"Oh, my pipe! hard must it go with me if thy charm be gone!"
"Come on, Grimm, your turn," Wilson said in his booming voice. It was the time of our monthly meeting, when several of us would gather in Wilson's den to enjoy pipe smoking and good conversation. On this October evening, the night outside was blustery and promising to storm, which made the warmth and camaraderie of Wilson's den even more welcome than usual. The stormy weather and wind-lashed sky--not to mention that it wasn't long until Halloween--had put us in the mood to relate tales strange and macabre. Wilson sat in his easy chair to the right of the fireplace; I stood to his right, leaning with one elbow upon the mantle. Ellis was sitting directly in front of the fire, and Grimm had been sitting in another chair opposite from Wilson.
"Come on, Grimm, tell us a quaint and curious story of forgotten lore," Wilson said, laughing softly at his own joke. Grimm had finished a pipe perhaps a quarter-hour before, and for the past minute or so had been studiously packing another pipe, a graceful bent with a bowl like a small brandy snifter. He was always the most taciturn of our group, and tonight was no exception. The rest of us had all told at least one such tale, leaving only Grimm to relate his story. We echoed Wilson's request. Grimm finished packing his pipe, stood, and moved toward the fireplace.
"I do have a story," he said, and a smile flicked across his face like the shadow of a bird in flight, passing without leaving a trace. "And it's true, though you may be inclined to disbelieve it." He reached for the tongs and extracted a coal from the fire. "It's a story about a pipe which I was forced to throw away." He applied the coal to his pipe and clouds of smoke began ascending to the rafters above him.
It is unusual for most pipe smokers to actually discard a pipe; even one that proves unsmokeable is one to keep, as a reminder of past mistakes and a warning against those we might make in the future. We all urged him to continue as he replaced the tongs in their rack and tamped lightly on the tobacco with the rosewood-bolstered pipe tool he always carried. Standing with his back to the fire, he began to tell us his story.
It happened when I was in college. I was a frequent customer at a warehouse-like store that sold old books and other curious items. One day I went in and found a new item. It was a hardened-leather case, of the general shape and fashion that it is customary to keep a meerschaum pipe in--but somewhat larger than any I had seen before. I took the case down from the shelf and opened it.
Inside was a meerschaum, indeed, but unlike any meerschaum I had ever seen or heard of. It would have been remarkable on color alone. Meerschaum, as you know, is usually white, and only later darkens to golden amber or brown hues as it is smoked. I have said this one would be remarkable due to its color alone, because by all practical definitions, it was black.
But a strange blackness it was. A seemingly oily sheen covered the pipe, though as I turned it over in my hands, I realized that it felt completely dry and not oily at all. The color was uncannily consistent--as I am sure you are all aware, most meerschaum pipes color unevenly due to varying densities throughout the particular block it was carved from, also because some parts--such as the bowl itself--are exposed to more of the tobacco oils than is, for example, the stem. It is my understanding that on pipes with particularly intricate engravings, the nature of the carving itself will place certain parts farther away from the central bowl than others, thus causing uneven coloration. The parts of the pipe closest to the tobacco will be darker--usually--than the parts farther away. But the black coloration of this pipe was consistent throughout.
When I said that it would have been remarkable for its coloration alone, I did not mention how completely unique it must have been from the manner in which the bowl was carved. It would be simple to call it grotesque, but such a description would be unjust to so intricate a carving. The front of the bowl appeared to be the face of some sort of octopus, or perhaps even a giant squid, with short tentacles extending out from it, but unlike any such creature I had ever heard of, two arms with heavy claws on the end curled upward from beneath the bowl to grasp menacingly just in front of the octopoid face. From the sides of the bowl, extending back along the stem were what appeared to be misshapen bat wings. As I turned this bizarre pipe over in my hands I noticed that set deep within the face, far behind all those strangely curling tentacles were two tiny red gemstone eyes--inset so deeply they were almost hidden until the overhead lights made them glint dully up at me. That unusual deep black coloration covered it throughout, from the tips of its claws to the tips of each tentacle, all the way back to the ends of the wings. And over all, a very peculiar deep greenish hue that seemed to surface and submerge into the overall blackness, like fish almost--but not quite--surfacing before diving back into the depths of the ocean.
In a brief discussion with the proprietor, he told me simply that the strange pipe had been in the bottom of a box of other curios he had purchased at a flea market. I bought the pipe from him--for a price so small I felt almost guilty for it--and quickly made away with my new treasure.
I had already finished my classes for that day, and didn't have to report to my job at the library for a while yet, so I walked the several blocks to my apartment to enjoy my first smoke in my new pipe. At that time I was renting a tiny single-room apartment on the second floor of an old boarding house. It was very small, and had a shared bathroom at the end of the hall, but it was also very cheap, a prime consideration for those days. It was an old, thick-walled house, set high up on a hill, with a window opening from my room that looked out upon the city. I had the habit of swinging the double-paned windows open and sitting in the sill, smoking my pipe and enjoying the panoramic view that it afforded. I reached my apartment and quickly assumed my favorite position in the windowsill.
As I suggested before, the pipe was larger than usual, and had a deep bowl that I guessed would easily provide a two-hour smoke. Since I did have to report for work later that afternoon, I only filled the bowl up part-way, about one-third of full. The pipe was a very good smoker, cool, and well balanced in spite of the peculiar engravings and those long, narrow wings that extended rearward from the bowl. Curious about the nature of this pipe, I tested it with my tongue. You may have heard that one way to test a solid block meerschaum is to touch one's tongue to it--if it is carved from a block, the material will be quite porous, and when touched with the tip of the tongue, will quickly absorb the moisture from the saliva and cause a sensation almost of stickiness as the tongue slightly adheres to the pipe. This one did just that, satisfying me that it was a true solid block from which the pipe was carved, rather than molded from castings. I leaned back and puffed contentedly as I surveyed the town spread out below me. It was then I seemed to fall into a reverie.
I found myself wondering what the landscape below me may have looked like in centuries past, before there was a town here, back when the first settlers arrived here from across a far ocean to make new lives for themselves. In my mind's eye I could almost see it, at first there would have been just a scattering of small cabins down near the river. Across the hills that now were covered with houses and other buildings, there would have been nothing but forests of oak, hickory, and maybe elm. In my imagination I seemed to see what it would have been like even further back, before even the ancestors of those settlers were aware of this "new world," before even the native tribes camped along this river. When the river itself was young, and the first springs that gave birth to it were still bubbling up from unknown depths in the earth below. I could see a long-forgotten landscape--no, not long-forgotten, because it was so old there was no one there to forget it. I saw the land as it was before man ever put his tracks upon it, an almost alien land, more akin to some distant and desolate planet than to the Earth we know. And then...something moved. It startled me so that I was thrust rudely from my reverie and suddenly seized at the window-ledge to keep from losing my balance. Abruptly the mundane city was again spread out before me, but still there were suggestions of shadows, somehow menacing and somehow terrible, flickering along the edges of my vision. I assumed it was only a hallucinatory dream, of the kind that often occurs when one is drifting along the edges of sleep. Dreams like that were not uncommon to me in my college days, when I tended not to get as much sleep as I should have. I noticed that my pipe had gone out, so I dumped the ash, wiped the bowl out with a tissue, placed it on my desk, and went to work. As I went out the door I glanced back, and those tiny red gemstone eyes seemed to glitter, but I assumed it was only the late afternoon sun slanting in through the window and reflecting from the stones.
"Just what you were smoking in that pipe?" Ellis asked with a chuckle. A few of us echoed his humor. Grimm only smiled again, that quick, shadowy smile that almost wasn't there.
"Only a mixture of Virginia and Perique, I believe," he answered.
His pipe, almost forgotten, had gone out while he was talking. He took a moment to procure another coal from the fire and relight before continuing.
My time at work that night was uneventful. I recall spending most of the time restoring returned books to their proper places on the shelves, and I spent a few minutes looking up pipes in the card catalog to see if I could find any useful information on the origin of mine. There was very little in the library regarding pipes, only an old copy of Barrie's My Lady Nicotine, but nothing that provided any relevant information. As I walked back to my apartment that night the sky was perfectly clear and glittering with stars. The old boarding house I lived in was high enough up on the hill and far enough toward the outskirts of town to escape the worst of the glare of the city's lights, and still provided some fair stargazing opportunities when the sky was clear and the moon was small.
Such a night it was. Upon reaching my apartment, I again stoked up the strange meerschaum pipe and sat in the windowsill. Out below me spread the lights of the town, and above me stretched the stars of the universe. I had never been a serious student of astronomy, but I did enjoy stargazing on occasion, and had spent many pleasant hours in that windowsill, pipe in hand, staring up at the twinkling heavens. As I sat there, smoking the pipe and watching the stars glimmering above, I again fell into an almost trance-like reverie.
It seemed that I became aware of the huge distances between the stars, somehow cognizant of the immense spans of empty space that surround us here on our tiny planet; of how short was the history of humankind upon the Earth--only an eyeblink, really--in the long, long expanse of time and space that makes up the universe. My own infinitesimal lifespan, only one life among the billions that have lived here and will live here after I'm gone--I could hardly comprehend. And other worlds--other worlds that must be spinning in ponderous orbits around those distant stars, and stars even beyond, stars so far away that they must have smoldered to an ash and vanished before their light ever reached us on this Earth. And what may be living there--or may have lived. Dwelling so far beyond the vast reaches of space and time that we couldn't even begin to understand...how far away or what they are.
Then, my mind seized upon the impression of chaos--an ultimate living chaos that writhed and churned at the center of the universe. I was terrified, but could not break away. I thought I imagined an immense and all-powerful mass of insane omnipotence that we mere humans are protected from by simple virtue of our incredible distance away from it here on the outer rim of this peripheral galaxy we call the Milky Way. There were planets there too--planets that moved in gruesome and irregular orbits around the chaos. They held me fascinated. Then, as I watched them lumbering around the chaotic insanity I realized--they were not planets. They were beings.
I did not scream, but I did gasp aloud, and the sound of my own voice broke the trance. I scrambled clumsily out of the windowsill and slammed the shutters closed against the night.
I retired to bed not long after, but was still quite agitated, and eventually fell into a troubled sleep. I dreamed strange, disturbing dreams, of an ancient earth peopled by an uncouth race of fish-creatures--immortal, or nearly so, who stood and walked on two legs like men. The earth was ruled from one central city--a city designed in weird alien angles and shapes that must have never been built to accommodate anything resembling a human. From this city a monstrous, godlike ruler held the fate of the earth in his hideous grip. I never saw this thing in my dreams, but just before I awakened, I again witnessed those disgusting fish-creatures, hopping like mad toads around a terrible idol that must have represented their monstrous ruler. I heard them singing or chanting in a guttural language that seemed to employ certain muscles of the mouth and tongue which humans do not even possess--so alien it sounded. They chanted the same line over and over, until it was ingrained in my memory, and then the occulted moon slid out from behind the clouds and revealed in lurid detail the idol that they danced around. The face upon it bore a shocking resemblance to my pipe.
"Guess you could call that a pipe dream," Ellis quipped. This brought chuckles from me and Wilson, and another swiftly vanishing half-smile from Grimm.
"At the time I assumed I was suffering symptoms of the stress of keeping up with my studies and still working at night," Grimm responded. "But where these images came from...I had no idea."
In fact, knowing Grimm's nature as we did, it was hard to believe he would concoct such a story. We were accustomed to Grimm contributing to our conversations very concisely, with never a word wasted. That he would go on so long with a story like this and use such an abundance of adjectives in attempting to describe the very horribleness of something was quite out of the ordinary. Without bothering to relight his long-forgotten pipe, he again took up the tale.
The next morning I cleaned the pipe and put it away so that I would not even chance to see it by accident. During the next several days I went on with the routine of my life, each night the dreams disturbing my sleep but growing less and less vivid each time, and I did not smoke the strange meerschaum again for nearly two weeks. Then came spring break. On a few occasions before I had gone with some of my friends to the Gulf of Mexico, which was only a few hours drive from the university. I thought a few days of recreation on the beach would do me good, so I packed up a few necessities--along with the meerschaum, and off we went.
I was not much in the mood for playing Frisbee or volleyball, so that first day I sought out a secluded place on the beach with only the seagulls for company, and with a large umbrella for shade and a small ice chest of drinks, spent the day reading to the sound of the booming surf. By late afternoon I had decided to smoke the meerschaum again, and this time, having no restrictions on my time, I filled the bowl to the rim.
The thundering rhythmic surf broken only by the occasional call of the gulls was very hypnotic, and again I began to muse. I thought I could see the faint outlines of that city from which the fish-creatures came, away in the distance on the edge of the horizon. I could even make out the creatures doing their weird frog-like dance in praise around the tall black idol. When the pipe went out, the hazy daydream images vanished, and I realized I had been watching a distant school of fish--or perhaps a group of dolphins--as they leaped from the water.
That night I dreamed again of that city, and this time the dreams were much more vivid than before. Again I could see the ancient city, sprawling in eldritch splendor across the island that was its home. The teeming masses of the loathsome fish-creatures no longer seemed to frighten me so badly--somehow I was becoming inured to the sight of them. I thought that I heard myself chuckling almost gleefully when the sight of that massive idol came into view--that terrible idol of their god that resembled the shape of my pipe. In my dream I fancied I could even see myself joining them in unholy adulation of their monstrous deity. Then there was...an earthquake, perhaps, or a volcanic eruption. It might have been a natural catastrophe, or it might have been the dying act of vengeance from some forgotten elder god. There was an earthshaking cataclysm, and the island city sank beneath the waves, imprisoning that god-thing who ruled the planet from its center. His followers, the fish-creatures, were scattered in chaos, but still they lived, in the hidden depths of the ocean they waited until the time was right to restore the city and bring their terrible ruler back from his deathless sleep. Still I heard their echoing chant, the one phrase that always dominated their songs of praise, and as I struggled back to wakefulness I found myself saying those words aloud, words that turned into an almost-shriek as I realized such alien sounds were coming from my own lips. I did not sleep the rest of the night, and started at the slightest unusual sound. What before had been the comforting rumble of the surf was now a menace that I came to dread, because it concealed the tiny noises that would have been otherwise obvious in the revealing silence. The next morning I had a friend drive me to the nearest bus station, and I used the spending money I had brought to buy a ticket back to town and my tiny apartment high on the hill.
Soon after, the man who lived in the apartment next to mine complained to me that he was being kept awake at night by my continual talking--of which I was completely unaware. I had never been troubled with talking in my sleep, and at first didn't believe him. I borrowed a voice-activated tape recorder and set it up near my bed to catch any sounds that might happen while I was asleep. The next morning I was horrified to hear my own voice chanting in that torturous singsong those words I kept hearing in my dreams. As for the pipe, I never smoked it again. Even so, my sleep continued to be plagued by vivid dreams of that sunken city and the monstrous creature that was trapped there, and of its terrible minions that hopped around the massive black idol, croaking and singing their weird songs of adulation. I hid the pipe away again, inside a box on the floor of my closet. Though I never again smoked it, I felt myself strangely drawn to it, and while I knew that it was somehow exerting a malign influence over me, and wanted to get rid of it, another part of me couldn't bear the thought of discarding it or destroying it. I wanted to fill it to the rim and smoke it and smoke it until all of its terrible, arcane secrets had been revealed--yet the thought of doing such a thing filled me with fear. I felt that perhaps I could come to some resolution by finding out all I could about the pipe without actually smoking it. My studies began to suffer as I spent the remaining weeks of school haunting bookstores, traveling by bus to nearby cities where I could peruse the libraries for hours at a time, searching for any information that might help me discover the origins of the pipe.
At first I tried looking for books about pipes for such information, but they all proved futile. I did learn a great deal about meerschaum in general, enough to know that this pipe, under normal circumstances, should have never been able to achieve such an intense, all-encompassing black coloration. And never did I read any mention of meerschaum with that unusual deep-green ocean hue that flickered across this pipe when the light hit it just right. After studying many books and visiting several tobacconists to inquire about meerschaum pipes, I finally came to the conclusion--whether right or wrong, I'm still uncertain--that this pipe didn't achieve its color from being smoked. Rather, it was made from some unique variety of meerschaum that was actually black with a greenish tinge.
Finding nothing pertinent in any books relating to pipes, I instead turned to the subject of my dreams. I began searching out obscure and little-known books dealing with primitive religion and occult iconography. This took me into some strange avenues of our existence with which, I suppose, most people are unfamiliar. I learned much of hidden religions and occult practices, but nothing that might help me discern the true nature of my pipe. Until finally, in one old book, I read a vague reference to a forgotten religion of an extinct race of South Pacific islanders, in which they had worshipped what they believed to be an immortal race of creatures somewhat resembling both fish and men, and that these creatures in turn worshipped a much greater power, a being that the islanders thought to be trapped or entombed at the bottom of the ocean. I felt both elation and fear. Until that time, I was able to partially convince myself that the entire episode was only due to some malady of the psyche from which I would recover eventually, that I was only suffering from the stress of college life. This, even though it was my third year at college and I had never suffered any such symptoms before. But here was proof, barely tangible though it was, that it was more than my overworked imagination.
The bibliography of this book referenced this bit of information to another book that had been published by a small press at an obscure New England university. I was barely able to keep myself to my studies until the end of the semester--the day after my last exam I was on a bus bound for Boston. I took the pipe with me.
The bus trip was uneventful. When I reached Boston, I immediately bought a ticket for the nearby city of Arkham. Upon reaching Arkham, I consulted with the clerk at the bus station and after receiving directions, walked the few blocks to the university. Once there, the library was not difficult to find.
I went straight to the card catalog and begin feverishly riffling through the index. So close was the answer, I assumed, that I could not wait another minute. But it only took me a few seconds to realize that the book I had read about was not listed in the catalog. I decided to inquire of the librarian about the book.
I said I was researching primitive religions for my thesis and told him the title of the book I was looking for. The gray-haired old man almost seemed to jump when I pronounced the words of the title. He quickly glanced from side to side, as if making certain no one had overheard, then ushered me into a small room behind the checkout desk.
He demanded to know where I had heard of such a book, and had the look about him of someone who is trying to decide whether to fight or run for his life. I told him the truth, of the book I had read the reference in. He muttered something about "getting that damned thing recalled" and after a few other questions that meant nothing to me but seemed to stir up disturbing memories of my dreams, he told me to leave and forget I had ever heard about that book.
"I can't leave yet," I replied. "I need to know about this." I produced the pipe, which I had concealed in the inner pocket of my jacket.
The librarian's reaction to the pipe was quite extraordinary. I have never seen anyone turn quite so pale, quite so quickly as he did. He slumped into a chair and stared with terrified fascination at the black meerschaum. "Where did you get this?" he whispered.
I told him the entire story, including the dreams I had been having and my true motives for wanting to read the book, that I feared my mind might become completely unhinged if my sleep continued to be haunted by such nightmarish images. He gazed at me intently for several long seconds, his eyes occasionally darting to the pipe, then back to my face. Finally he stood and told me to follow him.
We left the room and walked around to a secluded alcove that housed a small service elevator. He tapped a code into a security console mounted on the wall nearby, the elevator doors opened, and he ushered me inside. I felt the elevator going down, then the doors opened again onto another vault-like door that the librarian used a key as well as another security code to open. This last door opened into a small cubical room that housed a desk, a couple of chairs, and a few bookshelves, which held a number of what appeared to be very old, leather-bound books. From one shelf he extracted a thin volume that, unlike most of the others, appeared to have been printed fairly recently with a standard hardback cover. He motioned for me to sit at the small desk, handed me the book, and stood there watching as I opened it to scan its contents.
The title of the book was Cthulhu in the Necronomicon, printed by Miskatonic University Press. I thumbed the pages with increasing anxiety as I saw words and pictures that reminded me of the dreams. There was a drawing of an idol that, while not looking exactly like the one in my dreams, was still obviously a likeness of the creature represented by that dream idol--as well as my pipe. There was another drawing of those hideous fish-creatures. I quickly read passages that told the story of the sunken city, of the monstrous entity that remained entombed there, waiting for the time when the city would again rise and the entity--which I now knew was some elder abomination called Cthulhu--would bring destruction and horror to an unsuspecting world. I read of those fish-creatures, which were referred to simply as "the ones from the deep," and how they, together with a worldwide cult of humans, were working to further the machinations of their buried god until the time when he again was awakened. And then, you may imagine my consternation and mounting terror when there before me I saw an English transliteration of those words--those words that I had heard over and over again in my dreams, and which I recorded my own voice chanting in my nightmare-haunted sleep: "Ph-nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn." I realized my hands were trembling and purposefully released the book. It remained open as it lay on the table, a portrait of one of the "deep ones" glaring up at me mockingly. I held my head in my hands, the heels of my hands pressed hard against my forehead, as if trying to crush out this newfound knowledge. "There's more," said the librarian, and he turned the page.
There was another drawing, and though a mere ink rendering could not hope to accurately portray it, the resemblance was close enough that I knew it was the sunken city of my dreams, the alien city of R'lyeh, its giant blocks and monoliths decorated with obscene hieroglyphs, which still sprawled amid the ooze and muck of unguessed eons at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The last faltering shreds of my disbelief were swept away. I left the library in a daze, hardly aware of my surroundings, my mind still filled with images of that nightmare city and the thing that slept there.
I became obsessed with visiting that place in the ocean where R'lyeh had sunk and where Cthulhu still slept, dreaming his obscene dreams that sometimes invaded and transformed into nightmarish phantasms the dreams of those unfortunate enough to draw his attention. That is what I believed had happened. Somehow, that black meerschaum had served as a key, if not to his awakening, at least to attracting a tendril of his alien mind to influence me in my sleep. I say I became obsessed with visiting that place, but I wasn't sure what I would do there. Would I merely return the pipe to the place of its genesis, or would I throw myself to a certain death in the ocean's fathomless depths? As days went by I resorted to stronger and stronger methods of avoiding sleep--all eventually useless, as my body succumbed to the sleep it demanded. Even when awake I began to see things--the city life around me vanishing to reveal that ancient landscape of the world before mankind walked upon it, the night skies opening to show the outer voids of space where those other things danced insanely and waited for a certain alignment of the stars when they could leap across the intervening emptiness to raven the earth.
I will not trouble you with the details of my search for a ship that would be passing near that distant, desolate spot in the ocean, or of how I managed to finagle my way aboard. Suffice it to say that I succeeded in posing as an environmental activist aboard a ship that was bound for demonstrating against underwater nuclear testing, and our route took us almost directly over that accursed place. Indeed, many details of the following weeks are now unclear to me--of boarding the ship, of our voyage out across that vast ocean--made dreadful to me because I knew what may await us out there. My only clear memories are of the day I finally rid myself of the pipe. I stood at the railing aft of the ship, away from the rest of the crew, during a break from my duties.
As I stood there leaning over the railing I was gripped by the desire to hurl myself overboard and join those hideous ones from the deep in their nameless mysteries and secret revels. I thought I could see vague outlines of that sunken city, though I knew that it was impossible--it was miles below me on the bottom of the ocean. Other shapes, flashing just below the surface and riding along the crests of the waves, I was less able to disbelieve. I stood there, at battle with myself, part of me wanting to join the others in their ocean home, part of me knowing that to leap over the rails meant certain death. Finally, with a spasmodic gesture, I flung the pipe away. As it tumbled toward the brink, those tiny red gemstone eyes seemed to glitter up at me sardonically one last time. It met the waves with an inaudible splash and the strange black pipe vanished beneath the foam cast off from the ship's wake. I had to restrain myself from following it--I was at once torn with grief over the loss of the pipe and the ancient secrets it held, and shaken with relief at finally being rid of the thing. I gripped the rails convulsively as I alternately shook with barely restrained sorrow and elation.
The remainder of the voyage was inconsequential. I remember little, except that I dreaded being above decks at night, and always tried to avoid looking down into the water for fear of what I might see--or think I saw. We returned to the States several weeks later, I phoned home and asked my father to wire me bus fare, and a few days later I was back in my home town, where I spent the remainder of the summer until it was time to return to classes.
The fire had burned down to glowing embers while Grimm told his tale, casting a ruddy, devilish glow on his downturned face. His pipe, long ago forgotten, had extinguished itself, and he dumped the half-unsmoked tobacco out with a forlorn expression. Someone coughed in the silence.
"Did you ever think to have it analyzed?" I asked quietly.
"I did think about it," Grimm answered. "As I'm sure you all know, meerschaum--or seafoam, as we take the name from the German--is simply magnesium silicate. I agree that a chemical analysis may have answered much. But I never went through with it. I feared too much what I might find. Sometimes I regret not having pursued such information. But more often, I am glad that I still retain some shred of ignorance. The question will always remain: from what was the pipe...that blasphemous bowl that I actually touched with my tongue...from what was it made?"
Wilson reached up and turned on a lamp that stood next to his chair. I wandered over to a window and pushed aside the curtains to peer outside. Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled in the distance like an old god awakening. I was thinking we should leave before the weather got too severe, when I realized Grimm was again speaking.
"I never go down to the ocean anymore," he continued. "Neither do I gaze up at the stars for any great length of time, because I can't help but be reminded of what may haunt the cold empty spaces between the stars, or what lurks impatient and deathless at the bottom of the ocean."
The thunder was getting louder so we said our farewells until next month and left Wilson's den to go our separate ways. Outside on the street, I saw Grimm walking away with his face downcast, the collar of his trench coat turned up and his shoulders hunched against the wind. I got into my car and started the engine, shivering in the cold as I waited for it to warm up. My breath came out in moist clouds and congealed against the windshield. Overhead the clouds gathered and burst, and it began to rain.
© 1997 Alan Peschke