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.