“The Swamps of Sopher” by Quinn Shields

Written by plumtree

Topics: 2021-22 School Year, Complete Archive (2012-2020)

To the north of Vermont, where roads wound between pine wood, there was a path. The small dirt road forked from the asphalt streets in such a discreet manner that few noticed its existence, and of those who did few cared. But for the most adventurous of travelers, who followed the trail, a long journey awaited. For miles and miles, it twisted and turned, to north, to south, to east, and west. The pine wood slowly turned to marshland as the path continued along. By the time the woods were gone the enlightened navigator couldn’t tell if they were in Miami or Moscow, and no two compasses would display the same direction. In the midst of this dreary swamp the path opened into a large crater-like pit in which the town of Sopher lay. Walls of dirt and mud bordered the pit and kept the waters of the marsh at bay. The town was almost always in the midst of clouds of fog, and on the few occasions the fog subsided clouds blotted out the sun.

I traveled this road only once, as I was hired to be the town doctor. I finished my business on the outside about a week early, so I departed and arrived on such a schedule. I remember I was cheerfully greeted by the townsfolk, who were surprised by my arrival. I don’t remember many of the details, but they gave me a tour of the town. What happened three days later I will never forget.

George T Corenwook was late to supper. He was supposed to arrive at his home on the outskirts of town three hours earlier, yet failed to do so. The Corenwook family organized a search party, and by nine o’clock twenty-three people, including I, were scouring the swamp.

The winter weather had frozen over the ice, and mister Corenwook had gone out to do some ice fishing. However, he had failed to relay details of where he would go. So into the marsh the group trekked. No moonlight seeped through the thick swamp trees, and clouds of fog limited vision to but a few feet.

I shivered in the cold as the eyes of night watched from every angle. In the back of the group the ice broke. The Corenwook’s daughter, Nancy, fell through the gap and into the freezing liquid. She screamed before she sank under the waters, her hands frantically grasping for the surface of the ice. Mrs. Corenwook pushed through the stunned group and grabbed Nancy’s hand right before it slipped off the frozen surface. She tried to pull Nancy out, though it was like the waters pulled back. Using all the strength she could muster, Mrs.Corenwook succeeded in rescuing Nancy. Nancy’s eyes were wide with terror and she breathed sharp breaths. The stunned group had turned their flashlights towards the ice. A dark shadow could be spotted under the ice, fluttering away at increasing velocity. We lost sight of it after but a second.

The wood of the trees was cold and wet, and therefore couldn’t be used for fire. Nancy was sent home with two others from the party. The rest continued their search.

Through hours and hours of scouring the dense bog little was found. At one in the morning the party stumbled upon what must have been the spot where George had gone to fish. His rod lay next to an open tackle box, and his unused saw was nearby as well. The party searched yet found nothing. As they were about to call it a night, Mrs. Corenwook felt a thump at her feet. Down she looked, and screamed in terror. Trapped under six inches of ice, Mr. Corenwook pounded on the frozen substance. He shivered in the freezing waters. Bubbles escaped his nose and spread across the underside of the sheet of ice. I ran to grab the ice saw, and the rest of the group abandoned their flashlights and tried to break the ice with their bare hands. Mr. Corenwook’s eyes widened, and he looked down towards the murky depths of the marsh. He looked up towards the ice again and proceeded to pound his fists harder, with faster intensity. Wisps of blood could be seen surrounding his hands. He looked pleadingly into his wife’s eyes, his own full of true terror. His pounding on the ice slowed, eventually ceasing. He closed his eyes one last time and his limp corpse sank to the depths. We failed to find so much as a single crack in the ice.

Two days later the Corenwook family packed their bags and left town. They could no longer stomach living in the place where Mr. Corenwook died.

It was a week after the ice melted that I decided to locate the body. The sun was covered by the clouds, but there was little fog. I knew it would be the best opportunity. Early in the morning I left my house. The townsfolk were not yet awake, but the recovery of the body would not be a quick process, and I wanted to be finished before evening. I set off into the swamp with the little equipment I would need to recover the body, a large hook, swimming gear, and a variety of other useful devices stored in a red box I brought with me. The mud pulled at my boots with each step. The tree and cloud cover blocked almost all light from reaching my eyes. I arrived at the spot where Corenwook died. The murky waters were eerily warm compared to the slightly chilled air. I couldn’t feel anything under the waters with my hook, so donned my swimming gear and dove in. The mud I kicked up covered the surface of the pond. The waters of this part of the swamp were much deeper than the others. About ten feet down there was no sign of any floor to the bog. A momentary lapse in cloud cover caused a single ray of sunlight to enter the waters. That single ray illuminated the depths, showing what my eyes could not see. A dark stone sat on the floor of the swamp. It was made of some rock I’d never seen before and haven’t seen again. There was no doubt in my mind that Corenwook’s body was gone. It had eaten him.

The creature curled around the boulder. It looked like a tangled mass of dead hair, like the kind that clogs a drain. Tentacular limbs sprouted from the beast, each with a slimy smooth texture. The creature had no face, instead it had the maw of an octopus and jagged yellow teeth.

I swam up and away from the thing as fast as I could, but somehow the beast sensed my presence. It moved as though it was a living liquid, changing shape to avoid any obstacle in its way. Its limbs attempted to grab my legs, but failed to do so. I gasped as I exited the waters, barely managing to reach land. I ran straight for the town without my gear or my attire, pure terror and adrenaline fueling me.

When I reached town I got the sensation that the creature had ceased to chase me. The townsfolk had awoken recently, and were on their way to work just as I arrived. I ran into town square waving my arms in the air, shouting for their attention. In the center of the town I stood, faces watching me.

I shouted, “There’s something under the waters in the swamp, something that will kill us all. It consumed the body of George Corenwook. We must leave, now!”

The townsfolk looked at each other, whispering in words I could not make out. Suddenly two of them grabbed my arms, entrapping me with surprising strength. One stepped up from the crowd, and with a grin on her face replied “We know.”

I struggled to be free of my captors. They held me back as the statue in town center crumbled to dust, and the ground beneath it opened. In the center of the newly formed pit was the maw of the beast. The thing radiated darkness, the same way candles radiate light. The beast made rumbling noises, as though it were hungry enough to eat a whole feast of human flesh. As I was pushed towards the monstrosity my captors stepped away, to keep their distance from the beast. But the monster was able to sense this. It was now awoken. It would no longer be satisfied with a single morsel.

The thing screeched, and began to move. It spread its tentacles up, under the ground and towards the swamp. The startled guards loosened their grip enough for me to pry their hands off my limbs. I ran for the hills, the cultists (for I know now they must have been) chasing after me. As I reached the cliffside the marsh waters began to overflow. From all sides the crater flooded. The waters ran through the town, washing all loose objects into the maw of the beast, both poultry and people. I clambered up the hill, grasping loose handholds as the waters turned the wall to mud. A line of red fluid trickled down the crater. I looked up to the top, realizing it was blood. The waters consumed by the beast in the center of the crater were pumped back up to the swamp, including the blood of the dead. The handholds along the cliff could barely be seen, as the hillside was shrouded by the red liquid. But I pressed forward. I clambered up the cliff as the cultists screamed behind me. I escaped where they didn’t.

After weeks of trekking through forest and swamp I found society. I told my story, but they called me mad. They imprisoned me. Let this remain as my last confession, as my last written truth. The tale of the Swamps of Sopher.



Search the Site: