Beth woke up on Saturday morning and walked out into her living room to find Gretchen asleep on her couch. It took her a moment to remember why.
Oh, that’s right, just the most freaking craziest, horrible night she had ever had. Even now her mind kept telling her that it had all just been some messed up dream. There was just no way any of that was real.
Some people said the same thing about shadow demons.
Who was Gretchen? She knew way too much about all this crap and at the end she had launched some kind of Chun Li energy ball at Bruce.
Apparently her new best friend was a witch. She had wanted a unique friend and she got what she asked for. Now if only the uniqueness wasn’t so dangerous it would be perfect.
“Hey, wake up. I’m bored,” Beth said.
She shook Gretchen awake with both hands.
Gretchen scowled and wrinkled her nose. She looked paler than usual but maybe it was just the harsh lighting in her apartment.
“What time is it?” Gretchen mumbled.
“Time to get up. It’s Saturday…around noonish.”
Gretchen sat up, still without opening her eyes.
“It’s too early,” Gretch said.
Beth opened up her laptop on the kitchen table and went to the school’s news web site.
“Three students found dead in Old Theater. Suspected overdose,” the headline said at the top of the page.
“Gretch! Take a look at this!”
She waved her over and Gretchen reluctantly stumbled over to the table. She squinted at the screen for a bit and then shrugged.
“I didn’t imagine that they’d live through such close contact with a being of Hastur’s power. And if they had survived, their minds would not have been intact. They would have been driven mad.”
“That’s a pleasant thought.”
“Would you rather I lie to you?”
“I’m not sure anymore.”
Beth didn’t like where this train of thought was going so she went into the bathroom to take a shower.
“Hey, Gretch! What time we going shooting today? Kinda late, right? Coulda used that skill last night.”
“At three, I believe.”
“Perfect. That gives us time to take you clothes shopping. You seriously need an update. You dress like a goth Mennonite.”
“What’s a Mennonite?”
She let Gretchen take a shower after her. She was standing in the bathroom wearing nothing but a towel and thought that perhaps this was her chance at seduction. But Gretchen didn’t even seem to notice her near nudity.
But when she tried to think of anything seductive, it just wouldn’t work. She looked at Gretchen and there was no spark.
Apparently she was totally straight. Who knew? That would make for a less adventurous college experience. Oh well. Maybe she’d try again when she was really, really drunk.
Or maybe seeing the craziest shit she’d ever seen in her life kinda made her lose her appetite for a while.
Once they were both ready to go, they walked across campus and into town. Fortunately most of the good stuff was along Main Street which was just a block away from the school. It was an old New England town with lots of brick buildings and wooden signs hanging from iron posts. There were college stores filled with sweatshirts with MU’s logo but she led them past all of that normal, boring crap.
Then she found the store she had heard about.
“Here we are. I think you’ll like this place.”
It was a small, hole in the wall, heavy metal, goth fashion and music store. She had found it on line before actually coming to MU.
When they went through the wood and glass door it set off a little brass bell. The girl behind the counter with the green Mohawk and ‘Ramones’ shirt looked up and then back down to the book she was reading.
The cover said “As I Lay Dying.”
There was a wall of clothing including black skirts of all lengths, pants with more buckles than was necessary, awesome combat boots and band shirts.
“Tool!” Gretchen said.
She pointed to the wall where the band shirts were hanging.
“You like Tool?” Beth asked.
“I love them.”
They walked over and began shopping.
Gretchen was quick to decide which band shirts she wanted. Tool, Rob Zombie, Birthday Massacre, Flyleaf and 10 Years.
This chick was loaded. Her family, despite being obviously weird, was rolling in Benjamins.
“Now you have to try the skirts on. Believe me. What looks like a skirt that will fit will turn out to be several sizes too small or too large,” Beth said.
The first skirt Gretch tried on was a black, pleated, knee length one with detachable suspenders. She came out of the changing room and Beth saw Gretchen’s white legs between the top of her boots and the bottom of the skirt. She had shapely legs.
“You look badass,” Beth said.
“That’s good, right?”
“Yeah, that’s awesome.”
Gretch didn’t smile but she nodded instead.
After picking out several more outfits, they loaded it all in bags and Gretchen paid with cash. She didn’t even bother looking at how much and just handed the clerk two, hundred dollar bills.
They left the store with Gretchen wearing some of her new purchases. She definitely looked better and less like a religious zealot.
“You got nice legs, Gretch.”
“You get them from swimming?”
“I believe so.”
“Maybe I should take up swimming. I can’t stand sports though. But I guess I could do swimming. Well, maybe not in competition. I don’t want hundreds of people looking at me in a swimsuit.”
“It is uncomfortable.”
Then she almost bumped into a man in front of her.
“Oh! Excuse me,” she said.
The man had a bald head with a beard and thin glasses. He wore a brown, tweed suit and carried a bunch of books under his arm. His elbows actually had those leather pads on them. She thought that was just a made up cliché, but this guy actually had them.
“In the future you should watch wear you’re going,” the man said.
“Sorry about that. I’m kinda absent minded.”
“Then I’m glad that you’re not one of my students.”
“Are you a professor at the University?” Gretchen asked.
“New York University.”
“Visiting?” Beth asked.
The man scowled and adjusted his glasses.
“I’m giving a lecture Monday evening.” Then he leaned in forward and looked at them in turn. “I have a feeling that the two of you would be interested in my topic.”
“Finding directions in Miskotonic?” Beth asked.
“The usage of advanced astronomy amongst the secret cults of the Roman Empire.” He looked right at Gretch as he spoke.
Gretch held his gaze but said nothing. The man smiled and walked off without another word.
“Who was that guy?” Beth asked.
“I don’t know, but I believe he knows something about the events of last night.”
Beth watched the professor walk off until he was out of sight. She didn’t have crazy witch powers like Gretch, but she felt that something was wrong about the man.
At three David picked them up with his cool black car and she called shotgun.
“You all ready for an educational experience?” He asked.
“I know I am,” Beth said.
“Gretch, you look…very nice,” he said.
“Doesn’t she? I took her shopping and I think I did alright.”
“You did more than alright,” David said.
Beth suddenly wished that she had done less than stellar. Next time she’d buy her a purple moo moo or something.
They drove through the quiet town to a little place just outside where they had an outdoor range that was free.
“I am ready,” Gretchen said.
“This is going to be cool. I’ve shot my dad’s AR-15 a few times when I was a kid, but it’s been a while,” Beth said.
“Gretch, do you even need a gun? I mean, you can shoot the anime fire ball, right?”
“That is not something I can repeat.”
Gretchen looked away and out the window.
“Oh, well, at least this will be fun. What are we shooting today?”
“I have a 1911, Glock 23, AK-47, and a PS90.”
“Cool. I really don’t know what those are except the AK, but sounds cool.”
And after last night she really wanted to learn to shoot. If they were going to find any more demon worshiping weirdoes then she wanted to know how to protect herself. The can of mace in her purse just wasn’t going to cut it.
The place was nestled in the notch between two hills and had a tin roof over all the shooting benches and the rules posted on a splintering wooden sign. No one else was there. Good. She didn’t want an audience when she was about to show her ignorance.
David handed them each a pair of safety goggles and earmuffs.
“We’ll start off with safety. I don’t want any of you blowing your own foot off or more importantly, my foot.”
He went over the basics of firearm safety and she tried to remember it all. She had to look good doing this.
They started off with the handguns which it turned out, she couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn. He had to walk her through it several times before she started hitting somewhere near the center of the paper target.
“Now your turn Gretchen,” David said.
Gretchen walked up to the bench and looked down at the 1911 a moment before picking it up. Her cold, unreadable eyes showed no emotion and Beth tried to ignore the creepy vibe Gretch gave off sometimes.
The pistol looked gigantic in Gretchen’s skinny hands. But then she aimed it like she had been taught and fired. She seemed startled by the noise and recoil and if she hadn’t been in the proper stance that he’d shown them she probably would have fallen over.
“Too much recoil?” David asked.
He stepped closer but Gretchen waved him off.
“It’s alright. I can handle it,” she said.
Gretchen readied herself again and took aim. This time when she fired she blasted off several shots in a row. Her shot group was easily half the size of Beth’s.
“Nice shooting,” David said.
“I enjoyed that,” Gretchen said with that faint smile of hers. But her smile was like an iceburg. If a smile showed it was because there was a lot of happiness beneath it.
Gretchen’s happiness was almost enough to compensate for showing her up.
Gretchen did the same with the PS90 and the AK. She was a natural. More than a natural. While Beth struggled to tighten her shot groups, Gretchen made it look like she’d been shooting all her life.
After an afternoon of shooting David claimed that it was tradition to get something to eat and if he was paying she wouldn’t argue.
“What was your favorite?” David asked over a hamburger.
“The PS90,” Beth said. “Without hesitation. No recoil and it holds a lot of bullets so I have a lot of room to mess up.”
“A great anti-zombie weapon as well. Gretch?”
“The AK. I like its power and simplicity.”
“Oh! Very good answer.”
“I believe I might have to purchase one for myself.”
Even David seemed surprised at this. The chick had doe to spare but just casually buying an AK was still a little out of the ordinary for her.
“And a 1911. I enjoyed that one as well,” Gretchen said.
“You’re looking at eight, nine hundred dollars, you know,” David said.
“Okay,” Gretch said.
She took a bite of her burger as if nothing was unusual.
After dinner they went to her place and began a movie marathon starting with “Equilibrium” with Christian Bale and Sean Bean.
She was going to marry Sean Bean one day.
After the movie she took out the 2 liter of Mountain Dew and opened up her DVD case to look for another movie.
She looked over at David and Gretchen as they quietly talked about professors.
This was all very surreal. Just last night they were fighting through a nightmare.
“Gretchen? Is that King in Yellow going to come back?” Beth asked.
Gretchen looked up at her with those round, silver eyes.
“Only if someone brings him here.”
“How likely is that?”
“Not likely. The book disappeared along with the body. I don’t think the University has another copy.”
“But there are other things out there, right?”
“Yes and they’re more dangerous than the King in Yellow.”
Gretchen looked around at the floor before answering.
“We shouldn’t speak their names too often. But Cthulhu might rise again one day. If that happens it is the end.”
“And how likely is that?”
“You can lie to me once in a while, you know?”
An undeniable feeling of hopelessness crept up her spin and chilled her to the core. She was seeing a world she never knew existed and it was horrible.
Gretchen didn’t say anything more and her silence was unnerving.