Journal Posts

Tag: cosmic_horror

Chapter Ten: Dec 9 1933 - Jan 24 1934 - The Long Road Home
The Belle set down at Lake's camp late on the 9th of December. As the plane touched down they were greeted by Dr. Thorson who, as the most senior member of the expedition present, taken over operations. He and the others had gotten the generator and radio that had been recovered from the Germans' supply cache set up and running. After unloading Professor Moore from the aeroplane, hasty explanations were made. Buernor realized that the others were not telling him the whole story, and Stacey reassured the big Norwegian scientist that he really did not want to know everything that had happened. Nevertheless, Tyson shared the basics of what they had learned which proved enough to ensure Thorson's silence.

After a few hours of rest, the investigators were woken up by the sounds of three triple-engine Fokker aeroplanes landing nearby. The Barsmeier-Falken Expedition had sent a rescue party, as promised. After the DBFE-B, DBFE-C, and the DBFE-D set down, the investigators met with Jacob Falken, the co-leader of the German expedition. He inquired as to Dr. Johann Meyer's fate, and was saddened to learn of his colleague's death. Despite his leading questions the investigators did not reveal the secrets of the City of the Elder Things or the monstrous truth of the Elder Pharos. Acacia Lexington intervened at that point, explaining that she had extensive footage of the super-plateau revealing only unusual rock formations. Though they could tell Falken was skeptical, he relented and made sure that his people would be on hand to help both the Starkweather-Moore Expedition and the Lexington Expedition evacuate back to the Ross Ice Shelf and from there to their ships. It was time to leave Antarctica.

It was time to evacuate both expeditions from Antarctica.

But Professor Moore would not be joining them. His injury was too serious, and he was to be airlifted back to the Barsmeier-Falken Expedition's base on the Weddell Sea for surgery. From there he would be taken to Buenos Aires aboard the Graf Zeppelin. "I will see you back in America, my friends. Take good care of our people." With that, the expedition was bereft of its leadership, and Tyson stepped up to take the role for the remainder of the voyage home.

By the 12th of December both expeditions had left the ice, and the Gabrielle and the Tallahassee were under sail. After no more than a day both vessels ran into heavy pack ice, and from the 13th to the 17th they were at anchor. It was too dangerous to turn back and it would have been suicide to press on. Their hulls creaked and groaned as the thick ice scraped and threatened to crush them. But the ships proved as steadfast as the members of both expeditions and their crews, and the pack ice broke at last. By the 22nd of December, the Tallahassee parted company with its sister ship, as the Lexington Expedition was bound for Hobart in Tasmania while the Gabrielle was bound for Dunedin in New Zeland. With luck, the Starkweather-Moore Expedition would arrive on Christmas Day.

Shortly after dinner on the 23rd, the officers' mess was disrupted as Bert Pacquare, the engineer's mate, brought a trio of squabbling crewmen in for Turlow, the first officer, to deal with. Two of the men, Beakins and White, had been accused of theft by the other man, Humphries. After a brief talking to, the men were set back about their duties. Out of boredom more than anything else, the investigators set out to see what had caused all the fuss. Tyson went back to the crew mess to speak with Beakins and White, while Thorson, Myers, and Jeeves sought out Humphries in the engineering room. Humphries stated, "I won a pair of black opals from that German pilot in a game of cards. Them two stole them from where I had 'em hid, in my tobacco jar." When pressed, he revealed that he didn't really know what black opals were, but assumed that the smooth, matte-black, and cool to the touch stones were valuable. The other two stated their bunkmate had grown suspicious and covetous of his new treasures, while all three of them had "been having bad dreams."

After sharing this information, Tyson became suspicious of the stones he had picked up outside the Elder Pharos and opted to investigate them further. The rest checked the three engineers' cabin, finding an empty and suspiciously clean tobacco jar along with a trail of corrosion staining the wood floor. It ended at the base of the radiator, which had been turned up to a blistering 80 degrees, and a hole had been dissolved to the stainless steel showers on the deck below. No sign of the stones was present. Tyson's experiments revealed that the stones could blunt chisels and hacksaws and proved impervious to corrosives. But once heated...the one he was testing began to move.
It became a blob of black foulness, slightly corrosive, and heavier than water. Cooled to freezing, it became dormant and solid once again. Smaller fragments became completely inert, but were eventually re-absorbed by the rest. He made sure the samples were refrigerated, and tracked down the rest. Late that night, he tossed them overboard, hoping that their lack of buoancy and the cold of the deeps would keep them inert for all time.

As the group struggled with this information, things took a turn for the worse. Early on the morning of the 24th, shortly after breakfast, screams echoed up the stairwell from the engine room. Rushing down to see what had happened (along with much of the off-duty crew) they discovered one of the engineers, Brunel, had been horribly injured and much of one of his legs was gone, dissolved by a powerful corrosive. Two other men had tied the leg off with a tourniquet, but Brunel was in bad shape. As Jeeves and Tyson saw to his aid, Buernor went into th engine room. "Careful!" One of two other mates in there yelled, "It's in here!" Stepping in he saw two sailors, one armed with a huge spanner and the other a fire axe, watching an overturned bucket on the floor. Suddenly it moved as a black ooze beneath it tried to wriggle out. Thorson called for a sheet of metal and some ice, remembering Tyson's discovery, hoping to cool the grapefruit-sized lump off. With a bit of caution, they had captured the black ooze.

The black blob had been caught. Could it be destroyed?

Taking it up to the impromptu lab they had set up in the owner's cabin, Buernor waited on Tyson to continue their investigations. Tyson meanwhile had helped the ship's physician, Lansing, amputate the man's leg. As he headed up the stairs to join his comrade, Paul Turlow stormed on to the scene. "Get that damned thing off my ship!" Before the matter could get out of hand, Captain Vredenburgh intervened. He chose to give the investigators a day to figure out what it was, if there were any more on board, and how to deal with them. Revealing their previous experiments, the precautions they had taken, and what the likely outcome would be, the captain offered them his full support. They found that the larger sample acted the same as the smaller ones, though that the bigger pieces still moved independently and would eventually rejoin.

A few preliminary searches revealed nothing, but by evening the situation worsened. That afternoon they had talked with Brunel, who revealed he found the black blob atop one of the engine stacks. "I thought it was a grease-soaked rag, and shoved it in the front pocket of my overalls. Then it started burning and eating my leg!" Despite that gruesome news, they joined the Captain for a bit of Christmas Eve dinner. Tyson and Thorson opted to remain in the cabin above in case Turlow tried anything - a reasonable precaution, it turned out.

But the relative calm was ruined by the sound of dogs howling and snarling from the hold. Rushing across the deck, the investigators made their way down. Jeeves, Evvy, Myers, and Tyson went below as Stacey remained above, looking down from the hatch. Eight of the nine remaining dogs were snapping and tearing at their harnesses, while the last was writhing on the ground tearing at her own belly. Jeeves approached and saw another black blob, slowly devouring the poor animal. Blasting it with a fire extinguisher from the engine room, he lost sight of the thing. Fiskarson, the dog wrangler, was beside himself but panicked when the dead dog began to move of its own accord. Jumping back, all present saw a black, rat-like blob the size of a large cat explode out of the husky's chest and dart for the storm lantern carried by Evvy! She dropped the lantern, spreading fire over the hold, but Jeeves quickly put it out. Though they tried to capture the mass with buckets, it was too large and quick, and oozed up the ladder with lightning speed. It latched on to Stacey's leg, and began dissolving his boot. Jeeves tore it off before it could reach flesh, and the thing darted for an open hatch and into the main castle, past Pacquare. It had lost them.

Tyson had realized what it was at this point. The black stones were no less than seeds - aminiculi - of the Nameless God. They were part of it, not bound by physical contact or distance, and the energy and mass they absorbed were the prisoner's way of trying to escape the Cold Hole. As they grew, so would time and space distort around them. One alone could grow, devouring a world if necessary, to free the prisoner. The revulsion they caused was a consequence of the Nameless God's presence. The aminiculi could not be destroyed - only contained - and had to be stopped lest the world be doomed.

The hunt was on. After talking with the investigators, Vredenburgh addressed the crew. "The Black Rat," they had started calling it, was loose on the ship and had to be hunted down. Knowing that the creatues sought out heat, the boiler was turned down and the ship cooled. It was likely it would try and find warmth. Crewmen were advised to avoid it and keep in contained with metal, hatches if at all possible. They would set traps for it, with three groups scouring the ship, one led by Turlow, one led by Driscoll, and the other led by the investigators. The plan was simple - lure it towards the deck with torches or herd it with fire extinguishers, then try and trap it in a steel fuel drum. The drum would be sealed and filled with icy saltwater. When cooled, it would go dormant. The barrel would be sealed and then dumped overboard.

The search of the ship finally led to the engine room. There Myers saw the blob perched atop the boiler. It had grown to the size of a large dog, and undulated with sinister purpose. Turlow and his men tried to dislodge it with poles and hooks and the thing leaped down to the bottom of the engineering deck, landing atop an unfortunate crewman and killing him instantly. As it began to feed, Jeeves blasted it with a fire extinguisher. Dislodged, it went after Tyson's torch. As the creature pounced, he dove to one side and tossed the lit brand into a steel drum maneuvered into place by Myers. In an instant, he had the drum tipped and the creature trapped! It strugged fiercly, latching on to his skin for an instant before Tyson scraped it off. But with Buernor's help, the lid was secured and icewater poured in. Moments later, the drum was pitched over the side into the frozen waters of the Southern Ocean. The danger had passed.

Come Christmas Day, the Gabrielle steamed into Dunedin Harbor, greeted by cheering crowds, reporters, and well-wishers. A few days passed, and cautiously guarded interviews were given. O'Neil had prepared their stories carefully, and the heroism of the explorers was emphasized while the truth was obscured. Word reached them that Professor Moore had safely reached South America, and wished them well. A telegraph came in from Nicholas Roerich in New York, thanking them for Acacia Lexington's return and asking to meet with them when they returned to the United States. There was also news of a tragedy from Antarctica, as a blizzard had struck the Barsmeier-Falken Expedition's base. All but four men out of the hundred there were lost, and their efforts abandoned. After reading Pym's manuscript, Stacey wondered if they had found the tunnels that ran from the coast to the Mountains of Madness - and the seeds of the Nameless God. They could only hope that none of the seeds had reached the airship dock at the volcanic caldera on Desolation Island just north of the Antarctic coast. The boiling water there could prove a recipie for disaster...

After what seemed an eternity, the Gabrielle returned home to New York.

A few days later, the Gabrielle steamed out, bound north for the Panama Canal. More than a month passed, and early in new year the ship docked back in New York. Grand crowds, fireworks, and the world press greeted them. Their celebrity was assured. Stacey received a knighthood for his bravery, and Jeeves a well-earned pension. Tyson became a celebrated lecturer and earned tenure at Miskatonic University. Myers did likewise at Harvard. O'Neil went on to write a best-selling book about the journey to the southern ice. Evvy and Acacia formed a venture that spearheaded the women's movement. Buernor went on to continue his explorations, using his famed expeditions and cover, searching the polar wastes and the mountains of South America for signs of the Elder Things.

But the problem remained. The God Trap was failing. In time, all would be doomed unless living brains could be provided to the alien denizens standing vigil over the Elder Pharos. Rumors began to circulate of a conspiracy in the pre- and post- World War II years. Flying saucers in Antarctica? Strange disappearances in major cities? Perhaps all of these were merely wild rumors. Only the survivors of the Starkweather-Moore Expedition would know the whole truth...
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Chapter Eight: Dec 5 - Dec 6 - The Black Tower, Part Two
An hour after Starkweather was abducted, the Weddell was airborne and headed towards the mysterious western range. Halperin was flying, with Evvy acting as co-pilot. Doctors Tyson, Thorson, and Schevchenko, along with Stacey, Jeeves, and Samuel, were along for the ride. Moore was too injured to go along, and Miles opted to stay with him for safety's sake. They had found an ancient observatory earlier in the day that doubtlessly once tracked the position of the stars in the heavens. Millions of years of stellar drift rendered it useless, but one constant remained. Something blocked the view at a heading of 290 degrees - the view to the west. Murals in a nearby tower indicated there was something there, something the Elder Ones feared. But it was too late to second-guess what they were about to face.

It didn't take long to spot the flying Elder Things with their burden clutched between them. They were slower, moving at about 60 miles per hour, and the Boeing 247 could easily outfly them. But to what end? Tyson wondered briefly about taking a shot at them, but with the cold, the wind, and the roughness of the flight, 50 feet might as well be 50 miles to a rifle at this point. Halperin flew in long circles to prevent the engine from stalling. Wherever they were headed, the Elder Things would arrive soon.

Looking out the left side of the plane, Stacey saw they were not alone. Another aeroplane had joined them - the Belle. Evvy could see Baumann was at the controls, and he waved at them then pointed to the flying creatures in front of them. Before long, both planes were flying in tandem towards the towering black mountains beyond. The peaks of the western range soared up to the edge of space. More than thirty thousand feet high, they had a disturbingly regular appearance. Sharp and conical, they had no caves or structures like the peaks of the Miskatonic Mountains. Stacey and Tyson felt that there was some dread purpose to the mountains, something they couldn't quite fathom, and it chilled them to the bone.

As they flew on, a light appeared, flashing blue against the dark sky beyond. A storm hung on the horizon. Ruddy light shone through dark, icy clouds which whirled like a hurricane. Impossibly, the storm did not move, and seemed centered on a valley of some sort. At the edge of the valley stood a tower of black stone, fully 500 feet high, with a flashing blue light at its pyramidal apex. The light did not grow brighter as the planes approached, but rather harder to look at, as if it would sear the very sight from their eyes. The planes circled as the Elder Things dove towards the tower. Baumann pointed to the icy floor of the valley. The same ancient river that ran through the city ran here, and its long-frozen surface formed a perfect landing strip.

The black tower of the Elder Pharos stood like a lonely sentinel at the heart of the valley.

After touching down, the Belle landed about 50 yards away. The hatch opened, and Baumann, Doctor Meyer, the geologist Rucker, Acacia Lexington, and her cameraman Priestly stepped out. Curt greetings were exchanged and questions were asked. The Lexington party had suffered a mild disaster upon touching down in the city. The bottom of their Northrop was dented and scraped, and the landing skis had been repaired with wooden struts as best as they could manage. Kyle Williams had gone to search for the Starkweather party to get help, according to Acacia. She and Meyer were shocked when the investigators revealed that he was actually Paul Danforth, and had been behind the sabotage both expeditions had faced since before they left New York. Meyer also revealed that Danforth had stolen his copy of Poe's unexpurgated The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, upon which revelation he was slapped by Acacia Lexington. Apologizing for whatever dastardly actions his superiors had taken, Meyer suggested that they enter the tower to find out if what Pym described was accurate and to hopefully recover the remains of Starkweather and Greene. Rucker and Baumann remained behind, as did Douglas Halperin and Buernor Thorson. The rest made their way to the black tower.

The upper reaches of the tower appeared damaged, but the base was solid and a ramp cut from the ice led to an arch-like opening. Making their way inside, the investigators found a domed chamber with a ramp leading up, spiraling along the inside of the tower. It was warmer in here, and they shed their parkas lest sweat become an issue after they left. The temperature rose steadily as they climbed, reaching 80 degrees Farenheit as they exited on to an upper floor. The walls were carved with murals showing the Elder Ones calling down something from the outer darkness, with the tower and the mountains at the center of it all. A map had been carved into the floor, and all could see the mountains formed a perfect pentagon around the tower. There could be no doubt - the entire western range was artifical! A pit in the center of the room dropped out of sight, with only an orange glow far beneath hinting at what lay below. A ramp on the far side continued up, and the group opted to push onward.

The ramp spiraled up, past strange clusters of shining crystals that reflected the light of their electric torches a million times. "I think they can see in the dark," Acacia said. "Shut those lights off." Even in the near-darkness, bizarre hues of indigo and violet played over the crystals, and they seemed to ring and chime with the slight breeze of the group's passing. Evvy struck one of the crystals with the butt of her torch, and it rang like a bell, echoing all the way up the tower. A few harsh glares were shot her way. Curious, Tyson touched one directly. It was as if he had grabbed a live wire. He jerked spasmodically and fell over, Jeeves barely catching him before the scientist pitched off the ramp. With an oath, he hauled the insensate man to his feet. Tyson roused to consciousness but seemed stunned and was unable to speak.

Leading him along, they ascended to an upper floor. Five rooms radiated out from a central chamber that was like the inside of a truncated cone with a central altar of some sort. Strange, pallid, fleshy plants with pale leaves and quivering stalks were threaded througout the chamber. Two of the side rooms held tubs filled with foul liquid, and the vines ran down into them from small holes in the ceiling. One chamber's outer wall was cracked, and ice had formed over the rubble that lay on the floor. Another chamber held stretchers of hide and strange wood along with stone tables. There were curious stone bowls here, implements of crystal and stone, and oddly enough a set of stainless steel surgical tools - stolen from Lake's camp, no doubt. Another room O'Neil discovered was filled with skeletons and bones, ranging from those of large penguins and seals to those of men, old and yellowed, all of which were missing their skulls. Atop the pile were two fresh skeletons however, with bits of gore still clinging to them. All hope of rescue was lost at that point.

The final chamber was the worst. A pentagonal stone, like an altar, stood at an angle in front of a stone tub. Evvy and Herr Meyer had entered. "This is where Pym's companion was sacrificed. The slab paralyzes anyone touching it. The man was placed there" he said, "only to be killed by some strange acid in the tub. If I can get a sample..." Screams split the air as a fetid column of black irredescent ooze covered in chittering mouths, glowing eyes, and probing pseudopods rose from the stone tub. "A shoggoth!" Meyer yelled. Schevchenko ran in, pulling the German and Evvy from the room as the mass lowered back into the tub. He spied a pair of boots and a tattered parka by the tub as he did, and he realized they belonged to Starkweather. The investigators took this as their cue to leave, but Acacia insisted they needed to find Starkweather's remains for a Christian burial, and both Samuel and Stacey agreed. Reluctantly, with the frightened and incoherent Meyer and the stupefied Tyson in tow, they continued up the ramp.

The small shoggoth emerged from the stone tub, ready to devour anything on the slab.

The ramp emerged into a vast chamber. It continued up past the fleshy plants, some of which appeared blackened and dying though they showed signs of recently being pruned, to the apex of the tower and the strange light. A rustling could be heard overhead. But Acacia made her way down a path through the pallid vines and crystal formations filling the area, straight towards the center of the chamber. O'Neil accompanied her, and realized that they were walking on broken crystals and the fragments of crushed skulls. As the group followed, a truly horrifying sight came into view. A lattice-wall of stone, roots, and crystal stood there, and in the niches were dozens of severed heads. Many were of Dyer's albino penguins and seals from the Antarctic coast. Others were human, brown-skinned with strange features, and some were so old that only bits of blackened flesh clung to bone. All were covered in a membrane of ooze or slime. But most disturbing of all were the two fresh ones - James Starkweather and Richard Greene. Horrifyingly, their eyes still twitched and their mouths spasmed, as if trying to form words.

Acacia let out a stifled scream, and Evvy looked ill. Priestly swore, and Jeeves and Stacey were enraged. "Get them out of there!" Acacia said. "Or I'll do it myself!" She stepped forward, pulling Starkweather's severed head out and placing it her canvas rucksack. Evvy did likewise with Greene's head. Mercifully, they stopped twitching. A shudder ran through the plants as that happened. Jeeves pulled some dynamite from off of Tyson's pack. "I say we blow this thing to hell!" Priestly, cursing a blue streak, agreed heartily. Tyson began to stir, gesturing emphatically towards the wall, apparently trying to stop them. He was not the only one.

Flapping could be heard overhead and two of the Elder Things, very much alive, landed nearby with stone weapons clutched in their tentacles. A shocking, wet sound behind them revealed a greater horror - another shoggoth, nearly fully grown! Evvy screamed, firing her derringer as she panicked. Jeeves grabbed a stick of dynamite, lit it, and tried to throw it at the shoggoth. The creature engulfed the explosion, damaged, but far from mortally wounded. One of the elder things grabbed Evvy, and O'Neil blasted the limb off with his shotgun. "It's kill or be killed," Stacey yelled.

The wall was monstrous and obscene...but necessary.

"No!" Tyson shouted. "Stop, for the love of God, stop!" The elder things backed away cautiously as the scientist interposed himself. "We can't! These creatures, long ago they pulled something down from the stars to power their civilization. The tower, the very mountains themselves - they are a machine! But they pulled down something so big, so powerful, that the machine barely held it. That's what the storm outside is. They have trapped something like a god! If it tears free of this prison, it will tear the very planet apart. Some cataclysm damaged the machine a million years ago. This - the plants - this is all patchwork repairs to replace the damaged cystals. But they need living brains to complete the circuit!" He looked at Starkweather and Greene's heads. "They are dead now, and useless to them. We need to find replacements before - "

An earthquake shook the tower. All present could see past and present blur together. Images of the tower, whole around them, flickered in their sight. "That was only the beginning. If we do nothing, everything on Earth dies!" Priestly swore and put a pistol to his own head, threatening that no one would take his brain. Meyer was a gibbering wreck, and they thought it inhumane to take him against his will. With a tremor in his voice, Samuel bravely volunteered to take his uncle's place, shuddering in revulsion as he stepped next to the elder things. O'Neil pointed out that if Acacia or Evvy were to die here, the questions would never end. And Stacey agreed that no true gentleman would leave a lady to die in his place. So it was agreed on that they would draw straws, with the short straw sacrificing himself to save the world.

It was Nikifor Schevchenko. The Russian kept a stoic face as he accompanied the elder things. Meyer screamed and ran past. Acacia swore, "Damned fool! If he runs outside without his parka, he will die! With Evvy in tow, she chased after him, Stacey and Jeeves close on her heels. The rest accompanied Samuel and Nikifor the chambers below, where each took his turn on the slab. The process was nightmarish. They lay still, their body paralyzed, as the small shoggoth in the stone tub flowed over them, devouring all save their bones, nerves, and heads. The elder things severed the spine and head, preserving them in some strange fluid. Tyson and O'Neil prayed to God that the two men were unaware of their surroundings. Without any pretense of communication, the elder things pushed past and ascended the ramp, their gruesome duty only partly done. Another quake shook the tower, rousing O'Neil and Tyson from their mute horror. They fled below, hoping that the planes were still there...
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