Monday, April 7th 1851
A surprise letter arrived today from a past comrade, Professor Peter McDonald. I had mixed feelings upon receiving the letter as this man had been a fellow student at Oxford University around a decade ago. We had been friends of sorts while at school but seemed to have little in common. He had followed the path of archaeology and I that of psychology. We had kept in touch for a year or two after graduation but once I set up my practice in London and he had begun adventuring around the globe we just lost touch. To paraphrase Peter’s letter it was an invitation to visit him for Christmas at his home in Romania. He believes he has discovered something in his past travels that may interest me. I confess I am slightly intrigued. Perhaps what it is the professor wishes to share would be of great importance to me. I ask myself though, why now? Retired and quite accustomed to my London life I fear Eastern Europe will do little to entertain my mind, my body and certainly not my soul. I will consider his offer and write back my decision of whether or not I have decided to accept.
Wednesday, April 30th 1851
Another letter has appeared from Professor McDonald, this one accompanied with still shots of the item in question of which he is so desperate to show me. I admit that my curiosities have been awakened. The images seem to show a large jewel of some sort. The lack of color of the pictographs and the poor quality causes me feelings of disappointment, verging on annoyance. Of equal measure I feel the beginnings of excitement, the anticipation of reacquainting with a colleague chum and being able to see for myself the special jewel he writes of as well as other oddities and treasures Peter has been able to acquire across his career digging in the dirt.
Thursday, July 17th 1851
Strange, Professor McDonald has requested that I attend his property in Romania a number of months earlier than he had originally planned. I dare not refuse his invitation; a ticket for the ferry from Dover to Calais in France was contained within. I must say I am intrigued as to the reasoning behind this earlier date. I shall examine my maps and thoroughly plan this upcoming adventure. With luck I shall be sipping brandy with the professor by early autumn.
Sunday, August 10th 1851
I must say the Europe I have discovered beyond my beloved homeland is much worse for wear. Transportation is rickety at best. Many a train joining Belgium and Germany was cancelled, causing me unacceptable delays. I fear it will not be until mid-September that my travels will finally end. To ease the mind of my invitee I have switched from letter to telegram. Professor McDonald urges for haste but aside from growing wings myself I cannot fly, my only option is to await the repair to rail system or attempt an uncomfortable and expensive coach ride. I am daily attempting to calm the professor. Peter’s desire to have my company attend his Romanian property seems almost manic. Still that image teases me and urges me forward. Where there is a will there is always a way.
Tuesday, September 16th 1851
I have been convinced by my colleague that coach is unfortunately the only option. He has wired a substantial amount to my account with the promise of more funds should they be required. I plan to source a driver mad enough to drive me from Berlin to Bucharest by the end of the week. I have rediscovered prayer and hope that a significant contribution to the church will be suffice to guarantee me as safe a drive as possible. I light a candle each night before bed and have purchased a broach depicting Saint Christopher. I fear September will prove tough for me, both physically and mentally. I hope I am up to the journey and that the reward promised will be worthy of my efforts.
Monday. September 29th 1851
The cabbie named Bruce has become my favorite person. His professionalism through difficult terrain, his ability to negotiate with locals and speak numerous languages is all that has enabled me to arrive somewhat safely in Romania’s quaint capital. I bade farewell to my man with a sufficient compensation for his troubles and have now settled in plain but ample accommodations for the evening. I have noted that the night’s sky seems to show far more stars here than back home. I have advised Professor McDonald of my successful arrival and I await his reply. Again I have chosen to visit one of the churches. My faith has grown tenfold after the success of my most recent travels.
Tuesday, September 30th 1851
I was alerted at dawn that a coach had arrived requesting my personage. I demanded a reprieve to allow me a brief breakfast and the chance to freshen up. I did not look forward to another journey by coach and wanted as long a delay as possible between rides. Admittedly I should not have been so concerned. The vehicle sent by McDonald was a far superior contraption. It impressed with polished wood of jet black, four milky white stallions driving the cab and an interior of plush velvet. Not only did this cab surpass my most recent experience of said transportation, it was of finer quality than my dwellings of the previous night. The driver greeted me curtly but with professional politeness. I assumed this was due to my tardy presentation. The hour journey displayed some stunning scenery and I began to realize just why the professor had chosen to settle in what I had originally thought was too remote a part of the world.
At the culmination of our cross country venture I was privileged to bear witness to the McDonald homestead. To call such merely a house would be insulting, the rolling gardens, the great tower with observatory, manicured lawns, tennis court; the place was a mansion at least, perhaps better described as a recluse’s palace. My friend awaited my arrival and was there to throw open the coach’s door as the four steeds were commanded by the gruff driver to a standstill. My first impressions of Peter McDonald upon locking eyes upon him were that he depicted an unexpected youthfulness. He showed no signs of weathering expected of those spending young adult years trooping through desert, jungle or iced tundra. Equally his energized greeting matched his appearance, another surprise. He hurried me within the great McDonald mansion and impressed me with a thorough tour of his establishment. As a brilliant historian the man of course knew the previous owners of house and land, Peter was able to trace back to the original Count who had the place built some two hundred years previous. As impressive his knowledge I was disappointed that Peter’s tour failed to include the unveiling of the jewel. If he had noted my annoyance he made no sign. A gallant host we enjoyed the remainder of the day feasting, drinking and speaking fondly of school memories. In truth it was I who did most of the feasting. Peter claimed he had eaten before my arrival. He made up for a lack of food with copious brandies and the majority of conversation. My journey to see Peter had tired me, I retired earlier than my host had desired, but he was kind enough to release me when I could remain awakened no longer.
Thursday, October 2nd 1851
Peter’s youthful appearance and abnormal vitality continues to perplex me. My concern deepens when I also consider I am yet to witness him eat. It plagues me as quite the oddity. Pondering the quandary I am also confused as to why he has requested my immediate arrival and now I am here seems to have no rhyme or reason for my presence. I attempted to calculate the sums he must have spent to draw me here. The puzzle pieces are there for the fitting put not even I can see which way they fit.
Friday, October 3rd 1851
Peter has been far more childish today. He hints that there is a great surprise he is dying to show me. There is still no sign that my friend is eating and there is still no sign of the great treasure, the jewel. Last night I was awoken just after the witching hour to strange sounds, murmurings that seemed to reverberate within the very walls. The moon, still a week away from being full seemed twice its normal size. The stars seemed to blink brighter. Then the song ceased, for as I strained to hear more clearly the vibrations seemed like music until their end. The sky’s orb and blanket of stars reverted back to as they should. I questioned my own sight, my own sanity. With extreme difficulty I returned to bed and attempted a return to sleep.
Sunday, October 5th 1851
I spent yesterday and today in the house library. Here I discovered Peter has journals of his time out in the field of historical discovery. The man should be very proud of his career, a number of world renowned museums would have little to show if it were not for Professor Peter McDonald. As childish and playful as this man seems to be I find spending time with his journals a way to deepen my respect.
Wednesday, October 8th 1851
Sleep still eludes me. The song seems to replay in my mind throughout each day. I find I am humming the tune as I turn the journal pages. In fact it does not seem strange at all that since first hearing the reverberations in the walls and discovering the library I have not seen my host. Tomorrow I must seek him out and congratulate him on his accomplishments. I have one journal remaining as yet unread. I hope this is the volume containing the clues regarding the mysterious jewel.
Thursday, October 9th 1851
Today I met Peter in the library. I had planned to begin my search for the man straight after my morning meal. Instead I was drawn back to that final volume. To see Peter waiting for me was a shock to say the least. He smiled however and greeted me politely. He had a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
“It is time!” he announced, no explanation for his absence or the strange nightly noises.
“Time I saw this fabled jewel?”
Before my very eyes the professor began to undress. First he unbuttoned his shirt and peeled this away. Next he removed part of his face and the youthfulness vanished, replaced by withered leather like that of an ancient and dusty tome. He smiled at my astonishment. I noted black tendrils like trails of ink, the source the left side of Peter’s chest. That is when he peeled back another layer to further reveal muscle and bone, and a crimson jewel the size of a fist right where his heart should have been.
“It only took a month after I discovered this treasure before it began to sing to me.”
Peter continued to strip off layers. His vibrant head of hair fell to the carpeted library floor. Instead I discovered serpent-like ropes of black and grey leather sprouting from the professor’s scalp. The more my friend stripped back that false agelessness the more like a monster he became. Throughout his being Peter showed evidence of the black ink spreading, polluting, mutilating and morphing him.
“What is it doing to you?” I wondered aloud.
“That is what I was hoping you could tell me Doctor,” Professor McDonald replied to my query.
Again my eyes drifted about his person and rested upon the jewel.
“Of course I do not refer to my physical changes… They are easy to explain,” added the professor. “I refer to the way the song is bringing me back to my early childhood, a regression I noticed back in late February or early March.”
I understood then why Peter had urged me to hasten to his side. If I had come earlier perhaps I could have saved him. Now I feared the full moon tomorrow night, the song and most of all the whisperings that I could now hear in my own mind…