I once saw a man on the television who was so afraid of fruits that when presented with a bowl of them, he fled the stage, knocking over the host and several other guests. Though I openly pitied the man for his obvious malady of the mind, inside, the small bit of sadism buried within all humans laughed at his bizarre affliction. How can one not find cruel amusement in the cowering of a grown man who has been confronted by nothing more than a bowl of peaches? But now I understand fear like no other. I now no longer find amusement in the terror of others, no matter how illogical.
Now, let me tell you the story of why the sound of wind whistling through the trees in Autumn strikes me with a fear so immense that I can do little more than shake uncontrollably.
A good friend of mine, a young and upcoming anthropologist by the name of Henry Byrne, contacted me eight weeks ago. Though he refused to go into details, he excitedly explained that I must immediately come to Wausau, Wisconsin. Pry as I might, I was only able to squeeze out that he had discovered something so big, that his name would forever be listed in anthropology books. And to ensure that I would come, he guaranteed me that his find would satisfy my thirst for knowledge of macabre and gruesome ritual practices.
So, with no more than bare essentials and the promise of ghastly revelations, I locked my door and headed for the airport.
The flight was uneventful. Including a one hour layover, I only spent five and a half hours in transit. As I left the plane, Henry was standing there waiting. In his left hand an aluminum briefcase. This immediately caught my attention, as Henry almost always carried an old, worn, black leather briefcase that had been a graduation gift from his anthropology professor at the Miskatonic University.
After a quick greetings, and more promises of feeding my dark fancy in response to my myriad of questions, we left in his rented car and stopped shortly after for food. As anyone who's ever attempted plane food can sympathize, I was quite hungry after the trip.
The restaurant he had chosen was a small place off of the main road a few miles. Though there was only one other set of patrons, an elderly Indian couple, Henry chose a remote table in the back corner.
It was obvious by this choosing of a desolate table in a desolate restaurant that whatever Henry had found was something important. This only piqued my curiosity further, so I started up my probing questions once again. He only motioned for me to be quiet and would say nothing more until after our server, a young Indian girl, had taken our orders and left the vicinity. He seemed to eye her with suspicion. At the time I attributed it to a mistake on my part caused by the dim lighting. But now I know more, now I understand his paranoia.
As I began to cut into my steak, he quickly opened the briefcase and snatched out a few papers. Almost as quickly as the papers were out, he slammed the case shut again as if attempting to keep something inside from escaping. Henry, after setting his briefcase down beside his chair and shoving his untouched plate aside, layed out the papers, which turned out to be three maps. Due to their size, one had to be placed under one of the other two. The first map, he explained, was a map of North Wisconsin that showed the territory of Indian tribes before Wisconsin was an official member of the Union. The second was a topographical map showing the elevation of Northern Wisconsin.
He quickly began to help me see the correlation between the two maps, using major landmarks such as rivers and state borders. Then, using a hushed voice as if he were worried the old couple would hear him, he began drawing on the topography map with his finger and explaining the borders of the different tribes to me. The most important bit, he pointed out, was that the tribe map showed the Dakota Sioux, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi tribes controlled the majority of the mountainous region of North-Central Wisconsin.
He insisted that the map was wrong, almost hissing with his hushed, zealous voice. He pulled out the map from the bottom. It was identical to the tribe map, except that he had drawn on it. The territorial borders had been pushed back away from the mountains, and a question mark had been drawn into the now vacant territory. Though I admit that if he had any proof of this, he surely would become well known among his community, I could hardly see how this would appeal to my own morbid fascination with degenerate religions and cults.
Before he could explain how he knew he was right and the several other anthropologists who drew up the maps were wrong, the server returned to check on our meals. Henry quickly pulled one of the first two maps over the third. Again I could have sworn that I saw suspicion in his eyes! After we both told her that we needed nothing, and she finally left, Henry slid the third map back out, though he didn't seem any more relaxed. He explained that the amazing part wasn't that their borders weren't as far as most believed, but what really inhabited those lands that the map claimed belonged to the other tribes.
I don't know how long we sat there, but I assume we stayed in the back corner of that restaurant for some time. Eventually, the server stopped returning to ask how we were doing. Henry explained that while doing anthropological research on the Dakota Sioux, he saw that proof of their existence ceased at about the point at which the first peaks became visible. When he questioned people on Sioux reservations about this, few would say anything. But, he said, he was able to find a few skeptical members of the younger generation that told him that his ancestors feared some type of Kaga, or demon.
Thinking it was no more than some terrifying legend among the Sioux, Henry said he set out to learn more. This small revelation alone would get him in anthropology periodicals. He quickly discovered that this seemed to be the same case among the other two tribes dominant in that region. After only a few months of digging, referencing maps, and discussing his finds with the inhabitants of the reservations, he saw that all of the tribes avoided the mountains, and feared some sort of demon that lived up there. He could only conclude that the reason the maps were wrong was that whoever made them didn't want to leave a big empty space. Or perhaps they knew, and wanted to deter too much digging about in the region.
Fully impressed by his find, and mildly interested in his discovery of some demon that plagued on the imaginative mind of the old tribes, I was still feeling that I had been duped into flying half way across the country by an over zealous anthropologist. As I expressed this feeling to him, he looked around, as if expecting something, or someone to come after him. He told me that he had one more thing to show me, but that he couldn't show me here. So, we paid for our meals, and headed to the car. Night had fully fallen, and the air was getting colder. The wind blew, and some leaves were stirred. My friend's paranoia was becoming more clear. He demanded to know who was out in the woods. I tried to ensure him that it was only the wind rustling the leaves. After a few moments, he agreed, and apologized for his erratic behavior. He blamed it on too many sleepless nights of study.
We drove for a few hours in almost complete silence. His paranoia had seemed to relax. I was relieved at this change of mental attitude in my dear friend, as the scene in the parking lot had me worrying about his mental well being.
We eventually made it to the small town of Lac du Flambeau. We went to the hotel where he was staying. After giving me his room number, and making me promise to show after I had readied my own room, he dropped me off at the front of the building and drove around. After securing a room of my own, and only two doors down from my companion's, I headed there to put my stuff away.
It didn't take me long to check my room to ensure everything was in order. After that, I headed over to his room. Before my second knock could even strike the door it was flung open, and Henry ushered me into the room quickly, and locked the door. His room was identical to mine, except that on his bed there lay the metal briefcase. That damnable thing. I wish I had never layed my eyes on it! But at the time, all I felt was curiosity. Curiosity and the slight fatigue that I felt from such a long day.
Henry made his way to the bed, and motioned for me to have a seat in the chair opposite of him. He spun the briefcase to face him, and slowly opened it. He looked up at me, and then back down at the contents. It almost seemed as if he were deciding about whether he should show me, or throw me from the room. Oh, how I now wish he had gone with the second option. But he didn't.
He reached into the briefcase, and slowly lifted, almost as if lifting a child, a wooden figure. It was almost a full foot tall. To say that it was repulsive and degenerate would be to compliment the thing. In overall design it was humanoid, but only in that aspect. Instead of a head, it had what appeared to be a myriad of hollow, stubby tentacles, like a horrible hybrid of animal appendage and branches. These foul anomalies sprouted from all the way around what should have been the head. From the bottom of this came what I can only guess should have been the neck. It connected the head-like abnormality to the equally repulsive and strange "body." As would be expected of a human, from the shoulders sprang thick upper arms which quickly tapered off into limp, shriveled lower arms. From the chest, where breasts should have been, instead sprouted another pair of identical arm like appendages also ending in shriveled tentacles. Below those the bloated, corpulent stomach sat. The legs, if you can call them that, were very fat at the top, where thighs should be. And they were covered with a repulsive form of cysts. The legs thinned out, but did not lose the cysts, toward the bottom, where they ended in what I can only assume were hooves.
I was broken from my disgusted trance as he slammed the item he had just been holding so tenderly back into the briefcase and locked it. Apparently he had seen something outside. He rushed to the door, throwing the locks off, and slung it open. I joined him outside, where I saw that his paranoia had returned. There was no one out there. Nobody was following him. We returned to his room and he again locked the door, double checking to make sure the curtains were pulled shut and that no one could see through.
I began to fear, once again, for the mental well being of my friend. And though I should have taken him to the hospital at that point, the repulsive fetish he had shown me had me thirsting for more. Never had I seen anything so repellant in my life! I, who had studied the darkest sects of the Voodoo that came from the core of Africa. When I asked if I could hold the thing, he almost seemed angry with his rejection. He shoved the case under his bed, and then seemed to calm down. He told me that he had something else to show me, now that he had piqued my interest.
He moved to his chest of drawers and pulled a laptop case from the top drawer. He took the chair beside me and set the laptop down onto the table. After a few moments of start up, and connecting to the internet that the hotel had, he brought up a map site. He showed me the town that we were staying in. He then followed a highway that ran past one of the closer mountains. He ran back and forth across the same stretch for a while looking for something. Finally he found what he was looking for. He zoomed in. I could see nothing until he made it clear by pointing it out. The satellite photo showed a small road leading off from the highway. It appeared to be unpaved. The trees that hung over it made it almost invisible from the air, but Henry told me it was easier to find from the road. He slowly began to follow the road to the best ability of his vision. A few times he had to back track, as he had followed what he thought was the road, and had actually veered from his path.
When he had finally found his destination, I was quite surprised. There was a very small town at the end of that road. A few of the rooftops being visible through the trees. He then pulled some papers from his laptop case. At a quick glance, I could see most were scans from reference books and old newspapers. He explained that he had researched the town at the public library.
The town, which had been an old Indian settlement, had been established in 1850. It hadn't taken long to gain notoriety. Other tribes would refuse to go there, or even trade with the inhabitants when they left their own town to go to the larger ones. The few times the people from white settlements had attempted to go to the Indian one, they always came back with a sense that something was not quite right. In about the year 1890, after having only officially existed for forty years, the small settlement stopped sending out traders. It was abrupt, but no one seemed to mind, as bad things where whispered about the inhabitants.
Henry explained that everybody just assumed that the place was abandoned. But it wasn't! Henry said that just a week before contacting me he had been there. He had been in the town, and he had seen that it was not empty. It was then that my mind went back to the figure. Is that where he had gotten the figure? Is that why he was so paranoid? Had Henry stolen this terrifying fetish from someone in that town, and he now feared retribution?
Tomorrow, Henry told me, we would go to that town. He had something even bigger in the town that I must see. Though I feared what we may find, the childlike zest for adventure and my own morbid fascination with whatever cult could be behind that sculpture made me agree. So, with a few words on different, insignificant subjects, I bid him goodnight and headed back to my room.
I was awoken in the morning by a banging at my door. The urgency and strength behind the banging startled me, as someone was clearly slamming their fist into the portal to my room. As I was trying to decide how to handle this hostile intruder, I could hear that it was Henry. He was demanding that I open the door. Relieved that I knew who it was, but still startled by the urgency and anger in his voice, I opened the door. Henry rushed in, almost knocking me over. He demanded to know where 'it' was. I explained that I didn't know what he was talking about, but that he should calm down and I would help him look for 'it.' After continuing to insist that he saw that way I was looking at 'it,' he finally let slip that it was the fetish that was missing. What was happening to the mental fortitude of my friend? To think that I, who had known him his entire life, had stolen his prized possession?
A voice came from the area of the opened door. I looked around Henry to see a man standing in my doorway. He explained that he was my neighbor, the one that stayed between Henry and myself, and that he had seen an old, sickly looking Indian man just standing about the parking lot last night. He had said that the man didn't seem homeless, but also didn't seem to have a purpose. The Indian had been standing there for a while when he left to go party with his friends, but that he couldn't remember him being there when he returned from the party.
A look of understanding spread across Henry's face. Almost as if he knew that the man who had done nothing more then stand in a parking lot at night, had taken his wooden doll. I suggested calling the police, but Henry said no. After a moment, he visibly calmed down. He apologized, for the second time since I had arrived. He said that he had not slept well last night, and that he was too tired to think properly. After I told him that I understood, which I didn't, and that he should probably go sleep, he declined. He insisted that we head to the town, and that the fetish was nothing compared to what he would show me that day.
Again, I say that I should have stopped and taken him to a hospital. For something in his mind was not right. But I failed in my duty as a friend. I let my curiosity get the better of me, and ignored the well being of my companion, giving my self the excuse that after this was over I'd take him, and agreed to get in the car with him to go to the town.
We drove for almost a full hour before I saw the turnoff. It wasn't as easy to see as Henry made it sound, but if you were looking for it, you might be able to see it after only a few passes. Henry pulled off the deserted highway and onto the uneven dirt road. After driving just long enough on this road to lose all view of the highway behind, Henry parked. He insisted that we walk the rest of the way. When I suggested that he move his car from the middle of the road, he said that I shouldn't worry about it. Nobody ever used this road anymore.
Had Henry not told me that the town was still inhabited? Would the inhabitants not need to leave the town to shop, or go to the post office? Again, I made an excuse for this bizarre thought. Perhaps the inhabitants were all just a bunch of squatters taking advantage of the old settlement?
For miles we walked. It frustrated me that Henry had insisted on leaving the car so far back, when there was so much farther to go. Finally, we came to a point where Henry motioned for me to stop. After motioning for me to be silent, he slowly crept forward. After a few steps, he bid me to follow him. I did so, creeping as he had. I finally made it to where he was, and could see the small town through the brush. A few buildings, a poorly built chicken pen, and some carts were about all I could see from our angle. There weren't any people. Clearly people lived here, or there would not have been a chicken pen full of chickens. But where were they? As I went to ask Henry, I heard a slight rustle of dead leaves behind me. And then everything went black.
I awoke with a bad headache, and what I could assume was a large break in the skin on the back of my head. I was bound. And before me, to my horror, was the statue. But it was no statue of almost a foot. It was a full eight feet tall, and this one appeared to be in a sitting position. Henry had been bound on a platform above the statue. I looked around. We were surrounded by Indians. Most old, but a few young as well. I didn't need to be an anthropologist to know that these weren't Dakota Sioux. They weren't Ojibwe or Potawatomi either. These were the Kaga that the other tribes spoke of. Most of them held hideous deformities, and were covered mostly in cysts like those depicted on the legs of the small fetish as well as the giant statue before me.
Past them I could see that Henry and I were in the middle of the town. This statue, this abominable icon of profane worship had been hidden from our previous position by a large building. Ironically, an old run down church. And then, the wind began to blow.
The large branch-like appendages that made up the 'head' of the idol began to whistle. It was a cacophony of the most profane type. The notes and chords that were formed had a blasphemous and maddening sound. I turned my head and vomited. As if enough madness wasn't assaulting me from that sound alone, the circle of Indians began to chant. Though I would guess that the language wasn't Siouan, I was glad that I could not even understand that. The sound alone was terrifying, what would I have become had I known what was being said?
As the chant started, one member, who appeared to be the oldest of the group, began walking forward with the hellish rhythm. In his left hand he brandished a knife. It was nothing ornate. Merely a blade tied down between two smoothed pieces of wood. He began to make his way up the platform where Henry still lay, unconscious. I screamed as loud as I could to wake Henry, but could not even hear my own voice above the damnable whistling and blowing of the hellish idol and morbid chanting of the crowd.
I began to try to free myself. The chanting continued with the blowing, and the old Indian came closer and closer to Henry. I did everything I could, but could not escape. The old Indian was on Henry now. He crouched down and raised the knife. I had finally managed to free myself, but it was too late. The knife plunged down into Henry's stomach, awakening him to his painful reality. He screamed as blood began to flow from the gaping wound in his stomach. I continued to fight my bonds, and fortunately was unnoticed by the other members of the twisted cult as they watched my friend murdered. The knife came up again, and fell, all in accordance with the abysmal tempo. Before I could fully escape, Henry had stopped fighting. He lay there silent, blood dripping through the platform and onto the idol.
It is at this point that I thank the merciful fragility of the human mind, for I lost consciousness.
How it happened, I don't know, but in that merciful blackout I had managed to escape. The next thing I remember was being in a hospital. I had been found running down the side of the road screaming and incoherent. After a few days of being watched, I was deemed mentally fit and released. Gathering my courage, I drove back down that highway. But I could never find the road. Where had it gone? I checked the map site again, with the clear satellite photo. I couldn't find the road or the town using the satellite map either! Though I openly cursed myself for not being attentive enough, I was secretly glad that I was incapable of finding it, for what would I do when I did?
I contacted the police. A raid was planned for that evening. The next morning I received a call. The police had found plenty of evidence of people having had been there recently, but they did not find Henry. They did not find Henry's blood. And they did not find any idol. The officer even veiled the suggestions that Henry and I had joined a bunch of junkie squatters for a party, and that Henry would stumble back into existence as soon as his drug induced stupor wore off.
Was I mad? Did I imagine everything that had happened? Was my friend, the young and upcoming anthropologist Henry Byrne not missing?
I am now institutionalized of my own volition at a mental hospital in Maine, where I have family. I'm in contact with Henry's family, but have heard nothing. He's still "missing." As for my treatment, I've been given medicine to help with my newly developed anxiety issues as well as a daily appointment with one of the hospital's psychiatrists. Despite the amount of help I've been given, I still can't forget what I saw. The image of the knife plunging into my friend, the blood dripping down through the slits in the platform and spilling onto the unholy statue, or what I thought I saw as everything went black. Because I swear on my sanity that as my vision began to dim, the large repellant object began to move.