Professor Ellery wandered the halls in a daze, moving on autopilot the way that a non-lucid dreamer does while asleep. He somnambulated from one room to the next, moving purposefully, never rethinking, always in motion, until he came to the room he was searching for: his own office. There, on his desk, lying in a circle of moonlight framed by the parting clouds, was the vial he was looking for. He picked it up, opened a drawer and retrieved an empty syringe in a carrying case, checked to make sure he had all of the components necessary, and strode out of the room. As he was leaving it, a thunderous explosion boomed from nearby, and the window shattered inwards. He closed the door just in time to keep the pieces of broken glass from colliding with him, and strode forward purposefully, not looking back even for a moment. He was driven. He was a man with a plan, a man in love, a man with mad, intense purpose, and nothing would keep him from his mission.
Jim hobbled out of the room he formerly thought of as Professor Rice’s office, and now thought of as “the Glass Pit.” He held tight to his crutch in one hand, and had clutched in the other the scrap of paper. He found himself in a study hall, a long, empty table with chairs on all sides, used for review sessions. He sat down and finished reading the paper while he picked glass out of his hair.
Adam woke up with Molly standing over him, her hands on her hips. He had a not unpleasant view of her from this angle, and he was glad she wasn’t quite so “forward thinking” as to wear skirts. “Come on, up you get, doofus,” she said, reaching down and grabbing his hand. He looked down at the rubble in the hallway and let her help him up. “You’ll have to pay for what you did here,” she said. He was looking down and away from her face while he was standing up, but as she said that, he looked up and into a gaping, shattered head, her face completely destroyed, her brains leaking out of the front of her face and onto their clasped hands.
Jim sat, struggling with the translation of the paper. “A most ancient… sorry, no, elder, charm or sign, to use to stopper/prevent/block the movement through a passage/gate/portal by anything… not of the old world? No, that’s old and not of this world. That’s interesting. It almost looks like the Greek translator had trouble with the Arabic here. God I wish I knew Arabic, maybe I should take that next semester,” he muttered to himself as he pulled Adam’s gift from his pocket and laid it next to the parchment. The parchment clearly had a depiction of the amulet on it. It was very precisely the same, in all possible ways, down to what looked like scratches and dings in it. There were a few extra marks on Jim’s necklace, but it was also the case that every mark on the one the parchment showed was also on his necklace. The material looked like pewter. If that was the case, he should be able to squish it pretty easily. He pinched it between his fingernails, and no dent appeared. Okay, well, that means it has a low lead content, it could still be pewter. It certainly doesn’t look like steel or silver. And if the dates on this thing are accurate, it would have been a pretty big deal o make it out of steel. He put it between his molars and bit down on it until he felt like he was about to do damage to his teeth, and then took it out and wiped it on his sleeve to dry it off. No marks at all.
Why am I doing this? he thought. Sure, this thing is probably a (remarkably skillful) reproduction, but even if it is, why am I trying to damage it to prove that? And what if it’s not? This is probably a valuable artifact, and it might be of interest to the University. In fact, I know it is, Professor Rice had this paper on his desk! I could show it to him when the break is over, I’m sure he’d be fascinated. So why was I trying to destroy it? What was I afraid of?
He shook his head and a piece of bloody glass fell out of his hair and onto the parchment. “Oh. Right,” he said out loud. “Too bad you can’t stop lightning from entering a window, eh, mr portal-plugger?” he said, addressing the necklace. He brushed the glass off the parchment, tried his best to dab the blood up with his sleeve, and stood up. He momentarily considered putting the sheet back in Professor Rice’s office/the Glass Pit, and then decided against it, rolled it up, and stuck it in his jacket pocket. He was about to do the same with his necklace when he thought better about it. He shrugged and put the necklace on. As he did so, his tinnitus faded - he had been hearing an awful, thin whining, like somebody continuously blowing a single note out of a flute, which he had attributed to his ears recovering from the thunder. He was glad to have it stop. He grabbed his cane and hobbled slowly into the corridor to search for the others, making judicious use of the wall as support. He wondered which would be better; to have his cane and his leg, complete with glass injury, or to just have the glass injury and an otherwise normal leg, and no cane? He used counter factuals like this to try to cheer himself up, and this was one of the few times it actually worked.
Adam woke up with Molly standing over him, her hands on her hips. He had a not unpleasant view of her from this angle, and he was glad she wasn’t quite so “forward thinking” as to wear skirts. “Come on, up you get, lazy bones,” she said, reaching down and grabbing his hand. He looked down at the rubble in the hallway and let her help him up. “You’ll have to pay for what you did here,” she said. He was looking down and away from her face while he was standing up, but as she said that, he looked up and into an empty, eyeless skull where her face should have been.
Tiny mouths filled from edge to edge with teeth like needles, filling the mouth completely, not just on the normal jawbone arch, gave quick, sharp bites on Molly’s legs and ankles. The creatures were darting in and out of range quicker than she could see, with sounds like someone rapidly breathing through a straw. It was like being mauled by piranhas: none of the bites individually were very bad, but there were just so many of them, and they were so fast… she stumbled backwards, trying to kick at them, and unwittingly moved under a tree. A dozen more jumped down on her quicker than she could see, quicker than it seemed gravity should be able to move them. They were darker than the shadows and it seemed like she had only been able to see them when the lightning had struck because they were the one thing not illuminated. While jumping down on her from the tree had allowed them to get more bites in on her arms and torso, it proved to be a fatal mistake. She grabbed one by its strange, icy tail - its fur felt like flexible slivers of glass - and slammed it into the tree. With a sound more like a popping than a snap, something inside it broke, and it went limp. All of a sudden, the attacks stopped. She looked at the creatures surrounding her. She waved the corpse of their comrade at them. “Yah, y’all don’t want none o’ this, do yah? Ah’ve et squirrel befoah and ah’ll do it again yeh little rat bastahds!” She waved the corpse again and moved it towards her mouth, baring her teeth. The animals bared their teeth as well, and reared back. For a moment, they stood like that, in a standstill. Then Molly followed through on her bluff and bit into the tiny animal. She immediately regretted it - its fur felt even worse on her lips than in her hand, and when she pierced the skin, a glowing blue liquid that tasted like even more bitter bile spewed forth. Something like a gasp seemed to echo from the creature’s living companions, and then they one by one rapidly closed their mouths and disappeared into the darkness with a shwooping sound. When they were all gone and she had waited long enough to be confident they weren’t stalking around her for a sneak attack, she threw the corpse down, spit out as much of the hair and strange blood as she could, and picked the rest out of her mouth. One of the needle-like hairs had actually gone clear through her lip. Strangely enough, it didn’t hurt, and the spot where it had been didn’t seem to have a hole that she could find with her fingers when she probed her lip with them. She spat some more, until she felt she wasn’t getting any more of the blood out of her mouth, looked around (where did the corpse go?), wiped her hands on her pants, said “Well. That’s a bit more like it, then, isn’t it. Chin up, that’s a good lass,” and exited the greenhouse.
Adam woke up with Molly standing over him, her hands on her hips. He had a not unpleasant view of her from this angle, and he was glad she wasn’t quite so “forward thinking” as to wear skirts. “Come on, up you get, sleepy head,” she said, reaching down and grabbing his hand. He looked down at the rubble in the hallway and let her help him up. “You’ll have to pay for what you did here,” she said. He was looking down and away from her face while he was standing up, but as she said that, he looked up and into a dark, bottomless hole to nowhere, a gaping, endless void where her face should have been.