Monday, September 30, 2013

Halloween Stories: Part XV

We received a lot of stories for our Halloween Hunt Writing Contest, and from September 16th we're publishing one each day until October 6th - when the Winner's story opens as a hunt!

Read them all and stay curious.. whose story got turned into the hunt?

The stories released are unedited and pasted as submitted to us.
- Kiana -

Today's story is by Kahleesi Wolfbane and it's called

The Secret of Death Row Island 


This is the first thing that greets me as I arrive at the island. No contact has been received now for 17 days. This is why I have been sent. Whatever the reason for the silence, I know it's not going to be good. I'm aware they chose me because they needed someone who could find answers to the secrets of the island, whatever it took.

There are places in life that you feel you would never wish to go and also places that are so bad that they could never be imagined. This is one of those places. The tang of despair hangs in the air and the smell of decay pervades my nostrils. Death Row Island; a life sentence for the most evil of convicts but also for the unfortunate citizens destined to make a living working here.

As I gaze around the emptiness of Death Row, I feel the chill of the salt air and a hear a mingle of voices whose words I can't distinguish on the breeze, these are not the voices of the living but echoes of the dead. I decide it would be unwise to continue without my luggage but on returning to the boat I see that some pesky seagulls have picked and pulled at my satchel and it takes me a moment to collect the things I need: chalk to draw magic circles, vials of blood, a sharp knife, my spell book, animal bones and wine.

I am a necromancer. This means I can raise the dead, either by summoning their spirit as an apparition or by raising them bodily. I prefer to raise their bodies, the eye can often detect things about the dead which cannot be heard in a voice. The dead have the means to foretell future events or to impart hidden knowledge. So this is my mission, to uncover the secrets hidden at Death Row Island...or to die trying.

An unkindness of ravens eye me suspiciously as I walk into the village and I'm thankful it's not a murder of crows. The irony of that would have raised the hairs on the back of my neck. I shout, "hello?" and hear my voice rebounding back at me off the surrounding cliffs. It seems no-one is here, or if they are, they're not keen to make their presence known.

I take out a stick of charcoal and draw a symbol of safety and protection on my arm. As I finish the last detail, I catch a smell of burning embers and rotting bodies on the wind, I decide to follow the scent and see where it leads me.

I enter a house to my right with a lighthouse attached wondering if I might get a chance to gain a view across the island. What I see there makes me gag on sight, a skeletal figure is rotting on the ground. The stages of his decay let me know that he has been there some time. His skin has been nibbled by vermin and his clothes are in tatters, his face has begun to rot to the skull and his nose is battered into an unrecognisable snub. Blood stains smatter the carpet, there is a rope around him and he is blindfolded with a metal cuff on one of his wrists. What I see next causes a cold chill to descend through my bones, behind him in blood on a table there is a piece of paper and written in blood are two desperate me!

I get to work quickly, using my charcoal to draw a circle of power. I rub ground animal bones on to him and begin to chant, waving my cross on its rope and saying the names of the ancient spirits. The candle lit circle tremors with power and the man slowly rises as though he has been seated for a long time on a chair at the airport.

As I remove his blindfold a few stray maggots tumble from the empty sockets. As his body lifts, it sways a little and his eyes look around confused before he shouts "Gotta run, quick...he's coming!" I hold his shoulders to support him, ignoring the squelching flesh beneath my fingers. "Who?" I ask. A shocked expression passes his face, "him" he replies raising a skeletal arm and pointing over my shoulder. For a moment, I turn horrified, convinced I'm going to come face to face with a demon or some evil monster but there is nothing but a poster on the wall behind me. "Boat's broken." He grips my wrist in a painful vice. "How did you get here? We must leave, he's coming." He tries to take a step towards the entrance of the house. His feet are unsteady and for the first time he glances down at his body. "W..wh..wha..who..what's happened to me?" I keep my voice calm and say, "Think. It's all in your memory, all you need to do is remember. I need you to tell me what happened here?"

"I was running, they wanted to take me and put me in the chair, they said I was bad because I didn't want to be improved. I like who I am, they said I needed to be shown the error of my ways. I was blindfolded and then..." He clutched his heart, and to this day, I have never seen this or anything similar happen again, he just collapsed in a rubble of bones, like he was having a heart attack. Maybe the memory was too much for him? I guess I'll never know. I'm left baffled and confused, staring at the face on the poster of a Dog Faced Man and wondering what on earth that has to do with anything.

I decide the best place to begin is a huge building that looms above me on the cliff. It was the main prison on the island for convicts and I wonder if there are still any convicts in the cells. The worst of the worst were sent to this island to keep them away from the rest of civilisation. I enter the prison called DRD and my mind fills in some blanks and comes up with 'Dread'. I know that I am dreading my next few steps. I don't want to come face to face with the person the blindfolded man was trying to escape from.

I walk past some metal wings of eternal darkness, a bullet belt, chrono fangs and horns; I wonder what sort of punishment the prison guards used to dish out. I head down towards the cells and explore. The scene around me is one of total chaos and destruction, the prison is looking more like a mental hospital than a place of incarceration. Instruments of torture, pickled brains and organs decorate the rooms. Broken wheelchairs and stilts litter the floor. In one room there is a metal body cage and a scary device that looks like it cuts into scalps. It's definitely the den of someone into anatomy and dissecting people. I wonder whether the victims truly deserved it or if this is the workings of a really sick mind. Thankfully the basement is full of plenty of victims for me to reanimate. I choose to reanimate a woman lying on a table. I draw my magic circle, begin to chant and feel the power coming to me. I splash her body with goats blood and sprinkle some ground animal bones as I repeat my words calling her to awaken. "I'll do anything!" She leaps right up, high into the air and runs around. I think to myself that I've never had such an active awakening before. I look away while she rearranges her nightdress. "I want to go to the hanging tree, please, I'd rather that than this!" I have a feeling she doesn't know what 'this' is. "I don't want to be improved" she carries on, "I'm happy as I am and I swear that I never did anything wrong. I wasn't part of the drugs den and I just ran a business in the town to be near my husband." She looks at me imploringly. Suddenly I know the right thing to do, "yes, that's right" I agree with her, "you did nothing wrong, I know, I know, you're going to be fine, you've got nothing to worry about. Now go back to sleep my Dear." She meekly climbs back on to the table and closes her eyes and goes back to sleep. I look round the final few rooms and I'm drawing my investigation there to a close when I trip on what appears to be a water pipe. Suddenly red liquid cakes the walls. In no time at all, I realise it is blood! I ignore the teeth marks that make it look like people have been nibbling on the surgical curtains and start fiddling with the valves. They're all connected together and all I have to do is get the right combination so that it stops leaking. By the time I've succeeded I'm covered in blood and scared I'll be bright red for life. "You know that Necromancer?"

" Who?"

" The Tomato one!"

It doesn't even bear thinking about!

I decide to look for a house to clean myself up in. I find a farmhouse and quickly scrub myself clean before cooking some bacon and hot dogs and settling down on the sofa. The smell of the hookah fills my nostrils and I am so tempted to indulge in some after the terrible morning I've had. I wander around to see if I can find a calmer room and stumble upon a dead body. I decide that I still need more help to fill in the missing pieces. It's an old man. He gets up grouchily and looks at me crossly. He asks if I've arrived to buy some drugs and I assure him I haven't. He tells me that the man who controls the island will be back soon and lives in this farmhouse. I quickly decide I should be on the outside looking in rather than the inside looking out. The old man is full of sayings and proverbs and our whole conversation reminds me of visiting my Nan in a nursing home. I can't help thinking it's a shame they'll never meet as I think they'd get on. He tells me how people were being accused of drug dealing but the man, who he will not name, knew that he was the cause of it all. I wonder if he's seen Harry Potter. He also informs me that people were regularly put on trial in the square if they refused to go for the prison for rehabilitation or improvement lessons. He said it was a way of publically demonstrating what happened if you did not so as you were told. He told me his soul had been stuck in limbo and that he would not rest until the chair in the town centre was fixed. He was the caretaker for the island and had died feeling that his mission was incomplete. I promised to do it straight away. As I lay him back down and closed his eyes, he pressed a piece of paper into my hand, telling me it would be useful. On the piece of paper were the words 'Cocaine Tussock.' Afterwards he said, 'All's well that ends well' and fell silent.

I set off into the town to see if I can do anything about the broken electric chair. The chair is wired up by a strange system. There are four different wires of different colours. There are four pictures on one side; a bird in a hand, two heads, hay and a pen - and four on the other; a sun, two birds in a bush, two heads and a sword. It is obvious that I have to connect the wires to the pictures but I am baffled as to which ones go where. Soon I realise they are proverbs - two heads are better than one, make hay while the sun shines, the pen is mightier than the sword and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Now I only had the issue of the wires. The four pictures on the right have numbers after them - 8, 4, 2 and 6. I soon realise that 2 is for the thinnest wire and 8 is for the thickest. In no time at all my job is done and the chair is restored to working order. As I walk away, I feel sure that I sense the old man's spirit sigh and leave the island.

Next to the farmhouse is an outhouse, a picture of Che Guevara is emblazoned on the side. I enter cautiously and realise that I'm in some kind of filming studio and I know just what sort of pictures they make here. It's not long before curiosity gets the better of me and I want to watch a DVD to see what it's all about. I peruse the collection but they're all just a list of dates, without any titles. I choose one at random and try to play it. To my annoyance the machine won't work. Spurred on by the success of my previous DIY I have a look at the controls and realise it's just a matter of making sure all the same numbers in the grid touch each other. When I rotate a dial, all the numbers on the adjacent sides to that dial need to be the same. I play with it until it works and then recline on the bed in rather bad taste to watch. Rather than a raunchy video that I am expecting, it starts with a girl mouthing 'help' in the direction of the camera and is swiftly followed by images of vile brutality. Something in me feels compelled to learn more and keep watching, in case it's important, but the truth is, I am sickened. Not only is the girl cut up but then the perpetrator, wearing a skull mask to hide his identity, proceeds to attach various things to her arms and make additions to her existing bone structure. I turn the DVD off and as I do, I spot a photo under some books. I pick it up and at that moment, I don't know what comes over me, there is a loud banging noise of something caught in the wind and maybe I'm feeling ashamed about my DVD moment because my hands shake and rip the photo. The wind catches the pieces and inconveniently spreads them around all the little business huts out the front. I spend the next hour looking for them and when I am done, I am presented with a rather strange photo of the room; the man in the skull mask is by the bed, starring directly into the lamp bulb.

As I head up to the prison watchtower I see that it is linked to the tannoy system which runs throughout the island. It must've been the main base that they used when they first felt that something was wrong on the island. There aren't any people to be seen but I acquire a nice pair of binoculars which I decide will be helpful to avoid any distant danger. I'm just about to head back down, when I notice a photo album lying on the ground. As I pick it up, the photos come cascading out and litter the floor. I sift back through them. Each page has a title and then a slot for the missing photo. I sit down and work my way through it, putting the photos into the places that I can identify that they came from. Each photo seems to have been taken from an obscure angle; they are not obvious shots of the island. I reach the final page and slot a red velvet rope shot into the empty 'church' slot when the book opens to reveal one last image. I peer at the image confused. It is a shot of the lighthouse from the watch tower but looming out from behind the tower is a face. The face is at an impossible angle, right up near the light, it seems improbable for a human to be up there without support. I'm just on the tangent of wondering if it's a vampire when a new thought hits me...the photograph has been taken during the day.

I head across to the graveyard. I've always felt at home around graves. Much of my work involves the recently deceased and although this task is a particularly horrific job, sometimes I can get a thrill from seeing people reunited with their loved ones for that final hug, kiss and reassurance or maybe to finally share some heart-felt sentiments and words that went unsaid. I stroke the gravestones clean and read the dates and names of the deceased. I play a little game with myself, seeing how fast I can work out the ages of the victims. I run from one grave to the next touching them in order and when I have the order correct from young to old, I sit down puffing heavily, wondering why I always find menial tasks which distract me from the job at hand. I enter the church wondering if I will be greeted with people praying for their lives and I see my next victim. It is a recently deceased man, still in his coffin. I guess that no-one got around to burying him in all the madness of whatever has been going on. I get my candles out and start drawing up a magic circle. I chant my words of power and pour some blood onto his forehead. I wave my cross over his body but before I even begin the awakening, his eyes flick open and stare at me with black unwavering pupils. He's soon bolt upright with speed and staring me in the face. "For goodness sake man, what do you think you're doing?" he roars at me. I'm used to negative reactions so I state clearly, "I'm raising you from the dead of course, performing an awakening, I'm..." before I can finish he cuts me off with his next words, "...but I am awake you idiot! I'm the undead, I'm permanently awake!" I redden with embarrassment realising the error of my actions. "I'm incredibly sorry Sir" I stumble.

"I should think so but what are you doing here? I thought the last living human had gone a couple of weeks ago. I haven't seen anyone in ages." I fill him in on my investigations and ask him what has been happening on the island. I feel a sense of relief to have finally met someone useful. He tells me that even he is scared to go out anymore. I find that impossibly difficult to believe, yet I can sense he is telling the truth. His reason is 'a big black super vampire that is sweeping over the island with red-glowing eyes, hounding and picking off the residents one by one'. He says he can't guarantee it's a vampire because luckily he's never got close enough to examine it but that there is something human about the creature. I ask if I can rely on him to help. He tells me that it depends on the time of year and how full the moon is; apparently this creature likes the full moon, although he assures me a flying werewolf is out of the question. We settle on a deal, if the moon is not too full and the stars burning brightest will not be Corvus or Ursula Major then he will help me with my mission. He starts getting flustered and says the light is low enough for him to give his wings a stretch. He tells me that if I hear him scream or cry out in pain I must stay hidden or it could spell death for both of us. I have a very bad feeling about this, how bad could a creature be that even a vampire is scared of it? I realise I don't have my moon chart with me and shout out behind him, "how will I know? How will I know which stars are in evidence?" He makes some strange movements with his wings. To begin with I worry that he's having a fit and is about to drop from the sky, but then when I look at the positions of the wings and the way he is holding them, I am suddenly aware that he is communicating with me in semaphore and the word he is spelling out reads t-e-l-e-s-c-o-p-e.

I hunt the island and I soon find a vintage telescope next to an old dumped television and a whole host of strange umbrellas. It's as though someone was practising flying or trying to get blown away. I look through the telescope realising that I don't have a clue what I'm looking for. I soon give up and glance down at the ground. Near my feet I notice a message, it reads:

For those who are weary of heart,

don't give up and be in the dark,

go to the place,

with the double face,

one has fallen fair of face,

they both have no eyes or mouth

but don't be in doubt...all they need is their hands.

I think to myself what has a face and hands but no eyes or mouth? Pretty soon I'm running back to the town and heading for the clock. When I get there, to my horror I realise that not only is it November and I could swear I'd begun my voyage in October but also the stars that will be brightest are exactly the ones that the vampire refused to help me around. I begin to wonder whether every creature on the island is conspiring against me.

Just as I'm thinking it's a double blow, I spy two pieces of paper; one reads 'Luna' and the other reads 'November.' I think to myself and don't I just know it! I look for some entertainment to cheer myself up and head up the hillside.

After I have visited a place called 'Plumpscuttles Peculiars', I wish that I'd heeded the notice that read 'you are advised to bring a change of trousers', as I soon find myself heading down the track and stumbling in to a building called Redrum Store. The building is guarded by a couple of werewolves and for some reason a fake reindeer but nothing surprises me on this island anymore. I feel embarrassed weaving my way past the werewolves but I remind myself that they will be naked once they transform back and I'm sure that if I threatened to hang around and catch them in that state that they would soon leave me alone. As it happens they don't seem the slightest bit interested in me and I'm allowed to pass.

When I enter the store, everything seems normal...there's a good range of clothing and as no shop assistants are in sight I rake happily amongst the items looking for something to enhance my grunge image. I discard my 'used' trousers and enjoy the feeling and the smell of brand new clothing. I walk around a bit, checking the fit, until my eyes take in a curious sight. In glass cabinets around the room are preserved bodies. I move nearer the glass, taking in the oddity. The bodies float and defy gravity, yet nothing is holding them up. I wonder what is contained within the glass, whether it was a special type of gas or invisible preservative. I flinch as a face surprises me on the other side of the glass cabinet. "Won't last long round here" he growls. I decide showing fear would be a mistake and puff out my chest. "Well I've done alright so far!" I retort. "Well that's 'til he sees you...then you'll become his latest conquest no doubt." he sneers back at me. " come he's left you alone?" I question, deciding I'd better find out what their survival strategy has been; provided it doesn't involve me growing a tail and getting furry, I should be alright. "We allow him the use of our premises to do his experiments and you are admiring some of his results. Not just into torture you know, he's fascinated by the human body too." I'm about to ask more questions, when he scratches himself viciously and walks off. I follow him out but by the time I reach the front of the store I'm just left standing with the plastic reindeer. Looking down I see caught on one of his antlers is the word 'antler'. How appropriate I mutter and add the paper to my collection. I decide to do one final sweep of the store and then to return back up the hill and to the carnival which I spied just beyond the terror that was Plumpscuttle's Peculiars!

It turns out Redrum has an underground section. I follow the stairs round and down to stone cellar. Immediately I see what the werewolf was referring to. There in front of me is an operating table which looks like it has seen recent use. To my left I see a dead person in the corner, his body is covered in scratches and he has toadstools protruding from the location where his head should've been. I decide it is likely a werewolf ripped his head off and the fungus has grown in its place but I begin to doubt how reliable the werewolves are. The centre piece of the room is another glass cabinet which sadly houses some skeletons who seem to be the result of a failed experiment or operation. It reminds me of Snow White gone wrong or Romeo and Juliet. The skeletons lie back to back, imprisoned in their glass tomb. Beyond them is a skeleton so brutalised that even the bones are stained red. On the floor of the cellar there are bones strewn around and various footprints. I quickly set to work matching up the bones to the correct animal and their footprint. Pretty soon I am sure I have collected a set of fox, wolf, deer and bear bones but the oddest thing is the bones that remain leftover...a collection of human bones. Okay so that's not strange but the extraordinary part was that the arms were human and yet not; they had some kind of deformity stretching out of them. As I turn to leave, mulling over the peculiar bones, I see a piece of paper near the blood smattered bones and it reads 'Blood vein', two words which combined together make my skin crawl.

As I enter the fairground I am greeted with a strange array of posters proclaiming, 'Nellie the Dog Child' and 'Professor Fenster' (who appears to have octopus tentacles proudly sprouting from his body). The smell of stale soup and curdled milk thickens the air and I quickly run back down to a store to collect a mask to protect me from the repulsive odours.

I am reluctant to return. I notice a sign pointing towards toilets in the distance and wonder if I'll be paying them a visit. That's if I'm even brave enough to enter and experience the hellish delights the doors are sure to conceal.

I spot more of those hideous electrocution chairs but to my delight I also spy an endearing little theatre. I pull a few poses, trying to pretend to myself that I am not here on business and that I haven't witnessed so many horrors in the past few hours.

I'm not even close to fooling myself and suddenly I feel I am mimicking the poses of death rather than entertaining myself. That's when I hear it...a moaning sound and the occasional roar. I think for a moment that maybe this is Jurassic Park and not a fairground after all. Then I spot them...two caged monsters! The first is almost human but he has visible veins covering the surface of his skin. His back is matted with hair but worst of all is his stub tail and a foot protruding from his bottom. He stands short and squat on two legs. In the cage beside him is a snake but far from tormenting each other they seem to be seated in companionable silence. The monster has a face like a dragon with sharp teeth perfect for ripping flesh and as I approach he lets loose an almighty ROOOAAAARRR while the snake lunges forwards and hisses in unison.

I see another scrap of paper but its right in the reach of the snake. I try to make it out the writing but I can't and I'm not keen to feel the force of its angry jaws around my wrist. There's a partition in the cage and I realise that if I solve the lock I'll be able to move it slowly across and trap them away from the paper. On the lock I see roman numerals and then 12 pictures...rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. I smile a knowing smile and think back to my early days as an apprentice when it was important to know the order of the Chinese new years...I remember how the animals had a race across the river to see who should be first and the strong ox was in the lead but at the last moment the crafty rat climbed up his nose and jumped on to the shore. I quickly rearrange the symbols so that the rat is next to the 'I' and gingerly I slide the partition across. I reach down and pick up the scrap of paper, it has the word 'mouse' written on it, which I decide must have been a coded clue to help the owner of the cage to remember the order of the animals.

Upon turning round I am faced with the second of the two monsters. This one looks more human than the first but he is totally covered in boils, to the point where they are bulging out the place where his eyes would once have been. His neck is non-existent, layers of boils and tumorous lumps hang uselessly from his face, his hands resemble clubs and belly is swollen and covered with pustulating abscesses, boils and crusty scabs. I consider handing him a stick to write or draw pictures for me but I soon realise his hands can't possibly grip it. How am I going to find out what went on here? Obviously he was part of a Freak Show but he must know something about the recent events that have taken place and there's no way I'm going back near the roaring of the caged beast opposite.

I sit down to ponder my options and there is the answer, hanging up high on a carousel. A girl with a red dress, swaying from a rope in the breeze.

I draw my circle of magic on the floor beneath her and trace the lines with red wine, I throw crushed animal bones skyward and swing my cross as I chant the names of the spirits.

"Daddy!" she shrieks. I look around but no it can only be me. "No I'm a necromancer, I'm afraid." I reply tentatively. "Mummy!" she tries again confused. Then she looks over my shoulder and says, "oh poor Chunk, no-one been giving him his milk bath." I realise she must be talking about the large guy with the swinging skin so I decide this is a good direction to take the conversation along. "Yes he's not looking too good today but I heard that...(I pause for effect) ummm...What's his name?" "Atlas?" she asks. "YES! Atlas! I heard that Atlas couldn't come by today." I watch her visibly relax. "Well, thats' a relief...those awful things he does...said he could cure all of us...when I first arrived he said 'Nellie, it won't always be this way, you won't always look like a dog'." She catches my shocked expression. "Hahaha...thats just it...I was a dog...well I was a dog-faced girl. He told me he could fix it, experimented on me, same as the others. He said 'one day you'll have wings girl, you'll fly, you're gonna soar. You'll be beautiful, a work of art.' But I always knew that it was ridiculous. Couldn't take it no more, Fesser broke me out of my cage with his tentacles but when I saw the fate that he suffered, I climbed up here myself. Would much rather be dead than subject to all that mutilating. Wasn't going to have my body cut to pieces for nobody, cure or no cure." I want to tell her that her face has rotted and that she no longer has a dog face anymore but I'm unsure how to progress.

"Nellie" I say quickly, realising that she should already have faded by now. "Where is Atlas? How can I find him? I need your help. Where would he be?"

"I never escaped from here" she says, "I was always locked up round here, or on a chain in the carnival, I never got to see out there." My body slumps exhausted. "Oh but I'll tell ya what! When Fesser came to break me free, he had the key to Atlas' secret diary. I'm sure you'll find all the answers in there! He left it with Chunk." I look across at Chunk wondering how to get him to move. There doesn't seem to be any helpful partition on his cage. "Nellie, what do I do? How to I move Chunk? Is he dangerous? Can I trust him? Help me?" She starts to fade and I clutch at her, she looks into the distance, somewhere far off that I can't see, and smiles. I just catch her last breath "feed him clothes and milk bath."

Looking around I realise that ice-cream is made from milk. I remember queuing in the heat of the summer for a Mister Whippy ice-cream and then waiting another decade while the prepubescent youth struggled with the top of the machine to refill it. I'm in luck, I see the milk churn lying against the van. I'm reluctant to get Chunk out of his cage so I find a brush near the toilets and set to work rubbing Chunk's body with the milk. The moment it touches his skin, he lets out a 'mmmmmm' and 'ahhh' and the awful moaning stops. He looks soothed and calm and he rolls around in the little space there is in his cage, allowing me to pick up a piece of paper reading 'Grease' and a small silver key. I decide to do Chunk a favour and leave the milk within his reach as I'm uncertain when my next visit will be or how long he'll have to wait until I can get help to arrive.

I already know where to head with my little treasure. I run down the hillside, batting off some ravens who have taken all too keen an interest in my silverware and head for the hut near the dock. In there I see a small cage, which I now realise must have been for humans; a place of capture and torture. I look around the room, taking in the pills, blueprint on the wall, mattress festering on the floor and the computer set up for games. Then I spy it, the book I'm looking for. I insert the key and apprehensively open the book. My initial spirits are dampened as I realise that I can only get so far. I see that I'm on the page that all of the pieces of paper have been torn from. In scruffy handwriting above the gaps it reads 'Password Clue'. I look at the pieces of paper - Grease, Mouse , Cocaine Tussock, Luna, November, Antler and Blood Vein and I think to what do all of these have in common?

Then it hits me, I can't believe I'd never noticed the clues before. I know exactly what Atlas was up to. I look at the inner dial with its 5 spaces to turn the letters and make a word. I take a deep breath and enter the letters M-O-T-H-S. I watch in delight as with ease the dials rotate and the book opens.

Nellie was wrong though, this isn't a diary of his secrets, it's a manual all about moths. I see his maniac scribblings, places where he has recorded his attempts to turn people into moths marked against the diagrams and moth facts. Then the last part interests me, it's a manual called 'How to Catch Moths'.

I read it carefully:

Flight Interception Trap

Step 1: Find a large cylindrical container

Step 2: Fill with alcohol as bait

Step 3: Line the surface with detergent so the moth breaks the surface tension and sinks

Step 4: Illuminate the area to attract moths

Step 5: Play a nice sound or vibration to draw the moth near - they like acoustic communication

I tell myself a mental 'Step 6: Find a large cloth to cover the cylinder'. This was going to be a very large moth that I didn't wish to escape!

Initially I think of the water tank and what a great size that would be but I worry about its distance from the lighthouse and so I settle on finding some work tools and cutting off the roof of the disused train carriage. Cutting into the top of the train produces some heart-warming sparks and I find myself humming Flash Dance as I work. Next is an enduring test of strength and stamina. I have to roll the barrels and carry the crates of beer from the farmhouse up a ramp I made with planks and tip them into their final resting place in the carriage. I think about how any man would relish the chance for a beer bath and laugh to myself that beer will be the bait. Finding detergent is my hardest task, it doesn't seem like anything on this island has been cleaned for years. I visit the cliff top and move the organ down to the railway track. I go up to the lighthouse and sabotage the levers making sure that the light can only shine in one direction and that location is the train carriage. I place every mirror I can find around the edges of the trap so that the carriage is aglow in a dazzling spot light. Finally I retrieve a large sail that has been abandoned at the dock. Now all I need to do is wait for the full moon to rise...

As the moon rises I seat myself at the organ. I am used to the strange, eerie and sublime so I feel excited that tonight will be my last great push to solve the mystery of the island and get back home. I twist on my stool looking up into the night air as I play the few notes I know of Chopin's funeral march. I play them repeatedly hoping that my moth is drawn to its ominous tune tonight. I feel the tension mounting and know that I must be getting close as bats turn up to munch on the night time insects that seem to be flocking and arriving at my bug ball.

Suddenly a shadow is cast over me from above, I twist my head trying to catch a glimpse of the cause and all the while listening optimistically for a nearby 'plop'. As the light is cut again I look up and get my first look at the beast that is sweeping towards me. Silhouetted against the night sky is a man with what appears to be 10ft wings. His eyes are glowing red, a skull shape glistens on his body and he has a long proboscis feeling out the night air. As he swoops over me I feel jubilant that he is heading towards my trap but to my horror, my organ playing seems to have worked a little too well. He sucks me up with his long proboscis and swoops us both off into the night. We swerve around the island and I feel my clothes begin to disintegrate and get moth eaten on our travel. I refuse to think about the sensation his proboscis will create against my skin and I begin to look for an escape route; if I'm not quick to react I will be joining him in his alcoholic grave. I feel in my pockets for a weapon. Just when I'm going to have to give up, I feel the lighter from the bong. Realising my timing is going to be everything, as he swoops and dives in the light, I reach up and burn his wings. He drops me on the hill by the lighthouse as he carries on down to the carriage. He teeters for a bit confused and then crawls up and in to the beer filled carriage. For a moment I watch as his claw lined wings flounder around the entrance and I brace myself for his re-emergence but he no longer reappears. Walking steadily over to the sail, I flap it up over the top of the carriage and lay him to rest in his intoxicated state. I think to myself, he lived life with drugs and now he will die with drugs. I wonder what people will think of my story when I retell it and whether they'll be disappointed that I killed a moth man. I spend a few minutes of silence, in respect for the dead; those who died so that he could run his experiments into flying people. Then I summon a magic portal and with one easy step, I am hurtling homeward, leaving the abandoned island as a distant memory.

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