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Chapter 14

When we get past Holt Hall on our way down Nolan spins around the down-slope corner and turns around to see if there is any pursuit. I am still scanning the skies, waiting for that killer goose, the one with my name on it, but I spare an eye for the dorms, and I see that they still have a bunch of people milling around them.“Nobody’s following,” Nolan says, and just then somebody comes at us from around one of the dumpsters.Marisa is the first to see him coming, and she shines her green laser right at his head and fires. He turned his head when hit with the laser, though, so he takes it right in the left ear instead of the eye.“Ahhk!” he shouts, “Doctor!” and falls to the ground.

Everybody looks at everyone else, astonished that he is not still coming at us. The paintball must have startled him out of it, so something must have weakened the Old One.”

Marisa is also the first to go over to him to make sure he’s all right. “I don’t think we can get you to a doctor right now,” she says. “Might not be any need.”

“Christ,” he says, “that really hurt. I meant to say Dr. Pinella. I’m in your rheology class. Don Ergot?”

“Oh, sorry, Don, I didn’t recognize you.” At this point she finally aims the laser somewhere else. As concerned as she is she kept it trained first on his head, then on one of his kidneys, then on his stomach, the green dot searching for the most vulnerable spot exposed.

Everybody goes back to scanning around looking for more enemies at this point except for Marisa.

“Um, looks like none of it got in your ear canal,” she says. “Can you hear okay?”

“I think so. My ear just hurts like hell. What are you guys doing?”

“It’s a little hard to explain at this point, Don.”

He looks at the rest of the group and sees Ned with what looks to be an elephant gun. “You’re not just out for a game of paintball, though.”

“No.”

“There’s been some crazy stuff going on here. Some of us have been kinda held hostage?” Most of his sentences seem to have that rising intonation at the end, which makes him sound unsure if what he’s saying, or perhaps like he thinks we won’t believe him.

“Really?”

“Yeah, like not kept or held, but walking around in a sort of dream all the time doing stuff that doesn’t make any sense?”

“Like what kind of stuff, Don?”

“Like for the last twenty minutes I had been running through anthro locking all of the doors.”

Nolan and Ned both hear this and come over to listen in. With them so absorbed I try to scan the horizon and the hill even more carefully for attackers, still not finding any.

“Do you still have the keys, Don?”

“No, I dropped them in the sewer grate just outside the building, just before I was released?”

“What do you mean released?” Marisa says.

“That’s what it felt like. I am standing outside anthro two and all of a sudden I’m throwing up from the smell and I don’t know what’s going on. So I was going to go back to the dorms.”

We all just stand there looking at one another, Marisa, Nolan, Travis, Don, and I.

“What smell?” I finally ask.

“Skunk, I think?”

“Oh, right.”

Nolan looks at me and then at the others and all at once the lights return to much of the campus, at least the main streetlights and some of the buildings. With the lights on I can see that the people milling about the dorms are some wondering what they are doing outside and others coming home to get some sleep. None of them are making any motions to come up the hill. The lights continue for a few seconds and then, with the power back on, some of the auxiliary generators, which had been adding to the noise of the drilling, cut out.

We’re all just listening and looking around until Nolan speaks up. “The drilling’s stopped.”

“That’s all we need,” Ned says, “Kid, Don, can you do us a favor?”

“I’m kinda tired,” he says, but Marisa stares him down until he says, “yeah, okay, will it take long?”

“No, not long. We just need you to run up the hill and ask those guys why the drilling stopped. All right?” The kid nods. “And don’t tell him why you want to know, or who put you up to it, all right?”

“Yeah, okay,” he says and then heads up the hill. We are all hiding in the loading dock area, feeling more stupid about our position every second, because business-as-usual seems to be returning to campus. We look down the hill at the dorms and there is a hacky game forming. I think I see somebody throwing a football.

“What could this mean?” Ned asks me. “It seems like this thing has stopped messing with people, and animals, I guess.”

“I don’t know. It could be just hiding, I guess, maybe hoping that we’ll go away. I wonder if the skunk smell was an alarm or something.”

Marisa nods. “I was wondering the same thing, she says. What did Scott say about this thing’s ability to move?”

“He said that a long time ago they had some weird abilities, like the ability to move through space on these giant diaphanous wings, but that they seem to have lost the secret. Actually it was Quillan that told me that. Nothing either of them said made these things sound like they could move very fast on the ground. So I would think that this thing is probably still around, probably still in the anthro building.”

“Hmm, . . . you think they have stopped permanently?” I ask Travis.

He shrugs his shoulders. “Maybe they’re shutting down the equipment to come hunt for us.”

I look around for an escape route and try to figure the distance to the truck. Nolan sees me and chuckles. “I don’t think they’re in a hurry to come after us,” he says. “We’ve still got the eight-bore.”

I look over at Ned and he seems to be thinking.

“Some of those guys get triple-time for Sunday work,” Nolan says. “I don’t think they’re going to shut down for long.”

Travis nods and says “Yeah, I wouldn’t.”

I’m thinking that I don’t know whether it is better to let them drill into the Shoggoth’s cocoon so that they finish it off. It seems like we’re taking a big chance that the ink will work. And I wonder if that’s what Ned is thinking about.

About then the kid comes back. “They say they ran into some sort of cave or something? It drained the pond or something? And so they have to wait for more water to build up? Can I go back to bed?”

We all smile, and Marisa says “we must have got it. So either we are all dead for sure, or that thing is, flooded with inky mud.” She turns to the kid. “You can go home now Don. Go get some sleep. You’ll probably need your rest for the quiz on Friday.”

He starts to wander down the hill and a couple of us shout thanks after him, but he just keeps walking.

Take me to Chapter XV

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