Evelyn Chartres Author
Here Be Monsters

Here Be Monsters – Part II

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

On the final day of lectures before the children were sent on a religious pilgrimage, Professor Stephens provided them with some context to the existence of the Tower.

He opened up with, “Throughout history there have been stories of things that lurked within the deepest corners of the forest, haunted castles or were thought to exist exclusively in our nightmares.”

“There are fairy tales which describe witches who prey on children. Creatures who grant wishes but exact a heavy toll for their service,” the professor added.

Clara could remember several stories that fit these themes. Hansel and Gretel came immediately to mind whereas Rumpelstiltskin was an obvious choice for the later.

These were children’s stories, told to keep a child’s behaviour in check or used to teach a valuable lesson. It seemed hard to believe that such a revered academic would lend credence to these stories.

“In the past, we discussed how legends are rooted in fact. How these were nothing more than fishing stories that reached legendary proportions. What initially started out as a story of a man catching a six inch trout turns into an epic struggle between man and beast,” he said.

Clara almost giggled but held her composure. She knew they were being observed and had her suspicions as to why.

“Fairy Tales are also rooted in fact. Some argued that Little Red Riding Hood was a tale on how the feminine form and sensuality can soothe the savage beast,” the professor said.

One of the girls giggled and Clara did not dare to look. Had this man really brought up a version of a fairy tale where the big bad wolf was seduced by the girl? She would have loved to hear that particular version. Clara bit the inside of her cheek to keep a straight face.

“The fifty or so variations of this story that I have studied over the years all featured one specific element,” the professor said while he looked at every student on the eye. “They all featured a creature appearing as a wolf and in many cases could take on human form to blend in with the villagers,” he added.

Clara mulled over the matter and connected the dots. Nowhere was such a creature described or defined as such, but certain elements appeared in the story. One might be able to infer the truth from these stories and yet this seemed more like a case of hindsight…

“In fact we are talking about a creature which stands approximately 10 to 18 feet high. Bipedal, is most powerful during the full moon and deadly beyond reckoning,” Professor Stephens said.

Clara leaned forward and opened her eyes as wide as she could. She was not about to miss what this man had to say.

As though on cue the lights blacked out and a large furry wolf-like creature appeared out of thin air. The apparition towered over the professor which made everyone in the room feel small and insignificant.

So this was the creature behind Little Red Riding Hood? What about the boy who cried wolf? In the background Clara heard one of her classmates break out into tears. What would the fire extinguishers do with her?

“Lupinotuum pectinem, a lycantrop or colloquially known as a werewolf,” the professor said nonchalantly. “A pack of these is rumoured to have decimated a battle hardened Roman Legion,” he added.

The werewolf slowly morphed into its human form. This particular specimen it seemed had been a woman. Easily determined, even with her emaciated breasts and wide hips. It was hard to place an age because of the hard life this specimen had lived through made it impossible to determine.

Clara was not surprised, the transformations and associated behaviours were bound to make them social pariahs. Fear and isolation would be sure to follow them and that made getting regular meals or proper hygiene more daunting.

“The males are both larger and more powerful than their female kin,” the professor added. “However these are not the only creatures which feeds our primal fears and haunts our nightmares,” the professor added.

The woman’s image was instantly replaced by something humanoid. It was tall, lanky with ashen skin and a long distinctive nose. Clara was unable to make out any other features, but that was more than enough to send a shiver down her spine. Why did this thing seem so familiar?

“There is something wrong with the eyes,” Clara said and immediately regretted having spoken out of turn.
Professor Stephens stopped cold and observed her for a moment before he asked, “What about the eyes.”

“They should be glowing,” Clara replied although she did not understand why she knew.

“That is only true in low light conditions,” he said. “Although an excellent point to bring up,” he added.

“Homo ‎pallidi or colloquially known as a ghoul,” the professor said. “Most tales surrounding these creatures originate from Arabic mythology. They describe creatures that seek out houses of the dead since they feed on decaying flesh,” he added.

The image changed again showing a different kind of creature. This was a thing of pure beauty, even with elongated fangs. Clara had no need to look at it further, she knew exactly what it was.

The professor began to name the creature, “Homo striga or more commonly known—”

“Vampire or nosferatu and popularised in by Bram Stoker in the last century. Creatures who are perversions of humanity, feast on human blood and whose rapid movements can appear like a blur to our eyes,” Clara said.

“Correct,” the professor said although he looked a bit surprised. “How did you know,” he asked.

“That one killed Father Michael a little over a year ago,” Clara said. “She did so on consecrated ground,” she added.

For a moment the tables had turned. Processor Stephens was now clearly uncomfortable with the information that came to life. How had news of this altercation not reached the confined of the Tower?

Clara felt betrayed, not only had they never spoken to her about the matter. Also, they never cautioned Professor Stephens against the use of that creature’s image? There must have been an ulterior motive to this lecture?

“Of course, you knew that already,” Clara said aloud and to defuse the situation and by this time noticed she was the only student left.

Edith walked in from out of the shadows then joined the professor at his side. Until that point she had rarely seen her outside of school gatherings. Why was she here?

“Of course we did,” the professor said. “We needed to see how you’d react,” he added.

“Your next phase of trading could not begin until we assessed you and that phase begins now,” Edith said with a grin.
So Clara had been correct. How many were initially surprised to hear that there were monsters in the world? Not just innocuous oddities, but things dangerous enough to require significant resources to counter?

Like the old charts she discovered in the Tower’s archives said, “Here be monsters.”

Here Be Monsters – Part I

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

Clara never got a name for her new home or at least an official one. Some called it the Tower of Babel or the Tower for short. Others referred to it as the Library of Alexandria while some used an assortment of less savoury terms. It was rumoured that using proper name would endow their enemies. The lack of a name suited this place admirably.

Beyond the mysteries of the name there was an abundance of cultures and languages to be found here which made the experience richer. There were vast libraries and archives that contained vast sums of knowledge, some tomes of dated back to the Antiquities. Clara would occasionally explore the massive structure, always in awe that she could find something new daily.

Professor Stephens had taught them how the Church had amassed massive stores of information before the fall of the Roman Empire. The Church had hoarded knowledge in the hopes of preserving knowledge until humanity was ready.

Sadly there was something in his tone that implied humanity would wait a while yet. This was further hammered home when he commented on the Edison and Tesla rivalry. The professor even bragged that the acolytes of the Temple of Zeus had resolved those debates centuries ago.

While that certainly explained a few aspects of this structure and the wonders within, it did little to explain others. The Terminus was a prime example of this disconnect, the network of gates which led to destinations around the world.

This gateway was a wonder of design, architecture and functionality. No religious acolytes from the antiquities could have dreamed up that technology, nor were there any known scientists who could unravel its inner workings.

There were a few who believed the Terminus to be a magical construct, even if that this notion was vehemently rejected by clergy and academics alike. While there was no clear answer, Clara occasionally heard the name Georgian whispered in the air.

The instructors were as varied as the subjects they taught. There were priests, nuns, and professors who all approached the world differently. Occasionally they brought in specialists to teach specific courses. Clara especially enjoyed these specialists courses since their instructors had not been indoctrinated by the order.

While academics made up a small part of her curriculum, there were also courses on theology, high arts, physical fitness and combat. Instructors were nebulous when questioned as to why the latter was a considered a core subject. Clara could guess why combat was important, but very few of the students had been exposed to the truth like she had. She often envied their ignorance, especially their ability to imagine a world without things that went bump in the night.

Classes were almost exclusively segregated by gender or at least for her age group. Courses which included both genders were heavily chaperoned. There were fire extinguishers to be found at every corner, keeping a watchful eye on the students to ensure there was no fun to be had.

Clara was a bit younger than her classmates but even she noticed the less than subtle attempts to get noticed by the other sex. While young, Clara was not immune, Jack would occasionally glance her way and would subconsciously blush. During those moments Clara prayed for an answer on as to why this happened; alas a prayer that would remain unanswered.

Over the course of the year, students occasionally disappeared from the group. When Clara had joined, there were eight girls and by the end of the year there were four left. Like every other mystery in this school, there were no reasons or explanations, simply endless theories generated by those who remained.