The Initiation: A Lovecraftian Short Story
by Eliza Stockton
The air hung thick like the fumes of a ritual censor. My mind ran wild in the darkness of my hoodwinked body. For in the distance I could hear booted feet approaching where I now sat. Somewhere far away, a nightingale called for her mate. As I listened closely I could make out three sets of feet coming for me. My heart began to race with the knowledge that the game was afoot.
The silk bonds about my wrists felt like red hot shackles as I unconsciously strained against them. How did I get here? What madness had seized me to make me agree to this?
The footsteps came even closer. They had taken on a rhythmic shuffle, as if they had fallen into a march. I could hear a soft low moan-like chant starting amongst them. At first it was little more than a structured mumble, but before long it was an odd sentence – of what language I could not even venture a guess. However, its perverse candor and rhythm had an odd effect over me. I could feel my racing heart slow and quiet itself. The closer my captors, my initiators, came, the drowsier I became. My very body began to throb to its vulgar lilt.
It seemed as though time itself came to a halt, and though I wanted to jump to my feet and run, my limbs were as foreign to me as the stone beneath my ass. My captors were upon me! I could hear their breath as they rested between mantras. The heat in my body went cold as they grabbed my elbows to heave me to my feet. An odd malodor filled my nostrils as they shifted my weight in their grip. I could not place it, it was like something from a child’s nightmare, dead and yet alive.
Suddenly we lurched forward, my legs dangled behind me lifelessly, still not obeying my will. The infernal hymn continued unabated. My mind reeled with it as if drunk upon absinthe.
My senses were all but drown out by it – all sound fell away to the endless droning incantation.
I could barely keep track of the passage of time, as the darkness of my hood blacked out all sense of direction and distance. However, I began to smell something, it was similar to the terrible odor before, only thousands of times worse. I coughed and spun in my hood as the smell lodged itself in my mouth. The closest I could guess as to its origins was dead fish. Thousands of dead fish! I could feel mist, or fog, upon my exposed hands. My inanimate feet felt the harsh gravel underfoot, first changing to soft lush grass, and then to cold smooth sand. Frantically, I searched my mind for anywhere I had been or even seen on my way here that fit the gravel, grass, and sand pattern.
No avail – my captors were practiced, I assumed, in disorienting their new recruits. I could be anywhere of a thousand locations in Europe! Again, I wondered what furor had lead me to this situation. Finally, I heard the ocean tide; it roared angrily as we neared. The ocean spray dampened my hands, its rhythmic ebb and flow seemed to be the very force behind my initiators’ chant. It surged and receded with the tide. My body lurched and fell slack with their shuffle, shuffle, stomp, march.
I could feel the sand below my feet, irritating the raw skin upon them. The gravel hnd not been kind to them. I could feel the sand becoming damp, its cool moist touch soothing the lacerations on my feet. Before long, we were to the water’s edge and the tide washed against my legs, drenching me from the knees down.
As I sighed audibly at the ocean’s calmative touch, a shrill voice began to sing out a new hymn, and like a beacon the men holding me turned toward the singer. We walked the ocean line and after only a few steps, a loud, deep drumming began to accompany the singer. It was the kind of drumming, I imagined, being played by wild men in the African countryside. My heart thumped in my chest as the drumming became louder and more frenzied; I was only moments away from an unknown fate.
We drew closer, so very close that the very ground below us vibrated with the drumbeats. I could feel the heat from a fire and the siren song of the singer’s voice rang in my ears.
We came to an abrupt halt and my captors hoisted me overhead, lifting me flat upon their shoulders like demented pallbearers. The singer’s voice now whaled on incomprehensibly, like a keener at an Irish wake. The drumming was now a fevered pitch, almost a single constant sound, no intervals, no beats – just hungry frenzied sound. With no warning the music stopped, silence filled the night, a gruff hand brutishly removed my hood, along with a handful of hair!
The stars shone brightly overhead, the moon in the west just beginning its nightly journey. My heart seemed as though it was trying to beat its way out of my bosom as I realized we had been traveling all through the evening and had arrived at my destiny at night fall! With the choir of sound gone, I was slowly regaining control of my extremities. I took in a deep breath, for what seemed like the first time in my life. As I exhaled I screamed as loudly as I possibly could, my sheer terror conveyed upon the vibrations of sound.
As my scream waned, a chorus of laughter filled the air. There were people all around me! I turned my face towards the raging bone fire to see dozens of people standing and watching my plight, their faces distorted with wicked laughter. I could just make out more, vague shapes just in the distance beyond the fire’s light. The shapes writhed and contorted like strange animals, their arms and legs moved in a fashion unknown to mankind. My body was carried forward as I strained against my bearers. This only made the onlookers laugh even louder. I raised my head to try to make out where I was being carried too. Maybe two dozen feet off was a small sharp rocky cliff. The ocean tides broke upon it, scattering spray all around. In an instant I knew that they meant to throw me from that cliff!
I began to kick my legs wildly. They could not throw a bound man into the sea! I could not survive the tide unbound much less with my hands bound behind my back!
“Please, let me go!” I pleaded with the assembled group. “I am a man of much wealth! I shall pay you! Please, I will never speak of this night again! I swear it!”
No one answered me nor did they let me down. I had only a few moments to take a few gasping, panicked breaths before I reached the cliff’s edge. As the stars shone cheerfully above, the ocean surged and churned below me. How sad, I thought to myself, that I should meet my end here in this unknown place, my body left to the elements. My relatives would not even know of my passing. No one would visit me in the Dashwood Mausoleum.
The person holding my feet started a low guttural moaning, quickly the one to my left joined him, then the one on my right until finally they had created a sort of painful harmony. I felt as though I was in the presence of a grotesque Gregorian choir! Slowly they raised my body high, the assemblage cheered loudly and the trio moaned louder. Before I could blink, my body was sailing over the cliff and then down in to the cold, dark waters. I sucked in what I expected to be my last breath as my head dipped below the water’s surface.
Panic gripped me in its cold hands as the tide pool sucked me down into the cold, dark depths. I fought as best as I could to swim back to the surface, but the currant was far stronger than I. Within a few seconds my vision began to fade and my limbs became cold, then numb. As I gasped and let out the last of my life-giving air, a quiet, calm voice whispered my name.
I was dying, my body had gone slack, my eyes drifted shut. I no longer felt the ice-cold water as it pulled me farther and farther down. I would die here and the beasts of the sea would feast upon my body.
I was only mildly aware of the soft feminine voice calling my name. I tried to focus on it, but found my consciousness wandering away from me like a disobedient child.
“Francis of Wycombe—”
The voice was more impatient this time. I tried to open my eyes, but now I felt so disconnected that I could no longer even comprehend the process of opening them much less achieve my goal! The voice would just have to speak to my closed eyes. I could swear the tide shifted, as if something large had just swam past at high speed.
“Francis Diavolo!” the voice screamed in my mind.
Unbidden my eyes flew open to see a beautiful women swimming before me. Her thick, black hair flowed around her like an undulating halo. My eyes were filled with her image. Her skin was like the finest porcelain, her full breasts moved to and fro as her arms treaded water. Her waist was as tiny and delicate as any corseted debutante that I had ever seen. It gave way to full, lush hips, and I wondered if my cold, dead body would stir at her presence.
I had no way of knowing as my body was numb and lifeless. As I contemplated the injustice of my situation, my eyes surveyed further down her body, to find she had twin fins where there should be long porcelain legs. She was a mermaid! Now I knew I had passed away, for I was seeing supernatural entities!
“Francis, my child, you are dead.”
The creature’s flawless face looked sad and forlorn as she told me what I already knew.
“I know you are aware of your demise. I have come to save you. If you will swear your undying death to me, you will become one of my sons and shall live all your days in my grace.”
Her beautiful face seemed to glow with a preternatural light, her blue eyes burned into my soul to peer into my deepest, darkest self. I wanted to answer her. I wanted to take her into my arms and ravish her! But I could not. I, alas, was still dead. I tried to convey my answer with my eyes. I hoped she knew what I meant.
“Good, now you shall share in my sacrament!” she answered.
Before I had realized what was happening, what bargain I had made, my beautiful goddess became a terror of the deep! Her twin fins split into four octopus tentacles and wrapped tightly around my torso and arms. I was suddenly glad I had gone numb. The monster used her tentacle legs to pull me close. Her porcelain features were now distorted and almost fish-like. I felt like I was in the grip of some strange shark! Her beautiful blue eyes were now a deep, poisonous green, her pupils slits of ebony black.
Her lips widened in a devilish smile, revealing blood-stained and razor-sharp teeth. Her nose brushed mine as she looked me in the eyes. A cold chill shivered over my body as her eyes blinked from side to side and she began to cough. Her body tensed from head to tentacle as she gripped my throat with her webbed hands. Her head fell back as a coughing fit seemed to grip her and her mop of black hair blocked my vision.
The coughing continued until, finally, she seemed to dislodge something from her throat. Menacingly, her head lowered, her gaze fixed on mine. A snake-like tongue slipped through her parted lips to reveal a grape-sized pearl perched there upon. However, pearls do not move of their own volition, nor do they glow from the inside! Her eyes gazed into mine in an almost motherly fashion as she pressed her cold lips to mine. Our lips joined and her tongue pushed the pearl-like creature into my mouth. My mouth was filled with the taste of long-dead fish. This, I thought, must have been the origin of the mysterious odor. Her thumbs stroked my throat and, against my deepest wishes, I swallowed the egg!
Darkness fell upon me.
The morning sun streamed through the windows. I opened my eyes to find myself enshrined at home in my bed. I breathed a sigh of relief as I gently massaged my blissfully unbound wrists.
“It was all a nightmare,” I reassured myself aloud.
A cloud arrogantly covered the sun, darkening my room. My heart skipped a beat as a pair of glowing green eyes appeared in a shadowed corner to the far north of the room.
“I am no dream, my son! Nor is our agreement. I gave you your life and in exchange, I get your undying faith. For now, live, my son, do as thou wilt. But in due time, I shall call upon you to show your faith. Make ready the way.”
Sir. Francis Dashwood
October 10, 1731
Founder of the Order of the Friars of St. Francis of Wycombe
Eliza Stockton lives in the Ozarks with her family and has long held a love of the supernatural, gothic, and steampunk genres. In addition to writing fiction, she is the author of “Fuel for the Boiler: A Steampunk Cookbook,” which is available on Amazon.
Note: Banner image is courtesy of LisaLeo/Morguefile.com.