Estimated reading time — 10 minutes
It was a tattered notebook. I’m not sure why I even picked it up. It sat there forlornly on the dock, seeming to stare at me as I stepped off the ferry. It had been a bright red at one point, but water and general exposure had made the coloring dull. I picked it up gingerly, with half a mind to throw it away. I’ve never been able to let litter sit on the ground, whether it was mine or not. But as I walked toward a trash can, I realized something was off. While the cover of the notebook was wet, the pages inside did not seem to be.
I flipped it open. Pages full of scribbles met my gaze. At first the handwriting was steady and strong, but as it went on the stroke became more erratic until finally it culminated in what looked like a written scream. Two words, “Stop me”.
I turned towards the trash can again, unnerved. Whoever had used this book last might come looking for it and given the apperance of those last two words I did not want to meet them. I paused though. Stop me? What if this was some poor soul who was going to commit suicide? Or some other horrible crime? What if all I had to do was skim this notebook to save them?
Raindrops began to patter on my head. I looked up at the sullen gray sky and sighed. I had been thinking about heading south to Boston for an evening on the town. My little “town” if you could call a couple hundred people that, in Essex County north of Boston didn’t offer much of a night life. But a night on the town would have to wait. I had a notebook to read.
Twenty minutes later found me in the small house I rented, curled up on the couch with a mug of tea and a blanket. I flipped open the notebook and began reading:
“The music is what bothers me most,” it began. “There is this strange ethereal music in the air. Only, ethereal isn’t quite right because it is so very very real, almost solid. But no one else hears it. It surrounds me, and it sounds like the strident call of trumpet, but it’s not a trumpet making the call, it’s a string instrument, but sounding more strident than string has a right to, but then again there is the pounding boom of the drum. And they aren’t seperate sounds as in an orchestra, it’s all one at once. I just, I can’t–”
There were several slash marks, as if the writer had grown frustrated. As I turned the page I paused. Just for a moment, I thought I had heard something. Some music of some kind. I put the book down and walked into the kitchen to check my radio. It was off. Shaking my head I looked outside. The sky had gone from gray to black. Rain went from a patter to a pour as I looked out, clanging on the window and the roof above me. I was glad I had decided to stay in now, I wouldn’t want to be driving out in this weather.
Settling back down on the sofa I began reading again. “It’s not important. The music is just a symptom. You must know this!!! The music is only the beginning.” I shifted on the couch and sighed. I was beginning to doubt that I really needed to be reading this. But, I had come this far, and I had nothing better to do.
“You must also beware yellow. It is not safe after this. I stopped her and I thought it was over. But it has only gotten worse. And now I know, now I understand.” Here there was a doodle in the margin, a large circle with what looked like wiggly lines coming out of it. Tentacles maybe? There was an arrow pointing to it, with the caption “He Calls” underneath it. As I stared at it, again, just on the edge of hearing, a strange music fell on my ear. It reminded me of a trumpet call, but done with a violin…
I sat straight up and looked around. My tiny living room, with only the TV and DVR box besides my couch and easy chair was empty and still. I looked back down at the notebook doubtfully. I was letting this thing get to me. I should just stop reading it.
I made a move to put it down, but instead I found myself turning the page again. The writing was frantic now and I knew I was nearing the end of the account. “I can’t stop now. I want to but I can’t. Just like her. The river at midnight on 09-20-20**” I raised my eyebrows at that. That was tonight. “He calls and he calls and I cannot stop.” There were a couple blank pages and then that written scream. “Stop me.”
As I took a breath, the doorbell rang. I jumped from the seat, dropping the notebook and landing on my bottom. I blinked, coming back to reality as the doorbell rang again, this time longer and, somehow, louder. Standing up, I made my way over to the door. I opened it a crack and looked outside. A man underneath a large black umbrella stared unblinkingly at me as water cascaded off his umbrella from all sides. “Hello,” he said, and, while is voice was friendly, it put me on guard. “Are you Mr. Howard Phillips?”
“Yes,” I said, holding the door fast. “Who are you?” I’m afraid I wasn’t very polite.
This didn’t bother umbrella man very much though. “I’m Professor Wilmarth of Miskatonic University.”
“Miskawhat now?” I said.
He put up a hand. “That’s not important right now. I believe you found something of mine on the dock? A weathered red notebook? The man who works there saw you pick it up and gave me directions to your house.”
I relaxed a little. That would be August. He wasn’t quite a friend, but he was more than an aquaintance. “Oh, that. Yes, I found it.” I paused and looked at him doubtfully. “You wrote that stuff in there?”
“Oh no,” he said. “A… well not friend, but someone I was trying to help wrote that. I was hoping to use it to find him. Not that it had helped me before…”
“It’s just all complaining about music, and the color yellow, and something about a river,” I said. “I don’t see how it could help you.”
“You read it?” he asked. His eyes became pentrating. I had thought the question would be accusatory but there was an edge of wonder to it instead.
“Yes, I have basic reading skills,” I said, tersely. “Look, I’ll go get the notebook so you can be on your way, okay?”
“What did it say about the river?” he asked, as I began to turn away. “It’s very important.”
I sighed and turned back. “Something about wanting to stop something tonight but not being able too.”
“I see.” The Professor looked down for a moment. When he looked back up, his eyes met mine and I couldn’t look away. “I’m afraid the man I was helping, Richard Derleth, was somewhat suicidal. I know what river he’s talking about, and I think he means to kill himself there tonight.”
I drew in a breath. That had been my initial thought after I first found the book. “Well, let’s call the police,” I said, turning.
“There’s no time!” he said, grabbing my arm. “Please, will you come with me to stop him?”
I looked back at him, surrounded by water, and for some reason it scared me. I threw off his arm and backed up. But just as the feeling came it passed. I straightend. If there really was a man out there trying to drown himself I couldn’t just let it happen without notice. Especially after reading his plea for help. I ran back in the house and grabbed the notebook, just in case it held anymore clues. “Let’s go.” I said, pulling the door shut behind me.
The rain worsened as the Professor drove down backroads that I hadn’t even known existed. In places they were little more than dirt tracks, or rather mud tracks now, and I was sure he was going to get his car stuck or spin us out. There was a look of peculiar determination on his face. I understood he wanted to save this fellow, but somehow, he seemed more worried than he should be. Not that a human life is nothing to sneeze at, but the way he looked, you would’ve have thought we were out to avert a war.
He jammed on the brakes and I hurtled forward into the dash, even with the seatbelt on.
“For God’s sake, man, you’re going to get us killed instead of Richard!” I said, pushing back off the dash.
The Professor said nothing but pointed straight forward. There, illuminated in the headlights, was a shivering wet man. His hair was plastered to the sides of his head. He did not turn as we got out of the car and slammed the doors. The rain beat down on me as I began to walk forward.
As I walked, I noticed everything seemed to have a sea green tint to it. I narrowed my eyes and looked up. No, I wasn’t mistaken. Even the clouds themselves looked green. Didn’t that mean tornadoes or something? I looked over to the Professor. He stopped abruptly and I did so as well.
“Richard!” he called. The man did not turn, did not even look back. “Richard Derleth, we are here to stop you.”
Richard began to shake, and I thought he was crying. And then a small high pitched squeal pierced the air and it grew and grew. And I realized he wasn’t crying, he was laughing.
“You’re too late,” he said, his voice starting on a low growl and ending on a high pitched squeek. “I am his. And he will be free this night!”
“What now?” I said, but before I could voice anymore then basic confusion the green tint darkened around him and then suddenly expanded towards us. Professor Wilmarth put up his hands and gave a cry of alarm. The color passed through me without incident but it seemed to slam into the Professor and fling him back.
“Holy–!” I said, running back to the Professor.
He was getting up off the ground and pulling something out of his pocket. As I knelt down next to him he pressed something into my hand. I looked down. It was a gun. “Stop him,” he said, urgently. “Stop him now before the connection is complete. But it must be done from within the circle. You can enter, I cannot.”
I dropped the gun as I stood up. “You’re crazy I said, backing away from him, back into the area of green. “This is crazy. I don’t even know where we are, or what the hell river that is,” I said, turning back around. And then I stopped. The river was gone. Before me stood an endless ocean under a sky of strange stars, with patterns and constellations I had never seen before. Richard Derleth was raising his arms to the skies and chanting softly to himself, with each round becoming louder and more powerful than the last. I didn’t understand the words, they tumbled from his mouth fast and fluidly, almost like water.
And then my eyes turned to the ocean, the impossible ocean itself, and I saw in the center a stirring. Ripples. And the ripples were huge. Whatever was coming up was larger than my mind could comprehend. Not even a whale could account for the ripples I saw forming and gliding, not even a pod of whales. And they were coming faster. The words were drawing it up, drawing something. Something… I didn’t know, not really know, but somewhere deep and dark in my mind, somehow, it knew whatever was making those ripples I could not let it break the surface. If it did, it would not matter what I did next or what anyone did next.
I stepped back, almost in a daze and leaning down picked up the gun. Moving now, almost in a dream, I ran forward. It was close, so close I could feel it. And the music, like a drum beat in my mind, but the clarion call of the trumpet, and the screech of a violin all melding, all one, and louder and louder as it came closer and closer. I raised the gun. “The stars are not right,” I said without knowing why. “Sleep still in R’yleh.” I pulled the trigger and the bang of the gun cut through the chants. Richard Derleth tumbled end over end on the sandy beach until he came to rest in the water. Slowly, ever so slowly he sank beneath the water and disappeared.
Shaking, I sat down, the music still throbbing in my ears. I put my head in my hands, letting the gun fall to the ground. I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked up. Professor Wilmarth stood over me, looking relieved and sad. “You did it,” he said, simply.
Taking a breath I looked up. The ocean was gone. Only the river was there now. I still didn’t know what river it was, but it was comforting none the less. I stood up and looked left and right. There was no sign of Richard Derleth’s body. “Where’d he go?” I asked, moving forward. “Did he fall in the river?” I turned back to the professor.
He shook his head somberly. “No,” he said. “We will not be finding Richard Derleth’s body.”
I felt the need to sit down again but refused to give into it. “If only the damn music would stop,” I muttered, clawing the side of my head. “It only gets worse…” I paused, mind flying back to the notebook. Panic filled me and clawed in my chest, making my breath come out in short gasps. “Oh, God, what’s happening, what’s happening–Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!” I clapped a hand over my mouth.
The Professor put a hand on my arm. “You see, the reason you could stop him is because you could hear it too, the Call.” He held up the notebook. “This,” he said flipping the pages, “is not in English. I could not read it. No one can, except those who have been marked.”
I was backing away from him slowly now, shaking from head to toe. “It’s not true,” I said, my voice trembling as much as the rest of me.
“Look closely,” the Professor said, still holding it out. “You still retain enough of yourself to see as a man, instead of what Calls to you.”
Staring at the book I could see, for a moment, the words seemed to waver and blur, becoming elongated and impossible to read, and looking like someone had taken a salt shaker to sprinkle apostrophes on it. And then they snapped back into place. I sank to my knees. “What happens now?”
“The same thing that happened to Richard, I am afraid,” the Professor said sadly, picking up his gun. “You have a few months of encroaching madness before you until finally,” and he waved his hand at the river. “Oh, and you really should beware yellow after this. It is not safe.”
“How can you be so calm?” I said trying to be angry and failing. I could only feel fear.
“Because, dear sir, I have seen it happen before and will see it happen again.” He picked up his umbrella and dusted it off. “I am almost curious about what would happen if I didn’t stop it. Perhaps we would go back to the time when this place was called Arkham.” He smiled to himself. “In ways it was easier then to find help. ” He shook his head. “More likely it’d just be the end of humanity though.”
I huddled on the ground. “Shoot me,” I said, as the music crowded in around me. I could feel it, embracing me, enticing me to follow it.
“Can’t,” he said. “You are protected now. You will not be able to kill yourself and only another marked can kill you.”
I stood up and walked unsteadily to him. “Give me the gun,” I said. He aquiesced easily enough. I turned it towards me and held it against my temple. “Come on, come on,” I muttered as the metal shook against my head. After a few moments I gave up and gave the gun back to the Professor. I hung my head. “What must I do?” I asked softly.
“The same thing Richard did,” the Professor said, holding up the notebook. “Only you might want to cast the net a little wider than Richard did. We almost didn’t make it.”
And so, that’s it I guess. Writing it down was easy once I got started. Hacking these sites was not. I picked some likely ones, that seemed to have people with the right mind set, people who had been touched. Did you think it was a mistake you were reading this? That you could read it? I am sorry, truly I am. But He Calls and I cannot stop. Please, by all that is holy, please, stop me.
Credit To: Star Kindler