The sun set with no sign of the rain letting up so I decided to turn in as well. Vanessa had a little cabin all to herself I thought of knocking on her door to wish her good night but I thought better of it. The gentle rocking of the boat quickly lulled me to sleep.
The dream I had that night was just plain fucked up. In it, I was standing in the middle of the street in a ruined city; it was like something out of Mad Max. The stink from Delphanos' Well was thick in the air. Then I heard this marching sound, and what I mean is that it was like marching but it wasn't. The steps were all in unison but there was this strange broken quality to them. Curious I followed the noise and found myself at a crumbling intersection.
There was an army moving down the street, a sea of figures clad from head to toe in glistening black leather, their faces were concealed by blunt, snout-like masks. Their every step was uneven and loping, but somehow they managed to move unsteadily in perfect unison with one another.
In the midst of the dark shambling mass, they carried an elaborate, jewel encrusted palanquin. It pitched and yawed with the dark-clad things' movements.
The figure riding in the litter wore a frayed ivory-yellow cloak around his shoulders. A mask concealed all his features save for his cool, dusky eyes. The mask hugged his face like a second skin and was the color of bone.
I could hear him singing.
It ain't no sin
Those nonsensical words hounded me, they chased me back the way I had
come where I found myself face to face with another freakish army.
They might have been human once, but their features, their bodies,
where withered and blackened with the passage of aeons. They limped
and they hissed, carrying upon their twisted backs a fleshy crucifix
that boiled with maggots. The woman nailed to the cross, was naked
and oiled, her ebony hair hid her face. I could hear her singing as
well, her voice familiar as the telltale sting of a paper cut.
Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk aroun'
I awoke just as both armies were drawing closer together, preparing to clash. My pillowcase was soaked with sweat; I spent a few panicked moments trying to remember where I was and why I was there. The gentle rumble of my cabin-mate, porno's own Bobby Burns snoring gently helped me get my bearings.
It was almost 3AM. I tried to relax and go back to sleep but when I closed my eyes all I could hear was Dry Bones whirling though my head. So, I got on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt and headed up onto the deck. It had stopped raining and the sky was cloudless. The full moon looked swollen and was tinged with green. It was bright enough to read by. Leaning on the aft railing I stared at it for a while. I ran the events of the nightmare over and over in my head, examining and interpolating them until they had lost their disturbing qualities. The nightmare obviously had something to do with the feelings I was starting to develop for Vanessa, coupled with the stress of being away from home and those creepy statues . . . not to mention that thing I thought I saw at the bottom of the well when I damn well know I didn't see anything at all.
I started to notice this thumping, sloshing noise. It was coming from right below me. Visions of The Creature from the Black Lagoon<i> started bubbling to the surface of my mind. I got this sudden urge to run, but where the Hell was I going to run? I was on a friggin' boat for pity's sake! Looking down. I saw one of the two army surplus rafts the Polaris' crew was using to shuttle us back and forth to the island.
Now, where is the other one? I remember thinking idly as I returned to contemplating the moon. I was trying to remember if a moon like that at this hour meant good weather or bad weather. I didn't relish the thought of spending a few extra days here. I half suspected that when we got back to the island the statues would be all in different places.
Ha. If that had happened, I'd have swam back to LA.
At this point I wish I had swam back to LA. My chances would've been better.
After a few minutes, that missing boat began to worry me. How long would it take for us to get the talent and equipment with just one boat? I took a stroll from one end of the boat to another in hopes of finding the thing. No such luck though. I decided to head up to the bridge and let the captain know.
Halfway there I had the first officer waving a machete under my nose. "What you do here? Bridge for crew only."
This wasn't the first time I'd had a sharp object waved threateningly in my face. I'd been mugged at knifepoint a few years ago. Taking in a deep breath, I thought to myself Don't burst into tears this time. Don't you dare burst into tears.
"Crew only! You not crew!" his breath was rank with alcohol, and the something else I couldn't place. Something vaguely unsavory.
"Yeah I get the idea crew only. Listen one of your boats is missing . . ."
"We know." he said with a sneer, "You go back to sleep, we take care of everything."
"You know? What are you doing about it?"
With a wave of his hand he dismissed me and retreated back up the steps to the bridge, "We take care of everything. Go back to sleep."
"And how did it get loose anyway?" I called after him, "Aren't you sailors supposed to be good with knots or something?"
"Watch your mouth fatboy. You be sorry later."
You be sorry later. Even better, it was high school all over again.
I headed straight for Vanessa's room. I was gonna do my best to talk her into dropping all this nonsense and heading home. I didn't like the island and I didn't like the crew . . . I didn't like any of this. I knocked on her door. There was no answer.
Now I was really getting worried. I tried the handle, the door creaked open and I stepped inside. She had a cabin all to herself; she's the producer after all. All her clothes and things were still in her suitcase. There were papers strewn about the bed and an old book lying face down on the pillow. I glanced at the title; The Prehistoric Pacific in the Light of the Ponape Scripture by H.H. Copeland.
I guess that's where she heard about the island. Casually glancing at the papers, I saw that it was printed off a web page of some sort. The first paragraph to catch my eye read like this -- now remember I'm paraphrasing here.
There are CREATURES that come from beyond reality, from beyond the realms of TIME and SPACE. Beware THEM for THEIR purposes are unfathomable. The ancient people had a name for THEIR kind -- the Mad Gods, the Beings from Outside. Know THEM as BODGE LOYAR -- the harlequin in the ice; ANZON -- the bloodless whisperer; DELPHANOS -- the fallen angel of longing; ELDRAD -- the dismembered warrior; NOGGAR-DALLIEON -- the formless lurker; DAMIEA -- the goddess clad in worms; KRESSOR -- the walker through worlds --
The papers slipped from my hands. I knew what this was . . . well at the very least I had a strong suspicion what it was -- the Carella Manuscript.
You have no idea what I'm talking about do you? Okay, let me explain.
There was this professor of archeology, or ancient religions, or something in that vein; he'd already published several books on secret cults and obscure belief systems. He's gotten some good reviews too, his books are all the rage in the intellectual circuit, and they're calling him the new Joseph Campbell.
And by the way, if you don't know who Joseph Campbell, there's nothing I can do for you. Just skim ahead five paragraphs to the part where I get laid for the last time of my life and I'll catch up with you. For the rest of you -- our successful young Professor Carella decides its time to write his masterwork. He goes on an extended sabbatical that turns into job abandonment. He spends the next ten years travelling the world, researching all kinds of esoteric stuff. By now his other books have fallen out of print bu t he doesn't care because he's on the hot on the trail of something big.
Twelve years after beginning the work, he hands in a huge manuscript. And in this manuscript he reveals all the big secrets, he blurts out all the information that man was not meant to know. He reveals the existence of the "Mad Gods" and explains the inescapable logic of their victory over us.
Of course that's what we all think the book is about because after Carella's editor read the manuscript he went mad. He killed Carella, strangled him I think, then he set fire to the house they were in -- supposedly destroying all copies of the dreaded manuscript in the process.
After all that, the manuscript became something of an urban legend. Reading it was supposed to drive you mad, if you read every fifth word you could invoke the Mad Gods in all their strange glory, it predicted the end of the world, the government supposedly had copies hidden away for use in World War Three.
All of it bullshit of course.
But here was an approximation some clever little webmaster had cooked up and it looked as though Vanessa was buying in to it. I remember thinking, Agnostic my ass.
"What are you doing in here?"
My breath caught, my hand flew to my chest, "Having a heart attack thank you very much. Haven't you ever heard of knocking?"
"Preston. You're in my room." She brushed past me. Her sneakers and jeans were caked with mud, one of her fingernails was cracked.
Heedless of my presence she began to get undressed, slipping the light blouse over her head. She was braless as always, "Was there something wrong?"
"No, its just that I was -- I am worried about you." It all seemed so stupid now. Was I really going to tell her that I got spooked because I had a bad dream? "I don't trust the crew of this boat. I think they're up to no good."
She kicked off her shoes, "You're being paranoid."
"One of them waved a machete at me!"
"Well what did you do to piss him off?"
"And he called me fatboy!"
Groanin g with exasperation she sat me down on the bed with a good hard shove, "I know what's really bothering you."
I tried to keep eye contact but my eyes kept wandering, "Vanessa, this is serious. Those guys are --"
"This is really about what happened back at my place isn't it?" She strolled over and closed the door to her cabin, shucking her stained jeans on the way back. "You think I only slept with you to get you to help me out."
"Yes. I mean no. I mean that's not what I'm worried about."
" ;Preston . . . " she caressed my face, ". . . I like you, I like you a lot and I'm not using you."
"Can't we just --" she shut me up with a kiss. She was on me like an attacking lioness. My clothes just seemed to melt away, The Prehistoric Pacific in the Light of the Ponape Scripture by H.H. Copeland and the Carella manuscript ended up on the floor, along with the comforter and the sheets. If I close my eyes, I can still remember how her nails felt on my skin, the way one broken one hurt just little, how it made me shiver. Think what you will but in that moment we weren't the porno actress and her pet writer, we were just a man and a woman and it was bliss.
When it all ends I want to try and keep that moment in my mind, use it to block out the screaming horror I know I'm going to face.
After it was over and we lay spent on the cramped bed, she spoke in a husky whisper, "I'll tell you something I haven't told anyone else. This is my last movie. After this I'm done."
It goes without saying that I slept peacefully for the rest of the night.
The morning found the missing boat back where it belonged. I guess the captain had gone out fishing. The day's filming went pretty well. The statues where right where we'd left them, the sun kept the clouds at bay and Bobby Burns managed to come five times before succumbing to exhaustion. When it was Vanessa's turn to "perform" with him I had to walk away. My skin crawling, I wandered through the jungle until I found another one of the statues.
For some reason, the face of it was covered with black flies. They buzzed away as I approached. Someone had painted a symbol on the things misshapen forehead. I traced a finger through the dark gummy ruby-colored, substance. Was it dried blood? I couldn't be sure.
By the time I got back to the others Vanessa's scene was over, it was Claudia Tate's turn now. She'd had so many augmentations done to her chest that she looked like a cartoon character. The fans seemed to like her though.
The rest of the day went by at a fairly monotonous pace, until one of the lighting guys happened to glance out onto the horizon and ask, "Hey! Where the Hell is the boat?"
That's right kids, the Polaris had set off without us. I heard a mocking voice in my head, "Watch your mouth fatboy. You be sorry later."
As the sun began to set, things degenerated into a full-scale panic. Hardly anyone knew we were here, those who knew we were here probably weren't sure where here was. We had no shelter, no supplies, no food.
Heh . . . like Robinson Crusoe, its primitive as can be.
Before things degenerated into total chaos, Vanessa took charge and led us through the jungle to the abandoned military base. At the very least, it was a roof over our heads, after some brief discus sions about signal fires and searching for food we turned in for the night. Not a one of the twelve of us gave even the slightest thought to post someone on watch duty.
After all this is a deserted island right?
I woke up having to take a whiz some time later. I wasn't sure where Vanessa was, for some reason she'd felt funny about us snuggling up in front of the others. The moon was hanging swollen and low in the sky again. It looked like a bad special effect. I stumbled over jutting roots and prickly brambles.
It seemed like a good idea to do my business some distance from camp. I walked what seemed like an appropriate distance and did what comes natural. It wasn't until I was finished that I noticed the toppled statue.
Half concealed by a mound of freshly disturbed Earth, it lay on its back, gaping at the stars. I drew closer, wondering if I should try to set it right. I touched the stone. It was warm, clammy. Not cold like before. I wondered if one of the crew had done this, or if this thing had toppled over on its own.
I thought I heard twigs snapping behind me. A sudden creeping sensation up the back of my neck alerted me to the fact I wasn't alone. I turned, "Vanessa will you please stop sneaking up on --"
The shape behind me was human, but emaciated, its leathery-looking skin was a muddy gray, and its teeth were the color of ashes. When it moved there was a sound like fall leaves crunching underfoot.
In the moment before I started running and screaming, all Vanessa's words came tumbling back to me, "Each on of these is a grave marker . . . These guys were mummified and buried while they where still alive . . . They where chosen at birth and lived like kings until their thirty-fifth year . . . they surrendered themselves to their god knowing that they would not truly die but would instead sleep under the Earth until they where summoned back to life by their god."
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