An Altogether Most Mysterious Encounter
Edmund awoke the next morning to find Hamish packed and waiting beside a thick oak tree. The young Doctor had slung his rifle over his shoulder and he whistled a tune that the Professor did not immediately recognise. Far above the canopy, the bright morning sun filled the turquoise sky but the air between the two explorers was less than clear.
‘We make for the Northern coast,’ Edmund informed Hamish without looking at him. Hamish took a moment to spit on the ground – an act that did little to endear him towards Edmund – and bent down to pick up the heavy rucksack next to him.
‘I’ll go ahead,’ replied Hamish.
‘You’ll do no such thing.’ Hamish scowled but did as he was bid. He was used to the Professor’s rebukes yet they were never any easier to swallow. As they left the campsite, they traipsed across a muddy stream that flowed between two young pine trees, and continued their way towards the Northern coast. Much of the journey was uphill and the heat of the sun made it difficult for them to go far without stopping.
‘So,’ Hamish began as they rested beneath a huge boulder, ‘what are you hoping to see up there?’ He pointed over the top of the boulder before steering his gaze towards Edmund.
‘I don’t know,’ replied Edmund. It was true, he didn’t know what to expect when they got there – that was half the fun of these expeditions. ‘I hope it shall confirm my theories.’
‘How far d’you think it is?’
‘I couldn’t tell you.’
‘How far have we come?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Aren’t you supposed to check this sort of thing?’
‘I don’t see you rushing to.’ Hamish fell silent and reached for his hip-flask. Unscrewing the lid, Hamish knocked back the rest of the contents and clambered to his feet.
‘I’m going to find some more water. I won’t be long,’ said Hamish, replacing the hip-flask in his pocket. Before Edmund could answer he was already walking back down the path they had come. Typical, thought Edmund, the man has no stamina.
I judged from the position of the sun that it was no later than 1 o’clock and with Hamish finally out from under my feet, I could continue unhindered. The terrain of the island, which until now had been reasonably pleasant, took a most disagreeable turn as I moved past the boulder and carried on my ascent. I don’t doubt that Hamish would have found it intolerable although I do not altogether blame him for turning back. Exploration is a dangerous game and it is not for everyone. Still, I could have used his rifle for it was possible that anything awaited me. As I reached the utmost top of the hill, I was overjoyed to find myself at last on the coastal path. Yet here the weather worsened most considerably and I found myself battered by high-pitched winds in every direction. It was a marvel that I was not blown clean off the path for there was nothing to protect me from plummeting to a certain watery grave had I not held on to the gorse and bracken with all my strength. My hands were ripped to shreds by the thorns and blood dripped down my shirt but it was of no consequence. At the corner, the coastal path inclined sharply to the right-hand side and I all but had to flatten my entire body against the blackberry bushes and sidle across for quite some time. By now the sun had begun to set and I realised I would have to hurry – it would not do to be stuck up here when darkness fell. However, my arms and legs were aching awfully and I had the most terrible migraine. Still, I summoned the remainder of my stamina and pressed on. After what felt like an age, the path widened out again and I was able to walk normally. But it seemed that Mother Nature had not had her fun with me just yet and, as I started to descend down towards the beach, a thunderous roar rolled across the sky. I had only gone a third of the way down the cliff when the rain started to fall. It soon grew torrential and I was quite soaked through. My sodden clothes clung to my skin and I could hear my teeth chattering with every step. Worst of all was the mud which, at first had been sturdy underfoot, was now viscous and slowed my movements. I pressed on, determined to reach the beach before nightfall.
– Professor Edmund McMillan
It was twilight when Edmund at last stepped foot on to the grainy white sand of the Northern beach. The rain had stopped pelting him but he knew he would have to find some way of keeping warm during the night.
Ever a resourceful man, Edmund reached into his bag and drew out a collection of dry twigs which he fashioned into a pile on the sand. Next, he took out two sharp pieces of flint and studiously rubbed them together until a spark ignited the twigs. He was glad of the fire and knelt beside it, holding his hands over the flames. In the firelight, Edmund saw that they were caked in dried blood, mud and sand. He had forgotten the pain until now and a sudden sharp sting coursed through his body. The smoke rose from the fire up to the star-filled sky; it was a moonless night. Exhausted, Edmund laid down beside the fire and, using his bag as a pillow, closed his eyes. Sleep soon overcame him and he slept peacefully, the sound of the crackling flames and the crash of the waves far below ringing in his ears.
Unbeknownst to Professor McMillan, in a small cave 20 metres from where he lay, a tribe of the strangest creatures imaginable lurked. They were neither animal nor human and their huge black eyes shone brighter than darkness itself. They observed the Professor silently, studying him. One even dared to go out as far as touching him but, as Edmund briefly stirred, it drew back towards the cave purring. For the rest of the night these mysterious creatures merely watched, fascinated by Edmund’s presence. They had never laid eyes upon a human being before and his bedraggled appearance tickled them.
I woke with a start early the next morning. The sun had not yet risen yet I sensed as though some invisible force was watching me. I am not a paranoid man but I could not mistake my own fear that I was not alone on this beach. The question was not who, but what. I placed my hand on the back of my neck and felt that the hairs there had stood on end. I longed for Hamish’ rifle more than ever but I knew it was hopeless for he was miles away – probably safe in our campsite!
I was lost in my thoughts when suddenly I was grabbed from behind and wrestled roughly into a beastly cave. The stalactites dripped ice-cold water and my breathing echoed through the pitch black. All around me, I could hear a monstrous slithering and smell a most peculiarly acrid stench. I was eager for my captors to reveal themselves whatever they may be. I was not to wait long, however as I was soon faced with the hideous sight of them. Hundreds. They were like no creatures I had ever seen or studied before (a full description cannot be given here for I only saw them for a brief moment and was too frightened to make any detailed observation). Miraculously, they did not seem to wish to harm me and made an incredible attempt at what I could only assume was communication. Their dialect was made up of mostly rasping purrs which I could not differentiate between. I remember explaining my name and pointing at myself but I do not think they understood or at least they pretended not to. I am not ashamed to admit I was scared out of my wits but, despite my fears, they were quite content to just listen to what I had to say. I told them a great deal of nonsense, blurting it out as a child would.
When at last day broke and sunlight poured into the mouth of the cave, I was relieved to discover I was alone with no sight of those strangest of creatures. I did not desire to wait here any longer should they return with an eviler purpose and I walked quickly towards the light. It was only when I breathed the fresh air again that I could think clearly and the veil of fear was lifted from my eyes. What ever those creatures had been it was quite miraculous. I knew now that my theory had been correct and what I had discovered on the South Western side was surely linked. I clapped my hands together and became positively giddy with excitement.
– Professor Edmund McMillan