Daemon Stars

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Contently Deranged Travelers


In the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake of '10 a trio of grave-robbers are offered the opportunity of a lifetime.

Submitted: April 01, 2017

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Submitted: April 01, 2017

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I will never pretend to know, least of all understand, that which harrows my mind of pleasant things. It rears whenever my thoughts stray, like a glutinous worm born from pits of slimy despair. Even when briefly forgotten, the memories haunt me with recurrent smells and sounds of terrifying familiarity. How I have retained enough semblance of sanity to orchestrate words upon paper is beyond me. I am fortunate to be alive, though likewise vexed when waking to my own screams and agonizing in days of suicidal contemplation. I both thank and curse any deity that may reign benign in heavenly places for the breath in my lungs. To remain among the living, like my sanity, is no longer a surety – not after what I have seen. Their images still constrict my thoughts: nightmarish constructs, noises and monstrosities, native only to the imaginings of the deranged.

My name is Aaron Joseph Landers. I am twenty-six years old at the time of this writing, five-foot eight in height, black hair, and Caucasian. I surmise I am at least one hundred and forty pounds, though I have weighed up to two hundred in healthier days. All credentials of legal importance can be found in a thrice-sealed lock box, hidden behind a crimson-coated brick in the western stone wall of the Palm Beach Intracoastal beneath the Lake Avenue Bridge. By the end of this manifesto you may yet understand why I feel the need to describe myself. Perhaps it will provide closure to the unfortunate soul destined to discover what remains of me.

An intelligent man, I graduated Bachelors from an esteemed college I shall leave nameless to retain their reputation. After all the shameful actions I have committed in life, none of which I have atoned, I at least owe the academy this much. It is worth mentioning, at least to me, that I did not pursue a career in my choice fields of study after graduation. My profession was of a freelance archaeologist, specialized in the retrieval of abandoned, posthumous artifacts of marketable value. Simply put, I was a grave-robber. If for any particular human error, it was this choice of career that evolved to what may be my demise.

I chose to live in South Florida out of its convenient distance from Miami's port, where most of my transactions were carried out. I had made a humble fortune in my field, enough so that I might have retired at thirty-five years age. This, I fear, is a dream never meant for fruition. The beginning of my end, though I did not know it then, came the evening of January 14th, 2010: two days after the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti.

I kept two peers with whom I enjoyed in the craft whose names I will refer to under aliases so as not to disgrace their memory in the hearts of possible relatives. The poor souls. I have often forced my last memories of them down with innumerable bottles of whiskey and gin. I, myself, have no such ties to this world known to me. Perhaps it is for the best.

address as Jerome, was an expert linguist, fluent in more languages, dialects, and alphabets than I knew existed. He was a short, pudgy fellow with a balding cranium which the rest of us would mock at his expense. However, his thick spectacles betrayed an intelligence one would describe as vicious. This was proven whenever we came across some prying obstacle in need of disposal. Though the rest of us typically carried out the damnable deed, Jerome was infamous for inventing newer ways of disposing evidence.

And then there was Quentin; a tall man, broad and strong with deeply sunken eyes that further pronounced his already intimidating appearance. Despite his Neanderthal likeness, Quentin was a man of science. He specialized in chemistry, primarily that of explosives, acids, and preservatives. He was only a few years my senior and already displayed a creative understanding of chemicals that I had come to admire as genius. Whether it was an impressively controlled demolition or scientifically baffling method of preserving our findings, he never ceased to amaze me in a practice I admittedly know next to little about.

As for myself, from a young age I had been particularly gifted with navigation and spacial awareness, be it with the use of drawn out maps or my photographic memory to perfectly recall previously visited locations. Additionally, I have used this gift to research many cultures and lands, specifically those my comrades and I would frequent when employed. This gift was what spared me, even in the aftermath of events that will follow in these records. It is a blessing I curse to this day.

Jerome announced the news of our next job that Thursday evening. He spoke of an offer proposed by a middle-man whom we had successful worked with in the past. The middle-man had been contacted by a generous benefactor. They offered a king's ransom for the investigation and retrieval of contents from a tomb unearthed by the recent cataclysm in Haiti.

The site had been discovered by locals of Léogâne, a coastal commune in Haiti's Ouest Department. Its appearance was met with rumors of superstitious evils that spread like wildfire, given its proximity to the earthquake's epicenter. It was described as a slim, mausoleum-like structure that stuck out from the sand of shallow waters barely off the shore.

The investigation they requested was not our forte. After all, we were not archaeologists. Retrieving its contents, however, was what we did best, and the payoff was too fortuitous to ignore. The specifics of what we would find were widely unknown. According to the benefactor's liaison, this was true for them as well. Regardless of our findings, we were promised the results would do nothing to change the reward.

After our contract for the job was secured, we spared no time leaving for Haiti with all the supplies necessary. It would be our greatest payoff. We were to live and die as wealthy men without need for another day's work, enjoying lives of grandeur as we saw fit. At least, that is what it was supposed to be. That morning we took to the Watergrave, a small motor yacht we purchased after our first few jobs for oversea opportunities; a worthwhile investment in our early career.

accomplished undertaking, as well as the extravagance we would acquire with our reward. Jerome, a known pervert, boasted fantasies of sexual conquest with many, beautiful, exotic women. Quinten meekly entertained purchasing a small island to live out his days in a mansion and laboratory constructed to his liking. Very fitting for them both. Truthfully, I had no clear idea of how to spend my share of the riches. Bright as I was, I was never quite creative when left to such unrestricted imagination.

It was in this journey that my skills of navigation complemented our team's skill base. We journeyed southeast through the Bahamas and turned south at the Iguana Islands before we crossed the short stretch of ocean between Cuba and Haiti. We traversed the Gulf of Gonâve to enter the Canal of Saint-Marc between Gonâve Island and Haiti's western shore, not far from Port-au-Prince. It was at Arcahaie we made port to restock the rations we wasted out of excessive celebration.

We witnessed there the destructive effects the earthquake had on the population. The damaged region proved difficult to purchase supplies from, but I must regretfully admit this hindered us little when we made use of our typical methods. Despite the chaos and devastation brought upon these innocent people, we cared little for their well-being and took what we wished. All we desired in our hearts was the greed granted by our contract's fulfillment. Looking back, what awaited us was appropriate to our apathy. Truly, karma is a cruel and fitting mistress that way.

Nightfall approached by the time we refueled and resupplied, so we took what we could and continued south through Port-au-Prince Bay in a straight shot to our destination. For reasons that will be made clear later, and for the same reasons one would disregard these pages as the ravings of an remorseful madman, I will not divulge the exact coordinates provided to us by our mysterious benefactor.

Even now I question whether any of it was real. And yet, with every question between delusion and truth I am met again with the seared recollection of that nightmarish encounter. Nightmarish is an unfitting description, for a lifetime spent in nightmares would be divine reprieve from this unrelenting torment.

docked the Watergraveon a small beachhead, conveniently adjacent to the structure's door. Twilight allowed us a shadowy sight of the oddly constructed thing. Its portal was a circular door of stone, small enough for a grown man to squeeze through if he held his legs to his chest and ducked his head. Its surface bore many lines like cracks that focused on a point in the center and branched crazily in all directions. The exterior was dark green from a slimy substance unlike any algae we had seen or read of before. I wondered what could possibly have been buried beneath sands and waves that ancient civilized man would certainly find impossible to build upon.

We examined the round door and found it easy to open. A slight push triggered an unseen mechanism which forced it to part in a way that aligned with the insensible angles of the pattern. Its opening resembled the teeth of a round-mouthed beast, releasing a yawn of noxious breath from countless centuries of slumber. We readied ourselves with lanterns lit, faces garbed, and supply packs fastened. When we thought ourselves prepared, we entered cautiously through the tomb's cramped entrance.

The inside ceiling and walls were adorned in spikes and hooks and reeked of dead fish. Fortunate to our endeavor, the area was just spacious enough to fit the three of us without risk of impalement. In place of stairs, however, was a hole. It was large enough for even Quentin to fall through, though our lanterns could do little to illuminate its depth.

Quentin pulled a small, glass globe from his supply pack and shook its contents until the chemicals contained emitted a silver glow. He dropped it in, and after four seconds it broke against solid ground. We climbed wells deeper than that, though the walls of the hole were perfectly smooth and without erosion. There was enough length of rope between us to secure one end to a ceiling hook and cast the rest below.

One by one we descended, first Jerome, then me, and finally Quentin. When we reached the bottom, the air hung thick with rot that upset our bowels and stung our eyes to watering. We took a quick moment to assess our surroundings, as well as allow Jerome to vomit from the stench.

The lower chamber held a high ceiling and extended into a long, dark hallway beyond our lanterns' reach. We could hear the water currents howl just beyond the walls, which made little sense with how shallow it was around the entrance. After his stomach settled, Jerome examined the first of what we would find plentiful along the tomb's extending hallway.

They were pictorial carvings, masterfully sculpted into the stone's dark green surface. The first depicted a man, unclothed and with eyes that stared out with low, tired lids. The next scene showed the same man, eyes wide in surprise and accompanied by a set of characters that stood on his left and right. They were vaguely humanoid, arms ended in points rather than fingers, and absent of a face. As strange as the second carving was, the third held even more bizarre qualities.

The third scene showed the same man and the same faceless creatures, though then joined by rows of bodies that lay at their feet. Additionally, worse than the newly added corpse pile, a grin encompassed the man's face. It was long and unnatural, even for art that primitive. The rounds of his pupils were pinned, uneasy to look upon for too long. Even Quentin, his scientific mind too pessimistic of the supernatural, admitted to feeling disturbed by the thing.

Further along the art became far more gruesome in detail. The man was present in every scripture, his features more deranged. His pupils ceased to exist entirely and his grin gaped to expose rows of razor teeth and a serpentine tongue. The twin, faceless things remained stationary, changed only in their size and shape. Originally, they were no taller than him, yet as the story unraveled they became large, monstrous, and wholly unique from each other.

The left one possessed twenty-three arms of multiple joints and its head crowned to a point that pinnacled where the wall met the ceiling. The right one was wider, more bestial, and a toothy maw yawned from both its side: one with many long tongues and the other spewed clouds of insect swarms. They were horrifyingly grotesque and alien, though more horrid than they was the man they stood beside.

Toward the end he was no longer naked. A robe of many strips hung from his torso, and he posed menacing postures over any persons, dead or prostrate, that lay beneath him. A dark halo shown from his head, much like an design of saints by Renaissance painters. He did horrible, unforgivable things in those scenes: feeding entire groups to his cohorts, mangling children with devices and methods unheard-of in any recorded culture, drowning them in oceans of their own blood, just to name of few.

Murder, torture, humiliation; these he committed, as well as some too vile for me to revisit on these pages. All the while he appeared insanely delighted at their torment. That man, that monster between monsters, was far from anything human anymore. He was a lord of suffering to all who stood in his shrieking wake.

The last carving, to our reprieve, was that of the evil man given an appropriate end. He was entirely bound within the many strips of his own gown, grappled tightly around his body like a mummified pharaoh. His body was wreathed in flames by the same people he tormented as they held their fists out in defiance of him. The monsters from before were gone, his bound form suspended over a depiction of a hole.

After such a climax, the story ended. It struck me as peculiar how sudden the ending was. There was an empty space between the last two carvings, wide enough to have another scene entirely.

When we turned our attention away from the wall we saw ourselves at another door. On its surface was the familiar sight of the wicked man, as he was in the end, though shown as a silhouette. After having just observed such a tale, it was understandable why we were not hasty to proceed. I had a moment of clarity to turn back, to never experience what I live through today in every stray thought and dream. Unfortunately, I ignored my better judgment.

The door, much taller and wider than the entrance, was not so easily opened. After we took to it with picks and crowbars, Quentin placed a pair of dynamite at the bottom corners. Jerome then stood on my shoulders to apply a corrosive acid of Quentin's design. When the chemicals ceased bubbling in their reaction, I lit the explosives. We ran to a safe distance before the door erupted into the next chamber. We proceeded only after the smoke cleared and our coughs ceased.

The room beyond was perfectly cylindrical, its wall smooth with a black, featureless stone that reflected the light of our lanterns. The place held no other portals or treasure, save for a single coffin on its opposite end. The capsule stood upright from floor to ceiling, a series of runic characters etched upon its surface. Jerome was more than eager to translate it for us. He confessed, to his excitement, that the alphabet was Aramaic in origin but spelled words from some archaic French. After what felt like hours of analysis, Jerome spoke the words transcribed:

Behold, he who is Lord-Servant to Daemon Stars. Leave him to sleep who is deathless in service to deathless Things. To withhold waking is to withhold suffering.”

When he finished speaking the passage aloud, the light of our lanterns whisked out and filled the warning with their glow. The yellow light turned to scarlet within the ancient letters until the coffin's lid melted into a pool of foul, bubbling sludge at its feet. The stuff reeked both of burnt flesh and fresh blood. The walls of the room, beyond any reasoning, remained as lit as when our lanterns were alight.

Within the exposed capsule lay a corpse, burnt black and dressed in bandages from neck to toe; its jaw was missing and the tongue, dry and black, hung freely from the back of its mouth. Along the dome of its skull was a cavity, as if the brain was entirely pulled through. We were shocked for a second at the sight before we could recompose ourselves. It was similar to the man from before, decayed and disfigured though he was. We could find no treasure to take that we thought would interest our employer, so perhaps the corpse would make for a suitable prize.

Jerome approached our lifeless host and felt the bandages to assert their material. He noted aloud they were like rubbery flesh, but dismissed the oddity after he noticed a jewel-like gleam in its eye sockets. He stood on his toes and pulled out a white, eye-sized marble. He closely inspected it, his eyes squinting through his spectacles, unable to notice a twitching movement midst the corpse's form. The bandages were slithering.

Quentin and I were not swift enough to react as the pale strips sprung to life and constricted Jerome in a grip impossible for something so thin. I saw for a brief second how the inside of the bandages were lined with tiny mouths and rows of teeth. They gnawed and squeezed poor Jerome while he screamed. They raised him off the ground and faced him at the corpse's head as it convulsed to life.

It uttered inhuman words from its jaw-less throat, guttural and slobbering. Even now I cannot tell if it was handicapped gibberish or some accursed, alien speech from places unfathomable. It pointed its tongue at Jerome, feeling his horrified expression with dry strokes. It shrieked at poor Jerome before its tongue impaled his own. It was in that moment that Quentin and I, frozen in fear until then, took the only action that made sense in that mad place: we ran.

We dropped all we carried and sprinted to the hall, guided only by the vaporous light that filtered from behind us and the most primal instinct of fear. I gritted my teeth at Jerome's tortured cries as the sound of stabbing echoed again and again. I stumbled to the ground as I fled, tripped on air by my frantic escape. I thought myself dead until I saw the rope three feet away. If ever there was benign providence, I thanked it then for its favor.

Quentin, slower from his size, trailed ten feet behind. When I turned back to exclaim my relief, thankful to see the face of a friend still alive, my gratitude violently sunk into my stomach. Jerome, or whatever sorted, bloody pulp remained of him, was held in pieces by the tendrils. I sat in horror for only a split second longer; long enough to witness Quentin bludgeoned repeatedly by Jerome's puppet cadavers.

Both their blood sprayed across the ground with each strike. Quentin's expression was petrified, twisted between disbelief and pain. The charred corpse-thing followed close behind, operating the tendrils. It shambled disjointedly toward us and spewed more unrecognized blasphemies in its advance.

I scrambled feverishly to ascend the rope and sobbed as tears mixed with the blood of my friends splattered on my face. I dreaded the thought to look back. I heard bones crunch, though who's exactly I dared not guess. Quentin ceased his pained gasps, and I pray he lay unconscious in those final moments. The grisly thudding continued on like a heartbeat, slow and morbid in its rhythm. So long as I could heard it, I knew the creature preoccupied. Selfish, I know – but fear is known to do that to cowards.

The cramped, spiked lobby was a welcome sight. Adrenaline pumped heavily in my veins, and to avoid the risk of life-threatening hesitation I scrambled to the exit on all fours. I welcomed the salt air and breeze, removing my mask so as to vomit violently. By that point, the pain of emptying my bowels and the following burn in my throat was cathartic.

I know not whether it was morbid curiosity or a freshly traumatized mind that caused me to look back. Regardless of what provoked such a lapse in reason, I saw there, sitting barely within the portal and hidden from the dawn, the monster's face of domeless, jawless frame. It leered into me with a lucid malevolence I can only describe as ancient and unnatural. How could something, seen by my own eyes to walk so slowly, already sit behind me? It made no sense! But, then again, what of this does?

There is a lapse in my memory between the sight of its hollow, rotted eyes and when I started up the Watergrave. I could feel it reach for me in that moment, though whether or not it actually did is not clear in my mind. The sensation was identical at least; as though even its desire to inflict suffering had limbs to butcher and destroy. My gift saved me then in my return to the United States. A presence of dread has lingered since, occasionally separate from the twisted memory of the thing.

It is in those moments I think on the “deathless things” mentioned in Jerome's translation, the so-called “daemons stars”. Whatever they were, they were not of this earth. If their servant could be as hideous a thing as that corpse, then what of the them? This question forces me to shudder away an answer every time, lest I uncover deeper madness.

To this day I remain hidden in locations I will not mention so as to spare anyone from wrongful association to me. I am plagued by these painful memories; Jerome's helpless cries, Quentin's traumatized expression, our shambling, writhing pursuer. They flood my mind in flashes of unforgiving detail. My hair and skin, proportionate to my spirit, have grown disheveled in my seclusion. I know my end comes, seeing how the morbidly familiar smells and sounds become stronger and louder with each day.

Jerome and Quentin visited me the other night, prompting me to write this confession of my experience. Their eyes were dug out from their sockets, black tears flowed down their cheeks, limbs mangled and bent in grisly angles. Worse were their long smiles, ear to ear as the man in the tomb's tale. They stood and stared in silence before me, yet I knew why they came. My friends are waiting for me, my time to join close at hand.

I hear the squirming of its tendrils late in the night, so I know it comes. How and when, I know not. Despite my powerlessness to stop it, at least I have control as to where. It is not much, but it is mine damn it! I will remain here until then, hidden with this finished parchment near. I am certain my postmortem stench will lead someone to my remains.

It is fitting that a grave-robber should spend his last days in his grave; irony at its finest. It may not be humorous to you, but at least let me have this. I am so very tired. If it does not take me soon, I may do it myself. Perhaps not, considering my cowardice. I was a coward then, and no different a coward now. I am sure it will seek whether alive or dead, but I digress. Believe me or not, let the manner of this tale's discovery profess the truth.

I am Aaron Joseph Landers; a hopelessly foolish grave-robber who died a hopelessly broken man.

 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2018 M. A. Yacone. All rights reserved.

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