Report 6: The Door in the Mountain

The mountain door is open again, and I cannot sleep.

How do they stand it? The locals, I mean. How can they bear lying in bed, night after night, that obscene white light flooding their windows, keeping them awake? They must see it. They have to see it. How could they not see it? Are they blind? Are they cowards? Are they its acolytes?

No. No, that’s not it. They must be mad. Driven out of their minds by the endless light and lack of sleep. Edna with her deadly biscuits, the snake-kissed Melmoths, bold gruff kind Sheriff Patton, John Cheveyo with his bland acceptance of the strange and his cryptic owl notes. Mad, all of them, mad, and I’ll soon be mad, too, if I don’t do something about that door.

So out again, out into the dark of the Opa Lodge, where the horrible low squeal screeches in my ears, and the kitchen door fairly vibrates with the noise. There’s a chopping, too, the chopping of a monstrous blade severing bone and flesh, thunk thunk thunk into the wood of the cutting board, that carnivorous evergreen altar. The Continental Breakfast is in progress, and suddenly I am filled with a desire to see how the sausages are made.

I kick open the door and am reminded again that knowledge can be dangerous. On the counter is some thing, a writhing shape on which my eyes can find no purchase. They slide off its unctuous slimy body, and the more I try to look the slipperier it becomes, my retinas coated with it, my eyes filling with its substance but not its form. The one thing that does take root in my mind is its mouth, its open mouth, wet and round and screaming, the source of that dreadful noise.

It’s too much. So I look up at the thing’s tormentor, a squat heavily-muscled man of ruddy complexion, naked save for a white apron stained green and black, a huge hacking blade in his upraised hand. Similar instruments of hand-hewn brutality hang on the wall behind him, and his head is the head of an owl. He looks at me and lets loose a soul-chilling shriek, his beak-mouth never moving but his arm swinging as he throws the blade at me, green trails of the thing’s inner fluids spiraling behind it.

I duck to one side, pulling my sidearm and firing a single shot into the center of his forehead. Blood stains the feathers, his face cracks down the middle, and he collapses in a heap as the thing on the counter expires, its terrible cry dying in a gurgling wheeze. I burst back out of the kitchen, expecting trouble but finding none. Then the light again, filling my head and drawing me out into the cold air and the door, gaping, cavernous, repellant, inviting.

It yawns high in the side of Mount Pannawau, white light spilling out down the slope. I follow the light, if only to spare me the obscenity of the door’s exposure, and eventually my gaze falls upon the smooth, placid surface of Lake Mammedaty. The door is mirrored on the water, but here it is black. Black and soothing as the void. The infinite void, in the face of which I am but a speck. I want to surrender to its embrace, but the phone is ringing. The phone is ringing. The phone is ringing.

It’s the Sheriff, telling me that another murder victim has been found on the side of Mount Pannawau. I begrudgingly look back up the mountain and think I see a figure, broad-chested and bullet-headed, loping through the door in silhouette. It pauses, crouching, head raised on an impossibly long, thick neck, as if sniffing the air. Then it throws that bullet head back and lets loose a howl fit to split the sky.

It is as I feared. Something has come through.

**************

Sir-

I’ve just awakened in my room at the Opa Lodge to a phone call from the Sheriff, who tells me that another body has been found on Mount Pannawau. John Cheveyo is en route to the Opa Lodge as I type, to take me out to the site.

As I rose to dress, I found my intra-web device turned on, with the above dream written out, the cursor blinking patiently at me, and the pointer poised over the “submit” button, awaiting my touch. It seems that my nocturnal biographer has learned not to set off the alarms back at the Agency.

One troubling detail: as I checked my gun just now, I smelled gunpowder. It has been fired very recently. Perhaps Captain Cheveyo and I will have a look at the kitchen before we leave.

I assume that you will be able to read this post normally. Your silence after the last troubled me, especially considering my surroundings amongst the Owls. Assuming that you are reading, however, I hope this finds you well. I’ll get you an update at my first available opportunity.

Agent X-23, signing off.

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About Mark Brett

Shaved Yeti. Alien. Writer of stuff. Read my fiction at https://reportsfromthefieldblog.wordpress.com/. Read my thoughts on comic books and other dork culture ephemera at http://dorkforty.wordpress.com/. View all posts by Mark Brett

One response to “Report 6: The Door in the Mountain

  • Mark Brett

    Sorry about the radio silence, Clint. Rest assured, we’re receiving your reports loud and clear. I just had a little blow-up of my own to deal with last night, and couldn’t get to a screen. More on that in a minute. For what it’s worth, I did Denise why she didn’t acknowledge receipt of your last report. She told me, and I quote: “Maybe X-23 should ask ‘the loveliest woman he’s ever seen’ about receiving his damned reports.”

    Not to tell you how to live your life, Clint, but I’d appreciate it if you’d stop pissing off my secretary. She’s the one who really runs this place, and we can’t have her flying off the handle.

    Anyway, it sounds like you’ve had an eventful time of it. I won’t pass judgment on your handling of the kidnapping. Strange things happen in the field, especially in our line of work. Just do me a favor and keep it in mind. Specifically, keep it in mind when you’re dealing with Alexandra Melmoth. Never forget: she’s got Yig in her blood, and the Serpentine Fire is nothing you want to be kissing on. So instead of seeing that pretty face, try to remember her beating Possum Reynolds near to death. Might help clear your mind.

    Oh! Speaking of Possum, if he doesn’t come out of that coma, that Somnambulist squad you requested might still be able to get something off him. I’m still dispatching them, even though the ransom hand-off’s not happening. By the time you read this, in fact, they’ll probably have made subconscious contact and begun following your directions. I figure they’ll be handy to have around. They blend in, stay out of your way, and if nothing else, they’ll make providing transcripts of your conversations a little easier.

    And maybe they’ll let us get a handle on these dream journals you haven’t been writing. Tonight’s seems particularly significant. If this turns out to be another ritual murder, it may be that you’ve been given a vision of whatever it is the killers are trying to draw out into the open. Time will tell. I’ve got the Black Library boys scouring the records for anything that matches your description of the thing from the doorway, and I’ll let you know what they find as soon as I can.

    As for what went on in the kitchen, it sounds like that owl fella was chopping up some kind of shape-shifter. They often give you that greasy-eyed feeling you described when they’re not locked into a recognizable form. Which doesn’t really tell us much, but it might explain the deliciousness of that Continental Breakfast.

    Now, about my little problem. As you know, I’m a fishing enthusiast. And that means I like to visit bait shops from time to time. I’ve got one I especially like down in the Great Dismal Swamp. Swamp people are good people, Clint, and they know good bait when they see it. This place in particular is run by a tall gangly fella by the name of W A Cooke. Now, the W and the A don’t stand for anything. His folks just always liked the sound of men with initials, so that’s what they called him. And his shop’s just called W A’s. W A painted the sign himself. Used to have a fancy printed one that the Coca Cola Company gave him back in the Sixties. But he lost that in a hurricane, and never saw much reason to replace it. So hand-painted it is, and let me tell you, W A’s not much of an artist.

    Anyway. W A’s is not just a bait shop. It’s also a general store. The kinda place where the old men sit around eating cheese and telling lies. Like when I got there yesterday, two of the regulars, Pop and Euclid, were sitting out front drinking RC Colas with peanuts in them, and–

    That’s this thing they do down there, Clint. Put peanuts in their RC. I once saw a guy dump a whole sleeve of the things in there. Never been one of my favorites, but to each his own.

    Anyway. Pop and Euclid were sitting out front, sucking on their RCs and squinting off into the distance. I stopped and asked them what they were doing.

    “Well,” Pop said, “Euclid’s farm’s down that way, and I’m trying to count how many hogs are out in his yard.” Euclid’s a pig farmer, if that wasn’t clear. A retired pig farmer, I should say, but these old boys love their ham and their fatback, so they never entirely get out of the game. But I digress. I looked off in the direction they were looking, and didn’t see anything but fields and country road.

    “Where’s that farm, again?” I asked.

    Euclid just grinned and pointed off in the direction I’d just looked. “Down yonder,” he said. “’Bout five miles.”

    I grinned back at him. Obviously, it was lying time.

    Pop’s lips moved with a silent count. He put one hand up to shade his eyes. I noticed there wasn’t much sun. “I count fifteen,” he said.

    Euclid’s eyes got big. “Fifteen?! Pop, have you lost your mind? I ain’t had fifteen hogs in a coon’s age!”

    Pop furrowed his brow. “I thought that was a lot. Lemme look again. One two three… Nope. Nope, I’m seein’ fifteen hogs out in your yard, and– Oh! Oh, damn, my eyes must be gettin’ bad. There ain’t but one hog. I was countin’ the flies on his back!”

    We all had a good laugh, then Pop turned serious. “Bill, you been in lately?”

    “Can’t say as I have, Pop. What’s going on?”

    “Well… I ain’t one to get in nobody’s business, but I’m a little worried about Ernie.”

    Ernie (short for Ernestine) helps W A run the store. She’s a sweetheart normally, raised by W A when her folks died in a car accident. She grew up in W A’s, with all the old men serving as surrogate grandpas. “What’s the matter with Ernie?” I asked.

    “She’s just been actin’ a little queer lately, ever since she found that thing buried in her yard. They were gonna build an expansion on the house, makin’ room for the baby– Ernie’s pregnant, by the way, make sure you congratulate her– and when they went to dig a foundation for it, they hit this old crate.

    “Now, Ernie’s granddaddy was kind of a nut. Traveled with the circus for a while when he was younger, and came back to the farm a little touched. That’s why W A raised her instead of him. He did leave Ernie the house when he passed, though, and they found ten thousand dollars in there, tucked away in coffee cans and peanut butter jars all over the place, some of it buried out in the yard. They never woulda found them buried ones at all, except he left a map tucked away in his ledger. And all of it in bills dated back to the 1930s. Ernie figures it was money he stole from the circus when he left. Craziness.

    “Anyway, this crate won’t on the treasure map, or nothin’ else he left behind. But they dug it up, popped it open, and inside there was an old steamer trunk, chained shut and locked with a padlock. Old Joe– that’s Ernie’s granddaddy– obviously didn’t want nobody gettin’ in that thing, but well… Joe was crazy, like I said, so they cut the lock and opened it up. Inside was a clown outfit, and what they used to call a bell jar. And in that bell jar was some kinda mummified baby.”

    Which is a hell of a place to stop, Clint, but I’m still wrapping this business up, and I’ve got to go. More next time.

    Chief Bill Roberts, signing off.

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