Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 5, part 2.11

Posted by harmony0stars on January 20, 2010

Like a sore tooth, Glory psychically worried at the sword embedded in her flesh. It shifted around inside her like a cantankerous old cat, claws unsheathed and waiting. Though she knew it was neither the time nor place to make an attempt at better understanding the thing, there was no telling when a true opportunity might arise. Every time she thought she’d have a free moment, someone somewhere decided her time could be better spent elsewhere. She had to accept that there was never going to be a perfect time to have it out with her parasitic companion.

As she continued to prod and hassle it, Glory felt the sword swell irritably inside her and sweat beaded her brow once more, a warning to not push her luck if there ever was one. She backed off with a shudder and felt it settle down with a self-satisfied smugness that infuriated her. This isn’t over! she informed it mentally, but it seemed content to completely ignore her now that she wasn’t trying to pry it loose from her soul in order to better examine it. She wondered if Hart would watch Robert for a weekend so she could go out to the middle of nowhere and finally have it out with the thing.

Glory hunched her shoulders in frustration and stalked towards Ehecatl and the only remaining cell. She could tell Ehecatl was getting impatient, but stopped anyway, both curious and concerned for the occupant. Besides, she was feeling frustrated by the sword and was determined to finish what she’d started. The quilled Thing was obviously staying, but there was one more prisoner to free, whatever it might be.

It seemed that Scott had at least made a concession to the occupant’s humanity by including an ancient cot, but beyond that, the cell was the same as all the others she’d passed. In the far corner a middle-aged woman stood forlornly, her arms wrapped around her body as if to hold herself together. She glanced up at the door, alerted by some faint sound of Glory’s entry. “Th-thank you, but I can’t go,” she called out, though it was clear from her body language that she wanted to. “I need to stay here… for my daughter.”

“She’s not here,” Glory replied quietly, still wary of any recording devices. She set a comforting hand on the woman‘s shoulder and felt her flinch. It was hard to keep in mind that she was invisible. “You’re the last one left.”

The woman shook her head. She had the Innsmouth Look, though it wasn’t as pronounced as some of the folks Glory had seen around Greymalkin park… more Bette Davis eyes than Marty Feldman. Glory wasn’t even sure what it meant to have the ‘look.’ Internet searches had turned a more thorough description and links to the town of Innsmouth in Massachusetts, but not much more. Apparently though, it was enough to get her locked up by Professor Scott. The woman had clearly been in the room for some time. Of all the prisoners Glory had seen, she was the only one wearing clothes, but they were rumpled and stained from being slept in for so long. Her dirty blond hair was a tangled mess and dark circles made her bulging eyes seem more pronounced. Needle marks on her arms and patches of red on her neck proved that she hadn’t been exempt from examination or experimentation, despite her outward humanity.

“These people…” she announced, gesticulating at the air, “they filled my husband’s head with all kinds of nonsense until we just… I had to get away. When they sent him out of town, I packed up our things and tried to go home to my family, but they came after us. They must have been watching, waiting for us to run. They forced us off the road. Chelsea ran… I, if they find her, I need to be here.”

“Your husband works for them?” Glory asked. She had an idea of who this woman was but hoped she was wrong.

“He’s a professor here… Stewart Jacoby,” the woman replied sadly.

“Does he know you’re here?” Glory queried as calmly as she could, though inside she was fuming. How much of Jacoby’s insanity was due to Scott’s xenophobic tutelage and the disappearance of his wife?

“I… don’t know,” Mrs Jacoby mumbled. “I haven’t seen him since they brought me here.”

“Come with us,” Glory replied with a sigh. “I’ll help you find your daughter and get home.” The woman wearily rubbed her eyes, grimacing with uncertainty. “If your husband’s behavior is any indication, you’ve been down here over six months. If they were going to find Chelsea, she’d be here with you by now.”

“Six?!” she cried in horror. There was no way she could have marked the passage of time from her cell. Unlike the rest of the place, it didn’t seem as though the lights in the cells were turned down at night, probably so the people manning the monitors could keep a better eye on their prisoners. Which probably led to sleep deprivation, paranoia, and all sorts of lovely personality quirks. The poor woman probably had post traumatic stress syndrome.

“At least,” Glory nodded, resting her hand on the woman’s arm and tugging her towards the door. “I don’t know how old Chelsea is, but she’d obviously smart enough to keep out of their hands, and you staying here isn’t doing her any good.”

Trembling, the woman allowed Glory to lead her out of the room where she blinked fearfully at the odd gathering at the end of the corridor. Ehecatl glared at her disdainfully, still supporting his daughter in one arm, her arms wrapped around his neck possessively. The little serpent girl stared with unblinking eyes at all the beings around her, though her expression was much harder to read. Glory released Mrs Jacoby and scanned the wall for the hidden panel. After a moment, she brushed past Ehecatl and tugged at the edges of the plate with her fingertips, finally resorting to a sharp tap on the metal to knock it open.

It finally popped open and clattered against the wall, and Glory punched the code into the keypad. There was a loud clang as if a heavy bolt had been drawn somewhere in the wall and a door slowly revealed itself, sliding inwards and then to the side. Cool, damp air rushed from the dark opening, seeming to please everyone but the cinder-man who flinched as if he’d just been smacked in the face with a wet towel. Bits of ash fell from his body as he turned his face away from the chill. The ghoul boy’s reaction was completely opposite. With a delighted yip, he threw himself into the passage, disappearing into the dark, and Mrs Jacoby was not far behind him. With a nod to Glory, Ehecatl and his daughter also disappeared into the tunnel. The cinder-man was the last through the door, waiting several seconds before following Glory into the dark as if stealing himself against the moisture in the subterranean air.

to Book 5, part 2, page 12

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