21.10.08

The Strange Case of Randall Skall

Here is the story in its entirety. If you happened to the first half already, I suggest you read it again, as I made some minor changes.

The death of one Randall Skall in his beach home in Tropic Park went unnoticed by the population of that town for many days, due to the singular reclusiveness of the occupant. When at last mail was seen piling up and Skall's car still in the driveway, suggesting the resident was at home and not away on one of his many “business trips,” as he called them, the police were summoned. A gruesome foreshadowing of what they would find inside, Skall's dog, a small black laborador, was found under some bushes on the southern side of the house. It was severely decomposed, and several ribs could be seen sticking up out of what had been the stomach of the animal. Much of the flesh was missing, as though the scavengers had gotten to it, as was highly likely in any southern clime. Flies buzzed around it, although there were no maggots in the corpse.
Upon breaking into the house, the police found it entirely dark, with all the curtains drawn shut and, where there were no curtains or the curtains were of insufficient thickness to block out the sunlight, heavy black paper had been put in place to obscure the windows. The rooms also contained an intense chill, as though the air conditioner had been left on high for some time, although it was summer, and the use of such things in the high heat of the southern clime was not unusual. When the door was forced, in fact, a great billow of cold air burst through the opening and dissipated in the comparably moderate temperature of the outside.
None of the neighbors had ever been in Skall's house, and so it took some time for the police and the bewildered residents of Skall's beachside street to find the body, or what was left of it. Finally, just as the police were ready to say that Skall must have taken a train out of town without notifying the post office as per usual, one of the neighbors at last noticed a small square in the ceiling of Skall's bedroom, which had been passed over because it blended in so well with the rest of the wood around it. A chair was fetched, and one of the policemen tried to pull open the trap door. Finding no handle or purchase on the smooth wood, a crowbar was also fetched, and, putting many scratches in the ceiling, he finally pulled open the trap.
Another gush of air, this one considerably colder, fell out of the attic and onto the face of the startled policeman. Many of the people in the room were also hit by the strange wind, although none so forcefully as the policeman, and later described the stench as the worst that any of them had ever smelled. So it is no wonder that the poor policeman lost his balance and tumbled backward off the chair, striking his head forcefully against the ground and rendering him unconscious. After the people ceased coughing at the smell, they laid the policeman out on Skall's bed and, hesitantly, stared up into the pitch-blackness of the attic room. No one wanted to be the first to climb up into that sightless hole, but, after a hurried game of rock-paper-scissors, one of the policemen, George Fallon, stood up on the chair, gripped the inside of the hole, and pulled himself up into the attic.
Completely blind in the attic, Fallon pulled out his flashlight (all the policemen of Tropic Park had been mandated to carry flashlights since the events of the '96 hurricane) and shone it around the room. A rudimentary search showed that this room, like the others, had its windows obscured, although here, in addition to heavy curtains and black paper, the window had been boarded up as well. Finding the stench slightly more tolerable, as though the worst of it had gone when the trap had been first opened, Fallon called to the other policeman, a Frank Haddock, to join him.
Once the two policemen were in the attic, they searched the ceiling above for a lightbulb with which to illuminate the room. Finding it broken, they proceeded to the window and began to pull at the boards, which came free easily enough. At once, a dim light entered the room, and Haddock thought he heard a faint pattering of feet, as though of rats, or mice. Now able to see the room clearly, Fallon and Haddock found the place in a severe state of disarray, papers scattered all over the floor, furniture overturned, and, in one corner, what appeared to be jelly spread out on the floor. Upon closer inspection of the jelly-like substance, Haddock retched, and even Fallon, who had been at the heart of the incidents during the '96 hurricane, was severely shaken and half-jumped, half-fell out of the trapdoor down into Skall's bedroom. For, when they had looked, Haddock and Fallon had seen in the corner the body of Randall Skall, his stomach burst open and its contents spilled across the floor. But that was not the worst, for they also saw that his body had been covered in tiny bite marks, as though the rats had been at him.
With the suggestion now of foul play, Haddock and Fallon summoned the county homicide detectives and had the body delivered to the morgue, where an autopsy was preformed. It was determined that Skall had not been murdered, as there was no evidence of a knife, gun, or similar weapon being used. Rather, the coroner found that Skall had ingested the majority of the contents of a bottle of bleach, which had burned his lips, mouth, throat, and stomach, and apparently reacted inside him in a violent explosion that had burst his stomach outwards. The question of how such a reaction could have happened was never fully solved, nor the strange bite marks, which appeared to have happened post-mortem. For, despite what Haddock thought he heard, no rat droppings nor any other evidence of the rodents were found in the attic or in the rest of Skall's house. As to what could possibly have driven Skall to drink a full bottle of bleach, the answer to that was put down as madness, the evidence found in the papers strewn about the attic. Apparently, something Skall had found on a recent trip outside of Tropic Park had snapped Skall's brain. To make matters worse, another body was found, when a thorough reading of the papers Skall left behind suggested the presence of a second corpse. This was discovered to be an Alex Jenkins, a resident of the neighborhood who had been missing for some time and one of Skall's only personal friends. This appeared to be, from Skall's papers and lack of evidence to the contrary, the handiwork of Skall himself. It appeared that Jenkins was a victim of Skall's madness, in addition to Skall himself.
The only piece that could not be identified was the strange bite marks in Skall's body. Fallon, who had read Skall's papers, suggested a connection between what Skall had written and the marks, but this was deemed absurd, as Skall's notes had been clearly inspired by his madness. The papers themselves contained strange symbols, a diary, and messages that clearly did not relate to anything. Many of the pages were covered in Skall's blood and rendered illegible. Regardless, all the pages disappeared soon after the abandonment of the case, and were never recovered.
One sheet of paper, of particular interest due to its relation to the diary, was found, the bottom half removed. On one side is a series of symbols like that in the diary, while on the other is what is thought to be the English translation. The English reads as follows:

A thousand kah deep, beneath the waves and wind of the new world, a stone formed, born in the cold and the dark of the cave of Dread YahSoFehn. He who consumes this stone shall grow a new life, with power immortal and glory for him eternal.

In an interesting though only slightly related footnote to the tale, the fire department was summoned to the Skall house at three o'clock on the morning of August Twenty-Third in response to the tip of one of the neighbors that the house had flames coming from the attic windows. Officer George Fallon, who had been patrolling the neighborhood that evening, was first on the scene, and he watched as the fire spread from the attic downward until the whole house was ablaze. Fallon suggested that he had heard loud, inhuman screams as the house was consumed by fire, like a thousand animals shrieking, but none of the neighbors would confirm this, and no evidence was found of any animal life in the home. By the time the fire department had arrived, the house was already crumbling, and there was nothing that could be done to save it. Inspection by the county arson unit revealed that the fire had been set deliberately, as traces of rocket fuel were found throughout the wreckage. The fuel was traced back to four canisters of the stuff that were included on the transport receipt but not in the final delivery to Cape Canaveral. The driver of the transport truck was questioned, but he had been out of the state during the weekend of August Twenty-Third, and thus was not considered a suspect. The trail went cold there, and no further evidence was found on the case. Efforts were suspended, and the case largely forgotten.

After further investigation, the police put together the following a discussion with the person he commissioned to take him out to sea, a Captain Jeremy Smith:

On July Fifth, Randall Skall left his beach house in Tropic Park and drove north to Daytona Beach. There, he met with Captain Jeremy Smith, who he had been in contact with some time before. Skall provided Smith with a set of coordinates which corresponded to a point many miles of the coast of Florida, to a place usually reserved for deep sea fishers and casino boats. Though Skall would not provide Smith with any answers as to the purpose of the trip, Skall paid in cash for one of Smith's larger boats and Smith did not complain. Usually, Smith would have ordered one of his subordinates to preform the task, but Smith expected Skall to be a repeat customer, and wanted to handle the big spender personally.
The weather was clear and balmy the next day as Skall and Smith traveled out to the point. Skall had requested that no crew come along, and, as the boat would not be out very long, Smith had agreed to it. When asked exactly where the two had gone that day, Smith could neither remember nor provide the entry in his logbook which would have contained that information. But the police thought that it was probably unimportant and did not press the subject.
When they reached the coordinates, Smith halted the boat and Skall, wearing a full diving suit, plunged into the water. Smith, worried that Skall had not taken the proper precautions for deep water dives, waited anxiously for Skall to surface. When he did, Smith hauled him back onto the boat, and, after reprimanding him for needless risks, started to turn back towards land. Skall stopped him and ordered the boat several miles to the east. When Smith protested, saying that it was already getting dark, Skall gave him two hundred more dollars.
In all, Skall dived three more times before finding what he had been looking for. Early in the morning on July Seventh, Skall rose up out of the ocean carrying with him a large blue stone. When Smith took it from him so Skall could climb into the boat, he found that it was filled with water. Curious as to what Skall could want with such a thing, and where and how he had found it, Smith began to question Skall, who, grim-faced, sternly refused to answer.
After learning of the existence of the blue stone, the police again searched Skall's house, but no trace of the stone could be found.
Skall, exhausted from four dives, fell asleep in the cabin, tightly clutching the stone. After setting a course back to shore, Smith crept down into the cabin and took the stone from Skall's hands. He held it up to his ears and heard, or says he heard, a slight swishing, the sound a fish makes in a bag of water. Holding the stone up to the light, Smith found that it was transparent, but there was no shadow indicating that anything, a fish or otherwise, lived inside it.

Once in Daytona Beach, Skall took the blue stone and drove back to Tropic Park. From there, the information comes straight from Skall's diary, which began on the day he returned home.

July Seventh, 2008

I wasn't sure if I was really going to find it. The inscriptions on the cave walls were vague at best. (Note: The cave Skall refers to has since been searched, and no inscriptions have been found, although rough marks on one of the walls appear to have been made by a chisel, suggesting that something was there and was destroyed by human hands.) Four dives. Christ, I thought I was going to die. But at last, I found it, in the cave at the bottom of the sea. There were rocks over the entrance, but I found it all right. I found it. It's mine, now. That cursed Smith tried to take it from me, but he couldn't. No, it's mine. I'm not sure how to open it. I don't want to break it. Can't risk the waters going everywhere. I'm going to keep trying. There don't seem to be any hinges or cracks in it. Of course not, or the waters would spill out. But I'll keep looking. I went back to the cave today, but the writing yielded no new information. Not that I thought it would. I've read what's on that wall a thousand times. A hundred thousand. But I have to keep trying. A million times if that's what it takes. But it's mine, now, and I have all the time in the world.

July Eighth, 2008

The damn thing is a puzzle. I awoke at four o'clock this morning to the sound of Rex barking. Seems as though that damn dog is always barking at some animal in the yard. But when I got downstairs, I saw him standing in front of the stone, which I had placed on the dining room table the evening before. The stone was exhibiting a strong blue glow, which illuminated the room like a Christmas tree, after all the lights have been strung up on it. And I could shadows on the wall of strange shapes the flitted about, as though around the sphere, but I could not make out any such shapes in the stone. Hurrying to the wall switch, I turned on the light to get a better look at it, and immediately the glow disappeared, and I fancied that the globe shivered slightly. The dog looked from the globe to me quizzically, and then hurried out of the room, its tail limp between its legs. I went to the stone and moved it aside, searching for some light source beneath it that would account for the strange luminescence, but I found none. I looked inside the stone, held it up to the light, but the stone appeared to be, as it always had, empty of and solid or light-producing substance. Bewildered, I put the stone down and turned off the light. The glow reappeared. I switched the light back on, and the glow went away. I repeated this process several times, until I was sure that the light was coming from inside the stone itself. Once certain of this, I examined the stone with the house lights off for some time, peering into its depths, trying to discern the source of the strange light and the vague shadows. I have come to the conclusion that this light is generated by some strange algae that lives within the globe, a strain that only exhibits light when placed in the darkness. I can only suppose that I didn't notice this when I first fetched the thing from under the ocean because I had the underwater flashlight with me at the time, and had some source of light on me ever since. The stone only luminesces in the complete absence of light. I took the thing into the living room, but the light from the streetlamps outside made the stone go dark again. I think that perhaps even starlight would make the thing go dull. There is no light at all that far down in the ocean where I found it.

I went back to the cave on the mountain again today, to read the markings first hand. I have them written down, of course, as well as the translations I made, but there is something about seeing them first hand that has an effect on a person. They say nothing about the strange light that comes from the stone, though, and gave no hint on how to open the damned thing to get at the water inside. The carvings of strange fish-like creatures are no help either. The walls show some sort of fish with four short, stubby legs hunched over a round circle that could be the stone I found. But I don't know. I can't make the connection. I prepared for this for some time, but now my inability to get any further is infuriating. Well, I will try again tomorrow, and then we will see what happens.

July Ninth, 2008

After another day of fruitlessly trying to find a way of opening the stone, I had an epiphany. I read through my notes time after time, and I finally made a connection that, now that I see it, seems quite obvious. The markings on the cave wall make constant mention of the stone in its place at the bottom of the sea, where the denizens of that depth see no sun and feel no heat. Perhaps, I thought, just as the stone shines when in darkness, it needs that coldness of those icy deeps to open. I placed the stone in my freezer and then waited anxiously for some time for the temperature to fall. When night had come again and I thought that the stone was now cool enough, I opened the freezer door. The stone was now glowing far brighter than it had before, and I knew I was on the right track. When I picked it up, I found that it was far more malleable than before, as though the hard exterior had turned to rubber. I placed the stone in a large metal bowl I had purchased for this task, and quickly obtained a sharp knife. Gently probing the surface of the stone, I concluded that it could indeed be punctured quite easily. I did so, taking care so as not to burst the stone like a water balloon, and the water spilled out into the bowl. At last! After months of research into translating the babble on that stone wall, ages spent decoding what those words meant in their description of the location of the stone, now, I had my prize in front of me! Hesitating not, I pulled the soft casing out, now that it was empty of what I wanted, and put the bowl to my lips. I downed the water in one swift draught. It was cool and salty and not at all unpleasant to taste. As I write this, I am lying in bed, waiting for the water to take effect. I am sure it will live up to my expectations.

July Tenth, 2008

As soon as I awoke this morning, I knew that the waters had worked. Not only did they meet my expectations, they went far beyond my wildest hopes. Right away, I felt a strange new source of energy. I am no longer young, but this vitality I have now was something I could not have dreamed of even in the flower of my youth. I jumped out of bed and bounded down the stairs, jumping clean over Rex as he lay on the landing. In the kitchen, I prepared myself a hearty breakfast of eggs, toast, waffles, bacon, juice, and milk. I swear I ate more this morning than I have in the past week! I have such a limitless, bounding energy, I hardly know what to do with myself! I decided to go out for a run on the beach, but the sun beat down so strongly that I decided to swim instead. I must have been three, four hours in the water, and yet when I climbed out of the water, soaked to the bone, I felt hardly tired at all! It's incredible! I hardly knew what to do with my newfound strength, so when I went inside and toweled myself off, I set to making a list of the things I would do. I had decided on several, including climbing the mountain, running in a marathon, etc., by lunch, at which time I polished off a meal equally as large as that morning's. I realized that the way things were going, I would soon have to go to the supermarket to resupply, but I resolved to do that tomorrow. My God! This strength! This power! All my efforts were worth it, all my dreams fulfilled! I burst out laughing at the strangest times, now, so happy I am. It's mine, all this power! Mine!

July Eleventh, 2008

The feeling of strength is still there, and I'm hopeful now that it will never fade. I had worried a little before that the water was only temporary, that I would need a constant supply of it to maintain my power, but I think now that it is a permanent thing. Good God what power! The sun was very overbearing today, with temperatures in the nineties, so I decided not to make a trip to the store. Instead, I did some reparations on the house I had been meaning to do for some time, but had never gotten around to for the intense physical effort I knew they would require. But, with the stone's waters, I finished them all in a matter of hours and felt just as fresh as when I had started. I wonder what Rex thinks of his master now, seeing him jump around the house as frisky as a young man of twenty.

July Twelfth, 2008

Stores are getting a little low now, but I'm pretty sure that things will last out for a while longer. The heat wave has consisted, if not intensified. I turned up the air conditioner, and that seemed to help. Not wanting to go outside in the hot sun, I stayed in and reread my notes, looking to see if there were any other powers hinted at in the wall markings besides strength. I found a mention of new life, and indeed I feel as though I have a completely new life now, but besides that, nothing. Well, I am going to keep searching. It gives me something to occupy my time.

July Thirteenth, 2008

That damned heat! The air conditioner's reading a constant sixty degrees, but it's sweltering in here! It must be eighty-five, ninety degrees, and still the damn AC says it's putting out sixty degree air! I lowered the temperature again, and it's gotten a little cooler. I called the repairman, and he said he'd be along in a week or two. The bastard. I'm going to die in here, and he laughs and says he's all booked up. The asshole. I've got half a mind to go down there and show him a thing or two, but it is very bright outside. Too bright. I closed all the curtains, but that doesn't cut out all the light. The dining room is very nice, though. No windows in there. Very nice. I sat in there with Rex. He's a good dog. Though near the end of the day he started whining to go out. He has this very high squeak that just irritates me sometimes. There's something about it I can't stand. But when it got dark, I let him out and he began barking and I hated that worse. And it's still so hot! I think I might move a couch up to the attic. There's a room air conditioner up there. That would be nice. Very nice.

July Fourteenth, 2008

The attic room is nice. But the sun! It woke me up this morning, shining its damnable rays on my face! I could have screamed it was so bright! That wouldn't do. Not at all. I found my tools in the kitchen under the sink and set about boarding up the window. It was hard work. I had to stay out of the sun as much as possible. When I finished, I found black paper from my notes and put that up also. That made me hungry. I don't have any food right now. I ate it all. I will wait until dark. Then I will go buy some food. I am hungry. So damn hungry!

That damn dog! Why did it make me do that? It hated me. But it doesn't matter. It's gone now. I was in the front hall. I was waiting for the sun to fall, and Rex was whining again. I hate that whine! It scratched at the front door. It wanted to go out and I couldn't let it out because of the damn sun! The sun! It wasn't all the way down yet, but as soon as it was I was going to let Rex out. It knew that, didn't it? Damn dog! It caught the curtain in its claw and dragged it down and the sun came in with its blinding rays! The damn sun! I had the hammer in my hand. The cool metal felt nice on my face. So nice. But the sun! The damn sun came in and burned me and blinded me and Rex whined and barked and whimpered and the damn sun! Before I knew it ha ha Maxwell Edison. Now it is in the front hall. I don't want to move it now. The sun is still out. And I am so hungry. The dog is in the front hall. Hungry. Sun. Attic.

july fifteenth 2008

i moved the dog. what was ha ha left of it. it smelled. the sun. damn sun. i miss it a little. it was a good dog. except the whines. i hated the whines. i put more paper up. that helps a little. the sun is so bright today. and so hot. it burns me. it does. i want it to go away but there is no away. the water. the water is cold and dark and there is no sun down there. but i can't get there with the sun in the way. when it is night i will go down to the water where it is cold and dark and far away from the sun. i will be gone from the sun. i am hungry so hungry. there's no food anymore. and i need to eat. when the sun goes away i will go out into the water where it is cold and dark and i will find food to eat because i am hungry. so hungry. but i will eat. i have to eat. we must eat. hungry.

sixteen

a man came today. he brought the sun in. i told him to come upstairs where it is cold and dark and there is the metal hammer to help me stay cold. he said it was cold in the house. too cold. he opened a window. he brought in the sun and the warm and took away the cold and the dark. but i had my hammer. and the cold and the dark came back. i was hungry. so hungry. my stomach made loud noises and cried for food. i needed food. i was hungry. i gave them food. i wasnt so hungry anymore.

(Note: the following page of the diary contained indecipherable symbols, written in increasingly illegible script. Next to each line there is text in English, as it appears that Skall wrote the translation for his mad scribbles. The following page was missing, torn forcefully out of the diary, leaving only one half of a line of text. Included here is what was written in English, in the order it appears in the diary.)

Hunger
Feed
Young
Dark
Cold and dark
I dwell in the cold and the dark.
We live in the deep cave in the depths.
Dread Yahsofehn dwells in the icy depths, and gives birth to a thousand thousand young.
We feed and eat and grow and live and dwell in the cave of Dread Yahsofehn beneath the tumultuous waves of the sea.
We are nearly complete, and we rest while we grow, but soon we will swarm free, free to return to the sea from whence we came.
We will rise again and return to the land, and bring with us a thousand (This line is half removed, as is the rest of the page. The diary continues on the next page as normal.)

My God. I don't even know what day it is. I've been drifting in and out of consciousness for I don't know how long, reality blurred in with fantasy and views of the underwater. I woke up this morning in the attic room in complete darkness, half frozen, wearing absolutely no clothes. Wet footprints lead from the trapdoor to where I sat, but I don't remember going into the water or even leaving the house. There's blood on my lips, and I don't think it's mine. I think I remember Alex coming here, but he's gone and I don't want to look under the back porch. I can taste salt, and I don't know if it's tears or sea water. I'm scared. Something has gone horribly wrong with me, and I don't know what to do.

I was looking at the last few pages of my diary, which I must have written in my delirium, but I don't remember it. I don't know how. I certainly can't write in the cave script that's in my diary. I will translate it though. I think my notes are thorough enough for it. Many of the symbols look familiar, as though I'd seen them before.

My God! It's so clear now! I will kill myself. I think by taking my own life I can destroy them as well. But if I fail, I will leave behind this diary, so that others who find it may know of the horrors that lurk beneath the depths. I can only hope that they will succeed if I do not. What a fool I was! To hope to gain power immortal by mixing with that which was old when the world was young. A fool! A damn fool! I have destroyed all that links to that dead hole beneath the sea, even braving the sun to take a hammer and chisel to the walls of the cave that first sent me on this cursed quest. Because of a connection I made, one I did not realize before. The ancient word for stone is the same as the word for egg. And now I can feel my stomach twitching and gurgling in the most frightful ways, and I know what I have done. I have read what I wrote when under the control of the mad things that grow inside me, of their crazed plans for rising up and returning to the land, where they lived once before, and the drawings on the cave wall become clear. If I do not take action, I will bear the young of the Dread Yahsofehn and bring a new reign of destruction to the world. I will do whatever it takes stop this, and only wish that they are not yet formed enough to withstand bleach. I have thought long on this, and decided that this is the best way to ensure their death. I would use fire, for these things loathe light and heat, but I have no way of ensuring that the blaze catch, or that they would take control of me once more and run me from the flames to the water. I can feel them inside me, squirming about one another and wriggling in the most abhorrent fashion. I will destroy them, but I still have little hope for mankind. Because when I went down to the cave on that last wretched dive, I picked one stone. But I think there were more. God Help Us All, I think there were more!

(Here, the diary ends.)

I'm including here a picture of what I did with the initial writing about the creation of the egg. Here is the English version, the version in the language that I created, and the phoenetic pronunciation of the symbols in English. Sorry for the poor quality, but I don't have a scanner.

3 comments:

blackgirlart said...

Whoa - this is deep - like a noir tolkein or something. I will have to read more closely.

Ok son, is this the prequel for the Nanowrimo novel?

your mommy who voted today!

Ben said...

TL DR.

On the real this looks intense. I will read it when I get time. Like tomorrow during Health.

But WHY ISNT IT IN SPANISH???
Is your spanish improving?

I visited NYU this weekend and I think it's my new first choice. The city of syracuse is going to pay my FULL TUITION if I get in (long story) so I'd be essentially living in the city in a rent controlled apartment and taking free classes.

Nothing else to report, except this:

(CNN) -- Despite his sagging poll numbers, Sen. John McCain said Sunday that he is "very happy with where we are" and very proud of his campaign [...] "Those polls have consistently shown me much further behind than we actually are. It all depends on the voter turnout ... we're doing fine." [...] McCain said Palin "needs no defense."

"I don't defend her. I praise her," McCain said. "She has more executive experience than Sen. [Joe] Biden and Sen. Obama together."

McCain acknowledged that he and Palin disagree on some issues, but said it was "because we are both mavericks."

Tom said...

Well I read it, and I loved it.