“To reject nihilism is the beginning of virtue.” — Anonymous

Charles Dickens began his novel A Tale of Two Cities with the famous line “it was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” As the land formerly known as the United States entered the 2030’s, this sentiment once again entered the hearts of men. Things had largely calmed down, with the left collapsing into infighting and exhaustion following repeated electoral defeats, and the right achieving most of what it sought, though only in time to see the U.S. thoroughly overtaken in economic might by Asian powers.

Plague scares, political unrest, and moral decay had left society with a very real sense of fatigue, and a strange sense of good will pervaded those of us who had endured with our sanity more-or-less intact. True, children more and more attended schools offering bilingual education in Mandarin or Spanish, but this was probably an inevitability regardless of what would’ve happened.

My tale took place in the backdrop of all this, in a dark background away from any sort of headline. It followed the events of 2011-2012, in which much of the Chesapeake Bay had fallen ill to a mysterious disease, an episode thoroughly covered-up by the actual powers-that-be. I have already related how I came to be centrally involved in the beginnings of this affair, so I won’t relate those events again here. Suffice it to say, though, when signs of a similar outbreak began roughly a decade later, I was thoroughly “encouraged” to assist. I was willing enough to do this, despite several happy years spent in a witness protection-like program in another state. The memory of those I had lost was more than enough to motivate me.


“Yep, this is the place.” I said as the men in dark suits stood over me in the office room. They were working their way through a series of PowerPoint slides, most of which featured pictures of locations and persons of interest.

“That was the pond, the one which had the strange bacteria in it…or so your medical men tell me.”

“Why do I sound skeptical? Gentlemen, you know as well as I do how that whole version of events is total BS…you have absolutely no idea what we’re dealing with here…none of us do.”

“Yes, I know that remains the only explanation you have, but I was there. No bacteria could cause a human body to simply dissolve into dust in mid-motion like that.”

“I can only repeat to you what I have advocated for again and again…we need to revisit the actual site and investigate there. Yes, I know they blew most of it up, but doesn’t that still seem like a better use of our time that just sitting here holding our Johnsons while lives are at stake? I never caught…whatever this sickness was, so I’m perfectly happy to go back alone if need be. You can follow my movements with that GoPro-like thing your agents wear…”

After what felt like several hours of going back and forth like this, I finally got them to concede, and send me with several of their men back to northern Maryland, ground zero of the first wave as best as any of us can determine.

This was always one of my favorite parts of the country. Though stained by Baltimore, the countryside remains beautiful and, by regional standards, largely untouched. You can still get some sense of what the mid-Atlantic must have been like before the bay was settled by millions upon millions of souls, before industrialization and electricity, before modernity’s ugly creep. I never thought I would have fallen in love with the place the way I did, but I was happy there in a way I haven’t been anywhere else since.

Thus, it was with a strange sense of biter-sweetness that I returned, in a black helicopter under cover of darkness. We landed in a field outside the abandoned town of Kingsport at about two in the morning. There were ten of us in all, most of whom were men I had never seen before.

Being the only one who knew the area, I led the group about half a mile through the nearby woods to Dead Man’s Mountain. The hill had borne this name long before the unpleasantness happened, being a place of ill-repute and evil association since at least the colonial era. The memories hit me in waves as I trekked up the hill toward the pond. I can only compare it to the feeling one gets when visiting their old high school decades after the fact. Your muscle memory remains intact, and you can navigate on autopilot as though you had just left yesterday. You fully expected to see your old friends and classmates there, your old teachers and coaches…your old loved ones.

When we reached the site, I saw with fresh resentment how they had dynamited most of it in an attempt to destroy evidence of the “pathogen’s” source. Though the place had been terrible, it just seemed somehow sacrilegious to decimate it the way the men-in-black had. Blowing up history which is inconvenient; the quintessential approach of the revolutionary and the jealous. Being in an already reminiscent and memory-weighted mood, I couldn’t help but reflect how I had seen this time and time again. The homes of those who had died in the first outbreak had been blown up with the same malice that the old left had tried to destroy memorials to Southern dead. The nihilist always seeks destruction to force the world to bend to his will, and cares not how much he must destroy to satisfy his pride. I tried my best to hide my anger; after all, the men I was with now had no part in this so far as I knew. But I struggled to contain myself regardless.

Luckily, it was only a few minutes later that I heard someone shout “there’s something here!”

The dynamite had apparently blown a hole in a previously undetected wall of masonry, which revealed some sort of clearly manmade chamber beneath it.

I don’t have words which can easily explain that which we saw when we descended into the opening. If the reader is confused by my descriptions, know only that the confusion in my own memory is several times stronger than this.

In some ways, the place looked like the pictures of Incan temples I used to see in my history textbooks. The problem was that almost everything was made of a smooth metal, not stone, but it was a metal I couldn’t precisely identify. It was soft, like gold, though exceedingly smooth like nothing I’ve felt before. In color, it resembled the gray which most Macs come in, though it was somehow not this color, seeming somehow…easier to look at.

The writing on the walls and (what I can only describe as) keyboards or control-panels was in an alphabet I’ve never seen. Nevertheless, I got the distinct sense that it was a script, rather than pictographs, but I’m once again at a loss to explain exactly why I got this impression.

The place was enormous, constituting not only the entire hill several thousand feet in elevation, but also descending deep into the Earth to a point I never could determine. To me, the entire place seemed like an abandoned city, though the men with me thought it more likely an enormous temple of some sort. The place was crowned with huge, vaulted ceilings, comparable only to the gothic arches of medieval cathedrals, while the walls and floors seemed distinctly meso- or southern-American in design.

We found streets or pathways laid out in a distinct, grid-like fashion in each of the vaulted chambers, and, if my old Eagle Scout faculties did not fail me, each chamber must have been about a mile in diameter. These streets were lined with small, one-story dwellings, which I wouldn’t hesitate to describe as adobe in appearance, were it not for the fact that they were made of the same strange metal we found elsewhere.

At the center of each street grid, in what must have been the center of each vaulted chamber, stood pyramids which distinctly resembled those of the ancient Americas. Each had seven enormous steps, probably about three feet or so in elevation, crowned by a single-room chamber. Altars could still be found standing in the center of some of them, and on the back wall we found the clear remains of a control panel indicating the presence of some sort of electrical system. What its function could be I could only guess.

We explored for hours and hours, relaying video stream back to headquarters by means of a cable we lined to the surface. We descended what our instruments guessed to be about a mile (I say “guessed” because the readings we got seemed all wrong, as though the instruments couldn’t quite process what they were picking up) but stopped suddenly. Beyond about the one-mile mark, we noticed that the entire place was illumined by a blue light of alternating shade and brightness. It is hard to convey exactly why this was so unsettling, but I confess to you that I have never been more frightened before or since.

And that’s when we heard the music.

It was the most enchanting sound I have ever heard, and I no longer wonder at how sailors of a previous age could be lured to the rocks by a siren’s song. I had to physically restrain several of those with me to prevent them jumping into the blue void, into the river or pool beyond I could barely see. It was a huge chasm, clearly leading those near it to deeper and more terrible levels of the globe’s entrails.

I don’t remember actually saying at that point what our recording picked up, but it was unmistakably my voice on the MP3. “No! No, we will not go down to the wood of Charon! We will not seek the road to many-mooned Carcosa, cross the lake of Kali, pay homage…see them…! No! Zarahemla can wait. Shub Niggurath! But he shouts?! Ayh, ayh! Nik a nah…!”


That was all, when I woke up on that hillside, freezing cold but not otherwise worse for the wear. All evidence of the place was gone. In its stead was simply an enormous crater resembling one of those collapsed mines you can sometimes see elsewhere along Appalachia. No sign of that which we had seen was to be found.

Some of my team was still with me, similarly unconscious, but most were gone. I know nothing more for certain beyond that which I’ve told you, but my dreams do not cease to torment me with images of worlds beyond.

Heaven did us an unspeakable mercy by preventing us from interacting with these other worlds after the Fall. Had it been otherwise, I doubt that even a handful of souls could escape the snares of the fiends that lurk there. They are around us all the time, in the sky below Heaven and in the many-chambered Earth beneath our feet. Wolves of souls, none save the most spiritually mature, forged by decades of monastic life, can bear to see them without collapsing into total idiot madness.

I’ve never actively sought the paranormal sense, and I advise you to do the same. It’s bad business, and we should no more be involved with it than someone unable to swim should seek the ocean.


For all installments of “Underhill,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1