Vincent and I were close friends since early high school and were often mistaken as brothers in public at first glance because of our long hair, tattered jeans and usually black or gray shirts. However, Vincent’s life was not as complacent or as simple as my own. For starters he suffered from clinical depression and bipolar disorder, which he had to keep in check via heavy medication. His meds, I learned one day when we were at a record shop browsing CDs, when taken in certain doses could result in him having basic hallucinations. He would often complain to me he sometimes saw doubles of people we knew, or varied objects would seem enlarged astronomically.
After high school I left our hometown for job training for a year, in which time tragedy befell Vincent. His mother had suffered an unexpected heart attack while on a country drive with her sister, resulting in an ugly car crash that left his aunt crippled from the waist down and his mother sadly dead. Through phone calls, letters and emails Vincent would tell me how his father had begun drinking heavily and began taking out his frustrations of his loss on Vincent, often resulting in violent beatings until Vincent had decided to take his share of his inheritance and moved to the town I was currently in.
Needless to say I was ecstatic to have my best friend living close by, and the following year had proven to do wonders for Vincent. I managed to get him a job as a night janitor at the furniture store I worked at, helped him find a nice little house to rent, and even introduced him to a coffee barista named Britney. Additionally, he began cutting back on his meds and took up yogo, meditation classes and even began to read on Zen Buddhism! Life seemed to have turned around for Vincent and for the better.
That is, until last year…
Vincent’s bastard father had somehow tracked him down and broke into his house while Vincent and Britney were getting ready for bed. The police would report that Vince’s father began to savagely beat Britney with blunt instrument (the reports said it was either a 2x4 or wooden baseball bat but nothing was officially confirmed) which gave her brain hemorrhaging and died on arrival at the hospital. Vincent had attempted to pull his father off and the struggle ended with Vincent breaking his father’s face through a double paned window whic
h knocked him unconscious. The police were called by one of the neighbors who heard the commotion and they arrived on the scene shortly after, but sadly the damage had been done. Vincent’s father was arrested and convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, manslaughter, breaking and entering, destruction of property and resisting arrest.
The experience left Vincent traumatized. The local press incessantly hounded him in the hospital and during Britney’s funeral to the point he became violent towards them and almost smashed a Nikon camera over a reporter’s skull if I hadn’t pulled him off. Depression sank in once more, and Vincent soon began to disregard everything: his job, his personal hygiene, his home, and even his friends. I would often go to his house and find him sitting on the floor with his medication scattered on the floor and half empty bottles of rum and vodka left carelessly about.
I tried everything I could to help out my friend, wanting desperately to help him out of this funk that had claimed his life. For nearly 3 months I devoted all of my free time to being there for Vincent, trying to get him out of his house, help him clean up, get him food, and cover his rent which thankfully the landlord reduced considering what happened. I had to take his medication from him for fear of him overdosing or him mixing it with alcohol, so I took it upon myself to regulate it for him.
Everyone in town started telling me I was wasting my time on a lost cause and that it was best to let him work his way out on his own or let him wither and die. I couldn’t. How can I? To let my best friend just rot away seemed criminal, and took matters in my own hands. It was a long uphill battle, but I had managed to make some progress with Vincent, even finding a therapist who would help him. Vincent complained he couldn’t afford it, but I told him I was covering the bill. He began to weep and fell to his knees thanking me.
After of month of therapy, Vincent came over to my apartment one Saturday in April. His therapist had told him that it would help him better work through his inner demons and his problems if he engrossed himself in a project, something creative and thought provoking, but didn’t quite have an idea as to what to do. I told him that writing was easy enough to get down, or even taking art classes at the community college or joining a theater group (the last he punched me in the shoulder and we had a laugh).
Vincent decided he would start keeping a journal which he wrote in daily, and he would sometimes call me up asking if I had a thesaurus or spare dictionary I could loan him. I thought it was great he was getting into something that made him happy, and certainly the following weeks I saw a drastic improvement in his attitude, his voice, and his health.
Then, something…odd, began to happen.
I awoke one night from a terrible nightmare, screaming and covered in sweat. In it, I was in the woods just north of town and was being pursued by a ghastly creature, some gaunt and decrepit creature that looked like a sickening crossbreed of Slenderman and Gollum. Behind every tree, every shadow and dark place seemed to come alive and whenever I turned or closed my eyes I would see the horrid creature, only it was bigger and seemed to have a face like melting candle wax and a vertical mouth full of shark’s teeth. The dream ended as the monster reached out and grabbed me with its sinewy clawed hand.
The next day I met with Vincent at the local bar we ate lunch at, and found him scribbling away in his leather bound journal he bought at a crafts fair with a foamy stout beside him. I sat down, and ordered a double duck fart.
“Christ man,” Vincent said as he watched me pound the drink down, “You look like hell, what happened to you?”
I cleared my throat, “Worst fucking night in years for me! Had this nightmare, man, seemed like it was real!”
I regaled him and the barkeep Ian of my dream and of the hideous beast that stalked me. Ian seemed to get a kick out of the fact a guy like me would be freaked out over a dream. Vincent seemed to grow sullen and very quiet. After another round, I noticed he had calmly put his pen and journal into his backpack and sat staring at his drink.
“What?” I asked.
His eyes turned before his head and I saw his face was pale, sickeningly so and his eyes were wide. Several moments of awkward silence fell between us and he had the same look of abject horror in his eyes as the day his mother died.
He threw a 5 on the counter and said, “My place, one hour, get sober!” and left, leaving over half his bitter stout.
An hour later I knocked at his door and found the door ajar and Vincent was sitting in the middle of the living room on the hardwood floor. “Sit down,” he said as I entered and shut the door behind me. I sat in f
ront of him and saw in his shaky hands the journal he always had on him.
“That thing you saw in your dreams, where did you see it?” his voice was stern but shaky.
“I never saw that fucking thing before in my life! What are you on about? Why did you get all weird in the bar after I told you and Ian about the dream?”
His face was still sullen and his eyes seemed unblinking like a fish’s. “Bjorn, that thing you saw in your dream, that monster, is the monster I’ve been writing about.”
“It started after I got this journal,” he reached forward and handed it to me, his hands trembling, “I noticed after I brought it home that it had a flap in the back cover, and weird markings burned into it. I didn’t think much of it at the time, thought it was like the bookmaker’s mark or some shit. At first, I started just jotting my thoughts, stuff about the day and all, like what the shrink told me. Then, I found this…”
He reached behind him and pulled out a crumbled and waterlogged piece of notebook paper and began to unfold it, fingers fumbling from the shaking. After he unfolded it, he handed it to me. My heart leapt into my throat when I saw the crude drawing. The drawing showed the same fiend I saw in my dream, with pale blotchy skin, a contorted and melting face, long insect like arms, emaciated body and assorted shark-like teeth, all done as if by a child with a crayon.
“What the fuck?” I said breathlessly.
“I found that crumpled up on my doorstep three days ago. I don’t know why I kept it, only that for some reason afterward I began to write about it, like I started thinking of this story about some demon in the woods that stalked people and stole their souls, man! I couldn’t stop, it was like a sickness or something! But I kept writing and thought it would make a good horror story or something.
“But check this out,” he reached forward and opened his journal to the back cover and pulled back the brown leather flap, revealing a circle with a symbol inside it, and the letters R, O, N, O, V, and E on the outside, “You’re into the occult and shit still right? Do you know what that is?”
My heart stopped when I saw the symbol and the letters. I knew exactly what it was, what it meant, and where it was from. The sudden realization had sent tremors down my spine and through my arms, and my eyes were locked on that symbol.
“Well?” What is it!?”
I slowly looked up. “Ronove the Great Earl of Hell,” I whispered.
“Huh? Who’s that?”
“This thing in the drawing. Ronove is one of the 72 demonic beings listed in a number of occult books and demonology. His appearance varies from author but what remains consistent is that symbol. These symbols are used in rituals to summon these entities into our world, and supposedly control them for personal gain. The demon Ronove is supposed to harvest souls from decrepit people and animals if I remember right.”
“And it gets better,” he sighed, opening the journal to an entry written a couple nights before, “I thought of making you a character in the story, and everything you had said at the bar is almost word for word what I wrote! What the fuck is going on?”
I had no answers for Vincent, and our discussion seemed to halt for a long while as I skimmed his journal entries and kept glancing at the half crumpled child’s drawing on the ground at our feet. It was as he said, my dream was identical to what he wrote down to the last sentence where he left my fate a cliffhanger. Drawing no conclusion to what was going on, we retired back at my apartment and watched bad horror movies for half the night while eating cheap pizza.
What followed thereafter will haunt me forever.
Vincent could not stop writing about Ronove, and began to devote several hours daily to writing a story for this creature, but changed the character focus from a third person narrative to a first person, telling me he’ll put me in the sequel. Once and awhile he would lend me the journal and let me critique it for him. This is where I began to grow worried.
Some entries had several hastily scrawled notes, some reading “Must remember to hide the staff!” and “Library: Latin dictionary and translate Ruptis' "vinculis est, solvit mox vincla sunt pascentur” That last phrase seemed to come up several times and written along the edges of the paper and bolded or boxed in by scratchy pen strokes. I didn’t know an ounce of Latin but copied the phrase and looked it up online. The translation I got read “'My prison is breaking, fetters are loose and soon I shall be fed!” Reading that translation brought cold chills running through my core.
As the days progressed, Vincent began to grow distant again. He began to stop eating, because he wanted to keep writing; he took his pills in random doses without regard for prescription; he stopped leaving the house during the day, and when he slept it was less than an hour at a time, and when he did he was plagued by nightmares that had him screaming and cursing wildly. Late in the night he would call me frantically, saying he was seeing his father’s bloody face staring at him from a corner of the room, or even his lost love Britney weeping and telling him it was his fault.
I contacted his therapist and told her what was happening, but she told me that the healing process can be at times parabolic and that Vincent will go through periods where he regresses and acts peculiar, but assured me that in the end he would come out the better. It was hard to take that to heart, especially when his writing began to grow horrifically detailed. Several pages went into graphic descriptions of his father being brutally sodomized in prison then beaten by a guard who slowly transforms into Ronove and begins to slowly peel away strips of flesh with the sharpened butt to a staff. The pages of this nightmarish scene were interrupted by added pages of notebook paper that seemed to be about the dreams Vincent was having.
I couldn’t stand to take part in this perverse fantasy Vincent was engaged in. I returned his journal and told him that I needed some time to myself and that if he needed me for anything to call, and left in a hurry to the liquor store to grab a bottle of Jack and took a drive to the lake where I sat by the shore sipping at the whiskey and watched the clouds.
Then I got a call.
My cell said it was from Vincent, and reluctantly I answered. Several long moments of fuzzy silence answered when I accepted the call, then a strange, hissing like wet logs thrown onto a fire. I called Vincent’s name several times, and said I was in no mood for games. Then I was answered.
“Liber sum” said a high toned and drawn out voice, followed by sharp screech so loud that it shook my phone and deafened my right ear for a few minutes.
In shock of what I heard I ran to my car and drove as fast as I could to Vincent’s house, my heart racing and my body still trembling from the sound of that ghastly inhuman voice. The local sheriff was tailing me as I sped, but I refused to pull over until I was parked in front of Vincent’s house. He demanded I get on the ground but told him that something was wrong and need help. Just as the sheriff drew his firearm, that same terrible shriek sounded from the house, and we rushed into the house. What we saw next made my blood turn cold.
Vincent’s body was mangled naked in a pool of dark blood, torn pages of paper and broken furniture and glass scattered about. The skin on Vincent’s back and arms had several deep scarred gashes as if a spike was raked across his flesh. Several dark bruises covered his face and half of his teeth were in the bloody puddle he lay in.
The officer had radioed for help and a med unit, and proceeded to go through the house, telling me to remain where I was. As he went into the back shouting “THIS IS THE POLICE!” , I fell to the ground on my knees, tears running down my face as I looked at my friend. His lifeless eyes were wide with terror and anguish, as if frozen in time in a state of maddening horror. Streaks of his hair were white, and out of the corner of his eye ran dark tears of blood.
Vincent was pronounced dead by the paramedics when they showed up. An investigation from the FBI followed, and I was questioned and asked if Vincent had any enemies or had ties to any occult groups. I told them everything I could, even about the journal and the symbol on the back cover. I was told, however, that whatever journal Vincent had was found smoldering in a garbage can in the bathroom, reduced to ashes.
The case was eventually closed, though what really happened was never confirmed, and speculations abounded in the community, everything from a cult of devil worshippers in the mountains to a Canadian drug cartel, and even one person said it was aliens. I was left stupefied by the whole situation. The loss of my friend had impacted me terribly, and I took to drinking heavily for a while. Every night I dreamed that horrible scream which came from the phone, and that eerie inhuman voice saying “Liber sum”, and awoke crying and terrified.
Every day after work I drove by Vincent’s old house, and when I did I always felt like I was being watched from inside. The house had been condemned after one of the crime scene investigators found asbestos fibers in the insulation of the house. I learned that it was going to be torn down by December of that year, and was grateful for it.
Last October I went to the house alone and stood outside, looking into the darkened windows. The autumn air was still and silent and the crispness of the falling leaves filled my nostrils. Yet all my thoughts were locked on what was beyond, inside that house, on that day Vincent was taken from this world. I do not know what really happened, only that it did, and it left me horrified and depressed.
It was obviously murder, but by who? Did Vincent make contact with somebody who fed into his strange and morbid obsession? Part of me thought his father had broken out of jail and did it, but as it turned out he had died from being gang raped. Or could it really have been something as unbelievable as the demon Ronove taking a victim? I honestly do not know. And perhaps, it is best I never do.
I will forever be haunted by Vincent’s eyes and the sounds I heard over the phone, and I can only hope that whatever did that never gets another chance again…