The Visitor (20) 

The Visitor (20)

The Story of Sade the Gathering Ghost

Orlando Blueman told me this tale before his tragic death in my arms:

“I am Orlando, a wanderer through the cities of Neb, and I meet up with many strange adventures, of which this is one.

Four times had I visited Crane, a city in the south-west corner of the plain of Neb, but on the fifth visit I swore that I would never return. As per usual, the white flagstones bore the weight of many tramping horses, and the tiny wooden chalets glinted in the light of a cold, sickly sun, as I entered the massive iron gate of the city of Crane…”

“I thought the sun was hot in Neb … so the myth-tellers would have it,” roared the squawling babes as they listened to the tale from their cots and prams.

Sod off, you twits, and listen to the tale as Orlando himself told it:

“I headed straight for the inn which had become my customary abode – the Golden Helicon. I passed the gilded fronds of the Splitzer trees (very common in Crane) – they brushed against my face leaving a pale green hue in the skin and giving me the appearance of one who is either sick or envious.

At last I arrived at the blackdoor of the Golden Helicon, a largish building of blackwood presenting a bold front to the surrounding bleak mountains of Spart.

‘Orlando! How nice to see you back in Crane!’ shouted Baz, the inn-keeper, his head poking out of the top window.

‘Hello Baz! Ooh! Room for me, eh?’ I answered with a friendly wave of my hand.

‘Of course, of course,’ he shouted back.

I entered through the blackdoor and, once inside, memory flooded back: the hard tumbler-shaped chairs, the crazy pictures depicting strange, mythical battles, the thick, soft orange floor-covering and, above all, Susanna, Baz’s daughter, who rose from her chair in surprise at seeing me.

‘O, Orlando, how nice of you to come and see us again!’ she said, a slight flush seeping into her face. At this time, Susanna was 18 and was beautiful in the extreme: her soft, red, pouting lips parting to reveal perfectly shaped, pearly teeth glinting in the light of the log fire; a sensually fashioned bosom heaving to the rhythm of girlish sighs; delicate, rose-pink, blossoming cheeks; Madonna-like limbs; and golden, shimmering hair flowing in undulating streamlets down her back. She was the perfection, it seemed, of human symmetry.”

“I expect sunshine pours from her bum,” chortled some sarcastic listener.

“At this moment, Baz entered the room, and thumping me on the back, shook my hand with friendly gusto.

‘How long will you be staying, Orlando?’

‘As long as you will have me!’

‘Fine! Fine!’

Soon, I became used to living at the Golden Helicon and, as each day passed, I grew more and more fond of luscious Susanna, not to say, in love. Each evening, it was our custom – that is, the three of us (Baz’s wife having died three years before) – to sit around the log fire and tell stories to while away the long night. These stories were, by custom, gruesome and macabre, since we took delight in that ecstatic shiver of fear that horror will send down one’s spine. On one peculiar night, it was Susanna’s turn to tell the tale. All day, I had noticed something strange about…”

“There *was* sunshine up her bum!”

“Ha! Ha! Ha!”

“…the beauty, intrinsic in her form. It seemed marred by an intangible mist of evil or decay. A hobmadonna mask, as it were. Her eyes were blurred and the skin seemed paler than usual. However, at the correct hour, we all sat down and listened to Susanna:

‘Once upon a time there was a man and his wife who truly loved each other. They lived in a cottage near a dark, evil forest. One day, a strange man, clad in a black cape, came out of that forest, seeking shelter in their cottage. Being a kind-hearted couple, they welcomed him in and gave him plenty to eat. Whilst he was eating the luscious fruits that they had provided for him, he told them a story:

“A story of a man who continually found a corpse at his threshold every morning. Each day the corpse was freshly killed with its throat meticulously sawn through. At first he was shocked but, gradually becoming accustomed to the phenomenon, he disposed systematically of the corpse each day – by feeding it to his pet rabbits and cleaning the step of the congealed blood. This continued for many years – day after day he carried out the clearing up operation. But, one day, the corpse was not there!! The man ranted and raved. He tore at his hair in frustration – for he saw the sheer horror of the clean, dry, white step (dry and white as the night before) gleaming in the light of dawn. Immediately, he cut his own throat and fell on to the blaringly white threshold step. His neighbours found him thus and wondered why he had killed himself, for doubtlessly this was the case. They searched his house for evidence … and found a particular book, the contents of which made them presume that it had sent him mad. In fact, the contents were decidedly soul-upheaving, as I will show…”’

“You’re hotching your potch with these ludicrous stories within stories!” grinned some insidious joker.


‘”It told of the story of a mother and son who lived together on the edge of a huge, dark forest. The son became progressively mad – and here is a quotation from the book:

“Josiah clutched at the grimy handle of his dagger, sweated and advanced towards her. He advanced towards her. Towards her, as she screamed her lungs out. He grabbed her black hair in his paw and pulled. He slit the skin of her forehead, sliced straight down the front of her body.

‘Do you feel pain, Mother?’ Josiah asked.

But she could not answer. She was dead. Dead as an unwound clock. The son, slavering at his mouth, chewed her finger-ends and, finding the taste to his liking, proceeded to make a meal of his mother’s corpse. For days, he picked at her bones – as he would at the carcass of a roast chicken. The remaining bones he gave to his dog…”

There were many other quotations, this being the mildest, which would have sent any stable man as mad as a castrated geeKen. The man from the forest there finished the story and the kind couple stared at him in wonder. Little by little, the man slid out of his black cape and revealed himself as a black demon with a twist of mockery on his lips. He giggled and said:

You are mother and son and you have been living as man and wife! Little did you know!’

The couple were shocked for it was true that she had lost her son to a tribe of gypsies at an early age. The demon giggled again and pounded on the woman, intent on sucking her blood. This having been accomplished, he force-fed lumps of her flesh to the whimpering son, whom the demon later sucked…”

It was at that point that Susanna finished her story. Baz and I were undoubtedly shocked – for this story surpassed in horror any that had been previously served up. We were not titillated by subtle terror but disgusted by Susanna’s perverted turn of mind, so incongruous with her angelic body.

‘Susanna, that was not a ‘nice’ story,’ blurted out Baz.

‘I am not a nice person,’ she whispered malignantly.

‘What has come over you, girl?’ cried the startled father.

‘Yes, dear Susanna, have you a demon presence within you?’ I asked tentatively.

I must have been very near the truth for she immediately pounced on her father and chopped his head off with the carving knife. His head rolled over the carpet and came to rest at my feet,

‘Susanna! Susanna! Cease this mischief!’ I screamed.

Forthwith, she pounced on me and commenced to fill my mouth with vomit that was at this moment spirting from her mouth. She crammed it in so hard that I couldn’t breathe. This I imagined was torture beyond all torture, even worse than the filing of my skull in Rull. I pushed her off me as best I could and lurched towards the door with her hanging on to my ankles. I vomited out her own vomit on her wailing face and, released from her infernal grasp, I burst out of the door into the streets of Crane. I ran and ran and ran. Am I still running, Susanna close on my heels?”

And that is my contribution to the gathering.

(written 1974)
to be continued...

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