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The Evil Spirit

On August 20, 2401, Vincent MacIntyre, the owner of the Among the Ruins metal blog, received an e-mail from Torvald Torvaldsson, the owner of Black Cottage Records. It read:

"Greetings, Vincent. I read your review of Meditations on the Infinite and the Absolute by Tala Hanbali. I’m glad you liked it. Who knew some random CD-R I bought off some Arab merchant would be so stellar? You might be wondering why I e-mailed you out of the blue like this, so I’ll cut to the chase. Do you remember that one lost album we were searching for? We’re in luck because I just found a lead so monumental that I want you to come to Iceland to see it personally. I’ll explain everything once you get there. To prove that I’m serious, I’ll pay for your plane tickets and any food you might want. You up for it?"

Attached to the e-mail was a photo of a note written in Icelandic. The paper had a few odd stains and was slightly curled at the corners. It also seemed to have been written by an unsteady hand. Lying next to it was a small key. Vincent had known Torvald for over seven years, so despite his initial skepticism, he knew the label owner could be trusted. He agreed to the proposition, and by the end of the week, he was on a plane headed for Iceland.

While on the plane, he tried to translate the note himself using an A.I. translator, but it produced nothing but incoherent nonsense. Despite centuries of development, scientists still weren’t able to create a program that could translate as well as a human. Machines still couldn’t understand things like context and double entendres. Despite these failed efforts, Vincent had a strong feeling that the note had some vital information which would help them find that infamous lost Icelandic death metal album: The Evil Spirit by Kindermord. The band was formed in 2211 and they released that album later that same year. That would be the only thing they would record, for they broke up immediately afterward. The Evil Spirit was limited to 13 copies, all of which were given away to a chosen few. Those who listened to it said it was otherworldly, an incredible experience like no other. Nothing was known about the band members, so speculation swirled around them. A child went missing in the Icelandic countryside around the same time the album was recorded, so it was rumored that the band kidnapped and murdered him, hence the name Kindermord. After the Great Collapse of 2222, all copies of the album went missing and it became a metal myth. No one bothered to rip it and upload it to the internet, thus making people even more interested in finding it. If Torvald was telling the truth, then they would make metal history.

Vincent fell asleep in his chair, and by the time he woke up, he was in Reykjavik. The airport was rebuilt over 150 years ago. It was constructed with gray stones and had an appearance akin to a medieval fortress. Stoic chandeliers cast warm light upon the stone slab floors. Colorful banners hung from the walls. The metal blogger straightened his back and rubbed his aching neck. He looked around the terminal and spotted a broad-shouldered man wearing a long black coat. His long hair and thick beard were black as coal, and his eyes were as blue as the cold Atlantic. With his strong arms he held up a sign with the name Vincent MacIntyre crudely scribbled on it with black marker. The MacIntyre was squished near the end, for he overestimated how much space he had. Vincent instantly knew that man was Torvald Torvaldsson. He waved and approached him.

"Welcome to Iceland, Vincent," Torvald said with a thick accent. "Come with me. There is much to discuss."

They got into Torvald’s truck and drove off. As they went down the road, Torvald pointed out various landmarks. He explained how the old parliament building got turned into the king’s palace. He told a quick story about how he bought his coat from a local tailor. He then went on to talk about his favorite restaurants as they drove by rows of Neoclassical buildings.

"Have you ever had minke whale on a stick?" Torvald asked.

"I don’t even know what that is," Vincent replied.

"It’s good. You should try it sometime."

Shortly after they entered the countryside, Torvald pointed to a large empty field and explained how they used that area to host the annual Reykjavik Metal Festival. They then drove through many acres of forest. A few years after the Great Collapse, the people of Iceland organized an effort to reforest the country. They succeeded, for half the island was now covered in pines, spruces, junipers, and other evergreens.

After talking at length about the rustic houses of Selfoss, Torvald asked, "Do you ever travel the American Empire?"

"No," Vincent replied, "not really. America is too large and I’m too poor. The last time I ever traveled a great distance was when I went all the way to the Kingdom of Cascadia to look for that Caacrinolaas album. I can’t remember if I told you about it or not, but the music was so mediocre that I threw it in the trash and didn’t even bother writing a review of it. Let’s hope this album we’re looking for is different. At least I got to drive through the Rocky Mountains and walk through the Cascadian forests."

After three hours, they reached a small harbor. They drove the truck onto a ferry which took them to the town of Heimaey on the tiny island of the same name. Torvald was one of 500 people who called it their home. As they made their way past the humble wood and stone buildings, the record label owner talked at length about the local tavern which was right across the street from the townhouse where the Baron of Heimaey lived. They soon left town and drove south. After a brief ascent up an incline, a black cottage came into view. It sat atop a flat plain that was green with hardy arctic grass. To the south of it was the volcano Helgafell, and directly to its northeast was its brother volcano Eldfell. The house’s pine wood exterior was painted black to better absorb the Sun’s rays. The stone foundation had turned a dark gray with the passage of time, and the tall, steep roof was covered in turf. It did not take Vincent long to realize where Black Cottage Records got its name. They got out of the truck and went inside.

"Welcome to my house," Torvald said. "Feel free to have a seat anywhere. I’ll make us something to eat."

The house was warmly lighted by simple ceiling fixtures. The floors, walls, and ceilings were stained and varnished. In the center of the living room was a large black recliner. Two smaller leather chairs were at each side of it. All three chairs faced a stereo system that could play CDs, cassettes, and vinyls. Almost every wall in the house was lined with shelves that reached all the way to the ceiling, and those shelves were filled with thousands of metal albums. Many of them were from the time before the Great Collapse. Some were from household names such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Metallica. Some were more obscure, such as Glacier, Medieval Steel, Epitaph, Timeghoul, and Ruination of Creation. Then there were a few that almost no one had heard of, such as Ahulabrum, Wandelaars, Obskuritatem, Muawijhe, Muknal, Brezyurv, and Torovtre. There were albums from the Black Legions, the Blazebirth Hall, the Black Twilight Circle, and other clandestine black metal collectives. There were works from old bands that the American Empire classified as blasphemous, the most notable ones being Deicide and Behemoth. There were also bands from more recent centuries, such as Forgotten Wisdom, Lamentations of the Ancients, Rise from the Ashes, and Metal Bards of the Holy Cross. Knowing his financial situation prevented him from buying so many physical releases, Vincent could not help but feel jealous.

The metal blogger approached the stereo. Inside the CD tray was Catacombs of Abominable Acts by Sinister Sadism. He had never heard of that band before. He never saw their name on any of the metal databases. He assumed they recently formed. Wanting to sate his musical curiosity, he pushed play, sat in the recliner, and leaned back. The large speakers blasted him with an extremely fast and violent form of brutal death metal that reminded him of Brodequin. The blasting drums, the rumbling bass, the fiery guitars, and the guttural growls merged together into a pulverizing wall of sound. He grinned as the floor vibrated.

"You enjoying that new album I just got?" Torvald shouted.

Vincent jumped to his feet and turned off the stereo. "Yeah. Where did you get this, anyway?"

"It was given to me by the band themselves. They’re from Indonesia and they formed just a month ago. They already recorded a full-length and they want me to distribute it. All I need to do know is wait for the artist to paint the album cover and we’re good to go. They insisted I hire one of their friends. He’s talented, but his work takes a while. Anyway, food is ready if you want any."

In the center of the dining room was a small square table surrounded by four chairs. Sitting in the middle of the table were various Icelandic dishes, including smoked lamb, dried fish, rye bread, and minke whale on a stick. Torvald neglected to mention that most of it was leftover from the previous night. Vincent didn’t like the whale, but he did enjoy the lamb.

"I didn’t know you could cook so well," Vincent said.

"Glad you like it," Torvald replied. "I wish I had a wife who could do that work for me, but I’m saving myself for a woman who knows as much about metal as I do."

"Me too. Where I’m from, most women are terrified of metal, so I’m having no luck in the romance department. By the way, how did you get a place like this?"

"There’s something I forgot to mention. My father is the Baron of Vik. This cottage used to belong to one of my uncles, but he died childless, so it was given to my father. My older brother is next in line to the barony, so when I turned 18, my father gave me this cottage." In the back of his mind, he believed his father gave him the property and sent him away to prevent a possible succession war. "I don’t envy my brother, though. Running a record label is a lot easier than governing."

"So how is business?"

"Truth be told, I run the label at a loss."

"So how do you make your money?"

"I own the local tavern."


"Yep. As soon as I moved here, I got a job there and worked for a few years until the previous owner croaked. Then I took it over, made a few changes, and now it pretty much runs itself."

After listening to some ancient German thrash metal, Vincent asked, "So what did that note say?"

"I almost forgot. Let me go get it." A minute later, Torvald returned with the note. "This was written by an eccentric merchant who lived on this island for many years. After he died, his remaining relatives gave it to a tavern employee who then gave it to me." He then read it aloud. "If you are feeling adventurous, then take this key and travel to the south side of Helgafell. There you will find a cave, and inside it you will find my greatest treasure: The Evil Spirit by Kindermord. Beware what lurks inside."

Vincent thought for a bit, then said, "Sounds like the guy was obsessed with adventure stories."

"You should have seen him when he was alive. He loved dressing as a pirate and listened to a lot of pirate metal."

"Do other people know about that cave?"


"So why hasn’t anyone explored it?"

Torvald looked out the window at Helgafell. "Because they say it’s cursed." His voice took on a grim tone. "Local legend says a Satanic cult performed blasphemous rituals in the cave. They summoned a demon who now dwells there to this day."

The cottage was silent for a moment, then Vincent rose to his feet. "I traveled thousands of miles to this place. I’m not about to turn back at the last minute. I say we go into that cave and get that album."

Torvald turned around and smirked. "You Americans are eager to charge into danger, aren’t you?"

"We landed a man on the Moon just to prove that we could. Of course I’m eager."

"I don’t suppose you have anything to combat whatever we find in there?"

"I brought this." Vincent pulled out a pistol. "After getting chased by a demonic pitbull in Cascadia, I’m not taking any chances."

"Very well. Let’s head out."

Torvald grabbed an axe and the two of them hopped in the truck and drove south. Within a few minutes, they circled around Helgafell and found the cave. Its yawning entrance looked like the mouth of some slothful worm-like creature. Off in the distance, the ocean waves collided with the basalt cliffs in a slow and steady rhythm. Torvald grabbed a flashlight from the back of his truck and shone it inside. To his relief, nothing jumped out at him. Vincent had his gun drawn. With slow steps, they entered.

The dome-like cave was 20 feet tall and twice as wide. The walls were unnaturally jagged, as if they were crudely chiseled by hand. Some sections of the reddish-brown walls had black char marks on them. A pile of ashes sat in the center of the floor. The two men looked around, their shoes crunching upon the pebbles and loose dirt. A few plastic bags and other old pieces of trash were scattered about. Then a glint of metal at the far end caught Torvald’s eye. He called Vincent over to him. After brushing the dirt off the object, they discovered it was a metal box wrapped in plastic. They unwrapped the box and opened it, and inside was a mint condition copy of The Evil Spirit by Kindermord. The band’s logo was red and had many sharp edges, while the album title was white and much more legible. The cover art featured the head of a green-skinned demon floating in darkness. Its mouth was wide open and full of razor sharp teeth. At first they couldn’t believe their eyes, then they laughed elatedly.

Torvald shut the lid and put the box back in the plastic. "We’re about to make metal history."

"I just hope you can give me a free physical copy once you reissue it."

The ground began to shake, then a fissure opened up in the middle of the cave and emanated a sinister red glow. Smoke spewed out of it, and in the smoke there emerged a demonic face that looked just like the one on the album cover. It glared at them with its red eyes, then it growled. Without even thinking, Vincent shot at the evil spirit, only to discover that his bullets went right through it.

"Run!" Torvald screamed.

The quake intensified. The two metalheads bolted out of the cave, and as soon as they got in the truck, Helgafell erupted. A column of smoke rose from the crater, which was then followed by a geyser of lava. Torvald floored the gas pedal and raced back to the cottage, all the while dodging flaming rocks. Vincent got out and stared at the volcano. Lava was creeping down its slope. Torvald turned on the sprinkler system.

"I don’t think your sprinklers are gonna stop lava," Vincent said.

"It’s the most I can do," Torvald replied.

The lava continued to approach at a snail’s pace, burning everything in its wake. The sprinklers put out any fire that approached, but Torvald knew they would be useless against the Earth’s fiery blood. Just when they thought they were toast, planes and helicopters came by and dumped colossal sheets of water onto the molten rock, squelching it almost instantly. They both breathed a sigh of relief and went inside the cottage. They put the album in the stereo and pushed play. What they heard astounded them. Kindermord played an ancient style of death metal that possessed an ominous atmosphere, hazy production, ghastly growls, churning drums, and eviscerating guitar work.

The music was then interrupted by a knock on the door. Torvald paused the stereo and greeted the visitor. It was an old farmer and his wife. "Hey Torvald," the old man asked, "are you alright? The lava almost swallowed up your house."

"Yeah," Torvald replied, "we’re fine."

"Say, what was that awful racket you were playing when we showed up?"

The label owner scoffed. "Only the most important metal find in the past decade. It’s not a racket, by the way. It’s a masterpiece." He then showed the album to them.

The old couple looked upon it fearfully. "Where did you find this?"

Vincent and Torvald turned to each other. "Should we tell them?" the metal blogger whispered.

Torvald turned back to them. "Uh, we found it in that cave on the south side of Helgafell."

The old couple made the sign of the cross and left as fast as they could. The two metalheads shrugged and proceeded to play the album on repeat. A few hours later, just as the Sun began to sink below the horizon, a mob of villagers showed up at the cottage. Torvald assumed those two old people told everyone about the treasure they found in the cave. As soon as he stepped outside, they all said the album was cursed and demanded that it be destroyed. They even blamed it for the eruption. The Baron of Heimaey made his way through the crowd. The two metalheads assumed the worst.

"Looks like you are in some trouble," the Baron said. "Since your father and I are friends, don’t worry. I’ll see to it that you get a fair hearing." He ordered the crowd to disperse and they all went home.

The next day, Torvald and Vincent went before the island’s government and explained everything that had happened. They explained the historical significance of the album and why it needed to be preserved. They assured everyone that they were not Satanists, only a pair of music enthusiasts who seek out rare albums. After a brief examination, the priests determined that there was no ill will in their hearts, nor any sign of demonic influence. They then ritually purified the album to remove any potential curse placed upon it. Later, scientists analyzed the eruption and declared that it had no supernatural cause. After a week, Vincent and Torvald cleared their names and were allowed to keep the album. Vincent was annoyed at having to stay in Iceland for longer than he had initially planned, but he was glad he didn’t end up in prison, or worse. The metal blogger then flew back home, and a month later, Black Cottage Records gave The Evil Spirit a proper re-release. Torvald kept his word and gave Vincent a physical copy, which he then played on repeat for nearly an entire week.

A few days after writing a glowing review of that once lost record, Vincent went down to the local bar and grill to eat a burger and fries. A man and a boy approached.

"Hey," he asked, "aren’t you one of those guys who found that lost metal album? My son wants to hear about it."

Vincent gave them a bewildered look. This was not the first time someone in public asked him about what happened in Iceland, but such situations still made him feel awkward. He had hoped that interest in that incident would die down over the course of several weeks, but to his dismay, he was still a micro-celebrity. He sighed, then mumbled, "Okay."


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