Auster Valley Sentinel

A word from The Sentinel

In Uncategorized on December 18, 2011 at 20:43

Remembering our troops this holiday season

-by Marie Banner

As the upcoming festive holiday season lurks just around the corner, we at The Sentinel want to convey a little know statistic.  According to the Veterans’ Administration, each day an average of 18 war vets take their own lives. That means for every hour the average American is awake, somewhere in our country a tortured soul has given up the fight.

In doing research for a screenplay about veterans and human rights, this astounding statistic presented itself.  I personally had no idea.  Not many people do.  Our veterans, whether they are from the current war or a previous one, are becoming ‘the forgotten ones’.  We must never forget them, whether you believe in war or not.

This holiday season do something extra for a veteran, even if it is just a nice hello and a warm smile to the homeless vet on the street. That smile may be the only gift they get this holiday.

I wanted to share the short story that my writing partner, our own Sentinel reporter Stanley Parker, and I wrote that was the inspiration for our script.

Please read it below:

A Song of Pain

Moonlight reflects across the top of the ocean water; waves crash against the shore. A small crab runs across the sand away from an approaching wave. A bat swoops down, snags the crab, and flies toward an open-faced cave high up in the side of a cliff.

Light flickers from inside the cave.

Inside the cave is a hidden life. On the floor is a camera with a broken lens. A military uniform jacket hangs on a metal peg that has been embedded in the rock wall. On the floor is an old, dirty, twin-sized mattress with rumpled blankets piled on top. There are plastic milk crates set up as shelves and tables throughout the cave. A few lit oil lanterns are sporadically placed throughout the cave. A half empty, dirty liquor bottle holds down a stack of papers on one of the milk crate tables. The page on top of the stack reads, “Psychologically unfit to continue duty” “Medical discharge” “Diagnosis: Post traumatic stress disorder”.

A man picks up the liquor bottle, turns it up, and quickly chugs the last of the amber fluid. He walks over to the cave entrance and looks out at the ocean. The man’s eyes tear up as he shoves a small note with writing on it into the empty liquor bottle. He screams as he throws it out into the restless ocean below.

The bottle hits the ocean water. The man’s screams rise above the sound of the crashing waves. The words “Please kill me” on the note inside the bottle can be seen just as it sinks beneath the waves. Somewhere in the dark water a whale answers his song of pain with one of it’s own.


Pirates of The Keep

In Uncategorized on November 29, 2011 at 23:08



Sentinel reporter gets exclusive interview with local fisherman who found treasure at sea

 – by Stanley Parker


AUSTER VALLEY – A bit of weird news comes to us from the waters off South Point. A local fisherman, Phil Hoeward, was caught in last month’s hurricane that damaged so much of our beloved valley. Mr. Hoeward’s vessel, The Lovecraft, is currently in dry dock at the Valley Port pending the outcome of the investigation. According to Mr. Hoeward’s broken and shaky testimony, he was fishing off the waters of South Point that morning, watching his white and red float bob up and down in the water. He dozed off sometime around 10:00am and was caught by the suddenness of hurricane Herbert. Mr. Hoeward awoke to his vessel pitching in the waves. He looked over his shoulder and could see the angry, dark heavens chopping the water with a giant water spout bridging the sea and sky. His fishing line suddenly pulled taught and almost yanked him into the tumultuous waters. Mr. Hoeward struggled to cut free his catch. He turned back around to look at the approaching hurricane, but instead, saw only the boom of his sail seconds before it knocked him unconscious. According to his statement, Mr. Hoeward has no memory of the next few hours that followed.

Mr. Hoeward claims he awoke sometime later beached on ‘dry’ land. He said it was the smell that awoke him. According to Mr. Hoeward, the fortune in gold, jewels, and precious stones, that is now the subject of great debate in state legislature, was found by him on an uncharted island somewhere in the waters west of South Point. He stated he opened his eyes and was amazed to find himself in the middle of an island, still in his craft. He looked around and as far as he could see the island extended outward from him in all directions, as did the smell of rotting fish and kelp. According to his reports, Mr. Hoeward went through an entire bottle of cologne to cover the smell of the rotting island, dumping it onto the bandana he was wearing around his face. The island was covered in green algae. Mr. Hoeward stated, “It looked like the island had somehow been thrust to the surface by some force under the ocean.”

According to Dr. Settingsun, head of the science department at Auster Valley University, such a phenomenon could happen if there were an underground earthquake. According to the Seismology department at AVU, such an earthquake did occur during the hurricane and was responsible for some of the flood damage around the Valley Port area.

Mr. Hoeward tried on the first day to exit his craft, explore the island, and see if his craft had taken damage during the storm. He crawled over the side of his vessel and when his feet hit the island’s wet sea moss he realized it made walking or even standing impossible, as it was too slippery. He watched the moss begin to dry up during that hot first day. During the evening he said he heard strange things on the island but would not elaborate on the nature of the sounds. The next morning he disembarked his craft and began walking towards the only geological structure on the island.

Mr. Hoeward thought from a distance it was a small hill. He was hoping to climb it and look for possible signs of rescue. He realized it was not a hill, but what he described as a “temple of some kind”. Hieroglyphs surrounded the stone building and a light was coming from inside. He walked inside and was nearly blinded by the sight. There was a hole in the roof and the sun was beaming down on what Mr. Hoeward described as a “mountain of treasure”. Against the wall was the partial remnant of a ship’s hull, with a figurehead depicting a wood-worn mermaid, with parts of her anatomy showing through ‘wounds’ in her wooden flesh. The ‘faces’ he saw in the ship’s wood grain surrounding the mermaid bothered Mr. Hoeward greatly. He threw the hull fragment on the ground and began filling the hollow backside of it with as many pieces of the treasure as he could fit in it. He said at first he had piled too much in the bow fragment, and could not drag it or push it at all. He unloaded about half his pile and was then able to move it.

When he began dragging it to the open entrance of the temple he said he “heard a terrible noise from deep within the earth”. He turned around and noticed for the first time a set of giant doors, at least thirty feet high, standing wide open with nothing but inky blackness behind them. He said he saw movement from deep within the darkness, and that “Something darker than the dark” moved towards him. Mr. Hoeward said the thing in the dark spoke only one word, Merina. He says without thinking he slammed the doors shut, and chained them with an immense, solid gold chain twisting it around and ‘locking’ it with a silver sword. From behind the giant doors he heard what he described as “a sound as haunting as a whale’s song only it was deeper, and it seemed to speak through dark, wet vocal cords”. He said the sound was so horrible his hair turned white, and this reporter can indeed confirm it has. Then there was a roar louder than a hurricane, and the giant doors lurched as something hit them from inside. Mr. Hoeward stated he screamed and ran, then remembering his treasure began pulling it out the entrance back to his vessel.

He says he looked back at the doors as he cleared the entrance and saw a giant tentacle as big around as a telephone pole explode  through the doors. He made haste and reached his vessel with his treasure. He heard in the distance the giant doors giving way. He looked up towards the temple and saw the roof explode upward with an eruption of rubble. He said a giant, dark figure stood up from the ruined temple and ‘looked at him’. Mr. Hoeward alleges the event took place around the same time as the colossal aftershock we Austerians felt the day after the hurricane. According to Mr. Hoeward’s reports, the island began sinking fast. He dragged the figurehead remnant aboard with most of his collected treasure still intact.

Three days later Mr. Copperbottom, proprietor of 3rd avenue’s Curious Curiosities, phoned local authorities with news about ‘a possible madman on the loose’. According to Mr. Copperbottom’s statement, Mr. Hoeward brought in several items of great worth, from “long ago antiquity” by the looks of them but that he was frightened by Mr. Hoeward’s strange demeanor. Mr. Copperbottom took down Mr. Hoeward’s name and number and promptly phoned the authorities after Mr. Hoeward’s departure.

Mr. Hoeward was found at the Valley Inn three hours later by local police. According to Sergeant Wolffe of the Auster Valley North Police Dept., when the officers knocked on Mr. Hoeward’s door, the window of the hotel unit burst open from inside as something came out. Sergeant Wolffe said in his statement that he instantly knew what it was because of his love of all things pirate lore. It was a rusted pirate grenadoe, an old type of grenade, with a fuse burning. The sergeant yelled ‘bomb’ and had just enough time to save recent cadet graduate Ron Polk from the blast. The explosion blew out the front of the unit and Mr. Hoeward’s room was in flames. Sergeant Wolffe could see Mr. Hoeward standing in the middle of the inferno brandishing a jewel encrusted dagger. Sergeant Wolffe drew his side arm and demanded that Mr. Hoeward drop the weapon. According to Sergeant Wolffe’s statement and collaborated by police cruiser dash cams, what happened next was horrible beyond description. Mr. Hoeward, yelled “I can’t get it out of my head, MAKE IT GO AWAY!  It…stood…on legs! It looked into me! It stood up….like a man! Oh, Merciful God!” Mr. Hoeward screamed even louder as he blinded himself with the dagger, stabbing it into both of his eyes. Mr. Hoeward was at the burn unit under maximum security at Valley Hospital for a week.

Mr. Hoeward was transferred to Auster Valley Asylum for the Criminally Insane. He screamed all night and day for 5 days until his vocal cords collapsed and even then, he kept screaming; emanating a horse, dry, desperate sound until he fell silent from exhaustion. He said not a word until he called me to interview him. He said he liked my stories; especially the one about the Tanners, a local family who allegedly killed Bigfoot’s baby and were pursued by the creature. Mary Tanner occupies a padded room adjacent to Mr. Hoeward.

The treasure Mr. Hoeward found is being studied to find the country of origin from which it originally came from. As for what really happened out in the waters off South Point, and where Mr. Hoeward truly found the treasure, no one has been able to discern. The only story we are left with comes from the imagination of a self-blinded, stark-raving madman.

There is one other story but not one of this time and place. During the removal of the treasure from Mr. Hoeward’s torched room a jewel encrusted bottle, with cork still intact, was discovered.  Inside that bottle were several sheets of parchment that were heavily inked and, according to the history department at AVU, dating from the 18th century. Amazingly the centuries old papers actually collaborate some of the elements of Mr. Hoeward’s fantastical tale. This is the following account, printed here for the first time in is entirety.

-Stanley Parker, reporter Auster Valley Sentinel


20 April, 1766

This be me last testament. I put quill to parchment now, not only to confess me own wicked ways, but to perchance cleanse whate’er be left of me spirit bound up in me bones. But this also be a warnin’ to all against fool’s folly. Keep a-readin’ me hearties.

I only hope I get this writ before I fall under the reaper’s scythe. Each wave that splashes upon the bow is like the ticking of a death clock.

100 years is a long time, but not long enough it seems. Ye make a deal with the devil, ye must pay his price. And what a price it was.

I be gettin’ ahead of meself.

I be Capt’n Nigel. I ne’er wanted to be capt’n, I ne’er wanted nothing much but me rum, the ocean spray on me chest, and the salty wind in me beard.

The year was 1666. We were coming ‘round Cape Horn, trading with the locals. We had quite a few leagues behind us when I spied her. I was aloft, keepin’ watch with me trusty spyglass. I was first mate and had the best eyes among the crew. I took to the crow’s nest whene’er I could. Capt’n Hallow was me best mate, and the finest capt’n I ever met; least till that fateful day.

How could we ever know? All the tales of merfolk were wrong. Dead wrong.

I spied the mermaid adrift and gave a shout. She was hurt and floatin’ on a large piece of driftwood. She had shackles around her wrists, chaining her to the planks. We pulled her aboard. None of the crew could take their eyes off her and the capt’n was worried she would infect his men. According to the tales we heard in Tortuga, a mermaid can infect a man with sickness.

She was taken below.

The capt’n charged me to be her jailer and watcher. She slept and healed for 3 days and on the third night she awoke. I had imbibed too much rum and had fallen asleep.  I awoke to what felt like cold wet eels wrappin’ round me head. Before I could sound alarm she had me. Two giant tentacles with grappling ends like a kraken took hold of me face. She began to sing. As she did so, I saw it. She put visions in me eyes so all I could see was what she was making me see. Her singing brought the entire crew down below.

It was the capt’n that broke her hold of me by stabbing her with his cutlass. I felt her pain as he did, and through her pain I saw something which has haunted me ever since. I know all she was doing was letting me see. When she let go of me she latched onto the capt’n. As her vision fog left me I saw the bosun about to chop her tentacles to free the capt’n. I stayed his hand.

She made the capt’n, as well as the Keepers, see. The Keepers; that is what the capt’n called his crew, the name of our ship was The Keep.

We all fell under her spell that night. One by one she made us all see. She showed them where she needed to go to escape her tormentor, the Merlock. The crew and the capt’n became lovesick; Capt’n Hollow was the worst. The capt’n locked her in his quarters for safe keeping. He spent night and day with her as we sailed, blindly following her commands.

I alone was spared of the sickness. I pretended to go along. As near as I can figure somehow when she was pierced with the capt’n’s blade this stopped her from infecting me with her lovesickness.

On the sixth day things were at there worst. The entire crew were trying to get close to Merina. That is what we called her.

Over the next few nights I saw something in me dreams. It summoned me. From me nightmares a darkness came forth. This darkness told me he would give me 100 years of immortal life as capt’n of The Keep and mountains of treasure.

In me dreams I would speak to this darkness within the darkness. It promised the capt’n and Merina could live together forever. I told the capt’n what it said and he agreed to it. “Anything to be with Merina.” he said.

So we set out to follow the darkness. The capt’n gave Merina a taste of rum. She liked it so much she did not notice the change in our heading. He kept her filled with drink until we reached our destination. She fell into a deep sleep from the drink.

I walked to the bow of the ship and spoke the words,  “It be me O’dark one, First Mate Nigel, come forth and show yourself.”  The ocean before us began to heave and bubble. There was a sound like that of a howling typhoon. And before me eyes, I saw an island rising from the deep. The waves it made nearly turned The Keep under, but we held fast.

The capt’n, meself, and the bosun’s mate took the long boat ashore to the newly arisen island. We walked as best we could. We were broken, bruised and bloody when we reached the temple of the darkness because the way was slick with sea slime. The bosun’s mate stood watch at the temple door. The capt’n barely noticed the mountain of treasure within. He only looked through the giant doors into the darkness.

The capt’n said, “You there, Merlock, I command you to come forth.”

From down in the darkness came a voice. A nightmarish, loathsome sound. A sound so horrible it made me ears bleed. “No one commands me. I command you. Kneel before me!” it said. And from within the dark the darkness came forth. I saw but only a glimpse of it. But that glimpse was so horrible, me eyes went blind for a moment. As if me mind would not really let me see it. Me and the capt’n bowed before the rising darkness.

“Now,” it said, “rise Captain Hallow and live with her forever.”

There was a creaking sound and when I looked up the capt’n was turning into wood before me very eyes. Then he vanished. The dark thing whispered the word ‘Merina’ almost as a lover would and I heard her scream clear as a bell even though we were at least a league away from where The Keep was anchored.

Then the darkness spoke to me, “Rise Captain Nigel and take your reward.”

A tentacle as big as a ship’s mast lashed out of the darkness and pierced me chest. It filled me with a black ooze and I felt fire and death but I did not die. I remained undead and have been so these 100 years.

That horrible night I took as much treasure as my crew could carry. The Keep sat fat and low in the sea, swollen with shiny worthless gold. What is all the gold worth if you cannot bear the sight of yerself in the reflection of yer own cutlass?

Capt’n Hallow and Merina live together forever but it breaks what is left of me heart to tell their tale. The capt’n, enslaved within wood, forever bound to the stern of The Keep ever looking where we’ve been. Merina is now the figurehead of The Keep, her eyes forever locked searching the horizon for her love, Capt’n Hallow.

They live immortal together, yet separated. Her on the bow, him on the stern, each never knowing they are so close.

One eve many decades later I was reminiscing on the bow of me ship about their fates and mine and me crew. A single tear fell from me eye and landed on Merina. She glowed red with rage at that moment, for ye see, a mermaid knows yer thoughts through yer tears.

She knew then I had betrayed her. Her screams filled me head and have every full moon since.

Me crew died one by one. Their faces appear in the wood grain around the ship. If ye bend yer ear to them ye can hear their tormented wails of pain. Their tortured souls forever locked in The Keep and mine shall soon join theirs.

Me ship moves on it’s own power against the wind, pulled by some unseen force towards the darkness and the island. Me time is nigh. I feel it as we move ever closer to that cursed island of darkness and damnation.

I give ye warning. Beware the sea and merfolk. I know why all men fear the dark, pray ye never do. I have seen the dark and gone stark raving mad for it.

It rises and I must go and stand in judgment before the darkness. Farewell…