Horror and Thriller Fiction posted December 19, 2017

This work has reached the exceptional level
'The secret is within you. If only you could get at it!'

The Soup

by Raoul D'Harmental

‘And the winner is ...’

The obligatory pause for effect lasted five seconds after which the mayor cleared his throat and pronounced the name,


The expletives that escaped my lips as soon as I heard that name do not bear repeating. It will suffice to say that they were as forceful as my exasperation would allow because I had expected to be announced the winner of the annual soup tasting competition. Instead, for the seventh year in a row, I was the runner-up. #$@&%*!

My confidence in victory was not unfounded. In fact, it had been as good as assured in the months leading up to the event because although I had been the runner-up since I first entered the competition six years ago it had always been to the only professional chef in the town of Haldene. A man named Palmer, who had mysteriously disappeared a few days after his victory in the same competition a year ago and had not been seen since. So, in Palmer’s continued absence, it was widely believed I would claim the trophy. Certainly not Marlowe!

Now for a while, Palmer’s disappearance had caused a commotion in the small town as various inquiries and searches were made to no avail. Palmer had simply vanished from his apartment, where he lived alone, in the middle of the night with no sign of his having planned to do so. Everything in his rooms were ordered as though the inhabitant was still present and there had been nothing unusual in his behaviour to suggest a reason for his disappearance. On the contrary, he had been in high spirits after his win and had excitedly announced his plans to introduce his latest version of his soup a la Palmer to his restaurant’s menu. Foul play was therefore suspected but as time passed without any news of him or any sign of a body, the townsfolk’s bewilderment diminished and the strange incident gradually passed into the fog of village folklore.

I too had been worried about Palmer’s fate because although he had been my long-standing rival, I was a frequent customer to his restaurant and enjoyed the occasional exchange of pleasantries with the balding rotund fellow. He had a jolly countenance which made him one of Haldene’s popular figures.  This was evinced by the fact that although his restaurant had remained open under the stewardship of his sous-chef, the size of its clientele dropped significantly thanks to his disappearance. I was one of the absentees.

Returning to the disagreeable note with which this tale began, the man who beat me to the soup-tasting trophy was as different to Palmer as chalk is to cheese. Marlowe was a frizzy haired and wiry little man who was not much liked by the townsfolk.  He was tolerated, however, because he was the town surgeon and ran the local accident and emergency clinic in Haldene. He also happened to be a remarkably wealthy man. This latter detail would have been an insufficient reason to hold a grudge against him but for the fact that he never missed an opportunity to flaunt his wealth before all and sundry. About three years ago, I had been the subject of one such display which had caused a rift between us even though I had never exchanged a word with the man. I had long hankered after a bronze bust of Diana which stood in the window of an antique shop on the high street in Haldene. However, because the wages I earned from my profession as a tutor were not sufficient, I could not buy it outright. So instead, I entered into a gentleman’s agreement with the dealer to have it kept in reserve until I saved enough money to afford the piece. Toward this end, the dealer removed the bust from view and kept it in the back of his shop. I had saved about half the amount required when one day, upon paying a visit to the shop to inform the dealer of this milestone, he shook his head before announcing the bust had been sold! Someone had inquired after it and, though my interest in it was declared, the inquirer had offered to pay five times its price -  a sum the dealer understandably could not turn down. I bore the dealer no grudge. Instead my ire was turned on Marlowe for it was he who had bought the bust and I believe he had done it just to spite me.

You may now understand why his victory in the soup-tasting competition against all odds was doubly unpleasant for me. Marlowe had never progressed to the semi-finals let alone the final round of the competition in the past though it was not for want of trying. To be entirely honest I had done myself no favours by being complacent in the weeks leading up to the competition as I readied the formula for my cream of zucchini soup. My approach to soup-making was entirely mathematical and believing my victory was assured in the absence of a more imaginative entry from Palmer, I had been sloppy with my sums. A miscalculation for which I was to suffer a humiliating loss.

The four semi-finalists of the competition had been decided by a public vote. On tables which ringed the town hall were placed the bowls of soup, one from each of twelve pre-approved participants. Attendees to the event were invited to sample the concoctions before voting for their favourite. The four entries with the highest votes progressed to the semi-finals where they were judged by a select panel of eight soup connoisseurs. These eight tasted and conferred before selecting the two bowls to be placed before three guest chefs from the environs of Haldene. It was these three who decided the eventual winner.

Now, although this final decision was made behind closed doors, the two penultimate rounds had been held in full view of the public and it was during these rounds that I should have become aware of my impending disappointment if my over-confidence hadn’t led me to dismiss the clues. For a more alert mind would have discerned the reactions that greeted the tasting of Marlowe’s entry by both the public and the panel of connoisseurs. Palmer’s widely acclaimed ‘best ever’ entry a year ago had engendered many a reaction but not as numerous and as expressive as those which greeted Marlowe’s.  The wide eyes, smacked lips, grunts of approval and thwarted attempts to have a second helping should have rung alarm bells if I had not dismissed these as the crude responses of unrefined palettes to an overdose of some ingredient in Marlowe’s soup which I refused to taste on principle. Surely, the three chefs would be more discerning and recognize the craftily (if a little sloppily) calculated blend of the ingredients in my concoction.

How wrong my speculation proved! I was therefore consumed by a mixture of anger and shame as I departed the town hall and headed back to my lodgings on the town’s outskirts. During his victory speech, Marlowe had announced his intention to purchase Palmer’s restaurant from his next of kin who had placed it on the market. This was met with whoops of delight from his audience who were eager for more than a spoonful of his winning soup which was to be featured on the menu. I, however, could not help shaking a fist at that establishment as I strolled past, vowing silently as I went never to set foot in it.

About a month later, I shamefacedly broke my vow as an agitated curiosity got the better of me and directed my feet sheepishly beyond the threshold of The Marlowe as the restaurant was now called. Ever since Marlowe had taken charge of the restaurant, the town had been agog with the news of his delicious soup. ‘Heavenly’, ‘Divine’ and ‘Nectar of the Gods’ were just three of the many acclamations I heard from snatches of passing conversations in the period leading up to my visit. Some mystique was added to these rumours because only a lucky few had yet sampled the soup due to Marlowe’s restriction of its service to just ten bowls at the restaurant’s opening time on Sundays which was midday. Hence on the three Sundays before my visit, there had been a rush to be one of the ten lucky samplers.

I was the first to enter the restaurant on the fourth Sunday because I arrived at my post at ten o’clock to ensure my place at the front of the queue. By eleven o’clock, a queue of ten had already formed. There had been an unseemly scuffle between the tenth and the unlucky (and soon to be sent packing with a bruised head) eleventh who had arrived at the same time. Having swallowed my pride to break my vow, this incident made me feel even more pathetic. Hence my anticipation was marred by a sense of disquiet as I took my seat in a corner of the restaurant to await my serving. It duly arrived and to add to my discomfort, it was delivered by Marlowe himself who could not help chuckling as he placed the bowl in front of me.

I remained silent as I waited for him to move on to the next customer before I addressed the bowl and investigated its contents. The soup was of a clear brown colour, not very thick and entirely homogenous. There was no sign of the vegetable or meat that composed it so I presumed it was finely blended. Indeed, so far as I could tell from the rumours, no one knew what kind of soup it was and Marlowe took delight in its remaining a mystery. The consensus was that the soup was made of ingredients Marlowe had brought back with him from a town he hailed from, somewhere on the west coast. But as this was neither confirmed nor denied by Marlowe, the soup’s contents remained a mystery.

Before venturing to taste it, I raised the bowl to my nose to catch its aroma. It was very faint, suggesting it was very dilute. Indeed, my nose had gone as far as it could into the bowl before I caught a whiff of it. The smell was so unremarkable that I struggle now to describe it. All I can remember is thinking that I had smelt something vaguely like it in my childhood.
Placing the bowl back down on the table, I raised a spoonful of the liquid to my mouth and took a sip of it. The spoon subsequently fell from my fingers.

‘Heavenly!’, ‘Divine!’, ‘Nectar of the gods!’ The rumours were true, a hundred times over and more!

Dear reader, just as I struggled to describe its smell, I fear I would not do justice to the taste. For just as the former’s weakness had tested the floor of my vocabulary, the latter’s overwhelming potency explodes its roof. My tongue was writhing as all my taste buds seemed to vibrate in unison, and as the trickle I had sipped made its way round the corners of my mouth and down my throat, a thrill of pleasure followed in its wake down to my stomach. A thrill that lingered long after that first sip. The soup was as sweet as it was salty and as sour as it was spicy. This fact might go some way in explaining why I still find it hard to settle on a single word to describe it. Indeed, after the first spoonful, I abandoned my attempt to decipher its ingredients and almost buried my face into the bowl as I guzzled up its contents. The soup had one more significant attribute - each spoonful left behind a craving for more. In those euphoric moments, I even recall feeling there was no shame in finishing as a runner-up to Marlowe.

I was in a state of ecstasy when I finally left the restaurant. I had licked my bowl clean and on the way home, while licking my lips, I resolved to seek the thrill again the following week. I felt under a spell as my mouth slavered and my stomach churned in satisfaction. All I could think about was the soup and how incredibly long a week was!

It was not till that evening that the spell finally broke and I was my usual self once again. With my reawakening returned my loathing for Marlowe and a determination to discover his secret. Whilst, in the past, I was prepared to defer to Palmer’s culinary superiority, I was not ready to give in to Marlowe so easily. So instead, my mind began to race in search of explanations for his unexpected success. I eventually settled on two possibilities, both linked to Marlowe’s wealth. The first and more plausible notion was that someone else from out of town (a skilled chef probably) in Marlowe’s employment prepared the soup. If this was proven wrong, I was ready to believe the rumour that a rare ingredient purchased at great expense on his many travels was the source of the soup’s potency.

I had to settle for the latter supposition because upon interviewing Branston, the sous-chef at Marlowe’s, I learnt that he strongly suspected that Marlowe was the only person involved in the soup’s preparation. He also desired to know the secret behind the soup’s taste so much so that he had taken to watching Marlowe closely and had followed him sometimes to and from the restaurant and his clinic. The soup was not prepared in the restaurant’s kitchen as I had believed. Instead, it was delivered by Marlowe himself every Sunday. Branston’s surveillance had further revealed to him that the soup was almost certainly broiled in Marlowe’s house and since he lived alone and had not entertained any visitors for a few months, he was led to believe that no external party had a hand in the soup’s preparation.

Branston’s news delighted me because it revealed a determination much stronger than mine to get to the bottom of the mystery. I therefore offered to join forces with him in his endeavour and promised to keep him updated on my findings. I parted with a promise to support his investigation by having a snoop around Marlowe’s residence soon. Little did I suspect how fortuitous this disclosure would turn out to be.

Sunday arrived and once again, I was the first to arrive at the restaurant only to find a note pinned to the door. To my dismay it was an apology for the absence of the soup from the menu that day. Cursing aloud, I turned from the door to retrace my steps when, to my utmost surprise, I bumped against someone standing right behind me.

It was Marlowe!

‘Morning, sir!’ he said chirpily and a bit too intimately considering this was the first time we had exchanged words. ‘Sorry we are out of the soup today but if you would come home with me, I can serve you some.’
He smiled and winked at me before adding,
‘It would be a pleasure and I would very much like to make your acquaintance after all these years, sir.’

The sudden nature of this greeting and its unexpected note of cordiality stunned me into a silence that lasted a few seconds. Was the animosity between us just a figment of my imagination? Although every fibre of my being urged me to flatly decline the invitation, I possessed enough of my wits to recognize that this was an excellent opportunity to get closer to Marlowe’s secret. So, going against my instincts, I stammered my acceptance which was met with a cheerful chuckle from Marlowe before he turned to lead me to his lodgings.

He lived in a large bungalow on the opposite side of the town to my flat. The house stood well away from the main road at the end of a wooded lane where it was guarded by a high padlocked gate. I did most of the talking along the way because I found it helped calm my nerves which were increasingly on edge as we approached his abode. His replies to my rambling commonplace questions were monosyllabic save for when I cheekily asked him to divulge his soup’s secret. We had just reached the gate when I made this inquiry. He turned around with a wicked grin on his face and patting me on the shoulder, he gave this puzzling response:

‘You all keep asking me the same question but the secret is within you. You just need to get at it!’

The surgeon then gave a loud guffaw before he opened the gate and beckoned to me to follow him through. I distinctly recall feeling a chill run down my spine as he rammed in the bolt of the padlock before turning the key. Ushering me to the door, he patted me once more on the shoulder before leading me into his living room.

The room was lavishly furnished with four large lounge chairs around a round mahogany table which stood in front of a large fireplace. Glancing at the mantelpiece above the inglenook, I could not help grimacing because proudly sitting on it was the bust of Diana Marlowe had cruelly denied me.

I am convinced he saw my reaction because he hastily urged me to take a seat before he disappeared into one of the rooms beyond with a promise to return with a bowl of his soup. Choosing a chair that faced away from the mantelpiece and toward the doorway through which Marlowe had gone, I sat down and continued investigating the room.

Apart from the anticipated stamp of Marlowe’s extravagance, I found the rest of the living room unremarkable save for a large framed painting that hung on one of the walls. Being fond of historic art, I arose to take a closer look to find it was of the macabre genre that prevailed during the early sixteenth century. It was a black and white sketch of a man stretched out on a rack with his wrists and ankles bound as far away from one another as could be reached. The sketch was made more ghoulish by the tool, which looked like a clamp, wedged between the victim’s teeth. This hideous implement held the victim’s mouth open as a dark fluid from the bottom of a barrel above his head flowed into it. Next to the rack was a menacing figure in a black cloak, armed with a large knife which was on the point of piercing the victim’s bloated stomach.

It was a very unpleasant image which set my nerves on edge. Shuddering, I averted my eyes and hastily resumed my seat to await Marlowe’s return. It was a wait that was soon tinged with impatience when, upon glancing at the grandfather clock above the mantelpiece, I found that it had lasted about fifteen minutes with no sign of Marlowe.

It was then that I noticed the eerie silence that pervaded the room. Since Marlowe had left by the door which faced me, no sound had reached me from beyond it. I felt the urge to call out to Marlowe but quickly rejected this in favour of going in search of his whereabouts.  I realized the excuse Marlowe’s prolonged absence offered me to go in search of clues to his secret and, with this fixed purpose in mind, I gathered myself together and rose from the chair.

I tiptoed my way through the door into a dimly lit hallway to find that the first room on the left was a large kitchen. To my surprise, Marlowe was absent and neither were there signs of a meal being prepared. Instead it was spick and span with the utensils and cutlery all carefully stowed away in their rightful places. I was further surprised to find no sign of any food or drink of any kind in the cupboards and drawers.

Puzzled, I left the kitchen and moved down the hall. There were two more rooms on the left and three on the right but to my disappointment, they were all locked. There was one more door at the end of the hallway to which I cautiously proceeded because I now found the silence that still reigned in the house oppressive. Surely, Marlowe, wherever he was, had heard me shuffling around so why had he not come out to meet me?

It was therefore with a sense of trepidation that I carefully turned the handle of the door at the end of the hallway. I do not know why I hoped it would be locked nor do I know why I fully expected the opposite to be true. Perhaps, I had a foreboding of what was to come. Nevertheless, I was not surprised to find the door give way before me.

Pushing the door as far back as it would go, I peered into the room beyond. As I mentioned before, the hallway was lit dimly and since there was no light source in the room, it took a while for my eyes to adjust to the darkness that greeted me as the light from the hall streamed in.

Oh, how I wished I had turned around and fled that house that very instant! For I believe that, till my dying day, I will be haunted by the horrifying sight that emerged from the gloom in that room. I see it looming before my eyes this very moment as my trembling fingers struggle to grip my pen.

There in the middle of the room was a life-like recreation of the macabre painting in Marlowe’s living room! The ghastly scene was about four yards away from me so you may imagine the revulsion I felt instantly. Stepping back involuntarily, I hastily rubbed my eyes to make sure I was not deceived. I was not. The apparition was still there in the middle of the spooky room and became more vivid with every second that passed.

Just as in the painting, there was a large wooden rack upon which lay the naked form of a very large man with his limbs splayed and his joints bound with ropes. From the ceiling, a barrel was suspended so that it hung a few inches above the man’s mouth which was wedged open with a crude contraption that served as a clamp.  Across the man’s stomach was a bandage with faint streaks of what looked like blood. It had evidently been used to stem a wound because beyond it and toward the middle of the man’s chest ran a scar. Beneath the bandage was a tube that seemed to emerge from a hole on the right side of man’s abdomen. The tube, which was about two metres in length, led from the hole to a basin which stood on the floor. Peering beneath the rack, I could just spy a bucket which appeared to function as a chamber pot.

There was no sound of breathing from the man so I presumed he was dead. My own breaths were heavy and laboured partly from fear but also from the stench of decayed flesh and excrement that filled my nostrils. Steeling myself, I cast a furtive glance behind me before stepping into the room to take a closer look at the corpse.

The barrel suspended from the roof shielded the dead man’s face so I had to push it out of the way to see his features. They were contorted and frozen in agony and to my horror, I recognized them instantly. They belonged to poor Palmer!
I think I had just enough time to let out a gasp before I felt a blunt object crash against the back of my skull and sank senseless to the floor.

I do not know how long I blacked out for. Nevertheless, it was pitch black when I awoke with the horrible awareness that my life was in peril because I was drowning! Or so it seemed from the agony that reigned within my throat as I lay face upwards on what felt a very hard and uncomfortable surface. My mouth, which was wide open, was full of a thick fluid which had begun to clog my throat and all my attempts to vomit were thwarted by a downward pressure which increased by the second. Furthermore, I found I could not close my mouth thanks to what felt like a clamp wedged against both sets of my teeth. All I could do to alleviate the horrible sensation in my throat was to swallow the slurry which continued to drip into my mouth. From what I could deduce in between gulps, it was a blend of raw potatoes, parsnips, carrots and tomatoes. This I did until the supply eventually came to a stop to my great relief after about two minutes. The muscles of my throat ached as my lungs wheezed violently for air. My head also throbbed with a pain that was rivalled by the ache around my distended jaw. It was then that I realized that I could not move from where I lay despite all my attempts to rise. My first thought was that I was paralyzed. But as my fogged memory returned in fits and starts, the horror of my situation slowly dawned on me. I had taken Palmer’s place on the rack!

I could not discern anything in the darkness so, when my breathing had regained a more regular and quiet rhythm, I strained my ears to listen for other sounds. For about ten minutes all was still until the noise of something dripping into a container reached my ears. It came from my right-hand side and from what I had seen of Palmer’s corpse, I surmised that it was the sound of some liquid dripping from the tube into the basin. A liquid which emerged from a hole in my body. A liquid which one of my internal organs was producing. A liquid that began life as slurry in my mouth before travelling down my throat and into my stomach where it was partly digested. A liquid which then moved on into my small bowel but was denied access to my large bowel because of a diversion via a tube into a basin. A liquid with an aroma that was a lot stronger than the diluted form which I had sniffed a week ago.  An odour that reminded me of a time in my childhood when I had enjoyed chewing the cud to my mother’s irritation. This liquid was Marlowe’s soup and I was the cauldron. The secret was within me and Marlowe had got at it!

Due to the severity of my situation, the shock that accompanied this discovery was weaker than it would otherwise have been. In fact, I do not think I fully grasped all I have just written at the time because, as may be imagined, my mind was a tumult of confusion as I lay there in the dark. After what felt like two hours during which I alternated between a state of awakened panic and semi-conscious delirium, I began to sense an ache in my side where the tube supposedly was inserted. From this delayed response, I deduced that Marlowe must have administered a local anaesthetic prior to boring the hole in my side.

I was clear-headed enough to realize that Marlowe would soon return to collect the soup or fill the barrel with the slurry. I eagerly anticipated this event in the forlorn hope that something might make him relieve my distress or at least explain what his plan was for me. I conjectured that Palmer had lain in a similar state for a year before his death so it was logical to assume I would perish in that room. Having accepted this fate, I began to think of ways to speed up my death. My first thought was to let the paste clog my throat the next time I was fed so I could choke to death but upon recollecting how awful the drowning sensation had felt, I immediately dismissed this plan. My other hope was that the wound in my side would become gangrenous but this too was dashed when I recalled that Marlowe, being a surgeon, would prevent this. I was about to plunge into a fresh despair when I heard the door swing open and a shaft of light fell upon my face. Marlowe had entered the room.

I could hear his footsteps as he walked towards the bed and though my eyeballs rolled as far to the right as they could, he remained just out of sight. I heard him empty the basin to my right carefully into some other container before walking around the bed to stand behind my head. He was careful to remain out of sight all the while. In the dim light that streaked the room, my vision had been partially filled with the bottom of the barrel that hung above him. I could now clearly see the hole from which the slurry issued. Looking past it, I caught a glimpse of Marlowe’s bony fingers as he filled the barrel with the contents of another which had presumably carried into the room. I was afforded no more time to think as the fluid descended through the hole into my mouth and I began to swallow it down painfully in large gulps to avoid suffocating. I was so engrossed in this activity that I did not hear Marlowe depart. I only became aware of his absence when the room was plunged once more into darkness as the door shut behind him. I could only presume he had gone to dilute the ‘soup’ and I shuddered to think of the ten unwitting souls who were to dine on my cud that week.

I was fed this way three times a day and each tortuous meal lasted about two minutes. Each meal felt worse than the last and, after about a week, my mind reconsidered the decision to allow myself to suffocate to death. I will spare the reader a full description of the miserable attempts that followed this resolution. It will suffice to say that feed after feed came and went for me to find I could only withstand the drowning sensation for a paltry five seconds before I abandoned it in favour of swallowing. Oh, how uncontrollably, I wept after each failed attempt. In fact, I believe I spent each awful moment I was awake weeping because that was all I could do.

I think I have dwelled long enough on the conditions of my incarceration for the reader to grasp its attendant horror and misery. I will therefore hasten to draw this tale to a close by disclosing how I survived to tell it.

In my despair, I had forgotten about the one person who knew of my interest in Marlowe. The more astute reader will recall my conversation with Branston, the sous-chef, during which I had mentioned my plan to snoop around Marlowe’s home. This disclosure led to my rescue. After ten days had passed without any explanation for my disappearance, Branston began to suspect Marlowe had a hand in it. So, on the tenth day he marched up to the police station and displayed sufficient agitation to persuade two officers to obtain a warrant for a search of Marlowe’s residence. Upon arrival at the house, a visibly perturbed Marlowe had come to receive them at the gate and led them with reluctance into his house. Alas, he had been left alone in the living room as the three men extended their search into the rooms beyond.

I was unconscious when Branston found me. His squeal of horror was answered by the two officers, one of who promptly fainted upon spying the grim scene whilst the other retched before turning back to prevent Marlowe’s escape. Branston, on his part, composed himself quickly and hastily freed me from my bonds before easing the clamp from my mouth. Still unconscious, I was carefully lifted from the rack and with the tube in tow, ferried to the living room.

You can imagine how perplexed I was when I awoke to find myself on a bed in the well-lit bay of the clinic. I cannot describe the joy that supplanted my confusion when I found I could raise my head and my eyes lighted on the beaming face of the doctor who oversaw my care for the six weeks of my admission. I had been saved just in time to prevent any irreparable damage to my organs and after three months of physiotherapy and routine operations, my return to full health was certified by the doctor. I had been allowed visitors after a week in the clinic and Branston was the first person I received. To my doctor’s alarm, the vigour of my welcome had almost burst the stitches in my abdomen! The gratitude I expressed was profuse and even now, remains as strong as ever. Thank you once again Branston, if you happen to be reading this.

‘What of Marlowe?’ I hear you ask. As I mentioned, one of the officers had been quick-witted enough to race back to the living room to prevent his escape. Alas, as you may have guessed, he was long gone and there was no sign of him although the town was thoroughly searched. Wanted signs were posted in the neighbouring villages but to no effect. He had vanished into thin air. On the other hand, poor Palmer’s body was found buried in a shallow grave behind the house. With no evidence to the contrary, it was surmised that Marlowe had got his monstrous inspiration from the hideous painting in his living room which seemed to depict an ancient cannibalistic ritual. Furthermore, the scar on Palmer’s stomach seemed to indicate that he had found that organ’s offerings unsatisfactory before he struck a sweet culinary vein (excuse the pun!) in the small bowel. I have no desire to understand why the contents of this organ are so flavoursome and I pray that this missive does not inspire any readers to look further into this puzzle. Along with a large blender, sacks of assorted vegetables had been found in one of the locked rooms which had served as Marlowe’s makeshift kitchen for preparing the slurry.
 I am glad, however, to announce that the hideous residence has since been boarded up and will soon be demolished.  

A year has passed since these events occurred and all, including the police, have given up the search for Marlowe. All except me. As soon as I recovered from my ordeal, I gave up my job as a tutor and I have since been scouring the country for the fiend. For though I have healed physically, I nurse a deep mental restiveness which would not settle until Marlowe is brought to justice. Justice not just for myself but for poor Palmer. To this end, I have diverted all my energy and resources toward finding him. My year-long hunt led me to the east, west and south of the country with scant success. Turning northward, I have taken up residence in an inn in a little village on the coast and this morning, I received some news which prompted me to set down my story in writing. I believe my search is near its end. I believe I have found him!

Marlowe is in the neighbouring village! The two stories I read in today’s gazette seem to confirm it. How else could the juxtaposition of the story about a man mysteriously missing after a month with another gushing with praise for the astonishing winning entry of a soup-tasting competition be explained? It reeks of Marlowe!

I am now about to set off to the next village to achieve my end. Before I depart, I will hand over these pages to the landlord of the inn so that, should anything go amiss with me, the clues to my whereabouts may be found therein. I am counting on your help too, dear reader. I will add one more thing which will aid your inquiries if you should choose to make them.

It concerns one more circumstance that assures me that I have found my man because it is a stunt so petty, I can only attribute it to Marlowe. I have neglected to mention that all the evidence pointed to the bust of Diana being the weapon I had been bludgeoned with in Marlowe’s house – an item, which I am delighted to announce, is now in my possession. I imagine he relished bashing me over the head with an item he had maliciously denied me. And I can imagine it is with the same relish that Marlowe chose the name he now bears and which was reported as being the winner’s in the gazette. A name that has irked me from the moment I saw it.

It is my name. The fiend now bears my name! #$@&%*!

Horror Story Writing Contest contest entry

Happy reading if you can! And apologies for its length :) R
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