I woke up and all the cats were skeletons. AGAIN! That was six cats in one week; the people at the shelter were going to cut me off and I needed those cats!
I tossed the bones into the pile behind the house, kicked some mulch over them and stared at the basement window. It was filled in with black and the black was full of eyes.
I pulled my list of animal shelters off the fridge. Out of twenty-five I was down to three. They’d started contacting each other and talking about me. The guy who kept adopting so many cats. So many cats! I knew I had another list in my desk. A list with less . . . legit animal dealers. I hated the thought of resorting to to one of those guys, but I was getting desperate.
I dug through my desk drawer for the list and pulled out a card. When this problem had started, I’d received a lot of references from a lot of different sources. Most of them I’d chucked, but I’d hung on to this card. Just in case.
Marinus Willett, PhD.
Finder of lost items, practitioner of old majiks
exorciser of daemons
and a phone number
I thought about calling Willett. Most of these guys, they were useless. Their chants and spells, their potions and poultices, all of this stuff was easily accessible online and had been for years. One guy said he could take care of my problem
and had been reduced to trying to hit it with a shovel. I lost fifty bucks that day. And a good shovel.
I looked out the window at the growing mound in the garden.
Willett said he’d be here at noon and arrived at two. He mumbled something about a cursed rectory and shuffled into the house.
To describe Willett as “bedraggled” would be far too complimentary. He was about seventy, short, with dirty gray hair and wearing a suit that looked a) fifty years old and b) fifty years since a good wash. He carried a black doctor’s bag. Like Little House on the Prairie Doc Baker type bag. Seriously old school.
“Shoggoth?” he asked when he hit the foyer.
“Smells like,” he said, “Get a cat?”
“Yep. Stops working after a while. They hate them some cats, I tells ya. Still, after a few weeks they realize they’re not gonna get taken to the moon and they get their courage up. Finding a lot of skeletons?”
“Sounds right. Good thing you called when you did.”
Willett set down his bag and took out a large piece of chalk.
“Hope you don’t like this tile work too much,” he said as he drew a large circle in the middle of the foyer, “Not gonna look too pretty in a minute.”
Willett futzed around in his circle, drawing little marks and squiggles. He muttered as he drew.
“Damn things keeping me busy these days. Your’re not the only one, no sir. I just cleaned out a nest of them at the Marriott by the mall. Took over the damn basement. Cleaning crew disappeared weeks ago but they tried to cover it up. Once the customers started waking up with limbs missing or . . . replaced . . . they got wise. Well, half-wise. Rounded up a bunch of strays from the alleys and dumped them in the basement. Apparently, the yowling was so loud it alerted the city inspector. Idiots. They called me in. I got rid of ’em but the whole place burned down in the process.”
I must have startled because he looked up.
“Don’t worry, young fella. Your place’ll be fine. Your floor won’t be, but these walls should hold.”
Willett finished up his whatever-it-was and stood, cracking his back with his fists.
“I’m getting too old,” he said, “Too damn old.”
He took a little maraca-type shaker out of his pocket.
“You may want to stand back,” he said.
Willett commenced shaking the object and murmuring a stream of nonsense. It seemed like nonsense to me, at least. Some of it I recognized. “OGTHROD AI’F GEB’L — EE’H YOG-SOTHOTH ‘NGAH’NG AI’Y ZHRO” obviously, that’s how most of these things start, but then it trailed off into sounds I wasn’t familiar with. The air became charged with a kind of greasy electricity. My hear stood on end and I felt nauseated.
“Okay, son, don’t look in the circle!” Willett said.
The room grew unbearably warm. The air became slippery and hard to inhale. I tried to turn and leave, but my head started ringing and my mouth seemed to be full of water. I couldn’t see. My eyes became blurry, like I was looking through thick glass. Things passed in front of my vision – swimming things. Things with fins. I smelled salt and seaweed. A form approached me, holding out its webby hands; taking my face, breathing brine and plankton into my screaming lungs. I floated down, down, down into the abyss of an underwater canyon. Lights burned around me and a city in the cliffs, aeons old, became visible. The creature in whose arms I was held beckoned to a group of creatures far below. They swam up to meet us, dragging a massive chain. The creature said something in a bubbly, alien tongue and his companions yanked hard on their chain. A stirring from below and a dark shadow began to stir in the depths. I looked up and the creatures had fled, their fet barely visible in the distance. I looked down and the shadow grew in size. Whatever was down there, it was big. Bigger than a city. The shadow was enormous and I hadn’t seen any of the monster’s actual surface yet. It continued toward me, pushing the water in front of it. I felt scared but also so curious. What was this thing? Was it beautiful? Was it an angel? Was it coming for me?
I saw its face and my mind reeled.
A hand grabbed me roughly by the collar and yanked me backwards.
I was lying in a sodden mess on the floor of my foyer. Willett was sitting gasping next to me, his upper body soaked and reeking. I coughed and seawater poured out of my mouth and nose. Choking and retching, I sat up. A sudden pain shot through my head. Willett had hit me with his bag.
“I told you not to look in the circle, idiot,” he said.
“W-w-what . . . what was . . . I saw . . . thing, a thing . . . “
“Just one of the spawn. They keep ’em down there. Come in handy. Only things that can eat a shoggoth. Eat other things too. You were lucky. Idiot.”
I realized the floor of my foyer was torn up as if something from below had forced its way out.
“I’ll email you an invoice, Willett said, “Don’t go in your basement for a few days.”
“I had to open a pretty big hole. Things got through.”
“They’ll fade. Don’t go in the basement.”
Willett gathered his belongings and walked to the front door.
“You bought it, didn’t you?” he asked.
“They’re cute when they’re little. Novel. You like how they can turn into little animals and mimic your voice. It’s neat. They’ll nibble your finger and chirp like a bird.”
“They get big, though. No one ever thinks of that. They almost ended the world once. You know that, right?”
“I – I’d heard . . . something . . . “
“Idiot.” he said. But, he sounded more sorry than angry now, “But, smarter than we have been enamored of their gifts.”
“What do you -“
“Pay that invoice, you hear! I know where you live live and I can bring ’em back.”
“Jesus, man, I’m -“
“Just kidding with you. Stick to cats and dogs from now on, idiot,” he said and he walked down to his car.
I surveyed my destroyed foyer, my walls dripping with seawater. I found a thing swimming in my toilet later that day and that night I woke up to a ceiling of screaming mouths. My walls bled for a while too. But, eventually, it settled down. In all the whole ordeal cost me over 10,000 in service and repairs.
One lucky thing, though. Something that passed through my house dropped a trinket in my basement. I found it when I went down to clean up. It’s a small gold box with designs all over it. It burns when I touch it, but if I wear oven mitts I think can can figure out how to get it open.
I got a new cat too. It hates this box. Stupid cat.