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De Marigny's Clock
by R S Cartwright

NOTE: The following is a transcript from a diary being kept by Joseph Ward during his stay at the Chateau de Marigny, ancestral home of the de Marigny family located on a hillside near Bayonne, France. The diary was found on a writing table in the chateau’s study. What has become of Joseph Ward remains a mystery. Of the coffin shaped clock and silver key referred to in the text, there is no trace. However, on the floor in a corner of the study there is a small area that is devoid of dust as if something had been there and had recently been removed. The investigation into the disappearance of Mr. Ward is still ongoing.

* * * * *

Day 1: Friday, 4 April 97

……2:00 PM. All right, here I am at Chateau de Marigny. And I still don’t believe it! I’ve read Lovecraft & written Lovecraftian material…but I never would have believed that this place really existed. But exist it does, & in all its glory of cobwebs, dust, mist, silence, & shadows! Although an antiquarian’s delight (from what I’ve seen thus far), it sure as Hell is one run down dust covered cobweb-laced haven for spiders & who knows what else. A proverbial bat trap. This place could scare the skin off a skeleton! I wonder how many skeletons de Marigny has in his closets here? Got enough closets; plenty of room for a lot of skeletons.

……The flight & drive to this place was long & tiring. After a short preliminary walk through (including the chateau library), I think it’s time to catch a few winks. More later…

……5:40 PM. Had a good sleep, nice & refreshed, & the sun hasn’t even set yet. Which is good! As to why I’m here, when I found out about this place, I thought I’d do a little investigating, & found I could rent the place for a few days (going to drain my bank account)….the mood & atmosphere, stimulate my writing a bit. It needs it! But now that I AM here, my writing will have to wait. So much exploring to do.

……I went to what is apparently the study…had to fight through inches thick dust on the floor (typical). The study was sparsely furnished - a writing desk with a delightful antique oil lamp, a fireplace with an ornately carved marble mantel piece, large wall tapestries, a large oriental throw rug, some old portraits, a few bookcases (nothing like the library I saw earlier), a settee, & an old wing backed chair, all covered in sheets (isn’t furniture always covered in sheets in an old abandoned wreck of a home?). I wonder if any of the portraits is old man de Marigny himself?

……I pulled a few sheets off some furniture to sit down, & that’s when a little cubbyhole above the fireplace mantel caught my eye, a small recessed compartment with a little wooden door, the door half rotted away. It looked a little out of place on the stone wall of the fireplace. I checked it out, wondered if anything was in it. Dark & dusty, half afraid to stick my hand in there, I did anyway, & found a single tarnished silver key. It’s a strange looking thing, about 5 inches long, & covered in bizarre hieroglyphs. Something tugs at my memory about that key…just can’t pinpoint it right now. Maybe later.

……One other thing of note - in one corner of the study near the fireplace I found an area of the bare wooden floor completely devoid of dust as if something had been resting there. It’s a small square area, about 18" X 18". What may have been there is anybody’s guess. Evidently removed recently (whatever it may have been). Odd.

……Tired of writing, so guess I’ll wander off & check some other rooms, then hit the sack early.

Day 2: Saturday, 5 April 97

……3:45 AM. I guess this place isn’t so silent after all. The sound of clocks woke me up about 15 minutes ago. The sound was faint, but enough to do the trick. The strange thing is the sound they made (seemed to be more than one clock) was odd, actually not like normal clocks. More like a bunch of chiming clocks in a clock store that were all ringing at the same time, & somehow out of sync or out of tune. Hard to explain. The sound faded quickly, & I couldn’t find the source. Going to try to get some more sleep. With any luck…

……8:10 AM. Awake with coffee brewing. The clock business in the middle of the night puzzles me. I don’t know why, but there’s something unearthly or unholy about it. Sure, strange noises in an old abandoned creaky mansion are natural (are they?), but clocks? And weird sounding clocks at that? I’ve got a funny feeling…

……Well, time for coffee, then some more exploring. Maybe I’ll find some old clock(s) stuck in a closet somewhere with some old de Marigny skeletons.

……6:00 PM. Nothing new, no clocks, no skeletons. Really didn’t do much exploring except for casing the grounds a bit. This place sits on a hillside partially encircled by a bunch of strange looking, somewhat deformed, old trees. Got the feeling they were watching me. The longer I stay here, the more this place gives me the creeps. No wonder de Marigny (the last one to live here) left this place for New Orleans!

……I will say that this place sure gets darker than dark at night! Didn’t think about not having electricity; forgot how old this place was!! I spent last night curled on the settee in the study with a single candle in a candle holder & an old candelabra (I found upstairs) on the desk. Think I’ll collect some firewood & light up the fireplace tonight. I’d better do it before it gets too dark. Who knows what hangs around in those woods at night… I’m chuckling to myself here. I sound like I’m getting scared! Well, to be honest, I am. There’s something about this place…something sinister.

……Off to round up some firewood, light up the fireplace, & maybe curl up on the settee with a book if I can find something that won’t give me nightmares!

……11:30 PM. Gathered some firewood, got a fire going in the fireplace. Selected Melville’s Moby Dick from one of the bookcases here in the study. Time to read a little…

Amendment: 11:35 PM. On hindsight I don’t know why I chose Moby Dick. Certainly fatalistic. At least fatalistic for Captain Ahab. Oh well… It’s dark & cold outside. Kinda spooky in here; certainly has the mood & atmosphere I was looking for to stimulate my writing!

Day 3: Sunday, 6 April 97

……9:10 AM. Drafty! The wind certainly knows how to find its way into this place! And the creaking floors, thought I heard footsteps last night, but not so sure, maybe just in my mind. And there was the sound of those clocks again last night… I don’t think Marley’s ghost would even want to haunt this place!

……I hardly slept at all, an eye half open, waiting for something to come shuffling out of the shadows! I don’t know why, but I’m beginning to detest this place (& I’ve only spent two nights here so far)! I shouldn’t, I mean, this is my kind of stuff! If I can write a horror story while spending a night in an old country cemetery, I certainly should be able to wait out a few days in this old run down bat trap of a chateau! More later…

……6:55 PM. Checked out the library again early this afternoon. Unbelievable! Wall to wall book cases with a wealth of books. And I should have known…tucked in among some classics were the likes of the Cultes Des Goules, De Vermis Mysteriis, the Pnakotic Manuscripts, the Altuas Fragments, the R’lyeh Texts, & the Necronomicon (evidently a hand written copy in French), among others…even a recent edition of Ambrel’s Ritualistic Practices in the Cult of Byagoona (I wonder who left that here). Going to have to take a closer look at this collection.

……The sun is going down, so gotta get some more firewood for the fireplace. Went through a lot of firewood last night trying to keep enough light and heat going in the study. Damn shadows everywhere. Maybe ole Mr. Marley will show up rattling his chains tonight!

……11:10 PM. Took a nap after gathering more firewood…tired from being up half the night last night. A nightmare woke me up, & the clocks…maybe I should say clock. Just one. A "coffin shaped clock" if I can remember the description correctly from the Lovecraft/Price story. It all fits…this chateau, the name de Marigny, & that clock. It’s way too eerie to be true. I think I’m just letting my imagination create the situation in my subconscious. Maybe not…

……The nightmare…I found myself rising from the settee. I walked to the fireplace & unconsciously took the silver key from the cubbyhole above the mantel. Turning, I saw the clock sitting in the corner of the study right where that dust free area of the floor was. The thing was tall, definitely coffin shaped all right (old style wooden coffin with beveled sides), & it had four hands on its face. It was keeping some odd unearthly time, two of its hands moving counterclockwise at varying speeds even as I looked at it. The face & the door below were covered in the same bizarre hieroglyphs as the key I found. And the thing was ticking in that strange unearthly "out of sync" rhythm, if you can call it rhythm.

……I walked to the clock, stuck the key into a keyhole on the hieroglyph covered door, & opened it. A red smoky haze clouded the opening, but I began to see another world through the haze! It was a strange world of odd colors & angles…but hard to have a rational perception of what I was really seeing. The strange ticking began to fade, & for a moment I thought I sensed someone coming, then realized it was in my mind, something ELSE was in my mind. The haze started to clear, & I was certain I didn’t want to see what was beyond, what was coming…my screams woke me up, & I bolted upright on the settee, my eyes wide & locked on the corner where the clock was. It wasn’t there. A nightmare…this place can do that to you.

……Wish I had a copy of that Lovecraft/Price story with me to see if the clock I saw was the same one described in the story (Hell, I wish I could remember the title of the story!). Looks like I’m going to spend some time with Moby Dick again. It’s going to be a while before I can fall asleep.

Amendment: 11:55 PM. Fire’s going; I didn’t get enough firewood. Dark out. I don’t like this…don’t like this at all!

Day 4: Monday, 7 April 97

……9:00 AM. "While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping…" Okay, Mr. Poe! If your raven heard the noises I heard last night, it would be shitting all over it’s damn bird cage! More than just a tapping, the chateau seemed to have come alive last night! No nightmares (none that I remember), but I didn’t sleep well with all the racket going on. The wind outside was howling, tree branches scratching the windows & walls, & whistling through the secret openings in the chateau that only the wind knows. There were banging noises, like slamming doors. Reminded me of a few of those old black & white haunted house movies. Prankster poltergeists & such spooky misfits.

……And there were creaking floors, like the wood was being strained by some great weight. Heard it in the ceiling above, the flooring in the hall, & truss beams somewhere below (I think). Seemed like the very walls of the chateau were under heavy strain. As if that wasn’t enough, just before dawn a thunderstorm rolled through here like a damn freight train rolling through whipped cream! This place was groaning under the stress, windows & shutters blowing open everywhere, ragged curtains billowing like ghosts. It was enough to keep me busy running around closing the windows & shutters! Walked around the grounds of the chateau about an hour ago, & there are trees down everywhere. Lucky the chateau didn’t blow down!

……Time to fix something to eat & put on another pot of coffee…just after 9 AM, & one pot already gone. I’m addicted. Caffeine. More later… One other thing - I remembered the Lovecraft/Price story about the clock. It’s Through the Gates of the Silver Key. I find a "silver key" & dream of that clock. What a coincidence! Or is it?

……12:20 PM. Okay…it’s daylight, I’m rational (I think), nothing out of the ordinary going on. Right? Why can’t I convince myself? Just heard footsteps again, & this time I checked it out. Went into the entrance hall (cautiously of course…after all, as they say, curiosity killed the cat, & this cat isn’t too keen on dying just yet!). Thought I saw someone or something slipping into the library. My eyes could’ve been playing tricks on me…tired, scared, & all. If not, & if it was a ghost (or something), well, it’s my understanding that when people are dead, they stay dead! I certainly didn’t follow it into the library to make sure.

……Well, been here long enough without getting some fiction writing done. Thinking about trying. Don’t know if I can. Maybe I’ll explore more upstairs first… Hell, I don’t know. Can’t concentrate. More later…

……5:30 PM. Okay…didn’t explore like I wanted to. Sat in the study, staring at the fireplace, thinking of story lines, & making occasional notes in my notebook. Think I got a story line working…a Nephren-Ka idea. Lots of bits & pieces, but nothing coherent. The chateau is too distracting…I just can’t…

………dammit! The weird clock noise has started again, even as I write this entry. It’s soft, sounds far away…but it’s that same crazy out of sync chiming that I heard earlier. Nothing in the corner…just that "dustless" spot on the floor…getting softer now…it’s… Yeah, it’s gone. Whew, I can breath again…hadn’t noticed I was holding my breath. These walls are closing me in. I need to get out of here for a while, go for a walk…

……10:30 PM. Refreshed, but tired from the walk. I sat for a while & had some time to think about my nightmare, the key, & that clock. There’s something going on here, & I don’t know why or what. This chateau does, in fact, exist, so why not the key & clock? Of course the key does as well; it’s right there on the mantel. Makes me think there’s more to this than just some random nightmare. Psychologists would say that it’s some kind of suggestion, that being in this chateau (associated in some indirect way with a Lovecraft/Price character) has created & placed a suggestion in my subconscious mind, causing the nightmare. I don’t think so. Damn, I wish I had that Lovecraft/Price story here! I just can’t get this off my mind. It’s becoming an obsession!

……Oh well, it’s getting late & I’m really beginning to dread the coming night. This place certainly isn’t your ordinary haunted house! I wish whoever or whatever is causing all this would go somewhere else to play tonight. It would be nice to have a peaceful night’s sleep for once!

……I’d better get the firewood burning, then read a little more of Moby Dick. I’m beginning to feel like Captain Ahab, obsessed with an obsession that’s going to get me before I get IT. This chateau is my Great White Whale.

……I need a distraction to get my mind off of this. Maybe I should just leave & go home.

Day 5: Tuesday, 8 April 97

……1:55 AM. Here I am - wide awake after another nightmare! De Marigny’s clock is going to drive me crazy! It seemed so real, so tangible, like it wasn’t a nightmare at all. It began with the soft unearthly ticking of de Marigny’s clock, but there was more - strange voices in some form of horrid chanting, soft, distant, weaving a strange melody with the ticking of the clock.

……I opened my eyes & the study was gone. I found myself in some misty alien world, dimly lit red with swirling vapors. In the distance was a line of jagged mountain peeks, their summits shrouded by clouds. Strange things flew over head, creatures I’d never seen before. I turned around, & saw the opened door of the clock - FROM THE INSIDE! On the other side of the clock door I could see the study softly lit by the glow of the fire in the fireplace.

……The chanting grew louder with the abnormal ticking of the clock, & through it all I began to hear an incessant stream of strange words (places?) & names invading my thoughts, some recognizable, some not - Ulthar, Leng, Ward Phillips, Ilek-Vad, Ernest Aspinwall, ‘Umr at-Tawil, Chandraputra, Randolph Carter, Kled, Yog-Sothoth, Yaddith, Zkauba, Etienne-Laurent de Marigny (naturally!),…& many more; I just don’t remember them all now. And then the…THING…came out of the mist.

……It was some shrouded shambling black clawed thing, seeming to glide across the ground. I stepped back as it held up a claw toward me. It spoke in my thoughts. "The dream is the reality." That’s what it said. That was enough; I turned & ran for the open door of de Marigny’s clock. Just before I reached the door, the thing spoke again. "The Ultimate Gate stands open…you will come." I reached the opened door of the clock, tripped through it, & sprawled onto the floor of the study… And woke up, finding myself where I had fallen in the dream.

……I rolled over, stared wide-eyed into the corner. There was no clock. There WAS a rapidly fading trace of mist, tinted pink. A presumably damp piece of firewood (no smoke? puzzled), no doubt damp from the storm, chose that moment to snap, sounding like a rifle being fired. Enough to cause my heart to jump up between my teeth! I’m a nervous wreck, shaking. Need to put some coffee on…

Amendment: 2:20 AM. Got my coffee, curled up on the settee, pen & diary in hand. Still shaking. Shadows dancing on the walls from the firelight. I keep thinking about that thing & the words it spoke. I’ll never forgot those words for as long as I live (which I fear won’t be long if I don’t leave here soon). Looks like a few more rounds with Captain Ahab for now…

……12:41 PM. Slept in; up about 11:15. I wandered around a bit when I got up, found a panel in the library, a hidden staircase behind the panel. Wouldn’t you know it?! Like a typical spook house (but this is NO typical spook house!). The staircase lead to an odd little secret room….strange angles & planes…& a black window. Opaque.

……Looked like someone had been living in that room. There was a bed, night stand, a huge wing back chair, & a small writing table with a chair; a quill & inkwell on the table. There was also an ash tray on the night stand & a couple of pipes lying next to it. Somebody here was evidently a pipe smoker.

……The strange thing about that room was there was no sound…nothing. It almost gave me the feeling of being deaf. Not even the old floor boards creaked when I walked through the room. I first noticed the "soundlessness" of the room when I tapped on the opaque window…no sound! Gave me the creeps…(as if I didn’t already have the creeps!). Convinced me to leave well enough alone & head back downstairs.

……Coming down the staircase, sound returned again…but not any sound I really wanted to hear! It was soft, distant…the odd ticking of that clock, soft ethereal chanting, & the sound of some strange music…flutes or some kind of pipes, I think. By the time I made it back to the library, the sound had disappeared. "Normal" sound again; tapped my foot, & dropped a book on the floor just to make sure. Fear & uncertainty can make you do funny things, I guess. Normal? What’s so normal about this place (an afterthought)?

……7:15 PM. The clock is back. And it’s not a nightmare, it’s real…that thing is here sitting in the corner of the study…in living color, strange hieroglyphs, & with that incessant eerie unnerving ticking. Something is going to happen, & happen soon. I can feel it. The whispered chanting & flute (pipe?) music comes & goes…nothing steady (yet). I find myself wanting to take the silver key & open the clock, but I keep forcing myself not to. I get the feeling that if I did, well…I wouldn’t be going home again.

……I keep thinking about what that thing in my dream said - The dream is the reality. I dreamed about that clock & it certainly is real! That thing also mentioned an Ultimate Gate. Makes me wonder if the clock is the Ultimate Gate or a gate that LEADS to the Ultimate Gate?! One thing is for certain, I am not spending the night in this room tonight! Certainly not with that clock here, & that damn ticking noise it’s making! Going to move into the library…no fireplace in there so it’s going to be cold…have to find some extra blankets upstairs. More later…

……11:20 PM. In the library. Brought the candelabra from the study & a few extra candles. Layered in blankets with my trusty (rather de Marigny’s trusty) copy of Moby Dick handy. I can hear the ticking noise from the study…no other sounds at all, just that ticking. Almost like the lack of noise except for the clock is on purpose…planned. I don’t think I’ll get any reading done…dark out, shadows at the windows. That ticking…

Day 6: Wednesday, 9 April 97

……8:55 AM. Hardly slept last night, but nothing happened. I’m ragged. Really ragged. I’ve realized that every little noise startles me. I’m jumping at shadows. Nerves on edge, about ready to snap. I know this sounds irrational, & maybe I’m losing my mind, but something is definitely going on here & for some purpose. I have to see this through. I have to know what’s happening, what it’s all about. Am I nuts?!

……The clock is still in the study. Don’t even need to see it to know it’s there. I can HEAR it…that damn ticking. This sounds crazy, but I know it’s waiting. Just waiting for me. Well, it’s going to have to wait; it’s going to have to show me what it wants! And I’m fairly certain that it will show me what it wants, & in its own good time (no pun intended). So for now we both wait…me & that clock.

……1:00 PM. Wandered around some more…kind of aimless. Can’t even think of writing any fiction material. Too preoccupied. The clock is still there, still that abhorrent ticking noise… The strange chanting & music still comes & goes, very soft. The shadows are darker than normal in the chateau today, & it’s quiet, & I mean REAL quiet, like "dead" quiet. I’m exhausted…going to fix me something to eat, & try taking a nap…

……7:10 PM. Couldn’t eat, but did fall asleep in the library…& woke up in the study! I know I am not a sleep walker, at least I never have before that I know of. How I got in the study, I haven’t a clue. I DO know that whatever is going to happen, it’s going to happen tonight!

……The clock is still in the study, still in the corner, still ticking… I was watching the fire in the fireplace when it suddenly went out like it was smothered. Still a lot of wood in there left to burn. I went to the mantel, looked at the smoldering logs, & noticed the silver key was gone (kept it on the mantel). Then the chanting & eerie music began again. At first out of sync with the clock, then slowly it all blended together.

……I had the funniest feeling I was being watched. I turned, glanced at the clock, there IT was, that same shrouded black clawed thing I’d seen in my nightmare, in the clock…but this was no nightmare! It was real & standing there, a claw raised toward me! That was enough, & a booked!

……I’m in the library now, writing this. I think it’s come down to these next few minutes. Something is going to happen. The chanting & music are getting louder, I can hear it. I’m certain that thing is still… A noise, somewhere above, maybe the hidden room that the staircase leads to… I’m not sure. I’m hearing voices now, not just in the chateau, but also in my head…calling me to the gate. "Come to the gate"…that damn unearthly ticking…

……If I can find an ax or something, get rid of that clock…going to try. This is it. Whether or not this is my last entry, time will tell…


THE END
De Marigny's Clock, © 1998 by R S Cartwright


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