The swirling mist wove its way inland, blanketing wind-swept cedars and rotted fence posts, enveloping flora and chilling fauna as it stretched itself out upon a land gripped in the bonds of generational curses. Sea Lions barked out of the fog, row upon row of pinniped blubber resting on rocky outcroppings that have sent myriad seamen to a watery grave. Gulls floated silently on
the flat grey sea of the Oregon coast, lulled into a gentle slumber by the docile tide. A lone gull flew over the surface of the water, over kelp beds and the rocky shore, swooping up the sheer face of the cliffs, and alighting upon the boughs of a gnarled pine, which sat at the western-most edge of the Marsh estate.
Nigel Marsh gazed out the bay window of the library which spaned three floors in the Victorian mansion that his grandfather built in 1927, the very year his family migrated to Timber Bay from the Massachusetts coast. He puffed on his cigar and looked at his watch.
6:33. High Tide in five minutes.
He pursed his lips and studied the gull that had landed on the old pine. The grandfather clock chimed once.
Slow again. Gotta fix that thing.
Nigel stood and stretched, tamping out his cigar in the brass octopus-shaped ash tray, and made his way to the basement. He was the sole occupant of the 4600 square foot house, with fourteen bedrooms, ten bathrooms, and a ground floor laboratory. There was a large kitchen and a servants quarters just off the four-car garage, but they had been unoccupied since Nigel's Uncle had "went on."
Nigel didn't need servants.
After all . . . he was one.
In the moist and slippery basement of the Marsh mansion, Nigel went over to the arched doorway in the far west corner of the room. He unlocked the massive oak door and it swung silently open. Nigel descended the ancient stone steps, which were lighted by oil torches he had lit the day before when he had brought the food down. One hundred and seven algae-covered steps deeper into the bowels of the cliff, he stepped into the feeding chamber.
It was a circular room, as large as the inside of a high school gymnasium. The round floor was actually split in two, one half was flat stone, the other half sea water, which entered the cavern through a crevice in the cliff wall outside, the level of the water being determined by the tides. On the stone floor were four giant stone slabs set up as tables, at each of the four corners of each of the four tables iron rings had been cemented in place untold ages ago, and chains led from each iron ring to a set of shackles.
To hold the food in place.
Torches flickered throughout, casting shadows that danced across the rocky walls.
On each table was a person. Shackled at the wrists and at the ankles. These people were drugged, to minimize . . . well, lots of things, screaming, writhing, struggling . . .
"Hello, most privileged dregs of society!" Nigel shouted with open arms. "Welcome!" In his head he heard thunderous applause from a multitude of admirers. In reality, he was alone in the room.
With the food.
The person on the table closest to Nigel, a teenage girl that looked much older, with stringy black hair and bad teeth, began screaming, again. Nigel walked over to her and stroked her forehead. She was gasping heavily, eyes wide, in mortal fear of what Nigel might do to her, remembering what he had already done.
She turned her head away.
"Bitch," Nigel said, and slapped her face. She began crying, again. Nigel paced alongside the tables. There was The Girl, The Fat Man, The Black Man, and The Old Lady. He didn't care to know their real names from the lives they no longer lived, these were their names now. He didn't care where they grew up or if they had ever been in love. He didn't care what their hopes, aspirations, and dreams were, what their proudest moments were, or whether or not they liked long walks on the beach. The only question he ever asked them was, "What are you thinking right now?"
He never got the answer he was looking for.
At least not yet. And he probably never would. After 25 years he had begun to lose hope.
The Girl stared up at the rocky domed ceiling . . .
Just three days ago I was on the corner of Burnside and 125th in Portland. Out working. Hey, it's a fucking living, alright? I know you take your chances with the Johns, but hey, the way I see it, a girls gotta support her addictions, right? He didn't look any different from any other guy. In fact, he was kinda cute, you know?
He pulls up in a van, you know, one of those custom jobs from the seventies and I asked him if he wanted a date. How much? he says. So I tell him. He says get in, so I did. He said he wanted to just go park in the McDonald's parking lot. Can you believe that? I shoulda known right then something was up with this guy. I mean, I've done it in some pretty strange places before, but beneath the Golden Arches?
So he parks and climbs into the back of his van, its got a bed and curtains, and its not too shabby. Of course I ask him for the money first and he pulls out this big wad of cash. I mean, this guy was loaded. Then he pulls out a syringe and I figure he's gonna shoot up first. He asks me if I
want some, of course I say no. Hey! You never know, you know? My friend Jackie let this guy shoot her up and now she's a fucking veg, you know?
But he doesn't shoot it up. Instead he fucking grabs me by my neck and slams my head into the floor. Then I feel him inject me, right in the ass, you know? Next thing I know I'm chained up on some cold table in some kind of cave or something.
I don't know how many times he raped me, if he did. Don't they all?
Maybe he didn't. But he probably did. Don't they all?
Fuck! Somebody help meeeee . . .
Nigel stopped at the next table, The Fat Man. He was staring blankly into space. "Hey lard ass!" Nigel began slapping his belly, which jiggled with each slap. "Pretty soo-oon!" he sang.
The Fat Man didn't move. He just lay there . . .
How did this happen? How did I get here? Its so cold. I need a drink. God how I need a drink. I can't move. I suppose I should appreciate whatever it is he's been shooting me up with, it does feel nice. But I need a drink. Where's the drink he promised me? And what the hell happened? One minute I'm sitting outside the soup kitchen and this guy walks up to me. Just a normal looking guy. He asks me if I want a drink. Well, not being one to be rude, of course I accept his offer. He says he's got a fully stocked bar in his van around the corner. What's the catch? I asked him, because there's always a catch. I learned long ago there ain't no free lunches. He says he just wants me to wash the windows of his van. I says that's cool, no problem, you know? I ask him if he'd mind giving me a drink first. I function better that way, you know, after I've had a good drink or two. So he opens the sliding door of his custom van, nice ride, too, for that matter, and we get in. He closes the door. I see some broad tied up on the little mattress he's got in there and I ask him where's the booze, you know? He says its under the mattress if I wouldn't mind getting it for him. I shoulda known. I shoulda known...
No free lunches . . .
Nigel leaned over and pinched the fat man's jowls, speaking to him in a mocking baby voice, "How's my little jelly belly? Ready for dinner, sweetie?"
The Fat Man just stared blankly at the ceiling.
He went over to The Black Man. A skinny kid was more like it. This kid had come up to him, panhandling. This one was true serendipity all the way. Nigel hadn't marked him or anything. It's like he was given a gift that day. Some of them, after all, do prefer dark meat. And Nigel thought that they may have to do without this month. But, as Nigel always liked to say, things had a way of working out.
The kid looked into Nigel's face. "Mutha fucka!" the kid snapped. His face was covered with acne, and his dread-locked hair was littered with grass and twigs. "Let me go, bitch!" His face was twisted with rage and pain. His wrists and ankles were bleeding.
He was a struggler.
He also had a high tolerance to the sedative.
"Shut up!" Nigel snapped, and came down with a swift karate chop to the kids neck. He started choking and gagging, and then cussing again. Nigel began bouncing around like Bruce Lee, swiping at his nose and howling that way Lee used to do.
"Haiii-yah!" he screamed, and slammed a fist down onto the kid's chest. The kid's eyes bulged and his mouth sprung open, in a long silent scream. Nigel pulled out his syringe. He always had a few doses ready just before feeding. For just such cases.
The kid felt the needle sting his hip . . .
Oh man! How did I get into this shit? What am I gonna do? I'm scared! I didn't do nothin' wrong to deserve this shit, you nome-sain? I was just asking this guy for spare change, like I always do. I didn't rob him, I didn't steal from him, you nome-sain? I just asked him for spare change, you nome-sain? He start talkin' 'bout how he need to have his van windows washed and shit. I done tole him I ain't got the tools for that shit, but he say he got the tools in his van. He say he pay me a whole fi'e-dollas if I wash the inside of his van windows, you nome-sain? I know trouble, I can smell bullshit when it be stinkin', you nome-sain? But this guy was good. He was real good. He was like . . . a pro, you nome-sain? I never suspected shit, you nome-sain? I get inside his van and I seen like two people sleeping under some blankets and shit on this mattress he got inside there? At first I'm like, yo, what's up with these two, you nome-sain? He tole me not to worry. Then he close the doors, and I asked him why he did that and he jes' smiled, and that's all I can remember. Now I don't know where I am. Fuck! Somebody, get me outta here! What's gonna happen to me man? What's he gonna do?
Nigel waited and watched as the drug took effect on The Black Man, then he walked over to the last table. The Old Lady. She was the toughest one of the bunch.
"That's right granny," Nigel smiled into her wrinkled face. "You were definitely the tough one of the bunch." The Old Lady opened her grey eyes and tried to speak. Nigel had removed her dentures after she bit him, and he could see she was having a hard time getting the words she was trying to say out. Her thin lips puckered in and out. He leaned in closer. "What's that granny? What are you saying?" He could hear her tinny voice creaking somewhere deep in her throat. But her words were incomprehensible.
She stared into Nigel's eyes . . .
My shopping cart, young man. Where's my shopping cart? Its got my shawl in it. You had better make sure nothing happens to my shopping cart, or I'll wallop you a good one. Better yet, I'll get my son after you. He's the President you know. He's a very powerful man. I'm so proud of him. So you'd best make sure nothing happens to my shopping cart, or I'll bop you a good one, again, and don't think I won't, you little disrespectful hooligan. You better take care of my cart. My bingo cards are in there, and my bird cage, and all of my shower curtain rings. I don't know why you'd want to separate a woman from her shower curtain rings. You must have your reasons, but I'll tell you, sonny boy, if I'm not back in Portland tomorrow, I'll miss my flight to DC. And if I'm not on that arriving flight, they'll be after you, boy. I'm going to see my son. I'm so proud of him. He's the President you know. Where's my teeth anyhow? Where's my teeth, boy? Give me my teeth right now!
Oh, my bones are aching today. I think we got some rain coming, boy. It's a good thing you've got me indoors I can tell you that. I'd be no good to you if I was outside on a day like today. No sir. Where's my shopping cart? Where's my teeth? You better be sure its safe, boy, or I'll belt you one . . .
Nigel stroked the Old Lady's grey hair. She smiled up at him.
"Not too much longer now, granny," he said.
The sun set on the horizon like a melting orange snowball while the calm surf quietly marked high tide. The creatures moved through the water with the grace and ease of any marine dweller, yet they did not originate in the ocean. Darwin would rend his coffin did he know that a creature began on land, and ended in the sea. They numbered forty. A fraction of their true populace, yet only forty per month made the trek to the Marsh cave. In truth they only needed this type of food once every year or so. Too much and they would grow too large, and risk discovery; too little, and they would wither away and go dormant.
Thanks be to the Acolytes.
The priests of Cthulhu.
Nigel was such a priest. From a long line of Marsh's. Great-great-grandson of Obed Marsh, of the Innsmouth Marsh's. Nigel had taken over his uncle's work, just as his uncle took over his father's work before him. On the West Coast, that is.
The Marsh's had a perpetual covenant on both coasts.
Some would call it a generational curse.
Nigel called it commitment to family.
The group wove their way through the jagged rocks just offshore. Ahead were the sheer cliffs that marked this stretch of the Oregon coast. To the casual observer the party of swimmers would appear as current ripples on the surface of the water. A more careful watcher would surmise that it was a school of sea lions. In an easily overlooked crack in the rocky shoreline they swam, single file, diving deep into the access tunnel.
Inside the cavern, one by one, heads bobbed up on the surface of the water.
It was feeding time.
Nigel stood at the top of the stone steps that led down from the altar area into the water and greeted each one as it emerged. The creatures looked more like frogs than fish, and more like men than frogs. They walked upright. Their heads were wide and elliptical, their eyes were large black orbs protruding from their brows, and their mouths were long slits which spanned the length of their broad faces. They had rows of nail-like teeth, and long black tongues, which constantly ran over the surface of their rubbery lips (Nigel didn't know if they did this all the time; he figured it was just in anticipation of feeding time.) Their hands and feet resembled bloated human limbs with webbing between the fingers and toes. Their skin was a slimy, scaly covering with an amphibiously musky odor. Their diet usually consisted of sea lions, salmon, shrimp, sea urchins, kelp, and other sea creatures. And of course, the annual human banquet, necessary for the survival of the species. They had nasty tempers, and nastier breath.
These were the Deep Ones.
West Coast variety. Descended from the Innsmouth Deep Ones. Perpetuated, protected, and ministered to by the Marsh clan. The Timber Bay Marsh's.
Servants of Cthulhu, all of them.
A few years ago, when his uncle had turned, and went to be with them out in the sea, he could recognize him when he would come in to feed with the others. He no longer recognized him now, he never knew when his uncle would come to feed, so he treated them all like family.
After all, they were.
"Welcome! Welcome!" Nigel beamed, as he pointed the way for each arriving diner. Always looking for his uncle, but never making a positive identification. "Remember the rules, wait until everybody is in position! That's right! Ten to a table, ten to a table, let's go! Soup's on!" He threw back his head theatrically, hands on his hips, and laughed. His gaiety was maniacal. But Nigel hadn't lost his sanity.
You can't lose what you've never had.
When they were all out of the water, Nigel went over and, as usual, had to rearrange them, ten to a table, making sure that those who wanted dark meat were at the right place. They apparently lost their ability to count (those who possessed it prior to the change) and they never got it right. Never.
"Now then," Nigel said, inhaling deeply. The smell that lingered in the cavern was a fishy-kelpy odor, like a bay at low tide, mingled with a thick musky smell that drifted off the steaming bodies of the Deep Ones as they stood completely out of the water. Steam vapors rose off of the tops of their frog-like heads and gruntings and croakings of anticipation filled the air. "Is everybody at the proper table?"
Sea water and epidermic slime covered the floor. Heads bobbed in acknowledgment.
"I'm sorry for the small amount of dark meat this month, truth be known, if serendipity hadn't stepped in you'd all be eating white meat." Nigel laughed again. "Let me give the blessing and then we'll eat."
Everyone bowed their heads.
Nigel lifted his hands into the air. "Oh great Cthulhu! Lord and master of the Deep! We thank thee for all of thy bountiful blessings which you alone have bestowed upon us. We ask that you continue to let us live in seclusion, peace and safety until the time when the earth is cleared off and you rise from your tomb among the weeds!"
The Creatures began grunting and croaking in approval of Nigel's prayer.
"When Glaaki thrusts open the crystal trapdoor! When the brood of Eihort are born into the daylight!" Nigel was working himself into a froth. "When Shub-Niggurath strides forth to smash the moon-lens! When the serpent-bearded Byatis bursts forth from his prison!"
The gruntings and croakings grew louder, as the Deep Ones voiced their agreement with Nigel's twisted invocation, like a Pentecostal congregation amen-ing the preacher. Spurred on by their accolades he continued, louder and more fervently, "When Daoloth tears away illusion to expose the reality concealed behind! When Cthugua is set free! When Hastur the Unspeakable is free to fly without restraint! When Yog-Sothoth reveals his true self to all! When Azathoth bubbles over into everything! When Nyarlathotep delivers his final message to the human race!"
The grunts and croaks rose to a crescendo. A cacophony of horrific and demonic utterances echoed throughout the evil chamber. Malevolence dripping from every sound. "And finally! When we see the Hounds of Tindalos loosed upon all dimensions! And the likes of Tsathoggua, Ithaqua, Puhipacca, and Lloigor roam freely across the cosmos! When our brethren the Tcho-Tcho People and the abominable snowmen or Mi-Go realize the fruits of their labors! When Dagon is seated upon his rightful throne! And when sunken R'lyeh rises for the last time! To you, oh lord Cthulhu! We give thanks. We give our all!" The Deep Ones were in a frenzy, waving their webbed hands above their heads and croaking and grunting like victorious warriors. Jimmy Swaggart, eat your heart out!
The teenage girl on the table was screaming.
But her screams were drowned out by the shouts of her devourers.
"Now!" Nigel screamed at the top of his voice. He removed all of his clothing and stood completely naked in the torchlight, sexually excited, fully erect. Beads of white foam sat in the corners of his mouth. "Now! Eat! Eat! Eat!" He threw himself onto the cold wet floor and writhed in the slime that dripped from the Deep Ones, and laughed. "Hah! hah hah ha ha ha haaaaaa . . ."
And they ate.
Twenty-Six Days Later . . .
As he dug through the dumpster, searching for hidden treasures that can only be found on Portland's upper east side, a man who had long forgotten his name heard a vehicle coming down the alley. He ducked low.
Nobody ever drives down here. Who the hell would drive down here?
A blue Ford Van Conversion with velvety curtains in the windows slowly rolled by and he peeked above the edge of the dumpster and looked at the license plate. He couldn't remember where he was born, what had happened to his family, if he ever had one, or even his own name. All he could remember was Vietnam, phone numbers, and automobiles and their license plate numbers. Especially license plates like this one. What were they called? Oh yeah, he remembered that too . . . Vanity Plates.
ACOLYTE, it said.
The van stopped. A man hopped out. He was a nice looking young man, with a congenial smile on his face. "Hey mister!" the young man shouted.
The Man Who Could Not Remember His Own Name stood up in the dumpster. He had been spotted and the Nice Young Man was addressing him. "Who? Me?"
"Yeah, you," the Nice Young Man answered. "You look like you could use a drink, eh?"
Oh, he said the magic word! "Oh yes, sir! One eight hundred five five five two one seven zero, Department of Veterans Affairs. I really could use a drink." He hopped out of the dumpster and the Nice Young Man approached him. He wiped his sticky hands on his grease-stained parka and extended his right one for a shake. Instead, the Nice Young Man covered his nose with a hanky. The Man Who Forgot His Own Name knew that he didn't smell so good. He couldn't remember the last time he had had a shower. He withdrew his hand, ashamed.
"And a bath, too, eh, old fella?" the Nice Young Man said. He was still smiling.
"Yes, sir! A bath and a drink, not necessarily in that order! Black 1985 Ford Tempo, five four two, A-E-O."
"Come on over here and I'll fix you right up." The Nice Young Man opened the sliding door to his 1979 Blue Ford Econoline, A-C-O-L-Y-T-E. The Man Who Forgot His Own Name stepped up into the van and saw two people lying on a mattress.
They were bound and gagged.
The Man Who Forgot His Own Name's eyes bugged wide. Hey! What's this?
Then everything went black.
The mist wove its way inland, blanketing wind-swept cedars and rotted fence posts, enveloping flora and chilling fauna as it stretched itself out upon a land gripped in the bonds of generational curses. Sea Lions barked out of the fog, row upon row of pinniped blubber resting on rocky outcroppings that have sent myriad seamen to a watery grave. Gulls floated silently on the flat grey sea of the Oregon coast, lulled into a gentle slumber by the docile tide. A lone gull flew over the surface of the water, over kelp beds and the rocky shore, swooping up the sheer face of the cliffs, and alighting upon the boughs of a gnarled pine, which sat at the western-most edge of the Marsh estate.
Nigel gazed out the bay windows that overlooked the great Pacific.
And watched the tide roll in.
Created: May 3, 2003; Updated: August 9, 2004