The Expedition of Howard Rickson
A Ghost Story
First impressions. Examining the entrance, it is clear to me why these ruins have gone so long undiscovered. While the main—and as far as I can tell, only—gateway may have once been a grand and foreboding structure, uncounted years of crumbling decay and snowfall have reduced it to little more than a humble hole in the mountainside. Only the scarcest traces of a stone arch remain to show that this was not just a barren cave.
Further up, the mountain is lost in a thick fog. This freezing mist made aerial scouting of the site impossible, so whether the towering turrets I see clinging to the icy peak are real or products of my imagination, mere suggestions of the swirling fog, I do not know.
I, Howard Rickson, am but a scout, and my mission is simple: map out the interior, if it proves large enough to warrant such a task, so that later expeditions may have an easier time as they uncover the secrets within.
The treacherous climb up the snow-covered slopes has taken most of the day and drained my energy, so I will set up camp here for tonight, and begin my exploration in the morning.
I have sent a radio message to home base, requesting a team be sent up to assist me. Our initial estimates regarding the scale of these ruins have proven horribly inaccurate. I was expecting something similar in size to a large Greek temple, but the maze I have begun to uncover boggles my senses with its enormity! I must have charted at least five miles of twisted stone corridors today, and yet I have only explored a single path. I could not count how many other passages and stairways I passed before reaching my first dead-end.
I know this is beyond the realm of my mission, but I cannot help but comment on some of my observations and speculate their significance. There are no windows, shafts, or cracks to let in the sunlight, nor could I find a single torch bracket. Whoever built this labyrinth must have memorized the convoluted halls so as to find their way in the complete darkness.
I will not venture too deep until my reinforcements arrive. I will, however, thoroughly explore the immediate area in the morning.
I did not venture too far from my subterranean camp today. The short expanse of corridors nearby have been meticulously mapped, and I could probably traverse them now without the aid of my light.
Near the end of my exploration, I heard some scuffling, muffled as though coming from elsewhere in the labyrinth. The team I requested must have arrived, so now I wait for them at my camp.
No sign of the new team. I fear they may have become lost while trying to find me, so today was spent in search of them. Careful to mark my path with a bit of chalk, I have struck out into new territory. I can hear the shuffling feet of the team members as I wander the lightless halls, but I have yet to find any tangible trace of them.
I have moved my camp deeper into the ruins to aid my search, and in the hopes that the lost explorers may stumble upon it. That seems more and more unlikely, though, as the more I search, the more I realize just how twisted and illogical the layout of this maze is. Who would have built such a bizarre structure, and what could they possibly have used it for?
I thought for sure I had found them today. I heard, quite clearly, footsteps behind me about two miles outside my camp. My heart leapt, and I realized then just how lonely I had become in the darkness.
Foolishly, I neglected to mark my path as I rushed towards the sound, casting my light about for the source of the footsteps. I suppose I was too excited at having finally found someone. It wasn't until I reached a dead end without sight of a single living being that I realized my folly.
I tried to find my way back for a while, but was forced to give up. Now I record this entry in some nameless corner, wondering how I will ever find my way out.
Terrible, long, dark day. But at last, some light!
Upon waking, I resolved to try once more to find my way through the dark stone corridors. It is nearly impossible to find one’s way. The map I made is useless in its incompleteness. Even if it was complete, I doubt I would be able to ascertain my location. Every twist and turn looks exactly like the one before it.
I was torn between two conflicting desires: to find my camp or follow the scuffling that I am sure marks the progress of my lost teammates. I’m not sure if there is a right course of action. After two days of wandering lost, I fear there is no hope in either endeavor.
The moment of truth came when the sounds that held my hope for rescue echoed to me from the top of a winding, shadowed stairway. After a moment of hasty thought, I pointed my light upwards and ran for the ascent. Yet no matter how fast I urged my tired legs to go, the sounds managed to stay ahead of me, moving up the long staircase, down a twisted maze of corridors, then up again.
It was on one of these treacherously dark climbs that the final blow to my hope fell upon me. My toe caught on the jagged lip of a stone step, and as I tumbled forward my light crashed sickeningly against the rock, plunging me into a more complete darkness than I had yet encountered.
I lay there awhile on the stone, feeling its coolness on my bruised shins, listening to the shuffling disappear in the nothingness above me. I kept expecting my eyes to adjust, but there was no light for them to create images with.
As the full weight of my situation settled over me, I began numbly to crawl forward, feeling my way up the steps. I don’t know how long I crawled through the darkness. I only remember the horror I felt every time I paused to contemplate my situation.
I only heard the shuffling footsteps once more after that. I was groping along the hard floor when they appeared, sounding only a few feet in front of me. Yet I was surprised to see no light. I tried to reach out towards the noise as it drew closer, but caught only air. The scuffling passed by, and gradually disappeared behind me.
At that moment I began to doubt if the reinforcement team had come at all. But something is here. I am not alone in this cursed labyrinth.
The terror of that thought sent a chill rush through my limbs, urging me forward, away from the retreating footsteps. The memory of that moment kept me moving, until at last I saw ahead of me a faint glow of dim blue.
At first my eyes slammed shut against the sight, unaccustomed as they were to light. But slowly, as I adjusted, I found myself in a small round chamber with—my heart leapt at the discovery—windows set into the far wall.
I ran to the narrow openings and threw my head out, hoping to find some way of escape. I was immediately faced with a foggy emptiness stretching far below. I could not see the ground. I could barely make out the stone wall of my tower amidst the moonlit clouds.
Cut off as I was from escape, I still could not suppress a mild sensation of joy at finally finding natural light. Tonight I will rest here, basking in the divine glow.
Alas, no sleep! What safety I thought I had found in the relative brightness of my tower quickly gave way to cold terror. First of all, it was not long before the chill night air, laden with snow, came pouring through the narrow windows. Then those phantom footsteps returned, scratching, scraping along the stones, invisible in the darkness beyond the pale moonlight. If ever I allowed my eyes to shut, I would hear whispers, a low babbling that crept closer and closer until my eyes were open again, and then all would fall silent for a while, still as death.
I dread heading back down into the darkness, but even as I write this by the light of the morning sun, diffused through the endless fog, I do not feel safe. This chamber holds shadows in its corners that no amount of light could banish. I do not know when I will be able to write again. I hope it will not be long.
I am oblivious as to the date or time. My watch died a long time ago, perhaps due to my many rough stumbles through the darkness. But this is a trifle, now. Good news at last: I have found my old camp! With my old map, it will not be long before I can finally be free from this cursed labyrinth and its stalking shadows. This will be the final entry in this expedition’s journal. I shall be on my way at once. To whatever it was that tormented me during my dark time here, I say farewe
A sudden heavy snowstorm prevented our immediate response to Howard Rickson’s request. When we finally arrived, we found this journal at an abandoned camp about a mile into the ruins. We never found any sign of Mr. Rickson.