Monday, 3 February 2014

Excerpts from a diary, a Lovecraftian short story by Adam Common


August 11th 2005
First entry. My Doctor suggested I give journaling a try to deal with my more complicated thoughts.

47 hours and three flights later, I'm finally aboard a seaplane to Atherton Island, which is somewhere about one third of the way between Papua New Guinea and Kyushu. I’m heading out this way to run a fishing concern owned (and mostly ignored) by Hank Marsh's father. Must remember to drop Hank a line once I'm settled in to thank him for the opportunity and for putting in a good word. God knows he doesn't owe me anything after all that happened. It is far better treatment from him than I deserve. The thought does occur to me that he may be sending me all this way just to get me as far from Massachusetts, and subsequently him, as possible.
I’m not really sure what to expect out here. The only information I’ve been presented with is that I'll be running a group of three wet fish trawlers, manned by twenty two of the island locals. I'm expecting the worst to be honest. As previously mentioned, Hank's father, Everett, isn't really interested in the old family business, and Hank told me that this particular arm, (alongside the other operations external to the United States) have been neglected for a good while. I’m going to give it the old college try regardless. No matter what, this is a fantastic opportunity for me, when you consider the details of my discharge from the Navy, and I really wouldn’t like to let Hank or his father down after all they’re doing for me.
Writing this is a lot more awkward that I thought it would be. I have a feeling this kind of therapy isn’t going to work for me.
August 15th 2005
Color me surprised. Quite unpleasantly surprised. The island is a decrepit mess. Many of the employees are run down, useless old men, who are more interested in drinking than fishing. Excepting one, they’re also uniformly lazy and unmotivated. Sadly, the one employee who does show any promise probably speaks as much English as the rest; around fourteen words. If we did have a method of communication, perhaps I’d have a chance at finding a kindred spirit. As it stands, I’m feeling much more isolated out here around all these people than I ever did locked up in my apartment in Boston.
The ships are leaky rust-buckets, with none of the modern equipment you’d see in general circulation on any modern fishing operation. The largest vessel, which hold a crew of 9, takes on water at an alarming rate, and so has only been used recently for incredibly short trips. It’s incredibly cost inefficient, so I’ve pulled it from the roster indefinitely, until we can afford to budget the repairs. This means several of the men are without work until I can get it running again. C’est la vie.
In conclusion, my first three days on the job have been as depressing and soul-destroying an experience as I could possibly imagine. As such, I have decided to continue chronicling my experiences, mostly so that I can have some intelligent conversation with the only person here that I have anything in common with. Me.
Suppose I should actually write something about my condition, since that is the point. I am, of course, still having the nightmares, and hearing the nightly knocking that isn’t really there. I guess moving all the way across the world won't keep that memory from my doorstep.

I still suspect that Hank saw the same things I did. He never explained why he’d seemed to be in a much worse state than me initially following our encounter. He was holed up in the infirmary even longer than I was, suffering from shock, ghostly pale and utterly speechless. However his denial of the fact is absolute. Sometimes, I wish he would admit to it, and share more about how it must have affected him. It would go some way to making me feel like I’m not entirely mad. Is that cruel to say? I regret writing it, but it's here now, and in pen. I honestly wouldn't wish the dreams I have on anybody. There. Fixed.
August 16th 2005

Not all doom and gloom after all. I contacted Colin Burns back in Innsmouth. He runs the operation there (very successfully) for Everett Marsh, and he's my immediate supervisor (though I'm not expecting a visit anytime soon, ha!) He laid out my rights and responsibilities (which are basically whatever I want to do, and whatever there is to do respectively) and gave me a fairly large budget all things considered to fix up the trawlers as best I can. Altogether it was a (probably incredibly expensive) two-hour conversation that was really quite fulfilling. He’s a good guy. He wants a timeline and action plan within the fortnight. I have some thoughts about trying to pick up some able-bodied and experienced fishermen from the other less fortunate islands nearby. They will probably be more grateful for the work than the layabouts I have to choose from here. We certainly have the space. Colin couldn’t give me an answer as to why so much of the village is abandoned, but I’m thinking it’s probably something to do with the work drying up. Looking off-island won't be a popular move with the remaining locals, especially the ones I’ll be replacing, but to hell with them. Maybe they'll try harder and give me an excuse to hire them back.
August 19th 2005

Turns out the one good worker I mentioned before, Afasa, speaks some halfway decent English. He also plays a mean game of backgammon and is in the process of taking every penny I have. Goes a long way to not making me feel so utterly alone here.
May 27th 2006
I can't believe I've filled this whole journal. I picked up a three-pack of Moleskine notebooks with nice black covers last time I was in New Zealand on business just so I can keep this up. I'd be lying if I said I wasn’t going to miss my ratty, dog eared, dollar store notebook, but the world turns ever onwards. Reading back, there’s quite a lot of self-loathing, depressing, and frankly overdramatic tripe in here. Writing about this whole experience has helped tremendously, and despite my initial concerns, I am enjoying the practice immensely. It seems Doctor Chinnery was right.
August 11th 2006
I feel quite bad for not writing anything in two weeks. This is really my first spare minute. Look at me making excuses, like an inanimate object would care. I am supposed to be mad mind you.

Today is the one-year anniversary of my arrival, and despite my initial impression of the island, it’s not all that bad. Dare I say, I even like it here now, though that has much to do with the changes that I’ve made to the operation here. The men, led by Afasa, made me a cake to celebrate the occasion. It had pineapple, which I hate, but I ate it anyway to be polite. It’s the thought that counts.
In the last entry I mentioned that I’d managed to pick up two more small trawlers from an operation that went bust a couple of islands over. I’m not even going to try to spell it. It’s the one with the burnt down lighthouse. You know. That one. I also hired back six of the locals I’d let go of last year. They are good men. They just weren’t used to having structure. In my heart, I did regret letting them go, so I'm glad I could do something for them now. Anyway, I think I was right in the end. Now the operation is going well and they can see me hiring from off-island, they're really grateful for the opportunity, and the last two weeks have seen them producing some really solid results.
In bad news, Charlie got in to a fight with Martin again last night; third time in as many weeks. Martin came away with a busted nose, all because their boat is called the Oz, and Martin, insufferable Aussie that he is can’t help rubbing it in the Kiwi crewmembers faces. I’m not going to release Charlie for it. He seemed genuinely contrite, and even apologized directly to Martin in the end, but one of them is going to have to be transferred to the Carmen.
We’ve also made good progress on fixing up the village following the storm. Amazing what thirty-five men, some fresh paint and a lot of corrugated steel can do for the aesthetic. The village is already looking much sharper than it has since I first arrived.
October 19th 2008
The big news today is that one of our trawlers, the Oz, has gone dark. The men on that boat are all experienced sailors, and Terry, the mechanic, is honestly the very best I could find. The GPS puts it about 80 nautical miles to the east, with little to no movement. Makes me think the engines are out, but we can't even make radio contact.

I’m really quite nervous, though I’m sure it’s nothing. I had the nightmare again last night, and it’s put me in quite a paranoid mood. I keep looking at the sky and seeing that same sickly yellow color it was when I saw the city out in the sea. I know it’s nothing really; just some bad weather and an old boat behaving exactly as it always does.

On the way out there on the tug out with Martin and Afasa as I write this. Really hope the guys are alright. They're the most efficient team we have, and I like most of them. Except Charlie. Charlie's a little shit.

---
I am not feeling good about any of our current situation. We got out to the Oz, which is in fine condition, despite the fact that the whole crew is missing. Did you note my sarcasm there? It also isn't running and the electronics are out. Martin panicked (of course) and immediately suggested piracy, because that's the kind of thing that Martin does. I think it’s much more likely that they got picked up, and are back at the island already. If that’s the case, I’ll certainly be having words with them. Leaving a ship is a big no-no.

Disconcertingly, we hooked the Oz up to the tug and started to make our way back, but after a couple of minutes, our own electronics ceased operation, and shortly after that, we were also suddenly and inexplicably motionless. Martin sent up a couple flares in the last few hours, and Afasa is below decks trying to get us going again, but so far, neither action has seen any result. Perhaps some kind of electrical field is causing the problems? I don’t know. I’m not a scientist or a mechanic.

---
We're turning in for the night. Afasa is taking watch. We all agree that there is something fishy going on. Get it? Fishy? I'm a riot.

I haven’t mentioned this to the others, mostly because I don’t want to scare Martin, but we are very close to Atherton at the moment, and nobody has followed our distress flares. I’m starting to think very scary things.
October 25th 2008
It’s been days since we got back from the Oz. It's taken me some time to process what happened out there. I will describe events as best I can.
I woke the next morning at around 0800 by the dense smell of what seemed like stagnant water left still for many years. My initial grogginess and disgust at the smell soon gave way to a deeper worry as Martin was meant to wake me to take watch from 0400 until 0700. I headed out on to the deck to find Afasa shrugging his shoulders at me with a wet towel wrapped around his nose and mouth to block out the smell. Afasa is an experienced fisherman, used to their fouler smells, so when I write that he found the scent unbearable, you can appreciate that this particular odor was beyond the pale. It was coming from the sea itself, which had taken on a sickly hue overnight.

Afasa informed me rather alarmingly that Martin was gone, and the Oz had entirely vanished, despite being connected firmly to the tug. Upon inspection, we realized our chains had been unceremoniously sheared by some silent force while we slept. Concerning Martin, Afasa had woken him at 0100 for his watch and taken himself to bed. That was the last either of us had seen of our companion. We theorized that Martin could have taken the boat, or perhaps he was correct about their being pirates abroad. If it was piracy, why would they leave us? We have tens of thousands of dollars of equipment on the tug, and I'm positive pirates would make great use of the boat itself. The theory didn’t make much sense, but I didn’t want to believe anything else. I certainly didn’t want to consider the dreadful alternative; that my dreams and memories were coming to collect on the debt of that unwanted, dark revelation several years ago.
We surrendered to the concept that we needed to get away from where we were, and swiftly. I fired off another flare, on the off chance we would be rescued, and Afasa went back to his work in the engine room. Three hours later we got joy. Still no radio or electronics, but the motor was running and we could move. We set course for Atherton.
Unfortunately, Atherton wasn't where it should be, and the smell hadn’t diminished. It lingered in the nostrils, adding to the despair I felt at my false hopes being dashed. Of course, we had drifted somewhat, but the sea where we were becalmed had been mostly unmoving for those previous 24 hours, and remained that way, still, stagnant and reeking. As experienced sailors both, without electronics to aid us, we knew how to make use of more primitive equipment to find our way.

In our failure, bafflement and growing concern, we headed in a general south-westerly direction for a dense clump of larger islands we knew to be nearby. I knew in my heart it was for naught. I knew we would find no land, because I knew there was no land to be found, save one. We were lost at sea, and utterly without hope of aid. We drifted for days, rationing the food we had, and firing off our dwindling supply of flares occasionally in vain and empty dreams of salvation.
The days were a haze of rambling, increasingly confused decisions, and rapidly depleting wills. Feelings of illness and disorientation harassed us, preventing any real work on trying to get our equipment operational again, and despite our plentiful supplies (something I insisted on for every ship) we were constantly thirsty. Despite all of the, the evenings confounded us worse. They came unexpectedly late for October and the stars above us were all wrong. I ever felt like I was in some distant, constructed place, similar, but nothing like the oceans and skies I had known in my life.

Afasa was increasingly terrified by our situation, and the effect wasn't uncontagious. On the fourth night since the disappearance of the Oz, our engine cut out again, and Afasa immediately became more insensible and distraught than I had ever seen any man. He spoke of an ancient sea-god his father had told him stories about as a child. It haunted the seas near Atherton like a ghost, and was as vast, ancient and powerful as the moon. It hungered for souls, and cherished those of fishermen more than any others. The people on the islands would make sacrifice to this dead god twice a year, sending their sons and daughters on boats that would always unerringly return, crewless and rimed with frost. Some of the other nearby islands would try to resist, but without sufficient sacrifice in his name, he would send his ghastly spawn to take sailors bodies and souls as replacement nourishment. In the face of these assaults, the islanders would always relent.

As Afasa spoke, he became more and more frantic in the telling, his eyes more and more manic. Eventually, he fell face down in to a mumbling, babbling and intense fit, having convinced himself that the spectral sea-god was coming for us. I tried to restrain him, to help him calm down, but to no avail. Afasa is a large and uncommonly strong man. He shoved me on to the deck and pinned me. It was then I heard his nonsense babble clearly. The words from his lips were familiar to me and dreadful to hear in the context of my waking hours. I’d heard them a million times before in my dreams, but nothing could prepare me for my nightmare becoming real. Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Ftaghn!
Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!
My sanity collapsed in on itself. I began to cry. With the full weight of Afasa upon me, his hands closing around my throat, I felt myself falling away from the world. It was real. It was all real. My head swam. I couldn’t breathe, but I daren’t struggle. They’d come for me. It was okay. I realized I’d been waiting for this for years; ever since my first encounter with the horrifying reality that resided just beneath all I had came to regard as true.

Then, as sudden as a breath, Afasa’s hands were gone from my throat. I gasped for air and rolled to my knees. I threw up on the floor. It was a rank, salt-water mess, with no substance. Then the drums, and the dull, muffled bells, close and loud. I looked up and saw only those ancient spires, once spied on a distant rock, but now looming high before me; two jagged shards impaling the ochre sky. I heard the men there, if they could still be called that, chanting their nightmarish words in croaked, terrible voices repeated so many times in my head since the first time I’d heard them. I collapsed and knew nothing else.
I woke in a hospital bed in Catarman, being tended to by a pretty Filipino nurse with a penchant for extreme pillow fluffing. I'd have flirted more if I wasn't in a psychotic state of denial. I’d apparently suffered weeks of exposure and dehydration, and had been found alone, drifting off the eastern coast of Northern Samar on the 19th of October; the same day we had left to bring the Oz back to port.
Colin visited and filled me in with an incredible lack of information. The Oz and her crew are still missing, as is Afasa. Despite those last moments of madness, I am incredibly sad for his loss, for I am positive he is as dead as all the others. Poor Martin turned up back on Atherton Island in his bed. He had drowned somehow, but being a small island out in the middle of nowhere, the strange death seems to be going mostly unremarked. The GPS signal we had received is gone, and it occurs to me that if the electronics on the Oz were out, there was no way we'd have been receiving a steady transmission in the first place. Colin had a lot of questions, for which I gave him very few curt answers. What I could tell him would only get me committed.
October 27th 2008
Two men in dark suits with quite terrifyingly unblinking eyes came to visit me very briefly today. They provided no identification, and seemed to know many unshared details of both of my experiences with the city in the sea. They told me that there would be severe consequences associated with my sharing of any said information with the world at large, then furnished me with the details of a bank account in the United States, created in my name. Finally they told me that as long as I remained silent, I could expect no more communication from them.
What has my life become? I’m moving back to Boston, and I’ll be getting there solely by plane, train and automobile. I swear that as long as I live, I will never set foot on the deck of a boat again.


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