By Gabriella Agate
For the Carter County Times
Editor’s note: I put out my third annual call for spooky season stories, and this year you didn’t disappoint. We started off last week with a preview of the Cascade Cave Legends tour. Next week we’ll return with another true ghost story. This week, though, we go back to the caves with talented young writer Gabriella Agate for a work of supernatural fiction. At least, we hope it’s fiction.
Letter to the reader:
Don’t believe what they tell you.
I want to tell you that this report is clean. That this information was given freely by others who know that truth is stranger than fiction, or that it sounds like fiction up until you encounter the truly unexplainable. I hope you’re not one of those people who has to see, hear, and touch something to know it’s real. Trust me, by the time you see it, by the time you hear it… well, by then, it’s probably tasting you.
I want to tell you that this came without a price, that just by reading this, you won’t have to pay one of your own. But truth comes with a cost. I’m not going to lie to you like they would by saying it comes free, that it’s not steep, that it won’t come without tears and blood, without a misery and pain so profound that you wonder if it was worth it.
Ignorance is bliss.
I won’t tell you to turn away a second time. I shouldn’t have to.
Carter County Police Report
Report on fatal incident involving <Black Out Name>, a thrill seeker and “Instagram influencer” who went missing on March 7, 2021, in Carter Caves after uploading a video at approximately 1:45 P.M. the same day, where he detailed his intentions to enter an unmapped cave system not known to the public. His vehicle, a <Black Out Name> was found March 12 by passing hikers, undisturbed and visibly the same as it appeared in the video. There were no signs of blood, no broken windows, and no signs of a struggle.
On April 3, 2021, the entrance to the cave system he claimed to be exploring was located. There was no sign of him or his equipment. The search continued till April 5, 2021, when officers attempted to scout the caves using cameras, trained divers, and the surrounding area using dogs. However, during this time, they faced numerous difficulties: equipment malfunctions with the cameras, lights, and wireless communication with the divers. Three of which, <Black Out Names> were lost in the system for a total of twenty-six minutes before they were able to return to the surface and were comatose and unable to speak for several days. The hounds refused to leave their carriers, no matter the direction of trainers, and remained in the trucks in visible distress till they were removed from the premise.
On July 5, 2021, over the holiday weekend, a camera was recovered from the Carter Caves in the area known as The Hanging Gardens of King Solomon. The video within was salvaged and handed over to authorities. The video was highly distorted; therefore, the transcription is incomplete:
Transcription of <Black Out Name>’s footage, recovered from Carter Caves:
“Hey guys this is —–” The camera cut forward two hours, ten minutes, and forty-six seconds.
“Just testing the waters, you know, getting a ‘lay of the land’, so to speak.” The image is of a darkened, underwater tunnel, stalactites dripping into a blackened surface. Something shines under the surface.
“What is -” The camera cuts forward two minutes and ten seconds. <Black Out Name> can be heard panting. The footage is indiscernible in smears of black, brown, and grey. It’s underwater for several moments, particles flowing by the screen, though flashes reveal something moving behind the victim. There’s a grinding, hissing sound that grows louder. <Black Out Name> screams as the dull roar grows louder.
Fifteen minutes and seventeen seconds later, <Black Out Name> can be heard repeating: “I don’t want to die; I don’t want to die…” for five minutes and twelve seconds. He stops when the hissing, grinding sound returns, and the camera begins moving through the darkness again followed by splashing.
Nine hours and seven seconds later, <Black Out Name> films himself speaking to family and friends. He tells his mother he loves her, his father that he’s sorry, his sister that he hopes she graduates and never does anything so stupid. He says there’s something down there with him. Something scaled and large. He identifies it as <Black Out Name>. He will try to escape the cave again in a few hours. He does not believe he’ll make it.
One hour and two seconds later, the camera is moving through a passage, murky green water rippling out from <Black Out Name> as he swims through a narrow gap. The image sinks below the surface. Twenty seconds pass in darkness. When he surfaces, there is a large, dome shaped structure over him, reflecting off the <Black Out>. <Black Out Name> audibly gasps, moving towards the <Black Out>, but cannot climb up the jagged wall of rock before him.
“I see something… It looks like… Like a…” The camera zooms in on a plinth atop a series of stone steps, carved with symbols. At the very top rests <Black Out> on a pedestal of stone, surrounded by curved stalactites, akin to the horns of an animal. <Black Out Name> turns to the sound of trickling behind him.
The suspect moves too fast. There’s a flash of white, copper, and black. Particles float by as the camera is dragged underwater, followed by <Black Out Name> screaming and begging the culprit to stop. The lens cracks. Red plumes before the image. There’s a series of crunching sounds, followed by gurgling and more splashing as the camera lands at the foot of the stone steps at the base of the monument. There’s a crack. What is believed to be <Black Out Name>’s severed right arm lands in the frame, ripped at the seam of his shoulder. Blood flows over the lens less than a second later, saturating the field of vision. The camera jumps forward fifteen seconds.
Officer <Black Out Name> identified the voice of the culprit, speaking in Latin, and his translation reads: “Sic ait Salomonis serpens.”
“Thus said the serpent of Solomon.”