The Dark Man's Assassin by Ron Shiflet

Voices may tell you to do the wrong things for the right reasons.

The Dark Man first appeared to me while I was "away." This was during the time of my "troubles" when the doctors were diligently attempting to make the voices in my head disappear. It was the voices that first got me into trouble, or at least my attempts to carry out their instructions. They could be quite insistent about some matters and would cause me a great deal of pain when I attempted to ignore their instructions. I would never have attempted to murder my mother otherwise. What kind of son would?

Thank God the police arrived before I could complete the task that I had been given. My mother has still not forgiven me for the loss of her fingers, though she now knows it was not I who was responsible. Mother never did favor me quite as much as she did my brother, Frankie, who was always forgiven, no matter how many scrapes he got into with various authorities. I guess it's much like this in most families.

I was placed in the Glendale Psychiatric Hospital following the regrettable attack on my mother. Several doctors had interceded on my behalf and managed to convince a judge that I should not be sent to prison since it was the voices that were responsible for my misdeed. They spoke of a mental illness in flowery medical terms that I did not understand and somehow proved that I was suffering from such an illness, though I never felt better.

Memories of my first few weeks at Glendale are rather blurry, no doubt due to the regimen of drugs and electroshock therapy which had been administered to me. Still, I suppose it was preferable to the things that could happen to a person in prison, none of which I found to be particularly appealing. I later learned that it was during this period of dreamlike existence that my brother Frankie first sent the Dark Man to visit with me. I have but the vaguest recollection of his earliest visits, but it was during this time period that the doctors first speak of some improvement of my condition beginning to become manifest.

In the subsequent months I learned from Frankie that it was he that had sent the Dark Man to see me and that it was he who had banished the other troubling voices from my mind. Frankie also told me that the Dark Man was called Nyarlathotep, but was known in various cultures under such appellations as The Faceless God, The Dweller in Darkness, the Black Man and too many others to recount. With his help, I would soon be able to leave Glendale, providing that I allow him to direct my answers when undergoing questioning (or therapy as they like to call it ) by the medical staff.

This idea pleased me greatly although I was somewhat saddened and hurt to learn that my mother would not allow me to visit her upon my eventual release. It seemed rather petty to me that she would be so unforgiving, but I decided it best to keep this thought to myself lest it be misconstrued as some sort of hostility on my part.

The weeks seemed to fly by and it wasn't long before a hearing was held to determine my status. I had been religiously taking my medication and had kept myself busy as a janitorial trainee. Frankie later told me that my participation in the job skills program had gone a long way towards securing my release. That, combined with his use of influence to procure an employment offer at a small, but prestigious college in the New England town of Arkham.

I was to work in the janitorial/housekeeping department by day and stay at Frankie's house during the evenings. The staff at Glendale seemed pleased with this arrangement and drew up my release papers. I later learned that their approval had been secured through a combination of bribery and intimidation on the part of Frankie. I must admit that my brother's propensity for "getting his way" had always been a trait of his that I jealously admired. Even with this, I could not have been released had the medical staff known that I was still hearing the voices. However, the Dark Man had taught me tricks that enabled me to ignore the voices and hide their presence from the Glendale staff. Still, I found the Dark Man to be more frightening than the voices he assisted me in keeping at bay.

Their was a certain aura about the Dark Man that was almost tangible. I had never actually seen his face, which always seemed to be in shadows during our occasions together. Perhaps shadow is not the proper way to describe his mysterious visage. Looking at his face was how I imagined it would be to gaze into the energy-sucking maw of a black hole. Whenever in his presence I felt the air become noticeably chilled as if the warmth was being sucked out of the room by some type of vacuum, leaving only a malignant coldness behind. There were no eyes in the traditional sense, but on occasions when I detected his impatience with me, I would briefly see the flaring of two fiery orbs, much like suns. They would burn intensely for a brief duration and then flicker out as the Dark Man regained his self-control. This, along with his extreme height and ability to pass through physical barriers at will, made him a truly sinister figure.

The Dark Man indicated that I was to play an important role in his future plans. Frankie was his human agent in these matters and I was to implicitly follow any instructions given to me by my brother. Nyarlathotep made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that Frankie and I would pay dearly if his well laid plans did not come to fruition. During such times, I would wonder if Frankie had really done me any favors in expediting my release from Glendale.

I found Arkham to be a very dull place and frequently wondered how it, and the presence of Frankie and myself, fit into the Dark Man's schemes. I once asked Frankie about this, but he became quite angry and warned me about questioning anything where the Dark Man was concerned. Arkham afforded little in the way of entertainment or career opportunities. Other than a few factories, its primary sources of employment were connected with the Miskatonic University. It was not my kind of town.

My job at the Miskatonic University was a real yawner but better than the alternative. The university had been founded over two hundred years earlier and was, according to Frankie, one of the most highly respected institutions of learning in our country. I was, for the most part, an invisible man to the elitist professors and self-absorbed students that peopled my environment. I would later discover that this was exactly the reason I was placed in this position. Frankie told me that the Dark Man viewed the university as a bastion of opposition to his future plans and considered my placement within its walls to be quite a coup.

I learned from Frankie that there was a cabal of purportedly learned men within Miskatonic who were engaged in a continuation of millennia-long warfare against the Dark Man, his brethren, and their followers. Nyarlathotep's brethren were known by some as The Great Old Ones, a powerful group of alien beings possessing almost godlike powers, but still held in check by cosmic laws and an opposing group of creatures called The Elder Gods. These two groups had been engaged in warfare for more centuries than man could imagine. Frankie gave me a lengthy, convoluted history of this ongoing struggle. Frankly, it all sounded like a lot of religious mumbo-jumbo mixed with a generous dose of political intrigue. I found it pretty hard to swallow but was assured that we were on "the winning team" and would be greatly rewarded when those opposed to the Dark Man and his brethren were defeated.

In the weeks that followed this conversation I began to learn what role I was to play in the ongoing intrigue. It seems that Nyarlathotep had been "grooming" a certain senator to capture the presidency during the next election. Senator Wilson was to soon have a meeting with Professor Markham Stiles, current head of "the cabal" in opposition to the Dark Man. It is a little known fact that all politicians who aspire to "that most high office" must meet with one or more of this cabal's members and pass a mysterious test of some kind. I never learned the exact details, but was told that this process of qualification had been occurring for several decades.

There was no way in which Senator Wilson could pass "the cabal's" test, which was to be administered by Professor Markham. However, the Dark Man was certain that "the cabal's" other members could be deceived if Stiles was taken out of the picture. The elimination of Stiles was the Dark Man's key to success.

My job at the university frequently placed me in the campus offices where the meeting between Stiles and Wilson was to take place. The plan was for me to be emptying waste baskets in the office area during the time of the meeting. I was an unobtrusive figure and my presence would arouse no suspicion. Once Wilson and Stiles were ensconced in the office, I was to enter like some dimwitted incompetent. Being oh-so-superior, Stiles would indulgently allow me to change the liner of his wastebasket. My orders were to then strike like a viper, repeatedly plunging a concealed dagger into the breast of Markham Stiles. Senator Wilson would then subdue me and call for assistance.

The event described would result in the death of Markham Stiles, the elevation of Senator Wilson to the status of hero, and the elimination of doubt as to the senator's ability to pass "the cabal's" test. The press hype from this story would easily catapult Wilson into the White House. His inauguration in January of 2001 would set into motion a chain of events culminating in the return of the Dark Man's brethren. I was still uncertain how I felt about the possibility of such an occurrence.

The meeting between Stiles and Senator Wilson occurred about two weeks from the time that I first learned of my role in this momentous drama. Frankie had intensely rehearsed me on how I was to carry out the Dark Man's nefarious plan. He repeatedly reminded me of what would happen to he and myself if events somehow went awry.

I had performed my work duties that day in such a way as to ensure my proximity to the two participants. At approximately 2:20 p.m. I entered the Peabody Building, where the meeting between Stiles and Wilson was underway. Pushing my work cart, I busied myself in the usual manner. I emptied wastebaskets and performed other menial chores in various places. Patiently I bided my time until Stile's receptionist was engaged in phone conversation and not paying attention to my activities.

Without knocking, I opened the thick wooden door of Stile's office and proceeded to enter. He and Senator Wilson were engaged in what appeared to be a heated discussion, stopping abruptly with my intrusion. I could sense not only Stiles' irritation at the unexpected interruption, but his lack of concern upon realizing that the intruder was only the lowly janitor whom he had seen every day for the past several weeks.

"Oh, it's only you," he said, with an insincere smile.

I stammered an apology and made as if to leave.

"No problem . . . continue with your duties."

Walking to the wastebasket near Markham Stiles' mahogany desk, I stopped, pulled the knife from beneath my custodial uniform and repeatedly plunged it into the chest of Senator Wilson. A stunned look of horror crossed the face of Markham Stiles, but this did not deter him from taking immediate action to subdue me. This was accomplished with ease as I put up only token resistance, happy to have this chapter of my life behind me.

Markham Stiles, upon hearing my ramblings about Nyarlathotep, took immediate interest in my fate. Powerful "Insiders" and influential judges were hastily contacted, resulting in "the cabal" gaining custody and jurisdiction over me.

You see, I had taken no medication for some time, thus allowing the voices to return and talk to me as they so often had in the past. I suppose Nyarlathotep and Frankie had been too busy with their grandiose schemes to properly monitor my activities. They no doubt thought that an insignificant insect like myself would meekly do as instructed, becoming just another tool for them to use in their war against the forces of order and stability. How ironic that someone like I would recognize the inherent evil in that which they sought to bring about.

Thank God for the voices which told me how I was to be used and then discarded by Frankie and the Dark Man. Of course, my resentment and jealousy of Frankie (always mother's favorite) and my instinctive dislike of the Dark Man played a significant role in my decision to cross the two of them. I also shuddered to contemplate the world as it would become under the reign of the Dark Man and his many brethren. Hell, I may be crazy but I'm not stupid!

I suppose in a crazy sort of way that things have worked out for the best. True, I'm again confined to a hospital for the criminally insane, only now overseen by "the Cabal." I receive medication which completely holds the voices at bay. Even better, my room is adorned with strange, five pointed stars of indeterminate origin, which I'm told will protect me from the avenging hand of the Dark Man. Still, I wish there was some way to shut out his grotesque image and the burning orbs of rage that I see every night when I close my eyes and try to sleep. It is during these occasions that I would love to have the voices return and tell me that everything will be okay.

Somehow I suspect that this is not the case.

Send your comments to Ron Shiflet


© 1998 Edward P. Berglund
"The Dark Man's Assassin": © 1998 by Ron Shiflet. All rights reserved.
Graphics © 1997, 1998 Old Arkham Graphics Design. All rights reserved. Email to: Corey T. Whitworth.

Created: April 10, 1998