Footsteps – Chapter 4 Scrabbling in the Dark

Next month I will be releasing the first novel in my Austerley and Kirkgordon adventure series about a pair of investigators into the paranormal. In order for readers to get a feel for my characters I will be releasing a short story prelude before launch day and as I am especially good to my blog readers, I am going to serialise it here. So take a trip into the depths of a lost graveyard in search of Eldar things with Messers Austerley & Kirkgordon and find out how this diverse pair became entangled in horrors from the past.

Scrabbling in the Dark

It was a weird hunt beneath the ground for whatever we were looking for. Austerley would point over my shoulder, rarely speaking, almost afraid to make a sound. I could just about make out his arm pointing from behind and the direction seemed fairly random to me. The infra-red goggles were letting me see but without any reference points it was hard to work out where I was going.

Austerley would chant quietly behind me from time to time, words I have never heard. It felt very freaky, like having the devil at your back and I was looking forward to getting out of there, grabbing my money and heading home. I remember thinking to myself that next time I’d sneak off for a week’s golf if I got itchy feet. A large sand bunker holds no fear compared with this sort of moonlight shenanigans.

A tentacle appeared in my two o’clock and I jumped back pistol drawn, before I realised it wasn’t moving. Although the infra red distorts the colour of objects, something told me it was grey. A murmured rebuke from Austerley about “why was I jumping?” led to taking his hand and letting him feel the wall ahead. As I scanned the wall, the image was clearly some sort of octopus with elongated tentacles and a type of moustache effect around its mouth.

The image sent Austerley into a excited frenzy and he mentioned something about some guy named Hu-tu-loo. Meant absolutely nothing to me. Also something about a hydra. Now that I do know. It’s in the Greek legends, I read them when young. Seven headed beast who was struck down by Perseus, or Hercules, or one of the other demi-gods.

Part of me was quite relaxed at this point as I believed the lunatic I was accompanying might be satisfied, shoot a few photos and then we would get ourselves back up to the soon-to-rise sun. But no, onward Austerley insisted. Onward. I explained about the twine in my pocket as a way back and he just tutted. Reaching inside, I realised the twine was becoming a rather thin ball. From my rucksack I took out some automated flares. I would be able to drop these at various points and upon activation from my remote device, they would burn for approximately thirty minutes, marking a route.

Austerley reckoned this was all a waste of time and he hopped from one foot to the other in the dark insisting we follow the wall. We made our way along the wall, stopping occasionally with Austerley making a rubbing of the frieze. Officer, the pictures on the wall got no saner than the creature I saw at the start. One in particular one affected Austerley as he felt the design on the wall. He began to shake a little and his face, from what I could tell of it, took on a worried frown. I asked what the problem was and got told to shush, and then one word. One single word but delivered in a slow and hoarse whisper. Shuggoth. That was all and a hand signal to continue.

About twenty minutes later, I had run through all of my delayed flares and I brought Austerley to a stop. He protested in a hushed voice but I asked him how we were meant to find our way back. The stupid arse then stormed off further into the dark and I was left in a quandary. Should I go and fetch him or do I wait? As it was, my decision was made for me.

There was a tentacle in the dark. At first I thought I might have just seen a relief in the dark but then it hooked Austerley by the foot. The professor fell hard and landed on his shoulder in the process. A number of other tentacles could then been seen grabbing hold of him. I pulled my weapon and discharged it into the darkness. Yes Officer, I know. I had no positive sighting of what was doing it but hey, I was deep under the ground surrounded by pictures of the weirdest of creatures. I think you might have just fired a few shots too.

There was a scream. No wait, that sounds too human. There was a sound, a cross between a fog horn and white noise. Painful, penetrating, and yet having a deep enough resonance to believe there was an intelligence behind it. Then something hit my back. I was wearing the backpack and that probably saved me because the pack was sliced in two dropping my weapons, ammunition and other tools onto the floor. I knew where Austerley was and I fired off a dispersed pattern into the dark seeking out my attacker.

Something grabbed my leg just below the knee and I fell to the floor, scrabbling in the dark. I know Austerley was alive as I could hear his squeals. Desperately fumbling around for a flash-bang, I called out to Austerley encouraging him to try to make towards my voice. He answered in pain and panic but was coherent. So I searched the immediate area and found a flash-bang, closed my eyes and pulled the pin. Before tossing it, I cried out “fire in the hole.”

Austerley, to my knowledge, has never been a military man. Everything about him told me so but I still expected that he would understand my call. But he didn’t. The flash-bang went off and there were shrieks from whatever was out there, and also from Austerley. He became wild, shouting out all sorts of things in languages I don’t understand. I could just about see him at the edge of my goggles’ range. Screaming something about a place called Rayleigh-a, he had his arms thrashing but was entangled by some tentacles.

I could have left him. No, I should have left him and the world would probably be a better and safer place but I’m a professional and he was my client. So I ran forward but slammed into something which then sprayed a liquid over my face. As it bounced back off me, I saw a half digested face and was taken aback, for I knew the face.

When we had been in his office Austerley had talked about the two men whom he was following. One was Carter but the other was Harley Warren, the man who had been the driving force and also the member of the party to not return. He perished down the same hole more than an hundred years before. Yet tell me Officer, how is that I saw half his face, six inches away, down that cursed hole? Yes, I see you think I’m crazy, lost the plot. But I’m a pro, I hold my nerve in these things and I know a face. I don’t know how, and strike me down if I’m wrong, but that was the long deceased Harley Warren.

Will our heroes emerge from these depths? Join Austerley and Kirkgordon in two days time. Or if you can’t wait, read the whole story now on Wattpad

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G R Jordan author, poet, and top Dad apparently!