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 

 

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Book Review – The Deep by Nick Cutter

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I usually cringe when someone says “you’ll enjoy this book, it’s weird”.  This usually comes from well meaning friends who know of my affinity for Lovecraft and other “weird fiction”.  What they don’t know is that I am terribly picky about what I will and will not read and more often than not, a recommended book ends up unfinished.  I have this little rule you see.. if I am not “into” a novel by the mid-way point, I put it away and most usually never return to it.  Life is short, I will not waste valuable reading time on something merely because someone else enjoyed it.

The Deep by Nick Cutter was not a put aside at or before the half way point.  The Deep is true to form, traditional, thoroughly enjoyable if not a tad disturbing at times (in a good way) weird fiction.  I loved it.

It has been reviewed elsewhere and I will not summarize it here because frankly even giving away as much as is on the description on the cover is more than you should be allowed.  Leave it to say it is damn good. It is scary.  It will give you the willies and will make you jump when you hear a noise behind you in the basement after you shut off the light.

I give it 4.5 out of 5.0.

(and I cannot even tell you the MINOR small petite little thing I wish had been explained a bit further because even giving you that may ruin the surprise for you).

Buy this book, read it exclusively at night, preferably by candle light near water.