I threw my belongings into my van before I sent my last email to the University: To whom it may concern, as I have given a decade of my life to education and sought to mold young minds, I realize it is my mind that has changed. I cannot teach what I now know, and what I don’t know, I must find out for myself. -Alister
I escaped to my family home, neglected for three generations. It left a sore spot in our history, as my great grandfather was said to have gone insane in that stone castle in the woods. And now I was determined to spend as long as I could in that peaceful place between the pines, smelling the resinous sap, so that it might bring me back to life.
I looked back at the lake where a lonely dock stretched into calm waters and then I walked inside. There were books on the shelves, half eaten by rats, moldy, and at least a century old. Many of them were in Latin, a dead language for a dead house. And I walked up the rickety staircase into the master bedroom, hearing the groaning trees. It was a mournful, solitary space, as I lay on the dust covered bed, staring up at the ceiling.
I went to sleep, and in my dreams a creature spoke to me, whispering things… wisdom, hundreds of thousands of years old. A brain as large as a continent, not prone to forgetting, enduring, since the inception of the world. My mind spoke to it, and the creature was more than happy to download things. Forbidden knowledge, hidden knowledge, knowledge that wells up from places people are afraid to go. It was like a nightmare I didn’t want to wake up from. I could have continued dreaming if it wasn’t for the earthquake, sudden, and lasting, under the lake. When I woke, I was thirsty, checking my watch, I’d laid there for three days, in my own filth. So, I drank some water and ate some nuts, and walked to the end of the dock. The adjoining cliff had sluffed off, and the once green water was dark at the center. I went to the shed and pulled a rowboat to the beach. I fit the oars into the locks and glided under the wide-open blue sky, watching the clouds floating in the water, while tremors rippled across the surface of the deep, like soundwaves, pondering new knowledge, ancient philosophies from a thinking age.
While I rowed through the lily pads, I noticed the perimeter of the shore, covered in slithering mud where carcasses dried in the sun. It looked like several snakes had swallowed and then regurgitated unsuspecting animals, and I thought about my boat’s shadow cast on the bottom of the lake. Needless to say, I rowed back, and thought about civilized life in the city, where people got robbed, but seldom eaten.
An eerie silence fell over that place, and it was not the silence of peace. To leave with all this knowledge within me, was a responsibility. And to die and not share it was far worse than never finding it. So, I packed up my things and journeyed back to the University with the monster’s thoughts inside my brain. I explained myself to the Dean over a glass of scotch and he had a good laugh.
“Philosophers need to get away, now and again,” he said. “It’s in your blood. If you didn’t want to break free from this place, I would be concerned for you.”
And I went back to class, like the dutiful assistant I was, reciting books that I had recited for over a decade. But as the days wore on, my monstrous ideas returned, wanting to feast on other brains. Students said, it was like I was speaking a different language.
“Perhaps, you need to take more time off,” the Dean said. I was losing my mind, the way my grandfather had, but rather than choosing the mental institution, I returned to that lake to kill the thing that was stealing my mind.
It was much the way I had left it, and somehow being there brought my thoughts into harmony. I went to the shack, looking for a weapon, and there, above the door, I noticed a harpoon, overlooked, blackened by the sun. It was perfectly weighted in my hands, as I gathered the courage to climb back into the row boat, gliding into the center of the lake. No shadows moved under the surface, so I started talking to the thing, using the knowledge it had given me, speaking with its ancient tongue. A fountain from the deep moved towards me, eyes the size of portholes gazed with myopic hunger. Twisting tentacles breached the surface like submarines as they darted, snatching at my tiny vessel, a fool, far-out of his depth. I stood in the boat for one confident javelin throw, aiming between its eyes. Launching with all my muscles at a soft mark, as the steel penetrated all the way through. It lumbered and sank, crawling towards the shore, with me in front, moved by the waves of its massive form. I landed in the mud, with its corpse gasping for air; tentacles paralyzed, eyes closed, while I cut the thing with my knife, and all manner of fish swam out. Strange sacks hung among the guts and I cut those too. To my surprise, humans squirmed into the oily mass—men who were paralyzed inside the creature, and I pulled them out.
They were choking on tentacles that had slithered into their mouths; eyes, white like the monster, blind, from so many years inside. They spoke the language of the thing, so that I was able to understand. And they told me, the monster was a collective mind; it had harvested their brains, even if they were not quite digested.
And in time, they spoke the languages of their childhood, French, German, Portuguese, and English; all of which I could understand. And I heard their blood-curdling tales, like my own, when they went dark near the placid lake.