Friday, January 19, 2018

Into The Depths of Oregon

53.

"Shine your light down that way." Clarissa flashed her flash light into the darkness in front of them and it was like it hit a wall. The light ended in the black, but there was clearly something else beyond it.

"I'm terrified and I can't even say why." Gilbert snorted a little bit of a laugh.

"First time you come across true black is always terrifying, I remember my first time, West Virginia coal mine, which is kind of funny considering underground exterminators came from West Virginia, anyway I'm getting lost in this story." Gilbert reached into his bag and tossed a flare into the darkness that pushed it back, Clarissa could hear a hissing, "Anyway, was deep in an abandoned mine a family had gone missing near when I found it, I'd heard of it, but never heard the noises it makes, this one made a slightly wimpering like from a child, it was trying to trick me to push me in, but all the same I worried, worried someone from that family was alive in that dark, even when I knew they couldn't be." Clarissa shivered at that thought.

"So what causes true black?"

"Lots of things, lots of evil things." Gilbert cracked another flare and kept it next to himself and attached it to his jump suit, he motioned Clarissa forward. "It's what I brought the rest of my kit for, we have to get through its usual bullshit first though." Clarissa smiled though she didn't feel it.

"Well it is what they pay us for right?"

"When we don't kill the people paying us, yes, this is the job they pay us for."

****
"I'm starting to suspect you don't know where you are going." It had been hours and with darkness all over Clarissa couldn't even tell if they'd moved anywhere but her legs hurt from the walking so she figured they had to have gone somewhere.

"I know where I'm going, have you ever explored a tunnel in true black? No, so let me do my thing, we have plenty of flares don't worry." Clarissa wasn't worried about the flares, but now that he mentioned it, she started to feel maybe she should have been.

"I just was saying..."

"You were just complaining, like you've been doing this whole trip, god damn its like being on a job with my nephew, be quiet and let me think." Clarissa felt like she'd just been scolded by a parent. She hoped it was just the current situation, but had felt Gilbert had been more of a jerk as of late and she couldn't figure out why or what she'd done. She decided to just follow Gilbert in the True Black and hope whatever they were there to kill would show up before she became too tired to keep walking.

Hours had gone by, the True Black and Gilbert had not relented. Clarissa felt her legs becoming leaden with each step, but didn't want to risk Gilbert's wrath should she mention it. Clarissa could feel sleep coming, but she knew she didn't want to sleep there, couldn't sleep there, but she couldn't help it, she closed her eyes once and Gilbert was gone and the black was all that remained. She was alone in it now, without a flare as Gilbert was the one who had those in his bag. And all Clarissa could feel was tired, it pulled at her and eventually she couldn't fight it any longer and she went to sleep.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Smell of High Society

52.

"Nothing Gilbert there is nothing on the Thornbys, no facebook, no social media presence." Clarissa was being more and more alarmed as they drove to Portland. She had been trying for an hour to find anything on the client and had come up with zero information, which seemed weird for a family supposedly rich and famous.

"They are the elite of the elite probably, you have to accept that not everyone does facebook." Gilbert had dealt with people like this in the past, he found it was best not to bite the hand that feeds.

"I just don't think we should..." Clarissa was interrupted by Gilbert's phone ringing.

"Dunkley."

"Brother Gilbert I do hope this call finds you safe and sane." Gilbert frowned at the sound of Clarence's voice. He still hadn't forgotten the chicken soup.

"Clarence I'm driving so make this quick."

"Driving? Brother you must return to your home, you asked me to look into who wanted you dead, and while I'm still sorting it out, there are some disturbing things I've heard, your life is in danger."

"My life is always in danger Clarence."

"Be that as it may, Gilbert you'd be best advised..."

"On the Job Clarence I'll call you back." Gilbert hung up and then set his phone to silent.

"What did Clarence want?"

"Nothing just to bug me, so you were saying about the Thornbys?"

"Nothing, just keep driving." Clarissa closed the laptop and looked out the window at the scenery, she felt a coldness from Gilbert she hadn't before and didn't necessarily like it.

****

When Gilbert arrived at the mansion he saw an Orkin truck and he suppressed a snort. Generally they didn't involve themselves in his business and he in theirs, but there had been dust ups in the past and he kept the grudge. He made note to himself to question Melissa Thornby why she had in theory two exterminators on the job. The door inside the mansion was slightly open, something was off and Gilbert and Clarissa felt it immediately. Clarissa especially because she could smell something foul on the air again, this time more ripe than ever.

"You can't tell me you don't smell that?" Inside the mansion was all dark and things looked run down in a way that said people hadn't been there in a while.

"I think you need to get your nose fixed if you keep smelling things that aren't there." Gilbert stepped on to the carpet in the opening and fell through, he tried to grab Clarissa to steady himself and only ended up taking her with him into the darkness. They tumbled a couple stories onto a mattress in what looked like a stone basement. They were trapped without a way back up.

"I would have thought the great Gilbe..." Gilbert fired his revolver up into Melissa Thornby's head, her body landed next to Clarissa and Gilbert. Gilbert could smell the rotten corpse smell now. He felt stupider than he had in a while.

"What is she?"

"A ghoul, kind of a zombie vampire, its why I couldn't smell her, but for some reason you could, I must be getting old if a god damned ghoul gets the jump on me." Gilbert reloaded the one bullet he fired and holstered his pistol. He couldn't make out what was in the tunnel, but he figured if the ghoul was going to gloat it must be bad.

"Can we just climb out?"

"No, we're going to have to go through." Gilbert patted the bag he brought with him from the van, "Don't worry I prepared to kill what was probably in the tunnels anyway, maybe we'll get lucky and its just more ghouls." Clarissa looked up at the hole and back at the body of Melissa Thornby.

"Right lucky."

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Portland Thornbys

51.

"Doris the next time George Carmichel calls, tell him I'm unavailable." Gilbert came into the office angry. He and Clarissa had been up at the Carmichel farm for three hours looking for goblins, they hadn't found anything. They found field mice, little ones that didn't even deserve a regular exterminator.

"So no on the goblins?"

"No, no goblins, no werebadgers, no cockatrices or fucking anything, if there was a hypochondria for monsters, Carmichel has it." Gilbert hadn't even noticed the woman in the flowing white dress sitting patiently in the waiting room.

"Where's Clarissa?"

"Going to the Double O, I discovered I'm out of a couple of useful salves and ointments, in a way I'm glad Carmichel is crazy as shit otherwise I wouldn't have had anything to do anything for him." The woman coughed and Gilbert turned around. The woman in the dress stood up and offered her hand.

"Melissa Thornby of the Portland Thornbys." Gilbert shook her hand, but he was so confused.

"I'm sorry Ms. Thornby I've never heard of your family."

"Its ok, we've heard about you, good things, big things."

"You have? I don't have a lot of money so if this is some kind of investment thing." Gilbert had dealt with several people coming to him to ask for money, he didn't know why, its not like monster exterminators are known for their endless cash reserves. Melissa Thornby just started laughing, it was the laugh of someone with more money than sensibilities.

"Heavens Mr. Dunkley you are a man of great humors." Gilbert had never heard someone talk like that ever. He was even more suspicious of the woman than he had been previously.

"What do you want Ms Thornby?"

"I need you to clean out some tunnels of whatever disappeared my work force, I've been told that's what you do."

"In Portland?"

"Yes a new branch of I believe they call them 'shanghai' tunnels, was discovered on my estate, I'd like for you to clear them out." Gilbert had heard of the shanghai tunnels, usually just bullshit stories an exterminator knew an exterminator says someone got eaten by the darkness down there. Never any names though. That was the trouble with rumors, you never had an actual name to what was going on.

"How big is your house that you found tunnels on it?" She laughed again and Gilbert found himself uneasy in how it seemed without mirth.

"Very large as our what I'm willing to pay Mr. Dunkley, I can count on your services yes?"

"Sure, lets work out payment arrangements."

****

"You need to get better hand writing or there needs to be less things that could be something you wrote." Clarissa was frazzled, she'd spent the last two hours at the double O trying to discern Gilbert's list of things he needed and failing mightily. Gilbert and Doris were both in the office in a bit of a daze when she got there, the office also smelled like rotten meat. "My god what did you guys do in here it reeks something terrible?"

"Wha? What do you mean it smells in here?" Gilbert looked like he'd just been woken up from a nap.

"The smell? How can you both not smell that? It's terrible." Doris shrugged and looked at Gilbert who also shrugged.

"I guess I must left something open, I dunno I don't smell it."

"Well open a window or something gosh you two." Clarissa set down her bag of supplies and went to open a couple office windows despite it being in the twenties outside. The cold air flowing in woke both Gilbert and Doris up fully from whatever stupor they had been in.

"Good lord Clarissa its freezing outside, you want to give me pneumonia?" Clarissa closed the window, the smell had mostly gone, but she could still smell it lingering, like cigarette smoke clinging to a smokers outside jacket.

"Thank you, now come over here and help me find this Thornby Place on a map, I hate driving in Portland." Clarissa had no idea who the Thornbys were or what they were doing in Portland, she was more worried about the smell and why Gilbert and Doris did not smell it, it was an uneasy feeling, that continued throughout the morning as she helped Gilbert find the Thornby place.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Other Strangers

50.

"Aim for the head and keep your mask on." Gilbert didn't want to take any chances, he and Clarissa were in full body suits with rebreathers on. He hoped Rick would be home and just be surprised at the outfits. But the darkened lights with his van in the driveway wasn't very encouraging.

"Anything special about these guys?" Clarissa didn't like the suit and mask, it made her feel oddly claustrophobic, but she liked the idea of losing control of herself even less.

"Nope, pretty much most weapons blessed by light can hurt or kill them, don't let them touch you or rip the suit. Easy peasy." Gilbert approached the front door and saw it was slightly open, his breath caught in his throat, he knew Rick was probably dead already. Gilbert took point, his pistol at the ready with Clarissa behind him her bow drawn. He was happy neither one of them shot the other with as quickly as they moved around the one story in the dark. Rick was no where to be found, his weapons were all neatly arranged on hooks and sat unused. It was as Gilbert feared the strangers had gotten to him fast and he didn't even have a chance to fight back.

"Maybe he went on vacation?"

"Without any of his clothes, car keys, or his wallet which I see sitting on the counter? No Rick is gone, strangers got him, and we better get to moving to Bob's house and pray someone lived." It was to the point Gilbert worried Gregg would be gone when he got to Bob's house. Whatever was behind the strangers this time felt more directed, less their usual show up and devour towns, and more remove threats to them. Gilbert drove faster than he probably should have all the way to Bob's house. He felt a sense of relief when he saw Gregg, but that quickly fled when he saw the same no house lights that had characterized Rick's house and that Gregg was alone, Dale no where around.

"Rick?"

"Gone, Dale?"

"Gone."

"Shit."

"Hi I'm Clarissa." She held her hand out to Gregg and he shook it with a smile that had no warmth beneath his mask.

"Gilbert's new assistant? Nice to meet you, shame it had to be like this." Gregg was using a modified assault rifle, Clarissa could make out that the handle was personalized with what looked like an ancient Egypt snake motif.

"I had no idea Bob lived in a mansion." The house was huge from what Gilbert could see, he started to wonder if he was charging too little for his services.

"Oh yeah never been here? Yeah its a legit haunted house, Bob got it for a real good deal due to the fact that the ghosts will keep coming back, no one else wanted it."

"Well I'm feeling even better about going inside."

"It'll be like that mickelson elementary job." Gilbert whistled.

"Oh man that was the worst, vampires right?"

"Guys?" Clarissa's voice had a bit of panic to it.

"Yeah vampires Gilbert, we were doing that run down monastery and got tricked into that stupid elementary."

"Hey old guys maybe help?" Clarissa was getting flustered.

"Oh yeah that elementary school, floor gave way right? Dropped into a pit of those weird zombie like creatures they can make, good lord never seen so much blood in my life."

"YO OLD ASSHOLES!" Clarissa shouted Gilbert and Gregg turned around and saw she had slain six of the strangers, she was in the process of pulling the arrow out of her most recent kill. "Christ you guys like to talk."

"I like her Gilbert."

"She can hit a target at fifty yards with that bow, I mean Charlie was always pretty good with his knives, but I'll tell you the truth." Gilbert stepped over the bodies of the fallen strangers Clarissa had killed and started to move toward the house his shotgun at the ready. "Charlie couldn't make a cup of coffee to save his life, most annoying trait in a man I ever did meet." Gilbert stepped inside the house and his shotgun roared, Gregg and Clarissa followed shortly after.

*****

"Twenty nine freaking strangers, no Bob." Gilbert was outside he had taken his suit off, he figured they had wiped out the creatures, whatever was behind them was no where to be found.

"I don't know what to tell you Gilbert, weird they would set a trap, weird they'd pick Bob's house, weird they'd come after... shit." Gregg had noticed Bob just then, he had emerged with a high caliber rifle pointed at both Gilbert and Gregg. Clarissa had said she was going to check the back yard for something and she hadn't returned yet.

"You fucking monsters, how could you do that to my children?" Gilbert could see the crazy in Bob's eyes.

"Bob they got you twisted those things aren't your anything." Gilbert cursed that his shotgun was in the Van, all he had left was a knife and he was shit at throwing them.

"No you're both twisted, all of us were, we wiped them out without ever talking to them, we're the real monsters Gilbert. It's why I sent them to get you guys, but I should have known your hatefulness would overcome my children." Bob cocked racked the bolt on his rifle and Gilbert thought for a minute of making a dodge to grab the rifle, but he didn't have to, Clarissa's arrow pierced Bob's temple and he fell to the ground the rifle landing with a thud. Gregg whistled again, Clarissa had fired the arrow from almost outside of his site range.

"Fifty yards?"

"Oh those are the easy shots." Gilbert looked at Bob's corpse with a mixture of sadness and relief. At least it made sense.

"You think they got to him?"

"No, Bob always had the live and let live argument going when dealing with these things, I figured after North Dakota he'd have learned how bad that was, but I guess he took the opposite lesson." Clarissa ran up and was horrified, she couldn't have made out it was Bob when she shot him, she just assumed it was a stranger.

"Oh god, I didn't know."

"Don't worry Clarissa, he'd been infected by those things, don't you worry." Gregg nodded at Gilbert while he hugged Clarissa telling her things would be ok.

"Be seeing you Gilbert."

"Be seeing you Gregg."

Friday, December 22, 2017

Strange Hunters

49.

"We always burn them, I like to think of it as a way of warning the rest." Gilbert had piled both of the corpses on a small pyre in the back. Clarissa hadn't slept very well, her dreams were all about those empty eyed creatures. Gilbert assured her the dreams would go away, that it was an after effect of the poison they use, but she wasn't sure, she worried the dreams wouldn't ever go away.

"Do we really want to warn the rest of these things?"

"Hell yes I do, they attacked me at my home Clarissa, they came after you and me that wasn't no accident, I want them terrified of what I'll do to them." Gilbert had slept on it and knew something was up, the strangers would never come attack him on their own, someone guided them to him, and he worried it wasn't just him.

"What are we going to do to them?"

"Kill them all we're exterminators and they very much need to be exterminated, but first I need to make some calls, check in with some other guys." Gilbert went into the house and Clarissa followed after, the smell of the burning strangers was starting to make her nauseous.

****

"Gilbert? The man Dunkley himself! I saw what you did up in Olympia, quality shit." Gregg Roberts was an exterminator Gilbert knew from the service, he worked a different division than Gilbert had, but they both went private around the same time. He always liked Gregg even if he had a very course way of talking.

"Gregg I'm going to get right to the point, have you seen any strangers?" The line went quiet for a moment, the jovial voice Gregg started with disappeared.

"No, but I've been getting that feeling they are around, you know that fucking uneasy settling in your stomach, I thought maybe I ate some bad meat, you seen some?"

"Two, came to my house Gregg."

"Shit, well you made it out ok, but you don't think it was isolated, you called Rick, Bob and Dale yet?" The five of them had banded up once to wipe out an overly large group of strangers in Bismark North Dakota years back, it had weighed on Gilbert's mind when they showed up at the house.

"You were my first call Gregg."

"I'm touched Gilbert, tell you what I'll make it easy on you and call Rick, you call Bob and Dale, then we can coordinate from there, if they are back I figure it'll be some empty place again, maybe back in North Dakota?"

"Thanks Gregg." Gilbert hung up and was happy Gregg was willing to talk to Rick Baker. Rick was a good exterminator, but an absolutely horrible person to get stuck on the phone with, especially with other people to call, Bob Wright and Dale Withers were men who didn't talk much.

Gilbert got to the calls while Clarissa gathered up some traveling supplies, he already called Doris to explain the situation. She was on board with wiping out the Strangers, saying no more than they deserve no sympathy. Both Bob and Dale did not answer, and Gilbert felt that fear feeling sinking into his stomach. It was possible they were busy, it was also possible they were dead and he couldn't be sure either way.

"Yeah I couldn't get a hold of Rick either." Gregg sounded worried too.

"How about you check in on Rick, I see if Dale is still alive, and then we meet at Bob's for beers." Gilbert tried to add levity to it, but he and Gregg both were into it.

"As long as you bring the beers, Bob only buys coors light and I'd rather drink water." Gilbert hung up and Clarissa had gathered all the supplies and then some. He was very proud of her in that moment, she was recovering well from her interaction with the strangers.

"We ready to go?" She sounded almost happy.

"Yeah just have to swing in to the store and pick up a sixer of beer."

"Do I want to know?"

"Nope, just roll with it." It was the first and last time Gilbert would laugh on the rest of the trip.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Never Open the Door To Strangers

48.

"I don't know how you do it Gilbert, its damn near midnight and we have work tomorrow." They'd been watching Gilbert's "classic movie" collection. Clarissa was surprised anyone liked Tango and Cash let alone Cobra, She started to wonder if living through the 80's caused people brain damage.

"I own the business I can show up when I want."

"You say that like you don't get up at six every morning regardless of how late you were up the night before." Gilbert frowned.

"You'll understand when you get older, sometimes you don't want to stay up, but you can't get to bed."

"And the getting up at six every day?"

"Routine, in the service I had to get up at five every morning, six is like sleeping him." He had a laugh to it, but Clarissa could almost detect a bit of sorrow to it.

"Well I'm not able to work on only six hours, we got a long day tomorrow some goblins and if I read Doris's hand writing properly a plague of rats." Clarissa went to check to make sure the door was locked. Gilbert said she didn't need bother he lived in the country and the only people who ever came knocking were mormons, but she was in the habit of it and he didn't tell her when he lived alone he kept it unlocked. When she was at the door she caught sight of something out of the peep hole, she couldn't be certain at first, it almost seemed unbelievable that anyone would be out this late let alone be at Gilbert's door, but when she looked through the peephole there was a pair of children. Clarissa was confused. It looked like a pair of teenagers, one girl, one boy, the girl looking slightly older than the boy. She was transfixed staring at them through the peep hole, she didn't even hear Gilbert's shouting as she opened the door and let them inside.

"GET AWAY FROM THE DOOR!" Gilbert had gotten up from the couch as fast as he could, but he was too slow, the strangers were inside. He could see the girl and boy, but he knew that's not what they really were. He saw the boy touch Clarissa's hand and knew she'd be paralyzed unable to act. He had to get away, in his bedroom he kept a double barrel shotgun loaded with what he called "god shot" able to stun if not outright kill most things. The girl stranger moved on him, almost impossibly fast, she was in front of him the door to his bedroom close, but also too far.

"Where are you going mister? Don't you want to help my brother and me?" The strangers face was normal save from the black hole where her eyes should be. As Gilbert stared at her, her facial features shifted, nose becoming elongated, mouth stretching with it, teeth becoming sharp needles dripping with a green goo.

"Just going to get my wallet little girl, why don't you wait in the living room." He could feel her influence on him, feel it creeping into his body like sleep. Telling him she was safe, and he was worried about nothing.

"No you're not, you want to harm me." She reached out for him and he pulled his back. She made another grab, but a shriek like that of a banshee filled the house and froze the stranger in her tracks. Gilbert knew the scream, it sounded like his wife's used to, only amplified somehow. He didn't stop to question what happened, he just ran for his bedroom. The stranger her grip broken moved too slow this time, by the time she turned the door Gilbert had the shotgun leveled and he fired without waiting, the first shot hit the stranger dead center. It fell backwards into Gilbert's night light, it tried to get away but Gilbert fired once more into the head and it stopped. He waited for a moment in the bedroom, gathering some supplies before heading into the living room where the other stranger was waiting.

"Clarissa you ok?" He could see the stranger had her by the throat, her eyes told the story, she was terrified.

"Put down the gun." The stranger was doing its best to command him, Gilbert did as he was told, he heard an audible whimper from Clarissa as he laid the shotgun on the carpet. "Now come over here, you must be punished for what you did to my sister." Gilbert dutifully obeyed and walked towards the boy stranger, when he got within grabbing range, he pulled the knife he'd stashed in his back waistband and slashed the creatures throat. It let go of Clarissa and stumbled through the open door, leaking black fluid on the way out. Gilbert got his shotgun and followed after it.

"Stay inside Clarissa." She was freed from the creatures spell, but still shaken with the experience.

"What are they?"

"Don't have a regular name that I'm aware of, in the business we just call them strangers, don't fault yourself for letting them inside, its smell, its how they get you, I always figured I was giving up electricity costs without fixing this door's seal, turns out I made myself stranger bait." Gilbert fired into the creature. Clarissa felt sick, she ran outside to vomit. Gilbert helped keep her steady while she threw up next to the corpse of the creature.

"Where do they come from?"

"Don't rightly know, no one gets to ask, you see one, you tend to kill it."

"Is this all? Will there be more?"

"There certainly are, strangers never hunt in twos, its always a pack, get some sleep, we'll go find the rest in the morning."

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Forest From The Trees

47.

"We return to our top story tonight, the Olympic forest massacre. Authorities are continuing to investigate the mass grave yard recently unearthed by a forest fire. We go live to Brad Bosworth for an update Brad?" Gilbert turned the tv off, the top story had been the top story for three days, the count was up over three hundred bodies, but so many of the skeletons were mixed up with each other and old so it would be impossible to know the actual body count. He had been relaxing at home, still recovering from the last ordeal with the forest. Clarissa had been working in his place, she came through the door covered in orange goo.

"Next time someone says 'it's just a little creature no bigger than a rat' I'm going to call them a god damn liar, thing was the size of a freaking great dane, with huge fangs, I feel like I'm going to stink for a week." Gilbert chuckled to himself.

"But you got it?"

"I got it, I got all of it, every last piece of it, and I did as you said to do and put a rune down to prevent the next one, I tell you Gilbert I want to be half as knowledgeable as you are."

"You'll get there, what's that?" Clarissa had a manilla envelope she put down on the table.

"Its from that photo guy you sent the camera too, figured you'd want to see if there are any pictures worth seeing." Gilbert was surprised when they'd returned to the van the camera was still there, he almost imagined it had been another illusion. But when they'd returned with Kathy Henson it was still sitting on Clarissa's seat from where he'd left it. At first he didn't want to have the photos developed, just leave sleeping dogs, but he had to know, had to know for himself over anything.

"How's Kathy Henson doing?" Clarissa had already shed the orange coated jump suit and was making her way towards the shower.

"Doctors say she'll recover, she's talking some, just small talk, she'll get there in time. Tyler Smith's mom called the office, said Tyler just woke up himself, started talking again, started being a person. Gilbert I think we did some real good out there." Gilbert smiled to himself.

"We usually do, but yeah this one feels like a win, take your shower." Gilbert emptied the envelope, it had a stack of photos and a letter from his photo guy.

--

Here's those photos you wanted Gilbert. I'm a little confused though, you said you found this from a person who's been missing for a while, but there are photos in this roll that were taken this week, I don't think the guy has been missing as long as you suspect he has. I'd love to hear where you found this camera.

--
Gilbert paused at the thought of recent photos. That part put him off guard. He didn't even notice Clarissa had finished her shower until she put her hand on his shoulder and spooked him

"Sorry."

"No its ok, just felt off for a minute."

"Still hearing the music?"

"No not that, my photo guy says there are recent photos in the roll, that's off putting." Clarissa looked at the stack of photos on the table.

"Have you looked yet?"

"Was about to, want to join me? You can see when I had more hair."

"Ooh the glory days." Clarissa plopped down on the couch next to Gilbert and he started going through the photos. The first bunch were clearly from the first trip, a bunch of mugging for the camera and action shots of people planning out search zones. This group changed over to when Toomes got lost, just panic'd motion shots of trees ending at the tree that Clarissa found Gilbert at. Then there were the recent shots, Gilbert felt his blood run cold when he saw shots of his own house, including when he and Clarissa had been gearing up to go into the woods. He saw shots of an older looking Tyler Smith seemingly staring right into the camera, and then there was one of a farm with Alpacas. Gilbert dropped the photos at the alpaca farm bit and went to go grab his phone.

"These look like Llamas."

"They're alpacas, one sec Clarissa I'll get back to you." Gilbert searched his contact list and hoped he had Charlie's most recent number. The phone rang and rang for far too long before Charlie answered.

"Yeah?"

"Charlie, Gilbert, how are you..."

"I saw what happened up in the Olypmics Gilbert, that why you're calling?" Gilbert didn't remember Charlie being so rude to him, but it had been years since they worked together maybe some anger had sprung up in the mean time.

"Just wanted to check up with your Charlie see how you and Trish are doing."

"No you didn't, you did something up in those woods and now you're calling me, but I'm confused as to why."

"You been hearing music charlie?" There was silence on the end of the line.

"Not since the news reported on the fire."

"Look Charlie I'm sorry for what..." The line went dead, Gilbert didn't understand what had clearly happened since the last time Charlie was working for him, but he didn't want to force the issue. Figured Charlie would come around, people in their line of work usually did.

"GILBERT!" Clarissa had called out in a panic and she was hold two photos in a trembling hand. One picture was of what looked like a group of people excavating a grave site, Gilbert had seen enough in the news to know that was the crew up their digging in the Olympics. The other was of Clarissa in her orange covered jump suit opening the door to Gilbert's house, he could see himself slightly out of focus. Clarissa had a look of shock on her face "What does it mean Gilbert?"

"It means what was in those woods isn't the only thing in those woods, and it wants us to know that, know that we won the battle, but it can win the war." Gilbert heard the music faintly as if to acknowledge he was right.

"What do we do then Gilbert?"

"Nothing, these things always do this, try and hang around when they aren't welcome, I ain't worrying about it none, in fact I'm going to make some god damn Gumbo, haven't made it in years." Gilbert went to grab his coat and motioned Clarissa to follow, "Did I ever tell you about the time I was in New Orleans..."

Gilbert and Clarissa left his house, the stack of photos sitting on his coffee table, the most recent one on top where Clarissa left it. Slowly writing began to form on the photo, in a blood red shade.

---

Put on your dancing shoes, we'll see you soon