The Dream-Pull, by Rick McQuiston
The Great Old One rose from the depths of the dark and lonesome lake. It was enormous, an oval mass covered in multi-colored metal spines which it used to create its undead slaves. A thick-lipped mouth was grotesquely centered on the spongy face, directly below three eye-stalks supporting blood-red orbs that wavered in the chilly night air. Its underside consisted of many white pyramid-shaped protrusions, presumably used for locomotion, and a pair of sinuous feelers, each thirty feet long, swayed in silent menace above the horrid thing, performing some distant and malevolent purpose.
Glaaki was preparing for yet another of its terrible invitations. It had sent a dream- pull to the outer regions of the land, as far as it could given its weakened condition, and could only hope that it would be enough to capture an unwilling novice.
And to its delight, on this particular night it had done just that.
The hapless victim stood on the lakeshore. He was a small-framed man, but possessed great strength from many years of toiling in the fields tending to his crops. He struggled mightily but was held firm by two undead slaves of the Great Old One. He could not move.
One of the slaves had been in the servitude of Glaaki for nearly seven decades, thus exposing it to the Green Decay. It tried to remain out of the moonlight as much as it could, but was losing the fight. The moon cast its reflected sunlight down on the unnatural scene, effectively eroding the elder slave.
All at once the creature fell apart. Its skeletal arms snapped off its desiccated body, falling to the soggy shoreline like a pair of dead twigs. Its head, still twisted into a painful grimace, detached from its bony shoulders and tumbled down.
The victim seized his chance at escape. He hurtled the remaining slave into the cold waters of the lake. A sickening moan, bloodless and defeated, echoed off the mostly-barren trees nearby.
The man turned to run. Images of his small but comfortable cottage and a roaring fireplace warming his weary bones flashed across his frantic mind. At that moment he had never wanted anything so badly in his life.
But just as he was about to pass the tree line, just when he could practically smell his freedom and a hot bowl of stew in his house, the Great Old One was upon him.
Glaaki threaded its feelers through the air and quickly brought its latest victim to the ground. The man struggled to free himself but was no match for the beast. In the blink of an eye he was hoisted up before the Great Old One and dangled like a gutted pig in the damp night.
A spine stiffened.
The man’s eyes widened as he saw his life pass before his eyes.
The beast drove the spine into the victim and injected a vicious fluid into him.
The man was then released and crashed to the ground.
The spine dropped off, leaving a livid spot that did not bleed and from which emanated a network of red lines. The Great Old One then slowly turned around and slid across the sandy muck of the shoreline back into its deep, watery home.
* * * *
“Andrew? Andrew, are you all right?”
Andrew opened his eyes and looked into the concerned face of his wife.
“I’m okay. I just had a nightmare.”
Emily rolled back over. She could feel the morning sun through the window warm her face. “All right. Just go back to sleep then.”
Andrew stared at the ceiling. The horrible dream he had was still fresh in his mind, festering like some bloated spider that was perched in its web. It simply wouldn’t leave him alone. It was as if it wasn’t done with him just yet.
Crawling out of bed, Andrew pulled on his robe and slippers and stepped over to the window. A light coating of morning dew covered most of the glass with its frosty design. A crow circled in the sky.
“I need a cup of coffee,” he mumbled to himself. “That and a good night sleep for a change.
Feeling every one of his years, Andrew proceeded to make himself his cup of coffee and settled down to enjoy it. He tried to ignore his headache the best he could. It only served to remind him of the dreams.
“No,” he promised himself. “I won’t let it affect me again. They’re just nightmares.”
But a small fragment of his reasoning wormed its way into his thoughts and told him otherwise.
It wasn’t just a dream. It was real. Everything that happened was real.
The movement caught his eye. Someone outside who moved quickly and yet clumsily, was at his front door.
A knock on the door quickly elevated to a heavy and frantic pounding.
Without hesitating, Andrew pulled the door open; he didn’t want Emily disturbed.
A painfully-thin man rushed past him and into the house. He slammed the door shut and tried to catch his breath.
“I…I don’t know what it was. At first it looked like a man, but when it shot past me I could see…not a man, not human.”
Andrew tried to calm the man down. “Sit down, my friend. I’ll get you something to drink.”
“No1 I don’t want to sit down! We have to arm ourselves! That thing might be back!”
Emily stepped into the room. She was clutching the folds of her nightgown over her chest. Her normally serene blue eyes were wide with fear and confusion.
The man ran over to the fireplace and snatched the gun from its spot. He fumbled with the weapon as he tried to load it.
Andrew sprinted over to him and yanked it from his hands. He pushed him into a chair. “Now either you tell me who you are and what you saw or I’m going to use this on you!”
The man calmed down when he stared at the barrel of the gun. “My name’s Clive Molin. I’m from the bank. I’m here to measure property lines and discuss assessments on your house.”
“So, keep going.”
“As I pulled into your roadway, I saw a man snooping around your house. I thought he might be you so I parked and approached him. He didn’t seem to notice that I was there. It was then that I saw he wasn’t human…I mean he was human, but different somehow, like some sort of zombie.”
Emily laughed. “You can’t be serious. A zombie?”
Clive ignored her. “He was like a corpse, and had impossibly-long nails. And his face…his face was empty, no emotion in it whatsoever.”
Andrew had heard enough. “I’ll be right back,” he said and walked into the bedroom, pulling Emily along behind him.
Both hurriedly dressed as they talked.
“You think we should call the police?” Emily asked. She kept glancing back at the door. “What if he’s a criminal, or worse?”
Andrew scoffed at the idea. “I don’t think he’s crazy, just scared. He saw someone outside, and I’m going to check it out.”
Emily froze. “What?”
“I need to make sure that nobody is out there. If there is, and they’re dangerous, I’ll come right back in and call the police. Besides, I’ll have my gun.”
“No! I don’t want you going outside. If that man’s telling the truth, who knows what you might run into.”
Andrew stepped over to Emily. He put his hands on her shoulders. “Don’t worry so much. I’m the one with the bad dreams, remember?”
The scream cut through the bedroom door.
“I saw it! I saw it!” Clive howled.
Andrew and Emily hurried over to the door. A brief silence ensued, followed by the sound of drawers opening.
“He’s trying to find a weapon.” Emily said nervously.
“I know. I know. We have to stop him.”
Andrew swung the door open to find Clive frantically rummaging through the kitchen. He raised the gun and called out to him. “Mister, you better stop right now.”
Clive ignored him. “I saw it again! It was outside the window! I saw its face! It looked dead!”
Andrew pondered Clive’s words for a moment. He walked over to the window, his gun still trained on him, and peered through the frosted glass.
He saw nothing.
“Mister, I don’t know what you’re on, but…”
The face appeared in the window so quickly it was as if by magic. It leered at them with a detached malevolence.
Andrew backed away. He leveled the gun at the creature, but hesitated. There was something familiar about it, something he recognized.
“Shoot it! Shoot it!” Clive screamed.
“It was in my dream. It was by the lake when that thing rose from the water.”
Emily cowered behind her husband. “Stop it!” she cried. “Stop talking about dreams! We need to call the police!”
The face in the window vanished then, disappearing off to the side. A faint green smear remained on the glass as evidence of its visit. And then a long scraping noise raked across the front door.
“It’s still here!” Emily said while huddling behind Andrew.
Andrew steadied his gun. “Enough of these games. I’m going to end this now.”
As if in response to his announcement, a hand, a skeletal, bloodless hand with impossibly long nails smashed through the door. The heavy wood splintered in a thousand different directions, showering the floor with jagged shards.
Andrew unleashed a barrage at the door. An explosion of acrid smoke and burnt power instantly filled the room. The door fell apart in its mangled frame.
The creature stood in the opening, defiant and wholly unharmed by the attack. Its stiff, corpse-like appearance looked human enough, but the vacant stare, one that shared the memories of its master, belied its true intentions. It was sent to capture another for initiation.
Instantly, Andrew recognized the monster from his dreams. It was just like the ones who held the man on the shoreline. And this one, this thing at his door, sported a deep hole in the chest from which ran a series of red lines, just like his dream.
The creature stood still for a moment. It was unsure what to do. The one that it was sent to capture was in the house, but others were there as well, and this confused it. It reared its bleached head back to receive instructions from its master.
Andrew acted quickly. With Emily screaming behind him, he swung the gun around and landed a vicious hit directly on the side of the monster’s head. Its diseased skull split open, revealing a yawning chasm of empty thoughts and lost dreams. Foul gray matter oozed from the jagged crevice.
The creature fell to the floor.
“Is…is it dead?” Emily asked. She was still hunched behind Andrew, clutching his waist.
“I think so,” Andrew replied. He reached down and nudged the monster with his gun. “Yeah, it’s dead.”
And then Andrew’s world went black.
* * * *
In the hazy nether-region of Andrew’s dreams, a singular entity took center stage. Its bloated body was an oval mass reminiscent of a slug, but covered in countless, thin, pointed spines of multicolored metal. It yawned in anticipation.
It was Glaaki, the Great Old One, the inhabitant of the lake.
In his dream Andrew felt himself being pulled toward Glaaki. It was irresistible and complemented by the hundreds of past victims it had secured for itself.
Andrew couldn’t speak, or stop himself from being pulled through the stark countryside toward the unforgiving lake and its unholy inhabitant.
He could however hear another voice nearby. A woman’s voice. One that was more than familiar to him.
“Andrew? Please stop! You’re going right to it!”
But Andrew couldn’t stop. He wanted to, but couldn’t. It was like he was on the end of a rope, being yanked along against his will.
The Great Old One moved forward with stealth and power. It had its otherworldly sights set on its prey, on the next novice it would transform into one of its undead slaves.
Glaaki slithered out onto the shore of the lake. Its massive bulk shimmied back and forth as it propelled itself forward in a seemingly impossible gait. It moved with relative ease despite its weight and form.
“Andrew! Please stop!”
Andrew could only ignore his wife’s pleas. It tore his heart wide open, hearing her so close, knowing she was so near, but not being able to answer her.
And when the Great Old One was upon him, and he felt its horrible embrace, Andrew was released from all his troubles and worries and fell further into darkness.
* * * *
Emily couldn’t bear to look at it. She herself had knitted it (a green and blue afghan with her initials stitched in the center), and just the thought that it was now being used as a makeshift cover for the body of her husband sickened her.
“Andrew…I tried to stop you.”
Emily looked out the window at the barren landscape. The horizon was busy changing from a sharp orange to a dull haze as the sun rose on its daily rounds across the sky. She felt so lost and hopeless. She wondered how long it would take the authorities to
arrive and how she would explain the two bodies in her house. She knew they wouldn’t believe a giant slug monster and skeletal zombie had killed them. They’d lock her up.
Her sorrowful gaze drifted over to the second corpse. She never even knew the man. Maybe he had a family; a wife and children; a mother and father who worried about him. She supposed it didn’t really matter anymore; he was dead, killed by the zombie right in front of her.
Fighting back tears, Emily walked across the room. She could still feel the grit on her hands from moving the bodies, and no matter how much she tried, she couldn’t wipe them clean.
The still form shifted beneath the afghan. A long set of nails worked their way out from the folds. Ragged breathing followed, raising and lowering the blanket in a steady but uneven rhythm.
Andrew stood up. His bloodless face resembled his former life only marginally, and his thoughts were that of his new master: the Great Old One: Glaaki.
The front door of the house was wide open, allowing a cool breeze to drift in. Andrew stood before it, letting it wash over him. He relaxed. His skeletal body became flaccid. His job would be relatively easy. The one he was to guide to his master was already entranced by the dream-pull; she was walking toward the shoreline, a victim of Glaaki’s power.
Andrew stepped through the doorway, closely following behind Emily. His long nails scraped along the ground. His clouded-over eyes never blinked.
Glaaki rose from the depths of the lake as Andrew and Emily approached. Its spines stiffened in anticipation.
I’m a forty-five year old father of two who loves anything horror related. I’ve had well over 300 publications so far, including ones in numerous anthologies and contests, and am currently working on my fifth novel. My third novel, “When Only the Nightmare Remains” is due to be published by DIP Press.
Posted on January 20, 2014, in Issue 12: The Shadows Only Hide the Monsters: Poe & Lovecraft Tribute and tagged e-zine, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, horror, monsters, short stories, The Were-Traveler, Tribute. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.