May 20, 1938
Have just arrived at Watcher's Point. Uncle Eugene's cabin, which has not been occupied for four years, is in rather poor shape. Rusted summer screens, cobwebs in the windowsills, sand ground into the carpeting and any number of dead bugs on the bathroom floor -- a fairly respectable disaster. Cleaning up took the better part of the day, even with the help of my companion, Toombs.
There are no neighbors. Toombs and I passed a few sand-filled, crumbling foundations on our way here, but that was all. God only knows how old some of these ruins might be -- fifty years, a hundred years, or more. There are telephone lines -- a single row of poles alongside the dirt road. Two lines, that's all. Ironically, Uncle Eugene's cabin doesn't have a phone. Or electricity, for that matter. I write letters by lamplight while listening to the ocean break on the rocks. Quite rustic, don't you think?
Once we had knocked down the webs, swept out the sand and dead fish flies, wiped clean the windows and thrown out a rotting old couch, we had lunch -- cheese and crackers. The cabin itself is quaint. Water pump, antique wood-burning stove, and a living room dominated by a huge fieldstone fireplace. A large stuffed horned owl watches over all from his perch upon it. There are two bedrooms. Pictures of clipper ships and mounted trout hang in every room, it seems. My uncle's old fishing boat is still beside the woodshed. An outhouse is somewhat off in the scrub pine and brush north of us. Toombs and I really dread the idea of using this thing . . .
The couch we left at the end of the driveway. Hopefully someone will come along and take it away. More than likely it will be someone from Innsmouth. Scavengers and bandits, that bunch, especially since the government put a stop to their bootlegging some time ago. Can't imagine what the sneaky bastards do for money these days.
It's a nice spring night. I've left the windows open a crack, and a breeze comes in off the Atlantic. Funny thing about Watcher's Point: the wind never entirely ceases -- it's always there to one degree or another. No wonder sand keeps creeping in . . .
May 22, 1938
As of this writing, the couch still remains at the end of the driveway. Odd, considering that Toombs and I are very near what some folk say is "Innsmouth territory," and that they take note of outsiders quite quickly. So far, if they've taken note of us, they've kept to themselves. Toombs joked that maybe the visit behind the woodshed, courtesy of Uncle Sam, had made more considerate neighbors of them. I laughed, but I'm not so sure myself. They'll keep quiet for a time, I think, and then resume their usual nasty habits.
Uncle Eugene had more trouble with the Innsmouthers, back before the Federal raid of 1927-28. People in Arkham said he was half-mad to build a cabin on Watcher's Point, which is only a mile or so south of Innsmouth. They said that in the past other people had been driven off, and there was talk of beatings and a murder or two. But my uncle was an avid fisherman, and some of the best fishing in Massachusetts is off Watcher's Point. I myself don't care overmuch for the sport. Uncle Eugene's poles sit in the closet, gathering dust.
My uncle did have some problems with the Innsmouth folk. Near dawn one day they blew out the kitchen window with a shotgun. "No Trespassing" signs began to appear in the countryside nearby, where there had been none before. Anything not nailed down seemed fair game to them. Then Uncle Eugene purchased a shotgun of his own, believing that rock salt and bird shot were the solutions to his problem. It was, to an extent. But the Innsmouthers weren't entirely beaten. They responded in their own fashion, by felling a tree more than once across the dirt road that leads back to here. In truth, Philip, the trouble didn't really stop until the winter of 1928. My uncle returned here a few times afterward, before he died of cancer in 1934.
The cabin itself is not on Watcher's Point per se, but just south of it. The Point itself extends like a slightly hooked finger out into the Atlantic for a few hundred yards or so. It's largely sand and smooth stones. Some of the pine trees are quite tall, but some are dead and more than a few have fallen. The wind's had something of an effect on the trees, bending and stunting them. You hear it constantly in the treetops, through which the May sun flickers and flashes -- it's quite beautiful, in all honesty. The air smells of salt spray and pine needles, which form a deep, padded carpet underfoot.
Toward the tip of Watcher's Point is something curious: small piles of stones and single rocks arranged in a haphazard pattern of some sort. No one's certain who made them, or what purpose they serve. I've heard variously that they are part of an Indian holy site, a fertility monument similar to Stonehenge, a prehistoric star-map, and the work of colonial-era witches. Even more fantastic stories claim that the Devil holds court here, and that all the minor demons sit on stone piles according to their status. Some of the larger rocks extend out into the water -- granite shapes worn smooth by waves and countless millions of years. The archfiend is said to sit on the largest of these stones.
Especially interesting are the numbers of stones that bear fossil imprints. As you know I've always had an interest in paleontology, extending back to childhood. I read avidly of prehistoric monsters -- Tyrannosaurus Rex , the "thunder-lizard". Iguanadon. Brontosaurus. Mosasaurus, sealed in its tomb of Maastricht chalk. I would love to have been one of the men who discovered the eggs of Protoceratops in the Gobi Desert during the '20s . . . or the remains of the "terrible lizard-king" in Montana in 1912. But unfortunately, I am still working through my degree at the university, and rarely experience anything more exciting than lectures and note taking.
The fossils here are quite ordinary -- mostly Cambrian and Silurian-era relics. A stone watermarked by the fragmented shell of a nautiloid or anemone-like crinoid. Here and there the imprint of a trilobite. Some primitive snail-shells. Cephalopods and echini. Lower life forms. That sort of thing. I've pocketed some of the more interesting specimens, to take back to me to Arkham for further study. Strange that whomever built these piles should be so partial to fossils . . .
Toombs talked most of the time, as always. He thinks the stone-patterns are a ruse concocted by the Innsmouthers to scare off other people. This seems a little too clever for them, I think. And what would be the motive behind it? Anyway, he doesn't hold any great respect for the site, taking several of the stones and skipping them upon the water. He can be irritating in that way. I myself don't hold to the nonsense I've heard over the years concerning Watcher's Point, but he shouldn't go needlessly wrecking things.
Nonsense, you ask? Oh, the usual. Reports of a "sea monster" along the lines of what they supposedly have over in Scotland. To the day he died Uncle Eugene swore he saw it one day -- long and sinuous, and much bigger than his boat. It passed beneath him, a blur, chasing fish. My uncle promptly brought the boat back into shore. I suspect it was a small whale or a shark . . . or Uncle Eugene's brandy flask. Prohibition was never something to keep my uncle out of his cups.
The wind, though, is as he described it. Ceaseless. Sharp and steady. Always, there is a faint, somehow ancient crooning in your ears. Perhaps it is the sound of time or timelessness itself. Beyond lies the Atlantic, vast and gray, tipped here and there with white. Toombs and I stood quietly, side by side, where land and sea meet. A few gulls were aloft in the air, and their distant cries carried back to us.
May 23, 1938
Well . . . a noteworthy event today. That moldy old wreck of a couch was finally taken away
. . . by a junk dealer out of Innsmouth.
He was actually polite, though he did have a touch of that stare they all have, not to mention that queer grayish-tinged skin that makes one reluctant to shake hands with or be touched by them. Physically, he was small and gangly. His clothes were rumpled and fit very badly. As usual, he had the inexplicable Innsmouth taste for disastrous-looking hats -- in his case, a dingy porkpie cap. He clenched a slender, foul-smelling cigar between his teeth. Honestly, I think he was burning mattress ticking or dead leaves in lieu of tobacco.
He drove a battered old truck, of the sort common ten years ago. Toombs and I let him have the couch for free -- it really isn't worth anything -- and helped him load it onto his truck.
Unlike most of his kin, he actually bothered to talk with outsiders. Most Innsmouthers won't say a word to save themselves. But this fellow introduced himself as Cyrus Gilman, even tipping his awful hat. Beneath, his head was largely bare and mostly speckled; I shudder to think what might afflict these people.
We even made some small talk. I mentioned that we were college students from the university, here on vacation. He blew smoke, leaned on the cab of his truck, and nodded. We would be here for perhaps three weeks, and then it was back to Arkham and summer jobs. He blew smoke and nodded. I had heard that the fishing here was good, though I didn't fish much myself.
He blew smoke, nodded, and said, "Fine fishin' here. Fine fishin', sir."
I was careful not to mention Uncle Eugene.
Toombs, who until now had been quiet, suddenly asked: "They say there's a sea monster in these parts, Mr. Gilman. Is that true?"
Gilman shrugged. "Can't say as I've seen it."
"And how are things in Innsmouth these days?"
Gilman blew smoke, and the cigar went from one corner of his wide mouth to the other. "Been better," he replied, "been better, sir. Can't complain, though. Keep a stiff upper lip, 's what I say."
"Well, I hear that your people can get pretty touchy about . . . well . . . fishing rights, if you know what I mean."
Gilman visibly cooled, and his stare hardened. I could have kicked Toombs. The cigar smoldered between the man's teeth.
"Well, sir," Gilman replied. "There's some, like me, that don't give a good goddamn if you fish, swim, or go runnin' naked around here, for all they care. T'aint their business. And there's some as feels different, and they'll let you know what they's thinkin'. My advice? You stay close to here. You mind your business, they mind theirs. Gentlemen . . ."
He tipped his hat again, climbed into the cab of his idling truck, which departed in a haze of smoke foul as that of his cigar. The ungainly rattletrap heap lumbered down the dirt road, and passed from view. And that was my first, rather anticlimactic meeting with an Innsmouth man. Doubtlessly they will descend in a horde upon the cabin tonight. Note to self: kick Toombs.
May 24, 1938
Toombs and I have had our first lesson in Innsmouth neighborliness, or the lack of it.
It was my idea. Toombs and I, fishing poles and buckets in hand, would venture due north, following the shore. Contrary to the aim of the junk dealer's laconic advice, my curiosity had been peaked, not subdued. What could they possibly still have to hide, ten years after the Federal raid? The talk had long since subsided. The worst elements among them were said to be scattered across the country, behind bars, or dead. Innsmouth lay half-deserted, derelict, Appalachian in its grinding poverty. Of what concern could two young fishermen possibly be?
The country beyond Watcher's Point is wild, difficult, frequently ominous, and occasionally beautiful. We kept away from the road, relying on disused footpaths. Here and there a tidal creek proved too wide to be crossed, requiring us to use one of the many old wooden road bridges, their pilings crusted green with weeds. It was a still day. To our right was the iron-gray silhouette of the Atlantic, to our left, the dusty baked road, obscured by stunted larch, shrubs, and dying pines.
We didn't talk much. Our surroundings did not invite conversation. Twice we stumbled upon the remains of homes long gone. Of one, nothing was left but a blackened, crumbling, vine-covered chimney. Sand had filled the foundations. Toombs mused upon why my uncle would ever want to visit such a place. I had to wonder, myself.
Of the second, there was rather more left. Some timbers still stood, enough that we could trace the outlines of the door and a wall or two. It appeared to have burned some time ago, Toombs uneasily noted. An accident, perhaps, but I recall my uncle's stories of the other folk who had once settled here and then been scattered, and doubted Toomb's explanation.
"Wha yoo doon heah?"
We started at the sound of that voice; belligerent, thick, nearly unintelligible. A man -- no, two men -- came up behind us. The taller of the two, heavyset and moonfaced, carried a shotgun. The shorter man, older, with features creased as a walnut, was similarly armed.
"Hi," I said, trying to keep my voice even. The two men did not return my greeting. Instead they came closer, their movements watchful and wary. The tall man was running to fat, but was really not much older than us. (For folk that seem to subsist largely on fish and hard alcohol, I cannot understand this predilection to heaviness, Philip.) A patchy, failed attempt at a beard trailed from his cheeks. He sported an antique Union infantryman's cap. His mouth slowly, meditatively worked a huge cud of tobacco -- this probably accounted for his slurred speech.
The older man wore a shirt so stained and repeatedly patched I couldn't determine its original color. His teeth were too straight to be anything but false. Apparently they didn't fit well; he kept clicking them, and the sound made my skin creep.
Both had the Innsmouth look -- that fishy, unblinking expressionless mask that quickly makes one uneasy, suggestive as it is of either idiocy or low cunning. They're the triggers, however. The big fellow repeated his question.
"What?" Toombs asked.
The big fellow spit a stream of tobacco into the weeds.
"I said, 'What are you doin' here?'"
"Nothing," I replied. "We're just looking for a place to fish, is all."
"Mmmm," Union Cap said. The bill of his hat was so low I could not see his eyes. "Well, you go on back the way you came and fish somewhere else, hear?"
I asked him why. We weren't doing anything wrong. Did he own this land?
"No, but you're trespassin' all the same. We been watchin' you for a while. Followed you back from the last bridge. Plenty of good fishin' spots afore that. Why the hell you need to come this far, then?"
"Why were you following us?" Toombs retorted.
"None a your business, piss-ant," Union Cap said. Clicktooth grinned and chuckled, slight shoulders shaking. His hair was long and gray, spiraling away from his withered skull in unlikely whorls.
Then Union Cap pointed the barrel of his shotgun at us, the end of which seemed wide and dark as an empty well.
"Now you boys turn yourselves round and start walkin', got me? And you keep walkin' 'til you get back to wherever it is you came from, and you stay there. I don't wanna see either one a you here again. On land or in the water."
"Come on," I said to Toombs, backing away. I wasn't entirely sure Union Cap and his friend would not shoot us in the back, given the chance. Toombs paused, and then came with me. Again and again we looked back over our shoulders. Union Cap kept his gun leveled at us. Clicktooth, however, seemed rather less concerned. He sat on a stump, swiped at his nose, and clicked his teeth.
"White trash bastards," Toombs muttered, as we made our way back.
"Not so loud," I said.
"I don't care," he replied. Union Cap and Clicktooth were lost to view. "What're they going to do, shoot us for calling them names?" He turned and cupped a hand to his mouth. "HEAR THAT, YOU INNSMOUTH BASTARDS? I DON'T CARE!"
There was a shotgun blast. I don't think it was aimed directly at us, but it didn't clear our heads by much. I heard the pellets snap through the leaves and branches. My pulse suddenly throbbed in my throat, sweat beaded on my forehead. Nearly dropping my bucket, I broke into a clumsy run up the trail. Toombs came swiftly behind me, dogged by shouts: I'll get you for that, you little piss-ant! See that I don't!
May 25, 1938
Since our brush with Innsmouth's finest, Toombs's been a little on edge. When he isn't starting at real or imagined sounds, he's nervously looking out the windows. He must think that that fat oaf will really come looking for him. I told him he'd probably forgotten the incident after his second round of home-brew. Poor old Toombs. He's entirely too credulous. Of course, if he hadn't given them a piece of his mind . . .
I would not have asked Toombs to come with me, but his mother and my own felt he should get away from Arkham and his academic troubles at the university for a time. (It's not that he's stupid or necessarily a bad student. His problem is a lack of discipline and maturity).
Granted, we don't have much in common besides school, but we manage. His college career, put frankly, is shot, as he's told me in so many words. Too much drinking, too much dating, too little studying of business administration. Of course, he's convinced that more than one professor has it in for him, but who hasn't felt this way at some point?
He is worried that Union Cap will show up on the doorstep, with several thuggish friends in tow. I tell him over and over that my uncle lived under their noses for years, back when they had the run of the salt-marsh country around here. Things are much better now. They keep to themselves.
As for the rest of the matter . . . all I can say is that at night Toombs more than compensates for his lack of imagination by day. He keeps his bedroom windows closed because he claims to dislike the night-sounds outside. What he hears is various kinds of cricket, not to mention marsh and tree frogs further inland. I suppose if you lay awake in bed and think of nasty things, their voices do become unpleasantly alien and insistent -- particularly one variety that produces a weird, lilting trill.
I will admit, this place does work on the mind, if allowed. The wind is, if anything, even more forceful at night. It swells from a low moan to a drilling shriek under the eaves, but much of the time it is a continuous susurration. More than once my mind has wandered, listening to it. There is an almost thinking quality to its intonations, the suggestion of something alive and fitfully aware. If it was living, I am not sure I would consider it entirely human.
No! I do not believe in ghosts or sea-spirits or anything of the sort! If anything, that's more Toombs than I. It's just that the way he carries on about hearing chanting and all is enough to distract any sound mind. Yes, chanting. He's suggested I listen to the wind in that odd state between sleep and consciousness -- his usual modus operandi, I might add. If I clear my mind, and listen closely, I will hear words. What words, I asked. He couldn't tell me what was being said, only that they were words and that it was not his imagination. To humor him, last night I followed his suggestion. Absolutely nothing. Crickets and frogs.
He said I wasn't trying hard enough.
Next year I intend to come here with someone else.
May 28, 1938
Can barely write of this . . . but will try anyway.
Yesterday a storm came in, from off the Atlantic. The day had been overcast, the clouds low, and the ever-present wind curiously subdued. By mid-afternoon rain had begun to fall. Somewhat later the waves began to crest and break. Toombs and I could see the approach of the squall, a darker shadow on an already dark horizon. I told him to close the shutters, and we brought the old dinghy further inland. As for the woodshed and outhouse . . . I supposed that if they had survived this long, they would weather this storm, too.
We lit lamps and waited it out. Rain lashed against the windows. There was very little talk, though Toombs did find an Atlantic spring storm very unusual -- most occur in August and September. Otherwise we were quiet, and spent much of our time listening to the tumult outside. Gradually the room grew darker, and I began to seriously fear a disaster -- the roof ripping away in the wind or the tide swamping the cabin itself. It was no hurricane, granted, but still . . . there was a crash from outside.
Toward evening the worst was past. A sudden stillness fell, and the rain ceased. Wan light filtered through the tattered, hurrying clouds. Toombs and I ventured outdoors. The cabin itself was intact, apart from a few missing shingles, and we opened the shutters again. Water dripped and ran from every surface. The outhouse had likewise persevered, but the woodshed was not so lucky, and lay half-collapsed in a slouched pile of paint-peeling timbers. No great loss to civilization. I was intending to tear it down later this year anyway. But our vacation seemed to be getting worse and worse.
I was about to see if any part of the woodshed was salvageable when Toombs began calling for me. "David! Come look at this! David, come here!"
I ran toward Toombs. He pointed toward the water. "There, by the rocks! See it?"
"See what?" I asked in frustration.
"There! Quick, before it's gone!"
I did see it then, and at first I was at a loss to describe it. It plied through the shallow water near the rocks so quickly that to follow its propulsive darting, let alone discern its outline, was a task. Nearly three feet long and thin, it was a fanciful horn or tusk of some sort, like that of a narwhal. It was striped pearl and cinnamon. But when I saw a single staring gold eye and multitude
of feelers . . . when I saw its purposeful movement . . . I realized it was neither horn nor tusk, but a shell. The shell of a mollusk. Drifting and spearing squid-like through the water was a Cambrian cephalopod, Philip, of the kind that has been extinct for over three hundred and fifty million years!
Toombs asked, "What is it?" I couldn't speak. All I could do was stare at the creature, stunned, until Toombs gave me a shake. This brought me out of my daze, and in a trembling voice, I told him what it was, and what its discovery meant. Even so, I'm not sure how much of an impression this made on him. I'm quite sure that he has muddled, lapsed Catholic notions of a God who created the universe in seven days, and that prehistoric anomalies older than the stones themselves have no place in it. In any event, he was not nearly as awed as myself. To him it was just an oddity. The storm had driven it out of hiding. Doubtless it would return to the deeper ocean. I hardly heard him. I told him to get a net, quickly.
"What for?" he asked. "It'll just get away."
"Goddammit, just do it, Toombs!"
He shook his head and lumbered back toward the cabin. I shouted to him that Uncle Eugene's fishing net was in the closet with his poles, hoping he would hear. As for the cephalopod, the nautiloid . . . it had ceased its agitated erratic motions and was now browsing with its tentacles among the smaller rocks with an air of distracted preoccupation. I don't know if was aware of me or not. Perhaps it felt I could be easily avoided, if need be. How old was it, I wondered. How developed? Was it essentially brainless, like a sea slug? Or was it more cognizant, like an octopus? The golden eyes with their oval pupils spoke to me of an alien mind, I think, not entirely unintelligent
. . . and infinitely older than mankind.
The cephalopod was in such shallow water that twice its absurdly long shell broke the surface, splashing, glinting in the muted afternoon light. I believe that was what drove the reality of it home to me, Philip. A creature whose day was well past, that should have been dead hundreds of millions of years was instead before me, alive and aware. Awe tainted by a certain dread filled me at this unaccountable survival. It was an enigma, a riddle to defeat the Sphinx, a feat to dwarf all the petty achievements of history and man.
From stone to stone it glided, silent and meticulous, tentacles trailing like the cape of a silent film villain, endlessly searching. Toombs finally returned with my uncle's net.
Quickly, I removed my shoes, and rolled up my pants legs.
"You're not going to try and catch that thing, are you?" Toombs asked.
"Yes, I am."
I entered the water. Instantly the fine hairs upon my neck and arms rose; the Atlantic is never truly warm up here, even toward summer. My feet and toes sank into the sand. Carefully, slowly, net in hands, I approached the nautiloid.
"What if it's poisonous or something?"
"I doubt it," I replied. In all honesty, I didn't know myself. I was trusting to luck and what I already knew of squids and octopi.
"David, you're not going to catch something like that with your uncle's old fishing net."
"Not if you keep distracting me, I won't. Come on. Help me."
Unwillingly Toombs removed his shoes and rolled his pants legs. He entered the water.
"Careful! You'll scare it away!"
The cephalopod flitted toward an outcropping of rock, tentacles swaying warily.
It was with utmost care that I moved, lifting and lowering my feet, so that I resembled a strange species of stork. But the cephalopod seemed to sense every movement, every disturbance and ripple, and continued to dart away from me.
"Toombs," I said. "Circle around to my left. If it comes back my way, I might be able to net it."
Toombs, for once, didn't question what he was told. He walked slowly off, to the left, approaching the nautiloid at an oblique angle. The creature obliged by remaining still, hovering in the shallow water. Before long it was between us, behind it was the pitted cluster of half-submerged rocks. I hoped to hem it in on three sides, and if not catch it, at least drive it away from deeper water.
Suddenly, it streaked toward me. Startled, I brought the net down, and succeeded only in splashing myself. With incredible agility the nautiloid veered away from me, and bolted in the direction of Toombs.
"Get it!" I yelled, thrashing through the water after the thing.
But Toombs, as usual, played the fool. Don't ask me what he was thinking, Philip, but he seemed convinced that the nautiloid was somehow poisonous, or was intent on goring his ankles with its long (and doubtlessly fragile) pointed shell. God, what slipped through our fingers in the single moment! Toombs let out a wail, stumbled backward over a stone, and sat down in the water with a mighty splash. The nautiloid slipped through our trap like quicksilver. "NO!" I cried, as it propelled itself away, took upon the deeper shades of the surrounding water, disappeared into the ocean.
I could not believe it. I threw down the net, choked with disgust. I cursed and swore at Toombs and myself. Livid words filled the air. Paleontology's greatest discovery lost forever, thanks to a fool who wouldn't know a miracle if it smacked him full in the face! Unbelievable! Toombs, wounded at first, grew angry. Back and forth we went, tempers rising all the while. I demanded to know if he'd ever not screwed up something in his life. He shot back, wondering who the hell I thought I was to say that, when I was the one who couldn't catch the damned thing in the first place. He always had an excuse, I told him. Oh, that's right, he replied. You need no excuses. You're the perfect little bastard my mother's always ramming down my throat!
And so on. Eventually he stormed off, back to the cabin. I was left alone, staring at the deeper ocean, and what might have been.
May 29, 1938
Foul mood today. Cannot help but think what escaped us. Will anyone believe either of us, should we tell them? I doubt it. We'll be dismissed as liars or fools. I could have stood the scientific world on its ear. Instead I'm here by myself, writing you this letter -- Toombs went out for a walk. He's been gone for sometime, since late morning, at least. Probably off enjoying a bout of self-pity. God knows he's an expert. Now I see why Uncle Eugene came here by himself.
No. I shouldn't say that about Toombs. I'm being too hard on him. After all, college was his parents's idea, and not his own. He feels out of his element most of the time, and I'm sure he dislikes it. But still . . . damn . . . I still see the headlines: SCIENTIFIC MARVEL OF THE AGE! YOUNG ARKHAMITE DISCOVERS LIVING FOSSIL! There I'd be, on the front page . . . well, Toombs and I, at any rate. He did find it first, I must admit, though if I hadn't been with him, I don't doubt he might have ignored the thing entirely. A Cambrian-era nautiloid, hundreds of millions of years old, still living off the Massachusetts coast! Will it return? And are there others?
I'm nearly out of paper, and this pencil is worn to a stub. Honestly, I didn't expect to be writing you quite this much, Philip . . . but then I wasn't expecting some of the events of late. Strange stone-patterns . . . unwholesome locals . . . Atlantic storms . . . a relic from the dimmest corner of time. So much for three weeks of rest and relaxation.
I will need to find more writing stock. Uncle Eugene was something of a man of letters, I'm sure some supplies have survived. I really don't want to have to venture into Innsmouth if I can avoid it.
I recall my uncle freelancing on occasion for some local journals -- mostly men's adventure magazines. Dirk Roland discovers the lost pygmy tribe of the Belgian Congo, Hunter Washington to the rescue, that sort of thing. I've read a few of his surviving works, and I hate to admit it, but they're rather juvenile. Full of outlandish locations -- the aforementioned Belgian Congo . . . the tallest peak of the Caucasus mountains . . . the Plateau of Leng in Central Asia . . . Irem of the Pillars. Absurd. Imaginative, but absurd. Worse yet are the plethora of "alien gods" and "monstrous races," with their nefarious plots and consonant-choked names, which I won't even get into here. My suggestion? Find a typewriter, close your eyes, and hit fifteen, twenty keys. Voila! There's your "horrible entity from beyond time and space!"
Apparently mobsters and Bolshevik anarchists no longer fill the bill in the realm of manly adventure.
There's an old roll-top desk in the den. I hope to find what I'm looking for there. As for Toombs, I imagine he'll be back later, but I do wonder where he went . . .
June 5, 1938
I apologize for the lateness of this letter. Remember what I mentioned of my uncle's writing in my last dispatch? Well, it seems things are rather beyond that, and I found more than I ever cared to know in his old desk, five days ago.
As I said, it's an old thing, nearly an antique, and I had a great deal of trouble opening the drawers, and I fear I've broken the top for good -- I can't close it anymore. Stuck good and tight. I found much paraphernalia, most of it useless junk: old bills and faded photographs, notes to his stories, letters of acceptance or rejection from various publishers, and the start of a new tale titled, "Terror in the Pyrennes," hardly two paragraphs long. No blank paper, no pencils. It was the same with three of the other drawers: empty, old copies of Reader's Digest, a good wood cigar humidor
. . . and a fourth drawer, stuck fast. I strained, swore, and eventually pulled it entirely out.
Inside it was nothing . . . but in the runner of the desk itself, beneath the drawer, was a very old cracked leather binder, tied together with a length of rotting rawhide. It was thick with yellowed, disorganized papers. Carefully I removed it, wiping away the dust. Webs pulled away like a thin membrane. There was no title. I thought of mentioning this latest discovery to Toombs, who was in the other room . . . and then thought better of it. This was something to be perused alone, to be seen by my eyes only. Granted, this is the logic of dreams -- and nightmares -- but ever since I have been here, Philip, such flights of mind seem less and less preposterous. There are stones upon Watcher's Point the origin of which no one can guess. I have seen a thing I know to be ages dead in the shallows among the rocks. An even greater creature is said to live in the ocean further beyond. And now I held in my hands a half-rotted mildewed binder, afraid of what I might find within, and yet powerless to resist.
I spent the next few days deciphering, reading, and studying the notes and diagrams within.
(The wind is vocal today, rushing about the eaves of the cabin, flapping and gibbering . . .)
Toombs became curious, but only briefly. Too esoteric for him, I imagine. He couldn't understand why I was so interested in "a pile of rotted paper," as he put it. We left matters at that. Each keeps to himself these days, and I think that when we return to Arkham, we will be going our separate ways.
As for the collected papers, I can say this . . . either Uncle Eugene had begun to lose his mind in the last years of life, or I stand in danger of losing my own now.
Much of the crabbed handwriting is too hard to read. The papers are stained and faded. Mice have nibbled on the corners of pages. Some of it is in what appear to be either runes or a code I have never seen before, and some of it makes no sense whatsoever. Here's an example: Order of Dagon; The Three Oaths; Will lay stones under the new moon and in conjunction with the proper lines. Or this, if you will: Parley or Wizardry? If Deep Ones refuse, will teach them a lesson in the latter. Am tired of their arrogant threats and smug complacency. Only concept of time revolves around their immortality. They perceive neither the ANGLES nor the DIMENSIONS, and thus are as blind as Mankind in that regard.
And this: Research the "Book of Eibon" for proper spell. Research Hoag manuscript of the "Ponape Scripture" in regards Deep Ones and their servants. Will match damned Innsmouth folk, blow for blow. . .
I searched high and low for both books, Philip, and found nothing. The reading material here is comparatively tame -- no spell books or black magic grimoires. I can guess at the origins of the authors. Hoag is an old Massachusetts name, dating back to colonial times. As for Eibon, however, I have no idea. Might be French, don't you think? Eibonne?
There are charts, too. Largely indecipherable. Some I believe to be star-maps and constellations, but very little present is labeled as such. There are angles and measurements, the purpose of which I cannot fathom. Formulae, too, but nothing of the sort I was taught at the university.
I did, however, recognize one of the charts for what it was, when I studied it closely from several different angles. It was a crude, rough map of Watcher's Point itself. Arcs were described within several points, and marked by unrecognizable symbols. Where the arcs formed an apex -- out to sea, according to the chart -- a bizarre, coiling line circled several times, ending in a spidery arrowhead. I was immediately reminded of the enigmatic markings of certain ancient altars and burial mounds. Was it order spinning outward into chaos? The movements of imagined spirits?
The handwriting beneath revealed little: He who is Both Key and Gate. Past, Present, Future, All are One within Him. What is Locked in Stone will come forth from Stone. Time will be as Dust before the Wind.
Intensely frustrating. Might as well have been in Sanskrit or hieroglyphics. But after a time, with the aid of memory, I did see a definite pattern, and it chilled me to gaze upon it. Wherever the arced lines crossed, there lay a small pile of fossilized stones, or a single large rock. Will lay stones under the new moon and in conjunction with the proper lines . . .
What lay silent and undisturbed upon Watcher's Point was not the work of Indians. Neither was it the doing of Salem-witches or troublesome Innsmouth folk.
It was the lonely, mad work of my Uncle Eugene.
June 6, 1938
Have made no mention of my discovery to Toombs. Frankly, I find it nearly impossible to believe myself. No one else must know of this -- if Aunt Nora found out it would break her once and for all.
From what I've gathered concerning my uncle's notes and papers, he believed himself quite the sorcerer and the land here as being uniquely suited to his tasks. Watcher's Point is the iris through which time will flow. What does he mean by that?
The nautiloid has not returned, and I doubt we will ever see it again. I still chafe at the thought. Sometimes I wonder if the entire episode was a dream. Sometimes I wish all of this were a dream.
Happy birthday, by the way.
June 8, 1938
THEY'RE BACK! Only this time there isn't but one of them, but an entire school off of Watcher's Point! Small, darting shapes of all sizes, I couldn't count them! The nautiloids! They've come back!
Let me recover my wits, Philip. I've broken my pencil lead twice now, writing in this state of excitement. There. Breathe deeply, David. Close your eyes and count slowly to twenty. To hell with it. I'm still elated. Son of a bitch! The little Cambrian Age bastard has returned with reinforcements!
It was Toombs who spotted them, while out for a walk. He has been spending a great deal of time out on Watcher's Point, skipping stones, sitting on tree stumps and brooding to himself. College troubles, academic probation, coldly polite letters from the university, that sort of thing. But all that is beside the point now. I was poring over Uncle Eugene's notes when Toombs burst through the door, yelling, "David, they've come back! They're back!" At first I was certain that he meant Innsmouth folk, and in my mind I saw a truck full of squinting, sallow-faced men armed with clubs and guns, out looking for trouble. I nearly went for my Uncle's old shotgun.
"No, not them, David!" Toombs said, laughing -- perhaps the first time I had heard him laugh since we arrived here, back in May. Has it been that long?
"Well, who then?"
"Those strange squids! A whole school of them in the deep water off of Watcher's Point. I couldn't begin to count them! I'm not sure what they're doing, but they're headed north and --"
I leaped to my feet. My thoughts tripped over themselves in their haste and excitement.
"Quick! Get to the boat!"
I grabbed the fishing net and buckets. We ran to the boat. I threw the equipment in. We lifted the boat and trotted toward the water. "Come on! Hurry!" I cried.
Toombs leaped into the boat. Grabbing the oars, he had already begun to paddle while I was still pushing the craft out into deeper water -- that's one good thing about Toombs, he's strong as a bull. Then, half-soaked, I climbed aboard. I dipped the buckets, filling them. A pulse beat high and hard in my tight throat. My hands prickled and tingled. Sunlight stabbed through rapidly moving white cloud-mountains and flashed upon the water. I suppose that if I had been more observant, I would have been more aware of the wind, a dim rushing roar in my ears.
The boat was a slug, moving with agonizing slowness. Nervously I chewed on my lower lip. Toombs sweated and strained. Slowly we crept along, near the shore, between the curious pitted stones where devils and imps are said to hold court. Neither one of us could speak. The water darkened as it grew deeper. Not far from Watcher's Point the sea bottom falls into an abyss, my uncle was fond of saying, which continues northward, all the way to Innsmouth and Devil's Reef. It was with some unease that I studied the small shoreward piles of stone, the cryptic pattern that hinted at even darker secrets.
We skirted the largest stone, and turned northward. The oars splashed and dripped, trailing drops like diamonds. I clenched the net's pole tightly, stared into the water. Nothing, yet. Toombs continued to row -- he should seriously consider trying out for a team, to be honest. I would have collapsed by then.
Cloud shadows sailed across the ocean's surface, but otherwise, nothing.
"Stop rowing!" I said.
There! I saw them, Philip -- bluish darting shadows, flitting about like summer insects, but through salt water rather than air. Nautiloids! God knows how many! And they were in a school of sorts, their pointed shells a mass of spearheads, as mechanical as pistons in their movements. Here and there two or three would grapple with each other, and just as quickly break apart. They seemed agitated, frenzied.
"Are they fighting?" Toombs asked.
"No," I replied, grinning. "I think they're spawning."
Toombs made a face. He obviously didn't understand the ramifications, Philip. We had found not just a living fossil, not a few addled and exhausted remnants, but an entire surviving species! The magnitude of our discovery had just increased tenfold. Desperately I hoped one or two of the creatures might come within range of the net . . . but they kept their distance, pursuing each other, intertwining, and parting as they had for millions of years.
As Toombs had said, there was a general movement among the massed nautiloids, headed north. He began rowing again. The nautiloids hung suspended, as if in a strange waking dream, flashes of pearl and cinnamon beneath the waves. I was transfixed.
Watcher's Point fell behind us. Below us, the nautiloids wheeled like a flock of birds.
And just as suddenly, they scattered. Gone. The school shattered like glass, all disappearing into the depths. I swore and struck my fist on the bench, ignoring the pain.
"David," Toombs had stopped rowing. "Something frightened them, I think."
"What are you talking about now?"
"I saw something down there. A large shadow. That's when they broke up. I think we should be heading back. It could be a shark."
"Are you sure you saw something?"
"Let's wait for a while."
"Are you sure --"
"Yes. Let's just wait."
The nautiloids did not return. Nor did the great looming shadow Toombs claimed to have seen. Eventually we returned to the cabin. I can't take much more of this frustration, Philip. If Uncle Eugene knew of these creatures, why did he never say anything?
I suppose all we can do is try again.
That shadow worries me, though . . .
Your disgruntled friend,
June 11, 1938
I am writing now what you will find difficult to believe. I can't quite believe it, myself. Toombs has been in a state of shock from which he is only now just recovering. He's said his first words today: "We should leave now, David." For once, I didn't dispute him.
Weather rough again, today. Not surprising, considering the nature of this place, of Watcher's Point itself. Clouds hanging heavy in the sky. Damned stuffed owl staring at me from his perch upon the fireplace. Dead yellow predatory eyes, too much like those of another I have seen . . . I write with my back to it.
This fucking wind! Does it ever cease? It moans through the eaves, mumbles to itself, wails in the chimney and presses against the windows. Christ! Perhaps Toombs is right. Perhaps there are words said, words to be heard. But I will not listen. I must not listen.
My uncle's notes are no more. I burned them yesterday, page by page, watching the paper curl and blacken and flame. Not unlike my own mind, I imagine. Perhaps I should burn this place as well, so that no one will find it again.
I am finished with paleontology. I will never again be able to look upon anything imprisoned or imprinted in stone without shuddering at the thought of what once lived. Stones, with their terrible secrets, the crush of ages. Time bears down upon me like stone. I am nothing. Soon, too, will nothing remain. Perhaps some teeth . . . a fragmented skull . . . nothing more, I should hope . . . hope that I remain undisturbed . . . that I shall remain remains! Ha! Must tell Toombs that one. And Professor Onderdale back in Arkham, that old fool with his endless prattling, his fossils and
bones . . . yes, that's what they should be: bones. Nothing more.
Toombs and I returned to the ocean. Once again, we rowed out past Watcher's Point, north, further this time. I was determined to return to Arkham, to the world, with something! Anything!
But of the nautiloids there was no sign . . .
I spotted something ahead, further north, however. Two small craft, a filthy fishing boat of some sort, and a smaller rowboat like ours, with an outboard motor. Figures moved about on them. I could not see their faces, but something about their motions and gestures made both Toombs and I very uneasy. They had seen us, and were clearly interested. The rowboat broke away, chopping through the water, coming toward us. There were three men in it. The larger boat trundled along behind the rowboat.
As they came closer, I began to discern details. The man in front wore a crumpled hat. It was Union Cap. The other behind him looked to be Gilman.
"It's them!" Toombs said. His face had gone white. "We'd better get out of here, David!"
"Don't move," I said. "I'll talk to them. Don't you say a word."
A curious calm had stolen over me. I was concerned, afraid, yes, but not panicked. At least not yet, anyway . . .
I stood up and waved. "Hoy, there!" I shouted. "How goes it?"
The rowboat sputtered to a stop, slewing about in a half-circle. Yes, it was Union Cap and Gilman. The man operating the outboard motor was none other than Clicktooth. Even from a distance, I could see his rubbery mouth and jaw working ceaselessly.
"I said, 'how goes it?'"
My answer came as a gunshot, which chipped a long sliver of wood from the bow of our boat. The ricochet whined like an insect past my ear. The bullet could not have missed my head by more than a few inches. I swayed and nearly lost my balance. There was a second shot, and a puff of smoke, this from Gilman, I think. Something stung my upper arm like a wasp. White fire traveled down to my elbow -- I had been winged. This time I did go over, head first into the Atlantic, with a terrific splash and spray.
When my head broke the surface, coughing, I found Toombs beside me, also in the water, wet and terrified. Our boat was between us and the Innsmouthers. We clung to the side, treading water. The Innsmouthers were having a fine time. They whooped, shouted, occasionally firing another shot.
"Are you hurt?" I asked.
He shook his head, eyes rolling white. "You?"
"Just a scratch," I replied.
"I went over after you did. We're sitting ducks in the boat."
"I know. And if we stay here, they'll come after us. We'll have to swim for shore. Come on. On the count of three."
At three, we pushed away from our boat, and began swimming toward Watcher's Point. We kept our boat between the Innsmouthers and us as long as we could, but it wasn't long before they spotted us again. More shots were fired. Bullets struck the water like stones. God, David, I expected to be hit in the back at any moment, or to see Toombs go under with a bullet to the head. But the Innsmouthers, thankfully, continued to miss us. I think they might have been drunk, judging by the amount of noise they made. Come back here and take your medicine, you little sonsabitches! Come back here!
Then, from behind us, came the sound I had feared -- the clipped, stuttered burp and squall of the outboard motor. One of the Innsmouth men -- Union Cap, it sounded like -- let fly with a murderous war-whoop, which was followed by a crazy, cackling laugh. They were closing the range. They would simply shoot us point blank . . . or run us down. Dive, I thought. Dive, you have to dive, tell Toombs to dive underwater . . .
A gun cracked, closer now. The bullet struck to my right. And God, the shore was so mockingly, cruelly distant -- a mirage of escape. My arms and legs ached. A cramp stitched my side. I choked on sea water.
"Told you little piss-ants to stay away, didn't I?" Union Cap roared.
"Toombs!" I shouted. "Go underwater! Quick!"
But Toombs did not go underwater. In fact, he did no more than tread water, his hair hanging in his eyes. Shock was written duly in his slack, trembling features. Alarmed, I summoned whatever reserves of strength I had left and swam toward him.
"Goddammit, Toombs, come on!"
He heard me then. Eyes wide and wild, he was trying to say something. It wasn't until I was very close that I could understand him.
"F-f-for God's sake, David, don't move! K-keep as still as you can!"
Crack! A bullet went over our heads and I flinched. Panic and fear boiled over within me. "What are you --"
That was when it broke the surface, not more than fifteen or twenty yards away -- a sinuous, rolling gray-blue bulk, loose and serpentine. There was a tremendous, clotted snuffle, and a burst of spray. Something, moving swiftly past us, cutting through the water. My stunned and disbelieving eyes registered a subway blur of details. Narrow yellow eyes. Trapdoor jaws lined with pointed teeth. What were either huge fins, or flippers. Then it was gone, submerged, the water churning in its wake.
Shark! I thought.
But it wasn't a shark.
The Innsmouthers were almost upon us. Union Cap and Gilman were busy reloading their rifles. An idiotic grin was pasted across the face of Clicktooth. His wild hair fluttered in the wind like a Jolly Roger.
His grin disappeared when a titanic shape struck the boat from below, hurling it high up into the air. There was a tremendous crash. Water rose in a thunderous column of foam. The Innsmouthers hung in the air for the briefest of moments, a dream of gravity suspended, hats and guns taken flight like unlikely birds. A bizarre sight, but not nearly as bizarre as the thing that had sent them aloft -- finned crocodile, grinning sea monster, a beast easily forty or fifty feet long. Its powerful tail sent it in muscular upward propulsion. Then it, too, surrendered to inertia and came crashing down, like the capsized boat and doomed Innsmouthers.
Mosasaurus. The monster entombed in Maastricht chalk.
The Innsmouthers surfaced. They shouted to one another in fear and alarm, treading water. Toombs and I were forgotten.
But the mosasaurus had not forgotten the Innsmouthers. Gilman disappeared underwater with frightful, near-comic speed, a petulant tug he was powerless to resist. He uttered a single, startled yelp, and was gone.
Next was Clicktooth. The mosasaurus surfaced behind him as he frantically tried to escape, angled its horrible, toothed jaws, and closed them upon the Innsmouther. There was a brief glimpse of struggling legs, and then the monster swallowed him the way a stork swallows a frog, and submerged again.
Union Cap nearly made it to us.
"Hey! Hey!" he called.
I don't know what he expected, or how he thought we could help him. We were paralyzed with fear ourselves. The Innsmouther swam with mighty, water-parting strokes, gasping and wild-eyed, but it was hopeless. The mosasaurus came for him, too, and took him under in a surge of foam and blooming blood. He screamed, once. Then he was gone.
All that remained were two empty boats, one capsized. The latter the mosasaurus bumped with its snout. As for the fishing boat, it was already retiring in as much haste as it could make, spewing smoke, black figures scrambling about its decks.
"We're next," Toombs muttered.
The monster did come close. Terribly close. Its reptilian, alien eyes, sunk deep in their sockets, met ours . . . I caught a glimpse of something tattered and awful in its teeth . . . and then it submerged once again, a trail of bubbles left in its massive wake.
How long we remained there, Philip, I don't know. We treaded water and waited for the mosasaurus to take us from below with the same contemptuous ease that it had the Innsmouthers. But nothing happened. The fishing boat receded into the distance.
The mosasaurus did not return.
Eventually we gathered what we could of our blasted minds and numbed bodies, and swam for shore. We collapsed on the beach. The wind whined and crooned.
Toombs, in the extremity of fear and exhaustion, coughed and vomited helplessly. "Oh God," he said over and over. I sat beside him, gathered myself into a ball, and trembled. Water dripped from my hair, my chin, my skin. Back and forth I rocked on my heels, teeth chattering. One of my eyelids would not stop fluttering. I must become small, was all I could think. Small, like the creatures that once flourished in ancient seas, like the tiny blind things that squirmed through the protean ooze long before them. Smaller and smaller I tried to make myself, smaller and smaller so that I should finally disappear altogether, so that neither the primordial ocean nor the terrible mocking wind should ever find me again.
Created: July 1, 1998; Updated: August 9, 2004