Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Eight

  1. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part One
  2. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Two
  3. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Three
  4. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Four
  5. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Five
  6. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Six
  7. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Seven
  8. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Eight
  9. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Nine
  10. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Ten
  11. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Eleven – Finale



Part Eight: The Text of Terror


Having arrived home from the tavern on a night off work, Jeffrey collapsed into bed and fell asleep, drifting into his now-typical nightmares haunted by the ever-nearing shadow in his peripheral vision. To his relief, however, he was soon interrupted by Clara climbing into bed next to him. Contrary to what he expected, she reached over to him with a warm touch and pulled herself next to him. Surprised by her affection, Jeffrey turned toward her and returned the gesture by pulling her into his arms. The passion of her intimacy that followed further bewildered him, but almost immediately confusion gave way to desire, and the frightening forms of reality melted away. Jeffrey’s sleep for the rest of the night featured few of the terrorizing dreams, and he slept clinging to Clara’s hand as an anchor. 

As sunlight entered the room the next morning, Jeffrey lifted his head from the pillow and looked around the room. She lay next to him, buried in the blankets with her arm still extended toward him and clasping his hand. Sitting up in bed, he heard the apartment door open and close as somebody entered. The crushing anxiety of the past few months immediately rushed back into his thoughts, with images of a shadowy figure gliding through the apartment toward the door. Fright quickly turned to confusion in a matter of seconds when he recognized the figure who appeared at the bedroom door was Clara. 

“Who the fuck is that?” Clara cried out in complete shock.

“I….” Jeffrey could hardly form words in his state of equal astonishment. 

“What are you doing?” she exclaimed. 

“I thought… where-” Jeffrey gave up on his disoriented response as Lila sat up in bed beside him. She looked with confusion at Clara and then at Jeffrey as she pulled the blankets around her.

“We’re done, you piece of shit,” were Clara’s final words to him before she stormed out of the apartment. 

“Who was that?” Lila asked after Clara had slammed the door behind her. 

“That- that’s Clara… I thought that…” Jeffrey still struggled to piece together what was happening. 

“Shit, you aren’t married or something, are you?” Lila said with a hint of suspicion. 

“No, she’s my girlfriend. Or…” he corrected himself, “she was.” 

“Why the hell would you call me if you lived with your girlfriend?” Lila scolded with a casual attitude as she slid out of bed and began to dress herself. 

“I called you?” Jeffrey asked, entirely bereft of any explanation. 

“Yeah, you called me like an hour after I left,” she explained, grabbing her purse and phone from the nightstand. “You picked me up and we came back here. Were you really that out of it?”

“I didn’t drink at all last night,” he replied, probing his memory for any trace of what Lila was describing. 

“Well, then I guess you’ve got a strange sense of humor, because this definitely wasn’t funny to her,” Lila said with a slight smirk.

“I- I just don’t remember what happened.”

“Okay, buddy. You’ve got my number.” Lila had put on her shoes and begun to leave the bedroom. “Maybe figure this out before you call me again,” she advised as she waved her hand in a circular motion.

Jeffrey sat in silence for a bit after Lila had departed, trying to understand how he had lost so much memory of the previous night. Though he knew his hallucinations must be worsening, he was loathe to acknowledge that his perception was deteriorating more precipitously every day. After pulling himself from the stupor of confusion, he made his way into the kitchen and pulled the manuscript from his backpack. Finding his spot once again, he continued to probe the ancient words. 

Their many slender branches of bright and beautiful color crept across the ground, winding through the doors of our very homes and embracing us in our sleep. Life could not return to those wrapped in them, and their flesh soon disappeared from their bones. The insatiable behemoths drank of our flesh from afar with their ever-growing reach.

The text continued for many pages in which the ancient author recorded the names of those having perished, describing each household and how it came to its end. Every account began the same way: a member of the family began acting strangely, worsening to the point of madness. The madness would consume the home, finally driving husbands and wives and brothers and sisters to a crescendo of violence in which most or all members lie dead or maimed. Even before the rest of the community found them, the colorful tendrils had infested the home and engulfed the bodies.

Beasts we found, too, were overcome by the ravenous feasting arms which traveled far from their bodies, and no tool could break their almighty grasp. The madness spread among the people, driving us to ever greater bloodshed as the land became a cistern of unfathomable sights in which we were drowning. 

So few of us were left when the great ones arrived, and our souls were broken. Oh, how gracious are they that restored the veil to our eyes. Violent bolts of light struck the earth from dark clouds above, setting fires even among the rocks. Incomprehensible speech like thunder filled the earth from above, plunging our ears into numbness. The terrors beneath the rock returned to their depths and their branches of death soon withdrew. When the dark clouds had cleared, the stars returned once more to the peaceful lights we knew them once to be, and as they remain to this day. 

The veil now covers our eyes once more, and this frightful world is hidden from us again. Most now can remember the terrors only as a dream. Some even venture to claim it never was. But upon these pages I save the memory of those times for a future generation should our appeasement of the great ones cease. Yet shall these pages remain hidden from the many until then, for knowledge of this terrible truth is a burden too heavy for the soul to carry. A person cannot think rightly knowing these things. I write this now as even I forget. We must forget. We must forget.

Jeffrey sat back in his chair, gaze fixed upon the final words in the manuscript before him. The crushing weight described by the author fell upon him with a finality he had yet to experience. He felt he knew now what was in store for him; his hands trembled at the prospect that his fundamental picture of the world was but a veil. His resolve became all the more potent as his curiosity mounted into an obsessive, consuming desire: he wanted to see behind the veil

As evening approached, Jeffrey packed his things for work, stuffing the manuscript into his backpack. The building in the gorge had already fallen under the mountains’ twilight shadows. The break room was empty when he arrived, and it looked as though Alan hadn’t arrived either. Finding it a little strange, he asked the departing crew if they’d seen Alan at all yet. He was surprised to hear Alan had called out sick, as this would be the first time Jeffrey had ever noticed him take a day off. 

Alan’s absence didn’t linger long in Jeffrey’s thoughts as he grabbed a cart and began his cleaning route. Slowly progressing from one room to the next, his mind raced back and forth between obsession and fright. Down long corridors and through dimly lit labs he muttered to himself, recalling the haunting words in the final pages of the text. A suffocating anxiety broke over him in periodic waves between bouts of manic curiosity. Jeffrey wound himself up into a frenzy trying to imagine what lay behind the veil. The shadow that had stalked his dreams for months seemed to follow him down the halls as he cleaned. Each time he could feel the shiver run through his body he would spin around to try and catch a glimpse of what he knew was there but still evaded his searching eyes. 

Corner after corner he wheeled the cart, entirely losing track of time as he went about his routine. His hands shook and his eyes darted about. The sound of shuffling footsteps suddenly drew his paranoid attention, but he was too late to avoid the dizzying blow to the side of his head. Jeffrey’s knees buckled beneath him, and he braced himself on the wall with one arm to keep from falling, only to have a second strike to his head send him reeling onto the floor. The room shrank into darkness as he saw through blurred vision that Alan was standing over him.

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