“More and more just keep comin’ ma, I think—“
“Well that’s your problem, boy, you keep thinking.” Her tone was harsh, panicked. “You ever think that all this—this investigatin’ work will land you a one way ticket to hell?”
Andreux's head hung low, his breakfast roiling and toiling around in his stomach. If he had eaten in the past three days he wouldn’t be holding it down so fiercely. But still— every time he closed his eyes he saw them. Deep brown irises, staring back at him with confusion and fright. It hit him like a crashing wave, its tumultuous force enough to wash away all of his sins. Andreux realized that he was the first and last thing she ever saw on Miskatonic. More horrifyingly, since her memories were wiped like every other newcomer, Andreux was the first and last thing she ever saw.
“Do you want to die, Andreux?”
The question startled him out of his reverie and he looked up, mouth agape. “Of course not, ma’, I—I want to get us off this stupid dock! There’s gotta be a way. We just have to figure out—“
“I was born on this dock. Like my ma’ before her and her ma’ before her. Listen to me now and listen to me good— you’ve a heart of gold and curiosity worse than an eelcat, just like your ruttin’ father, but unless you want to be summoned downstairs to the Provost, you need to stop your meddlin’.”
She held up a finger when Andreux's lips parted for a rebuttal, “No, no let me finish.
"Helpin’ out a stranger or two ain’t the problem, son. Most of the time that good act comes back around. I’d never ask ya to stop being a good person, Maker Above knows we need more of ‘em… but the more you go round pokin’ and proddin’ and askin’ questions to every diddlydoowad you meet, you’re bound to wind up in hell.”
His mother swallowed, her weathered and leathery cheeks wobbling as she held back tears. “I don’t know how I’d handle that. How I’d survive without you too.”
The sun woke her up. Or maybe it was the heat searing the raw flesh that laid against the dock. She wasn’t quite sure and she wasn’t quite sure if she cared, as the moment she opened her eyes she rolled over and emptied the entire contents of her stomach.
The young woman groaned, curling away from the mess. She rubbed her eyes but they were still sun-blind, little dark specks blocking out her full range of sight. It made her panic. But what made her panic even more was the long, long line of people lying on their backs, face to the sun, splayed out along a never-ending dock. There were maybe ten of them. Maybe more. All of them male except the two women she herself laid between.
They were all wearing the same thing; a pair of thick khaki trousers and a thick button-top to match. Each carried a small pouch affixed to their waist and when she opened hers, she found a plethora of goods that she didn’t recognize. Water purification tablets. Three ration bars with a quote on the wrapper that promised a full belly in three bites, some kind of metallic wire with a reel attachment, and a set of what looked like metal hooks.
“A-A-A weeks worth of fish for one ration bar?”
The craggly, disembodied voice made her scream.
“It’s-it’s a g-good deal!”
She scrambled backwards and around, looking for the owner of the voice. Her palm went into the soft flesh of the woman’s leg beside her and she made a sleepy grunt, coming to.
“G-good good deal!”
“Hey!” The young woman whispered loudly, shaking the woman beside her awake now that she was moving and adjusting to the rocking of the dock. “Wake up! Do you know where we are? Who we are?”
The last time Anya was on the dock was the last time she saw the sun. A time when she still had her eyes, clenched shut at the bright reflection cast from the waves after the last clouds made way for a stark blue sky. It was the black of the dock that wasn’t painful to look at, though the colour soaked in the heat of the sun at such a speed that Anya clenched her arms around Provost Nosferatu, tugging at the dark robed and hooded figure to escape the burn underneath her as she hopped from foot to foot. Her wish was soon fulfilled, nimble arms lifting up the young girl to give her a better view of the square island in the ocean, appearing as cells of dark blue connected by black paths that seemed to weave into the waves of the ocean it seemed to ride on. The water didn’t bring the relief needed, as even from a distance Anya could feel the heat radiate from the cells, blinking rapidly at the dry air that wafted past her eyes.
The ferry that had taken them to the island already turned around, the engine heard in the distance as the two of them were left on the flat surface with nothing but salt water surrounding them. “Is this home?” the girl asked, the pout audible in her voice at the idea of spending her days under the sun without a roof and on a surface that felt more like a furnace. Provost Nosferatu never answered her, instead pressing down one particular hexagon hidden within the mass of cells with his bare feet, the surface turning red in the area where his feet touched before gliding away, unveiling an opening underneath that descended down into an eerie grey darkness from which cool air escaped. A welcome sensation from the heat of the dock.
Feeling her weight shift and the arms of Provost Nosferatu loosen around her, Anya tightened her arms around the man instinctually. Words of supplication escaped her, words like: ‘no’ and ‘please’ and all the nice manners that she did remember flowed out, but the crash of the waves and the ocean itself were the only ones that carried her words with any weight.
The cold reached first her toes, arms still around the neck of Provost Nosferatu who lowered her further, hands now tugging at her arms before sinking her further into the cold depth, allowing the darkness to swallow her in like the sea tended to tug her victims to the bottom, with a terrifying slow speed and chilling grip, the blue of the sky the only thing that peeked past the dark figure of Provost Nosferatu bend over the hole.
“Get up,” Provost Nosferatu tells Anya. The fall is not so much of a fall, nor a glide, but a drowning experience without the cut of oxygen that should have come with. The dimness takes a while to adjust to from the bright assault of the sun above, turning the darkness into an all-enveloping one before adjusting itself into dim long halls and higher walls lined with green lights as red dots at the end marks the end of one corner.
Taking her hand into his Provost Nosferatu guides Anya towards the side of the nearest wall that isn’t a wall but rather a thick window of glass revealing the levels and layers below her. More halls running through each other like an intricate spider web and honeycomb combined, more green lights and red lights marking the paths and a dim purple pulse at the very depth of it all. “This is Miskatonic,” she hears Provost Nosferatu tell her, answering her first question before she is guided down the halls, taking turns that she isn’t confident in remembering, but Provost Nosferatu seems confident in taking. It takes her past tubes of fluid, walls of squares with mysteries hidden between, down the layers where each descent feels chillier than the first, the heat of the dock only a welcome memory now as Anya sees things she doesn’t understand now, but will in time.
And with each descent the purple pulse becomes clearer, stronger, along with a ringing within her head that grows louder, alarming her, warning her instincts not to go on, her stomach queasy and her heart racing as she starts to pull back from the iron grip of Provost Nosferatu.
There is no escape for the girl, however, as she gets pulled deeper into the labyrinth of Miskatonic never to see the sun nor the dock again.