The ship, The Gallant One cut a swath through the calm waters of the ocean, but the captain and his crew knew that the weather over the Pacific could change at any time turning the sea into a raging tempest, that would set them back days. The captain of the ship, Jake Foster had ferried Cotter and his ensemble on many occasions over the years and had enjoyed journeying into far off countries. But this trip bothered the captain and made him and his crew nervous. “Well Cotter, I have to say that I was and still am very nervous about taking you to these islands. But the money you have paid the crew and I was an offer too good to refuse.”
Cotter sipped at his glass of rum and looked straight into the captain’s eyes, “Captain, if you get us there and back in one piece and we find what I’m looking for, namely the mysterious secret door and a way in to the top of the ruins, I will double your fee on our return.” Cotter refilled both his and the captain’s glass, “What I will pay you on our return will pay for a handsome home in the country and you can give up your life on the seas.”
“Well seeing as you put it that way Cotter how can I complain.” Captain Foster replied and chinked his glass with Cotters. Both sat in their seats thinking, one of money and freedom from the dangerous seas. The other man thinking that if he finds the secret doorway would it lead to death or madness?
Ten days into the voyage Cotter heard the cry go up, ‘Land ho! Land ho!’ Donning his great coat, scarf and gloves to keep warm on deck, he rushed out of his cabin, up the well-worn wooden steps leading up to the top deck of the ship. Captain Foster was peering through binoculars as Cotter approached and touched his shoulder. Lowering his binoculars Foster turned to Cotter, “Well it looks like we have found the Dark Lands for you Mr Cotter. Take a look.”
Handing over the binoculars to the scientist, Cotter scanned the vast area of the Pacific. “My god, I think you’re right captain. Yes I can make out buildings on the top on the highest peak. You’ve done it captain, you and the crew have done it!” Cotter shook hands with Foster and as he turned he noted that the rest of his team had joined them on deck. “Gentleman, we are here, Captain Foster and his crew have got us here safely.” His colleagues cheered as they knew that if they find the secret door, they could also find what they were searching for.
“Well Cotter, we’ve made it. I will sail the ship a mile towards the islands, then I will drop anchor as per usual. You and your team can take two of the life rafts and row to shore, and may God protect you all.”
A shiver ran down Cotter’s back as he recalled how his parents ended up after their journey to the Dark Lands, “I’m doing this for my parents’ captain, and God will protect me and my team.”
Cotter and his team filled the life rafts with rucksacks and equipment and stepped into the two life rafts. Once lowered down by the crew, they began the mile journey to the islands. The ship had anchored on the north facing side of the islands and from their vantage point they could see the ruins of the citadel atop the highest peak. They landed on the dark sands and moored the two boats up then began unloading them. Even though the sun filled the cloudless sky an omnipresent chill enveloped them all as they trudged up towards a grassy area. The team consisted of Cotter, main scientist and good friend, Roger Jenkins, and fellow scientist, and biologists, Phillip Davies, Richard Parsons, David Williams, Andrew Taylor and Rupert Drysdale. All had worked as a team many times and trusted each other implacably. Jenkins looked around nervously, “I say Cotter old chap, this place gives me the hee bee gee bees. There is something not quite right about this place I tell you.”
Cotter shivered as the chill wind continued to envelope the men, “I tend to agree with you there Jenkins, but we all agreed to do this for my parents. I have to do this and must find out what drove them both mad.”
“Even if it means sending us all mad as well, or even worse, our deaths.” Taylor responded hitching on his rucksack. Cotter tried his best to calm his team even though he himself felt nervous. They began their trek up a thin pathway that led them into the thick jungle. Hacking their way through with machetes they managed to locate another pathway, this too was overgrown somewhat with ivy and heavy vines. Once or twice they had to skirt around arears that were just too thick to hack through. Cotter led the way making sure at all times that he had the ruins in sight and that he and his team were making good headway. They could sense something around them again, this time not the cold atmosphere that they felt earlier but something tangible. They skirted another area and came upon another pathway. This one seemed to be wider and its flooring was that of stone, with what appeared to be raised edges like a street’s kerb. Davies fished out his Kodak camera from his rucksack and began to photograph the pathway. “Cotter, don’t you think that this pathway appears a bit too modern for a place like this.” Cotter looked the path up and down as did his fellow scientists and nodded agreement. “I think we need to take as many photographs that we can gentlemen if this is anything to go by.” Davies said replacing his Kodak into his rucksack.
Cotter could feel that they were getting very close to where the Igons lived and as they rounded a bend on the stone pathway they saw that it stretched for about a mile going upwards into the rocky outcrop. He knew that it would take at least three hours to reach the ruins judging by how high it was to the ruins. He told the men to rest, and to eat and drink something before setting off again. Once refreshed they donned their rucksacks and pushed forward up the pathway. Two hours later they had reached a plateau of flat rock and as the sky was beginning to darken, Cotter decided it was best to pitch up camp on the plateau for the night as it would be too risky to try to reach the ruins in the failing light. Lighting two oil filled lamps and building a small fire they slide inside their sleeping bags and made plans for the following morning. Half an hour later all had fallen into a deep sleep.
It came towards Taylor, slowly, ever so slowly out of the opening underneath the plateau. It moved quietly as if it didn’t want to be detected by anyone, a dark mass that merged effortlessly with the dark of the night. As it got closer to Taylor something long and dark extended from the dark mass. Something akin to an arm, but much longer, edged forward and finally gripped its prey…
Andrew Taylor woke with a start, his eyes gaping wide as sweat beaded his brow and his body shook with fear. Fear of a dream. Taylor took in his surroundings and noticed that his colleagues were all asleep and that the sky was beginning to grow lighter. He felt a sense of relief and closed his eyes.
“Taylor, Taylor, where are you man?” Cotter shouted at the top of his voice as he and the team noticed that both Taylor and his sleeping bag were gone.
“Andrew, come on man, don’t play games with us, we need to push on to the top!” Jenkins shouted as the team searched the site for their friend. Davies and Williams even headed down the path just to see if he was taking photographs, but to no avail.
“Do you think he lost his nerve and has headed back to the ship? He was a bit jittery last night prior to going to sleep.” David Williams said as he and Davies returned to the plateau. Taking out his binoculars he scanned the whole area where they had walked up as well as the area of sand where they had moored up the life rafts. “Hmm the two boats are still tied up, so I guess he hasn’t gone back to the ship.” He said aloud.
“Perhaps he was that jittery that he just made a run for it and swam to the ship.” Rupert Drysdale replied.
Cotter paced about the plateau concern etched on his brow, “Unless he woke early and has gone ahead to do a bit of scouting, you know how impulsive Andrew can be.” The team disagreed saying he would never leave of his own accord. “Well, all we can do is this; four of us will head up to the ruins and look for Andrew up there. Two of us stay here just in case he comes back here.” Cotter suggested. Williams and Rupert Drysdale agreed to stay behind on the plateau and were somewhat relieved to do this. Cotter took Jenkins, Parsons and Davies with him and continued up the stone pathway. They soon came to another plateau but found it to be the same as the previous plateau. Finally they could see the end of the pathway, which veered left and right but also straight ahead towards what appeared to be a tall stone archway.
“My god Cotter, look at the height of this thing and the carved symbols around it.” Parsons cried out in amazement.
Taylor opened his eyes slowly, and turning his head slowly from left to right, he could not believe what he was seeing. No longer was he in his sleeping bag on the plateau with his friends, he now appeared to be hanging by the arms in a large high ceilinged room built completely of glass. In his peripheral vision he could see what appeared to be a large control panel with different coloured flashing lights on the left. Two tubes extended from the control panel and as his gaze followed them he could see that they were red in colour and that they extended all the way to both his arms. The red colour was his blood! Sweat now dripped from Taylor’s brow causing him to blink furiously to clear his sight. He wished he hadn’t. As he turned his head to the right he could see a large entranceway that stood at least twenty feet in height. He looked ahead and outside he could see the jungle that only a day ago he was walking through with Cotter and the team. Coldness began to envelope the room, its wisps of cold felt like icy fingers as it hit his body. He could feel something creeping towards him, something unearthly. As he turned his head towards the tall entranceway Taylor began to scream and scream and scream.