It Lays Screaming Under Lochmere – Charlie Chitty
May 15, 2020
It should be a given that we’re told far too much about the natural world, ideas that seem common sense when we’re told them, and so we never seek out answers beyond them.
I never questioned the natural world, as I had known it my whole life. I tilled the fields, fished in the lake, panned for gold in the rivers and received berries and mushrooms from the woods. I mined for clay and ore deep in the forest mines.
I followed the guidebooks of our forefathers, left in the Lochmere Library. We all did. And if we found something new, we added it to the library in our own written words. A few of my friends had works in the library, but I was not so lucky.
Everything that I found had already been found. By my father, or his grandfather, or a mother, a grandmother or someone else. The ends of the map had been drawn.
Perhaps that’s why I didn’t cover it back up. Maybe part of me wanted to uncover it.
If that’s the case, then I should probably end it. Maybe then I am also outside of the map, like that damned obelisk and everyone else who found out something far beyond the scope of our azure sphere.
When I was a child, I had a friend named Liam. He never paid attention in the village school. Didn’t want to, it had all been learned before, by others. Let them have the knowledge, James had always told me. I want to find something new.
And he did, my stars and gods, he did. He walked beyond the forest, where nobody had been and found a new field we hadn’t mapped. There was a little flower in the middle of the field. Like a rose, but crystalline. See-through, like cold ocean water in your hands.
And he didn’t scrapbook it, never took it back. It wasn’t enough. He had to voyage.
And he ate the flower.
He was found in the corner of Lochmere, frothing at the mouth. His eyes two red marbles as he dunked his own daemonic head into the waters, over and over. He was trying to drown himself, that much was clear.
Marcel and Shauna pulled him out, as he screamed and begged for death.
He kept crying out numbers, all these numbers. He would point at a goat and make five thin cries, then would turn to the two of my friends, bleating angrily once at Marcel and would not stop bleating at Shauna.
They took him to a cottage where we thought he would be safe, tried to feed him and bathe him, but he refused all foods. He marked the walls with a sigil, over and over. He’d cluck, laugh, burst into tears, tear at his own skin and, eventually, tug at him own bones, snapping them under his wasted frame. He took his thumbs to his own eyes, but still cried out that it was no use.
“I can still hear the numbers!” he cried.
He killed himself later that same month, hanging himself in the rafters of a barn and leaving a strange letter with marks down it, painstakingly kept a small distance from each other. I counted the number, just to try and see if there was anything left.
I had nothing but the edge of the map, whereas Liam had torn straight through, into the beyond. So far, in fact, that it had been too much for him. I didn’t feel jealous. And if I did, I was too busy grieving for my poor friend.
There were three hundred and fifteen marks on the page. I don’t think it means anything.
Five years later, Marcel died, trampled to death by his cattle. He was known for sipping honey wine deep into the evenings whilst herding. A horrible way to go.
Nobody has gone to the field since, but I hear a few kids sneak off. They talk of a crystalline flower field as more have grown. I know not if it has seeds, or if it has spread underground.
Part of me thinks they aren’t even flowers.
I came close to the fields, not as close as the new children who are too young to know bravery but old enough to know of foolishness.
I had wandered down through the brooks, passing Sally and Michael as they wandered the village in their lovely flower dresses. Both were looking forward to the Spring Festival of Rebirth, as they all do in Lochmere.
I headed down to the little river, which bubbled and rippled through the hamlets and towns.
I came across a gaping cave and I wandered inside.
I want you to understand, I had not found anything. In my whole life. I wished to be remembered, kept in the library archive. I remember friends and family sitting in the hallowed seat, a high-backed chair, handed the official stick and official inks and writing inside the books.
It was because I was thinking about this that I made a mistake. If I’d have thought about Liam, even for a fraction of a second considered the name that nobody in the village could even bring themselves to say anymore with even his mother refusing to acknowledge his cursed birth, I would have reconsidered.
Of course I would, wouldn’t I?
The cave went on for some time. I walked through it for at least half of the day.
I remember my heart thumping in my chest as I wandered through the cave, but it slowed down as I realised it was… just a cave. Limestone? Already known. Pumice, stalactites? Known, known! The green lichen we call “Throsh” is known. I see a break in the cave and see daylight pouring through. Using the heft of my axe, I smash the brittle stone out of the way.
I am standing on a section of rock, with the trees deep below me, swaying. I don’t know where I am. I recall the cave twisting downwards, I recall the darkness, but now I have broken through, deep underground. And, above is the sky? It did not make sense at the time.
A forest clearing, far away from the village. The were a grove of willows deep below. Willows are also known, but this section of the forest was not known. I moved towards the grove, noticing that it was surrounded by stones chipped into seats. We know of the stonecutting too, but I was not aware the villagers knew of this place.
My heart sank. But then I noticed something in the middle, obscured by dead vines that had snaked across it.
An obelisk sunk deep into a giant lake. It is dark, and darker still towards the lake. The sunlight feels hidden, oppressed down here.
I look up. I can see the grasses and a river flowing directly above me. There is a miasma, twinkling, and I think of Liam’s flower. The one with no name. The one the library does not mention, and will remove you if you so much as make utterance towards its existence. It feels strange under here. I see clouds, I see sun way above, but they feel further away.
It feels cold. The ground feels harder. More brittle. Breakable.
I don’t move towards the obelisk at first, and instead I wander the willow grove. There’s a small beehive underneath one of the willow trees and I peer in. The hive is non-hexagonal. Just made of concentric circles, overlapping each other. The tree is stained orange by the constantly leaking honey. One of the bees exits the hive. It is giant, two inches in length, it’s buzzing drone seeming… lower. It is coated in honey, but the honey looks wrong. Blackened as if burnt.
It moves around, searching for flowers. I look at the scant ground. It seems to be mostly ash close to the centre of the obelisk. Nothing has grown. It looks as if nothing will ever grow.
The bee settles on a patch near the grasses and finds a daffodil. It climbs into the flower, but doesn’t climb back out.
I walk towards the hive to get a closer look. I can peer inside the tiny holes, but there is little sign of life. Apart from in one cloister, where I can hear a wet slapping and a thin humming.
Inside of it, fifty or so bees are stacked on top of each other.
I thought they were storing honey until I spotted two of them, both barely fluttering inside of the hive. There isn’t much left of either, but they’re both alive.
And they’re eating each other.
I moved away from the hive.
There’s cobwebs on the other trees, but the patterns are unusual. The albino spiders that spin their silk seem to have forgotten how to make a web, instead making thin round circles that interlace lazily. Something about the spiders. Massive, like the bees. You could mistake them for tarantulas.
But their thin broken frames look famished. They look hungry, desperate. Anti-animals, kept alive by sheer will and-
I remember turning to the obelisk at that point. It thrums, and the air seems to oscillate. It’s freezing.
I moved towards it and reached out.
On a Summer’s day, my mother used to squeeze fruits and freeze them over the winter in jugs of sugar and water. As my hand went into the obelisk, I remembered the sweet fruit jellies we used to have.
But it moved.
Icy. Frozen. And yet it moved.
I almost dropped it as it wriggled in my hands, this horrible living thing, but I managed to pocket it and I climbed back up, away from the forest, through the cave, and out to the river brook.
When I made it back to the township, I didn’t tell anyone. I kept it, took it out of my pocket and placed it onto my mantel. I remember lighting a large fire and falling asleep on the rug under the hearth.
When I woke up, it had gone. I didn’t think much of it. I remember a sinking sadness. My small thing, my claim to fame, gone.
Later that day, I found out that Pastor Scrivens had taken it. He ran the local chapel, or used to before Markus had taken over.
We don’t pray, but we congregate. Markus would lead a council session every month where we’d talk about crop yields, community squabbles and seasonal festivals.
Pastor Scrivens was an odd man. Liam’s father, and he took after him in a very queer way.
I was walking up the centre of the road when I saw the chapel door, wide open. Above, hanging by two suspended ropes was Markus. His body was cut open, and his inside hung outside, for all to see.
I remember. I wish I didn’t. I wish I hadn’t woken late, hadn’t walked into the chapel. Hadn’t seen the pastor holding the freezing horror aloft as he stuck a thumb into the jellied mess that squealed and squirmed in his hands as he anointed his new parishioners.
They turned, no longer the people I knew. Michael, Sally, Gary, Henry, they all had the same red marbled eyes. They turned, as one, and I ran.
They gave chase with knives.
I turned as I fled and could see them. See the marks they’d been carving into each others bodies. The sigil of the corrupt web, damned honeycomb, murderous obelisk and now the skin.
At some point they stopped chasing.
Knothaven is a seaside port, it’s known in Lochmere’s Library.
I arrived there sometime later, a few days. A week at most. The days and nights blended together as I ran.
I learned later that it didn’t matter that I knew, the library was ash.
I sit writing this on the edge of the port, the waves gently lapping against my feet. But they have a warmth that soothes me. I like it. The coldness. Of underneath, of the terrible living obelisk, of everything. No more and forever.
I know of some things. A peer beyond the rich tapestry, to see specs like Liam that have gone too far. Knothaven has its own archive. Not as extensive as Lochmere’s but quite full, and with a few older pieces of information, long considered mythos.
Kvar’gin. He rises every millennia. The rotten God inside the hollowed Earth, scaly and bloated, tumescent with knowledge of all. A part pangolin, part snake monstrosity that entwines around itself below the darkened plates of the earth. The crystal-clear scales, the tumorous growths and the Godblood, blinding all those who are exposed.
Blinding them? Or can they truly see something the rest of us cannot? Why are they hostile? Why did they leave the marks?
I hope one day to return to Lochmere, to build up the library and to catalogue the first rock, first blade of grass, first leaf that I find upon return.
But then I think of the villagers, murdering Markus, afflicted with their pagan-like ritual, carefully scarring themselves within their cult-church.
Maybe I won’t go back.
Some nights I cry out in my sleep. I remember Marcel, the three cries Liam had made. Three years and then he died. It could be a pattern, but I doubt I’ll ever see Shauna today. Lochmere is abandoned.
I know where they went, but I don’t want to.
I remember the paper that Liam had left, with those careful marks he had made whilst staring blankly at the ground before he took him own life in the barn.
There were three hundred and fifteen marks on the page. I don’t think it means anything.