This piece is dedicated to the lovely and talented Deborah Mitton (@DeborahMitton), author of “Ten for the Devil” Thank you so much, Deborah!
I left Ripton the next morning and have never returned. The local government has since claimed my grandfather’s estate and they are more than welcome to it. I have thought many times about going back and destroying that house on Covenant Hill, of burning it to the ground as it was said to have done years ago. But I am too much of a coward to return to that evil place, just as I lack my father’s fortitude to meet my fate head on.
I have never fully recovered from the events of that horrible night, as my friends and colleagues will readily attest. Only one man, an occult scholar from Massachusetts to whom I brought the scrap of parchment I stole, knows the reason for my anguish; and even he does not know the full terrible truth of what I witnessed that night inside Ash Manor.
The words on the parchment constitute something as simple as a contract; a legal agreement between two parties to supply certain goods and services in return for a set price. But that price, and the name of the insidious being to which it was paid, is too horrible to commit to paper. Whether or not Jedidiah Ripton was the potent wizard legend tells him to be, there is no doubt in my mind that he at least succeeded in calling forth a hideous power onto that hilltop. The arrangement he reached with it, the callousness with which he promised it the souls of all those of lived in and ever visited that pinnacle in exchange for the wealth and influence he so dearly coveted; the sane mind refuses to reconcile with such an unholy act.
I can only hope that the power of the spell on the lintel of that door has been diminished by the intervening years, even though I know with terrifying certainty that it has not. No matter how tightly I have clung to the belief that what I saw in Ash Manor was nothing more than a perverse vision thrusted upon me by the otherworldly atmosphere of that place, I know what I saw when I ran from that room, where the souls of all who crossed the threshold of that wretched house were written for all eternity. It was my own name, written in blood by my own hand that I had read at the bottom of that list of the damned that sent me screaming from that evil room, and it was the sight of my own father, his pale, decaying flesh stinking of dirt and putrefaction, standing on the landing of the stairs beneath me, glaring with miserable reproach, that sent my mind over the edge of sanity. The sight of him as he lifted a crooked, worm-eaten finger towards me and unleashed an unearthly shout from his caved-in throat has plagued my dreams every night since.
Was he a spectre only? Or has some form of hellish magic condemned him to haunt the lonely house on Covenant Hill, alongside fourscore other strangers, in both body and soul, until the ending of time itself? Bless the shaft of moonlight, fired like an arrow from Diana’s bow, which forced the monster back into the shadows of that unholy place and allowed for my escape.
But I will never truly escape. As I breathe my last, I feel something tugging at me from the pit and I remember my dead father’s words, the words he shouted at me on those decaying stairs –
“He has you now, Robert! You entered and now you will never leave!”
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