Collin pulled up to the rundown mansion. His wipers slapped rain across the windshield. Member of the SCU (Strange Case Unit) he’d been to more derelict mansions than he could count. This one, like so many, was covered in climbing ivy. The windows needed to be cleaned, probably a few times. Weeds grew in the driveway, the hedges hadn’t been trimmed in ages, moss coated the brick walls. Half the trees were dead and looked like the skeletal hands of fantastic beasts. Collin killed the engine. The pouring rain pounded on the roof of the car. He dashed to the front door with a newspaper over his head. A poor umbrella that was more mush than paper by the time he stepped into the door’s alcove.
A huge bronze knocker, a ring in the nose of some wild beast (a dog or wolf, maybe?) sat chest-high in the door. Collin knocked it, three quick thumps. As he waited, he rolled the newspaper up, keeping the dry paper on the outside, and tucked it into the back of his pants.
“Collin. Thanks for coming,” said Lenny Splanitz. Eight years a cop, the most recent three spent as a detective.
“It’s kind of my job.”
“Yeah, sure-sure, but it could have…Didn’t they tell you?”
“Hm?” Collin scanned the halls. A heavy layer of dust coated everything. And there was a lot of ‘everything.’ Framed paintings hung on every wall. The way in which they hung hinted at desperation. Whoever put them up had worked in haste. Every piece of furniture sat at an odd angle. Almost like a small earthquake had shaken the home. Not enough to knock anything over, or break anything, but enough to shift things off center and level.
“Probably could have waited till tomorrow, don’t think he’s going anywhere,” Lenny said.
“Fresh is best,” said Collin.
“Right, well,” Lenny motioned into the home, “shall we?”
“Lead the way.”
They headed down a hall with dim lights that flickered. Old wiring. A large couch took up most of a doorway, and they had to squeeze past it. They wove through the kitchen where the smell of rot and dried herbs mixed. Collin’s upper lip pulled into sneer.
“Any idea how long?”
“You’ll have to see for yourself,” said Lenny over his shoulder.
Twelve years Collin had been with the SCU and it seemed at least once a month he was hearing some version of that very statement. “He’s not dead, uh?” Collin asked. Lenny, a few steps ahead, shrugged. “Oh-kay, one of these cases. Fun.” As he passed a trashcan, Collin pulled the newspaper from his pants and pitched it.
They wove through the house. Into rooms, down halls, through a bathroom, into a large bedroom. One floor-to-ceiling window was half covered by a heavy curtain. The rain was still coming down in sheets. An occasional flash of lightning lit the room beyond the poor light cast by a few desk lamps that sat on the floor. The rest of the room was a mess, like the rest of the house.
In a chair, not far from the window, sat a man. Or what was once a man. Now…Now it was hard to say for sure what was in the chair. The body looked human enough, but the head—if it even could still be called a head—was most certainly not human. It looked to be a cross between a squid, octopus, and a bundle of snakes. The writhing mass was the color of wet clay. The body was still, unmoving, but the thing where the head should have been moved plenty. Its mass seemed to fluctuate, as though it were breathing. Only instead of getting smaller it became less. Now enough mass to fill a large bucket, now as big as a golf ball.
“That’s how I found…Him?” Lenny said. He adjusted his glasses and glanced at Collin.
“Uh-huhmm.” Collin stood a little straighter and took a deep breath. “Well, I wonder what we have here.”
Lenny chuckled. “Yeah, you tell me.”