The Shadow in the Depths

I

“Ugh, it never ends.”

David Tyson sat at a small folding table in the dimly lit lobby of the Midtown Art Institute only barley paying any attention to the half-dozen monitors displaying video feeds from four low-light TV and two thermal cameras placed in various “hot spots” throughout the building. Employees as well as some patrons at the art museum had been complaining of what they thought to be paranormal activity occurring over the last several months.

Like many old buildings, the Midtown Art Institute had been rumored to be haunted for decades, even before being renovated into its current form. The rumors of hauntings had actually been a boon to the museum as time went on and more and more patrons started to report strange occurrences. The stories attracted curious observers and paranormal enthusiasts hoping to see proof of the supernatural. The accounts of paranormal activity became so numerous that, in an attempt to the get to the bottom of the perceived increase in supernatural activity, the directors of the museum hired David Tyson and Marcus Black’s paranormal investigation company: Warlocks Inc. Paranormal Research, to conduct a full overnight examination.

“You could complain about anything.” Marcus said from the other side of the lobby. He had been pacing across the large room in order to keep his energy up.

“Oh shut up.” David replied. “These overnight things are boring, and a complete waste of time. I mean, why do we even need to be here? We have the audio and video gear all over the building. It’s recording; anything that happens would still be here if we left and just came back in the morning.”

Marcus walked toward David’s small table. “Well, two reasons. One, we need to be here if any of the gear malfunctions. And two, this is how they do it on TV, so that’s what the clients expect.”

“Stupid reality shows ruining everything.” David huffed. “It’s still a waste though; you know we’re not going to find anything.”

“Sure, but hopefully showing them that there isn’t anything demonic going on here will put their minds as ease if nothing else.” Marcus said. “And they are paying us for our time after all.”

“You know damn well that regardless of what our report is; absolutely no one is going to be convinced that this place isn’t haunted.” David said. “Half of this places’ draw is the supernatural stuff, has been for years.”

Marcus did have to admit that he thought overnight investigations were as boring and pointless as David did. Neither David nor Marcus actually believed in ghosts, demons, or anything of that sort, but they did have the gear left over from a defunct video production company they tried to start after college and there was apparently a market to serve doing this kind of thing. With that in mind, David and Marcus started Warlocks Inc. and took some solace in letting people know that ghosts or demonic curses did not haunt their homes or places of business. For the most part they did not mind separating people who had more money than sense with a little bit of that money in the process.

“You’re probably right.” Marcus said. “Our business model does depend on people believing in that kind of stuff though, so it works out for us in the end.”

“I guess.” David paused for a few seconds then said. “Hey. What do you think would happen if one of those slasher-movie villains ever actually tried to murder someone who could defend themselves?”

“Are you that bored already? It’s not even three a.m.” Marcus asked.

David continued undaunted, “What do you think would happen if say, Michael Meyers tried to stalk and kill someone and it turned out that they were the Terminator or something? Or instead of a bunch of stupid teenagers, the Power Rangers decided to take a camping trip out to Camp Crystal Lake and then when Jason tries to mess with them he just ends up getting his ass handed to him?”

“So what you’re asking me is; what would hypothetically happen if a fictional character fought some other fictional character?” Marcus asked.

“Well, when you put it that way, it sounds silly.” David said.

Marcus laughed, then turned and began walking toward the exhibit area, “I’m going to go take a look around, hit me up on the walkie if you see anything.” He said as he walked down the dark hallway to meander through the statuary for at least the next hour.

II

It was late morning by the time David and Marcus got back to the Warlocks Inc. office with the night’s worth of footage of empty hallways and rooms to sort through over the next couple of days. Neither David nor Marcus intended to look at a single frame of video until they could get some sleep however. Just when they about to head out they spotted Stanley Clemens coming toward the office with one of his inch thick file-folders under his arm.

Speaking of people who had more money than sense.

Stanley Clemens fancied himself as an investigative journalist who spoke truth to power, however the only outlets that ever carried any of his work were his own personal website and a number of smaller publications specializing primarily in conspiracy theories. Outlets that regularly reported about how every politician that they didn’t like was a communist-trained Manchurian candidate or how every national tragedy was a false flag operation aimed at repealing the second amendment or establishing the New World Order.

Stanley was also a believer in UFOs, Atlantis, and just about any other new-age woo-woo silliness which was often where Warlocks Inc. would get involved. Stanley would on occasion hire David and Marcus to help him set up on a hillside looking out for UFOs or assist with research on some new Satanic Illuminati conspiracy theory which he would always twist into fitting his preferred storyline regardless of what they found. Although he did pay them well for their time so they were normally willing to put with him in short doses.

“Oh man, not today Stan.” Marcus said. “We just pulled an all-nighter at the art museum downtown and we really want to get home and get some rest.”

“The Midtown place?” Stanley asked. “You guys see anything? I heard that place has been haunted for years. You know that place was a Mob hideout during prohibition right? There’s no telling how many people have been killed there.”

“Of course we didn’t find anything.” David said. “It was a total waste of time, as usual.” Marcus could almost feel David’s stare boring into the back of his skull.

Stanley scoffed, “How do two guys who don’t believe in ghosts ever become paranormal investigators?”

“What, is there a charter somewhere that says paranormal investigators have to be believers ahead of time?” Marcus asked. “We’re investigators, not evangelists.”

“I suppose not.” Stanley said. “It’s just seems like you would be more successful if you were more…receptive.”

“You mean we should believe in ghosts if we want to see ghosts.” David said. “That’s convenient.”

“Anyway, what do you want Stan?” Marcus said

“Right.” Stanley said as he laid the overflowing file on Marcus’ desk. “This is a pretty big project that I’m working on that I could use you guys’ help with.  Either of you guys know about Timothy Burke?”

“What, that mega-church guy?” David asked.

“Yeah Pastor Timothy Burke.” Stanley replied.

“I don’t think I’ve heard of him.” Marcus said.

Stanley explained, “Pastor Timothy Burke was the leader of a mega-church out in Ohio until about five years ago when the government decided that he needed to be shut down.”

David interjected, “More like he was about to be indicted for embezzling millions of dollars as well as nearly every other type of fraud under the sun. Because you know, all the money he was getting through the mega-church and the faith healing weren’t enough fraud for him.”

“Well sure, if you want to blindly accept whatever the mainstream media tells you.” Stanley said.

“Says the guy who gets his marching orders exclusively from Alex Jones.” David scoffed.

“Whatever.” Marcus cut in, “I would really like to get some sleep today, so let’s just get to the point.”

Stanley continued, “At any rate, after he found out about the plot against him, Pastor Burke selected a couple dozen of his most loyal followers and escaped in an old cargo ship that he bought and has been out at sea since then.”

“Wait, so he never comes ashore?” Marcus asked.

“Well no.” David said. “The second he enters American waters again, he’ll be detained.”

“How does he get food and supplies?” Marcus asked.

“Some of his other supporters take food and other supplies out to the ship periodically.” Stanley said. “Even though there is only a couple dozen people living on the ship at any given time Pastor Burke still has a network of devotees across the country. Which is where I came in. Many of Pastor Burk’s followers are also listeners of my program.”

“Shocking.” David said.

“Some of the family members of the people currently staying on the ship contacted me; they’re concerned since they haven’t heard from Burke or the other disciples in an unusually long time.” Stanley said.

“Well that’s a neat story,” Marcus said “but where do we come in? I can see why you don’t want to go through the normal authorities, but this doesn’t really sound like our wheelhouse.”

“The last time supplies were taken out to Burk’s ship, the supplier said that they noticed Burk and the other disciples on the ship acting strangely. They said that they were ‘very disturbed’ by what they saw.”

“Imagine that.” David said. “Cultists acting unusually.”

“There was talk of demonic possession. I could use your additional help on the subject. Also, it could be a good idea to document what we see while we’re there.” Stanley said.

“Do you have any idea where this ship is supposed to be?” Marcus asked.

“A general idea and I’ve been given access to a boat to use plus any money needed for supplies.” Stanley said. “Everything is taken care of.”

“Except what happens if or when we actually find them.” David said. “I don’t know if they’re going to be terribly happy to see us.”

“I’m not saying there’s not going to be any risk, but our benefactors are willing to pay handsomely.” Stanley said.

III

Nearly a month later, David and Marcus along with Stanley Clemens, left to search for Timothy Burk’s missing ship. The time at sea was miserable and mostly uneventful; the three men set out from Portland, Maine and headed toward waters off the coast of Nava Scotia. Being that far north, at the end of February of all times, the journey was a very cold and wet one. Given the wretched and cramped conditions, tempers often ran short resulting in frequent arguments between David and Stanley whenever David would get bored, which was often, and decided to antagonize Stanley by trying to poke holes in some of Stanley’s favorite conspiracy theories.

After several days in open water, food and fresh water began to run low and the three men decided to head back toward the mainland and try again after getting some rest and fresh supplies. After nightfall however, Marcus saw the lights of a ship in the distance.

“Hey look.” Marcus said running into the ship’s cabin, “Is that our ship out there on the right?”

“You mean the port side?” David asked.

“Whatever.” Marcus said. “Look, you can just barely see some lights out there; you think that’s our ship?”

“Could be.” Stanley said. He began to turn the ship toward the distant lights. “Couldn’t hurt to take a closer look at any rate.”

“You sure about that?” David asked. “How are these guys going to feel about some boat coming up on them in the middle of the night? You think they’re armed?”

“Probably, but I have the radio frequency they use to communicate with each other so they shouldn’t see us as a threat…I don’t think.” Stanley said.

Stanley tried to hail the ship in the distance but there was no response. As they closed the distance to the ship, Marcus could not help but feel a sense of dread as it seemed more and more likely that this was the ship they had been looking for, and for some reason no one was responding to their attempts to make contact. Despite the fact that its lights were still on, the ship looked to be dead. The ship’s engine did not appear to be running and it was aimlessly drifting on the water.

“The closer we get to it, the more I don’t like the looks of it.” David said.

“Yeah, I’m not liking this either.” Marcus said, intermittently snapping pictures on his camera, as they got closer.

“Well it is nighttime.” Stanley said, “Maybe they’re all just sleeping or something.”

“Adrift in the water and with no one keeping watch? Sounds kind of thin.” Marcus said.

“Yeah I’m really afraid we’re going to get on that boat and find that they went Jonestown on us.” David said.

The situation did not look any better as they crossed the last few hundred feet and made contact with the rusted bulk of the ship. Aside from the navigation lights being on, nothing else seemed to be operational. None of the cabin or bridge lights were on, the engine was not running, the anchor was retracted, and there was not hide nor hair of any of the ship’s inhabitants. The ship was essentially dead and adrift hundreds of miles from the nearest shore.

IV

The three men split up to survey the outer deck to make sure that there was no one on watch or wandering the outside of the ship. Marcus continued to take photos as he looked around while David pulled out a handheld video camera out of his coat and began to shoot some video around the deck. After several minutes, they met up again in the center of the deck in front of the control tower, their breath coming out in white puffs as the cold night set in.

“Well this is already not looking good.” David said. “I don’t know a lot about seafaring, but this boat looks like it’s in pretty bad shape.

“Are you sure that this is the right ship?” Asked Marcus as he turned to Stanley.

“Yeah, this is definitely it. Look, stenciled on the bulkhead up there, Redeemer’s Torment.

“It doesn’t look like anyone is here.” Marcus said. “This is a ghost ship.”

“What do you think happened? Did they abandon the ship for some reason?” David asked.

“I don’t know. It looks like most of the life boats are still here.” Marcus said.

“It’s a pretty big ship, there are still plenty of places they could be.” Stanley said. “Besides, if something did happen we should try to find out what it was. If nothing else, we can give some closure to the families.”

“Let’s get this over with then. The less time we spend on this boat the better.” David said.

“First thing we should do is drop the anchor and get to the bridge and see what we can find out.” Marcus said.

Stanley went to the front of the ship to lower the anchor while David and Marcus continued to search for any sign of the cult members. They began by going to the ship’s bridge. As with the rest of the ship however, the bridge was unmanned and none of the systems were running.

After finding nothing of note on the bridge, David and Marcus then moved on to searching through the cabins and living areas. Marcus continued to take photographs in each of the cabins while David recorded video on his handheld camera documenting as much as he could as the two of them moved through the ship.

The cabins and living areas appeared well looked after but abandoned. It was as though everyone had cleaned up expecting to be gone for a long vacation. A thin layer of dust covered everything suggesting that nothing had been disturbed for at least a couple of weeks.

On the top level of the living areas, David and Marcus came across a large cabin situated above the ship’s bridge.

“Looks like this is Burke’s cabin.” Marcus said.

“Finally! Now we’re getting somewhere.” David said as he moved to the large wooden desk in the corner of the captain’s suite. Marcus moved to the opposite side of the cabin where Burke’s sleeping area was. Marcus tried a couple of the light switches but none of the lights in any of the living areas had worked as of yet and these where not different. The moonlight coming in through the windows was not quite enough to light up the far end of the cabin so Marcus pulled a small flashlight out from the breast pocket of his coat and began to search around Burk’s weirdly opulent sleeping area.

At the far corner of the cabin, Marcus saw an oversized chair with an end table next to it. On the end table was a leather-bound journal with an old-fashioned looking fountain pen resting on top of it. Marcus picked up the journal, wiped off the dust, undid the clasp, and began flipping through the pages.

“Hey, what’d you find there?” David asked from across the room. David was looking at a handful of loose pages, holding them up to the window to catch the moonlight.

“Burke’s journal from the look of it.” Marcus said.

“Nice. That ought to give us something at least.” David said.

“Maybe.” Marcus said. “What about you? Anything worthwhile over there?”

“Not really.” David said, squinting as he read the pages. “Just looks like some old sermons. Wow, talk about persecution complexes. Boohoo, the government won’t let me embezzle money from my charities.”

“Is that what Burk was going to be indicted for?” Marcus asked.

“Yeah.” David replied. “Securities fraud also. Pretty much every rich-guy crime you can think of really.”

“Seems kina extreme don’t you think?” Marcus asked. “Hopping on a boat and living on the ocean over charges of financial shenanigans, these days he probably wouldn’t have gone to jail even if he were found guilty. How many mega-church guys are still out there making tons of money despite being exposed frauds and criminals?”

“Nah, Burke wanted to be a martyr. He couldn’t wait for an excuse to claim persecution by the government.” David said. “Gives you a certain amount of street cred in his circles.”

“Sure.” Marcus said. “Still, I don’t get this whole thing.” Marcus motioned around the room. “Something just doesn’t sit right.”

David laughed, “Yeah, what part of being stuck on a ghost ship the middle of the ocean, with Stanley Clemens of all people, would sit right?”

Marcus went back to flipping through the pages of the journal as David went through Burk’s enormous desk. Marcus then stopped and scowled as he got about three quarters of the way through the journal. Marcus then walked across the cabin to where David was looking through another handful of pages he found in the desk.

“Hey, what do you make of this?” Marcus asked showing the journal to David. David then took the journal from Marcus and likewise scowled at what he was looking at.

“What the…” David trailed off looking at the strange symbols that were practically carved into the pages of the journal the writer had pressed so hard onto the pages as they wrote.

“Look familiar to you? Doesn’t look like any symbology I recognize.” Marcus said.

“No me either. Is there anything in the journal that suggests what it might be?” David asked.

“I don’t think so.” Marcus said. “Although some entries back he was writing about having nightmares and migraines. He thought it might be visions, messages from God or something. After that, the rest of the journal is just those symbols, no dates or anything.”

“Figures. Just when we thought we might find some answers, we get this craziness.” David said. David then glanced out of the cabin window toward the front of the ship. “Hey look, Stan is back out on the deck. We should go hook back up with him, see if he had any better luck.”

V

Marcus and David made their way back onto the main deck where Stanley was waiting. After looking though all the living and common areas and coming up short on finding any sign of human life, current or otherwise, the three men found themselves on the deck  with none of their questions being answered.

“How’d you guys do? You find anything?” Stanley asked when he saw them approaching.

“Everyone’s long gone.” David said. “No one has been here for weeks if not months. They even cleaned up after themselves. Creepy.”

“We did find Burke’s cabin.” Marcus said. “Didn’t find much in there but his journal, and it just has a bunch of crazy writing in it.”

“Crazy writing?” Stanley asked as Marcus handed him the journal. Stanley looked through the pages toward the back of the journal clearly as confused as David and Marcus were. “Well this seems to raise more questions than it answers. Anything else?” Stanley asked as he handed the journal back to Marcus.

“Not really. It doesn’t look like they were attacked by pirates or there was a mutiny or struggle of any kind. Definitely weird.” Marcus said.

“Well we have a lot of good stuff on video.” David said holding up the handheld camera. “Someone will surely want it when people start hearing about this.”

“We still haven’t looked at the engine room or any of the cargo holds. We should check those out before we write the whole thing off.” Stanley said.

David let out a heavy sigh, his breath turning into a cloud in front of his face in the frigid night, “Oh goody, I’m sure that’ll settle me down.”

The engine room did not hold any new information to the fate or whereabouts of any of the ship’s residents. Only that the ship seemed to have had long ago run out of fuel and was incapable of moving anywhere under its own power. Like much of the ship, it did not appear to have been kept in the best condition. Clearly the people in charge of maintaining the systems of the ship were armatures who were barely keeping the ship in running order in the best of times.

There were four cargo holds in the Redeemer’s Torment arranged in a line from the back of the ship to the front. The lack of electricity required the use of flashlights to see in the near pitch darkness. The first of the holds contained supplies mostly; extra bedding, canned and other non-perishable food, the large jugs of water that go into water coolers, and other piles of miscellaneous supplies stacked along the walls. After about fifteen minutes of sifting through the supplies and finding nothing of note, the three men decided to move to the next cargo hold.

A short hallway connected each of the holds. The entrance to the second hold hung open. Their footsteps echoed loudly as the three men squeezed through the small doorway emerging into the second cargo hold. David let out a loud sigh as he continued to record on the handheld camera, the lowlight setting activated, panned around an empty hold. After a cursory look around the room, it seemed as though their search would soon be over with no clues as to what happened to the residents or their current whereabouts. The three men decided to move on, moving into the hallway to the next hold. When they reached the end of the hallway, they found the door to the third cargo hold sealed shut.

“Oh no.”

Marcus and Stanley’s flashlight beams converged on the door revealing brown smears of long dried blood on the door and handle. There was a long piece of metal piping, also covered in dried blood, wedged into the mechanism of the door jamming it and making it impossible for anyone to open it from the other side. Marcus lowered his flshlight to the floor and saw more streaks of dried blood leading back toward the second cargo hold.

“No one noticed any blood in either of the other holds did they?” Marcus asked.

“No.” Stanley said. “But there is a fair amount of rust, might have just blended in.”

The three men stood looking at the door, their flashlight beams locked onto the stains.

“Well…are we doing this?” David asked.

After a pause Marcus stepped up to the door, pulled the length of pipe free, and let it drop to the floor with a loud clang.

“Step back.” Marcus said. “Be ready for anything.”

Marcus slowly turned the seal of the door and pulled it open. The three men slowly stepped through the door and kept close as they moved into the third cargo hold. Marcus and Stanley’s flashlight beams moved throughout the expanse of the hold revealing the gruesome aftermath of what must have been a horrific episode the likes of which no one wanted to imagine. Much of the floor and even the walls in places were covered with the same rust colored blotches and streaks found on the outside of the door.

“Dammit.” Stanley sighed.

“That’s weird.” David said.

“What’s up?” Marcus asked.

“Where are the bodies?” David replied.

“The bodies?” Stanley repeated.

“Yeah.” David said. “There’s dried blood all over the place, but there aren’t any bodies. No remains at all from the looks of it.”

Marcus looked around the hold. Scattered around the floor of the hold were a number of knocked over candlesticks that look to have once stood in a circle in the center of the hold, but David was right, the remains of any of the people who spilled all of this blood were gone. There were no remnants whatsoever, not even any scraps of clothing.

In-between the rust colored stains on the floor, the remnants of some kind of circular design was drawn out on the floor with geometric shapes along with peculiar looking runes and symbols drawn through much of the floor and on the walls in the hold.

“Looks like something right out of an old horror movie.” David observed walking around the circle with his camera pointed at the floor.

“Well the movies had to get it from somewhere.” Stanley added. David shook his head dismissively.

At the edge of the circle furthest from the door, the three men entered, a small pedestal stood. In the center of the circle, what appeared to be a seven-foot tall white or light gray statue stood. Marcus watched David carefully approach the statue camera still in hand as if he was moving toward an animal that he was afraid of spooking.

“What. The. Fuck?” David said as he closed the last few feet in-between him and the figure.

Marcus and Stanley converged on David’s position focusing their flashlights on the stone figure.

“What in the hell is that thing?” Stanley asked.

At first glance, the statue merely looked like some kind of strange, misshapen stalagmite. A few moments of scrutiny however revealed that the figure was not some random mass of rock but sort of misshapen horror. It was badly stained, as if it had spent decades or even centuries at the bottom of the ocean. Human hands clearly have sculpted it but it seemed inconceivable that any human could imagine of such a thing.

“An idol of some kind?” Marcus guessed.

“Aren’t these guys supposed to be some kind of Christian splinter cult?” David asked. “I haven’t been to church since I was a kid, but I don’t recall this being part of the program.”

“No. I don’t think they brought this with them originally.” Marcus said.

“It does look like it’s been at the bottom of the ocean for a long time.” Stanley added. “They must have come across it while they were out here.”

“Where? How?” David asked. “I didn’t see any underwater excavation equipment anywhere, and this doesn’t look like something you just stumble over and bring with you.”

Stanley turned away from the statue and looked toward the podium standing at the edge of the circle. Something new caught his attention.

“Hey look at this.” Stanley said moving to the podium. “A book.”

Marcus and David turned and moved to where Stanley was flipping through the pages of the strange looking leather-bound book sitting on the small podium at the “top” of the circle.

Marcus reached across and grabbed Stanley by the arm, “Don’t touch that! Don’t touch anything! Some really messed up shit went down here. The last thing you want is to be getting your fingerprints on stuff.”

Stanley drew his hand back, rubbing his fingers, “Ugh, it feels like greasy leather, what do you think it’s made from?”

“I don’t know and I’m not interested in finding out.” Marcus replied.

Stanley looked closer at the abnormal writing and diagrams on the page that had had opened to, his brow furrowed, “Either of you know what this says?” Stanley asked.

“I took French in college, so no.” David mocked.

“Actually, it does look kind of like the writing in that journ-”

Stanley was cut off when a deep thunk sent vibrations through the cargo hold. The three men stood in silence for several seconds, the color draining from their faces simultaneously.

“Did we hit something?” David whispered.

“I don’t think so.” Marcus said. “That sounded like it came from inside the ship.”

“There’s still another cargo hold.” Stanley said.

“Survivors?” David asked.

“Only one way to find out I suppose.” Marcus said.

The three men began to make their way toward the door to the last of the cargo holds. Marcus took one more look at the statue; the algae-stained horror looked over the small podium at the aftermath of whatever atrocity had taken place weeks ago.

The hallway between the third and fourth cargo holds seemed much longer than the others. Although the hatchway of the final hold was open, the inside the hold remained pitch black, it was as though the beams of Marcus’ and Stanley’s flashlights could not penetrate the darkness past the hold door. The final hold, much like the second, seemed at first to be empty, at least when it came to the area immediately around the door. At some point in-between the holds, the flashlights, as well as the low-light vision of David’s video camera, were suddenly woefully inadequate when it came to illuminating anything that was beyond a few feet around them.

“Ugh, the smell.” David said as he raised his sleeve to cover his nose and mouth. Hold three had smelled bad, but the stench in this room was not the coppery, rusty stink of weeks-old dried blood. The smell here was something entirely different, the smell here was foul, not just in sent but in feeling. Something profane, if a smell could be described in such a way.

As if reacting to David’s voice, a sudden furor sounded at the far end of the hold, the sound of something heavy being dragged across the floor until it reached the far corner. Marcus and Stanley’s flashlight beams streaked to the far corner of the hold and settling on an inky black mound in the corner.

A mossy black growth covered the floor, walls, and ceiling of the cargo hold, in the corner where the form was laying. The closest thing it could be likened to was the slimy fungus growing on a long dead carcass several inches thick. There was an uneven smattering of odd, whitish shapes emerging from the black growth as well. Marcus took a step forward, moving closer to the edge of the growth. At first glance, the shapes look like tree bark, like the roots from a pale grey tree emerging from black soil on the floor walls and ceiling, but another moment’s scrutiny revealed the horrifying truth.

Bodies.

The shapes emerging from the black, moss-like growth covering the floor, walls, and ceiling of the cargo hold where what remained of several withered human bodies not quite buried in the revolting mass. The bodies looked to have been drained and consumed from the inside, leaving only desiccated husks. Marcus nearly retched on the spot.

The form in the middle of the strange growth was even more difficult to identify. It looked as if it curled in on itself but the thing itself was difficult to make out. It seemed to give off a strange shimmer that obscured it, similar to heat coming off a desert road. Marcus immediately felt his stomach turn once again as his blood drained from his face. The overbearing darkness in the cargo hold seemed to close in even more as Marcus absently took a step toward the inky, heaped mass.

“Mark!” David hissed when he noticed Marcus moving toward the unidentified figure. Marcus stopped at the sound of David’s voice and turned to face him.

Then the figure began to stir.

Marcus and Stanley’s flashlight beams whipped back to the corner of the cargo hold as a sound very much like a long, deep exhale came from the form in the corner of the hold. The ship shuttered as the thing in the corner began unfolding itself. Long, reedy appendages emerged at awkward angles as audible cracks echoed through the chamber as the thing’s limbs snapped into place. The three men stood dumfounded, frozen in place, as the monstrosity pushed itself up on skeletal legs, sluggishly standing and revealing is vaguely humanoid, nightmare form. The abomination then drew to its full height, the top of its form nearly reaching the twelve-foot high ceiling of the cargo hold.

The shadowy horror stood silent in the corner of the hold for what seemed like minutes, its shuddering respiration almost shaking the entire cargo hold before it finally began to turn toward the three intruders. The next several seconds passed in a blur as Marcus, David, and Stanley snapped out of their collective stupor to make a panicked sprint back through the cargo holds and engine room, not stopping until they had emerged outside on deck of the ship.

Marcus sealed the door to the depths of the ship behind them before collapsing onto the cold deck. Marcus tried to catch his breath as David sat on the deck with his face in his hands and Stanley bent over the railing and vomited.

VI

Minutes went by as the three men remained on the deck collecting themselves unsure whether or not death or worse was imminent.

“We need to get off of this damn ship.” David finally said.

“Yeah.” Marcus agreed in his most exasperated voice. Marcus stood and walked over to Stanley who was sitting under the ship’s railing. As Marcus reached to help Stanley get back to his feet, something fell to the deck from under Stanley’s arm.

It was the book from statue room.

“Holy shit Stan!” Marcus said. “What part of ‘don’t touch it’ was vague to you?”

Stanly shoved Marcus away from him “We can’t just leave something like this behind, who knows what we could learn from it.”

“Were you not paying attention just now? You do not want anything to do with whatever went on here.” Marcus said.

Stanley started to withdraw from Marcus while defensively clutching the book, “We can’t just leave here empty handed, and no one will believe what’s going on here if we don’t have proof.”

“Have you gone nuts?” David asked rising to his feet. “I mean more than usual. We’re clearly dealing with stuff that is way above our heads. I say we just escape while we’re still breathing and never speak of any of this again.”

“No one can ever going to know about this.” Marcus said. “I don’t know what the hell was going on down there or what that…thing is, but I’m fairly certain no human should ever lay eyes on it again.” Marcus then closed the distance between him and Stanley trying to snatch the book from him intending to throw it into the cold ocean.

“No!” Stanley said shoving Marcus again. “We can’t just bury this; people have to know about this. It’ll change the world. I won’t let you cover it up!” Stanley reached into his coat, pulled out a stubby revolver, and held it at Marcus.

“Whoa what the hell?” David said raising his hands into the air.

Stanley picked up the book while he continued holding the gun on the other two men. “I am going to take this book and the video on David’s camera and tell the world what we’ve seen here. I’m going to show everyone the truth!”

“I don’t think you know what you’re dealing with here.” Marcus said as Stanley scooped David’s camera out of his hand then collected Marcus’ camera from his coat pocket. “Think about what happened here, things don’t seem to turn out well for the people who mess around with this stuff.”

Stanley didn’t say another word and took the book as well as Marcus and David’s cameras as he walked down the deck of the ship toward where their fishing boat was lashed making sure to never take his gun off of the two other men.

“You’re not just going to leave us on this ship.” David said.

However, Marcus and David could only watch as Stanley climbed aboard and started up the small boat that they spent the last two weeks on as it began to move into the distance.

“What a fucking tool.” David said once the fishing boat was a couple hundred yards from the Redeemer’s Torment. “I knew that we should have never have got involved with him.”

“Good call on that one.” Marcus responded. “At least he paid us in advance.”

“So, on a scale of one to ten, just how hosed are we?” David asked after several more seconds.

“Well,” Marcus began, “there are still plenty of life boats and provisions so assuming we can avoid running into any more horrifying weirdness.”

“That might be a big assumption.” David said.

“Then we probably shouldn’t waste any ti-“

Marcus and David were nearly knocked off their feet as a massive jolt rocked the ship. At the front of the ship, the deck curled outward as the dark horror tore through the main deck from the cargo hold below as if it were aluminum foil. Marcus cold feel the turning in his stomach again as the revolting miscreation rambled across the deck and tipped itself over the edge into the ice-cold ocean. David and Marcus stumbled to the railing as the ship rocked from side to side and watched the wake of the monster moving in the direction of the fishing ship that Stanley had abandoned them in.

“Oh shit.” David said. “You think it’s going for Stan?”

“I don’t know.” Marcus said. “But we need to get off of this ship. I don’t want to be here when it comes back. Also, now we’re sinking.”

David and Marcus ran to the remaining lifeboats as the ruined front section of the ship fell beneath the water. By the time the two men worked out how to lower the lifeboat and launched the front half of the ship was under water. Once they got the timing down, the two men rowed the lifeboat until they lost sight of the ship as it sank below the horizon and on its way to the bottom of the North Atlantic.

VII

David and Marcus sat for over an hour in silence. Marcus rummaged through the emergency supplies taking a quick inventory of what was available if it turned out they might be stuck in the lifeboat for an extended period of time. David attempted to get some sleep but had little success. Each time he was on the verge of finally falling asleep, he jerked awake from disturbing dreams. Marcus certainly could empathize.

“Quick question.” David finally said after giving up on getting any sleep. “What the fuck?”

Marcus shook his head, “Good question. I don’t know if there are really any answers though. I’m pretty sure we were punching above our weight class on this one.”

“You think Stan made it?” David asked.

“I’m more concerned about us making it for the moment.” Marcus tossed the emergency radio to David, “See if you can figure that out get a hold of someone to help us.”

It was late morning before David figured out how to use the radio and a group of crab anglers found them and took them back to the mainland. There was no word on what happened to Stanley, his ship did not return to the dock that the three of them had left from and there were not any other known distress calls. Several weeks went by with still no sign of Stanley or any presence of him on any of his various media outlets. To this day, there has been no sign of Stanley Clemens or any indication as to what his fate was.

On a more fortunate note, at least as far as David and Marcus were concerned, there also have been no reports or additional information involving the creature found on the Redeemer’s Torment or of the strange volume taken from the ritual room in the cargo holds. For the time being at least, it seems the creature from the depths of the North Atlantic has been content to remain veiled in the crushing deep.

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