Tag Archives: Alexandra Melmoth

Report 26: In the Temple of the Snake

Sir,

Alexandra Melmoth has surfaced again, and this time I came close to stopping her. But I suppose close doesn’t count. Bottom line: she’s escaped, and disappeared without a trace. I suspect– Well, what I suspect can wait. First, I should make the report.

The whole thing started with a call from Josie’s. Josie’s is the local gentleman’s club. A strip joint, in other words. Josie used to be a dancer at the Fat Beaver. Stepped into the void left when Gladys got religion and changed the Fat Beaver’s business model. Josie stopped dancing ages ago, kind of let herself go. Now she tends bar and keeps the peace in her place. Her, and Mathilda. That’s Josie’s wife and bouncer, a six-foot-two Amazon with a buzz cut and shoulders broader than mine. Both of them are what Sheriff Patton has termed “great old broads.” Friendly, genuine, magnanimous, and tough as nails.

That’s why they were so surprised when the two of them together couldn’t stop Alexandra from barging in, mounting the stage, and putting on a show. But I should let them tell the story:

[SOMNAMBULIST TRANSCRIPTION COMMENCING…SOMNAMBULIST TRANSCRIPTION COMMENCING…SOMNAMBULIST TRANSCRIPTION COMMENCING…]

MATHILDA: I almost didn’t let her in the door. Wasn’t sure she was legal.

X-23: Did you know who she was?

JOSIE: Of course she knew who she was! Bitch was the damn prom queen! Nobody in town who wouldn’t have recognized her.

PATTON: She’s right on that one, Matthews. Alexandra’s a pretty well-known face around here. Makes me wonder how she’s hiding at all. Now, Matilda, last report we’ve got on this girl, she was covered in blood. I assume she’d cleaned up before she showed up here?

MATHILDA: Yeah. Yeah, she looked fresh as a daisy. Wasn’t wearing much, but you know… Kids these days… “Ass hangin’ out” might just be the new look.

JOSIE: You never were much on fashion, honey.

MATHILDA: *grunts* You got enough of that for the both of us. Anyway, Sheriff… She didn’t have ID on her – don’t know where she’d have put it – but she wanted in, so I tried to remember when she was prom queen, did some mental math, and figured she was probably at least 21. So…

PATTON: On a different night, I’d give you a hard time on that. But considering… Go on.

MATHILDA: Well… I let her in, and she went over to the bar.

JOSIE: And that’s where I took her up. “Ass hangin’ out” doesn’t begin to cover it. That girl was prancin’ around here in nothing but a tube top and some Daisy Dukes cut up so high they might as well have been a thong. Trashy, even for this joint.

MATHILDA: Looked good on her, though.

JOSIE: No denyin’ that. Might be why I didn’t kick her out right away. I knew she was gonna be trouble, but something made me want to talk to her.

MATHILDA: That ass.

JOSIE: You be quiet. It was her eyes, actually. Something in her eyes… Anyway. She asked for a cum shot, and–

X-23: Excuse me?

JOSIE (rolls eyes): Vodka and a raw oyster. One of our regulars came up with it. Said it helped him get it up. Old Joe McIntyre, you remember him, Sheriff? Joe wasn’t the classiest guy, but the other barflies worshiped at his altar. Got so we had to put it on the menu. Kind of an institution now.

Anyway. Like I was saying. The girl ordered a cum shot, and I made it for her. Made some kinda joke about how she was slumming it tonight. She just kinda smiled and said she was looking for a man. Figured this place would prime the pump for her. Then she started eyeballin’ Duke Reynolds.

PATTON (to X-23): That’s Possum’s brother.

JOSIE: Yeah. Possum’s a sweetheart compared to Duke, though. Duke likes it rough. The girls– I run a clean establishment here, of course, but the girls do sometimes work out arrangements on the side.

PATTON: Josie…

JOSIE: What? I’ve got no control over what they do outside working hours. Anyway. Girls who’ve made the mistake of accepting Duke Reynolds’ company for the evening tell me that it’s not a mistake they’ll make again. Sometimes they can’t dance for a few days afterward. He’s a belligerent drunk, too. Mathilda’s had to strong-arm him out of here a few times.

MATHILDA: *grunts* Think he liked it, too.

JOSIE: That tent he had in his pants says he did. Anyway, the girl was eyeballin’ Duke, and I tried to warn her off. She just said he sounded perfect, and took her shot over to his table. Watched her knock it back, wipe a little off the corner of her mouth, and proceed to plant herself in the man’s lap.

MATHILDA: Duke wasn’t havin’ any of it, though. Shoved her off. Said he knew what she did to his brother, and wondered if maybe he hadn’t oughtta teach her a lesson right here. Bad scene. Loud. That’s when I got involved. I ran over and got Duke in an arm bar, then the girl rared back and punched him right in the mouth. Broke his damn jaw. Duke went limp, so I dropped him. Then the girl laughed and went to hop up on the stage. I grabbed her, and she turned on me.

JOSIE: Bitch broke Mattie’s arm, Sheriff! Hundred pounds soakin’ wet, and she broke that tree trunk like it was nothin’!

MATHILDA: S’okay, baby. Chicks dig casts.

[SOMNAMBULIST TRANSCRIPTION ENDS.]

That’s when Josie called the police. In the meantime, Alexandra mounted the stage and started to dance. Which is where I found her when we arrived fifteen minutes later. I asked Sheriff Patton to let me go in alone. Not knowing how far things had gone inside, I didn’t want to expose him and his men to something they don’t have the training for. He gave me five minutes. So in I went. I hit the door expecting chaos. I found anything but.

The room was silent, the air thick. Humid and hot, but somehow electrified. Like a brothel. Or a church. The crowd hadn’t scattered, in spite of the violence. Quite the opposite, in fact. I found them rooted to their chairs, motionless, their faces masks of lust, their eyes locked on Alexandra. She was on the stage, clothes long since peeled off, her skin shimmering under the spotlight, fluid seeping steadily, prodigiously, from between her legs. The stage was slick with it, and so was she, sliding sinuous and slow as she danced, weaving her spell over the crowd. The stench was overwhelming, a deep tidal flow of musk and sweat. The smell of sex.

But it wasn’t the smell. Or at least, not the smell alone. There was something more. She was something more. Engorged. Larger than life. Too big for the stage, the room, her own body. There were depths within her, space, an endless wet pulsating void, at once alluring and utterly terrifying. I could sense it, feel it, pushing against the walls, her flesh, my flesh, the pressure building as it tried to uncoil itself, her every step, every motion, part of an equation, a formula, a key. Or not a key. A rod. A bar. A lever. Something to insert into the void, pry it open, widen the gap, let it out. But it had nowhere to go. The walls were sweating along with her, along with the crowd, along with me, and their sweat stank of smoke and beer and semen. They rippled in time with the dance, the formula, the bar, in time with my pulse and hers, my blood flowing like the wet between her legs and the long slow orgasmic trickle staining the jeans of every redneck and over-sexed frat boy in the place, locked in a single desperate spasm, straining against stillness, slaves to their sex, slaves to her, slaves to the thing within her.

But it was me she wanted, me, I could see it in her lips, her tongue, her black black eyes. I could see it in the angle of her hips as she went into slow gyrations, sticky and slick, the void gaping wider and wider with each new rotation, open, inviting, swirling, drawing me in with a pull as inexorable, as inescapable, as gravity itself. The pressure redoubled, inside and out, the pulse coming strong now, in my chest, my groin, my head.

My head. Something pulsed and spasmed in my head. There was a sharpness, a pinch, and then it was over. I found myself standing almost at the stage, over the still-unconscious form of Duke Reynolds, lying where he had fallen, not a finger raised to help him. Mathilda was there too, kneeling, cradling her broken arm and staring intently at Alexandra.

Alexandra. She’d stopped dancing now, and was staring a hole in me. “Here,” she said. “Now.” Her voice was strained, her every muscle tensed. I didn’t move. I couldn’t. I felt weak, drained. Barely able to keep myself upright.

“HERE,” she said again. “NOW.” I shook my head, not quite daring to do much else.

“HERE! NOW!” Screaming this time.

“No,” I said, my own voice a croak. “Why don’t you come down here instead? Down where I can see you? I have something for you. A gift.”

She screamed again, an ear-splitting howl that shook the walls. The men in the crowd behind me started to convulse. I nearly collapsed myself, but grit my teeth and held on. With effort, I reached into my jacket to pull forth the Wanageeska hot dog.

But she never saw it, because that was when the shot rang out. Sheriff Patton. That scream had been the last straw. He kicked the door open and took his shot, putting a bullet cleanly through Alexandra’s chest. She recoiled, hissed, her mouth a sudden ring of fangs, blood staining her breast. Then she retreated, legs elongating with each stride, scales sprouting down her naked spine as she went.

I finally fell to the floor, feeling a trickle of blood oozing out my nose. I was vaguely aware of the Sheriff rushing past, in pursuit, firing more shots. Even more vaguely, I heard the screams of his men as they confronted Alexandra coming out the back of the club. We don’t think all of them are going to make it.

The Sheriff himself just got a nasty blow to the head. He saw stars for a few seconds, and when his vision cleared, Alexandra was gone. Disappeared once again into the night. We’re canvassing the area now, asking questions. But no one’s seen a seven-foot-tall snake woman. Or Alexandra Melmoth, for that matter.

One detail from a homeless man I questioned concerns me, however, even though he was inebriated, and undoubtedly a bit mad. He reported seeing a large truck nearby around the time of our confrontation. “Looked like some kinda circus wagon,” he said.

Which brings me back to my suspicions. I fear that Alexandra may have fallen into the clutches of Jackson Curry. In which case, the situation has become very dire, indeed.

– Agent X-23, signing off.

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Report 25: Red

Sir,

If I’d known that Pannawau had a truck stop, I’d have made it out there before now. First rule of rural travel: figure out where the truckers eat. Nothing but good food and better stories in a place like that. Today, I got both.

Pancakes, sir. The pancakes are the thing here. Fluffy. Crisp at the edges. And big as a dinner plate. When Red only ordered two, I knew I’d gone too far asking for a full stack. Red, by the way, is the source of that story I mentioned. Journeyman trucker. Got into the business because he likes to be alone. Lots of time alone, on the road. Lots of time to think. Lots of time to learn, if you’re into books on tape. Red’s gotten into science lately. He’s got some really interesting ideas on Brane theory. Only partially correct, of course, but he doesn’t have access to some of the technologies we do. Still. Get him a Dee Necronomicon, and he might really hit on something.

One interesting thing: Red tells me the truckers don’t like driving through Pannawau at night. During the day, no problem. It’s a great route if you’re heading into or out of Boulder. But at night… Lots of drivers die on the Mountain road. Or that’s the belief, anyway. I’d have to ask Sheriff Patton how accurate it is. But the drivers will tell you that more accidents happen out there than is entirely normal. And the reason? Ghost lights. Marvelous. Red’s seen them himself, up high on the Mountain. Floating, shimmering lights with no apparent source. Couldn’t take his eyes off them, and very nearly ran off the road because of it.

That’s why he was at Maggie’s last night. Maggie’s is the truck stop. Maggie’s Last Gas. Because it’s the last place for big rigs to gas up before…

This isn’t important. Sorry, sir. Haven’t slept much the last couple of days.

Red had stopped for the night at Maggie’s because he wasn’t willing to risk the Mountain road. So he pulled in, grabbed a quick ham sandwich in the restaurant, and headed back to to catch forty winks in his sleeper cab. That’s when he ran into Alexandra Melmoth.

Which is why I’m telling you about Red at all: he’s the sole witness to Alexandra’s latest appearance. It’s the only glimpse we’ve gotten of her since she left Alo Ranger HQ. Red was a bit shaken up by the experience. It’s why I suggested we get some food. Nothing like pancakes to calm a man down.

Anyway. Red was making his way across the parking lot when she suddenly appeared. Stepped out from between two trucks and propositioned him on the spot. Now, Red’s been around the block a few times. He knows a truck-whore when he sees one, and Alexandra wasn’t it. Even after a night on the Mountain and two days on the run, she was obviously too high-tone. So he figured it was a prank. Maybe some kind of sorority initiation thing. That, or she was a run-away desperate for a ride out of town. Either way, he didn’t have time for it. Told her to go home to daddy.

And that’s when things turned strange. But a transcript might tell that story better, so let me turn this over to the Somnambulists for a bit.

Transcript of Agent X-23’s conversation with Civilian Designate Red Futrell

Italicized commentary represents Agent’s impressions

RED: She sidled up to me when I turned her down, rubbed her tits up against my arm. And I gotta admit, I was pretty damn tempted. Even grabbed me a handful of ass for my troubles. But then I thought about old Bobby Lane, got up with some sorority girl down in Mississippi, wound up lookin’ like a fool with his picture on the internet, leanin’ up against his truck blindfolded with his dick hangin’ out, and the girl nowhere to be seen. So I brushed her off again. But she just pressed in closer, run her hand down between us and into my pocket.

Well, I thought I knew where that was goin’, and I was of a mind to let it go there. But instead she pulled out my knife. Flicked that sumbitch open one-handed and started rubbin’ the blade against herself. I backed off right quick then, I can tell you that. Didn’t wanna get robbed, neither. But that won’t what she had in mind.

(Recognition. Familiar Theme. Yig-Spawn Designate Alexandra Melmoth reliving childhood abuse?)

She held the flat of that knife against her chest and started cooin’ about how cold it was, and didn’t I wanna make it hot? Now, I know there’s ladies out there into some freaky shit, Mr. Matthews, but that took the damn cake. She offered the knife to me, and I snatched it back, told her to find another cowboy if she wanted rough stuff.

X-23: What did she do then?

RED: She got nasty. Started grabbin’ her crotch, and askin’ me didn’t I wanna get inside her? All the way inside her, all over? Told me a real man would cut her up good and fuck the corpse. Most disgustin’ shit I ever heard. I’d’a just written her off as a loon and walked off, except for what happened next.

(Spike of fear. Concern.)

X-23 (level tone): And what was that?

RED: Well… You’re gonna think I’m the loon if I tell you that.

X-23: Let me guess. She bared fangs at you, didn’t she?

RED: Well, I’ll be goddamned. You know who that crazy bitch is, don’t you?

X-23: I’m not at liberty to say, but yes. Yes, I think I do.

RED: Well, alright then. Yeah, she bared fangs and hissed. Then she run off. And, I dunno… If she was into all that other, I suppose she might of had some dental work done, too…

X-23: But you don’t think so.

RED: Nossir. Nossir, I don’t. Those teeth… I’d’ve noticed ’em before that. She couldn’ta talked right. She… She changed. That cain’t be right, but it’s what I saw.

(Silence. Civilian Designate Red Futrell looks pensive. Not done talking.)

RED: Well? Am I crazy?

X-23: …no. No, you’re not crazy. That fits the MO of the woman I’m looking for.

RED: Jesus. What the hell is she?

X-23: I’m not at liberty to say. But…

(Pauses. Sighs. Weighs options.)

X-23: She’s a very troubled young woman, caught in the grip of something beyond her ability to control. Something beyond human ken. She might be a monster. She’s definitely a victim. I’m trying to help her, if I can.

RED (doubtful): After what she did here?

X-23: That makes it harder.

Transcription ended

“What she did here” is kill a man. Another trucker with less control over his urges than Red. Name of Earl Jackson. Got him in the back of his rig and… Well, we’re still waiting for the forensics report to say exactly what might have happened. But I feel rather confident that she bit off his penis and left him to bleed out.

The member itself is missing. Whether she ate it or took it with her is an open question. The body was in bad shape, as well. More of that venom rash we saw on the Alo doctor she got to. Spread out from the crotch and all the way up into the soft tissues of the throat. That black fluid the rash leaks had pooled under the body a bit. There was a lot of blood in the back of that truck, too. A lot of blood and an open pocket knife. I’m betting we’ll find that the blood on the blade isn’t the trucker’s.

We do know that she left Maggie’s on foot, and in human form. A waitress coming in for an early morning shift reports seeing a young woman leaving the parking lot, heading back into town. The light was dim, so she wasn’t sure, but she thought she saw blood. She reported it to her boss, which lead to the search of the lot and the discovery of the victim. At any rate. Alexandra’s mode of departure means that she’s still in transition. Whatever she needs to make the change, she didn’t find it here.

I’m heading back to the Fat Beaver now, sir, to get some sleep. I’ve drunk far too much of Maggie’s coffee typing up this report, and I’m afraid my effectiveness will be compromised if I stay awake any longer. Sheriff Patton tells me that Agent Cordero’s arrived. I look forward to seeing her again. In spite of everything.

– Agent X-23, signing off.


Report 24: Not Nearly Enough

Sir,

The report from the doctor who examined Alexandra Melmoth doesn’t sound good.

By the time I got to him, Luke Pallaton was already tending to the doctor’s injuries. Cleaning the blood from the man’s genitalia revealed two puncture wounds at the base of his penis, and a rash forming on his testicles. Pallaton administered anti-venom, but it didn’t do any good. The rash worsened rapidly, the doctor’s sac swiftly puckering up in a mass of sores that wept in watery black. And where the black spread, so did the rash, down into the soft tissues of the anus and spreading across the thighs.

All of this in under five minutes, at which point Pallaton rushed the doctor out in search of what he called “more expert spiritual care.” The venom of gods was beyond him.

The search for Alexandra didn’t go well, either. We didn’t find her anywhere on the grounds of Ranger HQ, or anywhere nearby. So we returned to the building to organize a broader search, and while Cheveyo made the necessary phone calls, I went to the examination room to figure out what happened. The doctor, an Alo tribal practitioner by the name of Kachina, had thankfully recorded the session, a transcript of which follows.

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

Kachina: Commencing examination of prisoner Alexandra Melmoth, at request of Captain Cheveyo. This will be a general examination of the patient, with particular attention paid to a possible shoulder injury, and… it says here… the teeth. Huh. Now I’m a dentist.

Alexandra: It’s fine. I’m sure the Captain has his reasons.

Kachina: Alright, then. Let’s take care of the teeth first. Smile real big for me, okay?
(clattering of instruments)
(light tapping)
Look fine to me. Any idea why he wanted your teeth looked at, Miss?

Alexandra: Not… exactly.

Kachina: Well, I’m satisfied if you are. Now, if you’ll step behind the curtain there and disrobe, we’ll get on with the examination.

Alexandra (a pause): …Alright.

Kachina: Examination of teeth complete. They show no signs of damage or irregularity. Clean pearly whites. Wonders of modern dentistry. Commencing physical as soon as patient has… disrobed… Oh, my.

Alexandra: Doctor?

Kachina: Yes. Yes, well. Just sit up here, Miss.
(clattering of instruments)
Ahem. Now. Stick out your tongue…

Alexandra: Aaaaahhh…

Kachina: No need to say aah, just… Well. Well, that’s odd.

Alexandra (muffled): Wha?

Kachina: Patient’s canines appear enlarged, and the back of her throat… Say aah again, please, til I tell you to stop.

Alexandra: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh…

Kachina: Stop. Patient’s throat shows unusual degree of muscular flexibility, enlarging to… Well, I’d have to measure it. But larger than normal human capacity.

Alexandra (small chuckle): I should have mentioned my lack of gag reflex.

Kachina: I see. That’s… Well, that’s a very unique throat you have.

Alexandra (teasing): All the boys say so.

Kachina: Ahem. Well. Let’s have a look at… at that shoulder.

Alexandra: That’s not my shoulder you’re looking at, Doctor.

Kachina: Just trying to ascertain… any damage to… connective tissues.
Ahem.
Now, which shoulder was it you injured, Miss?

Alexandra: I don’t remember, exactly. Let me see…

Kachina: Stop that.

Alexandra: Stop what?

Kachina: Stop stretching. It’s… distracting.

Alexandra: Sorry, Doctor. I’m just trying to see if my shoulder hurts.

Kachina: Well… Well, does it?

Alexandra: Not really. But… Something doesn’t feel right, on the left side. Here. Feel here.

Kachina: Here?

Alexandra (sharp intake of breath): Yes. Yes, right there. Now, let me rotate it, and…

Kachina: Miss Melmoth, please take your hand off my shoulder.

Alexandra (low): Does it bother you?

Kachina: Yes.

Alexandra: Liar. But, fine. If you don’t like it there, maybe a little lower…

Kachina (voice strained): Miss Melmoth, that’s… That’s enough.

Alexandra: Oh, it’s not nearly enough. Not nearly…

(wet kissing sounds)
(sharp intake of breath)

Kachina: Please… stop…

Alexandra (voice thick, deeper): No…

(shuffling, bumping, sliding zipper)
(more wet noises, moaning, hissing)

Kachina (weakly): Wait…

Alexandra (angry, voice transformed, barely recognizable): You know you want it! Now sit down and let me give it to you!

(more bumping, moaning, hissing, wetness)

Kachina: Ah… ah… ah… AAGH!

(wet sucking and a deep, muffled chuckle)
(spitting noise, shuffling)

Alexandra (distracted tone): …god, I need a man…

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

Some noises follow that we assume are the sound of Alexandra getting dressed, jimmying the lock on the window, and crawling out.

Her behavior here is distressing, to say the least. I saw something similar when I visited her in the hospital, of course, this sexual predation without full Yig manifestation. But this happened without influence of the Osceola, with no more inspiration than a bit of nudity and a hint of attraction from her victim.

Cheveyo says that he saw no inkling of this behavior when he brought her in. She seemed compliant and scared. Almost relieved, in fact, to be in custody. It’s the only reason he left her alone with the doctor, though I do wonder how much her strange magnetism may have affected that decision. She can’t seem to turn it off.

Obviously, her condition is extremely volatile. Whatever happened to her at the lake… whatever she left behind… has changed her. Will it still take the trauma of death to release Yig inside her at this point? Or will finding whatever satisfaction she craves have the same effect? Either way, she’s on the loose, and presumably looking for more victims. We’ve alerted Sheriff Patton, and issued an APB. I just hope we can find her, and that I can get her to eat the Wanageeska hot dog, before she takes another victim.

– Agent X-23, signing off.


Report 23: Hot Dog Heart

Sir,

I am currently sitting in a back office of the Alo Ranger headquarters, awaiting my chance to speak with Alexandra Melmoth following her transformation into a marauding snake monster.

It helps, I think, to state the facts of the situation bluntly. Alexandra’s magnetism can be quite over-powering, as our past encounters have shown. And considering what I’m going to attempt when I go into that room… I think it’s best to be clear-headed.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. On my way here, I experienced another Wanageeska manifestation. This time, I had stopped for an early lunch at a local establishment known as Dick’s Dogs. They do hot dogs at Dick’s. Hot dogs, and chips, and nothing else. They’re on one side of what I’m given to understand is a bit of a Hot Dog War here in Pannawau. Something to do with a stolen chili recipe. But I’ll delve into that another time.

What’s important right now is that, once I’d gotten my lunch, I pulled the car over to eat it, and— Dick’s is a drive-in, you understand— so I pulled the car into a parking place and proceeded to eat, eager to try this chili over which there’s been so much strife. I can’t recommend the stuff, by the way. How to describe it? It’s… clear. Or white-ish, perhaps. Not sure there’s actually any chili powder in it. It’s spicy, though. Absolutely sinus-clearing. Tastes like horseradish and black pepper. I don’t know. I’m told it’s an acquired taste.

At any rate. I had just unwrapped my first hot dog when I looked up and saw the Tiny Bird-Faced Man, perched on my side mirror. I reached for the crank to roll the window down, and when I looked up again, he was sitting on the steering wheel.

He looked at me.

He looked at my hot dog.

Then back at me again.

Same old song and dance.

I pinched a piece off one end of the dog, and held it out to him. He took it in his tiny hands and pecked at it once with his beak before stopping in what I presume was shock. That chili will take your breath away if you’re not ready for it. At first, I thought he would refuse the offering. But tentatively, he pecked again, decided he liked it, and continued to eat with that mechanical bird-like swiftness I’d come to know. When he was done, he turned his deep black eyes back to me, and I sank, soared, once again into the birdy void.

We flew up over the treetops, drawn to the Mountain, always the Mountain. Only now it wasn’t a mountain. Or it was. Or it had been. But the rocks were cracked and broken, revealed as nothing more than a shell, or a shroud perhaps, and beneath… Beneath, it was shining and golden and alive, alive the way the Alo writing was alive, writhing under our gaze, exposed and ashamed, beautiful and proud.

We dove in close, following a crack in the stone, down the mountain, down and on, the crack running all the way to the base and into the forest, where it split, spidery, in several directions we followed all at once. To the hunting cabin where Jase Peterson tried to claim his birthright, to a clearing with a small puddle of jet black mud in its center, to a rock jutting up at a suggestive angle from the surrounding earth. An unmarked spot overlooking Lake Mammedaty. A field of violently green grass. A cave in a hillside. And finally, all the way out to Melmoth House itself, where the golden glow tarnished to green and radiated out in tendrils too numerous to count, down the hill and on into town.

And we were there all at once, too, in offices and houses and sheds, garages and restaurants, the hospital. The hospital, where green and gold flowed and pulsed against each other in an obscene dance, clinging wetly where they touched, bellies slick with liquid black. We rose above it all on a hot, foetid breath of wind, the tangles and loops and cracks taking on some dreadful, incomprehensible meaning with distance, cohering into a pattern that refused to register in full, writhing, always changing, eluding my grasp, and dotted here and there across the landscape with great splotches of blood.

And then we turned and went back again, back to the Mountain, always the Mountain, and now the Door at its peak gaped open, light pouring out bright as ever, threatening to overshadow the Mountain’s own glow, and we dove down again, into the beam, burning and cleansing and glorious. And down we went, down, caught in the flow of the light, the light, the terrible light, the hideous light, the wonderful welcoming light, faster and faster, lower and lower, the Lake Door looming ahead. The Lake Door. Something was caught in the Lake Door. Something red and wet and flapping in the light. Something beautiful. If I’d had hands, I could have reached out and grabbed it as we passed. But alas, I had only wings.

And so we shot past, into the door and through it, faster than light, heavier, for an eternity. Muscle and tendon strained and stretched, nearly torn asunder by the pressure. And still the light, so much light, filling my eyes and spilling over, burning, into my nostrils, my ears, my mouth.

It tasted like chili. And then…

And then I awoke in the car. The Tiny Bird-Faced Man was gone, and I found my mouth stuffed full of hot dog. And chili. That awful clear-white burning chili. In front of me on the dash sat a second hot dog. Not the one I’d bought. Or, if it was, it was a hot dog transformed. Transfigured into something… Other. It glowed slightly, and radiated a warmth I can still feel now, as it sits in my pocket. There’s something beautiful about it, a beauty similar to that of the red flapping thing in the Lake Door, that thing Alexandra left behind.

And that’s how I know what I need to do when I speak to her. I’m going to offer her that hot dog. Share it, if she wants. And we’ll see where it takes us. I know the ingestion of foodstuffs from beyond is strictly prohibited by regulations. But I’ve already eaten Osceola and Spirit Sausage on this trip. What’s one more magic hot dog, more or less?

At any rate. Alexandra’s in with an Alo doctor right now, getting a general physical. Cheveyo wants to see if she’s got any marks left on her from the battle on the Mountain last night. I’m kind of curious, myself. She took a Nukpana spear to the shoulder, he says, and doesn’t seem to be showing any ill effects. But as soon as they’re done with her, I’ll be able to

Sorry, Chief. Cheveyo just stuck his head in the door. He went to see what was taking the doctor so long with Alexandra, and found the man unconscious in a chair, pants down around his ankles, and his genitals covered in blood. Of Alexandra, there was no sign. More as I know it.

–Agent X-23, signing off.


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.

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32: Heads Full of Light

***CONNECTING…CONNECTING…BEGIN TRANSMISSION***

Carried I’m being carried through the dark the night the dark and the Mountain and the door and the light and

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

Edna sits, sobbing, in the beer cooler. Cecil is gone now, gone off into the night, nimble and crazy and cruel. She shouldn’t have done it, he said. Shouldn’t have loved him. Shouldn’t have let him love her. Nothing good can come of love, he said, and as the light shines in and floods the cooler, she knows that he was right. He spoke the truth. The ugly truth. Ugly like her old woman’s body, exposed and cold and shriveled. Bulging in all the wrong places, sagging in the right ones. She feels his old man’s seed leaking out of her, cold and spent and useless, and she knows the truth.

She’d known it before Cecil, of course. Known it for years, on those dark lonely nights when she couldn’t sleep. She ignored it when the sun was out, ignored it and threw herself into her work, keeping this damn store running and running and running and running. Threw her everything into it, and what did it give her back? Never what she needed. And so she’d starved, shrunken down into a nosy old biddy. A busy-body. A character, to be laughed at and never understood.

Oh, how she longed to be understood.

But she’d killed a man with her love, and put it away, and waited too long to find it again. So many years wasted, cold and alone, and now… She despairs that anyone will ever understand her again. And without that, what’s the point?

She sobs again, blinks away the tears, and her eyes fall on a shard of green glass, glinting in that horrible searing light. Piece of a bottle, she thinks. Big piece. Big enough to…

She unwraps one of her arms from around her breasts, reaches out, and

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

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EMERGENCY REPORT: On Patrol

***SECURITYBREACH*** Unauthorized Intra-Blog Access ***SECURITYBREACH***

[burst of static]

Testing…

[static]

Test–

[crackle]

[hum]

Testing… There. That’s got it. Here ya go, Pappy.

[rustling]

Hello. This is John Cheveyo. I don’t know who’s on the other end of this thing, but we found your transmitter here on the ground outside the Opa Lodge. Little beat up, but we got it working again. Figure it belongs to either Matthews or Denise. Definitely not commercial-grade kit. And not something we built on the rez, either. Not enough owls on it.

Ah, hell. Let’s stop pretending here, alright? I don’t know exactly what agency Matthews works for, but I know the kinds of things you investigate. You investigate things like us. And that’s fine. We’ve got our secrets, you’ve got yours. Neither of us likes it too much. But right now, I’ve got more important things to worry about, and I need your help with it.

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30: Hearts Full of Fire

***CLEARING STATIC…OPENING CHANNEL***

***BEGIN TRANSMISSION***

My eyes are open now. They’re open, and flooded with light. They’re open, and lost in the dark. I’m lying in bed. Denise is beside me. Asleep. Or…

No, she’s asleep. She has to be. She’s just so still. I thought– No. She’s asleep. We must be– Are we in our room at the Fat Beaver? Is that bacon I hear frying? Or…

This isn’t the Fat Beaver Inn. This is the Opa Lodge. Except… Why is it so dark? What’s this pressure I feel? On my chest, my arms, in my ears. My forehead. Why can’t I move? Am I dreaming? Or…

The Door. The Door is open in the Mountain. It’s open, and the light’s pouring out. So bright and so wrong. So exposed. That’s why it’s so dark. All the light’s pouring out, and there’s none left here. Wait. No. That’s not right. I’m outside the Door and I hear bacon and

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

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28: Night on Mount Pannawau

***BEGIN TRANSMISSION***

There is a man standing over my bed. A man with beautiful breasts, and the head of an owl. I can see him through my eyelids. He’s just standing there. Staring with unblinking owl eyes, his face illuminated by the light of the Door. The Door in the Mountain.

That light shines out bright as ever, cascading down the Mountain in an endless torrent. Abundant. Obscene. Inviting. Yes, inviting. It calls out to something in my blood, in my gut, something thick and black and hot, enticing me to…

My forehead throbs, painfully, and the owl-headed man snaps back into focus. He has something in his hand. A bottle. A bottle of something black. Something alive. It twists and writhes in its glass prison, trying to get out. To join with the blackness in me. I feel rather than see the owl-headed man’s intention to let it do just that. Slowly, so slowly, he raises the bottle, pulls loose the stopper, bends over my head, tips the bottle, grabs my chin, forces open my mouth…

The thing in the bottle, so anxious to be loose, now seems in no great hurry. It’s taken the form of a thick black liquid, pouring slowly from the mouth of the bottle. A single quivering drop forms on the bottle’s lip, a dollop of hanging black. Anticipation.

One hand shoots up, grabs the owl’s wrist. The drop shakes, lengthens, swings. Heavy. Black. Pendulous. The strand breaks. The drop falls, and

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

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Report 16: Weird Magnetism

Sir,

Two quick reports for you tonight. One is my conversation with Alexandra Melmoth’s guardian Andrew Robinson. But first, here’s Denise with her impressions after talking to the girl herself…

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

Hi, Chief. I don’t trust a word the little bitch says. She mostly comes off like a sheltered twit, a college girl who hasn’t lived enough to have an idea worth having. But there’s something else going on in that little head. I staged the interview as a follow-up, to see if she remembered anything else that might help us, and she mostly just dug Possum a deeper hole. Said he was nervous and twitchy, and kept a gun pointed at her whenever he was there.

Jase, on the other hand, sounds like a saint. He was very kind to her. Untied her when Possum wasn’t around. Fed her. Sat and talked with her. Nice guy, for a kidnapper. But there was something shining in her eyes when she said it, some kind of cunning. Like maybe she’d had a little part in him being so nice. Or like maybe, if she made Jase sound better, it would make Possum sound worse.

She’s lying about something, that I’m sure of. I don’t doubt that Possum’s nerve broke, and I don’t doubt that he pulled the trigger. But I think maybe she had a little something to do with that, too. She’s got this weird magnetism about her. She’s sexy. Smoking. Effortlessly desirable. And she shouldn’t be. I mean, she’s pretty, but… Look, Chief. I’ve never gone in for the ladies. But if I’d been just a little bit drunk this afternoon… I might have decided to try something new. As it was, I ripped my eyes off her (with effort, I should add) and got the hell out of there as soon as I could.

Oh, one more thing: she’s extra interested in X-23. Asked after his health with conviction sincere enough that even I believed it. She’s also convinced that she knows him from somewhere before their little encounter in the hospital. Not sure what to make of that. Except that it doesn’t make me like her any better.

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

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