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DESCRIPTIONDamon Hutter witnesses the seeding of Caroline for the Old Ones, and realizes he must protect her to correctly usher forth the dawning of a new age: Cthulhu’s birth. Everything was the will of Cthulhu. Carol...was the will of Cthulhu. The killings were the will of Cthulhu.
“They all lay in stone houses in their great city of R’lyeh,
preserved by the spells of mighty Cthulhu for a glorious resurrection when the stars and the earth might once more be ready for them.” ~ H. P. Lovecraft “The Call of Cthulhu”, p. 146 (wikipedia.org entry) Abbreviated.
Chapter One Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.
Echoing across the deserted streets, high heels clicked loudly against the still silence in the early morning air.
Carol had walked this same route for the past three years, but that was during the daylight hours. The streets were always quiet in this neighborhood. Her apartment building rose against the black wall of night behind the large resident parking lot. Both areas were well lit all night long and she didn’t mind the higher rent for the safety it provided; especially for a girl like her, working late into the early hours. She usually had a driver to take her home this late, but he was nowhere to be found. Deciding to walk, she looked down at her heels. Not a great choice, she
thought but then again she hadn’t expected to be walking home. Being a dancer wasn’t glitter and glamour. It was damn
hard work. Often exhausted at the end of the night, she found herself wishing for a better job, a decent job, something she could write home about. But in the back of her mind, she doubted that would ever happen.
School hadn’t worked for her. She dropped out at fifteen. Uneducated, she knew there were few options available to her. But she was aiming to fix that. She had saved her best during the past three years and finally had enough to leave the club and go to community college. She had chosen Business Administration. She had a good head on her shoulders and she knew that. It was time to put that to use.
Carol had discovered an education wasn’t important when you were a stripper. People paid her to wriggle against them and all that was required was a smoking body clients lusted after. Sultry or innocent girl, it didn’t matter, she performed both roles. She didn’t like it but it was a means to an ends. Another month and she could hand in her resignation. She was looking forward to that day.
As she reached the entrance to the parking lot, a foot scuff snagged her attention. Pausing, she looked in both directions but saw no one. There were several cars here and for the first time, she noticed dark patches of shadow stretching across the concrete.
A sliver of ice-coated fear danced a pattern of madness
down her spine and goose-bumped her flesh. From nowhere a gust of wind suddenly rose up, rustled the
bushes, and slid between her bare legs. A miniskirt had been a bad choice for tonight. She grabbed the lapels of her black leather jacket and pulled them tight against her, fighting a chill tap-dancing across her back.
A lump formed in her throat. “Is someone there?” she asked. Silence. Swallowing the lump, Carol turned and moved on,
quickening her pace. The clacking of her heels screamed her location and she stopped to pull them off. Carrying them, she hurried across the lot, her eyes darting toward every sound.
Rushing between cars, she ran across a patch of moist grass, reached her building, and realized she had dropped her shoes somewhere. Shit, there was no time to think about that now. She entered an archway. Smooth concrete layered the pathway to an elevator with the ninth floor button lit. Somewhere a dog bayed.
Nearby someone sniffed. A muffled cough. Footsteps. Shit. Carol jabbed the elevator button. “I know someone’s there,” she said, trying to sound tough
and unafraid. The waver in her voice betrayed her intent. Her finger repeatedly jabbed the elevator button. Come on, her mind begged. Please hurry.
A muffled cough came from the parking area. Hurry the fuck up! Certain the elevator wouldn’t make it to her in time, her
eyes danced around, searching the area, waiting for the unthinkable to happen. Jesus, she thought, another fuck up. It’s the story of my life. Her heart was a powerful jackhammer thumping against the close confines of her chest; her breath came in rapid bursts and a tear streaked down her check.
Ping. The elevator. Thank God. As the metal doors swept open, Carol jumped in and
immediately pushed herself against the corner. From here she could just see the car park. Her eyes focused on the few dark patches but noticed nothing. The shadows did not move and the wind from a moment ago seemed at rest.
Wondering why the doors hadn’t closed, she realized she had forgotten to punch her floor number. A shaky finger punched the keypad and the doors slid shut.
Carol expected someone to shove a hand through the closing doors at the last second, like they did in countless horror movies. The directors stopped the music score to allow the viewers a second to believe the characters had finally made it
before...bam! No hand jammed between the doors. Her whole body quivered and her heart continued to race.
Staring at the elevator doors, her legs lost strength and she slid down the wall and into a sitting position with legs slightly parted. If anyone was waiting for the elevator, they were going to get an eyeful. And she didn’t care. She drew her knees to her chest and hugged herself.
With the rising elevator, Carol’s rapid breath slowed to long gulps. Drops of sweat beaded her forehead. With a shaky hand she wiped it away.
Someone had been watching her, had scuffed his foot and coughed. The experience terrified her, forcing Carol into a self-hug on the dirty floor of an elevator, staring at graffiti-covered walls. Some of it looked fresh, as if someone had painted over the childish marker pen scribbles of exaggerated spitting penises with girls’ names next to them; the standard artwork for an unwatched inner city elevator.
The new tagging was almost professional in appearance. The colors matched. Reds, blues and greens swept the walls. Different hues formed a pleasant, easy on the eye image. A bunch of colors overlapped each other, letters and symbols she’d never before seen entranced her.
Attention to detail gave the graffiti an almost three-dimensional, hypnotic feel to it. The colors seemed to reach out,
push through the binds of reality and reach forward, reach towards her. Fat fingers of several vibrant and alive colors slowly encased her vision as they stretched around her slender form.
Red almost touched her nose. A curtain of color washed down from the wall behind her. The color was icy cold on her shoulders. The sudden temperature shocked her, broke her concentration. No longer did they look beautiful and amazing. She scooted to the doors of the elevator as they slid shut. She hadn’t noticed that they’d opened.
Slowly she stood up. Her knees were still rubbery, but at least they could hold her now. She leaned against the control panel for balance. Fear was a powerful drug.
A quiet laugh escaped her. The graffiti covering the walls looked like every day, inner-city crap to her now. There was nothing three-dimensional or amazing about it at all. Most of it still looked wet.
Raising her right arm she pulled the side of her coat around her waist. A mish-mash of smudged spray paint showed. Fuck. Carol removed her coat and stared at the damage. Fucking little hoodlums. It had to be them she’d heard in the car park. Carol shook her head; she should have known better. Kids. Taggers. The little shits had scared the crap out of her. She was thankful only her jacket was ruined.
Carol pressed the door open button and stepped into the cool night air. Her attention stayed on the graffiti as the doors
closed. Through the glass panels she could see most of it for what it truly was, a mess; nothing more than idiotic, immature scribbling on public property.
A silent sigh escaped her. Fear was indeed a powerful thing. The cool early morning air helped to calm her nerves a
little, but fear kept a few icy fingers on her shoulders, massaging deep into the nerves. She pulled the jacket on and, curious, looked over the balcony onto the yard she’d crossed and the car park where she’d first heard the taggers. Thankfully they were more interested in art than her.
Carol stepped away from the edge and reached into her pocket for the apartment keys. She didn’t carry a handbag; they were easy targets for a snatcher. Instead, she carried a man’s wallet, thin and light in the breast pocket of her leather jacket, along with her keys.
Pulling the key out, she headed for her front door. The apartment was a two-bedroom corner unit. She had answered an advert for a ground floor room but was instead offered the deal she called home. Carol thought her luck had finally changed.
The arrow lights glowed red and the elevator lowered out of sight.
Leaning over the banister, she saw two people wearing baggy sweatshirts with large hoods hiding their face from view. Their hands were in the pockets and they each shuffled from one
foot to the other. Lightning fast, the one on the left looked up. His cold,
uncaring eyes locked on her. Carol jumped away from the banister, hitting the wall of
the apartment behind her. Back against the cold concrete, she slid along the wall toward her apartment door, trying her best to keep out of sight. She broke into a run. Her bare feet slapped the concrete veranda every step of the way. Holding the key tight in her right hand, she glanced back at the elevator. It was on the move.
Carol wanted only one thing now and that was to get into her apartment as quickly as possible. She twisted the key and opened the door, but something stopped her from entering straight away. She stared at the elevator. Her hand gripped the door, squeezing so hard the knuckles turned white as the elevator moved to her floor. Color flowed back to the knuckles when it continued up to the next floor.
Praise the heavens. She took a deep breath, not realizing she’d been holding it until now.
The elevator pinged above her. She stepped into her apartment and closed the door as
quietly as she could, engaged the lock and stood close to the door, listening.
Her rapid, pounding heartbeat echoed in her ears. Her gaze fell on the dangling door chain. Carol had never engaged it
before, but now her trembling fingers fumbled with the chain and slider.
She leaned against the door and shut her eyes, trying to control her breathing and telling herself not to cry, to get a grip. It was over now. Starting from tomorrow she decided to look into getting a ride home with one of the girls.
Outside, soft-spoken voices drifted along the veranda and through her door. Her body tensed and breathing stopped as she heard footsteps approaching. Someone laughed. A lock unsnapped loudly in the apartment next to hers. A woman giggled.
Carol sighed. Her neighbor Eric had obviously made a new friend. She was glad. He was a nice guy. They’d chatted easily every time they ran into one another. A twinge of loss and regret with a hint of jealousy attacked her chest, leaving it feeling dry and empty. That could be her giggling next door and tonight would never have happened.
No other sounds came from outside, well, none that reached her door anyway. Her fear had finally subsided and normalcy was slowly, finally, bleeding back into her reality.
Pulling herself away from the door, she noticed her jacket left a large smudge of paint in its wake. It reminded her of the swirls in the elevator.
Carol’s stomach churned. The unmistakable sour taste of vomit crawled up her throat. A tiny amount squirted up her tongue and across her teeth. She swallowed it back down and
instantly gagged. Rushing down the hall, she charged into the bathroom, her
body slamming the door into the stopper. Dropping to her knees, she lifted the toilet seat and stared
down at the small pond of water at the bottom of the bowl. Trying to take deep breaths, she felt the bile rocket up her throat.
Chunks splashed into the bowl, followed by a torrent of frothy water. Her eyes watered as she heaved a few gulps of air before the next flow exploded forth. She tried to avoid looking at it. The smell was coppery and tangy. It didn’t smell like puke.
Shutting her eyes, Carol leaned into the bowl and let loose another stream. Thankfully, it ended quickly and her stomach suddenly felt lighter and better.
Carol grabbed a towel to wipe her mouth. A coppery flavor coated her lips. She opened her eyes. A smudge of red scarred the towel.
In the bowl was pink water, a red splatter on the porcelain.
Oh my God. She stood shakily and pressed the flusher, then let the
toilet seat drop and went to the wash basin. Leaning on the rim, she stared into the mirror. Her face
was very white, her brown eyes looked dull and her normally soft hair looked starched and straw-like. The image that stared back did not impress her. Turning on the tap, she cupped her hands
under the flow and rinsed out her mouth. Her eyes went to the toothbrush, but she was so tired, she couldn’t be bothered.
She pulled off her clothes and dropped them on the floor, kicking them into the corner. She kept her leather jacket separate so the remaining paint wouldn’t ruin the rest of her gear. Carol looked at the shower, but that could wait till morning. She wanted one thing and one thing only, to sleep.
Barely aware she was doing it, Carol scratched at a small birthmark on her waist. It had been itching all day. If she concentrated on it, she could see a circle with two lines inside that vaguely looked like an X. The circle was more a wavy blotch than a pronounced shape. And it took some imagination to see the X. It was her special thing. The one thing that made her different and it mattered not that she was probably the only one to ‘really’ see the marking.
Total exhaustion blurred her vision. She moved toward her bedroom, then reconsidered. Deciding to double-check locks, she forced her legs to move and went back to the front door. A lot of paint had been transferred from her jacket to the door. And, the door looked open. She was sure she had locked it.
Exploding from the open sliver of the door, paints of several colors spewed into the room, splashing as it hit the floor; its spray hit the walls. Many shades of rainbow colors filled the space. She noticed there were no dark colors at all.
Frozen to the spot, Carol stared at the impossible display.
The colors pooled on the floor, seeping to the four walls. Instinctively, she back-stepped. The feeling of being
watched was so powerful, so real, she felt she could almost touch it. Her one arm crossed her breasts and the other covered her lower region.
The pool on the floor rose as colors continued to bleed from the door. It swept up the walls and curtains, transforming the dull white pattern to an array of blazing yellows and greens. Reaching the railing, it lurched to the ceiling and spread wide in a spider web design.
Carol turned from the madness, thinking only of her room, the window, and a quick escape.
“Carol,” a voice whispered. “Sweet, lovely, Carol. Caroline of the Old Ones.”
She stumbled back, eyes wide in fear and confusion. A bookcase stopped her from tumbling back further. For support, her hands gripped the edge of the nearest shelf. Books fell to the floor, a thick paperback striking the back of her legs.
The colors continued to flow like water from the top of the door filling the room.
In the swirling madness of colors, Carol noticed the darkest patch near the center.
A blob rose from the center, stretching the colors as it grew long and angular. The end fattened and split until it resembled a hand with pointed fingers. The nails were talons, yellowed and
cracked, and as the self-sculpting completed the design, it turned and reached for her.
The claw grabbed her hair and pulled her to the swirling colors; on autopilot, Carol’s hands gripped the wrist and tried to break free. The skin was hard, rough, and cold to the touch.
“We need you, Carol.” The voice spoke again, resonating, she realized, from the oozing, swirls of color.
“No you don’t.” She struggled against the claw. Searing pain shot across her scalp as clumps of hair came free.
The sudden release sent her reeling back. Arms swung madly in the air, searching for balance, but finding none. She dropped backwards, slamming into the bookcase. Her back screamed at her as wind rushed from her lungs and she dropped, heaving for breath.
The bookcase tilted. Several books fell, striking her face. She had no power to defend herself against the onslaught, as one after the other they cut through the air.
Yanked hard, Carol shot across the floor towards the bubbling color of madness. The bookcase crashed into unoccupied space as the bright colors engulfed her.
Unable to fight any longer, Carol submitted. Her body went limp and she watched the colors rise in a frenzy of success.
She realized, as the colors engulfed her, she had never even screamed.
Available November 15th from Dark Continents Publishing Available in selected bookstores and online at Amazon, Barnes and Nobel and Kobo. Electronic and paperback versions. Website: http://kobefiction.we.bs Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lpletzers
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