Tales Of The Apocalypse: Book II - The Rift
How much shock and stress can the human mind sustain before it falls into madness?
Is it a measurable quantity? Or is it wholly dependent upon the strength of character of the individual? I wondered how Andy could remain her chipper self, when all the while I felt like I was crumbling around the edges.
I found that I was falling into periods of mental darkness, and I would emerge hours later, all this when I was on watch and should be vigilant. The ordeal had me on edge, doubting my sanity. How could any of this be real? Andy's watch was fast approaching so I roused myself from my self reflection and stoked up the fire in anticipation of wakening her.
The episode at the dry lake had scared the hell out of me. The fact that I hadn't been pursued was creeping me out; it wasn't natural. Of course the whole encounter wasn't natural, but the lack of a pursuit made me think there was worse ahead. The goal of the cabin was within reach now, we could not turn back or change our path. We must reach the cabin for our safety's sake!
I resolved not to reveal my experience with the toad-beings to Andy until we were safely ensconced in the sheltering logs of the cabin.
I roused Andy and gave her an unexpected hug that lasted for many minutes. When I finally released her she looked at me strangely and asked me what was wrong. I just shook my head and told her we could discuss it later at the cabin. I then turned around and crawled into my bed and soon was fast asleep. I did not dream again for a second night and was not disturbed in my sleeping until morning when the birds began their morning ritual.
Andy was wide-eyed with alarm when I finally dragged myself from the tent. She said she saw something floating among the trees, and it had called to her in her mind as she was keeping watch. She had wanted to wake me, but she knew how badly out of it I was and so she let me sleep while this new threat unfolded. At first she thought she had fallen asleep on watch, but that turned out not to be the case. It knew her name she said. And it had laughed at her in her mind while she tried to dismiss it as a dream. She was 3 clicks from being totally freaked.
Breakfast was hurried and breaking camp was done in record time. We hit the trail at a fast pace and soon beheld the cabin. It was a nice building, built with tax dollars and sturdily constructed, with a concrete floor and a steel roof. The logs had been professionally milled so that minimal chinking was required. It had heavy shutters over the windows and a very sturdy door locked with a padlock. We unloaded the travois’s and stacked our goods on the front porch, which was of generous size. I fished around in Dad’s pack until I found his set of lock picks. He had taught me how to use them after making me swear to never use my knowledge for evil purposes. I did not consider this situation evil at all.
After a minute of futzing with the picks, I was able to unlock the padlock and we entered into our new home. No one had been here for quite some time so there was a light layer of dust accumulated on all of the flat surfaces. In the room that I assumed was the master bed, 4 mattresses hung from some wire suspended from the ceiling to keep the little scampering beasties from making a mess of them and rendering them unusable.
After a few hours of diligent labor, we had the place ship-shape with all the packs and buckets emptied and the contents put away. We resolved to find Dad's caches the next day and avail ourselves of more goods, just in case. I had opened the shutters, which had been secured from inside and let the daylight flood into the dark interior. We found several kerosene lanterns, filled and trimmed hanging from pegs on a darkened wall that we had not glimpsed before. I set them up on the table that dominated the living area. There were several rockers set around a wood stove near one windowless wall. I was a bit disappointed that we had no fireplace, but a stove heats better thus conserving firewood.
Out back of the cabin I found the outhouse, and a large shed with barn style doors that I assumed was the woodshed. It was beginning to get dark so I hurriedly unlocked the shed and the facility with the keys which I had found hanging from a nail by the cabin door. Sure enough, the large shed was full of cut and split firewood, along with a large pile of lumber. Several trips filled the wood box to overflowing, and then I buttoned up the cabin for the night.
We made a celebratory meal to mark our arrival, and after cleanup, retired to sit around the fire that I built to take the chill off the long unused cabin. We found some magazines and newspapers with 5 year old dates on them, and as if to corroborate them, a clipboard with names and dates of occupancy. It looks as if with all the federal budget tightening, this cabin was left for better fiscal times. They never came and here it sat, unmolested until we arrived and took over ownership.
I hung my still loaded Winchester on the deer horns that were mounted over the door, settling it in its new home for now. The shotgun I kept by my side; if I left the cabin it rode across my chest on the assault sling. I would not be caught without it again. Andy found a hook on the wall next to our beds to hang the M1 Carbine with its magazines.
As we sat around the fire, lost in our own thoughts, I realized I could still hear the maddening sound of that crazed drummer, only not as loud. It seemed it would accompany us off to sleep once more, only this night securely enclosed by our cabin, we determined no watch was needed and we both hit the rack at the same time. The luxury of a bed with a mattress above ground level was a welcome prospect indeed!
Sometime in the night I was awakened by Andy shaking my shoulder.
"Get up! I need to go the bathroom!" was the bad news.
I grumbled a reply at her and grumpily left my warm and comfortable bed. Getting dressed, I slid my feet into my boots and quickly laced them up.
"Hurry uuupppp!" came the admonishment for my slowness, as Andy hopped from foot to foot. "I gotta gooooo!"
I took the opportunity to throw some wood in the stove and grabbed my shotgun and kit. I retrieved my flashlight from the head of the bed and left to stand guard for a now highly animated Andy. In she went with my light as she forgot hers. The bright green, round full moon provided the illumination to take the place of my purloined LED light while I waited.
The next memories are kind of jumbled, so I am not really sure what happened except the drum ensnared my mind once again as my sleep numbed brain grabbed on to its throbbing madness. It was closer than ever so I seem to remember wandering off to look for it and put an end to it.
What followed was very clear in my mind. Ahead was a clearing from which the unholy racket was coming. I stepped into the clearing and was horrified at what I saw.
I beheld there in the clearing a lunatic vision of maddening proportions, that of the demented drummer.
The creature resembled in stature a very large Ape or Human, with the orangish coloring of an Orangutan. And its arms, of which it had six, they resembled the tentacles of an octopus without the suckers. It flailed them about beating on its drums . But it's face was that of nightmares; sprouting tentacles as a squid and with its awful clacking beak.
There about the lunatic drummer pranced an innumerable throng of miniatures of itself, seemingly moving to the unbalanced rhythm of its drum.
"What manner of hideous beast is this?" I thought to myself as I recoiled from the spectacle.
"It is Shub-Niggurath" spoke an unbidden voice in my head, more like a forceful impression rather than a voice heard.
"Who are you?" I breathed.
"I am the Beyond-One, the Eater of Souls, the Rider of Time. I am Yog-Sothoth"
"What is Shub-Niggurath? I mentally verbalized.
“Your kind worship it as 'The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young'” came the mental intrusion.
I cringed at these exchanges as the evil taint of the impressions nearly pushed my brain into overload and collapse.
"Why are you here?" I asked the open air.
"We are here to feed..." came the answer.
The whole scene before me was one of madness and caused no end of despair in me. I felt my sanity slipping away and experienced an overwhelming desire to join in that mad dance. It was only when I clapped my hands over my ears and turned away from the hideous blaspheme before me that I was able to overcome this urge. I ran from the clearing and through the woods, brush plucking at me as I plowed through the undergrowth, fleeing the insanity of that clearing.
"You are in my realm!" slammed into my brain. " You cannot escape that which is everywhere, riding every puff of air and beam of light"
"Begone!!" I screamed to the deranged laughter in my head.
Sometime later Andy found me wandering about with glazed eyes and mumbling incoherent gibberish. She guided me back to our cabin and put me into bed where she watched over me until I came to my senses many hours later.
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