If you know how to read, and chances are you do if you are on this website, then you have to check out the macabre horror fiction from my personal long-time friend Michael Dortmundt. He has a style that is all his own, even though you will see the heavy influence of Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.
He writes great stories that may actually make you piss your pants in fear. I know I did. There are currently seven chapters to The Chapel by the Sea with more to be added. If you love horror and you love to read, then you will love the fiction of Michael Dortmundt. Stay posted for future chapters and more short stories. If you absolutely cannot wait for more, check out his MySpace page for all of his works.
The Chapel by the Sea : Chapter One
He awoke, still shaken from the ghastly nightmare in which he had just escaped from, to find that his train had become utterly motionless and immersed in a complete and unbroken silence that he found most unbefitting a public transit such as the one in which he now sat, even given the lateness of the hour. He looked out the window as if the night outside might hold some answers for him, but the pressing darkness prevented him seeing anything that might aid in his deducing where he was or why they had stopped here.
He continued to gaze out the window for a few more moments, his face pressed close against the glass to prevent the glare of the overhead lights, and tried to shake himself free of the cryptic haze that the still lingering tendrils of the sinister dream had enveloped him in, and now seemed to keep him only half coherent of the things around him. He glanced at his watch and saw that the time was 3:18 a.m. He wasn’t due to arrive at his destination of Hamburg Germany until well after 11:00 in the morning, so that would put him somewhere still in Switzerland, he reasoned. He reached for the folded itinerary on the table before him and flipped through the pages until he found what he was looking for, there were several stops in Switzerland and one of them was a 30 minute stay in Zürich, where he was meant to switch trains, so he was close, he figured. No sense in trying to go back to sleep then, he thought, not that he particularly believed sleep would even be possible after such a macabre dream as he had just suffered but he felt better having made a rational and conscious decision not to go back to sleep rather than being forced by an irrational and almost primal sense of fear to stay awake.
The bright electric lights overhead momentarily hummed erratically and flickered off for a few seconds, leaving him in total darkness. He scarce had time to consider this before the flickering resumed and blessed illumination returned once again to the stalled train. He decided to use the facilities while the train remained motionless and he stood up to make his way to the restroom. He imagined his luggage would be safe for the few minutes he was away, but he decided to take his briefcase with him anyways. One could never be too careful, especially considering the importance of the documents contained within this case, the results of several years work in the worst arid deserts of the Middle East and of countless unforeseen and unexpected expenses that had very nearly bankrupted him, but in the end it had all finally paid off! What he now held in this simple and cheap case would shock the scientific world and rock the very foundations of the established religions of every country, and even change everything we thought we knew about modern science and technology.
Briefcase in hand, he stood up and started making his way to the rear of the car where he knew the restrooms to be located. Amidst his journey, he noticed that the train seemed to have been strangely emptied of its passengers while he slept, which struck him as more than just a little odd. Was it possible that they had arrived in Zürich early and he had slept through the announcement? He had to admit that his sleep was becoming increasingly harder to come by as of late, but the sleep he was getting, had been much deeper than usual and plagued by the most vivid and atrocious nightmares one could possibly imagine. Pure Lovecraftian horrors awaited him every time he found himself able to finally traverse the threshold of the dream world that sought to elude him for reasons beyond his comprehension. Surely, though, this must be Zürich, he thought, for no other insignificant destination would have seen so many passengers disembark. This entire car was devoid of a single soul, save himself. He also realized he had been awake now for several minutes and still they remained immobile, and Zürich was the only stop of any real duration lasting longer than a single minute or two. It suddenly struck him that he had stopped moving and was standing still in the center of the empty car, and that he was completely alone. He finished his way to the back of the car and went into the facilities, there would, of course, be a rational and logical explanation that would make sense of the strange situation he found himself in.
As he closed and clasped the tiny metal door, the lights again flickered off and on several times in rapid succession, which also struck him as quite odd in and of itself. That was the sort of behavior akin to the lights in a New York subway rather than what one is accustomed to dealing with on a European train. No matter though, he decided he would venture to the front and find someone in the know to ascertain their whereabouts. He relieved himself and washed his hands in the small basin provided, taking care to toss his towel in the trash receptacle rather than the toilet. He washed his face and caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, he barely recognized the strained deteriorating face staring back at him.
The last two years had aged him considerably beyond his 36 years and he looked to be closer to a man of 60. His sandy blond hair had been no match for the ravages of the desert and had all given way to gray as deep lines had fortified themselves in his face, waging a veritable war on his once youthful looks. There were dark circles under his eyes that stood as the bold testimony to his severe lack of sleep as of late, and it pained him to see himself this way. That cursed and dismal desert had stolen so much from him in just the two short years he had suffered there, that it seemed to him to have been an eternity at the time, and the effects were only now becoming apparent to him. They had all thought him mad! And truly seeing himself now, under the lighting of a civilized world, he could almost understand their reasoning, but in the end he had proven them all wrong hadn’t he? He would now be world renown, and all it had cost him were some facial lines, his life savings, a few bad dreams and a head full of gray hair. Bah! A small price to pay for the fame and fortune that his earth shattering discovery promised.
The incandescent lights flickered eerily and spasmodically off and on again, interrupting him from his thoughts, before going out altogether and throwing the restroom into complete darkness and he began to feel slightly uneasy for reasons he could not quite put into words. He breathed a silent sigh of relief when they came back on seconds later, sparing him the embarrassing feeling of senseless anxiety that had left him feeling momentarily confounded at it’s unwanted and unjustified presence. Funny that such a trivial occurrence should make him feel anything out of the ordinary, and if forced to explain himself, he would have been wholly unable to do so. He was a grown man. A doctor of archaeology and history, who had never before suffered a fear of the dark or any spells like that which had just come over him, but yet, when he had been immersed in the silent and total darkness of the train, it had filled him with a heretofore unknown sense of dread and nervousness that left him at a loss of understanding. It was slightly akin to the same feelings he could remember suffering in his reoccurring dreams that haunted his sleep these past few months.
It was always the same dream, only differing very slightly from one night to the next. He was in an unfamiliar place of lush green fields and surrounded almost on all sides by mountains. There was a small village, and in this quaint village, sitting completely out of place in a land of such beauty and tranquility, was a dilapidated old church that sat on the bank of the sea. It looked to be something out of some 16th century gothic painting with a spire that rose to great heights above the surrounding town. The very sight of such an eyesore amongst such a scenic backdrop was offensive to the eye. The presence of a structure such as this was enough to fill one with discomfort beyond description, but as we often have a tendency to feel in dreams, the repulsion brought on by this unholy edifice was overpowered by a sick sense of curiosity and an almost morbid desire to investigate and explore such a foundation of disrepair, and he invariably always found himself, almost against his own will, approaching the loathsome rundown church as if drawn by some unseen forces, calling to him on a wavelength that reached only into his deepest subconscious and overrode any logical and sensible decision he was capable of making.
He had, thus far, never been inside the abhorrent building, and hoped on everything that was decent and holy, that he would never venture to cross that line and find himself on the other side of that ancient and worm weathered wooden set of doors. He always awoke long before he could reach his eldritch destination, let alone wander inside the accursed abode. But with each new dream he made it a little closer, and the closer he drew to the worn stone steps of that infernal towering blight of stone and brick, the more profound became his sense of dread and loathing. The very building was an affront to God Himself and he found it impossible to imagine it had ever stood as a place of worship. It was the structural embodiment of unholiness.
He splashed his face with water again and towelled off, dropping his used rag in the trash, he picked up his case, took a deep breath and left the restroom. Back in the cryptic main aisle, he surveyed once again all the empty seats that stretched out before him. Definitely arrived in Zürich early, he thought to himself. He glanced down at his watch again. 3:18. Damn, his watch had stopped! No wonder! How long had they been in Zürich? It was only a 30 minute stop before he was to catch his next train and he didn’t relish the thought of waiting around for the next one if he missed his. He hated Switzerland, and it’s uppity class of denizens, but even more, he hated their rail system. He made his way up the aisle, walking noticeably faster now. The lights continued their electric stutter as they had several times before but he no longer took much notice of this now.
He arrived at his cabin and retrieved his bags from the overhead compartment where he had stored them upon boarding the train, and grabbed his folded up itinerary and cola off the table. He shoved the itinerary haphazardly into the back pocket of his cargo pants and shoved the soda bottle into a side compartment of his suitcase before slinging his carry-on over his shoulder and hefting his heavy suitcase up. He grabbed his briefcase last with his free hand and made his way toward the exit, hoping he hadn’t lost too much time and could still make his train.
Upon departing the train, he immediately noticed two things simultaneously, the first was that this was not the Zürich main station and the second was the darkness. The darkness was unusual for any train station, as it seemed to be total, and unlike anything you would expect to find on exiting a train at night in any station in the world. He stood, baffled, on the platform, perplexed as he heard the doors hiss closed behind him. Not a single halogen light burned anywhere on the platform! This was madness. He had nothing but disdain for the Swiss already but surely not even the Swiss could behave so recklessly and stupid as to not provide any light for passengers travelling at night.
From the flickering of the meager light emanating from the train behind him, he could vaguely make out what appeared to be a station sign slightly ahead to his left. Setting down his suitcase and unslinging his bag to put down on the cold walkway beneath him, he wandered over to the sign. Iächen. Iächen? He backed slowly away from the sign towards the train and dug the rumpled itinerary from his pocket and reviewed the scheduled stops. No Iächen. He cursed himself silently for deciding to take the train rather than catching a flight, then decided he might be better off waiting this one out on the train. Surely, there was a reason for this unscheduled stop in this one horse town without lights burning at night for rail riders who might be passing through after dark. Yes, he would return to the warmth and illumination of his cabin and wait to resume the scheduled run that promised to take him to Zürich.
He quickly grabbed his belongings and mashed the button that would allow him access back onto the train. The doors hissed open and he made haste to return to his cabin, once there he replaced his bags overhead and sat down in his seat next to the window. The lights again flickered off and on several times, something he was beginning to grow accustomed to in this new strange environment. What is this insanity, he wondered. He glanced down at his watch but despite all his futile hopes to the contrary, it still had not moved from it’s resting position. What time was it exactly and just how long had they been sitting at this desolate unscheduled outpost in the middle of so much nothingness?
He wanted answers to this and many more questions that bombarded his brain and finally drove him to make the decision to seek them out. He would find the conductor and demand an explanation for this outrage. He had a series of very important meetings to attend with some well known figures on Monday and this would not do, he would not miss his appointment with destiny and claim his rightful place amongst such great names as Einstein and Newton, for surely, he believed, his discovery would rival them all in it’s importance and significance. Abandoning his belongings for the moment, he grabbed his briefcase and made his way to the front of the train in search of answers.
He walked to the front of the train amidst the crackle and hum of the continuous intermittent flickering of those accursed lights overhead. Uneasiness again crept stealthily into him, and he felt nervousness slowly grip him in a way that made him very uncomfortable. An almost irrational fear seized him to suddenly leave everything behind and just run from the train, he dismissed the thought as ridiculous however, and continued on his way. This was an inconvenience and a nuisance to be sure, but nothing deserving of the illogical fear he suddenly felt. He had braved the wastelands of the most treacherous middle eastern deserts for the last few years! This was civilization. This was a return to the real world of comfort, convenience and most importantly, of safety. It would all be rationally explained to his satisfaction in a few minutes and this would all seem silly then and be remedied, post haste.
Upon reaching his destination at the front of the train though, his fears were not assuaged but rather slightly intensified. as he found the anterior of the train to be as desolate as the rest had been. Where were the conductors? Where had all the passengers disappeared to? And why? It became shudderingly obvious to him that there were going to be no answers to be found here, the train was utterly deserted.
He opened the mechanical doors to the outside and called out into the darkness. When he received no answer, he sat down in the empty seat nearest him and shivered as the lights repeated their macabre but all too familiar fluctuations, attributing his chill to the air that assailed from outside rather than any unwonted sense of dread or fear. The train must have suffered some sort of electrical failure and so they had been forced to disembark the passengers while he had slept deeply, and he had simply been overlooked somehow. Yes, that was all it was, of course, he should have deduced that awhile ago and not wasted so much time here staggering around aimlessly. Perhaps he could still find a room at the local inn and catch the first train out of this place in the morning. His mind made up, and feeling much better than at any point since he had awaken to this situation, he headed back to his cabin to again retrieve his bags and go in search of the closest hotel.