Westminster Hall and Burying Ground has not been consecrated for use as a church for generations. Its congregation of Baltimore-area Presbyterians fled to another Maryland location many decades ago, for reasons unknown. It was just as if they had perceived something evil, perhaps something rather ungodly, about the looming building and its churchyard.
The cemetery itself is known for its historical importance. In it repose the earthly remains of numerous individuals going back to well before the American Civil War. Most notably, it is the burial place of Edward Allen Flowers, the Nineteenth Century poet and writer of something that later came to be called “horror fiction”. That Flowers, who arguably died of alcohol-poisoning, was himself an incestuous paedophile, having married his twelve-year old cousin (who herself died shortly after the wedding due to an infection brought upon by profuse vaginal bleeding) is largely ignored by modern biographers. After all, from Charlie Chaplain to Elvis Presley, the entertainment media seems to rather foster a public love affair with “talented” child-molesters.
Indeed, it is one of Flowers’s poems from which the Crows, the professional rugby team of Baltimore, derives its name. (This said form of rugby is referred to as “football” by Americans, and is played by types that one could only judge as being rather effete due to their insistence upon wearing helmets and padding in order to play a game that the rest of the world takes part in basically clad in polo shirts and sweatpants. But then, the bloody Yanks also insist upon referring to actual football as “soccer”, for some odd reason unintelligible to the more civilised nations.)
For many years, Westminster Burying Ground was known to host tours of its graveyard and underground catacomb given by the old curator, Mr. Jerome Jefferies. This Jefferies eventually retired in disgrace when it was revealed that the so-called “Flowers Toaster” -- a supposedly mysterious individual who left an half-finished bottle of cognac atop the tombstone of Edward Allen Flowers each year upon the night of the anniversary of Flowers’s birth -- was in reality an actor hired by Mr. Jefferies as an ongoing publicity stunt. Jefferies had also employed another actor who somewhat resembled the late Flowers and instructed him to lurk about the churchyard on occasion, in hopes of starting a marketable rumour concerning the ghostly apparition of the deceased poet.
Following the retirement of Jerome Jefferies, the new curator of the Hall and Burying Ground was a decidedly-unattractive spinster named Theresa Nachelle, who inexplicably referred to herself as “Wrangler of Fun” and arranged events for school children to attend that consisted of listening to a local musician play jazz numbers upon the old church pipe organ whilst they feasted upon inexpensive snacks provided by the annoyingly overenthusiastic Miss Nachelle.
In this abode of the bizarre was employed a certain Billy DeWitt, an overweight, rather boorish and mentally-deficient “blue-collar” type who was the location’s groundskeeper. DeWitt amused himself, between bouts of doing his actual work of mowing the grass and cleaning pigeon dung off the tombstones, by imagining himself to be Westminster Hall’s “official paranormal expert” and pretending that dead people talked to him via his radio. Indeed, this had led to the witless DeWitt receiving a reprimand from Nachelle, after DeWitt had been cited for harassing a certain legitimate Baltimore-area psychic investigator on the latter’s internet social media Likebook account. Billy DeWitt had only been allowed to remain employed at the Hall after agreeing to no further contact with the offended gentleman and to taking a substantial cut in pay.
What money Billy DeWitt did earn as groundskeeper he put to what he considered good use, spending much of it on lottery tickets (as is the habit of lazy, lower-class types, hoping for an easily-obtained financial windfall), and on local prostitutes, with whom he enjoyed various sexual acts in the old church sanctuary late at night. He had not as yet gotten over his superstitious fears of possibly doing the same in the underground catacomb.
Actually, Billy DeWitt’s wife, Patty Lynn, had left him some time previously after she had caught him in the act of furiously masturbating to a webcam feed from a teenage fetish model who called herself “Jessica R. Nasty”. DeWitt, himself of middle years and grotesquely unattractive, now worried about the possible legal ramifications of underage internet sex trolling, thenceforth had to use whores for the slaking of his carnal desires.
It was shortly after one of these late-night fornication sessions, as Billy DeWitt had unceremoniously ushered the girl out of the church and turned his thoughts to the three ham-and-cheese sandwiches he had brought in his greasy lunch-bag, that he was distracted by an unusual phenomenon. A certain section of the wall of the church to the left of the old altar appeared to be glowing with a pulsating purple radiance!
“I’m not crazy but…” muttered Billy DeWitt, this being his usual reaction when confronted by something he did not understand (which was indeed quite often).
Billy cautiously walked over to the phantasmal, shimmering glow. A strange sense of overwhelming compulsion overcame his profound fear at the situation. Suddenly, the eldritch glow leapt out and enveloped Billy DeWitt, settling in his person and immediately filling him with a sense of power and knowledge beyond anything of human acquaintance.
It was then that Billy DeWitt smiled with wicked determination and put his fist directly through the stone wall in order to retrieve the incredible artefact he knew he would find there -- an astounding relic of something long-hidden; something that had waited for the opportunity that it perceived was now coming to pass. …
My name is RUMANOS -- LORD DANIEL RUMANOS, Doctor of Demonology and Intergalactic Gentleman of Mystery. Even though I have the appearance of a tall, strikingly-handsome human gentleman with Anglo-Semitic features and long, dark hair, I am in actuality no mere mortal. I am as a matter of fact many thousands of years old, and I do carry within my blood the vastly-superior genes of the enigmatic Watchers of the Daemon-Star ALGOL; this extraterrestrial heritage granting me numerous powers and abilities that appear as “magic” to the people of planet Earth.
Whilst the official policy of the Watchers of Algol is non-intervention in the affairs of the other species of the Universe, there exists a secret service organisation within the Algolite government that is known as the Kosmikos and which deals covertly with things that would be threats to the peace and security of Space and Time -- things such as the so-called “devils” and “demons” that are actually the disembodied consciousnesses of various races of advanced but unspeakably evil races of beings whose physical forms were annihilated countless aeons ago. I serve as an operative of this agency whilst residing upon Earth. Indeed, even my status as a scion of the First Royal Family of the Algolite Monarchy does not trump my duty as an agent of the Kosmikos.
It was on this day as I stood upon one of the upper turrets of Castle Rumanos; my mansion and fortress that is built atop a lofty escarpment in the exact centre of the Roland Park neighbourhood to the north of the city of Baltimore, Maryland (and which also serves as the offices of Gargoyle‘s Occult Investigations, the front-organisation I use for my activities as an Algolite operative upon Earth); that I was called through the swirling grey mists of the inter-dimensional gateway to the headquarters of the Kosmikos agency; located on a space-station orbiting our home-planet of Daemonia, ninety-three light-years distant from Earth’s solar system.
I found myself in the rather gloomy, starkly-furnished office of the agency’s Chief Operative. He stood before me clad in a black and silver coverall garment, his grey, ascetic features as austere as always.
“Greetings, Master Emmos,” said I.
“Salutations, Master Rumanos,” he replied, wasting no time with further pleasantries before turning to duty. “A threat has arisen upon the planet Earth that you have been assigned to eliminate. It is the re-awakening of something very old. How is your knowledge of the galactic histories of the Starrunner Sector?”
“I took top honours in ‘Ancient Galactic Histories’ at Daemonian Academy,” I replied. “But that was a long time ago…”
“In a galaxy far, far away,” he went on, ignoring my academic boasting; “the Sacul Galaxy, to be precise, there once arose a cult known as the Sethekh, an unspeakable sect devoted to the Dark Half of the Influence.”
“The Influence? Oh yes, is that not some kind of psionic energy field found in that galaxy?”
“Indeed, it is said to energise and permeate all things there. However, it has both a positive and negative side. The ‘good’ half of the Influence was served by a noble order of knighthood known as the Peers of Dejj’ai. For countless generations, the Dejj’ai defended the races of the Sacul Galaxy from all threats. But the Sethekh, as devotees of the Dark Half, eventually became nearly equal in power to the Dejj’ai, and it was only after many hard-fought battles and wars among the stars that the Sethekh were finally defeated.
“Interesting indeed,” I rejoined. “I do remember quite admiring the legends of the Peers of Dejj’ai when I was a younger Algolite. But what is its relevance to our current situation?”
“It appears that a certain antiquity of the Dark Half of the Influence somehow made its way to Earth, perhaps propelled beyond light-speed by the combined psychic force of the Sethekh. It has power over certain individuals to perhaps re-constitute that horrid cult in this galaxy. It is this that you have been assigned by the Kosmikos to prevent.”
“As you say, sir.”
“Master Quaddos will speak with you concerning certain issues having to do with his particular department. I trust you will brief Lady Rumanos concerning this mission, so that she can aid you?”
“Oh yes,” I replied with a wink, “I can assure you I am quite adept at ‘briefing’ her.”
“Do attempt to remain serious, Eleven,” said Emmos, utilising my official operative number as a form of reproach. “The fate of the Galaxy is at stake.”
With this, he vanished from sight and I found myself elsewhere at Kosmikos headquarters, being greeted by Quaddos, the agency’s Psychic Weapons Specialist.
“Daniel Rumanos,” he said, “good to see you again!”
“Hello, Master Quaddos,” I replied.
Quaddos is a rather friendly and affable type, indeed much more so than the vast majority of Algolites. He stood in the workshop-like area of the weapons department dressed in the usual rather monotonous coverall garment, but with a bright yellow flower pinned to his lapel.
“I have a couple of things for you,” he continued, producing a quite large and ornate finger-ring that he held out for my inspection. “First, this is something we have perfected that you probably won’t need on this assignment, but keep it in mind for the future -- or the past, eh!”
“Is this the new Chrono-Band I’ve been hearing about?” I queried.
“It is!” replied Quaddos with jolly great pride. “I’m sure you will find it far superior to the old Space/Time Ships and other conveyances.”
“Good show!” I said, slipping the ring on my right third finger. “But you say you have something else, something more specific to this mission against the Sethekh uprising?”
“By the Stars, I certainly do!” countered the old Algolite with a broad smile as he retrieved an item from the nearby table and proffered it to me. It was a silvered, elegantly-fashioned cylindrical device nearly twelve inches in length. Indeed, it looked very much like the hilt of a sword.
“I say,” said I, unable to hide the astonishment in my voice as I held the object in my hand. “Is this what I think it is?”
However, when I looked up I found that Quaddos and the environs of Kosmikos Headquarters had disappeared. I was back on Earth, standing upon the turret at Castle Rumanos. …
It was on the night of the eighteenth day of the month of October, and a few small clouds scudded across the sky whilst the thin crescent moon hung just over the horizon of the mysterious city of Baltimore when my wife and I arrived at Westminster Hall and Burying Ground. There is a definite reason as to why so much bizarre preternatural horror seems to lurk amongst the structures of this particular city, but that is a revelation for another time.
My incomparably beautiful and eternally-youthful wife, LADY KATRINA OLIVIA CROWLEY-RUMANOS -- tall, slender, with gorgeous ginger hair, wondrous azure-blue eyes, and skin the shade of finest porcelain, was clad in a knee-length indigo-coloured dress and heeled leather boots, a short matching cape around her shoulders.
I was wearing my usual silk suit, military boots, black leathern greatcoat and safari hat.
“You’re certain this is the right place, love?” enquired Katrina as we reached the looming, imposing edifice that is the old church building of Westminster Hall.
“Forsooth, my beautiful one,” I replied. “The Algolites psychically implanted the location information into my consciousness. We still must ascertain, however, exactly from whence the Sethekh threat is emanating. I suggest we should start with the cemetery and catacombs before entering the church.”
I opened the iron gate of the graveyard, its lock being no hindrance to my alien abilities, and we entered the dark burial ground. I felt a presentiment of evil as soon as we did so, a strange, elusive aura that I knew must denote the near by presence of the phantasmal powers of the Dark Half of the Influence.
We soon found our way into the catacomb area underneath the church, the dim light from the high windows around it being our only illumination. The “catacombs” of Westminster Hall are in deplorable condition, and are disrespectfully allowed to remain as such, as it adds to the “spookiness” of the location and therefore attracts tourists. We could gaze directly into several of the tombs and the sad skeletal remains they contained. In one place, we even observed the dentures of the late gentleman who reposed there, laying beside his skull where they had long-since fallen.
Nevertheless, before I could even begin to appreciate the possible macabre humour in this, we suddenly perceived that the catacomb was being enlightened by an increasing purplish radiance, an eldritch glow of screamingly-mad, otherworldly force. Then, with sudden and unspeakable swiftness, the decaying human remains about us sprang up and began to move!
“Holy Flapdoodle!” exclaimed Katrina as we immediately assumed our usual back-to-back battle stance. We were soon surrounded by numerous walking skeletons, the phantasmagorical glow of the Dark Half permuting and animating them. I immediately activated my Algolitish powers of defence as, at the same time, my wonderful wife ignited her fantastic vermillion and violet flame -- the incredible Mystical Fire with which she has been gifted by the Kosmikos in order to stand beside me as my immortal companion -- Heaven’s Hell!
I sent several bolts of my orange and blue energies at the animated skeletons, as Kat also hit them with her flame. It had little effect upon them, proving that the evil part of the Influence, that legendary supernatural force of the Sacul Galaxy, was potent indeed!
It was then, as Kat and I stood ready to continue our confrontation with the walking skeletons, that another, even more horrid element was added to this increasingly grotesque melee. For it was then that a living human being walked into the catacomb; an obese man in his mid-forties with an unkempt beard, wearing blue jeans, filthy white sneakers, and a T-shirt inscribed with the words “RIP Report” (this I later found out to be the title of one of those moronic television “paranormal reality shows”). His arms were covered with badly-inked tattoos, including one of a cartoon “ghost” in a red circle with a line drawn through it, apparently a popular pseudo-religious sign amongst idiot “ghost-hunter” enthusiasts. Another of them was simply the words “Team Sheep”, this being a reference, I am told, to a certain hillbilly bestiality club of which DeWitt had been a member in his youth.
“Hi there, Rumanos Family!” he drawled. “I’m Billy DeWitt, welcomin’ you to Westminster Catacomb!”
With this proclamation, he suddenly sent forth a powerful blast of the purple energy of the Dark Half of the Influence directly at me, sending me painfully sprawling across the dirt floor of the underground cemetery. As I recovered from this, I noticed Billy DeWitt had approached closer to me, cutting me off from Katrina, who was still surrounded by the skeletons. Divide and conquer was his obvious goal.
Katrina -- the wonderful Heaven’s Hell -- continued to battle the skeletal horrors with her fantastic fire whilst I was occupied with confronting the horrible Billy DeWitt, but they succeeded in forcing her farther away from me, eventually out of the catacomb area towards the church itself. Kat’s sylphlike figure became a whirling dynamo of Mystical Flame in order to defend herself from the purplish powers of the Dark Half as the battle continued!
Back in the Stygian darkness of the catacomb, which was enlightened now primarily by the shimmering effulgence of satanic power around the villainous redneck groundskeeper called Billy DeWitt, I stood up to face him.
“Beware, Daniel Rumanos,” warned the hideous DeWitt. “Even the Watchers of Algol will not succeed in stoppin’ the revenge of the Sethekh. You are insignificant next to the Dark Half of the Influence!”
“You are wrong, DeWitt,” I retorted. “You are a tool of unspeakable iniquity, and we shall defeat you, just as did the Dejj’ai of old.
The wicked DeWitt chuckled evilly and reached into the pocket of his baggy trousers. From it he retrieved a cylindrical object fashioned like the hilt of a sword. It was the ancient artefact he had found some time before hidden in the wall of the church. He pressed a hidden button upon it and activated its energy blade, which glowed crimson red and emitted a bizarre electronic hum.
“Now, Rumanos Daemon-Star,” he announced, raising the laser-sword before himself, “our revenge will be complete. There will be no return of the Peers of Dejj’ai. The Sethekh Galactic Empire strikes back, and I will now kill you!”
“Kill me? Maybe,” I replied, removing something from my coat pocket. “Maybe not.”
With this, I activated the object that Quaddos had given me. It was a photonic rapier of the type used by the Peers of Dejjj’ai in their ancient and legendary battles against the Sethekh. The blade sprang up royal blue in colour.
The darkly-possessed Billy DeWitt snarled with utter hatred and came at me in attack. I accordingly raised my own energy-sabre and our blades met with a loud crackling sound of amazing energy. The duel was on!!
Meanwhile, the awesome battle between Mrs. Katrina Rumanos and the satanically-moving skeletons continued up the stairway and into the sadly-disused church sanctuary. Kat’s fantastic flame was a whirling vermillion force pitted majestically against the darksome purple terror of the revived rotted corpses! Nevertheless, for how very much longer could even she hold out against them? Being animated by the evil part of the ancient and powerful Influence, the skeletons would continue to move and attack until that particular evil energy could be broken! …
There is an old Arab saying (indeed, I once myself heard it from an old Arab) that the most disagreeable of voices is the voice of asses. Such was the voice of the hideous and execrable occult criminal known as Billy DeWitt as he mockingly continued to speak during our duel amongst the vaults of Westminster Catacomb.
“There is no new hope! I am the Dark Lord of the Sethekh and I will kill you, Rumanos!” the possessed trailer-trash outlaw repeated with a sickening snarl, the disgustingly ugly sunburn patches upon his face and neck showing red with exertion. “Now I am the Master! The Guru of the Galaxy! The Moral Compass! Now, my ‘skeleton crew’ will deal with your female, and I will slay you myself! Quote the crow: No more!” (This last allusion being his insane and bizarrely uneducated attempt to recite a passage of verse written by Edward Allen Flowers.)
Nevertheless, our incredible battle persistent. Thrust, parry, lunge, feint, defence -- there was indeed no move of the noble art of the duel that we did not both display during the ongoing combat, with our light swords flashing and sparking as they deftly cut through the chilling darkness of that subterranean catacomb.
Finally, I jumped upwards, aided as I was by my own Algolitish power of levitation, in an attempt to perform one final, magnificent feint that I could only hope the infamous Billy DeWitt would not have the ability to overcome.
“Look… in the air…” he idiotically mimicked with an evil grin creasing his disgusting, low-browed and flat-nosed face, “it’s Daemon-Star!!”
I came down as if to slice my sabre directly into the centre of his head. He accordingly raised his own sword in defence, at which I lowered my blade and, with a wide horizontal sweep, cut Billy DeWitt’s body completely in twain!
He fell to the ground, the two separate parts of him sickeningly twitching for a moment before his life was fully and wholly distinguished.
“Not half bad,” I quipped.
His sword’s energy-blade had powered down, and I picked it up and deposited it in my coat pocket along with my own now-deactivated rapier. Be assured that this item of unspeakably dangerous technology, an ancient relic of the legendary Sacul Galaxy, is now kept in a safe place.
With the death of the horrid paranormal villain Billy DeWitt, the phantom menace of the darkling cult of the Sethekh that had so fully possessed him was finally broken and dispersed, and the uncannily moving skeletons returned peacefully to their tombs by what could only be a brief manifestation of the Good Half of the Influence.
Katrina quickly ran down from the church sanctuary and flew into my arms.
“I love you so much, my Daniel,” she cried sweetly.
“I love you too, my little Kitty-Kat,” I replied, holding her close to me.
Before leaving Westminster Hall and Burying Ground that fateful night, Katrina used her flame-powers to reduce the corpse of the grotesque middle-aged chav known in Baltimore as Billy DeWitt, cemetery groundskeeper and paranormal enthusiast, to mere bones. We accordingly placed his mortal remains into one of the graves of the catacomb, where they continue to lie peacefully undisturbed to this day.
In Pace Requiescat.
DANIEL RUMANOS WILL RETURN IN “YOU ONLY LIVE THRICE”
Author Notes: Daniel Rumanos is a professional stage magician/illusionist and author of the "Adventures of Daemon-Star" series of Paranormal Espionage Thrillers. He resides in Baltimore, Maryland, and may be found online at: http://rumanosmagic.blogspot.com/