Suggested Audio Candy
 John Carpenter “Vortex”
 Goblin “Suspiria”
I never thought I would be so relieved to attend a funeral. No longer in tight confines; I now find myself situated in a well-populated cemetery and that comes as a distinct plus considering the atrocities which I have just been subjected to courtesy of the Ice Cream Van freak show. I’ll take any positives right now; anything to put a little space between me and my own personal reaper. He’s nowhere to be seen although the single bellowed word “boooy” is still ringing in both ears so I’m not about to rest on my laurels. Instead there is a service in session; a burial not unlike the first I ever visited and with a similarly ferocious bite in the late afternoon air. There are dozens of mourners, interestingly all female, sniveling into their handkerchiefs and it would appear that the recently departed will be greatly missed.
They are all clad in respectful black attire other than one. She looks striking in deep red and is the only one not participating in the grieving process as she shows not a flicker of emotion. Despite this she is there unequivocally for her sisters at this sad time and her scarlet laced gloves are clutching the hands of those less composed than she. A pillar of strength it would appear; curiously defiant in her choice of garment, but brimming with verve and belligerent towards grief, she stands upright and defiant.
To her left is Father Martin. I remember his sermons as a boy and he looked old then but thirty years have passed and it would appear as though he hasn’t aged a day. By my calculations he is 84 years old but, beneath his weathered features, exists a youthfulness which I find intoxicating.
“For as much as it would please almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Ensure in certain hope that he has earned eternal life”
The pastor’s words are there to offer comfort but I feel far less than consoled. The tombstone behind his long white gown is inscribed with my own name. Here rests Richard Charles Stevens 1974-2015, Magician of his own fate right up until the end. Okay, not what I would’ve chosen for my sign-off but I guess I no longer have a say in that. Suddenly the edges are closing in once more but Father Martin has picked up on my loitering and is staring right through me with blackened eyes, suddenly bereft of compassion.
“Things only seem to be magic. There is no real magic. There’s no real magic ever. There is only the will of our almighty God which is truthful and unfettered. The real monsters are of our own design”
Was that a denunciation of my frail human spirit? I’m used to this guy sounding off about temptation but ordinarily it concludes with him patting my head as my parents make small talk about the changeable weather and I look to make my brisk exit. Not this time; I can’t discern a single of kindness in his glare as though I have pilfered from his collection tray. I could do with some magic right now to whisk myself away from his sentinel-like stare if I’m honest. Alas, as delivered by way of horse’s mouth, there is no magic. I could keep this face-off up all day but it isn’t going to help my plight any. The writing is already on the wall and all that need happen now is for me to be measured up for my pinewood chamber and nailed down accordingly.
Searching desperately for a crumb of alleviation, I glance once more over to the ruby-red pallbearer. Her eyes appear far more kindly and is evidently now emotive as a solitary crimson tear is currently sliding down her blushed cheek. Her fellow mourners have begun to disperse, leaving only her and a six-foot drop box which I have no intention of lowering myself into. The priest, on the other hand, is not going anywhere. I can feel his eyes burning through me like two concentrated beams of condemnation although I have no intention of making him my focal point with such delectation directly to his left.
“Excuse me madam. I was wondering if I may be so bold as to ask you for a way out of here?”
“But you haven’t even told me your name yet”
“My sincere apologies. It’s…”
“I know what it is”
“And you are?”
“Emilie Flory. My English is a little broken. You will have to excuse me”
“I think you speak most eloquently. Tell me, why did you come here? Did you know the departed?”
“Since he was a boy yes. I watch him from time to time; he is never aware but I follow his movements with great interest”
“Why? What makes him so special?”
“He created this; what you see now. He is the architect”
More fucking riddles. Can’t anyone in this pitiful place just give me a straight answer? Again, I am mesmerized. While this is most distracting; it’s also downright bewildering. Should I trust her? Can she simplify her teaser for me?
“Then how does he fashion a way out?”
“There is only a single way and that is to dig a little deeper”
Time to read between the lines. There is a discarded shovel beside the freshly dug grave and I snatch it without a second thought, or barely a first, and commence burrowing into the settling soil. Endurance will be necessary here as dreamscapes are all too unwilling to offer clear route to the light at tunnel’s end. To my delight, I’m making noticeable headway; just a couple more moments of application should see me touching timber with my digger.
“Quickly. You must hurry. The Trauma Dolls will return soon and they don’t approve of stragglers”
As if I haven’t got enough on my plate right now; standing knee-deep in clay, astride my very own eternal casket. A break would be nice; one quick time-out while I work out how the merry hell to relinquish myself from this harsh phantasm. Trauma Dolls; they don’t sound particularly inviting at this point. Unless I am mistaken, the word trauma has two meanings, neither of which are encouraging. A deeply distressing or disturbing experience or physical injury; either way I’m guessing a game of checkers won’t be on their priority list. Do I continue my descent or attempt to climb back out of my hole onto terra firma and make a run for it. It has to be twelve feet back to the surface; my powers of perception have been severely lacking and that only leaves down. Father Martin is still topside, leering down as though reprimanding a petulant choirboy, and clearly disgusted by my desecration of this most sacred of ground.
If I’m hopeful of an upside then that is fast diminishing as a collective of shadows are now congregating around the jaws of the sepulcher. Something tells me that these new arrivals are not here to offer a solution, at least, not one I would be advised to take heed of. The Trauma Dolls, replete with alabaster skin and bloodshot peepers, are edging in from all sides, clay slackening beneath their protracted red fingernails as they claw away the earth excitedly. Despite their hysteria, they all appear poker-faced and only interested in closing the gap. I dig a little faster, filling my shovel to greater frantically, so as not to succumb to these mercenary marionettes. Ms Flory has shed her guise and is now looking all too familiar, smirking down unfavorably.
“You think when you die, you go to heaven. You come to us!”
The Tall Man. He found me; perhaps he knew all along. Mercifully, I have made contact with the coffin and, with an almighty wrench, remove the flimsy nails from their fixings and prise it open half-expecting to view my own carcass as I do. Instead, wrapped in red velvet, is a sentinel. That is not ever good news. It wastes no time in vacating the plush receptacle, freeing its serrated blades, and whirring spitefully as it bolts skyward. The sphere slices each of the dolls across their throats in turn before hovering before its master. They pool a collective “thank you” and with that the blood begins gushing from their sheared open cavities. So much blood; within moments I am up to my neck in grue and in fear of washing back up to the surface. In a second; there is clarity. I cease panicking momentarily and part my lips for a single parting gesture…
“There is no magic”
…before pinching both nostrils tight, shutting my eyes, and sinking beneath the swim. It’s deeper than I could ever have imagined and my greatest concern currently is that I will run out of oxygen before I can locate an exit. Eventually the fierce downward current becomes inescapable and I plummet through to the next phase of this most cruel conundrum. It would appear that Father Martin, while seemingly rather perturbed by my actions, somehow assisted me in my plight and I’m most grateful for his sermon going forward. The next time I don my Sunday best, I will be sure to donate most charitably when his collection tray passes. I will be needing all of the allies I can muster on the road ahead; of that there can be no doubt. I’m the architect; The Tall Man is little more than house-guest in this phantasm and he’s just about worn out his welcome mat. I have no idea where the next leg of my expedition will lead me; somewhere ominous I’m sure. However, forewarned is forearmed and I now feel ready to rise to his challenge.
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2015