On the Shore
I write this to make sure someone knows what I've done. By the time you read it, I'll be long since gone. They'll say I escaped and disappeared, but I assure you, that's not the truth. They've come for me! They're going to take me beyond the veil! Oh the terrible things that lie beyond that veil! I don't want to go. I managed to steal this paper and pen from the office on the way to the cafeteria. They've taken all my journals away and hid them in the library. I don't have much room to tell you what happened so I'll start at the beginning and write until I run out of space. I can only hope nobody steals it before someone finds it.
I was at home one day, working with my chemicals and laboratory equipment in the attic. I believed I was on the verge of discovering a new realm of vision beyond ultraviolet. For the first time, we would be able to see beyond what these two orbs provide us. I heard a knock at the door and went to answer it. The professors from the university wanted to see my work. Just think. That glorified institution was interested in me. It wasn't ready, though. They pressed and pressed, but I sent them away. Nobody must see my invention before it was complete. Oh what a fool I was. To think that such a simple thing as to see them look at it could have saved me. They stayed on the door step as I shut the door. I heard them laughing and ridiculing me.
The solution to my equations danced forever beyond my grasp. I could never quite get what I wanted. I had been working with potassium, selenium, and carbon compounds. When burned with Manganese, Strontium, and other metals, they did, indeed, radiate previously unnamed shades of light, but the camera equipment I had on hand was not able to capture it. I needed ingredients and equipment that were far too exotic for any average person to acquire to go further with my research. The physics needed chemicals and compounds only found in the tropics and far reaches of the planet, and environments that I could not duplicate here in my home. I had a hypothesis that I could duplicate the experiment with great success in a persistently cold environment, using rare metal compounds and acids. I immediately took a trip to the science halls of the university, and applied for more funding.
The panel had some of the men who had visited my house. They told me my experiments were useless, and proved nothing. My funding would be cut next month, and the state of Massachusetts would not continue funding it either. No amount of begging or pleading moved them. How I wished now I'd let them dissuade me. I left there, and went out on the streets, begging. Eventually, I met a most peculiar man from the far East. He said he was a sailor, and knew where I might get what I needed. The sailor had a smile that was terribly beautiful, and a laugh that was awesome in its joviality. He was in town buying supplies for a trip over the ocean. I agreed to pay anything, anything at all, that he required. He had me get all my equipment together and bring it to his boat, then we set sail. We sailed east into the Atlantic, setting forth from a small fishing town in a small cove. I like to pretend I never saw the denizens of that horrid place. It was a boat manned by a crew of quiet people, who spoke only in grunts and whispers, and facial expressions. Their size was terrifying, larger than any people I have encountered in my life, being enormously tall and muscled. Their silence was disturbing.
On the Ocean
The boat was a swift sailing model, of medium size. Its hull was a dark ebony, a shade of wood that I had never seen before. It had three decks. The main deck, the crew's quarters, where my supplies were also stored, and ship supplies. I was not allowed to enter the supply deck. A particularly burly crewman barred entrance to all save their own. None of them spoke to me. Days and nights passed without a word from them to me. My captain was never seen above decks, and only then wrapped in layers of cloth and clothes. No matter what he wore, I could always see that damnable smile. I asked if he was afflicted with some disease but he would not answer. I chose to leave him be and contemplate the waves. My experiments continued with the meager supplies I had brought, revealing no great insights into the invisible. I only managed to fill my cabin with strange smokes and sounds, and even those were more mundane than I could have hoped for. For days there was only water, and the same strange, sweet meat stew every day. Sometimes, I saw the crew pointing at me and whispering. I can only imagine what things they said now that I know the truth. At night, the stars above were clear, crystal points of light.
I know not when we landed, only that the rocking of the ocean had stopped. We were at a town that spoke a dialect of Spanish. Judging from the architecture, we had likely landed in Spain. We stopped by for a few hours. I worried when the crew barred me from leaving the boat after our initial interactions with the locals. They did not tell me why, only locked me under the decks. I heard heavy trampling, and what sounded like heavy trunks or boxes being moved around above deck. Sometimes I heard yelling. Eventually, I felt the rocking of the boat resume. They unlocked my quarters with evil smiles and whispers. I assumed that perhaps the boat's owner had a reason for not letting me go ashore. He showed me new ingredients in a back cabinet. Powders of exotic animals and metals, and glass instruments like I'd never seen before. They were conglomerations of squares, circles, straight lines, and curves, shapes that had no purpose in a sane world. They hurt the eyes just to look at. He locked them up and told me to wait, then sent me off to the rest of the ship again. We sailed again, this time south, through Gibraltar, and into the Mediterraneans. We visited Italy, where I did not receive the odd treatment of before. This time, I observed huge trunks bought from a merchant who resembled my own odd benefactor. Some went below decks, others clinked like they were full of glass. We made stops in Egypt and Greece, then moved back out into the oceans. I didn't know how many months we had been at sea yet, but I knew that I hadn't secured my home's payments for this length of time, and that I might not have one when I returned. I didn't care, though. I could have been on the verge of a breakthrough.
We sailed south. We followed the coast of Africa, never landing once. That strange, sweet stew never seemed to run out. The whole way, the captain kept that smile. That horrible smile. We sailed, always following the coast line, but never close enough to see if anyone was watching back. Eventually, we reached the Cape of Good Hope. As expected, we sailed around it. We would be stopping on the way north for food. It was the same as other stops. We picked up the trunks of unknown supplies, presumably the source of that stew, and more compounds. I'd soon be able to draw back the limiting veil of our vision and let us see beyond. We stopped in some town somewhere on the coast, and this time, I was locked beneath the decks again. I made very vocal objections to this treatment, but the crew was not responsive. I sat, angry, until my captain had returned and we were underway again. He assured me that it was for my own safety, and that I was not in any danger so long as I just listened to his crew. The locals in this town were not fond of outsiders. His crew never spoke, and he never explained why it was for my own safety, but I believed him.
We made one final stop in another foreign country after weeks of sailing past jungle, beach, and cliff, then jungle again. I don't know where this one was, I can only guess it was the man's port of origin. He spoke with the locals in a strange language, then let me go free. I explored the city, fascinated by the architecture and the sculptures and statues of what I could only assume were their deities. I've always been a man of science, not culture, and now my deficits are beginning to haunt me. The things I've missed out on with my nose buried in the books. The shops are filled with beautiful beads, wonderful art, and ancient volumes. I couldn't even begin to fathom what secrets are contained within them. If only I could read the language they were written in. I wish I could say for sure where this town was, but it could have been in the Eastern countries. Thinking back on our journey, it must have been in or near India.
We spent a few days here. I didn't learn much, though. They didn't speak English, and I didn't speak their language. The crew vanished altogether, and the captain didn't seem to want to translate. I spent most of my time reading a few of the books he'd picked up along the way, buried in the same case as the chemicals. Some of the chemicals were in glass containers. The glistening, metallic powders seemed to glow with purple colors that appeared almost ultraviolet. The powder itself was a plain silver. Another container seemed to be vibrating at very low frequencies. No matter how I lifted the opaque container, turned it and shook it, it made no sound and surrendered no hint of its contents. There was a spectacular vial filled with a brilliant white powder. I speculated that it was some phosphorus compound. Every container had a tight lid, or was stoppered by a thick, rubber top. The captain would sometimes come down and watch me examine, that same loathsome smile on his face the entire time.
Finally, we set sail again, this time to the south. We struck out straight across the ocean, passing out of the sight of land within a day. Once again, as before, I was all but ignored by the crew and captain. This time, they allowed me to explore the lower decks of the ship. The lowest deck was only half accessible, and the half I could see was filled with barrels of water and ship repair materials. The crew ushered me out just before they would enter the other half, from which the stew came. I wondered what type of livestock or meat they kept back there. As we sailed, birds became scarce. The sky was an endless dome of blue, no clouds polluting our view. I felt no wind, yet the sails were full day and night.
Soon, the air began to chill and the days grew shorter. After a few days of the cooling air, I saw a wall of white in the distance. It was ahead of us, and seemed to be miles in width. The light of the day was failing fast. I thought it must have been Antarctica, that great unknown plain of ice, for that would correspond with the weather and the cold. The next day, the wall was more visible. It was an enormous ice wall, spanning most of the horizon. I'd never seen the likes of anything like this, not even in my scientific books and journals. The crew came up with fur jackets and coats, and passed them about. I put it on, much relieved to have some respite from the now frigid air. I was told that we were not going to the frozen continent itself, but to this frozen cove. I was so excited.
The boat steered straight for the wall. At first, I panicked. I thought our captain was a madman, and had led us all to our doom. As we got within a mile of the prodigious wall, I saw that we were steering to a chasm in it. The waters looked treacherous, but the captain assured me with his smile, the smile of the damned, that we would be fine. His crew was the best in this world, he said. We sailed between two fantastically large chunks of ice, making a course straight through. We went from total daylight to a strange form of twilight, for the sun could only shine into the chasm from certain angles above. At places, the boat's sides came within touching distance of the chilled surfaces. I heard strange calls from above, and fancied I saw penguins a few times, swimming underneath us. Finally, after an hour of sailing in the precipice, we came to a dock of the same curious wood as our vessel. I was perplexed. How somebody had built a persistent structure like a dock in a cove of ice was beyond me. There was another, smaller vessel here, too. We tied the ship down, and he had the crew take my supplies, his supplies, and the instruments further down to a wooden lodge. Whoever had built it, it looked ancient. It was built of the same material and craftsmanship as the boat we had set sail in. The crew left us there after setting the cases and cabinets down inside.
Forgetting my earlier apprehensions, I began to set up. Inside, it was a single spacious room. There were two windows, on the left and right walls as one entered. They were large, and positioned so that, when opened, a breeze could cool the room. There was a series of metal tables in the middle of the room, set out in preparation of our arrival. I marveled at how far in advance he must have prepared this. The unusual warmth of the wood lodge did not bother me, and the captain assured me that opening the windows would achieve the temperatures desired. If I had calculated right at home, I would be able to successfully pull back the veil and reveal entire worlds of sights that the human race had not seen. With my captain's ever smiling assistance, I began to set up my work. He set up his instruments where they were appropriate, and showed me where to use his chemicals. The series of tubes, flasks, and instruments resembled some great insect, crouched over a table. Once we had finished, all that was needed was to heat the glowing metallic powders in the initial flask. My excitement was almost palpable. I lit the Bunsen burner under the flask, and opened the lodge's two windows. Outside, the day's light was dying fast. But the reaction before me provided all of the vision I needed to write my observations.
It started with an eldritch glow, the likes of which I'd never seen. The metal began to glow, melt, then boil, that peculiar ultraviolet light making the captain and I appear as if we were glowing beings in a sea of black. The metal began to boil quickly, and the light from outside was extinguished altogether. I don't know if it was the reaction, or the sun passing beyond the walls of the chasm, but I did not pay it any further wonder. Now, the glowing gasses from the metal, seeming to possess the same properties, traveled through the tube and into a flask filled with hydrochloric acid. Here, it underwent a fascinating transition, and the entire network of tubes began to hum. I was a little frightened, but my companion only grinned at this point.
Now, the mixture began to bubble along a series of tubes into a trio of chemicals. The first was the white powder. It turned into a flaring, white light that almost blinded me while my eyes adjusted. The second was a strange, vibrating goo. It had been the container I had held before, and marveled at. Now, it was transforming into a black ichor that seemed to reflect every visible color. The third was from the seemingly empty container. It was an almost invisible solid, light as air. It had stretched and conformed to the odd, pyramidal flask we placed it in. This one filled with green gas, which flowed through the tube and into the other vials where it dissolved into a prism of colors. The combined fumes flowed into a spiral of glass into an open funnel at the top. I held my breath, unsure what to expect. The noxious, multicolored fume filled the room. I began to cough, and fear for my life, but my captain's firm grip stilled my struggles. He held me there, and I felt a burning in my eyes and ears. After awhile, the smoke and burning subsided.
I slowly became aware of a vast open space. The lodge was still there, but it was transparent, like some veil between the worlds had been lifted out of the way by the chemicals and experiment. I could see through, to a great plain. It was black and featureless, lit from above by a strange, phosphorescent sky. Everything seemed bleak and colorless. Then, I began to see terrible things. Even the thought of them drives me out of my mind with horror, so I'll describe what I can. These beings were great, amphibious things. They floated through the stagnant air, bloated jellyfish of unnamed color. It hurt my eyes to even look at it. Sometimes, strange birds with many leather wings would get caught in their tentacles. They sucked like the sea creature on our world does, and consumed the creatures quickly. I watched the flesh and blood dissolve in the transparent things, then the bones fall to the desolation below. I shrieked, I think. I don't remember, but I kicked the loathsome machine in front of me. There was a shattering of glass and a bright flash, and then I don't know what happened.
When I awoke, I was cowering in the hold of our ship. I looked around me, not recognizing the room. It took me a few moments to realize I was in the forbidden forward decks. All around me were great cases. I opened one, and found it full of ice, fresh from the land around us. Below it was corpses. Human corpses. They could have been from anywhere, so varied were they in composition and skin tone. I screamed and fled. I fled the storage deck; there were no crew aboard. I began to throw up when I reached daylight. I regained my senses, fled, and took the other boat, hearing the devils coming up behind me.
By some superhuman feat, for I don't know where any normal man would find the strength, I managed to force myself to row out of that terrible chasm. The crew of the ship only stood on the deck, watching me. The captain was there, and I was sure I could still see his smile, even from here. Some thing too terrible to describe followed behind them, and I covered my face, looking to the floor of my boat. Once I was out of that terrible place, I unfurled the small sail, and crawled into the tiny under deck. There was no way a person of their stature could ever have used a vessel like this. I didn't stop to wonder why they hadn't followed me. I fancied that I may have heard yelling and some thunderous crash, but it could have been wishful thinking.
I don't know for how long I drifted, but my throat was parched. I knew from my books how to get small bits of pure water from sea water, and did what I could to that end. My hunger drove me to insane desires, including wanting to have that stew again. I don't know where they got the people from, but I was glad to be off that ship, even if I died alone and in the ocean. By some great virtue, though, I washed up on shore of some foreign country. I worked out with the locals that I had landed in South America. The mechanics of surviving such a journey alive was beyond me, but I did not question providence. I eventually worked out passage by land back to the United States. I don't think I could endure a single day more at sea, lest that horrible captain find me again. I did not tell those here about my journey, either, for fear they were in league with him.
The journey was long and quiet. I traveled by land for most of the way, then took a train once I reached the Panama Canal. There were places on this trip, though, that I felt like things were growing thin. I felt like I could see that other world again. I thought I could see the jellyfish in the sky on rare occasions. Every time I saw someone smile, I would look around for the captain of the ship. Once I returned, I hurried to tell the university of my findings. I got home, and began writing. Halfway through, I stopped and checked the time of year. Almost nine months had passed! I could not have been gone that long. I finished, and went down to the docks, wearing too much clothing to be recognizable. I did not see any ships of mysterious origins, or any sign of that horrible captain. Satisfied that I was safe, I fled to the university. I finally gained access, and was permitted to see the board of professors. The discussions and talks lasted for hours, repeatedly returning to my frantic state and the ruin of my clothes.
They didn't believe me. Nobody found record of that terrible ship and its cannibal crew. Nobody could tell what towns I had claimed to be at, or that I had ever left the state. They all said that I must have gotten lost in the forest on a night almost a year ago, and it was all a fabrication in my head. The last people to see me had been the university board, and they insisted that I had left quite upset. In this state, they claimed, I had wandered out of town and gotten lost in my delusions. People claim now that the sights I saw don't exist. I wish that were true. They locked me up in the asylum with the madmen. I hear them coming now. The orderlies. I think they're in on it, them and that horrible captain I traveled with. That horrible, horrible sound they make as they speak. It can't be human! I don't know what they are, but please, hide me. Hide me! I want to disappear into these pages. I must hide this before they realize I have it, and find it and destroy it! I should have known that we were only made to look at what we can see, and nothing beyond! I only hope nobody continues my work!