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SHORT FICTION: “The South Seas Horror” by London Quinn

The South Seas Horror

Dear reader,

It is with a conflicting mind that I have made the decision to share this tale with you. The story as it has been given to me stretched all credulity, but with the proof at hand, I had no choice but to accept it as truth. Since reading this journal and hearing the remainder of the tale from a survivor, I have been haunted nightly by terrifying dreams. I fear that the only way to achieve peace in my heart is to remove the burden of being the only man in the civilized world who knows what happened to these well-intentioned travelers so many decades ago.

•••

We have been traveling for many weeks on one of England’s most reliable merchant vessels, on our way to New Zealand. “Opportunity!” is what called out to us, the opportunity to have a fresh start in life as well as spread the word of our Lord and savior to the dark-skinned savages of the wilderness.

I studied for years in theology, farming, medicine, and basic science in order to be the seed from which civilization would sprout. I made sure that my sons were also well educated in the practical arts, though I fear they took to some lessons better than others. My dear wife, Elizabeth, has been the foundation stone of this family throughout our journey.

Alas, all seems lost. A storm has tossed us about, causing the ship to veer off course and crash upon some rocks. We have prayed incessantly, and the boys have finally fallen asleep. I must rest, but how can I, knowing that our lives are forfeit?

The South Seas Horror

Through some miracle, we survived the night and the storm. I fear the crew did not, however. Just as I had finished what I thought would be my final entry in this journal, we heard the sailors preparing to board the launches. They decided to take their chances in the storm instead of finding out if the ship would hold together on the rocks. We tried to make it to the boats as well, but just as we approached the final launch, its rope snapped and it tore away from the ship before we could board.

Upon waking, we discovered that the storm had ceased. No hint of the crew could be found. While I should be saddened by their loss, I cannot feel any pity for them. They were in no hurry to ensure we made it to the boats safely and did not try terribly hard to come back and save us. I know that it may be unkind of me to feel this way, but I cannot lie about what is in my heart. The boys and I immediately set about to improve our situation. Using a glass from the Captain’s quarters, we spied land in the distance and commenced to build a raft from kegs and boards. Tomorrow morning we shall strike out and head to the land. Our lot is not so bad, the ship has all of the materials necessary to start a colony, and so long as we can establish a secure camp and our raft holds up, we shall be able to get all of the materials and the livestock to shore over the course of a few weeks.

The South Seas Horror

Deliverance! The raft held up admirably, and we have established a small settlement by the shore. We call our encampment “Tent House,” as our shelter is a tent made from canvas and wood from the ship. We shall want a more secure lodging in the future, of course, but Tent House is more than we had hoped for just a few short weeks ago. No need to go into the mundane trivia, but we were able to unload all useful and practical items from the ship, including the livestock. We were even able to rescue the Captain’s two mastiffs, Turk and Flora, from the wreck, and they have become protectors of the family. The most precious find was a small pinnace, which we can use to explore the coast and make short excursions if need be. Flora is particularly attracted to Elizabeth, often staying by her side for the entire day.

All are in sound health, with the exception of my dear wife. During our escape from the ship, a wave nearly capsized our simple raft, and she took quite a nasty knock on the head. Since we have arrived here, she has begun to have fits sporadically. We are praying that it will pass.

Our boys have rather enjoyed this adventure. Fritz has been merrily turning every bird and creature in sight into something fit for our dinner table, though I must warn him about the risks of depleting our stores of powder and shot too quickly. Ernest has been putting some of the theory he learned to good use, providing instructions on the best and most efficient construction techniques.

Unfortunately, Ernest is much more in love with discovering a solution than implementing it, leaving the actual work to Fritz and Jack. Ernest’s greatest delight has been a trove of books rescued from the ship. Some of the selections which have especially fascinated the boy are books which I am rather unfamiliar with and in some unknown language, but Ernest is taking great joy in trying to make sense of them.

Jack’s boundless energy and zeal for nature has made him the perfect assistant to myself and Fritz. Jack has been quite taken with the sea, and spends every moment that he is not working or asleep on the beach. I actually needed to threaten severe punishment if he continued to spend so much time at night wandering the shore. Frances, being the youngest, helps Elizabeth with her endless woman’s work of cleaning, cooking, and other simple tasks.

The South Seas Horror

Poor Elizabeth! While we toil away with building shelters for the livestock, establishing farms, exploring the island, and other work, she has been barely able to spend some time turning whatever food we bring her into meals or ensuring that the house is properly cared for. If it were not for Frances, there is no doubt that she would be nearly useless to us. What happened to my loving, practical wife?

Even worse, she has been having some of the oddest, impractical notions. She wanted to move from Tent House to a place deeper on the island. Laughably, she thought we should build an entire house in a large tree, and give it the ridiculous name of “Falcon’s Nest.” Who heard of white men doing such a thing, and living like savages or monkeys in the leaves of a tree? And who was expected to do all of the construction, but us men, who are already near the breaking point just trying to handle the daily tasks, as well as picking up Elizabeth’s slack? Most importantly, we must stay at Tent House, so we can see any passing ships and get off of this forsaken island! Moving into this proposed “Falcon’s Nest” would effectively ensure that we stay here forever.

The bedrock of the family has crumbled, and I do not know what to do. I have tried to hide my despair from the boys, but they have been able to see through my mask of stoicism. My worst fear is that Satan himself is working against us, and using the weakness of a woman’s mind as his path. My darling Elizabeth has always been a touch stronger and more useful than most women, but she still shares their overall faults. It is becoming more and more difficult to deny that she may indeed become the tool of the Devil in an effort to break our wills. But we will not shrink in the face of danger, and our prayers will be heard!

What the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away. My family, long the source of joy and pride in my life, seems to be infected with some sort of moral degeneracy. Elizabeth seems to be an entirely different person than she was just a few days ago. Her bizarre flights of fancy have become a mania! She has taken to running around like a spoiled child, barefoot and filthy. She acts out plays with Frances that only she knows the script to. Yet when questioned, she lapses into a near catatonic state, refusing to answer questions and a dull glaze comes over her eyes. When left to her own devices, she spends all day with Frances and Flora, taking to the mastiff as if it were a person.

Elizabeth’s problems may be the most obvious, but I cannot deny that unwholesome changes have occurred in the boys as well.

Fritz’s “hunting” cannot be considered anything other than “slaughter” at this point. Some days he comes back to Tent House with dozens of birds; a disgusting waste of our precious resources. No matter how many times I have explained to him that we cannot make more powder or shot with the resources at hand, he continues to fire that blasted rifle of his at every living creature. He came close to putting a ball through Jack just the other day in his zeal to devoid the island of creatures!

And his temper has become quite fierce as well. Last week he ruined a rifle because he was beating Turk and Flora so badly. If I had not managed to intervene in time, there was the very real risk that they would have retaliated and killed him out of hand. Flora now will not stray from Elizabeth’s side, and it is impossible for Fritz to come close to his mother.

Jack’s attraction to the sea has become an obsession. He continues to go out there every night, doing who-knows-what. My worries have deepened in the last few weeks. I discovered what looks like the feet of savages — and something more sinister — on the beach one morning. I do not know why Jack is going out to the shore, but if there are savages or devil-spawn on this island, we must stay together at night!

The only word that can honestly describe Ernest of late is “slothful.” He refuses to lift a finger to help provide food or shelter for the family, but spends all day buried in a corner with those blasted books. And occasionally his eyes will be filled with a wild fire and he will dash madcap into the woods to procure some flower or herb, or scour the area for a particular rock and bring it back to his workbench. He has taken to locking up his books, and while I cannot read them, I glimpsed one of them and saw a rather unwholesome drawing. I am gravely worried for Ernest’s very soul, but how am I to broach the topic? I may need to apply the belt to him until he confesses, though I would prefer not to.

And Frances… Frances, once our giggling delight, has become as troubled as his mother and puerile as an infant as well. The only way to find Frances is to find his mother, he is as attached to her as Flora is now. He sucks his thumb like a baby and barely speaks anymore to anyone other than his mother, preferring to make grunts or point to what he wants instead of saying so. He has shown other signs of mental and emotional regression as well, though it would be inappropriate to describe those struggles here.

The South Seas Horror

Despair. Loneliness. Heartbreak. More despair. Despair. Despair.

My family have become strangers to me over these months. The Lord has abandoned us, ignored our prayers which have become pleas. We have tried everything. Yesterday I performed a formal sacrifice of a bull and birds and grains, and I have insisted that the family start to follow the strict life as described in Leviticus, but they just laughed at me. Fritz actually told me that I was a foolish old man to believe in the “fairy tales” in the Bible. I was so enraged that I tried to slap him and bring him to his senses, but he easily stopped my blow and humiliated me in front of everyone else. I have been unmanned by my own son!

I WILL NOT LOSE MY FAITH! I will stand strong!

But oh, how these times try us! A storm passed recently, and we lost many of our cattle and our farm was partially wrecked, but with some work, no thanks to Ernest, of course, we were able to mostly restore things to normal. I know that nothing is “normal” anymore.

Every motion in the distance I am sure is a party of savages, who would likely try to do unspeakable things to the boys’ mother if it were not for Turk, Flora, as well as Fritz’ incessant shooting. I have given up trying to stop him from completely wiping out the animal population of the island, I can only hope that we run out of powder and shot before the island runs out of animals.

Jack… Jack… my sweet Jack… I no longer know Jack. His features have become thicker, coarser. His curly blond hair has darkened and become a tangled mess. His voice has not merely deepened, but become guttural. And the things that I hear come from his mouth sometimes! He seems to mumble some other language to himself throughout the day. Strangely enough, Ernest seems to actually understand what Jack is saying.

Ernest’s slothfulness is now putting the entire family’s existence at risk. He refuses to help with critical projects, even after the storm destroyed so much of what we had built. If that was not bad enough, he has started to take critical supplies and materials from our important farming and other projects into his workshop, never to be seen again. His one useful contribution to our survival has been the development of a coconut liquor, which I have found is needed to steady my nerves at times. I have tried to make a rough catalog of what he has taken, and the combinations of materials is disturbing. I fear that Ernest has taken up alchemy. I can no longer pretend that he is merely acting on his former love of science. I discovered that it has been Ernest, not a wild animal, taking our livestock and butchering them, and these killings strikingly follow the phases of the moon.

Elizabeth is simply gone to us at this point. She spends all day in a corner, refusing to clean herself, let alone do anything else. I have taken up her chores in addition to my work and Ernest’s work, and I practically need to force her to open her mouth to eat. If I did not know any better, I would think that the devil is trying to starve her to death. Further complicating things, Flora will barely let me near her to feed her.

If there was any more proof needed that Satan himself lives on this island, I cannot imagine what it would be. We must get off this island! I must save my family!

What more can I do to save the souls of my family? I will not allow Satan to get his hooks in me!

The South Seas Horror

I have been praying throughout the night for days and days, refusing all but the smallest morsels of food, and the Lord has rewarded my faithfulness with a vision of salvation! The rot in our family started with Elizabeth, the weakest and most vulnerable. To cure the family, we must cure her. Satan cannot resist the power of the Lord!

We must perform that most unusual and dangerous of forbidden rites, an exorcism.

The details of this ritual have only been hinted of in hushed tones in my studies, but the Lord has seen fit to provide me with an exact procedure to follow. Much as the surgeon’s leeches and bone saw remove the putrid humours and decaying limbs from the sick to restore them to life, the exorcism will release Elizabeth from Satan’s grip and restore her to her former self.

Of course, Fritz wants nothing to do with this, even though it will save his mother’s life. He says that he will watch and laugh as we fail. Ernest has shown quite an interest in the idea however. It seems as though his strange books are not nearly as unwholesome as I had feared, and actually provide quite a bit of useful information on this kind of ritual. Ernest has become a whirlwind of action preparing to perform the rite. Though some of his preparations are rather different from what I had seen in my vision, he speaks with such authority and passion that I cannot help but to acquiesce to even his most esoteric ideas.

The prospect of delivering Elizabeth from her present hell has readied me for any needed action. Jack has also shown a surprising attentiveness to the preparations. He and Ernest have been spending quite a bit of time together in discussions. If I cannot stop Jack from spending every waking moment at the water’s edge, at least Ernest has been going with him to help protect him in case the savages or the creators of those demonic footprints arrive.

At long last, I feel hope in my breast.

The South Seas Horror

Something has gone wrong, though I cannot say what. My memories of the night before are scant and unreliable. I remember having a few draughts of Ernest’s coconut liquor, and from there all is nearly blank. There are flashes of memory of the ritual itself. A knot on the back of my head speaks to a head injury, and the boys have only said that a storm blew up and a dead tree limb fell and gave me a sharp blow, rendering me senseless. No one has told me more than that, though Ernest assures me that the ritual was correctly performed under his guidance, and that we should see a positive change in Elizabeth’s behavior soon.

The South Seas Horror

Ernest was right! The ritual has indeed produced a change in his mother, though I fear that our work is not complete. Her inane ramblings and wild thoughts have ended, though it now seems as though all thought in her mind has ceased entirely. She has gone from being filled with a fiery madness to have all spark of life completely extinguished. Instead of gamboling with Frances like brother and sister, she hides in a small grotto with Frances and Flora. We have to leave her food outside the entrance of the grotto, as Flora will not let us approach.

The best way we can help her battle Satan is to perform a second, more extreme ritual. Ernest has given me a rough sketch of the details, and I am frightened for our very souls. To draw out and defeat the demon, we must become demons ourselves.

Despair and desperation have driven me to accept a course of action that I would never have even dreamed possible in my wildest nightmares a year ago! But something must be done to save her soul, and to eradicate the influence of the devil within our family. Fritz is quite eager to actively participate in this procedure, despite his previous mockery both of our faith and the initial ritual. I am curious to know what has caused the change in heart, he has shown no other desire to improve his soul.

The South Seas Horror

What beasts we have had to become in order to save ourselves! I had a large draught of liquor and a bottle of wine to soothe my aching nerves, and it must have gone to my head… once the ritual commenced, something triggered a flood of memories from the previous event, and I am unable to believe what happened. No wonder poor Elizabeth has been so scared, the things we did to her — and then repeated last night — would bring all but the stoniest soul to their knees. But yet we persisted.

The things my boys did to their mother on both occasions must never be spoken of. Bestial, craven, disgusting acts. What choice did I have last night but to encourage and even participate in them? Something needed to be done to save her, and something was done! Oh, but the price will be paid in Hell! Frances begged and pleaded with us, but Jack held him and forced him to watch as Fritz, Ernest, and myself did what needed to be done. That cruel, cruel Fritz, I see now why he was so eager to participate and satiate his vile hungers!

Oh! What is to become of us? If this is the depths that we must go in order to save ourselves, I fear that we may not be worth saving. May the Lord protect us in our time of need.

The South Seas Horror

She is gone, and savages have taken her. There have been footprints of many feet leading back-and-forth to Tent House every night since we performed the second exorcism on her. Feet of varying sizes and varying shapes, not all human. I have been afraid not only for myself, but for the boys as well. Jack and Ernest have been taking Frances out at night as well. At first I encouraged it, because it was good to see Frances finally getting out of his mother’s shadow, but now I see what a mistake it was to allow them to be outside at night.

This morning we returned from a few days of exploration, and she was missing as was Francis and Flora. Turk was quick to follow their scent and footprints to the beach, where there were signs of a struggle as well as blood stains in the sand. Our raft is missing as well. I pray that they are merely kidnapped and not murdered! We will set out in the pinnace and try to find any kind of hint where they may be. We must get them back! Who knows what depraved acts the savages may be committing, satiating their disgusting dark blooded lust upon her fair innocence?

The South Seas Horror

Glory be to the Lord! After sailing around the coast, we decided to strike out directly from Tent House, and we saw the raft sailing, with a number of dark-skinned savages in it and what looked like Elizabeth! We followed as best we could, and found the raft on the shore of an island, with a number of tracks all going in the same direction. We will not be deterred! We will not cease our search until we have retrieved what is ours, or exercised vengeance upon these devil spawn savages!

We have a brace of pistols and a musket each, coconut liquor and wine to steel our resolve, Turk, and enough food to last us a week. With God’s grace, we will wipe these savages off the face of the planet.

•••

And here ends William’s journal. If this was all that remained of the traveler’s tale, I would have declared it to be a work of pure fantasy and dismissed it out of hand. On the island, not only was I given William’s journal — I was given the conclusion of the story — from none other than Elizabeth. Her account varies little from the journal on points of fact, but sheds light on this tragedy from a different perspective. All the same, I would dismiss this fantastic story as fiction, but Elizabeth, clearly tinged with madness to this day, furnished irrefutable proof of the validity of her words. I feel that it is best to not share the nature of this proof, but let it suffice to say that I myself nearly descended into the pits of insanity when confronted with the evidence.

The remainder of this account are Elizabeth’s precise words as told to me. I have only edited for brevity, removing unnecessary or immodest details. While it is up to you to determine for yourself if these words are truth in fact or merely truth in perception, I am firmly convinced that Elizabeth herself believed them in her heart of hearts to be accurate and honest.

•••

I never wanted any of this. Not for myself, not for my sons, and not for my family. But who could say no? When William first proposed — nay, declared — that we were to make this trip, he was so full of faith and zeal that there was no denying him. Not that any of us, let alone myself, ever could. He had a way of making sure that you went along with his idea, or you would regret it.

You have read the journal, nothing in it is factually untrue, though William in his madness and pride omitted many details of his own complicity and negligence leading to the tragic events of so many years ago. Honesty had never been one of William’s strengths, and who would be able to confront the facts of what he did? By the end of my account, you may think that I am mad, and I am certain that my mental state has never completely recovered, though I have at least been able to find enough peace to sleep more nights than not.

The South Seas Horror

Since we landed on the island, a horrific change overcame each of us. William’s journal is right that I was filled with delusions and fancies, though the fits I experiences were most likely a result of a severe blow to my head in the storm. I continue to have them despite the distance from the island both in space and time. It was as if the island magnified the worst characteristics in each of us. William’s severe faith enabled him to commit terrifying, bestial acts in the name of God. Fritz’s competitive nature became cruelty. Ernest’s mind turn to foul and horrific topics. Jack became aligned with a bizarre group of monsters from the sea. Frances — my darling Frances — first lost all emotional maturity, and then became a raging infant trapped in the body of a half-grown boy. Their “exorcisms” were nothing of the kind. They were pure, malicious torture, plain and simple. The boys were angry with me — rightfully so since I had abdicated my role as mother — and took their anger out on me in some of the cruelest ways imaginable. The first time, William was drunk, and I suspect drugged as well, but he resisted. Fritz split his head half open to allow Ernest to continue. Both times, they made Frances watch their blasphemous acts, as Ernest led them in a demonic ritual.

There was a theology to Ernest’s work, but it was not of our Lord, I can tell you that! Even more frightening were the creatures that followed Jack from the sea to observe. I immediately saw the resemblance between them and the changes in Jack. Whatever commerce he was engaging with them by the sea, it was not God’s work, that is certain.

Sadly, William was eager to participate. His desperation to find a solution drove him into Satan’s grip, that much is certain. William! If only you had simply summoned the courage to venture out into the pinnace, instead of cowering with fear of the “savages” we could have been off that accursed island and none of this would have happened!

But truthfully, what good there was in William was extinguished after a few months on that island. At the very least, we could have gone farther inland, away from the influence of whatever evil lurked the shores. But William would have none of that. He claimed we needed to be near the ocean to search for a rescue, but truthfully he was too preoccupied with his own phantom enemies to spend much time looking for salvation.

The South Seas Horror

After their second demonic ritual, I vowed to escape with Frances. I made my preparations carefully. I had to wait until they were all away, Jack and Ernest had been going to the beach to commune with the sea monsters, and there was no way to steal away in the raft unless they were not there. Those footprints that had William in such spasms of fear? That was Ernest and Jack with their monstrous partners! There never were any “savages” looking to abduct us. I invented some diversion to put William in a madcap hunt for “savages” and to take the boys with him. As soon as they were gone, I loaded a basket up with supplies, and took Frances and Flora with me.

When we arrived at the raft, Frances understood our mission. Instead of being overjoyed at our departure from this madness, he produced a pistol from his bag and tried to force me back to Tent House. He started to gibber at me in the same guttural tones that Jack had started speaking in, and I realized that the fiendish influence that had twisted Jack had also seized the mind of my youngest son.

In a moment of panic and fright, I set Flora onto Frances. I had no tears left to shed for my sons, knowing long ago that they were dead to me, but all the same I mourned sweet Frances dearly. I put his body on the raft with me weighed it with rocks and stones, and when I was in deep water I cast him off for a burial at sea.

I had no plan on where to go, I felt that it was a miracle to be off the island at all. But the Lord had more miracles in store for me! After drifting for a few hours, I came across a canoe not only filled with native people, but a European as well. His name was Mr. Willis, and after a few moments, we discovered that we both spoke German well enough to communicate. Some of the natives came aboard the raft to help me guide it to their island, while Mr. Willis and the rest went ahead.

While we were sailing to the island, I caught a glimpse of the pinnace. Fear held my heart, but I was surrounded by strong, stouthearted natives who were not unaccustomed to battle. As soon as we disembarked, I warned Mr. Willis of the danger. Long had William primed the boys to wage war against “savages” and there was no doubt that they would land with many guns and supplies.

During the trek inland, I learned more about Mr. Willis. He too had set out to the South Seas to preach Christianity, but he had landed at this island. He found these good hearted people and began teaching them the glory of God. He found a receptive audience for his teachings, and over time had been able to curb their worst habits. While they had always been good natured folk, they blossomed under the guidance of Mr. Willis. They had even made recent efforts to end all wars with the neighboring tribes, and share the bounty of the land peacefully. In truth, many European countries could learn much from these “savages!”

The South Seas Horror

Mr. Willis acted as a translator between myself and the chief. I explained that my husband and sons represented a grave danger to them, and tried to impress upon them the destruction that they could bring with their guns. Mr. Willis was eager to aid in this, not wanting to see any unnecessary bloodshed. To further emphasize the point, a hunting party returned, bloodied and wounded from a struggle with William and my sons. Thankfully, no one was killed, though one was seriously wounded. The chief listened to their depiction of the encounter and saw the need for immediate action.

Armed both with their spears and arrows, and the information I gave them about modern weapons of war, the chief lead a party of fifty men to search out my husband and sons. A day later they returned with their bodies. Mr. Willis and I gave them a good Christian burial. I never could bring myself to hate them, though I hated their actions. I have truly learned the meaning of “love the sinner and hate the sin!” I am glad that their torment is over, as I am convinced that they would never willingly leave that island long enough to shake off its fiendish effects as I have.

I have had to learn how to do that, for otherwise I would be driven to throw myself into the arms of the ocean and drown. I am not free from guilt or sin. After the brutal attacks upon me, I had become pregnant. You cannot imagine the horror and revulsion of not knowing if your husband — or one of your sons — is the father of the child growing within you. I did what I felt that I must do to stop this abomination from entering this world. All the same, when it was done and I held my unborn child in my hands, I mourned deeply, despite the child’s malformed features that proved to me that it would be other-than-human if it lived. That was my baby, the daughter I always wished for, and I killed her out of shame and guilt and necessity.

•••

You will understand, dear reader, why I have burned my ship’s logs from this portion of my journey, and refuse to share with a living soul the location of either of these two islands. It would be best for all if they sunk beneath the deep ocean waters for eternity, but until that happens, I can only play my part in concealing them. 

I found Elizabeth living amongst some native tribesmen, hardly the “savages” that William feared. While primitive in their ways, lacking in science, agriculture, and arts, they had a simple, pure Christianity taught to them and lived in a natural state of innocence and purity. It was clear that they cared for Elizabeth, and that she would want for nothing while staying with them, and they expected nothing in return. Though I offered her an escape from the island she chose to remain there for her final years, and I cannot fault her decision.

Captain John Wilcox
London, 1849


“The South Seas Horror” © 2015 London Quinn. All rights reserved.

 Bio:

London Quinn has been writing non-fiction since 2005 and has recently started diving into speculative fiction. Major fiction inspirations are Lovecraft, Howard, P.K. Dick and Frank Herbert.

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Published on: February 18, 2015

Filled Under: Featured, Short Stories

Views: 2451

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