Serialized Short Story: Izcacus Part 5

Capping off yesterday's penultimate installment, I bring you the conclusion of "Izcacus".

chopper crash

Eddie Sharp’s Notes – June 9 (?)

Lots of climbers die no one knows how or where. Not me I won’t be like them. Im writing so they’ll know.

Crawled back to camp. Passed out. Woke up dont know when watch broke in cave. Fucking insane. That SOB Herzog killed her. The others left me for dead but jokes on them I made it back. They didn’t.

Storms got me trapped in my tent. Couldn’t leave anyway. Too tired. Neck’s burning.

Team Physician’s Notes – June 9


7:06 PM: Herzog forgot his manners. I buried an ice axe in his arm before I saw it was him barging into the tent. Saraphian raised hell, but I stitched Herzog’s wound and set the bone.

A lot’s happened in a short time. Writing helps me collect my thoughts. And who knows? We might’ve avoided this mess if the folks who came before us hadn’t been so tight-lipped.

This tent was pristine when we found it. Now it’s starting to smell like a locker room. The Russians’ provisions are spoiled, except for their salt. Herzog wants to bless it and spread it around. It’s a damn waste, but he claims to know his business.

I know my business too, which includes diagnosing viral infections. Fulbright had every sign and symptom. The disease that struck the region after WWI is a matter of record.

I’m a man of faith, but Mother Nature never needed the devil’s help to birth horrors. The insect kingdom swarms with parasites that leave their victims hollow thralls. Undeath’s as mundane as malaria.

Herzog mentioned other signs. He has a point. Near the end Fulbright was rambling in florid Turkish, but in Istanbul she couldn’t order lunch without her translator app. Not only that, she told Herzog secrets he thought he’d take to the grave.

Then there’s the matter of how a ninety pound woman held Eddie Sharp helpless as a kitten, especially when he’s the strapping athletic type and she was dead.

Saraphian started mumbling to himself about pagans fearing mountain spirits He’s clearly got baggage he should drop before he snaps. It’s driving his obsession to get Herzog down, but no one’s leaving until we’re sure we’re not plague-bearers.

Eddie Sharp’s Notes – June 10 (?)

Burning up. Hurts all over but wound is numb.

Had a weird dream. Dead Turk from the cave was in my tent. So vivid down to his cold hands and packing plant dumpster breath. He says he can stop the pain but I don’t want to give what he wants. Bleeding me dry.

Have to get down before I’m too weak. Wait a few more hours for storm to break. Will attempt descent even if it dosent.

Steve Herzog’s Field Notes – June 10


3 AM: stayed awake all night. Doubt Austen and Saraphian got any sleep either.

It’s not just the pain, which went from a sharp throbbing to a constant ache, or the thin air. I’m scared as hell. No ones sure if the axe Austen stabbed me with is the same one Saraphian used on Fulbright. Im watching for symtoms. Hope all I get is a virus.

Being stranded in a freezing stuffy tent gives you time to think. I’ve been thinking back to seminary a lot. My instructors tried to “balance” that old exorcist’s medevilism with modern theories. Said demons are just metaphors for temptation or primitive attempts to explain mental illness.

I used to buy that spiel. I still think its true in most cases. But you test a theory by how well it explains events and in this shitstorm the moderns are pissing in the wind.

Five grades of demonic activity

Temptation: ordinary

Oppression: physical assault scratches, bruises, intense pain

Obsession: mental assault. Tries to wear victim down with depression lewd ideas, despair.

Possession the defenses are down and the demon’s inside. Requires victim’s consent.

Infestation: the most obscure. Best described as demonic attachment to an object or place. A pure intellect doesn’t occupy space it’s anywhere it thinks about.

That last one set me on a scary train of thought. Plenty of rubes mistook illness for demonic activity. what if we mistake possessions for illness?

or what if each side gets it half right sometimes?

The old Scholastics took this stuff seriously. Said that demons can infest objects and control animals. Hell, they can make simple organsms from scratch. Viruses ride the fence between objects and life forms.

What if a demon or a group of demons infested a virus strain? They could hitch a ride into countless hosts control the infection to cause unbearable pain and wear victims down for posession.

And if the host dies, a dead body's an object.

Eddie Sharp’s Notes – June 10 (?)

Dozed off. No rest. Dark now and storm still blowing. Cant write much more. Joints on fire. Feels like Im burning up but I know better than to undress.

Keep thinking of Veronicas body in the cave. Ice axe wounds remind me of
No thats wierd. Fevers messing with my head. Got to focus. Ride this out.

Diary of Yves Saraphian – 11 June


Herzog the doctor and I have been trapped in this fetid tent for three days. We have no virus symptoms, but wounds and altitude sickness have left Herzog too weak to descend in the storm.

Our fuel to melt snow is almost gone. The hunger is bad, but without water we are unlikely to survive until the blizzard ends.

I will try to reach camp and return with supplies. Dr. Austen will stay here to look after Herzog who asked for more salt. I said I would bring some.

Diary of Yves Saraphian – 12 June


Am I going mad? Would I know it if I were?

It was mad going out in that storm. It beat and screamed at me like an angry drunk. Held my hand at arm’s length and it vanished in the snowfall. an age seemed to pass between each step.

didn’t notice my ice axe missing until I reached an icy cliff. Dug in with crampons and found handholds. Fingers numb. Made descent somehow.

Herzog and I pieced together a rough idea of our camp’s location, but I might have blundered past it in the storm.

I have witnessed miracles on this mountain. Stumbling upon the camp was not the least. The tents were still standing All were empty of men and supplies.

False hope leads to the grimmest despair. the war taught us that, eh David?

Sudden fear urged me to leave that defiled place. Had the snow pack reached its load limit a moment sooner I would not have survived avalanche that swept the tents away. Instead I was left alone in the storm. Path to Russian tent blocked by tons of snow.

The temperature was falling. Dehydration raised the risk of frostbite. Feared losing toes and fingers more than the cave perhaps another sign of madness. But I trudged back to that restless tomb.

Entered the cave like a condemned man mounting the gallows. Fulbright’s eyes greeted me wide open in her corpses face. The stove is gone. The warmth it left fades.

Sleepless night under Fulbright’s glassy stare. I found her journal but English is easier to speak than read. She spoke to me, or I thought she did.

Pale light dawns outside. The storm has broken. I have Fulbright’s ice axe and her satellite phone. Should I call for help? Rescuers may become jailers.

Devils prowl like lions. Hypoxia thirst and exhaustion. There is the route to the Russian tent. Must take it. I cannot leave Herzog and the doctor.

Diary of Yves Saraphian – 12 June

David frostbite makes it hard to write but others must know what became of us.

Found Rusian tent after noon. Feeling half dead. Herzog, Austen gone. Tent cut open—from outside or inside? Signs of struggle. Their notes left behind so I took them.

Mended tent best I could. Spread last of the salt around inner edges. Using last fuel to melt snow warm hands. Now I wait. Never been wearier but dare not sleep.

Diary of Yves Saraphian – 13 June


This is my last message. We may speak face-to-face if Christ spares my soul from the Turk and his creatures.

The storm ended last night. I longed for the wind to come back and silence the cruel laughter.

Sleep took me at last. I woke to the sound of something large digging under the tent. Without thinking I fled into the night. I don’t know how far I descended before I slipped and fell. Cracked my ribs, but the sounds of pursuit drove me downward.

At dawn I saw the rocks beside me stained with blood. No other trace of my comrades.

Rotten stone ledge crumbled. Leg broken this time. No further descent.

Resting at lower altitude. Head cleared enough to remember Fulbright’s phone. Screen is cracked. Keypad is broken. I can only call the first saved contact. Rescue may mean arrest, but prison is paradise compared to this frozen hell.

Internal FSB Memo – 12 November

For immediate release to all field agents, special forces personnel, and researchers assigned to Operation Koschei.

Analysis of data recovered from a helicopter that crashed outside Stavropol on 13 June confirms that a conspiracy between Ukrainian nationalists, Wahabist extremists, and organized crime is responsible for the current epidemic.

Pertinent evidence includes the bodies of four passengers. Three have been positively identified from personal effects discovered onsite.

Austen, Fanthorpe T.: American citizen. Former surgeon whose admission of malpractice led to the loss of his medical license. Burned to death after impact.

Saraphian, Yves: Armenian who expatriated to Georgia after serving in the Azerbaijan War. Last to be identified due to advanced decomposition. Suffered broken ribs, fractured right femur, and fatal gunshot to head before crash.

Sharp, Edward: American citizen and partner in alpine touring company. Corpse bloated and flushed when pulled from wreckage. Cause of death unknown, but deep lacerations found on neck below right ear.

Unknown Subject: adult male with dark hair and ruddy complexion. Clothing decades out of date. No identification found. Cause of death: impact trauma/burning.

Notes written by the foreigners and their associates, as well as evidence gathered electronically, reveal that Sharp led an expedition to Mt. Izcacus on the Russian-Georgian border. His client, a New Zealander named Veronica Fulbright, received funding from the Stavropol group. The same group is suspected of financing a prior expedition led by her husband Wilhelm Pfarrer.

It is believed that Fulbright’s backers sought to collect viable samples of the 1922 plague for use in terrorist acts.

Based on these findings, the Border Service is directed to search Mt. Izcacus and its immediate vicinity for additional information, including the remains of Fulbright and team member Stephen Herzog, and artifacts from past expeditions.

Directorates tasked with fighting the epidemic are advised to liaise with members of the Russian Orthodox clergy.

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