It doesn’t get more Lovecraftian—specifically, more “Dunwich Horror”-ian—than this chilling tale.
“So, today’s the big day, huh, Dr. Caffy?” Henry said from his seat behind the front desk.
“Indeed,” Melanie replied as she signed the Mowman Facility log sheet.
“Hope you don’t let the bastard out.”
“Now, Henry, it’s been three years since his last parole hearing and he’s been making progress.”
“If you ask me, he should’ve got the needle.”
“He was found legally insane,” Caffy said.
“Whatever,” Henry grumbled as he handed Melanie a red visitor’s badge. “Have fun.”
“Oh, yeah, I consult here for the fun.”
Her heart gave an unpleasant lurch as the thick metal doors slammed shut. She always felt queasy entering the facility because it was so foreign from the outside world. There was always a part of her that wondered if she would leave the place unscathed. Of course, physically she would be fine. It was the mental part that worried her …
Melanie swiftly spread out her notes and current files on Rees. The folder was substantial, even though the documents covered only the last two years. A multitude of case notes from every psychiatrist that had come into contact with Rees since his last parole hearing sat before her.
Finally, satisfied with the arrangement on the table, she waited for the guards to retrieve the patient from his cell. She customarily was confident when it came to concluding whether the men and women she evaluated for the state of Massachusetts were mentally ready for parole, but this particular patient was an enigma to her.
The first time she evaluated James Rees for possible parole, it had been an easy decision. The guy was demonstrably delusional. He claimed he could manipulate reality and that monsters were trying to destroy the Earth. He’d been caught in a ghost town up north, claiming Dunwich was the portal for these creatures to enter reality. She’d had no problem declaring him a clear and present danger to society, since—as at his trial—even though it was obvious he was delusional, he also obviously knew society’s difference between right and wrong. He just didn’t care.
She’d followed his progress since his last parole hearing, but had only seen him face to face twice since then.
She took a deep, calming breath, but it only tensed up her shoulders. She glanced up as the door opened, expecting to see Rees, but was greeted by the warden instead.
“Miles,” she acknowledged as she stood to her feet.
“Doc, how are things?” the warden asked as he shook hands with her.
“Good, good,” Melanie said, trying to conceal her apprehension.
“How’s that husband of yours?”
“Um,” Melanie stammered. “We … we’re divorced.”
“Oh? Sorry to hear that,” he said, seeming a tad abashed.
Melanie was still unaccustomed to informing people she was divorced. The papers had been finalized barely a month before. She offered Miles a conciliatory smile and let her gaze drop to the table.
“Well,” Miles said a few beats later, “Mr. Rees will be along shortly. They’re just placing him in restraints. “I’m assuming you will want to consult with our resident doctor after you’ve evaluated Mr. Rees?”
“Of course,” Melanie replied. “Who’s in charge here now? I know Choler retired recently.”
“Oh, a Miss—I mean, Doctor Hewlett,” Miles corrected himself.
“Hmm, never heard of her,” Melanie said. “Where did she transfer in from?”
“I heard that place is a jungle.”
“She seems to know what she’s doing. Catches on quickly.”
“What’s going on, Miles? You don’t sound too keen on her,” Caffy said.
“Choler didn’t retire,” Miles said with a sigh. “Sure, that’s what he and I told everyone. But it’s better, for both of us, to tell the truth.”
“I can’t say anything until you’ve interviewed Rees. Because if I do, it might cloud your judgment. Taint your findings. Damn, I’ve already said too much,” Miles said as he saw the look on Melanie’s face.
Melanie immediately caught the change in tone. All the sentences had become just that: sentences. Miles was hiding something. A person didn’t clip words like that unless they were trying very hard to not say the wrong thing.
“Yes, you have,” Melanie said. “No more insinuations, okay? I want to interview Rees with a neutral mind.”
“Good.” Miles smiled. “I’ll fill you in on what’s been going on after. We can compare notes. Fair enough?”
“Rees should be on his way shortly.”
James Rees watched the psych techs and the head guard, Riles, approach his cell. He didn’t shift a muscle, merely watching as they took up positions on either side of his cell. He had been lounging on his bunk watching the walls bleed. The meds he’d been on recently had curbed the visions, but now they were back at full strength. A reptilian eye popped open in the wall at the far corner of his cell.
An cacophonous symphony played in his head, his attempt to block out the screams coming from the floor. Riles cleared his throat. “Time to go see the shrink, freak. On your feet—you know the drill.”
James allowed his stare to continue a few more beats. Just long enough to show he was moving. And because he wanted to, not because he’d been ordered to.
Leisurely, he gained his feet. His movements were deliberate and calculated. An economy of motion from years spent behind bars. There was no need to hurry in here.
He ignored the sticky hallucination of the blood-covered floor as he meticulously fussed with his orange prison jumpsuit, a deviation from the usual khaki shirt and shit-brown pants. Then he turned his back to the cell’s bars, placed his hands behind his back and bent over at the waist. He rested his forehead on the cool cinder-block wall. A tongue slithered from a crack in the wall and lapped at his face. He closed his eyes and ignored it.
“So, can you tell me anything about this Dr. Hewlett?” Melanie asked Miles.
“Well, like I said. She transferred into us, the day after Choler … retired. She keeps to herself. Doesn’t talk much. Comes in early. Leaves late. Other than that, not much to tell.”
She listened to the rumblings beneath his clipped sentences. “What about her file? You had to have looked at that.”
“Well, yeah. Harvard grad. Worked two years at San Quentin. Then Nevada. Lovelock Correctional for four. Now here.”
“How many times has she seen Rees?”
Again the hesitation. “Once.”
“She specifically requested to visit with him her very first day. We didn’t see any problem with her getting right into the thick of things, so I agreed.”
Melanie sighed. “Something happened, didn’t it?”
James stood motionless as the cell door rattled open. The two techs entered amidst the rattle of chains. Riles poked him in the back of the neck with his riot baton. “No trouble, sweetie,” he growled.
James tilted his head to the right slightly and Riles grunted his approval. “Make sure those restraints are snug, fellas. Wouldn’t want our ol’ pal here trying to hurt our cute little Dr. Caffy.”
“Caffy is here?” James asked, alert. No wonder the visions were back.
“Yep, your parole evaluation is today. As if you didn‘t know that,” Riles laughed.
One of the guards grabbed one of Rees’ slender, almost effeminate, hands and ratcheted a steel cuff around the wrist. Rees showed no reaction to the pain that lanced up his forearm. He was in another place. The room, guards and techs, the present, all of it quickly dwindled away as James retreated inward.
To his memory place … to Dunwich.
“Yes, something happened,” Miles replied. “As soon as Dr. Hewlett stepped into the room, Rees went crazy. He’s already listed as labile—”
Melanie nodded as she half-listened to her colleague drone on. It had been her decision to categorize Rees as labile. Labilis, apt to slip, from the Latin; a patient who, on the surface, seemed not to present any threat of violent behavior; an individual who was sluggish, which gave the notion of being dim mentally, but who, in an instant, could abruptly transform into the worst nightmare of anyone unlucky enough to be in his immediate vicinity.
“And, I, uh, informed Hewlett of the risks, but she insisted on seeing Rees alone … and she asked for him to be unrestrained.”
“What?” Melanie exploded. “And you allowed this?”
“Dr. Hewlett, is, uh, very persuasive,” Miles said. “Actually, I misspoke earlier. Rees didn’t immediately go berserk when Hewlett entered the room. It was a few minutes after she started talking to him. Then … boom, he almost took her eyes out with a pen he grabbed before we could restrain him.”
“What did she say to set him off?” Caffy asked. “She had to say something incendiary to set him off like that.”
“I don’t know,” Miles said in a pinched voice; this line of questioning was getting more and more uncomfortable by the minute. “She was whispering something in his ear. The audio came out garbled and Dr. Hewlett has remained, um, tight-lipped about the exchange, to say the least.”
“Where is Dr. Hewlett now?” Even though Rees wasn’t exclusively her patient, she felt a tinge of professional jealousy.
“She should be here soon,” Miles responded with a glance at his Rolex.
The flash of the watch wasn’t lost on Melanie. Where did Miles get the money to buy a Rolex? There was no way he could afford something so expensive on his salary. It was obviously a fake. Caffy quickly cleared her thoughts. She was normally quite resolute at controlling and organizing her thoughts, but her mind was a jumble of emotions and questions, a myriad of noises.
She blinked—the walls seemed to shimmer and become transparent for an instant. A town loomed beyond the vanished wall. She immediately recognized it as Dunwich, not as it was now, but as it would have been in the past. It looked just like the depictions Rees drew during their sessions. Desolate, cold, and foreboding. Just at the moment she was sure something monstrous would burst out of one of the buildings, she closed her eyes.
She flinched as the door swung open without warning. Opening her eyes, she could see the office looked normal again.
“Good morning, Warden,” Dr. Hewlett said to Miles as they swept into the small office. Her cold, heavy-lidded eyes took Melanie in. “And you must be Dr. Caffy.”
Melanie felt like a rabbit just spotted by a viper.
The memory place.
James leisurely walked the street past countless doors on either side. His shoes echoed off the cobblestones. Some doors were locked, perhaps permanently. Others were unlocked. All contained memories, both real and fabricated. This fictional representation of Dunwich was his fortress of deprivation, joy, and anguish, created to house all of his thoughts. Dr. Caffy had briefly been able to enter this space. It was she who christened Rees’ creation “the memory place.”
He halted outside a building on his left and slowly turned to face the gleaming, stolid, expansive door that guarded the room beyond. The door appeared to be breathing, slowly constricting, then expanding. Its shade was the color of skin, because it was constructed of human flesh.
He looked down the street to his right. From where he stood, it continued for miles into the distance until he couldn’t make out the end. Squat, square buildings sat on both sides of the street, looking like they reached high into the sky, an optical illusion that could never be recreated in the real world. Whippoorwills perched in the eaves of many of the structures, silently watching him pass. In the distance, dogs barked madly at unseen threats. James took a moment to gaze about his creation and marvel at how well he’d managed to capture the essence of the real Dunwich in this place. He peered up at the hills that crouched behind the buildings. Those hills hid darkly to swallow the wound colored sky. Dotted here and there, rings of rough-hewn stone pillars stood out among the trees, a part of the landscape, but also not. He’d explored these stone circles, with their table-like stone centerpieces, and it was from these he’d learned of the Old Ones’ cosmic plans. It was there that he’d smelt their presence and heard their ancient whisperings.
He reached out and grasped the knob of bone, the door handle to this particular hideaway of memory. He wrenched it open and a course of pleasure coursed through his being as the door screamed in agony. This door had been locked for ages, but now, James knew, he must enter and peruse the room’s contents.
Yog-Sothoth was here.
She hadn’t taken a breath since Dr. Hewlett entered the room. Melanie involuntarily expelled the pent up breath in a loud gush. She felt like she had been struck in the stomach. Dizziness and nausea engulfed her.
“Is there a problem?” Dr. Hewlett asked her voice saturated with false concern. “Are you all right, Dr. Caffy? You look as if you’ve just consumed something displeasing.”
“I’m sorry,” Melanie managed as she rushed out the door, nearly knocking Hewlett to the floor.
Miles wore the look of a deer caught in onrushing headlights at the exchange. He managed to find one of the chairs surrounding the pitted table and collapsed into it.
“What was that all about?” he muttered.
Rees stepped into a vaulted room, clothed in shades of pus-tinged light. The room was cavernous, much larger than the building housing it. Dimensional space didn’t seem to be relative here. The ceiling receded into nothingness, the walls barely perceptible in the undulating ambiance. The shining metal centerpiece of the room was awash in ruddy brown light that seemed to issue from everywhere and nowhere at once. It was a birthing table, an altar in glistening steel. Around the table, massive stone columns twelve feet high were situated in a rough circle. Ancient writing circled up the stones like coiling snakes. Words bled into other words as the stones pulsed.
Lying restrained upon the table was a memory aura of Yog-Sothoth that Rees had been able to capture. It lolled its tentacled head in his direction,a cluster of writhing appendages with a grinning, razor-sharp maw in the center. It looked like a malevolent lotus of obscene intent. James shuddered slightly even though he knew the thing could not harm him because it was only a figment of his creation. There were parts of its anatomy that appeared undefined, and this was true, as he’d only glimpsed a fraction of the creature’s true form. James had flung his gaze away because he had sensed to see Yog-Sothoth’s full manifestation would rain madness down upon him.
He had met the real thing nine years before in Dunwich and it was more horrifying than what he could ever hope to capture. Still, what he had managed to capture in his memory place was more than enough to chill his blood.
“So, you return,” it rasped, its voice a cross between a baby’s gurgle and a demon’s laugh. “My children have missed your company.” It lifted a wizened stump of a pseudopod, indicating the glass jars on a shelf.
“You’re here, aren’t you?” Rees said, ignoring the vast jars of ill-formed barely recognizable fetuses. There was something wrong with them in the most fundamental way, as if they’d been formed in some cosmic geometric design, not of this world. They bore some resemblance to spiders, centipedes and octopuses in their construction, but past that, there was not anything recognizable as originating from this solar system.
“Of course, I am,” Yog-Sothoth taunted.
“You know what I meant,” James spat, some of his courage returning. “You’re in Dr. Hewlett. I almost had you, if it hadn’t been for those psych techs. I almost had you,” Rees repeated softly.
“Shhh,” the thing admonished. “That will be our little secret.”
Rees glanced down at his clenched fist. Suddenly, a scalpel jutted from his hand as if by magic. He took a steadying breath, then vaulted the twenty feet across the room and plunged the scalpel savagely into the thing’s black, lubricious chest.
The giant’s screams filled Rees’ head. He didn’t need the memory construct any longer. He knew where to find the real thing.
“I’ll see you soon,” Rees whispered, already returning to his body.
The psych techs exchanged glances. This one was a real fruitcake.
Melanie stared at the running water swirling in the bathroom sink without really seeing it.
She was still reeling in shock. It was her. She’d never known the name of the woman who’d wrenched Andrew from her life. She’d only seen a picture, inadvertently found in Andrew’s jacket pocket.
He’d never offered a name. Hadn‘t even possessed enough respect to give her that much. Just came home one day after a business trip to Vegas, and said he was leaving.
It all made sense now. The repeated trips to so-called architectural meetings for a non-existent casino project. Andrew had been seeing that, that woman, who was now standing not fifty feet away at this very moment. She took a breath, scooped a handful of the cool water and savagely splashed it across her burning face. She started as the bathroom morphed. She closed her eyes and counted to ten, but when she reopened them, the town still surrounded her. The sink, counter, and a fraction of the bathroom’s tile floor, the section she was standing on was still here, but past that, the street continued into the distance. Melanie would never admit to Rees that his descriptions of Dunwich had haunted her ever since he’d told her about the town. In fact, he’d so unsettled her, she’d gone to seek out this place and see if it were as ancient as Rees claimed it to be.
The town had been unusually difficult to find she soon discovered and just as she was about to abandon the search, she’d taken a rather dubious looking fork in the road, rather by accident, than intent, due to the dense fog which had abruptly sprung from nowhere, and as the road rose beneath the car’s tires, Dunwich flirted into view, materializing from the heavy fog. She was vaguely aware of structures situated on either side of the suddenly narrow road as she drove. The buildings appeared abandoned and desolate, hopelessly in disrepair, but what struck her the deepest, wasn’t their disrepair, but the obviously ancient stone foundations upon which many of the buildings rested.
There was a definite feeling to the town, a sense of trespass. Melanie intuited if someone tried to plant something here, it wouldn’t grow. This sudden idea was weird and disheartening on many levels. She began looking for a place to turn the car around, but the fields on either side looked dubious and mucky. She didn’t want to chance getting stuck, definitely not here. She continued on and eventually came to what appeared to be the town’s center. She abruptly slammed the breaks, as a figure seemed to detach it’s self from the side of a building and rush across the road in front of her. The figure possessed the characteristics of a bipedal, humanoid form, but there was something fundamentally strange about the way it loped across the road. Even though she’d long before locked her doors, she checked to make sure all the same.
Melanie let out a startled scream as the radio blared to life. She quickly fumbled with the knob, until the volume was at a bearable level. She didn’t recognize the sounds at first, but they definitely weren’t normal radio chatter or generic pop tunes. “They’re birds,” she’d whispered. Through the shrill bird song, a voice seemed to waver in and out. Melanie found herself leaning forward, straining to make out what the voice was saying. Enough to…make a…devil…Yog-Sothoth … is … near … the gate is … make … devil. After a few minutes, when the voice had grown silent, the radio finally did as well. Melanie found a place that looked safe to turn around and left without a glance back. She’d never spoken of the strange experience with anyone.
She was a rational person; this was merely stress from being back within the confines of Mowman and then coming face to face with Hewlett. That was all. Steeling her resolve, she turned and walked out the door.
What she didn’t know was that the town still remained behind the door. Reality was folding, becoming thin. The town was growing by the moment, slowly taking over the facility like a cancer.
As Melanie walked back into the office, both Miles and Hewlett glanced up. Miles attempted to offer a consoling smile, but it came off more of a grimace. Dr. Hewlett merely stared. Her face offered no clue was to what she might be thinking.
“I’m sorry for that outburst,” Caffy said before any of them could say anything. “I haven’t been feeling well lately and it all just seemed to come on me at once.”
“Mr. Rees is on his way,” Hewlett informed Melanie. “As for you outburst, I’m glad it happened now and not when Mr. Rees would’ve been present.”
Melanie’s face burned at Hewlett’s snide insinuation and she saw a smug look briefly flutter across the woman’s features. She was burning with anger, not embarrassment, but she held her peace and smiled back at Dr. Hewlett.
“Yes, that would’ve been quite unfortunate,” Caffy said in an even tone. “Allow me to make a proper introduction. My name is Dr. Melanie Caffy and you must be the Dr. Hewlett, Miles was telling me all about.”
Hewlett glanced at Melanie’s pro-offered hand, hesitated a brief second, fixed Miles with a seething look, then took Melanie’s hand. The brief touch was revolting and Melanie had the distinct feeling the woman was prying into her head. She quickly broke the contact. She felt violated and filthy. What had come over her?
Hewlett had yet to give any indication she knew whom Melanie was. Could she be that cold, Melanie’s mind intoned? Or did she really not make the connection? Before she could continue this line of thought, Miles uncomfortably cleared his throat. “I, uh, think that you and I should take our leave to the observation room, Dr. Hewlett, and leave Dr. Caffy to her parole eligibility evaluation.”
“Very well, Warden Miles,” Hewlett sniffed and then trailed Miles out of the room.
As soon as they left, Melanie’s shoulders sagged and she heaved a sigh. There would be time to deal with Hewlett later. She had a job to do. She resolutely walked over to the pockmarked table and took a seat.
James was fully back in the present now. He made no indication he heard the catcalls cascading down on him as the techs led him through the halls. Their journey to the interview office was almost to an end, and five check points later, they came to a stop outside the door.
“Here we are at your suite,” one of the techs joked, but no one laughed, so he opened the door and nudged Rees into the room.
“Mr. Rees,” Melanie greeted as she rose from her seat.
“James, please. Dr. Caffy, we spoke about this before,” James replied warmly. “Call me James. How have you been, Doc?”
“Good, James, I guess you know why I’m here?”
“Sure, you wanna know if I’m still crazy,” Rees laughed.
“Well, are you?” Melanie asked.
“Of course not,” James grinned. “Never was. Is this really necessary?” he asked, holding up his manacled wrists.
“I don’t know, you tell me?” Melanie returned. “I heard a little about your incident with Dr. Hewlett.”
Rees visibly stiffened at the mention of Hewlett’s name, but quickly recovered. “That was, uh, unfortunate, but she invaded my personal space and I gently corrected her.”
“You attacked her,” Caffy stated pointedly. “What did she say? You forget, I know you, James, you must’ve had a good reason to attack her,” Melanie turned to gaze obstinately into the one-way mirror as she articulated her last statement.
“All in good time, Melanie, this doesn’t all have to be so formal just quite yet. How’s the family? Any new additions? I see you’re just as stunning as ever.”
“You guys can leave now,” Melanie addressed the techs, ignoring James’ banter, standing like trained gorillas by the door. “Go have a cigarette or something.”
Both grunted and quickly left the room. Rees smiled and produced a crumpled pack of Marlboros. He offered one to Melanie. When she refused, he shrugged and shook one from the pack.
“So, how have you been doing?” Melanie asked as she placed the panic button on the table between them. “It’s been a couple of months since we last spoke.”
“The usual,” James sighed, expelling a stream of blue smoke. “Not much transpires in this place.”
“Any more visions?”
Rees inhaled once more on his cigarette and considered the question. “The meds only do so much, if that’s what you mean.”
“Let’s talk about why you’re here,” Melanie prodded as she turned on the recording microphone and positioned it before Rees.
“Ah, yes, the cleansings.”
“You mean the murders you committed.”
“Yes, another term for what I was doing, I suppose. A most dreadful repercussion.”
Melanie nodded and jotted down something on the pad before her. Patient still presents illusions of blamelessness for crimes perpetrated. “I know that you’ve told everyone, including myself, why you committed the murders, but I would like to hear it again, in your own words, if you would accommodate me.”
James smiled and tapped ash into the tray before him. “Now, Melanie, I don’t believe in any of that stuff anymore, I was misled, what can I say?”
Melanie jotted something else down on the pad before her. Rees made as if to peek and then chuckled. “I’ve had a lot of time to think in this place, Doctor.” “Certainly.” Melanie responded, checked her notes, then ventured on, “You claimed you were attempting to rid the earth of a certain entity you came to call Yog-Sothoth. You were a prominent abortion specialist for fourteen years, prior to that you specialized in obstetrics…”
Melanie paused and glanced up at Rees, then at the two-way mirror. She realized she’d done this and self-consciously forced herself to refocus on Rees. He motioned lazily with a hand, “Go on, dear,” he said. Her uneasiness wasn’t lost on Rees.
“You had no qualms about performing the services for the women. None of the moral issues ever crossed your mind?”
“Women have always possessed the right to choose how to manage their bodies; Roe v. Wade just legalized it. Would it be possible if I could trouble you for a Root Beer, Dr. Caffy?”
“Certainly,” Melanie replied and glanced towards the observation mirror. “Mr. Rees would like a Root Beer and I would like a water, if you would be so kind.”
“Now, where were we,” James continued. “Ah, yes, my illustrious career. By the time I became aware of the supposed creature I had performed over two thousand procedures. Now to most people, I was already a murderer. C’EST rien que de la merde…”
“Excuse me?” Melanie interjected, her pen poised.
“It’s just a bunch of crap, if you will,” James explained.
“You could look at what you did as murder, depending on the ideology of the person evaluating your previous line of work.”
“Exactly. Everything we do as human beings is right in our own eyes. It is society that taints our freedoms and labels our morals.”
“So, what you did was right?” Melanie said slowly. “It was just society that condemned you?”
“My dear Caffy, I was misguided. But, hypothetically, if you’ll indulge me, you still fail to see my ideology. What I did? It was dreadful, yes. The women were merely vessels, doomed to usher in his reign. They were fated to die, much like spawning salmon. I merely hastened the process. Fate chose me to discover…well, you know whom. I acted ascetically in conscience.”
“You use Fate instead of God as the reason you killed those women,” Melanie stated.
“Is there a difference?”
“Don’t play dense with me, Melanie,” James replied with a smile. “Is there a difference between Fate and God? To most people they are one and the same.”
“Are they the same to you?”
“I think they are two sides of one coin. Not necessarily the same, but part of the same substance. Then again, maybe even I don’t believe in all the nonsense coming out of my mouth,” Rees finished with a snide grin and wink.
“Then or now?”
“I’ll let you decide, Doc.”
“Yog-Sothoth, as you call it. Explain the process to me once more, if you would, hypothetically, of course,” Caffy prodded, pen poised.
“Evil never vanishes. It never dies either. It’s a constant in this realm. The original Evil, Lucifer, if you will, or whatever you parents instilled in your belief structure, is just a label.”
“You use the term, evil,” Melanie pointed out. “Which implies you’re the opposite, correct?”
“I’m neutral, actually,” James smiled. “Actually, when you strip away all the labels; Evil is merely energy. Humans have always been compelled to name the unknown. Lucifer, Satan, Pan. The list is endless. Evil goes by many names. All of them could be correct. All of them could be wrong. That’s not for me to decide,” James sighed as he snuffed the cigarette.
“But it was up to you,” Melanie ventured, choosing her words carefully. “To kill those pregnant women who came to you for help. Patients that trusted their doctor not to harm them.”
“It wasn’t up to me!” James exploded. “I tried to ignore the knowledge that was revealed to me. I honestly did. For months, I struggled. For years, yes, years, Dr. Caffy, I put my fucking head in the proverbial sand. It wasn’t my problem. Surely, someone else would discover what I’d discovered. They would have the intestinal fortitude to do what must be done.”
“There’s always a choice,” Caffy pointed out carefully.
“Is there? Really?” James grunted. “Merely an illusion. We are but pawns, my dear.”
Melanie held her pen up in front of her. “I can choose to lay this pen down. Or I can choose not to.”
“Yes, but the choice has already been predetermined. So there is no choice,” Rees smiled.
“Predetermined,” Caffy returned the smile. “You’ve spoken about that quite a few times. All choices have already been made. They’ve been laid out through the musings of Fate.”
“So, you have been listening. Correct. When all has already been predetermined, then choice ceases to exist. An illusion,” Rees replied.
“You mentioned this concept when you were apprehended and during our other interviews,” Melanie observed as she leafed through her notes. “Preordination.”
“Like I said, I was chosen for this burden. I resisted it for as long as I could. I’ll never know how much Evil seeped through due to my inaction. Only time will tell.”
“The women…you killed,” Caffy prodded. “There was never a definite pattern. That’s why it took so long for you be caught. I’ve asked before and the police as well, but you’ve never elaborated. Would you like to now?”
“Melanie,” James whispered. “There’s no hope that you’ll let me out, is there?”
“There’s always hope, James. If you can prove to me you’ve successfully rehabilitated…then…we go from there,” she responded gravely, then, “If you were released…would you pick up where you left off?”
“I may have believed what I told you in the past…but now? I’ve been in here for six years and the world is still spinning. Things would not be as pleasant as they are now. So, perhaps I was misguided. I’ve had many a night to contemplate my actions. Trust me, I’ve turned my doings over and over in my mind. Trying to see if I was justified. Trying to determine if I was wrong. All I can tell you, Dr. Caffy, is this…the world is still spinning,” James finished softly.
Melanie nodded and jotted down a few lines on the paper before her. “You told me the first time we met you were trying to prevent the Old Ones from being born. That’s why you killed the pregnant women. They were being used to usher in Their birth.”
James chuckled as he lit another cigarette. He leaned back in the chair and gazed at the ceiling as if trying to decipher shapes in the curling smoke. Melanie was about to intrude on his thoughts, when he returned his gaze to the room and her.
“The stains of yesterday will always haunt me, Doctor.” He offered a strained smile. “Once Evil gets your scent, it always keeps tabs on you. Like a cat scents a rat? He may not kill the rat right off, but he never loses track of where the rat is. When he wants to kill the rat, he knows where to find it.”
“Elaborate on that,” Melanie urged.
“The Old Ones know that I know,” Rees explained. “Once upon a time, I believed They would kill me eventually for trying. But alas, I’m still here. Let’s just say I sleep very well at night.”
“Why those particular women? They had nothing in common. Why them?”
“Evil is omnipresent. A preacher I knew once explained it this way: God is omnipresent, so the Devil copycatted that. Like two sides of the same coin, Lucifer has many of the same qualities as God does. Is it because they are one and the same? Nobody can answer that question in this life, at least no one I know of.
“One thing Evil is, though, it’s methodical. You might ask…I know the Behavioral guys from Quantico were really interested…is why I just didn’t kill the one woman that carried the damned entity. I killed forty-seven. Was it because I didn’t know which one was the right one? No. Methodical, Evil is part of Fate. It’s a part of everything. It’s energy that has to go somewhere. In reality, it is neither good nor evil, to put it simply. The effects? Well, harmful or helpful to mankind, that could be quantified in moral terms, I imagine. It’s essential to all that is life. Good could not exist without Evil. Negative without the Positive? Balance, Doctor. Without it, this world would not exist.
“Evil, or whomever controls it, The Old Ones, something else, who knows? The point is, if something does not control it…Evil itself…realizes that its mechanisms will and are thwarted every single day. So, it doesn’t put all of its eggs in one basket, to steal a saying. Maybe there were forty-seven manifestations? It’s a given in nature. Why are there millions of sperm, when only one is needed to fertilize the egg? Not all of them make it—,”
“So, you’re saying that all forty-seven of your victims deserved to die?” Melanie interjected.
“If I had missed even one of them,” Rees said. “They’d be walking the earth now. That is,” he smiled and raised his hands. “If I still believed what I believed then. Hypothetically, of course.”
“Of course,” Caffy agreed and returned the smile. “Now, explain this to me: Yog-Sothoth? Is he…it…the devil?”
Rees grimaced as Melanie spoke the monster’s name, but held his peace. “I’m not even sure it has a sex,” he said after a few moments. “I’m not even sure its actions can be put into terms of good and evil. It wants to destroy mankind, so, that’s pretty evil, right? I’ve had a lot of time to read in this place. Mind you, I researched the hell out of this thing’s existence, searching for every shred of mention in books, ex cetra.”
“And what did you discover?” Melanie prodded.
“It is extra-dimensional. It exists outside our time and space. It, he, she, whatever it is, sees all, knows all.”
“Almost sounds like you’re describing the Christian idea of God,” Melanie interrupted.
Rees sighed and snubbed out his cigarette. “God did destroy the Earth at one point, didn’t he?” he offered with a sly smile. “I saw it once, in Dunwich,” he said suddenly.
“Melanie, please…easy with the name checking,” James laughed nervously. “There’s a hole in reality there. That’s why the town was built there. It is the only place where reality is thin enough for it to pass through to our dimension, but for some reason it can’t on its own. What do you know about the Illuminati?”
“They’re some ancient cult that supposedly some of our founding fathers were a part of.” Caffy rattled off.
“If it ever passes through to our reality, it can only be contained in a pentagon,” Rees explained. “The Illuminati managed to eventually imprison it in the Pentagon at one time, and it fed off traffic fatality deaths for a time.”
“You can’t be serious,” Melanie laughed.
“Just what I’ve read.” Rees shrugged and waved away Caffy’s laughter.
As James spoke with Melanie, he kept a part of his mind open for the stirring he sensed on the other side of the glass. Yog-Sothoth’s essence throbbed like a cancer, calling out to him. Taunting him. He’d made it a point not to glance in that direction through the entire interview, but he never forgot what was gestating just a few feet from him. Fate was giving him another chance, even from within these walls. The thing chattered and moaned the evil it was destined to inflict on mankind, safe and secure within the woman…for the time being.
“My, that was quite a speech,” Rees laughed and took the can of soda from the tech that’d just entered. “You get the highlights written down?” he taunted playfully.
Melanie smiled stiffly and tented her fingers. “You know, if I find you competent, you’ll be put on trial for your crimes,” she countered.
“Yes, there is that,” he replied gamely. “Something’s bothering you, you’re here, but not really.”
“Oh? You always were observant,” Melanie said uncomfortably. “James, I’ll be honest with you. I’m repulsed by what you’ve done, but on the other hand, you are an extremely intelligent man…it’s a shame you chose a different path.”
“What is it?”
“What?” Melanie dodged and involuntarily glanced at the mirror.
James sat back and followed her gaze. “Dr. Hewlett,” he said simply. “Me, too.”
“She gives me the creeps too,” James explained, barely above a whisper.
“What did she say to you?” Melanie tried once more.
Rees sat back in his chair and began playing with the manacles encircling his wrists.
Melanie stood and walked over to the mirror. She studied her reflection as she contemplated her next move. She could feel Hewlett’s eyes on her and she fought to maintain her blank expression. “James? What did she say to you?”
The manacle chains clanked against the tabletop as he rearranged himself, but Melanie didn’t turn around. She knew he’d stood.
“When she touched you, you felt it, didn’t you?” he asked.
Melanie did turn at this. “I shook her hand and I felt like she was digging around inside my head,” she admitted hesitantly.
James reached forward and turned the recording microphone off in one swift motion. “We haven’t much time,” James said, his voice urgent. “She’s carrying enough to make a devil.”
“James …” Melanie stopped short as she realized what Rees had just said. “I’ve heard that phrase before,” she whispered.
“Shut up and listen to me. You know I’m right, or at the very least, you realize there’s something wrong with that woman!”
“James, turn back on the microphone,” Melanie deflected the question.
“Ah,” Rees said as understanding lit up his face. “I should’ve known. Why, this is just priceless.” He turned to the mirror and smiled approvingly. “You work in mysterious ways, don’t you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“My dear Melanie,” James said in a fatherly voice. His tone made Melanie extremely uncomfortable. “I’ve been keeping up with what’s been going on in your life. I sensed a long time ago you and I were destined, I just didn’t know the how or the when.”
“Sit down, James,” Melanie ordered.
“You see it don’t you?” James said as the room around them fluttered in and out. “The town is calling to me.”
Melanie had indeed noticed the room waver, but she wasn’t about to admit it. “What’s so special about Dunwich?” she said instead.
“It is the crux,” Rees replied. “It’s why I brought all the women back there. They became what they really were there. Up on the hill, at the altar of ancient stones, it was the only place they showed their true form and were vulnerable to me.”
The door opened and Dr. Hewlett rushed in. “What’s the meaning of this? Mr. Rees, sit down,” she spat coldly. “Dr. Caffy, step outside with me? This nonsense has gone on long enough!”
Hewlett didn’t wait for an answer and slammed the door behind her. Melanie glanced at the observation mirror and came to a decision. She hurried over before reason could interrupt her. She pushed a button on the wall beside the window’s frame and the mirror abruptly grew opaque, and then she rushed over to the table and grabbed her chair and placed it beneath the door’s knob, just as the techs began banging to force the door.
“Whatever you have to say? You’ve got about thirty seconds,” Melanie said as she eyed the door warily.
Melanie couldn’t believe what she’d just done. Quite possibly her license would be called into question by the review board, not to mention, her time at Mowman Facility had just come to a end. Yet, she felt compelled to hear Rees out, because she had felt something when Hewlett touched her and she’d seen the room and the bathroom change. Crazy as it sounded, she couldn’t seem to control the reasonable side of herself and it was scaring the crap out of her.
Abruptly, the banging on the other side of the door ceased. A silence seemed to settle around them. James glanced around and nodded. “It’s here,” he stated.
“What are you talking about?” Melanie asked, the beginnings of barely restrained panic in her voice.
“Open the door,” James said.
Melanie eyed him warily, but made no move to remove the chair. “What’s going on?” she asked, though she really didn’t want to know the answer.
Something hit the door on the opposite side with a splatter. Melanie screamed and leapt back as blood began seeping under the door.
“Do you mind?” James asked, holding up his manacled wrists. “All bets are off now.”
“I don’t have the keys,” Melanie answered as another crash sounded against the door shuddering it in its frame. “They’re out there.”
James nodded and shuffled over to where Melanie was standing. “The way the room’s been changing, I suspect Yog-Sothoth is manifesting Dunwich just outside that door. I can’t go to him, so he’s coming to me.”
“You’re crazy, you know that?” Melanie quipped. She removed the chair and flung the door open…and screamed.
The drab hallway of the facility was no longer there. In its place, a blood-covered street now resided. What was left of the techs was smeared across the building on the far side. A dense fog rolled and Melanie could just make out hideous shapes flirting this way and that. No, she realized quickly. There were impressions of shapes, as if they were invisible, merely displacing the fog with their movements.
She slammed the door against the horrifying sight. She found James had placed a link of his chain beneath the table’s steel leg. He lifted the heavy table and brought it down hard on the link. After the fifth attempt, the chain gave way. He fed the chain through the cuffs and let the remnants clatter to the floor. His hands were still cuffed, but his movements were no longer hobbled by the choke chain. He grabbed the chair and smashed it against the wall and handed a jagged leg to Melanie and took another for himself.
“Remember what I told you about Yog-Sothoth’s ability to manipulate reality? Well, you’re about to experience it firsthand. Ready?”
“We can’t just sit here and wait for our deaths. Eventually this room will change as well. Better to go out fighting, what do you say?”
Rees didn’t wait for a response and he opened the door. Melanie followed, but quickly discovered the dense fog had already swallowed Rees. Faint lights glowed at intervals and Melanie realized they were streetlights. She reached out a hand and cringed as she felt the damp, moss-like feel of the building. The light spilled from the room she’d just left and she was loath to leave its implied security.
“James!” she hissed. The fog reacted to her voice and seemed to rush at her. She screamed as something slid up her bare arm. The sensation was slimy and slithery and her nostrils were assaulted with unsettling seawater, smell. Abruptly, something else grasped her, but this was more solid. She collapsed against James with relief. “Easy now,” he said. “This is going to be tricky. They can’t fully exist on our level of reality, that’s why we can’t see them. Be thankful for that, you don’t want to see what his avatars look like,” he added.
“What the hell was that?” Melanie asked as she furiously rubbed the place where the monster had caressed her. A burning sensation was quickly building there. She could just make out what appeared to be round indentations on her forearm. “Wait! What happened to Hewlett and Miles?”
“Miles is most likely dead,” James replied. “Hewlett is headed for the circle.”
The fog was low lying, reaching to the midpoint of the buildings. Standing against the night sky, Melanie could clearly make out the stones on the hill directly in front of them. They cast a purple glow. A roar sounded from that general direction. The sound was so unearthly, unlike anything Melanie had ever heard.
“He’s close. We must hurry,” James urged. He grabbed her hand and started off a brisk pace down the street. His steps were sure and he didn’t deviate. Melanie found it difficult to keep up as he dragged her along. She consistently stumbled on unseen potholes. They came to the end of the gauntlet of buildings. In the fog behind them, Melanie could hear the invisible monsters slithering across the cobblestones, keeping pace with them.
“Watch out!” Rees shouted. He shoved Melanie to the ground just as something whizzed by and crashed into a building. Melanie coughed and blinked as centuries old plaster rained down all around them. She peered through the swirling fog and dust and glimpsed a figure silhouetted against the glowing stones on the hill. The sudden closeness surprised her. She glanced behind her and gasped in surprise. The town was far below. How could she not recall climbing the treacherous hill?
“What just happened?” she wheezed.
“I’ve brought her,” James addressed the figure, ignoring Melanie’s question.
“So you have,” Hewlett answered.
Melanie struggled against his iron grip on her arm. “What’s going on? Tell me what’s going on, right now! Let go of me!”
James pushed her forward and then brought his handcuffed hands down around her neck. Melanie gagged as the linking chain tightened around her throat.
“Shhh,” James soothed. “Take it easy now, my dear Dr. Caffy.”
Hewlett smiled and motioned for them to enter the circle, but when James refused, her smile disappeared. In its place, a fury brewed. “We had a deal,” she reminded him.
“What’s she talking about?” Melanie cried.
“She’s the last one,” James said as he struggled with his captive. “You need her, but can’t touch her unless I freely give her to you.”
“Give her to me!”
The voice came not from Hewlett but from somewhere around the altar. Hewlett cringed as the force of the voice buffeted her.
The realization struck Melanie like a tidal wave. “You were working for it, not against it!”
“My dear Dr. Caffy, you’re the last,” James said, a real sadness evident in his voice. “You’re enough to make a devil.”
This story originally appeared in slightly different form in the German Lovecraftian anthology Dunwich: Ein Reiseführer, under the title of “Genug für den Teufel”, Basilisk Verlag.