Some things you are better off not knowing
|I’d always risked everything in the pursuit of my career. With each undertaking, I was forced to put something on the line in order to submerge myself into the sinister underbelly of modern society.
To reveal political corruption, my reputation was threatened. Right before exposing an underground sex trafficking ring, my credibility hung in the balance. And while I infiltrated the precarious spiderweb of Scientology, my life dangled in the fickle grasp of Lady Luck.
I was used to the high-stakes world of investigative journalism. This was a deadly game, espionage in the pursuit of truth. It was a constant information war with the odds stacked against us, but it made every victory all the sweeter… and each loss weighed even heavier.
My best friend and confidant was neck-deep in the bowels of a new assignment when I lost contact with him. The last message I received was even more cryptic than usual.
After decoding the email with our usual key-phrase, I puzzled over the contents for quite some time.
Will not need extraction. Forget everything. Whatever leads you are given, don’t chase them here. I was wrong.
Those last three words began worming their way into my stomach, twisting my guts. Isaac would never admit his failures. Besides, he usually closed each communication with a Latin phrase: Veritas super omnia. Truth above all.
The last thing I heard, Isaac was investigating troubling rumors about a strange cult that was gaining popularity in rural America. ‘Children of the Old Ones’, they called themselves. After a pattern of strange disappearances surrounded the mysterious collective, Isaac couldn’t resist the allure of foul play.
“Something’s rotten in Nevada,” He roguishly winked at me. “I’m going to crack this thing wide open. Just you watch.”
I fully believed he would. After all, Isaac was legendary for charging into the lion’s den and emerging unscathed.
But everyone’s luck runs out eventually.
Still, I refused to believe it. There was no way his hunch was wrong, the man was uncanny when it came to finding a juicy story. I had to know what the hell these so-called ‘Children’ were hiding. So naturally, I did what I do best.
I turned on my wireless shovel. Then I hunted for pay dirt, digging into everything relating to the cult and any other shady organizations.
No dice. No mention of them existed.
There was one option left. Reluctantly, I crept into that nightmare abyss - the dark web. It wasn’t quite so bad once you know which sites to avoid. Let’s just say some places aren’t up to snuff and some are.
Plus, the deeper you go - the nastier things get.
The only lead I ended up finding was a post on an obscure message board lurking at the edges of the undertow. Beyond this wading point lay the bottomless gloom of unspoken depravity and suffering. I shuddered at the thought of plunging into those malevolent depths.
My sanity intact, I focused on the short paragraph of text before me. It was a call for followers to meet at a location somewhere in the middle of Nevada. Found you. Whatever trouble you’re in Isaac, I’m not going to let you fight this alone.
But alone is exactly how I felt as I ran towards uncertain danger out in the desert. I was never the brave one.
The Children of the Old Ones turned out to be a rather small compound out in the middle of nowhere, with minimal security. So I did the usual, poked my nose around. There might not even have been any alarm system or guards at all because it was impossible to find anybody at all as I nervously explored the enclosure.
As far as cults go, this one was particularly strange. There were bizarre statues of what looked like alien creatures, formed with odd geometries that my mind had trouble grasping. Was this some sort of new-age religion?
I managed to find a discarded robe and wrapped myself in it, pulling the hood over my features. The black cloth was rough and smelled unpleasant. I wrinkled my nose and kept searching.
In the center of the compound, a large dilapidated structure loomed over the living quarters. As I drew nearer, whispers of faint chanting emanated from the crumbling wooden temple. “…. R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn…”
Carefully, I slunk inside the rotting place of worship.
Within it, dusk held dominion. Shadows clung to the walls, broken only by flickers of candlelight. Gradually, the scales of darkness fell from my vision.
A crowd of hooded followers swayed to and fro as they intoned a hideously guttural language. “… Yog-Sothoth… Yog-Sothoth…” I lurked in the back where I would draw the least attention.
Above the murmuring mass was a makeshift stage, where a throne of carved obsidian overshadowed those present. Strange markings twisted over the polished stone seat, ominous runes glistening in the twilight. My attention turned to a crystal table bearing four metal bowls.
Before I could guess their purpose, a hush fell over the crowd. Two figures in purple robes emerged from behind the stage, cradling a child in their arms. But… the proportions were all off. When they set it on the throne, my eyes widened as bile rose in my throat.
A wizened torso squirmed against the ancient obsidian. The wrinkled skull was bald with skin stretched tightly over it. When it turned to face me, holes gaped in what remained of a face. Empty sockets leered at the worshipers below, severed nose twitching as a split tongue rasped commands.
I was frozen, unable to look away. It wasn’t until a third cult member appeared, dragging a bound and gagged Isaac, that I was free to tear myself from the mutilated being.
He saw me right away. My head was the only one unbowed, long hair poking out of my hood. Isaac shook in anguish, cries muffled by cloth. To them, it probably sounded like desperate calls for help. But I knew that he was screaming something else.
They yanked him up harshly, pulling their captive over the crystal table. A fistful of hair was ripped from Isaac’s scalp and flung into a bowl. Green fire crackled forth, rising along with eerie chanting.
The torso hissed and a knife was withdrawn from one of the bowls. They pulled down his gag and that was when he met my eyes and said one last strangled word.
A heartbeat later, the blade flashed. In a fluid motion, they cut out his tongue and plucked it from a gory mouth as teeth gnashed in agony.
The oozing muscle was cast into another bowl where a cloud of flies arose, feasting on the offering. Gurgling and choking, Isaac struggled for breath. Arms pulled him into position, letting the crimson fluid pour out of his mouth. Blood bubbled and boiled in the third bowl, creating a black foam.
I should have listened. Should have fled at that moment.
Instead, I watched helplessly as the sacrificial knife took a cruel path across his throat. Slumping over the final container, Isaac rattled out a dying gasp as I felt the world spin.
A pale mist spilled out from his neck and swirled over the last bowl.
Something crackled in the air above the four offerings. A purple light flickered and brightened in midair, forming a dark pulsing mass that folded and twisted into itself endlessly. “Aethyr.” The leader breathed reverently while the chanting rose to a crescendo.
Lifting its hideous head, the cult leader croaked out a phrase. “Iä! Iä! Aletheia!”
The amorphous aethyr rose, expanding until it covered the ceiling. A window opened up into a carpet of twinkling stars as comets swept by, leaving a glittering trail of icy dust. Then Aletheia awoke.
A swarm of disembodied fists drifted into sight. The crowd began to moan while the hands silently opened, blossoming like flowers of flesh. Lithe fingers uncurled, revealing an oozing eye in each cracked palm.
Suddenly the nimble digits began to dance in a beautiful pattern, hands spiraling as the Children of the Old Ones groaned. I closed my eyes and backed away. I’d seen enough for a lifetime.
But I was wrong.
Aletheia descended upon the Children, tendons snaking out from the fingers and burrowing into willing bodies. Bones cracked as the faithful were born into something unspeakable. A shape I was never meant to witness.
I fled from there, escaping the madness before I unraveled completely. Someone found me on the road but I couldn’t tell them what I was running from. I couldn’t say anything at all. It felt like something was covering my mouth.
Something with too many fingers.