Once upon a rawky drow in the year of 1855, Lord Galbraith a nobleman from Glasgow had discovered a fair-to-middling man, who was lying on the ground agroof, within the cellar of his house. He thought him dead at first, as he was listless and did not move a single muscle. When Lord Galbraith had reached him he examined his unfavourable condition then, and the man muttered a fathomless utterance. His guise was visibly malagrugrous in tenuity and his countenance extremely haggard. His hair was unkempt and had reached his reddish lire. In sooth, he was a gadling not in fine fettle or very hale. He had appeared to be suffering from a cruel inanition, and he was very thirsty, as he incoherently muttered.
Lord Galbraith was not certain, if he was afflicted as well by ague. Immediately, he took him to the nearest adjacent apartment in his house, where he could be sheltered and regain his necessary vigour, due to Lord Galbraith's avowry. He instructed the servants to prepare him a room and a good repast, as the infirm man took a bath and shaved also.
Afterwards, he joined him in the parlour as he sat in an armchair covered in velvet, where they shared a glass of Sherry. Shortly, Lord Galbraith would learn that he was a former soldier, who had fought in the Battle of Waterloo, against Napoleon and the Greek War of Independence. His name was Callum MacClure, and he was a Scotsman by birth. When Lord Galbraith had enquired why was he in the cellar and so badly untidy, his response was disturbing and unconventional.
He told him that it was not of his own volition, and he cringed in utter horror that he conveyed of his wanchance. He was considerably fidgety and wary of his new surroundings, as if he was regardful of his developing situation. When Lord Galbraith had asked him to explicate he would make a ghastly disclosure of a horrid tale of an unsightly creature of evil that the Saracens called a 'ghoul'. The creature sired by the Iblis, and associated with Stygian graveyards, along the causeways beyond the clearing and the daemons who consumed human flesh, with a macabre delight. Never did Lord Galbraith imagine his tale to be generally credible, but his words were emphatically expressed as an ostent, through his distinctive Scottish brogue.
It was there in the parlour, where he revealed his ineffable and unbelievable story of a ghoul, but not before he said an eerie adage that Lord Galbraith found spellbinding in nature.
'If man is verily born to be virtuous and pious, but is afflicted with the sinful urge for degeneracy and rapacity, then he shall discover his irrepressible temptations evinced in the form of camsteary wickedness and wrackful madness and not sin alone sir. When, you ask? It is when the transient hour of silence is interrupted, by the fleet footsteps of the infandous ghoul. Hark, the sounds of death men fear. I shall relate to you sir, my dreadful account of the ghoul, with explicit fervency. You may think me mad, but I am not a man who invents frivolously'.
He paused before continuing, 'There is a famous Scottish proverb that says sir, “He who sups with the devil should have a long spoon”. (A person who has dealings with a dangerous or wily person should be cautious.) He began his tale afterwards.
It was a windy day, when I returned to the idyllic firth of Scotland my homeland, as I rode the brisk fluctuation of the tides of the sea. I had been soldiering in the Greek War of Independence, where I had enlisted my service to the high-spirited Greek cause against the overpowering Ottoman Turks. I had brought back to Scotland, several souvenirs from my stay in Greece, such as a scimitar, a Koran and a Greek urn that was given to me as token gifts, whilst in Corfu. I had yearned for my homeland, and thus I returned home. I had been granted a property in a small village by the Duke of York, for my deeds done in emulation of gallantry in the war.
It was a 16th-century Georgian country house built, with tall crowstep-gabled baronial wings to the east and west. It had a bow-fronted façade to the south that was a deceptive outward appearance. The rectangular keep was only visible along its north front, and a whee bit on its east side. It had been constructed in coursed and harled rubble and rose through three stories, to a crenellated parapet borne on corbels. The enlarged stone mullion narrow windows had dreary shutters. There was a gabled garret within a crenellated walkway with bartizans at each corner, and there was a round tower that had a carved armorial panel in the re-entrant angle, between the wing and the keep, which contained the main entrance to the manor. The emblazoned motto was, 'An veritas, an nihil', (The truth or nothing.) It had a vaulted underground, with the main doorway being at the first storey level. The first storey string course continued, along the 17th century wing to the east, and it had a plentiful garden of viridity, surrounded by the heavy beech trees that stood nigh.
The interior of the house was in excellent condition, and the rooms upstairs and downstairs were well furnished and busked. The wooden stairway was typical of the wood used in a manor, but its labyrinthine configuration with the inspissated balusters and vertical risers were unusually imposing. At first impression, the manor was embedded with the mélange of the ambages of duplicity and secrecy. I was particularly fond of a semi-vault ceiling I had descried in one of the rooms above that had an arresting Gothic chandelier.
It was more pleasant than the weary embattled fields I had languished many times before. The extant servants were present to welcome me, as they did with the utmost propriety. The previous proprietor Lord Glenfield had mysteriously disappeared, and thus, the manor was bought by the Duke of York, since Lord Glenfield’s young daughter had been abducted and never discovered. He had no other direct scion of his aristocratic lineage interested in purchasing the house.
There was a hidden mystery about the house and the inexplicable occurrences then that unsettled any potential buyers, including the local gentry. Unfortunately, his wife went mad and never truly recovered her sanity; although she was granted the estate as a jointure in lien of her dower. Sadly, she passed away years afterwards in a distant asylum. This I was informed by one of the servants of the house.
I was told also that Lord Glenfield was a fine wine collector and had a remarkable collection in the cellar. But the cellar was no longer open, for it was closed and shut with a padlock, after the disappearance of Lord Glenfield’s young daughter Aileen. I would soon discover the haunting and melancholic truth, behind the mysterious disappearance of the young Aileen—but that I shall leave for the ending of this tale.
I had appreciated the house and its lore with time, as I began to become wont then of its familiar surroundings. I brooked the life in the rural countryside, and the fulth of fresh air I breathed daily. I became very acquainted with the area and its unique habitat. I was extremely fond of the brent brae and the loch that made me remember the pure sea of Corfu, and its rugged mountains of heughs that I often had envisaged in a dwam before my sleep. As a chiel I grew up in a canty Highland family of swink, as the loch and the corbies were always my refuge. I thought much of Robbie Burns, 'Auld Lang Syne', and 'Is There for Honest Poverty'.
Anon, I tholed the cold autumns and bitter winters again, and saw the early braird. I had begun a modest business endeavour, in the lawful transports of Scottish goods in Britain. I had changed my days as a proud soldier and became a reputable merchant. I had known, at last, the meaningful prosperity and stability I had yearned in my eldning to have before, but failed to ascertain in my years of soldiering. It would seem that success was finally attainable and expectant, as a boon. I had met a charming governess, who would fill my days with happiness.
Her name was Helen, a bonny lass of winsome blue eyes, and long brown hair ripe with pleasant curls, who I fleeched daily. She was sprack as a morning hummingbird and loved the gowans and thistles of the moorland.
However, I began to sense after nearly a year the presence of a stranger in the house watching me with keen observation. I perceived this with such a heightened intrigue, but I dismissed the eeriness as my exaggerative and inquisitive mind.
The story of the previous proprietors of the house had been already known to me, but I was not much of a believer in boodies or drows. I considered myself a man of God, but I must admit that I am not a devout practitioner of the Christian faith. Instead, I was more of a pragmatic man. But what betided next in that house was no normal occurrence at all. I would be worrisome to the core of my body overmorrow. This horror I confess exists beyond the world of reason and actual comprehension.
Perchance, we mortals are not inclined to believe the terrible Devil is amongst us. We seek for the vim and verve of the days of good luck and forlorn the harsh days that we suffer.
Shortly, the tenants of the house manifested in the form of apparitions. At first, I would be visited by the wife of Lord Glenfield. Thence, I would be visited by the young daughter, whose cradle still remained as a dwining vestige of a time when she was an infant. The drawers and cabinets, along with the solitary piano were reminders as well of household goods and chattels of the former tenants.
But there was an evil presence even more sinister that lurked in the house unknown to me. It was an ugsome ghoul that was very active in the night till the early morning. Gradually, the ordeal with the boodies would be discontinuous. I thought that I had rid myself of the horrid tenants, but there was one more tenant that did not want to leave yet. I know that what I am presently saying is mad, but I tell you it is no falsehood but the truth.
The only witness to collaborate my version was the loyal servant Mr Callanach, a mim Carl who no longer is living. He was an ithand man and a Scotsman, who was devoted to the maintenance and duties of the house. He was from the Outer Hebrides and spoke perfect Gaelic as his first tongue.
I can vividly recall many of our conversations thitherto. I had entrusted him with the house, whilst I was busy with my necessitated affairs. He was the prime individual, who I would relate my tales of glory and sacrifice as a soldier.
I remember one day, as we stood by the hall speaking, he answered my question about his belief in ghosts. And his response would occupy my mind with interest. I did not sense any sciolism in what he revealed, instead, a stern warning of something that I was slowly beginning to grasp its significance. Verily, was this house, a portal to the afterlife and if so, what did this antipode mean then for me?
'Mr Callanach, you may think this is inane, but if I may enquire, do you believe in the supernatural ghosts?' I asked.
'Aye, sir! Aye believe a wee bit o agowilt kithit only cowes the bairns o the clachans i a ferly. Afauldly, thon is aw! but gin ye must wot then sir aye, Aye believe i the deft boodies or drows hicht wha dree their weird. But Aye don’t want ye tae spook sae easily sir i a widdendream thrawn, wi any talk aboot fremmit boodies tae forfend. Ye shoud know this is naucht more than the auld an wode freet o the hielands muckle o eident kinsfolk or kith forbade. Aye ween thon ye will no find the glaswegians o theedom haverin much aboot this, for they had forborne this foolhardiness o others. 'Tis sackless lor hither an yon foretold, around these lands sir', he answered.
'I am not sure if this is merely old common superstition within these parts Mr Callanach, but I have learnt in my time here within this area that folklore is best to adhere to it, when of course reasonable. Therewithal, I have seen the ghosts of this house tofore, and that has left me extremely pensive. Have you not seen them ever about?'
'Jings, kenspeckle boodies ye say sir?'
'Yes, the former tenants of the house! Have you not seen them wandering the house at night Mr Callanach? Nary?'
'Forgif me sir, Aye am afeard Aye haf come tae an fro from the house manifold times an haf been i the house, but Aye haf found na boodie quitchit yet sir. Aiblins, ma ears an ma een are no gleg as er an ar bestraucht an ungainly, but whit Aye can say is thon Aye haf niver seen aucht alik tae a boodie within the house, whan Aye haf been here or oncame eft. Withal, ye must understand an foresee sir thon Aye dae no spend the nicht hier'.
That conversation ringed in my head with importance and forethought. But one night as I was lying in my bed upstairs, I heard the wuthering wind of the highlands, and when I descried, I saw there amongst the choughs in the near distance by the local cemetery a stranger undigging graves. I could not see his guise plainly, because he was wearing a hood; but the stranger soon appeared to be carrying bodies off into a caravan nearby, like a piller.
The following night, I saw him again undigging graves in the glebe of the cemetery. Hereat, this time I rose to my feet and headed towards the cemetery a few kilometres forby. I was discreet with my approach, and when I had advanced and got closer I noticed that the stranger was wearing his familiar dark hood that resembled a monk's cowl, within the low walled enclosure. I thought it was the sexton or the undertaker. However, when I reproached him, he turned around beclarted. He removed his hood and displayed his shocking and hideous face of torvity at last. His face looked emaciated and starving, and his constitution was thin and his skin was pallid white. His teeth were sharp and colossal, and his ears were large and pointed, with an elongated face that was overshadowed, by his luminous eyes.
There was a body lying on the ground, or what had remained of it. It was apparent that it was the undertaker or the sexton, who the ghoul had killed. I had scurried to the hurst nigh, and returned to the house that night as a nithing, with sheer fright and drenched in the pouring of my sweat. Had I truly seen the monster forcouth and geason that the Mussulmans call the ghoul?
I awoke early in the morning to the trill of the birds by the red muslin draperies, as I could not sleep much during the rest of the night and early morning. I pondered seriously, whether I had not been experiencing a nightmare or a hallucination I dithered.
Once more I spoke to Mr Callanach, about the strong possibility of a foul and withy creature known as the ghoul existing on this earth. He appeared to be somewhat uncomfortable with the topic in general, as it discomposed him. This I had perceived at brief intervals, during the day betimes.
'Mr Callanach, you make think of me as an argh oaf, but I trust you will give me an honest reply. What would you tell me, if I told you that I have seen with my very own eyes a daemon in flesh?"
'From the graveyard nigh!" I uttered.
'Aye sir, Aye dinnae know whit tae say, for Aye swither. But methink the dead dae wander the bonny yird i sooth graithit wi the untoward wind. Heretofor, from their darklit abodes o hiddles dreved, but we hier i scotland ar wary thon the dead ar crows, whan the snell devil is clept nich ayont the thain cairns. Aiblins, ye shoud speak tae a fain man o the cloth, wha can sooth yer worry. Things lik this mak me peely-wally i ma lir, an aye dinnae want tae begowk ye sir unwittingly. Thon is no ma ettle', he acknowledged.
'I understand Mr Callanach, and I shall speak to a man of the cloth belike soon, when possible. Wherefore, do you say man of the cloth?'
'Dae no be fashit sir i searchin for the boodies, wi the bizen o chostdom an its main sweicht o fanglit tales thon are bespoken, tae mak a man tae dinnle lik a glaik, as he tholes abeich i the mistrow o the moor sae dreich murklins afterhand. Thon is aw sir!' He assured me.
Every night since then, I saw the grim visage of the ghoul within the clarty graveyard of sepultures, but he hied and vanished into the mist of the night like a skellum, with his caravan. I never spoke to a clergyman or minister about the existence of the ghoul. I felt any rational man of God would think me mad. Thus, I kept my occurrences to myself afterwards and attempted to forget the horrible sweven of the ghoul. There were no wynds to be seen in the countryside beyond the glen or manner to redd myself from the ghoul.
One night my dear Helen had joined me for dinner and stayed the night. She wore her braws for me. At first I was hesitant, due to the propinquity of the malicious ghoul, but she insisted and I acquiesced. That particular night the ghoul appeared but not in the graveyard, instead within the house, and his victim was my beloved Helen. It was a windy autumn night, whistling, howling, with sheer might blew the wind. From my quaint chamber, I felt this wind brush me in my settee as I had reclined. Whilst I was sleeping, a being of the night was peeping, and from start to finish creeping, unto a cellar that was replete with wine galore. From start to finish it was the ghoul, creeping, with a ghoulish revelry.
I then heard the words of 'aant’at koum', (woman rise) the echoes of my unrest.
I awoke, as my curiosity sought to explore this foregoing mystery that I could not ignore at once. Thus, I walked towards Helen’s chamber, as the echoes I still could not define much. And then, I had smelt a stench, within this foul and heavy breath I took that arose from a vestige of a chasm of the Tophet. An ugsome fiend had risen from the pestilence of the graveyard to affright. I opened the door, and my Helen, was gone from the bed. From top to bottom I climbed the stairs below, and I searched to and fro for Helen, till I found the lair of the ghoul dwelling, in my cellar so vile and serpentine. I immediately opened the padlock and entered the cellar. I was wondering, imagining, what horror would I discover? Had I lost the essence of my mind so rapidly—or would the darkness lead me blind, to the abyss of no return?
All was darkness and only the glim before this abyss I saw. There had been total darkness and nothing more I could attest. From afar, I saw an inscrutable bizen. It was a large and wide creation of the orphic night enthralled. There was a huge black hole in the wall, leading to this vague corridor so adamantine. And my gallus instinct overrode my sense of fear, and gently I walked, till I had reached a murky and nithered chamber, where the gripple ghoul sat in his throne too palatine. He was feeding on the rotten flesh of bones and liches, as he sat upon his throne palatine of vorant satiety. Hereat, I thought of my poor Helen, was she taken by this uninvited and pamphagous guest?
Thus, I stood silent and donnered, as the ghastly ghoul was violent and cruel, as he was drenched in the temulence of goblets of wine. The piles of deceased corpses heaved and heaved and too listless and supine they were. I saw his unsightly, horrendous guise, grotesque and of such colossal stature. I could not forget his glabrity, or his sharp nails dangerous like a feline on the prowl. Oh peccavimus, and God's ire manifested completely in his daunting disguise. I raringly harked and knew that this was no sanctuary of blest angels I was in.
Soon he was, grating and scratching his nails upon a skull, and drinking wine of goblets again that were full. The fuscous vault was adorned, in trickling blood of the humans he loved to consume with the wine. Endless bones and bones of humans, fankled and forsaken—by the brethren. The ungodly heathen and rapscallion feasted, with the unbearable wails near a shrine. I had pondered the unthinkable, had this ungodly outfleme feasted, on the bones of my beloved Helen, by a shrine—the image of a bottomless pit? I never found Helen alive.
Slowly, I retreated on the tips of my toes, leaving behind the groans, whilst he savoured bedoven in his drool, as his pointed fangs ground harsh, like a canine with his mastication. And back to the corridor I headed forth, thinking, remembering always to go ahead. Thence I ran, as I heard a vociferous roar from the tetchy ghoul abreast. His unyielding rage I heard, as the top of the hall had crumbled high, whilst the ground trembled mightily.
I felt the chills running down my spine, as the situation was unfolding immediately. The walls shook, shook, shook, and his vibrant birr stirred his gruesome look I shall never forget. He knew I was present and sought my flesh, from the nine skulls of the pagan shrine that stood in the glaur. I felt my legs becoming sluggish, and an unsettling pain in my chest. I had reached the entrance to the vault, but it was shut and brought me to a halt suddenly.
Had my foolishness condemned me, to the bitter netherworld of the sinners vulpine? The ghoul's roar I had felt, I had felt, and the foul stench of death I smelt all around me. But gradually, my body began to stiffen and I could not run any more, as I lurched and then fell on the ground agonising. I was then trapped in a paraplegic state that prevented my movement. The ghoul then found me, as I screamed out loud.
However, my screams would be deafened, within the heavy walls of the corridor of hell I was a prisoner of. I was once a man with a patronymic name, and my callous reaper the ghoul had immured me in a hell of nine levels forever more, within the putrid and towering barrow, behind the dark walls of the unholy ground. I was never—never to be found again, as he dined upon his glorious throne—dined, dined, upon the flesh and bones of mine with a zest. And he possessed my name, and he had usurped my identity. There was no visible dissolution in my body, and it was never found. You see, the ghoul is a nocturnal being who feeds upon the corpses of the dead, but he always prefers fresh living meat to dine.
I had heard about these forthcoming creatures spoken by the werod of the Ottoman Turks, who would invoke their names on the battlefield and shout out loud Allahü ekber! (God is Great!) I was told they were strong and clever enemies, who ambush their victims with stealthiness. They also steal sleeping victims in homes, as what happened with Helen. The ghoul or a qutrub is always feared, by manifold for some reason. However, they share a weakness that is sunlight and cannot endure the pure light of the sun. Dawn compels the ghouls into their subterranean lairs like cemeteries, groves or cellars of a house such as this one. Oddly enough sir, the evolution of a ghoul passes on its ineffable condition. That is to say that the bite of a ghoul can inflict a horrid fever, as can, if you consume a ghoul's flesh. Oh, this fever causes the victim to suffer and wallow in hunger, yet they are unable to keep down any food and the hunger drives them to erratic behaviour. Eventually, the fever afflicts them with such horrible spasms impossible to overcome. Unless cured, the victim slowly starves to death, rising the next midnight as a ghoul, as what happened with me.
Only in the darkest hours can such a foul metamorphosis occur completely. You see sir you should have not spared my life so easily, and then invited me. It is never wise to invite a ghoul into your house as a welcomed guest. I was the Mephistophelian and infandous ghoul of malison, who usurped the identity of all of the proprietors of the house.
Oh, how gullible are you humans with devotement, for it is your righteous duty for the poor heanlings that blinds your fate and causes my disport. Callum MacClure had finished his tale, and Lord Galbraith saw a transformation in him. He had changed from man into the ghastly and currish ghoul of the Arabs. Lord Galbraith looked on with absolute horror and disbelief.
'Good God, you are not Callum MacClure? Then who are you Devil truly?' Asked Lord Galbraith bewhaped.
He stared into Lord Galbraith’s eyes with a profound fixation, 'No, Callum MacClure is long dead, as well as the others. You see, first Lord Glenfield was my first victim, and then his beloved daughter. His wife was fortunate to escape the house, but I soon reached her, and she too became my victim. Callum MacClure had resisted me, and I must admit he was a worthy adversary. Nevertheless, he too succumbed to my madness unwillingly. You see my lord, a ghoul, cannot be so easily bedriven or begriped'.
'Good God! And what happened to Helen?'
'She as well, succumbed to my madness!' He replied with a fractional hesitation.
'Then, who are you ghastly fiend?' Lord Galbraith asked.
'Aye, I am the infernal ghoul that Abdullah Behzadi once imprisoned in Persia. I was freed and besteaded by a Greek, who brought me to Europe, where I travelled throughout the continent usurping noblemen of every country. The lieges and the thanes of the Middle Ages were my slaves bedone', the ghoul responded, as his Scottish brogue had changed to a deep sinister tone of voice.
Lord Galbraith tried to rise to his feet, but his body was in a heavy stupor adawed, and like Callum MacClure, he could not move at all. The ghoul’s wielding dominion upon him was illimitable and unstoppable, and his attempt at dissimulation was excellent. There was nothing Lord Galbraith could do to prevent the foul ghoul from possessing his mind and flesh. He too would succumb to the unspeakable madness of the ghoul that did not blin and become a fresh victim for the terrible creature of the night. The ghoul had assumed the persona and identity of Lord Galbraith entirely. He would become the new and lone proprietor of the estate of Lord Galbraith in Scotland for the nonce beselved. But again there would be more innocent lautitious victims added on his perturbing list, and the unfeeling ghoul would travel the abundant lands in search of his new lair of terror to usurp, or by means of an easement.
The moral of this story was that one must never believe that we mortals are alone in this earth, and that the immortal beings of the netherworld are always watching and lurking within the night. Man has always pondered the existential meaning of evil before and its considerable capacity to be evident, in the psyche of man unrelentingly. The potential of its cogent manifestation was a protracted onus that has intrigued the curiosity and fascination of man, with the unknown and unexplained world of the dead. The intrigue is an intractable and rapid obsession to know the pertinent veracity of such unproven theory. Man has contemplated in the realm of belief and religion, the actuality of a vivid representation of evil upon the earth. He has been forever innate, with the disconcerting need for avidity and for wealth that he has forsaken the impunity of sin at all times. However, his evil deeds upon the earth are accounted and attributive gradually, upon his foreseeable expiration. Thus, no man is so evil as to be beyond the token of generous fortune and piacular redemption in this world.