The Swelling

By David Conyers

First published in The King in Yellow, Atlantean Press, 2007. Reprinted in Cthulhu Australis Part 2, Rainfall Books, 2007.

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For five violent days, the unrelenting storm battered the Daintree, threatening to submerge her at any moment, but it was the unraveling of Greg Wright’s mind that disturbed Tracy more than any elemental assault.

As the weather worsened, so did his delusions. First, he claimed to see mermaids then fish-demons. Both, he said, were plaguing the angry waves, clawing at their yacht. Tracy never witnessed these fanciful creatures herself, even when he pointed them out. After his fifth day of peculiar behavior, Greg calmly explained to Tracy that he’d finally read the truth in a book. It told him what to do and he had done what he was told. He had just murdered their daughter Matilda. How? A revolver pressed against her temple had splattered her brains all over the cabin walls.

Unwilling to witness his wife’s shock and grief, Greg threw himself into the crashing waves, becoming lost within seconds. Perhaps this was his only appeasement.

Not long after, the weather finally beat her. Tracy knew she had lost her mind, and then didn’t know who or what she was.

That was the beginning.

As for the end, she didn’t know when that day might come, and if it did, would she even recognize it….

***

The Vestibule churned over the swelling ocean. Salty foam broke at its bow as the steamer fought back and ploughed towards its unknown destination. Overcast and grey, the clouds above filled the sky, never relenting in spitting rain. The chill captured in the wind ran straight from Antarctica itself.

Wrapped in a blanket while the tears on her cheeks vanished in the spray, she lost her thoughts towards the horizon where the water and clouds merged into one. Their unnamed destination was somewhere out there and it seemed to her to be so far away, unreachable, as if it did not exist except inside her mind.

She understood that her current emotional state was shaky and weak. Her thoughts had been disjointed these last days or weeks – exactly how long she could not remember. To compensate, she tried to recall pleasant memories and found that she had lost all that she might once have known. A loss which served only to catapult her into deeper depression.

No birds in the sky, no fish in the sea, and the colour of the water always a decisive grey, textured like spoilt meat. What survived in this place? Herself, obviously, and the crew, but what the crew were was not exactly what she would call “living”.

Despite her misgivings, the fresh air did somewhat relieve her nausea. In the last few hours, the swelling had grown worse, and she wasn’t sure why. So, she had slipped outside, hoping to escape her sickness. With the fresh air came the cold and wet which, in minutes, became a worse misery. Yet again, there was no simple solution.

In the end, she returned to her cabin, found her daughter wrapped in blankets as she had left her. The little girl’s smile was faint and grey. Her face pasty and dry like cardboard.

“Where are we?” her daughter asked somberly.

“Safe,” she answered. A mother’s response, spoken while she ran her fingers gently through the young girl’s auburn hair. Ever since the accident, the strands had tangled in knots and stayed that way. Neither mother nor daughter had been able to straighten them again, even with persistence and their only comb.

“Where’s Daddy?”

“Daddy’s gone away for a while.”

“When’s he coming back?”

“Soon,” she whispered. “We’ll be with him soon.”

One day, she’d have to tell her daughter the truth, but to do so, she would first have to be honest with herself.

Running out of time, she didn’t know if that day would ever come.

***

During the passing weeks, her daughter had become infected with a lasting illness that was more than just a cold or flu. Confined to her bunk and this cabin, her little girl had remained here since their rescue. All fates considered, it had been a miracle that they had been discovered at all. Floating alone, thousands of kilometers off the east coast of Australia, fighting to stay alive in a cold, frigid and tumultuous ocean. What had begun as a luxury yachting cruise from Sydney to the tropical Pacific atolls had ended in nightmare. She wasn’t sure that her torment would ever end.

Always, they were hungry. Always, the food was unpalatable, its taste nothing more than wet cardboard or soggy paper. Yet, they must eat, especially her little girl, whose health was not improving. As a mother, she instinctively knew that she must again seek medical help. Unfortunately, she didn’t trust any of the crew, so again, she was forced to take on the role of examining doctor herself. The cause was easy: they needed to eat proper food and to find proper food, she would have to overcome her loathing towards venturing beyond their cabin. She would once more have to explore the interior of the Vestibule in hope of discovering the elusive kitchens.

Like a memory that was a dream turned inside out, she recalled their third day when the mother first wandered into the lower levels on a similar quest. In no time at all, she became hopelessly lost in the labyrinthine turns and dead ends that made no sense. There had been no doors or portals down there either, only stairs and corridors that echoed endlessly. As she foolishly descended to each successive level, they progressively became darker and colder than the one above, and the half-heard noises muffled through the walls became harder to disbelieve. A part of her knew that if she descended too far, she might actually hear what they were saying, and what they had to say would not be pleasant.

The one location on this ship that she could easily find at any time was the bridge.

From all points on the decks, it could be seen, high and lofty like a lighthouse upon a cliff, a beacon of rationality. At night, when the ocean was pitch-black and restless, it seemed that the bridge and her cabin held the only light in the entire world, that everyone elsewhere on this ship did not require electricity. After this realization, she ceased to venture out at night.

It was the middle of the day now, not that the sun was ever seen. Climbing the metal stairs, drenched by the incessant salty spray and convinced that she was always wet, the mother stumbled inside the bridge. She sensed the pronounced effects of the swelling now that she was up high, looking down on the Vestibule as if it were a map. The nausea returned, but if she threw up again, her subconscious reminded her that she would probably drown by doing so.

At the wheel stood the Captain, positioned in the only place she had ever seen him. He was staring forward, towards the vanishing point that was a never-ending merger of a violent ocean and a tumultuous sky. He turned when she sealed the porthole behind her, and nodded delicately to acknowledge her presence. Wrapped in a dark grey coat, his feet and hands were covered in their entirety by leather boots and gloves. The woolen scarf about his neck was wound tight, and that large pirate hat on his head didn’t really seem all that odd, despite its misplaced historical context. What numbed her most was his mask: World War One flying goggles and the scarf, wrapped around his face so she could never see what he really looked like. There was flesh in there, glimpsed only occasionally when he let his mask slip. Nothing more had ever been revealed.

“Ma’am,” he nodded ever so slightly. His voice was lyrical, even familiar, and disturbingly feminine. He was her height exactly, so she didn’t need to chink her neck to look up at him, as she had to do when conversing with any of the strange crew.

“Captain,” she shivered then dripped. Now that she had joined him on the bridge, words were lost to her. He said nothing in response. He would wait indefinitely until she had a question to ask of him.

Concluding that she had not come here to talk, the Captain returned to the wheel. Feeling awkward, she glanced at the charts pinned to the back wall, hoping to discover a topic of conversation. She quickly found one, when she was surprised that the charts displayed no continents or even islands, as if the sea was all there ever was and ever could be. “What’s our destination?” she asked, knowing that she had asked before, only she could never fully remember his previous answers, and that she would forget again what he was about to tell her now. Still, he never seemed to mind her repetition.

“Carcosa,” his words were soft.

Whimsically, she said, “I’ve heard of that place, but just can’t seem to remember where?” She searched for it on the map and failed to find it. “Will I find what I’m looking for there?”

The Captain nodded slowly. “If you can create happiness, Carcosa is the one place that I know of that can manifest it in you.”

“And if I can’t?”

“That is the normal state of affairs, for most that arrive there. That is how it will be.”

“So, then, why is that our destination?”
He did not answer. A part of her knew she didn’t want to hear the answer, anyway. It was as if the Captain understood her very mind, had probed the very insanity festering inside, and knew what must not be said to keep the insanity locked inside.

“Is it far? I can’t see it anywhere.” She pointed to the blank charts.

The Captain appeared unconcerned and shook his head. “Not far.” His reflective goggles turned to the swelling seas while a gloved hand pointed toward the horizon. “I’ve seen the signs.”

She followed his finger and saw nothing out of the unusual. “What signs?”

“You don’t see them? Then watch the horizon.”

Doing what she was told, she spied nothing out of the ordinary, or what passed as ordinary in this place. Then the sign appeared, as if the distance to the horizon had suddenly shrunk, as if the circumference of the earth had diminished to almost nothing. A moment later, the horror of what she witnessed overcame her, and she understood that it was neither of these things. Rather, it was a wall of water, a tidal wave a hundred meters high, rolling straight for them.

“Oh, my God!” she exclaimed. There was nowhere to escape, for it grew from every horizon, roaring like the thunder that follows impressive lightning.

The Captain turned to her. She saw her fear reflected in his goggles. “There is no concern,” he spoke calmly. She expected his lips to move behind the scarf when he explained such things to her, but they never did. “This is the eighth tidal wave today. It will pass without effect.”

“Eighth?” He was so calm she almost believed him.

Almost.

What was she to do? The crest was advancing so rapidly it would be upon them in minutes. Not even enough time to run back to her daughter, to be with her at the end. Dumbfounded, she could only stand calmly by the Captain, tasting sea water in her mouth, ready to drown again.

But when the wall of water finally caught their vessel, she saw that it was wide, and they rode right over the top without incident. She compared it to the rising and falling of her daughter on a swing, and suddenly, an explanation for today’s peculiar nausea was revealed.

“See,” said the captain once the ocean settled again. “No danger.”

“No…?”

Even to herself, her voice sounded distant. Unreal.

She knew she should have been worried about the wave. But she just wasn’t, couldn’t afford to be, not while she was still pretending.

***

Still hungry, always hungry, her drive for food again overcame her distrust of the ship’s interior, and she ventured into the one place she dreaded more than any other. She told herself to trust her instincts and that her nose would smell the food, lead her to the kitchen and then all would be right in the world again. They both needed to eat. If they did not eat, then her daughter would never recover.

Progressing into the depths, the interior seemed to grow darker at every turn. Grey walls, fashioned from old timber supported by heavy iron struts, vanished into the shadows. The swell seemed more pronounced without portholes to watch the ocean, and the taste and wetness of sea water in her hair and clothes would not leave her. The corridors carried dampness. It was no better than standing on the deck, and she wondered if the Vestibule were not rotting from the inside out.

Again, despite the whispering voices in the walls and the distant sounds of portals opening and closing, she failed to find any doors apart from the one that had led her down here.

Vestibule…. The thought occurred that this was a strange name and that maybe it held meaning. A clue perhaps which might reveal her purpose in her being in this place, this nightmare. All this time, she had been thinking “vestibule” was a French word, and it probably was, but it was also commonly used in English. “Vestibule” meant an entrance hall, a reception area, somewhere to wait. Were they waiting to get somewhere? Was the Captain waiting for something to happen? Did a decision need to be made first? But to get where they wanted to go, well, they’d have to first step outside of the “vestibule” to get there. She wondered how to do that.

She remembered bobbing in the ocean, crests threatening to crash down upon her time and time again, while the reciprocal troughs promised to drag her into the depths at any moment. The nightmare never seemed to end. The sea spray kept her cold and filled her mouth with the salty water taste that lingered with her today. Her only hope was rescue…. For a moment, she was back, really in the ocean, really drowning.

For a moment, she scared herself half to death.

“Ma’am?”

A steward had found her, dressed in his fine, three-piece suit cut entirely from paper. His face was hidden behind one of the paper masquerade masks that all the crew insisted upon wearing at all times. He was stuffing something into his sleeve, and she noticed it was more paper, crunching into tiny balls. Memories came back to her, of a scarecrow on her parent’s farm in Adelaide, an effigy fashioned from her old clothes, filled with yellow straw.

“Hello,” she stuttered, surprised that the servant managed to sneak up on her unannounced, even unheard. “I’m looking for the kitchens. I’m lost.”

“I’m sure you are.” Like the Captain, his answer was matter-the-fact and useless.

Annoyed that he had not properly answered her, she straightened her back and raised her pitch. “Well, then, would you be able to show me where they are?”

He said nothing. Did nothing. The silence grew more uncomfortable as each second passed, but only for her.

“Are you going to answer me?”

As if snapping out of a hypnotic trance, the crewmember’s head flicked towards her, the motion reminiscent of a mechanical doll controlled by external powers. “Sorry, Ma’am, I cannot. It is not possible to reach the lower decks from the upper decks.”

“What do you mean? I mean, that’s ridiculous.”

“Yes, it is,” he said, without modifying his pitch or tone. “But I can arrange to have food brought to your cabin, if you like.”

She didn’t know whether to feel relieved or angered further. In the end, her daughter’s wellbeing had to be her first priority. She could never take any course of action that would harm her daughter. Besides, picking a fight just to win a point didn’t seem worthwhile, not if there was any chance they could eat again. “Yes, for me and my daughter, both. And please be hasty about it; my daughter is not at all well.”

“Certainly, Ma’am.” He gave a curt bow, spun on his toes and vanished down a corridor as if he were gliding on wheels.

***

The yacht was lost and so was her family. Tracy cried, giving to the ocean more water than it would ever need or even notice. Moments before, the Daintree splintered and crumbled, she had dared to peer inside the cabin. Tracy was sure she had, for the image of the blood and skull fragments splattered on the wall was too powerful a nightmare to easily forget, burning into her mind and tearing apart her soul. Her only child…. For the life of her, Tracy could not recall why her husband chose to murder their only creation together.

Much later, while the crashing waves and the storm’s unrelenting downpour threatened to drown her again at any moment, she heard a ship, its foghorn reverberating through the sleeting rain. They might all still be rescued, she hoped. They might all become a family again. All she had to do was believe.

Anything was better than believing she’d lost everything and that the only path lying ahead was a lonely death at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

So, she clung to Greg’s book, his sole purchase on their last port stop at Rarotonga. It was the King in Yellow, with its waterlogged pages and disintegrating cover. What did it say about that place on the shores of the Lake of Hali? What did that book mention about hope and the futility of it all? What did it say about distant, fabled Carcosa, where one could lose one’s mind and, in doing so, perhaps rediscover happiness.

She didn’t know, but she knew her husband had discovered the truth. She recalled that it said something about them all being together again, perhaps.

So, she kept reading.

***

Somehow, she found her way back from the endless corridors and up onto the deck, again. Here, her nausea lessened and so, she took a moment to study the waves, all the time ensuring that she didn’t drown from vomiting. The massive surges of water were like big angry slugs shaken inside a bowl, fighting each other to crawl to the top of the chaotic collection of their own kind. The ocean was rising higher and higher by the minute. The spray was hard on her face, tasted again in her mouth, and stung at her eyes. She fought against the salt water sloshing inside her stomach, expecting at any moment that the Vestibule would be overrun with breakwaters.

On the distant deck, she spied two of the masked, paper-wrapped crew, struggling to tie down several loose crates, wooden boxes large enough to hide elephants. She had failed to notice these crates before and wondered why, as if she perhaps had just made them up and placed them into this picture.

As if sensing her awareness, the two men stopped dead in midpoint of their frantic work then pointed together back towards the ocean. Theirs was not a command, but she had the sense that if she did not look, she would miss an important aspect in the deeper symbolism of this exotic ship, where she was nothing more than one of the lost.

Heeding their advice and returning to the rails, she gazed out into the churning waters and spotted what she thought must be a human head. Then she noticed arms attached to that head, pushing through the waves. It was a young woman without garb, swimming in the frigid waters. Next to her was a man then another figure. Soon, she became aware of dozens of humans, naked and cold, powering through the water. The heavy waves kept taking them down, pounding them with their foamy swells, but they kept rising up, kept swimming. They had hope when really, they had none. They believed in the impossible.

As the next wave subsided, the new vision presented before her forced her to draw breath. Not a dozen, not even hundreds, but thousands upon thousands of pale, naked humans were swimming these seas. None screamed, none called for help, not even in this cold water, where they should have all died from hypothermia. Uncaring, the Vestibule ploughed right through them, crushing swimmers who were too slow to get out of the way, or too preoccupied to care. Yet none of this shocked her. She knew their fate was hopeless, and yet, they blindly continued to pretend otherwise.

But what did tear at her soul was the fact that each and every man, woman and child was swimming in the same direction, swimming in her direction, towards Carcosa. Did they, too, believe salvation might find them in such a distant and exotic land? Was she perhaps not one of those swimmers herself?

Unsure both of whom she was and what her eyes now witnessed, she fled to her cabin, sealing the portal behind her. Somehow, the darkness seemed inviting. She drew a breath, then another, and tried to forget.

“Mummy, are you okay?”

It took a moment to remember where she was, that there was a shape in the far corner, wrapped in blankets like a swaddled baby. The only bulb overhead swung with the ocean roll, casting sharp shadows over the shape that she remembered now must be her only daughter.

“I made you something,” spoke the child.

Fear returned to the mother. She looked at her daughter for moving lips, or perhaps for fidgeting, anything, something to indicate that her child was real.

“Something for me?”

“Yes…Mother.”

A chill stung at her heart. That was not her daughter’s voice. It wasn’t even human a human voice. Rather, it was something artificial like the voices that all the crew shared. For the briefest of moments, she was back in the ocean, lost in the storm, recalling what had really been left behind inside their crumbling yacht.

“That’s really nice. How sweet.”

She sat by the dark, speaking shape. An arm extended, wrapped in papery cloth so tightly that no skin showed. At the end of the appendage was a white-gloved hand holding forth folded paper. Tentatively, with more than a hint of trepidation, she withdrew this gift from the icy-cold grip. “I’m so lucky to have you,” her words forced themselves, spoken through whispers and trembles.

The paper unfolded easily into white cutouts of mother and daughter, hand-in-hand, foot-to-foot, unraveling in a chain. Like two mirrors that forever reflected occupants trapped between their panes, so, too, the paper continued to unfold. She almost cried at the thought of its symbolism, of being bound to her only child forever. That nothing would take her away again, that everything distant Carcosa promised her was here for her now.

She kept unfolding.

The paper stretched deeper, into her daughter’s arm and then on through into the sleeve. In moments, she had hundreds of the mother-daughter folds spilling out of her hands. And then, without warning, the arm vanished under the weight of paper and now, the very sheets themselves were unfolding, cut and shaped into the same pattern: mother-and-daughter, mother-and-daughter, mother-and-daughter….

She kept unfolding.

Paper lay everywhere. Soon, her undoing smothered the entire floor until the bunk itself was lost under a mass of folded pulp. The paper became wet and it was no longer pure white, for words were etched in the cuttings. She read some of the lines. It was a play, the characters speaking nonsense she could not read. The play’s characters’ were her daughter and herself, or that was how she interpreted the passages. Characters were discussing their loss, but they were unwilling to accept the truth. They focused their minds on discovering lost Carcosa on the shores of Lake Hali where Hastur lies. Carcosa was a mystical land ­- the words kept telling her – where answers and loved-ones would always be rediscovered, even when they weren’t real.

She kept unfolding.

How long she unraveled she could not recall. To her, one moment, this had been her cabin. In another, it was a mass of pulpy, wet paper filling all the space that was possible to fill in such cramped quarters. A chain of the larger-then-smaller woman repeated endlessly, cut from the pages of a waterlogged book that she had so desperately clutched in her hands for so long, reading it for hope.

“Where are you?” she asked, pushing through the walls of paper. Its mass was too thick, so she had to tear at it, shred her way through like some Victorian explorer braving the thick jungles of Africa. “Where are you?” she cried wildly. She sobbed the same words again, sensing now her pathetic loss.

“Where are you?” she could only whisper.

Eventually, the weight of paper was pushed aside and the bunk re-emerged, only for her to discover that it was empty.

Empty except for a cut-out, masquerade mask. Like all the other masks worn on this ship, it was fashioned entirely from paper.

It was the mask that her daughter had worn.

It was all her daughter’s face had ever been.

***

Exhausted and terrified, red-eyed and wide-eyed, she ran across the decks, screaming inside, hoping for any kind of release.

While she sprinted across the deck, a wave of salty water gushed around her. Ahead, it grew large, collected the two crew and their huge boxes, tossing them into the water like dust flicked from an emptying dustpan. As the ocean took the crew, they crumbled and folded, as if they, too, were made of paper and the spines of old, water-logged books. Neither cried nor struggled to hold onto life. Both accepted their fate as readily as she accepted the sun or moon, or that her daughter and husband had once loved her. She was struck dumb as they promptly vanished then felt sick at the thought that death was so easy and so casual. She didn’t want to die like that. She’d do anything to ensure that never happened to her and her family.

A second wave, not as crushing as the first, managed to wipe the decks, drenching her further, filling her mouth with its putrid tastes. She clung to the railing, feeling its pull grow ever stronger, threatening to take her, too, or, failing that, drown her on these very decks, themselves. She held on. She knew that she was drowning. Very soon, it would all be over.

And then, at the last moment, the waters subsided and she was cold and wet and drenched on the decks as she had always been. Now, the Vestibule was rising out of the water, still floating, still powering ever onwards to hopeful Carcosa. She stared out. Beyond her immediate surroundings, it was impossible to see much beyond the rising waves and the grey spray of the mist. Of the horizon, nothing at all could be seen. The world was shrinking inwards, trapping the Vestibule inside what must seem to some to be an enormous glass bottle, forever shaken by an angry owner.

Darkness was settling, readying the world for the night.

She took to the stairs, climbing higher to where the only light shone, to the only place that might provide answers…or relief.

At the portal, she wrenched open the latch and threw herself inside. Everything was as before. The sole captain wrapped in his coat, scarf and flying goggles, diligent at the wheel, fighting the angry ocean. Lightning flashed outside and he lit up like a black-and-white photograph before he had time to notice his visitor.

She ran up to him, pulled him by his arm so he had to look upon her. “My daughter, someone has taken my daughter.”

The expressionless face, always concealed, gave nothing away concerning any emotions that it might feel. “Daughter?” he asked in that strangely familiar voice, “you have a daughter?”

“Of course I have a daughter.”

The Captain shrugged. “Oh? Well, that is strange, because I was well-informed that your daughter had been dismantled.”

“What?” Her voice became hysterical. She needed answers. She needed them fast; otherwise, she knew she would really lose her mind, or find it. “I want to know what you and your crew did with my daughter.”

Another shrug. “We did nothing.”

“Then who did?”

“Oh, I thought that would have been obvious too.”

She tried to speak, but his words were just confusing her. She wanted to be angry, wanted someone else to take the blame for her hopeless predicament. She wanted the Captain to take control, to bring her back and restore everything that she had lost these last weeks. “Who dismantled her?” she finally demanded, even though a part of her already knew, a part of her that knew a lot of things that the rest of her mind pretended not to.

When the Captain finally answered her, all he said was, “You did.”

“I did?”

Her mind flashed to that moment, the unraveling of the mother-and-daughter paper chain. Only now did she see what she had done. Her daughter had been made of paper, always had been. From the beginning, her only child had been nothing more than the mother-and-daughter chain. Her heart turned cold at the very thought of what she had created.

“I pulled her apart, didn’t I?”

“Yes, but you made her, first. Don’t ever forget that.”

More lightning as deep shadows threw themselves onto the wall of charts behind them.

“We just assumed that you no longer required her. But don’t concern yourself. My crew are clearing the mess away as we speak.” Again, that voice, it was almost female. And he was her height exactly, even the same build.

“You mean, she’s gone?”

“Yes. You no longer need her, now that we are nearly there.”

Her angered flared, built upon an ever-foreboding thought that in reality, all was lost, and all that she had hung onto was nothing more than fantasy. She didn’t want to think that, didn’t want to remember.

“Who are you?”

Once more, the face was as silent as stone, the goggles reflecting her own eyes. Or were they? She looked again and saw that they were not reflections, rather, real eyes behind the mask, so similar to her own. “Who are you?” she asked again.

“I thought you already knew.”

Her hand flashed to her open mouth, because suddenly, she did know.

How easy it was for the human mind to deceive, especially to deceive oneself. So, she unraveled the scarf, pulled away the World War One flying goggles and drew from his head the pirate hat. He was her height, of the same build – these should have been clue enough. The familiar voice, like the familiar human face that looked back at her now, she was looking at herself.

Who was the only living person in this entire ocean who was willing to do anything to find fabled Carcosa?

Only her.

***

Tracy Wright came up from the ocean for what was probably the hundredth time. It could have been her thousandth for all she cared, or remembered. Down there, in those moments trapped in the murky, dark waters it was calm, it was just water. Down there, she couldn’t breathe either. Up here on the surface were the swelling waves, the eerie lightning and angry thunder. They would eventually claim her and send her back down again. That final moment now could be no more than hours away at most. Probably sooner, considering how exhausted her muscles had become treading water.

The wreckage of the Daintree had long dispersed. Her daughter with her splattered brains was somewhere down there, many miles under the angry sea. Her husband might still be alive, but she doubted it. He was never as strong a swimmer as she.

All she had left was his book, that dreadful King in Yellow. She’d held onto it this long, so she might as well keep reading until the very bitter end. Only that book offered any semblance of hope, no matter how futile that hope had ever been.

She laughed at the irony. Her wish would finally come true. All she had to do now was to decide how to make it so. Down there, at the ocean’s end where the dead are never found, she could still be reunited with her husband and daughter and it would be a silent, lifeless reunion.

Instead, if she wanted the madness, if she wanted to escape oblivion, to become lost in her own torment in a world where she would always believe her family could be made whole once again, all she had to do was keep reading.

It was the impossible dream. Oblivion with nothing, or madness with false hope?

The choice was so easy.

So, she kept reading and asked again of her captain to take her to the distant shores of Lake Hali, where fabled Carcosa lay.

THE END

David Conyers is an Australian science fiction author from Adelaide who also writes Lovecraftian horror, with over 35 short stories sold worldwide. His first book, The Spiraling Worm, co-authored with John Sunseri, received honourable mentions in both the Aurealis and Australian Shadows Awards, and was a blend of spy thriller fiction and the Cthulhu Mythos. His latest book and first as editor is Cthulhu’s Dark Cults, the first fiction collection set entirely in the world of the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game. David’s website is www.davidconyers.com.

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