I wrote the following story in a single 13 hour sprint at the end of NaNoWriMo. At 22,000 words, it is almost half of my novel. It takes place in the world of SIxpence Games's upcoming Cultists of Cthulhu: Miskatonic University. It is presented here unedited, save for spelling and grammar.
Jimmy Sullivan, real name Johan Shlomo Rosenberg, woke up, yawned, stretched his arms, and lay back down in bed. “Five more minutes…” he mumbled to no one. After another two hours, he awoke again. He yawned again, wishing he was sleepy enough that he could return to the comfort of his bed, but knowing he could not regain his pleasantly dream filled slumber. Grumbling, he cracked his back and got up. He went over to the window of his dormitory and pulled the curtains aside. Staring out into the quad, he sipped from the glass of water he had gotten himself the previous night. He was used to being able to see a grand view across the quad of the Hall of Nature and the Sciences, the combination women’s dormitory and administrative building, and the Historical Studies building - the oldest and largest of the buildings on campus, which housed his major, Anthropology, as well as a variety (which he termed a mishmash) of other studies-Archaeology, Sociology, Economics, general History, and yet more. Today, however, Miskatonic University was completely overcome by a thick New England fog, which obscured his view to the point he had to look down from his second floor window to the ground to check that there wasn’t just a sheet of grey paper in front of it.
Jimmy dressed casually but warmly. It was Winter Break-Christmas Break, officially, but Jimmy was Jewish, not that he let anyone know that here, and so it was Winter Break in his mind, Chanukah having ended a while ago. Jimmy was one of the few unfortunate souls remaining at the school, his classmates having been lucky enough to live nearby or have parents wealthy enough to be able to afford train tickets home for the holidays. Holiday, singular, he thought bitterly, then remembered New Year’s. Did that count as a holiday? It was pretty far from a High Holy Day, though given the consumerism levels he saw on disgusting display every Christmas, it was astonishing to him that Christians considered Christmas a Holy Day these days. Whatever, he shouldn’t let it get to him so much. He pulled on a warm coat and stepped down the stairs, taking them slowly, as his cane forced him to.
At the base of the stairs he went over to knock on his best friend’s door, the only one of his friends who had remained over the break. He knocked and stood there for a moment, shifting his weight from his good foot to his cane and back. He was hungry, and that always made him energetic, for whatever reason. After a moment of waiting, he reached up to knock again, and just as his hand reached the door a thunderingly deep note resounded from behind him. He jumped, whirled around, collapsed against the wall, and put his hand to his chest in mock heart attack. Adam had been sitting there at the piano the whole time, unnoticed, waiting for his opportunity, and now that he had taken it, he cracked up and not-ineptly played a quick arpeggio and stood up, bounding forward to give Jimmy a hug.
Adam Smith (yes, descended from the economist, no, don’t ask him about it) had been Jimmy’s friend since Jimmy had moved to the US. Born in Germany, Jimmy’s parents had realized that someone was trying to turn up the heat under the usually-simmering anti-Semitism once the Great War had ended, and took the opportunity to move to a new location, one they hoped would be more approving of their “alternate lifestyle.” They moved into a mostly Jewish neighborhood of Brooklyn, and disapproved when their little boy had become best friends with, not just a goy, but this towering, meat headed picture of Aryan perfection! Their opinions had changed slightly when they learned Adam’s name - they were the kind of people who are always on the lookout for signs from G_d - and their opinion had been cemented when Adam had saved Jimmy, as he had by then taken to being called, from a pack of drunken louts looking for a member of some unpopular group to take out their frustration at Prohibition and the Depression. From that point on, Adam had been like unto a member of the family, and had joined them for more Shabbas dinners than he had missed. The favor had been repaid in full and the friendship cemented fully when Jimmy had pushed Adam out of the way of an oncoming automobile, sacrificing part of the functionality of his own leg in the process. Adam was at Miskatonic primarily to hold up their burgeoning American Football team, and he was acutely aware of how his life would have been much different, and much worse, if the auto had struck him instead of Jim.
Adam laughed, and walked over to Jimmy, embracing him in a great bear hug and twirling him around. He was easily able to lift Jimmy using his arms and support him on just that. He cracked Jimmy’s back better than Jimmy’s stretches earlier had, and though he wouldn’t say it, Jimmy was appreciative. “Jimmy jim, jimmy jim jim jim jim, how are you, slow-mo?” he asked, using the nick-name which hinted only slightly at Jim’s Hebrew heritage, but was plausibly explained by Jim’s crippled pace, particularly relative to Adam’s high speed, athletic one.
“I’m doing very well, Adam, though feeling a mite peckish this fine morning. How about yourself?”
“I’m alright. Molly is-well, here she is! Tell him, doll.” The door to the men’s room-there were only men’s rooms in this building-swung open, and out stepped Molly, Adam’s girlfriend. Molly was one of the first female students admitted to Miskatonic University, and lived in the (much smaller) women’s dormitory which took up one hall of the Administrative Building. Normally, fraternization of this sort was frowned upon by the staff, and the fact that she had stayed the night, much less used the men’s room, would have resulted in too-severe punishment. But the fact that it was Christmas Break meant that the rules were less likely to be enforced.
“Tell him what, meat-head?” she asked, bopping him lightly on the skull and then standing on her toes to kiss him. She did love the big lunk, and she enjoyed expressing it when in relative private, but she was careful not to display it when in public. Though not one of the very first generation of females to attend the University, Miskatonic had been slower than most to allow women to enter, and she wanted to make damn sure nobody thought she was here for her MRS degree. Though she did intend to get Adam to marry her, she also intended to be the next Marie Curie (whose responses to her childhood letters she kept framed in her room). And given that Adam was no Pierre Curie, she felt that meant she had to prove her seriousness doubly well.
“Oh, you were saying you wanted to go get food, right?” Adam explained.
“Hah! Sure, but you could have said that, I don’t have a monopoly on ability to be hungry,” she replied, bopping him on the arm and gathering her coat from next to the piano. Jimmy watched her with a brotherly approval. Jim had been thoroughly indoctrinated with his mother’s insistence that he marry a nice Jewish girl, and though Brooklyn didn’t have a shadchan the way the Old Country had (and he would have rebelled against an arranged marriage anyway, he was at least that modern), and he wasn’t about to disappoint. The freckled, red headed young woman retrieving her coat wasn’t anywhere on his romantic radar, and he thought she and Adam made a good match.
Molly stooped over the piano and deftly ran her fingers over the keys, playing the same arpeggio as Adam had earlier, though significantly more skillfully. The same fingers that decanted from impressive heights in her Chemistry classes had been trained from a very young age to tickle the ivory, and she enjoyed being better at it than Adam.
“Was that what you were trying to do, dear?” she asked as she bounded past him towards the door, affecting an overly bubbly personality. Her green eyes flashed mischievously at Adam as he watched her go past, her skirt swishing from side to side with her swaying step.
“I hate to see her leave…” Adam began,
“But I love to watch her go,” he and Jim finished together.
“Oh, before I forget, I know it’s a bit late, but merry Hanukkah,” Adam said, not even trying to get the Hebrew pronunciation correct (he’d given up on learning any Yiddish a long time ago), as he fished something out of his pocket.
He held up the necklace, a metal star in a circle on the end of a string. Jim started. A Magen David..? That’s really thoughtful, I guess, but doesn’t he know I’m not going to wear that here? Jim thought.
“Wow, Adam, thank you, I…” Jim began as he took the necklace. As he looked down at it, Adam walked towards the door and called over his shoulder. “I found it at this art supply and little folksy craft shop downtown, Pickman’s Models or something like that. It was pretty cool, they had some weird paintings. Some of the stuff there was really old, including this. I mean, really old, as old as some of the stuff we get to look at here. I thought it was appropriate for you, and I knew that you just had a holiday, so I thought I would get it for you. Symbol of your people and all that,” he said as he shrugged on his coat. Molly had already gone through the door and was waiting outside. Jim examined it closer. It was made out of a strange metal, not quite pewter, too strong for that, though it looked similar enough at a glance. In the center of it was a twisted shape, he wasn’t quite certain what-a sideways oval with two squiggles coming up out of it, almost like an eye of flame. The legs of the star were bent, though given that the enclosing circle was not, it seemed clear that this was an intentional design choice and not the result of being squished. Most importantly, it only had five points, not six. Not a Star of David at all, then.
“Adam, you jerk, this isn’t-” Jim exclaimed as Adam laughed and hurried outside, pulling up his collar to ward against any thrown necklaces. Jim had pulled back as though to throw it, but as he went to, something compelled him not to. He heard a faint humming sound in the distance, though it was probably just tinnitus. He looked down at the necklace again. It was pretty nice, as far as white elephant gifts went. And he hadn’t gotten Adam anything. He wasn’t going to wear it, but he did slip it into his pocket, and then joined the others outside.
“Wow…” Molly was still exclaiming as Jim rejoined her and Adam. “What?” Jim asked, as he wrapped his scarf around himself, slipped gloves on, then retrieved his cane from where it lay leaning against the door he had set it against.