<%@ Language=VBScript %> The Creature of the Shadows - Mused - the BellaOnline Literary Review Magazine
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Mountains by William Gibbons

The Creature of the Shadows

Christa Mackey

The capacity of the human mind will forever enrapture and enthrall those of the scientific community. What does it take to completely break a man? With the inexplicable fears and terrors that plague our society in this day and age, I am certain that a mere jest of a ghostly nature would cause one to take pause and garner what shred of dignity he yet possessed to stand strongly against such a formidable display of terror.

But, I digress.

Three months ago, I experienced something of such a terrifying nature that you are the first with which I am able to share my visions and experiences. I share them with you — and you only — because I have no cause to believe that the judgment others would impress upon me would come from the core of your being. You alone are my truest companion and for that, sir, I am grateful.

I will tell you what I can, but please, do implore me to keep quiet should you feel even the slightest twinge of panic or fear. It is not my intent to incapacitate you in the same manner this thing has incapacitated me for these three months. But, again, I belabour my story.

It was the first of May when I ventured out into the mountains, alone, to find respite and tranquility. The Appalachian Mountains of Western Pennsylvania are most beautiful in the Spring — more so in the fall when the leaves bear the colours of fire—but, in the Spring, life is fresh and new and the scent of the air serves to remind of the simple pleasures in life. This is why I plan my expeditions during this time of the year. As I climbed upon the rocks, I found myself suddenly transported and standing on a precipice that overlooked a rocky gorge.

The gorge was, indeed, quite deep but it did not appear on any map in my possession. I cursed myself silently for not purchasing an updated map of the area before commencing upon my adventure. As I peered over the edge of the precipice, this is what I saw.

A dark mist at the base of the gorge began to swirl — no, “swirl” is an incorrect word, sir — breathe would be better fitted to the actions of the shadows. Breathing and seething — undulating in a disturbingly humanistic fashion. The mist began to gather and take shape, but its form was not one with which I was intimately familiar. It was neither animal nor human, and yet, it was both. It turned its ghastly face upwards toward me and, although I could see no definite mouth, it gave a sneering smile that I could feel. I jumped away from the edge of the precipice, my skin whitening by the second. As I turned to continue along the trail, I heard a noise to my left. It sounded of scratching — the scratching of an animal trapped within a box.

My mind screamed as my body reacted to the distress of the creature. I began to search for the source of the sound. It was then that I discovered the source came from within the mountain itself! I turned to make good my retreat, but I was already too late. Would to God I had not ceased my walk to search for the source of that ungodly sound! I now found myself trapped — fastened to the Earth, as it were, by shadowy tendrils that came up from the ground of the mountains.

In terror, I stood as still as stone and closed my eyes. I could see within my mind’s eye the horrors that encircled me and bound me to the very spot in which I stood. My mind tortured me. Look! Don’t look! It would argue with itself until finally my body could bear the torture no more. My eyes flew open and my hair turned white as I drank in the hideous picture before me.

I kept praying — hoping — that I would awake from the terrifying nightmare and be at home in my bed. The more I prayed and hoped, the more real the nightmarish vision became. The more I yearned for the freedom and serenity of the waking world, the more I discovered the terror of reality within those few moments upon the mountain.

The creatures were black — void of colour and soul. A desperate sigh of loss echoed from the heaving chests and the sound of despair reverberated with every beat of the leathery wings that suspended them within the thin atmosphere at the pinnacle of the mountain. Their eyes resembled burning embers and the faces that stared longingly toward me — as if beseeching me to save them from some unutterable hell — never took on solid or definite features. Ever changing, they circled about me. I could hear the echo of their ghastly and villainous laughter. I could smell the distinctive scent of burning sulfur. I could taste the very darkness that breathed life into them.

It was then that my eyes drifted from the monstrosities surrounding me and fell upon the One whom they served. A mountainous mass of despair and darkness arose from the earth. Shadowy claws ripped asunder the grass and rocks of the precipice and an opaque figure emerged. All light was drawn into him, never to be seen again. With slow and measured step the Creature of the Shadows came closer to me. I found my feet still rooted to the very spot in which I had been standing these few moments. I looked to my left and my right. The winged creatures now held back my arms as if in offering.

Again, my eyes fell upon the void shadow before me. The creature arose to what I assume was its full height — towering above the tree tops and calling the darkness to himself. Storm clouds gathered overhead. The mountain forest fell eerily silent. I searched my surroundings for any possible means of escape before my eyes were drawn — yes, sir, drawn — to the Creature of the Shadows. There was no form to the maddening mass of shadows before me. There was no face. There were no eyes — yet, I saw them in distinction! No words can describe to you what horrific visions flashed in my mind’s eye — visions of my home, my family — everything with a despairing ending! Death and destruction seemed to reign supremely and nothing — not myself nor any god that man has created — could intervene and change the course of events that had been set into motion.

It was then that I felt myself lifting from the ground. I looked about once more to discover these winged creatures had taken it upon themselves to elevate me to the Creature of the Shadows. The formless void before me began to fluctuate more vehemently and soon, the shadow took on the form of a man. The eyes blazed with black flames and the mouth opened to reveal millions of jagged teeth. The arms that ripped themselves from the confines of the shadow were long and thin and the claws that extended from the hands seemed to pulse with a blood-red energy that had a quality and life all its own.

I opened my feeble mouth to utter all that I could muster to expel through tired lips — but nothing would emerge. I could feel the coldness of the shadows passing over me — I could feel the heat of the flames within me, yet — I dared not breathe! I do not know how long I was suspended between heaven and earth, but I do know that what exists in that plane that lies just beyond the sight of most mortals is enough to terrify and cripple the strongest of men.

When they found me upon that mountain top three days later, I was incoherent, cold, tired, and staring into nothingness. Nothing that was said or done was able to bring me back from whatever state I had entered. I have kept with me every memory or record of the event that I have just described. Here is the journal in which I wrote long passages in a language hitherto unknown by me. Here is the vile of goat’s blood that I keep, now, on my bed stand each night — in the event that I needs must write down my thoughts or visions. Here is the sacrificial dagger with which I carve the flesh of those the Shadows crave.

Yes, sir. I do thank you for coming. I do thank you for your attentiveness. But, I do also regret to inform you that you will never leave this room in the same state in which you are now. The loud crash that you hear is the sound of the door being closed upon your world. The sound of despair is the leathery wings of the Sheolgoth, surrounding you — waiting. The sudden darkness that now looms over you is him — the Creature of the Shadows. The last glimmer of light you will see is the reflection of the dying rays of sun upon the ceremonial dagger within my hand. Truly, my dearest friend, I am sorry for your loss. It grieves me even now…

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