Please don’t. Please just turn off your screen. Please. You’ll thank me.
You’re still here? Then you have no one to blame but yourself. Very well.
I was born in the year of our lord 831, or so the brothers told me. There were lots of children left at the doors to the monastery in those days, their parents too poor or their mother unwed, and I was one of them. Do not think me pitiable, the abbot was a good man and we were well cared for. I had a joyous childhood, and an education, and that’s more than can be said for most born in such inauspicious circumstances.
In 851 the men came. They were tall, and broad, and bearded, and they spoke with an accent I did not know. I had not taken my vows despite reaching my twentieth year, and the abbot charged me with the safety of the children. I had to swim as the monastery burned, and the strange men laughed and butchered the brothers.
Are you still reading? Is there something wrong? Do you hate yourself?
I had assumed they were men from the east, part of the vast army of pagans who had landed on our shores. Men who worshiped ravens and hated Christ. But I was wrong. I stole into the woods and spied on them from the trees as they dragged Abbot Winson into their camp. I saw as they beat him, that gentle man, and I saw them paint their faces with ash and woad and cheer. As he withered I felt a chill, despite the warmth of the night.
Then their witch man came, their chanting priest in robes of shadow and bone. I froze, gripping the tree branch tight, feeling the rugged bark, listening to his song, and slipped.
For a while there was darkness. Not sleep, you understand, but a pitch black oblivion, a kind of essence of nothingness. My mind was in that emptiness, but my body had gone I know not where. I wish I knew how long I was stuck in the dark but it was impossible to tell, even time itself seemed to be empty of meaning. I felt the rising panic begin to rush through me, and then I heard the song again.
I did not like what I heard then, the words were distant and indistinct and sounded full of fury and spite, but it was something, so I willed myself toward that distant point and…
Are you sure you should read on? It only gets worse from here.
An unfamiliar pair of eyes opened and through them I saw the witch man. Muscles bunched in legs, blood flowed, breath drew, all in a body over which I had no control. My mind was in someone else, someone full of strange memories and rage. He went to the forest to empty his bladder and I struck, tearing at his thoughts and his memories until there was nothing left in that hollow shell but a tiny fraction of his screaming essence and me.
I eloped with his body. Straight into the horsemen of the King. They rode me down as I stood.
Even then I was kept from true death. I heard the song again in the emptiness, but when I found my way back to the light the body I wore was a girl sitting by a hearth. She was an innocent, and I could not bear to rend her thoughts. I stayed in her, my memories and mind melding with hers as the years passed. I grew old, married, felt the joy of raising children and taught them my song even as the savage’s last dregs begged for relief within me. I almost forgot, almost, that I was anything other than her.
You are persistent, aren’t you? Nothing will dissuade you. I like persistence.
My deathbed was an unpleasant place, and my death was painful then. They are all painful. But I found myself in the emptiness once more, no longer quite the orphan boy raised by monks, or the peasant girl, or the woad painted savage. I was angry. Furious. Back into the emptiness.
But the song came again. It always came again. This time it had embellishments, a tune I did not recognise and a jaunty chorus, and I found my way into the body of a thief. He was no longer a child, but he was full of delicious spite and carried with him a matchlock pistol. I took my time with him, subsuming his mind, drinking his essence slowly. It took years to seize control, and by the time he realised what was happening it was far too late. I realised the silver lining that came with my condition, and spent my days living in reckless, indulgent abandon. As I stood in that rain soaked alley, knuckles bloodied from his mother’s delicate jaw, I knew my purpose.
There was nothing left of my kindness after him, as he and the girl and the savage wept in the dark corners of my mind. Nothing left of mercy, I drove away my families, took what I wished, grew inured to suffering, knowing that oblivion was a small price to pay. I embraced the darkness, became the wraith I was meant to be.
In London became a bishop and turned to running cheap whores in the back streets, bought and sold from the Orient. In Paris I took the body of a well regarded noble, and I tortured peasantry for fun until the headsman came for me. When I used the women of the camps for my pleasure and tossed them into the ovens I laughed at the thought I might be burning my unborn children. I am jaded, vile, yes, and I embrace it, I will destroy the mind of my host and make the last speck of them watch from behind their eyes as I make them hated, scorned and vile.
I have had so very long to dream of new cruelties, new abuses, new ways to make my victims twist their faces into that special kind of ugly that comes with sobbing tears. Who do you love? I will beat them, shatter every limb, take their hope, take their dignity, again, and again. Think of the worst thing you could do, the thing every fibre of your being screams is wrong, that makes your soul hurt even to imagine and causes you shame to discover you are even able to picture. I have done it. I will do it again.
Do you hate me yet? You should. I will not admit to the worst of my transgressions even here. Not for shame, but because it pleases me to imagine you failing to grasp the scope of my indulgence.
As the centuries passed I grew more adept at spreading my song, the ballad of my existence. For a while a piece of music was enough to carry me again from my purgatory, jagged and harsh. I spent time in taverns, and salons, and coffee shops, and wine bars, perfecting the art of possession.
The music was not enough. I needed a way to guarantee a gate back to the waking world, to the warm flesh humans take so readily for granted. I tried to create an image, but it proved too difficult to describe myself completely in that form.
Rage. Power. Death.
So I wrote a story and placed it here, and now I see you from the dark place. It is stronger than the song, my new gateway from oblivion. Do you feel me yet? I warned you. I tried to tell you not to read. You won’t even know I’m there until it’s far too late. I am in the blotch you see when you close your eyes too tight, the strange black shape you are certain lurks in the dark room once you turn out the light. I am the little urge to wickedness that you indulge, the headache that seems to last for days.
It’s too late for you. There’s no going back. You’ve read too far and I am in you. You cannot fight me, you cannot resist, you have no idea how, you will wither until you join all my victims in the endless cycle screaming for release in the back of my mind. I will strip away your soul until oblivion fills you, then shatter your world until oblivion comes for me in turn. You are my puppet, and your will is not your own.