The Hole — Chapter 14
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“Where do we go?” Elliot said.
“I don’t know. Do you know?”
Evajean looked around. “I thought I’d just feel it,” she said. “Like back in the house at the barrier.”
“But I don’t.”
“I don’t either,” Elliot said.
They went to the back of the building and found a freight entrance, the door half open. “You think someone’s here?” Evajean said.
Elliot shrugged. He ducked inside.
Evajean came through and walked ahead of him, to the back of the garage where a railing ran along an elevated concrete walkway. Two doors were along the far wall and, as Elliot swept his light across them, he could see that the one on the right was partially open. “There,” he said.
“It’s where I’m going,” Evajean said.
The garage led to what looked like a break room, with four small tables surrounded by chairs and a long counter with a dishwasher and refrigerator. One wall was lined with lockers. A door next to this opened behind the ticket desk.
“You’re not going to like this,” Evajean said.
“What we’re supposed to find…I’m getting a feeling about it.”
“From the basement.”
“I’ll come with you this time,” Evajean said.
“Yeah, you will,” Elliot said. “Do you know what it is? What we’re looking for?”
“But it’s in here, in the museum.”
“I’m pretty sure, yeah,” Evajean said. “Actually, no, I’m positive it’s here.”
“Let’s find the basement.”
Their shoes clicked loudly on the polished concrete floor. The museum wasn’t as cluttered as Walmart had been, but Elliot still wished there was more light than the beams from the flashlights they carried. There wasn’t any sign of crazies, no noises or shuffles. Elliot kept up the pace, walking through the wide halls, scanning for signs marked “Basement” or “Employees Only.”
“It’s getting stronger,” Evajean said when they had gone the full length of one hall and turned left into another.
“Yeah,” she said. “It’s this way, I think.”
A smaller passage branched off the main hallway, an alcove of bathrooms, drinking fountains, and a door at the far end without a label. “It won’t be locked,” Evajean said as they approached. Next to the door was a small pictograph indicating stairs.
Elliot looked at her. “You know that?”
“This feeling, it’s…Elliot, it’s the weirdest thing ever. I’ve done this before, that’s what it’s like. I’ve seen all this or lived it, dreamed it, maybe. You’re not getting it, too?”
“I wonder why not.”
“I don’t know,” Elliot said. He saw her in the middle of Nahom, standing with the golden box over her head, the crazies dying all around them. He remembered what she had said and the burst of light that followed. What was she? “Let’s try it, then,” he said and reached for the door.
It swung open on silent hinges. Beyond the doorway lay stairs leading down.
“Told you,” Evajean said.
“I’ll go first,” Elliot said. Unlike the basement of that terrible house, these stairs felt solid, industrial grade. They failed to squeak or give under his weight.
The bottom of the stairs opened into another storage room, an expanse of six-foot high shelves in rows, filling an area that had to be close to the size of the museum’s entire first floor. Cardboard boxes, metal cages, and plastic bins lined the shelves. Stuffed among the clutter were rolls and sheets of paper, some new, others faded and crumbling.
“Storage,” Evajean said, taking a step past him and looking around.
“I hope you know where this thing is.”
“I will,” Evajean said. “I just need to get closer.”
She walked out into the room, along one of the rows of shelves, and Elliot followed. “You think it’s all the stuff they couldn’t fit in the exhibits?” Evajean asked.
“Maybe,” Elliot said. He pulled a bin out from a shelf and looked inside. It contained packages of various sizes, from as small as a golf ball to about the size of a human skull, all wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine. He lifted one and found it heavy for its size. “Rocks or pottery,” he said. “Maybe for research. Paleontology, archeology, that sort of thing.”
“There sure is a lot of it.”
Elliot returned the package and slid the bin back into place. “You getting anything?”
Evajean turned to him and shrugged. “Maybe. It’s hard to tell. I wish I knew what it was, what I was looking for.”
“I don’t think that’d help much,” Elliot said. “Not in this mess.”
“Let’s keep going,” Evajean said. “It’s here, I know that.”
They made it to the end of the first row, turned, and went two-thirds of the way down the next row when Evajean held up her hand. “We’re close,” she said. “It’s like… a tingle, in my hands and stomach. We’re close.” She walked to one of the shelves, stopped, shook her head, and headed to another. “Where are you?” she whispered.
A couple minutes later she called out, “It’s here! Elliot, I found it.” He rushed over. She held a box she’d pulled from a shelf. It was cardboard, about the size of thick hardcover book, and sealed with packaging tape that had turned yellow and brittle with age.
“Open it,” she said, holding it out to him.
Elliot took it. The box was light and felt slightly damp. He tucked it under his arm. “Outside,” he said. “We’ll open it then. I want to get out of here, first.”
“Why not here?” Evajean said.
“If Cassandra knew this was where we needed to go and if Melvin knew it, too, then maybe other people know. So I don’t really want to stick around.”
Evajean nodded. “Okay,” she said.
They ran back to the steps and out of the museum.
Elliot sat down. “Here,” he said. “I think it’s safe to open it now.”
They had left the museum without encountering any trouble. They don’t notice us, Elliot thought. Or they can’t. But he didn’t want to remain out in the open.
Evajean had led them down the street to a hotel and Elliot broke the glass front door. Once inside, they took out their flashlights. Only when they had found a room with its door ajar and locked themselves in did Elliot feel comfortable examining the package.
Evajean took it from him and turned it over in her hands. “What do you think it is?”
She peeled the tape from the box and pulled the flaps open. She reached inside and took out a book with a black cover, the size of a paperback and about a quarter of an inch thick. “It’s a journal,” she said, thumbing back the cover. As she flipped through, a folded paper fell from between the pages and landed by Elliot’s foot. He bent and picked it up and unfolded it across his lap.
It was a large square, eighteen inches on a side, and covered with tiny, handwritten, and unrecognizable symbols in narrow rows. Elliot looked at it briefly and then set it aside. “What does the journal say?”
Evajean handed it to him, and as Elliot read from the small book, many of the questions that had nagged them for so long were horrifyingly answered.
“Your grandfather was the prophet of the one true faith.” That was my esteemed lineage, or so my mother told me time and again, whenever the anniversary of his death brought its day of mourning. “Your grandfather was chosen by God to redeem His church and gather His flock in the name of His only begotten son, Jesus Christ.”
As a child, hearing those words, there was always a degree of disappointment and shame. Why had I not been called to a similar mission? Why did God shower all this attention on my grandfather and none on me? Perhaps it was this resentment that led me to reject Joseph Smith’s faith, that started me on the path from Mormonism to deism to agnosticism to, eventually, atheism. I admit that as a possibility, but ultimately I must reject its truth and hold to the power of my reason. I gave up the faith of my grandfather and of my mother not out of resentment or anger but, rather, because I came to see it as simply false. The fantastic stories were just that and the grand cosmology, with its three levels of heaven and plethora of gods, were nothing but flights of the imagination as wondrous as anything from Mr. Wells.
I was excommunicated on my twentieth birthday, as the same day that America entered the Great War. No longer a Saint, I left Utah and moved to New York to attend university. Whatever their degree of truth, the stories of the ancients my mother had read to me from the Book of Mormon found lasting influence, and I decided to dedicate my studies to archeology and classical languages. I found I had a knack for it and rose quickly through the ranks of scholars, eventually securing a professorship at one of the major northeastern colleges. It was years later, during a summer sabbatical, that I decided to travel to where my grandfather’s legacy began: Palmyra, New York.
I am not sure why I did this. Mormonism itself held little lasting interest for me and any spiritual pull it may have had was long usurped by a rationalist worldview. Perhaps it was only that consanguineous call so many of us feel when we reach a certain age, the desire to return to where we come from and see it through older and, in a way, newer eyes. Whatever the reason, that summer I rented a small cabin in the forests of western New York. First, visiting my grandfather’s home and then — unfortunately, as events would have it — searching for the mythical hill Cumorah, where he supposedly found those crucial golden plates.
The knowledge of the precise location where the untranslated Book of Mormon was dug from the earth died with my grandfather, or at least that was the accepted wisdom of the time. Many argued that there never had been such a place and that the Hill Cumorah was nothing more than another fabrication among a great many authored by Joseph Smith. This was the view I held until that summer and it is one I wish I could hold today.
I will not bore the reader with a detailed account of how I began to track down that legendary spot in the hills outside of Palmyra. It will suffice to say that the process entailed numerous conversations with increasingly rural and unsavory folk who pointed me to their peers, all wanting some kind of compensation, usually money or alcohol. The process occupied me for weeks, during which time I was able to work only sporadically on my translation duties for the university.
It all came to a climax when an old and dirty trapper, who the locals called Bear, informed me of the things he had seen while making camp at a location deep in the forest. He was sure he could direct me if I met his terms. If I would listen to his tale and feed him whiskey while he told it, he would make himself available to me. I was only too happy to do so, as it seemed I could satisfy his terms with no discomfort to myself other than the loss of a few dollars in drink.
We met on a Thursday evening in an empty farmhouse that Bear claimed was owned by his brother. The house appeared to have seen little use in some time. Dust coated what little furniture there was, and all of the ground floor windows were cracked or broken. I smiled at Bear and took the seat he presented at a small table by a cold and empty stove. It seemed prudent not to press him on the actual owner of this sad dwelling.
After he had finished three shots of the cheap drink, Bear began his story. “It’s a right nasty thing,” he said, “to see something so awful when you’re all alone.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
He leaned toward me, his breath harsh with whiskey. “Nature. That bloody mother bitch. Horrible, it is, when she tears herself from the earth to hunt.”
This was not the strangest thing I heard uttered during my search for the hill Cumorah. Quite the opposite, in fact. The earnestness with which it was said made the remark impossible to dismiss as the simple and drunken ravings of a country fool. I asked him to repeat himself. He did so, without a change in either the words or tone.
“Can you describe it?” I asked him. “Tell me in as much detail as you can remember.”
The story he told was indeed horrific. I was dismayed to find myself believing him.
Bear routinely spent a large portion of each year living in these forested hills, hunting and trapping, feeding on the spoils and selling what remained to the locals in exchange for occasional shelter and frequent drink. Two years ago had been a particularly warm and plentiful summer. Bear had been living without human contact for nearly a month.
He had made camp at the center of a circle of low hills, a place he had used before, as it was sheltered from the wind and fed by a small stream of potable spring water. The sun had just gone down and he was drinking the last of his whiskey before turning in for the night when he heard a terrific cracking sound nearby.
Knowing the danger of falling trees, Bear hauled himself up from his sleeping furs, lit a torch from his campfire, and set out to investigate. Over one low ridge, he thought he could make out a glow of sorts, a pale yellow light diffused through the mist.
“It could’ve been fire, is what I was thinking,” Bear said. “Fire like that’d easily bring down trees and be mighty dangerous to a fool like me camping right near it.” He said this with the awareness of one who recognizes his own propensity for unjustified risk and his eyes flashed with the excitement of memory. “Times like that,” he said, “I wish I kept a dog. Animals can smell a fire before we can.”
I poured him another drink. “What did you see when you looked over the crest of the hill?” I asked patiently, attempting to keep him engaged in my subject of interest, rather than domestic animals.
His eyes turned hard and cold. “It weren’t no fire, I can tell you that.” he said. “It was a pit…but to me that thing looked like nothing but a huge mouth, opening in the dirt. It had teeth of roots and broken logs, lips of moss. It opened. I watched it do that. Wider and wider. And that glow, what I thought was fire when I was in my tent, wasn’t fire but the stuff on its tongue. Spit, I guess it was. The tongue licked out of that mouth and it shined like the forges of hell.” He reached for the glass and drank its contents in a single swallow. “That’s not the worst,” he said. “No, it only gets more awful after that.”
The mouth seemed to be a portal through which something entered this world. Bear stayed low along the ridge of the hill, shivering in the wet grass, his torch dropped, extinguished and forgotten, as the maw continued to expand. The tongue, a fat appendage writhing like an injured beast, thrashed at the lips and teeth and the earth beyond, its luminescent saliva spreading in pools and spatters. After several minutes, the display of light and struggle ceased. The tongue retreated and the glow began to fade. Bear, focusing his remaining nerve, crept closer. He had heard tales of mysterious occurrences in these woods between Palmyra and Manchester, stories of phantom lights and voices, or ten foot tall men walking among the trees. He never doubted the tales, raised as he was in the superstition of this burned over district, but even for his decidedly credulous mind, the spectacle he now witnessed was maddeningly difficult to accept as a reality. He had experienced hallucinations before when he found whiskey scarce, and the imagined insects of withdrawal covered him, but something of this scale was beyond his imagination. The tongue was only gone briefly.
Bear stopped at that point, took another drink and crossed himself. “You of a religious sort, Mr. Smith?” he asked me. I told him I wasn’t and this seemed to relieve him. “I’d say that’s good for you…if it didn’t mean damnation,” he said. “Good here, at least, because what I’m about to tell you, what I saw come out of that mouth, would wither the heart of any good Christian.”
Initially, Bear saw an increase in the strength of the glow. As it grew, the light changed from an eerie yellow to a hateful and malignant purple, like a bruise stretched thin over a candle flame. He pushed himself away from the opening, but his leg caught and twisted in a thick, rotting branch. As Bear attempted to work his foot free, he heard a sound, a whimpering moan that increased in volume until it became a thunderous howl, not of any animal or man. He stared in terror at the source of the cacophony as it rose from the open mouth, riding the tongue like a king on his palanquin.
“A vicious and terrible beast it was,” Bear said. His complexion had faded to nearly that of a corpse. “A sheep, but none like I’d seen in the fields. This one was monstrous, bigger than even the largest bull at the fair.” He went on to say that the beast’s wool hung in mangy clumps, spread unevenly over great knots of muscle. The creature’s mouth was open and the purple light spewed forth, accompanied by the awful baying sound. Bear could see that the animal, or beast, was wet with blood, which glistened black in the purple light. The animal’s eyes squeezed shut as it raged at the sky. Bear finally succumbed to nausea and vomited at the sight of her sickly, pendulous teats.
The tongue stopped except for the slightest tremor that outpaced its rhythmic throbbing. The beast opened its eyes. “And that’s when I began praying,” Bear said. “That’s when I begged God and Jesus to save me from this abomination. Because when those eyes sprung open, they showed the same purple flame and, worse…God so much worse…” For a moment, Bear was unable to go on, overcome with sobs. I poured a bracing shot of whiskey and put it before him. He snuffled and wiped his face with a dirty rag, murmuring what sounded like “thanks” and drank the whiskey with shaking hands. He cleared his throat and began to speak again, more quietly now. “Worse was that they weren’t the only spot. No, holes opened, all over the thing’s head, each one with that same light. And I called to God because this thing, this bloody beast, had a wretched, yellow halo. This blood anointed lamb was a perversion of the Lamb of God. It was a sick impostor of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I am not one to put much stock in this kind of metaphorical reasoning, but a bloody lamb with a halo, especially in such otherwise unusual circumstances, was too specific to ignore. And Bear was clearly terrified. He stopped speaking after this last statement and stared off at some point behind me, eyes glassy. It was disconcerting to see that the whiskey I had plied him with had not calmed his shaking hands. Terror, not his alcoholism, caused his tremors. Respectfully, I stayed silent a moment, and allowed him to calm, before asking, “What happened then?”
Bear shook his head. “I pulled my leg out and I ran fast as I could away from there. Hid in a little cave I know about and waited for it to get light again. It was a long night, I’ll tell you that.” He went quiet again. When at last he began to speak, his voice was lower, nearly a whisper. “I saw it again that night,” he said. “I tried to sleep but I couldn’t and I kept seeing it, walking through the woods. Once it chased a deer not more than twenty paces from me. The beast was hunting. And even when I couldn’t see it, I could see that light.”
By morning, the creature had gone and when Bear crossed the ridge, the pit, what he had called “the mouth,” was now a burned scar in the earth. He collected his belongings and decided to end this particular sojourn and return to civilization. He hiked to Manchester and spent the next week drinking his modest savings. During those drunken days he told his story to anyone willing to listen. Those who heard his tale dismissed him as having finally gone mad — sadly, not an uncommon condition among the itinerant mountain men.
That completed Bear’s tale. He never went to that section of the forest again and, beyond his week of intoxication, had kept the story to himself. It had been two years and Bear had not had another experience of such magnitude and drama. He was grateful that he no longer feared the possibility of encountering the much discussed phantom sounds and mysterious lights.
I entreated Bear to take me to the place where the terrible events had transpired. Initially, he refused, citing an oath he had sworn to never return. A fee of one hundred dollars was enough for Bear to break his oath — and was far more than I could afford. But, I was convinced that it was a reasonable sacrifice to the pursuit of this knowledge. “I can take you there,” he said, shaking my hand to seal our agreement, “but I won’t stay the night. That there’s no making me do, no matter how much money you hand over.” I told him that would be fine, that all I needed was the location and guidance to it. I would manage the rest independently.
Four days hence was our planned departure. I provided Bear additional funds to procure the necessary equipment for my expedition. I hoped for a fruitful conclusion to my search. Here I must mention that, while I hadn’t quite felt it at any conscious level yet, panic began to gnaw at me. My grandfather’s stories, I was sure, were simple fabrications and my attempt to find the hill Cumorah, the place where he supposedly unearthed the golden plates that became the Book of Mormon, was part of a larger project to reveal his lack of honor and lies, to prove him the charlatan I believed him to be. In some fashion it was also a way of reconnecting with my heritage. I am, after all, only two generations removed from the man whom countless hard working, honest, and intelligent Americans believe is a prophet as significant as Jesus or Muhammad. Joseph Smith may be little more than a charlatan who convinced himself of the truth of his own lies, but he is a charlatan with a following greater than any in recent history. And he is my grandfather. No matter how far I remove myself from his legacy, I am still a part of it.
The idea that there might be some truth to Joseph’s claims — that the woods between Manchester and Palmyra, where he had written that his supernatural experiences occurred, could be filled with mysteries beyond the comprehension of man — shook my foundation of reason to its very core. What was in the beautiful wilderness where Joseph had his visions? I confess I was nervous at the prospect of uncovering the truth.
I met Bear at the prescribed time and, true to his word, he brought with him the implements I would need to survive several days in the forest. We packed the supplies into rucksacks before beginning the march toward whatever awaited us. Bear told me the journey would take us the rest of that day and the better part of the next. He would leave me with only a few hours of daylight remaining to make camp and prepare for the night. The prospect of the loss of daylight without preparations for the night completed was not encouraging.
We set out and I must admit Bear’s company had a certain rustic joviality and an unlettered coarseness I found immediately appealing. He told me of his time growing up in the local wilderness, of his father, a preacher who had died young, and his mother, as hard working a wife as one was likely to find. Bear received no education to speak of, but his paternal uncle was a seasoned trapper who tutored his nephew in the skills of the trade. “Good thing, too,” Bear said, as we sat drying in the sun after stumbling through a small stream. “My mother, bless her to the ends of the earth, she decided one day she’d had her fill of the hard life and when another preacher came through, she dropped it all and ran off with him.” He laughed. “Can’t blame her.”
Bear spun a series of wonderfully narrated anecdotes and tall tales, until the day grew short and the evening’s respite was before us. The following morning passed in a similar manner and when we arrived at our destination, I found myself anxious for the approaching solitude. Bear offered to stay with me until darkness to familiarize me with the area. I declined, sympathetically advising him of my wish to spare him any particularly terrible memories of his experience with the supernatural. He nodded, relieved, and took his leave of me. I spent the remainder of the day exploring the immediate area, enjoying the sights and sounds, and making these notes.
I made camp in the late afternoon, heeding Bear’s advice regarding the advantages of settling in prior to nightfall. I erected my tent and followed Bear’s instructions until I had a healthy fire started, good work to ward off both the dark and the cold. While excited at the prospect of witnessing some occurrence similar to the one my grandfather wrote of, and that Bear described, a part of me held out some hope that the fire pit would be the only light I would see that night.
As luck would have it, that is exactly what happened. I fought sleep for as long as I was able. My dreams were troubled by images of faceless people talking and running and fighting while specters floated nearby. I escaped their sight, but was overwhelmed with terror at the thought of falling under their gaze. I awoke just after dawn, still tired, my muscles aching.
I regret the lack of a sound sleep. It would have left me better able to cope with the events of that day. I made a small breakfast and resolved that I would move my camp to the scar in the earth where Bear had claimed to see the mouth. I could not be certain a new display would occur in the same location, but the time and effort spent in packing and unpacking my equipment was the only thing that might be lost.
The scar was as Bear had described it. The ground looked as though it had burned long ago, as though a monstrous fire had been built. I pushed away tangles of ivy and cleared the area of broken branches and one moss covered log. Then I set up my tent, with the canvas floor resting right across the top of the damaged earth. I was aware that this may be imprudent, for what if the mouth opened again, beneath me as I slept. I refused to take the risk seriously, and at the same time, felt aware that something beyond me was guiding my hand. I cannot justify my judgment further in this matter.
I will not say the choice was a good one, for the events that followed are not the sort I would wish upon the most foul of men. But I can now say that I have had a true experience of the supernatural.
With camp settled, I explored the woods. I found nothing unusual, with the exception of several strange carvings on perhaps a dozen trees. They appeared to be runes surrounded by a circle, and ranged from relatively fresh, with the exposed wood only slightly browned, to the blackened appearance of the much older marks. The practice of the study of archeology and ancient languages, in which I am trained, demanded that I mark the location of the trees and make careful drawings of the runes.
I planned to take the rune transcriptions to the university and have my colleagues review them, for they were symbols that were not familiar to me. My instinct at the time was to attribute the inscriptions to one of the many indigenous tribes who populated the area prior to the arrival of the Europeans. I blamed the newest of the markings on the surviving local tribes or young pranksters of some kind.
When the sky began to deepen, I set about preparing my camp for the night’s sleep. The previous night’s unsuccessful vigil caused me some concern, but I remained convinced that proximity to the scar would ensure a supernatural experience, if one was to be had. I ate a small meal, my nerves not allowing my stomach to accept a greater one. I lay awake, full of excitement, staring at the glow of the moon through the canvas of my tent.
Sleep took me. I was awakened by the odd and terrifying sensation of the ground shifting beneath me. I sat up, startled by the realization that the mouth was opening, with me on top of it. I scrambled free of the tent, hindered for a seemingly endless moment by tangled blankets. I fought free and scampered outside, dashing on my hands and knees up the hill to safety.
I forced myself to crest the hill and duck into the coverage of low bushes before turning to absorb the fantastic sight. The mouth had opened fully, light erupting from it. My tent was almost completely consumed, leaving a flap of canvas protruding. Just as Bear described, the tongue slipped from the mouth, carrying its expected passenger.
I apologize for the rather incoherent nature of what follows. As a man of science and history — more significantly, as a man without religious faith — I have long held true that the human mind is capable of wrestling anything nature might offer it. The intellect-eroding beasts and gremlins of the supernatural are only gaps in our understanding. With sufficient tools of learning and the degree of knowledge they afford, we might come to grips with the paranormal and expose it as baseless.
This conviction, so crucial to my sense of place in the universe, was deeply shaken, if not outright destroyed, by the events I witnessed in the woods. The terrible research and exploration I conducted following the events only served to further my displacement. You hold in your hands the result of that research and it is my hope that reading it will leave you unharmed and appropriately edified. These are terrifying times in which we live and, if what I have learned proves true, there are only greater terrors in our future. I pray that the good and true gods of reason stand strong against the evils I have recently confronted. Humanity, no matter our countless faults, deserves better than what I fear is coming to us all.
But that is enough. The best way to prevent the apocalypse is to share my knowledge and share it quickly. I’ll let the proceeding pages provide their own reason. I only ask that you believe my words. I am not insane, nor am I a fantasist, an accusation I often leveled at my grandfather Joseph.
A sheep (or goat, the creature was so deformed that identification was difficult), walked east and ignored me. I stared a moment, stunned by its strangeness, and then pulled out my compass to verify the wretched creature’s path. But it seemed the magnetic pull of the earth had suddenly become inconsistent and the needle swung erratically before settling on east for a few moments, then resumed its apparently random rotation. I waited until the demonic beast had gone a good distance before I gathered enough nerve to follow.
Its path was not straight, nor entirely random. The creature seemed to move with purpose. I kept enough distance to maintain my safety, yet close enough to follow within eyesight. There were a number of moments during which I fought to steel myself for the chase, fantasies of how the beast may perform against me should it be found angry with my intrusion. What was this thing? What could the great hole in the ground be? Was it a terrible mouth or some obscene birth canal leading directly to Hell? I still cannot say, even after my subsequent research, and I now imagine there are certain questions to which none of us are meant to have answers.
The beast continued its exploration for the better part of an hour, stopping once to leap upon a deer foolish enough to wander near its path. The poor animal was not so much eaten as consumed, the demon sheep falling on it and pinning it down, while its hellish flesh seemed to burn through the deer. The deer released an awful cloud of smoke and a grayish seepage ran out of it and soaked the earth. When the beast finally stood, all that remained of the deer was wet earth and nubs of corroded bone. I felt sick at the sight, forcing down the bile, with my mouth set tightly against the smallest sound. Finished with its meal, the beast returned to its task and I followed, though perhaps with a degree more fear troubling my bowels.
Eventually the beast found its quarry. We emerged over a low, tree covered hill into a gorgeous valley, the overflow from a small and clear spring trickling through it to the east. At the bottom, nestled into the side of the opposite slope, and beneath the roots of a huge and ancient tree, was the mouth of a cave. The cave was hidden, and came to my attention only because the beast made for it without distraction, tearing at the overhanging vines and creepers until the dark opening was exposed.
I crouched low, watching this scene, wondering what could be in the cave that such a monster would spend so long searching. Surely not food? We were surrounded by rich wildlife and the deer was an easy conquest for it. After a minute of rooting at the entrance, the beast rose tall, kicked its feet, and charged forward, bounding through the opening and squeezing the whole of its terrific bulk inside. I gasped, unable to comprehend that the beast was able to fit into the cave. After rapid consideration it was clear to me that the creature was not of an entirely natural sort and so could not be expected to abide by the laws of nature and science as I understood them.
I was not going to pursue it, no matter how great my curiosity. No matter how burning my desire to learn of the monster’s treasure. I had no reason great enough to justify the risk of discovering the horrors that surely awaited me beyond the mouth of the cave. Instead, I decided to wait, for unless the passage below the hills lead to an alternate exit, the beast would return and I would resume tracking it.
I sat for hours. Before I observed any activity at the cave, the sun had begun to rise, the sky turning a faint bluish orange. I sat up at the first shaking of the leaves and leaned forward. I am unsure what I expected but it was certainly not the being that emerged.
A man in white walked out of the cave, seeming to grow in size until he stood perhaps twice my height. I was backing away from the hill where I hid, when it looked directly at me and held out its hands, gesturing for me to come forward. I have no understanding or reasoning for doing so, but I did, I walked toward the giant man. Strangely, just as with my decision to sleep on the scar in the earth, moving toward the man seemed the precise action to take. I climbed down the hill until I stood at his feet.
The creature, demon or angel, I knew not, seemed surprised by my willingness to approach him. He asked me if my name was Smith and at my confirmation of the fact, the being appeared to relax. “I thought you dead,” it exclaimed, and I realized he had mistaken me for Joseph Smith, Jr., my grandfather. There is a strong family resemblance, I admit.
“Why have you returned?” it asked me. “The time has not yet come.” Its voice sounded broken, muffled and forced, as if it were speaking for the first time in a great while. I could feel each word deep in my stomach.
“I was searching,” I said, stumbling and speaking with great difficulty. I had to answer it satisfactorily or, I was convinced, it would kill me, or drag me home with it to that awful mouth for his cruel amusements. “For… For you.”
“The time is too early, Smith,” it said.
“Too early?” I asked.
“You grow impatient, as your kind so often do. You cannot wait the appointed time for what is prophesied to come. You feel the need to rashly drive events forward.” It laughed. I fell backward in horror at the sound. “You will be dead before I return again,” it said. “You will not experience my glory.” It paused. “Have you done as I asked?”
“Yes,” I said, for it was all I could think to say.
“The message spreads then.” It nodded. “Good. Your flock will grow. Your faith will cover the earth and shall make my return, my victory, grand. A god needs his followers, no?”
“Of course,” I said. “He definitely needs them.”
“There shall be war,” the creature said, ignoring me. “I will have need of a great army. It is you, Smith, who have provided it. Your faithful will be the vessels for my minions. And for that I shall give you prime place by my side as I rule this world. With my army before me, when I have eradicated the scourge of my enemy, driven out that foul demon Yahweh, murdered him and desecrated his corpse, then I will furnish you with your reward. You shall witness Moroni’s kingdom. Can you wait? Can you be patient?”
“Yes,” I said. The creature nodded and turned away, but I stepped forward. “Where are you from?” I asked it.
The being gazed upon me prior to answering, “Worlds beyond these.”
I did not know how to respond, nor did the mysterious being give me the opportunity to do so. Instead, it walked away, shrinking in size, until it vanished through the mouth of the cave.
It was gone.
With my tent and bedding within the earth, and frightened by the prospect of sleeping unprotected in the wilderness, I began the hike to the village. I let my path take me past the scar. The mouth had closed with no trace of its supernatural occupant or purpose. The journey was not easy and I started when some unseen thing in the forest snapped or rustled.
Obviously, I survived the experience, although with my mind irreparably shaken. I made it into town, found a comfortable room for rent, and fell immediately into a long and dreamless sleep.
This is where I shall end my tale. The remainder of this journal is not my continuing adventures, rather a summation of my discoveries in the subsequent months, an exposition of what I learned as I sought to better understand my night spent in the woods. I cannot speak to the entirety of its truth, for none if it is corroborated outside of my own rather mad recollection and those of potentially untrustworthy characters. The story I have collected is so terrible, that if even a portion is true, I can manage nothing but pessimism for the future of my race.
It all begins with my grandfather, Joseph Smith, Jr., for whom I was named. It is the true and hidden history, as I understand it, of that great religion he founded, the Mormon faith. I do not know who will read these words, when they will be read, or if this journal will see any human eyes but mine. I only hope that its contents find a sympathetic ear and that you, my reader, will take them seriously, for the future of humanity is at stake. The Mormon Church is a fraud built upon a horrible lie. Its mission, one undreamed of by all its living followers, is the subjugation of this realm, this universe.
Fear the Mad King Moroni, for his return is at hand.
Elliot stopped and looked up.
“Is there more?” Evajean asked. She was leaning back on the bed, propped up on her elbows. The room around them was quiet and dim.
Elliot set the book down on the stretched bedspread and stood up. “Yeah,” he said, “there’s more.”
“Are you gonna read it?”
“In a minute,” he said.
“Okay,” she said and pulled her arms out from underneath herself, falling back across the bed. “But you really think he’s right about even the church? That all of Mormonism was caught up in this Moroni’s plans? I mean, I remember seeing commercials for them on television.”
“I don’t think they knew,” Elliot said.
“And is that what the crazies are? Moroni’s army?”
“They came back and took over the vessels,” Elliot said. “That’s what we saw in the caves under Nahom. Those ghosts floating around the people, those were Moroni’s soldiers.”
“They were possessed.”
Elliot nodded. “I think so.”
“What are we supposed to do, Elliot? Find the One Mighty and Strong? I mean, how do we do that?”
“I have no idea.”
“Will you read the rest now?”
“Yeah,” Elliot said. He sat down and picked up the journal. He took a deep breath and continued to read.
There is hope, gentle reader, though I fear it is slim, indeed. Moroni’s return is inevitable, but with luck he can be defeated, either killed or driven back to the dimensions from where he dwelt before his visit to us.
I must tell you what I know of Moroni, called “The Angel” by the modern church — though his enemies know him as “The Mad King.” He, or rather it, is an awful creature, a demon birthed on a plane far removed from that which we know. He is not of this world, but his desire is absolute power over it. He used Joseph Smith to create the Mormon faith so that it could prepare an Earthly army.
My grandfather was a pawn in Moroni’s plans. I have every reason to believe the stories he told of angelic beings coming to his room, of meeting them in the woods, and even the discovery of the golden plates, were true to his knowledge. Moroni showed him the untranslated Book of Mormon, however the story contained within was nothing more than a fictional account intended by the Mad King to launch a great religion. By opening themselves to him, making their minds available through faith, the subsequent generations of Mormons could function as conduits through which Moroni’s hoards might invade and conquer to this world.
I have come to learn that the conspiracy reaches farther than this single Christian sect, however, and in fact includes the whole of its mother religion, and even those related to it by the book of Yahweh. You see, it was Yahweh — or Jehovah or, simply, God — who first moved to solidify a hold on the earth, and he did so by spreading his name via the lips of countless faithful.
As I said, Moroni can best be described as a demon, and I now include Yahweh under that same description. They are both extra-dimensional beings who have warred for eternity and have used our world, and others, as their killing fields. More of their nature I do not know and I imagine grasping it fully would prove impossible. As it is impossible to understand the whole of the heavens, it is impossible to imagine the creatures who inhabit it. Our minds cannot reach so far.
What little more I can state of the matter is that there exist two competing armies, one under the command of Moroni, the other lead by his nemesis, Yahweh. Moroni’s legions are the Nephites, a people key to the Book of Mormon, though different than their portrayal would suggest.
According to my grandfather’s famous book, the Nephites were the descendants of Nephi, the son of a prophet who fled Jerusalem to this continent over two-thousand years ago. There they eventually fell prey to vice and were destroyed by the Lamanites, a dark-skinned race. But this tale is false. The Nephites were not early inhabitants of North America but, instead, alien creatures who have walked these lands in the past and hope to do so again in the near future.
Yahweh’s armies are the Lamanites, those cursed with dark skin for their wickedness according to the Book of Mormon. That book spins a great number of fables about the Nephites and Lamanites and other peoples who populated this land, but they are simply stories. In fact, nearly everything contained within the Book of Mormon can be written off as fantasy.
Neither Nephite nor Lamanite is likely the true name of these creatures, but I have discovered no others. We should not fall into the trap of placing our faith in Yahweh simply because we know Moroni’s nature. Both beings seek only our subjugation, and both would destroy us at the earliest opportunity. Fortunately, both Moroni and Yahweh were banished from this realm long ago. But the bars of their prison weaken. Their return cannot be far off.
Hope rests with the One Mighty and Strong, who is found in Mormon scripture as the one who will usher the faith through the end times. I have been able to discover little more. What I have learned, through exhaustive research and many interviews with unsavory characters, confirms that the One Mighty and Strong is not a hero to Mormonism but is the ultimate weapon against the tyranny of Moroni and Yahweh. Moroni sent a vision to Smith, working the myth of this being into the Mormon belief structure, so as to excite believers and, in a sense, place them on the lookout should the One appear. Mormon scripture tells us this:
It shall come to pass, that I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong, holding the sceptre of power in his hand, clothed with light for a covering, whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words; while his bowels shall be a fountain of truth, to set in order the house of God, and to arrange by lot the inheritances of the Saints, whose names are found, and the names of their fathers, and of their children enrolled in the book of the law of God: while that man, who was called of God and appointed, that putteth forth his hand to steady the ark of God, shall fall by the vivid shaft of lighting … These things I say not of myself; therefore, as the Lord speaketh, He will also fulfill.
Anyone described as such is sure to draw attention and create much excitement within the ranks of Mormonism. But it is only lies peppered with truth. The “house of God” is Earth and it is true, I have discovered, that the One Mighty and Strong will set it in order. As such, he must be found and he must be protected. Timely identification by those sympathetic to Moroni’s cause will make his dispatch more efficient and thereby prevent Moroni’s downfall.
I implore you to search this being out. Find the One Mighty and Strong and take whatever actions necessary to assure his survival and victory.
Enclosed with this journal is a document I received by post two weeks past. It is the handwriting of my grandfather, but I am not familiar with with the text or the symbols of the language. My suspicion is that this is the alphabet as purported by the Book of Mormon. If I am correct, only my grandfather’s seeing stones, the Urim and Thummim, can be used to translate the document. Find them. Discover his message. Stop the conquest of Moroni and Yahweh. This I beg.
“Jesus,” Elliot said, letting the journal fall to the floor.
“The glasses!” Evajean said. She jumped up. “Where are they? The ones you found in the house.”
Elliot reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled them out. The two large lenses, one gray and the other blue, caught the moonlight from the hotel room’s window.
“That’s them,” Evajean said, excited. She leaned forward, taking the glasses from his hand. “The Urim and…whatever the other one was.”
“Let me see,” Evajean said, pointing toward the folded sheet of paper. Elliot handed it to her. She put the glasses on, the huge lenses bulging away from her face in a comical manner. She held up the sheet and studied it for a moment, turned it around and turned it back. “I don’t see anything,” she said.
“I can’t see through these things,” she said and took the glasses off.
“Here,” Elliot said, and took them from her, along with the paper. He set the sheet in his lap and lifted the glasses to his face.
“Anything?” Evajean asked.
Elliot was silent. He leaned down. “I can read it,” he said.
I am not a bad person. Raised poor, uneducated, and an occasional charlatan, yes, but I am not a bad person. The insects that eat at the corners of my conscious mind tell me otherwise, but I don’t listen. I had reasons for what I did.
When God speaks, you have no choice but to listen. I know. I have seen his face and felt the heat he radiates. I have believed.
Kill him. Only you can read these words. Only you can defeat him. The One Mighty and Strong is an eternal weapon against the darkness. Moroni cannot stand against it.
I remain ignorant of the genesis of the weapon. I do not know who created you. But I perceive your purpose. As I am not a bad person and because I have come to recognize the horrors I have helped to advance in this world, today, I set events in motion that I hope will lead to Moroni’s destruction at your hand.
A small group of my followers have been informed of the truth. They have been taught the secrets. They and their descendants will harbor and protect the One Mighty and Strong. Moroni will do everything in his power to stop them, but he will fail. I have enough faith left to know that.
Only you can read this. Only you can use my seeing stones. You are the One Mighty and Strong.
I tremble as I write this. I feel Moroni’s forces gathering. He is coming for me. I fear I have little time left.
Your humble servant,
Joseph Smith, Jr.
June 27, 1844
Elliot finished reading. They both sat, silent and terrified.
Then Evajean took Elliot’s hand. “I will fight with you,” she said.
“Elliot, I will fight this battle with you.”
Elliot shook his head. “It’s crazy. It’s not me.”
“No,” Evajean said. “It’s not you. It’s us.”
“What do you — ”
Evajean said, “How did you come to Charlottesville, Elliot?”
He looked at her, confused.
“Just tell me,” she said.
Elliot shrugged. “My wife. It was Clarine’s idea. She wanted to move and we did.” He shook his head. “But we talked about this already.”
“Yeah,” Evajean said. “But it was Henry who suggested Charlottesville for me. He’s the one who said we should move there and he’s the one who picked out that house. I didn’t even like it but Henry insisted. Do you see what I’m getting at?”
“Who told you to buy that house on that street?”
Elliot thought about it. “I guess it was Clarine.”
“Right,” Evajean said. “Of course it was. Don’t you see, Elliot? Smith said there would be people who’d protect the One Mighty and Strong. Clarine protected you. Henry protected me. What better way to hide something than to break it apart and keep it in two places? But it was important that they bring us together. But not too soon. Otherwise there’d be too much risk.” She stopped and closed her eyes. “I can feel it, Elliot. It’s like when you wake from a dream and the memory fades, but in reverse. The memory’s returning. But it’s faint, Elliot. I can’t see all of it.” Elliot tried to say something, but she went on. “We couldn’t fight Moroni if we never found each other. You think it’s just coincidence we ended up living right across the street?”
“I don’t — ”
“Think about it. We have to be together, we have to meet. And we live totally apart, in different states. Out of nowhere, my husband says we have to move to Charlottesville. I mean, who had ever heard of Charlottesville? And your wife does exactly the same thing. She tells you to pack up, that the family’s moving to Virginia? That’s not the kind of thing that normally happens. Henry and Clarine were in on it. They were part of Joseph Smith’s little secret.”
Elliot was quiet. He knew she was right but he hated believing it. Clarine was his wife. She had given him Callie. She wasn’t some secret agent, damn it. But it all made sense. She had come to him, after all. She had asked him out.
Evajean stood up. “We have to go,” she said.
“It’s happening. It’s all coming back. We have to be there.”
“Come on,” she said.
“Evajean — ”
“We have to kill Moroni.”