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.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Chapter 30

Gretchen heard the gunshots through the searing pain and looked up.  She recognized David instantly.  Beth and Sayako were behind him and he was charging up the platform towards her. 
Impossible.  How did he find her?  This had to be a cruel vision forced on her by dark magic. 
David leveled his AK-47 at Hannah and her father. 
“Don’t move.  Magic can’t stop a bullet,” David said.  He looked down at her.  “Release her.”
“You won’t make it out of here alive,” Hannah said.
“You can’t finish your ceremony if you’re dead.”
He put the muzzle of the gun right up to Hannah’s face.  Hannah didn’t flinch and only continued to glare at him with her black eyes.  Hannah always had a lack of fear that came from her own arrogance.
“Do it,” father said.
“But, father, if we let her go the ceremony’s…”
“Just do it.”
Hannah let out a snarl and took a gold key out of her robe.  She unlocked the manacles around Gretchen’s wrists and ankles.  

As soon as she was free Gretchen jumped and wrapped her arms around him.  She made sure to embrace him from the side so she didn’t interfere with his ability to shoot.
He had come for her.  Against all hope David came for her. He did love her.  She didn’t know why anyone would love a freak like her, but he did.  All her worries disappeared.  She wasn’t scared because she knew he’d protect her.
“We’re leaving.  Don’t follow us,” David said. 
Sayako ran up onto the platform carrying one of those guns with the enormous drums. 
“We good?”  Sayako asked.
“Yeah, we’re good,” David said.
“Then we go now.”
“I have to agree,” Beth said.
Beth came up onto the platform still pointing her pistol at the crowd below. 
“Follow me,” David said.
As a group they began moving back toward the entrance to the house. 
There was so much she wanted to say to him but now wasn’t the time.  When they reached safety then she’d tell him. 
He led her by the hand through the tunnel and up into the house.  The house that was never her home but now was terrifying.  Despised and ignored was normal, but for them to try to kill her still seemed impossible.  All this time they left her alone and let her go to school because they knew they’d kill her. 
As they go to the front door of the house she stopped and held him back.
“What?  We have to go,” he said.
“No, wait.  I have to get something.  Follow me.”
She ran up stairs to her father’s room.  She was never allowed here but she had snuck in a few times.
In father’s closet was a chest, one of many.  She went to the closet and threw the chest’s lid open.  Inside was filled with the greenish gold, the gold given to them by Dagon in exchange for their servitude.
“That explains why you never ask for prices,” he said. 
She didn’t have time to wonder what he meant.
“Grab that side.”
Together they lifted the trunk, barely managing to pick it up.  They left the house and David pointed to one of the trucks nearby.  The keys were still in it.  After all, who would dare steal from the Marshes?
The threw the trunk in the bed and Sayako and Beth climbed in the back. David jumped in the front seat and she took the passenger side that Beth always called “shotgun” for some reason. 
Then the sound of mad, piping music came from the house. 
David heard it to because he turned his head as he started the truck. 
“What was that?”  He asked.
“Just drive.”
If it was what she thought it was then they had to flee as fast as the could. 
“David, please hurry.”
He must have seen something of her fear.
“What’s wrong?”  He asked.
“Get us out of here now.”
He shifted into drive and the truck lurched forward.  She kept looking but no armed guard came out to stop them.  That added to her worry. 
As they reached the end of the driveway where the gravel turned onto the main road they heard a crashing sound of wood being splintered. 
She turned to see the font of the house exploding in a shower of broken wood.  Something giant, oily and black pored out of the house.  

“Drive faster, David.  Drive as fast as you can,” she said.
“What is it?”
“A shoggoth.”
She had seen a shoggoth once before and knew it was unstoppable. 
The giant mass of living tissue raced down the hill toward them.  It was a shapless mass of darkness with almost recognizable parts appearing and disappearing constantly along its surface.  For a moment she could make out a mouth filled with teeth or an eye with red pupils.  Sometimes tentacles or claws would appear to pull itself along and be absorbed back into it a few seconds later.
It was fast.
“Go!” Beth shouted from the rear. 
David accelerated, pushing her back into her seat with a jolt.  The tires squealed and kicked up gravel before hitting the cracked pavement of the road. 
The shoggoth burst onto the road behind them.  Thick tentacles and protuberances came out of its body to help it change direction.  It knew its prey and wasn’t going to give up.   The thing took off after them, moving faster than anything that size had a right to.  It was the size of a semi truck and was barreling down the road toward them. 
“What the hell is that thing?”  David asked as he pushed the old truck to its maximum speed. 
She began going through her list of spells but she knew she didn’t have anything that could stop a Shoggoth.  The things were meant to be unstoppable.  The Old Ones had designed them to be as near perfect as possible.  Whatever job they needed to do they’d give themselves the tools to do it.  Right now the Shoggoth needed speed and lethality. 
Dozens of whip-like tentacles shot out to grip the road and pull itself while its own body undulated almost like a snake to push it along.  It was grotesque, frightening and beautiful at the same time. 
It was also powerful.  It knocked trees over without pausing and smashed into a broken down car that had been there for years.  It tore the car to shreds as if it were made of cardboard. 
But it was also gaining on them.  Sayako fired her big gun at the thing to no effect.  She’d need a much bigger gun to even get the shoggoth’s attention. 
Then she remembered that there was a bridge up ahead on this road.  It wasn’t far but if they could take out the bridge they could slow the shoggoth down. 
Gretchen opened up the back window and climbed out into the bed.  David said something about staying in the cab but she didn’t have time to pay attention.  If they were going to get away from this thing she had to do something fast.
She didn’t have any spell that could blow the bridge apart, but she did have one that could age and decay things.  It was slow and weak, but if she could amplify the power then they had a chance.
“Do you have a knife?”  She asked Beth. 
She took out a small pocket knife and handed it to her.  She didn’t ask but the questions were in Beth’s eyes. 
Gretchen sat on the trunk and began reciting the spell.  As she said the spell, the world grew silent around her until all she could hear was the sound of her own chanting.  Even time seemed to slow as the trees crept by instead of flying and the shoggoth’s tentacles reached out in lazy archs instead of like snapping whips. 
As she chanted she took the knife and sliced open her palm.  Her mind was so filled with the magic that she didn’t feel a thing.  She then took her bloody hand and began writing dark runes and glyphs on the bed of the truck. 
Then they were on the bridge.  She reached out her bloody hand towards the bridge and pronounced the last words.  

Reality snapped back into place and suddenly everything was filled with noise.  The noise of the rattling engine, the rhythmic thumping of the tires on the uneven bridge surface and the shattering trees and pavement of the pursuing shoggoth.  The mad piping sounds coming from the gaining shoggoth had grown deafening, its own tuneless music torturing the air around the beast.
It was right behind them.  One of its tentacles lashed out.  It hit the rear gate of the truck.  In an instant the rear gate was gone, leaving nothing but torn metal behind. 
The blood runes began to glow and the bridge began to groan and creak beneath them.  As she looked she saw the red metal of the suspension bridge turn to rust.  It spread like ripples in a pond over the entire surface of the bridge. The concrete started to crack and crumble. 
They were only halfway across the bridge when the shoggoth reached it.  It didn’t hesitate and pored onto the surface of the bridge.  But the bridge held. 
She grabbed the knife and cut her other arm in a diagonal slash.  Blood gushed out and she ignored the pain while she chanted a spell to blast the bridge.  In the back of her mind she was aware that Beth was yelling something to her about what she was doing.  

With the last syllable she threw the blast at the center of the bridge.  A blue ball of energy shot out and exploded on the surface of the bridge creating a violent cloud of dust and debris.  With the added power of her own blood the rusted, crumbling bridge exploded and large sections began to break away and fall into the river below. 
Then the bridge fell apart under the shoggoth’s weight and as the bridge shattered it fell into the river, carrying the black shoggoth down with it.  Like dominoes the bridge collapsed from the center and spread to the shores. 
The cement was cracking beneath their tires when they reached the other side. 
Then everything became blurry and Beth’s voice seemed muffled and far away. 


Gretchen woke up in David’s bed with a terrible headache.  She looked around but no one was there. 
“Hello?”  She called out. 
Her voice sounded weak and dry. 
“Right here chicky girl,” Sayako’s voice said. 
Sayako faded into reality on the foot of her bed. 
“Where is everyone?”
“Go get food.  I on guard.”
Her hand and arm hurt and when she looked down saw that they were bandaged. 
A few minutes later David and Beth came back with bags of fast food and drinks. 
David came over and sat down next to her.
“How you feeling?”  He asked.
“I have a headache.”
“You’re lucky that’s all you have.  You lost a lot of blood.”
“It was all I could think of.”
“You did good, Gretch.”
She reached out and caressed his cheek.  He kissed her hand. 
“That was pretty cool.  You took down a whole bridge,” Beth said. 
“Like a boss,” David said. 
“You came for me.”  Gretchen said.
“Of course we did.  About what I said earlier…”
“My sister witched you.  I know.”
She knew he loved her.  She didn’t know why, but she knew he did.  She reached out and pulled him in.  Her lips connected with his and no matter what else she knew he loved her by the way he kissed her. 
Beth cleared her throat. 
“What now?”  Beth asked.
“We eat and celebrate that we’re still alive,” he said. “No offense, Sayako.”
Sayako shrugged.
“And after that?  Is Grethen’s family going to return for another reunion?” Beth asked.
“It’s possible. The time for the ceremony is over and their chance is missed.  But revenge has always been a Marsh family specialty,” Gretchen said.
“And if they come back?”  Beth asked.
“Then we deal with them,” David said. 
They ate and listened as Gretchen told them about shoggoths and Old Ones.  After that Beth and Sayako left, leaving her alone with David. 
“I’m sorry for being so much trouble,” Gretchen said.
“You are kind of high maintenance.”
“I’m dragging you into danger.”
“You tried to keep me out of it.”
“But I failed and I’m sorry.”
He reached over and took her hand.
“You’re worth it.  More than worth it.  I’d fight Old Ones, Elder Things and whatever else to keep you.”
‘You might have to.”
“And I can do it if you’re beside me.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
He stood up and helped her out of her seat.  Then they kissed.  They held each other for a long time, kissing and being thankful to still be alive.
She knew he’d keep her safe.  Her family wouldn’t let this go and she’d see them again.  There were other horrors out there as well and now that their eyes were open to them, they couldn’t be ignored or passed by. 
Hard times were ahead but as long as she had David and her friends, she knew she could do it.     
 That night, she got to fourth base.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Chapter 29


Dinner was as disgusting as every other meal here.  Poorly cooked fish and boiled potatoes.  Already she missed pizza and hamburgers.  
As the plates were taken away by the servants father turned to her. 
“Are you ready for the ceremony?”  He asked.
“No.  I don’t even know what the ceremony requires of me.”
She knew one thing required of her: death.  She couldn’t go with them.  All day long she had looked for a way to escape but wherever she looked she saw father’s guards watching her.
“You have to do very little.  The appropriate attire is laid out on your bed.  Go change and meet me and your sister down here.”
“Of course, father.”
She excused herself and went up to her bedroom and closed the door. 
The time had already come.  Either she escaped now or they’d drag her to the old caves and kill her.  She didn’t know what this was all about and she didn’t want to know.  She just wanted away from there.
Black robes with gold designs of Deep Ones and Elder Gods lay on her bed.  A white porcelain mask that resembled a serene face lay with the robes.  

She kept hoping David would burst through the door at any moment, but she knew that was impossible.  He wouldn’t know that she had been taken and even if he did he wouldn’t know where to find her. 
She was on her own. 
The knife she had snuck out of dinner was hardly enough, but it was all she had. 
Gretchen went to the window and looked out.  It was night time with a half moon.  Down below was the garden full of dried, half dead plants.  There weren’t any guards visible. 
Now was her chance.  If she didn’t go now she might never have another. 
She quickly unlocked the window and climbed out onto the sloping tiled roof.  Some of the shingles broke under her weight but none slid down and off to the ground to give away her presence. 
There was a lattice covered with dead vines and she made her way on all fours like a crab over to it.  The problem was that there was an overhang.  Slowly she eased a foot down until her foot caught the lattice.  Step by step she lowered herself down until she was on the lattice like a ladder. 
Now the question was whether or not the lattice would support her weight.  She suddenly was glad she was small. 
Somehow she made it down to the ground and hid behind some bushes.  The garden was on a cliff overlooking the sea.  Too far to jump and too rocky.  She’d have to make it past the front of the house and through the town if she was to escape.   
The beam of a flashlight came into view and she froze in place.  A guard with a long bolt action rifle walked by, gazing around at nothing in particular.  He was alert, but only barely so.  

Once he passed she stood up and began making her way to the front of the house, clinging to the walls as she did. 
At the corner she peered around and saw that there were several guards and a pickup truck full of armed men.  She used the term “men” loosely.  Father was on the front porch issuing orders.  Entirely too many to sneak past and she couldn’t stay where she was.  The next patrol would spot her. 
Something was definitely going on.  Other ceremonies didn’t require this degree of security.  Did they consider her that great of a risk?
As she thought about it she saw another roving guard coming through the small gathering and heading her way.  He had a shotgun and a flashlight. 
She hurried back to the bushes and hid.  She tried to remain unseen but wondered how her pounding heart didn’t alert the entire town to her position.
As he came closer an idea occurred to her.  She could dress like him, take his shotgun and perhaps walk out unnoticed.  But her “stun” spell only worked by touch.  She’d have to sneak behind him. 
As he passed by she crept out and approached him. 
She must not have been as “ninja” as David would say because the guard whipped around with his light. 
Stealth ruined, she sprang at him to get her hands on him.
She managed to grab his arm but not before he called out. 
“Fiddlesticks!” She cursed and paralyzed the man with a few dark words. 
She snatched up his shotgun and checked if it was loaded.  It was and she turned around in time to see three guards running around the corner. 
She raised the shotgun and they all dove to the ground.  

They wouldn’t kill her.  Father had probably ordered them to keep her alive for whatever they needed her for. 
Then Hannah came around the corner, clutching her favorite doll in her arms.  She was smiling and showing off her pointed shark teeth. 
“Where you going, sister?”  Hannah asked.
“I’m leaving.”
“No, you’re not.”
“What is this ceremony?”
“You’re about to play the part for which you were raised.  You were born for this moment.  Don’t ruin it for us.”
She pointed the shotgun at Hannah. 
“Don’t make me hurt you,” Gretchen said. 
Hannah shook her head as if disappointed. 
“I told father you were an idiot.”
Hannah raised her hand and suddenly pain, like lighting coursing through her body, struck her and she fell to the ground. 
The pain still tore through her as Hannah walked up and looked down at her. 
“So pathetic.  Like the ancient Bulgar Khan, I will use your skull for a drinking cup.  Maybe I’ll keep the rest of your corpse around and use it for spare parts.” 
What few thoughts got through the wall of pain were all about failure and the impossible hope that David would still rescue her.
Hannah bent down and with her free hand touched her.  Instantly the pain ended but she no longer had control of her body.  She couldn’t move and she fell limp.   
Guards came and dragged her upstairs.  Hannah used a wicked looking knife to cut the clothes off her body and then dressed her in the robe.  Finally Hannah tied the mask on her face and once that was done she whistled sweetly to the guards. 
“Bring her,” Hannah said. 
They carried her down to the basement where the tunnel to the Reef Temple was. 
The Reef Temple was a cave, whether natural or man made no one knew.  Water filled it to their ankles except where a raised platform stood in the middle.  An altar of the strange Deep Ones’ gold sat on top of the coral platform. 
It was to the altar where they dragged her.  They chained her down and father and Hannah stood over her. 
“You were raised for this one and only purpose, daughter.”
“You were never meant to be High Priestess.  That is my destiny,” Hannah said.
Hannah waved her hand, breaking her paralysis spell. 
“What is this?”  Gretchen asked weakly. 
She was terrified.  She had seen what horrible things they were capable of.  She had seen people tortured to insanity for days.  She had seen skin flayed off of living people and she had seen people given over to Deep Ones for unnatural concourse. 
“Perhaps you won’t understand, but this is a great honor, daughter.  You will be the key to releasing the Great Cthulhu.  Your sacrifice will bring the stars closer to alignment.  The gateways are out of harmony and you are the tuning fork,” he said in the slow, methodical manner he used when reciting a ceremony.
“Now, dear sister, I must consume your power.  You will not find this pleasant.”
Hannah took out her curved blade and began pulling up Gretchen’s robe. 
“I must carve some runs on your flesh to allow your power to escape.  Then I’ll drink your power in which will be more uncomfortable than it sounds.  Then, as a final token, we’ll give you to the avatar of Cthulhu who lies waiting on the other side of the veil.” Hannah paused long enough to cover her mouth to giggle. Then she leaned in close enough to feel her breath on her face. “Shame you didn’t lose your virginity to that idiot outsider.  You would have enjoyed him more than this.”


David lay on his stomach watching the movement of the house.  There had been shouting a few minutes ago but he hadn’t see what it was about.  He crept forward a little more to get a better look. 
Armed guards were walking around the old, rickety mansion that looked like something out of the Adams Family. It had square towers with steep roves, round windows with iron workings and peeling gray paint.  It had a large porch that wrapped around the far side and a widow’s walk up near the top. 
The moon was halfway hidden behind clouds and he could hear the roar of the sea and smell the salt in the air.  He could also smell the stench of the marshes that surrounded the place. 

A truck of armed men sped off down the hill towards the town but four men still walked around the perimeter. 
“Plan?”  Beth asked.
“I wish I had some silencers.”
“She’s pretty quiet,” Beth said.  She nodded towards Sayako who sat there, staring off into nothing. 
A few minutes later he watched as Sayako faded into nothing and went towards the house.  There was no sign she was there until one of the guards walking along the side began to choke as if he were being strangled.  Which he was.  His body then tumbled from the cliff and down into the ocean below. 
One down. 
One by one Sayako killed the guards out of sight of the others and they moved up to the house.  He took point with the other two behind him. 
The front door was open and he pressed up against the wall as he peered in.  It was like an add for an antiques auction only instead of priceless treasures everything was worn down junk.  Maybe at time this place had been nice, but now these things wouldn’t fetch a dollar at a garage sale. 
With his AK up to his shoulder and at low ready, he slipped into the house and began clearing the place room by room. 
With the downstairs cleared he went to the stairs.  There were no lights or sounds coming from upstairs. 
“I don’t think she’s up there,” Beth said. 
He didn’t think so either. 
“Down,” Sayako said.
They must have missed something so they checked again and this time he found a doorway in a closet.  Behind the door were some wooden stairs that led downward.  There were no lights so he cracked one of his glowsticks and led the way.  His footsteps echoed in the narrow tunnel and a distant chanting grew louder as they walked.  The slapping of Sayako’s bare feet stood out from the muffled sounds of their shoes.  

The tunnel seemed to stretch forever in a gradual descent.  He looked behind periodically to check on the other two.  Beth had wide, frightened eyes but her mouth was closed in a look of determination.  He wouldn’t have to worry about her. 
Sayako was unreadable.  She had a blank look with eyes that were slightly too wide open.  She held her Thompson with the barrel down like he showed her. 
An artsy emmo girl and a Japanese ghost.  Not his first picks for a dangerous mission, but Sayako was proving to be pretty useful.  He hoped Beth would prove as useful and keep her head when bullets started flying. 
His mindset was the same it was before every battle, but with one exception.  His mind was clear and focused on what needed to be done and looking out for threats.  Battle plans and his gear filled his brain.  But constantly underlying every thought was the image of Gretchen.  She could be hurt or perhaps she hated him now.
But this time was different.  This time Gretchen was in danger and if he messed up Uncle Sam wouldn’t miss a chance to catch an insurgent leader or fail to destroy a weapons cache.  No, this time if he failed a beautiful girl who deserved to live would die.  He was certain of it.  This mission allowed for no mistakes. 
Then he saw light ahead.  He hid the glowstick under his jacket and put a finr to his lips to tell everyone to stay quiet. 
They crept forward and saw a man at the exit of the cave.  His back was turned to them and beyond was an opening; possibly a larger cave.  The chanting was much louder now. 
It was the same damn chant he had heard in Iraq.
He looked at Sayako and then nodded toward the man.  Sayako didn’t react at first and he was about to spell it out for her when she faded into nothing.  He felt her cold presence move past him.  A few moments the man was yanked backwards and was silently strangled. 
“Good job, Sayako.  I’ll buy you whatever game you want when we get back,” he whispered. 
In invisible, cold hand caressed his cheek.  Was that her idea of flirting?
He ignored Sayako and crept to the opening.  As he guessed, it was a wider cave.  There were about forty or fifty people surrounding a raised platform in the middle.  The people were standing in calf deep water.  They were unarmed so he ignored them for now.  On the raised platform were three people.  A hunched over man with a hat, a young girl with long black hair and on a gold table was Gretchen.  She had one black robes with a white mask, but her mass of silver hair was unmistakable.  
The girl was talking to Gretchen but he couldn’t hear what they were saying.  The old man had his back to them but the girl resembled Gretchen enough to assume that this was Gretchen’s sister. The people in the crowd were “off” somehow.  When he looked closer he saw that they all had a similar look about them.  There was something not quite human about these people.
There were only two guards on the far side of the cave.  One carried an old “grease gun” and the other carried a shotgun.  They stood at the opening of another long tunnel.  His eyes were fixated at the stone alter where Gretchen was.  

Then the girl began pulling up the robe Gretchen was wearing and exposed her nude waist.  The girl then took out a curved knife, raised her hands to the air and began chanting something. 
He had to act now. 
David turned to his companions and whispered their instructions.
“I’ll take out the guard with the shotty.  Beth, take out the other guard and then we run for the altar.  If anyone tries to stop us, shoot them.  Sayako, don’t aim that thing near Gretchen.  If the crowd attacks, hold that thing tight and hold down the trigger.  Shoot just like I showed you.  Got it.”
“Got it,” Sayako said.”
He was about to issue more instructions when he heard a scream.
The girl was carving something onto Gretchen’s thigh with her damned knife. 
“Move now!”
He stood up, took aim at the guard and fired.  His first shot struck the man in the shoulder and he went down, dropping the shotgun. 
Beth fired next to him but the guard ducked down and her shots went wide.
David cursed and ran up the stone steps to the altar.  He leveled his AK at the girl. 
“Drop the knife,” he said. 
The girl, the same one he met earlier, glared at him with her black eyes.  She dropped the knife and took a step back. 
Beth was still firing at the man with the grease gun and Sayako had her Tommy Gun pointed at the crowd of inhuman degenerates. 
He looked at the girl.  Her black eyes were burning with anger.  The old man moved over to stand next to her.  His eyes were solid black spheres and his mouth was wide and full of jagged shark teeth.  David could hear his forced breathing. 
Then he looked down at Gretchen who was chained to the altar.  He could see her silver eyes looking at him, but the mask hid her expression.  He could only hope that she could forgive him. Whether she hated him or not, he would get her out of this hellish place.  She would live even if it cost him his own life. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Chapter 28


David slammed the door to his apartment and tossed his book bag on the bed.  Sayako looked up from her video games and narrowed her eyes at him. 
“What?”  He snapped.
“You smell.”
“Screw you.”
“No, you smell of magic.”
Of course he did.  He’d been around a lying witch. 
He laid down and tried to sleep despite the sound of Sayako’s Skyrim adventure going on in the background.  Life sucked and there was no point in staying up.  

Everything had gone wrong somehow.  And beside the fact that the girl he loved was a murderous witch, his head hurt like someone was playing a drum inside. 
He woke up around noon and went out for Taco Bell.  The whole time he kept running everything through his mind.  Nothing made sense.  Gretchen wouldn’t kill anyone without good reason.  It wasn’t as if he was a sinless judge in that department. 
Everything he knew about Gretchen told him that she was telling the truth, but then he couldn’t get over the overwhelming feeling that she was lying. 
He didn’t know exactly what to tell Beth so he didn’t say anything yet.  All day as he played at his computer he kept looking to Facebook.  He wanted to send Gretchen a message or even run over and tell her he was sorry and that he loved her.
But something kept holding him back.
For dinner he went and got some pizza.  For some reason Sayako had a piece but he was too pissed off and confused to bother asking about the eating habits of Japanese ghosts.
Around eight at night David grabbed his laptop and sat down next to Sayako and checked his E-mail.  Then he got on Facebook and messaged Beth the whole story exactly how he remembered it.  He didn’t know what to tell her so he told her the complete truth.  A few minutes later his phone rang. 
“What the hell’s going on?”  Beth asked as soon as he picked up. 
“She’s been draining people of life.”
“What did she say?”
“That it was in self defense.”
“It was then.  You think Gretch would go around killing people.  Are you nuts?”
“I’m not the crazy one.”
“Yeah, you are.”
Then there was a knock at his door and Beth came in without waiting for him to open it. 
“You’re an idiot, David,” she said, still talking into the phone. 
He hung up. 
“She’s killed two people,” he said.  
Why didn’t she see?  It was obvious.  Gretchen was a murderer. 
“He under spell,” Sayako said. 
“You want to add to that maybe?”  Beth asked.
Sayako paused the game which must have taken an enormous effort on her part and turned to them. 
“He has spell on him,” Sayako said.
“What kind of spell?”  Beth asked.
“Dark kind.”
“Care to be more specific?” David asked.
Sayako then crawled over to him, completely invading his personal space.  She began sniffing him like a dog and then staring at him with wide, bloodshot eyes.  Her hands were cold and dry and no breath from her touched his face.
“Not spell from Gretchen.  Like Gretchen but not,” Sayako said and then put her hands on either side of his head.  “Spell in here.  Spell playing with you mind.  Make confused; think different things.”
Beth came over and sat next to them.  She looked into his eyes as well, though not with the wide-eyed insane look that Sayako had.
“Did you meet anyone strange recently?”  Beth asked. 
“No, just a girl.”
“What girl?”
“Saw her before I met Gretchen.  She was all bundled up.  Didn’t see her face,” he said. 
Then as he thought about it he did remember her eyes. 
“She had black eyes,” he said.   

“Black eyes, covered face, saw her right before accusing Gretch of murder.  With all the crazy shit going on around her, I’m willing to bet that this wasn’t coincidence.” 
“I can end spell,” Sayako said. 
“You’re not a witch.”
Sayako shrugged.
“You want me to end spell?”
“Yes,” Beth said.
Sayako then pushed David down onto the bed and crawled over onto him like an aggressive lover.  She put her face uncomfortably close to his like she was about to kiss him.  Her mouth opened and her eyes went insane-o again and then she began to inhale.  Only her intake didn’t stop.  She was like a vacuum. 
Then thin, barely perceptible wisps of smoke began to come out of his mouth and nose. 
“What the hell?”  Beth said and scooted away. 
Sayako sucked in the smoke and then sat up, straddling him.
“Yes,” Sayako said.  “Strong, dark magic.  I see magic like this in dream world.  Sorcerers of Kadath use magic like this.       
What an idiot!  Gretchen would never murder anybody.  How could he even think that?  He’d trusted her with his life. 
He had betrayed her.  All his promises to her were empty. 
David lay there for a while, thinking of how he had ruined everything and hurt the one person he wanted to hurt the least. 
Beth sat beside him and rested her head on his shoulder.  Sayako went back to playing “Persona 4 Arena.”  

They stayed like that for a long time.  How much had been this spell and how much had been his own idiocy? 
“She’s not answering on Facebook,” Beth said after a long while.
“We should have gotten her a phone.”
Suddenly Sayako jerked her head to the door.
“I smell dark magic now.  Coming close,” Sayako said in a whisper.
David pulled out his Beretta Px4 and opened a crack in the Venetian blinds.  Coming up the stairs were four men in thick winter clothes that concealed their faces and they were carrying guns.  Two had shotguns one had a revolver and one had an old Tommy Gun. 
“Beth, you remember how to use this?”  He asked and tossed her the Beretta. 
“Yeah,” she said. 
He then reached down and grabbed the AK-47 from under his bed and flipped on the red dot sight. 
He racked the charging handle just as the door exploded from a shotgun blast.  Wood splinters flew into the room and were immediately followed by a hulking form in a tattered gray coat.  He had a scarf over his face and a wool cap on his head.  
The man also had a Colt 1911 in his hand. 
David saw and took all of this in, in less than a second.  His adrenaline was going and his mind was able to notice small details like that.  His mind was also able to draw on years of training.
His AK was already up and the red dot of his sight appeared on the man’s chest.  The muzzle flash illuminated the entire room like the strobing of a rave.  The bullets smacked into the man’s chest and sent him falling backwards.
The man behind him had the shotgun and he swung it towards David.  
“Oh shit,” was the only thing that flashed through his mind as he jumped out of the way.  The shotgun blast tore through the air where he had been standing.  He landed on the ground and quickly flipped around to bring his gun to bear.
Beth held her pistol like he had taught her and fired.  The Beretta cracked three times and the man jerked back, dropping one arm from the shotgun.  The man then swung the shotgun towards Beth as the third man burst into the room.  He had the revolver and began aiming it at him. 
David fired and hit the revolver man in the neck.  Blood, black in the darkness of the room, spurted out in great burst and he fell down, black eyes wide open. 
He continued firing and his shots adjusted over and hit the shotgun man in the head.  The right half of the man’s face exploded in a wet mess. 
Before the shotgun man fell down, more bullets tore through him, but these were coming from behind him. 
The man with the Tommy Gun was letting loose with his fifty round drum.  Bullets exploded everywhere, smashing into the wall behind him.  Beth threw herself to the ground and covered her head.  

David fired through the dead man who still hadn’t fallen, hoping to get a lucky hit. 
Then the man fell and the view to the doorway was clear.  It was empty.  The wood frame was torn up and splintered and smoke from the gun shots hovered in the air like a fine mist. 
He looked over to check on Beth.  She gave him a thumbs up.  Sayako was nowhere to be seen. 
Then the Tommy Gun appeared again and the muzzle flash lit the room up.  Fortunately he didn’t know where they were because he was firing at waist level. 
As David brought his AK up, the man ducked back behind the door.  But he continued to fire.  He fired through the apartment walls, chewing the wood up and sending wood splinters and dust flying towards him. He covered his face as debris showered him like hail. 
Too many memories of Iraq flew through his mind.  He remembered bullets punching through mud brick walls and all he could do was duck and wait for them to reload. 
Then the man stopped firing.  David dared a look and saw that the man was grasping at his neck.  Something like a black rope was tightening around his neck, chocking the life out of him.  His black, fishy eyes bulged out and as he dropped to his knees he saw Sayako standing behind him grinning with her yellow teeth.  Her hair was strangling the man. 
He thought that was just something she could do in the dream world.  Seeing as that was the case, she could play his X-box whenever she wanted. 
David stood up and helped Beth to her feet.  Tears were coming down her cheeks but she remained composed.  She wasn’t really crying.  Stress did different things to different people. 
Beth went over to one of the bodies and kicked it. 
“Who are these guys?”  She asked. 
Sayako walked in, her long hair trailing behind her like a dark bridal veil.  He didn’t remember it being that long. 
“I think they’re Gretchen’s people,” he said. 
“From In Mouth or wherever?”
Then Beth gasped. 
“Gretchen,” Beth said in a whisper. 
Instantly he knew what had happened.  They had taken Gretchen. 
“Grab our guns,” he said.
Sayako and Beth did as he ordered and they put all hi guns and ammo into a large dufflebag.  

“The cops’ll be here,” Beth said. 
Already he could hear sirens in the distance. 
“We don’t have time.  We have to save Gretch,” he said. 
Beth pointed to the direction of the sirens and made about to say something, but she closed her mouth and nodded. 
Once everything was packed they headed to the door.  He was about to leave but stopped.  The man dead Tommy gunner had a bag with two more drums.
A Thompson was a terrible thing to waste.  He grabbed the old Tommy and the drums and hurried out the door. 
They jumped into his car and he sped out without looking back. 
He drove to the interstate and just went east.  He had no clue where Innsmouth was or how to get there, he just knew it was by the ocean and the ocean was east. 
His hands began shaking as the adrenaline wore off. 
“Beth, there’s a map in my glove box,” he said. 
She got the map out and began looking. 
“I don’t see it,” she said. 
“What high school did she go to?”
“Cornwallis High.”
“Look it up on your phone.”
A few minutes later she said, “Cornwallistown.  Take exit 17.”
Then they fell silent and no one talked as the lights of the interstate flashed by.  The entire time all he could think about was that Gretchen was in danger.  If they had just wanted her out of school they wouldn’t have bothered to try to kill him and Beth.  No, that was to cover something up and he only hoped that it wasn’t too late.  He knew she was in danger and he had to help her. 
His worrying was agony. 
“Police?” Sayako asked after a long while. 
“Yeah, there’ll be some explaining to do,” he said. 
“Call your parents, tell them an alibi,” Beth said. 
Good idea. 
Mom was a lot harder to convince than dad. 
“Just go to the police and tell them everything,” mom said.
He was about to explain for the third time that Gretchen was in trouble and needed help right now, not after a lengthy police investigation, when he saw that he had an incoming call. 
“Hello?”  He asked.
“David Taliaferro?”  The heavy male voice asked. 
He knew the sound of a voice that was used to having authority.
“Where are you?”
“My home in Richmond.”
“There’s been an incident at your apartment in Arkham.  We need to ask you a few questions.”
“Incident?  What kind of incident?”
He continued through the act of pretending to be shocked and horrified.  He barraged the detective with questions but the cop refused to answer.
“We need you to come in for questioning.”
“Of course.  I can be there tomorrow, hopefully around noon.”
“See that you do.”
He shut off his phone. 
At a gas station in Cornwallistown, they got a more detailed local map and found the small speck of “Innsmouth.”  When they asked for directions the people just gave him odd looks and refused to answer. 
They went through a Wendy’s drive through and continued on searching for the right turn off to Innsmouth.  

The road eventually turned out to be a crumbling two lane road with more cracks and pot holes than any other in service road he had ever seen.  The dead, cold marshes spread out in every direction.  It wasn’t a vacation spot and he knew that in the daylight it wouldn’t have looked improved.
Finally they came to a faded, rotten sign that said “Innsmouth” on the top of a small round hill.  He parked and got out.  Down below were the few dim lights of the decrepit little town.
“This is it,” he said.  “She’s down there somewhere.”
“Let’s go ask if she can come out and play.”
“I’m not going to ask nicely.”
He threw open the back of his car and opened the dufflebag.  He put on his tac-vest for his AK and loaded up with magazines.  He gave Beth the PS-90 with her own vest and the thigh holster for the Beretta. 
“And me?”  Sayako asked.
“You know how to use a gun?”  He asked.
“Can’t you just use your hair then?”
“I want Tommy Gun,” she said. 
He was about to refuse then thought about it.  All she had to do was “spray and pray.”  It could keep the enemies’ heads down. 
He showed her how to use it and gave her the shoulder bag with the extra drum. 
And finally he put on his shoulder holster with the broom handled Mauser. 
“Hold on Gretch, we’re coming for you,” he said.