Spawning – Greg Cole

Dr Peter Johansson’s journal

May 1927

Lead by the infamous adventurer and noted zoologist Dr Leo Marcus Valdez, we had circled the lagoon and made our way through the thick jungle onto the site of the vast temple deep in the seclusion of the lagoons steep cliffs and we made camp high above the lost village of the Ignio tribes-folk.

That night we set up a brace of white tents on the flat ground outside the temple itself and started a fire big enough to cook with and warm the entire camp.  The dense jungle was a lot cooler at night due to the humid damp in the air and soaked all through our clothes.

There was a murmured words spoken in the night by some of the local guides and handlers; worried looks shot towards us.  An air of nerves could be felt all around the camp that night as we ate and retired to the tents.

Low and behold those very guides were long gone in the morning leaving all of the equipment behind, taking only enough provisions to see them back down the three day long trail.  Dr Valdez was by no means surprised as he had worked in this part of the world before and knew exactly how superstitious the locals could be.

The lagoon itself was quite a spectacle, surrounded on all sides by huge cliffs with thick, lush green jungle cascading down to the dark water below.  It was more like a mile wide inland lake sunk into the ground than an actual lagoon and the sheer size of it was unlike anything any of us had ever seen.

It had taken the good part of a day to get down to this level from trail down the cliff walls, it would be at least another half day to get down to the white sandy beach floor safely in such conditions and to the tribe of the mysterious Ignio.

The descent to the sand floor was fairly simple compared to the three day hike through the deep jungle but not without incident.  Dr Munro, the teams botanist had been poisoned by a new species of plant that he came across and tried to document and sketch, not seriously but enough to bring on a strange hallucinogenic fever and had to be carried by two of the more burly of the party, an engineer from the boat, Manu and Dr Munro’s own assistant Hector;  he babbled and squirmed and the pair struggled to keep a good hold of his shaking limbs, he would need some rest and basic medical attention from Dr Simons when they reached the sand floor but for the trip down was more of a hindrance than anything else; but make it to the sand they did and the first glimpse of the strange tribes folk of the Ignio.

They inhabited caves carved into the walls of the dark cliffs themselves at many levels up their face; fires glowed in the small entrance holes and tiny flues vented smoke into the jungle canopy that hung from the cliffs above.

The people of the tribe were squat in appearance with bow legs and over hanging pot bellies; their faces also squashed looking with wide mouths and eyes almost too far apart to be considered human.  Their arms seemed unnaturally long, as did their fingers and their skin look to be covered with large warts and took a strange greyish brown hue to go with their matted black hair.  They moved with a slight wobbling motion that Dr Simons, the only medical doctor in the party pointed out was very similar to that of dwarfism and that it could very well explain their size, structure and amphibian like features and I could only agree with him.

The folk of the village seemed friendly enough and made us feel very welcome to be among them, they seemed just as fascinated with us as we did of them.  They lit fires on the beach and cooked a feast that very evening consisting of hundreds of crispy, small white fish from the lagoon and a pulp made from fruit and kelp that grew in the shallow waters just off of the beach which we watched them harvest earlier in the day.

The also passed around a strangely carved, large yet almost weightless stone bowl filled with a fermented fruit juice which I can only describe as partly horrible and very strong in alcohol content but after a few heavy sips of the brew, was well received by all.

Dr Munro was even well enough from his ‘trip’ to join the festivities with the party while Dr Simons took several photographs with his box and flash camera, which seemed to startle the tribes folk at first with the huge bursts of powder and smoke.

They had set up makeshift bunks on the white sands for us that we had to furnish with our own mosquito nets as we were not allowed into their domiciles as outsiders; a custom we could do nothing but politely obey.

As we settled for the night the slightly inebriated Dr Simons pointed out something else that I had missed; there was not a female or child among them that we had seen.  I though little of it as I too was also a little worse for ware and fell into a deep slumber.

 

We were awoken by a commotion from Valdez and Hector storming through the camp and asking on the whereabouts of Dr Munro, it would seem that he had disappeared from his bunk in the night.  After finding the camp and beach empty of the presence of the good Dr, Hector and Manu volunteered to head back up the cliff trail to the temple to see if they could track him down.  Maybe he hadn’t recovered from his toxin induced fever as well as we all had first thought.

There was a great fuss about the two following the jungle trail back up and were encouraged to stay by the tribes chiefs and elder members but they were having none of it and set off with great hast.  We could do nothing but regroup and comb the beach and surrounding deserted caves ourselves once more but to no avail.  Again we were also not allowed into the inhabited caves and the tribe became quite aggressive towards us and produced crude spears, clubs and blow guns so we backed down and retreated to our bunks.  I will freely admit that without the presence of Hector and Manu I felt a little unnerved by the tribe and kept my jungle knife close by.

The whole mood of the camp had changed from, at first wonderment and excitement at finding the magical lost civilisation and the adventure of finding out about such a strange and new culture, to an air of caution and great suspicion but most of all danger.  The only person not upset by the whole thing was Dr Valdez, he had seen many cultures and met many odd tribes and always walked out unscathed.  He just sat in his bunk writing in his huge leather bound journal and sipped at his flask of scotch.

Members of the tribe came around with food and water and tried their best to calm everyone in the party gesturing to eat and relax but there was still a chill of foreboding that we just couldn’t shake and it wasn’t helped by the passing of the sun over the top of the cliffs casting a great shadow over the beach as is someone was slowly putting a lid over the top of us.

It was soon night and the beach was alight with many fires once again and the villagers once more fed us very well and entertained us with music made on huge drums and strange flutes made of dried vines and once again the customary brew came out and was passed around in its lightweight, unidentified stone bowl, all feeling of danger ebbed away with each sip.

 

It was later in the deep of night that I awoke to the rhythmical pounding of those drums, the ones that had so entertained us just hours before on the beach, but the played with a different tempo now, a different intent.  By now the whole party was awake and rubbing their heads and shaking off the grog, some were even heading down the beach towards the water, towards the sound of the drums.

The tribe had drifted out dozens of small rafts with fires on them into the lagoon which lit up the cliffs above and cast eerie shadows that danced like spirits up the walls.

The tribe’s folk stood along the shoreline chanting towards the moon that shone brightly overhead giving everything a pale ethereal glow, shimmering light rippled over everything like snakes as the moonshine reflected off of the crystal clear water.  It was a spectacle unlike any I have seen before nor am likely to for some time.

Dr Simons had wasted no time in setting up his photographic equipment with the aid of some other members of the party and quickly rounded us up to get a pictographic record of the events that were taking place; it was obviously a night of great importance for the lost people of the Ignio.

The grand chief stood on the shore as the water lapped at his feet dressed in what looked like the entire skin of a huge lizard; it looked slick with slime and still had its tongue protruding from its almost comic looking face.  The chief however seemed deadly serious as he stamped his feet in the wash of the shore and the rest of the tribes folk followed suit kicking up water and white sand in the shallows and splashing about in some kind of trance like state.

Then we stood horrified as some of tribe emerged from one of the bigger caves holding aloft a Christ-like crucifixion effigy but instead of a wooden Christ upon the cross it was the mutilated body of Dr Munro.  It was a ghastly sight, his innards hung down and slopped upon the heads of the men holding him up, his face a red mess and he was tied to the mast with vine, his tongue hanging in the space where his jaw should have been.

Several of our party rushed to the horror but were held back by tribesmen brandishing clubs and evil looking thin spears.

The flopping corpse of poor Dr Munro was carried into the lagoon and dropped into the water; submerged momentarily the bobbing to the surface, the waters around him darkened with blood.

The chief cried out and held up a great burning torch and started to bellow a strange bubbling chant and all on the beach joined him, the sound like that of the bull frog’s mating call as it reverberated and bounce off of the high walls of the cliffs.  In the dark I could see fires above at the site of the temple and I thought of Hector and Manu looking down at this strange sight and collecting their equipment to rush to our aid.  Then something in the water made my blood run cold and I realised that rescue may be a little too far from us.

The water had started to bubble and swell and a huge dark shape came up from the deep, probably from one of the underwater caverns or tunnels that linked the secluded lagoon to the sea, but whatever it was it was vast and we all stood agog as the thing broke the surface of the crystal water.

The water around the thing started to bubble and great waves crashed onto the white sands from the displacement as the thing rose into view.  It was at that moment I had thought I had gone quite mad but the solid grip of one our party upon my shoulder brought me back for a second.  “It’s a toad!” he cried and ran to the breaking waters to get a closer look yet I was steadfast with fear.

It was a toad, a vast warty amphibian rising from the water its chasm like mouth gasping for air as its tongue lashed about; its huge green eyes rolling and blinking in its massive slimy head as it turned to face the beach.  but it was vastly mutated, several arms swung about sending up great sprays of water with its vile oversized webbed hands; and its colour was more that of the salamanders I had noted at the natural history museum back in London, the deepest black with a belly of blood red.

The tribe became frenzied in their celebrations and the drums became more frantic, more erratic as they ran into the lagoon chanting and hopping over each other.

The waters around the beast started to foam and the soft sand of the beach itself started to shudder underfoot.  It was spawning, the foam its eggs, it was laying eggs in the black waters of the lagoon and it wasn’t long before I worked out why there were no women folk in the tribe.

All the men had swam out to the monster toad and had started to climb upon its huge, sludgy back and they were rutting upon her, naked as the day they were born, rubbing themselves on her; their seed running down the huge creature and into the waters below, mixing with her spawn.  This was their god, this was their woman folk.

Without thinking I turned to run, the same direction that Hector and Manu had taken to head back up into the jungle canopy.  I was stricken mad with fear and did not look back for a single moment as I stumbled and fell up the steep overgrown path, blinded every now and then by the brightness of the moon as it broke through the leafy roof overhead.

I do not remember falling a great distance or that Hector and Manu found me in a crazed state, nor do I remember the crossing back to the mainland or my stay in the military hospital there.  I had heard in my stupor that the village had been abandoned and the remains of poor Dr Munro had been found almost stripped of flesh but other than that I remember nothing of my time after the event that sent me mad.

I have only confided in a few of the doctor here but with little belief in my claims so this will have to be my only log of the events of those cursed days.  I have also been told that another party has ventured out to find the rest of the party in that part of the jungle and to map the lagoon itself.  With all my warnings they still leave tomorrow, on the cusp of a full moon.  May the gods go with them all.

 

End.

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Greg Cole works out of the south east of England and studies at the LSJ.  A frantic blogger and writer of short horror his flash work can be found on the Feverish Fiction website and in their recent printed anthology.

He has been printed on several sites and publications including Curiosity Quills and Blood Moon Rising magazine.

He is just starting out on the long road to eventually retiring to the old town of Hastings to make jams and pickles in a dusty old shed by day and write gory horror in an even dustier drawing room by night.

You can find his blog here

http://joepasqualewantstobetakenseriously.wordpress.com/

 

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