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Valentine's in Innsmouth Part 3 - Aunt Margie

Max_Writer

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* * *

 

 

 

Aunt Margie’s was completely boarded up on the ground and second floors. Even the back door proved to be boarded shut. Alice peeked into the windows and could see very little though it looked pretty decrepit inside. She decided she wanted to go in.

 

“Stand aside, ladies,†George said.

 

He handed off his bat to Donald and then rolled up his jacket sleeves. He spit in his hands and rubbed them together. Then he grabbed the lowest board on the door and ripped it loose, putting it aside. He tried to break the door down.

 

“I don’t have enough leverage,†he muttered.

 

He ripped another board off and then put his shoulder to the door again. There was a snap as the latch broke and the door creaked open. George held out his hand towards Donald, who just looked at it for a moment. George turned and looked at his baseball bat.

 

“Oh!†Donald said.

 

He handed off his baseball bat the boy stood there, waiting. Gerdie looked at the cat, which looked at the open door nervously.

 

“Someone should keep a lookout,†she said.

 

“Hm,†Alice said.

 

“I could meow,†Gerdie said.

 

They discussed it briefly and then Gerdie crept around the side of the house by the little well house there. The cat followed her.

 

Alice, George, and Donald entered the house.

 

“Be careful,†Donald whispered. “It might be haunted.â€

 

He looked over his shoulder.

 

“Not by you!†he whispered to Simon.

 

They crept into the house, Alice taking out a flashlight she’d brought just for that purpose. She clicked it on. They were in the hall that ran through the center of the house. A stairway went up there and there were archways to either side.

 

The house smelled strongly of raw fish. There were two rooms towards the front of the house, a sitting room and a dining room. The furniture was all covered with dust and dirt, as well as some kind of flaking debris that looked like fish scales. More debris was on the floor and the lamps and lights were all broken. There was the sound of dripping water coming from the back. Small piles of bones were in the corners.

 

Alice led them through the dining room to the small kitchen. Water dripped down from the ceiling above, which looked like it was about to collapse. There were puddles on the floor and the cupboards were all open. Pots, pans and other kitchen implements lay about amid the bones of small animals and fish. The back door was closed, as was the door to the basement.

 

Alice grew despondent. She sighed.

 

“This is useless, isn’t it?†she said. “God, this is useless.â€

 

“What?†Donald said. “Why? Nobody’s been here for a while.â€

 

“There’s not going to be anything in here but … just … fish bones …†Alice said.

 

“What left the bones?†Donald said. “Or who?â€

 

Alice looked at the two boys.

 

“Okay, let’s check the rest of the house,†she finally said.

 

Dejected, they looked into the back parlor and headed upstairs. There were three bedrooms and a bathroom. The bedroom doors were all open and the rooms were filthy. The beds appeared to have been slept in. There were more scattered bones around the place and the fishy smell was strongest in near the bathroom, in the back over the kitchen. The bathroom door was closed.

 

Alice knocked. There was no answer. She tried the knob and found it unlocked. She pushed it open.

 

The stink of raw fish was very strong in the dirty bathroom. Though the smell didn’t bother her, the two boys were disgusted. George gagged and Donald put the sleeve of his jacket over his mouth and nose and looked away. She pulled the door somewhat closed once again but shined the flashlight into the room.

 

The bathroom was once been very nice with a tile-covered floor that went up the wall about four feet. Now the tile was covered in filth and a large patch of black mold grew on one wall. The sink was disgustingly dirty and the mirror over it shattered. The toilet was also dirty and moldy. The bathtub was very large, standing on four legs, and filled to the brim with water which dripped out of the crack in one side, leaving a wide puddle over most of the bathroom floor. A tiny, dirty window was covered with filth.

 

Not seeing anything, she pulled the door closed. But then she heard a gurgle and splash from inside the room. She pushed the door open again. The water in the tub rippled as if it had been disturbed slightly.

 

Alice carefully crossed the room to the tub. Through the murky water there, she saw a woman lying in the bottom. She had large, unblinking fish-like eyes, a wide mouth, scales all over her misshapen face, and slits on the side of her throat that seemed to palpitate, opening and closing as if she were breathing. Her large hands were clasped over her chest, evidence of claws and webbed fingers obvious. Despite the fact that she had changed and was malformed, she recognized it as Aunt Margie.

 

For a moment, nothing happened. Then Aunt Margie sat up in the tub, splashing water out of the bathtub. Behind her, George gasped and stared at the thing.

 

“Alice?†the thing in the tub said in a deep, guttural voice.

 

“Wha … what?†Alice said, tears brimming in her eyes.

 

The thing that was, indeed, Aunt Margie leaned towards the girl.

 

“I waited for you,†she said. “I hid and I waited when the men came and destroyed everything. They didn’t find me because I hid. The basement is flooded, but I’d changed enough by then I could stay under water as long as I wanted. They eventually gave up looking and I’ve been hiding here ever since, living as best I can though the sea calls to me every night and every day.â€

 

She climbed out of the bathtub, standing stooped over on clawed feet and looked down at Alice. Then she knelt in front of the girl and reached tentatively for her. She put her clawed hand on Alice’s shoulder and then touched her hair and smiled sadly.

 

“I began to change about a year before the men came,†she said. “Just like my brother, your father.â€

 

“My father?†Alice said, tears trickling from her eyes.

 

“We all change here. Things are different in Innsmouth. I and your mother hoped to protect you until you were old enough to understand but then the government men came.â€

 

Alice frowned, terrified. Aunt Margie took her hand off the girl.

 

“Off the coast of the village is an amazing underwater city called Y’ha-nthlei,†Aunt Margie said. “A place where the deep ones live. It’s a place of great watery spaces with sunken porticos and labyrinths of weedy cyclopean walls with fish as your companions. Long ago, the people of Y’ha-nthlei made a pact with the people of Innsmouth, an agreement, to mate with them so their children would be immortal and live forever like the deep ones do.

 

“Your father married an outsider, a woman from Dunwich named Susan Morgan, your mother. They had fallen in love and, when he brought her back to Innsmouth, when she realized what was happening to him, she agreed not to tell you until you were old enough to understand. Your father changed early. He went away to Y’ha-nthlei. He lives there still. He didn’t die. He’ll live forever, because he carries the deep one blood. And you, too, have the blood of the deep ones. You, too, will change one day and feel the call of the sea. You, too, will live forever in Y’ha-nthlei, the city that’s lived for more than 80,000 years. Some of the residents there are still alive, Alice. Some of them from long ago. They have such stories to tell.â€

 

Alice started crying.

 

“Your father can see the future,†Aunt Margie went on. “He kept this from the other deep ones but he sometimes knows what’s going to happen and that’s how he warned your mother of the government men coming here to Innsmouth to destroy it. And he warned me and so I stayed here to wait for you because I knew you would come back some day to find me.

 

“I’ve been waiting for you ever since, surviving as best I could while waiting for the last year. My change continued. I’m almost nearly full deep one now but I don’t think I’ll be able to escape the men who hold Innsmouth. They’ll probably kill me. And if they see you, they will, no doubt, try to take you prisoner as well. They … they hate our kind. They want to imprison or possibly kill us all. You must not be caught.â€

 

Alice sank to her knees onto the wet floor.

 

“Your mother has kept you away from Innsmouth since the fall to protect you from the government,†Aunt Margie said. “I had to wait to see if you came back and I had to know that you were all right. This is who we are. This is what we are. Some … cannot stand that. But many see the beauty in what we have become.â€

 

Alice breathed heavily.

 

“My father’s alive?†she finally said.

 

“He’s alive,†Aunt Margie said.

 

“I just … I felt him! I knew he wasn’t …â€

 

“He didn’t think you were ready to know the truth yet. He was afraid that you would reject him if you saw what he was becoming. He was afraid.â€

 

“And you?â€

 

“I know you must see me as a monster, but I’m still Aunt Margie.â€

 

Alice looked at her.

 

“How could I think you’re a monster?†she whispered.

 

She reached for Aunt Margie and embraced her.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

“Wh-wh-wh-what’s gonna happen to us if I help you?†Edward asked the man.

 

“You’re going to go home,†the man said. “And you’re not going to tell anybody what I told you. They’ll probably think you’re crazy anyway. But know that you’re helping your country and the human race.â€

 

Edward looked at the man for a long time.

 

“All right,†Edward finally said. “The reason we came here … I agreed because I wanted to know the stuff. The weird, Innsmouth stuff. Why the town was shut down. But … the real reason everybody went was because somebody had family in Innsmouth and they wanted to know what happened.â€

 

“Do you know where this family might be?†the old man said.

 

“I don’t know the town very well, but they’re up in the north part,†Edward said.

 

The man got a map out and showed him the town and Edward learned his name was Agent Baldwin. They began to talk about where the children might have been heading. He didn’t tell the man the exact house, hoping Alice could do what needed to be done and escape, but did give him an idea of the general area of the house.

 

“You’ve done the right thing,†he said. “Come with me.â€

 

He told Agent Smith to get the other boy and the four of them went out to the sedan. The older man found the sergeant on duty.

 

“Alert the men,†he said. “There might be one of those things in town and we have to get it.â€

 

The boys got into the back of the sedan with Agent Baldwin. He had brought Gordon’s axe.

 

They saw the American soldiers getting roused and armed. The trucks were started up, as were the motorcycles. Some of the men had large tanks strapped to their backs and carried wands connected to the tanks by hoses. They lit the business ends of the flame throwers as the boys watched. Other men carried submachine-guns.

 

A motorcycle left the square and headed south.

 

“I’m sorry Gordie,†Edward said. “I was worried what would happen if I didn’t. He seemed real serious.â€

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

“We have to get you out of here,†Aunt Margie said. “We have to get you and your cousins out of here.â€

 

Donald and George looked at each other nervously. Alice looked over her shoulder at the boys.

 

“This is an introduction …†she muttered.

 

“Hey, Aunt Margie!†Donald said as cheerfully as he could.

 

George just waved at the deep one hybrid.

 

“Simon, say ‘hi,’†Donald said. “He says ‘hi.’â€

 

Alice explained that Simon was a ghost that only Donald could see. Aunt Margie smiled and nodded.

 

“So, I’m not unfamiliar with the supernatural,†Alice said.

 

“Well, I hope that you can accept what you’re going to become,†Aunt Margie said.

 

She put one large, damp hand on the side of Alice’s face.

 

“You’re already starting to show some of the signs,†she said.

 

She looked at all three of them.

 

“We have to get you children out of here,†she said. “And I have to … probably … surrender myself to my fate. I don’t think I can make it to the sea.â€

 

She stood up.

 

“But how?†Alice said. “But why?â€

 

“Because I don’t think that I can get away and protect you as well,†Aunt Margie said.

 

“We can help you!†Alice said.

 

“Yeah!†George suddenly said. “We’re helping her! Hell, yeah, we’re helping her!â€

 

“We can help you,†Alice said. “We can help you.â€

 

She heard Gerdie meowing downstairs outside.

 

“We’ve got to go,†Alice said. “We’ve got to go, Aunt Margie. Please, please come!â€

 

“Okay,†Aunt Margie said. “Let’s go.â€

 

Alice grabbed a grubby towel and wrapped Aunt Margie in it. They raced downstairs, Aunt Margie hopping. Alice helped her.

 

“Do you need water?†she asked.

 

“I’ll be fine,†Aunt Margie said. “We’re fully amphibious but the ground gives me difficulty with my walking.â€

 

George ran ahead and opened the door. Alice helped Aunt Margie out of the doorway. They heard Gerdie meowing around the side of the house and Alice meowed in return. Gerdie came around the side of the house with the cat behind.

 

They could all hear vehicles that seemed to be getting closer so they headed down Martin Street towards the sea. Alice took out both of her knives, holding them in her left hand. She tried to help Aunt Margie with her right. The creature obviously had trouble and moved with a hopping, shuffling gait.

 

“Who’s that over there?†a man’s voice called. “Stop right there!â€

 

“Those are the lights I saw!†another voice said.

 

They raced down the street and heard people running and vehicles closing in. A truck came down Martin Street and the lights washed over them as they fled. They made it almost to Water Street before soldiers cut them off. They stopped as a black Cadillac rolled up the street, lights pinning them down. Soldiers closed into within 20 feet on either end of the street. Rubble stood where the buildings had once been, blocking their escape.

 

A few men moved in and flanked the children, guns at ready. They were surrounded. Alice still had an arm around Aunt Margie. The black cat hissed and growled at the soldiers. George had his baseball bat at ready. Donald looked scared. Gerdie looked around for some way out.

 

Agent Baldwin and Smith got out of the motorcar. Edward followed, grabbing at Agent Baldwin’s sleeve. Gordon also exited the motorcar, grabbing his axe as he did so.

 

“Oh wow!†Edward cried out. “It’s a real - it’s a real thing! It’s a real scientific development!â€

 

Agent Baldwin approached the small group around Aunt Margie, putting himself between Gordon and Edward and the thing. The flicker of flamethrower igniters were scattered through the troops arrayed against the children and the hybrid. Other soldiers had rifles or Thompson sub-machineguns at ready.

 

“You gotta investigate!†Edward wailed. “You gotta learn about it!â€

 

“We’re going to son,†Agent Baldwin said.

 

He shook Edward off and stepped forward.

 

“Now children,†Agent Baldwin said. “I don’t know what this creature has told you, but it’s all lies. These things subverted the people of this town and murdered many to keep their secret. We stumbled across it a year ago and your government did something about it to protect its citizens and the United States of America. Please step away from that … thing … and we’ll take it away before it hurts anyone again and then take all of you home.â€

 

“She is my home,†Alice said.

 

“Let the children go and I’ll come peacefully!†Aunt Margie yelled.

 

Alice looked at her.

 

“Just leave me!†she said to Alice. “It’s more important that you get away.â€

 

“No!†Alice said. “I lost you before! I’m not going to lose you again. Please!â€

 

“I can’t …†Aunt Margie said. “They’re going to take you. They’re going to know that you’re one of us and they’re going to take you.â€

 

Alice started crying.

 

Aunt Margie looked at the girl, her eyes more watery than they had seemed before. She nodded and stood up. George, next to them, had watched the whole exchange, his own eyes brimming with tears. He turned and was ready, baseball bat in hand.

 

“We’ve only been here an hour and there’s worse things in this town than her!†Gerdie called to Agent Baldwin.

 

“I know that!†he said.

 

“Well, then, why aren’t you taking care of them?â€

 

“We’ve tried, little girl. We’ve lost a lot of troops. But certain things can’t be killed! They …â€

 

He looked at Aunt Margie.

 

“… they control,†he finished.

 

“Excuse - excuse - excuse me,†Edward said. “What do you mean by saying they can’t be killed? That doesn’t make no darn sense.â€

 

“You ever heard of a shoggoth, boy?†Agent Baldwin said.

 

“What the hell is that?†Edward said.

 

Both Edward and Gordon suddenly remembered. Whether it was from some repressed ancestral memory or something each of the boys had read, they would never know, but the very word stirred up images of terror, a nightmare, plastic column of fetid, black iridescence oozing forward, shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and unforming as pustules of greenish light all over the thing filled their minds with a terrible hellish understanding. They knew that facing such a terrible thing would mean death and the idea that something like that might be near was terrifying to both of them.

 

“Oh wait!†Edward screeched. “Oh yeah! I have!â€

 

Gerdie also remembered what a shoggoth was, though unlike the boys, she was not overwhelmed with knowledge. Something in her, something old and deep and long lost, squirmed uncomfortably at the mention of the word. Something of what she had once been, perhaps long ago in the great city that had burned. She knew she never wanted to face such a horror. It reminded her of the slime they found earlier.

 

Agent Baldwin sighed.

 

“Seize them for interrogation!†he said to the soldiers. “Try to keep the hybrid! Try not to hurt the children!â€

 

The soldiers closest to Aunt Margie and the children started to move in, shouldering their rifles. They did not draw the bayonets on their belts. The soldiers with flamethrowers held back, as did the men with sub-machineguns. The men tried to talk to the children as they approached, urging them that they didn’t want to hurt them and that they were only there to protect them.

 

Alice looked at Aunt Margie and saw the hybrid had her claws ready. George was swinging his baseball bat back and forth. Alice had two knives in her left hand. Gerdie screamed “Help†in the cat tongue. The man approaching her looked at her like she was crazy.

 

“What can I do?†Alice asked Aunt Margie.

 

Aunt Margie took Alice’s hand off her.

 

“Fill your hand with steel and let’s see if we can get away,†the woman said.

 

Alice put one of the knives in her off hand and turned towards the sea, readying herself to fight the men approaching her.

 

Nearby, Edward looked at Gordon questioningly. Gordon nodded. He looked over his shoulder. The only person behind them was Agent Smith, who stood near the motorcar.

 

Gerdie tried to fling the rotten fish guts in the face of the soldier going for her. She got them on him but not in his face.

 

“What the hell, little girl!?!†the man cried out.

 

George stepped forward and swung his baseball bat at one of the men, striking him in the left arm. There was a crack and the man let out a shout, stumbled, and fell to the ground.

 

“God damn it, kid!†the other soldier yelled.

 

Alice stabbed at the two soldiers that rushed her but they backed away.

 

“Little girl, we’re just trying to help you!†one of them said.

 

Nearby, Gordon turned towards Agent Smith, who stood near the motorcar. He pointed beyond him and then started describing the shoggoth he’d seen in his mind: plastic, huge, horrible. Agent Smith glanced quickly over his shoulder, but didn’t seem to believe it. He frowned at the boy.

 

Edward ran past Agent Baldwin and the men with the flamethrowers and sub-machineguns.

 

“Kid, where you going?†one of them yelled.

 

“Excuse me, I just wanna get a closer look at this fish thing!†he cried out. “Oops!â€

 

He kicked out at one of the men moving towards the other children but didn’t hurt the man at all.

 

“Kid, what are you doing?†the man said.

 

“I’m sorry!†Edward said.

 

The soldier grabbed at Edward but the boy ducked and the man grabbed empty air.

 

A soldier grabbed Gerdie and her cat ran away. Two men grabbed Alice, who tried to stab both of them. Donald ducked to one side with a cry of “Don’t hurt my hands, you jerks!†A soldier rushed Aunt Margie and she was slightly injured. Then another of them grabbed the hybrid. She slashed the other man and he backed away with a scream, bleeding.

 

“Get offa me you mugs!†George yelled.

 

More soldiers moved quickly in as most of them were held. Then a strange croaking and baying of voices, clearly used for articulate speech but in a language no one understood, came from the harbor. The slapping of many feet across the damaged and destroyed buildings followed before dozens of deep ones appeared on the edge of the light, attacking the soldiers that blocked the children from their escape.

 

Other soldiers panicked and start screaming with those nearest the children letting them go and arming themselves as quickly as they could. The deep ones rushed forward, killing or incapacitating those soldiers nearest the harbor, tearing them to pieces, and quickly surrounding the children. Some of the soldier fainted, ran away shrieking, or stared incomprehensively at the things.

 

The sight was not good for Edward. He stood there, gasping in terror at the horrors he was seeing. He realized the sea and the water was what had spawned the horrible creatures and the sea and water was where they came from. He wanted nothing to do with either place again. Then he saw water starting to pour up out of the cracks in the ground and the cobblestones around. A shattered storm sewer was nearby and water poured out of it, rolling across the ground towards him. It was all around him.

 

One of the creatures knelt next to Alice and looked at her with wide, wet eyes.

 

“Come with us,†he said.

 

For just a moment, Alice recognized her father in the face of the creature. He gave her a nod and a familiar smile that she remembered and held out a large claw. She felt the tears brimming in her eyes.

 

“Dad?†she said.

 

“There’s no time!†he said, looking around.

 

“No, please.â€

 

“Come with us!â€

 

“Take her! Take her please!â€

 

“We’re all getting out of here! You’re coming with us!â€

 

Nearby a flame thrower burst into the air.

 

“Take Aunt Margie!†she said.

 

“We will!†her father said.

 

He grabbed her in a wet embrace and the other deep ones grabbed the rest of the children, one of them pushing past the soldiers and grabbing Edward while two more came down the rubble on one side and rushed Gordon, one of them shoving Agent Baldwin aside as he drew his sidearm. Edward shrieked in terror, struggling hopeless against the large creature.

 

Gunfire erupted from the soldiers that still had their wits about them. Blasts of flame thrower engulfed several deep ones and there were the screams of men and of the terrible creatures. Over it all, someone sang for a few moments before something burst up from under the ground behind the children, cutting off the soldiers and the motorcar from them.

 

“I don’t wanna die by being eaten!†Edward shrieked. “Please help me!â€

 

They all saw the horrible nightmare, plastic column of fetid, black iridescence oozing upwards from below, a shapeless congerie of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and unforming as pustules of greenish light all over the thing.

 

“I changed my mind!†Edward shrieked on seeing the horrible thing. “Take me to the ocean! Take me to the ocean!â€

 

Donald screamed and pointing at the terrible thing as the deep one carried him away.

 

The deep ones with the children and Aunt Margie ran to the harbor.

 

“Trust me,†the deep one that held Alice said to her. “The moment has been prepared for.â€

 

He and the other deep ones leapt into the freezing harbor with their charges. They swam down, down, down into the freezing water for what felt like longer than the children would be able to hold their breath. The cold became terribly intense as the children felt their fingers and toes quickly going numb. Finally, just visible, at the bottom, was a sarcophagus without a lid. The deep ones swam into the sarcophagus and through it.

 

They all fell through the box and landed on the hard, wooden floor on the other side, held and protected by the deep ones. The children shivered though the room on the other side was warmed by a kerosene heater. Heavy, black curtains covered the windows of the dirty room and they could smell dust and coffee. A coffee pot sat on the kerosene heater. One by one, each of the children came through the strange box.

 

Alice coughed.

 

Two men in heavy coats and overalls stood in the room. They both showed obvious and advanced signs of the Innsmouth look with big eyes, wide mouths, and sagging skin around their necks. They helped the children out of their freezing, wet clothing and gave them blankets and towels. When one of them tried to take Alice’s clothing, she brandished her knife in his direction.

 

“Okay girlie,†he grunted.

 

He threw her a towel and backed away.

 

“Robert, we shouldn’t have come this close,†the man said to the deep one that had been Alice’s father. Her father’s name had been Robert Sanders. “It’s dangerous.â€

 

As the children warmed themselves with coffee and warm blankets and the two men put their wet clothes on or near the kerosene heater to dry, the other deep ones left, shuffling out of the room. Alice’s father had backed away from her, watching her. He approached her once again.

 

He reached for the girl and she softened. He put his hand in her hair and on the side of her face, like he used to do when she was little. Once again, his eyes seemed moister than they did before.

 

“Aunt Margie and I have to go,†he said. “But we’ll see you soon.â€

 

“Go?†she said. “Wait. No!â€

 

She started to cry.

 

“I thought you were dead this whole time!†she said.

 

“I know,†he said. “We thought it best that you didn’t find out yet.â€

 

“Didn’t find out? I’m fourteen! I don’t know anything that’s going on with my body!â€

 

“Same,†Edward said.

 

“But you weren’t when I went away,†her father said. “You were only eight years old. All those years ago. And you wouldn’t have understood. I didn’t want you to see my like this until you were ready. And we didn’t have much choice at this point.â€

 

Alice quietly cried.

 

“We’ll be together again someday soon,†he said.

 

“Where are you going?†she asked.

 

“Y’ha-nthlei. The place where we all live. All of us from here. Those that escaped.â€

 

“Why do you have to go? Where are we right now?â€

 

“This is a farmhouse just south of Innsmouth,†Aunt Margie said. “It’s abandoned. It’s been abandoned for a long time.â€

 

“These hybrids will take away the sarcophagus that got us here,†her father said. “And, I’m sorry that you children had to go through this.â€

 

“Better than going through that,†Gerdie said.

 

“Well, I did just develop a horrible fear of the ocean,†Edward said. “You kind of dragged me right into it, but … I mean, I guess, all things considered … it’s not that bad. I’m still alive. I guess. Am I? Am I dead?â€

 

“No,†Alice’s father said.

 

“We did go through a coffin,†Gerdie said.

 

“You’re not dead,†Alice’s father said.

 

“Oh, the symbolism there,†Edward said.

 

“The sarcophagus has a gate that you went through,†Alice’s father said. “To bring you here safely, this was the only way that we could have done so.â€

 

The deep one looked over the children.

 

“I hope you will still love your cousin,†he said. “You are her cousins, aren’t you?â€

 

The children nodded.

 

“She’s different from you but she’s not … she’s not wrong and she’s not evil and she’s not bad,†Alice’s father said. “ She just is what she is like the rest of us.â€

 

“I don’t know if she’s that different,†Gerdie said.

 

She flipped her wet hair.

 

“These two men will take the sarcophagus away,†Alice’s father said. “But you can warm yourselves here until you’re ready to go.â€

 

“I mean, to be honest Mr. Sanders, I can’t really be too picky about my friends so … I’ll be friends with a fish,†Edward said.

 

“Well, fish aren’t amphibious,†Gerdie said.

 

“Love your cousin,†Alice’s father said. “And you, Alice, go your own way. You’ll get the call.â€

 

“What’s going to happen to me?†Alice said.

 

“You’re going to change. Once you reach a certain age. Possibly your 30s, maybe your 40s, you’ll begin to change like us.â€

 

“I …â€

 

“And then you can come back to the sea. We don’t age, Alice. We don’t die. Except through violence, we live forever. And you’ll be able to as well, if you decide to join us.â€

 

“What if I don’t want that.â€

 

He looked at the girl.

 

“Well, I hope you will,†he said. “Because I miss you.â€

 

“I missed you!†she said.

 

“You’ll have plenty of time to decide.â€

 

“When will you be back?â€

 

“I’ll be nearby. As long as you’re near the sea, I will find a way to be nearby.â€

 

She started crying again and the deep one reached for the girl and held her for a long time. Aunt Margie joined in the wet embrace and the three of them held each other for a long time.

 

“We cannot be caught here and you cannot be caught with us here,†Alice’s father said. “Otherwise they won’t know even to look for you. So, go with your mother, wherever she’s going, and know I will find you.â€

 

“Does mom know about me?†Alice asked.

 

“She does. She agreed with me. She found out later. I didn’t know about me when I met your mother. She found out later but was willing to stay with me because we loved each other. I hope you’ll find the strength to come back to the sea someday.â€

 

“I could never be without it.â€

 

He held her again before he and Aunt Margie left. The two hybrids picked up the sarcophagus and hauled it outside. They returned to tell the children they should be fine from there. When Edward asked where they were, the man told them they were in a farm just south of Falcon Point.

 

“You’ll be fine,†he said. “Alice’s father’s seen to it. He knows things. Just stay here ‘til yer warm enough and yer clothes r’ dry so ya don’t freeze t’ death.â€

 

They left and the children heard a motorcar engine that started and then drove away.

 

They stayed in the dirty little farmhouse for about an hour, warming themselves by the kerosene heater and waiting for their clothing to dry. Some of them drank the strong coffee. Gerdie put some in a cup and just held it and smelled it without drinking it.

 

When their clothing was dry, though crusty with salt, they found their bicycles next to the house and then saw motorcar headlights approaching down the road. Gerdie meowed “friend?†The car stopped nearby, the lights shining on the children, and they heard a car door open. Quick, light footsteps walked along the gravel towards them.

 

“What are you children doing out here?†Cousin Melba said coming into the light. “A man told me you all were here. What are you … let’s go home.â€

 

Gerdie climbed into the back of the motorcar, pouting. She hadn’t gotten to do any digging. The others tied the bicycles to the motorcar and got into the machine. Alice stood in the lights of the motorcar, staring out towards the sea. Cousin Melba came to her. They could hear the surf in the far distance. Melba looked at the girl in silence for a moment.

 

“C’mon Alice,†she finally said.

 

The two of them walked back to the motorcar and Alice climbed into the passenger side next to Donald. He put an arm around her and Melba drove them home.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

By Easter, Alice’s mother moved them to Aylesbury. Alice was pleased to see that the Miskatonic River ran right though the town. Their house was not far from it, actually, and her mother got a job there, closer to some of her Dunwich relatives.

 

One day, she and her mother had a picnic by the Miskatonic River.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me?†Alice asked.

 

“Why didn’t I tell you what?†her mother said.

 

Alice looked at the water of the Miskatonic River.

 

“My father,†she said.

 

Her mother was quiet for a long time.

 

“We didn’t think you were old enough,†she finally said. “I’m sorry.â€

 

There was a splash in the water.

 

“Alice, you’re very special and you’re going to be very different from everybody around you,†her mother said, looking towards the river. “And it’s going to be very hard. And I’m sorry that we didn’t tell you earlier.â€

 

“I know he’s out there,†Alice said quietly.

 

“He’s out there. You’re going to change, someday, into somebody totally different and you have to be ready for that. I have to be ready for that.â€

 

“I know.â€

 

She cried softly and hugged her mother, who held her for a long time.

 

Alice made it a point to come to the river as often as she could. She talked to the river, knowing her father could hear her and wondering if he was really there in the river after all, watching over her as he said he would.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

It was summer before the military pulled out of Innsmouth and finally released the mostly-abandoned village from government martial law.

 

The town did not last long. Its population reduced to less than 200, and the village lacking any industry, it withered. Still shunned by neighbors, many inhabitants moved away and the population dwindled further. A fire in the early 1940s led to an exodus of the remaining population and, after World War II, only a handful of squatters could be found there.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Gordon Brewster grew up in Dunwich and lived there the rest of his life, away from the sea. He treated his cousin Alice the same after that, as indifferently as he always treated everyone. He eventually inherited Grandpa Silas’ house in one of the few fertile places in Dunwich and lived the rest of his life there.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Gerdie Pope also never left Dunwich. Over the years, as she grew older, she owned more and more cats in a small house not far from Round Mountain. Though she never married, she became an avid dreamer, learning the languages of cats and taking in any cat in Dunwich that needed a home. Word spread among the cats that she existed and cats came from far and wide to visit or live in the house. Word spread in the Dreamlands as well, where she had a magnificent tree house of dozens of rooms in a massive tree, all filled with cats. She also dreamed with her cousins regularly, all of them becoming avid dreamers.

 

She rarely left her Dunwich house, usually only when she got the urge to dig and find things left over from her life in the Hyperborean age. She made her living sometimes selling the cats but otherwise was self-sufficient.

 

When she was sleeping one night, years later, a man broke into her house. She only found his bones the next day because the hundreds of cats living in and around the house killed and ate the intruder. She buried the bones behind the house and never told anyone.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Edward Derby took voice therapy classes and eventually got rid of his stutter. He went to Miskatonic University and did a great deal of research on Devil Reef and the other strange things in the world. He studied physics and eventually got a teaching position at the University. Over the years, he got psychological therapy to get over his terror of the sea and eventually beat his fear. He also studied the occult with great abandon.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

George Weedon succeeded at his quest to become a profession baseball player. When he graduated high school in 1932, he worked his way up through the minor leagues and played for the Boston Red Sox by 1935. He stayed with the team and became as famous as he always wanted to. He made sure all of his cousins got a signed baseball card of him and came home for the holidays to visit with them.

 

He was still playing with the Sox when his father died. He did not go to the funeral.

 

He was noted on the team and even interviewed by the press. In one interview, he mentioned that his cousins were the most important people in the world to him.

 

“Without them I wouldn’t be who I was today,†he was quoted as saying. “Especially my cousin Gordon, who always pushed me and pushed me and pushed me.â€

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Donald Sutton moved to New York City after high school and college. He pursued his career as an artist and came out as a homosexual, at least to his cousins, in 1950. He wanted nothing to do with the sea or especially Innsmouth however. He never painted the sea or the ocean.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Alice Sanders went to college at Miskatonic University in Arkham. It had the largest rare book collection of occult lore on the eastern seaboard. She was there the year before Edward, who got a job working in Orne Library when he started school there in the 1933. Edward helped her get access to some of the rare books in the restricted section, despite the safeguards that Dr. Henry Armitage had put in place just to keep such a thing from happening after the terror of the Dunwich Horror in 1928.

 

Alice learned much about both herself and her people. She read the Necronomicon with the help of Edward, the two spending many a late night in the empty library reading books they shouldn’t have been reading. The two became very close during their college years.

 

Though her occult studies took up a good part of her time, she studied marine biology at school and graduated with her degree in that field. After graduation, she also dabbled in writing, telling true stories about the things she had learned about both herself and the world from her occult studies while disguising it as fiction.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

In 1952, when she was 38 years old, Alice started to change, the Innsmouth look becoming more pronounced. She was living on the coast not far from Martin’s Beach by that time. She made a trip to Aylesbury to tell her mother and wrote letters to all of her cousins to tell them what had happened. She had gotten them all involved in Innsmouth decades before with a letter. She wanted to let them know what was happening the same way.

 

“My time in human form is lessening by the day,†she wrote. “You were always there to support me and you never looked at me as something strange or something terrible or evil. But I have made my decision and it’s time to go back to where I belong.â€

 

She signed it “vale†which in Latin meant good-bye.

 

She got a letter back from her cousin Gerdie asking her to meet in the dreamlands at a certain date. Gordon sent her a message that read “Best of luck†and sent her a pocketknife. Edward sent a longer letter from Arkham that read:

 


Dearest Alice,

 

Obviously it should be no surprise that I’m supportive of your decision. But please, tell me
all the secrets. Give me all the details and don’t hold anything back. Dreams or letters, however
it is, I don’t care if the letters are soggy or however you send letters from the ocean.

 

Venimus, Vidimus, Vincimus
Edward

 


She received a letter from Donald along with a small statuette that he had obviously sculpted himself. It looked very much like Aunt Margie the last time they had seen her. He said in the letter the piece was called “Hydra†and noted he had done some research and got some help with Edward, getting information on some of those on the “other side†of Alice’s family. He hoped that she could keep it with her when she finally went as it was waterproof.

 

She sent a letter back, thanking him.

 

She soon became a recluse. She visited Gerdie in the Dreamlands and enjoyed all the cats.

 

George didn’t write to her or meet her in the Dreamlands for two weeks but then, one day, he showed up, unannounced, at her house.

 

“I don’t know what you’re going through,†he told her. “But I’m willing to be here while you’re going through it if you need help. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m not the smartest one of us, but I never got married … yet … probably won’t. Anyway. If you need help when you’re changing, I’m here for you.â€

 

She blinked.

 

“If you need help, if you need me to stay here for however long it takes, and help you out with this, then I’m here for you,†he said.

 

“Thank you,†she said, hugging the man. “You’re welcome to stay.â€

 

George moved into the guest bedroom and helped Alice when she started having trouble walking, getting a walker and a wheelchair for her. He drew baths for her, often filling the water with salt, and cooked meals, even learning about fixing sushi to help her adapt to her possible life under the sea.

 

The more she changed, the more the house stank of fish, but George never complained nor said a word about it.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

It was 1953 before Alice’s changes reached their conclusion. She had felt the call of the sea and the call of Y’ha-nthlei growing stronger and stronger and knew the time was coming close. George had gone out to eat the night she was ready to leave. She left a note for him, telling him it was her destiny and her time to go and thanking him for all his help.

 

She walked out to the beach and found all of her cousins were there.

 

George had realized her time was very close, despite the fact that he was not terribly bright. He had contacted all of the other cousins and told them he was certain it would happen soon, making telephone calls and sending cars to pick up all of them, especially Gerdie and Gordon in Dunwich and Donald in New York City. The note that accompanied the cars said he thought it was going to happen that night and urging them to get there.

 

All of them waited for her on the beach.

 

Donald wept openly. George looked stoic. Gerdie had a white cat with blue eyes on her shoulder and whispered to it what was going on in its own language. The cat looked on, curious but detached, as a cat does. Gordon watched silently. Edward was trying to be strong and tough but failing badly, the tears welling up in his eyes.

 

“Thank you,†Alice said, crying softly. “Thank you for being here. I’m sorry I have to go. But it’s my time.â€

 

“Don’t be sorry about who you are,†Edward said softly.

 

George nodded. Donald cried.

 

Alice hugged all of them.

 

“Do deep ones still dream?†Gerdie asked.

 

“I believe so,†Alice said.

 

She smiled.

 

“Then we’re going to see you soon,†George said, his voice cracking.

 

Alice walked quietly into the ocean. Her cousins saw movement in the water as it reached her waist. Two more deep ones were there: Alice’s father and Aunt Margie. Alice went under with them and they were gone.


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