Silence from Calico

I write this in hopes that in case something happens to me that what I have discovered will be known to whoever reads it. My name is Richard Struckman and I live in the small town of Calico, Mississippi. Everything I have found I have folded within this letter. The intent of this letter is to not only to let the cause of my death be known outside this town but also to warn whoever reads this to not look further themselves into it as I have done that difficult task myself and in return I may have forfeited my life in doing so. May that sacrifice not be forgotten and whoever reads this letter save their own self.

Not a long while ago, on the gated grounds of Saint Augustine’s Church in Calico, Mississippi, a short, stumpy, and unhealthy looking citizen exhibited a strange feral spur of behavior. She was, it appears, to be leaving the church pulpit inside, passing through the church doors outside and walking as if three sheets in the wind almost falling down, she strangely tossed her books out of her book bag not caring whether she continued to own them. Afterwards she ran into traffic swiftly being hit by a large white truck. It was like seeing a fly being swat.

I ponder whether that day any soul knew the woman’s name before she decided to take those steps forward into traffic and kill herself. Was there a lover or spouse waiting patiently at their home? Where was it she worked, what were her dreams, how did she come to land on such a fateful decision? In my time and experience I’ve learned there is nothing to fear. Well, there’s nothing to fear except to silently fade away. 

Days later I went to Saint Augustine’s to discover the name of the woman who essentially threw herself into traffic. Witnessing her body being splat by the front end of the truck I needed to know her story. It was like an itch underneath the skin that needed to get out. The church priest at the time, Father Benjamin, said she had come to the church to be forgiven of her sins. “What sins were those Father?” I asked. I expected him to reluctantly tell me of some personal sin of familial betrayal, or not tell me anything at all.

“The sin of blasphemy,” Father Benjamin said. The Father was folding sheets and placing them on a shelf, presumably for the homeless or whoever needed a warm nights rest.

“But that cannot be forgiven.” Or so I’ve read. It was the eternal sin, a one way ticket to hell and an eternal fiery prison.

“Correct. She will burn for all eternity.” The Father said matter of factly. After stating it there was a shroud of silence in the room that seemed to fill the air with a pitch blackness that was stifling on the senses. My ears were still from the silence and my nose couldn’t smell a damn thing.

I pondered that for a moment, it was morbid of the good Father to say such a thing. I left the church knowing I could check the obituary section of the paper to discover more information. It was still strange to me that she would go to the church believing that and suddenly decide to end it all, like how she did it. I found in the Commercial Times, her name was Tabitha Lorman, of the old Lorman family here in the county. She died childless, with no family. Tabitha didn’t live far, obviously she was in the county so I decided to drive to her home. 

It was through the town square and down the old highway for about ten minutes pass a few churches and our only three gas stations. It was off the beaten path, towards where the town hillbillies live. A place you wouldn’t be surprised to hear shotguns go off and explosives. The road was scarcely paved and tree branches were swaying over the roadway. It’d be nerve wracking driving down the road during darkness. Her home was in front of a pond beneath a hill. It was an old home, falling apart at its seams. Made of a greyish brick and the wood was prickling apart. Bricks were missing and the front porch was leaning crooked. The porch cover was falling inward, I’m not sure how it was kept up.

Walking up to the door I held onto the banister carefully so as not to lose my balance. It would’ve been safer to just maintain my balance on the broken steps, even though it had missing planks and nails in its place facing the sky. Her mailbox lid was missing and nothing was inside. I peered inside but it was hard to see anything of note. Odd was how I found the inside as if it hadn’t been lived in a long time. Dust was visibly built up on the wooden furniture and throw blankets on the couch and chairs were straight and not sat in. I took a chance and turned the knob, letting myself inside.

A foul odor of burnt solder filled my nostrils, immediately drawing my hands up to close them. I sensed something demented lived here and not the woman who flung herself into traffic. The only sound was that of roaches skittering across the wooden floor. Illegal as I knew it, I without regret went through her shelves looking for any sort of document as to why she would do such a thing. Reading through her documents I found little of value and not much information of her story but I kept on. Old ladies such as Ms. Lorman would keep documents dating back to their early adult years. Surely there would be something here worth reading.

I searched in her office and lastly went into her room where she also kept a writing desk. It didn’t take but an hour and I found something of note. A letter she received from someone called Professor Wilbert Rigly, a scholar from Corsair University, one of those new private institutions. The University was founded in the gulf city of Mississippi, and had a satellite institute in Tennessee. Ever since the popularity of private institutes, especially the boom of online universities, more have cropped up. Less government regulations, and a big money opportunity. They were also traps for single parents of poor means. This Professor was no one of my own recognition, I’ll have to check on him later. I carefully read the letter.

To Mrs. Tabitha Lorman

I would like to thank you for reaching out and providing much needed history of Cades Cove. At this time I don’t see any sort of horrific connection to that of Calico, nor Saint Augustines. Being in your situation I would look into the church one last time. Maybe speak to Father Benjamin. He may be your one.

Lastly, I understand your thoughts on the matter of Calico and where it lays but I still stand by my initial recommendation that you give up your quest. You will not find what you are looking for. Leave it alone.

Sincerely, Professor Wilbert Rigley”

I held the letter in my hand, it was handwritten which was also strange. Who would write a letter nowadays? It was also on a very old paper, but dated this year, this month in fact. I folded it up and placed it in my jacket pocket. Looking around her home I didn’t find anything else of note besides an old newspaper clipping on her desk in the office. It just had a headline and article about a snow storm of ‘94. I remember that. It was memorable because not only was it the biggest snow storm we’ve had here but many of the towns buildings collapsed under the weight of the snow and the towns power was out for months. It was like living in the seventeen hundreds. We had no power, no gas, nothing of modern technology to help us through the winter. Many houses caught fire from the poor knowledge of lanterns and kerosene.

Walking out of Ms. Lormans home I spotted an old chevy truck slowly passing by. It was white, being it was coming so slowly I believe it was the one that hit Ms. Lorman. It had two black lines striped across the sides and unmistakable black top of the truck. Two men were in the truck, both with fedoras and what it seemed to be black jackets. White fellas. I couldn’t be sure but it seemed that they were spotting me out. I lowered my head and waited for them to drive far enough out before I got into my car to leave. I wanted to be casual about it in case they were stopped ahead and looking back, I didn’t want to draw undesirable attention.

I didn’t find any other letters addressed to or from this Professor Wilbert Rigley, so I decided to search him out. He wasn’t difficult to find, a quick search on the internet and I found the address of his office. It was only a four hour drive. I could do that in a day. Though, it would be a good idea to give him a call first. His number was also available on his office website. He resided in middle Tennessee, teaching at Corsair University.

His secretary, or at least the schools secretary answered and set me up an appointment for the following day. She was questioning me as to my intent to see Professor Rigley, I told her I was a former student and wanted to thank him in a book I’m publishing. That appeared to be a favorable reason for her. Further research on Professor Rigley showed he is a professor of many different historical classes, southern history seemed to be his niche. About twenty-four years ago in 1993 he seemed to be involved in a strange and unusual case involving the murder of a child who had gone missing and was found hung at, to my surprise, Saint Augustine’s Church in Calico.

The child had gone missing a month previously. The parents searched day and night for their daughter with a small band of any who would volunteer for the search party. Professor Rigley found the child at the church with a few other congregates there around 9pm after their Wednesday night Bible study with the teenagers. After the class the adults were hanging around when they heard a noise coming from one of the pulpits, the sound of a squirm. Professor Rigley had opened the curtain and there hung the baby, little baby Isabella. Hanging by a small length of rope from a wooden panel which seemed only of enough strength for such a small thing.

Reading this shook me. It wasn’t often you read about a hung baby in a church, but there was something else unnerving about the story. The baby had it’s eyes taped shut, and a symbol drawn on it’s back. It was the all seeing eye with a cross buster surrounding it. Why would that be and what did the sign mean? I should ask the good Professor for answers in which the article was reluctant to mention.

The next morning I woke up early to drive to Corsair University. About halfway there I had to get off the 40 to take a detour because of construction they were doing. Through a town as Cades Cove. The town was mentioned in Professor Rigley’s letter to Ms. Lorman. It was a deadzone. There was nothing but a church, a gas station, and a single diner restaurant where I’d imagine all of the town eats at twice a week, seeing as there was a population of only 116. I saw a sign on my way out that declared if I enjoyed my stay here, come back and never leave. I hoped I wouldn’t be returning through this town again. I’m sure it was odd for them seeing as many cars drive through as they did, much more than they’ve ever seen I expected. It’s always fascinating to discover a town of smaller stature than my own of Calico. It was an odd drive through the town, the speed limit was only twenty miles an hour so I had no choice in the matter but to stare at the weatherbeaten homes and other structures that were still standing.

Around noon I arrived at Corsair University and hoped to see Professor Rigley before his lunch. His office was in a small building behind the main campus, which was an awfully small place. I couldn’t imagine them having more than fifteen classes at one time, but it was a satellite campus, and a primarily online university to boot. I approached the Professor’s office door and gave it two knocks, not to be timid nor to be rude. His answer was immediate. “Come in,” he said.

I opened the door and was greeted by an older man with a light brown jacket and a head full of white hair. He was surprisingly sprung for a man of his age. “Hello sir, my name is Richard Struckman, I spoke to an assistant to schedule an appointment with you.” His eyes pierced me, but with a smile. His office smelled of coffee and old furniture. The rest of his office was quite quaint, yet modern.

“Yes, I’m aware. Take a seat. Coffee?” He offered. His posture and demeaning were both of welcoming delight. 

“I’m quite well, thank you. The drive was long, but I’d like to avoid any restroom breaks on the way back.” It was certainly a tiring drive. The highway across the state was long, narrow, flat, and insanely dread from exhaustion.

“Ah yes, I’m sure you do. How was the drive?”

“Good, though the 40 was shut down at some point and it took through a crepid town of sorts to get here.” 

“Cades Cove that’s gotta be.” He said to my surprise. Though some cities have their own little superstitions and knowledge about such places surrounding them. Some have their own small part of notoriety. “Cades Cove was not known to me but had its own history of reclusive and a certain dark force to it.”

I straightened up, this professor was knowledgeable for sure and I was in no doubt I could learn some information I wanted from him, that I needed about Ms. Lorman. But I wanted to keep on his topic to keep him comfortable. “Yes, that’s right. What’s the story with that town?”

“Besides the gas leak in the valley that killed half of ‘em back in the twenties, the town has its own bloody history.”

“Gas leak?” I asked. You mean the war, the Civil War?”

“Not with the Yankees. The Indians. The settlers kicked them out in the early 1800s and the Indians didn’t like it, it never sat well with them. They returned a decade later and slaughtered most of them town. They called it the Indian Reckoning. It never swelled up past ten thousand, and now it’s in the low hundreds thanks to a gas leak that blew half the town up.” He said unsettling.

“I didn’t see much damage in the town when I drove through.”

“That’s because the road it took you through was just one road, take a few side streets to what use to be downtown and you’d see it, or what’s left of it.” 

“You seem to know quite a bit of history.” 

“I’d hope so, I teach it. So what brings you all the way out here?” The professor wanted to get straight to the point, but he probably enjoyed the company and talk of an outsider I could tell, and I could understand his need to talk. This city was not much bigger than the Bluff city.

“Saint Augustine’s Church. A woman there walked out into traffic, killing herself. Her name was Tabitha Lorman. You were a correspondent of hers?”

The professor gave me a smirk of sorts. “Investigating me?”

“Not at all. I’m just wondering why she should do such a thing.”

“Whose it to you?”

“Curious party. I witnessed it and it stuck with me, until I figure out why a person would commit such an act, I’m unable, I wouldn’t consider dropping it out of my thoughts.” My eyes fell to the side and wandered around his office. Noting his many books, awards, certificates, and pictures. He was definitely a science fiction fan. Everything from 20,000 Leagues to the Lord of the Rings. One picture caught my eye, strangely, it was the all seeing eye with the cross through it. I made a mental note of it and to ask him about that child he witnessed hung in the church pulpit.

“Ms. Lorman was an old student of mine, many years ago. Bright woman, ambitious, odd she never made much of herself that I knew about. I heard about her death just yesterday. It was very unfortunate and sad to hear about.”

“What was her last correspondence about?” I asked.

“It was about her investigating the church in Calico, the one you were at. Do you know that church’s history, Mister Struckman?” The professor asked of me.

“Not that I’m aware of. It’s a small church that we donate food to, that’s what I was doing the day Ms. Lorman did…what she did. But I am aware of the baby that was found hung in the pulpit.”

The professor sat up and stared at me like he had previously. Now I suspected that he knew I was no mere curious party, but I had done some research myself before coming to meet him here. “That was a sad day, to be sure.”

I wanted to pressure him on that, but to also stay on topic with Ms. Lorman. “Was Ms. Lorman looking into the church for something?”

“Saint Augustine’s has had more dead bodies than a funeral home Mister Struckman.” That comment hit me like a wrecking ball. More dead bodies than a funeral home, in a church was shocking. It was predominantly his tone of how he uttered those words so casually that shook me. “From hanging dead bodies to women walking into traffic, to poisoned priests. It’s seen it all.”

“Why, why would it have all of that?” I asked mortified.

“Because it’s the Devil’s church Mister Struckman.” He sipped on some coffee. “I take that back, not the Devil’s church. Something else, Mr. Struckman. Tell me, do you believe in Monsters?”

“Not particularly.” I didn’t believe in such crazy things.

“Well, you should. That place is home to some of the worst ones to walk the earth in hundreds of years and they’re just waiting to awaken. And I’m not talking about ghosts and goblins, people Mr. Struckman, bad ones. The less people that visit the place, the better. I’ve given up waiting out my days here doing what I love, teaching.” The professor threw down his cup on the table after emptying it.

“What are these people?” I asked.

“The Few. You’d call it a cult, I’d call it a bunch of religious zealots that want to bring on doomsday.” He said twiddling his coffee mug.

“If you fill that up, would you mind?” I pointed to his empty mug.

“Sure, give me a second I’ll be right back.” He got up and picked up his mug and headed out the door. With haste, I reached over to the picture with the all-seeing eye crossed out. I noticed the frame had a bulge in it. Carefully, I removed it and found a phrase edged in the wood, “to rise we must kill the dark”. It made no sense, I pulled out my phone to snap a picture of it and quickly I put it back together and in place.

The professor returned with two mugs in hand. “Here you go.” I took the mug from him and sipped on it. It was a dark roast, smokey and with a hint of chocolate. Professor Rigley was a man of fine tastes.

“May I ask you about the picture there on your table, the all-seeing eye?”

“It’s a fraternity of sorts, not assigned to a single university, but to all those that are scholars and against established views.” He said. I had to know more about it and mean to research further upon my return to Calico.

Returning to the letter I asked the Professor, “What was the last letter than Ms. Lorman sent to you Professor?”

He leaned back in his chair. “I wish I had it, but I tossed it out when I sent her my reply. It was something about exposing Saint Augustine’s, which I told her wasn’t a good idea.” 

“What about these Monsters?”

“Ah, well, those I’d rather not tell you too much about. Let’s just say that they, the people, well they’re not from around here. And to tell you the truth, I’m getting a bit weary talking about it.” Sensing the tone of the finality of his voice I could sense this meeting was up. Also, I didn’t want to fight too hard for information and drain this resource in case I need to use him again in the future.

“I understand, Professor, I’ll be on my way. Thank you.”

“I hope I helped a bit, but please understand, I did try my kindness to Ms. Lorman, and doing the same to you, don’t go too hard at it.” He said and bid me a good day.

The meeting with Professor Rigley wasn’t as fruitful as I hoped, but once I got back to Calico I searched for more information on that phrase. Though, I should say on my way through Cades Cove I took a detour like the Professor said. Sure enough the town was a burnt disaster and parts still fumed from underground fires from gas lines built long ago in the mines. It was a town rebuilt after destruction by the angry Indians and once they discovered the natural gas they figured the town would be a gold mine. Not knowing what they were doing led to disaster, killing most of the town. The remaining citizens are too old and poor to move elsewhere. Now it’s nearly a ghost town, left to die with a church, a diner, and a single gas station.

Returning to Calico the information I discovered on the all-seeing eye brought me back to Saint Augustine’s to speak with Father Benjamin. I showed him the cross-busted all-seeing eye, and the phrase and asked him what it meant. He assured me he didn’t know anything of murders, deaths, symbols, and monsters. His eyes, on the other hand, said otherwise. I came back to the church at night to look around. Looking at the newspaper picture where the pulpit was with the hung baby I went to that very same pulpit. I opened up the curtains and not so surprising, it was an ordinary booth. Though a plank of wood on the pastors side underneath the booth was oddly shaped. I pulled it out and a hole was underneath the booth where the pastor would sit. I climbed down carefully.

It was a small room, with a corridor barely a person wide to walk through. It was dark, I used my cell phone flashlight to guide my way through. I didn’t hear anything of note until I got down to the end of the hallway and heard the water fountain above pouring water through the pipeway. In the next room opened up to a library of immense fascination and I’m sure once read, horror. Flipping through the books, reading topics, chapters, and excerpts I found information about something known as Montros and His Few. I also found Bibles and Holy scripts from every religion I’ve heard of it, and some which were unknown to I’m sure to most.

One book in particular told tale of a devastating event in a town not too far from here, Cades Cove! I was shocked to hear about something that I had just drove through. This book was sorted through dates and in the year of the Indian Reckoning, outlined a different set of events. A horrific set of events.

In the year 1821, the year the Reckoning had taken place, a cosmic reckoning of unimaginable proportions occurred. A decade previously settlers came to Cades Cove valley to create a town and farmland, and to be protected by the valleys from enemies. This, cult I guess I’d call it, were the original settlers. Their goal was to summon to Earth a God of their own to crush the religions here on Earth. They were mildly successful. 

One such writer, Thomas Edgar Smith, documented the occurrence. He wrote that about twenty men had sacrificed outsiders for a full decade, every year. Hanging bodies, drawing symbols on their corpses, and sometimes burning them. He wrote they had a sister chapter in Salem that were unsuccessful. On November 1st, 1821, all twenty of the members of The Few were gathered around a large wooden box just built with the edges and no sides. They set fire to it and chanted their phrases.

A being of immense and horrific proportions came upon them from within the fiery wood. It grew and expanded breaking it’s wooden chains. Thomas scribbled his notes down in fear. 

“The phrase is completed. Yet they remain chanting it ‘to rise we must kill the dark’. They chant. They chant. 

After ten minutes of endlessly chanting with no hope of accomplishing our goal, I see it, I see it rise! From the smoke and ashes a beast, no, a star monster rises up! It’s breaks loose of it’s wooden cage and I see Dunlap collapse. He is dead. Franklin too cannot stare any further into the Monsters eyes. Large wings protrude out of it’s back, but it’s head, it’s head is that of an Eagle, but not wordly nor has any of it’s grace. It’s arms and legs are bear-like.

I can’t write any… I think we made a mistake. It’s attacking all around the wooden cage that were circling it.”

Thomas wrote how he ran away. His last entries were that of the town of Cades Cove were all dead except him, his family, and the plantation of Manny Rose, a slave owner to the South of the town facilities that the main road was then built upon.

Another letter I pulled from a book said much of the same, but I learned about the cult of the Few that Professor Wilbert Rigley spoke of.

The Few have succeeded. Ages of burning and sacrifice and come to fruition. May our Lord De’Mos rise.

It wasn’t signed and most of the page was burnt. The handwriting was distinctly different than the previous letter. I pulled out another letter of noticeable worth.

Simons. The town is destroyed. Some may think it a gas fire of sort but it wasn’t. It was the Few. I know I won’t be around to tell but thought it’d best to write my words in hopes I’d be recognized and believed. The Few have been successful in Cades Cove. The only clue I’ve found about their future is Calico and two others, Saint Augustines.

I grabbed the book, and a few other journal entries and letters that caught my eye and climbed back out before my phone’s battery died. It was difficult climbing back out of the hole into the pulpit but I threw the books out of it hoping I didn’t make too much of a sound. I looked outside the church and saw the same white chevy truck outside Ms. Lorman’s house parked outside. A light in the back catches my eye and I quietly sneak outside. The lights flash in my direction and a chase ensues. I run to my car, get in and start my car to drive out of there.  A bullet flies through my passenger window, I ducked my head down below the steering wheel and get on the main road before I lift my head up to drive. I maintained my hands on the wheel and continued to check behind me, the two men stood still, pointing their gaze towards me. I pulled my car out of the church parking and saw several more vehicles drive into the parking lot. I couldn’t tell if it was a flicker of the light but it appeared the church was lighting up like an explosion of a star.

Without thought I head to Cades Cove, and then to Professor Rigley for guidance. I thought about Saint Augustine’s Church and the supposed cult of the Few that may have resided there. I wonder if those two men at the church got my license plate number and were smart enough to find out more information about me. I didn’t let it worry me at the moment. It was only two men now that I knew about, maybe Father Benjamin.

Around seven in the morning I arrived there at Cades Cove. I pulled into the gas station but no one was at the counter. I yelled out, “Hello anybody there?” No response. It was still dark outside. The valley closed out the sun and it was a cloudy morning. I leaned around the corner to the back, the office light was off. I walked back outside and saw that chevy truck coming down the road. I had parked my car around the corner so as not to be seen from the main road, and it appears out of good reason.

I waited for them to drive past and thought it best to go back to Professor Rigley. It’d only be an hour to his office. But I felt a warning, there was another car driving by with a man in a fedora looking around. He wasn’t from here. He was looking for something. I waited. Silently.

When I felt the time was right, I walked outside and went around to my car. A man in the same getup as those I’ve seen was looking into my car. He came around and immediately pulled out a knife and came at me. I spun around and went into the gas station and jumped the counter, the man came in right after me and jumped over it also. I pulled down the register and with all my might struck him with it hearing a cracking sound as I did. I gazed down at him making sure he wasn’t getting up, maybe to see if he was still alive. I could have questioned him, but I felt it best to leave. I didn’t dare call the police. Not in this town. I got in my car and headed to Corsair University to see the professor.

It was still dark from the clouds when I came to his office. “Professor,” I knocked on his door, “it’s me, Richard, I need to speak to you.”

“Struckman? Back already?” He appeared to have just came in to his office. He must have seen the horror on my face. “What has happened?” He asked.

“Yes, I’m back, I have some information from Saint Augustine’s Church, some journals about the fire at Cades Cove, and the Few.”

“The Few? Struckman, you foul. The fire at Cades Cove? What about the fire at Calico?” He gravely said. I didn’t know what to say. I was awestruck.

“What are you talking about?” Professor Rigley went around his desk and took a seat. 

“Call them,” he said. He remained sitting, crossing his legs, staring me down. “Call them.” He had the same calmness in his tone, the same monotoned uttering of his words. It shook me.

“Who?” I asked.

“Anyone that would answer.” I did what he asked. I called my brother. I called my friend, Mike. I called my work. I called the church. Nobody answered. It was complete silence from Calico. No one I knew, those I didn’t know well, no one answered.

I ran to my car and drove off into the highway. I didn’t look around to see if that truck was following me, I just wanted to get back and see someone, anyone. What had Professor Rigley known about this, I wondered?

Upon returning to Calico, the town was in utter ruin and destruction. A great fire burned most of the town. The most that mattered. The rest of the citizens abandoned it and left. It was a gas explosion. By my map it appeared the center of the devastation was Saint Augustine’s. The center of the destruction was the church, the church where I was at just eight hours ago. I wonder what Professor Wilbert Rigleys part in this was, and if I could trust him.

I’ll figure out what caused this but I fear my life may be in danger. I’m still being followed. I feel the shadows lurking, watching me. I hope to reveal the truth about the silence from Calico, and Cades Cove, before whoever is behind it finds me. If they do find me, maybe whoever reads this discovers the truth. I know this isn’t much information to go on, but it’ll be a start for your journey into investigating the silence from Calico.

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