediately, I emailed said director and pretended I was interested in renting a studio at the factory. She responded a few days later. She confirmed that the space was indeed vacant, had been vacant for well over a year in fact. The reason for this she felt was because of what happened to the last artist. Apparently, he was an unusual chap who painted scenes of a grotesque nature (she would not go into detail). This artist had an affectation for the both the occult and the cosmos, spending most of his free time visiting an old book shop in Dupont Circle and gazing at the stars with his telescope. The other artists reported his behavior becoming more erratic (again…no details) and he suddenly changed his medium from painting to sculpting. Tragically, he took his own life not long after starting his sculpting and never completed any works in this medium. This was all the information the director either knew or was willing to share with me.

I advised Worthingham that this was indeed interesting. He held up his right palm, indicating that he was not finished with his story.

In answer to your next question, no the artist was not as I described, in fact, I found a picture of him on the internet. He was of Asian descent and had a full head of hair. It was not long after this minor investigation that I decided to stop going to any art galleries and forgo anything related to art altogether.

It didn’t help. In my dreams I began to see the Old Sculptor, he would laugh at me and beckon me to follow him to some strange unknown place. I always refused but sometimes when I would wake up, I would see small bits of yellowish clay on my wooden floor, near my old easel where I use to paint, on the other side of my bedroom. After these mysterious clay instances, I found myself a complete insomniac. I am unable to sleep at night and can only nap a few hours a day in the afternoons. The other law partners in my firm made me see an internal medicine physician and what I thought would be a routine check-up with possibly a prescription for sleeping or anti-anxiety medication turned out much worse. You see, Old Son, I have advanced bone cancer. I was sent to an oncologist but she could not explain how such cancer could develop and advance so rapidly, in such a short span of time. I knew…but why bother telling anyone (except yourself), they would just assume I had gone loony and put me in a state mental hospital until the inevitable. I am so tired now, the pain from the cancer gets worse and the prescribed pain meds no longer have any effect. Thank you…thank you for allowing me to unburden myself.

I reached and patted his shoulder and told him that if he needed anything to not hesitate to call but I knew from the expression on his face that his time grew short. We stood up and said our goodbyes and walked out into the rain together and went our separate ways. Two days later I received an email stating that Henry Worthingham had committed suicide at his home and a funeral was being planned for that weekend. I went to the outdoor funeral and like all funerals, it was a solemn occasion of remembrance for the deceased. As I watched the casket being lowered into the ground, I could not help but notice the soil inside of the soon to be covered grave, it was clay, with a very yellowish pallor, unlike the typical dark soil found in most of Alexandria. I do not know what to make of this.

Should you be interested in knowing more about the Alexandria Torpedo Factory, more information can be found here. If you should find yourself in a dark corner near a strangely lit art studio, I would decidedly take care and not venture any further.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The time of the winter solstice is almost upon us my dear readers. Fall has come and is almost gone now, the trees are bereft of their life giving foliage and the natural world either slowly dies or prepares for its long slumber. Unfortunately, my slumber has not been so restful. I continue to experience protracted nights of strange, alien places and creatures in my nightly reveries. Thankfully, by morning, I have forgotten the contents of most of them, leaving my sanity intact. However, one particular dream comes to me every fortnight without hesitation. The setting is not so alien, yet it is terrifying nevertheless.

You see, here in the National Capital Region, I am surrounded by beautiful colonial structures, which breathes life into the mythic origins of our republic’s founding. I have always been fascinated with eighteenth century America, a time when it seems almost anything was possible. For instance, even a humble hardworking man with enough wit and wherewithal could launch a prosperous business enterprise or an assiduous surveyor could become a popular general.

At the same time, some of these old historic places fill me with a strange dread, as if something foul took place there long ago but a malevolent energy lingers still, as if time itself refuses to move on from the foul deeds which were perpetuated there hundreds of years ago. One such place is the old Ball’s Crossroads at Wilson Boulevard and Glebe Road, in the Ballston area of Arlington. Located near a major thoroughfare, many commuters drive by the area on their daily sojourn without giving it even a passing look. For me, the area takes on an indescribable sinister quality, whenever I pass by it even though original structure no longer stands and in its place sits a rather banal appearing historical marker. However, I cannot but help feel the hair on the back of my neck begin to prickle whenever I am near the area.

Many times I assumed this reaction was due to some anxiety at having to deal with heavy commuter traffic or the poor driving skills of the other motorists. Then the dream started coming to me this fall. As far as I can tell, I have never had such a dream, which was both vivid and realistic in terms of its locale and the people who populated it. I will describe the dream with as much detail (and courage) as I can muster. Occasionally, the dream varies somewhat in the personal interactions I have with others but I am always the same “character” and travelling the same localities.

In the dream, I groggily wake up, as if my life now was just a vividly detailed nocturnal reverie. I awake from my slumber dressed in a fashionable men’s nightgown of the eighteenth century. I walk to a large washbasin on a table in a small, plain wooden room and with a small mirror begin my daily absolutions with soap and razor. The trance like fog which had clouded my mind begins to evaporate and I begin to recollect who I am. I am Josiah Miles Smith, a newly minted lieutenant in the fledging continental army. I have been living in Northern Virginia, at a newly commandeered house, formerly owned by a wealthy loyalist, now deceased by his own hand, in the City of Alexandria. The year is 1777 and I am attached to the 1st Continental Light Dragoons. I have been here for the past few weeks, convalescing, after receiving a minor wound at the Battle of Philadelphia, which had occurred during the fall.

As I pull on my cotton shirt and leather breeches, I feel my quiet self-confidence begin to radiate throughout my fiber. I look forward to going back and joining General Washington’s campaign to the north. My previous dream of a outlandish and distant future has all but disappeared, as I don my distinctive white and blue Dragoon tunic and strap on my large horseman’s saber. I admire my highly polished black riding boots before exiting the small bedroom and walking downstairs to the dining area. I greet the other recuperating officers who are seated at the large wooden Queen Anne table preparing for their morning meal. However, I prepare for my other morning ritual, instead of a shared meal. During most mornings, I prefer a long ride on horseback near the banks of the Patowmack River.

As I stand at the entrance of the outside stable, waiting for the stable boy to retrieve my large black stallion, one of the house servants comes outside and calls me by name. A middle-aged, rotund, friendly chap with a cherub face, he now appears hesitant. He hands me a letter and simply states that it was delivered late at night and the messenger had been heavily bound from head to foot (not unusual considering the cold rain storm we experienced the previous evening). Nonetheless, I was told that there was something ‘sinister’ in the way the man simply shoved the letter into the hand of the shocked doorman who answered the heavy, repeated knocking during that howling storm. The doorman stated that the rider simply turned around and “disappeared into the night” without “even a word or glance back.” The servant turned then and fled from my presence, as if I carried an invisible pox.

The letter was small and rather dainty, on the outside in neat flowing script, it stated:

Lt. J. M. Smith, 1st CLD
For Eyes Only

I pondered this enigmatic missive briefly, before placing it in my tunic for later analysis. The stable boy handed me the reins to my horse and I eyed him wearily, being that he was filthy and wretched, looking more like a street urchin than a respectable stableman. However, my stallion appeared freshly groomed and fed, therefore, I grudgingly parted with a halfpenny.

I rode southeast, past the waterfront of Alexandria, sneering at the various foreign sailors unloading their exotic goods on to the docks. I eventually increased my stead’s speed into a gallop, moving away from the banks of the river and enter the splendor of the solitary forests. I ride for a while longer and begin to feel my mount tire; I slow his pace and decide to dismount on the outskirts of a large plantation owned by the general himself. As I rest by my charger, watching the slaves slowly work the plantation fields, I take my water skin from my saddle and swallow some water. It was only while unbuttoning my tunic that I rediscovered the forgotten letter. I sat near an old oak tree stump and tore into the envelope. The letter was respectful and concise in tone and written in the same neat, flowing script. The letter proclaimed the following:

Dear Lt. Smith,

You have never met me, nor do I wish to announce my identity, sir. I know you only through reputation. It is this honorable reputation as a cavalry officer and Virginia gentleman I now beseech. I have been told that you are a former divinity student, Harvard Divinity College no less, prior to joining this just cause of ours. As a decent Christian man, I need your help, Sir! Acts of unspeakable brutality and blasphemy are being unchecked in this region, under the eyes of the Divine One himself!

I have tried to implore various authorities in the past to investigate, but due to the war, no one takes my indictments earnestly. I know that you are a young favorite of our beloved general and are attached to his staff. Perhaps, you can confirm what I have seen and heard and entreat our patriotic leaders to cleanse this impious region of its veiled, wicked denizens. Tomorrow night, there will be a masquerade, hosted by various leading families of Northern Virginia. A dashing, young cavalry officer, with an upright reputation, such as yourself could easily infiltrate such a soiree and confirm what I have espoused. In the basement of this house, appalling incantations are made and ghastly acts of sacrifices are made to appease horrors which should not be. Please Sir! Go to this masque and probe these horrors, do not allow our young country to be governed by those worshipping dark pagan gods!

In Yours,

I place the letter back in my tunic and button it. Although I find the letter entertaining, I’m also fascinated by how the author knew my identity and location. I had not told anyone where I was going to recuperate and only a few members of the general’s staff knew the exact whereabouts of my accommodations. Also, I had received such an invitation earlier in the week. The masque ball which was being hosted by the Balls of Fairfax, was a way of both raising funds for the Continental Army, as well as the spirits of the local revolutionaries, or so I was told. I had not planned on attending, preferring to keep my identity discreet, in case loyalist spies were present. Although I had no interest in searching for pagan gods, I found being a cavalry officer during wartime is an expensive undertaking and the lavish attentions of a wealthy widow would improve my pecuniary concerns. In my experience, masque balls never lacked in lonesome affluent widows. I smiled to myself as I promptly made up my mind to attend. I straddled my charger and rode off, with the tobacco picking slaves giving me curious glances.

When I arrived back at my temporary abode, I immediately drafted a letter announcing my presence for later that evening at the Ball’s country estate. I had one of the reluctant servants (all of them appeared uneasy at the mere mention of the name ‘Ball’) deliver the document and spent the rest of the day organizing my affairs and making sure my uniform and accoutrements were suitably presentable. The day flitted away quickly due to the season and I found myself once again on my faithful steed, heading west towards the Ball’s estate. As I travelled westward and the city streets gave way to silent, deserted dirt roads. I found myself surrounded by bare sinister looking trees and small appalling farmsteads. As I drew closer to the estate, the air seemed heavier and almost quietly overwhelming. Eventually, I located the sprawling mansion hall and moved my reluctant mount towards the large black stable nearby.

A stable slave even more dreadful appearing then my own emerged from the shadows of the dark stable. Apparently, my charger shunned the smell of him based on his braying and his initial attempt to pull away. I asked the slave a few simple questions; he simply lifted a thin, dirty sleeved arm and pointed towards the house. I assumed the boy must be mute and turned on a boot heel and marched smartly towards the grand entrance of the hall. Outside, a black masked servant, wearing small antlers atop his head and a whitish robe of ancient Rome ushered me inside the finely decorated foyer. Once inside the Grecian adorned grand hall, another toga wearing servant, acted as guest greeter and crier. He announced my attendance to the forty or so guests which were present.

Inside, all the masked guests were dressed in their finest raiment. Servants dressed in togas with curious bulky animal masks enclosing their entire heads served lavish sustenance and drink. My hosts, the Ball family, along with another politically powerful family, the Carlins were also dressed in togas. These togas were a sinister red in color with gaudy purple trimming. All around me, they conspired in whispered tones, while drinking from exquisite wine glasses. A masked gentlemen, tall and slender in build, wearing a naval uniform, broke away from the retinue and walked towards me.

“Lieutenant, do come in and enjoy our hospitality. I am Ensign John Ball, one of the hosts for this evening. Please help yourself to some victuals on this bitter fall night and refresh yourself. Would you like me to make some introductions for you?”

I declined the ensign’s courteousness. I advised him that I would make my own introductions; Ensign Ball smiled warmly and turned his attention to another newly arrived guest. A strange uneasiness had descended upon me. Although a great fire roared from a fireplace inside a prodigious brick chimney, the air inside the great hall was inexplicably cold. I passed by the servants with their trays of food and beverage, I found I had no appetite. Perhaps the letter writer was not touched in the head as I previously dismissed him to be. Slowly but deliberately, I made my way closer to another doorway, which appeared to lead to the kitchen. A constant flow of servants moved in and out this doorway. As I made my way to this doorway, I stopped and made witty banter with various masquerade guests, so as not to appear suspicious and draw attention to the social etiquette I was about to break. It was well over an hour before I finally made my way across the hall.

Finally, I was at the doorway, I waited until there was little ingress and egress of servant foot traffic and quickly ducked instead. Inside, I walked a short hallway, this lead to the kitchen. A small army of slaves were present, busily preparing trays and cooking. Outwardly, I put on my sternest countenance and barged into the kitchen. To make my performance appear even more intimating, my right fist was clasped around the pommel of my saber. The slaves, for their part, did their best to appear as if such an intrusion were an everyday occurrence. They cast their eyes downward and fully ignored my presence. I walked straight towards another door at the other end of the kitchen, which brought me outside.

My goal was to find the exterior basement door and stairs, which would lead me down into the cellar of Ball’s Hall, every such estate had them. It was then that I experienced the utterly profane “music.” I involuntarily shuddered at the sound, which was a cross between a whistle and a poorly tuned viola. In a copse of oak trees, to the north, torch lights could be seen. The music drifted to me from that location and I spied a small foot path which led into the dense grove. I trembled slightly, imagining what may exist in that ancient coppice. Briefly, I considered going back to my charger and retrieving my saddle pistols. Then…the music stopped and my previously drained mettle returned somewhat. I took a deep breath and slowly drew my saber. I presumed my swordplay would have to be good enough to meet whatever challenge lay at the end of the footpath. I cautiously exited the lawn of the estate and entered the wood.

The path was narrow but well worn, it twisted and turned and the oak trees loomed over me evilly. Some of the branches of the trees appeared to move, even though no wind was present. I began to perspire and my heart quickened in pace. I had too much of an imaginative mind. As I neared the end of the path, I heard voices. The voices started out in disparate whispers but soon became a unified cacophony of prayer. The prayer was neither in English or Latin, blessedly, I could make out little other than: “Ia, Sub-nigguarath…Ia, Sub-nigguarath.” However, even this…even this simple phrase made my bowels shift and my knees weak. I gripped my saber tighter until my knuckles went white and burst forward into a large dirt clearing.

In the clearing, an unimaginable horror began to materialize. A group of men and women in the garish reddish and purple togas, wore animal masks, chief among them, Ensign Ball, sans uniform and the only worshipper without either mask or clothes, had his naked arms raised in the air as he finished his blasphemous invocation. Ensign Ball stood naked a few feet from a large stone well which spouted in the middle of the clearing. The other dozen masked worshippers became silent and began to hypnotically sway to an unearthly melody, which was unheeded to me in my traumatized state. Then a sound I cannot (will not?) described gurgled up from the well. Ball’s face contorted into ecstasy and a maniacal laugh issued from his lips and chilled me to the bone. Ball suddenly cried out:

“She comes…she comes…the mother of a thousand young…come and bare witness children…she comes for me and I shall give her my seed.”

The true dreadfulness of this liturgy suddenly became apparent, as Ball’s manhood suddenly and fully became erect, engorged with blood. Large, fibrous tentacles, covered in black icur arose from the well and moved upward, they encircled him in an almost sensual embrace. The trees…God help me! The trees began to sluggishly move forward into the clearing, but they were not trees! The now living branches were in reality, twisted appendages and the creatures moved on large cloven hooves, great, sycophantic maws opened and spewed forth the previously heard “music!” My God, it was their LANGUAGE! I froze at the utter horror of this outlandish orgy. Ball continued to laugh witlessly as he fused with the thing ascending from the well and I screamed. I screamed as no man has ever shrieked and then….

…I am in my bed, in my home, my wife has me by both shoulders and is yelling at me, telling me I am having a nightmare. I am covered in sweat, my pajamas soaked through, my heart is hammering against my chest…yes…a dream I tell myself, only a dream. I repeat this to myself over and over again. I pray that through repetition of this statement, I will eventually believe it. Yet… this statement does not explain why whenever I pass the above historical marker of Ball’s Crossroads on Wilson Boulevard, a deep shiver runs down my spine and my palms become cold and clammy. No colonial farm estate stands in the area any longer, only a few nondescript modern office buildings. I still can’t help but wonder, if in the bowels of one of those ordinary buildings, a stone lined pit still remains, where something awful and terrifying sleeps and waits for a specific kind of sacrifice.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

In and Out of Time

Fall has finally arrived here in the Washington, D.C. area. My work in litigation has kept me blessedly busy and entirely focused over the summer. I have never taken such pleasure in mundane tasks until now. Since the last disturbing email I received (see previous weblog entry), blessedly, I have heard no more of the strange and inexplicable activities around the Potomac area. Until now…

Yesterday, as is my habit every Sunday morning, weather permitting, I was drinking coffee on my patio and reading that weekly tittle-tattle rag, the Potomac Free Press. I consider the stories in it no more than local gossip and one could hardly consider these stories as real, fact based “journalism.” However, I enjoy the weekly crossword puzzle and as many of you have discovered in previous entries, it has exposed a notable event or two in its dubious pages. While reading this “newspaper” I discovered a very curious article about a recent mental health competency hearing in regards to a local prominent dowager. I present you the following article in its entirety:

Yesterday morning, at approximately 10 a.m. Alexandria police responded to a noise/disorderly conduct complaint in the 200 hundred block of South Washington Street, in Old Town. Pedestrians touring the Lyceum reported an older woman in her fifties arguing loudly with a younger man in his twenties, even hitting him with her purse at one point. The woman, who gave her name as Leslie Towner was heard exclaiming vociferously to the young man, “you are not my son, where is my son???” Responding patrol officers had to physically restrain the agitated woman. The young man who identified himself as Charles Towner, advised police that as of late, his mother had not been acting herself. Apparently, when Ms. Towner heard this statement, she flew into a rage and exclaimed, “I haven’t been acting myself?!? Explain to me how a college dropout, who never had ANY interest in academics, suddenly masters complex principles of physics and strange forms of geometry!”

At this point, due to her instability and at her son’s insistences for his mother’s mental health, Ms. Towner was taken into custody by Alexandria Police. Ms. Towner was taken before a local magistrate at the old Alexandria court house off of King Street. A competency hearing was held to determine whether Ms. Towner should be hospitalized involuntary. Ms. Towner is the widow of the late William E. Towner, the former owner of the hugely successful Chesapeake Clam Cake restaurant chain.

During this hearing, Ms. Towner and her son, Charles gave testimony before the court. Ms. Towner explicated:

I remember very vividly the change in my son occurred two months ago. You see my son has always been very social and outgoing, to the detriment of his academics. Scholastic pursuits just did not seem to interest him in the least; he preferred to search for the next thrill instead. Charles WAS always the life of the party, when his father was alive it drove him crazy. Charles would go out with his friends to various parties and not return until late in the morning, where he would then precede to spend all day in bed until sundown. However, since he was our only child we indulged him and allowed him his hedonistic pursuits, even when he was asked to leave American University after only two semesters.

Suddenly, everything changed, at first I thought it was wonderful that Charles had decided to mature and take up a more responsible hobby. Charles stopped spending time with friends, refused all party invitations; instead he would spend hours at the Library of Congress or the libraries of the various universities in the area. Charles became a complete introvert. He would shut himself up in his studio apartment above the carriage house garage at night. Once while he was out, I sneaked into his apartment, I still had a spare key you see. I couldn’t believe what I found inside!

Almost the entire floor and every available table space, just littered in various books, old texts and astrology maps. Some of these texts were very ancient, I think written in Latin? This explained all the packages we had been receiving from various antique book stores from around the area. Many of these packages were from a Mr. R. Corvino. In addition to the antique texts, Charles had purchased various modern text books on theoretical physics and non-Euclidean geometry. I found piles upon piles of notebooks written in Charles handwriting. The notebooks made no sense! One scrawled word, “Yig” was constantly repeated throughout these notes. Charles appeared to be critiquing these various books and making a record of what he considered the most relevant material and cataloging it for God knows what!

I confronted him that very evening when he returned home. He became enraged and snarled at me for invading his privacy and not to concern myself about “areas which my limited ape mind could never fathom!” Charles never talked like that to me…or anyone! Charles retreated to his apartment, buying and installing new dead bolt locks the very next day. Sometimes at night, if the wind was just right, I could hear something akin to chanting coming from the small apartment. This isn’t my lovely, playful son, this is some sort of monstrous doppelganger!!!!

At this point in the proceedings, Ms. Towner became so upset and emotional that she had to be taken out of the court room. The magistrate asked Charles Towner to testify as to his mother’s accusations.

Charles Towner was calm and reticent when he relayed his version of events. Mr. Towner advised that a few months ago, he had been involved in a car accident, while out with friends. Mr. Towner stated that during the accident he “blacked out and lost track of time for several minutes.” Once he had become re-oriented to time and place, he decided he needed to take life more seriously and pursue areas of knowledge that were vast and unsolved. Charles Towner advised that the chanting his mother heard was a form of Buddhist meditation he had decided to practice and his coolness towards her was simply part of his maturation process as an adult.

A forensic psychiatrist who had been tasked to conduct a clinical assessment of Ms. Towner state of mind by the court testified. It was of the professional opinion of Dr. Deidre Jenkins that Ms. Towner suffered from Delusional Disorder, most likely brought on by the stress of her husband’s recent death. Dr. Jenkins opined that Ms. Towner needed hospitalization in order to be treated properly. At that the magistrate had Ms. Towner involuntarily committed to the Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute until she was deemed by staff as being healthy enough to live back in the community and not be a danger to herself or others. Calls by this newspaper to Mr. Charles Towner went unanswered and indeed no one has seen Mr. Towner since his mother was hospitalized. The old Towner manor near Del Ray appears to be abandoned and has now been taken over by Bank of America. Ms. Towner’s health has declined significantly and she is no longer capable of coherent speech…

I found this to be such a fascinating article, if not a bit lurid. It is not every day that an enormously wealthy widow is involuntarily committed and her former errant son goes missing. Of course what really drew my eye was the antique bookseller; it had to be the same Corvino, that peculiar antiquary who absconded in the middle of the night, not long after my visit during the winter. Out of morbid curiosity, I took a stroll down South Washington Street, near the intersection of Duke Street in Old Town Alexandria and took a few pictures of the Lyceum, apparently a favorite place for young Mr. Towner to ruminate. The Lyceum of Alexandria was built in 1839 as a sort of library, lecture hall and private study/reading room for the community. To this day, it still functions as a lecture hall and exhibition museum. More information about this fascinating structure can be found at the museum’s official website: http://oha.alexandriava.gov/lyceum

As always, I have placed some pictures of the exterior of the Lyceum at the beginning of this entry.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I, Ghoul or The Changeling

Forgive me…I do not know how to preface this entry. The email I received was so utterly shocking and disturbing; I considered deleting the unholy and perverse text from my inbox. Even now my hands shake so badly, I can barely type. I pray that the electronic missive I received was a hoax, created by some unwell, perverted prankster.

However, I believe you realize how important it is to me by now to probe the strange phenomenon which is occurring in this region. Against all raison d'ĂȘtre, I am going to place this entry in my web log. I placed a photograph I took of the small memorial park dedicated to Kahlil Gibran, off Massachusetts Ave in Northwest D.C., which our writer mentions. I have no more to say, other than this is what I woke up to one unfortunate morning recently, making the blood in my veins congeal. I present it to you now, unedited and in its original diseased format.


By the time you read this, I will be no more…I think. Even now, I’m having trouble typing due to only having the ability to type with my stiffened fingers. My mind, my mind feels as if a noxious fog has descended upon it and enveloped it, strangling my thoughts. My labile emotions rotate between utter ennui and white hot rage. At least I’m still capable of human feeling…for the time being. We have never met but we are both haunted by dreams of that bizarre plateau of Leng, where mold encrusted humanoid creatures gesture to me, urging me to follow, while uttering excited gibbering. However, that is for later; allow me to begin my narrative earlier.

I grew up in Washington, D.C., never knowing my parents. As a baby, my father, according to my adopted parents, a degenerate alcoholic, murdered my mother in an alcohol fueled rage one night, before being shot and killed by DC police. I was told that had the police not arrived in time, I too would have been buried with my mother. My adopted parents, an older professional couple who had been childless, took me in and raised me as their son. They are both deceased now but my lingering memories of them are fond and happy ones.

I had every advantage growing up as a son to an upper middle class, educated couple in Northwest D.C. I attended school at Sidwell, then undergraduate at Georgetown and finally Dentistry College at NYU. Eventually, I took over my adopted father’s dental clinic in Adams Morgan. It was a lucrative practice which allowed me to travel around the globe and indulge in my hobby of collecting strange and fascinating objects of ancient fetish practices.

While on a visit to Southeast Asia, I purchased a most amazing ceremonial mask at a roadside stall. The mask, when I saw it, captured my attention immediately. I purchased it without delay, probably overpaying the villager who seemed all too happy to get rid of it and couldn’t tell much about it other than it was used by an extinct tribe. A tribe I believed he called the Tcho-Tcho?

The mask was humanlike but the nose was broader, almost flat, the mouth with its strange lips was permanently transfixed into a smile, revealing large canine like teeth. The mask even had ears which were strangely pointed. I placed the mask on the wall above my bed, soon after the nightmares began. At first, I could not remember them, only waking up with my heart hammering in my chest, griped by some unknown terror.

My wife, an ER physician, prescribed a mild sedative for me and I tried to put the night terrors out of mind. Yes…my wife, I have not mentioned her before now, have I? Elisa and I met while at NYU several years ago. She followed me back here to D.C., completing her residency at Washington General, where she spent her nights in the ER, stitching up gunshot wounds and fixing the broken bones of abused children from Southeast DC. She later transferred to Sibley where she practiced until her death.

Yes, her death, I can think about it now without falling to pieces. Is it because of my lost humanity? She was driving back to our rowhouse on Massachusetts Avenue, near Embassy Row. After a long shift, she must have been tired and it was raining so hard that night. The policeman who informed me of her death claimed that when she swerved into the truck, her death was very sudden, he said…I was in shock for days afterward, my partner at the office took over seeing my patients, later I would sell him my half of the practice altogether.

I shut myself off from the world in my townhouse, only leaving to take long walks at night (the night was a comfort for me), where I would routinely drink copious amounts of brandy from an old hip flask I had been given by Elisa, at the little park dedicated to Khalil Gibran by the avenue. Elisa was so beautiful and full life. I was later told by one of her co-workers that she had been four weeks pregnant at the time of her death, she was going to surprise me with this joyful news.

One night, as I walked north from the park, I heard strange noises coming from the cemetery near Rock Creek Park. The cemetery, Oak Hill is small but well kept and is where my lovely wife is or rather was interred. I knew that no one had any business to be there at 1 a.m. and decided in my drunken, grief stricken state to investigate the peculiar uttering I heard from the grounds of the cemetery. I climbed over the steel gates, which caused little trouble, being a lean and limber able bodied fellow. As I moved across the cemetery, I found it odd that I was fascinated and not in anyway repulsed from the throaty, frenzied voices I heard, for the sounds were neither man nor animal in origin.

However, to my horror, I discovered the exact location of the uncanny and eerie whispers. The grave of my late wife, who had been laid to rest just a few weeks ago, was now the source of those horrible voices. I was filled with self-righteous rage and sprinted towards her burial site. The grave had been disturbed a large pile of dirt was visible near the headstone, that was the least disturbing image though. Two ‘creatures’ (no other term could describe theses rubbery skinned, slouched, six feet tall humanoids) were fighting over the remains of a corpse which had been bisected at the chest, a corpse of a slim, dark haired woman…my Elisa. I howled at the top of my lungs, a howl that communicated my ire and despair and yet seemed to be an actual language, my GOD I thought…I’m speaking to them in their ‘language.’ The creatures turned their long dog like faces towards me (the heads of these creatures appeared so familiar). One of them spoke to me, yes, I actually understood it.

“Our hunting grounds, little one, find your own…when you have fully matured.” It hissed in an atrocious tone at me and I think…laughed. The second, around my height and weight and with a similar brow (but hairless) as my own, simply gawked at me.

“Get away from her, you…you freaks!” I croaked and prepared to fight them both over the dissected remains of Elisa. Something struck me from behind (probably a hidden confederate of theirs) and darkness closed around me. When I awoke I was surrounded by half dozen police officers and being accused of grave robbing. I began to scream and babble and assuming I had gone mad from grief, I was taken to St. Elizabeth Hospital for psychiatric evaluation. I was released a few days later. Since the grave had been empty (and my home was searched for pieces of the corpse and none were found) and I was the grieving widow, the District decided not to bring charges but I was warned never to return to the cemetery under any circumstances.

When I returned home, my nerves were still badly shaken; even after the benzodiazepines I was prescribed. As I stumbled into the bedroom, my eyes looked up, the mask! The mask was a facsimile of the faces of the two creatures from the cemetery! My head swam with alien thoughts and suppositions. Even before conscious thought was evoked, I voiced the word ‘ghoul’ out loud. As a child, I had heard stories of these graveyard haunted beings who fed upon the recently deceased and kidnapped children from their beds (usually naughty ones). My head throbbed with an all consuming migraine, hideous childhood fantasy blended with cold adult reality. I had witnessed the feeding ritual of a gang (?) of ghouls, clearly there had been more than two. I sat on the edge of my bed and drank some water, as my mind calmed, I wondered aloud why they did not kill me or kidnap me. I knew I had to do more research but I was so tired from the last few days and the benzos took effect, I fell into a deep but restless slumber.

In my dreams, I was in a strange land, at night, running across open fields with semi-cloven feet. I stopped by a large tree, a putrid stench entered my nose and my long gray tongue ran over my sharp, jagged teeth. I raised my hairless head and inhaled deeply what to me was a heady, delectable perfume. My claw like fingers gouged the thick black earth near the tree, knocking over some sort of religious marker, I did not care. Raw hunger drove me and my hands dug deeper, until I find the swaddle rags and I pulled the round bundle from the ground. A raw, gleeful crackle escaped from my rough throat. My long hard, bony claws tore the cloth apart. The empty eye sockets of the dead baby stared back at me in innocence. I scraped the maggots away from the black distended flesh. I cracked and tore the plump left arm from its small shoulder socket like a fetid turkey leg. My mouth widened as I moved the arm to my watering mouth…I woke up screaming but the words which come out of my mouth are not the English language.

In the morning, I met with my dental partner and his lawyer, we sign the necessary papers for him to take over the business. I have enough money from the sale, my savings and Elisa’s life insurance policy that I will never have to work. I am determined to spend my ‘retirement’ investigating and researching these repellent man-beasts.

I turned to the internet for my initial research but the information I located was fruitless, useless speculation only. However, I do locate a strange antique book seller in Dupont Circle, he sold me a copy of a book, written in English but transcribed from a much older text originally written in Latin and rumored to have been authored by the ancient English alchemist John Dee himself. It was a warm day when I purchased the book and decided to read it at that little memorial park dedicated to Gibran, where all this began.

The accursed text is a horrid thing and can only be described as blasphemous to all that is natural and commonsensical. Various strange spells and incantations are described which I will not go into detail, in order to shield your sanity. Towards the end of the text though I find what I have been searching for since this horror began, a history of the ghoul in the western society. These creatures were described as eaters of the dead (ravaging local burial sites for their repast) and are drawn to areas of ancient influence and magick, for the ghoul is a harbinger of worse horrors to come, the vanguard of a ghastly inhuman invasion. The ghouls have a tendency to precede various disasters, both nature and otherwise. According to that vile text, their keen dog-like senses can smell impending horror. In physical description the ghouls are listed as exactly as I have witnessed.

As disgusting as these passages were to read, it was the final passage that filled me with despair and dread. According to Dee’s accursed translated text, ghouls could breed but not very fruitfully and a human could transform and become a ghoul. A human, who ate of dead flesh and lived in very close proximity of a clan of ghouls would, over time, transform and take on the physical and eventually the psychological characteristics of a ghoul. In order to increase their numbers, ghouls were known to kidnap newborn human infants and place their own ghoul infants in the stolen child’s crib. An infant ghoul is indistinguishable from a human infant. The human infant will be raised by the ghoul clan eventually turning into one. The ghoul child will grow to be an adult and once he or she reaches a certain age will began a hideous metamorphosis.

I slammed the book shut and looked down at my hands. Since Elisa’s death my fingers had begun to feel arthritic, the bones curling and painful, my fingernails were hard and yellow, impossible to clip so I just gave up. My general lack of hygiene was becoming appalling but those few friends who still visited me assumed I was still in a state of severe bereavement. However, even they began to visit me less and less and would gasp whenever I would open my front door to greet them. No…no…I am imagining things. I need to walk and collect myself; I gathered the book and my uneaten snack into my leather messenger bag and began walking. I walked all the way to the Dupont Circle metro station and boarded it. Not really knowing why, I found myself on the orange line to Rosslyn and then the Blue line towards the Pentagon. I exited at the Arlington Cemetery station and strolled into the vast burial place.

My pace began to quicken and I picked up a pungent scent that increased as I weaved my way around various tombstones of service members and government dignitaries. Suddenly, I stopped and fell to my knees. An odor I can only describe as the most delicious scent to ever invade my nostrils was upon me and I found its origin. Before me, lay a pile of dirt. A freshly interred soldier, killed in Afghanistan, placed in his final resting spot a few days before. I wept, those passing by assumed I was a bereaved friend or relative. However, I mourned for something far different, I mourned for my lost humanity, at the foot of that grave,that I wanted to so badly desecrate.

The next few months saw me become a recluse. I burned that accursed book in my fireplace but that act was borne out of frustration than anything else. I knew nothing could stop the transformation. Although I had a receding hairline for a few years, I quickly lost all of it, including my body hair. The mail carrier spotted me one day and said how sorry he was that I had cancer, after that I shut myself off from the world completely. As I write this my face has undergone a hideous alteration, my teeth are sharp and wicked in appearance, my skin like pliant leather. At night, I hear their call, the voices… chattering…nails scraping on my windowsill. I find myself looking at recent obituaries and contemplating the most noxious acts imaginable. I sleep all day and only awake at night, prowling around my rowhouse, from the outside, miles away; luscious fragrances enter my deformed flat nose and tempt me, even in my self-imposed prison. It won’t be long now. I can’t fight my birthright much longer. I know now why my “father” drank so much and why he felt the need to destroy his family, some how he knew. He knew I was not really his son, born of his flesh, he knew I was a changeling and what I would eventually become…it no longer matters, my memories fade as the hunger begins to overtake me completely…

(End of Message).

A few other lines were written as well, they appeared to be ramblings of this very poor deluded fellow, something along the lines of: Ia! Subb-niggarath? Should I receive anymore emails from this highly disturbed fellow in the future, I shall delete them without reading them. May God have mercy on his soul.