Gretchen loved the feel of the Saiga kicking against her shoulder. If she leaned into it, it wouldn’t push her backwards. She loved the smell of the gunpowder and feel of warm metal in her hands.
David didn’t act like the men in the movies. Those men would have tried to seduce her upon finding themselves alone with her.
She wished he would have tried to seduce her. She would have surrendered without much of a fight. The thought of it all made her nervous though. She had never done anything like that and it all felt so…personal.
Eventually they packed up and went to find Beth in the cafeteria. They told her everything that had transpired during the afternoon. After dinner was play practice which she was not looking forward to. She didn’t like the play and she didn’t like being in the play. Everyone kept insisting that it would be “fun,” but she had yet to see anything amusing about standing in front of many people and pretending to be someone else.
The whole thing was ridiculous.
Fortunately they just did another read through but with a bit more acting this time.
After play practice she went back to her room to do homework. Beth promised to come check on her in the morning.
She took a quick shower, brushed her teeth and began drawing protective wards around her bed with chalk. If something was deliberately coming after her then the wards would hold them off.
Then she removed all her clothes and climbed into bed. She hated having anything on while sleeping. It felt so much better this way.
She curled up and let the warm, soft feel of her bed envelope her.
That night she dreamed of the sunken corpse city but it was the usual disturbance from sleeping Cthulhu and not the overpowering dreams of the previous night.
But then sometime in the middle of the night her wards glowed to life. The red light woke her up and she immediately became aware of a pressure in her mind. It wasn’t a physical kind, but something else entirely.
Whatever it was came in waves. It was faint but it was definitely there.
The east side of the ward lit up first with each wave. It came from the east then.
She ran to her bathroom sink and filled it with water. Once filled she took out her knife and cut her hand a little and let a few drops fall into the water. Once that was stirred in she chanted the spell and began scrying for the source of the pulse.
Gretchen concentrated on it and let her mind follow the path. It almost felt like she was floating above the world like a spirit. Her view began to descend and soon she saw that she was looking down on the Miskatonic campus.
Her spirit eye floated down and over the library. She swam to the window and passed through without pause. The main room held nothing and no one. The lights were dark.
But she knew where to go already. She knew there was only one source of something this powerful: the Forbidden Collection.
Suddenly she felt someone’s awareness fall on her. It felt like being caught in a floodlight and a press at the same time. The presence knew she was there and she could feel its hatred. A wall of unseen energy struck her and sent her crashing back into her mortal body.
Gretchen fell backwards to the floor and sat there for a long time. Whoever it was had to be human. No dark god or creature she knew of would have left her intact.
There was only one human she knew of that had interest in the library and dark knowledge.
And he was fooling with something that had to do with dreams.
In the morning Beth stopped by to check on her and they went to the cafeteria for breakfast. The TV’s were showing CNN but it was useless today, only sports and politics. She never could see how people considered those sorts of things important. Squabbling over a ball or squabbling over a law that in the long run will make no difference seemed equally pointless.
“I thought about becoming a politician when I was young,” Beth said.
“It was silly.”
“I wanted to become president so I could end the war and keep my dad’s home. I still want to do that, just not through politics.”
“You were afraid you couldn’t become a politician?”
“No, I grew afraid I would become one.”
Beth was too honest for politics.
“No one in my town voted,” Gretchen said. “My father used to say that worrying about the outside world was like worrying about a log before it went into the fire.”
“Your town sounds like such a wonderful place.”
She kept her ears tuned to the TV but nothing out of place was mentioned, just politicians accusing each other of being out of touch with the common man. Didn’t they realize that they both were? Ridiculous.
“Beth, do you have a boyfriend?”
“You know me this well and don’t know that?”
“I don’t know what someone does with a boyfriend. I thought that perhaps you talked to him on the phone when we weren’t around or wrote him letters.”
“Letters? Gretch…no. I don’t have any boyfriends. If I did I wouldn’t be watching movies or playing X-Box with you guys on Friday night.”
“I see. Is there someone you want to make your boyfriend?”
“Why the twenty questions? No, I don’t have a boyfriend and I’m not close to getting one at the moment.”
“I see. I was just curious. But you have kissed a boy before.”
“Yeah I’ve done a lot more than that,” she said after taking a bite of her omelet.
“You mean a sixty nine?”
Beth almost chocked on her food and couldn’t respond until her fits of chocking ended.
“Where did you hear that?” Beth asked.
“Oh my word, Gretch. Is that what you’re using your computer for?”
“I use it for many things.”
“Don’t watch that garbage. It’ll give you weird ideas. Next thing you know you’ll be watching Japanese tentacle porn.”
“Real tentacles? Do they know about the Deep Ones as well?”
“Um…no. Gretch, just promise me not to go looking at that crap.”
“Very well. I was only researching.”
“It’s not important.”
“You’re holding out on me, Gretch.”
“It’s time to get to class.”
She stood up and picked up her tray. Beth just laughed as she walked away. Though Gretchen didn’t understand it all, she knew she was saying things Beth considered embarrassing and thus, humorous. Humor at her expense.
Swimming almost always cleared her mind. As she did her practice laps she let herself forget about Dr. Nelson and the powerful dreams she had.
The other girls in the locker room were talking about a party they had attended the past weekend. Most of what they talked about was inane gossip about who liked who or who was having sex with who. None of it interested her until one girl mentioned something that caught her ear.
“I swear I saw it,” the redhead girl said.
“You were on Ex or something.”
“No, nothing like that. The moon was purple and there was a white tree on the commons.”
“Okay. Someone slipped you a rufie and you were seeing all kinds of shit while you were out of it.”
“I was wide awake, Lisa. There was mist everywhere and…”
“Jen here didn’t know that little colored things weren’t tic-tacs!”
The other girls laughed and Jen dropped the subject.
Why had this girl glimpsed the Other World? Perhaps she was sensitive or had experienced something paranormal that left a wound.
What was most troubling was that if one had seen it, then perhaps others had seen it as well.
After swim class she had a free hour so she went to the library. In their Restricted Section she gained access to an occult book about dreams and dream quests. The one name that kept popping up over and over again was “Nylarthotep.”
She couldn’t tell David. Any mention of the Crawling Chaos’s involvement in any of this would have him diving in without a second thought. She couldn’t allow that.
Outsiders, normal people, considered lying wrong, but wouldn’t allowing him to put himself in danger be worse?
No, she couldn’t tell him. At least not yet.
Then Dr. Nelson came into the library. He had a large briefcase and a satchel, the kind David liked to call a “man purse.”
Dr. Nelson’s eyes fell on her and for a moment he stood there, staring at her. Then he began to walk over to her. She closed the book so the cover was face down.
“You were at my lecture the other night,” Dr. Nelson said with a smile she knew to be false.
“I was. It was very interesting.”
“I’m sure you got a little more out of it than most people.”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, come now. The last name of Marsh is quite well known in some circles.”
She crossed her arms and wondered how much he really knew. Some people knew and some people only thought they knew.
When he saw that she wasn’t responding he continued.
“If my genealogy record is accurate, then you must be Gretchen Marsh, the oldest surviving child.”
“Didn’t your father tell you? Then perhaps it isn’t my business.”
“Please tell me what you know.”
“Very polite for a Marsh family member. No, I couldn’t. It’s not my place.”
She knew he brought it up on purpose and it could be a lie. He was playing games with her.
Gretchen didn’t like to play games.
“Dr. Nelson, are you tampering with dreams?”
“But you retain the Marsh’s bluntness and lack of subtlety.”
“If you are then you’re tampering in very dangerous territory.”
“I’m not a novice, Ms. Marsh. I know exactly what I’m doing. I’ll finish my business and be out of here before any unwanted attention sets their gaze upon this place.”
“What is your business?”
He then began walking away but then stopped.
“Oh, and one more thing, Ms. Marsh. Please don’t try to spy on me again. It’s very rude.”
She watched him walk away and use a key to let himself into the Forbidden Section.
Gretchen quickly got on a computer and sent Facebook messages to David and Beth. She knew their super phones could get Facebook somehow. She told them to meet her in the library and that Dr. Nelson was planning something dangerous.
Beth was the first to arrive followed by David ten minutes later. She told them everything she knew (minus the possible connection to Nylarthotep) and asked their advice.
“We follow him,” David said.
“How? I can’t use my magic and he seems to be able to find me,” Gretchen said.
“He doesn’t know me,” David said.
“The guy’s a creeper. Probably has an unmarked van he uses to cruise playgrounds,” Beth said.
“I don’t get it, but that’s not important,” Gretchen said. “If he continues to meddle with dreams I and other people may be in danger.”
“Or he’s harmless,” David said. He didn’t sound very convinced of that himself.
“Then we find out,” Gretchen said.
David sighed and scratched his chin.
“Alright. I’ll follow him around and see what he’s up to. Beth, stay with Gretch because you have a phone. If I see something I’ll call you and report.”
“Sounds good,” Beth said.
“No, I have a better idea,” Gretchen said.
Gretchen waited until midnight and then went to the library. She made sure she wasn’t seen. Once in the library she used her spell to open the Forbidden Section and went inside. Nothing looked out of place.
Since she couldn’t scry the professor she would have to step out of time.
Gretchen sat down on the floor, took out a piece of chalk and began drawing symbols around her. The symbols would gather and focus energy that she wouldn’t have been able to handle by herself. It was time consuming and took energy out of her.
At least she had some life force to spare since consuming that drunk football player.
If something came to interrupt her she had a Beretta in her coat pocket.
As the spell came together the glyphs and runes she had drawn began to glow. She continued to chant until she felt the grip of time loosen.
She stood up and stepped out of the circle she had drawn and was now outside of time. Time flowed around her like a river but she could move in whichever direction she chose.
She chose to go back to the night of the horrible dream. The past’s events rushed by her in a mad stream until she stopped at that night. Her astral form walked around as if in her own body but could not affect anything she saw.
But she also couldn’t be seen.
For someone who wanted to become normal and not use dark powers, she used them quite often.
As she guessed, she saw Dr. Nelson standing over a table with copies of the Necronomicon, Book of Eibon and the Unaussprechlichen Kulten. He had his laptop open and was writing things down at a furious pace. He’d often stop to take pictures of an image from one of the pages and then continue on.
Each one of those books was something to be feared and avoided and he was playing with all three. Did he not know that if he didn’t concentrate he could be driven mad? Perhaps he was already mad so did not care?
She walked over behind his shoulder and looked to see what he was writing. Everything on his screen was forming some kind of spell, but it was a spell far more complicated than anything she had ever tried before.
One name kept appearing on his page that wasn’t in the trilogy of horrible books: the name “Hecate.”
Hecate was the name of the Greek goddess of dark magic. She had other, un-holier names.
Another phrase kept appearing: resurrection.
She knew the story. When Nylarthotep began to take interest in this world, he cast all the weaker, earth gods into a dark prison. It appeared that this man wished to release one of those ancient intelligences from its prison, probably for the reward of power of some kind.
Those ancient gods of the earth were powerful by mortal standards but Mother Hydra was more so, let alone Dread Cthulhu. The man was risking the attention of terrible enemies.
Then Gretchen went forward in time to that evening when Dr. Nelson went back into the Forbidden Section.
This time he only stayed an hour or two. He finished writing his spell which had something to do with dreams and then put everything back and left. He didn’t leave any clues as to his whereabouts.
Then she came back to her present time and allowed time to flow as normal. But Gretchen looked and saw that the river of time flowed forward and created eddies and pools. If she was careful she could look forward and find out what the future might have in store.
But the ancient books were filled with tales of sorcerers trying to grasp the future. It seldom ended well and she wasn’t half the witch she needed to be to attempt such a feat.
She let the moment pass and didn’t try to see the flow of the future. Instead she went back to her own body and the world came back to normal.
Now all she had to do was find out where Dr. Nelson was going to perform this most dangerous spell.