The following text is taken from a letter found washed up on the south-west coast of Africa in a sealed container. Its contents have been translated into modern English, and the site at which it was composed along with the identity of the writer remains to be unknown:
For the sake of time I am choosing to withhold any details I deem not to be important. What matters right now is that this message reaches safe hands, and I am able to supply whoever may read this with enough information on my current situation. As I write this message on paper intended to create a journal, I am sheltered within the wreckage of a Corvette, and I am lucky to be blessed with the time to write this. I may not have a lot of time, but it should be enough.
Dear reader you must understand that this is not meant to entertain, but to instead warn of the dangers of prying into the unknown. The information you are about to receive is not fiction. I cannot, and will not stress this enough.
There is no other place to start than the beginning. I am part of a secret exhibition with the aim to successfully circumnavigate the globe, travelling a route which had not been taken before. My place on the ship was as a surgeon, tending to the sick, curing the diseased and hacking off frail limbs riddled with infection. I had to deal with a lot of illness, as any surgeon would on a journey like this, but I was almost always busy despite the small crew size. On board were around 60 or so people—the normal crew size for this kind of vessel would be much larger, but we were not expecting any trouble during our voyage.
We travelled south for what felt like decades. I am not certain for how long as I was not the one keeping track, nevertheless I am sure at one point I heard a fellow crew member mention around about a year, although this cannot be trusted as most men I treated were delirious with pain.
After traversing the seemingly endless ocean wasteland, we came upon a new breed of wasteland; what we would later go on to name: The White Desert. The crew, along with myself, were astonished at the spectacle before us. We had never seen such a grand display of frost in all our lives. What lay beyond the bow of the ship was a colourless canvas of snow, extending out in almost every direction as far as the eye could see. Sun beams kissed the frozen land, illuminating every imperfection in the landscape and bringing to attention the disturbing lack of life in the expanse. Not a single soul resided in the God-forsaken place.
Our sense of wonder soon faded, and the realisation quickly began to spread among the crew. We had come all this way to discover nothing. Nothing but the rotten cold.
Like a metal vice, the icy grip of the frost suffocated all those who resided on the ship. The temperature had been decreasing for a while, however as we sailed closer to the White Desert, it reached increasingly unbearable levels that not even the soft fur of pelt clothing could combat.
The sound of wood crunching and tearing began to increase in volume as well, as large gatherings of ice began to rip through the hull. Panic swept around the crew as quickly as the cold, and everyone began to yell with the quartermaster’s screams for order possessing the highest volume. Noticeable amounts of damage started to become apparent, mostly thanks to what looked to be infinite amounts of splinters launching themselves into the air over the side of the vessel. It was obvious she was going to wreck.
Gut instinct took over, and I ignored the chaos on deck and ran for shelter in the hold, grabbing onto any fixed objects that my desperate hands could find. A stampede of flesh rushed behind me in pursuit, clawing and clambering through the debris which had scattered onto the floors. As I grabbed the post of a bed, my body curled itself up and braced for the inevitable impact.
I woke up moments after the wreck, buried under a considerable amount of wooden debris. Despite a few cuts and bruises I was relatively unscathed, as I had been lucky enough to be cowering on the half of the ship which had reached dry land.
Navigating through the crumpled ship proved difficult, but I soon stepped onto land to learn that not everyone was as fortunate as I. Roughly 40 men had been violently flung into the ocean, as well as a few who had sunk down with the missing half of the ship. The remaining 20 lay on the island, moaning with pain, tending to the injured, or simply dead. I walked with caution over to the edge of the island and began to aid in the rescue effort, dragging those who had washed up on the shore to safety; alive or dead.
As the last of the survivors had been dragged ashore, I began to treat those who had come from the sea, knowing they would likely be suffering from hypothermia. Stripping off the first victim, I accidentally discovered the White Deserts first signs of life: A previously unseen species of what I thought to be leech. I watched as one of the white parasites suckled my patients flesh before I decided to remove it. To my horror, the man was covered in them, and it took me a significant amount of time to remove all of them. At this point, I wrapped him in soft fabrics to help him conserve body heat, before leaving him to treat other survivors. Every man I tended to was covered from head to toe with these leeches, leading me to believe that the waters surrounding the land were very densely populated with these creatures. In other words: we weren’t leaving back the way we came on a makeshift raft. Once I decided that the people I had treated were in reasonably safe hands, I retreated to observe how those who had reached land during the crash were holding up.
I can say that only around 4 different people had been as lucky as me, those who arrived to the island on my half of the ship had either fallen a great height from the deck, breaking many bones in the process, or they had been buried under an avalanche of wood, suffering large splinters. Out of the 60 men crew, 5 were unscathed, 15 were injured, and the rest were missing or dead.
A particularly gory sight I came across was of a young man who had landed on the shore. He was impaled on a snapped plank of wood which penetrated straight through his gut, protruding out of his back coated in a dripping red substance. The moisture in his eyes were completely frozen, and it was evident that the impact had caused a quick yet painful death. I’ve seen my fair share of guts and gore in my profession, but I couldn’t help but look away from the sight.
With the wounded in reasonably stable condition, our next priority was to survive. At this particular corner of the earth night came fast, meaning we would have to hurry to build shelter, find food and prevent our body’s core temperature from dropping any further. This was all easier said than done. Luckily for me, I did not have to face the pressure of being in charge of survival; A young man who I had treated for minor injuries was kind enough to take this responsibility. I was given a group of 2 men who were injured but still able to help, and told to look after the sick and injured whilst 3 of the other unscathed men were sent out to search for any means of rescue, and during this period of time a small group of people began to build a fire with some shelter.
The low temperatures in the following hours would send anyone begging for the fiery torment of hell. Only 2 people died every hour to my surprise, and every hour that passed had me praying for shelter to be built. I almost threw myself on the fire once it was kindled, and I tried my very best to absorb as much heat as possible.
Just like I had anticipated, night came quickly, and before I knew it, all survivors were gathered around the fire. All 8 of us. This was including the search party who I mentioned earlier, and whilst we were gathered round the fire they informed us of their findings. They said they walked for miles and found absolutely no life at all, resulting in the conclusion that all we had to eat was the rations from the wreckage. However all hope was not lost. They also mentioned some peculiar deformities in the landscape: large holes in the ice above a stream of water where many fish seemed to pass. From this it was decided that it was possible for us to create holes in the ice and catch fish using our bare hands, but these holes also suggested another, more disturbing secret the island was holding. It was clear that carnivorous life resided on this island, life with a taste for fish…and possibly human flesh.
Needless to say, we all had to take guard shifts through the night in order to watch out for our potential predator. My hour was particularly painful, but I was relived with the sleep I managed to steal afterwards.
Our group was reduced to a measly 5 in the morning. 3 of the injured had died in the night from infection or hypothermia, leaving every passing minute to become ever more hopeless. There was nothing I could have done for them, given the circumstances, but that did not stop me from feeling pity. We decided to bury the dead in the ice, telling ourselves that this was a respectful gesture. This was a gruesome lie however, as we were trying to preserve the bodies so that if it came down to it, we could shamefully eat them knowing we were not going to starve to death just yet. Thankfully we never got the chance to reach that point.
The groups nominated leader once again sent the same 3 men out to explore, leaving the two of us alone in each others company to manage food supplies and sources of heat. He was quite a pleasant fellow, and we found ourselves conversing frequently. A notable topic of conversation was the day of the shipwreck. He told me that he had helped to rescue those who had fell into the ice-cold ocean, tending to them in the same way that I had. It was at this point that we spoke about the leeches. We both agreed that there was a strange amount of leeches residing in the water, and he even admitted to me that he had fell victim to a few bites as well. He went on to say that the leech bites were oddly much more painful than the common leech bite, but we believed that the cold had been a factor involved in this.
Hours passed, and the temperatures became less devastating throughout the midday. I was starting to become concerned for my new friend however, as his minor wounds from the wreck were in late stages of infection, and I was becoming more and more helpless as the cold took hold of him. There was no doubt that he was not going to make it through the next night. Further adding to my worries was the fact that the exploration group had not returned. They had been out much longer than they were last time, suggesting that they had stumbled upon something of interest. Whether this was good or bad, I would never know until they returned.
I tended to the temporary group leader as much as I could but I subconsciously knew that it was hopeless. As he closed his eyes to rest I had a strong suspicion that he would never open his eyes again, so I decided to leave him to dig up the pit we had buried the other bodies in. When I reached the pit I was horrified to learn that it had already been dug up. Intrigued, I peered into the pit, only to find something which made me feel sick to my core. It was completely empty.
In confusion, I darted my head around to observe my surroundings, to look for anything which would answer the headache inducing questions which rushed my mind. I tried my very best to compose myself, and upon finding nothing in the foreground, I decided to analyse my surroundings more carefully. It was at that moment I noticed the footprints. Hundreds of them, all leaving the pit. Spewing out all the rations I had previously consumed, I left my mark in the pale landscape in the form of a thick, yellow stain. The cold, which seemed to have a tight grip on my body, almost entirely retreated as if my body had decided that it had larger issues to deal with.
I traced the footprints with my eyes, and they all led me to a patch of land off in the distance. Refusing to go near that patch of land, I looked closely, and I soon noticed some mild imperfections in the snow. It took me a second to realise, but soon enough I figured out where the missing bodies had went. I did not stay to launch the rest of my guts out of my throat, and I instead spun round and sprinted back to camp to seek any help I could find.
Whilst running back to the camp, I realised just how much the snow seemed to slow my movement. As I dragged my feet through the thick, frosty landscape, I looked ahead to see if any of the explorers had returned to the camp. Of course they had not, and I was all alone. My last resort was to consult the man I had previously been taking orders from, but I feared he would already be dead.
I was surprised to find that he was gone too, leaving nothing but a trail of footprints to a hole in the hull of the wrecked ship. He must have got up to seek further shelter, I thought, and so I made the decision to follow his steps.
Inside the ship was pitch black, but I managed to locate a light source far within the hull. I stepped closer, hesitantly, and I began to make out the silhouette of a figure in the distance. It was the man I was looking for. Calling out to him, I slowly trudged through the snow which had seeped into the ship during the wreckage. He did not respond, and as I looked closer, I noticed he was holding his face with one hand and dragging it with a slow pace. After I called out to him a second time, I finally received a response. He steadily pivoted round to face me, and this is when I saw that he was not holding his face with his hand, but was instead dragging a sharp object across it. The steps he took echoed a crunch of snow throughout the ship’s hull, as he made his way towards me. He dropped the object in his hands and stepped in my direction with an ominous pace, placing his hands by his sides. I looked closely at the shadow, and I then saw that its fingers were starting to grow longer and longer. They wriggled and writhed in sudden movements, as if they were completely separate organisms.
Backing away slowly was the only reply I gave, as I wanted to see what was pursuing me before taking flight in the opposite direction. It stepped into the light of the lamp that guided me down to this location, and I saw exactly what it was. It was exactly who I thought it was, but whoever I believed to be seeing was clearly not in control of the figure. His skin was a sickly shade of white, reflecting the colour of the surrounding snow. The clothing on his body were exactly the same as when I had left to dig up the pit, except they were ripped and torn, dangling in threads below his knees. Perhaps most disturbing was the condition of his eyes; they contained black pupils as small as needle pricks, and these pupils were surrounded by a milky, yellow liquid which filled every corner of the eyes. They darted back and forwards between me and the exit and the adrenaline in my body started to scream that I was in danger.
The eyes of the being drew attention to the face, which possessed the exact same features as before, except for one very noticeable detail. A conclusion entered my mind as I managed to figure out what the creature had been doing with the sharp object. From one of the corners, all the way round to the other corner of the monsters lips was a deep cut which looked as though to circumnavigate its head. Orange blood oozed out of the wound and gushed down its face, yet it didn’t seem to flinch or wince in pain.
The creature realised that I intended to run for the exit, and it began to slowly raise the two of its arms. On the ends of each of its fingers were maggot like creatures, contorting and wriggling in search of something to satisfy their needled teeth. I looked with further perception and learnt that I was gravely mistaken. They were not maggots. They were leeches.
I spun round and bolted towards the light of the outside, but I did not move as fast as I had hoped to, curtesy of the snow. To my dismay, it caught up with me and wrestled me to the ground in mere seconds. My immediate reaction was to shake myself free, but I was caught in a death grip I could not escape. Within seconds I felt the leeches penetrate and tear through my skin, causing a jolt of pain which oozed into my body. I became desperate, and searched for any weapon I could use to fight back. Of course, being in a ship wreckage, there were split planks of wood everywhere. Throwing my hands in every direction and ignoring the disturbing movements of the creature, I searched for the biggest plank of wood I could find, and was successful. With both hands I smashed the plank over its head and watched it give no reaction at all. It distracted it enough however for me to kick myself free, and with haste I clambered to my feet and composed myself.
The wood I held in my hand was split because of the strike I gave the monster, and as a result, it had gained a sharp tip. My aggressor followed me by raising itself to its feet, and it continued its relentless attack and lunged at me. Without thinking, reflex caused me to extend my arm and point the makeshift spear towards the creature. In its determination to turn me into mulch, it skewered itself right through the gut and suddenly stopped moving. It stared me right in the eyes and slumped over whilst I heard a shriek coming from inside its body. The shriek was muffled, and the creature did not open its mouth, leading me to theorise that a separate organism resided within it.
In a similar fashion, I slumped down to the ground allowing me to catch my breath and tend to my wounds. The holes in my skin gifted to me by the leeches throbbed in pain and stung when touched. They were no ordinary leech bites. I fixed the wounds as best as I could and decided to leave the wretched place. I do not know what my immediate plan was, but instinct was insisting that I ventured as far away from this horrible place as I could.
As I left the breach in the hull I entered from, I once again relieved the contents of my stomach, all over the snow-covered ground. I coughed and spluttered, letting the now fading light of the outside world fill my eyes with its warmth as I looked up towards the horizon. When I looked up I recoiled back in a mixture of confusion and terror as something beckoned to me in the foreground. The same corpses I saw when I discovered the empty pit had moved closer, and were now directly in front of me. The thing I immediately noticed was the fact that their skin resembled the tone of the creature I had just slain, and upon closer observation I spotted that every single one of them was positioned face down in the ground. However, their eyes were facing upwards.
This detail contradicted everything I knew about human anatomy, and while I pondered this, I locked eyes with the creature who was closest to me. It was the young man I had previously seen straight after the wreckage impaled on the wooden beam. In the hole that the wood had penetrated straight through, was what looked to be the body of a giant worm, pulsating and digesting living fish whilst wearing armour that was made of human flesh. As it noticed me, a loud clicking noise emanated from what should have been the creatures face, buried in the snow.
In unison, all of the corpses steadily raised themselves up to their feet, showing me their bodies which had not seen a day of decay, whilst also allowing me to see the beings in their true form. The upper part of each corpse’s head was not fully attached to the lower jaw, and instead hung like a flap behind the monster’s true head. It was almost as if the human head from the jaw upwards was like a hood. Emerging from their oesophagus’ were what can only be described as massive, fleshy worms with dagger like teeth lining their circular mouth, all the way down into their throats. Attached to the head of each giant worm was a network of nerves, all burying themselves inside their human host’s skin and muscle tissue.
Continuing to move as a unit, the nerves in each giant worm’s heads all began to violently twitch, and following this movement, their human heads all steadily rose and covered the worm’s heads, forming gruesome helmets. They all stepped to the side, avoiding the holes at their feet which the worms had drilled into the ground, and began to move forwards towards me.
Once again I found myself running from the same pursuers, this time with the knowledge that I could not possibly outrun them. I sought refuge in the hull of the ship and glanced behind my shoulder, seeing a horde of around 60 men chasing me, all with their arms extended with leeches writhing from their fingers. They all burst through the hole of the hull, their combined weights causing the formation of an even bigger hole. All I could do was keep running. I stepped over the now shrivelled and deflated body of my previous attacker, and grabbed the lamp which illuminated him before. When I reached the walls of the hull, I began to climb, refusing to look at the commotion behind me. Climbing must have been an alien concept to these parasites, as it took a while for them to follow my steps. I used this time to hoist myself up onto the highest level of the ship I could access, and I then began to search for somewhere I could hide. I found a large barrel in one of the rooms, and emptied it of its contents before climbing in and sealing the lid. Before long, I could hear the echoed footsteps of 60 people rushing and searching for me, and over time, this faded to less and less, before an ominous silence filled my ears.
This brings me to my current situation. I am currently huddled in a barrel, trapped inside the shipwreck with nothing but a lamp illuminating my surroundings. As I write this very message I am looking through a hole in the barrel at a source of light penetrating the darkness, and I believe it to be the outside world. My plan is to pick the right window to leave my sanctuary, climb onto the deck of the ship and throw this message out to sea in the hopes that this will reach civilisation. The world must know of my fate.
Occasionally I hear one of them pass, and I cover the lamp in response so that they do not see a light source coming from the hole in my barrel. Maybe if I pick the right time I can fulfil my duty without confrontation. Maybe one will spot me, and the horde will rush me once again. Either way I am afraid I will not survive.
So dear reader this is my final message. Nature is a powerful and relentless force; sometimes its best to leave the unexplored unexplored.I can hear it wriggling around in my head. Oh god how it hurts!
Written by Camritchie1969