(This is meant as an homage to H.P. Lovecraft. It’s not as good as his work, of course, but it’s a similar style.)
Brock Harbor has been destroyed and no one can agree on how it happened. The official story, the one published in the paper, tells how a propane refueling station exploded, leveling most of the buildings in the town of 4000 and starting fires that claimed the rest. No official reports mention the troops that descended on the town with flamethrowers just before dawn or the eerie glowing thing that that many witnesses claim to have seen moving among the houses. I was more than a witness. I helped start it all.
Dr. Robert Julius was a brilliant scientist and a close friend of mine for many years. He was primarily a physicist, but later in his life he became fascinated with the occult, at least in its original meaning of “that which is hidden”. He was convinced that there was a connection between traditional science and spirits. One day I came into his laboratory to see him poring over a large manuscript written in a heavy, Gothic script.
“It’s old German,” he said in response to my question. “A translation of an older Persian work on what the text calls damons.”
“Demons?” I asked, my lips curling in amusement.
“Not exactly,” he said. “These beings have often been confused in folklore with the traditional spiritual demons, but the Persian actually means ‘the things that lurk beyond’. I call them ‘Those Beyond’. What they are, however, I am not entirely sure. The text hints at a physical body, but also extreme longevity and powers of some sort.
Those Beyond could not be killed, but they could be contained and held captive, Robert continued. The manuscript gave a symbol that was said to be used in containment rituals, a radiant sun with a curling serpent entwining it. I was not surprised when he told me that he was searching everywhere for an example of that symbol.
Two months later, I was awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call from Robert. At first, I feared bad news, but his excited tone soon reassured me. He had found the symbol, he said, among photos from a cemetery in Brock Harbor, Connecticut. It was small and faded, but he was positive it was the same one. I valued my sleep and so would not let him continue too far, but promised that I would go to his laboratory the next day.
The next day he showed me the photos and I will admit that I became intrigued. The symbol was found stamped on the door of the mausoleum of a family named Drake.
“They say that the grandfather of the family, Jeremiah Drake, had seen action against the Ottomans during World War I and had reportedly returned to Brock Harbor with several strange objects. He had become obsessed with death and had built the mausoleum while still in his forties. The whole family became close and secretive and it was said that at times they visited the mausoleum in the dead of night. The last of the Drakes died ten years ago, but by then, such an aura of fear surrounded the mausoleum that the town coroner went against the wishes of the deceased and had him cremated instead.”
“And you are going to go find this mausoleum?” I asked, knowing full well the answer.
“We are going to go find it together,” he said, giving me his characteristic mischievous smile.
I put up some token resistance, but the truth was I found the proposition exciting. Not that I truly believed we would find anything, of course. We left the next day and took the train north to Brock Harbor. We reached the town just as the sun was going down.
We found a hotel and a place to eat and then waited restlessly for the midnight to come before we started. Robert asked a few of the locals about the Drake mausoleum but as soon as he mentioned the name, they got up and left, giving him dark looks as they did.
A little before midnight we went to the room and Robert went through the equipment he had brought: a lantern, rope, crowbars, and finally, a revolver.
I looked at him questioningly. “You said these things couldn’t be killed. What possible use could that be?”
“You never know, my friend,” he said with a smile. “Best to be prepared for anything.”
We left the hotel a little before midnight and walked down the main street. The cemetery, we had discovered, was on the hill overlooking the town. The iron wrought gate was locked but we climbed it and Robert lit the lantern.
The mausoleum was immediately apparent. Set in the back of the cemetery, it loomed fifteen feet tall above the other graves. It was made of black stone that was as dark as coal and seemed to absorb the light of our lantern. No other graves stood near it and it was surrounded by a low ridge of raised ground. A shiver went down my spine as I stepped over it.
The doors of the mausoleum were made of a heavy, dark wood and banded with iron, but the handles were only padlocked together with a chain. Robert took out a crowbar and after a moment of effort, forced the lock open. The noise of the chains rattling to the ground seemed like bells in the night silence. I looked around in panic, but no one was nearby. Robert snorted at my cowardice and pushed the doors open.
Inside the vault, racks on either side held eleven coffins, with space for five more. The center was open and paved with black granite. At the far end was an altar carved with the symbol of the serpent coiling around the sun.
“Look,” Robert said. He pointed to the top of the altar and I could see the tiny skeleton of some animal—perhaps a cat—that had been cut in half. The skull was missing.
“What now?” I asked. Fear was coming over me in waves. I could not see how Robert could appear so calm.
“Hide the lantern for a moment, would you?” Robert said. He wasn’t looking at me; he was examining the sides of the altar. I threw my coat over the light and the vault was thrown into utter darkness.
All except for a tiny square of light. It was shining in thin lines, as if through thin cracks. Robert had me take out the light again and I saw that the light had come from around the central stone of the altar, the one with the symbol carved in it.
Robert proposed levering out the stone but I refused to help. All I wanted to do was escape and I repented of every thinking of helping him. In the end, I went outside to keep watch. I heard the clank of the crowbar and the slow scrape of stone. Then there was a thud and an unearthly light suddenly shone out of the door of the mausoleum.
I looked in, although my knees were shaking. Robert was standing frozen in silhouette in front of the light that was now pouring out of the hole in the altar. It seemed to grow brighter and then spread, as if it were seeping through other cracks. I heard a stone crack and the top of the altar exploded upwards, showering the inside of crypt with stones and tiny bones.
“Robert, don’t be a fool! Get out of there!” I shouted. He didn’t move, even as the light increased and something crawled and groped its way with luminous tentacles out of the hole where the altar had been.
Robert’s head suddenly jerked to the side convulsively and he clawed at the revolver in his pocket. “Get out of here, Freddy!” he shouted. The last thing I saw was Robert’s black form pointing the revolver at the hellishly bright thing that now filled most of the mausoleum. Then terror overcame me and I ran and stumbled to the cemetery gate. Just as I reached it, I heard a shot.
I was torn. I could not go back, but I did not want to leave Robert, even if he were dead. I looked back to see that the glowing thing had emerged from the mausoleum and was making its way swiftly towards the fence. It was an amorphous, writhing mass of half-formed serpent-like shapes that constantly grew out and then dissolved back into the central mass. The fence seemed to disintegrate in front of it, and then it was gone, down the hill and towards the town.
I made my faltering way back to the mausoleum. The lantern was still on, although knocked to one side. In its flickering light, I could see Robert’s body lying on the cold, black marble, shot through the head with his own revolver. I left him and ran.
The thing was among the houses by then. It seemed to have grown and was slowly crushing the houses beneath it, enveloping them one by one. I heard screams of terror and pain like I have never heard come up the hill and I thought I would go mad.
I saw many things that night, some of which I only remembered later through hypnosis. The army found me, running wildly along the highway, sobbing and tearing at my hair.
That was two months ago. The doctors say I have made great improvement and they have finally allowed me to go home. I went willingly, but there are times I wake up to hear those terrible screams coming back endlessly to me through the memories of the night.