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Echoes From The Abyss

by Bradley Ramsey (He/Him) about a year ago in Horror
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Dead, But Still Dreaming...

Image: Michael via Unsplash

I promised myself I would never go back. Wilmont, that sleepy coastal town in the northeast, nestled somewhere between Massachusetts and infinity. Perched on the edge of endless waves and always steeped in a thick layer of fog, regardless of the season.

It always felt empty, but this time it was truly deserted. Seemingly overnight, every single person in the town vanished without a trace.

I stood on the beach, looking out into the pale waves as I knelt down and took a handful of the coarse white sand into my palm. In front of me, hundreds of footprints led down towards the water. They stopped abruptly, no doubt swept away with the high tide.

The visions came hard and fast as I held the sand in my palm, fueled by a night more eventful for the small town than the last thousand before it.

Somber footsteps

Heavy, labored breathing

A watery shriek

Absolute silence

Crushing depths

Questions swirl like whirlpools

Prison, punishment, or penance?

The vision faded as quickly as it came, ending when the last grain of sand fell from my open hand. I stood up and stared out into that empty horizon. A lone fishing ship bobbed along the edge of my view, no doubt empty and abandoned as well.

"Agent Philips I presume?"

I spun around and saw a short, stocky man standing on the beach behind me. His thick eyebrows furrowed as he stared up at me. His tan uniform and polished gold badge told me he was from out of town.

"You can just call me Alice," I said.

"Sounds good Alice, I'm Bill by the way. I'm the sheriff in the next town over, but with everyone up and vanished, the powers that be have decided to extend my jurisdiction."

The sheriff extended his arm for a handshake. I hated this part. I grasped his clammy palm only briefly, but the visions came like bolts of lightning in my mind.

Too much aftershave.

The sweet aroma of fresh donuts

Bitter coffee, no sugar.

Memories of her, long gone.

Fake smile.

Real fear.

The sheriff looked out onto the eerie sight, his eyes scanning the footprints that still remained from the night before.

"It's almost like they just walked into the ocean," he said.

That's exactly what happened.

"You ever seen anything like this before?" He asked.

"Not in these numbers," I said.

"Listen, Alice, I don't want to get in your way, but do you have some kind of badge or ID I can see before you get started?"

"Of course, I've got it right here."

I reached into my jacket pocket, knowing there was nothing there. I brandished my empty hand, palm facing outward. Sheriff Bill leaned in, squinting as if to read something.

"Wow, Perseus Division. Never heard of them. That's a nice photo of you, though."

I pretended to place the badge back into my jacket pocket. The weak-minded ones are easiest to fool.

"We specialize in dealing with phenomena like this one. I trust you'll keep this from the public eye while I conduct my investigation?"

The sheriff nodded. "Of course, I'll be at the police station in town if you need me."

I remembered the one, a building that also housed the fire department and the local library. With less than a thousand people calling Wilmont home, almost all of the town's infrastructure was confined to a single block.

"I was told you would also arrange accommodations for me?" I asked, breaking the awkward silence once more.

The sheriff chuckled as he reached into his shirt pocket and produced a motel key. The faded plastic keychain swung beneath, bearing a simple logo of an anchor with a tentacle wrapped around it.

"You won't find any of the big chains here, unfortunately, but Mabel runs the Anchor Inn, and I'm sure you'll find it as cozy as I do," The sheriff said with a tired smile.

I'm sure it's cozy for those who aren't familiar with its sordid history.

"Thank you sheriff, I'll give you a call if I need anything," I said, looking back out into those crashing waves.

"Sounds good Alice. I'll expect a report on my desk by Friday!" The sheriff said with a wink.

I let out a polite chuckle and watched as the rotund man hobbled back across the beach towards his dusty vehicle. I turned away from the road and looked back out into the ocean.

I struggled to keep my thoughts under control. The emotions tied to the ground, the water, the very air, all pounded against the walls of my mind. It had been over a year since I broke apart from the rest, and I still always teetered on the edge of a complete mental breakdown.

Insanity was always close by, ready to swoop in and embrace my mind the moment I let all the thoughts in.

The hotel wouldn't be any better, but I had to get away from that beach. Most people would only hear the distant crash of the waves, but me?

All I could hear were the water-logged screams of the townspeople who willingly shuffled their way into that watery abyss.

Only one questioned remained, and it would form the crux of my investigation:

Why?

***

The Anchor Inn was Wilmont's only hotel, and its history was soaked with enough blood to fill the ocean that sat beside the sleepy town. Wilmont was always the kind of place that seemed nice when you were driving through it, but always had this icy chill in the air, like everything you saw was just a veneer hiding something much darker and much older.

Mabel was one of the few remaining people from the last generation of Wilmont's residence. I recognized her, but she wouldn't remember me. She bore witness to things that would leave many people in a catatonic state, but instead of shattering, her mind mercifully cracked, leaving her simple and kind, like the victim of a cosmic lobotomy. In a lot of ways, I envied her.

"Hello there, dearie! Welcome to the Anchor Inn!" Mabel said, waving from behind a front desk draped in synthetic seaweed and surrounded by plastic fish that adorned the wooden walls.

All it took was a single footstep into that place. The visions assaulted me, like mental blows hell bent on breaking my psyche:

Stone daggers

Eyes black as night

Cursed rituals

Unholy unions

Blasphemous offspring

Flesh of The Mother

Blood of the Earth

Gaia's Keeper

Breathes his last

For a brief moment, the memories broke through my defenses.

When I left. When we all left, I thought we had taken that history with us. I didn't find out the truth until I was in too deep, and that's when I severed my connection to Her. The one whose name could not be pronounced by human tongues. Not even a Hybrid like me could utter its full form.

Others tried to escape her grasp and went mad shortly thereafter, but my hatred for her, for what she made us do, ran too deep for something as simple as insanity to be the end of me.

Her darkest secret laid here, deep beneath those waves, and I was going to rip it out for all the world to see.

"Agent Phillips, isn't it?" Mabel asked.

I wasn't sure how much time had passed. The vision was so intense that it left my vision spinning. So much darkness here, soaked deep into the very ground I walked upon.

"Call me Alice, please."

"Sure thing, Alice it is then! Did the sheriff set you up with your room key?"

I nodded, brandishing the key for her to see. I underestimated the energy of that place. I felt an immense pressure on my stomach, one that brought on waves of intense nausea.

"You sure you're alright? You don't look so hot."

I nodded. "I'll be fine. Just need to get some rest."

I found my room and brought in my luggage. A single suitcase with some clothes and a good bottle of whiskey. I poured a glass as soon as I got into the room and forced the bitter, smoky liquid down my throat.

It was the only thing that kept the memories of this place, both my own and the ones permeating the walls, at bay. I collapsed on the bed with the half-full glass on the nightstand.

The bed was stiff, the sheets musty, and the ceiling fan above rickety as it spun on a crooked axis. The visions were enough to knock me unconscious.

I just needed a little sleep, and then I would resume my work. After what I had been forced to see that day, I was looking forward to the nightmares the human side of my mind would conjure as I quickly fell asleep.

***

"You always did drink the cheap shit."

My eyes shot open and I fumbled for the light switch beside my bed. Just as I managed to turn on the small lamp on the nightstand, my glass of whiskey collided with my forehead in a shower of liquor and glass.

My eyes burned as I fell off the bed, landing hard on the crusty carpet below. A pair of hands grabbed my shirt and threw me with inhuman strength across the room.

I hit a full-length mirror hanging from the closets, sending more shards of glass across the floor to break my fall.

"Go on then, get up. I want to look you in the eye."

I pushed my palms down into the broken glass and felt my skin separate against their jagged edges as I stood to my feet. Standing on the other side of the room, illuminated partially by the light of the lamp on my nightstand, was a face I knew all too well.

"Samuel. So, she sent you to do her dirty work?" I asked.

Samuel shook his head slowly. I caught a glimpse of his eyes, black as night and swirling with a grey mist where the iris should be.

"You couldn't just leave well enough alone, could you?" he asked.

"I don't have to justify myself to you. If you're here to kill me, just get it over with."

Samuel sighed and clenched his fists. He turned away from me and I spotted the thing controlling his every move dangling from the base of his skull. A pulsating red mass clung to his neck, with hundreds of white tendrils worming their way into his brain.

Looking at it made the back of my neck tingle. The place where I once had one of those perched on my back. Like a demonic monkey shrieking into my ear every hour of the day.

"We go way back, don't we Alice?" Samuel asked.

He was in visible pain, resisting her commands no doubt.

"Yeah Samuel, we do. We're all her spawns, connected by blood and stardust, but you were more of a brother to me than any of them."

"That's why I'm here. I can't hold her back much longer. She knows you're here. Listen to me carefully, Alice. You know who did this. He's alive."

I threw my hand onto a nearby wall to steady myself.

"How is that possible?" I asked.

"I don't know, but when I heard what happened, when she sent the order, I knew I had to find you first," Samuel said.

"Thank you, brother."

"Don't thank me yet. She knows you're close. She sending all of us to stop you."

"Samuel, I wish I could repay you somehow. You know what she'll do to you when she finds out."

"This is bigger than me, Alice. Bigger than us. She needs to be stopped. Whatever the cost. Now go!"

I turned and ran out of the room, knowing full well I'd never seen my brother again.

***

I left everything behind as I ran through the silent, empty town of Wilmont towards the ocean.

It was starting to come together in my mind. There was only one other being who could will an entire town to walk into the ocean. The one who raised me, the first human, the Keeper of Gaia. My father.

I reached the beach and stared at the moonlight reflected across the waters. I could feel his call, the same one that everyone followed a day prior. It was so clear now.

Yesterday, it was lost in the town's wailing memories, but now that the truth had been made clear to me, I could hear it through all the noise.

My feet touched the water and I felt its icy embrace wandering upward as I waded into the deep. I closed my eyes, listened to his call, let it guide me to his prison in the abyss.

Muffled cries

Stifled screams

Stone not of this Earth

A sweeping labyrinth

An infinite prison

Wandering souls

A familiar voice

Calling me home

I opened my eyes and looked out into a darkened corridor, lit by jagged crystals that gave off a haunting blue glow. Water dripped from my soaked clothes as I made my way forward.

I passed one of the townspeople, mumbling incoherently to themselves as they slowly tapped their head against the damp wall. Hybrids live exponentially longer than humans, but in the hundreds of years since I last saw him, my father never managed to send a message beyond this abyssal prison of stone beneath the waves.

He must have been biding his time, building his strength, and when he finally let out his call, it brought more than just Hybrids. It pulled the entire town beneath the waves.

My theory proved to be more true with every passing step. These people were once the subject of horrific rituals after my father was taken from us. Their memories had been stolen from them. They forgot how they carried her children when my father left. How they gave birth to both Hybrids and cursed abominations in equal measure as she perfected the rituals.

She lied to us, that bitch of a mother. She told us he left, but now the truth was laid bare.

He must have refused to help her populate the Earth with Hybrid beings. Knowing my father, he decided to stand against the choking of Gaia's people with an influx of wretched half-breeds that would one day overtake the human race. He chose defiance, and it cost him everything.

These people, scarred and broken, were made whole again when their memories were ripped out. They did not deserve this fate, they merely answered the call.

I continued walking past townspeople aimlessly wandering, singing haunting melodies to themselves, or simply crying on the ground, their legs clutched against their chest.

I had to end this, whatever the cost. From behind me, I heard a crash of water, slamming against the walls of the labyrinth like thunder.

The sound of footsteps numbering in the hundreds echoed through to where I stood. It was as Samuel foretold, the Hybrids were coming to protect their mother's dark secret.

I closed my eyes and sprinted through the winding tunnel, focusing on the call of my father, focusing on the visions that came from him. I would rely on that to solve the puzzle of this prison.

Flowing fields of golden wheat

A handful of fresh, cold Earth

The smell of morning dew

The laughter of a child

A sunset shared

Time together

Apart from her

A disease

A blight on creation

A wretched whore

Come to kill us all

His memories exuded warm, loving visions of a time before all of this. A time when our mother's true intentions had not been laid bare, but such memories are not useful in a prison designed to torment.

It was the memories of her betrayal, of her ruthlessness, that called out the strongest. It was those who led me to him.

I looked on in horror at my father's prison. His expression was one of agony, his body had become the trunk of a tree that grew infinitely into the darkness surrounding him. Branches emerged from his fingertips, his eyes, his mouth, and his feet.

His chest was broken open. From within a shattered cage of wooden ribs, a bouquet of haunting white flowers bloomed. This growth had no doubt been slow, painful, and all-encompassing.

He died a long time ago, but his mind and his soul were trapped here, dreaming an endless loop of torment and the knowledge that he would never escape.

I reached out to touch him. The moment my finger made contact, I watched the growth ensnare my hand, slowly crawling across skin and leaving the rough texture of wood in its wake.

I didn't fight it. This was where I needed to be. I clenched my jaw as the living branches tore through my skin, curled around my bones, and punctured my lungs.

I focused on our shared visions to mask the pain.

Father, I'm home

A shared embrace

The smell of fresh rain on his skin

A warm, comforting embrace

Tears of joy

Fear takes hold

Do not be afraid

Our voice combined

Will cross the abyss

Take hold of the masses

Send back her armies

End her reign

Deliver Gaia from her fate

I didn't know what to expect as this prison wormed its way into my heart, crushing it like a grape in my chest. I suspected that death would only be an inconvenience for a Hybrid like me, but my fate did not matter.

As I merged with that unholy tree born from my father's body, we combined our shared power to send out one last call. One that would reach the minds of every man, woman, child, creature, and Hybrid on Gaia.

If my father could call these people here, we could send them all to her, together. with one final command:

Kill the bitch.

Horror

About the author

Bradley Ramsey (He/Him)

Lover of dogs, gaming, and long walks on the beach. Content Marketing Manager by day, aspiring writer by night. Long time ghostwriter, finally stepping into the light. Alone, we cannot change this world, but we can create better ones.

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