“What did you do to that man?!” the man yells again, as he quickly makes up the distance between him and the investigators.
Ivy attempts to explain that there’s been a terrible accident, but the man will hear nothing of it.
“Explain it to the sheriff,” the man bellows as he turns back to his wagon.
“Settle down, pa!” interjects a young man as he approaches the investigators. “You have to excuse my dad,” he says, “He’s a cantankerous, old bastard.”
Looking at Ivy, he continues. “My name is Luther Monroe, and this charming old coot is my father, Benjamin. Now, what happened here?”
Cuthbert and Ivy take turns explaining what has transpired over the last hour. Luther nods occasionally, as his father broods behind him. Thomas begins to show Luther the strange claw-like prints in the mud, and Ben jumps forward.
“Those tracks lead off towards the tree-line,” says Ben matter-of-factly. “Did any of you bother to follow ’em?”
Before anyone can answer, Ben wanders off, searching the ground for more tracks. The others follow quickly, shining their flashlights to assist in the search. After a walk of nearly a hundred yards, the group stops at muddy pool of water and blood. In it, the corpse of a man in his fifties stares blankly up at the thunderclouds. His tweed jacket is torn, revealing a massive gaping wound at his side. Reaching down, Thomas takes the wallet from the man’s pocket, identifying him as Aaron Chase of Arkham, Massachusetts. Ivy kneels down to get a closer look at the body and notices two things – a golden key (hanging off a necklace around Chase’s neck) and a ruined notebook (the binding has come undone, leaving only the title page intact).
Once they were confident that they had searched the immediate area completely, the investigators and the farmers start to walk back to the truck. Out of the corner of his eye, Cuthbert notices a dark figure lurking in the tree line. He points its location out to the group, who are able to discern the shape amongst the trees. Startled, the group quickens their pace and hastens back to the vehicles.
Determined to find a town back along the road where they can spend the evening, the investigator pack up Cuthbert’s truck and turn back towards the main road. After about three hundred yards, Thomas hits the brakes – a mudslide has blocked the truck’s progress. Getting out of the car, Thomas can see several large trees blocking the road, as well as a heavy flow of mud and water crossing their path that could easily sweep their truck or them away if they attempted to traverse. Crestfallen, Thomas returns to the truck, turns around, and heads back to the bridge.
As the truck returns to the scene of the accident, a flash of lighting illuminates the area. Thomas sees another dark figure lurking in the tree line. He alerts Cuthbert, who exits the vehicle and walks to the cargo hold of the truck to tell Ivy. As another bolt of lightning lights the evening sky, they are able to make out the hulking shape in the distance.
With a palpable feeling of isolation, the investigators decide to stay in the truck and keep watch – weapons at the ready. Thomas, sitting in the driver’s seat, opens the window and attempts to fire a few rounds at the dark figure, but no shot finds its mark. As the night wears on, the figure disappears and reappears in the tree line, observed briefly by the investigators in the glow of the frequent lightning strikes.
As dawn approaches, the sky lightens perceptibly while the torrential downpour continues with renewed force. The dark figure can be seen again amongst the shadows of the tree line. Stepping out of the truck, Thomas can see that the vehicle has sunk into the mud overnight and cannot be moved. Luther suggests that the group move to higher ground. Ben recalls an old, abandoned farm near the top of a nearby hill – getting there will require them to walk into the path of the dark figure that has kept watch on them all night. With no better alternative, the investigators agree to head to the farm. The group arms themselves and makes for the tree line…and the dark figure within.
As the group approaches the tree line, the figure retreats. The investigators can see it amongst the shadows, and when he has a clear shot, Thomas raises his rifle and fires. The figure staggers back, but does not fall. From up in the trees, two creatures drop to the ground and attack.
They are large, black-skinned, and horrific. Gaping maws of razor-sharp teeth bite at the air. Long, sinewy arms grab at the investigators. Spiny tentacles shoot to and fro, looking to connect with a victim. Armed with shotguns, rifles, and handguns, the investigators and farmers blast their way through the creatures, sustaining minor injuries in fight. They apply whatever first aid they can, and continue to follow Ben up the hill.
After nearly a half-hour’s march, the group can see a clearing up ahead. As they approach, more creatures drop from the trees and attack. The fight is furious – the investigators are able to hold their own, and the deadly-accurate rifle of Luther Monroe continues to drop foes left and right. But more and more creatures join the fray – maws snapping, tentacles flailing. Thomas is critically injured by one of the creatures and falls to one knee. Ivy sustains a serious injury. Ben Monroe, surrounded by two of the creatures, is gored by a tentacle and crumbles to the ground, dead. Cuthbert and Luther avenge their fallen comrade and dispatch the remaining creatures. The fight ended, Ivy, Cuthbert, and Luther apply what first aid they can, and the remaining group makes for the clearing.
As they come upon the remains of an abandoned farm, a low hum can be heard above the din. A loud, electric pop emanates from a decrepit barn at the center of the clearing. The investigators’ eyes scan the area for more of the black creatures; several are guarding the barn, several more are in the trees. Thomas, bleeding and hobbled in the last attack, drops to one knee and steadies himself, and tells the other investigators that he will cover their progress from here. The others leave the cover of the tree line and walk out into the clearing.
Luther opens fire on the creatures in the trees, backed up by Thomas. Ivy and Cuthbert make up the distance quickly, firing their weapons at the black figures guarding the barn. The low, electrical hum grows louder as they approach the rickety structure. They make quick work of the remaining creatures and stand in front of the barn doors, an eerie light emanating from within.
Luther kicks the doors inward. To the right, a large machine, shaped like a many-headed beast, hums and pops. A window to an alien landscape opens before the investigators’ eyes, and another of the hideous, black creatures walks through. Running around the machine, Cuthbert looks for a way to turn it off. Ivy and Luther open fire on the creature.
With sharp eyes, Cuthbert is able to find what appears to be a keyhole at the back of the machine. He yells to Ivy to throw him the key. Snatching it from the air, he attempts to insert the key into the machine, but is thrown back with a vicious electrical shock. The recently-summoned beast lashes out at Luther Monroe and knocks him unconscious. Ivy fires at the creature, but her twenty-five caliber handgun seems to do minimal damage.
Slightly charred, but still alive, Cuthbert lunges forward again, thrusting the key into the back of the beast. This time, the key finds its mark and falls into place. The machine stops humming. Coming around the machine to face Cuthbert, the creature shoots out a tentacle that finds its mark. Blood sprays the wall as Cuthbert’s throat is punctured and he falls to the ground.
The creature turns to Ivy, who continues to fire her gun in vain. A tentacle hits her hard, knocking her back against one of the barn’s support beams. Knowing that the end is near, Ivy summons her remaining power, grabs the support beam, and casts a spell that she learned studying Father Washington’s Bible.
The support beam Ivy is holding begins to disintegrate, as if decades of rotting have occurred in an instant. The barn roof, already decrepit and in ill repair, creaks for a moment. From a distance, Thomas looks on in horror as the barn collapses. A cloud of dust and debris obscures the scene for a moment, and Thomas begins to crawl towards the fallen structure. As he slowly approaches, something begins to free itself from the wreckage. Large, black, and menacing, the creature emerges from the debris. Lifting himself up, Thomas steadies his weapon, aims, and fires. The black figure falls to the ground and all is silent.
After what seems like an eternity, Thomas regains his senses and notices that the rain has stopped. Looking up to the sky, he can see slivers of sunlight breaking through the cloud cover. Using his rifle as a walking stick, Thomas makes his way down the hill and back to the truck slowly. As he gets to the truck, he here’s a voice from a distance.
“Are you OK over there? What’s happened?”
Looking across the bridge, Thomas sees a local law enforcement officer.
“There’s been an accident,” Thomas begins, “The bridge is out, and a mudslide has blocked the way back.”
“Stay where you are,” says the officer, “I’ll be back with someone to get you out shortly.”
As the officer leaves, Thomas walks to the back of the truck. He grabs two large containers of gasoline and starts to walk back to the abandoned farm.
“It’s the only way to make sure they’re all dead,” he thinks to himself.
“The only way…”