An Epitaph

Here lies Jeremiah Mordaunt
1838-1944
Rest in Peace

Dear reader, doubtless you are wondering what drew you so to my grave – what force pulled you to this unassuming corner of the churchyard. The more pressing issue, of course, is how these words are appearing upon the headstone.

Well, let yourself settle on the grass – yes, that’s it – and your questions shall be answered.

I was the youngest of three sons and four daughters. On the eve of my thirteenth birthday my older brothers decided to spook me with a fake séance. As it happens, the spirits were displeased with their insolence. They had meant to use parlour tricks to frighten me, but all three of us swiftly fled from that basement.

My brothers found ways to dismiss the matter. I, however, became obsessed. I’d had a glimpse of the world behind the curtain and was determined to unveil its mysteries. My search was most vexing. For every genuine crumb of occult powers there were a thousand charlatans, maniacs, and superstitious fools. I studied the works of the reputed greats, seeking to apply their experiments, but Agrippa and the like concealed their understanding so well that I often began to doubt their authority on these matters.

I shall do you the courtesy of explaining what is happening to you, but forgive a late old man his digressions. Opportunities to converse are rare, but I shall hurry.

Suffice it to say that, despite the challenge of separating the wheat from the chaff, I slowly opened the curtain and tapped the forces beyond. I brought the spirits of the Goetia to heel, journeyed beyond my flesh, and slowed my ageing to keep me almost suspended in the middle of my years. Almost.

Even my extended lifespan would not permit me to complete my work. A mortal life was insufficient to bring as much clarity to these realms as a Newton brings to ours. Thus, as decrepitude forced itself upon me, I searched ever more intently for a lasting solution.

I can feel you becoming heavy and cold as you read my words, unable to look away, your muscles wrested from your will. Dear reader, have patience. My tale – and your own – will be over soon.

On this matter all spirits I summoned were ignorant or refused to speak. There was little to guide me but legend and rumour. I felt the grave opening up before me, saw the pallor approaching closer in the mirror each day. When the Third Reich called upon me to aid their own occult obsession, I put aside my disdain for their foolish preoccupation with the spear of destiny and took the opportunity to avail myself of their resources. My senses were dimming, the delayed fate at hand.

And at long last, I found my solution hidden among meaningless rituals in recovered ancient documents. I was unable to complete my magnum opus before my flesh at last failed me, but I did achieve the vital first stage. I sequestered a portion of my spirit in a ring, anchoring myself to this world. The ring still on my finger now, in the coffin beneath you.

It is the echo of power in my ring that has drawn you here, and has been leaching you of your life since you began reading. I feel you becoming ever so weary. Save yourself the effort of trying in vain to stand, to look away, to call out, to run. It’s too late.

I wish you no ill will, but this is a necessary sacrifice. My work must be completed. Each life brings me one step closer to being able to continue, and you happened to be one of the unfortunate few amenable to my influence.

Your heart is beginning to slow, soon to stop. I can see through your eyes as your vision darkens at the seams. Let it wash over you. I can assure you from experience that it doesn’t hurt. I myself haven’t had so much as a headache for over seventy years.

I have no intention of following my own advice, but as for you, dear reader – rest in peace.

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