Gretchen lay down next to David and got as close as she dared. She wanted to touch him and wrap her arms around him.
Beth was snoring quietly and Sayako was lying down with her eyes closed. She didn’t know if Sayako was sleeping, dead or both. The difference between the two was smaller than most people realized.
She saw his helmet lying on the ground and picked it up. It was heavier than it looked and she wondered how he wore it every day. After turning it over and around she put it on her head.
In the faint glow of the magic flashlight she saw David look up at her and smile.
“It looks good on you,” he said.
She felt herself smile.
“Maybe I can join the army. I could be an officer and charge in on my warhorse with my saber pointing the way.”
“Wrong century, Gretch.”
“I know, but sometimes the old ways are more interesting.”
She lay back down next to him, using the padded helmet as a pillow. It was surprisingly comfortable that way.
“I used to sleep like that,” he said. “I had many days like this, nothing by my pack, helmet, gun and a hard floor as a home.
She turned over on her side to get a good look at him. He was on his side looking back at her.
“I’m sorry you were dragged into this,” she said.
“No, I’m sorry. I think Nylarthotep’s gunning for me and you guys got caught up in the cross fire.”
“I think my magic attracts unwanted attention. I don’t know why you two tolerate my presence. I know I’m a freak.”
He didn’t say anything. He only looked at her with those kind eyes of his. She couldn’t take his gaze any longer and looked away. She didn’t know what he saw when he looked at her. Did he see a pariah that would never fit into society? Did he pity her?
David was everything about the world that she wanted. He was normal, smart, funny and warm. She didn’t deserve him as a friend.
Then she felt his hand on her shoulder. She turned back and saw that he was leaning up on his elbow looking down at her.
Still he didn’t say a word.
“Yes?” She managed to get out with a shaky voice. Just his near proximity was making her feel strange all over.
Then he cleared his throat and backed off a little.
“Gretchen, you’re an amazing person. I’ve never met anyone as strange, unique and interesting as you. I’m honored to have you as a friend.”
She felt herself smiling again and she gathered the courage to look him in the eye.
“You mean that?” She asked.
“May I hold your hand?” She asked before she could stop herself.
He smiled and his warm, calloused hand slipped over hers. She hadn’t expected him to want to hold her monstrous hand, but he hadn’t hesitated.
She wanted to reach up and stroke his cheek and run her fingers through his hair.
Then David leaned in and kissed her lightly on the lips. It was a small, light peck but it stopped her breathing and every muscle in her body tensed. It wasn’t tense out of defense or fear, but of anticipation and nervousness.
He opened his eyes and looked into hers. All power of speech left her and she didn’t know what to say or do.
Fortunately, he did.
He kissed her again and this time he didn’t break away. Hesitantly she brought her hand up and put in to his cheek. She had never dared touch him like this. It felt perfect.
She had never experienced anything as wonderful as this kiss. It was warm, soft and tingled every nerve ending she had. She had no idea that her lips could feel so much sensation at once.
Gretchen ventured to kiss back and soon she found herself in a kind of natural and rolling rhythm with the kissing. It was almost like a game but the goal was to let the other player in instead of keeping them away.
He was now on top of her and his weight felt reassuring and pleasant. One of his hands went down and rested on her hip and the other held the back of her head. His touch felt like electricity.
She ran her hand through his hair and he responded by kissing her harder. That felt even better and she returned his kiss even more, but this time she found herself lightly biting his lower lip.
When he began kissing her neck she took the opportunity to speak.
“I don’t know how you can even stand looking at me like this,” she whispered.
“That’s not the real you.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I know the real Gretchen and she doesn’t look like this.”
“So…you don’t mind?”
“It’s an illusion; nothing more.”
“Then you think my real form is pretty?”
“I haven’t been able to take my eyes off you since that first day I saw you in class.”
She had had no idea. She assumed that he had thought little of her at first like everyone else did. Outsiders seemed almost repulsed by her at high school. Now she questioned it and wondered why.
“One of us should stay up and guard in case those mummies show up again,” he said between kisses on her neck and ear. She particularly liked the ear kisses. As much as she liked it, she wanted the full thing again and she grabbed his chin and moved him back to her mouth.
This time his whole body moved with the rhythm and she found her body following in the same way.
Her arms wrapped around his neck and her legs wrapped around his waist. It was strange and she didn’t understand it, but she found her body wanting to do certain things. She had seen others do similar things during the orgies back home at the reef and never thought she’d want to do them.
“Hey! Keep it down you two! I try to sleep here,” Sayako said.
Gretchen quickly broke off and scampered to her own space and David did likewise.
“Sorry,” David said.
“Shut up,” Sayako said.
She sat there, going over everything that had just happened and trying to figure it all out. She looked over at David and saw the giant grin on his face and couldn’t contain her own.
“That was amazing,” she whispered.
She was breathing heavily like she had just swam a couple of laps.
One thing was certain: she wanted to do it again.
She had never been kissed before and found that she liked doing it more than anything else, even more than swimming.
Despite having never done it before, she had found it natural and self explanatory.
She could still feel his lips on her as she went to sleep.
In the morning they shared grinning looks and continued on down the impossibly long hall.
As they got closer she could feel the vibrations in the air grow stronger. They were almost there.
An hour later they came to a pair of doors with carvings of strange gods all over it. Some of them resembled the alchemical illustrations from Dr. Nelson’s presentation. In the middle was Yog Soggoth, the Gibbering Mad God. On the bottom left was one that had bat wings, claws and an octopus head: Cthulhu.
David tested the door but it was locked. Simple solution. She easily did her “open” spell and the door swung open.
What greeted them was an enormous room as big as an Olympic stadium with four giant statues in each corner that looked as though the were holding the ceiling up. In the middle of the room was a pyramid as big as the outside pyramid only this one had a staircase going up the front.
At the top of the pyramid was a throne with a tall back. It was too far away to get a clear view, but someone was sitting on the throne. Someone with black hair and pale skin.
David pulled out his binoculars and looked at the sitting figure.
“I think it’s her,” he said.
“Of course its her,” a voice said. It sounded like Dr. Nelson but she couldn’t tell where it was coming from.
“Dr. Nelson?” David asked.
“Yes and no. I was once known by that name,” the voice said. “Have you come to harm my goddess, the Queen of the crossroads, the Dark Goddess of the Moon?”
She didn’t like where this was going so she began to prepare the “messenger” spell to inform Nylarthotep of Hecate’s location.
“I will not let you harm my goddess!” Dr. Nelson roared in a voice that didn’t sound quite human.
Then something stepped out from behind one of the four colossi. If it had ever been a man it wasn’t obvious and its appearance distracted her for a moment from her spell.
The thing that was once Dr. Nelson was massive. It was easily twenty feet tall with four long, spindly legs ending in three clawed toes. Tentacles sprouted out from all over its bulbous body and they whipped around as if furious of their own existence. A long neck rose out from the center and at the end was an elongated head, almost like a skinned horse, but with twisted, asymmetrical horns and crooked, dagger teeth.
“What the…” Beth said.
“Guys, I no like this,” Sayako said, slowly backing away.
“I can smell your fear,” Dr. Nelson said.
“What did she do to you?” David asked.
“She gave me power to serve her.”
David snapped his machine to his shoulder and let loose a burst. The muzzle flash illuminated the space around him. The bullets hit Dr. Nelson to no visible effect.
“Not good,” David said.
Gretchen drew three connecting circles on the ground with her finger and said the final words of the spell. She felt the energy leave her body and shoot away. It was done. She had done what Nylarthotep had wanted. Of course, that guaranteed nothing.
The Dr. Nelson creature roared and began charging at them in an awkward, lopsided gait. David fired another long burst then shouted for them to go back into the hall. The thing was too big to go into the hall but somehow that wasn’t terribly comforting.
Suddenly the monster stopped short. She looked back to see what caused it to stop.
Standing in front of it was a tall figure dressed all in red. Its arms were folded and it appeared as though it were looking down at the ground. Nylarthotep had come.
The figure on the throne stood up and began walking down the stairs. She could see Hecate’s pale legs through the slits in the sides of her dress and she descended.
“Be gone from this place,” Hecate said.
“I came to find out why you left my hospitality,” Nylarthotep said.
“This is my place of power, not yours.”
“A place of power like a child hiding in his crib.”
“You know nothing,” Hecate said.
“I know more than you’ll ever be able to and it’s so far above you that you don’t see then end so you call it nothing.”
Hecate came to the floor and Gretchen got a good look at her. She was beautiful. Her eyes were the blackest things she had ever seen. Her hair trailed on the floor behind her and her transparent black dress seemed to move under an unseen wind. She could feel the magic pouring off of this goddess.
Then the red god turned back toward them.
“You have done all that I have asked and you shall have my reward,” Nylarthotep said and began walking toward them. As he approached she felt more than saw a faceless man in jeans and well worn cowboy boots. She saw a pharaoh with coal black skin and fiery eyes. She saw thousands of forms all stacked on top of each other like a grotesque funhouse mirror.
It had only been an instant but time moved differently here. Sometimes if was stronger than at other times. The moon had something to do with it.
“I’ll return you back home, buckle in my little boyscouts,” the cowboy boots wearing Nylarthotep said in a thick southern accent.
Then the undead lich Nylarthotep in black robes and a staff topped with the skull of a saint raised his hand and there was a painful flash of light.
Suddenly Gretchen found herself back in her bed. She struggled with the sheets that had become tangled up in her limbs and looked at the clock: Three in the morning.
Her mind instantly went to David and Beth. Had they awakened as she had or had Nylarthotep deceived her?
She didn’t have a phone like they did so she flipped her laptop open and got on Facebook. She quickly sent off a message to David and Beth and within moments she got back replies from both of them.
They were safe and had just woken up. They asked if it was over and she assured them that they were back to their proper reality and that she didn’t sense anything out of the ordinary.
Gretchen walked to the bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror. She was back to normal, well, at least human looking. Her familiar gray eyes looked back at her and her hands no longer were webbed and clawed.
Since she was already nude she stepped into the tub and took a very long shower. She could still feel the sand from the desert all over her.
After the shower she wrapped a towel around her head and grabbed a can of soda from her mini fridge: another “necessity” that Beth had informed her she needed. Beth had been correct.
She lay down on top of her covers and stared up at the ceiling, imagining the unfamiliar stars and the giant yellow moon of the dream world.
Had all that really happened or was the definition of “reality” subjective? She knew there were other planes or existence and that sometimes the different planes could be bridged. After all, the Old Ones existed in a place that was neither here nor there. Could a space exist free of time or were they inseparable?
So many questions filled her mind that she couldn’t sleep.
But then one thought emerged and rose up over all others and her hand went to touch her lips.
Even now she could still feel the sensation of David’s lips.
She wanted more of it.
But how much could she expect from David and how much should she even ask for? She knew none of the rules and feared she’d get in trouble if she didn’t go about this in a normal way.
So she messaged Beth, “need advice.”
“About what?” Beth messaged back.
“What are the rules for normal relationships and physical intimacy?”
“Who calls it that?”
“Just call it what it is. Making out, the horizontal mambo, knocking boots.”
“Why you asking?” Beth asked.
She didn’t know what to tell Beth. Was a kiss something that was supposed to be a secret or was it free for everyone to know? She knew so little of the rules that she decided she had to know something.
“Me and David kissed. I don’t know what to do now.”
It was a full minute before Beth responded.
“Did you want him to kiss you?”
“I guess you two can kiss how ever much you want now. That door’s open.”
“So it wouldn’t be bad to ask for another kiss?”
“Not at all.”
Gretchen opened the chat window to David.
“I can’t sleep. Would you like to come over to my dorm and kiss me some more? I enjoyed it very much.”
The answer came back in less than a second. She wondered how he typed so fast.
“Hell yes!” Was his response.
She couldn’t help but smile.
“You’re coming over then?”
But she got no answer and she wondered if he was already out the door.
Then she realized that she was nude except for a towel around her head so she changed into one of her knee length skirts and Flyleaf T-shirt.
Less than a minute after she finished dressing there was a knock at the door. She opened it to find David there with his hands in his navy jacket pockets and a slight grin on his face.
“So, you enjoyed it, huh?” He said.
She motioned for him to enter and she closed the door behind him.
“I did, very much,” she said. “But what does it mean?”
“I didn’t kiss you just to have fun.”
“But, does that mean we’re boyfriend and girlfriend?”
“What do you think?”
She paused for a moment and folded her arms as she thought.
“I would like it to be so.”
“Then let’s make it official. Please be my girlfriend.”
“See? That was easy.”
He took off his coat and tossed it over a chair. He was wearing a shoulder holster for his broom handled Mauser she had given him. He looked quiet dashing and a little dangerous.
Now that their relationship was defined she found that she still had no clue what to do. What did boyfriend and girlfriend do?
“What happened now?” She asked.
“I thought you invited me over for something.”
“Oh, well, I did. But how…?”
He walked over to her and brushed her check with his hand. Then he cupped her face with both hands and kissed her. They kissed for a long while and somehow ended up on the bed.
At breakfast Beth informed her that she had gotten to “Second Base,” though the definition eluded her.