For that was then I came across the final horror. “The Aniela malformation” was how Olender had described it in his journal, that half formed vessel for his wife’s soul that had apparently continued to grow and grow even after its disposal. For this was what I now encountered as I reached a widened level section halfway down the chute.
Picture the images such as those that may be seen in medical textbooks and freakshow attractions alike, of twins born joined together as if their separation in the womb had not run to completion. Then multiply that twentyfold, to give a living breathing mass of random body parts, joined together into a haphazard expanse of deformed flesh, writhing and pulsing in torment. This was what I fell into in the course of my escape, arms and hands thrashing at me from all sides, heads with no features twisting from side to side while mouths bit at me from within stomachs and legs, eyes covering it in every improbable location, and noises — noises that no animal or human has ever been heard to make. It was then that insanity truly took me, for the sensation of that disjointed mass grabbing and lashing at me is the last wakeful thing I remember.
This story was written specifically for the anthology that would end up buying it: “Horrors Beyond” from Elder Signs Press in the US. Written in a heavily Lovecraftian vein (as fitted the market) I tried my best to portray the experiences of two men of science in 1920s New England stumbling across the awful truth of man’s place in the cosmos and the nature of Earth’s rightful rulers. As I said — Lovecraftian through and through.
For the setting I chose Gloucester Massachusetts, initially a fairly arbitrary choice based on a bit of Google searching to find a New England fishing town where an ocean liner could be wrecked against an outlying island during a storm. However Gloucester is no stranger to maritime tragedies, and the more I read about the town’s history the more I thought it would be the perfect place to set the story of this formless, malevolent entity, robbed of its godlike powers, inhabiting the deep ocean but trying to regain physical form at any cost.
Having picked the location from my PC desk in London in 2004, when 2008 came round and my wife and I were planning a driving tour through New England, actually visiting the place seemed too good an opportunity to miss. It’s a lovely town, especially if you like gorgeous scenery and equally gorgeous seafood (pretty much anywhere in coastal New England fits that bill). The pictures below are of the Fishermen’s memorial, which features in the story and which gave the story its name — “His Wonders in the Deep” being a biblical quotation from the 107th Psalm but here used in an ironic sense to refer to the big bad guy himself (never named in the piece; I prefer a sense of mystery).
The story received an honourable mention in the 2006 “Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror”.
Reviews and Accolades
23-Jun-2005: Review posted here on the LSU site, by Mario Guslandi.
…a fine example of powerful material narrated in elegant prose…
25-Jul-2005: Two reviews posted here on the Nightscapes site, by Matthew Carpenter and James Ambuehl.
…seems to carry more than a touch of HPL’s [H.P.Lovecraft’s] The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, in this mad scientist romp…
…well written, enjoyable…
29-Jul-2005: Review posted on the Amazon.com site (here), by John W. Oliver.
…The suspense and mystery of the story is well-paced … The characters are interesting. The anthology definitely keeps its strength with its second story…
08-Jan-2006: Review posted on a blog site by Steven Kaye. Note that the blog page no longer appears online so the part relating to this story is reproduced below.
His Wonders in the Deep by William Mitchell – OK, here we get into what looks to be a typical Lovecraftian plot. weird deaths years later from the survivors of a shipwreck lead inquisitive doctors to a Frankenstein plot to resurrect dead loved ones. But despite the complexity of the plot, the story doesn’t deliver. Why? I honestly don’t know why. It feels as though three short stories have been cobbled together and forced into a semi-coherent whole. Don’t get me wrong, like most of the stories in this book, the writing itself is average to above average. But where most of these stories mess up is in the crafting. Images from the story stay with you, but even trying to explain how the layers of the story stick together is difficult. And that interferes with the enjoyment of the story as a whole. Score: C+
PS I’m more than happy to receive mixed or bad reviews, as any comments — positive or otherwise — will help me to improve my writing. And this one isn’t too bad — certainly the reviewer thought the anthology was a mixed bag of good and bad stories, and also agreed with me as to the best one of the lot (“Experiencing the Other” by Ann K. Schwader).
28-Aug-2006: The “2006 Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror” gives an honourable mention to the story.
26-Apr-2007: Review posted here on the SFReader site, by Jeff Edwards.
…Mitchell’s elegant prose sustains a Lovecraftian mood while also evoking scenes from “The Exorcist”…
21-May-2007: Review posted on the Amazon.com site (here), by a reviewer logged in as “Brian”.
…This is a great mystery that involves the sole survivors of a mysterious ship sinking succumbing to the same horrible death…
“They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.”