In Cotter Manor, Emily Jane Cotter and Miranda Fellowes ate breakfast while reading the morning editions of the national newspapers. All bar one paper carried the headline and latest report of her husband’s expedition to the islands known as the Dark Lands. Captain Foster had been sending as many up to date reports as he could via the new Marconi radio system now installed in all ships after the tragic events of the Titanic six years earlier. Some of the morning headlines ran thus:
Expedition Reaches the Dark Lands!
Captain Jake Foster reports that his ship ‘The Gallant One’ has made good time across the Pacific and that the team of scientists led by Professor David Cotter have landed safely on the islands
Foolhardy or Brave?
Is Professor Cotter foolhardy or brave to follow in his parent’s footsteps?
Will he succeed in finding the truth of the Dark Lands or end up ‘mad’ like his parents?
It has been hotly debated in City Hall for the past week whether Cotter will succeed or not.
Emily Cotter threw the paper she was reading across the breakfast table, “Surely there are more important things to report about than my husband’s foolhardy adventures!” She shouted as she stood up pushing her chair back with such force that it toppled over landing with a loud bang.
“Well I hope he doesn’t end up mad like his parents did, he’s a brave man as are his team, venturing to a forbidding place like that.” Miranda remarked as she continued reading the main story in the Daily Telegraph.
“ I beg your pardon Miranda, if that stupid husband of mine comes back alive and sane with stories to bore me to death as well as the whole town, then I will not stand a chance of inheriting a single penny of his fortune. Do you understand what I’m saying?” Mrs Cotter’s eyes were blazing as she looked her friend in the eye and continued, “Do you think we could go on as we are if he were to come back home safe and well? Well do you?”
Miranda Fellowes wiped her mouth with a napkin, rose from her chair, and looked at Emily and without saying a word walked towards the door of the breakfast room, opened it and walked out into the hallway. Asking the maid to collect her coat and hat, Miranda donned them and without saying word walked out of Cotter Manor never to return. She now realised that all Emily Jane Cotter was interested in was money and wealth. Nothing else mattered, not her, not her husband’s wellbeing, even her own family of whom she had not spoken to for many years.
Night had passed and the four explorers had decided to travel downwards towards the jungle. Cotter had now regained some form of normality after the shock of the previous day and as they ate what food they had left, they planned on avoiding the ruined buildings on their way back to where the life rafts were moored. So it was that Cotter and his team made their way down the deep crevasse and onto a pathway that they could see skirting around the jungle. Viewing through his binoculars, Jenkins told the others that he could see the sandy area where they had moored the boats up, they knew it would take them around two hours to reach the boats. Their plan was to ask the captain and his crew for help to rescue Andrew. With guns and hand bombs on board the ship they knew they could set up a rescue party.
As they made their way down the crevasse Jenkins hoped that they would be able to convince the captain to help them. He also felt bad for leaving his friends behind, but how could they get back inside the strange chamber and reach them without getting help. Two hours later they landed on the shore line and continued to walk to the inlet where the two boats were moored up. Pulling the boats into deeper water the four men made their way back towards the ship.
Captain Foster asked the chef to prepare food for the four men after they had boarded the ship and told the men to freshen up and rest in their cabins. “I will let you know when dinner is ready gentlemen. We can dine in my quarters and then you can tell me what has occurred on the island, now go and rest up.”
Two hours later Cotter and his team were feeling better after resting and eating a full meal. Foster looked at the four men and took a long slug of rum, “Now gentlemen,” he said as he wiped a mouth with his sleeve, “It is as plain as the nose on my face that something is amiss. I know three of the team is missing, but ye all look like ye have seen something terrible, something evil. Is this true Cotter?”
David Cotter sat staring blankly into space until he heard the captain saying his name. His hand began to shake as he tried to lift the glass of brandy to his lips. “They were taken, Williams, Davies and Taylor, by something hideous. We have to go back to try and save them from the unspeakable horror, we are their only hope…”
“What in god’s name did you see in there and what has happened to the three men?” Foster asked Cotter quietly.
It was Jenkins that responded to the captain’s questions first, “We came across the ruins of the Igon city sure enough, but no secret door. That is until we ventured around to the south side of the ruins. We found the secret door captain, and we have seen things that you would never believe.” Jenkins continued to tell the captain everything, and at first the captain found what Jenkins was saying to be absurd until Parsons unscrewed the five tin tubes and unfurled the roles of paper that they held. He showed the captain the Igon symbols that he had rubbed onto the papers with charcoal. “We even have photographic evidence of the huge system below ground and of the glass structure, as well as some kind of transportation system they must have used. From a civilisation that supposedly died out a thousand years ago. I tend to agree with Cotter’s theory.” Jenkins concluded.
“And what is your theory Cotter?” Foster asked prior to sinking his teeth into a juicy apple.
Cotter had now regained his composure, the meal, rest and brandy had helped him to relax and he was now able to think straight. He looked Foster in the eye, “My theory is that the Igons are not of this earth! That they never died out, or simply vanished as was believed by our peers at the time. They have simply gone underground and still survive as some form of energy...” The captain was about to say something, but Cotter continued, “They are able to construct buildings underground with tools, the likes of which we can only dream of. That is, if we knew what tools they have used to cut and carve into stone with perfect precision.”
Foster tossed the apple core out of his cabin window and paced the room. “You say they still survive as some form of energy. What do you mean Cotter, some form of energy?”
Cotter waited for the captain to sit back down in his chair and continued, “What we saw, Jenkins, Drysdale and I down in the cavernous areas where they had built some kind of… Well I don’t know what you would call it, but it was huge, at least six to seven storeys high with stone steps running up and down each level”
“But you say that they appeared to be some form of energy. If so, why would they need the likes of stone steps and buildings?” The captain asked as he tilted back on his carved oak chair.
“The thing that we saw, and it can only be called ‘a thing’ was huge, it was just a black mass of energy. But the large eye and elongated arm that began stretching up to us was terrifying, which leads me to think that they must have solid form as well as energy mass.” All three men began to shiver involuntarily at the thought of the hideous thing that they had all witnessed. Parsons had not witnessed it, but believed he had seen some of the things in full body form up in the glass tower prior to hiding out in the strange looking vehicle in the crevasse. He described them as tall beings with long arms and they appeared to be biped and intelligent as he could see form his hiding place what appeared to be a large control panel of switches and lights.
Foster toyed with his writing quill and then asked the all-important question, “So, I assume that ye all would like some help in rescuing your friends?” All four men nodded in the affirmative, “How are ye going to go about this rescue mission of yours. What if we cannot get through this secret door of yours, as you said it slammed shut behind you.”
“We could use some of the hand bombs that you have stored on board.” Parsons replied.
“True enough, true enough gentlemen. I will get Master Hardy to break out two cases; each case holds ten hand bombs. We will take rifles with us as well, as I know you have all used rifles before in previous expeditions, so no training needed gentlemen.” Captain Foster concluded.
An hour later Foster had gathered together six of his best men, who took charge of one life raft. Foster joined Cotter, Jenkins, Parsons and Drysdale in the other boat. Both parties were equipped with a case of hand bombs and rifles, some of them also carried hand guns. Foster left his First Mate Clancy in charge of the ship.
It had been decided that the crewmen would take the route up to the ruins that Cotter and his team had used two days earlier. Cotter and his team would take the route they had left by in the early hours of the morning as dawn was breaking. Once on shore the boats were moored up and each team bid the other good luck. The plan was to blow up both the secret door and the door they had found in the ruins. Once blown apart, the men were to enter the buildings with weapons ready to use. They had decided on gaining entry via both doors in the hope that at least one would eventually lead up to the floor where the large glass structure was situated.
Arriving at their respective locations both teams found suitable places for protection from the blasts of the hand bombs. Cotter and his team hid under the protection of the strange vehicle that lay on its side. Drysdale had a good throwing arm after years of bowling for his local cricket club. An over arm throw from their advantage point would be perfect giving him time to get back under the vehicle. Meanwhile it was down to Master Hardy to be the person to throw the hand bomb.
Foster could not believe what he was seeing; it was as described to him on the ship earlier that day. “Well gentlemen,” he said quietly, “I am seeing these things with my own eyes, but I still can’t believe it.”
“The same goes for us too captain, it is hard to take in.” Parsons replied as he steadied himself under the tramcar type vehicle. As one, but in each location, a hand bomb was thrown towards both stone doorways. As both doorways were so thick, another hand bomb was deployed by both teams. Rubble flew into the air showering down onto the vehicle that Cotter’s team were under. Master Hardy’s team were at a safe distance with only a small scattering of stone falling near them. Climbing back up the ridge, they could all see that the hand bombs had done their job. Entering the once grand stone doorway they began to run along the long carved hallway and then downwards towards the cavern.
They were about to continue down to the layered cavern when Drysdale spotted another hallway, “Cotter, this way, it has steps going upwards.” Turning sharply they ran through the hallway and up the flight of stone steps that led to a landing of polished stone. They turned left towards more steps going upwards.
The crewmen led by Master Hardy had the same idea when they too spotted stone steps going upwards. Ascending them, they too came to a flat level of polished stone and continued upwards via more stone steps. All of them stopped running after climbing up more steps and both teams could now hear the droning noise of machinery above them. Cotter’s and Hardy’s teams arrived at the same level and could see each other at either end of a long hallway, and both could see a glass entrance in front of them. To the side of the entrance was a type of release pad, and placing his hand on it, Cotter was surprised to learn that it clicked and the doorway opened up, with the glass door sliding into the wall. “Well I’ve never seen anything like that before, how odd.” The men walked into the vast glassed area with weapons loaded and looked around in amazement. All along one wall were banks of controls with dials and lights flashing, they knew that they were in the right area.
But where were Williams, Taylor and Davies? Before they could continue a shout came from the other end of the hallway and then screams and the sound of gunfire. Cotter and his team ran out of the area they were in and down towards where the gunfire was coming from. The gunfire had now ceased, and slowing down to a walking pace Captain Foster took the lead and got near to the other doorway that his crewmen had entered. Peering around the wall to see what had happened, Foster gasped as his face paled and eyes widened in horror. He turned to the other men and pointed downwards and ran as fast as he could, “Come on now, If you want to live!” That was all that was needed Cotter and his friends quickly followed the captain down the stone steps and never stopped running until they were as far away as possible from the glass monolith and its inhabitants.
Sitting in his cabin, Captain Foster took another slug of rum; his hand shook as he gulped down his third glassful. His eyes were wide with fear as he could still see the sight that made him gasp in horror. He had been taken to his cabin in shock and cared for by the ship’s doctor. That was three days ago, and now he was able to sit at his desk and write down the events of that horrific day in his log book.
‘I could not believe what my eyes were showing me. Never have I encountered anything like it on this world of ours. Or is it our world? I cannot begin to explain the thing I witnessed. Cotter’s friends strung up and being drained of their life’s blood. Tubes running from their bodies into monstrous beings contained in huge glass cylinders. And my crewmen blasted by some form of heat’
A knock came to the door of his cabin and rising to open it the captain found Doctor Carlyle standing on the threshold. “Come in doctor, please come in. Do you care for rum or a brandy?”
“Thank you captain, but no thank you, it’s a little early for me. How are you feeling now?” Carlyle asked as he took the seat facing the captain’s chair. Foster told him that he was still having nightmares about what happened, but was managing to document it all in his log. “May I?” The doctor asked as he rose and walked over to the captain’s desk and read part of wha the captain had entered into his log.
‘Now I understand why previous explorers to the Dark Lands have not returned home…Or have gone insane. What I have witnessed is enough to drive the bravest and strongest man mad!’ ‘WE MUST KILL THEM ALL!’
The captain and doctor sat facing each other; Carlyle said he would have that rum after all. What he had just read had unnerved him somewhat. “What do you mean when you say ‘We must kill them all’?” He asked, “Surely you’re not going back there, you are half out of your mind already captain.”
“No not me, not any of us. Not one of us is going back to that hideous place.” He said shivering as he thought of the horrors on the island. “I intend to radio the government and ask them to send a battleship from the Royal Navy to blow the island and its inhabitants to kingdom come!”
Another knock came to the captain’s door before the doctor could respond. The captain called out ‘enter’ and David Cotter walked into the cabin. “Captain, it is good to see you well rested sir. We have all been worried about you.”
Foster thanked Cotter and offered him a chair and a glass of rum, “What can I do for you Mr Cotter?”
“Well now that you are feeling better and somewhat recovered I thought it would be time to hear what it was that you saw in the glass room. Providing that it is not too stressful for you captain.”
At this the doctor spoke up, “I think it would be better if you read what the captain has written down in his log book Mr Cotter. Carlyle looked at the captain, who nodded his approval. After reading the entries in the log book, Cotter had visibly paled and holding his head in his hands began sobbing. Carlyle comforted Cotter and asked the captain to refill Cotter’s glass. But before handing the glass to Cotter, the doctor emptied a sachet of powder into the drink and bid Cotter to drink it. “I’ve taken the liberty of adding a small sachet of powder to your drink Mr Cotter. It is a mild sedative to help calm you.”
Cotter wiped his eyes on his jacket sleeve and nodded and asked the captain if he was ready to leave ‘this cursed place’.
“I have one thing to do, of which, I will do shortly.” He then informed Cotter of his plan to get a Royal Navy battleship to blow the island to smithereens. “Whatever those things are, we need to be rid of them, the whole world needs to be rid of them Mr Cotter.”
Cotter shook hands with both men, “I will inform my friends of your plans captain and of what you witnessed. Then I will go and lie down and rest awhile. Thank you again captain, doctor.”