How you came to this horror, I know not, I know not. I know only that I wish (oh, if only I could wind the clock back now!) I had come to instead know death – even, poor reader, the death that blanches skin and carves deep into the face of the deceased an icy and terrible pallor! – rather than to know only this curse. This curse to watch.
Oh, horror! If I could turn you away, I would, poor reader! But the curse to watch is also the curse to share, and share we must, for without a spreading of the burden which weighs us down like so much base and unforgiving lead, without a witness to gasp and to pity us, poor reader, we resign ourselves to fester in the habiliments of the forsaken in the bowels of a damned crypt!
Before I was the Keeper, I led my few and only friends on an expedition down a grey and wretched path. This path was overgrown with the rankest vegetation, and we – like torch-bearers in a powder-keg, with bold young voices and chortling hubris, driven by the same species of foolishness that likely lead you to us, poor reader – chopped and hacked and hacked and chopped the overgrowth which now we wish would have smothered and strangled us! Oh, that it might have proved too arduous for our loathsome appetites for the occult! But our pride was sharp and it thrashed the tendrils of nature that the world – a world which, like a parent who protects their vulnerable but curious children, cultivates to conceal in remote crevices that which is forbidden!
Being here with me now, you know that obsession oft enslaves time and distorts space, and so several years of the most abominable trekking, dozens of the most daunting dead ends, and innumerable nights that knew no sleep were like grains of sand to us on the shore of a sprawling oasis of our unnatural thrall. When one night, after weeks of pouring over ancient runes decorated with the most cryptic and contorting cyphers, we breathed, unified, the wretched incantation (horrible, terrible words!) that opened the Door to the Bloodcrypt, oh how that shore seemed awash with with a cleansing sheet of crimson that wiped away all memory of our previous failures.
We joined hands, ringing the fire, which rippled most violently in the wind, and we spoke the words which now seem to us like brands of red iron that we naively drove into each others’ hearts:
Cursed to watch,
Cursed to live:
The horror and the pain.
Cursed to watch,
Cursed to give:
Long after you’re insane.
Cursed to watch this DVD,
Cursed to watch this tape.
Cursed to write endless reviews,
Never to escape.
The final syllable hung in the air, almost visible, for several minutes, while we stood petrified, watching our fire shiver and fight until it sank into a bed of embers. And then, poor reader, we began to know that our words had indeed caught like a sail on some stormy wind in the middle of an ocean of obsidian cruelty. We watched in mingled horror and delight as the embers of our fire seemed to sink like stones in a pond of thick mud; slowly, like grains in the watched hourglass, the embers melted into the ground and with them, went the ground itself!
We watched for hours as the ground fell away, melted by bewitched embers, finally revealing a staircase of sand, leading down into the Earth! We had done it! After years of failed trials with taboo relics and the most obscure and buried lore, we had conjured the Door to the Crypt!
Our bodies were not our own as we descended the stairs, gripped by a singular hypnotic glee, barely allowing breath to exit our mouths, straining to listen as we climbed into the hole. Into our very graves!
Alas, I cannot, poor reader, detail the journey through the black corridors of the Crypt; the laws of nature forbid me to reveal the bends of that awful quest to the still-living who would turn to ice upon a mere mention of what stirred in those shadows. Suffice it to say that we saw many things in the darkness which, recounted here to you, would drain the life instantly hence like a wicked bee who gluts himself on a tiny flower and greedily takes the nectar back to its sinister hive!
A red light guided us through the darkness, a light that began as a pinprick of blood suspended in shadow which grew brighter the deeper we ventured, leading us finally to a chamber in the heart of the Crypt. At the end of that terrible excursion, in a corner of that final dank and ruddy chamber, a coven of hooded figures sat on what looked like dusty thrones carved out of pink marble. Arranged in a crescent, they brooded, surrounded by stacks – no, surrounded by towers of shimmering plastic discs and mournful obelisks made from chimneys of black plastic rectangles which held spools of tape.
The figures regarded us with the most peripheral acknowledgement, never fully moving their gaze from the strange glowing picture on the wall. Upon closer examination, the picture which transfixed the wraiths was not a picture at all, but a series of pictures that moved! A “motion picture!”
“What sorcery is this?” I blurted. “Life, you have stolen life with your dark arts! Life in a glowing rectangle fixed to your wretched wall! Life, captive and on display like an ape in a cage!”
“Watch,” the figures replied in a raspy unified whisper. “Watch.”
And then: the sounds of a thousand bricks grating together! Among the filthy thrones occupied by these lazy druids, new thrones emerged, slowly swelling from the chamber floor like evil spider bites. As an unnatural spell caused our fire to slowly sink to the pits of Hell, so now did crystal thrones manifest from the floor, as if summoned by the Arch-Fiend himself!
“Watch,” they whispered. “Watch.”
Mesmerized by this enchantment, my companions and I hardly noticed when hands came from the shadows and, with unearthly dexterity, draped us in robes which were the same shade of yawning sable as those worn by the specters who still glared at their magic screen of horror! And when we turned to cry out and see from whom we had received these robes, we saw nothing but shadow dancing on the labyrinth of plastic disks and tape that filled the chamber!
“Watch,” the figures intoned again. “Watch.”
The jagged whispers drew our attention back to the corner, the semi-circle of thrones (the thrones had now doubled in number), and the glowing screen. Upon closer examination, we began to notice the inscriptions on the thrones. You cannot imagine our horror, poor reader, when my friends and I observed the text carved into the thrones in the most elaborate calligraphy. More intricate lettering chiseled into the headstones of beloved kings we had not seen. But then we observed that upon each throne, terror was written: a different name was inscribed on each chair. And those names were our own!
“Watch,” the dreadful commandment. “Watch.”
Drawn to those thrones like moths drawn to the blue-hot death of an inferno of Hellfire, we glided to our seats, poor reader. How, at that moment when, like a doll impelled by a great invisible hand, I crept furtively to my great chair, I wished I had never known curiosity or wonder, never felt the call of seductive adventure, never gave myself over to necromancy or diabolism or voodoo. I wished that I had never indulged in the medley of blasphemies that led me here. Each step fortified my surety that we were damned and that our days inhabiting the natural world would soon be murky memory no different from a fleeting dream.
“Watch,” they insisted, never turning their heads. “Watch.”
I sat upon my throne, the chair of icy rock which bore my name, sat like an angry tyrant ready to raze his own kingdom out of spite and pride. I glanced longingly one last time at my companions – once scholars and explorers and scientists who sought to unlock the secrets of the unexplainable, young men who brimmed with vitality and wonder and who flirted with the supernatural with immutable smirks on their young arrogant faces. Now I saw only lurching phantoms who somehow looked centuries old, dead gods who stared at a glowing screen of horror, their only window in a jail of purgatory. Then I felt my own head turn and face the screen.
“Watch,” they commanded. “Watch.”
And we did. And still are.