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Sevenmouth (Madame Musicmouth Part 3)(unreviewed)[]

It was a slow, mild Fall evening. We were sitting in our local Irish pub, The Lion and the Lamb, watching a beautiful young blonde woman on stage. It was karaoke night, and she was singing “In Dreams” by Roy Orbison. The song was mesmerising; her voice was like an angel’s.

I suppose that’s how we ended up talking about dreams.

“Has anyone been having any strange dreams lately?” asked Selena.

I looked at her and the others at my company, pondering the question.

The others around my table, Father Ethan Drake, the mayor himself Simon Montague and his wife Margaret, all seemed to be thinking about their own respective dreams as well. The first to speak was, of course, Selena Havana, who brought up the question herself. She was always one to bring up and start a conversation around our group. So we all listened.

“I had a dream that my husband returned from his vacation, and I was lying awake in bed, waiting for him, but he hadn’t noticed I wasn’t asleep. He crept by my bed, but then moments later I heard him crying. I turned my head on the pillow to look at him, and instead I found this beautiful golden angel mask sitting on the pillow next to me, staring upwards, and my husband was crying over it. Now, what do you supposed that meant?”

Selena was a firm believer that dreams had some sort of spiritual meaning. As a medical doctor, one would think that I would immediately be sceptical of such things. But having studied psychology, I found that dreams do indeed have some kind of meaning in the subconscious. I told her my theory as the others around the table seemed to be prepared with their own little tales of dreams.

“I think,” I told her, “that your dream means that you’re afraid of your husband’s deception, or ‘wearing a mask’ that’s hiding something from you, like his true self. Maybe you’re worried that while he’s away he’s been unfaithful to you?”

“Oh, that’s just silly,” she nonchalantly shrugged off my suggestion, “he’d never do that to me. He’s as faithful as they come! Besides, he’ll certainly be hearing from me if he ever did anything like that.”

I simply nodded along. There wasn’t much use arguing after all. Selena was always so cheerful and optimistic, and I wouldn’t want to be the one to upset her by pushing the subject further.

“I had a dream last night actually.” Margaret piped up. She was usually a very stern woman, but the way she said that statement seemed to imply that what she was about to talk about greatly disturbed her.

“Well, I say “dream”, it was more like a nightmare.

"I was in heaven, you see. Not dead or anything, just observing everything. It was like a golden paradise. Men and women clad in white robes, sitting around a table and eating as beautiful choir music played, harps in the background, everything you’d expect from such a tranquil scene.

“Then everything was disrupted when this…beast appeared out of nowhere, crashing through the marble walls and started charging around, knocking everything and everyone about.

“It was hard to describe…it sort of looked like a rhino, that’s the closest thing I could compare it to, only its horn WAS its head! And it was this odd colour, that was like a pool of bacteria. It came straight for me, and I had a golden spear in my hand, that I shoved straight into the neck of the monster.

“It stopped dead in its tracks, falling over and bleeding out, dying right in front of me. All the people looked shocked as they stared at me. I started apologising to them, like I did something wrong, only for them to start celebrating. They started stripping their clothes and writhing around naked in the blood, doing God-knows-what with each other until it was like all their bodies were merging into one blood-soaked lump of flesh.”

We all sat silent after she finished her story. We were all shocked, especially Margaret herself. She wasn’t one for having such a vivid imagination or would speak of such things. Her husband, Simon, put a hand on her shoulder to comfort her, before speaking up.

“It was just a dream, my dear. Nothing wrong with having a strange dream.” He then turned to me.

“What about it, Doc? Care to dissect this one’s meaning?”

“To be honest, I haven’t a clue.” I replied. I looked to Father Drake, who was strangely quiet.

“What about you, Father? Have any strange dreams to share with us?”

Father Drake simply nodded as he looked to me, then everyone else, as he picked up his glass and drank the last drop of port from the bottom, before putting the glass down, and began his own recounting.

“I dreamed of a great flood. Much like Noah’s flood. But it was no natural flood, I tell ya. There was something out to sea causing the waves. A massive thing that I can barely describe. It caused the waves to crash over the shore, swamping everything in sight, as this…thing began to walk towards the shore. I could do nothing but stare at it, trying to work out what it was. Like some kind of upright crustacean, with a belly full of tentacles, and its head, if that’s what it even was, was like this long fleshy trumpet, bellowing out this horrific sound that rattled the skies. It was horrible.”

He looked around at all of us, hoping his story satisfied us to some capacity. I know by profession that Father Drake is a God-fearing man, so I assumed the dream had some sort of biblical significance, the same as Margaret’s and to some extent Selena’s.

Before I could recount my own dream, I turned to notice that the song had changed. Now it was some new-age trance song, but the same girl was still singing. I turned back, only for Simon to pipe in with his own dream story.

“Okay, this is a doozy. So I was in the park just outside from here, and I was sitting at a park bench, overlooking this city I had never seen before. Then you, Doc, came and sat by me. Only your face was all blurry, and…”

“The city blew up.” I said before he could finish his story. At that moment, I could feel the small beads of sweat on my brow, as the dream seemed all too familiar.

“Y-yes,” he responded. “But how did you-”

“I had the same dream you did.” I told him. “Only I was facing YOU at the bench, and your face was blurred.”

We both sort of sat there, staring at each other, trying to process what had just been said. We both had the same dream. But from different perspectives. What the hell did that mean?

It was then that I had something of an epiphany, like waking up from my own dream myself.

I looked at the group around me, and had to ask them a simple question.

“How did we all become friends? How…do we know each other?”

I looked at the others around the table, all of them had faces of both concern and mistrust, as they all looked at one another, all of us in the same sense of bewildering paranoia.

I couldn’t remember. And neither could they. It was at that very moment that something shattered between us all. The once normal threads of friendship had been severed, and suddenly nothing felt right.

We all fell silent as I looked back at the singer.

She was giving us, no…ME, the most haunting stare I have ever seen.

She knew.

She knew I was starting to remember.

I had to get out of there. I told the others I had to go home and feed my cat. It was the first excuse that came to my head. I left the bar and immediately felt eyes all over me. I was sure multiple people from within were staring at me, whispering, as I left.

Several left the pub after me, and headed down my same road. Greenhaven was a small place, and after a while you get to know everyone there. At first I thought it was my supposed ‘friends’ following me, but then I realised I did NOT know these people.

But I was relieved when after a while of walking, they turned down a different road.

I was already out of breath, and having no idea what to do, I entered my empty house and fed Mahika, my grey Maine Coon. Her company that night kept me from losing myself to the sudden influx of thoughts and memories I never knew I had. After a while, I even questioned myself as to why I left the pub in such a hurry to begin with, right after asking a pretty inappropriate question now that I thought about it.

I thought about calling them, just to tell them I was fine.

I wasn’t fine, but maybe lying to them might bring them some kind of comfort, to them and myself.

But I couldn’t bring myself to answer the phone. What if it was bugged? What if someone was listening in?

I just sat there in my chair, little Mahika on my lap, as I looked out of the window to the passersby. At any moment I was expecting one of them to lean in and stare at me. I had enough. I put Mahika on the floor and went to close the curtains.

That’s when I saw it outside, on the lamppost just outside my window.

A flyer for Sevenmouth, with the same girl from the pub on the front, like a poster child. It felt as if she was taunting me with that smile of hers.

Sevenmouth must have something to do with it.

That name keeps revolving around my head, like it means something.

Sevenmouth, Sevenmouth.

Judging by the poster, this was obviously a cult, preying on the poor and down-trodden dregs of society, with the promise of spiritual help and guidance.

But there was something deeper. Something that affected me personally.

My memories. Why was it so hard to remember how me and my friends first met, and why do I feel it connects with this cult? I had to find out. I just had to.

My name is Horace Kharagosh. Though I’m often known by my nickname, “Dr. Rabbit”, since I am a doctor and my surname is Hindi for ‘Rabbit’. Plus my friends sometimes say that I’m “jumpy”. This is the name I usually go by when I’m online as a little private joke. But I’m not here to discuss myself.

What I have here are a list of transcripts, documents and personal retellings that all revolve around The Sevenmouth Cult. I wish to expose these people and find a way to stop them before it’s too late for all of us. They’re already worming their way into our society, posed on many different fronts under different names. I’ve compiled everything in this loose document that I hope someone will find and believe my story.

I’ve already shared the transcripts of the Youtube “SuperHotTea” and the diary entries of one Carl Whitlock. But I hope these accounts as I write them will be enough to convince those to be on the lookout. They’re everywhere, and they’re only growing, like weeds.

Some time in the future, I don’t know when, but a new presidential candidate from the Democratic party will make his way to center stage. I don’t know what he will promise to the world or the American people, but whatever it is, it will change the course of the government for an end goal I can’t begin to fathom. The candidate’s name will be Frederick James Cardinal. On an undisclosed date, he will beat the votes of his Conservative opponent by a landslide and secure his place at the White House, having complete control over the people. But he himself will be nothing but a puppet, and the puppeteer will safely hide in the shadows, pulling the strings.

How do I know about this?

How can I predict the future?

Because it was given to me.

Operation: Gilded Cage is the name of the document, provided by one Mr Sleep, my source for all these conspiracies against what seemed like a fairly innocent if not overly-zealous religious sect, until I started to realise how deep this thing went.

Memories started coming back to me as a tidal wave of information. Seeing the faces of my friends for what seemed like the first time in years, it started to bring everything back, And that name, Sevenmouth. It kept on appearing in my mind ever since that fateful day in the bar. Now I can’t concentrate on my work. I keep calling sick and returning home, taking headache tablets just to calm myself down. I then did some research, and found out that Sevenmouth had a website. There was nothing much on there, except for a few insane ramblings about aliens and deities, and “believing in yourself” and “help the world be a better place” and stuff like that. Seemed like a bizarre cult right off the bat. Then I noticed a link to a chatroom. It just appeared there on the bottom left of the screen. Now I’m not exactly the most knowledgeable when it comes to computers, but even I knew that this chatroom had to be pretty old. I clicked on it after running a virus check, and was brought onto a blank black screen. And immediately was contacted by someone calling themselves “Mr Sleep.

This is roughly how the conversation went with me and Mr Sleep:

- Mr Sleep: Hello - Dr. Rabbit: Hello? Who’s this? - Mr Sleep: A friend. I see you want to know more about the Sevenmouth Organisation. Strange, aren’t they? - Dr. Rabbit: I wouldn’t really know. I just came across them now. - Mr Sleep: Don’t play dumb with me. You know more than you think. Or don’t you remember? - Dr. Rabbit: What do you mean? What are you talking about? - Mr Sleep: Maybe you’ll remember in due time. Right now, there are some things you need to know about Sevenmouth. Namely a person named Frederick James Cardinal. - Dr. Rabbit: I’ve never heard of the person. Who is he? - Mr Sleep: He is a high ranking Cherub, and if we don’t stop him, he’ll be the future president. - Dr. Rabbit: A high ranking what? - Mr Sleep: A codename for the members of Sevenmouth. Start telling people about this man and this so-called “organisation”. They may not believe you, but I can provide evidence to this organisation’s doings. I will send you two packages I’ve managed to obtain. Take them and read them discreetly. If need be, go somewhere else. Then upload them onto the internet. Show everyone the horrors. - Dr. Rabbit: But why me? - Mr Sleep: Currently, you’re the only one I trust. - Dr. Rabbit: Okay? But how do I know these people aren’t going to be led right to me? How do I know this isn’t some kind of set up? - Mr Sleep: This channel is hidden. Besides, you’ll just have to trust me. First I need to show you just how ruthless these people are. Then I need to jog your memory. It might take some time to get you to remember everything, such as my real name. But rest assured, you do know me.

And so it was that I received two packages from this guy calling himself “Mr Sleep”. I found them in the backyard. Not sure how they got there without me knowing, but I cautiously opened them up back inside the house. The first package I opened was small. It turned out to be a journal, written by someone named Carl Whitlock, an ex-con turned into a Sevenmouth fanatic. The second package was larger, and was revealed to be a laptop. On it were several video files, belonging to a young woman named Michelle Whitehead, who appears to have met a similar fate to Carl.

I knew what I had to do.

After reading through them, I uploaded them as instructed from the apparent safety of my house. I did not feel safe doing this, and I still don’t feel safe. But if this is to ensure some kind of safety for the future of anyone else reading this, then so be it.

I was still very lost, and I had way more questions than answers. Answers I desperately wanted for myself. I thought about contacting Montague or his wife. For some reason I didn’t think Selena or Drake would be trustworthy enough to handle such information, but Simon was a figure of authority. He could have some influence over this. But I put myself off calling him. I don’t know why I felt so damn paranoid, but I just kept thinking to myself “what if he’s in on this too?”

A few days later, I received another message from Mr Sleep.

- Mr Sleep: Well done. - Dr. Rabbit: So what now? - Mr Sleep: Patience. I will provide you with more evidence to jog your memory, but first I must collect it. It’s a risky job, but it must be done, and you are my only confidant. - Dr. Rabbit: I need to know more information. - Mr Sleep: The only other bit of information I can give you is of the former and current leaders of the cult, as well as a few names of current members I managed to dig up.

The former leader was named Abigail Delacroix. She was the sister of Beau Delacroix, an aerospace engineer stationed in Bordeaux, France, who took it upon herself to raise her niece after Beau and his wife, Grace Delacroix, died in a traffic collision. She took her niece, named Clarisse, to America when she was only seven and moved to Greenhaven County, Massachusetts, where she began to homeschool Clarisse. This included teaching her how to sing, dance and act, all of which she was supposedly highly gifted at, with her aunt going far enough to label her as a ‘child prodigy’.

When she was fourteen, Abigail sent her to highschool, hoping her talents would win over students and teachers alike, but what she didn’t count on was that her talents would provoke the awe and ire of many. Jealousy led to hatred and bullying for the young girl, who grew up having very mixed feelings about those around her, from admiration from others, especially teachers, to vicious rumors spread about her person. By the time she was seventeen, she set up a Youtube channel called Madame Musicmouth, where she talked about her hobbies and talents, but soon her aunt’s influence began to creep in. The girl was being groomed by her to essentially succeed her role as cult leader. Her divided opinions on those at school only strengthened her bond with her aunt, who taught her the evils of the world but also that she should pity those who do not fully embrace kindness, as life itself may have been unkind to them. She taught Clarisse that she was to be a sort of ‘guiding light’ to others, and this began to show in her videos. In case her name doesn’t sound at all familiar to you, which I hope it should, Abigail Delacroix was the one that assembled you and your ‘good friends’ into this cult to begin with. Yes, my friend. YOU were a member of Sevenmouth.

I was taken aback as you could imagine. Such a revelation caused me great discomfort. I felt myself shiver at the thought. Not necessarily being part of a cult, but the fact that I couldn’t remember a bloody thing about it! Not the people who were part of it, nor my own contribution.

That name though, Abigail Delacroix. It rang a few bells, and now I was starting to envision a woman by that name. A tall, blonde-haired woman wearing a long white operatic dress, with soul-piercing blue eyes. I remembered how she rarely, if ever, smiled. She had this cold authoritative presence about her. I remember now.

I had to press for more details. Mr Sleep said that aside from Abigail and Clarisse, the only other names he could come up with were two of what he referred to as “Mouths”, the highest ranking members of the cult.

This first name sent to me was Tom Gundschau. According to the message, he was a German ex-porn director that started his own website and casting studio, though had a penchant for sadism, bizarre and dangerous fetishes and abusing animals. This man kept a handful of dedicated followers that he put through hell to make his videos; his own personal 120 Days of Sodom that he shared online for all to see. Eventually his site was taken down and he was arrested and charged with God knows how many different offences.

He was apparently released on an undisclosed date and travelled to the states, where he became a devout follower of Sevenmouth, after joining an apparent ‘rehabilitation’ program that, according to the Sevenmouth website, was meant to help past criminals find redemption through acts of community service.

The second name on the list was one I thought I’d heard before, but I can’t remember from where. His name was Vincent Carvel. Apparently a young guy fresh from a British university, who was a student in medical science and was accused of murdering his girlfriend in the woods outside his house. Much like Gundschau, he too went to be reformed by Sevenmouth, and ended up joining them as a high-ranking member, or so the message states. What made him different from Gundschau, according to Mr Sleep, was that he had a much bigger part to play.

When I asked him what he meant by that, Mr Sleep just told me “all in due time”, as first he needed to get the evidence to send to me.

I asked him how he came by this evidence in the first place. All he said was “I have my ways”.

After Mr Sleep disappeared from my laptop, I laid back in my bed, with little Mahika keeping me company by my side. I started to remember the day we all met. Abigail introduced us to each other outside of some large building, our cars parked outside. It was the first time I had met the mayor, Simon, after I had just moved into town. We clicked as friends almost straight away, shaking hands and swapping a few awkward jokes to break the ice. I then met his wife, Margaret, a stern but friendly woman who promised we’d all get together sometime for a drink. I then met the Havanas, who owned an estate just outside of town. Selena was incredibly cheerful, while Luis had a dashing appearance that couldn’t help but remind me of Gomez Addams. Lastly there was Father Ethan Drake, the town’s pastor. He was known to be a little eccentric, but a kind soul, who was willing to help those in need. I shook all their hands as we all greeted each other.

But there was one other person. Someone I couldn’t quite remember. I’m sure there was someone else there at the time we all met.

But who?

It was raining hard when I arrived at the bar near the border of Providence, Rhode Island. It was a lonely street; not many cars passing by and even less people about. Right next door to the bar was a dingy old building that backed out into a narrow alleyway. The building was empty and derelict; must’ve been some old convenient store that closed down years ago.

In hindsight, picking such a seedy location wasn’t such a great idea, but I wanted to keep a low profile. Maybe I just watch too many movies. Speaking of watching too many movies, I didn’t trust my surroundings any longer, so for protection I managed to buy a gun, a Glock 17 with a mag of 17 rounds.

I also had managed to, through some scrutiny, obtain the contact details of Chloe and Roger Whitehead, the parent’s of Michelle, AKA “SuperHotTea”, the young Youtuber who had been making videos about the Sevenmouth cult before going missing. Luckily they were living in the Tri-state area of New England, so were able to meet up with me no problem, aside from the typical traffic problems. The couple arrived around seven. Both were around my age, though the father looked older with a grey balding head. They had a distant look in their eyes that I couldn’t really blame them for having. Both were in a strange place meeting a strange person after losing someone close to them. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how to approach this myself. But if I were to form allies in all this craziness, these two are my best bet.

We all sat in silence for a while. The TV at the bar blared out some news about the presidential campaigns, and I half-expected to see the name Frederick James Cardinal appear at some point, but not before someone at the bar turned it over to watch sports instead. Both Roger and Chloe followed my gaze to the TV then back at the table, a little confused, before going back to their drinks, just waiting for me to say something.

I knew it was my job to initiate this meeting, but my nerves were getting to me. There weren’t too many people in the bar with us, aside from what I assumed were a few locals. So without further delay, I initiated the talk.

“I’m sorry to have brought you two here, but this is about your daughter.”

“Do you have information on her?” asked Chloe. “Do you know what happened to her? Please tell us!”

“I’ll be as blunt as I can, and I’m sorry to be the one to inform you both of this. But I’m afraid your daughter may be part of a cult.”

They both looked at me with anguish and horror in their eyes. Roger looked ready to punch me square in the face just for bringing anything like this up. I decided to elaborate further with the transcripts I printed off, as well as the videos saved on my laptop by their daughter, both of which were in my briefcase. I felt nervous setting it down on the table, like at any moment someone was going to approach us and just snatch it away from us. It didn’t help that across the bar, seated at a stall, was a strange man in a navy blue sweater and glasses, chomping away on some peanuts as he eerily watched us at our table. I wanted to say something, but I decided to play it as cool as I could, and just lowered my voice.

“I know this is going to be hard for you to understand, but your daughter has been indoctrinated into a cult calling itself Sevenmouth.”

“I knew those fuckers had something to do with this!” Roger erupted, “They’ve been targeting us ever since Michelle disappeared. Practically stalking us. And what’s worse, I think the authorities are in on it too!”

“It’s true.” Chloe backed her husband up. “It all started with the cops. When she went on the run, we phoned the police to search for her. Now a few stayed behind to ask some questions and do routine stuff, but after a while, the few that started acting really strangely.”

“How so?” I asked.

“Well,” she continued “This one cop started hanging around our house, in a way that made it look like he was patrolling. Like he was guarding us. I would see his car outside, day and night. He just wouldn’t leave us alone. He would always have this big smile that just seemed…unnatural. He would smile and wave to us whenever we went outside.”

“He was a creep!” Said Roger, before taking a sip of his drink, shaking his head. “We would catch him sometimes at night. We would be asleep one minute, then the next we hear this commotion outside our bedroom window. We’d open the curtains to find HIM standing there! Just staring into our house, smiling like a freak, before he would just walk away like nothing happened!” He took another longer gulp of his drink before he continued. “I knew they were up to something. The cops had to be in on it. They didn’t do jackshit to find our little girl. You know what they did instead? They kept giving us these “self-help” flyers to some organisation that, now that you mention it, was called Sevenmouth! If what you’re saying is true and this is some kind of cult, and those damn cops are in on it too, then by God…”

“What can we even do? Where is this cult even?” Chloe asked.

“It’s actually situated in the next state over. In a town called Greenhaven. If you two agree to follow me, I can lead you to the town and we can see about getting your daughter back. We would have to be careful though. This cult could possibly be dangerous. If the local police are indeed in on it, then we have no idea how far this thing spreads.”

“It’s like those Scientologist nutballs.” Roger exclaimed. “They’re everywhere.”

“It feels worse than that, somehow,” chimed Chloe. “I mean, the cops being part of it? That’s just messed up. Ah to hell with all of this, I just want our little girl back. Please, help us out in any way you can.”

“I’ll try my best.” I told them both. “But I can’t promise anything. I doubt we can just walk up to the front door and ask for your daughter back. These people seem dangerous. After all, they forced your daughter into the cult against her will. I doubt they’d be willing to comply with us.”

The couple agreed, and that night we discussed the possibilities of what to do. We decided if we couldn’t trust the local authorities, we would try to contact federal agents to lead an investigation into this cult, and would explain to them how it has been possibly affecting the tri-state area. We knew the preparation of all of this was going to take weeks or months even, if the feds would even take our call seriously at all. But as we talked into the night, I couldn’t help but feel watched. I knew it was that guy across the bar, with the glasses and dark sweater, eating peanuts as he just casually observed us. What did he want? Should I confront him? I didn’t have to say anything as Roger piped in. “Don’t look now, but that man has been staring at us all night. I don’t feel safe.”

“Neither do I” said Chloe. “Perhaps we should move this elsewhere?”

I felt my heart sink a little. Maybe this meeting in a bar was a bad idea after all.

“Sure.” I agreed, taking my briefcase and as calmly as we could exited the premises, still followed by the gaze of the guy in the sweater. As we opened the doors to exit the bar, we were greeted by a police vehicle, parked right outside on the curb. A police officer was already standing outside of the car, his hands across his lap with a massive smile on his face. Immediately, Roger and Chloe froze in a state of panic. “It’s him.” Chloe managed to whisper to me. “That’s the cop!”

“Where have you two been?” The Smiling Cop asked. “You should’ve been at home. Everything is under control.”

“No it isn’t!” Roger yelled back, “Our Michelle has been taken by some whackos and you guys haven’t been doing jackshit about it! Why hasn’t anything been done? Tell us!”

The Smiling Cop, unflinching from Roger’s yelling, simply repeated himself. Though his tone was slightly less jovial and more serious. “You should be at home. Everything is under control.”

He then lifted out a hand towards the couple, seemingly ignoring me entirely.

“Come with me, I’ll escort you back home.”

It all happened so fast, but Roger was by the side of his wife one minute, before being on top of the Smiling Cop the next, pummelling his face in with his fists while spitting and cursing at him.

I guess I didn’t know the extent of this deranged cop’s torment, but all that pent-up rage towards him was evident. A part of me was fearful that this would get us all arrested for sure, but after hearing of shady authority figures such as this and witnessing them firsthand, I can safely say that being arrested was the least of my concern at the time being.

It didn’t take long before Chloe joined her husband, grabbing the cop’s arm and yanking at it, screaming obscenities at him. I couldn’t see the cop’s face, but something told me the lunatic was still smiling the whole time. He didn’t make a sound, not even when his face was beaten to a bloody pulp and he was barely alive on the side of the road.

At that moment, we noticed that all the other bar patrons had seen the couple’s assault of a police officer through the windows. Some had their phones out, recording everything. I decided it would be best to lead the couple away from the situation, before more cops showed up. I led them through the alleyway behind the bar, hoping to run to the other side and make it to the hotel I was staying in. There was no way the cops would arrive in time, I thought. All we had to do was make it to the hotel, get into the car and drive away and hope to lose them. I hadn’t noticed at the time, but Roger had taken the Smiling Cop’s gun with him. It seemed like he understood the extent of our situation before I even did, despite me buying a gun out of sheer paranoia.

But all that preparation couldn’t prepare us for a horrific turn of fate, as a black car suddenly turned the corner of the alleyway, like it was waiting for us there, and barrelled down the narrow passage towards us, headlights fully on and practically blinding us. All three of us were taken aback. We stepped back away from the light, as the doors to the car opened up. Out stepped three bald-headed men in black clothing. Two of them holding handguns, trained on us. “Stop! We’re federal agents! You will come with us!”

I didn’t believe them for a second. They didn’t look like federal agents to me. And even then, I wasn’t going to trust them.

At this point, I can imagine that Roger had snapped. He just wanted his girl back, and he wasn’t going to let anyone stand in his way, be it the authorities or insane cult members. He opened fire, scoring a direct headshot with one of the men, sending a cloud of red mist into the air as the bald man doubled over before collapsing to the ground. In the heat of the moment, I pulled out my gun as well, not sure if I had it in me to shoot anyone. Chloe cried out and ran back towards the bar, begging her husband to follow her. He ran backwards, still firing at the bald men in black, as I felt I had little to no choice but to join in, firing at the perpetrators as I tried to run to safety. Roger managed to impressively take down another one of the men, as the other hid behind the car door, firing blindly from cover. I’ll admit, I was impressed with Roger’s marksmanship. Perhaps he used to be in the military or had some sort of combat training. I wish I had asked him. It wasn’t until I heard Chloe scream that I turned to see that our salvation had been blocked.

He was a startling sight to behold, just standing there in the alleyway. A tall man, at least seven foot tall in height, and had a large build to match. He wore this dark blue suit and tie, but the most striking feature about him was the mask he wore. Like a blue crescent moon mask, with a stoic, emotionless face in the center. In his hand, was a large modified handgun, and he had it aimed at Roger’s head.

Poor Roger never even saw it coming.

With a loud bang, Roger’s head exploded onto the concrete wall.

Chloe’s ear-splitting scream of anguish and horror ran through my ears, as Moonface prepared to fire at me this time. From the split-second decision I had, I fired at least four or five rounds at the behemoth of a man in front of me. He staggered back, and gave me the chance to get myself into the open window of the derelict building next to me.

I tried to beckon Chloe towards me, but the poor woman was still screaming over her husband’s corpse. I watched as she fell to her knees, cradling his lifeless body in her arms, before seeing that moon-masked man’s shadow loom over her from behind the blinds of the window. I then saw poor Chloe turn and begged for her life, still sobbing as this mountainous man stood over her, gun still in hand.

“Please! Please don’t shoot! We just wanted to see our daughter! Please! Please leave me alone! Please! Ple-”

BANG!

She fell limp as a cloud of crimson burst into the air. She fell straight into the arms of Roger. I could only gasp and choke back vomit as I watched this horrific murder, realising that I just cost these two innocent people their lives by inviting them out here. And now, now I was next.

“You go and find the other one!” I heard a voice shout down from the alleyway. “I’ll clean up here.”

I saw the moon-faced freak nod before turning to face the window I had clambered into. I held my breath. Luckily the darkness must’ve shielded me, otherwise he would have shot me then and there. I moved deeper into the old dark building, pushing aside old wooden shelves and cardboard boxes to get past. I figured that this moon person was too big to fit through the window. But that didn’t stop him from peering through the window anyway. I wasn’t sure if he could see me in the dark, especially through that mask. But I was damned sure he could hear me in there, moving the furniture and boxes about. As I pushed my way through the heaps of cardboard and wooden refuse, I hear loud ringing gunshots whizzing through the air just behind me. They missed me, but only by a short amount of space. He was firing at me through the open window. But then seconds later it stopped, just as I reached the back of the shop.

He had gone around the building to try and attempt another way in, biding me some time to escape. To where, I don’t know. The other person was still outside by the car, and I only had twelve rounds left in my gun. I had no choice but to go deeper into the building, and find either a place to hide, or a spot to defend myself. Something told me I couldn’t reason with these people, especially that moon masked person. The way he just coldly executed poor Chloe and Roger sent shivers down my spine. I wasn’t going to die like that. I had to defend myself.

I managed to find a flight of stairs at the back, leading up to what I assumed was the shop owner’s old bedroom. I climbed the steps just as I heard a loud banging sound behind me. The loud rhythmic THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, as something big and heavy was colliding with the outside doors, before they suddenly burst open with the force. But by that time I had headed upstairs.

There were multiple rooms. I had to decide quickly which one to hide in. I could hear him downstairs, searching around for me, moving stuff around in the dark. I could see the glimmer of a flashlight every now and then, before the beam finally shone up towards the stairs. I was panicking now, sweat dripping off my brow as I entered the room to my left, carefully closing the door behind me so as to not make a sound. I knew he’d be coming up. I saw a wooden cabinet on the far side of the room, and decided to hide in there. It may not have been the smartest thing to do in this situation, but I was panicking like crazy. It was the only thing I could think to do at the time. My only other option was to confront this giant of a man, which I very much doubt he’d let me walk out alive.

I sat and waited in the closet for what seemed like an eternity, trying my best to breath as softly as humanly possible. I felt my heart in my throat, beating like mad, as my eyes were trained on the door handle just across the room, through the small sliver of an opening between the doors of the closet.

And there, the door handle began to turn, and the door slowly began to open, before suddenly flying open as he stood there in the doorway. He had to duck through the frame just to walk into the room, so calmly. He still had his gun in his hand. It was still dark in that room, and he was just scanning the area around him, that cold, emotionless mask with blank eyes looking all across the room as he stood blocking the doorway. Now I was shaking all over, my breathing had become nearly uncontrollable. I was moments away from a possible death. All I could think of doing was aiming my gun at the doors of the cabinet, to the giant murderous man outside in that room. There were only a small number of places for him to search, and for sure he was going to search the closet I was hiding in. And sure enough, the masked man turned to my direction, and calmly approached the closet, gun ready as he aimed at the flimsy wooden doors.

Now was my one and only chance to act.

I took my gun and emptied the entire magazine into that freak, blowing holes through the wood as I shot him multiple times. I saw him collapse to the ground. I jumped out of the cabinet and ran for my life, past his unmoving body and down the steps of the building, seeing that the doors were burst wide open. I exited the building and made my way around it, eventually getting back to the hotel without being seen. By this time, many people fled the streets upon hearing the gun shots. No one was around, at least I thought as much, to see me get into my car, gun and briefcase in hand, and drive off down the road.

Now I had nowhere to go, and had two innocent people’s blood on my hands. I had to stop off the side of the road to vomit. Now I was a fugitive, running from an insane cult hellbent on killing me and anyone who knew about its darker motives. If you didn’t join it, you were as good as dead.

The next day, I looked at the local news at the motel I was staying in. Roger and Chloe’s murders turned up on the 5 o’clock news. Reporters were attributing the shootings to a “violent gang crime”. Of course they were. Seems like Roger and Chloe were right. This cult had its hand in everything, even the police and possibly the media, to cover up these two unjust murders. The news went on to say how the two parents were looking for their daughter, who had joined said gang, and a confrontation with them led to their deaths.

I turned the TV off and looked outside the window. I had never felt so lonely, yet so surrounded and vulnerable, like I had eyes everywhere watching me. I didn’t know who to trust. And I didn’t know where to turn. Perhaps Mr Sleep would provide some answers. If he could be trusted.

Until then, I had only one question on my mind.

Why was Sevenmouth doing all of this?

An unknown woman was walking down an alleyway in Delhi, India in the evening. She was carrying a pile of papers and a briefcase. It seemed as though she was on her way to work, or a new job. It was hard to tell, but what wasn't hard to tell was the expression on her face turned from a casual if not hurried look to that of concern. She looked both ways down the alleyway as she approached a set of blue double doors. The alley was eerily devoid of any humans, though the traffic just outside of the building could be seen. She knocked on the blue double doors, seemingly trying to focus on them as to distract herself from the paranoia of being in an alleyway all alone as the sun was dipping down behind the skyline.

It was at the moment she knocked again for the second time that a black car suddenly pulled into the alleyway, the beamers fully on, as it came to a screeching halt in front of the startled woman. She froze, like a deer caught in the headlights, as four shaved-headed muscular men wearing all black stepped out of the car and chased her down. The woman ran, dropping her papers, tossing the briefcase at them as a desperate means to fend them off, but in the end, she was caught and dragged off just as she reached an iron gate. One of the men grabbing her produced a needle that he stuck into her neck, and as she went limp, the other three began to drag her away inside the building.

This was all on CCTV footage that Mr Sleep showed me, and this was only the first part. As horrifying as this was to witness, especially in my family’s hometown, the second part was much worse.

The woman was now in a dark barren warehouse, which must’ve been the building that she was trying to enter. If I had to guess, it was some sort of set up, with the poor woman being tricked into coming along for a job opportunity; perhaps she was in a desperate situation. She was strapped down on some kind of gurney, wearing a medical gown. Blood was seen on her abdomen, and a set of various bloodied medical tools were set nearby. The men that abducted her were nowhere to be seen. The woman began to stir from her induced sleep, and almost immediately began to panic, pulling at the straps around her arms and legs. She began arching her back in a vain attempt to break free; screaming and crying could be heard as the gurney violently shook.

That was until the double doors at the other end of the building opened, and a new person calmly walked in, carrying a clipboard and wearing a white surgical gown. What immediately caught my attention though was the fact that he was wearing a mask. A pale blue expressionless mask with the only facial features visible being these large black eyes, like two large voids staring emotionless at the poor woman lying helpless on the hospital bed. The figure approached her, holding out the clipboard as the woman began to settle, looking in fear at this masked stranger standing over her. The figure spoke, his voice was altered by some sort of voice changer, though I could tell he spoke with a British accent.

“Is this your signature?” He asked the frightened woman.

The woman didn’t respond, obviously too terrified and traumatised to say anything. The figure spoke again, pointing at the clipboard.

“Is this your signature, Mrs-?” The name was bleeped out from the footage. Not entirely sure why her name was censored; perhaps to make it harder to take the woman in case anyone was to come across this footage. Someone like me and Mr Sleep.

The woman finally nodded, still scared out of her mind, but had stopped struggling, seeming to accept that this was happening to her, or perhaps she was clinging onto some sort of hope that this person would free her or help her out. But instead, the masked man took back the clipboard and began to read off some document he had.

“Mrs-, you have been subjected to Procedure G10-7, in which you have, by willingly signing Document 7B/6 under the Fraud Prevention Act of 1937, participated in the fully legal medical procedure to remove and subjugate your unborn foetus. Now in this situation, it is more than natural for you to experience some form of trauma during and after this procedure, therefore we are obligated to ask you if you would require psychiatric help?”

The woman lay there on the gurney, completely speechless, until moments later she began sobbing, realising the weight of the situation. I was just as speechless at this horrific transaction, especially when that masked creep began to coldly read off of the rest of the document in the distorted metallic voice.

“Should you require psychiatric or medical assistance after this transaction is complete, please note that you are not liable to report any of what transpired here to any such persons under penalty of arrest. This transgression will not only affect you but also your immediate family, and you will all be detained under plea of insanity and taken to the most convenient correctional facility.”

The masked figure then put the clipboard down and looked at the woman strapped to the gurney.

“In other words, you breathe a word of this to anyone, and not only are you liable to be locked up for the rest of your life, but we’ll make sure that your stay will be extremely ... uncomfortable. Is that understood?”

The poor woman closed her eyes and slowly nodded, tears streaming down her eyes as she could do nothing but cry for her situation and the loss of her child.

“Good girl” the masked figure said, gently stroking back her hair as she sobbed. “We’ll leave you alone to process everything. We’ll be back to untie you shortly. Thank you for your…cooperation.”

And with that, he turned and exited back through the doors, leaving the woman alone in the dark to cry her heart out. The tape ended.

After the video ended, I responded to Mr. Sleep. “Why did you show me this? Where did you get it from?” Mr Sleep responded that the masked man in the video was Vincent Carvel, one of the “Mouths” of Sevenmouth, and the tape was from his “private collection”. The sick bastard actually collected tapes of his victims. But I had to ask him why he took that woman’s unborn child. Mr Sleep told me it was part of a “contingency plan” that both Vincent and Clarisse devised should their bizarre ritual go awry. He didn’t divulge much further on what this alternate plan was, only that it was called “Project Genesis” and that it required ‘early’ human test subjects.

Now this was getting unsettling, as if it wasn’t already before. Now the cult was taking infants? Unborn ones for that matter, but for what purpose? Was it some early form of indoctrination, or something worse? Something I couldn’t possibly fathom at this time?

I asked Mr Sleep if any of those documents read out by Vincent were real. He told me “of course not” and that it was just a sick scare tactic to make the poor woman feel as though there was some sort of legality to what just happened to her and her child. He did tell me, however, that the Indian blackmarket was fully involved. Human traffickers and organ “traders” were assigned to carry out these acts across various towns and cities, and this wasn’t the only place in Asia, or even the world this was happening. This was just one of the few times that Vincent himself made an appearance to witness this all happen, getting some sort of twisted pleasure in seeing the tormented souls that underwent this “Procedure G10-7”.

During all of this, I was staying at a motel outside of New Haven, Connecticut. It wasn’t too bad. It was near the coast, and I always had an affinity for the sea. I guess treating this like some kind of vacation was the best way I could cope with the fact I was being hunted down. But after seeing two people gunned down right in front of me, and having to use a gun myself on that monster, I can safely say that my night’s sleep hasn’t been great. Every little sound wakes me up, and even though I’m out of mags, I sleep with the gun beside me, just as a little bit of comfort. Perhaps just the sight of a gun would be enough to deter whoever was gonna come after me.

Those feelings of safety were instantly broken that night I was woken up by a knocking at my room door. I hesitated getting out of bed, but the knocking persisted. I grabbed the gun off the pillow and quietly made my way to the side of the door, my back up against the wall. I tried to get myself to look through the peephole, terrified of who I might see on the other side. What if it was him again? What if that moon faced freak somehow survived an entire mag emptied into his body? I then thought of the possibility of him wearing some kind of bullet proof clothing. Now I was nervous. I cursed myself for not ripping off the man’s mask and just shooting him in the head. But I was scared. I just wanted to get out of there. Now I was going to pay for it.

But what if it was just the motel manager? Or a cleaner? Or someone completely innocent? Or what if they just LOOKED innocent? I couldn’t be sure. The only way I could be certain was to look through that peephole. So I did. Nothing. No one was outside. This only made me feel worse, my heart quickened. There could only be two reasons someone would ring my doorbell at this hour. One, some kids were pulling a prank. Or two, and the part I was dreading the most, someone had sent me something, and left it outside my door. Keeping the chain lock latched onto the door, I opened it slowly, gun still in my hand. I looked down. And indeed, there was a small package. I unlatched the door cautiously, and pulled the package inside. Now in hindsight, this was a terrible idea. What if it was a bomb? But perhaps it was another mysterious item from Mr Sleep. How did he find me here? There was only one way to find out. I opened the package.

It took me a while to process what I saw.

It was the smell from that rancid, soaked box that shook me from my senses, as I felt myself tear up and my throat go dry.

I stared into the tiny box.

And little Mahika’s lifeless eyes stared back at me.

I left her alone. I had asked the neighbor to look after her while I was gone. Those sick bastards had found my address.

As little Mahika’s head looked up at me with cold, lifeless eyes, I noticed a small white square on the side of the package. My shaking hands barely grabbed it off of what seemed like hours staring at my poor little cat. I turned the paper to see it was a photograph of my house. I turned it over, to see a message scribbled in pen.

“Nice house, and your kitty was adorable. Coming to see you soon. Your best buddy, Jim.

P.S. My friend isn’t too happy with you shooting him.”

I haven’t slept for days. Constantly on the run from this “Jim”, and whoever his “friend” was wearing that moon mask. I hadn’t seen them, but I keep getting the feeling that any one of those late night cars was tailing me. I keep stopping at every gas station I could find, dosing up on pills to keep me awake at night. Soon I’m not gonna have enough money to buy pills or gas at this rate, let alone places to stay. I still have a lot of money, but I was just curious with all these supposed connections, did Sevenmouth have connections to my bank details? Then it hit me. What if they were using my credit card to follow me? What should I do?

I had to get more ammo for my gun.

Sometimes I didn’t even sleep at a motel. I just stayed up in the car, my gun at the ready, just to try and scare off anyone who came near me. Once or twice some junkie attacked my car at night, but I scared them away by flashing the gun at them. They didn’t bother me, not anymore. It was normal compared to what was chasing me.

At night, I started to think of things, like the cogs in my mind were turning and churning out memories.

I was starting to remember the other Mouths, namely Luis Havana. I can’t believe I forgot about him. Apparently Luis was on vacation, according to Selena. But where? I should get into contact with her, but I don’t want to put her life in danger.

I thought about contacting her somehow, along with Simon, Ethan and Margaret. What if they were all in danger like me? I had to get into contact with Mr Sleep again. Luckily, he was still around, lurking in the chatroom, as if waiting for me to start talking to him.

- Dr. Rabbit: Hello? - Mr Sleep: Hello. What is it, friend? - Dr. Rabbit: The others. The other former member. My friends. How are they? Are they safe? - Mr Sleep: You ask a lot of unnecessary questions. Yes, they are safe. They did what you didn’t do; not getting involved. They went about their mundane lives and didn’t pay attention to your insane ramblings when you stormed off from that bar that one night. - Dr. Rabbit: Hey, how do you know about the bar? - Mr Sleep: I’ve been watching all of you for a long time. - Dr. Rabbit: Just who are you? - Mr Sleep: All will be revealed in due time, but I want you to remember. - Dr. Rabbit: Quit this cryptic bullshit and just tell me who you are! - Mr Sleep: What, and spoil the surprise? No! I want to see you run about and discover more for yourself. I want to see you suffer like I did when I had to find out the hard way what these people had done. I want you to remember. - Dr. Rabbit: You sadistic fuck! I have a psychopath chasing after me! Help me! - Mr Sleep: I cannot. Even if I wanted to, which I very much do, this is something you’ll have to figure out yourself. Suffer the trials of Sevenmouth. Remember!

And before I could reply, the chat closed up, and there was no way to reopen it or access it in any way. I just sat there in the dark room as rain began to pour from outside onto the window like hailing bullets. I was alone. But not for long. Several hours later, I heard footsteps, just outside my door. I turned to reach for the empty gun for any sort of comfort, staring at the door in anticipation. That was when something slid underneath the door. I was nervous, but I got down onto the floor to look at the small piece of paper that had slid from underneath the door.

It was a peanut wrapper.

Suddenly, the door swung open before I could react, striking me directly on the head, smacking me back onto the floor. The stinging pain surged through my skull as I felt my eyes rattle about from the sudden dizziness. I lay on my back, clutching my head as my dazed eyes tried to focus on the figure looming in the doorway. The blurred image slowly began to take shape, and I recognised who it was. The strange guy with the glasses and navy blue sweater at the bar; the night that Roger and Chloe were murdered by the moon-face guy. There he was, standing there, hands on what looked like a metal pipe. I tried to move and fumbled with the gun in my hand, about to yell at him to stay back, before feeling the cold iron strike my forehead. Then in the brief moment of pain, it all went dark.

When I finally awoke, my head felt as if it weighed a ton. The pain was unbearable. I couldn’t see it, but I could just feel that my head was swollen. It took me a while to wake up fully, and realise where I was. I was in the motel room’s bathroom, and my hands were chained up to the shower pole. I was suspended from the pole with my arms up, and realised that my feet were bare, and left in a pool of water in the shower. That’s when the ringing in my ears began to die down, and be replaced by the sounds of running water, coming from the shower hose.

There, standing in front of me, lighting up a cigarette, was the man in the glasses and dark blue sweater.

“Comfortable?” he asked me.

I tried to speak back, but realised there was a length of black tape across my mouth. The creep had gagged me.

“Sorry about your head, matey. But I had to make sure you weren't going to squirm as I hung you up. Better safe than sorry, y’know. Oh, where are my manners? I haven’t even introduced myself to you yet. My name’s Jim. Jim Craven.” He gave off a shit-eating smile as he puffed away on his cigarette, before approaching me, eyeing me up and down.

“Funny, I thought you’d be taller in person. Less chubby as well. To be frank with you, you look like a fucking tramp. Oh well, it doesn't really matter much.”

He left the room as my heart began picking up pace. I now knew this was the fucker that killed my cat and sent me that picture of my house. The house HE had been inside. And now he was going to do God-knows-what to me.

He came back into the room, holding the bedside lamp, with the shade taken off. Out of his pocket he took out what looked like a small tape recorder, switching it on before clipping it onto his pocket. He then approached me with the same smile on his face as before, looking at my bare feet still in the water, then looked up at my sweaty face.

“I was asked to ask you some questions. Questions you may or may not know the answer to. Now the thing is, a lot of people don’t like answering anything I ask them, so they need a bit of persuasion. Now you’re probably wondering what if someone hears us? Don’t worry about that, mate. You happened to have picked one of the scummiest places to hide out in. All sorts of dregs and filth come floating about in here, making deals and doing other dirty deeds. And the owners turn a blind eye to it all. I was just biding my time until you picked a place like this. Lucky me, eh?”

I tried to say something, anything, but the tape was too firmly tied around my mouth, in fact, around my head. So even when I tried to spit to loosen the tape, it was no use. Jim just uttered this foul laugh as he turned around and plugged the lamp into the wall. He then smashed the glass bulb on the sink, exposing the wire.

It was then I realised what he was planning. I tried to lift my legs out of the water, but each time I did, the shower pole I was cuffed to shifted ever so slightly, lowering me, thanks to my body weight. This made Jim snicker even more, as he just stood there, lamp in hand as he watched me struggle for several minutes. I even tried to kick him, but the spritely creep managed to duck and weave every time, always with that same demented smile. He was just waiting for me to tire out. It was working. I wasn’t thinking at the time. My body was just in sheer panic mode. It wasn’t until minutes in that I stopped when Jim bent down to the shower floor, holding the exposed lamp out.

“Feel free to cooperate anytime, but first I wanna test to see if this will be an effective way for us to talk. Ready?”

Without another word, he began to lower the lamp into the water. I closed my eyes, getting ready for the pain, but it never came. I opened them to see him standing up and staring at me.

“Ah, I forgot something. Back in a mo.”

He disappeared around the doorframe, leaving me alone, with my feet soaking and my arms cuffed to the metal pole. It was then I decided to do something drastic. It may be pointless, and would ultimately get me killed, but maybe it would be worth it. I remember how the shower pole shifted with my weight. I tried again to hoist both my legs up, making myself heavy enough as I shifted my body left to right, swinging on the flimsy piece of metal as it began to bounce between the shower walls.

Jim came back in, now wearing rubber gloves. He looked at me with an apparent puzzled expression on his face.

“What the fuck are you doing?”

I stopped struggling with the pole. I knew it was hopeless. I was trapped in the room with this psychopath about to electrocute me. I closed my eyes as I could feel my nerves already on fire before anything had even happened. He smirked as he once again got down to one knee, and slowly placed the broken end of the lamp into the water.

Among the sudden, searing pain was a bright spark that flashed so bright that Jim had to look away. I was too frozen by the sheer agony to look away. I had never been electrocuted before, but this experience I hope to be my last. It felt like every atom in my body was being shaken as hard and as fast as possible. All my muscles clenched so tightly I felt as if they were going to burst out of my skin. I felt searing hot needles shoving their way into my feet. The moment was brief, but it felt like hours. I could taste a bitter metallic taste in my mouth, like wire wool. As soon as my nerves stopped flaring from the white hot intensity of the shock, I looked back at Jim, who had a sick satisfied look on his face. The bastard didn’t ask me a single question. He just wanted me to suffer. Like what Mr Sleep said. He took out his cigarette, flicking it to the floor and stomping it into the tiles, before looking up at me with a small nod.

“I noticed you got your briefcase with you. Mind if I take a look?”

I was too dazed and jittery to even comprehend what he just asked me. But I saw him leave the room once again, taking the lamp with him.

My mouth was still burning and felt like it was cut with razor wire, and my feet still had a sharp pain running through the soles, but my resolve wasn’t broken yet. I still had time to escape. The idiot left me in the room after witnessing me try to escape! He might have just overestimated me. I may be a doctor, but I was certainly no weakling, at least physically.

I once again shifted my weight onto the pole, this time jumping up and down, but only enough to make as little sound as possible, as to not alert Jim in the other room. I saw the plaster around the bolts crack. Yes! Just a bit more effort and I can break off this pole. I heard him in the other room, shifting through my drawers after he finished searching my briefcase. I hear crashing and smashing outside, as I used the sound to my advantage and shifted the pole with every crash. Finally! One end of the pole broke away from the wall, with enough of a gap to slip the cuff links through. I was free! Now to find a weapon. Anything. I looked around the bathroom, realising too late that I had stepped into some broken glass. I felt the pain shoot through my leg again, but the adrenaline of the moment made me ignore it for the most part. I couldn’t find anything to use. I considered breaking the pole off of the wall completely and using that. But I was too late. Jim noticed me from the corner of the room, and reached into his pocket to pull something out. I didn’t have time to find out what it was, because I lunged at him, full of fury. I had never felt such a rush before; I could feel every nerve in my body tense up as I prepared for death or a fight. I lunged at the skinny creep, locking my hands around his throat. And he started laughing. The lunatic was actually laughing at me as he reached for his pocket again. I started beating him with my fists but he rolled away, only taking minor hits from me, as he pulled out a blade from his pocket. Now it was his turn to lunge at me. I got to my feet and struggled to stay out of reach of the knife, as he swiped and stabbed at me. Looking back, it would’ve almost been comical to watch, like some sort of demented dance.

But one lunge was all I needed to grab his hand with my cuffs and twist the knife out of his bony claws. My hands got cut in the process, but that didn’t stop me. Now I was reaching around his throat once more, this time with the chain to strangle the bastard. We both struggled for a while, knocking over furniture as we did, but I finally managed to get behind him and tighten the cuffs around his throat, pulling tighter and tighter, but all I could hear from that creep was more mocking laughter. He knew I wasn’t a killer, and in the back of my mind, I knew I didn’t have it in me to forcibly take a man’s life. With Moonface, I acted on impulse. I panicked. Here I was going to take my time killing this man, and he knew I wasn’t the type of person to accomplish such a task. At the moment I was beginning to despair, and my grip began to fail me, the door slowly opened up, as both Jim and I turned to see who was coming into the room.

It was him. That moon-faced monster.

He had survived the gunshots as I feared. And now the hulking mass of a person was standing in the doorway, soaked from the rain outside.

Jim seemed relieved at first, until I had a spur-of-the-moment idea. I tightened the cuff chain around his neck and held him up in front of me like a human shield. Now Jim’s whole attitude changed, especially when Moonface was already reaching into his jacket to pull out a gun. To me, Jim seemed like the type of person that didn’t know fear; very few things or people scared him, making him an excellent killer. But here, there was a genuine look of fear in his face when Moonface took out that gun and pointed it at the both of us. We both now felt the same fear, and it was standing right in front of us. Jim began to plead, in a way that made me think of poor Chloe all those nights ago.

“Please, mate. I got this sorted here. Y-yeah, that’s been a bit of a slip up, b-but I’m dealing with it. I am, just please help me out! I’m still devoted to the cau-”

BANG!

My ears stung from the blast mere inches from my head, as Jim’s forehead exploded in a gush of red. I fell back from the force, my ears ringing, and the cuffs still around Jim’s throat. I was on my back, my face soaked in blood and brain matter. All I could do was whimper in fear and panic. The fight mode was gone; all I could think about doing was running away. But as I tried to shift myself from Jim’s body, I felt the cold hollow steel press softly against my temple. This was it, I thought to myself. I was finished. I felt the warm release of urine down my trouser leg and hot tears stream down my face. Then my vision went blurry, as my brain whirred like a broken machine. To my own disgrace, I had fainted.

When I came to, it was still dark. There was a musty smell in the air, and a feeling of claustrophobia that I couldn’t put my finger on just yet, until I realised that I had a bag over my head. Not only that, but my hands were once again tied up, this time to some suspended hook on the ceiling, and my feet were not touching the floor this time. I also realised I was completely naked except for my underwear. I started to panic again, realising my mouth wasn’t gagged, but as I began to scream and beg to be let go, a man’s soft voice with a British accent came from somewhere behind me, and began to circle me.

“Well well, aren’t you a fussy one. You should count yourself lucky, having come to us in one piece. It would’ve been a shame if Mr Craven had his way with you as he intended. You should be thanking us for interfering and saving you a whole lot of stress. What’s that? Do I hear a thank you?”

“Fuck you!” I yelled out at the top of my lungs, or at least the best I could, but through all the pain I went through, it only came out as a gargled croak.

The person on the other side of the cloth snickered. “How very rash. Seems like you need to be taught a few manners before we can let you go. Luckily I’m on my break, so it’s time to get some exercise done.”

CRACK!

I felt my ribs bust as a fist came colliding into my chest. I winced, as another fist found its way onto my stomach. The punches kept coming, and so did the pain and the humiliation of being treated like a punching bag. This must’ve gone on for five minutes, and by the time it finally stopped, I couldn’t feel anything below my neck. Everything felt numb. It was then the cloth covering was ripped away from my head, and I saw standing before me a shirtless older man, with a balding comb over and a curled thin moustache. He wore white makeup with long black eyelashes and a red heart over his lips. His piercing blue eyes stared into mine, as he smirked, hands on his hips.

“It’s a shame, really.” He remarked, “You have an excellent body for someone your age. It’s a shame I had to tenderise it a little, haha. But now I suppose it’s on to the main event.”

He clicked his fingers dramatically as the lights turned on. It was a barren red room, and in the centre was a chair, with some sort of restraint device attached to the back. On the other end of the room stood Moonface, hands behind his back, and next to him, leaning against the wall with her arms folded, was a young woman, roughly in her late teens, with short reddish-brown messy hair, wearing a white cropped vest and black pants, and what appeared to be knee-high combat boots. She was fairly pretty, if not having a very gruff demeanour about her. Her left eye was covered by an eyepatch, but her right eye seemed to glow this bright green, almost reflective. It gave me the feeling of her staring straight into my soul with that eye.

This Girl With The Eyepatch slowly got up from the wall, and picked up something from behind her. It looked like a jar and a small metal object, but I wasn’t sure what it was. She approached me with a smile that terrified me to my core. She had something planned for me. And for some reason, she scared me more than Jim did. Perhaps it was how young she was, or that glowing green eye of hers. I wondered what had happened to her other eye. She then spoke in a rough voice.

“Hey there, meatbag!” She said, “I’m gonna be your torturer this evening. Now, let’s make one thing perfectly clear; I like to get results, and I’m sure you wanna leave this place in one piece. But I also like to have some fun, so it’s gonna be a tough break for me when I’m being told you get to walk free after our little chat. So, shall we begin? Oh! We also pulled you up a seat, if you wanna take it.”

Without hesitation or a chance for me to recuperate, Moonface approached me and hoisted me off of the hook suspended from the ceiling, and sat my aching body down onto the chair in the centre of this red room. The Girl With The Eyepatch circled around my chair as the British man strapped me up to the chair, hands behind my back, and leather belts across my head and neck. I noticed the Girl was tapping something in her hands. As she passed me, I caught a glimpse of the jar and that she was tapping a spoon against it. I couldn’t make out what was in the jar, only that they were small, white oval shapes inside. Pickled onions, perhaps? At least, I hoped to God that’s what they were. As if she was reading my mind, the Girl With The Eyepatch stopped in front of me, and showed me the jar.

“Wanna know what’s in here? Well it ain’t pickled onions, I can assure you. Take a closer look at my little collection.”

She practically shoved the jar in my face. I was too afraid to look. But I saw them.

Eyes.

She had a jar full of eyes. I could do nothing but shiver and squirm in the seat, as I realised what was going to happen.

“Now, let’s make this easy,” The Girl said, “I ask you simple questions, and you answer, got it?”

“Y-yes,” I answered back.

“Good. Now first question, who gave you info on Sevenmouth? Hm?”

“H-His name was Mr Sleep.” I told them as bluntly as I could. After the last message from him, and him apparently wanting me to suffer, I didn’t feel so bad betraying his name. But they wanted more from me, as The Girl With The Eyepatch shook her head and tutted.

“That’s not good enough, buddy. That’s clearly a fake name, and we folks here prefer to hear the truth. So tell us, who is Mr Sleep?”

I tried to shake my head, but the restraints held me in place.

“I-I don’t know who he is. Honest!”

“I’m gonna ask you one last time. Who. Is. Mr. Sleep?” She demanded.

I winced, feeling sick to my stomach. Mr Sleep never gave me a real name. I knew nothing about him aside from the messages and documents he sent me. I tried to tell her that. I tried and begged for her and the others to believe me. But they clearly didn’t. She approached with the spoon. And the only thing I felt other than the sheer amount of agony coursing through my open eye wound was the sound of my own screams rattling around in my head. My skull felt as if it was on fire. I could feel the warm release of blood gushing from my eye socket, spilling onto my chest, as my vision became blurred. I felt the cold metal ease itself between my eyeball and eye socket, and a sudden sharp stabbing sensation as the nerve was severed. I felt as if my head was about to explode. That was all I felt before passing out again.

I awoke to the sound of snapping fingers in my face. When I came to, I remembered what had happened. My head was still hurting like hell, and blood was pouring from my open wound. I felt faint still, but they weren’t going to let me pass out again. I looked up to see The Girl With The Eyepatch holding out a spoon in front of me, and there, swimming in a small pool of my blood, was my own eyeball, staring back at me. I lost it. I vomited on the floor as The Girl stepped back, chuckling at my misery. I looked up to see her place the eyeball into the jar before closing the lid.

“Thanks. I’m sure it’ll make a fine addition to my collection. How about the other one, now?”

“No! Please God, I’ll do anything! Please!” I screamed at her.

“Then tell us,” she demanded, “Who is Mr Sleep?”

“He doesn’t know.” A gentle soft voice came from behind me. It was a soothing female voice with a delicate French accent that seemed to float across the air as she spoke. “Seems like this Mr Sleep character is more elusive than we thought. And here I was hoping this doctor would know more about their identity.”

“Hey, I was about to get to it, I promise!” The Girl With The Eyepatch insisted. “Just a few more questions and-”

“I think this man has gone through enough. Let him go. Let me talk to him,” said the soft voice.

From behind me stepped a graceful young woman with short blonde hair and emerald green eyes, wearing what I could only describe as an ‘angel’ dress; a long white dress with long sleeves and puffy shoulders. She gestured for everyone else to leave the room.

“Orlon,” she said, addressing the British man. “Have the cleanup detail sent up here after we’re done.”

“And what about him, Madame?” Assuming that Orlon was indicating to Moonface, who was still standing in the corner, practically motionless.

“He stays,” the young girl said. “Now please the two of you leave us be.”

The Girl With The Eyepatch begrudgingly left, taking her morbid jar with her, as I heard the sound of doors close behind me. It was then I realised, after a few moments of silence, who the girl was. She was the same girl that night at the bar, singing In Dreams. The same night I had my revelation. I remember her staring at me. Like she knew what I was thinking.

She was now standing there a few feet away from me, hands on her hips with a saddened look on her face. She stood as if examining me, taking her time as she observed my sorry state.

“I’m sorry about your cat,” she finally said. “And…your eye.”

I just sneered at her. I didn’t need her false sympathy, and I didn’t know what else to do. I was still in the leather and metal vice holding my head in place, blood still oozing out of my left eye, dripping onto my vomit-covered chest. She continued nonetheless.

“I stopped the interrogation, albeit a little too late I’m afraid, because I knew that this Mr Sleep was just using you as a pawn to get to me. He didn’t care if you got caught or not. So obviously he didn’t let you know anything further about his identity. He just used you. But I can see that you have potential. After all, you are a doctor, and you were a member of Sevenmouth once. It’s just a shame about your memory. If you remembered, you could tell us who Mr Sleep is.”

“What do you mean?” I managed to stammer out.

“Mr Sleep was a Mouth, just like you. Didn’t he tell you? No, of course he didn’t.”

I wanted to curse, or say anything about this revelation, but no sound passed through my lips. I remained silent. Through all of this, the weight of the situation was just hitting me. For weeks I had been on the run from a cult, hunted like an animal, tortured and almost killed, all because I decided to follow some anonymous person’s directions and get myself into something I had no idea how to comprehend. But I was part of it, and so was he. And this girl before me. This angelic looking being before me was part of all these horrors taking place. The killings, the kidnappings, the cover-ups. I could only ask one question.

“Why?” Was all I could say.

She took a deep breath, as if preparing herself mentally to answer my very vague question.

“You see, Sevenmouth has been around for a long time, longer than when my aunt was in charge. We tried to make this organisation as harmless as possible, but of course, sacrifices have to be made for the greater good.

My aunt always taught me to value the kindness and good will that humankind has to offer, and that all humans have it in them to be good, decent folk. And for the longest time I believed her. Even when I was bullied in highschool, I always learned to take it on the chin and move on, as one should. That would’ve been fine, and I would’ve carried on living in my innocent little bubble, if it wasn’t for that one day.

It was a normal school day, and we were up on the third level, our classroom overlooking the school’s swimming pool through large windows. It was during our maths lesson when three boys burst into the pool room, carrying a smaller, younger boy with them. I was one of the first to notice this, and soon the others in the class saw what was happening. The three boys were laughing as they punched and kicked at this younger boy, who was crying and pleading for them to stop. All the others in my class at this point, even the teacher, were gathering around the windows above the pool, watching this “fight”. And they began cheering. Cheering and egging on the conflict like it was some form of entertainment, but only I realised what was going on. This wasn’t a fight, it was just sheer brutality. It wasn’t until they picked up the child and flung him with such force onto the metal railing that he practically bent in half that the cheering stopped. The child’s spine had been snapped. We had all just witnessed a murder. The boys rushed out of the pool, and the teachers and then the police arrived onto the scene, all too late. We were told to just go back to class, until the child was pronounced dead on the scene, and we all went home.

I couldn’t believe such evil existed in this world. Those boys enjoyed the torment they were giving to that young child, even up until they snapped his spine in half. In front of an entire classroom full of students. It was horrible. It was the type of thing you would hear in the news all the time, but this time I witnessed it for real, and suddenly all those horrific things happening in the world to millions of people seemed all the more cruel and unjust. I knew then things had to change.

You see, where my aunt failed was that she was trying to conduct the ritual, just to see if it would work. But I have a goal in mind, and I will achieve it with purpose. And you will either help me, or live a life of silence in the wake of Sevenmouth. Or perhaps you prefer death at the hands of one of my rogues.” She pointed to Moonface still standing in the corner.

This was it, I thought. I was either going to be killed by some masked freak and probably forgotten about after I’ve gone missing and mysteriously turn up in a ditch somewhere, or I could go back to the cult that started all of this.

As I sat there, strapped to a chair, half naked and with one eye missing, my head still swimming from the dizziness. I suppose I had no other choice. I agreed to ‘rejoin’ Sevenmouth.

After all, it couldn’t be that bad. What did I have to lose?

They gave me an eyepatch for my troubles. And they gave me a nice comfortable bed to sleep in. I guess I should be grateful. After all, they allowed me to keep ONE eye after all. They gave me plenty of time to meditate on everything. It doesn’t help. I began to hallucinate. I kept seeing Roger and Chloe, sitting in the corner of the room, staring at me, massive holes in their heads, judging me. Everytime I go to the en suite, I keep seeing Jim in the mirror, standing right behind me, his glasses reflecting off the light so I couldn’t see his beady eyes. I see him carrying that broken lamp, about to stab me in the back of the neck. But every time I turn around, he’s gone. I had to ask for antipsychotic medication to help with the visions. They were kind enough to provide me some ziprasidone as well as some incense that they claimed would make me sleep better. I think I’ve given up fighting. I just accepted I was part of them now. I wasn’t going to be turned into a cherub, apparently. They just needed my medical expertise. For what, I don’t know.

I tried to sleep, with Roger and Chloe watching over me. The process was taking a long time. Weeks had gone by and I was just stuck in this room. My new ward. My new prison.

I finally decided that if I was going to stay here, I might do something useful. I still needed to discover who Mr Sleep was, and from what I was told, he was another Mouth, like me. I just needed to remember who he really was. I thought for a while now about the concept of lucid dreaming, and wondered if there was some way I could search around my own dreams and memories to find out who Mr Sleep was. I could sift around in my subconscious for clues. Then maybe if I gave them the information they needed, they’d let me go from this cult. But I knew there was very little chance for that now, if any.

I lay in my room, the smell of the lavender incense was overpowering. I stared up at the ceiling and concentrated on my breathing, ignoring the dead couple sitting in the corner as always. I fixed a point on the ceiling, just a small dark blemish that if I squinted, it appeared to be like a lion’s face. I focused on the spot, breathing in and out. I lay there for minutes, hours maybe, until the ceiling began to warp upwards. I felt myself drifting away on the bed, as the spot began to pull away from me, and soon I felt the sensation of falling. Falling deep into my bed. I woke up, and found myself on a familiar hill. It was overlooking a city, and the city was on fire. I started to walk up the hill, until I spotted a park bench, and someone sitting on it. It was Simon Montague. Only this time, his face wasn’t blurred. But he looked sad and angry, as he looked out into the burning horizon.

I sat down beside him, and watched the city burn.

“Hello,” was all I could muster to say to him.

He said nothing.

I continued, hoping to get a response. “I’m looking for Mr Sleep. Do you know who he is?”

“Yes. He was one of us” Simon finally said, his gaze still fixed on the burning hellscape.

“Where can I find him? I don’t know where to look?”

“You still don’t know what we did, do you?” Simon said to me, “You still don’t know why we forgot.”

“No. I don’t.”

“Then let me show you.” He said. “Look behind you.”

And with that, he got up and began to walk towards the burning city. I did as I was told and looked over my shoulder. I could see myself at a church now, seated at the pews. I could see about seven other people there, crowded around the altar. There was Simon, Margaret, Selena and Luis, Ethan Drake, Abigail and….Mr Sleep. But something was wrong. Mr Sleep was blurred; his outline fuzzy and warped, like a smudged pen drawing. But his posture disturbed me. He wasn’t what I would call “hunchbacked”, but it seemed like his back was arched forward in an unnatural way. He walked with a bow-legged gait and his arms hung loosely to his sides. Was this really what he was like? But why didn’t I see any other details, especially in his face? Why was he the only one?

The others beckoned me over to them. I obeyed, getting as close as I could to Mr Sleep, but his blurred form began to hurt my eyes. I had to look away. I saw Abigail take center stage upon the altar, raising her hands as though she was conducting us. We had all surrounded some sort of circular font, with a spike protruding from the center. Then something happened that I couldn’t remember. As if my brain erased part of the sequence I was witnessing before me. It felt like my mind was being stretched out of proportion trying to recall what happened. But what I saw after I wish I could forget. In fact, I’m almost certain that I did, until now.

What emerged from that altar was indescribable. The room had gone dark and this unholy wailing sound came from all around us, like the cries of a thousand infants. And that’s exactly what this thing was. A child. I couldn’t see it, at least clearly, but it reminded me of a newborn child. The way the light shone from its rancid flesh was unnatural, the shadows that moved about it did not seem as if they matched with any known laws of physics. It was like it was there, but it wasn’t. All around us, yet nowhere at the same time. We saw visions, all of us. I know we all did. Visions of torture, mutilation, neglect, and more. Our own fears made flesh, as this squirming, convulsing thing in the center of the room, yet around the room at the same time, wailed its ungodly wail. Then I realised something. Something about the horrific images we were seeing, who they were of. It wasn’t just a random human these horrific things were happening to. It was Luis. He was screaming along with the infant creature, being torn apart by unknown forces. It was his blood that was filling the air around us, not the creature’s. It was his blood. Everyone was screaming too. Trying to escape. But there was no escape. We just had to wait for the horror to end. But there was no end, not for poor Luis, not for any of us. But I could escape. I just had to wake up. Wake up.

Poor Selena. She was under the delusion that her husband was on some vacation this whole time. When he had been torn apart by something unspeakable. Something we had unleashed onto the world by accident. What was it? What was that thing? And did it escape?

I spent weeks thinking about it all, until I got a message from that Orlon guy. He opened my door and presented me with some kind of letter. I took it from him, not bothering to make eye contact.

“Oh by the way,” he added, “I must offer my sincerest apologies for the torture we put you through. See, we couldn’t be sure if you were protecting the whereabouts and identity of Mr Sleep. That cretin has been a thorn in our side for as long as this establishment was rebuilt.”

I wasn’t sure what to say. I didn’t exactly want an excuse for the beatings I received, not to mention having my eyeball plucked out of my head with a fucking spoon. I just nodded and looked at the letter.

“If you want the details straight away” Orlon stated, “then it’s basically a mission brief. Miss Delacroix has asked that you come along to assist some of her men as they storm Watersong Palace.”

I had heard of Watersong Palace. Apparently some eccentric entrepreneur back in the heyday of Greenhaven decided to build an exotic Roman-themed bathhouse out in the woods, as some kind of day spa resort. The project failed miserably and the building was left to rot by Jenny’s Creek.

“Apparently” Orlon continued, “one of your old friends, Father Ethan Drake, has been hiding out there with a load of followers. Perhaps you can accompany the Cherubs and talk some sense into him. Or at the very least provide some medical assistance in case things get…messy. All you need to do is to read the briefing for supplies needed, rendezvous locations, list of Cherubs under your supervision, etcetera etcetera.”

I was shocked to hear the name of my old friend, Ethan Drake, but I simply nodded rather than say anything else. I didn’t exactly feel like conversing with one of my torturers, even if they had “apologised” for beating me senseless. Either way, I was finally allowed to leave the room, my head still trying to wrap around what I saw in my dream. Or rather, my memory.

When I stepped outside and looked up to where I was, the memories came flooding back like a tidal wave. I remembered this place. The Sevenmouth Cathedral. I remember Abigail taking us through a tour of this place. I remembered the banquets she would throw inside the main hall, I remembered the crazy nights we spent partying until the sun came up, like we were a bunch of rowdy teenagers. I also started to remember there was a woman I met at one of these parties as well. Her name was Tia. But I didn’t remember much else, other than she was strikingly beautiful, with long flowing brown hair and big smouldering brown eyes. As I stood there reminiscing, Clarisse appeared on the steps of the Cathedral, Orlon on her left side, and Moonface on her right.

“My dear friends,” she announced to us. “Tonight I wish you all the best of luck. This is what we have been trained for, to rid the world of evils, both new and ancient. What you may face in that palace may leave your mind and body vulnerable, but remember this; the Eye of Sloi A’ark and the Guiding Voice of Aharon will always be with you. Now go, and good luck. I’m counting on all of you.”

It wasn’t long until the vehicles were prepped and I was on my way to serve a cult I had been trying the past month or so to bring down. I looked out ahead of me to see the Cherubs, as they were called, scrambling to their vehicles, looking like some damn military operation. I still couldn’t believe we were after Ethan Drake. What had he done to deserve this kind of attention from the cult? Was he like me, when he found out he was a part of it? Did he try to stop it and failed miserably, just as I had? I had no idea, nor any idea why we were prepping this much to raid what was essentially a crumbling resort building in the middle of a swamp.

A small caravan of Cherubs, including myself, drove down the winding road into Jenny’s Creek, a forsaken swamp just on the outskirts of Greenhaven. The dark tree branches overhead reaching out towards us like gnarled fingers, as if they knew what kind of people we were, and were trying to subdue us before it was too late. Roger and Chloe sat in the back passenger seats with me, still staring at me, open head wounds still gushing red, getting it all over the seats. I wanted to stop the car, but the bald man wearing a golden cherub mask at the wheels seemed determined, as I’m sure the others were, to get to this destination and take care of whatever business we had to take care of.

Fog started to rise around us as we drew closer to the location of Watersong Palace. We saw the old rusted sign for the place just a few yards ahead. Then we heard the first sounds of gunfire.

We immediately pulled the car over as there were a few vehicles ahead of us, all of them empty. I could swear that through the fog I saw a body lying on the ground. I wasn’t sure who it was, whether it was a Cherub or someone else. I didn’t have time to examine it from my backseat.

“Okay, Doc. Keep down and follow me.” The Cherub in the driver’s seat told me firmly, as he kicked open the car door, prompting me to do the same, anxiously following him as he led me into the bushes, gun drawn. My equipment was a backpack full of medical supplies and a loaded handgun with three extended mags. I wasn’t sure if I could shoot as well as the others. After all, I only managed to hit Moonface as he was within point blank range of me, and he was a huge target to boot. But out here, it was already feeling like a warzone that I was not prepared for.

I followed the Cherub through the underbrush as I heard gun fire all around me. The fog was so thick I couldn’t see who was shooting. Who were these ‘followers’ we were up against, really? I remember the brief telling us that most of these men were old fisherman and gamekeepers from around the nearby fishing town of Endsport, but that was the best description I received from the mission brief.

I’m not cut out for this. I’m not a soldier nor some field medic. I’m just a general practitioner! The Cherub could see I was panicking, but all he did was beckon me to follow him.

“There’s gonna be several Cherubs that have been hurt,” he told me. “We need you to patch up any injuries. You’re doing a big part here, but we need to get to the building as safely as possible. So stay close and keep an eye out.”

In this fog? I thought to myself. I couldn’t see shit. And missing an eye certainly didn’t help either. All I could see were trees and vague outlines or what I assumed were bushes up on the hills. Or were they people? Did they move? I heard gunfire from that direction, so I wasn’t going to take any chances. I stayed down low with the Cherub as he led me through the thick bushes towards our destination. The unseen gunfight persisted all around, and I was praying I wouldn’t go out by being shot in the back by some stray bullet.

To the right of me as I crouch-ran, I saw what looked like a person in a blue hazmat suit, followed closely behind by two Cherubs. They too were running through the brush ducking unseen bullets, With the person in the hazmat suit carrying a silver briefcase. I watched as this strange person disappeared down a small winding pathway, towards what I could only assume was the water’s edge.

“We’re nearly there. That’s the palace just up ahead.” came the voice of the Cherub ahead of me. I could just about make out the ivy-covered marble walls of this old Roman-style building. And almost immediately we were bombarded by gunfire from atop the walls, as I saw several shapes high up on the building, wielding smoking barrels of rifles or shotguns, as I ducked into the bushes. The Cherub wasn’t so lucky. He fell to the first few gun strikes, clutching his chest as he bled out. I crawled over to him, taking out my medical supplies from my backpack to try and tend to his wounds. It was the best I could do to patch him up in the dark and the fog, and I hoped the bushes were enough to cover us from the sight of the gunmen on top of the building. It wasn’t until moments later that I heard more gunfire from behind us, and through the brush I saw that the gunmen’s fire was drawn away from us and they began shooting at whoever was on the right-hand side of us through the trees. I tried to pick up the wounded Cherub to get a move on, but he stopped me.

“Just leave me here,” he said. “You go on ahead with the others.”

There wasn’t much else I could do other than stay behind, which a part of me wanted to do just to stay safe. There was no way I would be heading towards the people trying to shoot at me. That wasn’t until I had a thought. They said their leader was Ethan Drake, an “old friend of mine”. What if I could somehow get inside and reason with him? I looked down the route that the hazmat person took, and thought about following it myself. Ducking and weaving through the bushes, I made my way over to the hidden pathway, and proceeded down the winding dirt road to the banks of the swampy lake.

There was no hazmat suited person anywhere to be found. Just the dirt path. I followed it to the side of the rotted building. There was no sign of anyone there. Good. I found a small arched window, just barely big enough for me to climb through. Despite the building obviously seeing better days, I had to take a brief step back and admire the architecture; the marble sconces, the detailed archways, and the mosaic murals that although crumbling, still gave this old place a sense of magnificence in its heyday. Whatever madman built this place certainly put a lot of passion into this place.

But now wasn’t the time to admire old works. I had a job to do and end this pointless fighting. I drew out my gun, and made my way through the darkness of the bathhouse.

It didn’t take long to find a set of steps leading down into a sort of underground grotto area, with an entrance way surrounded by several marble statues depicting various Roman deities. I entered, turning on my pocket flashlight as the darkness enveloped me.

I could feel the halls getting narrower and tighter, water soaked the stone floors, and wet moss clung to the sides of the rocky walls slipped against my fingers as I felt my way around through the darkness. Finally I came to an opening in what I could assume was some sort of underground fountain system, with old rusted pipes and funnels leading through the center of the large circular room, decorated with strange humanoid shapes, encrusted with shells and aquatic foliage. The centerpiece itself, which I concluded to be the fountain itself, was surrounded by a crusty stone well of sorts, filled to the brim with murky water. I searched more around the room with the flashlight, shining it upon the morbid-looking statues that surrounded the walls of the grotto. My light then illuminated another statue, this time standing in the far end of the circular room, standing in front of another archway leading up to a flight of stone steps. This statue was unlike the others, who depicted such things as deities and mermaids. This statue resembled a woman in a long dress, almost like a shop-window mannequin. I stepped forward to take a closer look at this particular statue, and when I was a fair distance closer, I got a good look at the statue’s face. I gasped in shock, realising to my abject horror that this was no statue. Nor mannequin.

It was Margaret Montague. And she was dead.

She stood there, motionless, a gaunt, haunting expression on her fact of sheer terror, with what looked like a short, metal object lodged into the side of her head. Her face was utterly pale; she was completely drained of blood long ago, as it stained her white evening gown and was now a putrid brown. The stench of dry decay mixed with the briny, salty air was getting to me. I stepped back from the horrible visage and vomited into the fountain, tears streaming from my only eye. One of my close friends was dead. Was Ethan Drake responsible for this? I suppose I had no other choice, but to ascend the stone steps on the other side of the grotto. Hopefully I’ll find what I’m looking for, or be caught. I hoped if they did catch me they’d be merciful, but I highly doubted it. I cocked my gun and proceeded up the steps.

As I made my way up, the air became less thick. The moonlight illuminated the room above me through the arched windows. I found myself in some sort of large hallway, pillars on either side of me, and before me what looked to be a makeshift wooden altar. I approached it, flashlight in one hand and gun in the other. I looked all around me, for any sign of movement. What I did next was perhaps the stupidest decision I made since I got here; I called out to Drake.

“Ethan? Ethan, are you there? It’s me, Ethan! I just want to talk with you!”

“How did you get in here?!”, a rough, gravelly voice suddenly barked behind one of the pillars near the altar. “Who sent you? Was it that bitch, Clarisse? Has she sent you to kill me?”

“No…I just want to talk to you. It’s me, don’t you remember?”

There was a brief pause, before Drake spoke again, this time calmer.

“Put the gun down. Then we can talk. Put it down, then we can talk, okay?”

There was something off-putting about his voice that I couldn’t put my finger on. It seemed shaken, like he was scared, yet it was also full of anger and malice. I didn’t totally trust him, but I wanted to resolve this peacefully. I placed the gun on the ground as he asked, and the moment I did, he emerged from behind the pillar.

He was clad head to toe in what looked like an old preacher garb, complete with a wooden crucifix, but also on the chain were several sea shells. His unkempt silvered hair drooped over his brow, his shrivelled lips quivering above his messy white beard. He approached the light of the flashlight, and I could see there was something wrong with his eyes. The pupils looked dilated and twitchy, but were hard focused on me. As he came towards me, his withered hands outstretched towards my shoulders, and before I could protest, he grabbed me and shook me violently.

“You came to me, my friend!” He cried, looking upward to the sky with a wide grin on his face. “You came to me by the will of Sea-Ra! Hail Sea-Ra, bringer of the Great Deluge! Hail Ra’Sokar, God of War! Hail Anesko, Goddess of Fertility! You bring my friend to me in our hour of need! I cannot thank thee enough!”

I made the terrible mistake of asking him what he was talking about. He stopped rejoicing, and instead now focused his eyes into mine. I could see a grey cloudy film coating his eyeballs.

“They sent you to me. The Old Gods, did they not? Why else are you here, my friend?”

“I just wish to talk with you, Ethan.”

“No, no….no. NO!” He pushed himself away from me before pointing an accusing finger at me. “You came here to kill me, didn’t you? I knew it! That stupid bitch doesn’t know what she’s getting into. The end of the world is coming as we know it, and she will bring about the destruction of everything we know. That is not the way. We must appease the Old Gods. Don’t you look at me like that! You know exactly what I’m talking about. Remember the ritual? Yes….yes you do, don’t you? Remember how everything was botched. One little mistake and it all went wrong. It angered the Old Gods. They killed Luis for this mistake, and almost killed all of us. It was thanks to me you all were saved! ME! If I hadn’t read that passage in the Book of Lu-Ra Kysh, we would be at the mercy of the Old Ones. I remember it all now. And you do too, don’t you?”

I stammered a little, being confronted by this madman that I used to call a friend, rambling about gods and rituals. But I knew he was right. The ritual had taken a toll on my friend’s sanity, and mine too. It had taken the life of my friend, Luis. But through all the trauma and horror, I still could not remember everything. I hoped there was still a little part of Ethan Drake left to reason with, so I told him the truth.

“I…don’t remember everything. I don’t remember what happened to disrupt the ritual. I don’t remember who Mr Sleep is.”

“Who?” Drake asked. “No…it doesn’t matter. What matters is that YOU die tonight. Just like that rancid bitch, Margaret. She thought she could “talk some sense” into me as well. Haha, I’m not the one who’s gone insane here. You can’t even remember everything! I’ve seen the light. I know what must be done. We must appease the Old Gods, bring forth their children and revel in their splendor! You, on the other hand, don’t deserve to see the purity of their being. You are a traitor, working for that French harlet! You will pay for your betrayal, ‘old friend’.”

He then produced a knife from one of his sleeves, before screaming a disturbing, guttural cry at me, that did not sound human in the slightest. I tried to pick up my gun from the floor, but he lunged at me, smacking me down onto the stone floor. I could feel a sharp stabbing pain in my belly as I realised too late that he had struck me with the blade. I tried to kick him off, but he held me down with remarkable strength. His eyes were wide with wild fury, his teeth bared as spit drooled from his bottom lip. He was like a rabid dog, going for the kill. He raised his knife, ready to plunge it into my chest, but not before the sound of a loud CRACK came from behind Drake’s head. I watched as his eyes glazed over and rolled into the back of his head and his mouth hung open, before finally collapsing onto the ground beside me.

I looked up to see who had knocked out Drake. A short, hunched silhouette stood there in the moonlight, his face blurred and featureless. I could feel myself losing grip on consciousness, either from the blood loss from the stab wound, or seeing the vision of my dreams standing over me, peering at me with non-existent eyes. No…I was mistaken. Just one eye. Like me.

“Hello” the figure said calmly “I am Mr Sleep.”

I awoke in my bed, back at home. My stab wound healed. Like nothing ever happened. Mahika slinked her way into my bedroom, purring, as she jumped onto my lap, cuddling up to me. I petted her soft silky head. But I couldn’t stay long. I had to get to work. I got up and walked to the car that was parked outside; a small black car with tinted windows that seemed oddly familiar to me, but I shook the feelings away. It was the only car in the driveway, so it must’ve been mine. It was a dark, cloudy day when I drove to work, that seemed miles away. The road seemed to stretch on for miles. I kept telling myself, everything is normal Everything is fine.

I tried to turn the road to head to the hospital, but Roger and Chloe, who had been seated in the back, told me to go to the left. “Turn left up here.” They said, “There’s somewhere we need to go.”

“Where are we going?” I asked them.

“You’ll see.” They told me.

I did as I was told, turning left and driving through a narrow road straight through the woods, the trees still reaching out towards me, as if they knew what I had done and were trying to stop me.

The road led me back to the Cathedral. There were several cars parked outside. It looked like the whole town was here.

I exited the car, but Roger and Chloe would not move. They just sat there, motioning to me to go on. I just nodded and followed their direction.

I approached the monolithic double doors to the Cathedral, and was greeted by Orlon, who peered down at me from the left hand side of the steps.

“Ah, Doctor Kharagosh. So pleased you could make it. Right this way.”

He beckoned with his finger for me to follow, down the nave towards the altar, where I spotted a small coffin on a slowly spinning platform, as Clarisse was reading passages from a book that I assumed was the Bible, as Orlon spoke to me on the way to the front pews.

“It was such a heavy loss. But Clarisse was with her to the very end. Please, do sit down. The service is about to begin.” Orlon pointed to an empty seat near the front. I took the seat, watching and listening to the service, but I couldn’t make out what she was saying. It was either too quiet or too muffled. But I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to be disrespectful. Instead I listened to the organ music playing, as well as the soft enchanting choir as Clarisse read aloud from the book. Hours must’ve gone by, until something occurred to me; I had no idea whose funeral this was.

I turned back to the pews behind me to see who else had attended. The seats were empty, save for Moonface, The Girl With The Eyepatch, Orlon, several Cherubs and Simon Montague. I motioned to Simon, but he seemed to completely ignore me. “Hey,” I whispered “Who’s funeral is this?”

“Tia”

The voice came from somewhere closeby, though I wasn’t sure whose voice it was. But the name made me feel saddened, because I knew a Tia. But where from? And how did she die?

I decided to approach Clarisse to ask her.

“Sorry to disturb the service, Miss Delacroix, but who was Tia? And how did she die?”

Clarisse simply smiled at me, before bending down behind the pulpit and emerging with something small in her hands. It was a baby.

“What is this?” I asked her.

“You’re the father.” She told me, handing the baby to me.

No. No, I couldn’t be the father. That was impossible. Me and Tia weren’t…this wasn’t right.

I rejected the child, and Clarisse’s warm smile turned into a malicious frown. She suddenly held the infant above her head, but instead of crying, the most beautiful song I had ever heard emanated from the child’s mouth. Like the sounds of angels giving their blessings to all of humankind. I felt like crying as I heard the song. It touched my soul in a way nothing else had. Now I wanted the child for myself, to keep it and to cherish it. I reached forward, but a voice behind me told me “no”. I felt a hand on my shoulder, as Clarisse glared at me, still holding the child.

“Take another look.” The voice behind me instructed.

I did as I was told, and looked closely at the child.

The child was dead.

And at that moment of revelation, the altar suddenly erupted into white hot flames. I heard invisible crowds running and screaming, though no one was around, not even Clarisse. I was alone in the inferno.

“This way, hurry!” I heard the voice behind me cry out. I had no choice but to follow them.

I ran as far and as fast as I could, out of that Cathedral and through the woods, until I came across a clearing on a hill. That same hill. That same bench. I turned back to see not the Cathedral, but a city in flames.

I didn’t know what to do, but sit down on the bench, and watch it burn.

“It’s about time you woke up” came the voice beside me.

I turned to finally see who the voice belonged to. The creature was hunched, with long spindly bowed legs, reminding me of a spider. His long gangly arms hung loosely by his sides. He was wearing a dark green sweat vest with a long-sleeved grey shirt, dark pants and brown leather shoes. His face was blurred, and I couldn’t see his face, just a beige-brown smudge with what looked to be scars covering the bald head. When this creature turned to face me, All I could see was a small green eye on the left side of his face.

“Mr Sleep?” I asked him.

“Call me Sebastian,” he said. “After all, you’ve earned the right to my name by now, as you have earned the right to know the truth.”

“I’m not sure I want to know the truth.” I told him. “After all….that child…that was part of the ritual, wasn’t it? To sacrifice that poor child.”

Sebastian paused for a moment, stretching his unnaturally long legs as he stared back at me with his single green eye. “In order to bring about the Second Coming of God, an innocent soul must be used as a vessel. That child was the vessel. The Seventh Mouth to sing the final Great Song. But something went wrong. Someone interfered with the ritual at the last minute, trying to save the child. If I remember correctly, I believe that culprit was Luis Havana. And as you know, he paid the price with his life, as did many others during that fateful night. We’re all that’s left of that night.”

“Was…the child mine?” I asked him.

He did not answer.

I took a moment to look at Mr Sleep, or rather, Sebastian. I still couldn’t remember him, but I heard the name many times during the meetings with the others, with Abigail. The state he was in, I didn’t know whether to fear him or pity him due to his physical appearance. It looked like it hurt to be him.

“Abigail was a fool,” he suddenly broke the silence. “She just wanted to see if the ritual worked. That’s why she chose us. Not because we were the most influential people in the town, I mean, look at me. I offer nothing to the town but tall tales and nightmares, but she thought that our six voices to sing six songs in six different languages would be enough to awaken this supposed ‘God’ of hers. She knew French, of course, Luis Spanish, Drake spoke Latin, Simon English, you spoke both Hindi and had studied Sanskrit at your University, correct?”

I nodded.

“As for me,” He continued, “I spoke a forbidden language; one as old as the Earth itself. Perhaps older. It came to me in dreams and nightmares. It warped me, changed me into what you see before you now.”

“So what exactly are you?” I asked him.

“I am not human, if that’s what you’re wondering. At least, not anymore. I gave up my humanity long ago.” He looked back to the burning city, shifting a little in his seat, not willing to divulge any further, it seemed.

“It’s been ten long years since that fateful night. The night when we thought we could shift the Heavens to our favour. I was so optimistic. I thought the ritual had such promise, to rid the world of vice and sin, of all the horrific things that humans were capable of. War, greed, corruption, all gone in the blink of an eye. But sadly, things were not to be.”

He turned to me.

“But do you see now why I needed us to suffer? What we did was unspeakable. And what we nearly unleashed was unspeakable. We all took part in it. All of us willing to sacrifice an innocent life in the vain hopes of righting the world’s wrongs, and look what it did to us. And now it’s starting all over again. And there’s no one to stop it. I thought I could, but the powers that be had other ideas. Perhaps the end is coming, but how and when it will come we can only imagine.”

I sat there in silence, listening to this creature speak with no mouth, though his voice was clear. I could not tell whether this creature was old or young. But that didn’t matter as much as the words he spoke.

“Sevenmouth has been around for a long time, ever since the time of the Templars, and even further beyond. They had always been the bridge between the mortal realm and that of the Gods. They kept secrets of the Gods safe and secure, sharing this devastating information to those that are deemed worthy enough to take the responsibility. But never before has the cult expanded to such a degree as this. From puppet presidents to Project Genesis, I fear for the future of humankind. I see it now. I was bitter and foolish. I wanted to see the world burn and be reborn from the ashes. But staring into the face of destruction itself, well…it isn’t a pleasant sight, I can assure you.”

For a while, we both stared at the city. The flames were beginning to die down, the ashen-grey buildings slowly began to crumble away. The devastation was coming to an end.

“Well,” Sebastian finally said, getting up from his seat. “This is where we part ways, for now. Perhaps I will speak to you again. But just a word of warning. Stay away from them. They have let you go, but they have eyes everywhere. Your town? It’s full of them. Everyday and every night they will be watching your every move, waiting for you to slip up.”

“What can I do?”

“Nothing,” he told me, “for there is nothing to do. I will try and think of something to stop them before another disaster happens, but until then, just live your normal life.”

He pointed over the hill, back towards town.

“Go now, and be careful. I will see you when I can. Until then, good luck.”

And with that, he headed towards the direction of the city. I watched him leave until he was out of sight. And when he was gone, I made my own way back to town, leaving that dreadful hill.

And here I am, writing this all down after settling back into my job, with my regular patients and seeing new clientele who arrive into town. Still, I fear for the others. My friends, and the terrible deed we all did. And now we’re set to suffer our fates. Mayor Simon Montague has been more of a shut-in lately ever since his wife was murdered. He invited me to the funeral, though I’m debating whether or not I’ll be attending. Not after the last time I went to a funeral. Poor Selena Havana is still under the delusion that her dead husband is away on vacation. Her son doesn’t even know what happened. How could he possibly understand? Ethan Drake has gone mad, now the leader of his own insane cult on the edge of Endsport, and is wanted by the police for charges of kidnapping and assault. He’s been on the run ever since, no doubt by the actual law enforcement as well as Sevenmouth. As for me, I tried taking medication to forget, after having multiple sleepless nights. I keep remembering all the people that died because of me. Roger, Chloe, Tia, Mahika…that poor child.

I keep seeing visions of them, and I lie awake at night, waiting for Moonface or an army of Cherubs to burst through my door and drag me away again. But it seems like what Mr Sleep alluded to was true. They were watching us, but in the end they let us go. For what reason? I’m not sure. Maybe it was out of some sort of kindness by Clarisse. Or maybe some other motive I have yet to decipher. But I decided not to get involved anymore. I have my life to worry about, my job, my house. Just a normal, healthy life to live out without the fear of being constantly watched by everyone. Even though I sometimes see them walking in the streets, peering through my windows, even waving at me a few times, I know they’re just keeping an eye out. There’s nothing to fear.

Everything is normal

Everything is fine.





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