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, September 26, 2012

Chapter 15


Gretchen sketched the image of the solar system from the projector screen as fast as she could.  She recognized most gods.  The sun was Yog Soggoth.  That was interesting. The gibbering, mad god was the center.
There was also a clear depiction of Hastur and she looked over to see if David recognized it.  

He was staring at it and gripping the arms of his chair.  Apparently he did. 
She couldn’t imagine that this professor was ignorant about the nature of the deities depicted in the scroll.  He had to know something of the darker reality.  And if that was the case, then it wasn’t a coincidence that he was at Miskatonic University, home of the largest occult book collection in the Western Hemisphere. 
This man was a child playing with a blast furnace.  Either he was ignorant, arrogant or didn’t care about the dangers. 
Dr. Nelson went on to discuss more mundane cults and never ventured into the darker side of things again. 
When the lecture was over she was eager to leave.  She followed David out of the conference room.  He was much larger than her and made for a fairly effective plow through the crowd of people.  She hated being surrounded by so many strangers and he made her feel safe.
Dr. Nelson was doing a book signing but she had no desire to attend.  She wanted nothing to do with him because she doubted his intentions were purely academic.  She needed to learn more about this man.
“Hungry?”  He asked. 
She was and she had been hoping he’d take her somewhere to eat. 
“Pizza sounds lovely.” 
“Pizza it is.” 
He took her to their usual pizza place.  He was smiling but she could tell that it was forced. 
“Something’s bothering you,” she said after ordering a large combination.  She now knew her pizza well enough to order what she wanted.

“You saw what I saw.”
“Yes.  But why does it bother you?”
“Those things have been around since ancient times.  They’re real.”
“I told you all of this.  They’re older than the earth.  Perhaps as old as the universe itself.” 
He definitely had something on his mind.
“It reminds me of something.” 
“I hope you’ll share.”
“This kid I bumped into today.  He was talking about the big bang and how impossible things could have existed at the beginning.” 
“I’ve heard the theory before.”
She had never heard of the theory before.
“Gretchen.  How do you keep sane knowing all this?”
“It’s all real, David.  The sooner you accept that the sooner you’ll understand.”
“I know it’s real.  Hell, I saw things no one would believe.  But…”
“You’re having trouble accepting it.”
She had been told that most outsiders would simply reject knowledge of the true nature of the universe regardless of evidence.  David was doing fairly well for an outsider. 
“Give it time,” she said. 
He leaned back and took a sip of soda. 
“What do you think of this Dr. Nelson?”  He asked.
She didn’t want to worry him any more than he already was.
“His lecture was very well researched.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“I think he’s dangerous.” 
“Like the snob squad and their book?”
“More so.” 
The waitress came with their pizza and set it on a little stand in the middle of the table.  She then set down plates for them.  David always ignored the plates.  The smell made her mouth water.  This was much better than boiled beef and boiled potatoes back in Innsmouth.  

And it was especially better than fish.
“Is this really what they eat every day in Italy?”  She asked.
“I don’t think everyday.”
“But it’s Italian, right?  They must eat it all the time.” 
“I don’t know.  Maybe.”
“I think I might have to go to Italy.  If food is like this, then I need to go.” 
“They do a study abroad during the summer.”
“Study in Italy?  Sounds wonderful.”
“I think I’d like to see a foreign country where I don’t get shot at on a daily basis.  It does sound nice.” 
“Study abroad in Italy?  During the summer, right?”
That would be perfect.  She’d be able to continue her education and wouldn’t have to return to Innsmouth.  She never wanted to go back there again.  Ever.
Gretchen sat back in her seat holding a large slice of pizza.  This was what life should be like.  She was eating great food with a great friend. 
David was indeed a great friend and she enjoyed this time to be alone with him.  No other students were around.  No Beth.  Just her and David. 
“I’m glad you decided to attend the lecture with me,” she said.
“I’m glad I came.  It helped me put things into perspective.”
What did normal people say in situations like this?  There must be some form to the way outsiders court each other. 
Was that what she was doing?  Courting?  She had never wanted to intimate with another person before.  She couldn’t stand the residents of Innsmouth and the outsiders at highschool treated her with such naked hostility that any thoughts of friendship with them were ridiculous. 
This was different though.  Sitting across the table from her was a kind man who actually liked her for who she was.  He was a man she didn’t want to part company with. 
“You seem pleased about something,” he said.
“Do I?”
“I like being here,” she said.
“At the pizzareia?”
“The university, the campus, all of it.” 
“What did you do for fun back in Innsmouth?”
“That wasn’t a word that was used very often.  I had my father’s old record player and I had his library.”

“No friends?”
“I wasn’t allowed to mingle with the common folks.”
“Common folks?”
She debated telling him, but in the end she realized that she wanted to tell him everything about herself. 
“I’m the daughter of the High Priest and I’m next in line to become High Priestess.” 
“You’re going to be a priestess of a cult?”
“No.  I won’t do it.  I’m never going back there.  They can use my sister.”
“I didn’t know you had a sister.”
“Me and her don’t get along.” 
“She’s a true believer.  When I was nine I was taken to my first human sacrifice.  I threw up.  My sister, Hannah, clapped and laughed.  What about you?  Have any siblings?”
"Oh...um...wow.  I'd say you have some family issues."
"Fortunately, she's my only sibling.  Do you have any siblings?"  She asked, eager to change the subject.
“I got three stepbrothers.  All younger.”
“Do you get along with them?”
“Not really.  I’m way older.”
She nodded like she understood but she didn’t.  What would age have to do with brotherly affection?
He talked about his family and how his brothers were all “jocks” and he was a nerd that happened to be in the military.  They’d never see eye to eye. 
“This place closes in fifteen,” he said.
She looked up at the clock.  Almost ten.  She grabbed the last piece of pizza which drew a smile from David for some reason.  Was there some sort of rule about the last piece of pizza?
After they finished they got in his car and drove back to the dorms.  

After saying goodbye she was left alone in her room.  She couldn’t help but smile.  Not wanting to sleep in order to enjoy this feeling, she got on line and began “goofing off” with the internet.
She wondered what it would be like to have David hold her in his arms.  She had seen outsiders kiss and though she didn’t know what pleasure that brought, they seemed to enjoy it.  She began wondering what it would be like to kiss David. 
Gretchen began researching ‘how to kiss.’  Most of what she found was completely useless, but there were some interesting videos on youtube.  They did make it look like fun.  
She’d have to ask David next time they were alone if he would like to kiss. 
She looked up more kissing videos but soon she was looking at videos about copulation.  Normally she had no interest in sexual intimacy but now her curiosity was perked.  

It all looked so strange and half the time she didn’t know what exactly was going on. 
Frustrated with how weird and confusing it all was she went to Netflix (which Beth had signed her up for) and started watching documentaries.  She ended up watching Ken Burns’ “Civil War.”  She had never paid much attention to it before but watching the documentary she found it fascinating. 
She was still watching it when her alarm went off telling her to wake up for school. 
“What?”  She said aloud and checked her watch to make sure the time was right. 
She must have been overcome with lunacy and lost her wits to ignore time so completely. 
She took a quick shower, changed into her Rob Zombie shirt, black skirt and boots and hurried off to class. 
At swim practice she started feeling the lack of sleep.  She still came in first but not by as large a margin as usual. 
By lunch she was ready to pass out.  She had her head on the table when Beth came up with her lunch tray. 
“You okay, Gretch?”
“Didn’t sleep?”
“More dreams?”
“No sleep.”
Beth laughed.
“I’ve done that before. I was watching Jericho one day and couldn’t stop.  So I kept watching and missed a job interview.”  

“Gretch, why don’t you go home and take a nap.  I’m sure super genius can miss a class or two without a drop in grade.”
Missing a class intentionally showed disrespect to the professor and could lead to a downward spiral of laziness.
But right now she was too tired to care. 
After lunch she dragged herself back to her room and collapsed on her bed. 
And she dreamed. 
She was on the reef off the shore of Innsmouth, the reef where the people commune with Dagon.  Old ones with their fishy eyes were in the water looking at her.  They didn’t move or make any sounds.  They just floated there and stared at her. 
Above her was the clearest night sky she had ever seen.  The stars were innumerable.  But certain stars stood out. 
“Those are planets,” Hannah said. 
She hadn’t noticed her little sister before she spoke.
“Which planets?”
“Some are of this solar system and some are of other, far off places.”
As she watched the planets lined up with the precision of the gears of a clock and as soon as they were in a perfect alignment they began to glow with a red, angry energy almost like fire.  Gretchen didn’t know what it was but felt the wrongness of it all.  Planets shouldn’t burn like torches.
“What is this?”  Gretchen asked.
“We’re witnessing the planets in the proper alignment for the power of the Elder Beings to return and awaken Dread Cthulhu.”
Gretchen stood there, frozen in place at the horrible site of the fiery planets.  She was witnessing the end time.  

A dark comet of black energy shot through each of the planets in turn, almost like they were portals instead of physical objects.  The black comet struck Earth and began spreading darkness over the entire globe. 
Hannah looked up at her with a wicked grin and her degenerate, compassionless eyes. 
“Isn’t it glorious?”  Hannah asked. 
“It’s horrible.”
“I know.  All the weak shall perish and only the faithful and strong will survive.”
“But Cthulhu and his kin will destroy everything, believer and nonbeliever alike.”
“Dagon will intervene for us.” 
“But he won’t,” she whispered but Hannah was no longer there.  Instead she was facing out to the ocean with what looked like an island out in the distance.  But as she looked she saw that the island was getting closer.  Then two peaks emerged on either side of the moving thing. 
The air around the terrible thing was bending and twisting as reality itself protested the monstrous thing’s existence.
The thing began to slowly rise up out of the ocean.  A giant head with two, deep set, hate filled eyes appeared.  The peaks revealed themselves to be wings.  Though it was still far off she could see all the details on it, like a mountain on a clear day.  The edges of the great beast were blurry, like a slightly out of focus camera. 
Then Dread Cthulhu rose out of the water as he came closer to land. Water streamed off him in rivers. The wind was picking up and whipping her long hair about her face and the waves were jagged claws of white.  Above him a black tempest grew and swirled. 

Winged creatures flew in wide circles around Cthulhu’s head like seagulls around a whale.  At that distance they were too small to make out.  She didn’t want to know what they were.
He was the destruction of the world. His massive, thick shoulders swayed with each step and she could feel the rumble as the earth shook with each footfall. 
She looked behind her and saw a city.  She didn’t know which but she could tell it was one of the great cities of the world with tall towers and countless people. 
Cthulhu raised his clawed hands and giant waves crashed into the city, knocking down towers and washing away people and cars.  He raised one of his claws to the sky and boulders burning with black fire began to rain down on the city, smashing and blowing up whatever the tsunamis weren’t destroying. 
Gretchen stood there in the dream, watching the world end and couldn’t wake up.

Monday, September 24, 2012

chapter 14


David walked to his last class of the day.  He’d go home, get something to eat and then head to play practice.  After seeing the King in Yellow, he was a little less enthusiastic about being in a play.  He’d hate for a demonic Jane Austin to show up and start sucking out people’s souls.  

He heard laughter coming down from one of the side halls.  Like always he was early and the halls were mostly clear.  He came to the corner and peeked around. 
Three guys and one girl were standing around a skinny guy with glasses.  He was holding his empty backpack.  His books lay scattered around his feet. 
The idiots were laughing at the glasses guy.  They’d probably caused the “accident.”
He hated people like that.  The world was screwed up enough without intentionally making it worse.  Those idiots had no idea what it was really like out there.  They lived sheltered, meaningless lives and never knew what it was like to face death.  Their biggest problem was that they weren’t getting 4G’s. 
“Hey, leave him alone,” David said as he walked into the hallway.
They turned to look at him and saw the sneers on their faces.
“What you going to do about it?”  One of the guys asked.  He wore a pink pollo shirt and had immaculate hair.  In short, he looked like a total douche.  

“I’ll kick your ass in front of your cheerleader girlfriend.”
The man started to laugh but David could tell that it was forced. 
“It takes a big man for him and three of his buddies to pick on one guy.  Mighty brave of you.”
“You’re talking big, tough guy.  I aint seen you in the gym,” pink pollo shirt said.
David snapped his arm out and grabbed him by the neck where the nerve center was.  Pollo shirt winced and almost doubled over. 
“Go away before I make you cry,” David said.
The others quickly left and once they were out of his sight he let pollo shirt go.  Pollo cast him a glare that was supposed to be threatening before he disappeared. 
He then turned to the kid with the glasses. 
“You okay, man?”  David asked.
“I’m fine.”
“Sorry about that.  Those kind of people piss me off.” 
He looked down at the books and saw a Player’s Handbook for Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. 

“You play D&D?”  David asked.
“Awesome.  I used to play all the time.  Me and some of the other guys had a campaign going while we were over in Iraq.  You’d be surprised at how many nerds are in the army.”
“I usually GM,” the guy said.
“Awesome.  I usually played a cleric.  Name’s David.”
“Dan Tillman.”
“Heading to class?”
“I’m a teacher’s assistant.  Going to grade papers.”
“What class?”
“Particle physics.”
“Sounds way over my head.”
“It’s over most people’s heads," he said growing excited.  "The stuff we’re doing there is revolutionary.  If we had access to CERN’s particle collider, there’d be no end to what we can do.”

“Big Bang stuff.”
“But on a small scale. The stuff we’re seeing lasts so short a time and is so small, I mean, its bending the laws of physics as we know them.  Breaking them in some cases.  I tell you, whatever it was like in the first few nanoseconds of existence wasn’t like anything we recognize today.  Anything could have snapped into existence.”
“Sounds like some weird stuff, man.”
“Very weird,” he said with a strange smile. “You wouldn’t believe what we’ve seen.”
“I bet I would.”
“I have to go.  I have to grade a paper on finding dead pulsars in deep space.”
“Sounds awesome.  Hey, if you ever want to start a campaign, let me know.”
They exchanged numbers and watched as Dan went on his way. 
Interesting guy.
When he got to play practice he saw Beth and Gretch were already there.  He went over and took the one empty seat beside Gretchen. 
“You’re usually early,” Gretch said. 
“Lost track of time.”
She looked at him through the corners of her eyes. 
“I don’t want to be here,” she said.
“You’ll love it.”
“You think so?”
“Not at first.  Maybe once you get your lines down and we start rehearsing, then perform and finish it for good, then you’ll have fun.”
She didn’t respond for a few moments.
“I was hoping you’d lie to me.” 
“I’m teasing, Gretch.  You’ll have fun.”
“I doubt that very much,” she said.
He saw her hands fidgeting with the script.  Could it be that their all-knowing sorceress was nervous about a play?  So he leaned over and whispered in her ear.
“You don’t need to be nervous.  You’ll do fine.  We’re just reading our parts today. Nothing else.”
She kept her mouth closed and her eyes still looked frightened, but she nodded and took a deep breath.
Then she leaned over to him.
“Tomorrow night is a lecture about ancient Roman cults and the use of advanced astronomy.  I plan to attend.  Are you attending as well?”

He wasn’t sure, but it sounded like Gretchen’s version of asking him out on a date.  It was hard to tell.
It did sound interesting: not something he’d normally attend but with all the recent crazy shit going on, maybe he should learn a little more about ancient cults. 
Also, he wouldn’t mind spending some time with Gretchen.  She was pretty.  She was pretty in a unique, odd, unknowable way, but still very pretty.
“Sure. Sounds fun,” he said.
“You’ll go?”
“It starts at seven in lecture room 1 in main hall.”
“I’ll pick you up at six thirty.”
“Oh. Yes, that works as well.” 
She then began looking at her script with renewed interest. 
The practice was as he said it would be.  They just read through their lines and got a basic grasp of what they were getting into. 
Gretchen read her lines in her usual monotone voice but Beth said that it was perfect for the part. 
His part would take a little more work. 
“Remember, David, Darcy is arrogant and sure of himself.  Show more disdain towards everyone around him,” Beth said.
“But that’s not true.  He doesn’t disdain everyone.”
“Not in his own mind.  Look, it’s complicated.  But he has to appear to be a smug SOB, so act like one.”
“We’ll see,” he said, not conceding the point. 
After the play practice they went to Beth’s place and did homework.  His history class had a quiz the next morning so he studied with Gretch a part of the time.  She either had a photographic memory or knew all of this already. 
“Hey, Beth, we’re going to the lecture about Roman cults tomorrow night.  Do you wish to go?”  Gretchen asked. 
“What? By that creepy old guy?”
“Professor Nelson, yes.”
“That guy looks like he owns an unmarked van and hands out free candy to kids in parks.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Gretch said.  

“She means he looks like a creepy child molester,” David said.
“Oh.  I don’t see why you’d think such a thing,” Gretch said.
“Because he does,” Beth said.
“Do you wish to come?”
“No, if I never have to see that sex offender again I’ll be happy.  You two have fun learning about weirdo cults.” 
That night he dreamed of the underwater city again.  He dreamed that there was an earthquake that made the city rise a little higher and disturbed the sleep of some of the things that lay in their monolithic crypts. 
When he woke he felt more tired than he had before going to bed.
As usual he was the first one in class and Gretchen was the second.  She came in with dark rings under her eyes and half opened eyelids. 
“Bad dreams too?”  He asked.
She nodded and laid her forehead on her pile of books. 
“Under water city?”
She nodded again. 
“It’s called R’lyeh,” she said.
“R’lyeh?  I’ve heard that word before.”
Back in the cemetery in Iraq the cultists had been chanting something that had that word in it.  Normally he wouldn’t be able to remember a meaningless word, but that chant had burned itself into his mind and he knew every word.

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn,” he said.
Her head shot up from her desk and she looked at him with wide eyes.
“How do you know those words?”  She asked.
“I heard them once.”
“The cult in Iraq.  Why?”
“Don’t ever repeat those words aloud.  Never!”
“Okay, I won’t.” 
“I promise.  But why?”
“It’s a prayer to Cthulhu.  Our nightmares come from his dreams and you do not want his full attention.” 
It felt as if he had just held a bomb with a short timer.  Not saying those words again wouldn’t be a problem.  If they were some kind of summons like the kids did with the King in Yellow then there’d be no temptation to repeat them.
This hidden world of the occult was far more dangerous than he realized.  It wasn’t some socially awkward Wiccans burning candles in a circle, this was a little kid playing with hand grenades level of danger.
More like landmines, really, because sometimes someone could stumble upon something horrible by accident.
He got through the quiz with no problems.  Gretchen finished first like she always did and waited for him out in the hall. 
“I was hoping for something more challenging,” she said. 
“This is a basic, beginner level class.  You’ll have to wait till next year for harder classes.”
He went about his day like he usually did, but a bit more tired than usual.  After his last class he took a nap before dinner.  Dinner was a blue cheese, bacon cheeseburger from one of the local places nearby.  Local places always trumped fast food chains.  

At the appointed time he went to Gretchen’s door and knocked.  Some of the girls were having a pajama party of some kind and blasting really lame music as loud as they could. 
Gretchen answered the door with a notebook in hand. 
“Ready?”  He asked. 
“I hope this man proves to be as educational as I hope he will be.”
“I’m sure he’ll be enlightening.” 
He walked with her across the commons and passed the place where the demon tree with the red eyes had been.  The place still felt wrong somehow, like there was an unseen stain. 
He caught Gretchen looking at the same spot and wondered if she felt it too.  Knowing her she probably did.  Heck, she probably saw the darkness he only felt. 
They arrived at the lecture hall and took their seats somewhere in the middle. The place was already filling up, but not with students.  Most of them were middle age and above.  They were probably the youngest in the room. 

These kinds of places always seemed like the AC was broken or on overdrive.  Right now it was arctic conditions in the room.  Gretchen had her gray, buttoned up coat on but he just had a buttoned up, black shirt on.  He’d have to invest in a sport coat of some kind when attending more formal situations. 
Then one of the history anthropology professors came out and introduced Professor Nelson from NY University.  The audience applauded and a middle aged man with a beard and bald head came out on stage wearing a tweed jacket with leather elbows.  Really?  Wasn’t that too stereotypical?  He probably listened to NPR in his office as well. 
The man introduced himself and began listing his credentials and holding up copies of books that he’d written.  Then he began talking about where his lecture fit into the current study of obscure religions and quoting boring passages from books other people had read. 
It had been only five minutes and already he wanted to go to sleep. 
“Now I get to the Roman emperor, Elagabalus.  Many consider him to be one of the most decadent and corrupt emperors ever to take the Roman throne.  And he had some competition,” Dr. Nelson said.
The crowd politely laughed. 

Now maybe it would get interesting. 
“Elagabalus spent his short years as emperor sleeping with everything he could in every conceivable manner.  He was so repulsive in his acts that the Romans eventually had him assassinated.  That’s saying something.”  Again, more polite laughter.  “But what most scholars and historians refute or don’t know is that Elagabalus also set himself up as the head of a mystery cult which were quite popular at the time.  After his death his cult lived on and actually grew.  Apparently there was some attraction to having blasphemous orgies.”
Even he had to laugh at that one.  Gretchen was expressionless but was writing down almost everything he said sans jokes. 
“The cult of Elagabalus evolved over time and when Christianity became the dominant religion in the empire the cult went underground.  We don’t hear of it for several centuries but one monk in Milan recorded in his “Histories of Charles the Great,” a relatively unknown and sometimes inaccurate history that “and a man of the court who was known to follow the ceremonies of Elagabulus came to see the great king and was denied visitation.”  That is all that is written but it offers a precious clue.  The cult was still alive during the time of Charlemagne.
“During the Renaissance the cult makes another appearance and we see evidence of it in Italy, the court of France, England and even Catholic Spain.  Besides amoral orgies, what did this cult offer?  To stand the test of time it had to offer something, correct?  Going back to the Romans, the cult flourished in Alexandria, the center of learning.  Some of the greatest philosophers and astronomers of the time were associated with the cult.  And this is where it gets very interesting.”

Nelson turned on a screen behind him and a giant picture of a mosaic depicting constellations appeared. 
“Here’s a typical map of the stars that could have been done in any age.  But what’s different is that this map doesn’t conform to any known constellations.  The Latin inscription at the bottom claims that these are the stars as seen from Yith.”
He heard Gretchen gasp at the mention of “Yith.”
“What is it?”  He whispered to her. 
“Nothing,” she said.
He didn’t believe it was nothing.  He’d have to wait until after the lecture to get it out of her. 
“And that is not all.  The cult also has complete maps of the solar system, including Uranus and Neptune.  They don’t have Pluto but apparently we don’t anymore either.”
The picture went to an ancient, tattered scroll with pictures of different gods. 
“Each planet is represented by an illustration of a god that isn’t found in any other Roman or Persian text.”
David’s eyes focused on Venus and he clenched the arms of his chair. 
Instead of a beautiful woman representing Venus, it was a cloaked figure in yellow.  The symbol on his cloak was the symbol of Hastur, the King in Yellow.  He recognized that symbol anywhere. 
But then his eyes went to Neptune and in place of a merman god with a trident, it showed a pharaoh with skin as black as coal. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chapter 13


Gretchen sat back on the bed and leaned against the wall as the movie played.  Her friends were taking everything that had happened much better than expected, but she wished they hadn’t had to experience it in the first place. 
She wondered if her being near them put them in danger as well or if her presence saved them from a destruction they were heading towards on their own. 
David was watching the old moving and smiling.  He was clearly enjoying it.  He was not at all like the outsiders from high school.  He was how she had always wanted people to be.  He accepted her, didn’t mock her and even liked her different ways.  He was certainly far more handsome than the men from Innsmouth.
If they could even be called men.  The “Innsmouth look” wasn’t just a simple genetic trait from a small gene pool.  Even her father was transforming and preparing to return to the sea.  

She would never do that.  She would remain human until the day she died. 
There was something more than just David’s kindness and attractiveness and it wasn’t something she could understand exactly.  Whatever it was, she liked being around him.  His presence made her happy. 
But would he be safer if he wasn’t around her? 
Beth had fallen asleep with an empty bottle of Mountain Dew in her hand. 
“Did you like shooting today?”  David asked in a whisper.
“Yes, very much so.”
“I’m glad. If there are more…horrible creatures out there, maybe you should carry something and learn to use it.” 
“I do want something.”
She knew her powers were weak compared to many of the threats that existed in this and other universes. 
“Maybe this week I’ll take you to a gun store and help you pick something out.”
“I’d like that.” 
When the movie ended they went their separate ways.  He walked off to his apartment across the way and she began walking to her dorm. 
Even at night the campus felt alive.  In the distance she’d see a room with a light on and loud music playing from it.  A car would pass by with shouting students. 
Gretchen liked to walk over the green.  At night dew would collect on the thick grass and sparkle from the nearby streetlamps.  

Then she noticed a man was following her.  He was walking a good distance behind her but he was walking fast.  When she looked behind her she saw that he was looking right at her.  He wore a football jacket and looked to be about twice her weight. 
She sped up.  There was something wrong about this situation.  Whatever the man wanted, she wanted nothing to do with it.  She didn’t want trouble.
Images of him strangling her entered her mind.  She hoped it was her own imagination and not something else.  Others in her family had had precognitive dreams and visions.  She never had before but she didn’t want this to be her first. 
She had never touched a man before and felt that this was exactly what this football player wanted.  She had seen copulation during the ceremonies and it held no mystery for her, but it also didn’t hold any charm.  Still, she knew what horrors could be caused by such activities.
“Hey, I’m lost!  Can you tell me where Laynard Street is?”  The man called out. 
“No, sorry,” she called back. 
“Come on, I just want to talk.” 
His voice sounded closer and when she looked back she saw that he was now jogging to catch up. 
“Leave me alone,” she said and began jogging as well. 
“You running from me, bitch?”
Then she heard the pounding footsteps of running and without looking back she began to run as well. 
She was a great swimmer and her legs were in shape, but somehow that had never translated to running and she was usually one of the slowest in gym class. She always felt sluggish on land.
Her blood was surging and her lungs were struggling to keep the oxygen going.  How did this happen?  Why would this man want to hurt her? 
Thoughts of dying flashed through her mind as she ran.  She couldn’t die here.  She’d use every power she had.  But she also didn’t want to hurt the man.  She knew ‘normal’ people didn’t want to hurt others and she wanted to be like that. 
Also, if she did something unnatural to him that could lead to questions and attention, neither was something she wanted. 
For his own sake, she hoped she could outrun him. 
Suddenly the footsteps sounded right behind her and she felt powerful hands grab her shoulder.  Instantly she felt herself slam into the wet grass and the air knocked out of her. 
“Stop running!”  The man said.
He was now on top of her, straddling her stomach and holding her arms down. 
Then she realized she had a problem.  Her hands couldn’t touch him.  He had no contact with her skin at all.  She suddenly wished she didn’t have her jacket on.  She paralyzing spell required her to touch him and she didn’t know how to cast it at a distance yet. 
She was a lousy future High Priestess of Dagon. (Not that she’d ever become that if she had a choice.) 
Her mind began frantically searching for a spell that could stop him without killing him. 
“Why’d you run?  Huh?  Afraid of what a real man can do?  I bet you aint never had it before.  I’m going to show you a good time,” he said with breath that reeked of liquor.  
He bent down and licked her check.  Her stomach heaved as everything he implied rushed through her mind.  There was something else as well, something vaguely familiar about all this, like she had been here before, only it was dark and wet.  Something much worse than this drunken man.  

What?  Where did all that come from?  She momentarily forgot the man on top of her as she tried in vain to recall what had just entered her mind. 
He began kissing her neck and talking about things she didn’t understand but knew were bad. 
Her legs tried to get into position to kick him off but he was too high up on her stomach, squeezing the breath out of her.  Her two arms were no match for his one.  He had her pinned and she wasn’t going anywhere.  She just had to wait for an opening to touch him and use her paralyses spell. 
It was a spell normally used to keep sacrificial victims in place: not one she had ever thought she’d need.  So she wasn’t proficient with it enough to cast it at a distance or say it silently.
Then his hand came up her shirt and began feeling her stomach.  Nausea almost overcame her as his intentions became clearer.
“Get off of me!”  She yelled. 
His hand came up and began chocking her. It was so sudden and so powerful that she could barely think.  Her free arm useless hit him.  Stars began to dance in her vision.
He would choke her to death or worse, leave her alive. 
She couldn’t stop him without harming him and if she didn’t do something immediately she wouldn’t be able to do anything at all. 
The only thing her weakening mind could think of was a spell her father had personally trained her to do: Leech Life, the Tchu’unku life draining curse. 
Her free hand grabbed his head and in her mind she said the words that were older than the earth itself. 
The man went rigid and his eyes went wide.  A gasp escaped his mouth as she felt his life force poring into her.  It was warm, almost burning but she held on.  Some used it to prolong their life well beyond what was natural. She had never planned to use it.
As he let go of her neck she gasped for breath and her mind cleared.  If she let him live, he’d know what she could do and she couldn’t allow that.  Now that she had started it, she was committed.  So, she hung on until the end. 
As the last of the man’s life force drained into her, she let go and crawled out from under him. 
She was panting and her heart was racing. 
That vile fiend.  What sort of man would try to do that to a woman?  Scoundrel!
She kicked him in the head and then kicked him again. 
As she ran back to her dorm she felt tears running down her cheeks.  She was shaking by the time she got the keys into the lock. 
It wasn’t just what the man had tried.  It was something else.  For the first time she felt memories that she didn’t know existed hidden away in the deep areas of her mind. 
What’s wrong with me?
She didn’t sleep at all that night.  In the morning she was sitting in her bed with her knees tucked under her chin.  She had tried to dig up the memories and see what was hidden there, but the harder she dug the further the memories seemed.  
There was a knock at the door.  It startled her from her thoughts. 
“Gretch?  You in there?”  Beth’s voice said through the door. 
She wanted to call out but she didn’t think she’d be able to maintain her composure.  She felt her checks.  They were still wet.  Something was very wrong with her.  If Beth saw her like this she’d worry and ask all manner of questions that she didn’t know the answers to. 
So she sat there until Beth eventually gave up and left.  She felt bad for that but didn’t have a choice. 
She got up after a while and took a shower.  A good shower or bath always seemed to calm her down.  She changed into some of her new clothes and looked at herself in the mirror.  

She seldom spent such time on vanity, but right now she needed something happy. 
Her “Black Sabbath” T-shirt looked good as did her knee length skirt.  Her parents would be very upset if they saw her wearing such a short skirt.  But her new boots came up to her knees anyway. 
She was dressed like an outsid…a normal person but she didn’t look like a normal person.  She was far paler than anyone else she’d seen and no one else had such white hair and silver eyes.  No matter how she dressed it up, she’d always be a “freak.”
But for the first time in her life, she didn’t think that that was such a bad thing. 
Mentally prepared and dressed up, she left her apartment and walked to Beth’s. 
Beth answered the door with her hair looking like a mess.
“There you are, Gretch!  Come in, I need your help.”
Beth dragged her into the bathroom where a thick, chemical smell almost made her gag. 
“I’m trying to dye my hair pink and its not working like I planned.”
Gretchen was glad to do something normal for a change.  It took most of the morning to get Beth’s hair how she wanted it.  In the end they were both looking in the mirror. 
“Not bad,” Beth said. 
“I like it.”
“What about you? You want a new color?”
Gretchen ran her hand through her long hair and thought about it for a moment. 
“No, I like my hair as it is.”
“Good for you.  I do too.” 
They put on their coats and began walking to the cafeteria for lunch.  On Sunday, few people got up early enough for breakfast. 
“You ever go to church?”  Beth asked.
“Well, were your parents strict?  Were they Bible thumpers?”
“Oh.  We’re not Christian.”
“That’s right.  You were some kind of... never mind.”
“Some what?”
“I don’t know.  My mouth is faster than my mind.  I just remembered that they were some kind of fanatics, right?” 
“They are fanatics, yes.”
“I hope you never have to meet them.  They are not pleasant people.” 
I thought my family had problems.”
“My whole town is of the same religion.  Don’t ever go to Innsmouth.  Promise me.” 

“Okay, I promise.” 
Good.  That would do for now. 
At the cafeteria Gretchen avoided the fish sandwich and made herself a ham sandwich instead.  Just the smell of the fish made her think back to Innsmouth.  She remembered the cave off by the reef where her father made her watch them sacrifice an outsider. Her first time had been when she was only seven years old.  Every year would be another sacrifice. 
The murmuring of the people in the cafeteria recalled in her mind the low chanting of the priests of Dagon
“You seem different today,” Beth said.
“Yeah, more pensive, like something’s bothering you.”
“Nothing’s bothering me.”
“Gretch, you’re the worst liar I’ve ever met.” 
“It’s nothing I know how to explain at the moment.  Don’t worry about me.”
Everything was bothering her.
Then one of Beth’s friends, the skinny one with glasses, came up to their table.
“Hey, did you hear the news?”  The girl asked.
“What news?”  Beth asked. 
“They found Todd Nealson’s body out on the commons last night.”
Gretchen looked down at her plate and didn’t look up.
“What happened?”  Beth asked.  
“Don’t know.  Heart attack they think.  Possible drug overdose.”
“More drug overdoses?  That’s going around lately.” 
“I know, right?”
"Maybe we need McGruff to come to campus."
When the girl with glasses finally left she could feel Beth’s eyes boring into her downturned head. 
“Gretch?”  Beth said.
Gretchen looked up.  Instead of accusing and judgmental eyes, she saw concern and kindness. 
“He was following me,” Gretchen said.  It came out as a whisper.   
Beth leaned forward.
“What happened?”  
“He followed me and threw me to the ground.  He was on top of me.  I didn’t know what else to do.”
“You zapped him?”
“Zap?  I don’t know, but I used the only spell I could think of.  I didn’t want to kill him but he was going to…”
“He deserved it, Gretch.  You did the right thing.  It’s better to defend yourself than be a victim.  My father taught me how to defend myself and I always keep a can of pepper spray in my purse.”
Beth moved over to sit beside her and put an arm around her shoulders. 
“Its okay, Gretch.  You’re safe.”
No, she wasn’t.  She was far from safe.  None of them were safe.  If it wasn’t a drunk student or cultists now, it would be something horrible later on.  They were all eventually doomed.  Cthulhu will rise out of his watery grave.  Yog Soggoth will take notice of Earth and mindlessly devour all souls on it or any number of powerful gods will wipeout mankind.  Whatever happened, mankind was doomed. 

They were a tiny speck on the timeline of the universe and nothing they did could change that. 
“Come on.  Let’s go get some snacks, watch Pride and Prejudice and chill for the entire day.” 
“Very well.” 
Beth did most of the talking as they walked to her place. 
Yet something still nagged at the back of her mind.  Something wasn’t right. In fact, something was terribly wrong and she couldn’t figure out what it was.  The air on campus felt different, colder, less energy. 
Something was brewing and was at a loss for what it could possibly be.