The Drakenswode Correspondence: 4
From: Doug Ormsham [email address withheld by request] • 6 July 2005, 22:18

I apologise for disappearing so suddenly after having raised your readers' expectations of a fast turn-around in my correspondence with you, but I'm afraid the hiatus could not be avoided. Indeed, in future such breaks are likely to occur more and more frequently and your readers must simply be patient. Reading and cataloguing Drakenswode's vast and somewhat chaotic library of journals and notebooks takes time and cannot proceed at the sort of furious pace that the internet has trained us to expect. I simply cannot do it. I have a life beyond these papers -- a domestic and emotional life under serious threat of fracture and various economic necessities that must inevitably take me away from the task. Add to that the more significant fact that, for me, reality has taken a turn into darkly fantastic territory, and you will understand why I am shaken, deeply afraid and unable to complete more academic tasks with any reasonable consistency.

On this occasion, the delay might have been avoided if I had been more circumspect. The fact is, shortly after posting you the missive of June 1, I received an odd hand-written note that caused me to depart "Cryptonia" at once on a journey that only a fool would have undertaken. But fool I am, and I left at once in an unthinking, emotional state. I have scanned the note into digital medium and include it here:

Can you possibly imagine how thoroughly this communication shook my equanimity? "D"? "my story"? Was this person claiming to be Drakenswode? How could it be him? My great-grandfather was well-and-truly in his grave!

Yet even so, the idea made me pause. I doubted... oh, yes, I doubted strongly. But so undermined was my system of belief, my acceptance of the "normal", that some small part of my mind asked, "What if it is him?" The code at the bottom provided the clinching argument. I recognised it as being similar to a cataloguing code used by Drakenswode in his records. Following it took some time, and lead me to areas of the hidden library I had not yet investigated -- but find it I did. The document in question was not a journal as such, but a single hand-written sheet, thus:

I was staggered by the implications even before I'd had a chance to think them through. The paper was in an old envelope, stamped and post-marked "Glasgow 30 June 1923". A coincidence? Yet the paper itself looked new, of exactly the same type as the previous note I'd received. Both appeared to have been torn from a spiral-bound shorthand notebook. How could that be?

I didn't know and could not at that moment conceive that the writer could be other than my great-grandfather, however impossible it might have seemed.

But what did "Meet me at Tempus" mean? I used Google and soon found that "Tempus" was the name of a cafe in Glasgow. There was no option now. I left by car immediately.

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From: • 7 July 2005, 10:05

Ormsham's email post cut off at that point. I think he might have fallen asleep! At any rate, hopefully he will continue the story tomorrow.

I'll keep you posted. At least the correspondence has started up again!

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From: Cat Sparks [] • 8 June 2005, 16:06

er... did they have lined notepaper back in 1923?

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From: • 9 July 2005, 9:31

Well, seeing as you asked, the earliest reference to "lined" paper I can find relates to a medieval stylus that created etched lines as you drew it across the parchment, thus creating lined paper (c. 400 AD). But that's not quite the same thing, is it? Well, according to Dard Hunter in his book Papermaking: the History and Technique of an Ancient Craft, one John Tetlow was granted a patent for a ruling machine in 1770. Elsewhere Jane Brown of the Waring Historical Library claims that blue lined paper existed before 1860 because she has examples in her library. Also the American Pad and Paper Company was founded in 1888 by Thomas W. Holley to produce low-cost lined pads (now called "legal pads"). So there you go.

Not that it matters. I think the point of Ormsham's tale is that the sealed envelope dated from 1923, but the paper inside was recent -- exactly the same, in fact, as the lined pad paper the earlier message was written on. How could this be? Therein lies the mystery!

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From: Doug Ormsham [email address withheld by request] • 16 July 2005, 18:07

I am writing to you now from an internet café in London - and let me assure you, I won't be here long. Someone, or something, is tracking me, and if I linger after you post my message to your website, I know they will find me with almost supernatural dispatch. What they might do then, I can only speculate -- and it is not a speculation I am eager to undertake.

The past week has been filled with mystery and danger and I feel lucky to have survived intact, or as intact as such unnatural events will allow. I don't even know how much of what happened is "true". The events I will recount to you are too bizarre -- and too deadly in implication. Of one thing only I am certain: disaster has struck! My last message to you was sent from a hotel in which I'd stopped off on my way back to Hampshire. Sending you that message had been a whimsy of disheartened ennui, a way to pass the time. As you guessed I did sleep subsequent to sending it -- though not at the keyboard! I simply felt weary of a sudden and so hit the SEND button, then went off to bed, little realising what was awaiting me. Next morning I continued my journey home, intending to finish the story once I got there. What I found left me stunned and dismayed, and forbad any such possibility.

As I turned into the lane leading up to Cryptonbury, I'd known something was wrong. It was approaching dusk and police lights were flashing in the distance. I pulled over to check out what was happening, suddenly afraid that I was in renewed danger. Now I could pick out rescue vehicles, fire trucks, figures moving about amongst still-smoking ruins, searching the rubble. There was little left beyond some of the stronger foundation structures. My heart sank. Drakenswode's house had been totally destroyed! What was left was a devastation of broken trees, crushed walls, burnt and shattered brickwork. The earth surrounding the house had been trampled and mangled; even from this distance in poor light I could see vast and unsettling indentations trodden into the ground.

"Excuse me, sir!" came a voice from behind me, "May I ask if you have a reason for being here?"

It was one of the local constables. I recognised him, though I didn't know his name. His sudden appearance had startled me and it took me a moment to recover.

"I apologise, sir," he remarked, coldly eying my reaction, "but as you can see there has been some trouble."

I explained whom I was, at which point he squinted closely at my face and nodded grimly.
"Mr Ormsham, yes, I see it now," he said.

"I've been away," I explained, "In Glasgow. What's happened?"

He shrugged. "Hard to say, sir. The gov'nor will be glad to see you, though. We feared you was in the house when it happened."

He declined to explain further and instead directed me to follow him. I left my car where it was and we walked in silence the short distance to what remained of Drakenswode's house. My legs felt weak and my heart empty. I had to marshal significant reserves of willpower just to trudge along that laneway. Even at some distance from the ruin, shards of shattered masonry and a scattering of rubble were strewn across the ground. I stepped over a splintered fragment of roof beam, skirted around the remains of a seared chimney cap, dodged a crushed window frame I recognised as belonging to the room where I'd been sleeping. Around me, trees had been broken off at their base -- large, old trees -- trodden into the grass and mud as though they were no more than reeds. Some had been pulled out by the roots. It was an appalling sight.

And the smell! The ruins reeked of a foul, unnatural odour, the stench of ancient, unfathomable decay. Authorities are still unable to identify its source.

It is only now, several days later, that I have been able to harness the clarity of thought and emotional strength to attempt communication with you. The devastated rubble that had been Cryptonia, seen up close, drained me of strength, so that the following hours of interrogation and earnest officialdom became a blur, a further trial to be gotten through and one readily forgotten. Later, at the main police station in Hampshire town, police were able to confirm my movements; luckily I had stayed in reputable hotels whose staff could provide exact times of arrival and departure. I answered endless questions, filled out forms, made some desultory remarks to local reporters. None of it mattered. It became clear that the authorities knew nothing of the truth. "Must've been a meteor or sumpthin'?" was all they said.

All the time I was wondering: had Drakenswode's subterranean archive come through the attack? At that time it was impossible for me to investigate. Nothing had been said to me about the possibility and I felt wary of mentioning it. What if the strange enemies who threatened me in Glasgow didn't know about the archive and where it was located? For all intents and purposes, Drakenswode's journals had been housed in his study, on Cryptonia's second storey. No one except myself had been able to enter that room, let alone descend into the earth beneath the house. Council plans of the house did not show that chthonian lair; I suspected that there was an assumption that everything had been destroyed and no one had thought to dig deeper to see what might be there. If I said nothing, would they assume that their task had been completed?

Except, of course, that couldn't be the case. My enemy knew of Drakenswode's archive -- I had inadvertantly made sure of that by recounting the history of my discovery of it, a story which is even now available to all on your website. My enemy, whoever they were, had obviously read this account; that is why the attack had been perpetrated. They wanted to silence me -- and through me, Drakenswode -- and had destroyed the house to do so. How they managed it, I cannot say. Evidence points to … dare I say it? ... a creature of vast proportion, summoned God-knows-how by powers I cannot understand. Could that really be the case? At any rate, surely those responsible would have ensured that the underground library had been destroyed?

In the end, I mentioned the existence of the library to the police; it seemed best. They looked at me askance. At my own expense I brought in bulldozers and drilling rigs, but nothing was found. There remained no evidence that the place had ever existed. I think they considered me to be certifiably mad and readily dismissed my assurances to the contrary.

What I now believe is that my great-grandfather was prepared for this eventuality and had built protective measures into its very structure. No one would be able to enter it, even were they able to locate it -- I knew that already. But this went further. You see, I believe it has been moved elsewhere -- perhaps it has always been elsewhere. I cannot explain better than that right now. Only by finding me and somehow extracting the secret from my genetic structure can those responsible keep the truth hidden forever. And I do not propose to let that happen.

Nor will my enemy stop me from sending you the material from Drakenswode's journals that I promised. You see, I had already moved large amounts of it, surreptitiously, long before the attack on Cryptonbury. Not all of it, of course. But enough. You will understand if I refrain from indicating where it is. Suffice it to say that it is safe. Indeed, I have arranged matters in such a way that, even should they succeed in finding me, the material will still be released to the world. Of course, I would prefer to survive and so plan to remain in hiding. I will return to New Zealand, where I will seek reconciliation with my wife and try to prove to her that our lives are in danger. Hopefully she will go into exile with me. If not, we will be forced to part for good. Her safety must be uppermost, and it would be best if she therefore knew nothing of my whereabouts nor of Drakenswode's legacy.

That there exists a connection between my trip to Glasgow in search of Drakenswode himself and the attack upon Cryptonbury I have little doubt. I will spend what time I can manage before my departure completing the story of that fateful trip, though I fear that at the end of it you will no more understand what is going on than I do myself. I apologise for that. This is no fiction, and tidy narrative structure is not a part of it; reality has a habit of being messy and inconclusive.

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From: • 17 July 2005, 14:51

Ormsham has just emailed me this scan of a clipping from his local newspaper:

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From: • 21 February 2006, 11:57

It has been a little over six months since I posted anything more on this strange correspondence. Indeed it has been over six months since I last heard anything at all from Doug Ormsham. All this time I've been hoping his emails would once again pop up in my mailbox -- but nothing! I began by sending messages to his email address, but after four or five with no response I gave up for a while, assuming Ormsham would answer in his own good time. Last week I tried again... and received a bounce-back message saying that the address was no longer active.

I have also scanned internet and real-world news sources for word of him, positively or negatively, but have continually come up blank. His wife in New Zealand has heard nothing; according to her, he never turned up to talk her into going with him into hiding, as he stated he was intending to do. His solicitors in Hampshire are likewise in the dark. Ormsham has disappeared from the face of the Earth.

Perhaps one day we will hear from him again, or the police will uncover some evidence of his fate. If anyone out there reading this ever comes across any information shedding light on what may have happened, I would appreciate an email from you. Beyond such an appeal, there nothing more I can do.

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