TESTIMONY PART 6
We returned to the ship exhausted and uncertain. Neither Kasai-san nor I spoke of our strange encounter in the jungle. As I said before, we weren’t entirely convinced that it had actually happened at all.
The remainder of the day passed in tense silence. My fellow castaways spoke little of the day’s hard work, with only a few bits of information revealed as the sun began to set behind the foggy horizon. Sekeda-san spoke briefly of sailing the wreck of the yacht over a graveyard of sunken vessels off the coast of the island. Yoshida briefly mentioned helping the girls bring their collected water back to our new base of operations. Aside from this, there was little to say. We ate what little food we could spare from the ship’s reserve, and then made our way to our respective beds.
The sleeping arrangements for our group had proved to be an unexpected point of contention between us. After our thorough exploration and cleaning of the ship, we had discovered a cabin easily big enough to hold the five of us men, and a second, smaller cabin was chosen for the girls. Kasai-san, however, refused to bunk with us, and insisted on sleeping alone. It hadn’t taken Kasai-san long to take up residence in one of the ship’s largest rooms, which he quickly claimed for himself. Even in those most dire of circumstances, he had to be the biggest man in the room. To feel important, powerful. We had been too tired to argue the matter. We needed sleep, and for my part, I didn’t much care just where any of us slept. But I could feel the other three men staring daggers into Kasai-san as he departed the meeting room to prepare for his solo bedtime.
It didn’t take long for that sleep to find us. The last sound I remember before finally slipping out of consciousness was Koyama rolling over for what must’ve been the hundredth time since we had lain down. His restlessness didn’t concern me. All I wanted was a relaxing night’s sleep after a long, hard day of survival…
But the night had other plans for us.
I don’t know how much time passed before the crashing sound awoke me. We had no way of knowing what time it was, or how long we had slept. Not that it mattered, of course.
Sakeda-san had heard the noise, too. In seconds we were both out of bed, desperately fighting off fatigue and trying to focus on the mystery at hand. The first thing we both noticed was that the door to our cabin was open. We had been sure to shut it before climbing into bed, and the latch was certainly not broken or defective. Someone had either left the room, or attempted to enter it.
At the time, we had no reason to assume the latter option. Even with our bizarre encounter in the forest earlier that day, common sense dictated that the simplest explanation was likely the correct one. And our sense was that Koyama was the culprit. He had been the only man in the room to remain undisturbed by the sound that had awoken myself and the room’s other two occupants, and his silence was suspicious. When we roused him from sleep to ask if he were in fact responsible, he dismissively admitted to leaving for a midnight trip to the bathroom. We would later learn that this was untrue, and that he’d had a very different destination in mind.
Curiosity compelled me to open the ajar door and peer outside. As I shone my flashlight down the hallway, I received a start when I saw what appeared for all the world to be two ghostly figures moving toward me, robed in white with their faces shrouded in shadow. Of course, it was nothing otherworldly at all, but merely the girls making their way to our room wrapped in their blankets. I remember laughing at having been startled, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a nervous laugh.
The girls had been roused from their beds by an entirely different mystery than the one that had woken me up. While we had only heard a sound, they claimed to have actually seen… someone. Someone standing outside on the deck of the ship, moving past the porthole and staring inside for a brief moment before disappearing into the rain. Neither Mami-san nor Akiko-san had been able to make out their visitor’s face, and I wondered if the man they’d seen had been Kasai or possibly Koyama sneaking about in the night. After all, I wasn’t sure just who else it could’ve been. As far as I knew, everyone was accounted for.
As far as I knew, we were alone.
When Kasai-san’s voice broke the silence of our late-night meeting, I felt my heart leap into my chest. A mixture of disparate possibilities flooded my mind all at once, each usurping the other to take precedence as the most likely explanation. Perhaps it really had been Kasai on the deck, and the mystery was as simple as that. But his scream…
I’ll never forget the terror I heard in his voice, the panic contained within the sound of that scream. Any doubt about Kasai’s state of mind dissipated as soon as I and my fellow castaways rounded the corner of the hallway to rush to his location. He was laying on the ground, his arm outstretched toward us as he pulled himself along amidst a scattered pile of fallen food cans. He wasn’t injured, but he was certainly terrified. Beyond terrified.
He was truly in fear for his life.
It would later become obvious that Kasai-san had indeed been wandering the ship as we’d slept. Sometime during the late hours of the day, he’d used a heavy-duty lock to seal the below-deck pantry containing the ship’s supply of canned food. The food that, with proper rationing, was supposed to have been our lifeline for the next week. Apparently, Kasai-san had kept the lock’s key for himself, and sealing the pantry was less a case of selfless supply preservation and more of an attempt to secure a steady source of sustenance for himself. It was a cold and cruel thing to consider, a decision no doubt made in desperation. A decision Kasai-san would live to regret…
All of us knew exactly what it meant to see Kasai-san surrounded by cans on the ground. But in the moment, his selfishness was the farthest thing from our minds. As we helped him to his feet, our priority became finding out what had frightened him so thoroughly that he had blown his cover and revealed his secret.
It wouldn’t take us long to get our answer.
Amidst the sounds of Kasai-san’s panicked gasping, a new sound began to fill the halls of the ship. A kind of cold, wet slapping sound that soon began to drown out even the constant pounding of the rain outside. It was both unnatural and…
And undeniably, sickeningly human.
And then, its shadow fell upon the dimly lit hallway. It was moving toward us, and wasting precious little time in doing so.
In the blink of an eye, we’d vacated the hallway and rushed back into our room. Koyama-san and Yoshida-san were roused from their sleep, and those of us not in beds congregated as far away from the door as possible.
The door was unguarded, unable to be locked or barricaded in any way. We had found no key with which to secure it, and it opened out into the hallway, making it impossible to block. We were cornered, with only Sakeda-san’s rifle to protect us. We were too terrified to be worried, and too focused to think clearly. All we knew was that the slapping sounds of our visitor’s footfalls were steadily growing louder and louder…
We listened as the sound finally arrived at the door and came to a stop. We watched as the doorknob began to slowly rotate into the opened position. And we felt ourselves shrink within our own skin as the door slowly opened…
(NOTE: During this long pause, Murai-san began to noticeably tremble in his cell. He seemed extra focused on his words, but terrified to speak them. Once again, neither I nor the other medical staff or officers attempted contact for fear of distracting him. When he did speak again, it was directly to me.)
I’m not an insane man, Doctor. I’m not the madman so many believe me to be. I trust that you are no longer among those who do, and I thank you for that faith. But… but what I saw behind that door on that cold, rainy night could’ve easily been the hallucination of a madman. Sometimes the rational part of my brain still wonders if it was. But no…
No. The thing I saw behind that door was all too real. Real, and terrifying.
It stood as a man might, on two straight legs with an erect back and balanced by two long arms. It had hands, feet, shoulders, a torso, a head… in the vaguest of senses, it was indeed a man. From a great distance, it could’ve even passed for one with little room for doubt.
But I assure you, Doctor… it was no man. Not anymore.
While the creature had a body, it was irregularly shaped and covered in tattered clothing. While it had hands, they were distended and webbed like a frog’s. And while it had a head, it bore no features beyond the crude line of a mouth and two blackened holes for eyes. Its skin… no, there was no skin. Every inch of the creature’s face seemed plastered in bulbous growths, some rounded but a majority unevenly shaped and deformed. They appeared as pustules, each seaming as though it were forcing itself painfully from the skull. Between the growths were stretches of brown, powdery, fungal skin stretched over twisted bone and muscle.
From its slit of a mouth escaped a series of pained groans, as if it were attempting to speak through a throat that no longer functioned. It was a sound so human, yet so degenerate and inhuman that…
It’s a sound I’ve heard in my nightmares for months, Doctor. A face that still creeps its way into my mind despite all futile attempts to find peace. Nothing I could ever say, no description I could give could ever…
It haunts me, Doctor. It haunts me now, just as it haunted me then. And even knowing what I know now, understanding the pain and pity involved with its existence, I can’t help but still fear it. And if you – if any of you – had been there that night, you’d fear it too.
To be continued.
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