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.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Chapter 22



Gretchen


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. 
He nodded. 
“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. 
“Likewise.” 
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.”
Nylarthotep laughed. 
“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?”
“I do.” 
“Just call it what it is. Making out, the horizontal mambo, knocking boots.”
“I’m serious.”
“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?”
“Yes.”
“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.” 
“Yes.” 
“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. 
  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Chapter 21



David


David checked out the temple with the binoculars that the dream world had been thoughtful enough to pack for him.  Whatever god this temple was dedicated to, he wanted nothing to do with.  The road that led to the gate of the temple was lined with statues of people, each one posed in a unique and horrible form of torture.  One had his limbs splayed out with rope going off into nothing and another had a barbed cage around his head.  And those were the nice ones. 
The step-pyramid temple was surrounded by a wall and a single, thin tower rose from the top.  Judging by the sand covering the road and crawling almost halfway up the wall in places he guessed that this place wasn’t used very often.  

There was only one way in or out. 
“What do you guys think?”  He asked, looking back to the others as they crawled up to the edge of the dune where he lay. 
He thought back to his choices that led him to be surrounded by three monster women in a dream-world desert hunting a dark goddess. 
Gretchen squinted at the temple and took another drink from her canteen.  At first it had been a little disturbing to see Gretchen looking like some kind of shark-woman.  But he quickly realized that it was just an illusion and the real Gretchen was in there.
They hadn’t really spoken much, but she always slept next to him now.  He knew what he felt about it, but he had no idea what a girl like her thought about it.  Some times she gave the impression of being from some isolated Amish town and sometimes she gave the impression that there was no sin she hadn’t seen first hand.  
“I was told that they wouldn’t see us coming,” Gretchen said.
“Told by who?”  David asked. 
Gretchen looked down into the sand. 
“Gretchen?  Who told you?  Who sent us here?”
She turned her head away from him as she answered.
“Nylarthotep,” she said. 
Several things rushed through his mind at once but only one question surfaced. 
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I was worried.”
“About what?”
“That you’d be upset and do something irrational.”
Okay, he was upset.  He didn’t believe that this dark god entering his life again was any kind of coincidence. 
“Is this about me?”  He asked. 
“I don’t know.”
“What exactly did he tell you?”
“He told us to find Hecate.”
“And?”
“Somehow we have to report to him where she is.”
“How?”
“He didn’t say.” 
Beth crawled up to them.
“So, we just find them and tell this Nylar guy, right?”  Beth said. 
“I believe so,” Gretchen said.
He looked back at the temple.  No guards so getting in wouldn’t be a problem.  Still….
“It can’t be this easy,” he said. 
“I can go in and look around.”
Then Sayako spoke up.
“Wait.  Temple not safe,” Sayako said. 
“Why isn’t the temple safe?”  David asked. 
“Um…I no know word in English.  Bad things.” 
“That’s specific,” Beth said.
“What kind of bad things?”  David asked.
“Monsters, but that not right word,” Sayako said. 
Beth sighed and rolled over on her back. 
“For once I’d like things to be simple,” Beth said. 
“I sense something else,” Gretchen said.
“What?”
“Don’t know.  Strong magic of some sort.  I can feel it like background noise,” Gretchen said.
On the horizon was a smear of dark clouds that had been growing rapidly for the past fifteen minutes.  He didn’t like the looks of it.
“Let’s go then.  Stay alert and keep your eyes open.  Scan to the sides and don’t forget to look up and down,” David said. 
He hefted his SAW and began walking down the dune to the stone temple.  The others followed behind. 
They walked down the nearly covered road to the front gate.  The wooden doors had rotted off long ago and the place was wide open. 
Suddenly Gretchen’s hand came up to his chest and stopped him in mid step.
“Don’t move,” Gretchen said.  “There’s a barrier.”
Gretchen reached in her pocket and pulled out a handkerchief.  She was the only one he knew that still carried a handkerchief.  She tossed the cloth ahead of them. 
The cloth burst into black fire and vanished. 
“A destruction ward.  I’ve never seen one so powerful,” Gretchen said.
“What the hell was that?”  Beth asked. 
“A barrier that destroys everything that comes into contact with it,” Gretchen said.
“There’s a shut off button, right?”  David asked. 
“Not from our side, but I can see if I can create an opening,” Gretchen said.  “This won’t be easy.”
Gretchen closed her eyes and raised her arms.  For several minutes she stood like that, not moving. 
Then he saw sand begin to stir around her in a faint vortex, like a dust devil. He noted her brow begin to crease from concentration.  

David looked up and saw the black clouds looked much closer.  Too close if he was being honest. 
“Sand storm is coming,” Sayako said. 
“How long until it gets here?”  David asked.
“A few minutes,” Sayako said.
“Is that bad?”  Beth asked.
“Sand storms can blast skin off bones,” Sayako said. 
“Wait, that storm can kill us?”  Beth asked, pointing at the approaching wall of dark sand. 
“Yes,” Sayako said. 
Even the ghost girl was starting to look nervous. 
“What happens if we’re killed in the dream world?”  Beth asked.
“Then you die.  You no wake up,” Sayako said. 
“How long’s this going to take, Gretchen?”  David asked. 
“Few minutes,” Gretchen said. 
The sand around Gretchen was turning from a dust devil into a giant vortex around her.  He could no longer look at her because sand was flying all over and hitting him like a sand blaster. 
He could also feel the wind picking up from the approaching storm.  The door to the temple was a good hundred yards away.    
“Fish lady?  Please hurry,” Sayako said. 
The storm now filled up the entire sky behind the temple and it was growing higher by the second.  The wind began pushing at him and the sand was hurting his face. 
The wall of death was almost to the temple. 
“Got it!”  Gretchen shouted out to be heard over the wind. 
Without pause he grabbed her hand and began running. 
They ran through the gate and towards the doors of the temple.  It was becoming harder to run, let alone move forward.  

“Hurry!”  Beth shouted out. 
Beth turned incorporeal and suddenly the wind and sand didn’t bother her.  She ran ahead of them, unhindered by the storm and began opening one of the stone doors.    
They burst through the doors and into the cold, dark hall of the temple.  A few seconds later the sand storm roared past the doors in a wall of flying, microscopic blades. 
He was breathing hard and he sat down.  Carrying a machine gun, body armor and backpack slowed a guy down. 
Gretchen sat down next to him, also trying to catch her breath.  She looked over to him and wordlessly gave him a ‘thumbs up.’ 
“We made it,” Sayako said. 
“Couldn’t you just turn into a ghost?”  Beth asked. 
“I ghost in real world.  Not here,” Sayako said. 
Once he could breath again he took out a cloth and his gun oil.  He opened up the action of the machinegun, wiped the sand out and re-oiled it.  He wasn’t going to be caught with a weapon that couldn’t fire because it was jammed with dirt.  No, sir.
He slammed the top of the SAW back down over the ammo belt and stood up.  He took out his flashlight and turned it on. 
“We ready?”  He asked. 
The three girls nodded and they continued walking down the long, doorless hallway.  No one spoke.  They moved slowly and quietly. 
Then he heard something.  It sounded like a moan or a cry of some kind. 
Everyone stopped in place.  They all listened for a good minute.  He looked around and saw that everyone was wide eyed. Gretch had her mouth open showing her sharp teeth and Sayako looked more like she was grimacing. 
After a while he waved them forward and they continued on.  On the outside the temple looked no bigger than a large house, but it was at least two miles before they came to an intersection.  It was a four-way with each hall going off into the dark.  The illumination from his flashlight only penetrated so far. 
“Which way?”  He asked. 
“Does it matter which way?  Either way is a guess,” Beth said. 
“I say we continue on forward,” Gretchen said. 
He was about to respond when they heard the groan again.  This time it sounded much closer.  They all fell silent and he moved the butt of the machinegun up to his shoulder. 
Then there was another moan followed by a different sounding moan, an angrier moan; from the left.  This was answered by more moans from the other directions. 
He could hear shuffling feet now, coming from all directions except behind them. 
Beth pulled out her Beretta and Gretchen’s hands began to glow.  Sayako moved to the wall and climbed up it like she was a spider.  She hung there on the side and watched.  

Normally he’d be surprised and maybe disturbed by this, but with everything happening lately he just shrugged and went back to watching the halls.  
A shape emerged from the darkness.  It was man shaped and walked with a limp and stooped over.  It looked thin and weak.  It’s shuffling gait grew louder with each step and the smell of dust and mildew grew stronger as well. 
Despite its weak movement, a feeling of dread and foreboding filled his mind that the thing brought with it like smoke from a fire.   
Then it came fully into the light. 
A mummy.  It was wrapped in filthy gray wrappings and was covered in gold that was so thick and wide that he didn’t know if it was heavy jewelry or light armor.  On its head it wore a small crown with wavy spiked that went straight up. 
More of the mummy things came into view; each one covered in unique gold apparel.  Their black, vacant eye sockets stared at them and their lipless mouths hung open. 
“Fire!”  David shouted. 
He raised his SAW and opened up.  The recoil of the full auto weapon kicking up helped him hold the heavy machin gun on target. 
His bullets ripped into the first mummy shredding dry skin and linen wrappings.  The thing took a dozen hits all over its torso, arms and head and fell back in a smoking heap.
Beth took careful aimed shots at the shuffling mummies’ heads.  He saw her blow one mummy’s skull open and another shot blew the bottom jaw off another mummy. 
Gretchen launched a ball of blue fire at another mummy and engulfed it completely.  The mummy thrashed around until crumpling on the ground in a smoking ruin.  
There were dozens of them coming from the three directions.  One of them got close to Beth.  She turned ghosty before it could grab her.  She was safe but couldn’t fight back. 
What he thought at first to be black rope shot out and grabbed a mummy by the neck and arms.  He looked over and saw that it was Sayako’s hair.  It was shooting out and grabbing three other mummies like a spider.  They struggled but the Japanese ghost girl was stronger than she looked. 
Then one of the mummies in the rear raised a staff and said something in a foul sounding language.  A light flashed out that blinded him for a few seconds.  As he cleared his vision he saw the mummy he had blasted push itself off the ground and begin to get back up.  Other destroyed mummies also began getting up. 
“We need a plan, B,” David said.   
“We must keep going or they will overwhelm us,” Gretchen said.
“Forward?”  David asked.
She nodded. 
“Everyone cover your ears!”  He yelled out. 
From one of his pouches he pulled out a frag grenade.  He thumbed off the safety, pulled the pin and let it fly towards the hall in front of them.  The grenade hit the ground and rolled under the feet of the mummy with the staff.  He had just enough time to cover his ears and look away before it went off. 
Even with his ears covered the powerful concussion in the narrow halls felt like a hammer to the head.  He felt the blast pound his internal organs and smash against his bones. 
When he looked up he saw that the middle path was clear of mummies but filled with smoke.
“Run!”  He shouted. 
He helped Gretchen back to her feet and pulled her along.  She was still reeling from the blast.  Beth must have been ghosty because she didn’t seem affected in the slightest.  Sayako jumped down to the floor and ran after them, letting the mummies go from her hair. 
They ran as fast as they could and continued to run until he had to stop and take a break.  He took off his helmet and held it down to his side as he wiped his forehead. 
“If Hecate didn’t know we were here, I’d imagine she does now,” Beth said. 
“Doesn’t matter,” Gretchen said. 
“Care to share?”
“As soon as we see her, I’ll call out to Nylarthotep using a spell.” 
“And pray that it works?”  David asked.
“And pray that it works.  If it doesn’t she may flay us alive,” Gretchen said. 
“Coulda done without that image,” Beth said. 
“Se we see her, send up a flair and hope the boat sees us before the tidal wave gets us,” David said. 
He didn’t know how long this temple was, they walked for hours until they finally stopped and made camp. 
“My flashlight’s dying,” he said. 
“I can fix that,” Gretchen said. 
She took his flashlight, held it with both hands and concentrated.  When she gave it back, the whole thing was glowing in a strong, pale blue light. 
“Neat trick,” he said. 
He gave everyone ponchos, spare clothes and blankets to use as pillows on the hard floor. 
From his backpack he pulled out his last three MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) and began splitting them up among the four of them.  He got the beef stew course and crackers with JalapeƱo cheese.  Gretchen like the peaches and skittles and Beth liked the Cheese Tortellini. Sayako had the ‘stir fry’ MRE which she ate with gusto despite it being disgusting.
“We’ll get there tomorrow,” Gretchen said. 
“Yeah?”  Beth asked. 
“I can feel her power.  We’re much closer.”
As the ate he noticed that they all looked kinda downcast.  They needed a boost in their moral. 
“Hey, Beth, want to make a bet?”  He asked.
One of her black spots for eyes grew bigger. 
“A bet?”
“I bet you can’t eat four of these crackers without taking a drink of water,” he said. 
She eyed her packet of crackers.
 
“No problem.  What we betting?”
“The winner gets to pick the movies for a week.”
“Your on.” 
He handed her his crackers, which he was positive he’d see again.  He’d only seen three people pass the cracker challenge. 
“You have five minutes,” he said. 
“Ready.” 
“Go!”
She began eating the first cracker.  She ate quickly but not even halfway through she began slowing down.  By the time she finished the first cracker she was chewing slowly and swallowing even slower. 
Hesitantly she took the second cracker and began biting into it. 
Halfway through that cracker her cheeks were full like a squirrel’s and she was barely making any progress.  It looked as if she were eating sawdust. 
Gretchen began snickering and Sayako covered her mouth to avoid laughing. 
Beth finally finished the second cracker with only a minute to go. 
“One minute left,” he said. 
Her shoulders slumped and she tossed the other two crackers back at him. 
“Screw you,” she said. 
She pretended to be angry, but by the tone of her voice, he could tell she was laughing on the inside. 


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Chapter 20





Gretchen

The ship pulled into a small port in a dusty town with crumbling buildings and leaning towers.  A few tattered stalls lined the harbor and with disheveled looking merchants.  The palm trees looked withered and devoid of color, much like the people she saw walking around.  All the buildings were the same, grayish-tan color, devoid of life and cheer.

This city had either seen better days a very long time ago or had never had good days. 
It reminded her of her home in Innsmouth.  It had the same decrepit, run down, dark feel to it.  Despite the dry air, the atmosphere felt oily. The ship was just pulling up to the docks and already she wanted to leave this city. 
“This isn’t a good place,” she said. 
“What gave you the idea?”  David asked as he pointed to the docks. 
The ship next to them was unloading a cargo of naked people with chains around their necks. 
“If those pirates had captured us, we’d be in chains,” Gretchen said.  “Only the pirates would take us to…they’d take us to their god for sacrifice.”
She almost said “Nylarthotep.”  She’d have to tell David about him before they arrived, but she wanted to make sure that they would arrive first. 
Once the ship docked they walked out onto the wooden pier that barely looked as if it could hold their weight. 
“They don’t spend a lot for upkeep,” Beth said. 
“Where to now?”  Gretchen asked. 
“I thought you were our guide,” Beth said.
“I don’t know this place.  I don’t know where to begin.”
She didn’t know this place.  She didn’t even know the name of the city.
“I think I do,” David said.
“You do?”  Beth asked.
He pointed to a three story building that was crawling with drunken sailors.  It was within sight of the docks.  It had square windows with crumbling wooden shutters and the roof had a small wooden shack looking structure.

“We go there and ask if anyone seen Dr. Nelson and Hecate,” David said. 
“Oh.  That does make sense,” Gretchen said. 
“Make sure that thing’s off safe,” David said to Beth. 
After the fight with the pirates he had given her his holster with the Beretta.  Gretchen didn’t need a gun: she had her magic which was much stronger here than in the real world. 
Even with that, she didn’t like the idea of going into that filthy place.  There would be brigands and cutthroats in there.  She wanted nothing to do with their kind. 
But David led the way.  They walked up to the building as a very fat man with a woman in each arm stumbled out of the doorway.  He stunk of body odor and worse things that she didn’t recognize and didn’t want to. 
David went in first followed by Beth.  Gretchen gladly brought up the rear. 
Inside was dark and crowded.  The thick, square tables were too close for comfort so they had to push and squeeze their way to an empty one.  It seemed everyone was looking at them.  Broken clay cups lay scattered about the floor and rows of animal skulls hung from rope along the edges of the ceiling.  Posters with laws hung on the wall near the door.  She had the impression that the laws were largely ignored.
The most noticeable aspect of this unsavory tavern was a large pit taking up the far end of the room.  It had wooden sides and was too deep to see how far it went down.
A waitress that was past her prime but dressed as if she wasn’t came up to them.  She was showing a bare midriff and had almost every part of her face pierced.   
“What do you want?  Order, eat, then get out,” she said. 
This place definitely reminded her of Innsmouth. 
“We’ll have whatever they’re having,” David said, pointing to a table where a plate full of unrecognizable meat was.  “Also, we’re looking for friends of ours.  One’s a middle age, pale man with a beard and the other is a tall woman with black hair and eyes blacker than night.” 

“Haven’t seen them,” the woman said with a sneer and walked off. 
“That didn’t work out,” Beth said.  Her black, shadowy eyes looked around the tavern and then she slumped her shoulders.      
“We just have to find someone that can answer us,” David said. “We need to take our time and find the right person.  Look around for someone we could beat up but looks greedy enough to take a bribe.”
A few minutes later everyone in the tavern began to wander over to the pit in the rear of the room.  The people crowded around the pit and began cheering. 
“What’s going on there?”  Beth asked. 
“Dog fighting?”  David said. 
They got up and walked over to see down into the pit.  They had to climb on a table like others were doing. 
Inside the pit were four creatures that resembled human corpses with skinned canine heads and a fifth one that looked like a human corpse with impossibly long black hair.  It was wearing a ragged dress that may have been white at one time. 
“What the hell are those?”  Beth asked.
“Ghouls.  Well, four of them are.  I don’t know what the fifth one is,” Gretchen said. 
The creatures looked to be fighting over a pig leg.  The ghouls were tearing away at each other with their claws and the dead creature with long black hair was pulling others away with her hands. 
“They’re watching the ghouls to see which ones they should place bets on,” David said.  
Gretchen didn't want to know how he knew such a horrid thing.
One by one the crowd drifted away until they were the only ones still at the pit.  She had never seen a ghoul before and found them more revolting in person than in a book’s description.  They smelled horrible, like meatloaf and fish left outside in the sun. 
Then the undead creature with long hair looked up at them.  It had a human face and was female.  Her skin was white with gray and green patches of what could be mold or some other kind of corruption.  The female’s eyes were gray and lifeless and her teeth were yellow.  She looked Japanese.
The undead female pointed up at them with a stretched out hand.  

“You travelers, yes?”  The woman said with a thick Japanese accent. 
“We are,” David said. 
“You can see me.  You see I no ghoul.”
“Yeah, we see you’re not a ghoul,” David said.
“They see you as a ghoul?”  Gretchen asked. 
“They do.  They no see that I traveler like you.  Not like you, but like you.”
“You’re a dreamer?”  Gretchen asked.    
“I am.”
Gretchen leaned in and put her hand to David’s ear.
“We have to help her,” Gretchen whispered.
He nodded. 
David leaned over the pit. 
“We’re looking for other travelers.  One is a pale man with a beard,” David said.
“And the other is woman with long black hair, like mine,” the undead woman said. 
One of the ghouls looked up from its pig leg feast and snarled at them. 
“Leave us alone to eat in peace,” the ghoul said. 
“Eloquent for a monster,” Beth mumbled.  
“Fight is tonight.  Cage is behind tavern.  Help me and I help you find woman,” the undead woman said. 
“You have a deal,” David said. 
They walked back to their table and ate the meat, which after tasting, she still couldn’t identify and wasn’t sure anymore if she wanted to know. 
After they ate they waited for the ghouls to be prodded back through the doors in the pit.  Presumably there were tunnels that led to their cages.     
They walked outside and walked two blocks and turned a corner out of sight of the smelly tavern.  David then turned around to face her and Beth. 
“Beth, can you go around back and tell us what you see?”  David asked.
“Sure, no prob.”
Beth then turned nearly invisible, more like a faint shadow, even the gun on her thigh. 
“I’ll be back in a jiffy,” Beth said.
“Be careful,” Gretchen said.
Beth nodded and ran off.  They peeked around the corner to watch her.  She was hard to track and only appeared as a faint blur and soon they couldn’t see her at all.  
“She’s useful to have around,” David said. 
They waited only for a few minutes before Beth came running back up to them.  She turned visible again once she reached them and rested her hands on her knees as she caught her breath. 
“The pens are behind the tavern in a courtyard.  No rear doors,” Beth said.
“How high is the wall?” David asked.
“Maybe nine feet.”
“We can’t wait until dark.  The match is after dark,” Gretchen said. 
“Any guards?”  David asked. 
There was a man in a little shack.  He had a bunch of keys,” Beth said.
David turned to Gretchen. 
“Gretch, can you put him to sleep quietly?”
“Yes, but I have to see him.”
“I’ll make noise on one side of the wall and you climb over the other side and do your thing,” David said. 
They walked down the narrow, dusty road to the wall behind the tavern.  There were no doors or footholds to help climb up so David had to hoist her up and have Beth go and make the distraction. 
Beth went to the far side and phased through the wall.  Then Gretchen heard what sounded like wood being banged together.  That was her cue.  David lifted her foot up and she climbed up onto the wall.  Her claws dug into the soft brick and she scanned the area for the jailer.  

She saw a filthy man with a hairy back and leather apron walking toward the sound the semi-invisible Beth was making.
Gretchen reached out with her hand and said the words of the spell. 
The man instantly crumpled to the ground.  She had never seen the spell work that fast before.  She looked like a fish monster, but her magic was amazing.
“He’s asleep,” Gretchen said.
She reached down and helped him up.  It was surprisingly easier than she would have thought.  Perhaps she was stronger here as well. 
“Stay up here and I’ll go get the zombie chick.”
She watched from the wall as David ran over to the cage that housed the Japanese Travler girl.  The cage was metal and had a simple lock.  David grabbed the keys from the sleeping man and opened the cage. 
The other ghouls began growling and snapping their canine teeth.
“Arigato,” the girl said. 
David grabbed the girl’s gray arm and pulled her to the wall. 
“I’ll help you up,” David said.
“No need.”
The girl leapt up and grabbed the wall like a spider and climbed up without any problem.
“Am I the only one without super powers?”  David asked.
“Your super power is a machinegun,” Beth said as she walked up behind him. 
Gretchen helped David up and Beth just walked through the wall. 
Once on the other side they began running.  They ran all the way to the edge of town.   A small alleyway provided a hiding spot and they ducked into it. 
“Now what?”  Beth asked.
“Where’s the black haired woman?”  David asked.
“She went west, into desert.  Go find temple of Anar-Tanar,” the undead girl said.
“Where is this temple?”
“I been there, many years ago.  I can take you there.” 
David looked over to her and Beth.  Gretchen nodded. 
“Can you take us there?” David asked.
“Okay!” The girl said.
“What’s your name?”
“Sayako.”
She gave a small, polite bow. 
Up close there was no way to confuse this girl as something that was alive.  Only there was something different about her.  Gretchen couldn’t tell what it was, but something felt different.
She used a truth spell that showed things how they really were.  When she waved her hand over Sayako, the girl didn’t change at all. 
“You’re dead,” Gretchen said.
Sayako made a slight smile. 
“Yes, I died in 1978,” Sayako said.
“I thought you said you were a Traveler like us,” David said.
“I am traveler, but I said I not traveler like you.  Back in real world, I dead.  At night I wake up and go do things.  During day I sleep and I come here.”
“We’re asleep in the real world.  I guess it’s daytime in Japan,” Beth said.
“You’re a ghost,” Beth said.
Sayako nodded and smiled, showing her yellow teeth. 
“How far is this temple?”  David asked.
“Two days, unless dream change.  Then maybe more or less.”
“We better start before they come looking for us,” David said. 
They agreed and headed out into the desert.  They trudged through the sand and continued on in silence.  Soon the city was out of sight. 
Already Gretchen didn’t like the sun beating down on her.  It was entirely too hot. 
They marched all day until the sun began to go down.  She kept drinking from her canteen and wished they cold find a pool or a stream.  

Before it got too dark they laid out their blankets and sat in a circle. 
“Think they’re following us?”  Beth asked.
“Maybe,” Sayako said. 
“Reassuring,” Beth said. 
“What’s it like being a ghost?”  David asked.
“Right now it is like being you.  When night, I walk around.  I watch people.  I sometimes get people attention.”
“How’d you die?”  Beth asked.
“Beth!  Mind your manners,” Gretchen said.
“What?”
“It okay,” Sayako said.  “I was kill.” 
“Killed?  How horrible,” Gretchen said.
“Father murdered me.” 
“Was he punished?”  Beth asked.
“He kill himself after he kill me.”
“I’m sorry,” David said.
“I have many years to be okay with it.  But now I have new friends!”  Sayako said.   
At night Gretchen had trouble sleeping.  She stayed away watching for slavers and also watching their new guide.  The strange undead girl’s chest didn’t move when she slept.  She lay there like a corpse.  Trafficking with ghosts could not be a good thing.