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For seven long years - more, perhaps - all I’ve ever done is apologize to people.
It started off harmless, really. More of the result of my upbringing than anything I’ve ever done. The humility taught to me by my mother and the aggressive flaws recognized in both my father and I. When I started the relationship with my then-girlfriend, I was naive. In my childhood, all I’d ever wanted was to help people no matter the cost. Nobody ever taught me that altruism can ultimately destroy you bodily and mentally. Nobody told me its impractical in its extremes. If I couldn’t help someone, all I could find myself saying is “I’m sorry,” and that hurt.
We were fine at first, like all couples. What we had was passionate, and whole avenues opened up to me. Until things big and small just started to gradually build up, breaking away only when tensions rose to intolerable levels, only they didn’t really go away with those break points. Regret and pain calcified upon me. I wish I could blame it solely on her own imperfections, physical and emotional. But the truth is I made mistakes too; so when she started making me feel like my own personhood was damaged, I started changing myself to fit her vision of perfection. This was my apology: to hack away at the shadowy creature I saw myself as.
Of course, this only succeeded in tricking the both of us for short time spans. I was depressed and lost in a haze of memories, hidden emotions, insecurities and existential dread. Even my art took on a sad and self-deprecating quality. By the time she left, I was a ruinous being who didn’t even know what he looked like anymore. A monster.
And now here I am, at the doorstep of a peculiar wraith named William. He brought me in exactly because I was lost. Looking to find myself in the dissociative chaos of the Abyss? Searching for a cosmic reconciliation that would justify my life choices? Finding forgiveness?
I just wanted something hideous, cruel and fast to gouge out my throat so I wouldn’t have to do it myself.
For all the people that I’ve let down. I’m sorry.
I woke up in my room at around 12 in the afternoon. I was disheveled and heavily-bearded from several days of ignoring self-care, but frankly I’m used to this sort of thing, as are my parents who encouraged me to relax. I told them I was taking a break from my internship, which was technically true. After the ordeal of Heaven’s Grove, William put me on a strict recuperation period to allow him time to plan his next move against our hidden enemy. According to him, the cult had indeed picked up on our snooping, possibly by detecting the portal magick within our base of operations, and decided that a full frontal approach would be enough to take down the two wraiths and their plus one. What they did not expect at least was that we’d fight back so soon; even the Estate itself was heavily fortified with invisible, powerful barriers set up by Will himself.
To think he could approach several opponents at once without me to weigh him down was aggravating, terrifying - yet a little relaxing to think about. Other than the obvious scent of death about him and the blank stare when questioned, Will refused to explain beyond the skirmish what exactly happened at Fraea’s foundry that agitated him so much. We retook Fraea’s Foundry, nothing more.
By this point, the concept of eldritch beings beyond time and space were so beyond my pay grade, I just didn’t even bother fighting or accepting it. I just ignored what happened and tried to kill the horrid void in my stomach with video games, food and other short-lived pleasures.
And funnily enough, I started to draw again. Normally my portfolio consisted of large-breasted warriors with equally large, obnoxious weaponry, cartoons of myself looking stupid (a fan favorite), and monsters. But this time I found myself inspired to paint, an endeavor I only would have thought of as a college-mandated activity.
Nonetheless I bought myself a four foot by seven foot tall canvas, a set of paints, and started to work. Art is really the only thing that makes me feel in control. I can communicate myself more clearly, even if my thoughts aren’t so cohesive. But the thing is, I didn’t even know what I was painting by the third day. William hadn’t contacted me in so long and my lack of knowledge of the overall situation had me even more on edge.
So that evening, I woke up, turned on Spotify and looked at the canvas leaning against the wall. The most abstract of human silhouettes laid upon it, framed in complex blues, reds and blacks but completely devoid of pigment. It was like I was specifically aiming to paint AROUND the figure before filling it in. A few days had passed and yet barely any progress was made.
And that pissed the fuck out of me. It was outrageous, nothing like me! Not like my style, not meaningful, not anything at all.
“Gdjfckdmnt!” I muttered incoherently. My head started pounding. I could feel another breakdown coming on. Without warning, I took my remaining black paint and tossed it at the canvas violently, disrupting the form with the most arbitrary and messy of splatters. And when even that wasn’t enough to undo my mistake, I started stabbing at the frame with an unfortunately nearby calligraphy pen. Only after my fingers began throbbing with dull pain did I realize I’d accidentally cut myself and spattered my own blood on the canvas too. In the background some German doom metal was playing, the ominous moaning reverberating around my room.
Shaking miserably, I fell back onto my bed to fall asleep. The nightmares came not too long after. In this one, I was sprinting towards figures who’d fall away from me into the darkness under my feet. The sound of a rushing liquid surrounded my presence with unbearable familiarity. In the distance, a perfect recreation of the splatter I made hovered infinitely high above my head. It shimmered with sentient violence, lunging about and making my eyes bleed as its seering white outline burned itself into my mind. I didn’t even know how my brain could’ve remembered such an abstract shape when oftentimes I can’t even remember what I was doing five seconds ago. What I did remember upon waking, was that the splatter had a face.
An angry one looking directly at me.
When I woke again around 9pm, I hazarded a foggy glance at the canvas. Vague shapes appeared and I noted that indeed, the splatter was still there. The rough estimation of a face came from three specific, almost perfect circular smudges left where the head used to be. Kinda looked like a coconut.
Wait...the head? Used to be?
The silhouette was gone from the canvas, even though rough remnants of paint within that space suggested it existed previously, otherwise.
“Great,” I grunted at myself. “And now I’m officially losing my fucking mind.”
With nothing left to do, I continued my week as if nothing happened. But within the world of the occult, you simply can’t walk away. The void out there always wants the void inside you.
The following day, I resolved to quiet my mind with some well-needed stimulation. Sometimes you can solve overthinking with regular thinking, ya get me? I went to my local library. At some point I ended up doing one of those Wikipedia trains, you know, where you just trace your way through various links until you find a topic that interests you?
The page I ended up on concerned something called an egregore. Googling it further, I ended up on some sketchy website with oversized, oddly-stylized text detailing it further:
The egregore, sometimes knowne as a ‘tvlpa’ in some spiritual sects, is the psychical/metaphysical emanation created and sustained by an individual or collective group, appearing thru iconography and abstract representation. Strong psychic attachment and manifestation of the egregore within its metaphysical state is enough to create a self-sustaining and sentient thought, capable of having real-world influence. After all, according to the Chaotes and all their acolytes therein; what is belief bvt a toole of perception, used to bolster the effects of their goal-oriented magicks?
Certainly not an original concept, but maybe that's what made its staying power that much stronger. I’d seen lots of media which introduced the idea of a thoughtform becoming self aware, like Supernatural or Silent Hill, which cemented itself in my memory as a topic of interest.
While not inherently dangerous on its own, progressively sustained thoughtforms are capable of gaining further autonomy; sometimes knowledge of the form itself is enough to sustain it, same as even world-wide iconography as the Disney symbol, the death-head motif, the infinite symbol, YAHWEH itself, and so on so forthe. For all my dear faithful, remember the creede of your forerunners, “Qvod est svperivs est sicvt qvod inferivs, et qvod inferivs est sicvt qvod est svperivs.” As above, so below; that which you manifest from within, may manifest itself withovt…
By the time I’d realized I was diving back into this esoteric bullshit, it was too late. I just dug myself nose-first into every article I came across.
I never was a particularly good Christian. I took interest in the most bizarre and weird concepts that would probably put me at odds with my belief system, and used them in my own work. But here at least, this seemed to be a fairly harmless and fun belief which avoided the typical scrutiny of postmodern skepticism. I mean, I grew up with imaginary friends, and I ended up being pretty stable right?
… Don’t answer that.
Later, I took a long walk around the neighborhood, making my way to Dunkin Donuts for a caramel latte. While waiting in line, I just pretended to look at the food menu to avoid meeting anyone’s gaze. This didn’t necessarily help my social anxiety since, as far as the average passerby could tell, I looked like an ex-convict having ex-con sort of thoughts. As I did so, I kept seeing gray shapes flutter in the corner of my vision; assuming it was the usual eye floaters, I ignored them. Upon grabbing my drink, I heard what sounded like soft gurgling noises somewhere above my head.
I spun around in confusion, meeting some tiny lady’s gaze with my own and making her visibly shrink back. I looked back up to where the sound came from - the Dunkin menu. I assumed maybe I’d just heard one of those annoying advertisements that like to spam you with sounds of fake people enjoying fake drinks. Paying for the drink, I walked outside and wandered into the alleys of the city.
Wandering around my city is a therapeutic thing for me. Even if my feet ended up hurting, I’d just root myself down in a comfortable place outside and watch people go about their day. Today felt the same, with a light breeze blowing from the gray lake at my back as I walked towards a public park. Although … it wasn’t quite the same. Something felt off, like the world was tilted at a slight angle and only I was able to see the crookedness. What really threw me for a loop was the strange graffiti I came across before exiting the alley.
It wasn’t typical gangland shit, it was actually somewhat legible and had an iota of effort put into coloring the sharp, thick lettering. Spanning maybe eight feet high and splattered across a garage door. The only thing bothering me was this strange sliver of white paint that stuck out like a splinter between two of the letters. It was small, maybe a foot in length. And it was seemingly glowing.
My head started to pulse like a sort of radar. I wasn’t nervous enough to walk away, and against all logical sense my feet brought me closer to the strange 2D aperture. It was soundless, and bright in an incomprehensible volume. Looking into it left visual artifacts in my retinas that lasted only a fraction of a second. My sense of unease began to grow as I backed away, unsure of what to do. I figured maybe I was having another manic episode; they honestly were becoming slightly more frequent and intense as days passed, mostly brought on when I ruminate too much. As I backed out of the alley, I heard something choking, similar to the noise I heard earlier at Dunkin but much MUCH louder.
Wet, sticky noises echoed in the empty alley as the wind picked up. Hazarding a glance back, I saw what was making the noise emerge from that white gash in the door. First, a pasty white hand, then arm, then torso raise itself out. It burned as brightly as the crystal sun of this morning. And then the head emerged.
They say the thing you don’t comprehend or know is far scarier than that which you do, but this wasn’t the case here. It was the failed painting from my room, but only the humanoid portion. As it turned toward me, I saw its spindly limbs struggle to free itself of its two dimensional prison and face me fully. Pure white canvas coated its entire body, and the only markings to indicate human features were the grotesquely large ink splatters in a lopsided, triangular pattern on its facial area. Even the top of its head was a misshapen facsimile of the shape of the beanies I often wore.
I took a step back. The gurgling noise from earlier was a dead ringer for this thing as well. It could talk.
“Youuuu…ssssorry sssack of shit. I’ll killlll you.”
“Y-you’re not real.” Despite how absurd that sounded, there it was anyway, shambling towards me with an accusing finger. Its rudimentary eyes warped into an unfathomably hateful glare.
“Ruin everything. Everythinngg. Yoouu know what we need to do - “ It raised a tapered finger to its throat and slashed. Dark red paint spewed across the alley as it gurgled and continued its march.
I ran into the streets so fast, I’m surprised to this day that the oncoming traffic didn’t complete what this thing wanted me to do to myself.
I sprinted for what felt like hours. I knew I couldn’t go home: my family was still there, and as much I craved their comfort and love, I knew I’d put them through more pain if I came home and the thing followed after. After making sure I wasn’t alone - I sat in a crowded park, just enough I could keep my eyes peeled - I racked my brain.
Malevolent entity following me. Possibly feeds off instability. Need a solution and fast. My special cannon wasn’t on my person, but honestly I think that would’ve been ideal given the context.
I left the park, making sure to scan the crowd as they went about their day. At times I caught glimpses of white from the corners of my vision, between the passersby, but did not dare to look behind.
I bussed to my nearest public library, someplace quiet enough I could do some research. I sat down at the computers furthest away from the front desk, under a flickering yellow light. My gut told me I needed to be quick about this. I revisited the initial site I read on tulpas and egregores, but it didn’t turn up anything about banishing the things. The search term ‘evil tulpa/evil egregore’ and ‘tulpa trying to kill me’ brought up nothing useful either, instead bringing me to some horseshit Reddit roleplay and self-proclaimed experts shooting their vague philosophies off which eventually dribbled off into schizoid rambling. Shocker.
So I did what any good internet scholar does and tried out an archive, and started combing through filters using occult terminology. Eventually, I found what I was looking for; an article detailing the supposed summoning practices of one Austin Osman Spare, a 20th century occultist and magician. According to most writings of this guy, he was capable of summoning and capturing ‘elemental automata’ which abided by his bidding. Not exactly the same as this tulpa concept, but it came very close. From what I understand of Spare’s vocations, his art was a gateway through which his willpower functioned; these so called elementals and spirits were more so conjured from his subconscious than another plane of reality; though to argue the differences between Hell and the rock bottom of your consciousness feels arbitrary. So functioning off this logic, one’s own willpower would be needed to effectively banish the entity one summoned. No alchemy needed, however I would need to create my own sigils to make it work.
As I continued reading through the page, something changed. I noticed the type on screen floating, seeming to pop out of the screen slightly like in a 3D movie, before slowly sliding down like they were stuck in honey.
“What the fuck…” I breathed as I leaned in. Stupid mistake. Pale hands reached out from inside the monitor and grabbed my hair.
“Hnn! Let go-!” I yelped as they dug in and began slamming my face repeatedly into the screen. I pushed against the side of the desk as hard as I could, but the white pasty limbs reclaimed their grip and instead began pushing it down into the desk and keyboard, smothering me, smashing my nose and cheek.
“HELP, HELP MNF-!!” I tried shrieking. In between slams, I saw the text on screen flicker and mutate.
STRANG3 EYES ST4RE VVITH STRAN6E INTENT
KI1L YORSEL7 NOW AND SUFFER N-0 REGR3T
The horrid wet gurgling accompanied the assault. My vision blurring, I made a last ditch attempt to free myself and kicked off the floor as hard as I could, rocketing forward into the PC monitor. My head smashed into the screen, knocking it onto its side and ripping out a few cables. The hands released their grip and I blinked, looking up.
Everyone was staring at me, and any evidence I had been attacked seemed absent, save for some bruises on my face.
The desk lady walked over, and as I tried opening my mouth to say sorry, all she said was “You need to leave.”
With nowhere left to go and no materials to craft my sigil, I headed home with a sinking feeling. I could only pray that the entity following me would take enough time to allow me a moment of respite.
The sky darkened as I made my way home via bus. The birds stopped chirping and the trees swayed gently in the growing winds. I stomped up my front porch, breathless, and reached my front door before the first rain drops hit. In my mind, the layout of the sigil sketch I worked out while bussing home flickered erratically, a warning sign for the struggle to come. I had to make it to my room before my family noticed.
A chisel sharpie. A sheet of illustration paper. A lighter. And hesitantly, a box cutter as I passed the office room. My house was dark and empty, so my parents must’ve not been home and my brother was asleep at this point.
I locked my door behind me and began work. The sigil wasn’t difficult to draw; I thought of my intent - to banish the entity - and summarized it into several key letters. I arranged them in such a way that they represented the object and action of my desire. I added some abstract icons as well which further added to the idea behind the sigil. Added a circle to frame the whole thing. And finally, summoning all the courage I could, I took the cutter and dug into my palm and squeezed a few droplets of blood from the resulting cut into the circle. I had no idea whether or not this would work or was even required - I felt like a madman for even considering such a thing to begin with. Afterall, all my fantasies of hurting myself either came about as subtle psychological torture or were idealized as final solutions.
And then I prayed. Prayed for the thing terrorizing me to go away. At some point, exhaustion took me while I cried and held my burning hand.
I awoke to the sound of thunder rumbling the house, causing the windows to rattle slightly. I jumped up, focusing on the sound of the rain. I had no idea how long I’d been out, but judging by how light it still was outside it couldn’t have been more than half an hour.
I sat up. “What the hell am I doing,” I muttered to myself. Thunderclaps and lightning once again shook me from my thoughts, reminding me I needed to be on guard. I looked over the side of my bed and saw with dawning horror that the sigil I drew was nowhere to be seen. I needed to burn the thing when the monster showed up, to further consolidate the desired effect. Looking around the room, checking under my bed and papers, I finally hazarded a look under the crack of my door. The sheet had moved outside into the hallway. Curse my sleepiness.
Lightning, thunderclap, rattle.
I scooted over and reached my fingers under the door. It was so close, but my stupid fingers were almost too big to reach. Almost. I strained and grinded them against the ragged bottom to further reach. Curse my laziness.
Lightning, thunderclap, rattle.
I cussed and ripped the sheet toward me, accidentally causing a small tear to reach towards the sigil and cut across the circle frame. Curse my anger.
Lightning, thunderclap, rattle.
I brought the sigil in and held the lighter up to it. Curse my inability to change my ways.
Lighting, thunderclap, rattle.
. . .
And more rattles. And more and more. The shadow of two feet appeared under the door. My doorknob was turning slightly.
“Ben?” I called. No answer. “Is that you? Who’s there?” Nobody answered me as the knob continued to turn, then jerk left and right violently. It was here.
I withdrew and with a quick prayer, flicked on my lighter and held it to the sheet, standing back as it ruined my tiled floor with ash and flame. “Burn in Hell, you fuck,” I muttered through gritted teeth as the thing on the other side began slamming the door rhythmically. This continued for some time until the sheet was nothing but a curled and blackened strip on the floor. I opened a window and ushered the growing smoke through, the humid breeze greeting and mixing with the burning.
The knocking had stopped. I’d won. At least I thought so. That is until the thing that had been knocking on the other side dropped to floor level and began oozing through the door cracks. Bubbling, hungry white paint crept in and pooled around my bed.
“No no NO, fuck!” I cried, crouching back on my bed. I couldn’t find the hand cannon anywhere.
Like always, the hands came first. They always do. Reaching, searching along the bed frame before ripping my sheets away. “Jaaaaaakeeeyy…” it crooned in a blasphemous parody of my own voice. “Yesss…just run away. Its what you’re goooood at…” it mocked in another familiar voice; something I once said to her in a moment of frustration. I planted myself in the corner. I wasn’t ready to fight this. Demons, gods, monsters, whatever, I’d take it all over this. Anything but this.
The thing shambled onto the bed and left its pale hand prints along my wall and comforter, the paint bubbling into curious fractals which dissipated into thin air. It took on a decidedly more feminine shape, its horrible black and blue eyes burrowing into mine as a crude set of eyebrows pointed down, giving it the expression of an angry cartoon maniac. I threw a kick at the thing’s chest and my leg sank through with a sickening suction noise.
The entity, grabbing my leg, launched forward at blinding speeds and thrust its face towards mine. More paste-like appendages shot out, pinning my hands down, knocking away any items I could’ve used to defend myself.
“Whyyyy do yooouuu never listen? Whyyy can’t yooouu just do what you’re supposed to, you fucking dick?” the thing whined at me. Its face flickered and shifted between an approximation of my own and everyone else I’ve ever known or loved. “You ended up being a waste of time.” It raised a finger above my head. The tip began to elongate, slowly morphing into a sharpened blade which dangled across my eyes.
“Youuuu… changed so much. I don’t even recognize you anymore.”
The words sunk into my chest like lead weights, hitting every major organ until they finally landed in my brain, the last part of me that felt like it worked at all anymore.
And in one last ditch effort, it started talking for me. “You’re right.”
The thing paused, black holes locked onto my face as the sharp digit waggled over my pupils.
“Y-you’re right, I did change. And so d-did you. But I was an idiot and tried to pretend everything was okay, a-and I just kept pushing shit down because I thought I could take it all but I couldn’t. I can’t do everything on my own. Okay? I fucked up. I changed for the worst, and so did you because I just wasn’t paying attention at all. And you know what? I wouldn’t change a goddamn thing because it led me here, right now, to this room, and goddamnit, if that's where I need to be to eventually get better, so be it. I’m not the monster here. YOU are.”
The reflection above me shifted and contorted, its face - MY face - grimacing in anger, joy and confusion. I gripped the thing’s cold wrists angrily in my own hands. My heart raced.
“I’m my own worst enemy, and I’m tired of performing my own execution in the hopes that someone, somewhere, will forgive me. I forgive me. I forgive you.” And with that, I leaned forward, sinking my head into my own living rumination. In the blinding silence, in the black garden of my own indignity, something lifted off of me and disappeared into the aether.
I can’t say for certain if I truly fixed what had been wrong with me until that point. An admittance of defeat or ignorance doesn’t make up for the years of trauma, the bad habits, or the wrong-think you programmed into yourself. But admitting you could be better is the first step to getting help. And so, I walked upstairs and went to ask my brother if he was okay and wanted any food.
As above, so below. That within, shews itself without.
“Please, please let me go. I’ll suck your dick, I’ll do any - “ a resounding shriek cut off the lady’s pleas as William jabbed a sharp pen into her knee.
“Silence, witch. You know very well wraiths are asexual, and even if I wasn’t I wouldn’t grace your lips with any part of me.” He jabbed again and the woman howled in anger, fixing him with a malevolent glare as her facade dropped. She sneered.
“Damn right you’re dickless, Billy.” William scowled at her while Fraea circled behind the captive woman, watching her impassively behind cheap plastic shades. “How’d you find us so easily, Billy boy? Thought you were busy fondling your little apprentice in the catacombs below the city.”
“The stench of corrupt magick wafts off your kin wherever you go. It wasn’t very hard. Besides, most of the wraith population in this city make damn well sure to stay away from that massage parlor you’ve been fronting for the last three months. How many have you imprisoned?” Will pressed.
The madam in the chair, of youthful expression and body, squirmed into a better position. Her slender ankles and wrists, bound by curious glowing chains to the floor, lifted slightly with resistance before settling again. As she got a better look at William, the air around her head shifted. Her lusty red curls parted and gave way to rivulets of shining black ink, seeping out of her scalp, covering her face in ropey strands, stinging the eyes and mouth. A crown of gold erupted from her skull, pumping a continual discharge of the black ichor out until it coated her head and hair completely. Smirking, the woman spread her legs in a mocking attempt at relaxation. William fixed her with his unmoving gaze.
“Enough, Billy. Enough. Hunting wraiths isn’t as ehm, satisfying at times. You can capture humans, toy with them for a while. Turn them into monsters. Maybe fuck ‘em if you’re bored, but wraith bodies are really only good for crafting wightbombs and puppets, like we did with your old boy Demigot.” The witch snickers again. “Humans, we can turn into whatever we want. I reeaaally wanna see what we can turn that little boytoy of yours into … “ She trails off and licks her lips salaciously.
Having none of it, William slashes her throat with the pen, causing an eruption of black ink to spew forth from the hole. The witch gasped and then cackled, gargling for a few seconds before the ink ceased its discharge. But rather than perishing, the witch simply straightened up, laughing in a hollow tone suiting her ragged throat.
“Hak…hak…haahh…ohh please. You wish you could hurt me like you want. I’m getting way more pleasure than pain at this rate …” Fraea stopped pacing and grabbed the back of the chair, glaring at Will through her shades.
“Bud, this shit ain’t goin’ nowhere. I say we finish her off and find another of her slut sisters to question. Maybe one of the new recruits.” Fraea gestures frankly at the woman who grins and nods eagerly, spitting out a vile mix of red and black.
William pauses. Deep within the mansion’s basement, the insight of his path became clear as an idea rumbled through the desolate halls into his mind.
“No. I know what’ll scare her. Grab her fountain.”
Fraea smirked slightly, planting her hands firmly on both sides of the magickal crown. The witch grunted, attempting to shake her off but remaining firmly rooted in place. “Fucking filthy non-being. Leggo!”
Will traced his fingers through the air, a thin trail of ink flowing from his orifices into the sign of a Sigil. “Severing Clutch,” he murmured, a hand of indeterminate mass and gnarled digits manifesting in the middle of the air. The witch cursed the two of them as the hand firmly grabbed her fountain, and then slowly began to unscrew it from her crown.
“W-WAIT, wait! Christ, what is wrong with you! What the fuck do you want to know, I’ll tell you! Just, let me keep it please. It's the only thing I have in this world, just let me keep it.” William peered down into the witch’s face, searching her silently.
“You will tell me who you function under, and what their game is.”
The witch froze, panting, and opened her mouth while her eyes darted around. At length, she spoke.
“We’re gonna fuck this entire world up. The Painted King is gonna fuck YOU up. The Abyss belongs to us. You fucking wraiths think you inherited this world? HAH. You’re nothing but paper cut outs in the wind. W-”
Before she could finish, before William could command his manifestation, the witch shriveled into a husk. The ink that once ran freely from her skull was siphoned into seemingly nothing, along with her remaining breath as well. Will and Fraea stumbled back, aghast as the husk folded in on itself until it burst into a scattered collection of bone fragments and tattered cloth.
The only thing remaining was the shining fountain stave, its tip dulled and melted from the time spent inside the woman’s skull.
As recorded within The Estate