by Kaol, art by Loch Ness

As I sit here and write this, hand trembling, barely able to hold the pen, my mind marvels and recoils simultaneously at the events through which I have lived. Yet instead of feeling exultant at my continued survival, I am instead captive to a melancholy secondary to losing that which I most held dear as well as a foreboding that my successful survival is a fleeting victory at best.

But I suppose I get ahead of myself. Yet I feel a pressing need to write my story down before I vanish permanently. I don't suppose that anyone will take these words seriously, if indeed anyone ever reads them. It will likely only support the notion that I am a madman and the police will certainly claim my disappearance only suggests that I have become another faceless street person of which our society now seems so plentiful. Yet I am not mad, though sometimes I feel I would surely welcome madness. Madness would perhaps make me unaware, but in fact, I am too aware, acutely aware. Thus if my words may serve as a warning to others, to perhaps spare one soul from undergoing what I have undergone, then this will have been worth it.

What was that? I thought I heard something outside my door? It seemed I heard a bubbling sound,

My eyes glance down at the desk where my wallet has fallen open, and I gaze down at the image of my lost love, Kathryn. My heart swells within my chest, a twisted mixture of longing and sorrow. Her blue eyes stare vibrantly at me in the photo, her short blonde hair bobbed youthfully at her shoulders. A tremulous sigh escapes me and I find the pen in my hand trembles ever so slightly.

But where to begin? I fear my time is limited, and yet I do not want to leave out any pertinent detail. In some ways, I suppose this is all my fault, as I was the one who foolishly elected for us to vacation near Innsmouth. I did not want a typical tourist trap for our getaway this year, and yet wanted a nice place near the ocean. Kathryn was certainly agreeable, as she was eager to spend time at the seashore as much as I.

And yet when we arrived in the town, it was immediately apparent that something was awry. I first blamed this on the simple fact that it was a gray, overcast day. No one goes to the coast hoping for fog and rain, and yet that was what we apparently had in store. I tried to put the best spin on it, and noted that at least we would not have to be concerned about a sunburn our first day in. Kathryn grinned amicably, but it was evident her heart was not in it. Her eyes had a somewhat pinched look to them, which gave me indication that the discomfort I felt was not mine alone.

We checked in at a rather quaint bed and breakfast with the unwieldy name of "The Star Goat". Kathryn and I shared an uneasy laugh at that, thinking perhaps we could have dinner at the "Star Cow". Our laughs caught in our throats as the manager of the place walked up to greet us at the front desk. He was a tiny little man, with damp and thinning hair combed across a bald pate. His flesh looked languid and damp, as if he did not get much time out in the sun. Two large, unblinking eyes stared at us, made larger still by thick lensed glasses. "May I help you," he asked, his voice displaying almost no inflection whatsoever, making it more of a statement than a question.

"Yes," I said, trying to be cheerful though I felt anything but. "We have reservations for a week here. The name's Jacob Marsten."

To this the man made no reply, but opened up a thick and water stained book. He peered into it before looking back up at us. "Yes, your name is here." He lifted a key from under the counter. "Up the stairs and last door on the left."

"Thanks," I replied, taking the key. It was cool to the touch, holding no warmth from the hand which passed it on to me. Lifting our two suitcases, I forced a smile back at Kathryn and marched up the stairs.

The room was serviceable, though hardly luxurious. Yet for the low price we had paid, I couldn't readily quibble. Kathryn flopped backwards into the queen sized bed, arms spread wide over the patchwork quilt comforter. "Ah, at least the bed seems comfortable," she sighed.

I leapt to the bed, but landed on her rather than the mattress. She giggled up at me, her arms locking behind my neck. "Maybe we should test it out to make certain that it works to our satisfaction."

Kathryn laughed, wrinkling her nose at me and pulled me in for a long and lingering kiss.

Events moved predictably from there, and soon we were both disrobed and giving the mattress a thorough workout. Yet while I am a believer that there is hardly such a thing as bad sex, there was our lovemaking that afternoon. I am not certain what it was, exactly, yet I felt it and I am certain Kathryn did as well. Normally we are in sync, our bodies moving and anticipating one another. This time there was a more jarring of movements. In addition, the air in the room was cool and damp, raising gooseflesh on our naked bodies. I further could not escape the notion that we were being observed, and more than once looked over my shoulder to see if someone had entered the room. On no occasion did I discover anyone else there, and yet I could not escape the feeling of a clear and disapproving presence.

We finished and lay still beside one another. Kathryn nestled against my chest and I could feel the sweaty dampness of her breasts against my skin. "At least we know that the bed works," she murmured as I stroked her hair.

"There is that," I agreed, though I could not shake the feeling of unease that had settled upon me like a too heavy cloak since we had first entered Innsmouth. There was an indefinable discomfort digging at me, irritating me like a splinter just beneath the surface of the skin. I almost mentioned it to Kathryn, but then opted against that, not wanting to spoil the moment with my misgivings.

Breathing quietly, I stared at the ceiling, wondering what to do next. I had the definite feeling that this vacation was not going to go along the lines I had planned. This quaint little town was decidedly eerie, and I had the suspicion that they did not get very many tourists out this way. Yet we were here, and I determined that perhaps I was indeed simply making too much of an overcast day, allowing it to run pell mell over my good senses.

"Want to go for a walk?" I asked Kathryn, punctuating the question with a kiss to the crown of her head.

"Sure," she said, and then languidly curled off my body and walked into the adjoining bath to dress. I could hear the sound of her clothing sliding against her skin and smiled, enjoying the moment for a second longer before rising and donning my own vestments.

Kathryn emerged from the bathroom looking radiant, her cheeks still somewhat flushed from the ardor of our lovemaking. She wore a cotton T-shirt that stretched marvelously across her breasts, creating the most suggestive of shadows. An almost black skirt fit snugly over her hips, ending almost before it began on her thighs, which were in turn encased in black pantyhose. Black high heels and a small leather purse completed the picture, and a picture so beautiful that for the first time since arriving I was totally at ease. Sadly, that was the last moment of contentment that was to be my allowance in this lifetime.

Taking her hand, we exited our room and went down the stairs. I noted for the first time that all the other rooms had their doors wide open, and it appeared that we were the only lodgers here. This supported my earlier supposition that Innsmouth was not the tourist capital of this area.

The small man who ran the establishment was standing at the desk as if he had never moved. "We're going out for a walk," I said to him as we passed by. He simply stared back with his unblinking glare, giving no acknowledgment of my pronouncement.

Stepping outdoors, it was immediately apparent that the weather had not changed in our favour. In fact, the sky was looking increasingly ominous with dark thunderclouds bumping shoulders with one another, reaching miles into the sky. A slight wind had picked up and Kathryn squinted as the first blast struck her in the face. Her arms immediately went beneath her breasts in a warming embrace. "Do you want to go back inside and get a jacket?" I asked.

"No," she replied. "I'll be fine. Took me by surprise, that's all."

"Okay," I said, turning away from "The Star Goat" for the last time. We walked along the street with no particular destination in mind. The town appeared to have been built years ago, and was of a dilapidated Cape Cod style. Most of the buildings could use a coat or two of paint and leaned ominously against one another as if crowding each other for space. Although I could not see it, I could hear the breakers of the ocean coming from beyond the row of homes and establishments across the road. They had an angry sound to them, as if hungry for any swimmer unwary enough to venture within them this afternoon.

As we continued walking, I noted that we were the only ones out on the street this afternoon. In spite of my feeling that this was not a tourist haven, I certainly expected to see some locals out and about, doing their business. I tentatively pointed this out to Kathryn.

She looked about apprehensively and confirmed this for herself. "Jacob," she said. "This place gives me the creeps. Maybe we better head back to the hotel."

We slowed our pace, looking around us before stopping. It seemed as though we had entered a ghost town, and there was no sign of life anywhere else. The town was oddly silent with only the wind blowing about us providing any sense of life. Not a bird was in the sky, not an insect stirred upon the ground.

Hiding the anxiety I felt, I turned about, still holding tightly to Kathryn's hand. I was dismayed to find that I did not recognize the road behind us. It hadn't seemed we had gone so far, but now that I looked, I could see that the road had branched behind us, and we had gone down a fork without even realizing it. Yet that did little to explain the peculiar feeling I had in gazing down the street. There was nothing I could put my finger on, nothing I could define, but it was wrong somehow. The shadows that drifted from the buildings were the wrong angle, or somehow the perspective of the buildings was wrong.

Moreover, we were no longer the only ones on the street. Doors were opening in the shops and houses ahead of us, and slowly figures were emerging. There was an awkward, tentative gait they displayed, as if unused to moving into the sunlight, such as it was. I felt Kathryn's hand tighten around mine, though her voice was silent. I could not then, nor can I now explain, but there was a decided menace in the way they left the buildings. They held no weapons that I could see, but it was as if they were synchronized somehow, all emerging just as we were getting ready to go that way. There was no reason to suspect we couldn't just walk down the street through them, nodding politely as we passed. No reason except, perhaps, that they would grab us with cold hands of inhuman strength, never to release us.

"Jacob," Kathryn said, a world of pleading released in that name.

"I see," I said, and moved down an alleyway alongside of us. If I was paranoid, so be it, but better a live paranoid than dead and trusting.

There was no sound of pursuit, just the 'click click click' of Kathryn's heels upon the blacktop. I cast furtive glances over my shoulder, but could see nothing there either.

The alley emerged in an unusual locale. Instead of emptying into an adjacent street, it appeared to taper off into the woods. It seemed that this row of establishments made up the border of the town. I turned about then, trying to decide if we should double back. This idea was immediately quashed as I saw them approaching from the other end of the alley. I could not tell how many there were, as they were several rows deep and too far off to make out. Yet I could see heads bobbing as they approached. Most startling and distressing, however, was that the figures actually seemed to glow with some unknown luminescence. It was as if a pale, blue aura surrounded each figure.

Fear replaced uncertainty now, and I knew that the figures behind us were not innocent in cause. Why they were following us I could not begin to discern, but their intentions I felt were dark. Glancing up, I could see the clouds through the leafless branches of the trees about us. The clouds were almost black at this point, boiling in meteorological agitation. It appeared to be twilight, though I knew it could be no later than 3 p.m. "Let's go," I said to Kathryn, my voice sounding tinny and distant to my ears.

She needed no further encouragement and we raced into the woods, desirous of placing as much distance between us and Innsmouth as possible. The rational portion of my mind chided myself as this behavior. I was running as if my life depended upon it, when in fact I knew nothing of the sort. No threats had been voiced against us, not a harsh word spoken nor gesture made. Yet without hesitation I knew that evil was meant us and that no mercy would be found were we to fall within the grasp of this odd citizenry.

Kathryn and I raced forward, no direction in mind, just knowing that our lives depended on our continuous movement. I felt certain that the malevolence that cocooned the town could not exist indefinitely and that safety might be had if we could escape its choking embrace.

It happened then. Kathryn and I had been racing in parallel courses through the darkening woods when I heard her suddenly cry out. I spun around, drawing up short, fearful of what misadventure had befallen her. It took a moment for the image on my eyes to register and make sense to my brain. She had stopped running and appeared much shorter than her custom. Yet while she had stopped running, perhaps it was more accurate to state that she had stopped moving forward. In fact, she appeared still to be running, her nylon encased legs were still pumping up and down, but no forward motion could be gained as they were now knee deep in a thick, loamy earth.

"Help!" she cried. "Jacob, help me!"

I edged forward, still not truly grasping her calamity. Her eyes looked up to me then and I saw pure and raw panic there. Perhaps she had grasped her circumstances better than I. I was still at least five feet from her when I felt the earth shift drunkenly beneath my feet. Halting, I watched the once solid surface move lazily up and down in waves. I could get no closer without encountering the same trap as Kathryn.

"Jacob," she cried out, seeing my hesitation. "It's quicksand. Hurry, get me out of here!"

I desperately wanted to comply, but did not know what to do. Quicksand is a substance of movies and not a reality with which I was trained to interact. I watched, hypnotized, as her legs moved slowly deeper into the bog, the bumpy dark surface sliding up between her thighs. My head swiveled about, my mind frantically trying to devise a way of freeing her without entrapping myself. I searched about the underbrush looking for a stick sufficiently long to reach her and strong enough not to snap.

"Hurry!" Kathryn cried, and I had no response for her. I was in fact hurrying, but seemed to be caught in the type of dream in which one is quickly pursued by a villain while one's own feet are caught in glue. The situation had a drugged, dream state feel to it.

"Oh my god!" Kathryn yelped, and I spun about to see her skirt flaring on the surface of the quicksand like an oriental fan about her hips. Her arms were at her sides with hands wide open, fingers spread and trembling. My love has never been the excitable type, and yet this current situation had unnerved her. In addition, I knew not if she had kept in mind those who were pursuing us, but I had not forgotten them and considered what might happen if they were to discover us in this situation.

Snatching a branch up that looked to be of the type I required, I ran to the edge of the bog. The surface was level with her waist now and shimmied and shook with each desperate movement she made. Her head tilted sideways in supplication, arms outstretched towards me and the branch. A foul smell emanated from the quicksand, and gaseous bubbles form and belched their malodorous effusion into the air. Fingers clutching spasmodically, Kathryn tried to grasp the branch and the safety it represented. Yet her fingers were at least a foot shy of the branch tip, and my foot was already sinking into the chancy earth as I leaned forward with it. "It's too short," I announced needlessly.

Kathryn's chest heaved in fear as her fingers twitched longingly towards me. I had seen need and longing in those eyes before, but never to this extent. The quicksand form a slight crater about her ribs as she continued her descent. As she lunged forward, her body rising ever so slightly, I could see the darkness of the earth where it had clung to her white top. A thin border of damp gray separated the pure white and the polluted black as the water soaking through her top defined a new battle zone with each passing moment.

I'm not sure what caused me to look behind me then, perhaps it was a dim blue glow being cast over the environs, but I turned my head to see that the people of the town were nearly upon us. Under normal circumstances I would have been thrilled to find others approaching, glad for the aid they could bring. Yet the thought of calling to them for help never crossed my mind. Rather I felt an increased urgency to rescue Kathryn before they could intervene.

With new vigor I scanned the immediate vicinity for a longer branch to offer Kathryn. Despair and panic welled within my like a fountain as I noted that none were to be found. I would have to leave the area to find one, but to do so would be to abandon her to the townsfolk, and I dared not do this. Yet if I did not, she would certainly drown in the quicksand that was now roiling turbulently just beneath her breasts.

"Jacob," she cried out, her attention momentarily drawn from the quicksand as she heard the snap and crunch of twigs beneath the feet of the townsfolk of Innsmouth. "Jacob, they're coming! Don't let them get me, Jacob!"

It is odd, I think, how our bodies can react even in times of crisis. Here we were, both in danger, I was certain, of losing our lives. Yet I still found myself aroused by how tightly her top was pulled across her breasts and how fetchingly they heaved as they sought to escape the caress of the quicksand. Perhaps in these crisis situations we revert even further to the animal we all are, and respond in a more primitive manner. I don't know, and did not reflect upon the issue at the time, but only later when reviewing these events did I pause to consider how clearly the image of her breasts, nipples shadowed protrusions in white, straining against the fabric, stayed with me.

As the townspeople came closer, I could hear them chanting. It was not English, of that I am sure, nor did it even seem like a human language of any type spoken on this planet among civilized people. It was a harsh, guttural speech, full of too many consonants clashing together, sticking in the throat before clawing their way angrily free.

They spoke together as if repeating a chant well known to them. I strained to make sense of it, but like all that had occurred to us within the past few hours, none of it made any sense to me.

Kathryn's cry jolted me from this observation. I turned swiftly to see the quicksand bubbling about her in a new manner. It seemed as if she were suddenly in a pot that had been set to boil. Her mouth had formed an oval of terror and her body began to bounce up and down, rising and fall back into the quicksand. She would move upwards about a foot before settling in again. The movement reminded me uncomfortably of how she looked at times when we shared an intimate moment.

She confirmed this a moment later as she screamed, "Jacob! It's inside me! The quicksand is inside me! It's alive! Please, Jacob! Save me!"

I shuddered at the image called up by her saying that it was inside her. Certainly sunk in mire she might feel that some of the muck had invaded her, but her movements suggested more than a passive presence, as did the rhythmic movings of her body.

"Kathryn!" I screamed, helpless to do anything else. Perhaps a braver man than I would have plunged in after her, yet I knew then, as I do now, that I would have not saved her, but only doomed myself as well. The sounds of the Innsmouth populace was loud now, a cacophonous, glottal refrain. I gasped as I heard a bubbling sound emerge from the quicksand, a sound that could be nothing but a laugh. Pseudopod-like waves of mud seemed to form on the surface of the quicksand and rise up over her shoulders. It did indeed appear as if the quicksand was alive, or that somehow the townspeople had imparted life into it.

Kathryn's face was speckled with mire now and her eyes rolled wildly in their sockets. She no longer seemed to recognize me, but appeared lost within her own fear and agonies of which I shudder to imagine. I watched in stunned amazement as a large pseudopod seemed to rise up behind her, fully as big as her head. It seemed to form a cowl over her and then settled down gently upon the top of her head. It flowed easily down over her hair, crossing her forehead while simultaneously creeping about the sides of her face. Kathryn whimpered in fear but made no other sound as the quicksand closed over her features. I watched in horror as her head was completely covered in a mask of quicksand. Her head was still completely above the surface of the bog, but the impatient mire had reached up to cover her features even now. I saw her twitching, struggling for breath, and then turned away, unable to watch anymore.

Instead, I felt a dampness beneath my foot and looked down to find myself ankle deep in the quicksand, with a fresh pseudopod stretching up my left shin. Crying out in terror I stepped backward, freeing myself and stumbling almost into the waiting arms of one of the dimly glowing townspeople. I stared wildly into his eyes, and they were as cold and lifeless as those of a shark. Madly, I struck out at him with the branch I still held grasped in my hands.

Madness must have come over me then, as I know not what happened next. The next thing I knew, I was stumbling alongside a roadway. It was dark, and my clothes were filthy and torn. I looked about fearfully, wondering if I was still in danger, but saw no sign of the people of Innsmouth. Headlights approached, and I jumped before them, determined to make the car stop. I had to contact the authorities immediately. I held little hope that Kathryn could be saved, but I wanted to apprehend those who had brought about her death.

The car before me stopped and allowed me entry. I babbled about my wife being murdered and my appearance and emotional state seemed to convince them of my sincerity.

Yet as we pulled away, I swore I heard a bubbling laugh, the laugh made by the quicksand as it welcomed Kathryn into its eternal embrace.

It is needless to point out that the authorities did not believe my story, and on the surface I suppose I cannot blame them. The official report is that my wife and I went for a walk, got lost, and she fell into some quicksand. Her death so traumatized me that I made up the rest of the story. I suppose it makes their lives easier to believe that, if indeed they do. There was something in the eyes of one of the deputies that suggested he did believe me, and yet I saw also there was nothing he would do about it.

I did not return to Innsmouth for my things, understandably unwilling to venture back into that cursed town. And yet while I will not venture there, I am not so sure that they are unwilling to venture to me. I have peaked out of my motel drapes and more than once believed I saw a dim, blue glow, quickly moving out of view. Indeed, I have also heard that unearthly laugh and bubbling sound more than once. But certainly, quicksand cannot chase down a victim, can it?

No, quicksand cannot. But another dimensional creature posing as quicksand? Who knows what it is capable of doing?

I fear, very shortly, that I will know.

Kaol-August 1997

Posted October 2000

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