Rise of the Sleeper Session Two Part 1 - Photography and Hauntings
Sunday, September 25, 2016
(After playing the Call of Cthulhu scenario “Rise of the Sleeper” by Scott David Aniolowski from Lurking Fears today from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. today with Collin Townsend, Ashton LeBlanc, and Katelyn Hogan)
On the morning of October 10, 1927, Nigel Bricker woke up on the floor. He blinked, looked around, and found he was still lying on his stomach, tied up. Sunlight came through the broken windows. It was probably about 7 a.m. or so. Virgil Thomas walked back and forth up the middle of the room, revolver in hand. He stopped and looked down at the man and then got down on one knee.
“You all right, there, mister?” he asked the Englishman.
“Yeah,” Bricker said. “I think so. I don’t really remember what happened.”
“All right, then. You wait right there ‘til them ladies wake up. They need to rest.”
Virgil Thomas looked exhausted. He’d obviously been up all night long. He stood up and started walking back and forth again. Bricker just lay there.
It was two hours later before Miss Fairfield woke up. She got up and checked on Bricker.
“Are you doing okay?” she asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Bricker said. “I told Virgil I don’t remember much.”
“That’s what he said, yeah,” Virgil Thomas said.
“Well …” she said.
She untied the man. He was sore all over. His arms had been tied behind his back all night long and his neck and shoulders hurt from where he’d lain on the hard, wooden floor on his belly all night. He muttered and tried to rub feeling back into his hands and arms.
Miss Edington finally awoke. Once Virgil Thomas noticed, he lit the camp stove and got some coffee on. He also started to cook some breakfast from the tins of food they’d brought. It wasn’t the best meal they’d ever had but it was edible.
By 9:30, the humidity and heat had reached the oppression they had the day before. They all noticed a singular lack of insects, particularly mosquitoes. Their room was bereft of insects and none of them had any fresh bites. Miss Edington thought it strange but was thankful.
Virgil Thomas cleaned up the cook stove and then went to the corner where he was sleeping the night before and sat down, gun in hand. Bricker suggested looking around the house again or examining the garden shed and well he’d seen from above. He left the room, followed by Miss Fairfield.
“Virgil, dear, did you get any sleep last night?” Miss Edington asked.
“No miss,” he said. “I stayed up all night. I didn’t see nothing.”
“Well, since we’re awake now, would you like to take a nap?”
“All right. Don’t you get into any trouble or your daddy’ll have my hide. I tell ya.”
He lay on the floor, the pistol close to his hand, and went almost immediately to sleep. Miss Edington headed after the others. As she reached the landing outside the master bedroom she stopped. Words slowly appeared on the stairwell wall. They read: “Beware. The Sleeper Awakens” and seemed to be made out of some kind of red liquid.
“What?” she muttered.
The words faded away after only about 20 seconds as she watched in horror.
“Thank you?” she said to the empty room.
She heard the front doors open below and quickly headed briskly down the staircase to get away from the spot, catching up with Miss Fairfield and Bricker as they left the house. She had a dazed look on her face.
“You all right?” Miss Fairfield asked.
“Yeah,” Miss Edington said vaguely.
“You sure?” Bricker asked.
“Yeah, yeah,” she replied. “Nothing … too unusual.”
Bricker headed out of the house followed by the other two. He crossed around the side of the house to an overgrown path that led to the garden house, which stood next to an overgrown vegetable garden. The small, once-ornate, open-air structure had gone the way of all the other buildings in New Dunwich: boards wet and rotting, assorted slimes and fungi exuding from their surfaces. Clearly, the building was once used to store gardening equipment and the like. The door opened into the building and didn’t have a lock or even a latch.
Nigel pushed it open.
In the dim light of the overcast day, they could make out a naked man pinned to the back wall of the building by an assortment of gardening implements. The corpse appeared to be well-rotted and was held in place by shears, hedge clippers, a pitchfork, a knife, a trowel, and other pointed implements. More sharp items stuck out of the man’s chest. The smell in the building was stronger than the general rotten smell that hung over the entire village.
Miss Fairfield raised her camera but realized there would not be nearly enough light to get a good photograph. Miss Edington thought Brandon Young probably killed the man. Bricker crept into the room to get a closer look at the corpse, which stank. It did not stink as badly as he would have expected though. Miss Edington figured there would be maggots on the corpse but there were none. It seemed rather odd.
Bricker more closely examined the corpse. In addition to the implements stuck into it, there was a hole directly in the center of the man’s chest. Red lines radiated from hole. He was unsure how old the body was. It was in terrible shape but didn’t seem to have been dead for three years. In that time in the Everglades, there would be nothing left. He poked the man’s arm. Then he noticed the corpse had impossibly long, cracked fingernails like the people who were at the pool the night before.
Miss Edington went into the room to examine the thing as well. She touched the strangely long nails and found them solid, not brittle as she had expected. The ends were pretty sharp. She was a little disturbed by it. She looked at the corpse’s face but didn’t recognize him. Bricker more carefully looked at the hole in the man’s chest and saw that it was a bit ragged around the edges. The lines radiated from it and Miss Edington touched one of them. It occurred to her the horrible thing they saw last night was covered in spines and perhaps one of them had pierced the man’s chest.
The rest of the tiny building was filled with numerous other gardening implements and tools, some hanging on the walls, others on shelves. All of them were old and rusty and some had handles that had rotted. They took about 15 minutes to carefully search the shed but found nothing of great interest. Bricker picked up a wood axe that still had a solid handle. Bricker closed the door behind them.
They only gave the garden a cursory glance. It was obviously once a vegetable garden that was now completely overgrown with weeds. A few wild vegetables still grew there but they would probably not be very good to eat. A pole stood up in the center of the garden as if a scarecrow might have once been there.
They headed down another overgrown path that led by the house, hearing a clatter and a crash from the garden house as they retreated from it.
“Shall we go back and check that?” Miss Edington asked.
She turned and looked at the building, expecting something to happen. When the others continued walking, she backed away from the structure. Then she turned to catch up to the others.
They went to the well they’d seen from the cupola. The large pit was lined with cracked and crumbling stone blocks. From its Stygian depths there rose a dreadfully foul stench that was sickeningly sweet and overwhelming in its strength. It was too much for Miss Edington and she stumbled away, leaned on a nearby tree, and vomited the contents of her stomach: breakfast and coffee. Miss Fairfield went to comfort the woman, patting her back.
Bricker went closer to the well and saw a phrase carved crudely into the slate that formed the top of the well. The letters were roman letters, but the words didn’t make any sense to the man, reading “Ingredere Ergo In Bonum Animarum.” He leaned over the edge and looked down into the well, trying to hold his breath against the terrible stench. He saw nothing down in the darkness.
He quickly went to the women as Miss Edington stood up and wiped her mouth and nose with a handkerchief.
“Anything interesting, Nigel?” she asked weakly.
“Any one of you ladies know how to read Roman or Greek or something?” he asked.
Miss Edington sighed, put the handkerchief over her nose and went quickly to the well. She recognized the words as Latin. They read “Enter Ye Now Into The Well of Souls.” She was confused at the writing.
“What does it say?” Miss Fairfield called.
As Miss Edington turned to return to them, the ground started to shake, trembling violently. A blood-curdling roar blasted forth from the depths of the well. She spun around and backed away from the terrible place. Miss Fairfield had taken a pistol from his pocket and Bricker had pulled the shotgun from his shoulder. Miss Edington didn’t stop at the others but walked all the way back to the house. The others caught up with her and the three went back into the house.
“Do you still want me to take pictures of this God-forsaken place?” Miss Fairfield asked.
“Sure,” Bricker said. “You do that.”
“You’ve got your hands full, honey,” Miss Edington said to him. “That thing back there was Latin and it said something about ‘Into the Well of Souls’ and I don’t know what that means, but after that, I’m done. I’m done with that well. I’m not going back.”
They went back to the master bedroom where Virgil still slept, snoring very loudly. They had heard it on the stairs as they had walked up, it was so loud. It seemed amazing the man was not waking himself up.
Miss Fairfield took her good camera and her flash equipment and went downstairs, heading for the front door. Miss Edington went looking for a place to clean herself up, heading for the bathroom.
* * *
Miss Edington pulled open the door to the bathroom nearest to the master bedroom. The tiny musty chamber showed some signs of attempted repair: cracked fixtures had been replaced, floors retiled, and the walls painted. It had probably been done years ago. There was a large tub, toilet without water, and a sink with a large and bulky water pump next to it. A cracked mirror was mounted to the wall over the sink.
With the intention of merely washing her face, she got to work pumping the pump. After some effort and a lot of pumping, cool, clear water came from the pump. The water stank, however. It reminded her of the stink from the well outside and she felt the gorge rise in her throat. She looked into the mirror and saw a skull staring back at her. She retreated from the bathroom.
* * *
Bricker headed out of the master bedroom and went to the back hallway on the far side of the house. He opened the door to the rough-hewn stairs that led up into the darkness from the second floor. They showed signs of much wear and the passage, which was clogged with spider webs, was very narrow. He used the axe to clear the webs ahead of him but, towards the top, he thought he saw a figure. It was a corpse, hanging helplessly in the mass of webs with thick, bloated spiders crawling around and through it. Then it was suddenly gone.
He paused for a moment and then carefully moved forward. The steps went up to a trapdoor at the top set at an angle perpendicular to the angle the steps went up. He put the axe down and slid the shotgun from his shoulder. He pushed on the trapdoor, which proved to be quite heavy, and sunlight came through. He heard the pitter patter of rain start to fall upon the roof above. He took another step and pushed the trapdoor open, finding himself looking out onto the roof of the house. Many of the wooden shingles were missing or rotted through. The trapdoor itself opened onto the edge of the room with the den and library sticking out from the house at either side of it.
He closed it and headed back down the creaking stairs. The wood felt like it gave somewhat under his weight.
* * *
Miss Fairfield had gone out the front door to get photographs of the house but had retreated back to the relative safety of the building when the rain began to come down. She set up her camera in the foyer and, when she saw Bricker coming down the stairs, stopped him.
“Oh, pose for me,” she said.
Bricker shook his head and stood stiffly on the steps while she took a photograph. The flash powder made a blinding flash of light and she was satisfied the photo would turn out well. Bricker blinked as he came down to the ground floor. She took another photograph of the stairwell without anyone upon it.
* * *
Miss Edington had seen Bricker pass through the doorway at the far end of the hallway and then head to the landing. She walked after him, peeking into the master bedroom to see Virgil Thomas still sleeping, and went towards the landing. She thought she heard a whispering from one of the other rooms but ignored it and walked into the landing and then down the stairs.
“Pose for me!” Miss Fairfield said.
Miss Edington posed and Miss Fairfield took the photograph of the woman with a blast of flash powder. Miss Fairfield noticed Miss Edington’s shadow looked wrong. Unlike the petite woman, the shadow seemed to be a massive hulking figure reaching towards her. It only lasted as long as the flash and was gone once the powder had burned itself out.
“Um, Suzanna, please come down the stairs,” Miss Fairfield said.
“I was going to,” Miss Edington said, continuing down the steps.
She noticed Miss Fairfield was pale.
“Miss Fairfield, you all right?” she asked. “Miss Fairfield?”
“I think this house is doing something to me,” Miss Fairfield said.
“I think I understand.”
The two looked at each other.
“Nigel, are you sure you want this house?” she said.
“Oh!” Bricker said, startled. “Bloody hell, no.”
“Well, I hope you sell it soon because I’m not coming back here.”
He nodded and headed through the doors to the dining room without further word. Miss Fairfield broke down her camera equipment and went into the front room with the Oriental carpet, dusty furniture, fireplace, and grandfather clock. Miss Edington followed her. Miss Fairfield set herself up in a corner to get a good wide shot of the room. As she set up, Miss Edington noticed the pendulum of the grandfather clock swinging. She was unsure if it had been before. Miss Fairfield set up her camera and equipment and got her flash powder ready. When Miss Edington looked at the pendulum again, it had stopped moving. The other woman took the photograph with a whoosh of powder that lit up the room.
* * *
Bricker entered the dining room. He had only passed briefly through the room the day before but now went to the lacquered china cabinet and opened up the glass-covered doors, looking for china that was not cracked and hoping to find something he could salvage from the place. Some of the china proved to be in good condition. Then he heard a scratching noise behind him.
He spun around but nothing was there. After a moment, he realized the noise was coming from underneath the fallen painting that lay on the face-down on the floor. It was almost as if the person in the painting were scratching at the floor underneath the picture. He quickly walked to the painting and stomped on the back of it. Dust flew out from under the picture and the scratching noise stopped.
Something flew by his shoulder from behind as one of the pieces of china shattered against the wall in front of him. He went back to the cabinet and found it was one of the good pieces of china he had just put aside. He went back to the painting and flipped it over. It showed a stern, cruel-looking man with one hand held against his chest. He wore a distinctive-looking ring on his left ring finger. It had a dark green stone upon it.
He dusted off the painting a little bit.
“It’s him,” a voice whispered from behind him. “It’s him. It’s Septimus. It’s him.”
He looked around but no one else was in the room.
“Septimus,” the voice whispered again. “Septimus. It’s him.”
He propped the painting against the wall near where the broken china now lay. Septimus seemed to glare at him.
He went into the kitchen, which was dirty and dusty with a long-cold wood-burning stove, wood still in its chamber. There was also a rusted water pump and cupboards. A single set of dishes lay unwashed at the bottom of the dusty sink. Two other doors led out of the room, one probably going to the pantry. A warm breeze blew in through the broken window.
Bricker went to the water pump and worked on it, pumping until he was very tired. A trickle of water finally came out but it stank like the well. He guessed the water pumps were probably connected to the well out back and whatever made the well stink was also why the water in the house stank.
He went to the pantry and opened the door.
* * *
When she finished in the front room, Miss Fairfield took her gear to the living room in the back of the house, followed by Miss Edington. The southern belle was chewing on her nail, really wanting a cigarette. Unfortunately, they were up in the master bedroom and she didn’t want to go up there alone.
Miss Edington had not looked carefully at the carved fireplace when she was last in the room. As Miss Fairfield set up her camera equipment, she noticed it for the first time. It was the centerpiece of the room. The ornamental stonework extended right into the ceiling and consisted of assorted faces, gargoyles, and figures formed of rock by the hands of a brilliant artist. The mantle stretched a full 12 feet and was similarly carved, as was the equally massive hearth. She wandered over and looked at it.
She looked at the dirt in the fireplace hearth but realized the strange footprint she’d seen before was probably the way the ashes and dirt simply lay. Then one of the gargoyle faces suddenly turned and glared at the woman. She squeaked and backed away.
Miss Fairfield, meanwhile, got her equipment set up for wide shots of the room. She looked up to see Miss Edington backing away from the fireplace, staring at it with her mouth open. It looked, for a moment, like one of the gargoyle heads was looking directly at Miss Edington. Then it simply wasn’t.
Miss Edington saw that though the gargoyle head looked normal again, it was turned slightly. It didn’t actually match the one on the left side of the fireplace, which was upright. She took the shotgun from her shoulder and aimed it at the gargoyle, poking it with the barrel. The noise of metal tapping on stone was all that came from it.
“Miss Suzanna, are you all right?” Miss Fairfield asked.
“I need to get out of this room!” Miss Edington said.
She walked back to the hallway.
Miss Fairfield took photographs of the room. Then she set up her camera to get photographs of the fireplace itself. She took several and then broke down her equipment again. She heard a strange keening or wailing noise coming from the fireplace. Miss Edington, still in the hallway, heard it as well, and thought, for a moment, it was Miss Fairfield.
Miss Fairfield moved closer to the fireplace.
“Miss Fairfield, we need to get out of this room,” Miss Edington said.
Miss Fairfield noticed one of the gargoyle heads on the fireplace was at an angle, making it not match the other head. She reached over and pivoted it upright again and a grinding noise came from the back of the fireplace. Miss Edington heard the noise as Miss Fairfield knelt and looked at the back of the fireplace. She pushed on the back of the fireplace and pulled on it, trying to slide it to one side. Nothing in the back moved but it sounded like there was a hollow spot there.
She called Miss Edington over. The woman hesitated but crossed the room nervously. Miss Fairfield tapped on the back wall of the fireplace, pointing out the hollow sound she had discovered.
“That’s weird,” Miss Edington muttered.
Miss Fairfield turned the gargoyle head back a little and then put it straight again. They both heard the sound of grinding stone and then something bump. Miss Edington poked at the head and then turned it away from its upright position. It kept pivoting and, as it did so, Miss Fairfield saw a section of the back of the fireplace slide aside. Once Miss Edington pivoted the head about 90 degrees, it stopped moving. The panel appeared to be completely open.
Within the hidden niche rested a black lacquered chest. Though it was closed, it proved not to be locked. Within it was a black robe, a chalice made of some kind of black metal with an inscription upon it. a small black metal ring made of apparently the same metal, and a thick book.
Miss Fairfield picked up the chalice but couldn’t read the inscription. She handed it to Miss Edington, who recognized the Latin. The translation read “Behold, the Sleeper wakens and rises from the deep.” She read it out loud. Miss Fairfield noticed there was no hole in the chest of the robe. She took out the thick book and opened it. It contained pages and pages of ancient glyphs, pentagrams, triangles, and other assorted symbols. She recognized it, from her Methodist upbringing back in Boston, as the work of the Devil.
She dropped the book in the hearth and stepped back.
“Miss Fairfield, are you all right?” Miss Edington asked.
“Uh …” the other woman said, having gone a bit pale. “It doesn’t look like a very wholesome book.”
That made Miss Edington curious.
“Can I see that book, Miss Fairfield?” she asked.
The other woman backed away and Miss Edington handed her the chalice and picked up the book. She flipped through the book and recognized it as some kind of occult writing but realized she had to study it in more detail to be sure of its contents. Miss Edington picked up the ring and examined it as well. It was unadorned and so she slipped it onto her finger.
Miss Fairfield crossed the room with her camera equipment and Miss Edington followed after her with the things they’d found. She left the robe behind and rushed to catch up with the other woman.
Miss Fairfield set up her camera in the wreckage of the den. Miss Edington looked over the book again
* * *
Bricker stepped into the dim pantry, which was filled with shelves. There was quite a bit of old, tinned food and jars of preserves that didn’t look very good. Nothing had markings upon it and he guessed everything had probably gone bad.
He left the room and went out through the other door, which led to the back hallway on that side of the house and the back stairwell. He thought he heard women’s voices coming from the back of the house, near the library. He went into the library and looked around. The room looked the same, the vines covering the windows and back doors, more of the books on the shelves that were somewhat clean of dust from when the others had searched through them, and the pile of ashes that was all that remained of the bible in a heap on the floor. It looked exactly as he’d seen it, for the most part.
It was very quiet in the room, almost calming, when a cold chill ran up his spine and he felt chilly, despite the terrible Florida heat. It was actually somewhat soothing though it felt completely unnatural. As soon as he moved from the spot he’d been standing, it was terribly hot and humid once again. He looked through the books.
He wandered to the cold spot once again after a short while and then walked out of it again. There was not a hole in the floor or the ceiling. The doors were closed. There didn’t seem to be any reason for the spot to be any cooler than anywhere else in the house. It seemed to be two or three feet across.
* * *
Miss Fairfield got three photographs in the den and then started breaking down her camera setup again. Miss Edington looked around and realized noting strange had happened to them in the room, nor had anything odd happened in the room the day before.
They went to the library where they found Bricker stepping into a spot and then out of it again.
“Come here and look at this,” he said.
“What?” Miss Edington said.
“It’s a cold spot,” he said.
Miss Fairfield set up her camera in a corner as Miss Edington crossed the room to the spot Bricker indicated. She closed the book and stepped into the spot and out of the spot. There was a distinct change of temperature. She looked up at the ceiling and felt at the floor for a draft. Nothing. She looked at the bookcases on the wall behind her. There was no hole or place for a draft. She reached up and it seemed to stay cold as far up as she could reach. She stood in it because it was not as hot.
Suddenly, she stood up very straight and her eyes rolled back up into her head.
“Get out!” she cried out in a deep voice, her body trembling. “Get out while you still can! Escape this place! Don’t let them take you! Get out! Get out! Get out!”
Miss Fairfield went to Miss Edington and took her by the shoulders, shaking her.
“Get out!” the other woman yelled. “You have to get out! Go! Go! Go!”
Then her legs buckled and she went limp. Miss Fairfield caught her before she could hit the floor.
Miss Edington opened her eyes and was surprised to find herself held by Miss Fairfield. Bricker stared at the woman, mouth agape. Miss Edington looked around, visibly confused.
“What just happened?” she said quietly.
“Uh … I don’t know,” Bricker said. “You just … started speaking in a … deeper voice and said to get out that … they’re … I don’t know …”
“That doesn’t sound like something I’d do.”
“You did. You don’t remember?”
“I was just standing in the cold spot you pointed out. And now I’m here in Miss Fairfield’s arms.”
“I’m ready to leave this room now.”
Bricker turned around, went into the hallway and headed to the living room. He noticed the back of the fireplace was open and held a black lacquered box or chest. A robe was within it. One of the gargoyle heads was turned partway and a large niche was open in the back of the fireplace. He fiddled with the other gargoyle head but it was solidly placed in the fireplace.
Miss Edington arrived a minute or two later. She stopped at the living room doors.
“I have things for you,” she said, crossing the living room.
“I suppose you found where we found them already. You seem to be fiddling with the fireplace. But here’s the chalice and this ring on my finger. They’re kind of interesting. I thought they would be worth something.”
She handed over the chalice and the ring. He turned and pulled the robe out and looked at it. There was no blood or hole in the chest like the ones they’d found before. He folded it back up and put it back into the small black, lacquered chest. He put the other two items in the small chest as well and hoped he’d be able to sell the chest. Miss Edington was obviously a little on edge, looking around nervously.
Bricker left and she followed close behind. They went to the front room and he examined the grandfather clock there. He wondered if it might still work and looked for keys to the device but couldn’t find any. Miss Edington noticed the pendulum was not moving.
“Nigel, I got to get me a cigarette,” she said. “I’ll be right back.”
She left the room. He examined the furniture, which was in terrible shape and filled with dust.
* * *
As she headed up the main stairs, Miss Edington heard a jingling noise above her. She looked up to see the large iron chandelier swaying slightly, its crystal beauty dimmed by grime and cobwebs which seemed to sway ominously. She hurried up the stairs and crossed to the master bedroom where Virgil Thomas still slept, snoring loudly. She went to her bed and took out a cigarette and lit her lighter. As he pulled it towards the cigarette, it went out.
“I swear to God!” she said.
She lit it again but it went out before she could light her cigarette. She walked over to the camp stove and lit it, lighting her cigarette off the burner. She took a long drag on the cigarette and filled her lungs with the soothing smoke. The camp stove suddenly went out. She turned off the burner and glared at the room.
* * *
Bricker went to the dining room to get a few of the china plates to put into the lacquered box. A few moments after he arrived, Miss Fairfield walked into the dining room as well. She set up her camera and took a few photographs of the china and then photos from other spots in the room.
Bricker left, took the vase from the small table in the foyer, and went upstairs. He found Miss Edington standing by one of the windows of the room, smoking a cigarette. Another was crushed out on the floor by her feet. She reached down and tossed the butt out the window. Bricker just shrugged.
I don’t want anything to do with this house, he thought.
He asked if she’d found anything else in the black lacquered chest as he’d noticed the extra room in it. She patted the book on the bed next to her.
“Can I see it?” he asked.
“I was hoping to look over it but sure, it’s yours,” she said.
He looked through the book briefly and then closed it and handed it back to her. They both heard the whoosh of flash powder igniting somewhere in the house. Miss Edington started to more carefully look through the book. Bricker left the room.
* * *
Bricker crossed the landing to the bedroom across it and found himself in the nursery once again. He paused, uneasy. He moved in carefully, poking around and looking for anything of value. He soon began to notice a smell in the room which became stronger and more foul every moment. He tried to find where it came from but it seemed to come from everywhere and got stronger and stronger.
He went to the back landing through the other door. Then he searched through the storage room once again. He opened broken boxes and moved things. The dust he stirred up got a little thick and then he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. Something was behind him.
He grabbed a dining room chair that was in front him and quickly spun around, ready. One of the uniforms they’d found before stood in front of him but there was no one in it. The invisible figure in the uniform reached for the man’s throat. He swung the chair as hard as he could and it struck the uniform without any resistance, the cloth folding around the chair. Then he flung the chair away from himself. It shattered to pieces and the uniform crumpled to the floor.
* * *
Miss Edington heard the crashing noise and left the bedroom to go find out what was going on. She went down the back hallway and thought she heard footsteps in one of the bedrooms. She went in to find it was the bedroom with the vines growing through and covering up the windows. She thought she heard movement back in the far corner of the room but couldn’t see who it might be from the doorway.
She didn’t like it. She hesitated and walked along the wall to the other corner of the room. No one was over there, which was surprising to her.
The vines suddenly grabbed the girl and dragged her from the room, flinging her out of the second story window. She screamed and crashed into a stagnant pond behind the house with a splash. She climbed out of the water, no idea where the book had gotten. Angry, she tramped back to the house and went back to the master bedroom to change.
* * *
In the dining room, Miss Fairfield had heard the crash from above but didn’t hear any screaming so figured no one was in dire straits. She took her equipment into the kitchen. A little later, she thought she heard someone come in the front door and go upstairs.
* * *
Bricker went back to the nearby bedroom where the vines were prevalent and was surprised to see a book lying on the floor near the windows. He walked over and picked it up. It was the book that Miss Edington had earlier.
Oh crap, he thought.
He took the book and went to the next bedroom where the stuffed alligator and buzzard were kept. He had thought the alligator, hanging above the small fireplace, had its jaws closed before. Now they were open just a few inches, possibly wide enough for his arm to fit into the thing. He couldn’t tell if anything was in the thing or not. The alligator itself didn’t look valuable so he took the axe to it, starting in the middle. It burst in half and let out a strange shriek that sounded all too human.
“Sorry,” he said.
He smashed it again and it started to stink. It reminded him of the smell in the nursery. He shrugged and hacked the thing to pieces but all that was inside was rotten sawdust and cotton.
Bricker next turned his attention to the stuffed buzzard. He looked it over and realized there might be something hidden inside the thing. It was falling apart so he took the axe to it.
* * *
Miss Fairfield headed upstairs and set up her equipment on the front landing, hoping to get a good photograph of the decrepit chandelier. She soon heard something smashing things again.
* * *
Miss Edington was heading back to the room where she’d been flung by the vines and heard a crashing noise in one of the rooms as she passed it. She looked down the short hallway and saw a lot of dust in the air. She crept forward and peeked into the now-quiet room.
Bricker stood in the middle of the room, his back to the woman, breathing heavily, axe in hand. Dust, feathers, and bits of cotton floated in the air all around. A pile of debris was in front of the fireplace and another pile sat on the floor in front of him.
She quietly backed out of the room but then saw the book on the fireplace mantle. She crept into the room and Bricker looked around, seeing the young woman reaching it. She stopped when their eyes met.
“Are you all right?” he asked, lowering the axe.
“Are you all right?” she replied.
“Yes. Oh! Oh, this? I was looking for if they’d stashed anything in the … taxidermy.”
She carefully took the book.
“Yeah, I found that in the other room,” he said. “Didn’t you have the book? Is everything all right? It seems like you wanted to keep that book close.”
“Yes,” she said. “I’m fine.”
“Oh, all right. Sorry, I realized this is probably weird.”
“Why are you beating up these stuffed animals?”
“Like I said, there’s probably something valuable in them and I wanted to see. They’re falling apart, so I can’t sell them anyway.”
“So you decided to chop them up?”
“They’re dead, aren’t they?”
“That doesn’t mean …”
“This is your house,” she said. “I’ll just be back in the bedroom.”
She gave him a long look and then quickly left the room. Bricker turned and examined the fireplace, hoping for another secret panel. When he found nothing, he returned to the bedroom with the stairwell leading down. As he entered the room, the door to that stairwell, where he’d fallen the day before, opened slowly, almost as if beckoning him. He pointed at it and then looked around. The door suddenly slammed shut. He left and, as he did so, the door to the stairs creaked open again.
“Shut up!” he called over his shoulder.
He returned to the master bedroom where he found Virgil Thomas still sleeping in the corner. Miss Edington sat on her bed, eating peaches out of one of the jars of preserves they’d purchased in Ochopee and looking through the strange book they’d found in the fireplace.
“Nigel, you sure you’re all right?” she asked.
“You slamming doors now?”
“No, it’s the stairwell with the door … the stairwell that I got thrown down.”
“You got thrown down a stairwell!?!”
He told her about going into the room the day before, seeing the door close and hearing someone going down the steps, and how he’d gone over and opened the door. He told her someone shoved her from behind and he’d fallen. He showed her a bruise on his arm and another on his leg, the results of the tumble he took. She turned pale as she realized she had looked down the stairs the day before. Bricker finally noticed she had changed her dress.
“Do you usually change clothes when you have a different meal?” he asked. “Is that what you southern ladies do?”
“No Nigel,” she said patiently. “No. I’m glad you found the book though. I didn’t want to go back in that room anyway.”
“Why? What happened in the room?”
“Just don’t get near the vines. They tend to throw people out windows.”
“Out the … what?”
“The vines grabbed me up and threw me out the window! I didn’t get hurt because I landed in the water. That’s why I’m all wet.”
That’s when he noticed her hair was damp.
“And I know I didn’t imagine that because I wouldn’t just throw myself out the window!” she went on. “Just don’t go back to that room. I thought you were in there because I heard some footsteps and then there was nobody there and them vines just grabbed me─”
With a creek, the double doors behind Bricker slowly closed.
“Nigel, I’m gonna have to leave,” she said.
“I’m right behind you,” he replied.
Then he thought he heard a baby crying from somewhere in the house.
* * *
Miss Fairfield went to the nursery next. She set up her camera and flash equipment. She was almost done when she started to hear a baby crying very loudly. It sounded like it was coming from one of the three cribs in the room. Without skipping a beat, she walked out of the room to the landing. She saw the others in the master bedroom and ran into the room as the sound stopped.
“Miss Fairfield, what’d you find?” Miss Edington said.
“I didn’t see nothing but … did you hear that?” Miss Fairfield asked.
“The baby. The baby crying.”
Miss Edington shuddered.
“I ‘eard it,” Bricker said. “Where was it coming from?”
“It sounded like it was right next to me but I didn’t see anything,” Miss Fairfield said.
“Where were you?” Miss Edington asked.
“In the nursery,” Miss Fairfield said.
Miss Edington went pale. She remembered what she’d seen in the nursery the day before. She picked up another peach from the jar but just held it in front of her face without biting into it.
“Don’t go into the nursery …” she muttered.
“Well, I have to get my camera back,” Miss Fairfield said.
“Just don’t look in the cribs.”
Bricker said he’d go back with her if she wanted to get her equipment back.
“Just don’t look in the cribs,” Miss Edington whispered staring at nothing. “Just don’t look in the cribs.”
Bricker and Miss Fairfield crept back to the nursery and she put the equipment back as quickly as she could. Once everything was put away, the two returned to the master bedroom, Bricker shutting the door to the nursery behind them.
Miss Edington offered them the jar of peaches, which was still two-thirds full. They ate enough to hold them over until suppertime. Miss Fairfield made a rough sketch of the house in her notebook.
Miss Edington continued to look over the book, occasionally looking at the door to the back hall that had closed by itself earlier. She recognized many things in the book as having similarities with many classic symbols of witchcraft, though the ones in the book also showed the influence of some other, unidentifiable culture. She wondered about symbols on Brown Mountain, but these didn’t resemble that in any way.
It still rained lightly outside. Water dripped down in the room in a few places, leaving little puddles on the wooden floor. It was not surprising that the roof leaked.
Miss Fairfield picked up her camera equipment and headed out of the room. Miss Edington stayed in the bed and continued flipping through the book. Bricker headed out onto the landing.
* * *
Bricker went down to the foyer and to the front doors with the intention of going to the strange pool of water where they’d seen the horrible thing the night before. He felt himself getting excited by the prospect of seeing it again. He opened the front doors and looked out onto the town in the falling rain.
* * *
Miss Fairfield set up her equipment in the bedroom with the stairwell leading down. She took photographs of the empty room, the stark contrast of darkness and light making for an interesting picture, she hoped.
* * *
Bricker headed out of the house and crossed the deserted town. He went down the path to the terrible pool, creeping carefully through the overgrowth and feeling terribly excited. He passed the other overgrown path and crept into the bushes to make his way to the clearing.
At the center of the expansive, slime-coated body of water stood a small island upon which reared a moss-encrusted, looming statue of a creature that was half turtle and half sea urchin. Before it was raised a stone altar stained by years and unmentionable fluids. Nothing grew on the blasted hummock, nor did the vegetation encroach any nearer than 20 feet from the shore of the fetid pool. The silence was heavy, expectant, and electric. For Bricker in his strange state of mind, it was almost arousing.
There was no sign of the thing from the night before.
He looked for a way across to the island but the water was so slimy and brown he couldn’t tell how deep it was. There were a few logs he might have climbed atop and floated himself across. He thought on it for some time.
Someone cleared their throat behind him.
He spun around to find Crawford Slater standing there, staring at him. The man stood in the shadow of a Cyprus tree. He wore his straw hat and gardening gloves.
“What you doin’ out here, son?” he said in his out-of-place New England accent. “You don’t want nothin’ to do with these old … Indian artifacts, do ya? It’s not safe out here, y’know.”
“What is that thing?” Bricker asked, gesturing towards the idol. “Do you know?”
“I don’t know. It’s always been here. I don’t come out here. It’s too dangerous.”
“Well, I mean, I heard something last night. Like people walking this direction. Like, I could see them from out the window. Is it something the locals do out here, or …?”
“No. You probably just saw ‘em headin’ out into the woods to hunt. They have to get some food somehow, you know? But if you see ‘em again, you could come and join ‘em, I suppose. They’re very friendly. They’re very friendly.”
Bricker headed back to Harlow house. Slater followed him, pointing out how dangerous the swamp was, emphasizing the dangers of the poisonous snakes, the crocodiles, and the panthers. He asked Bricker what he thought of New Dunwich and if the house was to his satisfaction. Bricker told him he was looking to sell it and move on as he wasn’t planning on staying.
“Well, how long are you staying?” Slater asked. “Are you planning to fix it up? That’s what young Brandon Young did.”
“No, I don’t believe so,” Bricker said. “Our ride is supposed to come back in about six days. Unless you know someone who can get us back to Ochopee before then.”
“No, I’ve got things I’ve got to do. I know the way.”
“Could you draw us a map, perhaps?”
“I’m afraid I don’t know it well enough for that.”
“Do you know anyone in town who might know the way?”
“Many of them have not left this town since they were born. That’s longer ago than you might suspect. But I’m sure you’ll be fine. It’s only a few days. You’ve got plenty of food and water, don’t you?”
“Oh yes. Yes.”
“You’ll be fine. It’s all fine. Well, you have yourself a nice day.”
He turned and walked away. Bricker went back into the house.
* * *
Miss Fairfield went to the next bedroom and found the mounted animals there had both been completely destroyed. Dust still hung in the air while feathers were scattered about the floor around the buzzard. Alligator scales were scattered all around the fireplace. She decided to skip that room and, instead, climbed the creaking steps to the cupola.
While she was setting up her camera, she heard a noise as if someone were moving around in the upper room of the structure. Then she heard the sound of a man choking before it went completely silent once again. She looked up and could see the rope hanging down in the room above but nothing else. She set up faster.
As she took her photographs, she thought she saw some movement in one of the windows before she broke down her equipment once again, leaving the place. The movement continued in the window but she didn’t look at it.
* * *
Bricker returned to the master bedroom to find Miss Edington still looking through the book and Virgil Thomas sleeping in the corner, snoring loudly. Bricker laid down on Brandon Young’s bedroll and rolled over to face the wall, soon falling asleep.
* * *
Miss Fairfield came down the hallway and went into the bathroom that had seen some repairs and set up. She thought she saw something moving in the mirror and so she turned away from it and hurried her preparations for taking photographs. She took two photographs and then broke down her equipment and got out of the room.
She returned to the bedroom and took out the umbrella she kept with her photography equipment for photographs in inclement weather.
“Be careful out there,” Miss Edington said.
Miss Fairfield headed out onto the landing and down to the foyer. She went out into the falling rain. It took a while longer to get everything set up while still trying to keep it relatively dry with the umbrella. She took photographs of the house from two different angles and was breaking down the equipment again when a voice from directly behind her startled her and made her jump.
“Are you finding everything to your liking?” the voice of Crawford Slater drawled.
She turned to the man.
“Aw, I didn’t mean to startle ye,” he said.
“No, it’s … it’s okay,” she said. “I just get a little focused.”
“I was talking to Mr. Bricker and I understand you’re staying for another week.”
“Yeah … I guess that’s the plan. Just taking pictures. I assume he wants to sell the house.”
“I hope you’ve been sleeping well.”
“Yeah … I slept like a baby.”
“Oh, that’s good. That’s good. Well, you just let me know if you need anything.”
He turned and he walked away. It looked like he was heading back towards his house. Miss Fairfield thought about the gardening shed, wondering if he had anything to do with the dead body within.
She thought for a few moments and then looked up to see Miss Edington looking out of the master bedroom window. She waved at the woman, who waved back. The woman disappeared from the window.
* * *