's 2014 Horror Write-off:

" Upon the Mountain "

Submitted by Ryan Oleynik

Dear Brother Gregor,

If you are reading this letter, then I must admit that I am glad that the Lord saw it fit to find its way to you. But I warn you. DO NOT COME TO THE MOUNTAIN. I know you must be confused by my words, as I am sure you do not know which mountain I am speaking of. But that is for the best. You must never know where this damned place is, and if you do find out, you must never come here. No doubt you are worried about me. I have been gone longer than originally planned. I bet there are those who say that I ran away from the church, that I have done something wrong and I am hiding it. Ignore their lies; I would never turn my back on my friends and family. There are things that have changed, but my love for my brothers and our flock remains the same.

I have been debating if I should tell you my tale, of all that I have witnessed. I have tried to write it before, but the words are so blasphemous and vile that I could not stomach the sight of them. I burned them; I burned away those awful words. But I must warn you, and warn all of those who may approach this nightmare. I will try to tell you what has unfolded here. But I feel that no mortal words will ever fully describe these events.

It all started when I was approached by the church about a village that rest on the side of a mountain. They had told me that there had been some strange going-ons that had been troubling the residents. People had been disappearing overnight, men and women rambling about some entity that lived on the mountain. But what really had the church interested was the word “angel.” The messenger that came from the village had mentioned that some of the affected spoke of an “angel” talking to them, and then they would vanish. I certainly had my doubts when they told me this. I would never have believed that God had sent one of his warriors down to our flawed world to speak to some miners. And why did people disappear? Surely an angel would wish to spread the word of God to others. A demon would make more sense, driving those poor people mad with his wicked powers and stealing them in the dark. And what better castle for the Devil to hide under, plotting his evil ways?

They wanted me to go out to the mountain to investigate these strange occurrences and to see if a warrior of the Lord truly came to our world. But they also warned me that I may be forced to face one of the Devil’s many soldiers instead. I did not fear though, as I knew the Lord would be with me. I would exorcise this demon and bring peace back to their mountain. I accepted the mission without hesitation.

For our trip, I brought Brother Douglas with me, as if things were as bad as they could be, we would need each other. And we were joined by a man named Jonathan Barns, who was responsible for taking us to the village. He was one of the older men who helped run things in the small miner town, and had personally come to the church for help. He loaded us up in his carriage, and we began our long trek to the mountain. I will not tell you how many days it took, nor what we saw during this trip. I fear that you would use these as clues to my location, as you were always a curious one.

At last we made it to the base of the accursed mountain, and we were taken up by a team of mules. Some may see the mule as a dirty animal, but after our trip up those treacherous slopes, my eyes see entirely different creatures. Such balance and stability! No wonder our Savior rode upon their father as he traveled the streets. Regardless of the terrain, we made it to the plagued village and were greeted by the townsfolk. Even if I had been brought here without any knowledge, I would have known something is wrong. The looks of everyone who arrived were that of those who ran from sleep and hid from things that they could not see. Each of them was haunted by whatever was happening there. Their faces alone steeled my resolve to help them, and I know Brother Douglas thought the same.

We met with the rest of the town leaders, with Jonathan introducing us to them all, and they told us the whole story. The occurrences began after the village had witnessed a brilliant light falling from the sky one night. They had at first chalked it up as a falling star, even though it was unusually bright. But not long after the event, people began to complain of severe headaches, with some in such pain that they could hardly walk. They were forced to remain in bed as they waited for the pain to subside. The village had no real doctors here, but there were those who knew basic first aid. They did their best to try and lighten the pain, but there was only so much they could do. But it wasn’t long before more the half the village suffered from these migraines, and the leaders were beginning to worry if some strange disease had entered their town. They began discussing plans to send someone down off the mountain to see medical help, or at the very least, get those unaffected away from the town. Before they could set any plan in motion, the talk of angels began.

It started first with the bedridden, calling out to some unknown being as they slept. They spoke of an angel who beckoned them, one that had come to the mountain. These nightly murmurs turned into daylight ramblings, as they stated that the voice of the angel still spoke to them. At first this voice seemed to disturb them, with them begging for medicine that would rid its call. But slowly they began to accept the voice, and even speak back to it. What started out as fear and confusion had turned into love and worship. The angel that haunted their minds was now some god-like figure that brought peace of mind to them. Those with the voices stopped going to work, or even leaving their houses, preferring to stay inside and listen to the voice. The village council had tried to get them to come out of their homes, but they refused. Forceful removal caused the victims to become extremely violent, and they lashed out at their friends and families like wild animals. Those who questioned or insulted the voice that they heard were met with anger and fists. Apparently one man hacked his wife apart with an axe when she questioned the voice that spoke to him. They had been married for over forty years.

Things became worse when other people began to hear the beckoning voice, quickly falling into the revenant trance that the others did. Those free of its sound soon locked themselves in their own homes, scared that they too would fall to its hypnotic voice. Work screeched to a halt, and the whole village became a ghost town as people hid from the outside world. The council men met again to discuss what to do. With everyone locked away, they worried that their own people would starve to death, rather than risk stepping outside. The quickest solution was to deliver food to the unaffected, and check in on those who the angel spoke too. It was then that they discovered several disappearances. Doors that were once locked to keep the nonbelievers out were now wide open. Rooms that held altars and gifts were now empty. Those inside that had hid from the world to bathe in the words of their savior had simply vanished. Worried, the council checked all the houses and found that a half a dozen people had disappeared. With everyone sealed in their homes, no one saw a thing.

Discussion over the chilling turn of events led to the conclusion that the people had left in the middle of the night. The councilmen had patrolled during the day, so they would have seen or heard something. To back up this theory, they set up a watch that very night, staking out houses with the enlightened inside. They found that their suspicions were correct, as they spotted several of the members leaving their homes and stumbling off into the darkness like sleepwalkers. They did not even carry lights with them. Some of the men tried to stop them, but the infected fought back with an extreme ferocity whenever they were restrained. Scared out of their minds, that is when they sent Jonathan to contact the church. They informed me that no one had tried to follow the walkers, as they feared what they would find. If an angel or some demon was responsible for this blight, they wanted a holy man at their side. And all while they waited for our arrival, more citizens heard the angelic voice, and more people wandered off into the night. Even one of the council men had fallen to its melodious sound.

Knowing that we had little time before the whole village fell into its power; I had the men load up mules with equipment. Torches, ropes and weapons were amongst the supplies, as I was sure we would be facing a spawn of Satan himself. Our plan was to stake out more homes during the night, and wait for chosen ones to leave their dwellings. One of the men would follow these walkers, while leaving a trail for us. From there we could use the trail to find out where these victims have been going, and hopefully end this charade once and for all.

We waited for many hours in the dark before the migration began. The tension almost made the wait unbearable, as every man knew what this mission meant. But at last, a door silently opened, and man lumbered out. With the darkness, we could not make out who exactly it was, but I could make the outline of a burly man. His gait was very odd, with his legs moving as if they had a great weight on each one. His shoulders swayed back and forth with each step, and his arms hung limp in front of his hunched body. As he walked, we could hear him talking to himself, or to the voice in his head.

“I’m coming. I’m coming for your love. I’m coming. I’m coming for your beauty.” His strange chant repeated over and over, changing the sole word each time. He sounded like he was talking to the Lord, as his voice was awed and revenant. But I know that he was not talking to Him, as this is not the way He works. This was clearly the work of the Devil.

The man responsible for trailing the possessed slipped out onto the open, and quietly followed behind. He made sure to keep a good distance between him and the other, as he did not want to be spotted nor attacked. We stayed in place, waiting for the two to vanish into the dark so that we could silently pursue. I prayed for the man who had to follow such insanity. I hoped that we would find him alive and well at the end of all this.

After a few more breathless minutes, we left our hiding spot and got the mules going. We chose to walk beside the mules, rather than ride so that we could respond quickly to any sudden events. Jonathan led in the front, and Brother Douglas watched the back. Jonathan carried a torch with him, as he needed light to find the secretive trail. The following man had taken a large purse of coins with him, and would drop one every so often. The torch light would cause the coins to shine, which we could easily pick up on the dull rocks. The money trail had us winding all over the mountain, with even Jonathan having a hard time figuring out where we were. It seemed like the possessed man was wandering for no reason. Some of us suspected that maybe they just walked into the wilderness until they collapsed or stumbled off a cliff. But our ideas were not given any more thought when we heard screams in the dark.

We cautiously hurried to the sound of the shouts, making sure that we did not sprint off a cliff or slip down a slope in our haste. Having grown up on the mountain, Jonathan’s legs were used to such a landscape and made it to screamers first. The other men with us flew past me as I struggled to run and look out for danger at the same time. By the time I got there, I found the men tying up a bloody man, who was the source of the screaming. On the ground lay our follower, who was being tended to. His face was covered in claws marks, and the back of his head oozed fresh blood. The stony ground was spattered with the stuff, as his head had been bashed into it quite violently. I saw that Jonathan and the crew had the attacker well under control, so I rushed over to the wounded man to see what I could do. Though beaten and bloody, it did not seem like he had permanent damage. Water and cloth was being applied to his wounds, and his eyes were cracked open with a dazed look. I asked him what had happened, and how such a brutal attack occurred.

“He led me here.” He croaked, his body and mind still recovering from the assault. “He was going to go inside. I had to stop him. I needed to stop him.” I asked him where the man was going and he only responded by pointing to something in the darkness. I lit a torch and followed his finger to find myself at the jaws of Hell. With the shadows pushed back, I found that we were standing in front of the mouth of a cave. Its entrance was a jagged hole of stone, a rock maw ready to devour those who stepped too close. My torch could not penetrate the dark throat of the beast, the light was not strong enough. Some of the men who restrained the possessed came to my side, staring at the portal in front of us. After some gawking, they huddled together to speak in hushed tones. I do not know why they excluded me from the conversation, but I quickly made them aware of my presence. When I asked them what they were talking about, one man replied for the group.

“We are pretty sure that was not there before.” He said in worried voice, pointing at the mountain’s wound. “Many of us have walked these cliffs as kids, but no one remembers seeing something like this.” I could not doubt them, as I was a stranger to these parts. If these men, who were born and raised on these hills, were sure this was a new feature, then I could only agree. It made me wonder if this was truly a gateway to Hell, one that had opened that bright night and unleashed its sick creatures upon these people. How foolish was I to believe two holy men could hold back the dark legions? But I could not be weak in front of these men; they needed me and the Lord to help save them from damnation. And I needed the Lord to strengthen me for what would come next.

I went to the shrieking man, who was now bound in rope. Ever since we heard the first screams, he had not stopped for his infernal screeching. Amongst the wails and screams were pleas for us to let him go, so that he may go to the Angel and receive its blessings. He would beg and plead for mere moments, then turn to violent threats and vile curses, all before descending into shrieking chaos for a few minutes. This cycle seemed endless, with there seeming to be an endless supply of breath in him. It was clear no useful information would come from him, so the other men took his thrashing body and left him in a bed of boulders. Hopefully he would remain there while we dealt with the demon.

We armed ourselves with torches, weapons and ropes, hoping that we would have everything we needed to defend ourselves. Brother Douglas and I carried holy books with us, as it would be a powerful weapon against whatever lay inside. The men were clearly nervous as we prepped for our descent. Perhaps they had truly hoped that an angel was the cause of all this. But with the violence that infected these poor souls, and the jagged hole that dove into the heart of the mountain, we all knew what was the cause of all this.

It took many minutes before anyone would step foot inside the cave, with Brother Douglas being the first. He was scared, but he knew that the deed needed to be done, and we shepherds needed to be strong. I followed behind him, swallowing my own fears and doubts. And with much hesitancy, the other men followed. The inside of the cave was a ghastly thing. No parts of it were smooth or rounded, all was jagged and torn. It was as if a great beast ripped its way through the mountain’s flesh, tearing off chunks and leaving claw marks as it went. We had to be careful as we walked, as a simple trip or stumble would leave us covered in cuts and gouges. The whole tunnel slanted downward, slowly descending into the base of the mountain. I do not know how long we walked, but it felt like hours. Nothing seemed to change in the tunnels, until we heard that voice.

That beautiful sound that came from such a nightmarish place. It had to been made of harps and flutes, no human throat could make a sound so pure. It sung like a church choir, a sweet melody that would entrance any crowd. But from such a jagged, torn place like that cave we stood in, it seemed so alien. It didn’t belong, not at all. We all heard it and froze, at first to listen to the wonderful sound, and then to realize what it was. Surely it was a trap, a lie that demons use to trick the weak. The lust that they use to lure ignorant men into the fiery pits of Hell. It had to be that, no way an angel was down there and responsible for such things. We moved with great reluctance, finding the singing more haunting than any shriek or roar. The men were more scared than us, that I am sure of. They had seen how such a voice could turn friends and family into puppets of desire. I am sure they believed that it may turn them as well, there in the belly of the underworld. But they wished to end the nightmare, and so their duty forced them to follow us.

With each step, the voice grew louder and louder. The sweet melody of it didn’t change, but the volume was starting to make the rocks themselves ring and tremble. We were soon forced to stop in order to plug our ears. As we made cloth bands to wrap around our heads, a new sound joined in. It was hard to hear over the singing, but I could tell it was coming from a new direction. The sound was coming from behind us, and it sounded like screaming. We spun around and readied our weapons, sure that it was an ambush. But what came from the darkness was not beast or demon, but man. It was the crazed man that we had followed to this very cave. He sprinted from the shadows and dashed through our group, his screeching having turned hoarse and torn from the endless shrieks. His body was covered in oozing cuts, from running through such a treacherous cave. The ropes that had bound him still hung on his limbs, showing obvious signs of being cut. Someone had sliced his bonds and allowed him to continue his maddened journey. He did not pay us any mind, he just plunged into the darkness ahead. We hurried our descent, determined to pursue him through the caves, but we caught up to him rather quickly. His screams had died and he now stood perfectly still, next to the opening of some chamber. We did not get close enough to see what lay beyond, as we were wondering why the crazed man suddenly fell silent. He just stood there, listening to the deafening song.

“I’m here.” He said as if arriving at someone’s doorstep. He did not speak loudly to overcome the shattering voice, his words almost didn’t make it to our ears. “I have come for your love!” His arms flew out as if readying to embrace someone for a hug. But whatever responded had a different idea. The soothing voice suddenly began to drop in volume. The beautiful sound devolved into wet chokes and heaves before fading into silence. Then something lashed out from the darkness, and he was suddenly gone. All of us stumbled back in shock, as the strike was so quick, it was merely a blur of shadow. Sure that we were at the demon’s doorstep, Brother Douglas and I reached for our books while the men readied their weapons. Our preparations were in vain though, as what slithered from the black chamber was beyond our imaginations. The best way I could put it was that they were serpents made from men and shadow. Their unholy bodies built from twisted coils of muscle and held together by a web of shiny black tendrils. Their faces were made from grossly elongated human heads, their gums and teeth protruding from their lips like beaks. The eye sockets contained only dark tendrils that writhed in the air. Their vile mouths snapped opened to let out some sick gurgling sound, like a man choking on his own blood. And in an instant they snapped forward and each took a shrieking man with them. The two men fought and beat at the heads with their pickaxes and torches, but the serpents pulled them into the chamber unfazed. The torchlight of those two doomed men filled the chamber with light, and at last we saw our adversary.

The thing I saw down there was so horrible, that I will remember it til the day I die. Despite this fear and disgust, I will tell you what I saw. I hope that it will shock you enough that you will abandon any hope of coming to my rescue.

The chamber that should have been stone and rock was instead coated in gobs of flesh. It grew on the walls and floor like fungus, with muscle and tendrils weaved together into a sickening mass. From this, those warped snakes emerged and many more could be seen swaying in the chamber, like branches in the wind. The two who held our friends brought them into the center of the room, where the light revealed the horrible being that sat amongst it all. It was shaped like the upper body of a man, its legs simply merging into the flesh that coated the chamber. But this form was composed entirely of parts from skinned humans. Its multi-jointed arms composed of limbs from past victims. Its fingers made from the arms of humanity. Its chest was criss-crossed with the black webbing, holding together a mass of flesh and faces. Dark tendrils ruptured from the eyes and mouths, giving the beast squirming hair and bristles. And its horrible face. Made from the body of a mutilated man. Broken ribs piercing from the skin to make terrible teeth, broken arms to craft the jaws. Dripping intestines hung from its mouth like a limp tongue. And its single eye peering from the torn torso, nestled within the ribcage amongst a nest of inky tentacles. Every man screamed at the sight of it, and it returned our cries with a shriek of its own, unfurling wings made from flayed skin.

The two snakes brought the squirming men to their master, who seized them in its massive hands. The men shrieked in agony as its tendrils burrowed into their flesh, and their bodies became one with the beast. At that point all courage was lost, and we scrambled to get away from the monstrosity. But the demon did not let us get away so easily, as it sent more of its sickening serpents to drag us back to its muscled nest. I ran as fast as I could, tripping and stumbling over rocks without care. The stony edges that we worried about before were now trivial, and we sprinted onward despite being covered in weeping cuts. Screams from behind revealed that more men were taken by the obscene coils, doomed to join the many that suffered in its twisted frame. I do not know when the creatures ceased their pursuit, but we continued to run. Even as we ran, people infected with its false voice stumbled past us, oblivious to our fear. They did not stop us, nor did we stop them. I am ashamed to admit that I did not care about saving them at the time. Admittedly I was glad that they drove deeper into the cave, so that the serpents could focus on others who did not care about their fate. But eventually we spilled out from the dark hole and made it into the moonlight of night. Brother Douglas and Jonathan had survived, along with one other. But the other men that had ventured into that damned tunnel with us did not come out. And we knew that they never would.

I can imagine that you expect my story to end here. That I am writing to you because I know that the demon will soon call for me, and that I may be powerless to stop it. But my story is not done, not nearly so. Because after we escaped that cave, the four of us decided that we would need an army to bring the demon down. And also we wished to leave the mountain as soon as possible before the curse consumed us. With Jonathan’s help we made our way down the mountain and back to the village, which was now even emptier due to the nightly migration and our botched exorcism. Our first order of business was to alert the town of what we saw, and to convince the unaffected folk to leave their homes and flee the mountain. After explaining what we saw, almost everyone was ready to get as far away from this place as possible. All mules were quickly loaded and prepared for the trek down. Unfortunately not all were ready to join or retreat. There were a few who had close ones that were afflicted with the lying voice, and they would not leave them to such a horrid fate. They begged and Brother Douglas to exorcise them, so that they could escape the mountain with the rest of us. And we tried. I swear to the Lord we tried. Every pray, chant, trick and method was tried on those poor people, but all it seemed to do was agitate them. We even had some assault us until we fled their homes. The voice could not be dislodged. They could not be saved, not with what we had. And in the end, those few people remained behind, unable to leave their loved ones alone, despite their incurable disease.

We left in a train of mules and people, heading down the trail that led to the bottom of the mountain. It was the same trail that had led us up to this doomed village at the start. It was the same route that the people who used to live here took constantly to get up and down. It was a well beaten trail, one that even I, a stranger to these parts, could see and follow. You may wonder why I seem to keep talking about this trail, and keep going on and on about how prominent it is. I say this because we never made it down. We followed that trail for hours, and we never reached the bottom. We never strayed from the path, nor did we get turned around. It just never ended. We walked and walked, but we never got off the mountain. It seemed like we were walking, yet were staying perfectly still. Like a dog running on a chain. The demon that lived within this mountain was not letting us go. I don’t know what strange magic it was using, but it soon became obvious that we could not leave. We had entered the gates of Hell, and the monstrosity had sealed it shut behind us.

We tried for what seemed eternity, hoping that maybe we would break some invisible barrier if we tried long enough. But it didn’t work. Hours of walking and we all stood in the same spot. Yet when we turned back to retrace our steps, we stumbled into the town just a few minutes later. We were in the pit of an ant lion, struggling against the sandy slopes, which only caused us to slip farther down to the monster below.

I know some desperate souls decided to try an alternate route, believing it had only one exit covered. We did not accompany them, and only watched as they disappeared amongst the rocks. I have not seen them again, and I can only pray that they made it down.

Our train walked back into the town, heads down and spirits crushed. Those who we had abandoned looked out at us, too scared to gloat or mock. They knew we were all in a sinking ship. It was just a question on when we would drown. The people went to their homes and sealed themselves in as if they were tombs. Brother Douglas and I met up with Jonathan and what was left of the council. We made half-hearted attempts to make plans on what to do next, but there was no confidence. In the end, we bedded down for the night and waited for the next day and whatever it brought.

I awoke in the morning to the sound of Brother Douglas talking. I assumed that he was talking to Jonathan or one of the other men. But when I turned to look at his cot, he was kneeling on his bed, and facing the wall. His head was bowed and his hands clasped in front of him. I believed that he was praying to our good Lord, asking for him to give us strength in these bleak times. When I listened to his whispers, I could feel coldness seep into my body.

“Oh wise Angel, I thank you for your kindness and guidance. I thank you for the strength you have given me, and the love that you shall always show me.” These words remain chiseled into my brain, as they were the words that sealed the fate of my Brother. I went to him and begged for him to break free from its influence. He had seen the true form of the liar, surely he could see that it was all a sham. He turned to me with eyes filled with wonder and excitement.

“She says that we have seen through the deceit and lies, and survived the ordeal. We have earned our place in paradise. Where we shall only know peace and joy.” I could not believe that I was hearing these delusional words pour from his mouth. They were the same that came from the lips of the infected. Those who listened to these words and willingly walked into the room of flesh. I could not believe he had become one of them. I tried to reason with him, but soon he became violent and lashed out at me. He said that I would never join the others if I continued to resist, and that he spoke to the one true lord. As he forced me away, tears came to my eyes, as I knew he was lost. Our Brother Douglas had fallen to this seductive siren, and I was powerless to save him.

I went to Jonathan and pleaded for his help, for him to find some way to help my Brother. I can imagine how foolish I looked, begging for a life that could not be saved. Even at the time I knew it was hopeless. It turned out Brother Douglas wasn’t the only to fall ill during the night, as five more had been reported to be speaking with the Angel. And those who had been infected before our useless trek had wandered off into the night. It would not be many more nights until this town was empty, and the cave was filled with our corrupted flesh.

I was forced to wander the town, to try to get my mind off the loss of my Brother. I wondered how long before I too became corrupted. It was clear that not even the Lord’s shepherds were safe from this disease. I wondered how many had walked through those tunnels only to be devoured by the false prophet. A curiosity hit my mind as I thought about it. We had traveled those tunnels nights before, yet we had found no evidence of such a mass migration. If all those people had gone through those jagged tunnels, why did we not stumble upon torn cloth or dropped belongings? But Jonathan had answered that question before, that not all people would have made it to the caves. For one to stumble around on the mountain in such a trance, some would surely slip and fall to their doom. The evidence I was looking for would be found splattered on the rocks far below.

I spent the whole day going through crazed plans and ideas in my head, trying to find a shred of hope in this bleak wasteland of despair. But my day was wasted, as I had come up with nothing. The only thing that I had thought of was to tie my brother up and prevent him from making the lethal trek. I went to the others and got their help, and with much struggle, we bound Brother Douglas up. During the whole time he shrieked and fought, damning us in the name of his mental captor. With him restrained, we sealed him in an empty room, extra security that made me feel better. Now he was safe from the demon, and from himself. I began to hope that maybe stopping him from completing the monsters commands would somehow snap him out of it. The only way to find out if it would work was to wait for night to fall.

As darkness descended over the mountain, I stationed myself in front of the door that held back Brother Douglas. I could hear him thrashing around in there, as he desperately tried to break free. With the ropes and me standing guard, I was positive that he was not going to. That was until I was struck from behind, when I turned to listen to Brother Douglas’ feeble cries. I blacked out from the blow and fell into my own night.

When I awoke, I could see the dawn of the new day peeking over the rocks. Dazed and in pain, I got up to find the door wide open and a nest of cut ropes where Douglas was. Someone had attacked me and released him. They let him free so that he could rush to his eternal damnation. I was furious at this betrayal, and I needed to find out who did it. I stumbled out of the dwelling and into the empty streets of the town. I frantically searched for anyone, be it my attacker or anyone else. At last I found Jonathan standing at the edge of town, looking up at the top of the mountain. I hurried to him and told him about the assault, but he didn’t hear me, he only stared at the mountain. I retold my story in case he didn’t hear, but once again he ignored me. As I stood there, watching his frozen form, a terrible realization came over me. Jonathan had become one of them. And when I accused him of this, he confirmed my fears.

“I am her shepherd; I lead the flock to her, the true Angel.” His words horrified me, as I now had lost another ally to the beast. “I free those who are bound by the non-believers, and I take them to paradise.” Though spoken like a prayer, I knew that it was a confession. Jonathan was the one who let Brother Douglas go. He was the one who attacked me last night. Furious and desperate, I threw myself at him. I forgot my years of training and peace, and gave into the deadly sin of Wrath. But I am just an old man, and Jonathan threw me off with ease. He called me a heathen and a non-believer, just before he ran off towards the mountain. With so much anger in me, I was not going to let him go so easily. I pursued after him, tripping over rocks and slipping on smooth stone. But I gave chase, my rage giving me the strength to keep him in sight. Jonathan moved over the landscape like a mountain goat, with such grace and skill. Not like me, who still bears the bruises of many falls.

It wasn’t long though, before my rage burned out, and my muscles grew tired. I slowed, despite my desire to catch him. Jonathan continued to run and soon fell out of sight. I had lost him, much like I lost my Brother. But the Lord gave me a second chance, for when I looked down at my feet I found an old coin. It was the trail that we had followed that fateful night. And with renewed hope, I realized I could find my own way now.

I took my time as I navigated the rocky environment, following the shiny trail. Unlike that one night, I took much longer due to my inexperience. But I did not give in, and soon I found myself approaching the cave that was carved into the side of the mountain. I stood before the terrible maw and peered into the endless dark. At that moment, I admit, I realized I had no plan, no idea what to do. My desire for revenge and wrath had caused me to come here with no purpose. I had no torch, so I could not enter. I had no weapons, so I could not fight. I had just blindly followed the trail into a dead-end. I turned to leave, when I heard the sound of falling rocks. It came from beyond the cave, on the slope that sat beside it. Walking past the terrible wound, I peeked around the cliff side to see a figure in the distance. I could not see a face, but the garments told me it was Jonathan. He clung to the rock wall and slid his way across, uncaring of the drop into infinity. I traced a line from him to my own feet, and surprisingly saw a faint trail. Probably made from goats who were masters of these cliffs.

What perplexed me most of all was why Jonathan was taking this trail, rather than entering the cave. How did he even find this faint trail, which would require daylight, a good eye and for one to even look past a giant cave, over a clear dead end and towards a staggering slope. We had not seen this trail during the night, as it would have been invisible, and no mountain man would have ever imagined looking at the cliffs that bordered the cave. But with Jonathan now in sight, and the trail discovered, I swallowed my fear of heights and began to traverse.

Jonathan disappeared around the corner well before I was halfway across, but I was in no mood to rush. One slip and I would have plummeted to my death hundreds of feet below. As you can guess, I survived the climb and made it to the corner to find flat ground on the other side. Jonathan was gone, but I could see the path continue on, heading upwards. The path seemed worn by the use of man or animal. It was not well beaten, but one could pick it up if they were looking. Curiosity rather than rage now drove me, as I wanted to find out what he was after. He had gone past the cave of his master and crossed a treacherous place to come to this section of the mountain. And so I climbed so that I may learn of his desires and destination.

It didn’t take long for me to realize he was headed to the top of the mountain, as the peak was growing closer in view. Its jagged top looked like a stone knife cutting into the sky, and soon I would be dancing on its edge. And as I too drew closer, an odd feeling washed over me. The feeling peace and content, the rage I once had seemed to melt away. I was feeling oddly good, given the recent events. As I made the final climb to the summit, I felt like I was climbing to the top or the world, where the Lord’s hand would reach down and pull me up to heaven. I was happy. I was very happy.

I came close to the top of the mountain, only to find that the peak I had seen was an illusion. Rather it was a lip to a bowl that sat on top, as if the mountain was one strange cup. Perhaps there had been a peak before, but now it had been rounded down into a basin. And within this bowl was a piece of paradise. Beautiful grass blowing in the breeze, small trees bearing plump, red fruits. Scattered in the lush grass were people from the village, kneeling as if in prayer. I could see Brother Douglas and Jonathan amongst them, their faces showing pure bliss and peace. All of them were gazing at what stood in the center of this slice of Eden. I followed their eyes to the being that they worshipped and wept for joy. For there in the middle of this peaceful congregation was an angel. A true angel.

It stood tall amongst those worshipping at its feet, looking down with the love of a mother. Wings that would make the greatest swan jealous and robes made from the purest of silk. Of her beauty, there was no match. How cruel for the Lord to make lust such a sin, when he created a being so beautiful. Golden hair rolled down from her head, making even the valuable metal dull in comparison. Her face could only be described as angelic, for any other words could not do justice. I stood there basking in the sight of her, and I knew that I had finally been rewarded. For my all sacrifices and struggles, a lifetime of work, finally being repaid. And I would have done it a thousand times over just to watch her for but another instant. I tell you Brother Gregor, without shame, that I would have torn my robes and tossed away my vows just to be with her. And I know that you would too at the mere glimpse of her. For she was the single diamond in a world of rock and coal.

Overcome with joy, I clambered over the rocky lip and pranced into the grassy field. I rushed to be with her, to bask in her beauty. There I was, a man of my age, skipping and giggling like a giddy school boy. Past my Brother, and past the other worshippers, I ran to hold her in my arms, to hear the sweet voice that would surely come from her. But just as I got so close to paradise, I tripped.

Of all things, to be so close to the arms of an angel, to be at the doorstep to heaven, and then trip like an old fool. A rock hidden under all the lush grass caught my foot, and caused me to throw my face into the ground. At the time I cursed the rock, I hated it so. For it to dare spoil my happiness and joy. I swore that it had to have come from the devil, for such a small thing to be so evil. But now as I write this lengthy story, I am thankful for the rock. I know that it was the only thing that saved my life that day. One small rock. For when I looked up, with my head throbbing and my mind dizzy, I gazed into the face of the angel. And I screamed.

The creature that towered over me was not the beautiful specimen that I had seen before my blunder. Its shape remained the same, with wings, arms and face, but gone were the feathers, silk and beauty. Its skin was translucent, broken up with thick veins made of marble. Below was coiled masses ivory muscle, while strange tadpoles squirmed beneath the clear skin. Clumps of white fat hung in folds from its frame, a robe made of bleached flesh. Its arms were a twisted length of joints, terminating into impossibly long fingers. The body of it was clear like the rest, displaying a sac of strange organs that pumped and swallowed the slithering bodies. Behind it were flabby wings that would have suited a fish more than an angel. The red veins that ran through the long fins swelled and constricted with each moment. Its face bore down at me, turning my heart to ice at the sight of it. What was once the definition of beauty was now the living image of horror.

The ivory head was cracked like a dropped egg, each line oozing crimson blood. From these cracks gazed black orbs, eyeing me up like a vulture circling over a dying man. There was no mouth or any other facial features, just a wall of peering eyes, weeping the liquid of man. A top its head was some disk of flesh, drifting in a sea of unseen liquid. This organic halo pulsed with a strange light, one that conveyed nausea over hope. The sheer sight of the creature was horrifying and blasphemous. A disgusting creature imitating the form of a holy warrior. I recoiled in terror, scrambling on my hands and knees to get away. In my fright, I scurried right into one of the worshippers, who seemed oblivious to the sacrilegious monstrosity before them. But when I got my bearings and looked upon the possessed man, he too was not what I thought.

What I had seen as a man before was now a nightmare. It was a brick of melted flesh, with its limbs contorted into meaty roots that burrowed into the earth. Whatever hair he had before had fallen out, leaving patchy spots on his waxy, stretched skin. His head had vanished or had fused with the rest of the body. A large, lipless mouth open and closed like a fish out of water, sucking in ragged swallows of air. His eyes had swollen into fist-sized globs, which pointed only to the abomination that I fled from. And what terrified me most of all was the look in those eyes. It was the look of ecstasy and pure bliss. It was infatuated with the creature before it, ignorant to the twisting and melting of its own frame. Trailing from the sad, hypnotized lump was a thick white, vein, which embedded itself into the torso of the creature. I looked out at the rest of the congregation and saw that the rest of the followers had suffered the same fate. Amidst the gobs of lost humanity, I spotted one with the remnants of a rosary sitting nearby. It lay next to the tatters of a torn, old robe. With that I fled, tearing my way through the green grass that now felt like coarse hairs. The trees that blew in the wind were now pale and gaunt, the limbs and trunk made of pale, stretched skin. The knotted branches held dripping, throbbing fruits that held on with red, pulsing veins. My last glimpses of them revealed the remnants of a face embedded in the skin-covered trunk, a look of disturbing peace permanently frozen on it. That last look pushed me over the stony lip, and down the barren mountainside. Behind me came the screeching call of the angel, wailing at the loss of its prey. The sound was like a dying song bird, beautiful but horrifying at the same time.

So with that, I came back to the town, as it is the only place that has shelter for me. I do not know how many people remain, as we have all sealed ourselves away, too scared to speak to one another. At night I have seen a handful of others stagger out into the darkness, whatever may be their destination, I do not know. I just know that some beast, may it be above or below, will have guests to their dinner.

You may read this entire tale and wonder why I have written so much. Why write an epic while death stands outside my doorstep? I write all this because it is something for me to do. Something to keep my mind off of what I have seen and what I have learned. Because I know that soon the voice will come and call for me. And I know that I will not be able to resist its sound. I will join the others, be it above or below. So as I have said before, do not come to this mountain. Do not try to save me. I am already lost. I cannot be saved.

I do not know if I will be able to get this letter to you, as I cannot leave myself. I will seal it and send it off with the mules. They know the mountain and its trails better than I do. Perhaps if I send them down alone, they will make it down unaffected. These monsters do not desire the flesh of animals, only men. Maybe the animals will be found, and this tale will make its way into your hands. I hope so. For I fear the church may send others to determine my fate, and will unwittingly send them to their doom.

But maybe the terror will come to you anyways, as I fear their hunger is not satiated. Especially as they fight over a single town, ensnaring as many victims as they can. How far may their seductive songs travel, so that they may snare more souls? How many other towns and villages will be wiped out because of this? Maybe I should tell you to run. But if it spreads, I am not sure you could get far enough away. Because what is going on here is a battle between angel and demon. Light and dark. Above and below. And for the first time in all my life, I am unsure if the two sides are any different.

May someone save us all

My best wishes,

Brother Peter