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The Monk Of Horror - Anonymous

2. 10. 2008
The Monk of Horror

or

The Conclave of Corpses

Anonymous

(1798)
Some three hundred years since, when the convent of Kreutzberg was in its glory,
one of the monks who dwelt therein, wishing to ascertain something of the
hereafter of those whose bodies lay all undecayed in the cemetery, visited it
alone in the dead of night for the purpose of prosecuting his inquiries on that
fearful subject. As he opened the trap-door of the vault a light burst from
below; but deeming it to be only the lamp of the sacristan, the monk drew back
and awaited his departure concealed behind the high altar. The sacristan emerged
not, however, from the opening; and the monk, tired of waiting, approached, and
finally descended the rugged steps which led into the dreary depth. No sooner
had he set foot on the lower-most stair, than the well-known scene underwent a
complete transformation in his eyes. He had long been accustomed to visit the
vault, and whenever the sacristan went thither, he was almost sure to be with
him. He therefore knew every part of it as well as he did the interior of his
own narrow cell, and the arrangement of its contents was perfectly familiar to
his eyes. What, then, was his horror to perceive that this arrangement, which
even but that morning had come under his observation as usual, was altogether
altered, and a new and wonderful one substituted in its stead.
A dim lurid light pervaded the desolate abode of darkness, and it just sufficed
to five to his view a sight of the most singular description.
On each side of him the dead but imperishable bodies of the long-buried brothers
of the convent sat erect in their lidless coffins, their cold, starry eyes
glaring at him with lifeless rigidity, their withered fingers locked together on
their breasts, their stiffened limbs motionless and still. It was a sight to
petrify the stoutest hear; and the monkŐs quailed before it, though he was a
philosopher, and a sceptic to boot. At the upper end of the vault, at a rude
table formed of a decayed coffin, or something which once served the same
purpose, sat three monks. They were the oldest corpses in the charnel-house, for
the inquisitive brother knew their faces well; and the cadaverous hue of their
cheeks seemed still more cadaverous in the dim light shed upon them, while their
hollow eyes gave forth what looked to him like flashes of flame. A large book
lay open before one of them, and the others bent over the rotten table as if in
intense pain, or in deep and fixed attention. No word was said; no sound was
heard; the vault was a silent as the grave, its awful tenants still as statues.
Fain would the curious monk have receded from this horrible place; fain would he
have retraced his steps and sought again his cell, fain would he have shut his
eyes to the fearful scene; but he could not stir from the spot, he felt rooted
there; and though he once succeeded in turning his eyes to the entrance of the
vault, to his infinite surprise and dismay he could not discover where it lay,
nor perceive any possible means of exit. He stood thus for some time. At length
the aged monk at the table beckoned him to advance. With slow tottering steps he
made his way to the group, and at length stood in front of the table, while the
other monks raised their heads and glanced at him with fixed, lifeless looks
that froze the current of his blood. He knew not what to do; his senses were
fast forsaking him; Heaven seemed to have deserted him for his incredulity. In
this moment of doubt and fear he bethought him of a prayer, and as he proceeded
he felt himself becoming possessed of a confidence he had before unknown. He
looked on the book before him. It was a large volume, bound in black, and
clasped with bands of gold, with fastenings of the same metal. It was inscribed
at the top of each page.
"Liber Obedientiľ."
He could read no further. He then looked, first in the eyes of him before whom
it lay open, and then in those of his fellows. He finally glanced around the
vault on the corpses who filled every visible coffin in its dark and spacious
womb. Speech came to him, and resolution to use it. He addressed himself to the
awful beings in whose presence he stood, in the words of one having authority
with them.
"Pax vobis," two thus he spake-- "Peace be to ye."
"Hic nulla pax," replied an aged monk, in a hallow, tremulous tone, baring his
breast the while--"Here is no peace."
He pointed to his bosom as he spoke, and the monk, casting his eye upon it,
beheld his heart within surrounded by living fire, which seemed to feed on its
but not consume it. He turned away in affright, but ceased not to prosecute his
inquiries. "Pas vobis, in nomine Domini," he proceeded.
At these words the being to whom they were addressed raised his head, put
forward his hand, and closing the book with a loud clap, said--"Speak on. It is
yours to ask, and mine to answer."
The monk felt reassured, and his courage rose with the occasion.
"Who are ye?" he inquired; "who may ye be?"
"We know not!" was the answer, "alas! We know not!"
"We know not,we known not!" echoed in melancholy tones the denizens of the
vault.
"What do ye here?" pursued the querist.
"We await the last day, the day of the last judgment! Alas us! Woe! Woe!"
"Woe! Woe!" resounded on all sides.
The monk was appalled, but still he proceeded.
"What did ye to deserve such doom as this? What may your crime be that deserves
such dole and sorrow?"
As he asked the question the earth shook under him, and a crowd of skeletons
uprose from a range of graves which yawned suddenly at his feet.
"There are our victims," answered the old monk. "They suffered at our hands. We
suffer now, while they are at peace; and we shall suffer."
"For how long?" asked the monk.
"For ever and ever!" was the answer.
"For ever and ever, for ever and ever!" died along the vault.
"May God have mercy on us!" was all the monk could exclaim.
The skeletons vanished, the graves closing over them. The aged men disappeared
from his view, the bodies fell back in their coffins, the light fled, and the
den of death was once more enveloped in its usual darkness.
On the monkŐs revival he found himself lying at the foot of the altar. The grey
dawn of a spring morning was visible, and he was fain to retire to his cell as
secretly as he could, for fear he should be discovered.
From thenceforth he eschewed vain philosophy, says the legend, and, devoting his
time to the pursuit of true knowledge, and the extension of the power,
greatness, and glory of the Church, died in the odour of sanctity, and was
buried in that holy vault, where his body is still visible.
Gothic Tales of Terror. New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, 1972. Pg. 113
-116.
 

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