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Valentine's in Innsmouth Part 1 - Alice Sander's Plan



Monday, March 26, 2018


(After playing the original Call of Cthulhu scenario “Valentine’s in Innsmouth†based on the scenarios “Christmas in Kingsport†and “Halloween in Dunwich†by Oscar Rios, Sunday, March 25, from 1:30 p.m. to 5:50 p.m. with Ambralyn Tucker, Ben Abbott, Collin Townsend, and Ashton LeBlanc.)


Directly after Halloween in Dunwich in 1928, Alice Sanders wrote to her cousins letters inviting them to a Valentine’s Day get-together of the families. Her mother had told her they were going to move back to Dunwich by Easter and Alice knew time was running out.


She mailed letters to her cousins noting she wanted to have a party and there would definitely not be any moonshine as they knew what happened last time. She said it was somewhat time sensitive that all the cousins meet.


“Speaking of what happened last time, I felt like we really were a team,†she wrote. “I felt like we really helped each other out and got through that. This has made me even more want to find out what happened as I have this strength now. I have two knives, one a magic dagger.â€


She noted she wanted to go to Innsmouth, where she used to live, as well. It was important to her, personally, and she needed their help with it.


Alice was one of the oldest of the cousins at 14. She was from Innsmouth and had light hair and very large blue eyes. She’d always loved living on the water and had always been fascinated by the sea. Her family’s business was fishing and she’d been working on the docks with them since she was eight years old. She’d always been told her father died before she was born, but she was starting to think that might not have been true. Her mother kept things from her, telling her not to worry about it for the moment and enjoy her childhood while it lasted. Alice always told her she was already a teenager and had a right to know what was going on. Her mother promised to tell her everything “when her friend comes.â€


Her favorite member of the family was her Aunt Margie. When Alice was 11, a man grabbed her and pulled her into an alley, tearing her clothes and touching her. He was drunk and she could smell the alcohol. He covered her mouth so she couldn’t scream, but she had her fish-gutting knife in her pocket. She grabbed it and there was a lot of blood. He let her go but she couldn’t move and he fell at her feet. There was so much blood. Aunt Margie had found her, taken the knife away from her, and dragged the man’s body to her uncle’s boat. She told Alice she had done the right thing but not to tell anyone what happened. She covered Alice with her coat, took her to her house and washed her up. She told Alice she was a good girl and that her father would be proud of her. Then she gave her a switchblade knife and told her to always keep it with her. The next day, she told Alice it was all taken care of and not to worry about it. Sometimes Alice wondered if she was a bad person because she’d never felt guilty and was glad the man was dead.


In 1927, Aunt Margie got sick. The family said she was going to “go away†to get better. But after that, her house was deserted. Sometimes when Alice passed it, she saw someone in the attic, staring down at her. Sometimes at night, she saw a light up there. She’d been thinking about breaking into the house to see who was up there. But she thought she knew what she’d find. Aunt Margie wouldn’t have left without saying goodbye.


Just last February, Alice and her mother had fled Innsmouth. Alice remembered it was late at night when she heard someone come to the front door. She was already in bed but couldn’t help hear the deep voice from downstairs. She had peeked out her window and saw a figure walking away from the house in a strange, hopping shuffle that made her uneasy.


The next day, her mother had packed what little money and possessions they owned and they had fled to Ipswich, only a few miles away. She learned that only a few days later the Federal Government had raided Innsmouth, arresting many people from the village, and putting the entire place under lock and key. No one was allowed in or out. She didn’t know why. Her mother wouldn’t tell her.



* * *




The first letter she got back was from her cousin, Edward. In his neat handwriting, the letter read:


Dearest Alice,


It is amazing to finally be included on a team of any sort, whether it be former acquaintances,
sort-of friends, friends that don’t call me friends back, so I am vastly pleased with being included
and I would probably agree to anything to be included on a team at this point. But I also share a
desire to see what’s going on in Innsmouth and will begin my research forthwith and make sure
it is thorough.


Sic Semper Tyrannis


Edward Derby was 13 years old and from Arkham. He was a small boy with brown hair, glasses, and large front teeth. He wasn’t very strong but he was probably the smartest of the cousins. His voice was starting to change. His father was an ancient history professor at Miskatonic University and since Edward was old enough to walk, he’d been able to read. Some years before, he’d discovered his father kept certain books locked in his desk. Instead of asking him about it, Edward made a copy of the key and snuck into the library when his father was at work. He found some rare books: a Latin one called Othuum Omnicia, and two in English: The Secret Watcher and Marvels of Science. It took Edward more than a year, but he managed to read all three without being caught.


What he read fascinated him. They told of another world hidden just below reality and illuminated secrets most men would run screaming from. Edward applied himself in school, learning Latin, astronomy, and physics. While other boys were building soapbox racers, he was reading any occult books he could sneak out of the library.


He had a theory. Certain angles, in certain places had power. These powers could be heightened by the positions of the stars, making it possible to open gateways between various times, places, and maybe even realms of existence. He knew that with enough time, he could figure it all out. Part of him was eager for that while part of him feared what might lay behind the doorways. From what he’d read, some of them appeared to have been carefully constructed and shut, as if barriers were in place to stop travel from one side to the other.



* * *




Her cousin Gerdie’s letter came next and merely read “As long as there’s time for digging, I’m in.†She sent a second letter asking “Do you have a shovel or do I need to bring my own?†Alice wrote back if she had a particular shovel she liked, she could bring that one. Each of Gerdie’s letters also had a strange symbol upon it that Alice could not make heads or tail of.


Gertrude “Gerdie†Pope was a cute little 12-year-old girl who lived with her parents on Mill Road just north of Dunwich Village on the side of Round Mountain. She had very pale skin, platinum blonde, curly hair, and piercing blue eyes. She was a strange little girl whom many of the local people thought was crazy but she was really just confused sometimes, or so she thought. During the warmer parts of the year, she wandered around the hills and valleys of Dunwich until dark. Once in a while, she’d be somewhere new, a place she’d never been before, but she remembered it somehow, not as it looked normally, but with glowing lights and magic, streets, towers, and shops. She had sometimes gotten the urge to dig and found strange things: old clay pots or pieces of statue, and sometimes the pretty coins she still carried in a handkerchief at all times. Though the writing was strange, she could clearly read it. She carried five of the strange coins and sometimes showed them to others.


She wasn’t the first person born in Dunwich with her features, the elders said. It cropped up once in a while, usually in someone “touched.â€


She sometimes thought of herself as Solinia and had to remind herself she was Gertrude Pope. She knew she had been someone else once before, long ago, and she would be someone else again. The strange flashes of memory weren’t so bad when she wasn’t in Dunwich. She loved being around her cousins. She didn’t see them most of the year so they didn’t treat her like a loony.


One of her Dunwich relatives was in the Great War and she asked him if he had a shovel, he leant her one that broke down and folded up. He had been a little strange since the war but was very friendly and glad to help.


“Don’t let the Kaiser get ya,†he said to her.


She scratched some hyperborean lettering on the shovel.



* * *




Her cousin Gordon wrote back he would help, noting “Anything to get off the farm for a little bit.†He wanted to know why they were going to Innsmouth and how they were going to get there. Alice wrote back they were going to go see Cousin Melba first because she might have information that might be important to them. She also noted she had a bicycle and possible access to other bicycles.


Gordon Brewster was also from Dunwich. Thirteen years old, he was a blue-eyed, dark haired little boy. He was strong and fit and large for his age. He knew Dunwich was good country if one was willing to work it. His family had been there a long time, going back to when the village was first settled. He’d taken his place beside his father and brothers working the family farm on Dunlock Creek Road, earning extra money by cutting firewood for the neighbors with the axe that was always with him.


When he was eight, kids around Dunwich started to go missing. His parents kept him close to home for weeks. Eventually one of the kids got away from the folks doing it. Polly-Ann had been missing for a week before she turned up at the Brewster farm. She had been all beaten up and covered with scratches. She didn’t talk, just rocked back and forth, screaming if anyone touched her. Soon after that, folks showed up with shotguns, rifles, and hunting dogs. They set off to follow her trail back to where she’d come from.


After her parents took her home, Gordon had gotten his squirrel hunting rifle and ran after the others when his ma wasn’t looking. He caught up to them as they were setting fire to the cabin of one the neighbors. The members of the Gardner family had already been shot dead by the time he go there. They were horrible to look at in the light with faces and limbs twisted, hunch backs, and sharp teeth. They looked like monsters. His father spotted him hiding nearby and ordered him to stay close after smacking him for being there.


The men found the remains of the missing children under the chicken coop. There were only bones left and they had been gnawed on after the flesh had been butchered from them. Gordon didn’t remember anything after that. They told him later he seized up and didn’t come out of it for three months. He tried not to think about it.


Both Gerdie and Gordon knew only a little about the Horror that had struck Dunwich in September of 1928. Their parents hadn’t said much about it, just like they had rarely talked about Wilbur Whateley, who had been killed by a guard dog at Miskatonic University in Arkham back in August. All they knew were the rumors: rumors that something huge had broken out of the abandoned Whateley house in early September; rumors that huge, unnatural footprints were found in the Glen Road and wounded cows belonging to Seth Bishop were discovered near Devil’s Hopyard; rumors the Horror had disappeared into Cold Spring Glen; rumors of two attacks on the Elmer Frye farm, one destroying the barn and taking the cattle, and the second destroying the house and wiping out the entire family; rumors that several state policemen disappeared near Cold Spring Glen, never to be seen again; rumors that on September 15, the Horror had returned, destroying Seth Bishop’s house and killing all within before it was followed to Sentinel Hill by three professors from Miskatonic University and then never seen again.


Nothing but rumors.



* * *




Her cousin Donald wrote her back, unsure of that endeavor because he was afraid and nervous about Innsmouth, having heard a few stories about the shunned village. However, Simon convinced him to go and he couldn’t deny Simon.


Donald Sutton was 12 years old and the only cousin of their age from Kingsport. He was a small boy with short brown hair. He was quick and smart. Both his parents were artists who owned their own gallery in Kingsport and he hoped to follow in their footsteps one day. He was seldom without his sketchbook and was told he had a remarkable gift for one of so young an age. He was a rather sensitive person and able to see things in a way few others could.


Sometimes he saw things, people mostly, who were dead. He guessed they were ghosts and he’d always been able to see them. It didn’t happen every day but usually at least a couple times a week. Mostly he ignored them but, once in a while, he’d give them a nod to acknowledge their presence. They usually kept to themselves … except for Simon.


Simon seemed to never be far away. He was a nine-year-old boy who died in a carriage accident a long time ago. He’d been hanging around with Donald since he was six and they talked almost every day. Simon looked out for Donald by giving him advice or warning him if a bully was planning something mean. He’d always been a good friend and Donald guessed he was just lonely. When people caught him talking to Simon, he just told them the boy was his imaginary friend. That excuse wasn’t working as well lately, though. He asked Simon to be more careful when he talked to him. He didn’t want to get caught talking to himself again. He’d overheard his parents talking about it and they were worried, thinking he needed some “real†friends.


At Halloween, all of his cousins had seen Simon when they had approached the hill where the witch was working her magic. It was at that point they realized the boy was not imaginary, but a ghost. After their terrifying adventure, none of them ever saw Simon again except Donald.



* * *




Her cousin George wrote back, asking if he’d get to bust some heads. He was in. Later, he wrote her that he’d heard one wasn’t supposed to join any churches in Innsmouth and asked what that was about. She wrote back that she didn’t have any concern of the churches but maybe they would find out. What she didn’t write back was that she knew the main church in town was the Esoteric Order of Dagon, but it had not played much of a part in her life so she didn’t mention it. She remembered her mother had told her to stay away from the church but never explained why. George wrote back he was bringing his baseball bat.


George Weedon was a 14-year-old boy from Arkham and the last of the cousins their age. He was a strong kid and very much into sports of all kinds. There was nothing he enjoyed more than a good game. Baseball and football were his favorites and he hoped to be a pitcher or a quarterback one day. His father always pushed him to do better, try harder, and be the best. It certainly wasn’t easy to try harder when he was already giving it all he’d got.


Sometimes he dreamed about his father, screaming at him as he struck out with the bases loaded. In the dream, his father had called him worthless and weak, making everyone laugh at him. Sometimes in those dreams he just stood there. Other times he dreamt of showing his father how hard he could swing that bat.


He thanked goodness for his mother, though. If it weren’t for her, he’d be lost. She was always there, telling him she’d be proud of him and love him whether he came in first or dead last. When he pushed himself, it was for her, not for his father. When he made it to the majors, it would be for her.


Arkham wasn’t a big city but he liked it well enough. Moving about town on his paper route, he’d glimpsed things out of the corner of his eye though. There were storm drains he’d never get too close to, abandoned houses he stayed out of, and things he just didn’t talk about. People said the college had lots of spooky old books and things professors brought back from Egypt and the Amazon that were cursed. Sometimes at night, when the air was still, he could hear things whispering and moving about in the graveyard across the street from his house.



* * *




The cousins had grown very close since their strange adventures the past Halloween and at Christmas in 1927.


They had met for Christmas in Kingsport at Great Aunt Norma’s that year. It had been an adventure in and of itself when their cousin Melba had taken them all to the dreamlands and they’d saved her adopted children there from the Krampus, who turned out to be the father of Gretchen von Khol, the wife of their cousin Wally Weedon. It had all ended happily, however, when Gretchen’s father had appeared in Kingsport to share Christmas with the whole family. The children had visited the Dreamlands ever since, off and on.


Then, at Halloween in Dunwich in 1928, the party of Great-Grandpa Silas was interrupted when ghost of their great-great grandmother, disguised as another cousin, arrived to poison their parents. Only the children were awake and able to find their way to where the ghost of the witch had cast her spell and disrupt it, destroying her and saving everyone.



* * *




Edward started doing more research on Innsmouth. He had heard strange things about the people there. He knew a lot of residents of town suffered from the Innsmouth look, which was blamed on inbreeding, the introduction of foreign blood, or perhaps a long-term result of the plague that swept through in the 19th century. The look was characterized by large, distended eyes, a general broadening of the mouth, stooped posture, and skin diseases resulting in a scaling, flaking condition accompanying it. Later stages resulted in the enlarging of the hands and feet and a change in the hip structure that resulted in a hopping, shuffling gait.


He had also heard a few years back, a factory inspector got a terrible scare in Innsmouth. After, he had been committed to the state mental institution in Danvers.


He had even read the article published right after the raid in February of 1928. It didn’t take him long to find a copy of the article in the public Library in Arkham from the Arkham Gazette dated Tuesday, Feb. 14, 1928. It read:


Government Raid on Innsmouth
Bootlegging, Smuggling, Slavery Stamped Out


INNSMOUTH― A vast series of raids and arrests occurred in the village of Innsmouth
Sunday, resulting in numerous arrests and the burning and dynamiting of several empty
houses along the waterfront of the village.


In the early morning hours of Feb. 12, a joint force of the Department of the Navy, in
the form of Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) agents, U.S. Marines, and U.S. Coast Guard
troops assaulted the small coastal village of Innsmouth. The Justice Department Bureau of
Investigation (BI) under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover was also involved in the raid to
seize suspected aliens and seditionists for deportation.


The raiders reportedly faced heavy resistance by the criminals in the village. Several soldiers
and sailors were reported injured or killed though the exact numbers have not yet been made
available to the press.


Approximately 200 people were arrested while another 35 were reported killed during the raid
with an additional unreported number injured. A great deal of smuggled goods and supplies were
confiscated by the ONI and BI during the raid, including an undisclosed amount of bootleg liquor,
Canadian Whiskey, and other, unspecified, contraband.


Several empty houses on the abandoned waterfront were burned and dynamited to destroy a
large amount of illicit material, including alcohol and narcotics.


The prisoners were taken to an as-yet undisclosed location pending arrest and arraignment.
Evidence continues to be collected by the ONI and BI.


In addition to bootlegging and smuggling operations, there are inferences of a white slave
operation working out of the village. Who was enslaved and where they were taken is, as
of yet, unknown. As at least half of the village was arrested and imprisoned, it can be assumed
this had something to do with people who have disappeared in the area or perhaps other citizens
of the village. Authorities continue to investigate the allegations.


According to authorities, less than 200 citizens remain in Innsmouth since the raid. The village
remains under martial law and controlled by Federal forces at this time.


The village of Innsmouth is not without a rocky past.


Founded in 1643, the community had grown to a population of about 2,000 souls by the
American Revolution, most of them engaged in the shipping and fishing industries. The town saw
an end to its prosperity after the War of 1812 crippled the town’s growth. By the middle of the 19th
century, the Marsh Gold Refinery was the main industry in the village.


In 1846, the town was struck by a plague believed to have carried by a ship returning from the
South Pacific. Riots eventually broke out resulting in the dozens of deaths. The town never truly
recovered after that.


By the time of the Civil War, the village had fallen into a steep decline, leaving it a shadow of
its former self.


The population of Innsmouth before the government raid is estimated at 550.


He also spent the intervening months at the public library in Arkham and at Orne Library at Miskatonic University. There, he found Fall’s Historical Atlas of Massachusetts by David Gyer Fall that had been published in 1898. It held some information about Innsmouth he found very interesting and read:


Innsmouth - founded 1643. Current Population estimated at 556. Region first settled by the
Hogg, Eliot, Marsh, and Martin families of nearby Newbury. In 1678, a shipyard was opened
by Tomas Martin, and industry supported by the increasingly prosperous trade in codfish.
Additional shipyards were opened and prosperity early embraced the town.


The first Innsmouth voyage to the West Indies was made in 1662, followed over the years
by an ever-expanding trade with the East Indies, South Pacific, and China. To avoid running
afoul of the increasingly restrictive provisions of Britain’s Trade Acts, early traders found
smuggling their only available recourse. Illegal cargoes were unloaded far offshore, then
secreted into town by way of a complex of sea caves and man-made tunnels running under parts
of the town. Some of these tunnels, long unused, are supposed to still exist.


By the time of the American Revolution, Innsmouth had grown into a community of nearly
2000 people, most of them engaged in the shipping and fishing industries. The town had by then
spread to both sides of the Manuxet River, now crossed by a bridge built over the gorge near the
location of the present day Main Street. At Bunker Hill, Innsmouth was represented by a small
band of stalwart men, but for most of the war, the town’s contributions were in the form of ships,
and the privateers who took them to sea. The privateers were authorized by the newly formed
American government to attack and raid ships flying under the flag of England. Privateers signed
agreements that allowed them to keep one third to one half of any English booty, the rest to be
turned over to the government and the cause of the Revolution.


The success of the American Revolution allowed the New England traders free access to the
seas and Innsmouth, like similar ports, prospered. But the War of 1812, bitterly opposed by many
of the Federalist New England traders, brought an end to prosperity. The loss of ships and men was
atrocious and the end of the conflict found an Innsmouth crippled by the lack of ships as well as
manpower. Some of the town’s most prosperous families were ruined by the losses they suffered
in the course of the war. An unfortunate series of maritime disasters over the next few decades
further crippled the town’s growth. The last of Inns mouth’s trade ships made their final port of
call by the middle of the 19th century.


By then the town’s interests had turned to industry, spurred in part by the Marsh gold refinery
operated on the banks of the Manuxet River. But the Industrial Revolution never caught fire in
Innsmouth, and the failing fishing industry added to the town’s woes. In 1846, the town was struck
by a plague, believe to have been carried into town by a ship returned from the South Pacific.
Although little is known of the incident, riots eventually broke out, resulting in the deaths of dozens
of individuals. By the time of the Civil War, Innsmouth had fallen into a steep decline, and already
the number of empty houses were a cause for remark.


Today, Innsmouth is a shadow of its former self, a half-deserted seacoast town forgotten by time.
Most of its residents are of old stock, rooted in the land by time and tradition.


In Orne Library, he found a book titled Innsmouth: Superstitions and the Sea by Michael Peabody published in 1920 by Small, Maynard and Company out of Boston Massachusetts. The slim volume detailed the strange customs and quaint folk practices of small Yankee seacoast towns with Innsmouth, Massachusetts, as its focal point. One old Innsmouth native was quoted in the book as he spoke vaguely of a curse that lay upon his home, stating “that the old town has lost more than its share of sons and daughters to the sea.†Peabody concluded his treatise with the assertion that Innsmouth’s loss of maritime trade in the 19th century caused its insular populace to resort to superstition to restore its prosperity, forsaking healthier routes of alternate industry. In this bizarre effort, the town failed, though had yet to, and might never, emerge from its intense insularity. A brief endnote to the book by the publisher stated that author Michael Peabody drowned just before the publication of this, his only book.


An excerpt from the book about the town read:


... perhaps nowhere else have declining maritime fortunes had such an adverse social and economic
effect than in Innsmouth, Massachusetts, a once thriving seaport now reduced to a depressed hamlet.
Education and other social services are all but unknown, leading to a rapid decline in cultural mores,
despite the town’s close physical proximity to Arkham, home of the prestigious Miskatonic University.
Arkham for its part ignores any responsibility it might feel it has as a community to its backwater
neighbor. As a result, the residents of Innsmouth have combined elder sea lore, religion, and cultural
ways into an odd mix of superstition and secretive ritual practices unique in New England. Samples of
Innsmouth superstition include rituals to reap better lobster harvests, spells to attract and control sharks,
and charms wrought to invoke a watery doom on the unwary. Perhaps most curious are some of the
genuine golden ornaments that are incorporated into many of the rituals and charms. Locals insist these
are locally crafted; nonetheless they possess a disturbing, otherworldly quality that this author struggles
to convey in words. I have examined only two such ornaments, and this under circumstances that would
draw the ire of many locals, should they know of my trespass into their affairs. The ornaments most
greatly resemble similar pieces described in ancient occult tomes such as the obscure Ponape Scripture,
a copy of which resides in special collections at nearby Miskatonic University Library. There have
been rumors circulating in academic circles for years of similar objects and practices common to the
geographically and socially isolated peoples of the Louisiana bayou country. If proven, this could prove
a fascinating link between the cultural, moral, and religious decline of the two separate, isolated
communities ...


He found a map of the outskirts of Innsmouth, a roadmap of that part of Massachusetts, and a perspective map - kind of a bird’s eye view drawing - of the town in 1912.


He also heard Dr. Ezekiel Wallace, pastor at the Asbury M.E. (Methodist-Episcopal) Church had, in the past, warned certain members of his congregation against joining any Innsmouth Church. He learned George had heard that rumor as well. The boy told him he was bringing his baseball bat and punched Edward in the shoulder like he always did.


He decided to scout out Innsmouth in early January and biked up to the town. He passed several abandoned farms on the road nearest Innsmouth as he reached the salt marsh that surrounded the town. He also passed at least one farm with smoke coming from the chimney. As he passed the last abandoned farm before the town, he saw the road ahead was gate and a small hut with several soldiers visible. There was also a pickup truck and a motorcycle, both painted olive drab.


He went back to the farm and turned west on the side road, noting the salt marsh between the road and Innsmouth. There were stunted trees and tall, dead grass out there. It looked very muddy, even in the cold.


He turned back towards the sea and, when he reached the next road there, which he thought led to Fall Street according to the maps he’d been perusing, he saw there was a concrete barricade across that road not far from where it intersected the road he was on. He thought he could get around it on his bicycle though. Looking towards Innsmouth, he saw another concrete barricade at the far end of the road, near town. He didn’t see anyone manning either of them.


He road west again to the Ipswich road and saw another checkpoint a little ways up. Then he biked back to Arkham.


He wrote a letter to Alice after that.


Dearest Alice,


I have formulated an amazing undeniable incredibly successful way to get into Innsmouth
regarding the martial law and the barricade and the checkpoints situation. What is it, if I may
inquire, that you wish to do in Innsmouth? I may be able to help more if I know more details.
Otherwise, I’m very excited to not only be going to this fascinating town, but to also be included
on a team of people who may or may not call me friend.


E Pluribus Unum


He also briefly summarized that the town seemed to be haunted and the people were insular, not taking too kindly to visitors. He also wrote the town was very spooky, being cursed or haunted.


Alice wrote him back almost immediately.


Yes, I hope you know you’re always welcome to our adventures. I do consider you an acquaintance
and I appreciate the information.


He was a little disappointed she had not told him more about why she wanted to enter Innsmouth but was happy to be part of the team.



* * *




The families all arrived in Ipswich on Friday, February 15, 1929. Gerdie and Gordon’s families borrowed an old pickup truck for the trip. It wasn’t a comfortable ride, but they got there. Edward’s parents drove their sedan and Donald rode with George’s family. His own parents were busy that weekend with an art show at their gallery in Kingsport.


The whole family had dinner at Alice’s little house. Her mother was glad to see the in-laws and happy with seeing her own family before she moved back to Dunwich.


Though the parents all split up after dinner that night as far as accommodations, the children all bunked in Alice’s bedroom. Edward and George’s parents got hotel rooms in Ipswich so they didn’t have to drive at night. Gerdie’s parents slept in the living room. Gordon’s parents had brought a tent for the back of the pickup and slept out in the cold.


“So-so-so … when are we doing this sneaking off?†Edward asked his voice cracking in the throes of puberty.


George rolled his eyes. Gordon, who had been sharpening his axe with a whetstone, stopped and just stared at the other boy.


“What happened to you?†he said.


“I … uh … my body changed,†Edward said.


“I can tell,†Gordon said. “Don’t feel bad about it.â€


He went back to sharpening his axe very slowly. He looked at Edward as he did so, wondering what happened to the boy and not wanting it to happen to him.


“Has-has-has-has it happened to you yet, Gordie?†Edward squeaked.


“Iunno … maybe,†Gordon said with a shrug. “My voice cracked once and my dad slapped me, so I don’t do it anymore.â€


“W-w-w-wait,†Edward squeaked. “You can control it?â€


Gordon grinned.


“He’s from the country,†George said. “They go through it early. Age nine.â€


“Wow!†Edward said.


“I know a lot about these things,†George said. “‘Cause I’m 14.â€


“Mmm,†Gordon said. “Hasn’t started for you yet, has it George?â€


“Shut up, Gordie!†George said.


Alice had left the room and brought back bottles of Pepsi-cola for everyone. Donald spoke quietly with Simon.


“So, are we digging before or after?†Gerdie said.


“We’re digging?†George said.


“Well … it …†Alice said.


“You promised there’d be digging,†Gerdie said.


“Yes, I did,†Alice said. “But … not at this point.â€


“So, after,†Gerdie said.


“Is it metaphorical digging?†Donald said.


“It’s … well …†Alice said.


“That’s what Simon wants to know,†Donald said.


“Well, I assumed you meant … in the earth,†Alice said.


“Yes,†Gerdie said.


“Then that,†Alice said.


“I mean, we can do both,†Gerdie said. “Both is good.â€


“Well, right now, we’re going to be doing more of the metaphorical digging,†Alice said.


“Metaphorical!†Donald said. “You were right, Simon!â€


“I like all kinds,†Gerdie said.


“But first, now that I have you here, I need to explain some things to you,†Alice said. “I know I was intentionally vague with my letters. So … there are a lot of things that you don’t know about me and that needs to be clear before we continue with this.â€


“You’re from Innsmouth,†George said. “You got the plague?â€


“W-w-w-ell I think … I think I don’t know about most-most people,†Edward squeaked.


“Uh … okay,†Alice said. “Would you … I don’t have the plague.â€


“Good!†George said. “I don’t want it.â€


“I appreciate your digging with this information,†Alice said to Edward.


“I-I-I-I dig in books,†Edward said.


Alice pat him on the shoulder.


“Well,†she said. “The truth is … I wanna find … my Aunt Margie. And she’s a very important person to me … because of things that happened in my past that you don’t know. When I was 11, I was in … I was in a very bad situation … where … a man … pulled me back into an alley and … was touching me … and … trying to hurt me.â€


She looked at all of them.


“But, as you know, I’m … I’m very adept at my knife skills and … uh … he didn’t … he wasn’t … let’s just say, he didn’t have the capacity to touch me anymore,†she went on.


“Damn!†George said.


“Y-Y-Y-Y-You killed him!?!†Edward squealed.


“Do you blame me?†Alice said.


“Not really,†Gordon said.


“Well …†Alice said.


“Good!†George said.


He looked angry.


“Like I said, I was … I was 11 and my Aunt Margie found me …†Alice went on. “...with my clothes torn, with my clothes open … and … a man bleeding out right beside me. She … helped me … dispose of his body … and told me that I was a very good girl for doing what I did. Well …â€


Donald had slipped over to the girl and carefully and quietly patted her shoulder.


“Simon says he’s sorry,†he said.


Alice smiled, her eyes filled with tears.


“Thank you Simon,†she said. “It’s good to know you’re still here.â€


She looked over in the corner Donald had indicated.


“Well … anyway … my … my Aunt Margie,†Alice went on. “She got very sick … and my family said that she was going away to get better, but … something about me, I just didn’t think that was true. She … she wouldn’t have left without saying good-bye. I know her! And … um … so, Margie … Aunt Margie was a very important person in my life and … I need to find her. I need to find out where she is and, ever since this situation that happened at Halloween … I feel like we can do this. I feel like we can take this upon ourselves and find out what happened to her because it’s always been a mystery to me and it’s always been eating me alive. I just need to know.â€


“Well, how do we find out?†George asked.


“Well, my first idea was going to Cousin Melba first,†Alice said. “I’m sure you all know her …â€


“She has my eyes!†Gerdie said.


“I love Cousin Melba,†George said.


“Uh-huh, she’s the best,†Gordon said.


“Simon likes her too!†Donald said.


“Yeah, she’s … yeah,†Alice said. “Yeah. But … I think she might have some information since she’s connected to otherworldly things. I think she might have some information on where my aunt could’ve gone.â€


“We’re going to the Dreamlands again?†Gerdie said with a smile.


“I thought we were going to Innsmouth!†Edward squeaked.


“That’s a great idea!†Donald said to Gerdie.


“I’m not sure if it─†Alice said.


“I was gonna suggest reversing the charges,†George said. “She works at the switchboard in Kingsport.â€


“If it comes down to that, maybe,†Alice said. “Uh …â€


“She lives in that castle in the sky,†Donald said.


“Well, like I said, it’s pretty time sensitive since we’ll be moving as far away from here as possible,†Alice said. “But─â€


“Wait, you’re moving?†George said.


“Yes,†Alice said.


“I didn’t know that,†George said.


He turned to Donald.


“Did you know that?†he said.


Donald shook his head.


“Well, now you do,†Alice said. “That’s why you’re all here, so I can explain things to you. But … since it’s time sensitive, I think that would be a good idea to try to do that … maybe tonight.â€


“S-s-s-s-so─†Edward said.


“Wait wait wait wait,†George said. “Before you start talking for an hour, when do you wanna go to Innsmouth then? When are we - is this a rescue mission?â€


“That’s what I was gonna ask!†Edward squeaked.


George patted the other boy on the back.


“Maybe,†Alice said. “For all I know, maybe she … she might …â€


Her eyes brimmed with tears again.


“Look, we’ll just have to see,†she finally said. “We’ll just hope for the best.â€


George patted her shoulder.


“We’ll bring her home!†he said.


“Well, I’m … I have a good plan for getting into Innsmouth,†Edward said. “It’s kind of locked down right now, but …â€


“Yeah, I’ve heard that,†Alice said.


“Yeah, you’re-you’re kind of the captain on that one,†Edward squeaked.


“What’s your plan?†George said. “Tell the plan and then she can decide. She’s the captain.â€


“Cousin Melba will help us,†Gerdie said.


“We need to get to her first and find out what to do, pretty much,†Alice said.


Edward gulped and grunted, trying to get the words out.


“There is a road,†he finally said. “Where there’s not guards and we can just bike-bike on past it.â€


“What are you talking about?†Alice said.


He pulled out a map of the outskirts of the town of Innsmouth. He had marked it up with pencil putting several letters upon it, A through G.


“All right, so … after long deliberation, I’ve figured out plans A through G,†Edward said.


“Where’s F?†Alice asked.


“F is hidden on there,†Edward said. “It’s on the ink dark part.â€


“How many plans do you expect us to go through?†Alice said.


“G? F?†George said.


“Well, it’s good to be prepared,†Alice said.


“Hopefully not more than G,†Edward said.


“Well, it’s good to be prepared anyway,†Alice said again.


“I have - I have a lot of free time,†Edward said.


“The best way it to attack ‘em from the sea,†Gerdie said.


“From the … from the ‘C’ or the ‘S-E-A?’†Alice said.


“The sea!†Gerdie said.


“The …†Alice said. “This is like you and your digging again! What are you talking about!?!â€


“I think she means from the Atlantic Ocean,†George said.


“They won’t be expecting it from boats,†Gerdie said.


“Well, Gordon doesn’t really want to be on the sea, does he?†Alice said.


“D-d-d-d-d-do you have a boat?†Edward said.


“No, dummy,†Gerdie said.


“We have boats down in Kingsport, but they’re rowboats,†Donald said. “Well, that’s about 20 miles. It’s gonna be hard work.â€


He looked over at the corner.


“What?†he said. “No, you can’t help. You … you … I know but …â€


He listened for a moment.


“Simon says he’s done a lot of boating,†he finally said. “But … how are you going to do the tiller?â€


“How can you … can you row a boat here?†Alice said.


“Where?†Donald said.




“Oh yeah! We’re inland! Sometimes he gets on a thing on boats. He likes boats.â€


George pulled out one of his comic books and flipped through it.


Edward told them what he had learned: the town was cursed, there had been a plague, no one wanted to live there, and the government came in and attacked the place and locked it up. No one would talk about the town and there were stories of white slaves, booze, and horrible things. It was currently held by the military.


“That plague ain’t catchin’, is it?†Gordon asked.


“W-w-w-w-w-w-well, I haven’t heard any official reports about the plague,†Edward said. “But … I don’t - I-I-I-I─â€


“They get big eyes and scaly skin and their mouth gets real big,†George said. “They think it’s inbreeding.â€


“Oh, okay,†Gordon said.


“They’re breeding with fish?†Gerdie asked.


They all looked at her. Gordon patted her on the head.


“What?†George said. “Maybe? I dunno.â€


“Y-y-y-y-you can do that?†Edward squeaked.


“No,†Gordon said. “No.â€


“Continue,†Alice said.


“You’re supposed to be the smart one!†Gordon said to Edward.


“What are your plans?†Donald said to Edward. “What are your plans! I wanna hear your plans.â€


Donald had taken out his sketchbook and looked at the map Edward had, drawing it. Edward explained about the road with the barricades but without any guards. He said Plan B, C, D, and E were various points where they could enter the swamp and go through to avoid the soldiers. Plan F was to follow the road that ran along the coast, though he admitted he hadn’t scouted it out yet. Plan G was to go into the water and swim into Innsmouth.


“Or get a boat,†Gerdie said. “It’s too bad we don’t have krampus to sniff her out.â€


“Edward, you’re smart,†Donald said. “Which one do you think we should do?â€


“A,†Edward said.


“There you go!†Donald said with a smile. “Let’s try A.â€


“That’s why it’s A and not B,†Edward said.


“I think, in alphabetical order, we probably should go with your first plan,†Alice said.


“A-A-A-A-A-A is the best one,†Edward squeaked.


They decided to enter the Dreamlands that night when they slept.



* * *



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