Everything was black. And cold. Very cold.
I felt as if I was wrapped in a frozen blanket, snug and tight. I couldn’t move or see.
My head was hammering and I heard strange muted sounds, voices?.
I tried to speak but as I opened my mouth it was immediately filled with what, water? Salt water? It was cold as winter and flowed like freezing icicles down my throat and down into the lungs. Panic! I can’t breathe. I finally managed to break the horrifying paralysis and started moving my arms and legs, but even while flailing wildly I failed to touch anything. It felt like I was flying or more like falling, slowly.
Panic! I can’t breathe. Am I dying? Drowning? Strangely I somehow feel weightless but at the same time heavy. Heavy as solid rock. And cold, freezing cold.
  Suddenly something touches my arm. At first my panic increases but it quickly recides and then, I hear a voice, like a distant echo inside my hurting head. Almost as if in a strange way there were multiple voices matched together.

  “…open your eyes…open them… ” 

   It was like a whisper, muffled but somehow perfectly clear. It compelled me with its demanding, subtly so, request. It made me feel safe. So, I opened my eyes.   Blurry at first but after a few rapid heartbeats shifting shapes before me started to take on more solid forms as I wretched salty water, that felt like an icy burn as I replaced the water inside my lungs with cold fresh air.
I blinked my water filled eyes. They stung and I wanted to rub them with my hands but my fingers were stiff and pain shot up my arm as I reached for my face. 

   “Lay still, please Henry”, said a melodic voice. It was somewhat familiar but my memory was as frozen as my body at the moment.
   “You’re safe now. You’re alive”, said the voice again.
As the stinging saltwater drained from my eyes the blurry shape came closer to my face and started to get in focus. I weakly shake my head and suddenly I see the face that goes with the voice. Surrounded by a deep cowl or perhaps some kind of hat was a woman’s thin, pale face. Her nose has a slightly reddish pink color to it but it’s her bright green eyes that catches my own bloodshot and half blind eyes. 

   “Can you hear me, Henry?”
Henry? Wait, that’s my name. She’s talking to me. I suddenly go into a coughing fit again. I wretch violently a few times as the green eyed woman slaps my back over and over until I finally stop, eagerly drawing in air.
Once again she asks me if I can hear her and I nod.
   “Yes, I hear you. I’m ok”, I think. 

A large set of arms comes into view and grabs me and all of a sudden I’m standing up, wobbly on my freezing feet. 
I look up at a huge man dressed in a thick coat and furry hat. He’s wearing leather gloves and is grabbing my shoulder to steady me. Suddenly I feel dizzy and weak. My shaky legs give away and I collapse on stony and frozen ground. Darkness.

   “…move on…remember…” 

    The voice, voices?, again. Urging me to open my eyes. Still with a demanding edge to it but also somehow comforting in an odd unexplainable fashion.
I feel the sting of a hand slap across my face and I open my eyes. Confused and still dizzy I look around but at first I only see darkness. Next to me I see the huge shape of the silent man, his dark brooding eyes staring at me. His hard face snarls as he nods as if to confirm I’m awake.
  I can see the woman standing at the very edge of the water, a glittering sheet of glass, holding up a small lantern. The moon lends its meager light and it falls on dark floating shapes, bobbing slowly up and down at the mercy of gentle waves. Bodies? I shake my head in a desperate attempt to convince my eyes that the horrors before me can’t be real but as I move my gaze over the glimmering cold shores more bodies seem to appear from the dark unknown depths. An audible hoarse gasp escapes my mouth.
   “More dead”,  the woman says, looking back at us. The lantern sways slowly, making the shadows dance ghostly around us. Around me I see a stony strip of a shore, with something looking like damaged crates scattered around it. I stared at it all in confusion with stinging eyes.
   “I was hoping more had survived the shipwreck”. She looks at the man next to me.
”Brantley, please help Henry up, we must move further into the island”
Shipwreck? I can feel a memory pushing itself to the center of my thoughts as I repeat the word. It violently claws out of the fog of confusion and ignorance.
Yes, there was a ship. We were on the ocean in a small ship. We? I can’t recall how many people were aboard but seeing the lifeless shapes in the water I could quickly estimate more than ten of us.
As I watch the bodies congregate close to land, carried on cold waves pushed by a steady increasing wind, I suddenly realize some of them are moving on their own accord. At first I take it as a trick of shadows but as one dark wet form climbs up on a dead body and quickly drags it under the surface I know in a singular flash of  understanding, nothing plays with my weak mental state and capacity. Some nameless beings were taking the bodies, one by one, down under the water to some blasphemous end that thankfully my thoughts managed to block and not allow me to comprehend.  The shock makes me crawl back in horror and amazement until my back moves into the unmovable form of the man called Brantley.
I raise my arm to point as Brantley grabs me to hoist my limp body up  so the gesture is lost to them as was my clearly wide staring eyes, held on the gleaming globes staring back at me before they disappear.   

   “Can you walk?”, the woman says, as she gently puts a cold hand on my face. I recoil in surprise from the touch. As I look back at her a strange feeling comes over me. Almost as a warm wave, rushing through my body. I lock eyes with her and hear myself say, “Yes, Edith”.
What just happened? A short moment of clarity and I feel reinvigorated. I repeat it again as if to make sure I say it right.
   “Good, let’s hurry”, the woman I called Edith says, grabs my hand and more drags me along than walks with me. Behind us I can see the hulking figure of the strange man named Brantley following us. I try to look behind him hoping not to catch any movement from whatever was dwelling under the surface of the frozen shore but something close to complete darkness seems to swallow everything just a few steps behind us.
Once again, I feel cold and weak. My head is hurting and I stumble and fall, countless times, and every time, the large man picks me up.
   “…go on…move on…”
I no longer feel my body and my sight must be getting worse because all I see is misshapen rocky cliffs, shooting out of a stony shore that, to me, goes on forever.
   “…remember…the signs…”
 Surrounded by black rocks and foul smelling seaweed I’m doing my best to keep up with the other two but it’s of no use. The dim light from the lantern comes and goes as Edith turns around corners in a stony dark maze. I feel so heavy. Heavy and weak. My legs are struggling to move and at last, all effort spent, I fall one last time before darkness takes me. 


  I must have blacked out. I woke up, confused, and once again the man had me standing up in a firm grip of his large hands. I blink and look around and I can’t see Edith. A feeling of dread comes over me and I fall to my knees, sharp rocks digging into my legs and kneecaps. I want to cry out from pain but all I manage is a pitiful croak, hurting my dry throat. As if in a dream I feel myself moving without taking a step. The black rocks around me seem to lean in and suddenly they make way for a dark ominous opening. A cave entrance? It’s surrounded by hanging seaweed and next to it there stands Edith, an eerie figure in faint light.
Hooded and layered with thick coats, she faces away from me. I can see a tall flat stone in front of her where she has placed the lantern, and she’s clearing its surface of seaweed and the moisture they leave after she let them fall to the rocky ground.
  “Edith?”, I say with a hoarse voice that sends painful needles down my throat.
The hooded figure turns and face me. She’s holding an open book in her hands that she closed when she sees me. 

   “…the book…signsssss…”

   “Oh Henry, I’m so glad to see you. I was worried. Bartley said you disappeared so he went back to find you”.
Her words sound sincere and once again her voice makes me feel something. Some feeling trying to penetrate the armor encasing my memories. Some lost emotion desperate to unveil itself to me but gets lost in my dizzy head.
I feel Bartleys hand on me as I look up to see Ediths face half hidden by the hood of her parka. The sight unsettles me and I step back. Her face. The face is a mess of wrinkles and wind blown skin. If it wasn’t for her green eyes I would have sworn an oath it could not have been the same woman I saw on the stony beach. How long ago was that? My head was spinning and dizziness came over me. 

   “…stay focused…seeeee…”

I feel the cold wet cliffs on my back as I stumble into them, taking a few steps away from her. I can’t tell if my hands are shaking from the cold or the shock of seeing her face. It was not the same as before. She looked as if she had aged terribly since last I saw her, whenever that was. Time has been playing tricks on me since I woke up in the cold ocean water but it feels like just recently and far from the time it would take for her face to age to look like an old woman. 
While I stare at her in bewilderment she walks towards me with a hand stretched out. I see her mouth move but I’m unable to hear the words. I shake my head as if to rattle something loose that prevents me from hearing. It feels as if my heart is pounding between my ears and is so loud it blocks out any other sound. Edith looks at me with her green eyes, now old and surrounded by deep wrinkles.

   “…the book….look at the book…”

A voice again or did I imagine? Whatever the truth was behind the strange voice, the return of it is enough to make my world go dark. In a feeble attempt my hand reaches out for support. The last thing I feel is my head bounce off the rock behind me.

   “…gooooo….seeeee…..the signssss…” 

Darkness. So absolute and encapsulating it freezes me in fear as I wake up. I feel a strange pressure, as if I’m in a small room or chamber of some sort in which I’m laying down on chilly ground. I try to speak, any word, but my throat is too dry. A pitiful wheezing comes out and dies immediately on blistered lips. Pain. My whole body is in pain and I’m certain the sticky wetness I feel on my face is blood but from what I don’t dare let my mind dwell on.
I hear something close by, to my left side. Breathing? I slowly reach out into the black, hand shaking. I touch something cold and still, with shallow breaths. It has to be Edith or Brantley so I whisper their names but I get no reply in return. I shake the unknown body but it remains still. I sit up to move closer when a scraping sound comes from the darkness just beyond. I shake the body again and I feel a hand land on mine. Too cold and tired I don’t even react to it, but it should have sent me into terror. The large callous hand tells me it’s Brantley beside me and it reassures me. I forcibly shake him again, desperately trying to make him wake up. A weak moan comes from him and I slam my hand down, hard on his body.
A loud cough tells me his senses are about to return when the scraping sound is heard again, closer this time.
I whisper to him to get up but he just wriggles slowly and moans even louder. I keep shaking him as the scraping noise gets closer with every heartbeat. Something like a wet footstep can be heard to one side and quickly followed by another. I catch a glimmer of a light in the dark, swaying from side to side like a crazed will o’ the wisp searching for something. I can feel the grasp of madness getting hold of my already weakened mind as the clear echoes of wet sucking footsteps gets louder, closer and closer. Suddenly I can see Brantley’s face as the light from Ediths lantern lands on his prostrated form, as she comes around a corner and an opening appears suddenly around her. What looks like a cave takes form in the dancing lights, chasing some of the darkness away. I look down at Brantley and his face is covered in blood. His mouth seems injured, as if beaten. Thick blood trickles down his face as he moves his mouth as if to speak. Can he speak?  A pang of recollection hits me that I have never heard the man speak a word but I also feel I can’t trust myself or any opinion I might have. I look up from his damaged face as Edith screams.
   “Henry, we must go now. Leave him”, her voice is high pitched in fear and anxiety.
I look at her in confusion. Her face, now even more ravaged by age with wrinkled skin stretched over a thin skull, eyes lit up by the lantern surrounded by dark circles. Her body seems hunched over and her outstretched hand is just a cluster of bony fingers.
   “Henry”, she calls again and I take a last look at the large man as I stand up. The light from the lantern moves in a slow mesmerizing motion over Brantley, back to Edith and then back to me and it’s in that short moment in time I see it. A low hulking form slithers into the dim light at the feet of Brantley, still not moving. I can see large round eyes, black pits of madness. I stumble back…
   “…see it…seeeee…”
Brantley’s body disappears into the blackness with a violent jerk. A rasp gurgling bounce around in the small cavern followed by a wet crunching sound that…
   “…see it…look…”
screaming chills me in place. I feel Edith pull me into the opening and then we’re running, on shaky unstable legs. As fast as we can through narrow tunnels in the light from the shaky lantern. Even with the loud sound our steps make I can still hear the sloshy steps behind me. Maybe my mind is imagining it, conjuring up this horror that I refuse to believe is real. But it took Brantley. I saw it, its dead black eyes. So big in a narrow shaped face with what seemed like…scales? No, it can’t be. The shock and the lack of light, surely…it can’t be.
Edith’s crackling voice wakes me up from my inner rant of disturbing thoughts and I find myself in a stony chamber, much larger than the previous one. Weird lights dancing on the walls and ground as if the rock around us emitted the odd lure of colors.
A blasphemous array of bright light, colors I can’t recall ever seeing, swirling around a gaping black hole in the middle of the cold chamber.
Edith turns around, fear haunting her eyes. The face now looks like a pale death mask of thin wrinkles and blotches. Her mouth, toothless, opens but instead of words only a cloud of cold breath comes out. I stare at her in horror, on the brink of fainting, when I feel a presence behind me. Close. So close I imagine feeling breath on my neck, chilling me all over. I start to turn around, even as my mind screams not to…
   “…see it…look…remember…”
I feel myself getting pushed…
   “…look…see it…”
like I’m flying. Cold wind slamming my face…
…”nooo…remember…you must…”
screams echo around me and my numb body hits hard rocky walls as I’m bouncing back and forth. I can see the ground getting closer while my body is spinning around, round and round.
The ground, strange lights, flying up towards me and I…

…”wake up…look…the book…”

   How I survived the fall I don’t know or perhaps this was my own hell and I was dead, killed by the fall. A fall that felt like a lifetime filled with odd lights and abnormal rock formations. I still can’t feel my body but I could by some strange will make myself get up. Above me was a high rocky ceiling of an enormous chamber, vast in its size and otherworldly shape. Sharp frozen stalactites of incalculable width and length hung from the dark ceiling. The light again, a maddening collection of colors, spread between them shooting rays on the ground and the odd rocky outcroppings that filled the immense place. My foggy mind struggled to take it all in as I looked around.
My gaze fell and stopped on what looked like a building but surely couldn’t be. In a distance I can’t measure, it loomed high as if reaching upwards to touch the brown aged teeth looking stalactites. It caught me so off guard I felt my mouth gaping at the sight. I felt compelled to get closer as if drawn to it…
   “…look…the book…”
so high I couldn’t tell when it ended and the doomed ceiling began. The size of the building, I now realized it was, was beyond my comprehension. The large opening before me sent out a faint hammering sound. Almost like a…
it was her, Edith. Her lifeless body, nothing more than a husk of bones and cold skin, sitting in front of the enormous maw of breathing madness. I walked around her slowly as if not to disturb her in her eternal rest. Her face, now without her green eyes, nothing but a dried up pale hollow skull. The sight should have…
after grabbing the book from her skeletal hands I was overcome by a fear I have never felt before. Something was wrong. I looked up at the gaping infinite darkness in the middle of the tower, for what else could it be. My blurry vision could see grooves forming an eldritch circle around the gaping hole and my addled mind knew it was carvings made with an ill purpose but I cannot understand why. I took a few steps back as if it would help me see it all but just moving made me dizzy and I stumbled, knees hitting the cold flat ground. Looking around I could see what to me appeared to be weirdly shaped flowers, glowing in every color the universe can create but was lost to my mind. The light from them seems to light up the odd carvings on the surface of the high building. They looked like…
   “…see….see the signsssss…”
turned the page of the book and confirmed that the drawing in the yellow paged tome matched the unnatural rune glowing on the weathered wall. Either my mind jolted from the realization of something I unknowingly had done or the smooth marble-like ground at my feet moved. My eyes watered and my sight seemed to get worse, smaller in scope. I can’t go on.
Something is wrong and I shouldn’t…
   “…the sign…see it….look…”
close enough to be the correct sign. The page was barely visible as my eyes lost their peripheral awareness, darkness closing in on all sides . My head. Pain so strong and sharp I could feel my body reeling and I’m quickly losing focus. The tower shudders or is it just me, losing my mind to whatever madness I draw upon from the accursed tome I hold. I look up to find the last…
   “…there…see it…remember…”
like a heart pounding, coming through the darkness of the opening. I see a pillar of onyx shaped as some nameless loathing being fall, breaking in thousands of black crystalline pieces around me. I strain to lift my head up, up to see the…
   “…see…see the sign…remember…”
grabs me with such horror and I turn and run…
like a spiderweb, racing across the floor, breaking the once impossible smooth surface into a maddening mosaic of glimmering bits of black rock…  “…remember…look…Henry…remember…”
behind me, crumbling, like an impossible shaped ruin. I run. Walls falling, all around me. The ground moves and in my horror I try to imagine what dwells beneath it if I would fall. I ran,stumbled, crawled away from the…

   I can hear voices. My head still hurts but not at the intensity as before. I feel oddly calm, relaxed even, but so weak I fail to open my eyes. The voices, at first mumbling and distant, become clearer. A dancing form of dim light moves in front of my face, shining through my eyelids that remain shut. A low, almost whispering voice, close to my ear says something but I can’t make out the meaning of the muffled words. I try to move but it’s as if my muscles are beyond my control.
The voice comes out of the muddled murmur like a knife, piercing the silence..
   “Do it,I say. Now”. The voice is cold and harsh but somehow I know it’s not meant for me. I once again try to move but it ends in another futile attempt.
   “But sir, he’s too weak. It’s a miracle he’s not completely mad, never mind still alive. Please, professor”, a man’s voice stammers feebly.
   “Now, if you please doctor. Half a dose, I need him deeply sedated but receptive”.
That voice. So familiar but how?. I summon the last spark of will left in me, heart pounding, blood pumping in my ears.
   “Now doctor, he’s starting to move”.
My arms, I can’t move them. What’s happening to me?
An impossible horror fills every fiber of my being as the voice, that voice, once again speaks.
Calm but filled with chilling command and in a horrifying moment of realization it becomes familiar. So frighteningly familiar.
   “Now my dear Henry, let’s try again”.
No, it can’t be. What is happening?.
I can feel my body relax, sinking into a rapid oncoming darkness. A soothing but terrible feeling.
The cold darkness. Again.
   “…Henry…have to remember this time…must know what you saw…”
No, not again. Please. My mind screams out in silence at the world but loud as a booming thunderclap inside my own head. No more, please. I can’t…
   “…will slowly fall asleep and…relax and try to…remember Henry…the sign…the third sign…remember this time….tell me all….you must remember…”

Everything was black. And cold. Very cold.
I felt as if I was wrapped in a frozen blanket, snug and tight. I couldn’t move or see.
My head was hammering and I heard strange muted sounds, voices?.
I tried to speak but as I opened my mouth it was immediately filled with what, water? Salt water?
It was cold as winter and flowed like freezing icicles down my throat and down into the lungs.
Panic! I can’t breathe. I finally managed to break the horrifying paralysis and started moving my arms and legs, but even while flailing wildly I failed to touch anything. It felt like I was flying or more like falling, slowly.
Panic! I can’t breathe. Am I dying? Drowning? Strangely I somehow feel weightless but at the same time heavy. Heavy as solid rock. And cold, freezing cold. 

  “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn…open your eyes and remember…tell me all…the signsssss”

THE THIRD SIGN, A Lovecraftian tale of horror written by: Carl Anders