The Madness That Gibbered
Amos eased himself down onto the aging rocking chair and heard the entire front porch groan in protest. Leaning over a bit and peering over the side, he noticed that one the support posts had alarmingly sunken into the soft earth over the years. Looking out at the swamp, he figured it wouldn't be too much longer before the whole tiny island that he built his “vacation home” on would sink into the murk.
“I'll have to get Goober over here to move the still, I 'spose,” he muttered to himself, lifting his jug of shine up and taking a haul. Letting out a pained breath as the alcohol burned its way down, and thanking the good lord that he hadn't again been struck blind, he began to hear the familiar sound of oars being pulled through thick water. “Speak of the devil.”
In a moment he saw Goober, and Goober's old wooden row boat, ease itself around a large, moss-covered tree and make its lurching way to the small dock the two of them had built over a decade ago. Back when the government had decided that only rich folks and criminals should have any booze. Amos reached into a crate and fished out a cleanish mason jar.
By the time Goober, panting after hauling his boat up to the dock and tying it off, made his way up to the porch Amos had the jar filled with their newest batch of shine. Goober stood in front of the porch, took the shine with a nod of thanks, and downed the whole thing in one gulp. Bending at the knees and making a sound like he just got gut punched, he waved his hands in front of his eyes a few times and let out a whoop.
“That's the good stuff, right there,” he wheezed. “How you been, Amos?”
“Can't complain. That's what I got a wife for.”
Goober chuckled at the familiar joke as he cast an appraising eye up at the cabin. Amos knew what he saw. Plants growing right out of the roof. Swamp water almost up to the floor at the back half. Most of the wood around the glassless windows rotted away.
“Reckon this is going to make some gators a real nice house this time next year,” Goober said sagely as he leaned against one of the support posts. The way it tipped alarmingly and made a board fall off the roof caused him to stand on his own pretty quickly.
“I was just thinking that same thing,” Amos said, taking out his corncob pipe and packing some cheap tobacco inside. “Say, did I see you rowing a stranger out to the swamp the other day?”
“Yup, you did. That's actually what I came to tell you about.”
“That so?” Amos asked, stiffening in the rocking chair. The boards under it let out another groan. “He a fed? Do we gotta worry about the still?”
“No, no,” Goober said. “Nothing like that. Nope, this guy you saw me with? He's a professor. From up north. Massachusetts I think.”
“'Massive-two-shits, you say? What college?”
“Miskatonic, he says. Never heard of it, myself. Which is weird considering all those years I spent at MIT.”
“So what's he want?”
“He says he's an archaeologist and that he's here to study the...how'd he put it...'the malignant indigenous people of the Southern swamplands' or something.”
“Malignant? Does he mean us?”
“I think so. Anyway, he hired me to ferry him around and show him a good spot to set up a camp out here. Seems he thinks that some kind of ancient civilization used to live around here and he hopes to find evidence of 'em.”
“But there aren't any. Even the Indians had the good sense not to try and live around here,” Amos chuckled. “Too bad we aren't that smart, though.”
“That's true,” Goober stated, holding out the mason jar for another shot of moonshine. “So he asks me to show him a good spot out here and I decide to row him and his assistant out to that clearing with the willow trees. You know the one, it's high enough off the water so they can stay dry but not far enough away in case they get in to trouble with a gator or something.
“So I'm rowing them the out there when he grabs my arm, hard, and points towards this hill. He says to me, all dramatic like, he says...”
“What a minute, this hill...was it...?”
Goober giggled a bit. “Wait for it, let me tell my story. He grabs my arm and says, 'My good man, that hill...that mouldering pile of earth and stone, doesn't it seem a little too round, too spherical an outcropping? It rises from the swamp like a lumbering beast, its symmetry a little too perfect to be anything less than the work of madness.' is what he says.”
“He said all that?” Amos asked, refilling Goober's jar. “With those actual words?”
“Oh yeah. It was like a thesaurus puked on me.”
“But this hill, it sounds like...”
“So I say,” Goober interrupted, “'Mister, do you mean Titty Hill? We call it that 'cause it’s shaped like a big ol' titty.'”
Amos and Goober busted out laughing.
“So what did he say to that?”
“He got kind of quiet,”Goober said, taking a sip of shine. “but he decided to camp out on top of it. But that ain't all I got to tell you.”
Goober leaned in close, the railing of the porch letting out a mournful moan. “I helped him set up his camp and while I was doing it I found his journal. And I took it.”
“What would you do that for?” Amos asked, aghast. “That's a man's private thoughts and feelings. You should bring that back.”
“If they was so private why'd he write 'em down? Anyway, you are mentioned in it. So's the whole town. You wanna see inside?”
Goober held out a stained, leather bound journal. Dust and sand caked its edges and its pages seemed horribly brittle. Reaching out a trembling hand, Amos took the journal and could have sworn the temperature around the cabin dropped nearly ten degrees.
He did wanna see inside.