Rise of the Sleeper Session Two Part 2 - Confronting Slater
* * *
Miss Edington put down the book and picked up her shotgun.
“Nigel, I think Miss Fairfield wants me to come out there with her so I’m just going to go out there with her,” she said.
Then she realized Nigel was asleep in the corner, snoring lightly. She left the room, going down the stairs and out the front doors. She realized she was not wearing her boots so returned to the bedroom, leaving the front door open behind her, to change into her boots before coming back down. When she returned to the foyer, the front door was closed. She went back out and met Miss Fairfield.
“I want to go take pictures of the shed,” Miss Fairfield said.
“Oh dear,” Miss Edington said. “All right then. I guess it’s better that you have me than nobody.”
They walked to the shed, Miss Edington stopping about 10 feet from the building. Miss Fairfield opened the door. The corpse was still pinned against the wall. A few of the tools had fallen to the floor. Miss Edington, nervous about the building, stopped outside the door under the narrow overhang, leaning against the wall. Inside, Miss Fairfield started to set up her equipment. Miss Edington looked around but didn’t look into the shed. Then she saw Crawford Slater walking over towards her.
“Hello Mr. Slater,” she said.
Inside the shed, the sound of her voice startled Miss Fairfield.
Slater stopped at the edge of the trees, 30 or 40 feet away.
“Is there something you needed?” Miss Edington asked.
“Oh no,” Slater called. “Just making sure you’re all right. You folks okay?”
“Yes. We are.”
“All right. You be safe. You don’t want to wander too far.”
“You know, just beyond this garden, there’s a wet spot and there’s a lot of crocodiles that live back there.”
“Well, there seems to be a lot of wet spots around here so I’ll be careful.”
“You do that now. You be careful now.”
He backed away and then turned, disappearing into the underbrush and the trees. Miss Edington watched him go with a frown. A few minutes later, there was a flash of light from the shed and the whoosh of the flash powder going off. The first time surprised Miss Edington but she was ready for the second one.
Inside, Miss Fairfield put her camera equipment away. The smell was starting to make her feel a little sick. She had everything put away when she took one last look at the corpse. On the wall on one side of the body as the word “GET” and on the other side was the word “OUT.” She ran out of the shed. The words had not been there before and she wasn’t sure how she was seeing them in the dark but she wanted to get away.
“Let’s get out of here!” she said.
Miss Edington peeked into the shed but only saw the corpse that had been there before. Some kind of phosphorescence was on the wall on either side of the body but it was fading away. She turned and followed Miss Fairfield, catching up with the other woman at the house.
They returned to the master bedroom. Both of the men were asleep, Virgil Thomas snoring like a buzz saw while Bricker snored lightly. Miss Edington went back to looking through the strange book. Miss Fairfield took notes on the photographs she’d taken.
Miss Edington returned to the library to pick up several books on witchcraft from the shelves. When she tried to leave the library back to the hallway, the door seemed to be jammed. She kicked it but it didn’t move. She cursed. She went to the double doors, which started to close when she approached them. She dashed to the door, which slammed shut behind her. She went down the short hallway to the back hall and the doors there slammed shut behind her as well. Refusing to go through the dining room, she headed for the front room but heard the doors there close in front of her. She headed up the back stairs and threw open the door at the top, crossing the room. She was able to get back to the master bedroom from there without incident.
She dumped the books on her bed and Miss Fairfield helped her look through them to try to figure out what the symbols meant. Miss Edington pointed out the ones she recognized and noted she hoped to find some connection with the writings in the other books. They continued looking through the strange, esoteric books for several hours. They found some correlations in the books with the symbols and drawings in the book from the fireplace. Otherwise, the books didn’t shed any light on what was happening in New Dunwich.
Bricker woke up around suppertime. It was still raining lightly. He had not meant to sleep that long so got up and started to get some dinner around for them, lighting the camp stove. Miss Edington woke Virgil Thomas up.
“Virgil, you been sleeping for a while,” she said. “I think it’s time for you to get up. It’s six-o’clock in the afternoon.”
“Yes miss,” he replied. “Oh. Oh! I didn’t mean to sleep this long. Boy-howdy, I was tired.”
“That’s okay, Virgil. I was hoping you could be our night guard from now on.”
“I’ll do that if I need to. Yes miss.”
“Because I don’t trust these characters.”
He got some of the drinking water to splash it in his face. They all had some supper and Virgil Thomas cleaned up afterwards, wiping down the few pots and pans they used. It was getting dark by the time they had finished their meal and were settling down once again.
Miss Edington put the books on one of the nightstands. Bricker asked to look at the fireplace book.
“I can’t make any use out of it right now,” she said. “But I’m thinking about buying it from you if that’s all right.”
“By all means,” he said.
“Whatever you want,” she said. “I’m sure daddy wouldn’t mind. He likes these kinds of things too.”
Bricker took a longer look at the book and Miss Edington looked over his shoulder and pointed out what she recognized from her occult studies.
“You see, these are protection circles,” she said. “I don’t know what they’d need them for, but I guess it makes sense around this house.”
Other than the patter of rain on the roof and the dripping of water coming through cracks, it was very quiet. Miss Edington looked out the window once again, watching the rain as darkness descended upon the village. The clouds were lit by the full moon that night. Miss Fairfield cleaned her camera equipment and then her pistols. Bricker continued to look through the strange book. He also recognized the symbols as being allegedly magical in nature, but also some strange things that didn’t seem to relate, exactly, to the lore.
“Virgil, I’m going to take a nap,” Miss Edington said. “If you see any movement out there, let me know. Wake me up.”
“You want me to watch?” he asked.
“Just look every now and again. See if you see anybody moving around.”
“Going back that way again.”
“I might have a second attempt at looking what they do. As long as Mr. Nigel Bricker over here doesn’t try to go after some monster.”
Virgil Thomas just gave her a look and then started walking back and forth, pacing the room.
“I might just leave you here,” Miss Edington said to Bricker.
Miss Fairfield told Bricker about all the photographs she’d taken. Miss Edington lay down to get some sleep. Bricker looked through some of the other books they’d brought up but didn’t find anything helpful to the situation at hand. Then he went to the window and looked out, keeping watch. Miss Fairfield wrote up some things in her notebook for advertising to sell the house but she didn’t have much good to say about the rotten heap. She finally gave up, blew out the lantern, and rolled over to go to sleep.
Bricker stayed up, watching out the window, as Virgil Thomas paced back and forth across the room in the dim light. Just before midnight, Bricker saw some of the people in the village starting to move in the same direction as they had gone the night before. He started to get excited.
Bricker motioned to Virgil Thomas and pointed out the people. The black man didn’t look happy about it.
“What do you think we should do?” Bricker asked.
Virgil Thomas just shrugged. He had forgotten about his orders to wake Miss Edington.
“I dunno, Mr. Bricker,” he said. “What do you think we should do about this? Looks like they’re heading out that way. I could probably hit ‘em from here.”
He was holding his pistol in his hand. Bricker suggested waking the others up and they quickly did so.
“Oh yeah,” Virgil Thomas said, remembering he was supposed to wake Miss Edington.
By the time the women looked out of the windows, only a couple of figures were visible and quickly disappeared into the darkness. Miss Edington got her shotgun out and pulled on her boots.
“Again?” Miss Fairfield said with a sigh.
Virgil Thomas shook his head.
“This girl’s crazy,” Miss Fairfield muttered.
All of them but Miss Edington heard the chanting start in the woods behind the town once again. A little light was just visible from back there.
“Nigel, you gonna be all right?” Miss Edington said.
“You really want to go see that horrific thing again?” Miss Fairfield said.
“I want to know what they doing. Then you can just stay here. I’ll go.”
Miss Fairfield sighed again.
“You ain’t gotta come with me,” Miss Edington said. “I’m just curious about what this whole shenanigan thing is. It’s just so odd.”
“I guess I’ll go,” Bricker said.
They all crept down the steps to the foyer below. They found the front doors jammed. They wouldn’t move at all.
“The house doesn’t want us to go!” Miss Fairfield muttered tiredly.
They were easily able to climb out one of the missing windows of the foyer and get out of the building. They crept across the town to the overgrown path on the other side through the lightly falling rain. They made their way to where the path split. They could then clearly see the lights ahead and the chanting stopped. A splashing noise came from somewhere ahead once again.
Bricker suggested he keep watch where the trail split and crept into the undergrowth. Miss Fairfield decided to stay with him. Virgil muttered under his breath about not going, not wanting to see this thing, questioning what Miss Suzanna was doing, and that the whole thing was just too dangerous. She shushed him and they crept towards the light. He stopped on the near side of the bushes that separated them from the whole thing as she crept through, making a good deal of noise.
When she peeked out of the bushes, she saw the terrible, terrible thing in the fetid pond and several of the people standing around the pool looking her way. Then they started to shamble towards her. They moved fairly slowly and jerkily. She took her shotgun from her shoulder. They had obviously seen her so she tried to sneak back out of the bushes but made a lot of noise. The people were still coming and she realized she had to get out of there so she stood up and walked quickly away, followed closely by Virgil Thomas. Even at that pace, they were outdistancing their pursuers. Though that raised her spirits, the slowness of the pursuit was also very strange,.
They crashed through the undergrowth back to where the others were. Miss Edington looked back and could see at least eight people following them. By one of the fires was a negro whom she’d never seen before. He didn’t seem to have the long fingernails the others had.
They reached the other two who were trying to hide in the bushes but were both very visible. Their pursuers were pretty far behind them by the time they got to the others.
Miss Fairfield saw Miss Edington and Virgil Thomas coming quickly down the trail and then thought she saw why they were fleeing the horrible pool: the ground was shaking and something was swarming along it, coming after them. It was as if the very plants and ground itself were pursuing them. Or maybe it was hundreds of tiny things crawling quickly on the ground after them. Her eyes opened wide and she leapt from her hiding place and sprinted towards the house.
Wondering what she’d seen that she hadn’t seen, Miss Edington was terrified that something was right behind her, pursuing her. She broke into a run, trying to get away from whatever was coming up behind her that she hadn’t seen yet.
“Jesus Christ!” Virgil Thomas cried out.
He started running faster as well, pounding after Miss Edington. Bricker, not knowing what they were running from, panicked as well. With a curse, he leapt out of the bushes and ran after the rest.
They fled back to the Harlow house and found the front doors wide open. As they ran in, the doors slammed shut behind them. They ran back to the master bedroom, slamming the doors to the foyer shut.
“What was it!?!” Virgil Thomas said. “What was it!?! What was after us!?!”
“What did you see?” Miss Edington said. “All I saw was those people.”
“I saw like stuff crawling towards us,” Miss Fairfield said. “It was a black mass of craziness coming towards you and I just … we … we shouldn’t leave the house.”
Virgil Thomas went to the front window to look out, revolver in hand.
“The house protects us,” Miss Fairfield said.
The strange, ululating song began again from out in the swamps. It felt like it was calling to them. It was almost compelling. Bricker went to the window but didn’t see anyone coming back into the village.
“I didn’t see that,” Virgil Thomas said to Miss Fairfield. “I didn’t see what you saw. I just those people coming after us. They seemed really slow, but … God damn.”
Everyone was shaken up. Miss Edington took off her boots and put down her shotgun.
“I love you, house,” Miss Fairfield muttered.
“I’ll keep watch for a couple hours,” Bricker said.
Light started to appear in the room and on one of the walls words formed.
“Beware,” it read. “The Sleeper Awakens.”
Miss Edington recognized it from before.
“So, what the hell are we supposed to do about it!?!” Miss Edington shouted.
The words simply faded away after a short time.
“What you expect, Miss Suzanna?” Virgil Thomas said. “You ever talk to a ghost?”
“No Virgil,” she said.
“You need a Ouija board!”
“A Ouija board?”
“You need a Ouija board!”
“Where the hell are we gonna get a Ouija board?”
“I ain’t got one.”
“Can you make a Ouija board?” Miss Fairfield said.
Miss Edington knew you could put letters down on a table and then use a glass or something similar to act as the planchette. She was not comfortable with the whole thing, though.
“I mean, if y’all want to … I could tell you,” she said. “If y’all want to do all that … I mean, I’m not going to get involved but I could tell you how to set it up.”
“The house has already been talking to us, right?” Miss Fairfield said.
“Yeah,” Miss Edington said.
“What?” Virgil Thomas said. “What are you talking about?”
“Well, Virgil, you been asleep all day. We’ve been seeing some weird stuff around here.”
“I heard whispers,” Miss Fairfield said.
“And I saw that same message right there at the top of the stairs,” Miss Edington said.
“Well, why ain’t we left?” Virgil Thomas said.
“There’s nowhere to go! We don’t know how to get out of here!”
“There’s that boat that white boy left us!”
“You know how to get out of the swamp?” Miss Fairfield asked.
“I remember taking a lot of twists and turns and stuff,” Miss Edington said. “But I don’t remember how to get out of here.”
“Better than staying here?” Virgil Thomas said.
“I think the house wants to protect us,” Miss Fairfield said.
“Can it?” Virgil Thomas said, still looking out the window.
“Well, I dunno,” Miss Edington said.
“I don’t like this Miss Suzanna. I don’t like putting you in this position.”
“Well, then just stay here. Just stay here and calm down. That’d be a lot more helpful. ‘Cause I don’t want to go out there.”
“I tell you, I hold you personally responsible!”
Virgil Thomas pointed at Bricker who was still looking out the window.
“I don’t want to go out there on that little rowboat and get eaten by no crocodile,” Miss Edington said. “Or bit by no poisonous snake and not have no hospital for miles.”
Virgil Thomas just muttered under his breath. Then he nodded to the woman.
“All right then,” she said. “That’s all I want to hear. We stay here for at least five more days.”
“Five more days!?!” he said.
“Yes Virgil. We toughed it out for two nights.”
“Are we gonna survive that long, Miss Suzanna? Those fellas saw you, didn’t they?”
“Those fellows by that pool. They know we know what they know.”
“But I don’t know what they are. They didn’t look human.”
“Hmm. Neither did that thing in that pond last night.”
“What is that?”
He pointed out the window. They could all hear the strange songlike cry coming from out of the swamp.
“I don’t know what to tell you Virgil,” she said. “But I don’t think they’ll recognize me because they didn’t look human. And if they did, I got my shotgun right here. We can blow ‘em away all day.”
“Well … all right,” Virgil Thomas said. “I hope the guns work better than they did against those things under Brown Mountain.”
“Oh yeah. Brown Mountain.”
“Them things wouldn’t fall down no matter how many times you shot. I shot ‘em like 10 times. I’m sorry, Miss Suzanna, I ain’t never seen anything like this before. I apologize.”
He seemed to rally himself.
“If Miss Fairfield is right about this house, this house doesn’t seem to want to harm us,” Miss Edington went on. “It let us in whenever we was running away.”
“I don’t trust no ghosts,” Virgil Thomas said. “Don’t know what ghosts will do.”
“I mean I don’t doubt that.”
She continued to try to calm him down. Bricker seemed to be very calm.
“Nigel, you seem to be handling this well,” Miss Edington said. “Nigel?”
The man was just staring out the window. Miss Edington snapped her fingers in front of his face.
“What?” he said. “What?”
“Nigel, you all right?” Miss Edington asked. “You listening a little hard.”
“No, I was keeping watch for the trail. See if any of the villagers come back.”
“You seem awfully calm. That’s a good thing I s’pose. But it seems a little strange. To be a little blunt.”
“Well, nothing’s coming after us right now.”
“I suppose you’re right. Is everybody else okay? Miss Fairfield?”
“I just think … I think we’ll be safe here … ‘til the boat comes,” Miss Fairfield said.
“I’ve heard my share of terrible ideas before but maybe this is the top,” Miss Edington said.
Bricker said he was going to keep watch for a while. Miss Fairfield got into her bed.
“Don’t wake me up this time,” she said.
She lay down and pulled the sheets over her head.
“Unless I can get a picture,” she said.
Miss Edington lit the lantern and read over the books for a little while before picking up the lantern.
“Nigel, you be careful,” she said. “I’m going to go back to the library real quick and find more books.”
She slung the shotgun on her shoulder again. Virgil Thomas followed her, gun in hand, and they left the room. Bricker gave them a few minutes and then crept to the master bedroom doors leading to the foyer. They wouldn’t move. The doors to the back hall slowly closed as he approached them and proved likewise solidly held. Frustrated, he laid down in his bedroll.
Miss Edington returned after about an hour, not having found anything of use. Sometime during that time the strange singing noise from the swamp ended. Both Bricker and Miss Fairfield were asleep by then. She told Virgil Thomas he could stay up or go back to sleep but she was going to bed. She climbed into bed. She could hear him pacing back and forth again as she drifted off to sleep.
* * *
It was still raining on the morning of Tuesday, October 11, 1927. Miss Fairfield was the first to wake up and found Virgil Thomas still walking back and forth in the room. He looked exhausted.
“Good job keeping watch,” she said to him.
Miss Edington woke up shortly after that and Bricker directly after she did. They had a rough breakfast and got themselves ready for the day. Bricker still felt a compulsion towards the terrible thing he’d seen two nights before. By 9 a.m., they were ready for the day.
Bricker and Miss Fairfield went to the dock to check on the boat. It was gone. The decrepit wooden boathouse housed 11 rowboats, none of which were in useable condition. They were either partially submerged beneath the swampy water or hanging on the splintered walls of the building, huge and gaping holes rending their hulls. There were four oil lamps hanging one on each wall, but they were all empty and dry.
Miss Fairfield sighed.
“Going to have to wait for the boatman,” she said.
Then she realized Arvid Delp’s boat might carry all of them, but there would be no room for the luggage or, more importantly, her camera equipment. She’d have to leave it behind.
They returned to Harlow house and told the others what they’d found.
“God damn it,” Virgil Thomas said. “I’m sorry, Miss Suzanna.”
“I bet it was that Slater fellow,” she replied.
“Well, what do you want to do about it?” Virgil Thomas said.
“Let’s go talk to him,” Bricker said. “We know where his house is.”
“Sure,” Miss Edington said. “Let’s go talk to him.”
“Yeah, we’ll go talk to him,” Bricker said.
Bricker and Miss Edington took their shotguns and they all went to the house they thought was his. They were unsure of which it was between two of them but Miss Edington was pretty sure it was the one to the right. The cold, foreboding domicile had suffered severely from the harsh elements. The exterior was cracked and warped with assorted slimy molds, mosses, and fungi taking nourishment from the damp and rotting boards. The humid Floridian wind blew torn and dusty curtains through shattered, empty windows. Splintered shutters flapped lazily, and the entire structure exuded an alien, malign aura unique unto itself.
A porch ran the length of the front of the house and went around the right side of the building. The second floor windows, like the ground floor ones, were missing or broken and cracked. Miss Edington walked onto the sagging porch and knocked loudly on the double doors, which hung open. It didn’t look like anyone lived there.
She could see the entrance to Slater’s home was cluttered with dry leaves, wind-blown litter, and other bits of assorted trash which the wind had deposited there through the broken windows and open doors. There was a layer of dust and grime on the floor and walls, though there was a fairly clean path to the winding stairway which seemed to indicate heavy traffic.
Though Miss Edington was hesitant to enter someone’s house. Bricker walked right into the foyer and looked around.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she fussed at him. “We don’t just walk in people’s houses uninvited!”
“We need answers, don’t we?” he said.
“Yes, we need answers but that doesn’t mean we should be rude about it,” she said.
Bricker could see two more sets of closed double doors on the walls to his right and left.
Miss Edington looked at the other nearby house that might have been Slater’s domicile but it looked like it was in worse shape than the house they stood at. She sat down on the porch. It felt rude to walk in. Virgil Thomas stayed with her.
“Slater!” Bricker called.
He noticed a strange, almost antiseptic smell, like that of a hospital, though he didn’t recognize it exactly. It was not pleasant. He wasn’t sure what it was or where he’d smelled it before.
There was no answer to his summons so he stepped back out onto the porch.
“Slater!” he called again.
He voice echoed hollowly through the village. They saw no one about.
“Something doesn’t feel right about this place,” he said.
“What’s felt right about anything that’s happened since we go here?” Virgil Thomas said. “I don’t feel right about Florida.”
He had his hand in his pocket where they knew he kept his revolver.
Bricker and Miss Fairfield entered the house again and went to the doors on the right. They opened in a dining room. A large, ornately carved oak table rested in the center of the room, 12 matching chairs arranged around it. All were wreathed in spider webs and dust, and several large, bloated arachnids groped sluggishly across their glistening webs. Each place setting had an oddly stained plate. Two doors went further into the house. The strange smell was stronger in the room. Broken windows looked out onto the front porch.
Bricker went to the other doors that opened off the foyer and opened them. The spacious chamber beyond contained once-opulent furniture which had rotted into little more than splintered wood and decaying fabric blanketed in a thick layer of dust and grime. Another set of double doors were across the room and broken windows looked out the side of the house and onto the front porch. Stepping into the room, he saw a fireplace towards the back and windows that looked out the back of the house. Above the black and sooty mantel of the fireplace hung a mildew-shrouded portrait dated 1879. The subject, a man, was not identified, but was obviously a man in his early 30s. He looked exactly like Crawford Slater.
They both stared at the portrait.
Bricker didn’t think Crawford Slater looked in his 80s, guessing the man was no more than 50 at the oldest.
“Some family resemblance,” Miss Fairfield said weakly.
Bricker didn’t reply but crossed the room to open the doors across from the ones they’d entered. The small room beyond was in a state of utter ruin with the floor collapsing and the windows shattered. Small trees grew through the bulging, broken floorboards, and curtains of wraith-like spider web draped the decomposing furnishings. Partially open double doors opened into the place from the front porch.
Bricker went back to the front porch and told Miss Edington and Virgil Thomas it didn’t look like anyone lived there. He compared the building to Harlow house, describing its decrepitude.
“Well, he pointed this way,” she said. “He said he lived around here. There’s no way that nobody lives here. I mean he’s the only real person who lives around here, if you know what I mean.”
“Well, there was that fork in the road,” Miss Fairfield said. “Maybe he was pointing back there.”
She thought a moment.
“But there was that portrait, so …” she said.
“What portrait?” Virgil Thomas said. “What are you talking about? Why do you people always talk in riddles and half-tell everybody things instead of just saying ‘Hey, I just found these things?’”
“If you’ll come inside, we can show you,” Bricker said.
“I can’t come inside. I can’t leave Miss Suzanna out here by herself. She’ll disappear. Thinks she got to go save the world by herself.”
Miss Edington was smoking a cigarette and stared off into the distance.
“Sometimes she don’t even hear you when she’s in this state of mind,” Virgil Thomas said.
“What?” Miss Edington said.
“Something about killing people, that’s all I think I heard.”
“No no. They just want you come look at this portrait that they won’t tell us about unless you go look at it.”
“Some portrait? Well, if you insist that nobody actually lives here …”
“Nobody live here?” Virgil Thomas asked Bricker.
“Doesn’t look like,” Bricker said.
“All right,” Virgil Thomas said. “Nobody lives here.”
“All right then,” Miss Edington said. “I guess I’ll just take a peek at this portrait or whatever the hell they talking about.”
“You see, you need to be more polite to Miss Suzanna,” Virgil Thomas said to Bricker.
They returned to the room and looked at the portrait. It looked very much like Crawford Slater. Miss Edington pulled the portrait off the wall to look for something on the back but there was nothing.
“So, what did you think about this portrait that seems to interesting?” Miss Edington asked.
“It looks like Slater but it’s dated─” Bricker said.
“It does look like Slater.”
“But it’s dated 50-some years ago. That would make him about in his 80s and he doesn’t look like that.”
“That’s strange. Maybe he just closely resembles his dad? Maybe his grandpa? I mean, I seen pictures like that where you look like your family members from beyond. Then again, he’s 30 here.”
Bricker left the room, followed by the others. He looked in the foyer again and saw the path from the front doors to the steps. He headed up the stairs.
“I think somebody actually does live here,” Miss Edington said. “I don’t feel comfortable just walking around in some man’s house. You seem insistent on going through this man’s stuff though. I mean, I don’t like the character. Maybe. I don’t know.”
“Well, it’s not as if we’re here to steal anything,” Bricker said. “I just want to find him and ask him questions.”
“But he didn’t answer or anything.”
“But even outside, he didn’t show up.”
“Well, we only called from his house.”
“It’s a really small town.”
“Well, do you want to wait until he shows up?” Miss Fairfield said.
“I don’t think he will,” Miss Edington said.
“He didn’t seem very willing to give us answers before.”
“He will at gunpoint.”
Bricker headed up the stairs. Though conflicted, Miss Edington didn’t like Slater, so followed him up. Miss Fairfield and Virgil Thomas followed them.
The stairs ended at a landing on the second floor. A pair of doors stood to the left as they left the stairs while two single doors stood on the opposite wall. A large, broken window looked out over the porch roof in the front of the house. Bricker went to the double doors and pulled them open.
The strange smell was very strong in the room beyond. The room was in better repair than the rest of the house, but just barely. There was a small table set in front of a large mirror in the corner that was the one object free of filth and cobwebs. It was littered with a variety of small, colorful objects. In the center of the room was a large, vat-like tub standing on clawed feet holding a clear fluid that filled the chamber with a pungent, powerful odor. Another set of double doors were set in the back wall of the room. Broken windows looked out over the front and side of the house.
I bet he’s in that, Miss Edington thought.
The smell in the room, for some reason, reminded her of high school back in Atlanta. She wasn’t sure why.
They moved to the tub, Miss Edington in the lead. The dead-white body of Crawford Slater floated at the clear fluid. He was completely naked, revealing a gaping wound in his chest from which ran several red, vein-like growths. Smelling the odor in the room so strongly made them all realize the man had the smell about him whenever they had talked to him. It was burning their eyes and all of them started to feel their heads throb.
Crawford Slater suddenly sat up in the bath, splashing the liquid all over the place.
“You shouldn’t have come here,” he muttered, raising his left arm to point at them with horribly long fingernails.
Miss Fairfield pulled the pistol out of her pocket and shot the man in the arm that was pointing at them.
“God damn!” Virgil Thomas cried out.
He drew his own pistol and fired a blast at the man, hitting him in the chest and blasting a big hole in it. The horrific-looking man was obviously shaken but still trying to stand up. Miss Edington slid the shotgun off his shoulder as Bricker raised his own shotgun to his shoulder and let loose with both barrels, blowing the man’s head completely to pieces. The body flopped back, the hands convulsing for a few moments before the corpse slid down to the bottom of the tub and stopped moving.
“I didn’t like him anyway,” Miss Edington said.
Miss Fairfield blew on her gun barrel.
“He can’t hurt us anymore,” Bricker said.
Virgil Thomas continued to aim his revolver at the vat of liquid. Miss Edington put a hand on his shoulder.
“Virgil, I think he’s dead,” Miss Edington said. “The man just blew his head off.”
“Are you sure about that!?!” Virgil Thomas said. “How was he on the bottom of that tub of embalming fluid!?!”
“Well, I guess we can’t ask him for answers anymore,” Miss Fairfield said.
“Who cares what he’s got to say?” Virgil Thomas said.
“I don’t think he was going to comply anyway,” Miss Edington said.
“Was he even alive!?!”
“The hell was that in his chest? He was - ugh!”
Miss Edington looked at the corpse and noticed the strange mark on the chest.
“Virgil, relax,” she said.
He sighed heavily.
“Yes miss,” he said through gritted teeth.
“The creature’s obviously dead,” she said.
“He was probably dead before,” Miss Fairfield said.
“Now he’s dead again,” Bricker said.
“I don’t think he’ll be coming back this time,” Miss Edington said. “Whatever the hell’s going on here.”
Bricker went over to the vanity and found it was littered with a variety of makeup, mostly in skin tones. All of the makeup showed signs of recent use. Virgil Thomas moved to one of the broken windows. He continued to aim at the vat but took breaths of the air outside. All of them were getting headaches from the fumes in the room.
Miss Fairfield moved to the other set of double doors in the room.
“Miss Fairfield, what are you doing?” Miss Edington asked.
“Maybe there’s answers elsewhere inside the house,” Miss Fairfield said.
“Yes,” Miss Edington said. “I mean …”
“It’s better than staying in this room,” Miss Fairfield said.
Virgil Thomas moved to a window nearer to the doors, still watching the vat. Bricker went over to the doors and Miss Fairfield pulled them open. The room had been kept in a condition similar to the master bedroom. There was a roll-top desk and several bookcases, all in fair condition. The windows looking out onto the back of the house were somewhat intact.
Bricker went to the roll-top desk and slid it open. There was an account book that only had information for makeup and formaldehyde purchased through a mail-order service and delivered to Ochopee. The women went to look at the bookshelves. Miss Fairfield found a well-read book on vampires and other undead creatures. Miss Edington found a book titled Life After Life. A quick perusal showed it to concern living on after the body had died. It contained many bizarre theories in regard to maintaining the corpse after death, bringing one’s self back to life, and the like.
All three of them noticed that at one point on a wall, the bookcases were not connected. A slit between two bookcases ran from floor to ceiling and it seemed rather out of place. Miss Fairfield walked over and grabbed the bookcase to the right, pulling on it. It pivoted out without a noise on well-oiled hinges, not even touching the floor.
The room beyond was dark and windowless. At first, they thought a man was standing in the back of the small chamber but it turned out to be a robe hanging on the far wall. An onyx pedestal stood in the center of the room upon which were two built-in bookends with nine volumes of some kind of set between them. Miss Edington went into the room.
“Oh God damn it,” Virgil Thomas said, heading after her.
Though Bricker and Miss Fairfield clearly heard him, Miss Edington thought he said “Oh, she knows what she’s doing.”
She found there were nine fairly thick though yellowed volumes, all bound as if the books had been published. She brought them out and put them on the desk to look at them. The books were printed and they found, from looking at the cover page of each book, that each was a volume of The Revelations of Glaaki. The folio-sized books were printed in Liverpool in 1865. Some notes had been added in some of the margins but a quick perusal proved the books to be volumes 1-9. Each book seemed to deal with a different topic.
She had also noticed a bloody hole in the center of the chest of the robe hanging in the room.
Bricker suggested taking the books back to the house, then said he wanted to look around Slater’s house some more. Miss Edington and Miss Fairfield looked over the bookshelves while Virgil Thomas went with Bricker.
The two men crossed the landing to open the door there. The chamber beyond had a few broken windows but was otherwise devoid of anything but dust, grime, and spider webs. The other door off the landing led to a very dark corridor. It curved around the staircase and they could make out a set of double doors and a single door towards the end of it. The double doors opened into the corridor. The crypt-like room was kept in darkness by shutters which had been nailed securely shut. The air was very still and thick with the noxious stench of something long dead. Four naked corpses lay on the floor, each of them looked about a week old, grotesque, and with long fingernails and a hole in the chest with the radiating lines. Three of them were women.
“Uh … uh … that looks just like Crawford Slater,” Virgil Thomas whispered.
They closed the doors and Virgil Thomas stayed in the hallway while Bricker went back to the study. He looked a little shaken.
“We’re going to have to get out of this house,” he said.
“Well, I know that face,” Miss Ingerton said. “You’ve found something. But where’s Virgil?”
“Virgil stayed to keep watch.”
“Keep watch over what?”
“We found a room with four more of those … bodies.”
“Are they moving?”
“No. Not yet.”
“All right then.”
“But given what Crawford did …”
“You’ve got a point.”
“We need to take care of them or get out now.”
“All right. How many are there?”
“At least four.”
“I say for safe measure we do something about ‘em. But I don’t like the sound of it. There’s only four of us too.”
The women tucked the books they’d found into the roll-top desk and closed it. Then they followed Bricker to the room. Virgil Thomas still stood in the hallway outside the door. It was very dark and Miss Edington lit her lighter. Virgil Thomas pointed at them as they came around the corner but then pointed his gun back at the room.
“Virgil, you’re making me nervous,” Miss Edington said.
“Then you know how I feel right now,” Virgil Thomas said.
Miss Edington took her shotgun off her shoulder.
“There’re more dead bodies in there,” Virgil Thomas went on. “They look like Crawford Slater. Got them things in their chest. Got them fingernails. I don’t want them standing up. But I’m afraid they gonna.”
“Well, I guess we’ll have to blow their heads off before they do,” Miss Edington said.
“Doesn’t seem like murder to me. They’re monsters.”
She walked into the room and the others followed, each standing over one of the dead people. Bricker suggested everyone fire at once and then counted down quickly. They all opened fire at the same time. Virgil’s bullet struck the corpse in the head but skewed along it’s skull, cutting through the flesh but not penetrating the bone. Miss Edington’s single barrel of the shotgun she blasted away with tore away the flesh on the side of the thing’s head but didn’t burst it like Bricker’s had done with Crawford Slater. Miss Fairfield’s bullet struck hers in the eye. Bricker’s blast blew the head of his target off.
Three of the horrible things sat up. Only Bricker’s didn’t move aside from a spasm that wracked the thing’s body. Miss Fairfield swooned and fainted to the floor.
Virgil Thomas blasted away with his revolver again, blowing a hole in the thing’s chest. Miss Edington fired the second barrel of her shotgun, lowering her aim slightly. The blast blew a fist-sized hole in the horrible thing’s chest, sliding the walking dead woman back against the wall. Her upper half folded down onto her legs and she lay still. Bricker changed his aim to the thing in front of Miss Fairfield’s still form and blasted its head off.
The last of the things leapt to its feet and scratched Virgil Thomas with her terribly long fingernails. It tore through his clothing and cut him badly. He let out a shout.
“God damn it!” he cried out.
He shoved his large-barreled revolver into the woman’s face and pulled the trigger, blasting a hole straight through her skull. She flopped back and crashed to the floor, unmoving once again. Virgil Thomas backed all the way back to the hallway.
Bricker went to Miss Fairfield while Miss Edington asked Virgil if he was all right.
“I’m all right,” he said.
“That looked like it hurt,” she replied. “Are you all right?”
“I’ll be fine for now, Miss - I’ll be fine. Ow.”
“Are you sure?”
She pulled the calico kerchief from his pocket and tended to his wound. Meanwhile, Bricker brought Miss Fairfield around.
They quickly searched the rest of the house. The door at the end of the hall led to a small bathroom without any windows. It was in as bad a shape as the one in the Harlow house. They didn’t touch the pump.
They returned to the study to get the books and then headed downstairs to find a library with doors that creaked gratingly on their hinges, protesting the many years of disuse. The walls were lined with bookcases, all filled with moldering texts. They also found a kitchen that had pots with dried, hard, unidentifiable lumps atop the sooty, blackened wood-burning stove. Assorted cooking utensils were strewn about the place, all covered with dust. It looked as if the food had been left on the stove by someone who never came back to tend it and the other utensils showed signs of abandonment, as if laid down during normal preparation for an evening meal. The pantry of the kitchen was stocked with assorted canned goods and home-canned produce that had probably been there for a score of years at least.
By the time they had finished their exploration of the house, it was about 10 a.m.
They decided to search the library and the study, spending the rest of the day looking for anything of interest. Though the library had a wide variety of subjects from medicine to life sciences and accounting, and mathematics to classical literature, there were no volumes of occult lore. The study also didn’t have anything else of any great value to their current situation.
As they had searched the library, Bricker left to get sick outside, mostly just bile from his dry heaves, as he realized, with a clear mind for the first time in two days the urges he had been having towards the terrible thing in the swamp.
They retreated to the Harlow house around 6 p.m.