A Cthulhu Mythos story. Start at the beginning.

A Cthulhu Mythos story.  Start at the beginning.
A Cthulhu Mythos story set in Miskatonic University in modern times. . If you're new, start at the beginning.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chapter 7


Gretchen knew there were spells for getting rid of haunting demons but she didn’t know them.  She had avoided such areas of study.  She had learned some spells on her own and others her father forced her to learn.  But demonology hadn’t been high on their list of priorities. 
She was walking back from Beth’s apartment late at night.  It was fun to “hang out” which involved conversation and watching movies.  She had heard the term before in high school and always thought it was a code for something more complex or clandestine. 
But Beth needed those spirits gone.  They were powerful and they were hungry.  If they stayed they’d eventually cause Beth harm.  Unfortunately there was only one place where she knew where to possibly find the spell to cleanse her of these haunting demons.  

The forbidden collection at the library. 
She was not going there.  She knew a few little beginner spells that could keep the demons at bay for a short while.  That would do for now.  Better a few shadow demons than open the wrong book and attract unwanted attention. 
As she walked back to her dorm she saw a girl walking across the green toward her.  As the girl came closer she saw that it was someone from her swim team: an annoying girl named Debby who looked at her like everyone did back in high school. 
“I thought it was you.  I could see that tangled mop of white hair from across the campus,” Debby said.
She ignored her like she learned to do with bullies in high school.  It wasn’t like the films they watched in health class where the bullies were merely crying for attention and love or would retreat if stood up to.  No indeed.  They would simply come back and bring their friends and make a bad situation worse.  They always had like minded friends and they were always capable of making the situation worse.
“Got nothing to say, weirdo?” 
Gretchen kept walking away but then Debby started following her. 
“I earned a scholarship to come here.  I was the best swimmer in the state. Who the hell do you think you are?  I heard rumors about you.  I heard you’re from some creepy little cult town. You sit at home all day reading nothing but the Bible and think TV is the devil’s invention and music makes you into sinners?”
Gretchen walked on. 
“I’m going to tell everyone about you.  Soon, they won’t care how good a swimmer you.  You’ll never be team captain because no one will want a creepy cultist for the captain.  I’m going to make sure everyone knows!”
Finally the girl gave up and began walking the other way. 
This girl wasn’t blustering.  She was out to ensure that Gretchen would never succeed and that was the one thing she absolutely had to do. 
Gretchen turned and began following Debby. 
She stayed far back, but still close enough to see where she was going.  Debby never looked around her, supremely confident in her place in the universe.  Her arrogance proved her ignorance. 
Gretchen herself was an insignificant speck, but she had her place as well and Debby was determined to ruin that place.  Gretchen was going to stop her. 
She watched as Debby came to an apartment building and unlocked a door on the bottom floor.  She had a room to herself or her roommate was out.  

Gretchen was already forming her plan in her head.  She knew how to stop her. 
She stayed outside the apartment until the lights went out and then she waited a little longer.  When she was reasonably sure Debby was asleep, she went to the door.  It was locked. 
Quietly chanting the spell of ‘opening’ she waved her hand and heard the lock ‘click.’  Then the door opened. 
She hated resorting to dark magic but she had been raised with it and father made sure she knew enough of it.  A vile tool, but right now it was a useful one. 
Gretchen walked in and closed the door behind her.  For a while she stood there, silent and still.  She let her eyes adjust and listened.  She heard nothing except the gentle humming of the fridge. 
Then she walked into the first bedroom and found someone sleeping there, but it wasn’t Debby.  She looked around the cluttered room and its pink decorations.  One wall was covered in paper stars sloppily taped to the wall in a rainbow shape.  Useless tripe.
She then crept into the next room and there she found Debby sleeping.  She closed the door behind her.  

Her plan had two parts.
First she began chanting a ‘sickness’ spell called “Sanguine Occulas.”  It would make Debby run a very high fever, loose all strength and appetite until she was a wraith of herself and eventually bleed from the eyes.  It wasn’t lethal but Debby would soon wish it were.
As she quietly chanted she felt the air in the room grow colder and thicker.  She took out her curved, golden knife and cut her palm.  She let the blood drip down onto Debby’s forehead.  
Gretchen said the final lines, a petition to Yog Sothoth.  She felt her skin crawl just mentioning that terrible deity’s name. 
Once the spell was finished she knew it had worked.  She could feel the dark energy sinking into Debby’s body.  By morning she wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. 
The second part of her plan was the unnecessary part.  But it was the part that would give her the most satisfaction.  She was no mindless automaton without feelings.  For years she had to put up with people like Debby and now that she had finally found a place she belonged, she wasn’t going to put up with it any longer. 
“May your dreams turn to nightmares,” she said in the ancient, corrupted language of what men would later call “Atlantis.”  She pronounced the spell and made sure that all Debby would dream about this night were horrible, eldritch creatures lurking in the shadows and tentacled horrors seeping into the world from the seams between dimensions.

Her work finished, Gretchen slowly walked out of the apartment and continued on her way home.  One thing that father taught her that she actually agreed with was that she should never let anyone or anything stop her from accomplishing her goals.  Debby got in the way so she had been removed from her path. 
Once home she took a shower and lay down to sleep. 
However, her dreams were filled with nightmares as well.  Only it wasn’t due to some vengeful spell, it was something else.  Something was clawing away at the back of her mind like a siren in the distance. 
She had dreams of a storm tossed ocean with white capped waves crashing violently over each other.  As the storm grows worse dark shapes begin to rise from the ocean. 
She knew at once what the dream was.  She could hear the inhuman chanting and mad piping as the corpse city rose from the waters.  Within that city she knew the Dreadful Cthulhu lay, waiting to rise again when the stars were right. 
She had dreamed this dream before but never so vividly.  This time she could feel the waves and see the after glow of the lighting that tore the sky apart.  

Something was different this time. 
Gretchen woke in the morning not feeling well rested.  She felt drained.  Perhaps it was from using magic she was not used to or the terrible dreams that made her toss and turn all night.
She dressed and laced up her black boots.  She met Beth in the cafeteria for breakfast and found that Beth also looked ill rested. 
“Did you not sleep well?”  Gretchen asked. 
Beth looked up with bags under her eyes. 
“No, not at all.  I kept having these weird nightmares all night.”
“Nightmares?  What manner of nightmares?”
“I don’t remember a lot of it, but I remember a huge storm and a sunken city.”
“What else did you see?”  Gretchen asked, afraid of the answer.
“The city was ancient and I mean ancient as in older than cavemen.  I don’t know how I know.  It’s a dream and all.  I heard this crazy chanting and saw a huge doorway.  In my dream I walked toward the doorway which was like the size of a baseball field, but it was all this weird stone.  I knew something horrible was behind the door and I was afraid to open it but I kept walking towards it.  I don’t remember anything after that.”

She had had this dream and her father had had it, but she had never known anyone else to have it.  What did it mean if Beth dreamed it as well?  She was surely no relative to the people of Innsmouth. 
“I had the same dream last night,” Gretchen said.
Beth was about to laugh but stopped herself.
“If anyone else would have said that, I would have thought they were pulling my leg.  But you’re odd enough that I believe you.”
“Please don’t call me odd.”
“So, what does this mean?  We got a psychic bond with each other?”
“A psychic bond, perhaps, but not with each other.” 
She opened up her laptop and connected to the school’s wi-fi.  She was going to look up if there had been any strange occurrences in the news. It took her much less time than she would have guessed.  As she opened up her homepage, Yahoo mail, she saw a big news article about an earthquake and huge storm in the pacific. 
She knew that it had to be connected.  A similar thing had happened in the 20,s and everyone in Innsmouth had celebrated thinking the day of Cthulhu’s awakening had arrived.  But then R’leyh slipped back into the waters. 
Had it risen again?  If it has, has it risen to stay?  The worry began to knot in her gut.  If Cthulhu awakes then there wasn’t a force in the world that could stop him. 
After classes she met David in the library.  Gretchen was looking through old books about demonic hauntings.  So far they had all been utterly useless and the knowledge that it contained was often wrong or woefully incomplete.   Any book in her father’s library would contain ten times the amount of useful information than these books. 
Also, none of these really said how to get rid of a demonic enemy. 
“What are you looking up?” David asked as he sat down next to her. 
“Beth is having trouble with demonic entities.  I’m researching how to rid her apartment of them but the search has proved fruitless. 
“Wait…she’d being haunted by demons?  That crap is real?”
“Of course it is.  Why would you say otherwise?”
Now she was confused.  She thought outsiders at least knew about ghosts and demons.  She had heard talk of reality shows that chased ghosts. 
“I didn’t know they were real.”
“Of course they are.  Do you not watch the television shows where they hunt for ghosts?”

“I have, but that doesn’t mean it’s real.”
“They’re ignorant and amateurish, but they do stumble across the real thing on occasion. I’ll never understand what you outsiders know and don’t know.  Even when presented with the truth you ignore it or don’t see it at all.” 
“It’s what the people of my town call everyone else.” 
She closed her book in frustration and leaned back in her chair. 
“This library is dreadfully inadequate,” Gretchen said.
“I bet they have the right books in there,” David said pointing to the forbidden section. 
“No.  We won’t go in there.” 
“Just a suggestion.”
“Then don’t suggest it.” 
They met at David’s apartment where they watched a strange cartoon called “Samurai Champloo.”  It was a cartoon about feudal Japan, yet it was rife with cultural and historical inconsistencies, but it seemed to do it on purpose.  She tried to understand all the humor but sometimes she simply didn’t “get it” as Beth called it.  

David pored her a the green drink called “Mountain Dew” that she loved from the cafeteria. 
“I love this beverage,” Gretchen said.
“Of course you do. You have good taste,” David said. 
They drank copious amounts of Mountain Dew and watched “anime” all night. 
When she finally returned to her dorm she found a letter from home had been slid under her door.  It was from father.  He must have had someone take the letter to the neighboring town where the post office was. 
She opened the letter and read:

To my daughter, Gretchen Marsh.  As I hope you well remember, I sent you to Miskatonic University with certain guidelines, rules and orders.  I trust you are not associating with outsiders nor revealing what you may know.  Now, however is the time to carry out an order.  I need you to go to the Forbidden Collection in the library and retrieve or copy a page from the book of Eibon.  It is in an incomplete state, but it has the page that I require.
She quit reading and tossed the letter on her table. 
He clearly didn’t know what he was asking.  She did not have access to the forbidden section.  But she couldn’t refuse an order.  Refusal would mean he would withdraw her from school and that was something she could not allow to happen.  She needed to stay in school.  It was her only way out of Innsmouth. 
There was no choice.  She had to obey.  She picked the letter back up and read the description of the page.  From the symbol drawn on it she saw that it was some manner of spell and an ancient one at that. 
Very well, she would retrieve this page. 
She waited till three in the morning and went to the library.  She knew it had electric alarms if she so much as touched the door.  Father had taught her a spell for such cases.  She chanted the spell and a sphere of stasis enveloped the door.  That would keep any alarm from sounding.  Next she opened the lock with a spell and entered the dark library.  She couldn’t risk a flashlight so she stumbled through the dark with her hands out until she came to the door that led to the forbidden section.   
This was the last place she wanted to be and she hated her father all the more for making her come here.  This was a part of her life she wanted to get away from.  But like the situation with Debby, she would have to use the dark tools she had been given.  There wasn’t a choice. 
She would do this and go back to being a normal student and pretend it never happened. 
Gretchen used a spell to open the locked door and she walked into the room where the forbidden collection was.  It wasn’t just books, though there were plenty of those.  There were also artifacts.  In one glass case was the fossilized impression of an Old One.  In a glass case on the far side was the English language version of the Necronomicon.  And next to that was the rarer and more accurate Latin translation.  To have two such books would make any Believer a force of terrible evil.  

Then she found the book of Eibon.  She had seen drawings of it.  It was a tattered codex of Late Roman times and it was missing about half of its pages. 
She cast another spell to freeze time inside a bubble and she removed the glass.  She put on her white gloves and carefully looked through the pages until she came to the right one. 
It was a long process of casting spells to avoid setting off the alarms but she eventually made it to the copier machine and made a copy.  Then she carefully put the page back, returned the glass lid and left the forbidden collection. 
When she stepped outside and didn’t see policemen she knew she had succeeded.  She hurried back to her room and sealed the hideous page in an envelope.
With that done she breathed a sigh of relief and went to sleep.  At least she would be swimming tomorrow.  That would take her mind off of things.   

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Chapter 6


Beth sat on her bed watching Game of Thrones on her laptop and texting her friends back home.  Her parents offered to pay for her apartment and Beth wasn’t going to argue.  She’d rather have her own place than a dorm, but not for any of the obvious reasons.  

The reason was because she knew she’d be followed.  No matter where she went the shadows followed her.  They had been with her since she was thirteen.  At first she thought it was the house that was haunted but then she had a sleep over at a friend’s and they followed her there. 
When she first saw one it looked like a shadow: a silhouette in the darkness.  But then one night she had awoken and saw her mother in the doorway.  She had a blank look on her face and was staring at her with soulless eyes.  It looked just like her mother but instantly she could tell that it wasn’t.  Whatever it was, was hiding behind the form and watching her. 
Sometimes it would come in the form of her father, cousin, teacher and even strangers on rare occasions, but usually it looked like mom. 
But it always seemed that there was something behind it, like the face was a mask or a puppet.  Just as she thought she could make it out her mind lost grasp of it. 
When it was time to go to bed she left her TV on.  She could never sleep in total darkness.  The shadow people clung to the darkness and she didn’t want them anywhere near her. 
As she got comfortable she sensed more than saw a crawling motion in the darkness.  That meant the shadow people were around.  It had taken them a week to catch up with her, but they were back as she knew they would be.  

Beth closed her eyes and tried to ignore them. 
In the middle of the night she woke up to the sound of heavy breathing.  She looked over and saw something that looked like her mother.   It was staring at her with its blank face and was crawling on the floor like its back was broken. 
She locked eyes with it. 
“Go away,” Beth said. 
The blank faced mother just stared at her. 
“Go away!”  She threw her math textbook at the figure and it vanished before the book struck. 
“I’m all kinds of ___ up,” she muttered to herself and went back to sleep. 
In the morning she had theater and that always made her feel better.  But it was a Monday so the good day/bad day scale just came out even.
They listened to a brief lecture by the professor and then they did warm up exercises with improving scenes.  Then they got into their groups. 
Hers still didn’t have a play.
“I want to do something classical,” a blond cheerleader looking girl said.
“I want to do something cool, like fight club or Snatch,” Beth said. 
“We could write our own,” a boy who looked too young to be in college said.
“I don’t know anything about playwriting.  Let’s just do something a professional so we can look as good as possible,” Beth said.
The group quickly agreed. 
Beth looked over and saw the only group that had their play already.  Their leader who found the play was a tall, handsome (in a slimy politician way) guy named James.  Whatever play they had was in a small yellow book they were always looking at.  They refused to tell anyone about it and hid the book whenever anyone, including the teacher, came by to talk to them. 
“Snobs,” she said quietly. 
She met Gretchen for lunch in the cafeteria.  She was lucky to have found Gretchen.  She was weird and she liked weird.  Maybe Gretchen was weird enough to understand the shadows that followed her everywhere she went. 
College was a time for experimenting and trying new things.  If she was going to sleep with a girl, Gretchen was her first choice.  Amy was right: Gretchen did look like a tiny, evil elf.  Not that Gretchen was evil or anything, far from it.  She was the most naive girl she had ever met.  That’s another reason she liked her.
“You look tired,” was the first thing Gretchen said.
“Well, thank you.”
Gretchen’s delicate brows knotted up for a moment in a look of confusion but she must have let it drop because she didn’t ask.
“How was history class?”  Beth asked. 
“I would have thought that a college history class would go into more depth about the subjects.  Instead we merely glaze over them as quickly as we can.  It annoys me.”
“You have to wait till later until you take the specialty classes.  Then you can take a whole class on the Civil War or Women’s History or whatever.” 
“I would like that.  My comparative religion class is also painfully basic.  They don’t delve into any of the cult religions or the pre-Egyptian ones.  It’s like I’m back in first grade.”  

“You’re the only person I know of that would ever use the word ‘delve’ in a sentence.”
“What’s wrong with delve?”
“Nothing!  I love it!”
Gretchen cast a brief glare at her and ate her chicken sandwich. 
“Do they ever serve pizza here?  I like pizza,” Gretchen said.
“I’m sure they do.  There’s a schedule up somewhere.”
“Is there also a schedule up for concerts?  I think I would like to attend a rock concert.” 
“You do?  Awesome.  Yeah, I’ll keep my eyes open for one.” 
“Thank you.  I look forward to it.”
“What are you doing tonight?”
“I thought I would be studying but the material is so basic that I know it in my sleep.” 
“Wanna hang out?  Watch a movie?”
“I would like that.” 
“Good.  We’ll go to my place after dinner.” 
Beth was hoping Gretchen would stay over late.  She really hated being alone with the shadows.  She felt as if they wanted something from her. 
She breezed through the rest of the day and had dinner with Gretchen and Amy.  Amy’s usual group wasn’t there.  She hung out with the ‘snobs’ from theater but since she wasn’t in their play group she wasn’t a part of their ‘in crowd’ anymore.
After dinner they walked back to her place.  Gretchen didn’t wear a back pack but held her books to her chest like something from ‘Little women.’
“How you liking campus life?”  Beth asked. 
“I love it!”  Gretch said with one of her rare smiles. 
When she smiled she showed her teeth which almost looked pointed, like a shark’s but that was only their impression.  They weren’t really pointed.  At least she thought not. 
Gretchen tended to walk fast.  She said it was a habit from high school.  She got a good look at Gretchen’s hair which hung down to the small of her back.  Beth was jealous.
Maybe I should grow my hair out?  She thought to herself. 
“You would look good in a corset and bodice,” Beth said.
“I would?”
“Oh, yes.  You practically scream for old, gorgeous clothing: especially Victorian.”  

“I fail to follow your train of logic, but I will take your word on it.” 
“You’re just going to have to trust me on this.”
The campus at night felt so different than at day.  It was never an overly cheerful place at the best of times but at night the place became downright ominous.  The old, brick and stone buildings seemed to take on demonic auras and leered out at them as if waiting for their chance to strike. 
It was all just her own imagination she new.  After all, the real demons were in her apartment. 
They got up to her door and she pointed across the landing to door 2-4.
“That’s David’s room.  The light’s on so he’s home.”
“Should we invite him over?”  Gretchen asked. “Wouldn’t that be the polite thing to do?”
That wasn’t a bad idea.  The more the merrier and the more living people, the less shadow people.
“Sounds like a plan, Gretch.” 
The walked over to David’s door and she knocked. 
David answered the door holding an X-box controller. 
“Hey, Beth, Gretchen.  What brings you to my humble abode?”  David said.
“We’re going to watch some movies and chill.  Wanna come over?”
“I don’t know.  I mean, I’m at a big boss and this monster just isn’t going to kill itself.  Of course I’ll come over.”  

“You’re one weird guy,” Beth said.
“I know, right?  Who wants normal?”
“I thought I did, but now I’m not so sure. Perhaps I would like a different kind of weird,” Gretchen said. 
Gretchen stood next to her, perfectly still and her hands folded neatly in front of her.  It was like she was one of those living statues. 
They were waiting for him to put on his shoes and she grew impatient.
“You don’t need your shoes.  We’re just going across the way there.”
“True enough.”
They went into her apartment and she quickly turned the lights on.  She could feel the shadows still around but they were off on the edge of the darkness and wouldn’t bother them. 
“What are we watching?”  David asked.
“I don’t know.  I got my collection over there,” Beth said, pointing to some DVD cases. 
It turned out (not surprisingly) that Gretchen hadn't seen a single one so it was up to her and David to choose.
They settled on Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  She was impressed that David had wanted that.  It showed that he had good taste.  As they watched, Gretchen seemed mesmerized. She practically didn’t blink throughout the whole movie, even during the naughty bits.  Beth would have thought Gretchen would have been squeamish during the nude scenes, but she was just as mesmerized during those as the rest of the movie.  

They sat there, eating popcorn and talking. 
She liked both of these people.  They felt right and comfortable.
Once the movie ended she turned to Gretchen who sat beside her on the bed.  She didn’t have any other comfortable furniture so she used her bed as a couch as well.  Hey, she was a poor college student. 
She hoped to eventually use the bed for something more than sitting. 
“So, what’d you think?”  Beth asked.
“I am amazed.  It was beautiful,” Gretchen said.  “He loved her that much that he overcame death.  So that even death may die.” 
“What was that?”
“A part of an old poem.”
“I’d come back from the grave for Wynona Ryder,” David said.
She shot him a glare.
“Just kidding.  The Lucy vampire was way hotter.” 
“Okay, I got to agree with you on that.  Lucy vampire was way hot,” Beth said.  

“It seemed like such a waste to kill her,” Gretchen said. 
“Well, she kind of killed children.  That’s a bad thing,” David said.
“Of course, but still…”
“You can have Lucy, I’ll take Dracula,” Beth said.  “He was weird looking, but he was all hotness.  It’s Gary Oldman: you can’t compete with that.  I’d take Gary over Keanu any day.”
“I’ll take his brides.  All three of them,” David said.  
“I’ll take his castle,” Gretchen said. 
They laughed at the first joke they had heard from her. 
Then all too soon they left for their own rooms and she was left in her apartment alone.  She would need to get a boyfriend quickly.  Or a girlfriend. Anything so she wouldn’t have to be by herself in this room.  But then, she worried about if the shadows came out while she had visitors.  They’d be frightened off and would never come back. 
She was stuck.  The pain of loneliness and shadows or the pain of eventual rejection and avoidance?   She didn’t know which was worse. 
As she lay down she saw movement out of the corners of her eyes.  It sometimes came out slowly at first.  Other times it would give no sign and suddenly she would be face to face with a shadow in a doorway before she knew it. 
She let the DVD play on the intro screen as she tried to go to sleep.  She had thought about sleeping pills but she didn’t want to get addicted. Ever since her best friend died in high school from an overdose she refused to touch even weed. 
Maybe she should just get drunk every night?  Now that mom and dad weren’t here that was an option.
Again she woke up in the middle of the night.  This time she saw four figures standing over her bed and staring down at her. They had sickly, wide eyes that seemed filled with hatred.  They all had grim, gaunt faces and she didn’t recognize them.   She couldn’t tell if they were old women or men, but whoever they are she knew they would do her harm if they could.
She covered up with her sheets and began singing the words to a Linkin Park song.  

Life wasn’t supposed to be like this.  There weren’t supposed to be monsters in the closet.  All the scary stuff in the shadows was supposed to be children’s imaginations. 
There had to be a way to get rid of this.
She didn’t get much sleep that night. 
The next night she invited Gretchen over again.  This time the excuse was ice cream.  She always liked the coffee flavors.  Gretchen seemed to enjoy it. 
“Hey, want to watch a movie?”  Beth asked.
“It’s getting late.”
“Yeah, but I’m not tired.  It’ll be fun.”
“I do wish to see a movie,” she said, considering her options.  “Very well.”
They watched the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice which she didn’t tell the length.  It was a mini-series and would last a long time.  

As she planned, Gretchen fell asleep on her bed watching the movie.  Beth fell asleep knowing that the shadows kept away that night. 
In the morning Gretchen woke up surprised and embarrassed. 
“It’s alright, Gretch. I don’t mind at all.  I actually like the company.  I hate being alone.” 
“Why?”  Gretchen asked while rubbing the sleep from her eyes. 
“Just do.”
“Oh, I thought it might have something to do with those shadow people walking around your apartment.” 
“What?  You see them too?”
“Of course.  They’re right there.” 
“I can’t believe this.  Not even my parents ever saw them.  They thought I was making it up.”
“Why wouldn’t they believe you?  They’re not hard to see, you just have to know where to look.” 
“Gretch, do you know how to get rid of them?”
“I don’t know.  Maybe.” 
“They’ve been following me since I was thirteen.  If you know something, you have to help me.  I’m afraid to go to bed at night.” 
“I don’t know if I can, but I’ll see what I can find.” 
“I can’t believe I finally found someone that believes me!” 
She hugged Gretchen, happy that she was no longer alone and going crazy.  She finally had confirmation of what she saw. 
She let Gretchen go so she could hurry back to her own room and clean up before class. 
Beth felt much better that day. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Chapter 5


Once her new colleagues had left, Gretchen sat on her bed with her laptop on her lap.  So, that’s why they called it a laptop.  She checked her new E-mail and wondered how long it would take for people to mail her.  Then she went to her brand new Facebook page that Beth had insisted on setting up for her.  She had two friends, Beth and David.
She went to David’s page and saw that he had a bunch of photos from the war.  She had no idea who America was fighting or why.  Wherever it was, it was in the desert.  They wore desert colored uniforms and carried big, black guns.  He was clean shaven and wearing armor.  

She saw the word “Iraq” floating around the pictures or “pics” as people kept commenting, so she looked up “Iraq war” on Google.  She had learned how to browse on Google back in high school. 
For the next hour she looked up all she could about the Iraq war and recalled that she had heard people mention it back in school. She had heard about it but didn't know what had happened.
Then, out of curiosity, she looked up “Innsmouth.” The Wikipedia article had only a paragraph about it.  It described it as a small New England fishing village that was prosperous during the time of the American Revolution but since then has declined. It mentioned briefly that it was raided during prohibition times but nothing else.  She almost wanted to laugh at the ignorance of the author. 
The raid had had nothing to do with illegal moonshine. 
She then looked up the band “Tool” and saw that there were several videos.  She spent the rest of the night watching rock videos on You Tube. 
The next day she went to class, tired from lack of sleep.  She hadn’t meant to stay up but she had been so enthralled with the music videos that the first time she noticed her clock it was 1:30Am. 
She sat beside David for History. 
“You look tired,” he said.
“I stayed up too late last night.”
“Surfing the interwebz too much?”
“Yes. I was surprised by the music videos I found.  Some of them are rubbish, but some are truly amazing.”

“Yes, you can find almost anything on the internet.”
“Except for what you are looking for.  I sincerely hope you do not find it.”
“What do you know of it?”
He looked right at her.
She looked away.
“I know enough to know that it’s dangerous,” she said.
“That’s not good enough.  I’ll find out by myself but I would prefer your help.”
“David, you do not want to draw anyone or anything’s attention.  You do not want to fall under their notice.”
“Who’s notice?”
She looked up and met his eyes.  He had such dark blue eyes, eyes that were filled with more life than anyone back home. 
If she didn’t help David he would continue searching and might end up stumbling onto something he should not stumble on to. He would keep looking no matter what she said.  If she helped him she might be able to help him stay clear of the dangers.  
She sighed.
“Very well.  I’ll help you,” she said. 
He nodded and she sensed that he understood the seriousness of the situation.  However she was certain that he didn’t understand the dangers. 
“I’ll meet you at the library after classes,” he said.
Class started and they listened to a lecture about Native American culture and beliefs.  She was surprised at how incomplete the professor’s lecture was.  He only skimmed the top surface of the Indians’ religions. Not once did he mention their knowledge of the world before man or the secret origins of the species.    
The local tribes knew of Dagon and the mysteries of the deep waters and they feared the deep.  They had every reason to.  Native lore was filled with terrible monsters from the waters of the Earth.  They weren’t mere fairy tales.  

The rest of the day she had a hard time concentrating on her classes.  She was thinking about rock music, lack of sleep and David’s thirst for dangerous knowledge.
After her final class she had two hours before dinner started.  She liked to have an early dinner at five.
She went to the library and looked the history of rock music.  She wanted to know where it came from and how it got to where it was.  Innsmouth had nothing like it. 
It wasn’t long before David came in.  He sat down beside her.
“I’m here and ready,” he said.
“I doubt that very much.  If I am to help you, you must understand a few things.  If I say something is too dangerous, that means you do not go after it.  Understood?  If I tell you to close a book, you close it.  Do not go off on your own to find these things.  Only search with me.”
“Understood. I just want some answers.”
“I hope we might sate your appetite while not getting wet in the process.”
When they went to the library counter there were three guys and a girl in front of them.
“I found your book.  It’s a rare one so it can’t leave the library,” the old woman librarian said.  She made the students sign for it and as they passed she caught a glimpse of the book.  The cover was yellow but she didn’t get to see what the title was. 
They got the catalog of rare books and Gretchen began to search through it.  Most of them wouldn’t be of any help.  But Miskatonic had an unusually impressive collection of ‘occult’ books. 
She found two books that would shed light on his problem.  She didn’t know exactly what it was he was looking for, but of the rare books, these two were the most likely to contain something. 
She found them a small table away from everyone else where they could speak in privacy. 
“Before we begin this search, I must know exactly what it was that you saw. Do not spare detail. Tell me as clearly and as accurately as you can,” she said.
He told her of their battle in the graveyard with the cultists and the raid on their compound.  Then he told of them going down into the basements, into caves that shouldn’t have been there.  He described finding an idol there made of strange stone that depicted a dragon with an octopus head and bat wings.
“And that’s not all.  As I shined my flashlight onto the idol, for the briefest of moments I thought I saw something else,” David said. “Promise not to think I’m crazy?”
“I promise.”
“Well, for a second I thought I saw something standing behind the idol, a dark shape like an…”
“Like a what?”
“Like an Egyptian pharaoh but with black skin like obsidian. He stood there with his arms crossed and wearing gold arm bands, collar and a crown.  He had red eyes that looked right at me. It was just for an instant but I know what I saw.”  

She knew exactly what he had seen. 
“Nylarthotep,” Gretchen said.  She didn’t even need the books for this. “You saw an ancient god that’s far older than this world and mankind.  He’s a messenger of sorts. Nylarthotep, the Crawling Chaos. Let’s hope that he did not take serious notice of you.”
“So, it was real?  What I saw?”
“Very much so.”
“How do you know this?”
She didn’t want to answer that question so she answered another one.
“The idol you saw was of a being known as Cthulhu.  He is a monstrous entity that will one day awaken from his death sleep and destroy the world.”

“That’s cheerful.  Why would they pray to it?”
“To gain power.  To ensure their survival once Cthulhu awakens.  Because they are evil.”   It was the very thing her parents prayed for.
“Are there many of these believers?”
“Not many but more than there should be.”
“How do you know all of this?”
“Now do you know what you were looking for?  Now please, I ask that you do not look into this any further.”
David sat back in his chair and folded his arms as he thought.
“So,” he said after a long time of silence. “There’s a cult that’s spread all around the world that worship these evil gods and they want the end of the world.”
“Yes.  You already know too much.  Leave it as it is.”
“Do the authorities know about it?”
“No. Perhaps some, but anyone with any real authority does not.  Only a few eccentric scholars or people that see something and ruin their lives searching for it really know the extent of the issue.”
“Should we tell people?”
“No!  You don’t understand.  The problem is much worse than you think.  Telling the public will do nothing.  They won’t believe it and if they do believe, they’ll despair.  There’s nothing they can do.  They can’t stop it.  Humanity’s existence is a small speck on Earth’s timeline.  They’ve been here far longer than we have and will be here long after we are all dust.  Now, I will tell you no more.  You know too much now please promise me you will not look further into it.”
He looked into her eyes.  The constant smile that was on his face was gone and instead she saw a man that had seen death and knew how to judge the things of the world. 
“I promise I won’t go looking,” he said.
“Thank you.”
She let out a sigh of relief. 
“I promise I won’t go looking if you tell me how you know all this.”
“I can’t,” she said, horrified. 
No one here could know her past. 
“Then I can’t promise.”
“David, I can’t tell you.  I must have my privacy on this.  But I’m trying to save you from danger.  Promise you won’t go looking.”
“But you must.”
“I insist that you promise.”
“No. Not until you tell me how you know.”
She was trapped.  She looked down at her feet as she thought about what she could do.  By the laws of the Order of Dagon she should kill him.  She had already broken many of the rules her father had given her when he allowed her to go to college.
What she had to do now was sneak into his room at night and slit his throat with her curved, golden dagger. 
But she wouldn’t do that.
She had told him everything so he’d stop looking.  She wanted to protect him, not kill him. He would not backdown and he was completely ignorant in how much danger he was really in.  She had to keep him safe.
“If I tell you, you will  promise and look no further into this,” she said.
“I will promise.”
She took a deep breath.
“The town I come from is home to the Esoteric Order of Dagon.  It’s a cult like we’ve just discussed.  My father is High Priest and I or my sister are set to take he place when he goes down to the ocean.  I came here to Miskatonic University to escape all that.  I want a new life away from this darkness.  The things I told you of are very real and very dangerous.  Dark forces are out there and if you look for them, they will take notice.” 

He looked at her with his steel expression and she had no idea what was going through his mind.  He would now resent her and avoid her.  It had been nice having a friend but she knew it wouldn’t last.
“I promise I won’t go searching anymore,” he said. 
 “Thank you.”
“So, how’s your computer working out for you?”
“It’s great.  I’ve never had free access to browse what I choose.”
“You looking up porn, aren’t you?”
“Looking up what?”
“Porn, it’s what half the internet is.”
“What?  No!”
David merely laughed.
The idea of that was disgusting.  She knew that sometimes men watched dirty movies with nude women though she couldn’t understand why.  She had read about it in a “Health” book from high school. 
“David, make me one other promise.  Promise to tell no one about me: about where I come from.”
“I promise.”
“You’re not from around here, but any of the local students will know something about Innsmouth.  They’ll know to avoid me and shun me. I will understand if you no longer wish to associate with me.”
“Hey, we’re friends.  Real friends stick around even if the other person’s a little weird.  We’re all a little weird in our own ways.”
The rest of the week went by normally and David made no more mention of dark topics.  On Friday night, him, Beth and two other friends took her to a local pizza place.  She had had pizza in the high school cafeteria before and wasn’t impressed.  How could there be a whole restaurant dedicated to pizza?  Still, it was better than fish. 

She was sandwiched between Beth and one of her male friends in the back seat and a girl named Amy who was prone to car sickness (whatever that was) sat in the passenger front seat which everyone called “shotgun” for some reason. 
Inside the pizzeria they sat in a leather booth that wrapped around in a “U” shape.  She was pleased that she was between David and Beth: people she knew.
They talked about classes, other students and teachers.  Gretchen mostly listened.  Then they started talking about where they came from and she became very uncomfortable. 
She started looking for an excuse to pass but the waitress came before it was her turn.  They ordered two pizzas and Gretchen had no idea if that was too much or too little. 
“What do you like on your pizza, Gretchen?”  Beth asked.
She tried to think of the pizzas in high school.  She knew it had some kind of cubed meat on it but she didn’t know what it was called.
“Meat,” she said, not able to think of anything else.  What would normally go on pizza?
“Excellent! I like how she thinks!”  David said.
Apparently she had given a satisfactory answer. 
When the conversation resumed the previous topic had been completely forgotten and they were now talking about movies that she had never seen. 
“That would make such a great play!  Maybe we should do that one?”  Beth’s male friend said.  He wore clothing that was too tight and a scarf even though it wasn’t cold. 
“It would make a great play, but I still say we should do a stage adaptation of Fight Club.  Wouldn’t that be awesome?”  Beth said.  

“I’m sorry, what’s your name?” Amy asked, looking right at her.
“Well, Gretchen.  I think you should try out for our play.  You have a very unique, dramatic look to you and you look younger than most college students so there’ll be plenty of parts for you.”
“I look younger?”
“Yeah, you look like some kind of …sickly, fairy elf person.  You’re petite, I guess is one way of describing it.”
“I’ve never acted before.”
“We can coach you.”
“You should totally do it, Gretch,” Beth said. 
She had never considered acting before, but they all made it sound like a great deal of fun.
“Very well, I will try it,” Gretchen said. 
“In the two Theater I classes, the students divide into groups and choose a play.  My group hasn’t chosen one yet,” Beth said.
“Mine has,” the male friend said.
“Mine keeps switching between Waiting for Godot and All My Sons.”
The only plays she had ever read were Shakespeare.  She didn’t bring that up for fear of being laughed at. 

When the pizza arrived it looked nothing like the pale, squares the high school had served.  They were rounded and cut in a radial pattern. 
And the smell!
Her mouth began to water before she even got her plate ready. 
Apparently “meat” had been a good choice of some kind because it was absolutely delicious.  She had never tasted anything this savory before. 
When she let out a slight moan it caused the others to laugh, but it wasn’t a mocking laugh though. 
She closed her eyes and enjoyed what was now her new favorite food.  She had never eaten much because there had never really been anything that tasted good.  But this…this she could eat every day and be happy. 
She liked her new life here at college.  In just the first week she had several experiences that she had never had before.  She had made friends, she had been asked to join a play, been treated as an equal by strangers and now had experienced the wonders of hot pizza. 
She hoped life could continue on like this forever.