My newest book arrives October 23, 2018. It's a collection of short horror stories guaranteed to chill you to the bone this Halloween. Below is an excerpt from my short story The U Boat. It takes place during World War I behind German lines. A U-boat may have a life of its own...but what does it want?
Click on the image to the left to get your copy of When the Night Comes Out today.
THE U BOAT
From: firstname.lastname@example.org Date?
Subject: U-Boat 42
So, here it is. I have to tell you that this has been an amazing process. I still cannot believe that you found U-42 in the waters off of Scotland. The boat has become infamous. To find it virtually intact this many years after it sank during World War I is nothing short of amazing. I read with great interest the probes and drones you sent down there and the material you were able to gather. The metal tests showing that there was very little damage is both amazing and baffling. Of course, my expertise is documents, not metallurgy or how the ocean deteriorates things.
The theories have been interesting, however. From the coldness of the water to the lack of current to the salination content in the place where it lays, it seems that everything has been tossed about as a possibility.
I think, however, these documents may provide a very different explanation.
When you announced that you had found documents from when the U-boat was built and the situations behind its building, I found that fascinating. It certainly had quite the story before it even hit the water. Then the tales of the testing. I can certainly see how U-42 got the reputation for being cursed from the start.
When the drone found the sealed container that had the captain’s notes and, surprise, surprise, a separate, personal diary, I was thrilled. When you chose me to review, translate it and see if I could restore it for a future museum exhibit, I figured this was the chance of a lifetime. You know what a fan I am of World War I history. Your plan to try and bring the submarine to the surface and put it on display is, to say the least, ambitious.
Well, after months upon months of work, I am presenting what I have found here. Bill, the captain’s diary is, well, there’s no other way to put this, terrifying. I have done what I can to put the story of U-42 into some kind of narrative order here, from the first reports from the men who built it, to the diary by the captain, to the reports from the British naval ship that saw it go down.
It is quite the tale. Bill, I have to tell you that I hope you read this with an open mind. I also hope you read this as a warning. I am the documents guy, but I am also a man who thinks that there may be some truth hidden in here.
I think U-42 might be dangerous. I think, just maybe, it should stay where it is. I know, that sounds crazy and unlike a man of practicality and science that I have always claimed to be.
All, I can say is to read on. Let me know what you think. If it haunts you the way it’s haunted me since I first started reading, then I know you’ll be smart enough to do what’s right.
Look, I don’t know what happened here with this U-42. I cannot fathom why. I have checked on the location where it was built and I see nothing in particular about the land. Perhaps, it was just the fact that World War One was one of the worst conflicts in history and the first time that the world turned warfare over, almost entirely, over to the machines. Perhaps that energy had an effect on one of the machines. Perhaps something broke through from something - nearby? I know, that sounds crazy, but it’s all I can think of to justify what happened.
Thank you for this opportunity. Call me with any questions.
Director of Historical Documents and Restoration Research Institute, Inc.
Date: August 15, 1914
From: Heinrich von Sturmm
To: Kristoff Volksburg
Memo: The accident on U-boat 42
Dear Mr. Volksburg,
I do apologize to you for the formality of the opening of this letter. However, I am documenting this for myself and the men here at the shipyard as much as to reach out to you for an explanation. I wanted to correspond with you personally about the accident that happened here two days ago. By now, you and your office have probably read reports about what happened here, but the fact is that I was there and saw things with my own eyes.
I am a foreman in the yards. It was a great promotion and honor to be put in charge of the building of what is now known as U-boat 42. I personally picked the entire crew that would be working on her and putting her into shape so that she can serve Germany during this conflict.
It started out like any other project. The men were excited to get started. We began assembling the skeleton of the boat and things were going well. The men were happy to be working and the morale was good. None of the men were drunkards or lazy. I pride myself on being a good German and doing a good job. I oversaw the initial work and was pleased to report that the base metal framework that would form the bones of this fine ship were coming along nicely and without any major incident.
That lasted for almost a week. Then came the Monday in question.
All of the workers showed up on time and ready to work. No one appeared sick or drunk or unwilling to work. I must stress to you that there were no incidents that day. In fact, nothing was weird or abnormal until that afternoon, after lunch.
Six men were manning the cranes to bring the beams into the basic structure. These were heavy, sturdy beams means to support the outer hull and quite long, going lengthwise across U-42. We had one in place and this was to be done before the end of the day, but there had been no delays and no one was rushing.
I am unsure what happened. Herbert Reins was the crane operator and we have questioned him. He says the crane was operating perfectly and without problems. He had been using it all day and it had performed optimally. He himself, just after lunch, checked the chains, hooks and ropes and found them all to be in working order.
However, as the beam was hoisted and being brought into place, something happened. One moment the beam was there, moving along just like it was supposed to be moving, and then the beam was falling. The six men who were crushed beneath it never had a chance. They were killed instantly.
I still do not know what happened. Any reasonable man would assume that the crane operator was to blame. However, we checked him and he was not drunk and did not appear insane. Then, and here is the biggest mystery, we checked the ropes and found them to be in perfect working order. So was the crane. We have no idea how the beam fell. We also are unsure of how the beam was able to fall in such a way to kill six workers.
Needless to say, we have been through a lot here at the yard. There has been quite a period of mourning among the workers and the town. There are already rumors that this is a haunted boat. I do not claim to be among those who believes this and do hope that we will push forward with the construction and testing of the submarine. I think it will do well to serve Germany during this war effort. Ultimately, however, it is your decision if this boat is abandoned.
I have been building ships and boats here for almost a decade, sir. I have never seen anything quite as awful as this accident and never have there been so many fatalities as with this accident. I have a heavy heart telling you this, but the official reports, I fear, will not adequately convey what happened. The fact is, we just don’t know what happened or why it happened.
I look forward to your reply.