False in Some Sense

To Light the Way; Chapter 3

Wednesday, January 28, 2009, starting at around 5:00 PM

Katrina is suddenly awakened from her nap by a knocking on her apartment door. She looks and opens it to find Agatha. They exchange pleasantries, and Agatha indicates that she just wanted to see how things are going. Katrina makes some popcorn and then they sit down to watch television. That’s when the knife comes out.

Agatha leaps at Katrina, slashing at her wildly and cutting her right arm. A struggle ensues, with a fear-crazed Katrina desperately trying to run from the room with an apparently demented Agatha tries to kill her with a knife. She slashes Katrina across the chest, and Katrina manages to escape her apartment with her keys, beginning a mad dash down the hallway with Katrina screaming for help. Agatha catches up, gets kicked in the face by Katrina, and manages to catch her once in the left shoulder with the knife before her attention is drawn to something in one of the now open apartments. Katrina, no longer hearing the sounds of pursuit, turns once to see Agatha looking distantly into an apartment in utter horror, and continues to run down the several flights of stairs to her car. She then starts a mad drive to Chuck’s house.

Jonah, meanwhile, is also driving to Chuck’s house, and arrives just in time to see a bloody Katrina running frantically to the door and begin knocking. She is greeted by Agatha, and she immediately screams and runs for her car. Agatha follows, attempting to learn what is wrong. Jonah, in the confusion, goes inside and begins taking a shower.

Meanwhile, Chuck and Elena are researching local history at the library. They learn that the town has suffered very little in the way of violence throughout its history. It was settled primarily by Germans, and prominently cultivated by the Schwann family, who runs the local farm. The only odd thing is two disappearances on the lake; one of Michael Schwann in 1896 and the other of David Sergeant in 1932. Otherwise, the town has been fairly peaceful until recently.

On their way back home, Chuck gets the panicked call from Katrina saying that he has brought a killer into his house. He indicates that he is on his way home. Likewise, Agatha ends up calling him, asking what is wrong with Katrina. Eventually, Agatha manages to convince Katrina that she is not trying to kill her, and Katrina realizes that Agatha’s clothes are different and remarkably unbloodied. In fact, she looks fairly well-composed for someone who just engaged in a mad flight after Katrina with a knife. Agatha asks Chuck about where a sewing kit and first aid supplies may be, which he tells her. She and Katrina then go into the house.

Agatha and Katrina begin trekking to the bathroom for the medical supplies when the hear the water running. Agatha tells Katrina to wait and goes upstairs. After knocking, she asks if it is Jonah, who indicates that he is busy and has his hands full. Agatha says that she needs to get some things from inside the bathroom, and finally goes inside to find the shower curtain wide open and Jonah in the shower with a razor and half of his head and stubble shaved. In his other hand, he has a mound of hair. He asks if he can get a Ziplock bag. Agatha begrudgingly agrees and gets the sewing kit and medical supplies, then returning to give Jonah a bag. She and Katrina go to the kitchen as Chuck and Elena enter, seeing the blood drops around his house, and Agatha explains what happened to Katrina as well as the fact that she now has an abnormal kidney — a “lead kidney,” as she calls it. Chuck, upon learning that Jonah is in the bathroom, goes up to check on him, but Agatha warns him off of the idea. After a bit, Jonah comes downstairs wrapped in a towel, his head and face shaved, and goes outside with the Ziplock bag. He sets fire to the thing, and asks Chuck if he can borrow a suit, also explaining some of his ideas about the strange events in town. Chuck goes back inside to get some clothes, and is momentarily stopped by the vision of Agatha stitching Katrina’s wounds, briefly pondering the surreal moment. He continues upstairs, and gets Jonah a gray suit. Jonah changes, then goes to his car and returns with a duffel bag, asking Chuck how much money he wants for the suit. Agatha suggests that a good suit runs about $2,500, so Jonah gives Chuck that much. Around that time, Katrina receives a phone call from her landlord, who asks if she is all right and says that the police want to talk to her, and where is she now? She gives him Chuck’s address and explains that the police will be around shortly. Agatha, Elena, and Jonah all decide to make themselves scarce when they arrive, and when the inevitable knock comes, Jonah goes out into the backyard and Elena and Agatha go upstairs. Chuck answers the door and leads the officers to Katrina. They question her briefly, and as Agatha recalls that they will ask about who treated her wounds, she comes downstairs so that she can explain herself. Between the two of them, they explain that a woman who looked very much like Agatha attacked her, Katrina came to Chuck’s house in her panic, and had Agatha patch her up. The police accept the report and insist that Katrina go to the hospital to be checked out. Chuck decides to accompany, and Agatha says she can help clean Katrina’s car while she is gone. Meanwhile, Jonah has slipped away while the police were inside, and has driven elsewhere. Agatha goes about busying herself, while Elena putters around, the gravity of her situation having just hit her, along with the fact that her car is elsewhere.

Katrina is released within the hour, with the doctors saying that the person who sutured her wounds did a good job, but in the future they would recommend that she come to the hospital first. If she would like, they can remove her stitches in about a week. She and Chuck then return to Chuck’s house to prepare for the meeting with Mrs. Bishop later. Meanwhile, Jonah goes to a Catholic church to prepare for his battle with the demon. He fills a canteen with holy water and corners someone in vestments. The fellow appears to be somewhat young, and seems quite overwhelmed with Jonah’s assertion that only he can help Jonah fight this demon. All he can recommend is holy water and reading the Psalms. Jonah indicates that he will donate generously to the church if the priest can help him, and he gives $500 to begin. He then goes over to Bishop’s Antiquities to await the others.

Finally, Agatha, Chuck, Elena, and Katrina all pile into Chuck’s car, and after a stop at Subway, they go to Bishop’s Antiquities. Jonah meets them. After introductions are made with Mrs. Bishop, they explain their predicament — the change in Michael, the creature in the woods, Agatha’s abduction, and so on — before gaining her insight. She indicates that the woods form a gateway to some other place — the place from which she escaped after her abduction, and killed her Automaton double, more properly called a “Fetch” — and that the outlook of attempting to close the gateway or kill the entities on the other side seems bleak. She does however indicate that these things resemble the Fairies of legend and that iron may be able to harm them, but they are still powerful beings regardless. She also indicates that the gateway can be opened by the group, although she doesn’t know how to do it; her kind can open those gateways naturally, though she is not inclined to do so. Finally, before everyone leaves, she gives Jonah the music box he left earlier in the day, and bids everyone good evening.

Katrina asks if she can stay at Chuck’s house, which Chuck agrees and insists on her taking his bed while he takes the couch. As such, he, Agatha, and Katrina go back to his house, while Elena goes home to finish her homework before bed. Jonah gets in his station wagon and goes to the woods to sleep.

To Light the Way; Chapter 2

Tuesday, January 27, 2009, various points throughout the day.

Chuck and Katrina return to Chuck’s house to find Agatha perfectly fine, having been staying at his house throughout the day. When Chuck receives a phone call repeating something Agatha just said, however, Agatha assumes that she’s being bugged and considers for a moment, finally forming a plan to determine this for certain. She enlists Katrina’s assistance in going to her work and speaking to Kevin Roberts about having a series of X-rays done under the pretense of a collage for some sort of play. They went through the process and she received her X-rays, whereupon she and Katrina return to Chuck’s house. By this time, Chuck is about to meet Clark and Jonah, so he indicates that he will see them later. Agatha, Chuck, and Katrina did, however, decide that the women should stand guard while the men are engaged in the sweat lodge, so Chuck will definitely see them later. He goes off to the mall.

Chuck, Clark, and Jonah meet again at the mall, Jonah hauling lumber. Clark explains that he made a few calls and received permission from the local government to do this. After Clark closes his store, the three go down to the lake to start building the structure. Jonah leaves after an hour or two so that he can get to his Masonic meeting, but Chuck and Clark manage to finish the structure by 9:30 PM.

Meanwhile, Elena spots Reverend Caulfield in the mall. He quietly passes by Claire’s and tips his hat to her.

Additionally, Agatha notices something wrong with her X-rays. Where her left kidney should be, it appears to be solid enough that no X-rays passed through it. Alarmed, she asks Katrina about it, and then returns to work to ask Kevin about it. Among the three of them, nobody recognizes any precedent for this sort of thing, though Kevin suggests she talks to her physician and wishes her the best of luck. Then, Agatha and Katrina return to Chuck’s house to plan until after midnight, when they will go to the lake.

Having finished building the sweat lodge, Chuck and Clark go to get something to eat. Chuck is immediately struck by two people who seem off — a construction worker and the goth kid from the mall earlier. Shortly after arriving, Elena calls and swings by to pick up the papers on Reverend Mortimer Caulfield, having called Chuck and explained that the Reverend was actually in her home this morning, and offered her some sort of pact. She then returns home to look over the papers before she meets them by the lake at midnight.

Meanwhile, Jonah explains to his lodge mates about the Reverend, and shows them the photocopied evidence from earlier. They agree that this is both interesting and unusual, and say they will investigate more later.

Finally, the time comes and everyone reconvenes at the lake. Chuck, Clark, and Jonah strip down and go into the sweat lodge, while Elena waits in her car. Agatha and Katrina arrive within a half hour.

While the others are without, watching, Chuck, Clark, and Jonah are inside. At first, it is merely warm and humid, but soon the light from the coals grows more intense until it is all they can see. They find themselves in a forest — find themselves to be the forest. All the creatures move through it like bacteria on the skin. And throughout the woods is a network of tunnels, though they are not just underneath the woods, but beside the woods and all around the woods. At first, this land held only coyotes, who refused to stay because game was scarse and bear preyed upon them. Then, sheep came to the land, and stayed for grass was plentiful. They were ignorant of bear, and so when bear came to them and spoke to them, they did not know better. Those sheep to whom he spoke were transformed, turned into wolves that attacked and devoured other sheep, bringing them to bear. But knights rode in and slew the wolves, for those wolves had slain a sheep precious to those knights, and they left. Then bear grew hungry, with no one to give him tribute, and started hunting sheep again. Finally, he found a sheep and made that sheep into a wolf…

Eventually, a very disheveled and naked Chuck, Clark, and Jonah came out of their stupor and wandered outside, prompting Elena to photograph them. Once they regained themselves, they tore down the structure and discussed what they saw. However, when Chuck and Jonah started talking about how the vision relates to the Automata and the Snake-Bear, Clark is initially interested, even suggesting that the talk of people being replaced is a little like Irish tales of changelings replacing children that can be differentiated from the original by placing iron in the crib. As the conversation continues, Clark seems somewhat wary of the discussion and politely excuses himself to go home. Chuck calls Elena and Katrina, and the assembled group goes back to his house.

Back at Chuck’s house, Chuck and Jonah explain what they saw, having concluded that the Snake-Bear may be making the Automata that they have encountered, though they do realize that they are not totally certain. After discussing things for a little bit, Chuck and Jonah both display alarm, with Jonah running outside and Chuck clutching at his chest. When they regain their wits, they find that a seal has been burned into their chests. Chuck thinks it is a bad thing, though Jonah believes that it is a sign that they must rebuild the Temple of Solomon. Curious about the thing, Chuck, Elena, and Katrina begin looking online to determine what sort of seal it might be, determining that it has similarity to some of the goetic seals, but they can’t be certain. Meanwhile, Jonah calls Wendel Thompson — the Tawa Masonic Lodge chaplain — and inquires about it before Wendel finally concedes to come to his current location and take a look.

As they search and find that they cannot match the seal, there is a knock at Chuck’s door and Jonah answers it to find Wendel. Jonah explains the situation and shows him the seal, leading him to the others. He sees the seal on Chuck’s chest — and then notices that Elena is present, she being a friend of his daughter’s and Wendel finding it quite interesting as to why she is hanging about with several strange people at around two in the morning. Finally, Wendel admits that this thing is rather out of his league, and wanting to have no part of it, he agrees to see if any of the fellow Masons know anything, but he otherwise won’t speak of it. Before he leaves, he tells Elena that “she got lucky.”

With everything winding down and the hour quite late, Agatha, Chuck, and Katrina go to bed, Elena goes home, and Jonah takes a shower before going out to the woods.

The next day, everyone awakens and engages in their respective routines, dragging for the most part from the late night before. Chuck goes to work, fueled by lots of coffee, and engages in his routine at the news desk. Katrina goes to the dance studio, teaching the little ones and catching naps when she can. Before going home, she purchases a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Elena goes to school, trying her best to get through the day. During lunch, she goes to the library to get a second opinion on her predicament, finding a group of five playing Unknown Armies. The group stops as she approaches, though the man at the table’s head — the prematurely grey seventeen-year-old Johnny Page — cheerfully asks what she needs. She shows him a picture of the sigil from the night before — much to his surprise, as one of the most popular girl’s in school starts rambling about goetic seals and the demon Malphas — and he indicates that, sure enough, it resembles Malphas’ seal but is not the same. He makes a copy of it and says he’ll look into it, giving her information if he finds anything.

Meanwhile, Agatha is researching her kidney affliction. She finds that, while there is little precedent for this sort of thing, some dingbat on the internet claims that he was abducted and his kidney replaced with a protomatter duplicate that is opaque to X-rays. He goes on to rant about how John Tynes and Pagan Publishing know all about this, which is why they included it in Delta Green. Agatha contacts him, and through emails determines that he was on dialysis and learned about this fact when he no longer needed dialysis and X-rays showed his kidney to be as it is. He indicates that it was probably written about in some local journal or other, and that the attending physician was Dr. Bernard Jackson. Using these items, she finds the story in California newspaper, and makes the call to Dr. Jackson’s office in California. She reaches him to find that there is little more he can tell her — everything about the kidney is normal, except for the fact that it is not permeable to X-rays, suggesting that it bends light strangely. He indicates that he probably wouldn’t make the trip out to Indiana, though, and recommends that she consults with her physician.

Meanwhile, Jonah is following Elena throughout the day in the hopes of seeing Reverend Caulfield. While parked a block or so over from Terra High School, he receives a phone call from John Keel. The two talk, with John Keel explaining that most of these myths — aliens, fairies, spirits, and suchlike — are indicative of extradimensional entities that have been meddling in human affairs for eons. He seems interested in Jonah’s story, and suggests that he compile all the evidence to see if a pattern emerges. Additionally, John Keel indicates that he is not terribly familiar with the violent phenomena that Jonah describes; it may be possible that ordinary humans are behind the acts of violence in town. John Keel further says that he will take a look at any documents that Jonah forwards to him, and Jonah suggests that if he dies in the town, John Keel is free to write about this story. The two finish their conversation amicably, and then Jonah continues his stakeout.

Around when school is out, Chuck calls Elena to see if she wants to go to Bishop’s Antiquities today to investigate. Elena agrees, poking around on the internet briefly and taking a nap beforehand. Then, she gathers a few iron nails to arm herself against what may be some sort of fairy, taking a cue Clark’s advice last evening. Finally, she and Chuck meet and go to Bishop’s Antiquities. Unbeknownst to them, Jonah follows. Chuck and Elena enter, and immediate sense the wrongness hovering around Mrs. Bishop. They look around for a little while before Chuck purchases several iron keys and an old iron. When he brings his purchases to the front, Mrs. Bishop gives him a look, and after a bit of an awkward silence, Chuck finally asks Mrs. Bishop if she has been replaced, because she seems strange to him and Elena. She indicates that she was, but she escaped and took care of her replacement. As she determines that they know something about the weird things in the woods and in town, she agrees to meet them at her shop around eight o’clock. Chuck asks if he can bring the others, to which she nervously agrees.

As Chuck and Elena leave, Jonah leaps out with a tire iron asking if they found the demon. Elena screams, startled, and Mrs. Bishop comes outside to see what is the matter. Finally, Jonah calms down and goes into the store to look around, so she says simply that she shall see them later. Jonah purchases a small music box before leaving, although he forgets to take the box with him, and says that he will see her this evening.

To Light the Way; Chapter 1

Tuesday, January 27, 2009, various points throughout the day.

Elena awakens, aware of the sound of a clearing throat and the lighting of candles. She awakens to make out Reverend Caulfield in the gloom, holding a desiccated hand, its fingers alight. He explains that he’d like to make a proposition to Elena, considering how she and her friends claim to know something about him. He says that he may not agree with their conclusion, but it is obvious that he is something other than an average fellow. He makes her the offer to join with her, such that she may benefit from his guidance and prove herself useful to the rest of the group, especially Katrina. No catch. She says she’ll need to think about it, to which he agrees, and then tells her that she can turn off her alarm clock for reasons that will become obvious, and that opening her blinds will probably scare off the intruder skulking around the house. She goes to the window and opens it to see snow outside and a pale woman, dressed in heavy black coat, sunglasses, and scarf wandering around the yard. When the window opens, the woman makes her way from the house. Elena turns around to find Reverend Caulfield and his candle no longer there. Unable to sleep, she sits up until a little later, when she calls Chuck.

Chuck is preparing for his venture to go people watching when he receives a phone call from Elena. She tells him that she saw someone snooping around her house, but when the woman saw Elena, she ran away. Chuck ultimately agrees to talk to her later and that she should call if anything further happens. She goes downstairs to watch television and start making breakfast. Meanwhile, Chuck gets his things together and goes to a central bench in town to sit and watch. With the snow, few people are about, but he sights Mrs. Bishop skipping until she sees him. He also notices that she seems odd. He lets her go on her way but decides that he’ll investigate her further at a later time. He then proceeds to talk to a couple of the town’s homeless, and finds that other than a few disappearances and folk legends about steering clear of the lake or woods, they don’t know much. Then he goes in to work.

Katrina awakens that morning, and with the school at the studio closed, she still comes in to work out. Around lunchtime she leaves and sees a large, humanoid creature covered in grey fur with great wings where its arms should be and two red, softball-sized eyes. When it sees her, it flies off into the distance, in the direction of the woods. Curious, she follows, but finds nothing other than Jonah’s station wagon. Then she calls Chuck, and the two decide to meet at the mall. Likewise, he and Elena decide similarly.

Meanwhile, Jonah awakens and drives around to try to take a shower for his Masonic meeting this evening. Finding the school closed, and unable to break into it, he looks for a spa before finally going to the mall to use their woman’s spa. He attempts to bribe the woman manning the desk, though she is spooked by the sheer amount of money that the rather raggedy Jonah is flashing, and says that she wants no part of it. He passes by Elena and Katrina, and finally goes into Bath and Body Works to get some soaps and such, and goes into the bathroom to wash.

Chuck, however, leaves the stall to see Jonah’s clothes draped on the sink, and is greeted by a half-shaved and very naked Jonah. Chuck, surprised, tells Jonah to join them whenever he is finished. Chuck joins up with Katrina and Elena, finally meeting up with Jonah when he is finished, and they start planning. After a bit of discussion, Jonah’s cell phone rings.

It’s Paul. He indicates that he and Lilith — mostly Lilith, by his admission, though he helped — looked up Reverend Caulfield, and though they did not find reference to him being demonic, they did find references to him in three different books. One places him in D.C. in 1968 during the Poor People’s Campaign, another places him among the Okies in the 1930s, and the third makes a passing reference to him in the 1870s. He is, in all cases, pictured or described in the same fashion, indicating that he has not aged. The group thanks him for that information and asks if he can fax the pages to them, finally deciding on using Katrina’s work to receive the fax. He agrees. After hanging up, they have scant time to discuss these new events before Jonah receives a call from Maurice, the friend he called the night before about Chuck’s house possibly being haunted. Maurice indicates that, no, Chuck’s house does not reside on any ley lines or interesting places in town, though the town itself has a lot of odd rumors. Local historian Clark Borde might know more, and he happens to run the shop Good Medicine in the mall. With this information, the group goes to Good Medicine; Elena goes to Mrs. Field’s to flirt with the guy at the counter and make sure she isn’t seen with the others.

In Good Medicine, Chuck and Jonah introduce themselves and ask Clark about local legends. He seems fairly happy to oblige, and explains how the Indians used to avoid this area, based on folk legends that it was haunted by monsters. Specifically, they said that the woods were haunted by the Little People, the payiihsaki, who are essentially the fairies and trickster spirits found in most traditions. They also said that the lake contained some sort of monster that would eat unwary travelers, and they lastly claimed that a series of caves — though no caves have ever been reported in the area — served as the lair of a monstrous creature known as the Snake-Bear, the kineepikwa’mahkwa. He even went on to explain that the name of the town came from the settlers’ misunderstanding of the word Tawa — a reference to the legendary Naked Indians in the area. The settlers assumed the word was Terra, a word they knew, and the name stuck. Chuck and Jonah thanked him for his help, relatively excited by this new revelation, and Jonah purchased some pipes before leaving. Then, deciding that he wants to engage in a sweat lodge so as to perform a vision quest, Jonah started purchasing a tent and tobacco and such so that he can commune with nature. As they go to leave the mall, Chuck and Elena both notice a couple of kids coming out of Hot Topic, one of whom seems odd. When figuring out how to approach them, Jonah finally decides to call after them, and when they don’t respond, he runs at them. After a brief discussion, they figure that he’s just messing with them, and as the argument gets more heated, security comes over and separates the two. Elena volunteers that rather than trying to talk to them and learn who they are that way, she can just ask around at school tomorrow. Jonah returns to gather the things he dropped when running after the kids, then he then quietly invites Chuck along on his sweat lodge vision quest, though Elena and Katrina manage to hear enough to get the gist of Chuck and Jonah naked in the woods together, for which Elena gives him no end of grief. Jonah, having an idea, returns to Good Medicine to invite Clark along, and after some thought, he agrees and says that they should get lumber to build the lodge. Jonah agrees to meet him at five, and then returns the tent since he will not need it.

Meanwhile, with Elena and Chuck talking in Claire’s — mostly with Elena making fun of Chuck about the prospect of getting naked with Jonah — Katrina goes into the Dollhouse next door. Looking around, she asks Cassius Sherman about the set of dolls that all look alike, to which he replies that they are his wife. He starts quietly weeping. Awkwardly, both he and Katrina turn away from each other before she excuses herself, saying she may return again.

Finally, having received the call from her work saying that the fax came through, Chuck, Jonah, and Katrina go to the dance studio to pick it up. Elena stays at the mall as her shift is occurring shortly. Once they pick up the fax and Katrina makes copies for everyone, they part company so that Jonah can purchase lumber and Chuck and Katrina can return to Chuck’s house to check on Agatha.

A Candle, Lit; Chapter 7

Monday, January 26, 2009, various points throughout the day.

After finding herself home last night, Agatha went through her evening routine and went to sleep. That’s when her trouble started, or rather, continued.

She awoke, unable to move, even to turn her head, nude, strapped to a table. A great light shined in her eyes. After adjusting to her surroundings slightly, the light moved and a majestic, muscular man with long, blond hair and Nordic features. For a moment, his eyes resembled those of a reptile, but only for a moment. He spoke to her without speaking, implanting words in her mind. First he asked her how she was feeling, then if she knew how the story would end. Having no knowledge of his question, he nodded and left. Soon, however, she became aware of another presence in the room, creeping closer. A slender, gray-skinned form with bulbous head, black eyes, and strange whorl-shaped scars on its face and hands. It was otherwise clothed in a strange silvery jumpsuit. After a time, he spoke, asking if she was Dr. Agatha Christine Herman, and where was she from. She said that she was from Terra Lake, and he said that he knew her. Then, recognition fully seemed to hit him, and he said that he was her brother, and that she should tell the others that he will be returning soon. Then, the Nordic fellow returned, and the creature claiming to be Michael seemed to return to his more subservient demeanor. The light shined back into her eyes, and then —

She awoke. With some alarm, she found that it was around one in the afternoon — a very unlikely time for her to awaken. Next, she noticed a message on her mirror, written in makeup saying, “THEY’RE COMING FOR YOU.” As she immediately got up and started getting dressed, there was a knock at her door. She checked to see two men in dark suits outside, and leaving the chain on the door, opened it. The more she looked at them, the more their vaguely Asian features seemed to be more angular, crystalline. Perhaps even somewhat otherworldly. They claim to be agents Johnson and Roberts with the CIA, and they tell her that, no, there was nothing abnormal about her missing time yesterday, nor with her dream last night. If she tells anyone otherwise, she will be murdered and placed somewhere where she will never be found, and does she agree to keep quiet? She does, and as soon as the men are gone, she starts packing. After the couple of hours it takes her to get her stuff together, she calls Katrina.

Meanwhile, Chuck and Katrina are about to explain human reproduction to Lilith when Katrina gets the call from a very distraught Agatha. Agatha intially seems ready to flee or do something in the depths of crazed fear before she and Katrina finally agree for Katrina to pick her up. On the way over to Agatha’s apartment, Chuck finishes explaining human reproduction to Lilith — which she seems to understand rather quickly, knowing sex from literature but not quite understanding its significance initially. When they arrive at Agatha’s apartment, Katrina pops the trunk while Chuck and Lilith go to greet her. However, by the time they hit the door, she’s already gathered her things and run downstairs, telling them that they need to get in the car now. After going to the bank to close out her account, and going to a drug store to purchase makeup and hair dyes and such, they go back to Chuck’s house. Agatha explains about the missing time yesterday, and the strange alien dream, and the CIA agents threatening to kill her, and that she has to leave because they’ll probably kill her. She then runs upstairs to start cutting her hair and changing her appearance.

Meanwhile, when Elena gets out of school, she finds a call from Paul waiting for her. He asks if she can show him to the mall so that he can get clothes for Lilith while they’re traveling together. She agrees and they do so, shopping for a little bit before they part their separate ways to go to dinner this evening.

Around five o’clock, Jonah arrives at the house to watch it and make sure no one is followed. A little after six, Paul shows up and shows Lilith her new clothes. While putting them back in the car, he runs into Elena. Once they all get into the house, Katrina goes upstairs to check on Agatha, and finding her more or less all right, returns downstairs. After a bit of idle chatter, and discussing what has happened since they last saw each other, Agatha comes downstairs with her hair cut short and dyed black, and makeup applied to the point where she is almost unrecognizable. After a few questions are asked, she starts to explain the whole tale of her missing time, her strange dream with an alien Michael, and the encounter with the threatening CIA agents. Paul, however, shortly chimes in, asking her a bunch of questions. Did the agents show ID? No. Did they seem bald and spindly or Asian and angular? Asian and angular. Paul then goes on to suggest that, like in The Mothman Prophecies, they likely aren’t with the government and she probably has nothing to worry about. After all, with all the stories about Men in Black threatening people, how would we know these stories if they silenced everyone involved? Feeling vaguely reassured, though only somewhat, she calms a bit. Paul goes on to explain the other phenomena in Keel’s book, prompting Elena and Katrina to recognize the two, red, softball-sized eyes of the Mothman as something they have seen. Meanwhile, Jonah excuses himself to go outside and calls his publisher, asking if he can get in touch with John Keel, because he has a big book he’s working on; he even has physical proof of alchemy. His publisher agrees to look into it, and Jonah comes back inside.

A little more discussion proceeds before a note floats down from the ceiling, admonishing them to take care of the things in this town. Agatha notes that the handwriting matches that of the other two notes she has received, and Lilith excuses herself to the bathroom, returning and looking about to say that Rhys — or rather, his ghost — is here. Jonah is immediately concerned that Chuck’s house may be infested or otherwise haunted, and calls a friend to research it, but Lilith suggests that Chuck’s house had no connection to Rhys, and that he would likely only manifest around something to which he did have a connection. When Chuck mentions the gear, Agatha pulls it from her pocket and asks, “Did you mean this?” She explains how she found it on the seat next to her after her period of missing time. Jonah suggests that it should be destroyed to send Rhys away, but Lilith suggests that they see what he wants before they do that. After conversing with him, both through Lilith and through his ability to move objects so as to write with a pen, they determine that he wants the Thing that killed him dead. When asking about the Thing as well as the other Fetches in town, Rhys suggests that the homeless typically know what’s happening, as might anybody with connections to that thing — it’s possible that somebody worships it or otherwise knows something about it. Paul further suggests that the group questions people who seem weird to Chuck and Elena’s senses. Around this time, Chuck and Elena both feel something strange, and Chuck runs to the window and throws open the curtains to see those two red eyes staring back at him. The shape flies away, prompting him to chase after it until it flies out of sight. He walks back into the house, explaining that he saw the two red eyes. Once the excitement dies down, the group seems to decide on a course of action, using their contacts to investigate the phenomena in town. Chuck ends up coming clean about his investigation on Michael, indicating that there were rumors about him being involved with a student, and that whatever pictures of Katrina were on his computer have probably been confiscated by police now. Jonah also says he’s going to buy pay-as-you-go phones for some people so as to stay in contact with a “private line,” so to speak. Paul and Lilith say that even though they are leaving town, they’ll keep in touch with everyone and they’ll keep researching some things, like Reverend Caulfield. With the plan more or less cemented, Agatha decides to stay the night at Chuck’s house while Paul and Lilith go on their way. Jonah accompanies them to a convenience store to buy them their phones, and then they leave. Jonah goes back to the woods to sleep, while Katrina and Elena eventually go to their respective homes.

A Candle Lit; Chapter 6

Sunday, January 25, 2009, approximately 8:00 PM.

After a brief discussion, the group decides to call Lilith downstairs to meet Paul. Elena checks on Lilith, sees she’s not ready, and comes back down. While they’re talking in the meantime, Paul indicates that he has practiced alchemy, and while he isn’t that good, he has achieved some success, flippantly referring to “cheese into iron.” Jonah requests that he tries it before deciding that Lilith should probably see it, so he asks Paul to hold off.

Additionally, an offhanded comment about Lilith prompts a discussion of her race — the Created or Prometheans — which Jonah knows nothing about. Paul explains that the story of Frankenstein is real, or at least based in truth, such that at some point in the past, some half-mad human reanimated corpses and the Prometheans resulted. They are creations of alchemy and corpses, and seek to become fully human again. Jonah is, at first, ill at ease with this concept, but finally comes around to the idea that she should be allowed to move about freely.

Finally, Lilith comes downstairs, dressed in Elena’s jeans and blouse and with her hair put up, though Elena, Jonah, and Katrina all have a bit of a hard time noticing as they are all simultaneously gripped by the same vision of Lilith — Lilith, cackling, her skin pale and her eyes all black, black rents in her skin and the ghostly shades of Michael and Rhys accompanying her. As such, while Chuck and Paul complement her new look, and Lilith indicates that Paul seems “odd”, Katrina stares at the ground, Elena takes another drink, and Jonah runs into the kitchen to make a tinfoil hat. Eventually the vision fades, and they get down to cases. The discussion about Paul seeming strange to Lilith provokes a discussion of her kind, the Created or Prometheans. Paul explains that they can sense each other instantly — and due to his alchemical practices, they can sense him, as well. At the behest of the others, Paul then gathers some kitchen supplies together and demonstrates his alchemy — within a half hour, assembling some mixture that turns the single of cheese into a flat square of iron. Jonah requests to keep it, which Paul allows, and then asks Lilith what she thought of it. She replies that it looked like alchemy to her.

Afterward, there are a few questions about Lilith’s origins — she again explains that she was made by This Way Comes and is trying to transmute into human form. She also explains her lineage, or family within the race; that she is affiliated with spiritual things because some tell that when Orpheus was ripped apart by maenads, he was pieced back together by spirits. Others tell of Siberian shaman initiation ceremonies where the spirits rip them apart and then piece them back together. However, responding to Jonah’s question, she indicates that she does not know the precise procedure to make one, but would probably figure it out.

Finally, the conversation returns to whatever evil Paul represents. Not having heard the story about Reverend Caulfield, Lilith finally manages to extract the story from the others and suggests that it sounds a little like demonic tales about forbidden knowledge and pacts. Chuck and Jonah are immediately ill at ease with this revelation, and Jonah tells Paul he can have his car back, and here’s a thousand dollars for his trouble. After a bit more discussion and much more drinking, the group decides to call it a night. Jonah takes Paul to his car, and then goes to the woods to try to replicate Paul’s alchemy, only creating a sticky, cheesy mess.

The next morning, Elena goes to school to find it abuzz with the activities of the weekend. She wisely says nothing of her involvement in those activities, but finds that many of the teachers are quietly distraught and all the student body is whispering about what happened over the weekend.

At the same time, Katrina makes an oppointment at the local health clinic when she awakens. She goes over that afternoon, and after an examination from Dr. Robertson, she learns that she is indeed pregnant. Not long. Maybe a week or so at most. She takes some pamphlets and makes her way out to go home, shell-shocked. Then she calls Chuck.

Meanwhile, after sleeping in and finding out that he doesn’t have work, Chuck and Lilith go to the grocery store to gather supplies for dinner. Lilith seems touched when she asks Chuck if he and the others are her friends, and then they return to Chuck’s house to start preparing dinner. That’s around when Chuck gets the call.

Meanwhile, Jonah awakens. He drives to the motel and knocks on doors until he finds Paul, interrupting a couple of people and encountering some weird guy who offers him a bag of cauliflower. He shows Paul his failure from the night before and asks him what went wrong. As Paul explains, Jonah can’t read or write Arabic, but he could probably copy it down. But he still couldn’t understand it. Such is the way it is with alchemy. After learning that Paul met some people online, Jonah goes down to the library to research more on alchemy.

So, Chuck receives his call from Katrina, asking if she can come over and talk to him. He agrees, and when she makes her way over, Katrina is again assaulted by the vision upon seeing Lilith. Lilith, seeing that Katrina is obviously uncomfortable, decides to make herself scarce, and Chuck says she can go downstairs and watch television. Once she is gone and the vision has faded, Katrina reveals that she is, in fact, pregnant. She doesn’t know what that means, since it had to have been with the Automaton Michael. She doesn’t know whether she should keep it or not. She thinks she might keep it, though Chuck suggests that maybe that is what whatever creatures that made Michael want her to do.

Finally, conversation turns to Lilith. With the assault of visions, Katrina thinks she might be going mad, or that it might be some side effect of whatever child is within her, but Chuck says that she should just ask Lilith. Finally, the two of them go downstairs and Katrina asks Lilith about her visions. Lilith says that she thinks its just a side effect of whatever force provokes humans to hate her kind; she says that she actually looks like the tattered and ethereal creature that Katrina sees in her visions, and only appears as a human due to some side effect of the alchemy that makes her. Somewhat relieved that she is not going crazy, Katrina then asks about the baby — specifically, if someone made a baby with one of those Automaton things, what might happen? Lilith then says she’ll try to listen as best she can, despite not really understanding how humans reproduce.

A Candle, Lit; Chapter 5

Sunday, January 25, 2009, at various points during the day.

Dr. Agatha Herman is at work in the lab when she gets the news. The police come, and tell her about her brother Michael. How he disappeared and left a bunch of objects in his bed. How a Jane Doe’s body is missing from the hospital. How a Dr. Shriver at the hospital is also missing, random objects found where he used to be. How Rhys Nolan was found dead in his hotel room. After exchanging all relevant information, the two officers leave as Agatha gets a call from her mother. They talk for a bit and Agatha reassures her mother that Michael has probably just left considering the stress he’s had placed on him. Somewhat reassured, the elder Herman thanks her daughter and tells her good bye. Considering that she does not know what Katrina heard, Agatha decides to call her. Upon doing so, however, she is immediately assaulted from a blast of static from her phone and loses consciousness.

The next thing she remembers is awakening in her car, parked by the side of throad. It looks like she is near Terra Lake, and a garishly colored tent is off in the nearby field. On the passenger’s seat lies a chunky gear, missing a tooth, and a note reading “AVENGE ME! CLEANSE THE ROT”.

Meanwhile, the party from the woods has all gathered in Jonah’s station wagon and is driving in the same direction as the lights. Having thoroughly lost sight of them, they see a Ford Taurus by the side of the road, and more startlingly, a garishly colored pavilion that somehow sprang up in the, perhaps, fifteen minutes since they last passed by this field. With the lights out of sight, and having noticed that the car appears to contain Dr. Agatha Herman, they decide to pull over and investigate. Jonah stays in the car while Chuck, Elena, and Katrina exit to speak to Agatha. She indicates that she was just going for a drive, but manages to explain herself in vague enough terms to lead Elena to conclude that Agatha has no clue where she is or how she got there. Chuck begins to explain about what has happened, about how what the police told Agatha was wrong, whereupon Agatha was quite indignant that the chief of police told Chuck things that he did not see fit to tell the families involved. At that, and partially from Elena’s suggestion, Chuck ceases his debate and goes into the tent, from which guitar music is currently issuing forth.

As Chuck, Elena, and Katrina go inside the tent, Agatha calls the police station to talk to Chief Roth. She manages to get a hold of him, whereupon he indicates that Chuck is making up the things he said. Pleased, she decides to follow the assembled party into the tent, but makes sure to collect the note and the broken gear first.

Chuck, Elena, and Katrina, on the other hand, enter the tent to find only one man there, an old African-American man in a suit and minister’s collar. Upon entering, he praises the Lord for their coming. Unbeknownst to the group, Jonah leaves his car and sneaks around the side of the tent to get a good look. The reverend, introducing himself as Reverend Mortimer Caulfield, calls Jonah — Mr. Felix, he calls him — into the tent and proceeds to explain how the Lord has brought them all there. Shortly after this, Agatha enters the tent, having finished with her phone conversation. Rev. Caulfield tells her that she does not trust the others, but she must to cleanse the rot from this town. She asks how that can be done, but Caulfield tells her he doesn’t know. Jonah asks what he knows about the traveling kids from the woods, specifically asking about Lilith. Rev. Caulfield indicates that he doesn’t know, but can tell Jonah if he will perform an errand. He tells Jonah about a young man who will come riding into town on a cloud of music, astride a black horse, and how as Adam named everything in the Garden, so shall this man have the name of his clothes upon him. Rev. Caulfield indicates that he must take the horse from the sinner and Jonah agrees. After a quick prayer, Rev. Caulfield indicates that Lilith is not native to those woods. She was created, not born, and she still lives, presently staying in Chuck’s house. After a bit of discussion, Chuck asks about Rhys and why Katrina suddenly seems strange to them. Rev. Caulfield says he once again can provide these answers if Chuck will take a quest. Chuck agrees, and the Reverend tells him that this man coming to town, the one on the black horse, he has a beast in his heart and it must be cut out. Can Chuck do that?

Chuck agrees and after a prayer, Rev. Caulfield reveals that in Katrina’s case, it is the miracle of life. She is with child, which Katrina vehemently denies as impossible; after all, how can this stranger know that? As for Rhys, he was killed by that creature in the woods. Though it is strong, it is not invincible, and can be harmed and killed by conventional weapons, though there are no forces which are especially damaging to it. After a bit of further discussion, the group decides to go to Chuck’s house to find Lilith. Agatha, a bit overwhelmed and still not entirely trusting, says she’ll probably just go home. The group then walks outside.

At about that time, cruising down the road along the lake comes a black car. A sedan, which later appears to be a convertible. A Ford Mustang with the top down. The guy driving has a leather jacket, and a black baseball cap with the word “HAT” written on it. MSI’s “Bitches” blares from his speakers. As he cruises past, he gives an approving glance at Elena and throws up the metal horns before leaving. While the others discuss, Jonah says, “We have to follow that car!” and jumps in his car. Chuck and Elena get into his car while Katrina gets in the car with Agatha, to be taken back to her own car in the woods.

Jonah speeds along until he catches up with the Mustang, pulls alongside it, then tells Chuck to “take the wheel.” Chuck manages to do so without causing an incident, and the guy in the car looks over at the car, curious as to what it’s doing. Then, Jonah hangs out the window and leaps between the two cars, landing across the man’s lap. Surprised, he loses control of the vehicle and slams into a ditch. At this, Chuck pulls over. Jonah shoves the man out of the vehicle and tries to take off unsuccessfully as he finds that he is stuck in the ditch. The man, meanwhile, moves around back, opens his trunk, gets a bag out, opens it, pulls out a baseball bat, and starts striking Jonah. Chuck and Elena run over, pleading for the two of them to stop, while finally it ends as both Jonah and the man dive for the bag. The man gets it, runs down the road, and puts his thumb out.

Having stepped into their cars, Katrina and Agatha are both driving back to town. Katrina sees the man first, but pulls up closer to the accident. Seeing this, the man walks farther away, just in time to get picked up by Agatha. He asks to be taken to the local motel and also asks for the number of the local police department.

At about this time, Chuck, Elena, and Katrina all decide to leave, refusing to help Jonah move the car to avoid putting their fingerprints on it. Chuck and Elena get in Katrina’s car to get Elena’s car, and then they make their way to Chuck’s house. Katrina makes a detour at a drug store to obtain a pregnancy test.

During this time, Agatha drops the man, who has introduced himself as Paul St. Claire, off at the motel. Having already called the police, he thanks her generously and goes inside. She drives home.

Meanwhile, Jonah manages to push the Mustang out of the ditch using his own station wagon. He then drives the Mustang into the woods, walking back to his own car to find the police already there. One stays behind while the other drives into the woods, returning to inform them that they found the Mustang. They then take Jonah down to the station.

Chuck and Elena arrive at Chuck’s house and open the door to find a note from Lilith on the floor. When Chuck calls out to her, he hears a noise come from the living room and finds her curled up on the floor, a muddy and bedraggled toe tag hanging off her big toe. She stands and sheepishly greets them while Chuck gets her some sweat clothes. Chuck and Elena question her to find that last night is hazy, but she thinks the doctor on duty, Dr. Shriver, examined her, panicked, and gave her a shot which “made [her] feel bad.” The next clear thing she remembers is awakening in the morgue, and in her drug addled state, she went to Michael’s room and smothered him with a pillow to “be helpful.” She indicates that he fell into a bunch of different pieces, and that the act of killing did not please her. Next, she left the hospital and wandered around until finding her way to Chuck’s address by a combination of trial and error and memory. She says she doesn’t know anything about Dr. Shriver or Rhys. She apologizes profusely for breaking into his home and taking food, and thanks him for everything. Around this time, Katrina arrives. As Chuck asks Lilith about her survival and the fact that she is obviously abnormal somehow, she finally explains that she is Created, having been made by This Way Comes. She is native to the area, and like many of her kind, she seeks to become human. She also makes several references to the fact that group will probably start to grow angry with her or hate her shortly, though they are stymied by how this might take place. She says that it just happens.

As Lilith’s story ends, Elena and Lilith go upstairs so that Elena can give her some of her overnight clothes and show her how to apply makeup and the like. At the same time, Katrina goes into the bathroom to use the pregnancy test. She sits there, disbelieving for a while when the test appears positive.

Meanwhile, Jonah is sitting in his cell when the police indicate that he has a visitor. It is the young man from earlier, coming to ask him why he lunged at him. After introductions are made and Jonah indicates that there was a good reason, the young man — now having introduced himself as Paul St. Claire — asks the police to release Jonah. They do so, and the two of them go out into the parking lot to talk. Once Jonah reveals that Paul can’t use his car for whatever reason, Paul begrudgingly allows this strange event just so long as he can get to the bottom of whatever is happening. Jonah then notifies Paul that Chuck wants to talk to him, and calls Chuck to get directions to his house.

After a brief drive in Jonah’s station wagon, Paul and Jonah arrive at Chuck’s house to find Elena getting a few items out of her car. Paul is introduced to Elena and Chuck, as well as Katrina when she finally returns from the bathroom, and over drinks Chuck reveals both the events of the past day or two, as well as the fact that Reverend Caulfield asked him to “cut the beast out of Paul’s heart.” Paul indicates that he doesn’t know a Reverend Caulfield, nor does he consider himself a bad person, nor does he know how Caulfield might know him enough to have described him with some certainty. As the conversation continues, it becomes apparent that Paul might know something further about Lilith. With that, Chuck informs the others that he hopes to make dinner tomorrow if everyone would care to attend, and if Lilith is ready, that perhaps she and Paul should meet each other.

A Candle, Lit; Chapter 4

Sunday, January 25, 2009, at various points during the day.

Chuck Storm gets the call first. Awakened from sleep prematurely — getting to bed after one, getting awakened just before five in the morning — Chuck gets the call that he needs to cover a story over at William Henry Harrison Memorial Hospital. And, oh, Police Chief Roth wants to talk to him, too. Running on too little sleep, moving forward only on coffee, he makes his way to the hospital.

When he gets there, the Chief Roth talks to him. Says he’ll shoot straight, because he needs to know what Chuck knows. This doesn’t go to the press; Chuck will only release what he says is permissible. Chuck agrees. They talk.

It seems that last night, somewhere in the three o’clock hour, the power goes out. Somewhere in that time, Michael Herman disappears. They find the bed he was sleeping in, pillow over where the face would be, a smattering of random objects left behind. Twigs. Broken lightbulbs. Batteries. The worst part; in the middle, around where someone might find the heart, a chunk of depleted uranium. The FBI is already on its way for that one.

Not only did he go missing, but that Jane Doe that Rhys and Chuck brought into the hospital, she died. And now her body’s missing. Just gone, from the morgue in the basement. What’s more, Rhys is dead. Messily dead. Like a wild animal did it. Something wrote on the wall of his hotel room “I own this town.”

And that’s it. But that’s enough. Chuck tells the Chief his story, the real story, but Roth doesn’t believe it. Says it isn’t possible. But he thanks Chuck anyway, gives his initial statement, and continues the investigation. Chuck stays at the hospital the rest of the morning and the afternoon, covering the story.

Meanwhile, a little after eleven in the morning, Jonah, still sleeping in the woods, is roused from some bad dream about a malformed, sinister Lilith just in time to hear the ringing of his phone. It’s Benjamin, from the Tawa Masonic Lodge, and when Benjamin called him the other day indicating that something was wrong with Michael, he blew him off. But, well, the news today suggests that something was wrong, and he’s sorry he didn’t listen. He tells Benjamin the story so far, about how Michael’s missing, some Jane Doe at the hospital is missing, and some traveler at the Super 8 is dead. Jonah says its no trouble, and upon hanging up, immediately makes his way to the hospital.

Upon arriving there, he questions several hospital workers, including Father Mulligan, before finally calling Chuck Storm. Chuck says he’ll meet him, and the two go out to Jonah’s car to talk. Chuck explains the situation as he knows it and currently understands it, and the two decided to meet in the woods later. Chuck went back inside the hospital to cover the story, while Jonah drove to the mall to find Elena.

Elena, on the other hand, was at home. Having awoken from a bad dream, involving a malformed Lilith torturously animating trees, her mother came into the room and told her she might want to see the news. When she comes downstairs, she sees Chuck reporting from the hospital. Seeming shaken, she goes back upstairs to call Chuck and proceeds to find out all he knows about the current situation.

Jonah, in the meantime, has gone to Claire’s in the mall to find Elena. Finding another girl working there, he bribes her to get Elena’s number. While getting a pretzel, he calls her, too. Among the three of them, they determine that they’ll go to the woods after Chuck gets off work.

During this time, Katrina has also been busy. She awakens from a dream, again involving some horrible visage of Lilith, to find that it’s a little after five in the morning and that two, red, glowing orbs are outside her window. She feels a presence flow through her before she closes the blinds and goes downstairs to watch television before falling asleep. When she awakens again, she calls the hospital to check on Michael, and they tell her come down, that there’s been an incident.

She makes her way to the hospital and learns from two police officers about the missing people, the strange objects, the missing corpse, and the dead traveler. After they let her go, she sights Chuck and follows him. Finally, she corners him and asks what he knows. Once again, he gives her the full story as he understands it, including new developments that a Dr. Shriver, the one who pronounced Lilith dead, is missing, with a pile of random items in his place. Once again, they decide to go to the woods this evening and see what can be seen. As she walks away, he realizes that she seems…odd. Rather like Michael felt. And something like he’d randomly felt earlier.

In any case, the day progresses until, finally, Chuck gets off work around dark. During a break, he snuck off and obtained some hard liquor, so he’s a little unbalanced when he meets Elena at the Jumping Bean. In any case, they make their way to the woods, meeting Jonah who has been there since he left the mall. Katrina arrives a little later. Chuck and Elena, though, they both feel that something’s wrong with Katrina and Chuck tells her so. While they’re looking about Elena sees something glowing and red shoot through the sky, and she and Katrina think it might be the same thing. Not knowing what else to do, they prepare to get in their cars and follow the thing.

A Candle, Lit; Chapter 3

Saturday, January 24, 2009, about 10:00 PM

With Chuck, Elena, Jonah, Katrina, and Rhys standing around in the woods, discussing this turn of events and the mysterious disappearance of Michael Herman, Lilith arrives. After introductions are made between her and Katrina, she asks if everyone is all right, given the gunshots and shouts heard earlier. They talk about the monster, and she says that it appears to have run away. She then makes her way back into the woods, satisfied that everyone is all right.

Meanwhile, Katrina calls Agatha and tells her about the kidnapping and the disappearance. Agatha gets dressed and drives for the woods, leaving a note at home in case something happens to her.

The assembled party talks until she arrives, and she begins asking questions about the whereabouts of her brother, assuming that Rhys and the others (or maybe just Rhys) are in on the disappearing act. She walks back to her car and calls the police, who arrive roughly about the same time that Michael comes wandering from the woods. Just as the red and blue lights appear, Chuck casts his stun gun into the woods. Michael says he won’t press charges, though Chuck, Elena, Jonah, and Rhys should be institutionalized. They are taken away by police for questioning, while medical personnel take Michael to the hospital. Katrina rides along and Agatha follows.

When they get to the hospital, Michael is treated and released while Katrina and Agatha wait. When he goes to leave, a nurse asks if he can stay for observation. Despite being highly unorthodox, he agrees and says he’ll contact them both tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Elena is taken home where her father asks her about what happened. She explains what little she can about the strang events in the woods, and she starts crying, so he decides that it’s not her fault. How could it be? She’s daddy’s little girl.

During this time, police are also interrogating Rhys. Chuck and Jonah are in holding cells, and Jonah plants his mushrooms on Chuck. Rhys exits the interrogation room after several minutes, laughing with the police, and they engage only in a token questioning of Chuck and Jonah. Then the police drive them back to their cars, still parked in the woods. While there, Lilith arrives again to see what they’re doing. Jonah asks what she knows about occult subjects, and she says that she’s not terribly familiar with things like Michael, but she knows about spirits and such. After a bit of discussion, Jonah decides to experiment. He first gives her a cigarette of salvia, which she smokes, quickly, and with no ill effects. Next, he gives her a quarter sheet of acid. She chews it for a time before she starts freaking out, alternately going catatonic and running and screaming. After Chuck tries to check her vital signs, she bolts and Rhys and Jonah follow in their cars. Finally, when she collapses, Rhys and Chuck decide that she needs to be taken to the hospital. Jonah goes back to the woods to sleep while they ride to the hospital, with Rhys telling the hospital to contact him if they find anything out. They claim to have found her by the side of the road, and leave it at that.

Then, the two of them go to their respective homes to sleep.

A Candle, Lit; Chapter 2

Saturday, January 24, 2009, at various points during the day.

The day starts out normally, as normal as any day starts out in Terra Lake. Chuck Storm, local reporter, mows his lawn and runs some errands. Elena Mackenzie, cheerleader and all-around darling in town, she works at Claire’s in the mall. Katrina Kournikova, Mike’s girlfriend, she’s going to meet Mike’s sister and his mother today. Agatha Christine Herman, the egghead doctor over at Phoenix Chemicals, she’s that sister. It’s her mother’s birthday today, and the family’s going over to the old folk’s home to celebrate. And Jonah Flood, well, he wakes up in his station wagon, like he does most days. After taking his morning regimen of drugs, he makes his way to the town square to watch people.

Of course, he never really makes it there. He’s awakened by a knocking on his station wagon window. A grizzled fellow, someone he’s never seen before, calls him “Jasper Felix.” His penname. Nobody here knows that name, but here’s this stranger calling him. He says there’s something wrong with Michael, and he knows that Jonah noticed it. Most people don’t notice, or they just dismiss it. But Jonah noticed. If he wants to know more, meet the guy — his name’s Rhys Nolan — meet Rhys at the Super 8 in town. He’ll tell him more.

He doesn’t just stop there, though. When Chuck Storm goes to the mall, Rhys is there. He presents the same offer and leaves. He goes into Claire’s, and tells Elena the same thing. The same offer. He’s a little more apologetic this time, a little more understanding of how crazy and sleazy this sounds. But he makes the offer, and then goes about his way.

Chuck Storm, meanwhile, goes to buy a stun gun.

Jonah Flood, meanwhile, starts following Mike. He finds what Katrina already knows, that the two of them are going out. Going driving. Somewhere along the way, though, Mike manages to lose Jonah. Jonah tries to break into his house, but it doesn’t work out.

Meanwhile, Mike and Katrina and Agatha are all at Owl Hollow Havens, a community for active seniors. They have their little party, and then go their separate ways. Rhys calls both Katrina and Agatha, and they call each other, agreeing that something is wrong with Michael, but they don’t need to go visit this mystery man.

That’s when the trouble starts. Chuck and Elena and Jonah all come to the Super 8, and they hear Rhys Nolan’s tale about the Automata, creatures that replace humans. You can’t detect them, except that they fall to pieces of junk when they die. Except that he has a piece of magic, a gear that grows cold when they come near. And he learns that Chuck and Elena can do it, too. They’ve been having cold chills whenever they encounter Michael.

As a group, they decide to go to the woods. They don’t know that word about them has already passed around the two skeptics and has even gotten back to Mike by now. They go in the woods, and they encounter a girl in white. There’s supposed to be a ghost in these woods, but this girl is real. Her name is Lilith, and she asks about what they’re doing in the woods. Why are they here. Finally, satisfied that they don’t seem scared and everybody’s okay, she leaves. She tells them, though, that she saw someone matching Michael’s description walking out from between two trees in these woods. They don’t find anything when they look.

They’re there for a bit when Elena screams and starts running, rambling about tentacles and writhing trees. They catch up to her, and that’s when the thing shows up. It’s large and scaled, something like a snake meeting a bear meeting the sludge dredged from your pineal gland. It doesn’t look like anything, but Rhys manages to hold it off long enough for everybody else to run. For Jonah to jump in his car and gun the engine, to hit the thing, driving it off.

After that, they go Denny’s. Rhys goes back to his hotel with Chuck and Elena, to dress his wounds. Then they all go to Denny’s. They form a plan, to go to Mike’s house and confront him.

They do. They find him there with Katrina, him looking a little flushed, her pantsless on the couch. They ask about him, and eventually, Chuck gets the idea that he’s lying. He texts Rhys to let him know something is up, and he enters the house with Elena. A scuffle breaks out, but no one is seriously injured. Mike gets an abrasion from Rhys’s machete, Chuck gets kicked and Katrina gets tasered. In the end, Jonah keeps blood from being shed and binds Michael with lamp cords. They take him to the back of the car, to take him and Katrina to the woods. He says he’ll tell them where the real Michael is if they let him go, and they do. He escapes between those two trees, leaving the rest of the group in the freezing cold, empty-handed.

A Candle, Lit; Chapter 1

Saturday, January 17, 2009, about 3:30 AM

Lights are seen in peaceful Terra Lake, Indiana. They move up and down streets, as if searching for something. Cars stall when they draw near. Just as quickly as they arrive, they disappear.

Over the next week, it becomes apparent that something is wrong with Edgar Michael Herman, also known as Michael, also known as Mike, also known as Mr. Herman to his high school English class. He seems boring. Monotone. Flat. Emotionless. Dull. He stops drinking, stops socializing. Most people don’t notice, but his sister does. His girlfriend does. The girl, the student with whom he made a mistake and had a one-night stand some months back, she notices. His lodgemate, a fellow Mason at the Tawa Masonic Lodge, the famous writer that no one knows, he notices at the Tuesday night meeting. The investigative reporter, a sometime friend who’s now doing a story about him, suspecting that something rotten lurks beneath this small-town exterior, he notices.

Sooner or later, they all notice.


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