A tentacle circled my neck, squeezing the life out of me with agonizing skill. “Steve!” came Terry’s voice. “Steve! Wake up!”
I opened my eyes to Terry, leaning over me. He looked scruffy without his mind-mage robes on. “Your cthulhu nightmares suck.”
We got up for breakfast. As the mind-mage, Terry got cereal. Phil the muscle-mage got steak. As air-mage, I got zip. And MY robe is puce.
“Oi, Steve, stop being nervous,” said Terry.
I said, “Shut up or I’ll CO2 you.”
Phil cracked a smile, exercising at least twenty muscles.
We hiked across the desert toward the Forbidden Library. Terry cleared his throat when we were still twenty miles away: “I sense something.”
Phil tensed, ready to attack. Terry shook his head: “It’s dead – but still radiating.”
“So. . . ?” I prompted.
Terry said: “It’s a cthulhu.”
Five miles away, and I tasted dead cthulhu on the air. Phil was sure he could make the corpse slither away, though, so that was reassuring.
At last we reached the three storey iron- and bone-bound doors of the outer library. I sensed breathable air inside. “After you, Phil.”
Phil focused, and the great doors cracked open, spraying chunks of blood-stained iron bigger than my house. “And now we wait,” said Terry.
We barely slept. I had nightmares, but Terry had his own to distract him. At dawn, we heard the rustling of pages. We waited back to back.
A pack of graphic novels emerged and sniffed at my feet. They smelled what I wanted them to smell – a friend. And so they imprinted on me.
When I judged my literature army to be big enough, we walked inside. A single giant tentacle lay across the threshold. I removed the stench.
More books joined me every hour – everything from gardening to war. I was dizzy with the smell of leather bindings and dust.
Phil wanted to move the tentacle, but Terry insisted we climb it. Some mountaineering books made steps for us, and it only took a few hours.
“There’s a problem,” Terry whispered.
I said, “What?”
“The cthulhu – it’s either a mother or a daughter. And I can’t tell which is alive.”
We ducked into a cobweb-strewn chamber and were attacked by a squad of how-to books. They pounded my head and I wasn’t able to focus.
Phil pushed me aside and tore apart the books with his mind. Terry was taken over by empathic rage and he punched me in the gut. I folded.
Ten books rushed Phil at once and I reached out with my mind and made him smell of oil just in time. They calmed down, and Terry did too.
“It’s Nix,” Terry told us at last.
I said, “The monster mage! No wonder WE were sent. We need to find his spell book – and destroy it.”
Phil coughed: “How will we do it?”
“1. Look, and 2. Live,” said Terry.
I said, “You know what a cthulhu’s weakness is? They’re too big.”
“How is size a disadvantage?” Phil asked.
I said, “Because hopefully they won’t notice us.”
“Right,” he whispered.
Terry shook me awake. “They took Phil!” I stood at once, but all my books were asleep and there were no others to be seen. Terry whimpered.
“Is that your fear or his?” I said.
Terry said, “His. Which means he’s still alive.”
“Good.” I sent a shelf of James Bonds to find Phil.
I asked, “Do you think it was Nix or the live cthulhu that took Phil?”
“Nix. I can feel him laughing. And he knows I can hear him.”
The Bond books returned with an illustrated series on the Moulin Rouge. I altered the air so they fled in disgrace.
[there’s more to come today, but I haven’t written it yet 🙁 ]