by Mick Rissling

As the sun rose slowly over the Barrens it threw shadows from everything it touched, as if casting the darkness out of all the molecules of the city street. Dawn in Puyallup had a special significance. Seeing the sunrise meant that one had survived another long night. An intense roar shattered the calm as three heavy motorcycles thundered down Luttwick Street. They were heading north out of the Barrens; their business apparently complete until darkness fell again. The bikes narrowly missed a small huddle of squatters on the street corner. One of the raggedy figures was sober enough to shake a fist impotently at the backs of the weapons-clad bikers.

The old man slowly walking down the broken sidewalk didn’t take notice of any of this. His weak skinny body involuntarily flinched as the bikes went by, but his thoughts were preoccupied today. This was it! The big day! The day to open wide the Door and let Molly out. He stumbled along the street towards his house with thoughts of vengeance trudging through his mind.

Two blocks later an early-rising ork boy on an ancient bicycle began to follow him and today the youngster was brave enough to do the name-calling all by himself. His shouts rang down the street and should have raised a chorus of barking from the stray dogs that had until recently plagued the neighbourhood. But it looked like the Puyallup Animal Control Coalition had gotten its act together – stray animals had become increasingly rare in the area during the last few months.

The old human was as unaware of that “fraggin’ tusker brat” taunting him as he was of the chipper twitching in the gutter. Today was going to be a day to be remembered. He was going to finally introduce Molly to the neighbourhood. They would pay for all the times that they had ridiculed him. He would exact his revenge with dignity and the ability to finally be able to say that he had told them so. He had said that the Item had power, oh yes! But they wouldn’t listen, would they? Oh, no!

“It’s just a piece of crap,” they said. “It won’t do anything,” they said. “If it was magic then it wouldn’t be in the trash, you fool!” said Whisker, and he was supposedly a shaman. But when the voices started whispering to him a year and a day ago, the old man knew that they were all wrong.

The time had finally come to show them what he had truly found! That is, if Molly would behave. He loved her (and the ones that had come before her), but she could be so damn disagreeable. He didn’t think that she would do anything he strictly forbade of her, but she resisted him sometimes and that could hurt quite a bit. One of her predecessors once put him in a coma that lasted for three days. All the neighbours had thought that he had suffered a stroke. Fools! But he had made that one pay for her insolence. Oh, yes. He never heard from Cindy again.

But Molly was stronger. He may be old but he could sure as Lofwyr sense her power and her desire for independence. Oh, yes. She was much harder to control than the others. But she was also the one with which he could best secure his retribution. She was even more of a treat to the eye than the others, and she never failed to keep him company. Oh, yes, she was a great friend.

The brave adolescent pedaled past on his bicycle, yelling obscenities as he went. Seeing that the old-timer was not going to be any fun, the ork called out one last insult and took off down Suppess Ave. The old man continued to daydream as he walked, unconsciously stepping over and around the ever-present debris of the slum.

He soon arrived at the small house where he lived. It was a rather ramshackle structure but it served his purposes quite well; he was left alone, and it had a basement with no windows.

He opened the door to his house (it wasn't locked because no one ever came here anymore - not even burglars) and entered the modest blood-covered living area. The windows were covered with blankets and sheets, making the room so dim that he almost stepped in the half-full dish of raw beef beside the doggie-door. The smell of an old slaughterhouse filled his nostrils, but he was used to that. It was what he saw in the light from the open doorway that gave him pause. The trid was on and this week’s celebrity host of Urban Brawl was describing prizes, but the old man was staring at the blood and gore in front of him. The ratty couch was stained with the fluid and most of the blue carpet was now maroon. A lot of the stains were old, but he could see new blood soaking in even as he looked. Parts of the carpet were blackened and scorched as if chemically burned. The walls were also splattered with blood and there were thick, dark clots of tissue and hair sticking to it. He watched as an unidentified piece of flesh slid down to the floor. It might have been part of an organ (a heart?), but he didn't much care; it would be a slitch to clean up no matter what it was. Two disembodied eyeballs stared at him from where they had been placed on the coffee table. His expression went from shock to understanding to anger in a matter of seconds. His face looked like that of parent who comes home to crayon murals on newly painted walls.

He yelled, "Oh, no, not again!" and raced across the living room to the old dark door at the end of the hallway. He stopped with his hand on the brass doorknob and his grizzled head against the warm blackwood door, panting from exertion. He stood there for a moment until the image of the eyes on the table prompted him to again start after the responsible party. He heaved open the heavy door and charged down the stairs into the windowless basement. The lights were not on, but Molly had lit the candles and the room was visible in flickering orange and red light. He paused again at the scene in front of him.

The room was quite large, about the length and width of the entire house. The walls were lined with shelves of books and alchemical glassware and supplies. All the shelves were covered by panes of Synth- glass? that were smeared with gory stains and streaks that looked black in the candlelight. In the middle of the room was a large, faintly glowing circle of paint and chalk. Around the circumference of this circle were many intricate pictograms and glyphs, which in turn were inside a larger circle. It was not the Circle of Summoning that halted the old man, however, but that which was inside it.

In the centre of the circle sat a beast of Lovecraftian nightmare. Its body was similar to that of a great ape, but with modifications no sane god would have made. It would have been about three meters tall when standing, was almost hairless and had many of its organs suspended on the outside of its body. Acid so concentrated that it pitted the cement floor where it dripped flowed continuously and copiously in rivulets among the pulsating guts. New flesh was regenerating constantly as the caustic fluid burned it away. Anything unfortunate enough to come into contact with the demon (for that was what it surely must have been) would be efficiently pre-digested. The organs hanging like so many grapes from its torso glowed from within with a bluish light; and in this luminescence dark shapes could be seen slowly squirming inside them. Its arms weren't really arms at all, but wrinkled writhing tentacles that ended in fierce-looking talons. These “fingers” were five in number, though not arranged like the fingers on a metahuman hand. They were radially symmetrical so each could make contact with any of the others and were little more than jointed claws. The beast's foul brown acid ran down onto these claws and seared the bloody corpse it was holding. Its legs resembled those of an elephant, except again for the pincer-like claws radially splayed at the base of its feet.

The head, oh God! That monstrous head! A countenance so horrific the mind could not completely comprehend it regarded the frail human. Its several insane eyes were those of a hunting mantis; it was hard to tell exactly how many were present because studying its visage for too long would surely have led to madness. The mouth was a sucking disk ringed with needle-like teeth. A bloated black tongue would occasionally sneak out of that hideous orifice and lick the spleen that was its current meal like a lover’s gentle caress. There was no nose that could be recognized as such, but the several small holes that could be differentiated from the oozing mass of the thing’s head might have been olfactory in nature. Most aspects of its appearance could not be explained to a rational person; and one who did picture something of this drastic nature (or supernature) would certainly only have the sense to run in fear and loathing - the remains of his mind crumbling as he fled.

The old man took all of this in within seconds. His face twisted into a grimace of fury and he screamed, "I told you not the dogs, only cats! I said to only get cats, oh yes! The dogs make too much of a mess! And do you clean it up? Oh, no! I keep the Door open, I let you venture out of the Circle, and I clean up the entrails that you are too picky to eat and too piggish to pick up! What do I get for my trouble? I get to come home and watch you slurp doggie-bits and make one hell of a mess! And don’t think that I haven’t heard of the missing Jehovah’s Witnesses! If I catch you with another damn dog when I have come back from my morning walk, I will personally send you back to the abyss I rescued you from! Oh, yes! You will go back down there and burn with the rest! You'll be able to tell Cindy that you also have failed me! Oh, yes! And if you think that I am a cruel master, you have obviously forgotten about the tortures you would suffer at His hands! At least I let you feed whenever you want to, BUT ONLY ON CATS! CATS! Do you understand me?!" Without waiting for an answer he stormed back up the stairs, muttering and cursing as he went. He slammed the dark door behind him, leaving Molly alone to think about what she had done.

After catching his breath he filled a pail with soapy water and knelt on the living room floor. As he began to clean up the mess (dogs always fought a lot and got everything so bloody messy, especially the big ones), he thought that when the community saw his Molly, they would think twice about calling him a nut again. He smiled as he continued his work.

Outside, the new day was just beginning.

©1999, Mick Rissling - used with permission