By Lex Shute


I arrived as soon as I could after receiving his letter. With each correspondence his agitation seemed to increase until I was so concerned that I started to fear for his wellbeing. He would ramble on about the unsettling feelings he had about living on the Dunge and what was going on there. Never quite able to pin this down into clear thought he would rant on in his shaky hand about the creeping atmosphere of the place. His last letter expressed such a fear of a malevolent force that I felt disturbed enough to make hasty arrangements to visit as soon as I was able. 

Asking the taxi driver at the station to take me to Prospect Cottage induced further anguish when he shot me a look of – what was it – alarm? Wariness? Knowing? I could not tell. But I had an uneasy sense of being watched as we drove along that deserted road. Whenever I was unable to resist the draw of looking into his rearview mirror I found him piercing my gaze with a dark look.

Pulling up on the desolate road quite a way short of the cottage he indicated that it was up ahead with a quick flick of gesture and gruff request for payment. No sooner had I scrambled out of the cab he screeched around and sped away.

I was left alone, standing on the rim of the land there under pensive grey skies. In the brooding light the booming wind tore about me, cleaving at my clothes with its shredding pressure. The howling volume reverberated over a nuclear murmur as I looked about the remains of this empty place. The blasts of buffeting air would momentarily drop leaving the humming resonance of radioactive tones drifting on the ether. The broken waves of a looped signal on a dead rust track. Then came the rasping action of the grimacing blows that was capable of breaking rocks into fragments, leaving wreckages in the shrieking air. The cast cargo of chiseled jetsam, discarded in the cut of gusts, the jolts and spits of gale. I thought of the marginalized inhabitants; the frozen out flotsam on this salty shore and felt an icy foreboding. There was no sign of him or any others. Just the broken remains of rotted boats and wooden huts, the remnants of passed lives. The tense whitening breaths shattered the brittle bones of plants, on the shingles’ sharpness. The wind wrinkled the dark mirror of pools, flicking the shallow sky in a current of echoes. A slick of silver lapping in a swell of beaten bleak exposure. In my nervous anchorage on the emptiness of the embankment I felt the keening spite of the bursting gasses and the crashing tumult of the vacuums around me. I slipped in gravel furrows and groped in the accelerated collisions of punishing darts of air. The rattling loneliness of this forsaken edge folded the reverberated drowned sounds inwards, then outwards. Bending back the outermost regions of the exosphere onto the dust of this brink.

In his fevered writings he would describe charged airborne particles travelling in this wretched thinness, disrupting the radio waves with crackling interference. He theorized that an aerial broadcast of astronomical origin had shot into the earth’s magnetic field, claiming that accompanying the atomic buzz were fungal drones darting like spinning arrows, space seeds launched like inflight missiles. These dispersed spores, he reasoned, ricocheted on the airwaves and finally settled like talons on the turbulent, dusty tatters of this inhospitable barren wasteland. A species of cold, dark matter that had plummeted to earth in volts. In his final letter, this invisible swarm of parasitic agarics had wormed down into their host and branched out into a network of deadly mycelium. An interplanetary species of fatal pestilence had clenched his wrung out home and he raved about the need to take flight from the invasion before it was too late. With no evidence of human life anywhere about me I felt chilled by a sense of something inhuman and overpowering. Perhaps my nerves were just torn in the blasting confusion but I fled that unnatural place, buffeted by the dreadful wind in a desperate long stagger away from the pupil of blackness, to the station, and life.

But what had become of him? I was never to find out. It was as if he was carried away in the wind and I have to presume him lost to us forever.



© Lex Shute 2019