do you really know who you are talking to?
And I saw an angel coming out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nation anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free . . .
-- Revelations 20:1-3
We who believe in God will usually take things at their face value without looking any deeper. I believed that the Bible's word was concrete and definite, and that I should not bother to look for a greater or different meaning. And, most of all, I should never question the Bible's words because they came from God. A few brave souls attempted to look deeper or dispute the truth of God's words over the ages. Words such as evil and heretic became the way the Church described their work. A few brave souls, such as Lovecraft and King, attempted to warn humanity of the true horrors that lurked in the universe, but the public dismissed their works as fiction. I pray to God, if He exists in this universe of horror, that He will save us from this cosmos, heartless and cold.
They are free. Heaven help us all.
I do not know why I sit at my computer writing this tale. It is unlikely that any human eyes will ever gaze upon my work. Nevertheless, I must tell the truth about the horror of the universe. There must be some record left so someone might know how foolish we have been for so many generations.
My tale begins a short time ago when I turned twenty-five. I lived in Madison, Wisconsin. I had moved there several years prior from the small village where I had been born, Black River. I left Black River for a number of reasons. First, the time had come for me to learn to live on my own. My aunt offered to set me up financially, but I refused any help. I believed that I could make it on my own. It turned out that there were some difficulties, but I was able to make a decent life for myself. The lines of communication remained open with my aunt, but I never returned to visit her. There were just too many memories haunting me to ever return.
I could not imagine going back to the place where my parents had died in a car accident when I was little. I never really recovered from their loss at such an early age. The large mansion they owned was given to my aunt and uncle. Many years later I learned how my parents accumulated that much wealth. I discovered, quite by accident, that my father had been involved in the drug trade for several years before I was born. That hideous business allowed him to purchase the mansion that served as our home.
I am tempted to describe how I learned my parent's secret, but it does not matter now. Nothing matters now except dispelling the lies that I had put so much faith in.
The mansion itself was an ancient structure that seemed to have been in Black River for as long as the town existed. Naturally, as with many old houses, there were rumors that it was haunted. I did not believe the stories of ghosts, but the house frightened and depressed me during my early years there. It seemed cold, but the love of my parents more than made up for the coldness of the house.
However, one dark night ripped away my parents when I was five years old. My nightmare began when my aunt and uncle came in and told me that mom and dad had gone on a trip and weren't coming back. Years later, I learned the truth that they had been killed by a drunk driver.
My parents willed the house to my aunt and uncle with the provision that they take care of me until I reached twenty-one years of age. When I reached that age, the mansion would become mine with the provision that enough money would go to my aunt and uncle to provide for the rest of their lives.
It was not that my aunt and uncle treated me cruelly during my childhood, but they had no experience raising a child. They were much colder emotionally than my parents had ever been. My parents and I had wonderful conversations during our dinners. In contrast, a long conversation rarely passed between my aunt and uncle at the table. The house became a dark and brooding place under their care.
As for myself, I also became a dark and brooding child. I no longer talked much to the kids at school. I withdrew into a world of books where I escaped from the reality, dull and cold, in which I was trapped. Filling my mind with elves, dwarves, and great heroes who rescued fair maidens from twisted abominations served as an escape route. You can imagine that living in a fantasy world did not make me popular in school.
I did not have many friends as I entered high school, but I had learned to watch people. A desire began to well up within me to escape my world of loneliness. Being a teenager, I craved the popularity held by the other kids in school. I wanted a girlfriend and to have the respect of my classmates. But I knew that I could never do it as long as I lived in that house.
I know it sounds insane, but the house had become a symbol of oppression to me. I felt that I could not move into the world until I free of its shadow. The pall the house held over me only increased after my uncle's death during my sophomore year in high school. When I graduated two years later, my aunt asked me to stay with her, but I simply could not bear the thought of spending any more time in that house of horrors. I told my aunt that I had to make my way in the world, that I no longer wanted the mansion when I turned twenty-one. The last thing I wanted was to live in it for the rest of my life. My aunt could keep the mansion, and do with it as she pleased after she died.
I left for Madison, Wisconsin.
In seven years, I succeeded in shaking the malaise that had fallen over me, and I became popular and made many friends. God entered my life with an incredible force. I became a born-again Christian while I lived on my own. I devoutly read the Bible, and became well versed with many of its passages, especially those in the New Testament. Christianity, in many ways, helped me deal with the anger and pain that I felt from my youth. My strong faith also helped me to deal with my fear of the mansion, and to finally dispel the idea that the house was haunted or cursed.
I thanked God that I had gained that faith when I received a telegram from the law firm of Jackson and Wells in Black River that my aunt had passed away. The telegram also informed me that I was the sole beneficiary of their will, which, contrary to my wishes, left me with the mansion.
The best possible course of events would be to sell the house as soon as possible. However, things were never that easy. I had to go through the numerous legal processes that needed to be completed so that I could free myself of the house. My return to Black River became a matter of necessity in order to hasten the matters with all possible speed.
The idea of returning to that cursed house did not appeal to me, but I knew my faith in God would help to keep my fear in control. It also wouldn't make any sense to stay in a hotel while I could live in my childhood home. I also wanted to go through the things in the house and see if there were any mementos I wanted to keep for myself. My family never threw anything out so God only knew what might lurk in various nooks and crannies. I resolved to explore and catalogue all of the items in the house while I was there. I didn't know whether I would keep the contents or sell them off as part of my effort to leave that part of my life behind me forever.
Some of my friends offered to accompany me on the trip back to Black River, but I refused, saying that I had to make this journey on my own. In a deeper sense, it was a voyage that only I could make on my own. No one else could confront my demons but myself. It was necessary to face this part of my past if I were ever to be free to move toward the future. I looked forward to freeing myself of the shadows which haunted me and held me back for so long. Yet, I couldn't suppress a shiver that ran down my spine as I again entered Black River in my Ford Escort.
My first stop was at the law offices of Jackson and Wells which were located in the wealthiest section of Black River. I never dealt with them personally until now. I knew that they only dealt with the wealthiest of clients, which included my aunt and uncle. I felt a little embarrassed as I parked my little Escort between the Mercedes and Volvos that were outside the lawyers' offices. Climbing out of the car, I strolled into the office.
"May I help you, sir?" the blond receptionist asked with a little disdain in her voice at my entrance.
"Yes, my name is Dan Parision. I'm here to see Mr. Jackson about my aunt's will."
"I'll get him immediately, Mr. Parision. Please have a seat."
The receptionist's attitude became noticeably friendlier toward me when I identified myself. I wondered how much my aunt and uncle paid these lawyers went toward how friendly she was to me. I had believed for many years that my aunt and uncle had served as financial consultants, but, as I sat in the office, I wondered if they might have done something else for a living. I found myself staring at her long blond hair while she talked to Mr. Jackson on the phone.
Mr. Jackson burst into the reception area just as I was about to start talking to her. His appearance shocked me. He was a short, chubby man with a receding line of black hair. I expected a young, handsome lawyer since his clientele was among the wealthy. Of course, I also based my idea of lawyers on the commercials I saw on television.
All too often, images rather than reality served as the basis for my decisions. Of course, I no longer even know what constitutes reality, if I ever did.
"It's good to meet you, Mr. Parision," Mr. Jackson said while I rose to shake his extended hand. "Please call me Richard."
"Only if you call me Dan, Richard," I replied while I shook his hand.
"Very good, Dan," Richard said, patting me on the back after the handshake. "Let's go into my office. We have a lot to discuss."
During the walk to his office, we engaged in small talk about the chances of the Chicago Cubs reaching the World Series and how horrible the weather had been for the past two weeks. Richard Jackson's office lay at the end of a long hallway. He opened the door for me, and I entered a room that looked like twenty tornadoes had torn through it. I had expected that his office would be clean and everything would be in its proper place. Instead, papers covered almost every inch of the room. Stacks of file folders rose on his desk as if they were ancient monuments to some forgotten deity.
"You'll have to forgive the mess," Richard apologized while he closed the door. "I'm preparing for three important cases next week. There are so many papers to look through. Sometimes I wish there weren't so many forms. But without forms the world would be formless."
I let out a polite chuckle while I sat in the padded leather chair that Richard reserved for his clients.
"First off, let's go over the details of the will," Richard said, sitting at the desk and opening up a folder. "All of your parents' and your aunt's estate was left to you. The total value of the estate is estimated to be fifty million dollars."
"You must be mistaken," I stammered in a state of shock. "I didn't think they had that much money."
"Neither did I," Richard said. "Your aunt and uncle evidently made a number of wise investments over the years which you are now about to benefit from."
"Well, that should make life easier back in Madison," I said. I imagined I would be able to get a large home for that kind of money once I got everything in liquid assets from selling the mansion.
"What exactly do you mean, Mr. Parision?" Richard asked, looking up from the will.
"I intend to sell the house, and move back to Madison as soon as possible."
"I'm afraid that we might have a problem."
"And that is?"
"There are a number of provisions to the inheritance, Mr. Parision."
"What are they?" I asked, fearing what I would hear next.
A dark feeling descended upon me coming with the knowledge that I was about to find out some news which would again trap me in Black River. I quickly offered a silent prayer to God, asking His guidance through what was likely to be a trying time for me in the next few minutes. My prayer also asked God to let me know if it was His will that I stay in Black River, and to show me what He wanted done. Promising myself I would do whatever God wished me to, I swore to do it even if it meant staying in Black River since I was His servant.
"The first and most important condition is that you do not sell the house," Richard began.
I felt my heart sink when he said those words. Somehow I knew one of the conditions would be that I had to keep the house.
"What are the other ones?" I asked.
"You must move into the house and live there for the remainder of your days."
"You've got to be kidding," I said in complete disbelief at what I had just heard.
I knew that respecting the wishes of the dead was important, but the idea of living in that mansion for the rest of my life struck me as insane.
"I am not kidding, Mr. Parision. Your aunt's will is very specific about these points. Before you say anything else, let me tell you that the final provision is that you read this letter your aunt turned over to me before she died. After you finish reading it, you are to burn it. You are also not to let anyone else read it."
I thought this must have be a big joke, and Richard would tell me the punch-line in a few minutes. I had never heard of anything so preposterous in my life. This whole situation seemed like a dream. I wondered if my aunt had spent too many years in that house after all.
"Do you agree to all the conditions?"
"What happens if I refuse to agree to the conditions?"
"Then I must burn the house to the ground along with everything in it," Richard said without cracking a smile.
"This is ludicrous," I said, leaning back in the chair in disbelief at the whole situation. "She must have been out of her mind when she wrote that. It would never stand up in court. There isn't a judge in this country that would support legalized arson."
"I can assure you, Mr. Parision, that everything is perfectly legal. All the provisions were carefully examined by my firm, and they will all stand in a court of law. Now, what is your answer? Do you agree to the provisions?"
I was about to say that I would never be a party to such rubbish, but then I thought about everything I would lose if the mansion burned to the ground. It would mean the loss of my family's heritage. I also realized that God must have a purpose in creating this situation. I decided that the best thing I could do would be to go along with the provisions. I believed God would show me what to do after I prayed and asked for guidance.
"I agree to them," I told him, but surprise came over me when a frown swept across the lawyer's face.
Richard realized that he had lost his composure, and resumed a false smile. I suspected that he intended to keep the wealth for himself if I refused.
"I'd like to see the will myself for a moment."
"Here it is," Richard said, slapping the folder into my hand in obvious irritation at his integrity being questioned. "I'm sure you'll find that everything is in order, Mr. Parision."
After reading the will, I saw that all the provisions were contained in the will. However, I still suspected that he would have ignored them and taken possession of the house himself if I refused to live in it.
Thanking him for allowing me to read it, I handed it back to him. Richard muttered something that sounded like a curse under his breath. He proceeded to rise from his seat, walked over to one of his filing cabinets, and proceeded to rustle through a sheaf of files in the top drawer. He pulled out a large manila envelope, and returned to his chair.
"This is your aunt's letter," the lawyer said while I took the envelope from his extended hand. "I now fulfill the last obligation required of me as your aunt's attorney. I assure you I have not tampered with the envelope in any way. Our business is now concluded. You will be getting a statement for my services in the mail."
The lawyer's rude manner surprised me. I felt guilty for a moment because I questioned his integrity. I thought about apologizing, but stopped short when it occurred to me that most people would not get that angry unless they had something to hide.
I did not thank Richard for his help when I left his office. I ignored the receptionist as well. I wanted nothing more to do with Richard Jackson or anyone involved with him. These offices seemed to me to be a den of iniquity.
Dark thoughts ran through my mind as I drove through town to my new home. Bitterness filled me at the idea that my aunt left the mansion to me in spite of my instructions to her. I also wondered what could have possessed my aunt to set up such strange stipulations for the will. I wanted to believe that she had been in her right mind when she set them up, but it was impossible for me to accept that idea.
It comforted me to believe that my aunt's sanity was slipping when she made out the will. Her shaky mental stability combined with the influence of Jackson, who clearly wanted to find a way to take possession of the mansion, led my aunt to agree to this insanity. If I could prove these assumptions, then I believed I could still find a way to sell the house and leave this cursed area forever.
I decided that I would not burn the letter. Instead, I would keep it in the hope that I could use it to find some way to prove my aunt's insanity.
I uttered a silent prayer asking God to help me leave Black River soon. Doubts had filled my mind since I first comforted myself with the thought that God wanted me to stay here. I refused to believe the Lord would torture one of his devoted followers. I called to mind several passages from the New Testament that spoke of leaving the past behind. Yet, I knew I could not leave my past behind me until I left Black River forever. I needed to finally purge myself of a childhood that had been an endless desert of despair and pain. The strength of my prayers tripled when I came into sight of the mansion.
The house was not clearly visible from the road since a large wall covered with a pleasant blanket of ivy surrounded it. The ivy's leaves were dark green, but actually looked like rubber to me. The walls looked too pleasant, too inviting for the realms of horror that I would discover within. The gate was made of fine polished steel, and glowed in the sunlight as I stopped my car before it. I looked at the sharp, golden points that rose to greet the sky while I stepped out of the car. I unlocked the gate, and pushed it open. I halfway expected to hear a piercing shriek cut through the air caused by the years of rust which had built up on the hinges. However, the gate remained silent while I moved it.
My eyes turned toward the road that led toward the house. Two perfect rows of large oak trees whose leaves rustled in the gentle breeze of the warm, spring day bordered the road. Waiting at the end of the road was a red brick mansion, magnificent and sparkling with a luster that made it look new.
If someone looked at a picture of the mansion, he or she could easily believe that it was an ideal home. In fact, its perfection was one reason I despised the house. It was too perfect. And, for me, this beautiful setting hid a malevolent atmosphere that would make anyone depressed after living there a couple of weeks. After one got past the gorgeous setting, the disturbing lack of any servants quickly became apparent given the apparent wealth of the family. No servants stayed or worked at the mansion long. No one wanted to stay working in the house after two or three weeks. It seemed impossible that the house still appeared to be in good condition when no one maintained it on a regular basis. It almost seemed to me as if the house never aged or changed. It still appeared as it had when I was first born.
I gathered up my courage, said a quick prayer asking God to watch over me, and returned to my car. After driving through the gate and quickly hopping out to shut it, I drove up to the edge of the walkway that led to the house. I turned off the engine, swallowed hard, got out of the car, and walked toward the house. I took a few minutes to find the key to the front door house on a crowded chain since I hadn't used it in many years. Looking at the large oak door, memories of my dark childhood came flooding back to me. I shook my head to dispel the useless thoughts, unlocked the door, and entered the house.
The spotless entry way greeted me. A large tapestry of a fair maiden sitting astride a unicorn hung above the entry into the living room. Two flights of stairs leading to the upper regions of the house split to the left and the right.
Deciding to wait to explore the house until later, I entered the living room and sat in one of the recliners by the large picture windows. There was more than enough daylight coming through the open curtains to read. I opened the envelope and pulled out my aunt's letter.
The words I read then, which seemed absolutely insane, have become forever etched in my mind by the subsequent events that tore my life apart. I can reproduce from memory the letter in its entirety:
My dearest nephew,
If you are reading these words, then I have passed to the great beyond. I hope that I will be admitted to eternal glory, but I suspect I have committed too grievous a sin to ever be admitted into Heaven. I should have destroyed this house a long time ago, but I could not bring myself to do it. I was too weak. I did not have the strength for a task which any good Christian would have done if they knew what I did. I do not have much time left as I write these last words to you. There is much that I must tell you.
As you recall from your childhood, I always refused to let you accompany your uncle to the basement. You sometimes snuck away when he went down there, but you always returned asking how he could have vanished without a trace. I always told you that your uncle was very good at losing unwanted followers. However, the time has come for the truth. Your uncle was in league with the forces of darkness.
I know you have read stories by H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and Brian Lumley that describe the Great Old Ones. This seems to most people to be fiction, but I tell you, Dan, that such beings exist.
You must think that I'm insane, but I assure you that I'm completely rational. I didn't want to believe in their existence, but I have seen too much to dismiss the Great Old Ones as simple fiction. I do not have time to describe the full horror of what I have seen for it would take up many pages, and my heart is far too weak for such a task. The memories I might have to recall would kill me.
I have seen and read the books kept in the small temple your uncle constructed in the basement. There is the Necronomicon, the Book of Eibon, and the Zanthu Tablets to name a few.
I never told you this, but your uncle was killed because he dared to travel too far into the dark realms of black magic. He read a spell from The Black Tome of Alsophocus, and was destroyed by the abomination he summoned from the depths of hell. It was also in there that he first encountered a reference to the Faceless One. He wanted to know too much. He went too far.
Burn this house, Dan! You can take the money from the bank accounts we have here. It should be more than enough to set you up in Madison. I'm sure this sounds insane, but take a look at the center of the floor in the basement's largest room. There you will find the door to the temple. The key is in the attic in my trunk in the corner. Do not read anything. Look at the altar. It will be enough to convince you of the truth. Burn the house! In the name of all that's holy, burn the house!
One last thing, disregard what Richard Jackson said about living in the house. I set up the will that way so Jackson and his partner would not be drawn into the corruption which destroyed my husband. When you have done what I asked, you must leave here forever. Flee as far from here as you can.
I have always loved you, Dan. Thank God you got away from this house when you did. The influence of evil hangs over it like a dark shadow. That shadow has consumed me. Please, find the strength in God to do what is right, and destroy this place. Remember, I will always love you no matter what my fate in the after world.
I read the letter again to make sure I had not misread it. After reading it again, I threw it down in disgust. I knew the letter had to be an attempt to deceive me. I refused to believe it. It seemed to me like a pathetic attempt at deception. I recognized my aunt's handwriting, but I knew she would not have written such ridiculous statements.
I knew Jackson wanted the mansion, but I never imagined he would stoop to such depths to gain it. He must have thought that I was an idiot, to give me something like this to try and get me to leave. I believed Jackson forged the letter. I gave him credit at that point in time. I thought he had done a good job since the handwriting closely resembled that of my aunt. However, my aunt would never claim to believe in the Great Old Ones. I suspected Jackson hoped that I would attempt to burn the house, and he would be ready to arrest me with the police for attempted arson. I would be discredited and seem insane, leaving him free to take possession of the mansion. The only thing that I could not understand was why Jackson created such an insane story concerning fictional characters. My best guess was that the lawyer hoped I would be more inclined to believe in that because of my extensive reading in Lovecraft. I smiled as I thought that he had failed miserably.
I only wish that my explanation would have been correct.
Sitting in the mansion I hated as a child, I thought about strategies I could use against Jackson to prevent him from getting it. The irony of the situation strikes me only now, but at that moment my attention was taken by an idea. I wondered if Jackson might have built some sort of temple in the basement just to back up his story. It would not be hard since no one worked at the mansion, giving a team of conspirators an opportunity to set something up quickly. I decided it would be an amusing exercise to see how far Jackson went in his attempts to get my aunt's money. I decided to go and find the key to the supposed temple.
I thought about what the letter said while I climbed up the stairs toward the attic. The possibility occurred to me in a flight of fancy that it might be genuine and the Great Old Ones did exist. I laughed at myself for even entertaining the possibility.
The Great Old Ones were only the creations of a brilliant writer, but Jackson chose his deception well. One of the aspects of Lovecraft's work I always admired was his ability to make the supernatural and fantastic seem real. I remembered how I even believed some of his stories really happened when I had been a teenager. Lovecraft's genius was to set his stories in completely realistic settings, and then introduce the elements of the fantastic into his world. He also used characters who behaved as normal human beings when they confronted the supernatural. His characters eventually came to know the horrible truth, but only after a long struggle during which they attempted to rationalize it.
Jackson had been wise to choose the creations of Lovecraft since I might believe they were real if I was still a teenager who lived in a fantasy world.
However, the innocence of youth soon faded away and turned to dust like the bones of Alexander the Great and Ghingis Khan. The worlds of fantasy were ripped apart by the cold claws of dark and bitter reality. There came a time, just after I moved to Madison, that I could no longer live in my fantastic world of mythical creatures. A personal crisis confronted me when one of my newest friends killed herself, and I was faced by the reality of death for the first time since my parents were taken from me. I realized the world was cold, and that I could not live in a fantasy world if I wanted to succeed in life.
Kristen's suicide also led me to turn my life over to God. My belief in the Lord insured that I could never accept the existence of the Great Old Ones. I knew a force of evil existed in the world, but his identity did not come from the books of H.P. Lovecraft. Satan tried to corrupt the good people of the world every day. The Holy Bible warned me of the devil's evil. However, I knew that God was far more powerful than Satan, and Revelations guaranteed that the devil would meet final defeat at the hands of the Lord. Since God was a benevolent being and the universe was good because He created it, the Great Old Ones could not exist.
The existence of such a group of beings as the Great Old Ones, who were neither good nor evil, would call into question the existence of God. Lovecraft described them as creatures whose motivations were beyond humanity's understanding. If such creatures existed, in the way Lovecraft described them, then we would consider each one a god. I believed then with every fiber of my being that the benevolent God of the New Testament controlled the universe. I only wish I could say the same thing now.
I reached the end of my long trek and stood before the door to the attic. I halfway hoped the door would be locked so that I could save myself the trouble of a futile exercise in seeing how far Mr. Jackson went in his fraud attempt.
The unlocked attic door opened without a sound to reveal a dusty staircase heading up into the dark. An amazing sight greeted my eyes. It took me almost twenty-five years, but I found an unclean part of the house. I stopped for a moment, wondering if I bordered on losing my sanity since I was so overjoyed at finding a layer of dust. Laughing at myself, I proceeded to climb the stairs.
I did not need to turn on the light since enough daylight still filtered in from the attic's two windows to allow me to search for the trunk. A legion of dust swirled in the sunlight, disturbed by my footsteps for the first time in months. I looked around at the ceiling of the attic, and shuddered at the maze of cobwebs hanging silently over my head. The attic was filled with boxes full of long forgotten possessions, two cabinets that probably held old clothes, and one large black trunk. The object of my search, the trunk, was sequestered in the corner.
Varnished teak wood composed the trunk. I was surprised to see that there was no lock on the handle. One picture among several grabbed my attention after I opened the lid. It depicted a beautiful woman in a long, flowing black dress standing next to a man in a dark blue, double-breasted suit coat. Standing between the man and woman was a little boy wearing a suit of his own. My eyes misted as I recognized the last photograph my parents and I had taken of us.
I felt sadness well up within me. I had been denied their company for so many years. I knew that they waited for me in heaven, but I would have given anything at that moment to be able to talk to them again. I wished I could, by some feat of magic, breathe life into the images of my parents. My tongue burned with the taste of the tears, salty and bitter, that rolled down my cheeks in a flood.
The sadness I felt at seeing the picture was replaced by a growing anger directed at Jackson. Rage filled me when I discovered the skeleton key had been placed under the photograph of my parents. I had managed to control my anger at the lawyer up to that point. Anger was an emotion that became very rare in my life since I turned my life over to God. I firmly believed in feeling righteous anger at those who sinned, but rage directed at people for too long poisoned a person's life. The sight of my parent's picture, which I believed had been deliberately placed there by Jackson, set my blood boiling.
I could be amused by Jackson's pathetic attempt to use the Great Old Ones to steal my aunt's estate for himself, but when he used a photograph of my parents to awaken the old pain of their deaths, he went too far. If Jackson had been in the room with me, I would have torn him apart.
I grabbed the key out of the trunk, and shut its lid. I quickly descended the stairs to the living room. Looking again at my parent's portrait, I placed it beside the forged letter on the lamp table by the large chair. I stormed down to the basement, key in hand, intending to see what Jackson had prepared for me down there.
In my anger, I failed to consider my conclusions about the photograph in a rational manner. The dust that I raised by going up the stairs had apparently not been disturbed for months. I never stopped to think that Jackson probably would leave a trail behind him if he deliberately placed the photograph atop the key. The biblical passages concerning the danger of anger are true, for if I had stopped to think, then perhaps all the horror that I discovered might have been avoided. However, my thoughts focused on Jackson and what I might discover in the basement.
I switched the basement light on at the top of the stairs, and raced down into the cellar. The musty smell from four piles of dark green mold growing in the corners assailed my nostrils. Streams of water trickled down to the cement floor through cracks in the old brick walls. A small rat scurried into a hole where a brick had been jarred loose by some unknown force. Its glaring red eyes peered at me from the hole as if the beast wanted to tell me to leave its territory.
I was amused to see a keyhole in the middle of the floor. My foul mood vanished due to the sheer stupidity of the scene before me. I realized Jackson must have been hard pressed for time and creativity to place a keyhole in the center of the floor. I looked forward to ruining Jackson's plan for desecrating my parents' memories.
Strolling to the center of the floor, I used the skeleton key expecting to hear a sinister creak or some other horrible sound. I also backed away from the keyhole since I expected a trap door to open up. At first nothing happened, but then, as I expected, a hideous creaking filled the basement. I covered my ears to protect myself from the noise as a slab of concrete slowly lifted itself out of the floor.
The hole created by the slab's rising was just large enough to allow one man to descend into it. The slab had been lifted by two mechanical lifts that must have been installed by Jackson's work crew. The lifts raised the slab just enough to allow me to crawl under it. I lay on my belly and looked down to see how large a room Jackson created under the slab. I complimented Jackson at the obvious effort he went to carry out his deception.
However, my constant attempts to attribute everything to Jackson started to ring false in the back of my mind. The cost of creating all of this seemed to me to be more than he would get for the mansion. I refused to consider these ideas for too long since I did not believe that my uncle had some secret temple to the Great Old Ones hidden in the basement. The rooms below might have had another purpose for my uncle and parents, but I was sure that Jackson had probably tried to rig it as if it was a temple to the Great Old Ones.
Pushing these thoughts out of my mind, I focused on the holes drilled into the wall for an easy descent into the pit. The sides of the passage were lit by phosphorescent lights that switched on when the door opened. I calculated that the floor waited fifty feet below me, and with a snicker, as I imagined what silliness awaited me below, I began my descent.
I already knew what I could expect: a dark tunnel with walls covered by paintings of the Great Old Ones. I envisioned the obligatory pictures of R'lyeh and Great Cthulhu. I was supposed to be terrified at the visions depicted in the paintings. Jackson assumed I would leap to the conclusion that the letter was true because I saw images of the Great Old Ones. Then, following a tunnel, I would discover a dark temple dominated by an altar dedicated to the worship of the Great Old Ones. There would be an idol of Cthulhu that was supposed to be made of some alien metal, which would probably be a rare mineral from South America or something like that. And, of course, the temple would not be complete without rotting tomes, bearing the titles of Necronomicon and The Black Tome of Alsophocus.
Reality shattered my expectations when I reached the bottom of the ladder. The passage was not a dark tunnel covered with murals of the Great Old Ones. Rather, it turned out to be a carpeted hallway with electric lamps providing light from the ceiling. The hall was short, and ended at an oak door.
What I saw shocked me. It seemed Jackson had not managed to set anything up down here. I suspected he might not have had an opportunity to set up an elaborate temple. This may have been a work area for my aunt and uncle. However, Jackson might have set up an elaborate deception in the room behind the door. I could not believe that Jackson would take it so far and then abandon his efforts at the point of their fruition.
I briefly considered the possibility that Jackson might not be behind the letter after all, but if he wasn't then who would have forged such a ridiculous fabrication. It also might have been written by my aunt and could serve as proof that she had really lost her mind. However, I never believed for a moment that the Great Old Ones could possibly exist.
Created: August 14, 2001; Updated: August 9, 2004