Totara Hill Horror – Part 3
Written by N Jones
Edited by Edwin McRae and Rachel Rees
I suit up in full Falconer gear. My heavy coat hides two pistols loaded with golden bullets. My straight razor is tucked into a custom-made holster that hangs across my ribcage. Across my belt are several small vials of insecticides and in one of my boots is a spare steel knife – it won’t kill a Culler, but it can at least slow one down if I need it to.
I pay a local boy to deliver a letter for me to my Handler who will be arriving in Totara Hill at some point this evening in anticipation for our early morning debrief. The letter states:
I have gone into the tunnels beneath the Distillery. There’s something beneath that building and it’s much worse than we first suspected. Give me time to investigate. If I don’t return by daybreak, burn everything to the ground. It cannot be allowed to escape.
I can’t say whether I intend to return after this evening’s expedition. The gut feeling that this “void” is so intrinsically connected to my mother’s death is accompanied by a gut feeling that the vengeance I seek this evening will require my very life. Truth be told, if I do get revenge from this expedition and survive it, I’m not sure what I would do with my life. This event is the exclamation point at the end of the sentence which is my life. I make my way to the cave in the bush.
Already, in the entrance of the tunnel, I can hear the droning sound of the sphere from within the depths. I reach into my pack and pull out a small lantern. Lighting the oil within I make my first tentative steps into the darkness.
The tunnel feels longer than when I was last in here, and narrower. Claustrophobia is ripe in my mind as I journey further in. The Sphere increases in volume and I can feel what seems like many tiny talons scraping across the tops of my eyeballs the closer I get.
I reach the intersection, where the tunnel leads either towards the well under the distillery or the sphere’s cavern. I head in that direction, the lantern shaking as I raise above my head and peer into the dark.
The tight passageway opens up into a massive cavern. I stand in the rocky outcrop that surrounds the dip into which that giant purple sphere throbs below. It’s as if seeing it the first time has changed something in me, developed a resistance in my brain’s faculties as I am now capable of looking upon it and not descending into madness. My bladder feels full and everything within me is screaming to piss myself and run in the opposite direction of the blasphemy before me. But I push it down somewhere and seal it away, just like I have done with many other things in my life.
I find an area of the cliff face that is not as steep as the rest and allows for me to clamber down to the level of the sphere. Small bits of rubble clatter down around me as I half walk, half slide down the slope to the solid rock surface below. Although the Sphere doesn’t make any change to its hum or movement, I get the sense that the noise of collapsing stones has made it aware of my presence.
I approach it. It has a hard surface, like a large glass marble, but beneath that surface I can see the swirling shapes and forms of a purple cosmos. I reach my hand out as if to touch it, but there is a kind of electricity around it that acts a barrier for me. My hand hangs limply in the air.
I find my voice.
“What are you?”
It takes no notice of me. There is no change in its countenance, nothing external to suggest it is even vaguely interested in me.
“Hey!” I shout at it, and clap my hands, trying to get the thing’s attention. The swirling planetarium beneath its glass skin intensifies in colour, giving me hope that it is aware of me.
“What are you?” I repeat.
My head fills to bursting with a roaring hiss, as if a mighty hourglass is emptying its guts into my skull. I scream and grip my ears with my hands, falling to my knees. Then the roaring stops and I hear a voice inside my head. It has no form. It is neither male nor female, deep nor high. It just is. It is a void.
THE PLIGHT OF THIS WORLD IS THE SIN THAT BRINGS AN END TO THE GROWING OF THE VINE.
Those words, I hear them echoing both inside and outside my mind – an archaic substance of language. Within those syllables I can detect not hatred. Only a cold and callous purpose. The extinction of the human species.
I am unable to get off my knees. I feel the weight of the thing’s presence pushing me further and further into the ground.
THE SIN IS THAT OFFSPRING WHICH SPROUTS FROM THE LOINS OF MAN. IT IS THE FIRE THAT BURNS THE FOREST AND REDUCES IT TO ASH.
I feel as if my skull is being bashed open with every word. But I remember why I am here and I manage to hiss the words:
“Did you kill my mother?”
THE SCUM THAT FLOATS ATOP THE WATER DOES NOT DIE BUT BECOMES ONE WITH THE SALT AND THE SEA. SO IT WAS WITH THE DAUGHTER THAT SPOKE TO THE QUIET, AND SO IT SHALL BE WITH THE SON.
I feel sick at hearing these words. Sickened with rage. I reach into my jacket and pull the cut-throat razor from its holster. I feel blood dripping from my nose. I wipe it on my sleeve and crawl up to the orb.
I want to say something to it, I want to shout at it, call it every filthy name I know, but as I force myself towards it, I find every word gone from me. I become pathetic; a blubbering child reaching out for something that has been snatched from them.
Stay calm, my son.
My mother’s voice. I see a flashing image of her smiling at me. She’s hanging from the edge of the pit, and although she speaks and sings and smiles, she’s already passed, having slipped below the crust of the earth, assimilated by the dirt and this thing before me.
I break through its resistance and slash out with my razor. The blade cuts deep, slicing through the outer shell of this thing, this Culler God. The cosmos beneath the glass spills out, a cloud of smoke and vile agency.
AND THE SON THAT STANDS SHALL OPEN THE ORB AND BRING FORTH THE RUMBLINGS THAT WILL HEW THE EARTH ASUNDER.
The disembodied voice sounds louder, and for the first time, it sounds angry. The cavern shakes, gripped by an earthquake. The void is gone now, dispersed into the world. I feel the pressure of its presence abate and I am left in chaos.
With the roof collapsing above me, and dust and rumbling everywhere, disorientation is the primary component of my feelings. That and anger. The thing that has killed my mother is gone. But now I know what it is. Now I know I can cut it. If I can cut it, then I can kill it.
I make my way through the falling debris, praying that I won’t be crushed before I can make my escape. Bursting out into the tunnel system, I see I am too late as rocks crumble across the part of the tunnel leading to the cave. I’m forced in the opposite direction, towards the old well.
The rumblings aren’t as strong in this direction. The tunnel shakes, but at most it’s causing me to stumble every couple of steps. Nothing is falling from the ceiling. Unfortunately things are never that easy though are they? A thick black smoke is wafting along the tunnel. Smoke that stinks of burning tar and wood. I remember my instructions to my Handler: If I don’t return by daybreak, burn everything to the ground.
But it can’t be daybreak already can it? I swear I’ve only been under the dirt for an hour at most.
Above me now, I can see the small circular hole that becomes the well beneath the distillery. I’m right, it glows with flames that are lapping throughout the building. Surviving this is going to be tough. My boot knife is going to come in handy here. I take it from its resting place at my heel and slam the blade as hard as I can into the gravely side of the well, as high up as I can reach. It sinks in deep and holds, providing ample support for me to begin climbing.
I ascend towards the blazing light above. Every time I reach a point in which the knife is beginning to sink below my chest, I find a foot and hand hold before removing it and slamming it again into the dirt even higher up, allowing more support in my climb.
In the end I reach the last of the dirt before the walls of the well begin. The walls are hard stone and I can’t risk sticking my blade in them and having the mortar crumble. Something tells me I won’t survive this fall twice – especially not if followed by a bunch of stone bricks.
Instead, I stab the knife into the wall as high up as I can before it hits the structure above, and then I manage to twist my body in a way that, as I climb, I can use the knife as a foothold, giving me a small bit of stability to reach the top of the well, and pull my body forward.
The well collapses as I tumble over it and into the basement of the distillery.
A blaze has consumed everything above the basement. Like an animal, I’m trapped beneath the flames. I dash up the stairs and kick open the door. I’m blasted back by a flume of fire that has been waiting to enter the room.
“Fuck!” I curse to myself as I’m forced to retreat. The fire is already starting down the wooden stairs now, cornering me.
I look around for something that could help me. The machine that has been sucking that poisoned water from the well…I notice that a great deal of water is still sitting inside one of its glass chambers. Not affording myself any more thought on the matter, I tear my coat off and place it beneath the chamber. I shatter the glass with my elbow and watch as the water glugs out, dousing the jacket until it’s soaking wet.
I cover my body and head with it and turn to face the door. The poisoned water is dripping across my face and I willingly drink it to get a bit of mindless anger going. I’ll need it to brave my way through the flames. The hit comes on fast, and I see nothing but angry white.
I roar, my lungs ready to burst, and run at the stairs. This fucking fire won’t get me. I refuse to die like this. I refuse to have that thing, that bloody cloud of dust escape after killing my mother, after me finally tracking it down. No! I won’t go out like this.
I sprint through the orange tongues that are lapping away at the wooden beams of the building. The walls are creaking under the strain of the roof. Outside, through a broken window, I can see the sun shining. I can feel the fire burning my flesh, eating away at me, eroding my skin. I push on. The door to the street crashes open as I charge like an enraged bull through it and out onto the pavement. There I collapse, a steaming, ashen mess, my moist coat tossed to one side.
I pray for rain and pass out.
“You’re lucky to be alive, Daniel,” my Handler tells me the next afternoon as I recover in a hospital bed.
“No thanks to you.” I laugh, but the movement hurts my body.
My Handler is seated next to the bed, watching me curiously.
“Something about you has changed,” she says. “What did you see down there? You mentioned something beneath the building in your correspondence. What was it? Did we get it?”
I pause for a moment and consider her question.
“Yeah. You got it.”
Several weeks have passed now and I am plagued by nightmares of the Sphere. It returns to me when I sleep, every night. Only now, it’s no longer a repeat of the moments my mother died. Now it’s something else. A kind of vision, a trance, perhaps some kind of contact?
I’m standing on a tile roof top in what appears to be a European city, although judging by the way the spires reach up into the clouds, as if they are endless, I can’t trust that I am entirely awake.
As the rain beats down on the roof tops, they bounce away from a shape in front of me, invisible almost to the untrained eye. The rain bounces off in a spherical pattern. I hear the voice speak.
THERE WILL COME A DAY, it says. THERE WILL COME A DAY WHEN THE VINE THAT HAS BEEN STRANGLED WILL RISE UP AND CHOKE THE SEED OF THE SINS OF MAN.
Thunder rumbles overhead. A blast of white lightning illuminates the surrounding area, and the centre of the orb’s form glitters with stars and the swirling colours of deep space.
THIS DAY WILL ARRIVE SOON. AND YOU, SON OF THE SCUM THAT SUNK BELOW THE WATER, YOU SHALL WITNESS THE DESOLATION OF EVERYTHING YOU LOVE.
“And what if I love nothing?” I ask the void through the rain.
The building begins to shake, like a giant’s fist has wrapped itself around the base and it’s trying to wrangle it from the ground.
I jolt upright in my bed, once again dripping with sweat and shivering. I hear its voice echoing throughout yet another hotel room in yet another cursed city.
You shall witness the desolation of everything you love.