Ushered On the Wind, by Jeffrey J. Taylor & W.H. Pugmire

They came on the wind. That is my warning and my final testament to the world, a world I fear that I am not long for. So many good men gone, and I, the last of them, could do nothing to save them. I am headed south to find a man that my younger brother whispered of, someone that I think may help me. I thought of him as a nut when I first heard of him – but that was before my world was pulled out from under my feet. I’m not sure how many days I’ve been moving. It hasn’t been easy, any of this. My name is Randy Wood, kind of amusing when you consider that I’m a logger by trade. Now I’m probably wanted by the authorities – or worse.

That thing – the shadow behind the sky!

I had never done well when I was young. School wasn’t my thing and I dropped out when I was in grade ten. My old man was disappointed and angry and gave me the boot from home. Maybe I deserved it. I got a job in the city but it depressed me. I hated the noise and the lights and soon shut myself off from everyone. I wouldn’t answer the phone or meet with friends, just holed up in my cramped apartment and going out only when I had to work – until I lost my job. I drifted from one dismal situation to another until I answered an ad for Phillips Forestry. My first tour out was amazing. Being in the woods and up in the mountains made me a new man. I worked hard and sweat out the new guy hazing. My body hurt, but I knew this was the building of new strengths, physical and mental, and I persevered. I had never felt so gloriously alive, so real, so a part of something. I loved the brotherhood of belonging to a group. This was my real calling in life, and I gave it my all. I worked myself up for almost six years until I was made a foreman and charged with my own crew. We went up every season and pulled trees for Phillips with another team planting behind us. I gave respect and was given respect; my old man even shook my hand when I returned home. I was liked and admired, and it made me feel like a new man.

It felt good, strapping logs to helicopter leads, pulling stumps and traveling up muddy back roads. I gave the new boys the gears and made a few of them realize that they were really men too. Who knew it would fall to shit so fast?

We were well into the season and were actually ahead of our daily quotas. There hadn’t been much rain so we had been going pretty much non-stop. The helicopters were dropping down the mountain without problems and the trucks were moving down the coast to the barges and mills. Everything was running smoothly and the men were actually quite happy. Old Sherman had the boys fed and the money was piling up in our accounts. Sherman was quite a guy. He was over six feet and had to weigh 350 pounds – a monster, but a gentle one. He had gone to some famous culinary school in Vancouver and could have cooked for royalty, or so he said. I’d sometimes ask him why he was cooking in a work camp and not for some fancy royal highness. He’d always answer back that he wanted to make meals for people who appreciated what they were given. I never did hear anyone complain about his food and I never did eat as well as I did when we were up on the mountain together. He was one of the last to go, God rest his soul.

Sherman was only one of the good men I had up there. There were eight other veterans and three new guys among us, all strong and hard-working. Reilly was my right-hand man, a lean Irishman that I came to depend on over the last two years. He was with Phillips before me but would never take a promotion to run his own crew. “Not for me,” he’d say, “God made better men than me to follow.” But he was the only one I trusted, the one man who could really pull the others up when things went bad. He was with me to the last and his screams wake me every time I attempt to sleep these days.

With everything running so smoothly we should have noticed the little things that were happening – but we were too consumed with pushing our quotas and making more cash. We never really noticed, when we entered that last area, that all of the forest sounds were gone. None of us had seen a deer or black bear in a couple of weeks, and there had been no birds calling from the trees. It was just an eerie quiet lonesome kind of place, except for the wind that would pick up now and again. Even the stars seemed to dim at night when that wind blew its cold breath down onto the mountain. Then we came upon that strange pale tree with its weird yellow moss and carvings. Who could have made those carvings was what we couldn’t understand, the place was so far from any community. Weaselhead, the one Native American guy on the crew, said that the tree reminded him of legends he had heard as a kid, and he was the one who pointed out the prints in the ground surrounding the large pale trunk, prints that were unlike anything we could comprehend. The carvings on the trunk may have been aboriginal – but there was something peculiar about them and I hated looking at them, they bothered me. I was relieved when Wilson and Burton, two veterans, brought down the tree, however much they were freaking out about the texture of the thing’s bark, its softness and its smell.

It was Wilson and Burton who were the first to go missing. They were accounted for at dinner and had been seen smoking outside before we went lights out. Morning comes early for a lumberjack so it was strange that they were already gone when we all arrived at the mess for breakfast. Sherman had beaten us all there by half an hour and hadn’t seen them leave. We came to the conclusion that they had gone down the lone road and pulled in to the base camp to quit. It wasn’t unheard of but was odd in that we were making such good time and money. The road was mud because of the melt coming off the mountain’s cap. Why would they leave like that? I dropped it for then but I was going to question the helicopter pilots when they checked in with us before they made their way up. They didn’t.

We weren’t able to raise anyone at the transfer station on the radio after that either. We called down over the entire morning with no response other than the occasional static. My men were already restless when a greenie, Parker, found Burton’s utility belt and hard hat about ten meters back from the main building. There was blood running up a nearby tree and his small chainsaw was gone off of its clip. We began to fear the worst and started a search for Wilson – was he responsible for what we had just found? We searched until we found his boots that afternoon. It appeared that he had been torn from them and dragged a couple of meters before disappearing.

The wind picked up again that afternoon, and that’s when we started taking notice of the queer little things. At first we thought that they were star-shaped leaves that skirted along the ground pushed by the cold wind. They weren’t unlike a maple’s leaf but we were far too high up the mountain for that, these were an odd blue colour and they looked to stop every so often as if to wait for something. They had come and gone by day’s end. Weaselhead had taken to muttering some aboriginal song to himself, and I asked him what it was all about.

“This place reminds me of a legend in our tribe, of something that falls out of the sky and snatches men. The song tells of this thing and its totems. That freaking tree we fell, with its symbols…” But then he just shrugged and shook his head.

I ignored him as we tried to raise the transfer base into the evening hours, but we were answered by nothing. Sherman began to make complaints that our supplies would run low in a couple of days, and that’s when I really began to worry. I had never lost contact with the station down below and for this long, and with two men missing my remaining crew were spooked. Damn Weaselhead wouldn’t stop muttering that crazy song in his native tongue – although some of the words he sang sounded so strange I didn’t think they were a part of his heritage, words like ‘Ithakkha’ that he pronounced in a guttural way without moving his tongue. At one point he began to etch some of the symbols that we saw on that pale tree into the earth with his knife, until I stopped him. I left him alone, though, after we discovered that he had carved a likeness of some of those symbols into his arm!

The wind was colder than ever that night, and it sounded like a strange beast as it moaned around us. Everyone was acting spooked, and then we found that two more men were missing before lights outs. That’s when my panic turned to fear, and that fear was contagious. Three more men decided to leave camp in the morning. We couldn’t say anything to sway them, and so Sherman and Reilly, Weaselhead and I watched in silence as they left. Part of me wanted to go with them, I’ll admit; but I was in charge and I tried to be an example to the remaining fellows. I didn’t want to answer to the company when this turned out to be just some downed lines and stupid workers in a panic. This was the first time that I had made good in my lifetime and I was going to see it through. No one would be able to accuse me of giving in to fear of the unknown.

That last night there is a nightmare I can never forget. Reilly and I heard that damn savage singing his cursed song from somewhere outside, and found Weaselhead dancing inside some kind of circle he had built with bits of wood on which he had chiseled symbols and totem-like images that were unlike anything I had ever seen in Native art. Then, from some distant place, we heard Sherman screaming; but when we rushed to his aid there was no sign of him, just long gouges in the dirt where it looked as if he had been dragged for about two meters before vanishing. Reilly and I searched for the next hour before he suggested that the culprit might have been a bear; and that was possible except for the fact that we found no bear tracks. It was then that the chill wind brushed against us, and the distant chanting of Weaselhead suddenly ceased. When we went to return him to camp, we found his circle of wood vacant, but we seemed to notice some of those weird leaf-like things circling upward into the air, as if caught in a current of whirling air. We went to his circle of wood and found the blood-smeared knife in its center. I felt a sudden surge of violence and frustration, and I began to kick away the chiseled wood of the circle like some crazy man. Reilly bear-hugged me and told me to stop acting like a fool. He was the one man I completely trusted and regarded as a brother, and I needed to stay calm and see him out safe and back to his family.

We slept with our utility belts that night and I had the lone rifle with me. It didn’t provide much comfort but, regardless, having the small chainsaw clipped to my belt made me feel a little better. We had them to cut off small branches or remove undergrowth that impeded our logging lines. You could start the thing with one hand if you had to, which gave us a small sense of security. It was a powerful tool that we could use in case we needed to defend ourselves, which seemed more like than not. It was the one thing that had come to save my life despite it also being the reason that I no longer have my left hand.

We woke up the next morning to the sound of the wind coming up through the trees, making it much colder than was usual for August. Reilly and I were apprehensive about leaving and set about making breakfast and some sandwiches for the four or five hour hike ahead of us. We glanced out of the windows as we passed them, not speaking to each other, as though we were afraid to make any unintentional sound for fear of some thing breaking the treeline and attacking our building. I tried to think back and assess everything that had happened. How hadn’t I noticed that the birds were gone or that the insects and larger animals had vanished? Nothing stirred except for that damn soft whipping of the wind in the trees – and the scuttling of those blue leaf-like things.

I want you to understand that those things were completely unnatural and utterly terrifying. The too deep of blue on their veined tops that led down to thin serrated pink edges. They seemed to pulse as they moved along the ground. They would lift up and the tips of the five edges left scratches in the dirt, and the grass and foliage they touched would cinder. Watching them reminded me of that man my brother had mentioned, who now seemed less an oddball and someone I should seek out. My brother was into some strange spiritual stuff and this fellow, Wilhelm Meier, had impressed him as a man of importance. I would go to Seattle if I got out of this and find this mystic who is clued-up concerning the stranger things of reality, acquainted with the secret mysteries our world has wrought.

Reilly and I had been on the service road for about an hour when I was shaken to my mortal core by his screaming. I was encased with a shaft of piercing cold air such as I had never experienced, and I felt my brain would freeze. Yet still I whirled around to help my friend – but he was gone, gone with nothing but drag marks in the dirt and those hellish leaf things whirling in the air and dancing on the ground. Something in me snapped then, and I screamed with rage as I approached a cluster of the things with an intent to stomp them into bits. What stopped me was the sudden eerie silence all around, an unnatural quiet in which I imagined I could hear my blood course through my veins. One of those things was near my foot, and I shook off my haunted feeling and kicked it a couple of feet from me, surprised at how heavy it seemed as my foot collided with its substance. There was another one near me, and so I bent low and picked it up. It looked dry but was in fact wet and pulpy, heavy in my hand onto which its moisture leaked. That cold liquid felt as if it would burn the tissue of my flesh, and so I tried to drop it to the ground. It was then, god help me, that the leaf-thing flipped over and clutched my hand, which was shot with pain. I tried to shake the thing from me as I was suddenly dragged along the road by something I could not see. My brain became more numb with bitter chill and my eyes seemed to ice over; and then those eyes took on new elements, and I watched as my surroundings began to fade, replaced by an alien vista. A sea of stars in some dark heaven moved slowly above me as I was rooted to an expanse of yellowed grey stone. And then I beheld the monstrosity that made me moan for death.

I saw a body that was segmented, like an insect’s, and that shone with – colours, I guess you’d call them, although they were of shades that did not belong to any I had seen before, undulating along its bristled appendages. It appeared to be sitting but was still taller than myself. It was mostly grayish-blue except for the pink head; fungus-like, and instead of eyes it had a covering of small tentacles writhing in the wind. An awful buzzing came from it, a noise that was echoed by the several others of its kind that were surrounding us in a semi-circle, pulsing in alien rhythm. It continued to pull me, toward what I could not comprehend – until I felt the uncanny blast of wind rush to me from above – that unearthly wind! I looked up to where the blast had come from and didn’t understand what I was seeing, the titanic shadow behind mist. But it wasn’t mist – it was the sky, and whatever the enormous silhouette was, it existed somewhere behind the sky and earthly dimension. I could feel its hunger, this thing toward which the creature that had hold of me was dragging my body. And then another group of those segmented creatures rose impossibly into the air, and I saw that they had what was left of Reilly in their midst. They lifted his partially-devoured yet still-living body into the air, toward the silhouette. A portion of that silhouette reached for the offering and wrapped talons around the body of my one true friend, and the sky was stained with wet crimson gore as Reilly’s body was pulled through earthly dimension into that other realm.

This all happened in the briefest moment as that fungus thing pulled me again with its appendage that had grasped firmly to my left hand. The thin blue filament was now stretched from me to the bottom of its head. The strength it had! I couldn’t pull away or break its hold. All seemed hopeless as I felt again the icy wind that was an emanation of the thing behind the sky, to which I would soon be offered. And then I noticed the saw hanging at my side, and screaming with what little air was left in my lungs, I started the apparatus and brought the oscillating blade down upon my wrist. The buzzing rose and the creature lurched forward as I cut, and the blood from my wound did not pour from me but instead floated before me. Two more leaf filaments shot from under the thing’s pinkish head and lapped my blood as they tried to grab hold of me once again. The fungus insect-being moved up and forward as I cut through what was left of my hand. It lunged forward as I fell backward through whatever angled gateway I had been pulled through. As I hurtled back, I swear to everything that I hold dear that the silhouette engulfing that alien sky turned, and with its eyes that were red stars looked directly into my being and in that instant knew me! I landed hard on the ground of the service road on which we had been traveling. Gasping, I gathered enough air to scream in horror and severe pain. Blood poured from my severed wrist, but somehow I managed to cover and bind my wound with my shredded shirt.

Shivering, from the elements, from horror, I have journeyed south for what I believe to be four or five days now. Time has slipped by me and I sleep only when I am too exhausted not to do so. But I don’t sleep long, for I hear a damnable buzzing in my dreams and feel the kiss of icy wind that is not of this world on my brain. I haven’t seen anyone since my escape even though I stopped at a mining camp where I found paper and pen – and it has soothed me to set down this record. There is no one about and all of the camp’s workers’ belongings are as they should be, stowed in their proper places. Deep gouges scar the ground all about the mine entrance and surrounding camp buildings – a testament to the doom that befell this place.

The wind has picked up. This record must find its way to Wilhelm Meier in Seattle. If my brother’s faith be trusted, this mystic is the one person who can comprehend and fight against this unholy terror. Only he knows the words and angles that may stop these alien beings from culling our mortal race.

Oh, god – god! I hear their scuttling outside the window and in my brain! I feel the hunger of their master behind the sky, that thing that walks on wind. They are so close! They came on the wind – you must remember that! They are ushered on the wind . . . !

Sirs:–

Pursuant to the ongoing investigation of the disappearance of some 40 mine workers and 21 loggers to the north, I am attaching this manuscript found at the Copper Mountain mine camp in southern British Columbia near the U.S.A/Canada border for inclusion into evidence. Please note that we have found no other leads and continue to hold both of the camps closed.

Further investigation may be in order of a certain Wilhelm Meier of Seattle, Washington as well as appointing a national search for the author of this manuscript, Randy Wood. Mr. Wood’s family members claim no knowledge of his whereabouts and have cooperated willingly and fully with our investigation. It is worth note, however, that his younger sibling, Derek Wood of Winnipeg, Manitoba, has been reported missing since our initial inquiries.

With sincerest respect,
Warren Harley

Staff Sergeant/Sergent d’état – major
RCMP/GRC – E Division
Princeton, BC

Jeffrey J. Taylor became hooked on horror and weird tales as a child in northern Alberta during the 70’s when he would rush home from school to watch Creature Features on television. Becoming a huge reader he discovered HPL’s work shortly thereafter preferring his atmosphere and cosmicism to depictions of violent horror. Now a multi-instrumentalist, though known mostly as a guitarist, he has released several albums and has toured throughout Canada. Jeff now lives in Calgary, Alberta with his wife and son and credits W. H. Pugmire’s constant encouragement for rekindling his interest in writing weird fiction and poetry.

Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire is a writer of horror fiction based in Seattle, Washington.  His adopted middle name derives from the story of the same title by Edgar Allan Poe.  Strongly influenced by the works of H. P. Lovecraft, many of Pugmire’s stories directly reference “Lovecraftian” elements (such as Yog-Sothoth of the Cthulhu Mythos). Pugmire’s major original contribution to the Cthulhu Mythos is the Sesqua Valley, a fictional location in the Pacific Northwest of the United States that serves as the primary locale for much of his fiction. According to his official biography, his “goal as an author is to dwell forevermore within Lovecraft’s titan shadow.”  Pugmire is a self-proclaimed eccentric recluse as well as “the Queen of Eldritch Horror.”  His stories have appeared in major horror anthologies, and collections of his fiction and poetry have appeared under small press imprints such as Necropolitan Press, Mythos Books, Delirium Books, and Hippocampus Press.

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Illustration by mimulux.

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9 responses to “Ushered On the Wind, by Jeffrey J. Taylor & W.H. Pugmire

  1. Very solid story with the element of Lovecraft mixed in well. It did remind me of an old X-File show that took place in a logging camp as well. Other than the mysterious disappearances, that is the only common theme. This would make an excellent one hour TV show. Somebody should start the Lovecraft channel

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