As you all may or may not know, I like to fancy myself somewhat of a writer..I mean, obviously right? I mean beyond just ranking things and saying how good or how shite something is. What I’m saying is, I like to tell stories. Not just any stories, but horror stories in particular are my bread and butter. I have a little project in the works right now called Wide Asleep, a collection of short fiction and novellas that I’ve been working on over the last couple of years. Now while I don’t have a release window set just now, hopefully within the next year, I would like to give you all a bit of a sampling, a nice little taste of what you can expect from the collection. This is from the first chapter of the opening story of the book, it draws some pretty heavy influence from my personal favorite author (H.P. Lovecraft) and more specifically my favorite of his short stories, The Whisperer in Darkness. The Weirman Letters tells the tale of a university scholar by the name of Arthur Evans as he finds himself plunged into a nightmare of conspiracy and unspeakable eldritch terror after beginning a correspondence with one Willem A. Weirman.
“Reality, as we perceive it, is but a thin veil protecting our sanity from the horrors that lie beyond our mortal understanding. The truth of our existence is far more terrifying than even the most scholarly of minds could ever hope to comprehend.” – Arthur Evans
I find that one can trace my descent into that madness back to a queer letter I had received late one autumn’s eve and the peculiar dialogue that would follow it over the course of several months. There is humor to be found, in retrospect, that such a seemingly innocuous document would be the catalyst of my undoing. Nor does a night pass by in these accursed halls that I do not find myself dwelling upon the minutia that could have spared me this fate. Was not the action of inaction that I was asked, nay, pleaded to take a simple enough course to follow?
This fever dream from which I find myself unable to wake began in earnest in late October. The weather had been unseasonably warm and we were only just beginning to come out of a particularly harsh dry spell. I sat alone in my study, the steady drumming of the first real rain we’d had in many months leaving a certain ambiance to the evening I found to be quite conducive to engrossing myself in a bit of light reading. The fire beside me sparked and crackled, casting its comforting radiance across the otherwise darkened room.
There came a light rapping from out upon my front door. My study being adjacent to the entry hall I was able to hear it over the roaring of the wind and rain. Had I been elsewhere that evening I likely would not have heard the knocking. Had I been elsewhere, had I not heard the knocking things may have been different. Things do not happen by chance, I know that now. As it transpired, I was in my study and I did hear that knocking and so did I cross the study and out to the entry hall and to the front door, which I answered only to find not a person but a stone and beneath that stone was a letter.
I remember that first letter and its contents well, I could even recite it verbatim if any were to ever ask, though none ever would nor would I ever wish to do so. The author of that letter, and those to follow, was a colleague at the university, though one I was only passively aware of at the time and had had no personal contact with prior to his writing. He prefaced that first letter with a statement that I need not feel obligated to continue this correspondence, nor did he even expect me to do so. I was not the first scholar that he had contacted in this manner, those before me had disregarded his rambling and written him off as mad. Admittedly, by the time I came to the end of the pages he sent, written in a hand that I would come to be intimately familiar with, I had given great consideration to taking the letter to the fire and being done with the matter myself. To this day my mind turns to that roaring fire and wonders what if? What if I had cast those words to flame? What if I had not let my damned curiosity drive my pen to parchment, to pursue this madman’s delusions?
The body of the letter itself was brief. In it he detailed his travels abroad, encounters with various indigenous cultures and their primitive and barbaric rituals. He included hastily drawn renditions of what he claimed to be occult symbols and descriptions of impossible architectures. Casting a shadow over it all was a terrible truth he claimed to have uncovered that he frequently made allusions to be never delved into the subject at length. The remaining pages were blank save for the last, which contained only a single black spot exactly an inch in circumference set directly in the center of the page.
Upon finishing the letter I set the pages down on my desk, considered burning it, then sighed and fetched my pen and inkwell. A short time later I slipped my response into an envelope, dripped wax onto the back and with my ring I pressed my seal into it. The matter thusly settled I returned to my previously disturbed reading. My mind, however, turned back to the letter and its casual urgency. The no doubt insane mutterings of a man desperate to share something he feels of great importance but with no one to share it with. Perhaps then it is with a sense of morose pity that I had penned my response, a single page expressing both my skepticism and academic interest in the information that this Willem A. Weirman claimed to possess.
Once again setting my book down I turned my attention to the letter. The penmanship was crude and the errors in both spelling and capitalization were quite unbecoming of a man of his tenure. Then there was the matter of the pages that had accompanied it. A series of three sheets, each completely blank on both sides and slightly smaller than the parchment that the latter proper had been written on. A fourth page equal in size to those closed the letter. A heavy black dot directly in its center, it was far darker than the ink that was used to pen the letter. Those pages also had a rather peculiar feel to them, the texture very much unlike any I had encountered before. It was as if coated in a smooth wax that was also rough to the touch, almost as though in constant contradiction of itself. The circle, slick and smooth seemed almost pressed into the page, but an examination of the back side showed no such indentation had been made.
My fire waning and the hour growing late, I set aside Weirman’s letter and headed up towards my chambers. Perhaps a night’s rest would grant me the clarity I needed to examine the matter with a more scholarly mindset. At least, I hoped it would.
The first of the dreams is but a vague recollection of scattered images to me now. I was flying as a bird would, below me a vast city composed of the strange and blasphemous shapes detailed in the letter. There are flashes of symbols, people dancing nude around a fire, water falling up into the sky. Then an enormous eye staring down onto me from above.
I awoke the next morning in a cold sweat. The previous night’s rains had slowed to a soft and gentle patter outside of my window, likely to break well before noon. It was still early, normally I would rise to the sounds of my house servants beginning their routines, but now I heard not but that steady rainfall. Standing up, I pulled my robe tighter around myself and crept downstairs and into my study. On my desk sat Weirman’s letter, just as I had left it. Only…only it wasn’t just as I had left it. The last of those pages, the one with the black spot, the one that had sat beneath the others when I had turned in for the night now lay on the floor near the dying embers of my fire. The study was oft wrought with a dreadful draft and so that the wind had been the culprit of course crossed my mind, but why then had the other pages not been scattered? What other explanation could there be though? I collected the page, noting that it was warm to the touch, perhaps whatever substance gave it its odd texture had absorbed the heat from the waning fire over the course of the night, then sat it down on the desk with the others.
The heavy deadbolt of the front door let out a shuddering groan, the hinges creaking achingly open. That would be Sullivan coming to start his morning preparations.
“Sully?” I called out, my voice a hoarse choke.
There was a heavy thud as the door shut, a short moment later and a tall, strong-shouldered figure stepped into the study’s threshold.
“Morning sir,” he nodded as he spoke. “I wasn’t expecting you up this early. I’ll fetch your breakf…”
I waved him off. “No need. Just a hot tea. With lemon.”
“Right away sir.” He turned and disappeared into the shadows.
I sat down at my desk and lit the small lamp at its far corner. Numerous text and documents were stacked and littered about the polished mahogany surface. Normally I kept my work space clean, but I had taken home several reports and papers from the university to go over during the coming winter’s breaks and had yet to properly organize them. I picked up the first page of one of the reports, a study on the possible modern applications of alchemy a colleague by the name of Howard King wished for me to give one last fact check before he submitted it in the spring. Skimming the first few lines, I found his thesis to be sound, when Sullivan then returned from the kitchen. I motioned for him to come in and he sat down a saucer with a piping hot cup of tea along with a scone leftover from yesterday’s breakfast.
“I also brought you a side of honey with your lemon. I noticed your voice was a bit rasp this morning sir.”
“You’re a good lad Sully.”
“Thank you sir. Was there anything else that you needed?”
“No that will…” I began, the the letter I had written in response to Weirman caught my eye. I paused for a moment, my gaze lingering over the seal pressed into the wax, my mind briefly turned to the dream that had roused me that morning and an uncanny feeling of being watched fell over me.
“Sir?” Sullivan called hesitantly and I turned to look at him, his dark skin a glowing bronze in the lamplight. “Was there something more?”
“Sorry.” I cleared my throat and snatched the envelope from its place on the desk. “Yes. I need you to drop this in the post before beginning this morning’s chores.” I will be working in my study this morning, so when Anna arrives have her serve my lunch in here. That will be all.”
“Yessir”. Sully nodded, then took the envelope from my hand and hurried off.
I had always liked Sullivan. His mother had brought him to help her with the cleaning when he was young and when he had asked to come work for me after turning eighteen I had hired him without a moment of hesitation. On days when work was slow I would loan him texts from my library. He was well read for his age, favoring the works of Dante, Milton, Dickens as well as expressing an interest in world history and several of my scientific journals. He was much too smart for this line of work and so I paid him well and fed into his inquisitive nature. After his mother’s tragic passing it was the least I could do.
I heard the door close once again as Sully returned from depositing the letter and resumed my perusal of King’s report. Morning’s light had broken the clouds and had begun filling the room so I snuffed out the lamp and took to reading in the chair that sat next to the front window. I kept a pen and inkwell at the table beside me along with a parchment upon which to take notes or offer corrections. About halfway through I had turned to the reverse side to continue writing. There was a soft knock from the study doorway, followed by the faint songbird voice of a young woman.
“Your lunch is reading Mr. Evans,” Anna sang.
“Set it on the desk, I’ll be over once I finish with this paragraph.”
Carefully balancing a tray of soup, bread, cheese and hot tea, Anna tiptoed towards the desk. The sun illuminated porcelain skin and wintry blonde locks. Anna was tragically beautiful, her pale blue eyes naught but soft pools set in her ghost-like face. She was the youngest of my staff, only just barely sixteen, and I loved her dear as any father ever loved their daughter. She mostly minded the kitchens with Elizabeth, the eldest of the women that worked for me and who had worked for the estate’s previous owner before my tenure. Most days it was just the three of us, though every third day there was a crew that tended the grounds and the cleaning.
The estate was old, quiet and just a few miles south of campus. The previous occupant, a professor by the name of George Ravenscroft, often hosted lectures in the grand hall just off of the library. When he passed, the university had offered me residence, which I graciously accepted, glad to have a place I could study in relative solitude.
I thanked Anna, took my seat at my desk and nodded her off back to the kitchen. I tore a bit of bread off and dipped it into the soup, a rather rich chowder consisting mostly of potatoes and corn. The bread had turned a bit stale, so the soup gave it back some life. The cheese, a spread of bleu along with an aged and sharp white cheddar accompanied more bread and then was washed down with tea.
Setting my lunch aside I scanned the books stacked upon my desk, found the volume on 18th century alchemy that I had checked out of the university library and brought it over with me to the chair across the room to resume my work. It was nightfall by the time I had finished reading through the full report. In all I had written two full pages, filled front to back with notes, suggestions, criticisms and corrections. While King’s thesis had indeed been well founded and sound, the body of his work itself was far less impressive, full of unsourced quotes, tenuous research and wild assumptions without the scientific backing he had claimed to have. I jotted one last note to have him contact a Professor Roivas, who had recently taught a course on practical applications for alchemy and other ancient sciences that I felt would be able to help him with better supporting his thesis. Slipping the note along with my corrections and his report into a file and placing it on the table beside me, I began to stand up and head for my chambers when there was a knock just outside of my study. Sullivan stood there, something in his hand.
“Sorry to disturb you so late sir, but I was on my way out when I saw this sitting under a stone just outside the door. It’s addressed to you.” He held his hand out to me. It was a letter.
We hope you enjoyed this sample chapter from our newest resident writer, Mike. Look forward to the rest and more stories when the full collection releases!