Deasy's Diary No. 2

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Ghoul on Bodmin Moor by William Deasy

29 October 1892

Scene 3: Bodmin Moor

It is just after midnight. Over the rumble of thunder, I can hear the chimes of the clock in the Prince’s carriage strike midnight – 12 chimes followed by the screech of the brakes. Everything not tied down lurches forward as the train slows dramatically. A resounding bump as the train hits something on the track brings everything to a sudden stop. I can hear several large crashes from the galley and beyond. I can hear barking and baying of the hunting dogs going uncontrollably mad in the caboose.

Outside the window lies the bleakness of the Bodmin Moor – a vast tract of scrub, dead trees, marshes and mire. Between flashes of lightning, I can make out a stone circle several hundred yards down a slight hill. During a particularly long streak of lightning, the area turns stark white – and I see the vague outline of a man down in the stone circle. He has a woodman’s axe lifted above his head. He is watching the train. With the next flash of lightning, he is gone – a low ominous thunder rumbling nearby. Egads!

Ashton Clark and I move to the front of the train to assist with whatever we struck. Mika moves to the rear to examine the caboose. Marleybones heads towards the stone circle. Miss Sarah stays with the boys. To action!

The train is stopped at where it entered a bend through a copse of twenty or so dead trees. The trees are swaying eerily in the wind, creating strange shadows in the lightning flashes. One particularly large tree lies across the track. Several twisted iron beams and a hissing tank at the front of the train appear to be the minor damage caused when the train struck the tree. Mr. Drudge and Mr. Dalton are busy chopping at the tree while the mechanic, Mr. Moldive, lies on his back under the train being handed tools by the engineer, Mr. Booth.

Inspecting the stump of the tree, it is obvious that it has been cut down. Perhaps by the maniacal man with the axe in the stone circle? Ashton Clark climbs on the engine of the train with his rifle to get a better idea of our surroundings.

I have seen many strange things in my military service for the crown, but I was completely unprepared for what happened next.

Suddenly, and without warning, a demon with great batwings, a horned head, leathery grayish-black skin and barbed tail swoops low over the tops of the trees and attacks one of the men chopping the tree – Drudge the Rear Brakeman. Ashton Clark and I both shoot, doing some damage to the beast, but we aren’t fast enough. The creature, faceless with great oversized claws ending in slender, razor-sharp points picks up the hapless railroad man and flips him in the air – catching him adroitly and – gibbering loudly – flies into the night sky towards the stone circle.

Because of Ashton Clark’s foresight – good man, Robert – he is able to get another round off as the flying demon heads towards the stone circle. This brings the creature crashing to the ground – although I fear that Mr. Drudge is dead.

Meanwhile, in events I will relate to you through the eyes of Master Sgt. Mika, the scene in the rear coach was just as bloody.

Moving towards the caboose, Mika encountered Henry Bridlesman, the Huntmaster, coming forward from the rear of the train. He is covered in blood, streaked down his clothing, gibbets hanging from his clothes. He is disheveled, wild eyed, and trembling. He is attempting to smooth his hair and straighten his clothes – creating a striped effect to his gruesome appearance.

Mr. Bridlesman explains that the crashing sound we heard from the rear of the train was the animal cages falling over – causing them to break open. The dogs killed the wild pig, thus Mr. Bridlesman’s bloody appearance. He returns to the caboose to round up the dogs – and with Horace’s help – take them out to settle their nerves and look for game. A new pig is needed.

Along the way, Mika and Bridlesman run into Leah Moody, the telegraphist. She asks if she should walk up the track looking for a telegraph station. Henry tells her no – it is too dangerous.

Mr. Mika’s description of the caboose is a bloody scene of carnage. The outline a large boar is in the center of the floor surrounded by a halo of gore and entrails. Streaks show where the carcass was dragged out of the train car. A haunch of meat sits in the corner of the room, half mauled and still pooling blood. Even the ceiling of the car has splatters which periodically drip ominously into the destruction. Revolting!

Hearing the gunshots from the front of the train, Mika moves outside and up the hill for a better view of what is happening.

Marleybones has finished a quick examination of the stone circle. His description follows.

Ancient stones, mostly lost to the swampy marsh and the relentless pounding of time, lie in a circle about a central inner circle of smaller stones. Deep thick grass grows between the stones, and the rank undergrowth shows little signs of recent traffic. Between the stones is a strange fog – impossible to explain naturally during a heavy downpour. The air here is warm and smells of rotted flesh and decay.

The inner circle of stones is encased in a dense mist, lit only by occasional flashes of lightning, which bring the scene into stark contrast. The warmth is notable here. A dim red glow comes from the center of the area.

There is no sign of the man with the axe.

Entering the mist, the glow is caused by a lantern which is sitting on the stone block and is now covered in blood. Blood is everywhere – rivulets dripping from the sides of the stone block.

The good doctor notices on the ground a strange chalk pattern – almost completely washed away by the rain. It is a circle inscribed with symbols of some sort. He would have probably missed it except for the stubs of three blood red candles burnt to nubs on the stonework. It was clear that a chalk triangle was drawn inside the circle with a candle at each apex.

Recognizing mystical markings for a gate, Marleybones is just getting ready to wipe it clean with his boot when the sound of gunfire erupts. Looking up, he sees the winged bat carrying Mr. Drudge crash to the ground. Leaping up, he rushes to provide aid.

A meeting of sorts takes place on the hill leading down from the train to the stone circle. Marleybones, Mika, Ashton Clark and I are all at the body of Mr. Drudge who is most expectedly dead. Henry, Horace and the dogs are passing by – as the dogs have picked up the scent of something in the woods. What to do?

Mika agrees to take Mr. Drudge’s body to the train with the good doctor. Ashton Clark and I are to accompany the huntmen and the pack on the trail.

As we move into the woods, the trail from the stone circle descends into a dark ravine – with steep muddy banks lined with gnarled ancient trees. The ravine follows a natural cleft up the side of the hill ending in a sinister cave. A stone lintel above the cave entrance is carved with Paleolithic drawings of hunters and an impossibly large feline creature. A narrow winding path through the overgrown trees leads into the cave.

The dogs have cornered something – hopefully a pig. Horace releases the dogs who bound into the cave. The four of us take positions outside the cave in the underbrush. The enthusiasm of the hounds is short-lived, for almost immediately they are in a fight – one that they seem to be losing. A bear perhaps?

As we are preparing to assist the dogs, suddenly, there is a man-like creature among us. It was hiding in the trees right next to Ashton Clark. Upright but with extreme canine features, a moldy odor, and rubbery skin, the beast lunges at Ashton Clark. He fires, driving the creature back. I fire. Horace and Henry fire. It collapses on the ground – a hideous pile of quivering flesh.

Henry - driven by his instincts to protect the dogs - moves into the cave while the rest of us examine the body. Almost immediately, there is more gunfire, and then silence. No dogs. Henry doesn’t respond when called.

Cautiously, we approach. The cave is a single large room about 30 feet in diameter. The entire ceiling of the cave is formed by twisted roots. In the center of the room, Henry’s body hangs upside down from the ceiling – its feet twisted in the roots. The body is partially skinned and large bite marks have been taken from the bare legs and torso.

Glancing around, I am sure that the roots are moving, slowly dropping towards me…

I grab Henry’s body, and we run from the cave and back to the train.

Once there, the scene is no more comforting.

Mika, having determined that Miss Phoebe is a traitor, has killed her in a most dramatically brutal way. Apparently, while Miss Sarah was protecting the children physically, Miss Phoebe was casting a spell to protect them spiritually. Mika, taking this as the sign of an attack, punched her to death. Marleybones is attempting resuscitation without success.

Mr. Dalton informs us that the train is ready to move onward – albeit at a reduced speed because of the lack of a rear brakeman. An extra stop at Bodmin will be made to report the incident to authorities.

Horace completes cleaning out the caboose while Ashton Clark and I take some of the dynamite from our crate and demolish the cave below. The bodies of Henry Bridlesman, Phoebe Gooding, and Samuel Drudge are put into the caboose where the dogs were previously kenneled.

With a heavy heart, we move on.