Damien Donovan and the Widows Peak

 

halls-falls

 

 

Messr’s Brown and Thompson 

President, Vice President, Funding 

The Explorers Club 

1225 Maple Blvd 

New York City, New York 

 

 

Sirs: 

 

My name is Dr. Damien Donovan and you perhaps know my name as you co-funded the most recent expedition  in which I took part on behalf of Miskatonic University.  

Last year, 1917, per our expedition charter, I made final verification of our stores, equipment and personnel and we travelled by the most economical means, sea transport, to the northern wilds of Australia.  We performed our duties as directed and are in the process of finalizing our report, photograph logs and specimen charting.  I am happy to inform you that we were one-hundred percent successful and were in fact able to exceed our scope and reach within the financial constraints set by your gracious finding and the Miskatonic board.  That said,  we complete our field work a week early and I being expedition led, was able to leave the processing and preparation in the hands of junior staff under the direction of other senior researchers.  I thus set forth on my own excursion which is the topic of this letter. 

As you know, or may know, I am a biologist by training, specializing in tropical herpetological species with an interest in what some choose to call, “cryptids”.  By loose definition, these being creatures that though documented in various means, are not at present accepted in the scientific community as actual or real.  Some of these being creatures long thought extinct (Lazarus Taxon), creatures of legend (the northwestern American sasquatch or Tibetan Yeti) or are as yet undefined creatures spoken of in legend (sea serpents or the Japanese Kappa, likely the Andrias Japonicus).  I believe there are no such things as  “monsters” per say, merely animalia etc. that have yet to be properly observed and catalogued utilizing proper science due to the great expanse of our world and depth of our oceans. Over time, with man spreading wider and wider, these will become more and more encountered in the wilds, but until that time, I wish to search them out and preserve them from those that would cause harm to them. 

Pardon me for my soapboxing digressions. 

I had ten days free time until the ship was to arrive in Darwin for our transport back to the United States and gave instructions to the team to fly from Borroloola Northwestward as soon as they were ready.   I decided to look into a report of a smallish body of water to the East known as the Widows Bath, where a number of small Aborigine (Yanyuwa) children and one settler have died under mysterious circumstances.  I left detailed mapping of my projected route of travel with trusted colleagues and rented a motorcycle.  My satchel heavy with tools and my saddlebag full of foods and clothes, I made my way.  Three hours rough ride out, I encountered a small town where I was directed to an Aborigine village and provided with a horse for loan for a small sum as the ground beyond it to the Widows Bath was not conducive to wheeled locomotion. 

The sun was blistering hot that day and I had to stop numerous times to swig water from my skins and bottles.  I was near empty when I encountered the village.  It was squalid and unassuming but the people who populated it were both friendly and accepting. Given a stabling area with shade for my horse and a place to bunk down (free of spiders I was guaranteed as they and every other creature here wishes to kill you), I ate with the locals a food stuff I dare not describe and went to sleep after the long day’s ride. I was awoken after midnight by sounds outside my sleeping quarters and found the local chief I would assume or elder at least standing by me flanked by two solid, squat men, one of whom I knew spoke English as he assisted me earlier. 

We sat by the fire silently for a good hour and then the Chief went on to tell me a tale of his childhood,  when he and a friend went to Widows Bath (they had a different name for it) on a similarly hot day.  The body of water he described, is a deep D shaped cut into the high cliffed rocky shore of a larger brackish, ocean fed lake. Freshwater tributaries running to the sea further diluted the brackish waters flowing in from the tide fed lake to which it is attached.  They spent the day playing on the cliff edge, throwing rocks into the deep waters, drinking from the waterfall and trying to catch birds for food.  The chief went to relieve himself in a bushed area, heard a slight splashing noise and returned to find a single shoe and his friend’s hand carved wooden hunting stick halfway down a sloped embankment, the waters below calm and sedate apart from  widening ripple.  He spent the balance of the day looking for his friend, all the while feeling as if being watched.  The chief returned home in the dark, unwilling to sleep anywhere near the water. 

Following the story, the chief stood, patted me on the shoulder and wandered off into the dark toward his home, the other two in the direction of theirs I assume.  I added a log to the fire as is custom, and myself went back to my shelter to turn on the lamp, make notes and eventually go to sleep. 

In the morning, I awoke later than I had planned.  The sun was mid way up toward noon and I cursed myself for the nightcaps I had taken advantage of to help sleep come about. I stretched, found food waiting for me and began to pack my things and fill my water skins.  My horse was watered and fed as well and with a wave to my uninterested hosts I set off.  

The trek took me most of the remaining daylight hours and as planned I camped at a spot indicated on the mapping I was given in Boorloloola.  It was a small fenced in meadow along a small stream with a useable paddock and a shed utilized by researchers to protect them from the elements (not to mention the multitudes of venomous creatures that populate this god forsaken land) while on fauna documenting research sojourns in the general area.  I whipped up a fire, fed my horse, ate a meagre meal, stared at the stars while a sipped a bit of brandy.  I then headed to the shed, carefully investigated every nook and cranny for spiders and snakes and such (it was sealed and screened quite well) then bunked down for the night. 

At half past three in the morning I was awoken by a far off scream of some sort or animal in distress to the west.  I stepped out cautiously, ensure the paddock was secure and the horse was good (she was spooked but otherwise healthy) and throw a good deal of wood on the fire.  No more disturbances noted, I went back to a fitful sleep, stomping on an arachnid that trundled past the shed as I approached. 

The following morning I awoke to a brisk wind from the west that brought smells of the ocean and slightly fetid marsh-like odour that is to be expected at this time of year along the edges of rivers that have somewhat shrunken since the rains.  (I will provide you by the way with verbal verification of the location of Widows Bath following this correspondence should you wish to afford me an interview for further expeditionary consideration.  I will leave it to say it is between the Calvert River and the Pellew Islands region).  I ate, fed the horse, made a written and mental note to return as is customary and replenish the firewood stores, and headed in a general westerly direction for the remaining five miles of travel.  As I approached the location indicated on my map, the ground became more and more treacherous.  Rivers, creeks and rivulets shored by thick at times impossible forest, surrounded by cracked, bone dry land, flats and rock outcroppings.  Thankfully, a signpost had been erected with a wooden, hand painted yet now unreadable warning that was described quite well in my notes was still in place.  I took a long drink and provided the same to my horse, stowed the map and extricated both my shotgun, which I loaded, rope and my binoculars.  We approached the Widows Bath. 

We were able to traverse an ancient path that was only partly overgrown and make our way through the foliage to the edge of a large “D” shaped body of water, perhaps five hundred feet east west and double that north to southeast.  It was surrounded by a stony cliff face with a drop of perhaps twenty to twenty-five feet to the water’s surface.  I could see around the edge of the  low-lying, barren rock island that made up the center of the “D” distance flats that lead to the ocean (according to my mapping), the oceanic inlet that provided the tide driven current that cut the D into the rock and to my immediate right, a small waterfall of fresh surface water and spring derivation.  It flowed down directly into the salty ocean waters to create quite beautiful visible difference in light refraction and color, even given the discernible depths. 

At this point, what should have been a relaxing day’s expedition went sour so to speak.  Instead of dismounting, tying the horse to a nearby tree and walking over to the waterfall, whereby one could walk down the talus/scree slope to the waters below, I thought I would bring her to the waterfall to allow her to drink.  We moved forward on what seemed to be sold, stable rock (well travelled given the presence of  large mammal scat), to adjacent to the waterfall. As the saying goes, leading a horse to water and such, she was spooked and uninterested in drink.  I dismounted, thinking better of my plan and took the lead, attempting to turn her around on the rock slab so I could bring her back to the edge of the wood when a huge splashing from an unseen source below erupted, followed by a roaring bellow that echoed off of the cliff walls.  

The horse reared, my hand caught up in the straps I was pulled off of my feet and swung into the waterfall as she twisted to the left trying to turn on her own back from whence we came.  I tried to extract my hand unsuccessfully, as she tried to bolt.  I was dragged against a large jagged boulder, my progress halted, she realizing she could not continue, whipped to the right as another bellow rang out.  I was yanked free of the water and rocks but in her panic, she went over the edge, just as the straps came free.  I plunged down into the waterfall outfall, striking my head and losing consciousness, my last vision of the horse being her sliding down the rocks, a piece of the large flat stone outcropping we had been standing on coming free and following her down the slope.  Her whinnying scream and a loud cracking was the last thing I remember hearing as the world went black. 

I awoke a short time later (I assumed due to the position of sun).  As my eyes opened and adjusted to the light, I found myself on my right side, the lower, left half of my body cold and wet, my right leg trapped between two large rocks. Thankfully I was not completely immersed in the waters and the sunlight that bore down on me was dappled, passing for the present at least, through some overhanging trees.  I could see I was half way down the slope to the dark, the dark, foreboding waters farther below.  Looking downward and to my right I could see the avalanche that had occurred had also trapped the horse on her side at the water’s edge between a large portion of the flat stone we had perched on earlier and hummock of soil.  She was flopping around, whinnying and snorting but I was unable to determine her condition.  Mine, well, I was sore, my head hurt greatly from the impact, but my wedged leg seemed fine, just locked in place.   

I looked around to see if I could find a branch or pole within reach I could use to utilize as a lever to extricate my leg.  I saw nearby but not within reach, my bag, the strap torn away but otherwise intact, my shotgun and a horse blanket. Immediately I thought to remove my belt and use it too try to snag the items when I saw a curious thing.  A full-sized adult make Chlamydosaurus Kingii (Frilled Lizard) with beautiful colors was standing slightly uphill from my things staring at me.  Its eyes were locked on mine, its frill down and pressed against its neck, its breathing very, very slow, it rocked gently side to side as if in a trance.  Typically these lizards will raise their frills and hiss, open-mouthed in a defensive stance so close to a human in my experience, but no, this one was watching me intently.  I felt no personal concern as they are not a threat, only subsiding on insects and small animalia, but as one who studies reptiles, I wondered what was wrong.  I spoke to it, asking it gently as I do “what is up friend”, and in doing so, broke the spell. It waddled off uphill to climb the overhanging tree and return to what they do best, looking for food.  

My interest was detracted by a pained whinny from the horse.  I looked down and saw fear increasing in her eyes.  She was somehow being pulled against the rock and soil that held her firm.  With each movement, she screamed as only horses can.  I could not tell if she was kicking against the rock with her hind legs or if current was pulling her downward, only that she was definitely moving and entirely  voluntarily.  I turned me attention quickly to my gear. 

Not to bore you with the details, but I managed to over time obtain my shotgun and bag which contained water and much-needed food all the while distracted by the strange jerky movements and horrid noises emanating from the horse.  I ate, drank (not wishing to risk drinking the water falling upon myself from above until I ran out of my own) to prevent dehydration, and debated how best to free myself.  All the while, I kept an eye on the events below me and the lizard above who had found a comfortable perch to watch from. 

I decided as the sun moved westward, threatening to bathe me in its light,  that I needed to find a way to escape using the only available source of energy apart from my own strength.  Water.  I grasped every rock of substantial size I could and began to construct a flume of sorts to funnel the falling and flowing waters toward my leg.  Eventually, a substantial amount of diversion was made and I could feel the waters flowing along the length of  my trapped limb and between the large rocks.  I also felt a bit of a tingling sensation as it appeared that my leg though not broken was torn somewhat.  the waters pooling around below my knee darkened with blood.  My concern began to abate however as with a bit of a pulling sensation, I could tell that the diverted stream had begun to wash away some of the small rocks, gravel, clay and silt that had entombed my foot.  I could soon wiggle it and with a small whoosh, it pulled free, the pooled water shooting down between the rocks toward the Widows bath like a drain emptying. 

I pulled myself backward, gingerly examining my leg.  It was bruised and swollen, a few long though not deep lacerations along the shinbone that I could easily bandage for the trek back to the shelter.  I looked down toward the horse, plotting how to free her and most likely put her out of her misery, when the entire surface of the waters churned like a whale nearly but not completely breaching the surface of the sea. I scrabbled back up the slope toward the base of the tree just in time to see a black blue thick rubbery arm slither up the waters of the inflowing stream, slapping, seeking, probing for me.  Grabbing my shotgun and bag, I moved slowly like a crab to the shaded area, intrigued as one in my line of employ is but of course cautious, my leg made progress slow and as expected, painful. 

The arm, appendage, lifted and swung violently, thrashing the rocks and water, coming within ten feet of my position. I feared it would lift itself up onto the shore, gaze upon me with whatever eye or eyes it possessed, and better direct its aim. I slid back as far as I could, into the shady overhang at the base of the cliff, not bothering to concern myself with whatever I was dislodging out of fear for my life.  I heard a snap behind me, rolled to the side as best I could and saw that a coastal taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus), a horribly venomous angry snake with extremely long fangs (yet beautiful coppery brown colorings) had erupted from the leaves piled beneath.  It reared back to strike and I was faced with two forms of death, when the frilled lizard rushed into view, bit the snake at the base of its head and proceeded to roll down the hill toward the waters.  This as you may know is not a normal reaction between the two species, a frilled lizard generally eating only mammals and insects of relatively small size. 

I stood, knowing another snake or more may be I the vicinity and limped to the right to attempt to traverse the remainder of the ridge and make my way back whence I came.  The arm was still thrashing but dislodging loose stones and rocks upon itself.  Eventually, it turned its attention to the horse who was now herself white eyed in fear at the sight of a snake and lizard in a death battle within five feet of her head.  Knowing what I must do, I loaded a shell into the shotgun, aimed first at the probing arm that was tentatively touching the lower half of the horse, then moving a bit closer as I dared , I changed my aim for her head instead, mercy taking over my sense of fear.  I pumped two shots into her skull, killing her near instantly before the revolting rubbery arm had fully wrapped around her flanks and began to twist her free of her rocky captors, in might I say, two distinct pieces.  She slid into the waters and beyond view into the depths just as the lizard and snake separated.  Snake moved off along the shore and lizard turned to face me.  As I watched, it dropped on its side and expired. 

I rapidly as possible walked the length of the lower ledge, then up the embankment to the rocky cliff above the Widow’s Bath.  Staring into the dark , brackish abyss, I was able to discern only a modicum of movement below the surface but enough for my liking.  I took what notes I felt were important, drank my fill of water, bandaged my wounds as best possible, then walked briskly toward a small copse of trees to the west. There, what I deemed a safe distance, I set about constructing a small camp for remainder of the day, for walking in such heat was unsafe especially in my condition.  Come nightfall and the rising of the moon, I walked the five miles back to the shed and paddock, shut the gate and started a massive fire utilizing the wood I had left the night before. I cleared the hut to ensure again no snakes or spiders would interrupt my sleep, and dropped, exhausted into the arms of Morpheus. 

I awoke some ten hours later to a knock on the door and the sounds of shuffling feet.  I stood, forced myself to awaken, stood and opened the door to find the aboriginal Chief standing before me. He handed me a skin of water, a small sack of food and clapped me on shoulder looking sideways into my eyes.  He spoke no words, but for the briefest of moments, I saw his eyes for the space between blinks change to yellow with no whites. They became those of a lizard, and then, they were not. I stepped back and stumbled onto the floor of the shed as the Chief laughed uproariously, something I had not expected from someone so stern. 

He helped me to my feet as his two associates came around the corner with a new, saddled and provisioned horse in tow.  I accepted the loan, and it was made clear that it was such and that I owed them for the lost horse. I accepted, made an oath to repay them their kindness and generosity and made my way back to their village to collect my vehicle. 

There is not much more to this story to add sirs, apart from my assurance that I plan to return with a full crew of students this coming summer and would graciously accept any grants you could bestow me for provision of a confidential, fulsome account, including photographic evidence and mapping, in your hands within three months of my departure. 

 

Yours Sincerely 

Dr. Damien Donovan,

June 20, 1918 

 

The Christmas Tour

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Oh sister, here they come again!

Oh, oh how do I look? Are they coming up the walk this time?

No one is around.  Get inside fast.

Yes, fine Marie, fine as always.  Yes, here they are, walking up the stairs, they are very quiet mind you.

Oh, get the door, oh wait, they have it.

Welcome to our home, please, shut the door, yes, it is very blustery outside.

This place is a mess!

So dark.  Wow.  How long has it been shut up?

Decades. The most haunted house in Boston.

So you keep saying.

My name is Marie and this is my brother Jacob.  Yes, welcome to our house.  We are so happy you finally decided to come in.  We saw you looking from the street the other day.  We have so few visitors given the weather, please let us show you around.

We apologize for the darkness.  Power is out.  Oh, look Marie, they brought their own torches, so well planned young people!

Let’s go this way.

Okay but stay with me. Don’t wander off and leave me in here.

Why would I do that and let him find you?

Stop it Tom. I’ll leave right now.

Sorry.  C’mon.

Oh yes, very good, very well thought out, I would have never.

Neither I sister. Please feel free to wander, oh, yes, please go ahead, please do. Yes, this is the family room or as you may call it the living room.

Look at the furniture.  It’s just piles of rotten fabric and wood.

Smells like animals have been living in here.

Animals and probably crack addicts.

No, nobody would live in this house.

So you keep saying.

Many a night we spent entertaining others with mama and papa.  She had a grand piano right there.  She would play for hours.

And the tree went right there.  Wouldn’t it be nice to see one again like we used to have?

What is that?

An old tree in a stand, all the needles and balls have fallen off.  Wow.

It’s like an Edward Gorey drawing.

Tall, oh so tall and to the ceiling and a ladder needed to put the star on.

And we tried so hard to not break one of mother’s precious glass balls.

Yes. That was the best plan.

Look over here through the arch.  It’s some kind of dining room with chairs around an old fireplace.

Look at all the rotten books.  They would have been worth money too.  Most of them are really old.

This is creeping me out Tom. I swear it’s getting darker.

Well, yeah, farther from the streetlights.

Oh and so much comes in through the wooden slats and those rotten drapes.

Oh and here is the family room, or the sitting room if you will. A desk for writing, shelves for books, cabinets for whatever your heart desires.

I bet this is where they hooked up.

Who.

You know.

And there is of course the dining room.  Oh the meals we would have. So many people.  With the leaves, that table say all of the extended family.

And then some.

Like when Margaret came with her family.

Enough Marie.

Mister Browning.

Enough Marie. He’ll hear.

Hey, watch the hole in the floor.

Woah, this place is a death trap.

You have no idea.

I will leave Tom.

Sorry, c’mon.  Hold my hand.

Oh, you’ve moved on, sorry.  Yes, the kitchen, in need of some cleaning and the pantry as well. A dumb-waiter that leads to the upper bedroom floor. Exit to the back gardens, again in need of cleaning and weeding. Wait, no, NO you need not go into the basement.

Ah the basement.  Where they found him.

Both of them. So frigging weird.

Here help me with the door.  Its stuck.

Jacob.

No, please, no, NO!  It is unsafe!  The stairs are rotting and the light is out.

I got it open a crack but what a stench.

Oh, shut it Tom.

Ow, crap!  My fingers! Must be some window open down there or something causing a cross breeze.

Are you okay? That wind, oh god it made me gag!

Yeah, just bruised knuckles. Hey, let’s leave this last, let’s go upstairs where all the action took place.

You are so morbid Tom. Okay.

Yes, it is very windy and oh the door is stuck yes.  Please. Yes, I agree.  Onward and of course upward.

Marie, follow them please, I shall re-secure the door.  Father will not be pleased.

Of course Jacob.  What time is it?

Near three-quarters past eleven in the evening.

And it is?

Yes. Almost.

I knew that did I?

Yes. Follow them

These stairs, what a mess.  Watch your step.

Hold my hand Tom. Cripes.  What is that at the top of the landing?

A family painting but, holy crap.  The mother’s face.

Ripped out.

Help me get my headlamp out of my backpack.

What else you have in there Shelly?

Oh, nothing.  Nothing you’ll see till we get out of this place.

Meow.  Here you go,

Finally.  I can see on my own now.

Oh wait up, wait up! It’s good you have your electric torches.  Wait, Jacob are you all right?

Yes.  I’ll be there soon!

Oh, be careful on the stairs, the carpet tacks have popped out.  There are three bedrooms and the servant’s quarters. This was my room, thus the frill.  No, the wardrobes have been, oh.  I see.

This was the daughter’s room.  It looks like it hasn’t aged.

Look in the wardrobe. All these clothes look like new!

Wow. This, is, wrong. So wrong.

That is odd.  I swear they were empty. Oh the dust.  Here, over here, this is Jacob’s room.

Lets, ah, check the next one out.  The brother’s room. Holy crap.  Same thing.

Only a little dust, bed looks like it was made yesterday.

Is that a glass of water?

It can’t be.  Someone else must be sleeping in here.  The roof doesn’t look like it’s leaking and what would the odds be.

A boy room of course, all pennants and rugby balls.  Neither of us have slept in those beds since the night of the party when we returned home from school for Christmas. When father found mother with the..

Shelly, hold up!

Tom, Tom!  In here!  Look at the master bedroom!  It’s so perfectly preserved!

Okay, hold on.  Wow.  This is wrong. I’m taking photos of this.

Wait, Tom, what is that noise?

What? The Wind?

But never mind, please yes, that is the master bedroom. Oh my.

It seems to be coming from that little door in the hallway.

That’s the old servant’s quarters.

Oh.

That’s where he found them.

We should go.

No, hear? It stopped. Just the wind, probably blowing through the crack of that door.  It’s more of a hatch than a door. Doesn’t even fit the frame.

You know what that is.

Oh, yes. You must leave now, please thank you for visiting, if you wish to come back please do at a later, time, oh no, don’t go in there, that is nothing. JACOB!

No you must not enter that room.  I am sorry it is off-limits.  Marie! Help please!

Help me Shelly.

We should go.

Come On Shel!  It’ll be cool.  Nobody else has been here in decades!

And there is a good reason, AS YOU KEEP TELLING ME!

No, please leave now!

You must not, damnation!

Damn, its stuck too. Completely stuck.  The brickwork seems to have fallen and jammed the door.

Good.

That is where…

…it happened.

That is where she died.

And we found her.

This is where she wails night and day.

You know what happened right?

The father found the mother on Christmas eve in that room with another guest, the father of Jacob’s girlfriend.  There was a fight and she died.

The guest, a local merchant, pulled a penknife out of his pocket and in the scuffle that she tried to break up, she was stabbed or slashed in the side of the neck.  She dropped to the floor and her husband slammed the other man’s head against the wall.  He dragged the unconscious man away, who was never found mind you, not knowing his wife was bleeding out on the floor.

That’s horrible.

He had a history of a temper with others but never her. She however was known around town to have many, relations when he was away.

What happened to the other man?

Nobody knows.

And that why we both.

Yes.  We had to.  We had to help father.

She was.

Is.

Was.

Was not kind to him.

They have gone Jacob.

No, they are still here. I sense them.  So does he.

Oh, Jacob.  I hear the door.

The basement!

Father!

Run.

The door is open, oh no.

The door is open!  Shh, there is a light down there. Look.

Are you down here?  You must leave, I insist!

Father? Father are you?

I am here Jacob.  I am here Marie.

It’s coming from behind that shelf. Look.

It’s a door.  Help me.  Help me move it.

Father where are they?

Here, the door, I can see inside. It’s a man.  He is hunched over, crying.

In the room, with the butcher.

Is he awake as well?

Sir, sir, are you okay?  Can we help you?

He is.

Is he mad.

Shelly, you have some food. Bring it here.

But it was for later.

Shelly, listen, church bells.  It is Christmas day.  He can have what we…

The door Tom! The door!

He is never not mad child.

Is mother?

I pay no heed to your mother, the harlot.

Is she in there as well?

She may be. I hope so.  I thought I heard her and woke.

Is she mad too?

No, she is only ever sad.

Are you?

I am happy dear.  Happy we have found them.

And they? The visitors?

Sound like they have met the butcher. He sounds very hungry.

And they?

Have helped us find him. Now to finish what we started.

Merry Christmas Father.

Merry Christmas Children.

 

The Cube

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The crew were asleep
When the medic saw the cube
Black, flat, absorbing of light
Sitting outside the ship on the flats of methane ice
Her coffee dropped onto the floor
They all rose and ran
To windows
and monitors
and keyboards
and watched and listened and looked
from one to another
then to the captain
With a word, they suited up
and moved out into the icy cold
poisonous air
of Titan

The cube sat
still
silent
black and flat
and the ice below
brown
mottled
creaked under its weight
and it watched the crew
of the ship Expediter
as they wondered what to do

Cameras, probes, devices
all failed their job
so the men and women recorded
and streamed
their observations
Back to earth
Where a worried series of men
and women
wondered what would happen
and devised a scheme
that was minutes away

For the ship, the other ship
the cubic black ship
flat
absorbing of light
began to groan
as it’s doors began to open
facing north, away from the humans
and their ship
along the shore
who tried to cover their ears
in vain
who tried to shield their eyes
in vain
And who tried to keep out the sound and vibration
and smoke like apparitions
from entering their suits
in vain
and the suits rose from where they fell
and as the morning winds on Kraken Mare began to blow
they returned to the ship
and the ship’s door closed
and the ship rose into their air
and headed home to earth
many hundreds of days away

Panic

It was the last day of our mutual “kids are at camp” vacation. We do this every year.  The two boys are away for a number of weeks at summer camp and we book a week off ourselves to pretend we are in our early twenties, childless and have mysterious money that appears in the bank account.  It was near bedtime and as my wife Karen pondered going back downstairs to watch a little television with me, I lay down across the bed, my head on her shins and my arms over my head.  We chatted and I started to feel dozy, perhaps TV was not the answer, perhaps we should just get some sleep. I lay my arms down to my sides, letting them fall with an exhausted thud.  A sharp pain, a stinging pain then radiated up and down my arm from its source, the back of my upper arm, halfway between shoulder and elbow.  I knew instantly that I had been stung.

Karen sat up as I rolled rapidly to my right, clutching my arm. “What happened?” she asked.

“They can’t kill you. It’s no worse than a bee sting.” I reassured myself as I identified the attacker and its location…

viewthrougharch2

Hours earlier I had been staring at a photo of a desert vista. A view from beneath a stone archway.  It was mesmerizing.  I was supposed to be doing something Very Important on the computer, but instead, I was gazing at the picture before me.  Thoughts and questions filled my head.

“If I was going to take a break from hiking, where would I sit?”

“I know, right there, on the right, just past the arch. My back against the wall.”

“There is a thin crack there. I wonder how many critters live in that crack.”

“Lots. Probably spiders, millipedes, scorpions.”

“I wonder since they come out at night, if I sat there, would they come out into the shade beneath or behind me?”

“If I say there long enough, how many of those things would use me as shade like a rock or a tree stump?”

“I wonder how many scorpions there are in that valley.”

“Probably hundreds of thousands.”

“If you took all the scorpions in that valley and made a ball out of them, how big would that ball be?”

“That would be a very frightening ball.”

I shuddered at the thought and the previously mesmerizing photo of a beautiful desert scene became a horrifying photo where a ball of scorpions the size of a Dodge Ram were hiding everywhere, just waiting for me to sit down and take a break so they could sting me.

That folks is how anxiety works.

Shining_Black_Scorpion_600

I looked at the ceiling as the pain subsided. “Nothing” I responded as I calmed myself.

“What did you think happened?” she queried, calmly.

“I thought I was stung”

“By what?” I could tell she was holding back laughter

“Nothing.”

“Sean, what did you think stung you?”

“A scorpion.”

“And what was it really?”

I took a moment and breathed. Embarrassed slightly, angry at myself for my as usual overreacting.

“A toothpaste tube.”

She paused. “So you panicked for nothing, right?”

“Yes” I responded quietly.

Karen reached across and grasped the tube. It was mostly empty and the back end rolled up, the corner of the end of the hard plastic tube pointed upright like a little bathroom caltrop, waiting for my arm to lay upon it.

In a normal household this is where it would have ended, or perhaps with some speech from her about my lack of judgment and unreasonable panic. Instead she did her best to reconfigure the tube to better resemble a scorpions general shape and proceeded to sting me all over with it as I writhed around trying to escape.

tube

This is how she has been trying of late to “cure” me of anxiety. Making me face things that set me off in a loud and vigorous way. She is “vaccinating” me against panic she claims.  It does not work.

When she finished, my mind wandered back to the desert. Upon reflection, I would not sit with my back to the wall.  I would sit on the rock in the middle.

It afforded a much better view.

Also, I think it would be easier to deal with a large scorpion of the same mass as a ball of scorpions the size of a Dodge Ram Truck.

At least you would see it coming.

Scorpion-character-render-classic-costume-MK-II-Mortal-Kombat-2011-MK-9

And He Watched

dark-foggy-forest-moon-night-sky-Favim.com-104519

And he watched

From the kitchen window as he sipped his herbal

Into the nocturnal pitch he stared

Anticipating a flash of eye

but none

was offered he

And he watched

From the livingroom window

Beside his fire, warm and crackling

Awaiting proof

But none made itself visible

He could hear them through his open blinds

as he did not sleep

as he lay

alone

so alone

And he watched

From the safety of his raised wooden deck

axe in hand

glass of whisky in other

Of course,

they did not appear

but they saw

And he watched

As his wife and children fled

his obsession

insanity

corruption

absence

anger

And they did not appear

But he heard them

and he smelled their musk

and he knew they who stole away his brother

and father

and mother

were back

to finish their work

for his family were tied to the wood

and the wood tied to they

but the things, the wretched scaled hissing things

they wanted the wood without ties

bindings

connections

And he watched

As they in the darkness planted seed

stretched root

pulled runner

made the wood move

toward his cabin

closer

closer

close, enough

And he watched

And he fell

into ruin

and sickness

and sleep

And they watched

And they saw

and by night they stole into his open window

and tore him asunder

And he watched as they did rend

and he watched as light failed his glassy eyes

and as they screamed in guttural glee

and he knew

all was lost

as the moon rose into the sky

full and silent

and made twisted shadows on the open blinds

and he slept, confident in the knowledge

that one day they would know

he was right

As they dragged him into the wood

to become one with they

and his

and theirs

and the wood

again

 

Darkwatch Cove

cave

They called it Darkwatch Cove. It was not it’s true, legal name, but this matters not. Darkwatch Cove it was to all but the mousey planners in Parapet Harbor’s municipal offices.

The sands of the Darkwatch Cove beach were white as snow and nary a piece of driftwood collided with and stuck to such that lasted a day or more for it would be scavenged by those who frequented the nightly bonfires and clambakes. Round about an hour before dusk, they would arrive, cars parking atop the embankment, lights shining out only briefly into the night above until someone below yelled for them to be quenched. They would giggle and smile as they scampered down the well-trod stone path to the warm little C-shaped cove, blankets and coolers and what fuel for the fire they could carry in their arms. Fires, some nights upward of four, would be set and as the stars popped into view above, music and frivolity would erupt as if Dionysus himself had given blessing to proceed as the sun set in the west beyond the cliffs above.

A marvel of the coast, Darkwatch Cove was, from above, shaped like a gigantic eye. Open at two ends, the crescent beach was cut into the rocky cliff over millennia and would only continue to be so until such a time as one end or the other were worn away. So said the geologists. But none of those who frequented the shoreline worried about such things, so far off into the misty future of adulthood. Said learned men also claimed that the pupil of the eye, the thickly wooded Isle that sat a quarter mile off shore, would also someday erode and become part of the ocean floor. Said youthful shoreline frequenters ignored this information equally for the same reasons.

Each year for untold generations, as the winter waned, spring roared through and summer settled like a hot wet blanket, sunset gatherings would occur. Pairings would be natural, disagreements in the night occur, food be eaten and drink imbibed sometimes until sunlight rose above the still blue sea. A casual observer would note, were one so inclined to watch from a cold vantage point, as many police and concerned parents had through the years that nobody swam in the cool dark waters. You see, there was a rumor that doing so was considered something one would not do were one right in the head, especially after dark.

The aforementioned scholars noted, in a series of lectures at the University on the local geography of the area, that prevailing currents cut the swath that become the cove by chewing their way through a softer stone over time around the island that sits offshore. The rocky lump of land, known only as such (and usually not spoken of in adult company) was in properly named Bartlett Island. It boasted sheer rock faces up ten feet all around but at its peak reached near fifty feet above the waves. It shared the same hard brown stone as the cliffs in the surrounding area but through deposition of guano and slow infiltration of mosses and lichens and their subsequent decay, soil was formed. Seeds dropped by avian visitors allowed a scraggly mess of bushes and shrubs to proliferate, but only the types that could live in salty mist fed, acidic guano derived earth. The Island was impassable. The Island was unreachable. The Island was dark and oppressive.

As much as one would suspect that contrary to the Island’s description, young men in a mood to prove their worth to young bathing suit clad women would attempt to find a way onto it, they did not. The far side, the ocean facing side, was far too wavy, deep and dangerous. The near side, well, the water was just far too dark, and there was of course, the teeth to worry about. The same current that swallowed up the softer rock and formed the cove had undercut the cliff face on the beach side of the isle leaving an above water opening with a jagged roof of stone. A hapless person caught by a wave or winds blown under the roof of these teeth would be best to lay down and hop to hope that they would be pushed back out. Were this fortuitous event to not happen, they would be rushed to the northern point where the roof lowered and upon it’s sharpened fangs of rock, the waves would press the victim and chew them mercilessly.

The beachgoers all knew the tales and the dangers. They would drink and sing and kiss by the fire or perhaps in the shadows beneath the cliff most evenings until the Saturday before first day of school. At some point, usually close to midnight, someone would begin with the tales. The Hermit was a prominent story referring to a homeless man who somehow found his way to The Island across the meager sea ice on a particularly cold winter. He would quietly beckon in need of help to early morning beach visitors who would swim or paddle out, climb up a rough vine rope he had constructed, and never been seen again. Another seasonal tale would be that of a sunbather who upon an inflatable tanning bed drifted too close to The Island to be chewed by the teeth then dragged under bloody and screaming by something dark and unknown. Tales of underwater ghosts of a sunken U-Boat who waited beneath for hapless swimmers to pull them under and interrogate them for information lost in the ensuing years. The most frightening however revolved around the school principal, Mr. Davison, who annually railed against continued use of the beach by local youth, veiling his concerns with morality but peppering his diatribes with strange references to something in The Deep.

All will hush and those in the shadows will cease their hormone laced ventures to listen if not creep back to the safety of the bonfires glow. The one telling the tale, usually the alpha of the males, would call for quiet and recommend more fuel be added to the blaze.

Timothy Davison was a third year student in the Applied Sciences program of Miskatonic University down the coast. He was as some would describe with derision, a skeptic. He never gave the time of day to religionists, diet fanatics or those who took part in séances. He was at heart, a scientist. His hobbies, when not in pursuit of  study, were renaissance in nature. Art, spoken word prose, avian biology and geology. In such, with regard to the latter, he was interested deeply in the formation of Darkwatch Cove havinh visited numerous times as a child. Mapping and discussions of the history of the formation were his Saturday morning breakfast at the local library and he made as many meals as one could on so little gruel. He met a like-minded friend of sorts at a study club related to Geographical Interpretation and Orienteering and struck up a plan to explore the cove one summer. Both he and his new friend (some say Randy was his name, some say Ralph, some Rudy) spent the winter learning how to use diving gear at the local YMCA. They scrimped and saved and what they did not need for tuition and food they spent on used gear purchased through newspaper ads posted up and down the coast. When summer was upon them, they waited until the third week in June, nineteen sixty-five, just before high school students were out on vacation. The water temperatures were not yet summer-warm but tolerable for wet suit diving, so plans were made, tanks filled and gear cleaned. Together they drove to the cove.

The sea and the inner waters were glassy and wave free, a mere lip of crest moving slowly up the beach from south to north. They donned their suits, strapped on their tanks and walked backward into the water. Masks were spat into, rubbed, rinsed and pulled over their heads and onto their faces. Flashlights in hand along with small picks to collect samples of rock which would be placed into bags slung from their belts. As one, they turned into the waters and lay face down onto the surface. Moving together, they swam against the surprisingly strong current using snorkels to save on air until needed toward the south most edge of the exposed overhand.

The floor of the cove was smooth, sandy and free of much plant growth, most likely due to the constant current. Beyond rock throwing distance, pebbles and flat skipping stones ceased to be encountered and the bareness of it led to some disorientation. More than expected they both had to look up and toward the island to keep their bearings firm. More than expected they had to tread water and yell at the other until they noticed they were becoming turned about. Eventually they reached their destination, tired and unexpectedly cold.

A sense of slight dread filled both as they realized how close to open ocean they were. They rested a few minutes only, treading water as they drifted northward along the face of the overhang, both laying on their backs occasionally to push themselves out from the overhang. When near half way down the length of the island, they decided unanimously to proceed with what was becoming obvious to be a bad decision. They pushed back snorkels, inserted SCUBA mouthpieces, turned on and adjusted each other’s tanks and  dived down into the cold clear depths. Near immediately they found that they needed to switch on their flashlights. The angle of the sun was with them but the overhang and rocks drew them closer into areas not reached by light. It was a stony forest of fallen boulders, shards of rock, waterlogged trees and oddly, pieces of cut curved wood, likely the remains of small skiffs. The current seeming stronger, both swam down and grasped what handholds below they could find. Timothy shone his light into the dark and could make out the sheer smoothness of the wall beyond the overhang, the ocean having carved it in such a way over time to give it the appearance of polished concrete or granite. It glowed white in the light, white and, yes, yes, as he looked closer he thought he could see some sort of markings. He tapped the shoulder of his friend and pointed toward the symbols, but when he turned he saw that Ralph, or Randy, what have you, his friend was fixated downstream, under the teeth. He was pointed to where the sharpened rocks met with and dug into the water, waves reaching up to lick them clean. His light however was fixed down toward the bottom of the ocean, thirty feet below the teeth where round stones and what looked like small branches, white and green with algal growth lay in a tangled mess among the rocks.

Timothy turned back toward the symbols carved into the wall. He scanned the floor and could see a large jagged rock near them that he could definitely grasp if he swam hard enough. He turned back to his friend wishing to indicate that they should tie a rope between them, but his partner was no longer there. Shining his light downstream he could see him not swimming but gliding with the current toward the teeth, breaking all existing rules about partner diving, endangering both with reckless curiosity. Glancing back at the markings and the target handhold, he debated moments only, swore to himself, and turned back toward the north. He would swim carefully toward his friend and insist they return. Perhaps he had not seen the markings. If he did, he would definitely be intrigued. Light shining back, forth, up down, he could no longer see him, only the round stones and sticks and a rapidly dissipating red haze.

He set a course from rock to rock, sunken tree to sunken tree until he traversed the fifty or so feet to where he assumed his friend had traveled. Glancing up at the teeth he took care to not let go of the tree stump he had grasped, nails digging into the soft waterlogged wood. He had already noted that to escape, they would have to push outward and kick up to the west quite hard to escape being crushed between the rising stone floor and the toothy sharpness above. He shone the light toward the wall beyond the overhang and again, unable to see where his friend had been pushed, he could make out more markings but unlike the previous, these surrounded a circular hole cut into the wall. As he watched and peered inside, shining his light into the depths, he was able to make out a man’s leg, clad in rubber, shaking as a dogs tail does, from side to side, not how a man would swim. The flipper became dislodged and the leg slid wetly from view.

He kicked back instinctively, let go of his flashlight, reached down to grasp it as it sank and saw that the round stones were not stones and the sticks were not sticks. You can imagine what they were.  With all his might he pulled on the rocks between he and the waters of the cove, thrust himself into the open waters and swam as fast as he could. He soon realized that the weight of the tank was slowing him so he unbuckled it and let it drop behind as he surfaced, stuck the snorkel in his mouth and continued frantically toward shore, a burst of bubbles and an underwater howl issued loudly behind him.

Usually at this point, someone outside of the circle of light would throw a large stone or a piece of driftwood into the waters. People would jump, some would scream and laugh and grab hold of a boy, or girl nearby, some would of course swear and some would spill their drinks. The night would end soon after and people would slowly make their way to their cars and home rightfully scared. Timothy Davison quite often would watch from the escarpment above until he was sure all had gone home safely.

And far out in the cove, The Deep sat waiting, hunger driving it closer to shore each year.

A Tale of Revenge at Christmas

In the dream, and he knew it was a dream, the man was clothed in a long white robe and shod in thin leather sandals. In the dream he was standing on a hot expanse of white sand. In the dream, the blistering sun was behind him, roasting his exposed skin like a chicken forgotten in an oven. He knew it was a dream because he would never wear such clothing, would never go to a place so hot and would never, ever do what he was about to do. He knew it was a dream because he had been through this many, many times and it always ended the same way.

He walked away from the sun toward the high dune on the horizon before him. The man, clothed in foreign clothes, shod in foreign shoes, trudged toward the west, sand slowly finding its way between his toes and into every crevice possible on his corpulent pasty frame. Cresting the dune, he tried in vain to stay erect, but as always, the sand gave way and he slid and tumbled to the dry caked old riverbed on the far side. He rose, painfully, and proceeded across the cracked mud, up and over the far bank, and stood at the bottom of the stairs that led up toward the entrance to the black stone building.

It was a temple. An old temple. An old temple devoted to an old foreign god. He knew this. He entered the temple, brushing aside the thick woven curtain that blocked the doorway. Inside, as usual, he grasped a torch and lit it using one of the two small flaming braziers within the entrance. He moved to the center of the black room, so black that the light from the torch did not light the corners of such that as usual seemed too far away given the apparent size of the exterior of the structure. Within these corners, blackness swirled, and spun, not unlike the dust devils that accompanied him as he walked in the desert. He would move toward them and they would slip to corners left and right, his lack of speed and dexterity preventing their capture. Resigned, and tired of the lack of answers as to “who” brought him here and “what” did they want, he returned to the center of the room and awaited the voice.

The building began to hum, sand vibrating up and off of the every horizontal surface, levitating first into the air then floating toward the dark altar before him. The voice came from within the hum, soft then booming as it repeated his full name, not the name he used among associates, not even the name on his false identification he carried nowadays. His true name. His birth name.

He knew this was when he would awaken. He smiled to himself, a curse upon his lips, knowing he would awake in a cold sweat but alive.

Tonight however, the dream changed.

He began to rise from the floor as the sand took shape above the flat stone. A swirling mass, like a school of fish, moved toward him, fast, sharp, menacing. The man screamed as the sand came into contact with his skin and spun faster and faster, shredding first his robes, then his skin, blood, bone and teeth joining the maelstrom. Then at once, it sliced into his open mouth and continued to spin within his throat and chest, ripping him apart as.

A bell rang and Rob Blankson woke screaming. He leapt to his feet from the rickety chair he had fallen asleep on. He looked around as he dodged left and right, black remnants of his nightmare swirled into non-existence. He told himself it was only a dream, thrice before he looked toward the front door to his bait shop. The bell that hung from the frame was still swinging. He ran to the door, pulled it open and yelled into the raging blizzard beyond “Come back here you goddamn thief!” He looked left and right. No footprints in the deep white snow were to be seen. He swore again and shut the door, turned the OPEN/CLOSED sign and locked it behind him and finally switched off the outside light. Turning, he looked down to see sandy footprints across his bent and worn wooden floors.

“Goddamn thieves don’t even wipe their goddamn feet!” he said to no one in particular, then with a pause, shoved his finger in his mouth. He rubbed it between his gum and cheek, pulled it out and examined the findings. Wiping the few grains of sand he had extricated on the leg of his greasy green work pants, he went about finding his push broom. When he returned, there was nothing to sweep.

The dream, as always, was gone from his memory.

Rob Blankson zipped his parka and locked the door behind him. Annoyed that he had to let his only employee have the night off after a threat from the boy’s father (“It’s Christmas eve for Christ’s sake Rob? Who the hell is going to be buying any more bait or lures this weekend with no ice on the bay?”). He did the end of day work and shut up the store. Two days with no sales, everyone eating turkey and putting up with relatives, nobody fishing. He’d get royally pissed both days and nights and have a better time than all of them. He had a pile of video tapes to watch of hickey games he recorded last year and one of WrestleMania 2. To hell with them all. He swore aloud into the night and the wind that “nobody should ever use Royal Taxi, they never show up when ya need em!”

He muttered. He trudged. He plowed his way through the snow, griping out loud as he took slugs from his flask of rye about the lack of plows on the streets and the lazy city workers “probably all down at the public works yard getting f-ed up on tax dollar paid for liquor”. He looked up at a power line pole and squinted at the street sign. It took a minute or so of snow in the eyes before he made out “Charles Street” and he realized he had been turned around in the storm. He somehow had ended up the opposite direction of his home. Swearing, he took another huge pull on his whisky and turned about, into the wind.

After a few more blocks, having finally accepted the lack of traffic and abandoning the sidewalk, more swearing and more complaining, Rob Blankson found his breathing labored. He was not used to any form of exertion. He was not used to walking this far especially half drunk and especially in three feet of snow. The wind blew familiar looking swirling shapes in the roadway beside him. He stopped and watched as one sped off into the night, disappearing as it hit the yellow cone of streetlight that fought its way to the road through the blowing snow. Taking a final sip from his now empty flask, he pocketed it and looked up toward another street sign, his breath and the wind combining to freeze his eyelashes together. Rubbing his face hand to stimulate the blood flow, he squinted and made out “Peterson Avenue” and cursed as he kicked the pole. Again, he had been turned in the storm. He was just as far from his home as when he had retreated twenty minutes earlier. His toes burned, his lungs strained, his finger numb, he re-calibrated his route and turned up Church Street.

A flash of light to his left caught his partly closed eyes. Hoping for a taxi, a cop car or even a city plow, he turned and found himself face to face with a woman standing in silhouette in front of warm firelight. He pondered for a moment asking for shelter if only briefly, if only to stand on her porch, till he saw who it was. He fled up the street into the night, for once, silent.

The woman, olive of complexion, stared hatefully into the night as he disappeared from view. She drew shut her curtains and went back to her work, cursing silently in her native tongue.

Rob Blankson pushed through the snow, knee deep and bitterly cold. He had lost the feeling in both of his feet and his face. He began to recognize buildings and familiar markings and after what seemed hours more than the actual time passed, he dropped to his knees, then his side at the doorway to his shop. Panting like a spent hound, he lay still as snow fell upon his numb face. Sleep knocked at the door of his consciousness, blissful quiet sleep that would take away the suffering his heart and extremities now experienced. Breathing slowed, blackness crept into his mind until through the dark cloud he could hear a tiny dinging of a bell. It rang again as he drifted back and forth between the painless blackness and the real world. It rang a third time, insistently, and a fourth. Rob Blankson muttered the words “Damn bastard thieves.” and pulled himself up to his knees. Dropping his glove to the snow after pulling it off with his teeth, he extracted his keyring from the chest pocket of his parka and with extreme difficulty, managed to inert it into the lock and with two ham hock-like frozen hands, turn it within. He pushed the door open, he fell into the room, kicking it shut against the storm. The man crawled toward the oil stove in the corner of the room, and pulled off his boots. Opening his jacket to let in the heat, he curled in a semi-circle beside the hot metal drum and shivered spasmodically as he allowed himself to fall back into unconsciousness.

The bell did not ring.

In the dream, and Rob Blankson knew it was a dream because of the shadows, it was years earlier. Rob stood in the back room with the pencil neck geek from the city bylaw office who was busy rattling off numbers and fines and threats. He had thought buying round after round of drinks at the City Hotel two nights ago for the geek’s boss would make this all blow over. He tried to call his, acquaintance, for he didn’t really have friends, anymore, but the man actively avoided them. He offered to buy the geek some lunch and a few drinks to talk it over, but the geek said no, he didn’t drink and had already had lunch and didn’t appreciate Rob’s tone. The geek talked. The shadows swirled in the background and in the corners and in the hidden recesses of his memory.

He nodded and made grunts of acceptance. He had to fix the bait holding tank. It was shit. It was chipboard and tarps and bits of piping and a crappy pump. It leaked down through the open floor that it was constructed over and onto the frozen ice below the old dry dock that the previous owner used this room for. The warm pungent waters sloshed and leaked and wetted the ice and the rot began and spread out onto the open harbor skating area. He glanced as the geek indicated. They had put up pylons and tape warning people to stay away. As they watched the geek expressed an overly loud “Oh my god!” and covered his mouth. A small boy learning to skate was holding onto a kitchen chair, skating to beat hell toward the rot. He didn’t know how to stop. At the last second, a man, likely his father, swooped in and lifted the boy off the ground as the chair spun toward its eventual resting place, floating in one of the holes.

“That seals it Mister Blankson. You must empty this tank, after hours, repair the leaks and make it sound. If not, we will close you down.”

The swirling black worms writhed and spun and encircled the geek. They flew back to the corners and congregated as the dream flashed forward.

One year later. Christmas Eve. Rob Blankson was especially down. Sales were miserable, weather was miserably warm but not so warm as to allow for any fishing at all by boat or hole through the ice. It was after dinner hour and he was beginning to think of food as he drank the last of his whisky. He stumbled back to the bait room and yanked at a corroded lever on the side of the tank. Nobody was skating, city pricks were all getting drunk at city hall drinking booze paid for with his tax dollars. The drain plug popped upwards and the wide hole opened, dumping about four hundred gallons of warm water, more than a few dying minnows and a few frogs down through the open floor beneath the tank onto the ice below. The thin crust quickly melted away and broke up under the deluge as a steamy mist reeking of algae and dead fish wafted up into Rob’s nose. As he watched, black shapes fought like salmon against the current back up through the drain hole. He watched them move into the corners of the room and wait.

A dream, a memory, he was lucid but not able to make change to what was about to happen. He moved back to his usual spot, the sound of the water pouring down bringing about a calming mood in his frantic mind. He sat back down in his chair. He swung his (thinner, more agile) legs back up onto the counter. He picked up his now re-filled whisky bottle and drew from it as he stared upwards at the ceiling.

The bell dinged.

The door opened.

The children, the brown foreign children, the brown foreign children not dressed in proper coats for the season being too new to Canada and unaware of winter’s wrath. They walked to the small freezer, fridge to find milk. Rob stood. Rob’s voice boomed.

“You thieving little gypsies! Get the hell out of my store!” and he walked to the front door to block their way. “What do you have in your hands? What have you taken you little shits?!” He moved toward them.

They fled, black shaped darting back and forth between him and them.

Rob said silently “No, don’t go back there. No, don’t. I know you didn’t steal anything.”

Rob move menacingly toward them, cornering them in the bait room. “Come here you little pricks! Thieving little black…”

The children ran to the far side of the tank. They ran expecting to hide but only found algae and mold slick floorboards and slid into a space between the tank and the floor, it giving way, and they falling down into the open water below.

Rob screamed to himself “No! No! Jesus no!”

But what came out was only “Where did you go you little shits?”

He cornered the tank and heard the splashing below. Looking down he saw them go under one, the sister, then two, the boy. He swore to himself. He remembered prison. He remembered the geek. He pulled the second drain lever at the other end of the tank and washed the children down under the ice.

By morning, the ice had frozen over. It had dropped ten degrees overnight and ice was thick and firm. It was nineteen seventy nine. People just assumed the cute little brown children had been kidnapped.

Rob drank for three days.

When Rob woke from the dream he was not alone. The black shapes were in the oil stove. He could see them, behind the thick mostly transparent mica. He jumped back and scrabbled across the floor of his bait shop, knocking down a tripod of wood that held a few dozen fishing poles he had been trying to offload for two years. He slammed his back against a stool that the old timers sat at while they drank his crappy coffee and griped about the government before and after fishing in the warmer months. Twisting in pain, he kept his eyes upon the stove that sat beside the only exit glancing at the door briefly to confirm that the storm was as it sounded, worse than before.

He stood. He grabbed a fish billy from behind the counter. He yelled “You friggers ain’t gonna get me! It weren’t my fault! I know who sent you and she can…”

A gust of wind blew open the door.

As wind and snow rushed in, the bell dinged once as the door slammed firmly against the wall, and again after it shut behind the aged woman who stood before him.

Ron Blankson opened his mouth to speak, to curse, to fill the air with his sour smelling expletives, but as he did, the small round key to the stove door turned with a loud creak. A black wormy shape shot forth and slammed into his face, wriggling like an eel caught in a smelt net as it slid into his overstretched gob and down into his stomach. He gripped at it and found only handfuls of hot air. He tried to cough to choke it up and he dropped to his knees and found all he was able to do was bring up a few mouthfuls of sand.

A second black shape, then a third and a final fourth shot out and found their ways into him as he flopped about trying to escape. The woman reached down and turned up the oil stove heat controls to its highest setting as he tried to stand and stumble. At once, he lost control, and the shaped gained such, walking him like a fleshy golem toward the bait room. He climbed over the wall of the tank and lay down inside, his muffled choking sounds and moans the only evidence that he was not in full control of his actions.

He could hear exertion from the woman in the other room, then a large thud, then, seconds later, a dinging of the bell.

One by one the shapes flowed out of Rob as he lay unconscious in the slick plastic lined bait tank. The old wooden building took very little time to become an inferno, old wood burning very well when fanned by wind.

As the floorboards burned away, Rob dreamt a dream of the desert. He was flat on his back, unable to move, thirsty beyond any thirsty he had ever had. His lungs were raw, his naked form cooking in the hot sun. He gasped, cried, begged and pleaded. His skin sloughed off as his hair melted away. The desert claimed him.

As if heard by the gods and forgiven, a blissful icy cold enveloped his form as he slid down into blackness.

And as the building collapsed, as the floor gave way and he slid out of the tank and under the ice, the bell clanged once more as it dropped onto the wood below.

The storm raged on.

The storm filled footprints.

The mother returned to her home as the sound of sirens filled the air behind her.

The Wyrm

Phillip was five when he first saw the wyrm
He found it behind the woodshed
White as a sheet, tiny, laying so still
Phillip was sure it was dead
Reached down and he poked it aside
It moved shot like a toothed rubbed band
He screamed and he ran to his mother inside
But no mark could be seen on his hand

Phillip was twelve when he next saw the wyrm
By now it was long as his arm
Down by the creek near the sandbagged flood berm
A weak albino thing’d do no harm
So brave as a boy twice his age, twice his size
He pick it up neat with a stick
Sunlight flashed in it’s cataracted pink sightness eyes
And it bit his arm neatly and quick

By twenty-five, incidents wore from his mind
He’d wiped them from his memory
Returning home when in financial bind
Wandered to lay ‘neath old tree
Watching the clouds in sun dappled shade
A warm thickness slid across his legs
He tried to stand up though his strength it did fade
His limbs little good more than pegs

And the albino wyrm rose level with his head
It opened it’s mouth, nary sound
And it swallowed him whole, live, vision it went red
Then it borrowed back under the ground
When Phillip awoke he was cold, he was wet
Nothing to see, merely sound
And he wriggled and writhed, cloaked in grassy damp net
He a wyrm newly borne of the ground