It was one of those nights, when you can just feel... or smell... that something is in the air, but you can't quite place what it is. The wind blew harshly, cutting through the trench coat wrapped tightly around my body in a feeble attempt to fend off the brisk weather that had come early this year. Had been coming earlier and earlier for as long as I could remember.

I walked the streets of downtown Manhattan, searching for something, anything that would help me toward my discovery of this unknown substance I had read about in an ancient tome... the nodegel. My quest had taken me all over this world with little success to keep me going. I had become a nomad. I traveled from city to city and continent to continent. From the advice of the Tibetan monks high in the mountains to the darkened streets of this fabled metropolis. I grew weary, but something inside told me, pushed me, even, to keep on.

The night wore on as I wandered, searching, and as the time struck four, I could go no further without at least some food to keep me going. I walked another few blocks and finally spotted a 24-hour diner for which this area is rather famous (at least to its own residents). I started walking toward it purposefully but I had only traveled a few feet when something made me pause. Out of the corner of my eye, I had caught a glimpse of something. I turned my head toward the distraction but all I saw was the mouth of an alleyway with flickering light upon the walls. It was as if a fire burned further up the alley and was splashing its light upon the walls of that alley.

Fires in alleys are not uncommon events in large cities, as anyone who lives in one can tell you. The homeless often start them to stay warm on cold nights like this one. But then, when you're searching like I was, nothing can be passed up as a possible clue, so I moved closer to see if I could find the source of the light, fully expecting to find a trash barrel full of burning paper with a few homeless sleeping peacefully around it. What I did find haunts me to this day.

I arrived at the mouth of the alley and slowly peered around the corner and was suddenly frozen in a combination of wonder and fear. At the far end of the alley was indeed a fire, as I had imagined, but that is where the similarity stopped. At the far end of the alley was constructed what appeared to be an altar and surrounding it were goats. This appears hard to believe, indeed, I often question my own sanity that night. But I know what I saw. Three goats, standing upright on their hind legs, dancing in circles before the alter and chanting in a language I have never heard. And the most horrid part... the image that will never leave my mind, though I may live a thousand years... that of the human child, not older than a year, lying on that alter above the stacks of wood which had just started burning well.

I pulled back from the entry to alleyway, not knowing what to think. My mind was a blur of images flying in and out of concentration. What could be done? No police would believe my story, were I to call them, and I couldn't take on the three goats single-handed. Besides, the quest for the nodegel still called to me.

I ran to the safety of the diner (but was anything safe anymore?) and sat down with my journal to capture everything I had learned that night while it was still fresh in my mind.

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