Ledalina

by

Ishmael O. Ross

Gothic Horror Historical Mystery

A fascinating 19th century journal translated to English and made available to the public for the first time since its discovery, telling of dark and mysterious events.



Ledalina cover image

Published by

The Unseenig Eye

Available in

Paperback (2021) ISBN 978-9916-9589-2-6
Kindle (2021) ISBN 978-9916-9589-4-0

Coming soon in

Epub — ISBN 978-9916-9589-3-3

Learn more



Deep in the colonies dark secrets lie

Ledalina is the reconstructed text of a late nineteenth-century journal, written by an unnamed Dutch scholar, telling of dark and mysterious events that allegedly occurred in Durban just before the turn of the century, parts of which are as upsetting as they seem unusual for the period.

While the inquiry into a disconcerting incident turns into a multiple murder investigation, we gain a chilling glimpse into the darkest depths of human nature, as the unnamed author discovers traditional witchcraft and sinister voodoo rituals twisted into a darkly tragic story of love and sanity lost.

This fascinating journal has been translated to English and made available to the public for the first time since its discovery. Although it is quite short, Ledalina does not offer light or easy reading. The story is as frightening as it is fascinating; while the archaic, often confoundingly long sentences (a common characteristic of 19th-century writing) have been faithfully preserved by the translator and the editors.

But what is even more consuming than my fear, is my curiosity. I am still in the possession of Ms Ledalina's letter, and the only way forward and the only way to ease my mind is to at least solve as much of this mystery as I can from my present position.”

Ledalina

Praise for Ledalina

The original author takes the reader on a journey of discovery and it is terrifying.

The unknown author and the unexplainable dogma that keeps them going to find the truth is, in and of itself, a fascinating story. The original author grabs us and crisscrosses over days so eventful that it would amount to someone else's experiences in a whole lifetime. For all that she is and what we only know from the author's piecing together of stories from the vague recollections of Ledalina's past acquaintances, it is ultimately the author who carries the golden ticket, so to speak, and the climax unfolds in astonishing detail, preceded by them saying: “I am writing these last pages of my journal, hoping for the sake of everything holy and beautiful that I never have to open it again.” As a reader, I only wish they had put the pen to the same paper further down the line, resurrecting more experiences with the panache that the undead resurrected themselves.” — Reader’s favorite (Jamie Michele)



Read an excerpt from
Ledalina by Ishmael O. Ross


29 October, 18—

Aboard RMS Dunottar Castle

am writing this journal in a hurry. I am not much of a writer, and much less a keeper of journals, yet I feel it necessary to give an accurate eyewitness account of everything that might happen during my stay in the Cape Colony. We are set to make landfall in about two hours, then I am to board a train at some speed, lest I forfeit my only chance to travel up north at once.

The steamer is making an impressive progress; we have arrived from London to the immediate vicinity of Cape Town in just under 18 days, a feat that will allow me to recommend the services of Castel Line and the Royal Mail, with great enthusiasm, to anyone interested in travelling or writing to this part of Africa.

The journey itself was uneventful, and would have been boring if not for the great excitement the cause of my departure had to offer, one which occupied my thoughts and imagination for the greater part of the trip, and as the date of my arrival to B—draws closer, I find that my impatience to investigate grows with every passing minute. Perhaps writing about my experiences will help me pass the time and, although I am afraid it is a futile experiment, the records of my observations should be useful for the Professor to assess my endeavours, and for me to prove that my conduct and my representation of his office were worthy of his name.

A little over a month ago the Professor had received some correspondence, written in a neat, yet insecure female hand, in broken Dutch, requesting his immediate attendance upon some matters that have been, apparently, previously discussed between himself and the author of the letter in question.

As the Professor had been called away on some rather grim business in London that seems to be keeping him for longer than he had expected, and I—being his first assistant, and thus entrusted with the honour of opening all his mail, lest some communications of importance that arrive while he was away be overlooked—took the liberty of studying the letter in question with great care, soon to find myself intrigued by its contents, not the least because it had been written by a woman, native to those parts.

I had, of course, immediately telegraphed the Professor in London, but not having heard from him for two whole days, I began making plans to visit him directly, when his short reply arrived, advising me that his business in London now required him to travel to Transylvania and that he had faith in me to investigate the matters relayed to him in the correspondence by the African woman, as well as he would himself.

Puzzled by his reply, and by the Professor not giving any good reason for his untimely departure to the east, I contemplated writing back to the colony to advise our correspondent to wait for his return, but the details of the letter, and all her previous correspondence which I had consulted, seemed to occupy my mind more profoundly than I would have thought initially, so I resolved to make arrangements to visit her directly.

Five days later I was in London, and the next day I boarded the RMS Dunottar Castle, which is now about to begin docking in Cape Town. I must prepare now, and I am sure I will continue this memorandum, although I can hardly compose myself enough to write steadily.

1 November

British Colonial settlement B—

In hotel, could not write on train, which was dirty and uncomfortable. Telegraphed woman, not sure if she would receive it, but a telegraph already awaited me here, advising me to visit a certain cemetery at a certain time, quite early in the morning, and then to visit herself directly. I am now preparing to depart. Time is pressing.

1 November

My correspondent’s cottage in B—

My trip to the cemetery was uneventful, and the affair I witnessed there was every bit as grim as I had expected it to be, if a little odd. That is if a hurried burial and what looked like a rather shallow grave truly are regarded odd in this country, whose habits and customs I am yet to acquaint myself with.

Two burly men had dug an irregularly shaped grave of sorts, in a plot that looked like it had been disturbed repeatedly before, barely large enough to contain the makeshift coffin which was little more than a few dirty planks nailed together to form a rudimentary box.

At this point, I feel that I need to mention, the lid of the crude coffin looked like it could fall off at any moment, and did not appear to be fixed, which was fortunate, for my correspondent specifically requested me to open the lid and have a good look at the face of the deceased, and note all his features before the burial would commence. This caused some grumbling among the handlers of the coffin, but only as much as the dispersal of a few sterling coins could easily subdue.

Having had a close and enquiring look at the face of the freshly deceased—a native African male of remarkably handsome appearance and no more than forty years of age—who looked very much like a man at rest, rather than one that has just departed from his earthly vessel, I instructed the men to replace the lid, which they did without affixing it to the coffin, and carried on with the burial in an even more hurried manner than before.

Nobody spoke, and the presiding priest offered no ceremony. The wooden box was placed in the hole, and dirt was shovelled on it loosely, then a crucifix erected at its head, as might be the custom in any civilised land, but the execution of which did not nearly resemble anything civilised. The crucifix itself was unmarked but seemed to have been previously used. The priest crossed himself, and so did the diggers, although I could have sworn that I saw one of them spit over his shoulder. This country is getting more unnerving with every minute I spend in it.

The party departed after this as hurriedly as they had conducted their business and, having nothing to stay there for myself, I soon started off towards the nearby cottage of my correspondent, whose absence from the funeral was curious, to say the least, it being her husband’s last ceremony on Earth.

I am writing these lines from within the cottage, waiting, although I would not have known what for, if I had not read my correspondent’s earlier letters to the professor, since she offered no explanation and very little by way of conversation. The weather is pleasant—it’s late spring this far south—and the woman’s cottage is agreeable, even despite its state of disrepair and the apparent poverty of its inhabitants. She speaks Dutch better than she writes it, although her accent—influenced by her mother tongue that is so different from anything spoken in Europe—makes it often difficult to understand some words. She appears to be a hard-working woman, with an upright posture and respectable countenance, who tries her best to make their situation bearable for the children, of which she has four.

The habitation itself is not worthy of wasting too many words on, being little more than four crumbling walls and a roof made of organic materials, housing a fireplace, a table and what could probably pass for a bedstead, if I was generous. My host explained to me that most of her people chose to live in a significantly different and more traditional way, but having had been in the employment of a Cape Dutch farmer for so long, she had adopted some European customs, at least as much as her limited income would allow.

In one corner, four small children are playing, although their activity is low, their eyes dull and their frames fragile. They are as malnourished as they are uninterested in the world they inhabit, and any attempt to talk to them only draws anxious, almost fearful looks, and a haunted expression that lasts for a little time afterwards, before they sink back into their empty and expressionless state.

Upon complimenting my host on her excellent command of Dutch she told me that she had remained in the employment of the Boer farmer until the Transvaal war, after which she had moved to the west of the colony, where she met her husband some eight years earlier, with whom she had four children, before their difficulties began about three years afterwards. They had been shunned by many villages since then, and finally been able to settle in their current home, where she found work and people willing to help, albeit reluctantly, and for a price she found difficult to pay.

I did not press her any further on that matter, as I saw how averse she was to talking about it. She is now engaged in cooking something that smells as exciting as alien to my nose, but she does not seem to take much enjoyment in it. She frequently apologised for the conditions she is forced to receive me in until I finally managed to convince her that being here as the Professor’s representative in his absence, her circumstances, however unfortunate, had no effect on either my professional conduct or my personal opinion. This seemed to have quelled her unease somewhat, and now she carries on with her duties without another word, while I am busying myself with these notes.

Later, the same day

We have spent the remainder of the day in silence, me having no conversation to offer, and my client busying herself as she could, until the evening came and it was time to light the single candle which stood on the lonesome table in the middle of the cottage.

I have, of course, offered to purchase some more adequate device at my own expense, with which the place could be better illuminated, but she declined my offer saying that the fuel would run out eventually, after which she would not be able to afford to purchase any more, and if they got used to the enhanced light, she would be sure to miss it when it would be but a distant memory. I conceded, although somewhat reluctantly, and watched quietly as she pulled the table near the bed, then set seven plates, each with a single spoon next to it. She apologised for the lack of furniture, having only three chairs in total upon which to sit, and therefore the children would have to occupy the bed.

At this point, I noticed that while three of the plates were placed in front of each chair around individual sides of the table, a total of four was set against the bed. I thought to draw my host’s attention to the mistake when the door of the cottage opened, and I rose, in the full conviction that the error must have been mine, as a late visitor was obviously expected for dinner, at which point I was suddenly reminded of the purpose of my visit.

As I raised my eyes upon the door, which was now fully open, admitting all the sounds and sentiments of the evening, my mouth—opened to greet our visitor as courteously as I could manage—remained agape and no sound could have escaped from it any more than I could believe what I was seeing. For through the open door came, dressed in dirt-stained rags, and with a faraway expression of tired indifference, the black man I had seen earlier, who had been at the time lying in the half-opened coffin, appearing to be quite thoroughly dead.

Nothing, including the detailed correspondence the Professor had received from my host, and which I had studied extensively before departing, could prepare me for the experience of seeing the deceased up and walking; and even though the Professor had assured me that the man was completely harmless, showing no signs of vampyrism or other dangerous conditions, the very fact of his unnatural reanimation unnerved me to the point where I found it difficult to speak.

The man never laid eyes on anyone or said a word. With a bent back, and without acknowledging even my presence, he proceeded straight to the laid out table, on which a single plate had already been filled with the spice-infused meal the woman had prepared earlier on. His steps were not unsteady, but devoid of ardour, and he walked in a manner that was as close to lurching as his appearance was far from that of a man in good health.

Not waiting for word or prayer, and soon joined by his family, he then began to eat with slow motions of his jaws, raising his spoon mechanically at an even pace, until his plate was quite empty. All the while, my host was trying to persuade me to sit with them and share in their poor supper which, I confess, I could not comply with.

Thus, the family of six finished their simple meal, after which the table was once again removed, and the children cleared the plates and started to make the bed. All this time, the four children never raised their eyes or spoke, and generally tried to stay out of their father’s way, like they were expecting a severe punishment should they be found a nuisance, although I could not have quite have imagined what they could do to even attract the man’s attention. After the children finished making the bed and removed some of the bedding, their father immediately lay down and fell asleep after a few minutes of staring at the ceiling.

While the children busied themselves with the removed bedding in one of the corners, their mother asked me whether I preferred to stay the night or come back in the morning, at which point my presence would once again be required to confirm her claims. Upon my informing her that I very much preferred to stay and observe any events as they might unfold, and refusing to accept a rudimentary bed to be prepared for me, she bade me good night, and together with the children lay down on the makeshift bed the children have just made in the corner.

I am writing these lines now by the light of the single candle, which I will replace ten-fold in the coming morn, trying to pay as close attention to the condition of the freshly deceased—then reanimated—head of the family as I possibly can, but nothing seems to stir. The rest of the family, removed in the corner, is fast asleep, and the man himself is breathing rather laboriously, never otherwise stirring an inch.

 

[…]

18 November

Hotel room in Durban

Another two days have passed without so much as a sign of life from Ledalina, and, having been locked up here for so long, I am beginning to come apart at the seams. My rational mind knows that there is no real danger on the streets, yet I cannot even make myself leave the hotel room.

This sensation was only reassured when the concierge delivered the fresh issue of the The Natal Mercury, the first headline of which read:

 

“Officer of The Law Found Murdered

 

I dared not open the paper, but asked the concierge if he had heard anything about the case, to which he replied in the affirmative, telling me that a high ranking British officer was found brutally murdered in his office early the same morning, in a fashion that closely resembled the alleged animal attacks he was investigating. I thanked him, and instructed him not to allow anyone near my room, even though I was sure that neither he, nor anyone, possessed the power to stop whatever was coming for me. Because now I was certain that my time was coming, and there would be nothing I could do about it.