July 2014 Creepypasta Book Club: Cults, Conspiracies & Secret Societies – PLUS “The Secret World” Giveaway [Winner Chosen, Congrats to Kristela!]

July 1, 2014 at 12:00 AM

Welcome to possibly the longest-named post on the entire site! It fits, because this is going to be a long post – I’ve got a lot of ground to cover about the whole book club idea before we begin. Exposition, go!

Today we’re going to start the “creepypasta book club” that was discussed in previous announcement posts. If you’re not familiar, the idea is to read some books together that will help cultivate inspiration and nurture more original ideas in our writers. I don’t believe that I’m overestimating when I say that lately, a solid 75% of the incoming submissions are simply retreading the same few topics – I suppose that, for whatever reason, serial killers, haunted games, and fanfics of previously-created Creepypasta “characters” are extremely trendy right now.

The problem is, though, that after the 5000th rip-off of Jeff the Killer or the latest attempt to copy-and-replace Ben Drowned with the writer’s favorite game franchise, these stories get mind-numbingly boring. New ideas and inspiration are CLEARLY necessary now, because I for one am absolutely sick of reading about serial killers. I’m not sure if it’s just because they’ve been so in lately in pop culture (what a strange thing to say, but it seems to be true – Hannibal, Dexter, Jeff the Killer, so on and so forth), but we’ve gone way past the point of oversaturation.

You guys need to find something new to write about.

So that’s where this book club idea comes into play. Every month, I’ll select a general theme and give you guys one or two books to read. Now, to avoid confusion, this won’t be about reading already established “creepy” fiction like King or Chambers. Though we may do that another time, the book choices for the inspiration club will be, primarily, nonfiction (though some selections will definitely be “nonfiction” – we’re going to indulge in some pseudoscience and conspiracy books because, after all, we’re trying to get ideas for fiction anyhow). This will hopefully allow you guys to expand your comfort zone of creepy into realms like secret societies, cryptozoology, high-risk exploring like mountaineering, ancient cultures and pseudeoarchealogy, aliens, mysterious disappearances, and more.

The other added benefit of using nonfiction is that spoilers won’t be a concern. Since this post’s comments will act as the discussion forum for our book club, we need books that people can easily discuss at all sorts of different points of progress without ruining each other’s experience.

So, yes, to alleviate some of the confusion and concerns that initially came up when I presented this idea:

THIS POST is your book club. The comments here are where you should air out all your thoughts and ideas that spawn from reading the suggested books. There’s no requirement for how fast you progress through the book(s), whether you read both books or only one, or even if you finish the book(s) or not, so please feel free to jump in and discuss the books whenever you’d like.

If this takes off and you guys want it, perhaps in the future we can try and organize some sort of chat at the end of the month, but for now please don’t worry about that and just post here whenever you have things to talk about regarding this month’s books.

Okay, all that said – here are the two books I’ve selected for July 2014. As stated in the title, this month we’re going to explore the world of cults, conspiracies and the theorists who love them, and secret societies.

It should be said that these books were chosen with mature readers in mind. If you are under 18, please do check with your parent/legal guardian before reading these books. I’d really prefer to avoid a pitchfork-mob of angry parents who find this topic inappropriate for their kids. I’d also like to say that the opinions expressed in the books are, of course, the opinions of their authors and the people profiled only – I’m not advocating or co-signing any of the groups covered in these books. I’m not telling you to believe in the Illuminati or anything, I just think such topics are a cool and fun thing to learn about and will probably inspire some people to write better pastas.

The first book is by Jon Ronson, a British author/humourist that I personally really enjoy. Them: Adventures with Extremists is exactly what it says on the tin – Ronson meets and spends time with a lot of famous faces in the world of conspiracy theories and extremist beliefs. David Icke, Alex Jones, Omar Bakri Mohammed, and more – as Ronson says, the only criteria was that the people/organizations he features have been called ‘extremists’ at some point in their careers. Each episode gives you a look into the beliefs, day to day lives, personalities, and habits of the the various extremists that he profiles. If you’re interested in writing a character-driven story about conspiracies, cults, or societies, this book will be helpful. It also tends to be rather irreverently funny, which is a plus.

As a bonus, Jon Ronson was recently on WTF with Marc Maron, where he gave some behind-the-scenes details on this book (they also delve into The Psychopath Test, another book I’m considering for future months if this book club turns into a long-term thing) as well as more personal opinions and anecdotes. You can stream/download the episode here for now (it will eventually become a premium-only episode, so keep that in mind – based on the pattern, I’m guessing it will go premium-only sometime in August).

If you want to go more in depth, the second suggestion is Arthur Goldwag’s Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies: The Straight Scoop on Freemasons, the Illuminati, Skull & Bones, Black Helicopters, the New World Order, and Many, Many More.

Unlike THEM, this book isn’t really a narrative – rather, the author has researched many of the world’s more infamous and interesting cults, conspiracy theories, and secret societies, and he’s done nice write-ups on each. The entries are organized thematically and can easily be read out of order if you’re so inclined. Beyond the organizations in the title, he also covers the origins of the Assassins (it’s not just a random word), Area 51 and all it encompasses, the Yakuza, the Kennedy assasinations, etc etc and so on. This book is really useful and interesting if you’d like to get a sort of crash course in this month’s topic.

Lastly, to celebrate the first book club post, I’m giving away ONE online game code for Funcom’s online game The Secret World.

Since the raffle is over (congratulations to Kristela A. for winning!), I’m putting the rest of this entry under a cut. The main page has so many stickied posts at the moment that I think it’s necessary to de-clutter wherever I can.

How to Write a Vidya Gaem Pasta

April 1, 2014 at 2:00 PM
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(A last hurrah to the Haunted Game ‘genre’, as it were.)

So, you’re wanting to write a video game crappy – erm, creepypasta? Think you have what it takes? To be honest, you probably don’t. But fear not! With just the submission form (who needs proofreading? Or drafts? Hell, who needs edits? Not you, that’s for sure!) and this handy guide, you’ll be writing terrible pastas in no time!
Wait, did I say ‘terrible’? Like, out loud?
I meant ‘beautiful’.
Yep.
Totally.
————–
First of all, you’re going to have to pick a topic! Maybe you should go for something well known? Maybe try your hand at more obscure games? It’s your choice! Let’s get creative!
(And by ‘get creative’, I mean ‘write the same shitty pasta that’s already been written a thousand times before’. But that doesn’t matter. Whatever.)
>Try a Pokemon pasta! They were the most popular video game pasta subject for a reason, you know. Don’t know anything about Pokemon? Doesn’t matter – just as people who have never played Pokemon can pick it up easily, you don’t need to know anything about it to write a pokepasta! Just throw in some peekachoos and charozords and you’re all set!
>Maybe a Minecraft pasta? Just like how you can do so much in Minecraft, you can write so much about it too! ..Or you can just write about Herobrine! ‘Who’s a hero brown,’ you ask? Why, only a slightly original monster that was mutated into a cliched horror monster by thousands of bad fan misinterpretation!
>Try your hand at a Legend of Zelda pasta! Hey, you remember that one ‘ben drowned’ pasta you read about a year ago? Well, let’s write that again, but with all grammar or decent writing absent! I’m sure it’ll get thousands of upvotes! (read: downvotes)
>Something a bit more obscure? Why not? You could be contributing to the large amount of stories that only make sense to a small, unknown group of people! A scary story… about lawyers? Farming? Why? Why the hell not?

Wow, that took a while! Time for deciding the name of the pasta! This is nice and simple!

[GAME NAME]: [DESCRIPTIVE WORD] [WORD RELATING TO THE PASTA]

Sounds relatively simple! Let’s try it out a bit!
Pokemon: Bloodied Diamond
Minecraft: Curse of Herobrine
Ace Attorney: The Demonic Testimony

Do you like those names? I like those names. Let’s move on!

Of course, your main character has to get their game in some way. What’s that? Introducing the character? No, no, no, no, no. You’re doing it all wrong.
>”I got it from a garage sale/market sale/yard sale” – The oldest and best one in the book. If 99% of people write it this way, then it can’t possibly be bad, can it?
>”Some shady guy/girl/being of unidentifiable gender gave it to me” – Sometimes, we just want to skip the boring introduction and get straight to the action, and there’s no better way to do it than this.
>”I downloaded it online” – Who goes to garage sales anymore? Keep up with the times with this new, hip trend!

Moving on to step number three – of course, because this is a creepypasta, the game has to be haunted, right? But what’s it going to do?
>Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary – because hey, if you put in no effort here, you can use that effort later, right? That’s how it works, isn’t it? Right? Right?!
>A couple of graphical glitches – because nothing makes your viewers tremble more than the screen flickering a little or some colours changed. This is a true fact.
>Noises. – More specifically, weird noises. Glitchy sounds. Muffled screaming. The usual.
Okay, those are some basic ones, but why not step it up? Add some blood! Lots of blood! Also, make sure to use some of these words at least three times in the story…
>Hyper-realistic
>Bloody
>Demonic
>Ghostly
>Scary
Alright, we’ve got some scary shit going on, but if the main character ran away now, the pasta would stop half-way, right? Let’s choose an excuse for them to stay around.
>”I thought it was just a glitch”
>”I thought it was just a glitch”
>”I thought it was just a glitch”
Just kidding. You get no choice on this one. Trust me, this is for the better.
Alright, now just fill in the rest of the story using more glitches (as always, consider adding more blood and hyper-realism to your story), until WHAM! Something really scary happens! This can be anything – hell, it doesn’t have to be scary. Just as long as your main character responds fittingly. Or, alternatively, not-so-fittingly.
How will your protagonist respond to the sheer creepiness? How will this story meet its conclusion?
>Throw their console out – Destroy their DS! Pulverise their Playstation! Erm, throw a TV out the window? Whatever. It works.
>AND THEN THE PROTAG DIED – Dead things are creepy. People dying are creepy. Why not kill off the protagonist? I’m sure that, with the large amount of characterization we gave them earlier, it will really shock the readers. Honest.
>YOU’RE NEXT – Did you know that all creepypasta readers have a constant fear that there’s a monster behind them? Use this to your advantage? Everyone’s terrified of walls!

Alright, now we have the main story and –
Oh?
Did you think that was finished?
Oh no, this is the fun part. Now we add some… er… personality to your story. And by ‘personality’, I mean ‘bad writing skills’. I mean, let’s face it, nobody really misses punctuation. I sure don’t.
Choose one of the following typing quirks – I mean, writing styles.
>capital letters. get rid of all your capital letters. no-one likes them at all. too old fashioned.
>WHY NOT HAVE LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS? BE NEW AND DANGEROUS. MAKE YOUR ENTIR STORY CAPITAL LETTERS. (Obviously, don’t use this one with the previous one.)
>Make Every Capital Letter Refined And Pronounced. This Makes You Seem Posh And Smart.
And at least one of these. You can have more, if you want to be EXTREME.
>Motherfucker, let’s get some fucking swears up in here. Swears are bitchin’ as shit. It makes you sound fuckin’ hip and cool. Fuck yeah.
>No punctuation ever at all because seriously having things just constantly flow is so much easier and better in every way wow
>Waht if you where unabel to spel things right? Sonds fun!
———————
Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you’ve most likely just finished writing your first video game pasta! Now just publish your beautiful (read: horrendous) story (read: crap heap), and watch it get thousands of upvotes (read: downvotes) like it deserves! Good luck!

Credit To – Yu “The Operator” Meigns

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Succession Of Nightmares

August 8, 2012 at 12:00 AM
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Nightmares.

We all have them, one time or another.

Everything has a dark side, our dreams were meant to be a place of jubilation, and contain our most wonderful fantasies.

This is kinda like an award. Some of us work our asses off all day long, and then come home to a nice cozy bed. Sleep by itself is a nice gift for our turmoils, but dreams make sleeping hard for us to want to wake up sometimes.

But there is of course a darkside…there is always a darkside.

Nightmares have a certain way of creeping up on us when we don’t want them to…its almost like they know…

Some may say that nightmares are our own fault. Watching scary movies, or reading scary stories can fuel our nightmares.

But….what if there are things out there…that can control our dreams?

What if there are beings who can purposely give us nightmares.

What if these things are there to drive us insane…to the point where we want to sleep forever.

Now is when I tell you about my nightmares…

A couple weeks ago I started to get really into reading creepy stories. All humans have this certain want of excitement…but sometimes we take it way to far. You know what I’m talking about. Surfing videos on the internet late at night, reading creepy stories, or making our own stories.

You know how it works. You sit there, tired in front of your computer. The room is dark, the voices in your head are telling you to shut off the computer and finally get some fucking sleep. But then it happens. You find a video that has a creepy description. Perhaps a video about a ghost encounter, or a video of aliens.

This is how my nightmares started.

My friend Zack has a youtube account where he plays video games and gives them commentary. You know, a “Let’s Play.”

But one day he decided to do something different. He narrated a story off of a website called “creepypasta.com.”

I have heard of this somewhere, I know I have. Its hard to surf the interent for so many years and not hear about something so popular.

He told a story of a man called “Slender Man.” Now I had obviously heard of this character. I’ve seen the MarbleHornets videos, and I’ve seen the fan art, and the so called “pictures.”

The story was interesting, and it made me want to read more, so I did.

Within a few days, I had read all the populare stories that this website had to offer. “Squidward Suicide” “Ben Drowned” “Dead Bart” “Jeff: The Killer” “The Tails Doll” “Smile Dog” And all the Pokemon hacks.

These stories…they give you a feeling of terror. You start to notice all the small things around you, all the creaks and moans. You look over your shoulder and think you see a shadow of some sort. Nothing…huh…silly you.

You finally get the courage to go to sleep, and then you start to understand the position you just put yourself in.

I understood what I was doing to myself…but I didn’t stop.

I saw them all…I saw all the creatures from those stories in my dreams.

I saw the Smile Dog try to make me spread the word…I saw Jeff telling me to go to sleep…Squidward staring at me with his bloodshot eyes…

Jerking myself awake everytime I encountered one of these freaks got old real fast.

But then, the nightmares begin to get so much more real.

No longer was I imagining the characters from the stories…but now…my nightmares were taking their own shape. Contorting themselves to make me even more uncomfortable.

One night, I was laying soundly in my bed. It was almost like an out of body experience. You see, I had a bird’s-eye view of myself. It was as if I was laying on the ceiling. I was laying on top of the covers, and my eyes were closed. I must note that I was not breathing. No snoring, no indication of my stomach rising and lowering. In fact, I was utterly motionless.

My room was pitch black as it usually is when I fall asleep, but I could see myself perfectly. Its as if I had some type of night vision, but it wasn’t all green and shit like it usually is.

Then my eyes shot wide open. It startled me a bit. I just stared up at the ceiling. It seemed as if he was looking at me, like I really was on the ceiling.

A drop fell…a ruby colored drop of blood fell onto my face. Then another…and another…and another…
The drops began to fall slow, but then they picked up speed, similiar to when rain begins to fall.

The version of myself laying on my bed then begins to smile. The blood soaks his teeth, and started to drip into his eyes. But he did not blink or close his mouth. Just let the blood fall on him.

Suddenly, the view switched to me being on the ceiling. Now I was the one laying on the bed.

On the ceiling…was a bloody, mangled, wounded version of me. My eyes were missing, and my teeth were missing as well. But I had the same smile as the version of myself on the bed.

My hands and legs were pinned to the ceiling…almost…as if I was being crucified.

Then the view began to slowly zoom in on my face. Blood still fell, and my view was being distorted. I wanted to see what was going to happen, so I tried my best to see. The view then zoomed in on my face at an alarming rate, and then I spoke.

“I am your God now.”

I woke up. Breathing fast and hard. I felt paralyzed, like I was stuck.

I felt liquid around me. Did I really just piss the bed from this nightmare? Or….or was it blood? I quickly jumped up and found out that I had knocked over a cup of tea in my sleep, and I was laying in it.

Sometimes when I have dreams I feel as if the interactions of objects in the real world affect my dream. In one dream I was being stabbed repeatedly in the arm, and I could actually kinda feel it. I awoke to my friend obnoxiously poking me in the arm with a pen. I thought that him poking me in the arm made the stabbing from the nightmare be all the more real.

Since dreams and nightmares are derived from our brains, we can experience things in our dreams that seem real. When you eat something, you can taste it. This is because you remember how the object tasted.

This dream made me not want to sleep anymore that night, so I didn’t.

But that wasn’t the end.

I had this same nightmare over and over again for a few days. Happening the same way everytime. There wasn’t anything I could do. I couldn’t change the dream even if I wanted to.

This nightmare scared me everytime. You think I would have got use to it…but I didn’t.

I began to think about ways I could avoid this nightmare. This was my first thought.

I can’t remember ever having a nightmare while I was napping during the day. So my frist plan was to sleep during the day, and stay up during the night. Hopefully this would work.

First day, no nightmare. I was relieved. I thought that I had found the solution. I had no problem sleeping during the day, I didn’t sleep much as it was already.

Second day, my plan failed. The same nightmare happened again, but this time. There was no smiling from the body on the ceiling…actually…there were no emotions at all. My head was missing…more blood fell quickly this time making the dream end faster. My body laying on the bed looked down, and my decapitated head was laying in my lap. And it was smiling.

I’m pissed now. What, I just can’t fucking sleep anymore? Fine, I won’t. I’ll stay awake! Yes, that will work. I’ll stay awake until I pass out from exhaustion. I won’t encounter the nightmare unless I absolutely have to!

I wrote this…quite a while ago…back when the nightmares first started. It’s been about a week since I decided I wasn’t going to sleep.

I’m so tired…I don’t think I can stay awake anymore. My bed…sounds so heavenly right now. I guess my plan didn’t work how I thought it would…

I’m going to go to bed now…I think I could stay up for a few more hours but…I don’t want to.

I want to see my smile…I want to see my bloody body hang from the ceiling…It sounds so interesting to me now…Oh how that blood felt so refreshing cascading on my face.

I have a bottle of pills…extra strength…I’m going to take them all with some alcohol…

I don’t want to be awake anymore. I’ve been awake for a couple days…and I now realize how horrifying it is.

I’m seeing all those creepypasta characters in real life now…I’ve gone completely fucking insane.

I know they won’t be there in my dream…they were never there before.

I’ll sleep forever…so I can look and smile at my God for the rest of days.

I just swallowed the pills…I’m going to have a quick drink, then I’m going to bed.

Why not join me?

It will be your God soon enough.

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Hymn of Valor Cove

November 16, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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When my father passed away; I received a journal given to us by our family attorney; stating that I was to receive this upon his death as stated in the will. Typical, I’m the only family member he has left and stayed in Valor Cove despite my desire to leave only because of dad and… Certain things that are out of my control; I opened up the journal to see that it had only one entry, and it was just this past month. I thought it was strange that my dad would be giving this to me, especially for one that barely even has a tenth of the notebook filled; but family is family, and according to the attorney, he explains that this journal was a way for my father to explain the things he was never able to explain while alive, and why I can never leave Valor Cove. As I opened the book and started to read; I started hearing the hymn that always played throughout the town, and always given sorrow to the townsfolk.

June 8th, 2009
My town has a very storied history that would certainly make a lot of historians beam with excitement; an important town in South Carolina during the days our country was collection of thirteen colonies, a battle site during the civil war in which the Unions drove out the Confederate forces with their tales between their legs, hell, it was even believed that pirates during the 17th century used the area that became Valor Cove as a hideout from authority. With that said, it often baffled my growing up here that the townspeople always given off the aura of uneasiness and sorry; like they wanted to leave this place but couldn’t.

As a 12 year old kid, I often took it as grown-ups being grown-ups so I never really bothered to ask why they were so gloomy. More often than not I would be playing at the local beach with the other kids and my younger brothers Reggie, age 10, and Warren, age 8, as there wasn’t much form of local entertainment that would keep us entertained outside of TV which our parents profoundly disapprove of. It was the sixties, so what constitutes fun was pretty limited. Reggie would often try to act all macho by being the star player whenever we play soccer with a few of the kids on the beach, always winning due to being bigger than the other kids, while Warren would simply just build sand castles. “Come on Clayton,” Reggie yelled at a distance, as I was sitting at a nearby table reading a book. “Put down that book and come play with us! We need one more man to play soccer!”

“Why don’t you ask Warren,” I responded with a sigh. “In case you haven’t noticed I am busy with something.”

“Fine bookworm; hey little bro, we need one more person, so come place with us.”

Warren doesn’t talk much since he’s always had bad social skills, but I heard the sounds of the children laughing and shouting goal a lot so I took the guess that Warren agreed to play with them. “Aw crap,” one of the neighborhood children cried out. “The ball is in the water!”

I looked over to the water and headed over to see what was up; apparently one of the neighborhood kids Olive had kicked it badly and it ended up a hundred feet away from the shoreline. “Sorry guys,” she said with a pout on her face. “I mishandled it.”

“No sweat,” Reggie responded. “We can just simply swim over to it.”

“Wait a minute Reggie,” another one of the kids said nervously. “Our parents never told us to go into the water, especially if we heard a certain sound.” I know what he was talking about; there’s an odd rule that the adults would always give the children when it comes to playing at the beach. Never go into the water when the hymn is heard, or you will be dragged to the bottom by nature stirred.

The hymn it refers to is something of a mystery to us kids but is known in the region; there will always be a soothing melody that is heard throughout the entire town as if the sound was being carried by the wind at random times, but nobody, not even the adults had any idea what it was… No, that’s not right; I always get the feeling that they know what it is, but they just simply refuse to tell us for whatever reason. “Oh come on you actually don’t believe in that do you?” Reggie laughed; he, Olive and two other kids jumped into the waters to get the ball, though I think they only used that as an excuse to go into the water. “Shit it is freezing! Let’s just get the ball before I chatter my teeth into dust!”

It looks as though Olive and Reggie were the only ones swimming towards the ball while Tara and John were relaxing in the wave. Suddenly, we heard something that sent a shiver through my entire body. It was a song of sorts, but I couldn’t make out the words because the waves drown them out, but I can definitely hear its pitches. It was very soothing, yet at the same time filled with such sorrow; like the singers were filled with no hope. It mesmerized me to the point that I wasn’t even paying attention to the surrounding around me, and I think everybody was in the same boat. All of the sudden, I heard this scream piercing through my eardrums which snapped me out of the trance; it was Olive who made the scream. I darted my head in the general direction. Out of the four who went into the water, only Reggie and Olive were visible above the water. “What happened; where’s John and Tara?!” I yelled at the two.

“We don’t know; something pulled them under and now there is blood everywhere!” Reggie responded. I couldn’t see it, but I did notice that the water being washed on shore has a dark red hue to it now; my god, did a group of sharks wonder into the cove? Everything was all at a haze as I tried to make sense of what was happening. “Oh god I felt something rubbing against my leg!”

“We need to swim out of here before—“Just like that Olive was pulled under by something that we can’t see.

“Olive;” Reggie yelped, even though he was only fifty feet away from us, I won’t forget the look of sheer terror Reggie’s eyes were illuminating. I wouldn’t even begin imagining myself in his situation. “I’m going after her.”

“Are you crazy?!” I yelled at Reggie, amidst the chorus of the other children begging Reggie to not stick around and swim to shore. “If you try and play hero now you’ll fucking die!” Of course my words fell on deaf ears as he just simply dived. God damn it, that idiot. Why does he do this crap all the time, trying to act all macho and be the center of attention? We all kept screaming for Reggie to swim to shore; but no one volunteered to go after him as they didn’t want to find out what is hiding in the waters and be potentially eaten. Warren was completely panicking as the minutes basically ticked by; I was forced to restrain him, kicking and screaming to let him go as Reggie is still under there. I really didn’t want to believe Reggie could possibly be dead; but there is no way I would be risking Warren’s life, not now, not ever. I was able to calm him down for a brief moment, but then Warren gasped when he spotted something washing on shore. When I saw what it was, I can already feel my heart trying to burst out of my chest from agony.

It was a couple of sneakers, both completely soaked in seawater and having a lot of red splotches of blood on them. From the looks of it they came from two people… Oh god no; one of them was Reggie’s, I recognize that mustard stain anywhere and those doodles he did on his own pair. There was simply no point in denying it now; Reggie is gone. Whatever was lurking beneath the water killed my little brother and the other kids; I was so stunned that I completely lost my grip on Warren, he ran towards the sneaker crying and screaming. All the other kids came rushing to him; some of them crying with him, others looking like deer in headlights. I just stood there; everything around me was in a complete blur, I heard adults coming towards the beach from downtown, trying their best to console the kids. My parents came over; my father hugging me tightly while mother went to go get Warren. All the while I heard the same hymn that was being sung, but this time I can hear the words more clearly.

O praise the graceful lord by blood
For then our souls be clean of sin
We brought its wrath and drowned in flood
Our sins pulled us down with a thud
Forgive us great lord and our kin
Your soldiers can take our warm skin.
I wasn’t able to sleep for a second after the incident, but for some reason I don’t think it was due to the loss of my brother; there was something… Ominous, and scary about the words in that hymn; what does it mean by the phrase ‘by blood’, what was this wrath that caused a flood. But the most troubling question thing I kept thinking about was that last verse.

Your soldiers can take our warm skin.

What were these soldiers; and what did it mean by taking our warm skin? I didn’t even want to think about it as I tried my best to close my eyes, my skin still crawling now that the hymn is playing in my head repeatedly like a broken record player. The whole town held a memorial for Reggie, Olive, John, and Tara at the beach, in which the parents talked about how much the kids were special and how losing them was such a blow not only to themselves by to the community. The Police Chief then got his turn to speak; like everybody else, he explained how much he’ll miss the kids, saying a special thing about each of the kids, but what caught my attention is that he said the kids were attacked by a Bull Shark, and that the local coast guard were able to hunt down the shark and kill it.

I had a lot of problems with that idea; there were no warnings about shark sightings on the radio, this town is nowhere near the known hotspot for shark activity Myrtle Beach, and how did they figure it was a shark attack anyhow? The police never recovered the bodies, so there is no way to tell how my little brother died. I would figure that my father would raise an objection, seeing as how he works as a local fisherman and knows a lot about these waters, so I looked at him. Not a single word escaped his mouth; he was even nodding in agreement with the chief. I didn’t understood it back then; why he was keeping silence about the obvious flaw with the Chief’s statements, but I was a kid back then so I really didn’t have much of a voice to object to.

For the next few years or so, Valor Cove tried its best to return to its form of normalcy; but I wasn’t being fooled, I can sense that the adults were hiding something about that incident but every time I brought it up they shot me down saying I should move on, even the now grown-up kids who were there with me on that day shot me down multiple times. Due to my sense of distrust with the community I started to become an outsider to them; they still talk to me and I do have friends but I know that my bond with the town was severely strained. Warren had it worse though; after the incident, it was like his state of mind had deteriorated, he never talked to anyone but me and our parents, he needed to get a lot of psychological therapy, and I thought he was going to go insane. He also had repeated nightmares that we would often talk to me about, saying they were real, of course I didn’t believe him but I really couldn’t blame him for thinking that way.

His nightmares would always involve beings that he called ‘Fish Men’, watching over him while he lay in bed. He told me he couldn’t see much since it was always dark; but he did explain that he always heard some sort of mumbling, like they were trying to communicate with him or with each other. I basically just took it as his mind slowly going over the cliff; he was there at the incident and saw them disappear with his own eyes, and he took it much harder than everyone else, even me. One day, five years after the accident while Warren and I were talking about the dreams at Hospitality, the local diner; a very clean cut guy who looked like came out of Ivy League basically butted into our conversation. “Uhm, can I help you sir?” I asked him annoyingly.

“Oh goodness me I’m sorry,” he said while adjusting his glasses. I can already tell that this guy annoys me. “Where are my manners, my name is Claus Butler, I am currently doing research on urban legends and folklore in the Southeast, and I couldn’t help but hearing in on your story.”

“Uh yeah, it’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. Butler.” I responded. “I’m Clayton Roads and this is my little brother Warren; now if you don’t mind me asking, why does our conversation warrant your attention?”

“Your fish men story, I’ve heard a lot of rumors around the state about these creatures being seen along the coastline, but nobody seems to be able to bring forth much information about them, not even what they look like. A few people I met in Charleston suggested I should go here for my research; it’s a shame that so far I have come up with dead ends though, your dreams about these fish men are in fact the only clue I had.”

For someone who looks cut out for medical school, he sure does have an interest in boogeyman tales. Though I think he could be of some use in finding out some information about the hymn. I explained to him about the weird rule this town has and the hymn itself; though I purposely neglected to inform him about that attack on the beach, the last thing I want to do is to have my brother’s name be plastered in books about some urban legends. Of course he positively beamed about this new mystery. “Fascinating, very fascinating indeed,” he said while making notes. “I’ll definitely be staying here for a while to find out more about Valor Cove’s mystery.”

He thanked me as he left the diner, he explained to me shortly before he left that he’ll be staying at the local inn while he digs up for any info regarding this mystery, so if I ever wanted to make any inquiries I would know where he be. Of course; I never really took up on his offer as I didn’t consider the hymn to be that important, and more importantly, I didn’t think it had to do with what happened five years ago. Strangely though, despite him saying that he’ll be staying in town; not once have I ever seen him anywhere in Valor Cove; not at the café, not at the library, not even at the beach. I just took it as him being extremely busy and invested in his research, so I wasn’t bothered by it in the slightest. In hindsight that was a mistake.

Seven months after I first met Mr. Butler I arrived at the beach to pay my respects after I finished cleaning my dad’s fishing vessel; it was night time so I had to use my flashlight to illuminate the beach and see where I’m going. The memories of that day never leaving my mind for a second, not the attacks, not the blood soaked shoes, not that mysterious hymn. I was standing in front of the makeshift memorial statue that commemorates the lost lives of Reggie and the other three; it was a simple looking thing, the shoes being bolted to a large slab of rock and having a plaque. The slab was buried up to the top so only shoes would be visible –don’t ask me why they did that as I wasn’t involved with the construction of it-, unfortunately it resulted in a lot of rocks and pebbles covering the surface and the plaque, so I brushed them off to read it:

May the lord watch these blessed souls in the afterlife; and let them live on in our memories.
 

Reginald F. Roads: April 1. 1952- September 9. 1962
 

Johnathan I. Andrews: November 12. 1951- September 9. 1962
 

Olive S. Park: May 19. 1953- September 9. 1962

Tara H. Willow- October 4. 1952- September 9. 1962
Ugh, again with the lord stuff. I know it’s referencing Jesus Christ, but thanks to that damn hymn I now associate the lord with something that wants my skin; in any case I headed my way back to downtown, the sounding of rocks scraping together beneath every step I took was permeating throughout the cove as if I were in an echo chamber. When I passed by the inn Mr. Butler was staying in, I noticed something rather peculiar: one of the upper floor rooms was lit up and the window was wide open… Wait, it doesn’t look like its wide open, it looks like it was broken into; was somebody trying to break into the inn? Against my better judgment I thought I should go take a look and see if something happened to Mr. Butler, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Doven; the couple had owned the inn ever since they moved down here from Virginia after Mr. Doven returned from the Second World War according to my dad, they were very nice people and always treated my little brother and I like we were their own grandkids.

When I went inside I noticed that nobody appeared to have been home; Mr. and Mrs. Doven are completely absent and the only sounds I can hear are coming from upstairs, so headed my way up there. There was this strange odor permeating the hallways, to best describe it was like a mixture of sea water and rotten fish, a smell that for those who never been on a fishing vessel would easily feel nauseated by. One of the doors at the end of the hallway is basically wide open; I really hope that isn’t Mr. Butler’s room, because it would mean that there really is some thief in here. Never the less, curiosity got the better of me and I slowly walked my way into the room. But before I even made a single step; a familiar sound came from outside:

O praise the graceful lord by blood
For then our souls be clean of sin
We brought its wrath and drowned in flood
Our sins pulled us down with a thud
Forgive us great lord and our kin
Your soldiers can take our warm skin.
God damn it not that hymn again, I tried my best to ignore it as I made my way in. The room looked like it had a major fight ravaging through the place; furniture thrown everywhere, broken glass on the floor, bed turned on its side, even scratch marks on the wall. That was the strangest thing about what happened in this room, if it was a simple thief, the state of the room would make me believe that some giant animal beast was in here. “Holy crap,” I silently whispered to myself as I inspected the main room to find any trace of life, “what the hell happened here?” As I finished looking around I heard sounds coming from behind the bathroom door; to best describe it sounded like loud chewing, gurgling, and twigs being snapped. My gut immediately told me that this was bad, something definitely ominous was lurking in there; I don’t know why I let my curiosity got the better of me, but I went to the bathroom and pulled the door wide open, hoping to surprise this bad guy and take care of him; what I saw in there immediately made all the blood drained from my body and made me frozen in place.

In the bathtub, there was a body that was completely opened up with its insides almost cleaned out, but I didn’t need to see the face to know who the corpse was laying in the bathtub: It was Mr. Butler, and he had the expression of seeing a terrifying monster, which was exactly what I was looking at now. It was something I will never forget. The thing standing in the bathtub with the body was this thing that can only be best described as a fish man; standing what looked to be over six feet tall, covered in scales that illuminated shades of blue and deep green in the bathroom light, webbed fingers with claws that would easily rip open my body if it wanted to, but it’s head… Oh god; its head. Going up from the upper arm, the scales gave way to exposed human skin, and its head looked like human being, but its mouth was replaced with wide fish lips that bared shark-like fangs, and its eyes were slightly misaligned. But that wasn’t the thing that made me horrified, what did was the face. I know that face from anywhere, even after all these years; I can never forget the face of my little brother.

Jesus fucking Christ; why does this thing have Reggie’s face? That question kept running around my head while I just stood there like a frozen idiot, its fish eyes staring right back at me, cocking its head left and right. It just stood there like it was scanning me or something, not even moving a muscle; I finally mustered up enough courage to have some word come tumbling out of my mouth. “R-Reg… Reggie?”

In an instant the thing immediately let out a bone rattling scream; without thought or reason I just bolted out of the room and down the hallway, all the while I can hear the thing chasing me; “Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit,” I cussed like a sailor having a heart attack. I nearly tripped on the stairwell and made a bee dash towards the door, bolting out and running towards my house without even glancing back to see if that thing was chasing. I was still cussing when I reached my house and immediately barged inside, slamming the door shut behind me and locking the doors. I collapsed onto the floor and vomited; of course all that sound I made woken up my parents and Warren, who basically came rushing downstairs wondering what the hell was going on?

“What’s going on,” my father asked sternly. “Did you cause some sort of trouble?”

“Dad,” I lost control of my volume at that point. “There’s a monster at the Doven in that ate a visitor from Charleston; we have to warn the sheriff about this!”

“What are you talking about,” my mother asked. “There’s no such thing as monsters. Wait a minute, Clayton, are you taking drugs?”

“I’m not taking any god damn drugs! There is this thing that has Reggie’s face and tried to kill me, we have to warn the sheriff about this before-.” Before I could finish, that thing burst through the doorways. I crawled backwards into the family so that I would not take my eyes off it. “That’s the creature with Reggie’s face! We have to go now!”

But I began to notice something’s deeply wrong here; mom, dad and Warren aren’t running away from the creature, in fact they were petting it like it was some sort of pet. “I’m sorry son,” Dad sighed. “I didn’t mean for Clayton to scare you.”

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; why the hell is mom and dad treating that thing like it is Reggie? “What are you doing?!” I yelled. “That thing killed Mr. Butler!”

“We know,” Warren silently said. “He was killed as food for Reggie and the other soldiers.”

Soldiers; what did he mean by that? There is no army base anywhere near Valor Cove unless… Are they referring to the soldiers in the hymn? Oh good god, now I understood what it meant by taking our warm skin. “W-what are these things?”

“Hush boy,” my father silently scolded me, “these are our punishments from the lord for bringing destruction upon the seas centuries ago, and now we must stay here and protect them from escaping and being unleashed on the world.”

“You mean were basically prisoners to these creatures?”

“These are not creatures,” Mom said with a sunken look. “They are your brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents, lovers and friends that have lived in Valor Cove.”

That thing really is Reggie? No… I refuse to believe it, I just can’t accept it. But then the hymn started with my parents and brother singing that damn hymn, showing that they have accepted their fates of being prisoners to this town till they reach the grave; but I heard more of the hymn this time, as I only just realize there is a second verse.

O praise the graceful lord by blood
For then our souls be clean of sin
We brought its wrath and drowned in flood
Our sins pulled us down with a thud
Forgive us great lord and our kin
Your soldiers can take our warm skin.
Soldiers born from human and sea
Only knowing the lords deep rage
Feeding them man to hear our plea
If they come to land, end we’ll see
Now we are the soldier’s great cage
Forever more; on the lords’ stage.

I closed the book and let out a deep sigh; I never knew my dad had gone through this hell when he first experienced this. I always thought that he was just simply jaded without any good reason; but being raised with the customs in Valor Cove like I have at such an early age, I guess after what happened they decided to be more truthful with future generations about the soldiers we are bound to hold. I put the book down and looked behind me to see the corpse of some poor hitchhiker who unfortunately picked a ride whose destination was for this town. Ah well; better for the food to be foreigners then the townsfolk. The hymn was still playing from god knows where; meaning that it is feeding time, no doubt the other townsfolk grabbing the corpses of other people that are not from here. I grabbed the body and headed down the stairs and out the house towards the beach; thank god this corpse isn’t heavy, otherwise I would throw out my back. Once I reached the beach there was a lot of people huddling together to see the corpses line up, about twelve in total; it looks like this will be able to least our soldiers for at least a year. I placed the corpse down and joined with the other townsfolk, waiting and watching as the fish men, carrying the faces of those they ate, started to come out of the water with their webbed feet splashing against the rocks and headed towards the corpses where they started to eat. Looking back on my dad’s journal entry, I have accepted that my fate is to remain here in this town till the end of my days, making sure to be the great cage as I watch Uncle Reggie and Uncle Warren eating the corpse I offered, knowing that if they were to leave and spread, humanity would end.

Credit To – Andrew Eden-Balfour

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Tinnitus

October 28, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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The Journal of Dr. Edwin King
————————————–
Journal Entry 01
Day: 1
Time: 0700 hours

It’s fascinating, really, how far technology has come. It’s been just over a day and I already find myself gazing in awe upon the distant majesty of our planet Earth’s moon from the port windows in the hull. The rest of the crew tease me for my tourist-like fascination with the shimmering nebulae and deep blackness through which our vessel swims for they have made similar voyages, crawling across the rings of our known universe, countless times before. However, I believe that no amount of further training at the astronaut facility could have prepared me to glimpse the eons quite like this. For I am merely a man of science, field biology research to be specific, and I have never ventured so far as to question the contents of deep space until recent discoveries by more sophisticated branches of scientific study brought those contents to my doorstep and ironically, now I to its.

You see, within the subterranean ocean layer of Uranus’ largest moon, Titania, a miraculous organism (or rather the corpse of one) was recovered by means of an automatic probe. While organic life sprouting from within the mantles of a variety of moons and planets within our solar system is nothing novel at this point in mankind’s explorations, this particular specimen has left our greatest minds puzzled and obsessed. My reasons for never involving myself in the expeditions to gather such specimens as shriveled plant life and micro bacteria from reaches of space consist of insufficient funding as well as a general disinterest; nothing could be found within those gaseous giants which could not be scooped up from the bottom of a darkened trench somewhere or plucked from the summit of a mountain until now.

While most of the information surrounding this organism is classified, I am no ragamuffin to the scientific community, as I was chosen by name for this study. However, I should not flatter myself, as ‘study’ merely means gathering a living specimen with which more information can be gathered and my participation was requested undoubtedly due to my reputation as more of a rough and tumble spelunker than a desk-worker; I have wrestled with my fair share of anacondas so I’m not too frightened of this thing. Then again, I have only had the opportunity to view this ‘thing’ through picture and video format and even still it was found by our probe deceased with minuscule traces of organic life still active. It’s a sort of worm-like creature; gelatinous and pale purple like a large, vibrant leech or slug. One of its most remarkable traits is its lack of sight and smell which is clearly reflective of its natural habitat which is these underground oceans in which only sound and sensation can guide such an organism as this. I’ve seen similar creatures such as Axolotl and the Mexican Tetra, both of which adapted to live deep within lightless caves with remarkable sustainability and specialization; such evolutionary parallels astound me and I find myself quivering with anticipation at the opportunity to view such an alien yet familiar ecosystem so far from our verdant planet.

The true marvel lies not in the organism’s environment however, but in the organism itself. For even in death, this creature secretes a minute amount of potent, clear liquid, just enough to fill a small pipette. The liquid is not corrosive, nor organic, more like a chemical release that must be some sort of defense mechanism, mating ritual, or self-sustaining fluid and thus testing on small rodents commenced with alarming results which brought biologists such as I and my singular, designated partner on the expedition, Dr. Dwight Howard, into the picture. The testing period was brief, as the fluid samples were sparse and too dissimilar to any compound our chemists could reproduce within the confines of our Earthly laboratories. However, results were achieved, and rather unnerving ones at that. Even topical exposure of the fluid secretions would induce a slow-acting state depression in the bodies of lab mice, declining all bodily activity until it reaches an absolutely catatonic if not technically “dead” state at the end of three days. Further testing with the remaining samples would show that all bodily functions in the rodents would slowly cease to function with only vague signs of struggle from the subject. It is however unknown whether this fluid simply functions as a sedative to the typical nervous system or if it is indeed lethal and intended more as a venom, produced by the organism for defensive or hunting purposes.

My mind is a whirl with images of spiders paralyzing their prey for the painstaking feeding process, leeches and mosquitoes administering anesthetic so their hosts don’t notice their gorging, and venomous caterpillars threatening creatures many times their size, all in this alien setting which no living man has yet step foot in. We will be pioneers, Howard and I, along with our three companions piloting the ship and taking every precaution in entering the moon’s mantle; Kurt MacReady, Carl Bairnes, and Julia Willard. They’re a rather polite bunch, and they’re all respected astronauts who have been in the business since NASA was shut down back in the early 2000s, but many times I feel as if Mrs. Willard is the only professional aboard this ship. She’s a very striking woman, even when wearing the standard-issue, orange jumpsuit which the pilots always wear. She is tall, with frizzy black hair tied up atop her head, ebony skin, and deep green eyes overshadowed by a stern yet understanding brow which never fails to reassure me that she’s here to do her job without an ounce of nonsense.

Kurt and Carl on the other hand seem rather unamused to be taking the trip to Titania, as they say compared to the likes of Mars, or any of the moons of Jupiter, Titania is just another “Frozen little rock,” which they evidently do not have the patience for. Mr. Kurt MacReady is an oddly gruff character, sporting a bearded thicket upon his prominent chin and a rat’s nest of short, burgundy hair. He smells of whiskey and does not particularly look at anyone with an expression other than vaguely hazy, but he has a firm handshake and took us off the ground without any issues so I’m inclined to place my trust in his training.

Mr. Carl Bairnes however, I have no doubts in. His viridian jumpsuit is just as decorated with medals as his face is with scars; I would be excited to ask more about how each mark of achievement was earned, be it of flesh or silver. He has a small tuft of black hair atop his head and his bronze flesh is riddled with protruding veins and defined musculature however…his expression truly lets you down. His silhouette is one of some great, Native American monolith of a man whereas his eyes suggest nothing more than uninteresting vacancy; it’s as if he’s constantly distracted by some invisible fly fluttering about the room. Mrs. Willard on the other hand seems interested in the more remote moons and chiefly, in the organism itself which the other pilots seem to ignore for the most part, thinking it just another organic scrap dragged back by Earth’s many probes coming and going by the month.

Dr. Howard is rather intriguing despite how introverted he seems. He’s a tall, gangly thing who’s shockingly thin with prominent cheekbones and what seems like a perpetual frown accompanied by a skeptical, arched eyebrow which rarely falters. His skin is pale in contrast with a black dress shirt which he enjoys sporting when not forced to wear his jumpsuit…which is also black. He’s a bit eclectic, but he’s very intelligent; despite appearing wholly disinterested in the crew and the expedition itself, whenever our small talk wanders to the organism which has brought us together, he becomes very animated in vocalizing his findings which seem to perpetuate as the hours go by.

We’re still close enough to Earth to receive a communication feed which Dr. Howard seems to indulge in most of the time as he demands constant updates on the status of the current tests so he may know what to look for. So far, both he and all of Earth’s finest minds are not completely sure what to make of this anomalous creature, making progress only through suspicion and hypothesis. I should enjoy this time however; my role does not quite begin until we reach the planet itself at which point I will be conducting the act of tracking down and gathering a live specimen, and thus I have plenty of days ahead of me which will consist of stargazing and reminiscing so I expect to be writing again soon within the next day or so.

One more thing, just something that has been bothering me lately. Though I do not consider myself an anxious person, and I have never been one to turn down an opportunity to further the cause of modern science at risk of my own health, there’s something that Kurt said over our first lunch together. I had expressed gleeful curiosity at the concept of being the first to even experience how this creature interacts with human beings, if at all and he responded with what I can only describe as superstitious-sounding bitterness, he said, “I respect your enthusiasm, but we’re just the next in what will probably be a long queue of guinea pigs. Those dead rats at the facility were like the first men to drink anthrax, we’re merely giving it another try to affirm it was the poison that killed him.” I’ve never honestly had reason to doubt the decisions of my higher-ups because if they have any definite goal, it’s profit. Money in my field, however, stems from innovation and I have never encountered any issues with seeking innovation outside of a few nasty spider bites and sleepless nights in Mexico. Perhaps Mr. MacReady is not a man who’s in it for the experience, but then again I can’t shake the feeling that he may have a point. It is rather strange that we were shipped off to this distant, unexplored moon with only minor animal testing having preceded the expedition, though I’d be willing to attribute that to a budgeted time frame.

Will update soon with any further information from Earth and/or my crew mates.

– King

Journal Entry 02
Day: 3
Time: 2200 hours

We’re coming upon the fourth day of our exhibition and the hours are already beginning to bleed into one another as the pale dot of Jupiter looms unblinking within the inky sea ahead of us. Despite my pained desire to revel in my fascination in the great beyond, I have forfeited the notion that this particular group can be engaged socially; I guess I came just a few decades too late to this whole space business. For when I was a child, digging up worms in my backyard, the final frontier seemed to me like the domain of the unwavering ambitious and unmistakably wealthy, neither of which I identified with at the time. Yet as I topically breeze through the extensive scientific journals published within the last century about extraterrestrial life sent from back home, I can reluctantly admit that biology is no longer subjective of Earth and there are countless ecosystems unexplored among these gaseous giants.

I must thank Houston, however for supplying me with some form of reading material for unlike my crew mates, I’m not particularly accustomed to such prolonged exposure to…plastic. How I long to plunge my boots into some warm, marsh water and feel the thick, unfiltered air weighing comfortably within my lungs but for now I have a task ahead of me and I must make do with the information feed while it is still an available resource. You see, Houston has warned us that upon passing to the dark side of Jupiter, we will have extended beyond the reach of our furthest satellites, effectively cutting off any communication with Earth and its databases. While I can confidently say that the majority of my applicable knowledge will be readily available regardless of written resource, Dr. Howard seems to be taking the situation rather severely; he’s spent most of the past three days buried in his monitors or conference calls, ensuring that not a single stone is left face down when he reaches Titania.

While I’m mostly feigning busywork to seem at least slightly useful in this time of anticipation, I have learned quite a few interesting things about what organic life has been found on the likes of Mars and Saturn. Specimens have ranged from fragile microbes, alive for mere minutes before dissolving ferociously to vaguely plant-like, prokaryotic matter which crumbles into dust when exposed to oxygen but they all seem to retain similar characteristics; chemical reactions which seem inexplicable yet similar to various processes found within our planet’s atmosphere. For example, one Dr. Percival Burroughs wrote a rather dull yet undeniably informative journal exploring the interactions of a strange, organic “metal” found within the mantle of Saturn with human skin cells. Extensive experimentation beginning with swabs of skin cells and concluding ethically with active exposure to the flesh of a living human consistently displayed a violent reaction similar to some kind of hyper-accelerated lead poisoning. Now I could not tell you what use mankind would have with a rock which can wreak prolonged mental destruction upon those in contact with it, but I do hope we can manage to keep it out of the hands of the military.

It’s fascinating, really, how unknown and perplexing the substance of these alien matters can be while simultaneously mirroring effects and interactions which we can actively observe in nature. It’s got me thinking more and more about what this mysterious organism could be reflective of in our familiar environment and what it could indicate about what we’re bound to find within the depths of Titania. Dr. Howard has affirmed that further monitoring of the mice exposed to the organism’s secretions back on Earth have shown gradually decaying vital signs and general stagnation. There are countless parallels to be drawn in the face of the systematic organ failure or whatever it can be classified as, (Howard is unwilling to accept any of my theories as plausible without conclusive test results) but in my studies I have encountered one puzzlingly similar creature; the black widow spider. Its paralytic venom swiftly overtakes the body of its prey to prepare it for consumption and when introduced to the bloodstream of something far larger than it (a human), localized paralysis, extreme pain, and even death are all possibilities. While it is a frightening prospect that we may be chasing some sort of extraterrestrial killer leech, the suggestion is merely incipient and as of right now we do not know nearly enough about the current test subjects to make any surefire conclusions about the effects of the organism’s fluid.

In fact I am curious about what sort of ecosystem would facilitate a predatory “slug” which utilizes paralytic venoms to capture or immobilize prey. Few aquatic organisms rely on venoms or poisonous secretions for obvious reasons of fluids dissipating in water, so what is this creature’s function? Is it a hunter or perhaps it IS a defense mechanism, produced within the body of this otherwise hapless little alien to prevent its untimely consumption by some larger, more formidable creature which lurks within the subterranean depths of Titania. If there’s anything I learned diving in Australia, it’s that there’s always a bigger fish and I’m quivering with excitement just imagining what Megalodons may lurk past that grayish spot which is Jupiter, slowly approaching upon the indefinite horizon.

Mrs. Willard has just given us two hours before we must report to the hull for a crew meeting, and I’ll be glad to share my theories with the rest of the crew so long as Dr. Howard’s continued contact with Houston does not discredit my hypotheses. I will return with the verdict of the team and any additional resources I can manage to squeeze from Earth’s data banks before we detach ourselves from humanity altogether and venture bravely into the unknown as many have before us. Jupiter is clearly in sight now, and I’d better move to the hull before Bairnes becomes cross with me again; he’s a military man and does not have time for nonsense.

– King

Journal Entry 03
Day: 4
Time: 1900 hours

To say in short, it has been a maddening day. It began as I spoke of earlier, with a crew meeting to map out our course of action, and it concluded mere minutes ago with a raucous and meaningless quarrel between Mr. Bairnes, Dr. Howard, and myself. You see when I proposed my theory of a predatory presence beneath the crust of Titania, I was met with rather rude and unexpected sneering from Dr. Howard. He pointed out that nothing has been recovered from beyond Earth’s atmosphere outside of dead plant matter, vaguely metallic compounds, and bacteria, all of which are to be expected from such barren environments. He refuted that even if these, “slimes” (as he referred to them) were remotely worth researching, even Uranus has not shown signs of a developed ecosystem so why should its moons? I retorted that perhaps the sophistication of the organism suggests a more sophisticated environment; that there are more similarities than differences between this creature and those of Earth. However, when I began to reference my materials and experience, I was met with only further jest from Mr. Bairnes as he began laughing about, “Giant spiders and caterpillars.” (A truly mature little menagerie I have found here). And though I assured him that if my hypothesis proved true, it would be no laughing matter and that additional measures would have to be taken to ensure the safety of the crew and the expedition, none could take me seriously from thence forth. Now granted, my ideas may seem a bit drastic seeing as we have uncovered little from even the largest of planets in our solar system, but is the danger not even worth CONSIDERING?

Anyway, it took Mrs. Willard nothing more than a sharp glare to silence the two, followed by an apology for the actions of Bairnes as they apparently have a history of working with one another and Dr. Howard merely returned to his quiet demeanor of smug disinterest. Looking across the small, polymer plastic table around which our party was gathered, I realized that hers was the only face I could see patience in; Bairnes and Howard looked like sour-faced children whom had just been scolded by a teacher, and MacReady had still said nothing, too busy picking his teeth with his fingernails. (I cannot tell whether MacReady is genuinely unqualified or merely odd). Yet even still, Mrs. Willard enlightened me to the fact that Bairnes would be supplying what little protection we would need while it was to be expected of Dr. Howard and me to work together in ensuring a safe procedure. She told us to ‘get along’ to which Dr. Howard was visibly detested to.

I protested that this WAS me ensuring a safe procedure; that the prospect of potentially dangerous organisms must be addressed, but Howard was swift in rebuking me once more. We disputed the lack of evidence in what I can recall as an ungraceful manner; shouting and wagging fingers at one another to no coherent end. It was only until we received an urgent transmission from Earth about the progress of the experiments, to which Howard very proudly accepted. However, after about 10 minutes of annoyed mannerisms and a generally irritable tone of voice, he returned to the table with unnerving yet unsurprising news (to me): all subjects exposed to the organism in testing became unresponsive as of the night before with no vital signs to be recorded.

Now I’m not a competitive man by any means, and thus I was not preparing to deliver any vengeful, “I-told-you-so.” Instead I’m shaken by the implications of this recent development and what it may suggest as far as my theories about this alien ecosystem; not only are the secretions paralytic but they are lethal upon prolonged exposure. Dr. Howard’s defeat was not long lived however, as he immediately began viciously covering his tracks with excuses and accusations of which I was unwilling to pay any attention to. For not only were his shrill babblings bothersome, they paled in comparison to the realization that we were en route to a planet inhabited by dangerous creatures with insufficient time as well as materials to formulate an antidote to their venom.

Houston has ensured us that we should be safe as long as we remain within our suits and take all necessary precautions in our decent into the mantle of Titania yet these final words, repeated by Dr. Howard as he ended the transmission, echoed emptily throughout the hull. The room fell eerily quiet and the entire table shifted to look at me expectantly as if I were retaining some valuable information from them. I had a hard time vocalizing any response to the announcement, as the reality of the situation took me slightly off guard and I found myself stuttering quite ravenously until Mr. MacReady interrupted me, speaking for perhaps the second time since I met him. To me, Kurt MacReady from the beginning seemed more like an action movie protagonist than an astronaut and the manner in which he addressed the crew did nothing less than affirm my impressions. He let a heavy fist fall to the table with a startling thud as he barked at us to stop babbling and keep on task; that we have been given a very simple mission which should not be complicated by a little bit of extraterrestrial ooze. We were all taken aback by his assertiveness and not a word was uttered as he lumbered back to the cockpit having sufficiently roused us from our brief state of panic.

Dr. Howard and Mr. Bairnes simultaneously stood to leave, spitting their individual businesses they must attend to before pausing briefly and looking out towards the port windows. Mrs. Willard had already risen from her seat and was standing before the windows, gazing out into the blackness which was slowly becoming thicker around our ship as the blazing sunlight dimmed. The three of us approached the window as well, stricken with a silent hopelessness as we watched the gargantuan giant Jupiter slowly eclipse the sun, marking the twilight of our communication with Houston and anyone for that matter. The tension and concern flowed throughout the darkened hull like a thin fog, rolling in around our ankles; just gentle enough to be invisible yet cold enough for all to notice.

I have made it a goal of mine to continue work with what information we have, I’m sure Dr. Howard will do the same. Dangerous or not, we’re headed for Titania and we shall return with enough specimen to revolutionize the fields of chemistry and biology forever. Yet there’s still a chill crawling up my spine from time to time, despite all of my experience with myriads of terrific creatures. There’s still a growing blot of uncertainty upon this page of my mind that ignores my knowledge, casts my intuition aside, and makes light of my PhD. This is no Black Widow, this is no Mamba, no Killer Bee, no this is nothing remotely as dangerous, in fact its venom takes many days to become lethal…but perhaps it’s just that; that I have never seen anything like it that disturbs me so.

I plan on updating in a couple of days as soon as Uranus is in sight for I should have a better understanding of the situation when I’m given some time to make more sober deductions. I know I should attempt to share my work with Dr. Howard and perhaps come to some conclusion about how best to avoid unnecessary contact with the organism, but at the moment I’m still rather prickly about the whole situation. Nevertheless, it must be done for the sake of the expedition.

Perhaps I’ll bring him a drink or fourteen.

– King

Journal Entry 04
Day: 6
Time: 1800 hours

The past two days have been exhilarating to say the least and with all the note-taking I have done, my carpals are screaming at me to give this blasted journal another day or two’s rest. I can’t however; there’s far too much that’s been accomplished between myself and Dr. Howard since we resolved our differences over wine and a handful of Xanax yesterday. The man has a rainbow of vibrant capsules and bright pill bottles strewn out across his desk, most of which I recognized as benign anti-anxiety meds like Valium and Xanax but also more intense names such as Vicodin and Prozac. He apologized for his actions as well as the disastrous mess, explaining that he probably was not the best chemist to be sent up for this mission due to his severe anxiety and brutal migraines, but despite that he’s trying his best to carry out his duties. I had not considered these factors before and I felt rather guilty having responded so aggressively to his abrasiveness the day before; I apologized myself. At that point we concluded to exchange our research and come up with a more applicable course of action to which I was met with puzzlingly slim findings from Dr. Howard’s part. Apparently the last transmission from Houston marked a dead end for his research, as scientists from Earth had given him nothing but inconclusive data and vague hypotheses about the chemical compound in the small time he had in contact with them.

Though the organism is alien and its secretions are a compound never before encountered by man, I still found it rather difficult to believe that all of Earth’s best minds could not sort out at least some classification for it. I brought my doubts to the table and Howard responded with great distaste, claiming that he had been hounding Houston since day one in attempts to coax the flow of information along which seemed to be stopped up by something; it seemed strange that Houston would not give them even their slightest suspicions if it would mean assisting in their mission. Anyway, in our current situation of radio silence, we are forced to work with what little knowledge we have acquired on our own in order to ensure the safety of the crew and the expedition.

All Howard knew for sure was that it must be a neurotoxin which can attack the central nervous system directly by means of topical exposure. This would relate it to something along the lines of a vastly expedited form of metal poisoning which I found rather interesting, bringing up how common of a theme that seems to be among extraterrestrial matter. However, Howard refuted that conclusion on the grounds that the neurotoxins found on Saturn and the like produced a variety of other symptoms to suggest the relation to our understanding of metals, while this organism’s fluids create a slow and nearly symptomless decline in the subject’s condition. “This organism is far more sophisticated than those inanimate samples; it’s specialized and remarkably effective in its function whatever that may be,” he claimed. I realized now why he was so quick to dismiss my theories that night at our crew meeting, they seemed so obvious yet so blatantly overlooked by Houston to the point where they must have already been tested and disproved.

I posed my theory once more, “There must be a purpose however. When it’s a geological compound, its chemical properties are merely a reflection of its environment but when it’s a living organism, there’s almost always a function to such properties. Where there is an ecosystem there are bound to be predators and prey; we just have to find out which one our little alien is.” He was reluctant at first in accepting my proposed direction of study, but in time we both submitted to the inevitabilities of scant information and the vibrant, bluish-green dot awaiting our approach on the inky horizon. There is a mere 40 hours resting between us and Uranus, and another 5 will place us on the surface of its largest moon and our destination, Titania.

We began concocting a plan of action revolving around the possibility that the organism is either a threatening predator which we must not provoke, or merely a dangerous creature which we must avoid physical contact with altogether. Thinking back to what information Houston could not supply us with, we determined that the only distinction to be made would be whether or not the fluid is corrosive or if it has some delivery system within the organism. If the organism does in fact have a means of “attacking” its prey with its venom then it could easily be marked as a predator and dealt with by means of luring it into some kind of trap. However, if it is corrosive or only effective when introduced directly into the bloodstream, it will be clear that the organism has no means of utilizing the venom in an aggressive manner, rather it would be used as a defensive measure to fend off predators. If we found the latter to be true, then our only task would be to wear fully protective suits when leaving the ship to acquire a live specimen. It may just be a chore finding it within the subterranean waters if it is prone to hiding from potential predators.

We concluded our session of brainstorming and preparations with a rather satisfying consensus, achieved with such little real data on the subject. It gives me hope in fact, hope for the future when such different fields of study can come together in the name of science and the furthering of collective knowledge. It’s uplifting too; despite how vague our hypotheses may be, we still accumulated a more sound pool of theory and information than was supplied to us by all the scientific minds back at Houston. It’s so elementary, really: I will leave the ship first to study the terrain and either find an organism to bring back to the ship (as the original plan stood) OR find signs of organisms previously visiting where we will touch down. These signs will include things along the lines of disturbed water, animal-like tracks, or some sort of organic matter within the water itself with which a lower creature could exist upon. If I encounter none of these, responsibility will fall to Dr. Howard to take samples of the water itself and determine if there are traces of the alien fluid within it; if there are, we will have a means of studying its properties aboard the ship before searching for the organism itself and if not, we will at least know that the fluid either dissipates in water or that there are none of the organism living within the water. The plan is fundamentally sound, and we would only require the help of Mr. Bairnes in the event that no traces of the organism are found in the water or in my initial search, at which point Dr. Howard and I would need to venture deeper into the environment to find a living specimen in hiding.

However, upon making our victorious stride to the cockpit to announce our progress, we discovered that our news would need to wait on more demanding developments. These developments involved the status of the ship and how the expedition could be compromised if they are not dealt with immediately and before we make our final approach. Mrs. Willard, who is apparently the more able-bodied engineer of our two pilots, has declared mere minutes ago that she will be examining the exterior landing gear and that artificial gravity will remain off for the duration of the process; an irritating parameter yet necessary to make transitions outside of the ship more smooth. I will be unable to write effectively during this time and Mrs. Willard is unsure of how long the process will take, but considering how anxious I am about the precarious uncertainty upon which our ship slowly descends, I will certainly update as soon as possible with the verdict on our condition.

Our plans were introduced with the blunt demands of Mr. MacReady, “So do you two at least have a plan yet?” To which Dr. Howard and I answered with a rather anticlimactic, “Yes.” That was all MacReady and Bairnes needed to feel secure at the moment and frankly, despite our disappointment, I cannot find it in me to disagree with them; the situation seems maddening enough to be so far beyond the contact and assistance of Earth.

For now, all we can do is await Mrs. Willard’s return.

– King

Journal Entry 05
Day 7
Time: 1500 hours

Mrs. Willard returned this morning in a blaze of fury. Her face was bright crimson from the artificial oxygen or unadulterated rage, I cannot be sure, but what I can determine is that it’s no positive sign for the condition of our ship. She wordlessly trudged into the cockpit, demanding that Bairnes leave her with MacReady, taking us all aback with the abrupt change in her typically cool-headed attitude. Bairnes complied however, joining Dr. Howard and I in a curious huddle outside of the cockpit with his shoulders shrugged in obliviousness. There was no hope in eavesdropping as the doors are all sealed tightly, locking even sound into each individual room throughout the ship, so we collectively decided to await enlightenment of the situation in the hull which Mrs. Willard would undoubtedly pass through on her way out of the cockpit. As we waited, we indulged Mr. Bairnes on the details of our plan and his potential role if results come up slim to which he responded well, not having many expectations as to his role outside of appearing on the mission as a formal precaution; an “insurance policy,” as he referred to himself.

After an hour or so, the doors hissed open with an accompanied cacophony of shouting and irritable debate following Mrs. Willard from inside the cockpit. Nothing was discernable from the hull save for Willard barking a single accusation before spitefully thrusting her fist into the control panel for the door, cutting them off, “…ing conspiracy theories! We’ve got to figure this out before we take a Titanian nosedive, not point needless fingers!! I’m going back out, and I’m cutting off communication; I’m tired of this bullshit.” We all stood at her reentry like speechless children as she continued past us with her helmet tucked under her arm and without so much as a word as she turned the corner for the airlock vengefully.

The doors to the cockpit reopened as MacReady slowly lumbered out with a coiled scowl on his face and spiteful disregard in his eyes. His head turned towards the direction of the airlock, he marched over to our group crowded around the table in the center of the hull, still standing dumbfounded. Without even the slightest glance in our direction, he swiped a bottle of wine from a nearby, white plastic coffee table and with a masterful flick of his wrist he withdrew a small pocket knife from his coat and pried out the cork to take a long swig. We looked on in confusion and a sort of estranged awe at the demeanor of the man, wondering how on Earth this man was designated the pilot for such a valuable mission. As if in response to our silent criticism, MacReady addressed us with a harsh grunt as he wiped his beard on his sleeve, still never giving us a moment’s eye contact, “Quick gawking and do something productive.” As he huffs his commands at us angrily, he raises his eyes to look past us and out the Hull windows at the bluish giant staring directly back at him with such inhuman aggression. We all turned in tandem to look upon Uranus which now towered before us, with what could only be 26 or so hours remaining between us and Titania; a clock which ticks in gargantuan strokes as Mrs. Willard toils away in something we bystanders cannot understand.

As we gazed forebodingly into the unwavering eye of the planet, I heard a grunted, “Hopeless,” from MacReady as he shuffled away from the table in an echoing chorus of a pocket knife clacking shut and the distinct hiss of the cockpit doors opening and closing again. While I can’t say he’s wrong for doubting our collective ability to act in this precarious situation considering we’ve been able to do nothing since then but gossip about possible conflict between our pilots as well as MacReady’s suggested drinking habits, they haven’t told us anything about our status nor what we can do to help in the matter. However, even if our brazen captain were to indulge us as to the issues which they have encountered with the ship, Mrs. Willard has disconnected her communications with the cockpit and thus her knowledge of the ship’s condition must go unheard until she concludes her repairs; who knows how long that will take. I’ll tell you who, MacReady does, and frankly I’m tired of his childish attitude; this is neither the time nor place to be keeping secrets bottled up from those whom they would affect the most.

I must say, this entire expedition has been defined by a general lack of information. Houston has supplied us with little in the way of novel developments, Dr. Howard made few definite conclusions on his own time, and now even our engineers refuse to inform us on where we stand or…float rather. It’s driving me mad, really, as if nobody aboard this ship nor back on Earth wish to LEARN anything from this experience; I feel less like a field biologist and more like an overpaid fisherman at this point. I never thought I would be in a position to say this considering how much of an honor it was to be summoned by name for this mission, but truly I just want it to be over with. I want to find the damn thing and hurry on back so I can breathe some real, unadulterated air, maybe do some real fishing for lampreys in the Great Lakes like the old days.

Those days feel all the more enticing the longer I spend in this over sized plastic tube. Patience is running thin with the lot of us, and I only hope that Mrs. Willard finishes up by tonight and gives us a calm and collected verdict which we can work with. There should be around 30 hours remaining before we touch down on Titania’s surface and the other two have gone to their rooms for early sleep which I’m sure we all need, though MacReady still hasn’t left the cockpit. I too will retreat to my quarters as I’ve been writing for a couple of hours now and don’t feel it necessary for me to await Mrs. Willard’s return; I’m sure MacReady will be first to receive her.

So exhausted. I’ll have to update as soon as I awaken as I’m sure it will be when Willard returns with news and I have no intention of waiting much longer for our two delightful pilots to indulge us. I do apologize for my edginess, I guess we’ve all caught a bit of cabin fever in our time up here. Nevertheless, we have no choice but to stick with each other, at least until we acquire the specimen and get off the ground.

Should be simple enough.

– King

Journal Entry 06
Day: 8
Time: 0100 hours

Middle of the night, something woke me up. I swore I heard the recognizable click of a door opening down the hall followed by some footsteps. I stepped out momentarily to investigate to no avail and though I may just be groggy, nothing seemed to have changed in the hull since I had left it earlier; in fact the door leading to our quarters’ was still open as I remembered accidently leaving it. Mrs. Willard instructed me to leave it shut, but I always felt no harm in my forgetfulness, and thus made no attempts to amend the habit in the few days I would be aboard.

I’m back in my bed and beyond brutalized by tiredness. It must have been MacReady returning to his quarters, though I couldn’t remember hearing those noisy cockpit doors. Then again, it could have been only the proximity of the doors within the quarters which awoke me, and thus I wouldn’t have noticed any previous sounds. I mustn’t let it worry me, I already have far too much to think about, and things going bump in the night may drive me to borrow some “supplements” from Dr. Howard.

Let’s hope I stay asleep this time.

– King

Journal Entry 07
Day: 8
Time: 0900 hours

Enlightened, famous, perhaps even rich were among many things I had hoped to become though the process of this expedition. One position I could have never predicted myself in was hostage. That’s right, I am now a hostage on this ship, along with Dr. Howard and Mr. Bairnes at the hands of our buffoonish, drunkard captain MacReady. We’re currently seated around the table once more within the hull as MacReady stands in the corner of the room armed with irrational fury and a loaded revolver. He’s been ceaselessly barking questions at us like some crime drama cop until now and nether of my companions have been at all entertained with the performance while I must admit, I’m probably white as a sheet; I’ve never been good with authorities.

Allow me to explain in further detail, though I’m not sure how much time I have to write before MacReady feels it necessary to demand more answers from us. I woke up before the others this morning and left my quarters in the direction of the hull, hoping for new developments, however upon opening the door to the hull, there was only MacReady seated at the table facing the door. His presence startled me, but what truly took me aback was that he seemed to be awaiting my entry with a gun resting on the table before him and, as the others joined me in the doorway, preparing to enter the room, MacReady shouted at us all to stand right where we were. He then lifted the gun, rose from the table and instructed us to sit while he stood at the helm of the table. Bairnes protested, but MacReady made it very clear that tensions were higher than we had anticipated, and that he wasn’t unprepared to deal with them if necessary.

Apparently Mrs. Willard hadn’t returned to the ship last night, in fact she hadn’t at all because the line securing her to the outside of the ship had been remotely detached with Mrs. Willard nowhere to be found. MacReady claims that performing such an override while someone was attached to the line would require experience with the mechanics of the ship, implying that one of us is not who we say we are. I saw this as an opportunity to determine exactly what she was doing outside of the ship, and though it may not have been wise to assert myself to an armed man, he indulged us all the same.

He informed us that Mrs. Willard had a suspicion about the condition of the landing gear as nothing showed up for them in a diagnostic check of the ship’s systems, and she had left the ship to investigate. She had returned to the cockpit with the aggravating news that the landing gear had in fact been tampered with and reprogrammed as to avoid the ship warning us about it. This was clearly an inside job, MacReady claimed, and though Mrs. Willard disagreed with him she still went back out in attempts to remedy the situation. He grimly stated however, that she was unsuccessful, and whoever cut her line did it too long ago so that nothing could be done to rescue her from drifting to her demise. Thus MacReady believes that his suspicions have been affirmed and all that’s left to do is to find the culprit and force them to reverse the damage which they have inflicted upon the ship and ensure a safe landing which is less than 10 hours away at this point.

Bairnes grew more aggressive the more MacReady explained, demanding to know why damaged landing gear would make any difference and why someone would want to sabotage such a simple mission. MacReady explained that while the ship can enter the planet’s atmosphere with damaged landing gear and make a relatively safe descent, the ship cannot physically LEAVE the atmosphere if the landing gear cannot retract fully as the aerodynamics would be thrown off dramatically, granting the ship insufficient velocity needed to leave the moon’s gravitational field. Therefore, unless the traitor was found, there will be no leaving Titania once we landed.

Though Bairnes simply appears smug and irritable, Dr. Howard is beginning to worry me. He is obviously beginning to experience panic, and though he’s demanded that MacReady allow him to return to his room for his medication, six chambers still stand between him and his quarters. I’ve begun to notice minute twitches and ticks, and his overall demeanor is frighteningly pale and flighty as if he were slowly losing his grasp of the situation the louder MacReady’s tone crescendos.

There seems to be an argument sparking between Dr. Howard and Mr. MacReady. I’m afraid I have to put my journal down and make an attempt to calm Dr. Howard before he has a panic attack or worse, gets himself shot.

Wish me luck.

– King

Journal Entry 08
Day: 10
Time: not known

As I had expected, the air is frigid on the surface of Titania to the point where even filtered oxygen makes me shiver as it flows into my helmet. My head is dizzy and my body is numb though I can’t say so much for my companions; strewn about the hull like discarded ragdolls. I must have been unconscious for about a day, maybe more but I cannot be sure as the ship’s Earth clock along with all other automatic functions have been destroyed in the crash. Anyway, I have only had time to drag myself over to check the grim state of my companions and write this short record of the disastrous occurrences of the past day.

I’m not sure whether or not oxygen is still being consistently produced in the ship, but just to be sure I fitted myself and any living crew members with helmets. By any, I mean Bairnes and MacReady; Dr. Howard is dead by a bullet in his torso. A certain amount of hope has been extinguished with my fellow scientist’s life, as there is none else capable of identifying the hostility of this environment than he. I can examine the ecosystem as much as I like but it’s still not Earth, it’s still uncertain whether or not my knowledge even applies here; only educated analysis of the organism’s secretions can determine whether or not we should panic.

Our ship crashed rather close to what can only be described as a cave, as it is large enough for a man to enter upright and seems long enough to be an entrance to some inner cavern. This must be our drones’ means of accessing the subterranean oceans beneath the crust of the moon, by boring out a massive hole inward though it’s strange, as if this entrance had been made by multiple machines, not the single drones we sent to each moon of any given planet. Nevertheless, there will be no spelunking to be done until the rest of the crew awakens, or at least until Mr. Bairnes does; Mr. MacReady seems to be in rough shape, perhaps even critical condition from his outburst which resulted in our bumpy landing.

Dr. Howard lashed out in his immense anxiety, claiming that the mission wasn’t even worth it at this point and if the ship were to break up in the atmosphere, so be it. MacReady did not take to this well and nearly jammed the revolver down his throat, bellowing at him like some kind of rabid beast about how he must be the traitor amongst them. Bairnes reacted swiftly to the situation, bounding over the table like a burly jackrabbit, grabbing hold of the hand in which MacReady held his gun and pulling it back in an attempt to point it away from Howard but to no avail. As Dr. Howard scrambled to retreat from his chair, the surprise of Bairnes’ attack startled MacReady and clenched his finger around the trigger, sending Howard back across the floor clutching his rib cage. Bairnes and MacReady proceeded in their brawl as Bairnes disarmed our captain, throwing the firearm away and into the open cockpit where they would both scramble to gain an advantage. While they occupied themselves, I dove for Dr. Howard in hopes that the wound was not fatal and though it merely punctured his pelvis, the man wailed in pain like a pitiful creature caught in a bear trap. He was losing blood swiftly and as I attempted to raise him upright and bring him to a medical kit, the entire room was flooded with vermilion light and blaring sirens. I could hear grunts and shouts erupting from the cockpit and adding to the raucous din of stimulus surrounding us; my head was spinning.

Finally, Bairnes stumbled from the open cockpit doors, clutching his ribs with one hand through a torn up sleeve and MacReady’s pocket knife in the other, visibly caked with crimson. He blurted across the room to me with disgruntled haste to hold on to something as he himself knelt and clung to the module for the cockpit doors, they must have accidentally triggered some emergency landing protocol in their flurry and I now dizzily searched for something to cling to. I dragged Dr. Howard’s screeching corpse across the floor to the table at the center of the room which was bolted to the floor, latching my free arm around its base. All I remember is the deafening clamor of those sirens singing out in symphony with Dr. Howard’s agonizing screams. It was a hellish ride, I assure you.

And now I find myself here, after many hours of unconsciousness alone aboard this ship with the lifeless corpse of Howard mere feet away from me, gazing blankly at the ceiling, Bairnes breathing barely shallow breaths in an unresponsive state, and MacReady unconscious as well within the cockpit of the ship, bleeding out slowly from multiple nonlethal stab wounds in his legs and belly. It’s so unbearably silent now, save for a distant ringing in my ears that must be a result of the impact, but I can’t help but feel rather shell shocked from such a calamity. It’s also so dark here, on this moon which is to be expected of Titania as it is so far from the sun yet I had not expected it at all and I’m painstakingly writing by the light of a blinking emergency warning which was triggered when the entrance to our quarters was caved in during the crash. This also means that we don’t have access to Dr. Howard’s medical equipment for use on Mr. MacReady if his condition worsens. I am however reluctant to even reenter the cockpit with that violent man much less tend to his flesh wounds.

We will more than likely need to move as soon as the two awaken, as the ship will soon run out of its stored oxygen and a CO2 buildup is something which we shaken men don’t need to worry about at this point. We’d might as well salvage the mission if we can, as a rescue ship will be sent out within the next few days and if we have something to show for ourselves, this disaster will have at least not been in vain. I can only hope that the situation is not as I had feared in which case CO2 and pocketknives are the least of our concerns.

I will update if and when we find ourselves in a more steady condition though it will have to be by the light of night vision which may be difficult. I’m not sure what lies within that darkened cave in the near distance, but I can’t imagine it will hop in our laps and purr like a cat.

– King

Journal Entry 09
Day: 10
Time: must be nighttime on Earth

Blackness, nothing but all-consuming blackness. This cavern, this oceanic grotto is stunning but I wish I could enjoy it in a shade other than neon, night vision green. However, I can’t complain considering our circumstances have improved drastically from battered bodies to huddled and whimpering sods. Bairnes and I managed to drag MacReady out from the cockpit, away from the ship and into cave over the course of what must have been five hours without a budge from him outside of shallow breathing. Using half a flask of whiskey, we soaked a small stack of books and let them ablaze in what was the most pathetic fire I have ever seen, and I have camped in the Amazon before during the rainy season. My survival training has come in rather handy in this particular situation, as it was needed to patch up MacReady and maintain the fire despite it not giving off enough light to explore the shores of the water.

The ocean itself extends off into the darkness in all directions and it’s impossible to tell how deep it is nor at what point it drops off. We’re also rendered ignorant as to how safe the water is to even touch much less drink without the help of Dr. Howard whom we were forced to leave with the wreckage of our ship. Dr. Howard and Mrs. Willard were the only two individuals on this expedition whom I found myself able to speak to freely and though Bairnes has shaped up to be a rather agreeable man, I cannot find myself any more socially apt around him than MacReady, and thus the day has been long and wordless to the point where I have almost completely lost track of time.

I have informed Bairnes that I still plan on scouting the area for any signs of hostile life, or perhaps the organism itself and that I wish for him to accompany me just in case. Bairnes agreed but showed tentativeness at the prospect of leaving MacReady unsupervised which is understandable considering the damage he’s already done to our crew and the expedition; I’m not prepared to return to another standoff over the campfire with the current state of my nerves.

I figured it would prove wise to bind MacReady’s hands and search him for weapons in case he decides to go rogue on us while we’re fumbling around in the dark. Bairnes also suggested that we revoke his night vision attachment from his helmet to ensure that he does not wander off and thought I found this measure questionable, we don’t exactly have time to debate; I’d rather have peace of mind than indulge my empathetic urges right now.

As I struggle to write this by the weak, grainy glow of the night vision attachment, Bairnes is silently roping the unconscious MacReady’s wrists with a length of wire from the ship; how grateful I am that he has yet to awaken and this task had not turned into a wrestling match. Bairnes asked about the notebook earlier and I told him about the log I have been keeping throughout the expedition, how I long to return to Earth and publish it as either a progressive documentary or an action-adventure novel, whatever people are willing to believe. He chuckled at this comment and asked to read it while we walked though I refused, he seemed rather insistent on borrowing the notebook in fact; strange. Anyway, we’ll be off momentarily and though I wish I could make more meticulous preparations, there is little I can do outside of calming myself mentally as I seem to be experiencing a bit of panic; my breathing has become shallow and there is a knot in my chest which becomes tighter as the minutes lurch on. What lies on the banks of this gargantuan, stagnant pool is just beyond me but I get the feeling that something will be waiting for us and whether it is predator or prey, I am unsure.

Mr. Bairnes has returned with MacReady’s knife and his night vision attachment. Bairnes revealed that he had a revolver with him just in case and thus I coerced him to let me hold on to the knife; it’s not much but it’s far greater security than my nonexistent pugilist background. I’d better check MacReady’s vitals before we leave and change his bandages, we have sat him up next to the pathetic flare remaining of our campfire, sufficiently far from the water, I believe. God help the poor lunatic.

God help us all.

– King

Journal Entry 10
Day 11
Time: no way to tell

MacReady was right. I never thought that I would give him such credit, but now as I kneel before the darkened, wet lump that is his corpse lying face down in the water, the reality of this “expedition” sends me reeling within my own obliviousness. We came cautiously when we heard a raucous splash from the direction of the camp at which we left MacReady’s unconscious and bound person only to find his motionless body surrounded by ankle-deep water which had slowly risen to claim the fire along with the poor man’s life. He must have stood and walked a few steps before falling as we found him a short distance from where we left him, and without so much as surveying the thing, we already knew what became of him, as well as what Bairnes and I are dealing with.

In fact, the truth which MacReady was sharp enough to realize involves the dear Mr. Bairnes of whom I speak of…in fact it IS him. As we made our way along the shore, I swiftly realized that the immediate area which we surveyed was devoid of life, even the water did not make a sound, lying impossibly still; it’s as if nothing has moved within that vast ocean for years. We did find something however, something which would place my life in a precarious position of danger, teetering even now as I sit a safe distance from the water. For we did not find the organism, nor did we find some horrible, carnivorous beast; we found the last expedition.

A single, human corpse silently decaying into the earthy sand which borders the water, wearing the same orange jumpsuit as MacReady and Willard had. I leaped back at the macabre specimen out of a severe concoction of fear and bafflement; Titania had only been explored by probe…once! Yet without a doubt, before my own eyes, rests a half-buried cadaver decomposing as it should; the pale, purple skin slowly flaking off of the muscle suggests that it’s long since dead. In my befuddlement, it took me more than a few minutes to find my explanation down the cold barrel of a revolver pressed to the back of my head.

Mr. Bairnes explained that our new acquaintance is one Dr. Maria Crane, a respected woman of science and the first astronaut to touch down on the face of Titania. He explained without removing the gun from its position that we were not the first to seek out this organism, as Dr. Crane’s expedition obviously ended unfortunately as well as without a live specimen. Those underhanded bastards back at Houston played us, leading us to believe that we were venturing out into the unexplored reaches of space and be the first to risk our lives in the name of science. Instead, we were sent on what had already been proven to be a suicide mission; we were not intended to be pioneers, we’re mere grunts being sent to our probable doom with the vague hope that we’ll bring something back. And that two-faced rodent Bairnes had been working with them all along, ensuring that the crew learn nothing of Houston’s plans to draw out the organism once more with a fresh crew. The fiend murdered Mrs. Willard surely because she was the first to catch on to his putrid scent, uncovering his attempts to so-called, “Keep the crew grounded,” as Bairnes explained. I wanted to strangle that devilish excuse for a man, that cogwheel in a machine of corruption which left us stranded on this god forsaken rock in the depths of nothingness, but I had to settle for shoving him into the water when he finally lowered his weapon. He arose with the thing cocked and ready, but he struggled to hold steady as he found himself sopping wet with an exposed hand allowing water into the sleeve of his suit. Serves the moron right, should have thought about that before playing fisticuffs with MacReady back at the ship.
I however, have insufficient energy to attempt fighting fire with fists, and thus I reluctantly complied with him. As he began to describe our new course of action around finding a live specimen and awaiting a secondary expedition bound to pick up Bairnes and any potential survivors within three days, we heard MacReady and raced to find him as he is now. The water rose without us even noticing, and I would not doubt that the organism had ample time to attack the unconscious MacReady and retreat back into the tide without leaving a trace. In fact I’m afraid to examine his corpse for risk of coming in contact with the organism’s secretions, and both Bairnes and I have taken precautions to stay far away from the water from now on; I’m only thankful nothing got to him when I pushed him in…to a degree.

There’s no hope for a fire anymore as all of our kindling was drowned with the undertow which emits only gentle ripples from around the gentle silhouette of our face-down friend. We have only the dwindling batteries of our night vision to keep us from going mad in the silent pitch that surrounds us. Above everything however, more than the pristine silence, more than the frigid air, even more than this omnipresent shade, it is panic which overwhelms me most. My breathing is labored, almost hyperventilating, and I had to coerce Bairnes into resting a moment only after he became rather exhausted himself, complaining of his head “swimming.” I checked my oxygen filter yet the small display on my chest reads that oxygen is flowing steadily into my helmet, so it must be something internal. My symptoms seem to match those of a panic attack, or at least what I saw in Dr. Howard when we were still on the ship, except for one small detail…one nagging sensation which I have only now begun to notice and cannot wrench my mind from no matter how hard I focus.

Tinnitus, I believe it’s called; simple ringing in the ears. It began when Bairnes was explaining the truth to me, and I had previously attributed it to pure rage and anxiety which had begun rising within my throat the more I learned. However, even now as I scribble what I can, seated across from the pleasantly sleeping cretin that is Bairnes, the faint din has slowly arisen to the forefront of my attention to the point where I struggle even to hear myself think. My head was already throbbing but now the noise has become unbearable, like some distant squealing in the back of my head as my synapses cry out in pain. I hope that if I sleep now, some of this splitting pain will dissipate, and perhaps we CAN return to our search for the organism.

I only hope that it does not find us first and do to us what it did to MacReady. I’m beginning to see shapes swirling in my vision, I must be getting a migraine. I’m forced to cease writing and rest my head. Houston, if you ever happen upon this journal,

Burn. In. Hell.

– King

Journal Entry 11
Day: ??
Time: irrelevant

I’m alone. I’m condemned to solitude in this dripping fucking hole in a remote corner of the cosmos. I woke up, painfully, as I passed out for what must have been fifteen minutes or so upon trying to lift my head; a lot of blood must have left my head while I was laid down, and my breathing is now reduced to heavy heaving. When I finally managed to stave off madness itself in the form of discordant ringing greeting my awakening, I painstakingly pawed my way over to Bairnes to stir him to no god damn avail. I discovered him breathless, without a pulse, slumped over in a seated position like a deathly monolith before me, overshadowing me despite an encompassing lack of light with which to cast one.

I managed to make a vaguely thorough search of his immediate person for any signs of the organism but found nothing. With the final dregs of my mental strength and a blinking red light in the corner of my night vision display, I crawled in the direction of MacReady’s corpse. With what was surely a cacophony of struggled grunts, I managed to flip over the body to uncover a horrendous scene: MacReady’s head is fully exposed as his helmet is shattered open, glass puncturing his face in various places for a gory demise. However, I now understood his death; if the venom of the organism did not kill him alone, it must have weakened his central nervous system to the point where he became too weak to walk and collapsed, face down in the water, and drowned. What I was unsure of however, is whether or not his helmet broke open upon impact with the ground…or if something found its way in.

I left him however, as a small notification appeared across my vision notifying me that my night vision attachment had 10 minutes before it would shut down, its battery drained. Even in my panicked, weakened state, I remembered that Bairnes had taken MacReady’s attachment and must still have it, and thus I returned to the lifeless lump with renewed hope. However I swiftly realized that the hope was misplaced as the imbecile never shut the attachment off, thus draining the battery completely, as well as his own. To think that of all the sly, cunning scoundrels which Houston could have chosen from to accompany us in this grim expedition, they had to pick the kind of person who leaves the lights on when they leave a room or better yet, when they leave the land of the living.

With despair in my heart, lead in my lungs, and a deafening clamor splitting my ears asunder, I write to you, whomever may read this, as I await the finale of my 10 remaining minutes of sight. I have begun to come to terms with the nature of my current condition as I have lost feeling in my legs and most of my lower torso; the organism must have come in contact with me at some point or another. Breathing is nearly impossible now, my mind is screaming, and I am slowly but surely losing control of my motor functions; there’s no doubt about it, my nervous system is gradually giving way to the creature’s venom just like those vermin back on Earth. Those vermin who died in boxes in a laboratory somewhere underground, no more isolated than I am as I write within this damn cave.

There must be something I can do to survive, at least a few days until the next expedition arrives and finds me here. I have to stay awake, there’s simply no other option; if my central nervous system is failing then I cannot give in to sleep until my body forces it upon me for I may not awaken…just like Bairnes. I can barely think straight at this point…it’s very difficult to write. Maybe I’ll check Bairnes again, see if I can figure out how it got to him…Maybe I’ll be alright…

I just want the ringing to stop.

– King

Journal Entry 12
Day:
Time:

It’s inside me. I can feel it, squirming around in my ear canal, wailing like a petulant swine. It’s not tinnitus, it’s not a migraine, it has gotten inside me just like it did to Bairnes and MacReady. That’s why I could not find it on them…THAT’S why there was never any bites or anything on their skin…because it crawled in their ears while they were sleeping…it crawled in and screamed at them, but they could not hear it like I do. They did not know until it was too late.

They got to MacReady through his helmet when he must have fell and shattered it open. He couldn’t get back up because the venom was too potent and disabled his body, like a spider’s neurotoxins paralyzing its prey while it devours it alive.

They got to Bairnes through his sleeve when I shoved him into the water…that’s why his head was swimming…he heard it too, inside his head but the venom must have numbed his body so he could not feel it crawling inside as he fell asleep…It only makes sense as now I can only barely move my arms enough to drag myself along the ground.

I don’t know how it got through the seals of our helmets…but there’s no doubt about it. I can feel it lurching within my skull like a leech thirsting for my brain matter, boring its way deeper and deeper as it screeches…a noise that leaves horrific wounds within my psyche…a noise which I cannot bear any longer.

For I found how it got to me…the knife. MacReady’s knife, which Bairnes gave to me…which I had completely forgotten about. It had cut a hole in the torso of my suit as I had laid down, leaving an opening for those scuttling things to worm their way inside my suit and up into my helmet. But how…HOW? How did they get inside my helmet, I would have suffocated by now!

I know it’s in there though. Nothing of Earth, nothing of the human body could produce such a terrible, gut-wrenching wail the likes of which has been ripping my mind to ribbons.

I cannot allow this creature to have free reign within my skull…my body is going numb, I’m barely breathing, and I have mere minutes before my night vision cuts out entirely…

If that happens…I’m trapped. I’m caged within my own mind with not a single thing to accompany me but this unholy ringing. I cannot bear to imagine such a fate.

I cannot wait three days for the next expedition…I cannot spend another second with this demon writhing within me, siphoning my soul from inside me. I have to get it out.

I have MacReady’s knife in one hand, the other is readied on the release switch for my helmet.

I can’t feel anything
I can’t even hear myself scream.
There’s nothing but ringing now.

– Final entry in the journal of Dr. Edwin King

Captain Jacob Ripley
Expeditionary Log
1300 Hours

This is Captain Jacob Ripley, appointed head of this expedition to retrieve any remaining subjects of the primary mission on Titania, moon of Uranus. We had been informed of the situation and told to expect only Mr. Carl Bairnes to be present however it seems that Mr. Bairnes encountered complications as not only did we encounter the team’s desecrated spacecraft outside of the subterranean cavern, but inside we found further evidence of the expedition’s failure.

The strange thing is, we never intended for the team to encounter the specimen, as Titania’s seasons span many Earth years and during the darker of those seasons, the organism is completely inactive. The expedition was intentionally rushed out to take advantage of the inactivity, as the organism does little during this time except burrow under the “sea” floor and hibernate as they are cold-blooded. Unfortunately, what we learned about the organism when communication went dark, was that the organism contains heat sensitive cells which trigger the continuous release of what can be compared to Earth’s morphine in order to suppress its bodily functions and hibernate. On-site tests of the subterranean body of water showed dangerously high levels of the chemical, which means our hypotheses are in fact correct, and if we proceed with draining the small ocean, we can dig up more than sufficient specimens.

While Dr. Dwight Howard was found shot dead in the wreckage of the ship, we have sent out a small search party to scour the shores for Mrs. Julia Willard who seems to be missing. The other three were found around a small pile of ashes which must have been a fire before it mostly drifted out with the tide. Mr. Kurt MacReady’s waterlogged corpse was found a short distance away from the other two, the cause of death is drowning. His arms were bound with wire, so we can only assume that as the chemical-contaminated water made prolonged contact with him, it began numbing his body as morphine-like compounds do, and as he attempted to stand he would have lost his balance, falling and breaking open his helmet. At this point he would have swallowed a great deal of the water and the chemical process will have rendered him unable to control his muscles enough to flip himself over.

Fortunately, Mr. Bairnes was found heavily sedated by the chemical compound as it seemed to have soaked his clothing at one point or another as well as getting through his torn sleeve directly to skin. His pulse is barely noticeable and his breathing disturbingly shallow, but our doctors on board should have no trouble resuscitating him enough to report before returning home. Thank god he did not panic, as his condition is nothing more than a heavily sedated surgical patient. Unfortunately however, the same cannot be said for Dr. Edwin King.

Dr. King was found in a rather peculiar state, as he was completely untouched by the water as well as the chemical compound so he would not have experienced any symptoms, though his death was particularly gruesome. His helmet was opened manually and his ear canals gouged out with a pocket knife, apparently by his own hand as the knife in question was found near his corpse which ended up far from the others. Despite this despicable act of quasi-suicide, the cause of death determined by our doctors seemed to be oxygen deprivation or simply suffocation. We figured that this was due to the helmet being opened, but upon further inspection of Dr. King’s suit, the doctors digressed.

Dr. King’s helmet was dismantled in order to inspect the damage to the sides and back of his skull and clearly present along the back of the visor is a small crack. This seemingly minuscule rupture in the glass would have slowly halved the amount of oxygen intake and resulted in an unnoticeable release of air. The technicians informed me that the visor must have been damaged in the crash and thus he would have experienced more and more difficulties breathing as well as functioning as the crack widened. They also said the only indication of this given the crack would have been behind his head (essentially invisible to him) would be the sound of oxygen escaping which would have manifested as a loud, high pitch squealing noise. The noise must have driven the poor sod crazy, carved his ears out having to listen to it.

Regardless, the bodies of the team as well as that of Dr. Maria Crane (whom Houston will be glad to have found), will be returned to Earth to be cremated. All evidence of this expedition as well as that of Dr. Crane will be hereby erased with the mass retrieval of the designated specimen for research. With further testing, we may come to mass produce a new age in surgical anesthetic, pain relief, and sleeping medications. In fact, the doctors on board offered me a diluted sample of the chemical secretion to try as a form of benign headache relief. Works like a charm, save for a little ringing in the ears.

Tinnitus, the doctors said; simple ringing in the ears. Should pass with a bit of sleep.

– Captain Jacob Ripley signing off.

Credit To – Captain Boris Lightning

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The Haaf Netters

October 18, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Frank closed the door behind him and was alone in the cottage at last.

All dwellings have a smell, an atmosphere. You get used to the smell of your own place so that you never notice it, at least not until you first open the door after a long holiday. The house Frank had shared with his ex-wife, the back door had opened into the laundry room so after returning there was always a smell of clean linen and washing powder. He missed that. He hadn’t lived in his flat long enough to imprint his own scent identity upon it – it smelled impersonal, of polish and plastic like a motel room.

The door he had opened led into the kitchen, which was north-facing and cold. The smell here comprised of dusty old carpets, furniture polish and coalsmoke. The faintest undertone of when this had been someone’s home rather than just a holiday cottage, but almost wiped away by long empty winters and the landlady’s cleaning regime.

After finding and using the toilet in the bathroom upstairs, Frank began to explore. There were two bedroom upstairs. One double, one single, with a Z-bed under one of the singles.
The main bedroom was comfortable enough, though plainly decorated and furnished. Frank unpacked some of his things onto the dressing table.

Coming downstairs and opening the door into the lounge, he noticed a crucifix on the opposite wall. He didn’t like it, but at the same time to actually take it down would be to attach a level of importance to it with which he was not comfortable either. But to Frank it had the effect of adding a chilly austerity to the place, despite the warmth from the clicking radiator and the log fire in the grate. Reminding him that this was not his home.

Disconcerted, he looked around the rest of the room. Ah, that was more like it. A couple of old fishing prints on the wall to his left. One in particular caught his eye and he walked over to examine it more closely. It was a watercolour of three men positioned waist deep in sea water, each standing with outstretched arms holding a rectangular-framed net that protruded above the water chest height and was about four times as wide.

“Haaf Netters – Solway Firth” ran the caption underneath.

The water was skilfully painted, the way the current flowed through the nets and around the fishermen. The figures were not so well executed to Frank’s untrained eye, being somewhat indistinct which had resulted in a surely unintentional, comically sinister expression on one in particular.

Haaf netters – the unusual word intrigued him, sounded Viking or something.

Putting a log on the fire, he decided he would have a quick walk down to the river, just to get a feel of the place and check out any likely spots. No point in taking his tackle until he had the licence sorted.

Frank was glad to be setting out for the river. As he stepped out, he noticed a definite and sudden change in the atmosphere, mist was falling.

He walked downhill to the t-junction and turned left this time, leaving the church and the centre of the village behind him. He narrowly side-stepped a dead mouse and a big pile of dog mess on the pavement.Looking ahead he could see the mist already thickening into a solid bank where the road dipped down towards the river.

Through the light haze he could see a hunched figure walking ahead of him, an old man in a blue car coat, also heading in the direction of the Eden.

The man was walking so slowly that even though Frank was some fifty yards behind, he could already see that he must unavoidably catch up with him.

With any luck he’ll turn off into one of these gardens.

But he didn’t.

Frank considered crossing over to avoid the man entirely, but thought better of it. A moment’s kindness costs nothing – this will be me one day, he reasoned to himself. As he drew level with the stooping figure, he offered a friendly ‘hello’.

The old man turned. A very old man. Deeply wrinkled skin an unhealthy shade of yellow.Dark hollow eyes, hooked nose, bushy grey hair in large nostrils. Roughly shaven.

“How do!” gruffly. Then, in a sharper tone “Where’s tha going. Fishing?”

“Yes – well, just to have a look at the river…” began Frank.

“You’ve forgotten your rod. Gonna catch them with yer bare hands? Hey, yer not one of them haaf netters are you? Nowt in yer pockets? Only, couple of fellers got caught poaching salmon last week with a haaf net.”

Frank’s expression must have suggested puzzlement. In fact he was staring at what appeared to be a large wound on the old man’s neck, sewn up with a rough suture that almost looked like fishing line.

“One o’ them big sea nets they use up on the Solway, about six feet across. Collapsible frame to fit under their coats. You just set them up and the fish swim in and get themselves all caught up. They’d set it up there and was driving fish in.”

Frank was unsure whether the tone was joking or accusatory. Either way he didn’t like it, not least because the volume was embarrassingly loud. He noticed two large hearing aids in each of the man’s large, fleshy ears.

“No, no, I’m just going for a walk. I’m picking a licence up from the pub when it opens later”.

“Gamekeeper’s about you know. Folks is keeping watch.”

“OK, thank you!”

“Whereabouts are you going fishing?”

“Sorry? I – I’m not sure yet!”

“Get yerself onto Setterah Bank. You don’t need a permit there.” The man jabbed a crooked finger to the right, the direction Frank was planning to go anyway.

“OK!” said Frank and crossed the street, agitated and vaguely aware of a couple of onlookers to this awkward, noisy encounter.

The old man continued shouting after him as he went.

“I know all about the permits, ask Johnny Ressick, he’ll tell yer. There’s no permit there!
Setterah Bank’s where you need to go. You’ll need a rod though!”

Frank quickened his pace to get out of earshot, passing in front of the village’s outdoor swimming pool. So much for being friendly, wish I hadn’t bothered, the silly old sod.

The mist was thickening now, but he could already hear the sound of the river. The air was cooler still, damper. Frank pulled his coat around him, but the mist seemed to seep underneath it, as if his very bones were cold and the coat was only warming the surface of his skin.
Here though was the reason he had been drawn to this place.

The river. From the edge of the swimming pool car park he craned to soothe himself with the sight of the water as it surged and hurried along with the friendly, vibrant chatter of old friend who, no matter how long it’s been since you last saw them, instantly and easily picks up a familiar thread of conversation.

Ah the river. This at least was ever new. Every moment, every second changing, not like the stagnant pool of urban life. The heavy mist gave the Eden a Stygian aspect today- grey white smoky clouds lifting from the surface of the torrent and seemed to morph into cloaked figures, raising their arms skywards in a slow, twisting, hallowing, dissipating dance of veneration for the waters of time that rushed away beneath them.

But as a fishing spot, Frank’s current vantage point did not have much to recommend it. The stream was fast flowing here and the bank was sheer and crumbling, too many overhanging bushes and clumps of willowherb to tangle a line in. Besides, it didn’t offer the seclusion he was hoping for with the road and swimming pool just behind.

Through the mist he could just make out sheep grazing on the sandy banks on the other side.
But the Eden itself looked promising. There were sure to be some deeper, more alluring pools upstream.

Frank started to walk along the path. As he did so he saw a sign nailed to a tree, black block type on white board, lightly covered with green mould. No Fishing Without A Permit. North Yorkshire Anglers. What’s it got to do with them, thought Frank. We’re a long way from North Yorkshire here.

The smell of the swimming pool, now closed for the season, pervaded his nostrils. Disinfectant, sweaty summers, a faint hot dog smell. All he could see of it was a rear wall, grey breeze blocks and litter behind a wire mesh fence. Before the pool was here, people would have bathed in the river itself, but it would be considered foolish, even weird to do so now, he supposed.

The gravel track along the riverbank behind the pool led into a field which had been designated as a camp site, complete with standpipes and electric sockets.

Now it was quiet, just one large trailer tent pitched right next to the path in the far corner, next to the stile.

As Frank passed it, he inadvertently caught the eye of of a woman inside through the plastic window, sitting having a drink. He gave an awkward nod and smile, conscious of having his own privacy invaded while unwillingly having invaded someone else’s.

After the camp site the path dipped down and a narrow wooden footbridge crossed a small tributary of the river. Passing over its heavy, rotting planks, Frank felt a renewed sense of freedom, putting the village behind him. Just me and the country, me and the river, me in the mist. Water on one side, land on the other.

But wait. Was that figure crouching up ahead or just a tree stump? A few more paces and it was clearly a figure, hunched over a rod.

“Morning! Any luck?” said Frank cheerily.

Another ancient face turned to meet his.

“Not yet, but any time now…” crackled a well-weathered voice.

Small, dark eyes and hooded eyelids beneath an old, battered black waxed fishing hat with home-tied flies hooked in. The same deep-wrinkled sallow skin as that obstreperous old bugger in the village. And that wasn’t all. Just visible beneath the hat was a long, snaking scar sealed with the same rough stitches Frank had seen on the other man’s neck.

Remind me not to go to the doctors’ round here, thought Frank. But, observing the custom of the riverbank, he paused to take an interest as the man made a few casts.

At the third cast, the rod dipped and there was a satisfied chuckle from its master. In a display of surprising strength and dexterity, a good sized trout was smoothly and firmly ripped out of the brown depths without even a token fight, its furious thrashing on the hook rendered utterly futile.

“Pass me the priest, would you?” said the fisherman.

“Sorry?” Frank was still taken aback at the easy violence of the catch.

“The priest – yon little wooden club, hurry up man!”

Frank picked it up handed it over. A strong smell rose from the man’s open tackle box box. Damp, earthy, maggoty.

The elderly angler now lifted his rod vertically so that the thrashing hooked fish came spinning rapidly towards him, spraying slime, weed and river water. At the first attempt he assuredly grabbed the fish with one hand and in a single swift movement bashed it sharply over the top of the head with the club held in the other.

“They call this a priest, see! Gives ‘em the last rites.”

Frank saw blood trickle from the corner of the trout’s mouth as it shuddered in its death spasms. The fisherman gave a grunt of satisfaction and stuffed it into a grubby carrier bag.
“Folks was down here with a haaf net” said the man as he turned back to the river and cast again. A definite insinuation in the tone of voice.

“Yes, an old chap in the village told me. By the way, you don’t know where Setterah Bank is do you?”

A derisive snort. “Setterah Bank?! You’re miles out! That’s up Gamblesby way – across the river man. I hope you can swim!”

Once again, the volume was embarrassingly loud. To add to his discomfort, a dog walker emerged out of the mist, an old woman, and had evidently overheard. She shared a smile with the angler and shook her head with a scornful tut at Frank. To his shock, he noticed that she also had the same sagging, yellow, wrinkled complexion as the old men. Her dog was some sort of enormous sheepdog on a heavy chain, it growled at him as he shrank out of its path.

“Maybe I misheard him,” said Frank as the woman and her dog merged into the mist.
“No, you don’t want to listen to old Geordie Whitebirk. He’s gone in the head! Everyone can tell you that. They’ll have a right laugh at you in the Midland tonight, listening to old Geordie.”

“He said something about it being somewhere you didn’t need a permit”.

The man shook his head.

“You want to get yourself to Blitterlees Gill! Get across yon bridge there.” A dismissive flap of the arm to the right, further along the bank.

Frank hesitated. “Sorry? Blitter…?”

“Blitterlees Gill!” repeated the fisherman impatiently. “Get yerself along there. No point stopping here. Where’s yer rod anyway? Sure you’re not one of them haaf netters?”

“No, I’m not. I left my rod back at the cottage, I’ll pick it up later once I’ve got my permit.”

“I thought you was looking for somewhere to fish without a permit?”

“No, I am going to get a permit, it’s just that the other chap told me…”

“Well it’s a long way back for it, but suit yourself.”

Frank turned away without saying goodbye. What was wrong with everyone round here, why was every exchange so bloody hostile? And what was the matter with their faces? He’d heard of a medical condition called Derbyshire neck, maybe this livid yellow and deep wrinkling was ‘Cumbrian face’.

He threaded his way further along the path, into the deepening gloom. It was so dense now he could hardly see further than an arms length. The path rose and fell sharply over tree roots, he experienced the peculiar sensation of stepping into space as he underestimated the slope and found his foot falling further than expected. But always there was the comforting chatter of the river to his left to guide and console.

But still smarting from the encounter with the man in the black hat, Frank did not heed the warning of the mis-step and continued at a pace that was inadvisedly hurried. At the top of the next rise in the path, his toe clipped a root at the foot of a large sycamore and he slipped over, pain in his left knee. He heard soil dislodged by his fall cascading down into the water to his left.

Falling was a shock. He couldn’t remember the last time he had fallen right over. He could feel damp from the ground soaking through his trousers, invading his comfort, piercing his fragile shell of wellbeing.

Amid the smell of disturbed earth and crushed thistles, a moment of realisation that the unremitting noise of the river would have continued regardless of whether he fell in and drowned in its depths.

As Frank sat there, trying to assess the state of his knee, a figure loomed out of the mist.

Another ancient voice. “Steady on there lad! You’ll be in’t river! What’s the rush?”
This time it was a rotund man in a fleece and green woolly hat. The same yellow, deeply wrinkled skin, a brown woollen scarf round the neck.

“Not from round here are you? You’re not one of them haaf netters?”

“No, I’m on a fishing break – I’m staying in a holiday cottage.”
“Have you got a permit?”

In spite of himself, Frank suddenly felt ridiculously flustered.

“I was going to get one later.”

“Aye, that’s what them said last week. If the gamekeeper sees you he’ll turn out your pockets”

Frank struggled painfully to his feet. He could put weight on his knee but it had lost power somehow. There was also earth and stones in his shoe.

“Where was you headed, anyway?”

“Blitterlees Gill.”

Harsh, openly mocking laughter. “Ha ha ha! What a daft caper! You’d be lucky to get there by nightfall, that’s way down t’other side of Langwathby! You’d be better off at Lacey’s Slack.”
The man seemed to study Frank for an uncomfortable moment, but then headed off into the mist, back in the direction of the village.

Unsettled, Frank decided it was time he headed back too. After allowing a pause so that he wouldn’t catch up with the rotund man, he began to gingerly retrace his steps towards the village, carefully testing his knee at every footfall, watching the path at his feet closely now for any more hazards.

He had made slow progress in this way for no more than ten yards when he was startled by a violent shout to his left.

“Got lost again have you? You’re going the wrong way! Lacey’s Slack’s back yonder!”

The words seemed to be yelled with real anger. Frank staggered back in alarm, sending more earth tumbling down the bank into the river.

It was the rotund man. Had he stopped and waited deliberately?

The man tutted. “Bloody fool!” and turned away, apparently into a field.

Frank was unsettled now, the mist no longer a protective blanket but a threatening veil.
A noise – from behind? Was someone following him? The dank atmosphere was disorientating, muffling some sounds, magnifying others. His knee prevented any rapid progress in any case.
More anxious yards passed. Now he saw an outline of a figure rising from the riverbank to his right.

It was fisherman in the black hat, priest in his hand, shouting furiously “Turned back have you? Thought I told you to get to Blitterlees Gill?”

Frank put his head down and tried to ignore him. Just focus on the path.

“Damned haaf-netters” yelled the man, manically waving the priest in the air.

Up ahead Frank could hear a dog barking. A big dog. The wrinkled woman – was she still here too?

Panicking now, he could see the outline of a public footpath sign leading back to the village, away from the river, across fields. He stumbled across long wet grass through an open field gate, his trousers soaked below the knee.

He could hear a bell tolling in the mist. The village must be to his right.

The fog blanket wasn’t quite so dense away from the river and he could make out two gnarled old shapes in the centre of the field amid the long, grey, creeping fingers. Bushes – hawthorn bushes. He set his course to the right of them, looking for a gateway that would lead him back to the village.

But now another a figure emerged ahead, blocking his intended path. It was the first old bugger in the blue coat – the deaf one. Frank noticed with alarm that the man was moving much more rapidly across the field towards him then he could have ever given credit for.

“Hey! Where are you sneaking off to? This is private land! You were told to go to Setterah Bank!”
Frank was gasping now, the cold air and the fear catching at his breath.

He looked back across the field to see a silhouette of the rotund man emerging from the left.
Now he heard a metallic clang that reverberated oddly in the clammy air. The gate closing behind him, over his shoulder a glimpse of a group advancing with purposeful menace.

“Hoy! Come back here! The gamekeeper wants a word with you!” – the throaty rasp of the black-hatted man.

Another deeper, aggressive male voice. “Get back here, you bugger!”

A dog whimpering and growling. A coarse, female voice now. “shall I let ‘im loose Johnny?”

“On my signal”.

Frank struggled on in the only direction that lay clear – between the old hawthorns.

Ignoring the pain in his knee he moved as fast as he could, a lolloping, uneven gait born of sheer terror.

They were all old – surely he could outrun them? But the dog.

He could hear its horrible, gutteral growls and whimpers, straining for its handler to release it.
Hostile shouts rang out from all sides, hallooing, harassing, hounding him onwards.

“Get the’sen to Lacey’s Slack!” “Stupid bugger!” “Will you not listen?” “What did I tell thee?” “Lacey’s Slack!” “Blitterlees Gill, man!” “Setterah Bank!”

He reached the bushes, the land between them bare. He ran on, between their twin twisted embrace of mottled lichen and mossy bark.

He ran on, straight into wispy, misty net of something suspended from the trees. Something intangible.

He was stuck fast. Desperately, he tried to turn round, but couldn’t. Every movement he made served to bind him ever more closely, to sap his strength, his vitality. With his ever-weakening struggles, panic turned into peaceful acceptance.

His feet were no longer on the ground. Unsure of the direction of north, south, east, west, earth, sky, life or death he lay suspended between two worlds. Grey, swirling mist floated before his weakening eyes, but whether it was from this realm or another he could no longer be sure. Dark shapes danced and contorted around him, blotting out the last strains of his sunlight.
The residual part of Frank’s consciousness heard a host of footsteps, heavy breathing both animal and human.

Voices. Satisfied, pleased voices.

“He’s a nice one. Good size.”

“Ay, the old haaf net still does the trick!”

“Ready with the priest – hold him still now!”

What remained of Frank felt sharp crack to his temple. A trickle of warm blood down his face.
More voices, distant now, at the mouth of the tunnel he felt himself sliding down.

“We’ll gut him and eat him tonight.”

“Hit him again Johnny, the gills are still blowing.”

“Don’t damage him though, could do with a new skin…”.

Credit To – M.L. Graham

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