Author's note: The inspiration for the city of Delphia, Antarctica came to me after reading the blog of Ralph Robert Moore. He wrote a fake travel guide for Antarctica, and listed several cities. Mr. Moore presented Delphia as the most believable, before the examples became gradually more exaggerated. I remember being really intrigued by the idea of such a place. Of course, Mr. Moore's Delphia was written up as a pleasant city that welcomed visitors. My version of Delphia, well, let's just say that it's a lot less tourist friendly.
This story is the prequel to the Tobit series of works, and should be read as the first story in the series.Enjoy
Dreams of Cold Places
I was standing in a frozen wasteland. Nothing but white for miles around me. Snow, ice, freezing winds, but most of all, complete and utter isolation. I stood in one place and turned in a circle, looking everywhere for signs of life. Nothing... nothing at all.
Suddenly I see something in the distance, a small red and black, slightly human shape, and it's moving towards me with fierce speed. As it closes in, I see its head, a horrid, blood red goat head, with three eyes, two in the normal spots and one dead center in its forehead. It is screaming in a horrid, high-buzzing pitch. I try to run but cannot move. It reaches me, pounces on me and begins to strangle me. In its terrifying buzzing voice, it whispers over and over again: Delphia... Delphia... Delphia.
I awoke with a gasp. After a moment or two, reality sets back in. I am in my bedroom. I am in New Orleans, safe. I looked out my window and saw the cityscape pressed against the night sky. The high-rise buildings with their lights, the noise of the traffic on the street below me, even the muffled conversation of my neighbor talking on his phone... it brought reality back to me in a crash. I was home and safe, that white, frozen nightmare, just a dream. The image of the red and black goat-thing, though, that stuck with me for a while. Eventually sleep found me again.
Plans and Mistakes
Two weeks later I was sitting at a street café with my friend Sergio. Sergio's father owned a yacht, and since our first day of college together, Serge and I had spoken non-stop about taking that yacht out on the open waters. Sailing from the Gulf of Mexico, down the coast of South America, and then back again.
"So, is your dad really going to go for it, Serge?"
"Yep, we graduated on time, with the right GPA. That was his end of the deal. I asked him last night, and after he studied over my transcripts for about an hour, he agreed that we could take the boat out for our cruise."
This was to be our defining moment. Right after college but before going into the work force. Our last chance to be crazy kids before settling down into a lifetime of pushing papers and being adults.
We pulled out our map and began to plot our course again for the millionth time. The boat was docked in Biloxi, MS. We would leave there and just sail south. We had enough supplies locked down to make the trip a breeze. We had all the right port cities marked off to stop at and party. This was going to be an amazing journey.
We both stocked up on personal items. I brought my portable gaming devices and plenty of batteries. Of course we both had our cameras. Serge was more of a reader, and he stocked up on large novels and other books. Most were just the standard Stephen King type books; however, one he had to go to a special book store in the French Quarter, called Esoterica, and order.
I only saw the book once before we set sail. It was a paperback, nothing fancy; however, it had no title, no author, nothing on the spine. I asked him what it was for, and he responded that it was,
"For the journey."
He wouldn't go any further about it, and honestly I really didn't care. The only thing on my mind at that time was setting sail.
Three days later we were sitting at a Starbucks in downtown Biloxi, waiting on the call from the marina. Serge's dad had hired a professional crew to ensure that every inch of the boat was in top notch condition. Serge was being strangely quiet for once. He was writing numbers on his napkin. I asked him what was up, and he just shrugged, told me he was thinking, and promptly tossed the napkin in the trash.
Shortly afterwards, we received a call from the dock crew, telling us that our yacht was all set. We had left our cars in a pay-lot for safe keeping in Biloxi, and would pick them up in about five weeks, when the round trip was complete.
Upon arrival at the marina, we loaded up our personal belongings, conducted a quick safety brief with the dock crew, checked our essentials one last time, and finally, after four years of waiting and talking, we set sail.
To tell a little about this yacht, it was pretty much a floating house. Needless to say, Serge's dad was rich. We both had private bedrooms on this boat; it had a fully functional kitchen, a 62" television with a mounted satellite for all the channels, all the gaming consoles on the market, tons of food, and a respectable amount of emergency supplies. We had dried rations similar to military MRE's and enough bottled water to drown a whale.
Journey to Damnation
The start of the journey was everything I had been hoping for. We took turns at the wheel, pretending that we were the captain of some great expedition. We drank too much when the sun began to set, and spent the evening laughing and telling stories like kids at a sleepover.
We sailed south and stopped at several port cities in Mexico. We ate good food, met exotic women and really thought that we were men of the world. We hit Brazil next, stopping in a couple of spots to refuel and resupply. This would be our last stop for a few days, until we planned to stop over in Uruguay. Brazil was fun; I ended up meeting a woman and spent the night in some seedy motel. Sergio returned to the yacht, saying that he wanted some time to himself. I thought nothing of it.
That was when I believe the trouble started.
The next morning I returned to the boat, ready to set sail south again. When I entered the main cabin, a strange smell hit me. Something had been burned in here- maybe a candle, I wasn’t able to tell. I noticed Sergio stowing his mystery book in his footlocker. He said that he was ready to go, so away we went.
The trip between Brazil and Uruguay was strange. Serge barely spoke to me. I was starting to wonder if I had done something to offend him. This was out of character for him to be so quiet. One night, over dinner, I decided to try and break the silence.
“Serge, are you good, man?” I asked.
“I am,” he replied.
“It’s just that you haven’t said much… were you trying to score with that chick in Brazil? Did I step on your game, bro?” I asked, trying to break the mood with levity.
“No man, she was all yours,” he grunted.
“Okay, just, stop being so damned quiet; it’s weird to be out here on the open waters with you acting like a deaf mute.”
He grunted some quick response and went no further. He tossed his meal and walked back to his cabin. This was getting on my nerves. All this way from home, and stuck with a guy who was having an emo moment all of a sudden.
Once we made it to port in Uruguay, I made it my mission to get him out of his shell. Honestly, I felt I had to do something. He hadn’t been sleeping much; he wasn’t eating much either. His silent act wasn’t improving; he was slowly becoming more and more reclusive each day. I thought perhaps he was home sick or maybe even experiencing cabin fever.
The port city in Uruguay was alive with activity. There was a cruise ship docked there with folks from the United States, and a few of us became quick friends over drinks. I thought this would be a nice touch of home for Sergio. However, when I invited him out with us, he declined. Once again it seemed I would have to get supplies and go out without my friend from home. I was annoyed, and after downing a couple stiff drinks at a port restaurant, I decided I was going to call him out on his attitude. He was either going to lighten up and start having fun, or I was going to turn the boat around here and sail back to Biloxi, cutting the trip in half. That would be better than spending another few weeks with a pretend deaf mute that hid out in his cabin all day.
I stormed back to the boat, full of liquid courage. When I entered the main cabin, it was empty. Perhaps he had gone into town anyway. I cracked open the door to his cabin though, and saw him sleeping.
“Be careful, Serge; don’t have too much fucking fun on this trip,” I whispered in a harsh voice, before shutting his door.
That is when I noticed his footlocker was open slightly. I was bored and I was angry, so I didn’t think twice about invading his privacy. Opening the locker, I saw that most of his dried foods were untouched. His paperbacks that he had brought to read were still in perfect, unopened condition. All except one, that is. That weird black book he bought from the occult gift shop in the French Quarter. I could tell, just by looking at the front cover, that he had been using it a lot. I had to know what was going on in there.
Opening the book, I saw that all the pages had originally been blank, like a journal. However, Serge had been a busy boy, and most of the pages were now covered in his handwriting. Most of it was just numbers. Upon further examination, I realized they were grid coordinates. Okay, nothing strange about that really. We had been plotting grids for weeks before this trip. I almost put the book back, when I saw a word scrawled over and over again, mixed in with the grids:
I knew that word from somewhere, but was having a hard time placing it. It was richly familiar to me, but only somewhere deep in the back of my mind. I was sitting there, trying to place it, when the book was suddenly snatched from my hand.
Serge was awake.
“Messing with my shit?” he asked with no humor.
“Yeah, dude. You’ve been acting like a fucking freak since we left for this trip. I’m tired of spending all my time in the ports alone, doing all the work, while you sit your ass in bed all day.” I was gradually working up a temper, and I knew I had to rope it in.
“Don’t go through my stuff again, Derrick,” he replied, again, with no humor.
“What is going on with you, man?” I asked him, trying to restore some civility.
“Stay out of my footlocker, Derrick, last warning,” he said flatly, before slamming the locker and placing a padlock on it. After that, he began walking back towards his cabin.
“Okay, this trip is over. After we refuel in the Falklands, we’re turning around and heading back north. I’m done with this,” I stated firmly.
He stopped and turned around. What he said next chilled me. Not because of what he said, but how he said it, and the look on his face. No humor, no friendship. He addressed me like a stranger.
“Derrick, don’t fuck with me. This trip is over when it’s over. Don’t piss me off again.”
We sailed the rest of the way to the Falklands without a word between us. We arrived at port, and as usual, I did all the work. I almost thought of leaving him there. Just finding another way home. I could rent a ride back to Uruguay and just fly back to New Orleans. However, he was still one of my best friends, and whatever he was going through, I didn’t want to just abandon him out here in a strange land.
More fools us.
The next day everything went wrong.
We were supposed to continue south, sail around the horn of South America, and then resume north, stopping in Chile and then Peru. That never happened.
I had fallen asleep, amazed when Sergio had agreed to captain the ship for a while. I have no idea how long I was out, but when I woke up, even within the confines of the cabin, I could feel the temperature had dropped quite a bit.
I wandered out to the deck and was greeted by a harsh chill. Looking around, I could see no land for miles. We had been staying close enough to the coast of South America that you could almost always see the land during the day. This time, all I saw was blue, frigid water for miles in all directions. Sergio was driving the boat.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“We’re almost there, Derrick,” he answered.
“Where, Chile?” I responded.
“Delphia,” he replied.
That word again. I could almost place it, my mind was right there, but still, a gap prevented me from totally recalling what it meant.
“Where is that?” I asked.
“It’s the birthplace of all,” he said with no emotion.
“What does that even mean?” I was speaking with caution now. If Serge really was taking us off course, then perhaps he had snapped. This was no quarter life crisis.
I decided at that point that I didn’t want to see. I really was done with this. I checked our GPS, and sure enough, we were way off course. From what I could tell, we were sailing away from South America, towards Antarctica. What could he possibly want there? We had discussed this trip so many times, and the one thing we were both adamant about was staying the course. After all, this was a luxury yacht, not an Ocean Liner. We weren’t equipped to go that far. We had only brought minimal cold weather clothing, nothing thermal enough for Antarctica. With the way he was acting, I had no idea what he wanted to go there for anyway.
Enough was enough.
I am no tough guy by any stretch, but I walked up on him and tried to pull him off of the wheel.
Sergio turned to me first, holding his dad’s pistol. I didn’t even know we'd brought it.
“Back off, Derrick,” he commanded in a voice I didn’t know he owned.
“Are you fucking serious, are you really holding a gun on me?” I shouted back at him.
“We aren’t changing course, go back to the cabin,” he replied, again, with no emotion.
I decided to try and approach him anyway. He was one of my best friends, someone I had known since high school. Surely he wouldn’t shoot me. However, no sooner did my leg begin to twitch in his direction than he fired a shot. Right next to me. I saw the bullet make a small splash in the water to my right.
“Last warning, return to the cabin.”
What could I do? Even if he shot me by accident out here, we were hundreds of miles from a hospital. All I could do at this point was wait, and hope that he regained his senses before this went too far. I decided to go back below deck and give him some space.
At some point I dozed off. I woke up some hours later, amazed that I had fallen asleep under such conditions. What I awoke to was worse than any nightmare my sleeping mind could have produced.
Sergio was still up top. I ventured carefully on deck, amazed at the sharp chill that had intensified during my nap. Serge was sitting on the deck, surrounded by candles, sitting in a strange symbol that he had drawn in chalk. He was chanting something. I couldn’t make anything out, except for the word Delphia; there it was again. He would chant a string of something in that strange language, and then whisper Delphia.
I didn’t see the gun. Still, I approached slowly.
“Serge, what’s this all about?” I asked carefully.
“We’re almost there,” he answered, smiling for the first time since Brazil. “Delphia, the birthplace of all. I hope to see you at the Ceremony of Hyraaq Tobit.”
I had no interest in his gibberish.
“Where’s the gun?” I asked.
“Here,” he replied, and raised it from behind his back.
“Will you give it to me?” I inquired, trying my best to sound level, to not show the fear that was growing within me by the second.
“In a moment. I just wanted to thank you for being my friend. Maybe we can meet up in Delphia, maybe you’ll be invited to the ceremony. Look for the church, Derrick.”
I opened my mouth to ask what he was talking about, but in that moment, Sergio, one of my closest friends, raised the pistol to his head.
“All hail Hyraaq Tobit, all hail Delphia, Capital of Creation.”
With those words, the gun fired, and Sergio’s dead body slumped to one side.
In the distance I thought I saw lights suddenly come aglow. However, my mind wasn’t on that. My mind was on one of my best friends, whom I'd just witnessed commit suicide.
The next few hours were a blur of confusion and terror. Sergio was dead. I moved his body down to his cabin and covered him up. I activated the emergency beacon on our GPS and attempted for hours to radio for help. It was no good though; we were too far out.
As if this nightmare couldn’t get worse, I also discovered that Sergio had tampered with the boat somehow. The engines were cold. Try as I might, I couldn’t get them to power back up. I was adrift. I could only pray that someone would pick up the emergency signal and send help.
In the meantime, I began to gather up all the cold weather clothing we had brought. The temperature was dropping as we were closing in on the coast of Antarctica. Worse, I had no way to stop the yacht from simply crashing into an iceberg and mooring on the shoreline itself. I wasn’t prepared to handle this. All of our emergency plans had revolved around the idea of breaking down near the coast of South America. I didn’t know if I should attempt dropping the anchor and remaining out here in this frozen sea, or try to drift to land. I didn’t know much about Antarctica, but I knew there were science stations that operated year around there. If I could find one of those, I could get help.
I was freaking out, and the panic was building to the point where I knew I was no good to myself. Serge had been prescribed Valium a few months back for his insomnia. I needed to calibrate. I dug around in his footlocker until I found the bottle. Thank God there were a few in there. I popped a Valium and hoped that it would ease my mind down.
It hit me hard. Within the hour I dozed yet again. When I awoke, we had made landfall.
From what my GPS was telling me, we were on the shores of Antarctica. Sure enough, miles and miles of white tundra. I opened up Serge’s book and began to compare the grids that he had jotted down. Seems like this was his plan all along. He was planning to bring us here from the start. The grids added up. Why though?
The yacht wasn’t going anywhere. It moored hard. I wouldn’t have the means to tow it back out into the open waters. The only thing I could do was try to find a science station. Which seemed ridiculous, considering how many thousands of miles there are out here, and seeing as I had no clue where any of the stations were.
I tried the radio again. It was my only hope.
“Any station on this net, any station on this net, my name is Derrick Reynolds, I am stranded on the shore. My friend and I were on a cruise from New Orleans, Louisiana. Our yacht is moored. If anyone reads this transmission, please send help.”
I honestly didn’t expect any reply. I was just going through the motions. That is, until a voice replied over the net.
“Come to Bannister Church,” the voice replied.
“Last calling station, thank God, I thought I was dead here. Where is the church?”
I was expecting grids, but the raspy voice gave me some very simple directions. I never thought too much on how he knew where I was. I figured he must have me on his GPS.
“Walk north along the coast. Stay in sight of the coast. We are only a kilometer from you, maybe less. Come quickly.”
I never questioned this. I assumed it was the science station, although why they would direct me to a church was mind boggling. The idea that there actually was a church on the shores of this icy tundra was even more amazing. However, when your life is hanging in the balance, you tend not to ask questions. You just survive.
I packed a small backpack with essentials. I also brought Serge’s gun. At the time I was worried about animals or something on my way to this church. I also figured I could use it as a signal if I became too lost. I looked in on Serge one last time.
“Sorry this happened, Sergio. Whatever was happening in your head… I wish you had just told me, asked for help, something, besides this.”
That was the closest thing to a eulogy I could produce under this stress. I carefully climbed off the boat and was now standing on the shores of Antarctica. I began to walk briskly north.
The weather wasn’t as harsh as I had expected. It was summertime, and I knew that had we landed here in the winter, it would probably be almost 80 degrees colder. I counted that as a blessing. I walked on for a ways, and finally, in the distance, I saw the small building, standing defiantly against the white background that is Antarctica.
The church was tiny. Certainly not inspired by western architecture. It was a narrow building, barely one room from the looks of it. There was a sign out front with arrows pointing in all directions. Probably someone’s idea of a joke. I found the door to be unlocked. I entered.
The inside was tiny. Just two pews and a small altar. No one seemed to be here. Still I called out; perhaps there was a basement that I couldn’t see. No answer though. I looked around the tiny room, even checked up into the attic. Nothing up there. My biggest fear was that I had taken too long to get here, and whoever called me on the radio had left out. Wouldn’t that be the best? Find a rescuer in the middle of nowhere, just to have them ditch you.
As a last minute thought, I figured I would duck my head out of the back door of the church. Honestly I saw no point, since I had seen the entire area around the church before I arrived. Yet, maybe there was a small shed back there, or a heating tent that I had simply missed.
When I opened the back door, I almost fell over. What I saw was beyond imagination.
I was in a city.
There were people, there was music, there were children laughing. I stepped out of the church, and into air that was much warmer than I would have expected anywhere here. It was still chilly, but it had more a pleasant winter afternoon feel to it.
The city I was standing in had an exotic look to it that, at the time, I could only describe in my mind as Icelandic. Not sure if that makes sense, but that is what popped into my mind, both by the style of architecture and dress of the locals. It didn’t take long for them to notice me either.
“Look, mom, a visitor at the door!” shouted a young child, clearly excited to see a new face.
Several men in uniforms began to walk towards me. The uniforms were somewhat similar to an old style police uniform, just a simple black coat with a single star. They didn’t appear to have weapons.
“Sir, by which means did you come to our city?” asked one of the officers.
“I just walked through the church,” I answered.
“Oh, you entered through the Mendez Gate, Third from Seven on the side of Chismi,” said the officer, as though any of that was supposed to make sense to me.
“Officer, my boat is wrecked about a mile south from here on the shore. My friend is dead, and his body is still on the boat,” I informed the officer.
“Of course, sir. We are aware of your wreck and have already sent a party down to retrieve the body. Suicides are never easy, right, sir?”
“Officer, thank you, this has just been a crazy sort of…” My mind trailed for a second.
How did he know Serge’s body was on the boat? Had I told them on the radio? I couldn’t remember.
“Sir, we have to register all visitors to our city. Do you have identification papers?” asked one of the officers.
“Oh sure, let me just get it out.”
I reached for my wallet, and in doing so, knocked loose the pistol that had been tucked into my waistband.
As soon as it hit the ground, both of the officer’s eyes became wide.
“Unauthorized tool!” screamed the first cop.
Everything went a little crazy after that.
“Sir, come with us!” stated the officers, stern and with no trace of that friendly tone that had just been there.
“Wait, what happened, I just brought it in case…”
I felt a strong arm grip the back of my collar.
“Sir, no more questions, we must go see the Magistrate.”
I thought of running, but it occurred to me that every single eye in this city was on me. Plus, where would I run to? Back to my moored ship? Out into the thousands of miles of tundra? I figured this was a simple violation of some rule. Certainly they wouldn’t be so harsh to someone who has never been here before. I just needed a chance to tell my story, and then they would help me.
I was still the fool.
I was escorted through town on foot. There didn’t seem to be a car in this entire city. Now, while there were no glass walled skyscrapers here, this was still a very urban place. Old stone buildings, some of which looked to be at least 60 stories tall, loomed to my left and right. I saw restaurants, street vendors, something I was sure was a hospital, and a huge cathedral that made the Saint Louis Cathedral in New Orleans look like a country church. It was Gothic in style, with torches lit all over the building. On top I saw some sort of gargoyle; at least, that is what I thought it was. Upon closer look though, it seemed to have the head of a bull, or maybe a ram. Things were happening too fast.
We arrived at what I assumed to be a courthouse. As I turned back to look at the city once more, I could have sworn the horned ram statue on the top of the church turned its head down to look at me. Impossible, right?
I had been placed in a small room with a wooden desk. I wasn’t handcuffed, nor had I been charged with any specific crime. I was simply placed in the room and told to wait.
A man entered finally. He wore black and green robes, and yes, as if for the grandest of effect, he wore a powdered wig. He was of average height. Middle aged. Thank God, he was smiling at least.
“I am Magistrate Craven, and you are Derrick Reynolds, correct?”
“Yes, sir. May I ask what is going…”
He cut me off.
“You live at 522 Tulane Avenue in New Orleans, Louisiana, correct?”
“Yes, sir. May I please ask what is…”
Again, he cut in.
“You were on a voyage with your friend, when you became stranded on our shores. You called out for help on your radio and you were led here, correct?”
I was becoming agitated now. My friend was dead, I was stranded here, and this guy only seemed concerned about discussing facts we already knew.
“Yes, SIR!” I responded loudly. “Now, can we please discuss helping me out? I am stranded thousands of miles from home. Is there some way I can use a phone, or send my parents an email? Something?”
“Unauthorized tools, no phone, no email, especially no guns. You violated our rules already when you entered town. Would you be so brash as to violate them further, and in front of the City Magistrate?”
He was no longer smiling.
I decided to come clean with him. I told him all about Serge’s suicide. The ritual that he conducted. How he intentionally damaged the yacht. I apologized for violating their customs. I told them that I only brought the gun in case I needed to send a signal.
My honesty seemed to sedate his rage a bit. His smile returned slightly.
“Mr. Reynolds, we understand that newcomers often have trouble adapting to our ways here. All is forgiven. However, as far as getting you back home, that may prove to be a challenge. We don’t communicate with the rest of the world. While there are cruise ships that pass near here on occasion, and there are some science stations dotted on our continent, we have no means of reaching out to them. I am afraid that, much like your ship, you are moored here in Delphia.”
That name. This is what Serge was talking about. Is this where he wanted me to wind up? Suddenly I was hot, despite the cool temperature all around me. I tried to hide my feelings from the Magistrate. I wasn’t sure about him, and I certainly wasn’t sure about a city where your friend chants its name right before blowing his brains out.
“What about the radio? Someone from the city here responded to me. Can’t you use that radio to call one of the science stations, or maybe even a passing ship?”
His smile faded again.
“We are conducting an investigation into who used a radio here in Delphia. Such devices are unauthorized.”
My heart sank. At first it seemed that I was saved when I walked into this city. Now it seems that these people are not only unable to help me, but are also unwilling.
“We have arranged a room for you at the Cathedral. Father Madison is happy to assist you in learning your way around. I think, in time, you will find Delphia to be a place of wonders.”
I began to develop a rage; I had to will myself to remain calm.
“I don’t want to stay in Delphia. I want to go home. Please!”
The Magistrate smiled, as he turned to leave the room.
“Mr. Reynolds, you are home.”
Two uniformed guards entered, and escorted me to the Cathedral without a word. I tried to talk to them, to ask them for help, but they ignored my words.
The inside of the Cathedral was amazing. It was huge, the size of an arena easily. At least 200 pews lined each side of the church, with each pew itself being long enough to easily seat several dozen people. I only describe this to give you an idea of just how vast this place was. The ceiling was easily two hundred feet above, decorated with strange paintings.
I had little time to actually examine them as I was being shuttled through the vast room, but I was able to glance at that strange goat-head creature. The image was the goat-thing standing over a naked woman. The woman was eating what appeared to be rotten fruit.
The men escorted me through a small door near the main altar, which opened into a large, oak walled hallway. This hall seemed as though it could go on forever. They selected a door and moved me briskly into a bed chamber that reminded me of a monk’s cell. Just a bed and a simple night stand.
“Father Madison will be in to see you shortly,” grunted one of the officers, before shutting the door and leaving me alone with my thoughts.
The Brave Sailor Timothy Vanburen
I have no way of knowing exactly how much time passed. The door was locked from the outside. I paced the room, sat on the bed, paced some more, and finally began to hear some signs of life out in the hallway. Voices, two men speaking, I couldn’t hear their words through the thick oak walls very well. I thought I heard something like “the masking” but that could have been my imagination. Eventually it sounded like one of the men walked off. Then I heard the sound of a key opening my door. I braced myself for whatever was next.
A man entered my room. He was dressed in a plain brown robe with a simple satin rope binding it at the waist. He appeared to be in his early thirties.
“Hey, what is going on here? Why am I being locked inside of a church?” I demanded.
“You are in great danger, so listen, because I will only have time to tell you this once,” responded the man.
I fought the urge to demand more answers, but opted to listen. I suppose you could say he had my undivided attention when he started his sentence with “great danger.”
“My name is Timothy Vanburen. I have been trapped here in Delphia for almost 70 years. Yes, I know my age defies that, but if you understood the dark magic that governs this place, you wouldn’t question such a thing.
"Close to 100 years ago, Antarctica was sought after by many countries. People wanted a piece of this land, either to civilize or to militarize. Many expeditions were made here, by many different nations. I am from Wales. We made our journey here in hopes of planting our flag and perhaps developing a port. Of course, none of us knew exactly how harsh the winters here really could become. Most of us realized early on that the idea of having a city here was ridiculous. However, our captain claimed that he knew a way, a way that we could live here, thrive here and build here. He claimed that he had spoken with a monk, and that monk had told him of a ritual that would unlock the true heart of Antarctica, known as the Capital of Creation, Delphia.
"We landed on the shores of Antarctica, and found that our captain had committed suicide. Most of us decided that the best course of action would simply be to sail home. However, the First Officer deemed that a waste of resources. He wanted to report something of value back to our leaders. So, we set out on foot, intending to conduct a survey of the area. That is when we came across the small church, the one you no doubt entered this cursed place through. We intended only to use the church for warmth, to spend the night and then return to our ship. That night, though, we heard music, singing, talking… life, on the other side of the church walls. We opened the rear door, and found this place. We were amazed of course. An entire city, surviving here in this harsh tundra.
"They welcomed us the same way they welcomed you. All smiles at the very start. Then they found something on one of the men. I cannot even recall what it was now, but they called it an unauthorized tool and we were taken into custody. Two of the men fought back. We were brave and proud naval officers after all. It did no good though. We were over powered and taken. I never saw the two sailors that fought back again. I was taken here to this very church. I was told that I would attend the 'masking', whatever that might be. What it was… well, it was Hell brought to earth.
"They gathered in the cathedral out there, must have been over a thousand in there. That is when I saw our captain. His body was dragged up to the altar. Whatever black religion these people practice here, they began to chant, all of them in black robes. A large boar’s head was brought forward, and forced over my captain’s head. When it was secured in place, I saw the most amazing thing. His legs and arms began to twitch and flail. Suddenly he stood up, screaming and clawing at the mask. The men restrained him, and he eventually calmed. He was led away, with the boar head still on.
"The next day I saw him again, without the mask. He was walking about like nothing happened, as though he had not slit his own throat just a couple days prior. He was changed though. He wasn’t the same man I once honorably served under.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, speaking for the first time in what seemed like eons.
“They eat flesh. Not during the day. During the day, this place almost seems normal. At night though, they eat flesh. I watched the captain eat the throat of a woman. They all do. It is the most terrible when you see the children eating human flesh. Their mouths covered in blood, their eyes greedy.”
With that, Timothy stood up and moved towards the door, placing his ear to the oak, just to ensure we were still alone.
“It was I who called you on the radio. The church has claimed many items from those that come here. It took me some time to figure out how to use it, but now I think it can save you, and maybe save my soul. I am sorry for calling you here. My intention was to meet you at the small church and provide you with supplies, but Father Madison became suspicious and I had to return to the Cathedral. However, sometimes I hear other transmissions on this device. Cruise ships perhaps or maybe even naval vessels. If you can escape here, get out to the shore, you may be able to radio for help. We must move fast though, as they intend to do a masking ceremony tonight. These people become feral on most any night, but on nights of masking, they will become all but pure beasts. You will be given only two choices, swear yourself to Hyraaq Tobit, their dark god, or die. I was a coward. I chose to swear to Tobit and live. Now I can never leave this place. However, maybe there is hope for my soul; if I can help you avoid this damned fate.”
He handed me the radio, which looked like a slightly advanced walkie-talkie. I figured it must be a satellite radio or something.
Timothy slowly cracked open the door and peered into the hallway.
“Okay, all clear. We are going to exit through the main cathedral. People will be gathering for the Masking Ceremony. There will be a lot of activity, people coming and going, settling in. I think we can use that to our advantage. Once we are out in the city, move quickly towards the small church. Since you haven’t been sworn to Tobit, you will be able to leave.”
“Wait, just answer me this. What is this place, and who is Tobit?”
Timothy grimaced in annoyance.
“I’ll tell you on the way, come now!”
We made our way down the hallway, moving slowly but with purpose. Timothy whispered quick details as we advanced.
“Hyraaq Tobit is their fallen god. He is said to have fallen from above, and built his kingdom right here. He created Delphia, but had no followers. So he waited, waited for ships to become lost at sea, and would lure them here. Over time, he assembled followers, and allowed them out into the world, with the sole purpose of sending more to him, to fuel his never ending hunger. I have no doubt that my captain fell victim to one of his followers, as I am also quite sure that your friend had a similar encounter. They plant the command deep within their minds, to seek out this place. The only way to open Delphia though is through a sacrificial ritual. Suicide seems to be the preferred method. The one that performs the ritual is brought here and 'masked', becoming permanently bound to Tobit. Those that wander here afterwards, people like you and me, are given the option to swear our souls to Tobit, and live here forever, or die.
"Now, no more talking; we must move.”
We had arrived at the small door leading out into the main cathedral, when it suddenly occurred to me; Sergio was going to be masked.
“I have to help my friend,” I said bluntly.
“You cannot help him. He performed the ritual, he opened Delphia. He will be masked.”
I felt rage build inside of me, rage against the evil city, rage against my own friend for doing this and rage that I knew that I couldn’t help him. Timothy was putting his life on the line to save me. I wanted to help Sergio, but the time to play hero was gone. I could have helped Serge when I noticed his downward spiral. Yet I chose to sit in Brazil and drink and sleep around. As selfish as I felt, I knew I had to focus on my own survival.
The Masking Ritual
Timothy led me out into the Cathedral, and as he had mentioned before, it was filling up with people. They still appeared normal at first glance, but as I looked deeper into their faces, I saw that greed in them. There was an energy in this room, a very negative energy. I imagined this is what it felt like to be surrounded by sharks in the water.
The plan was actually going well at first; we were weaving through people, slowly but surely making our way to the grand doors that led out into the street. When suddenly a hush fell upon the place. We had been so busy trying to move with strategy, that we failed to notice the people taking their seats. We made it all the way to the rear pews, when the room went silent. Timothy grabbed my wrist and whispered,
We sat. The Ceremony of Hyraaq Tobit was beginning.
A man, dressed in black robes, entered in from behind the altar. He was tall and gaunt, but still projected a power about him. I glanced behind us and saw that the doors had been shut.
“We’ll make our move once the ceremony starts. People will become enthralled and won’t be paying any attention to us, but we will have to move fast,” whispered Timothy.
Father Madison began his unholy sermon.
“People of Delphia, tonight we gather once more to perform our sacred Ceremony of Hyraaq Tobit. Tonight another disciple has come forth, having executed the Ritual of the Seeing, and having once again opened our city to the world.
"Tonight we shall revel in the Spirit of Tobit. We shall consume as we were intended by the Creator to consume. Man consumes Man, Woman consumes Woman, and our Father, He of the Depths from Above, He of the Darkest Stars, He, Whom we must all offer Communion upon, will consume from us. As it was intended, as it shall always be.”
“As it shall always be!” responded the thousands attending.
Madison looked over to one of his fellow robed fanatics.
“Is our newest disciple prepared?”
The hooded man nodded.
I noticed something covered in white linens being brought to the altar.
“Close your eyes, you do not wish to see this,” urged Timothy. How I wish I had listened.
Once on the altar, the linen was removed, revealing Sergio’s lifeless corpse. I tensed my hands into fists and began to stand. Timothy restrained me.
“Don’t be a fool. You cannot stop this.”
Madison began the ritual.
“Hyraaq Tobit, He of the Void, Master of our Lives, Owner of our Souls, Molder of our Minds. We give to you a new soul, who gave his life to you willingly, through your sacred ritual. We ask that you accept him.”
“Accept him!” shouted the entire church.
The head of a goat was brought forward. Seeing that brought back the memory of a dream. The dream where I was out in the snow, in some barren place, being attacked by such a being.
I bit down on my fist to keep from screaming at them. I wanted to turn away, but my eyes were locked on.
The goat head was forced onto Sergio’s body. Madison began chanting in some unknown language. People in attendance continued to scream “Accept Him!” over and over again.
Suddenly Serge’s legs began to twitch, his arms began to twitch. Madison screamed for him to rise, an order that my friend followed. Yet he still twitched and stammered around the altar. Two hooded men stepped forward and steadied him on his feet.
“He has been accepted! All praise Delphia, all praise Hyraaq Tobit!!” Madison screamed this last command, setting the entire church into a frenzy of cheering, chanting and screaming.
Madison closed his eyes and murmured to himself. His hands moved over the crowd, and a hush fell upon them. He was chanting something, and moving his hand right to left.
“Thank you, Lord Tobit,” he said in an almost conversational tone. His hand stopped and he pointed a finger in the direction of the right hand pews.
“My people, Lord Tobit has chosen His harvest. Those to my right, within the first ten pews from my altar, you have been chosen as harvest.”
I glanced over at those people, and what I saw was heartbreaking. Husbands embraced wives; children appeared to be afraid and reached for their parents. Some just closed their eyes and waited.
“To the rest of you… the time has come…. FEAST, FEAST and CONSUME for Lord Tobit!!” screamed Madison, full of zeal.
On command the rest of those in attendance converged on the group that had been singled out. Men, women and children, were being grabbed, and, by all that my sanity could compute, were being eaten.
“We must move NOW!” Timothy barked into my ear.
We moved towards the doors, pushed them open, when suddenly we heard the voice of Madison.
“Where do you think you’re going? That man must still make the pledge to Tobit!”
I looked back long enough to see several hooded men begin moving in our direction. Also, Sergio, or whatever he had become, was moving towards us, with lightning speed. Timothy grabbed my arm and mouthed “RUN” as we charged out into the cold night.
We were sprinting for all we were worth until the small church came into view.
“Go, Derrick; I will stay here and try to slow them down. Remember, get out and use the radio, try to get help… and tell people about us, don’t let us remain forgotten in this nightmare.”
“Thank you, Timothy, thank you. I will tell the world about this, don’t worry. I’ll come back with the damned Marines if I have too. I’ll find a way, I promise.”
I began to run towards the church, but looked back to see a mob with torches moving towards us. That’s when I saw Timothy draw the pistol I had brought into town. He must have snagged it at some point.
“Come at me, you bloody wanking bastards! Come ahead and have a taste of an officer of the Royal Navy!”
Timothy emptied the gun in a volley of bullets that did manage to slow the mob’s fevered charge. Once I made it to the door of the small church, I turned back once more, to see Timothy standing at attention, preparing to be trampled by the mob. With the courage and nobility he had shown tonight, perhaps that mob was in for more of a fight than they thought. I honestly hoped Timothy would make it hard for them.
I entered into the small church and slammed the door behind me. I moved a broken pew in front of the door, trying my best to wedge it closed. I could already see the torch lights of the mob approaching through the windows. I turned to exit through the front, when I was met by a dark figure, standing directly in front of the doors that would lead to my freedom.
“Derrick, let’s go on a boat ride…”
“Derrick, we finished school on time…”
“Serge… please, let’s get out of here, both of us. We just have to go through the doors.”
“Derrick, Tobit chose me…”
Fanatics began pounding on the door outside. I didn’t have much time. They would break the door down in a matter of minutes.
“Serge, I didn’t choose this. If this is what you want, then have it, but please, let me go, I want to live my life!”
More pounding from the door. They would be in here in seconds.
“Let… you… go… live… life.”
Without thought I reached forward and pulled the goat head off of Sergio. The face beneath was blank.
Suddenly the door buckled in. I could see hands reaching through, forcing away my makeshift barricade.
“Serge, those men will kill me, is that what you want?” I pleaded.
“No… Derrick… I… I am sorry…”
Sergio suddenly surged forward. I braced myself to be tackled. I cleared my mind. Preparing for the end.
When I felt no impact, I turned to see Sergio charging towards the rear door. He shoved the doors closed, forcing out the prying hands.
“GO NOW!” he screamed.
Without hesitation I ran for the front doors. Within seconds I was out, standing in the frigid world that was Antarctica. I turned back to see men filling the inside of the tiny church. They threw Sergio aside and advanced to the threshold of the door, but went no further. They stared at me, hatred in their eyes. Perhaps it was jealousy that I had escaped. I was able to catch one last glimpse of Sergio before I turned to run.
He was smiling.
I ran to the coast and kept running. When I could run no more, I pulled out the radio and began to call for help. I walked on, moving north, repeating my distress call over and over again. Every so often I would throw a glance over my shoulder, just to make sure that no one was pursuing me. No one was. I was alone.
I went on like that until the chill became too severe. My knees buckled. I collapsed down on the freezing earth and called for help into the radio, until my hands became too cold to squeeze the talk button. Finally, feeling no hope of rescue, I allowed the cold to take me.
It was actually quite peaceful.
I awoke in a bed. I was warm. There were lights on. I could hear voices coming from somewhere. They must have come out and captured me after all. I tried to climb out of the bed, but my legs were like rubber. A machine was hooked up to me. It began to beep louder and louder as I thrashed more.
Finally, a woman came into the room.
“Sir, you must calm down,” she spoke calmly.
“NO! I won’t swear my soul to Tobit!”
“Tobit?” asked the woman.
“Where… where am I?”
“You are at the Dakota 4 Science Station. My name is Dr. Unus. You are very fortunate to be alive.”
“What, this isn’t Delphia?” I asked.
“No, sir. We found you a little while ago. We picked up your radio signal and traced your location. You are just lucky that we were out on a survey at that time. We found you barely alive. We brought you back here.”
“My friend, he is still back in Delphia… we have to call for help, he needs help.”
“Sir, what is this Delphia that you keep mentioning? Is it a cruise ship?”
“No, it’s the city, south of here, near the old church.”
“Bannister Church? There are no cities there, just a solitary church that was built by early visitors to this continent. There are no cities in Antarctica, just a few science stations, like this one.”
“I was there… there are thousands of people, buildings…”
“Sir, you are suffering from exposure.”
I began to offer more argument, but Dr. Unus reached over and injected something into my I.V. bag. It kicked in right away.
“Just get rest, sir. I gave you a good sedative. You’re safe now. Whatever happened to you, you’re safe now.”
I began to doze off. For whatever it was worth, I was rescued. I could sleep. The nightmare was over.
I spent about two weeks at the science station. While there I was given a full battery of medical tests. With the exception of a little frostbite, I had no major issues. I was back on my feet after a day or two of bed rest.
While at the station, I spent almost every day with their staff therapist. I told them everything. From leaving Biloxi, to Sergio’s change in behavior, to his suicide and all the insanity in Delphia. The doctors continued to insist to me that no such place existed on this continent. They came to a much simpler diagnosis.
They believed that I went into mental shock at Sergio’s death. That, combined with the Valium that I told them I took, combined further with the yacht wrecking onto shore, had left me drug dazed and confused. They believed that I did wander to Bannister Church. However, they insist that I must have simply fallen asleep in there and hallucinated the rest of it. Then, after waking up from my vivid, shock fueled dream, I staggered out of the church and began to travel north, calling for help on my own radio until I passed out and they found me.
They even went as far as to have me look at maps of the region, satellite images and all, just to convince me that there were no cities. As far as Sergio and the yacht, they believed that both sunk together, and were no doubt deep under the ice by now.
Travel was arranged. A few days later I was being picked up by my parents at the New Orleans International Airport. They stayed with me for a couple of weeks at my apartment. Helped me get back on my feet. Sergio’s father spared no expense to find his son. He hired a private team to search the area where the last GPS signal from the yacht could be traced. Months went by. The yacht was never found. I could have saved them a lot of time searching; I knew right where Sergio was. However, by then I realized that no one would ever believe me. My therapist shared the same opinion that the doctors at the science station presented. It was all a shock-induced nightmare.
The authorities hassled me for a few months too. They were convinced that I must know something. I stuck to my story. They went through their normal routines, but eventually realized that they were getting nowhere with me.
Six months have passed since I awoke in the science station. I have started a career. I have been dating someone and it looks like it’s going to become serious. The other day, I was driving to work, just sitting there in the New Orleans traffic, singing a song with the radio, when it occurred to me that I was forgetting. That I was starting to believe what the therapist kept insisting was the truth.
Sergio deserved better than that. So did Timothy for that matter. I did promise to try and help them. So maybe this is the best I can do. Before I go and forget, before I go and start to believe that maybe it was just a Valium-fueled mind-trip, I wanted to tell this story.
There is a place, Delphia. It is a place of great evil. It is hungry. Be warned- like all hungry beasts, sometimes, it hunts.
Written by K. Banning Kellum
Published August 3rd, 2014
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