Saturday 20th January 1923

Dearest Diary, as I write this it is sometime between 7 and 8 o’clock in the morning and I am very, very tired. I want to set the events of the last in writing before I get some sleep in case I forget them. Of all the bizarre things I have experienced in the last few days this is by far the most unreal.

After leaving the taxidermy shop (and the scene of a double murder) we made our way back to the hotel quickly and quietly. After a rather subdued night we checked out and found ourselves on the train platform on a cold and frosty pre-morning, stamping our feet to ward off the cold and waiting for the OE to arrive. It drew in to the station at about 6:45. We were the only passengers to get on and there certainly was none of the fanfare that accompanied our departure from Paris but the blue uniformed staff were as courteous and professional as we had come to expect.

We had decided that we would use the Dream Potion straight away so we assembled in the adjoining compartments. From Edgar’s diary we knew that he could take things in to Dream Lausanne by holding them in his hands so I made sure to have my pistol in one hand and a few spare magazines in the other. I also raided my jewellery box for a few rings and necklaces that I could spare, just in case we had to batter. The others made sure that they were well equipped with torches and truncheons and the like. We also, made sure we took the fake scroll that Edgar had whipped up, just in case.

Father P had volunteered to stay behind and keep an eye on our sleeping bodies while the rest of us took the potion. Then all we had to do was take a few drops from the tiny bottle. Pretty much as soon as they touched my lips I felt all my energy drain away and within moments I had fallen asleep. My eyes flicked back open and for a brief moment I thought that it had not worked, we were still sitting in the cabin on board the train. But then then we started to notice small differences. For one thing Father P was no longer there. My pistol as gone as had the touches that some of us had been clutching. Detective M still had his truncheon but it had now turned in to a rough cudgel rather than a standard issue Metropolitan Police Force truncheon. Our cloths were the same and yet at the same time different, as if they had been made in a more primitive time. The blind was drawn over the carriage window (had it been drawn before we took the potion, I could not remember) but a harsh, white light was seeping in around the edges. Detective M tried to raise the blind but it would not budge. A little dazed we exited the compartment in to the connecting corridor. All the blinds were down and had the same, vaguely sinister light behind them. All the compartment doors were open apart from one at the very end of the passage. We headed down to have a look but found that the door would not budge. There was, however, a nasty smell of decay emanating from inside so, to be honest, I was glad we could not get it open.

With nothing else to do on the train and no reason to stay we disembarked. The world outside was a featureless plain of pale white dust under a pale white sky. There was no sound and there was no sign of life as far as the eye could see. The world of dreams was dusty and dead. There seemed to be only two structures in the entire world; the train we had just disembarked from and a solitary door that stood on its own nearby, a door that was open.

With no little trepidation we stepped through the door and found ourselves in what appeared to be Edgar Wellington’s taxidermy shop. Like our cloths and possessions the shop was the same and yet at the same time different. There were no traces of modern life in the shop; electric lights had been replaced by candles and oil lamps. The examples of the Wellington brother’s handwork were also subtly different. I find stuffed animals creepy at the best of times but there was the hint of the nightmare about the ones that now populated the shop; they stank of death and the stitching seemed crude and barely adequate as if they would explode apart at any moment releasing the unpreserved offal that we could tell was still inside.

We had entered Edgar’s shop from the back and from out front we could hear the sound of a tolling bell and what sounded like the passage of a murmuring crowd.

Personally I wanted nothing more than to get out of the shop but Detective M suggested that we search place in case Edgar had hidden the scrolls we were seeking her. A search of the downstairs turned up nothing and when we headed upstairs we found that the doors off of the stair case were blocked.   

With nothing else for it we headed out of the shop by the front door. Real Lausanne had a gothic look about it but Dream Lausanne was like a gothic nightmare. The building were the same (or at least similar) but they seemed to have shrunk together making narrow, inescapable corridors through which a crowd of people marched. Overhead hung a sick, grey moon in a sky that was the same purple as an ugly bruise.  The constant tolling of a bell, one that we knew for certainly was coming from the cathedral, echoed down the streets calling the people of this strange dream world to assembly.

With nowhere else to go we followed the crowd. It was a strange journey through the streets of Dream Lausanne. Nothing seemed to be constant. One moment we were in the thick of the crowd and the next we were out in front and another second we were trailing behind. If you looked away from the buildings for an instant they would be subtly different when you looked back. The people were the same; strangely lacking in individuality and at the same time always constantly shifting. Only the four of use seemed to be reassuringly fixed.

The pilgrimage through the streets to the Cathedral seemed to take an age, sometimes our destination seemed just ahead and other times miles away, and we passed several specifically on our way.  At one point we turned a corner and found our progress blocked by a huge chasm in the road from which issued an icy wind. With no other option we turned about and found another route through the maze of winding streets.

Just after that we say a face we recognised. It was Jon the porter from the station. He was standing mournfully by the side of the street and gazing up at an iron cage, one of many that hung from gibbets along our route. In this cage was the body of a woman. Jon told us that it was the corpse of his wife Maude, sentenced to death by “The Jigsaw Prince” for being sinful. He begged us to get her down and Detective M obliged, climbing up, opening the cage and lowering the corpse. When Jon turned down our offer to come with us we pressed on without him.

A little later we came across a parade of men and women in grotesque costumes; Death, a lion, a solder, a rustic man and his rustic wife to name but a few. All were beating themselves as they processed along the street. As we drew level with the parade the lion suddenly grew wings and took to the sky followed a moment or two later by the solder. As they flew over our heads blood fell like a fine rain from their self-inflicted wounds down onto our up-turned faces. Repulsed I tried to wipe the blood away and it turned in to dust. Darling Antonio and Albert both pointed out that he winged lion was the symbol of Venice and that, perhaps, the Soldier represented Napoleonian.

After the parade we passed a stretch of the road that was lined with bowls of garlic flowers, the scent of which filled the air. As we passed we noticed that, while this stretch of street was well lit nothing there cast any shadows.

On a street corner ahead we saw an old crone stirring a huge caldron. She offered us dinner, some of the soup that she was cooking. Intrigued and repulsed at the same time I could not resist looking in to the pot and was greeted with a sickening sight. The think broth that the crone was stirring was made up of severed human limbs. Quickly we hurried on our way and left the crone far behind.

The next person we came across in our dreamlike journey through the city was a magician. Not a “wizard” or a “sorcerer” but a “magician”, like someone on the bill of a variety act. As we approached him he placed hit tall hat on the ground and inserted first his hand and then his arm up to the shoulder in to it. Then his other arm went in and then both his legs. He was left a limbless torso ling on cobbles and he called out to us in a laughing voice; asking if we could reach in to the hat and retrieve his arms and legs. After the horror of the crone and her caldron I was going nowhere near him and it seemed that neither were my friends. When it was clear that we were not going to help him The Magician’s laughter became over more manic and he started rolling down the steep road and, thankfully, out of sight.   

The next spectacle on our journey was a street sized game of chess but here in Dream Lausanne it appeared that the chess pieces play the game and people are their playing pieces. Two statues, one white and the other black, stood at opposite ends of the board and on it were people who, at the silent commands of the statues, sped about the board slitting each other’s throats. Soon the chess board was awash with blood and corpses. The White Statue was found his king in check and signalled his defeat but falling apart.

Beyond the street where we say the chess match was a large square and beyond that, at last was the cathedral. IN the middle of the square was a grotesque statue formed of barbed wire. From these wicked barbs hung dozens, perhaps hundreds of slips of torn skin. After a few moments the square was filled with the most angelic singing I had ever heard. Incredibly the song was coming from the barbed wire statue. Unable to endure the beauty of the song we fled across the square, giving the statue a wide birth, for the steps of the Cathedral and the large crowd that had gathered at the foot of them.

At the top of the steps we could see three figures. One was the handless statue that we had seen during our visit to the real Lausanne.  There was also a hooded man who we discovered soon enough was The Jigsaw Prince. The third figure was none other than Edgar Wellington. I had not been expecting that. After all we had found his body in his shop. Did that mean if you died while under the effects of the Dream Potion you lived on here in Dream Lausanne? How long for? It was all too unreal.

As soon as The Jigsaw Prince spoke I recognised his voice, I’m sure we all did, as none other than Duc Essientes. It seemed that poor Edgar was on trial and the Duke, or the Prince, was going to be judge, jury and executioner. This wasn’t good if we wanted to find the scrolls. The Duke asked if anyone would speak for the accused. His tone of voice sounded like he was just doing it as a formality but we spoke up and offered ourselves for the job. Duc Essientes made a show of welcoming our involvement but the anger behind his words was easy to hear and I had no doubt that we would be joining Edgar in whatever punishment awaited him if things went badly.

So now there was a Prosecution (Duc Essientes) and a Defence (us) all we needed was a judge. What happened next was so horrible, so grotesque that my hand is now trembling at the thought of committing it to paper. The Duke called out to the assembled crowd, asking for someone to offer themselves for justice. The crowd were all eager to oblige and The Jigsaw Prince picked one at random. As one the mob fell upon the man, beating him with their fist and stabbing with daggers. Before my disbelieving eyes the volunteer was first murdered and then his very skin was torn from his body! My world span as I struggled to make sense of the nightmare scene. I am sure that I screamed and I would have fallen to the ground if I had not been caught by Darling Antonio. The bloody skin of the man was thrown over the handless statue and a macabre transformation took place. Where once there ha only been a statue of Oto III there was now the man himself ready to pass judgement.

The whole trial, as you might have guessed Dear Diary, was a farce. Edgar stood accused as of three things. The first two were kicking up a ruckus when he was arrested (wouldn’t we all!) and being foreign. We did our best to counter these arguments (Albert pointed out it was “The Jigsaw Prince” himself who invited Edgar to Dream Lausanne by giving him the Dream Potion) but it was hard to tell if we were making any headway. The third charge really brought home that this was nothing to do with crime and punishment but about Duc Essientes not getting his own way; Edgar was accused of illegally hiding the scroll from The Jigsaw Prince. Well we had just the cure for that and we handed the fake scroll over at once. As soon as The Duke has what he thought was the scroll in his hands he pretty much forgot all about us. He gleefully declared Edgar to be a free man and called for a revel to celebrate his own good fortune.

As the assembled throng fell in to an orgy of violent celebrations we made a swift exit.  True to the dream-like nature of the city we were in the journey back to the shop, which seemed to have taken at least an hour the first time, took only a matter of seconds going back the other way. Edgar headed straight to his workshop and, much to my disgust, plunged his hand in to his stuffed bear. He routed around for a few moments and came out with a set of rolled, slightly bloody parchments bound in string. The Sedefkar Scrolls!

It was now time to leave but we felt it was only far that we told Edgar that…well that he was dead. He refused to believe us and said we were mistaken. Darling Antonio did point out that none of us were doctors and that perhaps Edgar had just been very, very unconscious when we found him. Personally I didn’t believe it but giving Edgar false hope was better than no hope at all. Leaving the nightmarish world of Dream Lausanne was simply a matter of leaving through the door we had first entered by, the door at the back of Edgar’s workshop. Beyond we found ourselves back on the dusty plane. The train was just were we left it but before we could reach it Edgar started to cry out with alarm and confusion. With a horrible predictability as soon as he had left Dream Lausanne Edgar had started to fade away to nothing. Powerless to help him I averted my gaze and turned a deaf ear until Edgar had completely gone. 

I don’t actually remember getting on board the train. I think I can remember us returning to our cabin but I’m not sure. The next thing that I do remember clearly was waking up back in the compartment where we had taken the sleeping potion. Incredibly the OE was still pulling out of Lausanne. Like something out of A Christmas Carol the whole experience had only taken minutes, maybe only seconds. Most importantly of all, clutched tightly in his hand, Detective M had The Sedefkar Scrolls! 


Topics: Horror on the Orient Express, Switzerland |

Comments are closed.