Sanity is a curious thing, difficult to define, and usually deemed legitimate by the judgement of others. As I look out my bedroom window now, watching the raindrops fall from the dark heavens, I cannot help but feel pity for the countless millions of souls who believe themselves to be sane, yet live in a world devoid of reality. Perhaps it is wise that mankind came to live in an artificial construction: our feeble minds cannot take the strain that is the true horror of the cosmos…
What we found, that…thing. Dear God, what have we done? What have we disturbed? What horror from outside the realm of man now threatens to break loose and rain destruction down upon us? I shudder, trying to purge the image from my mind, but then, will it be my mind for much longer? I thought back on those days now, when we all struggled to survive, food was scarce, work was unavailable, but the President kept assuring us that his New Deal would bring our civilization back from the brink. Ironic; I cannot not help but think that it was our very obsession with “progress” which has unleashed these forces of destruction.
I was a young man of sixteen at the time. An Irishman, to the extent that one could be when born in Pennsylvania. I knew not our own language, as my parents neglected to speak it except when arguing amongst themselves…or in the confessional with the priest. They would often feign an American accent as well, trying desperately to appear as Saxon as they could. Though the worst of those days were gone, it was still undesirable to be Irish in certain quarters. One could hardly blame the Americans, however. We were perfectly aware that we were imported to be an army of (what may as well have been) slave labor. Americans themselves had become too expensive, demanding livable wages and improved work conditions. It was simply easier for the factory owners to import us than to treat their own kinsfolk with even a token of humanity.
I had taken a job with a local construction company as an apprentice stonemason. Bricklaying was far more of an art than a science, an ancient and venerable trade which took some years to master. It was to our great delight that the local diocese had announced the construction of a new college in our town, and that it was to be populated by nuns of our own country. Finally! A job which we could not only take pride in completing, but in which we could support a noble cause as well. The designs which the diocese presented to us were ambitious: beautiful, almost neo-Gothic structures on the face of a strong, sturdy, four-story building. But what most captivated my young mind was the tower: a bold, imposing edifice. A commanding presence to be instituted on the hilltop, overlooking the entire city. Papal will was to be enforced here (the message seemed obvious), a beacon of stability and immovable tradition in the midst of the Protestant—and sometimes even godless—environment.
My heart beat with excitement.
Ground was to be broken in just a few days. Our Benefactors, the prominent O’Neill family, were quite eager to see construction begin, so that the work would likely be completed by the time they returned from France…God have mercy on their souls and welcome them into Your Kingdom!
We obliged the family and set about surveying the sight and pouring the foundation. That the surveyors seemed to operate with unwise haste was apparent to me, but it wasn’t my place to speak out. I did, however, overhear them discussing amongst themselves, remarking how the Earth here seemed to be strangely…loose, almost porous in its composition. If only we could have guessed then what we know now.
Every time we attempted to pack in the Earth and lay foundation stones upon it, the stones would sink. They would sink slowly, yet surely, at an even pace, almost taunting the observers, demanding our attention—and our apprehension. Finally, after several layers had been set down, the stones sank no longer, and we could begin to pour concrete. I was hardly alone in my suspicion that what we had witnessed were a series of bad omens. Most of our crew was composed of Irishmen not more than one generation off the boats. Many of the older men had retained the common-sense wisdom of our forefathers and were not ignorant of signs and seals of elder spirits. Nevertheless, management was determined to carry on. “Progress” yielded for no man.
For a time after that, construction went smoothly. My team set about assembling the lower exterior walls as others put the support beams in place. Artisans from Europe and New York came to begin creating the elaborate decorative stonework which would eventually be placed on the second, third, and fourth floors. Books had even begun to arrive, anticipating that the library for which most of the tower was intended would soon be ready.
What I would give to have that sense of calm back! And yet, even then, I could vaguely sense an indescribable terror beginning to register on the fringes of my consciousness. Something, which human words haven’t the capacity to describe, was detected by one of my senses beyond the five that all men know and acknowledge. Saint Brendan, ora pro nobis!
Strange incidents began to manifest themselves slowly around the worksite. A tool would go missing, scaffolding would collapse, a sudden, uncharacteristically strong gust of wind would blow the blueprints clean off the table, and yet work toddled on. Toddled on, that is, until the first victim met his end. What his name was I cannot recall, but I remember him being an honest man, trying his best in the world despite what I suspected to be an abusive relationship with alcohol. A sudden gust of wind caused this experienced laborer to fall from one of the higher stories and to land head-first on the pavement. His was an instant death, but a somber occasion for all. Yet, after his body was removed and the site of his impact was cleaned, we were urged to continue working. The man would receive a decent burial in a few days; there was nothing more we could do for him now.
The second victim met with a stranger demise. I can still remember the distinct but unidentifiable smell emanating from his part of the tower. He was seeing to the foundation on the southwest corner, which kept sinking despite the overall soundness of the structure. Using a pair of rods I hadn’t seen before, he was employing some strange technique of surveying which involved him holding one rod in each hand and walking about the area until the rods would suddenly cross, as if by themselves. At the spot where this strange event occurred, he began to drill a narrow hole, as if trying to measure depth.
Suddenly, and without warning, his entire body jolted and was thrust backwards as if slapped by some unseen force. There he lay dead, eyes wide open, with a look of…how shall I describe it? Disgust? Revulsion? Physical shock? I may never know.
Fearing that we had struck a pocket of toxic gas (his appearance resembled the look of soldiers on the front of the previous war), I personally asked our boss to stop the project. All I got was a strong reprimand and two days of mandatory absence from the work site. By then, though, I gave little thought to the project itself, but to my own safety and the souls of the recent dead. I would hear that in the following days, two more men met their fate, bringing our death toll to one for each day of work.
They were human sacrifices on the altar of progress. Offerings to the false gods of materialism. Any reasonable man would know to stop this madness, but we live in unreasonable times. St. Anthony the Great’s predictions were coming to pass with terrifying quickness, catching us completely off guard.
I returned to work, briefly, on the third day. But upon seeing the horrified looks on the faces of the crew, I knew it was time to hand in my resignation for good. What use is a paycheck if it costs one his life? What utility is it to feed oneself should it cost your sanity, or—indeed—your soul?
One cannot even begin to describe what brought me back to that hill on the fourth night. I was being called, almost audibly but in a fashion other than that of man’s hearing. It was like when cats interact with invisible things or when a dog hears the whistles which are unique to them. I went, though I knew better. I went because I somehow knew that destiny itself had an appointment for me, that the Fates had something to show. I understand now; I understand far too much now. As I look out this window, I understand why resistance is futile, why the best that man can aspire to is pure submission to the higher powers. If all mankind were to experience what I did that night, the existential dread would be too much for our race, and creation may well begin to undo us.
I am tired; I have grown thin and pale, even for a man of my tribe. Dear God, I have seen much! When I arrived at the site, I saw that it had been abandoned, apparently quite quickly. In my dreamlike state, I knew right where to go and was not the least bit surprised to see the apparent cause of my colleagues’ flight. The hole the second victim had dug had grown wider, but, contrary to expectation, it had apparently been opened from beneath. In my foolish revelry, I approached the opening and stepped through, into the lost world our ancestors wisely hid away from us.
There, in those tenebrous caverns, were pictographs of hideous execution. Lifelike, too lifelike, enough to shock even the bravest man to his core. There were depictions of the wars countless centuries previous, when our people—and they were our people—our own Celts living here thousands of years before San Colombo! Scenes depicted when we were driven to near extinction, driven to the boats by the recent red arrivals from the west. But that was not the worst. I then saw the horrible beings those invaders served, those…other gods. I saw, in that cave uncovered at the base of the tower, how these beings betrayed their Indian servants, and how the Indians in turn rallied and slew the masters to whom they had previously been so devoted. I saw how those they could not destroy were captured by a means of dark sorcery I dare not describe. And it was here, in this place, that one of the hideous alien chiefs, a daemon daemonorum, was bound: placed under spell and sigil never to be woken again! His tomb was buried here, and a ritual mound was erected on top of it.
And it was forgotten. The tribe which buried it was exterminated by another from the other side of the lake. The newcomers destroyed the temple structures on the mound, erasing all evidence that this was anything other than a natural hill. But the entity’s power was not completely contained…this new tribe slowly began to succumb to madness, and betrayed one another with gleeful disdain. It was almost merciful when the French arrived and imposed order upon them. By the time of Saxon settlement, there was no man on Earth who knew what lied there. Now it is too late; the thing is loose. Doom is upon us.
It is almost comical. Indian burial mounds have become a terrible cliché in our culture. But could this be a vague memory? Could the slain dead be calling out to us, trying to warn us of the doom which lies mere meters beneath our feet? I will not be the one to deny it. There are no doubts that certain places are haunted, but few suspect that the very continent itself is infected.
The previous note was found in the abandoned apartment of one Patrick O’Mannion. No trace of the man was ever found. His table was overturned, bookshelves rummaged through, and floorboards cut open by some crude instrument. There was also a hideous odor emanating from the entire dwelling, the source of which could never be determined. Fearing the release of some gaseous toxin, the city authorities opted to evacuate all the building’s inhabitants and burn it to the ground after duly compensating the residents. The matter remains unsolved.
Daniel Bretton is a wayward son of New England. A simple, philosophically-inclined man, he wanders the world in search of wisdom, both worldly and Godly. Like Herodotus, he reports what he sees and leaves the reader to draw his own conclusions.