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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

THE HOUSE IN THE PORT:pt 7

by J.R. Torina



CHAPTER IX


I took out my names journal, and researched my own name for once, instead of that of some philosopher or long dead fiction writer or his characters.

Ambrose: “Protector of Men”. Strange; not what I expected. But then, I don’t really buy into a lot of this stuff. I just write about it.

Smith: “Blacksmith”. Well, I didn’t know much about my past family life or their ancestors, but I suppose one or more of them could have been blacksmiths. Wait, though. What was it the old man had called me? Alexander? Ambrose Alexander, not Ambrose Smith.

Alexander: “Belonging to the Immortals”. Strange, indeed.

I wondered if my parents had researched these names, and their meanings, when choosing my name. If the old man was correct, and my name was somehow “Ambrose Alexander”, my name literally meant “Protector of men, belonging to the immortals”.

Pondering this, I listened to the thunder and rain outside.

I went upstairs, on impulse, to the dusty, old attic.

There was the obvious junk up there, to be sure: Christmas decorations, old clothing, my uncle’s old yearbooks and scrapbooks. But there were the items that I had noticed earlier, during my search for the intruder. Statues, small and somewhat large, ranging in composition from regular coarse stone to what looked like jade. There was also one carved from some type of greenish-gray stone, like a soapstone of sorts. What was strange about the statues more than their chemical make up was their subject matter; most of them were of some fish-type creature, walking on two legs but clearly having scales and piscine features.

Some were the reverse; there was a man’s torso, with a fish’s tail, like a traditional mermaid. One statue was carved in wood, about a foot in length, and much heavier than it looked. It was some being, crouching on top of a rock. This being, or rather, this creature had large wings folded up against it’s back; wings that came down in points and ended in claws. It had a massive head and it’s body was carved to represent it being covered in scales. Grotesque talons protruded from its hands and feet. Most striking of all, though, about this thing, was its massive head featured eyes that seemed to be knowing, or intelligent. And another weird thing, it had a mass of tentacles protruding from just under it’s evil looking eyes, where it’s mouth should be located.

There was one of a simple bas-relief, on a sort of round tablet. It was carved into some strange, smooth, black stone, which I had never seen before. I noticed immediately that in the center was some type of large opal, or a pearl, or some jewel of the seas that I had never seen before. It sparkled in the center of that black tablet. Inscribed all around this strange, alien jewel were odd symbols with some type of text or cuneiform that I had never before encountered.

Most of the artwork--and I wondered what type of people regarded such things as “art”--was of something I was becoming quite accustomed to now: Fish.

Or rather, fish-like creatures. Half-men, half-fish adorned many of the carved inscriptions on the tablet. The carving at the top was the largest, resembling a pair of batwings, with a mass of tentacles and two large, fearsome eyes inlayed over the wings. It was the same being, or at least an artistic representation of it, as the one in the statues. Still, apart from the statues, it struck me as something rather familiar, but I couldn’t remember what or where.

Surely it was some story I had written about recently? Perhaps, maybe, some remnant of recognition of some “fish tale” that the old man had gibbered to me yesterday? Heaven only knew my mind still was reeling from that macabre afternoon.

Scanning the bottom of the plate, I perused the other of the two larger inscriptions. It was of another beast, somewhat larger in scale in comparison to the two figures carved next to it. I knew immediately who the figures next to it were--a man and a woman, covered in scales, with those now all-too-familiar piscine features. They stood on either side of a much larger being or creature, who appeared just as they did. I noticed that the male and female “Deep Ones” in the carving wore hats, or possibly, crowns.

I was having a sudden déjà vu, and I wasn’t sure why--but these thoughts of inscriptions of fish creatures and other blasphemous obscenities from the sea were riveting my memory back to something. Something I could not as of yet quite identify.

But fish men… Deep Ones… Wearing a crown…

Crowns… Hieroglyphs… Deep Ones… My mind was reeling, almost as if I was under the mesmeric influence of some sinister hypnotist. My mind raced, thinking of the creature in Mustus’s basement, of all that he had told me of my parents. I remembered what I had read about my supposed birth in that old newspaper. And then, I heard it.

Some strange, high-pitched sound, like a squealing, or a flute. Yes, a flute-like sound, and it was coming from outside the house. The attic had a round window in it as well. I rushed over to the window, pulling the latch down, and opened it. I pushed my head outside, the cool, stormy salt air brushing my face and blowing through my hair. All I could see was the cloudy skies, the churning seas, and the sand.

I heard it again. It was a high pitched sound, like a flute, but it seemed to be… talking. What it said, I cannot say, but it was no animal. Animals are not so articulate.

The wind came in through the window, and blew so hard that it knocked over some rolls of ancient-looking papers that were stacked up on a table in the center of the attic. The rain was starting to blow in, so I closed the shutters.

Intrigued by the ancient paper that had just become uncovered, I walked over to the table where it was located, and held it up to the light hanging from the ceiling. It was an ancient map, seemingly from a time long before I or even my parents were born. Perhaps even older than that.


CHAPTER X


After an invigorating hot shower, I put all of my dirty clothes in the laundry, and prepared a meal of meat and pasta. I went to the study, noticing Max. He had decided to come out from his hiding place, investigate his food dish, and sleep. He still refused to go outside. He also seemed a little more satisfied that I was his original owner, a human, and not some suspicious stranger.

While the storm still raged outside, I sat down in the study, the warm glow from the lamps filling the room with light. I hadn’t bothered to remove my uncle’s decorations throughout the house, not really having the time. I also liked the “old world charm” about the place, due to those somewhat antiquated decorations, so I left them. Many photographs and paintings of family members adorned the place throughout.

I sat at the desk, and uncurled the maps.

The first map was of the sea, though which sea I was not sure; there was an island or land mass located in one part of this ocean, and a larger one off to the right side. None of these continents had a name to them, but rather some rune or symbol on each one, which I could not translate. I was fairly certain, however, that the larger continent on the right was that of my home, the coast of Oregon, beneath the state of Washington.

The second map was of some vast labyrinth, or tunnel network. I wasn’t sure what this was supposed to be, or from where, but if I was reading this correctly, it seemed that there was a house or building, with a way to an underground network of tunnels located directly beneath it. I noticed that the map was charted in miles. According to this, I was in the very area the map covered. There, about two miles to the west, was the old, disused lighthouse that I would normally walk to down the beach with Max.

And according to the map, there were miles of tunnels, beneath this very house, leading to what appeared to be other houses along the coast. Some of these tunnels led to other areas that were not houses, but I wasn’t sure what they actually were. To my knowledge, there were no structures, though according to the map, these could possibly be underground domains of some kind. Storm or bomb shelters, perhaps?

Deciding to investigate, I hurriedly put on some warmer clothes and my heavy boots, assuming that the way beneath would most likely be watery or at least muddy. Gathering up some supplies and stuffing them into my backpack, I noticed my supper, still sitting on the desk in the study, untouched. I put the plate of food in the fridge, looking down at Max, laying under the kitchen table. The look he gave me back was almost perceptible as “Don’t go!”--more a warning than a plea, I thought--but I seemed overtaken with the desire to explore this new territory.

“Stay, boy,” I commanded. I wasn’t sure he intended to come along anyway.

Steeped in thought, I wondered if perhaps my uncle had left valuables hidden in one of these tunnels. Or maybe they were the way to oil, or petroleum. I could be rich.


CHAPTER XI


Descending into the cellar again (assuming that is where the entrance was going to be), I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched. Jerking my head suddenly behind me, I saw only the stairs and the door above. I felt silly for being so paranoid, but I still couldn’t explain those wet footprints in my house, though I was starting to liken it to imagination and a restless sleep. The shock of that beast Mustus had chained up in his own cellar still stayed with me throughout my sleep, I supposed, and perhaps the water was just from my getting the newspaper earlier that day, or from the previous night when entering the house.

I scanned the area in the dim light of the bulb, and didn’t see anything located on the floor. No trap doors or others entrances, like the one old Mustus had. The floor here was laid out in neat, rectangular flagstones. Could my uncle have paved over this entrance? The map didn’t specify exact entrances, only tunnels and destinations.

I decided to look along the walls; possibly there was some priest-hole style entrance, that needed a pulling of a secret lever or switch to open it. Deciding that the light offered by the lone, dim bulb swinging overhead of the stairway was not enough, I turned on the heavy halogen lamp I had brought with me.

The place was awash now in bright, artificial light, and it became easy to see everything. I noticed that there were bookshelves down here as well as shelves of preserved food and supplies. On one shelf were the tins of sardines, some pressed, dried fruit, and bottles of water. Deciding to take some with me for provisions, I put some of each item into my pack. My uncle had become increasingly paranoid in the last year of his life and had taken to provisions, shelters and such, though we were never sure what caused this behavior. Since he had only passed away last year, this food, being preserved this way, should be perfectly edible still.

I tore open a tin of the sardines, and gulped down a few, while I studied the bookshelves I had failed to notice earlier.

Gods, if only I had bothered to fully investigate the house earlier, I would have had much more material to write about in my column for the Gazette. I could easily glean a few years or more worth of writings from these mad tomes.

The dusty old shelves were stocked with an occultist’s veritable dream collection of books. I noticed many titles that seemed completely alien to me. But then, it was starting to seem that in the past few days, I was becoming more and more humbled as an “occultist”. Apparently, there was more going on in the world than mere devil-worshipping cults and the raising of biblical demons in the name of power or sex.

I saw Feery’s “Notes on the Necronomicon”, Herzinger’s “Neo-Aquatic Civilizations”, the “Cthaat Aquadingen”, Keogh’s “Book of Vampires and Undead Fiends”, and “Manifesto of the Maleficent” by Zandar, to name a few.

There was also a strange, very large book; actually, more like a sheath of papers and notes. These were all handwritten, clearly by someone with not much schooling in literature and proper grammar. It was bound by hand, and the front and back “covers” consisted of wood.

The front read as follows: “Seth Bishop, His Book:: Being Excerpts from the “Nekronomicon” & the “Cultes des Ghouls” & the “Pnakotic Manuscripts” & the “R’leh Text” Copied in His Own Hand by Seth Bishop in the Yrs. 1919 to 1923”.

However, the contents of this book’s writings, questionable literature aside, were intriguing. They contained descriptions, drawings, rites, spells and more, concerning such gods and deities that I’d never heard of.

Most of these gods were elemental in nature, while some were more metaphysical, perhaps metaphorical. There was Cthulhu, a water deity, Ithaqua, Master of the Air, also referred to as the “Wind Walker”. Hastur, who resided currently in the celestial darkness, was apparently a bat-like creature. Next mentioned was Cthugha, the Lord of Fire, followed by the burrowing Shudde-M’ell of the earth.

Bishop wrote of Lloigor (another air deity); Yog Sothoth, who was said to be the “All In One, One In All”. There was mention of yet more--Shub Niggurath, the “Goat with A Thousand Young”, Azazathoth (referred to as the “Blind Idiot God”), the hardly pronounceable Tsathoggua and Nyarlathotep, Zhar (“the mad”), and finally, Arinot of the Fourth Dimension and the Cosmos.

Intrigued to no end by these curious and hardly believable tomes, I stacked them in a pile on the workbench that was in the corner of the room. Glancing one more time at the shelf before setting to the original task at hand, I noticed a large, deep red leather-bound book, which simply bore the inscription “LOVECRAFT”. I reached for this book and made to pull it out, but when I tugged upon it, it only slid forward just a bit--and to my surprise, the bookcase itself jerked forward slightly.

At first I thought that I’d pulled the bookcase out away from the wall a bit because the book was lodged in somehow. Upon closer inspection, I realized the book was not a book at all, but a mechanism. My original task in the cellar was solved. I had found the entrance I originally sought!

Moving the massive bookcase aside a little further, I saw a heavy, oaken door, latched shut. The door was inset inside of a heavy frame, which while behind the big bookcase, was not noticeable at all. Inside the frame, a lone key hung on a small nail hammered into the side. Taking the key, I unlocked the door, which protested with a whining, creaking groan at being opened after God only knows for how long.



Click Here for Part 8 of THE HOUSE IN THE PORT
©by J.R. Torina

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