The Thing in the Pond
(A Chronicle of My Expedition Into The Old Curwen Mansion. )
Wherein Ambrose is Called Upon To Solve a Problem Most Dire
There was thunder in the air on the night I went to the old Curwen mansion to find the Thing in the Pond.
Large and rambling, with a Victorian facade surrounded by a few rank sedges (fresh sedges being unavailable at that time of year) the building had for many decades been abandoned to the elements, and only recently had it been re-occupied by a Prof. Howard Phillips, an academic renowned for his deep and comprehensive knowledge of 12th century haberdashery. The professor had recently retired and decided to open a guest house, for which purpose he purchased the aforementioned property. Not long after opening his doors things began to go badly, and knowing of my reputation as an investigator of such matters he had chosen to consult me in hopes of gaining aid.
My host awaited at the end of the mansion’s driveway. This was a bookish character with a slight stoop and a demeanor at once friendly and nervous – I speak here of the man, not of his driveway.
“Mr. Mugwump,” he said cheerfully, giving me his hand, “So glad to see you!”
I took his hand and replied…
“Glad to be here, professor. And looking forward to ridding you of your problem, whatever it may be.”
The social pleasantries over, I gave the professor back his hand and we moved inside, and as we did so I noticed a garland of garlic garnishing the front door. I turned to Prof. Phillips.
“You are aware that garlic is considered a remedy only for vampires?”
“Yes,” he responded, “but it wasn’t my idea. It was the doing of my elderly house keeper, and as it seems to give her some peace of mind I have decided to leave it in place. Also, I find it a great aid in keeping away those darned Scientologists.”
After a supper during which I gleefully devoured two chicken carcasses, a ham, and several napkins, we sat around the fire, it being my intention to gather as much data as I could about my host’s current predicament.
“Well, Mr. Mugwump, it’s the damnedest thing,” the professor began in a tone suggesting that he had begun. “During the renovations one of my workmen disappeared. Well, the man had a reputation as a drifter, so we thought nothing of it and proceeded with the work. Then, shortly after opening the establishment to the public, my guests started to vanish. Thirty six so far, and needless to say, business has suffered to the point that a once promising enterprise is now reduced to only two guests, both of them quite mad, I’m afraid.”
“Poor chaps, I can see how the disappearance of so many of their fellow lodgers, combined with the oppressive, gothic atmosphere of this place would drive one mad,” I added sympathetically.
“Actually, they were already mad when they arrived. Too many magazine articles about Kim Kardashian, I’m afraid.”
Wherein Ambrose Is Rudely Awakened By A Beeping In The Night
Not one to waste time, as soon as the professor and his two resident loonies had retired I set up my equipment in the living room. This consisted of my patented Inter-Dimensional Energy Detector, a portable and complex doohickey designed to measure inter-dimensional energies of the kind often generated by paranormal phenomena such as ghosts, poltergeists, and Scotsmen who pick up the bill. After positioning the device on the coffee table, I settled into a large and comfortable armchair by the fireplace, adjusted the firewood with a nearby poker, and started to read the latest issue of Haberdasher’s Monthly while keeping one alert eye on my clumsily named gizmo. As I started to nod off, somewhere around 3.17 am, I became aware of a faint beeping emanating from the Inter-Dimensional Energy Detector. Forcing myself to rise, I grabbed a poker from the fireplace, lest I need to defend myself against whatever unholy abomination stalked these halls. Almost immediately I screamed out in pain, as I had inadvertently picked up a rather hot poker which some fool had carelessly left lying in the fire. As my scream abated, I realized that it had been matched by other sounds, the first being a wet, shambling sound – as of a large and cumbersome cephalopod trying to learn how to do the Charleston while wearing ballet shoes – and the second being that of a sepulchral yet high pitched voice – as of a zombified operatic soprano – crying out the lone word “Yikes!” from outside the French windows that opened out onto the hotel’s rear yard. By now the ruckus had roused the sleeping professor from his sleep and he had come down the stairs doing his best impression of an angry, middle class Englishman.
“What in tarnation is going on down here? I say, old chap, you had best explain this commotion!” he huffed, stroking a moustache which I could swear had not been there earlier in the evening.
“ It’s the Thing, professor! That noise was the doing of the unholy monstrosity that’s been eating your guests! And at this very moment that very same Thing lurks right outside these windows,” I half whispered, half shouted at the befuddled academic, then I grabbed a nearby baseball bat and motioned towards the door. The professor was already armed with a plastic spatula which he keeps on his bedside table in case of burglars, and we both leapt through the French windows to be confronted with…nothing. While we had dallied, the Thing had made good its escape. And then I spotted something…
“Wait, what’s that glinting in the moonlight? It’s a trail, a trail of shiny, malodorous slime, like the kind exuded by members of congress, leading off into the darkness.”
Cautiously we followed the pungent tracks, arriving eventually at the large pond at the bottom of the garden. This, then, was the abode of the creature, the lair of that unholy monstrosity which had risen from the depths of some archaic hell to dine ravenously on the professor’s guests.
Wherein The Mystery is Revealed At Last
As I stood there at the edge of that accursed puddle, my mind reeling from the horror and sheer foulness of the situation, it dawned on me that there was only one way to lure the monster out of its lair. Accordingly, I raced back into the house, and soon emerged with a stout rope. This I then proceeded to tie around the professor’s waist just before shoving him into the dark waters of the pond. The professor huffed and puffed for a moment, his indignant moustache riding the ripples of the chilly night waters, then suddenly he was pulled under! Here I seized the opportunity and pulled as hard as I could on the rope, resulting in a massive heaving of the waters and a “Blech!” sound that sent the professor hurtling through the air and into a nearby chestnut tree. Immediately following the airborne egghead was a thing the likes of which I hope to never see again.
How shall I describe the loathsomeness, the very personification of antediluvian evil which arose from that demon-haunted bog? It was as if all the horror of the universe had been cast into an amorphous form, a walking putrescence, a glimmering, golden monstrosity with dozens of tentacles sprouting from its massive body, a body studded with eyes and mouths where there should be no eyes or mouths. It was a being from the lowest depths of Tartarus, the kind of unholy abomination no sane mind could conceive of, much less invite to a dinner party. The colossal behemoth ascended into the ether, its golden tentacles glinting in the moonlight, each one tipped with a mouth that slavered, its teeth sheathing and unsheathing. Twenty feet above us it towered, one gigantic eye glittering green in the middle of its veined and amorphous head. The thing slavered, it drooled, it dribbled, and then — horrible to tell — it blathered!
Being neither fools nor lunatics, the professor and I turned and ran, while behind us we heard the Thing, its tremendous bulk lumbering after us like a gigantic, lumbering thing. “Glug, glug,” it gluggingly glugged, as I wondered why I hadn’t followed my father’s advice and become an accountant. Then I remembered the baseball bat in my hand and courage returned, for what antediluvian monstrosity from the abysses beyond time and space could fail to be intimidated by a relatively small stick? I stopped dead in my tracks, spun around and stared down the creature.
“Not so tough now, are you, hey?” I said while brandishing the bat. “Come on, you overgrown baseball! I’ll belt you right over the bleachers and out of the park!”
The Thing stopped, its quivering bulk blotting out the moon, and then it opened the largest of its many mouths, a cavernous maw lined with row upon row of razor sharp teeth, and as I started to reconsider my bravado it let out a sepulchral sound, as of an undertaker drowning in a vat of warm molasses.
“Baseball…baseball…” it intoned into the cold night air.
Was I wrong, or was there a tone of excited anticipation about the Thing’s utterance?
“Er, yeah, baseball. You like baseball? Never quite understood it myself, but to each his own,” I responded somewhat lamely.
“Throw, throw,” the Thing replied excitedly.
At last the true nature of this uncanny situation dawned on me! I looked up at the monstrosity and did my impression of a village idiot trying to hold a conversation with a month old babe. “Who’s a good abomination, then? Who’s a good abomination? You are! Yes, you are! You wanna play fetch?”
At that magical word the massive, golden bulk started jumping up and down, its tentacles swaying in the air above its head, its giant green eye twinkling in the moonlight, and its tongue hanging from its main mouth! I waved the bat in front of the creature, threw it across the garden, and the glimmering creature ran after it, grabbed it in its mouth, bounded back to me and dropped the bat at my feet. As I picked it up and threw it again, the professor and I realized what we had here was not so much a monstrosity as some sort of inter-dimensional doggy. A rather large and ugly doggy with a terrible drooling problem, true, but a basically harmless creature nonetheless. This, then, was The Devourer Of Men, The Stalker In The Night, The Lurker In The Darkness, The Watcher At The Threshold, The Shadow From Outside – the Thing what ate all the guests.
Wherein The Unholy Abomination Finds A New Home, And I Run Out Of Excuses To Use The Word “Wherein.”
Yet now we could see that the creature was docile enough, and probably had eaten all those folks only because it was ravenously hungry after untold eons spent sleeping in the pond’s stygian depths, for if anything will make one hungry it’s a long nap in the stygian depths. Watching the creature bound happily after the baseball bat, neither I nor the professor felt inclined to have it shot by the army or gassed to death by the Humane Society. But what to do with such a large and cumbersome eater of men? After we had all grown bored with the fetching game, we left the creature to play with the professor’s car and went inside to formulate a solution to this unexpected conundrum. And so it was decided, over many a glass of fermented yak’s milk, that the professor would take the creature in as sort of pet, and also exhibit it to tourists. This would solve both the problem of what to do with our Doggy From Beyond Time And Space, and the poor financial state of the professor’s business. As for what to feed the creature – tourists and mailmen were, of course, utterly out of the question – it was all a simple matter of taking down the garlic on the front door and letting the scientologists roll in.
And so it was that I solved yet another of the universe’s great mysteries, found a poor and misunderstood creature a good home, helped the professor to get rid of a few more weirdoes, and proved once again that the old proverb is correct – a bat in the hand is worth two midgets in the bush.