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As he parked at his house, Jay frowned up at the sky, stomach sinking. The clouds continued to seem wrong somehow, and as much as he wanted to, he couldn’t keep thinking of this as a coincidence based on his dream. Not when the dream was real, and not when Ashesh had warned him about the world ending soon.
He had to go back to the Library tonight, he decided. If eldritch terrors were attempting to push through the sky into this world, he needed information. Hopefully, he’d acquire the other two Signs first—and given that the remaining two were the Yellow Sign and Nyarlathotep’s symbol, there were very direct sources he could go to in order to get either, so at least there was that option as well. But even if he didn’t, having any Sign would allow him to get information from the Library. Without knowing why they were coming, the method they were using to do so, or how to stop them, he was essentially helpless.
And whatever was happening seemed like it might have been related to what Aunt Grace stole, and who she’d taken it for. So his first priority should be more research.
Ulthar let out a demanding meow from the carrier, and Jay shook himself, exiting from the car and carrying him back inside. The cat sprang out as soon as the carrier was open, and spent a while exploring the living room.
Jay left him to it as he headed back upstairs, returning to the computers that he still had set up. Considering Aunt Grace’s files… he didn’t have a lot of hope, but he spent a moment composing an email to a devops friend of his from his last work, Navya, thinking she might have suggestions he hadn’t tried. He left out all mentions of Elder Gods and all the rest, just explaining that he was trying to recover his late aunt’s files and the difficulties he’d been having so far. He gave information about Grace’s system and the details of her word processor, along with a step-by-step account of the methods he’d tried, then sent that off.
It was really the best he could do. If it was something supernatural, he needed more help than he already had. If it wasn’t, Navya’s suggestions would work or they wouldn’t.
Ulthar let out a “Mrrt” to announce his presence as he entered the office, starting to wander it again. Jay greeted him, then went back to what he was doing, pulling folders out of Grace’s drawer and spreading them out across the desk’s surface so he could sort through them.
Some were clearly journalistic—she’d largely done theatre writing, and many of the folders were labelled after publications she’d worked with, or were labelled Plays, A-E and so on. These he put back in the desk without more than a glance; there might be information hidden in there, but he didn’t think it was likely, and he could look more in depth if other folders didn’t turn anything up.
Other folders were less obviously unrelated, and he flipped through those in a cursory way to ensure that they matched their labels: Recipes, taxes, family. That last was letters and photos that had been sent to her by the rest of the family; he hesitated over one of his own letters to her, a thank-you note he’d sent in response to some gift or another she’d given him for his eighth birthday. For a moment, his heart ached.
He put those folders back as well, then eyed the three remaining folders. These were unlabeled, and would likely need greater scrutiny.
There was a clatter as Ulthar knocked a book over, spooking himself and tearing across the room. “You did that to yourself,” Jay told him, getting up to put it back. It was the King in Yellow, and had thankfully landed cover closed—he still wasn’t sure he wanted to read any of it—so he picked it up, putting it sideways on the shelf instead of where he’d left it on the edge of her desk.
Jay returned to the folders, sorting through them. The first was a series of workbooks that made up a dream diary. It appeared to start shortly after she had begun to travel the Dreamlands; likely, she’d kept it by her bedside and wrote in it each morning. He put that to the side to peruse in more detail; it might have some helpful tips, or at least things he could learn about the locations he’d named, but he didn’t have high hopes. First, it would take extensive reading from the dense, crabbed writing. Second, there weren’t any illustrations or labelled headers to tip him off to the content, and third, from the dates at the tops of the page being in the 80s and 90s, it appeared to have been done before she moved to using the computer to record her dreams instead. He might find some things relevant to dreaming there in general, but he didn’t think there was anything regarding this actual incident.
The second unlabeled folder was a collection of letters, which turned out to be love letters. He got as far as reading half of the first—
The way you laugh fills my heart. I could chase you around these stacks, these corridors forever. When you speak, flowers blossom in my heart: ideas, desires. I know you have eaten better women than I, and better men, and others as well, have absorbed their learning, but it means that you are richer for it, more full of knowledge, holding every joy and sorrow they have held, and it makes me long for you the more—
Jay blushed, quickly flipping through the rest of them, and finding them similar. Either unaddressed or addressed to this Y, and all presumably unsent, as Grace had them in her folder still. He closed that and put it under the dream folder; he couldn’t be sure it was entirely unrelated, not code or something similar, but it seemed like none of his business.
The last unlabeled folder began with the sketch of a strange flute: the mouthpiece pointed oddly, then far far too many finger holes along the body, then a strange bulbous end that seemed as if a flute was made of a wasp’s nest, or a wasp’s nest was made of a flute.
There were scraps here from books, xeroxes and images that had been printed, or handwritten pieces of paper as if she were copying something out long-form. None of the copies were good quality; from the looks of them, they were copies of either very old pieces of printed work, or of handwritten ones. Put together, they were clearly forming a clear picture of one god, as they were descriptions of a great god far in the cosmos—each physical description was different, if equally horrifying, an amorphous blob here or a super-massive black hole there or a giant worm, but all had the same name, Azathoth, and all described him as blind and mad. He ruled from space, on a black throne, and forever piped, forcing his mindless, shapeless followers to cluster around him to dance.
Grace’s handwriting added annotation to several of these:
- Always holding the pipe, then — how can I get him to let go?
- Accessible by signing your name in his book & following N.
- N’s his messenger anyway so I guess he’ll just give it back once I’ve got it to him.
- Nearly impossible Quest, and a prank on his father.
“Oh, fuck,” Jay said aloud. He closed the folder and stared up at the ceiling, stomach churning.
His Aunt had stolen the flute for Nyarlathotep?
And lost it while she fled?
And his mindless, shapeless followers were no longer compelled by its sound?
This was making a picture he didn’t like. He drummed his fingers on the outside of the folder, and hardly even reacted when Ulthar pounced them. It was still early in the afternoon, and he wondered what to do next. Try to find the remaining Signs by talking to Louis or Ashesh—or did he want to commit to that? Confront Ashesh with this new information—but what would he even say? Take a nap and try go to the Library—or would he even be able to sleep after learning this?
No matter how he looked at it, things seemed pretty bad.
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