They all lay in stone houses in their great city of Rlyeh,
preserved by the spells of mighty Cthulhu for a glorious resurrection when the stars and the earth might once more be ready for them. ~ H. P. Lovecraft The Call of Cthulhu, p. 146 (wikipedia.org entry) Abbreviated.
Chapter One Phnglui mglwnafh Cthulhu Rlyeh wgahnagl fhtagn.
Echoing across the deserted streets, high heels clicked loudly against the still silence in the early morning air.
Carol had walked this same route for the past three years, but that was during the daylight hours. The streets were always quiet in this neighborhood. Her apartment building rose against the black wall of night behind the large resident parking lot. Both areas were well lit all night long and she didnt mind the higher rent for the safety it provided; especially for a girl like her, working late into the early hours. She usually had a driver to take her home this late, but he was nowhere to be found. Deciding to walk, she looked down at her heels. Not a great choice, she
thought but then again she hadnt expected to be walking home. Being a dancer wasnt glitter and glamour. It was damn
hard work. Often exhausted at the end of the night, she found herself wishing for a better job, a decent job, something she could write home about. But in the back of her mind, she doubted that would ever happen.
School hadnt worked for her. She dropped out at fifteen. Uneducated, she knew there were few options available to her. But she was aiming to fix that. She had saved her best during the past three years and finally had enough to leave the club and go to community college. She had chosen Business Administration. She had a good head on her shoulders and she knew that. It was time to put that to use.
Carol had discovered an education wasnt important when you were a stripper. People paid her to wriggle against them and all that was required was a smoking body clients lusted after. Sultry or innocent girl, it didnt matter, she performed both roles. She didnt like it but it was a means to an ends. Another month and she could hand in her resignation. She was looking forward to that day.
As she reached the entrance to the parking lot, a foot scuff snagged her attention. Pausing, she looked in both directions but saw no one. There were several cars here and for the first time, she noticed dark patches of shadow stretching across the concrete.
A sliver of ice-coated fear danced a pattern of madness
down her spine and goose-bumped her flesh. From nowhere a gust of wind suddenly rose up, rustled the
bushes, and slid between her bare legs. A miniskirt had been a bad choice for tonight. She grabbed the lapels of her black leather jacket and pulled them tight against her, fighting a chill tap-dancing across her back.
A lump formed in her throat. Is someone there? she asked. Silence. Swallowing the lump, Carol turned and moved on,
quickening her pace. The clacking of her heels screamed her location and she stopped to pull them off. Carrying them, she hurried across the lot, her eyes darting toward every sound.
Rushing between cars, she ran across a patch of moist grass, reached her building, and realized she had dropped her shoes somewhere. Shit, there was no time to think about that now. She entered an archway. Smooth concrete layered the pathway to an elevator with the ninth floor button lit. Somewhere a dog bayed.
Nearby someone sniffed. A muffled cough. Footsteps. Shit. Carol jabbed the elevator button. I know someones there, she said, trying to sound tough
and unafraid. The waver in her voice betrayed her intent. Her finger repeatedly jabbed the elevator button. Come on, her mind begged. Please hurry.
A muffled cough came from the parking area. Hurry the fuck up! Certain the elevator wouldnt make it to her in time, her
eyes danced around, searching the area, waiting for the unthinkable to happen. Jesus, she thought, another fuck up. Its the story of my life. Her heart was a powerful jackhammer thumping against the close confines of her chest; her breath came in rapid bursts and a tear streaked down her check.
Ping. The elevator. Thank God. As the metal doors swept open, Carol jumped in and
immediately pushed herself against the corner. From here she could just see the car park. Her eyes focused on the few dark patches but noticed nothing. The shadows did not move and the wind from a moment ago seemed at rest.
Wondering why the doors hadnt closed, she realized she had forgotten to punch her floor number. A shaky finger punched the keypad and the doors slid shut.
Carol expected someone to shove a hand through the closing doors at the last second, like they did in countless horror movies. The directors stopped the music score to allow the viewers a second to believe the characters had finally made it
before...bam! No hand jammed between the doors. Her whole body quivered and her heart continued to race.
Staring at the elevator doors, her legs lost strength and she slid down the wall and into a sitting position with legs slightly parted. If anyone was waiting for the elevator, they were going to get an eyeful. And she didnt care. She drew her knees to her chest and hugged herself.
With the rising elevator, Carols rapid breath slowed to long gulps. Drops of sweat beaded her forehead. With a shaky hand she wiped it away.
Someone had been watching her, had scuffed his foot and coughed. The experience terrified her, forcing Carol into a self-hug on the dirty floor of an elevator, staring at graffiti-covered walls. Some of it looked fresh, as if someone had painted over the childish marker pen scribbles of exaggerated spitting penises with girls names next to them; the standard artwork for an unwatched inner city elevator.
The new tagging was almost professional in appearance. The colors matched. Reds, blues and greens swept the walls. Different hues formed a pleasant, easy on the eye image. A bunch of colors overlapped each other, letters and symbols shed never before seen entranced her.
Attention to detail gave the graffiti an almost three-dimensional, hypnotic feel to it. The colors seemed to reach out,
push through the binds of reality and reach forward, reach towards her. Fat fingers of several vibrant and alive colors slowly encased her vision as they stretched around her slender form.
Red almost touched her nose. A curtain of color washed down from the wall behind her. The color was icy cold on her shoulders. The sudden temperature shocked her, broke her concentration. No longer did they look beautiful and amazing. She scooted to the doors of the elevator as they slid shut. She hadnt noticed that theyd opened.
Slowly she stood up. Her knees were still rubbery, but at least they could hold her now. She leaned against the control panel for balance. Fear was a powerful drug.
A quiet laugh escaped her. The graffiti covering the walls looked like every day, inner-city crap to her now. There was nothing three-dimensional or amazing about it at all. Most of it still looked wet.
Raising her right arm she pulled the side of her coat around her waist. A mish-mash of smudged spray paint showed. Fuck. Carol removed her coat and stared at the damage. Fucking little hoodlums. It had to be them shed heard in the car park. Carol shook her head; she should have known better. Kids. Taggers. The little shits had scared the crap out of her. She was thankful only her jacket was ruined.
Carol pressed the door open button and stepped into the cool night air. Her attention stayed on the graffiti as the doors
closed. Through the glass panels she could see most of it for what it truly was, a mess; nothing more than idiotic, immature scribbling on public property.
A silent sigh escaped her. Fear was indeed a powerful thing. The cool early morning air helped to calm her nerves a
little, but fear kept a few icy fingers on her shoulders, massaging deep into the nerves. She pulled the jacket on and, curious, looked over the balcony onto the yard shed crossed and the car park where shed first heard the taggers. Thankfully they were more interested in art than her.
Carol stepped away from the edge and reached into her pocket for the apartment keys. She didnt carry a handbag; they were easy targets for a snatcher. Instead, she carried a mans wallet, thin and light in the breast pocket of her leather jacket, along with her keys.
Pulling the key out, she headed for her front door. The apartment was a two-bedroom corner unit. She had answered an advert for a ground floor room but was instead offered the deal she called home. Carol thought her luck had finally changed.
The arrow lights glowed red and the elevator lowered out of sight.
Leaning over the banister, she saw two people wearing baggy sweatshirts with large hoods hiding their face from view. Their hands were in the pockets and they each shuffled from one
foot to the other. Lightning fast, the one on the left looked up. His cold,
uncaring eyes locked on her. Carol jumped away from the banister, hitting the wall of
the apartment behind her. Back against the cold concrete, she slid along the wall toward her apartment door, trying her best to keep out of sight. She broke into a run. Her bare feet slapped the concrete veranda every step of the way. Holding the key tight in her right hand, she glanced back at the elevator. It was on the move.
Carol wanted only one thing now and that was to get into her apartment as quickly as possible. She twisted the key and opened the door, but something stopped her