- Keith Craig(kbclac)United States
Keeper Note: This was used to introduce a couple new players to Call of Cthulhu. I did not anticipate the dark turn it took but all of the players loved it. So successful game.
His eyes flutter as he slowly begins to gain consciousness. Someone screaming at the top of their lungs? He slowly lifts his head and the screaming stops. Realization that wasn’t screaming, but rather a car horn. His head was resting on the center pad of a steering wheel. Of a van cradled on the shoulder of a road; teetering above the shoulder storm drainage. Memory… faded… amnesia… who is he? Why was he in a van? Where was he? Pain. Reaching for his nose, he finds blood. A glance in the rear-view mirror to confirm his nose broken.
And that’s when he realizes he’s not along. Three others tossed about on the back bench-seat, another slumped in the passenger seat beside him. All unconscious if not dead. He reaches for his wallet, reading his driver license, “John Hastings of Los Angeles, CA.” Moaning foretells at least someone else alive, “What happened? Who are you? Who am I?” John can only offer, “I’m as clueless as you little lady; but I’d suggest you check your purse for an ID. And while you’re at it, check on the others in the back while I step out to check the damage.” A long two-lane road between miles of cornfields. Dusk hiding any other clues except the glow of a nearby city on the horizon. And the faint outline of a farmhouse maybe a half-mile away. Cold, windy, and drizzling.
Now an introduction to our characters after checking their driver's license
It’s not long before all are awake but groggy. All with amnesia. And apparently cursed as every cellphone broken. At least all have CA driver licenses, but their names meaningless: John, Jill, Simon, Albert, and Kevina. Jill and Albert dressed in business attire while everyone else wears comfortable slacks and t-shirts. And each has a “TSF” logo on his/her shirt/blouse, “Apparently we all work together.” And that’s when John realizes the van is equipped with On-Star, “Hello? I don’t know where we are but we need assistance. No major injuries; just send a tow truck. Michigan?! What the hell are we doing near Clio, Michigan? Never mind, just send a truck. I saw a sign that says McCumsey road.”
A check of the glovebox reveals the rental contract, signed September 15, 2018. Which explains the cold wind blowing across the cornfields either side of the road. A drizzle coating everything, encouraging all to wait inside the van. Electronics and wiring litter the far back of the van. As they wait, they inspect each other: John’s broken nose, Simon sporting a shiner, Jill with a cut eyebrow from her passenger seat introduction to the visor during the crash, Al bleeding from his right ear more internal (can’t hear a damn thing from that side), Kevina testing her new smile missing a front tooth. “Hey, look. I found a hotel key in my purse. ‘America’s Best Value Inn & Suites’ in Clio. Apparently, our boss has a small travel budget.” All find a similar key, individual rooms: 2, 3, 5, 6, 7. Jill begins a raspy cough, “How long were we unconscious? My throat feels raw, maybe from this chilly air?” Others chime in, “Yeah, mine’s raw too.”
Over a half-hour wait before ‘Dave’s Towing’ truck rumbles into view. “I don’t see any damage, but to be safe, I’ll pull you back onto the road then tow you in. Sorry, ya all have to cram into my cab; can’t have ya riding in the van. What day is it? Why today is Sept 17th.” Law abiding, Dave discretely smells each breath for alcohol and checks the van for open containers. Something caused them to swerve off the road. “The ABV? Yeah, that hotel is on this side of Clio. I’ll drop ya there then drop the van off at Henry’s Repair shop.”
As they enter the hotel lobby, the clerk at the desk looks up, “Back so soon? I thought you’d stay out there throughout the night. Spooky, isn’t it? Say, where’s the red-head that checked all of you in?” As most retreat to their rooms, Simon exits to find the closest bar, “I need something to quench this sore throat and headache.” The neon sign draws him across the street to Hal’s Bar & Grill. It’s a ‘Norm’ moment of silence as all the patrons turn to view the new arrival before returning to their drinks. Simon oh so polite as he barks, “What cha all staring at? Haven’t you seen a wanna-be-drunk before? Barkeep, open a tab and line them up. This’ll be a long night.”
Meanwhile, in their hotel rooms, the others soon discover additional facts about themselves. John finds professional audio tape spools on his bed. Each spool labeled with time-of-day and a different name. Interviews? Too tired to think straight or care, John clears the bed and crashes. Meanwhile, Kevina finds a manila folder on her desk; newspaper articles dating from 1965 to 2011. She sits down to read. As for Jill, she finds a laptop with file upon file of unedited video footage. A cursory view suggests they the start of a B-grade movie. As for Albert, he finds a laptop, password protected of course. No clue. But muscle memory guides his fingers to type out “Wh0YaG0nnaCa11”. The screen opens to Outlook and his last email with Subject: Cooper House. Clicking on Google, his screen opens to “The Supernatural Files”.
It’s after midnight when Al excitedly knocks on room 5, “Jill, Jill. You’re not gonna believe what I found.” Soon all are comparing their own finds. Well, except for John deep in slumber and rattling the windows with his snoring. Or Simon who still seems to be planted on some bar-stool. Thus, it’s not till morning breakfast when all are gathered to compare notes. All surprisingly feeling rested, healthy, and ready to go. Even Simon, who by all rights should be planted in his bed with a throbbing headache. “We’re a ghost-busting team doing research on the local Cooper House. The redhead the clerk mentioned is our producer, Lynn Cartwright. Al and Simon are the faces of our show, John and Jill are the audio and camera crew, while Kevina is our research gopher digging up all the facts.”
Kevina lays out her research, “In 1965 John Cooper murdered his wife and son inside the farmhouse. He kept babbling something about, ‘They were in us, me too’. John sentenced to life but he mysteriously died in prison. 1979 a body was found in a cornfield near the farm on McCumsey road. Then 1990 a teen girl goes missing after a group of kids dare to spend the night in the house. 2011 brings a Canadian crew into town to film a horror movie at the Cooper house. But the locals file an injunction to stop the ‘7 Gates Film’ crew, claiming the horror image will stunt business.” John and Jill add their part, “Apparently these last days we interviewed many locals about ghost stories related to the farmhouse. But most of our equipment is missing; no cameras, no microphones. Did we leave them somewhere or did some of the locals steal our stuff to prevent our filming? Maybe THEY ran us off the road.”
The crew decides to backtrack the last days. John picks up the van to then drop Simon and Al at the police station, but not before stopping for donuts. The others continue to the farmhouse. Thinking the crew HAD to get local permission, Simon and Al enter the station to a warm welcome, “Bearclaws, my favorite! So, how goes the movie? The chief, yep, he’s in his office. Just a minute.” Soon chief Donnie Mathews beckons them into his office, “I got nothing else to offer. Oh, dotting eyes and crossing tees. Mathews with one tee. Remember, the mayor wants final say on what you post about our fair city.” Simon and Al say goodbyes before returning to the lobby and the other cops, “Just wanted to ask once more if there are other stories or rumors you care to share.” Al notices one cop quickly turning away to busy himself, “What’s wrong with him?” “You mean James?” A stink-eyed glance tells Al to quit prying as James excuses himself for a McDonald coffee and breakfast. Simon and Al continue banter with the other cops before departing.
Around the corner, “Are you trying to get me in trouble?! I told you to keep my name out of it.” Simon takes a hard approach with Lt James, “I said I’d consider it. Listen, just repeat what you told us before.” Reluctantly James summaries his youthful story of his own venture to the farm with his friend Alexis. “Found a dead cat in the kitchen bloated and busting open with a pile of small white spiders spilling out. Not real spiders as these had various legs, some with 3 or 4 or more. Popped so easily. Then a shadowy figure at the top of the stairs; both of us swearing we heard him say ‘Pa’. Hell yeah, we ran from that place, never to return. But that was 20+ years ago. Yeah, other cases of missing persons over the years. Four in the last year; September and December of 2017, then March and June of this 2018. Out-of-towners with their abandoned cars left in front of Hal’s Bar & Grill.”
Meanwhile, John/Kevina/Jill arrive at the farm with a prominent “For-Sale” sign planted in the yard. A 2-story house with separate barn. Long abandoned and in decay. John happens to spot tire tracks that match the van. Skid marks and the spray of gravel suggests they departed in a hurry. The front door open and inviting. Inside, they find tripods and equipment left in the livingroom. Kevina is off in search of the basement (unsuccessful) while John climb the stairs looking for more equipment. Jill lugs the boom microphones to the van commenting to no-one, “Thanks for the help.” Three bedrooms upstairs littered by trespassers and drug-users. But no equipment, so he heads back downstairs into the kitchen where he finds basement stairs, “Found it.”
With flashlights in hand, they descend the stairs. The light revealing movement; small white spiders plod along the dirt floor. John retreats to the top of the stairs (arachnophobia), “I can see just find right here. Tell me what you find.” Kevina follows the spiders which flow like ants along a single path, disappearing at the cinderblock wall. Persistence till she finds a seam suggesting a secret door which she kicks open. Jill edges past John still guarding the top of the stairs as she joins Kevina in the basement.
The girls enter a narrow passage that opens to a round dirt chamber. Spider things everywhere. Mounds of them. Jills sweeps her light across the area spotting their missing handheld camera equipment. Kevina spots fingerbones protruding from the mounds. Closer look reveals more bones. As she edges closer, she just catches herself from falling as the floor drops off near a mound. And in her stumble, her light sweeps across a face pulsing with bumps. A redheaded body on the other side of the mound with spiders climbing in and out of facial orifices. Kevina’s retching draws Jill closer with a camera in hand; she too gagging and screaming at the sight. Despite her fright, she manages to capture the scene for their film and for the police. Both scrambling out of the passage and up the stairs, past John. “Gotta go. Go, go, go. Body. Dead body. Poor Lynn. Call the police.”
All rejoin at the hotel. Al passing out burner phones he purchased at the local mart to replace their broken cellphones. John and Jill setup the recovered equipment to replay the last recordings, “Back it up 30 minutes or when we enter the farmhouse.” An attractive 30-year-old woman climbs out of her Ford Edge, “I’m Vanessa, the real estate agent. Let me show you around.” A casual tour of the house before she leads them downstairs into the basement. Even John following as no spiders present. She points out the hidden door with a story of supposed buried treasure which lures the group forward.
And that’s when Lynn calls out, “Vanessa, don’t close that door!” Silence. Eerie silence before scuttling noises can be heard. Then John squealing like a girl at the sight of spiders climbing out of the ground. The camera sweeping the area with floodlights pointing to the growing mound. Sounds intensifying to suggest something large approaching. A massive creature tops the mound: spindly legs and other appendages on top. Then a human voice, “Do you want to live?” Lynn resisting and thus consumed. The clue for the others to accept their fate. The creature revealing, “You’ll be incubators of my young.” And that’s when the appendages atop the thing are shoved into each mouth. A pulsing flow of something pumped into each human.
Screaming erupts within the hotel room as each realizes what has occurred to them. Kevina clawing at her skin that now seems to ripple from something underneath. Albert rapidly blinking at the sight of something floating across his vision. Floaters within his eyeballs. He rushes out of the room to find the laundry room where he disconnects the washer hose. He then goes to the van to open the gas cap to syphon gas in hopes of a drink to kill his internal parasites. [CON99] But he gags and coughs at the fumes. barely ingesting any gas at all. But enough to cough up small globs of blood and spiders. As for Simon, he accepts his fate by shoving handfuls of sleeping pills into his mouth.
John takes control, “Stick your finger down his throat to make him vomit up those pills. We all need to confront and kill that thing. No time to waste. Shop for guns, gas, torches. We need to eradicate that thing or burn down the farm trying.” Two hours later the van pulls in front of the farmhouse. Al making Molotov cocktails, then John walking around the house pouring gas along the frame. Single file they enter the house and head for the basement with John bringing up the rear. Jill crying at her fate while Kevina stoically tries to comfort her, “First things first, we kill that spidery bitch. Then we deal with these parasites.” Simon obliviously being led along, still groggy from his pills. Al getting a Bic lighter ready with the Molotov in hand. All focused on the task ahead and thus unaware of John’s actions. For had they been listening to the “whoosh” above…
They creep thru the secret door and into the chamber. Telepathic? Or sensing danger, the spiders boil from the chamber mound. John already pouring more gas. Al lights the wick on his bottle and begins to toss the fire-bomb (failed throw 34 versus 30; pushed 86). A high-arching throw that prematurely breaks on the ceiling, igniting the gas fumes that already collect. Fire racing to the floor and the poured gas. Baby spiders popping like zits, but no mother spider. All turn to exit the fiery inferno, only to see flames already at the stairs and in the kitchen. Then realization, “John, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!?” For indeed, John had come to terms with his fate and fear of spiders. He sealed all spider-carriers inside the fire-trap. “NOOooooo!”
EPILOGUE: “Yes mam, rooms three thru seven. I’ll open them for you. You say they want you to bring their luggage to them at the farmhouse?” Vanessa followed the clerk to each room and tipped him for helping to lug the luggage and equipment into her waiting truck. All that professional and expensive equipment, Vanessa could only smile, “Now that’s not a bad birthday present for a 73-year-old.” For indeed, the deal she had made with the mother-spider those 40 years ago granted her youth. Vanessa drove to her insurance agent to file claim on her destroyed farmhouse. Money to rebuild over the ruins.
For unknown to everyone else, the house sat on top of a tunnel network that stretched globally. All the way to England where the mother-spider originated. Vanessa needed to rebuild quickly so she could lure more sacrifices that would insure her continued youth. All in the name of Eihort.
- [+] Dice rolls