Sir Anthony Stride had held his post as a government minister and war cabinet minister for five years and had done a sterling job and was a well-respected man who also had the backing of the King. He was a man who was not afraid to say what he thought, but always did what he promised. Now after reading the typed report from the radio report for the third time he could still not believe what he was reading. He had buzzed through to his secretary to ask her to summon Benjamin Clarke, Henry Pratt, and Richard Carlson to his office. These three men worked closely with Stride and always stood fast beside him. Now, after reading the report out to his colleagues he looked up at them and asked them what their thoughts were on the matter.
“Well sir, we do have gunships patrolling on the Pacific Ocean, I’m sure one or two could be deployed to the area and do what Captain Foster wishes.” Clarke replied as the other men nodded in agreement, “After all, these beings, or whatever they are have killed nine men. And if we believe what Captain Foster says that they are hideous and clearly not of this world, then we must destroy the islands as soon as we can.”
So it was agreed at thirteen hundred hours that word would be sent to Admiral Peters requesting that two of his ships in the Pacific be deployed to the islands known as the Dark Lands. Captain Foster also sent wires to the national newspapers relating all that had occurred over the past week, and that the things that lived on the islands would be blown out of the waters of the Pacific by the gunships of the Royal Navy.
Emily Jane Cotter was not the type of woman to let somebody walk out on her. Now after two days of waiting to hear from Miranda Fellowes she began to lose patience. She was also angered by the fact that the newspapers were reporting that her husband had not only managed to get off the Dark Lands alive, but that he was totally sane as were the other men on board the ship. He would be returning home with his friends and crewmen once the Royal Navy had done their job.
She had appealed to Miranda to forgive her for being so selfish, but Miranda knew that this too was a falsehood. She told Emily that she would have nothing more to do with her and slammed the door in Emily’s face after telling her in no uncertain terms to never bother her again.
The two navy ships were now half a day’s sailing away from where the ‘Gallant One’ was anchored. From where they were anchored, the remaining crew and scientists waited for the battleships arrival. They could also detect what appeared to be lights emanating from the upper level of the main island. Taking out his binoculars and placing them to his eyes Foster confirmed that the lights appeared to be concentrated around the top of the ruins and the area of the large glass structure. Passing the binoculars over to Cotter, he too confirmed the lights, “They appear to be flashing in sequence don’t they Mr Cotter?” Foster said as Cotter continued to scrutinise the island and its mysterious light show.
“It could be some kind of code, similar to our Morse code but by using lights.” Cotter responded now handing the viewing glasses back to the captain. Foster bid Cotter to join him in his cabin as he wanted to talk with him privately. Foster then sent word to one of the crewmen to prepare a pot of tea and a light meal of meats and cheese for the two of them. During their meal Foster asked how Cotter was bearing up after all that had occurred. Cotter was still distraught and shaken up, but as he put it, ‘not insane’. Foster replied in same after being asked the same question. “All those good men slain by something unearthly, my God man, I will never forget that image for as long as I live.” Foster’s hand still shook slightly as he lifted his tea cup to his lips. “They destroyed my crewmen with some kind of device that they were holding in what appeared to be a hand.”
Cotter looked at the captain through blood shot eyes. None had slept well since returning to the ship, “You say what appeared to be a hand, what do you mean captain?”
“For all sense and purpose it was a hand, but what they held in that hand, appeared to be part of the hand itself. It fired what looked like a beam of light that hit the crewmen, and then they were no more.” His eyes began to fill and tears dripped down his cheeks, “Gone in a flash, oh the horror of it all Cotter. They are devils, fiends, horrific to behold.”
Cotter reached inside the pocket of his great coat and pulled out a silver flask. Unscrewing it he passed it to the captain, “And what of my three friends Jake, did you see them, I need to know?”
Jake Foster nodded his head, “Yes David, they were still hanging by the arms with what appeared to be tubes coming from their arms. I couldn’t be sure if they were alive as I only had a brief glance before we fled for our lives.”
Cotter stared hard at Foster, “So they could still be alive in there? My friends could still be alive and the navy are going to blow the islands to kingdom come!”
Shaking his head, Foster stood and looked out of the cabin window, “I very much doubt that they are David, as I said, it looked like they were having their life’s blood drained out of them. I’m sorry I really am as I know what you are thinking David. We cannot and will not go back there to see if they are alive.” Cotter rose from his chair and thanked the captain for his hospitality, then shaking his hand left the captain alone in his cabin.
Early the next morning the sea was calm but a heavy mist lay above it and Captain Foster worried that the navy ships would be held up, asked his radio man to get in touch with the captain to see how long it would be until they could get the ships to the islands and commence firing on them. He was informed that the two battleships were now in position and were just waiting for the mist to lift. The mist began to clear and a message of was sent to the Gallant One by Captain John Glegg to inform Foster that both ships were in position on the north and south side of the island and would commence firing in one hour’s time as per Admiral Peter’s instructions.
A knock came to the captain’s door and upon rising from his chair he opened the door and was surprised to see Roger Jenkins and Dick Parsons standing in the small hallway looking worried. “Gentlemen what is the matter? Why the worried looks? All is well I take it?”
“It’s Cotter, he’s gone! He’s not in his cabin and we’ve looked everywhere for him on board.” Jenkins blurted out. Donning his great coat and cap, Foster led the way up to the decks shouting for the remaining crewmen to look for David Cotter.
Moments later, First Mate Clancy ran up to the captain to tell him that a life raft was missing. “My God the fool, the damn fool, he’s gone back to the island. Clancy, radio Captain Glegg and tell him to hold fire with both ships as something has happened and that they needed to go back to the island at once.” Looking at Parsons, Jenkins and Drysdale he asked if they would go back to the island with him, and all three nodded as one. Taking up arms they commandeered a life raft and once out to sea, rowed for all they were worth.
“But why has Cotter come back to the island?” Drysdale asked as they moored the boat.
“He asked me yesterday evening if your friends had been slain the same way as my crewmen had been. I told him that with the brief glimpse I had, I saw that they were still hanging by their arms, but had little way of knowing if they were dead or alive.” Foster replied as they began walking into the jungle area of the island.
“And now thinking that they are still alive, he’s come back here to try and save them.” Parsons added. Foster nodded in agreement.
Taking the same route that they had taken the previous time, the four men retraced their steps. Soon they were walking past the wrecked tramcar like vehicle, knowing that soon they would be walking through the secret door and that it would be their only way in and out if they survived. They found a fresh set of footprints leading to the doorway, which was now nothing more than a gapping maw. Upon entering the dark hallway that had previously fascinated them all so much they risked lighting an oil lamp to help guide them, but kept the flame low as they traversed downwards into the ornate cavern. Unlike the previous time, the stone pillars and floor were now cold to the touch. Without the need to speak, the four men ventured upwards to where they had located the large domed cavern with its levels of floors and buildings.
Carrying on briskly towards the stone steps of which they knew Cotter would have taken they failed to notice movement on the lower level. A dark mass moved like a coloured gas silently towards the stone steps leading to the next level, the one that the four men were on. As it began to ascend the steps the dark mass began to change, morphing into something akin to a human form. Below it and also ascending up the steps was another dark mass, it too began to change into a human form. Now, as the transformation was complete, Andrew Taylor and Phillip Davies walked about ten yards behind Foster and the other three men. Upon hearing a noise behind him, Drysdale turned and could not believe his eyes. “Taylor, Davies, you’re alive, thank god.” The other men turned hearing Drysdale’s exclamation.
“My god, they are alive Foster. Cotter was right to come back for them.” Jenkins spoke up.
“Hold on now sir, we need to see if it really is them.” Foster said as he moved forward holding the lantern aloft. As he did so, the two creatures in human form shielded their eyes from the glare of the lantern. All stood back in horror as the creatures began to morph back to their original form. Realising straight away that the light had affected them, Foster threw the lantern to the floor in front of them and instructed the men to run up the steps to the upper landing that led to the glass structure.
As they began to run, Drysdale felt something grip his shoulder and as it spun him about he felt something sharp pierce his neck. Screaming aloud he was lifted up off his feet by what appeared to be a long bony arm, with a grip of steel that held him like a vice. Foster, Jenkins and Parsons unshouldered their rifles and began to fire at the creature that held Drysdale tight. The other creature began moving towards them and seeing that bullets were useless against the creature’s body, Foster aimed his rifle at the creature’s long bony appendage that held Drysdale. Bullets ripped into the arm snapping it in two, the creature wailed like a banshee as it dropped its prey. “Quick get the other one’s arm before it can grab at us.” Then they were gone in a flash, leaving the dissolving remains of the strange claw like appendages of the creatures.
The men looked around for Drysdale but could not see him on the landing. Lighting another lantern they looked below and spotted Drysdale’s broken body at the bottom of the lower level. “Oh no no, not poor Rupert as well, what the hell are we facing here captain? Those things looked like Andrew and Phillip. What happens if we come across Cotter, how will we know it’s him?” Parsons cried out in terror.
“Keep a lantern lit at all times as they appear to be affected by strong light.” Foster replied as he asked Parsons to light the lamp that he was holding.
“Maybe that’s why the one that was pursuing us a couple of days ago stopped as we had our lantern lit and the one near the main entrance was as well.” Jenkins said as he reloaded his rifle. The other two men followed suit reloading their rifles. It was now clear to the men that these unearthly beings could somehow transform themselves and take on a human form. Was this how they originally survived on the island? Did they need to drain the blood of humans the way they did with Taylor, Davies and Williams? Were they some form of space vampire surviving underground through the centuries? Were they the race called the Igons or had they drained their blood and annihilated that race then began building underground homes and transport systems similar to their own world replacing the ruins outside? All these questions ran around Jenkins mind as they moved forward in their search for Cotter.
As they carefully made their way along the landing towards the main entrance of the glass structure Jenkins stopped in front of the other two men and listened, “It strikes me as odd gentlemen,” he whispered, “that with all that gunfire and screaming before there is no sign of Cotter.”
Foster lifted his pistol out of the holster and cocked it, “Just in case we find him and he’s one of those things.”
“Or he finds us.” Parsons replied as he too lifted his pistol and cocked it and continued walking into the main part of the vast glass structure. Jenkins held out his pistol as well, as none of them wanted to be attacked and killed like poor Drysdale had been earlier. Ahead of them in the centre of the room was what appeared to be a stone structure that resembled a kind of stone throne, and sitting upon it was Cotter.
“Gentlemen, how good of you to join me. I trust you didn’t have too much trouble finding me.” Cotter said as he sat rigidly on the stone seat. Somehow Cotter looked different, his face was deathly white and his normally bright blue eyes appeared dull and empty of life. “Would you care to extinguish that lantern as it is affecting my vision?”
No one move, the lantern stayed alight as Foster scanned the room, by the lantern’s light he could see eight large glass tubular cylinders standing side by side. The end cylinder had tubes that were attached to something totally inhuman which were attached at the other end to Cotter’s arms. “What are you, who are you?” Foster now asked.
“You catch on well Captain, as I’m sure Jenkins and Parsons have also.” Cotter replied but in a voice that now seemed odd and not like Cotter’s voice.
All the time Foster kept his eye on Cotter and the thing in the glass cylinder, “What has happened to your friends Cotter? Are they dead like I told you they might be back on the ship, just like you are nearly dead now Cotter?” Cotter’s head slumped forward and the three men knew that they had to save him and the only way they could was by taking aim with their pistols and firing.
Captain John Glegg was growing more impatient by the minute; he had heard nothing from the First Mate on board the ‘Gallant One’ for nearly two hours. “Right lieutenant, radio the ‘Gallant One’ and ask what the blazes is going on as it has been nearly two hours since Captain Foster went ashore.” Glegg was informed a few minutes later by his lieutenant that no word had been heard from the captain since his departure. Glegg then informed Admiral Peters of the situation; Peters insisted that Glegg send over a search party to the islands as should the captain of the ship anchored on the south side of the islands.
Using their pistols and rifles, the large cylindrical glass tubes exploded under the barrage of gunfire and the men did not stop firing their weapons until they were reduce to heaps of glass shards, piping and metal. The container holding the inhuman form was also shattered into thousands of glass particles, shimmering across the floor like thousands of glittering diamonds. The thing inside lay ripped apart, as blood oozed from the bullet holes. Jenkins ran over to Cotter and pulled the tubes out of his arms and ripping a section of his shirt off made a tourniquet to stem the bleeding. He then asked for help in lifting Cotter out of the seat and they made their slow way out of the glass structure.
Once they had got down to the main hallway that led outside they left Cotter with Parsons, telling him to keep his pistol ready just in case Cotter did anything. Captain Foster knew what they had to do next and taking Jenkins with him, they made their way back up to the hallway of the glass structure. Once there, they pulled the pins out of two hand bombs, rolled them into the glass structure and then ran like the wind. They repeated this sequence on all the levels as they didn’t want to leave anything alive and only stopped when they got to the main entranceway and the secret door.
“Well Captain Foster, now that you are safely back on board your ship I suggest you leave it to the Navy to concentrate on destroying the islands. How are Professor Cotter and his colleagues after their ordeal?”
“Cotter is resting in the ship’s surgery sir. Doctor Carlyle has completed the blood transfusions he needed. Luckily we have a small blood bank in the surgery and he was given the amount needed to get his strength back.” Foster explained that it would take them all a long time to forget what they had encountered on the islands and that they would be sailing home straight away. Glegg wished Foster and his ship safe passage home and ten minutes later the Dark Lands were being bombarded with shellfire from the two Navy gunships. They would continue to bomb the islands well into the night.
As dawn approached and the sun climbed its way upwards into the hazy blue sky the ‘Gallant One’ made its way homeward. Cotter was still weak and resting in the surgery bed under the watchful eye of the doctor. Captain Foster wrote down his last entry for that morning in his log book. ‘Cotter sleeping and seems to be making good progress. Still quite weak, but is no longer deathly white.’
Smoke still curled up from the ruined islands that were virtually flattened by the tremendous amount of bombing by the Navy. Soon the remains of the islands would be taken over once more by Mother Nature and the sea. There would be no more reason why man should ever go near there again.
The remaining members of the expedition, Cotter, Jenkins and Parsons had gathered enough evidence along with the captain’s very detailed account in his log book to tell not only the people of Musgrove but the waiting world. They would hold talks and show the evidence of what lay behind the secret door of the Dark Lands.