To whoever might read this manuscript; greetings to thee, well met and well come. I pray for your safety, for if you have found this document, you are surely in grave danger yourself. I say this not to frighten nor intimidate you, but because it is true; you should not linger here, for the price this place demands is beyond the ability of you, or any man, to pay. It is with the last of my strength that I have written this account, which you have surely found laying beside my mortal remains, for I lack the strength now to flee this accursed domain, and it is with my dying strokes that I wish to warn whoever finds this text that to venture one step further into this eldritch demesne is to forfeit existence.
It was in Cleveland that I was born; it was but a newborn town of less than a thousand in those days, but a metropolis of thousands once I had ascended to manhood. My father himself had emigrated there from farther east, and impressed in me from my earliest years the importance of taming this New World; it was the destiny, he said, of our nation and our race to claim this land. I heeded his words, and once I had attained my majority, I traveled west; first to Missouri, and then later to Kansas, to Wyoming, into the Mexican holdings that would soon become Texas, and at last into the land of California, where I found myself following my father's footsteps in the mercantile profession. I had taken up residence in the town of Los Cavernes, a white settlement that roosted astride a lake in the inner regions of that golden state, some days' travel over the mountain passes from Los Angeles where the merchant ships docked to sell their cargo of goods from more civilised lands. There was many a man more desperate than I who was willing to drive teams of mules over the pass carrying the goods purchased from those ships, and upon arriving they were more than willing to sell those sundries to myself for more than twice what they had paid for them, that I might then sell them to the pioneers and farmers and prospectors for twice again that price. This enterprise had proved quite salubrious, and so it was that by the year of Our Lord Eighteen-Hundred-And-Fifty-One I was already the wealthiest man in Los Cavernes.
It was upon the twenty-sixth day of May in that year that that damned traveler arrived. It was midday, and I was taking my luncheon in the general store I had established and financed, when a great hullabaloo came from without that a wounded man had shambled into town. I stood aghast as this poor soul staggered through the batwing doors of that establishment and begged for a cup of cold water. He was dressed as one might expect an explorer of these great western lands to be, his leathers seasoned and weathered well enough, but it was not his garb that caught my attention, but the constitution of his countenance - his flesh was drier than I have ever seen even on the sickest of men, wrinkled, mottled, and blistered all over as if he had passed through the fires of Hades itself. There was not a single hair upon him, and as he turned to me to speak, I espied that his gums were raw and bare, as if every one of his teeth had been pried loose from his jaws just minutes before.
I demanded that the barkeep fetch him some water, and he drank greedily of it as he laid flat on the floor. I begged he tell me what was the cause of his complaint, and he answered me thus; "I've been to Lost Antigo, my friend. I bought a map off an old Spaniard that led me there. The damned place is cursed. Whatever's there isn't worth your life. The map's in my pocket. Burn it with the rest of me so no one else tries to find that foul place." He had barely finished sputtering out those words before he convulsed one last time and then laid still, having gone to his final rest.
Lost Antigo! The name is known far and wide across the west, by the white race as well as the Mexicanos and the Indians. The name has been known since long before Columbus came to the New World, and all the tribes of this land, the Navajo, the Hopi, the Yualapi, the Dumi, the Kumayai, the Havasupai, all tell the same tale; centuries ago, long before the white man found its way to this land, there stood a city in the desert that possessed wealth and knowledge far beyond any that the nations of red men could comprehend. It was their hubris, the legends said, that was their undoing; they failed to understand the limits of the power the Great Spirit had lent to them, and it turned against them in time, laying them to waste. The ruins of Lost Antigo, so the natives say, still stand somewhere amidst the dunes of the Mohave, and within them lay treasures far greater than the avarice of man can contemplate; vast stockpiles of gold and silver, great pits of mercury, stores of aluminium that would fetch a king's ransom, and texts of unimaginable value that captured the description of that bygone empire, an antedeluvian civilisation unknown to man that surely answered mysteries that the greatest scientists of our age had barely begun to contemplate.
I did not heed that poor old fool's dying wish; for before he was taken to be buried, I scavenged his pockets and found the map he had spoken of with his dying breaths. It described a trail, unknown to the white man but surely the last remnant of some ancient highway, that began from Salton City, barely a day's travel from the saloon in which I stood, and lead therefrom northeast into the Mohave towards the dry bed of a primaeval lake, where an X was marked with the notation "Antigüe Perdido - ausentarse de".
Could this map be authentic? Could the words of this dying man be true? My mind swam with the possibilities - if Lost Antigo were real, if this map truly lead to it, if I could follow it and find that place - it would be a feat of legend! The treasures to be found there, both of mineral wealth, and the writings of that lost civilisation - would be worth millions of dollars, and would be the envy of every scholar in the world. History would remember me as the man who discovered Lost Antigo and taught all of mankind about the bygone race that inhabited that land and all their discoveries and tales. Schoolchildren would learn my name alongside that of Columbus. I thought little of that dead man's claims of curses and the legends of damnation placed upon that site. My path was clear; I had no choice but to organize an expedition to follow the route on that unfortunate traveler's map until we either came to naught or found Lost Antigo.
It was a scant three weeks before we embarked. The news of the map's discovery had traveled far and wide across the land, and men rushed eagerly from Los Angeles and San Diego and the Tiahuana country wishing to join the expedition and claim their share of the profits. We set out on the sixteenth of June; the sun was blazing, and the air was hot and dry, but we had plenty of water to spare until the trail bade us part from the Colorado's raging banks. The barrels we carried in the wagon trains were ample enough, but some of the men despaired and turned back as we blazed our path farther into the Mohave's desolate plains. On the sixth day after we left the riverbank, a large contingent of the men despaired that we were sure to die of thirst if we ventured on farther, and turned back towards Los Cavernes. I wonder if they ever made it back alive, considering the events that transpired thereafter, for it was only a day later that we set our camp on the outskirts of the ruins of Lost Antigo.
It was a Spaniard named Miguel who first shouted that he espied something not carved by Nature's hand. We approached and confirmed his suspicion; it was the very tip of a concrete obelisk, jutting barely a foot above the desert sand. It took us a matter of days thereafter to journey onward, during which time we lost several more of the men - there were complaints of intestinal distress, and some of the men began to exhibit symptoms similar to those the man bearing the map had exhibited; their hair began to thin, their teeth loosened as if afflicted by scurvy, they grew weak. A large number of them fled on the third day after we espied the first obelisk, after seven men had died of that mysterious illness.
As those of us remaining ventured onward there were more; hundreds of the edifices, some all but covered by the shifting dunes, others proudly erect a dozen feet or more. They seemed to be arrayed in a circular pattern - the circle, if indeed it was such a thing, would have to have been dozens of miles wide or more, but it was clear that this was the work of the hands of man. On the seventh day, as we continued inwards towards what we believed to be the heart of the metropolis, we finally espied an edifice of a substantial nature - made of stone, standing proud several dozen feet above the desert sand.
There were scarcely a dozen men left besides myself when we approached that erection; the rest had either died or turned back, many of the horses having met the same fate. Was it true that Lost Antigo was cursed? I wondered, as I had begun to feel a malaise myself. Surely, I told myself, the risk must be worth the reward - I have discovered Lost Antigo! The wealth and history of a nation lay before me to claim! I insisted that the others stay a good distance behind, ill though I was, that I might be the first to approach that lone building, claim it for myself and for my nation and my race, and learn what secrets it contained.
Each step towards the tower was harrowing. I found myself sucking in wind as I approached. I ran my hand through my hair to wipe away the sweat and found that I tore several strands loose from my scalp in the effort. A fit of coughs struck me and I found that a molar had been ejected from its socket. I assured myself it was all worthwhile as I took the final steps towards that building and, for the first time, espied clearly the text emblazoned upon the wall by the door to that ancient place.
I write this now for the benefit of whoever might find my Earthly remains, on the last scraps of paper I carried with me as my journey reached its end. I hope that you are better prepared than I was to resist the ravages of this place, for the curse it carries is real. The legend inscribed upon the wall of that ruin was in an ancient and all-but-forgotten dialect spoken by the Natives of this land, which I taught myself to read years ago when negotiating with their chiefs for the sale of hides and gunpowder. It reads as thus;
CENTRAL MOJAVE NUCLEAR WASTE DEPOSITORY
This sign is a message of great importance. Sending this message was important to us. We considered ourselves to be a powerful culture.
This place is not a place of honor. No highly esteemed deed is commemorated here. Nothing of value is here.
What is here is dangerous and repulsive to us. The danger is still present, in your time, as it was in ours. The danger is to the body, and it can kill. The form of the danger is an emanation of energy.
The danger is unleashed only if you substantially disturb this place physically. This place is best shunned and left uninhabited.
I wonder; how long has the legend been told that Lost Antigo was a place of riches and wealth beyond compare? How many centuries ago did the people of this land first go in search of this treasure? How many men have made this pilgrimage before I did - be they white men, Spaniards, Indians, Levites, whatever nations came before them, and came before them, that thought this was a place of honor?
I can but guess. All I can say to you, dear friend that has found these papers beside my bones, if they indeed have remained intact and not crumpled into dust by the time your feet have besieged this land, is that I pray you have the constitution to make your escape now where so many like myself have failed.