C. L. Schneider
Indie Book Spotlight: A Crack In The World, by James Mordechai
England, 1994. Villages in Sussex are vanishing into thin air at an alarming rate. Gino Marcotti – the Gran Maestro Occultist, son of the official occultist of the Fascist Italian Regime – is tasked to investigate by the Royal Paranormal Institute in Greenwich. His investigation takes an unexpected turn when he realises that the Black Metal scene, with its recent homicides and arson attacks on Norwegian churches, is connected to these disappearances. But he soon discovers that there are bigger and more malevolent forces at play – and the only way to defeat them is to connect with his dead father.
The haptic void
All they wanted was to climb out of that dark and gelid pit.
Flashing the beams of their electric torches upward revealed there was no way of seeing the ceiling. Was there any sort of cover or roof? It seemed so because no stars were blinking and no glow from other astronomical bodies was present. But every time they tried to point the beams up, the blades of light were simply swallowed by the darkness of the vast cave. Or was it a colossal chamber? The two minuscule figures standing in front of the centered stone pillar couldn’t know. And how could they have known if even the powerful light beams could not reach the ceiling of that humungous structure?
A mist clung to the floor, unperturbed by their feet, hiding the uneven, rocky surface. The small creatures that used to scuttle the floor like cockroaches until a few hours ago were nowhere to be seen. They barely took notice of it, given that they had more dangerous entities chasing them. In fact, they were in a hurry. The hurry of the prey, the unmistakable and primeval urge to save your very skin from the beast that chases you.
Carter stopped his light beam from shifting from one side to the other. He focused his attention on the reel dangling next to the pillar they had left during their descent two hours ago. It was now floppy and several swirls were forming a heap. He pulled it down and felt it was still strong. A sign that the excavator to which they had attached it was still in place up there.
“You first,” he said to a panting Gino behind him.
Carter waited for him to come to his side. He felt Gino’s breath on his neck and, instead of finding it bothersome, he actually enjoyed that warmth. A truce from the chilling and damp cold of the cave they had been in for the last half an hour. Gino’s breath stopped and shifted to his neck’s right side now. They could see the vapour coming out of their mouths, the very sign of their life flying away from them. Each puff was a grain of the hourglass of their life gone forever.
A rumble reached them. Both threw their heads back to the opening of the corridor they came from, expecting something to jump out of the darkness.
Gino attached the carabiner of his harness to the reel and started to climb the rocky pillar. He was shorter than Carter and not as athletic but much lighter. Carter illuminated his way up suggesting every now and then where to place his hands. The rock was ancient, they couldn’t tell how old, but given what they saw in the past few hours probably aeons old, full of cavities and protuberances. In fact, it was an easy climb if you had basic athletic skills and you were strong enough. Two minutes passed until Gino’s hands reached the limit of Carter’s torch beam. It was then that the rumbling growl reached them again. They felt it on their chests before their ears could even perceive it. The hairs on their backs stood on end, their senses heightened, their pupils expanded, the adrenaline rush pumped through their chest and limbs. They knew it was coming. An icy draught streamed out of the corridor and displaced the mist in one single sweep making Carter’s feet suddenly visible.
Carter jumped up onto the pillar without even securing the carabiner to the reel. He climbed up as quickly as he could, his shoes sometimes slipping from the perilous crevices. It didn’t help that Gino’s dangling torch, still on, blinded him every time the beam hit his face. When not blinded he saw Gino’s figure entering the darkness climb after climb. It was an ascent into the unknown, a vertical highway without headlights. They were mere flesh vessels of fear sandwiched between an approaching known threat from below and an upcoming unknown void above.
Heavy breath, sweaty brows and hands, dust from the rock that gave away flakes that got into the lungs, lactic acid in their limbs. It was all against them, but their will was stronger and the climb was almost over. They reached the summit of the pillar, the circular smooth slab that welcomed them when they descended into the Well in the first place. Right, where was the Well? Where was the green fluorescent rim that let them in initially?
Above them only darkness. Below the horror. Around only the void. Panic surfaced to their minds and if it hadn’t been for the dangling reel, the only object that literally tethered them to their world, insanity would have ensued. The long vertical line of the metal reel disappeared a few metres above them, swallowed by the void.
Carter attempted the climb; however, the metal cable was too thin and sharp for his hands. They were trapped in the darkness that was pressing against them. They could feel it on their skin like a palpable object and their torches could not stop it. The void surrounded them like a blanket on a cold winter’s night and tried to devour them.
Then, the rock under their feet trembled. It felt like an earthquake and they threw themselves, bellies down, on the rocky surface of the pillar. They held onto each other, legs spread as much as they could, hoping not to fall from the edge. It continued like this for a few seconds until they realised it was not an earthquake; it was the pillar rising. Suddenly the fluorescent green of the Well’s rim appeared above their heads and it was getting larger and larger until it stopped a metre or so from it.
Carter decided to stand and poked his head inside the Well – or wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say outside of the Well? – and his upper body disappeared in the darkness. Then he jumped up and even his legs were gone. Gino heard him saying something from the other side, like a faraway muffled voice, but he could not understand him. He stood up only when he saw Carter’s hand appearing again from the darkness, waiting for his to grab, to help him cross to the other world again. And this time, perhaps because he was closer or because he was touching his hand, he heard very well what Carter was trying to say. And it stuck with him:
“This is not the England we left two hours ago.”
About the Author
Meet James Mordechai, the enigmatic self-published author of weird and horror books. His novels offer the perfect escapism from reality, transporting readers to other realms where horror, mystery, and the supernatural mingle in a unique blend that pushes the boundaries of the genre. Although Mordechai enjoys anonymity, his writing has been extensively read, studied, and acclaimed in other realities, earning him a devoted following in the shadows.
When he's not weaving his intricate stories, Mordechai can be found in Sussex, England, tending to his garden and spending time with his two children.