Panicking in the darkness, I dropped to the floor too. I hooked my hands under him and began to drag him back upright and standing. The squeak of rats sounded almost like the baying of wolves. The sea of rodents around us seemed almost riotous as they seethed against whatever barrier held around us. I looked to Abode’s bloodless lips and lifeless frame and I couldn’t help but let out a cry.
At the sound of my cry, the teeming wave of rats crashed in across the boundaries around us. At the same time, Abode’s eyes flew open, and from his lips came that dreadful name and final verse.
The rats converged, not on us, but on the altar. They filled the basin and seemed to me to form almost a bubbling cauldron of fur and flesh. With frightening speed, they then disappeared, scuttling from the altar and away. In the basin now lay a barely recognizable disk of rust.
Silence descended on us in the attic like a hawk swooping on its prey. The quiet was only penetrated by the staccato squeaks and skittering of the rats, which faded into eerie nothingness within the walls. I looked up, peering out through the skylight in the attic roof, to see the now shrouded moon. My breath and energy rushed out of my body in a sigh of relief.
“It worked! Sídhe Bragg is gone!” I exclaimed, panting with the exertion of holding Abode up. Suddenly, a peeling screech echoed in the room. The shroud of the moon shifted in form from cloud to sharp shadow, which drew closer to the window at a blinding speed. The large form crashed through the window, showering the altar with shards of glass.
In front of me, inches from my nose, an impossibly twisted being perched atop the altar. All claws and terrible eyes, it grinned wide, showing dripping, slathering fangs which made my heart jump in my chest. It turned its gaze from my eyes to the limp body I supported and a glint of evil grew in its eyes. It drew close to him, opening its mouth to reveal its fangs again. Drawing in a wheezing, heavy breath, it whispered into his ear:
“YOU FOOL, THE PRICE FOR MY BANISHMENT IS DEATH!”
With these words, it drove its fangs deep into his neck and tore him from my grasp. It leapt into a distant corner of the room, tearing Abode’s helpless frame limb from limb. In the darkness, I could see only brief flashes of reflected eyes, glittering teeth, and slick claws, but the horrible noise was simply more than I could bear.
I fled, with not thought to my destination or safety. The last moment I remember was leaping out a window with the feeling of a nefarious force following close at my heels.
30 Years Later
A Dark Room in Kansas
“Could you please take that light of my eyes now?” Henry said, blinking in the sudden brightness. He shifted uncomfortably as a grimacing, sunglass-wearing face drew close through the haze of light.
“So, Mr. Tham, you are telling me that the murder of Professor Abode and destruction of Massachusetts State property, totally upwards of six hundred thousand dollars, along with the inexplicable ‘sick’ days taken by all on-campus residents, were the cause of some demonic visitation upon the humble town of Arkham?”
“I tell you only what I can remember of the entire experience.” Henry huffed, trying to return the grimace despite the blinding light.
“You can understand, Mr. Tham, if I am somewhat suspicious, to say the least. This is a very strange case indeed and, while your account is enlightening, it is not without its holes. I think, perhaps, you might be leaving out a few key elements.” The grimacing face was unmoving.
“I have cooperated to my fullest capacity.” Tham said, looking into the glasses sternly.
“Oh, really? Then why have you not explained the rusted circular object you just happened to have pocketed when you ran? Or the truth that it was you that threw Dr. Abode at the creature, instead of your claim that it tore him from your hands.” The grimacing face turned to a grin. The lips lifted slowly to show small, sharp, needle-like teeth. “What about the nights you’ve spent on the run since, all the bloodshot, straining twilights when I’ve watched you wait, trembling from the terror of what is your own fault?”
“How do you know that?” Henry exclaimed, truly frightened as he drew back and struggled against his restraints.
"Tell me, Mr. Tham. Why didn't the Sidhe take you as well?" The grinning face asked.
"I don't know. I truly don't know! I guess he was too busy with Abode. I was too fast for him!" Tham said, his voice at a whisper.
The interrogator chuckled softly, and continued to say in a terribly familiar brusque accent:
"Oh, no. Ye'll ne'er be faster than ol' Bragg, boyo."