Thomas Farraday found life thus far most rewarding. His work provided more than enough in the way of coin to fund his increasingly lavish taste and extravagant lifestyle. A modest, yet exquisitely furnished country manor, set deep within the rolling hills of Somerset, was his to call home and provided the ideal backdrop– to host his latest business venture. Personal wealth, however, was no longer the prime motivator for Thomas that had been surpassed by the craving for the intoxicating sense of reverence he seemed to generate whenever he performed.
Adoration was his new drug of choice. The bulk of his clientele was grief-stricken people having usually suffered a recent loss. They were also generally blessed with deep pockets. In their eyes, he held all the answers. The payment of a few sovereigns mattered little when Thomas was able to grant an audience with the deceased. Thomas Farraday was, however, a fraud. His ability to communicate with the spirit world was merely a parlour trick.
He could no more speak to the dead than he could walk on water. The idea had struck him in earnest one winter morning, long before he found his fortunes.
Walking familiar streets, stomach empty, the previous nights cold still chilling his bones, he happened upon a funeral procession. A widow attired in black, and overcome with grief, had fainted directly at his feet. Clumsily, he had gathered her up and slapped her face gently in order to rouse her. The funeral party had drawn to a halt and gasped at the apparent assault taking place upon the women. Yet, no one had rushed to her aid. Wearily, she had opened her eyes. Thomas had seen her reason and sense of duty was quickly restored. Im dreadfully sorry She paused, searching carefully for her next words. Sir, I am quite out of sorts today, for thou which my husband was taken from me not three nights ago. Tears had welled in her eyes, and she trembled as grief took hold once more. Your husband must have truly been a great man, for all these folk have come to pay their respects! Thomas had motioned towards the surrounding mourners. However, my Lady, I believe although he has passed from this mortal plane, he will continue to watch over you for the rest of your days. Surprised, for he was unsure as to why he had found words of comfort so easily forthcoming, Thomas had blushed and nodded a farewell to the women. A gentle smile had flashed across her lips, and she reached for his hand, leaving a gold sovereign upon his upturned palm. For your kind words, she had whispered, and with that she turned to retake her place behind her husbands coffin. A whip lashed loudly and the horses resumed their trot towards the cemetery.
Slowly, the idea of trading comfort for coin had begun to take shape, and over time he honed his technique into a fine art. With some basic showmanship and a warm manner, he became one of the regions finest and most respected mediums. What had begun as an innocent gesture of kindness was quickly replaced with the necessity to lie and cheat for as much coin possible, as tastes of the elegant and exotic took hold. Thomas discussed at length the possibility of using one of the famous Talking Boards that were popular with mediums and spiritualists over in the United States. It was at great personal expense that Thomas procured one of the first Ouija Boards to enter Great Britain.
Lady Martha Appleby, her daughter Marcy, and Sir Henry Lloyd, were due to arrive at his parlour shortly. The Lady was positively overjoyed at the idea of using the new device. The board sat positioned in the centre of the grand oak table, each letter elegantly styled, with the planchette set aside awaiting the touch of the inquisitive. Scattered candlelight completed the mood, allowing enough illumination to fall over the table but shrouding the remainder of the drawing room in uneven darkness. A storm was developing off to the South, which would further add to the ambience of the evening. A sizeable amount of gold was already promised to Thomas and he was confident that the scene would produce more. The wine grew warm, and the polite small talk faded. An expectant hush befell the drawing room as all eyes turned towards the small wooden board. Each placed a finger onto the planchette, eagerly waiting for communication to be established. Are there any spirit persons among us who wish to make themselves known? asked Thomas aloud. A deafening silence followed. Ask again, please, requested Lady Appleby, shifting in her seat. If there is anybody with us now that wishes to communicate, please step forward. The sound of wood scraping wood came from the board. All eyes watched as the small planchette edged its way towards YES. Lady Appleby clapped. Hes doing that, are you not? demanded Sir Henry. Thomas swallowed hard. He was not exerting any notable pressure upon the object. Indeed, it was his plan to move it himself, but only upon the third time of asking. Building suspense was all part of his act. Uh… no, he replied. Tis the uh… it is a nameless spirit. He paused, his usual veneer of calm failing him somewhatbut he assured them. Sir Henry looked little in the way of convinced. Thomas continued: Are you male or female, spirit? The planchette made its way towards the number six. The group exchanged puzzled looks as the piece moved towards the number one and then returned back to six. Six one six What kind of answer is that? asked young Marcy. I am most confused! All eyes locked on Thomas. Well, my lady, one can only assume our initial question is rather frivolous to this particular spirit. I suggest we continue in order to gather as much information as we possibly can. Sir Henry scoffed dismissively and was met with a disapproving look from Lady Appleby. For years, Thomas had led his clients into a merry dance, filling their heads and hearts with messages from the silent spirits. He felt little in the way of remorse for taking payment so deceitfully for his customers all returned home happy. Do you have a message for us, O spirit? Thomas continued, adding a little dramatic flair to the proceedings. Yet again, the planchette followed the familiar pattern of crossing six, one, and six.
Sir Henry pulled his hand away angrily. Tis a lie! He plays us for fools in the hope of keeping us here long into the night. Tis a hunger for coin, is it not? The ladies removed their fingers abruptly, leaving a bewildered Thomas touching the now motionless wooden tool. Of course not! I have merely opened the gates of communication to the other side. It is not I who decides what the spirits have to say! Then prove it for us, kind sir mocked Sir Henry. Ask the next question without the touch of any upon that blasted thing. If it moves, I will pay for this whole charade myself twice over! Ordinarily, this sort of challenge would require the use of one of his more dramatic parlour tricks. However, he knew he was not the one dictating the movement of the planchette, and he was fairly confident that neither were any of his guests. Ignoring the feeling of unease that crept into his belly, he decided to take Sir Henry up on his boast. Six, one, six means nothing to us here, oh spirit. Do you have anything useful to tell? Thomas asked, his eyes meeting Sir Henrys glare. The planchette began to rotate, gathering speed with each revolution until a faint high-pitched whistle emanated from the centre of the board. Oh my! shrieked young Marcy. Make it stop, begged Lady Appleby, her hands covering her ears. The whistle increased in volume and pitch until it was barely audible, becoming a painful sensation that drilled its way into his skull. Marcy cried and Lady Appleby mouthed something incoherent. Sir Henry merely sat transfixed, eyes locked on the madness unfolding before them. There was a loud crack and Sir Henry spilled backwards from his chair, screaming. The whirling wooden tool was gone. Sir Henry staggered to his feet, the left side of his face a mass of blood, wood and gore the planchette embedded firmly into his eye socket. In a rage, he tore it from his eye with a sickening squelch, grabbed the wooden board and broke it across his knee. God damn you Thomas, and your parlour tricks. I will see that you pay for this! Spattered with blood, Marcy fled from the room screeching. Clutching his face and taking a weeping Lady Appleby by the arm, Sir Henry turned his back to Thomas. I Im sorry, offered Thomas, but the dark edge of the room took them from sight.
The days that followed were filled with an air of unease and anxiousness, the nights even more so. Something lingered in the air still, something born unto the mortal realm on that wretched night, and there it dwelt alongside Thomas. The air in the house hung heavy with dread. Food quickly spoiled, plant life wilted in a matter of hours, and guests frequented the house less and less. Yet, Thomas pushed the strange occurrences to the back of his mind. When questioned about the strong odour of sulphur that permeated the property, he pointed to poor sanitation and heavy rainfall. When the incessant scratching sounds were queried, he laid the blame on a particularly severe infestation of rats. Harder to explain still was the reoccurring six, one, six that appeared etched into furniture, daubed on walls, and lay cut into Thomas own flesh. As days blurred into nights and weeks passed with no sign of mysterious activity ceasing, Thomas became increasingly frail. Sleep seldom granted him reprieve, his dreams were haunted by screams of pain. Visions of hellish creatures scrabbled towards his naked frame night after restless night, and he could no longer tell nightmare from reality. Sunlight offered little retreat. Increasingly desperate whispers in unknown tongues filled his head. Several voices clamoured for his attention, yet all he could think of was those damn numbers. His world was crumbling and his sanity hung by mere threads. For a man previously so stout in his belief that the afterlife was myth, Thomas realised that his personal life had become a terrifying case study into the existence of evil beyond the mortal plane.
Thomass associate and only remaining friend, Joseph Whyte, requested a small public demonstration of Thomass skills after discovering how far he had fallen in health and morale. He told Thomas that he deemed it necessary to get away from the confines of the increasingly dilapidated house, and the terrible influence it seemed to hold over him. One week later, Thomas feebly picked his way through the gathered throng, towards the piled wooden crates that doubled as a makeshift stage. The Last Turnpike tavern had served the residents of Beech wood since the late 1700s and on that rain sodden night, most of the village congregated in its vast cellar for the highly anticipated public return. The air hung with the smell of wet clothes and stale beer. A hush fell upon the crowd as Silas took his place before them. Thank you, one and all, for sharing the spirits with me tonight, Thomas said aloud, a slight waver in his voice, receiving a few appreciative nods from the crowd. Indeed, it has been too long since I last communed with the deceased. I he paused, not sure how to explain the terrors that enforced his absence, feeling an unnatural breath, cold and rank on the back of his neck. He flinched, startling a few closest to him. There was a noticeable darkening within the cellar and some shuffled nervously as Thomas continued. Lest we forgot that we, the living, have ultimate mastery over the dead! The sound of tearing cotton echoed just before Thomas let out a piercing cry, falling to his knees. Strips of red darkened his back and merged into one sopping blotch. Thomas screamed again as his shirt tore once more, strips of flesh flapped wetly across his lacerated back. The patrons fled as Thomass back opened into a bloody canvas worked upon by unseen claws. Mustering what little resolve that remained, Thomas stood up and stumbled, crashing back to the stone floor. The few remaining onlookers backed away hurriedly as Thomas pushed up the stairs and into the unforgiving rainfall. Joseph Whyte remained within the cellar, frozen with a mixture of fear and intrigue. He alone had witnessed the spectral attack in its entirety, his eyes now fixed on the blood that glistened across the crates. Pushing disbelief aside, he hurried out of the deserted tavern after Thomas. Although rain lashed heavily at the cobbles, Joseph was still able to make out the trail of blood leading toward the barbers quarters further along the street. The door sat ajar, broken and stained. A scream of anguish rang from within the darkness of the building. Joseph raised his lamp and moved into the gloom of the barbershop. Another cry from deep within the shop echoed through the corridor. Razor blades and scissors shimmered in the lamplight as Joseph made his way deeper into the darkness. Something wet and rubbery caught under his heel. He reached down and peeled it off his shoe. Stay the hell away from me! Thomas screamed, and then let out a cry of suffering that rattled Joseph to his very core. The lamp illuminated a cowering Thomas holding a razor, already halfway through the cartilage of his left ear. The side of his face a gushing mask of red. I can still hear them! Make them stop Make them stop MAKE THEM STOP! he wailed, continuing to work the razor through cartilage. Dread overcame Joseph as he looked at whatever he had stepped on. A severed ear fell from his trembling hand. Thomas held a freshly removed body part up to the lamp, grinning pathetically. I can still hear them, he cried. I can still…hear them
P8) Dr. Rutherford was proud of his patients. He believed in the quality of mental distress. His beloved Arlington Asylum elevated his practice from a mere hospital for the mentally disturbed into a pioneering centre of a psych nological research. His interest was heightened at the news of a patients arrival, one who demonstrated signs of demonic possession. Nonsense, of course, but another prized research subject never the less. And one he was eager to get his metaphorical teeth into, considering how many doctors had given up on the man, transferring him from institution to institution. The patients cell lay on the deepest floor of Arlington Asylum, a necessity for some of the more vocal and dangerous. This is Mr. Farraday, said one of the burly orderlies. You may want to be careful with him, Dr. Ratherford, he added, unbolting the thick iron door. Thomas, curled into a tight ball into the corner of his cell, frantically chewed at his wrist. A small pool of blood formed at his side where he rocked back and forth, eyes fixed at nothing. The walls were coated in excrement and the numbers six, one, six were daubed onto the dull grey brickwork. The smell of faeces and copper hung heavily in the air. Treat his wounds and restrain him, Dr. Ratherford said. I recommend heavy sedation. If I deem him as unfit for study, as I suspect he may well be, well arrange for a lobotomy. The orderlies nodded. Silas continued to suckle greedily at his wrist, his eyes appearing empty. He shook as though his head rang with a never ending chorus of the damned.