Ah, man, I had the weirdest dream last night. I went to some weird, spooky basement thing and then some professor there was an angry dead magician. I look at my legs- pasty as usual, but absolutely normal. Man, I don’t usually remember my dreams, I guess this was just weird enough that I- Looking towards the door, it stares back at me like a thing out of a nightmare.
A polished black cane, topped by a sculpture of a crow.
I hold my head in my hands. She… seems nice, at least? Maybe?
I quickly write a small will -just to be safe, mind you- and tuck it into the top drawer of my desk. I creep quietly over my sleeping roommate, (of course, he couldn’t be bothered to go to his room, so he’s sleeping on the floor, the drunk.) I’m about to head out the door when the phone rings. Panicking a little, I nearly drop the drop the thing in my rush to pick it up.
“Er, yes? That’s me.”
“Good. You’ll be meeting me in my office as soon as you can. Go to administration and ask for Dr. Grey.”
The administration building has always made me feel a little uneasy. The buildings all over the university are all built in the same gothic revival style, but this is the oldest building by far- in an already old university. It looks more like a small fortress than just a set of offices, and the inside’s almost as dark as Elisabeth’s library. As the receptionist leads me through three centuries of confusing interior design and labyrinthine halls, I try to think. Do I know a Dr. Grey? The name feels familiar, but it’s definitely not one of my class professors. And what’d I do? I get a deep sense of foreboding as I walk up the stairs of one of the turrets to this Dr. Grey’s office, arriving at a heavy door with a brass nameplate.
OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
When I enter, I find a deep, dark room, the windows yellowed with age and smoke. Between the huge mahogany desk and the comedically long pipe she’s puffing on, Doctor Grey looks tiny and nearly as aged as the room.
“Ah, there you are. Sit down, young man.”
The chair is high-backed and distinctly uncomfortable, making the moment all the more awkward as the president draws on her pipe in silence, looking irritated. Rubbing a silver crescent-moon charm dangling from her pipe, she continues.
“You’ve been to the archives.”
Oh, god. That wasn’t a question, it was a flat-out statement. Am I going to be locked up? Are they going to kill me?
“And, Samuel A. Dupin, you saw something there, didn’t you? Something that has no business in the world of normal people.”
She leans over the desk, cloudy-looking green eyes boring into me.
Do I say something? Defend myself? She’s speaking more like a preist giving a sermon than an elderly academic.
“I can see you fretting, Mr. Dupin- as am I. That damned… monster is a threat to us all- but from what I hear, she’s latched onto you.”
“Uh, well, do you think she’s that much of a threat, doctor? She seems fairly peaceful…”
I say, try desperately not to remember that corpse she was standing over when I found her yesterday.
Dr. Grey stands abruptly, one hand clenched into a fist while the other waves her pipe around wildly.
“PEACEFUL? She could kill us all, you damned boy! The undead? I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but monsters belong in fairy-tales, not reality! I’ve been chasing that damned… thing for nearly fifty years! She needs to be-“
The woman stops herself, taking another puff of her pipe with shaking hands.
“…Pardon me. I get… impassioned… about this. I need your help, Mr. Dupin. Just keep an eye on her and tell me if you catch wind of anything.”
I hesitate a moment and she leans back into her chair.
“I’ll make it worth your while- I’m willing to offer you a scholarship for your efforts. How does a degree free-of-charge sound?”
I walk into the archives to see Elisabeth inspecting a corpse on a table, her sleeves rolled up and out of the way of the blood reaching almost up to her elbows. When she sees me, she waves her hand, splattering some blood onto the ground.
“Ah, damn it… Anyway, there you are, boy. Sleep well?”
“Er, it was alright, my leg’s not hurting any more.”
“Ah, good. I’d like to take a last look at it, just to be sure.”
She pats the corpse on the shoulder.
“You can get up now, Matilda, I’m done now.”
The body slowly rises from the slab, its pale face hauntingly beautiful. It smiles upon seeing me, shambling toward me as soon as it gets to its feet.
Oh, fuck. I back into another table, but all the corpse does is wrap its arms around me, pulling me into a cold, uncomfortable hug.
“Oh, you cad! You just met the boy!”
Elisabeth laughs, pulling the zombie off of me and sending it on its way.
“Ah, sorry, Samuel, they’re always like that. Very… huggy undead in general, really. Be a dear and sit on the table, would you?”
Wiping her hands off on her apron, she rolls up my pant leg and kneels down.
“You should be glad you’re not Matilda over there. Don’t know if you saw, but she was a mess yesterday. I’ve spent the last few hours just trying to get her looking alright- she was getting a little self-conscious about it all.”
I swallow hard. S-should I ask?
“Uh, so… um, what happened?”
The lich looks up with sad eyes.
“Ah, automobile accident. Tragic, really, with how young she was… So don’t mention it around her, alright? She’s a bit sensitive about it right now.”
“Er, okay. They… have feelings?”
She playfully slaps me on the leg.
“I didn’t know you were a racist, Samuel! They certainly do- but they’re a little like children when I raise them up again. Don’t remember anything but the dying part, so they have to learn everything all over, you see.”
So… she didn’t kill anyone? That’s kind of relieving.
“Well, your leg looks alright to me. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I’d say I did an excellent job.”
“Aha… Thanks Elisabeth, you’re a life-saver.”
I swear I see the hint of a smile on her expressionless face as she stands back up.
“So… Did she ask you to spy on me yet?”
“Oh, come now. I bet she called you up this morning, and said something like, ‘office, now.’ And then she tried to look all cool, didn’t she? Probably turned off all the lights in the room and brought out the pipe. Did she wear a cloak?”
She starts giggling in spite of herself, bringing a hand up to cover her blank face.
“Uh, w-what do you mean? S-spying?”
She laughs even louder at that, banging the table with a fist.
“I bet she went ‘I’m the esteemed Doctor Grey, and I’m the most professional and serious woman you’ve ever met!’ And, oh, what was that line… The boys in the occult club brought down a television to play it…”
She rubs her chin, pondering a moment before snapping her fingers.
“Her speech was probably ‘DIE, MONSTER, YOU DON’T BELONG IN THIS WORLD!’ And then she gave you the free tuition thing, didn’t she?”
I hesitate a moment and she doubles over, roaring with laughter.
“She did! Again! Oh, god, I feel like I’m dying all over again!”
I have to wait a minute for her to calm down enough to speak again.
“Uh, so… how’d you know?”
“Oh, she’s reliable as clockwork, boy. Takes everything much too seriously. You know, you can tell little Annie that she can come talk to auntie Bessie if she wants to see what I’m doing. It’s not like I’m up to anything I haven’t been for the better part of a century.”
“Oh, she found out about me when she was young- some descendant of my brother, I think. Can’t really be bothered to figure out how many generations it’s been, really.”
“Ah, about the generations thing, actually… I passed by some portraits on my way here and I saw you… Did you found the school?”
She squints at me unhappily.
“Are you trying to call me old? I’m young! Youngest undead I know! Wasn’t even dead yet when the new world was discovered, boy!”
“Sorry, sorry, just, I’ve just never known anyone that old. Well, you’re the only not-living person I know…”
“It doesn’t matter if I’m a little older than the average human! I’m still attractive, aren’t I?”
Before I have a chance to speak, she grabs my hand and sticks it into her shirt. Her chest is cool, though not unpleasantly cold as she forces me to fondle her.
“See? Come on, give it a squeeze.”
It’s hard to tell if she’s being serious or not with her blank expression. She seemed a little self-conscious about it, though… I guess I could? I press my fingers into her soft skin and she flinches a bit, looking up at me.
“You know, Samuel…”
She leans close to my ear, her nose just barely touching the side of my face. Her hand snakes down my leg, dangerously close to my slowly hardening dick.
“Necrophilia is a pretty fucked up thing to be into.”
Elisabeth steps back and starts giggling again.
“Oh, lord, you shoud’ve seen your face! Not such an old lady now, am I? Lighten up, boy!”
She pats my back and starts laughing harder as I turn red from embarrassment.
“L-look! I was just wondering about the school! It’s not like I said you weren’t hot, alright? Anyone would be at least a little interested…”
Wait, that wasn’t… Dammit, she’s looking at me funny, now.
“Er… That is… Thank you, bo- Samuel. I… have a few things to attend to before doctor Grey comes, so… would you mind fetching her for me?”
“So, uh, that’s what she said, Dr. Grey.”
The elderly woman in front of me removes her glasses with a shaking hand, her pipe quivering in the other. She takes a deep breath and-
“HOW DARE THAT… THAT FUCKING CORPSE IMPERSONATING MY GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-“
She stops, out of breath, and takes a moment to have a puff on her pipe. I guess she’s calmed-
“GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-AUNT SAY THAT TO ME! AUNTIE BESSIE MY DAMNED FOOT!”
She kicks a nearby shelf, sending a number of- …Are those administration binders with the spines of more impressive books glued to them?
Doctor Grey stomps out of the room in a fury, stopped only by the heavy wooden door, which nearly knocks her over when she walks into it. Her entire body is now shaking with rage as she fumbles for the doorknob.
“ARE YOU AN IDIOT? BRING ME MY DAMN SPECTACLES, BOY!”
Once she has her glasses on, the doctor marches straight to the archives, cursing the lich what seems like every step. She throws open the doors to the dark library, the sound of an organ drowning out Dr. Grey’s stream of profanity. It sounds haunting, with the way it echoes through the shelves and vaulted ceilings, but feels somehow… Upbeat? We reach the balcony overlooking the second half of the library, and I see something… not impossible, but… strange.
Elisabeth is the one playing the organ, naturally, but it’s not that. She’s turned around to give instructions to at least a dozen zombies behind her- who are dancing a waltz in pairs, clothed in colourful dresses. I can pick out the zombie I saw before… Matilda, I think? Few of the undead below seem to be particularly good dancers, but she seems especially clumsy, stepping on her partner’s toes several times.
The song draws to an end, and Elisabeth stands and curtseys to the crowd, who return the gesture. I turn to say something to Dr. Grey, but she’s more than halfway down the stairs already. I run to keep up with her, but the yelling’s already begun by the time I reach the two.
“WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE!?”
“Well, I have to let the girls get some exercise sometimes, you know. Besides, it’s an important thing to learn, don’t you think?”
“NOT THAT! YOU ALWAYS DO THIS!”
The doctor screams in frustration and throws up her hands.
“There, there, Annie, Auntie Bessie wouldn’t do anything bad, you know that.”
“You goddamn monster! You’re probably planning to kill us all right now!”
Elisabeth gives her a hard glare, her eyes narrowing.
“Annalise Belladonna Grey.“
The lich gently places a hand on her arm.
“You’ve known me half a century, and you still think I’m going to destroy my own school? Three hundred years have passed without incident.”
The university president says nothing, but keeps her stony glare.
“I don’t mind the boy being here in the least, it gets a bit lonely with just the girls and I here. But I’d appreciate if you didn’t suspect someone who’s been harmless longer than you’ve been alive quite so much.”
Dr. Grey grumbles an inaudible response, but seems to have calmed down a bit. Elisabeth slides behind her, wrapping an arm around her shoulder.
“No need to be jealous you haven’t aged as well as I have, my dear.”
The woman seperates herself from the lich, slapping her hand away.
“I’d rather die a human, thank you very much.”
“Oh, come now, no need to be so livid about the offer. You’d be a human right to the very end- and then only dependently livid for the rest of eternity.”
“…You’re not funny, you know.”
“Oh, pooh. You’re just no fun. Stop being so serious, Annie.”
“If I’m not serious, I’m not sure who’ll actually be doing work, Dr. De Vries.”
The lich looks somewhat cowed, turning to me.
“Oh, fine, if you’re going to be like that, there’s no point in talking to you. Boy, you’re still looking for a club, aren’t you?”
I’m a bit startled that I’m being paid attention to again, and only respond with a nod.
“Well, the least you could do for making poor Samuel here spy on me every day is give him a bit of credit for it.”
“…What? Just like that, you’re letting me keep tabs on you? I’ve been in charge of the university thirty years and you just give in to surveillance like that? I’ve been trying for decades!“
“Well, you didn’t ask politely now, did you?”
The president begins yelling random profanities again, throwing her hands up in disgust before walking out with a scream of ‘DON’T THINK I TRUST YOU!’ Elisabeth smiles at me, waving at the door.
“Don’t mind her, Samuel, she’s always been like that. But… I suppose a bit of a celebration is in order. Welcome to the grand re-opening of the occult club, boy.”