An Encounter on the Midland Mainline

Tucked away in the case I found a journal, which appears to have more reports in it, although these are written up in a different style from the rest of the files. At first I thought Dr Gotobed was just jotting down fiction based on his experiences, but the fact they are accompanied by what appears to be corroborating evidence has made me think again. I’ll try and include a few more of these, if for no reason other than they seem to reveal something of the good doctor’s character – C.R.

Train Station3

Friday November 14th 2002

Midland Mainline Train, 21.15 to Derby

“Do you know why you are here?” I ask, looking up from the thin file on my lap and towards the reflection of the young man sat next to me in the window opposite. The description on the yellowed pages is disturbingly accurate, right down to the bloodshot eyes and the gash across the forehead. The kid is in his early twenties, and dressed a little out of date for the time, in slightly flared jeans and a bright yellow sports top. He carries it well, all except for the fleck of deep red across his breast and left shoulder. I’m in a black suit and a white shirt, unbuttoned at the neck. I look like I should be advising him about his future career options. Or on my way home from a funeral.

“Because I fucked up,” replies the kid.

I look down at the file, then back at the reflection opposite.

“Why would you say that?” I ask.

The kid looks down at his feet, revealing a slick dark liquid dashed across his scalp, then back at the window, meeting my gaze in the reflection.

Neon streaks by the window and mixes with spots of rain as the train rocks slightly to take a turn. The carriage lights flicker.

“I… I don’t want to talk about it. Things… they changed. Got too much.”

The only other person in the carriage is an elderly lady sitting several rows away. She turns and looks at me with a slightly concerned expression on her wrinkled face, then gets up and leaves the carriage.

“You need to move on from this,” I say to the window.

“I know.”

“Tell me how I can help.”

In the reflection, the kid looks away.

The door at the end of the carriage clunks, and I see the old lady whispering conspiratorially in a conductor’s ear. The door clicks and opens and the conductor steps in and moves towards me.

I glance back at the window and see the kid’s eyes begin to blacken with rage.

The carriage rocks and the lights dim, before returning to full strength.

“Stay calm,” I whisper, my eyes fixed on the reflection.

The lights flicker repeatedly, more violently this time. A slight breeze begins to coil around the floor.

“Stay calm,” I repeat.

“Excuse me, sir,” says the conductor, gruffly, a skinny bald man in a polyester uniform. “Who are you talking to?”

I look up at the conductor, then to my right at the empty seat next to me. The conductor raises an eyebrow, before following my gaze as I look ahead, to the window. As he does, he catches the reflection of the kid, his bloodshot eyes ablaze with anger and the gaping wound across his head. The conductor gasps and drops his hand-held ticket machine.

The train jolts violently and the lights dim again, deeper, and for longer this time. The breeze turns into a gust and blows through the carriage, lifting the flotsam and jetsam of the day’s commute across the floor and the hairs on my neck up and away from my skin. Somewhere along the length of the carriage, a pane of acrylic glass cracks. When the lights come back on, the reflection of the kid is gone.

There is an moment of awkward silence as the conductor gawps at the window, now empty except for the occasional trackside light flickering by. His face has turned an ashen colour not normally seen on the living.

“I’m Doctor Gotobed,” I say. “Your bosses should have told you I would be here.”

“I’m… I’m sorry, Doctor,” stutters the conductor, picking up his equipment. “We were expecting you earlier.”

“Looks like I’m going to be here for a while.” I turn back to the file on my lap. “I’d appreciate it if you’d keep this carriage clear for the next hour or so.”

The conductor leaves, and the train rumbles on.

Eight stops later, it reaches its destination, and then turns back. I’m still on-board, in exactly the same seat. I run my fingers through my hair and sigh. This is taking far too long, and I definitely don’t want to go around again and spend the night in Derby.

The lights flicker intermittently for a few seconds.

I look up at the window. The kid is back, bloodshot eyes calm now. We sit in silence for a while. “Do you…” I begin to ask, eventually. “Sorry, did you see a light?”

“At first. But I have to stay. I can’t go there. I’ll stay here. With the shadows. Until she knows.”

“Who knows?”

“My girl.”

“Knows what?”

A single tear rolls down the kid’s cheek and mixes with the blood that’s dripping down from his scalp.

“That I love… that I loved her. I didn’t want to go like this. I’m so sorry.” A sniff, and the kid continues. “Can you tell her for me?”

The lights flicker once more.

“Of course. Tell me more about her and I’ll find her. Tell me exactly what you want to say, and I’ll be back here next month. I don’t expect you to be.”

The train rumbles on, and the kid tells me about his girl.

Train Station2

Back in Nottingham, the train groans to a halt. I pick up the file and step off, heading through the high ceilinged Victorian building, its grand archways a testimony to the architectural skills of men long since buried.

“Doctor Gotobed! Doctor Gotobed!” A gruff voice shouts along the platform, and the tall, skinny and bald shape of the conductor jogs towards me. “Excuse me, Doctor. But was that the… the…” I can tell he can’t bring himself to say ‘ghost’. He settles on: “What was that?”

Succinct.

Tucking the file under my left arm, I reach into my jacket for a cigarette. “A request for help,” I reply, lighting the cigarette as I turn towards the marble steps that lead to the exit.

“Doctor Gotobed?”

“Yes?”

“There’s no smoking in the station I’m afraid,” replies the man in the polyester uniform, all back to business.

I flick the cigarette onto the tracks and head up the steps, out onto the street and into the wet November night.

The rain falls like heartache.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

Journal1

Tucked away in these pages of the journal is a clipping from the Nottingham Evening Post, dated November the 16th, 1996. It details the death of a 22 year old man who fell in front of a train two nights previous. I don’t feel too comfortable sharing his name here. 

The train was the 21.15 Midland Mainline from Nottingham to Derby. 

There is also another clipping, this one taken from the February 2001 official newsletter of the Psychical Research and Investigation Society. It’s a report of ‘low-level psychokinetic activity alongside the appearance of a full-bodied apparition’ on the same train route. 

These two documents are what make me think this story of Dr Gotobed’s is more than just fiction. 

Either way, typing this up has left me a little drained emotionally. I’m putting the journal back in the case and placing the whole lot back in the cupboard. I need some beers and to think about something else for a while – C.R. 

An Iron Man on Merseyside

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Crosby Beach is a stretch of the Merseyside coastline just to the north of Liverpool. It starts at the Seaforth Dock and carries on all the way through Waterloo, where it separates the Irish Sea from the marina.

It is also home to a group of solid metal figures, figures that face outward, towards the ocean.

These figures form an art installation named Another Place. Created by Sir Anthony Gormley and first exhibited in Cuxhaven in Germany, the statues found their way to Crosby Beach in 2005, where they currently reside. Consisting of one hundred sculptures of the artist’s own body cast in iron, they gaze across the sea, alternately revealed and submerged by the ebb and flow of the tide, rigid against the power of nature.

At least for the most part.

Two weeks ago, I was asked to investigate a trio of curious encounters that occurred nearby.

 Map Crosby

15th November 2011

My first stop is the Volunteer Canteen, where I meet one Timothy Weber, a conservationist currently studying the effects of the increased tourist footfall at the site on local bird-feeding areas, due to the installation.

Over a rather delicious seafood lunch, Mr Weber relates his experience, which occurred approximately four weeks prior:

“The statues caused quite a stir when they first arrived. I mean, come on, it’s essentially just a load of naked metal men sticking out from the sand like a bunch of sore thumbs, but the council seem to like ‘em. And the tourist pound must be good for the area, so I assume they’re staying.”

It is easy to surmise that Mr Weber is not a fan of Sir Anthony’s work.

“Well, on my first day, I decided to tag the statues, so I could map their locations. I had a fresh pack of these snazzy little magnetic strips I was slapping on their shoulders.”

“Now these are supposed to be packs of a hundred, but I got to the last statue, and I was one short. Nothing too odd there, as you can imagine. I just assumed I’d dropped one or the pack was one short. I came back the next day to finish up at low tide, but I couldn’t for the life of me find a statue without a tag.”

“Now, you’d think it was the last one I’d been too. Nope. So I just wrote it off as someone screwing with me. Dumbass kids, no doubt.”

“Funny thing is, it happened again a few days later; I found a statue without a tag. I checked my map, checked my tags, but I just could not find the extra figure.”

“Now, Dr Gotobed, I’m not an idiot, I’m a scientist. And I’m thorough. I pride myself on that. But there I was, with a hundred tags, a hundred spots on a map, and one hundred and one statues.”

“It’s like I was having some kind of mental block. And it kept happening over the next couple of days. Not every time, but enough to start messing with my head…”

“…now you promise me this won’t end up in the papers or anything like that?”

He looks a little sheepish as I reassure him it will not.

“I saw one of them move. It reached up and brushed something off of its shoulder.”

“I’m not insane.”

I ask whether simple fatigue may be to blame for all this, but Mr Weber assures me it is not, and while he comes across as a fairly cynical individual, it is quite clear that he is a man who holds his professional reputation in high regard. 

PubBW16th November 2011

My next contact is one Alisha Walker, a barmaid at the Royal Oak Public House. A genial young woman, she is midway through her shift when we meet. Fortunately it seems to be a slow afternoon and she has time to tell me her tale:

“It was Friday night, about a month ago, and it was drizzling. That really shitty kind of rain that you just kinda walk into and you’re literally soaked, you know? It was near closing time, and I went outside to get the glasses in that the smokers always leave lying around. I went into the garden, trying to be quick, and it was just sat there, at one of the picnic tables.”

What was sat there?

“It was a metal man, exactly like one of those statues on the beach. Boy, did it freak me out.”

What did you do?

“I just stared at it. What was I s’posed to do? Then it just vanished into thin air. Literally there one second and then ‘poof!’, gone.”  

“I must have shrieked and I dropped the tray of empties in my hand. Sue, the landlady, she came out to see what the commotion was.”

“Do you know what pisses me off the most? Those broken glasses came out of my wage packet.”

Ms Walker goes to great length to impress upon me that she was sober that night. The landlady of the Royal Oak confirmed finding her member of staff outside, soaked to the bone, shattered glass by her feet.

If Ms Walker’s story is made up, I would have hoped for something a lot more sensational. Her rather matter-of-fact attitude toward what she saw, I believe, lends her tale an air of credence.

TwirlSymbol

17th November 2011

My final witness is one Bella Turnbull, a veterinarian by trade and a keen amateur photographer in her spare time. We sit at her kitchen table, where, surrounded by hundreds of framed examples of her photographic work, we share a pot of tea. She seems somewhat embarrassed by what she repeatedly calls ‘that weird afternoon’, so we make small talk for a while. After some gentle coaxing, she finally agrees to share her experience:

“I’d popped down to the beach that day, after an early tea. It was grey and cloudy, but the sky had this lovely kind of swirly quality about it. It looked amazing.”

She hands me a photo she took that day, and she is correct about the sky.

“I’d been there for about an hour, getting shots of the statues. I was trying to frame them in such a way that the sunset behind them really bought them to life.”

She shifts a little uncomfortably in her seat.

“It’s not the first time I’d been down there, and I know how fast the tide can come in. I must’ve just lost track of time, as the waves were starting to swirl up around my feet. I thought I’d hang around for a little longer; it was too good a chance to pass up. It’s not every day the sky looks like that.”

“But next thing I knew, I was stuck. I couldn’t lift my wellies out of the sand, and the water was beginning to come over the tops of them. I began to panic as I couldn’t pull my feet free.” 

“All I could think about was that poor family who lost their kids a few years ago. I think I started screaming…”

She trails off. I give her a moment to compose herself before I ask what happened next.

“I haven’t really told anyone about this, apart from the other lady*, and now you. Please don’t think I’m bonkers.” 

I assure her that I am not in the business of judging people’s sanity.

“Well… an arm grabbed me from behind, around my waist and picked me up, and… someone… picked me up and tossed me over their shoulder. But they felt cold. Not like cold skin, but like metal, and rough. Like rust. I realised… I realised…” 

“…I don’t know what I realised.” 

Ms Turnbull recalls blacking out. She regained consciousness further in to shore, by the side of a nearby pathway. Her camera was around her neck but her wellington boots were gone.

There was no sign of whoever or whatever had saved her from the tide ‘that weird afternoon’.

Statue BW2

Taken individually, these accounts can easily be dismissed as the aforementioned fatigue, hallucination, or the result of a sudden increase in adrenaline. But all three of these events occurred within the time-frame of a single week, and the trio of witness, to me, all seem highly credible.

No further incidents involving the statues of Another Place have since been reported.

Whatever chose to make Crosby Beach its temporary home did not seem malevolent, and I am unable to explain why it decided to take the form of an iron mannequin. The installation itself does not appear to have any kind of hidden history behind it, and I struggle to believe that Sir Anthony Gormley was dabbling in the more, shall we say, ‘esoteric’ arts during its creation. I can only conclude that some outside agency had chosen to use Crosby Beach and its associated artwork as a form of camouflage, though to what end, I can only speculate.

Before I left Merseyside, I elected to take a stroll along the beach front with the intention of counting the statues, just to satisfy my own curiosity.

I got up to ninety nine before the incoming tide defeated me.

I could not locate the final figure.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

* There are more mentions of this ‘other lady’ in the files I have read so far, but this is the earliest reference of her that I’ve found. At first I thought she might be Dr Gotobed’s boss, but now I’ve read a few more, I’m not so sure. I’ll do my best to highlight any further appearances she makes. Maybe her identity is a clue to the good doctor’s current whereabouts?  – C.R. 

 

 

The Woodcutter’s Son

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British folklore has more than its fair share of arcane sylvan entities. From the Apple Tree Man, guardian of the harvest in Somerset, to the Poldies of the Wirral Peninsula, diminutive and mischievous faeries that dwell within the woods, the very islands themselves seem to have a deep connection with rustic spirits.

Considering how much the world has changed in recent times, is it possible that these spirits linger on even today?

An usual occurrence in a parish located in the county of Kent suggests that this maybe the case.

MapChilham2

27th December 2009

Sarah Chatterley is a sober, serious individual. Pushing fifty, she is a well-respected solicitor, specialising in commercial law. She comes across as someone not prone to tall tales or flights of fancy.

Which is what makes what she has to say even more surprising.

We meet a couple of days after Christmas in a quiet café in Richmond. Over coffee and a plate of baked goods named something I cannot pronounce, Ms Chatterley recounts her story:

“The family ‘pile’, if you will, was a big place in Chilham. It’s a large house, with a long garden that backs on to some woods. My brothers and I used to have a great time bumbling about in the afternoons. Halcyon days, let me tell you.”

“Now, when I was young, I was absolutely terrified of thunderstorms. Scared to death of them, and we seemed to get a lot when I was a child. I used to run into my mother and father’s room and beg to sleep with them. After a few times, they asked me not to do this, as I invariably woke them as I climbed under the covers. So I switched tactics and started just sneaking into their room with a blanket and curling up on the floor beside their bed. I suppose it made me feel safe just to know that they were close.”

She takes a sip of her alarmingly expensive coffee before continuing.

“I believe it was the late summer of ‘68, as I would’ve been about six or seven, and it was one of those really humid, muggy nights that we get on occasion in the South East.”

“The storm was the worst one that I can recall, and it broke late that night. I remember gathering my blanket and sneaking into the corridor to head to my parent’s room. In the hallway, stood outside their door, I saw it.”

It?

“It was about the same size as me, maybe a little shorter. It’s body and limbs were thin and it’s head was large and triangular, shaped a bit like a shield. At first I thought it was wearing a mask, but as I looked closer, I could see that that was its face. It had these weird black eyes and a little mouth full of sharp teeth. And it looked to be made of some kind of pale wood.”

I press for further details.

“It had a sort of grain pattern running all over it. Absolutely terrifying, let me tell you.”

“It took a few steps towards me, and when it moved its motion was odd… stilted even. Like it was something out of a Ray Harryhausen film. Do you remember those? Then it bared its teeth and opened its mouth, I can only assume to speak. I’m not too proud to admit that I turned on my heels and ran back into my room. I spent the rest of the night under my blanket with my eyes on the door, scared rigid. I could hear it moving about in the hallway, but I suppose I must have fallen asleep at some point.”

“Come morning, I told my parents, but they thought it was just my overactive imagination. My brothers only laughed at me. By the afternoon, I’d managed to convince myself it was nothing but a bad dream, and I certainly never saw it again. Eventually, it must’ve just faded from my mind. But I’ll tell you this, Dr Gotobed: never again did I leave my room during a thunderstorm at night.”

“And it never came into my thoughts again. Not until a few years ago, anyway.” 

All this can be easily chalked up to a childhood nightmare, or possibly a case of sleep paralysis. After all, the developing brain is a complex organism, much of which is still a mystery.

But that only makes what happened thirty six years later all the more intriguing.

ForestNBW2

The following is an old fable, native to the local area, taken from the 1896 edition of Taylor’s Folklore of The British Isles* (I have taken the liberty of updating some of the more ‘archaic’ terms):

In a little village, over one hill but before the next, there lived a woodcutter and his wife.

The woodcutter was strong, and his wife hearty. They were happy, for they wanted for naught but one thing: a child, with lips to speak, and a heart to beat.

But try as they might, the woodcutter’s wife could not bear her husband neither son nor daughter, and as the years passed, her smile began to fade.

The woodcutter’s desire to see his wife happy eventually went they way such things do, and turned to desperation.

And desperate men do desperate things.

One dark and wretched night, driven deep into the forest by despair, the woodcutter fell to his knees and begged the ancient spirits of the woods for help. 

For they provided him with his living, he reasoned, could they not provide a child as well?

To his surprise, the spirits answered.

The ageless things that lived in the forest told the woodcutter to find a white tree of blasted oak. Chop it down, said the spirits, take the trunk, fashion yourself a child, and we will grant it life.

A child with lips to speak, and a heart to beat.

The woodcutter did as he was told. Finding the tree, he took his axe to it, and felled the blasted oak. He dragged the trunk home, and for three nights he hewed and carved, shaping the wood into a small boy.

On the fourth night, the spirits of the forest did as they promised, and breathed life into the boy.

Wooden lips to speak, a wooden heart to beat.

The woodcutter showed his wife what he had made, hoping that she would finally be happy.

But the small wooden boy, animated by the forest’s magic, filled the wife with dread, and she ran to the village. When the people found out what the woodcutter had done, they held a meeting and humm’d and ha’d over what should be done with this accursed boy. 

For wooden lips should not speak, wooden hearts do not beat.

With the rising of the sun and the casting of the die, the villagers came for the woodcutter and took him for the noose, his boy for the fire.

The trunk of the white oak was found, the earth around it salted. And the spirits of the forest, angered at the refusal of their gift, fell silent, never to speak to man again.

ForestNBW

Ms Chatterley continues:

“About five years ago, my parents held a barbecue for the family. It was a lovely day, and all my brothers were in attendance with their own children in tow. Most of my nieces and nephews were surly teenagers at that point, and so they amused themselves with their phones and what-have you. But Rosie, my brother Simon’s youngest daughter, she was only eight years old and, being a city girl, she was quite happy to run around my parent’s big house and garden. We didn’t see her for most of the day.”

“As it began to get dark, Rosie came out of the house with a big smile on her face. I casually asked her where she’d been and what was amusing her so much. Her answer made a shiver run down my spine.”

“She said she’d been inside, playing with ‘the little wooden boy’.”

Rosie was asked to draw a picture of her new friend. I have the original and will include it in this file. Ms Chatterley confirms it to be the same thing she saw during that terrible thunderstorm in 1968.

Drawing2

The eldest members of the Chatterley family have since moved from that particular residence. I have spoken with the new owners, and they are yet to experience anything unusual.

I have left my details with them should that change.

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My first thought was that the young Rosie had overheard a member of the family mention Sarah’s encounter that stormy night. Having spoken to all the members of the Chatterley family, I can confirm this was not the case. Indeed, none of them even had any idea what I was talking about, such was the trivial nature of their relative’s experience all those years ago to them.

I am reluctant to dismiss all this as the product of mere coincidence and childhood delusion. After all, Sarah Chatterley makes a most convincing witness, and for young Rosie to see the exact same thing as her Aunt saw some thirty-odd years later suggests that something unusual has been loitering around that large house in Kent.

It is also interesting to note that, whatever it was, it chose to reveal itself only to children.

Unless the ‘little wooden boy’ decides to make a further appearance, I am afraid it’s identity and motivation will remain unclear.

Perhaps the spirits of the forest wish to be heard once more.

Dr Thomas Gotobed

* If anyone has a copy of this book, could they please get in touch? All I can dig up is a few vague references on Wikipedia and funny looks from the staff at my local Waterstones – C.R.

 

The Last of the Star Whales

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Marcel Griaule was a French anthropologist born at the end of the Nineteenth century. Beginning in 1931, he spent several years in the Mopti region of Mali in West Africa, studying the indigenous Dogon people.

The Dogon are renowned for their adherence to their old ways, ways that have been surprisingly resistant to change over the millennia. Their traditions offer a rare glimpse in to life as it was a long, long time ago.

In 1946, Griaule spent a month in the company of a man named Ogotemmeli, a blind hunter who divulged the astronomical beliefs of his people, beliefs that amazed the French anthropologist. According to Ogotemmeli, the Dogon had knowledge of the star Sirius B, a white dwarf that is invisible to the naked eye, as well as the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter, alongside other cosmic information that is apparently inherent to their views of the Universe and their place within it.

In later years, various authors would jump on the work of Griaule and use it as proof of the ‘Ancient Astronaut’ theory, a line of thought postulating that early man was visited by beings from other worlds. According to this theory, those beings guided humanity to build such wonders as the pyramids of Giza and the stone heads of Easter Island, as well as introducing us to art, literature and other facets of high culture.

I have no time for this theory. I believe it is a mistake to belittle early man by ascribing his great works to extra-terrestrial sources. Besides, prior research suggests that it was Griaule himself who introduced the idea of Sirius B to the Dogon people.

But all this is but background noise.

In 1948, one Germaine Dieterlain, a student of Griaule’s who had accompanied him on his trips, was preparing to leave Mali and return to France. On the day she left, a Dogon elder handed her a series of stone tablets, tablets that were inscribed with a strange writing the likes of which Dieterlain had never seen before. The elder explained that even he could not read the words on the tablets, but local legend had it that these words detailed a creation myth that was even older than his people’s. Indeed, the tablets were considered ancient even when the Dogon themselves were young.

Unable to find anyone capable of translating these tablets, Dieterlain donated them to the Université de Paris, where they elicited no more than uninterested grumblings. They remained there until 1976, when they found their way into the hands of the British Museum in London, gathering dust in a vault for fifteen years.

In 1991, they were stumbled upon by one Paul Cortez, a linguistics expert working on a hypothetical universal translation system. To test his creation, Cortez required a document in an unknown language that had never been deciphered.

At this point considered untranslatable, the Dieterlain tablets were just that document.

A decade of hard work later, Cortez believed he had cracked the code inscribed upon the ancient stone. In 2001, he published his findings in the academic journal British Historical Review*.

Here is his translation:

 Star Whale BW

In the beginning, there were only two things: the Darkness and the Silence.

The Darkness was so deep that it went beyond even forever, and the Silence so quiet that even if there were things to speak, they would not have dared to utter a sound.

Then the Star Whales came, great herds of majestic beasts that roamed through the voids of space. And their call echoed throughout the Universe, a chorus of love and hope. The Darkness retreated and the Silence surrendered, and the stars and the planets took their places in the heavens.

Life was born to that sound, the song of the Star Whales.

The cycles came and went, and the people of the young races began to prosper under the sound, a song that would warm even the coldest of souls. These young races gave names to the voices in the chorus, adding the new calves as they were born, and celebrating the elder whales as they moved on, into the Great Ever After.

The young races passed this practice on to their children, and their children did the same; on and on, down through the generations. First with sounds, then with symbols, and finally with the written word. 

As is the way, the customs of the old eventually became the traditions of the new, and many an infant on many a land sat up at night listening to the great concert in the heavens. 

As time passed, and civilisations rose up and crashed down like so many waves on the shore, the chorus of the Star Whales grew weaker, as one by one they moved into the Great Ever After. No more calves were born, and the song of love and hope that once echoed through the heavens began to grow silent, until only one voice remained. A quiet voice, unlike the others.

And the song grew sad.

The wisest of the wise men amongst the young races named the whale to whom this voice belonged: ‘Akhtumara Shem, the Lonely One, for whom time is Short’. After all, the laws of survival as understood at the time declared that one being, all alone, cannot possibly live for long.

But the Universe is a strange place, and sometimes it cares not for the laws of those that reside within it. And so the lonely whale sang on.

The young races grew old, ancient even, and eventually they began to leave the Universe, taking their ways with them, and new races appeared, spreading out across the lands. Tales of the great chorus lingered, an imprint on the collective memory of all life that ever was or ever will be.

Still the lonesome whale sang. And even now, it is said that if you can find a deserted plane and stand atop its highest mountain on a quiet night, you will hear it. The song  of Akhtumara Shem, the Lonely One, for whom time was not short.

Akhtumara Shem, the last of the Star Whales. 

Files BW

The translation was roundly mocked by the stuffed shirts of historical academia. After all, there are no other documents that speak of anything even vaguely like such a creation myth in any other culture on Earth.

This fact was considered enough to brand Cortez’s universal translation system, at best, a grandiose folly, and at worst, a description I have no desire to repeat here.

Unable to gain further funding, Paul Cortez died of pneumonia in 2003, discredited and penniless.

The tablets themselves were returned to the vault in the depths of the British Museum, no doubt to gather dust once more.

Cortez’s daughter has kindly donated her father’s work to me. I have forwarded it to a colleague of mine based at the University of Cairo, an old friend who is an expert in the translation of long dead languages.

Perhaps she can shed some light on the history of this ancient, yet unique, tale of a lonely astral cetacean.

Dr Thomas Gotobed

 * I have attempted to trawl through every copy of the British Historical Review  for 2001, but it is quite a dry publication for a layperson such as myself. I’ll endeavour to carry on, but I do have a life to live outside of fact checking the good doctor’s notes – C.R. 

A Thought-Form by the River Trent

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Gunthorpe is a small village tucked away by the banks of the River Trent, on the outskirts of Nottinghamshire. It is typical of many such places scattered throughout the United Kingdom; quiet, sleepy almost, consisting of no more than a couple of pubs by the riverside, a high street and a patch of houses, all surrounded by a network of fields and criss-crossed by winding country roads.

In August of 1991, it was also the site of what initially appeared to be a curious case of bi-location, but soon became something far more sinister. All centred on one eighteen year old girl:

Karen Ogilvy.

 MapT1

6th April 1995

Joseph Colman is a personable young man, and only the dark circles that have taken up residence around his eyes betray the fact that he is nursing a rather severe hangover. Currently a student in his final year at Sheffield University, he was born and raised in the aforementioned village of Gunthorpe, and a friend of Miss Ogilvy’s.

We meet in the bar of the Corner Pin in Newhall on a cold, grey afternoon. Nestled by the fireplace, between pints of imported lager, Joseph tells me his recollections of the August of ’91:

“Yeah, I remember that summer. That’s the year we got our ‘A’ level results.”

“There were four of us who’d always knock about together. Me, my girlfriend Mia, and then Marcus and his missus Karen. We’d all gone to the same school, so we were all close. Not so much anymore. We’ve all kinda drifted apart.”

“It started off with a couple of little things, things that didn’t seem like a big deal at first. I saw Karen in the village, across the street, walking ahead of me. I shouted at her and she turned round. I waved hello and she just turned back and carried on, completely blanking me. And then she did the same to Mia a few hours later in the corner shop. Apparently Karen stared straight through her. Mia thought she must’ve been high or something.” 

“I wasn’t too bothered by this, perhaps she was just having a bad day? Shit happens. But Mia was pissed off. We asked Karen about it the next time we saw her, and she had no idea what we were talking about. She thought we were just pulling her leg.”

“But… that sorta shit, you just forget about it, right?” 

He gingerly sips his pint before continuing.  

“Well, a few days later, there’s a bunch of us having a drink in the Unicorn. When last orders came, we thought we’d pop up to one of the fields and have a… a smoke. You know what I mean?” 

I assure him that I do.

“Anyway, I’m driving ‘coz I’d only had a couple of pints. Mia’s got shotgun as she was, you know, my girl back then. Marcus and Karen are in the back. Karen asks if we can swing by her house first. She wants to pick up a bottle of vodka she’s got stashed away.”

“So we drive to hers and she jumps out, goes running inside. We’re sat there for, I don’t know, five minutes? Mia’s getting a bit impatient and tells Marcus to go and see what the hold-up is. They argue back and forth for a bit, but then Karen comes out. She walks over to the car, and she’s got this kinda blank expression on her face. Says she’s changed her mind and that she’s not actually feeling too well, that we should go on without her. Bit weird, right? But hey-ho, off we go, the three of us.”

“The next day, Marcus rings me. He says that he’s just spoken to Karen, and she wants to know why we ditched her.”

“I rang Karen myself. She reckons that she went inside, and whilst she’s taking her room apart looking for this bottle of booze, she said she hears us drive away. She goes outside and we’re gone. And she’s absolutely insisting that this is the truth. Almost crying about it.”

“That’s a bit fucked up, right? All three of us saw her, heard her speak. But she’s adamant that never happened.”

 Trent1

Bi-location is a curious phenomenon. It occurs when a person is present in two separate places at the same time.

In Marseilles, towards the end of the last century, a class of schoolchildren witnessed their young teacher writing on the blackboard in front of them as well as strolling through the schoolyard outside their window.

In 1906, the British Member of Parliament Sir Fredrick Carne Rasch was seen attending a debate at the House of Lords, when it was a well-known fact that he was tucked up in bed at home at the time, tackling a nasty bout of influenza.

The Portuguese friar and doctor St. Anthony of Padua was said to have appeared both preaching a sermon at one service and singing in the choir of another one balmy Easter Sunday in the 13th Century.

But bi-location appears to be a harmless, if unsettling event.

What happened in Gunthorpe that summer seemed to quickly escalate into something much more troubling.

Gunthorpe1

10th April 1995

Mia Cooper is a good-humoured individual, currently completing her teacher training in physical education at a Rushcliffe School, a local comprehensive in Nottingham. When I finally get the chance to meet her in person, I get the distinct impression that her job is akin to the herding of cats.

On her lunch break we sit in the staff room, and between bites of a sandwich and sips of burnt coffee she tells me of her experience of the events of the summer of ‘91. Her retelling is faithful to Joseph Colman’s, albeit with some minor, inconsequential differences.

Her words pick up where Mr Colman’s left off:

“We ribbed Karen a bit about that night, told her she had an evil twin knocking about that was trying to ruin her social life. She laughed it off a few times but I could tell she wasn’t amused.” 

“Then it happened again.” 

She shifts a little in her chair, leaning toward me.

“Late on the Saturday, Joe was driving the four of us out into the fields, for a puff or two…”

She mimes smoking something furtively.

“…Marcus was joshing him about making sure that everybody was in the car this time, but Karen seemed in good spirits. We all did. We were due to get our results in a few days, so I think we were all a bit nervous. I suppose we were just looking to unwind.”  

“So we’re going down past Allen’s farm, on one of those tiny country lanes… do you know the ones I mean? You can literally get one car and maybe a Rizla down ‘em. And once the sun’s gone? They’re pretty much pitch black.” 

“Anyway, we turn this one corner, not too quick, and there’s someone standing bang in the middle of the road, facing away from us, not moving. It’s a woman, and she’s kinda swaying. We just assumed she was another club casualty. Too many pills at the start of the night, yeah?” 

“Joe honked the horn a few times, and Marcus is getting all up in his ear, saying he should just nudge this crazy woman out of the way.”

“And then she turns ‘round. And I shit you not, it’s Karen.”

I remind her that she’s just said that Karen was in the car with her.

“She was. She was sat right next to me. And she looked terrified. The one beside me, anyway. The Karen in front of us was just staring at the car with this mad look in her eyes.”

“Until she ran at us.” 

Ran at you? I ask her to elaborate.

“Got down on all fours and just charged at us, running like an animal.”

“Joe slams the car into reverse, swerving backwards down this tight country lane. And this… this thing… this other Karen… she was keeping up with us. And everyone in the car’s just yelling. And then… and then she just disappeared.” 

Mia goes silent for a moment. I can see her hands are shaking.

“I know I saw all this. But I also know that I couldn’t have seen it, you know?”

I ask her what the four of them did next.

“Well we kept going in reverse for a bit. Then Joe stops the car, and we all got out. Karen’s screaming, saying she wants to go home. Marcus’ tries to calm her down but it didn’t help. So we drove her home and she ran inside, slamming the door.”

“We never saw her again.”

Gunthorpe2

The next day, The Ogilvy’s house is devoid of life. A few days later, a ‘for sale’ sign appears outside. As far as I can glean from local records, her parents emigrated, alarmingly quickly, to Canada, taking their only daughter with them.

I have been unable to track them, or Karen, down for comment.

The next day I was, however, able to speak with Marcus Howe, the other passenger in the vehicle that fateful night. A soldier in the British Army stationed somewhere in Bosnia, he manages to  relate his version of events to me over a crackling phone line.

He corroborates the accounts of Joseph Colman and Mia Cooper.

Book1

I believe it is fair to say that whatever took place in Gunthorpe that summer goes beyond mere bi-location. Indeed, the reference point I keep returning to is the Tibetan Book of the Dead and it’s mention of the Tulpa: a thought-form if you will, with a physical presence and a personality, created by mental power alone.

But it apparently takes an enormous amount of focus and decades of training to manifest such a thing.

Perhaps Karen Ogilvy possessed such power, but without knowing it. Perhaps she unwittingly willed a duplicate of herself into being, and that duplicate, without direction, proceeded to leave confusion and distress in its wake.

Without speaking to Miss Ogilvy, it is, unfortunately, impossible to know.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

The Man Who Fell Through Time

Watch1

Gareth Roberts was born in Wigan in 1946, the youngest of five sons. He grew up in an impoverished household in post-war England, and having to wear the hand-me-down clothes that dressed his four brothers before him instilled in the young boy a resolve to succeed that his siblings lacked. This resolve pulled him through his ‘O’ levels and on to university, the first of his family to do so. He left University College of London in 1968 with a first class degree in accounting. His tutors remember him as a diligent student, with a keen eye for detail.

His parents were proud witnesses at his graduation.

Gareth went straight in to employment for Packham & Cooper, a small accounting firm based in central London.

In 1972 he met and began courting one Anna Collins, a local hairdresser. A year later they were married. The newlyweds moved in to a house in nearby Croydon, where they planned to start a family of their own in the not too distant future.

Gareth’s story should end here, his days lived out happily but unremarkably as a hardworking husband and, more than likely, a doting father.

But a curious series of events conspired to take his life down an altogether different path.

Street1

The following is an excerpt from the Croydon Guardian, dated Tuesday the 1st of July, 1975:

‘Police received several reports of bright lights over Croydon and Bromley on Sunday night. Witnesses claimed to have seen multiple orange shapes moving through the skies. ‘They were like giant glowing balls jumping through the clouds, all over the place,’ said Clarice Powell, local resident and mother of two. ‘I was getting the cat in when I saw them. First just the one, but then two more appeared. I watched them for about twenty minutes. They flew close to the ground and I thought they were going to crash, and then they just zipped away, gone.’ The strange lights were also spotted by a group of local astronomers who could not identify them. ‘No military or air force exercises were scheduled to take place that night,’ a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said yesterday morning.’

Whilst the nocturnal illuminations of that night are indeed odd, they are just a precursor to something far more extraordinary.

 Map2.1

4th October 2005

George Evans is a tall, balding man with a large smile and a firm handshake. He has recently retired from the Metropolitan Police, but in 1975 he was a fresh faced detective in the Borough of Croydon. He agrees to meet me in the Oval Tavern and over a few pints of ale we discuss the events of that summer.

Upon reading the newspaper clipping mentioned above, he gives a throaty laugh before lighting a cigarette.

“I remember that, yeah. We all had a good chuckle about that down at the station. It takes all sorts, I guess. Do you know we once had a man ring up and say he’d been chased home from the boozer one night by a giant rabbit? He said it was as big as a car. You notice the papers didn’t run with that story.”

“But that not what you wanted to talk about, is it?”

I tell him that it is not.

Mr Evans stubs out his cigarette and consults a battered and yellowing notebook.

“Well, I took the statement from Anna Roberts. She said that the on the 31st of June, a Monday, her husband began to complain of intermittent headaches and problems with his vision. He described them as ‘flashes of black’ that struck him every couple of hours or so. They were bad enough to keep him off work for a few days.”

“By Thursday night, she said he was feeling much better, and he decided to go to work on the Friday. She suggested that he may as well take that day off as well, just in case the headaches returned, but he was having none of it. Going by what his colleagues said, that didn’t sound out of character. Apparently he was, and how can I put this politely? ‘Work focused’. Yeah, that’ll do.”

“Anyway, she made him a packed lunch. His favourite, a cheese and pickle sandwich. I’ve actually underlined that part. See? I think it says a lot about a man when his favourite sandwich is cheese and pickle. Anyway, he popped it in his briefcase, gave her a peck on the cheek and climbed in his car. She said she watched and waved as he drove off.”  

“He never made it to work. The next day, at about six in the morning, we get a phone call about an abandoned car on the A232. It’s Mr Roberts’, and it’s just sat there. Driver door open, keys in the ignition, engine running. No sign of him, not even his briefcase.”

We get another round of drinks and Mr Evans continues.

“Now, to start with, we thought maybe he had a second family somewhere, or that he’d just got bored of his life and decided to bugger off and start afresh somewhere else. It’s not unheard of. But that didn’t sit right with the kind of person he was. Like I said, he was pretty work focused, and by all accounts he was happy with his lot. So then we thought maybe it was his job. Perhaps he was cooking the books for someone? We went through all his files, but everything was above board, plus his boss said that most of his clients were pretty small fry. So nothing there either.”  

“After about six months we ran out of leads, and the case went cold. Eventually his wife stopped calling and it kinda got put on the back burner, then taken off the hob altogether, if you know what I mean?”

He lights another cigarette and blows a coil of blue smoke up at the ceiling.

“It bothered me for a long time, that case. What happened to him? He was a strait-laced, happily married accountant. I thought about it every now and again, but eventually I guess I just kinda forgot about it.”

“But it doesn’t end there. Fifteen years later, in the winter of 1990, I get a phone call, completely out of the blue. It’s a copper up in Edinburgh, says he’s found a body, a body he thinks I might be able to identify.”

Hotel1

2nd of February, 1990

The I          *  was the first in a proposed group of boutique hotels due to open in Edinburgh’s old town. Designed to accommodate the more affluent tourist, it had fourteen rooms, each with their own unique style. On it’s opening day, the first guests to stay in the penthouse suite return to reception to report that their key card will not work. A porter goes up to their room with the master key and successfully gains entry.

He finds a fully clothed man laying prone on the bed, a briefcase next to him. The porter tries to rouse this unexpected guest, but he cannot be woken.

The man is dead.

The police attend quickly and search the body for identification. The man has no credit cards in his wallet, but in his jacket pocket, creased and folded, is an old fashioned, paper and photoless driving license.

The name on the license is Gareth Roberts.

Map2.2

Mr Evans continues:

“A couple of days later I drove up to Edinburgh to take a look at this body. I get to the coroner’s office, and sure enough, it’s Mr Roberts stretched out on the slab. But this is where it gets weird. He was what, 29 when he disappeared? I shit you not, he hasn’t aged a day. Not a single grey hair, wrinkle, scar, nothing like that. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t know a single person who time hasn’t caught up with in some way or other over the last fifteen years.”

“So I ask to see his belongings. There’s his suit, a little crumpled, but apart from that in perfect condition. And then there’s his briefcase, also in perfect nick. You know what was inside, apart from some files? A cheese and pickle sandwich, as fresh as if it was made a few days ago.”

“I asked the coroner for the cause of death. He has no idea. Says there was nothing physically wrong with the guy. It’s like he just stopped being alive. Those were his exact words. And if the coroner’s saying that? Well, you tell me.”

“A few days after that, his wife, Anna, now remarried, comes up to see the body. It shakes her up badly, but she confirmed what I thought. It’s like a single day hasn’t passed since he vanished. Two of his brothers said the same thing.”

“I took it to the Chief Superintendent, but he didn’t care. Told me to chalk it up to experience and forget about it.”

“It made the ninth page of some local rag. A small column tucked away at the bottom. ‘Vanished Local Man’s Body Found After Fifteen Years’, or some bollocks. I guess they missed the important part.”

Outside1

I have been unable to find the article that Mr Evans mentioned. I was, however, able to view the post-mortem report. Cause of death was listed as unknown.

I chose not to ask Anna Roberts, now Anna Pendleton, about her first husband’s disappearance. I feel she has been through enough without a stranger digging up the bones of the past.

Many elements of this case are intriguing. What happened to Gareth Roberts on that July morning in 1975? How did his body end up inside the penthouse suite of a newly opened hotel hundreds of miles away? Why, after so long, were his body and belongings in the same exact same condition as they were when whatever misfortune befell him? And did the curious lights spotted in the sky in the preceding days have any connection to that misfortune?

Barring the appearance of new evidence, whatever transpired to doom the unfortunate Gareth Roberts to somehow ‘fall through time’ to his death will remain a mystery.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

* Since this report is handwritten, and the good doctor’s penmanship can be pretty ropey at times, I can’t for the life of me decipher the name of the hotel in Scotland. I can see that the first letter is an ‘I’, but frankly, the rest of the word is a mess – C.R. 

Incident at the Temple of Debod

Isis4

January 9th 1960

It is on this date that construction of the Aswan High Dam across the River Nile in Egypt began in earnest. Its reservoir, Lake Nasser, becomes one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, covering over two thousand square miles; two thousand square miles that were once home to several important archaeological sites.

One of these sites is the Temple of Debod, a monument to the ancient winged goddess Isis. It consists of a processional way which leads under three stone pylon-shaped arches, then onto the temple itself, which houses a sanctuary and an offering table, along with several antechambers and a set of steps leading to the roof.

The temple was built in approximately 200 BC and has undergone several revisions and alterations over the centuries. In 1968, with the commission of the Aswan Dam, the whole site was taken apart brick by brick and moved to the Parque del Oeste in Madrid, where it was expertly reconstructed. Its relocation was a diplomatic thank you to the Spanish government for their help in saving the nearby Abu Simbel complex, and to prevent the temple from being reduced to no more than an undignified and crumbling stack of blocks in the murky waters of the newly created Lake Nasser.

The Temple of Debod’s new home was opened to the public in the early summer of 1972.

Almost immediately, curious events began to occur.

Debod B & W

First there was an upsurge in reports of missing housecats in the residential areas near the park. These reports continued to rise in frequency over the next few weeks. Taken on its own, this is not so unusual. After all, the humble cat is not famed for its fidelity. The vanishing felines caused a few ripples in the local community and the odd disgruntled letter to the district newspaper, indignant at the apparent lack of response from the authorities, but nothing more.

Then there were several sightings of a tall, pale skinned and dark haired woman striding through the park late at night. These sightings would also not be unusual, were not for the fact this woman appeared completely naked. Indeed, one couple out for a midnight stroll claimed that the unclothed lady gave off a slight, almost ethereal glow.

But missing pets and naked women do not a case for the paranormal make.

Then a young boy disappeared.

Debod2 B & W

15th June 1972

Adriano Martínez lived with his family in an apartment block close to Parque del Oeste. According to police reports, his parents recalled their son taking himself to bed just after 10pm. His mother checked in on him as she retired at midnight and found the window to Adriano’s room open and her son nowhere to be seen. None of his clothes or other belongings were gone. Whilst it’s certainly possible that he just stole away for the evening, the Martínez’s apartment was on the fifth floor, a climb that would be difficult for an adult to make, let alone an eleven year old boy.

Adriano was not seen for the next thirty six hours. A thorough search of the apartment block, the park, and the other surrounding areas by the local Policia Municipal revealed no sign of him.

And here is where events began to take an even stranger turn.

Debod3 B & W 2

17th August 1995

Inigo Gómez is a short, lithe, and deeply tanned man, and the faded scars on his face and arms speak of a life lived on the lowest rungs of society. He currently works for the local social services, mentoring wayward teens, but he admits to a much more ‘fluid’ lifestyle back in the early 1970s. Homeless and an alcoholic, he would spend his nights in the Parque del Oeste, avoiding the police and snatching at sleep wherever possible.

We meet on a sunny afternoon and share a table outside a cafeteria on the edge of the park. After an hour or so of small talk, Inigo tells me the tale of what he saw on that warm night in 1972.

(My Spanish is a little rusty, so please forgive any errors in my translation. The expletives are all Inigo’s own.)

“I’d been in a fight that night, I think. I can’t remember quite where or why, I just remember the pain in my head from getting punched and the pain in my knuckles from fighting back. I was very angry in those days. I thought the whole world was my enemy. Somehow I ended up in the park with a bottle of orujo. That was my usual routine back then; get some booze, find a bench or piece of ground somewhere out of the way and just drink myself to sleep. Either the sun would wake me in the morning or the police would kick me awake and then move me on. It wasn’t the best time in my life.” 

“There were rumours among the other homeless hombres in those days, about the woman in the park. A friend of mine told me that he’d seen her, and that he’d be sleeping somewhere else for a while. Me? I didn’t care about that. I just wanted somewhere to drink away the rest of the day. But the cats though… they fucking bothered me. Seemed like there had been fucking dozens of them those past few nights. I hate cats. Still do. Puta gatos locos, me comprendes?”

He smiles and twirls a finger around the side of his head.

“It was the cats that woke me up, all yowling at the same time. I remember opening my eyes and seeing them all walking past me, like there was some fucking ‘reunión’ somewhere. I don’t know why, but I staggered to my feet and decided to follow them…”

 He is gazing toward the park now, a faraway look in his eyes.

“…they went to that damn temple. I never liked that place. And they were all gathered there. Hundreds of the little bastardos. They were on the stone, around the arches, looking at the building at the end. In the doorway was the woman, just stood there, completely naked with her hands in the air. It looked like there was a light behind her. She had this weird kind of glow around the edges. I have to tell you, she was beautiful.” 

He smiles at me again and winks.

“In front of her was a little boy, ten, maybe eleven years of age. He was naked too. I saw the woman had something in her hand, a knife maybe, and for some reason that made me sober up quickly. Before that point I think I thought I was just having a drunken dream, but seeing the blade was like a slap in the face. If it hadn’t been a kid I probably wouldn’t have cared. That’s what I was like back then. But I couldn’t see a child get hurt. Even I knew that was wrong. I had to do something. So I shouted out. I’m not really sure what happened next.”

It takes some coaxing to get the rest of the story out of him.

“Well… and I understand if you don’t believe me… all the cats turned to face me. I remember hundreds of pairs of eyes looking at me. There was a flash of bright light, and the woman… she flew towards me…”

Flew? I ask him for clarification on this.

“Yes. She had wings. Giant wings with white feathers. I don’t remember what happened after that.”

Debod4 B & W

Police records reveal that Inigo was found the next day wandering through the park with the boy in his arms and mumbling incoherently. The child in question was the young Adriano.

Inigo was held for questioning for the next few days under suspicion of kidnapping. He was later released without charge due to a lack of evidence against him.

Adriano was taken to a nearby hospital. After a thorough examination he was returned to his parents, apparently unscathed, the only sign of his ordeal a streak of grey now running through his otherwise jet-black hair. He had no memory of the previous night’s events. Not long after, Adriano’s father accepted a job in Geneva and moved his family out of Madrid.

They declined to be interviewed.

As for Inigo Gómez, the incident that night forced him to question his life choices. He has been sober ever since.

A short while later, two of the archways of the Temple of Debod are dismantled and swapped around, a configuration they remain in to this day.

No further incidents are reported.

Madrid3

It has long been theorised that certain emotionally charged events can be recorded by organic materials, and these events can then be replayed when specific conditions are met (see The Possible Mechanism of Residual Hauntings, where I discuss this in greater detail). However, in this instance, the phenomena’s apparent ability to interact with its surroundings casts this theory into doubt. It is unfortunate that all the evidence in this case is anecdotal, and Inigo Gómez’s past makes him not the most reliable witness. But something unusual took place that summer at the site in Madrid, and whatever occurred was evidently deemed sufficiently serious to sway the Spanish government into action, and that action was enough to alter conditions sufficiently to end the associated phenomena.

One can only wonder what might occur if the two stone archways were to be placed back in to their original positions.

Dr Thomas Gotobed