Part 10: Revelations
Chapter 8: Revelations
I felt myself sitting down on Eva Mariani's bed, with the incriminating photo in my hand. What could drive a man to murder his own wife, and then bury her? I could not wrap my head around an act so inhumane... and yet, as an author, it felt almost trivial to write about murder and villainy. Ah, the calumny of writing! I did not have time for such musings, however, and set about with my investigations.
I recalled that the greenhouse's door was too rusted to open--but I had an oil can now. I made my way to the manor's grounds.
Using some oil on the hinges, I managed to slide the door open.
A thick mist struck me in the eyes as I entered the barren greenhouse, and the smell of long dried plants and dirt permeated the air.
The entire greenhouse stank of decay.. and I couldn't help but feel a palpable sense of dread as I walked further. It was as if this room encapsulated everything that had happened in Blackwood manor: prosperous, beautiful life now reduced to rotting remains.
There was some kind of shiny object beneath the grating.
I could make it out to be a key, but could not reach for it through the metal. I made my way upstairs.
The upper level was livelier than below due to several plants that had somehow managed to subsist on it.
There was a shovel in the planter but it was stuck in the soil.
There was also a hose on the floor, of which I threw one end over the railing, and planted the other in the soil holding the shovel. Perhaps I could loosen the soil with some water... but first, I decided to wander over to the other end of the upper level, where I had spied a table.
Within one of the drawers I found some shears, which I used to clip a few leaves off the most healthy-looking plant in the greenhouse. This would most certainly come in handy later in the day...
There was also a letter in one of the drawers. It made me profoundly sad to read it--I could almost sense the author's (James, I presume) sheer and utter... well, sadness, really.
As much as I regret it, I've decided to stop caring for the greenhouse. All my efforts to save the plants have been in vain. I just can't seem to figure out what is wrong with them... It has been a few weeks since they began falling apart to pieces, dying without any apparent cause. Some of them would just crumble at the slightest touch! This is not only frustrating but very unsettling... every time I enter the place I can feel a sense of dread and decay.
What I most regret is the condition of that rare plant I brought from South Africa. It's now all sad looking and almost dried up. I will take it upstairs and look aftr it, hoping it will get more sunlight... assuming that everything that has been happening here has a natural explanation.
Death is surrounding this place and I can't seem to do anything about it, in spite of my concerns. I can't help thinking that all of this began when I brought that... I wonder... No, I have to put those thoughts aside. I should stop reading all the sinister books, they're getting under my skin.
I went downstairs and connected the hose to a tap beneath the large central tree, and let the water run.
Upstairs, the soil holding the shovel had been softened, so I was able to pull the item out. This, too, would come in handy later, although I would have much rather not have had to resort to using it.
It was a shovel that I had taken from the greenhouse.
The key moved along the grate, as it was washed away by the water. It momentarily was trapped by a plant that had fallen over and blocked the flow of water.
I removed a few branches and leaves, clearing that corner of the drain.
Moments after, I heard the water flowing clearly, and the key scuttled away, out of the greenhouse.
I wandered outside, and followed the sound of flowing water to a small pool beneath an imposing, yet depressing tree.
A gray and naked tree was standing on a small knoll, crowning an otherwise bare area, with its thin branches slowly swaying in the gentle wind. All of a sudden, I began to feel very alone.
The tree had a little hold in its base which allowed some water to pass through.
There was a small pool of water beneath the arching tree.
And within the pool, lay the elusive key. I picked it up, and thought about where it could possibly fit, given its diminuitive size: and the answer came to me quite quickly. James' study had a table with a locked drawer! I rushed back inside the house.
The key fit in perfectly, and I was able to slide the drawer open. It contained a lengthy box held shut by a combination lock. Five sliders... I sat down on the chair and contemplated the box as I pondered on what the password could be. Surely there was some clue within the house...? Numbers.. the boarded up nursery had lettered blocks with numbers on them, did it not? Once more, the answer came crashing down: the boy's name was ROBIN! And the numbers on the blocks corresponding to that name...
The interior of the box seemed to be a puzzle of sorts.
After some fiddling, I slide away the fake bottom and revealed the interior of the box. It contained some currency that would only have interested a numismatic at this point, but there was also an ornate key, which I pocketed swiftly.
The box also contained a letter.
March 21st, 1963
First of all, I beg you to take the utmost care in order to keep this letter away from James. I don't like to think of the mental breakdown he would suffer if he reads this.
You know James much better than I do, so you must share any conviction that he'd never harm anything... but, even so, I'd ask you to be careful whenever he's around, at least until we sort out this situation. He has been especially unstable lately, speaking about his determination to suppress this so-called "curse." I truly fear for him and for his sanity. I still wouldn't say he qualifies as "dangerous" but... just in case, be cautious.
I've been playing the role of an ally who believes in James and so far I think I've done a good job in convincing him, but I'm afraid it won't last for too much longer. I can't do all the things he's now asking me to do! He has been delving into some very obscure arts and what began as a hobby has now become a dangerous obsession. He wants me to perform an African ritual on that awful mask he brought. He's convinced he has released an ancient spirit which will harm everything he loves and cares for. It's all so utterly insane that I'm ashamed to translate this into words. My biggest fear is that I will end up losing my own mind along wiht his. I have to put an end to all of this...
And, about that other issue, you should know I've gotten over it. Catherine, what we all did two years ago, the decision we made and knew would affect the course of our lives, has been haunting my sleep ever since then. I know you must be the one more affected by this, but you wouldn't understand all that has been going through my head... the confusion, the contradiction... now more than ever, I'm not sure whether it was the right decision or not. But there's no turning back and we must face the consequences. All I wanted to say about this, is that I'm deeply sorry if I behaved erratically these past days and unnverded you... you have my word that I won't ever reveal anything.
Whatever you do with this letter, make sure that James doesn't suspect anything. I'd rather have you destroy this though. Extreme situations require extreme measures.
Needless to say, I was deeply concerned by the fact that I had found this letter in a box belonging to James.
With the new, ornate key in hand, I decided to venture to the last inaccessible place on the grounds of the manor: the chapel.
The lock produced a loud noise that echoed in the quietness of the area. It made me wonder about the secrets that had been kept in safe and undisturbed for years...
Not even inside the chapel did I perceive a peaceful environment. The deadly stillness was deeply unnerving.
With a shiver running down my spine, I made my way through the pews, up to the pedestal.
The chalice was lavish and pleasing to the eye, but was sadly of no use to me.
The accoutrements inside the chapel, though mostly golden and shiny, looked sad and fragile.
There was a large wooden statue of Christ looking after this holy place.
It was some kind of metal ring...
I decided to explore the upper part of the chapel, composed of a mezzanine looking over the entire room.
Tucked away in a corner was a cabinet, containing the personal items of the cleric that had taken care of the chapel, when it was in use several years ago. I could not imagine any kind of worship in this place after the madness initiated by James Blackwood...
In the cabinet there lay a suspiciously heavy Bible... muttering a quiet pray, I leafed through it.
I felt unnerved when I discovered the heavy steel nail in the Bible, but I could guess as to its use. With it, and my crowbar in hand, I went back downstairs, to the statue. I was able to use the crowbar on the steel ring to pull away at a slab of stone.
And the nail, I inserted into the statue.
Something was curiously different about the INRI sign now.
With the crowbar, I pulled at the sign, triggering a mechanism that opened a way down.
It was nearly impossible to discern anything in the secret room, but that seemed to be... a candle.
I used my second-to-last match to light up the candle, revealing a dreadful sight...
Most of the books scattered in the secret room were about occultism and African culture. Even their titles were disturbing...
How long had James spent in this hole, this... decrepit place, with the gaze of God peering over him? How many sleepless nights had he paged through these terrifying books? What had driven him to such secrecy and solitude? I could not even imagine the terror that had gone through his mind, let alone his wife as she saw him behave like this.
I took a closer look at the table, which was strewn with various items. Of note were some letters written with shaky handwriting, and an odd-looking branch.
Strange titles such as "De Vermis Mysteriis" gave me the shivers. As much as I love books, I didn't even dare to open those...
The branch was very odd looking...
Finally, I picked up both letters with trembling hands and read them...
The folklore of the Dhalmaar is just as disturbing as their vicious attacks. If my researches have been correct, then I could have stumbled upon one of the most ancient tribes ever known to humanity, dating back to the era when the so-called "Bushmen" inhabited South-Africa. We're talking over 20,000 years ago! How could any civilization manage to survive all this time without ever hunting or expanding... just being there? I don't dare to imaigne what 200 centuries of interbreeding and cannibalism can do to people. I've seen them, and they can't be called humans.
What is most unsettling is their mystical background, impossible to be considered a religion due to a complete lack of basic rules and maturity. The only simple premise is to keep an evil entity at bay which has been stalking them "since the beginning of time" or "dark ages."
At this point in my research I had to stop and consider the implcations. The Dhalmaar actually thought of their later period, the systematic slaughtering of making, as "good times" or "golden ages." I thanked the Lord that this tribe never managed to grow, as I seriously think the region (maybe even the entire continent?) would have suffered terrible consequences.
This history is so ancient that it makes me feel dizzy... The vengeful god, which is incidentally referred to as "Dolhom" would control the Dhalmaar via its many incarnations. Most of the time it would be a tall feline-like figure, always dwelling in shadows and slaying any villager who would unwittingly come close. Some say its deadly claws would not only penetrate your body, but your soul. The purpose of the harassment is unclear. It would look as if the Dhalmaar were... simple toys to play with.
It seems then that the Dhalmaar manage to free themselves from its clutches with the help of an amulet or charm, effectively forcing the entitity to retreat. The most curious thing is how this amulent was conceived. Two main elements were required to perform the exorcizing of this evil and they had to be strictly related to each other; one representing the "victim" and other representing the "victimizer". To achieve this, something related to each one was used. While I'm not sure what is referred to as the victim, I think it can be concluded that anything belonging to any villaged would have served, given that they were all "victims." As for something representing the victimizer, that may have been more complicated. What could possibly be related to a god? This god in question?
Next, these elements had to be mixed with a rare medicinal plant native to the region, which apparently had the properties to blend both items together (as long as they were not too solid). Finally, a branch of a particular tree whose name escapes me now had to be used as the holder of the blended items. It is on this item that a mysterious blessing was performed. It should be noted that all the elements had to be organic.
The Dhalmaar successfully released themselves from the control of the vicious god with an intense ritual that seems to have taken days to perform. In the end, the amulet was so powerful that the entity surrendered to their will and offered divine power in exchange for sacrifices. But the Dhalmaar wouldn't allow themselves to be fooled. They decided that getting rid of this evil once and for all would be the wisest thing to do, so they managed to capture its spirit and store it somplace where they could guard it for ages to come.
My God, my god... the evil spirit was cast into a mask, trapped inside the confines of its blessed wood for eternity. A mask, which its description bears uncanny resemblance to... who am I fooling? It is that mask. That Dhalamaar would keep this spirit at bay via regular rituals, involving the bloody sacrifices and the aforementioned amulet.
The last book I read today about the Dhalmaar (in reality, two small paragraphs as amusing bonus reading in a book lent by the museum) has revealed to me something that left me completely paralyzed with terror. I've always wondered since I began studying them what made the Dhalmaar savagely slaughter neighbouring tribes without any apparently reason. Was it a violent, raw instinct? Did they feel threatened in any way? Was it by a perverse and ungodly sense of enjoyment?
No... it was fear.
Fear that someone else would take the mask and release the god. They killed to protect themselves from falling again into the dark ages. If they went to such extreme lengths to avoid this, then what did they have to endure when the entitity was free?
The rituals haven't been performed on the mask for years now. What have I done... what have I done...
April 5th, 1963
These may very well be my last notes in this regard. I'm afraid Catherine has already realized what I've been doing here all the time... in vain I've tried to explain myself and I know what might have been the outcome had I kept insisting. If you could only believe me Cristopher... because I know you intend well btu I can feel the doubt in your heart. Put your rational thoughts aside for a moment and yield to the facts! If I can do it, someone who was constantly taught in the wonders of Science ever since his child, then so can you! I'm hoping that you will contemplate the possibility of some truth in my assessments once you read about my latest findings.
It is imperative that you carry on with this task. Cathering is watching my every step and I'm afraid she'll take strong measures if I do anything out of the ordinary. Did you know? She has been talking to other doctors besides you... and psychiatrists! My god Cristopher, I fear that she's willing to shut me up in a madhouse! How is it possible that all of you won't believe me? As if what happened with my own son wasn't enough proof!
In my adjacent notes you will find an exhaustive essay on the origin of the curse and what should be done to eliminate it. I know the whole amulent deal must sound crazy but you have to trust me, the tribe has been doing this for centuries. Are you going to forfeit all that knowledge and experience?
They faced a god, Cristopher, and lived to tell it! Now it's our turn to live and tell the story.
And Cristopher... if we fail to remove the curse and anything happens to me, I want you to do it, and I have my complete mental faculties whilst I'm asking you this. It has been becoming more and more dangerous lately... Do not hesitate; there is simply no other was and you would be the only one left who can do it. Promise me. Promise me you will! I know I'm asking you to become a cold hearted murderer... but Christopher, our lives, and possible many others, are at stake. Isn't that enough to forget your vow?
For the first time in my life, I slowly began to sense that I had stepped too far..
Merry Christmas, folks!