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THE ALL-SEEING RING
by Kelda Crich
“It is a powerful artefact, Miss. An ancient device that will twist your vision to the unseen,” whispered the shopkeeper.
The ring was heavy in my hand, heavier than might be reasonably expected, as if its power had transformed into a physical manifestation. An old white-metal ring, layered with twists of woven medieval carvings. I stared, transfixed, trying to recognise the skull-faced creatures that peered out of the metal vines. The creatures’ eyes and teeth were picked out in small fragments of crystal. They leered at me with knowing glances.
I held the ring between my thumb and forefinger, ready to push it onto my willing finger.
“Not yet,” whispered the shopkeeper. “We must come to an arrangement.”
“How much?” I asked. The price was irrelevant. I was willing to pay anything to obtain such an object of weird power.
I nodded. It was a ridiculously small sum for an item of such influence.
I hurried home, through the desolate streets and the dirty, ice-cold rain water. I was wrapped in anticipation. I knew that I had acquired something influential and obscure. The ring spoke to me, to the hidden aspect of my mind. I have always believed in the concealed mysteries of the world, and believed in mechanisms that might tear away the obscuring veil. I knew that if I were to place the ring onto my finger I would be changed forever. I wanted that. I wanted to be different. I wanted to be special.
A moment of courage, bolstered by a glass of raw vodka, and the ring was on my finger.
I saw the shape materialising out of the fractured air. I saw the man-shape coalescing before my disbelieving eyes. His face was corruption. His body unnatural, stretched beyond the rationality of form. He was ghost; a shadow of a man: Death, woken from his dark sleep.
I wondered if the ring had summoned him, or if had he always been here, and it was only my aspect that had changed.
He reached out his dread hand towards me. He opened his mouth and the sounds came, a low murmuring, a remembrance of speech, sounds over dark water:
“Hello,” said the terrible spectre.
“Have you stepped through Lethe’s water?” I murmured. Fear had thrown its great obscuring cloak over my mind. I could barely speak the words.
“Yes. Dead as a doornail, I’m afraid. I’m David Dulwich. I’m really pleased to meet you.”
“I’m Alice Wentley. Pleased to meet you,” I said, automatically. I reached out my hand and felt the strange insubstantial nature of his flesh.
“Doreen says ‘hello’.”
“Doreen?” I asked, looking around for another spectre. I wondered how many of the spectres I would be forced to witness. My heart was beating wildly in my chest, thrilling to the success of this strange enterprise.
“Doreen Dulwich. She’s my wife. She always materialises underground. She’s a ghoul, you see. Doreen!” the spectre shouted. “Looks like we’re in England this time!”
“What can you tell me about the shadow world?” I asked. I craved knowledge, to end the darkness and uncertainty that outstretches beyond the mortal coil.
“Not much, my lovely. I could tell you quite a bit about the inside of that ring, though.” He chuckled, a disturbing and decayed sound. “Don’t get me started. Let me give you this advice: don’t get yourself cursed.”
I was perturbed. The shades that the awesome ring had conjured were rather, well, rather mundane.
“So you are trapped into the web of the ring?” I asked.
“That’s a nice way of putting it, my lovely. That’s about right. Been in that ring for quite some time.” He whistled, an unwise action considering the state of his decay. A fragmented tooth dropped out of his mouth and fell to the floor. “How long have we been inside the ring, Doreen?”
“. . . .”
“Really, that long? Doreen says we’ve been in the ring for the best part of four hundred years. Blimey, don’t time fly when you’re having fun.” David whistled again.
“How can I release you from your bondage?”
David looked puzzled, “Come again?
“How can I assist you to break from the bondage of the ring? What unresolved issues bind you to this world?”
“You don’t happen to know the chappie who cursed us, do you?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“No,” sighed David. “He must be long dead. Okay, hold on a minute, my lovely.” He shouted, “Doreen, Alice wants to know if you’ve got any issues that want resolving!”
“. . . .”
“Doreen says, ‘Not really. Thank you so much for asking’.”
“Then what shall we—” I started to say.
David held up his hand to interrupt me, “Hold on a minute, Doreen’s saying something.”
“. . . .”
“Doreen says, have you got any issues that need resolving?”
I shook my head.
“An inability to form relationships, perhaps? Have you been deeply scarred by a past love?”
“Something in your childhood, some unresolved trauma?”
“No,” I said. “I had a very happy childhood.”
“That’s a real shame,” said David. “Doreen says that she thinks that you’re on the right track. That if we could help you in some way then we might be released. Ah, well.” David turned his head from side to side. “This is a very nice room, but perhaps we could go for a walk. We haven’t been outside for a very long time.”
“Could you just give me a moment alone?” I asked, “All this is a lot to take in.”
“I can’t I afraid,” said David. “I’m linked to the ring. I can stand in the corner if you like.”
I tried to pull the ring off my finger. David started to laugh.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
“Oh, I’m sorry. You won’t be able to take it off.”
“. . . .”
“She’s trying to take the ring off!”
“. . . .”
“I know. I know.
“The ring’s fixed,” David said to me. “It can only be released by death. By the way, you can’t cut it off, or cut your finger off. It will just grow back. All part of the magic.”
So I’ve got the ring, I’ve got the ghost, and the ghoul downstairs. Now what am I supposed to do?
I sought guidance from the shopkeeper, but when I retraced my steps and found the old street, I saw to my dismay that the eldritch shop had mysteriously disappeared. I stared in despair at a blank wall.
“Ah, yes,” said David, “Standard practice for a purveyor of mysterious artefacts.”
“. . . .”
“Doreen says thank you very much for buying us. It’s good to get out and about.”
I had wanted to see the unseen. Now I stared at David, a friendly if dissolute ghost trailing my steps. And the unknown Doreen, the ghoul moving though the underground of my mind. My goals changed. Now my sole desire was to search the rooms of my memory for a repressed issue. Then my unwholesome companions might find a release from the ring; they might be able to leave me alone.
“ . . . .”
“Ahem,” said David, “Pardon me for interrupting, you looked a little lost in your thoughts, but Doreen wonders, if it’s not too much trouble, if you could swing by the cemetery when you’ve got a chance.”
“No problem,” I said, still thinking, thinking desperately.
And all the time my fingers were tugging at that all-powerful artefact, that terrible curse, that all-seeing ring.
Kelda Crich is a newborn entity. She’s been lurking in her creator’s mind for a few years. Now she’s out in the open. Find her in London, looking at strange things in medical museums, or on her blog: http://keldacrichblog.blogspot.com/. Her work has appeared in Lovecraft Ezine, Spinetinglers, and the Life After Death anthology.Kelda's Bibliography