The city of Woonsocket, which sits in the North of Rhode Island, was a failed mill town. Businesses had left the city one after another, leaving it to decay slowly. The slow process of gentrification was the city’s only real hope to survive; while all cities hope for artists to start the process, Woonsocket got the supernatural instead. Being an old city, it had no lack of haunted spaces and disturbing stories. However, the city’s real claim to fame was its very own investigators of the paranormal, August Rivers and Minerva Krieg. Their office was in the heart of the city’s Historic District on the first floor of a re-purposed mill.
Above the office, August had a small apartment. It was his refuge from the horrors of his work. Surrounded by posters of his favorite b-movies and nourished with canned curry and rice, he was allowed to decompress. He normally spent his days poring over esoteric tomes and fighting unnamable evils, but on Sundays he stayed in his pajamas all morning and watched DVDs of old cartoons. He particularly enjoyed animation from the 40’s, when animation was simultaneously more innocent and more sinister.
He was crunching on a spoonful of sugary cereal and watching a ink-black caricature of Cab Calloway conduct a big band orchestra with his elongated, rubbery limbs when August‘s phone rang. He put his cereal bowl down and walked to the wall-mounted rotary phone. August enjoyed modern conveniences, but there were certain things he wouldn’t let go of; the rotary phone was one of them.
“Hi August,” said the voice of Prabha Kholsa, “how are you?”
She sounded cheerful, but August thought he picked up something in her voice that said she was sad. They had been dating for two months, but had only gone on two dates. Between his investigations and her schedule at the hospital, it was difficult to make time for a relationship.
“I’m okay,” said August, “for someone that faced off with an Elder God. Minerva’s still kind of distant. She’s there, but I can tell there’s something on her mind. How about you? How’s the hospital treating you?”
“Too many hours, too much to do, but you know all of that. Do you have time this afternoon? I would like to see you. It feels like it’s been a long time.”
August knew that it had been three weeks since he saw Prabha. They had gone for Chinese and stayed for live music. It was a good night, but nothing fancy. Prabha seemed to have a nice time, but August wondered if she really enjoyed herself, or if she was just being congenial.
“I’d like to see you too. How about a tea this afternoon at The Garden?” August had been to The Garden a few times before; it was a small place with a vague, English garden feeling to it.
“4 o’clock?” asked Prabha.
August could tell she was smiling by the sound of her voice. He agreed to meet her there and said good-bye. He considered saying ’I love you’ but he wasn’t sure if he did. He knew he liked her. He wanted to spend time with her, to be lost in her big, beautiful eyes and talk about movies and poetry. She made him happy.
When August hung up the phone, he felt alone. He walked back to his cereal and found that it had gotten soggy. He looked at the clock. He had five hours to decide if he loved Prabha.
After Mass, Minerva waited for Father James. He was a slim, red-faced man with thick glasses and stringy, blonde hair. He had become the pastor of Precious Blood Church after the discovery of Father Tolland’s excesses; he was instrumental in bringing Minerva back to the Catholic Church and has since provided her with a kind ear, good advice, and friendship.
“Hi Minnie” greeted Father James with a smile, bowing slightly.
“Hi Father. I enjoyed the Homily today. I thought it was appropriate, given what happened with Dagon and Hydra.” said Minerva.
“Ephesians 6 was once a difficult passage to make relevant to the times, but the times always change, and what was old is new again. I am amazed at your ability to fight against such forces as you do Minerva. Most of us fight a purely spiritual battle, but yours is so immediate and dangerous. You are blessed to be able to do it.”
“I felt bad about what August, what we did. Killing such a force, even for the greater good, still weighs heavily. Even when you believe you’re doing the right thing, there are so many possibilities that it is wrong.” said Minerva.
“What you’re saying is true enough, but let me puzzle you with this. Are you certain that the creatures are truly dead? Such evil can withstand a lot of punishment, and when beaten, can grow back much stronger. I had the task of interviewing Father Tolland before his imprisonment, and his words have convinced me of only one thing: Vigilance and Faith are the only protections we have. They are our only weapon and our only armor. Nothing else can be certain in the face of these Elder Evils.
“If anyone wanted to prove that God was not infallible would point to the Elder Gods. They would say ‘How dare he create something so powerful? How dare he make something so evil?’ My answer has always been that they exist so that we may triumph over them. They exist for the same reason that the Devil exists: they help us strengthen our faith, they test our resolve, and in the end, our struggle against them makes us greater than we could ever imagine.”
They had injected Evan Walters with so many drugs that he wasn’t sure whether or not he had a trial. He didn’t care; he knew the mammals would convict him and figured that they would kill him. Instead, he was headed for a Plexiglas and concrete cell in the Ice Point Rehabilitation Center.
Located in Alaska, Ice Point was a modern prison facility built to detain and rehabilitate prisoners that were unfit for traditional facilities. There were no windows; just artificial light that made it look like day for a 12 hour cycle. The prison housed a host of Otherkin, a couple of mad scientists, a handful of intelligent golems, some wizards, and one vampire. Evan had planned how he would go about organizing the inmates into a revolt. He was certain that the prison wouldn’t be able to handle an organized rebellion. He hadn’t considered Simeon Latch.
“This is my home,” said Simeon when Evan approached him discreetly.
“This is a prison,” insisted Evan, “and most of us were imprisoned based solely on what we are. Does that sit well with you? Doesn’t it seem wrong, or even unnatural?”
“This is my home.” Simeon repeated himself slowly in a deep, velvety voice. He was gaunt and sallow with dark eyes. His nails were long and stained with rust red.
“If we worked together, we could take over. If it meant so much to you, you could stay and be a Lord here.”
“Am I not already the Lord here?” asked Simeon, parting his lips. He showed his teeth and blackened gums in something that looked more like a grimace than a grin. It made Evan’s scaly flesh crawl.