Horror and Thriller Fiction posted September 11, 2022

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The Testimony of Emmett Gracey

by giraffmang

Horror Writing Contest Contest Winner 


Dear friend,

You do not know me, but I am aware of your present predicament and incarceration within the walls of Winson Green. I hope that this letter gets to you intact and it offers you some measure of comfort or peace of mind. I do not believe you to be subject of the mental malady that has seen you placed there. I offer this testimony to give you hope and maybe a modicum of solace. You are not alone.

At this precise moment in time, it seems almost a dream, but I can assure you that the events contained within these words are as real as the parchment you hold in your hand.

It was only a handful of years ago on a July’s evening that I’d been enjoying a marvellous dinner with my close friend, Dr Hammond, when he suggested we take a stroll in the garden, away from the lady-folk and other residents, to smoke our pipes. A fine idea indeed. Having filled our bowls with some recently acquired Turkish tobacco, we headed off along the garden trail in the direction of the woods at the back end of the property, conversing on the matters of the day, the newly formed government, trading around the Empire, the rise of so-called spiritualism and spiritualists, and so on.

Eventually, our conversation took on a more metaphysical bent and talk turned to the time we’d spent in the East – of the colourful bazaar, of harems, and exotic palaces. The good doctor held a deep and abiding fascination for the mystical and the occult and before long he had driven the conversation to talk of genies, and the young lad who released one from a copper vessel. So deep into the topic were we that everything else seemed to blur into the background and we ventured deeper into the woods than we would have anticipated.

I was about to suggest that we turn back as the day was drawing to an end and night was drawing its veil when Hammond thrust out a hand to grab my shoulder. Startled I turned in his direction and noted the peculiar look upon his face.

“Gracey,” he whispered, “what do you consider to be the greatest element to terror?”

Hammond had picked the most inopportune setting for such a debate but, I’ll admit, the topic intrigued and puzzled me. A myriad of images ran through my head at that point; stumbling over a corpse; a woman floating down a rapid river, arms waving wildly and screaming, a shattered wreck floating listlessly on the open seas with no signs of life for the source of its existence would be shrouded in mystery. The thought struck me that there must be one overriding element which would pale all others, but it would not come to me.

“I confess, Hammond, that I have not pondered the question before. There must be something so terrible to cast its shadow over all else, but, for the life of me, I cannot define it.”

“Hmm.” Hammond rubbed his chin and then jolted upright with a start. He appeared to have become aware of our surroundings for the first time. Perhaps it was the moonlight beginning to dapple through the canopy that caught his attention, or the sudden chilliness in the air. “This is a night where I feel I could ponder this forever. If I had the mastery of the pen, I could probably write a tale to rival Poe!”

I let out a nervous laugh. “Look here, Hammond, enough of this stuff and nonsense.”

Hammond pulled his coat tighter around himself. “Indeed, my good man, but the night has drawn in, perhaps we should head back and turn in.”

On return to our residence, Hammond headed down the hallway to his own chambers, and I to mine. After completing my ablutions, I got into bed along with my current bedtime reading. I say reading, I barely got a few words in most nights before sleep had me in its welcoming grasp. Tonight, though, as I rested my head against the pillow and opened the volume, a wave of disgust overtook me, and I threw the book across the floor. Following the discourse with Hammond, Kuch’s History of Monsters would not suffice.

I turned down the gaslight until the smallest of flame glimmered and I settled down determined to find a restful slumber. As I lay in almost total darkness (the little blue glimmer barely lighting a couple of inches around the lamp), I drew an arm across my eyes trying to shut even the darkness out. Sleep, however, remained an elusive mistress. And Hammond was to blame.

My mind could not, or would not, shut out our evening’s conversation. It raced with jumbling images, each seemingly more disturbing than the previous. I tried to erect intellectual walls to combat their potency, but they crumbled in the face of their vividness.

I tried to remain as still in my bed as possible in the hope that the inactivity would hasten sleep. Ha! Intellectualism is a disparate opponent to man’s basest fears. As I lay there, it happened…

Something dropped from above and two bony hands grasped my throat. The joints creaked as the fingers curled around in an effort to squeeze the life from me.

Some primal instinct possessed me, and rather than being stunned by the attack, every one of my nerves peaked to its highest tension. Before my brain had time to fully register the events, my body acquiesced to its instinctual state.

I flung my arms from the bedsheets and wound them around the creature and began to squeeze, with all the strength that panic, and despair could muster. The grip around my throat weakened, eventually disappearing and I was free to breathe once more. Then the real struggle began, one of awful intensity.

Being immersed in darkness, I had no idea of the nature of the beast I was up against. The thing bucked and writhed with the kind of force I’d never experienced before. And I felt my own grip slipping. It nipped, bit, and slashed at me; my chest a mass of stinging flesh and weeping blood. I let go in an effort to protect my neck and chest.

A rush of air on my left side indicated the beast was drawing back a limb with which to strike. I thrust my fist into the area below its ribcage, unbalancing it. I drew up my left knee and smashed the thing in the ribs. It toppled sideways from the bed and I, intentionally, followed suit. Landing on the creature’s chest, the sound of popping bone deafened me but, I’ll admit, a smile crossed my face nevertheless. I knew I was the victor.

Below me, the creature panted, trying to suck in air. Not easy when a fully grown man is upon the chest and damaged ribs, I breathed deeply myself, my brain trying to catch up and to reconcile the events which had just occurred. Tired though I was, I was also exhilarated. I grasped the tangled sheet from the bed, twisted it and feeling out the thing’s limbs, bound the creature’s arms and legs. Its efforts at opposition now greatly reduced.

The struggle must have raised a commotion in the other areas of the house as I heard the hurrying footsteps of the others coming in my direction. Excitement, of a sort, still coursed through my body and I wanted to see what I had bested. I suppose I felt a certain kind of pride.

I reached up to the small table at the bedside and turned up the lamplight. The growing flame threw strange and wondrous shadows about the room. At another time, I may have found them sinister or unsettling, but in the light of current events, they paled in comparison.

I lowered my gaze to examine my captive just as the door behind me burst open and an array of people rushed into the room. I shudder now as I recollect the wave of terror which consumed me as I peered downwards.

Beneath me I could feel the shallow rising and falling of the beast’s chest as it struggled for breath. My right hand gripped a throat as fleshy and corporeal as my own. Yet… in the bright glare of the lamp I saw nothing - not an outline, nor vapour.

My mind wrestled with my senses. I felt its breath upon my cheek, it fought me with such ferocity. It buried its hand around my throat. It clutched me. Squeezed me. I sat upon the creature, but it was entirely invisible.

Some base instinct must have protected me at that point from being consumed by madness. I tightened my grip to ensure my sanity and the beast quivered in agony.

I heard Hammond push his way through the small crowd. “Good Heavens, Gracey! What the devil is going on?”

I saw him recoil when he took in my face and chest. “Thank God, Hammond. Help me.  I’ve been attacked by… by… some creature. I have a hold of it… but I can’t see it!”

Hammond took a few faltering steps toward me but stuttered to a standstill as he took in my chest and the bewildering expression upon my face (or so he told me later). A look of puzzlement clouded his own face. Behind him, I heard the quiet tittering of the assembled on-lookers. It made me furious. The idea someone would laugh at another human being in my predicament was cruel beyond comprehension. Looking back now, however, I can understand why the appearance  of a man engaged in a violent struggle with a bedsheet and empty air would seem ludicrous. But, in the moment… I could have stricken them all dead.

“Hammond! Why won’t you help me? I’m not sure I can hold it much longer!” I cried with such despair that the humour dropped from a few of the on-lookers, to be replaced with pity, no doubt.

“Gracey, man, stop this. You’ve had a disturbing dream. Nothing more.” Hammond’s voice barely a whisper in my ear.

“This is no nightmare, Hammond. Don’t you see how my body shakes when it struggles? If you don’t believe me, feel for yourself!” I grabbed Hammond’s arm, forced it downwards onto the chest of my assailant.

Hammond’s yell echoed through the room and his hand recoiled in shock. I knew he had felt it. I knew, at that moment, that I myself were not mad. Hammond was a sturdy fellow, brave to the core, and he collected himself quickly. In seconds, he had procured the cord for tying back the drapery and began winding it around the body of my captor, eliciting gasps from the onlookers as the form took real shape. Before long, Hammond had more firmly secured its limbs than I’d managed with the bedsheets.

He rested a hand upon my shoulder. “Gracey, it’s secure now. All safe. You can let go, if you’re tired. The thing cannot move.”

A wave of exhaustion coursed through me, and I slumped to the side and rested against the bedframe. I could see the awe in Hammond’s face. In all his travels to the mysterious Eastern Provinces, I would attest that he had never seen, or not seen, anything quite like this. Despite his pallor, Hammond’s eyes brimmed with courage and determination.

The small crowd thinned as fear overtook some of them and they fled. Others stood staring with mouths agape, all signs of laughter and humour now departed. Disbelief still clouded their eyes. The rational mind refusing to give way to their own senses.

With great effort I placed a hand upon the bed and levered myself to my feet. Still smarting a little from the laughter at my supposed expense. I whispered to Hammond who nodded and grunted his approval.

We stood either end of the bound beast, reached down and picked the thing up.

“Now, friends,” I addressed the onlookers left in the room, “believe your own eyes.”

Even I was astonished at my ability to pull myself together after the terror of the attack. Hammond and I shuffled toward the bed, all eyes following our short journey. With a nod of my head, Hamond and I released our grip and let the creature fall.

The dull thud and creaking boards of the bed as the thing reached its destination drew a stunned intake of breath from those assembled. The subsequent indentation in pillow and mattress sent them scurrying from the room in abject panic. Hammond and I remained there, alone. He deep in thought, I tending my wounds.

We remained silent for a time, each of us pondering the events of the night. I wondered if our earlier conversation had somehow drawn this entity into our realm. Had I brought this thing upon us? I wondered if Hammond was thinking the same thing, but it felt too terrible a thought to voice.

Hammond cleared his throat. “Gracey, this is an awful thing.”

I nodded. “Indeed it is. Do you think our earlier…”

Hammond silenced me with a brisk shake of the head and an upheld hand. “Stuff and nonsense, Gracey. This is not an unaccountable thing.”

“Not… unaccountable! What are you talking about, man. Never has such a thing occurred before. God above grant that I am not mad, and this an insane fantasy!”

Hammond, ever the scientist, had employed his rational mind once again. “Let us reason, man. There is a solid body here that we can touch but cannot see. So unusual is this occurrence that terror struck us. I wonder, though, if there is a parallel for such a phenomenon.”

I looked, or didn’t look, at the creature as it struggled against its bindings on the bed. “A parallel? Perhaps it is your mind which is broken, Hammond.”

Hammond strode to the window and looked out into the moonlit night for a moment or two. “There may be a more rational explanation to all of this than the mystical or spiritual.” He turned his attention back to the indented bed. “Take, if you will, a piece of pure glass. It is both a tangible thing and yet transparent. It is only a chemical roughness that prevents it being completely invisible. On a theoretical basis, it is not impossible to make glass which would not reflect a single ray of sunlight – so pure in its scientific makeup that light would pass through unimpeded. Remember, we do not see the air, but we feel it and thus know that it is present.”

“What you speak of, Hammond, are objects of an inanimate nature. Glass does not breathe, air does not breathe. They are not comprised of the multiple organs and vessels of a living thing, This,” I gestured toward the bed, “thing has a heart that palpitates and a will that moves it.”

“And what of spirit circles, my friend? You have heard the tales as I have of invisible hands grasping those seated around the table, warm, fleshy hands seemingly pulsating with mortal life. We spoke of such things earlier this very night.”

“Is that what you think this is? How could--”

“I don’t know what it is.” Hammond shook his head.

We fell into an uncomfortable silence then, each of us consumed with his own ponderings once again. We smoked many a pipe throughout the night, perched side-by-side by the window-frame, watching the thing squirm and writhe until it fell silent, and we could tell by the low, rhythmical breathing that it, whatever it was, slept.

The next morning, the house was unnaturally quiet. The other guests spoke in hushed tones. From what Hammond and I could make out, the events of the previous evening were put down to some sort of mass hysteria, presumably brought on by something foreign in the food and drink consumed for dinner. We did nothing to correct these musings.

During the night, Hammond and myself had racked our brains with what to do about our captive. The attitudes of others aided us in our deliberations. We would do… nothing save to wait.

That afternoon we retired to Hammond’s chambers to catch up on some much-needed rest. The intention had been to sleep but our minds had clearly  other ideas. The creature remained secured and locked within the confines of my chambers. That evening, Hammond and I resolved to keep vigil in case another of these beasts visited.

The bound creature remained in a calmer state, as if resigned to its fate and at some point during the long, arduous night, we heard its breath no more. On closer examination, the creature’s chest was still. It had expired. Yet, still we remained, watching, and waiting but no thing came.

We repeated this pattern for three more days, but the attack remained a solitary event. By the end of the fourth night, the creature’s carcass had decomposed, leaving nothing behind but a faint impression upon my bed.

To this day, neither I, nor Dr Hammond, have born witness to anything of a similar nature (but it was not for lack of researching), until I came across your case whilst journeying through Birmingham on business.

As I stated at the beginning of this discourse, you are not alone. Have faith. Stay strong.

For now, if you can, put the events of your night to the back of your mind and play their game. Say what they want you to say. Speak of this to no one. Secure your release, and then, together, we try to make some sense of it all.

Sir Emmett Gracey, QC.

Horror Writing Contest
Contest Winner


Earned A Seal Of Quality

Winson Green - one of numerous Victorian asylums.
QC - Queen's Counsel - lawyer
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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