(continued from part 4)
He smiled ever so slightly, as if the act were difficult for him and then removed two cheap shot glasses from the same desk drawer which had previously held the ambered and aromatic liquid and filled them halfway full and slid one across the table to me. I picked up the cup and swirled it around, not because it needed stirring but because I’d seen a man do as much in a motion picture. It was what classy folk did. Or so I believed. I didn’t wish my superior to think me simple, to think me some over-educated country bumpkin, especially when I already believed that he believed I was half mad. My ostentatious display attracted no attention; Merric ignored the ritual entirely and lifted his glass straight to his lips and took a sip, closing his eyes and bobbing his head slightly, affirmatively. We talked shop for a while, the details of that conversation I shall not bore you with. However, near the end of our conversation my mind wheeled back to Derren and the sound of the weeping woman. Derren had heard it too – it couldn’t haven been a trick of the mind. No, this was no mere imagining; it was real. And then another entered my head. I put down my glass and cautiously and politely inquired if Merric knew what had happened with the Montfremonts. He signed and rose and checked the door and then sat back down and lit up a cigarette, despite the face that smoking, like as drinking, was also strictly forbidden on estate grounds.
“I figured you’d ask about that, sooner or later. Was only a matter of time.”
“I understand it is indelicate. Its just that I’d heard the stories…”
“That’s the trouble with the thing, everyone has heard ‘the stories’ but which ones? There are so many now that I find it impossible to keep track.”
“You were here, when it happened – is that correct?”
“Who told you that?” He was getting buzzed. This was my chance to gather information, unfettered by the stale formalities of my station.
“No one told me that. Your records are public, same as mine.”
“Well, yes. Yes I was.”
“If you don’t want to talk about it…”
“No, no its fine. I don’t mind. Its just, you know how it is with the new students around here.”
“A little cat-curious, yes.”
“Indeed! Only instead of winding up dead they’re winding me up into a fit. Questions, questions, questions! Every other day. Ghost stories and tawdry gossip. Its most unfortunate. All these rumors. They besmirch the name of a good family. Well, anyways, yes I was here when… it happened. When Clarisa… well, you know the story.”
“What was it that caused her such distress?”
He gave me a grave look and then removed a sketch-book from the middle of his desk and slid it across the table to me.
I set down my glass and opened the book. Inside were a considerable number of notes, occupying the first page, they became increasingly erratic until, by the third page, they were completely unreadable. Upon the fourth page I paused, my mouth falling slightly agape, for there, sketched in charcoal was a hideous monstrosity the likes of which I had never before seen. It had the form of a reptilian centipede and was long and thick and coated in sharp chitinous scales, with innumerable legs and dozens of eyes, most gruesome of all was that this creature was emerging from the stomach of a young woman whose likeness I knew well. Clarisa. From her sundered womb a torrid abyss opened up, as if the fearsome entity pulled some distant reach of the far-off galaxy along its wake. I flipped the page and was greeted by a sight yet more horrid; the creature, having now emerged, gorging on the dessicated husk of the woman, whose flesh rippled and boiled and seethed as seafoam. I shut the book, grimacing.