"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."—H. P. Lovecraft
Never have such episodes of dread haunted me before, as the horrible dreams of the hearse from the chthonic hell.
Its unforgettable guise reflects the horripilation of the infaust clamor of the wailing of the stentorian voices.
Its shrieking wheels rotate centrifugally and grind the solitary patch of road that leads, to the interminable gates of the infandous infinity.
The anonymous town by the river that I will expound bears no important relevance, except that you will know it as an insignificant town in the Midwest of America called Rock Island.
Hence, what is of extreme importance is the devious man that collects the countless souls of the dead readily.
If you inquire of the nature of this story, then let me introduce you to Mr. Jeremiah Baines.
He is no ordinary man to be dismissed so lightly, as an august man of foolish propriety.
He is an unscrupulous man, but there is one thing that you must be apprised, his subtle fondness for death that has not eluded his keen attention.
Perhaps it is nothing more than a fanciful predilection, or an indefinite obsession boarding on acute madness.
There is one thing of my admission that you might think very peculiar, and that is the wicked affinity toward his daunting hearse.
There is a pending secret about this uncommon hearse, but this mystery I mention is for you to unravel eventually.
The familiar consuetude of persuasion is such a powerful and magnificent influence imposed willingly, upon the susceptible minds of the dreadful belief of a preternatural occurrence enveloping.
It is frightening to imagine within the depth of the human soul that evil could exist so visibly and intrepidly, among the careless fools who think unwittingly.
There is an invaluable truth about death that we ignore unreasonably, and that is the day of reckoning has no governed limitations or boundaries. When it arrives, it does with a Machiavellian imposture and delight as seen.
I will not propound that you befriend or entreat mercy from this duplicitous fiend—for the fiend has no compassion, and is insouciant in nature.
Verily, all that is pertinent to the flagitious fiend in the end are the insurmountable souls that are therewith possessed and accounted.
If you are, the unfortunate one selected, then know that the fiend will not be tarrying in his endeavor, when you see the hearse approaching near. It is more than a mere token of deception—it is a clear omen for an imminent death.
This chilling story began upon one imperturbable day of October, when an unknown stranger moved into Rock Island.
His name was Mr. Jeremiah Baines as I aforementioned.
The year was 1900, and the people of the town were disappearing gradually and mysteriously.
No one knew the unpredictable circumstances involving the unusual disappearances.
Supposititious hearsay began to manifest throughout Rock Island forthwith, and stir the residents in a profound trepidation.
The local authorities had failed to acknowledge any constant involvement of criminal activity seen, and proclaimed that the scant evidence provided was not sufficient to determine the veritable origin of the multiple disappearances reported.
The newspapers and media though restricted in resources had followed every lead attentively, but they too were unsuccessful in disclosing any crucial clues that could resolve the mystery.
There were false accusations and sightings made, yet none were accurate or reliable.
Weeks and months had passed noticeably, until the disappearances were considered normal occurrences of the town.
One person out of the week would go missing, then another and another. The cycle would repeat itself, with such ghastliness.
The only viable allusion behind the disappearances, was a telephone call made by family members, who had reported the persons missing afterward.
The mayor of Rock Island, Mr. Melvin Beauregard had promised that the disappearances would be solved soon.
However, the bizarre disappearances had continued, and there was a new disappearance, and the person who disappeared was someone I knew quite well, my beloved sister Lizzy.
I do not know with total certainty, the hour she disappeared. All that I can remember is the day.
It was a Monday, but it would be no ordinary Monday it seemed.
She was in her room, when she came down the stairs of our home.
Her room was located upstairs, as was mine.
Lizzy was always mischievous and playful in her nature and seldom did she reflect the serious side I demonstrated.
I on the contrary was diffident and sheltered, ever since my childhood.
I was a child who had suffered and had grown up ostracized by society.
Sadly, my parents were both dead, and since I was older, I was forced to be the lone guardian of my dearest sister. Her tutelage would be appointed to my solicitude.
The only recollection that was recognizable was a cautious dark horse-drawn carriage that appeared to be a hearse passing through the street outside at every procession.
At the time, I did not conclude any nexus of the hearse to the disappearance of Lizzy.
When she did not return, I immediately made the assumption that something wrong had happened.
And I would be correct in my presupposition and immense preoccupation.
Lizzy did not return and worse, I presumed that she had disappeared, like the others. I searched for her, from street to street, and from house to house that was in the vicinity.
She was nowhere to be found, and desperation had overcome me.
When I reported her disappearance, the police had told me that there was nothing they could do.
I was feckless to achieve any meaningful cooperation of the authorities. All they offered was tentative help and had expressed their regret.
How could this occurrence have remained anonymous?
Surely, there had to be a living witness, since no one disappears without notice. It could not be a mere manifested destiny, instead, a ruthless campaign of great terror produced.
There was terror in the eyes of the residents, and soon I would discover the shocking truth, behind the miscellaneous and inexplicable disappearances.
The nights were becoming unbearable, and no one dared to be on the streets passed the evening.
There was a curfew imposed, and rapid fear had spread like a wildfire, from neighbor to neighbor, until one day the disappearances ended.
The missing persons were presumed dead, and funerals were made for them, without their bodies.
Shortly, the residents of Rock Island had forgotten the incidents. But I did not, and I continued my search for Lizzy.
It was one day, when I noticed the strange hearse had not passed by the street, as it usually did at the same hour.
The hearse also passed the rest of the streets of the town.
It was when I began to have phantasmagorias of the hearse, and an unidentified driver had abducted Lizzy. I saw in my terrible dream, how he grabbed her and put her into the hearse.
But what startled me was the fact that his face was that of a daemon.
His face was elongated, and his nose was narrow.
His thick eyebrows had overshadowed his piercing eyes.
His chin was solid and his ears were pointed.
The hideous nightmare would be brief and repeat itself in the sequence that evolved. I would abraid with deep sweat and apprehension.
Afterward, the telephone would ring, and the mysterious voice of Lizzy would be heard.
And what she said would horrify me and send a sudden chill down my spine, "Brother, I am coming home soon, inside the hearse!"
I had heard of the words necromancer and spiritualist before, but I never met one in person, until I met a certain Mrs. Grange, who practiced this discipline.
It was by mere coincidence that I met and found her.
Her home was a few streets, from where I lived.
Shortly, after time had passed, Mrs. Grange stood before my front door. I heard a knock and when I answered, she had an urgent need to speak to me.
She wanted to talk about Lizzy, and what she had seen in her visions, concerning her strange disappearance.
What she divulged to me was absolutely incredible.
According to her, Lizzy had perished and was killed.
When I queried about whom was the murderer, she looked into my eyes and said with a cold stare, "Jeremiah Baines."
Who was Jeremiah Baines I asked her?
Her reply was simply that he was the undertaker of the town, who no one knew of his unique origin.
I told her to enter, where the conversation shifted to where was the body of Lizzy, and where were the others?
She could not answer that question in earnest, and instead, only could offer me a solemn truth as a sober consolation.
I knew then that there was someone in this town, who had envisioned the same thing that I was experimenting.
Mrs. Grange then departed, but before she did, she told me that Jeremiah Baines would be coming for me, or to be precise, his horrific hearse.
She gave me her address, and said we had to be secretive and extremely cautious of the intruding eyes and ears of Mr. Jeremiah Baines.
When she left, I spent hours thinking and thinking, about what Mrs. Grange had disclosed. I wanted to believe her, but there was not total clarity with what truly happened to Lizzy.
Thus, I continued to ponder her mysterious disappearance or her possible death.
Jeremiah Baines was the embodiment of my terror and dread.
His hearse would terrorize me, as he began to taunt me, with his devilish play.
I soon learned that the necromancer Mrs. Grange had died a couple days afterward. It was reported by the authorities that she was found dead in the front yard of her home.
She had jumped off the roof of her two-story house.
The fall had caused her to break her neck instantly, and once I learned about her untimely death, I was even more alone in my search for Lizzy and the others.
If Mrs. Grange was silenced, then, I would be the next to vanish. This circumstance did not elude my attention and concern.
The disturbing nightmare had turned, into an inevitable obsession that had no foreseeable diminution, within an unstoppable delirium.
It was predictable in nature and began to haunt me, with a torrid passion that was merciless. The direful consequences were uncertain, as the ambiguous whereabouts of Lizzy.
As the months transpired, the nightmares increased in arrant fright and intensity.
I could not eat, nor could I think rationally, and it felt like an opium dream.
It was incomprehensible that the disappearances were still unsolved.
Thus, I began to investigate the area more, from one part of the town to the other part.
However, there were no concrete clues to proceed, and desperation had caused me to explore the possibility of her death.
The inducement to madness was tormenting me, and the incicurable nightmares extended, as I discerned the ghastly faces of the dead in coffins.
I could see clearly, among the plentiful coffins, the dead body of Lizzy within the advanced stage of putrid decomposition, as the casket was wide open.
And beside her was the deceiving undertaker Jeremiah Baines, who was identical as the driver of the hearse. It was a vivid image to endure, yet it was only a calamitous nightmare it seemed.
Therefore, it was extremely difficult to know, where I would find Lizzy, if she was still alive.
The immediate thought of her being dead had become more of a strong probability.
The recurring nightmare led to a daunting place of the dead.
I began to see in this nightmare, the façade of an eerie house at the corner of Jamison Street.
It was until one gloomy day that as I was walking in the street, I saw the house of my horrible dream before me.
It was a drear white Victorian house of the most frightening aspect ever seen. The house had three wings, and what impressed me was the north wing in front of the porch.
The gabled-roof was pitch-black, and the windows were narrow. They projected the vigilant eyes of the house.
The wind began to blow, and the leaves heaved into piles by the sturdy oak trees.
I started to hear the whispering voices of persons. The voices drew me into the haunting house, where I entered at my discretion.
Inside I had discovered the house to be a funeral home. I encountered a stranger, who was embalming a deceased person. He was the undertaker, Mr. Jeremiah Baines.
His appearance was normal of a middle-aged man in his forties, but there was something of his guise that perplexed me, and reminded me of the daemon.
It was his conniving smirk that exuded his persuasive aplomb and apocryphal mien that unsettled my heightened nerves.
Then from the corner of my eyes, I saw a row of skulls aligned in a shelf.
I ran straightaway from the funeral home, and reached my house—never looking back.
The awful image of the skulls had stirred absolute horror in me.
In spite of the horrid episode experienced, I had to return to that dreaded abode anew.
The nightmares persisted, and the funeral processions as well.
I could hear the wheels of the hearse pass my home, as the hooves of the horses struck the road outside.
Death had begun to take the lives of the residents, and the foul stench of death was circumjacent.
No one knew nothing of the undertaker Jeremiah Baines—where did come from, or who was his family?
But soon everyone in Rock Island treated him with deference. Everyone except me—for I could not forget Lizzy.
I owed it to her memory to unravel the mystery, behind her unexplained disappearance.
I struggled to understand these ineffable events that had occurred, and the alterations I had started to witness, between the residents of Rock Island.
There was not any reasonable conclusion or surmisal to be formulated, without evidence that could allow me to grasp to something of importance.
I was finding myself more isolated and sejugated from the others, within my eloignment.
Nothing could be easily elucidated, about the unnatural behavior of the townspeople.
Was I imagining or exaggerating all of this?
Was this phenomenon nothing more than the ill-effects of a sudden hysteria in me gone astray?
I was becoming a corpse, and unable to sleep much. I had long passed the phase of the early stages of insomnia.
I could feel the palpitations of my heart and sense the presence of death with anhelation.
Amid this daily torture, I began to succumb to the sublative control of Jeremiah Baines.
He was a proficient master of beguilement and exacted fear with no reprieve.
I dreamed Jeremiah Baines, and I awoke to the reality of my epitonic consternation and the fantods. Rock Island had become my intolerable immurement.
I could not escape the horrific image of the irresistible hearse, as it passed me by unhurriedly.
Every day outside of the street, I espied at the insidious smile and piercing eyes of Jeremiah Baines.
Mortification had started to cause my thoughts to vacillate, as I attempted to absorb the variation of the precarious situation that empowered the vile undertaker.
His presence unruffled me, with an unpleasant coincidence I sensed consciously.
This unavoidable premonition of death, I could not understand, without knowing the metaphysical metamorphosis of Jeremiah Baines.
I had to know more about him and the immovable nature of his duplicity.
Whenever Jeremiah Baines appeared with his shadowy hearse, I looked defiantly at him.
But the growing madness would not go away, nor would Jeremiah Baines.
There was a day that haunted miserably, as I envisioned being in the house of the undertaker.
I cannot further explain this ill-fated experience with simplistic words of reason and only reveal the horror that it provoked afterward.
The subliminal apperception of death was personified, by a vivification of the vivisepulture that brought an untimely frisson in me.
Thus, I returned a week later, after I gained enough courage.
The nightmares were too much to bear, and my neighbors began to be unfriendly and intrusive toward me.
I could not easily walk freely among them, along the silent streets of Rock Island.
The townspeople stared at my every step and movement, as I was not completely vagile. They were spying eyes for Jeremiah Baines, who seemed to have the town bewitched, with his powerful incantation.
Jeremiah Baines, as I kindly aforesaid is no ordinary man—for he is the reaper of souls.
I felt a sudden propensity to scream to the rest of the world that the adorable Mr. Jeremiah Baines was the horrible scoundrel, behind the disappearances and deaths of the inhabitants of Rock Island.
It was nightfall, when I boldly left the house. I was mindful of the consequences and the watchful eyes of the neighbors.
I attempted to act as they did imperviously to the danger of the undertaker and walked within the streets placidly, until I reached the house of Jeremiah Baines.
The indelible Victorian house was staring at me and stood as a reminder of the lethiferous appersonation of mortal expiry.
It was cold and solemn, as I began to climb the stairs of the porch leading into the Devil’s lair.
The door had creaked opened, as if the nefarious undertaker was expecting a bidden visitor to appear.
I invoked the influential powers from above for divine protection, while I had entered the sacred ground of the dormant souls of yore.
There in the main hall of the formidable house was a dead body of a person lying in an open casket ahead.
I knew that it was a poor soul that had passed to the afterworld, but when I approached, I saw that the body was the corpse of my sister Lizzy, whose body had appeared to be perfectly embalmed.
However, when I reached her casket, her appearance had altered drastically, from being embalmed to the most abhorrent state of advanced decomposition.
She was exactly the same, as how I dreamed her to be in my continuous nightmare.
Was this a macabre hallucination I had espied in person—or worse, the actual corpse of my beloved sister Lizzy?
The corpse of Lizzy, then rose from the casket slowly, as I looked on with definite amazement.
A heavy lump in my throat I felt, and my body began to shiver and shiver, until I screamed out loud, “No, it cannot be! Lizzy is dead!”
I reached the entrance door, where I was met by the undertaker Jeremiah Baines, who was smiling with his fiendish smirk, as I stared into his reddish eyes of terror.
He was dressed in all black, from his distinctive suit, trousers, shoes and top hat.
He had an urn in his hand of the cremated souls of the charnel house of doom that was in the back.
The walls of the house began to be engulfed with enormous flames of hell, and they spread to the corridor.
I felt the comburent flames reach my feet, as I stood watching the infernal fire burn uncontrollably throughout the house.
The appearance of Jeremiah Baines had changed from man to the daemon of Pandemonium.
He began to laugh at me, with such a psychopathic manner.
I ran out of the Victorian house, and toward the streets, where I noticed the throng of the people of Rock Island staring at me. They stood with phthartic eyes as well, and pointed their fingers at me.
The undertaker then began to follow me down the streets, with his intimidating hearse.
It was a horse-drawn carriage that was a wooden metal framework, which had a bier and supported the pall. The hearse had numerous spikes to hold the candles, as I clearly saw the memorial epitaph that was attached.
The heat of the burning wheels I felt and smoke came out from the nostrils of the horses, as their forelocks illumined. The hearse was covered in bursting flames.
The words written were, “Burn in hell, or rot in hell.”
Those minatory words were a prescient warning for the mortals to heed caution.
The crowd began to evolve into a mad frenzy as they ran after me in a rumpus.
I ran frantically, not knowing where to run or where to go.
Thereafter, I ran to the cemetery that was ahead, and every place around me was confined by the presence of the throng.
I could hear the sound of the masses and the horses of the hearse.
When I reached the cemetery, the front gate was closed, and there was no place I could hide.
Growing desperation had devoured me, like a stirring whirlpool.
The townspeople came toward me, with their penetrating red eyes of malevolence, and the hearse was approaching near and near.
I could hear the laughter of the undertaker and see the top hat he wore.
The winds of the night began to gust, as I saw a pair of black cats by the gate.
There were crows that were perched upon the tombstones of the dead and buried.
I could see the dead rising from their graves, with their ghastly look of utter demise.
I then saw ahead, the view of a church in the horizon, and immediately I ran toward it.
When I reached the church, I pounded on the door, as the throng of the townspeople, were behind me with the sinister hearse as well.
The door was then opened, and it was a lanky pastor who saved my soul.
I looked back for a final time and saw that the townspeople and the hearse were gone—so were the black cats and the crows.
Soon, there was pure silence all around me.
It was as if the incident never occurred, or the madness of the townspeople.
But, I could not erase the harrowing thought of the inconceivable hearse.
I was later explained by the pastor that fifteen years ago in the year of 1885, there was a terrible episode of disappearances and deaths reported that went unsolved.
They say the victims were killed by a young apprentice who worked for an undertaker from the funeral home, who was a stranger who moved into Rock Island.
When I inquired about the killer’s identity, he told me a gruesome revelation.
The name of the undertaker was Mr. Jeremiah Baines. Yes—the same Jeremiah Baines, who I had encountered recently, at the corner of Jamison Street, at that old Victorian house.
Apparently, I had been the lone survivor of that horrific string of murders in the year of 1885.
I was but a young adolescent, and the incident had scared me enough to be able to forget the grisly horror I witnessed.
Lizzy had died at the hands of Jeremiah Baines, fifteen years ago.
And now, I am confined to the echoic walls of an asylum, where I remember daily the hearse of brimstone and the dreadful guise of Mr. Jeremiah Baines.
If there is something we must learn about death, it is the serious nature of its existing complexity.
You see it does not matter, where you come from, or who you are.
The only thing that death seeks is the soul to whom it pertains.
It will announce its coming, when you least expect it.
Do not shun the temptation to know of its existence, and remember that fate is aligned to death.
It is impossible to avoid then and intricate in nature.
Therefore, allow me to say that it is death that has always been intrinsic to our fate, since our inception. Jeremiah Baines is no exception, for the philoxenic Mr. Baines has transcendence over those who have entered the realm of his illimitable domain.
Perhaps, you will have the unfortunate fate to meet Jeremiah Baines in person, and when you do, know that generosity is feigned.
There is no need to be formal and demonstrate decorum, when the narrative I have shared is the absolute truth.
If I have not disclosed my name before to you, then let me offer a very cordial introduction of the being I am. My name is Mr. Jeremiah Baines, and he has forever existed, within the dark recesses of my brain.