Deadman’s Tome is home to Book of Horrors, a horror anthology loaded with terrifying horror short stories that’ll chill you to the bone!
DISCLAIMER: Deadman’s Tome is a dark and gritty horror zine that publishes content not suitable for children. The horror zine proudly supports the freedom of dark creative works and stands against censorship. Hardly any subject matter is too taboo for this horror zine. As a result, Deadman’s Tome may feature content your mother would not approve of. But she doesn’t control your life, right?
I woke to shrill screeching, and my bed shaking like it was the end of the world. Bright sunlight flooded in as the window shade flew up. The digital clock read 2:37 AM.
The rumbling continued, and my heart slowed as I realized what it had to be. I doubted I’d get any more sleep, so I got out of bed, dressed and geared up, and went above deck. I found the Captain of the Norwegian Coast Guard Vessel Svalbard at the bow, looking over the railing to the water, and speaking on a handheld communicator.
“Aksel,” I said to him, interrupting.
He held up a hand, and continued speaking into the walkie, looking over the bow as he gestured vigorously. The engines reversed and the ship backed, turned, and forced its way into the ice at a new angle. It seemed to make better progress.
“Ja?” Captain Aksel Falk was in full uniform, and looked back over his shoulder at me as the ship shuddered as it cut into the frozen sea.
“We are making progress north; we’ve hit pack ice, about five hundred kilometers north of Longyearbyen, a little over eight hundred from your destination.”
“The North Pole is solid ice this time of the year.” At my look, he shrugged. “This year, anyway. We will have to see how close we can get before you will take a helo from the ship to your goal.”
I closed my eyes and turned my face upwards. I could feel the ‘midnight’ sun warm against my lids, turning them bright red, and the color triggered an awful memory which lay too near the surface. In my mind’s eye, I saw Cerise’s torn body, her blood staining our bed the same color, and I shuddered. My lover, my truest companion upon my mad quest to struggle on against the return of insane, alien horrors had been murdered despite all I could do. Her last reading had brought me to this point, on my way to defeat the Windwalker before its cosmic conjunction arrived and gave it the power to manifest.
I opened my eyes to a sudden sense of dislocation. Aksel was gone. What…?
Cries from far behind me. Calls. Shouting. And then I saw a streak of blood at the railing before me! The ship lurched as it went into reverse, and as we pulled back from the ice I saw the Captain’s body lying on the pack ice, blood splashed around him. I saw a greyish black rope around his chest, and my first thought was how out of place it seemed. Then the thing squirmed and I realized it was a tentacle, come up through a crack in the ice and pulling my friend further away from the Svalbard.
I looked around as the ship lurched again, this time to a sudden stop. A glance over the side showed more tentacles from the water on both sides of the bow, clutching at the Svalbard, weaving their way up to the decking. They were far too long to belong to a shoggoth such as had attacked Cerise and me just over a month ago, but we were sailing roughly two and a half miles above the Amundsen Basin, the deepest point of the Arctic Ocean.
Home to polypoid deep ones and to their Master, the Great Old One, Othuum.
But it made no sense! First, it would have to be aware of me, and I was only mortal, my successes to this point of minimal impact. Pyrrhic, in fact, considering how I’d lost Cerise–my love, my Oracle only months before.
The ship shuddered again. I heard a helicopter’s blades begin whirling from the flight deck. An alien god’s minions versus a modern, top of the line war machine- I had no idea how it would turn out. But the Captain might not be dead, and I still had to get to the North Pole to stop the Windwalker in order to prevent that catastrophe.
I backed up for a running start, and another disturbing thought crashed into my mind. Had this Old One sent the shoggoth to slaughter my love? Had it known of me? Of us and our war against their kind, and my coming north?
There was no time to consider all this now, not if I was going to help the Captain. I ran for the rail and vaulted it, leaving the deck of the Svalbard for the bloodstained pack ice where Aksel’s body lay.
My right foot plunged through the crumpled ice as I landed, and I sank in up to my thigh. The knee-high arctic muck boots I wore didn’t stop the shock of the frigid water as it soaked through the pants and rushed in to freeze my foot. I braced myself on the slippery surface to pull it back up, then felt something under the ice grab and wrench me back downwards.
I sank to my crotch as the ice crunched beneath me and couldn’t stop the involuntary shout at the pain and surprise. The muscles in my upper leg began to spasm as I fought the pull, and then I heard a muffled *crump* behind me. I turned in time to see a missile dart from one of the airborne helicopters into the water where it then exploded. Blood and chunks of meat burst into the air, and the water boiled angrily around us. Several tentacles, ravaging at the bow of the ship, suddenly recoiled into the water. The pressure pulling me downwards also vanished, and I fell forward onto my stomach with the abrupt release. I crawled along the pack ice and pulled my numbed leg out of the water.
I heard another helo take off, and then the deck guns of the Svalbard opened up into the water as well. I began scrambling towards the Captain, and then a huge explosion slapped the air behind me, pushing me forward in a helpless slide. A fireball rolled in my direction, hissing over the edge of the ice before dissipating far too close to me. When it cleared, I saw one of the helicopters motionless, lying ninety degrees to the vertical and impaled on a scorched tentacle for just a moment before both dropped into the ocean and were gone.
I got to Aksel just as I saw him jerk suddenly upright. Like the doomed helo, he, too, was transfixed on an oozy, grey tentacle.
Then his throat moved and a grotesque parody of his voice emerged:
This was not so not good. My gaze was frozen on the horror my friend and ally had become, even as the sounds of hyperwar went on behind me.
You have become emboldened by success and your dreams reek of your self-assurance I care not what victories you win over others but your fear and pain and despair taste far sweeter You will fall to chance or to error or to horror or to the elements or to time and your task will remain undone while I endure I offer this gift to feed your nightmares…
… and Aksel’s body fell to the ice before me as the tentacle whipped downward out of his body and into the sea.
I turned back to see the other ropy limps disengage from the Svalbard and also slide into the water. The cutter had sustained significant damage to the upper superstructure and the railing, and fresh scoring along the steel hull was apparent. One surviving helo flew tight circles around the ship, nose down like it was sniffing for signs of the disappeared enemy. I waved to get the attention of its crew, and it lifted to level and flew my way.
The muscles of my leg still spasmed and cramped, but I forced myself upright, and then to Aksel to lift his corpse from the ice. I turned back, unsteady on my feet, to see a harness lowered for us from the helicopter. I strapped the Captain’s body tightly, and it was winched up as I waited my turn. My teeth chattered and my leg ached, and I knew that neither of those things could be blamed completely on just the cold.
Back aboard the Svalbard, the medical clinic was rife with the sound of pain when I reached it. As battered and chilled as I felt, I was in much better shape than several of the Norwegian crew seeking attention. So instead of going in, I went past it to the bridge and walked in on a heated discussion which stopped when the officers saw me.
Since they looked both shaken and angry, I thought it best to speak first. “What’s the current situation, gentlemen?”
The First Officer looked at the others before answering me in a sharp-toned, heavily-accented English. “We have sustained casualties, lost a helicopter, and the ship is damaged. What the hell was that thing which attacked us?”
I reached for calm before I spoke. “Arctic sea life.”
“That is just so much shit.” He looked at his fellow officers, then at me with disgust. “We’ve never heard of anything like it, and we’re all career in the Coast Guard.”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, Commander Adamsen. But Captain Falk did explain the purpose of this mission to you and your men?”
“Only in general terms, I am afraid. That you have connections which made it possible to have our top-of-the-line Cutter available to take you, an American, to the North Pole, was clear enough.”
I didn’t like that past tense of ‘made’. “Do I still have your support?”
“Sir! We must turn back. We have injured who need far more care than we can give them here, and we’ve lost a helo, expended ordnance…”
“No. I’m afraid it’s an absolute priority that we proceed onward to the Pole.”
An angry conversation broke out in hurried Norwegian among the officers. I waited.
The Commander silenced the others and turned back to me. “Out of the question. We have a duty to those who are wounded and to the families of those we’ve lost, and to report what has happened.”
I held up a hand. “Who will assume command with Aksel dead?”
Everyone looked at the Commander expectantly. He collected their gazes, exhaled deeply, then nodded in my direction. “Me.”
“Then I need to speak with you alone,” I told him.
Adamsen spoke to his men, never breaking eye contact with me. “Hold position here. Try again to establish satellite communications with our base, and wait for me.” He then led me off the bridge and into the Captain’s operational room. Once inside, he closed the door behind us. “Now, who the hell are you, and why are we here? When Captain Falk was in charge, I followed his lead, but now I’m the one who needs to know.”
“My name isn’t important, only my mission.”
He folded his arms. “And that is?”
“To stop bad things from happening.”
“You didn’t stop this ship being attacked!”
“On the scale of bad things to stop, this was nothing.” I saw him about to retort angrily, and interrupted before he did, holding up a placating hand. “I’m sorry, Commander; I didn’t mean that to sound as though I was trivializing your losses. Please know that I’m deeply sorry about Captain Falk and your other casualties, but what we’re doing is necessary in the larger scheme of things. Aksel understood that.”
He deflated a bit, mastering his anger, and it made me respect him more. “Then make me understand, too.”
“Okay. That thing we fought; it’s like nothing you ever saw before, right?” He nodded. “It’s too big, too powerful, and far too intelligent. It’s one of a bunch of such…things, beings, what have you… that the governments of the world have either turned a blind eye towards because they’re a difficult truth to acknowledge, or which they ignore because they’ve already been subverted.”
Adamsen’s eyes bulged. “Conspiracies?”
“Or deliberate ignorance. Look, you saw that thing in action, saw what it did to the chopper you lost, and to this ship. Did you think anything natural could have fought the Svalbard as it did?”
He sat suddenly, as though the strength had fled his legs. “My God! What was it?”
“Ancient. Perhaps alien, or at least so I believe from the Book of Eibon.”
“What was this Eibon?”
“Not a what, but a who. He fought against these beings twenty thousand or so years ago; figured out how to use their power against them, left a lot of instructions. That’s what I do, Adamsen.”
“But, I don’t understand! There was nothing twenty thousand…”
I stepped close and put my hand on his shoulder. “I lost someone very dear to me recently. She was slaughtered by a thing much like that-” the Commander blanched- “only smaller, sent to stop us from heading north on this mission. We need to reach the pole on schedule, to prevent something even more powerful than what we fought today from manifesting fully.”
His face paled and his eyes were wide as he looked up at me. “Worse than that?”
“Much. And, Adamsen–the woman I lost… she was Aksel’s niece. That’s why he knew, why he had agreed to help me.”
His eyes took on an introspective, vulnerable look, and I guessed that he was thinking of his dead Captain at that moment. But he was trained military, and his eyes soon focused back on me. “Tell me everything,” he said in a more firm voice.
“I will, but we still need to go north, and we have to go now.”
I saw the decision in his face when he made it. He stood, opened the door to the bridge and gave orders in Norwegian to the crew there. I listened for arguments, but heard none. Adamsen spoke again, more softly, and I heard the sound of the ship cutting into the pack ice began once again. Finished, he turned back to me. Unconsciously, he straightened his uniform before he spoke. “I need to address the crew, see the wounded, explain why we cannot return to base. I’ll have dinner brought here, and then you’ll explain everything–from the beginning, mind–so that I can understand what I have committed my men to as fully as Captain Falk did.”
I nodded. He left.
Alone in the Captain’s operational room, I reflected on how I’d just recruited the next pawn in the war against the Ancients that I would never stop fighting. Not if it cost the lives of everyone on this ship including mine, and especially not even after the shoggoth had murdered the broken girl who’d been my lover and Oracle.
The costs of my war against the Ancients had already been beyond my once-naive reckoning, and would only escalate from here. But I also knew that the stakes were too high to give up striving against Them. For if I failed to stop the Old Ones from achieving their return to full power during their cosmic conjunctions–as painstakingly laid out in Eibon’s text–all of humanity might end up paying a horrible price.
However painful, victory was necessary, so I’d go on regardless of the toll.
And for now that meant north.
Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes terrifying horror short stories and horror flash fiction whether it’s ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre fiction, classic horror literature or erotica. The darker and grittier the tale the better. If you enjoyed the horror short, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.