Report 22: The Morning After

Sir,

As you could no doubt tell, it was a bad time in Pannawau last night. A lot happened, and I’m not sure my Osceola-fueled mind-hopping exploits entirely captured the scope of it. So I thought I’d codify things with a slightly more formal report than is my norm.

SECTION A: The Events of the Evening

  • First, and most obviously, the Black Mirror Brute came out. I discovered that the Sad Man was not, in fact, summoning the Brute, but trying to distract it from leaving the Mountain and wreaking worse havoc. See Section B below for more details on the Sad Man’s plan.
  • Alexandra Melmoth was on the loose, as well, in a Yig-Form transfiguration seemingly triggered by the presence of the Brute in the Gray World. She changed back in the early morning hours, and is currently in custody on the Alo Reservation. Her family is demanding her release, but the Alo are thus far holding firm. I’ll be heading out to speak with her again later.

  • The Opa Lodge was set on fire, and badly damaged in the act. Alo fire fighters arrived before the building was a complete loss, but they’ll be closed for repairs for quite some time. One curious aspect of this: at the time of the fire, Denise and myself were the only people in the building. Everyone else, staff and guests alike, disappeared from the Lodge sometime during the hour before the flames took hold. They all awoke this morning, safe and sound, but scattered around Pannawau, many in the beds of complete strangers.
  • Jackson Curry arrived in Pannawau, as promised, and immediately involved himself in the case. He may have set the fire at the Opa Lodge, though in retrospect I’m not entirely sure that the impressions I got from his mind tell us that definitively. He does seem determined to capture Alexandra Melmoth, and at last contact, he had already captured Cecil Murden, horribly transformed into a shrunken creature devoted to the service of Yig.
  • Cecil’s transformation is only the most obvious of many terrible things inspired by the light of the Black Mirror World. Influenced by that harsh light, people all along the western side of the Mountain gave in to rage and despair, and Sheriff Patton’s office was inundated this morning with multiple cases of suicide, rape, murder, and assault. The Mountain Door’s influence is growing, and I fear for what will happen when it opens next.
  • Denise, you will be happy to hear, is recovering well from her head injury. She suffered a concussion, but is now resting comfortably at the Fat Beaver Inn, from which I am currently writing. My laptop seems to have been lost in the fire, and so I’ll be reporting via Denise’s machine until an appropriate replacement can be delivered.
  • A personal observation: Edna was not as fortunate as Denise. Under the influence of the light of the Black Mirror Door, she sliced her wrists open with a broken beer bottle, and bled out in the cooler at the Stop N Go. By the time the paramedics got to her, it was too late. So sad. I liked Edna, and after being in her head at the time of her fatal decision… Well, I suppose it’s made the case more personal to me.
  • The White Mirror Door at the bottom of Lake Mammedaty opened last night, as well, but its effects were harder to measure. Alexandra Melmoth’s Wanageeska encounter is something I’ll be discussing with her when I see her, but a delivery man was found at the lake shore today, as well, drawing in the dirt with a stick. He refused to leave until threatened with police action, at which point he snapped a photo of his sketch and walked home, leaving his truck for his employers to retrieve.

SECTION B: The Sad Man and the Black Mirror Brute

The full story of David Tahki and the Brute is stranger than I had imagined, and perhaps marks the Sad Man as a less dire figure than I had assumed, less sinister than desperate. Tahki did not summon the Brute, but was rather reacting to visitations that were already happening. But perhaps the story is better-told in his own words…

The Brute first came through the door two months before we took the Melmoth girl. On his first visit, he attacked a Nukpana. They found the victim the following morning, violated. Ripped open from crotch to navel by the force of the creature’s assault. I worried, but didn’t know what was happening. So we set a watch on the Wambli Waste, and a month later, the Door opened again. This time, the Brute made his way down to the Alo reservation and took a street walker. Dragged her back up the Mountain and raped her in the light of the Door. Terrible. Ripped her in half.

The Council found it easy enough to cover her disappearance, but it was left to me to do something about the problem. We knew he’d be back, you see. My plan was to lay bait, to draw the creature where we wanted him to go, and attack him once he was there. So on the appropriate day, I instructed my warriors to take a pair of lovers from where they go in secret, down by the Lake. I didn’t know who they grabbed, and at the time I didn’t care. “No Alo,” was all I told them. I was trying to protect my people. But that was wrong. The Holy Burden is ours. We should be the ones paying the price. It wasn’t the last mistake I would make.

But I didn’t know that then. So we lay the boy out, and cut summoning runes into his chest. This would draw the Brute to him and away from the population. Then we took a piece of the girl’s body… a finger to point the way… and placed it in the boy’s mouth, knowing that the Brute would find it, and get her scent.

This was key, you understand. We couldn’t cut the runes into the girl. She had to be clean, because she was the bait for a more powerful ward: a binding circle. That circle would be activated when the creature took the girl, and then the Nukpana could swoop in and attack while he was rooted to the spot. I chose to lay the girl out at the entrance to the Liar’s Path. It’s a place of power, and a place from which it would be easy to dispose of the bodies. So we prepared the circle, lay the girl on it, and waited.

That night, he never came. I couldn’t understand it. We gave him what he wanted, and he didn’t take it. Didn’t take anything. He savaged the boy, and fled back up through the Door. It was something about the girl, I thought, something that soured him to the trap. So we took her down to the cabin and fed her the Osceola to make her more pliable to my probing. She… resisted. So we gave her more. She spat it in my face, forced me out of her head. I’d never experienced anything like it. So, shamefully, I withdrew. I had to think, to gather my strength for another try.

That’s when I heard the first news reports about the missing Melmoth heir, and I knew I’d made a terrible mistake. That girl had an Outer God in her head, and I was awakening it. I rushed back to the cabin, but it was too late. The girl was gone. While I’d been licking my wounds, that redneck… Jase Peterson… had swept in and taken her away.

At that point, Tahki knew precisely why the Brute had retreated: it was scared of Alexandra. So was he, for that matter, and he searched desperately for a means of putting the genie back in the bottle. But events escalated too quickly. The Alo Rangers and the Pannawau Sheriff’s Department got involved, I arrived demonstrating more than normal investigative abilities, and the ransom demand was made. When we raided Peterson’s house, Tahki was both panicked and relieved. His words, again:

I needed to silence the girl, and get rid of you. So I got drunk. Drunk, on the Black Drink. I had help, mind you. The Council has agents everywhere, including at the hospital in town. I sent orders for them to load the other redneck… Possum, they call him… to load his IV with the Osceola. His body was vacant, but it opened his living brain to be ridden by me, and I made his confession.

They dosed you that night, too, Agent. Did you know that? The delicious coffee given to you by a kindly nurse? Two drops of the Black Drink to make you more pliable, to make you more likely to believe the story I wove from Possum’s mouth. Or so she thought. Obviously, it had the opposite effect.

My mistake, again. She was under orders to give it to Sheriff Patton, on whom it would no doubt have worked. But then you showed up, and since you were going to hear the confession, the dose was given to you. So many complications you’ve caused! When I dragged the Melmoth girl into the Black Mirror World later that night, you were there, and you came with her. I’d planned to abduct her and abandon her on the other side, but your presence turned it into something much more dangerous.

There’s a bond between you and her, Agent. She’s marked you for mating, and once she was in that place of dark light, it woke up the god inside her. I lost my grip, and you both came tumbling back into the Grey World. All I could do then was damage control. The girl was beyond me. What man can do battle with Yig? But you were another matter. Your brain had shut itself down to accommodate the changes happening to it, and I used the opportunity to go into your mind and seal off unfortunate memories. But you got past that, too.

You even got in the way on my second try at baiting the Brute! I chose my own grandson that night, he and his fiance. If the Alo were going to protect the Nukpana with blood, it only seemed right that I pay the price first. But he wouldn’t take the girl. Possibly because she was a virgin. I thought that might make her more enticing, but the Wanageeska operate under different rules than men.

But even if he had taken her… My warriors wouldn’t have been there to attack him. Because that was the night you killed the Nukpana hunter in the kitchen, and they ran off to help him! That’s why we did what we did to you tonight. When you came back to the Lodge, I assumed you knew that the Brute would return again, and that you’d try to interfere with the plan. So I had them dose you to keep you occupied.

I thought about killing you outright. But now things have become more complicated, and I can see that I need help. So why not turn to the man I can’t seem to beat?

And so we struck our deal. Tahki has agreed to stop the human sacrifice, and I’ve agreed not to turn him over to Cheveyo for his crimes. Another lie to tell, another face to hide. There’s a time limit on this one, though. Every time he leaves the Grey World without satisfying his lust, the Brute comes back sooner. If we can’t find a way to stop him on his next visit, the truce is off, and Tahki finds another pair of lovers to sacrifice.

One curious side-note here: Tahki claims to have had nothing to do with the Osceola being pumped into Alexandra at the hospital. He wanted to get rid of her, not awaken Yig in her further. So I still don’t know who’s responsible for giving her more of the stuff. My suspicion would be her grandfather. I don’t know how he’d have gotten his hands on the Black Drink, but I think it’s time to turn my investigation more toward the Melmoth family, before it’s too late.

Speaking of which, it’s time for me to head up to the reservation for my interview with Alexandra. More on that when I return.

– 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 22: The Morning After

  • Mark Brett

    Clint, this is the Chief.

    I understand there’s been some ruffled feathers on this case the last few days. Complaints filed. People getting bent out of shape. You haven’t been going by the book. And you’ve got this psychic thing going on in the bargain. That alone has been setting off alarm bells around HQ, I shouldn’t have to tell you. The Somnambulists get touchy whenever anybody steps on their turf. Normally, I’d be calling you in for evaluation, putting a different man on the case.

    But I’ve decided to give you your head on this one, Clint. It’s a strange case, with high stakes. The connections you’ve made with the Alo mean we can’t just yank you out of there. And you’re handling the rest as well as can be expected. Damn sight better than most would. So I’ve calmed things down for you here at HQ. Given you special sanction and extra autonomy. Just don’t let it go to your head.

    Now. I do have one more piece of business, and I don’t know if you’re going to like it much. But I’m going to have to recall Denise to HQ. She’s been valuable to you out there, I know. And she’s certainly kept you on a more even keel when it comes to the Melmoth girl. But this case is getting too dangerous for someone with zero field training. The woman doesn’t even know how to use a gun, Clint. So she’s gotta come home.

    I still think you might need some help with the legwork on this one, though, so I’m sending you a trained Field Researcher. Someone who can protect themselves against snake gods and dick-headed monkeys and whatever else you’ve got creeping around out there. I thought Vanessa Cordero might be a good fit. She did her dissertation on Yig manifestations. And maybe more importantly, she’s got a black belt in psychic defense. With everything going on up there, I think she might need it. Can’t hurt, anyway.

    Now Clint, I know you and Cordero have some history. But I need the both of you to put it aside. She’ll be up tomorrow. I assume there’s another room she can take at the Fat Beaver Inn. And I’ll call Denise home after.

    Alright. I believe I promised you the story of my trip to New Hampshire to track down this Timothy Danforth character. Heck of a thing. He not only knew who I was, Clint, he knew I was coming. Greeted me at the front door and had a bottle of my favorite bourbon on hand. A little formal, but a nice fellow. Not the sort of welcome I’m used to on one of these trips, let me tell you. Especially not from a guy with secrets as big as Danforth’s. Said he decided that it made more sense to trust me than to kill me. Got the sense he could have pulled it off, too.

    Anyway. Turns out he really is the same Timothy Danforth who knew Jackson Curry back in the Thirties. Had his 123th birthday last year. Not something he generally blurts out to strangers, understand. He just figured he might as well just get it out of the way. But I should probably just tell it in his words.

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

    “No sense trying to fool an agency dedicated to the study of creatures like myself. Oh, don’t give me that look, Chief Roberts. I have been touched by beings from outside time, and I assure you, I haven’t been entirely human since.

    “But I assume you came here to ask me about Jackson Curry. Yes? Well, I know the man. Knew him, I should say. And I know a thing or two about his return, as well. But I should start at the beginning. I have to be careful about time. Anchor myself. Otherwise…

    “But that’s a personal problem, and not one that has any bearing on anything you need concern yourself with. So. The beginning.

    “I’m a doctor by training, Chief Roberts, with a special interest in mutilation and deformity. Some of the things I saw in the trenches… friends crippled for life… Well. Let’s just say that the First World War was not a kind one, even as wars go. I saw things happen to men that I found untenable, things that drove me to help them as best I could once that terrible conflict was over. And I saw one thing more, a thing that drove me into my investigations of what we once called the Hidden World.

    “I was serving as a medic, and found it among my duties to go out on what we called “corpse runs.” Trips up and down the trenches, looking for injured men. Most of the time, we found them dead. But I saved the ones I could. And the others… Well, that’s where the story lies.

    “I was down in a trench at the far end of the battlefield. Which one, I couldn’t tell you now. They all looked the same, from the trench. It was night, I do remember that, and a fog had settled in. Made visibility even worse than usual. The fighting had ceased, as well, so it was quiet. That’s the only reason we found them that time, I think. Because up ahead, we heard… something. A crunching. Not a sound you expected to hear in the trench, at any rate, so we slowed down and proceeded more quietly. We were almost upon them before the fog swirled clear, and we saw the source of the noise.

    “I believe the common parlance for the creatures is ‘ghouls.’ I see that you’re familiar with them. Well, I became a bit more familiar with them than I cared for that night. There were four of them, smallish and naked, crouched over some wounded soldiers, bony hands clutching at their victims with ragged nails, horrid too-wide mouths lowered to open wounds, sucking, chewing, gnawing, covered in mud and blood and filth. One of them had something red and rope-like around its neck. A man’s intestines, worn like a grand looping necklace that swung loose over his sparrow chest.

    “The smallest of them, a female, crouched to one side, snatching the others’ cast-offs and ripping whatever she could from the bones. It was she we had heard on our approach, you see: she’d been reduced to crunching the stripped bones between her monstrous jaws, and sucking out the marrow.

    “We opened fire without a word. I caught the female mid-forehead, spraying the wall of the trench black with her blood. I– I’m sorry. I… couldn’t possibly have seen that, with the night and the fog. I’ve painted the picture too vividly in my head. Something about her. The eyes. The desperate, frightened eyes. Or perhaps not. Those eyes certainly didn’t stay my hand against her, or her companions. We killed the one with the necklace, as well, and winged a third. But he and the fourth scurried away, disappearing into the night and the fog.

    “It wasn’t the last time I saw them. The trenches were like a playground to them. A playground, and a buffet table. Anywhere dead men were left alone long enough in the dark, the ghouls came for them. We stopped it when we could, and soon started regular patrols to keep them away. It became a second war, a war within the war, and it filled me with the paranoia and prejudice such conflicts always inspire in those who fight them. I became rather good with my service revolver, a crack shot as they say. I also got to be quite talented with a trench knife, though such close fighting was not my preference. The creatures were small, but monstrously strong. And their breath… Well. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

    “I hated them then, hated them with a passion I’ve felt for little else in my life. It was only after we managed to catch one of the things alive that my perspective began to change. It was another female, even smaller than the first. She was terrified, cringing. Little better than an animal. You know the species: gray skin, thin black hair, emaciated frames, elongated jaws… but all-too-human eyes. Perhaps it was her eyes I was thinking of earlier. Green. Such a lovely shade of green. Deep. Pained. Frightened.

    “It was late in the war by then, and she became my ticket out of the trenches. I cleaned her up, put her in a cage, and took her back behind lines for study. It took me weeks to gain her trust, but slowly I got her to talk, croaking, about what she was. And then I truly understood. We’d delved into their world, with the trenches. Thinned the walls. And so they quite naturally came through, and just as naturally got on with what they do. You might as well hate a vulture as hate a ghoul.

    “I was under orders to kill her, of course. Kill her, dissect her, and report my findings. It didn’t happen. Once she’d told me all she had to tell, I let her go. Got into hot water over that, I can tell you. But in the end, it didn’t make much difference. The war ended, and I went back to civilian life with new purpose.

    “It was in my post-war life that I came to know Curry. But here. Let me freshen up that drink for you before we get into that…”

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

    And I think that’s all I’ve got time for today, Clint. Danforth’s a little long-winded, but it all comes together in the end.

    Alright. You be careful talking to that Melmoth kid, Clint. And remember: Denise is only going to be there one more night. Make the best of it. That’s an order.

    – Chief Bill Roberts, signing off.

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