Of Cursed Minds and Shadow
Many would have thought the rumor absurd, the idea that a man such as Philip Lockehart could perform an act so cold and so cruel as to slay his own brother is still ludicrous in the minds of many, but citing from what he has told me I can say nothing other than that the rumor is undeniably true.
Philip was a friend of many years, and it is disheartening to recall the events that led him to this irrevocable deed. Though his legacy may be stained from this act, the whole truth has remained a secret, and I seek to remedy that.
He was of a wealthy family that owned a small estate on the outskirts of the city, and although he was of rich pedigree, he had always possessed an amiable heart. He would go to great lengths to help a friend in need, and was known to make generous donations to the fields of research and the church.
It was a great shock to see him on my doorstep that morning, he had a look about him that was so contrary to his nature, his hair, usually possessing a brilliant blond hue and groomed to perfection, was a disheveled mess and seemed whitened, apparently from stress but also that of a great shock. His skin emanated a weak pallor and he was sweating profusely.
He wished to speak with me, but not without having a strong drink beforehand, unusual for him because he rarely drank, and never for pleasure but for business. With hesitation I poured him a glass of spirit and to my amazement he downed it without a thought. After a moment he proceeded to tell each excruciating detail with a look of exasperation and shame.
I can recall the beginning of his story, for I was present for some of it. It began with his brother Joseph, who was the stark opposite of Philip. He possessed a repulsive nature and in his own insecurity, he would act unnecessarily cruel to those outside of his family. You see, Joseph Lockehart’s personality, or lack thereof, often repelled even the most sympathetic of people.
For this reason, among others I dare not mention, the Lockehart family sought to hide the unfortunate son from the public. Consequently, the only person Joseph could turn to when in need of a companion was his amiable brother, who in his unending kindness was happy to oblige.
I observed Joseph to be a parasite, a sociopathic misanthrope, for even though he was grateful for his brother, he never sought to change his own life philosophy. He leeched off of his brother’s positivity, and Philip often appeared drained by it.
Weeks ago I called Philip to the city, his strange brother had seemingly come down with a bout of hysteria. His self-isolation and internment in his own apartment had taken its toll, the effects that loneliness has on the human mind can create symptoms of melancholy and paranoia, the latter of which Joseph had in immeasurable quantity.
I found myself feeling a tinge of regret and responsibility, being a friend of the family, and I knew Joseph required professional help, but by his repulsiveness and stubborn will he refuted the idea, he said he required only his brother. As he had driven himself to a bout of madness he refused to speak to anyone but.
Before Philip had arrived in the city I was called to my own home in the countryside to care for my father, who had come down with some variation of the flu. From that point on until when I returned I must rely entirely on Philip’s testimony, and while I do not doubt my friend, I must confess I hold a twinge of disbelief. It was as if he had all the pieces but arranged them into a disjointed and confusing picture. In his state of mind, I cannot blame him, but I sense he has withheld some greater truth.
When Philip heeded his brother’s call he found him to be a mess, his skin was unnaturally pale as if he hadn’t left the apartment in months. His hair looked like that of a madman, and Joseph was half-crazed himself. Joseph babbled incessantly, Philip recalled that he had spoken with a voice not like his own.
His insane ramblings implied he had witnessed a terrible horror. Seeing that Philip couldn't understand, he calmed down and motioned towards the apartment window and spoke in a more coherent manner. He admitted watching passing pedestrians, observing them, and from his perspective, they appeared not entirely human.
Most appeared normal, but others, he exclaimed excitedly, were composed entirely of an obscure black fog. They were men of shadow, ink blots on the canvas of reality ridiculously emulating humanity like a chimpanzee wearing a suit.
Philip was shocked to hear that, he refused to believe his brother’s insane ramblings, and he suggested that he seek help. At this notion Joseph reacted violently, he began tearing at his hair and shouting. Philip attempted to calm him down and suggested that they merely take a walk around the neighborhood. With a deep breath, Joseph agreed, albeit reluctantly.
Philip took a large overcoat and draped it over his brother’s shoulders, and made him fix his wild hair. Joseph turned the coat collar up and put on a wide brimmed hat. Philip remembered how ridiculous Joseph looked, such a small man buried under all that fabric, but he insisted on going out that way.
They had walked for about an hour. Philip noticed how Joseph's eyes darted left and right beneath his greasy black hair and wide hat. At one point, Philip caught his brother staring at an old merchant with such intensity as though he were trying to immolate the man.
Finally, Philip buckled and admitted the walk was a bad idea, but just as he was turning to suggest they go back, Joseph bolted. Philip thus followed, but could not for the life of him find his lunatic brother.
Some time passed, and he grew desperate. He was hesitant to call the police for he knew that if Joseph was discovered he would be confined to a madhouse. He decided to return to Joseph’s apartment, hoping to find him there.
Unfortunately, Joseph had not returned home, but it was there that Philip stumbled on things he had not seen before. In the corner of the room, on top of a desk, were a series of illustrations and harried notes. The illustrations depicted the aforementioned men of shadow with burning cinders for eyes, some were impersonating men but others appeared to be feeding off them.
An easel sat covered next to the window, and when he threw off the cover he saw something that haunted him greatly. It was a near finished painting that contained some sort of daemon or devel with rubbery skin and bloodshot eyes. It had a wolfish grin and pointed ears, along its back protruded spines, attached to its sinewy limbs were half cloven feet and scaly claws.
It latched onto a man’s back, a man who unwittingly carried on with whatever business occupied him. I saw this painting after the whole ordeal before the authorities sealed off the apartment and seized all of the Lockehart Family's assets, that thing was not of any man’s imagination, in fact, I was certain it could not have been drawn without a model.
It was as if Joseph had spotted the thing from the spyglass that peered outside his window.
Philip had recoiled from the shock and collided with the wall opposite the window. When he regained his composure he searched the apartment and came across several tomes related to the occult, one of which was the egregious Necronomicon, a book which the clergy had outlawed, punishments for owning the book were severe, and I dare not mention the deplorable methods they utilize when doling out said punishments.
Lastly, and to his greatest horror, Philip uncovered a vast flowchart containing portraits of council members, merchants, and members of the clergy. Even the hierarch himself was on the chart, and marked with a black cross, as many others were. Notes were stuck to some portraits, bearing the writings “imposter?” and “doppelganger.”
At these revelations Philip broke down, his brother, whom he thought to innocuous recluse, was in fact a crazed lunatic, a possibly dangerous man who was now loose on the streets of the City. After a moment he looked back at the diagram. One of the first portraits was that of Asenath Delapore, a kindly old woman who had a seat at the district’s counsel. Below her portrait was a note containing her address. Fearing this as one of Joseph’s first targets, Philip set out at once.
He arrived at the location and found he was too late. The city guard was already positioned outside the home, a large crowd of rubberneckers had gathered before the crime scene. He was not allowed inside, but he concluded from the gossip and guard’s chatter that the old woman was in fact murdered, and even, dissected as if one had performed an autopsy. A few internal organs were found to have been removed, most notably the liver and heart.
Philip returned to the apartment and attempted to rest, but sleep alluded him. He was haunted by demons, he must have done some wrong by his brother, he thought, and now the consequences were wreaking havoc on his perfect life. He stared at the ceiling and fell into the dark void of his own mind as reality crumbled beneath him.
It would not be until the next week when he encountered his brother. In the meantime, he was forced to inform his father of his brother's descent into madness and the grisly happenings that accompanied it. Fearing the damage to be done to his family, he sent along two servants, Koch and Fenil, to investigate the matter and recover his deranged son.
They had been stalking the market after dark, following Joseph’s next possible target, a miser known as Friedrich Lubbock. He was a large man with a grey complexion. On his bald head lay three strands of hair combed down as if they required grooming and contained some sort of style. He laughed like a toad and looked almost like one, and was known to seek out professionals to indulge with certain carnal desires.
At that moment he was antagonizing one woman of ill repute. Philip told me he had wanted to step in, but Fenil held him back and reminded him that they were only to intervene when Joseph showed himself. Eventually, the Toad had given up, and was on his way home, taking a shortcut down an alleyway.
Philip and the two men were about to leave as well, believing the night to have been lost, when Joseph materialized from the shadows. Before they had time to react, he had stuck his knife into the fat man’s throat. The toad fell on his knees and choked on his own blood. Joseph stood above him, knife raised and a look of disgust on his face.
Koch was the first to move, he lunged at Joseph and attempted to restrain him, but Joseph elbowed him in the nose and darted away through a corridor. Koch sat up, holding his crushed nose. He handed Philip his revolver and commanded him to shoot. Initially, he refused, but Koch demanded it, Philip, seeing no way out, took the revolver and rushed after his brother.
They had come to a dead end. The night was silent, but the atmosphere was tense and had a confusing air to it. Joseph faced his brother, his face ghoulish, his pleading eyes bugged out and a hysterical smile stretched over his face.
Philip raised the revolver, his hands shook and he felt dazed. He couldn’t shoot his brother, but he remembered his father. He took a deep breath and cleared his mind. The shot echoed throughout the street, breaking the deathly silence in the night.
I listened to my friend's testimony with bewilderment and disbelief. He asked what I thought of it. I thought he had gone mad, but he produced some of the harried notes and ghastly illustrations he had found on Joseph's desk.
They read like a surgeon's report, with details on the cardiovascular system, lymphatic system, and most notably the pineal gland. It spoke of corruption in possessed individuals, most evident in the pineal gland which would calcify due to the disembodiment of the soul, as Joseph put it.
Apparently he had been examining vagrants and other layabouts he found on the street and deemed “possessed” by shadowy specters. I read the notes intensely, though I wasn’t altogether convinced.
Philip grew hysterical and demanded we go to Joseph's apartment so I could see for myself, but I feared for my safety, I couldn’t trust my friend, this state he was in was so unlike him. Philip paused, he looked at me, eyes wide seemingly begging for forgiveness. I peered back with a feeling of disbelief and pity, I simply refused to believe that my best friend was a fratricide, and his brother a budding serial killer.
But then Philip continued, he had buried the bodies and cleaned the crime scene to the best of his ability, he used his family's pool of funds to cover up any notion that a crime had happened. He looked at me again, and then I saw it. In his eyes I saw that he never cared for his brother, he only acted on his parents’ request in order to protect the family's status.
I inquired about it and he tearfully admitted it, I looked at my best friend with loathing, wondering what other skeletons his family kept in their closet. Outwardly Philip was a saint, but in truth, he was obsessed with reputation, he shot his brother, not out of mercy to protect him from a worse fate, but out of fear, fear of tarnishing the family image.
Though this revelation was far from the worst, he grabbed me by my collar and continued his story, he told me how days later he encountered the shadow men, not as the machinations of a madman but as corporeal beings, he now had his brothers curse, he had glimpsed under the thin veil of reality and took in its dark nature.
He pleaded with me, begged me to believe him, but I could not. I allowed him to board in my home for a night, and the following morning he left for his family’s estate.
A week later, I received news that Philip had thrown himself from the manor window, he had taken his own life, driven mad by guilt or from the self- professed visions, I could not know.
It was after this act that the rumors had ground to stand on, and soon after the bodies of Joseph and the rest were discovered. After an investigation into the Lockehart family, the Inquisition declared that the family participated in a city-wide conspiracy.
Their assets were seized and the rest of the family thrown into the dungeons to await interrogation, and later, execution. Philip was not remembered as the kind soul he appeared to be, but as a fratricide and conspirator against the theocracy, as well as a coward.
I did not believe my friend, I thought that he went mad from conspiring with his family against the church, murdering his brother and the others and that he had fabricated the whole story. But soon after his suicide, I began noticing things, holes in my reality, and shadows that mimicked people. It was as if my friend's knowledge had been passed to me through his death.
I now know that Joseph was not mad or repulsive, in fact, he was more human than anyone. He saw the shadows masquerading as humans, manipulating our reality, and when a man knows of a great evil threatening those he loved he must take responsibility and end it.
Philip was a coward, and instead of facing the monstrosities that menace our reality he deemed to push the responsibility onto me.
I will not succumb to the fear as he did, I intend to finish Joseph’s work. I can see how they manipulate our lives, pulling the strings, and we are their puppets.
They must be stopped.
I leave this as a testament to my final will. I won’t fail as they have, I’ll redeem this accursed city and cleanse it of these devels, I will, I must!
Credit: Eric Kocienski
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