A knock came in the late afternoon of a slow and quiet Sunday. Bird calls came sparse and distant.
As the knock sounded I thought who might be coming to visit, but could think of no one.
I decided to let the person see themselves away.
Then the knock came louder, more incessant. Rattling the front door, sending vibrations through the walls.
I sighed and got up from the couch, setting aside the crossword puzzle I was working on.
"Coming damn it!" I yelled, trudging to the door.
As the door swung upon the sight before me caught me by surprise. He wore a sharp black suit with a wide brimmed and black hat that cast strange shadows over his face. His teeth shined like polished pearl, and in the twilight they seemed abnormally sharp. In his hand he held a heavy briefcase, bulging from its contents.
He looked exactly like the door-to-door Bible salesmen I remembered from my childhood. "I'm terribly sorry, I'm not interested in any Bibles." I said before he could start, beginning to close the door.
His dark, polished shoe shot out and caught the door, pushing it open just a bit. "No, no, I don't sell Bibles, I sell books. I have a book for everyone. Why, I'm sure I even have one for you."
This had surprised me, as I had never met someone who merely sold different types of books door-to-door. "I have quite enough books I think, also. I'll admit I am a voracious reader, but I don't have the free money to be buying books from salesmen."
"oh I assure you, they aren't expensive. Why you might even say I'm happy to be rid of them." He chuckled softly, benignly. "Just afford me ten minutes to show you some books I think you may be interested in, and you can decide whether you are interested."
I thought it over for a moment, before nodding slowly. "Alright, I suppose it can't hurt to take a look." I showed him into my living room and sat him down.
He unlatched his briefcase on the coffee table. As he did so, it sprung open, relieved of pressure. "I have biographies, fiction, lost histories, tomes of ancient knowledge, even children's books to amuse the kiddies." He pulled out a handful of books.
I saw detective novels from my childhood, cloth hardcovers whose pages showed age, but seemed pristine. Also there were hand bound leather books with titles like "Compendium Maleficarum," which I knew was a book of writings of beliefs on witches and ways to hunt them, which had been published back in the early 1600's. There were even older looking books, which looked so fragile that I worried about their being packed so tightly within the briefcase.
"Now, I think, from the look of you, that something like this book here would interest you." He picked up a particularly thick book and set it down before me. I could see strange parts periodically through the book where there was some kind of glass instead of paper. I eased open the book to the first time this happened and saw an odd sight. Myself. Well, more accurately, there was a mirror set into the book, tied into the binding with thick leather cords.
"How much would this book set me back?" I murmured, chewing my lip, knowing that such an odd book would cost me quite a lot.
"Do you have a five dollar bill? That would suffice." He took off his hat and slicked back his dark brown hair. With the shadows gone I could see a long scar running the length of his forehead and across his right cheek.
"O-Only five?" I stammered, dumbstruck. "This book must be worth at least a few hundred dollars, it's such a unique book, and it looks quite old!"
The man laughed and shook his head. "It's YOUR book though. I couldn't possibly charge that much for a book you were meant to have!"
"I don't understand..." My head hurt. My vision was unfocused.
"Just give me the five dollars and the book is yours." His teeth flashed, sharp and dangerous, a forked tongue flickering outwards.
I slowly pulled out my wallet, extricating a five dollar bill. I held it out for the salesman.
He closed his long, dexterous fingers around the paper and smiled that dangerous smile again.
He put the other books back into his briefcase and closed it, snapping shut cleanly, no longer bulging. "That one was growing restless. Treat it well." He smirked, placing his hat back on his head. As he turned and left, I saw strange movements on his back, beneath his suit. At first like wings attempting to stretch, then slithering and coiling like snakes. 'So odd...' I thought groggily through the ache in my head.
My eyes grew heavy, and I laid my head upon the couch.
I awoke long after the sun had set.
My head swam with sleep. The book lay open on the table, open to its first page.
I lowered my head over that script and began to read.
She sat at the table, though she could have sworn that she had been laying at the couch across the room before.
Slowly ahe stood and backed away from the book. "No, something is wrong..." her voice echoed as if in a vast empty chamber.
But no, she still sat at the table, reading. The book had her now.
She attempted to wrench her sight from the page before her, but they were drawn onto each successive word.
The pages flew by, each with excessive detail in the way they described each moment.
Worst of all though was when she drew to the first page with a mirror on it. Beside the page it read, "it was late, but as I read on, I caught sight of my face. Gods how my face was gaunt. How long had I been reading?"
Her face was gaunt, how long had she been reading?
She dug trenches into the wooden table, nails beginning to bleed as she began weeping, tears falling, but never reaching the book.
The book would feast upon her worries, her withering frame, and warped and tormented mind.
Each time she came upon a mirror she would read. First, "I could feel it leaving me. My essence. The hours of my life falling as sand through my hands, though they cupped nothing."
Her hands trembled, clenching and unclenching.
Then came another, "but this was what I had paid for. My book. Or was I the book's reader? The one meant for IT? The book took and took. My eyes grew darker, more distant."
Her eyes shone darker and more distant in the mirror.
Finally, "I can feel it. The end. Death's black hand gripping my heart now. I tear open my shirt, and therein lies a black mass of tissue upon my chest. Gods what is it?"
Her chest hurt. Was it her heart?
Was it giving out?
Would she die now?
I lifted my head abruptly as the book ended, focus snapping back to me. I coughed and black mucus issued forth, coating the mirror on the final page.
I collapsed to the floor and found a note pad, simple, but also, a pencil attached to its side. I cried softly as I began writing this account.
What has happened?
Who was the salesman?
What was that book?
Why did it chose me?
What will happen now?
"Chart-topping." - People Magazine
"Unprecedented." - The New York Times
"Mesmerizing." - LIFE Magazine
I had not heard the work of S1R3N:opal, but had heard about the buzz their music had created. I broke down one day & downloaded their singles. They haunt me even now.
It had come out to little fanfare on December 23rd of 2016.
It stayed in relative obscurity until a, at the time, well known YouTuber had heard it and shared it with his audience. In a single day millions of people around the world had heard "Prelude to L1F3" by one S1R3N:opal, and it began its rocketing climb to the tops of charts worldwide.
No one knew who they were, attempts to contact them were fruitless. Despite their meteoric rise to popularity, they showed no interest in collecting on their stardom.
A one hit wonder would have been one thing, but in mid March of 2017 they released a second single. This one was entitled "Waltz na Fuar 1•3" and shot past the sales of the original single within a week.
It was at this point I caved and decided to download Prelude to L1F3.
I was sitting at my desk, around 10 at night, when the download completed. Heavy headphones resting on my shoulders, volume boosted to listen without having to truly wear them.
But as I hit play all I could hear was the static of my headphones, the low electrical buzz of empty signal. I waited for several seconds before checking my audio playback. It was playing.
Then it began.
How to describe such a thing?
At once crouching and menacing, only to soar to angelic heights, to then fall into a valley of shadow and minatory hooded figures. What genre was it? It transcended such labels. The instruments, certainly, were not acoustic, but their timber, their resonance, their growling, singing, screaming choral dissonance was of a quality all their own.
I was frozen in place, enraptured by this auditory assault- no, auditory exaltation!
As the final note trembled out into a vast nothing from which something looked back, I knew that I had been changed, altered in some fundamental way. On the subatomic level the building blocks that constructed the consciousness of ME had been manipulated.
This story I write now is not about me, but about S1R3N:opal and their grand work.
I quickly downloaded Waltz na Fuar 1•3 next and listened to it also. I was likewise transported, tormented, and transformed.
The light of my screen even appeared different now, waving and undulating in an approximation of life, crawling at me in the dark. I was not afraid though. This was the vision that S1R3N:opal had shared with me.
Around the world graffiti began cropping up, tagged S1R3N:opal showing a flat, mirrored mask that showed in it a reflection of the road opposite it, in perfect detail. These tags had been put up, however, using a brush and thick paints, not with the traditional spray paint, or even adhesive tags.
This was seen as strange, but not truly concerning until they began appearing on government buildings and national landmarks. Once that began happening governments began cracking down on S1R3N:opal related destruction of property.
This, however, seemed only to spur on the fans committing these crimes. The frequency of these tags increased, and so did their size, becoming larger and more intricate.
Then S1R3N:opal released their third single entitled "Röd T1dvatt3n."
Throughout Europe citizens began protesting their governments while wearing black hoodies and smooth mirrored masks, like those in the graffiti.
These countries shut down the protests immediately and began, one after another, banning S1R3N:opal's music, stating that it was inciting riots.
The song Röd T1dvatt3n, I will note, did not have any lyrics. Listening to it though, did not feel like the first two.
The day that it was released I had set up my speakers in my living room, both half as large as myself. I had gotten wind that a single was about to drop and prepared accordingly. The moment it was released I downloaded it and hit play.
The bass came in first, rumbling my small apartment as a large beast's growl. Then came those immaculate, horrible instruments. As they crescendoed something strange and wonderful came to me. As I listened I was shown a glimpse of the mirrored mask of the great S1R3N:opal, looking down at me from the sky. The roof of my apartment was gone. The mirror reflected my shocked expression and distorted it wildly.
I felt the perspective shift. I was looking down upon the reflective surface of a great lake.
Then came three words: "reject your chains."
I must admit now, I took part in the protests. We had heard the call and came together to overthrow our masters.
The suppression continued, shutting down protests, gassing riots, banning music, arresting those disciples attempting to distribute it.
Then The New York Riot occurred on June 18th 2017.
The streets were flooded with mirrored masks and dark hoods. Flames crawled upon the, likewise, mirrored skyscrapers.
The army was called in to control the situation, but a large portion of the troops ended up putting on masks of their own and abandoning their posts, adding their powerful weaponry to the chaos.
Eventually the riot was stopped, but not until the majority of New York City lay burned and ruined.
After The New York Riot world governments began working together to track down and apprehend S1R3N:opal.
We only know of this because of a Wikileaks article showing documents from all around the world that contained evidence of their efforts, and failure to find S1R3N:opal.
The protests had stopped, but then strange occurrences around the world began happening, all tied back to S1R3N:opal.
A bus of travelers disappeared in the Sayan Mountains, did not appear at its next stop, but rolled into the depot two weeks later. The only person remaining on the bus was the driver, whose face was gaunt and body frail from malnutrition. He mumbled to himself over and over "Потерянное озеро. Потерянное озеро. Потерянное озеро."
Around September of that year, a father took his family out camping in the Appalachian Mountains, and returned a month later with only the clothes of his children, and his wife's head in a cooler. He stated his children were safe, but that his wife had rejected what she glimpsed in the mask, and as such had not been welcomed.
A single was secretly distributed around December of 2017. This final single was entitled "S1R3N's Fall." Best described, I suppose, as an Elegy. The song held all the sadness and grief of losing a loved one. I weep even now as I recall its sweeping chords and choral cries.
This release was traced by American government agencies and on December 23rd of 2017 S1R3N:opal was arrested. Their real name was Roxanne Hall, a 25 year old living in New Jersey. The first night she was in custody she committed suicide by tearing out her own throat.
This would have been the end of S1R3N:opal, if Roxanne had truly been S1R3N:opal.
Within the wavelengths of S1R3N's Fall was a hidden message to the truly devout, like yours truly, to come to S1R3N:opal's side. We were to gather and together we would continue their great work.
Together we would return to that great lake, Hali, where black stars reflect upon its shimmering surface.
I must go now.
They call for me.
My name is Theo Behnke, and I'm a retired copyrighter living out in western Virginia. I'm recording the strange and horrible things that I saw over the course of the last three nights. Hopefully these strange records can warn some poor folk from venturing out to these mountains.
The first of these nights was the least horrific, but should have foreshadowed what was soon to come.
I sat, one night in the late summer, upon the edge of my porch. My cabin lay upon the upper rim of the southern edge of a valley. The whole structure had a tilt to it, leaning into the hill, and away from the valley.
The moon was high and nearly full. The stars, an iridescent river that played upon the lip of said moon.
I supped upon a flask of dry whiskey as I eyed a lone cloud easing 'cross the sky.
A peaceful scene.
Then the cloud found its way over the moon.
The light in the valley shifted rapidly, turning from white, to grey, to orange, and finally a faint red.
This raised an eyebrow, to be sure, but this was not the strangest thing. I looked up at the cloud again and as the moon shone through it, it appeared to form a massive yellow eye, like a cat's, glaring and menacing.
I watched this strange play of light and atmosphere for some minutes before, I swear, the eye closed, and the cloud once more revealed itself.
That was not all that happened the first night, however.
As I turned in for the night I heard the scratching of some animal upon the door of my cabin. I retrieved the rifle I had leaning against the wall and banged the butt of the rifle against the front door, yelling and hollering at the tops of my lungs.
The animal fell silent.
At first I thought it had fled from the cabin, but just as I was about to go and return to bed, the thing slammed itself against the door.
There was a small window in the door near the top and within it I glimpsed a large furred maw, slavering and dragging an elongated and forked tongue across the glass.
I was startled so, by this, that I turned and fired my rifle at the door.
The creature let forth a hissing yelp, unlike any animal I had heard before, or could imagine, and ran from my cabin.
I decided that it would be better to stay within the safety of my cabin instead of pursuing the creature. I moved a chair beneath the handle of the door and secured it thusly.
The next morning I awoke to find a trail of thick blood leading from my porch down into the valley. In the dirt I found strange tracks, unlike the tracks of any animal I had seen previously. The tracks bore the markings of six paw pads, five claws upon the front, and one deeper claw mark upon the back.
I spent that day quietly in my cabin, not venturing till after dinner that evening, and only doing so to enjoy my evening on the porch as I had done the night before.
The second night it became abundantly clear that I was in the midst of some strange, and dangerous, occurrence.
I sat, once more, upon my porch, rifle resting against my rocking chair. The night was cloudy, yet dry. I had a small lantern sitting atop an empty barrel beside me. It was, as of that point, still unlit.
It was nearing eleven when I heard what sounded like the scream of a woman coming from lower in the valley.
I immediately grabbed my rifle before slowly standing up, and peering over the tops of the tree below my cabin.
I could faintly make out the flickers of lights some ways below me.
I lit the lantern and took it, the rifle, and what little courage would muster, and took it with me as I began making my way down the mountain.
The darkness about me seemed thick as ink, only peeling back where the relatively weak light of my lantern slashed out at it.
I had walked for sometime before I heard someone approaching me from below.
I realized from the sounds that it wasn't just someONE, but several people.
The figures that then approached me from between the trees were at once bizarre and... quite silly. They wore robes or red and gold with a curved and strange symbol upon their breast. On their heads they appeared to wear large masks upon which were meshed together the faces of several different species of owl. They were so large, in fact, as to look almost comical upon their unproportioned bodies.
What stopped me from laughing, however, was what they carried with them, torches, and strangely curved blades, like the symbol upon their chest, with rust that looked most menacing.
"Hello friends, my name is Theo, I live up on the ridge. I heard a commotion and had come to see what was happening." I spoke, keeping my voice level and calm. The figures did not speak, but continued to draw closer. "I was just making sure no one was hurt. It seems that y'all are doing just fine, so I'll be heading back up to my cabin then."
The nearest figure raised his blade and pointed it at me. A low, gurgling noise issued from its throat. The other figures stamped their feet in a slow rhythm before they continued approaching, their rhythm increasing and so, their pace.
I started walking back up the mountain towards my cabin, my pace going faster and faster as I heard these strange people following behind me.
Chanting started up then, strange words that I couldn't understand. The chanting came not just from behind me, but from in front of me too!
More of these strange chanting people came from between the trees as I ran past them.
As one came within arm's reach, I felt the air of one of their blades pass by my ear.
Once the cabin came into sight I ran with renewed vigor. As soon as I was within the door I turned and slammed the it shut, but one of these strange cultists was already in the doorway.
The door almost closed, but the cultist's hand was caught in the frame. I wrenched the blade from their hand and struck its fingers, slicing cleanly through three before becoming lodged in the pinky finger.
The mask suddenly moved, and the eyes of the owls looked at me, and as one they opened their mouths and let forth a most terrifying shriek. The THING then pulled it's hand back through the door and stumbled away, clutching its bloodied and mangled hand, the many mouths of the owls screeching loudly.
I closed the door and locked it, dragging my dining table in front of it.
I then quickly moved several shelves to block the few windows my cabin had. As I finished barricading the different entrances I heard the sounds of scratching and screeching all around my cabin, as the bizarre things tried to make their way inside.
For several hours I kept watch, making sure the barricades were sufficiently heavy enough not to be moved.
Eventually however, the noises outside stopped. I finally began to relax, sitting at my dining table, now pressed against the front door, with my lantern before me.
The tension of the evening had worn me out. I could not stop myself from resting my head against the table and closing my eyes.
I awoke sometime later, I don't know exactly how long it had been, as, bizarrely, the clock I kept in the cabin was ticking backwards, and as such, no longer keeping time.
My lantern had run out of fuel, so with some difficulty, I refueled it, lit it, and dragged the table away from in front of the door.
I unlocked it and slowly stepped outside. As I did, I could smell the pungent odor of damp pine, and felt a humid cold cling to me as it drifted into my cabin.
It was still, or once again, dark outside. I had no idea if it was the next day or the same night, however, the clouds had left and the moon shone brightly over the valley.
I heard a rumbling from the direction of the valley and cursed beneath my breath, terrified of what might have caused such a tremor.
Then I saw something arise from the middle of the forest deep within the valley.
It's form was massive, dwarfing the surrounding trees, and was black, unlit, despite the bright glare of the moon over the treetops. A spill of ink over the forest. It's eyes and teeth, the only part of it that caught light, glittered with minatory intent.
I believe it appeared black because it was covered in dense fur, though I cannot be sure. It's edges seemed blurry and indefinite.
The trees creaked as a breeze eased out of it's behemothic jaws. It then let forth an unrepeatable utterance, which I can herein only describe as awful. This sound so shook the trees and ground that I was tripped and fell upon the ground.
The lantern was extinguished, but I could still see around me because of the bright moonlight.
I decided then and there that whatever was occurring was not only too dangerous for me to bother with, but also far beyond my understanding.
I turned and ran over the crest of the mountain, heading in the direction of the nearest town. I made it safely there, thankfully, and am now writing my accounts of the strange goings-on that occurred in that valley.
You must not, I repeat, NOT go to that valley. The only thing we can hope for is that whatever was occurring does not make its way out of the valley.
For myself, I am moving FAR away. I will not say as to where, but rest assured, I will not be found by anyone.