Brianna Bullen – Deakin University
Dr. Lewis Mason’s Journal
15 May, 1869: I lack the words and the soundness of mind to accurately describe what occurred this night. There is a part of me that is hesitant—no, that refuses—to believe that anything that occurred that night was real. This is the sweet rational part; the part that wishes to condemn the memory entirely to the realm of dreams and imagination, away from fact and science. Yet there is evidence that suggests it happened—and no scientific mind can flippantly disregard such data. Nor will those primal, anxious thoughts predisposed to the fantastic stop pushing to prominence. The once clear dichotomy that used to exist between the irrational and the rational has blurred, making way for an unspeakably alluring yet horrific thought; that the events partaken last night actually occurred. I cannot in the least believe that it was all sleep. I will diligently attempt to record them now, for they may be of use to anybody travelling to Rome.
We were staying in a humble town in Tuscany, for the night had crept up on us swiftly without our knowing. We asked our coachman to stop for the night, as my dearest sister Grace was feeling ravenous, tired and awfully chilled. The coachman seemed pained to stop, imploring us to hold off until the next town, looking at Grace almost desperately. I noticed Grace’s skin was pale from the cold and so demanded on her behalf that we stop for the night at the town’s inn—a poorer dwelling than we were both used to, but we could cope. The coachman finally relented, but not before he handed me a warning: beware the Femina Novus, for she is furious and blind to the natural universal order.
It was around midnight when I saw Grace wander from her bedroom as if in some trance; her face held an expression of pure serenity as she walked, barefoot, out the door. Her nightgown cascaded wildly behind her in the wind. I followed after her as soon as I gathered my bearings after the bizarre sight: she would surely become ill from walking around in so obscenely little. I feared for her health and propriety.
Moonlight lit the path she walked on, illuminating a long forgotten broken trail; overgrown with grass and a long accumulation of dirt that both our footprints disturbed. We walked for what felt like hours but must have been only minutes; the moon remained high and round in one place, like time had ceased all together. The landscape around us remained the same, like we were simply going over and over the same ground again. As the walk continued, Grace’s movements inconsistently swung from short and jerky to fluid, spinning dances. She moved with a confidence that she had never possessed before. Through it all she remained ahead, and I could gain no distance on her. Her usually thin form now seemed voluptuous under the clinging nightgown, something I found both thrilling and repulsive.
Once I had taken my eyes off Grace’s transforming body I noticed a large castle on the horizon, at the end of the path. It was on the top of hill, glaring down upon us. Vast, ruinous and gloomy, the castle’s tall windows emitted no light. Yet an eerie glow seemed to gather around it, illuminating its jagged outline. The structure, in its own time, would have no doubt been a beautiful piece of architecture. But from the moment I saw the fortitude, I knew it was the most disgusting building I had ever seen and wanted to rid my eyes completely of the sight. Yet I could not look away, and before I knew it Grace and I were at its heavy gates.
She let out a silvery, musical laugh and touched the gates, pushing them gently. They creaked open, ajar only slightly. She let out another delighted sound and slivered in between the gap. Pulling myself from a dazed trance, I ran after her, but the gap had closed. Angry and afraid—for Grace—I slammed myself against the gates; they would not budge. They were heavy—too heavy for Grace, who was so slight, to simply tap open. I reasoned that my eyes must have deceived me, and rigorously tried to get them to open again. They would not budge. The gateway seemed unused and jammed; jammed so hard that part of the woodwork was splintered. Wrath and fury overcame me, and with one last mighty push I shoved myself against the gate. It did nothing. Then, as if by some unknown, transcendental force, it slowly slid open with a mournful cry.
There, in the courtyard, stood Grace and some—I am hesitant to call it a woman—foul beast in the guise of a woman. Only, everything about its body was wrong and grotesque. It had the body of a woman; long legs, a curvaceous body and well-endowed bosom were encased in an ill-fitting and tight gown. However, its skin had a ghostly, translucent pallor; veins were pulsed like thick blue and purple wind-swept branches beneath the skin. Blood was pouring from a gaping wound at her stomach, congealing in her dress and down her legs. Her arms seemed abnormally large when compared to the rest of her body, and her hands contained long fingers and sharpened talons. Most horrifying was her face: framed by string-like blonde hair was a pair of voluptuous ruby-red lips encasing pincer sharp teeth, like a circle of white needles in her mouth. The eyes—if you could call them that—were even worse. They were mostly hidden under a thin film of dark veiny flesh that pulsed and shifted after each beat of my heart. A thin slit down the centre revealed circular red eyes, the pupils indented as if they’d been seared inwards with a hot poker that held me in place.
It seemed to hold Grace to her breast like a mother would her young, but as soon as the creature noticed me it shifted its head down to Grace’s ear. She whispered something in a language I could not decipher and laughed; the sound was gloating, mirthless and cruel, sucking all the life out of the atmosphere around us. Grace must have understood the woman’s language for she laughed as well. Perhaps only a woman could understand another woman completely? Slowly, Grace’s head turned: her face was hollow, as if all liquid and life had been drawn away and her eyes had completely shrivelled up. There was nothing I could do to save her: so I ran.
Brianna Bullen is a Deakin University student with a passion for creative writing. She is a feminist, gaming enthusiast; and lover of British comedies, Pink Floyd, anime, science fiction, and modern poetry. She aspires to be a screenwriter—perhaps a greater aspiration than her childhood dream of becoming a Yoshi.