May 19th, 1929-
This island, with all its clouds and wonders, has proved itself to be more dangerous than I had hoped. Today, two brave men have lost their lives.
The first, Samuel August, was a scientist aboard the ship. At first light, the biologist was discovered missing (I must set up a night guard to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again; God we were fools). August was found around half an hour later. Perhaps, drawn by some now sunken specimen or by pure circumstance, he had left during the night and climbed into the smoking lake at the island’s core. He had stripped off all but his undergarments, and his naked flesh was waxen and pink from the scalding soup, like a crab in a cooking pot. Some of the other scientists have said he had family in Oregon and, whether this is true or not, his next of kin shall be notified when we return to port. One of the men, who fancied himself a cowboy in this dire situation, lassoed the scientist’s upturned, contorted ankle and pulled his corpse to shore, and we will give him a full burial at sea once we have set sail again. He shall surely be missed.
Despite the gruesome nature of August’s demise, the second death impacted us more so, especially among the workers. Emile, the Canadian I have written about, was claimed much more forcefully by the island. During the early afternoon, he found himself in some altercation with a particularly irritable sailor called Menkelos, a Greek fellow. Witnesses have said that this was most strange given Emile’s pacifist nature following his experiences with the Anzac troops. Notwithstanding the nature of this dispute, he was a massively respected worker, and god help the Greek. Said foreigner apparently jeered and scampered over the smooth, newly laid lava in the north-east corner of the island and, light as he was compared to Emile, he had not realized the fragility of the terrain he danced upon. When the Canadian followed, anger glaring in his eyes, the Greek tripped him and he fell at least thirty feet into some volcanic tube we had not been aware of.
The worst of it was that the fall failed to kill Emile and, indeed, he was still conscious by the time I got there. One of his legs was broken, and so too were both his arms and, thanks to the jagged glassy floor of the tube, one of his arteries must have been punctured, as we could see from the dark pool forming around him even in the dim light. There was no way, I’m afraid, to help him in the state he was in, and I had to take the decision and put him out of his pain. He didn’t cry out once in the whole event and, even now, his body remains in that obsidian catacomb. Other sailors are calling now for Menkelos’ blood, but, although I empathize with them, I cannot allow their word to be law. Instead, while he is bound gagged and, no doubt, terrified now, I shall have Ault ferry him across to the ship in order to place him in the brig for his own safety.
Despite the calamities, research has continued today. Three new fish species have been discovered, including a species of whale fish which I implore the community to christen Cetostoma augusti after the fallen scientist, were washed up at the shore line, and a huge cephalopod (possibly of the genus Mastigoteuthis was also found on the slope of the caldera. It was more rotted than the other specimens we have found, as its presence was missed yesterday as it was hidden behind a snake of pillow lava.
I am afraid that the morale of the crew is extremely low at the moment. The malignant fear which I felt at first has, it seems, gripped us all now we have lost our brethren. Some gas, perhaps, has seemed to affect us, terrible visions plaguing our sleep, and I have had some of the most awful dreams I’ve experienced. What terrifies me more, however, is the narrative one of the more sensitively minded scientists has told me.
He walked upon a foreign world, flat and dead yet buzzing with invisible energy that drew him onward towards a shadowy doom. Ahead of him, an unimaginably large mountain thrust forth, as alien and strange to that earth as I, its shadowed crevices and forbidden slopes oozing with the terrifying unknown, and yet to the man this man was all too attracted to ascending its ancient paths. Stumbling and weary, yet too driven and insane to notice, he walked and walked, an unknown and unknowable length of time passing around and over and through him as he wound on and on to his goal. He had sailed before and the stars in the sunless sky that started off familiar changed and shifted, lights born and dying and born and dying without end. At last, he found himself on the bone strewn summit and, at the centre of the crater’s smooth slopes he saw something which, though he fought to remember it, he tried in vain. All he could remember of that fearful precipice was the terrible mental anguish and suffering whatever was present there caused him. All he knew for certain was that he wanted only both to remember and forget that cosmic Everest.
I have overheard whispers from others, scientists and sailors, that describe their own, horribly familiar nightmares. What sets me on edge even now, making me glance furtively at the dark hills above me and the dead sea before me, what makes me shudder and curse this land, is that his dream is most terribly known to me for, not long before I was awoken by the shouts searching for August, I know only that I had that same dream. I know that hellish mountain and its ceaseless plateau for I have walked there too, and I know too the the terror of whatever it is that lies in our dreams and worse, I fear, beneath the surface of that mysterious, broiling lake that churns and steams behind me. I know too this: that I fear for us all.