“Mystery! Intrigue! Fights! Mimes!”

Writing out of character once again to share the poster for the play that’s been occupying much of my attention lately.


“You are, after all, fictional”

Breaking character once again to post a video of a short play I co-wrote a year ago. The event was Blitz Smackdown, where plays are written overnight and performed that evening. A full account is here.

The play is a comic choose your own adventure mystery, and the reason I’m posting it now is that an expanded version (one that also replaces the detecting duo in the original with characters that are less familiar and less trademarked) will be produced by Mercury Players Theater, opening September 9 in Madison, Wisconsin. Auditions are June 27 and June 29.

The video was recorded by my dad using his photo camera while seated in the audience, which is why it has such a “spontaneous” feel.

Tes and I chat about meeting Morgane

Consider this reminiscence a follow-up to Arthur’s last post, in which he introduced my old roommate Tes and our friend Morgane.

9:10 PM me: I was looking through the journal I kept at that time.
short4tesla:I remember your journal!
9:11 PM me: My first impression of you is rather amusing now.
short4tesla: *grin* You probably thought I came on pretty strong
9:12 PM me: That’s a nice way of putting it.
short4tesla: I didn’t know if you were scared of me or if you were just quiet.
9:13 PM me: It may have been a little of both at first.
short4tesla: Ha!
me: I suppose things really got interesting with the trip to Innsmouth.
9:14 PM short4tesla: FIRST trip
me: Of course. You were looking for a good place to climb.
9:15 PM short4tesla: And found the cave with the weird writing on the wall. When you said “I’ve seen this before” it was like something out of a movie.
9:16 PM me: Yes. Sort of like your idea to wait around past dark to see if anyone would come back.
9:17 PM short4tesla: Hey, it’s not every day you make it to Innsmouth when there’s going to be a full moon. That’s what you thought one of the drawings meant.
9:18 PM me: I couldn’t argue with your logic then and I can’t now. Somehow we were able to occupy our time in Innsmouth until nightfall.
9:19 PM short4tesla: We were lucky in a lot of ways that night.
me: True. And so was Morgane.
9:20 PM short4tesla: Right. We saw those guys in robes with the weird hopping walk dragging her into the cave.
9:21 PM me: And you leapt from our hiding place and demanded that they let her go, since it was obvious they would take demands from 5-foot tall female college student they’d never seen before.
9:22 PM short4tesla: 5 foot 1 and I totally knew what I was doing.
me: Apparently Morgane knew what she was doing too, since she was able to take out one of the people holding her.
9:23 PM short4tesla: And once they saw that we weren’t afraid to swing heavy sticks at their heads, they took off. Wait – you got one of them with a crotch shot, didn’t you?
9:24 PM me: It took a few swings to get my aim right. Anyway, they didn’t put up much of a fight.
9:25 PM short4tesla: So, we ask Morgane if she’s all right and she’s all panicked and says she needs to get to the beach for her skin.
9:26 PM me: Later, of course, we learned what she meant, but it was quite baffling at the time.
9:27 PM short4tesla: So we follow her to the beach and she finds her seal hide or whatever, and then we see something coming from the water.
9:28 PM me: Two or three somethings. For months afterward I wished the moon hadn’t been so bright. I still don’t like thinking about them.
short4tesla: Let’s just use Morgane’s phrase: froggy folk.
9:29 PM me: Associating them with something mundane helps. But even though I was repulsed and scared I was also fascinated, maybe even jubilant.
They were proof that this obscure branch of folklore I was studying was astonishingly real.
9:31 PM short4tesla: That must be why you seemed so dazed when we were trying to tell you we needed to get the hell out of there.
9:32 PM me: Probably. But got the hell out of there we did.
short4tesla: And yet all three of us were crazy enough to go back.
9:33 PM me: Which is, of course, a story for another time.

Ella’s college buddies

Two Saturdays ago Ted Spindle had a party at his home to commemorate the spring equinox. Among the guests were me, Ingrid, and Ella, and Ella brought her college roommate Tesla. Tes had about the same petite stature as Ella, with light brown hair, and appeared to constantly have an expression that made her look like she was contemplating something mischievous. Ella seemed downright jovial around her.

“Hello,” Tes said cheerily when Ella introduced us. “You’re the blogger Ella saved from an evil spirit, huh?” That was a common greeting during the party. “Oh, you’re the guy the bookstore owner saved after a frog cut off your head.” “Oh, you’re the guy Ingrid and the movie director saved from zombie cows.” I guess it was cool that people there read the blog, though.

Ella and Tes had a friend there they introduced me to, a lithe and elegant woman named Morgane. “Oh, sure, and you’re the fellow who likes to annoy vampires,” she said. She had an Irish accent. I asked how she knew Ella and Tes.

“It was when these girls were at Miskatonic,” she said. “I had a bit of a problem with those froggy folk you ran into at the cabin and they helped me.”

“OK,” I said, “Sort of a paranormal Charlie’s Angels, huh?” I said, striking a kung-fu pose. The three looked at each other in a way that suggested were silently trying to decide which one would try to get rid of me. “So you were a student there?” I asked Morgane

“Oh,” she said, “Well, student of humanity, let’s say.” Ella and Tes seemed amused by that.

“What, like, sociology?” I asked. All three laughed at that.

“You can probably tell him,” Tes said to Morgane

“Well, all right, then” said Morgane, “I’m a selkie.”

There was a pause, during which I failed to remember what a selkie is, assuming I ever knew.

“Is that, like, a part of Ireland?” I asked.

“No, it means I normally take the form of a seal.”

“A seal, really?”

“Oh come on,” said Ella, “Morgane’s hardly the most unusual character you’ve encountered.”

“Well, no, I just wouldn’t have thought a seal. Dolphin, maybe. But…” I turned my palms outward and struck the backs of my hands together. “Ohr ohr – that kind of seal?”

“And what’s wrong with a seal, then?” asked Morgane, a little annoyed.

“Nothing, nothing, I just…you don’t really have a seal…look.”

We got along better after that, once I unequivocally accepted Morgane’s catalog of qualities that made the seal a superior and majestic creature. I also avoided the temptation to make comparisons to Aquaman or to ask about Morgane’s ability to balance a ball on her nose. I wonder if the incident she mentioned is the same one Ella called an “adventure” the night of her unexpected visit. I hope Ella will share the story sometime.

Maestro does not appreciate my roguish charm

From last post:

We both jumped. It was a voice from my balcony. A commanding, resonant voice that I thought I recognized. I went to the balcony door and slid open the blind. Looking back at me was a cold, aristocratic figure. He was alone, so while our second meeting wouldn’t have the same danger as our first, his stern expression told me that it was going to be at least as nerve-wracking. Maestro Nosferatu.

I slid the door open a crack. “You’re looking for Ella?” I said. She had followed me to the door but was standing in a corner, where she couldn’t be seen from outside.

“My time on earth has been long so it is simple to overlook such an inane quip. Yet my patience is not infinite.”

“So why wait for me to…” I looked at the threshold, which Maestro had made no move to cross. “That’s an actual thing? You can’t come in here unless I invite you?”

“It is a taboo. Even those among us with little interest in tradition would not violate it.”

I opened the blind fully but slid the door only slightly further, so the opening was as wide as Maestro’s shoulders. “Be right back,” I said, and retrieved the two chairs from the dining table. I pushed one outside and put the other in front of Ella. For myself I pulled over a kitchen stool. Ella and I sat down, and then Maestro.

“Can I get you anything?” I asked Maestro. “Some wine?”

“I am familiar with the reference. I do not do requests, sir.” Maestro then spoke to me with a faster cadence then he had before, without losing any of his precision. “When we last spoke I advised you to stay on good terms with those who walk in the dark. Since then you placed one of us in a situation where she was manipulated by one human and injured by another. Perhaps you think showing defiance in spite of your limited powers gives you a sort of roguish charm.”

“I didn’t place Leticia in that situation. I’d like to know how she’s doing.”

“She is well. Nevertheless there are those, more prideful than I am, who see her injury as an affront to be avenged. Those following Miss Sherrinford tonight are among them.”

“So they’re with you?’ said Ella. She actually seemed relieved that she was being stalked by vampires and not by a Welsh goat-worshipping cult.

Maestro nodded. “I accept the veracity of Mr. Ormand’s account and do not believe you acted out of malice. I would regret your loss and have told your pursuers of this. They will not impede your return home.”

I decided to overlook the “your loss” crack but wanted to press Maestro on something else. “What about Pickman’s camera being stolen? Do you know about that?”

“It is possible that the thief performed a favor for you. There are some things that are best left unknown even to a highly disciplined human mind.” He looked at Ella again. “You know of what I speak.”

Maestro stood and so did Ella and I. “Until we meet again,” he said. He turned and I asked him to stop. He stopped but didn’t turn back around.

“This is the second time we’ve talked,” I said, “and I still don’t know your name.”

“The name you applied to me in your account of your first meeting.”

“What, ‘Maestro Nosferatu’?”

“That will suffice. Farewell.” And he was gone.


Something disquieting happened to Pike shortly after he posted his comment about Pickman’s footage: someone broke into Pike’s home and stole the camera. And nothing else. And the folder on Pike’s computer containing the files he transferred from the camera was gone too. There was some transferred footage that was either undiscovered or left alone, however, which he showed to Ella and me.

There were a few woodland shots of a beast similar to the one we had encountered. Others showed buildings in the background that looked like those at the corporate campus we investigated a year and a half ago. There was movement in the foreground but there wasn’t enough light for me to tell what it was. Another shot appeared to be looking out a window from the inside and the screen just showed blackness within the frame of the window, as if the camera wasn’t registering whatever was out there.

The last shot showed part of a town street at night. The camera was perpendicular to the street and close to the back corner of a building, as if Pickman were trying to avoid being spotted. Moving down the street was what I initially thought was a line of people in frog or fish costumes doing some sort of weird dance. Then I saw that they weren’t dancing, but hopping. A couple of the figures had what looked like tall white tiaras on their heads. Even though we didn’t see much of the street it seemed familiar, as did the weird figures. Pike thinks it may have been the main street at that strange town we visited in our trip up north.

A few nights after that, Ella stopped by my apartment unexpectedly. I’ve seen her in a lot of different situations and she’s always had a measured sort of attitude, even when she’s been fearful, so when she paced around my living room looking pale and anxious I was pretty alarmed. I asked if she was all right.

“I’ve been a little…pressed lately,” she said. “This thing with Pike getting robbed…” she stood against the wall next to one of the windows and moved the blind slightly to look outside. “You probably hadn’t heard of those entities I’m studying before I told you about them.”

“What,” I said, “the goat thing and those other guys?” Ella grimaced. “No, I hadn’t,” I said, before she had a chance to chastise me.

“Well, people besides folklorists do know about them,” she said. “Tes and I found that out in college. We were working on a project that we thought was historical research but ended up being…” She uttered a sardonic chuckle. “An adventure, I guess. Us versus a whole organization.”

“An organization? Like a secret society?”

“Sure. I thought we took care of them.”

“You and Tes took out an entire society?”

“Not alone. I only mentioned that because I didn’t think I needed to take any special precautions anymore. But then the Pickman footage was stolen. And tonight I’ve been followed.”

“What? Are they out there?”

“I don’t see them.”

“Well, do you want to call the police? Or Ingrid?”

“I guess I…”


We both jumped. It was a voice from my balcony. A commanding, resonant voice that I thought I recognized. I went to the balcony door and slid open the blind. Looking back at me was a cold, aristocratic figure. He was alone, so while our second meeting wouldn’t have the same danger as our first, his stern expression told me that it was going to be at least as nerve-wracking. Maestro Nosferatu.


From last post:

Leticia stopped fighting and had the same blank stare she did when Pickman first showed up. Then, with a look of fury, she ran toward me.

Leticia grabbed Pickman and flung him. She raced to where he landed and threw him again. Ella, Ingrid, and Pike stagger-jogged over to me and we followed Leticia.

After a couple minutes we came across her at the edge of a gully, with her back to us. She was tossing aside the crossbow bolt previously lodged in her back. Her head turned slightly as she approached.

“I really wish you guys would stay back,” she said. “I got a little, ah, carried away.”

Ingrid borrowed Ella’s flashlight and shined it into the gully. “Whoa-ho!” she said.

“So he’s dead,” said Ella. She sounded almost irritated.

“Hey, um, Leticia, what happened with you back there?” I said.

“I don’t know,” she said. She still wasn’t looking at us.

“Was he controlling you?” asked Pike.

“Not exactly,” Leticia responded. “Out of nowhere I had this urge. No, it was way stronger than that. It was like I had to…”

I waited for her to finish but she didn’t. “Do you suppose Pickman did something when he took our memories?” I asked.

“Maybe,” she said. “I’ve got people I can ask.”

“Miriam might know,” said Ella.

Leticia turned around. She looked at Ella for a few moments. I thought would be a good occasion for Ella to apologize for shooting Leticia but she just looked back.

“I think,” said Leticia, “I should probably…keep my distance for a while. Until I know for sure what happened.”

“You’re fine now,” I said. “Getting rid of Pickman is probably all you needed to do.”

Leticia sighed. “Maybe. But still…I guess I need to work out whether it’s safe for me to be around, you know, regular folks.”

“That’s a good idea,” said Ella, without much trace of anything resembling sympathy. I looked at her with a little annoyance and she did the same with me.

“All right,” I said, “Well, um, don’t take too long.”

Leticia smiled. “I should probably clean up,” she said. She went in to the gully and hoisted Pickman over her shoulder. She leapt to the edge opposite us.

“Hey Ella,” she said. Ella raised an eyebrow. “Nice shot,” Leticia said. It was too dark to see Leticia’s expression from where I was standing and I couldn’t really read her tone. She sped away.

We went back to the scene of the fight, where we retrieved what gear we could find. Pike was willing to wait until daylight to see if he could find his knife, and was pretty excited about finding Pickman’s camera. I asked Ella why she was less than pleased about Pickman’s death.

“He must have had some astonishing information that we’ll never know,” she said. “But I didn’t think someone I shot with a crossbow would be in a mood to accept criticism.”

We did consult with Miriam the next day, who said that Pickman probably implanted the magical equivalent of a post-hypnotic suggestion in Leticia, one that required his concentration to work.

Come back soon, Vampire Fangirl.

The bride of darkness

From last post:

Leticia was standing in front of Pickman, her shoulders perpendicular to his. She was holding her right arm straight out and in her hand was what I guessed to be the dart Ingrid had fired. Leticia looked over her shoulder at us, eyes wide and fangs bared.

“Oh crap,” said Ingrid. She got her crossbow ready. “Does silver work on vampires?” Pike said he thought so and that’s what his knife was made of.

“But is it, like, an allergy?” asked Ingrid. “If I hit her foot am I going to kill her?”

Pickman laughed. “You must be Ingrid and Pike. Mr. Pike, surely you appreciate the opportunity to give your life for visual art.”

“Die for an art film? Never. Your wolfman’s going to be cake.”

“I’m afraid my associate doesn’t do requests,” said Pickman. “Anyway, I prefer the smaller, more emotional drama of a fight between friends.” The creature growled something at Leticia and loped off.

“OK,” said Ingrid. “So, Leticia, I don’t know if you can hear me or what’s going on, but I’m really sorry that I might have to…”

Leticia charged at Ingrid, checking her with her shoulder and knocking her against a tree. Ingrid collected herself and raised her crossbow, but Leticia grabbed her and threw her into Ella, bouncing the pair of them off another tree. They fell to the ground.

Leticia whirled around in time to see Pike approaching, with the knife instead of the sword. They circled each other briefly, but Leticia put an end to that with a kick to Pike’s temple, knocking him down. She then kicked the knife out of his hand.

I could see why Pickman referred to the situation he created as art: Leticia was a visually stunning adversary, performing incredible feats of strength with elegance, her coat twirling dramatically around her. My awe overcame my common sense, causing me to stand still when she approached me, though I don’t see how flight would have been an option. She grabbed me by my neck and lifted me.

“Poor little man,” Leticia whispered. “Wanting what you can’t have.”

That statement may seem strange now. But looking at her face, whose beauty was weirdly enhanced by an almost feral exultation, the meaning was clear to me.

“Now that’s just the influence of the evil warlock talking,” I responded.

Leticia laughed softly. “I haven’t truly feasted on a human since I was first turned.”

She opened her mouth but instead of approaching my neck, she shrieked and dropped me. She spun around and I saw, sticking out of her lower back, a crossbow bolt.

Crawling to my right I saw Ella, holding an empty crossbow pointed at Leticia. Her head was angled over the weapon, so her hair hung over her face. She looked kind of hot.

Leticia ran at Ella but Pike and Ingrid intercepted her, grabbing her and tackling her to the ground. I saw a light approaching them: Pickman with his camera. I approached the light, walking in a wide curve. Leticia, meanwhile, was on her feet, but her three opponents were putting up a good fight. Soon I was close to Pickman. Close enough to Taser him.

Pickman dropped his camera with a yell. Leticia stopped fighting and had the same blank stare she did when Pickman first showed up. Then, with a look of fury, she ran toward me.

Pickman’s model

Two weekends ago Ingrid notified me that, as promised after our Twilight trip, she was ready to hunt the creature in Pickman’s video. She had been doing some searching over the last several weeks and discovered tracks that she thinks it left. The party would be Ingrid, me, Ella, Pike and Leticia, and we would be tracking it at night.

As with the werewolf hunt, we first gathered at Ingrid’s. Ingrid was bringing her machete again but was using a pistol instead of a rifle for tranquilizer darts. She also had her crossbow slung over her shoulder. She gave Tasers to Ella and me. Pike had the sword he brought to the cabin and a knife in his belt. “I guess you don’t need anything, huh?” Ingrid said to Leticia. Leticia responded by assuming a fighting stance and saying “Hwa-cha!” All of us were bundled up but she was wearing a simple black overcoat.

Ingrid had night vision goggles and Leticia had her natural version, and the moon was bright enough so that the rest of us didn’t need our flashlights to follow them. The local university operates a laboratory farm that includes a horse barn and rodeo arena, and it was there that we parked and made our approach to the wooded area that the amphitheater also borders.

The werewolf hunt had kind of a thrill but for this one the feeling of danger was stronger. It was kind of funny, trying to think of why hunting a werewolf wasn’t as big a deal as hunting a wolf Bigfoot or whatever it was we saw in Pickman’s video. Ingrid assured us she found only one set of tracks, which gave us some slight relief.

Leticia picked up on the creature’s scent before Ingrid spotted fresh tracks. As we mere humans followed the trail we too detected an odor like decaying meat. So we weren’t surprised when Leticia soon held up her hand and Ingrid raised her crossbow. We moved forward slowly.

We saw it in profile as it was digging in the ground near a fallen tree. After I had been looking at it for a few seconds it turned its head toward us with a smooth movement and stood. It was at least six feet high. I knew what it looked like from the video but seeing it in the flesh I saw that its face was more expressive than I thought, more like an ape’s than a dog’s. It growled in a way that sounded like it spoke a word. I thought it sounded like “gadara” but Ella says it was “garuda.”

“Whoa,” said Ingrid, “Ella! Should we, like, talk to it?”

“You’re asking me?”

“Well, yeah, you’re into weird stuff.”

“You hunt werewolves!”

“Shhh!” It was Leticia. “There’s someone else here.”

We heard footsteps on the snow and then a light shone on us. The surprise made the light seem larger and brighter than it was. Once I collected myself I saw that it was a light attached to a video camera. I heard a man’s voice murmuring. Then he spoke.

“So pleased to see you again,” the man with the camera said. “Though of course you don’t remember our first meeting.”

“Pickman,” I said. I looked at Leticia, who had fought Pickman in our first encounter, but she was just staring blankly. The creature hadn’t moved.

“That’s Pickman?” said Ingrid. “Should I put him to sleep?”

Ella and I agreed. Ingrid fired her pistol.

And then Leticia was standing in front of Pickman, her shoulders perpendicular to his. She was holding her right arm straight out and in her hand was what I guessed to be the dart Ingrid had fired. Leticia looked over her   shoulder at us, eyes wide and fangs bared.

Another blog, another Twilight post

This weekend I joined an actual vampire, a werewolf hunter, a scholar of the weird, and a sword-wielding filmmaker for a matinee of the new Twilight movie. It was something Leticia suggested, I guess to show us there were no hard feelings after we crashed the film festival last month. Or maybe to punish us.

Seeing New Moon isn’t something I would have considered if Leticia hadn’t asked and I think Ella, Ingrid, and Pike felt the same way. Before the movie started we would periodically look at each other with “So…um…Twilight” kinds of expressions. We sat on a side bank of seats near the back, so Pike and Ingrid wouldn’t obstruct the views of 90% of the people in the audience.

The order we were sitting in was Ingrid, Ella, me, Leticia, and Pike. My position in the middle gave me an interesting auditory experience. For instance, here’s what I heard from my left and right in the scene when Bella mopes around for three months:

I: chortle
E: exasperated sigh
L: sympathetic “mmmm”
P: derisive “pfff”

Here’s what I heard when Jacob whips his shirt off:

I: chortle
E: intrigued “mmmm”
L: luxurious “mmmm”
P: exasperated sigh

Afterward we went to Perkins, where Leticia assured us she wouldn’t take it personally if we didn’t like the movie. Her only complaint seemed to be that the sole red-haired vampire was a villainess. Actually, most of the time we spent on the movie was asking Leticia how closely it matched up with her experience. There weren’t a lot of questions she was comfortable answering directly.

Ella asked her if there was an actual vampire council like the Volturi and Leticia responded that if there was, you wouldn’t have to get in an elevator to see them. Ingrid asked if Edward was a typical vampire. “I’ve met some like that,” Leticia said with a smirk.

Pike wondered if vampires’ fangs get in the way if they kiss humans and requested that Leticia demonstrate a safe mouth-to-mouth kissing technique on Ingrid. Leticia and Ingrid laughed and Ella uttered the same sigh she did during the movie.

I  asked about human-vampire couples. Actually it was more like, “So, a human and vampire…you know…is that…I mean…do…” Leticia responded that it was complicated. Actually it was more like, “Yeah…I…there have been…it’s not…um…” Ingrid put an end to it by slamming her hand on the table. “Dudes!” she exclaimed. “We’ve got to hunt that dog thingy once there’s snow on the ground and I can track it!” We agreed.


From last post…

“You guys shouldn’t be here!” [Leticia] whispered. I asked what she meant. “I mean that everyone here is…” she glanced to my left and gasped. I looked in that direction and saw a pair of guys glaring at me. They looked familiar but it took me a few seconds to place them: they were the vampires Leticia was with when we first met her. They strode toward us.

“Pike,” I said, “are we crashing a film festival of the undead?”

“You brought them here?” snapped one of Leticia’s former companions.

“She had nothing to do with this,” I said.

Other people in the crowd were starting to look at us. “We’re just here to see the Pickman film,” said Pike.

“You’re not welcome here!” hissed the second guy. I think he’s the one Pike hit with his sword in our first encounter. He opened his mouth wide, exposing his fangs. “You will regret this intrusion.”

“Ho ho!” said Ingrid. She pulled from her purse a metal rod and shoved the purse at me. “You want a piece, Twilight?”

I didn’t find out until later that Ingrid was holding a collapsible baton. The reason I didn’t find out is that we heard a voice say “Stop.” It was an interesting voice: calm, commanding, and with the purity of a struck tuning fork. Everyone was silent.

I looked around and saw a figure that I somehow knew was the source of the voice, even though his back was to us. He was wearing a long, dark coat and had hair to match. He was standing in front of an open door and we saw his pale face in profile. He raised his right hand, pointed into the room he was standing in front of, and went in. I followed the direction without questioning it for a second, and it appeared that Ella, Pike, and Ingrid were equally compelled.


We found ourselves in a classroom, facing two men. One was the person who directed us into the room, a man whose face had a refined majesty that evoked the portrait of a great historical figure like Washington or Jefferson. Or Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter movies. The other was a man with a beard and a scar near one eye, and I realized he must be Bertrand, one of the vampires Ella met at the bookstore. Ella, Pike, Ingrid, and I stood in the middle of the room while the other people took places around the walls. I spotted Leticia, who looked worried.

“Greetings,” said Maestro Nosferatu or whatever he was, in that same fascinating voice.

“Hello” I said. “Nice to meet some fellow film fans.” I gave Leticia a small grin, and she responded by widening her eyes and shaking her head.

“Well. An insouciant [I had to look that word up] young man who is acquainted with our sister Leticia and whose company includes a warlike Norsewoman. Arthur Lewis Ormand, I presume.”

“Yes.” I was a little surprised, which Maestro appeared to pick up on.

“I find value in the public chronicles of the hidden world. There are others who do not. Leticia has told you this.”

“She has. She’s not the reason we’re here, by the way.”

“You need not fear for her. What you will do is tell me why you are here.”

I explained our earlier run-in with Pickman and that we thought the film was by the same man. Maestro asked his people if Pickman had made an appearance at the festival and he hadn’t. Next he spoke to Ella, asking her if Pickman was connected to the lore she discussed with Bertrand; Ella said she was unsure.

Maestro and Bertrand had a brief conversation and Maestro looked at us. “One of us will deliver the Pickman film to you,” he said, “if we feel it would be…appropriate. The four of you shall leave, unimpeded. Bertrand shall accompany you, as there are some things he wishes to discuss with Miss Sherrinford.”

Maestro then looked at me and everything around us seemed to grow dim, as if we were on a bare stage, each illuminated by a spotlight. “I trust, Arthur Lewis Ormand, you will make a better attempt to stay on good terms with those who walk in the dark. You will need all the allies you can acquire, if you continue to confront these eldritch things.”

I don’t remember what I said in return, just feeling desperate to get out of there. Pike, Ingrid and I stayed close together while Bertrand and Ella walked ahead, talking in low voices. I glanced at Leticia, who gave me a relieved sort of smile.

On the way to the car I kept looking behind me, “In the Hall of the Mountain King” running through my head. When we got there Bertrand departed with a slight bow. We all let out a sigh. Except for Ella, none of us had said anything since we left the classroom.

“We totally could have taken those guys, you know,” said Ingrid.

The discussion between Ingrid and Pike on the way home, going through the various combat scenarios possible with Ingrid’s weapons and whatever objects we could find on site, helped make me feel a little less anxious about the whole encounter. Not by much though. I think Ingrid picked up on that, because she proposed that we all stop at her home before we went our separate ways. We wound up staying there until dawn.

More movie fun with Pike

Last post I talked about some video Pike recorded at an underground film festival and he recently told me about another festival that was keeping a low profile. He hadn’t heard of this one before and found out about it through someone he knows at the University of Minnesota, who said that a screening room on campus was reserved all weekend by an unidentified organization. Pike went there the first night and, while he didn’t pick up a schedule or see any movies, was able to use his camera to zoom in on a large schedule posted outside the door, where we were able to see Pickman’s name attached to a film.

I asked Pike why he didn’t investigate further, and he told me the crowd there was “dressed like the board members of a goth corporation” and he would have stood out. Not a good thing for an event he and most other people apparently weren’t supposed to know about.

Pike was going to go again that night and asked if Ella and I wanted to go too and see if we could get in. Both of us were interested. I also called Ingrid, who’s interested in that creature Pike showed me from Pickman’s video, and she wanted to go as well. I tried to invite Leticia but was only able to leave a message on her phone.

Saturday evening we arrived at the screening room, all dressed in dark semi-formal wear. Ella used this as one of her rare occasions to wear makeup, which included eyeliner and dark red lipstick. Ingrid was wearing a long skirt, which was the first time I’d seen her not wearing jeans, and carried a large purse which I imagined contained her high-class evening combat gear.

We must have arrived between screenings because there was a small crowd outside the doors. No one seemed to look at us like we were out of place and we checked out the schedule of films. When I looked at Pike’s image of the schedule I didn’t pay attention to the entries other than Pickman’s, but now I saw that the film that we had apparently just missed was created by someone named Leticia.

I pointed this out to the others and looked at the crowd, wondering if it was a coincidence, when I saw “our” Leticia talking and laughing with someone. We made our way over to her, and when she finished her conversation she noticed us. Her expression quickly became one of shock.

“You guys shouldn’t be here!” she whispered. I asked what she meant. “I mean that everyone here is…” she glanced to my left and gasped. I looked in that direction and saw a pair of guys glaring at me. They looked familiar but it took me a few seconds to place them: they were the vampires Leticia was with when we first met her. They strode toward us.

“Pike,” I said, “are we crashing a film festival of the undead?”

Favors and sharing

Saturday Ella went to Minneapolis to connect with her old roommate Tes, who added a comment about Pickman to the last post. I asked Ella about Tes’ uncommon name, and she told me Tes is short for Tesla. Tes has a twin sister named Faraday, who goes by Fara.

Ella was supposed to work at the bookstore on Saturday so needed someone to cover for her on short notice, and I volunteered. When I got there Saturday morning, Ella and Miriam appeared to be finishing up some kind of kids’ event. A blond girl with gumdrop-shaped cheekbones was writing something on a whiteboard. Nearby was a young boy with a bandage on his chin, looking around with a “what just happened?” kind of expression. Their mother soon collected them and let them out of the store. “Bye El-la!” said the boy. “Bye El-la!”

I picked up pretty quickly from Ella what I would need to know that day, and we agreed to get together later that night so she could tell me what she learned from Tes. Ella deleted the history on the store computer’s browser and I kidded her about that. She told me that some of the things she had been looking at were “kind of intense” — I chose to do the gentlemanly thing and not take the bait.


There were only a couple of customers and I was able to handle them fine. I did have a strange experience with someone who seemed to have mistaken the store for the university’s rare books collection, based on the titles he was asking for. He must have been from out of town because I have to believe that I would have noticed him before in a town the size of Detling: he was astonishingly tall and had a weirdly resonant voice.

The most interesting experience of the day was a visit from Pike. He showed me a video he had secretly recorded at an underground film festival, produced by a filmmaker named Pickman.

I saw a familiar-looking stone ring in the ground at night. An arm shot up from it, and I saw a clawed hand grasp the edge. Then another arm and claw. A dog-like head emerged, and then the entire creature leapt out. Its body was shaped like a human’s but with a forward slumping posture, and the camera followed it as it loped away from the ring.

Pike stopped the video. The whole thing had a home movie kind of feel, with no music or stylized lighting. “It gets pretty nasty after that,” he said.

“That monster looked pretty realistic.”

“I don’t think it could have been more realistic.”

“You don’t think it was, like, real real, do you?”

“Actually, I do.”

Pike may have been on to something. He joined Ella and me at Emmie’s Bar when she reported on her conversation with Tes. Apparently many years ago there was a painter by the name of Pickman in Boston, whose artwork featured astonishingly lifelike depictions of monstrous creatures. And Tes had learned of an urban legend that claimed Pickman used living models for his work.

Enemies new and old

Ella and I think we have a handle on what happened the day and night of our shared memory loss. It relates to some construction going on at the site of the amphitheater, putting in some new seating. This had been something Ella was wary of, given what she knows about the place, but since they didn’t appear to be digging up the area around the stage she wasn’t panicking.

What was causing her some alarm, however, was the stone ring in my mystery photo from last post. Wanting to know what it was about, she had looked into the construction project and discovered that one of the decision-makers was someone in the university’s art department, named Pickman. The appointment on the bookstore’s calendar that Miriam discovered was created by Ella as a reminder to go to Pickman’s office. Apparently I had gone with her and her intent was to look at just the office, because at about that time was when Ingrid got the phone message from me asking about getting a lock picked.

For the rest of the story, including the bar fight, we had to rely on Leticia. The handful of results a “barfight detling” image search on Google yields is something called “Sexy Red Head Kicks Male,” but I’m pretty sure that’s not a photo of her.

I got a call from you asking if I knew anything about that pit being created at the amphitheater. I didn’t but I told you I would ask around, and we decided to meet up at Emmie’s Bar that night to report. I talked to some of my guys, who told me that when they were around there at night they thought they saw some activity around there, but when they got close enough for a good look nothing was going on.

You two were at Emmie’s when I got there. I told you what I knew and was going to ask if I could see Ella’s famous darts skills when three guys approached us. I recognized two of them, even though I hadn’t seem them in person: they were two of the guys you’ve written about on the blog! The guy with the John Deere hat and the guy with the glasses. In the middle was someone I’m assuming was Pickman, since he was about twenty years older than the other two guys and dressed in a dark suit. He was slightly shorter than them, and had thick, dark hair that he combed straight back. Blue eyes that were bright and cold, like…I don’t know, you’re better at similes than I am 🙂

So, Pickman got all melodramatic villain, telling you and Ella to stay out of his affairs. You were like “or what — you’re going to put a threatening sculpture on my doorstep?” Pickman turned his head to the left, looking around the bar, and when he turned his head back to look at us, about four other guys had left their seats and were standing in front of us. They had the some kind of dazed look that people get when I work my magic on them.

Pickman said “Leave the bride of darkness to me,” so he knows what I’m about. I gotta admit that it felt kind of cool to be referred to that way. John Deere and Glasses were confused though, because they were like “um…you mean the goth chick?” who I guess was Ella.

I could have taken all the guys Pickman assembled, but whoa – Pickman was tough! He came at me with a knife, silver I think. I was able to dodge no problem but his speed was pretty close to my own. I had my hands full with him so I wasn’t able to see what was going on with you two. I got in some good hits, though, and I think I was close to winning when…

Actually, I don’t know what happened, because I suddenly found myself in a different part of the bar, with Pickman nowhere around. The fight you guys were in was over. The four guys from the bar were still around, looking confused, but Glasses and John Deere were gone. I thought they had just vanished, but that wouldn’t explain why I shifted in space. Then I realized that Pickman must have done a steal memory trick, which is something I’d heard of before. Sometimes, like in my case, you get only a minute stolen, but you and Ella seem to have gotten hit a lot harder.

So I don’t know the final fate of Pickman, though I haven’t looked too hard. I don’t know if there was some major revelation that he didn’t want us to remember or if the memory steal was just an evasion tactic. Ella and I went to Emmie’s after that night and some of the patrons had some photos from the fight, including one of Ella standing on the bar and kicking someone in the head, but that’s the only record I’ve been able to find of what happened to us that night.

We went to the stone ring at the amphitheater during the day and the bottom looks solid, so I don’t know if there’s something there we need to be watchful against. I don’t plan on staying there after dark to find out.