Professor Ambrose J. Hoag

I am writing under considerable torment and mental strain, for I know that before this night is over, I will likely be dead. Penniless, I can bear the torture no longer. I have tried to drown myself in alcohol and the fat clouds of my vape, but the madness inside grows, tearing at me, threatening to swallow me whole. Forgetfulness? Only in death can I forget what I have seen.

My descent began more than a year ago, while I was a mere student studying podcasting at the local university. Not satisfied with the mere lukewarm takes presented in class and having an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, I plunged myself into the bizarre and esoteric works that had been informally banned.

As I dug deeper into these forbidden works, I withdrew from my studies at Podcast University and became but a faint memory to my former friends and family. Reading the columns of Katie Herzog, John Carlson, and Jon Talton, I was driven mad. There had to be a deeper meaning, no one cares this much about air conditioning.

Their words swirled in my head until an ancient math began to appear. A code that could unlock mysteries that were better to remain hidden. I followed the messages obsessively, the 135 square feet of my apodment becoming a web of yarn, maps, and sticky notes.

Katie’s interview with Jordan Peterson, Carlson’s push for school teachers to carry assault rifles, it was all pushing me in the same inevitable direction, underground. Seattle is crisscrossed with miles and miles of tunnels and the arcane manuscripts of the city’s columnists were drawing me to their dark mysteries.

It was Jon Talton’s piece, “The Secret to the Seattle Process is in the Basement,” that led me to the abandoned Seattle Times’ building in South Lake Union. As I approached a dark unease overtook me, warning me, to stay away. Yet my curiosity could not be satisfied by such omens and superstition.

Upon entering the building, I was met with the wreckage of decades of decay. Making my way past the abandoned typewriters and teletype machines, I was stopped in my tracks by a great obelisk. On it were carvings of a primitive variety, as if some ancient ancestor of man had once graced these very grounds. Frightening fearful creatures, owing their appearance to both humanity and the creatures of the deepest trenches in the sea.

My regarding of the images made my mind churn with the dream of a time long forgotten, a world of great beasts and monsters, when man stood on the precipice of extinction. I do not know how long I stared at the engravings, surrounded as they were by an ancient hieroglyph perhaps long relegated to the sands of time, but it was night time before I snapped back into consciousness. That is when I realized that behind the obelisk there was a great staircase descending into darkness.

As I made my way down, the stairs turned to mud under my feet and the putrid stench of decaying sea creatures and other things more foul and horrifying than can be imagined filled the air. I was waist deep in the cold, stagnant water by the time I began to hear the whir of the Times’ industrial printing machines.

As I entered the chamber of the old printing press, I was taken aback to find it still very much operational. Lighting a match in the darkness, I could see headlines flying off of the machine. They were works of madness, praising philanthropists for falling far short of their goals while condemning the city government for not doing “more.” The noise of the presses was matched only by the odor of bile and decay that filled the room.

As I proceeded through the forgotten hall, I sensed a movement, not a human movement, but the slow rhythm of a creature born in the water, raised in it. I had the uncanny feeling of eyes on me. As I approached the corner of the room, the light from my match caught a ripple in the water, I turned, just in time to see rising before me a creature horrifying and ancient.

Standing nearly 10 feet tall, it had webbed hands and feet, its skin pale and grey, lacking all pallor. Its face… Its face was a nightmare made real, more fish than human, its dead black eyes stared blindly into the darkness, occasionally a grey film blinking open and shut over them. In its mouth were, like a shark, rows of teeth, with the decaying pieces of dead rat and newspaper copy hanging from them.

It let out a frightful scream, causing me to lose my balance and fall backward into the water. As I dropped my matches the light was extinguished from the cave. Yet, just as suddenly it flooded back into the room. My matches had fallen on reams of abandoned newspapers reading “Seahawks: 2x Superbowl Champs!” Desiccated from years of non-use, the papers quickly exploded into flames.

Seizing the distraction I dashed back for the stairwell under the light of the fire, the creature squealing behind me. As I made my way up the stairs, I could feel it in pursuit. Short of breath, with only the dim light of morning peeking through the building in front of me, I gave all to making the climb.

At some point in my ascent, I blacked out, only to find myself awaking days later in Harbor View. I tried to explain to my nurse what had happened, but she only marked down in my chart “hysteria caused by decompression sickness.” I quickly learned to keep my experience to myself, lest I end up committed. For to hear my story is to stare into the face of madness itself.

Out of the hospital, I sit broken in my apodment. Unable to concentrate on my studies or to pursue my dark obsessions with my former passion of a novice, unaware of the horrors to come.

I have attempted to reproduce the cryptic hieroglyphs I saw on the obelisk and sent them off to a friend versed in ancient languages. His response was quick and terse, “Destroy these pages and forget you ever saw them!”—if only I could. Professor Van Duyn would later disappear without explanation. On his abandoned desk at the university, was left a single sheet of paper with the word “Blethen.”

I can feel the ancient beast reaching out for me. Its cold lifeless eyes reflecting the light of my small apodment. I retreat into the arms of White Claw and my vape. There is a noise at the door, the sound of an immense slippery body rubbing against it. That sound! The Seattle Sucks printing press whirs to life. That sound!..