Horror on the Orient Express

Josephine's Journal

This book that we’ve stumbled on is fascinating! And terrible at the same time. I never imaged the horrors that await us in the night.
I find the young George Banks quite an interesting fellow. I’m sure with all his adventures, this one, the Fez Hat experience, has got to be the most dangerous! I hope he makes makes it. And is sane to tell his wild tale in his old age. He seems smart and witty. I’m sure he’ll be fine. Perhaps he is still alive and I can meet with him…

View
The Curious Case of the Blood Red Fez, Pt I
London, 1893

Recovering from their harrowing adventure on the Doom train, they had a couple days until their train left on Monday. Dr William Yates, not having experienced the Doom Train, settled in to read over the old journal of his missing friend Dr. Julius Smith.

smith_1893_journal.jpg

The friends of Professor Smith mentioned as taking the journey included:

Professor Harry Worth, British Archaeologist
Captain Roderick Barrington, Bart., British Military Officer
George Banks, Reforming British Criminal
Amelia Meadowcraft, British Adventuress
Dr Kasim Polat, Turkish Historian
Dr Jean-Louis Rocher, French Medical Doctor

This group all knew each other through various connections and were all members of The Illumination Society. Worth, Polat and Rocher were enjoying an evening at the Oriental Club while Barrington and Meadowcraft were reliving their adventures in Afghanistan at a small cafe down the street late on a Sunday evening. Banks was outside with Professor Worth’s carriage when a street urchin delivered a message for Worth:

1893_messsage_smith.jpg

It seemed their good friend Dr Smith was in some sort of trouble again so they all hurried to the address arriving just after midnight. Smith was waiting for them, he was very nervous. Barrington spotted a figure in the midnight fog that appeared to be wearing a fez, but it disappeared into the creepy fog.

Smith led them into the small 2 story bed sit, which had a handful of rooms it let. Mrs Grimm, the elderly landlady exchanged a few words with Smith who slipped her some money and led the investigators upstairs. In a room upstairs was a very sick man laying in a small bed. He was naked except for small clothes and was wizened and gaunt. A fez was upon his head, the color of old blood. The room smelled foul. Standing beside the man in bed was a Doctor by the name of Hobbs. Smith explained that 4 days ago a well dressed man around 40 with silver hair, a top hat and swallow tail coat offered Mrs Grimm a large sum of money for the room. Soon men in fezzes dragged a semi conscious man into the room. The door was locked and only the top hatted man came and went. On the second night weird sounds afflicted the tenants as if the building was full of whispers. Tenants also reported strange shadows on the landing. By the third night there was shrieking and thumping and the top hatted man offered Mrs Grimm more money for her troubles explaining that he had a drug addicted brother he was trying to cure. By the fourth night, tonight, things could no longer be ignored. Shrieks of agony burst from the room and unearthly noised, rattles and thumps filled the building. Mrs Grimm sent one of her tenants for the police. The top hatted man and men in fezzes must have seen this and fled, leaving the wizened man on the bed. The police came, took reports and have since left, leaving a police doctor, Dr Hobbs, to see to the victim. The victim whispered Julius’ name and passed out.

Smith said he thought he knew the man, his name was Matthew Pook, a student of a colleague in Constantinople, Pook was actually much younger than he looked right now. He explained that he called them here because he was worried the men in fezzes might be lurking about and he needed help moving Pook. He warned that the men in fezzes were very dangerous and that they should not hesitate in defending themselves.

Professor Worth and Dr Roche investigated Pook and consulted with Dr Hobbs. The Fez was somehow grafted to Pooks head and would need surgery in a hospital to remove. Strange symbols seemed to crawl under the surface of the oily felt of the fez, and as Professor Worth leaned in close he could hear sibilant whispers coming from UNDER the fez! As he pointed this out, Pook let out a blood curdling scream finishing with a death rattle, then relaxed on the bed and died. The fez dropped of his head and rolled on the ground. Dr Hobbs leaned in to verify Pook was indeed dead when the candles went out as great shadows loomed up in the room and plunged it into darkness. Then there was a horrifying scream as Pook rose from the bed, his head elongated into a fez like shape on top, his eyes burning coldly, and 3 foot long flailed barbed tongue lashed out around Dr Hobbs neck as Pook bit off Hobbs nose and large chunks of his face.

This was too much for Worth and Roche, they reeled in shock. George Banks leaped in to try and save the poor doctor, but when his switchblade did very little to the monster he decided old George was more important than that and fled. Hobbs crumpled to the ground, while Captain Barrington heroically assaulted the creature and Amelia filled the room with bullets from large caliber pearl handled revolvers. The Thing that was Matthew Pook was very resilient to bullets and blades, but it’s soft rubbery body was more easily crumpled by the hilt of Barringtons cavalry saber. Putting The Thing that was Matthew Pook down, Barrington had been somewhat injured.

They called the police to deal with the body and Dr Hobbs and retired for the evening, taking the fez. Smith and Polat stayed at Smiths house with the fez. They were bothered by whispering throughout the night and Polat thought he saw figures in fezzes lurking outside.

The next morning they met at a cafe to discuss what was happening. Smith had telegramed Professor Demir in Constantinople and confirmed the man was Pook. Smith had exchanged telegrams with Demir over the past week and this morning:

demir_telegram_1.jpg

demir_telegram_2.jpg

Smith indicated that he trusts Professor Demir implicitly and he was a member of the Society. Smith said the fez needed to be taken to Constantinople immediately, especially as the enemy is still in London. He had contacted another trusted ally and society meber, Baron von Hoeffler, and Austrian nobleman and occultist who knew something of the lore of the fez. Baron von Hoeffler had agreed to wire money to finance the trip to Constantinople. Smith dared not travel himself as on a previous trip he had opposed on Selim Makryat who led a ruthless group of cultists, and Demir had informed him that Makryat was now out for deadly revenge against Smith. Smith proposed his friends do the task, they agreed. They would take the Orient Express to Constanitinople, financed by Baron von Hoeffler. They would meet he Baron in Vienna for the remainder of the journey and he would aid them. They would then meet Demir in Constantinople and finish the quest. The train left Wednesday so they had 2 days.

Professor Worth and Dr Roche researched the fez on Monday and assembled their notes:

apocrypha_of_the_fez.jpg

Professor Smith visited Pooks flat in an attempt to find contact information for his next of kin to inform them of Pooks death. He found a journal the student kept and gave it to the group on Tuesday:

pook_journal.jpg

They went to the fez collectors address and were surprised to find a constable guarding the front porch. The fez collector had been murdered late last week and it was an active crime scene. Banks broke in the back door, fezzes were strewn about, a glass case was shattered but empty and a large blood stain was in the study. Searching the desk, Banks found a letter from a Mr Leeds in Pera, Constantinople, offering the princely sum of 100 pounds for the book The Whispering Fez that he understands had recently come into the possession of Mr Devore. It seemed the book had been stolen from the glass case…

They left for their journey Wednesday morning, a train from London to a steamer to Calais. In Calais they took a train to Chalons-Sur-Marne east of Paris where they were to board the Orient Express. They each had a hat box with a fez in it amongst their luggage, Captain Barrington had the real one.

The Orient Express was elegant beyond imagination. They met their carriage conductor, an unflappable Belgian named Henri who spoke frequently in third person (“Henri is here. How may Henri be of assistance?”). Henri helped them into their elegant accommodations aboard the Orient Express, Worth and Banks in cabin 1, Polat and Roche in cabin 2,.Barrington sharing with a Colonel Neville Goodenough of the Royal Engineers, retired. Amelia sharing with a young Scottish woman named Aileen McGregor.

Several of them chose to visit the Salon car for drinks before retiring as the Orient Express steamed eastwards. In the salon car they were joined by Colonel Goodenough, and Aileen McGregor was also there writing in a journal. There were 3 Russian gentleman, 2 of them appearing to be Russian nobility (one older one younger) and a man servant. They were conversing in Russian. At another table was a middle aged man wearing an opera cape with long white hair pulled back to his shoulders and a long stage villain mustache who was conversing conspiratorially with a balding middle aged man in a crumpled suit. This pair was watched over by a hulking turk about 50 years old with a square jaw and flat nose.

They had a few drinks then retired for the evening towards their luxurious accommodations aboard the famed Orient Express…

View
Carl's Log: Got to get it together!
Who is protecting who?

Carl’s Log: Got to get it together!

I keep going over it in my head and I look around at this rag tag bunch and cannot believe they are pressing on to ride another train, much less function as if nothing has really happened. And, if I even start to bring it up they get this look in their eyes and the conversation dies. This woman, Josephine, was dragging a human heart over a pile of entrails and we were all fighting what I can only think of as piles of animated corpses just a day or two ago and here she is sending off a telegram saying we were “delayed”! Was I dreaming? Were we all the objects of some kind of mass hallucination? What the hell just happened to us?! All I heard that might make some sense is that the movement of an object over that staggered and three dimensional loop eventually opens some kind of “gate”. What in the hell does that mean? And then there’s the little side fact that our time on the ghostly train eventually resulted in a train wreck that probably killed more people.

Randolf Alexis, the guy who said that stuff about a “gate” was bat-shit crazy and a son murdering cannibal on top of that and Henry Stanley, who disappeared out of a room in London a few days ago both just wandered away from us during the night and next day. It’s like they came into my life, threw my whole world view in the trash and then ceased to exist. It’s madness. Or is it? What does this mean about the statue, this Sedefkar Simulacrum thing? Seriously, I thought what Dr. Julius said about the thing was a bunch of hokum but I should have remembered that he has spent a greater part of his adult life debunking such things. If repeated movement of an object over a specific path can open a gate to a place where the dead are clawing at you and where time seems to change its meaning what can this statue do?

I’m still getting myself back together. My thoughts are a jumble. But Doc Culver and the others are apparently pressing on. I have to try to protect the Doc and Will Yates and the others don’t I? Or maybe I need them to protect me. Maybe I need them more than they need me because they are the only people in the whole world who not only know what I just went through but went through it with me. And right now, that’s my only link to keeping my sanity. Every time I go to sleep those cold clammy hands are on me and those lips are trying to suck away my life! Got to get it together. Got to get it together…………

View
The Doom Train
London, 1923

Josephine and Markus visited Scotland Yard. Talking with the arson investigator, they told him what they knew of Smith and Beddows. He didn’t know much more than the fire was set from outside using kerosene as an accelerant. Neighbors reported seeing foreigners nearby that day.

Inspector Pike was unavailable, but chatting up other officers and clerks they learned he was a hard case that probably wouldn’t be very chatty anyways about an ongoing investigation (the triple murder case). However, gathering rumors at the Yard Markus was able to learn that each of the 3 corpses had a telegram on them “MEET ME IN LONDON AT ONCE. URGENT. M.”

While the others were at the Yard, Carl and Django broke into Makryat’s antiquities shop. Neighboring shopkeepers told them Markryat had closed his shop about a week ago. Inside all was normal for an antiques and oddities dealer, living area upstairs looked like he had packed up and left (missing books, clothes, luggage). They found an accounts book, which when investigated later showed a train set purchased from the estate of Randolph Alexis. Randolph Alexis was a late 19th century British occultist who had died in the 1897 train crash of the London-Liverpool line.

Doc Graham and Doc Yates researched The Skinless One and came up empty.

Visiting the location of the spontaneous human combustion they saw the room had soot on the ceiling, ash over everything, the wall paper bubbling as if steamed and smudge marks on the carpet about the width of railroad tracks. The landlady told them she had heard a scream and a rumble the night Henry Stanley disappeared. The police took the electric train set because they thought it might be dangerous (caused the fire). Henry was an avid member of the London Train Spotters Association, and clearly a huge train nut/nerd.

The police believed Henry Stanley had faked his death and would show up eventually. No body, no real evidence of an actual fire, they figured he had scarpared off. The president of the London Train Spotters association had the train, one Arthur Butter, they had asked him to examine it and provide a report.

Mr Butter indeed had the set. He told them it was in poor taste as it was a detailed reproduction of the engine, tender, and first two cars from the London-Liverpool line that had crashed to great loss of life in 1897. Those cars had fallen into the swollen river and were presumed washed downstream and never found (yes, official reports assumed a 70+ ton locomotive was washed downriver). Since he had been convinced they were representatives of the Stanley family, he let them take the train set. The underside of each car had scratched on mystical symbols nobody recognized. When Mr Butter learned they were to ride on the Orient Express Saturday he got very excited and invited them to their Association dinner that night. Josephine accepted and had a lovely time surrounded by train nerds.

The next day they ran the train set with Carl at the controls. After dozens of laps a ghostly train appeared in the carriage house where they were located, an engine a tender, and two cars. The first car stopped, passengers disembarked asking questions about when they would arrive in Liverpool and began circling Carl. The others spotted Henry Stanley pounding on the window from the second car pleading for help. Carl and the passengers disappeared, and could be seen on the first car. Moans of “Come with us!” came from the passengers as they closed on Carl and the Doom Train began to pull away right through the walls of the carriage house. The others jumped on board.

The Doom Train left this world and was travelling through an infinite expanse of gray fog where blue-black lines were cut wherever the train passed. The passengers now looked dead and were groping for Carl at the end of the passageway of the first compartment car. Dr Graham couldn’t take the insanity and fell into a fit of hysteria. Josephine tried to help Dr Graham while Markus and Django tried to rescue Carl. The dead passengers hungered for the living, trying to grapple and kiss them. The melee went on for bit until the door to the second car opened and a middle aged balding man yelled “Through here!” They retreated to the safety of the second car, the dead halted as mystical symbols on the door stopped them.

The man introduced himself as Randolph Alexis. He told his story. He had been fleeing from French cultists on the train when he tried to open a gate with a spell to escape. The spell went bad and took not just him, but a portion of the train too. He had been here in this strange world for 26 years. The other passengers all eventually succumbed and became the undead. His protective wards kept them isolated to the first car. His son had shown up a few years back, but died. There were gnawed bones int he first compartment, he had clearly turned to cannibalism to survive. Some of the bones belonged to his own son.

Then Henry Stanley had shown up a few days ago. His son had created a replica of the train to try and summon his father back, but wound up here. Henry and the investigators had runt he same train. Clearly the Doom Gate Spell they had all cast was one way. Alexis thought if he could cast it from this side, they could return to the real world. He had tried but failed. He showed them his train mockup. It was made of intestines and other offal. Josephine realized his set was flat, where the real train set had rises and falls. Alexis got very excited. It was then they were certain he was very insane. They fixed the gut train and began running it, using a human heart as the engine being pushed around the track manually. The Doom Train shuddered and the fog swirled. The dead sensed they were about to lose their prey and broke through the windows, climbing along the train to get to that for which they hungered. The others defended Dr Graham and Alexis while they continued passing the heart around the offal track. After a while there was one final shudder, and they heard the clanking of wheel on tracks, saw the nighttime English countryside out the windows and the dead collapsed with a sigh. The panicked sound of a whistle in the distance heralded the arrival of another train on the tracks heading for them!

They lept from the moving train (none of them was brave enough to try and get to the engine to stop their train) and witnessed the head on collision of the Doom Train with a coal train coming from Liverpool. Many died. They convinced Alexis to come with them, talked about cold blooded murder, but eventually let the old man go (he had aged instantly 26 years and was now in his 80s). They went to the nearest village, got a room at a hostel, and hired a carriage back to London after wiring Dr Yates that they would not make the Saturday train to the Orient Express. They began making plans for a Wednesday departure. Mr Henry Stanley thanked them, and promply checked himself into a sanitarium.

View
Mrs. Josephine Livingston
I'm going to miss the London Parties

Moving from Abilene, Texas to London wasn’t an easy choice, but I do think it twas necessary. My dear son Nathan and his lovely wife needed their own home to raise their children as they see fit without me lording over them…as my son put it. And he was right. It was time for me to enjoy the fruits of my labors. And after years of putting up with my (dearly departed) husband, Big Jake and all his shenanigans, I was ready for some fun on my terms. I’ve been to London many times on vacation and to visit my best friend in all the world, Pearle. London has changed since the war, but we all still have quite a gay time attending parties and events. And most importantly, I’ve been reunited with my son, Marcus. Although, he’s developed many of the traits I loathed in Big Jake, he has a country charm that BJ never had. And besides, he’s my son, first born at that. I could forgive him anything!
Someone else I’ve been reunited with recently, William Yates. We first met in British Honduras in 1889. He was working on a dig site at the time. I was there with Big Jake, Mama and Daddy looking to buy cattle. I was young, spoiled and lonely. Probably not a good combination. We spent many wonderful days together. I was completely enamored with him. He was so mature and so very handsome. He treated me better in those 6 days than Big Jake treated me in the 29 years I was married to that son of a bitch.
William introduced me to Dr. Julius Smith, a real gem of a guy. Incredibly interesting, if you can get past the smell of his tobacco. I’ve enjoyed many a lengthy conversation late into the night with dear Julius. And it’s with great sadness that we have found him in such a tragic state! His house and all his belongings, burnt to the ground. He, barely alive at the time. But I fear now, he is dead. And poor dear Beddows. Such a shame. What sick, twisted mind has done this evil deed?
In the time that I’ve been living in London and have had the sincere pleasure of truly getting to know Julius…. Dr. Smith. He is the leading member of the Illumination Society here in London, which I’ve been a member of for close to 30 years. I’d heard his name mentioned and the incredible work he was doing. I was thrilled to finally be introduced to him when I started coming to London. William is also a member! And he has acquainted me fellow members and friends of his. The Illumination Society was something I could talk to Marcus about. Since he was a small child, he’s had an interest in it. I think it helped create a strong bond between us. (Big Jake, the son of a bitch, would make fun of me for my association with the Society.) And now that Marcus and I are in London together, he’s part of the Society too. He fits right in and seems to be glad of it. It seems to have given him a purpose. Which I am thankful for.
As I have mentioned, I believe Dr Smith is no longer with us, God rest his soul! And poor, poor Beddows has met a very tragic end himself. Something strange is afoot; here in London, and also across the continent. When we met with Dr. Smith after the fire, he asked us (those of us with the London based Illumination Society), to undertake a great task. Finding and destroying the Simalacrum before evil forces can get it. … I think we will do it! We have just a few days before we board the Orient Express and there are questions that must be answered here before we leave.
~I feel we must talk with Det. Sargent Rigby of the arson div. at Scotland Yard about Dr. Smiths residence.
~And Det. Pike regarding the strange goings on with the 3 Mr. Makryats.
~Perhaps we should stop by his curio shop in Islington.
~We also need to find out more about the Sedfekar Scrolls Dr. Smith said the instructions to destroy the artifact is there.
~ Maybe we should also look into these “spontaneous combustion” that have occurred

I’m Not sure what we have gotten ourselves into, but something is very much amiss. We need to do the right thing for Dear Dr. Smith, and we need to see it to the end! It’s the very least we can all do.

View
Strange Twists - Carl Smith
How I Came to MI6

I guess I could start my story with the fact that I was the fastest sperm in my class but that would be a bad idea. I think I’ll start with an Import/Export company I “worked” for leading up to the big one, the war in Europe. I was lucky I guess. The company was important to the war effort and was able to wrangle a pass when it came to sending guys to the front. So I stayed in London and had a pretty good pay check each month when a lot of my neighbors were scrambling for the next shilling.

That meant I had money in my pocket. Which was okay unless you were drinking and there was a period there when I was drinking a lot – maybe too much. I guess that started when I got word that my father had been killed in combat and took a definite turn the wrong way when I got word that my younger brother, Thomas, had joined him.

I told the police that some ruffians had attacked me after I left a pub down by the river Thames and took all of that money I had in my pockets as well as my ID cards and wallet. In the fighting I managed to get loose and try to run for it. Then there was a shot and the next thing I knew I was waking up in London General Hospital with Dr. Graham Culver looking down at me and clucking his tongue. Seems the bullet grazed my skull and tossed me over the railing and into the river. Some Bobbie found me downstream half drowned and cold as a fish. He got me to the hospital where it took me almost two days to wake up. Dr. Culver said it is likely that the cold is what saved my life because it slowed down my bleeding and my breathing.

I was pretty grateful to be alive and took an almost instant liking to the surgeon but that almost died an early death because he snitched on me to the police. He recognized a bullet wound when he saw one. Seems he was patching up all kinds of wounds on Tommies who were being shipped back to London from the fighting in the trenches.

Next thing I know this big guy is sitting on the edge of my bed and shaking me awake. His name was Harry Buchanan. I could tell almost from the beginning that he was either a police officer or had been a police officer at some point. He wanted to know two things. First, how did I get shot and, second, what was I doing muttering in German, French and Italian while I was delirious?

I was able to convince him that I had been rolled, robbed and had been shot trying to get away. I was also able to convince him that I had studied German in school and had used it and a smattering of French and Italian working with the company. Turns out he had already checked that out and, of course, the company existed and confirmed that I had been working for them since just before the war. They even filled in a blank for me telling Harry that before the war started they had had dealings with the Krupp corporation buying pig iron. They also expressed concern over my well-being and wanted to know what hospital I was in and how I was faring – when I might be getting back to work.

In the end, I was cleared to get out of the hospital which I did as fast as I could. I also moved to a new flat and started counting my chickens. Dumb me, I thought I had pretty well disappeared so I was surprised when Harry showed up at my door a week or so later. I had my walking stick in my hand when I answered the door and told him I was just about to go for a walk. He invited himself along and we took a good long walk. Along the way he offered me a job. He said I could put my language skills to work and help my country out. The pay he offered wasn’t too good but my chicken counting told me I’d better take the offer.

A couple of days later I reported to the address he gave me. It was a kind of a nondescript office down near the Soho district. The guys I met were very businesslike and, like Harry, seemed to have some kind of police background. They asked me a lot of questions and filled out some forms and made me promise to provide them with additional identification documents the next day. I did that and about three days later I was told to report to a warehouse just a couple of blocks up off the main docks downtown. I had no idea what I was getting into and I was a little more than nervous about what was developing here.

It turned out that I was joining the newly minted Military Intelligence Section 6, or MI6 for short. And my job was going to be “debriefing” Prussian soldiers that had been captured in Europe and elsewhere. I acted as an observer for the first two weeks or so as more experienced employees “debriefed” the prisoners. Debriefing was a pretty word for extracting military information from these men while it still might be useful and in a lot of cases it wasn’t something you’d want to write home about.

Week three I started work on my own. The prisoners were a mixed bag but over the next few months I accumulated quite a record for getting information out of them that other guys couldn’t. My secret was a carrot and stick approach and the fact that I could either tell a good joke or threaten them with a lot of pain in a convincing way. I got a pay raise the second month there and continued my “work” throughout the rest of the war.

Along the way I got Dr. Culver to go out to dinner with me and we shared a few pints together. He was a great guy and I had found out before I left the hospital that I really owed my life and the ability to think properly to his expert work on my skull and my infected lungs. The river Thames is filthy by the way.

Anyway, we became friends and it was during one of our sorties that he told me about the journal he was working on. He had been accumulating data on the wounded he had been treating particularly those suffering from “Shell Shock”. He was very distressed by the fact that he could heal their bodies but not their minds. He had been trying to see what commonalities they shared and was surprised to find out that some seemed to be suffering from a common delusion; namely seeing monsters on the killing fields and in the trenches. Even more astounding, he told me, was the fact that soldiers in very distinctly different locations and on completely different dates had seemed to see the same “monsters”.

That was when I shared the fact that I had experienced the same thing. I wasn’t supposed to talk about my “work” but we were a couple of pints to the wind when the subject came up and before I knew it I was telling him about five soldiers that I knew of who had apparently seen “monsters” tearing men to pieces and burning everything in site. I managed to avoid telling him about one of the dead. But the cat was out of the bag and before I knew it he was telling me about something called the “Illumination Society” that he wanted me to join.

We remained good friends and we still see each other about once a month. I’ve attended a couple of meetings of the “Society” and have heard some pretty great stories about how they have debunked various mysteries and charlatans over the years. And he’s shared some of the “sightings” from his journal but we’ve kind of moved on.

After the war it turned out that MI6 kept working. Nobody wanted to go into the future as dumb about things as we had been going into WWI and I was routinely sent to talk to various people both in London and on the continent about specific issues Harry and the upper team wanted to get cleared up. I couldn’t use some of the more physical methods we used on some prisoners but I became pretty adept at a new carrot and stick routine particularly where the carrot was cold hard cash and the stick was the fact that I had found them in the first place and could do it again.

It turns out that Professor William Yates, a guy I worked with and for during the war, was also a member of the “Society” although he got out of the Service after the war and took up teaching. That was a surprise. So was finding out that a local showman, an American “cowboy” who performed a marksmanship demonstration in a theater here in London, was also a member. And a couple of years ago he introduced me to his mother and a servant of hers who were also members along with Professor Julius Smith (not relation) a man I hold in great regard.

I’ve had to watch who I got attached to over the years – because of my job and all. But I have certainly managed to collect some unusual contacts along the way. My only regret is the loss of my father and brother and not knowing what ever became of my mother. Life has taken some strange turns for me and mine. Some strange turns indeed.

View
Dancers in an Evening Fog
Of Beginnings

All the members of the Illumination Society were present for the opening of the Maudslay Collection at the British Museum on January 1st, 1923. It was there that Professor Smith provided them all invitations to the Challenger Trust Lecture on Wednesday evening.

At the lecture Professor Smith spoke on “hauntings”, events where objects or people that had disappeared from this world reappeared occasionally as ghostly apparitions. His lecture conjectured that there may be a scientific explanation for such events, one involving dimensions of existence beyond our perception and curtains or gates between dimensions that perhaps one day mankind would learn to master to do wondrous things. During the social mingling after the lecture, Josephine noticed a stranger with a bushy mustache, most certainly a foreigner, watching them. When she mentioned him, he had faded into the crowd.

On Saturday morning, there was a startling article in the paper that Professor Smith’s home had burned to the ground and the good professor gone missing. There was also an article about a “Man Dies Three Times in One Night”:

00017.jpg

00003.jpg

That evening a message was delivered to Josephines manor house, just as the Illumination Society was meeting to determine what to do about the disappearance of Professor Smith. It was an envelope delivered by cab, sealed with an impression of Professor Smith’s unique Society signet ring. Inside was his business card, on the back of which was scrawled, “Come at once. I haven’t long.For god’s sake let no-one follow you. J.A. Smith.” On the front was written an address.

The address was a cheap bed-sit in Cheapside, the worst part of London. Arriving late at night and knocking on the door they found Beddows answering. He was nervous and his hands were bandaged. Inside, on a rickety bed, was Poor Professor Smith. He was badly burned and in terrible shape. Smith mustered what remaining energy he had and told them how they had been attacked by Turkish madmen who burned down their house with them inside when they failed to force their way in. Smith described how he had been researching an artifact that was rumored to contain a horrible power, the Sedefkar Simulacrum. Prophecies and portents pointed to a time when the Simulacrum would waken and call foul forces to it’s aid, and Smith thought that time was nearing due to described conjunctions in astronomy.

Smith implored them to finish his work and find the Simulacrum and destroy it before the forces of evil could use it for foulness. As Smith rambled, Beddows took notes for the group:

BeddowsNotes.jpg

When finished Smith collapsed, and Beddows gave him something that made him sleep. Dr Culver checked on Smith and stated his need for hospital. Beddows said they were worried their assailants would be watching for burn victims at the hospital, and Beddows planned to take him to a veterans hospital in the country under an assumed name, but Smith insisted on meeting with the society members first. Beddows gave them a satchel with 200 5 pound notes to fund their expedition. Beddows said Professor Smith had planned to use the Orient Express as it’s Simplon route went where he needed to go. Beddows promised to telegram to the stations of the Orient Express in Dr Yates name with updates.

On Sunday another curious newspaper article the Times caught their attention:

combustion.jpg

They had a few days until they could leave (Trains leave Wednesday and Saturday), so Dr Yates used his priveleges at the Reading Room of the British Museum to research this Sedefkar Simulacrum and the Sedefkar Scrolls on Monday and Tuesday.. All he was able to find was references to a 13th century illuminated manuscript called the Devil’s Simulare, research showed that more information should be found the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, and a reference to some manuscripts called the Sedefkar Scrolls in the Topkapi Museum in Constantinople before the Great War. However, those weren’t the most surprising finds. The last day of research was a dark and stormy day, so the Reading Room was not very busy. Throughout the day Professor Yates had seen a man rudely wearing a hat and top coat indoors slumped over his books, he seemed to be dozing. However, when a librarian touched him to inform him that the library would be closing soon, he toppled over revealing a completely skinned corpse underneath. Pinned to the corpses chest was a section of human skin upon which were scrawled the words (in Turkish) “The Skinless One will not be denied”. Professor Yates quickly checked the corpses ID when the librarian ran off to get the police. It was none other than loyal Beddows…

View
Dr Graham Culver
My Journal

I’ve lived almost my entire adult life here in London. I wish my parents could have lived long enough to see me graduate from Oxford and then Cambridge. I think they would have been proud of me. I’ve become one of the world’s best trauma surgeons working in one of the best hospitals in the world.
It kept me out of this bloody war in Europe, at least physically out of it. But I was still touched just like all of my countrymen. Almost immediately boys, really, came streaming back to London on anything that would float. Some of them didn’t survive the trip. The ones that did were in terrible shape and it fell to me and others to try to put them right again. Or at least as right as we could make them.
Over there in the God forsaken trenches they invented a term, “Shell Shock”, to describe a host of symptoms. Some are as simple as catatonia. These boys either cannot or will not interact with their environment. Some have been reduced to feral animals. Most can’t sleep well. Most wander the halls. Most flatten themselves to the floor at any loud sound.
Most interesting to me are descriptions of nightmarish scenes. I’m not talking here about the multiple horrors of combat. I’m talking about men – reliable men – from different locations and different times apparently seeing the same things. In particular, and that that grabbed my attention up front, were descriptions of black tentacles grabbing men – living men – and dragging them down into the earth screaming. And there are others, almost as bizarre. Bat like things with claws and beaks that appear to be on fire.
I started to keep a journal about these strange nesses. Maybe I can find a common thread to help these poor souls know what they actually saw and experienced. I can heal bodies but minds are beyond me. After the war I was introduced to the “Society” and shared some of my findings with a couple of people there. I was not mocked but I was also not met with any additional information or explanations. I still have the journal and shared it most recently with Mr. Carl Smith who not only didn’t laugh it off but who wanted to know more.
Day to day I am learning new techniques and finding ways to put people back together. I should be satisfied with that but I’m still ill at ease about the journal and about the way that the new field of psychoanalysis seems to shrug off “Shell Shock” and concentrate on what our mothers and fathers did to us when we were children. Mine were great. And I miss them.

View
Django's experience in the mountains
Meeting horror face to maw

After years of occasional and unpredictable lessons from Sihirbaz, I have been offered another glimpse into the power behind Gerçeklik. I wish I had not.

Sihirbaz appeared one morning at my hut and beckoned me towards the forest without a word. I followed, as I always do, hoping for something more than old stories. I thirst for knowledge like nazar and büyülemek but he offers little and what he does give me is infrequent.

We climbed a hill and entered a broad clearing of wild flowers. A goat was chewing on clover, tied to a small post in the center. A trench of foul smelling liquid encircled the goat and a roughly made table was nearby. Sihirbaz told me he had been preparing this for two days and two night. He was going to show me a great fena, a being from beyond the veil of reality. This was a lesson in caution as much as a way to show me what was possible.

We meditated for 4 hours then walked perhaps half of a league to a small waterfall and bathed in the pool. We returned to the clearing and he spoke words of caution and protection. I was given a copper amulet with a strange sigil. I suppose this was a ward of some sort?

It became black as eternity, as there was no moon. Sihirbaz placed an ancient leather-bound book on the table and began to recite more unknown words. I felt an incredible coldness and heat at the same time, my hackles stood on end, and my gut churned.

Suddenly, the air crackled and a mirage appeared in the center of the circle. A great black head and huge claws were followed by an enormous black, serpentine bulk held aloft by a single bat-like wing. It saw the goat and immediately began to consume it. Sihirbaz named it av korkunç şey and said we had summoned it to destroy it in the morning light.

The beast finished its meal and turned its eyes to Sihirbaz who held a hand aloft and commanded it to stay. It struggled to fly forward but stayed as if being held by an invisible hand. Sihirbaz seemed pained and blood dripped from his ears. The horror seemed about to settle when Sihirbaz screamed like I have never heard another human being scream before or since. He fell to the ground and its long tail shot out and wrapped around him.

A great claw came for me and cut a huge gash across my left side. I dragged myself to the edge of the forest as it came at me again. Once I passed the first tree, Sihirbaz used what little strength he had to shout strange, guttural words, nnn fahf nglui ng fahff llll hup mgvulgtnahor ph’ fahf shuggog. I felt power ripple through the amulet and a shimmer, like a mirage appeared near the trees. The av korkunç şey stopped short as if confronted by flame. It attempted to reach me twice more before giving up. It howled at Sihirbaz and bit off his head at the neck before flying into the sky. I lost consciousness .

I awoke late in the morning in pain and covered with seeping wounds. I barely made it back to my hut, applied a bandage and poultice and returned to sleep. Many days passed before I had the strength to find food. I’ve written this account soon after in case I succumb to my injuries.

Addendum: I have survived my injuries. I must know more about what I saw in the forest, so that it might never happen to another. At least I have the protection amulet, but I can’t recall the exact pronunciation of those words. It does nothing now. Perhaps it’s out of magic?

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.