A Grim Inheritance - I

Written and Illustrated by Benjamin Andrew Fouché

Never has a wrongdoing haunted me so remorselessly.  Not one of my own wrongdoings, but one atrociously committed by the notorious mortician who once dwelled in my hometown—the God-forsaken town of Hemlock, Vermont.  Pondering upon what could have possibly led him to a state of such profound psychological agitation has brought me only to the doorsteps of my own mind’s shadowed corners—the precipice of insanity.  Of course, I do not dare to venture into such a place.  But my dreams—God, my dreams—or visions—they only worsen each night.  But I feel immeasurable reluctance calling them visions, because if indeed they are, the conceptualization of their true meaning causes me to shudder irrepressibly.  Thus, I shall call them dreams.  In these dreams, I am walking the halls of Winston Manor—the mortuary where one of the most horrific crimes in the region—no, the country—transpired.

I continue along with acute unease—pacing farther into the abandoned structure.  I observe the parlor, the staircase, and the idle living quarters upstairs.  But one of the most dreaded parts is when I decide to stride back down the stairs.  Every instinct during this moment urges me not to, and yet there lingers a subconscious thought so dark, yet enthralling.  I do not know the most accurate way in which I can articulate this peculiar sentiment.  But regardless, this forbidden impulse urges me to deliberately walk down each step.  And then, when I enter the downstairs once more, the rooms shift into a bleak forest—a wilderness familiar, yet unfamiliar.  Down a desolate, rural road, I approach a neglected abode.  This house is impressive, yet its state of deterioration and abandonment invoke a spiritual and bodily terror.  I gaze upon the four lofty, weathered columns, behind which resides a shadow so dark—so opaque.  The nine windows are what instills the greatest amount of disquiet—I naturally expect to see the home’s equally foreboding occupants peer out at me.

But perhaps it is the unpleasant anticipation that is responsible for the subsisting fear.  Nothing occurs, and the longer I wait outside the unknown mansion, the more intense my premonition becomes.  When I awaken from these perturbing dreams, I immediately leap from my bed and open the curtains of my window.  Staring out into the thick blackness of night, I cannot help but believe that the house of which I see in all of my dreams is real—that somewhere, such a daunting dwelling exists.  I ask myself in soliloquy why my mind repetitively conjures this vivid house—what architype does it possibly represent?  What deeper meaning are these reoccurring visions trying to convey?  Perhaps soon I will break free from my ignorance.  The week prolongs, and I am beginning to regret aiding detectives with finding the lost mortician.

My name is Dr. Joseph White and I am a psychiatrist at Forkham Sanitorium.  How this task came to be is an exceedingly long story.  But once I became heavily involved in the case involving The Winston Manor Mortuary, I feel as if the same shadow that flung the mortician into the abyss of madness has been hanging oppressively over my soul—restful evenings are scarce and even having unpleasant dreams unrelated to the house are to some degree, comforting.  The letters that were discovered during the initial investigation are as puzzling as they are intriguing.  I have probably analyzed each one at least twice.  The two very distinct hand writings—the dissimilar vocabulary—they are incredible.  No other evidence could sway my mind.  I am convinced that he was corresponding with a completely separate person.  Even the most severe cases of exchanged personality that I have witnessed during the course of my profession cannot compare to the sophistication of the reciprocated letters.

Indeed, Hemlock has an extraordinarily dark history.  The mysterious and unexplained disappearance of the majority of its citizens in the Autumn of 1851 has left many baffled.  The inhabitants of New England refuse to speak of—nor acknowledge—the bizarre event.  And only a few of the residents outlasted whatever truly visited the town.  I thought surely the community would become forsaken.  But strangely enough, others have decided to make their home in Hemlock, a few years since the inexplicable occurrence.  Nevertheless, the town is not the same—and I am certain that it will never regain the conviviality which it once held.  The occupants are dreary individuals.  I do not understand why they bother to live in such a despondent location.  During my youth, I dwelled in the township of Hemlock—but after so many years of living far away, it has only been a dying memory—until now.

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