By Jack Davis (13), Donabate Community College, Co Dublin
Photograph: Getty Images
This text consists of the last few pages found in the journal of a crazed individual, found wandering the sewers below the city of London, though the authorities have asked us not to reveal this to the public.
"I’ve made a terrible mistake. Many moons ago, on a night when the shimmering stars aligned in the sinister skies, I arrived at the shadowy place where my mark damned itself to darkness. I stood, at odds with myself, struggling to bring myself to enter dank sewers. Before long, my sense of pride had taken me over and I stepped uneasily into the gloom.
I remember when I was part of a noble family, known to most people as the Blood-Brine family. I grew tired of having my every need tended to, so I abandoned my noble roots and went to live in a handsome townhouse. When my parents cut off my money supply, I was evicted for not paying my rent. In hindsight, I could have gotten a job, but I had been so used to spending my days eating, drinking and partying that I couldn’t be bothered to do any work.
I suppose you’d need an explanation as to why I would enter such a dismal area. It is really quite foolish. You see, I had been working for a group, known as the Mound-Makers. They had contracts, to hunt, capture or kill a variety of different creatures, up to and including people. I was told to find and destroy a cursed artefact, which forced the sanity from its victims, causing them to run amok, killing everyone in their path. They told me it was worth a king’s ransom, and would get me.
As I trekked down that shunned part of the sewers, the indescribable stench slowly became unbearable to me. I eventually came to a stop, building a small camp with the small amount of firewood that I brought along with me. I had time to clean my gun, a pepperbox pistol, with an old, decorative design covering its barrel and a long, sharp bit of metal strapped to it with a piece of leather. I couldn’t rest easy, as the flames licked up, projecting images of demons of shadow against the wall of the tunnel. While I slept, I had terrible nightmares. They were dark and surreal, disturbing my repose with vivid images, demonic shrieking, leaving me catatonic in my slumber. It was troubling. Things aren’t much better now.
When I woke up, I put out the fire, grabbed my belongings and lit my torch again, and began my journey to destroy the cursed artefacts that lay at the end of this tunnel. As I delved even deeper, I saw the walls change. The cobbled stone changed irrevocably to black marble. The murky water changed to a thick red liquid, with a similar consistency to molasses. Symbols appeared on the walls. They were in colours that I could not name, and in shapes that seemed impossible to the human mind. Whatever eldritch beings wrote in this tongue must be far more advanced than any human could ever be. The only word that was legible was a phrase: “DEATH BEFORE DARKNESS”.
Minutes later, I came upon what looked like a city. It was built from beautifully engraved stone and ice that had been sculpted into fabulous, yet horrific shapes. The thick, stinking, blood-like liquid disappeared as I walked into the dark halls of the empty citadel. There were strange devices there that still make no sense when I think of them today, like fire pits that ran on ice, creating a frozen, blue flame. The strangest thing I found down there was a vast, obsidian archway that had engravings on it. They showed not pictures, not an alien language, but words, written in crudely human script, saying the words “HERE IS SCREAMING” and nothing more.
Before I made the terrible decision to wander through that accursed arch, a divine scent struck my nostrils. I followed it for a few minutes, and came across a beautiful banquet. There was a delectable selection of pork, beef, fish, cheese and a grand assortment of vegetables. I gorged myself on delicious scarlet cakes, flavoured with nutmeg and cinnamon. There was even my favourite food, treacle bread. I then saw a plate, covered in an odd-looking meat. I leaped over to it and voraciously set about stuffing my face with it. Each plate had nice-looking labels, each showing what meat it was serving. On pork, there was a pig, on chicken, there was a bird and so on. But, to my surprise, on that plate of delicious, strange meat, there was a simple, hand-carved image of what looked to be a human.
Most people would feel nauseous, or even throw up at the realisation that they had partaken in some cannibalistic cuisine, but I didn’t feel much. Being a debased monster in the eyes of civilised society is the least of my problems. Only now do I realise that the food was still hot. It was as though it had been served the moment I entered that accursed room.
I sit here now, writing about what may be farther down this tunnel. I can hear a muffled chanting, consisting of guttural shrieks and maddening phrases. I fear for my life, but I cannot return without condemning myself as a craven fool, trapped in poverty and terrible fortune. I will continue writing when I am further down, but I know not whether the alien forces below will leave me in a state where I can write.
The truth has been revealed to me. There is a mirror down here. It has given me a small morsel of time to write about what truly is going on. There used to be a people down here, not human by our standards, but certainly they could think, fear and dream. They had no sunlight, that was their only folly, so they built a false sun. A dawn machine. But something went terribly wrong. ’Twas a gateway to its world. This is the end. All is lost.
I see a mirror, lined with brass and silver. The sides are decorated with golden snakes. When I am near it, all the sounds, all the echoes, all the screaming ceases, leaving a black, cold silence. Then the silence disappears, and I hear the darkness itself whispering. What does the darkness say? Friend, it would burn your mind just to read it.
Should I gaze into this mirror? No. That would be unhinged. It would be a crime to even glance at it again.
But then again, one small peek never hurt anyone . . .”