“The kids used to sing ‘Fish face, fish face, not a part of the human race,’” said Perry Walters. He shifted in the chair across from August, the vinyl squeaking audibly. He looked out of place amongst the carefully arranged books, antiques, and dark wood of the office. August studied Perry and could see a fish-like quality about the man. His nearly hairless head was narrow, his eyes wide, and his mouth like a trout’s. August listened passively, trying not to appear disgusted by his new client. “I haven’t been able to sleep through the whole night in weeks now. I found you on the internet and hoped you could help.”
“Mr. Walters, I’m a paranormal investigator, not a doctor. Why do you think that I can help you?” Paranormal Investigator. August liked the sound of the title, even though he never went through any official training to obtain it. The community college didn’t hand out certificates for fighting demons and vampires. All of his training stemmed from relentless study and practice.
“It’s the dreams that keep me awake. They are strange: I see my father wading out in the ocean, telling me to come to him. He says, ‘Come on! Give up that pussy life! Join us in the ocean. Come, down deep where you belong.’ I haven’t seen my father since I was little. My mother left him when I was six.” Perry’s voice was filled with heartfelt emotion; he sounded like he might start crying at any moment.
“Do you think that this is just your unconsciousness expressing a need to reconcile with your father?” August posed the theory with confidence; he knew it sounded good.
“No!” roared Perry, surging out of the chair, sending it spinning across the floor. He pounded the mahogany of August’s desk, fury reddening his face. “I don’t want to see that bastard, ever! I want to get him out of my dreams, and back dead where he belongs!”
“So, you think he’s haunting you?” asked August.
“That’s why I’m here, isn’t it?” said Perry, calming down. “My mother said he died about ten years ago. He was lost at sea.”
“Are you certain he’s dead?”
“What, you don’t believe me? I’d have expected some one like you to believe me.” Clearly, Perry was offended. August tried to tread carefully.
“Many people that claim to be haunted are not. They are simply plagued by unresolved issues. It is a psychological phenomenon they experience, not a paranormal one. If I am going to be able to resolve your problem, I need to know that it is something I can deal with. Further, if this is something more than a haunting, I don’t want to be caught unawares. Is there anything else you recall about your dream?”
“A symbol; a wheel with 8 spokes, surrounded by squiggles. It looks like this,” said Perry, offering August a wrinkled napkin with a crude design drawn on it. “It is always the last thing I see, and it scares me.”
August felt overwhelmed as he looked at the symbol. He had seen it nearly a decade before. It was back when he was just an art student and new to Woonsocket.
“Did you move from another city before you came here?” asked August.
“Did you move from Innsmouth?”
“How did you know?” asked Perry.
Down the street for the office was a small café that specialized in sandwiches called Between the Buns. August sat brooding at the lunch counter, picking at his reuben while waiting for his business partner to arrive. Minerva had been away on vacation in Paris. After the catastrophe that had been the International Gathering of Paranormal Specialists, they both felt that some downtime was needed. On the first day back in business, August was already over-whelmed.
Minerva entered like a ray of sunshine, wearing a new skirt and blouse that looked remarkably crisp. She sat next to August and ordered a coffee.
“Okay, let it out,” said Minerva. A powerful, but usually non-practicing witch, Minerva had probably seen the waves of apprehension spilling off of August.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” confessed August. Minerva listened attentively as August let out a deluge of insecurity. “I don’t know if I can deal with Deep Ones. I know it’s Deep Ones. I should just tell him to move to Nevada. That would take care of his problems; less proximity to the sea means that its call would be lessened. Heck, the dry air might do wonders for his skin.”
“Do you think that’s the best choice?” asked Minerva. It was clear to August that she wasn’t going to make things easy for him. She poured cream into her coffee, turning it pale brown. Swirling in sugar, she continued: “Maybe he’d be better off if he knew. Maybe he’d be better off as a Deep One.”
“I suppose you’re right, but just say that he decides to embrace what he is. He undergoes the change into a full fish-man and goes to live in the sea, free to worship as he pleases. Free to worship the Elder Gods that lurk just outside our dimension’s door. Free to let them in.” August’s felt flushed; he harbored a special dislike of the insane gods that skulked along the edges of reality. Demons and angels had motives he could understand, and most gods had essentially a human’s needs. The Elder Gods were unpredictable and patient. Essentially, it was like having a lion for a neighbor.
“What if it were you?” asked Minerva. Her face was bright and angelic, her lips hinting at a little smile. “What if you were living without knowing who or what you actually were? This man must feel that he’s something different; he must know in his bones that he just doesn’t fit. I want to keep the Elder Gods away as much as anyone, but one more Deep One won’t make a difference. If you take this chance to educate him, you’re giving Perry a chance to decide what he’ll do. If you just hide the truth, he may leave, but he may not. He may be drawn into the fold and become something more terrifying than what he could be. By hiding the truth, you could make a bigger monster out of the man.”
August regarded his half-eaten sandwich with disgust. Letting out a resigned sigh, he signaled a loss of the debate. Minerva was right. Despite Perry’s unfortunate genetics, the truth was the truth, and there was no hiding it.
“You’re right Minnie. I don’t have the right to keep it from him. All the signs are there: the Innsmouth Look, the dreams of the sea, his hometown; he’s a Deep One and he has a right to know. Can you tell him?” August fluttered his eye lids playfully, his hands folded, pleadingly. Minerva regarded him with patience. August never liked delivering bad news: he always felt that bad news was easier to take from someone that was more used to dealing with people. His unusually cloistered life made dealing with people difficult.
“Okay,” said Minerva, “but one day you’ll have to do this yourself.”
“Not as long as I have nice eyelashes and pouty lips.” joked August, putting on the sweetest face he could muster. Minerva simply rolled her eyes and shook her head.
“When is he coming back to the office?” asked Minerva, producing a planner from her purse.
“Tomorrow at 4:30. I told him I had some further research to do.” said August, conveniently leaving out that he also told Perry that his next appointment would be with Minerva. “Other than that, not much is going on. How was Paris? Did Tobias enjoy it?”
“He was fine after they stopped fussing over how cute his Quebecois accent is. You don’t hear it in his English, but in his French, it’s glaring. And cute.” Minerva was beaming. Whenever she talked about her husband, she gleamed like the sun. “It was really tough for him to get into the country; he had to spend a day in quarantine due to his condition.”
August was surprised that the French would even allow Tobias in: their restrictions on lycanthropes were notoriously strict, and with the recently dropped murder charges that Tobias faced, August was sure that the werewolf would never get to Paris. However, he was happy that it all worked out in the end.
“Did Kane ever show his face again?” asked August. Mr. Kane, the merciless killer of nearly anything supernatural had disappeared with his daughter Persephone after he murdered Thorkell Liefson, the vampire behind the plot to steal the Vampire Folio. Thorkell wished to destroy the manuscript because it detailed his greatest crimes against humanity; Kane saw to it that Thorkell was punished for his centuries of misdeeds, getting a warrant issued for his arrest in the process.
“I had a call from Persephone. She said they were safe. Fatespinner has seen to it that they’ll get to where they’re going without too much trouble.” said Minerva. “Andrey Sokolov is apparently still looking for him. He’s still upset about getting run down and cheated of his bounty. I don’t think anything’ll come from it. More than likely, he’ll give up once a bigger job comes by.”