The Chapel by the Sea: Chapter 4 by Michael Dortmundt
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The Chapel by the Sea : Chapter 4 : An Awakening
He lay in the dark room as the scream slowly faded from his throat and looked about the total darkness that enclosed him on all sides. He could see nothing nor make out the slightest outline of furnishings in the thick blackness and wished he had left the small light burning when he had gone to sleep. He fumbled into his pocket and managed to retrieve his lighter despite his trembling hands. Illuminating his room slightly with the flame, he leaned out and flicked the wall switch casting blessed light upon the room and then lay back to allow his shaken nerves time to settle.
The dream was still painfully fresh and horrifyingly vivid in his mind and made all the worse by his surroundings and the returning memories of the night before that had landed him in this bizarre situation where he now found himself. That had by far been the worst dream to date. He had never before ventured into that dismal and damnable place and even now as he lay here awake, he felt as though he had crossed some line from which he could not ever return. A blight had been cast on his very soul and imposed on his memory where it would sit and feed and grow like some monstrous parasite, and he began now to wonder about the safety of his very sanity. Perhaps after his initial meetings he would take a little much-needed time off and give himself a chance to relax and forget about the desert and the dream chapel that haunted his sleep.
He felt as though he had to do something, for surely this was the road that lay to madness. It occurred to him he may have to seek out a psychotherapist once he had returned home in hopes of getting a professional opinion as to his recent bouts of increasingly terrifying dreams and the irrational superstitious dread that now clung unshakingly to him. He had never before been subject to such seemingly ridiculous bouts of fear or hysteria and he found the whole episode rather unnerving. But then there was the whole wrong atmosphere of this place. He felt as though the very air around him were charged with a presence of masked or hidden hostility of a nature so powerful that the air was thick with unseen menace. Perhaps paranoia would be another topic of interest he might mention to his future psychiatrist, maybe by the end of the ordeal they could cart him off in a strait jacket and lock him away he thought. He lit a cigarette and surveyed the small pitiful room he had awakened in and decided it was time to check out and vacate this village post haste.
He finished and extinguished his cigarette before crawling from his bed and digging into his bag for a fresh pair of cargo pants and a brown knit sweater to change into. He grabbed fresh socks and briefs and made his way into the tiny box that passed as a bathroom at Ye Olde Iachen Inn and turned on the water for the shower. To his immense and immediate relief he found that the shower had far more water pressure than he had been expecting and the water was hot almost instantly. The inn had just earned itself a star in his travel book, though the chance of him returning to this place anytime in the near future was nonexistent and he couldn’t wait to be far from this place and its list of mounting oddities. He removed his soiled clothes from the day before and let them drop to the floor before stepping into the shower and letting the hot water course over him as it washed the last remnants of his rapidly fading dream from him. He began to think of the task ahead and put the world of sleep and it’s horrors behind him. He would check out of this outdated place and catch a taxi back down the hill to the train station and be on the first train out of here for Zurich. It promised to be a good day.
He wondered for the first time what time it could be. He had no idea what time he had even arrived here and waking up in the pitch darkness without so much as a clock or a window and having had a dead watch he had absolutely no way of ascertaining the current time or how long he had slept. He reasoned it must have been nearing first light when he had finally found the hotel and he felt rather refreshed so he must have slept for at least several hours, so he judged it to be mid to late morning to the best of his limited ability. He figured he should have no problem at all getting a train out in no time.
He washed and forced himself, after a while of relaxing his aching muscles in the hot water, from the shower to get dressed before taking his soiled laundry and placing them in a plastic bag in his suitcase. He took a minute to gather up his belongings and locked the door to his room behind him before making his way to the front counter where the old man sat smoking on a pipe and reading from a weathered looking old book that was abnormally large in its dimensions. He removed the pipe from his mouth and looked up towards his approaching guest and almost seemed to half sneer at him before he began choking on his smoke.
When the fit of coughing finally came to a merciful end the old man wiped his face with the back of his hand and acknowledged his guest, “I reckon ye had a fitful ’nuff sleep then?”
“I did, thank you. Listen, you wouldn’t happen to know the time would you? And perhaps the time the next train is leaving for Zurich?” He set his bags before the counter and slipped the key into his pocket while taking out his cigarettes and lighting one up.
“Yup. It’s right half to seven and I ain’t knowin nothin when it comes to what them thar trains is adoin down thar.” He put a fresh match to his pipe and began a rather sickening display of sucking on the stub in his mouth contorting his face into a rather comical and disturbing caricature of a fish left on dry land and gasping at the air, and yet somehow almost amphibian as well in the features.
“I’m sorry, did you say almost seven?” He couldn’t believe it was not even seven in the morning yet. How was that possible? Had he slept at all?
“Yup right about half to seven now.” He managed to murmur around his pipe. The thick smoke rolled up and all but hid his features now as he vanished behind a cloud of rancid smelling smoke. The smell was absolutely abhorrent. What in Gods name had he put in that pipe!
His eyes were slowly drawn back to the painting that hung behind the counter and his revulsion immediately returned and coupled with the smoke was having a very adverse effect on his constitution. He suddenly felt slightly ill. He would be glad when he was out of this hotel and down the road. Out of this whole village for that matter. “Is there a taxi you can call for me, I need to get back to the train station.”
The old man suddenly burst out laughing and it rapidly degenerated into a fit of violent coughing that turned him a bright red and sent his whole frail body into a fit of spasms. When he had finally regained control of himself he set the pipe down on the counter and laid his book down on the floor before standing up from his stool. “Mister, ain’t no phone here fer me to be callin nobody and if’n thar was one to be had, thar ain’t no taxi round about Iachen that ye could call on.” He reached under the counter and came up with the ledger from the night before. “So I reckon ye be wantin another nights fare to be turned over to me then?” He flipped the book open and looked up at his guest.
He stood there motionless. Speechless. Was this old cotter mad as a hatter? He would not be spending another night in this dreadful town. He took a long pull off his cigarette and almost laughed at the idea of staying another night here. “No sir. I’ll be checking out.” He fished into his pocket and retrieved the key to his room and placed it on the counter.
“I reckon ye might want to jest hold on to that thar key fer a spell. We don’t git us many a traveller round about here anymore but thosen we do don’t never jest stay fer a night.” The old man flicked his gaze from the key laying on the counter up to his guest who stood looking amazed.
This old man was brazen to be sure but he was out of his fucking mind if he thought for a moment that there would be another night purchased here. “No. Really, I am ready to check out and be on my way. I have meetings to attend in Germany Monday morning and this delay has already compromised my schedule enough thank you. If there is no taxi then I guess there is little hope for a bus either. No, I will just hike my way back down to the train station and wait for the next train. Maybe I can take in a bit of the town along the way.”
The old man studied him for several uncomfortable minutes before collecting his key from the counter and returning it to the peg on the wall behind him. “Suit yerself then. Ye know whar we be if’n ye need a room let again.” He turned and started back for his stool with his pipe in his hand and reaching for the book he had left to deal with his guest.
He grabbed his bags and made for the front door eager to put this inn and the weird old bastard who runs it behind him for good. He opened the door and stepped out into the early morning in time to see the sun breaking over the horizon. How could it still be so early he wondered? He couldn’t have gotten any sleep at all and yet he somehow felt as though he had had a full night of sleep and was really quite refreshed and rejuvenated. Well he could always take a nap on the train he thought, of course that is exactly the kind of behavior that had put him in his current predicament so it wasn’t at the top of his list of things to do at the moment, but if drowsiness overcame him it was always an option.
Basking in the light of the early morning sun for a minute he decided to walk over and better examine the markings on the wall he had noticed the night before. Exquisite! On closer inspection he saw that they were beautifully done and in such numbers as well. It was clear to see that someone had dedicated an excessive amount of time, money and effort into this building at some point in time. The symbols were all foreign to him but oddly familiar at the same time. He understood he had seen them in some capacity but was completely at a loss at the moment as to where or when. Together they lay in long lines as though composing sentences that stretched the length of the building in both directions and he could only assume wrapped around the entire of the structure, though he found it hard to imagine that someone had expended the time required to complete such a task.
There seemed to be seven of these lines of code that each lay roughly a foot above the last beginning about six inches from the base of the inn. Absolutely amazing. He dug into his bag to retrieve his digital camera in the hopes of taking several photos of the markings for later study. He planned to start at the base and work his way up, first taking shots from a distance in order to capture the whole inn and then to zoom in and take pictures of sections of markings and then a few of the more interesting symbols he would shoot alone. He flipped the power switch and nothing happened. Dead. His batteries had died? Great. It just kept getting better he thought to himself. How had he killed his batteries, he had bought them brand new at the start of his trip and taken precious few pictures up to this point. Had he forgotten to turn it off the last time he had used it or could it have been turned on by the bag being heaved around? No matter. It was not all that important to him. He would easily recall many of these strange and alien symbols if he were to see them again.
He hoisted his bags and began to head in the direction of the road that would take him back down the hill and to the train station. He couldn’t help but notice that it was beautiful out here as the sun climbed higher into the morning sky. He stopped and took a moment to digest his surroundings and admire the scenery that had unfolded before him with the coming of the light. The early morning sunlight came streaming through the trees around him, the mist hung on the mountain tops and it was simply amazing in every direction he looked. He really wished now he could take some pictures. He decided to get on his way and made for the road that would take him back the way he had come. He turned onto the road and almost lost his footing as his knees instantly went weak and the bags fell from his hands. He stared down the hill at the water that coursed through the little village and at the church that stood on its bank looming over the village. There it stood, casting it’s fiendish shadow on the village and his reality alike. The church that had haunted his dreams and reduced him to nightly screams stood horrifyingly rotting before him and in the very direction he would now have to walk.