Over the next two weeks in celebration of the forthcoming Lovecraft’s Monsters, Tachyon and editor Ellen Datlow present excerpts from a selection of the volume’s horrifying tales.
Today’s selection comes from “The Same Deep Waters as You” by Brian Hodge.
“What you see there is what you get,” he said. “Have you ever heard of a town in Massachusetts called Innsmouth?”
Kerry shook her head. “I don’t think so.”
“No reason you should’ve. It’s a little pisshole seaport whose best days were already behind it by the time of the Civil War. In the winter of 1927–28, there was a series of raids there, jointly conducted by the FBI and U.S. Army, with naval support. Officially—remember, this was during Prohibition—it was to shut down bootlegging operations bringing whiskey down the coast from Canada. The truth…” He took back the iPad from her nerveless fingers. “Nothing explains the truth better than seeing it with your own eyes.”
“You can’t talk to them. That’s what this is about, isn’t it?” she said. “You can’t communicate with them, and you think I can.”
Escovedo smiled, and until now, she didn’t think he had it in him. “It must be true about you, then. You’re psychic after all.”
“Is it that they can’t talk, or won’t?”
“That’s never been satisfactorily determined,” he said. “The ones who still looked more or less human when they were taken prisoner, they could, and did. But they didn’t stay that way. Human, I mean. That’s the way this mutation works.” He tapped the iPad. “What you saw there is the result of decades of change. Most of them were brought in like that already. The rest eventually got there. And the changes go more than skin deep. Their throats are different now. On the inside. Maybe this keeps them from speaking in a way that you and I would find intelligible, or maybe it doesn’t but they’re really consistent about pretending it does, because they’re all on the same page. They do communicate with each other, that’s a given. They’ve been recorded extensively doing that, and the sounds have been analyzed to exhaustion, and the consensus is that these sounds have their own syntax. The same way bird songs do. Just not as nice to listen to.”
“If they’ve been under your roof all this time, they’ve spent almost a century away from whatever culture they had where they came from. All that would be gone now, wouldn’t it? The world’s changed so much since then they wouldn’t even recognize it,” she said. “You’re not doing science. You’re doing national security. What I don’t understand is why it’s so important to communicate with them after all this time.”
“All those changes you’re talking about, that stops at the seashore. Drop them in the ocean and they’d feel right at home.” He zipped the iPad back into his valise. “Whatever they might’ve had to say in 1928, that doesn’t matter. Or ’48, or ’88. It’s what we need to know now that’s created a sense of urgency.”
Once the helicopter had set down on the island, Kerry hadn’t even left the cabin before thinking she’d never been to a more miserable place in her life. Rocky and rain-lashed, miles off the mainland, it was buffeted by winds that snapped from one direction and then another, so that the pines that grew here didn’t know which way to go, twisted until they seemed to lean and leer with ill intent.
“It’s not always like this,” Escovedo assured her. “Sometimes there’s sleet, too.”
It was the size of a large shopping plaza, a skewed triangular shape, with a helipad and boat dock on one point, and a scattering of outbuildings clustered along another, including what she assumed were offices and barracks for those unfortunate enough to have been assigned to duty here, everything laced together by a network of roads and pathways.
It was dominated, though, by a hulking brick monstrosity that looked exactly like what it was—a vintage relic of a prison—although it could pass for other things, too: an old factory or power plant, or, more likely, a wartime fortress, a leftover outpost from an era when the west coast feared the Japanese fleet. It had been built in 1942, Escovedo told her. No one would have questioned the need for it at the time, and since then, people were simply used to it, if they even knew it was there. Boaters might be curious, but the shoreline was studded at intervals with signs, and she imagined that whatever they said was enough to repel the inquisitive—that, and the triple rows of fencing crowned with loops of razor wire.
Inside her rain slicker, Kerry yanked the hood’s drawstring tight and leaned into the needles of rain. October—it was only October. Imagine this place in January. Of course it didn’t bother the colonel one bit. They were halfway along the path to the outbuildings when she turned to him and tugged the edge of her hood aside.
“I’m not psychic,” she told him. “You called me that in the helicopter. That’s not how I look at what I do.”
“Noted,” he said, noncommittal and unconcerned.
“I’m serious. If you’re going to bring me out here, to this place, it’s important to me that you understand what I do, and aren’t snickering about it behind my back.”
“You’re here, aren’t you? Obviously somebody high up the chain of command has faith in you.”
For more information on Lovecraft’s Monsters, visit the Tachyon site.
Cover and illustration by John Coulthart.