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Tales from Miskatonic part 6

Professor James Ellery, Adam, Molly, and Jim left the lecture hall and entered a hallway. It seemed oddly incongruous with the door they had just left, and extended out further than expected. Molly looked around, confused, and picked a door at random to go in. Adam shouted after her “Wait! I don’t think-” but she was through the door and into the other room already. Adam hurried after her. When Professor Ellery took a different turn, Jim started to follow him, then turned around and started to follow Adam and Molly, then turned around again. “Wait! I don’t think she would split up. Something weird is… where did you guys all go?” he shouted, to no response. He turned back in the direction Molly and Adam had gone. A door down the hall that way was swinging in place. Jim hobbled that way and opened the door and passed through.

The portal device had been scanning the skies for a full day at this point. To do this, it had opened a series of small portals, looked through them, shut them down - or at least, it was supposed to - readjusted itself, and repeated the process, each time narrowing in on its target. In the process, the local geometry of the normal, every day world of matter near the portal device, had grown warped. Things had rearranged themselves. Doors led to places they hadn’t before, and it was only through the merciful inability of the human mind to directly observe the world as it is - our senses filter out an enormous amount of information that we could not deal with if we were forced to process it all - that this had not been immediately obvious. The picture painted on the mind by the brain-eye team was one of a building with incongruous rooms, a patchwork collection of places picked up and dropped together from various parts of the local geography - all throughout the University. This was just the closest-to-sane approximation that the human brain could come up with. The truth was something far worse, and utterly incomprehensible. The degree that they did not comprehend it, the wandering students did not suffer.

Adam was beginning to panic. He was increasingly certain that this was not any building he had seen on campus before, and he had started to recognize individual rooms as he ran heedlessly through the maze, searching for Molly. His prized willpower and determination were the only things keeping him from a full panic, and he was uncertain what he would do if he found an exit before he found Molly. He moved headlong through hallway after hallway, a storage room, a student lounge, a room containing fossils, seemingly lifted from the museum, a wing of the library, and then into a corridor containing busts of all the Deans of previous years. He stopped to catch his breath and see if he could recognize anything around him, when lightning struck perilously close by. He jumped in fright, bumped into one of the pedestals carrying a bust, set it to wobbling, and started a chain reaction. The pillars fell, knocking each over like dominoes. He ran around the room, trying to catch them, and when the last one teetered on top of the tallest pedestal behind him, he did not see it, and when it fell, the granite model of the current Dean’s head colliding with his own, it hit him harder than any football player had. His knees buckled and he blinked away stars, trying to retain consciousness.

Molly opened the dark wooden door into a lush greenhouse. Small animals she couldn’t quite see rustled in the undergrowth and the branches overhead. She strode through the garden. She’d known that Miskatonic had a greenhouse, but she hadn’t ever been inside it before. She hadn’t even been sure where it was. The more she thought about it, the more she realized that its location didn’t make much sense, architecturally. The great glass wall seemed like it butted up against where another room was, if she remembered the layout of the hall correctly. Either that or there was a door in the hall which didn’t lead anywhere. But whatever, she wasn’t going to question it, she was just enjoying the warmth and foliage. And if she got to play with the squirrels she could hear moving about, then all the better. She loved small, dumb animals - she joked that was why she liked Adam so much. She spent some time admiring the trees before realizing that she was alone in the room. “Adam? Jim? Professor Ellery? Er, sorry, James?” she called out, but got no response. Just then, a thunderous crack of lightning flashed down, just outside the great glass window. She was facing away when it hit, and the light from it poured into all of the nooks and crannies that before had been barely lit by the heat lamps used to keep the greenhouse warm in the winter. She saw, in stark relief, that there were no squirrels in the room, and the things that were there had iridescent, rectangular pupils, and far too many teeth.

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, dumbo,” 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 horribly deformed slab of flesh barely recognizable as a face. The mouth was more vertical than horizontal, perpetually drooling, only one eye was visible, and the nose was very nearly a smear. It tried to smile at him.

Paranoia - A short story

On The Grey Flag

The old lady was staring at her. She knew it.

Four months ago, Julia had married the love of her life. Her husband, Mike had just been named head curator at the art museum where he was working in. She was three months pregnant with a boy they would call Joey and after Joey is born she would quit that stressful writing job of hers to be a full-time housewife. Nothing could go wrong in her perfect life.

The day it arrived, Julia and Mike were busy unpacking their luggage from their trip to Venice when the doorbell rang. Julia ran out to get the door and when she opened it and looked down, there it was.

The package was encased by a bubble wrap, with an additional layer of plastic over it. At first glance it was about two feet tall and one foot wide. Julia carried it into the living room and unwrapped it. The rectangular wooden frame in the package was old, but kept in good condition. Flakes of the golden paint that coated it were coming off but it was still a beautiful frame, with very fine carvings of flowers at its corners. But Julia didn’t notice that, her eyes were fixed on the painting in the frame.

It was a portrait of an old lady who looked almost in her eighties. She had a sharp chin and high cheekbones and her pale skin was weathered and covered in wrinkles. The old lady’s graying hair was tied up in a bun and over it she wore a white bonnet. She had a hooked nose, almost too big for her face, with a sharp tip like the beak of a hawk. Below that nose she had very thin and dry lips. The edges of her mouth slanted slightly upward, giving her a smile that looked more like a smirk to Julia.

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