I. The Arrival of Doctor Pfahl
“The train from London,” a voice hailed out loud, “is fifteen minutes delayed.”
I sighed. Fifteen minutes? Again. It had been fifteen minutes before, and even before that. Would he ever come? I hoped not. All in all, I was waiting for over half an hour in the small train station of south-eastern Brunswick, a small unknown town in the far north of Britain. I lit another cigar and, for a brief moment, when my lungs beheld that flavoured air, temporary relief came over me. Yet with the evaporation of that misty cloud, this relief again gave way to a peculiar nervousness. A tickle went through my fingers; my foot tapped a melody of impatience. However, it was not that I was so eager for his arrival, but that the events lying before me were, in their nature, so ambiguous. If there is one thing worse than pain, then it is the anticipation of pain, no matter if it is for a benefitting cause.
Since I had set up the appointment with Doctor Pfahl, the thought about his arrival had caused me great distress. This doctor was said to be an expert; maybe the only expert in such a field. He had a reputation, yet it was a covert reputation. One never spoke of him early in the evening, and never in more than a company of two. When one spoke of him, one rather whispered and checked his shoulders twice. No, there was positively no one that spoke of Doctor Hanes Pfahl heartily and easily. He had been recommended to me by a close friend and no one else could recommend a person of his cunning. He was said to be very peculiar in his methods, but for such a business, there were likely no ordinary methods. Also, he was known to be demanding. He had set the date, time, and exact place for his practice and especially the latter was a matter of concern to me. I did not so much doubt the success of his methods; in fact, I rather hoped to see them fail soon, but it was the torment my mind would have to endure in the process of his carrying it out. I had not been to Grimrock Castle for so long and, for this, I entertained very good reasons. No soul in their right mind would go there. Yet, as it was for the place, not for my person, that Dr Pfahl had come, there was no way around it. Continue reading
It was December the 21st in the year 18—, thirty-six years since the death of my mother, thirty-two since the passing of my grandfather, fourteen years since I left Northampton, half a year since my grandmother was buried, and an hour before I would return home.
Home, a place full of memory; a ground full of corpses it was to me. One may likely imagine the state of my mind when I looked into the thick marshlands that were covered by fogs and mist, like into a giant mirror. Heavily, the wheels rumbled over the poor country road while deep regret came over me. A lively and warm present had turned into a dark and cold past, never to be regained with the means of a mortal man.
I think hardly a living person in the western world and beyond, could get around to hear from a disaster that shook the world of sport. Brazil, the host of the World Cup in 2014, lost the semifinal against Germany 7:1. I am not much a sportsman, I did not even watch the game, but the recent articles thrown upon me from all sides made me curious. Why? Because I think there are important lessons horror writers can learn from it.
These ninety minutes were for all fans of Brazil the worst torment they could possibly endure through media. Like TV, writing is a medium to create emotions for the purpose of entertainment. Like in horror stories, where eyes are simply going over some letters, nothing did really happen. Twenty-two people were playing a ball around on a field.
But what made this event so horrifying for fans of the defeated team? And what can we, writers, learn from that? Let us take a closer look upon a few details:
I know I owe you an explanation and maybe even an apology. But if you give me time to tell my story, you will understand very well what notion drove me to do what I did. For a full view of that series of events, let us begin, most practically, at the beginning, or maybe even a bit before.
For me, all this started with the auction at Mr. Dingley’s. I had brought quite an amount of goods to get rid of and sought help from the old coot in doing so. As you know, my husband had died just a few weeks before, so I was about to get rid of all which might have meant something to him, but was certainly of no use to me. He had always been a man of a strange temper and, accordingly, he had strange habits of collecting this and that. I became engaged to him quite some years ago. How long we had been married, I cannot precisely name, but I suppose it must have been some twenty years or so.
I have explored other worlds very recently, worlds much different from my own. By ‘worlds’, of course, I mean books and by ‘different’ a difference in genre. It was part of a fantastic epic and to me like breaching a door to a magical world. It was different because my worlds usually miss both magic and epic. It spanned over centuries and continents, while my works usually focus on months and singular places.
On every page I became acquainted to an army of villains and heroes. Every few lines I was introduced to concepts unknown to me. Wherever my eye wandered, it found mysterious places in plethora. Although it was different, and it is usually difference that inspires, not similarity, I enjoyed it.
It made me think about writing, about my habits and the habits of others and especially of some dissimilarities I see. Of these I want to name three:
Smoke rose up to the sky, and I heard the high blow of a pipe. The train left at 11:57 a.m., precisely as it was meant to, a fine example of superior craftsmanship. My eyes stuck vaguely to the shape of the station, which we had just left behind. Only the weak rumble of the wheels kept my mind from losing itself in the deepest of thoughts. I looked up to the baggage, a bit worried about my bag, but it still lay there by itself. It was a fine one of red leather and had cost me quite a pound, but, for its purpose, it suited me well.
On such a day, one had to take the opportunity for a walk, to stroll through the gleaming face of the sun, under the whispering leaves of the shady tress, accompanied by the songs of birds in their branches, to the remote murmur of a playful stream, to the gay and merry faces of one’s fellow beings, and to the rhythm of a heart at ease and so, indeed, we did.
It was probably not Mr Wriothesley’s idea to ask me out on a walk that day. I rather suspect the actions of my mother behind it, but, after all, it was a nice thing to do. She knew that I liked the gardens and, at least from hearsay, he did too. Anyways, I think on that day, I would have taken any excuse to go for a walk, offered by any person who might happen to ask, but of those, Mr Wriothesley was quite welcome.
I must admit, in a short preface, that my family was never one that could be called ordinary. No one from our lineage was boring, or even just non-inspiring. Instead, they were all lively and active. An outsider might even go so far to attest a penchant for peculiarity in mind. As we were a bloodline of extraordinary people, we were also extraordinarily few. I had not many relatives still living and, those who did were mostly the less eccentric, as the eccentric rarely live long. Blessed, or cursed, whatever one may call it, with such a family, one may easily understand that I had a strong interest in them. They were usually inspiring people, although one must know how to handle them.
One day, news reached me about an uncle of mine, news that gave me reason for worry. He was a married man, or at least he had been, as he had lost his wife and children under most tragic circumstances. Then, two years later, a letter reached me. My uncle was acting weirdly, was stated in this paper. He refused any contact with the world outside and hid in his house seven days a week. My first attempt was to write to him, but as he did not respond, I sought to pay him a visit instead. I was always eager to visit him, as he had such a bracing mind and a talent as an artist hardly to be outdone by anyone.
I think it is inevitable that such earlier words as these must create some inner tension in the very nature of their existence. One has to pretend to have readers even at such an early state, I assume. But to pretend such in the beginning must be an illusion if not even a symptom of narcissism. Still, to assume no reader is also a contradiction in itself as every work must have a reader or it would fall into a strange state of non-existence, like unheard words or unfelt feelings. Therefore, as these lines have to stand the test of truth only when they are met by eyes, I think it neither bold nor vain to assume at least one reader out there.
This journal and the works surrounding it, serve several purposes but the most important of all, is your delight. If you do not find such, I beg your pardon and invite you to honour me with your criticism. If you should decide to stay and to lend me your ear longer, you are invited to read and judge all my works for yourself. I claim authorship over them, but I do not claim the monopoly of interpretation.
I invite you, therefore, to skim through my works, to explore them deeply, to praise and condemn them. In all this I hope to find your gratitude and seek your forgiveness in all the little imperfections which befall the mortal mind so commonly.