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July 7, 1843

Good Doctor,

As our friendship totals some twenty-odd years and you have seen all of the flourishes of my authorship a dozen or more times in totality, I shall dispense with frivolous scripture, allowing my excess ink budget to supplement your heady wages. I hope that this missive finds you and yours well, and that the fairer weather of the Spring will find you making the journey to my door of your own accord, and not at the behest of our plotting wives. My spirits would be greatly buoyed by one of our rousing arguments on the true nature of the works of ancient scholars who have long since been undone by the hand of Time. In truth, dear friend, I hope that that same fate does not befall me in the interlude between our next rendezvous. It is on this troubling matter that I wish to speak.

Of late, I have been suffering a truly cruel and unusual melancholy from beneath which it is hard to carry my spirit. I find myself having a persistent vision, and it takes pains to visit me without fail each time I place my pen upon paper. Even as I mark these words it lingers like a banshee, confusing even my waking hours. I would not deem it wise to try to drown this cruel turn of thought with Demon Rum, nor would the smoky grasp of opium offer me a respite. I fear I have contracted a manner of fever which burns upon my very soul. Mayhaps this passage should find its way to eyes of a Shepherd of Men, instead of a Disciple of Sciences. Truly, I am my wits end, and I seek your solemn oath that you will not share this with another living soul. My trust in your assumed word is absolute, and I have faith that you will hold true to your professional oath of secrecy. On to the matter which so troubles my mind...

I refer you first to the memory of the our youthful travels to Ole London Town, and the occasion of our partaking the strange puppetry show in the sheltered alleys tucked in along the Thames. Do you recall the old Asiatic man and his dancing shadows? The strange Celestial dragons and mushroom capped monks, capering on the flickering tawny screen? I always wondered if the meaning of our audience was more than met our eye at the time. I find the shadows that haunt me now are of similar vacant substance, but they dance before me like armies of imps before the Throne of Hell!

The most horrid of the horrors is the dream that waits the lashing of my eyelids each night. I will detail the scene in the best manner I can manage, but know that it makes my very hair stand on end to drag my waking thoughts against it.

I look upon a man laying in a foul watery swamp, propped up against a log in a particularly foul composition. His clothes are the finery you would expect to see on a man born a good two hundred years ago, long before we walked upon the Earth. His face, which is the spitting image of my own, is besotted with the mud in which he is laying, and a great deal of his clothing is tattered and bloody. He bears the countenance of a poor knave that has been left on a fiery battlefield for the buzzards to pick clean. This pitiful scene is soon replaced by one steeped in hell-borne ceremony, and fearful tendrils of terror close upon my chest to even think on it.

A violent rent in the very fabric of the world burst into flaming reality, and a sinuous demoness makes her grand theatric entrance on the scene! Oh, mercy on my soul for dreaming these damned dreams! Impure thoughts bloom in my chest, as she is crafted of the purest refinement of carnal sin. Attended by a throng of flaming red imps, the twisted bride of the Devil addresses my broken avatar, who is now paralyzed by paroxysms of sheer horror. His face is a mask of utter fright. What passes between them is lost in the roaring sounds of Hell which echo from the flaming portal, but I fear a terrible bargain is being made. The wager is sealed with a baudy kiss, often seen displayed by the whores on Fleet Street, and the witch turns her burning gaze on me.

I wake screaming at this turn in the dream. I cannot fathom any possible meaning to this accursed vision and I lack the arts of phrenology or the measurement of humors to assess if I have gone quite mad and should be destined for an asylum for mental defectives. Please, my good friend, help me plumb the depths of this foulness of thought, that I might rid myself of this nightmare and its attendant malcontent of spirit.

Your friend in scholarly pursuit,

Jonathan Stobie.

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