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.