“What do you think you’ll find in there?” Broke asked. “Are you armed?” “If it’s what I suspect,” I replied, “firearms would be ineffective.”
Night had fallen outside. The darkness in the cave’s interior enveloped me like a living thing. The beam of the flashlight danced over the rocky walls and lost itself in the distance ahead of me. I noticed after only a few steps that the temperature was distinctly higher than outside, possibly occasioned by a remnant of volcanic activity in the bowels of the island.
My right boot trod in a puddle, and I simultaneously became aware of a rather putrid smell.
Reluctant to venture further, I again listened intently for unusual noises. All I heard at first was the incessant sound of water dripping from the roof. Then, however, I thought I heard faint breathing. I was overwhelmed by the sinister sensation of not being alone. I played the beam of my flashlight over the walls of the cave but could detect nothing.
There was no doubt, though. It sounded like the breathing of a living creature. All at once I sensed the presence of something hostile to me. As I gazed into the darkest depths of the cave, I became convinced that the darkness was… Changing. It was all I could do to shine the flashlight in that particular direction.
Whatever had been lurking there until a moment ago, it swiftly evaded the beam.
My animal instincts threatened to gain the upper hand over my intelligence. They screamed at me to take to my heels, but my practical work as a physician had taught me to remain calm, even in critical situations, so I managed to back slowly out of the cave. “Did you find anything?” Broke demanded.
“Nothing concrete,” I replied, “but I’m convinced that this place is haunted by something evil and malign.”
“Demons? Tupilak?” He stared past the biologist’s petrified figure at the mouth of the cave. “Possibly, Mr. Broke. Quite possible.”
At daybreak he proposed to summon reinforcements from the Ramsgate by a signal lamp, intending to step up the search for the two men still unaccounted for. For signaling purposes, he had come equipped with an extremely unwieldy lamp that was powered, like our flashlights, by a dry battery, though one of the considerably greater output.
Colin Broke, Malcolm Hurd, and I sat together until late that night. We talked over what had happened, gazing into the stove’s red incandescence.
Malcolm had dosed Professor Kinnock and Thomas Young with his very special sedative. They were fast asleep in an adjoining room and hadn’t stirred once.
Sheridan and McCafferty had bedded down in a neighboring hut, which suited me fine because I had taken something of a dislike to them.
The Ramsgate’s second-in-command conceded that he no longer took a wholly skeptical view of my statements regarding evil spirits, even though this sorely conflicted with his view of the world hitherto. Broke even suggested that one of us should stand guard until morning.
I took the last watch and used the time until dawn to commit these remarkable events to paper. After all, I meant in due course to report on them to the Parapsychology Society.
The darkness outside the window was very slowly becoming tinged with gray when I thought I heard a noise outside. A faint creak, nothing more. I went to the door and opened it a crack. All seemed quiet in the civil servants’ billet. Then, however, I spotted one of them cautiously moving around. It was impossible