lent '97 - Session 25

25. The Checkered Wand

--        THE CHECKERED WAND        --
--           (17.02.97)             --

  After a fairly successful visit to the melancholic town of Brent we
decided to return to the sanctity of Arkham. The weather was oppressive; 
the closeness of the air clung like a wet sheet around us, as we spent a
silent drive back home.
  We casually drove to John's place when suddenly we all felt the niggling
suspicion that something was wrong. Our honed investigative skills
instinctively kicked in. Through a few observations we concluded that John
had not returned home the previous night. Kidnap, a new lead, betrayal;
ideas raced into our mind's eye. What could have possibly happened to
John? It was getting late and we were all tired. The only sensible course
of action we could think of was to phone our friend Faraday and report
John missing. Faraday told us professionally to wait a couple of days,
then he would place an ad. We also arranged a meeting with him in Boston
to deliver the photographic plates which would hopefully seal the fate the
villainous Allerton. 
  We couldn't sit there and wonder about what had happened to John, we had
to do something! We agreed that the first thing we could do is check out
his usual haunts just in case. We knew he had a penchant for those
Speakeasys, and had mentioned the names of a couple of them. Not knowing
what to expect I donned a smarter jacket than what I had been wearing and
marched off to find John.
  A winding alley took us to the location of the first den. Without
pausing we entered. I think all of us were a bit taken aback by what we
saw (I certainly was): instead of a seedy little joint populated by the
worst elements of any modern town, it was instead a rather pleasant
underground bar without a somewhat respectable clientele. After ordering
various cordials we began to look around for John. As we expected he
wasn't there; but at least we had eliminated the possibility. We swiftly
walked to the second Speakeasy nonchalantly expecting it to be a mirror of
the first one. I don't think we could have been more wrong: every
preconception and stereotype about Speakeasys rushed back. This dirty
little whole stank. We muscled our way to the bar to find that they
strictly sold alcoholic beverages. Soured, I ordered a rough spanish brew
and began the sorry task of looking for John (I secretly hoped I wouldn't
find him here). While searching William gasped, Jeremy and I turned to see
that a scuffle that had been going on in the corner had escalated to
murder. William and Jeremy efficiently made room for a lady who had taken
one of the protagonists stilettos in the neck. A torrent of blood had
erupted from above her shoulder. I vaguely recall being asked to get
alcohol to try and clean the wound. I took a bottle from the bar and
looked at William and Jeremy, we were all thinking the same thing; the
lady didn't have a chance. This realisation had an unusual effect on
Jeremy: he affected a glazed, distant expression as he looked at the
victim. It was as if he saw her as something of use. A wry smile, the
glimpse of spittle, what was he thinking? The image broke as Michael
motioned to the door. I took Jeremy by the arm and made for the relative
safety of the cold night air.
  I woke early the next day and took a long lingering look across the town
of Arkham pondering the fate of our dear friend. I skipped breakfast; I
just didn't feel hungry. We had an appointment with Allerton's estate
agent this afternoon, where we could finally have a good look around
Allerton's dark palace.
  An uneventful train journey ensued. At the stroke of midday we found
ourselves handing over the plates to Faraday in the park. I felt heartened
that at last the machinery of the law could be set in motion to end the
evil of Allerton.
  After bidding farewell to Faraday we headed to the Allerton estate. I
couldn't believe it as we entered the front door, we were invited to the
heart of Allerton's empire! It somehow seemed too easy. The place where
Allerton held us in the cellar seemed so distant from this beautiful
mansion. I couldn't help being jealous of the splendour of the place.
Despite being halfway through removals it still had a majesty that was
difficult to come to terms with. 
  We conducted a cursory look around the lower floors before heading
inexorably to the top floor which we knew to be the home of Allerton's
private sanctum. Climbing the stairwell we were greeted by the regular,
comforting tick of a grandfather clock. Strange how such an object of
value had not been packed away. Almost as strange as the view as we
entered the room; a chessboard, mid-game, was there all set-up on a table.
The room was soothingly warm, with a large skylight adding to the
pleasantness of the room. Jeremy immediately saw the potential for a
challenge in the game of chess and sat down absorbed by it. The skylight
had caught William's attention, so I decided to see what state the chess
game was in. The game was so intriging; I immediately spotted the strategy that
was to be employed in the next few moves. 
  "Jarvis...Jarvis", It was like waking from a dream when I heard
William's cry for assistance. He had opened the skylight and suggested
that I (being the most spritely) go and climb through the ceiling. William
legged me up so I could climb onto the roof. I was greeted by the most
magnificent view of Boston and its surroundings. I noticed a mounting for
a telescope on the roof, since there was a packed up telescope in the room
down below it seemed sensible to see exactly what Allerton could see.
William passed it up and I quickly assembled it (It was very similar in
construction to one my older brother had). With the telescope and the
panorama I had an unparalleled view of the area; Allerton had chosen the
location for his house wisely indeed! A glint of a window caught my eye
high up in one of the Boston churches; had Allerton been looking at that?
Perhaps it would be worth looking into. 
  I asked William if I could pass down the telescope, but he indicating
hat there was a problem with Jeremy. I bent down to have a look only to
see Jeremy raise a chess-piece, that he had obviously removed in some
take, and place it back on the board before fainting. Shocked, William and
I returned the telescope and endeavoured to recuperate Jeremy. The estate
agent came upstairs to see how we were getting on and Michael swiftly
removed him by asking him to get a glass of water.
  As this was going on I glanced of the chess-board again; it was indeed
in an intriguing position! I sat down and began to run through the
permutations. There appeared to be one why to play; a bishop for pawn
gambit to eventually take a rook. I started to move the pieces, and as I
executed the take my mind swam...
  I was standing on a two-coloured landscape surrounded by huge totems. I
was holding something, or at least I had been. As I looked my mind began
to try and rationalise the predicament I was in. Those weren't totem poles
they were the chess-pieces! But if they were the chess-pieces where or
what was I? I tried to move, but couldn't. It appeared that I was trapped
to some extent in a cylinder of glass or something. I looked again at the
chess-pieces, and now where I had seen carvings before now stood the most
cunning etchings on the surfaces of cylinders. The chess-pieces were not
carved but rather cylinders with etched surfaces made to look like
carvings. I couldn't comprehend this, this was definitely wrong, I had to
escape. What had I been holding? I reached out and grabbed...
  Suddenly I was holding my own hand, I was facing myself, the myself was
facing I. The image spun; which was the real me??? Faster and faster my
point of view changed, my head burned with pain until *BANG*, an image,
then nothing...
  ...I awoke to find Michael and Jeremy standing over me. I couldn't
remember anything! "So this is what amnesia's like" I thought. Then as if
the amnesia had never happened it all came flooding back. I reeled as I
sifted through the memories. The image that struck me at the end which I
couldn't see before was clearly our departed friend Arnold. I tried to
convey what had happened to the others, and it turned out that Jeremey
had a similar experience, though he hadn't noticed the cylinders. There
was something familiar about those cylinders. Instinctively my hand went
to my jacket pocket: it was empty. "Why had I done that?" I thought. Then,
like a slap in the face, it struck me; I remembered what I had been
carrying in that pocket for all those months wrapped carefully in my
handkerchief. That heavy metal cylinder with etchings on: the wand.



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