The Anomaly

The Anomaly by Michael Rutger

For my father,

with love, and with thanks for his

unrelenting belief and support.

What we wish most to know, most desire,

remains unknowable and lies beyond our grasp.

—James Hollis, The Archetypal Imagination


He went back.

As he ran, he felt a reverberation under his feet, the shudder of something very heavy landing on the stone floor.

Close by? Impossible to be sure.

He hesitated, almost ready to give up, but some impulse kept him moving forward. “Samuel!” he shouted, voice cracking.

And this time he finally gained a response. A strangled attempt at speech, half-choked with a sob. On the left. Only yards away in the darkness.

“Get the light.”

Maqk—one of only two natives left, the others all dead or deserted or lost—grabbed the candle from the floor and followed George as he felt his way along the wall in the direction of the sound, keeping his rifle in position, trying to hold it steady, though his arms were exhausted and his nerves shot.


In the dying glow of the candle.

Samuel. Slumped on the ground. Something in his hand, which he scratched against the wall. A knife. Blood on the handle. Blood over his shirt and face, too.

“For God’s sake,” George said. “I told you to follow.”

The man didn’t seem to hear. He kept at his bizarre, pointless task.

“We leave now or we die.”

Maqk, too, pleaded with Samuel to move. He got no more of a response.

Another scream, from deep within the cave. A long, fading, and even more horrific sound than the one before, a sound that said whoever made it would not be capable of a noise of any kind for much longer.

Losing patience, on the edge of outright panic, George gestured to Maqk and they lunged forward, each grabbing one of Samuel’s arms. They pulled, tugging him to his feet.

“No!” Samuel shouted. “I must finish it.”

They ignored him, yanking with failing strength, hauling the man back the way they had come. They stumbled together along the corridor, using each dim candle like a rung on a ladder.

Finally they were able to see a faint glow ahead—narrow, dark blue, a sliver of dawn from outside.

But they could hear something, too.

“Go,” Samuel said brokenly. “Just go. Leave me.”

George grabbed the man’s arm tighter and yanked him into something like a run. Maqk kept shoving him from behind—but cried out. A shout, and then a scream.

George glanced around and saw the man suddenly disappear—yanked back into the darkness, eyes and mouth frozen wide.

George and Samuel ran as fast as they could toward the light, putting their souls in the hands of God.

Part One

It’s the loss of the Grail that sets us out on the Quest, not the finding.

—Martin Shaw, The Snowy Tower

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

—Genesis 6:5



It took six hours to get to the Grand Canyon from LA despite the fact that Ken drives like a crazy person, and by the time we arrived at the hotel it was late afternoon and everyone was very hot and extremely ready to not be in the car anymore. The Kenmobile is a big old Lexus SUV bought in better times, but with five people’s bags and Pierre’s extensive collection of camera and lighting equipment—the majority of which, I’m convinced, is superfluous for any function unrelated to Pierre’s ego—four of us spent the long, hot drive in moderate discomfort. Ken’s insistence on playing loud progressive rock from the 1970s did not make the time pass any faster, though I’ll admit there was an hour of unrelenting desert toward the end when it lent the experience an epic Kodachrome grandeur.

The hotel was twenty miles from the canyon, and pretty new and perfectly okay. Two wings of identical rooms on three floors, open-plan lobby in the middle with a half-decent restaurant and airport-style bar, surrounded by parking lot and desert. Ken defaults to this kind of place—it’s Molly who arranges the bookings, but with anything involving expenditure you can bet he made the judgment call—because they’re cheap and have loyalty programs that feed points back to the company credit card. Ken’s chief skill as a producer/director is to pinch each penny until it begs for mercy. Without this talent the show wouldn’t have made it to the web in the first place, and it was even more crucial now that we had the steely eye of a cable network overseeing every aspect of production, and so I’m grateful, I guess. I’m also glad this kind of crap isn’t my problem, because I’d be hopeless at it—but that doesn’t stop me wishing that, once in a while, we could base operations somewhere with views over something other than asphalt.

We tumbled out of the SUV into the lot and stretched and muttered and burped. The team:

Ken—late fifty-something (and pointlessly evasive on the precise number), paunchy, face like an old pug, thinning black hair. Came over from England way back (quite possibly on the run from the authorities), punched his way up through commercials and music videos and produced a few horror movies in the early ’90s that made some actual money. These days The Anomaly Files is all he does, and he does not stint in making comedic play over how far this shows his star has fallen.

Michael Rutger's Books