via Daily Prompt: Descend
I had been in that house for years, uncountable to me. As far as my memories go, I had lived there. I was raised there, and after my parents died, when I was just nearing adulthood, I inherited the house. It was paid off by my parents, and when they both were diagnosed with that sickness, the same one I carry now, they made the arrangements to leave the house as my property. When they passed, around 40 years ago, the house was pristine. It was very stylised, as my father liked. The front portal was filled with a great dark wooden door, the outsides walls made of dark grey stone, imported from some far away quarry in a foreign country, as it was not native to this region. The mansion was definitely old, but the documentation left some questions. No date of construction was named, nor the architect nor the original owner who commissioned the construction. In every correspondence about the town it was settled next to, the mansion was mentioned.
My parents were able to purchase the house for a small sum, as the interior was bereft of any decorations or furniture. The outside was decrepit and overgrown with a vast conglomeration of moss and algae. After years of renovation, in which I always tried my best to help, as much as my childish hands back then would allow me to, the grotesque building towered menacingly over the neighbouring town and forest once again, as it had when it was originally constructed atop that ghastly hillock.
Through my help with the renovation of the entire house, which was thoroughly appreciated by my parents and manifested itself in me helping in every room, I knew the entire house like the back of my hand. Or so I thought.
Two weeks before the demise of my parents, who died merely one day apart, by father entered the grand living room, where I was reading a book titled ‘trigonometry and the history thereof’ as I had just started studying mathematics at the nearby University in Kingsham. He had a ghastly look on his pale, lifeless face, which was usually painted with a glad smile and a healthy, reddish glow. ‘Come with me, I found something.’ he said to my mother in a hollow, timbreless voice. ‘I found… Something. ‘
My mother gestured to me to stay seated and said that I shouldn’t follow. They closed the door which leads to the main staircase and walked for a small distance. Suddenly their footsteps stopped, and some deep stumbling noises followed, like a heavy door dragging over a stone floor. I thought to myself that there are no doors there besides the front door, and the door leading to the kitchen, which both have ample clearance between themselves and the stone floor. What could be happening?
Much time passed, time that felt like a small eternity, and I got more and more disturbed by the lack of any other individuals in the mansion. As I decided to get up and investigate, my parents returned, both with that ghastly, empty stare and emotionless face. They sat down and never said any happy word ever again. Both quickly started setting up their testaments and heritages, and passed away two weeks after that day. Doctors were never able to find out what the cause of their expiration was, but found all organs, during an autopsy, corrupted by an unknown blackness; especially the lungs. Whatever it was, it passed through the air ready to have been inhaled by the poor victims.
Now after all these years, I am the same age my parents were when they passed, yet I am unmarried. And I will never be. One day I wanted to hang up the painting I obtained at a local auction organised by one of the various charities settled in Kingsham. I thought the wooden wall below the main staircase to be a good location for the painting, but God! How wrong I was.
As I put my hand on the old, dark wooden wall to hammer the steel nail into it, the wall gave way. A few inches it crept inwards, hinged at one of the wooden boards. The hinge was perfectly hidden, and the wall was always obstructed by a table topped with various curiosities obtained on my travels across the globe. Statues, tablets, photographs and other foreign knick-knacks littered the table which was now moved away to make the room I needed to mount the painting.
I pushed the wall further inwards, and it opened up to a dark entrance which led into a humid cellar. How did I not know this was here? I have seen the entire house, renovated all of it, and was familiar with it for years! I was dumbfounded, and curiosity took hold of me as I walked through the newly found portal. A cold dankness met me as I took the first steps into that room, and an uncomfortable feeling came over me, a tension I could not explain. I wanted to escape, to get out but the thought that I did not know the entire house enraged me, as I felt that I failed myself. Thus I kept going, now with an electric lamp in my hand.
The room was a small, low chamber lined with grey stone chunks of irregular form. Arches lined the sides and a small sacrificial altar decorated the centre of the chamber, an object which I recognised as such from another sacrificial altar I saw in one of my travels. The space was barely high enough to stand in comfortably. I walked up to one of the arches, which were all hidden in the dark, and started backwards from fear. What I found hidden in the archway’s shadow petrified me, as they were all short hallways leading to stone thrones on which corpses of men were seated, and the walls were lined with human bones and skulls! One of the arches was boarded up with planks that looked out of place. All walls had an even number of archways, except for the wall in which this archway was located. On either side was a cadaverous hallway. As I neared the planks, a soft, humid, warm breeze greeted me, and every nerve in my body told me to get out. But I didn’t. Oh, how I wish I had just turned around then, as I would have maybe survived that building.
I removed the boarding, and a dark, narrow staircase awaited me. The humid breeze had now turned into a strong flow of warm, humid air. For a reason unbeknownst to me, I decided to descend. The repeating, monotone visuals ahead of me combined with that awful airflow made the experience harrowing. After walking for what seemed like hours deeply into the hillock below, I found a small arched wooden door, littered with unknown symbols which inspired dread, and horror emanating from every crack in the old, dried out wood. I pulled on the large ring attached to the eldritch door, and it opened unwillingly as if a vacuum was pulling it back. The space that opened itself behind that horrific door was black as can be, not able to be lit by any source of light beside the very sun. The lamp I carried only illuminated some five yards in front of me, which made the area feel absolutely vast.
I walked over what seemed like a cobbled road, surrounded by a dirt like substance which was through and through moist, as I felt when I accidentally stepped off the stones. The path was lined by ritualistic altars and pillars rising endlessly towards the impossibly high ceiling, as if the whole place was a temple. As I kept walking, the road broadened and got more and more well-constructed, and more and more decorated with temple-like structures.
After having walked quite a distance, I approached a mound of what looked like dirt in the middle of a circular courtyard. I reached the mound and tried to have a look, but the substance when illuminated remained deeply black, refusing to accept the light radiated onto it to make its structure more apparent. The more I examined the substance, the more the smell overwhelmed me; I felt the corruption entering my lungs and veins, and spreading through my body. I walked back from the mound, only to see a bright spec in the colour that appeared to have come straight from oblivion. I reached to grab it, face covered with the collar of my wool sweater to keep out the penetrating air, and got hold of it. What I found was harrowing, and the visuals have never left me since. The object was heavy, and I had to pull it with all my weight to get it out of the repulsive pile, and the more it got itself out of the pile, the more it showed itself to be a body of a man; decaying and filled through and through with blackness. His face looked horrified and radiated panic and terror and he was clothed in ritual clothing. The remaining veins were like rubber, stiff and malleable; filled with the same corruption that surrounded it and was now in my body.
I finally recognised the clothing and the horrid symbols as ones I found on one of my travels. Once I went with a friend to a city somewhere in middle Europe, where we went to examine the architecture as it was unlike any other, yet very familiar to me; it was the same architecture as the house where I live. Together we accompanied a guided tour through an underground temple of an old died out cult, we followed the tour as the temple was considered dangerous to ones who were unknown to its labyrinthian internals. The guide explained to us that the cult that inhabited the entire city and temple worshipped no god, only a concept: The temple was a temple devoted to death. The dirt which was originally in the temple was mud which was merged with human remains, and it was believed that through the spells and incantations of the cultists, the dirt was highly toxic to those who were not part of the cult. The same deep black dirt I found in my very house. Only the mud in my house was toxic, the place still seemed active. The breeze through the place made clear that there was another entrance into this cursed place, this damned hillock; this deathly temple.
I am writing this, knowing I will die. I will suffer the same fate as my parents, and the other individuals that had the misfortune to cross that harrowing depth. I have commissioned for the house to be destroyed, to seal off that space from all of humanity. I had lived above an active temple, worshipped by cultists of death. May we never come across places similar and substances like those in that horrid depth.
If only I’d never made that harrowing descend.