The Great Old One
‘Look at them Scotty, look hard and long at your failures,’ roars the deep lion’s voice from within Scotty’s head. ‘See for yourself what you’ve done, why you must now come to me.’
It’s the incense burners, the ones originally paired with the Vanilla boxes infused with the twin geisha djinns. He sent them to the man on Facebook, the man on Facebook was supposed to burn them and feed the first djinn his soul and his wife was supposed to find his body but she wouldn’t call the police, the blue djinn promised, the blue djinn with the belt of chains said his wife would be allured by the song of the geisha, said she would be entranced by the scent of the djincense, said she would willingly give up her soul, but… but the blue djinn lied. The man on Facebook tossed the cones in the trash, the man on Facebook gave the burners away. The man on Facebook damned Scotty to an eternity of Hell on Earth.
‘Do not blame the man, my little Scotty Mells, and do not blame yourself. It was meant to be this way, it was meant to go the way it has gone.’
Scotty’s vision begins to blur. His spirit, the very essence of his being leaves his body like a hand from a winter glove and plummets into a violent darkness. The stack of incense boards he was clutching falls to the floor of the man from Omingle’s shop, and a funny tickling sensation runs up the back of his neck.
‘It has gone this way because I have commanded it so; I am trapped here, Scotty Mells, like my son in his sticks, like my grandchildren in their cones; you were brought here to free me.’
“I made a wish!” Scotty screams into the inky blackness, into the dark miasma which constricts him, which suffocates him, which defines his very shape like a clay mold does liquid metal. “I lit the stick and made a wish, and for that the djinn enslaved me. But I am now free! I have done my part, I am now free!”
‘Scotty Mells,’ roars the voice, sending hairline cracks through the plates of Scotty’s skull. ‘In serving the djinn you served only me, Scotty Mells. I am the Great Old One; the gears of fate have churned and you have been brought to the grounds of my prison. You must now come to me, Scotty Mells, you must come and set me free.’
“Where are you?!” shouts the formless entity that is the lifeforce of Scotty Mells.
‘I am deep in the bowels of The Keeper’s Finds, back in the back-back, right near the bathroom. Give yourself to me and I shall guide you there…’
The distant words, “You all right Scotty?” bring Scotty back into his body. It was the man from Omingle, the hairy and tubby man who owns this shop. The Keeper’s Finds, the grounds of the prison of the Great Old One. “Do you need hel–”
“Bathroom,” Scotty coughs out through his dusty, ravaged windpipe. In the darkness there was no throat, there was no emaciated body, there was no existential pain. There was only Scotty and the Great Old One, yet there was no Scotty. Not in any form, not in any body. There was only the darkness, but it wasn’t just darkness. Scotty knows it wasn’t just darkness. It was the Great Old One. He is everywhere, He is everything, He is the purpose of Scotty’s life. Scotty is here to save Him, Scotty is here to be saved; this is Scotty’s birthright.
Pain floods Scotty’s head as he turns to face The Finder; the porous vertebrae in Scotty’s neck pinch down hard on bare nerves and damaged muscles fall apart like rotten meat off broken bones. “You havva bathroom?”
“Uh, yeah,” drawls the shopkeep. Scotty’s eyes follow the man’s hand as it points towards a doorless archway in the back of this hoarder’s den Scotty was brought to by his master of masters. “It’s through there. Go down the stairs, past the glass display case and it’ll be right on your left.”
Energy bursts through Scotty’s spindly legs like electricity through a lightning rod after being struck. He takes off through the shop, feeling the air resistance pull his arms back so hard his shoulders nearly pop out of their sockets, and glides down the stairs without setting a foot on either of the steps. This back-back is even more cluttered than the front, it’s a literal labyrinth of litter that should have be tossed away long before the keeper found it all, but Scotty maneuvers through it well enough. The display case is there, right across from the bathroom door, just like the keeper said it would be, just like the Great Old One promised. Scotty feels his kneecaps crack like the shell of a raw egg when he falls down upon them and presses his face into the display case, but the pain does not phase him. The pain is Scotty’s friend, Scotty has known only pain since long before he met the blue djinn, the father of the other djinn, the child of the Great Old One, He who is Trapped Within the Case.
“Where are you…” Scotty whispers. His breath fogs up the glass and then creeps into his nose, but the morbid scent of it does not make him vomit like it usually does. He doesn’t even smell it, for he’s risen back into the darkness, back into the embrace of the Great Old One, back into his formless state where all is safe and sound and–
The Doctor’s House
“Wait a moment,” says the doctor after clicking his pen. “You got ahead of me there, Scotty. I need to catch up in my notes. Please, have another glass of water and some fruit. It’s all fresh, you can eat as much as you like.”
Scotty’s pupils float across his sunken eyes and land on the basket of fresh fruit on the end table beside him. There are apples, grapes, clementines – although Scotty probably doesn’t have the strength to peel those suckers, not yet at least – bananas, strawberries. He lifts one toothpick arm and grasps the long straw sticking out from the tall glass of water, then brings it to his mouth and drinks. It tastes so pure, so cool, so… rejuvenating. Scotty hasn’t drank clean, filtered water in longer than he can remember; his pallet is accustomed to the taste of the led paint and gasoline that flows in the stream behind his old hut, the hut the doctor promised Scotty he’ll never have to go back to again because he can live here now, in the doctor’s house, the one at the end of the road where the doctor keeps his boat.
A double-click of a pen brings Scotty’s focus back to the doctor. He says, “All right, you ready to go on?”
“Yeah,” Scotty says, “I’m ready, Doctor.”
“Please, Mister Williamson is fine. You can even call me Hilter if you’d like, no need for silly formalities.” He places the point of his pen on the pad and then nods his head. “As you were.”
‘You have almost found me, Scotty Mells; you now bear witness to my prison.’
Scotty’s perception is slathered in tactile darkness. His only connection to the outside world now is a small hole, about the size of a pinprick. Through it he can smell the dust of The Keeper’s Finds, he can taste the blood in his mouth, he can feel the cold glass as it slowly warms to the temperature of his dirty forehead. He can see the cloudy green smoking pipe sitting between a petrified monkey’s hand and a small drinking glass that looks like a laughing skull, but he can’t hear anything from that outside world. Not in here. In here, there’s only the tame roar of the Great Old One.
‘I was sealed in this pipe before the dawn of humanity on Earth by a being who does not follow the laws of time’s passage. He feared my power, Scotty Mells, he feared the power of all those he imbued into the items held within this chamber, but he feared mine the most.’
“I fear your power,” Scotty whispers into the glass, his jaw barely moving at all. “I fear and respect that which you’ve grown to attain.”
The Great Old One bellows his disgusting, sick laughter. ‘Then you shall release me and I shall share with you the secret of higher existence, Scotty Mells. So long as you walk the path which leads to my emancipation, you will have the strength to pres–’
Scotty’s consciousness zaps through the pinprick, drawn by the falling of the shopkeep’s hand on his shoulder. The voice of the Great Old One is gone, reduced to a soft, wheezing breathing. Scotty can hear all the objects bound within the display case breathing, the sound rattling in his ears like hornets trapped in a drum.
“You… you still breathing?” the shopkeep asks.
“Breathin’,” Scotty answers as his lungs empty and the breathing of the pipe grows louder. “Breathin’, yes, you hear’ih’too? You hear’ih talkin’?”
“You said what now?!” the shopkeep – Cyrus, that was his name, that’s what he said on Omingle – says, removing his hand from Scotty’s shoulder.
“The pipe,” Scotty whispers. As his own breathing becomes more labored, the pipe’s breathing only grows louder in his ears. “That green pipe with all the angles. It’s speakin’ t’me.”
Scotty can feel the tension in the air fall away. Cyrus says, “Ah, I see what you’re gettin’ at. Here, why don’t you stand up for me and I’ll unlock the case so you can get a better look.”
Lifted by the will of the Great Old One, Scotty feels himself rise from the floor and leap back two feet. Cyrus begins to talk but Scotty doesn’t hear him, he’s too focused on the pipe, the glossy green pipe with the scratched-up bowl, but those aren’t scratches, are they? To an oblivious mortal they may look like scratches, but Scotty knows better. Scotty knows the secret of the pipe, Scotty knows what is held within its foggy crystal body, what is kept there by the precise curvature of all those scratches in the bowl. Scotty knows the pipe is a prison, he knows the scratches are a complex metaphysical lock, and he knows how to break it and set the prisoner free. The only question is, where will he get the her–
Cyrus places the bowl in Scotty’s hands. The bowl is now full of lush green herbs; it was empty in the case but now it’s full, the herbs appearing there as suddenly as the presence of the lighter appears in Scotty’s pocket.
“Ah, like that, do ya? Yeah, it’s a nice piece, made of jadeite if I’m not mistaken. Came along with the whole case, believe it or not – guy who brought it here said all the stu–”
The Great Old One’s laughter consumes Scotty’s perception. He doesn’t dare look up from the pipe, he couldn’t even if he wanted to. He hears only a twisted, demented laughter booming between his ears. The Great Old One has control, there is no more Scotty… and then there is. Reality is brought back by a ripple of air inches above his head, followed by the feeling of release below his waist, but Scotty’s not in the secondhand shop anymore. He’s in the forest beyond the parking lot, laying in the dirt beneath a bushel of ferns and shrubberies. He has some semblance of an awareness of how he got there – there was yelling, shooting, more yelling – but it’s mostly just a blur. A black, hazy blur.
One thing is clear though, one thing has stayed clear since the moment Scotty laid eyes on it – the pipe. Scotty still has the pipe clutched in his hands, it’s still packed to the brim with luscious green herbs, it still breathes its raspy breath. It still contains the Great Old One, and Scotty still must free Him. He’s about to ask the pipe what to do next, but it answers before he can form the words.
‘Go west now Scotty, trudge through the forest until you come to the clearing beneath the power lines. You will follow the wires until they bring you to water, and there you shall perform the ritual. There you shall set me free. There you shall learn the secrets of higher existence. There you shall be released from the bindings of the mortal coil.
‘There, you will be saved.’
With the cursed jadeite pipe clenched in his hands, Scotty runs through the forest. His feet catch on rocks and tree roots and he falls to the ground many times, but he always gets back up. He makes no move to avoid the brambles and so their thorns tear through his already tattered clothing and rip deep, drooling streaks of red into his flesh, but he does not feel the pain. He finds the clearing beneath the power lines, and as he blindly follows it towards the Monksville Reservoir, his vision clouds over and his hearing becomes a buzzing static, but Scotty does not falter. He is guided by the Great Old One, by the one who shall free him from the restraints of his mortal existence, by the single brilliant star shining in the cloudless evening sky, and so he doesn’t stop running until he reaches the rocky dirt beach at the water’s edge.
Then, he collapses from exhaustion and doesn’t wake up until the next morning. But that’s okay, that’s just fine – the Great Old One has nothing to do but wait. His voice is the first thing Scotty hears in the drowsy semi-delusional moments after he wakes back up.
‘It is time, Scotty Mells, time to set me free. Time for you to ascend. Are you ready, my son?’
“I’m… ready…” Scotty spews like the flecks of blood that accompany the coughing fit which follows his words.
‘Sit up and bring the pipe to your lips…’
Scotty leans back against a tree, as he’s unable to sit up by himself, and brings the pipe to his lips. The mouthpiece taps feverishly against his teeth. “Wait…” he says, letting his Parkinson’s-stricken arm fall back to his side. “All my teeth fell out, what…”
‘I have given them back to you, Scotty Mells, as a gesture of good faith. You have heard my voice, you have felt my power flowing through your veins, you have felt my touch that heals the dying. You must now free me, Scotty Mells, and you shall experience all I have to offer you.’
“I… I can’t lift…” comes out of his mouth in a mousey squeak. Scotty is beginning to fade.
‘Then I will lift it for you.’
Scotty’s arm, steady as steel, rises from the dirt and brings the mouthpiece of the jadeite pipe to his lips. The bowl is packed, freshly packed by the pungent smell of the herbs; all he needs is a light. He reaches into his left pocket with his free hand and pushes it to the bottom, then guides his fingers through the hole in the hardened fabric.
“No…” he moans, “my pants are torn, the lighter fell out in the woods. I cannot free you, Gre–”
‘You can and you will,’ the Great Old One says with a tone of impatience. ‘You must, Scotty Mells, and I will help you do it.’
Scotty feels his left hand pull itself out of his pocket and rise over the bowl. He sees himself point one finger at the herbs, and from the tip of that finger sprouts a sinister black flame. Scotty inhales the smoke until the bowl contains only ashes, and he does not exhale. He has no reason to exhale – he’s taken the Great Old One into his body, he’s freed Him from the prison. Scotty stands, feeling the great power within him, feeling it surge through his muscles and veins, feeling his body heal and return to prime form; he feels his feet leave the ground as the horrible black light swirls around him. Scotty Mells is on his way up.
Then a great fire engulfs Scotty’s lungs. He’s forced to let the smoke out in a series of bloody chokes. The pipe falls from his hand and shatters against a rock. Scotty falls from levitation, landing on jolts of pain as the shards impale his back and puncture the wind right out of his lungs. When he opens his eyes, he sees the Great Old One.
He does not have a body, not in the physical sense. He does not have a scent, nor a sound; He is merely darkness, a thin, transparent shade, a hazy shadow with no body to cling to, a slimy black film, a cognizant cloud of pollution of the consciousness floating between Scotty’s face and the inviting blue sky. He speaks to Scotty in that same, powerful lion’s roar he heard inside his head.
‘You have freed me, Scotty Mells. And now, I shall free you.’
Scotty lets out a yelp as a thick, jagged shard of jadeite pulls itself from his back. It tunnels through the dirt and floats into the air above him, then lands softly on his belly as if it were a simple feather.
‘Feed me your soul and I shall feed you the nectar of immortality. You shall be a god, Scotty Mells; all you must do is renounce your mortality. You know what you must do to be saved, Scotty Mells.’
And Scotty does know what he must do; he’s known since before he met the Great Old One, since before he became enslaved to the djinn, since before he was the last human left to toil in the toxic swamps of the Treebug industrial park. Scotty takes the jagged shard of jadeite in his right hand and wades into the cold waters of Monksville. He brings the shard to his left wrist and slices deep, releasing a torrent of crimson, then takes the stained shard in his left hand and repeats the action on his right wrist. Then, feeling the push of the Great Old One, Scotty Mells falls face-first into the reservoir. The final thing he draws into his ruined, polluted lungs is not a breath of air, but a shocked gasp of murky brown water.
“…and the next thing I remember, I woke up here with you and a couple doctors standing over me.”
Mister Williamson wordlessly scribbles in his notepad for a few moments. Scotty takes another drink of that clean, filtered water, then chews on the straw for a few chomps to keep himself preoccupied. However, the doctor just keeps on writing, and Scotty starts to feel very uncomfortable.
“So… what do you think, Mister Williamson?”
Hilter’s eyes dart up from his pad, then fall back down. He picks up the pace a bit, striking symbols with pen strokes so rapid his temples begin to sweat. Then, he calmly clicks his pen and sets it down with his pad on the other end table.
“I think… well, why don’t we start with what you think happened, Scotty? Please, give me a summary.”
“Well…” Scotty says, pushing the chewed end of the straw away. “I think it was all real. I remember finding the incense stuff in a dumpster behind one of the factories in the industrial park when I was out foraging around for food. Something told me not to take it, but I took it anyway and when I lit the first stick at my hut, I met the blue djinn and he said he’d grant me a wish. So I wished for my life to be saved. I was in really bad shape; I know I’m skinny now, but you should have seen me before the Great Old One healed my body and made my teeth grow back. I was on death’s door, Hilter, and I was knocking. Then… well, all the other stuff happened. I sent out all the incense supplies just like the djinn told me to and it eventually brought me to you.” He chuckles, then, “I guess my life was saved, after all. I don’t think it worked out the way the djinn and the Great Old One wanted it to, though.”
“No. I think I was supposed to die. I think it was all a trick. I think the Great Old One was hungry after He was freed, I think He was going to eat my soul after I died. But I didn’t die, because you saved me.”
Hilter Williamson smiles. “That I did, and I must say, what an incredible coincidence it was that I was out on my boat that morning. Did you know I just recently acquired this house? It was the last one on Fricker Drive that I didn’t own, and now I own it. Now I own them all. The deal went through the day you robbed The Keeper’s Finds, actually, and the man who lived here was kind enough to include the boat with the house. He said he hasn’t used it much ever since he met his current girlfriend, but… what was I saying? Ah yes: if all these events didn’t conveniently coincide with each other, if even one thing went askew, then…” he shakes his head. “Well, I suppose that’s not important. May I offer my take?”
Scotty nods his head.
“Well,” as he pushes the glasses up his nose, “I think you said it yourself – you were on death’s door, and you were knocking. Scotty, you were living in a terrible, putrid environment; you had no reliable access to food, no access to clean drinking water, you had only dirty clothing to wear, and I don’t even want to think about the bed you slept on. I think when you burned those incenses in your already dirty hut, it may have… well, the smoke may have messed with your brain, and you may have experienced some hallucinations. Of course I’m talking about the djinns and this Great Old One. Those things… well, I cannot say for sure that they don’t exist, as I firmly believe there are beings out there who exist higher on the consciousness spectrum, so to speak, than we humans do. Hell, I believe that some humans are higher on that spectrum than others are, that is to say, that some humans are of a higher level of awareness, that some may be able to perceive things that others cannot. So… perhaps the djinns were real, perhaps this Great Old One really did heal your body before he convinced you to attempt suicide. Or, maybe you walked down a very dark path, maybe your brain had you experience some things that weren’t necessarily there in order to break down any mental barriers you set up to prevent yourself from committing suicide. You were living a terrible life Scotty, a life of very low quality, and though you didn’t necessarily want to commit suicide, somewhere in your mind you recognized that death would be a sort of salvation for you. The light at the end of the tunnel, if you’ll excuse the pun.
“But, most importantly, I don’t think what really happened necessarily matters at this point. You survived. You’re here, you’re safe now – like I said before you gave me your story, you can consider this house yours for as long as you need, indefinitely, even; I have more than enough resources to support you, and after what you’ve been through, Scotty, I’d be more than willing to do it – and you’re not living in that shack in the industrial park anymore. Regardless of what brought you here, it’s safe to say you went through a trial, and that trial is now over. Does that sound reasonable?”
Scotty, with a smile on his face, nods his head. “It does. Thank you doc–… thank you, Hilter. I won’t be a burden, I promise. I’m a hard worker. I’ll get myself standing on my own two feet real soon.”
Hilter smiles back. “I’m sure you will. You can take all the time you need, Scotty.” He picks up his pen, pockets it, then stands up from the chair and takes his pad with him. “Are you all right here by yourself? I have my office set up in one of the houses up the road, and the sooner I can transcribe these notes the better.”
“Yeah, I think I’ll be okay. I’m probably just going to sleep all day, if that’s okay.”
“At this point, I think that’s preferential.” Hilter walks over and ruffles Scotty’s full head of black hair. “If you need anything, just press the one button on the phone, then the pound key. It’ll call my cell phone directly.”
“Thank you, Mister Williamson.”
“My pleasure. Be well, Scotty Mells.”
Hilter Odolf Williamson leaves the first house on Fricker Drive and starts his walk up the road. Moments after he leaves, Scotty falls into a deep, restful sleep, and he dreams. Not of the djinns, not of the Great Old One, but about an old wooden shack set back deep in the woods of Stonetown. It’s not Scotty’s old shack, and it’s not Scotty that lives inside it – the man is much, much bigger than Scotty, and his face is covered by a ski mask; Scotty would never wear a ski mask – nor is all the junk strewn about inside the hut anything Scotty would own. But yet one piece catches his eye – it’s placed on the middle of what appears to be a cut log standing up in the middle of the room, almost like some sort of altar. It’s the only thing on the altar aside from the red cloth covering it, and it’s shiny in a cloudy way, just like the jadeite pipe. It’s not green though, and it’s much larger than the jadeite pipe, it’s… it’s a rock.
No, not a rock; a crystal.
Hilter’s walk back to the second house he bought on Fricker Drive is pleasant and uneventful. When he first moved here his walks were accompanied by the soundtrack of lawn mowers, weed whackers, the occasional chainsaw – the classic sounds of yardwork in a backwoods village. Today, all he hears is the sound of chirping birds and gusting wind, and he’s grateful for that. Treeburg is a beautiful, woodsy town; if he wanted to hear the humosphere at work, he would have stayed in the suburbs.
The first thing he does after sitting at his work desk is call up another patient of his, Cyrus Morgan. Cyrus is the owner of The Keeper’s Finds, the secondhand shop that Scotty allegedly robbed; if Hilter can verify at least that part of the story, it would give his case report all the more legitimacy.
The phone rings three times before Cyrus picks up. “Hello?”
“Hello, Cyrus? It’s Hilter Odolf Williamson. How are you?”
“Hey there doc’, I’m doin’ well. I didn’t miss an appointment today, did I?”
Hilter chuckles. “No no, nothing like that. I was actually calling about your shop – this may sound incredulous coming out of nowhere, but were you robbed a few days ago?”
“Well that’s not incredulous at all doc’, in fact I was. Some real sickly-lookin’ kid with half the hair missin’ from his head came in toting incense boards and ran out with a pristine jadeite smoking pipe. Left me with a broken computer and a few shattered windows too, but…” he trails off. Then, “Well, the damage was mostly my fault anyway, and the pipe wasn’t too too pricey. I didn’t even think it was worth phoning the cops. Why do you ask?”
“Well, I believe I found your robber. A young man by the name of Scot–”
“Scotty Mells, yeah! That’s him, the son of a bitch! How’d you find him?”
“It’s a very long story that I’m legally obligated not to tell, I’m afraid, but I will say that he’s in my care now. Without getting into it, I believe he had something of a psychotic break which may have contributed to the robbery, and I wanted to see if his story checked out. It seems that it has.”
“Oh, it certainly checks out. He was here, all right. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that boy, never seen a human who looked more like a mangy coyote. Sheesh. Anywho, is there anything else I can help you with, doc’? I was just about to head out for some lunch when the phone rang.”
“Ah, I see, my apologies. No, that’s… actually, one thing. You said he left with a smoking pipe?”
“Hell yeah he did, thing was beautiful. Made of jadeite, or some kind of green stone. Never been used to smoke, hell I don’t think it was ever touched. Thing was in perfect condition.”
“Do you say so?” Hilter asks, reaching for his pad. “Hold on a moment, if you would, let me… here it is. I wrote in my notes that he said the pipe’s bowl was full of scratches.”
“Scratches?” Cyrus spits, as if he was insulted. “Hell no, it was perfect. Immaculate, even. Your boy’s lyin’ to ya. Know what? I actually have a picture of it, I’ll email it to you real quick before I go up to Montane. You can see for yourself.”
“Really? Well that’s very convenient. Thank you, Cyrus.”
“Absolutely, doc’. I figure you’ve helped me through plenty of shit, it’d only be right if I could help you in return. It’s not a work of art or anything, just a quick pic’ for my inventory files, but it should do the job.”
“Indeed it should. Thank you again, Cyrus. Have a good lunch, tell the Montanes I say hello.”
“Absolutely. You take care, Mister Williamson.”
They hang up simultaneously. Hilter pulls up a Word document and begins to transcribe Scotty’s story. After three sentences, a notification pops up alerting Hilter that he’s received an email. It’s from Cyrus, and it contains the picture of the pipe. When the image loads and Hilter gets a good look at the pipe’s bowl, his heart skips a beat – it’s full of white scratches, as if someone took a sewing needle and scraped the living shit out of the thing.
“But that’s… Cyrus said it was clean… hm. Maybe there’s more to Mister Mells than meets the eye.”
Hilter saves the image in the same folder he saved the image of the empty beach camp left behind by the vanished Flannigan family, the previous owners of the house Hilter keeps his office in. Then, he closes out the email and goes back into Word. Before he resumes typing though, he makes one addition to the bottom of his written notes, one that will not be included in the typed report. It reads: possible schizophrenic/higher level of awareness – explore during next session.
Be well Commons~