On November 22nd, a rescue party led by Dr. Marcin Inciéda into the Dulth-Aral caves of Pohnpei discovered a damaged tape recorder tied up in a piece of white guide line.
In none of the four excursions were the missing parties in question found, nor any of their supplies save for the length of guide line and the tape recorder attached to it. It serves as the only record of the events which the parties in question experienced.
Seventeen entries of substantial length were recorded, as well as several shorter entries that appear to have been recorded by mistake, as no speech is audible for their duration. What follows is a transcription of the audio which appears in those seventeen entries.
This is Dr. Mason Perry, September 12th, 1996, aircraft over the Pacific Ocean, 4:41 PM Pacific Standard Time.
In the Dulth-Aral caves of the small Micronesian state of Pohnpei, there is a breed of lizard with one of the most remarkable defense mechanisms known of among reptiles: it has developed the ability to hurl rocks from the cave floor where it dwells, with lethal velocity, at targets dozens of feet overhead. Nobody is quite sure why it has developed this ability, as the few specimens currently available were found wandering around the outside of their natural cavernous habitats. My colleagues and I are traveling to Pohnpei to study the lizard in its natural environment, on the first trip of its kind, to attempt to discover the purpose for which this unique behavior had been adapted.
The reason no such expedition has yet been attempted, despite knowledge of the lizard's existence within the scientific community some sixty-odd years, are various local reports of the danger of the caves. The folklore of the indigenous Tanitchiin people, natives to the area for thousands of years, tells that the progeny of the earth demon Ban-Dulth dwell within the caves, guarding the entrance to his subterranean kingdom. These demon-children are said to slay any who attempt to make passage through the caves, which were sealed off until roughly a thousand years ago when the heavy rocks which covered the mouths of the cave range were moved to construct ancient buildings by foolish men.
Folklore is simply folklore, of course. The Tanitchiin are not an isolated tribe—they are a perfectly modern people and seldom take the old myths and legends of their culture as literal fact. However, on two separate occasions within the last 70 years, young men have set out into the caves to prove their bravery and returned with terrified tales of having seen creatures exactly like those described in the old legends.
They told of large four-legged animals with the pale, translucent skin characteristic of cave albinism. These creatures had severely arched backs, from each of the four corners of which protruded spindly limbs bisected by single outward-facing joints, and at the bottom tips of which were flat feet. They lumbered about like awkward spiders with a wriggling left-to-right motion of their bodies, which appeared flexible. They had two large, immobile protrusions on their backs which were thought to conceal wings, though they were never seen to fly. Jutting out from between their two front legs was a round head with a single, enormous red eye which blinked rapidly.
Both young men, having seen them only at a great distance and from safely high above, described them as living in a group of perhaps thirty or forty, constantly murmuring in a low buzz. When this group spotted the young intruders, they suddenly let out a high-pitched shriek, which in both cases frightened off their visitors. The latter young man claims that he was initially immobilized with utter terror, and was able to summon the strength to run only after they darted toward him with terrifying speed.
Because of these sightings, belief in the Children of Ban-Dulth has persisted among the Tanitchiin, and they refuse to go into the caves. My colleagues and I suspect that what the young men believe they experienced was heavily colored by the local legends. However, we appreciate that some sort of large crustacean may live within the caves all the same, and as such have taken certain safety precautions. We have brought binoculars with night-vision capabilities so that we can make our observations at a safe distance from any cave life and without the need for artificial light sources which might alert it to our presence. To the latter end I am also taking research notes verbally with this dictaphone to avoid the need for light by which to write, should our headlamps need to be turned off. Because no guides for the caves exist, we have brought several thousand feet of highly durable cord with which to mark our path as we traverse the caves. Each of the four of us also has semiautomatic handguns with fifteen rounds. Hopefully we won't have to use these last.
This is Dr. Mason Perry, September 14th, 1996, mouth of Dulth-Aral Minor, 3:18 AM Greenwich Mean Time plus eleven hours.
We are preparing our descent into the Dulth-Aral Minor, the smaller of the two largest caves in the Dulth-Aral range. We would have preferred to select a cave other than the one in which the "Children of Ban-Dulth" had been purportedly sighted, but this was the only one of the six caves in the range that local Tanitchiin guides were able, or willing, to lead us to.
We have suited up with all of the necessary gear for a scientific spelunking adventure, including a three-day supply of water and food. Our aim is to remain in the caves for a maximum of 18 hours on this trip; if it should happen that we need more time to find the Rocktail Lizard on a single expedition we will return better-prepared for a longer stay. Still, one can never be too cautious.
I am joined on this trip by Doctors Janette Briggs and William Kincaid. Dr. Marcin Inciéda fell ill after ignoring our group's admonitions and sampling a rather exotic local dish upon landing, and so will not be joining us on this initial expedition.
[A woman's voice can be heard in the background: "He's going to miss all the fun!"]
Should it happen that we do discover a new species of crustacean within these caves, we will make informal notes for the benefit of our colleagues back in the States.
[The woman: "Okay, Mason, the lines are tied off, we're ready to go!"]
[Hushed] This is Dr. Mason Perry, September 14th, 1996, inside the Dulth-Aral Minor, 4:36 AM Greenwich Mean Time plus eleven hours.
[A periodic echoing "clack" can be heard in the background.]
I am currently watching a mature Rocktail Lizard specimen lift and sort rocks. When the lizard lifts a rock, he will turn it over several times in his prehensile tail, then set it back where he found it. If he comes upon a flaw in the rock, he tosses it up and out of the way of the cave floor. It seems as though the lizard spends some amount of its spare time making sure that its rock supply is more usable in the event of an emergency.
[A man's voice, also hushed, can be heard nearby: "Look, Mason! A bat just flew onto the ceiling!"]
[There is a long silence, then a sudden squeak, followed by a thud.]
Whoa! Did you guys see that? Jesus, that thing is fucking fast!
The lizard picked up a rock, and then the bat fell off the ceiling. It happened so fast, I didn't even see the throw. The lizard is currently eating the bat it just killed.
You know, Jeanette, we thought that this was a self-defense mechanism, but it looks like a hunting behav—
[A series of extremely rapid "clacks" are heard.]
Holy shit! Holy shit, what was that?
[The woman, breathless: "Jesus, Mason, did you see it? The lizard was trying to hit it, I think it scared it off."]
Dr. Mason Perry, September 14th, 1996, inside the Dulth-Aral Minor, 4:45 AM.
Dr. Briggs saw one of the "Children". We now suspect that it is an arachnid, or possibly some sort of insect, rather than a crustacean. It was climbing on the ceiling when it appeared. We didn't notice it, but the Rocktail Lizard sure did. It whipped a series of rocks up at it with shocking speed. Dr. Briggs was the only of the three of us to follow the trajectory of the rocks quickly enough to catch a glimpse of it.
According to Dr. Briggs, it was probably close to five feet in total length and stood perhaps two feet high. She didn't get a good look at the creature, but she did confirm a single, blinking red eye in the center of its head.
[The woman: "I'm not sure about this, Mason. You didn't see what I saw. I don't want to be anywhere near that thing. I say we head back."]
Dr. Briggs is shook up about the whole thing. Dr. Kincaid and I, however, are anxious to press on. Perhaps it's just because we want to get a good look at these "Children" ourselves. The young men who visited these caves reported that they spent approximately an hour wandering inside them when they discovered the nest, so given the time spent observing the first Rocktail Lizard specimen I figure it's maybe 20 minutes more into the cave until we see it.
Dr. Kincaid has been trying to assuage Dr. Briggs' fears by noting that we will be safely high off the ground and, unlike the young men who visited before us, we will be armed.
[The woman: "Stop talking to your damn tape for a second. I'm right here, don't you fucking narrate over me. I want to head back. That thing was fucking fast, do you understand? You saw how fast that lizard threw rocks, and it got out of the way of all of them. These things are quick when they want to be, Mason. I don't want to find out what happens when they see us."]
Okay, Janette, how about this. Would it make you feel better if we used the night-vision from here on in? That way they won't be able to see us, so you've got nothing to worry about. Janette, you've seen animals on expedition that we know can kill humans easily. What's the first thing you learn about those animals? What did you say the whole way here?
[The woman: "That if you leave them alone and stay out of their way, they won't bother you."]
Exactly! Look, Janette, these things are cave spiders, right? Spiders aren't aggressive creatures. If we leave them be, and we stay way out of their way, and they can't even see us, we'll be fine.
[The woman: "I guess. Okay, I'll go. But I want this to go on record, on that little record you're keeping: I think this is a mistake."]
[Whispers] Dr. Mason Perry, September 14th, 1996, inside the Dulth-Aral Minor. I think it's about 5:15 AM, but I don't want to turn on my watch light.
We can see them. I don't think this is the nest that the locals described, though; there are only four of them here.
Everything they said about these things is true. The big eye, the spindly legs. I can't speak to the grey skin or the eye's redness looking through these goggles, but Dr. Briggs confirmed that earlier. I was expecting the wings to be larger, though. The rigid coverings only seem to go about halfway down the back. We're still at a pretty substantial distance, and even with these binoculars I can't get enough clarity to make out a lot of details, but I don't see a mouth on these creatures.
They have two vertical slits just below the eye, it looks like. I think these are nostrils of some kind, which is leading me to doubt that these creatures are any sort of arachnid or insect. And actually... Hey, Bill, does that look like a tail to you?
[The man: "Where?"]
The one closest to us, look carefully. It sort of follows the arch of the back, but it's just hanging there. Is that a tail?
[The man: "Yeah. Yeah, I think it is. Are these things reptiles?"]
I don't think so. The back curves down and the tail follows it. Lizard spines don't arch like that. I think these things are mammals.
[The man: "They look hairless."]
That's not unheard of for subterranean mammals. And it could be short fur, right? I can't tell at this distance.
[The woman: "Okay, you've seen them. Can we go now, please?]
Yeah, we probably should. Marcin is going to want to see these things himself anyway.
Ah, shit! This is Dr. Mason Perry, September 14th, 5:43 AM.
We've retraced our steps back to the area where we first observed the Rocktail Lizard in action, and something's wrong. We followed the line up ahead about 300 feet and saw that it led us across a shallow pool of water. We could easily cross it, but none of us remembers crossing any water. Everything past this point feels extremely unfamiliar to all of us.
[The woman can be heard, sobbing. She then says, "this is what he does. This is what he does. This is what he does. This is how he punishes trespassers. This is what he does."]
Janette is taking it pretty hard.
[The woman, upset and angry: "This is what they said. They said that Ban-Dulth imprisons people in these caves! Didn't you listen? This is what he does! He's getting us lost, trying to confuse us, trying to draw us in deeper. His Children have seen us, they know we're here, and we gave them time. We gave them time to re-tie our line on a new path that leads farther into the cave."]
[The man: "Try to calm down, Janette. No cave demon is trying to get us, okay?"]
[The woman, shrieking: "This is what he does! I wanted to turn back. I wanted to turn back. We could have turned back but you wanted to do your fucking research and now we're all dead. 'We are dead!' Do you understand me? 'Dead!'"]
We're going to follow the line. Janette doesn't want to, but she's more afraid of staying here alone. It's possible that falling rocks or rising water have changed the terrain and we don't realize it. If we get to the end of the line and it turns out something did bite through it, at least we'll know.
The way I figure it, it will be dawn soon. Daylight should be an easy enough source to follow to an exit if worse comes to worst.
What the hell are these things?
We've been following the line for about an hour, and about 20 minutes ago we saw two more of them. They were standing rear to rear with their hindquarters touching, and lurching back and forth into each other, grunting and buzzing with their eyes wide open and fixed on nothing. It looked like mating. I know insects will sometimes breed end-to-end like this, so now I'm doubting my suspicions that they were mammalian.
I don't believe they saw us, but we've turned off the headlamps just in case. We're currently proceeding with night vision from here on in.
[Sobbing] This is... Uh... Sorry, this is Mason Perry.
Doctor Kincaid is gone. He... He slipped off of an edge and hit his head before falling. I don't know where he went, and I presume he's unconscious.
As soon as he fell, Janette started running. She says one of the "Children" grabbed his ankle and dragged him down. I want to go back for him, but she refuses, and I don't have the gear or skill necessary to climb down that edge by myself.
We're leaving him, I guess. Hopefully we can get someone back in here in time to save him.
Dr. Mason Perry, September 14th, 1996, inside the Dulth-Aral Minor. 7:27 AM.
Our line was definitely cut. The line led us directly to the ridge above the nest, so I suspect it was a prank by young locals. Naturally, Janette insists that it was Ban-Dulth's Children trying to punish us.
What we saw was grotesque. One of the creatures hung off of the wall about 20 feet from the ground with its head facing the ceiling. It gave birth like that. Six or seven offspring fell directly down onto the ground. The youngest died on impact, and a few more were killed when several of the adults mauled them. The three that survived only did so by viciously slaughtering their attackers. We saw them feasting on one of the slain corpses, and we ran.
At this point, we're exhausted, so we've set up camp. I'm taking first watch while Janette sleeps, if she's able.
I killed one. It came up on the camp and I shot it.
We were wrong about these animals.
They're simians. They look disturbingly human; I suspect a heretofore unknown strain of hominid.
They have no eyes. They're totally blind. What we thought was an eye was actually a mouth, opening and shutting. They don't have wings, either, it's a ribcage. The creature looks like a human that walks upside-down, with its stomach pointing upward. The mouth appears to be on top of the head because of this inversion. What I thought was a tail was actually the animal's genitals.
They're extremely skinny and their legs appear substantially longer than ordinary human legs. They lack much appreciable muscle mass, however, which is odd considering the speed with which they move and their tendency to climb. They have opposable digits on all four pedal extremities, though it's apparent that the ones that should be "feet" are underdeveloped. I suspect that the lack of muscle mass is owed to the creature's light weight; there's no way this thing weighs more than 90 lbs. It's definitely hairless, covered completely in translucent white skin.
Janette freaked out when she saw it, but she's calmed down considerably since then. In fact, she's calmer now than she has been since she first saw the creature. It could be that she knows what it is now, but I suspect it has more to do with the knowledge that these "Children" can be killed.
She's agreed to take second watch and let me catch a few hours' sleep.
[Woman] This is Janette Briggs, daughter of Samuel Briggs, human child of the land of the man-God Christ. I now understand my duty.
I am going to return to the nest of the Children of Ban-Dulth to offer myself as a servant to the Earth God. I shall never escape these caves, so I will make myself a new home in Dulth-Elania, his Kingdom Beneath the Earth.
I am leaving this message for Mason Perry, that he might join me.
Shit! Janette's disappeared. Shit!
She left me a message on this machine saying she went back to the nest. Obviously, she's panicking worse than I realized. I have to go after her. If I don't make it back, whoever finds this, tell my kids I love them. And get out. Get out now if you're still in the caves listening to this. Press stop and run. Listen later.
[Panicked] Oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God.
This is Mason Perry. Shit, I don't know what the hell time it is. Uh, 9:30 AM.
Janette is dead.
When I got to the nest, Janette was standing in the middle of it, taking off her clothes. The Children, they... They watched this. They were in a circle around her, just watching. And Janette, she bent over backwards, like one of them... and they came at her.
Oh, Christ... It [unintelligible, sobbing]
There were two, one on each end of her, and they started to... They were violating her. And another came up and tried to get on, but the one between her legs wouldn't stop thrusting and get out of the way. So the third one, it grabbed her by the torso and just started pulling. It ripped off these huge chunks of her skin, of her muscle, just ripped her open, and then it went for the hole. And then two more did this on the other side, and then more started ripping holes, and... And pretty soon, she was just a pile of... of wet meat. Oh, fucking Christ. I don't... There was nothing left but [unintelligible]. And they started eating it.
She never screamed. She... she didn't make a sound at all.
I think that... I think she wanted to die.
It's been two weeks since I came into these godforsaken caves. I've long since run out of food and my efforts to catch Rocktail Lizards have netted me nothing but injuries. I've used the first aid kit in my pack to disinfect them and bandage them up as best I can, but I'm concerned about my ability to treat further injuries.
I've found some water which looked clear enough to supplement my water supply. Hopefully, the rocks have done a passable job filtering it.
I've seen several of the Children since Janette's death, but they don't come near me. I think it's the corpse of one of their own in my campsite that scares them off.
I have a theory about the phylogeny of these creatures. I think that they were once a group of early hominids who were trapped in these caves when a rock slide closed the cave mouth. I think they clung to the ceiling as much as possible to stay away from the Rocktail Lizard, or perhaps to get the drop on it when they were hungry. I suspect they developed their upside-down hang to give them better visibility of the tiny lizards on the cave floor and to help them see incoming rocks.
Over time, their bodies changed to accommodate this lifestyle, until they were a formidable enough predator to walk on the ground again. When outside of the nest, they seem to come down to the cave floors only to mate. By the time the rocks were finally cleared away from the mouth of the cave, they had become so dependent on the cave's darkness that they never ventured outside.
[Exhausted, weak] I'm out of options. I need food. I'm going to eat what meat I can salvage from the carcass at my campsite. Hopefully it will give me enough strength to try [unintelligible] out.
I suspect... [gagging sounds, coughing]... I think it's been a week since I ate from the carcass. I didn't get any immediate indigestion or signs of food poisoning, but since yesterday I've felt very ill.
Lately, I've come to wonder whether Janette was right about the Children.
At first, I thought they might be primitive hominids, but I can't explain the guide wire. How could they have been smart enough to know to cut through our line and lead us to their nest? I don't think that was a prank anymore. I don't think anyone who knew the story of these creatures would attempt to strand another human being in this dark hell.
I thought that the Children might have cut the line out of curiosity and carried it with them as far as they could to the nest. But today, I realized that it had been tied up at the campsite. How would they know to knot it in that way? I think they were intentionally trying to trick us. Is the thing the Tanitchiin call Ban-Dulth responsible? Is there some superior intelligence or power guiding these creatures? And... and does it build its army of children from humans it traps in these caves?
Are the Children of Ban-Dulth ancient hominids, or disfigured humans? I can barely separate fact from fantasy in my mind.
[Rasping] My watch slipped off my wrist two days ago and shattered. I've lost all sense of time in the interregnum. I'm losing weight too quickly, and expect to die soon. My eyes feel gummy and infected.
Yesterday, I decided to start a fire to cook some of the carcass. I couldn't risk further infection, and no other food has been available. There was no wood, so I burned some of my clothes. Once I had eaten all of the meat on the carcass, I realized that I had lost the only thing keeping the Children away from my camp. I tried to keep the fire going through the night in hopes that it would scare them away. I'm naked now and the fire is gone.
I considered trying to burn anything in this dictaphone that seemed flammable, but I've since thought better of it. I'll be tying this recorder into the guide line in the hopes that any rescue attempts might find it, though given how long I've waited I doubt anyone is coming.
[Low groaning] My back is killing me.
The tape ends here.
According to testimony by Dr. Inciéda, the rescuers spotted several of the creatures mentioned in the tapes during their second trip into the caves. On the fourth trip, when this tape was found, they opened fire on one which approached their party, scaring it away.
They described this last as stouter than the others, and with what appeared to be bandages wrapped around its arms.