Past the wan-moon’d abysses of night,
I have liv’d o’er my lives without number,
I have sounded all things with my sight;
And I struggle and shriek ere the daybreak, being driven to madness with fright.
I have whirl’d with the earth at the dawning,
When the sky was a vaporous flame;
I have seen the dark universe yawning,
Where the black planets roll without aim;
Where they roll in their horror unheeded, without knowledge or lustre or name.
~ Nemesis by H. P. Lovecraft
|Old House (by freatmah deviantart.com)|
Journey Into Madness
He would probably describe himself as “a regular sort of guy” in spite of the fact that his first self-published horror novel “Nemesis” has become a best-seller all around the world.
Arnold James would proudly inform you that he was an avid Manchester United fan and that he never missed a match if he could help it.
And over a pint he might even reveal that he finally married his long-term partner.
But he might be a little bit more reluctant to share his obsession with the darker side of life and of the human psyche and how he has been harbouring dreams of becoming the next Stephen King or Clive Barker.
The young man might not want to divulge the countless hours he has spent conversing with horror aficionados in chat-rooms and the secret life he has been living through the internet.
Arnold James won't want you know the price he's paid to get to where he is today and he'd he would gladly give it all up just to have the woman he loves back in his life again.
To turn back the clock ...
It was 2 am when the young man finally checked his watch.
He had just spent six hours conserving with a person calling themselves “Dr Cripin” in a chat-room for the horror aficionado and the lengthy interaction had yielded some truly toe-curling facts about the peccadilloes of serial killers.
“Nut job!” Arnold James cried as he closed his laptop and rubbed his eyes.
James was tall and boyishly good-looking with wavy brown hair and intense blue eyes and an endearing personality.
It was eighteen months since he had packed civil service job in and since then he had devoted every waking moment picking the minds of horror devotees in chat rooms and ion forums as he amassed material for his first novel.
But he had hardly written a word for the last several months as he spent more and more time having anonymous interactions with faceless people on the internet.
It was Arnold's charm that first attracted Chloe Dunlop to him.
She found his self-deprecating humour very appealing when they first met at the soft drinks machine at Southgate College.
It was raining that afternoon and he drove her home and was rewarded with a kiss on the cheek.
That was how it began, and five years later the couple were married in a Gothic church in Tufnell Park and they spent two idyllic weeks in Sardinia for their honeymoon.
Chloe James was a striking and attractive woman.
She was blonde and petite with warm brown eyes and a winsome smile.
Chloe was proud of the little florist shop she ran in Highgate Wood.
Petals was her sanctuary.
For the last eighteen months she had been supporting herself and her husband as he focused upon writing his first horror novel.
Choe James was just keeping body and soul together.
Weathering the storms with her husband .
And after six months of marriage, she was already a writer's widow.
Her husband had transformed a little outhouse at the end of the garden into a writing den and he retreated there.
His wife watched as he dragged a mattress and sleeping bag into the den and turned it into his new home.
Arnold James had only his vivid imagination and his cyberspace acolytes for company.
His wife had been excluded from his world.
Arnold James had become a hermit.
He only surfaced briefly to bathe before disappearing back into his sanctuary once again.
Like a rat scurrying into a dark corner.
Chloe James barely recognised the wild eyed, bearded man who grunted at her.
She was the fallen angel expelled from paradise.
Her husband was the mad man summoning all hell fire and sleeping with worms.
He was totally obsessed with the occult and devoured anything he could get on divination and summoning practises.
Chloe James was left to lie alone in their big bed; staring up at the ceiling with tears in her eyes as she wondered what had happened to the sweet boy she had met at college.
He had been replaced by somebody who barely noticed she was there.
She was a nonentity watching her husband descend into the darkest recesses of his mind.
Chloe James felt jealous of the faceless internet dwellers who had stolen her husband.
“Did you know they've never found the killer until this day?” Arnold James informed his wife one evening when she bought in his dinner.
He was referring to the notorious Archway Road murders.
Her husband had lately become obsessed with the unsolved murder case from 1966.
53 Old Kent Road was still boarded up today because nobody wanted to buy it and they had given up trying to sell it.
Nobody wanted to live in a house that was cursed.
Arnold James had often stopped outside the house and imagined what had happened inside.
Someone had thoughtfully sprayed across the board in spidery red letters.
“Maybe the killer was driven to it!” She answered drily.
But the quip escaped her husband whose gaze never left his laptop screen
“Just think ... the killer is still out there” James replied dreamily “Scary, eh?”
He never heard his wife's soft footsteps as she quietly exited the den.
Arnold James had become completely obsessed with the 1966 killings and driven past the dilapidated scene of the crime countless times.
Martin and Sandra Miller and their twin daughters Sarah and Sadie were murdered in cold blood on a cold October night and their bodies were found several days later - slumped around the dinner table with their throats slit from ear to ear.
|Prelude To Darkness ... (by hearthy deviantart.com)|
Chloe James sometimes felt that she was a victim of the crime too, as her husband prattled endlessly about it.
The only respite she received from her husband's neglect was the time she spent in her little Highgate florist shop.
The human contact and the aroma of a myriad flowers seemed to breathe life into her.
She was convinced that she had been born in the wrong era and believed that she belonged in a more genteel age where they were no laptops or internet connection.
Unlike her husband who was busy conducting intense relationships with faceless people in cyberspace.
One these new partners in crime was particularly persistent and intriguing and he called himself “Bill”and Arnold James particularly enjoyed their interactions.
Arnold James sat smoking in his red Jeep as he stared at the decaying old residence.
53 Old Kent Road was a haunted house.
After ruminating for a couple hours on what might have occurred within the rotting walls, he heard the unmistakable bleep of new messages in his in-box.
"Bill" had contacted him.
Arnold's eyes widened with astonishment as he began reading..
"I have been working on the Anderson case for three years now. And at last I have pieced it all together"
His mouth was hanging open
"I know who did it"
It was with a mounting sense of excitement that Arnold James finished the email.
"Meet me at the 53 Old Kent Road - Saturday morning at 8 am”
The writer felt exhilarated.
“All will be revealed."
James quickly reeled off a response and pushed aside any nagging suspicions about "Bill".
He was like a man with tunnel vision coming out into the light and he decided there and then not to divulge what was happening to his wife.
There was no need to involve her in it.
Arnold James wanted to enjoy all the glory himself.
Nerdy “Bill” could be bought off later.
James was already counting wads of money in his head as he drove home like a man possessed.
Three days passed in full throttle as the would-be writer prepared to meet his fate.
He was convinced Chloe suspected something but the thrill of keeping a secret was too delicious to spoil.
Saturday morning finally arrived and Arnold James crept out of his house and sped to the crumbling old house.
For some reason it was particularly foreboding this morning and James almost lost his nerve as he sat smoking in his Jeep.
It was a bitterly cold morning.
And the house's battered old mail box creaked in the wind.
Arnold James suddenly fought the urge to reverse his Jeep and drive home as he was suddenly overcome by unreasoning fear.
But the prize he was about to win was worth much more to him than a few moments of doubt and apprehension.
Then he suddenly envisioned Chloe tossing and turning in their big bed; excluded and unaware of his little secret.
And Arnold James leapt out his Jeep with renewed.
But he couldn't deny his trepidation as he pushed the heavy door open.
The old house was shrouded in darkness.
Several large crows screeched loudly at the intruder interrupting their communion and Arnold James ducked as they flew past him out of the door.
Birds of ill-omen.
Arnold's heart was beating fast now and as he surveyed the decaying abode, Arnold James belatedly realised that this was no longer a dream.
The nightmare had stepped out of his over heated brain into the real world.
The wall paper was peeling and curling off the walls.
Broken pieces of furniture lay on the floor and there was on old and sodden sofa.
All the windows were boarded up and the stench was terrible.
Somebody had sprayed the walls with a large spidery slogan.
House of the Damned
Arnold James shivered with fright
It was no dream.
And the house felt eerily silent as if he had stepped into an open grave.
Arnold James had descended into the dark underbelly of a woe begotten and hellish place.
And suddenly he was fighting the primal urge to run.
"Keep it together!" Arnold James urged himself "I've come too far to blow it now!"
Suddenly he was in the kitchen where the gruesome killings had taken place.
The large mottled kitchen table stood before him.
It was where the Miller's had been found dead.
Arnold James had seen images of corpses with blank staring eyes and slit throats with dark blood everywhere.
And he had replayed the scene countless times in his feverish mind.
Arnold James retched; he was staring death in the face.
Somebody had thoughtfully scrawled a big red cross on the kitchen table as a mocking declaration.
"Bill!" Arnold James exclaimed into the gloom "Are you there?"
He had no intention of searching around the house and suddenly he yearned to be in the daylight again.
There was no answer to his cry.
But somehow he knew he was no alone in the decrepit house.
Something was moving around in the shadows.
"Bill!” Arnold James demanded "Show yourself! I know you're there"
But there was still no response.
And it had suddenly got very cold.
A large black crow screeched from the broken rooftop.
It stared malevolently at Arnold James.
"Come out!" James exclaimed forcefully.
This internet nerd was pushing it now.
Something shifted in the gloom.
A shadowy figure began to walk towards him.
And Arnold James instinctively backed away.
It was not meant to happen this way and suddenly James remembered that the murderer had not been caught.
Arnold James had cause to regret his rendezvous.
Perhaps he was alone with a raving maniac.
Arnold James squinted into the darkness.
He thought his heart had stopped when the figure walked towards him suddenly illuminated by light through a shattered window.
It couldn’t be ...
"I've lost my mind"
Chloe James had emerged from the shadows, dressed all in black as if she were going to a funeral.
Her pretty face was pale as a sheet, her lips crimson and her blonde hair scraped back.
She looked like a vampire.
"That's right!" Chloe declared "It's your wife! Remember me?"
There was a half smile on her face.
This could not be happening
“What are you doing here?” Arnold James demanded indignantly.
His wife threw back her head and laughed loudly and it reverberated around the rotting house. .
"Why are you here?" Her husband insisted with stunned bewilderment.
"Why do you think?" Chloe answered him.
Arnold James slowly shook his head.
"I am Bill!" She added.
The words rang around them.
"I am Bill"
Arnold James was suddenly crestfallen; felled like a partridge hit by a hunter's bullet.
"I am Bill"
Chloe James was smiling knowingly at her husband and her dark eyes were flashing brightly.
Her unflinching gaze chilled his bones and froze the blood in his veins.
"What the hell is going on?"Arnold James demanded.
"I've been pretending to be Bill for the last month" Chloe James explained "It wasn't hard to hook you in. I know all your weaknesses!"
"It was the only way I could get your attention!"
“This must be a nightmare ...”
"It's all over Arnie” She informed him dispassionately “I'm leaving you!"
Tears filled the writer's eyes as he struggled to comprehend what was happening to him.
“Don't go … I'll change”
"Goodbye Arnie!" Chloe James said simply and devastatingly.
Arnold James was in hell.
His wife had used his obsession to catch him out and he was caught like a rabbit in a snare.
James watched as his wife walked calmly to the door.
Then she slowly turned to him.
"If you dance with the devil" Chloe James informed him "eventually you have to pay the price"
Then she strode out of the place of death and desolation into the light.
|Until the end (by hearthy deviantart.com)|
* Please note that this is a re-worked version of Dance With The Devil