A Blessing, A Curse

How I once thought I was blessed.

A man chosen by a god up high.

How naive I was.

I remember the day when it all happened.

I awoke from my sleep, only to find myself in an unfamiliar place.

Instead of lying in my bed, I found myself in some dark alley in a city I could not for the life of me remember ever visiting.

I just sat there, in that alley, in a disgusting puddle of peculiar liquid, thinking.

I must have been there for hours as, when I attempted to stand, I could no longer do so due to the numbness in my limbs.

I could do nothing but fall asleep once more, hoping that I would make it through the night.

Fearing I would never awake.

To my relief, I awoke once more to find myself lying in a hospital bed.

I quickly jumped upright and studied my surroundings with newfound strength.

It was a rather normal hospital room, the only thing of note being that there were no others in the chamber with me.

One room, one bed.

At the time I did not think much of it.

I just assumed it was a rather small hospital.

One that took care of only a few blocks of some massive city.

 

“The city!”

 

I jumped out of my bed and ran to the window on the other side of the room, facing my bed.

I pulled away the curtains and what I witnessed there shocked me.

This hospital, this lonesome hospital, stood not in a bustling city, known or unknown to me.

It stood in a field.

You might not find this odd, as it could have very well been a rural hospital, but this field was truly in the middle of nowhere.

There were no buildings, roads, nothing.

Not a sign of civilization.

I stared and stared, examining every inch of the seemingly infinite field that stretched itself out in front of me, but I could find nothing save for the long, yellow grass swaying in the wind.

I turned around and slowly walked towards the door at the other end of the room.

As I opened it I noticed the increasingly widening beam of light falling on the floor in front of me.

Light, how something so trivial could possibly confirm a fear so great, and confirm it did.

As I saw the light seeping past the slowly opening door I noticed how they were not the usual fluorescent white, but a bright yellow.

Sunlight.

I opened the door, only to witness what I had suspected the moment I looked out that window.

The door led outside.

The ‘hospital’ was nothing more than a single room in the middle of a field.

As I stood there, stunned with confusion and a mild sense of wonder, I heard a faint sound.

A buzzing came from inside the small building.

I approached it, noticing the source of the sound was a small, old cell phone.

One of those old bricks you could hurl at a person in case a weapon would be unavailable at the time.

I’ve always prefered those type of phones as they are far more trustworthy than all that new nonesense.

 

“One message.” It displayed on the screen in big green letters.

 

I unlocked the device, as no password was set, and read the mysterious text.

 

“A good day, James.

“I know you must be scared and confused right now, but this was the only way.

“I cannot say to you now, as to why we took you from your home and into our makeshift hospital.

“All I can say is that you must be careful.

“You have a gift, one that will bring you greatness.

“Whether it is greatness in joy or greatness in sorrow and pain is up to you.

“We will keep an eye on you,

“J. Evers.”

 

J. Evers…

A name I once thought nothing of now fills me with fear, anger and great sorrow.

After reading the message, the phone died.

A dead battery, how coincidental.

I put the phone in my pocket, thinking it might come in handy later, and went outside.

I knew not which way to go, so the first thing I did was circle the building.

This proved fruitful for I found a car parked behind the so called ‘makeshift hospital.’

It was a battered, old car, but a car nonetheless.

The keys rested in the lock on the door.

 

“J. Evers” It said on a small tag, linked to the keychain.

 

I entered the car and fired up the engine.

Hearing it sputter for a while, it did start without any other problems, much to my joy.

I know not much of cars, but I found it slightly suspicious that the engine went on that easily.

Especially with a car that looked as though it had suffered many years of quite severe abuse.

In the end I just shrugged it off and started looking for anything left by the previous owner.

I found a set of clothes on the beige, leather backseat and a sandwich and a map in the glove box.

I looked at the map first, hoping it might guide me towards civilization.

I was, once more, in luck.

The map had a small, red cross on it.

 

“You are here.”

 

It seemed to be correct, on first glance, for it showed the cross in a flat field and mountains towards the south, which was correct as well.

I also saw that the nearest town was not too far away.

Only nine miles and I’d be back where I belonged, where I could hopefully leave all of this behind.

I put on the clothes and ate the sandwich, as the sudden influx of emotions had made me rather hungry.

The map I placed on the dashboard, and off I went.

The first peculiarity on my path was what I saw when I had reached the end of the field.

The entire field was surrounded by a thick, almost impenetrable forest save for a single dirt road, the only way in and out.

As the road nor the forest were on the map it made me stop and think for a moment.

 

“Is this the wrong map after all?” I wondered.

 

I drove, slowly, towards and over the road through the thick forest.

It was truly ancient for the trees were plentiful and of kinds I had never seen before.

It seemed as though all types of trees on this very earth inhabited that forest.

It took me not long, about 5 minutes, before I passed through to the other side.

I was greeted with a large, paved road.

My first sign of civilization.

I looked on the map once more, and it seemed to be the road leading towards the town I had marked before, the town that lay nine miles off of the place of my awakening.

I drove towards the village, keeping the same pace as I had before, looking left and right to see if I could find anything out of the ordinary.

But after five miles of finding nothing, I relaxed.

I do not know where I had been, or how I got there, but at least I was rid of it.

I entered the small town and saw something that startled me.

You know how, when you meet a person that looks rather… Peculiar, you start feeling a slight sense of dread.

As though you are being warned not to go to close to those kinds of people.

What I saw there was exactly that.

Only, I did not feel the dread, I could see it.

I could see the people, walking along like they normally would, but I also saw something following them.

A dark presence, not quite ghost, not quite human.

Almost as though their shadows had risen from the ground and begun stalking them.

It was a terrifying sight.

I quickly drove to a parking lot, which was thankfully empty save for one lone pickup truck, and parked the car.

As I opened the door, a little girl ran up to me.

 

“Heya mister.” She shouted.

 

I must have jumped almost a feet in the air out of sheer fright.

I looked, fearing what I expected to be there, but as I looked at her I could see no shadow breathing down her neck.

She was just an innocent little girl, nothing more, nothing less.

 

“Where is your mother, little one?”

“What do you think you’re doing there?!”

 

The mother had come up to the car and grabbed her child by the arm.

 

“I am sorry, but your daughter ran up to my car to say hi.”

“Come on, Alice. Let’s go home.”

 

I looked at the woman, confused, when I heard a loud whisper.

A whisper, trying to remain hidden but just too loud to do so.

 

“That pedophile. I should have him shot.”

 

I looked, and saw a dark figure staring back at me.

It was the woman’s shadow.

It had spoken to me.

I stepped out of the car and started walking through the streets.

Everywhere I went, I could hear the whispers.

 

“What is that doing here?”

“Why can’t he mind his own business?”

“I should round up the others and see who this mystery man really is.”

 

As I got bombarded with these insults, these threats, I quickly walked back to my car and sat down behind the wheel.

I sat and I thought.

What did all of those comments have in common?

The truth.

It seemed as though the shadows whispered to me that which the people themselves did not dare to speak out loud.

A peculiar thing.

A frightening thing, though less so now that I understood it.

 

“God, how I wish to just start CUTTING THAT CHILD!”

 

I jumped up from my chair.

That whisper was louder than the others.

Much louder and far more aggressive.

I looked around and saw a man walking close to my car, moving towards the pickup truck, the only other car in the parking lot.

I looked at him, and he looked at me.

 

“I should slit that prick’s throat. I’ve killed for less.”

 

I quickly averted my eyes to the map on the dashboard.

Did I hear that correctly?

Did he just say that he had murdered people?

That was the point where it all went downhill for me.

I thought I knew what I had.

I thought I could control it.

That I could use it.

And the fool that I am, I did use it.

I blackmailed, I schemed, I became that of which the shadows spoke.

I knew every dark secret, every unsolved murder and I loved it.

But one cannot live between such evil, between such hate.

It drove me mad, slowly but surely.

I started to fear again, fear what the people would do to me if they found out.

Fear of what the shadows could do.

Could other people hear them?

One of those days, a fear filled day, I sat in my large, rural based house in my favorite chair, drinking my now regular glass of scotch as I heard the doorbell ring.

I opened the door, but saw none there.

As I turned around, I heard a buzzing sound coming from inside the house.

I walked towards the source and saw it was the cell phone, the old brick with the still uncharged battery.

The very phone I had taken from that mysterious building two years ago.

I looked at the little display.

 

“One message.” Written in the same green letters as the ones on that damnable day.

 

I opened it, curious as to what it contained.

 

“A good day, James.

“Though I know that for you, it isn’t.

“Not anymore.

“We have watched you, James, watched your every move.

“We have studied, we have judged.

“We are starting to doubt.

“Yes, James, your greatest fear has come true.

“We know. We know everything.

“And we can end it, if we so desire.

“But I am not an unreasonable man.

“I will give you one final chance.

“One final chance to get it all right.

“We will keep an eye on you,

“J. Evers.”

 

J. Evers.

It had been two years since I had last heard that name.

Two years since I had last thought of the incident.

I had just forced it out of my mind.

Forced myself not to think about it.

But now, my fear, my confusion, my anger, it all came back to me.

One final chance…

It seemed as though this J. Evers was really the one who gave this ability to me.

I can no longer call it a gift.

Not after what I had seen.

What I had heard.

All I could think of in that moment was how.

How could I use this for good?

How could evil be used for good?

It took me a few days of pondering to come to a conclusion.

I had decided to become an officer of the law.

It was the perfect job.

I could interrogate like no other.

I would always know if someone were truly guilty, for no evil could remain hidden from me.

And so I went.

I became a cop.

A good cop.

In my career, which lasted a full year, I made almost a hundred arrests, all of them now in jail.

I was the hero now.

I was the good guy.

Funny, how a person can change so rapidly.

How I could’ve gone from being the worst scum on the planet to a nationwide hero in the matter of a year.

But still, I felt something gnawing at me.

The job had cost me much.

It was an honest job and with that comes a lot of work.

Even though I always knew who were guilty, the hard part was proving it.

I had to go through ridiculous efforts to be where I am now.

Perhaps I was just tired.

Tired of my job.

Tired of the constant pain, anger and sorrow around me.

Throughout my time with this ability, this damned curse, I have not found a single person without a shadow.

Not one innocent soul.

This does exclude children though.

I always assumed it was because children still have their innocence to protect them.

But, as I was saying, I quit my job.

Many people wept, more people cheered.

The shouting was almost deafening.

The shadows, how loud they can be.

Now that you have taken the time to read my story, I will let you in on a little secret.

Call it a ‘going away’ present.

Remember how I just said I had never met a person without a shadow before?

This is actually false.

There was one person.

It was during my time as a cop that I first met this individual.

The first time I saw her was on a ship.

A large, Chinese freighter to be exact.

I could see her looking from out of one of the containers.

The only reason I even noticed her was because I did not see a shadow, I saw an angel.

There was no darkness, only light.

She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

A short woman with bright, white hair and deep, blue eyes…

Oh, her eyes.

As if I were a snake and she were an enchantress, holding me in her spell the moment I gazed into her eyes.

I could not keep myself from looking.

I had never, in my life, seen such pure goodness.

But something else about her struck me as odd.

I could’ve sworn I had seen this woman before, though I knew not when nor where.

That same day I filed for an investigation into the Chinese freighter, but to no avail.

It was registered under the name of one of the most powerful people in the world, the boss of one of the most notorious human trafficking cartels in history.

What the white man has done to the black in the days of old was nothing compared to what this ‘human’ does to his ‘products.’

That girl, she was the reason I started the last job of my career.

A three month long infiltration into that notorious cartel.

A road that led straight down to the deepest circles of hell guarded by the most deplorable creatures known to man.

I had been working towards my goal for many weeks, constantly fueled by that vision of the girl.

Human traffickers have always disgusted me, but she made it a matter of life or death.

A being of pure good in the hands of the most evil, it could not be, it must not be, it cannot be!

To knowingly sell a human being, to break his, or her soul into submission for nothing more than money has repulsed me ever since I learned of the practice, and now I stood among them.

I had infiltrated the biggest cartel on this side of the pacific.

I had worked my way up from a lowly drug dealer to the big boss’ right hand man.

And today was the day the day I were to meet him in person, my only lead to the girl.

Strapped with my two most trusted guns, I waited.

I waited in a dark, empty room with nothing more than two chairs, a table and one door, in and out.

I waited and I waited.

I waited for what must have been an hour before I grew suspicious.

 

“Were they on to me?” I thought to myself.

 

I made my way to the door and opened it slowly.

A large, dark hallway stretched out farther than I could see.

Doors covering the walls, all numbered.

Product ID’s.

I walked.

Walked through the dark hoping to find the light.

I walked and walked.

I walked until, finally, I saw a faint light.

A small beam coming from under one of the seemingly infinite amount of doors.

I approached it, slowly.

First I listened, just to be sure I wouldn’t walk where I was not supposed to be.

Even the right hand man of the boss himself is not allowed to know everything.

I had heard nothing for at least three minutes, and deemed it safe to enter.

What I saw there, I will never forget.

It is what haunts me to this day.

My demon, an angel.

What I saw standing in that room was the woman, short with bright, white hair and deep, blue eyes…

Oh God, her eyes.

When I looked into them, this time from up close, I could not believe that she were a human being.

I snapped myself out of her gaze and looked around the small, dirty room.

I attempted to find what I had found with all the others.

A shadow.

Just to be certain, as I could still hardly believe a person this pure existed, but here I could find none.

I could only see her.

Her and her eyes.

Eyes that begged.

Eyes that needed my help.

 

“What is your name?” I asked her, trying speak with as little compassion as I could.

“Angelica.”

 

She spoke so softly.

Almost as if she were going to break.

She seemed so fragile.

 

“Come.” I said.

 

She looked at me, fear in her eyes but, as soon as she saw my face, she smiled.

 

“I can see you, angel.”

 

She hugged me, almost as if she knew that all would be well.

She was safe.

I left the small, dark room with her that day.

We came so close.

I had finally reached my car and was already attempting to find the key in my pocket.

It was gone.

All that I could find was a note.

 

“J. Evers.”

 

I heard a gunshot.

I felt her grip on my arm tighten, then loosen.

I felt her sliding down my leg.

I heard her falling to the ground.

I turned around to see what I should’ve seen coming.

 

“A good day, James.”

 

I saw a shadow, only a shadow.

There was no man, no creature that bound it.

It was evil in its purest form.

 

“Why?” I had fallen to the floor, and wept on Angelica’s slowly freezing body.

“My right hand man, I could’ve known.

“You know how much money is on your head.?”

 

A man walked from behind the shadow.

 

“A five with seven zero’s my friend.

“That’s no small fry.”

 

He came closer and closer, step by step.

 

“Too bad I had to off her as well.

“She seemed like a fine product.”

 

He stood beside me, looking at her corpse.

That was when I heard a whisper.

Not from him, but from me.

 

“Kill him.”

 

I pulled the two guns I had on me and started firing.

I just kept firing and firing, as I saw Angelica becoming less and less bright with every shot.

I emptied two full twenty round magazines into his body.

He fell to the ground, bleeding through more holes than any man would dare to count.

I looked at Angelica and saw the shadowy figure standing beside her.

He took her into his arms, placed her on the backseat of the car and drove away.

I did not attempt to follow him.

After the car had disappeared from my sight, I could hear a faint buzzing sound.

It was the cell phone.

I looked at the small, dark display.

 

“One voicemail.” It displayed.

 

I opened it.

 

“One message from the eleventh of November 2012.” A synthesized voice said.

 

2012.

Exactly 3 years ago.

Around the same time when I first discovered my curse.

A woman’s voice spoke.

 

“James?

“James, please come home.

“I miss you.

“I just want to help you.

“You’re not well.

“You’re seeing things.

“Please, even if you don’t want to be treated, at least come home to me.

“It’s so lonely here.”

 

A deep voice could be heard in the background.

 

“GET HER!”

“NO! GET YOUR HANDS OFF OF ME!”

“End of message.”

 

I sat there, stunned and confused.

Who was she?

Why did I only receive the message now?

Who were those other men?

What had happened?

I looked at the number and opened the list of contacts.

I passed out.

 

And now we have come to this point.

I awoke in the car, finding myself in the very same place where I had once left the field through the ancient forest, Angelica’s corps lying on the backseat.

The road is no longer there.

The shadow is screaming, but I don’t care.

It’s pleading, begging, but I ignore it.

I won’t be around for too long anyway.

This was my story, and of my late wife, Angelica Evers.

A Blessing, A Curse

The Crypt under the Northern Star

“So.”

The old man took a sip from his mug.
A strange, seemingly glowing, yellow liquid flowed into his mouth and dripped alongside his thick, white beard.

“You have found me.”

The few candles, scattered randomly around the small pub shuddered for a moment as the old man turned to reveal his worn, wrinkled face.

“Are you ready to pay up?”
“Yes.”
“There is no going back.”

Another sip was taken from the large mug.
A strong, vile smell emanated from the mouth of the old man with each spoken word.

“I am certain.”

The old man sighed.

“As you wish.”

He stood up from his old bar stool, the drink had disappeared altogether, and started walking towards the back of the pub.
It was unbelievably dark, yet one could clearly see strange, almost human silhouettes sitting at the few tables strewn around the bar’s small interior.

“Do not stray.”

The old man walked and walked for far longer than the building could be long and after a journey of at least ten minutes through the suffocating darkness, a light could be seen in the distance.

It was a faint light, a warm light, yet it could not be trusted.
Almost as if it tried to speak.
Tried to warn.
The point of no return.
The old man walked towards the light, it’s source a candle on a small, dark, round table with two chairs of the same wood and colour.
The old man took the chair closest to me and pulled it away from the table, beckoning me to come and take a seat.

“Sit. Please.”

I moved towards the chair, noticing the many shadowy silhouettes from before were now standing around the circle of light.
They were just in the light, in such a way that it would’ve been impossible for them to be actual shadows, yet they stayed their place, seemingly afraid to come any closer.
They trembled, some even waved and shouted without a voice.
A final warning.
Impending doom.
But I was certain.
I would not sway from my quest.
I approached the chair and sat as the old man walked towards the opposite end of the peculiar table and took a seat of his own.
I had not noticed this from a distance, but the table was engraved with many signs, images and texts both known and foreign to me.
The engravings were odd as they seemed to emit a certain light.
A yellow light.
A moving light.
Almost liquid.

“Jonathan. I will ask you once more. Do you wish to continue?”
“Yes.”
“Very well.”

The old man beckoned into the darkness.
After a short delay, a shade holding a mug containing a yellow liquid walked towards the table.
The old man took the mug and the shadow disappeared without a trace.
As though it were nothing more than a figment of my own imagination.
The silhouettes shuddered for a moment, as the candles had shuddered before.
Slowly, the old man took a sip from the mug.
One sip, two sips and a third.
Then he stopped, placed the mug on the table and slowly moved it towards me.
I took the large cup and placed it on my lips.
The smell was even more vile this close to my nose.
It made me shiver, but not out of disgust.
Out of fear.
I drank, one sip, two sips and a third.

“Now that you are ready, listen close and remember my words, for I will only say this once and no more.
“Deep down under the far off northern star lies a crypt.
“A crypt older than man, older than the world itself.
“It has been there forever, and will remain even longer.
“This crypt is where you must go.
“You must venture to it, but never near it.
“You must await at a minimum of a hundred paces and a maximum of two hundred.
“After reaching a point that feels right to you, you must lay down and close your eyes.
“Only you must not fall asleep, for the creatures will drag your soul into their world if you do.
“After you have closed your eyes, you will hear much noise.
“There will be pain, suffering and pleading.
“You will hear your loved ones begging for your help, but you must not listen.
“I will not say they are not your loved ones, for they could very well be, but still you must not open your eyes.
“After roughly ten minutes you will start feeling sharp stings in your chest.
“Keep your eyes closed, the creatures can not harm you, not with the liquid running through your veins.
“After another ten minutes you must remain still for thirteen more.
“This is the most difficult part of all for what you will hear now, I can not prepare you.
“Your soul itself will be ripped from your body and placed across of you, begging you.
“It will bargain, pray, do whatever it can to save you.
“You must not listen, you must not open your eyes.
“After exactly thirteen minutes the sounds will stop and you may look.
“The crypt will now lay in front of you.
“It’s doors slightly opened, beckoning you to come and enter it’s long, damned halls.
“This you must do.
“For what reason you go, I know not and I wish not to know.
“It is your journey and yours alone.
“You may now ask me one question that I will answer truthfully, for I am no fiend.”

I looked around me.
The shadows had all disappeared, save for one.
It stared at me with a faceless grin.

“What happens when I open my eyes prematurely?”

The old man stopped and looked me straight in the eyes, his filled with terror.

“A fate more horrible than any imaginable.
“Not Lucifer nor God up high would dare open their eyes to the horrors that come from that infernal crypt.”

The old man stood up, and walked into the darkness.
The shadow approached me after which point I fainted.
I awoke to find myself back upon the Scottish hills where I had found the pub, only now it was abandoned and in a deplorable state.
I have yet to decipher the meaning of the old man’s words, but I know that their secrets will reveal themselves to me in due time.

The Crypt under the Northern Star