Short Story: Beneath the Arctic

~This story was first published in DEEP SEA: A Journey into Cosmic Horror~


Two days have passed since I escaped the caverns. At least, I think it’s been two days. We’re so far north that the night is endless this time of year. There is no sun, only shades of black and dark blue, and the near-perfect white strip of shore. Exhausted as I am, I haven’t slept in all that time.

I’m writing this because I feel I must. In part, perhaps, because I believe the story must be told. Mostly, I write out of a crippling fear that it’s the last barrier my mind has against madness.

I’d dare any man not to go mad after the sights I saw down there, within the tunnels of that iceberg.

I wish now that I had never left England to go on this accursed expedition. Was there not warning enough, in the dreadful tales of previous arctic ventures, that have so gruesomely resulted in disaster, mutiny, or even cannibalism? Not to mention the conditions; all the usual discomforts of a ship, multiplied tenfold by temperatures so low that they have turned country-sized chunks of the sea into ice.

It was a horrible idea, even before I knew what I now know—what I fear I’ll never forget.

And yet, I signed up to the expedition. God help me, I came willingly to this forlorn land of frozen horrors.

I wanted the glory of it; hoping, through the fame of discovery, to prove my worth in the eyes of my stone-hearted father, who has at many times threatened to disinherit me if I make nothing of myself. At the same time, a part of me took the whole thing lightly. I thought that I was proving brave simply by applying to join Captain Abrahamsen’s crew, but that I would never actually be accepted, having never sailed before.

Yet here I am. It seems that Bristol is short of men foolish enough to brave the arctic seas for little more than promises of fame. There’s certainly no one aboard who was lured on with the pay, except perhaps the officers.

. . .I ramble, I know. I do it that I may take my mind off what I’ve seen in these north reaches, though I know I must eventually put it to words, lest the memories consume me from within. I will write.

I will write, and then I will drink, and hope to forget.

We set out from Bristol in early autumn and sailed north-north-east for the better of two months, the first of which we spent vaguely following the Norwegian coast. It was time enough for me to learn the basics of seamanship—and all those abilities were soon called upon, after we left sight of Norway for more treacherous waters. For weeks, I was so heavily worked that I hardly noticed the cold or the gloomy view, managing no more than a bowl of stew and my share of rum before I bunked, utterly exhausted. I think they drove us so hard on purpose, so we would not have strength to complain.

We deckhands were treated little better than beasts of burden, driven ‘til our last, and quickly disillusioned of those promises of glory that this expedition supposedly entailed. It was clear that glory was for the captain, not for us.

Still, we were allotted a few respites from the labour, and it was during one of these that we came across the cavern in the ice. I had happened to be on deck just then, lamenting my poor life choices, and so I was among the first to see it. . .

The captain had ordered the ship anchored while he finessed our course, the anchor-line descending many fathoms deep before it found resistance. It is a land of great proportions, this arctic. Great depths and massive icebergs. The one nearest us stretched three or four times taller than the full height of our ship, in places, making an incredible wall of ice. It made my head spin to look up at.

To battle vertigo, I stared instead at the bottom of the iceberg, where the dark water touched it: a sudden, blue-black void, perfectly cutting off the pale ice. But then. . . Slowly, I realised that this void was receding—that indeed the wall was growing downwards, as if conjured out of empty space. It was mesmerising to behold.

It grew slowly, but noticeably, and became larger and larger, never seeming to cease. I thought of a street magician, pulling endless kerchiefs from a previously empty fist.

Then, suddenly, the smooth wall of ice changed. There was a darker patch in it, and as it grew, I realised that it was a kind of cave—the mouth of a large tunnel. It stretched far into darkness, hinting at just how incredibly deep the iceberg was.

The strangest part was the shape of the opening: a huge, near perfect arch, like the main gate of some giant’s keep. It was even flat at the bottom, which was at least some thirty yards from the arch’s apex. It looked manmade, and nearly large enough to swallow our entire ship, once the tide was fully out.

By now, the others on the deck had seen it, too. Their murmurs turned into excited shouts, and it did not take long for Captain Abrahamsen to form plans of exploring that cavern at the next tide. The timepieces normally used to measure the ship’s speed were set to counting down the tide, so we would know just how long one could be inside that cave before the water returned.

The mere sight of the cave drove all the officers into a fervour. They kept speaking of fame and riches, and forgot entirely to curse and beat the deckhands for abandoning their duties to stare with wonder at the great cave.

I myself was no less shielded from the crew’s mania. In fact, I may have been more deeply affected than most, for when the timepieces told us that we’d have almost eight hours with the next tide, and it came time to put together an expeditionary crew, I volunteered.

Many of the others were hesitant about actually going into the caverns. After all, there was no telling how big they were, or just how deep they went. There was a chance you might get lost in there, and crushed against the ceiling by the tide. There was a chance the ice may collapse behind you, trapping you inside the tunnels. Some of the crew even crossed themselves, as if they had (already then) sensed the cursed nature of these caverns.

But not I. I had to see them for myself.

It was a little like the feeling one gets when standing on a high cliff and staring down. Despite all rationality, you feel an urge to jump. I suppose the urge is stronger in some people than others. When it came to entering the cave, my urge was overpowering. It enraptured me.

I had to see what was down there, even if it was only a disappointing dead end. It was a stronger need than I have ever felt to do anything else.

God help me, I volunteered.

To my surprise, no one opposed my being part of the first excursion. The captain even commended my bravery, which convinced a few others to follow my example and volunteer themselves.

The final group numbered six. Besides myself, there was the captain; the first officer; two of the bigger deckhands, Rolf and Phil, who I think had some previous experience with northern sailing; and a fellow by the name of Thibault, who was our ship’s surgeon. I seem to recall that the captain practically forced Thibault to join at gunpoint.

I was let off of my shift while we waited for the tide to return and recede again, and I used that time to eat and get a few hours’ sleep. When I was called back out on deck, the six of us who were to go into the caverns shared an extra slug of rum, drinking together despite our differences in rank.

Then we got in the ship’s longboat and were lowered into the water. The two other hands (both of whom were far more muscular than I) took oars and rowed towards the cavern mouth, which was then only half-way uncovered by the tide. We made it a good bit inside before it receded entirely, and our boat went aground on a bed of ice.

Rolf carried metal spikes, which the captain ordered him to hammer into the wall, so that a short rope may be fastened there. I tied the other end to our boat. We planted a second spike with a second rope’s end into the floor, then went into the cave, led by Captain Abrahamsen. My role was to carry this second (considerably longer) rope as we went deeper, uncoiling it as we walked.

We went slowly, with the captain tapping a wooden pole against the ground before us, testing the strength of the ice. The first officer followed behind him with a lantern. The walls, smoothly carved out of the ice by man or water, glittered like crystal in the dancing light.

After a while, long after we’d come out of view of the ship, the tunnel branched into two forks, leading off in different directions. The captain paused here before heading down the larger of the two, all without saying a word.

Not one of us had spoken since we left the longboat. The only sounds were our footsteps, the rhythmic tapping of the Captain’s pole, and the distant rush of running water. I wondered if that sound came from the sea outside, or from unfrozen streams, trapped within the ice. Perhaps they would gather enough strength break through a wall and wash us off our feet. I doubted my rope would save me if they did.

The tunnel widened, curved, and began to decline downward, much more noticeably than it had before. Soon it felt as if I was walking down a large staircase, except that all the steps had been smoothed down to a ramp by the continual tide. The captain slowed his footing, and I glanced over at the physician, who carried a timepiece. We hadn’t yet spent an hour down there, though it had felt much longer.

Dr Thibault saw me looking and met my eyes. His expression was one of sickly resignation. He hadn’t wanted to join the excursion party and looked like he would rather be anywhere else.

I smiled at him, though it felt weak on my lips. He looked away, and I suddenly wished I had gotten to know him better during the voyage. He was, after all, a man of science, and no doubt more agreeable than some of the ineloquent ruffians that shared the deck duties with me.

The tunnel kept branching, and it kept leading us down. By then I was sure we were below sea-level, but there wasn’t so much as a droplet of water in the tunnels that hadn’t turned to ice.

I felt the rope go taut in my arms. It had run out.

‘Captain,’ I said, ‘the rope.’

There was a pause in which I thought he might decide to return to the ship, but the timing swayed him: we still had hours before we had to head back, but if we returned now, we’d have to await the tide before the next excursion.

Captain Abrahamsen glanced down into the bluish tunnels ahead, then back at the paltry bit of rope still in my hands.

‘Leave it,’ he said. ‘We’ll use the spikes to mark our passage.’

Rolf hammered a spike into the wall, and I fastened the end of the rope to it. Then we walked on, stopping each time the tunnel branched to mark the passage we had come through.

The tunnel shrank a few times, then widened again. After a time, it grew larger and wider than it had previously been, opening up into a huge cavern. I could not even glimpse the far end of it in the dark.

As we walked through this gigantic hall, we were all struck silent in awe; not at the size, but at the structures within. It was like a city made of ice, with buildings of varied shape—from small, hut-like blocks to immense towers that spired toward the ceiling, and went out of view before reaching it.

There was even something like a plaza in the heart of this ice city. At the centre of it we found a giant block of ice shaped like the hull a ship. It wasn’t too dissimilar to ours in size and shape, though the masts had either broken off or had never been made in the first place.

It was clearly all manmade—it had to be! Time and the tide may have filed the walls smooth of details, but the grander shapes were far too geometrical to have been carved by chance.

And yet, I could not fathom how this chamber—this ice city within an iceberg, accessible only at low tide—had been built, or to what purpose. It must have taken a hundred men a hundred years to carve out this chamber alone, and then there were those countless tunnels which we had not yet explored.

Indeed, I know not what better find the captain could have dreamt of. Here was, as he mused, a greater work of man than the Egyptian pyramids—and hitherto entirely unknown to anyone!

Despite his haughty proclamation, his voice lacked in bravado. Like me, he seemed uncertain of this place, and unnerved by its existence. The others were of a similar mind. The first mate offered a few far-fetched explanations for how the place might have been built, but his voice quivered with doubts. Each suggestion only served to deepen my unease, and I saw signs of the same in the others.

Worst was poor Thibault, who looked sallow-faced and on the verge of fainting. Time and time again he glanced at the timepiece, then darted his eyes around himself like a rodent in a trap.

Then Phil—the one who’d helped Rolf row—let out a groan. He quickly crossed himself and pointed at something in the darkness. It was much smaller than the other structures, and it held a vaguely human shape, or so it seemed to me just then, although it was little more than a man-sized blob of ice.

The captain echoed that last thought as we approached it.

‘It’s just ice,’ he said, motioning his first mate to hold up the lantern to it. Then he checked himself and stared into the part that would have been a face.

I stared too, for in the moment that the lantern shifted, I could have sworn I saw a gleam of eyes, buried far beneath a thick shell of ice, which was otherwise opaque.

I looked around at the others and they did the same; clearly, they had seen it as well, though none dared speak it.

A terrible silence fell upon us. Then, in the moment that I finally opened my mouth to break it, Thibault’s nerves gave out. He let loose a whimper and fainted, hitting the hard floor with a painful-sounding crack.

Captain Abrahamsen swore and bent quickly down beside him. After determining that at the very least, the man did not bleed, he grabbed Thibault’s timepiece. There were still some hours left before the tide turned. We had time yet before we had to retreat, and the captain looked unwilling to waste it.

‘Had to be the leech,’ he grumbled.

He promptly stood and ordered me and Phil to carry Thibault back to the ship. We had brought a spare lantern, which they now gave us for the task. It was smaller than the other one, and cast a weaker circle of light. Hoisting Thibault on one shoulder each—a task made awkward by our difference in height—we headed back across the city for the tunnel we had come from.

As we walked, I noticed more of the man-shaped lumps of ice, scattered around the town, and several aboard the ship-thing. Many of them were contorted in impossible poses; others had partially broken apart.

I prayed that we had only mistaken that glitter of eyes, and that these did not all contain dead men, frozen in eternal agony. Yet my imagination ran wild, and by the time we had reached the tunnel’s first branch, I felt hardly stronger than Thibault, and I was glad to be returning prematurely.

We might have made it out, then, if the doctor hadn’t suddenly decided to wake up.

He was in a wild state, and began to thrash and struggle in our grip, clawing frantically at us. He shouted wordlessly, an animal cry that echoed through the tunnels. We tried to hold him down the best we could, but I had the lantern in a hand. At a jab from Thibault, it went flying, crashing against the rock-hard ice in a shatter of glass and flaming oil. It burned a while, casting strange dancing shadows all around, then it went out.

We were left in total darkness.

We managed to pin Thibault down. He returned to his senses somewhat, though he was confused, and his speech was a little slurred. I guess he had managed to concuss himself in the fall.

There was a more pressing issue meanwhile. We had lost our only light source, save for a handful of matches that we had happened to have on us. In the labyrinthine tunnels, I was sure we would get lost without a lantern.

‘We could try to go back,’ I suggested, but Phil was keener than myself to leave.

‘We’ll go slow,’ he said with a shake of his head, ‘and look out for the spikes. Can’t be far from the rope.’

I didn’t argue. We continued to ascend, pausing where the tunnel branched to grope around for a spike. Well, I groped, while Phil supported Thibault. After a while my hands and feet and knees were so numb with cold that I came close to giving up. Every step hurt to take.

We came to a crossing where, for all my rummaging, I could not seem to find the spike. I told Phil, and he fumbled with one of our precious matches.

I had been so long in the dark that the glow of it nearly blinded me. We stared around but saw no spike. The flame reached Phil’s fingers, and he dropped it with a curse. Darkness fell again, deeper now that our dark-vision was ruined.

‘Light another one,’ I said, swallowing a rising panic.

He lit another match. Still I could find no spike.

‘Light another one!’ Thibault insisted. His voice echoed the distress that was threatening to overtake my own wits.

‘How many do you have left?’ I asked Phil, ignoring the hysteric doctor.

‘Two.’

‘I’ve two as well. Let’s save them for now.’

‘But—’ started Thibault.

‘We must have missed a crossing in the dark. We’ve got to turn back.’

We turned, and began to walk back in the dark, squinting at any branching in the tunnel. We walked a long time there—too long, it seemed—in nervous silence. I began to become convinced that we had missed the fork, for surely we would have found it by now.

How long had it been since we saw the last spike? I tried to think back but could not recall. I had no clue how long we’d walked, with no daylight or watch to track the passage of time, and with all the tunnels looking mostly identical.

‘We must have missed it,’ I said at last. ‘I’m sure we would have gotten back to the last fork by now.’

I was met with silence, and a low whimper, probably from Thibault. The others were as unsure as I was. Still, we turned around again and began to walk.

After a time, I did recognise a fork in the tunnel, branching to the left. I dug into my pockets for a match. My fingers were so numb that I could hardly grasp it, but at last I managed to spark a flame.

We looked around in the weak light, but once again we saw no gleam of metal.

‘It’s not here,’ Phil groaned. ‘We’ve just gone back to where we were.’

‘We can’t have. We walked much longer in that direction than back.’

The match went out.

‘This is all your fault!’ Phil said. In the darkness I could not tell if he meant me or Thibault, but then I heard a smack, and the doctor cried out in pain.

‘Stop that!’ I said. ‘Attacking him won’t get us out of here.’

‘What will, then? More walking about in the dark?’ His silhouette turned on me. ‘This is your fault too! You got us lost.’

‘You didn’t exactly help!’

‘That’s because I was busy lugging around this worthless coward. I was following you!’

We may have come to blows soon after—a fight I’m sure would have left me in a bloody pulp—but for Thibault’s quivering voice. ‘Listen!’ he said, whistling a little on the s. Phil must have knocked a few teeth.

‘Listen to what?’

‘Hush!’ I said.

‘Don’t tell me what to—’

‘Be quiet a moment!’ For a marvel, Phil fell quiet.

I’ve said before that while we walked, I could all the while hear rushing water in the distance. Excepting our steps, it had been the only sound for so long that I had almost stopped hearing it. Now, as I listened, I realised it had gained in strength.

It gurgled, loudly—and this time it was unmistakable: the sound was coming from somewhere very, very near to us.

‘The tide,’ I breathed.

All at once we forgot our argument. We took to our feet, rushing blindly to avoid the water, which soon came lapping at our soles. There must have been more than one entrance for it into the iceberg, because it came from beneath, and because it couldn’t possibly have reached the main cave mouth yet. Or could it? Just how long had we been down there?

I had some vague notion that, though we had to abandon hope of finding our way out, at least for the moment, we should head up. I screamed it at the other two, in what few words I could manage, panicked as I was. We picked the branch that sloped most upward and ran up it.

Behind us, the water continued to stream in, quickly, violently. It seemed to be rushing in faster than it had left when the tide ebbed.

We managed to keep ahead of it, though the effort was doubled by my previous discomforts, and I was soon winded. The terrible gurgle of the water spurred me on.

The tunnel branched again and again, and each time we picked whichever fork led up. In our haste, there wasn’t time for anything else.

So swiftly did I run that I hardly saw the figure in the dark before I stumbled over it; another of the humanoid ice sculptures, this one splayed face-down on the floor, its arm outstretched. It seemed to grab at my ankle as I hurried back onto my feet, as if it meant to pull me down again, and drown me in the coming waves.

I kicked and screamed and shattered the ice-claw that was its hand, before remembering it was only ice, and that the water was still rising. Then I ran on, and caught up with the others, who had not stopped to help me.

Then came one fork where both paths seemed to go upward, and I picked the left at random. I soon regretted it, however, for it began to decline for no apparent reason, and I cursed the architects of this lunatic place, even as I barrelled down it, praying that the tunnel would soon begin to climb again.

The water must have reached the top of the incline we had just come from. It began to flood in from behind us. The initial wave nearly knocked me to the ground. It was ice-cold, and managed to completely drench the lower half of my body.

Soon it stood high enough to fill my boots, then it was nearly at my knees, and still it climbed, and it slowed me more and more. It came up over my knees, and I was wading in it, and my legs felt numb and heavy like stone beneath the waves.

I heard a shout and a splash as Thibault fell over. He managed to pull himself onto his knees, spitting water, and then he was knocked over again. He gurgled and thrashed, but neither I nor Phil slowed to assist him. It was each man for himself.

The water was to my waist now, but I saw the tunnel begin to slope upwards again ahead. It was far away, but maybe I could make it! After a few more strides I lost my footing, and began to swim, kicking forward desperately, while my wet clothes tried to pull me to the bottom. I thought my heart would give out from the cold, but somehow, I managed to swim on.

Just as the rising water scraped my head against the ceiling, my right hand knocked against Phil’s leg, and I pulled hard on him, managing to pull myself a little further, even as he kicked at me to get me off of him.

The pocket of air above the water surface was vanishing. I took a deep breath and kicked off from the ceiling. It propelled me downward, but also forward, and I managed to swim on.

It was so very, very cold.

I can’t have swum long before my lungs began to burn. By then I’d lost all track of Phil. I had to breathe, but all around me I was pressed by ice-cold water. It squeezed down on my chest until I thought that it would collapse. I struggled on, though my limbs felt leaden with the cold. Dark spots began to prickle into my vision; darker, somehow, than the water.

I had reached the ceiling again, and though there was no air at it, it was clearly sloping upward. This gave me the strength to hold my breath a little longer, and swim a little longer, though it felt entirely hopeless.

I kicked and kicked, all while my vision faded, and at last I could do naught but open my mouth for breath and swallow the ice water. I felt that I would faint.

Perhaps I did faint. Perhaps I only came close. My memory begins to blur around that time, and I’m not sure what, if anything, of what came next really happened. What I recall is the water receding, and air entering my lungs, even as I coughed up gallon upon seeming gallon of liquid.

I looked around, and saw that I was on the ground. There was a hole, nearby, beneath which the water still streamed past, but it did not reach up to me.

I realised that I must have found some air pocket in the ceiling, some little cave or chamber that the tide could not quite reach, and somehow crawled inside it.

My relief was so immense, and my energy so spent, that for a time, I simply lay there, panting. I could hardly even feel the cold anymore.

At length my wits returned. Despair replaced relief. I had avoided drowning, perhaps, but I would likely freeze to death before the tide receded once again. Even if I did not, I had no hopes of finding my way back out. I’d either freeze or drown or starve before I left the tunnels.

I might as well surrender then and there, I thought, and so I laid there for a time longer. At last, however, I got up. If I was to freeze to death—for that option seemed most likely, as I had not the courage to throw myself into the waves below and drown—I may as well look around while I still could.

The room I was in was as dark as all the others, and even with my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could barely make out the walls. I groped towards them, shivering now that I did not have exhaustion to distract me from the cold. My clothes were heavy with water, and I wondered if I should take them off. But I had nothing to replace them with, and I doubted I would fare much better nude.

As I considered all of this, I mapped out the little room. Unlike the other tunnels and chambers we had seen, this one did not appear manmade. It was too uneven, the walls asymmetrical, and the ceiling at a jagged slope. A natural air pocket, then.

Then I came to a section of the wall where the ceiling was highest, standing at least twice my height. As soon as I laid hands on it, I felt that it was different from the other walls. They had all been hard ice, but this was something else. It wasn’t soft, exactly, but it did not feel like ice, either, or stone or dirt. What’s more, it had a strange texture: ridges and bumps, almost like wrinkles in whatever the material might be.

Instinctively, I reached for my match and found it, then paused. It was likely too wet to be used.

I blew on it a few minutes, and waved it in the air, hoping that it would dry up. Finally I struck it against my boot, as I’d been shown to do by the other sailors. At first, there was no spark, so I tried again. And again.

On the fourth strike, the matchhead began to burn.

I held it up to the wall and nearly dropped it right away out of surprise.

The wall was certainly not ice. What it was, I couldn’t tell. It was a dark swamp-green, and had a leather-like texture. There was a long, horizontal ridge running through it. I looked to the edges and saw that it seemed to continue past where the ice touched it. I wondered how long it spread. Perhaps it filled the entire iceberg, and would be revealed if one hacked deep enough into the walls.

‘What is this?’ I asked out loud, my voice hardly more than a croak.

Then, just as my match was beginning to burn to an end, I saw the ridge split. On either side of it, the ‘wall’ was drawn back, revealing a glossy, milky thing behind it, and a dawning realisation struck me. It was no wall at all. It was a great set of eyelids, parting before a single, cyclopean eye—though it only just resembled an eye.

It was…that is to say, I was… I…

The match burned out, but I saw the eye just as clearly—more clearly, perhaps. It wasn’t that it glowed. It…somehow forced its way into my vision, searing itself into it regardless of the darkness.

A black pupil—blacker than any black I’d ever seen, even the void of a starless night sky—appeared within it. Like the white was immune to darkness, this black seemed to be entirely devoid of any light or colour, and yet it seemed to hold a thousand colours, just ones I couldn’t hope to witness with my human eyes.

It saw me, and I saw…something in that eye. As I try to recall it, my mind spins.

The pupil spun too. It became a liquid spiral of endless blacks, that slowly spun and filled the eye. Around me, the walls grew similarly fluid. Not as ice melts into water, but rather into a kind of strange molasses-mixture, half-way between liquid and solid. It bled off of the walls, and up the walls, defying gravity to pool upon the ceiling. The stuff that ran down instead seemed to gather around my feet, and then it began to flow up my leg and it was colder than anything I’ve ever touched before and all the while I couldn’t help but stare into the eyes at it revealed the secrets of lost eons. It showed me the time before time—before ice could exist on the world, or even water. There was only this thing, this leviathan creature in the arctic then and it was the arctic and then the water came, and all things changed and all those millions of years of change flashed within my mind, burning out all sense, and…and the city being made by…by…and…and I saw…

Lord as my witness I can’t say quite say what I saw. I doubt I even saw half of what I just described, but that’s the closest to an image I can form of what transpired. Whatever I witnessed, it filled me with such immense, suffocating terror and despair that I lost all my wits. I can’t recall at all what happened next.

They found me, sometime later—I know not how long—wandering around atop a lower slope of the iceberg. I don’t remember how I got there. I don’t really remember being there either—it’s all just flashes. I have a vague image of more of those ice sculptures, the ones that look like men. I think I overheard the sailors say that they found a few of those atop the iceberg when they came to rescue me.

I’m not sure, but I think I meant to jump, before they spotted me. Jump into sea. To slay myself, and thereby…what? Condemn myself to never enter heaven.

Not that I’m not already condemned. I left poor Thibault behind, and tried to drag down Phil to save myself.

Neither of them returned. Nor did the others who had stayed behind in the city, or even the small party that was sent after them. I don’t dare think what may have happened to either of them.

I was the only one to come out of the caves, and I was raving mad. I suppose that convinced the crew to depart and sail back south. I was terribly frost-bitten too. They say that I may lose a hand, and several toes, without treatment, and of course our ship’s surgeon is gone. But I can’t bring myself to worry.

I don’t even feel the pain. It’s there, but I don’t feel it. I don’t feel much of anything. Only regret, and fear—fear that I’m mad. Or that I’m sane, and really saw what I saw. I don’t know which is worse.

The one time I ventured out on deck, I saw faces in the water. Thibault’s face, and Rolf’s, and a few that were so bloated that I could not recognise them. I alerted the sailors, but they saw nothing. Myself, I was close to diving in after them, and had to be restrained.

Oh, God, I’m mad. I must be.

I hope I am.

I thought writing this down would bring me some small peace of mind. I was wrong. It’s only made it worse, and I dread to think what will happen if the others read it.

I think that I shall burn this document.

As for myself, I don’t know what I’ll do. I might still die from my injuries, and I can’t help but wonder if that would be best. I’m too much of a coward to take my life, at least now that I’m mostly myself again.

I wish I’d never set foot inside that iceberg. God forgive us for it. God forgive me.

art by lunalita
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