New Innsmouth welcoming committee

When Ella entered the cabin and told us there was something going on at the dock, she went into the largest bedroom and came out with the gun Pike said was there. Pike retrieved the sword he brought, I got a flashlight, and we followed Ella to the dock.

There’s a long stairway from the cabin to the dock, and Ella was standing at the top of it. Actually, it’s not a single stairway: it’s five separate sets of stairs, the top three wooden and the bottom two metal. It isn’t a straight path down and there are trees on either side, so we couldn’t see the dock from where we were. But we could hear something: slow footsteps on the stairs. It didn’t sound like whoever was approaching was wearing shoes, because it was a soft sound against the metal steps.

There was a slightly different change in timbre as the steps moved to the second set of metal stairs. And then there was another sound of footsteps from further down. A creak told us that the first climber had reached the initial set of wooden stairs. And there were sounds of still more footsteps further down.

I shone the flashlight down. I didn’t illuminate anything directly but the light was reflected by something the size of an adult person but pale and shiny, like the belly of a toad just pulled from the water.

“I don’t think we should wait to find out how many of these things there are,” Ella said. We backed away and when I turned around, I saw a group of people approaching us from the front of the cabin, walking with a shuffling gait.

“Just what happened in that town?” I asked Ella.

“Shine the light on those guys,” said Pike. “We need to see what weapons they have.” I did so and saw axes, large knives, and a chain. “Okay,” said Pike. “Ella, give them a warning shot.” Ella aimed the gun over their heads and fired. They paused and then continued advancing. Moving the flashlight around, I saw other people coming at us from both sides. I didn’t look at what was approaching from the dock.

Then we heard the roar of an engine. I thought someone might have started our car until I saw a pair of square lights come at the people in front of us. They jumped away. The vehicle kept coming toward us and then around us, and we saw that it was Dingle from Friday night, on his ATV.

Dingle stopped behind us, withdrew a shotgun from the front of the ATV and fired it toward the direction of the dock. “Take that, ya goddam fish people!” he yelled. He told us to get on the ATV.

The front of the ATV was wide enough to have a rack on top of it and Ella sat on this. Pike and I sat on the rack in back. Dingle took off; any people getting in the way of his ATV would have to deal with a shotgun, pistol, or sword.

We didn’t talk to Dingle until he stopped in front of a smaller bar than the one where we had met him. A lit sign in the window said “Silver Waves.” As Dingle walked to the door I asked how he knew we were in trouble. “Heard ya were askin’ about New Innsmouth,” he said. “Figured we should keep an eye on you after dark.” All three of us asked who “we” referred to. He didn’t answer but he didn’t really need to, once he opened the door.

We saw six or seven hearty Wisconsinites in the bar, who approached Dingle when he entered. “Yeah,” Dingle said. “They made their move on my watch.”

“OK,” said a guy wearing a black T-shirt displaying a wolf howling at the moon. “Let’s go back there and see if they’re trying anything else.” Everyone in the bar, including the bartender, went outside and got into their trucks. Pike and I rode in the back of wolf man’s truck and Ella rode in the cab. When we got to the cabin and got out, Ella and wolf man were continuing whatever conversation they had on the way.

“You know about what goes on there and you haven’t tried to get rid of them?”

“Live and let live, miss. As long as they don’t try the kind of stuff they did tonight, we’re not gonna give ‘em guff about their Babylonish abominations and whatnot.”

Our new friends carried shotguns and flashlights and made a patrol of the house and surrounding woods. None of our things were missing and except for a canister of lighter fluid on the porch that none of us put there, nothing and no one unexpected were around. Ella, Pike, and I packed up our things and loaded up the car. We thanked Dingle and his comrades and Ella said she’d like to return soon to talk more with them — during daylight hours.

The guys told us how we could get back to the highway without passing New Innsmouth, and they followed us for a few miles, but driving on roads with woods so close on either side was still pretty tense. It wasn’t until we were on the highway that we started talking.

“I guess you’re going to find some new locations for the movie,” I told Pike.

“What, because of that? Nah, we can still shoot up there.”

“Excuse me?” said Ella.

“We can totally still shoot there!” insisted Pike. Ella sighed, but I caught her smiling too.

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Sunset

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I was going to write a longer day-end post but Ella’s pretty anxious about something she saw at the cabin’s dock and after we check that out that we’ll probably visit one or two bars, so I’ll wait until tomorrow to chronicle our last night here.

Natural pleasantness, unnatural creepiness

We covered a lot of ground today on Pike’s quest for movie locations. Our first stop was the town that had the bar we visited last night, and the people Pike talked to were enthusiastic about the prospect of a movie being shot there. Same reaction in the next town over. Ella carried on separate conversations with the people at the places we went, and I gathered she was trying to get information about the mysterious town we saw on the way up, called New Innsmouth. Before we had left the cabin she said she wanted to visit there, even though Pike wasn’t enthusiastic about it. She also asked Pike to bring the sword.

After the first two towns, we visited a small state park with a rocky grotto that included some dust of an unusual purple color.

purple dust

After that, we drove into New Innsmouth and as soon as we got there I wanted to leave. It’s on the shore but still managed to have an oppressive, creepy vibe. The main street appeared to be the only one that was paved. Most of the buildings were ramshackle and there were no signs indicating stores or bars. The biggest exception was a large building with a faded black and gold sign. From the street I couldn’t read it and didn’t want to approach the building to get a better look. It looked like it said “The Estonian Order of [something].” Near the dock we saw an abandoned ship.

abandoned ship

The few people who were out looked at us sullenly. The all seemed to have unusually large eyes, though that may have been because none of them seemed to blink. Pike didn’t want to stick around either but Ella said she wanted to talk to someone whom the people she had spoken to at the other towns referred her to, who might be more willing to talk to her than the other inhabitants. They said he would likely be at the town’s dock and we did see someone sitting at the edge.

We drove as close to the dock as we could get before stopping and getting out. She asked us to “keep an eye out” and walked to the edge of the dock.

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Ella kept a safe distance from the person on the dock so I felt comfortable dividing my attention between her and the town, which was inactive as ever. My eyes were on the main street when I heard a shriek from the dock. Pike and I rushed forward but it wasn’t Ella who was in trouble. It was whoever she was talking to, who was running away from the dock. We saw passed him — an ancient bearded man with a terrified expression — as we went to where Ella was, standing still and looking at the lake grimly. “We should leave,” she said, and turned around and walked toward the car.

As we got into the car we saw more townspeople emerging from side streets, many of them with a shambling kind of walk. There numbers were sparse but being on that street felt like being in a tunnel whose walls were moving toward us, and we quickly drove out of town.

We were on the road for at least ten minutes before I asked Ella what her conversation was about. “Some of the local customs,” she said. “It turns out the old Innsmouth is a place I know something about.”  She didn’t elaborate and I didn’t ask for more, since New Innsmouth was a place I wanted to just put out of my mind. The next town and a return to north woods normalcy managed to raise our spirits. Mine’s and Pike’s at least. Ella spent most of the time on her cell phone.

The three of us are now on the back porch of the cabin. Pike is grilling dinner and having a beer, after borrowing my laptop to post a comment on the last post, and Ella is writing in a notebook she brought. All three of us are taking frequent pauses from our work to look at the lake. Good place to be.

First night on the lake

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The cabin we’re staying at has Internet access, so greetings from Lake Superior. The drive from Detling was fine; as we got close to the cabin the only towns we passed through were unincorporated. One of them, New Inn-something, didn’t even have an official state sign. Seeing the hand-painted sign really seemed to irk Ella, because she gasped when she saw it and kept looking back long after we had passed it.

As we unpacked the car I noticed something in the trunk I hadn’t seen before. “Is that a sword?” I asked Pike.

“Yeah, I haven’t been able to practice for a couple weeks. Might come in handy too, in case we meet a bear.”

“I thought there was a gun in the big bedroom for those,” said Ella.

“There is. But I’m not going to lie. Taking out a bear with a sword would be sweet.”

Tomorrow the plan is to go to the nearby towns and pitch the movie to local business owners whose establishments Pike would like to use. Ella’s especially interested in the New Inn— town. Neither she nor Pike remember anything about the place from their earlier cabin visits, but those were a long time ago.

We did go to the closest town tonight to visit one of the bars. The bartender was an unexpectedly attractive young woman and Pike gave me permission to tell her I was his producer. We also met a garrulous, wiry, bespectacled gentleman with iron-grey hair and mustache who called himself Dingle, who insisted that we check out the ATV he drove to the bar before he left for the night: It looked like it was built more for transporting armed troops than racing through mud. And I discovered that Ella is pretty good at darts.

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Journey to the north

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I’ll be taking an interesting trip next weekend. Pike’s and Ella’s family has a cabin on the shore of Lake Superior and Pike is going to go there to scout locations for a movie he wants to start filming next year. It’s a horror-comedy about a quartet of film geeks who take a trip to the north woods and have to defend themselves against monsters. Besides some good outdoor locations, Pike wants to find bars that have an authentic north woods feel — one of which needs to have enough space for a dance-off.

Pike invited Ella and me to join him at the cabin and we’ll both be there. Neither Pike nor Ella has visited the place in many years but they remember it as a cool place, so I’m looking forward to it.