The following is the transcript of a strange, fragmentary journal found after the disappearance of a cruise ship on which a PHP conference was held in late July, 2016. The apparently doomed ship was last seen drifting northward, toward a strange distortion in the distant air that witnesses could only describe as a kind of portal. Despite the uncharacteristic uniformity of this description, it has been discounted as having any evidentiary value in the discovery of the ship’s final fate, on the grounds of being clearly fanciful and probably hallucinatory.
This journal, the only known surviving artifact of the cruise, was washed ashore in Delaware, and now remains locked in a cabinet in the Maritime History and Studies Department of Miskatonic University. It is bound in what appears to be some unknown kind of vellum, and emits a distinctly unpleasant odor of fish, cordite, and patchouli.
Here now are the disjointed and disturbing words of the only witness to that cruise’s final hours. While obviously demented, the poor author has left us a strangely compelling testament, the careful study of which may yet lead us to some kind of truth.
Arrived. Fellow passengers looking a little feral. Have yet to see the Captain, who is rumored to keep to his cabin until smoked out by the First Mate.
First Bonfire scheduled on the Lido Deck after we are far enough at sea to make escape impossible.
At Muster our section was inexplicably issued crossbows. We don’t stand a chance against section B, who now have pulse rifles.
But we’ll certainly fare better than section D, who will have to make do with their birch rods.
The ship glides. We would hardly know we’re moving, were it not for the infrequent breaching sounds of the harnessed leviathans.
I awake to a sea of shattered glass.
The gilled stewards have already betrayed us, having failed to deliver the promised Black Blood of the Earth.
The corridors are empty, but I hear them moving in the walls.
We broke our fast on the entrails of Muster section D, whose birch rods offered little resistance.
Later: Now we are gathered to study the weird and demoniac sigils of regex.
Our first summonings were inconclusive. After a break for re-materialization, we will attempt with more bone powder and shrieks.
Released at last from the scriptorium, I meet a Cenobite on the Promenade. We exchange quiet glances, as sisters do.
The sea, once bottle green, is now fluid lapis lazuli, its iridescence reflected in the wings of the beetles who now attend us.
A brave boat hailed us, but was unprepared for our disruptor cannon. We shall have meat again tonight.
Word has spread of a Masque to be held tonight. Lacking formal wear, I must improvise with drapes, moss, and bits of driftwood.
Light to our West at dawn suggests either civilization or its end. Does it flicker like fire? Is that Cherenkov Blue?
Overnight I felt a strong list to port. Waking, I looked below and saw the engine room troll hauling a trebuchet back to storage.
I am certain that our “cruise director” is the ship itself, a demented vocaloid mocking us through the hidden, ubiquitous Tannoy.
Watching flying fish skate away from the soft fractal foam of our wake.
The sea is low and viscous, the things that move in it vast, quick, and watchful.
Crew and passengers strangely silent on the man nailed under the atrium elevator. I suspect the rise of a new faction at lunch.
A gnome in a coracle drifted by, muttering impatiently to himself in some strange creole of Gaelic and Otter.
The algal blooms thicken around the ship, clouding the wave crests and sprouting eyes that coldly regard our passage.
At dinner the wait staff performed a ritual dance involving rum and ferrets.
Its significance was unclear, but I’m certain that after the strobes stopped, there were fewer of us at table.
Awoke to an empty ship. We are in port, the passengers bagged and stowed. Only revenants and automata roam the silent corridors.
The land here is utterly flat, sparsely decorated with alien trees. Grey winged things wheel about us, plucking the unwary away.
An abandoned spaceport looms in the distance, a shattered citadel of hubris and lost last chance.
An engine of glass and wire has been raised on the opposite pier. It hums and sparks and raises a dome of shimmering air.
Shore parties are returning, bellowing some bloody victory. They bear trophies of exotic metal, and the distant spaceport burns.
An immense bladed pendulum now hangs in the atrium over an altar. Lottery tickets are being passed out.
Gutters drain from the altar below and aft, and the cruise director is saying something about needing to refuel.
Wilder seas this morning, as we approach what must surely be the end of the world.
We will need tattoos to make this passage safely. I’ve seen some under the porters’ sleeves… rough, cryptic and deeply inked.
We escaped port last night under cover of darkness while the brass colossus slumbered, cheating the blueskulls of their toll.
At last the captain is revealed. Gliding into the atrium in a tank filled with orange gas, he vocoded “the spice must flow.”
Arriving soon at the Corsair Island, battle drills have begun in earnest.
Our crossbow team must achieve three volleys per minute or the centurions will decimate our ranks.
Maneuvering thrusters have slipped us into port, where we are berthed by sibling vessels. Moss and sorrow hang from their rails.
Rows of impaled heads on the pier don’t recommend the place. Our cruise vocaloid urges hazmat suits and charged talismans.
Away teams have returned, battered and strangely moist. Mostly silent, they will only whisper in shame of The Many-Tongued One.
Overnight there were sounds of some mad revel.
Conch shells blew and the thrum of the ship was punctuated by the rising chant and shriek of a throng on our topmost deck.
I dare not contemplate the shadows cast upon the water by that demented host.
Distant lightning ignited clouds over the sea, briefly revealing the immense, vague and writhing shapes below.
We are docked now in a working port. Great insectile machines stride among the containers, flashing and hooting at each other.
Later: We escaped our last port of call only by leaving a rearguard on the pier. We last saw them overwhelmed by furious gulls.
We have taken the ship and turned it home… fewer, leaner and more heavily inked. The braziers are lit for the evening ritual.
Returning to the languid waters of our earlier passage, we pass the burning hulks of our sister ships who did not survive.
We take our bitter, spiced coffees in the mess hall, brandishing grisly trophies and boasting our already exaggerated deeds.
I have tried infusing it with the adrenal glands of wolverines, but nothing improves the misery called “coffee” aboard this ship.
Some of us have succumbed to the cordyceps they acquired at our final port. The contagion anoints their foreheads with fungus.
The rest of us don our gas masks as the infected climb the navigation bridge and sprout, spreading their spore on the wind.
The Northern Lights beckon us home. We’ve mounted the Tillinghast Resonator on the topmost deck to open the portal.
Shields mounted on the bulwark, newly flayed skins patching our sails, we oil our beards and hair with the Unguent and prepare.