Hey folks. Queerpy Tasha here. Not long ago I started posting on Facebook and Reddit about the general weirdness that goes on around here. I had no idea things would escalate the way they did. Now I find myself compelled to share my story wider. Not as a warning, but as a message. So here is how it all began.
16 November 2020
Something weird happened today.
You probably know this already, but some really weird stuff happens in this city. No? Just me. Well, probably. Whenever I bring it up with people it barely phases them.
Like the last Summer Solstice. I was out in Hyde Park celebrating in a completely responsible, socially distanced way with the local Pagans. We were there from sunrise and cheered as the mighty king rose over the horizon. We stayed all day watching as the Sun rose from the East until it was high overhead. Then it… hung there for a bit. And started moving back towards the East. It sank lower and lower towards the Eastern horizon and eventually set, to much applause from the Pagans.
I was like, “Doesn’t the Sun usually set in West?”
And they were like, “Yeah, usually.”
I asked them. “That was pretty weird, right?”
They just shrugged. “I guess.”
I mean… that was pretty weird, right? Right? It hasn’t done it again since, so doubt it’s anything to worry about, but, wow. That was weird.
Anyway, that’s nothing to do with what happened today.
Town was quiet. I had been working on some job applications at Flamingos Coffee House and was on my way back to the bus station to go home. Walking down York Street, there was an oldish guy in front of me walking in the same direction. He was wearing a ratty grey suit, had short, grey hair, and blew plumes of acrid grey smoke behind him as he walked. I’m an ex-smoker so not a big fan of second hand smoke. I slowed my pace down to avoid it.
As we got to the NCP Car Park, I spotted something fall from his pocket. It looked like a wallet. I jogged forward and picked it up. Definitely a wallet. I shouted to him to let him know and he froze on the spot and spun around like he’d just heard an explosion. He stared at me with this weird intensity. I swear I am not that scary! Then in a flash he sprinted off down a side street towards the outside bit of Leeds Market! Golly, he was fast. I ran after him, waving his wallet over my head as he disappeared around the corner.
I rounded the corner and he was no where to be seen. There was nobody there at all. But I could still smell the smoke. I looked down, and saw a small grey cat crouched down staring at me. Its ear were all the way back and hair standing on end. It leapt away and disappeared under the stalls of the market.
I mean, I guess that was pretty weird. But the weirdest thing was seeing the cat had a lit cigarette in its mouth. Do cats smoke? How would they even light a cigarette? Can they read the health warnings on the packaging? So many questions.
No idea where the guy got to. The wallet was empty except for a bit of change, including an old Dutch coin. I’ll keep hold of it in case I come across him again.
17 November 2020
Something weird happened again today.
I live in quite a nice part of Leeds. Outside of the centre. I guess you could call it a suburb. But my home is garbage. It’s what’s known as a bedsit, which is a single room that acts as my bedroom, living room, and kitchen combined. Think studio apartment, but smaller. It has no windows due to it being a basement bedsit and just one door going in. Very miserable and gets really cold in winter. The damp is becoming a problem as well. I have to have an air filter running 24/7 to try and keep the mould problem under control.
So it probably won’t come as much of a surprise that I spend as much time outside of this burrow as possible. Fortunately, there is lovely park opposite my place. It isn’t huge, but it’s well maintained. It’s mostly a large grassy field with a few chestnut trees scattered around.
Today I was sat in my favourite spot under one of the chestnut trees. The sun had come out for a few minutes and I had a couple new manga to read which a lovely friend gave me for my birthday It was quiet except for a few dog walkers and a group of kids mummifying a dead fox they found. Nice day.
Then this bouncy golden retriever runs up to me with a tennis ball.
“Hello, pretty doggo!” I greeted it.
But it ignores me and circles round to the side of the tree, towards a random hole in the grass. I didn’t even notice it before.
Pretty doggo drops their ball into the hole and bounces backwards, tail wagging in anticipation. I thought maybe they want me to pick it up, so I start to stand when suddenly the ball rockets out of the hole and shoots about 25 meters away! Doggo chases after it.
I investigate the hole. It’s about 6 inches wide. A bit like a burrow, though there isn’t any loose soil around it. And it’s deep. Straight down. Completely vertical.
Doggo runs up again and pushes me out of the way so they can drop their ball in again. Just like before, it shoots off into the distance and doggo chases after it. Doggo’s owner walks past and smiles at me.
“She loves that hole,” they tell me.
Doggo doesn’t come back to the hole again so I continue investigating.
First I thought to drop a pebble in. It quickly disappeared into the dark. Then a few seconds later the pebble pops back up out of the hole, and plops down next to me. Pretty weird.
I turn the torch on my iPhone on and shine it down. Still can’t see the bottom. This thing is really deep. Again, I drop the pebble and see it travels a bit further this time, until it inevitably disappears. Then it comes back into view and hurtles towards me! I leap back just in time to avoid getting hit by the returning pebble and it lands a couple of feet from the entrance.
I was starting to see a pattern.
Wanting to see further down, I keep the torch on my phone on and, only somewhat hesitantly, drop it down the hole. Now I could see how far it goes! Maybe even the bottom!
It fell. And it fell. And it kept falling. And falling. The light from the torch got dimmer and dimmer. Then faded away into the dark. And I waited. And I waited. The sun was setting. I still waited. The sun set. Street lights began to flicker on. It was getting cold out. I headed home.
The effing hole robbed me.
So yeah, if anyone finds a phone, it was an iPhone SE in rose gold with an “I believe in fairies” Tinkerbell sticker on the case.
18 November 2020
Something weird happened today.
Yesterday I went back to the hole to try and get my phone back but no luck. Sent a whole roll of string down it but still can’t find the bottom. That makes it at least 100 meters deep!
I’ve tried ringing it from a land-line, but surprise surprise, no signal. (damn you, O2). Would have been funny if someone answered. But with how deep it’s gone, it would probably count as an international call, and don’t really wanna pay for that.
The hole was wider. About a foot across now, And about two feet down it, I spotted something was stuck in the side. I reached in and grabbed it along with a handful of the dirt.
It was a little sprout. Nothing interesting. I was about to cast it aside when I noticed a noise coming from somewhere close by. It wasn’t coming from the hole. I closed my hand around the sprout and the noise stopped.
I pulled my hand up next to my ear and listened carefully. Not a sound. I slowly opened my hand and the noise started again, and it was definitely coming from the sprout! It sounded like it was crying? I cupped my other hand over the top of it, and the crying stopped again. I guess it doesn’t like the light.
Well, little buddy. You’re in luck, because I live in a basement flat with no windows.
So I brought my little buddy home, and planted them in a Nine Inch Nails coffee mug.
They live under my sink now.
First thing this morning I checked on the little sprout and he’s doing well. We’ve named him Gomez He’s cute. No leaves yet. Just a thin green stalk. Wonder what he’ll grow to be.
I checked on the hole again. It’s had gotten bigger again. Now it’s almost two meters wide. Still can’t see the bottom. Looks like the Council tried to fence it off with some hazard tape during the night but that’s already falling apart. Unless the Occultists took it down.
Oh, yh. The Occultists. I’ve got a good view of the park from outside of my house and saw the Occultists were setting up camp there. They’re easy to spot. Purple hooded robes, lined with gold. All of them wearing a different kind of theatrical mask, like they looted the costume department for the ball scene in Labyrinth. Love that film. Don’t love the Occultist so much. Still… nice to see people being responsible and wearing masks.
There’s about a dozen of them that I could see. Most were setting up tents or constructing their own rope fence around the hole. A local trade union had set up a stall outside their encampment. They usually show up whenever there’s any kind of gathering in the city. A couple of Occultists were being distracted by one of them handing out newspapers.
When I wandered over to do my morning check on the hole, one of the purple hooded figures approached me. She made a diamond shape with her hands by putting the index fingers and thumbs together.
“Abandon all hope, neighbour,” she chirped. By her welcoming tone, I gathered this was a greeting.
“Thanks. And you. What’s going on here?”
“Oh, we misplaced our hole.”
“That thing’s yours?”
“Yeah,” she replied meekly. “It was meant to be in Millennium Square, but looks like our coordinates were a bit off again.”
“Oh, I mean this time,” she corrected herself. “It’s kind of embarrassing. Dante was certain he got the ritual right. We must have summoned it 7 or 8 times before we found out it arrived here.”
Her voice trailed off. “Now that I think about… I hope this is the only one. Hmm. We should check on that.”
She carried on. “It’s bloody inconvenient though. If it were central Leeds we could just get a bus into town. Now we have to get a bus into town, just to get a bus back out of town. And they never show up. Bring back the trams, I say.”
I agreed. “I’m with you there. Did you know we’re the biggest city in Europe without a railed public transport system?”
“Did you know they started building an underground tram system back in the 1940s?” she responded.
“I did not.”
“Yup. But they never opened it to the public. Not surprised really. In this city, things get weird the deeper you get.”
“Well, that sounds ominous,” I thought to myself while peering down the very, very deep hole that opened up opposite my house. “If you don’t mind me asking, are you gonna be here long? And why are Occultists summoning holes in my park?”
“Excuse me,” she protested. “We’re not Occultists. We are a perfectly respectable book club.”
Oh, that’s right. Occultists were banned last year after the incident on the Headrow. If I remember, it was the called the Abomination of the Fire Breathing Hydra. Actually I think they had the same robes as these guys.
They had set up camp on Briggate and were trying to summon a very small demon they could use as a group mascot. Things didn’t go according to plan and they ended up summoning a six legged, three storey tall, 42 tonne fire breathing hydra outside PC World.
Fortunately it was quite friendly. And they managed to banish it in the end, but not before it had trampled its way to the bottom of The Headrow. The road wasn’t built for that kind of heavy foot traffic. The council are still repairing the damage to the street.
“So not the Abomination of the Fire Breathing Hydra then?”
“Nope. We’re The Followers of Virgil. I’m Rosalind by the way.”
The person handing out newspapers approached us. “Copy of Socialist Worker?”
“No, thank you.”
They moved on to someone struggling to set up a pyre.
Rosalind continued. “Don’t suppose you fancy joining our club?”
“I’m more into manga. I’d watch your step around that hole. I lost my phone down it earlier this week.”
“You mean this one?” Rosalind pulled my rose gold iPhone out from under her robe.
“That’s it! Thank you! Wait, how did you get it?”
“It’s how we found the hole. Dante got a text from your phone saying he screwed up the coordinates. Then the hole spat it out when we got here.”
“It’s not even cracked. Nice. Really appreciate it.”
“No problem, neighbour. Glad we found its owner. I got to get back to setting up the tents, but it’s been nice chatting. You know where to find us if you do wanna sign up for the book club.”
It’s definitely a cult. “Sure. I’ll think about it.”
“Abandon all hope, neighbour.”
Now here’s where it gets weird. My phone was absolutely fine. It even still had a charge! But now it can connect to my mobile network even while I’m underground which is weird because I could never get a signal in my basement flat before. And the WiFi isn’t working properly. It keeps disconnecting from my home network and reconnecting to some other network whose WiFi name is just corrupted ASCII characters. Complete gibberish. It’s got good bandwidth so I’m not complaining. It’s just weird.
19 November 2020
Something weird happened today.
I’m worried about Gomez. For anyone who doesn’t know, Gomez is the name of the sprout I rescued from the side of a bottomless pit that was summoned in the park opposite my house by a group of Occultists masquerading as a book club.
The Occultists are settled now. There are five large tents surrounding the hole, which has finally been fenced off. It has a bit of a carnival atmosphere, which is probably due in part to the actual carnival which has set up next to them. It’s fun. There are open air food stalls and many of the usual fairground attractions like a small roller-coaster, Ferris wheel etc.
I’d watch your step in the hall of mirrors though. Very easy to get lost. Not saying I did, but I certainly took a wrong turn somewhere.
If you haven’t been in one before, it’s like a maze made entirely out of mirrors. Some of the mirrors are warped, creating amusing reflections. For Gen Z, this is what we had before Snapchat filters. Simpler days.
At the end of a long mirrored corridor I found a dead end with a door. On the door was a sign saying “DEVIL’S TOYBOX” and “DO NOT CLOSE”. It was closed. So I opened it.
Inside was a small room. The exact size of the room wasn’t obvious because of the mirrors. It wasn’t until I stepped in that I saw it was about 5 foot square and mirrored on all sides, even the floor and ceiling! In all directions I was staring into infinity, with my reflection endlessly repeating into the distance.
Then I heard a soft clunk and the room went dark. The door had closed behind me!
I turned around and tried to feel for the door, but couldn’t find it. I kept walking towards where it should have been but there was only empty space.
After a few minutes of wandering, my eyes began adjusting to the dark and I noticed that I could no longer see my reflection in the walls. But there was… something… in there with me. I couldn’t make it out clearly in the low light. Just a dark blur, as big as a car, slowly circling me. To my left I thought I could make out a faint light way off in the distance, so I quickly made my way to it with my arms stretched out in front of me. It was the door! Phew!
As I left, I propped the door open with a bit of cardboard. Silly thing could be dangerous. No harm done I guess, except I’m left-handed now.
3/10. Would not recommend. The falafel stall is good though.
While I was there I went to check on the hole. It had stopped growing, which is nice. Rosalind was there by the fence throwing in handfuls of sunflower seeds. She was easy to spot with her barn owl masquerade mask and she recognised me too.
“Abandon all hope, neighbour!” she greeted me cheerily.
“Way ahead of you, friend. How’s the hole?”
Rosalind stopped throwing in seeds and sighed. “I mean, it’s fine I guess. But we were expecting something more which hasn’t manifested yet. Hoping these seeds might speed things along. Hey, have you parted your hair differently?”
Bloody Hall of Mirrors. “Long story,” I told her. “What were you expecting?”
“Well we’re all eager to get down this here hole, right? But none of us wanna risk it until our guide shows up. Virgil was supposed to arrive as a dryad and lead us down. No sign of him yet.”
“Well, don’t give up hope.”
“I won’t. I… Ohhhh you got me. Haha. Abandon all hope, neighbour.”
Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, I was telling you about Gomez.
Well, he hasn’t really been growing. I’ve been really worried about him. Plants usually have leaves, right? Well, from what I’ve read plants normally like lots of light too, but Gomez is just a stalk and cries if I even have t’big light on in my room. Wasn’t sure whether he was going to survive, until this morning when he began to grow a bulb on the tip of his stalk.
It looks kind of like a tulip, but more, I dunno, eye-ish. And now he won’t stop staring at me. I’ll try watering him a bit more. Maybe he needs more fertiliser?
19 November 2020
Something weird happened last night.
It’s been snowing again so during my daily checks on the hole I took Rosalind a coffee to warm herself up. The snow was coming down hard, and she was sat in a beach chair beside the hole with a parasol heavy with the fallen snow. Her eyes lit up as I handed her the hot drink. I was hoping she would take off her owl mask to drink it. No luck. She had mastered a technique of sipping it from under the mask.
I felt like we had been getting pretty familiar, so I asked her what made her want to join this ‘book club’.
“Just a change of pace really. I used to work in a genetics lab. About a year ago I was brought a DNA fragment to sequence that was found inside a meteor.”
“Not the meteor that wiped out the City Square pigeons?!” I asked her.
“That’s the one. Lucky no one got hurt. Except the pigeons I guess. Poor pidgies.
“Anyhow, this DNA. It had all the usual AT CG base pairs, but at one point there was a pair we hadn’t seen before. We named them YZ and it only showed up once in the short sequence. We decided to stick the pair in the DNA of an E coli bacteria to see if it did anything, similar to how we manufacture insulin. Maybe we’d synthesise some exotic protein from it?
“Instead, adding that single base pair changed the entire nature of the organism. It quickly became a colony and then a simple multicellular organism similar to a water bear. But it didn’t stop there. It became more complex. Growing to the size of a grapefruit. It looked a bit like a cross between a toad and a hippo, with a long yellow stalk coming from its back.
“One morning, it decided it didn’t want to sit in its nutrient solution any more so it began hovering about 3 feet in the air above it. Just vibing. And its form had changed again. It’s hard to describe. Kinda like a black void? Picture a neutron star, but instead of shining light, it radiates terror, existential dread and the anxiety you feel when waiting to hear about the outcome of a job performance review for a job you really need because society is literally falling apart and apparently now would be a perfect time to make you redundant, even though there was a perfectly good furlough scheme that could be funding your wages.
“It was pretty nuanced as ominous voids go.
“I left soon after that. Not sure what happened to it. I guess it’s still there.”
I left her to sip her coffee and went to check on Gomez. He’s stopped staring at me now, but he won’t take his eye off the second door to my room. I’ve no idea where that door goes. As I’ve said before, I live in a basement and until last night there was only one door in here. At least, I think there was. Maybe I just haven’t noticed it before? I’m surrounded by dirt on all sides so there shouldn’t be another room down here.
It isn’t even really a door. Just a door shaped opening in the corner of my room edged with an inscription that reads:
Per me si va ne la città dolente,
Per me si va ne l’etterno dolore,
Per me si va tra perduta gente.
Which Google Translates reads as “Null Reference Exception: Hope Not Found”, but my phone has been playing up since its trip down the hole so it could be a recipe for vegan pain au chocolat for all I know.
The mysterious door leads to a damp narrow staircase spiralling deep into darkness. The ceiling drips with a malodorous fluid from finger-like stalactites onto the stairs, making them slick and treacherous. The walls are irregularly cut stone with crumbling mortar. Every surface is covered in a mosaic of slime mould lined in miserable gardens of nitre.
This has to be a health hazard. I’ve covered it with a bed sheet.
I emailed my landlords to complain. They say it’s probably rising damp and they’ll send someone to have a look at it. They better sort it out soon. There is a hot and humid draft pouring out of it and the screams are keeping me up at night.
20 November 2020
Something weird happened just now.
Things have been escalating with the Occultists in the park. This Virgil character still hasn’t shown up and they have been getting… agitated lately. The fairground has been taken down. Now there is only their campsite around the hole dotted with pyres that burn throughout the night as they try evermore eccentric rituals. The locals are getting tired of them. At the supermarket there were people collecting signatures to get them moved and for the council to fill in the hole. I’m honestly surprised they’ve lasted this long, what with the citywide ban on Occultists.
I was on my way home from my weekly shop and passed the pub. Through the window I saw one of the Occultists perched at the bar with her head nesting in her arms. Resting on the bar in front of her I recognised Rosalind’s owl mask. I hadn’t seen Rosalind without her mask before. I peered through the window to get a better look. She was a mess. Her hair was dishevelled, her boots caked in mud, and her robes were soaked in blood. One of her hands picked at the label of a bottle of berry cider. I couldn’t see her face from where I was so I went in to say hi.
“Abandon all hope, neighbour,” I greeted her. She lifted her head from her arms and turned around.
“Tasha,” she smiled before plopping her face back into her arms. “Way ahead of you.” She waved a hand at the empty stool beside her. “Have a seat.”
“What happened to you?” I sat and ordered a coffee.
“Urg. It’s Dante. He’s pisssssed.”
“Still no Virgil then?”
“Nope.” She slugged at her cider. “Y’know, when I joined this book club I thought we would just be reading epic poetry, hanging out with friends, starting a podcast, and maybe summoning a low level owl demon or something. No one said anything about having to bathe in the blood of anemones when we’re camped around a bottomless pit with no hot running water for a shower.”
“Wait. Blood of anemones?”
“I know, right? Probably another mistranslation. I’m starting to think Dante isn’t a very good occultist.”
“Ha! So you *are* Occultists!”
“Shhhh!” she hissed. “Not so loud. OK. Yes. Fine. It’s a cult. Just don’t tell the Council.” She sighed.
“So, what’s the deal with the hole?”
“It’s meant to be a stairway to the underworld. Dante summoned it. But there’s no way down without Virgil. They’re the guide who’s meant to lead us down there.”
“Why would you want to go to the underworld?!”
“I don’t! It’s all Dante. He’s getting insufferable. Every night it’s some new ritual to get Virgil to appear. All so he can raise one of Leviathan’s apostles. I just want to go back to raising genetically modified owls and reading creepypasta.”
“Omg, I love creepypasta. What’s your favourite?”
“Hmm,” she pondered. “Maybe Tales from the Gas Station. Or Lonely Broadcast Station.”
I nodded enthusiastically. “They’re so good. Quite a few series like those popping up now.”
She shrugged. “Yh, a bit derivative, but still good.”
We sipped our drinks.
“Now a creepypasta bookclub,” she continued. “I could get behind that.”
“Sign me up.” Now I could clearly see her face, I took a moment to check her out, out of the corner of my eye of course so as not to be too obvious. Even with the anemone blood soaked robes, and the patches of mud, she was cute. Very cute. Too cute to live (possibly deceased). “What if it was queer, though?” I asked testingly.
“OMG!” She sat up and faced me. “What if it was queer though? That would rock. I wonder if that even exists. Queer creepypasta I mean.”
“It must do,” I grinned. “Y’know. If you want a shower there’s hot water at my place. I live just over the road from the hole.”
Oh she’s coming back from ladies. Sorry, was trying to write this all out while she was gone. Long story short, I’ve got a guest coming back to my place. 😀 Hope she doesn’t mind the creepy doorway.
20 November 2020
Something weird happened tonight.
Ooooh we fked up. So Rosalind came back to my place and had a shower. Afterwards we chatted for a bit before she eventually asked… what was behind the bed sheet in the corner of my room? I pulled it aside and showed her.
She. Flipped. Out. Y’know that stairway to hell the Occultists have been trying to summon? Well, here it is.
“WHAT THE FK?!”
“Is this bad?”
“THIS WHOLE TIME?!”
“Well, a few days anyway.”
“Do you have any idea what’s down there?! That is a direct opening to the gates of hell! All the worst parts of HP Lovecraft and Clive Barker combined. Why’re you even alive?!”
“That seems more of philosophical question…”
She grabbed me by my shirt collar and stared straight into my eyes. “I am dead serious. Just an open door in your bedroom to the harbingers of everlasting torment. A cage for creatures too foul to desecrate the Earth with their malevolence. The Labyrinth to the nine circles of Hell!”
“OK! OK! That obviously does not sound good.”
She released me and tentatively peeked down the stairway. “How is this even possible? How did it end up here of all places? And the stairs. Only Virgil could have done this.” She gasped. “You’re Virgil?!”
I laughed. “Ha. I am definitely not Virgil.”
“You’re Virgil!” she asserted.
“I swear I’m not! I don’t know anything about this!”
“It’s the only explainati…” she paused. There was a rustling coming from the cupboard under my sink. Rosalind grabbed an empty wine bottle from the coffee table and brandished it as a club. She positioned herself between me and the cupboard. “Stay back,” she commanded me and began inching towards the cupboard. She slowly put her hand on the handle, raised the bottle above her head, then swiftly flung open the door!
Gomez blinked up at her from the lower shelf.
I held my chest and sighed in relief. “Phew, it’s only Gomez.” Rosalind lowered her club. She looked puzzled.
“Gomez?” She knelt down to have a closer look.
I explained it grew from a sapling I rescued from the hole. Rosalind pinched her temple in frustration.
“All this time,” she repeated. “Virgil has been sitting in a coffee mug under your sink.”
“Ohhhhh, *that’s* Virgil!” I knelt beside Rosalind and spoke to the eye plant. “I’m sorry, Virgil. I’ve been calling you Gomez this whole time. What are your pronouns?”
“I’m pretty sure he can’t speak,” she said. Virgil nodded in agreement. “Looks like he couldn’t grow fully formed after getting plucked. Oh shit. Dante’s gonna be pissed.” She stood up and turned back towards the doorway. “He’s gonna be so pissed. We have to seal it. Or he’ll have your blood.”
“Hey, wait a minute!” I protested. “This wasn’t my fault!”
“You have no idea what you have gotten yourself in to. Dante might be a shit occultist but he isn’t playing games. How much clearer do I have to spell it out. This is a doorway to Hell! A conduit to every horror ever imagined and a limitless font of forbidden knowledge and heresy. In *your* bedroom. And you’ve reduced our only guide through it to an eye stalk!”
“Fine! What do we have to do?”
“I have to go back to camp.” She began collecting her things. “With any luck I can find the ritual to seal it in our community library. And that we can perform it with just two people. Otherwise, we’re gonna need reinforcements. Lock the door behind me and keep Virgil away from that doorway. I’ll be back as soon as I can. Don’t answer the door to anyone else.”
She’s been gone for hours now. I’ve moved Virgil to my bedside table on the opposite side of the room. He keeps looking between me and the doorway, as if asking me “What am I waiting for?”
What was I waiting for again?
21 November 2020
Something weird happened this morning.
I’m not sure if this is gonna go through. There’s no signal down here so have to use the weird open wifi network.
Things have escalated. I dozed off during the night and early this morning a frantic knocking on my front door woke me up. It was Rosalind.
“We have to go. We have to go now,” she told me. “Get dressed. We’re going.”
“What happened? Didn’t you get the ritual?”
She shook her head. “And Dante knows Virgil is nearby. He’s figured out some kind of tracking spell. No time to explain.”
I had already started getting dressed. “Shouldn’t we take Virgil?”
“Screw Virgil! We’ve gotta go!”
I grabbed my bag and nodded that I was ready. Before we got to the door, there was a gentle knocking from the other side. *tap *tap *tap We stopped in our tracks.
“Rosalinnnd,” came the voice from the other side of the door. “We know you’re in there.”
“Fuck,” Rosalind whispered.
“Rosalinnnnnd. Why would you be hiding Virgil from me?”
Rosalind put a finger to her lips, telling me to stay quiet.
*BANG *BANG *BANG
“ROSALIND! You can’t hide from us!”
We stayed perfectly silent.
“Break the door,” we heard from outside.
Rosalind looked around panicking for a way to escape, but this is a basement flat. There are no windows. No other doors. No other doors except…
“We’re out of options,” I told Rosalind and pulled her towards the creepy doorway.
She struggled against my grip, shaking her head in protest. “Down there is no better than what’s out there! And they’ll follow us!”
I grabbed Virgil from my bedside table. “We have something they don’t.”
“That’s the thing they’re following!” she hissed.
Something rammed hard against the front door, nearly taking it off the frame. Rosalind grabbed my hand. She grit her teeth and looked towards the creepy doorway.
We began descending the damp stairs, holding onto the walls to balance ourselves. The racket continued from above us. It wasn’t a strong door so it was only a matter of time before they would break through.
After thousands of steps, we reached the bottom. We entered a dark chamber and on the other side was another doorway, leading to a corridor similar to the staircase; damp and mouldy. We stood outside this new doorway. Virgil’s eye widened in excitement and beckoned us to go through.
“The Labyrinth,” Rosalind told me, still holding my hand.
“Where does it go?” I asked.
“Nowhere good. And there are things in the Labyrinth that don’t want us there.” She let go of my hand and looked up the staircase, listening for any movement.
“Do you hear anything?” I asked her.
“Shh.” Her brow furrowed. I could tell she could hear something. I thought I could hear something too. Not footsteps though. More like screaming. And it was getting louder! We backed up towards the entrance to the Labyrinth. The screaming got louder and it was accompanied by crashing noises. A second later, a beat up occultist tumbled head over heals into the chamber, covered in lacerations from falling down all of those steps. Their arm looked broken.
“They’re following,” said Rosalind.
“Is he dead?”
The body on the floor groaned, and tried to get up. It looked up at us and snarled. From far off up the staircase we heard a voice echoing.
The battered occultist managed to stand up and glared at us.
“We are so fucked,” Rosalind whimpered. She grabbed my hand again and ran into the Labyrinth. “Follow Virgil! He’ll guide us through.” she told me.
“To where?!” I asked her. She didn’t reply.
We ran through the maze of wide corridors, following whatever direction Virgil was looking. We could hear the battered occultist limping not far behind us.
We hit a dead end! We both looked to Virgil, and he looked straight back up at us, not giving any indication of where to go. Rosalind grabbed the coffee mug Virgil sat in and shook it.
“Which way?!” she demanded, but Virgil gave us nothing. The limping of the occultist was getting closer. We pressed our backs against the wall.
“There’s two of us,” I said, “and one of him. And he’s pretty beaten up. We can take him.”
“Shhh,” Rosalind quieted me. “He might not find us if we stay quiet.” Virgil nodded.
But the limping was still getting closer. And closer. A bloodied hand emerged from around the corner, followed by the bloody occultist. He was a mess and leaned against the wall to support himself.
Then in the blink of an eye, an enormous black beast hurtled out of a side passage, crashed into the side of him and pinned him against the stone wall. The occultist’s scream curdled the air. The beast had three heads and all three drooled down upon the occultist. The central head widened its jaws.
“No! No!” screamed the occultist, who fell suddenly silent as the black beast’s jaws wrapped around his head and plucked it from his body, like a cherry from a stem. His body fell limp in its grasp. The jaws closed and crunched like celery. Rosalind and I held each other in the corner of our dead end, watching silently. The beast dragged the body off down another passage and it was quiet again.
The silence was broken by the echoing call of “Rosalllinnnnnd,” from somewhere deep in the Labyrinth.
We’re still wandering the Labyrinth, following Virgil’s gaze and praying he leads to a way out.
21 November 2020
We wandered down the Labyrinth many hours. Rosalind and I discussed what even was this place. She didn’t know much. She never planned to come down here. All she really knew is that this was a physical place that existed beneath the city. She knew this was the Labyrinth that lead to the nine circles. What lay within the circles she did not know.
Through the cold walls of the Labyrinth we could hear the creature stalking. Occasionally Virgil would lead us to another dead end where we would wait for the creature to pass again, and we would catch a glimpse its terrifying form, before Virgil would lead us onwards once more.
Now and then we could hear Dante calling to us. He hasn’t lost ground. I could tell Rosalind was scared. I’m not sure why she chose to help me.
Eventually we found ourselves in a round room surrounded by mirrors. There was no entrance or exit to this room. It was as if we stumbled into it through the geometry of another dimension we could not reach by choice. There was no way out of it now. I’d seen a place like this before; at the fairground of the occultist campsite. The room of mirrors reflecting infinitely that had trapped me before. I placed my hand against the glass of one of the mirrors. It was cold and solid and our reflections were clearly seen on the other side of it. Our reflections repeated as they bounced between the mirrors far off into the distance before fading into darkness. Between the recursive reflections I could see the shadow of the beast prowling.
“Nine mirrors,” Rosalind said as she sat upon the flagstone floor. I looked around. She was right.
Virgil had stopped leading. This was clearly the destination. I placed him on the floor and went to sit by Rosalind. We were exhausted, hungry and thirsty. We stared into the mirrors watching the reflection of the three headed beast roaming between them.
I checked Facebook to see if anyone had responded to our last post. Five thumbs up. Five heart reacts. A few comments like “Brilliant!” and “So exciting!” and “You should turn these stories into a podcast!”
I sighed. “I don’t think help is coming.”
Rosalind shook her head. “Abandon all hope, neighbour.”
I nodded. “Indeed.”
“There you are.” A familiar voice came from behind us. We saw an occultist emerge from the darkness between our reflections. We jumped back to our feet and faced him.
“Dante,” croaked Rosalind.
“Hello, Rosalinnnd. And who is this with you?” He asked, turning to me. “Virgil,” he commanded, extending an open hand. “Come to me. I am your master now.” I could see his other hand held an ornate dagger.
I shook my head and slid Virgil forward along the floor with my foot. “I’m Tasha. This is Virgil.”
Virgil blinked. Dante looked down at the eye stalk, and back up at me. He snarled and charged at Rosalind, crashing her against one of the mirrors, causing it to crack. Dante pressed his dagger against her throat.
“What game are you playing, Rosalinnnd?” She struggled against him and I tried to pull him off but we were too weak from hunger. He threw me off like I weighed nothing. “We’ve been playing cat and mouse long enough. I DO NOT. HAVE PATIENCE. FOR GAMES!”
“GET OFF OF HER!” I yelled, and got back on my feet.
Above Rosalind’s head, a set of enormous black jaws emerged from the cracked glass. Dante froze. The beast panted heavily, its breath formed clouds in the damp air that circled around them. Rosalind locked eyes with me. She opened her mouth to say something and the great jaws lowered around her head and removed it from her. Only her body remained, slumped against the broken glass. The beast carried her head off deep into the mirror’s reflection until it was gone.
“Rosalind…” I whimpered. “No.” This was all my fault.
Dante huffed. “No matter. One of you is Virgil. Now. Lead me to The Editor.”
“You killed Rosalind!” I screamed, tears raining down my cheeks.
He grabbed me. “This is not how this story was meant to go. You will lead me to The Editor or we can both die here in Limbo.”
“I don’t know what that means!” I screamed, thrashing against him. He briefly lost his footing and knocked Virgil over.
“You…” his words were cut short as a dark shadow leapt from the mirror and ripped his head from his torso. The beast swallowed it whole and turned to me with ravenous fury in its eyes. My time was up. I thought about what I could have done differently. What an idiot I was. I should have figured this out. It was all so obvious now. I should have left the hole well alone. I should never have taken that sprout.
I picked up Virgil and faced the beast, ready to accept my fate. Over its shoulder, within one of the mirrors, Rosalind was silently pounding her fist on the glass, wordlessly yelling at me.
The beast leapt and my world went dark.
I was in a room. It was about 10 foot square but its edges were hard to define. It repeated on all sides, just like in the mirror room. There was no ceiling. I could see a sky high above me unlike any I’d seen before. It was made of undulating flesh covered in membranous villi that swayed as if in a soft breeze. It was quiet. In the centre of the room was a simple wooden chair that repeated along with the room. Its feet were black with rot creeping up the legs.
I was sat in the chair. I was looking at myself sat in the chair. And I repeated along with the chair along with the room indefinitely in all directions.
I was sitting still in the chair. My eyes and mouth wide open. Arms limp at my side and neck craned backwards so that I was staring up at the hungry sky.
Virgil was with me, staring towards the next room. I walked to the next room. I was there too. In the chair. Staring up. Never blinking. Breathless.
I walked to the next room. And the next. And the next.
I walked for what felt like days. It was hard to tell. There was no day or night. Time moves strangely in the Circle. There was only the room I stood in and the echoing path ahead.
Ahead of me was a different chair. I walked towards it. I wasn’t sitting in this chair. It was Dante. Sat in the same position I was in. Rosalind was there too. Looking over Dante as I did.
His flesh was dry. Desiccated. Brittle skin wrapped around his bones like paper. His eyes, staring upward, sunk into his skull as two shallow pits.
He coughed. The flesh of his lips cracked and they began to move.
“Rosalind… Tasha… I have been… waiting… for this moment…” His neck creaked upright and his head dropped down. “… for millennia…” His eyes closed as he continued. “He takes our past. He takes our present. He leaves us with our future. An endless future. Alone. In silence. In perpetual stasis. Never changing. Eons of nothing. In time, even thoughts fall silent. All we have, all we are, is anticipation of the nothing that is to come.”
Rosalind and I looked at each other.
“Who is He?” I asked.
“The Editor!” he coughed. “There is only endless time in His circle. And fear. We see forward. Into the infinite and empty void. We see how empty it is. And we fear every hollow second that is to come. We suffer.
“But I was blessed by Him. I, I could see a moment in time that was to come. 3000 years into the void. One unlike all the others. I was blessed with this moment to bring you a choice. How I’ve longed for this moment. But soon… even this precious moment shall pass. Then there will be nothing. This will be your fate too. You will wander. In time, your flesh will grow weary. It will abandon you, as all things will. Eventually, you will sit a while. And you will not get up.”
“You said there was a choice,” I told him.
“Be His apostle on Earth. Or be devoured by your future here.”
“Why us?” asked Rosalind.
“You are storytellers. As are all preachers.”
“I mean… I post a bit on Facebook and Reddit.”
“Yes. Yes. He follows your Reddit account.”
“Then he never up votes.”
“What is your choice?” He asked, pointing towards two empty wooden chairs in the next room. “Fear The Editor, or… sit with me for a while.”
“What do you think?” I asked Rosalind. “You know more about this stuff than me.”
Rosalind thought for a moment. “This is hardly a choice.”
I nodded and took Rosalind’s hand.
“We fear The Editor.”
The rooms were gone. Instead we were standing in what looked like a derelict subway station. The tracks appeared as though they had been rusting for decades. On the platform there was an old rotten tram car. The air was saturated with damp and the smell of mould.
“What just happened?” I asked Rosalind. She looked as confused as I. “Are we back in the Labyrinth?”
“I think… we just made a deal with the devil. Ahh!” She grabbed her head in pain and I covered my ears as we were surrounded by a din of static. “The Editor! I meant deal with The Editor!” The din died down.
“Sounds about right,” I replied, my ears still ringing. “So what are we supposed to do? Go out on the streets and tell stories?”
“I dunno.” replied Rosalind. “We could do a podcast?”
An old grey cat dashed from between our legs into the tram and an old grey man appeared at the driver’s window.
“You getting in or not?” he asked, like we’d been keeping him waiting. I shrugged at Rosalind and we got on board.
“Don’t I know you from somewhere?” I asked the tram driver.
“Unlikely,” he scoffed as he lit a cigarette. His name badge labelled him as Charon.
“Hey yeah! You’re the guy who dropped his wallet near Leeds Market!”
“Eh?” grunted Charon.
“I have something of yours.” I pulled the wallet I found out of my bag and handed it to him. His eyes lit up.
“My cig money!” he grabbed it and rummaged through.
“It’s all there,” I assured him.
He tipped his cap to me. “Well, ta very much, love. Let’s get you back to Leeds.”
The tram bell rang twice, and the wheels excruciatingly squealed into motion on the old rusted tracks.
“We could start a podcast,” Rosalind continued.
“A podcast for telling stories and convincing people to fear The Editor.”
“Ohhh, like that queer creepypasta idea we had. What would we call it though?”
“Horror Queers?” she suggested.
I got out my phone. “Taken.”
“Frigay the Thirteenth? “
“Queer Horror Cult? “
“Dammit. All the good names are taken.”
“That has to be taken. Oh, wait. That’s free. I like it. Queerpypasta.”
“Rolls off the tongue doesn’t it?”
So something weird happened this weekend. We were chased into hell by a lunatic occultist and now I guess we’re starting a podcast?