As Gretchen sobbed on the grass in front of her apartment she heard footsteps approaching. She looked up and through tear clouded eyes she saw a girl approach. She was bundled up head to toe but Gretchen recognized those black orbs for eyes.
It was her little sister, Hannah.
“What are you doing here?” Gretchen asked.
She wiped her nose and tried to regain control of herself.
“I’m going about my father’s business.”
“You shouldn’t be here.”
“I was ordered to come. Its time you came home,” Hannah said.
Gretchen stood up and brushed her knees off.
“I can’t go. I have too much work to do.”
“Well, it isn’t your boyfriend keeping you here anymore. I made sure of that.”
Gretchen paused and looked at Hannah. Even though she wore a scarf covering her face, she could tell Hannah was smiling. It was that cheerless predatory smile of a shark.
“What did you do, Hannah?”
“Nothing much. Just put a simple enchantment on that gentleman to make him attack you. I also put a little spell on lover boy so he’d believe me when I told him you were killing people.”
Blue energy surrounded Gretchen’s hands as her rage built up. Nyrulth’s Lighting came to her bidding without being asked. The spell fed off of anger.
“Oh! Hit a sore spot, did I?” Hannah said.
“I should kill you right here.”
“Go ahead and try. You’ll just humiliate yourself and you’ll still end up coming home with me.”
“I’m never going home.”
“Father said you might say that.”
Gretchen stretched out her hands and sent the blue lightening striking out at Hannah.
Hannah casually raised one hand and the lightening burst on an invisible shield.
“That all you got?” Hannah asked.
“I’m older. I know more than you.”
“But I studied more, at least the things that mattered. Father taught me things he’d never teach you. You’re soft and weak. Always have been.”
Gretchen let loose a bolt of Dark Fire. The ball of black fire streaked toward Hannah but she batted it away like it was a tennis ball.
Then Hanna reached out with one hand and Gretchen was suddenly gripped in the most searing pain she had ever felt. She collapsed to the ground and pain wracked her body like someone was sticking hot, rusty barbs inside her guts.
“Now, will you come like a good little girl or shall I continue showing you father’s lessons? Actually, I’m enjoying this. I’ll keep you like that for a while.”
Hannah now stood over her with her hand raised in an unfamiliar gesture. Her black eyes gleamed with the cruel joy of the sadistic.
“David, is it? He must be a good kisser if he had you crying in the grass like that. Perhaps I can go see for myself after I’m done. I could enjoy his pleasures more than you could. I’d watch his skin be peeled from his body as I had my way with him.”
“Screw you,” Gretchen managed to say between clinched teeth. The pain made thinking and speech almost impossible.
“That wasn’t very nice.”
An old, rusty van from the 70’s pulled up and the back doors opened. Two men she recognized as some of father’s men jumped out and picked her up. The pain spell still paralyzed her with agony and there wasn’t a thing she could do to resist.
They tossed her in the back of the van and before she knew it the doors were closed and the van was driving off.
The pain ended but her body still shook from the memory.
Hannah peered back at her from the front passenger seat. She removed her scarf and tossed it on the dashboard.
“I thought you’d be more difficult, sis,” Hannah said.
Her gun was in her purse back on the grass. She should have gotten a concealable holster like David had. Hannah wouldn’t be smiling with a bullet between her eyes.
“David thinks you’re a psycho killer. There’s no reason to go back,” Hannah said.
Gretchen curled her knees up to her chin and sat there as the van bounced its way down the road to the highway.
She had to get out of this. She didn’t want to go home.
But why was this even happening? There were no important rituals scheduled.
“Why bring me back?” Gretchen asked.
Hannah’s black eyes widened as her shark mouth grew into a genuine smile.
“Ah! Yes, you don’t know. I’ll call it a surprise party.”
They were silent for a long time. The fishy henchmen sat there, dumb and unblinking.
“You know, I don’t really see what you saw in that place. How could you stomach all those ignorant outsiders?” Hannah asked.
“They don’t stink of fish.”
“But you do. Maybe you forgot that, but you do. Just as much as I do.”
“I had to eat their weird food. It was better than public school cafeteria food, but it still tasted of vomit. Bad food, bad company and useless learning. Did any of your professors have an idea what the real world is? Did any of them suspect the fate that will befall the world when the Old Ones return?”
Hannah threw her hands up sighed.
“We’re the freaks, not them.”
“Yes, we are. You including. It’s time you remembered where you belong. I don’t see why father allowed you to leave. I would have locked you in the attic before I let you leave.”
“Why are you so sadistic? Is something broken in your mind?”
“I see the world for what it really is. The strong rule over the weak. Those people are all mindless fish, ready to be drawn into a net of our making.”
“Of your making. I’ll have no part in it.”
“If you say so.”
Hannah turned back around to face the front.
Neither of them said anything more for the rest of the trip.
Around midnight the van pulled up in front of the Marsh mansion. The back opened up and father stood there with two more of his men.
He was hunched over with a cane and his back and arms were more massive than she remembered. His changes were coming faster. That meant his time to return to the sea was growing near.
He wore a dark suit that was obviously sewn together just for him and his changing shape. His hands were webbed and clawed and he had no hair on his head. His jaw was square and powerful and by all accounts he had been a handsome man in his youth.
His distorted face with its downturned mouth and black, unblinking eyes faced her. Only hints of his former good looks were left.
“Daughter. You are needed here. We have much work to do.”
He waved off the guards that were about to drag her out of the van and waved for her to follow him.
She crawled out of the noisy van and followed father and Hannah into the mansion and took seats in the parlor.
The mansion seemed even uglier than she remembered. The carpet was nearly black with stains and holes showed the rotten wood beneath. Any civilized place would have had this mansion condemned years ago.
But Innsmouth wasn’t a civilized place.
“I need to ask you questions, Gretchen. I need you to answer them truthfully,” father said.
Gretchen merely nodded.
“During your time there, did you have sexual relations with anyone?”
Her thoughts instantly turned to David. He had touched her but they had not done anything that could produce a child.
“Really? I watched you for days. I thought for sure you were screwing,” Hannah said.
“We weren’t,” Gretchen snapped.
Father held up his hand to silence Hannah.
“Did you divulge the secret of Dagon and Mother Hydra?”
Actually she had told David all about the cult of Innsmouth and how dangerous it was.
“Have you come into contact with any being that would be in conflict with Dagon and Mother Hydra?”
“Hastur and Nylarthotep.”
“Yes. Why ask.”
“Then you must be cleansed before we can begin.”
Father stood up and began walking out of the room. Hannah sighed of boredom and followed him out.
“Gretchen, go up to your room and don’t try to leave. There are worse dangers out there than my loyal men,” father said before leaving her view completely.
With that, she was left to ponder her fate.
There was nothing to do but go up to her room and try to think of a way out of this. She had to escape. After seeing the goodness of David and Beth she knew how vile her people really were.
David. She wished he was here.
Damn Hannah. She had spelled him to fall for her lies. But those spells were effective and he would believe them. In his eyes she was a horrible murderer. Could that ever be fixed or was her chance at happiness forever ruined?
Her old room was just as she had left it. Spartan, decaying and lifeless. The bed had dust on it and a leak of the roof had formed a puddle on the floor.
She walked over to the window to look out over the ocean. There was no moon so all that greeted her was a vast nothingness.
Down on the lawn she saw one of father’s men walking around with a rifle. Thanks to David she recognized it as an AK-47.
They were keeping her here. If she tried to escape she’d either have to face those armed men or her little sister.
How had she become so powerful in such a short time? It was also possible that she had been more powerful for a long time. She had always suspected that they were keeping things from her and it had never bothered her before. She hadn’t wanted to know what they were doing in secret. But her lack of knowledge was a severe problem.
She stripped down and crawled under the thick sheets. The bed felt like stone compared to her bed back in the dorm. A smelly, dusty stone.
Gretchen wondered what David was doing. Would he worry about where she went or would he be glad to be rid of a murderous witch? Maybe he cursed the day he met her and realized what a folly it had been to make her a friend.
She awoke to a cold, gray morning. The house didn’t have heating so she searched her closet for one of her old coats. She put that on and put the hood up. Then she went downstairs and found one of the servants, a large woman with eyes that were too far apart and too small, stoking the fire in the parlor.
“Is my father about?” She asked.
“Yes, man,” the woman croaked and went back to tending the fire.
“Where is he?”
The woman pointed with a webbed hand at towards the dinning room. Gretchen took a deep breath to steel her courage and walked into the dinning room. Father, her step mother and Hannah were all sitting down to breakfast, a mushy porridge she despised.
“Have a seat,” her step mother said.
She was tall, but with a neck that was too long and a face that was too narrow and long. She had on her Thursday wig. She didn’t have any natural hair. Her eyebrows were poorly painted on but she always thought she looked perfect. She looked grotesque.
“Are you missing David dearest?” Hannah asked.
She ignored her sister’s taunting and took a seat on the far end of the table from the others.
Another servant, a fishy looking woman with somewhat blueish skin came in with a bowl of gruel for her.
She ignored the bowl of slop in front of her.
“What do you want with me?” Gretchen asked.
“Please eat, you must be famished,” Father said.
“I don’t recall any important ceremonies. Why was I pulled away?”
“There’s a special situation we need your help with. It requires both you and your sister,” Father said.
He was looking at a newspaper while eating. He hated the outside world so she always wondered why he bothered reading their papers.
“What kind of situation?”
“A one in a century opportunity. We need you both and by the end, one of you will be High Priestess.”
“Where will you be?” Gretchen asked.
“I’ll return to the sea.”
“Hannah would make a better High Priestess. Let her do it and leave me be. I wish to return to school.”
“You can’t. After the ceremony then you may return. But for now, I need you here. This is too important.”
“Why won’t you tell me what it is?”
Her father continued reading the paper in silence while her step mother looked her usual bored self and Hanna covered her mouth to restrain a giggle.
She didn’t like the way things were going. They always hid things from her, but they usually made an effort to hide the fact they were hiding things. Now they were shoving it in her face.
Something had changed.
After the uneaten breakfast she went to the library for something to do. If father was telling the truth then all she had to do was this one ceremony and then she’d be able to go back home.
But she didn’t believe it was as simple as that.
She got an old grimoire from the early colonization of North America to take it up to her room to begin studying.
As she headed to her room she passed by father’s study. She heard him talking to Hannah, but the hushed whispers in their voices made her pause and reconsider. She leaned flat against the wall near the door and listened.
“She’s a dolt. She doesn’t know anything,” Hannah said.
“I’ve warned you about that,” father said.
“Assuming everyone around you is an idiot.”
“In this case it’s true. She doesn’t even realize the significance of the date. She has no clue.”
“Then don’t say anything to lead her to suspect. She believes she’ll be going back to that filthy university when we’re done with her.”
“Can I keep her skull?”
“Of course you can. I never could say ‘no’ to you even if I wanted.”
Gretchen’s chest constricted and she suddenly fount it hard to breathe. She slunk away from the door and hurried back up to her room and locked the door.
They were planning on killing her. She paced around the room, tried sitting and paced some more. What was she supposed to do? David would know.
David, where are you?”