It was in the sixth month of a prolonged period of unemployment that I received a phone call. I was, as a point of fact, in the bathtub partaking of some needed relaxation after a morning run and I was reading a particular book, a historical study of Russian military methods in the Second World War. It was a journey outside my usual area of study, which was roughly a century or two earlier. Nevertheless, I was reluctant to lower the book and answer my cellular phone. I was unaware at the time of how tremendous a change this single call would make on my life. Looking back on it, I would not want to have answered the phone; for although my financial situation has since improved, I have found it substantially more difficult to sleep at night and tend to nap in the middle of the day lest I relive past events in my subconscious to such a degree as they become conscious.
My cellular phone rang and I answered it. Thrusting a pen I had been using for annotations into the crook of the spine, I set the book down next to the tub and took up my phone. I answered with my name and a salutation. The voice on the other end greeted me and introduced itself, "This is Professor Arthur Higginbotham, at Miskatonic University."
"Hello, Professor", I said, "How can I help you?"
I was fairly confused about why I was receiving a call from a professor at a university I had never heard of.
"Well, to be frank with you, we're hoping you can do us a favor. Your number was found among the personal effects of a research assistant and student here. So we assume you knew him. Adam Young?"
I answered, "Yes, I know him. I take it from your use of the past-tense that I actually 'knew' him."
"Yes, that is unfortunately correct. We received word of his death not too long ago, up in your neck of the woods actually: La Pointe County. Which I believe is some ways in the north of your state."
"Honestly, Professor, I really don't know where it is."
"Oh, well, you see…we at the university were hoping you could act as our agent in these matters. Our people out there are long since…retired. And we are under significant budget constraints here in Massachusetts so it would be highly unlikely that at this point in the budgetary year that the funds could be found to pay for an agent from the faculty here. We are led to believe from Mr. Young's notations that you are late of the Historical Society of your state and worked with him on the acquisition of some papers of some importance to his own studies, is this correct?"
"That is correct; I made digital copies of some collections for him. He was reluctant to share the nature of his own research, but I gathered that he was looking into Native American mythology."
"A fair assessment. But…I don't mean to be too brief, but we are hoping to employ you for a period of time, on contract, to carry out some affairs of interest in your own state. We ask because he made notations indicating he was working closely with you on this. We are aware that this is highly irregular and puts you in an uncomfortable position. But it is the most budget-friendly way for us to proceed."
I asked what would be required of me.
"We would require you to identify the body, to arrange for its disposition, and to gather up any research material he may have left behind and ship it out to us. Not an onerous task, but an important one."
My first task was to arrange to identify the body, which would then be cremated and the ashes sent to Young's family in Missouri. To do this, I had to find my way to La Pointe County. After looking at maps acquired on the internet, I was unable to locate such a county. I seemed to have been given an incorrect name. Until a set of search terms gave me an interesting result.
"Eastern Researcher Found Dead in Lake" It was a news brief dated about a week before. It went on:
Adam Young, age undetermined, a researcher employed by Miskatonic University, located in Arkham, Massachusetts, was found dead this morning in a lake in this county. It is believed that Young, a scholar of Aboriginal myth, was conducting research on a nearby Reservation. Cause of death has yet to be determined and the County Sheriff has stated that charges may or may not be forthcoming.
I had discovered the location of my new employers, although I still had no conception of where in Massachusetts this town was. Therefore, I sought to enlighten myself. I searched for Miskatonic University and found its webpage; a fairly simple design, showing its age compared to flashy sites larger universities possess. What caught my interest, as I browsed through their various pages, was a focus on unconventional disciplines. For instance, the course description for a recent US history course implies that local folklore was provided as the main text. I set this aside, as it had little relevance to my own task, for which I was being compensated.
A small bit of curiosity satisfied, I turned back to the news brief. It was from a publication called the Ulthar Herald. I then searched for other references for the publication and discovered Ulthar, Wisconsin. A town of which I had never heard, in La Pointe County, which I had likewise had never heard and up until this point could not find. Provided with a reasonable set of directions, I was able to divine a path through the center of the state, to the northern wilds.
Even now, in the early years of the twenty-first century, with our entire spectacular technological infrastructure, there exists wilderness.
Places not necessarily geographically remote, but places shunned. Places not deprived of necessary build blocks for civilization to grow, but places intentionally skipped over. Ignored by the unstoppable steamroller of American westward expansion of the nineteenth century, these places exist apart from time. There may be settlements, but no more than small, primitive towns. These places exude a very feeling of dread when encountered. No normal human being, with the senses granted by millions of years of evolution, would stay. Yet some do. These people are the excluded. Some dismiss them as yokels or bumpkins, inbred remnants of a time more than a century in the past. But these people should not be taken at mere face value. Their outward appearance of ignorance belies a dark logic within.
But I am getting far ahead of myself.
As I drove north through the middle of the state, I marveled at nature's beauty. Rivers snaking through sandstone bluffs, dense forests; the rolling hills left behind by the movement of glaciers tens of thousands of years ago, glacial lakes which attract sport fishermen from across the world. Beauty took physical form, the leaves bright green of the mid-summer, the sun even in the sky, wildlife bordering the macadam path carved through.
Yet as I went further and further north, details changed.
Slowly, the daylight waned; not due to the onset of night, for it was still mid-afternoon, but a perceptible dimming occurred; a diffusion of light. As if a filter was placed over the sun. Shadows changed from recognizable shapes into jagged cubistic shapes, aggressive mysteries, daemonic evil. Colors darkened, became flat and foreboding. The shadows of birds fleeing the sound of my onrushing car appeared to be those which could only belong to winged hell-beasts.
Even before I saw a sign identifying the region, I knew I had arrived in La Pointe County.
In the shade of a giant dark tree, which I couldn't seem to identify by sight, I pulled my car off the road and planned what I would do. I had brought along with me a case with the various articles of information I did have, and in it I had a list of telephone numbers for the county sheriff, who had notified Miskatonic of the death, and for the nearest state police office and some other governmental offices of possible importance. My first task would be to notify the local authorities that I was nearing arrival; I decided that, as an agent of Miskatonic University, it would be rude to suddenly arrive, without any warning. To wit, I called the number for the county sheriff.
Holding my cell phone to my ear, I heard static popping and mechanical clicks; as if the call was being forwarded through endless cycles of switchboards. I was highly dubious of my success when finally I heard it ring. It had not even completed a single ring when it was answered by a gravelley voice. Through conversation, albeit with great difficulty in understanding, I gathered that Ulthar was the county seat of La Pointe County, that the county sheriff and a state trooper were waiting for me to identify the body, and I was given directions on how to reach the location.
It was night when I arrived outside of a vine-covered police station in Ulthar. It appeared, to my untrained eye, to be in a sort of gothic style. Although I lack knowledge to properly identify it and the vocabulary to properly describe it. It was not at all what one would visualize when one was asked to think of a police station. Parked on the street in front of the station were two aged squad cars of 1960s vintage and a modern state patrol truck. Entering the station, I remarked upon the delicate tile pattern on the floor. It appeared to be a series of concentric spirals and was quite interesting to the eye. An aged woman at the front desk directed me down a steep set of stairs.
I descended down into darkness. Unsure of my footing, I took the stairs very slowly—my hand in front of me, feeling the wall—and descended two half-flights. I found myself in a hallway lit only by a dim bulb in an unoccupied desk far at one end. I heard low talking coming from beyond it. Walking to make my footsteps heard, I made my way through a smoothly swinging door and found myself in what could only be a morgue. In one wall was a bank of cold chambers, and opposite them were three people standing around a gurney.
"Well, come on over," said a voice with a sharp northern Wisconsin accent, "on" was spoken with a long-a sound, "we've ben waitin' all evenin'."
I went over and observed a man in a lab coat, who had to be the medical examiner, a man in county sheriff's garb and a female state trooper.
"So can we git goin' then?" the medical examiner asked. In addition to a lab coat, which I noticed had a small splatter of blood on the left side, he had spectacular facial hair—a full set of steel-grey Ambrose Burnsides sideburns—and tremendously dark circles under his eyes, which were bloodshot to the point of seeming to glow in the dim light. He smelled faintly of whiskey and his Wisconsin accent was sharpened with drink.
I noted the sheriff. He was porcine in appearance. Rotund around the center of his body, he had a round face and an upturned nose. And I noted the state trooper, trim even with the vest under her shirt; she appeared to be of Native American extraction.
The sheriff spoke he was apparently the gravelly voice on the telephone, "Now ya might not like what yer about to see." I assured the assembled law enforcement officers that I was indeed sufficiently fortified for the task at hand.
The medical examiner motioned down at the gurney and I first noticed the black body bag on positioned upon it. He pulled it open to reveal the man I expected, and I confirmed that the body was indeed Adam Young. The medical examiner then began to explain his findings. The body had been discovered in a lake deep in the county, but there had been no water in the lungs. He explained that this meant that Young had not been drowned. Many bones in the body had been broken; but, he explained, apparently broken after death. And now the medical examiner began to diverge into the bizarre. The body showed evidence of great shifts in atmospheric pressure being exerted upon it; as if it had been at high altitude and then suddenly in the deep sea. There were signs that it had been frozen for some time. And that death likely occurred shortly before it was deposited in the lake, although Young had apparently gone missing some three weeks previous.
I had not been informed of his disappearance; apparently his colleagues at Miskatonic were accustomed to long periods without contact with their wayward researcher.
My task essentially completed, I inquired where Young's belongings were located and the sheriff answered that they were in the cabin where he had been staying, which was right on the lake where he had been found and that he could show me the way in the morning; as he said it was too late to be "venturing out into the wilds" and I should "stay close to the lights of civilization"; I made mental note of his words, as they seemed somewhat ominous.
"I'll show him around in the morning," the state trooper spoke up, "I need to take notes of the location for paperwork, anyway." The sheriff nodded his assent and the three of us—myself, the sheriff and the state trooper—left the body in the care of the morgue. Outside the police station, the sheriff pointed me down the street to a hotel where I could stay. And he would see me soon. The state trooper made arrangements to meet at the hotel in the morning. And then I set out to find myself a bed.
At some point in the night I was awakened by I know not what. I lay still in my hotel room, blankets thrown to the bottom of the bed and sheet wrapped around me; the strange middle-of-the-summer arrangement when the air conditioning makes the room both too hot and too cold at the same time. Staring at the ceiling, I imagined pictures drawn in the textured surface. There was coughing, a sound from the next room. I had been unaware of other guests, due to the parking lot being all but deserted, but like any hotel this one must have had permanent residents.
I allowed my senses to expand, to listen diffusely and widely. A car passed on the road outside. Coughing again. The sound of the air conditioner pushing air through the louvers on its front. And wind.
Outside, a wind was picking up. I hadn't made note of the upcoming weather, but it certainly seemed to be a strange occurrence as the wind was picking up without a change in pressure which I could feel with my joints. There was no distant thunder to signify an incoming rain storm. I got up and walked to the window.
I was on the third of four floors, looking out, and the front of the hotel was colorfully illuminated by the neon sign announcing that there were, indeed, vacant rooms. A car, something boxy from the 1990s, was parked against the only stretch of curb I had seen in the entire town.
The wind had faded but began to pick up again. I looked up into the dark sky and saw stars and the moon. No clouds obscured the sky. I made note that there were many more stars to be seen here in the wilds of the north than down in the metropolitan south-east of the state.
Staring at the stars, listening to the wind, I was struck by the strangest idea.
Despite the sound of wind being very clear, the trees around my view were perfectly still. Not a neon-illuminated leaf was moving.
I opened the window, and the sound was magnified by a factor of ten, and stuck my hand out. There was no breeze at all. Even if the opposite side of the hotel was being hammered by wind, you should still be stirred up on this side.
Then the breeze died down again. And picked up again.
Slowly it dawned upon me that this wind was increasing and decreasing in a regular rhythm.
A bat crossed the star-studded sky and I was suddenly filled with an idea of giant wings, flapping. That the recurring wind was the result of some massive beast flapping its wings.
As quickly as I thought of it, I dismissed it. Scoffing out loud, I closed the window with a loud bang and turned to return to my rented bed but something stopped me.
I turned back to the window just as the horizon appeared to glow green. I had never seen the northern lights before, and at first assumed this was it. But it occurred to me that my window faced east. Surely this could not be correct. I decided to get a better look.
Leaving my room, I found the stairs up and made my way to the roof; being sure to block the door open. Looking out to the east, I was stunned. The aurora wasn't just to the east. I turned to follow it. South. West. North. The aurora formed a circle around the hotel's roof. It was closer on the south side, I decided. So the center was somewhere to the north.
Staring north, I watched the aurora, hoping it would make anything on the horizon clearly visible. But, I saw nothing. After perhaps half an hour, the aurora rapidly faded.
I returned to my room, and I slept. And I dreamed.
I dreamt of antediluvian monsters stalking the earth.
I dreamt I was an aboriginal hunter, stalking his prey. I walked slowly, carefully, through brush, picking my way silently. My spear was ready. Suddenly, I was beset by misshapen creatures which I only vaguely recognized as some subset of humanity. I was taken, alive.
I dreamt of chanting. Vigorous chanting. Chanting to obscure gods of lost time. A man, unlike those who took me, stood over me, speaking in a strange language, gesturing upwards with his hands.
I dreamt I was taken upwards, screaming.
And giant teeth fell towards me.
I awoke with a yell, and heard pounding on my room door. I looked around my room, and it was day. My bed was soaked with sweat. Whoever was outside was pounding again. I got up slowly, my muscles burning as if I had been moving constantly all night. I opened the door a slight ways, and saw the pony-tailed black hair of the female state trooper, whose name I had forgotten, or maybe not caught in the first place.
"I waited outside for an hour before I decided to come wake you up," she smiled.
I apologized, saying I had an active night what with the aurora and the dreaming.
"Aurora?" she asked, a look of mild terror in her eyes.
"The aurora last night," I said, "It appeared to go in a circle around the town."
She said that it was strange, and I agreed with her assessment, indeed it was exceedingly strange. But probably explainable by scientists.
"And we've got a long day ahead of us," she said.
I discovered her name was Rebecca—the state trooper, that is—as we had a quick breakfast at a diner. Normally, I have no appetite in the mornings and confine myself to caffeinated drinks but this particular morning I was simply ravenous. As we ate, we discussed our plan for the day. I would follow her truck out to the cabin and the lake, once there she would conduct her business and I would collect the belongings of poor dead Young and send them back east to Miskatonic.
As we neared the lake, the state patrol truck suddenly dropped from my vision. I madly stomped on my brakes, but the gravel road slid along with me and after a slight period of near weightlessness, my car slammed into the ground, burying the front end in mud and my teeth clicked together and I tasted blood.
"Be lucky your airbags didn't deploy," said Rebecca as I stumbled out of my car, "they cost more to replace than your car is worth."
"Thanks," I said, and spat a wad of blood and spit onto the mud at my feet.
After a brief investigation, I noted that the road had dropped about five feet, and she concluded that there must have been a subsidence, like a miniature sinkhole, underneath the road. It was as good an explanation as I could have found, and I turned my attention to my car.
"You're gonna need a tow, we can get one out later. Why don't you grab your stuff, lock up your car and let's get going."
Accepting her dominance over the situation, and her truck which was no worse for the wear, I did as she suggested. And soon we had reached the cabin.
It was a modest affair, a single level, a main room with two small rooms divided on the center of the cabin. One was a bedroom and the other had kitchen appliances. Nothing in either of those rooms was of even the most remote of interest. What drew both of our attention was the work space spread out over a desk and a dining table in the main room.
Young had certainly been working.
Spread out were notebooks, filled with rapid scrawling, cross-referenced to other notebooks he had kept. I opened a cardboard file box to reveal a series of binders, I pulled one from the middle and opened it. It appeared to be photocopies of an ancient book. "Cultes des Goules" was the title on the cover, written by a Comte d'Erlette. I pulled another "Unaussprechlichen Kulten" by von Jutzt. Another, the "Book of Iod", Latin translation by Johann Negus. A fourth "Necronomicon", this one was specifically defined as being a Latin edition by an Olaus Wormius. The box had a dozen more binders, no doubt filled with many more arcane volumes.
I flipped open the Necronomicon binder. The photocopies weren't of the best quality, but it was apparently good enough for Young, who had made himself busy annotating Latin passages. I could not read Latin, so I concentrated on the notes; which were mostly two sets of numbers. They corresponded to numbers on the notebooks, and then pages within the notebook.
I found the first notebook in number order and opened it.
Young had apparently been studying Native American rituals, ones which had been carried out at this very lake. The notes didn't always make sense, but I read on. Young had sketched out a rough synopsis here in this first notebook. It appeared as if he was writing a book, and this was his introduction; from which he would continue on to the more esoteric items, obscure chants and symbolism which were contained within later numbered notebooks. I turned to mention this to Rebecca, but she had left to do her business so I continued to read.
I was unaware of passage of time, the subject was simply fascinating. The rituals practiced by the natives around this region were apparently nearly identical to recorded rituals carried out elsewhere in the world. In South America—which was explainable due to geographic connection—but he also cited rituals in Ireland, the Basque portions of Spain, pre-Bantu settlements in Africa, Siberian tribal rituals and Australian Aboriginal religion. Apparently, there were nearly identical religious rituals across the planet; as if they were the final vestiges of an ancient universal faith.
And this entire thesis culminates in Young revealing the existence of an artifact which links them all together. A rock, he wrote, of peculiar qualities. It was apparently an inky black; unidentifiable by science, nothing quite like it existed anywhere else on the planet except at these key spots—which is exactly how Young described it, a key. I assumed this meant a key to fitting together his thesis. And this artifact, Young recorded, was located on a bluff overlooking the lake.
When I had finished the first notebook and looked at my watch, it was already afternoon. I decided to further survey my surroundings, so I walked outside. And in front of me was Rebecca talking with an old Indian man. The man waved to me, seemed to know me.
"He calls himself 'Old Jim'," Rebecca spoke as if he weren't standing a foot away, "He's some kind of local spiritualist. I've heard talk that he wanders around." Then she whispered "Alzheimer's."
"Old Jim can hear you," Old Jim said, a dazed look in his eyes, "Old Jim hears everything." He spoke in a surprisingly clear voice. "Old Jim's no fool. He heard the wind. He heard the noises. He knows what's happening, what's happened before. Poor young Young didn't listen to Old Jim."
I interrupted him, "What do you know of Adam Young?"
Old Jim turned to me, his dazed look becoming cloudy and haunted. "Young Young thought it was myth, summoned the black goat. Young Young didn't read his books. Didn't heed the warnings. Old Jim tried to tell him. Old Jim tried to help. The black goat came with her young. And the screams came too. You've seen, Mister. I saw you in your dreams. Teeth shining in the black."
Suddenly, Old Jim turned and walked away.
"Alzheimer's." said Rebecca dismissively.
I filed away this exchange in my mind. Perhaps it would make sense with more reading. Telling her what I had already read, digesting it into some key points, I suggested that we climb the bluff which overlooked the lake to try and find the stone and that perhaps its periphery contained some clues. It was not a tall bluff, perhaps a hundred feet. You could not see the cabin from its height, as the cabin was sunk into a pine forest—nor could you even see the lake from the cabin, the only evidence of it being the occasional sloshing of water at the shore. And sure enough the rock was readily identifiable.
It was on a flat outcropping which projected from the bluff itself. It had the appearance of being thrust into the very living rock. A black spike, about six feet tall, fairly square with sides about a foot wide, stuck out in a field of grey limestone. I walked up to it and gingerly placed my hand on it and quickly pulled it back. The rock was far too cold. The surrounding limestone was fairly warm to the touch due to the sun beating down upon it. But the rock, the "key" as Young had put it, was as cold as winter.
Rebecca called to me, and pointed out concentric sets of holes in the limestone. She suggested that it was some kind of calendar, like Stonehenge. But I shook my head, filled with a sudden realization.
I had seen this before. I had been here before. I just had to orient my perspective to match it perfectly. I had been here in my dream.
"We have to find Old Jim." I told Rebecca.
She asked why, and I told her.
She said, "You're as insane as he is. But, OK. We'll have to do it tomorrow, though. It's a good ways walk for him to get back to the Rez."
So we made our way back to the cabin, which had been opened in our absence.
I ran inside and saw that nothing appeared to be missing, just rearranged. A different notebook was open. As I began to page through he, I heard an anguished cry from outside.
The tires of Rebecca's truck were flat, they had been ripped to shreds. "A bear or mountain lion", she guessed. It took her a while on her radio to find out that no one could be out here until morning—we were to spend the night in the cabin.
I was not particularly happy about this, but I took it in stride. I returned to reading, and was satisfied to allow Rebecca to use the bedroom.
I settled down to read, it appeared to be a description of and the text to a series of incantations. And sketches of a South American cryptid identified as "ya-te-veo", which appeared to be a man-eating tree, or a land-dwelling sea anemone. I wasn't nearly as drawn into this volume as I had the first notebook and I rapidly became bored and began having trouble concentrating. At some point, I nodded off.
I couldn't have been sleeping very long or very deeply, because I regained consciousness almost instantly when Rebecca began shaking my shoulder. She motioned to me to be quiet and listen.
Wind. A strong wind appeared to be buffeting the cabin. It faded away slowly, and then the sound returned. And then it faded. And then it came back.
"I looked outside," Rebecca said, "Cracked the door open, and looked. The trees aren't moving. How can there be wind without the trees moving?"
"I know what's happening." I said, and stood and began walking toward the door.
"Wait," she said, "I'll come with you."
"I don't think that's a good idea." I replied.
"You need someone who can shoot, can you shoot?" She challenged me.
"As a matter of fact, I can shoot. Very well."
"But do you have a gun?"
I sighed in defeat. "No, no I don't. Let's go quietly."
I slowly pulled the door open a crack, looked outside. There was nothing but the sound of wind. I slowly looked back to see Rebecca holding her pistol at the ready.
I stepped outside, she followed.
There was nothing to be seen. The sky was quite clear and the moon and stars illuminated the land even despite the pine trees all around.
I told her where we were heading, and she nodded her assent.
The rock. The rock was the key to this. Young had said it in his notebook.
As we left the tree line, our eyes were assailed by the bright green aurora, it appeared to be perfectly equidistant on all sides.
"This is what you saw last night?" Rebecca asked, fighting against the sound of the wind, to which I could only nod.
As suddenly as it started, the wind ended. And the aurora faded. We reached the rock as the last of the green left the sky, and saw nothing.
"We have to find Old Jim," I told Rebecca.
At first light, a tow truck appeared. The driver had apparently brought new tires with him, as well as the necessary tools, because when I had returned from a brief walk to the lake, the truck was ready to go. My car was going to be recovered and taken to a repair shop and I had to give the driver my credit card information. I made a silent prayer that Miskatonic would cover it as part of my expenses, because the costs of recovery and repair would surely consume a large portion of the fee I was being paid. I also prayed that the repairs would be conducted quickly, as I had no wish to reside in this part of the state any longer than I was required to.
I dozed in and out of a fitful sleep as we drove to the Indian Reservation. The events of the last two days cycled around in my head. As I attempted to reconcile the happenings with logical explanations, I was struck that my education was rather too focused on the past and my scientific knowledge was lacking. I simply could not find a logical reason for what was happening. The alternative was one which I did not want to consider. That all of these events were the result of occult happenings in reality. That the "Old Ones" spoken of in Young's notes and in his photocopied manuscripts were, in fact, a reality and had been summoned out of ignorance by a na´ve researcher.
A variation on the explanation drifted around in my mind. That Young was not a na´ve researcher attempting to string together multiple tribal religious traditions of prehistoric times into a single unified thesis. It was entirely possible that Young knew what he was dealing with and called forth some supernatural force on purpose. In this, I assume that he must have considered himself knowledgeable enough, powerful enough, to control whatever he had unleashed.
Either way, they must have taken him beyond time and space. His body had been exposed to amazing shifts in physical realities. Vacuum of space, high altitude, the deep sea…the places where the elemental forces written of in the notebooks thrive. Imagining the great and terrible sights he must have been exposed to, beyond space and time. And then, when the beasts had finished with him and he was dead, they had deposited him in the lake. Bones broken after death…due to rough handling? Or from impact with the lake?
And I had a deep conviction that Old Jim was privy to it all. How else could know details of my nightmare? He must be tied up in this all. A servant of these Old Ones and Elder Gods? Or a priest of their cults? I hoped I would have the opportunity to find out soon.
I was snapped out of my thoughts as the truck's engine was shut off. We had arrived at a shoddy looking trailer. It was situated just off of a dirt road, in a small clearing surrounded by dense woods, and there were apparently no other residences within sight. The road in both directions turned away into forest.
The sound of a gas generator running appeared to come from behind the trailer, and as Rebecca went up to the door, I wandered around the side.
There was a fire pit in back. With a couple ratty folding lawn chairs around it. It appeared to have been used fairly recently, the ashes didn't have the appearance of having been rained on. I turned to follow the sound of the generator and there stood Old Jim.
He looked at me and spoke, "Old Jim knows why you've come. You know about the black goat. Old Jim has seen her, seen her young. Old Jim saw them walking, Old Jim saw them take away young Young. You need to banish them. You need to call the fire. The fire burns the goat and her young, sends them away. Young Young didn't know this. Old Jim tried to tell him, but he refused to listen. You must listen. Call the fire."
I heard steps behind me and looked away; Rebecca was coming up to me. "You're going to want to look inside." I looked back to finish talking with Old Jim and he was nowhere to be seen.
Inside was a scene. The main space in the trainer was taken up by a couch and television, the couch had been torn up, the television overturned and broken. There was a massive pile of empty food cartons piled on the counter of the kitchen nook, flies buzzed around it and there was the smell of spoiled food and rot. Rebecca pointed at the floor, there was a kitchen knife. It was bright with blood up to its handle, but no blood was present around it on the floor.
Having been pointed down the length of the trailer, I came upon a curtained-off room. The curtain, a plain cloth affair, had been torn off its rod and lay bunched up in the doorway. Inside the room was dark, and I couldn't make anything out. Rebecca passed me her flashlight and I trained it around the room, found a hanging light fixture and pulled the cord on it.
In the harsh light, splayed out before me, was the body of Old Jim. His hands and feet had been tied down apart from each other. And it appeared as if his chest had been ripped out. The body was very old, partially mummified. Dried, blackened blood was coating every surface. A look of extreme confusion was on Old Jim's desiccated face.
"We saw him yesterday. I saw him yesterday," Rebecca spoke in stern tone, "This body is old. Months or years. I don't understand."
"I just talked to him outside," I said, "Get me back to the cabin and I'll explain."
In the car, I described what I thought was happening.
"There are…creatures beyond time and space," I said, "They're called the Old Ones. They're supernatural, and elemental, but not all powerful. They require connections here on this planet, in this dimension. These connections are people; they are 'keys'; they are places; they are objects. I should have understood the notebook better. When Young wrote about a 'key', he wasn't talking about a key to his research, but a connection to another realm. The rock. I was reading in his notes, there was one in Hungary. There is a local story about the Turks killing every inhabitant in the area after they learned what went on there. The rock on the bluff is a similar one. In ancient times, the inhabitants of this region worshipped these Old Ones there. Old Jim talked about a 'black goat' and that must be one of them. And its children…must be people who worship it? Or maybe literally its children…I don't know.
"But at some point, these elemental creatures were banished by the Elder Gods. The Old Ones are evil; the Elder Gods are more benevolent—not necessarily good, but not evil. Old Jim talked about the fire. He told me to 'call the fire'. He must have meant to summon an Elder God. And that's what I need to do."
Rebecca floored the accelerator pedal.
The remainder of this account I cannot be sure of. It happened in a figurative "flash" and even now, some time removed, I have trouble distilling it into a cohesive account. If I use few words, let it be known that I have little memory; or perhaps have chosen to have little memory of the otherworldly horror which I witnessed.
As we sped down the dirt road, we came to the spot where my car had gotten stuck the other day. Rebecca slowed down and began to carefully move around the hole. Concentrating on my thoughts, I was surprised when she suddenly stopped the truck and my head flipped forward violently.
"What is it?" I asked. Staring into her eyes, I was struck by a slow dawning of terror.
"Look." And she gestured with her head.
I turned and from the angle we were at, the hole took on a horrible dimension. I unbuckled my seatbelt and got out of the truck, I hauled myself up on the roof, and Rebecca followed me.
When we had been inside the hole, it hadn't seemed any more unusual than any sudden subsidence should appear to be. However from the side and above, the true nature of it was revealed.
Where my car had become stuck was the side of a giant footprint.
It was perhaps ten yards long, and very deep in the soft earth. It vaguely resembled a human footprint, up unto the toes; of which there were two, with large imprints of where claws settled into the ground.
And there were many of them, in irregular pattern, leading through a wide clear path in the woods, moving toward the lake.
Suddenly, as if originating from all directions, the sound of wind began to pick up.
"This shouldn't be happening," I said, "it's still day."
As if that was a cue, dark clouds began to roll in; moving in a circular motion with the lake as its apparent center; like the funnel formed by water moving down a drain the clouds slowly dropped toward the lake.
As quick as we had climbed on the roof of the truck, we scrambled down. With reckless speed, Rebecca piloted her vehicle down the dirt roads through the woods along the lake.
With a cloud of dirt, we arrived at the cabin and I quickly ran inside. The notebooks had been rearranged again, and I took careful note of the one which appeared to be set out for me. And I began to read; Rebecca busied herself with closing the storm shutters on all the windows and securing the cabin.
I read about Young's ideas on the nature of the power of the Old Ones. How he planned to harness it. How one Richard Billington and an Indian named Misquamacus had summoned and, for a time controlled, the Faceless God, Nyarlathotep in a place called Dunwich. Ultimately, Young wrote, he had been taken by the monster and was reborn into the body of his ancestor. He wrote on the errors Billington had made, how these errors related to Young's own plans. How he could overcome the errors. So, Young did not summon this creature from beyond time and space by a mere accident.
Following a note in the margin, I pulled out the binder of The Necronomicon and found the appropriate page, which, by the image on the facing page, was the means by which to summon a creature of hellish appearance. It floated in the air, tentacles and legs dangling from its grotesque form. Several mouths were in appearance on its body; which was crowned by tree-like branches of apparent alien texture. It's feet, I saw had two clawed toes. Things began to line up in my mind. Notes in the margin identify this creature as "Shub-Niggurath" the "Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young".
Rebecca roused me from my frantic study with a "You've got to see this, the trees are walking".
I went to the door and cracked it open. Sure enough, perhaps two dozen of what appeared to be trees were milling around. But they weren't trees, their limbs were more like slowly moving tentacles, and I recognized them from the notebooks I had read. This was the "Ya-te-veo", the man-eating tree. And I recognized them from the imagery in the Necronomicon. These were the young of the Black Goat.
One appeared to turn to me. And above the howling of the not-wind, I heard it shriek an unearthly sound. And all of them turned towards me. I pushed the door shut and threw the bolt. Hopefully it would hold.
As if the knowledge suddenly appeared in my head, I told Rebecca, "Those are what killed Old Jim. He must have known what Young was doing out here and warned him. And Young tied him up and sent those things after him." And somehow I also knew, "Old Jim was a priest. A priest of the Elder Gods, those who banished the Old Ones into other dimensions. That's how his spirit talked to us, by the power of the Elder Gods—or maybe it was an Elder God speaking to us using his form. Either way, he told us how to stop this."
Old Jim's words came back to me. Summon the fire.
Going back to the notebooks, I searched for the element of fire. All these creatures were elemental creatures. Nyarlathotep is a creature of the Air. Shub-Niggurath is a creature of the Earth. I needed to find a creature of Fire. I found that Water was represented by Cthulhu and Dagon. And fire… Cthugha.
But I could not summon the creature itself.
That would mean the same fate as had befallen Young.
"An avatar of Cthugha," Rebecca said. She had been reading over my shoulder and pointed to an annotation. Together we found the proper book and located the page, which had been translated into English.
As we began to read, a horrible pounding began to come from all around the cabin. The creatures outside, the walking trees, were pounding on the outside walls. And on the door and shuttered windows.
"Quickly!" Rebecca yelled.
I scanned the page, looking for incantations.
"Here's something," I said, "but I don't know if it's the right thing. It could destroy us."
"Just say it! They're breaking through the door."
I gathered as much composure as I could and recited the words…
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthugha Fomalhaut n'gha-ghaa naf'l thagn! Iń! Cthugha!
An immensely loud sound, like woodwind instruments squealing bombarded us and shook the cabin even more than the creatures outside could. All the windows broke, I felt a sharp pain and reached up and found blood coming out of my ears. Rebecca was on her knees, holding her bleeding ears.
Again, I said the words.
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthugha Fomalhaut n'gha-ghaa naf'l thagn! Iń! Cthugha!
Even with my damaged ears, I heard a sharp crack as the door shattered and flailing tentacles assaulted us. A different crack, the crack of gunfire punctuated the din as Rebecca tried to keep it at a distance.
And I spoke, no, shouted, the words a third time.
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthugha Fomalhaut n'gha-ghaa naf'l thagn! Iń! Cthugha!
Instantly, I was blinded by a light. What I could hear with my damaged ears sounded like an intense fire. Wind blew in through the broken doorway, intensely hot; I shielded my eyes as I instantly broke out in sweat only to have the sweat evaporate away instantly. I could swear that I was steaming. A muffled shriek came to us from outside, and the sound of liquid flowing sap boiling off the end of a freshly cut log.
As quickly as it had begun, it was over. Silence, darkness. Or what appeared to be darkness. As I stumbled outside, it was actually twilight; but it may as well have been midnight next to what had just been burned into my retinas. And everything was as it should have been. The trees gently swayed in the breeze—the real breeze. The State Patrol truck in front of the cabin. Birds chirping. Nothing was burnt, no remains could be seen.
Curious, we hiked up the bluff overlooking the lake. The rock, the key, was still there. Still cold to the touch, as if sucking the energy out of the world.
I gathered up Young's belongings. I would keep them, as they would come in handy in my new work. Although I didn't know it at the time.
Rebecca drove us into town, where people seemed to know what had happened. But chose to ignore it. And after being checked out at a local clinic—by no one other than the medical examiner who apparently was also a family doctor—I left my car and had Rebecca drive me to Madison, from where I took the coach lines back to my home.
When I tried to relay my story to my family, they didn't believe me. They asked, "Where's La Pointe County?" And I tried to show them, but could find no mention of it; it was not on any map I could find. Online encyclopedias made no mention of it. Until, buried deep in search results, I found something. La Pointe County had ceased to exist in 1848, it had been broken up into other counties. Yet…I had been there. I had been in Ulthar, I had been at the lake.
I called the number Rebecca had given me, but it had been disconnected. I called the State Patrol and gave them her name; and they informed me that no one by that name has ever worked for the State Patrol, or any government agency. No such name existed on record.
I was in the bathtub, again, when my cellular phone rang. Professor Higginbotham called to congratulate me on a job well done and told me to keep Young's belongings—that is, if I accepted another job. He wished to employ me on retainer as Miskatonic's new agent in the Midwest.
With no other apparent prospects that I could see, I agreed.