It’s dark, and I cannot sleep. Earlier, I heard a noise like a door opening, and started awake. I rose quietly, so as not to disturb Denise, and crossed to the window. The Mountain seemed quiet and dark, so I went back to bed. But I couldn’t sleep. So I got up, dressed, helped myself to a glass of water, and went outside.
Pannawau is very peaceful at night. Nothing but crickets, and the wind in the trees. Relaxing. Tom and Gladys keep a bench out in front of the inn, next to the beaver. It’s a chainsaw statue, Tom tells me. The beaver, that is. Made by a local artist named Cecil Murden. Quite a character, apparently. Traveled all over the world as a merchant marine, then settled down here in Pannawau to make art. He wears an eyepatch, I’m told, and has a wooden foot.
At any rate. I was sitting on the bench, sipping on a glass of water, meditating on the silence. Then I looked up, and there he was. The tiny bird-faced man. Standing perched on the beaver’s belly.
He looked at me.
He looked at the water.
He looked at me again.
So I sat my drink down on the bench beside me, and suddenly he was there. Wrapping his arms around the glass, he stabbed his beak down into the water repeatedly. Then he threw his head back and swallowed. Stab, back, swallow. Stab, back, swallow. Over and over, with a mesmerizing rhythm. Once he’d had his fill, he stepped back, wiped a drip away from his beak, and bowed slightly. Then he looked up. His gaze took mine, and once again I was plunging down into the black depths of his eyes, up into the night sky, soaring. Seeing as birds see.
We flew out over the treetops in vertiginous loops, toward the Mountain, and the Lake below. The Mountain Door was still open, I could see that now, and its light shone down. Down over the Wambli Waste, down, down to Lake Mammedaty, where a twin door now lay open, as well.
The Lake Door was dark. Black. Cool. Mysterious. Sacred. And ravenous. It yawned open in its desire, yearning for the light of the Mountain Door, drawing it in, sucking it down, and still, ever, always, wanting more. As we wheeled above it, the stars seemed to dim, bowing before its insatiable appetite. I wanted to join them, to go down, to give myself up to its holy hunger. But not yet. Not yet.
We wheeled again in the heavens, and passed over the woods, where the owls were hard at work. There were a great many snakes slithering in the grass, and the owls were waging war. The snakes seemed endless, but the owls were diligent, swooping down, snatching them up in their talons, rending them, tearing them, eating them whole, til their bellies swelled with the meat. The owls grew sluggish, their bloody feast weighing them down. A few snakes were missed, then more, and more, slipping away up the Mountain, into cracks and under rocks. Owls began to drop from the sky, too heavy to stay aloft. They crashed to the earth, where they were overwhelmed by snakes, covered by them. And when the wave of snakes had passed, the owls were gone.
We wheeled again, rode an updraft and soared higher. Looking down, I saw that the snakes were issuing forth from the Pannawau township, coursing out of doors, into the streets, up the hill into the forest, and now up the Mountain itself. The homes of the Alo lay on the other side, but I saw no snakes there. They were going into the Mountain, filling it, until I thought the rock itself would burst.
We passed low over the mountainside, and I saw the entrance to the Liar’s Path. Suddenly, a great Snake came coursing out the mouth of the cave. She struck out toward the Mountain Door, opening her mouth, the light filling her as she went, her belly swelling, her body growing, until she reached the top. She sank her great fangs into the Door, covering it with her mouth and continuing to grow, wrapping herself around the mountaintop and squeezing, squeezing…
There came a great noise, a cracking that I felt as much as heard, and the Mountain began to crumble under the Snake’s assault. I caught sight of something gleaming and silver under the rock, then we wheeled again and dove, straight down toward the lake, down down to the Lake Door, faster and faster, pulled in by its ravening hunger.
Time slowed. The stars stretched, smeared across the night sky in afterglow trails. The Door filled my eyes with darkness, deep and impenetrable, but still it urged me on, closer, ever closer, calling to me, crying out with a need and desire so great and so pure that I wanted only to fulfill it. Then, after an eternity, we passed through, and I was enveloped in exquisite warmth, aflame with the joy of it, my eyes blind with glorious light.
I started awake to the sound of a door closing. Denise still lay beside me, her breath even, her face flushed but peaceful. I felt energized, inflamed. I rose, and found myself fully dressed. A half-empty glass of water sat on the table by the bed, tiny handprints just barely visible on either side.
But now it’s nearly midnight, and I need to go. Melmoth House awaits.
– Agent X-23, signing off.