The Nick Of Time (and other abrasions)
Al Bruno III
Again and again the formless creature threw itself against the thick, transparent, vault-like entrance to the walk-in humidor. Its tiny white teeth clattered against the reenforced glass as tendrils of its gelatinous body began to bleed and wriggle through the spaces between the door and the doorway.
The creature knew the door was going to give away, so did the three people trapped inside the refrigerated, cigar-filled room. Lorelei and Zeth began comparing spells and guns, getting ready for what looked to be their last stand. All the while Jason Magwier was raiding the shelves of the humidor, filling his pockets with improbable cigars.
It was only after a loud cracking sound filled the air that he seemed to remember where he was and what was happening. He gave his two friends a wink before pushing aside a shelf to reveal a hidden ventilation duct...
Zeth went first, pulling himself along with his elbows. His shoulders scraped against the cold metal walls of the long horizontal ventilation shaft. Magwier had insisted they bring Maxwell’s silver hammer along with them so he had to push it ahead all the way along. Zeth could feel a thrill of claustrophobia taking hold in his stomach. Only the reassuring weight of the automatic pistol in his left hand kept him calm, it gave him the same kind of comfort that a Christian might get from a rosary or cross.
Lorelei was second, impatient and grumbling she shuffled along. She wondered how many crawlspaces and air ducts she had found herself in throughout her strange and chaotic life. She wondered why did trying to do the right thing always involved so much sneaking about and running for your life. “So,” she whispered, “Dr. Flesh is trying to kill us by proxy.”
“Outsourcing,” Jason Magwier chuckled from behind her, “I never thought I’d see the day.”
“I’m coming up to an intersection,” Zeth called back.
“Turn to the right,” Magwier said, “and hurry.”
One after the other they went right. The sound of the humidor’s walls coming down echoed up from behind them.
“Why did Dr. Flesh run from us?” Lorelei asked.
“He didn’t run from us,” Zeth said with a sneer in his voice. “He ran from Jason.”
“From Magwier?” Lorelei wanted to turn her head and look back at her lover but the ventilation shaft was too cramped and dark to make that possible. “Why?”
“Because,” Magwier replied.
“Because? What the Hell kind of answer is that?”
“I’ll explain later,” he said. “Hey no kicking! Those boots are deadly.”
“They’re blood brothers,” Zeth said. The hammer snagged on a rivet in the metal slowing him for a moment, “Of a sort anyway.”
“What?” For a moment Lorelei was sure she’d misheard, “Did you two go to summer camp or something?”
“It was over a decade ago, when I was Noah. Dr. Flesh was wounded and we gave him first aid.”
“And we stole a bit of his blood,” Zeth added. “Now if he touches Magwier his power will short out for a month.”
“Wow,” Lorelei said. She’d been the man’s sidekick slash booty call for almost a year but he was still full of surprises, “I’m impressed.”
“Not a month,” Jason Magwier corrected. “Only until the next moonrise. Has to do with the tides.”
Zeth called back, “Another intersection up ahead.”
“Go straight on,” Magwier said, “in a few minutes you’ll find a mesh grating you can push free.”
The three of them scrambled further down the shaft. The crashing sounds were growing louder. Lorelei racked her brains for an incantation to have ready but what good was magic against a homemade shoggoth?
Magwier was still talking, from the tone of his voice he might have been describing a vacation itinerary, “Once you’re out you’ll want to make your way to the Sallow Sultan.”
Zeth slowed his pace for a moment, “Isn’t that a whorehouse?”
“I believe they refer to themselves as tantric masseuses,” Magwier said, “now once you get there you see an open second floor window.”
“How can you be sure of that?”
“I’ll explain later,” Magwier said. “Now Lorelei my sweet, I want you to climb in there and keep an eye out for Jack Diamond. Make sure he stays safe.”
Lorelei sighed, “I can't believe this. What are you going to have me do for an encore? Convince me to go dancing with the Anti-Christ?”
“Now while you are doing that Zeth will wait in the alley. Zeth if you see Dr. Flesh do whatever you can to stop him. Or at the very least slow him down.”
The wire mesh grating was up ahead, Zeth picked up speed, eager to be free, eager for open spaces, “And what will you be doing during all this?”
A wet slopping sound rolled up the ventilation shaft. There was the sound like a whip cracking. Magwier shouted, “I'll be trying to escapeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!”
His hands made a squealing sound as he tried to anchor himself on the shaft’s metal walls only to be dragged away. Lorelei and Zeth shouted after him but they both knew there was nothing they could do but go on, there was nothing they could do but stick with Magwier’s plan.
The formless creature yanked Jason Magwier out of the ventilation shaft. Gasping tendrils of bubbling sinew slammed him against one wall then another and back again. Its roar of glee was a chorus of agonized voices.