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I thought I would do something a bit different this time and instead of posting a game, or a link to a creepy article/video, I would instead include one of my favourite r/nosleep stories. It has the usual mild gore and freaky stuff you would expect from a horror story so don’t say I didn’t warn you. Here we go.
Full credit to SuddenlySatan of Reddit. I do not own this story, I am simply posting it.
The Mummer Man
Where do I start with this? He won’t tell me. So I’ll start at the beginning. Probably as good a place as any.
I’m a bibliophile. I love books. I love reading and I love collecting books. Or at least, I used to. It’s changed now, of course.
I joined a group – local book club – in the hope of meeting new people. I’d just come out of a shitty relationship and I was low and feeling pretty hollowed out. Most of my friends were her friends and when we split they mostly sided with her. So I was single and friendless. Thought I’d start over. Make a new circle. I saw on Reddit some life hack about local interest groups as a way to find like-minded fellows. So naturally I thought, what about a book club?
It was a good club but it’s changed lately. It’s much more serious. Not so much fun as it was to start with.
A lady called Tara ran the book club. She was single and pretty but also pretty strange – a hippy guru – I decided early on that she and I were not going to socialize outside the club. The club met once a fortnight here in her cottage, all low beams, exposed stonework and log fires.
The first couple of meets were ok. Fun like I said. The people were quite nice really. Each session we took we took it in turns to bring a book we intended to read. Everyone else had to source the same book and read it ready for the next meet. We actually did that too. This wasn’t one of those book clubs where everyone used the book thing as an excuse to meet and chew the fat. I liked the fact we read the books and then talked about them. I liked the fact they were proper bibliophiles like me. I liked that, but I don’t like it now. It was a happier time. It’s so dark now and not at all like it was.
Yes, yes, I’m typing.
It was my turn to choose a book, so I went for a walk, popped into a flea-market book store, a place I hadn’t been to before. It was musty, just like I like it. Downstairs was local history, upstairs fiction, hobbies and children’s literature. The staircase between floors was open plan and turned a corner halfway. Here was a half-landing and a bookcase marked ‘Esoteria’.
I have a look. Weird books about mysteries, magic and miracles. I pick up an Erich Von Daniken. Ancient aliens. I decide to make this the book club’s next read. Before leaving my eye falls on something poking out from under the bookcase. I pull out a crusty old tome, leatherbound and cracked. I love this kind of thing, so I peel it open to find I’m reading a black magic guide. I buy the books. “50p” each. Dog-eared and old and that’s the way I like it.
The next book club session is next evening, I take out the Von Daniken “this is our next read”. I get some groans. The old tome is in my bag and Steve spots it. “What’s that?”
I share the tome around and everyone has a look. It raises some eyebrows, especially when Steve turns to the back and unfolds a ouija board. I hadn’t noticed. It’s printed on the back cover which is bifold. “What’s this?” Steve asks. He shows me and the others. It’s a poem written around the edge.
Dost thou seek the Mummer Man?
Larking in the gimcrack land?
What a gowk, that son of Pan.
Let’s haul him forth, let’s drag him down.
Let’s speak together, a timbrous clan
calling forth the Mummer Man.
Let’s say together that bacchanal
Hoi Hoi, two three, around and round.
All fingers now upon the planchette
Speak again, with voices dulcit
Mummer Man, we call you lad,
Come play with us, and make us glad.
The group debate. Play with the board and intone the chant? Or not. I wasn’t fussed, but Tara wouldn’t. She was frightened. But the others are skeptics. Don’t believe the mumbo jumbo. So we give it a go with a grin and a laugh. Steve and me and anyone who wants to join in.
We put fingers on the planchette and recite the chant. When we reach the last word the planchette does’t move and nothing happens. I get bored and put the book away. We get on with the rest of the evening.
Tara is tense and I ask her what her problem is. There’s nothing in the ouija board, I tell her. It’s nonsense. She’s trembling. I laugh. I tell her I’d go put the book in my car if it makes her feel better. She wouldn’t answer. Annoying! So annoying! and I said “that’s annoying”. ‘Hippy guru’? It’s a tiresome thing. we use her house, but she’s a useless hippy.
“I can see him,” she cries out.
“The Mummer Man,” she said.
Tara’s bullshit act I call it.
“Uh. Yeah. Ok,” someone clears the air with a smirk. “Shall we get back to the books?”
But Tara’s not letting go. A quivering finger toward the door. “He’s coming.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” I have to concur. Horror movie cliches to embellish the Tara drama. Attention seeking. Always the same.
I take out my phone. Camera on.
“What are you doing?” Asks Steve.
“Getting a photo of the Mummer Man, what else?”
And then everything changes.
Everything changes lickety split.
Imagine you were living a life when one day you find a door to another world. But that world is reality and yours is a sham, your life is delusion in rules and truths written for by a liar whom you admire. Like watching your killer slide the knife across your belly, dipping the tip into the button, pushing pushing pushing so that everything sinks like a piece of elastic to show the curve of space. See how the gravity sinks? See how the blood bubbles up? None of it is real. Only the pain is true.
This is how I felt. You can buy my feeling if you like. 50p, to you.
I don’t know what he is. But he’s here now.
Where Tara said he would. The hallway. Dashing into the room. Small, shapeless, wrapped in brown, a wild mane and tiny feet flapping. His mouth is filled with sharp little teeth and a tongue like a swollen slug. He screams like a mooncalf. His eyes bulge and roll as they land on us in turn. He claims us by name and wants his fun. We scream too, clamber up the backs of our chairs like chimpanzees, curse and trip in our haste to get the fuck away. He tears through the room then goes through the other door. We can hear slapping as he runs. His screaming fades to a faraway mumble.
I had my photo. Would you like to see it? Dost thou seek?
Describe the sounds I made? A scream like a pig if you stuck it with a knife, sliced it sideways and bled it in a bucket. He’s over me now, making me write. Sometimes in my head like a smell. I’d like to sleep but he won’t let me. He wants me to write and then maybe he’ll send me into a nightmare where we can spend some time alone.
It’s been a while since he first appeared in the night. Little goblin Mummer Man screaming his delight.
We all ran for the door. Some were giggling, all part of a wonderful hoax, a silly mask, a funny man playing the part, by me and Steve probably. They hadn’t seen the door to reality was open, the lie revealed.
Tara was first, skinny legs running. She knew the truth. She threw the door open, but no street or night. Only her bedroom.
We were upstairs. Nobody remembered going upstairs. We wanted out, not up.
We charged downstairs. They were pale with that sick feeling. “What the fuck are you two up to?” Jim to me and Steve. I grab the front door and throw it open, let me out into the night. Out, such sweet delight.
Tara stares back. I’m in her bedroom. The others behind her, staring at me. “What the fuck?” Jim scowls, eyes so wide I can see the fleshy red.
There’s mumbling and I turn around.
Dost thou seek the Mummer Man? Larking in the gimcrack land? What a gowk, that son of Pan. Let’s haul him forth, let’s drag him down.
I’m in the living room at Tara’s house, writing, and it’s very dark and cold. I don’t remember how I got here. I suppose the Mummer Man delivered me.
There’s no out. Only in. Out was fake. Never was. Only this. Only now. The dark. The cold. His mumbling sound.
There’s Tara in the corner, rocking like a bobbin. He said she looked like wood and pushed it down her throat. She has to look up now or she’ll choke on her neck. He made her hurt with those hooks. She gargles like she’s drowning in pig fat but he won’t stop.
It’s been days I think. I’m hungry, but what is food? All I know is typing so you can read. Read it out loud if you like. It might make you feel.
Now we’re downstairs, walking with our chins down, a line of naughty children.
He wanted the air to be cold so that our eyeballs would freeze. He’d pop them out and slip them in a cup and crack them like eggs with a silver spoon. Then he’d ask us one by one, if we’d be so kind as to bite off our fingers and serve them on a plate. Tasty soldiers to dip in the goo. It’s only a bit of blood so please don’t cry. You’re spoiling dinner for everyone else.
He’d run in circles. Hallway, living room, dining room, kitchen, hallway, screaming and screaming, eyeing us to check we’re good. Jim stopped speaking when the Mummer Man kissed him. His head is a cave, the edges quiver. He’s gone larking in the gimcrack land where something bad will do bad things to him until there are no tears left.
Can I go home? I ask. I sound pathetic. Like I did when I was little and mummy didn’t like my muddy trousers. “I want mum.”
“Shut the fuck up” Steve growls from the darkness. He’s an animal now from Never Never Land, naked and squatting as a fawn, pulling bits off. Left leg first. He has to twist the long bone and I hear his knee pop like a cap.
“Once upon a time in nursery rhyme, the Mummer Man mangled Father Time” Steve is saying a pretty song. There’s a lot of blood on the floor and he’s sitting in it. The Mummer Man watches me with his visible eye while he sucks it up through a straw. “That’s dirty” I say, “mum wouldn’t like a mess.”
“It’s ok,” Steve shakes his leg to empty the blood. “He’s cleaning it up, that bacchanal.”
Get back to writing or you’ll be next.
Ok Ok. I’m doing it.
Maybe if I do then I can go home.
Or maybe not. Ha. Well, that about wraps it up. I don’t know what else to write. The spell is done, and now I have to type the final score.
Mummer Man, we call you lad, Come play with us, and make us glad.
I’m to take his picture, one last time. Click and flash, In the dark, the nursery rhyme. I see him in the flash. It makes me cry and shuffle until there’s wall at my back and nowhere left to go.
He wants you to see. He likes you to watch. Would you like to?
I asked him to make it dark because I don’t like to see him and I’m his favourite so he grants me a wish. He likes me. I brought him from reality into the sham. That’s why he left me for last. His fingers will feel strange in my hair as they tug. Blood will go in my eyes when the clumps come out, then it will be even darker. He doesn’t like me screaming so I’ll have to hook my mouth at either side, one finger here, one finger there, tongue stuck out and pull as hard as I can. Yes it will hurt but I’m to think of mum. She’d want me to be brave. Anyway, I won’t be allowed to stop, not until I’ve peeled it apart like an orange.
When my eyes fall out I won’t be able to see anymore anyway and that will be ok. He says I won’t want to see what comes after that. A pinch, a tug. You may feel a little prick. He wants to do something with my jaw bone. He’s making a sculpture he says and he needs it for the coup de grace. I’m to feel it when it’s finished. He let me keep my fingers for typing and feeling and holding up my tongue.
I have to go. No more typing. The book club has changed lately. It’s terribly serious all of a sudden and not at all fun. I hope you don’t read this. I don’t think much good will come of it.