The Damned of Eldritch Creek

Posted on November 20, 2019


The Damned of Eldritch Creek

By Jon Tobey


I’m assuming that anybody on my Facebook page who is going to buy More Lore from the Mythos has already done so, so I’m going to post a portion of my story in the analogy here, and ask if you like it, please invest $1.99 in the Kindle version, to read the rest of it, and many better Lovecraftian stories by other authors.  My story alone is 13,000 words, a novella, so $1.99 for the entire book at a novella price is a smoking good deal. I had to go pro with all of this good work at some time and I hope that you find it worth the 2 bucks.



Once, not so very long ago, explorers had to pore over endless maps and scrolls just to find the unmapped regions in between, those regions that have always called to men to fill in as if once our knowledge was entire, so would be our dominion. Today, when you can peruse the globe on a computer, the illusion that the world is entirely mapped in infinite scale is complete. Yet, you might be surprised to find that there are places on those maps that were incorrectly filled in specifically to keep you out. Places that are closer and more numerous than you might imagine, each with some dark and buried history where exploration would be detrimental to the progeny of man. What did Melville say? “It is not down in any map; true places never are.” Herein lies the last of those tales.

In the hubris of youth, I too was not aware of such places. As intended by the secret cartographers, because the map was seamless, it did not call to me: I did not feel the need to explore. I assumed implicitly that if other men knew it, had mapped it, had frozen their knowledge in dusty tomes in dusky rooms, that the call was heeded, the work was done. There was no fame left to be had in these maps wrung pale of mystery. So, I searched for other places where men were yet lost amid incomplete maps. The atom intrigued me, but the mathematics were a mountain range whose heady peaks I could not conquer. Art, for a while, drew me, but I could not draw it back. Thus, I was cast adrift between the hard sciences and the scienceless into the soft sciences of archaeology, anthropology, and natural history to find and make my mark.

Like many young men of moderate means and copious time, the sources of my family fortunes seemed like ancient history. I knew my grandfather had made some small profit on natural resources here in the Northwest before these territories were fully settled. My father had managed these assets with the intent I should be freed by them and not burdened by them, and so I traveled and went to school, dabbling in my various pursuits as I have previously listed. But even as I had settled myself into a potentially mediocre career in natural history, it was unnatural history which pursued me. We think we can always control our fate, right up until the moment it comes up from behind us, takes us down by the hamstring, and then goes for the femoral artery like a honey badger. All the while leaving our brain intact so that we may witness and reflect on our exsanguination, perhaps to carry the lessons forth into another life, or in this case, perhaps just as a cruel joke.

It began when I was in New Brunswick, ostensibly counting the ear bones of char looking for a certain lost subspecies of which to append my family name. But in practicality, I was fly fishing the late season for brook trout and Atlantic salmon by day and quaffing brandy and cigars with likewise indolent youth by night. Had there been fewer insects and more brandy, I might’ve stayed longer, but when I got a telegram from my father asking me to come home immediately, I packed up my scant samples with promises to return on the next season. Dawn found me flying home to Seattle, chasing the sun across the Canadian Great Plains. I looked at the vast geography and wondered if perhaps my Great Adventure still lay somewhere before and below me. Would that the prodigal son had refused the call.

My father had a car for me at the airport that took me to the house, high and lonely on a Magnolia bluff, our family fortunes sufficient to hold off ravenous developers for over a century. My mother having died back in her native Bali when I was young, and there being no female presence gracing my father’s side in all this time, the house always had the air of a seasonal home, just opened for the occasion of my arrival. It was never warm, and the huge rooms, though stuffed with busts, trophies, artifacts, and mounted heads, yet were empty of the slightest human warmth and emotion that women have been bringing to abodes since the days not so long ago when we lived in caves. That somethingness that turns a house into a home was sorely lacking here.

I was surprised father did not meet me, but rather the help ushered me up to his rooms. I began to feel a cold dread as I trudged up the southward side of the symmetrical center stairway that wraps the main hall like a winter scarf wraps a throat. With each step, my feet got heavier, and I began to sum and weigh my life in laborious breaths. At the top of the stairs I paused and Maubry, the valet, as old and straight and wrinkled as the velvet bell pull next to my father’s bed, also paused to wait for me. As far as I knew, Maubry came with the house, for he had been there since my first memories. I could not tell if he was breathing hard because I could not tell if he was breathing. His pallor was that of the pre-embalmed and if he had said five hundred words in my lifetime, I had not heard half of them. He shambled down the hall as if I might not know where my father slept, and I followed.

Maubry opened the door without knocking. As with everything in the house, the scale of the door was more suited to a man on horseback than a man afoot. We passed through abreast of each other and I saw my father propped up in a bed the size of my entire camp tent in New Brunswick. He looked ashen and worn, so much smaller than the man I remembered. But he had a lap desk piled with work and he looked over his spectacles at me with eyes which had lost none of their penetration.

“How was the fishing?”

“It was a scientific expedition,” I countered.

“Do we have a fish named after us?”

“Not yet.”

He snorted. “Time is short, Jacob. My time is short, at least. I had hoped not to do this to you, but I will not finish my work. I will need your help.”

As I said, before this time, in the foolishness of my youth, I had never really pondered the source of our wealth. It was then that my father explained it to me. It being already late in the wintry afternoon, we had dinner brought up and worked into the night. It was much as I had suspected on the surface, but the depth and interconnectedness that had sprouted from the original investments like mushrooms from mycelium were astonishing. My grandfather had parlayed the original wealth into many markets and my father had, in turn, branched out even more. But as I was the only heir and disinterested in the act of business itself (a vast disappointment I sensed intuitively, rather than by anything my father said, which made it no less heavy and perhaps heavier), in his later years my father sought to divest and consolidate the business by liquidating our familial holdings into a portfolio of modern technologies which I could manage with a minimum of effort.

It was late at night and my head swam, but my father burned on with an urgency that was undeniable. He forbade me brandy, and I drank coffee much later in the evening than is my custom. When we finally broke for the night, papers were strewn about the bedroom in some approximation of a map of the holdings. Not by geography, but by industry, vertical sector, holding companies, and such constructs as made my head swim like calculus had once done. He implored me that the most important thing was yet to be revealed and not to be a laggard in the morning, but to return immediately once I had broken my fast.

I went to my room, which had had the dust knocked out of it and a fire set to ward off the mustiness and the night, but I could not sleep. I paced until the sky had a faint rose tinge before the brandy took me in a chair by the fire. I was startled awake by a faint, but persistent, knocking, and when I went to the door, Maubry was there. Wordlessly, he turned, and I followed to my father’s room. There, through the gargantuan door, still amidst the strewn papers and folders was my father: slumped, eyes closed, one contract still in his hand. I begged Maubry off and shut the door. While my father and I had never been close, or even frequently cohabitated the same domains, still I respected him and I know he loved me in his way. After my mother died, there was only work, and that work was only for me.

So, I stood there, aware of the body, but also aware that I must steep myself in this web of business; I must slowly pick it up and put it away, so that I could truly own it, and it could now truly own me. Finally, after all these years, here was a map I did not fully understand.

And so, I worked for hours collating papers and making notes from our conversation while it was still fresh in my mind. All the while my father’s body cooled next to me. I have no idea what the staff thought of me or my actions. I ignored several knocks, but once opened the door to find a tray of sandwiches and tea had been left on the floor, although by then I was craving the brandy again. Eventually, finally, I had the papers arranged on the sideboard, all but the last in his hand. I was remiss in not taking this sooner, for his grasp had frozen and I thought I might break his fingers to retrieve my final puzzle piece. I confess, I was baffled at this new information, it seemed to be the center of the web, but it was the one thing my father had not schooled me on.

It was then that Maubry knocked and opened the door without waiting for my reply, accompanied by a doctor who came in to do his business. He touched the body and took its pulse. Though it was long cold, he made no expression. He took a note, pulled the sheet up, had a huddled conversation with Maubry, and then came over to me where I sat to express his condolences before passing through the doors. A breeze blew the curtains as if this whole time Father’s soul had been waiting for permission to leave and now given, was departed. I trembled at this thought.

I realized the mantle clock was striking past ten, and the sky had long since darkened. With nothing else to do, I took the paper with me to my room. But there, even with the help of brandy, I had haunted dreams of vague but ghastly shapes in the sky, oozing over the landscape and changing it in unimaginable ways, a great terraforming of the familiar into the alien.

I awoke before dawn and sat by the window to reread the document in my hand by the light of a lamp. It was the deed to some long-forsaken part of the North Cascades on the Canadian border, containing a dammed water source called Eldritch Creek. On the bottom of the last page was my father’s handwriting:

Jacob, no matter what may transpire, you must promise to never sell this property, when you die, you must give it to somebody who will promise…

And from there the pen had scrolled across the page, my father’s dying act. The one thing we had not gotten to! I was embroiled in guilt for my weakness in the face of this act, for he had clearly worked long after I had gone to bed – right up to the very moment of his death. He died as he lived, alone and working for me, even though I was a few paces away, and still awake.

Despite many jaunts in and around the Cascades in my youth, I had never heard of this place. I went downstairs to the library and fired up the computer, one of the few technological intrusions into the manse, hoping to shed some light on the importance of this original family investment. I was mildly astonished to not find a single mention of Eldritch Creek online. Wasn’t the Internet the map of all knowledge, every corner by now filled in the way dust seeps through a crack in a shuttered house? Perhaps, I thought, the creek had another name. From the deed, I entered the coordinates, and started searching the topographic maps. Surely, a river and lake would be on the map, no matter what the names, but there was nothing shown. I switched to satellite view and continued, still for aught. This was indeed perplexing. Had the dam collapsed? The creek been filled? Was it all some fiction to support some more nefarious scheme?

By now it was dawn. I pulled the bell cord and ordered coffee and toast. Soon, I would have to make arrangements to put my father in the crypt, but in the early morning before the rest of the world awoke, I yet had time. I perused shelves I had not looked at since I was a young man who roamed them the way you roam a kitchen looking for a midnight snack. What crumb, what tidbit would suffice to slake my intellectual gourmand’s hunger? I would pull books whose covers held me spellbound, inside each the promised solutions to mysteries deep, and started them all but never finished any. My fingers ran down the leather and gilt spines as I walked back the decades of memory. In the back were some file cabinets which I had ignored so thoroughly in my youth that their presence now surprised me. Assuredly they had always been here, and yet upon them I had never remarked.

The cabinets were arranged in chronological order. Thus, it was that in the back of the very first drawer I found a small leather diary the size of a paperback book filled from cover-to-cover with handwritten notes and images. In my hands, I held my grandfather’s journal, the seeds to my own past, and unbeknownst to me at the time, the missing piece to my map. I took it over to a table with a lamp and began to read. As I had surmised, my grandfather had started by prospecting in the North Cascades. At that time, almost all the terrain had been mapped and plundered by miners and loggers, and the pervasive attitude was that these resources would last forever and were first-come, first-taken.

In 1904, there was a massive earthquake under the north-central Cascades up against the Canadian border that caused buildings to collapse as far away as Bellingham. My grandfather, Jacob, already a well-established minor tycoon thanks to his logging and mining interests in the region, funded an expedition to survey the damage. This was when he discovered a newly formed valley birthed by the quake. From his diary:

In this valley, it was as if God had plucked whole mountains out by the roots and dropped them upon the earth, as one might pluck and discard a weed. For the first time, men were able to see the very bowels of the earth without peering through the narrow window of a bore hole. We could see veins of ore and trace them to their largest junctures merely by walking along them. One guide remarked that it was as if there had been an older world, and that had been papered over with a veneer of stone.

His pontifications proved eerily valid when following a vein of curious rock. Whilst spelunking into a particular crevice, we returned with a series of otherworldly tablets made from this stone, carved in strange runes which could not be read and, to a man, made us nauseous in the attempt. Most curious about them though, was that our Geologists could not discern the rock, it was something unto now unknown. Based on such daily miracles, before we’d even completed our survey, I dispatched my most trusted man back to Seattle to buy this land at any price. Here was to be the center of a new empire, and I would be its emperor.

I paged ahead, skipping descriptions of fantastic wonders as I followed the trek.

During our quest we began to gather strange tales. Always these tales came from hunters and fishermen, those who live in harmony with the earth, who know it innately, and seem bemused you do not share their observations. It is in the romantic hearts of such men, those who follow the water, who are close to the land, always seeking to understand the language of rapids and cascades, mountains and trees; these men have long foretold of unrest, of change, of weariness in the bones of the world. These stolid and capable men have felt, if not seen, this unrest while traversing dried and dying creeks, uncharacteristically looking over their shoulders at noises in the bush for something that awakens.

In one case, a fisherman reported a wall of gray-green slime or ooze coming down a stream, burying all in its path. Barely escaping himself up the bank, he was left with a wretched unstomachable smell, and the corpses of every fish, beast, and bird in the valley, all decomposing as if they had been dead for days, maggots bursting from every eye. How he alone survived he could not say, except that perhaps a witness was needed to this vile purging and reclaiming of the land. For when the slime had scoured the valley clean, below that was new rock that looked like the monoliths we had discovered, like an ancient byway excavated, with hieroglyphic graffiti on the walls and bed, written as if by many tentacled appendages, each attached to the same mind, composing at once as the beast perambulated along.

Such tales were understandable from men whose very world had been turned upside down, and who may have been partially mad at any rate from bouts of long solitude. Unlike a logger or a miner, these men want the world to remain wild. And were it not for the wonders we had seen, and the tablets in our possession, it might be easy to believe him either mad, or that he might tell such tales merely to keep other, less attuned, men out. But this was not my mission. We showed him our tablets and he recoiled in horror, confirming that the same mad hand or mind that had written them had also scrawled upon the bed of the creek. We were anxious to follow up on his information, to track the intelligence behind these mysteries and took up to follow his directions, though he refused to guide us at any price.

I flipped eagerly ahead, hungry to solve this riddle.

At long last, we have come to the geographic center of the cataclysm, where we found and followed the newly formed stream, which, for its richness and strangeness of hieroglyphics, the men bestowed the name “Eldritch Creek.” At its headwaters, we discovered a vast chasm that must house a subterranean lake whose water has never seen daylight since the Creation. Here, we decided we would build a dam to raise the lake and generate power for our new venture.

I had seen great riches and I knew somebody would take these if we did not act immediately. To myself I promised: Here, I would use these resources and the arcane knowledge that had been exposed to create a paradise far from the corruption and decay that plagues the modern world. New cities made of new materials, self-sufficient and independent. A country unto ourselves where we answered not to a now distant and long-unresponsive government; and we would no longer belong to a decaying civilization where power ate at democracy and freedom, replacing humanity with greed.

Such a dream! While I had lived my life in its shadow, never had I heard this espoused. I marveled for a moment at the vision of the man and shook my head that the hypocrisy that seems so obvious now –of creating such a modern Utopia while also maintaining infinite resources – never penetrated the optimism of these men. I read on.

My grandfather saw an opportunity and took it. Having already used his mining claims and their proceeds to procure all the surrounding acreage, he built a dam on Eldritch Creek with the intent to create a hydroelectric station, powering his dream. A dam, a power station – independence and absolute control. Why had this dream never come to pass? Here was the end of the journal, and although I spent many hours going through the files, no answers did I find.

Maubry came to get me. My father’s body was prepared and awaiting us in the crypt, a throwback to when the house was built that I’m sure was on no city planner’s map. In fact, I had never actually been in the crypt before. As we were not a close family, neither were we religious. I had no words to say aloud, and if Maubry was moved to speak, he did not show it.

Together we pushed the lid onto my father’s stone coffin and slid it into its final resting place. Next to it was an empty slot, framed in fluted stone, with the name Jacob engraved upon it. I ran my fingers over it, imagining spending all of time here, finally near my father, and wondering if by then I would have accomplished anything besides spending down the family fortunes. I saw it now, the map of my life in front of me, burning away to ashes: no family, no legacy. It was then that I noticed the opening on the far side of my father. I walked over and looked at it, but it had no name. This, then was to be my crypt, the first crypt had been for my grandfather, my namesake, and it lay empty. How had I never known this? I turned to cadaverously taciturn Maubry. He gave a slight shrug, and said, “He never returned from the dam,” as if that explained everything, and then he turned and walked out to leave me alone with my thoughts.

I walked up the stairs and stepped out into the cold autumn rain. Night was falling, and I returned to my studies in the library where I had supper of cold lamb and claret. All things pointed to the dam. I slept a fitful sleep, full of dreams of dams and floods, but the floods were filled with great gelatinous beasts whose bodies were smashed together into an almost liquid mass that destroyed everything they flowed over, leaving an acrid stench. I awoke early, drenched in sweat, and immediately I knew my course. It had been charted long before I was born. Finally, I had a map for my life.

I bathed and dressed and drove into town to see the lawyer and settle the estate – what little my father had left undone. I went to the mining business office which was staffed by a few grey old men in ancient suits. We looked at the books, but the mines had been shuttered since the sixties, and this office basically maintained the leases and few holdings we had. Then, I asked for the plans of the dam. After a not insignificant search, a roll of brittle blueprints was produced. I told them of my plan to remove the dam and return the area to its pristine nature, thereafter to transform it into a reserve.

The men shot each other glances and offered me a seat at a scarred table made of dark wood. With creaking voices and fluttering hands, they implored me not to do this. They begged me to abide by my grandfather’s and father’s wishes to leave the parcel lie as it was. When I pressed them for reasons, they became silent, and looked down at the table in front of them. Misunderstanding them, I thanked them for their service and explained to them their positions were safe as I expected to keep them on to handle the reserve. This did not seem to assure them, but I had other business to attend to and attributed their unspoken melancholy to the shock of recent events, moving on without further explanation. Oh, the things we would do over, had we but the chance.

That afternoon, I returned to the house and immediately set about outfitting an expedition to the dam, contacting members of my father’s crews and local experts. I intended to survey it and begin my plan to remove it. Still, I could find no man who had ever been there or heard of it; we could find no mention of the dam, or any topography that would support a lake. The mystery deepened. We had the coordinates, but we could not find it. The best we could determine based on coordinates and topography, Eldritch Creek would have been a very minor tributary of the Roaring River, a tumultuous, cascade-infested swath of whitewater whose redeeming properties seemed largely that it was too hard to access to be spoiled. Perhaps the damming of the creek erased it? In our naivete, it did not occur to us that a map would be consciously inaccurate, and that all maps then based on it would be wrong.

Finally, it was decided we would trailer mules up the logging roads until we got close to the coordinates, and then use them to haul our explosives and gear to the site. We felt we could travel up the watershed to its source and explore from there.

It took the rest of the week to outfit and arrange the men, and we left before dawn the Monday after Father’s death. We drove from Seattle to Bellingham and headed east. From the main highways we dropped to secondary roads along the Roaring, and then followed logging roads deep into the mountains and primeval stands of forest. Even the second growth trees were enough to block out the day’s waning light. It was well past dark when we found what we thought was the creek, running small in what was once a much deeper channel, and we bivouacked directly in the road. Our phones lost any trace of signal hours ago. The other men were bothered by this, but I had been spending time in the bush since long before there were such devices and had never succumbed to the vice of the electronic tether.

In the morning, I stood on the bank of the creek, looking at its preternatural straightness and flatness of the bottom. While looking at the water, windows of clarity would appear and vanish in the swirls, and as I stood looking, I ran back to camp for a glass which I held inverted in the water, peering through the bottom, a poor man’s scrying glass. Soon, the men were clustered around their eccentric boss, bent over waist deep in the stream, wondering what had gotten into me. In minutes, all sorts of devices were improvised from camp gear to peer into this hidden world. Our assumptions were proven true as we discovered the strange and nauseating runes carved into every portion of the channel, there in plain sight but for the water’s turbulence. We had found Eldritch Creek, deep in the shadow of the newly risen land, like an Atlantis reborn in the northern forests. With this knowledge, myself and the foreman, Waithwhite, headed out to scout our route.

While sound from a distance, our plan did not take into account the ruggedness of the land. The tributary ran in a steep and narrow valley whose riparian habitat was blackberry, salmonberry, devil’s club, and thorny maple. All of them packing spines and covering fallen old growth which could be up to six feet tall that we had to clamber over. Even with machetes, by noon we had made scant progress, and certainly nothing which mules could follow. Winter snows would surely be here before we reached our goal.

We regrouped at the trucks for a meal of stew while pouring over the maps under a tarp. By now, it was raining to beat the Flood and the short, steep creek would soon be overflowing its banks. It was decided to abate for the day and to attempt one of the ridgelines the next day. We killed the remaining daylight with cribbage and brandy, telling tales of places we’d been and the strange things they held. One man, with eyes as black as his hair, said he had fulfilled his contract and would go no further. When pressed, this is the story he told:

“My people call themselves the First Men, but we were not the First People. In your Holy Books, the center of the earth is given to the Devil. But we who do not write books, we know of the evil that calls Hell home, the beast you call Leviathan, for even after the earth formed over them, they haunt us, slumbering, dreaming of conquest and rule. The First were beings who swim on the tides of time, coming to the new Earth from the stars, and claiming Paradise as their own.”

He swept his arms around. “These Cascades were once the bottom of their sea. What you see today are merely the second taking; the folding of the clay from a planet once totally unrecognizable, home to cities that would warp and weave in your mind as you looked at them; cities which changed as their builders’ dreams changed.”

Again, he swept his arms at the mountains. “You think it was your god who did this? It was beasts, a race of seething incomprehensible elder beings who lived ages ago and in their total war and corruption destroyed this planet, not wanting to leave for one what others could not have. They enslaved it, ate it, poisoned it beyond repair. Now they are residing in the deepest and darkest cracks we have not explored, waiting only for a moment in which we unsuspectingly bring the light to them and them to light.”

He paused and looked each of us in the eye before continuing. “Dark spirits haunt these ancient woods, guardians of older and more evil creatures who lived yet deeper in the mountains. Strange things happen beyond the massif above us. My people know to tread lightly and not tempt these beings who haunt our dreams when they are near, for our dreams come from their dreams. When you listen to these nightmares too long, that which makes you human becomes unmade, and you devolve back beyond even the clay, to become some misbegotten creature whose soul is replaced by something you cannot control – the sasquatch the white man hunts, but that you never want to find. You become a slave driven insane by appetites no human ever had, slaking them not for yourself, but for your eldritch puppet masters, your every action their bidding.”

“Things my people would not wake, you have woken. When the white man trespassed above their slumbering graves and cut the monster trees – trees that took a week to fell – sentinels of the eldritch monsters, the waking began. Then, even the white man could hear the dreams. Can you hear them now? If you do, take heed, those who trespass will not return.”

Such tails darkened the group’s mood and while I listened as intently as any of the men, I realized it was up to me, as their leader, to lift their spirits. I convinced them that clearly many people had been to the site and back in its day. That in the century since it was built people must clearly have been here, flown over it in a way my grandfather could not, and that while we could not currently see it, in short time, all mysteries would be revealed. I did not explain, though, that we sought one who had not returned. Talk turned more ribald, a bottle was passed around, and I monitored their libations and the time. We turned in before midnight and rose before dawn the next day. Our dark-eyed friend was gone.

When we finally made it to the ridge top, we found the remains of a narrow-gauge rail line and a steam donkey that had been there a century or more hence. This stroke of luck would surely lead to the fabled dam. Despite the bed laid for the track, the ridges were still brutal going, and we continued to use the road as a base camp for three days while we cleared the trail, until finally on the fourth day the ridgeline ran into a headwall. We sat down, dejected, and one of the men wandered off for a smoke. Presently we heard yelling and chased over to him. From his vantage on the edge of a steep slope, we could see the dam below us. There were shouts and hoots of joy, but they died away quickly under an inexplicable gloom that pervaded the area, as if there was some malignant entity here which resisted our celebration.

Half of us stayed to work out the descent, and I sent half back to the trucks to begin moving the base camp. We made the drop down the brutally steep ridgeline, often on our backsides, to the bottom of the dam. I knew from the blueprints in my father’s offices that the dam itself was 130 feet high, wedged into a crevice in a cliff face, yet standing below it looking up, it seemed foreign and unreal. As we stood there and craned our necks to follow it to the top, I felt like I might fall over. At the bottom were a few small concrete buildings and the footing for the hydroelectric plant they never built. How those men managed to get the equipment and resources up to that rift in creation and complete this monstrosity was a feat beyond me. And here we were to tear it down. It seemed sacrilege upon sacrilege. I did not want to debase my grandfather’s memory, yet I did not want my family legacy to be the disfigurement of this wild place. I resolved the conflict by telling myself that I was keeping with the spirit of my grandfather’s dream, if we but differed on tactics.

The climb back up took much longer than the coming down, and we set about with what little gear we had to clear a campsite and start a fire. Interestingly, no digital electronics worked at the site, and we were reduced to manually recording our findings. We had some time before our cohorts returned and we used that time well to survey the dam and come up with a plan to place the charges. Thomas, the Blast Master, wanted to use a series of charges from the top down to gradually reduce the dam, and this would entail a man be lowered from the top of the dam to place them. This was an intricate and tricky job and we entertained several false starts owing to the inaccessibility of the top of the dam and also that water was coming over it in a small but steady flow.

On the morning of the second day, the crew was clearing away brush from the bottom, while Thomas and I were pondering if it was even conceivable to come at the problem from the top, when we had a bit of luck, for the crew on the bottom discovered a doorway. Thomas and I grabbed lamps and charged down the slope, skidding and bumping along. By the time we got there, the crew had pried the doors open.

I led the way up stairs crudely carved into the rock. Next to them was a pipe three feet in diameter. Once again, I marveled at the technology brought to this remote and inhospitable spot that would be hard to reach even today with all of our technology and helicopters. This must be the sluiceway for the ill-fated hydroelectric station. Water would be diverted through the pipe to run the turbines.

At the top, we passed a small control room, where the valves to operate the pipes had been smashed with a sledge hammer that still lay on the floor. We exchanged glances before moving through another door that opened into what we first thought was a vast cavern. As our eyes adjusted, we could see a faint glow to our right, and after scrambling up a scree slope, the mystery of the lake’s absence from modern maps was explained. We stood at the top of a gap, above us a great cliff slanted out over our heads. Behind and below us, the land sloped steeply away to a great forest, containing trees larger than any I had ever seen. In front of us, was a deep cleft slanting into the earth. We must’ve been standing at the center of the 1904 quake where two great plates had arisen together and slipped apart, the one overlapping the other and creating a deep rift which could not be seen from above, the way you fan cards in a deck, each hiding the one below for some prestidigitation.

Running along the rift before us was a long lake, created and held back by the dam. We stood at one end of the lake on a shore which stretched as far as our lights could penetrate. We began to follow the shore. With the lake on our left and the sloping horizon bathing us in faint light our right, there was no chance we could lose our way. Presently, we were surprised to come upon a war-sized spruce-bark canoe pulled up onto the beach. Even more to our delight, the canoe, though over 100 years old, seemed to be viable, due to the lack of exposure in the rift. This changed things quite a bit, for now we could make a proper expedition out of it. Dragging the canoe to the lake we filled it with stones and sank it to swell shut the joints for our return.

By now, even the scant daylight was fading, and as we were not supplied for any extended trek, we returned to base camp, by which time it was full nightfall. Our comrades were not due back for at least another day, so we turned in early and had fitful sleep. At breakfast, the men looked haggard and were reticent to converse, but gradually it came out that to a man we had had strange dreams, oddly parallel, of half-seen horrors swimming through obsidian depths. Further, the few who had managed to swim to the surface of these dreams in the search for sanctuary in consciousness, heard strange shouts and hollers from beyond the ridge behind us. Each relayed the same thought that at first, they thought they might still be dreaming, but that the chants were accompanied by disgusting, cloyingly acrid smells. These stories were lent veracity by the fact that we each felt nauseated, and few had more than coffee and crackers to break our fast. I was reminded of similar comments in my grandfather’s journal about the hieroglyphic stones.

Leaving Thomas in charge, I chose as my companions Waithwhite, boon companion on many an adventure, and Roffino, a steady man who had seen many terrible things in Afghanistan without blanching. Soon, we had loaded our equipment, and left word with those remaining in camp for the returning party to hold fast for our return. I admit, that even amongst the strangeness and the bizarre qualities of this world, yet inside me, the angler still existed. Starting from my youth, I have never traveled far without my full fly kit, with rods ranging from three to twelve weight, as often the chance to fish presents itself in my travels, and despitethe effort of packing it around, I have only missed it the more the times I did not have it. While the lake showed all signs of being barren and sterile, I was reminded of the life in deep ocean vents and thought to myself that strange things come from strange places. Perhaps here in my very own backyard, so to speak, might I finally catch a species which could, in some small way, carry on my family name. I still sought my father’s approval for my pastime, I suppose.

And so, late in the morning, myself, Roffino, and Waithwhite emptied the stones from the canoe, floated it and stowed our gear, then set out on our expedition with no real idea if the lake were a single mile or a score of miles long. The curves of the fissure were such that in some places we could see the horizon to our left for a long way ahead, and at times our way twisted and turned like a river, losing the horizon entirely. Without landmarks, there was no sense of scale and soon we were lost in our own wayward thoughts as we paddled along.

In a pique of optimism, I threaded up my twelve-weight rod with a heavy sinking line and a long dark streamer, and behind that I trailed a smaller phosphorescent streamer on a 3X tippet, so that I was rigged for beast large or small. Thus, we continued in permanent twilight. We ate lunch in the boat and noticed a very small current back towards the dam as we sat. Once off the littoral edge of the beach, no soundings touched bottom, and the dreams of the night before and the hellish landscape we found ourselves in, made it all too easy to imagine this rift reaching to the very center of the earth. We conversed for a bit, but gradually fell silent. I could not shake the feeling we were being watched.

By our watches, it was a full day that we paddled, and still the rift continued. As the faint luminescence faded, we debated camping rough or continuing. At that moment, we pulled ashore to stretch and consider our plans. By mere luck or fate I will never know, but where we landed we found round stones the size of a hassock strewn about. I was sitting on one, thoroughly tired from our labors, when Waithwhite mentioned the rocks. As a geologist by trade, he was merely making conversation when he mentioned that we had not seen such loose stones anywhere else about the chasm.

I stood up and unshielded the lantern to consider them, something we had not done all day to protect our night vision. Indeed, not only were stones strewn about, but it looked like a great cairn had been smashed. As we walked among the stones, we began to find loose bones, as if a skeleton had been torn bone-from-bone, flung about, and then each separate bone pulverized where it lay. A deep suspicious dread began to grow in my stomach when Roffino shouted he had found something. We scrambled over to be near him, and in his hand he held an oilskin-wrapped leather journal identical to the one I had back at camp.

My worst fears confirmed, I unwrapped it and peered at it in the dim lamp light. It was indeed the sister to the journal I had found in the library, the final exploits of my grandfather, whose grave this must be. Who had made the cairn? Where were those to tell the tale? And what primordial being had so cleverly dissected the tomb and desecrated the body? There was no debate when I called for returning to the boat immediately and making for camp, exhaustion notwithstanding. We had a quick, cold supper of salami and cheese and headed out.

Here the water was wide as a true lake, and the lanterns were of no use. Without the faint sunlight, we navigated by the echoes of our splashing paddles, resting occasionally and letting the currents straighten our path. At times, we dozed in our seats, with an unspoken agreement to not return to shore. I had, I admit, forgotten my line trailing us in the water, when it was struck so hard the entire rod nearly left the boat. Line screamed off the reel. I jerked out of my doze and grabbed the rod. The fish was running towards the bow and actually pulling the boat, or I’m sure he would’ve snapped the line, as there was no way I could stop this behemoth. I have caught sturgeon, shark, and marlin on the fly, but nothing on my line ever pulled like this.

Suddenly wide awake, I feared for the line and I feared for the rod as I worked every sinew and tendon to fight this beast. In retrospect, I am thankful for the ferocity of the battle for it kept my mind from dwelling on just what I may have caught. And so, it went through the night, the fish pulling us steadily, me winning by inches, losing by feet. If my back was tired from paddling, it felt broken from working the rod. Eventually, the carbon fiber rod began to fracture, breaking into splinters on the tensioned side away from the guides.

But then slowly, ever so slowly, the constant drag of the boat must’ve finally taken its toll and I started to gain on the fish.. Time had lost all meaning, but ever so faintly the crack to the left began to define its existence as we finally brought the fish to the boat. Roffino in the middle thwart gaffed the fish and tried to pull it in, but the weight threatened to capsize us. On hands and knees, I worked my way forward to see what my labors had wrought. There in the black water was a fish, or fish-like silver being, whose head began like a cutthroat, if cutthroat had teeth like wolverines and heads the size of grizzlies, transitioning to a long snakelike body nearly the length of the boat, but along the way, where I would expect fins, were – I know not. Tentacles. Claws. Barnacle-like gaping pustules with circular rows of teeth, irised like a camera lens. Wounds seemed to form and heal, and with its last breath, it gave a shriek that echoed from the roof of the cavern and left us all cowering in the bottom of the canoe, hands over ears. I was glad Roffino had not managed to boat it. We agreed to rope it to the gunwale and continue our journey, and despite my horror and exhaustion, I rested assured that my legacy was now decided, though had I the imagination to see the metaphor in attaching my name to this monster, I may have cut it loose the very moment I first hooked it.

Time was a river we were hooked to, but we knew not its length. At first, we conversed about the beast lashed to our bulwarks, but eventually even our excitement faded back into exhaustion. Thus it was, we were drifting languorously when the water erupted on the far side of the boat and an ebon tentacle shot out of the depths to smash Roffino through the bottom of the craft like driving a nail through a banana, the resulting impact shooting Waithwhite and I up into the air and dumping us in the water. In a panic, we made for shore while the dread creature lifted poor Roffino into the air and summarily dismembered him as we listened to his screams. In that moment, I somehow became certain that this was not only the species that had killed my grandfather, but the very same creature. It then proceeded to do similarly to the craft, the water erupting with each blow as parts of boat and man rained down on us. This fury the monster wasted on the inanimate object of the boat, combined with the narrowness of the lake at that point, I’m sure, saved our lives as were stumbling ashore when the creature finished its obliterations.

Even as we crawled and scrambled upright, Waithwhite was grabbed by the ankle by a sinuous tentacle that moved not like a mindless appendage, but more like a self-conscious snake. Unthinking, I drew my belt knife and leapt upon it. My stabs being ineffective against the force dragging him backwards, I began slashing at it in an attempt to cut it and at last it let go. I half-lifted, half-dragged him up the beach, just as a score of similar appendages came raining down from the sky and smashed the rocks where we had hence been. The accompanying howls of rage drove us to our knees as we covered our ears for the second time that evening. You have heard of the kraken? The beast whose number is affixed in our minds born half of imagination, half of the evil formed in the Downfall, described by mad sailors as “round, flat, and full of arms, or branches,” and is “the largest and most surprising of all the animal creation?” This was our enemy.

The blows and screams continued as the creature blindly sought us out and we scuttled, crab-like, up the bank, before we stood and ran. The tantrum continued unabated, whipping the near-shore water into a froth until, at its crescendo, it stopped suddenly and within seconds there was no trace of our adventure. I crashed to my knees and fell forward prostrate, only then aware of the journal still wedged within my shirt. Judge me if you will, I confess, in that moment, I celebrated that reclaimed artifact more than I mourned Roffino. By then, I had gained and lost more in a night than I had in a lifetime. I was more tired than I had ever been and not even sure how I was going to make it to my knees, let alone camp. However, the thought that no rescue was coming reached some reserve as deep and unknown as the chasm whose brink we tottered on.

Finally, by silent consent, as if words weighed too much to lift from our throats to our tongues, we rose, put our arms around each other, and stumbled towards the dam. The one bit of luck in the entire endeavor was that the monstrous fish had pulled us nearly home, for while we wandered in near-unconscious haze, we made it to the landing at the edge of the dam before collapse, and there our party found us soon after. I do not remember much, if anything, about the next day. They said we in turn ranted in delirium and at times had to be restrained, while at other times they put mirrors before our nostrils to check for life. On the morning of the second day I awoke and stumbled out to the cook fire where I was met with expressions equal parts of surprise and relief. Waithwhite was there, wrapped in a blanket, holding a mug of cocoa. He smiled sheepishly at me, and I back at him. It was only then I noticed his hair had gone stark white.

By the collective silence I could tell that the team was waiting for me to tell the tale. It was only later that I found out Waithwhite had also gone mute, and I never again saw him without that simple grin on his face. I think it was only out of respect for me as the leader and boss, and the clear physical degradation of our bodies, that people believed even a tenth of our tale. But it mattered not. As I relived the events, I became even more resolute that we must finish our work, destroy the dam, and eliminate the lurking evils that festered behind it. Only by removing this monument to my grandfather’s calculated greed and arrogance could we restore nature to its rightful balance. In doing so, I would also get my revenge on the creatures that had taken not just my grandfather, but also my trusted friend. Though I was still weak and feverish, I was immediately galvanized to action.

The men left in camp had not been idle in our absence, and they outlined the plan. Thomas had been studying the flow over the dam, and while he could not estimate the volume of water in the lake, he could estimate the flow rate for each foot of the dam removed. In this way, we could reduce the dam in a series of controlled explosions, slowly draining the lake without flooding the valleys downstream. I was impatient with the plan, as I felt it would take a considerable time commitment to execute, but after long discussion, there seemed to be no other way. Ever the professional, anticipating this, Thomas had placed the first charge while I was incapacitated. We agreed to send message back to the base camp so they could be prepared in the eventuality of some catastrophe, but Thomas was very confident that he could “shave that peach” in as fine and increment as we desired. At that time, I also ordered the procurement of weapons of higher caliber, several small canons such as you might mount on the bow of a yacht, to be brought up to the dam. When the last of the water dropped, we would go hunting the beast which had come hunting us, but this time he would be in our element.

We waited until the next day to make sure that base camp was alerted and blew the charge immediately after breakfast. I had imagined more festive spirit would emerge with the event, but our adventures had dampened that and the mood at camp was more edgy, as people watched the water spill. I decided that it was best to put a watch on the blast site while we made ready about camp. Thomas took the first watch to make his measurements and keep an eye out for any problems.

The adrenaline of the moment passing, I found myself quite weak. Clearly, I was not yet over my travails. The project underway, I returned to my tent for rest. Passing through the flap, with my head ducked at an odd angle, caused my eye to rest on the oilskin-wrapped journal from my grandfather’s cairn tucked under the clothes that had been stripped off of me during my prostration. I slapped my forehead; the journal had entirely slipped my mind until this moment! Pouring myself a brandy to bolster my nerve, I sat on a camp stool and opened the book. It was a twin to the first, written in the same neat, cramped hand, as if he didn’t want to waste an em-dash of space on the page. This was a different story told, though. I thumbed quickly through the beginning that related getting the equipment here and building the dam. (Although, I was still fascinated by these logistics, I needed now to know how to combat the mysteries behind that wall.)

The earthquakes never abated but continued to rumble and grind. Whole hillsides slump and slide off, burying the once-exposed riches. I am getting frantic to get the power up before the earth re-swallows its horde. The men are already working seven days a week, so I have offered them shares in the venture to keep on.

I flipped forward a few pages.

At first the lake itself was not accessible. It was only as the dam grew and the water rose that it came out from under the shelf to be navigable. As always, I was excited to explore this new frontier, so I commissioned a canoe for this purpose from several of the woodsmen on the crew. As the lake fills, so too does the tension around the project. The men have started having strange dreams of grotesque underwater monstrosities. People who ventured to the edge of the plateau hear strange screeches and drumming, although we know the area to be uninhabited.

We are also witnessing other bizarre happenings. Mushrooms the size of fire hydrants are sprouting in the environs. If cut, they dissolve into gray gelatinous masses of putrid odor. Being an educated man, I dismissed the first reports as the workers’ imaginations getting the better of them after being long from home in this foreign place. The evening the sluice opened, though, the sequestered evil behind the dam made itself apparent by undeniable means. A group of men were below the dam in the stream fishing for salmon which had come home to spawn, the tribulations of the tortured earth ignored by their overwhelming instincts. Never asking more from the men than I can deliver, I was up at the construction site working into the night with my trusted lieutenant Xander when I heard shrieks and screams from the fishermen. Being so close, we were the first to the spot, to find the pool full of shredded corpses and bits of men. The one man who was left alive had his leg amputated below the knee and was rapidly bleeding out. As Xander tied a tourniquet on him the dying man told a story of salmon with brutal fangs like dogs rising up from the water and attacking the party. It happened so fast, they were all cut down before they could get to shore.

I have spent some time in the Amazon, and so have some experience with such tales, but I do not think piranha are in these waters, and I could not afford panic among the men. Despite our efforts, the man bled out. I drew my pistol and emptied it into the far bank. By then other men were converging upon us. I told them the anglers were put upon by wolves, which I could not hit in the dark, and we would shut down the site and hunt them in the morning. Until then, the men were forbade from the river, lest the wolves still be around.

It was the measure of my grandfather’s genius that he was so able to sum up a situation, even one as gruesome and fantastical as the one that confronted him, and instantly make a decision. He understood that an unknown evil would unman his crew, but that a known evil would give them something to rally around. In the meantime, he also surmised that whatever had attacked the men came from behind the dam, and perhaps had returned whence.

Quickly, Xander and I gathered provisions and ascended to the lake to take the canoe, for I was sure the demon spawn came from the sluiceway and not from the river. Once on the lake, I strung a rod, in the hopes of catching whatever had attacked the men. Both Xander and I had the uneasy feeling that we were being watched – or stalked. We would hear large splashes in the distance echoing in the cave in such a way that their source was hard to make out. Once, a v-wake lapped the side of the boat, as if we had just been passed by something larger on the surface, but not a nibble on my gear.

Perhaps it was the brandy, perhaps my remaining fever, but reading such tales when you know what these mysteries portend is hard to do. I had to steel myself to it. I had met the architect of his fate and had escaped it myself only by luck. These two men, pressing on in the dark and unknown to solve this mystery even after they had seen the horror on the creek below, it is hard to imagine in this day men so brave, or a friendship so true. I think they imagined not the scale of the monsters they sought, for surely, they were not prepared. Their mission was typical of that age, assuming that by might, right, and will, they could suppress anything that stood in the way of their expansion and greed. And like so many such missions, this one was doomed before it started. I reflected that the creature may even have sent its minions out into the stream as lures, a great fisherman in its cavern, awaiting its prey as it slowly reeled them in.

Like us, nothing happened that first night and they had rested and slept, awaking to the sliver of light on the right-hand horizon and decided to keep on for one more day.

This was the last entry in the journal, but I can guess what happened from the scene I found. They must’ve landed on the far shore where we found his demolished crypt. There the beast attacked and killed my grandfather. Xander, and a truer companion could never be found, in his grief, in the dark and stalked by unknown horrors, took days to build that tomb, although how long it lasted before that mad creature attacked it and obliterated any trace of the man, we will never know. An unlearned man, he probably did not see the value in the journal and buried it with my grandfather in the dark. I imagine the creature struck while he was at his labors and like us, Xander most likely made his escape during the insane wrath and made it back to the dam where we found his boat. It must have been his resolute hands on the sledge that smashed the valves into ingots, stilling the dam works until we rediscovered them.

I became aware of a distant booming, and putting down the book, I bolted my brandy and went outside. There, the men were looking over at the dam, which shook, bulging visibly, over and over again, like a woman demon-pregnant, with hell spawn’s berserk force hammering at her belly from within. The very ground shook so that it was hard to walk in a straight line and I lurched over to Thomas like a drunk on a typhoon-beset steamer. Thomas’s face looked pale as I walked up to him. So intent was he in looking at the phenomenon that it took a moment to break his reverie. He didn’t say a word, but merely pointed to a crack in the very center of impact. A crack that grew with each resounding blow and was already leaking water.

Immediately, I began bellowing orders to the crew who were riveted in place by disbelief, horror, and fascination….

To read the rest of this tale and many more, please buy the book!

Posted in: Fiction, Writing