Stories ] [ Chronicles of Arkham 2 ]

Chronicles of Arkham 3

Daniel Trujillo lived by himself in a modern grey house in Arkham. He worked as a Ballot Counter; dull work, but it paid the bills.

His house looked rather unprepossessing and out of place among the old steep-roofed houses; he had been told by the Estate Agent that his house was a new build on an old lot.

"There was always a house here. Sadly it was totally destroyed in a large explosion in 1942; the lot was then left bare for many years. Eventually in 1976 it was rebuilt in the current style. It has been checked by surveyors and is perfectly servicable. If you would like to change it at all, I have been assured there are no liens on the property apart from one. There is a basement. This should NEVER be extended or made deeper. You accepted these terms when you purchased. Oh and if you should wish to change the roof, you will need to seek permission at City Hall. Ah, but you work there? So you should have no problem at all."

"I would like to bring it more into keeping with the area. Can you put me in touch with a good builder?"

"Certainly. I'll ring you later with some information on local builders."

City Hall, seen across the plaza in front of the Opera.

He decided to look the records of the old lot up when he had time at work. He discovered that the original house at 408 Lovecraft Lane had belonged to one Frederick Hickham, a naval captain of the First World War. There was no further information, except that he was apparently killed, along with his elderly mother, in the explosion that wrecked his house and left a crater on the lot until Dan's house was built.

Dan headed for the library after work. The librarian was a man who appeared young but appeared morose and had a brooding look, and dark shadows under his eyes. However, he was polite and helpful.

"Yes, sir, I have a book that might help you in your search. It's County Reserve, though - so you can't take it out of the library, cannot borrow it. You may read it here though."

Dan thanked him and settled down to read. There was something about the librarian. Maybe it was his accent. He had soft eyes, but a haunted look.

The book purported to be written by one Karl Heinrich, Graf von Altberg-Ehrenstein, a Lieutenant-Commander in the Imperial German Navy during the days of World War I. He seemed to be writing to set the record before the public, as he was not expecting to survive whatever came next... once complete, he intended to release the manuscript in a bottle for posterity to find.

Of course, it was written a long time ago, and Dan immediately recognised the literary device used to try to make the story more plausible. Still, he kept on reading. Altberg claimed to have found the drowned body of a crew member of a ship his U-boat had sunk, clinging to the outer railing of his submarine. On this body his officers discovered an odd piece of carved ivory. Now this immediately set Daniel's teeth on edge. Ivory! Ivory was made from elephant's teeth and was illegal in most parts of the world now. Still, back in the days when this book was written, or at least set, it was a legal trade. Apparently the ivory item was very old, with some kind of image engraved on it, and one of the officers on the submarine kept it.

In the next chapter, several members of the crew started to suffer severe nightmares. This Altberg was not a nice character; he had one of his men whipped for insisting on the truth of his dreams, or nightmares of dead seamen from one of the British freighter their sub had sunk, staring in at him through the portholes of the U-boat. Worse things followed: an odd uncharted current was pulling the submarine southward, two men actually went insane from fear. Altman, a commander of truly archetypal Prussian style, dealt with that by having them executed. After all, he had to maintain discipline on his ship, he justified himself to the reader! Daniel shrugged. This guy was clearly a caricature. Political caricature? He checked the date on the book It appeared to have been first published in 1934. That would be about right. He did pause to wonder why the librarian had thought this, clearly a work of fiction, would help him in his search for information about the house.

Back to the story. Something exploded in the engine room, damaging the engines in such a way that the submarine could no longer navigate, but could still surface and dive, continuing to be drawn South by some kind of deep ocean current. And then after a violent storm, it also lost the ability to surface.This was pretty horrifying. Daniel felt the author might be laying it on a bit thick - the horror of never being able to re-emerge from the depths must surely be a deep-seated fear in all submariners!

He skipped ahead a little. The crewmen were raving about the ivory talisman; Altberg, it seemed, eventually executed them all for mutiny or insanity, leaving only one Lieutenant Klenze, who was paranoid and equally mad. Altberg and Klenze, knowing they were doomed, watched the continually drifting, sinking ship's batteries run down and dolphins follow them by the light of the U-boat's penetrating searchlight.

Deeper and deeper they went. Klenze went completely insane, shouting "He is calling! He is calling!" Altberg was not able to calm him, and finally allowed Klenze out of the airlock, to die, as he wished, rapidly in the high pressures of the ocean depths. The boat drifted for a while longer, then landed on the ocean floor.

Outside was the sunken remains of an ancient city. Altberg thought this was Atlantis, ["Oh, come ON," thought Dan] and admittedly became completely mad in his excitement.

A deep-sea diving suit allowed Altberg to explore the city a little, finding it indescribably beautiful, with many fine buildings and columns in a Grecian style. He found a temple cut from the rock; above its altar was the same image Altberg had seen on the ivory carving. He himself was also getting visions and hallucinations, even thinking there was a flickering flame on the altar of the temple. He completed his manuscript, released it in a bottle, and set off out of the submarine for the last time, determined to investigate this temple further - where of course the story ended.

In a publisher's note, it was stated that the bottle, had appeared off the coast of Yucatan and been brought to the publisher's attention.... Dan sighed as he closed the book. Of course. So what was all that about?

He took the book back to the librarian.

"Thank you. But I don't quite see... the owner of my house was a Frederick H."

"You have a lot more to learn. The library is closing for the night now. Come back when you are ready to learn more." With that, the librarian smoothed back his neat, short hair, and ushered Dan out of the library, carefully double-locking the main doors.

Dan went home to uncomfortable dreams about deep water, sinking into deep water and unmentionable creatures in the depths.

He felt the story had been unsatisfactory in some ways... Dan enjoyed a good horror story. But the old-fashioned writing was so painfully slow... there were mere hints of the awesomeness and fearfulness of the monsters seen in the various characters' hallucinations. He felt a more modern story would have given more graphic descriptions.

Next door to Daniel lived Marilyn Betty West-Newbie and Jules Daily.

Jules, Marilyn's lodger, was a writer, and so far she had made very little from it. Here you see her writing on a very old and battered computer she found in a junkshop. (She had one day seen a small spider crawl out of the keyboard, and ever since then wore gloves to type.)

Marilyn worked for the police; she had a desk job and was very content with it. They had recently been adopted by a stray tomcat whom they called Russet. Sometimes he slept in his cat-bed, but more often in summer he was out all night leading the local parliament of cats in their discussions.

Marilyn liked Motoki, another neighbour. But Motoki wasn't very interested, and preferred Deeva.

Deeva, in turn and another cat person, liked his facepaint!

On Thursday, the estate agent rang. "Motoki Mo?"

"That's me, what can I do for you?"

"I need a builder for a client."

"I'm not really a builder, I prefer to be called an Architectural Designer. What kind of work does your client need doing?... Outer decor and a roof rebuild? Yes, I can handle that sort of work. I may need to hire a subcontractor, unless the client wants to work as a labourer on the house to keep his costs down. Would you give me the details of your client? Oh, I know the house; it's actually very close to my own. I'll pop over sometime soon. Yes, your commission will be sent as soon as the work is paid for."

But first he had to record a commercial. Motoki was famous, for several reasons. He had been one of the three survivors of the Sim Survivor Challenge. Then he had survived the Twinbrook Cataclysm by moving to Jericho, where he had managed to make himself young again by making a very complicated potion in his extreme old age. So he was probably one of the oldest Sims in the world. Why this qualified him to make a commercial for SimCat Food, he didn't know, but the money it brought in was excellent.



Autonomous... and unintended.

The librarian is Howard P Lovecraft.