Chapter I

Forgive me for the voice captured on this digital recorder, for my speech is shaky thanks to an anomalous mental illness. I ask you to bear close in mind, though, that I do not know what I saw on that night. To say a mental strain was the cause of what transpired – that final moment, which sent me running out of castle city, and onto the rigid, doomed roads and hills of the valley, is to claim that my experience was wholly illusionary and ignores the solid fact of my ordeal. Nevertheless, the things I saw and heard, and the vivid impression produced on me by those people, I cannot prove, even now, whether I was right or wrong in my dreadful inference. After all, the chain of incidents establishes no physical evidence of sinister activity on their part.

Agents of the Ministry of the Interior in 2010 found nothing amiss in the castle or city despite the broken chamber doors within the castle, the open study window, and the splash I heard in the Vltava below. It was as though the whole event never occurred, and the castle owners merely sauntered away from their domicile. There was not even a hint of foul play, or that the horrible recording had been in the study and that they feared the dark city’s obscure residents dwelling near the castle. It meant nothing, for dozens are subject to morbid fears time and again. Delirium, moreover, could easily explain their apprehension and acts toward the end.

The whole matter started, with my acceptance into Charles University. I transferred from Sweden, to study abroad in Prague, to further my anthropology studies into a Bachelor’s degree. Of course, that was one intention, in truth I chose to transfer in late February for another reason. My younger sister had disappeared over a year ago just like my mother before her, and the last thing I remembered was her repeating of moonlight embraces – I will vanish in the twilight, which some believe constitutes her suicide. The reason that became a possibility was due to the events before her disappearance. Ceria – my sister – was the nicest person I knew and was even polite to solicitors, but she had little patience when it came to idiocy.

When she fell in love, it was with someone who just moved to Sweden. Never seeing him I barely recalled his name. Nonetheless, they dated for a period and from her mention “was a dream come true,” as she talked at length about his soft voice. Around early July, Ceria visited him as a surprise for his birthday. When she arrived at his house in Lund and approached his door, she heard odd noises from inside. Peering through the door’s mail slot, fretful, she claimed to see her boyfriend receiving intercourse from another guy. She had ended up describing to me her sorrowful distress and the overall confrontation that inevitably ensued. As imagined their relationship ended. In the end, my sister never cared who he cheated on her with, she only despised the infidelity itself.

We never heard from that guy again. It had surprised me how well Ceria seemed to be handling it, yet after a couple weeks she became reclusive. The times she did talk it was only to me – she seemed languid and pallid. Her eyes were practically cold and lifeless. February 16th was the last I saw her when she left for work and never returned.

That is why I came here, to distract my thoughts from my mother and sister’s disappearance by celebrating my step into adulthood, with sightseeing and then visiting my uncle in five days. I had a tight budget and no car and ended up traveling by bus, hitchhiking or walking. Within Cesky Krumlov individuals told me that going by train was the best way to tour and get to Prague; so it was at the train station after I balked at the required train change that I learned of the dark city. The sagacious ticket seller, who spoke with clarity, appeared considerate to my situation, unlike the other informants.

“Since you're low on finances, you could take the bus,” he said, “It runs through Mireworth. You might have heard about that, although people stay clear of that place. If not, there’s a seventeen-year-old – goes between here, there and Prague by arranged taxi it seems, you could ask him for a ride. He doesn’t live there – looks official, but he’s the only person I know who goes to Mireworth of late. Usually waits near Batavia’s Gift Shop around 8 a.m.”

That was my first awareness of the dark-cornered Mireworth. An allusion to any place where there is little knowledge would have caught my curiosity, not to mention that the seller’s tentative reference to it aroused a certain interest in me. For a city to be repelled it must have some deep cultural mystery that academics would enjoy discussing. I hoped this person would let me ride along, so I could see the foreboding city. After asking the seller more about it, his responses were self-assured and did not falter.

“About Mireworth,” he questioned. “Well, it’s a towering city close to the Vltava River, built in the 1600s. The castle is large for a place that big, all fell to pieces in the last centuries, though. Its residence either do business here or in Prague. They used to have business trades of their own, but that all left except for the factory that’s still operating.

“The factory was once a big deal and the eldest Marek who owns it is richer than any of us. Strange man, he stays housebound with his siblings – some nervous condition. Being children of Nathaniel Marek, who founded the company, they’re apparently born from a foreign woman named Lenora – an Arabian or so I hear. After the death of their parents forty years ago, Dietrich raised, Trenton and Teresa. Occasionally we have seen the three siblings, but I never saw the old man or his wife before they died.

“I guess you’re fishing as to why people turn a cheek to Mireworth? To be honest, you shouldn’t adhere too much of what others say. Although, you might get something out of the tales old-timers spin about the dark construct east of the castle near the Vltava – Academy of Welten. The story is the mad Nathaniel built it, to acquire the arcane truth – whatever that means. The school is a Baroque-Gothic like the town and most people avoid the place, well, except the students who attend.

“In truth people just don’t like Mireworth, but you can’t blame them. The people there are very standoffish, even to the nicest of us. You’re from Sweden aren’t you? I can tell by your accent. They won’t welcome you either since you’re from another country. There is a strange kind of presence in those people, so noticing it won’t be difficult once you see them. A lot of them have pale skin and cold, vacant eyes that seem to look through you. Because of that nobody here or in Prague want anything to do with them.

“There used to be stories of their weird glass art sold by tradesmen. It is possible Nathaniel just got it from foreign business trades, but with his death the town began turning out fewer amounts of the glass art – you’ll see one if you go to the hotel across the way. Just be careful if you go to Mireworth, I can’t imagine that place is pleasant at night, but a daytime trip with that Adel fellow shouldn’t hurt.”

On his suggestion, I went to that hotel. After talking my way into a room upstairs, I spent most of the evening there. Scanning through their small library and reading about Mireworth, which provided little information. I ended up researching it on my cell phone, but that was fruitless. All I learned from my study was that the Marek Glass Factory produced and marketed glass items, making it the sole commerce of Mireworth. Despite the rumors, their glass always impressed the country. It grew late, leaving my attractive room I went down to the main floor for sustenance. Immediately the glistening of a bizarre, glass object on the corner table, under the fluorescence caught my attention. Then the owner of the hotel, a Mr. Thomas Feale, who dabbles in glass art, explained on how he acquired it; which was to his unease from Mireworth.

Once he saw my interest in the beguiling object, the owner was then helpful enough to guide me to the closed off viewing room. His glass collection was a notable one, yet I currently had my sights set on the extraordinary etched-glass portrait on the back wall. Made of pure glass, it took no keenness to beauty to make me gasp at the fantasy. Even now I could describe it from the all green color. The scene was of a forest with densely clustered trees. Human shapes – at least twelve were shrouded in robes and seemed to encircle a stone altar, surrounded by rock edifices akin to the stone circles of England or Scotland. The last bit I could describe was the numerous polyhedron shapes, with their eight triangular faces, six square surfaces, and twelve identical vertices; that appears to defy the gravitational law.

The longer I stared, the more it interested me, yet this interest was curiously disquieting. In contrast to its mystery, Mr. Feale said he had acquired it from a pawn shop on Main Street before things went south. At once he put it up in the hotel. It was labeled as of late century Germanic origin, but this attribution was wholly tentative. Strangely, when the Marek’s learned he had the portrait, they made offers to buy it back. Mr. Feale knew the stories and his feeling toward Mireworth, was of disgust at the social degradation; and stated the rumors around here were justified due to the adding of a cult structure, which overwhelmed all other churches there.

He said it was called the Griever Church and was a kind of pagan group, imported from the Germanic region a century ago. When Nathaniel built the school, the church was merged with it. All of it seemed plausible to Mr. Feale for Mireworth’s withdrawal, but to me it was just a desire to see something new. To my academic passion, I could barely rest in my comfortable hotel room, imagining what mysterious culture I would find tomorrow as the night progressed.

Chapter II

Just before eight the following morning I stood with my backpack on, in front of Batavia’s Gift Shop in the old downtown area, waiting for my ride. Soon an economy sized vehicle of yellow color, bearing the logo Krumlov Taxi rode down the street and drew up to the curb beside me. I felt that this was my ride; a guess made from the person's young face and formal look exiting the café next door. The youth approached the driver’s side window and conversed with the driver. I was certain the youth must be Adel, though, the ticket seller stated he was not a resident, I could not help but wonder if his pale skin was akin to the kind found in Mireworth. Against my examination, memories of my sister’s condition surfaced at seeing the youth’s ghostlike complexion.

I began feeling anguish for my sister, fearing she would never return. As Adel opened the back door, I knew the leaving time loomed, so I conquered my depression and asked him for a chance to ride along into Mireworth. Leaning on his hip, he looked oddly at me for a few seconds and shot back a curious inquiry. I wanted to tell him so I could observe the strange culture yet ended up making our conversation brief, proclaiming tourism. Being reminded of the city bus convenience, I knew he was trying to exclude me from coming along. So I reached into my pocket for a compromise, although from his narrow stare he probably thought otherwise. Taking out the little money remaining, I offered to pay my share of the ride there, but what came next was Adel’s gentle rejection of my giving hand followed by a sardonic smirk.

“You must be desperate to offer up your little money. How do I know you have little money? The way you carry yourself properly, but have a backpack, you’re either a student or traveler. Asking for a ride instead of taking the bus just verified it to me.” He invited me to get in the car. It surprised me how accurate his analysis was, so I ended up sitting on the comfortable back seat with him, expecting a decent ride. The car lightly rumbled as it started. At that time we turned right on the street, flying by immaculate buildings from the 17th century and even older homes, we finally emerged onto a long, repetitive stretch of open country.

The day was moderately cold and sunny, but the rolling plains and hills filled with foliage became more miserable looking as we proceeded. From the window I could see the blue Vltava River, we drew near its bank as our road diverged from the main highway to Prague. The state of the road clearly pointed out to me that traffic was little in these parts. Old telephone poles along the strip carried just three wires. Crossing the old bridges, I took a mental note on how the animal sightings grew lesser the further inland we went.

Along the desolate road, the question of my endeavor to visit Mireworth came up. Adel’s Germanic patois caught me off guard, but I soon gave my concise explanation, which produced an unexpected response from his lean frame. The teen looked at me with studying eyes. It was in that look, underneath the shaggy, ebony hair that waves just at the ears; I noticed a queerness to his eyes. His eyes could only be described heterochromatic, to where his left iris is amber and the right is green. Though the dissimilarity can be a naturally inherited disorder, being eye to eye with them gave me a strange unease.

Overall, he understood my curiosity for the deceptive city. He was even parallel to my desire; for as an intern at the Ministry of the Interior he volunteered to do a report on Mireworth for his political mentor. These long taxi rides did not cost him because his mentor paid the travel expense. He stated, his reason for volunteering was to understand Mireworth’s stance in global politics. Listening to that assured me that I was not the only inquisitive soul eager to see the city. Then we reached the summit of the hill and beheld the valley beyond, where the river curves around the valley. On the distant misty horizon, I could just make out a dizzying profile of the panorama below us. My mind then conceived the realization that I had come face to face with the mysterious Mireworth.

It was a city of towering leviathans with compressed structures, yet one with an ominous dearth of visible life. Going over the elongated, old bridge the seven tall steeples were seen, looming black against the vale’s horizon. A few of them were crumbling down from the top. Vast groupings of gambrel roofs and peaked gables displayed with vivid imagery the idea of worm-like decay. There were also some large Baroque houses with a balustrade forming a widow’s walk.

Getting closer to the school district the structures worsened. Here I glimpsed a colossal black brick building scarcely rising above the city yet holding an aspect of hidden malice. I was confident this must be the Academy of Welten. As I looked, a subtle sense of beckoning seemed conjoined to the ghastly repulsion; for I could see a few individuals leave and enter the construct, wearing steel-cubed cages on their head. Underneath that metal, however, I felt a malignant stare overshadowing us from one of them. When I saw the individual twitching in an unwholesome, grotesque manner as he collapsed to the ground, my mind filled with nightmarish horrors, for no one aided the poor man.

Barely anyone was on the road, but we presently began to pass apparent empty houses with broken or dust-covered windows. Occasionally, we have seen the pallid looking people working in backbreaking occupations and children playing around doorsteps. Somehow these people were grimmer than the city, for almost every person had a certain, instinctive dislike of us I imagined. In seconds, I thought of the etched-glass portrait I had seen, spelling out some hidden horror, but this semi-memory passed quickly.

As the car reached a congested part of the city - Main Street, Adel advised me not to ask questions about Mireworth and do not talk to the ones with cages on. The people here shunned interaction with them for a reason he did not know. Soon we rolled into the large cul-de-sac and drew up on the right side of a moderately sized building with faded dark paint, which proclaimed to be a general store. When we exited the car and our driver left, I was glad to get out and stretch. Adel and I proceeded to purchase a beverage for ourselves in the general store. Inside was an elderly woman with the same physical conditions as the others, so I did not ask her anything about the city which nagged at me; remembering what they said about these people, I began doubting my curious mind would get satiated. Just then, as if he could have read my thoughts, Adel whispered cautiously that he and Dietrich Marek have been good friends for some years, so my inquiries would get answers.

I stepped back trying to hide my childlike elation. So, I Instead studied the scene outside. The buildings here were in fair condition and included a drug store, bank, and a few restaurants; looking westward I spotted the office of the Mireworth's only major commerce – the Marek Glass Company. On the land opposite the bank of the Vltava, I saw the gray spire, which I assumed to be part of the Marek Glass Factory. Then, due to some air of affability in Adel, he offered to show me around. I could not protest it, especially in this labyrinthine city. My traversing would get me lost among the dark walls, a situation I shuddered.

Our walk was mundane, so far when it came to the scenery. However, Adel’s speech had seemed to keep my attention. He knew the city well and knew certain areas were prohibited as he learned in a drastic matter. Lingering without permission around the factory was restricted. Especial avoidance to the school/church, for it was strange – deceptive. From the unnerving lectures to its mysterious studies and ceremonies and voices of a bone-chilling lexicon, only a hideous imagination could be inferred from such a place.

Crossing the bridge and turning toward the babbling river, we passed close to the Marek Glass Factory on Kay Street, which appeared strangely silent. The factory stood on the edge of the river near a passage and an open amalgamation of city streets, abandoned with falling arches and broken walls. Traversing the gulch on the Kay Street bridge, we hit a region of absolute emptiness, which made me tremble somehow. Some of the houses were decent, but the majority was tightly boarded up by withered planks of wood. The windows seemed so spectral it took courage to turn westward toward the riverside.

On Howell Street, desertion was more evident than Kay Street. To my awareness, no living thing or sound existed to me, except the rumbling river. This city was growing more discomforting the further we went in. I repeatedly glanced behind us as we traveled over the stony Howell Street bridge, expecting some malice of unknown origin to be lurking. Adel then seized my attention when he said this would take us to the castle.

Chapter III

Mireworth Castle Courtyard is where the bridge over the Vltava led us. Through the archaic arch, the square was wholly abandoned, which held the decay of earth; as broken stone lay spread around the dreaded greenery. By going a few spaces east we came to the convex castle bridge. While our steps hit the path, I could not help but eye the ominous, humanlike, veiled statues that loomed on either side, spaced about six and a half feet apart – the sight produced a horrid image. The castle was the overall pinnacle of melancholy Mireworth, piercing the sky with darkened steeples and gambrel peaks that overshadowed lower elements while supported by flying buttresses.

I do not know how it was, but with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of unendurable misery infiltrated me. Looking upon the scene before me – I had seen damaged walls, vacant eye-like windows, rank hedges and few white trunks of old, haunting trees. An iciness of the spirit was present with a forlorn thought that no provoking of imagination could torture this into something sublime. I was stopped, in the imagination that an atmosphere hung over the domain, which had no affinity with heaven. Regardless, I resolved myself to sojourn the four days at this castle to learn what I could of the city.

We approached the gray spikes overhead, which I took to be the raised gate. Adel was simply let inside to my surprise, the lack of any employed workers created a disquiet for this place. Within the castle interior, we met a man, no older than his late thirties, who silently led us down the vast hall. The vaulted ceiling enveloped the room, creating a feeling of oppression. The rooms seemed barely illuminated as shadows overtook the degradation and cobweb filth of the red floor and walls.

Eventually, we made our way down the crescent staircase and came into the main hall. The grandiose chandelier overhead was illuminated and added little to comfort the atmosphere. In colors of dusk, the walls were aged and carried aspects of discoloration. The long table stretched at the rear of the hall while two equally long tables were perpendicular to each end of it; as white, ragged tarps lay over them, holding dining materials and decorations that lost their brilliance ages ago. Our remaining host sat at the back, long table, seated miserably before their food.

The man at the middle appeared the oldest, to which I assumed was Dietrich. A young, pretty woman, who sat two seats over to the right, was very pale sitting among the shadows. These were the three Marek children and after my entrance, Adel introduced us. We sat down; and for some instances, while Dietrich was silent, I gazed upon the siblings with part pity and part awe. There must be some logical reason these young adults appear this terrible.

All three had characteristics that were noteworthy. A corpselike complexion with eyes liquid and luminous beyond comparison; their noses were of Arabesque model, their lips were pallid, but had an astonishingly beautiful aspect and the hair was of web-like tenuity and smoothness. Their silken hair had been untended and wildly displayed itself. Dietrich did not seem to eat and stirred the food with his fork as his siblings sat. After Adel’s request to explain their condition to me, Dietrich spoke.

His voice was varying from fearful indecision to burst of passion. It was often unhurried and hollow during his excitement. At some length, Dietrich entered into what he understood to be the nature of their affliction. Dietrich said it was a constitutional illness, which he found no cure for – a disorder of the nervous system. They suffered from acuteness of the senses; sometimes a muscle spasm against the will would occur and along with a contrast of personalities.

I then learned, in broken hints and pauses, of another feature in the disorder. They were in the grips of an influence that called out to them with broken utterances and hideous physical manifestations of demonic witchery. Dietrich admitted timidly that much of the strange despair afflicting them could have natural source – a family illness. “My siblings have the malady worse than me,” he said, with such gloom I could never forget it, “and their demise will make me the last of the Marek family.”

As he spoke, the twins stood almost mechanically and passed through a part of the main hall, ignoring our presence and disappeared. I felt a sensation of sadness oppress me, as my sight followed the twins retreating steps. Hearing the creaking door shut, I placed my attention back on the man before us. Dietrich informed us that the malady was beyond the knowledge of their physicians and therapists. In my attempt to alleviate his sullen character, I raised the question of Nathaniel Marek to him. His response was in varied tones.

“Nathaniel,” Dietrich murmured slowly. “Oh, what are people saying? What did you hear?” I had no reason to hide my knowledge, so I told him. When I finished my inquiries concerning Mireworth, I heard him sigh. “Our father talked about it practically every night.”

“So now,” I said, “thanks to you, a better understanding of this city can be explained to the outside world, right?”

Dietrich gradually raised his hand, “Our father spoke of this city once to the outside and no relevant result came.”

Those words discouraged me somewhat, but I did not let it dampen my inquiries. “The story then...” I began. Dietrich did not let me finish. A deluge of passion swept over him to have found an outlet that he seized upon the topic voraciously. My and Adel’s back was toward the left-spectral window, but Dietrich was facing it, something had caused his gaze to fall on the ominous, distant steeples of the Academy of Welten. The sight seemed to upset him, for he gave weak curses.

“The story began there – that cursed place of hellish design, where the Hollows start, a gate to hell – and clear drop down to a part of the river. Our father had made it – the man that found secrets in that forest.”

He told me how Mireworth was in a terrible economic state during the 1900s when his father was alive. No business could flourish, yet Nathaniel Marek strived to keep the glass factory going. He traveled with two business partners around Europe to find things to help his factory’s production – things that were considered better than the old process in Mireworth. Of course, there was opposition, for some business partners were against the custom of the Southwestern Germanic people. There was talk about a place southwest beyond the Czech Republic, where thick forest lied and deep within its confines were several stone edifices, older than the town near it. Ruins with different carvings had all worn away and had pictures of the unspeakable polyhedrons along with ghastly, humanlike figures.

The ones who lived in the forest had all the minerals and resources they needed, sporting bracelets and armlets made of silver or gold. Also, a kind of glass carved into the ruins was in their possession. Entirely the people that lived there were young – no older than at least thirty-six. Nobody could get the Germanic people to explain where they acquired all of these things, except Nathaniel. No one knew how he did it, but after asking how they gained so much and lived in a forest, the story was finally warmed out of the leader – Rosalyn.

I found myself trembling at the eerie and the genuine arrogance of his voice now; for after he explained that the Waldbewohner or forest dweller was the name of the Southwestern Germanic people in the Black Forest, his father uncovered from them that there are secrets in the world most people never cared to understand. Apparently, as Dietrich explained, it appeared the Waldbewohner knew one, for they sacrificed their young men and women to some witches’ coven, the Ones from His Distant Land; that rooted somewhere in the abysses of Europe. By these inhumane acts, they received favors in return. The same figures carved on the old ruins, they spoke to deep within the forest. In the darkened depths beyond the wall of sleep, they had queer constructs and seas of black and green. It seems when this obscure realm manifests in dreams, the landscape would be full of them. That is how the Waldbewohner became aware of the Shades and soon concocted a deal.

For some reason, the shrouded aberrations wanted human sacrifices. The Waldbewohner accepted this, though, since they had no other choice for survival. There could be an underlying reason, however, for it turned out that a few months after the sacrifices the victim would then appear in that dream. The sacrifice had in a way transcended them into an immortal life among the sea of dreams. So, the living offered an amount of youths to the Shades twice a year – the spring equinox and autumnal equinox. In exchange for this, the shrouded figures agreed to supply them with minerals, they manifested the materials through the earth and used alchemy processes to form the minerals. After some time, the arrangement went fine; for the Waldbewohner stopped thinking about the idea of death – except ailments or anything before the sacrifice. They willingly accepted the ritualistic end of being drowned during the reciting of verses from a strange black-leathered book, because they thought what they gave up was worth it in the return.

Rosalyn then showed Nathaniel the book she used to recite the verses and incantations needed to invoke the shrouded people. Despite the tour of her dwelling, she never revealed one of the Shades, all she said was that they prefer the remainder of their knowledge kept secret. Afterward, she gave him the book and showed the page, which she said could summon one of them from any dark corner. The concept was to darken the area and recite the prayer at the odd hours such as one, three, five o’clock and so on. She stated he could find them at any point on the earth.

Around 1949, Nathaniel discovered the Waldbewohner all gone. Every trace of them wiped away, which made Nathaniel wonder if the nearby village was responsible; yet when he searched, he found few Waldbewohner were alive. These survivors gave little to no explanation of what occurred. It was as if they feared to discuss the devastation. That hit Nathaniel hard since his production was poorer now and he hoped to barter more minerals from them as he did before after their first meeting. Mireworth was suffering even more now because the minerals used in the production helped bring in massive revenue, which was distributed to the city too.

Nathaniel became desperate and spoke out at the city people, telling them of the Waldbewohner, and how they gained prosperity. Stating that if a couple able people could help him, he could get a hold of such a resource and provide hefty amounts of minerals; the business partners who accompanied him to the forest backed up his claim. Though, the general view was skeptical, but since Nathaniel’s factory provided the most revenue, his words swayed them.

At this point, Dietrich faltered and looked out at the sky, mumbling some unintelligible phrase. The moment I spoke to him, he was silent, so Adel and I waited until he would speak again. So far his story seemed odd – I never read of documentation on the Waldbewohner people or any group like that living in the Black Forest. As for Adel, I could not tell if he believed it, most of his expressions have been stoic so far.

“I was young then,” Dietrich suddenly spoke, “but I learned what no boy should learn about his home... Bylands, Lazarus, and Baal-Berith. To hear those ominous words howl through the air during the spring and autumnal equinoxes after they entered that horrid construct, which signaled the act. Then at the school, in the subterranean basements he and his business partners dropped victims from the young to the old into the Hollows, where a part of the Vltava flows under and then the bodies vanish from our world.”

He paused again and from the sight of his watery green eyes, I suspected something foreboding about to surface. When I addressed the poor man’s muttering, he darted a gaze back at me and broke away from his eerie phrases. Dietrich probably saw me sink in my seat, for he began to smirk wretchedly and told the tale – a horror of practices and acts leprous and cancerous with evil dragged from elder worlds. To hint to the school's control of the Hollows and distribution of minerals, which the Hollows provided, after every sacrifice; and the Griever Box, a cubed steel contraption made to restrain the senses of the self, provoking eldritch knowledge and grotesque marvels only discernable by sensitive eyes – would just invite insanity. They desperately sought communion with the Shades to learn the arcane truth, a damnable knowledge those beings held. It was in their avarice when they began discerning the Woordenboek – that black-leathered book, they brought upon themselves misery.

My hands held onto my seat tightly, despite my sense of logic, as I heard the sinister aspects in his words. When the Academy of Welten let outsiders assist in deciphering the book, they learned some of the insidious scripts, betraying the secrecy of the cult. That was when the sightings began, corrupted structures of reality and darkened things stalking individuals. After that, some of the students and city people had difficulty speaking while others became insomniacs. Some exhibited bizarre, sudden jerky movements and gradual blindness. Those who were lucky had a personality change. It all led to one terrible night in September. An encroaching mist inundated upon the city from the valley. The dead and dying were thronged along the concrete streets while shouts and screams haunted the air in Mireworth square. Sinister ritualistic praises surged through the skies.

Dietrich breathed and then continued with the aftermath of that night. Nathaniel took charge and declared the city must make up for their betrayal. Their father was far gone now as Dietrich put it, for Nathaniel had said the Shades brought them minerals and rich commerce, so they should have what they want. Nothing would change on the outside, but the city would avoid sharing its secrets with outsiders. To reconcile themselves with the shaded devils they would all take the coven’s oath, signing their names in that eldritch book and will continually give bodies to the Vltava. Their caution to the monsters prevented any protest. Ten years following, Nathaniel divorced Lenora and married another woman, whom he had a child. The daughter ended up studying abroad in England after Nathaniel remarried his first wife.

“You probably want to know the real horror right? Well, it isn’t with those shaded devils, or our father’s mad determination to salvage a city through horrendous rituals,” Dietrich said. “No, the real horror is what the ones that afflicted us are doing now. Those homes on Howell and further in on Kay Street are full of them – Viser they call themselves, but I know they are the Ones from His Distant Land – the men, women, and children. How do I know you ask? I’ve seen them, caught a glimpse of what they look like during their nightly procession at the Vltava, on their so-called day of Ostara and Mabon.

“Oh sure, they look like decent folk, but on moonlit nights amidst those quieted homes, their caldron where all the varied devils of adolescent to corrupt ages mix their venom and perpetuate their obscene horrors; committing Dionysian carnal intercourse to fuel the progression of their magic and then sing in hideous praises. No one knows why they’re here or what they plan, but I captured part of their Witches’ Sabbath one night in hopes to..., Oh God, I hear it – those inescapable chants!”

The abruptness and terror of the man almost made me weak. His eyes wide and he covered his ears while he wore a mask of fear. Those cadaverous claws dug monstrously into his ears as if to tear them off. Adel started at Dietrich’s frozen stare and shook him to move him back to reality. The wide-eyed expression he wore gradually faded, soon his grip lighted and I retreated upon my feet, cautious of the troubled man’s next action. Echoing in my ear was the incoming roar and pattern of watery beads upon the streets outside the window. It was then I saw the twins watching the scene from behind the stair banister and then depart once more. Both siblings eventually retreated through the creaky door again with melancholy around them. It was around the time our night ended the twins had succumbed to the enervating power of Hypnos.

Chapter IV

For a few days, I was hostage to the castle due to the raging tempest outside. During that period, the names of the twins went unmentioned by Dietrich, Adel or myself; for Adel and I became preoccupied in our endeavors to liberate the misery of our host, through a theoretical argument that his experiences are caused more by neurobiological malady than archaic witchcraft. Later in the night as we all sat in the study, Dietrich revealed his wish to show us the Woordenboek, but it had disappeared last month. Instead, he chose to play the recording for us from his digital voice recorder so we may understand his torment. I could sense an increased feeling of aggravation from his frame; for he disclosed his disdain at our skepticism.

To capture it for posterity, I secretly set my device to record from my backpack, so this so-called proof could be better studied. This recording, he had said was obtained around 2 a.m of September 2008, near the sixth boarded up house on Kay Street. Former experience had told him that September eve – the ghastly Sabbath would probably be more fruitful than any other date. One of the voices, he mentioned, was eerily soft amongst the other voices. From what I heard would burn a haunting echoic memory in my mind.

(Unidentified sounds of a male voice) the Lord of the Covenant, even to the four-day child for from the gulfs of nightfall to the ends of dreams, always praise Lazarus. Forever the gifts to the sons and daughters of the Lord of the Covenant, oh Baal-Berith!

(A distorted voice and soft human voice)

Oh, Baal-Berith, the Lord of the Covenant, who rules the Ones from His Distant Land.

(Male human speech)

So it is said, child two-faced and innocent, descending the ebony steps. Control fragments of nothing, enslaving dreams.

(Distorted voice and soft human voice)

...for she who taught us the arcane truth, in an oath of blood we are sacred. In the eyes of her mind, all is naught. Acolyte and companion of the night, who rejoice in the wailing of men, who traverses the shadows of the sepulchers made, who’s moonlight feeds terror into mortals, Garm, Nix, four-day child, look kindly on our sacrifices.

Speech stalled by an abrupt end of the device.

It was with a trace of genuine dread and reluctance that against the unsettling mystery of the words, I was glad the first fragmentary words were in a human voice – a calm, collected speech which seemed Slavic in accent. Having listened to the tantalizingly, shaky rendering, I had made out another human voice, though, lightly feeble was distinctly softer than the first. The last was distorted and portrayed an atmosphere of dread and obscurity.

My nerves were trembling a bit, for the gathering of the recording created more misery upon my psyche. As I looked to Adel, it was as if a vice grip of fear mixed with astonishment arrested him. In our unease, Dietrich then tried to awaken his siblings, the mood became more darkened as even I started to think the twins may never awaken. Abruptly, the older sibling had sealed the wooden doors of his sibling’s chamber, presuming they would stay there until he arranged for a burial tomorrow.

When I heard from Dietrich what led to him boarding up his sibling’s rooms, which was in consideration of the deceased to avoid needless inquiries, maiming and desecrating from the medics; I bore no lingering desire to oppose what I now saw as a lesser evil. Adel and I became concerned and obliged to inquire each other on the vagaries of madness, for we would see Dietrich stare into vacancy for long periods, claiming they stole the Woordenboek back and nodded to some imaginary rhythm. It was no wonder his condition made him fearful – it made me fearful. I would occasionally feel the creeping of some anomalous tendril come upon me, by slow degrees.

This sensation became more apparent after I retired to my bedchamber that night. Sleep did not come upon me as time wore on. Struggling to remove the thoughts that stimulated such nervousness dominated me. I tried to convince myself that this depression came from the despairing room; as the ragged curtains tortured into movement by the howls of an endlessly growing storm. However, this gave no result. I raised myself from the pillows and stared intently into the encumbering darkness. I do not know why I felt the need to do so, but I believed I had to as if awaiting something. Overcome by an intense horror, I threw on my clothes and resolved myself to escape this wretched condition by moving about the chamber.

In the darkness, I moved throughout it anxious when I heard steps at my door. At that moment, I recognized Dietrich through the now partially open door. His air appalled me, but anything was better than the maddening seclusion of my room. Soon Adel came from his chamber across from mine to uncover the sounds outside his door. After staring for moments in eerie silence, Dietrich asked, “Well, have either you heard it, the songs?” He then faced Adel, who was as worried as me now, “You haven’t heard it either? Then you must hear what curses my blood.”

At once he ran to the window and flung it open to the raging tempest. The indiscriminate ferocity of the entering winds practically raised us off our feet. A whirlwind had apparently gathered its force; for there were violent changes in the course of the wind and the growing breadth of the darkened sky. The stars and moon were obscure as the shrouding vapor of the silvery mist hung around the castle. In all aspects of the night, I could feel the growing coil of fear constrict me again. Dietrich now became consumed by the maddening chants, which his cognition failed to see as simple, auditory hallucinations.

Against the storm winds I, for a moment, paused. It appeared that, from a distant part of the castle, there came, what may have been the echo of a chipping and scratching dull sound. There was no doubt that the motions of the window and the persistent increasing storm made the sound, surely. So I remained with Dietrich and Adel. For that period, Adel and I attempted to calm Dietrich into a passive state. However, I again paused abruptly, now with a sense of trepidation that there was no doubt I did hear a seemingly far-off, prolonged scratching sound.

Troubled, while I was upon the occurrence of this second sound; by a boundless conflicting sensation, I retained a thought to reject invoking the nervousness of Dietrich. I was not certain whether he or Adel heard the sound too; even though Dietrich’s lips trembled as if he were muttering phrases. No sooner had I seen this, I gathered a crashing sound. Unnerved, I started and saw Dietrich was undisturbed, but now it was evident Adel heard this noise as well; for he looked to me with fear. Dietrich’s eyes were entranced before him as his face possessed a stony outlook and spoke.

“Do I hear it, yes. I heard it for a long time. Both of them were still alive, sealed in their rooms! I thought my senses were mad, but I knew it was their weakest motions trying to get free. However, we did nothing...”

Then, as if summoned from the strange utterance, a force of a horror was noticed. The massive, antique door flung gradually back upon the frame of the room and there in the doorway stood two cadaverous beings. Blood upon their midnight robes and signs of a bitter struggle was on every element of their frame. They stood, shaking for a while, then reeled back and forth at the threshold, and in low murmurs lunged upon Dietrich. In bestial violence, they took him to the open window.

In complete terror, I fled from the chamber, retrieving my backpack. The storm, cried and slammed at the castle, but I could not distinguish every sound; for the inhuman vocals from upstairs possessed me with so much terror I wept at the sound of a massive splash outside. I felt absolute despair since my confinement left me vulnerable to the working horrors of Mireworth. What awaited me outside I hoped to be a course of escape, but now the haunting memory of what I learned troubled me. Upon reaching the main hall, I escaped and left behind me forever the horror infested fabric of Mireworth Castle.

Before the dreadful night, my companion was not at my side, and I could see the exacerbating mist spread out like a blanket before me. Caution took hold of me, for the details of the night that traumatized poor Dietrich came to mind, and I had now fallen victim to mysticism’s design. Are the Shades in that mist waiting to claim any unsuspecting soul? Were those two in the castle Shades or the twins? Now I weighed my options, to stay at the gate or take my chances in the sinister mist. Before I made my next action, something grasped my left shoulder. Darting my sight back, I met Adel, who, though clearly distressed, looked unharmed.

The optimal way for us to escape, he stated, was by the river, to avoid being seen as suspects running from the castle at this ungodly hour. I tentatively gazed at the hellish vapors ahead of us before we were to plunge into its depths. In its haze, I saw vaporous, clothed beings moving. The sight almost made me refute my first escape choice, for all the feral figures then stood up in a humanlike manner and traversed into the mist. I was horrified to see them change from a bestial, ravenous posture to a bipedal, insidious stance, but Adel just seemed to ignore it as if nothing were there, which annoyed me a bit. At this point, I could not formulate much, so I followed Adel hastily, disregarding my justified caution.

I could not tell where we were in the city but presumed it was Howell Street, according to memory. Thankfully, my guide stood close so I would not lose him, yet the way he seemed to know his course, almost as if the blinding vapor were not an impairment on his perceptive prowess; gave me an inexplicable feeling of disquiet and speculation. How was it he could guide us so well on just memory, with such an encumbering mist and distress of escape upon us? The bridge is where we then stopped. Having directed my attention to the bridge, we hurried over it and followed the Vltava. The partial escape was not all pleasant for, in the city square, voices ripped through the air wailing in unimaginable horror as the rainfall mocked their cries in a relentless rhythm.

We stayed with the river for a mile or so trudging waist high in the murky waters, as two of shrouded monsters passed us, going to the castle. Having cloaked myself under the water's blanket as my heart froze, I slowly looked up until the shaded demons left our vicinity. Further along the shadow of the vengeful storm, we had to get down on hands and knees to pass under a few bridges, avoiding the eastbound turnoff. It was a long and belittling dog trot to the Marek Glass Factory. The great walls around us seemed even more terrifying than the castle. At last we saw the factory and made directly for the river’s swift currents that started at the far end.

Moving on such a surface was difficult, but I did my best and made a good time. For a period, the river kept on along the gorge’s walls, at length we reached the long bridge where it crossed the chasm at a vertigo height. The length of the bridge illuminated in the lightning bolts, I noticed the support was stable for the most part. Our path led us onto the road and at once veered off into the vale, displaying less of Mireworth’s horror. Here in the dense growth, weeds and briers hindered us and without remorse tore our clothes, ripping them to nearly indecent tatters as we ran from the predicted feral motions behind us. I was in the grips of fear, for I was uncertain if those cruel monsters in that mist had been gradually hunting us.

Chapter V

It was morning when I awoke in a hotel bed. Apparently a tradesman named Mr. Bakunin passing by Mireworth’s road found Adel and me on the roadside asleep. Whether it was an animal or the shrouded devil making bestial motions at our flanks, dear God, I hope I never know. As for the tradesmen, with his calming Slavic accent, he knew Adel, so he helped us and paid for our night at a hotel in Prague. Expressing him my gratitude I could not help but wonder what became of the city that night. I later met Adel while leaving the hotel. He was content to see me well and about, and after our exchange of gratitude he walked away to give his report on Mireworth in person at the Ministry of the Interior.

As imagined I gave up on my sightseeing. I did, however, increase my stay in Prague by spending time with my relative. My uncle, who was my mother’s adopted brother, was very courteous and expressed unusual interest when I told him of my stint in Mireworth. He then informed me about the Marek family, which I already learned about, but most of it was polished over either because he did not know it or did not want to speak it. His rhetoric continued into something unrelated to the topic, or so I thought.

It seemed, as he loquaciously put it, my mother’s family had been a matter of curiosity in Sweden. There had been a debate about the marriage of her father, for he was still with the English woman named Elizabeth Wright when he remarried an old wife in secret. At the time of the first wife’s reentry my mother, Patricia, was being educated in England. After Patricia's biological mother vanished, the stepmother took it upon herself to take care of her stepdaughter and deposited funds in the London bank to maintain her education. The Arabesque woman, now long dead, always knew more than what she told. The baffling thing though is why my mother never spoke of her stepmother.

Sojourning with my uncle, I spent a couple weeks recovering mentally from my ordeal. In September, I entered Charles University and from then till December I was busy with studies in that semester along with other activities – then I recalled my past terror due to occasional visits from government officials who were involved with Adel’s campaign, which petitions and evidence provided by both of us had begun. Almost a year after my ordeal in Mireworth, I spent a period with my late mother’s family; asking and searching about the mysterious stepmother.

The act was irritating for the most part, for I never realized my mother spoke little on her family, which I never quite understood growing up. After finding some old journal writings, I learned Elizabeth Wright was in her twenties when she met a well-established entrepreneur and soon married him. The marriage almost fell apart yet maintained because of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Growing up for my mother was tumultuous because of the polygamy, thus around the age of seventeen she moved to England. Months later, Elizabeth’s mental disorder surfaced, she became wan and emotionally erratic; this continued for a long time and it only got worse. Elizabeth’s character became unruly before she got placed into the mental hospital and then vanished.

Reading more, I uncovered a photo taken of Patricia and her stepmother outside of her duplex. The picture ushered a kind of horror to my ancestry. Finally seeing my mother’s stepmother after some years, I noticed a haunting likeness. Her Arabesque features and silken hair brought up vivid images of the Marek siblings. Another one showed my mother as a child with Elizabeth, next to a man with green eyes and behind them was the Marek Glass Company. I choked when I looked to the subtext on the journal page; it showed the names of Nathaniel Marek, Elizabeth Marek, and Patricia Marek. I sat back, dropping the papers on the floor. The fact that my mother was a Marek struck me, for this connection would mean I have Marek blood in me. I had to get out of that house as soon as possible before I regurgitated.

From that day on, my life has been a nightmare of brooding and anxiety, aimed at the unknown; do I know how much is revolting truth and how much is madness? Then the wretched idea of Elizabeth’s mental illness came to mind. Her malady had described symptoms that bore some similarity with the Marek sibling’s affliction, which may have been what Ceria had. I began to question the root of the malady, was it hereditary? My mother had some mental crisis in my early teens and disappeared like my sister. For a year, I struggled to ward off these reflections, with limited success.

In the late autumn dreams of terrible design started. They were scarce in the beginning and then amplified in regularity and intensity as the days progressed. Rivers of black and green led to vast watery spaces before me. I seemed to wander through weedy, irregular walls enclosing the monumental hollow canopies and amalgam paths, with polyhedrons as my company. My eyes sighted many nameless, sickly corpses melded with the walls. Then silhouettes began to manifest from unknown gulfs, filling me with unbound terror the instant I awoke.

The dream depressed me because they foreshadowed what I would soon find in the bathroom mirror. What I saw stunned me, my pallor had become pale, and my eyes were losing their brightness. The moment I tried to think of a way to remedy this, the sounds of distant voices broke my thoughts. For days I confined myself to bed rest, I did not visit any more doctors because the handful I had never definitively helped. I believed that this must have been how my relatives felt – how Ceria felt in her last hours.

Days passed, and my dreams became so vivid I could barely distinguish the real from the imagined. I now questioned all that I saw in Mireworth and wondered if the horrors seen were precursors to this malady. Was the mist there or anything I saw in it? Did Adel see it and pretend it was not real? Those screams, did they come from my auditory cortex? These inquiries led to my restless nights; for I began to consider the following torments conjoined with some diabolic form of antique witchery. My eyes have seen false glimpses of hideous constructs in my reality. On nights, I suspected a darkened being stalking me through my dorm building, but when I turn to see it, I find nothing. So far from my knowledge the malady is progressing fast, for now I hear them call to me in my sleep – Cedrick.

Now I wondered in the night what my malady will bring forth. Were these visions and hallucinations to get worse? I have no doubt my mind is slowly losing itself to this malady; for as I sit in my moon-bathed room, which comes from the open window, I believe my malady will get worse. I plan on taking this recording as well as the one I captured from the study to a therapist in Sweden. I hope he will have the mindset to see beyond my affliction and find the cause.

With the recording finished and as the night wore on, my sensation of dread deepened. Lighted footsteps echoed outside my room, which was common in my dorm house, but my mind started with apprehension at a knock on my door. I languidly went to see who it was, hiding the recording device in my backpack. Staring back at me through the eyehole, as the dark clouds outside blocked the moon’s rays, were the same eyes that caused me unaccounted unease. When I opened the door, my sight fell upon Adel in casual attire. After inviting him in, he entered, closing the door behind him.

I offered him a seat on my bed while I sat at my desk. We talked about what happened since our last meeting then he offered his condolences to my condition. As he rambled on about the future assignment in his home country of Austria after he ships something to the United States, with patient listening I distinguished a slight disparity to his voice. It no longer had the proper Germanic accent, but instead held a subtle vocal pitch of softness, which slowly grew apparent as he went on in an uncaring manner; about the cult’s threat of secret continuity that moved elsewhere after the official investigation.

That voice surged through me with cold force, for I gathered, it had such similarity to that fresh male speech on the recording device. I hoped it was a product of my hallucination, despite what my innermost fears protest, but his gaze never left me. As his eerie sight met mine and my area became lighted in the moonlight, filled with the howling tumult of boisterous chants, slowly masking out all that is in my room, while my sensations grew further from this world; I saw a wry smirk twist on his face then his lips started to move. Oh God, how could I have missed it? The dark corners of Mireworth blanketed in its morbid and vengeful incantations. Witchcraft, covenant, four-day child, distant land and all the time that soft male voice, my poor sister. “Wicked mental, lustrous, malignant, and deceptive skill...”

As everything in my room went beyond tangibility and disintegrated into the gradually filling twilight, he bit the tip of his index finger to draw blood and then drew an obscure sign in the air. I then heard, from his voice, the diabolical chant passing his lips.

Praise to Hel, for she who taught us the arcane truth, in an oath of blood we are sacred. In the eyes of her mind, all is naught. Acolyte and companion of the night, who rejoice in the wailing of men, who traverses the shadows of the sepulchers made, who’s moonlight feeds terror into mortals, Garm, Nix, four-day child, look kindly on our sacrifices.

Written by A-3 Loki
Content is available under CC BY-SA