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Crius

Crius


Estimated reading time — 16 minutes

American writer of horror fiction, best known for his creation of the Cthulhu Mythos, H.P. Lovecraft once said:

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

An iconic quote, to be certain, yet I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Lovecraft. The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind isn’t fear of the unknown; it is our obsession with understanding it. Fear is but a stepping stone to be conquered. Curiosity, on the other hand, is relentless, uncompromising. It is our curiosity that defines us as a species, and it is said curiosity that will eventually be our downfall.

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My name is Monika Scholz. I’m originally from Germany, but I was scouted fairly early in my fledgling career. I’m a marine biologist… of sorts. I work for a subdivision of the US government that specializes in the discovery and study of anomalous aquatic life. My occupation might seem oddly specific at first, but you can rest assured that we exist for a reason. Keep reading and you’ll soon find out why.

Most of you have probably heard of the infamous “Bloop” at some point in your lives. In the unlikely event that you haven’t, the Bloop was a powerful, ultra-low-frequency underwater sound of uncertain origin detected by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration in 1997. It was a reoccurring topic of discussion by both scientists and the media alike for over a decade, until in 2012 the NOAA went on to disprove some of the bolder theories, stating that the sound appears to be consistent with noises generated via Arctic glacial movements. Or at least that’s the explanation that they came up with after we pressured them into covering it up. The reason we did that is because, earlier that same year, the sound was detected once again, however this time we had the modern equipment necessary to pinpoint the general location of its source.

An expedition was promptly organized. When the first sets of data and images came back, none of us knew how to react. I can only imagine how the first scientists must’ve felt once they realized the sheer scale of what resided directly below them.

Now, I’ve made my fair share of unconventional discoveries over the years. Ancient sunken cities, deep-sea creatures that border on the mythical, entire ecosystems comprised of bizarre, downright alien flora and fauna—and yet, nothing could’ve prepared me for what we ended up finding down there, dwelling in the cold depths of The Southern Ocean, beneath its expansive sheet of ice.

I could hardly tell what I was looking at initially, but it was clearly massive in scale, since—even from a distance—the probe could fit only a fraction of its mass in a single frame. It resembled a enormous glob of blubbery, pinkish flesh—suspended less than a mile from the bottom of the ocean. With the aid of different echo-sounding measurement techniques, on-site personnel were able to determine that the globular structure appeared to be occupying a space of about 1 kilometer. You don’t have to be an expert to know that an organism of such ridiculous size shouldn’t exist. In spite of that, further research proved that it was indeed organic in nature, single-handedly demolishing a lot of our preconceived notions about the reality of life on Earth.

Thus began project “Ultrafauna”. Our purpose was to study and understand this impossible organism which we later dubbed Crius (after one of the Titans in Greek mythology). Back at the start of 2013, I was deployed to our newly-established base in Antarctica. I wasn’t the sole researcher there, but I was the most experienced—especially in my particular field. The privilege of studying such a phenomenon up close and personal more than made up for the unpleasant work conditions. In a way, I saw this opportunity as the culmination of my entire career.

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The first order of business was to install a 24/7 underwater surveillance system around the subject. This proved to be a challenge given its colossal size and the depth at which it resided. Thankfully, its movement seemed extremely restricted, limited to the clusters of thin tendrils and appendage-like growths scattered across its otherwise dormant mass, each possessing a maximum reach of about two hundred meters. Initial observations determined their function to be primarily defensive. One of our drones was immediately ensnared, crushed and torn apart upon attempting to collect a sample. Crius reacted in much the same way when approached by other sea life as well, though it didn’t utilize any of the material left behind. There were literal whale carcasses left to just float there, decomposing at the bottom of the abyss. This posed the question as to how something so absurdly giant could even sustain itself to begin with.

Apart from its pseudo tentacles, the surface of Crius was an expanse of smooth, pulsating flesh—no orifices to be seen. One of my colleagues proposed an interesting theory: perhaps its outermost layer acted as a filter and its source of food was the microorganisms and bacteria it deliberately cultivated by leaving behind dead tissue. Of course we couldn’t confirm any of that without a sample, and the idea that an entity of such immense scale survived solely on a diet of microorganisms was farfetched to say the least. It didn’t seem to produce any waste that we could analyze either.

We attempted sending multiple drones out at once, each approaching from a different angle, but the result was the same every time. They were destroyed as soon as they got within 200 meters of Crius. Government funding or not, we couldn’t just keep throwing expensive tech at it and hope for the best.

Around that time was when the first “incident” happened. His name was Gregory—one of our lead engineers. I had always known him to be a reserved and stoic man, an old-fashioned professional, so imagine my surprise when he kicked open the door to the monitoring station and threatened all of us at gunpoint. He looked completely out of his mind; slapping the side of his head with one hand while holding the gun with the other, spewing nonsense that we couldn’t decipher. There were already traces of blood splattered across his face and overalls, which we later found out were from the guard he had ambushed with a pipe wrench before stealing his sidearm.

Upon noticing the large screen that displayed a grid of all the video feeds we had of Crius, he let out the most pitiful wail I had ever heard a man produce and opened fire on the equipment. We took cover as sparks and bullets began to fly. I winced every time something flew over my head, half-expecting it to graze my skull. Whatever his true motives were, he did manage to destroy a significant chunk of our hardware before shoving the barrel in his own mouth and pulling the trigger. He didn’t get the quick and painless death he was likely hoping for either though. His aim was a bit too off-center and he ended up blowing half of his jaw off Instead. Of course the poor bastard was already presumed dead by the time security finally showed up; slumped against a wall and sitting in a pool of his own blood.

All research was temporarily put on hold while we waited for the replacement equipment to arrive. That and, naturally, we needed some time to recover from the ordeal. Like I mentioned before, Gregory was always known as the reliable veteran—the grumpy old-timer who had seen it all. I couldn’t even begin to speculate as to what could have driven him to such a state.

The next similar incident was with our lead physician, Dr. Lee, who had apparently locked herself in the sick bay and refused to come out. After she had altogether stopped responding, on-site security were called to manually disable the lock, only to find her limp body sprawled across the exam table, half-clutching a syringe. Her colleagues were immediately able to conclude that she had committed suicide via a lethal injection of pentobarbital. Prior to taking her life, she had also seized what medical supplies she could and tried to dispose of them by stuffing them down a toilet.

Then there was my assistant, Brice. From what I was told, he was caught trying to overload the central heating system and, not wanting to be captured and interrogated, used a piece of glass to slit his own throat.

In addition to the alarming frequency at which they were occurring, each of these suicides seemed to double as deliberate attempts to sabotage our efforts. All of the victims had close to nothing in common. Trying to establish some sort of connection between them quickly proved to be a hopeless endeavour.

Time was becoming as precious a resource as any. The bigwigs back home were starting to get impatient. Admittedly, we hadn’t made much progress. It was difficult to focus on the job when you didn’t know if the person next you was teetering on the verge of a manic episode. We started hearing rumors that the military were itching to get involved, as they viewed the existence of Crius as a matter of national and global security. Don’t ask me how they came to such a conclusion; our reports certainly didn’t reflect their concerns. Regardless, we were given an ultimatum:

We had exactly two months to figure out what Crius was and how it worked, otherwise we’d be taken off the project and…well, likely terminated in order to prevent a leak.

The pressure was on. I only slept for about three hours every other day. To say that most of us were running on fumes would’ve been an understatement. We were like walking automatons, going through the motions we were programmed to do and wasting little energy on anything else. Adding to the oppressive atmosphere was the arrival of the winter season, which, here, means weeks of near perpetual darkness. It almost came as no surprise when another death was confirmed.

The victim was a fellow researcher who was found dead in his cabin; lying naked in the middle of it with a large, horizontal slice across his stomach and covered in multiple punctures. A quick toxicology report, coupled with the empty pill bottles found littering his bed and nightstand, suggested that the initial cause of death was likely voluntary. Of course that also meant that all of the injuries were done by somebody postmortem; they were far too surgical and severe to be self-inflicted. The cut in the man’s abdomen, in particular, seemed to have been forcefully stretched open. Somebody had been picking through his guts, and then using the residue to fingerpaint on the claustrophobic cabin’s singular window.

Though I wasn’t present, nor was I allowed anywhere near the victim’s quarters since it technically wasn’t my job to look into such matters, I did see a recreation of the grisly drawing—if you can even call it that. I’m not sure how exactly to describe it. It resembled a simple stick figure with extra arms and legs, and enclosed in a larger circle. The whole thing was oddly… ritualistic, quite unlike the previous cases that seemed more focused on inciting panic and discord among the crew.

But, as unnerving as it all was, I couldn’t afford to dwell on it for too long. We were getting closer to our first breakthrough since I got here. One of our hydrophone arrays managed to isolate a low, almost radio-like frequency emanating from somewhere within Crius’s core. Though I wouldn’t call it electronic in nature, it also wasn’t consistent with anything a purely biological organism should’ve been capable of producing. Honestly, it was downright alien; no wonder we hadn’t noticed it previously. It was a bold assumption, but could this constant, near undetectable sound be the reason why people were killing themselves? The prospect of certain sound patterns affecting ones mental state isn’t exactly a foreign concept, especially if you happen to work for the US government. Like the tendrils, perhaps this was just another defensive mechanism, albeit a more subtle one.

In the wake of this new revelation, an idea emerged:

What if we were to try and replicate the signal?

The goal was to elicit some sort of reaction or possibly even acknowledgement from the immense creature. It was a stretch, but then again, we were already grasping at straws. Even if my assumption about the frequency’s purpose was correct, It wasn’t like they were going to prematurely end the project because of it. The mission was much too important.

Fortunately, a couple of the staff had backgrounds in audio engineering, making the process a whole lot easier than it would’ve been otherwise. Not so fortunate was the fact that our work kept getting disrupted by the escalating number of suicides. By day twenty of our two-month deadline, nearly one-third of my research team were gone. People that looked completely stable one day were dead the next. Some of the bodies were discovered in various stages of dissection, their blood used to decorate the walls with that same symbol. While the deaths themselves were impossible to predict, I couldn’t help but wonder how our unnamed corpse desecrator kept getting away with it. There were cameras virtually everywhere; surely somebody would’ve identified them. It was almost as if our overseers were allowing this madness to continue.

I will never forget standing outside my room, coffee in hand, and looking down at the severed human finger lying at my doorstep. There was a crimson trail leading away from it and towards the shared bathroom. I knew that I was being baited, but I didn’t care. My morbid curiosity outweighed my need for self-preservation. Whoever was doing this was clearly trying to show me something, and frankly I was fed up with having more questions than answers.

And so, like a good little lab rat, I followed the proverbial cheese trail to its source.

As soon as I saw that the door to one of the stalls was hanging open, inviting me to peek inside, I already knew what I was going to find there. Sure enough, there it was: the body of the young man to whom the finger belonged to—stripped and propped against the toilet. His intestines spilled over his lap and onto the floor, forming a pile. His head hung at an angle, green eyes clouded and vacant. His face didn’t seem too familiar. Maybe one of the maintenance boys? There was a scalpel left embedded in his throat—likely the primary cause of death, before the body was further mutilated. Painted onto the ivory tiles behind him was the, by that point, all too familiar calling card: a multilimbed figure with a circle drawn around it, as though trapped within the boundaries of the shape.

That’s when the realization finally struck me. It was so obvious; how did I not think of it sooner?

I practically sprinted out of the bathroom and down the dimly lit hallway. My heart was racing. Beads of anxious sweat trickled down my brow. I must have seemed deranged as I emerged into the mess hall where most of my crew were having breakfast. Before anyone could accuse me of having lost my mind, I snatched a hard boiled egg from a colleague’s tray and held it up to the florescent lights.

“It’s an egg!” I laughed “It’s a goddamn egg!”

It made so much sense! Crius wasn’t just a vaguely spherical mass of writhing meat, but rather the organic vessel of the true titan, waiting to be born. Its sole purpose was to sustain and protect whatever was developing inside of it, explaining its apparent lack of basic biological needs.

I was immediately challenged on my rash deduction, but I was confident in its validity. I knew that I was right and no one could convince me otherwise. Besides, I didn’t need them to believe me so long as everyone did their job.

As we approached the dreaded deadline, our research center started looking more like a slaughterhouse. It became commonplace to spot the dismembered remains of some poor fool decorating the corridors. The last time I saw a guard was them hanging from the ceiling via the cord wrapped around their neck. The comparatively saner among us had to take matters into our own hands when it came to safeguarding our progress.

Finally, on May 26th 2013, we deployed the transmitter. We wanted to sink it as close to the subject as possible before turning it on. The tension in the control room was palpable. What little remained of the original crew were gathered around the central monitor. This was it. We had neither the time, resources nor staff to afford having to go back to the drawing board. The fate of our entire operation hinged on this one final experiment. If it failed, everything we endure thus far would’ve been for naught. I glanced at the dial in front of me and sighed:

“Turning up the amplifier.” I announced to a completely silent audience.

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Obviously we couldn’t hear it, but we could see that the oversized speaker was beginning to vibrate. When viewed from above, it looked like an insignificant speck against the dark expense of living tissue, the scale of which was still hard to believe.

“Come on, you bastard…” Somebody muttered behind me, anxiously gnawing away at his knuckles.

We waited and waited, but… nothing happened. There were no spikes in the measurements, no visual signs of stirring. The subject was as passive as ever. It was a farfetched idea from the start, yet we had convinced ourselves that it just had to work. It was the only thing keeping us going. All of the sacrifices, all of the casualties—there had to be some purpose to it all. After everything I’ve done, everything I’ve seen and been through; I wasn’t going to let it end like this.

I clenched my teeth and shoved past my distraught colleagues. None of them even acknowledged me until I picked up the radio. There were several military vessels patrolling the ocean around the frozen continent. Their purpose was to dissuade foreign powers from seizing a foothold, but I had other plans for them.

“This is professor Scholz from research station B55. If anybody hears me, please respond. It’s an emergency.”

It took some convincing acting, but I was finally able to get in contact with the captain of one of the ships, to whom I proceeded to breathlessly explain that they had to launch an attack on Crius. My justification was that the giant creature had turned hostile and was in the process of releasing some sort of toxin into the water, which, in addition to the untold ecological consequences, threatened to reveal the entire operation to the rest of the world. I stressed that time was of the essence, and that they needed to act now before it was too late.

A few of my subordinates tried to stop me, but the rest that understood what must be done piled onto them and held them down.

Several missiles were launched. The impact was something to behold. As I predicted, the torpedoes were immediately intercepted by the grasping appendages, but the resulting explosion was enough to send ripples across the whole organic structure. After all, my goal wasn’t to destroy it.

It was to provoke it.

We received word from the people stationed on the shore that they could feel the ice beneath them begin to rumble. The buzzing in the air became so loud that we could hear it without the aid of our audio equipment—this tinnitus-like ringing that just kept amplifying until I could no longer hear myself think. All of a sudden it ceased entirely, granting us a rare moment of unimpeded clarity, during which I was able to reflect on what I had just done. It would appear that the signal had been affecting all of us from the start—just in different ways. The men and women we lost understood its message for what it was: a warning to cease tampering with something we could never hope to understand, followed by the realization that death is the only true escape from the inherent defect that is human curiosity. For others of a similar mindset to my own, it had the exact opposite and likely inadvertent effect of stimulating our zealous obsession with knowing the unknowable, and pursuing said knowledge at the expense of all else. Like moths to flames…

I heard a familiar wail coming from the storage room, adjacent to where we were gathered. While the others remained glued to the screen, I stepped away from the console and went over to investigate. Hunched on the other side of that door was none other than Gregory—the engineer whose attempted suicide marked the start of our descent into madness. He appeared to have somehow survived, albeit with one half of his face stitched and stapled shut. Whoever had treated him hadn’t done all that good of a job. The wounds looked infected to the point that they were leaking pus. His right eye was red and swollen, clearly impairing his vision.

He was kneeling beside yet another recently disemboweled carcass and looking down at his bloody hands in horror. It would appear that I had found our illusive “artist”. With the signal temporarily gone and its influence over our minds subsiding, the unfortunate wretch was confronted with the reality of his actions. He turned his hideous expression towards me in an almost pleading manner, as though expecting me to assure him that none of this was his fault—that he too was the instrument of some higher power that transcends our limited comprehension.

And then it happened. The Bloop; just as I had heard it countless times in recordings, only much, much louder. I left Gregory to his lamenting and raced back to the control room. Barring a few of its destroyed limbs that were already starting to regrow, the surface of Crius appeared overall intact. We hadn’t even made a dent. All readings showed that it also wasn’t what was producing the high amplitude sound. It was coming from somewhere else entirely…

The radio crackled to life:

“Come in, B55. We are detecting a large shape moving straight for us. Is the target—”

And that’s the last we heard of them. I tried to reestablish contact with the rest of the patrol fleet, but nobody responded. The crew operating from the coastline described the sea as being “deathly quiet”. It was probably time to just call HQ, confess to what had happened and request an extraction. Just as I was about to take a moment to regain my faculties and think of what to do next, we received yet another transmission from the shore:

“Uhh, Scholz? You might wanna see this.”

The blurry face of the man in charge of handling the survey equipment appeared on our feed. He wiped the lens with his sleeve and turned the camera towards the ocean. At first I didn’t know what I was meant to be seeing exactly. The water was indeed eerily stagnant. It was as if I was looking at a murky pond, not a sea. Constellations lit up the sky, rivaling the moon with how brightly they shone.

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And then, I finally made it out.

There, in the distance beyond the glaciers, was what looked like a giant… lamp post? It took me a minute to realize that one of the lights littering the sky was actually connected to a narrow stem that projected upwards from the ocean’s surface. It blended so seamlessly with the view that I would’ve never noticed it if it hadn’t shifted ever so slightly. Once I did, however, I couldn’t pry my eyes away from it. It’s silver luminescence was intoxicatingly soothing; like the sweet song of a siren, drawing you towards the center of a whirlpool. I could only imagine how alluring the dangling orb must have been in person.

“A few of the lads said that they were gonna grab a boat and go check it out. I told them it was a bad idea, but they wouldn’t listen. One even got violent when I tried to stop em—started swinging at me, the lunatic.” The older man holding the camera explained.

As a marine biologist, I’m not sure why it took me so long to realize what that thing obviously was. My best guess is that it was part of its intended effect on the viewer, overriding our senses and causing us to ignore the clear signs of danger in order to lure us in, much like an anglerfish lures its prey.

Before I could yell for them to get the hell out of there, it was too late.

All I could do was watch as the black ocean suddenly collapsed in on itself, revealing the all-consuming maw that awaited beneath it. Teeth the size of radio towers broke the surface and eclipsed everything. Eventually, even the sky. To my absolute horror, I realized that we were looking at the inside of an enormous jaw, which meant that the rest of it was somewhere behind the camera.

“Dear God! Oh no!”

We heard the sound of ice cracking, followed by the panicked screams of our comrades. Our perspective tilted, and then turned to static.

“No, no, NO, NO, N—”

Signal lost.

One by one, all of our remaining video feeds went dark as well. There was no point in trying to reach out again. The outpost was lost—swallowed by an eldritch monstrosity along with everybody there. And it was all my fault. If my hypothesis was correct and Crius was indeed an egg, then logic dictates that what we just glimpsed must’ve been the thing that laid it. It was probably just protecting its nest. Call it a feeling, but now that we’ve intruded on its territory, I don’t think that it’s going to stay put for much longer. Sooner or later, all of humanity will be reminded of how truly insignificant we are. It’s just a matter of time.

And, well, that’s it. That’s the story of everything that happened here.

Nobody ever came to retrieve us. I guess the government’s idea of disposing of us was to simply cut off all communications and leave us for dead. It’s been close to two years now of surviving in this frozen wasteland. Most, if not all, of the others have either expired or gone insane. I’ve salvaged enough food to last me a couple of weeks, but I can’t say the same for fuel, which is why I’ve decided that it’s time to leave. If I’m going to freeze to death anyway, I rather it be out there than in here.

I’m leaving this file on my personal computer just in case somebody does find this place.

To whomever is reading it: First of all, screw you for not coming sooner, and second, you can find all of my research in the hidden compartment below the desk. Hopefully, the majority of it is still legible. Do with it what you will.

As for me, it’s time for me to get going. Be safe, and remember:

If you happen to see a light out there, think twice before following it.

Credit: Morning Owl

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