The Darkest Places is a work of fiction set against the backdrop of the 1920's "Prohibition-Era." The novel is inspired by the works of HP Lovecraft, and the tone and aesthetic are hugely influenced by Indiana Jones, and Boardwalk Empire.
The novel is currently seeking crowd-funding on Inkshares @ https://www.inkshares.com/projects/the-darkest-places/edit#writing_sample
If you enjoy the samples provided, please create an account (it's free) and pre-order a copy of my book! If I can achieve the greatest number of unique pre-orders by Jan 15th, then this story will recieve a full publishing deal!
Professor Henry Forsythe thought he was done with the occult until she came walking in through his door. An old flame, bringing with her a mountain of past resentment and regret. He couldn't say no, not to her, no matter how much he might have wanted to....
James Porter is a veteran of World War One. A survivor of the horrors of trench warfare. Looking to make an honest living, he instead finds himself dragged into the seedy underworld of prohibition gangsters and bootlegging. Unknown to James, there are darker forces working behind the scenes, and they have their eyes set on him....
Lilly Evelyn is a famed archaeologist and explorer. What she uncovers during a job in Cairo, deep beneath the earth, will change her life forever....
Together, these three must race against an ever-dwindling amount of time, but only by delving into The Darkest Places can they hope to save mankind from the eldritch nightmares waiting to be unleashed.
“There are dark things hidden in the farthest corners of the world. Terrible things, unimaginable things. Horrors that would drive man mad, if only he knew they existed.”
- Thaddeus Kensington, 1859
Upstate New York
The storm drifted closer, the night he came to bear witness.
Issac carried the sack with one hand, while in his other he bore the axe that would lead the child to deliverance. The baby remained quiet, content with the bottle he’d been given. The mother had been hesitant to let her child be taken, but Father Maxwell had shown her the error of her judgment. Her son was destined was great things, and it was not her place to halt the destiny of a chosen-sire.
The wind and rain pounded against his clothing as Issac climbed the old, stone steps, chiseled into the hill’s foundation centuries ago. Each bore the markings of a different sign, in an eldritch tongue long-forgotten by man. Issac could read them. He’d been instructed in the dark arts by Father Maxwell. The old runes hummed softly as they emitted a peculiar glow, as if they too could sense what was about to occur. They lit the way forward, beckoning Issac and the chosen-sire to the top of the mound where the altar awaited.
It was an old thing, carved from a single boulder and lined in ancient words of power. Around it stood three pillars, black monoliths of obsidian-stone. Each was decorated with a picture of the master, though Issac knew they were only interpretations of his true visage. Father Maxwell had told him that no mortal had ever looked upon the face of their creator, and managed to hold onto his sanity after. That made Issac fearful. For tonight, the child was to be given over to none other than the master himself. That implied he was to be here. Issac had not considered he was to be part of this sacrifice.
A fierce crack of lightning arced across the night sky, illuminating all for a brief moment. Issac saw the baby in the sack he carried, deformities and all, and he stopped. The wind grew shriller as it screamed over the hills and forests of the county, as if all the world rebelled at what was to occur. Then the child began to wail. Issac ignored its bleating, his mind preoccupied with his own terrors. He did not want to lose his mind, like Jefferson had, or Amanda.
“They were weak,” he tried to tell himself. “They were underserving…” The baby screamed louder, fighting for his attention. Up above, the three pillars began to glow a soft blue and white.
The master beckoned…
Issac took a step back instead. He did not want to do this, not anymore. He wanted to go back, back to the farm to be with the others. No, he realized, Father Maxwell would not like that. He would hurt me. Issac was caught between two evils. A third option presented itself then. He could toss the baby aside, and run. There were other places he could go, far away from Father Maxwell. But not far away from the master. There was no escaping his sight. He was everywhere…
Issac didn’t care. He wasn’t worthy, he wasn’t ready. He dropped the axe, and then he set the babe down upon the stone beside him. It reached out through the sack to touch him. Two, tiny hands, covered in scales. He could see its red eyes glinting in the darkness like two bloody orbs. Issac looked away from its sight, and then he rushed down the steps to escape the terrible place. He did not make it far. At the bottom of the steps, just beyond the hill where the woods began, they came forward. Dark shapes too tall to be men. Issac cried out in horror as they lumbered from behind the trees to halt his escape. Black tendrils moved along their forms, while white eyes reflected the pale light of the moon. They were the guardians of the land; another part of Father Maxwell’s flock. They ensured the master’s will was done. They did not come further than the edge of the woods. Instead they waited, watching Issac with their dead eyes.
Go back, they seemed to say, go back and finish what was started.
Issac quivered at the terrible sight and sounds of the foul creatures as they stalked the edge of the forest. He couldn’t escape them. No one ever did. He had no choice but to turn back and do what was required. Issac went back and retrieved the child and the axe, and then he climbed the stairs.
A cold aura of dread hung over the ground surrounding the altar. It made his skin crawl, and in the back of his mind, Issac could feel…something, probing at his thoughts. Searching for something he could not comprehend. Around him, the monolith’s light grew stronger, blinding his vision. Behind him, Issac could hear the sounds of the creatures. They were closer now, waiting. Issac raised the axe he held above his head. The child’s screams filled his ears.
“Wait,” a familiar voice spoke out. Issac felt his body go rigid and numb, and when he tried to move, he found he was frozen in place. He no longer controlled his own limbs. From behind one of the three pillars, Father Maxwell stepped forth. He was dressed in his trencher and robes, and carrying a small medallion, which hung from a silver chain wrapped loosely around his fingers. “Hello Issac,” Father Maxwell said.
Issac tried to answer, but his lips would not open. He could not make them, no matter how hard he tried. Father Maxwell came closer to stand over the altar where the baby lay. The medallion the priest held hummed softly as it was brought within mere inches of the boy.
“You tried to run away,” Father Maxwell sighed. “I had thought you were a true believer.”
I am, Issac wanted to tell him, I am! I was just scared! Nothing came out. He could not speak.
“It doesn’t matter,” Father Maxwell continued. “This will make you one.” He held up the medallion in front of Issac’s face. The hum grew louder. “Take that axe, and shed your own blood,” Maxwell commanded.
Issac didn’t hesitate despite his internal screams. He swung the weapon down into his stomach and spilled his life upon the altar, and the boy. He tried to beg for mercy, to make the father stop, but Maxwell only watched him; his face devoid of any emotion.
“Again,” Maxwell spoke.
Issac tore the axe free and struck himself again. The stone altar shook as it drank in his blood, and blue light poured from the stone. Issac collapsed to his knees. The pain was like nothing he had experienced before.
“Again,” Maxwell ordered.
No, please… Issac tore the bloody axe from his carved flesh, and struck himself once more. He fell with the blade’s impact. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a green light appear above the altar. Bright and vibrant. It grew in size until it was wider and taller than a man. Something moved in the light, above the child’s head. Issac saw it. The baby had stopped crying now, and it reached out to the light.
Something else, something inhuman, reached back.
"My mind was not my own, for a time. I walked another world beyond this one. I gazed at stars in the night's sky that all burned like a thousand suns. In between them all I saw shapes moving across the blackness of space, and they saw me."
- Eliza Shaw, 1919
Buffalo New York
The Little Harlem Club dominated the street up ahead.
It was a flashy place, littered with signs and neon-lit billboards displaying the headline acts. A crowd of dozens were gathered outside despite the cold, most with cigarettes in their hands and song and laughter pouring from their mouths. The music from within the club echoed out through the open doors, rich and wonderful. There was a certain quality to the jazzy-compositions that he loved. The club itself was an interesting place, built over the skeleton of a former ice-cream parlor of all things. The owner, a woman by the name of Anne Montogmery, had turned the club into the talk of the town. It was the epicenter of the Michigan street scene, and the place to be. It was also where a man by the name of Dr. William Pratt liked to spend his evenings.
"We're going to stick out," James Porter said quietly; not for the first time. "God damn it, it's cold out here tonight." The veteran shuddered as he pulled his coat shut as tightly as he could.
"If you keep saying, 'we're going to stick out,' every other damned sentence, then yes James, we are going to stick out. Now shut up and just try to act casual. We're just two patrons looking for some entertainment. Just keep calm and play the part like we agreed."
"Easy for you to say, doc'," James snapped back. "You're used to this espionage shit. I'm not."
Dr. Henry Forsythe turned to survey his companion, and he wondered if he'd possibly made a mistake in bringing him tonight. James was a soldier, a veteran of the greatest war man had ever fought. He'd come back from the trenches of France with no few amount of issues, but he was good with a gun, or a knife, or just about any other weapon. Henry could handle himself if he needed to, but old age had caught up with him, and he wasn't half the man he'd once been. And so here he was, with James. A messed up survivor of the war with Germany. The kid had been lucky, physically at least. He only carried a small visible token of the war, a thin scar over the left side of his face. But he’d suffered deep mental trauma. Henry had thought he was doing something good by giving James a job, but he wondered if he was nothing more than a liability.
"Your file told me you had some experience with this sort of work," Henry said.
"Yeah, but it was different over there," James replied.
"We aren't inside yet, James," Henry said as he came to a halt. James continued on a few more steps before stopping and turning to face him. "If you want to go, now's the time to say it."
The soldier studied him. "This is a four-man job, at least."
"There's just me and you," Henry told him.
"So I guess I'm stuck with you then," James sighed. "You better not be bullshitting me about the pay."
"I'm not, I promise."
"Well if you were that's still what'd you say," James shrugged then. "Let's just get this over with." James blinked at he watched Henry. "What are you looking at?" He'd caught him scanning the line of buildings across the street.
"Nothing," Henry lied to him. "Just thought I saw something..."
Inside, the Little Harlem was booming with energy and life. A beautiful woman danced and sang on stage, accompanied by a full orchestra. The air crackled with the sound of her voice and the accompanying instruments. Across the club, every table was fully-occupied, and it wasn’t long before Henry spotted their prey. Dr. William Pratt. He was seated at the far end of the club, beneath a center stage. Attending him at his table were a pair of over-sized thugs Henry guessed were the doctor’s bodyguard. Also, James had been right. They were practically the only white-folk in the entire establishment. They stood out to say the least.
“That’s him,” Henry whispered under his breath to James as he tried to ignore the lingering gazes from many of the club’s patrons. Dr. Pratt was a shore man, well dressed, with a balding head and thin mustache that curled at either end. He was lighter-skinned, and his eyes danced about the room from one person to the next.
“Over there, by the center of the stage. Try not to look at him directly, we don’t want anyone to see us scoping him out.” Henry looked around. “We’ll grab a drink. We can keep tabs on him from there.” At the bar, men and women alike crowded together and drank. Henry joined them but James refused.
“Prohibition is a thing, you know,” James said as Henry downed a shot of whiskey.
“I’m very much aware,” Henry replied. He ordered another.
“You know, I’m the one who served overseas, and even I never hit the liquor like that...”
Henry glanced at James before shaking his head. “If you knew the thing’s I’d seen, boy, you’d drink too.” Before their conversation could carry on, Henry watched Dr. Pratt rise from his table. He moved around the edge of the club and towards a back hallway, marked by an overhead sign for the men and women’s rooms. His bodyguards stayed behind. “There. That’s our chance.”
“How we doing this?” James asked him.
“Quick and quiet. I’ll detain him, you keep an eye on the hallway. Turn anyone who comes away. Once we have what we’re after, we’ll knock him unconscious and slip out a back exit if there is one. Otherwise, we’ll make a rush for the door before anyone has a chance to wonder where the doctor has gone.”
“Lead the way,” James gestured.
They made their way across the dance floor and around the back of the club, before slipping into the hallway. Henry took point, while James followed a few feet behind him. Up ahead, they came upon a young couple kissing each other furiously against a telephone stand. Henry allowed James the pleasure of dispersing the kids and sending them out. When they reached the men’s room, Henry quickly slid the door to the women’s side open, to make sure it was empty. Thankfully there was no one inside.
“My informer told me the doctor abhors weapons of any sort. He shouldn’t be armed, but don’t take any chances,” Henry told James. “Are you ready?”
“Ready,” James said. Henry nodded at him, and then he kicked the door open.
Dr. Pratt was standing inside with three other men. As he charged into the bathroom, Henry had just enough time to realize that these three were also bodyguards. He heard Jame’s curse, and then chaos erupted. Henry struck one of the bodyguards in the throat before the man had the time to react, while James tackled another fellow into a stall and began to pummel him mercilessly. The third guard and Dr. Pratt merely stood there, dumbfounded for a time, before finally the doctor started yelling at his man to act. Henry finished off the man he’d punched with a kick to the groin before turning on the third guard who was now brandishing a gun.
“Look out!” Henry shouted at James. He slapped the guard’s hand aside, pushing the gun up towards the ceiling just as it fired. Dust rained down on their heads as Henry and the man struggled for the weapon. Luckily, Henry had momentum on his side. He managed to knock the pistol from the guard’s hand, before sending the man tumbling backwards to collide head-first with the marble floor.
“You idiots, it’s an old man and a kid! Stop them!” Dr. Pratt roared.
Henry turned on the doctor and almost instantly he saw it. A glittering, golden idol, roughly the size of a man’s hand. It jutted out of the doctor’s pocket, glinting in the light. Dr. Pratt seemed to follow his gaze. He raised a hand to cover the treasure from sight.
“Hand it over doctor, and there won’t be a need for-” Henry wasn’t allowed to finish. Dr. Pratt snarled and sprang forward, swinging his fists like a wild animal. Henry dodged his attacks easily enough. The doctor wasn’t exactly a trained fighter. With relative ease he divested the doctor of the idol before flipping him onto his backside. Dr. Pratt gasped as he hit the floor. Henry rose, half-smiling, the idol in his hand. It was a beautiful thing, more intricate and detailed than any of the pictures he’d seen of it. Two sapphires were embedded in the skull for eyes, while a line of jewels of various colors ran down the belly of the little statue.
“That’s mine...” Dr. Pratt wheezed as he turned over and tried to rise.
“Not anymore it’s not,” Henry told him. “James, catch.” James turned away from the bloody-faced man he’d beaten to a pulp and Henry tossed him the idol. James caught it with one hand and whistled.
“This looks expensive.”
“That’s because it is,” Henry told him. “Don’t drop it.”
“I wasn’t intending on it...” James said, but his voice trailed off. The door had opened, and the rest of Dr. Pratt’s bodyguard were standing there. Guns drawn.
"Either of you so much as twitch and you’re dead," James grimaced. Henry swore. They both raised their hands in surrender. One of the two armed man turned his gun on Henry and motioned for him to move away from Dr. Pratt.
"What is this?" Dr. Pratt bellowed as he pushed himself back to his feet. "I'm paying you to protect me, and this happens!" The doctor fixed his tie and straightened some of the wrinkles from his suit. "My clothes are ruined..." he shook his head. "Get them out of here. Outside, now! Use the back hall so no one sees them."
“Right boss,” one of Pratt’s goons replied. “Both of you, up and out.” Henry and James had no choice. They let the guards lead them down a back hallway and out a fire-exit into the frozen air of the night. The back alley was dimly lit only by a couple of lamps hanging from above the open doorway, and the light of a neon sign high above on the club’s roof. Henry and James were both draped in the glow of red of the neon light as Dr. Pratt’s men began to search them.
“Easy there, friend,” Henry rasped. One of the guards was just beginning to pat down his jacket when Henry bent over and winced, pretending to be in excruciating pain. “I think I broke a rib in that scuffle...”
“I don’t know who you two are, or why you attempted to attack me,” Dr. Pratt began as he exited the club with another pair of his bodyguard. They were six in total now, including Dr. Pratt, and all of them were packing, aside from the good doctor. “So I want answers, and I want them now.” The guard who’d been searching Henry stepped back away from him, without finishing his search.
“We’re private investigators,” James was first to answer.
“And? Who sent you?” Dr. Pratt pressed. James glanced at Henry and gave him a wry smile.
“Your mother.” The doctor smiled before he punched James in the gut.
"Nobody sent us, now leave him be," Henry shouted as he took a step towards James. One of Dr. Pratt's men raised his weapon to stop him from coming any closer. "We came on our own. I'm a professor at the Masonic Institute."
"A professor?" Dr. Pratt seemed surprised. "And who is this?" he pointed at James.
"The muscle..." James wheezed as he continued to clutch his stomach.
"I see, and what does the Masonic Institute want from me?" Even as the doctor asked his eyes fell on the statute James was still holding. "Oh, now I understand. You came to rob me of my property."
"Theft doesn't make that yours. It just makes you a thief," Henry spat. "That artifact is nearly nine-hundred years old. It's value-"
"Is extraordinary," Dr. Pratt finished for him. "I've already had several buyers come forward. And now if you would be so kind as to hand over my idol." Dr. Pratt held out one hand. James rose and glared back at the man in defiance, with his chest puffed out and his eyes aflame.
"Give it to him James...It isn't worth dying for," Henry was finally forced to tell him. James looked at him then, and finally the fight fell out of him. He pulled the small idol from beneath his jacket and placed it into Pratt's hand. The doctor closed his fingers tightly around the statute and then he smiled.
"What happens to us now?" James asked.
"You'll stay here with Mr. Mosby, until the show is over. Then-" Dr. Pratt didn't have time to finish his thought. A dozen shapes appeared at the entrance of the alleyway, all of them dressed in military uniforms and heavy trenchcoats. Their uniforms beneath their black cloaks were scarlet-red, and in the dim light of the lamps overhead, Henry could make out the shape of metal crosses hanging from chains attached to the sides of their shoulder-pads.
"Everyone drop your weapons and get your hands in the air. Make any sudden moves and you'll be dead before you hit the ground!" One of the strange military-men barked. Dr. Pratt's men were outnumbered two-to-one by the newcomers, all of whom were armed with rifles and shotguns, while they had only pistols. They surrendured quickly enough. The soldiers gathered the pistols and then forced Dr. Pratt’s men into one corner of the alley, while their leader approached Henry and Dr. Prat.
"What is the meaning of this?" the doctor demanded defiantly. He didn't seem to realize he wasn't in a position to be making demands of any sort.
"It sure you took you long enough, Ethan" Henry said as he waved at the leader of the fresh-arrivals.
"You were expecting us?" the man named Ethan replied. He was an Irishman, tall, middle-aged, with red hair and a thick beard. He was a familiar face, and an expected one. Henry had guessed the Order would be staking out Dr. Pratt. Luckily, his intuition had provne correct.
"Hey, who the fuck are these guys?" James shouted angrily. "Henry, what's going on?"
"It's ok James, we're alright. They're...friends," Henry said, though the thought of Ethan being anything close to his friend was something of a stretch. "I figured the Order couldn't be far away, not with so tempting a prize just waiting to be procured."
"You figured correctly," Ethan smirked. "And what a prize indeed. If you knew we were coming, you should have worked faster. Good thing we showed up here on the same night, though, or I think you and your friend there would be goners."
"I think you're right." Henry told him. Then he turned and walked over to Dr. Pratt and extended his hand. "I believe that's no longer yours, doctor," he told the man.
"If you think for one moment that I will surrendur my property..." Dr. Pratt hissed.
"I'd give the thing over, now," Ethan raised his rifle and pointed it directly at the doctor's head. "I'm not going to ask again." Dr. Pratt said nothing as he shoved the small idol into Henry's hand.
"Thank you," Henry said before turning back to face Ethan again. "I suppose you aren't going to let me keep this, are you?"
"Fraid' not, doctor," Ethan shook his head, and he had the decency to feign a frown. "That's property of the Order."
Henry nodded, knowing there was no other way. "Take it." Ethan nodded to one of his men, who came forward to retrieve the relic from Henry's possession. The soldier brought it back to Ethan, who only glanced at the thing quickly before waving his man off. The soldier took the prize and retreated back down the alley and into the night. "Now can we go?"
"Don't see why not," Ethan said. "We'll hold this lot here til you're gone a ways. Now go on, get.”
"Are you planning on shooting them once we’re gone?" Henry asked. Dr. Pratt's eyes bulged, and one of his man began to whimper.
"Nah, I don't see the need for blood. These men don't mean no harm now, do you?" Ethan asked his prisoners.
"No sir," the collective of Dr. Pratt's company replied together.
"Perfect, now on your way professor. Danny-boy's lurking about not far away, and I don't think he'd take kindly to laying eyes on you."
"I don't think he would either," Henry motioned for James to follw him. "Let's go James, we'd best be on our way." James followed wordlessly, but on his way past Dr. Pratt, he took the time to turn and sock the man in the gut. Dr. Pratt bent over as he gasped for air.
"That's for the cheap shot from earlier," James spat. "Now we're even."
It was some time before either of them spoke. Henry was focused on a dozen different thoughts, while James continued looking over his shoulder every couple minutes. He was certain they were being followed, depite Henry's protests to the contrary. He'd tried to explain to James about his relationship with Ethan and the Order; about how they did things. If they'd wanted them dead, they would be dead.
"I just don't like it," James finally said. "They had the drop on us from the start, and you knew it. Why walk us in there if you knew your friend Ethan and his guys were just going to hit us the minute we got outside?"
Henry smiled. “Ah James, if we’re going to work together in the future, you need to learn to trust in me once in a while.” As he spoke, Henry stuck out one arm and slid other hand up his sleeve. A moment later, he revealed the idol. The very same one they had surrendured to Ethan only moments before.
“How?” James asked him in astonishment.
“The first lesson you need to learn about this business is that you must always have a backup plan in place,” Henry said, "For when the first inevitably fails.”