Fletcher at the Dig
His tent snapping in a hot, dusty wind, Fletcher found it nearly impossible to concentrate on his journal entry, an entry on which so much depended.
The porter, Daran, waited just outside with wide eyes, looking up at the group of riders carefully picking their way down the narrow trail snaking along the inner wall of the crater.
“Even now, Bryce approaches with a party of loyalists to steal the figurine,” Fletcher scratched quickly. “My initial academic excitement in the historicity of the piece has been supplanted by more fundamental concerns. No, that is inaccurate; it is an existential dread that now pervades my soul.”
Daran tentatively stuck his head between the canvas flaps. “Sir, only three kilometers more and Doctor Holcombe is upon us.” He looked back over his shoulder, panting.
Fletcher wrote on. “I am giving the figurine to Daran to get it out of the country. His wife’s cousin runs some sort of illegal smuggling operation along the passage to Peshawar. I can only hope that the figurine and this journal will make their way to you from this godforsaken pit. As long as the carving stays out of Bryce’s hands, all may yet be well. Nevertheless, his fumbling interference has awakened something ancient and, what is worse, it has taken nearly complete possession of him.”
Fletcher wrapped the journal, along with the figurine, into a leather sack. He bound it all together with a length of catgut, and rushed to the tent’s entrance. He pushed it into Daran’s hands.
“Take it, for fuck’s sake!” he said, “And do as I have instructed. Get it to Susan!”
He watched Daran’s eastward ascent out of the pit, intermittently hidden by the scorched, black trees and the great billows of steam.
“Godspeed,” Fletcher said, rasping, as he watched the porter climb up through the blasted heath. “Get it to Susan, Daran. My journal will guide her actions. She will know what to do.”
Fletcher sat in his canvas chair, facing the flapping maw of the tent. The smell of all these burning things made him nauseous. He drew his machete from its scabbard.
Fletcher at the Trial
“And your expedition ended in the deaths of several members of your research contingent. Is that not true?” The prosecutor pushed her glasses down to the tip of her nose, her dead, grey eyes fixed on Fletcher.
“That is correct. Several members of the group were horribly mutilated, including my research assistant, Bryce Holcombe, as you know.”
The prosecutor looked at the jury before continuing. “Yes, Doctor Fletcher. Those of us here in the so-called developed world can only imagine the sense of horror to which you were subjected in this circumstance.”
Blinding light crashed through the wall-length windows in the courtroom. Fletcher looked down at his shoes.
“Dr. Fletcher, would you care to comment on how your extended absence may have contributed to your wife’s state of mind? I mean, raising three children alone, for twenty-two months, while her husband was off in far-flung places, digging up old civilizations and whatnot. Do you not think that could be stressful?”
Fletcher looked up at Susan. Her eyes were seemingly vacant, but inwardly focused, he knew, on an undying hatred for humankind.
Several minutes of silence ensued, punctuated by stifled coughs and aborted sneezes.
“Doctor Fletcher?” The prosecutor was now standing beside her table.
“Yes?” Fletcher asked.
“Your wife was found surrounded by your mutilated children. This jury would like your insight as to how that might have come about.”
Now Fletcher’s grief flowed out in great, heaving sobs. “It was a mistake!”
The prosecutor strode to the witness stand. “Doctor Fletcher. Do you have any idea what the words Cthuga kraal boglarthop mean? Your honor, the prosecution introduces exhibit one-forty-three-A.” The photograph showed three humps under a white and red sheet. On the wall above them, the unintelligible words were scrawled in what looked like blood.
Fletcher looked out the window. Heat rose off the pavement of the courthouse parking lot in radiated waves.
“It means ‘Cthuga forever burns’.”
“What did you send home to your wife, Doctor, along with your journal?”
Fletcher loosened his tie and said, “An artifact.”
Susan at Home
She fed them.
She bathed them.
After stories, she kissed them and hurried downstairs to the package.
A large glass of merlot rested on the table as she eyed the leather sack and twirled the catgut binding round her index finger.
She ignored the journal. More of Fletcher’s tedious ramblings.
But the carving was exquisite. She felt its heat and breathed deeply.
The Fire of the Gods
It was much later that night when the children were startled awake by growls that shook the walls.
Together, frightened, they stepped lightly down the stairs.
Then more growling.
Well, I haven’t participated in one of Chuck Wendig’s FF challenges for a while, so… The challenge this week was to write a story under 1,000 words entitled “The Fire of the Gods”. Well, I dreamed of Lovecraft and August Derleth and this is what came out. The elder gods, the ancient ones, just love to mess with lower life forms… or perhaps they’re just misunderstood. Anyway – hope you enjoy it!
Image by Beesnest McCLain