Horror Fantasy Mystery

“This is the hunter's badge of glory - That he protects and tends his quarry, - Hunts with honor, as is due - And through the beast to God is true.”

--Jagergmeister, by Oskar von Riesenthal (taken from the back of a Jagermeister bottle, half-full).

* * *

I am left to imagine the circumstances of a most unusual case, which has the Grimlace’s handiwork written all over it. The Grimlace has stolen another victim’s visage and memories, leaving her a withered amnesiac. She was wandering ghostlike amid the streets of Frankfurt with no idea how to return or where she called home.

“My name is Hildergard Koeppen,” I tell her, “But everyone calls me Hilda.”

“Pleased to meet you… I’m…” and she trails off, unable to remember her own name.

“It’s ok, my dear, this is all quite normal,” I tell her.

I turn on my Dictaphone and make my report: “It is 23:36 in the evening. The patient’s name is Greta Thunderberg. The patient is approximately thirty-two years of age according to confirmed medical records. Greta presents with symptoms of sudden onset retrograde amnesia. She reports no memory of her whereabouts or how she reported to Polizeireiterstaffel HE off the river Main. She complains of persistent tinnitus, disorientation, and a total loss of recent memory, as well as an inability to recall various aspects of her personality—or, apparently, her own name. 

When asked if she is a serious person or a fun-loving one, she says, ‘I hardly know myself, at all—I couldn’t say.’ When asked if she enjoys large gatherings and social occasions, she says, ‘I should like to try it and see.’ She is completely flat. When asked, ‘Are you upset about your present condition,’ she says, ‘I feel fine.’ Her face is frozen as if she has had an excessive amount of Botox serum injected. There are neither any signs of physical trauma nor any indication of the use of surgical instruments and the bloodwork is normal. My diagnosis is that there has been a sudden hypoxic event and a hardening of neural connections occasioned by calcification from exposure to chemical antagonists—causing sudden onset retrograde amnesia—all of which is consistent with a Grimlace attack.”

I release the patient back to her police escort, who thanks me and is on his way.

Brainy. That’s me. Cut it, treat it, study it. I do it all. Neurosurgeon, neurologist, and neuroscientist. Check, check, and check. And you can add dissect it to that list. Did you know that forgetting is actually part of the learning process? I’ll bet you didn’t. But not everyone has brains on their mind like I do.

My true calling, however, is the hunt for the Grimlace. I have been stalking this freak of nature for over a decade. But this is the first time that I have ever been able to anticipate catching my quarry and finally seeing what it is made of.

We are the Knights of Kadosch, a sect of the Scottish Right. We are closely aligned with our brethren, the Knights of Tavistock in St. Petersburg. We hunt monsters. And my special assignment these many years is to rid the world of the dreaded Grimlace.

After all this time, I have finally found a witness to the first Grimlace attack.

* * *

Just past one o’clock in the morning, Agatha is coming to life. The tea kettle is whistling in the kitchen, and Agatha hums as she pours herself a cup, her hand shaking as she tips the kettle. 

Although Agatha was a precise woman and always had her hands perfectly manicured, the ends of her nails are growing out with ragged abrasions, and the nail polish is badly chipped.

Our shared apartment is a high-rise at 140 West in Westend-Süd. There is a view of the city skyline and the Taunus mountains beyond.

“Where have you been Heidi? I’ve been worried?” Agatha asks.

“Interviewing a victim of an attack,” I say with a shrug. “I called you two hours ago, remember mum?”

“But what about your dinner with Rene – did you forget?” Agatha asks.

“That was last week, mutter.”

“Is someone changing your calendar?” she asks, hands on her hips, “You know there are a lot of doctors that want your position in the Faculty of Medicine at Goethe-Universität—who would do anything to get you out of there.”

“Oh, mutter. No need to worry about me. Did you watch your show?”

“Uhh, is it already eight?” Agatha asked.

“Mutter! It is nearly two in the morning,” I tell her, and walk into my study. “I have to finish some work mum, get some sleep.” I can barely stand to look at her—when I can’t do anything about it. My mother was a fine physician and a woman of prominence. She has now been reduced to this dwelling invalid who sulks about being imprisoned by her own mind.

I know she won’t turn in until the sun comes down. I have given up trying to get her into a normal sleep schedule—after all, it is not as if I have one myself.

She’ll just sit on the balcony now, staring into space, as if the vista of the horizon will give her a chance to remember that she is in the process of forgetting.

* * *

It has taken nearly a decade, but I am able to locate the stagehand who was present the night of the first Grimlace attack.

“The English Theater was playing ‘Saint Joan of the Stockyards,’ and Dearil Verloren had top billing on the Playbill,” Luis recalled.

“I’ve heard of that play—he was playing—"

“—The meat packing magnate, Pierpont Mauler,” Luis says.

“And you were there, watching from behind the curtains, during the entire play?” I ask, jotting notes.

“Not the whole time,” Luis says.

“Where did you go?” I ask.

“At one point, I ended up going out back in the alley to have a cigarette, and found the understudy, Rache, speaking with a strange-looking woman,” Luis says.

“We will come back to that,” I tell him, blowing at some hair that has come untucked from my ponytail and is dangling over my left eye. “What did Dearil look like?”

“Dearil was a tall man—about 6’4”—just stunning. He had a lean lanky build. His coiled hair hung down in a shag cut. He had large, straight white teeth that gleamed in the stage lighting—he had really bad ADHD—with a cutting manic intellect—he was always gesticulating and animated and always at an eleven out of ten,” Luis says.

“Was he under the influence of anything?” I ask.

“Other than his own self-importance and fame, you mean—amphetamines—Adderall was pretty standard—breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” Luis said. I think that addiction is an impermanent solution to a permanent problem.

“How was the performance?” I ask.

“He was a star. I remember his voice rising to a crescendo as he said, ‘Oh, everlasting slaughter! Nowadays things are no different from prehistoric times when they bloodied each other’s heads with iron bars!’—it was quite the performance,” Luis said. 

The words set off a spark of revelation, as I struggle to understand my prey. I think of the price of fame for a performer. One must corral and direct a revelatory energy. From the crushing terror of the stage—the spotlight that leaves one exposed and vulnerable—an artist must mine this energy for a competence, that once achieved is received, applauded, and becomes the most addictive of drugs. Yet the act is separate from the actor—the skill is separate from the skilled. The applause is not love, but mere recognition. This is not connection. There is a deep spiritual appetite in all of us for true connection. Nothing looks like a better cure for being invisible than fame. And yet fame is the great invisibility cloak—a mask more isolating than a veil of solitude. For it expunges the person altogether, elevating their vocation, and placing all value in the performance of their craft. The person behind the act starves and is strangled and becomes a slave to their role. I think of how similar this is to my mother’s spells of dementia and the forgetfulness brought on by Alzheimer’s. In between those shining moments for her when she has clarity of thought—in between those turns upon the stage—both die and fade into oblivion.

Returning from my daydreams, I ask, “Did anyone have any reason to wish him harm?”

“Just Rache Eggeman, a little worm of a man—that is what we called him—'Irm the Worm’—ever since he played some slithering stock character named Irmin. Name just stuck. Anyway, Rache was next in line for the male lead on one show after another, and he couldn’t get anywhere with his career with Dearil in his way. He had the acting chops. But he wasn’t a star. He was short, unmemorable looking, just average in every way—whereas Dearil was extraordinary all around. It was never a fair contest between the two of them.”

“And you say you saw Rache speaking with someone in the alley during the show?” I ask.

“Why yes, in fact, we knew her—she was a stage designer—a mystic gypsy from the outskirts named Emil Sioli—a real loner if there ever was one. She was a sharp-featured woman of about seventy, thin as a bird, with a long P-Coat—always wore a blue amethyst Hamsa on her neck. She was smoking a Marlboro cigarette impatiently,” Luis recalls.

“Did you overhear what they said?” I ask.

“Yes, ‘Did you bring what I asked,’ she said, stamping her foot against the bitter cold. Then he responded, ‘I have it.’ That was it, and then he rushed back inside with something in his hand.”

“So what happened next,” I asked.

“At some point, toward the end of the play, Dearil collapsed. When he came to, he was like a man possessed. He began pacing the stage and then as he looked out over the audience, he screamed at them as if a wild animal baring its teeth and growling to keep a threat at bay.”

“And do you know what caused this transformation?” I ask.

“No one does,” Luis says.

“Are there any working theories,” I inquire.

“There is a rumor that Rache was deeply jealous. Apparently, Rache had originally been cast as Pierpont Mauler. It was all settled. The Playbill was printed. But, then Dearil called the theater director and said he was interested in the part. They couldn’t refuse. So Dearil upstaged Rache, right when he had his big break. Rache could not forgive it. He went off in long tirades. Some believe that Emil Sioli—the gypsy—was part of a group that worshiped the Kroten-düvel—the toad devil. They had tattoos of toads stamped on their eyelids and believed that this deity possessed the ability to erase memory, to turn invisible, and to walk among men as a blind wanderer, spreading the void of loss among the people. Some believe that toads are poor sinners serving a penance of tears and relegated to the dank, dark places and to a life of slime and bugs, in order to purge their souls—wandering spirits in an earthly purgatory. The grips and stagehands who know Rache best said that he has a pearl toad statue, given to him by Emil Sioli. That has the words inscribed on it, which say Beng tasser tute! And they say the toad has a golden choker collar on it and is somehow connected to the affliction poor Dearil suffered. They say that Rache guards the toad statute with his life and if it is ever destroyed, Dearil will be healed.”

“This is very helpful Luis. That is a lot to digest. I’ll be in touch if I have further questions,” I tell him.

* * *

The Grimlace has no shadow. It walks below the streetlights in the alley donning a black cloak. Its hands and face are green. Its face has no contour, just a flat canvas, until it dons the visage of one of its victims.

As the Grimlace slinks through the streets of Frankfurt by the train station, the streets are filled with drunks, prostitutes, and panhandlers.

An old man sits with a bottle, huddled in a corner by some trash overflowing from a dumpster. He has rags about his shoulders. But his face is thin and handsome below his rugged unkempt beard.

The Grimlace turns his green blank face to the man, who looks at him transfixed, and the Grimlace latches on to him. A beam of translucent, opaque jelly forms between them—the bond—and the Grimlace slinks in, bends to his knee, and draws out the man’s visage, the man’s memories, and shrinks within his robes to the height of his victim.

Renewed, he stands to his feet, like a performer taking on a new role, and gains comfort in his own skin—lets the memories inhabit him—and he throws off his cloak, strolling into the square.

* * *

I receive a call from the Detective. 

He tells me that there has been a beggar who has gone missing. His daughter has come to the precinct to make the report. He tells me that the incident occurred near the train station.

I thank him, and I am off with my hunting bag to find the Grimlace.

The cloaked creature with the green hue to his skin is pacing along the entrance to the train station where the beggar used to set up each morning.

In my bag is a mirror, a cattle prod, and a Sig Sauer .45 mm pistol. I find a bank of deep shadows by the corner and observe my mark. 

The Grimlace does not seem to know that it is adorning the persona of another human being. It seems utterly lost in its contrivance—cursed—as Luis had said. It seems to be in agony every bit as much as the woman Greta who came to my clinic the other day.

Does this creature sleep? It lets out a blood-curdling chortle. Oh, my God! The beggar must have been schizophrenic. The creature is hearing voices! I see the creature begin the painful, agonizing pantomime of a schizoid talking to himself and arguing a rationalization audibly, projecting failures to a second personality or a persecutor. This is one of the most common psychotic breaks, where the mind cannot accept its own failures and must personify or anthropomorphize its afflictions.

“If you hadn’t told on me, I would’ve kept my job—

“—You were drunk… drunk… it was you—”

“—You sneaky f**k, you falsely accused me, you went to Lars and made a fuss, and see where I am now, I hope you are proud of yourself. Rat. Rat! Rat!!!—”

“—You are the one. You. You. You. A drunk. An ingrate. A lazy, good for nothing, piece of s**t—”

“—La LA la LA LA LA. Shut up. Shut up. Get away from me. Police! Police! I am being attacked. Owwww. Ow. Stop, get away!—"

“—I didn’t touch you—”

“—AHHHHHHHHHHH. Nooo. Stop. Get away. Violator. Violation. Stop hurting me. Stop talking, you dirty snitch.”

I watched the Grimlace rummaging back and forth, gesticulating manically, screaming, yelling, and talking to himself in a fierce blame jeopardy, that I know from experience can go on for many hours. The paranoid spell of a tortured mind trying to reconcile an unacceptable fate and a cruel, unforgiving world that hands down curses and bruises with indiscriminate malice.

I could find him again soon. I could make a quick detour. He would be going on like this for hours if not days. Until he was arrested, which would just land him down at the precinct.

* * *

Back at the English Theater, I find Rache Eggeman’s dressing room. He is now playing the part of the lead in every play. He has ascended to the pinnacle of the profession.

“Ahh, my adoring fan! What—do you want me to sign the Playbill?”

“Yes, yes, can I come in,” I ask.

“Here, here—come sit!” he says with glee.

But I do not sit. I take out the cattle prod and place it on the carotid artery on his neck and with a small squeeze, he shrieks and falls to the floor.

I begin my search. After a few minutes, I find the toad talisman and stow it in my bag.

* * *

Back by the train station, Dearil is still going on and on.

I take out my gun and the toad statute. I place the statute on the ground. I fire a single shot and the talisman shatters into a thousand pieces.

I look over at Dearil and see his face suddenly return to its natural state.

I walk up to him, cautiously.

“I am Hilde,” I say. “I’ve been searching for you a long time.”

“Where am I?” Dearil asks.

“The train station is just down there. What do you remember?” I ask.

“I don’t know,” Dearil says.

“You must be disoriented,” I say.

“It’s more than that, I don’t even know who I am,” Dearil says.

“Quite right. But who among us really does? We all wear a thousand masks and scarcely know where the real person begins, and the artifice ends—don’t you think?”

“Who are you?” Dearil asks.

“Let’s go back to my clinic and see if we can’t get this sorted out,” I tell him.

As we walk together in the eerie alleys of a lovely Frankfurt night, we pass by the English Theater and I watch as Dearil’s eyes sparkle with intrigue.

“What are they playing tonight?” Dearil asks.

September 16, 2023 18:03

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Ken Cartisano
18:11 Oct 18, 2023

Outstanding story. As another reader put it, a fabulous blend of crime-drama, fantasy, (it's really horror, I think) with an intriguing backdrop of live, on stage performing arts. The mc's interaction with her mother helps the reader to keep the story and the characters grounded in reality. One major correction in the word 'statuette' were you repeatedly use the word 'statute.' Otherwise, this is a great story, Jonathan.


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Martin Ross
16:11 Sep 24, 2023

Cool blending of mystery, fantasy, alternative history, and even the medical thriller genres. The contemporary details really help bring the fantasy elements to life. Noice!


Jonathan Page
07:09 Oct 07, 2023

Thank you, Martin!


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Dragon The Poet
01:02 Sep 24, 2023

I love your story!! It reminds me of Sherlock with a supernatural twist


Jonathan Page
07:10 Oct 07, 2023

Thank you, Dragon!


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Mary Bendickson
03:53 Sep 18, 2023

Another top notch entry.


Jonathan Page
04:35 Sep 20, 2023

Thanks Mary!


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Philip Ebuluofor
18:16 Sep 17, 2023

It's full of dialogue and I like the ending. Fine work.


Jonathan Page
04:35 Sep 20, 2023

Thanks Philip!


Philip Ebuluofor
19:13 Sep 20, 2023



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Philip Ebuluofor
19:13 Sep 20, 2023



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