It was a dark, cold day in December 1899 when the news reached me: Goodfellow was dead. The bearer of these tidings was a tall, cadaverous lawyer with thinning hair and cold eyes. His manner was brusque and clearly he hadn't cared for Dr. Goodfellow. It soon became clear that Goodfellow had left me all his old papers and even a few of his diaries. Strangely, Goodfellow had emptied his bank account and sold his house before he'd departed on his final expedition, a part of me whispered that he knew he wasn't going to return. The lawyer departed quickly, and left me to figure out why a man I'd thought dead had left me thirteen years' worth of correspondence, research and reflections.
I quickly realized, as I read Goodfellow's papers he had been terrified, paranoid and delusional. The fact that such a respected, logical man had deteriorated to a frightened child jumping at shadows disturbed me. He made frequent references to a "Shadow" though whether it was literal or metaphorical remained to be seen. However, Delancey Goodfellow had been convinced that if he stopped running, even for a day, the Shadow would catch and devour him. Unfortunately, many of his notes were in some bizarre language unknown to me. The following day, I took the train to the university which I taught at.
I had resolved to discuss the unknown language with Professor Albert Lewis. His office was warm and friendly; with a fire crackling merrily in the grates. The walls were lined with books, all thick dusty volumes many of which were in strange languages that a mere handful knew, let alone spoke. The professor was a charming fellow, with a neatly clipped moustaches and intelligent bright eyes. He greeted me happily; we were good friends and enjoyed working together. However, his elation faded as I informed him of the particulars of my visit to him.
His good humour was further soured by the diary I presented to him, his brow furrowed in concentration and his lip curled in disdain. Politely, but firmly he asked me to leave whilst he endeavoured to translate the mysterious language. I waited outside of his office for nearly three hours before the door opened and I was finally allowed back in.
"You truly astound me Daniel," His cheeks were rosy-red and he was puffing contentedly on a pipe his anger had disappeared quite suddenly "You're lucky you came to me. I sincerely doubt anyone else in the hemisphere could've even found a comparison for…this" He waved his hand distractedly towards the journal which lay open at his desk.
"What's the language?" I asked, leaning forward eagerly.
"I don't know," Lewiss replied, biting down on the stem of the pipe and I could see the anger returning "But the nearest comparison I could find originates from a particularly remote location in the Congo. What the devil was your fellow doing out there?"
With a sudden decision I stood up, retrieving the journal and smiling grimly at Lewiss.
"If I knew quite what Goodfellow was up to in that…hellhole, I'd tell you. But I don't have the foggiest honestly," I nodded again to the professor and left quickly, pondering the strange information Lewiss had given me.
I don't know what drove me to buy a ticket on a ship heading to Cape Town, from there I'd have to go by train and ride till I reached Leopoldville, the capital of the Congo. I was educated and informed, I knew of the awful chaos that existed in the region and how I'd most likely perish on this pointless journey. But human curiosity drove me forwards, blinding me to the awful fate that awaited me.
It was around this time that the dreams began. I cannot begin to describe them, they were surreal and insane. Every night my body was bruised black and blue from my thrashing in the night and I dreaded sleep's embrace.
By the 2nd of January we were already on our way to Cape Town; making good time and the crew was in good spirits. But every night my discomfort grew larger and more nagging. Why was I doing this? What could I possibly hope to gain? But, my argument always resulted in me taking a larger dose of laudanum and having a dreamless sleep.
On the 3rd I ventured out of my cabin and onto the deck of the ship. Thankfully, the ship was fairly empty and only a few army men or hunting enthusiasts were aboard. I leant on the rail and gazed deep into the sea; a deep green-blue mixture. I stood there in near perfect silence, only broken by the cries of the sailors or the aristocratic banter of the officers.
My solitude was fitting for the journey, after all Goodfellow had gone alone; carrying his own supplies and equipment.
"Are you going to the Congo?" Someone asked, in accented English. I turned and regarded the speaker. He was squat and heavily built with a florid face and wearing an unidentifiable uniform. His eyes were two black pebbles and seemed more fitting to a doll than a man. His voice was guttural and rough, damaged by years of smoking and drinking.
`"I suppose I am; how did you know?" I asked; I was still fairly dazed from my recent nights of unending research.
"There is a look about you, like a raven perched on the gallows. Only dead men go to the Congo" He replied, his breath was heavy and foul, belonging more to a beast than a man. It was as if he had been feeding solely on raw meat for the past months. My scrutiny seemed to amuse him and he chuckled gutturally, his black eyes glittering.
I shuddered inwardly at his intense gaze and excused myself from his disturbing presence. I walked away hurriedly and locked myself in my cabin for several days, only emerging to eat and even then only frugally. But the soldier was always present, like an ominous black cloud on a sunny day.
Four days before we reached Cape Town and the second leg of my journey began something happened that truly terrified me. It was very late and I was reading Goodfellow's journals when a high pitched keening reached my ears. It startled me and I cringed before I jumped up and with a trembling hand I opened my cabin's door. The keening seemed to guide me forwards, much like the mythical sirens I could not resist. The entire ship was bathed in the moon's eerie glow. The keening continued and like a sleepwalker I glided to the ship's railing and looked over the side.
To this very day, I cannot describe what I saw in the water, but whatever they were not of this world and for a moment I saw them. And for a moment they saw me…. I shrieked in pure, mindless terror and nearly collapsed as the beings' consciousnesses focused on me, it was like being crushed between two heavy rocks and I could feel my mind beginning to snap.
Then just as suddenly as the attack began it stopped, my heart was beating wildly and I could feel something wet pooling at the corners of my eyes. I raised a trembling finger to my eye and it came back bloody, my eye had begun to bleed and I could feel it running down my cheek. This was the final straw, I collapsed on the deck and it was morning before the sailors found me.