Wacky Wednesday – “The Crack”

18 Jul

When Harkness climbed out of the Crack, I was certain I was looking at a ghost.

Never mind the fall – it was baffling how he’d survived without food, light, or in all likelihood, air. For two weeks? Everything I knew about wilderness survival told me he should have died down in that pit.

We’d long since given up on him. The survey team turned to me for a decision, and I told them no one else was going to follow him down there and die on my account. Harkness was a regrettable casualty on the road to archeological discovery, and that was an end of it. Except when I heard frantic shouting ten days later, and ran out of my tent to see him emerging from the ground like a corpse escaping its grave.

None of us could have known it at the time, and it burns at my heart to say it, but we would very soon wish that Harkness had died down there, and left whatever it was that he found locked deep in the earth with him.

**

The walls of the Crack were slimy, but Harkness’ fingers found purchase even in the flickering dark. Raindrops pattered his head and ran down the rock in sheets, slipping over his arms and making movement incredibly difficult. He moved anyhow – slowly, toward the light source hundreds of feet below, his body wriggling down between the folds of the fissure’s lips. He looked upward, seeing Clarkson’s silhouette against a fork of lightning. He trusted the ropes wound around his body, but he trusted the man holding onto them and shouting far more. Which was good, because what he was doing was dangerous enough to be suicidal.

Harkness couldn’t hear what his colleague was saying through the cracking of thunder and the rush of water past his body. No matter. Clarkson had done his job, and done it admirably. He had convinced Harkness to go.

“It’ll change everything,” he had said. Change the world. That was something Harkness never thought he’d be afforded the chance to do. Now, he thought idly, looking through his armpit at the dim glow far below him, there was only one thing he had to do.

Survive.

A crash of thunder, so loud it sounded as though the sky itself were rending in two, startled Harkness badly, and he felt his toe slip loose. In the next instant, he felt his ropes go slack, and he was falling.

**

He awoke to pain and confusion.

Harkness’ whole body reverberated with dull, aching throbs. When he opened his eyes, he couldn’t see anything, and he began to panic the way a man does when he thinks he has gone blind. When his frightened breath bounced back in his face, he realized he was face down on the ground, and he made to turn himself over. He placed his weight on his arm, but it failed him and he screamed in agony. Hot tears sprang to his eyes, and he sobbed into the cold rain-slick rock.

Once he had calmed down, Harkness rolled his body over and sat up, wincing. He was in a small pocket of rock, stretching no more than ten feet in any direction. There was a faint and ethereal glow all around him, denoting the presence of phosphorescent lichen growing far underground in the fissure. Looking up, Harkness saw only black, and the rapid drippings of water through the Crack. He sincerely hoped that the gleam by which he could see this claustrophobic prison wasn’t the only source of light – the only reason he was down here.

Tearing his shirt to fashion a sling for his broken arm, Harkness shouted for help, but heard no reply.

He shouted for two days.

By the third day he was quickly growing weaker, and he knew he needed to get out. His body shook from cold and exhaustion. He couldn’t understand why no one had rescued him. Where in the hell was that bastard, Clarkson? He lapped his tongue at a pool of rainwater, grateful for the relief it brought to his parched throat.

He began to explore his surroundings. He could hear nothing but the spattering of water on the floor, and his own tortured breathing. Below those sounds, however – somewhere at the edge of hearing – he began to notice a hum, a deep and droning buzz which pulsed so slowly it was almost imperceptible; seeming at once to emerge from the rock all around and from Harkness’ very bones, a sound which was as old as the earth itself, and which terrified him greatly.

Exploring further, Harkness found the edges of his cell to be undefined, with more spidery arms of broken stone arcing outward from the central Crack. One of these was large enough for him to squeeze through, helped by the greasy slime which coated the rock and spurred by his mounting fear and weariness. The thrumming sound, maddeningly quiet, was all around him. As he pushed his protesting body into the crevice, feeling the unyielding earth crushing his ribcage, he wondered for the first time if he would die.

Suddenly, Harkness felt the pressure on his body release, and he popped free into a different cavernous hole, which was likewise illuminated in an entirely different way. He stood to his full height in this place, and beheld something no man had ever seen.

An altar lay before him – or it seemed to be an altar, although Harkness couldn’t be sure. A vast dais of stone was raised above him, with irregular slabs of rock forming a crude sort of staircase leading upward. This structure was enveloped by what could only be a wall, curving around it protectively like the arms of a parent enveloping its spawn. The hum which before had been muted and brooding was positively blaring in here, thrumming through Harkness’ flesh with a blazing insistency which bordered on physical pain. Light poured out from the top of the thing, dazzling and hateful, though no source was apparent. The sound and the light were one, and they assaulted Harkness with furious energy.

Harkness threw up his good hand to shield his eyes against it, but it did him no good. It bored into his tightly shut lids and compelled him to look, throwing him open to its terrible influence. The longer he gazed upon the structure, the more afraid he became. He realized it was shapeless, conforming to some impossible geometry, an indescribable nightmare form of nonsensical spheres and angles. Across the ancient stone were hideous carvings, depicting creatures like nothing Harkness had ever seen: prodigious bulging eyes scattered across congeries of limbs and teeth, faces which stared into nothing, and gibbering tentacled monsters whose shape seemed to palpitate under his shifting gaze. Harkness began to cry out in horror, and found his voice cracking in his throat.

The blasphemous corpse-temple screamed its silent fury at him, and tears rolled down his cheeks as he tried with every fibre of his being to tear his gaze away. Yet Harkness stared on, and in the bowels of the earth his agony was neither heard nor heeded.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: