The Haitian Affair

Day 5: Cutting Our Losses

Monday 27 October 1926, Dr Bruce Northeast’s house, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Henry checks Otto’s stump, but there is no sign yet of the black scales returning. Jonah is barely conscious, the amputation must have drained his remaining strength. We try to decide what we should do. Should we leave Haiti or try the risky business of resetting the timeline, if that is actually possible?

Tobias still wants to try removing Jack from the island to see if this reverses the effect, but this is still a very slim hope. We discuss the potential dangers of a reset attempt. Assuming it is possible, it will be extremely difficult to get past the Lurker and survive the ceremony, knowing that the cultists will likely be adversarial. Trying to obtain the second stone would be difficult as well and there would be not guarantee that it would survive the reset attempt. In addition we do not know when in time we would return to since it may be that we appeared next to the Lurker simply because this was just before Otto lost his mind as we were killed horribly. We could appear at any time. I also think it is a distinct possibility that even if we went back in time to our first arrival on Haiti, Jack may already be too far gone to save. We are too tired to decide now to decide, therefore barricade the windows again and rest until morning.

The night is uneventful. In the morning we check Otto’s arm again but there is still no sign of the alien infection. This gives us hope. We decide then that this could be the best outcome we could hope for, the reset would be too risky with some of us injured and too many unknown variables. We hope that if we leave Haiti, there’s is a slim chance we may save Jack Stirling. There is also a very good chance, In the clear light of this new day, that Otto has also been saved.

We decided last night that we should try to separate Jack and Otto from the Sharp Stone, but we dare to leave it behind, even bury it. It is possible that some voodoo spell or careful examination of Bruce’s garden might reveal it. We will therefore take it with us with the intention of throwing it overboard when we are safely at sea. I pack it (in it’s box) into a large cooking pan, ensuring there will be enough weight to sink it. Now we just need to get Jack on board somehow.

Bruce offers us his large tea chest which we fold Jack’s unresponsive body into and surround it with towels. The chest does not seal properly, but I cut some additional air holes in case. We drive into Port-au-Prince with Dr Bruce Northeast, straight to the docks. Thankfully, there is a Cunard liner leaving at 8am and travelling to New York. Tobias generously upgrades us to a suite with balcony and Bruce buys a ticket.

Day 6: Tuesday 28th October 1926, Cunard liner en route to New York, United States

We get some curious looks as we board. Jonah is just about able to walk himself on board, but we have to summon a stretcher for Otto. Henry’s ravaged face cause some of the looks, but no-one is overly interested in us. The other passengers are a mixture of Americans, both whites and blacks. The chest is delivered to our cabin and Tobias tips the porters generously. We send for the ship’s doctor to see to our wounded.

Despite some disparaging remarks about Americans and their exploits (though the doctor is himself an American) the doctor says that Otto’s arm is healing well. We had told him that Otto had suffered an accident while hiking and this was a field amputation because of infection. The doctor says that in his opinion Otto should be awake, as there is no reason he should not be (based on the way the wound has healed). We did not really consider this much of a problem at this time because we know it has been less than 24 hours since Otto’s arm was removed (we told the doctor it was several days). We did not really pick up on the fact that Otto’s wound is healing very rapidly, perhaps we should have been more observant, given the events which were about to occur over the next few days.

The doctor’s assessment of Jonah’s wound is that he merely needs lots of rest and recuperation.

Henry explained to the doctor that he had stumbled into some sulphurous pools, which have lead to his ugly burns. The doctor prescribes ointment and promises to return daily to treat Henry’s face. Over the next few days this treatment proves to help in Henry’s recovery, though he will still carry scarring from the Lurker’s attack.

We do not, of course, mention Jack Stirling to the doctor.

Day 7: Wednesday 29th October 1926, At sea on Cunard liner en route to New York, United States

Henry checks on the status of Jack Stirling – he is unchanged except that his stomach is swelling.

We relax during the day, discuss voodoo with Dr Northeast and keep an eye on Otto and Jack. At approximately 3am, when all is quiet, we throw the Sharp Stone off the stern of the ship. It is difficult to see, but we are confident it has sank beneath the waves. Whether it will ‘reappear’ of its own accord elsewhere we do not know, but it is the best we can do to prevent the Cult from using it again.

Day 8: Thursday 30th October 1926, Cunard liner en route to New York, United States
Otto remains unconscious. Jack’s stomach continues to swell. As a precaution, Henry ties Otto up during the nighttimes.

Day 9: Friday 31st October 1926, Cunard liner en route to New York, United States
Jack’s belly resembles that of a heavily pregnant woman. Knowing that the ritual is supposed to take place tomorrow night but not trusting to Otto’s memory of the exact time, we resolve to deal with Jack tonight. Otto remains unconscious.

In the early hours we gather around Jack’s scaly body. Tobias says a few fitting words to express his sorrow at the loss of the man named Jack Stirling. Jack lies on top of towels on the sofa. With a heavy heart he wraps his .38 revolver in a pillow to stifle the sound and fires up into Jack’s belly. There is a terrible scream from inside the belly, but it does not cease. Tobias fires again, his hand shaking. The screaming continues. Again he tries to end the monster’s life, but he is took upset to aim properly. Henry takes over and calmly silences the beast. Black blood seeps from the wound, but the screaming has stopped.

Jack’s body goes limp. The beast inside must have been keeping it alive. Henry checks its eyes, but there is no sign of Jack’s presence. We wrap up the body in a sheet stolen from the laundry. The towels have absorbed the black blood, luckily. We drop the body over the side of the ship, weighed down with irons from the laundry. It disappears below the surface. Understandably, Tobias finds it difficult to sleep that night.

Day 10: Saturday 1st November 1926, Cunard liner en route to New York, United States

We discover that Otto’s stomach is slightly swollen. We have been concerned at Otto’s apparent coma, but we hoped he would eventually awaken once we got far enough from Haiti and the Sharp Stone. However, this revelation brings that hope crashing to the ground. Though not visible as black scales, the alien infection is obviously inside Otto. Otto is an immature host for the Crawling Chaos. The beast cannot be fully formed, but if it does not disappear after the time of ritual passes, we will have to extract it somehow. The mood is sombre.

The night of the ritual is very clear and unnaturally quiet. Even the sea is smooth. There are millions of stars in the sky. Night passes to midnight and we gather around Otto’s trussed up body. We watch in horror as it starts to jerk and spasm, his face grimacing. There is nothing moving in his stomach. Then we notice that despite his body convulsing, his head seems stationery as if held. Tobias tries to move it. Immediately as he steps to the head of the bed he feels a terrible chill. He is unable to move Otto’s head, so he tries to pull Otto down the bed.

There is something else in the room, a terrible presence. We see then a shadow standing over Otto, holding his head in spectral hands. It is a dark shadow with three eyes. Baron Samedi the Loa of Death.

Nothing we try seems to affect this demon. Dr Northeast is at a loss as to what to do. We are helpless as we watch Otto thrashing. The loa turns to us and smiles, before vanishing. Otto jerks and stops moving. Blood gushes from his nose and seeps from underneath him (much like a miscarriage). Otto is dead. We stare at the body of our companion for a moment, knowing that we have in some way lost this battle. Clearly Otto’s mind had been elsewhere these past few days, perhaps battling with this very demon (I later recall the fable of the Ashanti Warrior and wonder if Otto had been lost many days ago at Madame Josephine’s laundrette).

In the void left by Baron Samedi’s departure, there appears an unusual Tarot card. It depicts the Crawling Chaos (based on Otto’s previous description). We do not know what it means, but it seems irrelevant now.

I fetch the ship’s doctor, while the others untie Otto. I explain that Otto has had some sort of seizure. The doctor is obviously unsure of the exact cause, but does record the death at sea.

Days 12: Monday 3rd November 1926, New York, United States of America

We arrive in New York. We are relieved to be back in civilisation, but that relief is tempered by grief and disbelief at what has happened to us. Tobias informs Jack’s family that we found some of his possessions in the jungle and presume that he was killed by someone connected to the rebels, for the rumours of involvement in gun running were true.

I spent the last two days of our journey writing and re-writing this sad and improbable tale, yet I cannot publish it, at least not yet. To do so would dishonour the memory of Otto von Gruber, rocket scientist, and Jack Stirling, businessman. I do not believe the world is ready for this tale, so despite my desire to see my name in print this story shall remain in the pages of my journal, untold, but never forgotten by those who were involved in the Haitian Affair.

Day 5: Reset or die

Monday 27th October 1926 – Dr Bruce Northeast’s house, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

While Henry boards up the windows, preparing for the natives’ attack, we argue about what to do. Otto is still unconscious, the black scales spreading up his forearm. Tobias wants to take Jack Stirling away from the island to see if this reverses the spell/disease. If this does not work and the day of the ritual approaches, Tobias is resigned to the necessity of killing Jack for he would be lost anyway, and the ritual must not happen.

We all wonder whether King Kaliko’s stone might be used to control the Lurker so that if we were able to reset the timeline again someone would not be have to use the Sharp Stone and thus get ‘infected’. However, Tobias is dubious as to whether trying to reset the timeline will even work. I pointed out that we really only have Otto’s word for it, and he seems less rational than ever. Yes, there is the unexplained phenomenon of the Sharp Stone appearing in his pocket, but this does not mean he travelled in time; for all we know, the Stone magically transported itself through space just as Otto needed it.

I outline my plan to protect Otto and Jack from the cultists while we tried to obtain the cleric’s stone. Put simply, we would appeal to the military for protection. They could provide protection and medical aid. They would be interested in keeping Otto alive because he knows the whereabouts of Sebastian Senegal, who they are desperate to find. We do not discuss this much, to be candid it does not deal with the core issue of what to do overall.

Otto wakes up unexpectedly. We were all convinced that he would no longer waken (based on what Mme Josephine had said). Otto wants us to attempt to reset the timeline. Resetting means he will have a chance to avoid using the Sharp Stone and therefore he would not turn into the scaly creature he is becoming. Jack is already lost, he says, unconvinced that Tobias’ idea of taking Jack away physically will prove anything. The reset allows at least one of us to avoid using the Sharp Stone, and thus saving everyone apart from Jack, who cannot be saved. But Otto cannot convince us this is wise, for he has no real idea what the reset would do (would all of us reset with memories or just him?) and how to prevent the Lurker from killing us all as happened the first time.

Jonah wonders whether if we had the cleric’s stone it would disappear on reset or might, like the Sharp Stone, also travel back in time.

We argue about whether we should cut off Otto’s arm. If we were going to reset, Otto would have to try to stay awake for four to five days until the night of the ritual, otherwise the progression of the ‘infection’ would increase dramatically. Otto points out that he needs to be cogent to try to control the Lurker (to get past it), but this may not be possible even if he stays awake because we do not know how fast the disease will progress. Tobias still wants to take Jack from Haiti on a boat for 2 days, if not change is noticed there would be time to get back for the ritual. Otto is not keen on this because it will the be very difficult to return Jack to the hut without the cultists knowing.

Surprisingly, despite earlier misgivings, Otto agrees there is logic in cutting off his arm to try to slow down or prevent further infection taking over his body. However, we cannot decide whether to do it. The procedure would be very dangerous, with potential death through blood loss or infects, and none of us have the necessary medical skills. I point out that we could take him to the military hospital, but the others are right in saying they would either or consent to remove the arm, or would detain one or all of us while investigating the contagion. The other issue is also that Otto is very weak, injured by the Lurker and a gun shot wound. He might not survive the amputation.

A twig snaps outside. Suddenly, our arguing is forgotten with the realisation that the attackers are here. Henry spots shapes moving at the front of the house. We tell Bruce to hide behind the sette and position ourselves to one side of the room to avoid crossfire. I arm myself with a kitchen knife and one of Otto’s guns, a .38 revolver. Jonah and Henry barricade some of the windows with furniture. At the last minute we decide to create a decoy by placing Jack Stirling in the rocking chair, covered in a blanket with a hat over his face as if sleeping. This should momentarily distract the attackers.

The front door is kicked open. Two large black men wielding machetes charge into the living room. Jonah fires at the assailants first, downing one of them. Tobias and I also fire off shots, but miss. Henry attempts to gun the other man down with his shotgun, but it goes wide. The big man leaps over the settee and brings down his machete in a vicious slashing motion, burying it into Jonah’s arm. Jonah goes down. I deliver a sound roundhouse to his head and snapping the atttacker’s neck.

We only just have time to check that Jonah is not bleeding to death before we hear the sound of wood smashing in the bedroom. More assailants are breaking through Henry’s shutters. We quickly bar the front door with the rocking chair (and occupant). Two people appear with machetes in the doorway to the bedroom. Henry blows them away with his shotgun. The last of the five attackers start hammering at the front door. We try to shoot him through it, but he manages to force his way into the room. Otto finishes him off with his trusty Luger.

We check for signs of others, but it does appear that these are the five attackers Otto told us about. Well at least he was right about that. So how much else of what he has told us is true? Henry delivers some crucial first aid to Jonah.

Unrstandably, Dr Northeast is shaken by the attack. He declares he will leave Haiti tomorrow morning, and starts packing.

The attackers were all armed with machetes and each has a third eye drawn on their foreheads. Cultists then. We begin discussing our options again. Midway through speaking, Otto falls unconscious again.

Henry, Tobias and I have decided we should cut off Otto’s arm while he is unconscious. Since there is now no danger of causing him to fall unconscious through the procedure, it should be safer to attempt it. But none of us has much idea what needs to be done. Between us, a reporter, archaeologist and artist, none of us has the required training. I spent some time in the army, but I am not a medic. Henry has some basic knowledge, but cannot perform the procedure himself because of his injuries. Tobias has knowledge of anatomy though, which we rely on to determine how and where to cut. Bruce provides us with the necessary implements, saw, cloths, alcohol, fire and iodine. Yet none of us rushes to step forward to undertake the task, knowing how dangerous it will be.

Then Jonah wakes up. He willingly agrees to do the cutting. I hold Otto’s arm steady. Henry plies Otto with liquor to ensure he stays unconscious and Tobias makes ready with iodine and a hot knife to cauterise the wound.

With swift care, we separate Otto’s arm at the elbow, above the area of contagion. We had decided this was the least risky method of removing the forearm. It is a gruesome procedure, but all seems to go well and I suture the wound withe spare skin and a mending kit. Not ideal, but as good as we can manage with our skills and a healthy dose of luck. Henry says he will check the wound over time to see if the infection re-appears, however, there did not appear to be any internally. Tobias notices that the scales still spread on the severed arm.

Our delicate task completed, we must now decide whether to risk a reset (in which one or more of us may come out injured or dead from the cultists of lurker) or to leave Haiti to its deadly magic and strange rituals.

Day 5: Confusing timelines

Monday 27th October 1926, The Star Pools, Haiti

Otto asks us what we remember. We all are wondering why he is acting strangely. Maybe it has something to do with this creature that suddenly appeared. We briefly tell him about our progress over the last few days, but he does not seem to remember. He clearly has something to tell us – he kes talking to himself insisting that he is going to tell us soon. We all are concerned at this uncharacterised vagueness and worrying lapse in sanity. Where was the logical rational Otto of only an hour ago?

Someone suggeests checking out the huts before we begin any extended conversation. While the others investigate I remain behind with Otto and the creature, concerned that it may seek to overpower him. I try to get some answers from him while we wait, but he justs asks me to wait. Until we are all assembled again. And still he has a strange far away look as if listening to something.

Jonah investigates the first hut and finds it empty save for some tables and chairs.
Tobias investigates the second hut to find various tribal costumes and a ceremonial dagger.
In the third hut there was a bed and Henry found upon that bed what appears to be a man offered in black scales. He appears to be asleep. Tobias recognises some of the contours of his face and believes this to be Jack Stirling. But what terrible disease or curse has afflicted him? Henry is unsure whether he is dangerous, but prodding him with the shotgun produces no effect.

The contents of his pockets, a wallet and passport, confrm that this being is (or was) Jack Stirling. The being breathes shallowly and seems to be unconscious. Prising off one of the sales reveals black skin beneath, not healthy pink skin as expected. The most disturbing thing they notice is that there is an extra eye in the middle of his forehead.

They take Jack’s unconscious body from the hut and all gather again to consider this new discovery. At least we have found the man we were looking for, but he I clearly not well. Otto must have some answers. I observed Otto when he first saw the scaly body and he appeared to recognise it for he moved oddly.

Otto’s incredible tale

I would dismiss it as the ravings of a mad man did I not know that Otto is perhaps the mst rational man I know, or at least was until now. Briefly, he told us he remembers nothing of our journey to Haiti nor of our investigation right up until 3 days from now whether he calls waking up in a military base in Haiti apparently with us. He recounted what he did then, visiting Marie Jerome for a (second time) having waking hallucinations, a tarot reading, discovering that Dr Bruce Northeast had been murdered, visiting Madame Josephine (for the second time). At Madame Josephine’s he drank a potion she made from a death’s head moth and cut himself with a sharp stone. He found the location of the Star Pools ( which he could not remember ) by visiting the hideout of the rebel leader Sebastian Senegal which is somewhere in the docks. On the way to the Star Pools on the night of the ritual, he discovered that he was in fact alone, we had been killed most horrifically and he was hallucinating. Then he encountered this creature and witnessed the ritual (wherein Jack was sacrificed), unable to prevent the Floating Horror from arising. It destroyed all the celebrants except him and while it was wreaking havoc in the city he poked the Jack-creature in the eye (the only bit which was still Jack apparently) and suddenly appeared back here, today.

He realised as soon as the creature appeared that it would attack us, and he tried to dominate it as he had been able to do in the future. It was attacking Henry when he managed to get control of it by cutting himself with the Sharp Stone again. How this object came to be in his pocket from the future we cannot imagine only that it must be a very powerful artefact indeed.

Now we are all here, alive, yet he still has our voices in his head. I suspect that these are only shadows of his previous memory for we do not speak to him telepathically. Otto is convinced he has gone back in time somehow.

We argue about our next course of action. We all agree we don’t want the ritual to go ahead. Should we kill the Jack-creature now? It seems improbable we could cure him. We now have the luxury of time, which Otto did not in the last instance of the ritual. Otto tells us about Senegal’s brother, Miguel, and what happened to him when he was cut with the Sharp Stone. We may not have the luxury of a few days, for it seems that Otto may turn into a scaly creature sooner if he becomes unconscious at any point.

Otto determines from the Lurker that the cleric who conducted the ritual, King Kaliko, nd the cultists have a village further in the jungle to the North. Perhaps the stone that the cleric wore, appearing to be similar to the Sharp Stone, can reverse the curse, disease or spell which now afflicts both Jack and Otto.

Jonah favours a direct approach to obtaining that Stone. There would be too man cultists for an put right confrontation, therefore he suggests we should utilise the weapons shipment currently at Labaddie Imports, and not yet delivered to Senegal. In a ruse we could claim these cultists had stolen the weapons and so set Senegal against the cultists. We would sneak in and steal the stone after the commotion had died down. But this would be risky and we all agree that we need to prevent Jack from falling into the cultists hands otherwise the timeline would repeat itself and destruction would be visited upon Haiti. We cannot allow that to happen.

We decide to back track a little – to see if Mme Josephine can help us. I also remember subddenky that Dr Northeast was supposed to meet us today but did not show up. Perhaps his murder has already occurred. The time would be around now. We hurry back to the town to his houses to see what has occurred and if we can prevent this happening if possible. Otto’s thumb has now blackened, a reminder of the inexorable passage of time. Despite Tobias’ protestations, Henry ties up the Jack-creature and places it in the boot, though it is still unconscious.

We arrive at Dr Northeast’s house around late afternoon. Henry checks out the back of the house while Jonah and Otto knock at the door. I am relieved that the Australian doctor answers the door in rude health. Otto tells him directly that he must come with us immediately as if he stays here he will die. We expect people to come tomorrow to murder him. This unnerves the doctor understandably and he even shies away in fear as Henry knocks on his window. We convince him to gather as few things as possible including his journal and assure him that we will explain more later. With little protest he allows us to drive him into Port-au-Prince, to Mme Josephine’s laundrette. While waiting for Dr Northeast to be ready I check on our captive and curiously examine its eyes. Strangely all three seem as yet unformed.

Monday 27th October, Madame Josephine’s laundrette, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

We convince the attendant at the laundrette that we need to see Mme Josephine urgently. We drive round the back, and in a freshly laundered sheet we take Jack Stirling’s scaly body into the back of the laundrette. We reveal what has become of Jack Stirling and Madame Josephine is shocked, but not as surprised as when Otto tips the Sharp Stone carefully into a bowl. Otto tells Madame Josephine his experience of the ritual and of ‘resetting’ the timeline.

Mme Josephine checks inside a wooden box to find the Sharp Stone missing from it. She tells us she had intended to give it to us for use with the person, but it is known that such an artefact can be passed from person to person seemingly at will.

she is concerned that the Cult of the Floating Horror (also known as the Crawling Chaos) will come after e host , by which she means the creature Jack Stirling is becoming. She says we must destroy the host. This would mean killing Jack Stirling which is not a price Tobias is yet willing to pay.we ask whether the stone that King Kaliko wears may reverse the effect, but she does not know.

Suddenly, without warning, Otto pulls out his Luger and tries to shoot Jack. The voices in his head are telling him to do it apparently. Jonah and Tobias attempt to stop him, but not before he gets off a glancing shot. Jonah fires his gun again at Otto’s hand. The injury is severe enough to send Otto into unconsciousness. This is a bad turn of events, as we understand that Ottonot having drunk the potion in this reality, will not now awaken and the transformation will accelerate.

The large black man, Jim, has already whisked away Mme Josephine to safety. Tobias tries to apologise, but we are not heard. Instead we decide to go to Dr Northeast’s house via the hotel to collect our things. There is much to discuss, many arguments to be had. It is early evening now and Henry prudently barricades the door against those we know are coming. Dr Northeast is afraid of what the cult will do, yet believes we could bargain for our lives, since we do have the host. We argue whether to kill Jck now and cut off Otto’s arm to save him or to let the ritual conclude and try to reset the timeline again. There are few real options. We despair at the hard truth that a sacrifice must be made, yet we do not want to believe it will be either Jack or Otto or both.

Day 5: The Star Pools

Day 5: Monday 27th October 1926, The Star Pools, Haiti

At last we have managed to find the Star Pools! After several days of research and one failed attempt to find them we have managed to find the elusive Star Pools. We now have a real chance of finding Jack Sterling or at least of interrupting the sacrifice planned for the Fete Gede. Dr Bruce Northeast had provided us with confirmation by his own research that we were not chasing fanciful fairy tales. It is unfortunate that he did not show up to our meeting today, but we can always call on him later, now that we have found the location of the Star Pools. Not bad for four days’ work. I am a little disappointed that the solution has thus far been as ordinary as this, but tales of magic and rituals so often have little basis in fact unfortunately. However, this one could still be different, we will have to wait and see.

The clearing is quite large and there are six oval-shaped deep pools filled with cloudy green water. around them are 10 standing stones and in the centre is a stone altar. At the far end of the clearing are three huts. We should probably start our search for tracks and traces of Jack Sterling there.

Suddenly a hideous creature appears. It is scaly with leathery wings and a thin tail, very much reminding me of a dragon. It attacks us on sight. Tobias and I retreat to the trees. Jonah and Otto shoot it, Henry moves towards the cover of the huts.

Neither Otto nor Jonah’s shots seem to hurt it in any way. I am uncomfortably reminded of Madame Josephine’s words which I had previously dismissed. Have we come here too early, without the protection of the death’s head moth potion, and thus incurred this creature’s wrath. But we felt speed was essential in finding Jack Sterling before it was too late.

The Lurker slashes at Otto. It is incredibly fast, and I do not know how we will escape it. It turns on Henry next, assailing him with the tendrils on its face. Henry cries out in paid as liquid sears his face. What am I doing hiding behind a tree while it mauls Henry? I run up and punch it, not expecting to damage it but hoping to distract it from its attack. A rock whistles past my head, thrown by Tobias. Jonah is trying to shoot its tendrils.

It hurts Henry again. Henry falls to the ground, unconscious and it turns to me. Suddenly it stops. I don’t know how or why, but Otto has found a way to control it. It slinks towards him, submissive. I rund to Henry to tend his wounds which look painful but not life-threatening.

How did Otto call it off? And why does he seem wide-eyed and confused, more so than us others? Something strange is going on here.

Day 3: The Star Pools

Third day since waking up in hospital (Saturday 1st November 1926), somewhere in the jungle, Haiti

I am alone in the jungle, trying to decide what to next. I find myself narrating events much as Rupert had done before his death. Perhaps this is another symptom of the madness creeping over me with the black scales from the Stone’s wounds. The realisation that my former companions are dead, killed in horrific ways, has thrown my thoughts into confusion. Thankfully, I have no memory of those horrific events; such memories have been masked most thoroughly by my psyche in creating these mental semblances of my former comrades. Yet despite knowing the truth, these voices refuse to disappear. They chatter and bicker distractingly, sowing confusion. Now they talk of trying to control my body, but they are only fragments of memory and experience and have no traction in the real world. I try to ignore them, but the voices persist.

At last their arguing subsides, having decided that they are the spirits of my companions. As one they direct me to continue. The answer will lie ahead in the Star Pools, they say, and I am inclined to agree. They mutter nonsense about being reborn in the Star Pools (the voice I think of as Tobias refers to them as birthing pools), but this is foolishness, however tempting the thought may be that there might be a way to not be forever alone. Besides there is still the unanswered question of what happened to Jack Sterling. Though his friend, my employer, is now dead, he is still unaccounted for and probably about to be sacrificed by these heathen savages. I do not think I would ever be free of these voices, of the guilt or failure to save Herr Sterling if I left here now, never to return. So I continue through the jungle towards the Star Pools. Perhaps within them is a cure to the creeping black malady which now assails me.

There is another, strange voice in my head. It whispers ’it’s almost time’ over and over again. It is not one of the other voices (who insist that they hear it too, of course). Part of me replies and the voice pauses. Louder it asks who I am. Then it says that it is not time yet. This must be some external spirit, perhaps tied to this place, for it is unlike those other voices in my head. I ask it what I am supposed to do.

Have I come early? it asks. I think so, I reply, needing desperately more information than I currently have. It seems to be confused. It says that the body is not ready. Which body? The host it answers. I wonder aloud, am I the host? In another voice I as whether it is inside the host. The voice says no, but that I should be, and that I should be sleeping. I should not yet be born.

A glimmer of understanding occurs to me. The Voice thinks that I am that which is to be born in the ritual, the Crawling Chaos. It confirms that the Crawling Chaos is one of my names. From somewhere unbidden, Tobias’s voice surfaces and says we are not Nyrathlotep. The Voice says then it has nothing more to say and disappears. I wonder whether that was unwise, so I call out that I am Nyrathlotep, but there is no reply.

I have come to the tree-line. It is near sunset and some stars are already in the sky. The path leads to the edge of a very large clearing surrounded by trees. There are six large oval pools surrounding what looks to be an altar. Around the pools stand 10 stone monoliths. These must be the Star Pools. The water is green and cloudy in the centre, but appears quite deep. Ahead and to my left are three huts. I decide that if anyone is here already, they will be in those huts, but I avoid cutting across the middle of the clearing. The Voice announces ‘You are here’ and something emerges from the pool next to me.

The lurker

Despite it’s hideous appearance, my mind is suitably disturbed by recent events that there is something innately attractive about it. I feel a connection to the hideous beast, which is presumably The Lurker Frau Josephine mentioned. I can feel it’s mind trying to dominate me, but despite my mental incapacities I manage to overcome it. The thing bows down in submission and calls me Master. The power given to me by the Sharp Stone has given me the edge in our encounter, and suddenly I feel more confident.

The Lurker says that the other followers will be here soon, and that the ceremony will commence in a matter of hours (at midnight). It says I (the Floating Horror) will be born at midnight, though the body is not as prepared as it should be. In this early stage I should not be aware yet. It is clear to me that this beast is clever and I must be careful of my responses lest my control slips away.

The Lurker confirms in essence that King Kaliko (the cultists’ leader) ordered Haitians to kill my companions. I ask about the other one who came before, the original host. That body is nearly ready, but somehow I am in this other body. Trying to remain in control I assert that I took it over. I need to know what is going to happen so I question it regarding the ceremony.

When the stars burn in the sky the host body is slit open on the altar (not the pools) and I will emerge. But the Lurker is uncertain what will happen because my body is not prepared.

The voices in my head argue with me about what I should do. I do not want the ceremony to go ahead as clearly this will mean my death. I know I am not the being the Lurker thinks I am. The voices argue that I should force the Lurker to kill the others who come because they betrayed us. The Lurker makes it known that he can hear those voices too. This could be problematic.

The Tobias voice asks where the original host is. The Lurker says it is still sleeping. Could I be born from the original host, though I am in this unprepared hose? The Lurker does not know what will happen.

Undergrowth behind the huts starts to move. I tell the Lurker that the original host should be prepared and quash the Tobias voice which says I should say the first host is unsuitable. If I am subject to the ritual I will die, but if it is Jack Sterling I might be able to prevent it from occurring.

Seven Haitians emerge from the undergrowth behind the hut. The Lurker says that the time is now approaching. I still want to know what will happen to my body anyway. The Lurker does not know, says that the second host may die as I will not be born properly. The seven men notice me and start screaming. I can barely make out that they are saying someone is here, come quick. I command the creature to find out who they are and to protect me.

Seven more men and women emerge. One of these is a large muscled man in dirt white robes. Seeing the the Lurker heading towards him he clutches at a stone amulet hanging around his neck. There is an almighty scream and the Lurker falls to the ground and crawls into the Pools. Suddenly, I feel very vulnerable as the man points at me and the men and women start running towards me. I note the man has a third eye painted in white on his forehead. The screaming of the Lurker resounds in my head, almost, but not quite, drowning out the other voices. The strongest of them is Jonah’s voice urging me to defend myself against the running men. I draw the .38 pistol and fire at the first man, downing him. With little time for guilt at this murder I fire again. Nine others enter the clearing and start towards me.

Desperately, I ready my shotgun. The voices in my head are urging me to escape by jumping into the Pool next to me. It is really the only way out of here. I would not be able to outrun the locals with my bad leg. But I am determined to try to deter them from following me into the pool. As the closest couple of natives come within range I fire the shotgun, downing both of them, then dive into the pool.

The water is cloudy and disorienting. My clothing and boots drag me downward and I struggle to make out the direction of escape. I narrowly miss getting entangled in the vines at the side of the pool and strike out towards the depths. Someone tries to grab me, but I twist free struggling to maintain my breath and for what seems like hours I make no progress. Then I see a tunnel ahead. With all my strength I strike out for it; it leads down and underneath the clearing, presumably connecting all the pools. Still the Lurker screams in my head and I try to command it to aid me, but to no avail. The other voices scream unhelpfully at me to swim faster, but I ignore them. Not long after I enter the tunnel, my breath gives out and I swallow water. I start to drown.

Two men drag me back to the surface. While I gulp in much needed air they tie my hands behind me and drag me towards the hut. There are now nearly forty people in the clearing. As I pass the cleric, I notice the stone he is clutching is dark and greenish like the sharp stone. Then I am thrown into the foremost hut. My weapons are taken and the box with the Sharp Stone is placed on a stool behind me. Two natives stand either side of door, inside the hut, facing me. There is little I can do, watched as I am. I try to move towards the box, but they move to stand between it and I. I resolve to wait for another opportunity to act.

Several hours pass and it gets dark outside the hut. Sounds of celebration can be heard and I can see natives dancing around the Pools. The two men take me outside.

The sky is filled with many many stars, more than there should be, and they appear to be burning. The burning stars are reflected in the Star Pools. The natives are dancing feverishly, while King Kaliko looks on, clutching his amulet, and all the while in the back of my mind, the Lurker screams.

From the last hut, two men emerge supporting another. The third being is man shaped, but covered in black scales, its face elongated and lizard like. It appears to gain consciousness slowly and its eyes open, two yellow eyes and a third, human eye in the centre of the forehead. The third eye looks around in panic as the body joins in with the dancing in a very un-humanlike way. This must be what remains of Jack Sterling. What horror must he be feeling, I shudder to think.

I cannot find a way to prevent what is to happen, bound and held as I am. I watch, helplessly, as the body moves towards the altar. King Kaliko draws a ceremonial dagger. In that instant the screaming stops and I throw out my mind to the Lurker, commanding it to kill king Kaliko. But also in that instant the cleric brings down the blade of the dagger, slitting the front of the body and something bursts forth. It is a mass of blackness and it flies up, up into the sky changing shape and growing with immense speed. The host body watches its passage to the heavens.

But it does not fly away into the night. It stops, floating above the clearing. Huge tentacles appear slashing and tearing at the celebrants who stand welcoming their destruction. The cleansing of Haiti has begun. The Lurker does not respond to my cries, in fact it seems to have disappeared. Unless I too wish to be massacred, I must escape. The guards have released me, awaiting their death, so I run back to the hut. I free my self on the Sharp Stone and crouch in the hut, waiting for the massacre to finish. If I try to leave now I will be ripped to shreds. So I watch the carnage until it ceases.

When I finally emerge from the hut utterly sickened, but numb to the horror, the creature in the sky has gone. I hear, faint in the distance, screams. The creature is attacking Port-au-Prince. No-one in the clearing, save myself, is left alive. I feel a strange pull towards the altar and I follow it.

The body of what was once Jack Sterling lies dead, ripped open by the knife. The third eye, though, still moves in panic. How can this be? Not really knowing why, I touch it. I blink and suddenly it is daylight. The carnage is gone, the sun shines brightly and innocent in the sky. I am surrounded by my companions, living breathing men who examine the clearing with mild curiosity. Yet their voices still resound in my head. What is going on?

Day 3: Otto alone

Day 3: Saturday 1st November 1926, in the jungle, Haiti

Otto says that we are dead. We are just figments of his imagination. He examines himself and finds two blackened wounds from the Sharp Stone and his is carrying the items we were. But I can still speak to him, and suddenly the others are there again, I can hear them. So how can I be dead?

I am convinced this is some terrible hallucination and insist that I am not dead. He challenges my perception in that I cannot see myself. Well it is difficult to believe. I am a figment of his imagination? But I am me, Rupert Hayes, not Otto. I am American, he is German, Tobias, Henry and Jonah are English. We are all so different, how could we be created by his mind? How could one mind encompass our multiple personalities? The death and destruction apparent in our memories may be real, it may not. We could still be hallucinating, under some sort of spell, I don’t know.

The others seem to more readily accept this. I can not. I may come to accept the fact that Rupert is dead in body, but I am still alive, at least in spirit. There may be a way to restore me to health, to restore us all, it this has truly come to pass. Rupert Hayes cannot yet die, his greatest story needs yet to be told.

Otto, confused and alone, with so many spirits, memories, must continue the quest. Tobias’s friend still needs saving, he has the drive and bravery to see it through. Jonah is still driven to understand the gap in his memories, and perhaps by revenge. Henry’s paranoia over whether he will become a beast drives him to seek answers and a resolution to his (Otto’s) physical predicament. I for one will strive to record all these things and ensure Otto lives to tell my tale even if I can not. But I have trouble believing these last minutes’ revelations. I, Rupert Hayes, am not dead, am I?

Day 3: Terrible revelations

Day 2: Friday 31st October 1926, Senegal’s warehouse, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

We elect to stay in the warehouse overnight. The guards conducted us to another room. Henry suggests that the Sharp Stone should be separated from Tobias, perhaps to slow down the reaction, but Tobias is reluctant to let it out of his sight. He does consent to Henry examining the Stone, however.

With extremely delicate care, and wearing thick leather gloves, Henry turns over the Stone in its case. Despite all his precautions, and with no evidence of fumbling involved, the Stone cuts him on the thumb, drawing blood. Henry reports feeling powerful and as Tobias puts the Stone away he feels the same reluctance to part with it. However, he determines that he does not want it near him, the lure is too reminiscent of some powerful drug. Henry is clearly disturbed by his injury and is constantly worrying it to cause it to bleed out the poison inside (if there is such a thing).

Otto and I settle down to catch some sleep. Jonah agrees to take the first watch while Tobias and Henry try to stay awake. Jonah discovers that the door to this room is barred. Immediately, he becomes agitated and resolves to work on unbarring the door which is bolted from the outside.

After a couple of hours of painstaking work the door is opened from outside. Senegal and his guards want to speak to us to impart some important information. Jonah wakes Henry and I.

Senegal starts by saying that Tobias is sick and not well. We know this, of course. He continues to explain that there is something about Miguel’s story that he had not told us. He had not mentioned that when he saw Miguel in his black scaly form with a third eye, that eye was Miguel and the other two were yellow and pupil-less. Somehow he knew that his brother was still there, as if the eye was part of the past. Even after he had killed the thing in its stomach and the creature that was Miguel lay dead, Senegal still sensed something alive in that eye, a presence as of his brother. But when he returned for the remains later, the presence was gone.

Tobias asks if Senegal had witnessed his brother’s transition from man to beast, but he did not see it. Senegal leaves us, grudgingly allowing the door to remain ajar (for Jonah’s sake). One of his men will take us to the Start Pools tomorrow. At this point it is worth mentioning that the black scaliness on Tobias’ arm has spread and Henry’s wound has blackened in a similar fashion, causing him much consternation.

In the morning we retrieve our car (careful to ensure we are not followed) and set out to follow the car of Senegal’s guard, who does not speak English. We drive for a few hours along a hilly dirt road filled with potholes. At one point, despite careful driving, Tobias hits a particularly nasty pothole and we burst a tyre. Jonah and I replace the tyre as quickly as we can. The car in front eventually stops at the base of a hill and the guard indicates that we should continue on foot. Henry notices there are black scales around his wound and underneath these his skin is blackened. It is early afternoon.

We hike for three hours through cypress groves along a small trail. The guard then stops in front of us at the top of a hill. We become aware that the normal jungle noises have ceased. We can see at the bottom of the hill is a wooded valley. The guard points to the wooded area, turns around and leaves. He looked concerned and will take us no further.

At the edge of the woods we stop, trying to decide which direction to follow. Skeins of memory surface and I begin to think I have been here before. I point in a particular direction, saying that I think we should go there to find answers. The others disagree, saying their memories indicate different directions. All except Otto, who has no such urgings. With no agreed direction in our memories, we ask Otto to chose one, as we are unsure if we should trust in our sketchy memories. As we enter the jungle, it is still quiet.

Day 3: Saturday 1st November 1926, in the jungle on the way to the Star Pools, Haiti

The direction we are heading appears to loosely correspond with Jonar’s memories, and Jonah believes that if we go there he will remember something important. After a brief discussion we agree to follow his lead. As we near the place Jonah remembers, we smell decay. Immediately Jonah stops and becomes wary. He does not want to lead us forward, suddenly convinced he might see something terrible, such as his own corpse. Henry hangs back, cocking his shotgun, the rest of us press forward.

Jonah’s memory

There is a large area of trampled undergrowth as if something very large and heavy has compressed it. The sudden clearing is also full of blood. We see one left boot with foot still inside and one dismembered arm in the trees. I examine the boot more closely. It is Jonah’s boot, with presumably his foot still inside. Suddenly, we realise that Jonah has disappeared. Henry waves his shotgun around in an arc, but encounters nothing. It is as if he has just vanished. Is this some premonitory dream or hallucination of Jonah’s demise? Where has he gone? Is is some voodoo magic? Perhaps we are not really here and are having one of our unconscious episodes? Perhaps Jonah will re-appear in the hospital when we wake up? Or are we dead, are we ghosts? And what manner of beast could have caused such a terrible scene?

Tobias’ memory

Needing answers, we decide to follow Tobias’s memory, but this time we hold hands, convinced that touch will keep us safe. We reach another clearing. There is a skinless and burned body with no features. The body is covered in welts and sores and appears to have been thrashing. Tobias disappears. One moment I had been holding his hand, the next empty air. We can only presume this terrible vision depicted Tobias’s gruesome death and that he is now in the same place as Jonah. What had (or will) happened here? Unnerved, but with no other real option, we decide to follow Henry’s memory.

Henry’s memory

Another clearing, another body. This time it is clearly Henry’s body and he has clearly turned a gun on himself. A .45 revolver lies near the body. Henry has disappeared, leaving Otto and I alone. Otto takes the gun, discovering that all the bullets have been used. Otto believes we should follow my memories next. I am reluctant to do so, knowing in my heart that I will witness a scene of my death. But it may be the only way to find out what happened to the others. Despite my misgivings (Otto did not share his thoughts on what he really thought was going on) I allow Otto to convince me and we head off in the final direction.

Rupert’s Memory

My memory is an unpleasant scene. I see with disbelief and dread my body torn to shreds, ripped apart by some terrible force. I disappear, leaving Otto alone in the jungle.

Day 2: Fraud and deception

Day 2: Friday 31st October 1926, a dilapidated-looking warehouse on the outskirts of the docks, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Senegal’s warehouse from the outside appeared to be in poor repair, but this was probably a facade. There were around ten burly looking men milling around this portion of the warehouse, and we suspected there would be more at the back and inside. As we approached with our bundle of merchandise three or four of them came towards us. They tried to warn us off in Creole, I suspect. None of them spoke English, Jonah was leading our charade and resorted to mentioning ‘business’ and ‘Senegal’ several times with various hand gestures. After about 10 minutes of trying to make ourselves understood, one of them motions us to follow them. At the door to the warehouse, Jonah reveals a portion of the concealed rifles. Some men come out with rifles on their shoulders (.45 martini henry rifles). Then the rifles are pointed at us and we are ‘invited’ inside.

The warehouse is about three or four times as large as Labaddie Imports’. There are about twenty armed men inside, all armed with used or old rifles. There are two offices on the left, a large side room on the right and another small room on the right. There are weapons and maps strewn around and loose floorboards hinting at rooms or passages beneath the warehouse. Very obviously to me our lives are now in their hands. We know about their secret hideout and we are foreigners. We must impress Senegal otherwise we may not be allowed to leave. This is a sobering thought. We are instructed to disarm ourselves, and do so without complaint or delay, though we were hardly in a position to refuse being at gun point.

Senegal is a gaunt man in his late 30s with greying hair, weathered skin and a sour expression. He is occupying one of the offices, with obvious furniture, including a safe. Behind him on a shelf is a strange object. At first glance it appears to be a sculpture of an adult human skull with a third eye in the centre of the forehead. Otto mentions the skull and Senegal gives him an intense unfriendly stare. The tension in the room increases. Otto’s knowledge of the human body is impressive considering he is not a trained doctor (he is a rocket scientist). He noted that the skull was, impossibly, real with the jawline accentuated and lizard-lie. Some hideous mutation perhaps? In any case he looked shaken. Tobias’ self-inflicted wound appears to be troubling him.

Senegal demands to know where we are from. Jonah steps in and takes control of the conversation with an outright offer of weapons. Senegal asks how many, and Jonah says 600, more or less. Jonah does not indicate a monetary amount for the rifles, instead turns the conversation to our ’employer’s’ desire to paint the Star Pools. Senegal seems bemused. He motions to a guard to fetch one of the rifles.

When Senegal examines the rifle himself he becomes angry. He calls us liars and frauds. They are his guns, he says. He has already paid for them, but they were not delivered. It transpires that he paid Jack Sterling for these weapons, but he went missing two weeks ago before delivering them. He calls the guards and it seems we are in trouble before Jonah’s quick wits jump into smooth things over. He says we are not trying to sell them twice. In fact we are trying to arrange delivery of Sterling’s weapons, but we were not aware that Sterling had been paid. Tobias chips in and practically accuses Senegal of kidnaping Sterling.

We explain that we need to go to the Star Pools and that is the price we want for delivering the weapons. Senegal wanted us to get the weapons for him, but we demurred, giving him the location instead. Senegal then agrees to giving us the information we need in exchange for the weapons. He spits on his hand and Jonah does likewise, they shake on it. We breathe a little easier.

Tobias explains that we really want to go to the Star Pools to find Jack Sterling. Senegal warns us that the Cult of the Floating Horror is very dangerous. It has been in Haiti for a long time. Fifteen years ago (the last time the stars were correctly aligned) the ritual took place. It did not succeed. The skull which so obviously disturbed Otto is in fact of Senegal’s brother, Miguel. But he was not sacrificed. Senegal proceeds to explain this strange fact. The Reader may view his explanation with skepticism, but he seemed sincere and moved as he told it.

The cult’s ritual requires a host for the creature being summoned. Miguel was to be used in that ritual and was cut with a sacred stone. Then he changed. He went missing and Senegal tracked his brother to the ceremony. He saw that his brother had changed and looked scaly, like a lizard, and he had a third eye. His stomach swelled and something was moving inside him. Senegal knew that his brother was clearly no longer human. To prevent the beast from forming completely, he shot his brother in the stomach. His brother died, but the ceremony was halted.

Senegal understands that the ceremony is being attempted again. If it is successful, Haiti will fall into a pit of dark despair. Haiti will be cleansed however. He believes this means the American scum will be wiped out, or it will facilitate his uprising. My companions are quick to point out that they are not American. I am obviously an enemy, but I try to mollify his seething hatred but saying that I understand his desire for us to leave. He does not buy that, and I am not sure I truly believe what I said. I said I would be happy to return to my previous life, but in fact here there is a great story waiting to be told. I should find out more about this resistance. It may be that some atrocities have been committed by my countrymen and that the resistance has some justification. I will think on this more.

It dawned on us then that we may have been duped. Madame Josephine may have tricked Tobias into becoming the sacrifice. We say as much. Senegal had not considered the Great Mambo to be involved with the Cult. We explain about the Sharp Stone and the potion that Tobias drank. Tobias worriedly rolls up his shirt sleeve. To our horror the skin around the wound is turning black and scaly. I has been itching. Senegal confirms this is how Miguel’s skin looked.

How can I have been so stupid to trust Madame Josephine’s story? Why did I not realise the extreme co-incidence in her just happening to have the Sharp Stone, yet knowing that hours earlier I had read the fable of the Ashanti Warrior and the Sharp Stone in the The Masked Messenger. Of course he would be able to evade the Lurker if he was supposed to become the host for the Floating Horror. However, Dr Northeast’s journal indicates something had already been done to Jack Sterling. Perhaps Mr Sterling is to be the sacrifice? How can I have forgotten in such a short time? My inattention to detail is worrying and may cost Tobias his life. For we now believe he may be the sacrifice for the ritual and that going to the Star Pools may be dangerous for him, yet we must still find Jack Sterling. What should we believe?

We have much to consider tonight. Senegal said we must stay here while the weapons are retrieved and tomorrow someone will take us to the Star Pools. He did say that Miguel had been unconscious and this may accelerate the change. Tobias must attempt to stay awake at all costs. I hope we are able to save him in some way and he does not succumb to the Mambo’s spell. That is if we survive the night and Senegal does not eliminate us as potential witnesses to his secrets.

Day 2: Arms dealing

Day 2: Friday 31st October 1926, a street, Port-au Prince, Haiti

On leaving the laundrette we noted that the Fete Gede preparations now seemed to be complete. In a few hours the festival would begin, and perhaps the terrible ceremony we intended to disrupt. We hurried to the docks, feeling time slipping inexorably away from us. Unless we could convince Sebastian Senegal to tell us where the Star Pools were our only alternative to save Jack Sterling would be to wander aimlessly in the hills east of Port-au-Prince hoping that luck with point us there. I would not trust a man’s life to luck, even if I believed in it, when strange spirits and magic could twist that luck to misfortune on this island.

We could not risk our ill-tempered shadows discovering our meeting with Senegal. They would likely rush in guns blazing to arrest him, then we would never find the information we needed to save Jack Sterling’s life. It bothers me that I might be consorting with an enemy of my country, but there could be time later, when the immediate danger had passed, to perhaps assuage my conscience at duping Major Medwin and my countrymen. I have said nothing of this to my companions, for it should not be a distraction to our current task, and in any case they have different loyalties, not being sons of America such as I. How I will deal with this later I can not yet determine. My mind is in some turmoil still from the events of the last two days and this night is not yet over.

We parked a few streets away. In view of those shadows we entered a dockside bar. It was an interesting establishment, full of native dock workers who gave us suspicious looks. It was not a comfortable place to be. We did not linger for a drink, but thankfully exited the dingy place and found ourselves in a back alley. There were 3 dock workers outside, all looking at us suspiciously. We ignored them and headed towards Labaddie Imports and Exports via streets that would not be seen by our tails.

There was a group of five local children playing in the mud of the street. They were of various ages, the oldest being perhaps 12 years old. Jonah asked them if they wanted to earn a little money. Surprisingly, the youngest seemed the only one able (or wiling) to understand him. Jonah asked them to point out a different direction to anyone asking for us. We would depart in the opposite direction. The transaction was swift; perhaps the bribe was useless for the children quickly whispered amongst themselves. I was concerned they might point us out to some local ruffians who might assault us.

The ground was very muddy and I was concerned also that we would leave tracks. Henry and I set out in different directions to lay false trails while the others proceeded towards the warehouse. The children watched us split up. When Henry and I arrived back at our starting point, Henry spotted the youngest child squatting over the tracks that Jonah, Otto and Tobias had made. He approached to see what the girl was doing. She seemed to be marking them in some way. I was not as quiet as Henry, unfortunately, and when she heard my footsteps she immediately fled.

We examined her handiwork and saw that, curiously, she had been pushing nails into certain footprints. Henry worked out that specifically Otto’s prints were being tampered with, but we had no idea why. In any case, I removed the nails and made them into an arrow, pointing in a different direction, though this was probably a futile gesture at misdirection. Henry’s brainwave was to use one of the ubiquitous nets to drag over our trail. This indiscriminately obliterated the tracks at our starting point, though it was in itself a fairly obvious trail so we reluctantly gave up on that idea as we caught up to the others. One of them identified the child’s strange actions as warding off evil spirits, but we were all mystified as to why Otto should be considered an evil spirit.

It was now approximately 8:30pm. Before us was the dockside. Various cargo ships were tied up and there were containers and nets strewn everywhere. In front of us was a simple warehouse with a large front door and smaller side door. It was dark. We had reached our destination.

Day 2: Friday 31st October 1926 Labaddie Imports and Exports warehouse, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

It would be too obvious to enter by the front door, so Jonah set about unlocking the side door. He stepped back and Tobias opened the door to the office of the warehouse. It was not unoccupied. A large black man was sitting behind a desk and he spoke at us in the local dialect in alarm or anger. His hand moved to his side and Jonah guessed that he might be about to pull out a gun, so swiftly he brought his own gun up and shouted to the man to freeze. Beside me Henry was unlimbering his shotgun. The sight of impending death from two strangers caused the man to reconsider his strategy. He put up his hands, repeating a foreign phrase over and over again. Henry deduced that he was asking us not to shoot him.

I relieved the man of his weapons, a crowbar and a large knife (not a gun). We crowded into the little office and decided that we needed to tie him up so Tobias went out to get a net. As soon as Tobias had opened the door, the big man sprinted forward, trying to escape. Jonah tried to subdue him, but he kept going. I was behind the man and only able to give him a glancing blow to the head, and he still kept going. Tobias heard the commotion and promptly slammed the door in his face, but the big man bulled his way out of that as well. Henry finally subdued the man with the butt of his shotgun. We did not want to hurt him or let him die, for we only did this out of necessity, so once he was tied up, Jonah bandaged his head wound.

Once all was quiet, we began our search for the weapons we needed to bargain with Senegal. I found a copy of the shipping manifest (for farm machinery dated October 20th) in the records on his desk – this matched the one we had found in Tobias’ suitcase. There was a bay reference number on it. I continued to search through the documents for any other evidence of shipments by Sterling Industries while the others tried to locate the shipment. I had in mind that once we had successfully retrieved Jack Sterling from his predicament, there would still be the matter of illegal arms trading to sort out.

Though there was a reference number, the warehouse was disorganised and it took a while for them to discover the sixty crates on the manifest. Otto made judicious use of the pry bar on several crates. Each crate contained 10 (new) .306 bolt action rifles and ammunition. The rumours were true then that Jack Sterling was illegally supplying weapons to the rebels in Haiti. There were some 600 rifles here, enough for a small army. A very serious problem to be solved later.

Otto was just closing up a crate when another unusual tarot card appeared out of thin air. It was the Ten of Swords. Otto was a bit shaken (as I was when the second card appeared to me out of nowhere).

I am concerned because the order of cards had been broken. If the Reader would care to remember, the tarot reading of Marie Jerome had the 10 of Swords card as the final (fifth) card. Here it was as the fourth unusual card to appear. I am convinced that this change of order is significant, but cannot fathom why and to what consequence. Where is the nine of swords card? In the tarot reading this had represented the obstacle. If the fourth card represents the obstacle, then I cannot determine what that might be for the illustration on the card seems to be of a dead tree with tentacles. I wish I knew the meaning of these cards as understanding them might help us in our attempt to rescue Jack Sterling. Something supernatural is occurring for which we are ill-prepared.

I will continue our tale. We discussed how best to approach Senegal, a potentially dangerous man in charge of rebel fighters. Should we go in seeking news of Jack Sterling and use the rifles as a bargaining chip, or go straight in with the offer of weapons. Jonah’s plan won out for he said he had experience of such people (I can well imagine that he has) and only a direct approach would work. We took three rifles wrapped in canvas.

We tidied up, hiding the evidence of our visit, except for the unconscious man whom we left tied up in the office. I did take the crowbar and knife however. I took the man’s keys and we locked the side door. AS we were leaving sharp-eyed Jonah spotted one of the soldiers (Mr Grumpy) at the end of the alleyway we had previously vacated. He appeared to be searching of us. We quickly hid behind the warehouse and, because we were on the water’s edge, were forced to wait for him to give up and leave, wasting another fifteen minutes. We could now proceed on foot to Senegal’s warehouse, which would take about one and a half hours but avoid detection, or save time and retrieve our vehicle, but this would mean getting past the soldiers again. We decided speed, deception and minor terrorism would be the best solution.

Back in the bar, one of the soldiers (not Mr Grumpy) was sitting at the bar, probably uncomfortably. We moved pas him, Jonah even said hello, and went out into the street. While Jonah engaged him in conversation (for he of course followed us), Tobias, Henry and I went to our car to hide the rifles. The other soldier was not in the car, but came down the street as Jonah was talking. He was buying time for our German friend to sabotage the car. Otto was not particularly subtle about his movements, but the soldiers did not see him place the nails (we had re-acquired from the muddy alleyway) in front of the tyres and a stone in the exhaust pipe.

As Tobias sped away, the soldiers attempted to follow. Otto’s sabotage had been successful for there was a loud bang and the car lurched forward and then stopped. We had escaped our shadows and were free to head towards Senegal’s warehouse.

Day 2: Witch's brew and a sharp stone

Day 2: Friday 31st October 1926, Dr Northeast’s house, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Having spent two hours searching for clues at the murdered doctor’s house, we decided that it was time to move on. Not even Henry, who had successfully deduced the nature of the tracks on the front porch, was able to follow them into the jungle, meaning that going after the mysterious band of murderers was not an option.

We decided to repair to the library for further research, after getting some lunch. On getting into the car we noticed that a little aways down the road were our familiar tails. They had probably been far enough away not to have heard Jonah’s gunshot earlier, which is fortunate else we may not have been able to discover the journal nor the other books. Jonah decides that the authorities should be made aware of the murder and approaches their car.

It must be a British peculiarity to refer to a terrible murder as ’he’s not well’ though Jonah did then further explain that Dr Northeast had been ‘sliced to death’. He quickly explained to the astonished soldier what we believe took place and agreed to remain at the scene whilst the other one contacted Major Medwin. The rest of us were allowed to leave, informing the soldiers that we were going to lunch.

Tobias drove us back to the centre of Port-au-Prince, however after five minutes we all began to feel unwell (not, I hasten to add, as a result of his driving). There was a brief argument concerning what would happen next. While we would ‘fall unconscious’ (due to our increasing distance from one of the five of us, Jonah) my guess was that our bodies would continue to operate as if we were conscious and we would revive later, perhaps at the Hotel Olafsson or at a cafe, unharmed. Henry was not convinced and resolved to exit the vehicle whilst it was moving, though Tobias did slow down a little. Then we passed out.

We came round sitting in chairs in an unfamiliar office. Someone was talking about us and the fact that we should be monitored more closely. Major Medwin and Dr Kelly were in an office. It turned out to be 2 and a half hours later, time we could not afford to lose. We had apparently all been found unconscious in a car parked on the street (our bodies must have stopped the car for us). Interestingly, we appeared to actually have become unconscious at this time, not just forgotten what had happened.

Jonah stated that he had not been in the car, so where was he found? Major Medwin refused to provide a clear answer. Jonah’s reaction was to pull out his gun and aim at major Medwin. This was perhaps an incautious move.

Major Medwin, understandably, called the guards when Jonah refused to back down. Aside to Dr Kelly he said that it was not going to work, that we were too unstable. What did that mean? Have they been experimenting on us? Dr Kelly was quick to refute that suggestion. Guards arrived. We tried to reason with Jonah, to explain that being detained would e detrimental to our rescue efforts. Jonah backed away and lowered his weapon, but did not surrender or holster it.

Major Medwin was angry. He had every right and reason to detain us all now. We had to appease him by providing some sort of explanation for our behaviour. Jonah said that he had been standing with one of the guards outside a friend’s house when he fell unconscious; the guard could verify that he was there. We admitted that it was Dr Northeast’s house. On relaying this piece of information, Major Medwin said that yes, that was where Jonah had been found. We said that we were friends with Dr Northeast, but could not remember what had happened on our previous visit.

Major Medwin still wanted to arrest us over the murder of Dr Northeast. We explained that he had been dead for some days when we had turned up at his house. He did seem dubious at our innocence seeing as we could not remember the last few days. However, on our explanation of what we found he provided a clue that Dr Northeast could have been murdered by rebels. We should seek out Sebastian Senegal, the leader of the rebels. If we do this he is prepared to let us go, provided we report back to him as soon as we are aware of Senegal’s location.

Tobias accused Major Medwin of using us to get to Senegal. Senegal may be involved in the disappearance of Jack Sterling. Major Medwin claims to have no real interest in Jack Sterling.

Once we are released, we discover that we have been in the American Embassy. Our car is outside and so is another with different guards in it. Jonah wanders over to inform them that we are repairing to the library. He says they are grumpy. With time running out we cannot stop for lunch, therefore grab something simple and set out for the library. We cannot afford to risk losing consciousness again, therefore as a group we must stay together, though this negatively impacts on the amount of ground we can cover.

Day 2 Friday 31st October 1926, the library, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

We decided to divide up the areas of research. Over the next few hours (even past closing time – Jonah convinced the librarian to remain behind for an hour) Tobias reads the rest of Dr Northeast’s journal, Otto researches the Star Pools, Henry researches local mythos, Jonah the Cult of the Floating Horror and I examine the other books from Dr Northeast’s house.

Henry finds nothing of specific relevance and I discover only that they are reference books on psychology. Otto finds no mention of the Star Pools at all and begins researching the Cult of the Floating Horror too. I looked for old maps, geographical in nature, depicting the Star Pools, but find nothing. Otto trawled through the old newspapers, searching for information on the Cacos rebels and Senegal (their leader). Senegal is not mentioned, but there are reports of periodic uprisings by those rebels. Whether or not he is connected to the Cult of the Floating Horror, Senegal could well use any chaos around the ritual and Fete Gede to stage another uprising. They will be well armed, considering the guns we have in our possession most likely come from a recent shipment.

Jonah discovers a book from 1924 by Nigel Blackwell called Africa’s Dark Secrets. This book covers three main cults – the Bloody Tongue, The Screaming Crawler and the Cult of the floating Horror in Nigeria. There is one particular passage, which resonated strongly with us, referring to a ritual, which I am convinced is what the Haitian cult is about to attempt during the Fete Gede. The second unusual tarot card also sprang to mind – the illustration being of a person with gouged flesh as mentioned in this passage.

In the margin next to the passage, someone had written notes. Jonah guessed that it was my writing and sure enough on examination it appears that he is correct, though I cannot remember coming here before or writing those words. My words indicate that this ritual is as described by Dr Northeast to us and also mentions Sebastian Senegal.

Jonah also discovered a third unusual tarot card within the pages of this book. It was, as I expected, card number XII The Hanged Man. The illustration depicts something not quite human in front of jungle and starry pools. If I remember the tarot reading correctly, this card represents the future. Perhaps this is the Floating Horror?

Tobias is disturbed by what he reads in Dr Northeast’s journal. In one entry, dated Friday 24th October, Dr Northeast says that he is convinced there is more to the Cult of the Floating Horror than he had suspect (it appears he had been researching this cult too). He also appears to know where the Star Pools are. The Floating Horror cult is a fringe branch of voodoo culture who believe in a loa called the Floating Horror. A special individual is prepared in advance to be possessed by the loa. This clearly upset Tobias because Dr Northeast’s last entry had mentioned he had seen something terrible already done to Jack Stirling – we believe Jack is to be that ‘sacrifice’.

Dr Northeast had been consulting with a [[:Madame Josephine]] on voodoo culture and had attempted to get more information on the cult from her, but she had refused his requests. Her address is written in the journal – it is our next port of call.

Day 2: Friday 31st October 1926 – a laundrette, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Mme Josephine’s address appeared to be a laundrette. It was about six-thirty and therefore closed, however we did attract the attention of a woman at the back. She looked hesitant when we asked for Mme Josephine. We said that we had some urgent news about Dr Northeast. Five minutes later she returned with a very large man (perhaps as protection?) and conducts us to the back room.

The back room is filled with parrots, snake vertebrae, serpent motifs and swirl designs. An old woman, quite large in build with a parrot on her shoulder welcomes us with a question. Did we bring what she wanted? It is still strange and disturbing to be welcomed back to places we have no memory of.

The object she asked us to bring was a death’s head moth. If the Reader would care to recall, we found such in a matchbox in Otto’s suitcase only yesterday (though weeks seem to have passed since then). What did she need this for? It appears she had agreed to make a mixture to drink to protect against the Lurker in the Star Pools (not the Floating Horror). It was clear from our bewildered faces that she would have to explain some things (again) and ordered the big man (Jim) to make coffee, though Tobias opted for rum.

It transpires that we had approached her with Bruce Northeast about the Cult of the Floating Horror. We were determined to destroy it, we had said. This was probably why she had agreed to help us. We would destroy the cult and King Kaliko (leader of the Bruquoil otherwise known as the cult of the Floating Horror). The Floating Horror is also known as the Crawling Chaos of 1,000 faces. It is a god. While we were absorbing this strange news Jonah asked what the most recent tarot card we had found depicted – Mme Josephine said it could be one of the many faces.

The Cult has been slowly building in power. She has heard rumours of a ceremony to coincide with the Fete Gede on Saturday or Sunday night. She did not know when this may commence, unfortunately. The rumours are that Haiti will be cleansed by what is to be summoned. I get the strong impression that this would not be a good fate for Haiti.

We had come to her (previously) saying that our friend (Jack Sterling) had been abducted by the Cult and that we wanted to stop the ceremony. She asked us to find the death’s head moth so that she could make a potion to get past the Lurker.

The Lurker is the guardian of the Star Pools. It is very powerful and cannot be destroyed by the hand of man. We would need assistance. She brought out a wooden box carved with a symbol composed of a circle, five-pointed star and flame. Inside was a dark, sharp-looking stone with hints of green. This must be an artefact of some sort.

Otto and Henry surprised Mme Josephine by saying they had seen a similar object before. In their experience, the other stone had been the key to a gate for Nyrathlotep. Mme Josephine said that that name was one of the names for the Crawling Chaos. I am not certain whether Henry and Otto’s earlier experience of this god will be of benefit. Apparently, Henry and Otto are all that remain of their original group who met Nyrathlotep. Our rescue attempt now is fraught with more than just physical danger but also danger to the mind and soul as well, for we will be facing the same god, which slew Henry and Otto’s companions.

The sharp-looking stone is The Sharp Stone, a unique artefact that appears by chance to be in Haiti where it is needed. Mme Josephine explains that someone must cut themselves with the stone to trick The Lurker. The potion must be drunk before using the stone; as I understand it the potion will lessen the effects of the Stone so that it does not have too adverse affect on the wielder. Tobias volunteers immediately.

The Reader may by now be skeptical at these mentions of gods, spirits and possible magical artefacts, though I would re-assure the Reader that my words are not fanciful nor false. Madame Josephine concocted the potion by grinding up the dead moth, a live scorpion and various powders and ungents. The resulting viscous black fluid looked extremely unappetising, but Tobias drank it all (followed by rum). It apparently tasted vile, unsurprisingly.

Carefully picking up The Sharp Stone, he scored a deep cut in his arm. He reported an immediate sense of clarity and strength of mind. Without any other explanation I would conclude this to be an effect of either the potion itself or some beneficial ‘magical’ property of the Stone.

We cannot defeat The Lurker, therefore it must be tricked. Tobias now has the means to trick the Lurker and apparently we will be safe to go with him. He needs to keep the Sharp Stone on him. In fact Tobias said that he was reluctant to part with the Stone.

We need to get to the Star Pools without delay for we do not know when the ritual is due to start. Dr Northeast knew where they were, but he is dead. Mme Josephine does not know where they are, but suggests that Sebastian Senegal does. She directs us to a warehouse on the docks from which he is purported to operate. We must approach him carefully for we do not know his relationship with the Cult of the Floating Horror (nor to the point with Americans and their allies).

We resolve to go first to Labaddie Imports and Exports to determine whether we can leverage any meeting with Senegal by way of a weapons shipment.


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