Horror Historical Fiction Suspense

Catherine Mosby always suspected there was something quite unusual about her husband Elan, but she could never quite put her finger on it.  While a ne'er-do-well in the lower rings of London’s society, Elan had his sights set on moving up the ladder of his current social club since his business had a very profitable fiscal year.  She had heard he had made inquiries near Chelsea which made her hopeful that their fortunes would soon be on the upswing.  

Elan did his best to keep her in the dark about his business and social dealings.  All too often, he had taken her to gatherings where she did not know a single soul which made her cling closer to him during these affairs.  Most of the people were polite, but upon closer inspection, she saw this dismissive look in their eyes.  Not being one to pry, she just accepted her station without complaint or protest.  

After all she had come from the lower end of London where the lighting was as poor as the people who inhabited the cramped neighborhoods.  If it ever stopped raining, the hovels would remain damp, often spurring the onset of tuberculosis in some of the places.  Most of the men were crude at their best and the women were often worn out from continual childbirth until exhaustion swept them into an early grave.  

Miraculously, she had been spared this horrible outcome, but in the deal she had made with the masters of fate, she would remain ignorant of Elan Weatherford Mosby’s dealings which seemed shady and underhanded.  His shop was a few blocks west of Fleet Street, a tiny closet of poor lighting and heating, but there was always a parade of well dressed gentlemen patronizing his establishment.  When she ventured to his place of business, it was solely to do the books and ledgers.  Some of the totals she would enter were quite substantial.

Much of the conversation she would overhear was about the war with the rebellious colonies across the ocean.  Many of them sneer and mock  at all the fuss and feathers being expended in such a futile cause.

“My word, Elan, such ado at this worthless enterprise.” One of them would expound before drinking some tea Elan had poured the gentlemen. 

“Quite agree, Sir Martin.” He would bow his head.

“Are we still on for this evening?” He would place the empty cup on the counter.

“Indubitably.” He would puff out his chest.

“I shall see you then, chap.” He would tip his hat with his walking stick as he exited the shop.

Catherine would pretend that she heard none of this.  She would place the ledgers in their proper place and mumble, “Finished.”

“Splendid.” He would nod approvingly. “Here my dear, a few shillings to get a carriage home.” 

“I shall walk.” She insisted.

“Not in this neighborhood.” He shook his hand, shoving the money at her. 

The carriage driver spoke in a thick cockney dialect that was jumbled and filled with colloquialisms that she barely understood.  Her feeble attempts to understand what he was saying made him more belligerent and truculent until she began to think that her original idea of walking home alone was preferred.

As the weeks went by, Elan became stranger and harder to deal with as she dealt with the children, Giles and Penelope single-handedly making sure they both had what they needed throughout the day.  Giles took after his father.  Even though he was just ten-years-old, he demanded his mother maintain a level of perfection and proper decorum in all matters of the household while Penelope preferred to be called Penny and lavished in a world of make-believe and a magic only she was privy to.

Even in his secretive meetings with the Higher Order of the Lycanthrope, Catherine was well educated enough to know a lycanthrope was just another word for a shapeshifter of ancient Druid mythology. While pagan practices gave way to Christian beliefs, there were many who still believed in the Ancient Ways.  Catherine tended to pooh-pooh them when before she met Elan, but little by little she saw and heard things that were not natural, at least through God’s Law.

One Sunday, after midday service, Vicar Rottenridge was shaking hands with his congregation departing St. Blaise Church, Catherine was fortunate to have a chat with the vicar. 

“My dear Mrs. Mosby, what can I do for you?” He smiled as he gently took her hand. 

“I am quite concerned about my husband, Elan.” She said lifting her veil, 

“He is not a regular here at St. Blaise, now is he?” It was not really a question. 

“True.” She nodded, “But my concern is with this society that seems to have absorbed most of his time.”

“What would be the name of this society.” He put strong emphasis on “society.” 

“The Higher Order of the Lycanthrope.” She said barely above a whisper as other members wandered past in close proximity.  He turned his head to make sure there were no eavesdroppers before responding and when he did, he chose his words with great care.

“I have heard of this order.” He coughed into his closed fist, “I fear that their practices contradict the teachings of Jesus Christ our Savior.”

“I feared as much.” She let out a deep breath that she had been holding in. 

“These followers are dangerous.  They openly practice pagan rites. While they all wish to become lycanthropes, Nature prevents their transition, but my fear is one day their quest will be successful.” 

“And then what?” She put her gloved hand to her open mouth. 

“Then there will be a creature from Hell itself wandering the streets of this neighborhood.” He put his hand to his chin.”If and when this happens, we must search and destroy this creature or else suffer the will of the devil.” 

He put his hand on her elbow, drawing her near as there were still random members milling about the area and he did not want them to hear what he was about to tell Catherine.

His blue eyes became blue globes intended to penetrate her moral soul as he spoke in a very somber tone, “You must get Elan free from these fiends before his soul is lost for eternity in their diabolical plan.  I have heard tell of stories from those who have seen the lycanthropes. These creatures have no place in God’s earth.”

Catherine walked home with Father Rottenridge’s words running through her head.  When she entered their home, Elan was sitting at the kitchen table with an old tome open in front of him. The pages were yellow with age and the script was done with a flourish of expertly crafted calligraphy and illustrations in the margins.  The illustrations depicted creatures of monstrous dimensions feasting on human flesh, gorging on helpless victims with a full moon hanging in a forlorn night sky. 

“What are you staring at, my dear?” Elan looked up at Catherine whose eyes were wide with terror. 

“What is this?  What form of blasphemy are you seeing?  With the children about.” Her voice was a low growl that came from a place she did not even know existed. 

“It simply described a ritual we are contemplating for using in our Society of the Higher Order of the Lycanthrope.” He shrugged, his eyes humored by her curiosity in such morbid  fascination. 

“Tell me you are not thinking of creating these creatures of damnation from the ninth circle of Hell?” She asked with great trepidation. 

“Since when have you shown any interest in my dealings with the society?”  He slammed the book shut that sounded like a heavy clap of thunder. 

“Since it involved that which is sacred and profane.” She hissed.  

“What would you know of it?  You have only been fed one side of the story from those who profess to be men of God.” He sneered at her, “The only way the truth can be revealed is if we know both sides.  When Satan tempted Jesus, he offered Jesus power beyond imagination.  I desire that power.” 

“Are you willing to exchange your soul in the process?” Her eyes were wide as she studied the man she thought she knew, but was finding out she had been fooled. 

“Immortality!” He slammed his fist down on the wooden table, “Knightsbridge.  Imagine raising our children with the lords and kings of England. We would send armies of lycanthropes to the colonies that would crush their rebellion in days, sending the treasonous scoundrels running to the hills.  We would imprison King George in the Tower of London where he would be left to die in complete isolation.” 

“When?” She croaked through the tears that were running down her face.

“Soon.  We have one member who has volunteered to do the transformation.” He cackled.  

“And who would that be?” 

His smile widened as he uttered, “Me.” 

She found out that the ceremony would take place in the secret chamber of their meeting hall.  It was forbidden for anyone not a member of the society to enter these chambers, but Catherine would find a way even if she was destroyed in the process. 

Help often comes in the most unexpected ways.  After the following Sunday service, Joe Bennett, St. Blaise’s janitor, approached Catherine.  Joe was ignored by most of the congregation due to a limp leg he was born with, but he knew the church inside and out and he knew about satanic rituals.

“Missus Mosby.” He called out as she prepared to leave the church.  She turned and upon seeing him dressed in his dirty knee britches and stained shirt, she wondered why he would be interested in talking to her, “Do you have a minute?”

She did not wish to be rude since the sermon was about treating all people as God’s children.  She turned to acknowledge him hoping it would be a small matter, “Yes, Mr. Bennett?” 

“It has come to my attention that someone close to you is a member of the Society of the Higher Order of the Lycanthrope.” He said without blinking an eye.  The word lycanthrope froze her in her tracks. “I have some information that may assist you.”

“How did you know?” She was stunned.

“Ack, word gets around, especially when it comes to matters of that nature.” His voice was barely a hoarse whisper, “What you need is light.”

“Light?” She blinked a couple of times at the simplicity of his word.

“Aye, for that which is done in the darkness will dissolve in the light.” His blue eyes nearly twinkled as he spoke, “You must bring the light to this ritual if you wish to end it.”

“How?” She felt his sincerity.

“Each day brings the light.” He nodded, tipping his hat to end his conversation.

That evening as she prepared the stew for dinner, she thought about what Joe Bennett had told her.  With light present, there could be no transformation.  The ritual did allow candles, but the members were only allowed to hold one.  The candle light was considered artificial.  Only a naturally generated light like the sun would be sufficient, but the chamber, where was this secret chamber?  She doubted that there would be any access to the light outside from a window or portal.

“Soon it shall be.” Elan told her as she stirred the stew, “And there will be nothing you can do to stop it.” 

“I have no intention of stopping anything.” She shrugged.

“Be that as it may, you cannot stop the inevitable.” His grin was wide, “And once I have been transformed, I intend to take my rightful place in this world as I have been promised.” 

The streets were dark and in the darkness the dregs of streets shuffled in a syncopated dance to avoid the elements that seemed to seek them out.  Catherine moved as quickly as she could, knowing that any hesitation could get her throat cut for the sheer pleasure of the act.

“Missus Mosby.” She heard his familiar voice as Joe Bennett stepped out of a particularly dark alley.

“Mr. Bennett.” She pulled her hood down so he could see it was her.

“I will take you to the chamber.” He put his hand on her shoulder, “But you must trust me.  Tonight is the transformation. If it is allowed to happen, Elan Mosby will be immortal.  Nothing can stop him.”

“It is hard.” Her voice caught in her throat, “He is the man I loved and married.” 

“I understand, but once he is transformed, he will no longer be that man.” He began to walk faster, pulling her along behind him.  

Rain continued to fall filling the cobblestone gutters and creating deep puddles in some of the places they had to walk. Catherine’s toes were now wet and numb, but she knew the dire circumstances of their destination.

“Here.” Joe stood in front of a dark store front.

“Here?” She saw no sign of human occupation, but Joe was quick with his keys and in a minute, the door swung open. 

“Follow me.” He went inside.  Once inside she saw mannequins and odd masks.  A musky odor hung in the air of mold and wood rot, but there were no leaks as the interior seemed dry despite the awful smell. “Up these stairs.” 

Catherine followed him up three flights of steep stairs.  There was barely enough light to see each step.

“We must hurry.” Joe said over his shoulder, “It’s nearly dawn.” 

“But it’s raining.” Catherine nearly stumbled on a step, but Joe quickly caught her arm so she would not fall.

“The rain will cease.” He assured her.

There were muffled voices coming from behind a closed door.  Putting her ear to the door, Catherine could not recognize what was being said.

“It’s in ancient Celtic.  The Black Mass has begun.  We don’t have much time.” He shook his head.

“How are we going to get through this door.  It’s locked.” She turned the knob but there was no give.  When she turned, she saw Joe open the thick curtains covering the window.  She wondered why he had done that, but at this point was content to be near the chamber where her husband was about to complete his transformation.  

What would happen if they just walked away and let it happen?  What harm would it do?  Perhaps there would be a few more grisly murders, but then there were several grisly murders each night in this over-crowded city.  

Joe fell to his knees in front of the door and bowed his head.

What was he doing?  Why was he just kneeling in front of the door while the ceremony in the chamber was continuing?  

From down in the bowels of the ancient structure, a wind began to rise carrying with it debris of all kinds. The wind became more and more powerful until the large double wooden doors in front of Joe began to groan in protest.  With a nod of his head, the doors blew off their hinges.

Catherine could not believe her eyes.

In the center of the pentagram, her husband lay naked, but his arms were contorted and his mandible became elongated.  There were thirteen members standing in a circle around him dressed in hooded robes, each holding a taper and speaking in the ancient language of the Celtic.  With each word they breathed, Elan moved as if he was being struck by lightning.

“He is nearly transformed.” Joe stood up.

“Bennett, you have been banished!” One of the hooded members cried out.

“Banished.” He ran into the chamber and pulled the covering off of the mirror.

At that exact moment, the sun broke across the horizon in a brilliant display of the dawn’s first light.  The clouds parted like Moses parting the Red Sea and the light reflected directly into the mirror.

Catherine turned to look at Elan who screamed as his skin began to sizzle.  It was as if the flames of Hell were incinerating him.

“Brother Elan!” One of the hooded figures cried out. He ran to Elan who was in excruciating pain as his skin burned from his bones, but there was nothing the hooded man could do for him.  

“How could you do this to me?” Elan managed to say to Joe as he continued to burn in the light of the new dawn.

“What you are doing is evil.” Joe shuddered and fell face first to the floor.  He did not move.

“The transformation has not taken place.” The hooded man kneeling by Elan's side declared as nothing remained of Elan other than bone and ash. “How could you do this to your own husband, the father of your children?” 

Catherine did not answer him, instead she went to check on Joe Bennett, but she saw he was no longer breathing.

Catherine would never remarry since she could not get rid of the horrible memory of watching her husband Elan roasted in the flames of Hell right in front of her eyes. Or finding Joe Bennett succumbing to powers beyond his reckoning.  From what she had heard, the Society of the Higher Order of Lycanthrope had disbanded rather than face possible prosecution for treason since Elan Mosby had drafted a document similar to the one Thomas Jefferson had written for the colonies. Years later, Catherine would joyfully attend the wedding of her son Giles followed a few years later by her daughter Penelope, but the legend would reflect that she would carry her secret to the grave. 

September 11, 2021 23:31

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Bruce Friedman
20:25 Sep 19, 2021

Amazing story. Congratulations. Professional in ever way.


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Nice Job!!!


23:47 Sep 17, 2021

Thank you




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