Four authors brave Saint John’s hidden underbelly. Or is it Innsmouth? Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!

9pm, Saturday, November 3, 2012

The sto­ry so far:

Four intre­pid Cana­di­an authors — the beard­ed Corey Redekop (Husk, and your most hum­ble nar­ra­tor), the resplen­dent Chris Gud­geon (Song of Koso­vo), the clean-cut Bar­ry Web­ster (The Lava in My Bones), and the mous­ta­chioed Ian Col­ford (The Crimes of Hec­tor Tomás) — have set out on the road for a four event tour in the Atlantic Provinces.

Chris Gud­geon, Ian Col­ford, Bar­ry Web­ster, and Corey Redekop in hap­pi­er times.

After a nar­row escape from Monc­ton, where we were attacked by Can­L­i­toolo­gans and fer­al chil­dren, our tal­ent­ed and mighty-in-spir­it quar­tet gath­ered their mea­gre belong­ings and set out for the coastal city of Saint John.

But first, after a twen­ty-minute dri­ve full of snide and judg­men­tal com­ments on the nature of what we were about to see, we paid a vis­it to the fabled and mys­te­ri­ous Mag­net­ic Hill, a nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring opti­cal illu­sion which pro­ceed­ed to, well, see below.

Once we regath­ered our wits and skull chun­klets, we head­ed to the high­way, fol­low­ing the scent of ocean water mixed with indus­tri­al chem­i­cals, lead­ing us straight into the heart of Saint John, New Brunswick, where we checked in to the local Hilton for the night.

Lat­er that evening, after pad­dling back to shore, us brave and hand­some writ­ers gave a mag­nif­i­cent read­ing at the Inter­Ac­tion School of Per­form­ing Arts, mod­er­at­ed by the clever and knowl­edge Mike Landry, Arts Edi­tor for the Tele­graph Jour­nal. My comedic tim­ing was unpar­al­leled, Barry’s majes­tic per­form­ing style cap­ti­vat­ed, Ian’s tale brought the audi­ence to tears, and Chris con­clud­ed the evening with a star­tling exam­ple of per­for­mance art, recit­ing pas­sages of his work while he improv jazz-danced to the musi­cal genius of Joel Plas­kett.

How­ev­er, the evening soon took a dark and dis­turb­ing turn, as we left our guide and walked alone and unarmed into the fog. The per­sons we trod past avoid­ed our gaze, and as we hiked fur­ther into the murk, our sense of direc­tion failed us. All about us flowed a glow­ing grey fog that appeared to have some form of dark sen­tience inhab­it­ing it in its small­est atoms. We were soon sep­a­rat­ed, the sound of our voic­es swal­lowed by the murk. I stum­bled as the gloom grew thick­er, and I thought I heard Bar­ry scream, but it could have been a seag­ull.

My mys­te­ri­ous sav­iour, drawn from mem­o­ry.

I passed fig­ures as I ven­tured forth, dark form­less shad­ows that seemed to waver between the shapes of peo­ple and of aquat­ic beings the likes of which I hope nev­er to ful­ly see, for the glimpses I got will haunt me to my grave.

What brings you here, boy?” This was uttered from behind me in a voice that bur­bled, thick with wet. I tripped, and I felt a hand clasp my upper arm to keep me from falling, a hand that was moist and clam­my, chill­ing my skin through the fab­ric of my shirt.

I take it from here you are not. This is no place for the likes of you. Bad times about, not safe.”

I focused on his face, and doubt­ed my san­i­ty. I can­not do jus­tice to the strange­ness of his vis­age, how alien yet famil­iar it was to my fright­ened self. His eyes seemed not to blink, and pro­trud­ed as if pushed from behind.

Come, I will lead you home. Tonight is the fes­ti­val of the old ones, and it is not for the eyes of land peo­ple.”

He led me by the hand through the mist, his palm moist with slime. As we walked I fan­cied I heard the music of a cal­liope, for­lorn and out-of-tune, as if its inner work­ings were rust­ed with age.

The crash­ing of waves brought us out, but at the last steps of the fog I could see that it was not rocks that the waters col­lid­ed with, but the shell of an emp­ty tramp steam­er. Next to it, a leviathan I can only believe grew from the depths of Hell itself cavort­ed in the frigid ocean green. I final­ly thought to raise my cam­era, and man­aged a snap before my sav­iour brought his hand up to his thin blue lips to silence me.

Feed it must. Unlucky to dis­turb it dur­ing a feast.”

We con­tin­ued on, and even­tu­al­ly arrived at a street of elec­tric lights, where the glow of a Tim Horton’s sign beck­oned with the promise of warm dough­nuts and a return to san­i­ty. I turned to my com­pan­ion to offer my thanks, but he was already off, reced­ing into the vapour.

I walked into the Tim’s, where my com­pan­ions await­ed me, each with tales of hor­ror the likes of which cause me to doubt it all hap­pened. But there is still the dirty imprint of a mis­shapen hand on my sleeve, a sym­bol that there is much in this world we do not under­stand, nor dare to con­tem­plate.

Ah well. Tomor­row, Hal­i­fax! City of glo­ries unimag­in­able. We leave for New Scot­land at eleven, leav­ing behind only mem­o­ries and night­mares.