Harold spent Monday in his shop, even though there was very little business around. He sold a set of etchings of compass roses designed by Theodore Lawrence in the 1830s, and a ship in a bottle, but he really needed to sell a few figureheads and two cannons to keep his profits up to specs. At lunchtime he went across to Broken Heart and talked to Suzy.363Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡarsb5ciSwQ
"You're not looking very bright today," she remarked. "What's wrong?"
"My mother-in-law died over the weekend."
"I didn't think you liked her too much anyway."
"I've always admired you for your tact," he retorted, a little too caustically.
"We don't serve tact here," said Suzy. "Only coffee and cookies and cold-hard facts. Was she ill?"
"She, ah----had an accident, sort of."
Suzy stared at him, her head slightly cocked to one side. "You're upset, aren't you?" she asked him. "You're really upset. I'm sorry. The way you used to talk about your mother-in-law before----I didn't realize. Look, I'm really sorry."
Harold managed a smile. "No need to be sorry. I'm tired, that's all. A whole lot of bad things have been happening one after the other and on top of that I haven't been getting too much sleep."
"I know what to do," said Suzy. "Come around to my place this evening and I'll cook you my Italian specialty. You like Italian?"
"Suzy, you don't have to. I'm fine, really."
"Do you want to come, or not? I expect you to bring some wine."
Harold put up his hands. "Okay, thanks, I'd love to. I surrender. What time do you want me?"
"Eight, sharp. I may not get too hungry for dinner at eight, but I do get too hungry for dinner at 8:05."
"Even working here?"
"Brother, when you've eaten one cookie you've eaten them all."
The afternoon back at the shop went by with unimaginable slowness. The sunlight crawled around the walls, illuminating the marine chronometers, the sailing-ship paintings, the brass cleat-hooks. Harold tried to telephone Michael at the Peabody, but he was told that the man was out at an auction. Then he called Pauline but she was busy in the store and said she would call him back. He even called his mother in St. Louis but there was no answer. He sat back at his desk reading a property magazine that had come through the door that morning and feeling as if he were totally alone on a strange planet.
At 5:00 after he had closed the shop, Harold went across to Mulligan's Tavern and sat by himself in a corner booth and downed two glasses of Scotch. He was just considering the possibility of another before he hit the road when a girl walked past his booth, a girl in a brown cape, and just before she disappeared she turned and glanced at him and he felt himself jump with an involuntary spasm, the way you do when you're about to fall asleep. He could have sworn that it was the same girl he had seen on the road to Harvest Mills, that night when he had been driving home with Mrs. Donald Baylor; and the same girl who had been watching him in Sandwich All-the-Way in Salem. He struggled out of his seat, banging his thighs on the fixed table, but by the time he had reached the door the girl had mysteriously vanished.
"Did you see a girl walk past just then?" Harold asked Hal Rosenberg, behind the bar. "She was wearing a kind of a brown cape, very pale face, but pretty."
Hal, shaking up whiskey sour, pulled a face that meant no. But Gail, one of the waitresses, said, "Was she a tall girl? Well, quite tall? Dark eyes and a pale face?"
"You saw her too?"
"Sure did. She came out of the back room and I'm damned if I know how she got in three. I didn't see her come in, and she hasn't been drinking here."
"Gotta be a hippie," remarked Hal. In Hal Rosenberg's philosophy, any girl who didn't dress in a sensible skirt-and-blouse and wear flat-heeled court shoes and subscribe to Redbook was a hippie. "Summer's coming. We got the first hippie of the summer."
Normally Harold would have teased Hal about his use of the word "hippie,' but this evening he was too disturbed and too concerned. If the influence of the demon beneath Ol' Spithead Neck was steadily growing, then who could tell who was one of its spectral servants and who wasn't. Maybe more people than he thought were really manifestations; maybe Hal was, and Suzy, and Michael Trotter. How was Harold supposed to tell who was a living human being and who wasn't? Supposing Supay had already claimed them all? He began to feel like the doctor in Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, who couldn't tell which of his friends and associates were "duplicates" and which ones weren't.
Harold left Mulligan's Tavern and walked over to his car, which was parked in the middle of the square. There was a torn-off note under one of the windshield wipers, on which was scrawled in lipstick, "Eight sharp, don't forget, S." He climbed into the car and drove out of the village center towards Harvest Mills. He wanted to check that the cottage was all right, and pick up some wine at the Ol' Spithead Market.
At the top of Harvest Mills, the cottage awaited him, old and forbidding and now more neglected-looking than ever. He still hadn't fixed that upstairs shutter, and as he got out of the car it gave a slow shuddering squeak. He walked up to the front door, and took out his key. He almost expected that familiar whisper to say "Harold?" but there was no sound at all, just the frustrated seething of the ocean, and the soft rustle of the laurel hedges.
Inside, the cottage was very cold, and starting to smell damp. The long-case clock in the hallway had stopped, because he hadn't wound it. He went into the living-room and stood for a long time listening for scurries, whispers, and footsteps, but again there was silence. Maybe Nancy had given up haunting the cottage now that she knew she was unable to claim him for the region of the dead. Had he actually seen the last of her? He went into the kitchen and opened up the icebox to make sure there was nothing in there which was growing mold on it. He took out a bottle of Perrier water and drank four or five large swallows of it straight from the neck. Afterwards he stood there grimacing at the coldness on the roof of his mouth, and the uncompromising fizz of bubbles that seemed to be stuck in his throat forever.
He was going back into the living-room to light the fire when he thought he heard a single footfall upstairs. He hesitated in the hallway, listening hard. It wasn't repeated, but he was so sure that he had heard somebody in one of the bedrooms that he took his umbrella out of the umbrella-stand and began to climb the dark ornamented stairs to see who was up there. He paused halfway up, gripping the pointed umbrella tightly, breathing tightly and tensely.
He though to himself: don't panic. You know that Nancy has no hold over you now. You've faced up to hordes of ghosts from the Angel Hill Cemetery, and you're still sane and still alive; so there can't be anything up here that's any worse, or any more likely to hurt you.
Yet it was the silence that scared him, more than the squeaking of the swing had; more than the whispering and the sudden coldness. This cottage was never silent. Old buildings seldom are; they're always creaking or settling or shifting in their dreamless sleep. They're never silent, utterly silent, as Harvest Mills Cottage was at that moment.
He reached the top of the stairs, and walked along the darkened landing until he reached the end bedroom. No sound, no breathing, no whispering, no footsteps. He carefully put his hand into the room and switched the light on, then he eased opened the door with his foot. The bedroom was empty. Just a painted pine bureau, a narrow single bed covered with a plain woven coverlet. An embroidered sampler was hung on the far wall, with the legend LOVE THY GOD. He looked around, his umbrella half-raised, and then he switched off the light and closed the door behind him.
She was waiting on the landing, under the harsh light of an old marine lantern he had borrowed from the shop. Nancy, in the flesh. Not flickering this time, like half-seen movie; but in the flesh. Her brushed hair shone in the lantern-light, and her face, though white, looked as solid and real as it had on the morning before she died. She was wearing a simple calico nightgown, off-white, which trailed on the floor, and her hands were clasped in front of her demurely. Only her eyes betrayed the fact that there was something supernatural about her: they were as black and deep as pools of oil, pools in which a man and all his convictions could easily drown.
"Harold," she said, somewhere inside of his head, without moving her lips. "I came back for you, Harold."
He stayed where he was, his skin tingling with the sight of her, with the sound of her voice. She had frightened him enough when she had looked like a distant holographic image; but now she stood there in the flesh, he felt as if he were actually going mad. How could this possibly be an illusion? How could a woman look so alive, and yet be dead? Nancy had been crushed and destroyed, and yet here she was, his saddest memory brought to life.
The most horrifying thought of all, though, was that the power of Supay must be increasing every day, if he could bring Nancy back to him in such a solid form. What kind of influence and energy it must have taken to conjure her up as she was now, Harold could only guess. Sometimes he thought he detected her image waver, as if he were seeing her through water, but she remained as solid as ever, smiling slightly, as if she were thinking of all of those times they had spent together when she was alive, times which they could never spend again.
She had come back for him. But what she was offering now was not fun and laughter and companionship. What she was offering now was death, in the most gruesome form imaginable.
"Nancy," Harold said, in a quivery voice, "Nancy, I want you to go away. You mustn't come back here, not ever."
"This is my home. I shall always be here."
"You're dead, Nancy. I want you to go away. Don't come around here any longer. You're not the Nancy I once knew."
"This is my home."
"This is a home for living people, not travesties of living people from the graveyard."
"Howard...…" she said coaxingly. "How can you talk to me that way?"
"I can talk to you this way because you're not Nancy and because I want you to go. Get out of here, leave me alone. I loved you when you were alive but I don't like you now."
Gradually, subtly, Nancy's features started to change. He now saw the face of Mrs. Donald Baylor, contorted with incomprehensible agony, melt and change and then disappear again. He saw other women's faces, and men's faces, too, rippling across her features as if she couldn't make up her mind which character she wanted to be. He saw Claudia, and Mrs. Gault, freshly-dead faces whose expressions were still blank and tortured with the trauma of dying.
"They are all here," said a deep, blurting voice. "All their faces, all their characters. They are all here and they are all mind."
"Who are you?" Harold demanded. Then, stepping closer, he shouted at the creature, "Who the hell are you?!"
The creature laughed, a whole assembly of laughs, and then that soft, familiar voice said, "It's me, it's Nancy. Don't you recognize me?"
"You're not Nancy!"
"Harold, darling, how can you say that? What are you saying to me?"
"Keep away," he warned her. "You're dead! Keep away!"
"Dead, Harold? What do you know about death?"
"Enough to want you out of this house!"
"I'm your wife, Harold. This is where I belong. I belong with you. Look, Harold"----and here she proudly held her protuberant stomach----"I'm going to have your baby!"
At that moment, he was close to snapping. He could feel his head expanding as if it refused to believe any of the information which was being fed to it by his eyes and ears. Your wife and baby son are dead, it insisted. This can't be real. What you're seeing and hearing is a delusion. This can't be real.
"What do you want?" Harold asked her. "Just tell me what you want, and then go away and leave me alone."
Nancy smiled at him, almost lovingly, except for the horrible blankness in her eyes. And when she spoke, her voice was grating and rough, more like the voice of an old man than a girl who hadn't even turned 30.
"It's very cold down here----cold and isolated----sealed off----a kingdom without subjects and without a throne...."
"You mean down there---in the George Badger?" he asked her.
She nodded, and when she did so, Harold thought he'd caught the faintest glimpse of smoldering blue fire within her eyes. "I thought you would understand----" she told him. "I knew from the start that I would find an ally in you...."
"I intend to salvage the George Badger, if that's what you mean."
"The ship? The ship is not important. It is what the hold contains that you must seek---the vessel in which those accursed people imprisoned me...."
"I intend to bring your vessel up, too. But I warn you that I also intend to destroy you."
Nancy let out a burst of hissing laughter. "Destroy me? You cannot destroy me! I am part of the order of the universe, just as the sun is; just as life itself is. The region of the dead stretches forever under black skies, and I am its chosen lord. You cannot destroy me."
"I'm damn well going to try!"
"Then you will condemn yourself to a death far more horrible than your worst nightmares. And everyone you ever loved or cherished will be cursed by your action; and doomed to wander the region of the dead forever, without rest, without peace, with nothing but eternal torment and misery and ceaseless dissatisfaction."
"You can't do that," Harold asserted.
"Can't I?" blared the demon's voice. "Look for yourself and see how powerful I truly am!"
At that moment, a small naked boy of about four or five appeared from his bedroom, and stared up at her. Shyly, slowly, he reached out for Nancy's hand, and then clung close to her, staring at Harold all the time as if he knew him, but was scared of him. Nancy ruffled his dark hair with her hand, and then looked at Harold with an expression that was like a mask of complete contempt.
"Behold your son, Harold Winstanley, as he would have been if he had lived. I have taken his whole life; for if anybody dies before their time, I am rewarded with the years that are left. All the energy, all the emotion, all the youthfulness; and all of the blood. I feed off unused life, Harold, and believe me if you attempt to cross me in any way, then I will feed off yours."
Nancy passed her hand over the boy's head, and he vanished as suddenly as he had appeared; but not before he had left Harold with a heartbreaking image of the child he had helped Nancy to conceive, and then lost. He had tears in his eyes as Nancy said to him, "Salvage the George Badger; open the copper vessel; but do not attempt to hurt me, because my power at that time will be devastating, and invincible. If you assist me, I will reward you the same way that I rewarded George Badger, with his life and with his sanity. I will also reward you one more way: and listen closely. If you assist me, I will return your Nancy to you, and your son. I have the power, since I am lord of the region of the dead, and none may pass through this region without my authority. I can turn them back, and you will be able to live again the life you believed you had lost. Claudia Wildman, too, could be returned to you. Had you thought of that? Help me, Harold, and you could regain your happiness."
Harold stared at Nancy speechlessly. The thought of having her back again seemed wild and impossible; yet so many wild and impossible things had happened since he had first heard the garden-swing creaking on that dark and windy night that he could almost believe it. And, God, what a temptation, to have her here again, to have her back in his arms again, to speak to her again!
"I don't believe you can do it," Harold said. "Nobody can resurrect the dead. And besides, her body is smashed. How can you bring back somebody whose body is smashed?"
Nancy smiled. Blandly, artlessly, as if she were dreaming a dream of other existences, other places; as if she already had memories that he would never be able to share. "Am I smashed now?" she asked him, hauntingly. "I have been recreated from the matrix from which I was very first born. You are dealing with one who controls the very process of life, as well as death. That ruined-body of mine is well-decayed by now; but I can live again, as I was meant to. And so could your child."
"I don't believe you," Harold said; although he half-believed already. God, just to hold Nancy's hand again, to kiss her, to feel her hair, to make love to her. There were tears streaming down his cheeks which he didn't feel.
Nancy's image began to waver again, and shrink. Soon, she was almost invisible, nothing more than a shadow on the landing, a silhouette without substance.
"Harold," she whispered, as she vanished.
"Wait!" Harold called her. ""Nancy, for God's sake, wait!"
"Harold," she murmured, and was gone.
He stood on the landing for a very long time, until his back began to ache, and then he went downstairs. He went into the living-room and poured himself a whiskey from a bottle of Chivas Regal whose level was already quite low. He would stay here tonight, he decided. He would light a fire. Maybe the warmth would tempt the spirits back here. To think that the time might come that Nancy and he could sit down beside this fire together, like they used to, watching the flames and telling each other stories of what they would do with their lives, our long futures. It was almost more than I could endure.
He sat up very late that night, until the fire that he had built had eventually died away to ashes, and the room started to grow distinctly cold. He locked the doors, wound up the clock, and went upstairs, more than ready to sleep. He stared at himself in the mirror as he brushed his teeth, and wondered if he was really going mad, if at last the supernatural stresses and strains of the past week had tipped him over the edge.
Yet Nancy had been here, hadn't she, speaking to him in the voice of Supay, the lord of Ukhu Pacha, the region of the dead? She had promised him his happiness back, hadn't she? Nancy and their unborn son, brought back to life; and maybe Claudia Wildman, too. He couldn't have imagined anything like that, and if it was only a dream, why did he feel so torn about helping to set Supay free? Scores of people would die if it were to be released unchecked from its copper vessel; yet what did that matter to him? Scores of people die on the highways every day in road accidents, and there was nothing he could do about it. He would only be assisting fate to take its normal course; and think of the rewards of it.
He was almost asleep when the phone rang. He picked it up clumsily and said, "Winstanley."
"Oh, you're there, are you?" a girl's voice said sharply. "Well, obviously, since you're sure as hell not here. Thank you for a wonderful evening, Harold. I'm just scraping your filetto al Barolo down the sink-disposal."
"Suzy?" he said.363Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡp3Gtt8ElVU
"Hell yes, it's Suzy. Who else do you know who would be stupid enough to cook you an Italian meal and then wait for you to show up, thinking that you really would?"
"Suzy, I'm so sorry. Something happened tonight.....something that totally threw me off."
"What was here name?"
"Suzy, please. I'm sorry. I got all wrapped up in something very emotional and dinner with you got wiped out of my mind."
"I suppose you want to make it up to me."
"You know I will."
"Well, don't bother. And next time you come into the cookie ship, go sit somewhere else, where Betty can serve you."
She put down the phone and Harold was left with a flat whining tone. He sighed, and cradled his own receiver.
As he did so, he heard the faintest high-pitched singing.363Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡSgiTUsROXB
"Oh, the men they sail from Ol' Spithead363Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡYbkBmr7tiW
To fish the savage waters...."363Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡRomTJYCpoE
And the haunting quality of the voice was made even more chilling now that he knew what the words really meant.
"But the fish they catch are naught but bones 363Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ4fBVJv3NWh
With hearts crush'd in their jaws."363Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡGGDy5gLD5r
363Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡpkR8xS3FDR
It wasn't an old sea-chanty after all; and it certainly wasn't a song about fishing. It was a rhyme about Supay, and how George Badger and the crew of the Bradburn had sailed to Peru to bring him back to Salem. It was a song of death and supernatural destruction!363Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡMZCexgsgmn
363Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡrCWtFw15Qsns 126.96.36.199da2