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.

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Maestro

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

Did anyone talk to me yesterday?

Update: Ella and I have gathered enough information to reconstruct much of what happened during our last day. I’ll have a post about it shortly.

Have you ever had a “feels like Friday” moment on a Thursday? I had that today, only in reverse and for longer than a moment. This morning (a Saturday) I was sure that today was Friday. Seeing the date was just confusing. After thinking about it I realized that I have absolutely no memory of the last 24 hours. For instance, I found this photo on my camera and I don’t remember taking it or know where it’s from:

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Anyone out there who saw me yesterday have any explanations?

About Detling Adventures

Update: Ella and I have gathered enough information to reconstruct much of what happened during our last day. I’ll have a post about it shortly.

Natural pleasantness, unnatural creepiness

We covered a lot of ground today on Pike’s quest for movie locations. Our first stop was the town that had the bar we visited last night, and the people Pike talked to were enthusiastic about the prospect of a movie being shot there. Same reaction in the next town over. Ella carried on separate conversations with the people at the places we went, and I gathered she was trying to get information about the mysterious town we saw on the way up, called New Innsmouth. Before we had left the cabin she said she wanted to visit there, even though Pike wasn’t enthusiastic about it. She also asked Pike to bring the sword.

After the first two towns, we visited a small state park with a rocky grotto that included some dust of an unusual purple color.

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After that, we drove into New Innsmouth and as soon as we got there I wanted to leave. It’s on the shore but still managed to have an oppressive, creepy vibe. The main street appeared to be the only one that was paved. Most of the buildings were ramshackle and there were no signs indicating stores or bars. The biggest exception was a large building with a faded black and gold sign. From the street I couldn’t read it and didn’t want to approach the building to get a better look. It looked like it said “The Estonian Order of [something].” Near the dock we saw an abandoned ship.

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The few people who were out looked at us sullenly. The all seemed to have unusually large eyes, though that may have been because none of them seemed to blink. Pike didn’t want to stick around either but Ella said she wanted to talk to someone whom the people she had spoken to at the other towns referred her to, who might be more willing to talk to her than the other inhabitants. They said he would likely be at the town’s dock and we did see someone sitting at the edge.

We drove as close to the dock as we could get before stopping and getting out. She asked us to “keep an eye out” and walked to the edge of the dock.

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Ella kept a safe distance from the person on the dock so I felt comfortable dividing my attention between her and the town, which was inactive as ever. My eyes were on the main street when I heard a shriek from the dock. Pike and I rushed forward but it wasn’t Ella who was in trouble. It was whoever she was talking to, who was running away from the dock. We saw passed him — an ancient bearded man with a terrified expression — as we went to where Ella was, standing still and looking at the lake grimly. “We should leave,” she said, and turned around and walked toward the car.

As we got into the car we saw more townspeople emerging from side streets, many of them with a shambling kind of walk. There numbers were sparse but being on that street felt like being in a tunnel whose walls were moving toward us, and we quickly drove out of town.

We were on the road for at least ten minutes before I asked Ella what her conversation was about. “Some of the local customs,” she said. “It turns out the old Innsmouth is a place I know something about.”  She didn’t elaborate and I didn’t ask for more, since New Innsmouth was a place I wanted to just put out of my mind. The next town and a return to north woods normalcy managed to raise our spirits. Mine’s and Pike’s at least. Ella spent most of the time on her cell phone.

The three of us are now on the back porch of the cabin. Pike is grilling dinner and having a beer, after borrowing my laptop to post a comment on the last post, and Ella is writing in a notebook she brought. All three of us are taking frequent pauses from our work to look at the lake. Good place to be.

First night on the lake

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The cabin we’re staying at has Internet access, so greetings from Lake Superior. The drive from Detling was fine; as we got close to the cabin the only towns we passed through were unincorporated. One of them, New Inn-something, didn’t even have an official state sign. Seeing the hand-painted sign really seemed to irk Ella, because she gasped when she saw it and kept looking back long after we had passed it.

As we unpacked the car I noticed something in the trunk I hadn’t seen before. “Is that a sword?” I asked Pike.

“Yeah, I haven’t been able to practice for a couple weeks. Might come in handy too, in case we meet a bear.”

“I thought there was a gun in the big bedroom for those,” said Ella.

“There is. But I’m not going to lie. Taking out a bear with a sword would be sweet.”

Tomorrow the plan is to go to the nearby towns and pitch the movie to local business owners whose establishments Pike would like to use. Ella’s especially interested in the New Inn— town. Neither she nor Pike remember anything about the place from their earlier cabin visits, but those were a long time ago.

We did go to the closest town tonight to visit one of the bars. The bartender was an unexpectedly attractive young woman and Pike gave me permission to tell her I was his producer. We also met a garrulous, wiry, bespectacled gentleman with iron-grey hair and mustache who called himself Dingle, who insisted that we check out the ATV he drove to the bar before he left for the night: It looked like it was built more for transporting armed troops than racing through mud. And I discovered that Ella is pretty good at darts.

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