Logbook Of Terror: A Worker’s Cemetery

 


A Worker’s Cemetery

“All people who enter this tomb who will make evil against this tomb and destroy it: may the crocodile be against them in water, and snakes against them on land.”

I hate sand. And here it is everywhere, on everything. I think that possibly it is everything. In stark contrast to my previous assignment of the lush, humidity-drenched Louisiana, Egypt’s is a parched, brittle landscape, heated beyond belief by a sun whose only reason for existence it seems is to torture me. I arrived at the cemetery grounds with trepidation, fearing what I might encounter there. However, milling around the site with a group of light-hearted tourists soon lifted my spirits; surely, there could be no lurking danger on this oppressively hot and sunny day. 

As the gaggle of sight-seers formed a cluster around an information plaque and the entrance of a tomb, I strayed from the group, lost in my thoughts about what life may have been like for the souls resting at this place. I descended a ramp that stopped at what appeared to be a stone door that led to nowhere. Strange, I thought. Why would they build such a thing? While I pondered the philosophical significance of a doorway to nowhere, I ran my fingers along the carved outline of the entryway. All was quiet. The murmuring voices of my fellow explorers were dim and faded. A soft, hot breeze flitted by, carrying a woman’s whisper. My eyes darted around but saw no one nearby. Again, the hot wind caressed me, and with it, the voice, the sultry sigh, the exotic hush. Was the voice hidden in the wind, or was the woman’s sigh the breeze itself? Could it be the breath of the goddess Hathor lighting across my cheek? Feeling suddenly faint, I leaned against the door and rested my forehead against a stone block. A grating, the sound of stone grinding against stone, resounded. The block sunk into the door, and the door eased open. A putrid current of air flowed out from within, curling around me, wrapping me up in invisible tendrils of the most morbid odors of death and decay. My feet moved against my will and I was drawn into the tomb! 

The phantom limbs pulled me deeper into the tomb. I saw a dim light looming in the darkness ahead. The eerie gleaming grew brighter, taking shape, morphing and transforming until its diabolical metamorphosis was complete and before me hovered a gigantic, all-seeing eye.  The eye of Horus? Perhaps. I had no more time to ponder for a single blinding beam of light like a ray of pure sun shot out from the great eye, striking me in the center of my forehead. Ancient powers and secrets infused my being. The mighty wind continued to swirl around me, taking solid form, turning to cloth that spun and wrapped tight around my arms, legs, head, and torso. Helpless, I could only watch as I was covered in filthy, soiled gauze. Hot breath and a fetid stench filled the dark corridor. Evil laughter bounced off the stone walls. A crocodile’s snarl belched up from some unseen depths of the chamber. 

The eye took its light from me. I stumbled in the purest darkness I had yet to experience, spinning until my newly bound hands struck stone and I steadied myself against the wall. Though my cloth bindings were tight, I began to shuffle along with focused steps, determined to make my way out of this dreadful tomb. The rasps of my shuffling steps were soon accompanied by hissing; a horrid chorus that rose in volume and proximity with every passing moment. It was the serpents of the tomb, coming for my body and soul. Alas, the curse was upon me! 

Straining against my cloth bonds, I ran from the serpents, screaming for my life. Through the gauze that covered my eyes I dimly saw sunlight peering in through the still open door. Salvation was within my grasp! Just as I felt the snakes at my heels, I burst forth from the tomb into the unforgiving Egyptian sun. 

With my arms outstretched, I cried for help. Upon hearing my exclamations, the nearby group of tourists turned my way. Shrieks of horror erupted from the small group as they fled from me. I screamed for them to return, begging for their help, but my words came out a garbled mess, muffled by the cloth over my mouth, turning my words to nothing more than tortured moans. 

I heard the persistent hissing closing in. I glanced back. Droves upon droves of serpents slithered from the tomb. I threw out my hands and again pleaded for assistance. The sight-seers rushed the tour company van in a panic. The tour guide gestured wildly, pointing at me and running away.

My next bout of shouting was due to the pain caused by the armed guards who accosted me and tossed me violently to the ground. I writhed beneath their hold, protesting, shouting to be saved from the advancing serpent horde. One of the guards screamed at me in broken English, admonishing me to hold still while I continued to yell one word over and over: snakes. He leaned down and shouted to me that there were no snakes, only sand and sun and frightened tourists, whose visit to the cemetery I had just ruined. 

Assuming that I had somehow accessed a hidden passageway, dressed myself as a mummy, and reappeared to scare my fellow tourists as part of a “stupid and typical American stunt”, I was held under protest at the gift shop until the local constable arrived. Thankfully, with the help of my official credentials and a phone call on which my dear employer, the ever lovely Emerian, was able to persuade the local authorities that I meant no ill will, I was released under the single condition that I would never, ever return. I assured them I would absolutely do no such thing, and, once freed from my cloth bindings, I went on my way, shaking the dust from my shoes. Now here in this safe space, days later, the hissing of the pursuing serpents, the horrible eye, the stench of death seeped into the mummy’s cloth that bound me –all these terrors torture my mind. Oh Egypt, when will you set me free?

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My Darling Dead: Episode 7 | The Assassin

The captain of the guard, Bortix Legional, stood atop the walls, looking down into the valley. It smelled like rain, and he was looking forward to being indoors for the night, having done his share of guard duties in seasons past. He was distracted from his vigil by the clattering of footsteps as a figure made its way up the dim steps. 

“Beggin yer pardon, sir,” the voice of Klinden the guardsman said, mounting the last step and turning to join Bortix at the battlements, “but there has been an unusual report from the northern realm.”

Bortix rolled his eyes. “There are always unusual reports from the northern realm, Mister Klinden,” he said. “Continue.” He reached into his shoulder bag for his pouch of tobacco and pipe, loading it and striking a match as Klinden continued. 

“Farmer in the near north sez that he came into his abode and beheld a man who resembled a rat. He ate a dead mouse, then attacked the farmer, until the farmer was able to subdue him.” He grinned a little. “Not a pretty sight. Took a rock, an’–”

“I can imagine, thank ye.” Bortix inhaled and sighed. “What the ‘ell am I s’posed to do about it?”

“That’s a good question, sir,” Klinden said, nodding. Bortix glowered at him.

A young cadet named Stroveta sprinted up the stairs and skidded to a halt. “Sir! There has been an assassination attempt upon the queen!”

Bortix stared. “Say again, soldier?”

“Chap with a camouflage robe managed to sneak in somehow, the queen disarmed him herself before he could put a blade in her but she’s not happy at all. She commands you attend her in her chamber after you interrogate the prisoner. Sir!” The cadet threw a salute and stood awaiting further orders. 

Bortix raised an eyebrow at Klinden. “Mind the watch, Mr Klinden. Cadet, back to your post.”

The queen and her daughter had long been students of self-defense, learning from Bortix how to disarm and disable in case their guards should fail in some regard. Bortix, while instructing them, gravely advised that failure on the part of his soldiers to protect the royal family could result in execution, but that a headless guard would never bring the queen or her daughter back to life. So when the man posing as a servant made a wild stab in Hespa’s direction, she reacted without thinking, snatching the man’s wrist, applying pressure to a point in his wrist and twisting his numb hand up behind his back, forcing to him to the ground. At a shout from her, five guards burst into her chamber, swords drawn, spears at the ready. They beheld their monarch standing behind a stranger who was kneeling before her, tears running down a very red face with an expression of agony as she jerked his arm ever higher between his shoulder blades. 

“This scum attempted to put a blade inside me,” snarled Hespa, breathing heavily as she addressed the first guard. “Find out who he is and where he comes from.” She jerked his arm up savagely and a loud, wet pop reverberated in the chamber and in the ears of every guard. The man sucked in a breath to scream but before a sound could escape his throat the queen’s voice was hissing in his ear. “Suffer in silence or I will end you myself right now.” In her hand suddenly appeared a long slim blade, the tip a fraction of an inch from the man’s eye. He shut his mouth, tears streaming down his face as the soldiers jerked him to his feet and marched him from the room. 

Hespa paced back and forth in her chamber, her mind still racing. Her narrow escape bothered her, not because of her own mortality but because it spoke to the lack of security from which the castle suffered. She was not in the habit of looking at her servants as they attended her and only the quick movement in the reflection of the window had alerted her in time to turn and block her would-be assassin’s arm.

There was a knock and Bortix stood in her doorway. “Your Highness.”

“Enter, Bortix, and tell me that the slime has divulged his master and purpose and departed this realm,” the queen snapped, moving to pour herself a glass of amber liquid and sip from it as Bortix made his report. 

“Lady, the assassin was sent by the kingdom of Heyworth, in retaliation for the death of the prince murdered by the Princess Alasin.”

The queen’s eyes grew wide and she swallowed half her drink. “Did you learn anything else?”

“Nay, milady. Alas we were unable to get anything more out of ‘im, for the techniques employed to acquire as much knowledge as we did left the prisoner so diminished that he expired shortly after sharing that information.” A ghost of a smile flitted around his mouth.

“Good,” muttered the queen.  

Alasin stood at her window, staring into the darkness and at her reflection. She blinked. It blinked. She smiled. 

It did not.

“Good evening, Princess.” 

Alasin jumped and whirled, half raising a hand to strike before she saw it was the wizard.

“Sapius!” she gasped. “Announce yourself!”

“I apologize madam, I merely acted in haste to inform you of your mother’s wishes.” He spread his hands apologetically.

“What is it?” Alasin asked, her hands shaking. “What does she want?”

“It regards the fate of Prince Heyworth, madam.”

“His fate was known to my mother and she was unbothered by it,” Alasin said, doing her best to maintain her composure. 

“Yes, but that was before she had survived an assassin’s attempt to dispatch her as retribution for your crime.” The wizard’s voice was flat, but chills reverberated from it. 

Alasin froze, her eyes moving back toward Sapius slowly, her face an expression of horror. As if on cue, there was a knocking at her chamber door. “Milady, guards.” 

The princess’s face was the color of parchment as she stammered out “Enter” and looked with terror to Sapius, who only smiled in that infuriating manner. 

The guard who entered was a simple man. He had been a farmer before he had tired of the physical labor and joined the armed forces. He had no  time for theater nor playing games and was a favorite to play cards with, for his face was an open book. Alasin read on it now, fear and loathing as the guard looked at her. 

“Princess, the queen bids you join her in her chamber.” He stepped back, into the corridor, spear at the ready, waiting for her.  

“You could not honestly have thought that your secret would not travel.” the wizard said, sounding severe. “Three soldiers beheld you in the act of murdering the prince. We had them killed as soon as possible, but it was too late. They have told, and those have told, and it didn’t take long for spies to relay the word to Heyworth kingdom that Princess Alasin murdered Prince Heyworth with her poisoned blade. It took even less time for a cadet to spread the word that the queen has already narrowly escaped assassination.”

Alasin’s eyes grew huge. “You mean… does everybody know?”

“You may draw that conclusion, Princess,” said Sapius.

Logbook of Terror: Myrtles Plantation

Myrtles Plantation

Even in the deepest, darkest hours of the night, the summer air of Louisiana is thick and oppressive. It bears down on me with a hot, wet weight that makes me want to sink into the ground and go to sleep. But I am not here to sleep. I stare at the massive Myrtles Plantation house that looms before me, an imposing giant cloaked in bleak black and mystery. A nervous fear trickles down my spine. I’m not supposed to be here, roaming the grounds at night, but I knew that to get the real story, I couldn’t simply tramp through the house in the daylight hours. Despite the rumors, despite what I had read online regarding sightings of spirits and apparitions during the day, the only time for me to visit this cursed abode was while the rest of the world slept.  

I let out a deep, steadying breath. Not a single light burned within the house or on the grounds, allowing me to approach in stealth. As I neared the steps leading up to the sprawling wrap-around porch, planning to seek entry through one of the windows on the lower level, a voice, its tone wrapped in the sludge of alcohol, beckoned to me. I turned. A lone man leered at me, pointing a pistol at my chest. I froze. No longer calling out to me, his pale lips emitted ghostly whispers that I strained to hear. His gaunt framed staggered toward me. The pistol held higher, he steadied his aim. I held up my hands and pleaded with the man to leave me be. His only response was to whisper to himself while his eyes bore into me with their insane glare. I screamed for him to halt. The pistol fired. Then I was looking up into the Spanish moss that swayed gently in the tree limbs above me, my hands clutched against my breast, my blood flowing out between my fingers. My ears rang from the pistol’s explosive shot, and within the ringing, I heard the mad laughter of the gunman. I struggled to my feet and stumbled up the stairs and onto the wooden landing. The insane cackling followed. 

I flung myself at the front door, grasped the handle, and turned. Miraculously, the front door flung open. I fell into the parlor and staggered to the steps which led to the home’s second floor. A young woman in an antebellum dress hurried through a doorway. She addressed me kindly and helped me to my feet. My only thought -obsessive, irrational, playing in a wretched loop- was to reach the seventeenth step. I had to climb the stairs, I told the girl. She grasped under my arm and steadied me. I looked into her face. Oh, how horrid was the sight! So pale, so ghastly, was her rotting skin! So foul her aura! So putrid her aroma! She had endless black holes for eyes, maggots and worms fell from her gaping mouth, and brown swamp water trickled from her ears. She shoved me onto the stairs. Horrid screeches creaked from her mouth, creeping out past the maggots and worms that squirmed and crawled on her mouth and chin. 

Seventeen, seventeen, seventeen… the number boomed and echoed in my skull, my final destination nearing as I counted each successive step, crawling with one hand while the other was held tight against my bleeding chest. My breaths were short and full of agony, my vision blurry, and the iron rich smell of my own blood filling the air. Only one more… 

When my hand hit the seventeenth step, an unseen force pulled me into the stair and I plunged into complete and total darkness. Wind rushed through my hair in a deafening roar as I fell and fell and fell, until…

I felt soft ground beneath me. Moonlight floated over my body. I ran a hand over my chest. My shirt was dry. I sat up. I was behind the great house. Glancing over myself, I saw that I had no injuries to speak of. My pounding heart slowed. As I sighed with relief and moved to get to my feet, hands thrust up through the ground, grabbing my wrists, tearing into my ankles. I screamed in terror. More hands shot out of the earth and ripped at my clothes and skin. I writhed in horror, fighting off the fiendish limbs. At last, I tore away, rolled, and sprung to my feet. I turned to run and an arrow pierced my side. I fell to my knees, howling. Blood gushed from the wound. I clutched the arrow to pull it from my flesh. I began to pull and another, deeper, older voice called out to me. 

A band of Native Americans stood before me. It was the chief who addressed me, demanding to know why I had chosen to dishonor his people by building my home on their sacred burial grounds. I pleaded with him, fumbling my words in hopes of explaining that it was not I who had built the house and that I was but an innocent traveler. The natives responded by brandishing their hatchets. The chief pointed at me and, with a dire expression on his face, uttered an admonishment in a tongue unknown to me. With grim faces, the tribesmen set upon me. I closed my eyes, cried for my life, and waited for the blows to begin. 

A soft hand touched my shoulder and I heard myself stop screaming. I opened my eyes to a sunny day and a group of tourists circled around me. A young man, his hand still resting on my shoulder, asked me if I was alright. Indeed I was not, I replied. 

I stood and ran from the plantation grounds. I must have run untethered until I reached the nearby town, though I cannot clearly recall, for the horrors of what I’d seen the night prior still plagued my mind and heart, as they surely will for days and weeks to come. Indeed, this cursed plantation is a home which I shall never visit again.

My Darling Dead: Episode Six | The Queen

Queen Hespa stood at the window slit of her tower, looking over the same woodland that Prince Heyworth had so recently considered counting, as she contemplated his death. She had known of his robust reputation and had hoped her daughter’s temper would dispatch him. Now his death would be recorded as nothing but a lover’s quarrel, slain in an act of self-defense. Unbidden, the queen felt a surge of affection for her daughter and just as swiftly quashed it.

Over the years she had seen the results of the succession of nannies who had grown close to the little princess, only to die with no mark or warning in the night. The castle and its servants had been questioned by the royal guards numerous times but no one had any idea why the nannies were dying. The queen had not told anyone but Bortix, the Captain of the Guard, what the fairy’s curse had been. The wizard Sapius knew without being told, and the three of them did not share the knowledge with any other as the death toll mounted. She was able however to surreptitiously maneuver those who had lost her favor to the position and disposed of them thus. This had gone on for twelve years until the princess had been judged old enough to take care of herself, to the relief of the matrons of the kingdom.

The Princess Alasin proved to be a nightmare in the castle under her own charge. She was demanding, bossy and on more than one occasion had a serving girl thrashed for taking too long to appear when summoned. The queen was not to be questioned, certainly, but there was a certain amount of muttering about “ the little hell-child” who treated them all like dogs. Hespa was well aware of this and encouraged it, knowing that only their unanimous dislike of the princess was keeping them from forming any sort of meaningful bond with her and sealing their fates.

Hespa pulled the red velvet cord which ran along the ceiling and down to the floor of her chamber. From the depths of the castle, she could hear the distant tolling of a bell. Within seconds a figure appeared, clad in the same red velvet as the cord, hooded in black.

“Lady.” The voice came from the red-clad figure, though it seemed to come from everywhere.

“See that Prince Heyworth’s body is satisfactorily removed,” she said, draining her glass. “That task will have been delegated to the castle guards, and I would not credit them with any maneuver outside of the defense of the castle.”

“Nor would I, madam.”

“See that it is done, and send the wizard to me.” The queen dismissed her royal guard with a wave of her hand and took a deep drink from her glass.

Sapius stood atop the south tower and studied the stars. They were bright, and the darkness around them was dark, but apart from that, he could discern nothing. He shook his head in frustration and brought up his pipe, stoking it with a special blend of dwarf tobacco he imported under an understanding. Sometimes the stars were obstinate, and it was better to just enjoy them.

A spark flew from his fingertips, igniting the leaves in his pipe. He closed his eyes as he inhaled before a banging at his door wrenched his attention away. His eyes opened, holding the smoke for a moment before exhaling a mighty cloud as he said “Enter.”

Bortix, the Captain of the Guard, stood framed in the doorway, his frame filling it. His sword hand rested on its hilt as though it were born there. “Her Royal Highness bids you come before her, Master Wizard.”

Sapius allowed a thin smile on his bearded face. “I’m sure she does. Let us go.”

They marched in silence down the tower stairs, Bortix following Sapius who was puffing on his pipe as though he were out for a midnight stroll. When they came to the queen’s chamber, Bortix rapped three times on the door.

“Milady, the wizard awaits your pleasure.”

“Send him in and go away.”

Sapius entered, closing the door behind him. The queen stood before the fire, her back to the mantle, her arms crossed.

“My lady,” he said inclining his back. “You wish to see me?”

“What is my daughter taking?” Hespa asked, her voice businesslike.

“As you stipulated, it is a harmless composition made to increase her metabolism and raise her natural aggression.” The wizard’s thin smile returned. “I daresay it is working?”

Hespa snorted. “She has slain that troll-hunting lummox without exerting herself halfway. I fear the day her temper should turn on me.”

“She would never,” Sapius said. “You would have to provoke her.”

“All I can do is provoke her,” the queen snapped, pulling a bejeweled flask from her bodice and drinking deeply from it as she crossed to the window, looking moodily out at her kingdom. “I’ll not run the risk of my daughter feeling anything for me but indifference.”

“A wise choice, lady,” said the wizard, and puffed at his pipe.

Hespa turned, opening her mouth to lash out at the puffing fool for his sycophancy but the wizard was gone. A second later, a single rap came at the door.

“Mother.”

She stiffened, the mask she had worn since her daughter’s christening slipping effortlessly over her face. “Daughter.”

Alasin stepped into the room, her face sullen and splattered with red. “Prince Heyworth is dead. I presume this comes not as a shock to you.”

Hespa restrained a smile, instead affecting a look of cold disgust. “It has been told already. How did this happen?”

Alasin moved toward the dresser which held a crystal decanter of the cellar keeper’s finest aged brandy, pouring herself a glass. “His very presence was unwanted and he was unwilling to accept that fact. He kept mentioning you as if it mattered. Let me express my appreciation, O queen, for bestowing that oaf upon me.” She drained the glass, glaring at her mother.

The queen had foreseen this, having gathered intelligence from the local peasantry in Heyworth’s kingdom, for there are no greater wagging tongues than those who toil beneath royalty’s lash. Now, the kingdom’s aging ruler, the last of his line, would be hard-pressed to father any heir, leaving themselves vulnerable to being usurped by the kingdom of Dandoich when the monarch passed. The wizard’s drug had done its job perfectly and it was hard not to feel delighted.

“Daughter, you have a few things to learn about how to treat royalty from another kingdom,” Hespa spat with ire she did not feel. “Heyworth was our guest and you were his host. You should have done whatever it took to make him feel at ease. The good of the kingdoms are more important than your petty feelings.” She registered the look of hurt in Alasin’s eyes and crushed her own hurt for causing it, turning away as if in dismissal. “Get out of my sight, you little pestilent, while I try and fix the damage you have caused.”

Hot, angry tears filled Alasin’s eyes as she left her mother’s chamber. She could not think of a time she had not left the chamber thus, nor a time that ascending to it did not fill her with dread. As usual, upon leaving she went up to the very top of her mother’s tower. She had come up here after her first big fight with the queen when Hespa had informed her that she would be caring for herself now and would no longer have a nanny. The thought had sent her into a tantrum and she had run from the chamber after screaming at her mother that she would kill herself by jumping from the battlements.

Now, years later, atop the same tower, she considered, not for the first time, throwing herself from her perch, forever ending anything she knew in favor of the unknown void before her. Once again, fear mastered her, and she shifted her balance away from the void. She looked up, taking a deep breath. The air, damp from the recent rain, was rich and fragrant. She smiled. It could be worse. There were some things worth living for.

Odds and Dead Ends: Greek Mythology / Cerberus

I like to dabble a bit in mythology and legends here in the Odds and Dead Ends corner, and this week is no exception. Having written on Cuchulain (Cu-hu-lun) and the Cyhyraeth (cih-here-aith) in the past, I decided to leave my Celtic homeland, whilst still keeping up the ‘C’ theme. There are many mythical creatures that have permeated popular culture, but one of the most famous must be the triple-threat hound of hell himself, Cerberus. Pronounced sir-bur-us, Cerberus is a monstrous dog that guards the underworld in ancient Greek mythology, and I’m going to give you a quick introduction to the monstrous pooch.

Guarding the entrance to the Underworld, the realm of Zeus’ brother, Hades, Cerberus is the offspring of Echidna and Typhon, two fearsome monsters both with snake-like parts of their anatomy. One of the most famous accounts of Cerberus is from Hesiod’s Theogony, also accounts Echidna as having given birth to Hydra of Lerna, the famous hydra of multiple heads. It is therefore perhaps not surprising, given all this, that Cerberus is described as having snakes as part of him in many sources.

Hesiod’s description of Cerberus is ‘a monster not to be overcome and that may not be described, Cerberus who eats raw flesh, the brazen-voiced hound of Hades, fifty-headed, relentless and strong.’ (Hesiod, 1914) Considering that the main image of Cerberus is with three heads (hence J. K. Rowling used Cerberus as the main source for Hagrid’s three headed dog, Fluffy, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)), which is something I’ll discuss later, it’s interesting to see him depicted in the old texts with far more heads than we now think of him as having, closer to a cross between Hydra and his other sibling in some texts, Chimera.

In his book Gods and Heroes in Late Archaic Greek Art, Karl Schefold and Luca Giuliani discuss the depictions of Kerberos (another spelling of Cerberus) on the ancient pottery of the time. These depictions are mainly in relation to one of the tasks of Herakles (the Greek spelling of Hercules), who was sent down to the underworld to subdue and retrieve the dog as part of his trials.[1] These trials are depicted throughout the famous epics, including Homer’s Iliad, one of the great epics of the ancient world. According to Schefold and Giulani, this task is ‘illustrated as early as the middle Korinthian period’ (p.129). They also discuss the painting…

by the powerful Lakonian artist dubbed the Hunt Painter… Here for the first time Kerberos has three heads to which Sophokles, following epic authority, refers… and he is completely covered with a shaggy coat of snakes, a feature already suggested on the Korinthian skyphos.’ (Schefold & Giulani, 1992, p. 129)

It’s interesting to see that it’s not even the written word, but pottery, that has clearly defined the monster and set in stone the attributes we associate with him. Even Sophocles, the famous Greek playwright, uses this image as his basis for Cerberus’ depiction.

Something I feel is often misunderstood is that Cerberus is that he stops unwanted people coming into the Underworld. This certainly may be a by-product, but his main function is to stop anyone escaping. Charon was the one that stopped anyone getting in, really, as he was the only transport over to Hades, and not many people that were alive ventured down to the underworld. According to Robin Hard, Charon was so shocked at seeing Herekles, alive, that he took him across to the land of the dead, ‘and was punished for this breach of his duties by being thrown into chains for a year.’ (Hard, 2003, p. 268) For the most part, Cerberus was the perfect creature stopping anything escaping the underworld, as Hard’s description makes plain:

Kerberos would not allow himself to be captured without a struggle and he was a formidable opponent even for the greatest of heroes, for he was not only large and powerful but had three heads (in the usual tradition at least) and a snake in his tail.’ (Hard, 2003)

In a way, Cerberus is the perfect guard dog of mythology. As with all mythology, it’s had some allegorizing over the years, such as being the ‘corrupt earth’ and Herekles’ victory representing his defeat over base, earthly passions, but it’s also perfectly fine to think he’s just a big dog with vicious teeth that will rip your face off. Certainly, one of the most well-known dogs of legend, not only has he featured in re-adaptations of Greek myths (such as in Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, (Riordan, 2005), but in video games such as Final Fantasy 8 (Kitase, 1997). Cerberus is a legend, quite literally, and a hell of a lot of fun to imagine and reimagine throughout the years.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Follow him on Twitter: KJudgeMental

Bibliography

Christie, A., 1947. The Labours of Hercules. United States: Dodd.

Hard, R., 2003. The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology: Based on H. J. Rose’s Handbook of Greek Mythology. London: Routledge.

Hesiod, 1914. Hesiod, Theogony. [Online]
Available at: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Hes.+Th.+311
[Accessed 08 06 2019].

Homer & Butler, S., 2008. Iliad. Waiheke Island: The Floating Press.

Kitase, Y., 1997. Final Fantasy 8. s.l.:Square.

Riordan, R., 2005. The Lightning Thief. s.l.:Miramax Books.

Schefold, K. & Giulani, L., 1992. Gods and Heroes in Late Archaic Greek Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[1] Interestingly, these twelve tasks/trials were adapted by Agatha Christie as a series of short stories for her famous detective, Hercule Poirot, which form some of his last investigations in The Labours of Hercules. The detective is, as many can see, is named after the hero, so the theme fits very nicely.

My Darling Dead: Episode 5 – The Suitor

Prince Heyworth had come from the kingdom of Duyuwan, over a hundred leagues away, in troll country. He had grown into a tall strong man and had made quite a name for himself in his home kingdom thumping trolls before turning his attention to a far more unwinnable prize: the princess Alasin of Dandoich. Over a dozen suitors had left the kingdom with their hearts in tatters after attempting to tame the princess. Heyworth had been at the task for a week and was unable to admit, even to himself, that his goal was likely to be a doomed one.

The first night, he had arrived to a feast in his honor. The queen had seated Heyworth and Alasin together and, installing herself on his other side, proceeded with an interview clearly meant to highlight his virtues to the sullen princess to his right who was doodling on a scrap of parchment with a quill she had brought to the table. The queen continued in this vein for some time, making it difficult for Heyworth to consume any amount of food set before him, he was so occupied with his narrative. By the end of the feast, the princess had met his eyes once, and she retired early to her bedchamber without inviting him to join her. Each night had ended thus, and he felt as though he had spent the week trying to woo a brick wall.

Now it was approaching the evening meal and he had not laid eyes upon his target since that morning when, in response to his inquiry, she had curtly told him she was going out and would be back later. He had spent the day wandering the castle, yet again. He had gathered some knowledge from questioning the farrier as to the shoeing preferences of the castle’s horses, admired the swords in the armory and endured a highly uncomfortable tea with the queen, at which she had hinted extensively that any prince worth his salt should have her daughter smitten by now. He was just about to go up to the tallest tower and start counting the trees he could see through the gathering dusk in the distant forest when he heard the lookout’s shout.

“Princess Alasin returns! Have open the gates!”

An unconscious set to his jaw, Heyworth strode to the battlements overlooking the gate, watching the princess’s litter draw closer up the roadway leading to the castle. He tapped his fingers, glancing to the sunset. Nine hours she had been gone.

If he was to win her, he would have to instill respect.

He started down from the battlements as the drawbridge clanked down, the gate clanked up, then the process reversed itself as the litter came to a stop in its accustomed place near the stable. Without delay, the litter bearers dispersed, eager to put as much distance between themselves and its inhabitant as possible. As Heyworth stood there, waiting for the princess to emerge, he could hear a loud sniffing sound, as though one were sampling the fragrance of a good meal. No sooner had the sound dissipated than the Princess Alasin emerged, eyes streaming and a manic grin on her face that only fell slightly when she beheld him.

“Hey…it’s you…Haystack, am I right?” Alasin giggled, nearly losing her balance as she stepped down from the litter.

Heyworth reached out a hand to steady her. “Princess…please allow me to assist you.” He stepped forward, intending to put an arm about her waist. She pushed him away.

“No touching! Seriously, Haystack, I require no assistance. Please leave me.”

He caught her by the upper arm, tightening his grip so she could not pull away. “Well, my lady, I would like an explanation where you have been lo these many hours with no word of your whereabouts to your mother or suitor.” His grip tightened further.

Alasin snorted, her gaze sharpening. “I’m not sure who you think you are, by the gods, but I owe my mother nothing, and you less than that. Unhand me this instant!”

Heyworth felt a minor explosion in his chest as rage flooded through him. He grabbed her other arm. “That is all the disrespect I will tolerate from you, princess or no!” Digging his meaty fingers in, he pulled her toward the door leading to the castle’s sleeping quarters he was currently occupying. Alasin scratched and bit but Heyworth’s muscles had grown up fighting trolls and she was dragged, cursing, up the stairs toward his bedchamber. Fight though she did, the thought of screaming never entered her mind.

Slamming his chamber door behind them, Heyworth threw her from him, sending her flying across the room and knocking her head into one of the four poster bed’s pillar. She sat down hard, swaying. The world swam before her as the rug beneath the bed came into focus. She could see clumps of dust clinging to the fibers and she thought dazedly, must remember to thrash the cleaners for that.

She heard the sound of panting, like a dog’s. He was breathing fast as his hands worked his belt buckle and there was an ugly glint to his eyes. “Need a lesson in manners,” he muttered as he jerked the belt from his pant loops and adjusted himself. “Respect. Deference. You WILL give them to me.” Snapping the belt between his balled fists, he started toward her. “Princess, I regret that you’ve made me do this, but if you just–”

He stopped, mid-stride, narrowed eyes taking in the small blade poised to throw in Alasin’s hand from where she crouched on the floor beside the bed frame. Now she rose to her feet, keeping the blade leveled at him.

“Listen, cretin,” she said flatly, her breathing rapid, “the only reason you are not dead where you stand is that the fact of your death would benefit me less than your survival. Depart from here immediately and never darken the land near me for the remainder of your days. I am the princess of the realm and I have spoken. Now depart, before I am forced to end you regardless of the ramifications.”

Heyworth licked his lips, feeling the blood drain a little from his loins. The belt drooped. He attempted a sneer. “You’re just a princess. You haven’t got what it takes.” He stood a little taller to enhance his stature. “I have single-handedly slain more trolls and enemies than I can recall if–”

“Listen to me Heyworth,” Alasin said, stepping closer to him, her teeth bared. “You have no idea of who I am, nor what I am capable of. I suggest you leave, before I show you. You have no more warnings.” Her eyes never left his.

In other circumstances, this may have worked. But Heyworth’s trollish pride had been wounded, and the ugly look returned to his head. A grin that may have been a leer appeared on his face. He raised the belt and took a step closer as well. “Listen here, brat, wave that knife of yours in my face and your mother–”

Quicker than the eye could follow, an expression of fury flashed across Alasin’s face and letting out a scream, her arm flicked out and she cut his throat as deeply as she could, scraping her knife on his vertebrae. Blood spurted across her face and she wiped it from her eyes as Heyworth sank to the floor, dropping his belt and clawing at his throat as though he could mend the damage she had done. Alasin smirked as she sank to her knees, her eyes following those of the dying Prince Heyworth, waving the blade in front of his face as it drained of color.

“I told you, pig,” she hissed, wiping the knife on Heyworth’s cheek, leaving a bloody smear and a fresh gash as the keen blade kissed his cheek. “I owe my mother nothing.”

She pushed him and he fell backward, striking his head hard against the stone floor. Dazed and struggling for breath, he sank back, his view of the ceiling impeded by the large dark circles that had begun to spin in the forefront of his vision. He remembered hearing rumors throughout the kingdom that the princess carried a poison blade. He had discounted it as just the rumors of common folk. Now as the dark circles claimed him, for the first time, he wondered if he could have been wrong…

“Princess! Princess Alasin!”

The door crashed open. Alasin looked up to see three of the castle guards struggling to be the first through the door. The first guard came forward, uncertainty on his features. “Lady, the wizard bade us come to aid with the greatest of speed. Do you require assistance?”

She rose to her feet, looking disdainfully down at the dead prince. “Yes,” Alasin said, and prodded Heyworth’s corpse with her foot. “Remove this from the castle and inform the queen that her latest suitor is rejected.” She felt the bottle hanging between her breasts and her pulse quickened in anticipation as she hurried out the door.

The three guards looked at each other and at the body on the floor of the bedchamber. Together, the two older guards looked at the youngest. The eldest guard gestured at the corpse as they took their hasty leave of the room.

“Mind you soak up the blood after you move him.”

Logbook of Terror: Jump! (the dog suicide bridge)

Overtoun Bridge, Scotland

The voices screamed in my head. Insistent, unrelenting, the words pounded against my skull with their morbid demand: “Jump, Jump… JUMP!”

I hovered between the final two ramparts on the right side of the bridge. In crossing the structure, I’d neared the end of the bridge, I was almost to safety, but the voices stilled my movement. A malignant force beckoned me to the edge of sanity until I stood trembling, preparing to throw myself onto the rocks below. How did I get here? I was just out for an evening stroll. I must remember…

Ah, yes. Following dinner, I’d gone out for my customary evening constitution. I wandered aimlessly through the Scottish countryside, absorbed in the beauty that surrounded me, making mental notes so not to lose my way back to the inn where I was staying. After some leisure minutes had passed, I felt a presence behind me. Turning, I saw a large dog of an unknown breed, dirty and soaking wet, some paces behind me. Thinking strays were probably common here in the country, and not feeling threatened, I continued on. A short time later I again sensed that someone or something was following me. I glanced back and there again was the same large mongrel, only this time, the canine was joined by another dog of large size, yellow eyes, and filthy black, wet, mud-caked fur. The crisp air rushed over me, chilling my bones. Something about those dogs wasn’t right, something… I stopped, not giving my imagination another inch, and merrily pressed on with my country walk.

Evening settled into dusk, and a large moon loomed on the horizon. Fog drifted over the lane. I whistled and took in a deep breath of the fresh air. While relishing the chilly air, I wondered about the dogs I’d seen. Could they still be behind me? I listened intently and only heard the sounds of my own footsteps and the breeze caressing leaves of nearby trees. No padding paws, no panting –nothing but the quiet of the countryside and the day seeping into night. Considering my fears, I laughed under my breath. Dogs don’t follow people around on their evening jaunts. The thought is preposterous!

I told myself not to turn, not to look, then promptly stopped and spun around. Before me stood a pack of at least a dozen dogs of medium to large size, all of them sopping wet, covered in mud and filth, their eyes hollow yet fixed intently on me. I gulped. I stepped back. They stepped forward. The largest dog of them all, the first I’d seen, stepped out in front of the pack, barked, and showed his teeth. My blood froze. The alpha dog leapt forward, the pack followed closely behind, and I hurled myself along the path.

Trees rushed past me while the moon lit my steps and I rushed into an unavoidable wall of fog. Gray and white covered my vision. My feet and heart pounded in unison. I smelled water and the cooing of a flowing stream came to my ears.

I looked down. I was no longer moving. I stood still, my hands on the cold stone of this ancient, cursed bridge. And, to my right, there they were –the dogs, slowly stalking toward me, drenched in fog, their voices in my head screaming as one, commanding: Jump, jump… Jump!

I clenched my eyes shut and cried out for them to stop, to leave me be, to let me go. Suddenly, cold hands were grappling at my limbs, pulling me, pushing me to the ground. I thrashed and screamed to be set free. Then, a soothing voice, telling me I was safe. I opened my eyes. A kindly woman and man knelt over me. I recognized them as the keepers of the inn.

After bringing me to my senses, the couple helped me to my feet and we began our walk back to the inn. Along the way they explained that they’d heard my terrified cries and had run out to find me at the bridge’s edge, appearing as if I intended to throw myself into the stream below. Horrified and embarrassed by my own actions, I thanked them profusely for saving me from any possible self-harm and vowed not to take another solitary evening stroll for the remainder of my stay at their lodging. As we entered the inn I remarked that I was glad the pack of dogs had not attempted to follow us back from the bridge. The innkeepers fixed me with a curious look. I’d been all alone, they said, there hadn’t been a single dog in sight.