Written Micah Castle
Illustration by Sheik
— I —
Father Marcus, late for confession, hurriedly moved down the marble floors of the First Brook Baptist Church, sweat beaded his forehead and his stole looked like it was dancing jerkily with his movements.
Through the high stone archway he entered the main section of the church. Light poured in from the large stain-glass window of Mary near the ceiling, and the pews were washed by multicolor light. But that did not matter to him, someone was waiting, he could see. Across the floor Father Marcus paced, towards the confessional that stood on the other side of the church.
As he grew closer, for whatever unknown reason to him, he inspected the confessional more closely. The color of the wood reminded him of milk chocolate, the yellow tinted glass on both doors brought back faint memories of a book he once read, and the carved, twisting, crucifix etched, wooden support beams were something to admire the most.
His wrinkly hand gripped the black steel handle, and those thoughts quickly vanished. With a sigh, he swung open the door and stepped in.
— II —
Sitting down onto the wooden seat, Father Marcus closed the door, brushed down his stole to remove the wrinkles, exhaled deeply, then slide open the wooden divider, and placed his hands onto his lap.
“Forgive me father, I have seen things,” the voice said on the other side.
“Like what things, my child?”
“Things only the mad would admit.”
There was silence, then the person continued.
“Beyond heaven, I have seen. Places filled with things that no man could believe. Strange places with gods, leaders, entire species, unlike anything here.
“Only who have opened their eyes, are able to see them. Lesser Gods like Ci’arab, and Greater Gods like Uydian, and Nragisoth, and their quasi-offspring like the Tor and the Gougth. And the places, oh god, the places are torn from nightmares. Crafted without a sense of direction, balance, or geometry. It’s hellish father, terribly hellish…”
The person’s voice trailed off, and Father Marcus spoke with a faint voice.
“My son, how did you… come to find these places? You must remember that only His kingdom is beyond this world.”
“I opened my eyes Father, the ones on the inside.”
— III —
“Eyes, on the inside, my son?”
“Yes, Father, on the inside. The ones that are the most important. Without opening them, one cannot view these things or places.”
“How would one do such a thing?”
“That’s a story for another time, Father. I’ve come to confess my sins.”
“Yes, yes, my child. Please, confess your sins in front of Him and He will forgive.”
“I have done terrible things, Father. I’ve murdered and escaped arrest. All for a selfish motive, all for the eyes — I have gone mad, Father, utterly mad. There is nothing left for me. I have passed on, moved on, beyond time and space. You will be the last thing to hear my voice and absorb my words. And, He will too, of course…”
Father Marcus had his fair share with the insane in the past, but for a reason he could not put his finger on, he felt like he was in danger. He fidgeted with his fingers, and he could feel the sweat forming under his clothes. At times, his hands trembled on his lap, but he tried his best to keep them still.
With a breath heavier than him, he forced the words out.
“I will not judge, for I am not Him, my child. Please, continue, confess your sins and all will be forgiven.”
“It began, a week ago, father…”
— IV —
“A friend and I were out in the middle of night, doing what young men typically would do — waste time and all that. We found ourselves on a street, outside of the city, I do not remember how we got there, or what the street name was. But we strolled down the pavement, the sky was the blackest I have ever seen, and the yellow glow of the street lamps covered the sidewalks at intervals.
“At the end of the road was a house, an abandoned house from the looks of its yard, and from the glow of the street lights, the walls were dirtied and the roof was missing shingles. It stood quite a ways away from the other houses that lined the street, like it was an outcast. I thought it was strange, but not strange enough to leave it alone.
“My friend and I jumped over the metal wire fence, and scurried through the unkept grass into the house’s backyard. While we moved through the lawn, we could see the shattered windows twinkle in the night, and the scattered glass shimmer on the ground.
“We made it to the backdoor and jimmied it open. It moaned on its hinges when we pushed it open, and at that moment, I was sure we were to be caught. But of course, as you can tell, that did not happen.
“We walked through the open doorway, then began searching the house for anything interesting. My friend went off on his own upstairs, and I stayed on the first floor, moving from one room to the next.
Each section was littered with debris, dust, trash, and dirt. The ceiling in the living room had fallen in, and in the corner of the dining area stood a tower of trash bags. Within that heap of garbage I could hear the squeaking of rats, and the sound of ripping plastic in between their yellowed teeth.
“A shutter went up my spine and I hastily moved back to the kitchen, standing amongst the rumble that was once a place to prepare and eat warm food. My friend came back downstairs, and met me in the kitchen. We spoke briefly of what he found upstairs, the same as I, trash, dirt, debris, rats, so and so forth. We came to the conclusion that house had nothing of interest, so we began to take our leave, but when we neared the backdoor, my eye caught of a glimpse of another door — one I had not noticed until then.
“I assumed it lead to the basement, and when I pulled the door open, wailing as I did so, we could see tarnished planks of wood nailed to the wall, serving as the stairs. They descended down into a thick darkness.
“We should have left at that moment, I know that Father. But, curiosity should be a sin of its own.
“Going first, I started to climb down the stairs. The blackness surrounded and engulfed us almost instantly. Our palms were kept to the wood walls, for support, but soon the wood left us and became stone.
“Eventually, I do not know when, we made it to the bottom of that stairwell. Although we did not have a watch to confirm, but it felt like an hour or two had passed. I tried to fight off that feeling — it could not be true, the house was simply not that large.”
— V —
“It was freezing down there. I could see faint glimpses of my breath, and I began shivering almost instantly. My friend was in the same shape, except he was smarter than I and had his arms wrapped around himself for warmth. Despite the frigidness, we pushed forward into that dark basement. As our feet moved across the cement, I had the suspicion we were descending, it felt like the floor was slated downwards.
“Another hour, I believed, passed when we finally made it to the end of the basement. A stone wall blocked our path, and I could feel we were on a much lower level than where we started. It was like going to the deep end of an empty swimming pool, you can feel the depth surrounding you.
“Groping the wall, we searched for any sort of light, or anything that could provide warmth, but we found nothing of the sorts. What we did find was a hallway.
“Before entering, we discussed what are next plan of action should be. He suggested that we let it alone and simple leave, return home and bask in a warm fire, a good book, and as much coffee as we can drink. Or, I replied, we go down that hallway and find something worth much more than any fire, book, or coffee, could ever provide us.
“Greed is a sin Father, I know this, but like all sins, the nearer they are, the more irresistible they become.
“The further we walked down that hallway, the colder it became. My fingers and toes were numb, and I could feel frost on my upper lip. And despite this, I had to desire to turn back, neither did my friend. It was as if we were subconsciously being pulled wherever that corridor lead to.
“Some time later, I do not know when, we exited the narrow passage. You could feel the openness in the darkness. Quickly, with shaking fingers, we groped the walls for a light switch of any sort, and luckily, my friend found one. It was a lever, and with a pull, a dozen torches overhead became ignited. Light filled the room and blared down upon our nocturnal eyes so suddenly we had to hide our vision behind our arms.
“Minutes later, when we were adjusted to the glow, we looked around the room.
“This part, and the ones further on, Father, are hazy. It is as if my mind has cloaked them in a veil of thick fog, and refuses any entrance.”
— VI —
“The room was square and lined from floor to ceiling with shelves filled with books. Tomes with no names, or names that I could not comprehend. That was it, that was the big discovery my friend and I made after hours of walking in a dark, frigid, basement instead of spending the night by a fire, having a good time. A library, an ancient library hidden away underneath heaps of soil.
“To make the best of it, we decided to look around. We were there already, so what else was there to do? Splitting up, we moved down adjacent walls, inspecting the rows of books. There were some titles I could read, like Ones Before Us, The Unnamed, and The Gray Write. But there was a feeling about them. Even though they were simply books, I had a heavy feeling in my gut, and a bubbling fear in the back of my mind.
“I feared them Father. I feared that if I would have pulled down those dusty tomes and read what they possessed, I would learn. Learn some unspeakable and archaic knowledge that everyone has forgotten, or simply does not know exists. Perhaps it was better that way, some things are better left forgotten and ignorant of.
“I wretched myself from where I stood and continued down the rows of books, the feeling of fear slowly drifting away. I met my friend and the end of the rows, at the back wall. Standing side by side, it seemed one particular book caught our attention simultaneously. It was the one ancient tome that we dared pulled down from those wooden shelves, and regrettably, open.”
The person who sat across from Father Marcus abruptly fell silent. In the silence, the Father’s curiosity grew more than ever. It was like a swelling of the vocal chords, something that had to be let out, to be out in the open, for it would simply explode within him. Nearly shouting, he said, “Continue, please!”
Realizing his outburst, he quickly snapped back in control, wiped his sweaty forehead with his arm, muttered a prayer under his breath. Then spoke, “My child, please. If you want to confess your sins and be forgiven by Him, you must speak all your sins, not just the ones you choose to reveal.”
“Yes, Father, I suppose you are right.” He said with a sigh, then continued.
— VII —
“With trembling hands, I reached out and pulled out the book. It was black, had no title, and was wrapped in a leather that smelled of cemeteries. It was heavy and large, so much so, I quickly placed it onto the floor.
“My friend grew fearful by the sight of the tome in the light. The way the aged leather glistened under the torches’ glow, the way it looked like burnt flesh more than anything else. And the undead smell, I believed, was more than enough for him to vomit. He said he was going to stand near the doorway, to get fresh air.
“Left alone, I kneeled on the floor and hunched over the book, and after a few minutes, opened its cover. The sound of the binding ripping open I can still faintly remember, and the wafting smell of decomposition when it was entirely opened still haunts my nostrils.
“The cover page revealed the title, Pteryg’rnea. I did not understand what it said, nor do I now, thus I skipped ahead to a section of the book that I subconsciously, I believe now, knew laid there.
“Like the title of the tome, the page’s title was illegible and forgets me now. But remarkably, the text below was not. When I began reading Father, those forsaken words, everything grew dark, then completely black, around me. It was like the room melted away and I was left alone kneeling under the torches’ glow.
“I could not see my friend, the shelves, or even the cement floor below. I believed I was transported to another place, a place that He warns us of, a place that not mortal man wants to be, where Beelzebub reigns.
“But I was wrong, Father. It was no Hell. It was something… something much, much, worse.”
— VIII —
“While I turned the pages, the text blurred by like scenery outside of a moving train. In a matter of seconds I had read the entire tome, and when I closed the book, the blackness surrounding me began falling away. The light above grew brighter, and looking away from the closed book, I realized I was no longer in the basement. My friend was no longer standing by the door that evaporated with the basement, and no longer was the cold that creeped up from the stone present.
“I was kneeling in a vast desert place. It stretched as far as my eyes could see. There was no sky, but utter blackness. The sand was gray with specks of purple, green, and yellow. My vision snapped back to the book, in hopes that it would transport me back by reading it again, but when I did so, the tome sunk into the ground.
“In a frenzy, I dug at the sand wildly until a hole that went to my elbow was made. But it was gone, Father, as if it transported back on its own, leaving me alone in that strange area.
“Looking back up, in the distance, I could see something standing. Suddenly, as if I had put on binoculars, it was closer, its details clear. It possessed an enormous head, with multiple, round, bulging eyes protruding out from its skull. Its thin body was greatly dwarfed by its head. Its skin had a violet hue and its limbs were tiny and frail. It adorned some type of clothing that looked like torn up parchment. I could not see its legs, or feet, they were lost in the stand.
“Fighting back the screams that crept up my throat, and holding the madness at bay, I closed my eyes and looked away. Mentally trying to trigger the transportation back to the basement. I did not want to be there, I did not want to see the engulfing, ever-present, blackness overhead, nor did I want to view the queer speckled sand I sat in — and never did I want to glance at the hideous creature in the distance.
“But then a voice echoed behind me. A thunderous, but quit, voice rattled in my skull. Without it introducing itself, I knew it was one of the gods that I read in that damned book, but I knew not which one.
“It said to kill the creature, Father. It said to murder the abomination that stood ahead. To pull its eyes from its body and consume them. To devour what I have not obtained — eyes, on the inside.
— IX —
“I did not want to Father! Truly I did not want to harm whatever creature that was, no matter how terrible it was! But, the voice seemed to fill me like my skull was an empty cup and its words were water from a pitch! It filled my mind to the brim with madness! No matter how much rational, local, or sanity I had possessed, nothing could fend out those words!
“I stood up, with my hands clenched. Crept up behind that ugly multi-eyed being. It felt like I was watching myself in third-person, as if I was an audience member in a horrifying play. Then, as I stood behind that monstrosity, I stretched out my hands, and then… I cannot remember… truly I cannot Father. Everything beyond that point is a blur of dull colors.
“The last thing I recall after creeping up to the creature was when I looked up, I could see the torches that lined the basement’s ceiling, and in the corner of my eyes the rows of books where there. No more endless blackness, and no more sand, was anywhere to be seen. To reassure myself, I looked down—“
Sobbing echoed into Father Marcus’s section of the confessional.
“When I looked down, there was not sand, nor the monster from before, but my friend. I had murdered my friend! And— And devoured his eyes! I ate his eyes Father! Looking down I could see his eyeless head in a puddle of blood, and my hands were smeared with it as well! Everything came rushing back to me! I could taste the eye fluid in my mouth, I could feel his blood gurgle up my throat when I tried to breath, and I swear I could feel his eyes lolling in my stomach!
“The room spun around me, I could hardly stand, breath, or think. Gripping one of the shelfs, and pushing my fingers through my bloodied hair, I closed my eyes and fought back the overwhelming feeling of puking. The room kept spinning, I kept sweating, and tears kept falling to the floor.
“But everything came to a screeching standstill when a faint noise echoed down the hallway. Someone, or something, was moving around upstairs. I could not take any chances. With blood and tears caked over my face, I glanced to my friend once last time, said I was sorry, then sprinted down the corridor.
“I spent the remainder of the night, and the following day, aimlessly wandering the streets, trying to make sense of the madness that transpired that dreadful night. I moved into an alleyway, leaned against the wall, and began puking.
“I forced myself to vomit for what felt like an eternity. I wanted them out of me. I wanted my friend’s eyes purged from my body. Blood started coming out instead of vomit, but I did not care.
“Then, as I heaved and tried to breath, an idea came to me. I had to confess what had happened. Someone had to know. Nothing I did was forgivable, but telling someone, anyone, would help in some way. Another idea followed, to confess to a priest. Yes, a priest, one who could forgive on a higher level.
“Barely standing, I stumbled out of the alleyway and towards the closet church nearby — the First Brooke Baptist Church.”
— X —
Father Marcus sat in silence, his hands cupped between his thighs, and his vision on the blades of light coming in from the yellow tinted window. His eyes were wide and red, as if he had not slept in ages.
His hair was wild, long gray streaks tumbling down over his forehead and eyes. He could feel the sweat under his clothes, and felt the uncomfortable moist heat in between his arms and thighs.
For reasons that his rationally could not make sense of, he was drawn to the person’s story, felt pulled by the book. It was a feeling he had not felt since he first joined the ministry, and gained deeper knowledge of the Good Book. It was just a book, papers bound with string containing text about archaic stories and people. Why would its strength be so powerful? He could not make sense of it then, nor could he now, but he knew he felt the overwhelming pull of its power.
But now, almost suddenly, the Good Book was not the only ancient tome he wished to hold, to read, and to live by. His emotions wavered and became engrossed by the other book, he wanted Pteryg’rnea more than anything he possessed. An ancient tome that could deliver without an afterlife, a book that could allow him to ascend beyond his reality without the act of dying. He would be able to see and do things that no human dared even think about.
He wanted the book — he wanted the power.
Forcing the words out, he said. “My child, please tell me something. These things you spoke of, the gods, the leaders, and those species. Where you able to see that in that place? The place with the speckled sand and black sky?”
“No, Father, I did not see them there. I saw them here, in my mind. I still see them now, as clear as I see the tinted window before me. It is like I am in two places at once. Here on Earth, rambling madly to you, and there, where I can see these creatures moving around and I can hear their leaders give them orders, and I can hear the great, might, booming voices of their gods thunder down from the black abyss above.
“Why do you ask Father? Am I forgiven?”
“Yes, my child, your sins have been forgiven. All things are forgiven by Him.”
Silence fell over the confessional, then he spoke again.
“Did you return to that house? Did you find out what happened once you left?”
“I did, yes, from the newspaper. The police reported to a breaking and entering call, but when they went in, they discovered my friend’s body, eyeless, laying in one of the rooms upstairs. I do not know who moved him, nor do I know if they found the basement.
“Honestly Father, I cannot say for certain that even the library exists, save for my deluded memories. And, no, I did not return to that house. I refuse to be near that hellish place ever again.”
— XI —
Unbeknownst to the person confession, Father Marcus had gotten up from his seat, silently crept out from his side of the confessional and stood outside of the person’s door. Beyond the yellow tinted glass he could see the faint shadow of the person sitting, still talking.
His plan was to ask this person to take him to the house, to guide him through the corridors, and finally to hand over the book. If the person refused, he would force him. He was a madman, the Father thought. One with an imagination of space and fictional creatures. But the book, there is always some reality in fiction, and like the Good Book, he knew, it was real and its power was real too. And whose better to possess it, a madman or a priest?
With his wrinkled hands trembling, he reached and gripped the steel black handle. His teeth were gritted, his forehead was beaded with sweat, his eyes were wild, and his locks of hair were matted to his flesh.
It felt like his heart was going to burst out of his chest when he ripped open the door. It was more than adrenaline pumping through his veins, but fear, a type of fear that no human could ever comprehend in a lifetime. What sat in that confessional was no man, it was no human, it was an abomination. It was a creature that should have been the universe’s abortion.
It possessed an enormous head. Dozens of large emerald bulging oval eyes, its skin was a violet hue, and its limbs were lanky, thin, and frail. And its entire body was draped in a ratty yellowed clothe that looked like a piece of paper long forgotten.
It was staring at Father Marcus. The priest’s mouth was agape, and even though he did not believe it was possible, his eyes were wider than ever before. His hand still gripped the onyx handle, but his arms would not move, nor would his legs.
Petrified he looked, and heard, when the creature asked.
“Do you want eyes on the inside, too?”
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