Back in 2015, I was approached by Spanish eBook publishers Equinox to contribute a short story to their Esoteric Horror anthology “Junto a la Hoguera” (By the Bonfire)
Having churned out reasonable prose through earlier endeavours, the challenge was eagerly accepted. The editors would translate my scribblings into their native tongue, so I could relax a little on the grammar. (Some of which has been tidied up for this reissue.)
For the topic of the tale, I looked back to my homeland. “The Lambton Worm” is a famous legend from the North-East of England, well known by a folk song that still resonates from my childhood.
The legend tells of a young nobleman, John Lambton, who fishes up a tiny worm from the River Wear. Thinking nothing of it, he casts it aside before going off to fight in the crusades. Upon his return, the worm has grown to terrorise the land, and it is up to John to vanquish the beast.
As is the way of folklore, the story changes with each retelling. I chose to approach it through a modern, Lovecraftian lens. Deconstructing the mythology behind the legend, and how the stories we tell our children can be more palatable metaphors for deeper, darker concepts.
With a working title of “Worm Hill”, it was soon renamed to “The Womb of the Wyrm” as writing progressed. A title obviously influenced by similar from Skyclad (and used with permission), although it bears no relation to the topic of their song.
Having grown up under the shadow of Penshaw Hill; I was, and am, grateful for the opportunity to revisit such a profound influence on my imagination.
Whisht! lads, haad yor gobs, An' aa'll tell ye aall an aaful story, Whisht! lads, haad yor gobs, An' Aa'll tel ye 'boot the worm. - Traditional
I am… was… am an educated man. A man of Christian principles and noble deeds. An aid worker in lands once holy, now and forever drenched in blood and sorrow. Refugees sought my knowledge and wisdom, and I gained proud satisfaction as countless families huddled under jury-rigged canvas and the comfort of the Cross. But all things must come to an end, and the memories swirled around my mind as I boarded the plane that would eventually take me to England. Home.
The journey back to Heathrow was strenuous, but I immediately secured a hire car for my duties. Exhausted from the flight, I drove North along the very backbone of Britain, homeward bound to Wearside and the traditional Northern weather. Clouds thickened at Scotch Corner, their blackness erupting in torrential rain and lightning as the Angel of the North loomed on the horizon. It had been a long time since I had witnessed rain so strong, and in a way I welcomed the deluge.
Each of us has a story. A sequence of events which only begin to make sense after the act. We tie these events into narrative in some vain attempt to derive meaning from the mediocre nothingness of it all. As the Angel diminished in my rear-view mirror I wonder if I knew then how far I would fall from grace, and what fundamental transformation would befall me.
I do not offer excuse or explanation for the events which transpired in the days that followed. This is no tawdry confession, nor a plea for understanding and forgiveness.
This is my testament.
One Sunday morn young Lambton went A-fishing' in the Wear; An' catched a fish upon he's heuk, He thowt leuk't varry queer. But whatt'n a kind of fish it was Young Lambton cuddent tell. He waddn't fash te carry'd hyem, So he hoyed it doon a well.
It was night when I parked the car at the hospital. Although a warm hotel room waited elsewhere, I could not rest until I knew for certain. Pulling my coat tight around me, I splashed across the carpark to reception and the waiting Police Officer. We walked wraith-like through dimly lit hospital corridors, the smell of antiseptic and death tainting my nostrils. The Officer was as taciturn as expected as we made our way past politely labelled signage to the mortuary.
The door swung open and I blinked as the brightness of the mortuary contrasted with the low lighting outside. The mortuary attendant hastily put down his sandwich mid-bite, standing to greet me while checking a clipboard.
“I wasn’t expecting you tonight. John Lamb, right? And you’re here for… yes…” He moved over to a wall of drawers. The likes of which I had seen so many times before in crime dramas. And here was my own drama, playing out in real time. A knot grew in my stomach.
The Police Officer interjected “We just need you to identify the body, sir.” The attendant opened a drawer, and slowly, excruciatingly, pulled the tray out.
Dear Lord, Billy. What happened to you? My baby brother lay before me on the tray, face contorted in pain. Devoid of life, but not at peace. I stared at his cold, pallid body. Awe and revulsion washed over me in ever-descending waves. I had seen bodies before, but not like this.
“Can you identify the body, sir?” the Police officer asked with some frustration in his voice. I realise I had been lost in thought, and he had been asking for a while.
“Yes. Sorry. Yes. Billy, err… William Lamb.” I half-heartedly signed the clipboard while unable to look away from Billy’s face, wondering how it could have happened. How terrible his final moments must have been.
“Snakebite, we think.” The attendant piped up. “We won’t know for certain until the toxicology reports are complete. Here. I can show you the marks.”
The Police Officer placed a hand on the drawer, sternly reprimanding the attendant. “There’s no need to speculate at this moment. The investigation will explain everything.”
The attendant grumbled, returning to his sandwich as the Officer calmly, firmly slammed the
Noo Lambton felt inclined te gan An' fight i' foreign wars. he joined a troop o' Knights that cared For nowther woonds nor scars, An' off he went te Palestine Where queer things him befel, An' varry seun forgat aboot The queer worm i' the well.
The church bells pealed in solemn timbre as I joined a handful of mourners at the funeral, standing around the open grave in the rain. There were few present, mostly Billy’s co-workers, and I didn’t recognise any of them. I was a stranger to everyone present, including the body.
Misadventure, the coroner claimed. The Toxicology reports were inconclusive. Just another unexplained mystery. The thought nagged at the back of my mind as the vicar gave a bland, inconsequential eulogy. Coldly delivering facts derived from public record and workmate anecdotes. Never once reflecting the essence of the man, the passions and pride that may have driven him. Just superficial sympathy and hollow platitudes.
The pall bearers lowered the coffin into the ground and handed me a shovel. As the only surviving family member, it was my duty to arrange the ceremony and to lay down the first clod of earth. I dug into the loose dirt and half-heartedly cast it onto the wood.
I glanced downward at the soil and saw a worm, rather half a worm, wriggling atop the pile. I must have cut it with the shovel. I watched it writhe its last and die, and my mind wandered.
I had witnessed the horrors bestowed by religion. Blasted minarets and the dance of spent shell on sand. Families torn apart by the slightest misinterpretation of scripture. Yet arrogantly, I considered myself a man doing God’s will. The universe existing with divine purpose, and my part in the grand scheme clearly stated. Yet with the selfishness that grows from familial attachment, I felt Billy’s death especially futile and pointless. And I couldn’t help but wonder if things would have been different had I never left home.
I was alien on this holy ground, unconnected with the other mourners. And the church itself was alien to this land. A temple wrought in stone to a distant desert faith. We were all out of place. Rejects from Jerusalem in a mean, unpleasant land.
I gripped the shovel handle hard, pushing the blade into the ground as a sense of anger welled up inside me. Anger at the sheer audacity of religion, of man’s destruction in the name of divine will.
And anger at myself for not being here sooner.
But the worm got fat an' growed and' growed An' growed an aaful size; He'd greet big teeth, a greet big gob, An' greet big goggle eyes. An' when at neets he craaled aboot Te pick up bits o' news, If he felt dry upon the road, He milked a dozen coos.
The ceremony over, the coffin covered, all present began to go their separate ways. Hands shook and hollow, insincere promises to keep in touch were made. The cold comfort of mourners who never really knew each other yet felt they had to do something.
I stepped out of the cemetery into the domain of the living, and a curious figure on the pavement outside caught my eye. A short-haired chubby woman wearing bright red-framed spectacles and colourful, almost garish clothes – a notable contrast to the sombre shades of funeral attire. She must have been in her early 30s, and waved at me to gain my attention. I made some steps towards her, and she shuffled up. I noticed her eyeshadow was equally colourful – a rainbow pattern which naturally drew my own eyes to hers.
“Are you John? John Lamb?” she asked with great enthusiasm. Looking closer, I noticed her jewellery bore a variety of occult symbols, some of which were familiar. Others intriguingly less so.
“I knew Billy. I knew your brother.”
I snapped back into the conversation. “You weren’t at the funeral?”
“That’s right, I wasn’t.” she paused for a while, scrutinising me as carefully as I had studied her. “Say, we can get pissed on here, or we can get pissed in the pub. There’s one I’d love to take you to.”
I certainly needed a drink, but there was something else about this woman. Something oddly captivating. With hope I may find some meaningful answers, I accepted her offer.
Her name was Claire, and she took me to a pub a little further south than I was expecting. A place called ‘The Lambton Worm.’ – A curiously named establishment, but it certainly seemed cheerful enough. Pints bought, we sat down and conversed.
“So you knew Billy? Were you…”
“Yes, yes we were.” She grinned with scarlet lips and a wide smile.
I asked about him, how she knew him, how they met. All the trivia. I discovered Billy had nurtured his fascination with local history and mythology, an interest we shared as children and which fascinated Claire also.
“You ever wonder how these pubs get their names?” she gushed, “I mean, this one. ‘The Lambton Worm.’ You know the story, right?”
“Aye, we sang the song as children. ‘Whisht! lads, haad yor gobs…’”
She laughed. “Yeah, they teach it to kids, but they never tell them what it represents. Young Lord Lambton found a tiny little beastie and threw it down the well before heading off to the Crusades. He comes back a man and discovers the Wyrm has grown. So he has to kill it, cursing his family line. Usual brave dragon slayer story, yes?”
“Here’s the thing. The Wyrm is a metaphor.” Her hands were animated, punctuating each thought with a wave of her colourfully manicured fingers. “Think of it not as a physical creature, but a representation of pagan, pre-Christian faith. He leaves the land to go fight a Holy War, and the old ways grow and fester. He comes back and has to defeat them to save the land, damning himself in the process.”
“I’d never seen it like that.”
“It’s everywhere. In all mythology. The Wyrm. The Snake. The Serpent. This primeval force of magick and mystery. All the way back to creation myth. Adam and Eve tempted by the serpent to seek knowledge. Saint Patrick drove the Snakes – Pagans – out of Ireland. Mallory, you know Mallory right?”
“Le Morte D’Arthur?”
“Yes. The snake again. The Battle of Camlann. The forces of Arthur Pendragon and his bastard, pagan son Mordred faced each other in uneasy truce. All it took was an adder biting a soldier’s foot and the great war between the new and old ways kicked off. It’s all there, John. It’s all connected.”
I was intrigued by her passion for these things, a topic I’d personally grown out of. She spoke truth, or at least a plausible perception of truth, and I found myself fascinated by her talk of mythology and legend. Without realising it, I found myself dizzy and light-headed, hypnotised by harlequin eyes. As I stared deep into them she hit me with the clincher, cutting deep under any sense of reason and respectability as she ever so deliberately squeezed my hand.
“You remind me of him so much.”
We didn’t stay for a second drink.
It was what it was. Clumsy, desperate hotel-room fucking, without grace or higher purpose. Spent and weary, mind conflicted with emotion, I drifted off to sleep alongside her. Naked and with the barest of shame.
I fell into a fitful, troubled sleep. My mind plagued with visions of snakes and worms and Billy’s face. The dream coalesced in rushes of abstraction and clarity. Primal notions. Deep elementary coldness. Suffocation. Blood. A circle of indecipherable glyphs. I felt slithering against my body and beneath my skin, and saw Claire standing above me, holding aloft a ritual knife with a serpent clutched to her breast, suckling.
I woke with a start, breathless and clammy. I turned to look but I knew Claire was long gone. I felt sick, woozy, and wondered if I had been drugged or poisoned. Everything was askew and I blinked and rubbed my eyes to try to bring it all back into order. A low hissing noise emanated from the pile of hastily discarded clothes on the floor, and I froze with apprehension.
It was only when my eyes refocussed that I saw the glow of my also-discarded phone flashing from beneath the pile. The hissing just muffled buzzing, indicating a new message.
I attempted to step out of bed but stumbled, sitting on the edge of the bed a while to gather my wits. Something was deeply, fundamentally wrong with my body. I felt as if I were floating, yet scraping along the floor in equal measure.
Eventually, and with little co-ordination, I was able to cross the room to retrieve my phone. Although I don’t remember giving Claire my number, she had sent me a message. A single word. “Penshaw.”
This feorful worm wad often feed On caalves an' lambs an' sheep, An' swally little bairns alive When they laid doon te sleep. An' when he'd eaten aall he cud An' he had had he's fill, He craaled away an' lapped he's tail Seven times roond Pensher Hill.
It was late evening as I drove to Penshaw Hill, having taken time to try to clean myself up. I found I couldn’t stand for long in the shower at first, although my body slowly regained strength under the warm soothing spray. Blissfully, the rain had subsided as I left the hire car at the bottom of the hill. I stared up at the Monument cresting the summit – resembling the Greek temples of antiquity yet beautifully illuminated with all that modern lighting could offer. My mind drifted back to playing up there with Billy in our youth, boldly clutching wooden sword and shield. Silly games of knights and valour, of dragon-slaying and crusades.
Despite unsteady feet, it did not take long for adult legs to reach the top. Gazing around at the vista, I noticed persistent rain clouds hanging ominously in the sky, but the monument itself remained untouched. I pondered the significance of Claire’s message, but felt I had no other choice. I would permit this game to ensnare me. Snakes and Ladders.
I studied the Monument, it’s pillars standing rigid against the earth, and found myself drawn to a
commemoration plaque I never noticed as a child.
“THIS STONE WAS LAID BY
THOMAS, EARL OF ZETLAND
GRAND MASTER OF THE FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS OF ENGLAND”
“I believe you’ll find it perfectly Square and on the Level.” a male voice intoned from behind. I turned sharply and saw five figures, each clad in dark maroon robes with hoods pulled up to obscure their faces. The middle one stepped forward with familiar stride, yet I couldn’t place it.
“A delightful folly this, isn’t it? A copy of the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens. You could say this Hill has always been a location for… Great Works. The Earls and Noblemen of the time would play at magick and midnight ritual in cults most unspeakable. Believing eldritch spirits would grant them power and riches. Ignorant of the truth that lies beneath all our deceptions.”
His voice was eerily familiar, but my mind refused to accept the possibility. As he lowered his hood there was no doubt, and I stared into the eyes of a dead man.
“Oh, Johnny! Don’t you have a hug for your baby brother?”
“Dead? Greatly exaggerated, Johnny. Greatly exaggerated. Just venom from the Death Adder. It paralyses the body, slowing the heart and breath but never quite stopping them. At least in my case. Something in the blood, you see.”
“But why?” Shock left me a man of few words.
“Because it was the only way you’d come back from your damned crusade in the holy lands, Johnny. You wouldn’t even come back when Ma – rest her soul – passed away. You know she called out for you on her deathbed? And what were you doing?”
“I was helping refugees. Doing God’s work.” The words seemed hollow as I spoke them.
“Bullshit, Johnny. You were helping yourself. You always had this notion, didn’t you? Airs and graces. That you were someone special. Saving the world one charity box at a time. The great Lamb of God, taking away the sin of the world. Well, you went off on your little adventure and you left me back here to bury Ma, to be the man of the house. And that’s OK, Johnny. Because I grew. I found new friends. New beliefs. Old beliefs.”
“What do you mean?”
“There’s other ways, other gods. The Wyrm has always been with us, you know? The bastard Christians tried to drive it out but it’s always been there, waiting for us to find it again.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I can’t tell you, Johnny. You’ll have to see.”
I never noticed the other robed figures closing in, these supposed cultists, yet recognised the one now stood next to me. It was Claire, and I could feel her unseen smile cut through me in betrayal. Quicker than I could anticipate, she retrieved a snake from beneath her robes. It struck me suddenly on the neck, fangs burying deep. Venom surged through my veins, and with it an unbearable numbness.
As I slid into a black sleep, Billy’s voice echoed in my mind. “You’ll thank me for this.”
I could not say how long I was out, but when I woke I was laid on a dark bed of dirt. I reached around, feeling hard stone above me. The air was stale, but not unbreathable. I had been buried alive – I could only presume under the Monument. I still had my clothes and belongings and instinctively reached for my phone. The empty bars on the display betrayed a lack of signal, but the screen’s light helped me gain a better idea of my surroundings. A passage led away from this parody of a grave, deep into the earth. No way to go but down.
I shuffled along the passageway. Slowly gaining my footing. It was increasingly cramped and I had to hunch over a while before crawling along on my belly, phone held ahead to light the way. I crawled further down, feeling the dampness of the earth soaking through my clothes as smaller, scuttling creatures embraced my skin.
And then, without ceremony, my phone flashed its last and shut down with battery drained. I howled a baleful cry of despair to the very pit of creation itself. I was finally, absolutely alone in the suffocating dark. Among the ichors of the earth and all the slithering things. I paused in tearful silence, the rush of blood in my ears loud as a waterfall in this absolute, petrifying blackness.
I stayed this way for what seemed an eternity, paralysed by crushing, claustrophobic fear. But slowly, patiently, I felt a sense of calm. The way forward was there if I was bold enough to take it. So I crawled on, without vision but with absolute clarity. One must ascend to descend, and perhaps ascend again.
The passage narrowed further, and I had to fold my arms to squeeze through. My heart pounded in my chest, but the air was still breathable and I felt warmth ahead. And with warmth a strange, soothing rumble that compelled my curiosity. I could do this. I could find my way through.
Then I found myself pressed up against impenetrable rock blocking the passage. I felt around and discovered a smaller hole cut through the barrier, just too tight to crawl through. Surrounding the hole were scratchings in the stone, of pattern and order beyond my ken. Proto-runic glyphs from some long-forgotten tongue. They formed a circle, and I imagined fables of death and rebirth encoded within.
Adrenaline and fear decided my next action. I had to move onward, and I had to fit through. There was little choice, the rumble compelling me where reason failed. Gritting my teeth, I smashed my shoulders into the sides of the hole again and again until they dislocated with an unearthly crunch. I screamed and voided myself and convulsed with sickness. But I remained conscious, determination driving my will where the body itself may fail. As my arms hung limply behind me, I could just squeeze through the hole. My clothes tore and flesh scratched against cold rock.
Onwards on stone and drenched in filth, I slithered and undulated. Barely human now, but reborn as a blind creature of the cold earth. Determined. Driven. I saw faint light ahead and I pushed myself forward. The rumbling a symphony of hope and absolution. Calling me ever forward. Always forward.
Suddenly, the stone trembled and the earth heaved. I could barely grasp with useless arms as the crumbling ground engulfed me. Swallowed whole, I plunged ever downward. Dirt filled my mouth as I spluttered and struggled to no effect, silencing any attempt to scream.
The fall must have been a few moments, but it seemed an eternity. I fell through dirt and air then hit the floor and realised I was at the source of the reverberating siren call. Here inside the Belly of the Beast. The Womb of the Wyrm.
The news of this myest aaful worm An' his queer gannins on Seun crossed the seas, gat te the ears Ov brave and' bowld Sor John. So hyem he cam an' catched the beast An' cut 'im in twe haalves, An' that seun stopped he's eatin' bairns, An' sheep an' lambs and caalves.
I had barely come to rest before hands were upon me. Warm hands. Human hands. I saw glimpses of the maroon robes before they slammed me onto hard rock, crunching my arms back into the sockets. I gasped as I was mercifully overwhelmed by the cold shroud of shock.
I couldn’t have been unconscious for long, and my eyes soon blinked open. My tattered clothes now gone, I was naked and scratched and bleeding, laid on what I presumed to be a stone altar. Four of the robed cultists held me down by each limb as I squirmed. Nevertheless, my neck had enough purchase to look around the vast, subterranean chamber; and I found myself in awe.
This was an ancient place. A sacred place. Primeval. Antediluvian. Torches lined the walls of the chamber, and rough-hewn sculptures of bone and skin adorned the floor. Some almost resembled well-beaten drums now silent, their purpose achieved. The symbols and sigils of prehistoric man adorned wall and animal skin, painted in blood and hinting of ophidian monsters far divorced from the realm of reason. A river cut through the cave into the blackness beyond, dampening the floor. Thick, solemn mist hung in the air, and my breath gained physical form in exhalation.
Billy stood in front of the altar and my supine body. Smiling with hood pulled back.
“You did it, Johnny! I’m so very proud of my big brother. You understand now, yes?”
My lips were parched, but I whispered out in response. “What am I supposed to understand?”
“The Wyrm! Can’t you feel it. It’s all around. In the mist and the cold and the darkness. The Wyrm has always been here. Lord Lambton met the Wyrm and dealt it a terrible blow, but it never died. It just retreated here. Under the ground. Lurking. Waiting. A curse on all of Lambton’s line. That’s you and me, Johnny. You and me!”
“Lamb. Lambton. It all makes sense. That’s what my friends told me. They’ve worshipped the Wyrm for generations. Centuries. And they wanted me to appease the Wyrm. Except… Well. Our Ma wasn’t as sweet and innocent or loyal to our Pa as she claimed, Johnny. But you…” He leaned over and stared me straight in the eye.
“… Your blood is pure.”
“You’re mad!” I spat back at him.
“You made me this way, Johnny! You left and now you’re back and you understand what was beneath us all along! You shed your earthly skin and became one with the Wyrm. And you have to know I love you. And the Wyrm loves you. Can’t you hear it? Can’t you feel it? It comes for you.”
The mist chilled again, counterpart to my brother’s cruel sincerity. The moisture stuck to my vulnerable flesh as I peered past him into the black. And in the dreadful dark beyond, I saw such horrors.
I felt it at first, a negation of warmth and light and life. The void made manifest. An intangible absence of form approached, inhaling the billowing mist into darkness. Slithering in situ, refractions of torchlight bending and twisting into ever shifting patterns of iridescent scales. My mind tried to define the boundaries of this ebon infinity, consciousness and reason disappearing into the inky mire as easily as light and sound.
It grew. Slowly and surely it consumed the chamber. And then, without eye or conceivable sense, it fixed its gaze upon me.
The cultists released their grip and began to shift themselves, turning and twisting and slithering into the shimmering, intruding blackness. Their true selves emerged, dissolving into the void yet still possessing tangible substance. My heart succumbed to cold, palpable dread as I tried to comprehend it all.
Once more the deafening silence sucked at my eardrums, and I gathered what strength I could muster to look for escape. I rolled off the altar and saw my captors writhing on the floor, an unnatural blasphemy of form between man and serpent. They coiled around my legs, ensnaring them and preventing escape.
Crawling now with weak, feeble arms, I tried to gain purchase in the wet earth. Mud and silt dissolving through my fingers as the snake-things – now little more than tendrils – pulled me back to the Wyrm’s maw. I kicked and thrashed wildly, trying to free myself, but slid further forward.
Desperately looking for something to hold onto, I grabbed a frame of bone and animal skin. The bones of the frame cracked and splintered as I was further dragged along the ground. Thinking quickly, I took one of the broken bones in my hand and stabbed it hard down on a tendril. Even as the noise of our struggle was devoured by the void, I felt a horrific, otherworldly scream permeate my being, and the tendril released its grip.
There were still others, and they coiled and lashed at me as I stabbed at them with the bone. I felt cold wet filth splash against my face as a sense of crimson madness overwhelmed me. I howled – were my voice to be heard – at these monsters, cutting and carving until the bone itself shattered in my hand. The tendrils withdrew. All that was left was me. And the Wyrm.
I pulled myself up, scavenging what weapons I could in the process. Just bones and dust and the dreams of deluded ancestors. I took the animal skins and rolled them around myself, for what little protection they could offer. I must have looked a sight, all wrapped up with the bones of long-dead beings protruding from every angle. Even the Wyrm took pause at the sheer insanity of it all.
I looked up and stared straight into the heart of the void. The Wyrm before me nothing more than metaphor. Not for pagan faith, but for an older, ancient horror. Horror so foul and blasphemous it would have to be buried deep below the earth, far away from God’s benevolence.
Yet God, for all his divine omnipresence, was not here. Just another metaphor. Another lie. There was nothing else but me and the all-encroaching darkness. I raised my hands in supplication as nothingness smothered me, and I became one with the void.
The Wyrm coiled around my body, raising me up and dwarfing me in numbing embrace. I felt my very life drain, and my eyes closed peacefully. I could have easily diminished into the eternity of non-being, but as the Wyrm tightened its grip, the protruding bones cut deep into whatever it possessed for a body. My eyes opened as it recoiled in what I presumed was pain. There was hope.
I wrestled with the Wyrm until we fell into the river, rolling and splashing in the fetid water. I thrashed out with fragments of bone and rock and whatever I could grab. When there were no more improvised weapons, I turned to my teeth and my hands. Biting. Scratching. Screaming. Hurling my very last at the horror. Yet, as I bit into its serpentine form, I tasted blood.
It wasn’t mine.
I looked down, and around, and there was no Wyrm. No void. Just the aftermath of my actions. Sound and warmth returned to perception as my eyes reflexively shut in denial. It took some time to open them again, but even through tears I knew I had to. Billy lay in the river, very much dead by bone and rock and by my bloodied hands and teeth. The other cultists lay nearby, wounded or dead. I surveyed the destruction wrought in madness and fell to my knees. Realising, against all rationality, that I was responsible.
So noo ye knaa hoo aall the foaks On byeth sides ov the Wear Lost lots o' sheep an' lots o' sleep An' leeved i' mortal feor. So let's hev one te brave Sor John That kept the bairns frae harm, Saved coos an' caalves by myekin' haalves O' the famis Lambton Worm.
I staggered and stumbled along the river, new to my fledgling feet, and eventually came out through a storm drain at the far side of the hill. Exhausted from the ordeal, I collapsed onto the wet, sodden earth.
I turned my broken, naked body around, the taste of flesh still sour on my lips, and stared up into the black. Rain once again cascaded over me, washing away the blood and filth in mockery of baptism. And I breathed. For the first time since my rebirth I breathed a rich lungful of air, the purity and freshness compelling me to cough up yet more accumulated dirt. And it all began to make sense, all of it.
In our vanity, we believe ourselves certain of the universe. That no concept can possibly exist outside the comfortable reality tunnel we burrow through the dark. But there exists a terrible, uncertain other, beyond the reference points and words of our myopic perspective. A void forever skulking on the periphery of vision and in the basest core of our heart. We can only understand it by the absence it leaves, and how it intersects with the reality we know.
We strive to define it in the similes of folklore. Inventing mythology both divine and blasphemous to explain the unexplainable. But there are no gods. There are no monsters. Just men, and the dissemblance we swaddle around ourselves for security.
Yet the Wyrm writhes beneath the surface of it all. A metaphor, yes, but as real to the mind as any tangible creature. It mocks us with serpent grin and stares through jaundiced eyes. Coiled. Lurking. Waiting for the moment when reason falters and chaos reigns. Then, without mercy or pity, it strikes. Tearing through self-deception and the deceit of words. Transforming noble will and purpose into acts of bestial depravity, exposing the foul darkness of the human heart for what it really is. The void is all, within and without, and life itself is the abomination.
I am an educated man.
Noo lads, Aa'll haad me gob, That's aall Aa knaa aboot the story Ov Sor John's clivvor job Wi' the aaful Lambton Worm.
Proofreading and editing by Laura Cracknell – https://lauracracknellwriter.wordpress.com/
Original Artwork by Sammy Foppen