The city of Brussels was in the 18th century a center of commerce, diplomacy and superior power, recognized in its filled ports, the extensive and exclusive architectural masterpieces, edging the grand streets that amazed travelers and visitors. The large abbeys, shrines, and courts, were all examples of the city's glory and wealth.
Amongst the impressed travelers was an English one, named Percival. Percival Sloughter, a silent fellow schooled at Oxford University, was making his way to the small village of Meisburg for a mission as a detective, to solve a series of mysterious crimes that had been occurring within the boundaries of the village.
The obscure murders had been presented to Percival by his schoolmaster, who took the precaution of explaining the current state in Meisburg. The citizens of that village, as well as the ones around it, were truly baffled by the cruelty that exposed itself in the brutal murders.
However, the city of Meisburg was located somewhere outside the eastern edge of Brussels, a location of which Percival had no knowledge of for the moment being.
The damp light shone from the two windows at each side of him as he entered the small store. He asked the shop owner, who smiled brightly when he entered, where the town of Meisburg was. To his reply was a silent crying uttered. The owners eyes teared, before he turned around, and disappeared from Percival's sight.
“How odd...” Percival muttered. His feeble voice floated in the air awhile, after disappearing as he shut the door behind him. Still eager to get to work, the mind of the Sloughter family was an ambitious one, he looked for the local pub, in which he usually would acquire a cozy hospitality.
In the rather weird language of French mixed with German, a jolly text invited him to a pub. He entered the bar, still a bit shaken by the scared impression of the previous shop owner. He discarded the event as a misunderstanding, so he took off his hat, and started walking to the barber-looking man at the desk, polishing a whiskey glass, a type of glass of which Percival was well familiar with. The man at the desk was notably old, his wrinkles pushing down his eyes to make him look grumpy and unfriendly. He nodded towards Percival, who asked;
“Excuse me sir, but may I perhaps disturb you a moment?” The man at the desk drew with his mouth, muttering a bit, before putting the glass and the handkerchief aside, leaning towards Percival. The man stunk of something dead, perhaps even rotten. However, the polite schoolsman further asked:
“I am ordered to go to a town called...” Percival had forgotten the name of the town, but while he was thinking, some strange gazes were cast upon his thin figure.
“Meisburg?” a voice behind him asked, which triggered a wave of mumbling to travel through the pub. Without noticing this sensation, Percival continued, still facing the man at the desk, who grabbed the glass he was previously polishing.
“Indeed sir, Meisburg. Yes, whereas I am yet to be informed of its geographical location.” The owner of the voice behind him poked him on the shoulder, an action on which he replied by turning around. The man at the desk disappeared behind him, perhaps frightened by the mere name of the town.
“You are bold, traveler, to visit such a haunted place. Send my best regards to the duchess” the man said with a strong voice. He added a little wink in his eye on the end, which resulted in laughter by the crowd surrounding him. Percival made a sharp turn, stepping back towards the door.
The three companies that occupied the tables around him all fixed their eyes onto his slender figure. He still hadn’t got any information about Meisburg whatsoever, something he found even more curious. However, he ignored the local sayings, and instead decided to find the town himself.
He opened the door, whereas he was greeted to a somewhat darker atmosphere. A group of clouds dared their way high over the Dutch peoples’ heads, hovering over the city as an omen. The certain omen was presented in a less merry gather of people, bunched around a scaffold.
Mounting the scaffold was a convicted criminal. Before him was a rope hanging. Innocent as it was, fluttering in the light breeze it was about to claim the very life of a man, with the right of his right honorable head judge of the Dutch court.
Percival, unfamiliar to this manners of handling the rightfully judged frowned at the, to him, bizarre scene. The man was peacefully guided to the rope. His sentence was loudly spread throughout the crowd, spreading a silent mumbling. A last prayer was read to the sentenced. His head tilted acceptingly towards the rope. It slid through his greasy hair, and almost instantly placed itself in a spooky fashion at his neck. Percival turned.
The very quiet meadows rested silently before the escalating growing landscape, from the large fields, to the vast forest, to blue mountains that rose in the far distance. The curious approach that had been made on him in the city the previous noon, now dwelled as a distant thought in his mind.
He neared the large woods before him. The sound from the horseshoes echoed in the landscape, as he rode towards a broken sign, directing him into the dark woods. He had never before seen such big trees, branching and stretching high up in the air. It puzzled him, how such a beautiful landscape could be located near the advanced industrial city, a center of intelligence and economy. He smiled at the thought, which tossed his mind into the past, back to times, to memories that lived deep within his unconscious, twisting and turning in the dark void he called brain.
The sign showed him a path, edged with overwhelming trees, that branched their way over him. The dark shadows slowly engulfed him and took him further into the darkness.
The horse slowed down, seemingly touched by the sinister atmosphere. Percival himself lost sense of time amongst the thick roots, dark stones, and sinister mist, which had fallen to a small layer that he made his way through. A low thump at one of the large trunk made him shiver.
He gazed into the woods. Nothing but a patch were light managed to pierce through in a dim beam lighted up the trunks. He swallowed, and continued. The horse tried to slow down, but Percival pushed it forwards.
“Probably just a bird...” Percival calmed himself. But his voice, trapped in the hypnotizing forest, was bounced around from tree to tree, coming back in a, at contrast to his feeble and bright voice, very shadowy and louder sense. Panic spread throughout his spine, erupting adrenaline and blood in his body to every sound. Another loud knock at his left was heard.
His vocal chords tightened and hurt after his immense scream. He was breathing loudly. Every breath filled his lungs to the brim, filling them with the petrifying air. He was shivering of fear. The approach from the villagers now seemed to make perfect sense. He looked behind him. The light was gone. He was now trapped. Was he even heading the right way?
Continuing seemed to be the best choice. Perhaps, he was only exaggerating the whole atmosphere. He took off his hat and rested it against the back of the saddle. But he felt exposed. He noticed how his fragile haircut didn’t move as he took it off. The air was still. It felt somehow rusty, perhaps even old. His eyes wandered on the path before him. He felt a stream of tiredness that rushed through his body. The spooky forest started to enlighten, revealing the miles of miles of green leaves and black trunks.
He breathed out in relief when he saw how the forest thinned out into a meadow in front of him. A sign appeared in the far distance.
“Thank god” Percival said, and jumped off his horse.
“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy god in vain” a voice was heard next to him. An explosive eruption of fear came from Percival's left air, making him stagger to his horse, staggering away into the far meadow. Percival instead fell onto the ground. He felt how a passive pain played its way through his spine and neck. He opened his eyes, and before him stood a crooked old man. He was reaching out a hand towards him.
“Welcomed thou art to the town of Meisburg. Thee shalt perhaps consider the option of finding another horse, as I doubt that one will return” the old man said harshly. He then retrieved his hand from Percival's effort to grab it, and giggled.
“I thank you, old man” Percival replied. His authority was reflected in the way he stood, shadowing the older man in front of him.
“Now, if you please” Percival said and rose. The old man gazed into his eyes.
“Art thee perhaps the detective of London?”
“That is correct”
“Then I wish thee good luck.” the old man said, before taking off by walking away into the forest. Percival frowned, and walked away. He looked out over the field-like meadow that rested silently and unsullied by time. The meadow was torn apart from the mountains behind it by a very small town, consisting of only a few buildings, as well as a wooden church.
The early 17th century houses were recognized as ones by their high chimneys, thick and robust, marking their way through the roof by overwhelming the houses themselves. The crooked roofs twisted in a bent fashion to an extensive height, making them look a lot larger than what they actually were. However, the facades were constructed of grey bricks, bringing a dooming sense over the town. The main road through it was nothing different than the path that had led him here.
Percival's heart pumped hard. He had changed his mind, and looked over his shoulder and into the dark woods again. No. He wasn’t going back into the dark depth of the woods.
“Mr. Sloughter, I suppose?” a rather robust man came forth and asked. He dominated most of the crowd on the main street around a broken fountain by his length and size. Percival noticed how a mumbling spread throughout the ever gathering jamboree.
“Indeed, Mr...?” Percival started, but got surprised when he wasn’t answered. The fat man neared, making his wrinkles and hanging skin distinguishable.
“Head after me, Mr. Sloughter” he said, and drew anxiously in his collar. Sloughter did as he was told, breaking through the public gathering. He felt uneasy, feeling how the locals looked at him with anxious looks. Far above them the clouds had finished gathering, and wave of hard rain fell.
Percival didn’t mind, for he had a hat, however the rest of the people did the same, without their hats. They let the rain pour down their cheeks, seemingly untouched by it. Percival looked back at his guide. He was wearing a long brown coat, edged with golden buttons and a snake-like pattern of silver. However his brown tricorn hat indicated that he was of lower social rank than Percival himself. His breeches were also light brown, with patches of fat and coal.
“May I ask you who you are?” Percival said once they had broke through the crowd.
“Town Crier, sez ‘em” he answered, still heading forward.
“Them, sir?” Percival asked, controlling if he had captioned the words right.
“The citizens of Meisburg, Mr. Sloughter.” Percival wasn’t sure, but he thought he overheard a sigh in the breezy winds. At the end of the short town, overwhelming the other houses, was a large manor. The manor, also constructed by bricks, with wooden planks decorating the facade of the second and third floor, all embedded under the large pointy roof. Long windows ornamented the otherwise grey walls, occasionally broken, with cracks spreading throughout parts of the lower brick wall. A dozen of different chimneys rose over the rooftops, all arranged with ornamented statues of deers.
Percival was overflown with an eerie feeling, he shivered as the thick oaken doors slammed open.
“Finally you have arrived, Mr. Sloughter” a well-dressed man said in the door opening. He bore some resemblance with Percival in a matter of body-shape. He was somewhat different than the other villagers. He was in one way... Colorful. Perhaps happy. The only cheerful human being Percival had seen since his arrival in Brussels.
“It seems that way, Mr...?” Percival tried acquiring the name of the person he was conversing with. To his surprise, he was answered, after the man in the door had finished laughing. The laughter, which came out of his mouth in a sense of well-being, quickly turned manically, before the person in question noticed, and stopped. With an anxious look, he corrected his brightly yellow collar, shunted his red hat aside, and answered:
“Mayor Jean-Philippe De Berangere, at your occasional service” he said and added a tense giggle.
“Very well then, you have my, and therefore also the peoples permission to enter” Jean-Philippe said and disappeared in the shadows that haunted the dark manor.
“Thank you.” The doors closed. Percival took a deep breath, he was sweating he opened his eyes, who beheld an eerie sight. The manors interior was as dark as a winter midnight. The brown stairs that evolved in front of him were decorated with a dirty red carpet. An unlit chandelier dangled in the ceiling, seemingly as an effect of a wind.
“You seemed troubled, Mr. Sloughter. A cup of refreshing tea, perhaps?” Jean-Philippe asked from the second floor. He seemed to have straightened his back, walking in an unnaturally upright sense.
“I wouldn’t sir, but thank you for your consideration” Percival replied automatically, while glancing back in the shadows. Was something watching him?
The oncoming lane was ornamented with large intimidating paintings of feudal lords and 16th-century Hessian noblemen. They were all staring into the very soul of their beholder, gazing into the man who dared to look back with intense looks.
“Admiring our previous Mayors? These are all descendants of Frederick I Barbarossa, the Holy Roman Empire, including this fellow over here.” Percival could distinguish how Jean-Philippe pointed with his ghoul-like finger at a painting that was very much alike himself, although much older. Ignorant of that the man was actually Jean-Philippe himself, Percival continued walking. He began wondering why the mayor wouldn’t light any candles at all in such a large manor as this one.
A light in the far distance emerged once he turned for the sixth time through a large vault. The light belonged to a small fireplace, burning proudly in the darkness. In its light, two green armchairs were seen. They were both embroidered with darker patterns, seemingly depicting several trees, and decorated with golden threads, shining as stars in the living room. His guide sat down. In the lit, one could easily say that he was well over 70 years old. His wrinkles ornamented a bearded gaunt face, a head that sat on a crooked neck, hiding inside a very overwhelming collar. He had pointy ears, that seemed to twitch inside the large hat, which he took off, and placed safely onto a nearby table.
“Tea?” the mayor asked and swiftly waved with an ornamented piece of pottery, distinguishable as a very luxurious piece of China. The tea inside it escaped, and a bit was spilled on the floor. As Percival looked down, he felt an instinctive urge to raise his hand, but ignored it. As he got up again, the gaunt face had emitted a rather spooky facial expression. He looked troubled.
“So, What do you think of this rural village?” The mayor asked, anxiously glancing at the entrance door. He shivered, shown in the way that the tea moved inside his small cup.
“I find it...” Percival stuttered, fearing how the mayor may react, “remote” he finally added.
“To start, you are here for a reason”
“Yes Indeed sir. I would like to start an inspection as soon as possible”
“Are you interested in any interviews of reporting nature?”
“And I suppose you would start with me?” the mayor asked accusingly, something that stunned Percival in fear. The gaunt face was now staring at him with eerie eyes. Percival himself swallowed, and nodded passively.
“Very well then.” Percival straightened and brought forth a notepad.
“Can you elucidate the events for me?” Percival asked, whereas the mayor shifted position by leaning towards him.
“T’was a dark night, in the forests of outer Meisburg. The shadows dwelled deep within the rooting trees and wrecked ruins. The moon had gone missing, for it could not be seen on the pitch black night sky. The citizens of Meisburg all slept. I was staying awake. These halls are quite frightening at night. However, not a sound was heard. Until a silent clopping was heard. It was the sound of a horse, nearing the village. The horse was sinister, as I saw it from that window.” Percival looked at a tiny window that looked over the scary gardens of the manor.
“As was its rider. The air had taken a gauntly glow. The breaths that I took were heavy. I ran, my old legs carrying me towards the entrance, to get a better glance at the creature. Foolishly, I opened the door. The winds were breezing swiftly through my night robe, exposing me for the harsh weather. Clouds had been gathering far over my head. The village laid unsullied in our meadow. Then suddenly, the clopping started again. Calm as I was, I stepped out on the porch, my eyes fixed on the corner of the house. Edging it was a small statue of a deer. I strictly remember how the proud head guarded the village. Then suddenly, a mist forged, and out of it came a swinging sword, slicing through the deer's throat...”
“Excuse me for asking, sir, but in what experience are you telling me this, as a witness, or as a victim?” Without a clear answer, the mayor continued:
“The headless wielder of the glittering blade rode on the red horse towards me. I can’t remember much more, but I could feel the mere impact of the riders breath. His sinister eyes gazed into my soul. I was petrified. The following day four children were found brutally decapitated and semi-buried on the local cemetery.
There are strong evidences that it was the work of the rider” the mayor finished. Percival nodded, finishing his few-worded notes.
“Once again, I must beg you for an answer, Mr. Mayor. How did it go for you that night?”
“Victim.” the Mayor replied. Percival noted it substantially, but then looked up. The Mayor had darkened. His skeletal hands shivered. His skin turned pale. The tea cup fell onto the ground and broke. The Mayor looked down on the rug.
“Oh dear. Fetch me a handkerchief, dear Percival...” the Mayor said, but with a slight change in his otherwise dooming voice. Percival petrified in his chair. He saw how the Mayor struggled with some kind of pain, seemingly emerging from his neck.
“Victim.” he repeated. Percival panicked. The Mayor seemed to be having some kind of seizure. Percival thought fiercely, still with his eyes fixed upon the slender figure. He unwrapped his collar, and blood started to spread throughout his beard. Percival tried to figure out what was wrong. He started panicking unreasonably, as he discovered that he was facing something otherworldly. It was unknown.
“Percival. You be welcomed to the Manor of Meisburg.” the Mayor said, before shunting his left ear. To his demise, the head followed the shunt, falling down onto the ground. That what Percival was facing was the decapitated Mayor, his head rolling on the floor.
“Victim.” a voice from down below said. It was the head. Percival rose, instinctively heading for the door. A piercing laughter filled the halls.
Percival fell, landing on the rug. His armchair flipped over, blocking his line-of-sight to the head. The armchair slowly slid to the left. Percival's nerves almost burst. His gaze was fixed on the moving armchair. His arms seemed to be chained to the floor - he couldn’t move, not even twitch.
His eyelids tried to shut, blink to spread unknowledgeable darkness, but he resisted the impulse. The armchair violently slid aside. Above him stood the mayor that a few seconds ago had revealed that his head wasn’t attached to his body. Struck with panic, Percival rose, and fled the scene. The mayor disappeared behind him, merging with the shadows.
“Percival” came a scorching voice from above. He ran towards the window. Without thinking, he jumped through it, for he knew that it meant freedom. The large window shattered, leaving nothing more than a breezy hole in the wall.
Percival opened his eyes. The sun was hiding behind a thick layer of clouds. He laid on a stone floor of the local chapel. Above him stood another old man, seemingly the only part of the population that seemed to live in the hallow village. The man was the same man that had startled him in the woods the previous evening.
“I am surprised how I always manage to make you fall before me” the old man said and giggled. It was fair and familiar, yet impressed Percival in frightful matters.
“The Mayor. Head...” Percival stuttered, shivering on the floor.
“Mr. Sloughter, would you mind not spreading your tears on the floor?” the man said insensitively. Percival tried to rise, but fell back down, without any help from the spectating old man.
“What are you saying, lad?” he asked.
“The Mayor, his head is...”
“I see you’ve heard the story of the headless ghost?” the old man asked, and sat down in a comfortable chair.
“No, sir...” Percival rose from the chapel floor, looking up in the sinister vaults. He felt a sudden urge to puke, but resisted it. Instead, blood poured from his mouth. He almost choked, panicking shortly by wide-opening his green eyes. The man sat unsullied in his armchair, fishing up a watch from his left pocket. Percival calmed down, and stopped leaking fluids.
“The Mayor is beheaded” Percival said. No expressional response was seen from the old man, who started wobbling in his chair.
“Indeed, it was a month ago. He is buried without prayer in the nearby cemetery” the old man explained and showed him a document to prove his cause. Percival was puzzled, yet he foolishly chose to remain in silence. The old man leaned towards him with a vacant smile;
“Would you like pay the grave a visit?” Percival nodded. They were greeted by the same grey weather as had hovered above them before. As they walked through the empty village, something struck Percival. The great manor that his eyes had beheld the other night was wrecked by storms. Regarding the non-reacting old man in mind, it had been in that shape for a while. A thought dangled in the air - shouldn’t his notepad prove his cause. Perhaps it was just a very bad dream. A coincidence, maybe. But when he opened the small pad, something was truly written in it. The eerie word V i c t i m. He closed the book and hid it well under the coat. Frozen dew decorated the dead grass, grey and shadowy yellow of pollution and weather. Once they turned to the narrow alley that lead them towards the graveyard, a gate rose in front of them. It was broken though, as the gate-doors themselves were hanging in their forging point.
“Sinister is the word” the old man added right before they jumped over a ripped away part of the iron fence. The graves were all leaning towards the ground, all shaped as crucifixes and vaults. A mausoleum hid behind a large oak tree. Its door was rotten, green of moss and decay. The old man entered without hesitation, punching the door, which broke, and fell in a symmetric matter onto the floor. The air was filled with a stench of death. A grave was silently sleeping in the middle of the small room, proudly presenting its loose lid.
“Has it been opened?” Percival asked, and got the strange answer: No. The old man himself seemed a bit confused, his eyes fixed on the shrouded lid. He removed the piece of cloth that ornamented the stone grave, and with united strength, the lid was safely moved away. Percival saw how the decaying body of the man he was yesterday conversing with rested in peace on the bottom. His head was partly severed from the body, a fracture that Percival couldn’t tell if it had been dealt before or after his death.
He had had enough. No longer would he continue researching this nightmare-town of Meisburg. ‘May the murdered children and the Mayor rest in peace, although I will no longer be a part of this madness’. The old man smiled as Percival marched back towards the dark woods. He then dissolved in mid air, merging with the ever growing shadows.
A c t 4.
The trees closed in behind him, locking his passage to the town. His anger was eased by his flaming fury. He was frustrated on the fact that he had been tricked, no, fooled, by the towns ministry. They would just have to find another detective.
An owls screech extinguished his fury, crumbling beneath the weight of his fear. ‘Until a silent cloppering was head’. No, not head, heard. Heard. It was just an owl, nothing to worry about at all.
An exploding kicking his left ear aside. Was it laughter? No, it couldn’t be, he was the only one here. Alone. With him. The ghost. The shear feeling that he couldn’t control the supernaturality spread through his body, leaving him exposed, as a kitten in a lions cage. He felt s-small, and as he gazed behind him, he could almost feel himself shrinking, or seeing the surroundings growing. He couldn’t stand this anymore. He had to run. RUN. It was after him, he had to run, fast, fast! And so his legs started moving oscillating in a shivering sense. His panic spread throughout his veins to his muscles, making him able to twitch forwards. He was running, but nevertheless, the sinister spirit followed him, he could feel it. He looked behind him.
Darkness, nothing else. But his legs wouldn’t stop. He continued running, for he knew, that if he stopped, it would get him, chopping his head off. It would fall, and roll away to never be found again. He couldn’t hold himself for screaming. As before, the scream deflected off the trunks, reaching his ears with a low growl. There was no reasoning, he had to RUN.
T’was a dark night, in the forests of outer Meisburg. The shadows dwelled deep within the rooting trees and wrecked ruins. The moon had gone missing, for it could not be seen on the pitch black night sky. The silence was shortly interrupted by a screeching scream. Then it regained its former strength. Annoyingly, it was yet again broken with respect. A damp clopping was heard. It was coming nearer. Clop. Clop. It was heading towards the town of Meisburg. Appearing in the near distance, it stunned Percival to an abrupt halt. The two horses, galloping simultaneously in the rootful woods, were carrying a black cabin, in which a woman was seated. Her beauty was beyond compare, stilling the ever pumping heart of Percival to a hollow pace. It calmed him down, giving him ease in the pressurized moment. The cabin stopped besides him. The beautiful woman reached for his hand, which he took with joy. The silence came back, but now in a romantic sense. Her shining blue eyes glittered in the light of the cabin’s lantern. She was giggling as she saw how sweat dripped from the palms of Percival, but didn’t seem to mind. Instead, she neared his right ear slowly. Once again, Percival's heart started pumping extremely fast. And with right, for the words coming out of the red lips, guarding 32 diamond-shining teeth abruptly ends this story:
“That's quite a nice head you’ve got there.”
Written by Dagge97
published on May 22 2013