Wednesday, September 23, 2009

THE HOUSE IN THE PORT:pt 8

by J.R. Torina



CHAPTER XII


Folding up the parchment map and stuffing it in my pocket, I picked up the heavy flashlight and proceeded into the gloom. To my left, hanging on the wall, was a bracket mounted at head level, holding a few torches, as well as what looked like flints. My uncle (or whomever) had a somewhat regular need to be here, which told me one thing: there must've been something down here, at some point. I picked up a torch, struck the flint against a rock placed just beneath it on the ground, and lit it. I decided to conserve the battery power in my flashlight, for the deeper depths of these darkened halls of earth. I noticed also that the rock on the ground where I struck the flint had many such markings on it, from other individuals that had been here in times past.

The walls and ceiling seemed to be hewn out of the underground earth by hand. As I walked down the dark tunnels, I wondered who dug them out, and why. I also wondered about how much manpower it took to perform such a task, if the vast network indicated on the map was to be construed as accurate. Perhaps, I considered, it may have been some power other than man.

I couldn’t be sure why, but I had a sudden, sharp feeling of déjà vu. This attack was so instantaneous, that it made not only my mind reel, but my entire body. Looking around, I saw nothing at first that could have triggered such an episode. The walls and ceiling were simple earth and rocks, the floor for the most part being dirt, with occasional large rocks in the ground, perhaps intended to be stepping stones. With the déjà vu passing, I proceeded again.

I removed another of the sardines from the resealable tin. Since I was certain that whatever I was destined to find, if anything, wasn’t going to be a beautiful nude woman waiting to sweep me off my feet, I continued munching on the fish.

The fact that torches were provided as well as worked down here meant that there must be some type of oxygen supply further ahead, which indicated that this claustrophobic tunnel did indeed lead to some other area along the coast.

Along the wall, I was beginning to see symbols. Some were etched or scratched into the rocks in the sides of the walls, while others were painted or drawn in crayon or chalk on the rocks or in the earth of the walls themselves.

As to what the symbols were and what they meant…

Some of them seemed to be glyphs or some type of alien writing. At first, I shrugged them off as some strange, ancient form of Hebrew or Greek, but then, it occurred to me that I had seen something like these before. I took out the map, and noticed that some of the symbols on it corresponded with what was written on the wall. Not sure what this meant as of yet, I continued on, making a mental note of them.


CHAPTER XIII



If my watch was any indication, a period of thirty minutes had already elapsed since I had entered the tunnel. Assuming that I had come at least a mile or so, I decided to make a marker for myself, just to be on the safe side. I drew a Roman numeral “I” on the wall, on the surface of a slab of shale wedged into it.

Pressing on, I saw that the artwork along the walls not only became more elaborate, but it also became more frequent. To my right was a mural painted onto the wall (which, I noticed, was made of stone now). The mural depicted what looked like a man in a black robe, with a head colored green, with tentacles emerging from the area where the mouth should be. It was that High Priest from the photograph that Mustus had shown me. Surrounding him on either side were beings, that walked like men, having two arms and two legs, but were green and scaly, like fish. These beings also bore the piscine features of fish on their loathsome heads, just like the photos I had seen at Mustus’ home. All along the edges of this mural were depictions of conches, shells, crabs, starfish--all types of deep sea life. These depictions in the murals were of goings on taking place under the sea.

Turning to my left, there was a mural that illustrated a castle of sorts, or fortress. This fortress seemed made of impossibly-angled architecture, and was huge in scale, compared to the whales, squids and sharks swimming about it in the painting.

I wondered to myself if anything like this might exist under the oceans. After all, mankind had only explored very little of the expansive seas, some depths being too dangerous for men to descend. It didn’t seem likely, but who knows…

Above this fortress, painted in red, were letters from the English language, though this arrangement was either totally foreign or nonsensical. This time it appeared to be an entire sentence. It read: “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fgtagn”.

Glancing below the fortress, written in red in the sand depicted at the sea floor in the painting, was the translation: “In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu lies dreaming”. Cthulhu? R’lyeh? Lies dead, but dreaming? What the hell? I thought I may have heard the name “Cthulhu” before, from the old man. But what is “R’lyeh”?

As a rational man who was interested in the darker things of life, I was, admittedly, enjoying this. As a practical man that thought he had mastered his particular field, I was somewhat agitated, not knowing anything at all about these matters. I also felt as if I should or did know, but somehow, was being blocked from remembering.

Not sure what to make of this swirl of thought entering my mind, I decided to carry on. For about another mile or so down the tunnel, to my left and to my right, mural wall paintings abounded. They displayed deep sea creatures, the likes of which I’ve never seen before; they showed Deep Ones, the “mer-men” that walked like men but lived under the sea; and they showed what looked like normal men and women having interactions of every kind with Deep Ones.

There were many murals of some type of giant “fish-god” deity, and more than one illustration of an even larger deity, the beast I had noticed earlier in the attic amongst my uncle’s old statues and junk. The being that was of titanic size, with bat wings and tentacles.

Was this the “Dagon” that Mustus had mentioned? Or perhaps this was supposed to be Cthulhu? I had wondered why yet again that sense of déjà vu had come over me, as I studied the grotesque details of these two beings.

I remembered Mustus speaking of a “Dagon”, and the Hall of Dagon in Innsmouth. He also mentioned that these Deep Ones were acolytes of this Dagon creature.

As for who or what this “Cthulhu” is (was?), I had no idea.

But based on the malignant statues I saw in my attic, what I glanced at as I perused those strange books earlier, and these marvelous yet terrifying mural paintings it seemed as though it was indeed something ominous and terrible.

The déjà vu still clouding my mind, I wondered why this mammoth being, in all of it’s infernal glory, seemed so familiar to me? I also wondered why I felt no actual fear, even though at first glance, this thing--even in statue and painted form--instilled fear and absolute respect at the same time within me.

Where had I seen this before? Surely not in any science fiction pulp magazine… But if not there, then where? As I pondered this, I became aware of something that I had not noticed earlier--water. I could feel a coolness, and indeed hear--running water. It was possible that an underground river lay ahead.

As I descended further into the darkness of the tunnels, I noticed that along the walls, the murals had stopped, and were replaced by an even more elaborate form of art--carvings out of the stone walls themselves.

As I stared in awe at the amazing yet horrific art carved into the very walls themselves, I also noticed that the floors were also covered--with the very same type of stone flags that my uncle had used to cover his cellar floor. I wondered if there was some connection; there most certainly had to be, considering his cellar was an entrance into this cryptic and mysterious realm.

The carvings on the walls depicted a ritual of sorts, step by step. The High Priest with the tentacle mask, a nude woman, and a Deep One.

Their macabre union that followed, and then some of the beastly “Dagon” again.

As I studied the carvings, I found myself stepping into an antechamber, which was round and about the size of the entire lower floor of my house. Everything was paved over in stone flags and all of the walls were covered in carvings of all sorts, from Deep Ones to Dagon to human men and women, in a great variety of blasphemous activities.

The center of the room was… the altar? Yes, the altar. Except this particular altar was for Deep Ones; this altar was a pool of water, it’s edges flush with the floor, yet having a decorative tile surrounding them. The area was covered in slime and water, as if there was some overflow here.

I also noticed that there was a tunnel, paved and showing elaborate carvings dead ahead on the other side of the altar pool. This was apparently the destination of that long, dark tunnel I had followed for an hour or so from the cellar.

My uncle, building tunnels, worshipping these Deep Ones?

I couldn’t quite believe it, but then, my uncle always was a little bit on the macabre side, much as I turned out to be. And my father had spent a lot of time here visiting, I recalled; before he went off to the wars.

I leaned over the edge of the pool, and peered down into the murky water. It was hard to see much by torchlight, but I thought I could see something down there. Possibly fish? I wondered. Turning the torch downwards, closer to the water, I saw a face staring back up at me from the depths.

With a sudden shock, I screamed out and I dropped the torch right into the water. Before it snuffd out against the surface of the water, it illuminated partially what was down there, for a fraction of a second, and that was long enough to know that it was sheer horror. A Deep One. One of those submariner horrors, like the one that I had seen chained up in the sump beneath the old man’s house.

I panicked, checking through my pack, fumbling like a madman, trying to find the halogen lamp that I had brought with me. As I did so, I felt a cold, wet claw grab hold of my ankle. The grip was like steel. The thing was trying to pull me into the water, under the water. Finding the flashlight, I turned it on, and shone it at the surface of the water. With a muffled roar of disapproval, the thing let go of me, shielding it’s terrible, bulbous fish eyes from the harsh, synthetic light, amidst a showering of air bubbles.

With the shock subsiding, I gathered my wits--and my pack--and began to retreat the way I had come. I made it as far as the beginning carvings along the walls of the hall, and turned back. I saw, to my horror, that this creature meant to have me, for it was rising out of that scummy pond. Webbed, slimy talons came up first, then that hideous face, in all of it’s piscine strangeness. Not wanting to see any more, I turned and started to run back up the way I had come down the dark hallway. This time I had the blinding light of the halogen lamp to lead the way, and pure adrenaline and fear to fuel my running.



CHAPTER XIV



Seeing the doorway at the end of the tunnel, I was panting and my chest aching from the arduous journey and the frightful shock I had just experienced. I stopped to catch my breath, thinking that something as large and cumbersome as a Deep One--literally a fish out of water--would never catch up with me. That’s when I heard that deep, throaty breathing, coming from not too far away, accompanied by a wet, slogging, shuffling sound. I turned to look behind me with the lamp; about ten feet away, there it was. Shielding it’s eyes again, it continued it’s shambling gait towards me.

Again, launched into action by pure adrenaline, I sprinted the last few feet to the door, fumbling with the locking mechanism. “Open… Open, damn it… Open… Come on--” I moaned. Opening at last, the groaning, heavy door gave way. I was quick to ooze into the house through the narrow opening, seeing Max on the other side, barking incessantly. I turned to look behind me, and there it was, an arm’s length away. And that’s when the beast just stopped. It halted and stood there, staring at me with an almost quizzical expression on its face. Giving in to panic and fear, I slammed the door right in the “face”--if one could call it that--of this beast, and locked the door with the key, hanging it back up where I had found it.

The creature pounded once on the door, then trying the handle again, seemed to give up. I could hear it’s heavy breathing and growling on the other side of the heavy wooden panels. Max, still barking, may have scared the thing, though I doubt it.

With my back to the door, I slid down into a sitting position, exhausted. I pulled Max over to me by his collar. “Good boy,” I said, petting and hugging him. He wagged his tail a bit, but still pulled away from me sooner than he ever used to, before.

Not sure what to make of that, I decided I had bigger problems than my dog acting strange. It’s not every day one discovers an underground ritual chamber beneath one’s home, and certainly not a pool that produces sea monsters. The thought of the thing, and it’s easy access to the door that leads into my home set me fraught with despair for the rest of the night.

It seemed that despite all this, I wasn’t too concerned, though. My curiosity was already returning, causing me to wonder why my uncle had done all of this, and just what his connection was to that area down there, meant for the worship and ritual of some aquatic beings.

I wondered if he had known of these beasts. How could he not? One doesn’t build a place of worship or ritual, without expecting something to happen, or someone--or something--to appear.

I also pondered why had the creature chased me all the way up the corridor, then stopped and just stared at me?

A distant sound came from down the hall behind me, heard dimly through the closed door: “Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li… Vor’li’ka.” I started, hearing this piping ululation.

Nothing followed for the next few minutes.

Eventually, I decided that the thing had gone.

Somehow, that call--whatever it was--seemed as if it was directed towards me; by name. But, what does “Vor’li’ka” mean? I decided that I would go see the old man again tomorrow, and get some answers. Wiping the cold sweat from my face, I turned off the light, and proceeded back up the stairs, ready for a good night’s sleep.




Click Here for Part 9 of THE HOUSE IN THE PORT
by J.R. Torina

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