Dungeons & Dragons Sketch: Beholder

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Beauty is in the EYE OF THE BEHOLDER!

Beauty is in the EYE OF THE BEHOLDER!

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Dastville

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It was in the summer of 2011 when Brendan, an old acquaintance, emailed me concerning a strange family matter. Brendan and I had known each other during high school, though we had never become close friends. His father had recently died, and in their will, had told him to heed the instructions of a visitor who would come upon a certain date. The visitor arrived on time, and it was this incident that caused his calling. He did a thorough search for me on the internet, and coming upon some page in the deep recesses of the web, found my email and contacted me.

He told me little of what actually transpired. Indeed, it was this very fact that disturbed me. It was the manner in which he babbled, speaking of a thousand and one other things, like his upcoming marriage, his pet cat, and his professorship, which had absolutely nothing to do with the matter at hand. It was near the end of the email when he finally asked me to come see him so we could talk about the matter.

I paced about my den in deep thought. I knew of the manner in which he wrote, the way he talked continually about nothing, having seen it in many of my clients. He was scared. Something had put him in a severe state of fear and anxiety, but he did not know what. Deeply concerned, I donned my hooded trench coat, armed myself with my trusty Smith & Wesson 500 Magnum, called Mitch to keep my dogs, and set out to my meeting.

As I drove down the highway alone heading north to state of Virginia, grim clouds came about the skies. There was no crack of thunder, though, just a plain, grey, gloomy, incessant rain. Being of a different state of mind than many others, I have often hailed the rain as a friend, but the greyness and the fact that there was not a single vehicle along the road as far as my eye could see, brought to my thoughts the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, and the twisted arts of Zdzislaw Beksinski and H.R. Giger. I thought of Cthulhu rising from the corpse-city of R’lyeh, and of the terrors that could lie beneath the surface of other worlds. I wondered if Lovecraft knew how true the nightmares he wrote of were. I cut off this line of thought, and stopped at a wayside gas station to grab a snack. The cashier was cheerful, like most cashiers are, and I remembered the times before I came into my business, when I was oblivious to terror. I cut on some upbeat songs to keep my spirits moderately high until I came to my friend.

It was bright and shining when I met Brendan outside of a cafe in Chesapeake. He greeted me with a smile, and having sat down and ordered, he began to speak rather aimlessly of various things. We continued in small talk until I managed to get him to address the purpose of his calling.

“Actually,” he began, “I’m ashamed of calling you here. It is nothing, really – a temporary onset of fear. Silly, I know.”

But his eyes told me that he was still very much in fear of something, and I pressed him. He finally said, “Well, after the funeral, my father’s lawyer read the will to us all. He left money for our mother and us, just generalities. Then he told me to follow the instructions of a man who would visit my house. My mother says she knows of the matter, but only told me to do what he said. The man came, and -” – here he shuddered – “he told me that I must go to a nearby town, Dastville, on Thursday, and meet him at 143 Tanner Street. He assured me about my father’s message, even showing me a note in his writing. But there was something about him, about his face -“

“What?” I asked, leaning forward.

“His eyes. They were all black, and they filled the entire socket. In fact, I don’t remember any distinction between the pupils or the iris or the whites either. They were like…”

“Insect eyes?”

“Exactly! Like the eyes of a bee, or a fly. They were unnatural in his face. And I don’t trust him. I mean, he was friendly enough, but there was an…air about him. I feel as if he had something to do with my father dying. Not that he murdered him, just that he knows where dad is.”

“He ought to be in his grave.”

“I know…it’s just all so confusing. I just feel something strange about him.”

There was silence for a few moments. I watched the people pass by outside.

“Well?” he asked.

“You can’t go.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t tell you. Just trust me. It’s best if you do not heed this last command of your father.”

“But my mother wants me to go. She told me that she knew of it, and that I should go.”

I finished off my tea. “If you are set on going, I’m coming with you. The man said nothing about taking no one else, did he?”

“No.”

“Very well then. We will both go to Dastville on Thursday and meet your man.” I did not tell him about the gun.

As we rose to leave, thunder boomed outside. The skies were turning grey again, and people were unfurling umbrellas. I pulled up my hood, payed my fare, and took my leave. Wandering about the city and its environs, I ended up looking over Lake Drummond, part of the Great Dismal Swamp. Well named, I thought. It certainly looked dismal in the weather. I knew of the ritual the insect-eyed man had called Brendan to. I did not know of Dastville, but I had seen these types of towns before – old, half-rotting, shadowed and surrounded on all sides by thick woods. I already knew what Dastville would look like.

On Thursday, the weather had not changed, except that the rain had stopped. Indeed, it seemed greyer than ever. All was silent as Brendan drove to Dastville, with me in the shotgun. I fingered the handle of my handgun, hoping I didn’t have to use it. Probably would, though. As I looked out the window at the thick twisted trees and undergrowth, I felt certain that something was watching – a creature of hate, watching and waiting, knowing someday it would have he power to punish the mortals who entered it’s domain. I have friends deep within the woods, but he who thinks he can tame the trees, befriend the beast, dance with the dryad and the satyr, knows nothing. The wild has little love for us.

As soon as we got out of Brendan’s car, the air seemed to gather around thickly. It had the smell of something ancient, ancient, something from before the settlers came over on the Mayflower, something from before the first Indian arrived on America, by what means no one knows, something before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, something, perhaps, that was older than the pyramids of Egypt, something that lay beneath the earth before we came, and will lay there after. Brendon sensed it too, and his eyes spoke of fear, fear of the unknown thing that sees us as insects, to be crushed beneath a boot. I had loaded my gun with silver bullets, more effective against these eldritch abominations than lead.
Silver had many uses for folk in my line of work. They weren’t just for killing werewolves.

We proceeded into Dastville. It was as I had thought. Not a man nor woman nor beast were to be seen. Any half-witted animal would have fled this place long ago, and so would any humans, had they not been in league themselves. The buildings looked like relatively modern suburban houses, but they were dark and rotting. The trees swayed without any wind, and leaves lay thickly on the ground, even though it was August. We continued to the address that had been given us, silently and fearfully. We knocked on the door.

The man opened the door, and I knew him immediately. Not by name, but I knew his kind. He knew my kind, too, as he observed me with his huge insectoid eyes, even though he greeted me as friend. We walked inside after our host, to a large room, set up as a normal middle-class American living room. He motioned us to chairs and books, and brought in glasses of lemonade and cookies. We did not touch them. The books were all silly modern novels, of neither style nor substance, such as you would find in the den of an American family. He left through the front door, shutting it, and I believe, locking it, silently behind him.

We sat in gloom. Brendan said something about cutting on the TV, but we did nothing and said nothing. The clock turned, and we were surprised when it struck 12. The insects began their nightly noises outside. Insects were the only animals left here. Anything else, dogs, deer, anything else had fled this accursed denizen of the damned. We waited, and the clock struck one, and our host returned.

He said nothing, but beckoned us. We rose and followed him outside in the dark. It was not dark for long, as our host produced a flashlight. We followed him, through winding streets and back alleys, until we came to the graveyard. I stuck my hand in my trench coat pocket and gripped the handle of my gun tightly. I would most definitely need it tonight. Other figures were gathered. Some came forward. “Brendan,” said one. “M-mom?” gasped Brendan. But the insect-eyed man viciously held a finger to his lips, and we were silent. Two figures came forward, with shovels, and began to dig at a location that had no headstone. When they were finished, they bent down, struggling with something. Then they both leapt out of the hole, melting into the shadows. Then they began to file into the grave, I hung back to the last, keeping a firm grip on Brendan’s arm, though many of them beckoned to us to come first. We went down a rough-dug tunnel that was all mud and slime and filth and wriggling things. Down, down, down we went, until we lost all track of time and space, doggedly following the little light of the insect eyed man. Down, down, down we went until I knew we were in the very bowels of Dastville. Down, down, down we went, until I felt sure that we had crossed the limit were even earthworms dared dwell. Then we came out into an open space, and the light came bobbing down the line, making sure everyone was still there. Then the flashlight went off, and we were left in the dark. I let my night vision adjust, and saw we were in a wide cavern, the height or width of it I cannot say, and a fetid, bubbling, slimy, pool, the like of which ought not to be on this earth. Silence swept over us, and with it terror seized me, but I steeled my heart and my hand upon the gun. Beside me, Brendan was quivering, his eyes bulging, and staring all about him. The liquid, that abominable phlegm of Nok-Ataur, shook and swelled, and out of it arose something I cannot say. It was all tentacles and twisting appendages, and it’s face, if it had any, was covered in worm-like growths. Slavering and slithering it arose out of the pool, it’s great arm rising out and reaching out, reaching, reaching, reaching for the man beside me. As the thing approached us, the spell of terror broke. I thrust Brendan away from me, as he screamed, covering his face. I pulled out my gun, one, two, three shots I fired. The monstrous aberration recoiled, but the figures around us turned, howling and screeching in inhuman fury and anguish. I seized my ward and dragged him away after me, fleeing from the crazed horde behind us. I burst out of the grave of horror, running like a madman, not looking back, for we were not safe until that whole dominion was left behind forever to rot in the woods. Apparitions, spectres, shadows, all seemed to leap out and assault as we passed through that dark town. But pass through we did, until I found Brendan’s car, pushed him in the back, and taking his keys and leaping into the driver’s seat, I started up the engine and turned away forever from the unholy town of Dastville.

The following notes were hastily written in Casefile #341: At hospital. Client asleep, snuck in & stole a few secs, long enough 2 erase his memory. Won’t remember that now; best 4 his marriage that way. Checked out Dastville during the daylight. All sunk. Finished here.

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There are a few things you can be assured of in this storm of insanity we call life. I’ve got five written down: death, taxes, stupidity, war, and the end of the world.