TESTIMONY PART 5
As tired as we all were, we knew there was work to be done. Within a few hours, our group had successfully used the carbolic acid to remove the thick mold from the dining/meeting room of the ship. It wasn’t much, but it finally gave us a place to sit, to research, and to make plans.
As luck would have it, the book I retrieved from the captain’s cabin had, indeed, been the ship’s log. I had spent over an hour reading it, and quickly discovered that it created just as many questions as it answered.
From the evidence gathered in both the book and the lab, it appeared that the ship really had been a research vessel. However, its nationality and true mission appeared to be purposefully obscured. Equipment onboard came from a myriad of countries, both western and communist. There were even a few Japanese items discovered. It was obvious that the nation responsible for sending the vessel on its voyage didn’t want its identity discovered. In the end, I suppose it doesn’t really matter from what country the craft originated. In the end, their fate was the same as ours…
The log did answer other questions, however. In particular, it seemed to confirm that the mysterious mushroom we found in the lab was, in fact, completely inedible. But the evidence appeared to show that it went further than that. Much further…
One of the only notes pertaining to these mushrooms – these “Matango”, as they were apparently called – stated that they contained some form of nerve-affecting agent. Exactly how these agents affected a person was not recorded, but it appeared to be the cause of the crew’s disappearance.
The only other reference to the “Matango” appeared in one of the log book’s final entries, which revealed that the crewmembers had begun disappearing from the ship in groups of two or three at a time. The mushroom wasn’t cited as the cause, but it wasn’t hard for me to put two and two together. To me, it was the only logical explanation, and it seemed to solve a number of other bizarre mysteries surrounding the ship and its missing passengers…
Several hours earlier, I had learned of Yoshida’s discovery of a small but precious cache of canned food in a cellar within the ship’s kitchen. While it would only last a week for the seven of us, the fact that it existed at all puzzled me. If food still existed on the ship, why had the crew seemingly abandoned it? If the crew had died of starvation, surely their corpses would have littered the ship’s deck and various rooms. But there was no sign that a single man had died on that ship. Not one.
It must’ve been the mushroom. It was the only explanation that made sense to me.
While this answer satisfied most of my curiosity, it left me far more unsettled than I had been before. If the crew had fled the ship under the influence of some sort of insanity-inducing mushroom, what had happened to them next? Had they fled into the forest to die? Had they killed themselves, or possibly each other? Or were…
Or were they still out there, crazed and unstable, waiting in the woods to kill us all?
I knew it was a crazy, paranoid thought. But I couldn’t shake it from my mind as the day wore on. When the time finally came to convene in the newly cleaned meeting room, I once again forced my fears to the back of my mind as I prepared to share my findings about the mushroom and its potentially dangerous effects.
My fellow castaways sat uncomfortably as I laid out what I knew, warning them to leave any mushrooms they might find alone. Sakeda-san backed me up, and we began to delegate the necessary duties to ensure our survival. As we listened, I could feel the tension beginning to mount in the room. The sheer amount of work needed was beginning to dawn on everyone. Smoke signals needed to be constructed. The yacht needed to be retrieved and moored closer to shore for repairs. I watched Akiko’s face contort in disgust as Sakeda ordered the gathering of seaweed and turtle eggs for food. Yoshida-san, shirtless and blowing smoke rings, appeared the most defensive of the lot; as Sakeda-san continued to talk, Yoshida challenged him on multiple decisions, even going as far as telling him that, as a skipper, he no longer had the right to “boss us around.” I did my best to relieve the tension as the discussions continued. We were all friends, after all. What’s more, we were all stuck in the situation together. If our friendship failed, any hope of teamwork would soon follow suit.
In any case, each of us accepted our assigned duties on that first day without complaint. The girls were in charge of fetching water, Sakeda-san and Koyama-san ventured back across the island to retrieve the yacht, and Yoshida-san set up and tended a smoke signal. Kasai-san and I entered the jungle in search of food, armed with a rifle that Kasai-san had found and repaired.
However, hunting proved to be a futile dream. After hours of waiting, not a single animal appeared before us. No rabbits or squirrels, deer or snakes. The single bird that did appear out of the fog quickly reversed its course, turning as if hitting an invisible wall around the island and soaring out of sight in a matter of seconds. Kasai-san and I both knew that there had been no way for the bird to see us. It had avoided the island on purpose, shunned it like a scavenger might shun diseased carrion.
The incident sent shivers down our spines.
But that afternoon was destined to offer us even stranger occurrences than this.
As we waited for potential game to come our way, a sudden flash of light from the grass below me caught my eye. There, resting at our feet, was a pile of shattered glass shards.
One of the strangest things we discovered on the derelict ship was the absence of mirrors in every room. Open spaces sat where mirrors had clearly hung, and we had found no broken glass anywhere on the craft. The mirrors had obviously been removed, but we had no idea why or where they had been moved to.
The shards in the grass finally answered at least one of these questions.
With both of us on edge, we elected to move deeper into the jungle, hoping to find anything that could be a food source. Instead, all we found was more foliage, more trees… and mushrooms.
They covered the trunk of a nearby tree, and extended across the ground and into the dark center of the jungle. There must have been hundreds of them, each tiny enough to eat in a single bite…
It was then that… that something moved in the distance.
Even through the fog I could see it… a form at once human and inhuman.
It looked for all the world as though one of the jungle’s many mushroom-encrusted growths had simply uprooted itself and walked away.
Kasai-san saw it, too. And it terrified him enough that he drew his rifle and quickly fired off three shots in its direction. By the time the echo of the final shot faded away, the strange form had disappeared into the jungle.
A search of the exact spot we had seen the thing move revealed nothing. After the stressful day we had endured, we began to doubt our own eyes. To doubt our sanity.
But I assure you, Doctor, we were the farthest thing from insane.