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Dagon’s Mirror

Dagon's Mirror

Estimated reading time — 36 minutes

Uncle Marsh had always been the black sheep of our family. A thorn in my father’s side and a constant reminder of how corrupt and decayed our ancestral roots truly were. Sebastian Fredrick Marsh was my mother’s elder brother. A genetic throw-back, a deviant, and if the rumours surrounding him were true, a man acquainted with the most hellish of sins. His appearance was enough to make the most stoic of hearts skip a beat before its shambling gait. Flat headed, thick lipped and possessing the largest, glassiest bulging eyes found in the sockets of any earth-bound creature. His appearance was nothing less than outlandish. He would stumble along the cobbled streets of Barton village every Saturday morning in his weekly sojourn to the local stores. This journey caused his neighbors great unease and passerby’s would cross the street in an effort to avoid exchanging even the simplest of pleasantries with the man.

I was particularly disturbed by my uncle’s visage as I unfortunately shared a few of his more loathsome traits myself. Thankfully however, these were less pronounced and shocking than those found on my uncle’s grim face. My mother too shared what was known in Barton as ‘’the Marsh look’’, although her deviant features, like mine, were softer and even less obvious than my own. She got away lightly indeed, with large watery eyes her only obvious heritage of the tainted Marsh bloodline.

Uncle Marsh lived alone, tucked away in a rotting abode that lurked and leaned queerly at odd angles at the back of the ‘’Gunner’s Clough’’, a feral grotto that skirted the cemetery at the south end of the village. It was a lonesome stretch of sepulcher woodland, home only to the wyche elms, the creeping moss, and my gloomy uncle. Many an odd tale was attached to the Gunner’s Clough. Strange lights and raised voices were often heard from the depths of the woods on those days leading up to the nights of Hallows Eve and Walpurgis. It was not unknown for local pets and occasionally even children to go missing and turn up dead on the mornings after those nights, when the frogs croaked loudly and the owls hooted their omens of warning.


I remember when I was very young, my mother issued me a warning to never enter the Gunner’s Clough, despite my uncle living there, and I often wondered just what witchcraft was being played out in secret underneath the skeletal trees. These warnings were ubiquitous among all Barton children, and with good reason. Before I was born, a local child had been found dead in the woods, half submerged in the black slop that had once been a stream passing through the Clough. Little was done about the matter, it was assumed that the child had fallen into the muck and drowned, but every Barton resident was quick to attribute a more sinister conclusion to the life of little Maggy Hagen.

Despite the macabre reputation or perhaps, because of it, the whole area was the haunting ground of young boys during the summer months and sadly, and with great embarrassment, my uncle was seen as something of a local ‘’bogeyman’’ by my peers. As a result he suffered relentless taunting at the hands of Barton’s children. There was precious little else to do in the village during the school summer break and the taunting of my uncle became something of a local sport. Boys would prove their mettle by hurling rocks at the windows of the Gunner’s Clough cottage where my uncle resided, or knocking on his door only to flee as the frog-faced resident cautiously answered their call before slinking back into the dark of his home.

Being the nephew of ‘’Mad Marsh’’ meant that by proxy, I too suffered from the attentions of my uncle’s tormentors, and I tried desperately to make myself invisible in and out of school. I succeeded in this endeavor to such a level that I had successfully alienated myself from everyone outside of my family in just a few short years. One year, on Halloween, the onslaught of abuse directed towards my uncle reached such feverish heights that it culminated in a planned mass ‘’egging’’ of his home. Only one boy in town possessed enough bravado to see this task to conclusion however, Jamie Birtle.

It was Jamie alone who entered the Gunner’s Clough on that dreadful night, chest puffed out and a box of rotten eggs held confidently in his hands. When the boy finally returned -many hours later- to the circle of children crowning the edge of that necromantic woodland, waiting in anticipation for their champion, he was forever and irreversibly changed.

Transmuted, transformed, and left naught but a shell of what was once a lively child, he staggered out of the woodlands a dumb and silent specter. Poor Jamie Birtle, the terror of all children younger than himself, said nothing about what he had seen in the dark that night, nor would he ever speak a single syllable again his whole miserable life. Eventually the glassy –eyed mute was taken away from his parents and moved to Byron House, a home for the mentally disadvantaged. There he stayed for many years, banging his head against the wall of his cell to a silent, alien rhythm until fate gave him the opportunity to escape his confines and leap to his death, exactly thirteen years since he first lurched out of the shadows of the wyche elm trees.

My Uncle was questioned about the incident of course, but denied ever seeing the boy, let alone speaking to him or causing him harm. This event left me even more isolated from the other children. Before that night they might have included me in their torments, but once Jamie had been forever silenced, they avoided me completely.


I very rarely saw Uncle Marsh in person. Occasionally he would show up at a family get-together or function to make a token effort to remind us that he still existed in this world, only to disappear just as abruptly as he had arrived. My father in particular despised the man. He hated the appearance of his brother in-law and he hated that his wife and son were kin to the man, but most of all he hated the way Marsh collected queer objects and strange moldy tomes. Marsh was something of a scholar, at least of a certain sort, and loved to devour information from his astounding collection of books. His library consisted of a mass of sprawling grimoires and papers scattered around his living room in no discernible order. A chaotic crumbling mess of ancient and esoteric knowledge. Many of those decaying musty volumes were written in languages unspoken in the isolated villages and hamlets of Northwest England. Archaic German, French, Latin, Greek and scripts so wholly alien in structure that they must have been impossibly extra-terrestrial in origin. Other, far stranger items dotted the cramped rooms of the cottage that Marsh called home.

Warped bent skulls, exotic stuffed birds, crystals shaped in geometric arrangements that were maddingly complex. This was the legacy of my uncle Marsh, a repulsive isolated semi-antiquarian, semi- human recluse, obsessed with the forbidden and in love with the wicked and strange.

All these memories and thoughts flashed vividly in my mind as I sat opposite the stern, cold face of Mr Fisher, my family’s long suffering solicitor. Just seconds ago he had impassionedly read out aloud the contents of my uncle’s Last Will & Testament, in which a man I barely knew and had good reason to despise, had left me all his earthy, and unearthly possessions. Uncle Marsh’s death had been as singular and strange as his life. In the early morning of July 24th, 1954, he had stood naked on the sands of Seascale beach in Copeland, Cumbria and walked slowly and deliberately into the waiting maw of the churning Irish Sea. A trail of large, flat footprints in the sand and a pile of scattered clothing, were all that had remained of the man. Although a body was never found, he was declared legally dead some years after and had left instructions with Mr. Fisher that I, his only nephew, was to receive all he had ever owned. The significance of the location of his demise was not lost upon me, for decades ago my family had lived in the town of Seascale.. The sea had always been in the family’s blood and many a Marsh had took to the waves as fishermen, sailors and even pirates, at least if one was to believe the various myths and legends surrounding us, for the Marsh blood was tainted, or so the stories said.

The original branch of the family had come to England from the United States where a great deal of my relatives had lived in the decaying and damned port- town of Innsmouth, Massachusetts. Innsmouth itself was a nest of horrid myths and repulsive witch-lore. We had come to Cumbria under a cloud of dark suspicion and dread, chased out by the locals as warlocks & werewolves. Forced across the bitter Atlantic and finally ejected upon the shores of Old Blighty. Whatever is was that had segregated us from the other branches of the family -for many a Marsh still resided in rotting Innsmouth -none can say. My grandparents certainly would not discuss the matter. My own family had made the move away from Copeland and into the small village of Barton, Cheshire, due to a chance meeting between my mother and father during a blistering hot summer holiday, which my father had chosen to spend by the seaside. My father had been a keen lover of architecture, from ancient Roman ruins to Georgian estates, he had travelled the length and breadth of Britain in search of historical adventure. It was during such a trip that he learned of Seascale and its magnificent Victorian hotel, the Scawfell. During his stay in the town he had encountered my mother on the beech as she collected various seas-shells, live crabs, and bits of driftwood. Enraptured by her large green eyes and raven black hair, my father spent much of the summer with the strange girl who was to become my mother and they quickly became close friends and confidants.

Some months later, the two young lovers were engaged and made the move to my father’s home village, marrying at the parish church before buying a home in one of the cramp and sloping alleys of shadow-haunted Barton. Unfortunately, there had been an unwelcome catch to this otherwise auspicious joining, Sebastian, my mother’s elder brother, would also be making the move to Barton with them. My grandparents you see, were sadly in no fit state to look after the man, who was himself somewhat mentally disadvantaged, or ‘’backward’’ as my father would say and wholly ignorant of the many social norms we often take for granted in this day and age.

The elder Marshes were hopelessly advanced in age too and it was clear that they feared for their son’s wellbeing when the inevitable shedding of their mortal coil take them to the cold and unwelcoming grave. So with great reluctance, but also out of love for his wife, my father agreed to take Sebastian with them to Barton, where he lived with them for several months before finally acquiring the decomposing cottage in the woods behind the cemetery. Not long after my parent’s marriage, my Marsh grandparents succumbed to a kind of wasting disease. I had never actually seen either of them, nor had my father encountered them more than a handful of times, as they did not even have the strength to attend their daughter’s wedding.

Sebastian and my mother both attended the funeral in Seascale, in which a few grey shadowy strangers appeared, many of them also bearing the odd ‘’Marsh look’’. It was during this time that my uncle acquired the vast bulk of his blighted library and bizarre trinkets from my grandparents’ home, nestled as they were in the boarded up attic bedroom in which they had queerly spent the majority of their later years in total seclusion. The years passed by in Barton and while my parents made a home for themselves and started a family, my uncle continued to live alone in the woods, his collection of fungal books, and stuffed animals his only company.

As I have already mentioned, I was by no means close to my uncle and although I did not hate him with the burning vitriol my father had reserved for the man, he had still un-nerved and nauseated me on the few occasions I was unlucky enough to be in the same room as him and I was genuinely taken aback by being made his sole heir.

All this no doubt accounted for the puzzled look that must have graced my face and to which roused Mr. Fisher to once again break me away from my daydreaming with a short deliberate cough. Snapping out of my thoughts I focused upon the solicitor and smiled a weak apologetic expression and he proceeded to inform me that the cottage was in a cankerous state of decline and would be unsafe and unfit for habitation and advised me strongly from entering it, instead suggesting I hire a few locals to fetch me whatever items I desired and deposit them at my own home. He assured me that any effort made to restore the cottage would be nothing but a cash-sink and a complete waste of time. It was decayed even by the standards of the other groaning properties that dotted the woods and truth be told, I had no desire to enter it.

He gave me a few more details about various bits and pieces my uncle had left me, a few pounds squirreled away in a bank account and also the residence that my grandparents had lived in back in Seascale, which I simply asked him to put up for sale on my behalf and to sold as cheaply as possible. As luck would have it, he managed to sell it quickly to a distant relative, a Marsh cousin who still resided in the seaside town and wished for whatever reason to acquire the property.

After leaving Mr. Fisher to his paperwork, I left his office and headed straight to my parents’ home to talk about the matter with them both in full. My father seemed quite dismissive of the whole affair, assuming wrongly that I would have no interest in anything that had belonged to his deceased nemesis. My mother on the other hand seemed greatly unnerved by the matter, at first probing me to see what my intentions were regarding my uncle’s belongings. Upon hearing that I would be taking them all to my home and cataloguing them at my leisure, she could hardly contain her anxiety. This confused me greatly; I assured her that I simply wished to see if there was anything of worth to be sold to collectors and this seemed to calm her briefly.

Finding some local strong-arms to move the immense horde of junk from my uncle’s cottage and to my home proved to be quite difficult at first. Most men of labor in Barton proved to be stupefying in their reluctance to enter Gunner’s Clough and superstitious regarding the Marsh name. In the end I was able to hire a few Polish laborer’s who, despite being superstitious themselves, were strangers to Barton and ignorant of the mark upon my family’s name. I busied myself with work during the week or so it took to ransack my uncle’s cottage and at first barely noticed the horde of books, stuffed animals, skulls, crystals and various other brick-a-brac that I had the workers stack as neatly as possible in my cellar. By the time they had finished, the once vacant space beneath my house had become a labyrinth worthy of Crete, a Tartarus of crinkled yellow papers and moaning, sagging shelves. Fortunately, I had fitted the old cellar with electricity when I moved in, but the feeble light provided by that one naked bulb hanging in the center of the room seemed to cast more shadow than light, and gave the various glass-eyed dead animals a haunting quality that kept me away from the collection until I could find someone to take the whole ungodly collection off my hands.

The whole collection stayed well out of my mind and life for some weeks to come, as work kept me busy and I put off my once planned mass-cataloguing in favor of working towards a promotion at the office where I worked as a minor clerk. However, when said promotion passed me by, I took a few weeks leave from my job and decided to see how much money I could make from selling my uncle’s grim treasure trove. Working through the collection proved to be a lesson in patience and it took what seemed to be a lifetime to separate my uncle’s notes and diaries from actual printed books and hand-written manuscripts. When I finally did so, I had before me a collection of wicked and unwholesome tomes. Musty, fat, and swollen with hundreds of pages of information, some of the books dated back centuries. The volumes before me threw me into a state of excitement at the possibility of how much cash could be coughed up by a willing collector. I wrote down the names of as many of the books as I could. There was Cultes Des Goules by the Comte d’Eriette, Der Vermis Mysteriis penned by the Necromancer Ludwig Prinn and Unaussprechlichen Kulten by Fredrich von Junzt. There was also an English translation of a book called Things of the Water with its original title Cthaat Aquadingen presented on the inner pages in a sprawling spidery penmanship that I suspected to be of my uncle’s creation. The latter was filled with pages of notes written by my uncle and various rites and rituals underlined in pencil appeared sporadically throughout the interior. I tried by best to skim this book, being one of the few written in English, but its contents were so haphazardly laid out and unorganized that I simply could not digest any significant information from within, instead relying upon various words underlined by my uncle. These included Father Dagon, Mother Hydra, Cthulhu, Y’ha-nthlei, Ubbo Sathla, Azathoth and other, stranger arrangements of letters. Admittedly I was totally ignorant of the contents of all the books presented before me and dismissed them as either works of fiction or loose fantastical treaties of witchcraft and the occult. Neither of these topics interested me in the slightest, so I decided to write down all I could think of as interesting to collectors such as titles, authors, dates, and the strange names of pseudo-gods and pre-historic peoples and put them in a letter that I sent off to several rare book sellers in London.

It did not take long for a reply to reach me. One Dr. Artemis Harlan Glass, a collector and bibliophile, had been put in touch with me via one of his contacts and wrote me a fevered response. His excitement barely contained within his beautifully worded letter, he offered to buy the entire collection from me for a king’s ransom. It was a six figure sum so high that I had to sit down immediately upon reading it in order to finish his letter in full and had to re-read it several times to let its contents fully sink in.

Dr. Glass had also made it clear that he wanted any and all personal notes made by the books previous owners in full, which I understood given the gibberish contents contained within the tomes. However, I decided that I would not hand over my uncle’s diaries, for whatever absurd sentimental reasons I may have attached to them. In my reply to the Doctor I simply stated that the collection had come ‘’as is’’ and that no notes had been found among them . I did however smooth this over by stating that several of the books had passages underlined with a few scribbles here and there denoting other manuals and page numbers where other notes and information could be found. It wasn’t quite the spider-web of information the Doctor had sought, but it appeared to please him none the less and he organized to come and collect the books in person at a pre-arranged date just a few day after his reply to my offer.

I informed my parents over some afternoon tea of what the Doctor had offered me for the books and to much humour my father nearly spat out a mouth full of Earl Grey upon hearing that his son was to become so fabulously wealthy. He seemed overjoyed at the news, not for any dreams of personal gain, he had always been the non-materialistic type, but at the life such money could provide for me. I knew that he was also secretly happy that being related to Sebastian Marsh had actually paid off in the end and the money was at once a source of sweet revenge for him and an ointment to smooth over the wounds left by their various clashes. My mother’s reaction was some-what similar to my father’s, but I could not help but think that it was all a put on, an act, and that she truly did not want to see my uncle’s library in the hands of a stranger. If she had but voiced her concerns I may have changed my mind, or at least sold perhaps only half of the collection left to me. I informed her that I intended to keep my uncle’s diaries and personal notes, but she simply shrugged whilst nursing a luke-warm cup of tea. My father made a comment about how they would best be used to kindle a fire and we quickly moved onto the topic of what I would be doing with the money that was soon coming my way.

I’ll admit that when the day came for the Doctor to collect the books, a cloud of regret had fallen over me. Despite the ludicrous amount of money that he was offering, I felt somewhat reluctant to part with my uncle’s collection. These feelings of doubt however were quickly dispelled as a series of brisk rapping penetrated the quiet of my usual afternoon routine and I opened my front door to welcome my visitor. Dr. Glass had an appearance wholly shocking and disturbing to me, despite my familiarity with the grotesque and misshapen. He was both painfully thin, and shockingly tall. Despite being bent over at the shoulder, he still towered over me by a clear foot. He had the complexion of a fresh corpse, blood drained and transparent, while his head was crowned by a thick head of bushy hair, raven black despite his obvious advanced age. His clothes too were as distinct as the man himself, for he clearly dressed in the manner of a gentleman many decades removed from the current age we occupied. These fine clothes were however some-what lost on the man, as his willow-like frame caused them to hang off of him like folds of dark, dead skin. This scarecrow of a man stood at my threshold, nodded, and extended a withered, crinkled hand which I met, almost in a trace, with my own. I tried my best to not be repulsed by the Doctor’s winter-cold skin and long nails as our hands clasped, but I fear that a modicum of my discomfort must have been made apparent to the man as a cruel smirk broke across his features as I stepped aside to let him in.

I watched as the vampiric form of the Doctor entered my home and another wave of anxiety washed over me, for the man whom I had just invited into my house was so far removed from what I imagined a cultivated, millionaire-scholar to look like, that I half-fancied a cruel hoax being played upon me. I had already prepared the collection and they stood on a table in my living room wrapped in brown paper and string. Upon seeing the pile, the Doctor turned to me with his pale grey eyes and spoke to me in a voice so frail and hollow that I had to strain to hear the shriveled syllables that emitted faintly from his thin lips.

“Would you mind, Sir, if I took the liberty of confirming the contents of those packages?”

I nodded automatically, as if hypnotized by the man’s voice and watched in fright as he glided over to the table and used his long, gnarled talons to cleanly remove the brown paper barring him from the prize that lay underneath. I watched the grim spectacle of the Doctor using his sharp nails like some kind of organic letter opener and then greedily scooping up the books in his hands, flicking through their contents with the hungry gaze of a wild predator. Happy with his lot, he turned to me and without even looking me in the eye sharply withdrew a folded check from his waistcoat pocket and handed it to me. I unfolded it and was once again taken aback by the amount written upon it along with my name and quickly placed it in the top draw of my study desk with an obvious, avaricious celerity.

Our business seemingly concluded, I regained my senses and offered the Doctor some refreshment, which he took thankfully as he singled out a seat in my lounge and with great effort, lowered his mummified body down onto. As I poured us both a cup of tea he continued to plum through his new acquisitions with a look of pure joy. It was a look that seemed out of place, and it was disturbing to see it grow upon his cold, rigid face. We talked at length for several hours, during which time he made several enquiries as to where I had acquired my collection and I felt that he was trying his best to gage just how much I knew about it. Being one of the world’s worst liars, I couldn’t bring myself to deceive the man who had given me such a huge fortune for some old books and decided instead to tell him exactly where I had acquired the collection. I told him all about my uncle, the Marsh family, and our Innsmouth origins along with the legends surrounding the Gunner’s Clough and the horrible fates that had befallen several of Barton’s children. The latter of which he did not seem entirely ignorant of, and he listened with interest as I reeled off the collection of even stranger relics that still sat waiting in my cellar to be catalogued. Upon hearing this, the Doctor set aside his tea and asked politely if he could be permitted to look over these objects, as being knowledgeable of such things he could quite possibly put me in contact with several antiquarians of his acquaintance who might be interested in purchasing them from me. I saw little reason to deny the man who had so generously secured my future and helped to lead him gently down into my cellar by one of his spindly arms. Upon reaching the bottom of the creaking stairs that adjoined the cellar to my house I stood back as he picked through the objects like a carrion crow looking for the juiciest parts of a rotten corpse.

He ignored most of the artefacts before him, picking up several crystals and tossing them back dismissively before making his way to the back of the cellar where, covered in a dusty sheet, there stood a tall object that I had yet to bother with and which he revealed at once dramatically with a swift, sharp tug. As the dirty, greyed sheet fell ignobly to the ground, the spectacle before us caused us both to pause slack- jawed before its horrid resplendence. For resting gently against the wall there stood an object so magnificent and terrifying that neither of us could barely speak a word for several minutes, frozen as we were in complete awe. It was a mirror that stood some 7 feet tall and 3 feet wide, a perfect rectangle that was framed by the most amazing display of carved golden creatures, the like of which I had never seen. The frame was a collection of fish, crustaceans, octopods, and amphibians, all carved beautifully out of a spectral white gold. At either end of the mirror their sat a large carving of what at first appeared to be a mermaid and a merman, but on closer inspection the faces of these characters were not fully human, being instead a horrible amalgamation of fish, frog, octopus, and man. They danced and frolicked along the mirrors edge in such a vivid manner that they appeared to sway, as if caught in an invisible breeze, causing my head to spin slightly if I looked upon them for too long. The mirror itself was equally bizarre, a green-blue tint was washed over the glass and even in the dim light of the cellar it was obvious that it did not fully reflect the room back at us. Instead it distorted our reflections in a wavy, sloshing manner that made it appear like we were instead looking upon our faces from a murky pond or pool. The Doctor stood forward and ran his hands over the gold frame, and then shockingly, he gripped the tail of one of the carved mermen and with great ease simply bent it and pulled it off. The metal fin he then worked over in his hands, rubbing it between his fingers where it molded and distorted like clay and not as any earthly metal should have. The plastic-metal he then rolled into a ball and placed in one of his pockets, he then bent down with a grimaced gesture and picked up the sheet to cover the mirror once more. He turned to me with clear concern etched over his grey face and suggested that we leave the cellar immediately and make for the lounge, where upon seating himself back down he requested some fresh tea and bid me sit with him.

The Doctor then proceeded to tell me such a fantastic and macabre story that I became dazed, swooning on occasion at the strange mysteries he was inducting me into. He spoke as if my uncle’s collection of books were factual, containing within them all the lore of mankind and the millions of years that had rolled on before our race made the slow climb down from the trees. He spoke of extra-terrestrial invaders who had once called the Earth home, creatures that had ‘‘seeped down from the stars’’ and held dominion over our world while man’s most distant ancestors were still billions of years from appearing on the cosmic stage. These dreadful beings, gods compared to humanity, had experimented with life and in accident, had given birth to the ancestors of the human race. He spoke of ‘’The Elder Things’’, ‘’The Old Ones’’, the dreaded ‘’Fungi of Yuggoth’’ as well as ‘’The Great Race of Yith’’, all visitors to our small and lonely blue planet. He spoke also of the few remnants of this horrid mythology that could still be found swimming and plotting in the darkest reaches of our planet’s oceans. This last point he spend much of his time elaborating upon, bringing out quotes and page references from Things of the Water, uttering those unspeakable names I had once glanced over myself, Cthulhu, Dagon, and Hydra. The last two of which had had their images carved into the mirror’s frame, represented by the frog-fish things seated at either end of the disturbing object. A whole race separate from humankind, but also disgustingly intertwined with it, that lived undying in the dim reaches of the ocean bed, swimming through the slowly dissolving ruins of dead sunken cities such as dread Y’ha-nthlei, where the sun’s rays fail to penetrate through the salty gloom.

He spoke of an ancient pact made with these ‘’Deep Ones’’ that resulted in a mixed heritage of human and ‘’something’’ and of the twisted families of New England who carried this taint within their blood, the Marshs being but one. He spoke too about the mirror in my cellar, how occasionally the Deep Ones had made such a gift to the tribes of humans who had worshipped them and their Old Gods as a means of contacting the people below the waves, should they ever be needed in dire times or upon the approaching times of their disgusting, unholy rites.

By the time the Doctor had finished spinning his tail of antiquated horror, the hour had grown late, far too late for him to catch the last train back to London and so, with a little reluctance, I assured him that a bed would be available for him in my guest room. He retired long before I did, for I found it difficult to sleep at all after hearing about the so called Marsh taint and how it connected with the things written down centuries ago within the books my uncle had kept and adored. Was Uncle Marsh looking for something within those books? Was he looking for a cure to his condition perhaps? Whatever he had uncovered from the tome, it had caused him to calmly walk beneath the waves of the freezing Irish Sea without so much as a second glace back at the life he once lived.

I do not know exactly what time I had fallen asleep on the couch, a half empty glass of brandy still cradled in my hand, but I was aware of what had stirred me from the depths of my slumber. It had been a crashing sound, like something heavy falling down and it had greatly disturbed the silence of the house. Blinking the fatigue from my eyes, I immediately thought of the Doctor and imagined, aged as he was, that he had left his bed in the night to make use of the facilities and had fallen in the dark. Dancing up the steps lightly I found the door to my guest room opened widely, and upon inspection found no occupant within in, indeed the bed looked like he had not been touched at all. I continued my investigation, finding no-one in any of the upper rooms. Hurrying back downstairs I made for the kitchen and was greeted by a source of light emitting from under the door leading to the cellar. Pausing as I touched the door handle, I took a moment to collect my thoughts. Just what was the Doctor doing down there? I quietly opened the door and winced as it made a light creaking noise, whatever misdemeanor the Doctor was performing within my home I was eager to catch him at it red handed and without excuse. As I walked slowly down those rickety wooden stairs, I noticed that the light coming from the cellar was not from the bulb I had fitted, but instead from the far corner, and that it was no ordinary light, but a curious green-gold that bathed the various artefacts and boxes in a sick phantom glow.


The scene that greeted me was at once mesmerizing and terrifying, for the glow appeared to come from the mirror itself, which was lying flat upon the floor and not up against the wall as we had left it. The light immediately began to wane as I drew closer until it finally extinguished all together, causing me to retreat to the stairs and turn on the electric light. As the orange bulb hummed into life another scene invaded my senses and caused my heart to fly into a panic, as bundled up against the wall before me, there laid the Doctor. His limbs stiff and his face frozen in an agonizing, bulging eyed fright, the Doctors lifeless hands were clawing at his own throat. A strange smell, like that of all the rotting debris found at the beach, penetrated the whole room, and with ultimate horror I noticed a set of wet, inhuman footprints leading from where the mirror lay to where the Doctor had expired. Carefully, I made my way down to the floor where the terrible prints lay, the water that composed them was think and gluey, and possessed an awful stench of the sea that made bile rise in my throat. Suddenly, the mirror caught my eye, and I half-fancied I saw the surface of it ripple like disturbed water, as if something had just decided to spy upon me before quickly retreating. I must have then fainted, for the whole room around me slowly disappeared in a cloud of grey and merciful oblivion took me away from the cellar, the Doctors corpse, the smell of rotting driftwood and the odious presence of the mirror.

Of course an investigation was carried out by the local constabulary, whom I had contacted as soon as my conciseness had returned from whatever restful place it had been slumbering. I was deeply worried that I would come under suspicion of foul play, but upon hearing that the Doctor was paying me close to a million pounds for some antique books, a fortune I would no longer be getting due to a dispute with his estate that I later became embroiled in, I was cleared of any wrongdoing. It was ruled that the Doctor had suffered a heart attack and died of natural causes while looking around in the dank of my cellar, for whatever the reason the police force decided to conjure up in their follow up report. I did not mention the mirror and lied when informing the police that the light of my cellar was on when I found the Doctor’s body. In truth I had returned the mirror to its position, complete with covered sheet before I had called the police and had also taken the piece of gold from his pockets. I did this in order to deprive the police of a motive, but also because I simply had no desire for the mirror to come under anyone’s scrutiny. Had I told a single living soul about strange glowing and disgusting seaside stenches attached to the grisly scene in my cellar, I had little doubt I would have been carted away and given a new home at Byron House.

Thankfully, I still had plenty of time left before returning to work, so I was able to come to terms with the loss of my dreams and ambitions that the Doctor’s money would have afforded me. It was particularly crushing to have had such a fortune laid before me, only to have it cruelly snatched away, seemingly by one of my uncle’s possessions. I had purposefully kept the thought of the mirror and of those dread footprints far out of my mind, but try as I might they returned again and again to me, mainly at night when lost in the abyssal embrace of Hypnos.

Again and again the grotesque pantomime played out in my dreams, occasionally with extra details that had either been omitted from the original memory due to shock or added anew from the depths of my disturbed imagination. Sometimes the Doctor was still on the cusp of life, spluttering out a blood drenched warning and pointing at the mirror desperately in his last thrashing moments. Other times I witnessed his body slowly being dragged into the mirror as its glass surface splashed and rippled like water. Finally, on one terrible night, I had seen what I thought to be a huge flabby claw sinking back into the surface of the mirror with deliberate, lugubrious intent.

This dream sickness soon became an invading presence in my life and even when the time came for me to return to work, I would often be so fatigued from the stress of my nightmares that I would finish work early or call in sick on the days after I had experienced a strong session of the feverish night- haunted imaginings. I consulted my family Doctor who simply dismissed the dreams and prescribed me sleeping pills, which I soon discovered, made my dreams more vivid, forcing me to discard them after just two nights. Desperate to starve off the midnight illusions that plagued my dreams, I took to consuming copious amounts of black coffee and spending my nights sat in my garden smoking cigarettes.

However, this too did little to alleviate my condition, as the glowing stars looking down upon me took on a far more sinister meaning since my talk with the Doctor and I quickly grew fearful of their incessant twinkling.

This period of restlessness lasted for nearly a month and resulted in me being fired from my job and loosing what little human contact I had in my lonesome life. It was an irregular visit from my mother however, that brought me out of my malaise and sharpened my focus once more. I confided in her all those things that Dr. Glass had told me on that fateful night and watched her face remain unchanged throughout the entire revelation, not so much a revelation for her I felt. Surprisingly, she said very little and simply made a comment whilst sipping a cup of tea in my garden, that such things had been said about the Marsh family for years, as well as cursed Innsmouth from whence our family came. She did admit that she knew very little of our family’s roots and had almost no contact with relatives. She had practically raised herself and it was my uncle who had cared for and spent most of his waking hours with their decrepit parents before they died. She then casually reminded me that a Marsh had bought my grandparents’ house not long after I had been left it in my uncle’s will and I realized that I could perhaps alleviate myself of my uncle’s possessions in the hopes it would calm my mind.

A quick visit to Mr Fisher and I was furnished with the name Eli Marsh, some kind of distant cousin on my mother’s side who had bought and moved into the rotting home my grandparents had dwelled within and to which my uncle was left when they passed away. Not wishing to travel to Seascale on the chance that I would catch this relative at home, I instead sent a simple note detailing who I was, some details about Uncle Marsh’s books and a description of the mirror. I asked if he knew any other details of our family’s history that could help to shed some light on the strange occurrence that happened to Dr. Glass and detailed the strange effects that the mirror had played out in my cellar that dreadful night.
In response to my enquiry, a sparse letter arrived asking me to come visit him at my grandparents’ home at my earliest convenience. I wasted little time in heeding the summons and boarded the train from the nearest station in Eastwich towards Seascale the next day. At Eli’s request I had Things of the Water securely tucked away in a brief case along with many of my uncle’s notes as I could carry. The train journey was pleasant enough, with change overs at Manchester Piccadilly and then Barrow-in-Furness. Despite the usual overcast weather of Northwest England, the countryside was still an open beauty to behold, and I allowed myself a few hours of respite as I drank in the dark green essence of its untamed rolling hills and feral woodlands.

Eventually the scenery gave way to the various villages and towns that precipitated the train’s arrival in Seascale, and the greenery disappeared amidst the dull grey buildings and hotels of the seaside resort. Eli had no intention of meeting me at the station and had instead given me instructions to call upon him at any time of day at my grandparent’s home. He had expressed a dislike of the daylight and I imagined that he too must be a victim of the sinister wasting disease that had afflicted my mother’s parents in so gruesome a fashion. I had intended to make more of a day for myself in town whilst visiting Eli, but the autumn clouds and light rain do little to vitalize a tourist’s hunger and after a short 30 minutes stroll around and a lunch at one of the many seaside cafes, I instead decided to make my way straight to the house on Reads Avenue and see exactly what light my distant cousin could shed upon the macabre conundrum that had made its way into my life.

Reads Avenue was a street crowded by various bed and breakfast establishments and other tall narrow buildings, nothing more than a simple row of heartless Edwardian constructions that overlooked the crumbling coastline and rolling sea. I paused several times and overlooked the beaches on my way, allowing myself to fantasize morbidly over my uncle’s suicide and final moments. That plump, naked, flabby body making its way to the water’s edge with as much momentum as its master could muster and then a simple wade out to sea until his body finally gave into the cold grip of the sea and sank beneath the water. The wind around the coast was particularly ferocious and it not only chilled me, but also carried upon it the seaside stenches of rotting crustaceans and slimy rocks, an aroma that caused my night-time terrors to resurrect momentarily and persuaded me to finally move along and towards the home of Eli Marsh.

The house was sandwiched in-between two bed and breakfasts, a tall three-story building painted in a washed out white with a rusting iron fence crowning the outside.

Every single window visible was either boarded up or concealed with thick curtains, it
appeared that Eli was a man who valued his privacy. Some simple stone steps lead up to the red painted front door, the only source of color found on the entire building, but this was somewhat offset by the peeling paint that revealed a dull cracked brown beneath. I was about to knock when I noticed a piece of card on the ground held in place by a bottle of milk that had most defiantly soured. A short message or more accurately an order, was scribbled upon it in a poor, but strangely familiar script. Folding up the card I opened the front door, which was unlocked as per the note’s description, and walked into the gloom of the narrow hallway.

Like the outside, the interior of the home was much taller than it was wide, and the staircase presented before me appeared to lean oddly at the top, giving the illusion that the house was fatigued and resting upon its neighboring establishment for support. It was difficult to see much in the dark of the hallway, I tried to turn on the lights with a few flicks of the nearby switch, but to no avail. A doorway to my right lead into what must have been a downstairs living room and I proceeded to investigate. A bare wooden floor and not a scrap of furniture to be found. This coupled with the thick sheets that had been crudely nailed into the window frame and were doing a superb job of keeping out the feeble light, was all the living room had to offer. I quickly established that this was not a home, it was a mausoleum.
I was about to enter another room leading off from the back of my current whereabouts, a kitchen perhaps, when a series of loud sharp knocks startled me and immediately made me look upwards to the source of their location. I will admit freely that this disturbed me greatly and I wondered if I had perhaps left reality behind and stumbled onto the pages of the apocryphal ghost story.

I froze like a rabbit confronted by the sight of a predator and waited in silence to see what would happen next. Again, the thumps pierced the silence I stood within, but this time I followed their source and stood at the bottom of the staircase, its thin decayed carpet doing a poor job of concealing the dry rot beneath. Whatever courage I summed up must have come from the realization that I was here to see a member of my own family, not some moaning spirit wrapped in chains, and I smiled to myself in an effort to banish away the fear that had coiled its way into my heart.

Surprisingly the stairs made little noise as I ascended them as quickly as possible, jumping two steps with my stride until I arrived at the landing. Several doors lay before me, but only one was open and from the room within I could hear a series of low wheezes and finally a sickly wet cough. With more than a little reservation I knocked and gently pushed the door inwards, what greeted me was similar to the downstairs, a bare floorboard underfoot and a covered-up window frame. Although that was not all to be found, as two chairs, large and crimson, but covered in dust had been placed in the center of the room, and sitting in one of them was a shadowy bundle of rags and worn clothing that at second glance contained the body of a man. It gestured towards to vacant chair opposite, and I reluctantly obeyed, placing my brief case down and taking off my hat. I could see very little underneath what I presumed to be my cousin’s clothing, even his face was concealed with a scarf and a flat-cap balanced ignobility upon his some-what misshapen head. Words issued forth from my host’s mouth, impossible liquid words that were punctuated with wet coughs and struggling breaths. There was movement beneath that scarf, but not the simple parting of lips, a series of movements from the neck area, a restless movement of something opening and closing to the rhythm of his speech. The only parts of his body visible to me were the eyes, huge bulging eyes that stared at me unblinking and with focused malice. These bloodshot globes were not so much sat within his head as leaked out of their sockets. Some unseen force keeping their jelly from outright streaming down his face. Despite their obvious vulgarity, these repulsive gelatinous spheres were at once familiar and alien to me. The Marsh look was obviously something I knew all too well, but to see it in such an advanced state and up close horrified me to my core. It took me several moments to recognize the words that Eli was forcing out of his mouth.

“Have you the book?” he spoke, bandaged hands outstretched before me like a begging child.


I nodded and picked up my case, clicking it open and passing him Things of the Water along with my uncle’s notes. He produced a pencil and started to write on the back pages of my uncle’s diary, checking over the tome for some kind of unspoken reference and occasionally looking up at me with his flowing frogspawn eyes. As he finished whatever notes he had written, he handed the books back to me and we both simultaneously jumped as another series of bangs issued forth from the room above ours. He reached down to the side of his feet and produced a broom and lifted himself with great effort off the chair. With the bare end he then struck the ceiling in response. I half-fancied this some kind of coded message, for the series of strikes did not appear random, but some kind of perverse hidden code. When another set of bangs responded to his, this suspicion was confirmed. Eli, seemingly satisfied with this waddled back to his seat and slung his body back down in a way that was also somehow sickeningly familiar to me. Leaning forward, far too close for my comfort he, pointed upwards with his hand and gave a simple explanation.

“You must forgive my sister, she has succumbed to our family’s…condition and is confined to her bed”

I think I gave a nervous smile and a few words of sympathy, but I was far too transfixed upon the awful fish-oil smell that secreted from his breath with every word.

Perhaps noticing my discomfort he leaned backwards awkwardly into his seat.

“Sit cousin, sit. We have much to discuss and my time in this world is fleeting. No doubt you have a dozen, maybe a hundred questions dancing round that brain of yours, but you’ll have to make do with what I tell you today. You got some answers from that Doctor friend, but what does a stranger know of the affairs of a Marsh? Only a Marsh can help a Marsh. Maybe a Gilman or a Waite or hells even an Elliot might be able to tell you what is in store for you, but you have me instead. I bet you’re curious as to why our family left Innsmouth behind and came back to our ancestral home aren’t you? Well you have those books, books like this here Things of the Water to thank for that! Our great granddaddy was a sorcerer you see. Oh, you may laugh at such a thing, but I tell you it’s the truth. A great sorcerer, who could conjure up all manner of gods from the sky and the sea and have the angels of Cthulhu answer his calls. Others grew fearful of the power he had, other Marshs who had little power themselves and wanted his for themselves! Not interested in paying service to Dagon or Hydra or any other god, Granddaddy Marsh used the names of the Great Old Ones himself, without any priest of Dagon present. They forced him out, chased him and his Deep One bride out of Innsmouth along with their children and forbid them ever to return. Why didn’t the Order of Dagon have him killed? Well who knows, maybe they feared his power. Maybe they thought old Dagon himself would come to collect his due on the traitor, but it never happened”

He paused momentarily to catch his breath, and I watched as he struggled for several minutes before continuing his horrid monologue.

“The mirror could be another reason. Granddaddy had made the thing himself as a way to commune with the Gods of the sea and to look in on his family who had made the
change and swam beneath the waters outside of Innsmouth. Who knows what bargains he had made with the Deep Ones? I reckon Innsmouth folk, and the Order feared another uprising like the one in 1846 should they act against him and just let his and his kin be. So to Seascale he came, where he kept his books and said his prayer-spells to Dagon and Cthulhu every Hallows mass and Walpurgis and carried on the Marsh line, making new deals with the Deep Ones through the mirror and bringing in other families to mix blood with them old sea devils. Oh you’d be surprised by how many ‘round these parts carry the blood of the Deep Ones in them and how many make the change and swim to the depths of Y’ha-nthlei to dance and frolic with Dagon in the dark. I’ll be making that trip soon myself, me and my sister will walk down to the water and keep on walking, just like your uncle, my daddy did those years ago. I can see you looking more confused cousin, did you think that Sebastian Marsh had no kin other than you and your mother? He’s a Marsh after all and had to take a mate among the Deep Ones just like we all do, just like your mother did. Your mother was already carrying you in her when she met that man calling himself your father on the beach all those years gone. You’ll change, just like I’m changing, just like your uncle changed! Your mother doesn’t seem to be making a change, but the blood of Dagon is stronger in our men, I guess. You just say those words I’ve wrote down in that book, you say them when and where it tells you to say them and you’ll get those answers you seek”

He said nothing more and I waited for several minutes just in case fatigue had caused him to pause for breath, but he did not say anything more on the matter. Perhaps knowing that what he had added to the diary was all I truly needed to know. As I pondered the last few months of my life a series of horrid realizations began to creep over me and I suddenly wished to be outside, away from the bundled menace before me. I managed to muster enough will to lift myself off the chair and pick up my belongings. He watched my every movement as I backed my way towards the door. As I slowly exited the room and began to descend the narrow staircase, one final sentence barked out at me from the obnoxious fish-stench room and chilled me.

“Marsh blood is thick in your veins cousin, and you’d best prepare yourself for the change!”

These last words were met with more wheezing and coughing, but also a guttural and mocking laugh and by the time I regained my senses, I was outside the house and underneath the grey clouds once more. I staggered back to the train station like a piece of debris caught in the breeze and once the train was in full gallop back to Barton, I summed up the courage to look over the additions Eli had made to the diary. The instructions were clear, but also baffling. A ritual of sorts. I hoped, perhaps vainly, that following through on my cousin’s scribblings would grant me some measure of peace and closure. Upon returning home, I started to make the necessary preparations for unearthing the truth about the ‘Marsh look’, gathering the notes and formula outlined in Eli’s notes.

I had no wish to visit the Gunners Clough, to walk beneath the wyche elms as the silver light of the full moon bathed all around me in a chilling glow, but I did. I had no desire either to stumble or struggle through the mud and filth of the woodland on All Hallows Eve in the direction of my uncle’s home, but this too I did. I had made all the preparations as instructed to me by Eli Marsh, whose handwriting had been so oddly similar to my uncle’s. The mirror, Dagon’s Mirror, had been removed from my cellar and once again brought back to the crumbling cottage, placed on the floor of the largest room just as it had been on that dreadful night that still haunted my dreams. The significance of the moon and date had been clearly set down for me. Although I had the option of waiting for Walpurgis Night in April to work the old magic of Innsmouth, I simply could not wait that long for the truth, it had to be tonight.

The moonlight was strong enough to illuminate my path to the cottage, but regardless I brought along my torch and supplemented Luna’s gaze with my own feeble cone of light. Through the blackness I shambled, making no effort to conceal my coming from the various woodland beasts who hunted during the hour of the wolf and beyond. I half fancied all manner of specters and phantoms awaiting me in the woods, the ghosts of little Maggy Hagen and Jamie Birtle, along with every other miserable soul claimed by the Clough formed before my vision, dancing in and out of my sight among the trees.

Suddenly the cottage came into view; a leaning rotting husk that looked more like a disused garden shed than an actual home. Surrounded by leaning wyche elms and sitting in a circle of black blasted earth, my uncle’s home stood in defiance of the repugnant nature that desperately sought to reclaim the wooden structure. It was crowned with strange diseased orange fungus and furry rugs of crawling moss. Insects gathered all around the cottage, feeding with indignity upon the fleshy pulp of the clinging mushrooms, occasionally pulling themselves away to dance frantically within the illuminated cone of my torch. The entrance to the sagging structure was not barred, and I entered into the main room of the cottage and was immediately greeted by the golden mirror lying flat upon the decomposed floorboards. Above, a crude sky light had been fitted into the flat roof. I say sky light, but it was nothing more than a trapdoor that opened readily and eagerly once the single rusted iron bolt that held it in place had been relieved from duty. The ceiling door swung open, creaking like a walking corpse, and eventually came to a rest after swaying for a few seconds. A wash of moon light came streaming through the opening and hit the mirror’s surface. Rather than reflect off the glass the light instead beamed directly into the mirror, drawn into it by some unseen force that then expanded the light, illuminating the whole cottage so much that my torch lay forgotten on the ground by my feet. I dropped to my knees in horrid awe and unconsciously crawled closer and closer to the mirror’s glowing edge.

Once more the terrible forms of Father Dagon and Mother Hydra, carved in gold and glaring menacingly in my direction, came into view and I hesitated slightly before finally resting my gaze upon the vision that had patiently been waiting for me. A vision hinted at by Dr. Glass and my cousin, a terrible legacy that even now must be swimming through my veins and transmuting my form with languid, but irreversible taint. Had this been what Jamie Birtle had stumbled upon all those years ago? Had he seen the truth of Uncle Marsh’s heritage and as a result suffered a mental shutdown caused by his feeble lizard brain rebuking the awful reality of the ‘Marsh look’?

It is difficult for me to write down exactly what I saw in the mirror that night, but for the sake of all humanity and for those who will come after, I will try. By the time anyone finds and reads this I will no longer be a resident of Barton, I will be changed and at home among the briny depths and salt-soaked stones of the deepest gulfs of horror imaginable.

For I kneeled perplexed, transfixed at the scene playing out before me in the ocean grotto where the fish-things frolicked and swayed amid cyclopean ruins. Dancing blindly and madly to a silent alien beat, the fungoid flabby creatures prostrated themselves before the eroded edifices of Father Dagon & Mother Hydra and to the colossal statue of Lord Cthulhu that towered over the whole sickly affair. Except the statue was not a statue, it was alive and moving, over-seeing its baying subjects in their chaotic worship, a tentacular titan, pleased with the spectacle around it. They danced and copulated and tore each other to pieces as the assembly reached such hideous heights of frenzy that I was sure I would be sucked through the mirror and into the icy salt water of Y’ha-nthlei. But this disgusting pantomime being played out before my senses paled in horror compared to the realization that one of the creatures possessed a visage so familiar to me that I mercifully passed out as my mind recalled its likeness. For the newest addition to the throng of the fish-things wore the face of my uncle Sebastian Marsh. He who had sought the embrace of the Irish sea, not in order to end his life, but instead to take his place among The Deep Ones, as all men who bare the Marsh name must one day do.

Credit: Nick Lowe

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