The subsequent pages are partial excerpts from the journal of H. J. Thomas, dated back to the mid-1860s. Mr. Thomas’ bones were stumbled upon by researchers, the journal laying close by in a state of ruin, exploring the furthest delved depths of Lakeland Murray Caverns in New York State. Only one of the scientists made it back alive, mangled half-to-death clutching the journal in his bloodied hands. The contents of Mr. Thomas’ journal have never been released to the public, that is, until now...
There Is a cave, not terribly far from my home on the wooded mountain, that even in the depths of midnight shimmers and glows as if within its yawn resides an appreciable host of lively men.
I’ve gone up to the Grotto myself on many a night such as this, to sneak a look, but never a man I find; instead, there is little awaiting me but an unassuming cave-mouth, empty and dark and silent save for that nightly glow that seems to recede a bit further into the throat of the pass whenever I try to catch a glimpse of its source.
Now, as I am neither young nor formidable in stature, I have never ventured far past the mouth of the Grotto. But I used to be young, and while it has dimmed, that adventurous spark is still alive within the depths of my spirit.
It is that which keeps me awake before dawn, I think, with dreams of what that place might contain to cast such a warmly light; be it measureless treasure or a fanciful creature not yet cataloged, the presentation of which to a University shall fetch me a pretty penny, I should think. One day, soon, I shall explore the Grotto and find these riches for myself.
Let this letter serve as a written promise.
I can contain my curiosity not a moment longer; today, I have made my arrangements to visit the Grotto. I wrote a note that reads ‘away for the eve, in the cavern an acre north,’ and placed it upon my table, should someone pay a visit to my home and find me absent. And then, with provisions enough for a two-week excursion, I hiked up the wooded hillside and enjoyed a sunset picnic at the mouth of the Grotto, and I waited for the glow to appear, which it does with certainty every night. When it finally occurred, I packed my things, and into the Grotto I went!
Indeed, I am glad such a mystical locale is hidden in such a secluded location; otherwise, its plunder by another intrepid traveler would’ve been a foregone conclusion. As fate would have it, however, it was I who discovered this place, and so it shall be I too, who unearths what mysteries lie therein.
The Grotto thus far seems like nothing more than an unassuming cavern. Naught but stalactites and mites did I find, alongside all manner of rock, granite, and mineral.
To my pleasant surprise, the passages through which I followed the receding glow were wide enough for a man to fit comfortably, never narrowing nor constricting; and the air in the place was not as stale as one might’ve assumed.
My experience thus far has been without difficulty, although that elusive red-hued glow is always just out of reach, no more than a few hundred feet away at any given time. It retreats swiftly as I doggedly pursue it, but I cannot withdraw, for behind me is a callous blackness held back only by the lit flame of my torch.
I will continue forward.
I have traveled now for what must be many miles. Through rock and stone, I venture forth, and still, that taunting glow remains ever out of reach. Strangely, it moves with grace and foresight, as if not a light but a living beast, as if it knows it is pursued or wishes to lure me deeper into the unexplored depths.
Upon my back, always snarls the darkness of the earth, prowling about my flame, waiting patiently to pounce silently and consume my light.
I cannot stop.
There is no path I should take, but forward still I go. Should my torch extinguish, will I find myself within the bask of the glow?
That damned glow still eludes me. I tire of this game, but I have dredged too far, and too greedily to turn back now.
Some hours ago I came to a hideous conclusion, that at first I rejected for its frightfulness, but have since been forced to accept as truth.
I am lost.
This nefarious, unrelenting glowing light, never not ‘round the nearest corner, is my sole guide through the halls of this subterranean labyrinth, upon which I have hung my life. The air is growing staler, and warmer, and thinner.
How far below the surface have I traversed? I can no longer say.
I have attempted to commit to memory, although without much success, the unbelievable things I have seen.
There was a waterfall that fell nicely into a small lake, the water clear as polished glass; a handful of bats with elongated wings clung to dark crevices; and towering mineral stalactites that soared to heights unseen.
The Grotto’s interior has taken on a distinct quality I cannot so easily describe with pen and ink, and which has only gradually become noticeable to me.
It feels as though this place was built with purposeful thought, not unlike a mine or any manner of great hall carved from the earth. This is a structure unlike any man has seen before, so that begs the question, who placed it here?
A most peculiar event has confirmed my earlier intuition. The walls appear smoother here than once they were, and the angles into which they meet floor and ceiling are sharp and crafted by tools.
This revelation created a glimmer of hope that a staircase leading to the surface was nearby, but the passages only went downward; deeper, deeper, and deeper still, tunneling into the bowels of the earth.
I fear I may never again see the light of day, but I cannot turn back; to do so would be certain death.
Things have been increasingly fascinating, and my latest discovery trump all others: *writing* upon the walls!
So there is a purpose for these passages after all, although that truth still eludes me. Sadly, I am unable to decipher this ancient, faded text, but I can deduce that it is distantly related to Egyptian hieroglyphics, written in a language I’ve never before encountered.
Up and down the walls of the Grotto, these pictures tell tales my eyes cannot unravel. How I wish I could! What secrets they might contain, so far, I can only imagine.
Nevertheless, the faint glow ahead beckons me forward, and so I trek forward unabated. Behind me the darkness of the cavern follows, nipping aggressively at my heels
The writings and images upon these walls are no longer a cause for cautious optimism. They have grown dark and wretched, depicting all manner of the foulest beasts, who watch with devilish intent, jaws agape and ready to devour.
A few of these creatures cast outstretched arms, jutting awkwardly from the wall and sculpted from decaying rock, pointing their claws forward, nudging me deeper into the tunnel.
I try now to keep my eyes forward, ever fixed upon that red-tinted glow that draws me in like a meandering insect. I do hope this adventure concludes soon; however, it may end prematurely. My supply of matches and water dwindles. I have begun to ration what remains, but what happens should I find my canteen emptied?
Hunger, madness or thirst may not be the worst this prison has to offer though, dare I find out?
God above! What sights I see! No man alive has yet had the misfortune nor the displeasure of unearthing what I have.
The glow I’ve followed so fastidiously has taken me to an open chamber, more enormous than any I’ve yet passed through by a considerable margin. At the distant end of the chamber, shrouded from a by mist and shadow, is a stone mural, carved into the earth and stretching in all directions like twisting branches. It is of astonishing size, and truth be told, I do not have the prowess or adequate training to properly describe its complexities.
First off, it is constructed of a strange and uncatalogued stone; likely that can be found only this far beneath the surface; one without flaw or blemish in texture, one that is scentless, and which carries a faint reddish hue, and that is sturdy as hard iron.
Secondly I can conclude with some degree of confidence this was not constructed by men of my ilk. The implications of this are not lost upon me.
As for the mural’s content, the bottom half depicts two symmetrical lines of shackled men, standing back to back. As the line of prisoners progresses towards the temple altar in the middle-most part of the mural, the distress on their faces grows. Ascending the gruesome steps of the altar, covered in flesh and blood, each man is wracked with existential grief, rending clothes and weeping.
Above the men are all manner of wicked and foul beasts, not unlike the ones crudely etched into the walls of the passages behind me, forcibly driving the men towards that terrible altar. The creatures are towering, otherworldly entities, wicked as they are large. Several are painted with screaming men in their mouths, blood dripping like rain.
Those beasts, as fearsome as they may be, pale in comparison to what sits on the throne at the top of the altar. It is a horrid, gargantuan beast unlike any other, horned with brimstone skin, with the features of a man distorted to demonic proportions. I’m not sure how I know, but this is the ‘Great One’.
The red glow that had brought me into this wicked place emanated from a flickering gem atop the Great One’s skeletal crown. In its colossal right hand, it gripped a cowering man pleading for his life, and in the other, it cradled the Earth itself.
What ancient beast is this? Whose sinister temple have I uncovered?
I’ve studied the mural for days now, it never left my gaze.
Unbeknownst to me, I’d triggered an unholy event that made itself known with a great and terrible sound that shook me from my stupor. It was the grinding and groaning of metal-on-metal, rock-on-stone; the cacophonous din of shifting tectonic plates. The entire wall that housed the mural peeled back, clearing the path to an even more cavernous space. Without hesitation, I jogged across the great breadth of the current room and entered the threshold of the second.
The cavern was colossal in size, as unending as the sea and as tall as a mountain. At the center of the room sat the crowned beast, even more wretched than depicted in the mural. I gasped in silent terror, trembling like a sapling in a storm.
The beast and I locked eyes, and a fiery storm rushed through my veins. I was imparted with infernal wisdom that stretched beyond the eons and wrapped itself in the dark corners of the universe.
Here’s what you must know, dear reader, whomever you may be.
The Great One demands the sacrifice of any mortal who stumbles upon his resting place; an offering of blood to momentarily appease his unquenchable thirst. Without that offering, the Great One will only be satiated by receding from his dark slumber and walking the earth, wreaking untold destruction and death.
As a good and decent man, I cannot allow this to come to pass. And so, with fierce regret but a resolute mind, I have elected to trade my life for the safety of all mankind, in the hopes that my blood will be sufficient enough a sacrifice to keep this unholy Great One here, in the Temple, in the hidden Grotto, in the deepest, darkest depths of the earth.
I fear, however, that it may only be a temporary respite. Should anyone find this wretched, foul and accursed place, and reads these hexed pages, I pray they find the courage to do as I have done, for the sake of us all.