David opened his laptop and crated a new file for this class’s notes. He saw Gretchen staring at his computer from the corner of his eye. When he looked over at her she blushed and quickly looked away.
“You should get a laptop,” he said.
“I’ve never seen one that small before. The computers at the high school were much bigger.”
“You didn’t have one back home? Hell, you’ll need a laptop for school. All your homework will need a computer and you don’t want to fight everyone in the library to use those. Plus, when you’re staying up late doing that last minute book report, you’re going to need a computer of your own.”
She nodded as she took it all in.
“I see. So, I must purchase a laptop if I am to succeed here at the University,” Gretchen said.
“That is an accurate statement,” he said.
“But…where might I purchase one?”
“Anywhere. Best Buy, even Wal-Mart, though I wouldn’t suggest that one. You can get a decent one for three to four hundred bucks.”
“Where is a Best Buy?”
“There’s one here in town. Do you have a car?”
“I do not.”
“If you want, I can drive you there when you want.”
She nodded as she thought some more. She seemed almost confused by his offer, as if she didn’t know what to make of it. Maybe she thought he was hitting on her. He wasn’t. He was trying to be nice and chivalrous.
Granted, she was pretty in her own unique way. She could probably use some more sun and vitamins and her hair was stark white, like she was an albino, but her eyes were this startling silver, gray that were hard to look away from. When she fixed him with that harsh gaze of hers, he felt like staring into them for the rest of his life.
She really didn’t seem to belong here. It was like she belonged in another century, but not one that was recognizable to history. Maybe she was from another world.
The other students filed in and the professor came in just before the bell rang. As the old man with a beard, glasses and tweed jacket discussed the course syllabus, he listed the books they’d be reading. Beowulf, Iliad, Odyssey, Mort d’ Arthur, Divine Comedy and a few others. He was actually getting excited about learning all these classics.
Gretchen sat there with those impassive, cold eyes of hers and he wondered what she was thinking. Out of everyone he had ever met, she was by far the most unreadable.
After class he went back to his room to play some X-box and relax as he thought about what he wanted for dinner. He had a few hours to kill and no homework.
As he played Mass Effect, his mind wandered. It wandered back to that dusty, dark night at the cultists’ compound. He remembered the chanting more vividly than any call to prayer he heard over there. He remembered the strange, horrible markings he saw and the disturbing, stone idol that lay in the deepest part of the compound.
No one could tell him what he had seen. They said anything could be found on the internet. They were wrong. He had looked and looked an he had only found vague hints and scattered theories.
If he was being honest with himself, one of the main reasons he came to Miskatonic University was to have access to their rare occult collection where they had forbidden books and strange artifacts that could shed light on his memories.
He saved his game, grabbed his black coat because it was still drizzling and walked down to the school library, the ancient looking, Gothic structure that looked like a mixture of temple, mansion and government building.
Inside was gloomy, dusty and old. The polished floors creaked as he walked.
David found the librarian’s desk where a student sat reading a book. She had red hair, almost glowing orange, and glasses. She looked like a goth rocker in a librarian costume.
He had to admit that it was highly attractive.
“Excuse me,” he said.
The red head looked up.
“Yes?” She asked.
“I was wondering how I can get access to the unique and forbidden stuff.”
“You can’t. Not unless you request permission which will require credentials and proof that you need to. Usually they don’t allow students.”
“We got the rare books. They’re not as…rare as the forbidden collection, but it’s got some interesting stuff in there.”
“Alright, I’ll take a look.”
“I can give you a catalog and you pick what you want from there.”
He hated second best.
She gave him a card with triple rows of tiny print. Some of the titles there had strange names that he couldn’t guess the meanings of.
He chose some that sounded suitably occultish and went to find a seat to wait for the hot librarian’s return.
As he looked around he saw a familiar white head of hair sitting at one of the computers. Curious, he walked over.
She noticed him approach and turned away from the screen and watched him with those silver eyes.
“Hey, doing some studying or watching epic fails on youtube?”
“Never mind. What you up to?”
“Yeah? Me too. I cam hoping to gain access to the forbidden collection, but the best I can get is rare.”
She tilted her head.
“Forbidden? What are you searching for in there?”
“Oh, it’s a long story. I just had some questions that I couldn’t find answers to.”
“Stay away from the forbidden collection. Some questions are best left unanswered.”
She spoke as if she knew what he was after. What did this girl know?
“Well, I have to have answers.”
She eyed him and then shrugged.
“Use caution and don’t dig too deep,” she said.
“Sounds like you might have some questions yourself.”
Her brows creased in the middle as if she was contemplating her next words, but she remained silent.
“When you going to get a laptop for your own? It would give you some more privacy,” he said.
“I don’t know,” she said, suddenly sounding shy.
“Remember, my offer stands. Whenever you want I’ll take you to buy one.”
“Thank you. Right now I am waiting for a friend.” She paused for a second. “Here she comes now.”
A girl with short, blue hair and a nose ring came up to them. He recognized her. She was his neighbor. He had seen her riding a scooter that morning. He remembered because girls looked cuter on scooters somehow.
When the blue haired girl saw him she smiled and pointed.
“I know you! You’re my neighbor,” she said.
“I guess I am. David Thornton,” he said and offered his hand.
She shook his hand with a good grip.
“I was offering Gretchen here a ride to go buy a laptop,” Alex said.
“I think I do need a laptop,” Gretchen said.
“Are you sure? They’re kinda expensive. Can you afford it?” Beth asked.
Gretchen waved it off.
“Money isn’t a problem,” Gretchen said.
“It is for me. I’m going to have to find a job quick if I want to keep that apartment,” Beth said. “How do you afford it?” Beth asked, looking at him.
“G.I. Bill,” he said.
“David here was a soldier,” Gretchen said.
“Is that so? I would not have guessed. What branch?” Beth asked.
“Army,” he said.
She chuckled a little.
“My father was a marine sergeant major and my mother was a major. I grew up in a jar head family. Simper Fi.”
“I would not have guessed,” he said, mimicking her tone.
She ran her hand through her short hair.
“Yeah, I didn’t exactly follow the Corp’s example. I figured I was a better creator than destroyer.”
“Sometimes it’s necessary to destroy in order to create…at least if you follow Hinduism at all.
“I don’t, but it is an interesting thought,” she said with a playful smirk.
“Well, Gretchen, do you want to go?” David asked.
“Yes, let’s go after dinner.”
“Are you sure?” Beth asked.
“Yes, I will do better with school if I have one, though I must admit that I know very little about them,” Gretchen said.
“We’ll show you how to use it,” Beth said.
Then the librarian with the H.I.M. heartegram necklace walked up with the three books that he had requested.
“What’s this? Some light reading?” Beth asked.
Gretchen bent closer to peer at the titles on the spines of the books. She quickly drew back and looked at him as if in shock.
“What are you studying?” Gretchen asked quietly.
“Please don’t think I’m weird, but I’m looking up cults and occult stuff,” Alex said.
“That is weird, but why?” Beth said.
“It’s a long story,” he said.
“I got time,” Beth said.
“Yes, I think I too would like to hear this,” Gretchen said.
He didn’t really want to talk about it so he decided to give them the short and heavily edited version.
“While I was in Iraq, we came across this cult calling themselves the Soldiers of Heaven. They were fanatics that would murder people. They fought everyone. We caught them digging around a graveyard. As we fought they kept chanting this creepy chant of theirs. Well, let’s just say that I’ve wondering what the freak they were ever since.”
“So, now you’re looking up cults trying to find what they believed?” Beth asked.
“You shouldn’t,” Gretchen said.
“Why not?” David asked.
“It’s dangerous. There are darker forces in this world than rival disagreeing armies,” Gretchen said.
“You know about this voodoo?” Beth asked.
“I don’t wish to discuss it. But I will tell you to stay far away from it. Nothing good can come if it,” Gretchen said.
“I have to know,” David said.
“Be careful then.”
“So, David, where are you from?” Beth asked.
“Virginia, around Lexington. You?”
“New York, Manhattan.”
“I’ve never been to New York. Always wanted to go. What about you, Gretchen?”
Gretchen looked up and for a second she had an expression like she had just been caught shoplifting.
“Innsmouth,” she said quietly.
“Innsmouth? Where’s that?” Beth asked.
“Massachusetts, on the shore,” Gretchen said.
“Is it nice there?” Beth asked.
Gretchen quickly shook her head.
“Not at all. It’s a horrible place. I hate it.”
“Not much of a small town girl, are you? Maybe you’ll like the city better,” David said, trying to ease the tension he suddenly felt.
While Gretchen and Beth surfed the internet, he began looking through the dusty books in front of him. One of them he found useless right off the bat because it had nothing to do with cults, ancient or obscure religions or strange…occurrences.
After an hour of searching through the books he found only one mention of what he was looking for, a report about a “Cthulhu Cult” from an anthropologist in 1928. What caught David’s eye was the one photo on the page.
The photo was of a small idol found on some Pacific island. It showed a strange, octopus headed creature with claws and bat wings.
Stylistically it was a little different than the one he saw in Iraq, but the subject was undeniably the same. He was staring at the photo of the idol he had found in the cultists’ compound that had been surrounded by dead bodies in varying degrees of decay.
He had found it. “Cthulhu.”
“Are you alright?” Beth asked.
“You look a little worried or something.”
“Oh, it’s nothing, just thinking I guess. You guys ready to go computer shopping?”
“Yes, please,” Gretchen said.
He returned the books to the librarian and he walked them to his car. Beth whistled when she saw it.
“Nice ride!” Beth said.
Gretchen cocked her head to the side as she walked up and down the Dodge Magnum’s length.
“It’s very pretty,” Gretchen said.
He opened the door for Gretchen but made a point to pass by Beth.
“No chivalry for me?” Beth asked.
“I figured you’re a modern, liberated woman and opening a door for you would just be an insult. I was being polite.”
She raised an eyebrow but didn’t retort.
Once on the road he reached for the radio.
“What do you guys want to listen to?” He asked.
“Anything with electric guitars and a skull somewhere in the logo,” Beth said.
“Good taste. Gretchen?” David asked.
“Um…anything is fine.”
He put it on a local rock station. “Tool” was playing. It was on a slow part that was building up for an explosive climax of intricate sound.
“What is this?” Gretchen asked.
“A band called Tool. Ever hear of them?” David asked.
“No, never. This is rock music, right?” Gretchen asked.
“I guess you can say that, but that’s like saying Mozart dabbled with the piano once in a while,” Beth said.
David watched Gretchen’s reactions to the music in the rear view mirror. She seemed simultaneously enthralled and confused by the music.
“What do you think, Gretchen?” David asked.
“Rock and roll isn’t what I thought it would be. This is actually…beautiful,” Gretchen said.
“Isn’t it?” Beth said.
“It’s like the crash of the sea against the rocks or the drumming sound of a lightning storm. I can hear the subtle melodies inside the harsher ones,” Gretchen said.
“You got a good ear,” David said.
At Best Buy he showed her around the laptop section.
“If you’re not in a rush, we can find you a cheaper computer that will do just as good,” David said.
“No, this is fine,” Gretchen said. “Which ones would you recommend?”
With his and Beth’s help, they finally agreed on one. They took it up to Gretchen’s dorm and got it hooked up. He had just hooked his up the other day so he knew how to do it without much problems.
“What’s your email?” Beth asked once they were online.
“I don’t have one,” Gretchen said.
“Wow, this Innsmouth place must really suck. Let’s get you into the twentieth century here. Shame we’re already in the twenty first, but we’ll get you there soon enough,” Beth said.