She carries the mien of one who has undergone a dreadful ordeal, thought Charles. Despite a warm fire in front of her and a heavy quilt over her shoulders, Agnes shivered on the divan while Beatrice did her best to comfort her. Clearly something terrible had happened to their friend. Her carefully coifed hair was in disarray, and her normally cheery complexion looked decidedly pale. Charles began lighting the lamps.
“Oh, it was simply awful,” Agnes said, sipping at her brandy. “I don’t wish to even speak of it.”
“There, there,” said Beatrice. “You just rest. Don’t think of it.”
“Oh, but I cannot drive it from my mind. I’m afraid I have done something truly horrid.” Agnes delicately dried her eyes with a kerchief.
“Why don’t you just tell us what happened?” said Charles, pacing slowly, a habit he had adopted when listening to Agnes’s stories of her travels. He couldn’t help but feel alarmed. They had known Agnes for many years, and she was normally not given over to baseless fears. Indeed, he had always admired her independence and exploratory nature. Now here she was again, returning from one of her many trips; only this time, she seemed changed in some undefined way.
“I cannot. You will think I’ve gone mad.”
“No,” said Beatrice. “Never!” She looked to Charles for confirmation.
Charles frowned. He was thinking exactly that. “Tell us, Agnes. I don’t see that you have a choice.”
Agnes took another sip of her brandy and nodded. “As you know, I have just returned from summering in Tibet. While I was there, I had the good fortune to meet a genuine yogi. At first, I found him delightfully captivating. He wore only a simple robe and lived in utter squalor. He was dirty from head to toe and had only a few teeth remaining in his head. And yet he spoke English quite beautifully, and oh, the things he said! Why, one would think he could see my home in perfect clarity. He spoke of it as if he was there, describing everything in great detail. He found my astonishment superbly entertaining, and he laughed quite vigorously throughout our entire visit.”
“So what is it, then?” Charles asked. He was becoming impatient and continued to pace back and forth. “Has this yogi taken your money?” He strongly suspected this was the case. Agnes, while normally quite fearless, was also rather gullible, believing strongly in supernatural forces, ghosts, and other such ridiculous ideas. This yogi, he deduced, must have taken advantage of her leanings in this regard.
“Oh, no, much worse. He tricked me! He made me—” She peered through her tears at each of them, clearly hesitant to speak further. Her hands trembled as she sipped from her glass. What, Charles wondered, could possibly have scared her so?
Beatrice looked up sharply at Charles, and then diverted her attention to Agnes. “Ssh-ssh, it’s okay. You’re safe here.”
“No, that’s precisely the problem,” Agnes said. “I’m not. Neither are you! I’m sorry, I should leave.” She made a feeble attempt to rise from the couch.
“Nonsense,” said Beatrice. “You’re staying right here. Don’t say another word. I won’t hear of it.”
“Oh, it was simply awful.” She held up her now-empty cup to Charles.
He refilled her glass and felt a twinge of annoyance as Agnes gulped it down. Spirits of this high quality deserved to be sipped, not guzzled like cheap ale. This certainly wasn’t the Agnes he had come to know.
“He was a genuine yogi, of that much I am sure. I saw him levitate. Why, it must have been fully three feet high. It was a thing marvelous to behold. I screamed quite neatly, causing him to lower back to the ground, whereupon he began laughing again.”
“Well, that sounds horrible,” said Charles.
“Sorry,” he mumbled. He was beginning to wonder if perhaps Agnes’s fear was misplaced. He paced back and forth, biding his patience.
She continued as if there had been no interruption. “Well, I must say that I was impressed by his skill. It seemed to me that he was a truly enlightened being, and as such, I’m afraid I embarrassed myself and begged him to teach me all he knew.”
“And is this when you gave him money?” Charles asked. It was clear to him what had happened: Agnes had been swindled. She’d said it herself. She had been tricked. There was no danger to her or anyone. She was simply ashamed of her own foolishness.
“Oh, quite the contrary. I offered him a tidy sum. He refused to take it. But he did agree to teach me his knowledge, or rather, the very small portion of his knowledge that I was able to grasp in the short time I had with him. I must say, I’ve always thought myself quite intelligent, but before this man, I felt like a child.
“Oh, I wish I could share with you all that he taught me, but I’m afraid after what happened, most of it has left my mind. All I can recall is the sight of his mangled body, and the blood. Oh, so much blood!”
Beatrice held her hand to her mouth, and looked up at Charles.
“What on earth are you saying?” Charles asked, momentarily stopping his pacing. “Was he killed?”
“Oh, yes! Quite completely. And by me!” Agnes broke into a new flurry of sobs.
“What? Oh, I don’t believe it for a moment!” said Beatrice, wrapping her arms around Agnes. “You would never.” She cast a bewildered glance at Charles and gestured for him to say something.
“Now, let me see if I understand you correctly,” said Charles. “This yogi, who displayed to you all his wondrous powers, is dead by your hand?”
Agnes looked at him pointedly. “Yes.”
“Well, do you suppose the police might be looking for you, then?”
“Oh, I’d be surprised if they weren’t,” she said. “But it hardly matters. My current problem is much worse, I’m afraid.”
“Here,” said Charles, refreshing her glass. “Now tell us precisely what happened.” While he wasn’t quite sure he believed Agnes, he had to admit he was intrigued. Though she did entertain some strange beliefs, Agnes had never lied to him before, not to his knowledge. And he had to admit she had a fearless nature about her. But a murderess? Never. The yogi must have hypnotized her and caused her to imagine all of this. That seemed more likely. Charles had often warned her that her curiosity would lead to trouble.
“Well, the yogi—his name was Jawahar—was quite impressed by my power. He kept saying that I had studied these subjects in a previous lifetime, which would certainly explain my obsessive interest in them, don’t you think? At any rate, he insisted that I simply needed to be reminded. That’s when he decided that I needed a tulpa.”
“What in God’s name is that?” asked Beatrice, cringing.
“Oh, my dear,” Agnes replied. “How I wish I could tell you, but I do not understand it myself. My memory has become jumbled, and I abhor to even think of it. I remember hours of chanting. He caused me to manifest an entity—a tulpa—sheerly through the power of my mind. He said it would help me on my pathway to enlightenment, and that I would have complete control of it. Ha! They were lies. It’s a monster! And I’m afraid it’s quite beyond my control.”
“Oh, that sounds positively beastly!” said Beatrice.
“It gets worse. I asked to see his tulpa, but he explained it is essentially only a hallucination, a product of the yogi’s mind, and others cannot perceive it. Furthermore, he said, a tulpa is unable to interact with the physical world in anyway. While they can become annoying or even hostile, they are quite harmless and can be easily destroyed by the yogi.
“And then he agreed to show me. He instructed me on how to create my own tulpa.”
“You didn’t!” said Beatrice.
“Oh, but I did, and quite successfully, I should say. Oh, that yogi! He should have warned me something like this could happen. I’m afraid he lied to me.”
“What happened?” Beatrice asked.
Charles stopped his pacing and stared intently at Agnes. To his mild embarrassment, he was finding himself quite taken by her account. What would she say next? Had this yogi fooled her, or was she telling the truth?
“Well, I did all the exercises and special meditations. I poured all my emotion and feeling into its creation, exactly as I was instructed. I sat next to that yogi in that tiny hut of his and obeyed his every word. This was no simple process, my loves, but went on for many hours. I’m afraid I cannot say how long; I lost all track of time. After some time, I began to feel rather odd—altered, if you will. And then there it was, sitting right next to me. I don’t mind telling you, it quite scared me, and I leapt up.” Agnes fussed with her hair and looked fearfully at the parlor’s single window.
“Oh, how frightful! What did it look like?” Beatrice wrung her hands fearfully.
“That’s the funny part. When I created it, it had the appearance of a wise old man, as I had intended.”
Agnes described her experience in detail. She told how she sat in the tiny hut nestled in the Himalayan foothills and held long conversations with her tulpa, speaking of a wide range of mystical subjects. The yogi, she said, was impressed by the strength of her tulpa and encouraged her to experiment with it. Agnes told about how she learned to control her tulpa and send it out to spy on distant people and places.
“Mind you,” said Agnes, “spying is something most tulpas cannot do. But mine could. It was all quite remarkable, and I was quite enamored with it. But soon my feelings toward it began to change. The creature would not leave my side. Its presence quickly became suffocating. We began to argue, and then it began to say quite nasty things. Jawahar had told me I could order the tulpa away. But when I asked it to leave, it laughed at me!” She closed her eyes and grimaced at the memory. “Oh, it was hideous. The way it gazed at me! It was then that it changed its appearance. Jawahar, it seems, had forgotten to tell me of its ability to do this. Without warning—and quite quickly I might add—it transformed itself into a hideous devilish creature. Oh, please don’t ask me to describe it. I couldn’t bear it. How it glared at me from across the room. I thought I would simply die with fear.” She shuddered slightly, while Beatrice patted her hands.
“Go on, then,” Charles said. He was becoming increasingly convinced that Agnes had simply had a good scare and nothing more. He was eager to hear the end of it. He disliked talk of such things as this. He sipped his drink and urged Agnes to complete her account. It would help her to tell it, at least give voice to her feelings, then be done with it.
“Well, you can imagine how frightened I was when my tulpa changed. I immediately asked Jawahar about this, and he now admitted that they do have this ability, and that it was only trying to scare me, which it quite succeeded in doing. He told me that he knew of a method to rid myself of the creature, and that he was ready to teach me if I so desired. Naturally, I enthusiastically agreed. It was at this point that the tulpa attacked Jawahar.”
“Hold there,” said Charles, raising his hand. “Did you not say that tulpas are unable to affect physical matter?”
“I didn’t say that.” She put her hands to her chest. “The yogi did, and he was quite obviously mistaken. I scarcely remember what happened next. It was horrible. The tulpa attacked the yogi, pushing him to the ground and then choking him and then…oh, it was awful. I covered my eyes. I couldn’t watch. There was so much blood!” Agnes resumed crying. “I fled. I know it was wrong, but I couldn’t stay there another minute. I don’t believe I’ve ever been more terrified in my life.”
“Did no one else see this?” Charles asked.
“No. Jawahar’s hut was in quite a remote area. I had to hire a guide to take me there. It was only by the grace of God that I found my way back to the village. And who should I see there but my tulpa!”
“No!” said Beatrice.
“Yes! Only it had transformed itself back into its original appearance of a friendly wise old man, very much similar to the appearance of my grandfather. It smiled at me and began to approach. I screamed and ordered it to leave me and never return. Jawahar had said that it was bound to my command. Well, it appears he was mistaken again, for my tulpa has refused to leave me alone.” She hugged herself and looked mournfully at Beatrice.
“Oh,” said Beatrice, looking fearfully towards the front door. “Did it follow you here?”
Agnes glanced at the dark window. “I imagine it’s out there somewhere, waiting. I ran away from it, but throughout my journey home, it continued to appear. Always from a distance, it stared at me with an awful mischievous expression. Despite the fact that I traveled in the swiftest carriages, it always managed to keep pace. I haven’t seen it since I arrived home, but I know it’s here. I simply know it. I feel its eyes upon me.” She shuddered.
At that moment, there was a knock on the door.
Beatrice and Agnes screamed and clutched each other.
“Oh, that must be it!” Agnes said. “For your own safety, please, do not answer the door.”
Charles frowned. His heart thumped in his chest, and he breathed deeply a few moments to calm himself. This was ridiculous. Agnes had simply had a good scare. “Don’t be absurd,” he said. “It’s not your tulpa. I’m sure it’s just a visitor.”
“At this hour?” asked Beatrice, glancing at the clock. It was approaching midnight. “Charles, don’t!”
The door knock sounded again.
“I’ll be fine. Besides, if it is the tulpa, do you think it would bother to knock?”
“Oh, do be careful!” said Beatrice.
Agnes looked utterly terrified, but made no further effort to stop Charles as he exited the parlor, passed through several rooms, and strode to the door.
Another knock. Charles opened the door.
A familiar figure stood before him: an older woman with carefully coiffed gray hair.
“Agnes?” he asked dumbly.
“Yes,” she said. “Did you not receive my telegram saying I would be arriving?” She rushed in through the door. “You will simply not believe what has happened to me. Where is Beatrice?”
Charles felt the blood rush from his face. Behind him, back in the parlor, he heard the distant sound of Beatrice screaming.
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