Jim hobbled down the hall, and heard shouting in a thick southern accent from his right. He pushed open the first door on his right, which led to a large room. The shouting only continued for another moment, but he was confident it was coming from the north this time. This room he recognized. It was one of his favorite parts of the University that he didn’t study - a skeleton of an enormous, extinct, monstrous lizard dominated the center of the room, curved as in a pose from life, its face and gaping mouth pointing towards the door Jim had entered from. In smaller glass cases around the walls were a series of relatives of the great beast, from various aeons of primordial pre-history. The terrible thunder lizard in the center of the room always fascinated him. How could such a huge, powerful creature, which had existed for so long, not have become intelligent? Man, a much weaker creature, a hairless ape, had existed for so short a time comparatively, and had accomplished so much more, or so it seemed. He always wondered if there were secret dinosaur civilizations, which had been wiped clean off the Earth in some terrible cataclysm, leaving behind no evidence we had yet been able to discover, like the fabled Hyperboreans. In his wilder imaginings, he dreamed of an advanced dinosaur civilization and what might have taken them from the planet. Perhaps something changing in the atmosphere, or foreknowledge of some terrible tragedy had convinced them to move to another, more habitable world? That was the answer he liked the best, but the one he found most convincing - conditional on dinosaurs having civilization, of course, a laughable premise - was that they had invented one or more terrible super weapons and turned them on each other in the ultimate climax of some long forgotten, pointless tribal conflict, and wiped the entire Earth clear of all trace of their great civilizations. It was a metaphor that he liked to employ when urging pacifism to others. After the Great War, ludicrously called the War to End All Wars, and which he secretly feared was simply the First Great War, he was more afraid than ever that the next Great War might mean the end of humanity. All of these thoughts came rushing back to him as he hobbled around to the other side of the corpse of the Tyrant Lizard. He turned to give it one last look before moving into the next room. Its jaws gaped back at him. He stared at it for a long moment, hardly daring to breathe. A warm, moist wind slowly started to move towards him, full of the stench of rotted meat. He gasped and fell backwards through the door and into a hallway. The pieces of glass still on his back dug into him viciously. The skeleton reared downwards, pointing its head towards the door like a fox trying to dig a rabbit out of a hole. Jim kicked the door shut with his good leg and then pushed against it with his cane and struggled to his feet, propping the handle of his cane under the door handle, in an attempt to jam the door and keep it closed. A distant, echoing roar was all the evidence that remained of what he had just seen, and nothing seemed to try to break through. He looked around the hallway he was in. It was full of toppled wooden pillars which looked like they had once supported marble busts, which were now on the floor. Halfway down the room, lying facedown and not moving, was Adam. Jim started towards him, stopped, and turned to retrieve his cane. He paused, hesitating for a moment.
Molly burst through the door to Jim’s side. He jumped in surprise, grabbed his cane, and swung it towards her. She deftly stepped back so that it swung by harmlessly and yelled “Whoah there cowboy! Hold your horses, it’s just me!” After his initial reflex, he calmed down and relaxed, putting his cane back to its customary use. “You could take somebody’s head off with that thing. Would’ve been useful a minute ago, maybe I should get me one of those,” she gestured at the bite marks covering her sleeves and pants, pulling up one sleeve to demonstrate that the extraordinarily long teeth had pierced through and into her flesh. Then she noticed the dried blood on his head and the scarf tied around his ankle. “Oh you poor dear, what happened to you while I was getting bit by demon squirrels?”
“Did you hear that thunderbolt about twenty minutes ago? I was over there in Professor Rice’s office when it struck just outside. The window exploded, and, well, apparently this is what happens when windows explode on you. I’m basically okay, more or less,” he replied. “Over there?” Molly asked, pointing in the direction he had. “Yeah,” he replied. “But I was over there,” she said, pointing in the opposite direction, “and the lightning was right outside of the window where I was too. I guess greenhouses are made out of tougher stuff than normal glass, lucky for me. I didn’t have to deal with any broken glass,”
“Maybe there was more than one bolt of lightning..?” Jim offered. “No, I think we would have heard that. I think-I think-” she started, before finally seeing Adam and rushing over to see if he was still alive. “Oh thank God, he’s still breathing,” she said after putting her ear next to his mouth. She touched him on the cheeks, and when he moaned slightly, she started repeating his name. “Adam, Adam, wake up, you’ve got to wake up dear, there you go, oh thank God,” she said when he opened his eyes and made a confused “whuh?” sound. She hugged him tight, which he groaned in response to, and then she stood up, holding onto his hand. “Come on, up you get, darling,” she said, smiling through her tears. “Ah! No!” he cried, snatching his hand out of hers and crawling backwards away from her. “No! This isn’t real! This isn’t real!” he cried out. He picked up a chunk of statue and scrambled to his feet. “Stay away from me! I’m going to wake up, I’m going to wake up, this isn’t real, I’m going to wake up,” he started repeating to himself.
“Adam? Adam, dear, what are you talking about, Adam? This is real, I’m real, what are you talking about?” Molly was on the verge of tears. Physical danger she could handle, and her own upset mental state, but Adam not trusting her… she had trust issues, namely that if someone didn’t trust her, that felt like a complete betrayal, and she couldn’t handle that, not now, not from him.
Jim stepped forward, leaning even more heavily on his cane than usual. He looked Adam dead in the eye and said “Adam, I don’t know what you saw earlier. I saw some pretty crazy shit myself. I’m sure Molly did too,” Molly nodded, tears flowing down her face, “But think. Was this what you saw? Was it us? Or was it something else?” Adam looked from one to the other fearfully, still expecting the other shoe to drop, for this to be another trick. But Jim was right. Jim had never been there before, and Molly had woken him up in a different way this time. He also hadn’t gotten to look up her skirt. That thought, so incongruous when juxtaposed with all of the horror he had been exposed to, broke his fear, and he dropped the hunk of marble, starting crying, and ran forward into Molly’s waiting arms. “It’s you, it’s really you, oh thank God it’s really you,” he said, stroking Molly’s hair. He looked over at Jim, who was trying to look away and not look away at the same time, and mouthed “thank you.” It had been years since Jim had seen Adam cry, and it moved him a great deal. He mouthed back “you’re welcome,” winced, and reached up to the back of his head and pulled out another small bloody chunk of glass. Adam briefly panicked and pulled Molly’s head back painfully sharply, looking at her eyes and face, reassuring himself that it was real, that she was real, that she was okay, that it wasn’t all an illusion. Satisfied that she was real, he leaned in to kiss her, but she held up a finger to stop him. “I’m not sure you want to do that right now. I had to bite a demon squirrel earlier, and a lot of its blood got in my mouth, and I’m sure that’s not sanitary. If it isn’t, no sense in me giving you anything I caught, right?” Adam nodded dumbly. “Demon.. squirrel?” he asked. “Yeah, I was meaning to ask you about that,” Jim added, interjecting himself into the conversation with a cough.
She looked from one man to the other. “It’s… a long story. I was in the greenhouse, and there were all these little black… things, and they attacked me, and well, I bit one of them and that seemed to scare them off,” she said as she pulled down her sleeve to reveal some of the strange bite marks on her arms. They were beginning to look infected. “Yeah, maybe you should get one of these. I’ve had a lot to deal with, but I didn’t have to bite any demons,” Jim said, brandishing his cane like a caricature of an impoverished knight. She laughed, as did Adam. He slipped his arm around her waist. Jim said “So you said the greenhouse was right through here?”, gesturing at the door she had entered through “Yes,” she responded, “but I think there is something very weird going on here,” “Oh really?” Jim responded mockingly, “I hadn’t noticed!” “No, I mean, not just what’s happening with the storm and the… demon squirrels, but I think the whole school has been rearranged. I don’t think this is any building I’ve been in before. Have you guys?” she asked the men. “No,” responded Adam. “Yes,” responded Jim. They looked at him in surprise. “Well, parts of it are. I found Professor RIce’s office, and the dinosaur room from the museum is through that door, he said pointing with his cane at the door he had entered the statuary corridor from, “but those aren’t usually in the same building. And some of these rooms I’ve never seen before. I think you’re right, I think the school has been… rearranged somehow. And maybe some things have been pulled in from… somewhere else,” he added ominously. Adam and Molly breathed a sigh of relief at this. Somehow it was better to know that this thing that was happening, whatever it was, however horrible it was, was actually happening, and that it wasn’t just their imagination. Adam especially appreciated knowing he wasn’t going crazy. Jim reached the door to the greenhouse. “Now to test a part of that theory,” he said, and opened the door and stuck his head through. He looked around for a moment, then shut the door again, then repeated the process. “Yep, that’s still the greenhouse,” he said, and then hopped over to the door leading to the dinosaur room and opened that. He immediately slammed it shut, cutting short a thunderous roar, like a malicious, hungry train heading towards you, and said “And that’s still the dinosaur room. So it looks like whatever it is that’s rearranged the school is done, and this is the new arrangement. Looks like, anyways,” He looked around the room. ”What happened in here, Adam?” Adam glanced around at the broken statues and said sheepishly “I knocked the statues over, and one of them hit me on the head.” Jim and Molly stared at him, looked at each other, and stared at him again. Both of them burst out laughing. After a moment of this, all three friends were laughing uproariously, tears streaming down their faces. Molly leaned against the wall and slid down to the floor, Jim sprawled on his stomach on the floor so that no weight was on his leg and his glass-studded skull wouldn’t touch anything, and Adam crouched on the floor where he was standing, and then transitioned to sitting. The three friends lay there like that, laughing and crying, terrified out of their wits, but desperately grateful to be alive, and happier than they had ever been to be together. “Here,” said Jim, sitting up and fishing around in his pocket. “I got this off Jeremiah,” Molly and Adam gave him blank looks, “The Negro groundskeeper? He’s really quite nice, you should talk to him some time. Anyways, he calls it a reefer. It’s kind of like a cigarette, only a lot better. I think we all could really use it right now,” he stuck the joint in his mouth, pulled out his zippo and lit it, took a drag, then handed it to his left to Adam. Adam didn’t normally smoke, but desperate times call for desperate measures, so he took a puff. “No, not like a cigar, you’ve got to hold it in your lungs,” Jim instructed. Adam did, for a moment, before coughing it out and handing the reefer to Molly, who took a long, expert drag and handed it back to Jim, who gave her an impressed and inquisitive look. “There are a lot of Negroes down South, and I’m sure I know some who are just as interesting as your fancy Northern ones,” she explained. Jim nodded, took another hit off of it, and handed it to Adam. It continued in this fashion for some time, until Jim remembered the necklace and the scrap of parchment, and pulled them out of his pocket.
Professor Ellery was getting desperate. The incessant piping, which he had found soothing earlier, had started to be irritating a few rooms ago, and by this point was growing downright maddening. It had grown in pitch and volume, and its insane tempo was almost tempting him to dance, but the motions it imbued him with no longer led him so confidently to the room he sought. He had taken more than one false turn, opening doors into dead ends. He was growing worried. What would happen if he couldn’t find the observatory in time? What would become of Maria? Had anything happened to her while he was gone? How could he have been so stupid as to forget to bring the formula, that was what had inspired this whole mess, but of course that was West’s fault, his formulas were horribly flawed, and Ellery’s suspicions in that aspect were confirmed when, just a year after West had given him the first vial, he had disappeared under most mysterious circumstances. Ellery thought he had something to do with Halsey’s death, but that wasn’t his problem, that was West and Halsey’s to deal with, the only thing that concerned Ellery was Maria, that was all, Maria, no, Marcia! Her name was Marcia, not Maria, what was he thinking, how could he say Maria? He didn’t know anyone named Maria. A simple slip of the tongue, that’s all, he’s just so concerned with getting this right, he has to prove his theories, he has to get Maria back, he has to, Maria, with her… brown, hair? And red eyes?
He stopped dead in his tracks. He raised his hands to the sides of his head. They trembled as he put them to his ears. He stood, rocking in place, chanting something he had read in that most forbidden of books, the one that had taught him the most, the one where its author the mad Arab, had spoken of a drug-fueled mystic seeing a shoggoth here on Earth during an astral projection, which had taught him how to seek out Nyarlothotep during his dreams, the fabled Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred. The thin piping rose to a crescendo, and then broke.
He lowered his hands from his ears. He was going to the observatory, to save the life of his wife, Marcia Jessica Ellery, who had black hair, and green eyes. He turned on his heels ninety degrees to his right, and strode forward confidently.