Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fear - Chapter 5, Part 1 - Relic

At some point after starting to pace around his room Lowry falls asleep, but the problem with turning in early is that, unless you're making up a sleep deficit, you tend to wake up early as well.  So it is that Lowry rises from the "kindly oblivion of a doze" when the clock is striking eleven at night.  Naturally, he wakes up feeling that something terrible is about to happen.  Given how his past two days have gone, it seems a safe bet.

He gets up and the spooky stuff kicks in immediately - phantom laughter, the shadowy floater ducking out of sight under his bed, and a rustling as though something was going through his papers.  No sooner does Lowry think that than a single sheet falls out of the shadows to land at his feet, covered in "ancient and incomprehensible script" that he can't decipher, save for a short section reading "11:30 to..." 

Lowry immediately concludes that this obviously indicates an appointment somewhere, perhaps even tonight, so he should get up, get dressed, and go out for another late night malaria tour, because the last one was such a smashing success.  After all, "wasn't it possible that he might have a friend somewhere who was volunteering to help him find his four hours?"  Even though he's only told Mary and Tommy about losing them.  He psychs himself up, building a righteous anger at himself for letting those devils and phantoms drive him mad without a fight, and resolves to strike back!  Yeah!  Something's driving him crazy, so he's gonna lash out and destroy them!  Kick that floater's ass, Lowry!

Note that he's decided that his problems aren't due to malaria complications after all, since "go to the freaking doctor" doesn't enter into his plan for action.  Instead Lowry grabs a flashlight and Colt .38, puts on his coat, and goes forth, confident that someone will emerge to lead him to the rendezvous he has decided is happening based on two words he read on a piece of paper that was otherwise gibberish.

Mary's light is off - so she does have her own room! - and Lowry knows there's "no use disturbing her," but since Tommy in the guest room left his door cracked open, he's fair game.  Lowry shines a bit of the flashlight on him to note how, without his "cynically twisted grin," Tommy is a "very beautiful fellow" in a 1940's, purely heterosexual sort of way.  Then Lowry leaves his house, feeling a glimmer of triumph when the front walk doesn't open up into an endless staircase to hell again.

He makes it to the street, ignoring the "little dark thing" hovering around his legs because so much weird stuff has happened to him lately that Lowry is getting used to it.  But then he hears a shout of "Jim!" and turns to see Tommy leaning out of an upstairs window.  His friend asks where he's going and requests that he "at least wait until I give you your hat!", but Lowry shudders and instead follows the something beckoning to him in the shadows of a tree.

This turns out to be "a cassocked little figure not more than four feet high, with a nearly luminous bald head," wearing sandals on his feet and beads and a cross around his neck.  He's also translucent, and not one to waste time on introductions, since the first thing he says is:

"You received my message?"

"Yes.  Where are we going?" asked Lowry.

"You know as well as I do, don't you?"


"Well-l-l-l-- You know me, don't you?"

The answer is no, because the ghost has to explain that he's Sebastian, whom Lowry ejected from his tomb six years ago.  Lowry doesn't remember the ghost busting, but does recall working on the church tombs of Chezetol - and no, that's not a real place, its only instances on Google are Fear-related, and when I type it into Wikipedia it thinks I'm looking for Cheetos.  It'd be nice if the author could have taken a few minutes to look up ongoing archaeological efforts in Central America to namedrop a real dig site and give his story a bit of verisimilitude, but this is the guy who seems to be implying that there are deserts in the Yucat√°n.

Sebastian's not upset about having his eternal rest disturbed or anything.  "I am a very humble fellow, and I am never angry, and if I have to wander now without a home, and if my body was the dust which your diggers' spades broke, I still am not angry.  I am a very humble person."  It's an assurance that doesn't quite reach the ghost's eyes.  Nevertheless, Sebastian explains to Lowry that he only wants his belt back.

"Your belt?"

What did I just say, Lowry?

"Yes, my beautiful golden belt. You picked it up and turned to your guide and said, 'What's this? A gold belt marked with the symbols of the Catholic Church! I thought this was an Aztec ruin. A week's digging for nothing but a golden belt.'"
"It is in the college museum."
"I was a little hurt about it;' said Sebastian sadly. "'-for nothing but a golden belt.' I liked it because I made it, you see, and we thought it was very beautiful. We converted Razchytl

Just as real as Cheetos-zol.

to Christianity, and then we took his gold and made sacred vessels of it, and when he died on the mining gangs we even went so far as to bury him with a golden cross.  May I have my belt?"

So wait - Lowry was excavating some "church tombs" under the impression that they were Aztec ruins?  Did he not do any research before he started digging?  And then when he found an artifact that clearly indicated a Catholic presence, he took it home instead of handing it over to the church?  Man, archaeologists are dicks.

Lowry says getting the belt back is impossible at the moment, but Sebastian counters that otherwise he won't help Lowry find his lost four hours.  So it looks like they're going to the college museum after all.  It's only a "very short distance" from Lowry's home to where the university stores its plunder, and he still has the keys to get in, but to his dismay finds that the relevant display case is empty - Jebson must have sold it to another college.  Sebastian insists that he is not even angry, he's being so sincere right now, and tries to leave over Lowry's objections.

Then a nightwatchman named Terence stumbles across them, giving them a mutual start and prompting Lowry to explain he was getting some research material for a lecture the next day, but the exhibit he was looking for is gone.  The guard is sympathetic, complains about Jebson cutting his pay, and compliments Lowry for his article.

"Thank you," said Lowry, moving to the door, panicky lest Sebastian be frightened away.

"Course you laid it on a bit thick, Professor Lowry.  Now, in the old country I could show you people that could tell you about having met a lot of things they couldn't explain.  It ain't healthy to go around begging the demons to smash you."

"Yes.  Yes, I'm sure it isn't."

Demons and devils don't really exist, but don't let them catch you saying that.

Lowry is relieved, after searching outside for twenty minutes, to find Sebastian hiding in the bushes.  Guess ghosts can't turn invisible after all.  Lowry vows that he'll buy back that belt of his, if Sebastian will help him find those four hours.  The monk agrees, 'cause he really liked that belt, - " though the metal is heathen the work was the work of love."  But he gets Lowry to affirm that he's determined to get that time back, no matter the cost.

Sebastian also has a warning: last night Lowry met some things, and as scary as the experience was,

"Those things were all working on your side.  They were the forces of good.  You did not lose your four hours to them, Jim Lowry.  Nor to me."

"I must find them.''

"You could not conceive the forces of the other side.  You could not conceive so much pain and terror and evil   If you are to find those four hours you must be prepared to face those other forces."

"I must find them.''

"Then, Jim Lowry, have faith in me and I shall show you part of the way.  The rest of the way you must go alone."

"Lead and I shall follow."

And ooh, it sounds like the plot is thickening, isn't it?  We've been promised even worse scares than wobbling plates and vacant suits of armor, and now the invisible world of horrors is being divided into two camps, given motives and characterization.  Well... I wouldn't get your hopes up.

Back to Chapter 4, part 2

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