“Wake the dreamer and the dream remains.
Slay the dream but the dreamer is slain.”
—Marginalia, notes of Dr. Wendell Gilman, lead researcher, Slipgate Complex
Lore Scrolls #
Sam Dyer log, day 2. Arrived at deepest camp in the Krubera-Voronya Cave. 1,960 m down! Seven days since two cavers went missing. Would have gotten here sooner but had to wait for waterproof devices. Small area, so radio and IR should be fine. Not sure why they recruited me all the way from NZ. My guess is that it’s because I’m less than 150 cm high. Maybe I can get into places they can’t. Lead speleologist Meladze asked why I don’t have Maori moko on my chin. Tiresome question, but at least he’s curious, I guess.
Day 5. First time down to the terminal sump, “Dva Kapitana,” beyond which it’s all underwater, as far as anyone knows. This was the missing cavers’ last known destination. I set sensors and relays there and at all 3 junctions between the sump and camp, to report and record any sound or movement. I knew it would be a lot of tight squeezes, but I didn’t anticipate the insects. Tiny winter crane flies, spindly little spiders, pseudoscorpions with pincers longer than their bodies. No room to get away from them. Ugh, maybe I can tape my tent shut.
Day 10. Two days since they left for the surface to restock. Just me and Petrenko left here to monitor and maintain the sensors. No trace of the lost cavers. Last night the mics picked up audio near the terminal sump: some kind of multitonal, buzzing drone? Maybe a few of those trichocera flies close to the . . . no, that can’t be it, because all the mics picked it up. I had Max listen and his eyes got really wide. “Is that . . . music?,” he asked. We need to go down and check the devices. Something’s malfunctioning.
I can’t believe this. I can’t—we heard it. Still on the way down, maybe 120 m from the terminal sump. I’m using one of the sensors to get this audio back to camp. God, I can barely breathe. What was that—HELLO? It sounded like . . . Do you hear it? . . . We’re reaching the sump now, and . . . the water’s gone? It’s just gone. We have to go in. We have to find out where it’s coming from. Max, just take a minute. I can go. You can stay here and feed out rope so I can get back. I’ll stay clipped to you.
Okay. I’ve reached a flat section. I could just barely fit through a choke to get into this larger tube. No idea how deep, whether I’m out of range for audio relay. Gotta keep talking to stay calm. The tube is covered with insects, like they were held back by the water. Something ahead on the floor that they won’t get near. Can’t quite reach, need to unclip. It’s . . . three stalactites bound together? No, they’re light, like crab-leg shell. Holes drilled along each, with some kind of . . . air bladder attached to them. Oh my—I think this is what made the music. They’re . . . pipes.
“I don’t feel right. Buzz in my head. I’m carrying the pipes to repel the insects. Shouldn’t have touched them. Darkness ahead, maybe a large chamber. I hear clicking. Are you hearing this? It’s multiplying as I approach. Like a thousand fingernails tapping. Wait, there’s a light! A faint purple—oh god oh god there are dozens of them. Eyeless, walking on three legs. The pipes! This can’t be real. I can’t move, I can’t—They’ve seen me. Purple lights moving toward me. I have to . . . .
I—I’ve played the pipes. They all stopped and parted. They made a path into the dark for me. I understand now. They’re waiting.”