So...a while back, Guillaume asked me to write a short story. I started this tale, sticking to the parameters he'd set...but life got in the way. Recently, I stumbled across this lost, unfinished ghost story, and decided to finish it. I tried to venture out from my usual writing style with this one, going for a Lovecraft style vibe. Not sure I was successful, but you be the judge:
The Witch Room by David R Gill
From the journal of Thomas McArty
I’m not the type of man who typically keeps a diary or journal, but I feel that I must put these thoughts down while I still can. In some ways, I’m just trying to have some tangible trace of these events, which seem almost dreamlike when I ponder them for any length of time. No…not dreamlike…nightmarish is more fitting.
For anyone who might read this, I suppose some sort of history is called for. I have successfully owned a pub by the rail station for two years, a small but upscale establishment. It was always a dream of mine to own a European style pub, and when this property came up for sale, I jumped at the chance. This particular property is rich in history, once being part of a hotel that was built next to the rail station. For the first year and a half, things went swimmingly. No issues whatsoever, and my clientele had all been wonderful people who brightened my day.
My troubles began six months ago, when I decided to expand my pub. Many of my patrons expressed an interest in having some sort of restaurant in the area, so I thought it might be a good financial move to incorporate a full dining room into the pub. The property on the other side of mine, which had also once been a part of the same hotel before being divided into sub-units by the developer, had recently come up for sale. Why this particular unit wasn’t already on the market, I cannot pretend to say, but I do know that it had remained vacant since I’d started my business. I acquired this unit, and began the process of renovating.
Almost immediately, strange things started to occur. Now, understand that I am a rational man, who doesn’t believe in things that one cannot see. I’ve never had time for the ridiculous notions of ghosts and aliens that seem to populate the mass consciousness today. I don’t abide superstition, so when some of the workers first reported their experiences, I dismissed them for being primitive, uneducated fools. Perhaps they weren’t the ones being foolish…
One afternoon, one of the workers reported that, while demolishing one of the walls between the pub and the new area, he had found something. The man seemed unsettled by whatever this discovery was, so I followed him to have a look. Nestled in the wall, on a shelf that had seemingly been built behind the boards themselves, were several odd items. Some sort of fetish, made of sticks and twine was bundled into the shape of a five pointed star. Next to this, a mason jar containing the bones of what appeared to be several small birds sat covered in dust. Nearby were strange trinkets that seemed to be the type favored by some sort of occult or new age group. The designs upon these were intricate, with seemingly arcane symbols etched upon them. They all appeared to be quite sinister, but I was certain this was the intent. I told the construction worker to dispose of all the items, as I believed this all to be nonsense. No doubt it was either a prank that was never fulfilled, or the result of some fear-filled religious zealot who believed these items would ward off evil or some such notion.
How wrong I was. Oh, how completely blind I was! That very night, workers reported hearing scratching sounds coming from within the walls, which I attributed to rats. The workers were quite insistent that these noises were far from the ordinary skittering of vermin, but something far more sinister. Naturally, I ignored their claims as the ravings of the superstitious.
Two nights later, one of my wait staff reported hearing voices coming from our supply room. Upon inspection, nothing appeared amiss. Since there is only one entrance or exit to this room, and no intruders were detected, I chalked this up to the sounds of patrons conversing, being carried through the ventilation system. Old buildings are especially susceptible to such phenomena, and I refused to entertain the notion that there was anything outside of the natural at work here.
As the months passed, and the construction progressed, there were occasional whispers amongst the staff of odd occurrences. Most of these were mild annoyances…objects disappearing or being moved, seemingly of their own accord. I thought these incidents to be, most likely, either pranks or the result of distraction and overwork. After all, it was far more likely that a worker has simply put his hammer down absent-mindedly in some odd place, rather than think that some spirit from beyond was moving these items. One worker was so distraught, after claiming she’d witnessed a mop bucket fly across the kitchen, I had to send her home early.
While all these disturbances were troubling, I still wrote them off as the collective delusion of an uneducated group of primarily migrant workers, bringing their superstitious notions with them from their less developed home lands. This continued until the restaurant finally opened…and the experiences became far more intense and frequent. One night, a few weeks after opening our doors, I was in the kitchen with our lead-chef, Rose. We had closed for the evening an hour or so before, and went about the task of cleaning up for the night. While putting away washed utensils, Rose let out a flesh-chilling scream. I turned to look at the source of her distress, to see the words “YOU WILL ALL DIE”, smeared in blood across the wall above the sink! Since I had just been by the sink moments before, and Rose was on the other side of me, there was no possible way anyone had snuck in and written these words. I knew that neither of us had done this, so I couldn’t fathom how this had been achieved. Naturally, I tried to think of a rational, scientific way this could have been done. This was the first inkling I had that, perhaps, my employees were not as foolish as I’d previously believed.
As the weeks gave way to months, the incidents grew in number. More and more employees expressed their fears over the “haunting”, with one even begging me to contact his priest to perform a blessing over the building. I still refused to accept such an idea, and went about my business. All of this came crashing down for me one night, when I heard a voice in my office. I was alone, working late to go over the business finances, when I plainly heard a raspy, wretched voice state “you don’t belong here”. I went out into the hallway, but spotted no one. As I made my way to the kitchen, I could make out the form of someone fleeing into the dining area. I ran as fast as I could, hoping to apprehend this intruder, who obviously had been playing sick pranks on my staff myself for months on end. When I reached the dining room, however, there was no one at all. All doors and windows were shut tight, so there was no possible way for anyone to get out. I looked around, vainly searching for the culprit, when I heard the voice again declare “you will feed the Beast! He will devour your soul”! With that, I then felt burning hot razor blades slice down my back, cutting my flesh and drawing blood!
When I arrived at my home that night, I looked in the mirror and surveyed my back. While my shirt had sustained no damage, save for the blood that had soaked through the fabric, I spied four claw-like slashes that ran the length of my back, from my shoulder to my waist! I was now experiencing physical effects upon my person, and could no longer chalk this up to the ravings of the superstitious.
So now, we come to this night…and the terrors I have witnessed! I still cannot believe this is real…that it has been a true event that I can claim to have witnessed, but there is no denying what my senses have revealed to be factual. On this night, as I conferred with my chef and her kitchen crew, we all heard a horrid howl come from the alley. I went to investigate, finding a dog…well…at least that is the closest approximation to what this…thing…was. It was covered in black, filthy fur, matted to its stinking frame. Its physique was strong and muscular, yet it somehow seemed to reek of sickness and death. A low growl, quite unlike anything from an ordinary animal, passed from its throat…growing into a horrid snarl as it turned to face me. Its eyes had a feral wildness, yet seemed to be possessed of some sort of otherworldly intelligence. I could smell its fetid breath as it reared up to pounce at me. I fell back inside, slamming the door right as the dog-thing lunged for me. For what seemed an eternity, the dog-thing slammed into the door, testing the limits of the lock. After some time, the pounding suddenly ceased. A subsequent search of the area revealed no animal, canine or otherwise, anywhere near the premises.
Since my initial entry, the disturbances have continued, unabated. In most cases, these things occur after we have closed for the night, thank God! Two of my kitchen staff have quit, citing fear for their very souls over the diabolical manifestations they have witnessed. One of the cooks claimed to have seen a spectre of an old woman, dressed in rotting black robes, pointing at him and smiling in a sinister fashion. Oh, this is all too much to take! I have to get to the bottom of this…haunting. I must find out why these evil things are happening to us!
After internet searches proved fruitless, I took to the public library to see if any public record exists of some sort for this building. After pouring over the microfiche for hours on end, I finally found what I was looking for. The hotel that once occupied the space of my business was one fraught with many troubles. In particular, one room became notorious for a string of unrelated murders. As you might surmise, that room is now where my dining area is located. The hotel was closed in the 1950’s, after the owner went mad and killed his family. For many years, it seemed that the building was vacant, but in the late 1970’s local police found out otherwise. While investigating the disappearances of several local youths, an anonymous tip led them to the condemned structure, where a cult led by a self-described witch was in residence. This “witch” was not of the Wiccan religion that I am vaguely familiar with, but rather one that fancied herself a practitioner of the “dark arts”. If I hadn’t witnessed the things that I had recently, I would find such a claim ludicrous, but I cannot dismiss anything at this point. The police arrested the cult members, on a charge of criminal trespass, but weren’t able to find anything linking them to the missing persons.
As time went on, more and more people vanished, but no leads were found. The detective in charge of the case still suspected the cult, which was devoted to the worship of a demon they called “Azazel”, but had no proof. Finally, a break in the case occurred when a teen that went missing was witnessed in the company of one of the known cult members. A search warrant was issued, and the police were given carte blanche to turn the premises of the abandoned hotel inside out in their quest to find evidence. The cult had returned to the hotel, naturally, and the raid yielded grisly discoveries: bodies were found in an artificial wall built in the basement. All of the missing were subsequently identified, along with the bodies of dogs, cats and many types of birds. All of these corpses were the result of sick “sacrifices” the cult had made to Azazel. The “witch”, who has never been positively identified, was defiant when the authorities tried to take her and her followers in. The cultists attacked the police with knives, but were either gunned-down or subdued. The witch herself died as the result of a gunshot wound to the head. Could it be that she and her followers are still in this place? Were the trinkets and bones found in the walls some sort of way of consecrating this space to their demonic “master”? Did the rituals and spells they made actually manage to summon up dark fiends from the netherworld? I suspect that all of this is the case. Oh, what to do…how do I defeat an enemy with no flesh or blood?
I have no doubt, at this point, that the forces we are dealing with are the remnants of the demon-worshipping sect that previously resided here. Most of my staff has quit in fear, and many patrons have ceased to visit. Word has spread of the “haunting”, as the activity has spread to the daytime hours as well. It seems that, whatever these things are, they thrive and grow with fear and despair. Many customers report feeling uneasy, with some even saying they have seen phantoms appear before their eyes! Late last night, when I was locking up, I walked into the dining room to find a dark figure standing in the middle of the tables. A sickly looking woman, with skin like parchment stretched over bones, stood before me. Her hair was matted and filthy, with rotting black robes covering her gaunt frame. A foul stench, like decaying meat, hung in the air. As my mind struggled to comprehend what I was seeing before me, a dry, cracking sound issued from her lips. The cracking became a sickly laugh, and a devious grin split across her face. She raised an arm out, and pointed a bony finger at me. Fire seemed to flit across her eyes as she uttered the words “you will feed the Beast. Azazel will rise”! For many minutes, she stood there, seemingly as solid and real as any person I’ve ever seen. Before my eyes, her features slowly faded into the form of an amorphous cloud that seeped into the cracks in the floor and the walls. I have no idea what to do at this point. I’ve never been a religious man, so I would feel a hypocrite to reach out to any church or priest. Most mediums and gurus strike me as nothing more than charlatans…con men in the disguise of enlightened mages, so I see no good coming enlisting their aid. I am at a loss as to how to proceed.
It has all come undone. The repugnant scent from the manifestation has lingered over the pub since it first formed. Customers cannot abide to stay in the place, and my staff has all left in fear. Rose, a brave soul like none I’ve ever known, stayed on until yesterday. She has urged me to contact her priest, but I see no value in that. She finally told me that she could no longer support this course of action…that if I refused to have the building blessed that I should then burn it and salt the earth where it stood. Perhaps she is right. The sound of sinister laughter can be heard, as if in another room, from all points in the building. Even retiring to my house brings no peace, as I’ve seen the faces of the witch and her followers peering in from outside the windows. Scratching comes from the walls, day and night, and putrid odors waft throughout the halls. I have begged these forces to give me rest…to leave me in peace, but I’m only left with that awful, haunting laughter as my answer. Even now, as I write this, a darkness seems to press upon me. I can feel the evil forces gathering, as if in a coming tempest. I have no defense, no fight left in me. The witch and her diabolical master are circling me, like hungry lions around their wounded prey. At any moment, I expect them to strike, delivering a killing blow. Oh, how foolish I’ve been…to dismiss those around me as lackwits, when I myself was the one who couldn’t see the evidence before me. This is all upon my head!
This journal was found on the morning of July 11th, lying next to the body of Mr. Thomas McArty. Police stated that it appeared he had suffered numerous wounds upon his body, as if by the claws of some sort of large animal, but his clothes were intact. No animal prints were found inside or around the premises, and the doors all appeared to be locked from the inside. Authorities have not ruled out foul play or suicide, but at this time they have no concrete explanation for just what transpired the night of July 10th that led to Mr. McArty’s death.