The rental car sped along the interstate outside of Boston, Massachusetts. The woman driving threw her mind into controlling the machine beneath her so she wouldn't have to hear the man's doubt beside her. The man in the passenger seat debated asking for the umpteenth time why they were going to her brother's alma mater, decided not to. The little girl in the back seat kicked her legs and made swimming motions with the plush fishy in her hands.
"Are we there yet?" asked the little girl.
"Yes, are we there yet?" asked the man. "Jeannie, are we there yet?"
Jeannie Miller pulled her concentration back to her husband and daughter. "It won't be long now," she promised. The bright green maple forests lent an idyllic quality to the trip, a sense of fantasy that Jeannie felt was warranted. A sign flew past.
"How about now?" Madison asked. "I'm thirsty. Can we get a hotel with a swimming pool? I wanna go swimming."
"I can take a bath all by myself," Madison stated, hands at her hips. She still wore her wet bathing suit, towel in her hand.
"Okay, Sweetie," Jeannie said. "Daddy and I will just be out here if you need us okay?"
Madison nodded and closed the bathroom door. Kaleb Miller waited until the water was running to turn to his wife with wary, almost accusing eyes. "Jeannie, please tell me," he pleaded. "What's going on? Why are we in a hotel in the middle of Arkham, Massachusetts?"
Jeannie sighed and sat down, gesturing for her husband to do the same. She hadn't told him. In the month since her return from Atlantis she hadn't told him. How could she have when she'd learned about it herself less than two months ago? This idea of her brother being a Deep One hybrid was downright insane, it broke several laws of biology, and yet...
"There's something you need to know," she said. "About me. About Madison. Something I didn't even know until recently."
"What is it, are you sick?" Kaleb whispered. "It's worse, isn't it? Is she even mine?"
"Of course she's yours," Jeannie assured. "It's... complicated. I don't even know how to say this."
"Whatever it is we'll work through this together."
"It's genetic," she blurted. "Dad had it before he died. Meredith has it. I'm a carrier. And Madison has it."
Kaleb went pale. "Oh God," he murmured. "Is she okay? Is she going to be okay?"
Jeannie saw him starting to panic. "She's fine, Kaleb. I promise you, our baby is just fine."
"Why wait until now to say anything?" he asked. "Why drag us out to the middle of Lovecraft country? Why are we here? Here doesn't have anything to do with what you're trying to tell me, does it? What is this genetic 'thing' you both have?"
"I... I shouldn't have said anything," Jeannie blurted. She curled in on herself, miserable. She couldn't tell him, not without knowing first that he'd believe her. And that was something she could never be sure of.
"Jeannie..." Kaleb wrapped his arms around his wife. "Whatever this is we'll get through it."
Jeannie burrowed into her husband's embrace. She truly hoped he was right.
The next day found Kaleb following in mild confusion as Jeannie and Madison cavorted all around the Miskatonic University campus. It wasn't the quiet stroll of the locals, it wasn't the wide-eyed staring of the recent high school graduate, it was something... weird. There was something weird and something very ulterior going on here.
"So Uncle Meredith really almost became a doctor here?" Madison asked.
"Yep," Jeannie said. "But he didn't like it as much as physics so he had to go somewhere else."
Kaleb tuned out their conversation to look around. It really was a beautiful campus but perhaps handicapped by the notoriety of being The Miskatonic University. They'd tried to capitalize on that notoriety with one of the last operating parascience departments in the country, if not the world. Their rare books collection was rumored to be envied, something he was itching to look at, but those rumors tended to involve books that couldn't possibly exist. After all, the Necronomicon didn't really exist, did it? It couldn't. Heck, if even half the rumors about Lovecraft country were correct then...
Then maybe it wasn't fiction after all. And that would be insane. Also, bad. Very bad.
Speaking of bad that same old man had been following them all day. Kaleb poked Jeannie out of her dialogue. "That man has been following us all day," he murmured.
Jeannie nodded. Madison pointed out the old man. "That man?" she asked.
Kaleb hid his face in his hands. It was never too early to teach them not to point.
Jeannie picked up Madison. "Let's go meet him," she said, walking over to him.
"Jeannie..." Kaleb pleaded before following.
To his credit the old man looked sheepish enough at having been caught. "I see I'm a bit rusty," he admitted, extending his hand. "I haven't conducted field research in over 20 years. Dr. James Randall, anthropology."
"Jeannie Miller," Jeannie said, shaking his hand. "This is my daughter Madison and my husband Kaleb."
Old Professor Randall looked intently at Madison, scanning every feature of her face. She got shy and hid in her mother's neck. "Forgive the question as I have forgotten my sense of tact in my old age, but is she indeed yours? Or have you adopted?"
"No, she's definitely ours," Jeannie said, cutting off Kaleb's angry retort. "She gets it from my side of the family."
"And yet you're so beautiful, my dear," Randall said. "A little suggestion around the eyes, perhaps..."
"Suggestion of what?" Kaleb demanded, angry.
"Why, the Innsmouth Look, of course," Randall said matter-of-factly.
Kaleb stood, shocked. This was all some elaborate prank, it had to be. He grabbed his wife's wrist and started trying to drag her away. "Jeannie, we're leaving," he snapped.
"Oh dear," Randall said.
"Kaleb!" Jeannie scolded, trying to wrench her wrist out of his grasp. "Kaleb stop it!"
"Daddy! Daddy stop!"
At his daughter's tearful plea Kaleb let go. He stood there, looking from his wife to his daughter to this obviously insane old man with varying degrees of incredulity and fury. "Jeannie, you can't honestly believe this... this utter nonsense, can you?"
"It's not nonsense," Jeannie pleaded. "I thought it was too but then I saw Meredith. He's Changed, Kaleb. He's taken to the water. He's almost finished turning into a Deep One. He's hideous, Kaleb. And it could have easily have happened to me too but it isn't and it won't. But Madison..."
"Mommy?" Madison asked, still crying.
"You don't believe this..." Kaleb pleaded. "It's insane..."
"I wish it were, Kaleb."
"We should continue this inside," Randall suggested. They were gathering a group of onlookers lurking just far enough away to listen in. "Would you care to come to my office?"
Jeannie nodded. Kaleb bowed his head in defeat and followed.
Professor Randall's office withstood the test of time better than some of his colleagues. Maybe a few more musty books, the addition of a computer on the desk, but two old comfy chairs still sat facing each other with a tiny low table between them. That table was covered in essays at the moment but those were easily moved. "Coffee?" he asked, pouring himself a mug. "It's a habit I picked up from Meredith when he was my student."
Jeannie sat down in an offered chair but declined coffee. Kaleb stood, looking uncomfortable.
Randall swung his desk chair around and settled in. "First and foremost, Mr. Miller, there are some things you have to accept," he said. "That there are Deep Ones is one. That Lovecraft was right about a few things is another. There really was a town of Innsmouth. The ruins are only a few minutes outside of town, that is, if you feel like braving the trackless salt marsh. Arkham hasn't developed there and they never will, not while Devil Reef still stands. The raids on Innsmouth really happened. What Lovecraft didn't say is what happened to the small children they rounded up."
"What did happen?" Jeannie asked.
"The children were lost in orphanages, kept protected by the chaos of the system and the Depression," Randall explained. "Your grandmother, Mrs. Miller, was born Rosalyn Marsh of Innsmouth."
"This is insane," Kaleb muttered.
"It does indeed sound insane," Randall admitted. "But I assure you, truth and insanity are by no means mutually exclusive."
"How do you know this?" Jeannie asked. "Forgive me saying so, but you don't seem like the kind of professor Meredith would willingly associate with."
"And yet it was my letter of recommendation that got him into Area 51," Randall said while searching through his desk. "All I'm aware of is that his position at Area 51 got him a foot in the door to something truly fascinating. Ah hah, found it." He pulled out an envelope, hand-addressed. Rodney's handwriting. No return address. "I received a letter from him a year or so ago. He doesn't detail anything, only says that he's working on something... special."
He reached into the envelope and pulled out a handwritten letter. Something slipped out of the letter, clapped softly to the ground. Randall muttered and picked it up to show them. It was a greenish scale about an inch long. "If you've seen him recently then doubtless you'd recognize this," he said.
Jeannie nodded. Kaleb stared. Madison looked curious.
"I've never seen anything like that," Kaleb stated.
"I have," Madison piped in.
"You have, Sweetie?" Jeannie asked. "Where?"
"In my dreams," Madison said, suddenly less sure.
"What kind of dreams?" Randall asked.
Madison looked confused, glancing from her encouraging mother to her fuming father.
"It's okay, you can tell us," Jeannie urged.
Madison focused on her mother. "Okay, Mommy.
"In my dreams I'm swimming and it's dark and wet and deep but I know where I am. I keep swimming and I find a city with lights and stuff but it's all underwater and there's plants and crabs and fishies and other things and people. Swimming people and I'm one of them and one of the swimming people always finds me and she tells me she's my great gramma. She's all sad that my granpa didn't come down to live with all the swimming people and she misses Uncle Meredith and doesn't know where he is but she's happy that I'm there and I'm happy that she's happy and then I wake up."
Kaleb couldn't believe what he was hearing. This crazy old man was not only feeding his wife's twisted fantasies but now he was encouraging Madison to play along. Everything he'd tried to teach her about living in reality was falling away. Alien cities, giant spaceships, ascended Ancients, life-sucking monsters, he'd heard his wife's stories, he'd been the one to encourage her to go. But this...
This was too close to home. Things were entirely different when it was in his family instead of safely far away in some other galaxy. He hadn't bargained for this when he convinced his wife to work with the Stargate program. He left the office without a word.
"Kaleb!" Jeannie called as he left.
"Let him go," Randall said. "He needs time to think."
Kaleb Miller wandered the campus in an angry haze. His feet carried him away from the Science Annex, through green lawns and past manicured trees, past the bell tower and the historical dormitories, finding himself on the steps of the old Orne Library. He just stood there, gazing at the bronze statue of Henry Armitage in front of the library. The statue clutched a book with one arm, a curious symbol like a star with an eye in it carved into its cover. Its other hand was upraised in some sort of three-fingered gesture.
Kaleb stared unseeingly at the twin Elder Signs displayed openly on the statue. He couldn't believe, he wouldn't. There were so many things wrong, so very inherently wrong with what was going on here. But what exactly made it wrong? Was it that when Jeannie had come to him about first going to Atlantis it all seemed so fantastical? Was it that when it was only Jeannie and her brother it wasn't really close enough to seem real? He hadn't even met the McKay brother until two years ago, until right before the whole Atlantis thing started.
He blamed Meredith for the Atlantis thing. He still blamed the man for the whole nanites thing. How could he not? If they'd just been left alone, if Jeannie hadn't sent in that proof, if she hadn't been in math...
Then she wouldn't be his Jeannie.
Kaleb sighed. Could he believe this whole Deep One thing? It was much closer now than something his wife was involved in a galaxy away; it was within his own family. His daughter was affected by it. Their daughter was affected by it.
He needed to think. The library might help. Libraries always helped him think.
The Orne Library was open and inviting, the computer room to the left, check-out and information counters to the right. Reference was ahead as was the periodical room. The Armitage Reading Room looked promising.
Comfy chairs and small square tables dominated the room. A few students were situated around the room, most taking advantage of the library's wireless. One group of people, they didn't look like students, were huddled around one table whispering about a book and a plot. Or something. Kaleb didn't want to know. He wandered the room, noting titles that had been left by previous people: Psychic Self Defense, Cephalopods of the South Pacific, Advanced Theories in Quantum Gravity, Cultes des Ghoules...
Wait, Cultes des Ghoules? Kaleb picked it up in curiosity. He'd heard of this one before, it was supposedly a Mythos tome.
A librarian quickly snatched it out of his hands before he could open it. "How did this one get out," the librarian muttered. "It's not supposed to leave the Vault. You found this, I see... Good good, but you have to come with me, Sir. There are procedures when a book leaves the Vault." The librarian dragged a confused Kaleb down a hallway, down some stairs, another hallway, past a guard, past a gate.
A door opened in front of them, a door labeled Special Collections Vault. An Elder Sign was built into the archway above the door.
"What's going on?" Kaleb asked.
"Cultes des Ghoules got out again, Diana," said his escort to a woman behind a desk, probably the head librarian for the collection. Only then did Kaleb notice the necklaces they wore, tiny Elder Signs. It appeared to be a popular decoration here.
"Again?" Diana complained. "Did he read it?"
Kaleb's escort gestured toward him. "I don't think so but we should check anyway."
"I found it in the Armitage Reading Room," Kaleb said. "I didn't have a chance to open it before... what was your name again?"
"Henry," his escort said. "Henry Armitage the third. And you are?"
"Does this hurt?" Henry asked before thrusting the Elder Sign from his necklace into Kaleb's face.
"You don't actually believe all that nonsense, do you?" Kaleb asked.
"Reality is that which doesn't go away when you stop believing in it," Diana pointed out, watching.
"You think my parents gave me this name to be funny?" Henry asked. "He's human."
A pounding sounded from the door behind them. "That's probably Owen again. I'll let him in," Diana said. She opened the door to the Vault to find a nervous looking student with big blue eyes and a look of pained terror. Without a word Diana got out a ladder, climbed up, and covered the Elder Sign over the door with a sheet of cardboard. The young student sighed with relief and stepped inside.
Once inside Kaleb got a good look at this newcomer, this Owen. He wore a dark blue cloak over his clothes, was prematurely balding, and wore a strange gold necklace featuring a leering sea monster that disturbed Kaleb on some instinctual level. He was visibly attempting to avoid looking at the Elder Signs wore by the librarians. And he was speaking. Kaleb listened in.
"Rumor says the Marsh family's back in town."
"I figured Meredith would have taken to the water by now," Diana remarked. "Such a smart boy. Egotistical though."
Wait, Meredith? Not McKay...
"And rightly so," Owen continued. "Naw, not him, sadly. Didja know he has a sister? Her Change's stunted but she brought her husband and they spawned, just the cutest little hybrid you ever did see."
Something in Kaleb's mind fell into place. Or out of. "You're all insane," he accused. "My daughter's normal, just like everyone else. There are no Deep Ones and my daughter is certainly not a hybrid!"
"Failed his sanity check," Diana whispered to Henry. Henry nodded.
"And you're all encouraging this!" Kaleb continued, voice rising to a scream. "This town would be completely normal if it weren't for your living up to some madman's bedtime stories! Lovecraft wasn't right! It's not true! It can't be true!" He fell to his knees. "It can't be..."
Owen knelt down next to Kaleb and stared him unsettlingly in the eye. "You're the husband?" he asked. "And you never knew? Sad, really. She shoulda told you before you'd gone and spawned."
Kaleb shrank away from this incredibly creepy man, this man with all the same physical creepiness that damned Meredith had had last time he was here. At that moment he suddenly realized...
It was all true.
When he came to he heard a familiar voice calling to him. "Kaleb, Honey, are you okay?"
Kaleb blinked to clear his vision. "Jeannie?" he asked.
Jeannie still looked worried. He found he couldn't shake the feeling that she and Owens had the same eyes. "You fainted," she explained. "Here in the Vault right in front of the librarians. What happened?"
"It's true, isn't it..."
"It's all true," Diana said from the desk. Owens was gone and, wait...
"She couldn't come in," Jeannie explained. "The room hurts too much. I don't blame her, that Elder Sign gives me the creeps."
"'The Elder Sign repels all those ancient enemies of the Elder Things, of which Cthulhu and his Deep Ones are most notorious'," Henry said, quoting the Necronomicon from memory.
Kaleb wrapped his arms around his wife and held her. This... this was insanity. And Lovecraft was only one of many thousands of writers over the centuries who claimed to find inspiration in dreams. How many of them were right? What kind of world did they live in?
"I love you, Kaleb," Jeannie said.
"I love you too, Jeannie," Kaleb said. And he meant it.
Summary: Jeannie Miller took her brother's advice out of cowardice. She just couldn't tell her husband. Maybe if she took the family to Miskatonic University she wouldn't have to.
Sequel to chapter 5 of Open Secrets. Crossover with the Mythos