Everyone in Leighsburough knows of the Stone Tower. It’s the first structure you see while navigating the creeper-choked stony paths that bring you to the demure village tucked away in our center of the woods. It’s not particularly impressive in its appearance, but it is maddeningly old as far as anyone is able to deduce. The sides have long crumbled in areas and are consumed by a vicious slew of vines and mosses which seek to obfuscate the decomposing stone entirely. The rim around its open roof has fallen inwards and one can see glimpses of the darkness inside. The doors and windows remain open, gaping wounds into the stone cadaver, though what lays inside remains a mystery to most.

See, the Stone Tower has a storied past of mythology and superstition in Leighsburough. Since I was a child, I have heard countless stories of men, women and children led astray by the hypnotic fae, small creatures of local legend, later disappearing inside of the Stone Tower, never to be seen again. Of course, the sane man would simply regard this as a matter of superstition, a vestigial remnant of a bygone age, but the men of Leighsburough are certainly the superstitious type. I, at the time of this account, was not.

However, I was a newspaper journalist, not actually a Leighsburough native but acquainted with the region, having been brought up most of my life in the larger, more developed city of Ainsley. I had taken interest in Leighsburough specifically due to a string of disappearances which had made a bit of stir in the surrounding area, for all the townspeople questioned adamantly asserted that it had been the Stone Tower which took them, it had been the fae.

This piqued my curiosity, for I have always been intrigued by the unexplainable, though I usually would venture a rational explanation. However, having little to write on other than the mundanely gritty affairs of my degenerate city, I decided I might attempt to forge my way towards the center of this supposedly supernatural group of disappearing townsfolk whose own families confirmed they had been lured away by miniscule creatures of the night. I would spend a few days in Leighsburough, I decided. I believed there was certainly a story there, whatever the root cause of its events may have been.

Leighsburough itself is not an impressive place. The few structures which house the resident families, droopy-eyed and inbred, have long been crumbling in a state of disrepair which would warrant entirely new construction in a more lucrative area such as Ainsley. I was holed up in an “inn” which was largely just a rotting barn with living quarters tastelessly tacked on. I had worked on stories in dingy areas, but the whole place struck me with a unique sense of disquiet and trepidation. I had been hardly greeted when I arrived, the bulbous-faced “innkeeper” waddling over to bring me to my room. I do not mean to suggest the people were cold or cruel, but seemed to keep to themselves and be somewhat wary of outsiders.

The first night I had merely settled in. I lay in the dingy confines of my hovel upon the barn for many minutes, my luggage at my side while I struggled to decide upon a suitable beginning to my entry on Leighsburough, having had the misfortune of lugging my typewriter alongside me. Eventually, the spongy fabric of the mattress beneath my back gave way and I collapsed into rest, having been made weary by the extensive navigation of the wooded countryside required to arrive in Leighsburough. I rested deeply, not dreaming, before the coming morning arrived.

I awoke from the night’s torpor lethargic and blind as a leveret and exited the hovel, hoping to search for food or find some townsfolk to inform me regarding the situation with the Stone Tower, which stood ominously in the distance. Though the barn was in a grave state of disrepair, the surrounding nature was rather pleasant in its appearance, ancient trees with grey, bare branches streaked and scrawled with lichen and beetle damage, a spongy cloak of vibrant green moss emerging in tufts outward from the sturdy base of its host. The song of the odd frog or crowing bird drifted through the languid air as I crept across the beaten paths, fraught with shrubs and pernicious vines, seeking one of those isolated townsfolk who might be willing to speak with me.

After much wandering among many of those ancient trees which faced the glowing sun with reference, I found a decrepit farmer with crumbling skin who raised his arm to me half in greeting and half in fear. I introduced myself and as he put down his till he reluctantly agreed to discuss the Stone Tower, his eyes darting in paranoid surveillance of the surrounding area. I could tell his trust was profoundly limited.

“There ain’t much to say about that tower,” he answered glumly. “It ain’t no good and I sure haven’t been anywhere near it. You hear stories, ya know?” Intrigued, I asked him to expand on that utterance.

“Well, all I mean is—” he stopped suddenly and looked around the field once more. Just as I assumed the “interview” had ended, he lowered his voice and began again in a whisper as quiet and fleeting as a summer breeze. “All I mean is there’s something in there, and it ain’t the fae. It’s something big, I damn sure know that. All those stories of flickering light, of being lured away; I ain’t believing it for a second. I heard the sounds. We all done heard ’em. No one wants to admit those folks went there on purpose.”

I was pleasantly surprised by the peculiar information the farmer had offered me. Though I tried to pry any more specifics, the man was uninterested and began to get a bit annoyed, so I relented and allowed him to return gingerly to his tilling of the land. His old joints creaked and his scowl returned, indicative of the unpleasant life of those who had chosen to settle around the Stone Tower. I wondered if, perhaps, this supernatural fear of the edifice came from the fact that it marked a place whose fruits were withered and dried, a failed township symbolized in the existence of that derelict tower.

Nonetheless, I was intrigued by the unique story posed by the suspicious farmer, so as I walked over moss-covered stones and clumps of dirt choked with tiny, egg yolk-flowered weeds, I began to wonder if my journey to the tower should begin sooner rather than later. I chewed some jerky I had brought with me in case of my assumed inability to locate an establishment which would serve me food, and so I began to shift the pattern of my footsteps towards the Stone Tower, which stood unmoving among the majesty of trees which surrounded it.

When I finally arrived at the foot of the edifice, I was presented with an entirely new view of the massive stone building. It was impossibly old, perhaps older than the dawn of Christ himself. In the cracks and fissures which formed in its crumbling body grew mosses, lichens, and geophytic plants which seemed to creep within the very rock itself. The windows were hollow, but the swelling, inkish darkness within prevented any observation of their interior contents. The roof resembled something of an incomplete guard tower, a ring constructed in stone around the very obviously hollow top. Whatever wooden door had presumably once kept the secret of its entrance was long gone, and though I felt fear when presented with the notion of entering such an abyss of ambiguous content, there was little to prevent my entrance.

I had brought with me a simple torch, some food, and my notebook, which provided many of the early accounts of the interior of the Stone Tower. I was hesitant, but at last I found myself irrationally afraid and, like a child hovering at his mother’s door, I at last crept inside the place, summoning light from the torch to illuminate the dismal interior of the edifice. I had traded the salubrious midday air for the dank, dismal atmosphere of the tower, but there was little of significance to describe. The primary floor was almost entirely devoid of any decoration, merely a cold, imposing sprawl of stone which connected to two unseen stairways, one which would bring me upwards towards the roof, and another which seemed to recede into the subterranean darkness below.

It was only when I heard the low singing that I became intrigued—and afraid. I was not alone, unless I was merely imagining it, for youthful voices in an eerie choir sung hymns in unintelligible dialects. I suppose my curiosity overtook my fear, for I began to ascend the staircase towards the top of the tower, hoping I might find whatever created this song or auditory illusion that began to pervade the very atmosphere of the Stone Tower. The singing was rhythmic, vaguely feminine though androgynous in an otherworldly manner. The apparent youth of the voices was immediately suspicious, but I clamored up the stone staircase, in its centuries of disrepair, and arrived at yet another vacant room without anything of particular interest whatsoever, just dusty stones and patches of pallid fungus.

I repeated this pattern until the music, if that is what I could call it, began to dim in sound, barely heard from the empty upper echelons of the Stone Tower. It was then I consciously realized what I had known before, which filled me with loathing. The singing, the voices, had been emanating from beneath the tower, not above it. My only option should I hope to gain exposure to the forbidden secrets of the tower and write a piece of value was to go beneath the soil, beneath the false foundation set in the moss-choked earth.

I should mention that not all of the upper echelons were devoid of meaningful discovery. As I descended, I noticed that the room directly above the central entrance point was decorated with some queer inscription. It was a symbol, massive, depicting something resembling a bloodshot eye, and I did not notice it initially for the state of the stone wall into which it had been carved was so poor that only the vaguest remnants of the inscription remained. The eerie symbol of ambiguous nature certainly did not inspire confidence as I trembled, finally reaching that hollow space in which I could see only a few of the stairs, ultimately descending into a frigid blackness.

The singing grew nearer as I plunged myself into the gelid darkness below, carefully navigating steps which had crumbled and decayed for so long they were no longer reliably supportive to my skittish feet which occasionally severed a section of stone, causing me to panic even more than I had before. Yet, I did not stop, for I could hear the sound of that sweet singing, entrancing my ears as I descended through dingy spaces with peculiar carvings, all covered in a blanket of velvet moss and geophytic algae. The bottom of the tower was not like the top, no procedural rooms but rather expansive, twilit spaces which even my torch failed to appropriately illuminate. Several times I was sure I saw something creeping in the distance, though it seemed merely a manifestation of my paranoid psyche.

It was when the singing truly grew nearer that I began to bristle with fear, unable to remove myself from that trance state which the saccharine melodies brought upon me. It was then that I saw the first of them, singing alone in a dingy corner of the subterranean space. The thing was miniscule, not much larger than my thumb, but thin, inhuman, anthropoid, phantasmal, hollow. Three orifices could be seen upon its amorphous head, two vacant holes for eyes and a vacant mouth which warped itself into the abstract expression of a devilish grin. It was the fae, I was sure, I had encountered, and just as the others I had been lured by the suggestion of their voices. Yet I could not relent, trying to climb up. I knew my fate hinged on discovering the true secret of the disappearances, of the Stone Tower as an organism of its own.

I followed the tiny creature, ecstatic to bring me on its journey as it swung its half-formed forearms in the hideously dingy cellar air. It was not long until I saw more of them, emerging from the crevices and cracks, from behind piles of stones and beneath carpets of lichen. I did not truly believe I was engulfed in that reality, half-hoping I would awake from the hideous nightmare. However, I did not awaken, and soon a legion of the things were upon me, singing in their evil tongue, serenading me with the folksongs of a race not known to man.

They had, forcing me along with the subconscious desire coupled with a carnal fear, brought me to some hollow space in those catacombs, a great pit, seen diagonal in the stone, filled with an ocean of the fae. Perhaps the townsfolk had not been incorrect to attribute those disappearances to the miniscule creatures of the depths, but though they were great in number and clung to me, clawing at my skin and tugging at the fabric of my clothing, they did not seem to be a race of particularly fearsome beasts. Indeed, I was largely able to brush the things from my collar, even as I stayed tethered in place.

Eventually, I broke from the trance and attempted to force my way through the crowd of tiny beings, but as I was overtaken with the sheer number of the minute horrors, I was pushed within their mass, assuming I would merely be smothered beneath them. Alas, perhaps that is a fate I would have preferred, for instead, I began to fall.

I eventually collided with the stone floor beneath me, severely bruising my shoulder so much so that my left arm became almost unusable, the vestigial remnant of a wind-broken mast. I was accompanied by some chattering fae which fell upon the floor, clinging to my clothing or skipping at my feet. They were hideous, yet I could not rid myself of them no matter my efforts. Any attempts to crush them or sweep them away would be subsequently thwarted. They were a pernicious illness for which there was no cure.

However, I would have certainly preferred to grapple with the fae compared to the sheer onslaught of horror which overtook me as I saw what lay in the corner. It was a man, an adult, certainly one of those who had gone missing. His body was in a state of profound decay, a bloated, pallid flesh terraced by lurid blue veins, bulbous eyes and lips fraught with a post mortem edema. Vermin crawled upon his rotting arms, and I was certain he was dead.

But no, nothing is ever quite so simple, for soon those arms began to move, one outstretched as his eyes grew wider still and he began to howl, babbling words as he looked in the direction of my torch. However, I could not understand the prisoner, and though we undoubtedly shared a common tongue, his words seemed to me as incomprehensible and foreign as the chattering of the fae. He was bound in place by a thick rope of sinewy green algae, and around him had been carved all manner of peculiar symbols, often representing plants, insects, or eyes as far as I could understand their esoteric nature. I could not locate the others, but the ground was still brown with congealed blood and other bodily fluids I wish not to know the origins of.

I would have truly liked to help the sputtering man who seemed unfairly tethered to the mortal realm, free of death, but I heard the rumbling below and knew the object of my intrigue lay deeper within that spiraling structure which made up the subterranean heart of the Stone Tower’s visible exoskeleton above. The light of my torch flitted through the phantasmal bodies of the unrelenting fae, and I knew that inmost light represented their guidance. Whatever it was I wished to find, I could do so only by following the gleaming trail which emanated from their grey, lifeless, transparent bodies.

It was those fae which guided me to the horrors of what I assume was the final level of the subterranean extent of the Stone Tower. I cannot say I recognized it at first, or even truly noticed it, for the thing was hunched over in a pool of foul fluid which was not immediately illuminated by my torch, as it was tucked away towards a corner. Indeed, at first I saw only the mass of colorless skin, much larger than I. I did not even realize, initially, that the thing before me, before which the fae bowed, was alive.

I stepped several paces back, and it was only then that the horror emerged. It crept upon four legs, beastly, with the toes of a reptile. Its hairless, oleaginous grey skin extended to the rest of its body, a stocky, anthropoid build with a head of matted, greasy hair, two, spiritually vacant eyes which shone like spotlights upon me, and a hideous vertical maw of mismatched teeth. Never had I seen anything like it, and I am not sure how I managed to maintain my psychological composure as I looked upon the numinous scene, the enormous horror and its semiopaque henchmen which clung to its oily flesh, singing songs of joyous excitement. Before I could react, it was pacing nearer.

Now, I am unsure as to why the thing did not immediately lunge upon me, perhaps limited by the weight of its stocky build. However, those precious seconds of its approach were invaluable to me, for I was able to sly wedge myself between the fissures in the walls, entirely lost in the dark but resisting the luminous gaze of the divine monstrosity which seemed functionally blind outside the limits of its unusual predator gaze. I made as little sound as possible, nearing the stairway which I would need to ascend in order to have any hope of returning to the broader town and escaping the hideously supernatural fate of those who had been taken below before me.

It was not long before the movement and vibration of my footsteps had summoned the horde of fae, which seemed to grow inexplicably, and as well as their hideous subterranean leader. I could only see the vague outline of the creature, its enormous form a silhouette among the darkness in my barely-adjusted vision. I kept moving, kept climbing, knowing the thing was just meters behind me the entire time. If I were to fall, to rely on my relatively useless left arm, I would be befallen by the fate of those missing men. I did not look back in horror, but merely pressed on, motivated by a sudden urge to live which counteracted the warped curiosity exploited by those devilish things they called the fae.

Eventually, I arrived at the exit which would bring me to the first surface level of the Stone Tower, the one which I had previously entered. The beast was upon me, lunging on its trunklike arms concealed by the darkness but visible merely in their size. Yet, as I hauled myself with one arm above that staircase and towards the open entrance through which shone the light of the outside world, some peculiar stroke of fate allowed me to narrowly avoid a half-decomposed existence in that dungeon below the tower. The hideous thing could not fit its massive, tumorous head through the gap which separated the upper and lower levels. Suddenly I understood why it relied on that race of minute, ghastly beings to lure its subjects below. No matter how many of the fae clung to my skin, no matter how it gnashed its rows of hideous teeth, the creature could not join the surface where I stood.

I left Leighsburough with haste, deciding I would not work on the paper, regardless of its career impact, and instead would begin this very manuscript, still clutching the notebook which I had brought with me on that hideous ordeal beneath the soil. I have given much thought to the nature of that place, for I can do little else in my diminished state of psychological disrepair, some traumatic remnants inflicted upon my mind. I believe that, perhaps, the Stone Tower is some ancient place of worship, a Druidic outpost of a bygone era which exists only as it is maintained by the natural world it strengthens. Those residents of Leighsburough, so hideous in their dysgenesis, have erected a failing town precisely because it was built around that tower of antiquity, its native residents long since cleansed from the mossy paths. A disconnect with that which fuels the region, maintained only in the mosses and songbirds that surround it, merely begets a fruitless life.