Secrets of the Sanguine Sands

Chapter 1.

It was sometime in the early 1960’s that I had just acquired a position with the Miskatonic university as a researcher of geology, having obtained, some months prior, a doctorate in that field. I had, at the time, earned some reputation for myself by virtue of a series of letters that I had exchanged with individuals of great repute. These letters, in which I had presented my theories about the anomalies in the formation of crystals and their connexion with the strange dimensions that had caught the phantasies of the late Walter Gilman, had been published in numerous newspapers and in the famed Scientific American.

It came as no surprise, therefore, that the first assignment that came my way was pertaining to the peculiar Sonoran crystals. These crystals had found their way to the University of Boston in 1954 at the hands of an amateur archaeologist who claimed to have found them in the vestibule of a strange, ruined temple deep in the Sonoran desert. The crystals held the attention of every note-worthy reporter, both of the scientific world and of the general public, for the next two years. They were partially translucent and partially transparent and were colored an unnameable shade of shimmering red. The insides of the crystal seemed animated, as if filled with a blood-like fluid, full of curious little particles of vague and uncertain shapes.

Spectrometric studies shewed such phantastic and utterly chaotic colors that the presence of some heretofore unknown substance was indisputable. However, identifying this new substance proved to be quite an impossible task. The crystals seemed almost completely inert, showing minimal reaction with even the strongest solvents. Plants exhibited stunted growth around them, but tests for radioactivity proved them stable. The animated interiors were another matter of curiosity. They were clearly fluid, yet, when the researchers cut the crystal, the solid exterior immediately rushed to cover the cut, denying any access to the fluid. A small fragment of the crystal was crushed entirely, and it yielded nothing. Even the dust simply vaporized, leaving behind a putrid, sulfurous odor. In many ways, it almost behaved like  a living organism.

The mystery was heightened when the temple could not be found, even after months of scouring through the desert. The archaeologist, ammateur as he was, had painstakingly taken note of the location and the surroundings. Yet, when researchers from the university had journeyed to the desert, none of the features recorded by the archaeologist were present in the desert. It baffled the scientific world that many of the familiar sandstone outcrops and scattered rock formations that, even before the matter of the temple arose, were known to exist, had so suddenly disappeared. For miles around the supposed site, all that remained was the unchanging face of the desert. Eventually, progress slowed down to a crawl as more and more avenues were exhausted without result and the crystals were abandoned, and they sat as little more than curiosities in the university’s museum. And there they stayed, until Dr. Hubert, a prominent professor of geology in the Miskatonic University and one of the correspondents with whom I had exchanged letters, took an interest in them.

When Dr. Hubert had heard of my appointment to the university, he had asked for me, by name, to be included in his expedition. Naturally, I accepted. So, not a week after joining, I was bound, along with the professor and a handful of his students, all the way across the country to a small, but serviceable town at the edge of the Sonoran desert in Arizona. The professor had made arrangements for us to stay and conduct our business at an ancient two-storeyed building that once served as a town-house. Its new owners had turned it into an inn, and were quite content to lend us the whole place – the professor had been quite generous with his offer. Visitors were few and far apart, and the innkeeper had not contested the professor too much.

Having reached the inn, we spent our first days unpacking and setting up the intricate equipment we needed for our studies. The innkeeper had, he said, hosted other academics in the past, and was happy to assist us in any way that he could. He was, himself, an outsider who had lived in the town for a few years, having inherited the inn from a distant relative who had no next of kin. Visitors, he claimed, were greatly refreshing. The townsfolk, he complained, were not quite right in the head. Not dangerous, mind you. But years of solitude, cut off from the rest of the world, had affected them. If not for the mercy of the occasional visitor, he feared that the same fate would have befallen him.

While we were still setting up our base, our trips to the town were often accompanied by unseen, unblinking eyes that followed us. There was an utter lack of sounds of human activity and I found the silence greatly unsettling. It was as if the whole town had collectively held its breath to watch us, and at some point, without warning, there would be a loud exclamation at our first misstep. One of the students had been so severely impressed by the silence that every night, I could hear him muttering prayer upon prayer under his shaky breath, with his cross clutched clumsily in his hand. Needless to say, the atmosphere was not one conducive to scientific thought. The strange, religious fears that seemed to have the town beholden to them, closed around us like mist around a lamp, waiting for the light to fade. Only our firm belief in science kept the insanity at bay.

Our attempts to extract any information from the townsfolk were greatly hindered by the fact that most of them avoided us like the plague. The few who did speak to us knew nothing of relevance… or at least, they didn’t volunteer it. With the locals proving largely unhelpful, we were forced to turn, once more, to the innkeeper who graciously found a guide to lead us into the desert. His name was Donovan and he was a hunter. He ventured, quite often, into the desert to hunt what little game could be found and was greatly familiar with the desert. At the innkeeper’s behest, he had agreed to help us in our expeditions.

Our trips into the desert were filled with a silence deeper than the one that hung over the town. The vast, monotonous infinities of the desert impressed upon us a crushing sense of impunity and oppression. Part of the silence followed from the grim manner in which Donovan conducted himself. We felt some intangible force compelling us to behave similarly. Amid those ever-shifting sands, there hid mysteries from such remote recesses of time that our fragile, human minds could never conceive. Those mysteries lurked around the corners of our vision, toying at our minds. I know this because the entries in the journal I kept at the time alluded to as much, for much of my memories of the time have faded. In reading those hopeful and excited entries, I see the irony of dreams, for my persistence at the chance to learn more had led me to discover terrors of such cosmic proportions that I fear my sanity will never recover. If only the first weeks of disappointment had been enough to dissuade us from the search. But alas, our spirits were high, and the commonplace specimen that we kept finding did little to dissuade us from searching. Our first discovery was just a week away.

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