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.
It is with a most heavy heart and discordant soul that I travel now to the American south lands. But I've steeled my resolve and, though sleep may never find me again, I have abandoned my precious library and have found myself, after days traveling by train, aboard a bus that promises to take me into the heart of Pillock Hill, Louisiana.
From the moment myself and my assistant, Louisa, boarded this ill-equipped transport my nerves have been most tumultuous. This conveyance, if one dares give it even that much recognition, is little more than a pile of rusted metal and worn bolts. But this death trap could almost be considered a haven of light and reassurance when one considers its driver.
Never has the sight of a man filled me such seething dread. His eyes are bulbous and not at all unlike that of a underwater denizen of the deeps. I am reminded of a tale my poor, doomed colleague Dr. Marvin told me of the doomed town of Innsmouth. Certainly, this decrepit half breed of a man who sits in the driver's seat in front of me is one of those degenerate races of half man/ half fish that once plagued the shores of my home state of Massachusetts.
“Wait a minute,” Amos looked up from the journal. “Does he mean Enos?”
“Do you know anyone else who drives the bus between here and the train station in Baton Rouge?” asked Goober.
“Well that's just not fair,” Amos said, stabbing the book with his index finger. “Enos has Graves’ Disease for chrissakes. That's why his eyes are all bulgy like that. You'd be hard pressed to find a nicer soul on this earth than Enos McGruber.”
“Hey, I know it,” Goober said, holding out his arms. “But that ain't the worst of it. Read on.”
Amos flicked through the pages a bit until he found one closer to the current date.
The town of Pillock Hill is a darkened nest of debauchery and abhorrent excess. The streets are ill-maintained and the townsfolk all have the darkened cast that bespeaks of an unholy blending of the races. Surely the proprietor of the local dry goods store is in league with the foul minions of Shub-Niggurath.
I was certain that he had cheated me out of more than half a pound of dried jerky, with which I had planned to use in the breaking of my fast, but so fearful was I in the face of his blatant and profuse criminality that I had no choice but to leave his establishment with nothing more said than a few harsh, pointless words hurled in his direction. Never again will I set foot into so damned a....
“He's talking about Percy's place isn't he?” Amos asked. “Now this just ain't right. I mean Percy is a cheat and he'll try to get away with just about anything, but to call him a minion of...hold on...”
“Say it out loud,” Goober said, reaching onto the porch to get the jug of shine.
“Shub-Niggurath,” Amos gasped. “This fella's a racist! Percy may be a cheat but he's a cheat ‘cause he's a cheat and it don't have nothin' to do with....well I never!”
“I know,” Goober said as he took haul off the shine jug. Wheezing a bit and exhaling moonshine fumes, he continued. “This professor guy is walking around thinking he's all educated, but he's really just an old Yankee bigot.”
“Well then,” Amos said, rising up out of his rocking chair and walking over to where he had his pitchfork leaning. “I think it’s high time we showed this professor fella just what kind of religion we practice down here.”
The multitude of noises, from the susurration of insects to the bubbling pops of released swamp gases, quieted at the sound of the slowly approaching rowboat. The worn, moss-encrusted shack let out a groan, as if grudgingly anticipating that yet more weight was about to be added to its sagging structure.
Goober, sweating profusely, slid the boat to a halt next to the dock while Amos eased himself out and tied it down. Both men silently made their way to the dilapidated porch and resumed their positions, Amos on his rocking chair and Goober cautiously leaning against the railing, and picked up their mason jars of moonshine. Gulping, wincing, and sighing, both men gazed out into the humid swamp with grim looks.
“Well that could've gone better,” Goober said eventually, reaching for the shine jug.
“Yup,” Amos agreed.
“You know what bugs me most about that whole thing?”
“He didn't have to be so rude about it, you know?” Goober said, offended. “We just asked him to maybe move along, do his racist little research in some other state or maybe just get his head out of his ass for a change. He didn't have to call us....What was it again?”
“'Profane instruments of unknowable entities' or something like that.”
“What the hell does that even mean?” Goober shouted. “If somethings unknowable, then how can you know about it enough to worship it?”
“Beats me,” Amos reached for the jug and refilled his jar. “It's a good thing we brought the sheriff along though--I thought he was going to attack us with that club. I think he thought we were there to sacrifice him or something.
“Somebody should tell that guy,” Goober began, his voice slurring a bit from the alcohol, “that there is a big difference between being politely to leave town and being killed by mad worshipers of dark gods.”
“Well, first he's got to get it into his thick skull that not all good old boys are deranged cultists who make odd pacts with unlikely entities.”
“I bet if we were to audit him we'd find him lousy with thetans,” Goober said sagely.
“No doubt,” Amos agreed, nodding his head vigorously. “The crimes of Xenu plague us to this day. But we can only save those who want to be saved, brother.”
The two men continued drinking in silence while two more planks slid off the roof and splashed down into the stagnant water of the swamp.