David’s Argonian character shot the orc in the back with triple damage from a sneak attack. He loved it when a fight ended before it started.
His watch said he had a half hour until class so he turned off his game of Skyrim and got his backpack ready to go. Since he played too long – easy to do with Skyrim – he had to get something on the way.
David was still eating his chorizo and egg burrito when he walked into class. He sat down and took out his laptop to take notes. His handwriting was too horrible to read and he was faster with typing.
As students began poring in he kept expecting Gretchen to come in at any moment. But all too soon class started and Gretchen’s usual seat was empty.
She didn’t have a phone so he couldn’t text her, so he waited till the end of class and went to her apartment. He could skip the next class and get the notes from someone.
It was a girl’s dorm building but guys were allowed in. It was still strange to walk through a hallway full of women. With his male dominated family and then the military he hadn’t had a lot of time to be around women. And he had to admit that playing D&D didn’t help him win any girlfriends in high school.
He knocked on Gretchen’s door but there was no answer.
“Gretch? You in there?” He called out.
He tested the door. It opened. She probably wasn’t used to locking her doors. Who would steal from the High Priest’s house, right?
The lights were off but he could see her sleeping form in the bed. Still asleep? Maybe she was sick.
He walked over and shook her shoulder.
“Hey, wake up sleepy head,” he said.
But she didn’t wake up.
The expression on her face looked troubled and her knotted brows would twitch. She was having a bad dream.
He shook her again and yelled for her to wake up but she didn’t. Finally he got some cold water from her bathroom and pored it on her.
She bolted upright and coughed as she looked around the room with wide, frightened eyes. Her sheets were tangled up all over her with only her head and feet visible.
“Where am I?” She asked in a quivering voice.
“Your dorm room.”
“So, it’s real?”
She began patting the bed and looking around the room as if she had never seen it before.
“You okay Gretch?”
She looked up at him with wet hair clinging to her face.
“Speak. Let me know you’re real and not another phantom to torment me.”
“What the hell are you talking about? Yes, I’m real. You didn’t show up for class this morning so I came over to find out what’s wrong.”
He began texting Beth to come over ASAP.
“I don’t know… I think it was a dream,” Gretchen said.
“A rough one, by the look of it.”
She reached up with a bare arm and wiped the hair off her face. That was when he noticed that she had nothing on underneath those sheets. He saw her bare shoulder and neck and that was enough for him.
He stood up and faced away from her.
“I’ll…um…I’ll be out in the hall until you're dressed.”
“Dressed? Oh, dear. Yes. Perhaps it would be best to give me a moment.”
He hurried out into the hall and checked his messages. One Facebook message from mom and a text from Beth saying she’d be right over.
A few minutes later Beth showed up and threw her hands in the air with a “WTF” expression.
“She’s changing. She was having a bad dream she couldn’t wake up from.”
“What kind of bad dream?”
“I’ll go in.”
“Yeah, just let me know when she’s dressed.”
He stood out in the hall for a good ten minutes before Beth opened the door again and let him in.
When he came back in he found Gretchen wearing a black and red pleated skirt and a “Flyleaf” hoodie. Her hair was dried but hanging down around her in a messy way.
“You feeling better?” He asked.
“What happened?” Beth asked.
“I was trapped. It wasn’t a normal dream,” Gretchen said.
“Trapped by something on the outside?” He asked.
“I don’t know.”
He had had weird dreams all night but nothing out of the ordinary. Strange how the quickly “messed up” became “ordinary.”
“I need to perform a spell of protection in case that it was an outside force,” Gretchen said.
“Well, it was definitely something!” Beth said. “You’ve been asleep for over fifteen hours.”
“That short a time? It felt much longer,” Gretchen said.
David went to her window and looked out across campus. Everything looked normal but just a few days ago another reality had tried to invade and merge into this one. And none of those people out there even suspected something was wrong.
There was a great deal wrong in this world.
And Gretchen just took it all in stride like this sort of thing happened every day. What kind of twisted childhood did she have? When she said that she had witnessed human sacrifices, he didn't know what to say. He knew she was trying to be a normal and good person, but was that even possible with a childhood that twisted?
He only listened as Gretchen said the words of the spell. It was a language he didn’t recognize and didn’t sound like any he had ever heard.
When Gretchen finished her incantation she stood up and began pacing around the room.
“What’s up?” He asked.
“I felt as if there was indeed an outside force pulling on my dreams,” she said.
“And what does that mean?” Beth asked.
“It means that something is affecting my dreams and it’s not natural,” Gretchen said.
“What is it?” He asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Not even a guess?”
“In case you were wondering, this sort of thing doesn’t happen to me on a daily basis,” Gretchen said.
“Actually, I was wondering that.”
“Just because my eyes are open it doesn’t mean that I see everything.”
“Fair enough but if it happens again we need to put an end to it,” he said.
He turned away from the window and saw that Gretchen was sitting with her legs folded one over the other. Her skirt allowed a glimpse of her thighs and he couldn’t help but wonder what view he had missed under her sheets.
She slept in the nude? He wouldn’t have guessed that.
David suddenly wanted to volunteer to stay the night with her and watch her…for protection.
Gretchen walked over to her table and flipped her laptop open.
“I’m going to check last night’s date with any known planetary alignments, lunar activity or days of power. Miskatonic University is built on the nexus of several lay lines which contributes to the unusual manifestations that abound here.”
“Where do you come up with this stuff?” Beth asked.
“You should open your eyes. You’ll see more,” Gretch said.
“I’m not sure I’d like what I see,” he said.
She glanced over at him.
“Not everything is bad,” Gretch said.
Beth stood up and walked to the door.
“I’ll leave you two to figure it out. I got to get my butt to class. Don’t forget play practice tonight!”
And Beth was gone.
He walked over and sat down next to Gretchen.
“What did you see in your dreams?” He asked.
“The underwater city?”
“Not this time. I saw Cthulhu rising from the ocean. I saw the world end.”
“This wasn’t a vision, right?”
“I think something must have been strengthening my dream world.”
She didn’t answer his question and just kept looking stuff up on her computer.
“There was a full moon last night,” she said.
“That makes a difference?”
“Ley lines, full moon and dreams. What does that point us to?” He asked.
“Any number of things, I’m afraid.”
She looked over to him and cocked her head to the side.
“Why did you come to my room?” She asked.
“You weren’t in class.”
“So you were concerned?”
“Well, I thought it was unusual.”
She quickly looked away and back to the computer.
“I’m glad you came,” she said.
After a long, awkward silence he spoke up again.
“I don’t think either of us are in shape to go to class. Want to go chill at my place until play practice?”
“I would like that very much,” she said.
He walked her across campus to his apartment and let her in. She sat down on her usual spot on his bed and kicked her feet out in front of her.
“What should we do today?” She asked.
“You’re the patient. What do you want to do?”
And then he realized that maybe he should have chosen a more public place because looking at her like that on his bed and all he wanted to do was make out with her.
“We can watch a movie and then we can go shopping for a gun,” she said.
“You sure you can afford it?”
She gave him a confused look.
“I thought you said a firearm was only a few hundred dollars.”
“Money’s not a problem.”
He chose a movie that had no romance in it whatsoever. Tropic Thunder. After the first few comments on how she didn’t find the character’s reactions at all believable he had to explain that it was a comedy and after that she seemed to get it.
When it got to a part where the movie talked about porno flicks steering the industry to DVD’s Gretchen sat up.
“Oh, I watched some of those the other night,” Gretchen said.
“You watched what?”
“Movies with people having sex. I found them on the internet. It was all a jumbled mess of confusion.”
“Why were you…never mind.”
“I didn’t understand much of it. There was one part where – “
“Hey! Let’s go gun shopping.”
“Really? Very well.”
He had to get out of there.
He practically shoved her out of the door and hurried to his car. They got in and he drove into town to the gun store he had visited before.
Inside was a small but varied mix of military surplus bolt actions, hunting rifles, shotguns, black rifles of all kinds (not just AR15’s) and a pretty good selection of handguns.
Gretchen bent over in a particularly girly way with her hands between her knees as she looked at the case that contained the hand guns.
“I like this one,” she said, pointing through the glass.
She pointed to a Norinco reproduction of a broomhandled Mauser. It was a handgun the Germans used in the First World War. Not exactly the most up to date technology.
“You’ll have a hard time concealing that one,” he said.
“But it’s pretty.”
“It does have style. Undeniably. But let’s try something made in the past hundred years. Hell, if I had the money I’d get it in a heartbeat, but you need something more practical.”
She frowned but continued to scan the case.
It was a shame. With anyone else that had the money, he’d tell them to buy it in a second. Those things couldn’t be imported and were rarer than Bigfoot. His grandfather had brought one back from WWII but had to sell it to pay for hospital bills after being diagnosed with cancer. David had grown up hearing stories about that Mauser.
Shame. It was a nice firearm and a great piece of history.
It came down to the CZ or PX4 in 9mm. In the end the Beretta won over the CZ because the slide was too small for Gretchen to grip properly.
“I will get that one but first I want to look at the rifles.”
“Never hurts to window shop.”
“No, I want to buy a rifle as well.”
The shopkeeper’s eyebrows raised but he maintained his professional manner. David walked her over to the racks of rifles behind the counter.
“What rifle you get will depend on what you want to do with it,” he said.
“I want to shoot people and bad things that come after me.”
He looked around to make sure nobody heard that.
“What’s the biggest gun they have?” She asked.
“What exactly are you expecting to shoot?”
“I liked your AK, David, but I’m afraid it’s too small for some of the nastier things out there.”
“Gretch, you’re not the biggest person out there. You need a gun you can handle.”
“You said I could handle most anything with the right training.”
“Yeah, but strength comes into it too.”
She ended up buying the Beretta 9mm, a Saiga 12 gauge which was just an AK shotgun, and the Broomhandled Mauser for some reason.
The money she was laying down without blinking an eye was insane. What kind of small, armpit town had that much money?
Once they were outside he loaded the case the Saiga and Beretta came in into the back of his Magnum along with the bag of ammo. The Mauser didn’t have a case and she carried that in her hand. The faded yellow tag still hung from the handle.
She had a small but firm smile that was mostly in the eyes.
“Now we just need to get you trained up on these,” he said as he started the car and pulled out.
“On two of them at least,” she said. Then she held the Mauser out with both hands. “I got this one for you. I saw how you kept looking at it.”
He almost swerved off the road.
“Are you sure? That’s very expensive.”
“You buy me dinner all the time. Besides, it’s not every day I have a friend I can give gifts too.”
“Thank you,” was all he could thing of to say. He had always wanted one to replace his grandfather’s.
He took it and felt the familiar weight in his hand. Just the feel held memories of grandfather’s stories.
“Thank you very much,” he said.
“You’re very welcome. Oh, they only had four boxes of ammo for it. He said that the guy who sold it to them sold them the ammo too. It’s hard to find apparently.”
He turned the car around and headed to the shooting range. There was no way he could do homework or watch movies when he had this to shoot.
They spent the rest of the afternoon getting Gretchen familiar with her new weapons. He really hoped she’d never have to use them for the purposes she imagined. David also took time to shoot one box of ammo. He had to savor it until he ordered more of the rare ammo on-line somewhere.
Yeah, it was a Chinese reproduction, but he didn’t care. It was real enough.
Also, it meant not being alone with Gretchen in his room all day.