* * *
As Miss Fairfield watched, one of the creatures pulled down one of the hanging things above the table and moved it around the top of Rockefellerâ€™s head. There was a lot of blood. Then they roughly pulled the top of the manâ€™s skull off.
â€œWhat do you mean heâ€™s unharmed!?!â€ Miss Edington said. â€œLook whatâ€™s youâ€™re doing right here!â€
â€œHeâ€™ll be fine,â€ the thing whispered.
â€œYouâ€™re taking his brain out!â€ she shrieked. â€œYouâ€™re about to put it in that little jar there, arenâ€™t you!?!â€
â€œHe is fine,â€ the thing whispered to her, poking her with the stick. â€œHe will be fine.â€
â€œWhy are you poking me with that?â€ she said.
â€œShh,â€ the thing said. â€œQuiet. You shall see momentarily.â€
â€œHe didnâ€™t consent to this,â€ she muttered.
Outside the door, Miss Fairfield put her camera up to the tiny hole and took a photograph.
â€œThey seem to be operating on Rockefeller,â€ she whispered to the other two men. â€œWhat should we do?â€
Felix looked distressed and Virgil Thomas just shrugged uncertainly.
Inside the room, the creatures unceremoniously pulled the brain out of Rockefellerâ€™s head and, without any great tenderness, plopped it into the cylinder on the table. They manipulated the cylinder in some way, producing a grinding noise of some kind, and then took it back to the table where they hooked it up via cables to the strange rig in the back of the room.
* * *
Rockefeller had been in immense pain when the horrible creatures had operated on him, though he had been unable to move or speak. Everything went black after the pain in his head. When he could see again, his vision was grainy and he could only make out the room in black and white. He seemed to be standing in the corner of the room, two of the horrible creatures beside him, but he couldnâ€™t feel anything whatsoever. He also saw his body lying on the table in the center of the room.
* * *
â€œCan you hear us?â€ one of the things said to the strange rig.
â€œYes,â€ a cold, unemotional voice replied. â€œYes, I can.â€
â€œAre you Rockefeller?â€
â€œYes. I am Rockefeller.â€
â€œIn this medium, we can take you to Yuggoth, through the gate that the boy has made, and you can see him.â€
â€œYes, take me to Tommy.â€
The others were horrified by this turn of events. The brain of Rockefeller, in the silver cylinder, was still alive and talking to them.
â€œAre you going to keep him like that?â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œQuiet!â€ one of the things said.
â€œYouâ€™re going to keep him like that!â€ she said. â€œYou unbelievable creatures.â€
* * *
Outside, Virgil Thomas hissed at Miss Fairfield, asking what was going on.
â€œThey â€¦ they put his brain in a jar,â€ Miss Fairfield muttered, feeling helpless.
â€œWha!?!â€ Felix muttered.
He looked at Virgil Thomas and then motioned towards the door. Virgil Thomas manipulated the spindle and the door flew open. The two men stepped in, guns raised. Felix fired at the horrible thing near the door, missing completely.
â€œMr. Rockefeller!â€ he screamed.
â€œStop it!â€ Miss Edington cried.
Miss Fairfield ran in and tossed the shotgun to Bricker. Virgil Thomas fired with both barrels at the nearby creature but the blast missed completely.
â€œOh for heavenâ€™s sake!â€ Miss Edington said. â€œVirgil, gimme my shotgun! You obviously donâ€™t know how to use that thing!â€
Virgil Thomas shoved the shotgun into her hands and she grabbed at the shells in the bag and shoved one in the shotgun. Bricker moved to another of the things, put his shotgun to his shoulder and blasted away with both barrels, blasting part of the horrible thing away.
â€œNo, we need to trust them,â€ the emotionless voice spoke from the rig. â€œTrust is the only way.â€
One of the ones that had been working on Rockefeller pulled out a small, black piece of metal.
â€œYou must stop this madness!â€ it whispered.
It did something to the thing in its nippers and sparks flew out of the thing, narrowly missing Bricker, leaving black marks on the floor where they touched. Felix flung down the rifle and drew a smart-looking little semi-automatic pistol from his jacket pocket. He fired a shot at the thing near the door, which turned and shot him in the chest with a bolt of lightning. The blast knocked him back out of the room where he crashed into the hallway and lay still.
â€œNo!â€ Miss Edington said. â€œFelix!â€
Miss Fairfield moved into the room, drawing her pistol and shooting one of the things. Virgil Thomas drew his large pistol and shot the thing that had blasted Felix, blowing a hole in it. Another of the things with the silver rods blasted at Bricker with its lightning rifle but the blast missed the man altogether, leaving a black mark on the wall and burning some of the pictures of brains there. The blast had gone just over Brickerâ€™s head.
â€œYou wot!?!â€ the man cried.
Miss Edington had grabbed the box of shells and, loading a shell as she ran, crossed the room, heading for Cooper. He was just taking his rifle from his shoulder, crying out oddly. Bricker cracked open his shotgun and shoved two more shells into the weapon, slamming it closed.
â€œStop fighting,â€ the odd voice said from the rig. â€œPlease.â€
Miss Fairfield shot the thing with the black thing in its nipper. The thing near the door blasted lightning at Virgil Thomas but the bolt went out the door and into the hall. Miss Fairfield shot the thing with the sparking thing again and Virgil shot the thing near the door again. The terrible thing near Bricker fired lightning at the man and he tried to dodge to one side but was struck by the electricity. He shook and was shaken terribly but not killed.
Miss Edington ran to Cooper and shoved the shotgun barrel into his neck.
â€œDrop your gun!â€ she said. â€œYou gotta lot of explaining to do, Mr. Cooper.â€
Cooper looked at her doubtfully for a moment before he dropped the rifle. Miss Edington kicked the weapon away.
The creature with the small, black device ignored Miss Fairfield. Sparks flew at Bricker and the man tried to duck to one side clumsily, still suffering from the effects of the blast of lightning, and several sparks hit him. He found himself frozen to the spot.
â€œI miss Felix,â€ the disembodied and emotionless voice said.
One of the creatures fired another blast of lightning at Virgil Thomas. The man tried to dodge but was blasted by the lightning and was knocked backwards out of the doorway as well.
â€œNo!â€ Miss Edington cried. â€œVirgil!â€
Miss Fairfield shot the thing firing sparks and hit it again. Another of the remaining creatures with the silver rod fired another lightning bolt at Miss Fairfield, missing her.
â€œNow Iâ€™ve heard you been working for these alien things all this time and you knew this was going to happen!â€ Miss Edington said to Cooper.
â€œNo maâ€™am,â€ he said.
The other thing fired sparks at Miss Fairfield but they missed her, leaving black marks on the ground. Another blast of lightning was blasted at Miss Fairfield but she ducked to one side. The blast destroyed some kind of strange machinery. Miss Fairfield fired at the thing with the round black sparking device, hitting it again. Another blast of lightning flew towards her again and she leapt to one side once more.
â€œDid they do this to Tommy too?â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œThey have not hurt him, maâ€™am,â€ a terrified Cooper replied.
â€œWhere is he?â€
â€œWhat does that mean!?!â€
Another of the things moved to one side and fired more sparks at Miss Fairfield but they missed her completely. She returned fire, hitting the thing again. Another of the things fired yet another lightning both at Miss Fairfield and missing.
â€œPut down your weapons!â€ one of the horrors hissed at the woman.
It fired a bolt of lightning that blasted the other iris valve but didnâ€™t seem to damage it. Miss Edington leaned down and picked up his rifle.
â€œJust get your ass out of here,â€ she said.
Cooper headed for the door.
The horror with the piece of black metal fired more sparks at Miss Fairfield but she leapt to the side and they missed her. She returned fire, hitting the thing. Another fired yet another blast of lightning at her, but missed the woman completely. Miss Fairfield cracked open her revolver and started reloading.
â€œBitch! Shoot at these things!â€ she screamed.
â€œWhatâ€™d you call me?â€ Miss Edington said, turning around.
Another blast of lightning narrowly missed Miss Fairfield. Then Miss Edington blasted the thing that had been firing sparks, letting loose with both barrels of the shotgun. She blew a hole the size of a manâ€™s head in the creature, which was flung by the blast, slamming into another of the creatures and crashing to the ground.
â€œWho the hell else wants some!?!â€ she said, cracking open her shotgun. â€œAnd I know where you live, Jebediah!â€
Cooper ran out of the room in terror.
Bricker shook his head and put his shotgun up to what he thought was the thingâ€™s head and pulled the trigger. The creature was slightly faster and Bricker was still shaking from being struck by lightning so the blast went over its â€œhead.â€ One of the remaining things with the strange silver rods fired a lightning bolt at Miss Edington but it missed her completely as she reloaded her shotgun. Bricker, shotgun empty, punched the thing in front of him though didnâ€™t seem to hurt it. The creature backed away from him and fired another lightning bolt that missed Bricker completely.
Miss Fairfield slammed shut the cylinder of her revolver and shot another of the things. The creature turned and flew towards the door. Miss Edington closed her shotgun and put it to her shoulder.
â€œYou better chase after his ass!â€ she cried.
She fired at the thing near Bricker and blasted the thing practically to pieces. It crashed to the ground, dropping the silver rod. She also noticed another of the creatures in the corner, apparently trying to stay out of the entire altercation. Bricker, meanwhile, cracked his shotgun and reloaded, moving to that creature. Miss Fairfield fired a shot at the thing as it flew out of the doorway. She quickly put another bullet into the pistol and then ran to the door. Miss Edington walked quickly towards the door, reloading her shotgun as well.
â€œOi!â€ Bricker said to the last creature, shoving the shotgun into it. â€œPut his brain back in!â€
â€œDo not hurt!â€ the thing whispered. â€œDo not hurt!â€
Miss Fairfield stepped out into the corridor, took aim with her revolver, and shot the thing flying away down the corridor. It spun out of control and then crashed to the floor. Miss Edington quickly reloaded her shotgun and they found that Virgil Thomas was alive but unconscious. Felix was dead. His teeth had exploded, his eyeballs had burst, and both the body and his suit were burned. Miss Edington tried to wake Virgil Thomas to no avail. Miss Fairfield dragged Felixâ€™s body back into the room. Miss Edington dragged Virgil Thomasâ€™ unconscious form back into the room as well.
â€œDoes he want his brain back in his body?â€ the horrible creature whispered.
â€œI donâ€™t care anymore,â€ the voice came out of the machine.
â€œPut it back,â€ Bricker said.
The creature unhooked Rockefellerâ€™s brain cylinder from the rig and then removed the brain from the small device. As the other three watched, they realized if the creature could remove and replace a brain that easily, it might be able to actually save Felixâ€™s brain, if they didnâ€™t wait too long.
â€œCan you save Felix?â€ Miss Fairfield asked the creature.
â€œWhat does this one with the terrible weapon want?â€ the thing whispered.
â€œYeah,â€ Bricker said. â€œTry to save him.â€
The creature moved to Felix and picked up his body, shoving Rockefellerâ€™s body off the slab to the ground. The body continued to breath, however, despite the missing skull.
â€œThe brain is not yet dead,â€ the creature said. â€œIt can be saved.â€
â€œOkay,â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œDo it,â€ Bricker said.
The horrible creature cut open Felixâ€™s head and pulled the brain out, slopping it into one of the other cylinders and closed the top.
â€œDo you wish it in the body of the first one?â€ the creature said, pushing Felixâ€™s corpse off the slab onto the floor.
â€œNo!â€ Bricker said. â€œPut Rockefellerâ€™s brain back.â€
The thing picked up Rockefellerâ€™s body and put it back on the table. It put the brain unceremoniously back in Rockefellerâ€™s head and then looked around on the floor for the top of the manâ€™s head. It replaced the top of the skull, manipulating some of the strange hanging devices around it. There was barely even a scar when the creature got finished. Moments later, Rockefeller blinked his eyes. The creature moved back from the man.
Everything looked normal to Rockefeller. He felt very strange and sighed heavily. It felt strange to breath. He could remember not feeling anything when he was locked away wherever he was.
They noticed the other creatures were melting away.
â€œIâ€™m sorry I failed you,â€ Rockefeller said quietly. â€œHumanity is clearly not ready for this.â€
â€œMr. Rockefeller, what the hell you talkinâ€™ about?â€ Miss Edington said.
Rockefeller got up from the table. It seemed kind of odd to him that they just took his brain from his head.
Miss Edington went to the thing as Rockefeller walked out the door.
â€œWhereâ€™s the boy?â€ she asked the creature.
â€œHeâ€™s gone,â€ it whispered back. â€œHeâ€™s gone to Yuggoth.â€
â€œHe made a gate. He was able to go to Yuggoth. We will study it.â€
â€œAnd youâ€™re saying thereâ€™s no way to get him back?â€
Rockefeller came back into the room and picked up Felixâ€™s dead body.
â€œYouâ€™re not going to take his brain?â€ Miss Fairfield said.
â€œWhat are we going to do as humans?â€ Rockefeller said.
â€œWe could shove his brain in Jebediahâ€™s body,â€ Miss Fairfield said.
He walked towards the door.
â€œWhere are you doing?â€ Miss Fairfield said.
â€œTo bury the body,â€ Rockefeller said.
â€œFelixâ€™s brain is in that jar! You can talk to him just like we talked to you.â€
â€œAnd say what? â€˜Iâ€™m sorry youâ€™re deadâ€™?â€
â€œBut heâ€™s not dead!â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œWho knows?â€ Miss Fairfield said. â€œMaybe this creature can heal his body.â€
â€œWhy would he want to help us when we attacked him?â€ Rockefeller said.
â€œBecause weâ€™re going to kill him if he doesnâ€™t help us!â€
â€œYouâ€™re going to kill him either way. Or something.â€
â€œWe did not say that!â€
â€œWhat are you going to do with him?â€
Miss Edington grabbed the leg of the corpse and tried to drag it back to into the room.
â€œWhat are we going to do with who?â€ Miss Fairfield said.
â€œThe guy!â€ Rockefeller said.
â€œIf he helps us, maybe weâ€™ll let him go!â€
â€œWhat body are you going to put Felix in? What is going to happen?â€
â€œCan he heal him? We havenâ€™t asked him these questions!â€
â€œAsk him then! Find out the answers! Donâ€™t give me these hypotheticals!â€
â€œMr. alien man, can you fix this manâ€™s body!?!â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œThe body is beyond repair,â€ the creature said.
â€œThere you go!â€ Rockefeller cried. â€œThere you go!â€
â€œDo you have any extra bodies?â€ Miss Fairfield asked the horrible thing.
â€œI assume youâ€™ve done an operation on some other humans,â€ Miss Edington said. â€œYâ€™all might some spare parts because yâ€™all seem like youâ€™ve done this a lot.â€
The creature pointed at the other iris valve. Miss Fairfield opened it to find another trapezoidal room. It had a six-foot ceiling and a number of small cells, each sealed with another iris-shaped door composed of metal bars that tightly meshed together. A small spindle was on a panel next to each doorway. The walls, ceiling, and floor of each cell were covered in some kind of pink foam and each was just large enough to comfortably hold a single person. Two of them held men who simply stood and stared straight ahead.
â€œHello?â€ Miss Fairfield said.
They saw that each of the men had a barely visible scar going across their foreheads similar to the one Rockefeller now had.
â€œHello?â€ Miss Fairfield said again. Then she turned to the creature. â€œWhatâ€™s wrong with them?â€
â€œThey have been conditioned,â€ the creature replied.
â€œWhat the hell does that mean?â€ Miss Edington asked.
â€œThey will do as they are told,â€ the thing whispered.
â€œDid you take out their brains?â€ Miss Fairfield asked.
â€œTheir brains are still within their bodies,â€ the creature whispered. â€œThey have been conditioned.â€
â€œYou did this to them?â€ Miss Edington said. â€œDid they say they wanted this to happen?â€
â€œIt was done to them,â€ the creature whispered. â€œThey were trespassers. Interlopers. As you are.â€
â€œSo, this is whatâ€™s going to happen to Rockefeller if we let you?â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œNo, not to Rockefeller,â€ the creature whispered. â€œHe would have gone to Yuggoth to see Tommy Bailey.â€
â€œWhich is what I wanted to do,â€ Rockefeller said.
â€œWill Tommy be back?â€ Miss Edington asked.
â€œI do not know what is planned for Tommy Bailey,â€ the creature whispered.
â€œSo what are we supposed to tell Tommy Baileyâ€™s parents?â€ Miss Edington asked.
The creature did not reply.
â€œThese two were trespassers,â€ Rockefeller said. â€œThey werenâ€™t going to do that to me.â€
â€œLiar,â€ Miss Edington muttered.
â€œHe has no reason to lie now,â€ Rockefeller said. â€œHe gains nothing from lying.â€
â€œI donâ€™t even know any more,â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œThey can still do it,â€ Miss Fairfield said. â€œBut maybe they can save Felix first.â€
â€œFelixâ€™s body is gone,â€ Rockefeller said. â€œHe will be a shell of the man he once was before this.â€
â€œIâ€™m about to slap the hell out of you,â€ Miss Edington said to him. â€œYou are depressing me. We can save this man and youâ€™re over hereâ”€â€
â€œI want to save Felix!â€
â€œThen do it! Go get one of them body-men!â€
â€œIs that ethical?â€
â€œThat doesnâ€™t really matter now!â€
â€œTo kill someone else to save another?â€
â€œIt doesnâ€™t really matter now!â€
â€œAre they living?â€ Bricker said.
â€œHe said that they were conditioned, whatever the hell that means!â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œThey could put their brains in jars,â€ Miss Fairfield said.
â€œWhich means theyâ€™re probably too far gone and donâ€™t really matter anymore,â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œCould you do it?â€ Rockefeller asked the horrible creature. â€œCould you move his brain to that body? And would he be the same.â€
â€œIt is simple work to move a brain into another body,â€ the creature whispered.
â€œOkay,â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œThen show me,â€ Rockefeller said.
â€œBring the one you desire,â€ the thing whispered.
Rockefeller looked at the two men. One appeared very average while the other was smaller and weaker-looking. He opened the cell and ordered the average-looking man out and then told him to lay on the table. The man did so without comment or expression. The creature pulled the tubes and strange things from the ceiling, one shining a light in the manâ€™s eyes. Then it cut the manâ€™s head open, the man bleeding all over the place. The creature didnâ€™t seem to use any antiseptic, which also seemed strange. It reached over to the canister where it had put Felixâ€™s brain earlier and took it out, shoved it into the other manâ€™s skull, put the top of the skull one once again, manipulating the devices to close the wound, leaving only the barest of scars. It removed the light from the manâ€™s eyes and stepped clumsily back.
â€œWhat â€¦?â€ the young man said uncertainly. â€œWhat happened Mr. Rockefeller? I donâ€™t â€¦ what is wrong with my voice?â€
â€œI think too many things have happened and we should take this slow,â€ Rockefeller said. â€œBut your body is â€¦ not your body.â€
The man looked at his hands and looked around, very confused. Miss Edington nonchalantly kicked Felixâ€™s original body under the table. Rockefeller went to the man who was now Felix Crane and hugged him. Felix hugged him back though he seemed a little confused.
â€œI thought I lost you, Felix,â€ Rockefeller said.
â€œItâ€™s â€¦ quite all right, sir,â€ Felix said. â€œI still donâ€™t understand why my voice sounds so strange.â€
â€œWeâ€™ll get to that later,â€ Rockefeller said.
â€œYour friend is back,â€ the thing in the corner whispered. â€œGo. Go and never come back to this place.â€
â€œWe need Tommy,â€ Miss Fairfield said.
â€œHeâ€™s gone to Yuggoth!â€ the horrible thing whispered, itâ€™s head glowing in a multitude of lights. â€œHeâ€™s gone through the gate room!â€
â€œCan you not go get him?â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œIs â€¦ is that why they need to be in canisters?â€ Miss Fairfield said, remembering the gate that had led apparently into a vacuum.
â€œWhat?â€ the thing whispered. â€œWhat?â€
â€œWhy were you putting his brain in a canister? Mr. Rockefeller?â€
â€œI was told to.â€
It gestured to one of the puddles disintegrating on the floor next to the small, black device. Miss Edington picked up the strange little item.
â€œYou mean him?â€ she said.
â€œYes,â€ the thing whispered.
â€œWhat were you going to do with his brain?â€ Miss Fairfield said.
â€œTake him to Yuggoth,â€ the creature said.
â€œWhere he would never been seen again,â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œI do not know,â€ the creature whispered.
â€œWhy donâ€™t you go get Mr. Tommy Bailey for us?â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œThere is no â€¦ he has gone to Yuggoth by his own means,â€ the creature whispered.
â€œWhere is Tommyâ€™s body?â€ Rockefeller said.
â€œThe small one, his brain was not removed,â€ the thing whispered. â€œWe feared it would be damaged. We had to study it. It will not be removed until no other options are available.â€
â€œSo, you sent the whole child?â€
â€œThe small one understood our portals, our gates. With only a little questioning, he was able to make one of his own in the gate room.â€
â€œTake us to the gate room.â€
When the thing didnâ€™t move, Rockefeller took out his pistol and pointed it at the strange appendage that seemed to be in the place a head would be on any normal, living creature. Bricker nudged the horrible thing with his shotgun.
â€œYou might as well, Mr. Alien,â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œVery well,â€ the thing whispered.
The thing led them out of the room as they recovered their rifles and shotguns. Felix tried, as they left, to awaken Virgil Thomas without luck.
â€œWe should take him back to the gate room,â€ Miss Fairfield said.
She picked up the large black man with surprising ease and they followed the creature back through the twisting passages. They passed the room with the strange portals leading outside and then up the very long corridor. They passed the side passage and then by another of the strange energy areas. They turned and went by the other iris valve near the place where four passages came together and finally to the room where the more complicated gate lay in the side room. The creature opened the iris valve.
An even more complex circle filled with strange symbols and odd writing was on the wall opposite the gate that led to vacuum. This one was made of chalk and was more roughly drawn. It was also much, much more complex. Next to it was a little tennis shoe. Neither the drawing nor the tennis shoe had been in the room when theyâ€™d been there some hours before.
Miss Edington walked to the new drawing and put her hand up against it. Nothing happened. She swore.
â€œThere,â€ the creature whispered. â€œWe bid him to make it and he did. Out of his own head. Without any training. Without anything.â€
Bricker went over to the wall and put his hand to it. It slipped through the wall and he felt drained but otherwise, he felt nothing unusual on the other side. Miss Edington put her hand through the now open portal and pulled it right back out. She put it in again and then Bricker put his head through the portal.
* * *
On the other side of the portal was a pentagonal room. The walls were polished like glass and he could see another of the iris valves directly across from where his head and hand seemed to come out of empty air. The strange moss or mold on the ceiling began to glow, filling the room with a sickly light. He could feel the air and he could breathe. He felt a little nauseous as well, his stomach turning over.
Miss Edington stuck her head through as well and looked at this new room.
â€œNigel, I think I get this door thing now,â€ she said. â€œCould you just stand here?â€
â€œYeah,â€ Bricker replied uncertainly. â€œSure.â€
â€œJust keep touching it,â€ she said.
She walked into the room. As she started to head for the iris door, she was flung up into the air and crashed against the opposite wall, floating slowly down to the floor. She felt nauseous and odd but realized, somehow, the gravity was less wherever she was. She moved more carefully after that.
* * *
â€œWhere is she?â€ Rockefeller asked the creature. â€œWhere did she go?â€
â€œThe gate, it leads to Yuggoth,â€ the thing whispered.
â€œWhere is Yuggoth?â€
â€œYuggoth is the furthest. A world that your kind has not discovered yet.â€
â€œBut you have?â€
â€œIt is our colony world in this system.â€
â€œSo, thereâ€™s a lot of you there?â€
Rockefeller cursed and walked towards the door.
â€œTommy is lost,â€ he said. â€œThere is no hope. Come, Felix.â€
â€œWe donâ€™t know that yet, Mr. Rockefeller,â€ Felix said, following him out into the hallway. â€œDonâ€™t give up hope. What is wrong with my voice?â€
â€œThatâ€™s what I believe.â€
â€œThis isnâ€™t like you, Mr. Rockefeller.â€
â€œI donâ€™t want to lose you again, Felix.â€
â€œWell, if itâ€™s to save a small boy â€¦ especially a retarded young boy. Someone who canâ€™t help himself.â€
* * *
Miss Edington, looking back at Brickerâ€™s head and torso coming out of thin air, noticed some small windows on the two walls behind the man. Each was circular and about three feet in diameter. She carefully crept over to them, trying hard not to fling herself across the room once again. They appeared to look out onto the nightâ€™s sky and the twilight was marked with remarkably clear stars that didnâ€™t twinkle, but burned with uninterrupted light, the likes of which she had never seen before. The land appeared frozen with sheets of ice, some if it covered in a light dusting of snow, as far as her eyes could see. The view was unnerving as it just seemed wrong: the horizon was too close, the stars too bright.
She recognized some of the constellations of the stars. She thought she was somehow in the same solar system though obviously not on earth. It was somewhat unnerving.
* * *
â€œDo you have anything that can heal Virgil?â€ Rockefeller asked the creature.
â€œIf we take it back to the laboratory, I might be able to revive it,â€ the thing whispered.
â€œWell, letâ€™s hurry,â€ Rockefeller said.
Miss Fairfield went to the portal and stuck her head in. She suddenly felt horribly sick and nauseous, her stomach turning over. She quickly told Bricker they were leaving to see if they could help Virgil. Then she pulled her head back in and left with the others, leaving him there alone
They quickly went back through the twisting, confusing tunnels to the laboratory where Felix had died and Rockefeller operated on. Miss Fairfield stopped in the other gate room on the way and retrieved her photo equipment. In the laboratory, the thing found a strange syringe and filled it from an odd-shaped bottle. The green liquid glowed even in the light and the thing injected Virgil Thomas with it. The man woke up and let out a cry.
â€œWhat the hell!?!â€ he said.
â€œCalm down,â€ Rockefeller said. â€œItâ€™s already over. Warâ€™s over, soldier. Miss Suzanna is down the hall.â€
â€œLetâ€™s go get her!â€ Virgil Thomas said, sitting up and sliding off the table to move away from the horrible creature. â€œWhatâ€™s that thing?â€
â€œWhat did you just give him?â€ Rockefeller asked the thing.
â€œIt is something that will merely wake him,â€ the creature whispered.
â€œI want some of that,â€ Rockefeller said.
The horrific creature gave Rockefeller a strange, silver syringe filled with a glowing green liquid.
â€œI just inject it?â€ Rockefeller said. â€œAnd it revives people.â€
â€œFor a time, yes,â€ the thing whispered.
â€œIs he fine now?â€
â€œHe will be fine.â€
â€œFor how long?â€
â€œUntil he is injured again.â€
â€œFair enough. All right. Youâ€™re coming with us.â€
Virgil Thomas picked up his pistol, which had been left on the floor. He started to reload the weapon, looking strangely at Felix, whom he obviously didnâ€™t recognize. Rockefeller put his hand on Virgil Thomasâ€™ shoulder.
â€œWe need him for now,â€ he whispered to the man as he looked at the alien. â€œThen you can â€¦ kill him.â€
Miss Fairfield had set up her equipment in the laboratory and had them pose around the terrible creature. She took a photograph of the horrible thing with them. Then she packed up her equipment again and they headed back to the other room.
* * *
Shortly after Miss Fairfield stuck her head in, Miss Edington went to the iris valve and manipulated the spindle beside it. It opened into a hallway with more of the iris valves on either side. She carefully crept down the roundish corridor and went to the iris valve on the left, opening it.
As the light came on in the room, she saw it resembled the room where they had fought the creatures before. It was five sided and had two walls filled with large windows. Three large tables and a number of plastic slabs, racks of strange, alien equipment, and various drawings depicting the human brain and other organs were in the room. Again, various tendrils and tubes, some apparently with sharp claws or blades, hung from the ceiling over the tables. Everything seemed to be new additions to the room.
On a small table to one side was a single brain cylinder with a small nameplate. Sitting next to it was another of the tall rigs with twin lenses, vacuum tubes and sounding board, and a small box with a metal disk. She walked over and saw the nameplate read â€œTommy Bailey.â€ The top of the cylinder was open and, though it was filled with a clear liquid, there was no brain within. On a shelf cut into the opposite wall were a dozen small vials filled with a golden liquid. Also on the shelf was a strange, alien-looking device with a needle sticking out of one end and a receptacle where a vial could be connected.
She crossed the corridor to the other door there.
That room was also five-sided and, as she entered, no moss glowed in the room. The entire ceiling was, instead, composed of another great piece of clear substance like glass. Smaller windows dotted the two walls furthest from the door. Most of the space in the room was filled with alien equipment covered with odd dials, buttons, levers, and other strange manipulating devices. Dominating the center of the room and held aloft by some means unknown was a great device of brass and crystal tubes with enclosed glass philters filling with strange liquids resembling mercury. The tubes seemed to be somehow connected to the crystal that formed the ceiling and reached almost to the polished floor. More strange devices, some of them of an organic nature, were affixed to the machinery on the walls and the strange, almost beautiful device in the center. The entire room seemed dusty, as if it had not been used in many years.
She left the room, closing both iris valves. Two more doors stood further down the tunnel on either side, just where the corridor bore to the right. She cautiously made her way down the corridor to the next iris valve on the left.
The room beyond started to come alight as she entered. She saw it was larger than the other rooms sheâ€™d seen in the place thus far. Windows dotted four of the eight oddly-angled walls, still showing the nighttime sky without. Making it even more unsettling were the familiar objects that lay about the room: a four-poster bed and mattress, several ladder back chairs around a wooden table covered with pieces of paper, chalk, string, crayons, and even pencils and glue. Toys were scattered across the floor of all shapes and kinds, though most were geometrically designed and strange to look at. Finally, in the far corner of the room sat an Oriental rug with several pillows, as well as two cushioned chairs. In the corner itself was a larger cushioned chair with a man sitting upon it, staring at her. He wore overalls and a thick shirt.
She stared back at the man.
â€œHey,â€ she said.
He didnâ€™t move or speak.
â€œWhatâ€™s your name?â€ she asked.
There was no reply.
â€œAre you not able to speak?â€ she said.
There was no reply.
â€œCan you make some gestures at least?â€ she asked.
The figure didnâ€™t move.
â€œOkay â€¦â€ she muttered.
She moved forward and touched the man. He seemed to be warm. She waved her hand in his face but he didnâ€™t respond at all. Unnerved, she walked away, leaving the room.
She went to the room across the hall, opening the iris valve. As the light came on in the room, she saw that the opposite wall looked newer and of a different material than the other walls of the room. It was pierced by an iris valve composed of metal bars, much like the strange cells sheâ€™s seen before. The floor, walls, and ceiling of the room beyond the bars seemed to be covered with some kind of pink substance. She moved carefully to the bars and manipulated the spindle. The bars pulled into the walls almost like spider webs.
She watched to make sure it didnâ€™t close and then stepped in and looked around. The pink substance appeared to be soft and yielding. A child lay in the corner, sleeping. He had blonde hair, a white shirt, and was missing one of his tennis shoes.
She moved to the child and shook his shoulder.
â€œWhat?â€ he said, waking. â€œWho are you?â€
â€œTommy?â€ she said. â€œAre you Tommy?â€
â€œWho are you?â€
â€œIâ€™ll tell you if you tell me who you are first.â€
â€œOkay. Square root of 278,643.â€
She looked at him blankly.
â€œTell me that,â€ he said smugly. â€œAnd Iâ€™ll tell you who I am.â€
She looked at him blankly.
â€œItâ€™s so easy!â€ he said.
He rolled back over away from her. She grabbed him and picked him up and he went into a frenzy of action, kicking and punching and biting at the woman.
â€œNo!â€ he shrieked. â€œNo! I donâ€™t like to be touched! No!â€
She tried to calm the boy but then gave up and just ran out of the cell as the child shrieked and screamed. She struggled with the child as he tried to escape her grip and he once managed to actually punch the woman solidly. She ignored the pain and ran out of the room down the corridor to the portal.
â€œOw!â€ the boy screamed after punching her again without effect. â€œYou hurt my hand! Ow!â€
He cried as he continued screaming and shouting about being hurt. She ran through the portal, feeling very heavy on the other side. Bricker pulled his head and shoulders out of the gate, feeling terrible. It was too much for his stomach and he stumbled to one corner and vomited. The child continued to scream and punch and kick and bite, trying to get free of the woman.
â€œLet me go!â€ the child screamed. â€œLet me go! Let me go! Let me go! Let me go!â€
She put him down on the ground but held the boy by the shoulders. He continued screaming and trying to get loose of her grip, trying to hit the woman but hurting himself even more and screaming in pain, tears running down his ever reddening face.
â€œNigel, you want to pick this child up?â€ she asked.
Bricker looked up from where he was leaning against the wall and then got sick again.
â€œOh,â€ she said.
â€œLet me go!â€ the child screamed over and over again.
â€œWhy do you want to go back there so bad?â€ Miss Edington asked.
â€œLet me go! Let me go! Let me go! Let me go! Let me go!â€
He continued screaming and swinging, trying to bite the woman. She picked him back up, holding him very tight, and the child screamed and struggled against her, kicking her once solidly but not hurting her. She sat down and held the child, who continued to scream, cry, and struggle against her.
They waited for the others to return.
It was some 45 minutes later before they did so. The child was still struggling against Miss Edington though he had exhausted himself, working himself up into such a lather that he had vomited all over the woman. The boy was red-faced and exhausted, as was Miss Edington.
â€œWe need to decide what to do with this thing,â€ Rockefeller said.
â€œMr. alien, can you take us back to the hub?â€ Miss Edington said.
Virgil caught Rockefellerâ€™s eye and cocked the hammer of his revolver, obviously inquiring.
â€œWhat was going to happen to me?â€ Rockefeller asked the horrible thing.
â€œYou would have been taken to Yuggoth,â€ the thing whispered.
â€œWould I have been myself?â€
â€œIf you had preferred.â€
â€œI would have preferred.â€
â€œThen you would have whatever you had wanted to be.â€
â€œDid you ever intend to hurt my friends?â€
â€œNo. They are trespassers. We are scientists.â€
â€œWell, Mr. Scientist-Man, if you would take us back to the portal room where we can go back where we came from, we wonâ€™t come back here,â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œYou have the boy,â€ the creature whispered. â€œHe can lead you back any time.â€
â€œHe could but he ainâ€™t going to listen.â€
She put her hand over the crying, whining, childâ€™s mouth and he bit her. It hurt but didnâ€™t break the skin.
â€œIf you take us back to the portal room, we will let you live and you can go back to Yuggoth,â€ Rockefeller said. â€œYour home world.â€
â€œYou will tell me how you found your way in,â€ the creature whispered.
â€œI will tell you how we found our way in,â€ Rockefeller said.
â€œRight before we leave,â€ Miss Edington added.
The thing moved towards the door to lead them out, then back through the twisting tunnels and back to the room with the portals. Miss Edington, still carrying Tommy Bailey, went directly out the portal to the hollow. The others followed her, Virgil Thomas the last one out before Rockefeller, who brought up the rear. The negro gave Rockefeller a stern look, but the man just nodded and waved him off. After Virgil Thomas disappeared through the strange portal, Rockefeller told the horrible creature how they had gotten into the place via the underground river.
Rockefeller took the black rock and the strange jar filled with the green-glowing sand out of his pocket.
â€œI would like to know what these are before I leave you,â€ he said.
â€œThey are a substance your people have not discovered yet,â€ the thing whispered.
â€œWhat do they do?â€
â€œNothing that can help you. You could still come with us. You could still work with us. See other worlds, other galaxies. Our influence is wide.â€
â€œHow will I get back here? How will I find you again?â€
â€œCome now with us.â€
â€œI canâ€™t now. But maybe later. How can I find you?â€
â€œWe will find you.â€
â€œIâ€™m John P. Rockefeller. Thatâ€™s me. John P. Rockefeller.â€
He fled through the tunnel to find Virgil Thomas and Felix both waiting on the other side of the portal. Virgil Thomas pointed his pistol at Rockefeller as he came out and, as the man walked by him, he continued to point it at the portal as he slowly walked away. Then the three fled some ways after the others.
* * *
They had almost gotten back to Brown Mountain Beach when they saw light in the sky behind them and a strange buzzing noise growing louder. Miss Edington, Bricker, and Miss Fairfield were some hundred yards ahead of Rockefeller, Felix, and Virgil Thomas. The leading group splashed across the river and the following group neared Wilson Creek when the lights appeared behind them.
It was mostly quiet at Brown Mountain Beach though there were numerous lights in the campground ahead.
Rockefeller and the tailing group just reached the river when four more of the horrific creatures, each with one of the strange, worm-eaten silver rods, flew down not far behind them, the appendage where their heads should be glowing strangely. Rockefeller started yelling they had Tommy. Shouts came from the camp as Miss Fairfield screamed for the men to get their guns. They spotted a train on the tracks at the top of the grade ahead, smoke coming from its stack. A slew of at least two dozen men came running down the slope towards the river. Most of the men coming down the slope, including a pair of deputy sheriffs, were armed. When they saw the lights and the things that came down from the sky, the shouts turned, sometimes, into screams. Erratic gunfire began erupting from the group of men there. Though some men fainted or fled screaming from the terrible sight, many more opened fire with pistol, rifle, and shotgun.
Virgil slowed down long enough to join them, turning and backing through the water as he fired shot after shot from his revolver.
The creatures were driven off, one of them erratically twisting down out of the sky and smashing to the ground on the opposite side of the river where no one went until the early morning hours. When they did, they found nothing but a strange, discolored spot on the ground.
Confusion ensued after the strange attack. The men in the camp were disturbed at what they had seen and some wondered aloud at the Brown Mountain lights coming for them while others wondered if they had merely imagined the horrible things. The deputies were at a loss as to what to do.
Miss Edington returned Tommy Bailey to his parents, who were overjoyed to have him back.
Rockefeller was glad to talk to the deputies and to the reporter from the Morganton News-Herald who was at the camp. He gave his name and the names of the others who had helped to find the child. The names of William Avery Rockefeller, Nigel Bricker, Evelyn Fairfield, Susanna Edington, Darla Greene, Alexe Hernandez, and Felix Crane soon appeared in the newspaper. Virgil Thomas asked Rockefeller to keep his name out of it and the man obliged. The newspaper story was published the next week and went nationwide, though it also noted the strange disturbance with what was described as the Brown Mountain lights at the end of the hunt for the child and the confusion that followed.
Miss Fairfield was able to develop her film in a small lab in Morganton a few days later. None of the interior shot turned out, though the photographs she took outside on Brown Mountain seemed quite good. The one she took of the strange carvings on the rock wall were very clear. The photograph she took in the alien surgery room showed Rockefeller, Bricker, Felix, and Virgil Thomas, but there was no sign of the strange creature. It did not appear at all and she guessed it was made of some kind of substance that could not be photographed.
When questioned by police about finding the child, Rockefeller said that Tommy Bailey had been in the clutches of Jebediah Cooper, noting that Felix, Miss Greene, and Miss Hernandez would corroborate his accusation.