Chamber of Death: Eerie Comics Revisted #2
A rookie policeman is assigned to patrol a lonely beat that runs alongside a cemetery on the outskirts of town. On his first night on the job, he notices a flickering light, and when he investigates, he finds a flight of stone steps leading down to the subterranean depths.
The thing that I am about to relate happened to me on what was to be the first and last day of my service as a rookie policeman. It also accounts for my decision to leave the force the next day, as well as to leave that cursed city as well. I have never spoken of it for fear of my sanity being questioned, but I am now writing it for the record.
I had been assigned to the outskirts of the city; a lonely beat that ran alongside the cemetery which borders the city line. Being the newest man at the precinct, I drew the worst hours and the loneliest beat, the hours immediately after midnight, and the walk along and through the cemetery.
It was a moonless night and cold. I started walking my beat at midnight with the discordant ringing of the cracked bell at the cemetery chapel gonging out the hour. There was no one in sight, not even a keeper at the gates. I walked along the picket fence at the graveyard’s edge, through the rusty gates, and along the overgrown path through the center of the cemetery.
We had to patrol there, for several ugly crimes had occurred in that deserted spot. The cemetery was very old, much of it had long gone to rot and decay; rumor had it that the first settlers had placed it on the site of an old Indian, and possibly pre-Indian graveyard, that had been there for centuries before the Pilgrims came to this part of New England. I walked, my shoes echoing emptily against the lonely ground. Tombstones leaned at crazy angles, white and grey, in the night; an occasional weather-streaked and neglected mausoleum shone whiteley amid the weeds as my searchlight played over it. I saw no one.
Then I noticed a light. An eerily swaying, flickering, greenish light, moving somewhere over in the darkest and oldest part of the cemetery. I stopped and watched it, then started silently across the graves towards it. I wanted to seize whoever the intruder was, and I didn’t want to warn them of my presence.
It seemed to be moving around an old mausoleum, and as I drew closer, it seemed to disappear inside the tomb! I reached the spot seconds afterwards. The light was gone, but the ancient crumbling stone vault had been opened for its greenish bronze door was ajar.
I grabbed the edge of the door, swung it silently open.. I saw before me that instead of the inside of a tomb, there was a flight. of stone steps going down into the subterranean depths! Into the areas below the graveyard. Down, disappearing on those steps, was that flickering, weird light!
I followed, closing the door, but not allowing it to shut altogether. I was in total darkness save for that eerie glimmer, swaying down the stone steps far below me!
Down the stairs I went, silently, guided by that ghostly light. I must have descended several hundred steps, far below the ground, far below the level of the city, when at last the steps ended on the floor of an old abandoned sewer.
The floor of the sewer, unknown to the city, was ankle deep in stinking, stagnant water-seepage from the worm-rotten earth above. Before me, in that passage beneath the graveyard, the greenish light was bobbing, and now I saw that there were two such lights!
I followed them as silently as I could. All about me there was darkness and damp, about my feet the cold vile water slushed. The rotting brick walls were slimy to the touch. The squeak of rats and the swish of their loathsome bodies in the water came to me. Then, somehow, I had come around a bend and found that I had taken some sort of short cut, for the bearers of the lights were passing directly before me
What I saw I shall never forget. The thing, the awful thing that led, for there were three figures in single file was a creature of sheer nightmare, a product of Satan’s nethermost hell! It was huge, seven or eight feet, and its head was a bare and grinning skull. Rags covered its huge bony frame-moldy corpse rags and it leaned upon a bone for support that could have come from no monster that ever walked this earth! Cackling upon its shoulder, chained there, was a vile batlike thing with rubbery wings and a monkey’s face. The skeleton monster carried a lantern, a flickering green flame within it, and a chain from that hand swung back to connect with the wrist of… a girl.
She walked directly behind the skeleton, and she stared before her without expression. Her eyes were stunned with horror, her hair fell in disarray about her shoulders, she walked in bare feet through the dirty water, and there was something about her features that made me think I knew her. But I could not seem to remember where I had seen her. The chain on her wrist continued on to end in the hand of an old and bearded man who walked last in line, carrying another lantern. His lined and timelessly evil face looked like that of Father Time.
The three passed without noticing me. I followed slowly after them, in a daze of horror, my mind reeling as I tried to figure. out the meaning of it all. From time to time, I noticed the skeletons that lay on the tunnel floor, the batlike monsters that squawked and yammered as the trio passed, then ahead at last I saw that the tunnel came to an end in a haze of sullen red light.
I watched them grow closer to that tunnel’s end, and I saw that it was the opening of some sort of great chamber, an area lit with a red flickering glow, like some giant oven. They vanished across the threshold and to that spot I myself staggered until at last I stood at the very end of the tunnel passage and gazed into the hidden under ground chamber.
It was a cavern that seemed to have no end, that seemed to go down and down into the very bowels of the earth. Red fires danced through it and the shapes of horrible beings leered and did unspeakable things within it. I cannot describe it, no description could do it justice.
I fled then; I fled wildly, madly, in an insane frenzy. I ran through the sewer, retracing my path, the bat-things screaming at me and flapping rubberly around me, the skeletons cracking beneath my flying feet. Somehow I found my way back, somehow I clambered up those hundreds of time-worn stairs, reached the door of the “old tomb, slammed it shut, and fled screaming from the cemetery, back to the lamp-lit streets of the sleeping city.
For I knew where I had been. I had at last remembered where I had seen that girl. It had been her face I had seen in the papers that very day, sullen and unrepentant. It had been she, the murderess who had slain her family in cold blood, who had gone to the gallows that very night, who had been hung by the state for foul murder, and consigned for her evil to everlasting damnation.
It was she that the demons had taken. It was her cursed soul that had marched in chains through the ancient cemetery and down into the haunted ground under the guard of Satan’s own messengers-and it was to the very gates of Hell itself I had followed her, and I had looked for one ghastly moment into that crimson-flamed chamber.
Avon’s original Eerie Comics tried out several innovative ideas during its publication, some of which were short-lived. One ideas “The Story Behind the Cover”, which appeared in several issues. Rather than featuring traditional comic art, “The Story Behind the Cover” consisted of a text-based story inspired by the cover art. Although an interesting concept, it didn’t last throughout the entire run as it devolved into reprints pretty quickly.