Chapter Eight: Dec 5 - Dec 6 - The Black Tower, Part Two
An hour after Starkweather was abducted, the Weddell was airborne and headed towards the mysterious western range. Halperin was flying, with Evvy acting as co-pilot. Doctors Tyson, Thorson, and Schevchenko, along with Stacey, Jeeves, and Samuel, were along for the ride. Moore was too injured to go along, and Miles opted to stay with him for safety's sake. They had found an ancient observatory earlier in the day that doubtlessly once tracked the position of the stars in the heavens. Millions of years of stellar drift rendered it useless, but one constant remained. Something blocked the view at a heading of 290 degrees - the view to the west. Murals in a nearby tower indicated there was something there, something the Elder Ones feared. But it was too late to second-guess what they were about to face.

It didn't take long to spot the flying Elder Things with their burden clutched between them. They were slower, moving at about 60 miles per hour, and the Boeing 247 could easily outfly them. But to what end? Tyson wondered briefly about taking a shot at them, but with the cold, the wind, and the roughness of the flight, 50 feet might as well be 50 miles to a rifle at this point. Halperin flew in long circles to prevent the engine from stalling. Wherever they were headed, the Elder Things would arrive soon.

Looking out the left side of the plane, Stacey saw they were not alone. Another aeroplane had joined them - the Belle. Evvy could see Baumann was at the controls, and he waved at them then pointed to the flying creatures in front of them. Before long, both planes were flying in tandem towards the towering black mountains beyond. The peaks of the western range soared up to the edge of space. More than thirty thousand feet high, they had a disturbingly regular appearance. Sharp and conical, they had no caves or structures like the peaks of the Miskatonic Mountains. Stacey and Tyson felt that there was some dread purpose to the mountains, something they couldn't quite fathom, and it chilled them to the bone.

As they flew on, a light appeared, flashing blue against the dark sky beyond. A storm hung on the horizon. Ruddy light shone through dark, icy clouds which whirled like a hurricane. Impossibly, the storm did not move, and seemed centered on a valley of some sort. At the edge of the valley stood a tower of black stone, fully 500 feet high, with a flashing blue light at its pyramidal apex. The light did not grow brighter as the planes approached, but rather harder to look at, as if it would sear the very sight from their eyes. The planes circled as the Elder Things dove towards the tower. Baumann pointed to the icy floor of the valley. The same ancient river that ran through the city ran here, and its long-frozen surface formed a perfect landing strip.

The black tower of the Elder Pharos stood like a lonely sentinel at the heart of the valley.

After touching down, the Belle landed about 50 yards away. The hatch opened, and Baumann, Doctor Meyer, the geologist Rucker, Acacia Lexington, and her cameraman Priestly stepped out. Curt greetings were exchanged and questions were asked. The Lexington party had suffered a mild disaster upon touching down in the city. The bottom of their Northrop was dented and scraped, and the landing skis had been repaired with wooden struts as best as they could manage. Kyle Williams had gone to search for the Starkweather party to get help, according to Acacia. She and Meyer were shocked when the investigators revealed that he was actually Paul Danforth, and had been behind the sabotage both expeditions had faced since before they left New York. Meyer also revealed that Danforth had stolen his copy of Poe's unexpurgated The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, upon which revelation he was slapped by Acacia Lexington. Apologizing for whatever dastardly actions his superiors had taken, Meyer suggested that they enter the tower to find out if what Pym described was accurate and to hopefully recover the remains of Starkweather and Greene. Rucker and Baumann remained behind, as did Douglas Halperin and Buernor Thorson. The rest made their way to the black tower.

The upper reaches of the tower appeared damaged, but the base was solid and a ramp cut from the ice led to an arch-like opening. Making their way inside, the investigators found a domed chamber with a ramp leading up, spiraling along the inside of the tower. It was warmer in here, and they shed their parkas lest sweat become an issue after they left. The temperature rose steadily as they climbed, reaching 80 degrees Farenheit as they exited on to an upper floor. The walls were carved with murals showing the Elder Ones calling down something from the outer darkness, with the tower and the mountains at the center of it all. A map had been carved into the floor, and all could see the mountains formed a perfect pentagon around the tower. There could be no doubt - the entire western range was artifical! A pit in the center of the room dropped out of sight, with only an orange glow far beneath hinting at what lay below. A ramp on the far side continued up, and the group opted to push onward.

The ramp spiraled up, past strange clusters of shining crystals that reflected the light of their electric torches a million times. "I think they can see in the dark," Acacia said. "Shut those lights off." Even in the near-darkness, bizarre hues of indigo and violet played over the crystals, and they seemed to ring and chime with the slight breeze of the group's passing. Evvy struck one of the crystals with the butt of her torch, and it rang like a bell, echoing all the way up the tower. A few harsh glares were shot her way. Curious, Tyson touched one directly. It was as if he had grabbed a live wire. He jerked spasmodically and fell over, Jeeves barely catching him before the scientist pitched off the ramp. With an oath, he hauled the insensate man to his feet. Tyson roused to consciousness but seemed stunned and was unable to speak.

Leading him along, they ascended to an upper floor. Five rooms radiated out from a central chamber that was like the inside of a truncated cone with a central altar of some sort. Strange, pallid, fleshy plants with pale leaves and quivering stalks were threaded througout the chamber. Two of the side rooms held tubs filled with foul liquid, and the vines ran down into them from small holes in the ceiling. One chamber's outer wall was cracked, and ice had formed over the rubble that lay on the floor. Another chamber held stretchers of hide and strange wood along with stone tables. There were curious stone bowls here, implements of crystal and stone, and oddly enough a set of stainless steel surgical tools - stolen from Lake's camp, no doubt. Another room O'Neil discovered was filled with skeletons and bones, ranging from those of large penguins and seals to those of men, old and yellowed, all of which were missing their skulls. Atop the pile were two fresh skeletons however, with bits of gore still clinging to them. All hope of rescue was lost at that point.

The final chamber was the worst. A pentagonal stone, like an altar, stood at an angle in front of a stone tub. Evvy and Herr Meyer had entered. "This is where Pym's companion was sacrificed. The slab paralyzes anyone touching it. The man was placed there" he said, "only to be killed by some strange acid in the tub. If I can get a sample..." Screams split the air as a fetid column of black irredescent ooze covered in chittering mouths, glowing eyes, and probing pseudopods rose from the stone tub. "A shoggoth!" Meyer yelled. Schevchenko ran in, pulling the German and Evvy from the room as the mass lowered back into the tub. He spied a pair of boots and a tattered parka by the tub as he did, and he realized they belonged to Starkweather. The investigators took this as their cue to leave, but Acacia insisted they needed to find Starkweather's remains for a Christian burial, and both Samuel and Stacey agreed. Reluctantly, with the frightened and incoherent Meyer and the stupefied Tyson in tow, they continued up the ramp.

The small shoggoth emerged from the stone tub, ready to devour anything on the slab.

The ramp emerged into a vast chamber. It continued up past the fleshy plants, some of which appeared blackened and dying though they showed signs of recently being pruned, to the apex of the tower and the strange light. A rustling could be heard overhead. But Acacia made her way down a path through the pallid vines and crystal formations filling the area, straight towards the center of the chamber. O'Neil accompanied her, and realized that they were walking on broken crystals and the fragments of crushed skulls. As the group followed, a truly horrifying sight came into view. A lattice-wall of stone, roots, and crystal stood there, and in the niches were dozens of severed heads. Many were of Dyer's albino penguins and seals from the Antarctic coast. Others were human, brown-skinned with strange features, and some were so old that only bits of blackened flesh clung to bone. All were covered in a membrane of ooze or slime. But most disturbing of all were the two fresh ones - James Starkweather and Richard Greene. Horrifyingly, their eyes still twitched and their mouths spasmed, as if trying to form words.

Acacia let out a stifled scream, and Evvy looked ill. Priestly swore, and Jeeves and Stacey were enraged. "Get them out of there!" Acacia said. "Or I'll do it myself!" She stepped forward, pulling Starkweather's severed head out and placing it her canvas rucksack. Evvy did likewise with Greene's head. Mercifully, they stopped twitching. A shudder ran through the plants as that happened. Jeeves pulled some dynamite from off of Tyson's pack. "I say we blow this thing to hell!" Priestly, cursing a blue streak, agreed heartily. Tyson began to stir, gesturing emphatically towards the wall, apparently trying to stop them. He was not the only one.

Flapping could be heard overhead and two of the Elder Things, very much alive, landed nearby with stone weapons clutched in their tentacles. A shocking, wet sound behind them revealed a greater horror - another shoggoth, nearly fully grown! Evvy screamed, firing her derringer as she panicked. Jeeves grabbed a stick of dynamite, lit it, and tried to throw it at the shoggoth. The creature engulfed the explosion, damaged, but far from mortally wounded. One of the elder things grabbed Evvy, and O'Neil blasted the limb off with his shotgun. "It's kill or be killed," Stacey yelled.

The wall was monstrous and obscene...but necessary.

"No!" Tyson shouted. "Stop, for the love of God, stop!" The elder things backed away cautiously as the scientist interposed himself. "We can't! These creatures, long ago they pulled something down from the stars to power their civilization. The tower, the very mountains themselves - they are a machine! But they pulled down something so big, so powerful, that the machine barely held it. That's what the storm outside is. They have trapped something like a god! If it tears free of this prison, it will tear the very planet apart. Some cataclysm damaged the machine a million years ago. This - the plants - this is all patchwork repairs to replace the damaged cystals. But they need living brains to complete the circuit!" He looked at Starkweather and Greene's heads. "They are dead now, and useless to them. We need to find replacements before - "

An earthquake shook the tower. All present could see past and present blur together. Images of the tower, whole around them, flickered in their sight. "That was only the beginning. If we do nothing, everything on Earth dies!" Priestly swore and put a pistol to his own head, threatening that no one would take his brain. Meyer was a gibbering wreck, and they thought it inhumane to take him against his will. With a tremor in his voice, Samuel bravely volunteered to take his uncle's place, shuddering in revulsion as he stepped next to the elder things. O'Neil pointed out that if Acacia or Evvy were to die here, the questions would never end. And Stacey agreed that no true gentleman would leave a lady to die in his place. So it was agreed on that they would draw straws, with the short straw sacrificing himself to save the world.

It was Nikifor Schevchenko. The Russian kept a stoic face as he accompanied the elder things. Meyer screamed and ran past. Acacia swore, "Damned fool! If he runs outside without his parka, he will die! With Evvy in tow, she chased after him, Stacey and Jeeves close on her heels. The rest accompanied Samuel and Nikifor the chambers below, where each took his turn on the slab. The process was nightmarish. They lay still, their body paralyzed, as the small shoggoth in the stone tub flowed over them, devouring all save their bones, nerves, and heads. The elder things severed the spine and head, preserving them in some strange fluid. Tyson and O'Neil prayed to God that the two men were unaware of their surroundings. Without any pretense of communication, the elder things pushed past and ascended the ramp, their gruesome duty only partly done. Another quake shook the tower, rousing O'Neil and Tyson from their mute horror. They fled below, hoping that the planes were still there...
Viewable by: Public