Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and to ring in the new year for our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. Today’s piece is an appetizer from David Yale Ardanuy’s “One Last Meal, Before The End,” and marks the debut of an exciting new writer. It takes us far from the comforts and security of the modern world, depositing us in a remote trading post in the waning days of the 18th century. As snows blow in to blanket the American Northeast, this may be just the thing to warm you up…
We started out at mid-morning and traveled north about six miles, where we stopped at the Eight Stones River crossing to rest and eat. Francois’ home was located about three miles away from that point, due east along the river. I recall the weather was pleasant along the way; a warm sun had miraculously appeared for most of our trip and the duration of our rest. I remember the air had a deliciously crisp taste, heavily scented with spruce and pine. I was considering how fortunate we were to have had such splendid weather after months of brutal winter, when Sabian reminded me of the grim task at hand. We continued on in hopes of reaching Francois’ cabin before nightfall.
As we walked along the river, I remember noting an abundance of trees snapped in half at mid-trunk, some fifty feet from the ground in some cases. Following my gaze, Sabian said, “It’s the ice and the wind that does it. The tops freeze up with ice and snow, then the wind comes through and snaps off the tops. Just like you or I would tear the drumstick off an overcooked chicken.”
He said this easily enough, but the remark disquieted me. As we walked I imagined some monstrous hand reaching down from the sky and tearing treetops off to stick in its mouth, chewing the bark and ice as a man might relish the crispy skin of a roasted hen. With these and other dark thoughts did I wile away our march.
Looking back on it now, it seems that as we drew closer to the damned place a pallor of cruel wickedness settled on to both my thoughts and the landscape. All around, the broken trees increased in number, and large formations of ice hung from the pine boughs and clung to the trunks, or reared up from the ground. It was almost as if they had frozen in specific places in a vaguely organized way. It struck me as… unnatural.
Francois’ cabin appeared as we rounded a large patch of granite boulders. It was a small shack, perched quaintly atop a rise, at the edge of a steep, tree-covered embankment, overlooking the frozen Eight Stones River below. No smoke rose from the cabin, a truly ominous sign as few veterans of the northern winters would be foolish enough to allow their fire to go out before the first thaw of spring.
“What a wretched little place,” Sabian remarked. “Hopefully it’s dry inside.”
I briefly imagined old Francois inside, raving mad in the dark. A thought that startled me with its clarity, a thought I quickly shut out…
For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.
David Yale Ardanuy, a native Floridian and American history graduate student, is an avid hiker of forbidden and lofty places, a known trafficker of hidden wisdoms and a dream weaver. His story in this collection reflects both the nature of his scholarly endeavors and his love of weird and terrifying fiction.