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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

THE HOUSE IN THE PORT:pt 2

by J.R. Torina




Deciding to just sidestep this, I returned to the photo. “So, I don’t get it--exactly what is it? Fangs? A mask?”

“Yea, a mask. But not fangs… Think FISH,” he said, his voice raising in pitch.

Fish--again. “Uh, well…” Then it hit me. “Tentacles?”

“Yes--yes,” he exhaled, sounding relieved, as he slapped me on the back.

“So, we have here a very old photograph, of a church, or what was once a church, sort of a fog or mist in the area, with a few hunchbacks going inside. All this, and a man wearing a robe, and a mask with… tentacles? So, what’s the connection? What does it all mean?”

“Innsmouth, the whole village was once a fishin’ village,” the old man started.

“The Marshes, the Gilmans, the Eliots, and a few other families all lived there. For generations back, they was always a fisher folk there, til…” His voice trailed off.

“Until?” I pressed him.

“Until somewhere along the way, they took to worshippin’ fish-gods,” he said. His attitude was one of relief for getting all this off his chest, as well as one of fear, for telling me any of it at all.

“Well, when did this happen?”

“I’m thinkin’ it was somewheres around the early 1900’s at least, when the folk in Innsmouth were first visited by… them…”

“Them?”

“The Deep Ones.”

I am a practical and rational man, but the old man and his mysterious way of speaking was beginning to annoy me. He seemed as if he wanted to tell me some things about Innsmouth, but every small, cryptic nugget of information he gave me merely opened up more questions. I pressed him again for more information. “Mustus, who, or what, are Deep Ones? Are they deep sea fishermen? Pirates? What are you talking about, man?”

“No, no, Deep Ones ain’t no pirates, and they ain’t fishermen--they are fish-men.”

“You mean, literally?” I asked him, somewhat surprised, hiding the smirk that was creeping up the side of my mouth.

I reasoned that I came here for the Gazette, looking for some story information, but about devil worshippers; occultists. I had no idea about rumors of fish-men, or places where freakish looking people followed masked men into churches. I decided to get what I could from him, and see if I could possibly get a story out of it, or link the devil worshippers and cultist activities with the so-called fish men, or “Deep Ones”, as he called them.

“Fish men, yes,” he said, interrupting my thoughts.

“The people of Innsmouth are basically slaves--or… aco… acol…” he trailed off.

“Acolytes?” I finished for him.

“Yea, ye got it. Acolytes. They’s acolytes--servants--of the Deep Ones. The townsfolk do their bidding, whether it’s buildin’ temples, attendin' rituals, or…” again, the old man trailed off.

“Or?”

“Or… or…” Here he was stammering, as if he couldn’t bring himself to say whatever it was he was going to say.

“Mustus, you responded to my letter and invited me here to tell me what you know-- so spill it, man!” I barked.

“These acolytes, they work, worship… and breed… with the Deep Ones.” The look on his face was one of horror.

“Breed?” I asked him, incredulously. “How, exactly? I mean, you’re telling me that these fishermen, this entire town, they live in nocturnal obeisance to some supernatural belief that men--fish men--from the sea will come to them? Is that good or bad?”

“’Pends on yer point o’ view” the old man replied, his voice hushed now.

I was about ready to strangle him. The way he kept baiting me, then giving me so little information, was bothersome to say the least. I was about to remark to him on this and make my way to the door, when I noticed him staring at the next photo in the book, as if he were hypnotized by it.

I looked at it to see what it was that had him so mesmerized. A photograph, equally as old as the one before it of the cathedral exterior, but this one was evidently inside the place. From what I could see of it, it seemed as if there were strange gargoyle-type decorations and bas-relief carvings all along the wall of the place. There, in the center of the photo, was the man in the black robe, with the strange octopoidal mask on. He was standing to face what was obviously the congregation, arms in the air in some type of gesture. I commented to Mustus, “High Priest, of whatever this cult is?”

“Yes…”

“You seem distraught, Mustus--what is it?”

“Memories, jis’ memories…” he trailed off again.

I glanced over to the opposing page in the old man’s photo album, or whatever this book was. To my astonishment, I saw the unbelievable. There, in that second old photograph, was that same room I had just noticed, with it’s strange “fishy” decorations, and what appeared to be an altar of sorts. Upon this altar, a beautiful, nude woman was seated, staring as if into space, as if she were waiting for something. I noticed she wasn’t completely nude; she wore a necklace, which bore a small medallion. It must have been of some ritual significance, but it was too hard to make out in the picture. This photo was both beautiful yet repulsive. Beautiful, for the woman, her pretty face, her curves and soft, white skin; repulsive, that such a beautiful sight, a work of art at any other time, in any other place, should be found--willingly, I wondered--in a repulsive place such as where she'd been photographed.

As Mustus turned the page, breaking the spell we both seemed to have fallen under, I remembered what it was that I was here for--if that even mattered any more, after being exposed to some of the macabre wonders that the old man kept.

“So, Mustus--tell me. There is a cult--an Order--of someone or something called “Dagon”, correct?”

“Yes.”

“Apparently, they have some connection with the people in the fishing town of Innsmouth, whom are either members, or just followers. There appears to be a man in charge, a high priest, who is wearing a mask resembling some octopus thing. Now I see a beautiful woman sitting on a stone block, or an altar. Are you trying to tell me that there followed some sort of grisly ritual sacrifice? Was she killed, in sacrificial offering, to this “Dagon”?”

“No, no--she weren’t killed.”

I lost patience. Leaving my normal reserved character, I grabbed the man by the shoulders, brought my face to his, raising my voice--“Mustus. You agreed to talk to me, not give me bits and pieces of cryptic musings, not to answer questions with vague answers and more questions! You invited me here for answers that you assured me you had, about a suspected evil cult along the coast. You assured me you had ties to this cult, which you have severed, trying to shirk off that dark past life. Now I need to know, since we had a deal, as well as that it seems that you are trying to tell me something, but are having… reservations? Damn it, man, tell me what is going on! Tell me what has gone on.”

He seemed to be somewhat removed from his stupor, as well as a bit angered at my treatment of him. Straightening out his filthy jacket, he sat down, dust flying up from the wretched couch. “The church, well--it ain’t no church. It’s a grand cathedral from ancient times, but it ain’t no church anymore. It’s used by the followers of Dagon--The Esoteric Order of Dagon.”

“And who, what--is Dagon?”

“Dagon is a fish-god, from ancient times. If you look up in the bible, you’ll see. Dagon, He’s the Philistines’ god. A fish, but He walks like a man. He’s part of both, I guess. Don’t know much history, much less ancient times an’ such.”

I remembered the books on his shelf.

He continued, “Anyways, the pictures yer lookin’ at, they was taken inside the cathedral.”

“I had gathered as much”, I stated.

“Well, every so often, they would gather, have the fertility ritual. Other than that, there were nightly services. The music--if ye can call it that--that came outta that place… It frightened me to no end. Sometimes I’d hear screams.”

“You mean…” I was about to ask about ritual sacrifice, though he told me that didn’t occur.

“No, no--no one was killed, nothin’ like that. Them girls--they was brought in, fer the fertility ritual. I can only guess they screamed, when they realized what a mess they’d gotten themselves into.”

“What do you mean?”

The old man removed his hand from the second photo he was seemingly transfixed by-- to reveal something so horrid, so stupendously ghastly, that at first I simply didn’t believe what I saw.

“That’s what I mean.”

There was the beautiful woman from the previous photograph; but now, she lay on her back upon that stone block or altar. She lay spreadeagled, and between her thighs, obviously engaging in sexual intercourse with this poor woman, was a creature straight out of Greek--or Philistine-?-mythology.

It was shaped like man, but not shaped like a man. It was bipedal, with two legs and two arms; a grotesque parody of a human head jutted from it’s squared shoulders. It was darkly colored, wet and glistening in what could only be torchlight inside that hellish place. It’s skin appeared to be soft and baggy. The face was a vile distortion of some man and fish hybrid. Large, dull eyes, ears pressed into the sides of the skull, no real nose to speak of. The mouth--that ghastly, grotesque mouth… Large, fleshy tubes for lips, those small, sharp, numerous teeth; its mouth was agape in a rictus of pleasure, for all I could make out on that vile thing. But how could that be? Surely, this was some character in some ritual costume? Surely, this was a mask--wasn’t it? Mask or no, it struck me that despite being a foul beast, I had seen these types of features before; only too recently, in fact. Looking again at the picture, the woman in the photo seemed to be in a state of total complacency, almost as if she was willing for this to happen. “She seems… unfazed?” I asked.

“She done given herself over to them, freely, wholly,” he cried, with more than a hint of regret in his voice.

“Mustus, did you know her?”

“She was my wife!” he exclaimed.

Now things were starting to make sense. I wondered if I should press him further for information, and if I should still even consider any of this for my story in The Gazette. Not sure what to say, I simply asked him how she came to this obscene fate, and apparently, willingly so.

“They told ‘er, they told ‘er that they would come git us anyway, and that we couldn’t leave if we tried. They told us if we didn’t join them, they’d kill us. That was it. It was either join ‘em or be killed by ‘em. What would ye have done?” Before I could answer, he continued. “My Emma--my dear, sweet Emma--she realized the only way out was for her to sacrifice herself to ‘em, and she done it all jus’ to save me! She saved me… It shoulda been me savin’ her. But what could I do?”

“So, these people, these Deep Ones--they kidnapped her?”

“No, no--they ain’t the Deep Ones, and they didn’t kidnap ‘er exactly. They gave us the ultimatum, and at first we refused. The Deep Ones, they’s the fish-men, the beast like in this picture. I keep this picture--you would think Id’ve burned it first thing, but I kept it--to remind me of her sacrifice, and of my revenge. They ‘pregnated ‘er, so they could birth more Deep Ones. I wasn’t the only man in town that had to give up his woman.”

“So, you don’t think there were just a few extremists… in this… this cult?”

“Ye ain’t never been to Innsmouth. Ye ain’t never seen the folk there. They’re freaks, the lot of ‘em!” he cried.



Click Here for Part 3 of THE HOUSE IN THE PORT
a novella to be serialized in 12 daily installments
©by J.R. Torina

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