Monday, July 18, 2011

A Package, a Birthday, a Departure

Firstly, I'm sorry that I've taken so long to update you guys. I wish I had a proper excuse -- long breaks typically mean that something awful has happened, and I know you must have been worries -- but I'm afraid that I really don't have one. The delay was mostly caused by the kind of complacent laziness that happens when all is going well and pleasant distractions abound. To occupy free time, I've gotten a small freelance job for a local paper for the remainder of the summer. The rest of my time has been spent buried in Aunt Michelle's final gift.

Let's go back to the Thursday before last.

First, Zeke arrived back at the Haven on Thursday night, not so long after my post concerning the attack. Violet and Riley had been sitting on the couch in the living room watching television, and I was in my room, pacing. Cathy and Tony had been in their room all day, and Ava was in the shower. I think everyone just needed some time to think things through.

I was at my door almost immediately when the front door clicked and unlocked, but Violet was to her feet and walking over in a split second. She stopped near the kitchen counter as, slowly, the door opened.

The moment Zeke walked through, I discovered I'd been holding my breath, because I let it out and breathed again. He looked tired, and a bit dirty. He was holding a package in his hand. He nodded at Vi as he passed her and walked into the kitchen, where he laid the light brown box down on the counter.

"Hi," I ventured to say.

He looked up at me, tried for a smile. "Hey," he said. Then he walked over and stood sort of beside and sort of in front of me, and held out his hand.

I rolled my eyes and extended my left arm, letting him unwrap the bandage and inspect the damage. The bullet itself had really barely touched me; the cut, deep as it was (and held together by butterfly stitches), was mainly caused by the superheated air surrounding it as it had passed. After checking it over for a few moments, he rewrapped the bandage and let my arm fall again.

"Should be all right," he concluded gruffly.

"Nice to see you again, too, Ezekiel," I said, bristling with sarcasm. "Not like we were worried about you or anything. Where's your dog?"

"On the hunt," he said, without asking who I meant.

"So he's not sticking around?"

"No, he'll be away for a while."

I must have looked incredibly smug, because he laughed and shook his head and said, "You two."

We stood quietly for a few seconds in the doorway as I suddenly became very conscious of Violet and Riley staring at us. I jerked my head back, and Zeke stepped into my room.

"Are you going to tell me what happened?" I asked, as I closed the door.

"Still debating it, actually."


"Okay," he said. "Maybe you should sit down."

"I'll stand. You sit."

He surprised me by not arguing, instead sitting dutifully down on the bed.

"Speak." I said. He began the tale as I paced back and forth.

They'd found Keaton, to be sure, and had a standoff with him in a very conveniently empty office building. Wren went vaguely insane, and then the tall bastard himself showed up. Listening, I slowly felt my muscles tightening, my jaw clenching subconsciously.

By the time he was done, I wasn't pacing anymore.

And yes, there was a...slight argument. Just a little one. Zeke fights; it's what he does.

But I will not be insulted. From now on I would have him and everyone else know this: I run the Gray Haven. I defend it, I say who comes and who goes, and this can and will extend to when I am at Miskatonic. I have final say. And if there are mistakes, then they will be my mistakes. No one else will make them for me.

No one; not even Crazy Zeke Bastard Strahm. The next time he goes out looking for something, I'll be going with him, and he can't do anything to stop me.

Right. Now that that's out of the way.

The package that Zeke had laid on the table was addressed to me. It had no return address on the envelope, but the letter inside said that Aunt Michelle wished it to be sent to me at the proper time, and it was signed cordially with Scott Monaghan's name and a request to give him a call before opening the small box.

I called him the evening of the next day. He picked up after two rings.

"Scott Monaghan."

"Yes, Mr. Monaghan," I said, suddenly rather anxious. "I'm calling because I've received the package you sent."

"Ah, I see," he said. "Well, I was merely following your aunt's instructions. But I can put some context into the things in the package, and some advice. I was there when your aunt made them."

"I...see," I said, even though I didn't.

"Have you opened it yet?"

"No. Your letter said not to."

"That's good. You've got very good self-control for someone so curious, Celie," he said.

"Well, I guess I just want to do things right the first time. Might not get another," I said with a small laugh to make it sound like a joke. If he laughed on the other end, I didn't hear it.

"Do you have it with you?"

"Yes, it's sitting in front of me now. Shall I open it?"

"Please do."

I fumbled with the tape a little, but got the box open. Reaching around the little blue packing peanuts in the box, I eventually pulled out a book. It was well-worn and beaten, and the cover sported generic romantic sepia images of Paris. A little more rooting around in the box revealed a small box, containing a necklace, and nothing else.

"Okay. It's a...journal and a necklace," I said.

"It's your aunt's journal and necklace," he said. "It arrived at your house yesterday, July the seventh, exactly twenty-four years from when she started it."


"Do you see the tape on the pages?"

"I can see some of it, yeah."

"That's where she put her research."

"Research...into what?" I asked.

"Add that question to the list. Why is the Haven so well-hidden? Why does it have a panic room with a phone that can call only nine other numbers?"

I paused and blinked; I had seen the phone in the panic room, but I hadn't noticed that particular limitation before.

"I think you already know the answer to these questions, Celie," he said. "You're a bright girl."

There was a silence. A long silence.

"Aunt Michelle knew," I said.

"More than any of us," he said. "She held the knowledge, and knew that she must pass it on someday, to someone worthy."

"Which was me?"

"Which was you."

"Why? Why not you?"

"I was with her when she discovered these things. I helped her set up the seven safehouses and I was by her side when she couldn't tell up from down in this world. Twenty-four years is an awfully long time to be haunted."

"So I'm meant to read this book?"

"Yes," he said. "If you don't, you'll be wasting a great source of knowledge."

"I've had some bad experiences involving notebooks before," I said.

"I know. But trust in this book. Trust Michelle."

"I will."

"A word to the wise, though," he said. "You will find things in this book that are...strange, even fantastic for your mind to behold. Pace yourself. Make sure that you come to terms with each part and understand all implications before moving on to the next. That is vital."

"I will," I said.

"Very good," he said. "You can call me if ever you don't understand anything or there are missing pieces, as there are bound to be."

"What about the necklace?"

"Ah, that," he said. "That is something Michelle picked up in England on her travels."

"What is the symbol on it?"

"What does it look like?"

"Er..." I stammered, confused; was this necklace like an ink blot, where different people saw different things? No, I decided. There's only one thing there. "Three rabbits, chasing each other in a circle."

"Hares," he corrected patiently. "The symbol is called the Three Hares. Do you notice anything strange about them?"

Another pause as I examined the pendant. It's medium-sized, about an inch across. "Umm..."

Suddenly, it leaped out at me, from the center of the symbol. "There are only three ears."

"That's right," he said. "They each share their ears with the other. It's a very old visual puzzle, dating back to medieval China. Each can be viewed correctly, by itself; it's only when you try to see them as a whole that something becomes wrong."

"What does it mean?" I asked.

"A lot of things have been attached to it over the years," he said. "Many churches in England and France use it in their motifs, often next to the Green Man. But no one has been able to say for sure what the original from China was meant to signify. The most popular theory is that it's a hieroglyph of the phrase 'to be.'"

"So why did Aunt Michelle have it?"

"That is for you to find out for yourself, in the book."

"Okay. Thank you, Mr. Monaghan."

"Please, it's just Scott. We're practically family."

"Okay. I'll speak with you soon, then."

"All right, Celie. Good evening."


Fortunately, there are no mental warnings involving this book; I don't feel the inherent hatred toward it that I do toward Rose's diary. Instead, only that feeling that I know so well, that all journalists feel: a certain curiosity, a hunger for knowledge.

I've gotten through the first few pages, but I'm holding off so that I can take some pictures and show you guys as I go. Right now my camera is kind of borked, so I'll have to find or borrow another one.

As for the necklace, after a quick Google search, I wasn't able to find the exact design, but I found something similar. The necklace looks like this, only without the backing, so that between the hares there is only empty space:

It's quite pretty, but I really don't understand what it has to do with Aunt Michelle.

On a rather sad note, the Delmonts left a few days after my call with Scott. They didn't say too much about their reasons, and I didn't want to ask. I've decided to make that sort of a rule: don't ask why people come here, don't ask why they leave. They'll tell you if they want to tell you. I assumed that it's because of their daughter, at least in part.

With them and Wren gone, that just leaves five of us here: Violet, Riley, Zeke, Ava, and me. We survive, and we prosper, for now at least.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Happy birthday, Zeke.

Things have happened. I've gotten a very ... special package.

Full update tomorrow.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Attack and Its Aftermath

Things have happened.

I suppose I was expecting this from the minute we arrived here, but it still took me by surprise, the way it happened. I was expecting Agents, sociopaths, led by that bastard Redlight. Instead I got a crazed little girl and her two bodyguards.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

On Monday night, while Riley was out at the store, most of us were still in the apartment after having gone out to see the fireworks. It was me, Violet, Ava, Tony, and Cathy. Things were just winding down; it was quite late, and Vi was just taking out some trash. I sat down and contemplated cleaning my gun, since I’d been at the range earlier, and as usual, I hadn’t completely unloaded it (I know, I know, bad Celie, shame shame), instead leaving one round in the chamber and one in the magazine in case of emergencies.

I can’t say exactly what happened in the hallway and on the stairs -- from what Violet said, they did in fact speak to each other before they went down the stairs -- but by the time I heard the loud scream and crash, I’d already suspected that all wasn’t well. I didn’t hesitate for a second -- I grabbed the holster on the counter and took the pistol out of it, tossing the straps to the floor.

I yanked the door open and headed for the stairs. Once I was there, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Violet was lying in a crumpled, twisted heap at the landing between the sixth and seventh floors; for one terrifying moment, I thought the worst before I saw that she was breathing, but certainly unconscious.

Standing over her, shaking and staring up at me, was a little girl, maybe twelve at the most. She looked frightened, but when she looked up and saw me, suddenly she became enraged. She moved to rush forward up the stairs at me; automatically, I raised my weapon.

“You’re Celeste,” she said.


“You have to die.”

“Not now. You can leave,” I said.

For a couple of seconds, she looked like she was considering the possibility. She seemed to be losing composure.

Something like a growl came from her and she said, “I came here to kill you!”

“Change of plans,” I said. Retightening my grip on the gun, I said, “You’re going to go back to your master, and you’re going to tell him that the Gray Haven is defended again.”

My voice got stronger as I ventured to add, “And tell him that the Witness defends it.”

Panic crossed her face for a second, but then it relaxed and  became something like a grotesque smirk; her face was far too pained, far too corrupted with malice for her to show any real pleasure at anything. I started to feel that sensation in the pit of my stomach, that wrongness.

“You don’t think I came alone, do you?”

Now it was my turn to panic.

“Ava!” I called, not taking my eyes off of this little girl. “Cathy! Tony!”

It was only a few seconds before I heard their footsteps in the hallway and felt their presence behind me. In hindsight, it must have been quite a sight to come in to; I was in my shorts and pajama tank top, holding a gun pointed at a crazed preteen.

Then something happened that I didn’t expect. Cathy ran forward, looking like she wanted to hug the creature.

“Cynthia!” she gasped. “My little girl!”

“Wait!” I shouted, much louder and bolder than I’d intended because of the echo in the stairwell. “She’s not alo--”

No sooner had I gotten through half the sentence than two fully-grown young men stepped around the corner, having hidden on the other side of the steps for who knows how long. Cathy, panicked, scrambled back up the stairs and out of reach before they’d even gotten fully around the corner.

For a fraction of a second, the girl called Cynthia hesitated and almost cried out to her mother. Cathy had mentioned her daughter before -- in passing, prompting sympathetic looks from Ava -- but I had thought it would be rude to press her for details. Her daughter, barely eleven, was a proxy?

Now my attention had to be turned to the two men, wide-eyed and obviously deranged. They had the same air as Mary-Ann Compton had when I’d seen her; they were content in their insanity. They didn’t hide it, nor did they think it detrimental. Their confidence scared me.

Tony pushed Cathy back and shot Ava a look that said Think of your child. It was just me and him in this standoff. But he was still injured, as was I, even though my arm wasn’t in its proper sling at the time; could we take on two healthy twentysomethings in a fight?

No, I decided. Not in a fair one.

I felt suddenly that I heard my father’s voice. No such thing as a fair fight, he was saying. No such thing. Rules of combat are a fallacy.

Anything to defend the Haven, the Runners, my friends, my family.

The men had evidently had enough standing around. One of them made a slight motion as though to come forward -- without thinking, I aimed the gun upward.

The shot rang out, and darkness flooded the room. The proxies charged anyway.

It’s difficult to say how long the light was out, or what happened in the total darkness of the windowless landing between the stairways. The emergency light was on the wall, in case the bulb in the hanging one blew out and left it dark; it was an archaic-looking bulb in a barred dome, and it was uncertain how long it would take before the system kicked in.

In the struggle, I lost my gun. I could hear Cathy and Ava retreating up the hallway and Tony’s grunts and roars as he took on, from what I could tell, the bigger of the two.

Both sides got good hits in. Both sides took damage. I have a hell of a bruise on my elbow, and another on my hipbone.

Suddenly there was I cry -- I think from Cynthia -- and the two men retreated. Confused, thinking something bigger was coming, I backed up as well. One flicker of light, then another. Then the backup kicked in fully, and I immediately wished that it hadn’t.

Little Cynthia, two crazed men behind her, held my pistol in her small, shaking hands. She was crying; I don’t think she expected this kind of confrontation, or any kind of confrontation. She trained the gun on me.

“Why wouldn’t you just die?!” she shouted, her tiny voice magnified by the echo. “You ruined everything! I hate you!

She pulled the trigger.

Anyone experienced enough in firearms will tell you that pistols are not known for their accuracy. It takes an awful lot of practice and patience with timing to hit a target. Cynthia was maybe five yards from me, because we’d wandered about halfway back up the stairs in the scuffle. Her hands were not nearly big enough for my gun, small as it is. And she was shaking badly.

Does that mean I wasn’t relieved when the bullet whizzed past and cut only the outside of my arm instead of plunging into my chest? Not bloody likely.

The kick from the gun had obviously scared her; she was crying harder now. She steeled herself and tried to shoot again, only to produce little more than an empty clicking noise. There was no more ammunition left. She no longer had the advantage. The gun fell to the floor, and she ran. The proxies looked unsure at first, and then followed her.

I didn’t waste time; I was bleeding from the arm, yes, but Violet was unconscious and obviously in need of serious help. Tony carried her inside and laid her on the couch while Cathy called the local hospital to see what we should do, and whether we would need to take her in.

Ava, meanwhile, fussed over my arm while I tried with my other hand to get on my phone to call Riley; it was better if he didn’t come home to see it and freak out.

In hindsight, we made a right good team; as soon as I gave them each a task (except Ava, who took up the cause of nursing me all by herself, much to my dismay), they went to it and before long, things were back under control. I watched at the door window as Cynthia and the two men ran for the small patch of woods, twisted trees gnarled by the ocean wind. What mattered was that they were away now, and probably not going to come back soon.

Now it was time to call Zeke and let him know. As I chose him in my contacts, my finger froze over the call button. Was he able to talk? Where was he? Could something have --

Ava reached over me and hit the button, interrupting my worry session before it got out of hand.

He picked up after three rings.

“I’m busy,” he growled. My face flushed; well, we’re kind of busy too, stupid.

“Zeke,” I said, calming myself. “Cynthia Delmont was just here. She attacked us --”

“Celeste? You’re breaking up.”

I checked the signal on my phone; it was fine.

“Goddammit, just get back here, and hurry,” I said.

“Celeste? Hey!”

The phone cut off. He must have been in an area with bad service.

The last two days have been rather busy. But under the constant advice from the doctors at the hospital, Violet has been getting better by leaps and bounds, and said today that her headache is nearly gone. The aid in the panic room sort of saved our skins, otherwise we would have really had to go to the hospital.

It’s been quiet for the last two days. Zeke hasn’t been back, but he called again yesterday and I was able to explain. He should be in sometime this afternoon.

I can’t believe I threatened that little girl. What’s wrong with me? At the time it felt like the thing to do…I must have looked like a monster to Tony and Cathy, looking almost ready to shoot their daughter. Would I have done that? Could I have shot an eleven-year-old to save my friends, to save the Haven?

I suppose I’ll never know. I don’t think I want to.

And in any case, it’s all back to normal now. Riley was distraught for some time, but once Vi woke up and calmed him down, he was pretty fine. That boy is strong, much stronger than I’d ever given him credit for before. And faithful; I’m happy that he’s here, sharing our work.

The fight goes on. And so does the Show.