John Joe was a little man – but not in real life. In reality, he was almost 6 foot 5 inches tall, but in the other world, I mean, the other universe, come on … the other reality, he was small. Little. Tiny. The said reality was the financial one. Which meant, his bank account almost didn’t exist. It was empty as a church mouses future.
And John Joe hoped for one. A future. Not a church mouse. He had mice in his house. It still was his house, his home, his place, but the only reason was, that he had inherited it by his late grandparents, 20 years ago, in a world, where he had been big – in finances. But the need for respect had made him do stupid stuff. And now he had no money, a house full of mice and a bleak future.
Not so bleak anymore. He had a plan. A good one. A strange one.
The problem was, he didn’t know, where to start.
It all had begun 2 weeks ago, on a flea market. He had sold some stuff of his late grandparents, a few old paintings, a few books, a couple of silver spoons (none of those were real, he had found tests on the internet). In the middle of the afternoon, maybe 3 or 4 pm, he was ready to get up, go home, get a six-pack of beer and a six-pack of sausages on his grill, when a shadow appeared in front of him. The guy, who stood there, was so thin, that John Joe had to look twice to see him once. He loved that joke, but the joke spoke. „That book“, he said. His thin fingers pointed at one of grandmothers recipe books. The cover had been red, was bruised, so bruised, that some of the weird symbols were almost recognizable.
„Whom does this book belong to?“
„It belongs to me. It could belong to you, if you give me a few bucks.“
„My boy“, the man said, his voice showed the slightest tremor of exalt. „Who are you?“
John Joe said his name. His full name.
The man waved his head. „That’s good, nice, interesting. And a few bucks are a few bucks, right?“
„What do you mean, Mr…?“
„Let me say so: I knew your family. We were friends, a few decades ago. Almost an eternity ago.“ The man smiled and every tooth of his mouth smiled too.
„I don’t know you. I moved here 20 years ago, when I was younger, but I haven’t seen you around.“
„Well, a lifetime is a lifetime“, the man sighed.
„So, you you want that book?“, John asked.
„I want more than the book.“
„I am rich. But I am old. May I ask you of a favor?“
„As long as you don’t kill me or take the rest of my money … ask away.“
„May I visit your house, the house of your late grandparents, for a week. Or maybe three days. I give you a thousand dollars a day. When I find, what I think I find, I will give you 10 thousand dollars.“
The shock of these numbers numbed Joes brain for a moment. Then he nodded. „Can I trust you?“
„As far as your grandparents trusted me back in the days, yes. The name is Elizah Dunwic.“
Today was the day. The weather was nice and cool. The seaside-winds were blowing, enhancing the old shadows of the houses of the road with clouds of white and gray marbles. The sun looked forlorn behind a wall of trees, which stood in the garden and the surrounding woods of Emerdale. John Joe always thought of these trees as guardians, he had – when he as a child – felt their eyes, heard their motions, their whispers. The always had felt good when he had been near them. That was, of course, over and now, at the age of nearly 40, the magic had gone. Sometimes, at night, when he had woken up from dreams, he couldn’t remember later, he had heard their words, their wooden tongues praying in the darkness.
When he had moved it, he had taken over only a part of the house. Kitchen, living room, the old bed of his late grandparents. He hadn’t changed much. The old paintings were still hanging on the walls, the furniture were still full with clothes, he would never wear. The dusty books in the shelves, which stood on 3 of 4 walls of the living room kept attracting dust.
„Maybe that Dunwic guy would buy a few of them“, he thought, when he inspected the almost unreadable spines of the tomes. „Or a few paintings.“
He could have sold them on the flea market or to some libraries, but for the first choice, the people here wouldn’t buy them – and the libraries, which had already asked, wouldn’t give him any money. Not even the Arkham one. Which he supposed being not real. He was a normal guy with money problems, but even he was able to disconnect reality from fantasy. He had read Lovecraft and Poe, Dunsany and Smith, even the new stuff by other writers. But he had always felt disconnected from their nightmares. Maybe that was, because he had lost his parents because of that stuff. He didn’t hate writers, he just remembered the demise of his father, who had collected weird fiction from weird countries and when he had gone missing, his mother had gone mental. Her last months on this earth included a padded cell in a nearby psychiatric factory, screaming her soul out of her body. John Joe had not visited her in that time. He had been far away and not knowing, what had happened. Only a letter from his grandparents had informed him, that now he was an orphan and if he liked to visit them, he could. „See your heritage, my boy“, were the words, his grandfather had written. And now, 25 years later, he lived inside that heritage and it was not worth his consideration.
Well, okay, most of the time, he had been working in other countries, supporting the locals with medicine and security – he had been a doctor, but not a real one, more like a soldier with special abilities and the United States were sending him a check being a VFW, but he never had considered himself a soldier. Or a doctor. He wasn’t sure, what his job description had been, but it probably was because he drank too much and remembered too little.
The building had 3 levels and a cellar, it had a garden of several hundred square-feet, a few dozen trees, which looked older than the house. The house itself looked already old, even it was only 100 or 120 years old now. The windows were rotten, die glass stained, the three doors (one on the front, one in the back, one on the side, opening directly to the cellar) looked as if they would have given up years ago, but they stood. The wood was old and hard, as his grandfather had been. And he had inherited it by his own grandfather. Jumping over a generation was the usual practice. Johns father had been a nautical officer, not a captain but something like that. He had never been home, so John Joe had never the need to become a father himself. Even though his grandfather had told him repeatedly, that he needed offspring, because the family had to stay. Not one family, our family. As if they had a real heritage. Coming from some hinterland, some back-land region of a large country back in the days, the rituals of their ancestors were important. Not for John Joe. But for everyone else.