A Chronicle of the Expedition to the Forlorn Icy Continent (Part 2)
8 months ago
– Wed, Sep 12, 2018 at 12:32:03 AM
We worked tirelessly for months on the investigation, amassing clues and scraping up evidence. We unraveled the existence of a secret society; worshippers of powerful deities that, the faithful claim, hold dominion over this world. This cult stretches out across the continents, and its members can be found everywhere, in all spheres and walks of life. You are safe nowhere; you are never far from their eyes. I have gone through great lengths to collect information on the mythos, and I urge you – nay, beseech you – to become familiar with the themes in my book in order not to fall into their cunning traps. The House of Bliss. This enticing name is the one the order goes by, and it is fearsome in its accuracy. The rapture that shines on the custodians’ visages transcends all mortal joys. But, I get ahead of myself.
It seemed that the frequency of these ritualistic murders was increasing, but still there was no evidence of a central hierarchy, no human guides. It was as if several phenomena of strange, religious mania had spontaneously sprung into existence all around the world. Different, yet always disturbingly familiar in their recurring themes. We were always one step behind in tracking and preventing the next gory ceremony.
By observing and analyzing the abandoned places that the cultists used for their demonic invocations, patterns began to emerge and I succeeded in leading our investigations ever closer to fruition. I wanted to bring an end to this madness bathed in human sacrifice and despair!
At last, the final pieces of the puzzle fell into place and I grabbed the nearest map with a hand shaking with nervous energy. All the painstakingly collected clues and patterns formed the shape of an infernal sigil much loved by the cult. And within this mark, I was able to discern a specific location in the nearby forest. The elation of my discovery was quickly replaced with an urgency that sent me out of my home in the dead of night to contact Lt. Ward. He was prompt in responding to my summons, and together with his officers we embarked upon yet another disquieting attempt to reach the victims before Death could.
As we moved through the woods, swiftly and silently, every man of us felt the palpable, haunting dread that permeated each tree and leaf, as well as our very souls. The night sky itself seemed to shiver under the weight of our mounting agitation; our pores oozed the sweat of our terror. My nostrils quivered with the pungent odor of pure fear. Our feet dragged unwillingly through the mires of doubt. Finally, battling with the limits of our endurance, we heard them. Oh yes, we heard them there in the distance. A chanting, a psalm, a hymn. It gained in strength, reaching toward the star-strewn heavens. The unsettling, strange – and wonderful – sounds reverberated in our skulls and I cannot ever forget the emotions that blossomed within my chest; the tears that leaked from my enraptured eyes. Love and acceptance; a mother’s comforting breast, a father’s guiding hand. I felt warm and soothed; at peace with myself and filled with adoration for all creation.
I know not how long we stood there, in the grip and bliss of that terrible music. I am ashamed to admit now that had my life ended then, I would have been content. Fortunately, it was not to be; an inhuman scream pierced the perfect melody and roused me from my divine reverie. We grown men moved fretfully, avoiding each other’s faces, ashamed of the visions we had been given. Another grotesque shriek rent the firmament, and like lost children we looked nervously in one another’s eyes, searching there for the courage we had abandoned.
A silence that stretched for aeons enveloped us. A quiet so intense you could hear the noiselessness. A still so dense that I could have sworn I ceased breathing. I strove to fill that emptiness with sound, any sound, but my words were swallowed by the gloom. The stars themselves seemed to extinguish in this asphyxiating grip. Those who say that there is nothing to fear from the dark and the silence, have not known the gentle brush of the wings of madness fluttering against their cheeks.
Ah! Sweet relief! The chant began again, releasing us from the waking death we had been locked in. Closing my mind to the seductive cadence, I swallowed and swallowed again, but the taste of ashes remained. I urged the others to gather their wits, their daring, and to follow me. To finish what we had started, to end this unspeakable evil. My voice grew in power and every word fell upon the hearts of the men as soothing as balm. We rushed forward at last, ever closer to our focal point, led on by the call of their voices. I tried to ignore the reverberating anthem, now more ecstatic and euphoric than ever before. I closed my ears with my hands as I dashed through the undergrowth, straining my eyes in the darkness. But you cannot block joy or hinder delight, and I began to feel the glow suffusing my soul once again. Through this creeping felicity, I fought to stay sane and fixed on my objective. We were there at last. We had arrived.
I was too late, yet again. There were two corpses, although it wasn’t easy to tell whether man or beast, so mutilated and dismembered were the remains. These bodies had been placed in the center, upon an altar where the outlandish symbols of the cult glittered malevolently underneath streaks of blood and excrement. The merrily crackling fire illuminated the full extent of the gore, and the sight of it wiped my mind clean of any joyful thoughts. But it was the worshippers that drew us. They all swayed to the rhythm they were creating, eyes closed or open, and even when our arrival had been discovered, most remained in this catatonic state. They seemed to be so deeply within their own selves that the appearance of a sizeable group of armed men made no difference to them. But not all of them were so, a few of the cultists looked straight at us, and we could see the hungry, feral glares in their bloodshot eyes as they attacked us with only their bare hands. Yet more of the congregation watched with glee as their more violent brethren assaulted the newcomers, laughing and pointing, never ceasing the lilt and pulse of their eerie incantation.
It grieves me to say that we killed many. It was in self-defense, and perhaps it was even a kindness; those who attacked us were clearly beyond reason. But raving lunatics though they may have been, sometimes I am tortured by the memories and the realization that we were the ones responsible for most of the deaths that night. There was no time for self-reflection back then, however. Once we had control of the situation and area, my task was to retrieve all relevant clues. Any scrolls or signs, cultist literature or regalia; in short, anything that could assist us in getting to the bottom of this repugnant sect.
I was still preoccupied with studying the crime scene, yet aware of the solace of the approaching twilight, when a strange sound in the distance made me raise my head from my work. The noise seemed to come from afar, from the cosmos itself, and a subtle rumbling beneath my feet told of the planet’s discomfort. We stood there in expectation, like meaningless ants watching the unfolding of events greater than their minds can grasp. A small light on the horizon; was it the sun breaking through the night? No, for the blaze that came ever nearer was not golden. The crackling and hissing grew louder, and we saw then that a great meteor with a brilliantly blue tail scorched across the sky at an incredible speed. Its sheer size blocked out the morning rays and it shot over the horizon toward the south.
We stood in silence, gripped with a foreboding we couldn’t explain. The dawn sun tickled my neck gently, but the burning streak of blue was all I could see for a long while, as if the vision had embedded itself on my eyes. Did the cult know about this? Was the ritual we had witnessed a coincidence, or perhaps a celebration of this occurrence? What did this mean for us all?