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.”
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.
“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?”
“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.
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.
“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.”
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.”
“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.