“And you where with Miss Fontaine when the body was found?” The investigator sitting across from me asked, a pipe jutting from his mouth.
“Yes sir, like I said, I hear her scream and came running. Once catching up to her, we found the body floating in the fountain.”
“I see,” he remarked, plums of tobacco smoke pouring from his nostrils. “Well, thank you for your time gentlemen, apologies for dropping by unannounced.”
Dr. Winston stood up and handed the inspector a glass of bourbon. “No trouble at all Mr. Wellington, always happy to assist a man of the law!”
Shaking his head, the inspector declined. “No liquor for me, not while on a case.”
Dr. Winston set it down on the coffee table and said, “Apologies my good man, got to keep the old mind sharp, eh?”
“Indeed, now then, I’m afraid I must take my leave of you gentlemen. I have several other guests to question before the day is done. I may need to return for further questioning should anyone’s stories fail to match.”
Dr. Winston watched intently as the officer stood up and walked to the door. Then, once it was shut, he peered through the looking hole, watching as he walked down the path and out of sight.
“Something bothering you good doctor?”
“Not at all young apprentice, why do you ask?”
“You just seem…interested in the officer’s presence is all.”
Turning to face me, he said, “And why shouldn’t I be? After all, this is a place of scientific discovery. Some may take issue with the nature, or method by which we achieve our noble goals.”
“Should I be concerned with the kind of research taking place here good doctor?”
An unnerving grin donned his lips as he walked closer to where I was sitting. “Not at all my morally upright pupil. In fact, I will soon have need of your talents for a very important experiment. One that promises to be very…enlightening.”
Surly there was a better way to phrase such a statement. Is he hoping to make me tense? Perhaps that is part of the experiment, see how long it takes for me to break down and lose my mind. Ah, speaking of losing my mind, I wonder if the doctor has any insights into the local legend of the Forest Walker. I still don’t believe in such nonsense, but the events of the past few days have been more than a tad macabre.
“While I have your ear, Dr. Winston, I was hoping to ask you a somewhat…peculiar question.”
“Regarding the events surrounding the dead guest at Lady Dupont’s estate, I found them to be most unconventional, bordering on paranormal.” The doctors face grew concerned as I described the details of the night, concern mixed with genuine interest. “And so, as outlandish as it may seem, you don’t suppose there is any truth to these legends, do you? Perhaps a connection between them and the man’s unfortunate demise?”
Running his hands through his hair, he leaned back in against the wall and said, “In the realm of science, anything is possible. I myself have experienced things I have yet to explain by any secular means. However, just because something appears to have no reasonable answer does not mean it doesn’t exist. If this topic captivates you then dig deeper, investigate, build a body of evidence, otherwise we are no different than the brainless clods that inhabit this backwater town.” Now heading to the basement, Dr. Winston announced, “I will be busy working on the project for Miss Dupont, do try not to disturb me.”
“Worry not,” I replied while watching him descend the dimly lit stairwell. Like I don’t have better things to do with my time.
Having ransacked the scrap closet, I carried the desired parts to my room and scattered them on the bed. While tinkering with my automatic pistol, images from last night kept interrupting my focus, distracting me from giving it my full attention. What on earth could have trampled those massive hedges so effortlessly? Even if the murderer was trying to frame his deeds on a myth, how would one explain all the oddities of the case? Its not as if they had an elephant run headfirst through the maze, thus explaining the massive path that ripped all the way to the fountain. No, I’m not going to let this unfortunate event spoil a night of inventing. Whatever the answers be, they will just have to wait.
Within an hour, I had finished my prototype, a fully automatic clip-based pistol, perfect for defending oneself from the ravenous carnivores that call these woods home. Better I do not share designs of this kind with others, lest they fall into the wrong hands. Ever eager to obtain faster, more efficient killing machines, the militias of this land would no doubt abuse the firepower now afforded me. No good ever comes from violence, of this I am certain.
Anyway, it looks as though daylight had faded, better I get to bed than stay awake and be bothered by the doctor. Let me just take one last look outside before night sets in completely. Ah, such beauty, so many colors, autumn really is the most beautiful of seasons. Should I ever paint like the great Van Gou, I would paint nothing but the passion-colored leaves of the swaying maple tree.
Climbing into bed, I thought about home, about my dear mother and beloved dog. I do wonder if they miss me. I began to close my eyes, heavy from fatigue, but was jolted awake by an odd sound. A heavy panting was coming from outside, interspersed with grunts and growls. Getting up from bed, I looked out the window in an attempt to locate the source. While it was hard to see anything other than the blackened outline of the forest, one shadow was actually moving among the stationary trees. As the figure approached the back door, the grunting became louder, even aggressive. I strained my eyes trying to make out what it could be, a black bear perhaps, in search of food morsels from out trash. No, this was much bigger than a bear, much taller too. Now right outside the back door, the outline grew more in focus, sending a panic racing through my body. Glowing eyes, illuminated by moonlight looked up at me through the window, turning my legs to rubber.
Bang, bang, bang! The being was pounding against the door, desperately trying to get inside.
“Doctor Winston!” I shouted, hoping to alert him to the potential danger.
Moments later, the shadow smashed down the door, a loud thud sounding through the building as it fell to the floor. Grabbing my pistol from the drawer, I loaded it and kept it aimed at the entry to my room, my hand shaking from fear.
The grunting grew louder and more manic as the floorboard creaked, bending under the weight of whatever had made its way inside.
Creak, creak, creak, the beast was at the stairs, steadily making its way to me.
“Doctor Winston!” I cried out once more only to be met with silence.
Sweat began to trickle down my forehead, my palms turning the grip of my gun wet. Sitting in the corner, I screamed as a humanoid creature came bursting through the door, running at me with its wretched jaws outstretched.
Pressing the trigger of my pistol, a spray of bullets flew forth, pelting the beast’s body to no effect. A massive, clawed hand drew back, ready to strike a killing blow. Just before they pierce my flesh, I awoke in my bed, screaming into the dark, empty room.
“Panting, I took in a deep breath, letting out a sigh as I released it was all a bad dream. Listening close, I heard no panting, no grunting, no pounding on the door. Looking out the window, there were no shadows moving about, looking to gain entry to the building.
“Calm down Ben, it was just a dream,” I whispered to myself, doing what I could to slow my racing heart.
While there was no grunting emanating from outside, there was the faint sound of someone speaking echoing through the vents. With my ear to the heater, I tried to make out what was being said.
“Yes, yes, you will make a fine addition to the ladies’ collection my big, fury friend.”
It was Doctor Winston, but who was he talking to?
“Nearly got away from me, didn’t you? But I was smarter.”
It sounds like he is still working in that room I am forbidden to enter. I should probably let him be and not snoop about, and yet, I will.
Making my way downstairs as quietly as possible, I snuck down the hall into the basement and tried looking through the keyhole. My view was very limited, all I could see were small, motionless animals set up in a display on a desk. Doctor Winston’s secret project was taxidermy? That’s hardly a hobby one would need to keep secret.
“Your even taller than the last one!” Doctor Winston shouted. “And yet, your far less muscular. Why might that be?”
His rambling continued alongside the sounds of metallic tools scraping and slicing. Trying to get a better look, I fell to the ground and tried looking under the door. From this angle, I could see the doctors’ feet as he walked about the room as well as another set of feet, feet from a bear maybe. No, these where more like feet than paws, but also hairy? What in the world?
“Hey!” Doctor Winston shouted, “whose there?”
Oh no! He must have heard me!”
I was about to turn tail and run but the doctor answered himself. “Just me, just me and you my beautiful friend.”
Phew! That almost gave me a heart attack. I thought for sure he had heard me! That settles it, first chance I get I’m going to find out what’s behind this door.
Sneaking back up to my room, I did my best to go to sleep. While I had no further nightmares, a sense of dread hung over me. Monster or not, something strange was afoot in this quaint little hamlet.ns220.127.116.11da2