I hadn’t seen Sean in a while. I didn’t know why—maybe it was a dame, perhaps it was all those hours he spent selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door to raise funds for college, or maybe he really was spending all his time finishing his thesis. But I did see him in the corridor at St. Mary’s Hospital that night when they wheeled in Carolyn Fern. Someone–or something–had torn the poor Jungian psychiatrist limb-from-limb.
“What is it, Doc?” asked Sean. “I hear something got Darrell Simmons too. All they found was a bloody camera!”
I tried to calm the obviously-distraught graduate student. “Probably a pack of dogs….”
I turned to him sharply. “Now don’t you go panicking folks, Sean Anderson. It could be anything. A pack of huskies, for example. They’ve got a mean bite and a taste for blood…”
He cut me off again. “Would huskies caused Alejandra to flee town like she had zombies on her trail? That broad aint no dumb Dora–she knew what was coming, and high-tailed it to Toronto. It’s the Old One, I tell you. We’ve got to stop it. I’ve got to find the answer.”
He turned on his heels and left. No sooner had he done so when another man, one I didn’t know, turned to me. He had obviously been eavesdropping on our conversation.
“Doctor? I’m Tom Fisher, expedition leader. I don’t really know the boy, but he seems to know his onions. He might be on to something… “
It’s true, Sean was a smart cookie.But Cthulhu? Here? Was it possible?
“You keep an eye out, Doc. For things. Things that can’t be explained, not by science at least. Mysterious deaths. Occult happenings. Portents of the apocalypse. Ann Coulter. I’m just saying’, you keep an eye out. Me, I’m headed to the Curiousitie Shoppe, to look for a sign…”
“A sign?” I asked. “What kind of sign?” I imagined something saying “Tom Fisher – Expedition Leader” in garish neon. Damn new-fangled things were hardly in keeping with Arkham’s New England aesthetic.
He laughed a weary laugh and headed for the door .“Not that kind. An Elder Sign. To close the gates. I think you know what I mean.”
I did know, for when I was not saving lives at the hospital I had been known to dabble in the occult. But how did he know I knew? And what else did he know?
A few day later I was listening to the radio when the telephone rang. It was Sean again. He was babbling incoherently.
“I saw it, in a mirror, Doc.! Ra! He told me the answer!”
“What are you talking about? Pull yourself together, man! Make some sense! Where are you? Are you in trouble?”
He had me concerned. His reply hardly set my mind at ease.
“Can’t tell you that, Doc…”
“I can’t say the name…”
I was really worried now.
“Can’t or won’t? Tell me right now where you are, Sean Anderson, or I’ll have to report this to the Dean. You’re giving me the heebie-jeebies!”
Suddenly he screamed, almost causing me to drop the bakelite handset.
“Ayyye, the curse! It burns! It burns! Hellfires! Predators! Reapers! Death from above!”
I still had no idea what he was talking about. There had been reports of huge monsters in the skies above Arkham, though.
“Meet me at the Black Cave. Be quick! Cthulthu will awaken soon, and devour the world. Hurry!”
The line went dead. Worried, I called June McCabe. The hard-boiled private investigator was rarely sober—indeed, she was so often in a battle of gin they had barred her from Hibb’s Roadhouse. But she was tough in a fight.
“June? Meet me at the Black Cave! Sean think’s he’s found the answer to everything.”
I grabbed my carbine and rushed through the all-but-deserted streets of Arkham. As I passed through Easttown I could see a dead unhuman creature slumped in the gutter, surrounded by the broken glass of what had once been a bottle of gin. Clearly June had been her first, clearing the way.
A few minutes later I had arrived at my destination. Sounds of fighting could be heard from deep with the Black Cave. I hesitated, then headed in.
There I found them. June was grappling with a hideous creature that resembled nothing quite so much as monstrous flying polyp. As she did so, Sean was trying to destroy a glowing portal to another world. Neither struggle was going well.
Suddenly the PI let out a horrified scream and clutched at her head. Her eyes rolled back, only the whites showing, as if possessed by an alien mind. “Ayyyeee…. I… I… mustwritemythesisproposal….” she wailed in an unknown tongue. She then collapsed to the floor, curled whimpering in a fetal position amid the ichor and gore of the paradigmatic abominations she had slain here. June’s mind was gone, overcome by terror.
“By jeepers, curse this damned curse!” Sean shouted with recursive redundancy. “I’m two left thumbs! Keep that thing away, Doc! I’m almost done!”
I was a doctor, dammit, not a paranormal exterminator. Still, I had little choice to fight. I muttered a spell to reduce its arcane defences, then let loose with my carbine at the beast. BLAM! It collapsed in a heap beside June. I felt myself being sucked into the portal. The world I knew swirled around me as I felt the evil beyond in the very depths of my soul.
Moments later, Sean shouted in triumph. The portal withered, and then collapsed on itself. I was back in the cave. The sun came out. Birds sang. All seemed good in the world.
Tom Fisher arrived shortly thereafter.” “I couldn’t find an Elder Sign, but I did bring Dr. Pepper and Pringles.”
It was a fitting end to our triumph. Arkham had been saved.