This story was written under the influence of Blut Aus Nord‘s 777: Cosmosophy, as well as The Chasm‘s Farseeing The Paranormal Abysm. For best results, listen to the following while reading:
The mausoleum door opened with the grinding of stone on stone, hinges protesting mightily. The crypt’s interior had been presumed undisturbed for at least a hundred years, although under the illumination of my flashlight, it seemed that presumption had been inaccurate after all. A thick coat of dust covered much of what I could see, but something had clearly been crossing the floor multiple times, judging by the assortment of footprints and drag marks. The footprints themselves seemed to by man-sized and man-shaped, something that I found oddly relieving given the rumors that had been swirling about town, and the path they described led to a closed sarcophagus at the mausoleum’s far end.
I feared to open the sarcophagus, given the recent incidents that had provided the catalyst for this particular investigation, and yet I knew that it was necessary. I had come this far, tracking the suspected culprit to this cemetery and then to this particular mausoleum, and the pistol holstered at my hip provided some small comfort, although I could not speak to its likely effectiveness. Sighing, I placed the flashlight atop a nearby urn so that it illuminated the sarcophagus, then set about opening it with pistol in hand, terrified at what I might find.
The lid of the sarcophagus was easier to move than I had anticipated, and the rush of air that greeted me was a surprise as well. Retrieving my flashlight, I confirmed that the sarcophagus was not only empty, it wasn’t properly a sarcophagus after all, but contained a staircase leading down into darkness. The cobwebs illuminated in the light beam, hanging thick on the stone walls. Cursing the day that I had volunteered for this investigation, I climbed into the sarcophagus and began my descent, pistol and flashlight leveled before me.
The stairs extended quite some way down into the earth, far enough that initially the light did not reach the bottom; in the claustrophobic confines of that wretched stairwell, the light emitted seemed dim and insignificant, as if some unseen oppressive force was weakening it. I descended, and a short time later could see the bottom, with a tunnel leading off into darkness. The tunnel was lined with stone and dust like the stairway before it, and it stretched off before me into darkness. I was acutely aware of the depth to which I had descended, and felt some small amount of gratitude to my psyche for not developing claustrophobia during my formative years. The tunnel led on for several hundred feet, then suddenly turned left, and at this point I could see a faint light ahead.
I switched off my flashlight and crept forward, listening intently for anything that might indicate the presence of someone or something ahead of me. Instead, silence greeted me, oppressive silence that served to remind me that I was deep below the earth’s surface. The light grew brighter as I advanced, and I could see that it was coming from a larger chamber ahead of me, although I could not see the light source. Still I heard nothing, noting with some small grim amusement that the silence could only be described as “deathlike”.
I reached the chamber and peeked around the entrance, and my blood ran cold at the sights that greeted me. The room was fairly large, a square room approximately twenty feet across, clad all in the same rough-hewn stone that comprised the tunnel walls. The light came from a sizable number of candles arrayed about the room; there was a rough sleeping pallet across the room with a small table beside it, and a larger table to my left with a stool tucked beneath. A fire pit filled with ashes sat in the center of the room, and I noted that there was an open shaft above it that I could only presume served as a vent for the smoke. There was also a small bookcase near the table, but what truly frightened me was the altar.
It stood against the far wall to my left, surrounded by what was easily the largest concentration of candles. Arrayed around it in various piles, organized by type, were a number of skulls, femurs, and ribcages. I noted that the candles were propped upright by candleholders fashioned from larger vertebrae. Even as I moved closer to get a better look, I could tell that these skulls were smaller and less-developed, and this horrific development served to confirm my theory. I had known that I was investigating the disappearance of a number of children from the town, after all, and now I knew that I had found my prey’s lair.
As I moved closer to the altar, I could see the dried blood that covered it, crusted brown and flaking off in spots. I also could better see the symbol inscribed upon the wall. It appeared to have been painted in blood, and was the same dark brown, although on closer inspection I could see different shades, almost as though the symbol had been drawn and redrawn multiple times. It was large, fully six feet in diameter, and consisted of a circle filled with lines, forming a network of starlike geometric shapes. Several foul-looking arcane symbols were written at varying points, and my proximity to it was causing the hairs to stand up on my arms and neck. I suspected there was some dark magic at play here, and it made me feel vaguely uneasy. I studied the symbol, committing it to memory as best I could, and it was then that I heard the sound.
It was a horrible grunting, straining sound, coming from up the tunnel. I suppressed the panic that rose quickly inside me as I flattened myself against the wall beside the bookcase, pistol at the ready.
The grunting grew louder, and I could hear a heavy dragging sound as well. Undoubtedly my quarry had been out hunting himself, and was bringing his own prey back to perform whatever vile, unholy ritual suited his nefarious ends. As the sounds grew nearer, the grunts became words. “Mustn’t… let… through…” My hand clutched the pistol tightly.
Suddenly, my prey emerged from the doorway. He was extremely pale, and his hair was white. His back was mostly toward me as he rounded the corner, still muttering about not letting something through, but I could see that he appeared to be human. I could see the side of his face, and the skin was stretched dreadfully tight across his cheekbone, and the eye that I could see appeared sunken in its socket. He was dragging a large, lumpy burlap sack, which I could only assume held another kidnapped child. I leveled the pistol and stepped forward, and noticing the movement, he turned to face me, hissing softly. His eyes were blood red, except for the pupils, and when he hissed I could see that his teeth were blackened and twisted. A reddish stain surrounded his mouth, and I could only surmise that it was dried blood.
He was thin, almost skeletal, and the clothes he wore were a filthy brown. His fingernails were long and ragged, his hands stained a similar reddish brown as his mouth. As his eyes focused on the pistol, I saw them go wide, and marveled that they were completely red, with no white. He continued to mutter, although his gibbering took on a more frantic tone. “I… I… must… the symbol… must not… let him through.” I glanced over at the symbol, and in my moment of distraction he lunged at me. I pulled the trigger, but my reaction was not quick enough and the bullet went astray. He crashed into me, and as I stumbled back against the wall, trying to bring the pistol around to aim at him, I realized how badly he reeked. Given his scrawny build, he seemed surprisingly strong, attempting to knock the pistol out of my hand, and he nearly succeeded until I brought my flashlight up and drove the butt of it into his temple. There was a sickening crunch, and he went down. I regained my footing and fired the pistol into his head twice, to ensure that he was dead.
As my heart pounded in my ears, I opened the burlap sack, hoping against hope that another parent would not be burying their child. The little girl inside the sack, no more than seven years old, was unconscious but breathing and apparently unharmed, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I gathered her in my arms and began the trek back to the surface to return her to her parents.
When I returned to the subterranean chamber with a town constable and a reporter with a camera to document the site, the strange man had vanished without a trace. He was never heard from again. The town filled in the subterranean room some time shortly after, and although I wasn’t there at the time, I heard a rumor that a sizable crack had formed in the wall.