From a Time Before
The Expedition to Malo-Moko Island
© 2015 by Richard Messer
Chapter 1 - Prologue
Malo-Moko Island, Pilgrim Atoll, Kanim Island Group
A cover of clouds was scudding low over the archipelagos from a southerly direction. The people along the shallow bay on the North side of the island knew of the coming storm and went about preparing for it. Figures dressed in either sailor slops or khaki and denims were busy in covering supplies with tarpaulins, or stuffing such into tents and checking the tie-downs.
Close by were several knockdown cabins that had been set up as laboratories and barracks. Several furs and reptilians were busy checking these over, making sure that the pinnings and lashings were still tight. Out in the bay a lighter stood off , anchored stem and stern for the upcoming storm, the crew rowing ashore in a boat.
However, fifteen nautical miles to the south of the island, a greater concern was being played out. On board a freighter, a small gathering was held in a wardroom. A few of the younger furs were gathered at a table against the far bulkhead, examining a few archeological findings from Malo-Moko Island, speaking in hushed tones. At the large table in the middle of the room stood some older adults, discussing something indicated on a map that was laid out, the corners held down by a few weighty objects. Gathered around the table were a chimpanzee in evening dress, a Maine coon-cat in a captain’s uniform, and a young whitetail buck in a black suit.
“So tell me, Mr. Baxter, what other significant findings corroborate with what was discovered today?” asked the chimpanzee, giving the deer a sidelong glance behind his pince-nez glasses. He turned from the table to a sideboard where the liquor was kept.
James Baxter, watched the representative of the English Howard Carter Society mix himself a gin and tonic. The feline captain had also turned his gaze on the buck before glancing out a porthole. The ship had been riding a little rougher since dinner, the sky growing darker. But Baxter wasn’t conscious of the fact; his attention turning back to the map laid out before them. He made a soft cough into his hand before answering.
“The few tablets that were found this morning in the bay east of the work site have shown the same style of cuneiform as those in that cave set at the two hundred foot level, Sir Albert.” A black, thick-nail finger pointed towards the western bay where the camp was setup. “But the pottery fragments also found in that cave have no relationship to any style that we know of. What we have here may be an early civilization that has not been known of before.”
The simian stood before the table, a glass in his right hand, the left arm held behind him. Sir Albert Wednesday studied the spot his American colleague was pointing to before taking a sip of his drink.
“Will you be willing to present that to your directors at your school’s Department of Archaeology?”
It would be a coup in restoring prestige to Miskatonic University. Seven years earlier an ambitious expedition had left Arkham, Massachusetts, for the Antarctic region to search for fossil evidence of early life of a paleontological nature. Funded by the Pickman Foundation and several other contributors, two steam-powered vessels carrying the twenty-man crew of explorers left Boston Harbor southwards on this prestigious event. Loaded with sledges, sled dogs, disassembled aircraft, and supplies, the barques journeyed through the Panama Canal towards Tasmania for their final gathering of supplies. From there the expedition pushed off to McMurdo Sound and the establishment of a base camp on Ross Island. But what followed was a disaster of an unbelievable nature.
With five men left at the base camp, the rest took four aircraft to travel northwestward, to less explored regions bypassed by Amundsen, Scott, and Byrd. Once a forward camp had been established the party set about drilling through the rock formations to search for those early life form fossils. The key discoveries were radioed back to the base camp where it was passed onto one of the vessels whose more powerful transmitter to send them onto Massachusetts and the world. Later, a group flew further into the deeper parts of the glacial icepack, to seek other treasures of the dim-past of Earth’s history. However, the running commentaries of this group became more and more bizarre and frightful, until several days after their departure, all communication was lost.
So two fursonages – a student named Danforth, and the geologist and nominal leader of the expedition, Dyer – left to find this flight that had traveled further inland. It was only twenty-four hours after their departure that the pair returned straight to the base camp and urged the others left behind to break camp and load everything unto the sailing ships. When seriously questioned as to the reason for leaving now, half-way through the Antarctic Summer, that the pair showed the drawings made of what was found and the photographs that had been hastily developed. Those left of the university expedition and the two ship’s officers had to only to take one look at the photos, and they set about reloading the equipment and leaving those icy shores and maddening howls of the wind off of faraway glaciers. Upon their return to Miskatonic University, Danforth was immediately institutionalized for a mental breakdown, while Dyer stressed upon the board of directors at that prestigious school, that the pictures and drawings brought back were real and the death and disappearance of the advance party wasn’t a fluke. After a private meeting the board decided to lock away all evidence brought back from the South Pole – all photographs, drawings, and uncensored radio transmissions – into the deepest vaults. As for Dyer, he was placed on permanent disability leave and sequestered on his family’s farm outside of Arkham.
long afterwards, a privately funded gathering called the
Starkweather-Moore Expedition headed
towards the southern polar region the following Antarctic Summer to
take up the journey began by the Miskatonic party. Unfortunately,
the second penetration of that icy subcontinental hell ended with a
freak blizzard that buried the entire party and equipment under a
deep layer of ice and snow. Like the previous expedition, the
remnants of the Stark weather-Moore expedition loaded up what was
left of their supplies and steamed homeward under a cloud of
despondency. It would be some years before anyone attempted another
trip to that netherworld of frosty death.
The deer brought his thoughts back to the present and those gathered around the table with him. Swallowing hard and licking his lips, Baxter looked at the simian across from him.
“Yes, Sir Albert, I would. And you very well know of the university’s disastrous South Pole expedition. So I’m ready to present my findings to the board at the end of this trip. Provided that nothing untoward happens to us as well.
“We’ve yet to find anything of significant importance out on the slopes of the ridge, or in the waters off the shores. It all hinges on what we can unearth up in those caves near that hogback ridge that runs down the center of this island.”
Baxter’s finger traced the narrow ridge-line that ran the length of the island; from the ‘pinhead’ to the northeast, down to the ‘chin’ at the southwest corner of the ‘jaw’. At least that was what some of the students thought when they first laid eyes on the map regarding the island of Malo-Moko. One even went and declared that it reminded him of some comical demon with a slack jaw and two eyes popping out of its skull. And there were two other ridges that split off from the main line; one reaching for the tip of the ‘ear’, while another separated from the ‘cheek’ to make for the ‘nose’.
At first the cervine archeologist frowned on this unprofessional terminology being used. However, he began to see that there was some relevance in this easy to use description of the topographical features. Even he began to make use of these terms himself, much to the annoyance of Sir Albert Wednesday. The simian peer would pull his heavy-jawed features into a look of disdain at such usage, muttering darkly under his breath over “these colonials' childish disregard for proper etiquette when dealing with matters archeological”.
The room became quiet as the vessel rocked slightly at a swell from the approaching storm. Captain Roscoe Tanner, the feline commander of the freighter, flashed a quick look out the darkened porthole before excusing himself, and left for the bridge. The students were gathering the findings of the day and packaged them into labeled boxes. When they were finished they bade the geologist a goodnight before leaving in a mob to their cabins. Only Baxter and Sir Albert were left to contemplate the map and the penciled notations.
“Mr. Baxter, please forgive my earlier remark in regard to your findings and how to present them to your university’s directors.” The chimpanzee glanced at the map after watching the others leave. His tone had softened. Then those large black eyes swiveled to peer at the young whitetail from under heavy brows. “I am speaking from past experience; from excavations in Africa and the Middle East. In those early days I made my own mistakes in how what I found fitted into the general scheme of things. Being called on the carpet before the site director was never a wonderful experience.” With a soft chuckle the simian drained this glass before setting back on the sideboard. When he turned back his heavy dark brown features had softened some more.
“Deep inside myself I feel you may be correct in your preliminary assessment. But,” – and he pointed a thick finger at the buck – “it’s best to have more evidence to support that assessment before you make a big fool of yourself before those bigger fools.” Offering a smile of goodnight, Sir Albert headed off to bed.
For a long time James Baxter stared at the map. In his mind he knew that what he found could be the remains of a civilization previous undiscovered. But at the same time, in his heart, also knew that Sir Albert may be correct in not jumping to any conclusion about such a find. The young archeologist slammed both fists down on the table in frustration. Both thoughts whirled about in his brain, fighting each other for dominance over the young American’s attention... to the point he snapped out a curse word to the empty wardroom.
The ship gave a slight roll that upset the buck. He stared around, startled by the fact that he was alone. He knew that the British peer had been with him; the departure of the freighter’s master and the students from Miskatonic University had come about without his acknowledgement. Now it was time for Baxter to head off to bed himself. Leaving the map laid out on the table the archeologist was reaching for the doorway when the ship gave a hard list. The movement caught the buck off-guard, such that he slammed into the door and was thrown backwards. He hit the floor hard, cracking the back of his skull on the carpeted deck. With a cry of pain, James Baxter laid there for a long time until his blurred vision reset itself. With deliberate slowness he rolled over and tried to stand up. The world went double in his eyes and his stomach lurched enough that part of his evening meal came back up.
Starring at the vomit on the dark carpet the buck looked away so that he didn’t add anymore of his meal to it. Using the edge of the table Baxter pulled himself up to shaky feet before turning to the table that his students had been using earlier. When he reached it he noticed that something had been left behind. It was a disk of roughly three inches in diameter and made from either bone or ivory. There was a face carved into it, but he couldn’t make out the features, as his eyes hadn’t cleared. Absently, he picked up the disk and turned for the doorway. Somehow he managed to get the door open and was able to stagger his way to his stateroom and throw himself onto his bunk, not bothering to undress. In moments, James Baxter drifted off into a troubled sleep.