At the time of writing, lots of strange rumours are being spread over the country, concerning the mysterious death of Lord Trewona. Thus, I have decided to write this explaining text. It should, I think, clear up quite many of the misunderstandings that have been popping up recently, seemingly without end. As many readers might already have guessed, my name is Dr. Fred Houston, and I have been the most important subject of all the rumours. For a long time, I have been working with the art of hypnotism, and during my carrier, I have had quite a few patients with the need of my special and unusual knowledge of the human mind. I do not abnegate that the case of Lord Trewona is an extremely strange one, but most of the rumours are indescribable inordinate. This is the true story, with nothing added nor deducted.
About a month ago, I received a letter from my old friend, Sir George Trewona. He was in his sixties at that time, and his life had been a most exciting and adventurous one. He had travelled into the deep and dark jungles of Africa, fought tigers in Asia, cut his way through the rain forests of South-America and even explored the North Pole twice. However, he was a rather old man now, tired and worn out of a long, hard life, and during his last travel – to New Zealand and Australia – he had become seriously ill of unknown reasons. Nobody knew how or why. In sorrow and pain, he had returned to England and his old mansion just outside a town called Gleather Village, near the edge of the Great Moon Lake in northern England.
Even though he was about twenty years older than me, Sir George and I had been studying together a long time ago, and we shared many common interests. One of these was hypnotism. However, I was the one who actually studied this extremely complex and psychological science. Sir George was just an unusually interested friend who listened to my lectures without ever complaining. He had absolutely no practical experience, like I had. Nonetheless, we were able to discuss quite advanced subjects, and the main part of our conversations was actually the matter of hypnotizing a dying person. This might sound abominable to most people, but the truth is that we both found it a most interesting experiment. However, we never did anything but speaking of it.
Now, Sir George had received the terrible news that his mysterious illness was mortal. The doctors were not able to help him, as both the illness and the syndromes were totally unknown to them. But in this dark moment – when there was no hope left at all – both he and I saw the possibility. He immediately wrote a letter to me, asking me – even urging me – to visit him at his mansion and carry out our small experiment. Of course, I immediately left my own house in London and travelled north to the Great Moon Lake. I crossed it, and for one night, I stayed at the Gleather Inn. However, I did not sleep. A howling storm kept me awake most of the night, as the roaring spirits of the wind kept haunting me for hours and hours. The next morning, I forced myself to leave town, and then rode the twenty remaining miles to Lord Trewona’s mansion. I still remember that day. It was a chilly autumn morning. The sun had not yet risen, and the air was still damp from the night’s storm. It was cold and gloomy, the sky covered with grey clouds. Soon, it would begin to rain again. Thus, as I did not want to get completely wet, I hurried the remaining distance. Soon, I was able to spot the large Trewona Mansion far away.
Quite soon, the wind started rising, and it grew much colder. Shivering, I wrapped my cloak even tighter around myself. My horse snorted loudly. We were riding through a dark forest, and the wind was singing softly in the treetops. The mansion came closer for each step we took, but it was still a long way to ride. I began to wonder whether it would soon start raining or not. Perhaps I could manage to get there in time, I thought, and luckily enough, I did. It was still dark when I got out of the frightening, unpleasant forest, and just when I reached the gate to the Trewona Mansion, the sky exploded and water poured down.
North of the mansion, the Black Forest grew, dark and benighted. The Northern Mountain Range rose from behind the large forest, their sharp edges almost hiding the full silver moon. I had left the stark landscape of the Gleather Marshes behind me. Now, I was surrounded by tall, black trees overgrown with moss. The ground was covered with cones and rotting, old leaves. The smell of salt seawater and seaweed, brought to me by the western winds, was almost impossible to smell here. I was about thirty miles from the sea. Shaking my head, I led my horse into the stable and handed it to one of the boys. Then I quickly ran through the garden to the main house.
“It’s been a long, long way!” I muttered to myself – my voice deep and worried – then suddenly realizing the double meaning of my own words. I knocked loudly at the front door, and James, Sir Trewona’s old butler, opened it. He looked tired and pale (as did probably I), but he smiled when he saw me.
“Ah! There you are, sir!” he said silently. “We have all been expecting you for some hours now. I guess it wasn’t such a pleasant journey?” I looked at him in confusion. He stared back at me, his eyes as cold as ice. “I mean, the Gleather Marshes can be quite scary in the darkness, and so can the Black Forest. Pardon me, sir, for saying so, but I would never ride through them at night myself, even though I know them better than my own pockets. Especially not when there’s a full moon, like now…” I gave him a puzzled look. I think he quickly perceived what I was thinking, saying, “I think the Lord is quite eager to complete this experiment of yours!” He twisted his mouth in sudden abhorrence. I immediately understood. James had, of course, always been faithful to his master, but he did not exactly like the experiment I was about to carry out. However, I did not care too much about his opinion. Maybe I should have, though, but I did not.
“It’s not dangerous at all!” I assured him, trying to calm him a little down. “Both he and I have been looking forward to this. It’s really most interesting.” James just shook his head in disbelief. “Let’s hope so!” he said, taking my coat and my hat. A servant came to show me the way to my old friend’s sleeping-room. The curtains were moving slowly in the wind. It was almost completely dark. The only light came from a small lantern on the wall. The flame flickered in the draught from the open window. Four persons stood around the bed, looking down at something that had to be Sir George.
I entered the room silently, taking a look at the old, dying man. I must admit that I was relatively shocked when I saw what the mysterious illness had done to him. A few years ago, Sir George Trewona was still an unusually handsome man, with long black hair, dark, sharp eyes and soft features. Now, his face was torn by the pain he was feeling. His hair had become totally grey, and his skin looked extremely unhealthy, as it was wrinkled and dry as an old sheet of paper. It had been pulled so tightly over the skull that one clearly could see the thick, blue veins bringing blood to his brain. He looked terrible. I cannot say anything else. I almost thought he was dead already.
However, his sallow face was split by a sudden smile when he saw me. His eyes – they looked like polished, glowing yellow gemstones – were smiling, too. “My dear friend!” he said, his voice thin and rough. “I have been expecting you for such a long time! The doctors are telling me I have no more than forty-eight more hours to live. Isn’t that horrible?”
Horrible? I thought. Jesus, it was more than horrible. I knew it was a miracle that the doctors had kept him alive as long as this, but just being told that my best friend would die in less than two days and nights was almost enough to make me cry. But I managed not to do so. Instead, I tried to smile. I do not know whether it was a successful attempt or not, but at least I did not cry.
“When are you going to start?” asked one of the doctors. She was a beautiful, young woman with long, glowing black hair, dark eyes and a small, pretty face. The three other persons just kept looking at me, their eyes filled with worry. One of them was yet another woman with long, blond hair and blue eyes, a little older than the first one. The two others were both men in their forties, both a little taller than me. Trying to answer the black-haired woman’s question, I made a quick calculation in my head.
“I think I’ll have to start tomorrow morning!” I said. “You see, hypnotizing someone takes much more time than you might think!” They nodded. Deep inside their eyes, though, I could see a small glint of doubt. Damn! I thought. They don’t trust me, either. Anyway, I smiled to calm them down, as I needed them to help me with the experiment. Hypnotizing is extremely difficult, and Sir George had a very strong mind, making it even more difficult.
That evening I had dinner with the doctors. Sir George did not come down to join us. He was really very ill. I wondered whether he would survive the night. Thus, I asked one of the female doctors – the one with the long, black hair – and she assured me they were completely sure; he would. There was no doubt at all. We had quite a long conversation concerning hypnotism in general and Sir George’s adventures earlier in his life. I told them about his journeys, his studies, that he had been a very amiable friend – and a very munificent one! The female doctor with the blond hair – her name was Rosalind Greyfield, I was told later – seemed extremely interested in hearing more about hypnotism, and I was about to describe exactly how I would carry out tomorrow’s experiment, when my speech was interrupted by a loud bawl from upstairs.
All five of us ran up the stairs, afraid that something serious had happened while we were eating. We opened the door to Sir George’s sleeping room, expecting a horrible sight. A cold wind rushed past us. Except from that, everything was quiet, nothing was unusual. Sir George was asleep. One of the male doctors – I think his name was Stanley Reever, but I am not sure – woke him up. The old man began coughing, and then he mumbled something that was impossible to hear. “Is anything wrong?” he asked next. We looked at each other.
“We heard a scream,” I replied. “We thought it came from you!” For a while, he just stared at us. Then he nodded silently, almost a little reluctantly. “I had a nightmare,” he explained. “It was a terrible one! I stood in a long, dark tunnel, without end. There was a light there. A golden, glowing light. At the same time, I wasn’t alone. I could sense another presence – there was someone else there, or something! And then, suddenly – it was like being torn apart by the eons of malevolence!” The old man began to cry. In my aberration, I began to wonder whether he really was sane or not. The dream sounded completely abstruse. There is something wrong here! I thought. God, if I had only listened. If I only had understood the meaning of his words at that time.
“What happened next?” Rosalind asked with a soft voice. She looked down at the old man, her eyes glowing in the darkness like those of a cat.
“No! I don’t want to speak of it!” Sir George suddenly cried. Then he quickly adjured us to leave him alone. We just looked at each other, and then went down to finish our meal. Neither of us said anything more. We all kept quiet, trying to think of what was happening to the old man. Outside, it continued raining. It was night, it was dark, it was cold. The flames flickered. Something is wrong! I hated those words. Still, they were haunting me.
During the rest of the meal.
When I went to bed, tired and worried about my friend’s health.
When I slowly travelled to the Land of Dreams and fell asleep.
Even in my darkest dreams by midnight, the words came to me, plaintive, howling…
And it would soon be proved that my assumptions were right. Something was wrong.
The next morning, the sound of someone knocking on the door to my room woke me up. “Come in!” I said, still groggy. The door opened, and the doctor with the long, black hair – I have now learned that her name was Jennifer Edwards – entered the room. She was smiling, but I could see that she was deeply worried. “Good morning,” she said. “Have you slept well?”
“No!” I snapped, brushing a hand through my hair, sounding just as squalid as I felt. She looked at me for a while. Then she whispered: “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” I stared at her, blinking in surprise, about to answer, Ma’am, I’ve been working with these things for nearly forty years now. I know perfectly well what I’m doing, thank you very much! But she looked so innocent and pretty that I just could not. “Yes!” I muttered, looking out of the window.
The glowing morning sun was rising from behind the sharp-edged mountains in the west, colouring the sky and the beautiful forest landscape with a pencil of gold. The night fog rolled back, reluctantly. I could spot the Gleather Village far beyond the Marshes, and behind it, the Great Moon Lake. I drew a deep sigh. It was such a beautiful view.
“Are you coming?” she asked, a little impatient, interrupting my study of the sunrise’s glowing effects on the nature and the surrounding landscape. “We’re all waiting for you in Lord Trewona’s sleeping room. I think he’s quite eager to get started.” She looked at me, her dark eyes filled with something that could have been deep fear, although it was not. I nodded to her. “I just have to eat something.”
I finished my breakfast alone and in silence. After the meal, I went straight up to Sir George’s room. I noticed that it was unusually cold and gloomy in there. The window was open, all right, letting the golden beams from the sun in to play games with the glittering dust, but it did not make sense that it was so cold! Sir George was still lying in his bed, his face drawn by the pain. Deep inside his eyes, I could see something that immediately reminded me of sheer insanity. Just forget it! I told myself. They’re all waiting for you!
“Come on!” Sir George moaned breathlessly. “Get on with it! The doctors say there is not much time left now.” It was horrible to think of. In a little more than twenty hours, my friend would be dead. I eminently had to work fast. Thus, I asked each of the doctors to follow my instructions without hesitating. They just nodded. I found a chair and moved it beside Sir George’s bed. Studying his face, I could see that he clearly looked more forward to this than I. Quite strange, actually. However, I did not pay too much attention to it at that time. Sir George was looking impatiently at me, frowning to make me begin.
“Sir George,” I said, probably more to calm down myself than to calm him down. “I’m now going to hypnotize you.” As if he did not already know! “It’ll take some time. You’ll get sleepy, and then just… float into darkness. I want you to listen closely and follow my instructions. I will not wake you up again. In about twenty hours, you’ll be dead, but still hypnotized. I’m so sorry that you won’t get the possibility of knowing what actually happened.” He just continued smiling. I began working.
“Sir George,” I said, my voice sleepy and low. “I want you to look at your right hand. Like that, yes! Now, please keep looking at it. Don’t move it. Fine. Do you feel comfortable?” He whispered a soft “yes”. “I want you to feel completely safe. Just breathe normally. That’s fine. Keep looking at your hand. Just think of a rose – a rose abloom. Can you see it now? Can you smell it? Touch it… feel it, like it’s real?” For the second time he whispered yes, his voice far, far away.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” I asked. His eyelids were heavy. He looked tired. “Look deep inside its crown. Can you see anything?” This time, his no was almost impossible to hear. “Look closer!” I told him. “You should see something.” After a while, he nodded slowly. “Yes,” he said with a hoarse and surreptitious voice. “Now I can see it!”
“Tell us what you see!” I told him, smiling.
“I see a light, a glowing, pulsing light,” he answered. “It’s warm. It’s so warm, so soft and loving. The light…” A moment passed. None of us said a word. We did not even dare to breathe. Suddenly, the old man spoke again. “It’s calling for me!” he said. “The light is calling for me. But I can’t move. Ah! The light! It’s so beautiful. The rose is so redolent. I want it. I want to come closer. It must become mine!”
“Sir George,” I said, interrupting his strange speech. “Open your eyes please!” Grudgingly, he did so. But they were not looking at us. Instead, they were focusing on a point far away, as if he was looking straight through us! As if he no longer was observant of us. I quickly understood that something strange was happening, something we could not see from where we were.
“Sir George!” I almost cried. “Can you hear me?” Small pearls of sweat were appearing on his forehead. I pretended not to be anxious, but the truth is that this matter actually scared me to death! None of my former patients had been sweating while hypnotized. I had no clue of what this meant, even though I was supposed to be the expert. Clearly, Sir George was experiencing something terrible. He did not answer my question, so I repeated it. My voice trembled as I spoke the words. I recalled that it had just passed a very few minutes sine I began my work. Usually, hypnotizing took at least half an hour. Sir George just could not be hypnotized yet. It was impossible!
At that moment, I was not able to say another word. I just sat, watching, thinking. Sir George’s eyelids grew heavy again. He closed his eyes again. I had not told him to do so. When I realized he was no longer under my control, I could feel how the icy Hands of Fear began tickling my back. Something was definitely wrong. The room grew even colder and darker, like a shadow passed over us. A terrifying shadow of evil…
The doctors sensed it too. There was something in the room. Another personality, something non-human. Something evil was approaching, threatening to hurt us all in one way or another. I shook from fear, yet trying not to show it to the others. Shifting uneasily, I tried to re-establish my contact with the old man.
“Sir George,” I said. And suddenly, with a cry of pain, the old man rose from the bed. There came a terrifying sound of bones creaking. “NO!!!” he cried, gasping for air. “He’s coming! He’s coming for me! Help me!!! Please, h-e-l-p m-e!!!” He turned to face me, his blue, shining eyes filled with tears.
“What’s happening?” Rosalind Greyfield asked worriedly. I turned to the doctors. Their mouths were open in disbelief. “There are – certain discrepancies here!” I explained, trying to sound calm, although I was afraid of my life. It was all both sinister and abhorrent. Then, Sir George began screaming.
“NO!!!” His voice was deep, rumbling to eternity, filled with horror and insanity. It was not his own. I could not recognize it. Threatening and deep, not like anything I had heard. “He’s here! He’s coming for me! HE IS COMING FOR MEEEEE!” I shivered.
“Fred!” Sir George suddenly screamed, looking straight at me. His eyes were dark now, filled with insanity, sheer and stark. They were gutted, gutted and torn by eons of glutted indulgence. His voice was not his own. Jesus Christ, his voice was not his own! This was not Sir George. I was sure of it. He opened his mouth, vomiting blood at me while laughing hysterically. Rosalind and Jennifer both screamed and ran out of the room.
“Fred! How’re you doing?” Sir George screamed, spitting and cursing at me. “See you in Hell, Fred!” Once again, he started laughing, a mad, sinister laugher. Then, he fell back on his bed, and everything went quiet. Wiping the blood from my face, I looked down at him. His face had changed. It had become younger, younger and darker, but at the same time indescribable evil. The mouth was wide open. Blood dripped from his teeth. “Sir George!” I almost cried. “Are you alive?”
A minute passed. Two minutes passed. Three. Four. And then his voice rose – roaring like an animal – and his face was torn by the immense pain he suddenly felt. “NO!!!” he growled for the third time, and now, his voice was completely impossible to recognize. His eyes opened. They glowed with an immense light and their malevolent, savage stare made me gasp upon him. His mouth twisted into an evil smile, and he laughed again, a hysterical laughter – like a mad witch’s.
“I’m dead!” he screamed. “I’m dead, dead, dead!” His writhes became worse as his ejaculations grew louder and louder, and were filled with more and more pain and insanity. Then, suddenly, the evil disappeared from his face, and we were looking at old Sir George again.
“The abyss!” he cried. “Oh God, let me out of this terrible place!” Now, he was growling again, and bloody teeth were falling out of his mouth. “Wake me up! Wake me up!” His hands trembled, and his skin suddenly became rotten, like a tomato. The same thing happened all over his shivering body. Large, bloody wounds appeared in his face as the rotting skin fell of his skull. One of the burning eyeballs sank into his head, the other one fell out. His nails grew longer, and his hair fell off until he was completely husky.
The two male doctors screamed in fear. I did not look at them. I was gazing upon Sir George, or what remained of him. Nearly all of his skin had fallen of now, leaving only his skeleton back. Then, the white bones just turned into dust and disappeared. His last cry still hung in the air – a plaintive, roaring voice filled with hatred and malevolence. On the bed, the bloody damp, rotting rests of his skin were lying. That was everything that remained of Lord Trewona, my old friend and companion…
I had finally completed my experiment. And I never thought of it again. I cannot explain what happened that day. I can just give you the facts. But I am constantly wondering what really happened. What he saw. Who the growling voice belonged to. Why he kept talking of an immense light. Who the dark shadow belonged to. I will probably never get the answers, and neither will my readers.