Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 6, part 2.10

Posted by harmony0stars on July 26, 2010

“I never thought we’d have any children,” Nana Meredith said as she seated herself almost primly in the worn out chair. “I was forty-two and Michael forty-seven before we conceived Lawrence. We knew right away that there‘d be no more after him.”

“He had a harelip, but the doctors fixed that up just fine, just a little scar that had faded to almost nothing by the time he was walking. Everything went well enough until he started to speak. The best specialists money could buy couldn’t do a damn thing about his stutter. We were still the laughing stock of the whole town once he started school. Everyone knew him for weak minded then.” Glory winced, but her grandmother didn’t seem to notice, lost in the world of her memories. “We kept him out of sight as best we could, but he had a surly disposition, always underfoot and scowling at everyone.”

Whatever his other flaws might have been, it didn’t sound as though her grandparents had been very understanding about her father’s speech impediment. It had been a different world forty odd years ago. From the way her grandmother made it sound, he’d been lucky not to end up in an institution. No wonder he scowled.

The old woman got up and checked the teapot, carefully pouring the liquid into two cracked cups and a mason jar. “I’m certain now, we should have given the boy more chores. Idle hands do the devil’s work. He found the books left by Michael‘s father in a trunk in the attic.” Rummaging around on her bookshelf, she pulled out some saucers which were in surprisingly good shape and passed the cups to Glory and Robert, keeping the mason jar for herself.

“Bless him, Michael never had a lick of interest in the Old Ways beyond how they might help the farm, but Lawrence was a savant. He was only nine when he began playing with things better left to their own devices. We took the books away and hid them and that was an end to it for a while… until he went off to college. Went off to find the books his grandfather left to that university more like. When he come back, it started all over again, but this time it was worse. It started with all the deaths in your poor mother’s family, and Lawrence always there to offer her a shoulder to cry on. I wasn’t blind. The girl had hated him in school and even after he come home again, still a stuttering fool. After a day of wooing her, he’d come home red faced with fury that she continued to turn him away, and wouldn’t you know it? Another one of her family’d up and die or go missing. I knew he was behind it; I just didn’t know what he’d called up to do his dirty work. I started making the sign of Nodens then, and a good thing I did.”

“Michael saw it first, off in the trees as he passed the school on his way to the seedstore. It was watching the little ‘uns playing, though no children had gone missing at that time, just the adults. The disappearances were being blamed on wolves, bears, gypsies, some fool even suggested space people… it was just good for us they never knew the truth. Wasn’t that long ago people were burning witches.”

“Michael come back to the house white as a sheet. This weren’t no shoggoth sent to hide in my soup tureen. My poor dear Michael… he never had any interest in his father’s books. Such a practical man, he was. But he pulled up the floorboards under our bed where he’d hidden them and poured over them night and day, looking for an answer. That Thing, it knew. Malice or mischief, Lawrence was oblivious so long as he had Danielle to woo, but that thing know’d what we was up to as if it was standing right at our shoulders whenever we thought on it.”

“It was a plague on the farm. Sheriff never could explain what happened to the tractor. That weren’t enough, it took our farmhand’s boy, though he was near enough to being a man he should have been taking up some of his father‘s work and not running off to fish every afternoon. Everyone just assumed he fell in or went swimming and got hisself drowned. The water was high that week from a bad storm we’d had. They never did find the body. Michael and I knew though… that thing was stalking us, sending us a message.”

“Round about the time the chickens got killed, Lawrence started to notice something was up on the farm. He’d got your mother to consent to marry him somehow, so he wasn’t distracted with her no more. There weren’t no animals left but our two cows and the horse. I don’t know if the thing killed all the cats, or if they just run off. Cats are the canniest of creatures. There was a terrific goings on one night, and that was all for the dogs. It killed the geese, one by one, too ornery for it to take on all at once I suppose. The rabbits the farmhand kept next to his little shack went screaming in the night. Don’t know if it killed him too or if he was just smart enough to get while the getting was good. We didn‘t see him no more after that.”

“Lawrence came home one day and looked around. We couldn’t let the cows out any more, nor the horse. They’d run all around and around the pen until they fell down exhausted and then moan and roll their eyes. Every hour of the day we could hear them moaning and screaming from the barn, but at least they couldn’t do themselves harm.”

“I knowed he hated us just as much or more than he hated your mother. Getting her to marry him was his way of getting revenge. It was probably only the thought of losing his inheritance that made him think it might be time to send the thing back wherever he’d called it from. Lawrence went off into the woods one afternoon, and a couple hours later, he came back out, shaking and white as a sheet. That night, the thing killed the last of our livestock. Don’t know how it got into the barn when Michael kept it closed up tight. In the morning, it was still locked, but… it looked as though something had tore them apart from the inside out.”

“Lawrence just stood there staring at the bodies, but Michael snatched him up by the shoulders and slammed him into the barn wall like he weighed less than a bag of feed. Michael yelled at him until he finally said what it was he’d summoned. The little fool. It weren’t no shoggoth he brought here. He called one of Them. He broke the prison the Elder Gods made and couldn’t put the Dark Demon back again.”

Glory had not truly felt fear since Phoenix had joined with her. Now it came bubbling up like an icy spring in her stomach. The Dark Demon meant something to Phoenix, even if he remained ominously silent on the subject.

“Michael dragged him to the landfill and bound him to a tree above it, setting a ward on him so the thing couldn‘t get to him if he called for it. Then he sent an urgent message to all the hexenmeisters and powwows for miles around and told them what was loose. Most of the younger generation dismissed the old ways for science. There weren’t many elders left, but those that could, they came quick.”

“We didn’t tell Lawrence what we had planned, but we told him to summon the Thing into the landfill. He complained that he’d already betrayed it by trying to send it back, that it would never listen to him, but the elders told him to do it anyway, and it came, it came.” She shuddered at the memory, taking a deep swallow of her tea. Glory and Robert had yet to touch theirs. Robert had lifted it to his mouth, sniffed and hastily lowered it.

“It oozed up from the dark crevices and piles of garbage as if it had been there all along, and it grinned up at us for all that it had no face, its bulb of a head bobbing on a stalk like some kind of fungal fruit. It was a tall, lean thing with appendages that seemed to drip and fade away like oily black flame. I could hear it laughing in my head. Whatever we had planned, it thought itself proof against it. That’s when Michael’s cousin who was the fire chief sprayed kerosene into the pit while we threw our torches in from the other side. They’d already treated the whole area in preparation for the annual burn. The kerosene was just to make sure everything lit up as quick as possible.”

“The thing thrashed and screamed without a sound as the fire burned it, and the flames quickly turned blue as if the thing‘s essence made it burn hotter. That’s probably when the fire got into the coal and killed the town. One of the elders collapsed right then and there with blood pouring from his ears and eyes. Lawrence didn’t know what we had planned. The fire was just a distraction. While he gaped into the hole, we grabbed him and pinned him to the ground. Michael performed the ritual with tears rolling down his cheeks. He had to. Lawrence was our boy. Our blood had called the Thing from its prison, so only our blood could control it for as long as it was weak enough to be controlled. We’d been lucky in that at least. A few more weeks, months, and it would have killed us all without a second thought.”

“Lawrence screamed to match the Thing as Michael forced its spirit back through the link he shared with it. Two of the remaining elders, a powwow and a hexenmeister dropped dead as stone as they chanted to keep the thing confined in the fire. The third man, he went into conniptions fierce enough to break every bone in his body. His kin came for him the next day, but I don’t think he ever woke up. Lawrence and the Thing stopped screaming at exactly the same time, and he just stared up at us as blank as a baby. After a moment, he shut his eyes all peaceful-like. We knowed we was suppose to kill him, but we just couldn’t do it. He was our boy.”

“Michael’s cousin come over with his men, and they wrapped up the elders in sack cloth and took them to the mortuary. We took Lawrence and the surviving powwow home with us. Next day, Danielle come looking for her fiancé. When she heard he was sick, she tended to him just as devotedly as any wife to be. Michael and I just looked at each other, not knowing what to think. We dreaded the moment when he might wake up. Would he even be sane…”

“He was a long time recovering, sleeping more than he was awake. When he was awake, it was as if he was a completely different person. Gone were the scowls and stuttering, mostly. He was calm and soft spoken, looking at everything as if through a fog. He seemed to have forgotten everything that had happened. It was only when he was half awake, startled out of sleep by one thing or another that his old self surfaced, stuttering and terrified. We thought he was remembering in dream what he’d forgotten in the waking world.”

“It wasn’t until after he and Danielle married and moved into her parent’s home that we begun to have second thoughts. Sometimes Lawrence would have this expression on his face that was pure, gloating evil, and then he’d realize he was being watched and he’d turn and smile at a person like an angel. And there were still problems… small animals were still turning up dead all over town and people was still going missing. It wasn’t till later that He, It, focused on the children. We didn’t connect the dead animals to him. There was a big rabies scare that year, and the sheriff had already caught two rabid raccoons and had to put down the neighbor’s dog. Oh, we figured the Dark Demon was still in him, looking out of his eyes, but it was trapped, without any control over him. Danielle sure didn’t complain, and you’d think a wife would be the first to notice if something was off about her man.”

“Still we knowed he was tainted. We figured any child of his body would be tainted too, so Michael had a talk with him. Lawrence was as mild as milquetoast about the whole thing, but the very next day he and Danielle were gone as if they’d never been. Two days later Michael died in the barn fire, and the wheat caught too.”

“Even after Lawrence and Danielle went, there were disappearances. Round about that time, the gov’ment come sniffing around as someone’d tipped them off about the fire. We’d been seeing lots of mist and smelling the em’nations from the landfill, but after what we’d burned there, we expected it to smell a little funny for quite some time. When the gov’ment come in and told us the coal had caught fire, and they was declaring eminent domain over our lands, lots of folk took the money they offered and skedaddled, but I think lots of them never made it out of Centralia. People just thought they did.”

“It was two years before I actually caught sight of the Thing again, standing in the trees. Lucky for me, I’d been wearing my Elder Sign since we’d burned its first body. It’s new body was different. Sometimes it almost looked transparent, like a ghost, and its hands and face were pale, like human skin. Since then, it’s even got these patches on its neck that made it look like it’s wearing a suit and tie.”

“But… what happened to my father after that?” Glory asked. “Do you know? Mom would never talk about him at all. I didn‘t even know his name until recently.”

The old woman screwed up her face in a scowl and finally admitted, “I don’t know what happened between your parents, girl. But he come back here fifteen years ago. One day he come stumbling out of the woods, stuttering just the way he used to, begging for my help. I didn’t trust him, not for an instant, but he was ragged and starved, his suit all torn and scratches on his face. He lay on the ground and cried until I come out. I’d been fixing up the sign of Nodens all over the house, just in case something would ever happen to the one I wore. I brought one out with me and slipped it over his head. That’s when he started screaming. He screamed hisself ragged, convulsing like a worm on a hook, ranting about the colors and the thing in the cold dark that was waiting for the One to come and the things the Dark Demon had done in revenge even after we‘d bound It up in his head. Then he… he ripped out his own eyes. I ain’t never seen no one do something like that, and I hope I never do again. He passed out, and I tied him up so he couldn’t do hisself no more harm before I went for the sheriff. They took him to the Sanitarium at Arkham, and he’s still there so far as I’d know about it.”

Robert shuddered beside her, the cup rattling in its saucer. Glory took the tea from him and set the cup on the floor with her own. Nana Meredith tracked her movements as she picked up a half finished twig and twine hand from the floor.

“Is there a specific way to make these?” Glory asked. “Special wood, a special time?”

“Books will tell you so, but it’s not true,” the old woman said. “Might make ‘em more powerful in the long run, but it’s the intent that’s important. You put your energy into the making and it calls the power of Nodens to you.”

Glory nodded, understanding exactly what she meant. “I’ve seen other Elder Signs, Nana. They don’t look a thing like this one.”

“The branch and the star you mean?” she said, cocking her head to the side and regarding Glory with renewed suspicion. “They grew from Noden’s sign, he who made war on his brother, Azathoth, his kin, and their allies. The star and branch are powerful too, but Noden’s sign is the original. The helping hand, the hamsa. Some folk saw the hand and thought it was a branch. Other saw the five fingers and thought of a five point star, and to remind themselves that Nodens watches over us all, they put an eye at its center.”

“I have the hamsa here,” Glory said pointing to her thigh. “the star here, and the twig here.” She pointed to her shoulder and pulled her sleeve up so the old woman could see the tattoo on her forearm. “I had my mother’s ashes mixed with the ink for the tattoos. My sister…” Her fists clenched in anger. “I’m going to find her, and I’m going to stop her. If… our father’s taint passed to either of us, it’s her.” She forced her hands open and laid them flat on her knees. For the first time the old woman’s eyes were drawn to the tattoos that covered the back of her hands. “Do you suppose I’m safe from this Dark Demon with the symbols I already have etched into my skin?”

The old woman hesitated but said, “That I can’t say for sure, but it’s a comfort to me to know you can bear Nodens’ sign in any of its forms. It proves if you carry Its taint, it‘s dormant in you. You’ve studied the Old Ways then?”

“All my life,” Glory agreed. “What I could find to study at any rate. I felt… compelled.”

With a sigh, the old woman climbed to her feet. Going to the bookshelf to the right of the fireplace, she gathered the old books. “I’ve held on to Michael’s books all these years. I learned the Old Ways at my Nana’s knee. Never had an interest in book learning. I could have destroyed these any time and not missed ‘em. Up till now, I couldn’t have said why I didn‘t.” Though she struggled under their weight, she carried the books with reverence. “Promise me you’ll destroy these when you’re done with ‘em, or at least only pass them on to your most trusted apprentice.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Glory agreed, accepting the black and crusty old tomes.

to Book 6, part2, page 11

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2 Responses to “Tattoo Book 6, part 2.10”

  1. Fiona said

    I was just rereading the first post because it popped up in my google reader for some reason. It’s really sad how Mrs. McIntyre, the bookstore owner Glory used to work for, was like family to her – but then turned her back on her like everyone else.
    Now Glory has a grandmother again – an eccentric hillbilly lady in a filthy housedress.

    • Sorry about that. I was doing some editing. As you can see, they’re no longer chapters but “books” instead, considering the length of some of these. That’s the only thing I can think of as to why it would have popped up in your reader.

      Eccentric hillbilly is probably the kindest description of Nana Meredith. lol

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