Nightmare in the Moonlight Part 4 - Entering the Nightmare
CoC 1-6e Jazz Age Dreamlands
* * *
Miss Edington blinked and found herself standing on a great cliff on a featureless plain of rock and stone. Dark clouds filled the sky above her and the wind blasted her. Nearby, she heard waves crashing against the rocks below somewhere. Behind her was a cliff. A roar seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere.
She looked down and saw she was dressed in the same dress she had worn in Phillips’ bedroom and still had her shotgun in her hand. Then Miss Fairfield was standing to one side of her. She hadn’t seen the other woman appear, she was just there. She looked around, somewhat confusedly.
The others appeared, one by one: McCree, Bricker, Agent Sanderson, and finally Johnson. Agent Sanderson drew his pistol and the others had weapons ready but there was no sign of any life or indication of where they might be.
“This sounds like it,” Johnson quipped.
“Would you be able to take a picture of whatever beast we might find?” McCree called to Miss Fairfield over the din.
“Yeah,” she called back. “If the lighting’s good enough.”
“I will pay you for your services, too,” McCree said.
Dr. Endecott was suddenly there, as if he’d always been, just like the rest. He looked around with a surprised and dismayed look upon his face.
“Is this not what you were expecting?” McCree called to him.
“It is not, sir!” he shouted back.
He walked over to the cliff and looked down, backing suddenly away with some trepidation. Miss Edington, curious, went over to look over the cliff. Miss Fairfield was also very curious and went to look over the side. She was also startled by what she saw.
The cliff seemed impossibly high. Perhaps a mile or so below, a great maelstrom swirled that had the strange illusion of being filled with a great tongue and giant teeth around the edges. It must have been at least a mile across, impossibly huge and terrible. Miss Fairfield took a photograph with shaking hands.
“I’ve never seen the like of this place in the dreamlands!” Dr. Endecott called over the strong wind. “It’s not part of the natural Dreamlands, but I’ve heard stories of entrances to the Dreamlands somewhat like this! I don’t think this is a typical entrance … and I think you’re going to have to … enter that … in order to enter Phillips’ dream!”
He pointed over the edge of the cliff.
They looked around but there was nothing else but bare rock and blowing winds.
“Listen!” Dr. Endecott said. “I think the thing in the moonlight is some mask of Nyarlathotep! They might be his avatars! They might be his servants! In any case, it will probably be nearly impossible to injure or kill them! You must find a way to escape! Phillips created this dream! It’s his! Like most men, he’s most likely created some way out of it! But you’ll have to find a way out! There should be some way to escape! If you don’t, you’ll be lost forever! Good luck!”
He looked towards the cliff.
“Where are you going to go!?!” Miss Edington asked him.
“I’m going to go back!” he called to her. “I’m too old for this! I’ve seen too much!”
“Wait, how are you─” McCree called.
“I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe!” Dr. Endecott called. He turned to Agent Sanderson. “I’ve seen deaths that would even sicken a lawman like yourself! My mind is not strong enough for this!”
“Wait!” McCree called. “So you’re just backing away?”
Dr. Endecott looked at him with pity. It almost seemed to say “I’ve seen things that would turn your hair white.”
“We won’t be able to injure them, then?” McCree called.
“I don’t know!” Dr. Endecott called. “I have no idea how these things work. Listen, in the Dreamlands, you take certain things like this and you can find a physical way in. A flashlight, for instance, might turn into an oil lamp. Like in the Arabian nights.”
McCree looked at his rifle. It looked like it always had.
“A weapon like that would normally turn into a crossbow or a dagger in the Dreamlands!” Dr. Endecott went on. “It’s not like our world. You might …”
“What will my camera turn into?” Miss Fairfield called.
“I don’t know,” Dr. Endecott admitted. “Paper an d pencil? A palette and paint? I don’t know what’s going to happen once you go through that maelstrom down there. But somehow, Phillips ended up there and he can’t get out by himself. As Mr. Johnson has said, he can’t get out by himself. He needs help. You have to find a way out. There has to be a way out. No man makes a trap for himself without any way out.”
“I need you to come with me,” McCree said to Agent Sanderson.
They he ran to the edge of the cliff and leapt over. The drop was very, very long and he seemed to plunge for what felt like miles before entering the horrible, spinning, and spitting waters that seemed to watch him as he entered. Miss Edington followed suit, taking a deep breath and leaping over the side and into the horrible maelstrom. Bricker likewise ran to the edge and fell into the maelstrom in terror, followed very closely by Miss Fairfield.
Agent Sanderson and Johnson found themselves at the top with Dr. Endecott.
“I guess we might as well follow ‘em,” Agent Sanderson said.
He shoved Johnson off the cliff. Then he leapt himself, falling into the maelstrom.
* * *
McCree found himself standing in a dank, reed-filled marsh under an autumn sky. A rugged cliff of lichen-crusted stone rose to the north. The swamp seemed to stretch in every other direction. Then Miss Edington was standing next to him, as if she had been there the whole time.
“I think we’re in the right place,” McCree said, somewhat shaken by his plunge.
Miss Edington simply looked at him, wide-eyed.
Bricker and Miss Fairfield were there next though there was absolutely no indication of their arrival save that they were there. Johnson and Agent Sanderson were the last to arrive. Johnson, shocked he’d been pushed, was not really surprised that Agent Sanderson had done so. He glared at the man.
They all still wore the same clothing they had worn when awake and were still armed with the weapons they had brought with them.
“Could you get a picture of me?” McCree asked Miss Fairfield.
He posed with the rifle and she took the photograph.
“Where to?” Agent Sanderson asked.
“Well, I’m wary of this swamp,” Miss Edington said.
The nearby cliff was pierced with the black mouths of many fearsome burrows extending into the walls of the plateau above. A rift or cleft ascended not far from where they stood. They climbed into it. It was covered in several places, a narrow fissure being dark and foreboding in those tight extremes. Some of those had more of the burrows opening off them. At length, they emerged onto a tableland of moss-grown rock and scanty soil lit by faint moonlight as night had fallen as they ascended. A strange stirring could be seen in the swamp far below and behind them.
As they proceeded, they soon found the only other item of true interest on the plain: the rusty tracks of a street railway and the worm-eaten poles still holding the limp and saggy trolley wire. It was all terribly familiar and unsettling.
“Which way do you think he ran?” McCree said. “I don’t remember. He mentioned the car and running from the car. But to where?”
The line ran in a northwesterly direction. Johnson took out the piece of paper, still in his pocket, that Morgan had written.
“If I use this as a map,” he said, “we need to cross endless leagues of plateau until exhaustion forces us to stop. Just like he did.”
Miss Edington looked around for a trolley car but they didn’t see one. Bricker was for following the tracks and Johnson noted they should find the car first. McCree suggested they follow the track to the northwest and they proceeded up the tracks for some time before they found the yellow vestibuled car numbered 1852. It was a plain, double trucked type, having two sets of wheels underneath, more common at the beginning of the century. Though untenanted, it seemed ready to start: the pole was connected to the wire and the airbrake now then throbbed beneath the floor.
Bricker led the way to the trolley car and entered the open door on the back of it and to the left. The car was about 40 feet long and perhaps eight feet wide, with numerous seats. No one was aboard it. Bricker made his way to the front of the trolley and found the controller handle was absent. He knew the trolley could not be set into motion without the handle. It was built to be removed, making it impossible to move the trolley without it.
Miss Fairfield sat down in one of the seats and looked out the windows to the left side.
“Endecott said something about Phillips creating a way out of here,” Bricker said. “Maybe if we find the controller handle and set this car into motion … perhaps that would do it.”
“Wouldn’t the motorman have that?” Miss Fairfield asked.
Miss Edington had gone into the car, as well as McCree. She headed back outside where Agent Sanderson and Johnson were still standing. All of them but Miss Fairfield, watching to the west, and Johnson, blocked by the car itself, saw a man wandering towards the car from the east, stumbling as if he was drunk or exhausted. He wore ragged pajamas and had bare feet.
That’s our boy, Agent Sanderson thought.
Miss Edington ran out of the car and around the south side of the machine. She passed Agent Sanderson and ran towards the man, who leapt up into the air with a shriek and fled.
“No!” Miss Edington called. “Wait!”
The man slowed and stopped, looking around himself in a daze as Johnson walked around the other side of the trolley. The man looked carefully at Miss Edington.
“What?” he called out. “What?”
Miss Edington walked to the man, who watched her incredulously.
“Howard?” she said.
“Who are you?” he asked. “It’s a figment! Another figment of my imagination!”
“How …” he looked her up and down. “No. No no no no no.”
“There are others back here if you want to come back,” Miss Edington said.
“Who are you?” he muttered.
“We’re from the … real world?” she said uncertainly. “If that makes sense?”
“No, you’re just dreams,” Phillips muttered. “You’re just more dreams. It’s all dreams.”
When she got close to him, he reached out and touched her shoulder with one finger. Agent Sanderson and Johnson approached the man as well. He seemed somewhat embarrassed to be in his pajamas and held the collar closed.
“How do I get out?” he muttered. “How did I get here again?”
He gestured towards the trolley car.
“Will this madness never end?” he cried out.
McCree walked up as well.
“Mr. Phillips, we need to get this trolley running,” he said.
“There’s no way,” Phillips muttered. “The controller handle is gone. It’s … it’s the … it’s … who are you?”
McCree took the man by the arm and led him back towards the trolley car. Miss Edington looked around on the ground, hoping to see the controller handle. They all returned to the trolley car and McCree sat the man down on one of the benches near the back. Then he left the car again, moving towards the front of the machine.
“No, we can’t be here,” Phillips muttered quietly. “They’re gonna come! They’re coming! They’re coming! They always come!”
He looked around frantically.
McCree struggled to climb up onto the top of the trolley car towards the front of the machine without luck. He startled Bricker, who reached for the shotgun until he saw who it was.
“And what do you do when they come?” Miss Edington asked.
“I run!” he said. “I run. It’s a dream. I know it’s a dream. I can’t wake up. I was hoping to wake up. You’re just figments of my imagination. You’re just … the stress, the inability to wake up and … and the … the things, they’re … they come. They come every night! They come! It’s … it’s the moon. There’s the moon! It’s coming. They’re going to come. They always come.”
“Is it always night?” Miss Fairfield said.
“It becomes night!” he said. “Or I wake up and it’s night. They’re here and they’re there.”
He suddenly gasped and pointed out of the left side of the trolley car.
“And there they are!” he cried out.
They saw the two figures walking towards the trolley car through the sparse grass, both of them looming out of the moonlight and much closer than should have been possible. They saw the motorman as it sniffed with a singular sharpness and raised its face, a mere white cone tapering to one blood-red tentacle, and howled at the moon. At that same instant, the conductor, who had a face and head like the motorman, dropped to all fours and ran towards the door to the trolley.
Howard Phillips leapt up from his seat and ran towards the door.
“Miss Fairfield!” McCree shouted. “Get a picture!”
Miss Fairfield stood up, raised her camera up to take the photo and stopped dead, rooted to the spot in terror. She pressed down on the shutter button over and over but without advancing the film so she was exposing the same piece of film over and over again. McCree felt a shudder go up his spine but pushed his feelings away.
It’s just a dream, Johnson thought. It’s just a dream. It’s just a dream.
Miss Edington started to giggle insanely.
“Bricker!” McCree cried out. “The motorman!”
The motorman also dropped to all fours and rushed the machine. Everyone except Johnson noticed some kind of strange bulge under his jacket.
Agent Sanderson shot the motorman with his 1911 .45 semi-automatic pistol right through the glass of the car. The blast struck the thing in the chest and it bled some kind of strange ichor. The force of the blast also shook the creature. Miss Edington, giggling madly, put her shotgun to her shoulder and blasted through the glass of another window with one barrel, shattering the glass. The blast struck the motorman in the right foot, blasting it away. It almost fell but kept moving towards the car.
Johnson had McCree’s 1911 .45 semi-automatic pistol and fired through the glass at the thing as well but missed it. Phillips ran out of the end of the car and fled from the terrible creatures.
McCree, near the front of the trolley car, put his elephant gun to his shoulder and fired both barrels at the motorman. The two .600 nitro express caliber slugs blasted through the motorman, leaving fist-sized holes in the thing’s chest and knocking it back 15 feet. The controller handle flew out of the creature’s jacket and crashed to the ground.
The blast also knocked McCree right off his feet and he fell to the ground, his legs flying straight up as he hit. The sounds of Miss Edington’s insane laughter echoed through the trolley car. Bricker, still at the motorman’s position at the front, saw the handle and sprinted towards the back of the car.
The conductor ran past the door to the trolley car in pursuit of Phillips. Sanderson had also seen the handle fly out and moved to the back of the car where he could see the conductor. He fired his pistol through the glass there, shattering the window on the back of the trolley car. The bullet struck the conductor in his horrible head, tearing away part of the thing’s skull and spilling more of the terrible black ichor all over the thing’s uniform. It turned its head his way and he felt like it was looking at him despite the fact that it didn’t have any eyes. The tentacle moved as if it was focused on him.
Miss Edington had also seen the controller handle fly out of the motorman’s jacket. She looked around and saw Phillips running away. Guessing the conductor would pursue him, she waited for the other creature to come back into site so she could shoot at it.
Johnson, inside the car, also saw the controller handle. He ran towards the door of the trolley.
In front of the trolley car, McCree pulled himself to his feet and broke open the smoking elephant rifle. His shoulder ached and he made a mental note to brace himself on something before he fired it again. The rifle cartridges ejected from the gun and he put two more cartridges in and closed it with a snap.
Bricker ran out of the trolley car, reaching the doorway at about the same time Johnson did. Phillips continued to run away screaming as the conductor turned from Agent Sanderson and headed after him, sniffing and snuffling as it bound after the man on all fours. Agent Sanderson fired at the beast again, striking it in the right arm. Blood spewed out of the thing’s arm but it kept running.
Laughing hysterically, Miss Edington saw the conductor and fired the other barrel of her shotgun. The blast shattered another window and blasted the left hand practically off the thing, but it kept chasing after Phillips on all fours. Miss Edington laughed even harder.
Johnson pushed past Bricker and went around the side of the trolley where he could see the ichor-covered conductor. He aimed and fired at the thing but missed completely.
Near the front of the trolley car, McCree turned around and spotted Phillips and the pursuing conductor, though he could barely hear the man screaming over the ringing in his ears. He leveled the elephant gun at the thing and blasted away, missing. The blast knocked him off his feet again and he slammed into the ground, knocking the wind out of himself.
Bricker ran to the motorman, stopping near the horrible thing when he reached the place the controller handle had fallen. That’s when he noticed that the motorman was not completely still. Standing a few feet away from the terrible thing, he could see that the huge holes in the creature’s chest were shrinking and parts of the muscles and torn bones seemed to be pulling back together. It seems like the pieces were reforming. It was very strange and terrifying.
I’ve seen worse than this in the Florida bayou, he thought.
Sanderson shot the conductor again and the thing stumbled and fell to the ground, landing in a heap. Then he turned and headed out the door of the trolley car. Miss Edington also headed for the door, laughing hysterically.
Johnson saw the conductor go down and sprinted after Phillips, who continued to flee, screaming.
At the front of the trolley, McCree picked himself up again. The rifle packed a hell of a punch, especially when firing both barrels. He didn’t think he’d do that again. He cracked open the gun and the empty shells ejected. He quickly put two more slugs into the smoking weapon.
Bricker picked up the controller handle and ran back to the trolley car.
“That thing’s not dead!” he screamed.
“Fairfield, come out here!” McCree called.
“Get on the trolley!” Bricker screamed. “Get on! It’s not dead!”
“Phillips, get your ass back here!” McCree screamed.
Bricker reached the door where Miss Edington, still laughing hysterically, was coming down the steps. He pushed her back onto the car and ran for the front of the machine.
* * *
Johnson, meanwhile, chased Phillips away from the car. He caught the man who had sprinted maybe 100 feet away before he slowed and was obviously winded. The man continued to stumble away but Johnson easily grabbed him by the arm.
“Nooooo!” Phillips screamed.
Eyes closed, he tried to push Johnson off him as he shrieked in terror.
* * *
“Fairfield, come out of the trolley!” McCree yelled as he boarded the trolley. “Suzanna, can you use a camera!?! It seems Fairfield is having an episode!”
Miss Edington laughed and laughed and laughed.
“What?” she cried out, still giggling.
Agent Sanderson stepped off the trolley and fired into the air. No one seemed to pay him much mind. Then he sprinted towards Johnson and Phillips.
* * *
“We got ‘em!” Johnson yelled at Phillips. “It’s okay. Come back to the trolley. We’re going to move the trolley.”
“You’re them!” Phillips cried out. “You’re the trolley! You’re death!”
He was not calmed down at all.
* * *
McCree finally got to Fairfield, who was still staring out of the side of the trolley and depressing the shutter key on her camera.
“Fairfield, I need to borrow this,” McCree said when he reached her.
He took the camera out of her hands. She didn’t seem to notice.
* * *
“You are Howard Phillips,” Johnson said to the other man as Agent Sanderson approached. “You live at 66 College Street. I came to help you.”
Phillips seemed to come to his senses and focused on the man for the first time since the things had appeared.
“Yes,” he said. “You’re … I don’t know your name. I don’t even know any of your names. What?”
* * *
Back in the trolley car, McCree saw that Bricker was working on attaching the controller handle to its place. He turned to the insanely giggling Miss Edington.
“Suzanna,” he said. “You can move? Do you know how to operate a camera?”
“Maybe!” she giggled.
“Okay, if you’ll just follow me for a moment,” he said.
“Okay,” she said, giggling.
McCree and Miss Edington ran to the dead motorman and McCree posed, propping up the thing, while Miss Edington took photographs. He noticed that the thing was reforming.
“Now, if you can go put the camera back in Miss Fairfield’s hands, maybe she won’t even notice,” McCree said when he was done.
They headed back to the trolley, the woman giggling insanely.
* * *
As Johnson, Agent Sanderson, and Phillips headed back to the trolley car on the other side, they all saw the conductor get back up off the ground.
“Oh no,” Phillips said. “No no no. No no no no no no no!”
The thing was obviously badly injured and bled the black ichor from several wounds and holes caused by the various rounds and shotgun shells it’d been blasted with. It seemed to look around and then focus on them. It started to head their direction, limping on its various injured appendages like a wounded animal.
Agent Sanderson fired at the thing but the bullet struck the ground near it as it approached them. Johnson moved quickly ahead and raised the pistol McCree had lent him and fired as well, but it was very far away and he missed, the bullet striking the ground very close to the thing.
“No no no no no no no,” Phillips said quietly.
* * *
Walking back to the trolley, McCree heard the gunshots. He ran to one side so he could see around the car and spotted the conductor making for the small group of men.
* * *
The conductor rushed forward and Agent Sanderson fired again, the bullet striking the thing in the chest. It stumbled and fell backward again. Sanderson then took Phillips’ arm and led him to the trolley. Bricker shouted for everyone to get back on the train. McCree ran to the horrible conductor as Johnson grouped up with Agent Sanderson and Phillips and helped get the man moving.
McCree went prone, putting the elephant gun barrel against the top of the conductor’s head. He fired a single barrel down the length of the horrible thing’s torso, the force of the blast still sliding him away from the creature. Then he got up and ran back to the trolley.
* * *
Miss Edington, still giggling hysterically, put the camera back into Miss Fairfield’s hands. A moment later, the woman blinked and then looked down at the device, finally coming out of her terrible fugue. She was a bit surprised by the sudden stench of gunpowder in the trolley car, the numerous broken or shattered windows, and Miss Edington standing right beside her, shrieking in laughter.
In the front of the trolley, Bricker watched McCree run back and thought everyone was in the trolley at last. He did a head count and, including himself, counted seven people on the trolley.
“Man, you fixed that fast,” Miss Fairfield said to him as he set the trolley into motion.
“Ow,” Miss Edington said.
Her throat was sore from the constant laughing she’d been doing for the past minute or so.
The trolley quickly picked up speed and Bricker opened it up, pushing the controller handle as far as it would go. He guessed the car was probably going about 25 miles per hour. Not as fast as a motorcar but certainly faster than a man could run. At least he hoped it was faster than a man could run.
The trolley clacked over the rails.
McCree started babbling insanely and making absolutely no sense. He continued to talk about the terrible things they’d faced. That lasted for a minute or so before he pulled himself together.
They had only gone for a few minutes when they spotted the motorman and the conductor standing off the side of the tracks ahead of them. Phillips looked away. He had obviously seen enough of them. The others watched the things as they went by. Seeing them again was very disturbing as the thing just watched as the trolley car roared past. Miss Fairfield took a photograph of the things.
The trolley continued along, the strange, moonlit terrain rolling under the wheels and tracks. The moon was constantly on their right and they spotted new and different rock formations and places. However, despite the fact that they were apparently moving constantly in a northerly direction faster than a man could run for any length of time, they soon saw the two figures by the tracks ahead once again.
Bricker closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see them. Miss Fairfield did the same thing even as Agent Sanderson pulled Phillips down to the floor of the trolley. Johnson looked away. He didn’t want to see the things again either. McCree glared at the terrible things and wondered if they could understand him. He aimed his elephant gun at the things as they approached
“Oh God!” Phillips whispered to Agent Sanderson. “It’s right there!”
He pointed towards the back of the trolley car but the federal agent couldn’t see anything.
“It’s coming for me!” Phillips shrieked. “It’s coming for me!”
Agent Sanderson grabbed Phillips and put him in a choke hold, holding the man until he stopped moving. Phillips was still alive but unconscious. He thought he heard the man whisper “pillar of salt” before he lay still.
Miss Edington watched the horrible thing as they went by and felt a ripple of terror run through her. She thought she was just in a dream but wasn’t sure. Perhaps her assumption was incorrect.
They passed the two figures once again. It was several minutes later when they saw the figures beside the tracks ahead of them again.
“What the hell is going on?” Bricker said.
Miss Edington looked around the trolley car. The terrain had been changing. They were not going in a circle or moving over the same terrain over and over again. They were in a different place but the figures were still there. The trolley car was winding around on tracks that avoided the higher points in the terrain but, according to the moon, they were heading roughly in the same northerly direction.
“Maybe there’s more than two,” Miss Fairfield cried out in despair.
“What if there’s a bunch!?!” Miss Edington said quietly.
McCree asked for the shotgun and Bricker set it down on the floor behind the motorman’s seat. McCree picked it up and leaned out one of the broken windows. No one else looked at the horrible things. Miss Edington focused on reloading her shotgun as they passed while others looked away and Bricker closed his eyes again.
One of the things was actually very close to the rail and, as the trolley car approached, both started running along the side of the track. McCree aimed at one of them and waited until the conductor was painfully close before firing a single barrel, catching the thing in the right arm but not killing it.
Then both of the horrors tried to leap onto the trolley car.
The uninjured motorman slammed into the side of the trolley car and bounced off, crashing on the ground and rolling horribly. The conductor leapt, grabbing onto one of the broken windows with its left arm clumsily. Miss Edington looked to see the thing clinging to the side of the trolley car. It scrabbled to get fully on board. Miss Fairfield also looked around at the scrabbling noise and saw the horrible thing trying to climb in the broken window of the trolley.
“Get a picture!” McCree shouted.
She grabbed the pistol out of her pocket and shot at the thing. Another window cracked as the bullet passed through it. Johnson looked up and saw the horrible thing almost right next to him.
“Get out of the way!” Miss Edington cried out.
She stepped over to the thing and shoved the shotgun up against its head, blasting away with both barrels. The conductor’s hat flew off as the thing’s head exploded into ichor and gore. The blast knocked it backwards and off the trolley. It was gone.
With a manic grin, Miss Edington cracked open her shotgun and reloaded both barrels.
The trolley car continued along, the clacking of the wheels on the track dim due to the ringing in their ears.
McCree had looked over the terrain and gauged their course with the moon, which seemed to be stationary in the sky for the most part. The trolley was still moving in a northerly direction and not covering the same terrain.
They soon saw the two figures off in the distance yet again. One of them raised his head and they heard a howl in the distance. Then the other one shimmied up the worm-eaten pole and climbed out onto the support pole holding the wire over the track. Johnson feared the thing might do something to the wire but realized the thing was waiting directly over the place they would be passing.
Bricker closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see the things again.
“Hey, everyone, let’s let them on the train and just see what they do,” McCree called out. “We have shotguns. We’ll just shoot them if they do anything precarious.”
“Oh my God,” Agent Sanderson muttered. “Oh my God.”
“Are you bloody mental!?!” Bricker yelled at the hunter.
“Somebody’s at the end of the train, said Phillips,” Agent Sanderson said.
They all looked towards the back of the train and Miss Edington and Johnson headed for the rear of the trolley car. They didn’t see anything back there.
None of them watched the things as they closed with them. They all listened and then heard something land on top towards the middle of the car. McCree aimed towards where the sound was before deciding he didn’t have much of a chance of hitting the thing as he couldn’t even see it.
They heard the thing skittering across the top of the car, going from the front to the back and then to the front again before heading for the back. Miss Edington and Johnson both ran to the door to close it and the thing suddenly scrabbled down to land on the bottom step in front of her.
“This is good!” McCree yelled. “Keep it in the back!”
Miss Fairfield kept her eyes closed and hoped for the best. Agent Sanderson shoved Phillips’ form under a seat. He then moved towards the back where Phillips said the thing was. He saw the thing in the doorway and realized the man had been right.
Miss Edington shoved her shotgun into the thing’s chest and fired both barrels. The blast blew the horrible thing right out of the trolley car. It crashed to the ground and rolled, obviously dead, the car leaving it behind. She pulled the door closed.
“My vote is we move everybody towards the front,” McCree yelled. “We let them on the train and keep them on the train and just continually beat them until they’re a blood pulp.”
After a few minutes, they saw the figures up ahead again. No one looked at the things as they passed. Bricker peeked every once in a while, not wanting to see the things but wanting to know when they were past.
When they spotted the things the next time, both of the horrors leaned back their terrible, white heads, lifted their horrible red tentacles towards the moon, and howled in a strange ululating sound that was unlike anything anyone had ever heard.
How do they howl when they don’t have a face? Miss Edington thought.
The howl was answered by what sounded like scores if not hundreds of howls from all around. They could make out movement from behind and beside the trolley car as dark figures seemed to come at them. What sounded like a herd of animals seemed to be chasing the trolley from all sides. No one looked and Bricker, in panic, closed his eyes while he tried, in vain, to make the controller handle move further and propel them faster.
By then Phillips had regained at least a part of his consciousness.
“Pillar of salt,” he muttered over and over again, lying on the floor of the trolley. “Pillar of salt. Pillar of salt.”
They realized he was referring to Lot’s wife from the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot’s wife had looked back to see the devastation she had been told by God not to lay her eyes upon and been turned into a pillar of salt.
Bricker finally opened his eyes, not looking back but forward. He saw the rail they were on appeared to go over the edge of the plateau and quickly told the rest.
“Let’s go!” Miss Fairfield said.
Everyone braced themselves as the trolley car flung itself over the edge onto a rail that was perhaps at an 80 degree angle, far too sharp an incline for the trolley to possible stay on. But somehow the vehicle stayed on the tracks as everyone braced themselves to keep from being flung to the front of the car. Agent Sanderson and Phillips, on the floor, slid forward. Everyone else braced themselves as best they could. The car roared towards the swamp below and then into a pit that was probably at least a mile across and into the darkness below.
A slow clapping came from the back of the car. Miss Fairfield closed her eyes as the rest of them looked.
A tall, swarthy man with a strong chin, mustache and goatee walked towards the front of the trolley car. He had curly hair and wore simple black clothing. A sneer was on his lips and he appeared somewhat amused. Though the car was going almost straight downwards, he stood as if the floor were flat on the ground.
“Most invigorating,” he said in an impossible-to-place accent. “How very interesting. I’ve not noticed you before, though some of you are easier to spot than others.”
The conductor and the motorman appeared in the back of the car with the dark man. As it continued to get darker, they start to move towards Agent Sanderson and Phillips.
“Enjoy your success … it never lasts,” he says, smiling widely. “I’m sure we shall meet again …”
It was getting darker and darker and, as it became completely black, the motorman and the conductor reached for Agent Sanderson and Phillips. The man in black laughed and laughed as the motorman’s tentacle wiped against Agent Sanderson’s face.
* * *
They all woke up in Phillips’ room. Miss Edington quickly sat up and looked at the bed. Phillips was there, the pillow atop his face. He sat bolt upright and gasped, sweaty. In fact, all of them felt sweaty. Phillips looked around.
“Who?” he said. “That was … what …?”
Dr. Endecott was in the room, sitting on the chair. Virgil stood near the door, his hand in his pocket where he kept his pistol. He smiled when Miss Edington sat up. All of them were there.
Dr. Endecott told them he had given himself a hypnotic suggestion to wake himself after certain amount of time. When he woke up, all of them had been gone, though they had each left a warm spot where they had fallen asleep and, apparently, physically entered Phillips’ dream. He told them they had only been gone for a few minutes before appearing again.
Phillips was very shaken but in his right mind. He was terribly grateful for their help, telling them he had been in the dream for what felt like months. He hugged everyone and thanked them over and over again. Endecott was also curious about what had happened in the dream. Johnson explained everything to Dr. Endecott while McCree told Miss Fairfield he’d like to see the photographs once they were developed. Miss Fairfield saw that the film had been advanced. They were also missing cartridges, bullets, and shells from their inventory.
Dr. Endecott told them he thought it was Nyarlathotep who had appeared in the trolley car as they had escaped the dream. That terrified the man, he was not ashamed to say, and it surprised him as well. He asked if any of them had spoken to him or said anything to the man. They all shook their heads.
“That was probably wise,” he said. “He doesn’t have much of a sense of humor, from my understanding.”
He explained that Phillips’ dream seemed made to drive the young man mad and that Nyarlathotep was known for spreading madness and despair.
Dr. Endecott told them he had been to the Dreamlands and was willing to help them get there if they ever wished to visit that place. He noted what they had entered that night was not the Dreamlands. He was unsure what it was but assured them it was not the Dreamlands.
“A nightmare,” Miss Edington said.
“Yes,” he replied. “It was like a nightmare in the moonlight.”
* * *
When Miss Fairfield later developed the film in her camera, it was all blank.