The Lurker in Tunnel 13 Part 3 - The Trap is Sprung
CoC 7e Jazz Age
* * *
The three went to Ezekiel’s house around suppertime, just before it got dark. Wallin showed up with his chainsaw. It was snowing again.
“Why?” Nurse Petrov said.
“Why?” Cloverfield said.
“It might come in handy,” Wallin said.
“You’re going to chop wood in a man’s house?” Nurse Petrov said.
“If he asks me too.”
“You can go back to the inn and get your chainsaw.”
“It’s already here!”
“Mom always said don’t bring the gun to the table,” Pavil said.
He had left his rifle in his room.
“We might need to start a fire someday,” Wallin said.
“I’m pretty sure it will be fine,” Nurse Petrov said.
They had a filling but again bland meal with Ezekiel and his family as well as Dr. Reddick and a few others, including O’Brien and McKensey, the last two men looked terrified of the strangers. There was a bottle of homemade wine and the entire room was well-lit with candles and lamps. They had a little small talk after the meal.
“I heard you were asking questions,” Ezekiel said after the meal. “What do you need to know?”
Nurse Petrov just glared at the man, still angry he’d snubbed her earlier that day.
“Do you know anything specifically about mineshaft number 13?” Wallin said.
“Uh … well …” Ezekiel said. “We haven’t worked it in 20 years since the ore ran out.”
“Other than that. We heard a rumor that someone potentially went in there a while back.”
“Well, my father Abraham was a strange duck.”
“Oh, your last - you’re Abraham’s son.”
“I’m Ezekiel Monroe, yes. He began looking into other ways to renew and restore the mines. I’m not going to lie. I found it worrisome even though I was but a child. He invested good deal of time and family money into buying strange books from far-away places and unearthing books in our own library. One of them was called … Visions of a Dead Priest written by … some relative of ours hundreds of years ago.
“Then, in 1904 I think, he went into Number 13 and never came out. We searched all over─”
“Do you still have some of the books?” Cloverfield asked.
“He took ‘em all,” Ezekiel said. “He took everything. We never found him. He might have fallen down a shaft or he might’ve gotten caught in a collapse. The mines had been abandoned for several years by that point. No one ever saw him again and a few men disappeared trying to locate him. Some people claimed they saw something around one of the mines, number 13. Something lurking, but I don’t hold much truck with that.
“Since then, we’ve stayed here and made the best of it we can. We don’t go to the mines. We get visits from the outside: tax collectors, policemen, government men mostly. Sometimes a hiker or a camper. That’s why everybody was so surprised to see you, especially in the winter. No one travels through the mountains in weather like this.”
“Any luck on the car, by the way?” Cloverfield asked.
“They … were not able to get it out but we should have it by tomorrow,” Ezekiel said.
“Did you also find an Atlas?”
“I’ve not had time to look today.”
“Do you know where I could find one?”
“I’ll try to get you one tomorrow.”
“He’s busy with his cows,” Nurse Petrov muttered.
“Do you, by chance, have any extra lanterns or anything?” Wallin said.
“Uh … we could probably get some for you,” Ezekiel said. “Again, by tomorrow. Most people in town have probably gone to bed by now or are going to bed. This is a special occasion. That’s why we’re still up.”
“Well, thank you.”
“Any time. Well, we’re going to serve up some more of this wine, make kind of a party of it, since … we’ll do anything to celebrate something around here, won’t we? I’m sure you all find us pretty dull, but … but we’re getting by as best we can.”
“No, we were having some fun in the billiards hall.”
“That’s where people go relax, I understand. When I have time I get there. But it’s not very often.”
A woman screamed. It was Ezekiel’s wife.
“Ezekiel!” she called out, running into the room. “It’s Mitchell!”
Ezekiel went to comfort his wife.
“He’s got to be somewhere,” he said.
“But he’s not Ezekiel!” she said. “I’ve searched the entire house! My God, Ezekiel, our child is wandering lost. Outside!”
“All right, all right,” he said. “If he’s not in the house, he’s got to be outside. Let’s go look.”
They all grabbed their coats and hats. A few of the men grabbed lanterns and some went to get torches. Cloverfield grabbed a lantern as well. They left the house and quickly found a line of tracks leaving the house by the front door and going up the street. It had stopped snowing again.
As they headed up the street, Cloverfield took Pavil aside.
“Get the rifle,” he whispered to the other man.
“That’s a good idea,” Pavil said.
“Would you get my medical bag too?” Nurse Petrov said to the man.
“Gladly,” Pavil said.
He raced into the hotel, retrieving his rifle and Nurse Petrov’s medical bag before running up the road to catch up with the rest of the group. The tracks went up the street and out of the town towards the mines, going right up to Tunnel 13.
“There, do you see?” Ezekiel said. “Mitchell’s path trails off into the darkness!”
“Ezekiel!” McKensey said. “Don’t you realize which tunnel this is? It’s tunnel 13! We can’t follow Mitchell in there.”
“Maybe you can’t, but he’s my son!” Ezekiel said. “I’m going in there alone if I have to.”
Cloverfield volunteered to come looking with Ezekiel, as did Wallin, Pavil, and Nurse Petrov.
“Please, don’t go Ezekiel!” the man’s wife cried.
She pulled at his clothing and cried hysterically. He tried to comfort her but obviously also didn’t want to leave her.
“We’ll make sure he gets back okay, ma’am,” Wallin said.
“No!” she shrieked at him.
She was obviously hysterical.
“You stay here,” Nurse Petrov said, putting a hand on Ezekiel’s shoulder. “Comfort wife. We go. Might as well be strangers.”
“Can we get some more of those lanterns?” Wallin said.
Several villagers handed off lanterns.
“But tell me, what are we going to face?” Nurse Petrov said.
“Be honest,” Cloverfield said. “What’s in here?”
“There’s no time!” Ezekiel said. “If you’re not going, I’m going!”
Nurse Petrov, angry, pushed the man back and turned to enter the mine. The other three followed her.
If they had looked behind them at the crowd gathered behind them, they might have noticed the most bizarre expression on their shadowed faces: a gleaming grin of triumph. But they did not glance back.
Tunnel 13 was dank and dirty with a hard, rocky floor, a narrow gauge rail line that ran from the entrance, and various mining implements that had long been abandoned. As they moved through the main tunnel, the tracks abruptly ended, impossible to see once the snow and water upon them dried up. Something seemed to draw them forward, however, almost like an inner voice calling to them.
After they had walked several hundred yards, the rail line ended in a buffer stop made of thick pieces of wood but a strange, dim phosphorescent light came from ahead of them.
“Mitchell!” Wallin called out.
It startled everyone a little bit. They moved cautiously forward and saw that the tunnel opened into a large natural cave, the ceiling some 20 feet above. A ledge in the cave opened into what appeared to be a large pit below. Wallin recognized the cave as the place from his dream. It appeared to be a wide, deep pit and, remembering the window in the Clarke House, Cloverfield remained far from the edge of the pit, instead lingering near the end of the mine tunnel. Pavil drew his pistol.
Wallin started his chainsaw, filling the entire cave with a terrible roar of the engine. It practically deafened them all. Pavil took out his earplugs and put them in. Then he realized there was a rhythm to the noise of the chainsaw, amplified by the earplugs. He pulled them out immediately.
“Wallin!” Cloverfield yelled. “Turn it off.”
Wallin ignored them and, instead, crept to the edge of the pit. He looked down and saw, some 40 feet below, a slightly glowing mass of flesh, skin, bones, and fur, as large as a house or larger and with a great, terrible eye in the center of it. The eye looked directly into his own. He backed away and turned off the chainsaw. All of their ears rang.
“Welcome Wallin, Cloverfield, Pavil, Petrov,” a voice spoke in all of their minds, a guttural whisper from beyond the grave like a flesh-curdling hissing out of hell. “M’nagalah has been … expecting you. Come to me. M’nagalah has need of you.”
Several tentacles came up over the edge of the pit. Cloverfield dropped his cane in terror and fumbled for his pistol, dragging it out of his pocket.
“Turn it back on!” Cloverfield yelled at Wallin. “Turn it back on!”
Pavil shot at one of the tentacles, hitting it. The bullet ripped through it and ichor spewed out. It drew back quickly. The other tentacle whipped forward, grabbing at Wallin’s leg and squeezed it. He stumbled forward as he tried to keep from being pulled towards the edge.
Pavil fired another bullet at the tentacle grasping Wallin’s leg but missed.
“Come James Wallin” the horrific voice whispered in their heads. “Do not be foolish! You cannot hope to deny M’nagalah. For M’nagalah is eternal … the giver of all things.”
Cloverfield fired at the tentacle as well, the bullet striking it. The tentacles burst and slithered away. Other tentacles waved in the air over the edge of the pit. Nurse Petrov ran to Wallin and dragged him back. They all huddled near the edge of the cave where the tunnel reached it.
“It was M’nagalah who decreed the birth of life on your world,” they heard in their heads. “M’nagalah who saw the coming of man … and bestowed him with the capacity for mindless violence … but M’nagalah has been generous as well … for M’nagalah has touched the minds of your greatest scribes: Poe, Bierce, James, Le Fanu, Hawthorne, Wilde, Stoker, Shelley, Blackwood, Lovecraft.
“But M’nagalah had done all this from a very far place … a place not of your world … and there, alone, M’nagalah would have stayed … had not Abraham, father of Ezekiel, grandfather of Mitchell, spoken the spell that freed M’nagalah from his distant prison.
“M’nagalah came into your world most slowly … as a growth on the limb of he who released M’nagalah … until at last M’nagalah consumed him … and took Abraham’s physical mass as M’nagalah’s own.
“But M’nagalah grew hungry then … hungry for more mass to claim as M’nagalah’s own … hungry to drink the minds of those whose mass M’nagalah claimed … and so M’nagalah went searching … and found more mass to thrive on … more minds to enjoy … large mass … small mass … all the same to M’nagalah … for M’nagalah must have much mass to grow … to grow to M’nagalah’s full size … before the stars are right …
“For soon … soon … the great progression that was begun at the birth of the cosmos will be over at last … soon the intergalactic bodies will be in position to complete the vast celestial circuitry that will make M’nagalah the master of all that is … but only if M’nagalah has achieved full mass … and you were sent … sent by the messenger of the Gods … sent by the black man of the woods … sent by he of a thousand masks… so come … come to M’nagalah …”
Wallin and Nurse Petrov suddenly noticed Pavil’s eyes go blank. He started to walk towards the pit. Nurse Petrov leapt at the man, grappling him. Wallin rushed the man, running around in front of him and holding him back. Pavil struggled with the two.
“Make sure no tentacles come!” Wallin said.
Cloverfield ran forward and grabbed the man by the arm as well. Pavil stopped moving forward but they were unable to pull him back into the mine tunnel. They pulled on Pavil with all their might and managed to push the man back from the edge of the pit. Three tentacles came over the edge and reached for them.
“Do not deny what is M’nagalah’s,” they heard in their head, the horrible hissing voice of the abomination. “There is no escape from this valley. No so long as M’nagalah is here.”
They felt a terrible pressure in their minds.
“And M’nagalah is everywhere,” they heard.
“You’re in a hole!” Nurse Petrov screamed.
Wallin bent over and picked up Pavil’s legs. Nurse Petrov was not expecting the shift in weight and suddenly fell over, Pavil sprawled atop. Cloverfield dragged the man off her.
Something grabbed Cloverfield by his good leg and squeezed. He cried out in pain and looked down to see another tentacle grasping him. Another tentacle grabbed Pavil’s leg. Another grabbed Wallin. Both men were badly injured by the grasping things that were stronger than they looked.
“Come to M’nagalah!” they heard in their mind the rasping voice of the beast. “Come to M’nagalah. Come to M’nagalah!”
Pavil suddenly came to his senses. He cursed loudly. He had seen, heard, and felt everything that had happened.
“God damn it!” he shouted. “Let go!”
He looked around and saw his pistol on the floor several feet away and closer to the pit.
Cloverfield shot the tentacle that grasped his leg. The bullet didn’t rip the tentacle in pieces but it let loose anyway.
“M’nagalah’s mass!” they heard the horror hiss in their minds. “Do not injure M’nagalah’s mass!”
Nurse Petrov climbed to her feet and ran to Wallin. She reached down and grasped the tentacle holding the man, wrenching him free. Nearby, Pavil grabbed the tentacle upon him with both hands and pulled it apart, ripping it asunder with his great strength. They heard M’nagalah scream out in their minds.
Walling started his chainsaw. The roar filled the cave.
The tentacles had pulled back into the pit.
“We’re leaving!” Pavil screamed. “We’re leaving!”
“Come to M’nagalah,” the voice hissed in their minds.
“Leaving!” Pavil said.
“Burn it with fire!” Petrov said.
“We’re leaving!” Pavil said.
He ran to the mine.
“But we can’t leave this thing here!” Cloverfield cried out.
“You do not need to leave,” they all heard in their minds, even over the roar of the chainsaw. “Come! Come to M’nagalah! Come!”
“p*** off!” Pavil screamed, fleeing.
“Give me the torch!” Nurse Petrov said. “Who has the torch?”
Nurse Petrov picked up the torch from the floor. Cloverfield flung his lantern over the edge of the pit. The roar of the chainsaw meant they couldn’t hear anything. Then more tentacles came up and over the side of the pit, one for each of them.
The first one flung itself at Nurse Petrov. She swung the torch, striking the thing as it came at her and smashing the end of the thing and burning it. The torch was extinguished by the blow as sparks flew. The tentacle withdrew back into the pit. A second one tried to grab Wallin but he swung his chainsaw at it and cut it off. The rest of the tentacle pulled back into the pit as well The last tentacle came at Cloverfield and he tried to fight it off with his pistol and bare hands. The tentacle grabbed him by his bad leg and squeezed it, pulling him off his feet. He let out a shriek and was being pulled towards the edge of the pit though he remained on his feet.
“Come to M’nagalah!” they heard in their heads. “Look upon M’nagalah!”
“p*** off!” they heard Pavil cry from somewhere in the mine.
Nurse Petrov dropped the extinguished torch and then grabbed the tentacle with both hands. She strained her considerable muscles and ripped the tentacle in two. She heard M’nagalah shriek in her head, a sound more angry than pained. Cloverfield put his hand on Nurse Petrov’s shoulder, trying to keep his balance. Wallin went to Petrov and told her they got him up. Cloverfield staggered towards exit, dragging his bad leg, and screamed.
“M’nagalah has grown tired of this,” they heard the voice.
At least a dozen tentacles rose up out of the pit.
“Run?” Wallin said.
Nurse Petrov turned and ran, grabbing Cloverfield’s right arm as she passed the man and pulled him along with her. Wallin was right behind her, running with the still-roaring chainsaw.
* * *
Pavil ran out of the mine tunnel and found the townsfolk still standing outside. They looked surprised and terrified to see him. They all turned and fled back towards town.
“Wait!” he shouted. “I need to know something! Wait! Stop!”
He saw Mitchell Monroe with the villagers as they fled. The only one of them to stop was Ezekiel.
“Where’s the powder monkey shed!?!” Pavil yelled at him.
“What?” he said. “I … I don’t know!”
“Where’s the dynamite?”
“They stopped mining when I was a kid. I don’t know.”
The others ran out of the mine.
“We didn’t have any choice!” Ezekiel said. “We had to do it! M’nagalah made us! It can control minds!”
“We know,” Wallin said.
“I know, you piece of garbage,” Pavil said.
Cloverfield whimpered in pain. Nurse Petrov tended to the man.
“It wears you down,” Ezekiel said. “It wears you down. Until you give in. And then it sometimes takes you over completely.”
“I … imaging so,” Pavil said.
“Where the dynamite at?” Nurse Petrov said.
“I don’t know!” Ezekiel said.
Pavil looked around but didn’t see anything that might be used as storage at the mine entrance.
“Give me morphine,” Cloverfield said to Nurse Petrov.
“It is addictive,” she replied.
“I don’t care,” he said.
His leg was not broken, thankfully, but it ached.
Wallin was angry and breathed heavily. He went to the nearest wooden structure and used his chainsaw on it to destroy it.
“Did anyone get my gun?” Pavil asked.
“No,” Cloverfield said. “Sorry.”
Pavil took the rifle off his shoulder and worked the action, putting a bullet in the chamber.
“Come back to M’nagalah,” the voice came in their head as clearly as it had in the mine shaft. “M’nagalah is always with you.”
“p*** off!” Pavil yelled.
Wallin turned off his chainsaw and the resulting quiet was unnerving.
They headed back to town, Cloverfield limping badly. The town was as dark as the night before. No light shined from any of the windows though the trickle of smoke came from chimneys as it had before. Nurse Petrov suggested they leave.
“Let them rot with it,” she said.
“But it’ll still be there,” Cloverfield said.
“Let them rot with it,” Nurse Petrov said again.
“I have a grudge against that thing,” Wallin said.
“They tried to sacrifice,” Nurse Petrov said. “They lie.”
Nurse Petrov went to the nearest boarded up house, the second on the left as they came into the town, and ripped the boards off the front door. She found the front door unlocked and stomped in. It was dark and cold inside and only the light from the moon without gave her light. A short search of the building proved that it had already been ransacked. Drawers and cupboards were open and most of the furniture seemed to be missing. She realized that as poor as the people in Perdition were, it was a good bet whenever a house became abandoned for whatever reason, they took everything from the house to use for their own. She headed down the street with speed.
Pavil suggested to Wallin they go to the billiard hall and grab as many of the moonshine kegs as they could. Nurse Pavil heard but merely rolled her eyes. She had no intention of returning to the terrible mine.
“We’re going to roll it down there and light it on fire,” Pavil said.
He and Wallin went down the street to the billiard hall. Though the place was closed and dark, the front door was not locked. He went in, the light from the street enough to show that no one was there. He found a lamp and lit it with a coal from the still-warm pot-bellied stove. Then they found their way to the back room. There were two full barrels in the back, each of them about four to four-and-a-half feet tall and three feet wide. A third barrel was in the front and mostly empty.
They headed out to explore the town to try to find explosives.
* * *
Nurse Petrov, followed by Cloverfield, walked around Ezekiel’s house. There were a few outbuildings but there was no sign of a shovel. She went to the front door and pounded on it. She heard movement from inside but no one answered the door.
“Open door or I kick it down!” she said.
There was a click of a latch. The door opened and Ezekiel stood there with Mitchell.
“You lie,” Nurse Petrov said. “Give us shovel so we leave.”
“You can’t get out,” he said. “Nobody leave the valley.”
“Give me shovel.”
“Nobody can leave.”
He left the door. Mitchell just stared at her.
“All the shovels,” she called after him.
“You can’t leave,” Mitchell said to her.
“Don’t care. Shovels.”
“M’nagalah won’t let you leave.”
“Hush, kid. Go to your room.”
“Can she be my wife? I like her.”
Mitchell left the doorway.
A few minutes later, Ezekiel returned with a couple of spades. She took them and left the man.
She crossed the street to the hotel and went in, going upstairs to her room. She got her suitcase and left the hotel, handing the shovels to Cloverfield at the bottom of the stairs. He stumbled up the steps and got his suitcase from his room before limping back down to the street. He saw Nurse Petrov up the street stomping down the road the way they’d come. He tried to catch up to the woman but with his reinjured leg, he fell behind pretty quickly. He was unsure he could make it a mile. He looked around for Pavil and Wallin but didn’t see any sign of them.
* * *
Pavil and Wallin wandered the back streets of Perdition. They saw a darkened church and soon located sheds and warehouses on the southwest side of town. They found a foundry and, cattycorner to it, another few buildings that looked like they were some kind of warehouses and the like.
Pavil felt like he was back in France in the trenches in hostile territory. He looked about himself warily.
* * *
Nurse Petrov was just past town and heading up the light incline that led back up the road when nausea gripped her. She felt deathly sick, like she was going to vomit any second. It was awful. Her stomach cramped up but she pressed on.
Cloverfield, some way behind her, stopped and rested, his leg aching. He noticed she’d slowed her march.
Nurse Petrov felt weak and so dropped the suitcase and medical kit in the snow. Then she suddenly couldn’t see. All she saw was white. She stumbled and held out her hands.
Cloverfield noticed her and ran up the incline to help the woman. He grabbed her by the arm and led her back to town. As they got closer, her vision came back and her stomach felt better as she saw the town ahead of her once again. She remembered the old man said no one had left the valley in 20 years and realized M’nagalah must have ways of keeping people there. She thought she had just felt some of those ways.
She frowned, angry. Cloverfield was there. He’d picked up her medical kit when they passed it on the way back. She turned around and headed up the incline. The nausea and pain came back and then she went blind once again. Cloverfield, limping in pain, went after her when he saw her wandering aimlessly again. He led her back.
“Why are you not experiencing this!?!” she said when her vision returned again.
Both of them felt cold. Nurse Petrov’s anger had fueled her up until that point.
“Please don’t try and leave,” Cloverfield said. “It obviously hasn’t worked out for you.”
* * *
The other two found that the foundry had obviously been abandoned for years. The other buildings were also abandoned but still held old but useable mining equipment from the 19th century. There were picks, shovels, mine carts, and even posts for shoring up the tunnels. After they searched for about an hour, they found two small crates marked “dynamite.” Each was filled with about 30 sticks of the explosive but crystals had formed on the outside of the sticks and the bottom of the crates. Nearby were fuses, wire, blasting caps, and blasting machines.
They didn’t know what the crystals on the dynamite were. It didn’t look good though.
Then Wallin remembered that old dynamite would sweat nitroglycerin which would, over a great deal of time, crystallize. It was extremely unstable and highly explosive. It would be very dangerous to move it. It was a long way to the mine from the building.
They were looking at the dynamite when Nurse Petrov and Cloverfield found them. Wallin told them what they’d found.
“How are we going to transport this stuff?” Wallin said. “Do not touch it.”
“So, even if we just pick it up, it could explode?” Cloverfield said.
They discussed the difficulty in moving the dynamite but realized there was enough there to completely destroy the tunnel and possibly M’nagalah. Cloverfield suggested collapsing the entrance of the tunnel but Nurse Petrov noted they would be there too. Cloverfield told them about Nurse Petrov’s inability to leave the valley and Petrov guessed even if they sealed it into the tunnel, they’d still be trapped in the valley.
Pavil talked about using the alcohol from the billiard hall to somehow burn the thing. Cloverfield asked Wallin about his dream but the man didn’t see any help there. Nurse Petrov grumbled about the townsfolk and Pavil thought they were a fantastic place to start. Wallin suggested they ask Ezekiel where the older members of town were as they might know how to safely transport the old dynamite. Pavil noted they might have other ideas of how to deal with M’nagalah. He also noted they hadn’t explored the town completely.
They eventually decided to explore the town some more and headed up the street as a group. They noticed the abandoned church once again and saw that most of the houses on the outskirts of town were abandoned. Pavil wondered what the townsfolk were doing with the goods from the abandoned houses.
“We need to find Ezekiel,” Wallin said.
“No, I think we need to find a little person with a smokestack going,” Pavil said. “Because I don’t want to have to shoot Ezekiel in front of his son.”
“Let’s go to the doctor,” Cloverfield suggested. “He’s 60 years old.”
“Sixty-year-olds aren’t afraid of death,” Pavil said. “Let’s find somebody young.”
“We could threaten Ezekiel with Mitchell’s murder,” Wallin said.
“Let’s go find Ezekiel,” Pavil said.
They went to Ezekiel’s house. Cloverfield went first in an attempt to negotiate. He knocked several times before there was an answer by Ezekiel. The man wore a nightshirt with a rough jacket thrown over his shoulders. His son stood behind him, as did his wife. Pavil leveled his rifle at the man’s face.
“Ezekiel, I know that this thing has trapped the people here,” Cloverfield said. “If you help us figure out how to kill it, you could leave or trade could come in. More so, you could just leave. You’re all going to die here if you don’t do something about it.”
“We’re all going to die here anyway,” Ezekiel said. “Why do you think so many of these houses are abandoned?”
“You could live somewhere else if you fought back.”
“You don’t know what you’re dealing with. My pappy called down a god! That thing is a god out there! Did you know that?”
“Yes. I …”
“I had a theory,” Pavil said.
“I had a feeling it was,” Cloverfield said.
“So, how do you kill a god?” Ezekiel said.
“Well, we killed … or defeated─” Cloverfield started to say.
“With high explosives!” Wallin said.
Pavil lowered his rifle.
“We don’t have any!” Ezekiel said.
“We found some,” Cloverfield said.
“And it won’t let you kill me,” Ezekiel said to Pavil. “Because it wants us alive.”
“To add to its mass.”
“So, if we tried to kill you, what would it do?”
“It’ll take your mind. Those it takes … sometimes it takes those at night. Sometimes … haven’t you had any of the nightmares? It’s letting me tell you all this. It doesn’t care. Because it knows you can’t do anything.”
“Yeah, and I saw what your father did,” Wallin said.
“Then you’ve had the nightmares,” Ezekiel said. “Imagine having ‘em every night … for 20 years. It doesn’t leave much up here.”
He tapped the side of his head.
“It doesn’t leave much,” he said. “Of any of us. It lets us breed. It takes the old. It’ll take us all someday. It says it’ll keep us warm and safe and we won’t have any need for nothing.”
He shook his head.
“So, it don’t matter,” he went on. “If it doesn’t take you tonight, it’ll let you stay. Let you get a woman. Let you have some children. It ain’t good, but it’s not like we can get out.”
He gestured up the street to the south.
“‘Cause it … why do you think nobody knows about this place?” he went on. “Policemen have come here. Tax collectors have come here. And then they leave because M’nagalah knows that if too many people disappear here, then more’ll come but maybe too many for it to deal with. Maybe. I don’t know.”
“Then how did that old man get out?” Wallin said.
“I don’t know,” Ezekiel said. “He … I don’t know. I have no idea how Bice got out.”
“Where did he live?” Cloverfield said.
“Where did he live?” Pavil said.
Ezekiel gestured towards the northwest side of town.
“There’s a house on the corner a block over,” Ezekiel said.
He told them where the house stood.
“Have you been in that house yet?” Pavil said.
Ezekiel looked a little embarrassed at that.
“Yes,” he said. “We have. We took everything out when he wasn’t there.”
“Where is it now?” Cloverfield said.
“All of it,” Pavil said.
“Where is it now?” Ezekiel said. “It’s been spread out amongst everybody.”
“Were there any books?” Pavil said.
“Things wear out: knives, forks wear out,” Ezekiel said. “They’re not any good.”
“Books,” Pavil said. “Information.”
“There’s no books in there,” Ezekiel said. “Ain’t been books in this town in years. With all due respect, they make good toilet paper. We didn’t find any.”
He looked at them all.
“That old man managed to get out,” Pavil said.
“I don’t know how Bice got out,” Ezekiel said.
“He managed to get out.”
“You found him a mile away, you said.”
“Yeah,” Cloverfield said.
“Yeah,” Wallin said.
“Over a mile away,” Pavil said. “‘Cause we hit him and he slid for a while.”
A pained look passed across Ezekiel’s face.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know how he got out. But all I know is M’nagalah can erase the memories of being here. That’s why when the police have come … they haven’t been here in years … that’s why … I don’t know. That’s why the people in the surrounding towns don’t even remember this place exists. I don’t know. It’s a god. It’ll do what it wants. Half the time I don’t if it’s my thoughts or M’nagalah’s that I’m thinking.”
“Well, usually he makes it pretty clear,” Wallin said.
“Yeah, when it’s talking to you,” Ezekiel said. “Other times you get these thoughts in your head that can’t be right. Why do you think most of these houses are empty? Wandered off to the mines sometime late at night. Either sleeping or once their minds have finally gone, they just disappear. Once we find ‘em gone, we do what we have to.”
“Well, we found the dynamite, that’s all I’m saying,” Wallin said.
“I don’t know nothing about any dynamite,” Ezekiel said. “The mines have been shut down for 20 years. I was a child when all of this happened.”
“We found dynamite,” Pavil said.
“Highly explosive dynamite, according to him,” Cloverfield said, gesturing at Wallin.
“Very old dynamite,” Pavil said.
“Okay,” Ezekiel said.
“But we need a means to get it to the mine without it blowing up,” Cloverfield said.
“Well, just carry it,” Ezekiel said.
“Do you know how dynamite works?” Nurse Petrov said.
“No!” Ezekiel said. “I was a kid when this happened. My education ended at age eight.”
“Do you know any miners still in town?” Wallin said.
“Or are they all gone?” Pavil said.
“Uh …” Ezekiel said, scratching his head. “Uh … I think Mr. Spur used to work in the mines.”
“Where is he?” Cloverfield said.
“He’s down the street, on the left,” Ezekiel said. “He’s next to the old newspaper office.”
“Well, you’re coming with us and we’re going to go see him.”
“What? Why? There’s nothing you can do. What can I do?”
“Because you might know something we need to know.”
“I was seven years old when all this happened in 1904.”
“This is useless,” Nurse Petrov said.
“Well, how about this: you’re responsible for trying to kill us,” Wallin said.
“Uh-huh,” Pavil said.
“I was not in control of my actions,” Ezekiel said. “None of us were at that party. I didn’t even want to have that party. You think I wouldn’t have told all this to you before if I could’ve?”
“In his defense, he is correct,” Pavil said.
“M’nagalah had us do it,” Ezekiel said. “He made us do it. He controlled us all, including Mitchell.”
“Why didn’t he take Mitchell?” Cloverfield said.
“Because Mitchell can breed,” Ezekiel said. “And there’s more bodies for M’nagalah when he gets older. He takes the crazy and the old and the infirm … as long as it’s alive. Hell, when I was a kid, they were made to send cattle into that damned mineshaft. He’ll take anything he can to make him bigger or something … I don’t know. It’s so confusing.”
“He was quite large, I’ll give you that,” Wallin said.
“You saw him!?!” Ezekiel said. “And you’re still alive?”
“And his giant eyeball,” Wallin said. “He’s a giant flesh ball.”
“Even if we get close to defeating him, he’ll just stop us,” Ezekiel said. “Wait here.”
He slammed the door shut. A light came on in the house and in a few minutes, the door opened again. Ezekiel had dressed and donned a jacket and his boots.
“All right,” he said. “Lead on.”
They had Ezekiel lead them to Spur’s house, which was, as he said, next to the old newspaper office. They woke up Spur, a man of 60 to 65 years old. He was very confused.
“What is going on Ezekiel?” the man said.
Ezekiel looked at the others.
“We need to know how to transport dynamite to the mine,” Cloverfield said.
“Why?” Spur asked.
“To blow up your friend!” Nurse Petrov said.
Cloverfield pointed at Wallin.
“To blow up the guy controlling your minds,” Wallin said.
Spur looked at Ezekiel, who just shrugged and shook his head.
“Well, you just pick it up … and you carry it,” Spur said.
Wallin explained the condition of the dynamite. Spur was surprised there was still any explosives in the mechanical sheds. His only suggestion was a sled … pulled by a very long rope. He suggested if they got it to the mine, putting it on a mine cart and rolling it down the tracks. Cloverfield pointed out the tracks didn’t reach all the way to the hole the thing lay in. Spur noted if it was 20-year-old dynamite, it would mostly be a matter of luck getting it there at all.
Pavil wondered aloud what would happen if they trapped it in the mines but then answered himself when he noted it would probably command all the villagers to dig it out. Cloverfield pointed out they could even be forced to do so with their bare hands.
Ezekiel said there were still some children’s sleds in town and there were mine carts still at the old rails that led into the various mines.
“He might have gone back to sleep,” Ezekiel said.
“M’nagalah?” Pavil said.
“I think M’nagalah sleeps sometimes.”
“Sometimes there are times for weeks when no one feels it. But still, when someone tries to leave town, it wakes it up. Someone new comes into town, it wakes it up. I think. Maybe it sleeps. It might figure that you are all trapped here now. You’re all young.”
“Could Bice have escaped while it slept?” Wallin said.
“It’s very possible,” Pavil said. “Bice just reached an age where he was no longer important and slipped out.”
They learned some people did escape the valley, but not alive. Ezekiel mentioned Story had blown his brains out. That man had run the newspaper but had killed himself about a year after the valley had fallen into the throes of M’nagalah. A tiny handful of others had likewise killed themselves. Not many. The reverend had disappeared one night and he thought M’nagalah called him.
“So, would M’nagalah stop us from trying to kill ourselves?” Cloverfield asked.
“Probably,” Ezekiel said. “If he could.”
“If we stay here, we’re dead,” Pavil said. “If we try to leave, we’re dead.”
He suggested moving the dynamite using a sled and a long rope. Cloverfield suggested waiting a day or two. Nurse Petrov had already returned to the hotel.
“You say that sometimes you feel that he goes to sleep?” Cloverfield asked Ezekiel.
“I don’t know,” the other man said. “Maybe.”
“Do you have nightmares every night?”
“Maybe he put that in my mind. I don’t know.”
He didn’t think the nightmares were directly connected to M’nagalah sleeping or not. He noted people in the village had terrible dreams most of the time and a lot of people were a little off.
“O’Brien is crazy,” he said. “He has gone mad. He’s scared of everything. Terrified of everything and everybody.”
Wallin suggested they get a good night’s sleep.
* * *
Wallin had another terrible nightmare that night. He was a child, playing with a simple ball behind the house. Then he felt a tugging and started walking. He heard his mother calling behind him and heard her approach, put her hand upon his shoulder, and then suddenly stop. When he looked up at her, she was looking blankly ahead. It didn’t matter. He continued towards where he knew and feared he must go.
* * *