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The Chapel by the Sea : Chapter 3 : The Dream at Iachen Inn

The fields stretched for as far as the eye could see in almost every direction but one, and he could not recall ever having seen fields of such a lush and lavish green, in all his years of travel, as now extended out before him. In the distance he could also make out huge mountains rising majestically into the air to heights unfathomable, towering in every direction into the beautiful expanse of clear blue sky that the day had afforded him. He could also see that directly ahead of him, a river passed through the valley, in the only direction that didn’t offer the seemingly endless stretch of field. It was all quite staggering in beauty and what he would deem literally breath-taking. He stood upon a small hill that descended through a brief tract of the flourishing field and came to rest at the shore of the nearby river that cut and wove its serpentine way through this miniature glimpse of Heaven on Earth. He started his way down the slight decline towards the water, admiring the view of the snow-capped mountains as he did so. Scattered amongst the field, here and there, were several trees of various varieties and sizes, most of them of which he was completely ignorant as to their genus or species. He was unsure, also, the mountain ranges that loomed before and behind him, nor did he have an inkling as to what body of water he was approaching but none of that seemed to bother him at the time, he was rather enjoying the warm sun that shone down on him and the sheer elegance of the alluring beauty all around him. He looked down and was amazed by the brilliant colors of many of the different breeds of flowers that must be indigenous to this region, as they were wholly alien and unknown to him. Stunning shades of yellow, red, blue, and even purple were growing rampant throughout the entire field.

A short distance ahead of him he caught the glimmer of the sun reflecting from some object that lay on the ground several yards from where he stood admiring the greenery. He slowly made his way to the spot he had seen the shining object and looked down to see a small stone and stooped to pick it up. Resting himself on one knee, he examined his curious find. It looked to be a small rune of some unknown nature and as he turned it around in his fingers disgust overtook him instantly. The object was shaped rather rectangularly, roughly three by four inches and maybe an inch and a half in thickness. It was consisted of a material that was completely foreign to him, it seemed to be comprised of some form of stone but like no stone he had ever seen, and black in color without the slightest appearance of having contained any reflective qualities.

Carven into what he judged to be front of this horrendous idol was a thing of wretched dimension and countenance. What twisted race of man could ever have conceived of such an obvious blasphemy of nature and of all that which we hold real and evolved. The hideous creature that was forever immortalized in stone was a sickening mix of what most closely resembled an octopus, though like none human eye had ever had the misfortune to fall upon, with some slight ghastly semblance of human features, but even these were of the most diseased nature and served more as a mockery of the human form they attempted to mimic, rather than to any sense of real anatomy. Certain aspects of the creature were almost mythical in design, dragon-like for lack of a better term, and from behind the accursed abomination, two wings jutted out, pointing skyward as if it might at any moment suddenly take flight. The look of malice on the face of that tentacled head was enough to terrify him and he shook as he held the stone in his hand. With all our lore and legends of demons and devils, no tome could ever conjure such a horrid and nature defying creation such as this stone depicted. He turned it over again in his hands, but the remaining sides were all blessedly devoid of any further inscriptions or horrors, but judging from the ragged portion below that vicious caricature, it appeared a part of the stone was missing or had crumbled mercifully away. He let the accursed stone fall from his hand back to the ground rather than carry such an atrocious object on his person for any length of time, and for a moment he was tempted to cast it into the sea, sparing any future human eye from ever having to befall such a horror as he had just held in his hands.

He realized he had begun to tremble at some point while holding that deplorable piece of rock in his hand. As he rested on his knee attempting to regain his composure and make his way down to the river, the sun suddenly vanished behind a cloud formation making the air cool noticeably as the wind slowly began to pick up around him. Lifting his head, he noticed that the clouds rolling in from the river, that stood ageless before him, were dark and menacing and as he gazed fixedly out toward the water and the approaching storm, he caught in his peripheral vision, something that drew his attention away from the dark clouds, chilled his blood, and awakened the most primal fear the human mind has learned to keep buried under eons of civilization and culture. He turned his head, slowly, and saw for the first time that a church stood on the bank of the water less than a half mile to his left. The ancient cyclopean chapel was immense in size and he found it impossible to believe that he had not seen this diseased structure before, looming high above everything and dwarfing the dead trees that had the misfortune of resting in its loathsome shadow, as its infinitely high spire rose ever upward, seeming to reach into the very heavens in some vile mockery of the firmament.

The decrepit old structure was in shambles. An unholy conglomeration of rotted and decaying wood and broken glass that came together to paint a scene of the most disagreeable character. The blasphemous arrangement of squalid materials clinging desperately to retain the form of this grotesque mockery of a church, was approachable by a slightly ascending staircase made up of large and ancient stone. Even from this distance he could see that the stone walk had long ago been over run with weeds of the sickliest nature he had ever had the misfortune of casting an eye upon. What terrible and grossly misled group of villagers had ever chosen this dreadful setting as a place of worship? The very sight of such a morally fetid cathedral stood in stark opposition to all the spectacular beauty that surrounded it. Even had it not been given over to such a state of invidious disrepair it looked as though it had always been a meeting place of the most depraved and corrupt souls imaginable. There was something inherently wrong about the place and every board used in its warped creation seemed out of place for a house designed to honor the Most High. Civilized men would have razed such an abomination to the ground no sooner than they had laid eyes on this wretched dwelling, rather than putting the first hesitant foot inside this domicile of the damned. That it was a church only seemed to compound the horror of the situation that much more. It was intended to be a house of worship and devotion but what leered menacingly before him, casting its hideous shadow on the field below, was anything but…it was madness constructed. A clack of thunder broke him from his fixed revulsion and forced him to realize he would be forced to seek shelter from the approaching storm.

He looked around rapidly and fought off the overwhelming sense of terror that threatened to render him motionless as he realized that there was nowhere for him to go. Every human instinct he possessed screamed for him to turn and run, run from this vile place now and not even cast a glance back. Better to take his chances in the coming thunderstorm than to go anywhere near that abysmal place of perversion and filth. In every direction he looked he saw nothing but the field stretching endlessly toward the far distant mountains. What abject consciousness had decided to erect this horrid effigy of a church in the middle of so much nothingness! He turned and looked back to the rolling water and saw that the sky had turned an ugly violent shade of black and the clouds were rolling in fast. The wind had already picked up substantially and the first few drops of rain began to fall from the sky as lightning flashed and lit up the sky in a dazzling array of colors. The droplets were large and cold, and panic seized him as he considered the reality that he would be forced to seek refuge inside that corpse of stone and wood. He ran headlong in the direction of the storm and the church determined to wait out the storm inside the unholy chapel ahead.

He reached the stone steps much faster than he could have anticipated or would have liked to look up at the church that stood staring down at him. He fought off a sense of revulsion as he got the uncanny feeling that the church stared not so much down at him as it stared into him somehow. It reached a level of sinister like nothing he had ever seen before and the very closeness of the church filled him with such a feeling of dread that he once more entertained the option of flight, he knew he should just flee from this grotesque cathedral but he found his legs uncooperative for this task and stood rooted in place. He looked down at the steps and noticed that the worn stones had been cracked and crumbled by centuries of disuse and neglect. They had almost all but been given over completely to the wildlife that had sprung forth from every crack and crevice, but upon closer inspection he observed that what had chosen to grow here were no normal weeds that he had ever been privy to see before, but these weeds were of a most ghastly nature. They grew pale and thick yet still managed to appear sickly and malnourished. Brown and brittle but yet they grew to great lengths from every broken stone that climbed the dreadful path towards that fetid building above. He bit his lip and climbed rapidly as the rain suddenly began to hammer down around him.

He counted a total of thirty-two steps before he reached the heavy wooden door that would allow him entrance to the inside of the decayed structure and paused to consider whether he could really cross the threshold or if he should still somehow muster the intelligence to wait out the storm from this dry vantage point before the door. He was a doctor for Gods sake and had never been prone to such feelings of supernatural horror or paranormal irrationalities and the whole thing unnerved him like nothing he had ever experienced before. It was at least dry here, as the overhang of the church reached all the way out to the first step, and so it promised he would at least stay dry here or rather not get any wetter than he already had. He looked out at the lake and saw that the storm had created great waves that now beat on the shoreline and thumped against the side of the church from where he stood. The sound of the water crashing into the dead and rotting boards of the abandoned chapel made him want to vomit, he could not explain why but his mind instantly flashed back to the stone he had found in the field and that hellish depiction of the nameless creature some tormented soul had once immortalized in alien stone. Lightning cracked in the field nearby and the air around him felt electrically charged, followed immediately by a loud crash of thunder that peeled and echoed throughout the valley around him. That decided him. He would put aside his irrational fear and observe this situation as the man of intellect that he considered himself to be rather than continue on like some bumbling and archaic superstitious caveman. He would wait inside.

He wondered how dry it would be inside considering the state of disrepair that the church had fallen into and wondered would the door even give him access or would he find it locked? He secretly hoped for the latter and prayed that even though there was no chain stretched across the outside that maybe some long gone construction crew or even the old patrons of this rancid place had chained the inside or otherwise locked it up as to dissuade vandals and children from reckless abandon. He grasped the cold metal handle of the large wooden door and pushed down on the latch and to his mounting horror, with a lot of pressure, the clasp gave way and the huge door jumped open an inch. Darkness greeted him from the slight opening he had created and he had to take a deep breath and steady his nerves before pushing his weight against the door and opening it far enough that he judged he could squeeze through. He pushed his way into the church where the sense of dread he had felt before was incomparable to the sheer terror that descended upon him on entering the inside of this fetid horror. He almost gagged on the overpowering stench of dead fish that assaulted him from the inside of the door. It was the rotten smell of oceans of dead marine life left to bake for aeons in the sun. The entire of the inside was thick with the loathsome stench and he felt nauseated instantly.

Enough light seeped dismally into the church through the broken and shattered windows as well as from several holes of varying size in the ceiling that it permitted him to see his surroundings, or lack thereof, rather clearly. The old church was enormous! The outside of the structure, as large as it appeared, held little clue as to just how expansive the interior really was. It was beyond comprehension. It had long ago been relieved of anything decorative and the pews, if it had ever held them, had also been removed and what lay before him was a large expanse of bare ground all the way to the front of the church where it looked as though some things still stood, although from this distance and lighting it was impossible to ascertain just what still rested up there. Off to his right he could make out in the light allowed that the sea came inside of the church for about ten feet. He initially judged this to be due to the weather and natural deterioration of the structure around him but as his eyes became better adjusted to the darkness he noticed this was not due to any form of decay but rather that it had been intentional and the church had been designed this way as the wall was built down and came to rest just a foot above the surface of the water. This allowed the storm to force the waves it had generated into the church and he watched as several of the small waves broke several yards from where he stood. That would explain the rotten stench of the building he observed; how many countless thousands of fish had been washed ashore inside this corroding structure over the years only to lie rotting on the chapel floor and baking in the heat of this unused building. What architect could conceive of such a building! Surely they would have foreseen the problems and implications such a design would create for church service in the event of a storm, and even barring storms there was still the risk of marine life washing ashore. And then there was the smell!

He took his first tentative step towards the structures he could see ahead and felt as much as heard the floor squish beneath him, he looked down at the viscous black ooze that he was standing in and marvelled at what sort of earth this was that he found himself standing on. It was sticky, wet and clung to his shoes as he lifted them. It had the color of ink but the texture was more akin to jelly or some type of mild adhesive like that used to catch rats or other menacing rodents in modern houses. The whole atmosphere of this appalling abode was something to be abhorred. He took several small steps through the inky goo that clung to him and realized with each step that he sank almost ankle deep into the murky earth below. With each step there was created a suction and the sound that accompanied them coupled with the sound of the water sloshing inside this wretched place filled him with a brand new horror. This was becoming increasingly worse, and madness was the only word that came close to describing such a place as this. It was bedlam.

He was preparing himself to take another step towards the front of the church almost against his will when something from the water suddenly demanded the whole of his attention. A sound as of something very heavy splashing in the water assailed his ears and violated his senses in a moment of pure unmitigated panic. He spun in the direction of the sound in a mad attempt to determine its source but saw nothing there save for the after effects left behind in the water by whatever had made that dreadful splash. Unholy of all unholies, the wake it had created filled him with a terror no mortal man should ever be forced to encounter! The water was still raining down from a height that must have reached a full ten feet in the air and rather than leaving behind a ripple in the water, it had generated waves of such ferocity that they rivalled those created by the storm still raging outside.

What unmentionable horror could possibly have made such a tumult in the water of the church and what had it been doing? It was at this point that all reason and logic suddenly fled from his mind and he reverted to ancient and irrational fears that must have plagued man long before the advent of electric lights and even writing tools. He was filled with a horrifying sense of primitive terror that gnawed at his very sanity and threatened to drop him to his knees and leave him blathering there in the darkness of that condemned chapel. For the second time that afternoon he again reflected on the stone he had discovered in the field and he began gibbering senselessly while he was realizing that he must run. He had to escape this terrible dimension that had somehow broken free of the conventional world we all take for granted. It suddenly seemed to him that here, all the rules and laws of modern society ceased to exist or to function. He looked up and realized for the first time, and wondered how he had never noticed this before, that even the very geometry of the place was all wrong. The curvature of the building seemed almost impossible from an architectural standpoint. He found it impossible to conceive the very foundations of the structure around him, the walls that had seemed straight before, almost seemed to curve inwards towards the front but looking at what he assumed to be some sort of altar up front, his peripheral vision showed so much more curvature and bending than seemed humanly possibly. How had such a thing been accomplished with 17th century tools when he could think of no modern tools capable of such tasks as he saw before him? He had to get out of here! That thought alone was the only one that mattered to him at the moment. Geometry be damned! He had to escape or he knew he would witness much worse horrors that his mind would never recover from, even if he were to survive this loathsome experience.

He turned to flee in the direction from which he had come but his feet had sunk into that black viscous mire and he found to his excruciating terror in that moment that he was unable to move. The panic he felt turned to pure horror and he screamed then, as he heard a second splash beside him followed by a squishing sound as if something wet and huge moving far too close off to his side by the bank to the water. He dropped and began to rip his shoes free from the ooze and in lieu of that to tear them from his feet and discard them here to flee barefoot from this living hell, but the thought of touching that stinking slime with his bare feet revolted him so utterly that he vomited on himself and realized he was still screaming. Even in the dark he could make out the shadow that fell over him as he crouched there in the inky goo fumbling with his shoes. Something towered over him and he realized that something foreign and quite unfit for this world had sidled up beside him and would now take him, gibbering and mad, screaming to far away places that no man should ever know or even contemplate. He hoped death would come quick, but every instinct he possessed told him he would die only after madness had long since ravaged and raped him of every sane sense he once so easily controlled. The last thought he could remember thinking was again of that abominable stone idol in the field and the shadow cast over him that he knew would belong to the filthy embodiment of that wretched piece of rock…before he awoke in the room of his hotel. Screaming.