Footsteps is the prelude to my debut novel “Crescendo!” and details how Austerley and Kirkgordon met for the first time in a statement to the american police made by Kirkgordon. From a life of retirement from protection services, the bored Kirkgordon embarks on one last gig to keep himself from becoming stir crazy at family life. But he doesn’t see the dangers being around the ever curious Professor Austerley entails. Read the story below.
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Dedicated to Al, look what you got me into.
Table of Contents
Meeting the Professor
A Little Night Excursion
Scrabbling in the Dark
Battling Blind Something’s Coming Up the Stairs
Epilogue About the Author
“I swear if I see Austerley again, I’ll kill him myself. The man’s a lunatic, and he wants putting down for the good of society.”
The cop waved his open hands gesturing the patient to calm down. Before entering the room, the cop had been warned not to excite the man or to take him onto subjects that weren’t normal. When he had asked what sort of a request that was meant to be, he had been told that the man was delusional and constantly on his nerves. Oh well he had better try and get some sort of statement.
The man in question, known only as Churchy due to a conversation overheard by the driver that spotted them, was settling back in his pillow. The doctor had said his back looked like it had been ripped open by claws or incredibly long, sharp nails. His face bore several long scars and his left elbow and right ankle were broken. Yet he had been seen carrying another man, Indy, on his shoulders before collapsing at the side of the Gainsville Pike, not far from Big Cypress Swamp.
The other man was unconscious when the ambulance had arrived to collect them but was starting to come round. The cop deduced this from the screams and shouts he had heard in the corridor, in the main referring to a Mr. “Warren”. It was now nearly 4am and the coffee machine had broken. It would be a long night, possibly morning.
“Okay sir, I understand you are somewhat disturbed by what’s going on and given the injuries you seem to have received I guess that’s to be expected. But I need to work out what’s happening and hopefully even contact your family. So we are going to go through this from the top. Right back to the start and just tell me everything, as you saw it or heard it. Is that okay, Mr.?”
“Kirkgordon. Mr Kirkgordon.” “Are you, Churchy?”
“That’s what that lunatic calls me. But it’s just Kirkgordon.” The man looked straight ahead, eyes fixed on the centre of the wall.
“Sir, what are you doing?”
“Remembering officer, just remembering.” “Okay, and it’s Gordon. Mr. Kirk Gordon?” “No, just Kirkgordon.”
“And your first name?” But the man was gone back into the past few weeks. So the cop grabbed his pencil, flicked open his notebook and listened. And then wrote. And wondered and also hoped that this was all just a druggie’s nightmare.
Meeting the Professor
It was two months ago when Simmons got me the contact. I used to be a bodyguard, close quarter protection for businessmen and various others of note. Went all over the world actually. It’s not the best job for the wife and kids but it did pay well and I certainly enjoyed it. Moreover, I was damn good at it. But the family thing got to me and I reckoned I needed some more time at home.
Alana did too. That’s my wife. She would get at me about coming home and to be honest, I think she was a little jealous of the high life I looked after. Understand, I didn’t live that high life. I just looked after it and it paid me well. But she’s a jealous one in some ways. She used to get annoyed at seeing the women on the arm of my clients. In fact, I think she thought I was in some way playing around with them. Don’t get me wrong, women have always turned my head, none more than Alana. But I’ve never been unfaithful. But that doesn’t count for much when you are half the world away with the competition. At least that’s where I reckoned she was coming from.
So, I came back and for a while things were good but work was scarce. We were living on not a lot. And to be truthful, I was bored in some ways. I mean how dumb can a guy be. Gorgeous wife, and at a point where she’s really happy to see you, I mean all over each other happy. Two great kids to be with. Decent house, home and friends. But I’m bored. Needing the edge. Hungry for a kick. So I told her we needed the money and I had to do one last job.
And that’s where Simmons comes in. I used to work with him in the business and he put a lot of clients my way. So I told him my little dilemma and he thought he was being wise. He knew I wasn’t really in the zone and probably couldn’t handle a full-on protection job. But he had this guy who wanted looking after. Simmons says the guy’s a bit weird but is paying well and will probably not be involved in anything hot. Just a little jaunt to let off steam. And it’s in America, so I can get clear for a bit and stretch my wings.
Alana was pretty pissed at me, as you can imagine, but I reckon she understood what I needed to do, even if she didn’t like it. And two weeks later I was flying business class over to New England and off to a place called Arkham in Massachusetts.
The man in question, no actually, bollocks to that. The lunatic in question was Professor Austerley of Miskatonic University, based in Arkham. I can still remember meeting him at the airport. He had insisted coming to collect me himself, even though I had said I would pick up a hire car.
The weather was blistering hot, especially for someone like myself used to a wet, west coast British climate. I had my cap on and a light shirt with my jeans and trainers. But this clown is there in heavy corduroy trousers, a Grateful Dead t-shirt and a Parka jacket. Bloody big, black Doc Martin boots too. And he was sweating like a pig. I honestly thought at first he was a tramp. And I said to myself, flaming Americans, such a mess of a country. No offence, Officer.
Then he spoke. East Coast Scotland. Very soft accent. One of our own, I couldn’t believe it. And his first words too. “How much weaponry do you carry?” What is that? I’m a professional and he just comes out with that in public. It was obvious from the start he was a rank amateur.
So I said to him, Mr. Austerley, we generally talk about work details in private and suggested we go to his office. All I got was a grunt and he walked off, leaving me to grab my stuff and follow. We walked to the car park and I saw some quite modest but reliable cars and my opinion improved of him briefly.
But he stepped round these and got into a right rust bucket. Didn’t help that as I sat in the passenger seat he lets go a right humdinger. Sorry that’s breaking wind for you yanks. You know, a fart. Smelly bugger. And then he gives it total silence all the way back to his university.
Now the university is something else. You drive in the gates to the professor’s car park and it smacks of old time New England. I’m no expert but there’s those big sash windows and ornate ends at the roof tops. Really old school feeling. And I said this to him, all about it. Do you know what he says back? Philistine, just Philistine. Stuck-up arse. But I’m a professional so I just let it go, after all he’s paying.
We walked up big wooden staircases, all the way to the top of the wing we are in. Right at the top was his office. Now it was a total mess. Books everywhere. Mainly very old ones and lots of languages I don’t understand. There’s a photo of what I believed to be Russia. There was all those furry hats and that and I think I saw the Kremlin in the background. Some woman on his arm too.
We hadn’t even sat down when this woman charged into his office and grabbed a book off his desk. He shouted at her but she cut him a look that would have brought down a horse.
“This, Professor Austerley, is a reference only book. More than that, it is from the special section, the locked away section for those books that shouldn’t be in free circulation. You should understand that with your job. Kindly refrain from this dangerous activity. I shall be speaking to the Dean again.”
And with that she whirled her way back out of the crowded office with the volume in question. I remember she was small but had such fiery eyes behind solid round glasses. Kind of woman that takes no crap.
Austerley just snorted at her back and told me to sit down. He threw down a map and began to explain his plan.
To be honest, the next hour was full of quite dry talk about his research. Don’t get me wrong, he was passionate enough but I was bored. Austerley would talk about a man named Carter, in whose footsteps he was following. Apparently, the man had been on a search for truth and had found a dark and depressing answer. Coupled with this, he had jumped into clocks, travelled to the moon with various cats, conversed with creatures of a shadow world and bizarrely, this was to be our start point, waited atop a New England grave for a friend of his that hadn’t returned from a visit underground.
You’re laughing and I did too. Absolute nut job, I thought. But hey, he was paying the money and you don’t freak out the client. The excursion to the grave was to be in two night’s time and at least I would get a decent night’s sleep before we started. I asked what kind of resistance we could meet in our underground trip. Not expecting to have to do much, I found his response weird. Carter’s friend, a Mr. Warren who had been lost in their expedition, was believed to have encountered creatures from older times. Possibly from outer space, these beings could converse with us but were extremely lethal. Austerley suggested an arsenal that would have made me look like a Hollywood front man on speed. I thought him crazy and decided on a minimal compliment. I wish I had taken his advice. Understand, Austerley is insane in that he searches out these things but he knows them well. Damn him, he was right.
We adjourned and he muttered something about lunch but I made my excuses, collecting my arsenal, and decided to relax at my hotel. Time for some freedom. As I passed down the halls of Miskatonic University, I was stopped by one of the professors, Kenton – Ancient Literature, I think he said. He enquired whether I was going on Austerley’s graveyard shift to which I gave a non-committal response. That’s a standard reaction to someone talking about a client’s business. But the man laughed, talking about the great circus act, making out we would be going in the clown car. He wasn’t funny but I did get the point. Non-plussed, I continued my exit before I was accosted by three men in suits.
One introduced himself as the Chancellor of the university and asked me to accompany them to a nearby room. Once inside a wooden panelled library, I was offered a seat and asked if I was intending to accompany Prof. Austerley on his expedition. The tone was serious, too serious. I, again, became non-committal on the subject but the men’s faces were grim. I sat for the next half hour listening to their worries about Austerley’s actions. They stated he was delving into things that should be kept hidden. Things that could change the world as we knew it and things which we could not affect.
Everything was mumbo-jumbo to me. I didn’t understand half of the terms they used and their great anger at Austerley reading “the book”, whatever novel that was. They talked of expeditions to the South Pole that had been hushed up, kept from the public because the events were too horrifying to state. I was subjected to a list of New England phenomena in towns I don’t even know, all showing a trend that these beings were already here and active and possibly coming again. But I was tired and told them I wished to take my leave. The Dean grabbed my arm and looked me straight in the eye.
“Alright Kirkgordon, be a fool if you must. But whatever you do, don’t let these things out, don’t show them the surface. And don’t dwell on what you find or they will become the inhabitants of your mind, and life will become a dark, meaningless void, occupied by every horror you can conceive. Stay away!”
I got the feeling there was maybe a bit more to this business than I suspected. Maybe one of the other
professors would interrupt our journey. A feud over academic prowess, or a spat about the size of their journals. Who knew? But it didn’t scare me. These guys were light-weight compared to some of the things I had dealt with before. But I decided to increase my weapons itinerary in case some hired help intervened. Nothing severe, just precautionary. Best decision I have ever made in my life. If I hadn’t I’d be dead, Austerley would be dead, and New England would have the depths of hell to deal with.
I know it sounds crazy and I wouldn’t believe it either. Except I was there and I have seen these things. Damn Austerley for his curiosity. When I was in the room last night, I thought I saw them coming, with their arms, hands and the other stuff. Appendages. At times like octopus’ arms, sometimes insect legs, feelers, all manner of things but as large as ourselves. And the eyes. I didn’t sleep last night. Your Sergeant must have said. Even the sedation didn’t work. Nothing can. Nothing keeps those faces away. Dear God, I hope it worked.
A Little Night Excursion
We met up at a roadside café, just off the Gainsborough Pike. Austerley seemed kind of nervous but I was hungry as it was 2am and I hadn’t eaten since eight. So we sat for maybe half an hour. I demolished three eggs, bacon and some fries whilst Austerley joined me on chewing some Java. Tell me something Officer. Who in their right mind makes their coffee as thick as you guys do? I mean, really. Java’s bitter enough. Though, to be fair, it was better than the nonsense in this plastic cup in front of me.
So we got into the car and headed off down the Pike road, taking a few turns where Austerley pointed until we came across a graveyard. 3am and it’s pitch black. You could barely see a thing but at least it was warm. Very warm. I was sweating as I donned my black garb, secured my pistols, flash-bangs and grenades. But Austerley, he’s there in the combat trousers and boats, big coat and t-shirt underneath. You’ve never seen a man sweat so much.
And his equipment. It was just bizarre. He had a couple of books, large weighty tomes with all the backing peeling off. A little rucksack which he unpacked and repacked with all sorts of chemicals and test-tubes. And then there was all the little knick-knacks. Apparently, all of them had some sort of protective powers in case we ran into the same things as Warren.
That’s when I asked him what he thought he was doing. He looked at me as if I was the lunatic. I told him straight, “all you go on about is the danger form these space beasts and how Warren wasn’t prepared and died. How Carter ran a mile afterwards and then went off to the moon with cats and had all sorts of other messy encounters. Everything you talk about is bleak, unholy and just plain bad. So why do you want to go in there?” Do you know what he said, Officer? He said some of the things were things of beauty, of wonder and power. Bloody crackers. I told him the waitress at the café, she was a thing of beauty, or my children and wife, things of beauty. Not this crap.
And then he huffed on me. Flaming huffed. He turned, wouldn’t speak and proceeded to get a spade from the boot of the car. Sorry, trunk to you. Trunk of the car. And he heads over to the graveyard. I had to whip out my flash-light before he went arse over tit, over one of those big headstones that lie flat on the ground. Still, I thought, he’s the client, let’s just get it done.
We wandered round that graveyard for about twenty minutes. I mean, you’ve seen it. It’s not exactly that big is it? But he’s got his face in the book, and I’m now working two torches. One over his shoulder lighting the book and the other clocking the uneven ground. Fortunately there’s no sound of anyone watching. I asked to do a precautionary sweep but he was to keen to go down the tunnel in the ground. I wasn’t bothered because there had been no signs of disturbance in the graveyard or around. I see the wisdom in that now.
Eventually he decides which is the right gravestone to lift. It’s far from the biggest but it was overgrown and took a good twenty minutes digging to loosen away the ground around it. I did the digging because the sweat factory himself looked like he was going to keel over anyway. Before he’ll let me move the stone he chants into the air in some unintelligible language and spreads out some sort of spice. It was all very Dracula.
With that done, I whipped the headstone off to one side. It was heavy but nothing too bad. And there’s a hole. Man-sized with some steps disappearing down into the darkness. I shone the flash-light down into the blackness and he smacked my hand. No lights. In case we disturb them. Flipping madness. He took
out this little stick with a bulb on the end giving off a dim green glow. Looked like a kid’s night light. Well I thought bollocks to that. Went back and took my night vision goggles out from the car. When I returned, he was standing there impatient, like I had cocked up getting these. Without a word, he takes a step down into the hole but I grabbed him and said I would go first. He gave me all this nonsense about what use would I be with the things that were down below. So I said why are you paying me and pushed past him. Sometimes you can’t give the client a choice. Anyway, I didn’t believe there would be any space creatures.
We started down some steps, twisting round and round, descending into the ground. I thought they would go on forever but eventually they broke off into an area. This bothered me because I couldn’t see any edges, any walls. There was just the steps behind me and no sides. There was a roof to the vast room, probably eight foot from the floor. Now I am in a quandary. There’s a serious danger we could get lost. I tried the GPS on my watch but it wasn’t showing any satellites. So I consulted my client as to what he would do.
Onward, that’s all he would say, just onward. So I took an executive decision and looked into my rucksack for a large ball of twine I had. The steps were of a smooth construction, very primitive but functional. I was able to wrap the twine round the base of the steps several times before tying it as an anchor point. I stuffed the twine into my pocket and zipped the aperture closed to a point where only a thin line of twine could escape. Satisfied I had my retreat secured, I told Austerley to put a hand on my shoulder.
It did cross my mind to just race off quickly and lose the fool as he had already deposited my pay in the bank. But I am a professional, even if retired, and it would be against my ethics. I damn well wish I had done it now. But instead I led my blind paymaster across the void in front of us into the wildest nightmare I have ever seen. Please don’t look up that headstone. There’s nothing of use to find there, nothing of hope. Keep it closed. For the love of God, please keep it closed.
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 infrared 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 on the wall. I’ll tell you, Officer, that the pictures on the wall got no saner than the creature I saw at the start. There was one particular one that struck 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 most worried frown. I asked what the problem was and got told to promptly 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. Do 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 to the floor 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 noise like a cross between a fog horn and white noise. Painful and 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 other 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. Austerley was still alive as I could hear his squeals. I desperately fumbled around for a flash-bang, calling out to Austerley to try to make towards my voice. He answered in pain and panic but was sensible. So I searched the immediate area and found a flash-bang, closing my eyes and pulling the pin. 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.
My pack was distributed all over the floor and as I scrabbled in the dark, I managed to pick up various items. Finding a pistol and a spare magazine, I was able to fire off rounds for about fifteen seconds which kept whatever was out there from me. Warren’s face was imprinted on my mind but the infra-red goggles meant I had some idea where the attacks were coming from. At this time they were tentacles that whipped towards me from the dark and I rolled and fired with moderate success.
Then I was caught behind the head which pitched me forward but also knocked my goggles from my face. I heard them hit the floor in a despairing crunch and was completely blind. Fortunately, I was able to find a knife on the floor and began wildly slashing all around me. Austerley’s screams could still be heard, bizarre chants and wails interspersing full-on shrieks.
The next period of time was a mad slash and hack for survival. Several times I was caught on my torso by a whipping action, I assume a tentacle, and was hurtled across the open space. Thankfully I never collided with the wall. Thoughts of Austerley were gone as I couldn’t locate him and I was wondering how I would get out of this hell-hole. Suffice to say I was purely on instinct at this time until the I was hit by something massive.
I was tense when it hit me from scouring the dark for the next attack but I wasn’t expecting to be gorged on my back. I don’t know what it was but it felt like an articulated, sorry you’re American, a juggernaut smashed into my back. Sailing through the air I thought I was a goner. My right ankle collided with the wall first and I reckon I pivoted it slightly so that my elbow connected hardest with the wall. The elbow was smashed, as you can see here, and my ankle felt like it had broke too. I had good quality boots on which probably saved my ankle to a degree.
Normally I would react by getting clear in any direction but I now knew the wall was near me and it was my only escape route. With my right hand I searched the floor around me and found a flash-bang. The pin wasn’t easy to pull but a combination of my knees and and right hand extracted it and I quickly tossed the device into the dark, shutting my eyes.
Howls, wild howls in voices I have never heard before, followed its detonation. I’ve been in many bad situations and seen some horrors but I have never felt like I did then yet it was only an audible terror. Getting to my feet I tested my ankle which screamed at me. Dropping down again, I felt for my laces, pulling them clear down to the ankle before wrapping them tightly around it. Standing again, it was still painful, but usable.
I leant against the wall and began to half-run half-stagger along it hoping to avoid the creatures, praying they wouldn’t react from the blinding light of the flash-bang before I was able to put some distance between us. But there was something on the floor, I don’t know what, which I tripped over. I was able to break my fall with my right arm and a half-roll. Reaching down with my good hand to stand again, it happened upon a small device. A quick feel alerted me to the fact it was the activation device for the beacons I had dropped.
There were scraping sounds in the dark and howls and grunts but I ignored them and pressed the beacons into life. Surprised to see only some eighty percent of the beacons ahead, I glanced back to find the rest behind me. In their light I could see Austerley being held by a creature of some sort. It seemed bulky, even in the poor light and possibly had others congregated around it. Austerley was in pain but was
making no sound. His eyes were wide open and showed such a profound horror, there was no need for a cry to express it.
I should have left him. They seemed more interested in him anyway. Nothing was chasing me at that point, as far as I could tell. I could have sneaked away, just left the insane fool to a well deserved fate. But I’m a professional, like yourself Officer. I might not have a badge but there’s an internal code.
The contents of my pack had been scattered but in the poor light I recognised the shape of my grenades. There was the shape of my gun close by as well, hopefully with a clip that wasn’t empty. I’d say there was a plan forming but really it was a gung-ho moment. Three grenades. One after another. In a direction that was away from the wall and would cause most damage I hoped to the creatures holding Austerley. I turned my head from each blast, shielding my eyes.
Following the last explosion, I ran towards where Austerley had been and found him lying on his back. His eyes were wide open, the whites reflecting the beacon’s light but there was no motion in them. I slapped him hard and he responded. Grabbing his hair, I pulled him up and told him to run. But he shrieked in a language I didn’t understand and so I pointed him and booted him in the arse. What? Yes, ass as you say. It was then I threw up. Man, the stink. I realised I was treading on the insides of creatures and was thankful of the poor light. But we couldn’t wait so I drove myself after Austerley.
A good job that I did for I heard other creatures stirring and coming after us. Whenever I saw shadows behind us I fired into the dark. As we reached the last beacon, I dove to the ground seeking the twine. My fingers found the blessed cord and shouting at Austerley to follow I started along the string’s path. But the stupid fool didn’t follow. He was wild and hysterical. I hadn’t got this far to now leave him, so in the little light the beacons gave at this distance, I managed to run round Austerley catching him in a loop of twine and began the string’s path again, pulling the crazed professor behind me.
Something’s Coming Up the Stairs
I think I had a strength heightened by the terror. It’s the only way I can imagine that we covered the ground at such at good pace. As we were heading away from the beacons, the darkness began to engulf again and I was running in total darkness. Behind me I heard the gibbering of Austerley between his deep breaths. But farther back there were other sounds. Unholy voices, shrieks, howls, laughs if I was to guess at them. And a thumping. Like hundreds of feet pelting after us. There was no rhythm to it, nothing to which my imagination could grab and produce a picture in my mind. Maybe I should have been thankful but, in honesty, it chilled me more than anything else I have ever fled from.
I believe Austerley knew what it was because from the moment it started he was easier to pull along, in fact, I was only steering him. He said so many words at the time, many of them in languages I didn’t know but he did say that word again. Said it a lot. Shuggoth. So maybe it was that. It’s easier to put a name to it, as it makes me less fearful but in that dark I knew no names. Just the sense of approaching terror, a devilish chaser, a Satan on our backs. And we ran, beaten bodies, broken ankles and lacerations a-plenty hindering us for sure, but Officer we ran!
I knew it was a risk. Somewhere in the back of my mind, something said, Kirkgordon, my son, don’t forget the stairs. But the terror was such that I was just running and I ran smack into the very stairs that were meant to carry us to safety. It was my shoulder that hit and I tumbled to the floor. Austerley tripped over my legs and I think he landed on the bottom steps for he started to try to climb up them.
The pounding noise of supposed feet got closer and closer and pumped even more adrenalin into my system. Desperately I fumbled around to locate the stairs, trying to use Austerley’s voice as a guide. My heart almost stopped for it took me a good fifteen seconds to locate them. I eagerly took to my flight and covered some four steps before I tumbled over Austerley who must have fallen trying to negotiate the stairs in the darkness.
And then it hit. I felt the stairs shudder and something wet splatted across my legs. It was then that I was cut across my thigh by something sharp which drove me onward. Calling to Austerley to follow I made a start. But I heard nothing human follow me. I called him by name again. No reply. But I heard something trying to squeeze itself into a narrow space. There was a grating of skin on stone, and a noise that sounded like pain from forced effort. Not that the noise had anything human about it.
Bending back down the steps, my hands found Austerley. He wasn’t moving and I had no idea of he was alive or dead. There was no time to check, with our pursuer so close, so I grabbed him by the collar and prepared to drag him. That was when I felt the breath of whatever had pummelled into the stairs. Like acidic snotty mist, its breath blew across my face and I can Imagine that was inches from me, squeezing its way up the stairs.
I didn’t think. No yells or cries of terror were uttered. In my core I was numb, frozen in feeling. Thank the Lord that my trained reactions took over and my hands seized Austerley’s collar and I dragged him with all my might. I didn’t stop, just pulling and pulling, energy sapping from me but terror driving me on. Never before have I praised the dawn such as I did then.
Dropping Austerley beside the entrance to the grave I limped my way over to the car and popped the boot, sorry trunk, although boot is proper English, you know. Yeah, I popped the boot and grabbed all the weaponry I had left. It wasn’t an enormous amount; a couple of grenades, some magazines, flash-bangs
and a few explosives. Carrying them back to the entrance I began tossing them in.
Austerley opened his eyes beside me and he began to get agitated. He asked what the hell I was doing. Ending it, I told him, bloody ending it. Do you know what the stupid arse then says? Just put the lid on. The lid, I says to him, the lid. There’s a thing coming up the stairs that tops the tentacled horrors that nearly sliced us apart and you just want to put a lid on it. Just why, I asked him, just flipping why? Now wait for this, Officer, he tells me he wants to go back down, another time to study these things. Can you imagine what I was thinking? The man wants locking up. So I said to him, Indiana Jones, that’s what you are, a sick Indy-clone. But it’s not flaming antiques you’re hunting. It’s the damned, the unholy, Satan’s own.
I told him, that as far as I was concerned, stuff like this should not be messed with. It was the stuff the good book told you to steer clear of, the evil you shouldn’t embrace. Any passing acquaintance with a church would have shown him that. And I said to him, Indy, people like you need protecting from yourself before you dump us all in your own filthy nightmares.
A Churchy telling me what to do. That’s what his response was and he tried to grab some of the gear and throw it clear. But I’d had enough. Also who knew how long we could have before that thing squeezed up the stairs. So I dropped him with my nerve grip, shut the stupid fool up. I tossed the rest of the weaponry into the hole, leaving myself one explosive to throw in and ignite the inferno. After toying briefly with tossing Austerley in as well, I dragged him clear and blew the explosives. When the dust had settled the stairs had collapsed and there was no way down anymore. I drew the stone back across. Despite being exhausted and losing blood, I thought the stone important to cover any traces. This stuff doesn’t want looked into, Officer. Promise me that, if nothing else, promise me that.
“And that is about that Officer. I went to drive the car but I didn’t have any keys, lost down below I think. Hot wiring it came to mind but to be truthful, it’s not a skill I have in abundance. Austerley was in a bad way, as was I, both losing blood and I could feel my overall capacity reducing, both mentally and physically. Listening intently, I located the nearest road and dragged the lunatic and myself over to it. It was less than a kilometre I reckon as I took the direct route.
By the time we were found, I think I was delirious and Austerley, well he was delirious too but that may have been difficult to deduce if you had known him before. Ranting is a speciality of his, especially in other languages. And I do mean other! So that’s it, Officer. And to be honest I no longer care what anyone thinks or what happens because I damn well capped it and it ain’t coming out that hole. So do the decent thing and send me home and that space cadet to the asylum he deserves.”
The officer crunched up his plastic cup and picked up his notebook before leaving the room. Outside he took a right into the small viewing room and looked at the smartly dressed man in grey overcoat, polished black shoes and bowler hat.
“Crazy story but he tells it like he believes it,” said the officer.
“Yes, he most certainly does,” agreed the bowler hatted man. “Well, I do thank you for letting me watch. On behalf of Her Majesty’s government, I am glad that we have come to an agreement on how to proceed. Mr Kirkgordon needs some rest and recuperation and Letting him seek it at home is a most excellent accommodation. As for Mr Austerley, the asylum at Arkham should suffice. A man like that certainly needs to be observed for all our good.”
“Nice working with you,” complimented the police officer shaking the man’s hand. “Take good care
mister…, mister… what did you say your name was again?”
“Farthington, Mr Farthington at your service.”
I hope you enjoyed this underground romp and if you want to hear more about Austerley and Kirkgordon, or more about my writing, then please check out the links below. Please do feedback anything you liked, or even disliked, queries, comments or maybe even your ideas for the characters’ future.
Wattpad: www.wattpad.com/user/GRJordan/about Goodreads:www.goodreads.com/author/show/8293636.G_R_Jordan
To Janet for pushing me ever forward in this writing journey and for believing even when I doubted. To my wonderful children who let their Dad have some space and allow him to be in their story.
To Jake for the most excellent artwork.
To the fantastic American gentleman who misheard my friend’s name and then sent a package to a certain Mr Austerley. Your error was a gaff of genius.
To Kathleen and the Stornoway Writer’s Group. Thanks for all the encouragement and honesty.
To God who gave me this creative talent, may He watch over me like He watches over Kirkgordon.