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FICTION: A Pile of Socks by Michael S. Collins  

Posted by Scott Wilson

1

Winderkirk is patient. It sits no less than three miles from the nearest usable road. And here it was that Death frequently visited.

The once well-beaten path was long ago washed away by the rain. Winderkirk is surrounded by fields. Long rows of fields, stretching in all directions. The haphazard meandering of the local water supply, sudden rocky patches and unfinished trenches leaves the area unnavigable to even the toughest of cars.

The village is the southern Scottish equivalent of a sleepy Devonshire town. The focal point is the small church, around which sit dwellings of various shapes and sizes. The houses have gardens stretching back to the fields that surround the village. The Winderkirk church is decrepit. Its sloping roof, topped by a small bell tower, looms impressively over the village, but the crumbling, moss-covered stones forming the doorway show that the chapel has been ravaged by the storms of time. The moss has crept over the door itself. Badly varnished, its strong oak planks hint at better days long past, and the knocker is off at one hinge.

If you turn right from the front of the church, you will find the decomposing cemetery, accessible by an alleyway between two of the houses. The many unmarked graves, few of them recent, have been left to rot. Not that the occupants seem to mind. The Maiden sits in her corner and I frequently check on her, but she never seems to mind either.

To the left of the church stands the reason this village sprung up around a Christian place of worship in the middle of nowhere. For those steeped in the lore and romanticism of old country mansions, seeing the dwelling associated with the ‘Ghoul of Winderkirk’ would cause many a jaw to drop. It was suggested that the house that time forgot (it has no proper name, though that is of little importance) may have once been a hideout for the supporters of the Comyn family after the murder of the Red Comyn by the Bruce. True, the pillars that support the front arch have a quintessential Comyn feel about them, but such stories are no doubt fallacy. It is no fallacy to suggest that the house has stood since the early 18th Century, and predates the town if not the church and graveyard.

Of course, this village was once occupied by more people than just the Maiden and me. The villagers left – feared for their lives. And things only got worse when that young academic appeared. Shame – his family seemed such a nice group. However, since I shall very shortly die, and there shall be no one to test the control of this experiment, I can give the results of my investigations. The true story of the fate of Euan Kerr. Welcome to Winderkirk.

2

“Are we there yet?” The inevitable question posed by a child on a journey.

“Not yet, Cora.” The world-weary adult academic’s response.

Dr Euan Kerr watched his daughter chase imaginary butterflies with a slight smile. Three weeks before, he had been the head of the department of Scientific Literature at the University of Glasgow, but had resigned in protest at sweeping job cuts which had affected his department in particular. Having struggled furiously to save staff jobs, he now had to be content to be furiously unemployed. And he only just recovered from the sudden death of his wife, Maria, the previous Christmas.

The Winderkirk house had come to Euan as a massive stroke of sheer luck. Leaving the Dean’s office, unemployed, he had bumped into his old foe in the department and now successor as head, Jacob Foster. On hearing of Euan’s career suicide, Foster had tried his utmost to express a disingenuous remorse.

“You need a holiday,” he had said. “Here, I own a house in the south of Scotland. Very peaceful. Not been there in years myself, but I must insist you try it. My parting shot?”

With that, arrangements were made and soon Euan and his daughter were crossing the final field on their way to Winderkirk.

“Daddy, I’m tired!”

Two hours on foot, complete with rucksack, had worn her patience.

“Come here, princess. I’ll carry you.”

Euan watched as Cora jumped onto his brother Alan’s shoulders, and took Cora’s rucksack to ease Alan’s burden.

Alan Kerr, thirty-three and in the throes of recovering from every addiction known to man, was never the most conventional of men. Every family has its black sheep, and theirs was Alan. Gracefully unemployed with a mane of black hair, the man had recently put his life back on track after several unfortunate incidents involving alcohol and other substances. On hearing of his older brother’s trip, Alan had immediately invited himself along. Like any brothers, they had had their share of conflicts over the years, but Euan was glad of the company. And, as he watched, Alan’s other use became apparent – Cora idolized her uncle. He spoiled her.

3

It was late in the day when the Kerrs stumbled upon the village. Euan read the welcoming signpost with the merest hint of impatience, and turned to the others.

“Winderkirk. We’re here at last.”

He helped Cora over the boundary fence and walked on past a solitary willow and two small houses into the main square.

“It’s smaller than I expected,” Alan said.

Cora wandered curiously over to the graveyard, but her father pulled her back.

“Don’t wander, dear. Not 'til we know what’s what.”

First impressions from visitors tended to concern the calm of the place rather than its size. The slowly sinking sun and lack of wind should have meant a hot, stifling evening. But the houses were arranged in such a way as to channel the heat away from the centre, resulting in a chilled atmosphere about the place. A very effective bit of town planning. They could easily have stood there for hours soaking up the tranquillity of the place, but there was accommodation to find and me to meet.

A small grey-haired man left the church and proceeded towards the party. About seventy then, and with the usual black attire, I looked every part the local cleric. I stumbled over to Euan, and held out my hand to shake. Euan took it.

“Hello,” I said. “Welcome. You're here to use Foster's house?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“Dr. Foster told me all about you when he was here last week. It’s wonderful to meet you in the flesh at last. And this must be Cora?” The little girl smiled shyly. “Please, make yourself at home. I'm Reverend Mulryne, but please, call me Paul.”

Euan and Alan introduced themselves.

“I am quite delighted that you have come here. There is only me in the village currently so newcomers are always welcome. But enough, you must be dying to see the house itself!”

I fumbled in my pockets, before producing a rusting chain with about twenty keys on it. “It’s the black key for the front door, you’ll find. The others have their uses I think.”

“We should go and freshen up,” said Alan.

“Will you join us for dinner tonight? Say around eight?” I asked.

Euan accepted the invitation, and I left them to their business.

After the formality of finding the right key was over, the Kerrs stood in the front hall of their new house. A long flight of stairs arched into a mezzanine where two rooms lay beyond wood-panelled doors. On the left of the stairs stood a statue of the late Reverend MacIntyre (my predecessor!) and on the right the coat of arms of a long-dead family hung on the wall. Stone stairs met wooden walls and the scene was set for some Romantic princess to come waltzing down the stairs.

“What do you think?” said Alan.

“Very big,” said Cora.

“Quite the air of respectability and comfort,” added Euan. “What was it Lovecraft said of such places? That they were imbued with the ‘purchased atmosphere of extinct nobility’. Suits this place to a T.”

(From my dealings with Euan Kerr, I believe that there was one word that described him best, and that one word was pseudo-intellectual.)

He moved further from the door to inspect the coat of arms. They comprised a tartan background with a thistle to one side and a sword on the other.

“Euan? You know your family clans. D’you recognise those?” Alan asked.

Euan shook his head. “Possibly one of the MacIntyre clans, or earlier. Never seen it before.”

Alan glanced up from the statue he was inspecting. “It looks as though someone was trying too hard to emphasise their Scottishness. With the tartan and the thistle. I’m interested in this fellow.”

He nodded towards the statue. It clearly depicted a wealthy man – the robes were a testament to that – who wore thick reading glasses. A sword hung by his side and in his hands he held an open prayer book. The eyes stared out with all the grit the statue would allow.

“Interesting fellow,” said Alan. “I bet he was the sort to convert the savages to Anglicanism.”

Euan stifled a small chuckle.

“I’m hungry!” said Cora.

Euan glanced at his watch. “It’s seven.”

“Just time to find the bedrooms, unpack, and then it's dinner,” said Alan.

They set off up the stairs.

“Hopefully we won’t get lost!” Euan laughed.

His younger brother turned to him and rolled his eyes. “Perhaps we could do with some blue string and a map.”

Euan, I am sure, felt the urge to retaliate, but was beaten to it.

“Don’t be silly, Uncle Alan. Normal string would do!”

5

Everyone agreed that dinner was delicious. Plates of freshly baked loaves and potato stew were devoured. I played the role of host to perfection, merrily gossiping about the weather and politics.

Euan Kerr finished his second glass of white wine and politely refused a third helping.

“I hope you enjoyed dinner,” I said.

“Yes of course,” said Euan.

“It was yummy!” Cora contributed.

“So, Dr. Kerr, how long are you here for? Only Dr. Foster forgot to mention when he was here how long you were staying.”

“About a week.”

“Plenty of time. And to explore that labyrinth of a house you have!”

“Yes!” Euan grinned. “We got lost in there earlier.”

“Ha-ha, really? You should have done what that Greek fellow did, and used some string!”

“Uncle Alan wanted to do that, but daddy thought it was silly.”

“Is that so?” I chuckled. “Alas, there is not much to delight young children around here.”

“I thought about looking around that graveyard,” said Alan. “I’ve always been interested in gravestone architecture, and Cora seems to enjoy visiting them.”

“Be my guest, but I’m afraid there are few gravestones there. I trust you shall wait until daybreak though?”

Everybody laughed. Euan stood up from the table. “Dinner was wonderful, Father, but we really must be retiring now.”

I refrained from correcting him here, despite the insult. Father, indeed! That is the trouble with certain fellows from Glasgow: they assume everyone is on their side!

“I shall not keep you further. If you need me during the night, don't be afraid to call.”

“Thank you. You are most kind.”

“Not to worry,” I replied. “As long as God allows, I am here to look after you.”

7

Next morning, into the graveyard entered Alan Kerr, his niece Cora, and their guide to all things Winderkirk, me.

“Lovely day,” said Alan. He stood reading the Latin inscriptions on an old headstone.

We watched Cora race off to the area of the graveyard that lay in the shadow of the church building. Convinced she was not about to do herself any undue harm, I explained the history of the place.

“The churchyard is about a thousand years old, although some graves date back to late Roman influences. As you can see, there are precious few headstones to satisfy you.”

“Why’s that?”

“Simply because there is no room. Calling this a graveyard is a bit of a euphemism to tell you the truth. In the Victorian age this was a glorified mass burial pit for the cholera victims from the surrounding farms.”

“So there are too many unidentified bodies?”

“Exactly. But there were always ways to point out how many were buried in each pit. I’m sorry, have I upset you at all?”

“No, no,” Alan replied. He was standing by a long, grey slab of stone on the ground, which I knew well. “I'm trying to decipher this Latin. My grammar was never very good. It says, ‘Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem’. I’m sure I've read that somewhere before.”

“An intelligent man like yourself, I have no doubt of it. I translate: ‘Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity’. Occam’s razor.”

“Of course. Make as few assumptions as possible.”

“That is the tomb of my predecessor. A studious man, I have heard. They say he left it as a warning.”

“A warning? Does it tie in with any local village superstitions or the like?”

“I think the warning is less subtle than that, Mr. Kerr. I personally believe that Reverend MacIntyre was just warning us to keep our minds aware in this world. I hear he was a sensible man. But rather dull, I’m afraid. Unconcerned by trifles. Unlike Cora, who seemed to be quite distracted.”

Alan looked up. Cora was jumping up and down excitedly in the far dark corner of the graveyard. We walked over to see what the child had found. Alan gasped in surprise. Sitting at Cora’s feet was a large pile of freshly-laundered socks. White and untouched by the dirt, they sat oblivious to the abnormality of their location.

“Uncle Alan! I’ve found the odd sock!”

Her uncle smiled back. “Well done, Cora. Why don’t you go and tell daddy?”

Cora clearly thought this was a great idea. She sprinted out of the shadows and through the gate towards the house. Alan turned to face me.

“Tell me, Reverend, is there any particular reason for these socks to be there?”

“In any normal graveyard, perhaps not. But this is no ordinary graveyard, as I told you.”

“So you mentioned. But why socks?”

“Cholera killed so many poor people. Many were unable to afford tombstones, and indeed the point was a moot one since the local engraver was the first victim of the 1902 outbreak. No one can afford stones, but the graves may still be marked. Once the graves were sealed, mourners would place the victims’ socks on the piece of land in which they were buried. As place holders, if you will.”

“You can’t honestly be telling me that these socks have been sitting here all this time.”

“No. we replace them frequently. These ones were put here yesterday – that's why they look so clean. Also, they are not the same type. We wanted to keep up the tradition, but good socks are so expensive these days. Nevertheless, folk remember the past accordingly. After all, if you forget the past it shall forget you.”

We walked off, not stopping to ponder further over the pile of socks. Of course, often adults are too busy or absorbed to notice anything in front of them. Alan never perceived anything but the mundane: “Oh look, socks!” But Cora had. And now there was one less sock sitting in that pile as night drew in, somewhat colder and more suddenly than expected.

8

Nobody saw the extra sock that Cora had on her hand, because people just don’t see that sort of thing. Or if they do, they mutter: “The child has a sock on her hand. Good for them!” Then they put it out of mind and concentrate on seemingly far more important things. This is a terrible shame in this instance. Cora had moved the sock from the pile she found in the graveyard. It was white and new, and filled its old job admirably. As a glove it was also useful.

And so with her new accessory Cora slept quite peacefully, untroubled. The same could not be said for the others. Alan woke in a cold sweat at around two in the morning. Euan started awake in a similar condition.

Alan, entering his bedroom, spoke first. “I had a bad dream.”

“Did you? It didn’t involve some creature rising from the sock basket at the bottom of the bed, did it?”

“Yes, it was all scaly and decomposing. And transparent. How did you know?”

“I had the exact same dream.”

“But that’s not possible, surely?”

“Shared dreaming? Hypothetically it's possible under stressful conditions. I read about it in a science magazine.”

Alan laughed.

“What other explanation is there?” asked Euan.

“It’s very simple. We saw a ghost.”

“Don’t be stupid, Alan. We may believe in the existence of some phenomena, but not ghosts.”

So it was a principality then? Like the arrival of Monaco in all of our bedrooms?”

Euan groaned. This argument would have gone on for hours had it not been interrupted at that moment.

“Please talk quietly. You’ll wake up the dead again.”

Cora stood peeping round her bedroom door, her eyes barely visible. The sight took Euan by surprise and for a split second a chill of fear ran down his spine.

“What are you doing awake, Cora?” said Alan.

“I got woken up by the green man. He told me to tell you he was going to be seeing you soon. Nice man. Night night.”

She closed the door. The adults shared glances.

“Tell me,” said Alan, “why was she wearing a sock on her arm?”



9

Neither brother felt like trying to get back to sleep. They sat in the kitchen for the rest of the night, musing over what had happened.

“I'm convinced that there's a ghost or a haunting occurring here,” said Alan.

“I am as completely convinced that you're wrong.”

“If you are adamant that everything can be properly explained, then how do you explain these visitations? The fact that Cora talked to the ... thing ... suggests dream sharing is out of the question.”

Euan looked sceptical. Alan continued.

“The traces of the past. For every experience, the mind will try to add scientific explanation. What if there is none? We know that this house is situated next to a mass grave. Now, surely in the confusion of death under the circumstances of a mass cholera outbreak, we could find one or two restless spirits unable to find eternal peace. I know what I saw tonight – I saw it quite clearly. It wasn't alive and it wasn't a figment of my imagination. It was pure spiritual phenomenon.” He tapped his finger on the table for emphasis.

“So, you think it was a ghost, do you?” There was no mistaking the mocking in Euan’s voice. “Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.”

“Occam’s razor. That’s written on a grave outside.”

“But it can only make sense to make as few assumptions as possible. The most logical answer is usually the correct one. And ghosts are but impressions of energy. Nothing but impressions.”

Euan sipped his coffee and continued. “You see, human physiology may actually make us more susceptible to seeing ghosts. A chilling sensation is one of the most basic tell-tale signs that a ghost is present. But if a ghost was thought to be present, its viewer would feel fear. Our natural response to fear is the hair raising that causes the chilling sensation in the first place. No paranormal activity, merely a misguided reaction to trigger stimuli. You get where I’m coming from?”

“In a way, yes,” said Alan. “But we saw the thing tonight. That was not a, a ‘trigger stimuli misinterpretation’ or whatever.”

“No. We saw something, but again physiology comes to the fore. All down to our peripheral vision. Random motion outside our focus area can cause a strong optical illusion. Couple that with the unavoidable presence of infra-sound—”

“What’s infra-sound?”

“Sound waves at a frequency lower than twenty hertz. We cannot hear them but we can feel their presence, and we notice dogs picking them up. And all this, see, leads to people thinking that they’re witnessing presences and, well, phenomena.” He took another sip of coffee.

“But in our case?”

“In our case, add these stimuli and concerns to the fact that we're all tired and slightly anxious of sleeping in this empty house, and even possibly a secret desire for something supernatural to appear out of the everyday. Then you see what we witnessed today was quite ordinary.”

Alan thought for a minute. “I’ll concede. You've blown my theories out of the water again.”

“I know I have. No hard feelings?”

“If there were hard feelings, I’d have left twenty years ago.”

“I seem to recall you did leave.”

“Then I would not have returned!” Alan smiled.

“And I bet you are so glad you did!”

Alan glanced at his watch. “Good lord, it's seven! Time for a wash, I think. Change of clothes. I've been wearing these socks for a wee– Socks!”

And he darted out of the room and through the front door. Euan followed him out of the house, the falling rain soaking him in seconds.

“Socks?” he called out.

Alan stopped, watching the rain come down. “Euan, have you ever heard of insigui?”

“No. Why?”

“Interesting Chinese folklore. A spirit that manifests itself in inanimate objects. It's claimed that if humans come into possession of said objects, all Hell breaks loose.”

“Lovely! What’s your point?”

“We are standing outside Winderkirk graveyard. Can you tell me what you see over in that corner?”

“It’s a pile of socks. Cora told me about it yesterday.”

“Very interesting place to find such a thing. Hang on a second.”

Alan ran over to the pile and picked up a solitary sock, as if to test a theory. He dropped it very quickly as if it had burned his fingers and returned to his brother.

“Traditional Scottish weather!”

“It is. You’re completely soaked, and so am I,” Euan said meaningfully.

“Exactly. Tell me. You love your logical explanations. The cemetery has no shelter from the rain. See those puddles? So, how was it that just there when I went to pick up a sock from that pile, I found the lot to be not only immaculately clean, but bone dry as well?”

“That’s impossible!”

“That’s a reality. Euan, I think we’re in trouble. I think yesterday your daughter awoke some sort of spirit.”

“Impossible!” Euan repeated. “Besides, didn’t you say that for these Chinese spectres to do their spectre-ing properly, one of their objects had to come into our possession? Well, what has?”

“This insigui must travel by socks, however strange that may seem.”

Fear began to tighten its hold on Euan’s mind.

“If we get that sock back to its home, everything will be reversed?”

But Alan was not listening. Euan followed his gaze. There was a face peering out from the kitchen window. The two men raced back to the house and into the kitchen. It was empty and still, much like the rest of the abandoned village. Winderkirk remained motionless, apart from the tapping of the rain and the increasing heartbeats of the two brothers.

11

Cora was in bed, seemingly asleep. Her breathing was loud and ragged and her cheeks were flushed, as if she had a fever.

“I'd still get that sock off her arm quickly,” said Alan.

“But it is only a sock, surely?”

“Right.”

It was only a sock. It sat there, inanimate on his daughter’s hand. All he had to do was reach out and remove it. He moved his hand closer to the thing, but stopped just one finger away. Alan watched his brother tackle the problem like a full-blown phobia. The smell of fear in the air was acute. Just a sock. Feelings of hunger and anger and intense loathing permeated the surroundings, filling each man – but not from them. With a resolute cry, Euan reached out and tugged the sock off his daughter’s arm, and in one full motion flung it as far from him across the room as possible. He watched the thing intently, almost making it move in his mind. But it stayed still. It was, after all, only a sock.

“You made that look quite difficult.”

“Could you not feel it? The hatred in this room. It was as if a thousand lost souls were screaming at me.”

“I thought you were the sceptic?”

“I am. I think you got me worked up with all your talk of insigui.”

“In that case, do you want me to place that sock back in the pile where it belongs, or do you feel up to the challenge?”

“Don’t be silly. It’s only a sock. I’ll do it.”

“Do hurry up then.”

Euan picked up the sock gingerly, scowled at Alan and left. Alan paced the room nervously. He hoped that this little trick would work, and Cora would return to full health. He looked over his niece, as peaceful as she was. Pretty as a picture. He placed a consoling hand on hers and was taken aback when the little hand clasped on tightly.

Alan put two and two together in his mind and reeled. Cora had been awake the entire time he'd been in the room but was playing asleep to the best of her ability. If this was so, then what was making the loud breathing noise? He scanned the room quickly. No place to hide anything, except under the bed. He leaned over Cora.

“Just keep on pretending you’re asleep. That’s a good girl,” he whispered.

Alan thought about what was under the bed, but the possibilities were too horrible to contemplate. He put his head down to see, and shortly after thought no more.

12

When Euan returned, his brother was slumped in the chair by Cora’s window, his back to the door.

“Worn out?” Euan asked.

As Alan did not respond, he came closer and tapped him on the shoulder. The body slipped off the chair and Euan jumped back in horror. He was looking not at his good-natured brother but at a corpse. This put all supernatural theories to bed. The messy entry wound in the middle of his forehead spoke of a very human perpetrator.

The door closed behind him. A dry cough echoed throughout the room as a pistol was reloaded. And, in the second before he turned around, Euan knew exactly who he was going to see. It had stared him right in the face. I had practically given it all away. The friendly old priest, who knew the Kerrs were coming to Winderkirk. And the man who “hadn’t been there in years” and yet had met the priest to tell him of Euan's arrival.

He turned to face his foe.

“Good morning, Euan,” said Dr Jacob Foster, newly appointed head of Science Literature at the University of Glasgow. “Surprised to see me?”

There was a pause. Foster adjusted his glasses. “Sit down on the bed!”

Cora abandoned any pretence of sleep and sat up. Euan fell back into the space vacated by his daughter. She clung to his arm, all tears for her favourite uncle and pitiful moans of fear.

“I made no pretence of the fact that I hate you. You and your books. There is more to life than plain science! You hypocrite, denier of life, if you could see it all now, what would you think?”

“That you have no grace.”

“Careful. I think you’ll find I am the one with the gun here.”

“You shot Alan!”

“Sorry about that”, Foster sneered, “but the experiment must go ahead. I said the village needed more trauma. So I had to go and create some. It was quite simple. Invite your family out here, then create the mental energy required for an appearance of the ghost. And what is more traumatic than violent death?”

I stood, merely watching, the clinical observer. Then he shot Euan in the chest. Euan made a faint noise and collapsed. I grimaced, but the shot was wide of the heart.

Paternal urges must have driven Euan on. He knew that he was Cora’s last line of defence. Grunting with agony, he pulled himself up from the bed and dragged Cora out of the room whilst his nemesis was still staring foolishly at the gun in his hand, not as inured to killing as he would like. Trying to ignore the blood flowing from Euan’s chest, they staggered down the stairs. No point in trying to hide anywhere in the house – that would play straight into Foster’s hands. They ran from the building, the child gripping her father’s hand for all it was worth.

But where to now? Nowhere offered safety. The brightening morning suggested nothing but dangerous open light to all who approached. The decision to move was made not by the approach of Foster, but by a drenched Euan Kerr crashing to his knees. We had known all along that this was a fatal wound. But he could not give up now. Summoning all his strength and helped by Cora, Euan crawled into the graveyard. His pursuer striding through the gates, Euan collapsed upon Reverend MacIntyre’s gravestone and gazed up at Foster. I watched from the gates, at a safe distance, and waited.

“Tell me one thing. How did you manage the socks trick?” said Euan.

“Huh?” Foster replied.

“That pile of socks. It’s soaking wet, and they're all bone dry.”

“Nothing to do with me.”

“Oh, that was my doing,” I said. They both turned to look at me. “Please do carry on,” I added. “This is fascinating.”

Foster looked confused.

“You have a gun!” I cried. “Shot him!”

“Please...” Euan pleaded. “Please.... finish me off if you must, but don’t harm Cora.”

Foster’s smile broadened, and for the first time Euan felt genuine hopelessness.

“I have no intention of harming Cora. She is the control for the experiment.”

Cora saw something? A memory stirred as Euan's eyes located his daughter huddled against that pile of socks in the corner. I heard her voice in my mind: “I was woken up by the green man”. She had seen something. What else had she said? “He told me to tell you he was going to be seeing you soon.” I knew then that my waiting was nearly over.

“Anyway, enough small talk,” said Jacob. “Although it looks as though you have almost finished repainting the old priest’s tomb.”

Euan did not have the strength to reply. The silence was broken only by a creaking and a snapping. Foster glanced round nervously. Euan felt the slab of stone beneath him crack open as the ground shifted. Now would be a good time to move. He tried, but to no avail. The gravestone had split into two parts which were moving away from each other to reveal a descending staircase in the earth, stretching far beneath the house and beyond into darkness.

But it was not this that made Jacob Foster scream in terror, as Euan fell backwards into the hole. The thin, cadaverous man who had appeared in front of him took all that credit. His green-tinged skin, mouldering hair and protruding skeleton were rather more of a visitation than Foster had been prepared for. A shrill laugh arose from the tomb.

“You fool, Jacob!” gasped Euan. “Entities... should not be multiplied... beyond necessity. Look what you've done!”

Foster tried to fight back, but the creature’s grasp was too strong as it pulled him into the ground and down the staircase. The proudly creative man gave merely a whimper as he was forced down the stairs, past his laughing rival. Euan Kerr marvelled. Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem. Not, here, a declaration of the logical manner of life. It merely stood as a warning to the curious of what might happen if they tried to experiment with such things.

Euan had recognised the creature. It was the exact likeness of the statue of Reverend MacIntyre, standing with sword and book at the foot of the staircase back in the house. The rest of Euan’s blood was draining away. He could not move. But, as the tomb slowly began to close up and he saw his remaining light dying away, he began to realize that he honestly no longer cared.

13

It is my theory that the late Jacob Foster assumed that anything he could conjure up to support his theories would not be able to harm him. Unfortunately for him, after all his hard work, the creature did have a physical effect. That is why I remained outside the yard. For safety reasons.

You know we are standing around the remains of a pauper’s pit? More than that, a cholera victims’ mass grave. So many people buried. I read once of how the fields in which these graves were situated were marked with piles of socks to warn travellers of what lay beneath, back in the days when people were ignorant of how the disease was transmitted. Water, water, everywhere, and so much of it to drink.

It has been documented, not only by metaphysicians but by philosophers and scientists too, that trauma causes mental energy to be released into the world. Now, a few years ago I found this very house up for sale in the classifieds. It had been owned up until a month before by a Mr. Samuel Cowan and his family. They had left in some hurry. The daughter saw something. A ghost, a visitation, something: the spectre of an emaciated green man. That girl died soon after, and the house went up for sale.

The girl’s death was due to no supernatural agency: she had malignant cancer. The traumatic energy released by this dying caused a real visitation to occur. Being a learned man, I had hoped that through carefully controlled experiments I could view this phenomenon for myself. Slowly I had become acquainted with Dr. Foster and the few villagers – but then I had stumbled across the gatekeeper, the green thing. I had been able to make a deal with it, a Faustian pact of my own. I needed some guinea pigs.

The villagers all tried to run for their lives, as they realised exactly why this place was called Winderkirk. The etymology is quite simple: both parts come from the old Scots. “Winder” or “wynder/uynder” means 'under', and 'kirk' is the church. So the name of the village means there is something under the church. Apt, since that tomb leads right down under the building. I was quite proud of coming up with that name.

Occam's razor: if only Euan and Foster had thought it through, they could have avoided their fates. The fact that there is no actual name on the tomb (since it is not a tomb, merely a gate) that covers the route to Hell, for example. Or that I have the keys to the house, the same house which contains my coat of arms. So much for that warning. It seemed fairly obvious to me

Jacob Foster, Euan and Alan Kerr – all departed. One Kerr was left. Cora is still in that graveyard. Not dead – probably – but still awaiting the return of her father. A sock sits in her palm, taken from the pile at her feet. One blood-soaked gateway, a solitary child and a pile of socks stand undisturbed, in the midst of a dead village.

This is the story of Euan Kerr's true fate. I hope you enjoyed it. As for me, I will soon die. Maybe the experiment will end with me. But the Maiden still lives. And while the control still lives, can an experiment ever really end?

Best wishes,

Yours faithfully

(Reverend) Paul Mulryne MacIntyre.

This entry was posted on Saturday, September 17, 2011 at 9:55 PM . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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