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That collection is dedicated to his grandmother, Mary Betteridge.
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Pagnotti climbed the few wooden steps and turned back to look at the beach before entering. They had made a good choice coming here to St. Croix, it was the best find yet. And he couldn’t have wished for a better atmosphere. Sun, sand and surf; just the opposite of the dreary University halls back home. He had been on break and had taken a leisurely stroll down the beach, enjoying all the sights the island had to offer. The beautiful dark-skinned inhabitants and their easy going manners were infectious, as was the island rum he had been consuming at a quickening pace. Wandering past a group of young students on holiday from the Netherlands, he had paused to listen to their wonderful speaking voices. Further down the beach, he had stopped at a small ocean side bar for a drink and a serving of the delicious chicken curry that he had grown fond of. Now back at the house he and his colleagues were renting, he smiled sadly. They had already been here three weeks and soon their allotted time away would be up. Called back to show results, they would have to return to Miskatonic and report. It wasn’t that they had nothing to show for their time here, quite the opposite. Pagnotti, however, simply wished he could remain forever in this paradise instead. Stepping into the small house, he was greeted by a flurry of activity. Mason was running back and forth between two computers and Sansgaard was shouting at Brown as the young doctor tried to stick pins in a large map. Fullton was nowhere to be seen, so that meant he was probably in the bathroom. “Where have you been?” shouted Sansgaard at Pagnotti, his anger now turned toward the newcomer. “I was on break, I walked down the beach. Why, what’s happened?” “Fucking hell, you better not have been getting wasted on their Caribbean rot-gut again or...” “Calm down,” said Pagnotti. “What’s going on?” “She moved,” said Mason from one of the computer terminals. “Wait, what? ‘She?’ She or the...” tried Pagnotti. Brown pulled away from the map, clearly side-stepping Sansgaard and tying up her long, curly brown hair. She walked over to her small desk and picked up a tee shirt that was lying across the back of the chair and threw it at Pagnotti. He caught it as he realized in was the one she had been wearing earlier. It was wet. “She moved,” said Brown. “She sat up... quickly.” “My god. Is the subject still...” “It seems fine,” said Mason. “It started communicating right after she went back down into the water.”
“Did you have to force her, or did she go back down herself?” “She went down herself, very slowly,” answered Brown. “But by that point we were all crammed in the room.” “All but you,” sneered Sansgaard. “Oh, shut the fuck up Erik. I assume Fullton’s in the bathroom now?” Brown nodded as Sansgaard fumed and turned to the map. Pagnotti began walking to the other end of the house, a smile playing on his lips at Sansgaard’s aggravation. Mason called his name out behind him. “Don’t you want to know what it said?” “I’ll ask Fullton,” replied Pagnotti as he made his way down the hall. The house was relatively large, which suited the scholars. Meant for a family gathering or a party of students, it had four bedrooms and two baths. The two bathrooms had been essential. Rarely were anymore than two of the team members asleep at one time, so the bedroom number didn’t so much matter, but that bathroom situation... that had been a necessity. Pagnotti rounded the corner and could see Dr. Anthony Fullton sitting on the top toilet seat, fiddling with a recording device. His gray hair and short-cropped beard marked him as the oldest of the Miskatonic University team, the field leader in this little island adventure. For him it was a last chance, but a chance of a lifetime. Pagnotti leaned against the open door frame and said, “I heard I missed some excitement.” Fullton smiled. “I’m sure Erik told you all about it.” “I wouldn’t let him,” replied Pagnotti. “What really occured?” “She sat up.” “Brown told me that much.” “She was sitting in here, it was her duty turn,” said Fullton, “When the host simply, suddenly shot up out of the water. Sat straight up, rigid as a board. Soaked poor Emily and probably scared her half to death. It was her scream that alerted us.” “And then she just slowly returned to the position?” asked Pagnotti. “Yes. She was already moving back by the time we arrived. It took, perhaps, all of a full two minutes for her to resume a completely submerged and settled form.” “And the Fortian Creature is fine?” “It spoke moments after she became immobile again.” Pagnotti leaned across the bathroom, over Fullton and peered into the tub. Inside was a young woman, completely naked and lying on her side in a fetal position. Somewhere in her early twenties, she had long dark hair and a slender form. She had been quite beautiful once, with large dark brown eyes that now
stared off under the water. On the side of her head and just barely cresting out of the top of the bathtub’s water level, it sat attached to her skull, slightly draping over her face. It looked almost squid-like, but more solid, more durable. Eight tentacles laid splayed about her head, the suckers having woven themselves into her flesh and a small, bulbous bag of organs and fluid rested on her neck. It pulsed with life, with purpose. Right above the bag, right in the center of the tentacles, there was an orifice of types. And it was from this orifice that the creature spoke. “I thought we all agreed that the host was no longer a functioning organism,” said Pagnotti. “We did, and I still stand by that,” said Fullton. “I think the creature was simply exercising base electrical activity and that was a result.” “Seems a bit... controlled.” Fullton looked at the bathtub with concern. “I know.” “Well, what did it say?” “Something along the lines of, ‘The Seas Will Gather The Slaves To Make Amends For Its Culling Time,’ I believe.” “Still in a mix of broken French and ancient Sumerian?” asked Pagnotti. “Hence the ‘I believe’ part.” “Well, Sansgaard is a bastard, but he’s a damn fine linguist. He’ll figure it out.” “Careful, it sounds like you might be respecting him,” laughed Fullton. “Could you watch this while I go use the other bathroom? I could use a moment with my pipe as well.” “Go have your piss and your smoke, old man,” said Pagnotti with a smile. The two doctors exchanged places, and Fullton left. Pagnotti placed the recorder on the makeshift table across the sink and stared into the tub. The Miskatonic Fortian Science branch had been searching for something this definite now for decades. Not since their rise back in the early 1920’s had a find like this ever come about. It was an elite group of some of the most brilliant doctors and researchers on the planet; however, many came from fields that were too bizarre or obscure to find real challenges anywhere else. Miskatonic sent them on excursion into the occult and the mysterious, sent them to find answers. So often, they came back with nothing. When reports came in across their network of a young tourist who had been stricken with some kind of unknown parasite down in the Caribbean, Miskatonic sent in a team. Dr. Anthony Fullton was a Microbiologist, Dr. Emily Brown a Speculative Disease Specialist. Gregory Mason tagged along as Medical Data, and Daniel Pagnotti slid in at the last minute as their Fortian Zoologist. Pagnotti had been the one who had suggested submerging the host in salt water after Brown had
muscled her way through the St. Croix hospital staff. The hospital had been more than happy to see the coma patient and her freakish little friend go. Once they had obtained the house and filled the tub with salt water, they had placed the girl along with her attachment into it. Almost immediately, the creature had begun to speak. Both Brown and Fullton had recognized some of the French, but realized that either they weren’t fluent enough or that it was speaking in multiple languages. Sansgaard arrived two days later. “Where’s Fullton?” came a voice from behind Pagnotti. He turned to see Sansgaard standing there frowning. “He went to the bathroom upstairs, why?” “I don’t answer to you,” snapped the linguist. “What is your problem?” asked Pagnotti, genuinely confused. Sansgaard rolled his eyes and stormed off. Pagnotti shook his head and turned back to the tub. All of the statements from the creature had been translated as a mixed of French, the young woman’s native tongue, and a form of ancient Sumerian. They were all usually single sentences, dire warnings of a kind. They all talked about the seemingly end of humanity and the rise of the seas. Some kind of broken treaty and the return of elder ones. The department heads back at the University all had seemed very interested in this. Fullton came back and leaned against the door frame much as Pagnotti had done. “Any change?” he asked. “Nope,” said Pagnotti. “Sansgaard is looking for you. He’s in a pissy mood.” “He’s been increasingly so,” said Fullton. “And he has a particular distaste for you.” “I’ve noticed.” “Have you eaten yet?” “Yeah,” replied Pagnotti. “I got a curry on my break.” “Damn. I was going to send you to get one for me if you were hungry, too.” “Hell, I’ll go get you one. I’ll pick up one for everybody. Besides, it’ll piss off Sansgaard to know I left again.” Fullton laughed as they traded spots once more. Pagnotti slipped down the hallway, almost wishing for a confrontation with the linguist. Back in the living room, he found only Brown and Mason at work. He told them of his plan, of which they both thanked him for greatly. Pagnotti made it through the front door without incident. He took his time walking down the beach, enjoying the feeling of the warm breeze. Night was just beginning to fall and the lights of the town glowed orange and yellow close by, a distinct opposite to the gorgeous shades of darkening blue in
the sky. Pagnotti couldn’t understand how Sansgaard could be so miserable in a place like this. The stars started to erupt in the heavens above, twinkling in a majestic way that they never could back home. He could hear faint singing off in the distance and he smiled. Finally at the small ocean side bar, he ordered five medium curries to go and had them bag up the meals. While he waited, he ordered a small drink, more of that “Caribbean rot-gut.” As Pagnotti sipped on his island rum, he noticed an old man, blacker than he had ever seen any other human, staring at him. Pagnotti smiled at the man and titled his drink in the elder’s direction. A few minutes later, the curries were delivered and Pagnotti made to leave. He was just about to step out of the light of the bar when the old man grabbed his arm. “You an intruder here, boy. An’ it’s gonna take you,” he said grimly. “Excuse me?” “The waters, it don’ like yo’ kind,” he replied, getting agitated. Pagnotti pulled away from the old man as the bartender started yelling. “Papa Lucia, you leave that nice doctor alone now. You get on outta here, Sir. Pay no mind to Papa Lucia.” Pagnotti nodded and made his way off down the beach, glancing behind him only once to see the old man shaking his head, then hobbling back to his table and bottle of rum. The Zoologist bit his lip, his thoughts running dark. He tried to banish them, to let the warm Caribbean air blow them from his mind but they stayed rooted as firmly as the creature did to the poor French girl’s skull. What exactly were they dealing with back at the house? So far, none of them had really wanted to theorize on the ramifications of what the creature was saying. They were scientists, not theologians, and they had all been very quick to dismiss anything outside their little realms of expertise. All the scientists, except for Sansgaard, thought Pagnotti as he stepped through the front door of the house. As he thought this and stepped in, he had only moments to see the horrific scene displayed before him before pain exploded in the back of his head. He dropped the bag of food and fell to his knees, a hand coming up to the back of his skull defensively. That had merely opened his ribs for a swift kick, sending him sprawling next to one of Mason’s computer terminals. Pagnotti felt wetness on his arm and, through the dazed pain, he lifted it to see it covered in blood. Mason’s blood. Mason lay back in his computer chair, his throat slit wide open and red draining down his front. It had splattered all of the terminals and began to pool on the floor. Across the room, Brown sat on the
couch, her limbs dangling awkwardly about in death, her throat even more viciously slashed open. A shadow fell across Pagnotti. “I want to kill you. I want to kill you for my Lord, but it desires you,” said Sansgaard. “Sansgaard... Erik, what have you...” “Be silent,” he said getting down next to Pagnotti and placing a large kitchen knife at the Zoologist’s throat. “Be silent and listen.” “Listen to wha...” Sansgaard punched Pagnotti in the face with his free hand then pointed towards the hallway. She sauntered in, almost gracefully, naked and dripping with salt water. Her eyes were blank, staring like the dead. In her hands she carried the creature, only a few blemishes to mark where it had attached itself to her. She spoke, not as a young French tourist, but as the creature, the strange words now tumbling from her lips. “And The True Kings Reside In The Deep,” translated Sansgaard. “The Children Rise To Vanquish Those Who Would Intrude.” “Erik...” tried Pagnotti as the girl knelt down beside him. “It has already laid its first egg in her,” said Sansgaard with a smile. “Now you’ll be the next.” Pagnotti sought to struggle, but Sansgaard brought the knife up to face, cutting him in a shallow motion. He gestured with the blade towards Pagnotti’s throat, and the Zoologist fell back. Teeth clenched, his muscles grew taught as what used to be the French girl drew near with the creature. At the last moment, his eyes shot over and he saw the fangs of the underside mouth undulating in need, and Pagnotti screamed. And then, Pagnotti knew nothing but the ocean...
Copyright ©2010 by Brian Fatah Steele