Part One: Waking From A Dream
I sat in silence. The watch, that horrible grisly thing that would not leave me, pursued me through the house, lay on the arm of the Chesterfield. Its vile anatomy seemed as if it were a broken spur of wrist protruding from the deep red flesh of the upholstered chair. Though it did not tick conventionally, as a clock of man might, I felt its uncanny hands pound through my pulse and the fabric of the house. I sat in silence. Around me the walls thrummed with dark animation. Shudders ran through the wallpaper, lifting the flowery relief images in waves of menacing faces.
I had not left the house in weeks and its presence oppressed me and constricted me. Blearily I pulled myself to my feet and staggered from the reading room. The hot breath of the house was as normal to me now as that of a dog one allows to share one’s bed. Its rank, organic stench barely touched my nose. The staircase loomed out of the hallway, spiralling upwards like gleaming bone – the spine of the thing that had inhabited my home since I first unearthed the watch from my grandfather’s attic. I staggered and rested my hand on the door frame, and yelped for the contact pressed harshly upon the wounded skin of my palm. It brought back to me that stumbling run from… from what? The watch, with its sharp bracelet that cut into me when I squeezed its ghastly living links. In fear I had tossed it into the drawer and locked it. The drawer where it would not stay. Even now I realised it was wrapped about the wrist I held up to the door. I was sure I had left it on the arm of the chair.
That awful night’s sleep, the dreams it had pressed upon me. I felt as if I had not slept since, and yet surely that is but my imagination for I lived still, if one could call it a life, stumbling about the body of this beast. A man must sleep, how else can he tell his dreams from reality? Without the sweet succour of slumber I led a drifting life, my mind and skin fluttering on the dead breath that stroked at my soul. I found myself at times lurching to wake from my bed, or a chair, or while mounting the stair or raising my head from a book. My life was being lived, but not by me. I merely borrowed it for moments when its new owner was absent. In these precious seconds when I was myself and could briefly grasp at the frame of existence I dwelled alongside I felt torn between horror at my impotence and dread of what my awful schemes my body might be engaged in.
Books and artifacts lay in rows and stacks along the hallway. I had been unpacking my grandfather’s collection in my not-sleep. The tomes were leathery and ancient. They hummed with malice and whispered sibilantly in my mind. Terrible things about the end of the world, about bleeding my memories away and worst, of reading the blood-inked whorls and sigils within them. I walked amongst those arcane horrors, piled to waist height throughout the house. I had no sense of the time I must have lost while I wandered absent from my mind, emptying the attic and the cupboards to produce this new labyrinth within the house.
As I drew past swaying piles of books I flinched, for their whispers grew guttural and glutinous, promising awful delights whenever my shoulder brushed their unhealthily hued bindings. I knew that I ought to be hungry; I felt weak and light headed, though that may have been merely the heat that sent shuddering beads of sweat down my back. The kitchen would be cooler, and with luck not entirely empty of goodness. The dull progress of my feet pulled me nearer to the smoothly tiled floor that broke from the threadbare carpet. I believed I might attain that haven (or so it appeared to my delirious and desperate mind). That was before I caught sight of the figure standing behind the staircase, blocking the way to my imagined sanctuary. Blackness enveloped me, as my eyes rebelled against me, denying truth to the monstrous shape I had seen uncoil from the underside of the steps. I felt its crenellated limbs reaching over me, its thorny fingertip touches seizing my dumb, listless body and dragging me limply, blindly into its embrace. It seemed as if I slept at last.
To be continued next week…