The Shadow on the Island

To you, and to you only my diary, will I write this epistle of horror, for I will not countenance passing on such information that may lead to other men, or women, who seek to understand the past, reaching beyond our humble station. For there we must stay lest we unleash something cataclysmic, something so dark that we would certainly lose those cursed islands, if not the world. 

Little is known about the railway that was to connect the hills of Harris with the port of Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, for the laird in charge at that time had a wisdom greater than the inquisitive fools of today. For him there was no cry to the media, to the rumour mills that existed then, but rather he was wise and hid that which he found, although he had no way of knowing how to contain such madness. That particular role was appointed to the villagers who have kept their watch silent from the world to this day. 

It had been a joy to have boarded the sleeper train up to Scotland and the highland city of Inverness, a bustling place which was seemingly expanding in a time of decline for many an English city. Passing through the snow covered mountains at night during a desperately cold January was particularly breath-taking, although my fellow passenger in the bunk above me slept soundly and did not avail himself of the views outside. Although dark, the bright moon shone its paler light off pristine fields and hills, an understated blanket of white to die for, after London’s grimy streets. 

While watching those twilight scenes of peace, I thought back to the quiet conversation that had brought me to this journey. A random trip to an open lecture at Miskatonic University on the other side of the pond (I was there vetting a paper from one of their junior history professors) had left me curious at the mention of strange cults who worshipped beings from beyond the stars. But not aliens, rather Elder gods who had once been on this earth. 

Although my brain screamed that this was fanciful nonsense, I was intrigued at the mention of the cults having existed in the United Kingdom and not just being an American invention. After the lecture, I grabbed the speaker and questioned him about the British connections. He was evasive and mumbled many things about this all being just folklore. But it was a set of myths that I did not know from my own country so I pressed him. He became vexed and refused further details saying that the lecture had been forced on him and his investigations into the matter should not have been aired. 

At the time I thought I had good fortune in that a student of the lecturer approached me saying that he did know from his senior’s work, at least the part he had assisted in, that the Outer Hebrides had been involved, the Isles of Lewis and Harris, and a redundant effort to build a small railway link between the islands. That was all he knew. I thanked him, but I now understand I should have cursed him for that information. 

Having located the islands in question on my return to England, I then set forth for Scotland and travelled to a part of the world hitherto unknown to me. I had thought about bringing a friend to assist me but with my preference for my own gender and the tales of religious communities in those places, I decided that my own company was a safer option. 

After arrival in Inverness, I spent a large chunk of the day looking round the city as I awaited my afternoon bus to take me to Ullapool, and the ferry crossing to the Isle of Lewis. All seemed normal as I indulged myself in numerous coffee houses while I passed the hours before my journey would resume. The city bustled around me but my thoughts were on what I would find on the island. 

When we reached Ullapool, the weather was foul, with a northerly wind threatened to cancel the ferry due to the swell that was being created in the Minch, the stretch of water separating the island from the mainland. But we sailed and my dinner, eaten during the earlier part of the crossing out of Loch Broom, resurfaced somewhere mid-Minch. 

Never was I so glad to leave a sea vessel and I staggered along the covered walkway looking pale as a ghost, my stomach crying out for the dinner it had given back. The rain seemed relentless as I grabbed a taxi and headed for my accommodation in a guest house in town. 

The proprietor was a woman in her early forties who, I believe, was wearing clothing to attract the opposite sex. She was deeply disappointed when, after many not so veiled attempts at luring me to more alcohol and posturing in a rather obvious way, I mentioned my last two partners causing her to suddenly go quiet and retire for the night. It was a pity that her obvious need for company got in the way of a chance for discourse of mutual benefit, but with my previous illness on the ferry the early night was appreciated. 

I believe she was offended by my choice of breakfast as much as my sexuality for she virtually ignored me except for placing my toast and banana on my plate. An on-the-road salesman was the poor victim of her morning attempts to mate, although he seemed less put off than I was. I suppose she was attractive, although I couldn’t really say. 

With my night paid for, I made for the local museum in the grounds of Lews Castle, the seat of power back in the days of the railway. Simple and clean, the museum gave a potted history of the island but made no mention of the railway and I sought a local expert on the matter. The kind woman on the reception desk called out a fine fellow who led me to the rooms aside the museum, and who sought to aid me in my work. 

The railway was little known these days, he said, but at the time there had been parts ordered and tunnels surveyed before the work was halted abruptly by the major landowner of the time. Delving into the shelves not seen by the public, he was able to find notes on the works, a slim file but nonetheless in good condition. I thanked him and sat down at a simple desk to read. 

There were orders for steam engines, in the most basic intent but still orders, and queries for the steel required for the tracks. Calculations were there for the manpower required to build this project and a scheme of the route was shown. The main track had been intended to run from Leverburgh at the south end of the Isle of Harris to the main port of Stornoway with small branches off to significant townships. I had difficulty understanding the full enterprise as much of the notes referring to these townships were missing but those remaining indicated that the first place to be excavated for the railway was the village of Aird Bunavoneader. 

Further detail was unavailable, lost to history, and the gentleman was of little more help. Having been fed mentally, I retired to the cafeteria in the building to ponder on what I had learnt and also to consult my map in order to find Aird Bunavoneader. Sitting down at a modern table, I waited for my coffee to arrive, plain and black, declining these inventions of today with their frothy milk or added chocolate. In addition to this enlivening brew, I also had ordered some oatcakes and a local cheese called crowdie, as one should always experience new flavours, especially if they are established foodstuffs of an area. 

As I was working the cheese across my palette, I became aware of a man sitting at the opposite end of the cafe from me, clothed in a long raincoat and with a brimmed hat that was tilted at a strange angle. It appeared that the hat didn’t quite sit correctly and the face emerging from it seemed elongated, unable to fill out the interior of the hat to its fullest. His eyes seemed watery and full, like the moon when she is fully exposed to the observer, and his ears were somewhat pinned back. 

For the hour that I was sitting there, he watched me, intently, his eyes hardly blinking which made me shiver. If it wasn’t for the distracting play of some children nearby I would have felt rather exposed but the amiable surroundings did counter this fellow’s strange behaviour. 

I wandered down to the bus station and caught a service heading to Tarbet on the Isle of Harris. Strangely, the two isles are actually connected and as I crossed from one to the other I noticed little difference. Arriving in Tarbet after dusk, I made for the nearest hotel and found some accommodation. I decided to take a stroll to invigorate my legs after being cramped up on a bus, and so explored the small town. 

Smaller than Stornoway, it had a ferry service running into its focal harbour. Whilst having some shops, a chip shop and a few hotels and pubs, I found it small for an invigorating walk and so I took a stroll along the road that headed for Leverburgh. After climbing a large hill, I strayed slightly off the road. It was then, with the noise of the cars and the town gone, that I heard behind me someone shuffling quickly along. Turning around I caught a brief image of a man before he shuffled off behind a small hillock. 

The man had been wearing a raincoat and a hat, similar in style to that of the man in the cafe. The colours may even have been the same but the darkness prevented me from confirming this suspicion and I decided I would confront this leering fellow. Rounding the hillock, I found a sheer drop down to the sea below. The sea was splashing the rocks and there was no other route out of the natural corner I found myself in. A tall, hillock side on my right, unclimbable in the time I had given my follower to escape, and the cold sea beneath me, a dive that one could not countenance, precluded natural escape. 

I searched around, seeing if he had simply hidden in the darkness behind a large tuft of sod but he was not there. My feet did stumble on something and I cursed my lack of a torch. Picking the item up it was a wide brimmed hat and further searching soon brought a raincoat to my attention. Leaning over the side of the cliff carefully, I pondered his escape route. Surely not. 

There was a time in my life when I would have taken these things in my stride, writing them away to misadventure, or some sort of prank, but since Stephen’s untimely death in my arms and my now lonely London flat, I find myself somewhat spooked by such goings on. A chill ran up my spine and I decided to leave the area quickly, walking back to town with great haste. 

Back at my hotel, I was somewhat revived by a hearty meal of beef and potatoes, although the medley of vegetables seemed to be more of a duet. A local gin, recommended by my barman, slipped down my throat with ease and after a few more I decided to retire to my room, have a shower, and then prepare for the next day when I would locate Aird Bunavoneader. 

The water was warm and welcome and I began to sing to myself whilst I washed. But then I heard a crash, and something smashed. Something like crockery, and from my room. There was a muffle of voices and a door hitting the wall before being slammed shut. 

I tore out of the shower, grabbing my gown and stepped into my room cutting my foot on a piece of a lamp. It had a pottery base and had been broken. My foot began to bleed over the pristine carpet. I hopped carefully, before launching myself onto the bed and calling the reception desk. 

Now the staff there were first class. They helped take my things to another room and called the police. As far as I could tell nothing had been stolen, but my map and notes that I had taken at the museum had been rifled, as had my clothing. My shaking hand was evident as I told my tale to a policewoman who, although sympathetic, didn’t appear to believe the culprit would be apprehended. 

One of the staff asked me casually if I had been to the beach since my arrival. I had not, keeping my walk to the town, the road out and then the high cliff top. On asking why they were enquiring, I was advised that some small pieces of seaweed had been found in my room. I was also told by the manager that two men with large brimmed hats were seen in the locale around the time of the invasion into my room. 

I did not sleep well that night and there were dreams that were filled with suspect men and the sea swirling around me. I managed to breakfast at seven and was delighted when by nine o’clock, the daylight had fully arrived. However the day was “dreich” according to a local, an overcast day of harsh wind and fine drizzly rain, which was such a contrast to the night before. 

Despite the weather, I walked the road out of Tarbet, back towards the hills that force the road to wander before it reaches its destination. It took a good hour before I reached a petrol station, small with only two pumps, but thankfully, a coffee machine. I asked if the proprietor knew where I could find a good path to Aird Bunavoneader. The man shook his head. 

“There ain’t no Aird Bunavoneader,” he said, “just Bunavoneader, which is just down that road.” He pointed out the window along the coast. I asked again, saying that I needed to find Aird Bunavoneader as it was an historical site I wanted to see. I pulled out my map, showing the man the location I had seen on the older papers in the museum. 

“You shouldn’t go up there, for your own safety. No one goes up there. It’s like an old quarry. Don’t go snooping, there’s nothing to see and a world of trouble if you get caught in a hole. No sir, if I were you I’d enjoy the walking elsewhere or find something else old to look at.” 

I thanked the man for his help but advised him I was intending to follow my historical quest regardless but that I would be careful, although I was sure I could protect myself. He came round from behind the serving counter as I left the shop and grabbed my arm. His face was drawn and he pleaded with me not to go. 

But someone had broke into my room. Someone had followed me and disappeared off a cliff. There was something in this old village that needed to be brought to light, something that may have made me shake but that also intrigued me, for what could have been so bad to stop the planned railway. 

So in the height of the daylight, which was still a misty grey, I set off up the hillside and struck out off road towards where I believed Aird Bunavoneader to be. The going was tough, moorland that forced you up and down with almost every step and my clothing was soaked as I reached the site. Although I wore waterproofs, inside I was sweating profusely and I wondered if it benefitted me any having this exterior protection. 

The site itself was wholly unremarkable. One could see in the imprints on the ground where digging had commenced and there was a tunnel which was closed off, marked as unsafe and dangerous. A notice advised that this was the property of a New England company, Marsh. However there seemed to be a path into the tunnel that had been walked recently. I knelt down and looked at the soil and I swear some of the marks I saw were not human feet. There was a webbing to the design in places. 

My heart ran cold as I wondered what sort of things I was dealing with and then I saw a small piece of seaweed, the same colour as found in my infiltrated room. I could feel the anger rising and without a second thought to safety I followed that path, pushing aside the flimsy boards that covered the entrance. 

Thankfully, now that I was exploring and not simply strolling, I had a torch in my back pack and was able to illuminate my way. The walls of this tunnel were uninspired but there were fixings in the tunnel to support them. I noticed that while there were items from an older age, most of the materials were new, from the last thirty years. My hairs stood up and I felt myself go on guard. Maybe there were natural resources here undiscovered by the world and someone was hoarding them for themselves. Maybe there was a secret here to be hidden. I knew not but my step was quickened. 

Stephen had always said my desire to know would be the death of me and sometimes I wished for his serenity and calm. But where had that gotten him when the cancer took him? No, this was something that I needed to know. After all they had followed me and searched my things. Today I would know why. 

My foot stumbled upon something in the dark. I shone a light down to find a bone. Tracing it, I found it to be held by the tunnel wall and I scrabbled with my fingers to dig out the rest of it. It took a few minutes and I had to leave the torch on the ground to use both hands. But once I had dug it out I held the bones, as they now where, up to the light. 

At first I was intrigued as I saw what looked like a frog’s leg, and I could imagine skin over the bone to make a fat thigh, then a thinner shin and a flippered foot, with extremely thin bones in the foot. And then it dawned on me. This foot would have been for a frog the size of a small child. Never in my life had I heard of such an amphibian. My mind shot to the cliff side and the impossible escape. With the torch in one hand and the bones in the other, there was nothing I could do to stop my hands shaking. 

Despite the dread building within, my curiosity drove me onward to find the truth behind my stalker and the history of the failed railroad. Cautiously, I continued down the tunnel until I came to an opening and found carved out of the rock walls a make shift room of shorts, a mini cave if you would have. 

As I tried to ascertain the corners of this underground retreat, my foot kicked a glass bottle and it clinked against numerous others. I bent down and examined the bottles and found them to be of today’s modern liquor which made me think I had stumbled upon a young adult hideout or possibly a place for alcoholics away from prying eyes. 

There was nothing else there and so my journey continued, deeper into the tunnel. Numerous times I thought about returning and breathing the fresh air above the surface but my mind needed answers. It was then I reached the junction. 

Before me lay two new tunnels running off at different angles. Whilst the tunnel I was in was clearly man made, cut by human hand, these wider tunnels appeared strange with a smoothness that defied any human industry. There also came a dankness in these new tunnels and although I could only see the short distance my torch penetrated, my nose was assaulted with a pungent and terrible malodour. My body railed at the smell and I was forced to cover the lower part of my face in order to continue. 

I struggle to recall fully what happened next, but I stumbled to some degree and then fell, striking, I believe, my head on the rock at the tunnel side and I slipped into unconsciousness. A confusion exists from this point on, as I may have dreamed some of what I next recount, for surely it would be too terrible to believe. 

On waking from my blackout, I struggled to find my torch and had to proceed by the use of my hands groping the wall of a tunnel. Which one I took, I am unsure, but it was a frenzied walk in the dark as I feared not finding my way back to the surface. All the time the smell of decay and of rotting fish surrounded me and I believe I vomited on at least two occasions. 

But after a period of unknown time (my watch is of the older hand wound type and has no internal beam) I saw a light at the end of a tunnel. My heart skipped a beat in joy before my mind wondered at the source of the brilliance. Delicately, I crawled along the tunnel and was then able to hide behind a jutting rock as I took hold of a most terrible scene. 

Before me was a large cave with some sort of motif on the wall. I could only make out three large letters, D, E and O, as well as the relief of a possible demon, winged and quite monstrous. Before this motif was a creature in coloured robes. I say a creature for I do not believe it was a man, with its webbed feet and a head that was too narrow to be human. It wore a crown as well and seemed to be a leader of what was a gathering crowd. 

The crowd was some sixty strong by my reckoning but my mind was plagued with dark thoughts and I found rational and simple actions, such as estimation, difficult. My emotions rollicked back and forth from despair to intrigue as I studied the crowd who seemed to be a mesh of human and frog like creatures. There were people who seemed to be halfway between a human and the leader before the motif, but everyone wore tattered clothing, some colourful but faded, some threadbare. 

A round of singing bean. I make it sound too musical because it was a drone, but a drone with purpose. Depressing on the mind, it drove my thoughts to morbid things and the death of my partner Stephen came back to me. And then something darker seemed to appear before my mind, swimming in an endless sea. Black and repulsive, it almost called to me. And then I saw an ongoing night of stars, not beautiful and twinkling, rather threatening and cold, the hidden recesses of the universe perhaps. 

A sudden stop in the singing brought words from the leader and the crowd would cheer at times when his inane babble rose to a crescendo. And then there came a cry from the crowd and they simply repeated one word, over and over again. It was difficult to make out from their dialect, but their eyes were fixated on the motif. Wide, bulbous eyes, that almost leapt out of the sockets. And then robes were shed and I beheld a myriad of twisted creatures, flippers and unholy heads. As I focused on each new creature, my mind worsened, growing to a bleak opinion and grim thoughts took hold of me. 

I believe I stood up and joined the crowd, chanting a name with the utmost passion. Within a group of horror, I danced and uttered unholy things to the air and to that motif in the cave. There are still murmurings in my head of the words spoken, of the chants I uttered. And yet I cannot place any of them down on paper for they were in a language I did not know. Indeed I reckon no man on this good earth knows. 

They say that an epiphany is a great moment, a true point of realisation of something better. Then maybe I had a reverse epiphany, for suddenly I became aware of my place and my actions. For a moment the darkness cleared and then brought a true horror, as I looked at the blasphemous creatures around me. I ran. I didn’t know where to. But I ran. I must have gained a good start, and maybe they thought I was simply expanding my wild dancing. Leaving the great cave by a lower route from my entry point, I simply ran. 

Those I left behind came to a realisation that I was leaving and there came a cry. Then the slapping of flipper feet. Behind me, a rhythmic yelling of that word they had chanted in frenzy. The tunnel I followed was lit by torch but then it separated into many and I ran down whatever I thought nearest. My heart beat hard and I summoned whatever strength I had. I could not be caught. I would not be caught. 

It is hard to calculate how far I ran, and for how long, but the tunnel I ended up in stopped suddenly and I emerged into a night scene. Indeed I emerged too quickly as the opening was at a height and I fell into sea water. Struggling to survive the shock of the cold water, I was grabbed by the collar and hauled on board a small boat by an old fisherman. It was good to a human face even if it was aged with lines and wrinkles and lacking a smile. 

As gruff and dour faced as he was, that man I believe saved me that night, for I still heard the chant of that name on the wind. But neither I nor he saw anything not of our world. 

Emergency services were called and I was taken to a hospital to be checked over. Given the late hour I was allowed to sleep in their largest facility in Stornoway, far removed from the scenes of my terror. Gratefully restored and then released, I left the islands quickly. Although in perfect physical health, I failed to remove the chanting from my mind and since my return to London it has plagued me. It drowns out the radio. Conversation becomes interminable as I cannot focus on what is said. Busy London has lost its soundtrack. 

Morose feelings and dark thoughts are not uncommon in the city but I have stood on many a bridge’s railings contemplating how to end these sounds. The Samaritans have heard from me on frequent nights. I cannot remove this from my mind. 

And I am being followed. Men seem to watch me, large eyes brimming with fluid, focused on me from across the street. I believed myself paranoid until they started casually bumping into me. And they gave one word to me. Every time, Dagon. 

I do not know if I will leave this world by my choice or if they will see me gone. But I write this down as a warning to others to avoid researching that failed railway line. So far they remain hidden from daily life except to those like me, who disturb their worship. What policeman or psychiatrist can I tell this tale to, where would there be anyone mad enough to believe it? So my tale is told to you, my diary, told before this darkness, this bleak and unholy force, sends me to join Stephen. Maybe there I can hope for rest. 


Copyright 2019 G R Jordan