Saturday, March 10, 2012

Chapter 4 part 2

Well, I must say: Chapter 4 has been a grueling process, but not in a bad way! I just wanted to make sure it was picture perfect for my readers! This is where the story is really going to get down to the nitty gritty, so every detail counts to make it flow the way I want to. So without further ado, here is the conclusion of Chapter 4:

Several cups of coffee later, Aloysius got ready and left the house to go meet Charlotte at the train station. Now that he was a little more awake, he couldn’t believe that his stalker was actually about to prove him wrong. He wasn’t even sure where they were going but he knew that it was going to be an uncomfortable trip.
            By the time he got to North Station, it was 9:55. He hoped their train wasn’t leaving at 10 because he didn’t have the strength to run for it. He walked through the gigantic lobby and kept his eyes open for Charlotte, who was sure to stick out like a sore thumb. He meandered through the crowd and couldn’t find any sign of her. After a few frustrating minutes of searching, he paused and sighed. He decided that if she could find him once to follow him around, she could find him again with no problem! He gave up the search and got in line to buy a ticket for the train so at least he would be prepared for when they did finally meet up. He got nearly to the ticket window when he realized he couldn’t actually buy a ticket yet since he had no idea where they were going. “Dammit!” he muttered to himself. He turned around sharply and nearly knocked over his stalker who was standing only a few inches behind him. “YIKES, woman, you need to wear a bell or something so you don’t sneak up on me anymore!” he said. Charlotte merely chuckled and started digging into her pockets. “So, where are we going? I need to buy a ticket.”
            “No need.” Charlotte said. “I’ve already gotten one for you.” She handed him the ticket and they began to walk towards the boarding area.
            “Where are we going anyway?”
            “To Arkham.” She replied cheerily.  Aloysius stared at her blankly. He blinked a few times. She really just said they were going to Arkham, a fictional town that Lovecraft created and based off of Salem.
            “So you mean we’re going to Salem?”
            “No. We’re going to what people believe is Salem. It’s actually Arkham.”
Aloysius let out a quiet laugh, which then escalated into full blown hysterics.
            “Oh my God, what?? Do you honestly believe that Salem is Arkham?” He said in between guffaws. Charlotte looked at him and sniffled.
            “It is Arkham! I can show you when we get there! I can at least start on the train ride if you’ll let me!” Her face turned bright red and tears began to roll down her cheeks. When Al finally regained his composure, he realized that maybe he could’ve been a little nicer. He really was too tired to deal with crying Charlotte.
            “OK! OK! I’m sorry! Please stop crying! I didn’t mean to make you upset. Look, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. That book did cause me to have some messed up dreams and that’s why I’m here, for answers.  But let’s get one thing clear. That is the ONLY reason I’m here. Understood?” He asked handing over his handkerchief to her. She sniffled and nodded silently, while wiping the tears from her eyes. It was about then that a voice came over the loudspeaker and announced the track for the next train to Salem. “Oh look! We can be on our way to Ark…I mean…Salem now!” Al said trying to lighten the mood. They made sure they had all their belongings and made their way to the train for what was sure to be an uncomfortably strange train ride.

            After 10 excruciating minutes of waiting for the train to move away from the platform, the conductor finally shut the doors and they began to chug on their way. Al decided to break the tension and ask Charlotte about ‘Arkham’. “So…..what makes you think Salem is the real deal?” he said trying to keep a straight face.
            “It’s hard to explain until you see it. But I’ll show you the maps if you want.”
            “By all means.” He tried to sound enthusiastic. From her messenger bag, she pulled a folded white sheet of paper and a tattered older piece of paper that had been rolled up and tied with a piece of twine.  She untied the twine and unfolded the younger looking sheet of paper and handed both pieces to Al.
            “The plain paper is a current street map of what you call Salem.” She explained. “The older paper is a map of Arkham as it was envisioned by Lovecraft himself. Do you see anything similar between them?” Aloysius examined both maps carefully. He could see the train tracks running along the Miskatonic River were almost in line with the tracks on the Salem map running to Newburyport. He noticed the location of “Hangman’s Hill Burying Ground” linked up almost perfectly with the supposed location of Gallows’ Hill. He looked at these and brushed them off as merely coincidence. He handed both papers back to Charlotte with a shrug. “They’re not too far off from each other, I’ll give you that. It’s clear Lovecraft used one of these maps to model the other. I wouldn’t necessarily say that means Salem is actually Arkham, though.”
            “Those were just our tip-off’s” she said.
            “Tip-offs?” he asked.
            “Yes. You’ll see the biggest piece of evidence when we get there! Oh, they’ll be so excited that I was able to bring you!”
            “They? Our? Who are you talking about?”
            “I will explain when we get there! You have to see it to believe it!” Charlotte said carefully returning the papers to her bag. Aloysius had never considered himself a crazy man but at that exact moment he was just about ready to jump out of the moving train! What was Charlotte getting him into? Who was she talking about? Was there actually a group of people she was taking him to meet? Was she just luring him into a trap filled her stuffed animal “friends” that she talks to? He racked his brain trying to figure out who they might be! The creature in his dream mentioned “them” as well! Maybe there was some significance to it and he was just too tired to realize. His head was starting to hurt so he shut his eyes and rested his head against the window while his mind raced. Before he knew it the conductor was announcing their stop! They gathered up their things and shuffled off the train. They walked across the seemingly endless parking lot to the staircase that led to the main street level.
            Despite living fairly close his entire life, Aloysius had only visited Salem a handful of times on class trips as a child and on drunken Halloween excursions as an adult. He was relying fully on Charlotte to show him around. For all he knew she could know where she was going. Or she could be luring him into her torture chamber. Who could say? They crossed the busy intersection they had come to and before Al could even get the question he was going to ask out, Charlotte chimed in with an answer. “We’re not going too far off the beaten path to get to Church Street. It’s just the next street down. But there’s a certain way you have to go to get the full effect when I show you the map again.”           
            “I have no doubts you know where you’re going.” Al replied with slight sarcasm.  She turned and giggled excitedly at him. ‘There’s still time to run, Al. The train station is still close enough….” He thought to himself before Charlotte spoke again. “Now, I don’t think you want to go running off, Mr. Cunningham. We have work to do.” With that he decided that he really DID want to run, but he was afraid of what would happen to him if he even attempted it. Did she read his mind? Was she even human at all? He could feel himself starting to sweat.
            “Why would I run?” he asked nervously. “I’ve already come this far, haven’t I?”                                                                                                                               
            “True. Just wanted to make sure, that’s all. ” She replied           .  He followed along quietly as Charlotte led him down a small side street. ‘This is it. We’re walking down a shady street. I’m done for! I never even got a chance to say goodbye to my family…” Al thought bracing for an attack. They walked by a place called Lyceum, which Al assumed was a restaurant and then in between two red brick buildings, and eventually they came up to a rather large parking lot where Charlotte stopped and began rustling through her bag again.                                               
            “So where do we go from here?” Al asked, trying to hide the terror in his voice.      
            “OK, now before we go any further, take a look at the maps again. Now you’ll see they have a common denominator in the middle of the map.”
            “They do?”
            “Yes they do. Right now we’re on Church Street. Can you find Church on both maps?” Al took the maps and looked at them again, while still trying to stay on guard. He couldn’t believe it. It was on both maps! And almost in the exact location where they were standing! “Well, well, well…” he said. “That’s pretty impressive.” He was about to hand the maps back and Charlotte stopped him.       
            “Wait, you’re not done with those yet! Do you see what else they have in common?” She squealed. Al compared both maps yet again. He really didn’t notice anything else. It wasn’t until he looked back at the Arkham map that he noticed the “Miskatonic University Quadrangle” was almost identical in size and shape to the parking lot they were standing in front of. He looked back and forth between the map and the lot several times and was stunned beyond words. It still didn’t prove that Salem was ACTUALLY Arkham by any means, but he could certainly see how a loony toon like Charlotte would believe it. “Do you see it??” She said grabbing the maps out of his hands.
            “Oh I see it, alright…” he replied.
            “That’s how I found them! Come on! They’re looking forward to meeting you!” She grabbed his hand and rushed down passed a small office building until they came to a wooden door, which seemed to be heading down a small alley. Al took a deep breath and gulped.  He looked up at the imposing two-story turret that seemed to cast a darker shadow then the rest of the buildings surrounding it. Charlotte giggled and ran ahead to open the door. She unlatched the lock and pulled the door out and gust of cold air rushed out towards Aloysius.  It made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. It reminded him of how he felt in his dream with the creature. “Well, come on silly! You’ve come this far, right? She smiled eerily and Al nodded and slowly walked forward. Through the door, he followed her down a few small cement steps. On the left was another door with a faded sign hanging above it that looked to be about extremely ancient. Al could barely make it out but from what he could tell it seemed to say “Miska Tonic Soda Co. Est: 1920”. Charlotte rang the door bell and opened the door when it buzzed. Al reluctantly followed her in. The entryway was nothing more than stark office. The blonde, bespectacled secretary, who Al thought was paler than Charlotte, typed away on her computer and only looked away from her monitor when Charlotte addressed her. “Hello Lavinia!” she said. The distracted girl slowly turned her gaze towards them and responded slow and monotonously, almost like she was in a daze.
            “Hello, Charlotte. I see you brought him. I’ll alert Mr. Wade. You can head upstairs now.”
            “Thanks a bunch, hun!” Charlotte replied merrily once again grabbing Al’s hand and leading him up the stairs next to the desk. Every so often they would pass a landing with a door and Al would hear various sounds from machinery running to indistinct chatter in some foreign language that he had never heard before. They seemed to walk up a dizzying amount of steps, when Al knew for sure it only looked to be about two stories from the outside. Eventually they reached the final landing and Aloysius couldn’t believe his eyes. It was the same door he had dreamt about the night before. He gulped as Charlotte knocked on the ornate door.  They heard a voice call from inside. “Come in.”
            “This is it”. He thought. “Too late to run now. This is how I’m going to die….” . Charlotte pulled open the heavy door and Al sheepishly stepped in and breathed a sigh of relief when he noticed the interior of the room looked completely different than he was expecting. The walls were lined with bookshelves that stretched all the way up to ceiling and the books that filled them looks like they would turn to dust if anyone even breathed wrong around them. There were two large, brown, leather chairs sitting in front of the desk and a few scattered around the room. The large mahogany desk was as ornately decorated as the door. Behind the desk sat a stately looking gentleman dressed in a suit that looked it came straight from the 1920’s. He stood up, smiled and outstretched his hand towards Aloysius. ‘Welcome, Mr. Cunningham. My name is Sylvanus Wade. Please have a seat” 
            “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Wade.” Al said shaking his hand and then settling into one of the leather chairs. “Do you oversee the operations here?” he asked.
            “I do! Would you like to try some of our Miska Tonic Soda? We largely specialize in ginger ale and birch beer.”
            “Yes sir, the ginger ale sounds fine.” Al said, fearing what might happen to him if he said no.       
            “Perfect! Charlotte, please fix our guest a drink.” Charlotte nodded and disappeared quicker than Al could comprehend. He decided he couldn’t wait any longer for answers.                                                      
            “So Mr. Wade, from your sign it looks like you’ve been in business a good amount of time. I’ve never seen your products though. What exactly is it you do?”
            “Ahh cutting right to the chase I see. You are a smart man, Mr. Cunningham. That’s exactly why I had Charlotte bring you here.” Before Al could respond, Charlotte had already returned with his drink. “You’ve done a fine job, Charlotte, thank you. Now I think Lavinia could use some help in the office. Go and help her, won’t you?”
            “Yes, Elder- I mean- Mr. Wade.” she said. With that, Charlotte turned and showed herself out of the office.  
             "Now, back to what I was saying, Mr. Cunningham..."                                                                                                                                            
            “Please, just Cunningham will do. No need for formalities with me.”
            “OK. Well Cunningham, I suppose since you’re a fan of Mr. Lovecraft you’ve heard the word Miskatonic thrown around more than once. But not many people know where that word comes from.”
            “I always figured that it was just a made up word.”
            “Cunningham, what I’m about to tell you is very different than what you’ve learned about the world of Lovecraft. Are you sure you’re prepared to hear it?”
            “I wouldn’t have come here if I wasn’t.”
            “Well then let me re-introduce myself. My name is Sylvanus Wade and I am the leader of the Esoteric Order Of The Miskatonics, protectors of the works of Howard Philips Lovecraft. Welcome to our headquarters.”

...AAAAAAAND i'm spent! I hope you all enjoyed that! It was on a recent trip to Salem myself when Fred and I realized just how closely Lovecraft modeled Arkham after Salem, which of course added fuel to the fire when I was "mapping" out the plot for this story. In case you ever want to take your own Lovecraftian adventure in Salem, this was the map we used.

Keep your eyes peeled for Chapter 5 coming soon!! Hopefully it won't take as long as Chapter 4! As always, please share this with you friends, family, any other Lovecraft fans you may know, etc. I'm always looking for feedback! 

P.S. Am I the only one pulling for this in December? Cthulhu/Dagon 2012: The Stars Are Right!! ;)

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