I was working as a reporter for a small newspaper in the New England area—the Arkham Press it was called— when word came of the strange visitors. They were said to have walked right out of the water as if they had dwelled there and suddenly decided to go for a stroll. The island was part of a chain of heavily populated landmasses that thrust up from the South Pacific. Marsolan was its name. Its peoples were of an Asian descent, having swept across the island chain in the early 1400s after fleeing China in what amounted to little more than hollowed out trees.
The indigenous peoples of Marsolan knew not what to think as they watched these strange creatures, three to four meters tall, march out of the crashing ocean, their bodies formed seemingly of balls of mottled blubber supported by six knobby stumps that moved in such a fashion as to suggest they were legs. Arachnid-like appendages with snapping claws could only be what one might regard as arms, and stalks stretched above the gelatinous forms with crimson bulbs perched on the ends. The natives believed these to be the eyes of these beasts, but they sought out nothing in particular, rather swaying indifferently as if the winds of Marsolan had taken hold of them.
Where did they come from? Why were they here? These were the questions that the natives—and soon the rest of the world—wanted answered. It would be some time before at least part of the strange beings’ agenda became clear.
In the meantime, reports of these creatures issued far and wide from the paradisiacal Marsolan. The people were frightened. And rightly so. The oceans were one of the final frontiers of man’s exploration of his world and here he was standing face to face with one of the mysteries of those great depths.
I was so lucky as to receive some of these reports even in the quaint and far-removed town of Arkham in the New England area of the States. Not much ever happened here. At least not for some one-hundred years now. But this was news of the first order. I could not be held back from further investigation. I was on the next plane out of Boston and curved high above the earth’s surface to land safely in Los Angeles, where I, in turn, managed to secure a cabin on a research vessel headed for the mysterious Marsolan.
By that time, though, all contact with the island had ceased ominously.
My shipmates were a lively bunch. It would have been quite simple for the layman to mistake these characters, young and old alike, as anything other than scientists. For much of the voyage, the men—and the few ladies brave enough to band with these barbarous geniuses—indulged themselves with vast quantities of drink and wild stories of aliens come to earth. I asked one youth in particular—Morris was his name—what all the talk was about aliens and the like. His response was to laugh loudly in my face and assault my delicate senses with a good two days’ worth of liquor breath.
I was pleased that my comrades began to compose themselves as we neared Marsolan. Nothing could be as embarrassing as landing ashore with a horde of inebriates who fancied themselves scientists.
It would not be long before I understood the reason for my shipmates drinking themselves into a stupor. And it would not be such a stretch of the truth to admit that upon this ghastly discovery I wished that I had also partaken in the numbing of drink.
One mate—he called himself Alonzo, and his chief duty seemed to be swabbing up after the drunken researchers—pulled me aside as we neared Marsolan. He spoke to me in a tongue weighted heavily with a thick Mexican accent, but I was able to determine the general meaning behind his words. “They come from the heavens,” he said. “The children of the Elders have come. The scientists know, and they are scared.” It would not be long before I came to understand the full gravity of his statement, but for now I merely attributed it to some Latino superstition.
As we neared Marsolan, the weather began to take a turn for the worse. Off to the north we all could see the dark wall of swollen storm clouds inching its way in our direction. The wind, like probing fingers, had already reached us and warned and suggested that from here on out, the weather would also prove a formidable foe.
We were on the verge of great discovery. Here was a species of creature that no man had ever lain eyes upon. A species that—until now—called the blackest depths of the ocean their home and had never ventured—as far as we knew—upon this surface-world.
I was to learn that although this presumption was not altogether incorrect, it was still some distance from the truth.
Our vessel entered the Great Bay, Marsolan’s busiest port, cutting through choppy waters to dock finally at an empty pier. We remarked on how empty the churning waters seemed. There was no traffic in the bay. There were no souls that peopled the piers. The island seemed lifeless.
We knew this wasn’t the case. News reports described an abundance of strange life that had descended upon the large island. But it was as if the people—the natives—had vanished.
Once again, as we disembarked, the strange Alonzo whispered in my ear, “The children of the Elders. They walk here. We are certainly doomed.”
I paid little heed to the bizarre man’s words and continued unloading my luggage from the vessel. Our party was abuzz with speculation regarding our absent greeters. But it seemed not to be such a disturbing mystery as talk soon turned to our reason for coming to the island. Yet I cannot entirely disregard an underlying fear that seemed to wind its way through the crew.
I left the scientists to organize themselves and their equipment as I went on a little exploration. It was not long before I was able to determine that the village that overlooked the Great Bay was deserted. Not a body—dead or alive—could I find. The wind was my only companion and the only sound to animate the island.
What had happened to the people? I could not escape the belief that it undoubtedly had something to do with these visitors. But I could not imagine—should our visitors prove to have some malevolent design on humans—how an entire village—and possibly an entire island—might be swept utterly clean of people in so short a time.
I would soon come to learn, though, that we were not simply dealing with some unknown life form that had suddenly escaped the dark depths of the sea. They were something much grander and frightening than any of us could have imagined.
The drunken scientists had been right. The disturbed Alonzo had been right. The people of earth stood at the threshold of coming face to face with corporeal divinity. But no gods of salvation would these beings prove to be.
* * * *
The Marsolonians were no more. Extensive investigation brought us to that conclusion. There was no soul left on the island save for us recent arrivals. But there were signs left behind of the Marsolonians’ former occupation of the small island, as the more we explored and the closer we looked, the truth soon became obvious. Much violence had occurred upon this island paradise. Farther inland we began to find pieces…arms, legs, torsos, heads…all showing signs of having been subjected to what could only be interpreted to be the vicious bites of an, as yet undiscovered, bestial dentition. We discovered innards and other offal left behind and spread all over, strung through trees like membranous vines, and splashed upon rocks and leaves like the grimmest abstract art.
With solemn purpose, my companions assembled their scientific instruments and began to conduct their useless tests of the surroundings. The storm we had seen on the horizon upon our arrival had made its initial incursion upon the island. I found a comfortable structure in which I could keep dry, spread out my materials, and begin my writing. I was in possession of a battery-powered radio that enjoyed quite a bit of range on the AM frequency. It was then that I learned the true extent of the “invasion.”
The visitors had begun to land on other shores. From the information I gathered, these could not be the same ones that had come to Marsolan. There were reports of these creatures coming ashore simultaneously in California, Japan, India, Australia, and South America. Other reports described the horrifying acts perpetrated by the visitors upon those encountered in those regions. Despite the news that various military forces attempted to engage the cruel creatures, I could not help but believe I was experiencing the beginning of the end of the human race.
A crash outside the hut to which I had retired brought me back from my dark ruminations. Before I could vacate my seat and investigate, my dear friend Alonzo, now soaked to the bone, entered the hut, and I was very well aware that I was about to fall prey to this man’s strange ramblings.
“Señor,” he said. “The end here coming.”
“What do you mean, Alonzo?” I asked.
He took a seat beside me. A thick odor rolled off his body and stung my nose. It was difficult to not get up and walk away. But I wanted to hear what this man had to say. At the very least, it could be an amusing anecdote for my article. Still, I felt ill at the thought of having to endure this man’s twisted tales.
After what I had seen with regard to the islanders’ remains, I no longer wondered why I was the only reporter on the island. The empty harbor and those discarded human remains suggested to me that others may have arrived before us only to suffer cruel fates. Perhaps the creatures somehow scuttled any vessels in the harbor. If so, this presented potential possession of a disturbing intelligence.
“The spacecraft brought them,” Alonzo said, startling me back to the moment.
“Who? The creatures?”
“Yes, they. They have come here for a long while.”
“Are you saying that they are aliens?”
Alonzo nodded. “They are children of the Elders.”
“I don’t understand what you mean.”
“The ones that have lived always.”
I could only shake my head. I did not know what this fool was talking about or how I could go about getting him to explain things in a fashion I could understand. He obviously had a decent grasp of the English language, but he simply did not know the right words to articulate fully his meaning.
It was then I had an ingenious idea. I pulled a small recorder from my bag and set it between us. Alonzo looked from the device to me, any understanding absent from his face. I clicked the record button and addressed my companion. “Español,” I said, but he met my questioning gaze with an ignorant one of his own. I took an exasperated breath and then brought the recorder to my lips. “Español,” I said again. When I played back what I had recorded, I detected a glimmer of understanding alight on Alonzo’s face. He nodded violently and reached for the recorder. Before he snatched it from my grasp, I managed to switch the tape to record.
I sat for some time as Alonzo spoke his story into the recorder. Sleep soon overcame me, and I was lost in a dream of water until I was shaken awake by the strange Mexican.
He handed me the recorder. I switched it off. I had not been so anxious to get off that island as I was at that moment.
* * * *
With the abundance of reports coming over the radio of new attacks upon earth’s populace, it was astonishing not to have been molested in any way by repugnant sea creatures as we made our way back to the mainland.
The world seemed to be in a state of martial law. The roads and highways of Los Angeles were still save for the shredded carcasses of people and vehicles alike. Whoever remained, if anyone, was too afraid to leave their homes or those that wanted to flee the city were lucky enough to have already fled.
Reports on the AM bands told of the creatures that came out of the ocean steadily making their way inland, wherever there was food to be had, and leaving behind them what would otherwise only be found in the foulest of abattoirs.
All flights were grounded; the only airships in the sky operated by the military. Therefore, my only other option was to secure either a car or a seat on the train. The thought of following in the blood-soaked trail left behind by these creatures frightened and sickened me. But I had to, needed to, get home somehow. I didn’t understand the imperative. Perhaps it was merely a resignation to the fate that seemed to await us all and a desire to surround myself with familiar things. Ultimately, I opted for the car. It would give me more freedom to evade the hordes that traveled before me.
Before driving east, I decided that I wanted a translation of Alonzo’s tape as soon as possible. I drove to the University of Southern California and searched out the foreign language department. The grounds were, understandably, too quiet for a February afternoon, and I began to wonder why I had ever believed I might find anyone who could help.
As luck would have it, though, I stumbled upon a wrinkled gentleman in a cramped office who was able to take me to someone he believed could provide assistance.
Arnold García was the name of the man who would forever change my perception of the universe. He was a professor of Spanish. I was lucky to have happened upon him. He informed me that he would soon be gathering up his family and escaping to some remote part of the country where he believed they would be safe from these monsters of the deep. He agreed to delay his departure when I played the tape for him. He listened to it twice, and I watched his coloring turn from a healthy brown to powder white.
He told me that Alonzo described a wide and diverse population that believed in a folded, infinite universe; one populated by billions upon billions of different entities that moved through the indifferent emptiness of space, like nomadic wanderers upon an ocean of desert. In the eyes of some of these beings, the existence of any other lifeforms amounted to little more than a grain of sand on a long stretch of beach. These lesser beings were like the ants that man—unable or unwilling to avoid—crushed underfoot with careless steps. These entities fancied themselves to be gods, and they had been in existence even before our universe burst forth in the fires of creations. These creatures happened upon worlds populated with inferior beings, and completely devoid of any overt malevolence, they laid waste to these worlds as if they were merely obeying the simple nature and purpose of their existence. It was a cosmic example of survival of the fittest.
Now a race of these creatures had come to earth. They would destroy the human species without any care that what they were doing was wrong. It was simply the way of the universe.
The arrival of the conquerors was as much an accident as the creation of the conquered themselves. Seventeen years ago, the Russian space station, Mir, deorbited and crashed into the South Pacific when funding to continue its operation ceased. Reports from different cosmonauts who had been to Mir described some type of fungus that had begun growing on board the space station. Scientists were unsure from where this fungus came, but no one believed it to be any kind of threat. And so, when the final remnants of Mir crashed into the waters of the South Pacific, the fungus was forgotten.
But not lost.
It was Alonzo’s belief and of those he called the sky-watchers that the warm waters of the Pacific had somehow incubated the fungus over the past years, and what had finally emerged had begun its slaughter of the human race after having been brought to earth by man himself.