Dr. Magnus and the Hand of Doom Chapter 1: The Spirit of Havenholm

The saline sea air drifted through the whipping wind as the steamboat knifed its way through the fog. Professor Carlson Magnus stood on the port side near the bow of the ship. Professor Magnus was a stout man, with a rugged beard and dark black hair that covered his oft-furrowed brow. He was of average height and was a wholly unremarkable man appearance-wise other than the fact he had his right arm amputated a few inches from the elbow. His trench coat covered most of his body but failed to keep him particularly warm in the bitter cold of the winter air; and his right sleeve was flapping in the breeze as he had his arm tucked in against his body inside the jacket.  

“Sir, we’re nearing the island it would seem. If our estimation of 40 knots off the coast of Falmouth is accurate.” His assistant Penny Watts claimed as the boat continued to bounce slightly off the torrid waves of the ocean. Watts was a woman with a fair complexion and a wispy black hair tied up in a neat bun. She had freckles that dotted her cheeks and the bridge of her nose and always had a look of slight concern on her face. The woman spoke with a very proper inflection on her words.  

“It seems we are getting close then. And what did I say about calling me sir? It’s Carlson or Dr. Magnus if you prefer.” the man replied bluntly.  

“I’m sorry professor, but you’ll always be Captain Magnus to me.”  

Dr. Magnus shook his head and chuckled, reaching into his pocket and pulled out a well-aged piece of folded parchment. He opened it and then read the letter once again.  

“To my beloved Nephew, Carlson,  

This might be the last time I am able to write to you as I fear my mind is beginning to slip away. If you are able to read this letter, it means you’ve thankfully returned from the war. I caught word even on this little island that you were injured and I hope that my last invention can help you overcome your newfound disability. But be warned, things are not as they appear on Havenholm. You should only stay as long as you need to get my affairs and will in order and collect the gift I’ve left for you. I wish you all the best in life,  

Regards, Uncle Fletcher”  

Magnus refolded the paper, now damp from the moisture in the air, into his coat pocket and looked over at Watts.  

“What do you think my uncle meant by Havenholm is not as it appears?” he asked  

“I’ve no idea sir. I’ve not met anybody who has ever been here, they don’t seem to be fond of outsiders. But that makes the adventure all the more exciting, doesn’t it? Forbidden things are often the most interesting.” Watts replied  

“How so?” Magnus mused  

“Well sir, I was once quite taken by a man in my youth. We courted in secret because I knew we’d never be accepted together. I was just a young girl and he was… An Irishman. But what a scintillating romance that was.”  

Dr. Magnus looked down and nodded. 30 minutes passed before they finally saw a ray of light slicing through the fog, the beam of course was from the Havenholm lighthouse. The crew of the small vessel readied themselves as they entered the port. The docks were surrounded by small spires of pointy stone and the actual pier itself was warped and twisted, with rusting nails exposed to harsh sea air. A man in a raincoat was waiting for them on the land just beyond the dock. The crew roped the boat in and tied it to the edge of the dock which was barely floating on the water. Dr. Magnus put his foot up on the edge of the boat and jumped out, Watts immediately after him.  The pair carefully made their way to land and met with the man standing before them. He was an older gentleman with gray hair, a long triangular beard and bushy eyebrows. He stood slightly hunched over and holding a lantern.  

“Hello, you must be the mainlanders.” The man said in a scratchy voice. “Professor Magnus and Ms. Watts, correct?”  

“Yes, that is correct. I’m Magnus, she’s Watts.” Carlson said, extending his hand but the old man didn’t return the gesture. Instead, he just turned around and led them to the island. The isle was fairly small, about a mile and a half in size. There were various small, stone buildings placed around the main road that went through the island. The tattered and flinting bricks of the path would have made it impossible for any horse or wagon to make it through town, but the land mass was hardly big enough to warrant such vehicles anyway as the entirety of the island could have been walked in under an hour.  Any greenery on the island was either dead from the cold of the winter, or dying due to the overbearing salt in the air. Magnus and Watts followed the man through town, the street lamps had been lit and were casting just enough light for the road to be seen beneath their feet through the thick fog.  

Off in the distance on top of the lone hill on the island was Magnus’s uncle’s residence. It was slightly bigger than the average home on the island, and that wasn’t including the massive glass observatory that pointed triumphantly towards the night sky.  

“Your Uncle was quite the inventor. He really helped the island in many ways. You see, we subsist mostly on fish here and he created a way to help us locate where the fish are most likely to be at any given point in the day. All of us here were very sad to see him pass away.” the old man stated.  

“I only met him a few times when I was younger, but he seemed an intelligent and inventive man.” Magnus agreed humbly.  

As they continued their trek through the town, a young blonde woman appeared in front of the trio. She was wearing a long black robe with a golden eye embroidered on the sleeve so that when the palm was facing upwards, it was visible.  

“Ah, you two must be the outsiders. I can tell because you’ve still got your wits about you.” she said unprovoked. She cackled with laughter pointing to her temple and then walked off down the path.  

“Oh, don’t mind Margret, she’s one of our more… Eccentric residents.” The old man explained calmly.  

They continued to walk until they got close to the house upon the hill.  

“Well, I believe you can find your way from here. Ah, Ms. Watts, I also figure you’d like to find somewhere warm, let me guide you to the tavern, there should be a fire burning there.” Watts nodded in appreciation and Magnus finished the walk up the hill to his uncle’s house. As he reached the front door, he reached for the key on his belt and opened the door which had begun to splinter and twist in its frame from age and lack of care. The door creaked ominously open and the house was pitch black.  

Dr. Magnus quickly found a candle and lit it with his lighter which he had managed to protect from the damp ocean air. He then used the candle to find his way to the fireplace. He lit a fire with the wood that was available and quietly warmed himself up. Just drying his clothes off from the dampness in the air did well to rid himself of the bone chilling cold. As the fire began to spring into life under the chimney, he sat in one of the old chairs by the fireplace, the blue material had begun to flake and split with neglect and exposure to the sea breeze. He noticed a book on the shelf and took it to begin reading. It had no words on the cover, but as he opened the brittle pages, he recognized it as uncle Fletcher’s hand writing. He flipped through the yellowing parchment carefully until he got to where the dates were closer to the current day.  

His uncle had passed away on November 7th, 1923 and so, by the golden and orange glow of the fire, he began reading the entries since August of that year.  

“August 12th 1923: I am closer than ever to achieving my creation of a device that will help determine the depth of an area of water without the need to hassle with anchors. Unfortunately, my thoughts are beginning to slip in my old age. My mind is no longer the steel trap it once was in my youth and it impedes my progress greatly.”  

Magnus continued reading through the journal.  

“September 16th, 1923:  

My mind is splintering, fractured. Like my consciousness is held on by a thread, for I have spoken to him and our communion has granted me both fear and elation.”  

Dr. Magnus confused, flipped to another page. The writing which was once elegant and simple, was now frantic and scrambled. As if it was being written by a shaking hand. 

“October 11th 1923:  

I feel nothing any more, no pain, fear nor any other human emotion. Our cosmic father has delivered my soul and freed my mind of its human constructs.”  

Magnus read flipped to the final page of the book with a bewildered fervor, nearly tearing the page as he did. The final page had no date. The handwriting was no longer panicked or scattered. It was written as if the author was trying to carve into the paper itself with the pen. Massive, thick and bold symbols were written into the parchment which were indecipherable.  

Professor Magnus closed the book quickly and placed it back on the shelf. The professor, as always, took the logical approach and assumed that his uncle must have been suffering from some form of dementia before his passing and he quietly took pity on him. He grabbed the candle he had lit and proceeded further into the house, trying his hardest not to allow the burning tallow to drip on the wood floors. The house was full of spider webs that needed to be brushed aside with nearly every step. 

 He eventually found his way to the hall near the observatory. As he neared the door to the room below the glass spire, he heard an ever so faint voice calling from behind the wooden frame. It was barely audible over the sound of wind hitting the façade of the house, and it was barely intelligible, but hearing it was enough to make his pulse hasten.  

“Hello, anyone here?” He called as he opened the door slowly. He didn’t get a response. He continued on through the door and found his uncle’s work area. Inside the room surrounded by pristine glass was a work bench. Besides a heap of scrap metal and dead house plants, he saw papers with drawings of ambitious inventions on them, absolutely covered by the same mad ramblings and illegible symbols he had seen in the diary. Suddenly, a shimmering light appeared from inside the drawer of the desk. The sparkle was constantly changing between green, light gold and a soft pink. It was mesmerizing and Magnus opened the drawer more out of a strange compulsion than some sort of interest or desire.  

Ms. Watts followed the old man down the path to the town tavern. As they arrived near the front door, there was an ear shattering noise of bells ringing coming from the large church in the middle of town.  

“Oh, it must be the hour mark, it’s getting quite late.” Penny reasoned aloud.  

“No Ma’am, that’s just the bell for the church service.” The old man replied  

“I’m sorry, church service? On a Tuesday?” Ms. Watts asked in bewilderment.  

“Like I said Ms. Watts, things are very different here in Havenholm. Please, just enjoy yourself at the tavern.” He nodded and turned around to leave. He quickly turned back and faced her again “I’d be careful being seen with that firearm on your hip. It’s… Quite unsightly for a woman.” The old man expressed  

“I served two tours of duty on the Western front in the Great War. Trust me, you don’t want to see me use it.” Ms. Watts replied with a wry smirk. Penny walked through the door of the bar. There were no lights on besides that of the fire.   

“Hello?” She said, but nobody answered her call. She shrugged and sat down by the hearth, taking her coat off to dry it. The warmth from the flames soothed her aching joints from the freezing cold outside. She saw a book shelf in the corner and picked a book to help occupy her time and keep her mind focused. She flipped through the first few pages before seeing a shadowy figure out of the corner of her eye. She looked up and out the window, seeing several of the townspeople dressed in identical black robes to the strange woman she’d seen before.  

The entire town, all thirty members of it, had seemingly begun to make its way to the church as the bells once again rang with a deafening tone. Once the town had all filed into the very large building, the lamps were extinguished upon everyone’s arrival. They all huddled around the alter, and Ms. Watts saw an ethereal, almost alien beam of light shoot up to the stone spire of the church. She grabbed her coat and threw it on hastily, walking out the door of the tavern and towards the church. As she neared, she could hear the townspeople talking amongst themselves. She leaned up against the wall in the shadows of the church and through the crudely constructed window witnessed as the townsfolk stood in a circle, all wearing the same black cloak. The shimmering light was coming from a small red and black stone which lie upon the alter that the entire town was huddled around.  

“Our cosmic father who resides beyond the void. O’ Deacon of the Depths, hear our pleas. Lord Zy’ulgothyr, call upon the power of the ancient ones and free us from our mortal shells.”  

Watts looked on with a mixture of pure fear and captivating curiosity. Her hand instinctively reached for the handle of her Colt 1911 handgun around her waist. The chanting continued, each member of the town speaking in remarkable unison, the chorus getting louder and more menacing each time.  

“Our cosmic father who resides beyond the void. O’ Deacon of the Depths, hear our pleas. Lord Zy’ulgothyr, call upon the power of the ancient ones and free us from our mortal shells.”  

The island had become bathed in a faint red light. Looking up, Watts realized that suddenly the moon had been illuminated red and it was filling up the night sky and the horizon. The dense fog that had once enveloped the island had completely dissipated.