Wary Perceptions - I

Written and Illustrated by Benjamin Fouché

In the dead and insufferable winter of 1873, I was appointed the second servant at a melancholy and silent inn, thirty miles outside the sleepy, bleak town of Hemlock, Vermont. The quiet, Gothic-Revival manor rested in the forlorn vale of Spookinite. A place of which great darkness allegedly reveals itself to unwary travelers. And indeed, being the superstitious person that I have always been, there was, at first, a sensation of immense reluctance––but knowing the importance of provided warmth and meals, I was rendered no other choice. And henceforth, I had to remain grateful with a positive and appreciative outlook. On horseback, I began my day’s journey to the place which was, by all accounts, going to become my promised home.

Through the barren and lull rural landscape, we strode further and further towards the only hope that I was given. There had been many tales of grim entities and nightstalkers that I had overheard in Hemlock. They lingered unrelentingly, deep within my uneasy spirit. It felt exceedingly unnatural, attempting to dismiss them as meager ghost stories and nothing more––but I could not purposely disremember the tales for long; especially their ghoulish and lurid details. The most horrid parts would ring in my mind––perhaps it was, indeed, only natural to remember them; especially since I was venturing into a land of which had been evidently cursed for centuries.

Never have I feared ghosts or spectres, but supernatural beings with malevolent intentions have always seemed to frighten me. Was it that––perhaps––I would come face-to-face with one while dwelling in the solitary valley of morbid peculiarity? It was too much to ponder upon and I knew these ideas needed not bother me. Yet, they continued on––even as the night drew nearer. By then, we were approaching the pathway that entered the valley’s mouth. A shabby and crooked covered bridge crossed a narrow brook. There was a well-faded sign that loosely hung down from the top of the ominous entryway of the bridge. It hung by the remaining rope which was remarkably frayed––it would fall one day. The words engraved into the sign read “Morbus Tenebris” which translates from Latin to, “Dark Sickness”.

From what I could fathom, it had hung over the bridge’s archway for quite some time. Was it a sincere warning to passing travelers? Or was it all for the sake of merely keeping unwanted visitors away? Unfortunately, there was no time to conjecture its meaning. The nocturnal hours were imminent, and I had to make haste to the place where I was expected. Steadily and with such precaution, we crossed the gloomy bridge. The planks below the sturdy hooves of my horse cried, as if each one that pressure was placed upon was dying. The abandoned web-work of spiders hung in the bridge’s loft. Dust, dirt and hollow egg-sacks had accumulated within them over the course of time.

When exiting, from the other side of the bridge, all light had ceased––with exception of the frail moonlight, glowing over the gnarled branches that weepily hung above me. We had now entered the darkened dale and were to continue among the hillocks of shadows. Wintry mists arose from the surface and occasional wind gusts stirred the desiccated leaves. The lonesomeness became more vast than anticipated while we moved quickly into the swallowing blackness. And although my surroundings were undoubtedly unsettling, there was a nightly beauty of which it offered––a few light breezes whispered over the treetops and lightly brushed the cedar saplings below––discontinuous owls hooted from up in their roosts, spread throughout the cold woodlands––and gentle moonlight gleamed from the heavens. I could see what this valley was––a haven for those who reside in the night.

The coldness became harsh as we rode farther into the dense forest, when suddenly, there came a weak light, shining over a ridge of knolls. The nearer we rode, the brighter it became––my thoughts of reason said that conspicuously, it was the Inn. Becoming closer, I could see that it was, in all probability, fifty yards away. Upon reaching the Inn, I marveled at its Gothic beauty. The light was glowing from the turret above, and I slightly smiled, knowing this mansion was to become my abode. Quickly, I strode underneath the porte-cochére and dismounted my steed. Hurrying over to the thickset doors, I jolted one of the grand door-knockers.

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