Bogleech.com's 2018 Horror Write-off:
Submitted by Dia
In the investigation that followed the discovery at least twelve people reported having seen the woman. She first checked into the Monitor Inn in Golspie, a small seaside village in the Scottish highlands, on April 3, 2007. The staff never caught her name, and a review of the guest register showed her signature to be an unreadable scrawl. She stayed for a week, and the cook joked about her habit of ordering sugary oatmeal and coffee with heavy cream three times daily.
The woman, who seemed to be in her mid-20s to mid-30s, left her room often and went for long strolls around the old village. She was haggard and sad-looking, short and pale, with messy brown hair and darting grey eyes. Golspie had a few working cab drivers, who sometimes drove passengers to remote inland villages or remoter natural sites. The woman took cab rides several times, asking the drivers to go in a long loop around the countryside. She rarely spoke during these rides, and usually looked out the window in silence, or stared down at her own fidgeting hands.
On the morning of April 10th, the woman was witnessed boarding a cab not driven by anyone registered in the area. The driver was a long-haired man in a pristine grey suit and green-tinted glasses. He talked with an obscure accent, and his appearance and demeanor seemed somehow out of place in the rural Scottish landscape.
The woman felt more relaxed in his presence than she had with anyone else since leaving her home on pilgrimage out to this empty corner of Britain. They chatted openly, and the woman joked about herself and all her regrets in life. The driver’s laugh was infectious, and the woman finally felt as if some of the tension that had been paralyzing her was released.
After a few moments of silence, the driver made an offhand comment.
“You’ve been feeling ‘em, huh?”
The woman froze. “Feeling what?”
The cab driver seemed to be looking more at her in the mirror than looking at the road. “The king’s summons. You can’t deny ‘em, they say. Feel like a little tuggin’ in the back of your head. They say it’s his little finger in there. His little finger squirmin’ in the bottom of your brain and wigglin’ down the nerve in your spine.”
The woman avoided the driver’s eyes as they stared down from the mirror. “Why should I put in any trust in anything you say? Who are you talking about when you say ‘the king’?”
”King Oberon. They say he’s king o’ the Scottish fairies. Been called lots of things through the years- Cally-Don, Newada, Krissondi- but now mostly just Oberon. Since Shakespeare.”
“I’d have thrown myself on the fire if it’d done any good,” the woman snapped, and the pair continued on in silence.
Soon the cab had made its way to the most remote point of the loop. Here the roads became few, and on both sides of the cab stretched huge empty expanses of hilly green countryside. Peering out the window, the woman could see a number of pale, shifting figures in front of a structure up ahead to the right. As the cab came closer the details became sharper, and she could now see they were several dozen people milling about aimlessly on the sprawling front lawn of an abandoned farmhouse. The cab pulled up the gravel driveway and the people were now close enough for the woman to see their faces as some of them turned to look at her. All wore expressions of tired resignation.
They were men and women, and all around the woman’s own age. About a fifth of them were naked. They had tossed their clothes carelessly on the muddy ground. The driver gestured for the woman to exit the cab, and she did so silently. The clouds from the morning rain still hung in the sky and her shoes sunk a bit into the earth as she trudged on to join the other summoned.
The woman hung back from the crowd in hesitation. She looked over her shoulder at the cab, trying to make out the driver. As if in response, the vehicle swerved around and left the driveway, then disappeared into the distance back down the road on which it came.
A low muttering filling the air snapped the woman’s attention to the ruined farmhouse. Most of the summoned were looking at it, and some of those who weren’t were glancing at each other in fear. The rest simply covered their faces.
Two figures had exited the front door of the farmhouse and were coming towards the crowd. Both were brightly dressed, handsome young men, in strange green clothes and brown boots. They walked in tandem, and the taller man on the left carried a set of bright blue Great Highland bagpipes, while the shorter man on the right had a pair of sticks and a gleaming white bass drum that he hoisted with obvious difficulty. The pair walked with almost military precision. They stopped a few meters from the edge of the crowd. The bass drum was struck, and it resounded in the evening air like thunder.
The bagpiper, a red-haired, freckled man with a hawkish face, stepped forward and spoke.
“Throughout the land and o’er sea
The summon-bell does ring,
O called back to the court are we
For the pleasure o’ the King.”
With this, a few people in the crowd began to weep.
The red-haired man hoisted his bagpipes and began to play. The note was shrill, sour, and unchanging. It was almost deafeningly loud- the sound penetrated the woman’s head like a power drill, and she plugged her ears hastily. The drummer thumped out a rhythm as people started to walk out of the crowd and form a line behind him and the piper.
The woman was determined to hang back for as long as possible. She dug her feet into the mud and kept her fingers in her ears as more and more of the summoned lined up behind the musicians. As the line lengthened it took on an almost unnatural quality, swaying in a regular rhythm like a dangling vine. No one tried to flee- the woman found it immensely difficult to even stay put. The faces in the disorganized crowd showed a mix of fear, anguish, and suppressed rage. A few showed no expression at all. Every few moments someone in the line would turn their head back, and each time the woman saw that their eyes were filled with the most profound terror.
A few minutes later the woman was the only one left hanging back. The swaying was much more dramatic now, and the woman realized in horror that it was to the same rhythm as the thudding drum and the tugging, pulsing sensation in her head that had pulled her out to this evil place. That pulsing that had come on some nights in her childhood, when she stared up at the sky and a wave of old, cold fear would pass over her like a draft, except deeper, deeper in a way that she could tell it came from within her own soul.
She never knew what she was looking for on those nights, at least consciously. But she knew there was something, hanging up there in the sky or behind it, that was horrible in a way she couldn’t begin to comprehend. And so she wasn’t surprised when, heralded by a sharp change in note from the bagpipes, something appeared in the sky in front of the line, and she found herself at its back without consciously joining it.
The shape of the thing in the sky was obscured by the clouds, but it was bright enough to shine through with a pale green light. All the faces of the summoned turned to it, including the woman’s, and when the musicians began walking out into the empty countryside past the farmhouse the line followed them. The woman was the last, while the drummer led the line, beating one side of his drum and then the other in a steady rhythm. He was followed close behind by the piper piping the same note that had announced the light’s presence. And so the line became a doomed procession following an unknown light into the darkness.
The woman couldn’t tell how far the line trooped along, covering mud, grass, and dry dirt, inclines and declines, on and on, with herself at the back walking hypnotized like a passenger on her own legs.
The unearthly effect of the droning bagpipes layered over the drum’s monotonous crashing guided the woman into a sort of trance. She couldn’t look away from the green light as she walked, even to glance down at the ground she was covering. They were going further inland, that was clear, into the vast, lonely heart of the Highlands. But the woman found herself unable to judge the amount of time that was passing.
They were certainly covering a lot of ground, but the countryside was monotonous. The woman couldn’t see any fences, and there were only a handful of trees scattered around the landscape. Sensuously curved hills, like prone human bodies, sat in the distance. Every so often the procession would scale one at an improbable angle. At one point as they descended a hill a few of them slipped and tumbled down the side- the others simply walked over them. They got up and rejoined the line without saying a word.
The woman stared at the green light in the sky for so long she imagined she saw it warp and change. The light would shift in shape or color, or wink mockingly, and a few times she could have sworn it assumed a birdlike shape, with discernible head and wings.
Eventually- the woman had no sense of when- the procession came to a thicket of rowan trees growing beside a deserted old road. As they turned to walk parallel to the trees the sense of distorted time became more immediate. Even through the thick fog in her brain, she knew it was wrong to feel like she had been walking in front of the same tree for ten minutes.
Then an alarming change occurred in the sky. Without warning, the very fabric of the sky itself seemed to start to move. It began to distort in a way that reminded the woman of water after a rock had been skipped across it. As the rippling continued it grew stronger, and the woman could see that it carried the hapless stars like they were tiny glowing jellyfish floating on a choppy black sea.
A moment before the treeline ended, the sky became still again and the woman felt relieved for the first time since the entire nightmare began. But as the procession turned back out into the open fields they were greeted by a sight that made the woman’s stomach drop to her feet. A tall hill stood in front of them, crowned with grey stone ruins. Set into the side of the hill, facing the procession, were a set of large doors.
When she realized a moment later that the line was headed straight for the doors, the woman was gripped by visceral terror.
The doors were bronze and cast with ornate animal and foliage motifs. In the center of both doors, split down the middle, was a low relief of a crowned head. Its features were haughty, and two glittering green jewels were set in the pupils of its eyes. Four human figures, smaller than the face, were also present, with one at each outer corner of the set of doors. The whole design was stylized in a strange way that didn’t recall any traditional or modern art movement the woman knew of.
The line came to a stop in front of the doors and the woman regained some sense of control over her movements. The tugging was still unbearable, but now that the star was blocked from her vision by the hillside she could move her head and shift on her feet. Most members of the procession were looking around at each other fearfully. The woman had gotten pronounced gooseflesh- the air seemed exponentially colder. She leaned a little out of the line and saw that the musicians had set their instruments down, and had now gone up to the doors and were struggling to pull them open.
A moment later the piper muttered something unclear, and the doors swung open almost of their own accord. A frigid blast of wind escaped from the hill and everyone, including the musicians, shivered deeply. The woman crossed her arms tight, trying to keep as warm as she could.
A second after the wind had dissipated the line began to file in. The musicians flanked the doors, their instruments now back in their hands. They stood as still as palace guards while the summoned passed them. The woman straggled in at the end of the line, glancing at each of them as she entered the hill. The drummer looked back at her with an amused expression.
Right inside the doorway was a chamber, fairly large, but still cramped with the number of people that had been squeezed into it. The woman was stuck at the front, and she jumped as the doors slammed shut heavily behind her.
The walls of the chamber were plain earth and its floor was bedrock. There was no furniture or any sort of light source, but somehow it was still illuminated. The light was dim, like twilight or a heavy overcast day, but brighter than outside. It lacked the greenish tint the beacon in the sky had given the landscape. Even knowing she was closer to her doom, the woman somehow felt relieved she was no longer directly under that horrible green light.
About a minute after entering the chamber the woman noticed she had more room to move around. Somehow, the crowd was thinning out. Fresh panic stabbed her with this realization, and she looked around frantically for any sort of explanation. By stretching as tall as she could and craning her neck, she could see the far end of the chamber. A handful of the summoned were stripping off their clothes and bending down. As the figures in front of her shifted around she could see through a gap that after disrobing, the summoned were crawling through a hole in the bottom of the far wall.
The hole, she could see, was the entrance to a cramped tunnel, too narrow for more than one person to crawl through at a time. The crowd was slowly shuffling toward it as more and more people went down to their hands and knees and entered.
The woman was determined to never enter that tunnel. She knew if she did, her life as she knew it would be over- even if she did not die outright, if she continued to live it would be as some mockery of herself. The chasm between her and her understanding of her fate was closing, and she never wanted to pass over it. She could never let herself bow and crawl pathetically before Oberon.
But as she turned, determined to somehow pry open the doors and run back out to freedom, she saw the wall behind her was unbroken dirt.
It took over half an hour for the crowd to fully enter the tunnel. When there were only a handful of people left the atmosphere in the chamber was extremely awkward. Those who had managed to hang back for longer looked at each other nervously as the chamber became emptier and emptier, but no one tried to speak. There was no need to. A mutual understanding connected them.
Soon there was only one person left besides the woman, a tall young man with long blond hair. The two of them loitered near the front, and they kept glancing at each other and then looking away in half-embarrassment. A few minutes later something seemed to snap in the young man, and he staggered over to the tunnel, took off his clothes, and crawled inside. The woman was now alone.
The impossible light- the earth chamber- the hole- the woman felt like she had entered the deepest part of a dream. As a child she had sometimes had nightmares where she was stuck outside the world somehow, watching it go by, but with no way to move or interact with it. A perfect observer- a shade. Now she was trapped beneath the earth, with the only way she could go being to the center of the nightmare, where no sun would ever rise to wake her.
The woman could hear things that would not normally be audible now that the chamber was empty and silent. Her breathing was already harsh from stress and exertion, and now it seemed almost deafening. Her heartbeat was as loud as the drum that had urged the procession on. And present under these were what should have been impossible sounds- the shifting of her bones as she changed position, the crashing of her eyelids as she blinked, the torrential roar of her own blood, the writhing of the worms in the walls-
The tugging became too much to bear and the woman disrobed and rushed over the pile of clothes into the tunnel like all the others.
The tunnel was empty except for her- the others must have already exited the other side to whatever fate awaited them. As she crawled forward she felt the stone of the round tunnel was smooth and warm under her palms. It was too cramped to move more than a foot to either side, and turning around was impossible. She wriggled forward like a grub and considered briefly that the stone seemed too hot to simply have been warmed by passing bodies. The impossible light was very dim inside, and there was no light at the end to mark the tunnel’s exit. It simply stretched on indefinitely into the darkness.
The woman could not tell how long she crawled through the tunnel. It was at least five minutes after entering that she first heard the noises. They were faint in the beginning, and the woman couldn’t discern what they were, or from how far ahead they came. She managed to stop crawling for a moment and shook her head, like she used to do as a child to wake herself up from a frightening dream. She tensed up as she strained to listen for the sounds, trying to make them out clearer. At least some of them sounded like voices, but others she was unable to place. She was suddenly abjectly aware of how trapped she was, imprisoned like a corpse in a coffin with a thousand tons of earth above her.
She crawled forward again, slower and more cautiously this time. The sounds became more defined as she progressed, and she managed to stop herself again, this time in horror. The voices that were coming from the tunnel exit were unmistakably in pain- there were no screams, but there were gasps, groans, and horrible warbling, all layered on top of each other, creating a general effect of horrible, inexplicable wetness.
She would have crawled backward, but what was she going to do? The doors had vanished- was she going to try and claw through the dirt? She should at least try and see the layout of the room the tunnel emptied out into. The hill was only so large, and the tunnel was long. There might be a door at the end, she rationalized, trying to pretend she wasn’t simply being pulled along to her doom.
The end of the tunnel was now in sight, and the noises were unbearable. There was a high whining hovering over everything, clearly a voice, but produced by no human vocal cords. It was hard for the woman to crawl now that her palms were slick with sweat.
At last she finally came to what must have been the end of the tunnel. A green curtain hung in front of her, and she knew it was the final barrier between her and the source of the call that had pulled her out into the empty, remote fields where nothing tread but the memories of the past.
And so she slid the curtain to the side just a bit, and peered out from behind it with just one eye.
It took her a few seconds to process what she was looking at. In the middle of an elaborate chamber, there was something, a huge pale thing surrounded by writhing bodies. It was a massive human face- no, it was a head, a horrible head, gelatinous-textured, its eyes were darting, the whole head itself was breathing, pulsing like the pulsing that had infested the woman’s own head. It was rooted in the ground with so many scaly, snakelike arms- one of the arms was stirring in her direction now-
It was crowned with gold and emeralds, and when she saw it she knew who it was instantly.
It was turning its stupid, vacant gaze- it was looking in her-
Then above everything, like the crowning note in a crescendo, came a single hysterical cry:
“Oberon! My sweet lord Oberon!”
The woman was discovered by a local farmer in the morning of April 11, 2007, atop Cruach Hill almost a hundred kilometers from Golspie. She was naked and caked with dirt, and had been walking in a circle amid the ruins for at least an hour. It is likely she was walking for longer, though, because the grass where she walked had been worn away to bare mud.
The preceding narrative was a dramatization of the woman’s absurd, but detailed and consistent, statements to the Sutherland police. She was not belligerent, but did refuse to give her name. The police ran her fingerprints through the British criminal database and found no matches. Though they had the grounds to prosecute her for public indecency, the woman was released without charges. Even though she had no money, vehicle, or clothes besides the outfit provided by the police station, she seemed unconcerned. When she was released, she walked off into the misty night without a word.
If it needed to be stated, there were no UFO reports that night, or sightings of an unfortunate troop of mindless, hypnotized souls. Admittedly, the farmer who discovered the woman said he had heard drums and bagpipes that night, but this is not terribly remarkable in rural Scotland.
The woman’s repetitive walking, warped perception of time, and fixation on a single, visually distorting object are all accounted for by the police’s theory that a few hours prior to her detainment she had consumed a large dose of hallucinogens. Drugged rituals on top of druidic sites, including Cruach Hill itself, were fairly common at the height of the New Age movement. The woman was probably a late outlier of that tradition. The appearance of “Oberon” itself is uniquely vivid, but can be explained by the possibility that the woman was a neo-Pagan. Celtic headhunting and the head-cult are well-attested in both Roman texts and archaeology. It seems unlikely a worshiper of Celtic gods would be unaware of them.
Those intrigued by the case may take interest in a technically unrelated discovery about Cruach Hill made in 2011. An archaeological dig for proto-Pictish artifacts uncovered 56 complete skeletons buried in the hill. Both male and female skeletons were present, and carbon dating put the date of death for all of them at around 300 BCE. All had been hastily interred in a single burial pit, and were speculated to have died from a plague.