Wells Astrological Society: Chapter Seven

8:50pm

“Something was moving in there. If someone is in there, they’ve been watching me the whole time. So it might just be some runaway or a homeless person, but they might not be content with just watching if I come inside. But I’ve come this far, and I’ve got to know if this is where the frequency is coming from,” the cameraman whispers into the mic, his face largely obscured in the dark, lit only by the red recording light. Night has clamped down on the world now, and he had turned off his flashlight. After he rights the camera again to continue directing it through the window, a faint metallic click can be heard. The sound of a hammer being cocked, a round chambered, and the rustle of leaves as he proceeds to the porch. Carefully the screen door is opened so as not to creak. He enters, crouched low and moving at a snail’s pace. He leaves the door open in case there is need of an immediate flight, and as a flash of light appears in the room beyond, he almost takes such a leave.

“Hey, Lyle, my mom and I were wondering if you wanted to attend dad’s funeral. I know it meant a lot to you, what he taught you, and we figured it only be right,” Aaron started, a weak, almost non-committal tone evident in his voice.

Lyle didn’t want to beat around the bush, saying, “Yeah, of course, I do. Why would you think I wouldn’t?”

“I don’t know; you don’t think it might be awkward after what you said last night. I mean, at least an apology would be nice,” he returned, sounding all the more hurt.

It didn’t make sense to Lyle, so he had to prod, “I don’t know what you mean. I worked on the tapes last night and… got some sleep?”

“Yeah, the tapes… Look, none of us know who gave those to dad, and if you’re going to say that what is on there is what’s on, there is one thing, but saying my dad was into snuff films and cult stuff and pedophilia for god’s sake, that’s more than a line crossed. You knew my dad. You know that he was a good guy. If someone handed him that stuff, and it was filled with all that, he would have turned it over to the police or destroyed the tapes,” Aaron remarked with exasperation.

Lyle pulled in a breath and began, “I don’t know what to say. I didn’t call you last night, and… yeah, that’s what I think this tape is. Someone’s weird culty snuff film. I don’t know what to do, though. There was a guy who brought me a bunch of photographs from the places in these videos. I don’t know if that means they know where I live or what they know,” he paused a moment before a question that had been lingering in his head finally passed his lips, “Aaron, you don’t think that whoever did this got to your dad, do you? That maybe your dad was murdered by someone child-murdering psycho?”

When he finally allowed the last words to tumble awkwardly out of his lips, the line was dead. As his questions struck his own ears, Lyle wasn’t so sure he hadn’t gone mad. Regarding the dream journal on his nightstand didn’t bode much better for that possibility. His mind maybe didn’t want to admit it to the waking self, but he had seen such terrors in the night. Skimming the top few notes made his skin crawl and a paranoia rise in his belly.

The times he had written were always approximate, rare was it they were one-hundred percent without error. However, with how often Lyle was up and how infrequent he had slept the past few days, he could be more confident of the times. Within three hours, he was up once every half an hour, and the six hastily scrawled recollections were not the type of dreams he would care to have even once in a whole month. Terrors of dreadful scenes, dead children, mutilated flesh, and invasions into his home at night were almost mundane against the backdrop of the cosmic.

He had only logged one of the bizarre, otherworldly night terrors he had witnessed, but even that, half-finished and poorly remembered, was the stuff of Randolph Carter’s fears. What he had written only breached the bare surface of a pearl formed singularly of mortal dread. There was a flat field interrupted by rows that rose only an inch or so from the earth. The colors were not quite right, rusting red against a dirty stainless steel surface, lit in a dismal amber with the glow of eggshell white on the horizon. Looking to those distant heights, one could see bulbous uneven masses of what could have been flesh were it not somewhat translucent. He could only call it partly translucent as it looked like dusty, cobwebbed glass set in the window of a house belonging to a lifelong chain smoker. Inside the masses, there was movement in the nature of worms, wriggling, writhing, and spastically jerking in that idiot way of so simple of creatures. It was nauseating overall but paled in comparison to what sat not more than a yard away from him.

Pushing up from the floor, running perpendicular to the rows that were already in place, another strange mass began to appear. It was not bulbous but shapely, like that of a human but saddled with an immense butterfly’s chrysalis. The tumor of flesh seemed to swell as the figure pushed itself from the ground that at once appeared to pour away from it like silt off a foot stuck in a bog. Once the person was almost completely removed, the cacoon erupted with such a sound and spurt of fluids Lyle instinctively looked away. A wretched miasma washed over him, a rot of mold and grave and something he knew he’d never place. But as he decided to look again, he found no moth or butterfly taking wing and fleeing the scene. Instead, what dwelt in view was the remanence of what it had no use for. 

It was like a puppet made of paper, the eyes hollow and lacking entirely in mass, one simple sheet of flesh. But, unlike a crude doll, this figure was detailed in every way as though it were a perfect photocopy of a human. There was a split where the back remained connected, but that was two-dimensional as the rest. The image itself was off-putting even were it standing stalk still, but as this human of sorts waved, pantomimed speech, and began to encroach on Lyle, he was given to cries of terror.

He awoke then, three in the morning, trembling in his cold sweat, unable to stop panting. There was a knocking on his bedroom wall, but that was almost a comfort knowing it was just a furious neighbor woken out of a sound sleep. All the same, Lyle couldn’t move, petrified in his fear. It took the better part of ten minutes to control his breath and force the dryness out of his throat. He quickly flipped on his lamp, the television, and finally, the overhead light in his bedroom. After returning to his bed, he knew he wouldn’t find sleep, not anytime soon.

An hour or so had passed before curiosity, or perhaps a greater desire to banish any terrors remaining came over Lyle. With the comforter from his bed wrapped around his shoulders, he made his way out to the living room and settled at the computer. There was a pile of tapes he had cycled through and a much smaller stack of what had yet to be touched. As he inserted the next in the stack, a sudden horror asphyxiated him. He thought for a moment, only just a blink of an eye, that he had seen a flickering of that columned waste that had marred his dream. In truth, it was just the first image on the tape, which may have been a testing pattern or something put down prior that had been recorded over.

Lyle took a deep breath and let the chills slither out of him to melt away in the depths of the dense blanket. He went to scan ahead but was immediately stopped as the monitor lit up with an image. The camera was adjusting, trying to press off scan lines and cycling through the various display information at the edges of the screen. They were of no help reading January first of nineteen-ninety, obviously incorrect as the tracking bar, which was located in the final quarter of the bracket. And though this would have been odd or at least gotten on Lyle’s nerves, he was too busy studying what was captured in frame. 

It looked to him as though the camera were set on its side in the seat of a car from before his time, if not when he was an infant. He wasn’t too astute with vehicles but figured the limited view of upholstery and a walnut-paneled dashboard wouldn’t give even an expert enough clues. The outside was visible just at the corner of the frame, though it was slightly obscured by reflections against the windshield. There was mail and unfolded bills from a hospital, but the grain of the video was too extreme to note anything beyond basic shapes and symbols. It wasn’t so much what was to be seen that garnered Lyle’s attention but the audio.

The wind whipped audibly on the recording, but what was foremost was the radio which was tuned, and the chatter of it came all too clear to Lyle’s ears. He was in disbelief but didn’t pause the tape, “Yes and our last caller, what question do you have for mister Clovis Jung.”

“I think you know what I’m after. I think you’re too smart to not be behind this. I want to know where you are and how you orchestrated all this. I can’t believe for a second any of this is just happenstance. Well, Clovis, where do I find you?” asked the caller, a voice that Lyle could swear he knew. As he mulled over the sounds, the tone, everything that made up the man’s voice, he forgot to pause the tape and reeled it back to hear Jung’s answer.

Rewinding brought him back to half of the caller’s message, but it was off, “Huh? Where is it? Where do you broadcast from, Clovis?”

“I already told you, friend, you’ve seen the hive. Why come lookin’ for the bees if’n there’s no honey for you?” Clovis Jung asked in that same ratty, scummy voice.

Lyle rewound the tape again, thinking he had been mistaken, and brought it forward by mistake. The caller wasn’t asking now; he was telling, “You keep hiding it. I’m going to find out where your studio is and burn it to the ground. I’ll find out where you live, and that will be up in smoke too. You leave me and my family alone, or I will hunt you down!”

“A prediction of death will put a man in a bad way, a calamitous and dangerous humor. I think it’s best if you just sit back and let life work its way out around you, friend. There are others who can do what you’ve got on your plate. Just be easy and let it slide on by,” Jung chuckled as the caller began hurling insults and slurs. The line cut off, and the radio went to static. The video just about ended with a nearly sensible conclusion until Lyle glimpsed a figure looming over the windshield. A paper man, made of flesh, grinning wide with hollow eyes that ensnared one’s mind. In a panic, Lyle tilted back and fell out of his chair. His head cracked the floor, and the room spun. Shadowy things filled his periphery but evaporated as unconsciousness took him.

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