One August night I’d tarried much too long with friendly confidants
a guest at Master Callow’s home, awash in drink and vulgar prose.
Attentions turned to dour events, the recent loss of debutants;
two sisters vanished overnight, a search recovered only clothes.
I soon became exhausted by the horror of the unsolved crime,
the thought there may be monsters here among the Princeton gentlemen.
I made oblique apologies for slipping loose before my time
and stepped into the twilight to set windward course for home again.
The roads were all but empty save a dog or two who’d broken free
the fog had settled lightly and the earth was damp with drifting dew
Yet through this haze I spied an unknown figure trudging carelessly
And buoyed by curiosity, I paced to closely rendezvous.
He looked a fright, this partial man of sunken features, hunched and wan;
he seemed a rodent scurrying along the curbs of cobbled streets.
Were I not bound as village scribe I’d best avoid those woebegone
but as it is my duty, I fell in behind, whilst well discreet.
His focus was astounding; he was riveted but straight ahead
as not one twist would wrinkle this odd midnight creeper’s sturdy neck.
his gait was short and powerful, I felt a moment’s chilling dread
that I could be in danger by the last of this night’s forlorn trek.
We entered into Sorrow’s Wood, at most a hundred feet between;
my quarry mostly thrashed his way, as I more dodged and softly snuck.
In dark I lost his ragged form and yet his sounds were loudly seen
I’d stumbled on a pompous cur, his sole defense, imagined luck.
Within the hour we’d reached a stream, its narrows flanked by sandy stone
my target leapt across the foam by sodden log and sunken rock
At last upon the eastern shore he stood before a cross of bone
then stepped into the wall itself, I drew deep breath and bore my shock
For as a boy I’d ventured here, a woodsman sure, a hunter strong
yet never had I seen a cave; the wall had seemed most featureless.
I crept to peer inside the hole and heard a distant, whistled song
I shivered at my choices; I preferred my darkness creatureless.
I’d come this far, it seemed a shame to turn and run as answers loomed
so step by anxious step I moved into the gaping earthen maw.
My hands became my proxy eyes, my fingers searching through the gloom
when finally I reached candle light, and there I stared in frightful awe.
Within a pick hewn cavern room were furnishings thrice cast away
their covers torn beyond repair and soiled by spatterings of blood;
and on the walls were canvases laced into frames on bold display,
the skins of twenty humans stretched and dabbled on with ash and mud.
I tried to shout, then quickly flee, yet I was paralyzed with fright
I simply dropped onto my knees and vomited what bile would rise
But I’d forgotten why I’d come, and now my prey laughed at the sight
“I thank you for delivering my next fine art to brutalize!”
And with a lunge he drove a knife into my back ‘till caught in bone;
the pain was indescribable, I screamed aloud, my soul released.
From somewhere deep I conjured fire, a rage that changed my flesh to stone
I turned and clutched his face to rip the sight and tongue from Satan’s beast.
For all too long we struggled on the organ covered, slippery floor
our strengths were matched, our skills, entwined; it seemed a never ending duel.
And then I spied a skeleton, its rib bones splayed and rife with gore
I drove the demon backward and impaled him on his self made ghoul.
I passed into the darkness, for how long I cannot really tell
though weakened by my loss of blood it matters little at this hour
I thought I’d killed the wretched man, yet he’s now vanished, save his smell,
and I can only write this tale and wonder, will I fight, or cower?
I lie here now immobile, and within my view are severed heads
Two dozen lined like loaves of bread upon a bakers cooling rack
and in their eyes I see their fear, their sadness at dreams too soon dead
I swear I must revenge them all, should Satan’s spawn come stumbling back.
And yet I wonder; should he die while wandering quite far from here,
and I am found upon this floor alive yet near the river Styx,
what odds that I should look the filth that harvested these souvenirs;
what chance that I’m found guilty by a jury swayed by legal tricks?
No time! I hear his footsteps, the loud cursing of an angry man!
I search the floor for weapons and I find not one to that might suffice.
But in my back a knife resides, though buried deep; I move my hand
to yank it from my marrow while my heart is stilled and cold as ice.
I only have one chance I know, I’ve not the strength to dance and jab.
So there I lay in flick’ring light as evil came to seal my fate
My gooseflesh set the signal, on my instinct I thrust out to stab
and pray I have the reach and power to strike and deeply penetrate.
The blade slid through an artery, the manthing buckled, then he fell;
his body fluids spewed aloft, and filled the air with misty red
I choked upon his fetid blood, yet reveled in his trip to hell
My task was done, revenge was had, the murderer was truly dead
I tried to make my way outside, but I have lost the will to move
instead I write this grisly tale on stone in my own thick’ning blood
I only hope the truth is found before my traces disappear
as surely this dark cavern will succumb to next spring’s cleansing flood.