At the Moundville of Madness

The Unauthorized Sequel to Mudville, by the Author of Mudville


Before reading this story, you may want to read Mudville, by me, and "At the Mountains of Madness" by the master of weird fiction, H.P. Lovecraft, or, at the very least, this blog post.

Even as the globe has warmed, one mysterious area has gotten colder, deeper and deeper into a year-round freeze so that even intrepid explorers and outdoorsman shun it. I speak of Moundville, Minnesota. It has been fifty years since the cold came, and over seventy since this wretched out-of-the-way corner of the upper midwest was considered livable -- the coldness was preceded by over twenty years of rain, leaving off (so they say) for a brief summery respite before the cold settled in. It seems now as if the rain was merely a warning of the truly dire meteorological crisis which was to befall this cursed land.

My name is Max McGuire, and though it true that my family once dwelt in that spot, I have no first-hand records of their lives there. My grandfather had lost all material remnants of his time there before I was born. I was content to rely on aging photographs and legends to reconstruct this little town that is, one presumes, preserved beneath the ice in ghastly and god-forsaken wilderness; but was approached more recently by a stranger with a strange and suicidal proposition: to return to Moundville.

Being adventuresome in nature, I did not at once decline, though I loathe the cold and felt palpitations of pure terror at the mere prospect of traversing this horrid and forgotten region which lies beneath a half-century of frost. I could see no end to it, either, for there is no special material gain, or even acquisition of knowledge, to be obtained by visiting such a plain and forsaken place.

His name was Northrop Nye, and he beseeched me to go there not for salvage, but to settle some long forgotten grudge. It seems that in the personal effects of his family, he found reference to a game that must be replayed -- a baseball game. An ancestor of his had misunderstood the rules and ended his team's last scoring inning early, and so he felt entitled to a re-match on behalf of all Nyes. I endeavored to research this family and found that line so full of criminals and braggarts and ne'er-do-wells, that I hesitated to act -- though I also learned, in gulping astonishment, that his own line was bound up with my own. We were distant cousins. For that reason only, I reluctantly agreed to the trip and to the match.

Then put together your team, said North, as he liked to be called. I had no trouble assembling from my friends and family a likely crew of adventurers and sportsman, but found to my astonishment when we met North at our departure point that he was unaccompanied. He assured us that his crew would be on hand once we arrived at our destination. I doubted his word, but would gladly accept his forfeit upon arrival, when he proved unable to outfit a squad to take that forsaken field.

The trip was arduous, as you might imagine, for though we left in high summer, once we entered that accursed region of Mound County, a chill wind met us, and within an hour we were knee-deep in snow, slugging through a frigid tundra unlike any other place on earth between the poles. And yet the most trying leg of the journey was before us, when we came to the large hill that gave Moundville its name. The steep roads were now so slick with ice we had to use climbers gear, and it was a slow and treacherous trip to the top of the hill.

At last, and much weaker for the wear, we came to the top of the hill and found the frigid epicenter of the icy cold, as swirling and hopeless a place as you can find on earth. My blood turned to ice and I felt myself drain of all hope and wonder as I regarded that humble, yet terrifying square of unholy territory buried under calcified ice as hard and unbending as ancient stone.

North was as buried under his coat, wrapped in fleece and fur as we were, and we could not communicate except by sign language, but he communicated with us by gestures that the game would begin soon. We had brought baseballs and bats, though to wield them in this frightening wintry setting seemed ridiculous, and it was hardly possible to put on gloves or caps over our cold weather wear.

I shook my head at him and made a demonstrative shrug, for who would play on his team? As yet, no one besides him was there to play on his side. He then tilted his head back and let loose with a blood-curdling, unnatural screech I could hear even over the swirling wind. He waved off into the distance, and I was gripped by terror as shapes appeared. Even though I could see the vaguest outlines, what I saw was so wretched and alien I could barely hold onto my sanity: for these creatures were more reptilian than hominid, and made their way over the ice with prime numbers of tentacles and claws. As they got closer they became yet more horrid, with innumerable eyes on their bulbous heads. Several of my own party instantly went mad, and two or three bound off into the snow alone, leaving us shy on the bench and with only one pitcher in relief.

And so the game was set to be played, though I nearly grasped at a loophole, one which would allow us to call the game off and leave this sorrowful and accursed park and its denizens of vast and bottomless evil. For we had no umpires to call this game. I shrugged and pointed behind the icy corner of the diamond where such an umpire would stand, but North nodded, and let loose with another, different, equally unsettling noise that sounded like "krikrikrik" and made my bones feel brittle and my soul tremble. More creatures emerged from the frosty gloom, this time an array of large, grotesque penguins, wobbling forth and responding to the call with their own "krikrikrik," which blanched my blood and filled me with such dread terror that I was barely able to step into the batters box. I only realized once i was there that the noises were a kind of homing call, for our grotesque giant penguin umpires were completely eyeless and blind!

The alien horrors proved competent in the field and our side was quickly retired. We had no help from the home plate umpire, who screeched that every pitch was a stee-rikrikrik.

When we took the field, I was deemed the pitcher by my team, who were listless in their positions and could not get an out to save my life. The umpire now squawked "Ballalalalal" in the same morbid fashion as the previous strikes, and the score was quickly 98-0 and there were no outs. I hoped that the umpires would intone some mercy law, but no such law seemed to be in effect, and even as the night overtook us, and we were plunged into complete darkness, the game continued.

And then, in that absolute blackness, where even moon and stars did not find us, I heard a most fearsome noise; a kind of bubbling, quaking, terrible sound. It was truly indescribable and I am sure I would have lost my sanity completely were it not for the fixed way that I continued my duty, throwing pitch after pitch, and always the ball came back to me in the dark, and I could just hold out my glove and have it return to me. And so through the night I did this, though I heard horrible screams and gibbering and maybe a little chewing. It was only thus I kept my wits: pitch, catch. Pitch, catch. For how many eternities I endured this, I do not know, but when at last the white light of morning came, I was alone, save for my catcher, who was not the fellow I had brought with me, but a kind of oozing gelatinous mass with many eyes and a shapeless body, who would catch the ball in a mouth that would suddenly appear, and spit it back to me.

Though it was horrible to behold, the thing rather reminded me of a treasured labrador retriever I once had, one that would never tire of catch. It made me afraid to stop the game, but I pitched the ball into the distance, and the creature sort of loped/slithered after it, and spat it back to me, as it did before.

And by this means, I left the ballpark, with this abomination following, and found my way back home, emerging from the eternal winter, never to see my companions or my reptilian opponents, those grotesque penguins, or my long lost cousin ever again. I do quite enjoy my monster companion now, and I trust you will love "Soggy" as much as I do once you get to know him. Hm, don't you think? Are you there? Oh, Soggy, not another guest. How many times do I have to tell you?


© 2009 by Kurtis Scaletta, based on works by himself and public domain work by Howard Phillips Lovecraft