Just another day on the streets of Ankh-Morpork…
The woman strode busily down the street, muttering to herself. Under the large hat she habitually wore, she looked like a self-propelled fruit salad moving at shoulder height for averagely sized people.
I tole her….. there was going to be trouble! But she wouldn't be tole….
It was interesting how often people stepped politely out of her way, flattening themselves against handy walls in some extreme cases, as if possessed of some precognitive sense of their own that told them blocking her way or impeding her progress was going to mean trouble.
These days, Evadne Cake hardly needed to switch her own precognition on to assure her of event-free mobility in the city of Ankh-Morpork. She was getting to be too well known for that.
Silly, silly, woman… makes contact once and thinks she's an experienced medium… there's none so dangerous as them who thinks they knows it all…
Mrs Cake was on a mission. So intent was she on her destination that she walked right past the two muggers in the alley and didn't notice them. However, they noticed her: the more experienced of the two gave his associate a series of frightened, emphatic, headshakes, and they too stood politely aside to let her pass.
Last time I tried to warn the wizards… stuck-up buggers never listened…
She turned into Pseudopolis Yard and marched up to the reception desk, heedless of the queue, and banged on the woodwork with the handle of her umbrella for attention.
Sergeant Fred Colon looked up, then down a little, and groaned. He recognised trouble when he saw it.
"Mrs Cake" he said, as unconcernedly as he could manage, cursing the rota that had made him Duty Sergeant at this place and time. "How may the Watch assist you?"
"There's going to be trouble, sergeant!" she said, glaring up at him and challenging his to disbelieve her.
"In what way, Mrs Cake?" Colon asked.
"You've got to get people over to Elm Street. Now. When I turned me precognition on earlier, I seen big trouble. That stupid stuck-up Daphne Moleclencher, she fancies herself as a psychic medium, right? Well, she's going to channel more than she's bargained for, and it ain't pretty. She needs stoppin'!"
Colon sighed. This was what Sam meant about letting magic, of any kind, into Watch business. How the heck could the Watch stop a crime that hadn't happened yet and was only going to happen on the say-so of a daft old woman who shuffled a glass around a table?
Well, yes, said Fred Colon's inner policeman. But this old biddy has a reputation for being right on the button. And if she thinks there's going to be trouble, I'd better listen.
He pressed the discreet bell for "assistance needed", and said
"Please begin, mrs Cake".
Within five minutes, Captain Carrot had turned up at the desk, and had also listened to the story with an expression of grave concern.
"667 Elm Street, you say, Mrs Cake? Where a…psychic séance…is about to begin? "
"That's what I said, Mr Carrot!" she replied, firmly. "You got to get people there and stop it. Arrest the bloody stupid woman afore she causes damage!"
"It's not as simple as that, Mrs Cake" he said. "As you yourself know, holding a psychic séance is not illegal in Ankh Morpork, so no crime has been or will be committed. I can't go out arresting… Mrs Moleclencher… with no grounds to do so. Nor a group of people lawfully convening to, as you put it, Lift the Veil for a glimpse of the Beyond. I perfectly realise you allege that they're about to provoke a major supernatural disturbance, but the Watch cannot step in unless or until the said major supernatural disturbance becomes manifest."
Mrs Cake looked at him, coldly.
"And that's it, is it?"
"No, we can send a patrol out there to monitor the situation."
Carrot turned to Colon.
"Make it Constable Dorfl and two trolls, would you?"
"Right away, sir" Colon said.
"And send a message up to the University. A suspected Code Twenty-Three. Assistance requested."
There were quite a few Watchmen in the public area of the Yard. All of them stopped at the mention of a code 23. This is not one a watchman likes to hear, as its meaning covers Things with Tentacles, Spiritual Manifestations of the Hostile Kind, Incursions From the Dungeon Dimensions, Tentacles, Elf-Attack, Possible Rending of the Fabric of Reality, Tentacles, and Manifestation of Cththonic Horrors Of Which Man Should Wot Not. Code 23 was invoked only rarely, but in the past, it had involved events such as fifty-feet women turning into chthonic multi-tentacled monstrosities, and the grim aftermath of Mr Hong's opening night at the fish shop on Dagon Street.
Accordingly, quite a lot of watchmen found other things to do, before being co-opted into a Squad.
"Get everyone you can, Fred, and get them to bring the crowd-control barriers and the black and yellow tape. We'll need to cordon the area off to make it easier for Mr Ridcully and his operatives."
Carrot paused. A slightly built middle-aged man in a black suit and bowler hat stood in front of him. He tipped the hat.
"Patrician's compliments, Captain. Lord Vetinari is desirous of a report as to how you intend to get the undesirable psychic intrusion at number 667 Elm Street under control."
"Well…. you can see it all around you. Please inform His Lordship that we're sealing the area off and we have requested assistance from Arch-chancellor Ridcully. Oh, and from Mrs Cake, of course."
"Very good, captain. If I were you I'd get over there as soon as. Things are developing." said the Dark Clerk.
"I've got a wagon outside, sir." Colon said.
"Let's go!" Carrot decided, and led the way, Mrs Cake determinedly tagging on.
"Are we all here? Good. Then we may begin." Mrs Daphne Moleclencher began. She ran through everything in her mind, ticking items off. Circular table. All sitters holding hands to best channel the force. A pan of sprouts set to simmer in the kitchen, occasionally sending its reassuring waft into the séance room. She'd have to do something about the name, she thought. "Daphne" was alright – a cut above the usual Doris, and beginning with the same letter "D" that was right and proper for a psychic medium. But "Moleclencher" needed some work. It didn't sound right.
Who was here.. oh yes, Mrs Cookham, looking for news from her last husband and hints as to her next one. Mr Pettigrew, the self-styled psychic researcher. Young miss Lewisham, who considered herself somewhat psychic and wanted to Develop. Bjorn Pettistrop, the Dwarf. Mr Milgram, the accountant.
Good, five sitters, at five dollars each to cover her expenses. Not that she was in it for the money, of course. Daphne genuinely believed in her psychic ability. Ever since Misqamacus had come to her in dreams, and explained that he wanted to be her Red Indian Spirit Guide. She had been delighted. Misqamacus had been the ideal, the epitome, of the race that everyone knew was the most spiritually advanced on the disc. And in life, he'd been a powerful medicine-man, too! OK, maybe she shouldn't have boasted about it to Evadne Cake, as it really wasn't her fault, poor woman, that the only spirit guide she could attract was that drunken reprobate One-Man-Bucket. The right race, yes, but a witless drunk who'd fallen, dead drunk, under a laden cart, was nothing to boast about, in her opinion.
Her spirit guide was a shaman, a medicine man, no doubt a wise and sagely kindly old man who had perfected his soul and his karma over a succession of earthly lives. She pictured him as a benign soul, a spirit of light and compassion, who, although he had no need to concern himself with this world any more, was out of the kindness and wisdom of his heart voluntarily returning in Spirit, to guide those further down the road of perfection than himself.
And Misqamacus promised he'd introduce me to some real chiefs! she exulted. That's one in the eye for Evadne Cake. No wonder she went off with her nose in a sling muttering about no good coming of this.
"Are we ready to close the circle?" she asked, rather rhetorically. Her sitters clasped hands, as if in a well-practiced drill, and sat up expectantly. Daphne dimmed the oil-lamp to a faint flickering glow, casting the window, with its heavy-draped windows, into darkness. Deeper shadows condensed in the nooks and corners. Miss Lewisham shivered, somewhat theatrically. Daphne took her seat, clasped the free hand of Miss Lewisham to her right and Mr Milgram to her left, and begun.
Is there anybody there?
There was a faint rattling noise in the distance, faint and faraway, that grew nearer and resolved itself into the thrumming of drums.
Is there anybody there?
The Indian drums grew louder and nearer. Miss Lewisham thought she could hear, on the very verge of sound, chanting.
Is there anybody there? I invite you now, kindly spirit, to use me and speak through me..
Dahpne's voice abruptly deepened and coarsened.
"I am here! I, Misqamacus, master of manitous!"1 (1)
Miss Lewisham looked over to her left, thinking This is for real!
Then she looked again and screamed. Unfortunately for her and everyone in that room, it was for real…
Carrot took control on the ground on Elm Street. Number 667 looked quiet enough, but a tiny little psychic node in his forebrain was twitching with a sense of foreboding.
"Fred, I want the barriers set up five doors down either side from 667. Put out an All Persons, Cheery. We need more Watchmen. Reg, Visit - knock on doors inside the cordon. Get the houses evacuated."
"Do you think it's a good idea sending Visit knocking on doors when we need people to answer them, sir?" Reg Shoe asked.
Constable Visit-The-Infidel-With-Explanatory-Pamphlets gave his colleague a dark hurt look.
Carrot considered. "He'll have to do. It's an emergency. At the very least he might induce the householders to evacuate via the back door. It's been known. No leaflets, Visit, this is an emergency!"
"I've got an appropriate one about the Ungodly and Evil nature of psychic séances, sir…"
He dodged to avoid a slap from Mrs Cake.
"Sauce! I've attended more temples than you've had doors slammed in your face, young man!"
"Ah, but you only need ever attend one, Mrs Cake…"
"Knock on doors, Visit!"
"Right away, sir!"
Very soon, other Watchmen ran up and were assigned to help with the evacuation. A stream of bewildered people was soon passing behind the dubious safety of the crowd-control barriers, where other citizens were massing to watch the street theatre.
"Nothing's happening yet! I'm bored, mummy!" protested a small child, demonstrating that small children do not always have an innocent untutored innate psychic ability, before the educatative process and relentless onset of adulthood starts to knock it out of them. It received a clip round the ear from Mummy.
"All these Watchmen and the barriers. They wouldn't lay this on for nothing, would they?" snapped Mummy. "Now shut up and wait!"
"Sergeant Angua!" a familiar voice called. "What is happening, please?" It had spoken in Überwaldean. She turned and saw Otto Chriek, who had secured a front-row space for himself and his equipment by virtue of the fact nobody wants to stand too near a Vampire.
"We don't know yet. We've had a Code drei-und-zwanzig reported from a reliable informant. We're waiting for wizards to advise us."
"drei-und-zwanzig, hein? That has to do with Manifestations, yes?"
"Yes." Angua said. For some unaccountable reason she felt slightly dizzy, as if something unwholesome were nearby. Otto made an "I have just realised!" face and said, with concern
"Do not stand too close to me, Sergeant. The reason is that I am experimenting with a true camera, which does away with demons and imps. It relies for its capture of image on the reaction of light with silver nitrate. You would find it toxic, I think."
"It'll never catch on, guv'nor!" said a muffled little voice from inside a more conventional iconograph. Otto negligently slapped it. "Besides, it only does black and white! We do colour!"
"I apologise. For some reason the picture-demons are a little bit skittish today. I don't know what's getting into them, I really don't."
"The threat of redundancy, guv'nor! We'll start a union!"
Otto slapped the box again.
"Behave, if you please!"
"Thanks for telling me" Angua said, gratefully, and edged away, feeling her strength return. Now she knew why there was no such thing as a werewolf iconographer. Silver nitrate film would have much the same effect on her as flash light on Otto.
Meanwhile, Mrs Cake appeared to be having a conversation with thin air.
"You there, Bucket? Bucket?"
"What do you want?" a whispered disembodied voice spoke in her ear, as if the owner was trying not to attract attention.
"You alone on the Astral Plane? What do you see?"
"It's bloody dangerous up here right now!" Bucket half-whispered, half-hissed. "I'm going to find me a new happy hunting ground if this carries on!"
"So you're not alone?" Carrot asked. Mrs Cake relayed the message.
"Nnngggh" said Bucket. There was a dead silence for a while.
"That was close!" Bucket exhaled. "Luckily, they ain't looking for me. They're hanging around a doorway some silly sod's about to open. You've got to stop them, Mrs Cake, Mr Policeman!"
"Who, exactly?" Carrot and Mrs Cake asked together.
"Other Indians. Real bastards. Real evil bastards. We don't say their name out loud, like you people and elves, you know? These Indians could give nasty lessons to elves!"
Carrot and Mrs Cake looked at each other, necessitating her looking a long way up and he looking a long way down.
"Like elves, you say?" Carrot asked, touching his breastplate just to make sure.
"oh, shit, the doorway's opening! Brace yourselves!"
Bucket paused a second. "They're all through. Right. You know Red Indians have a reputation for being noble and wise and psychically advanced? That's why so many of us get to be spirit guides?"
"Yes!" said Mrs Cake, who still, all these years later, wondered why she'd drawn Bucket.
"These are the other sort. There's a heap big powerful medicine man called Misqamacus, right? Evil bastard. Hates white men. Mind you, he hates Howondaland blacks as well, and can't stand brown-skinned Klatchians, and I bet if he ever met any Agateans he'd hate them too. Fair-minded evil bastard, I suppose. But heap powerful. "
"Get to the bloody point, Bucket!" she requested
And them buggers with him. They're Apache, Mrs Cake! Apaches! The one race Elves point at and say "Ooh, they're nasty!" Apaches!"
And then the screaming started.
Daphne Moleclencher stood up. Only she wasn't Daphne Moleclencher any more. Her face and figure had subtly altered and were now those of a copper-skinned Indian wearing buckskins and a crudely painted head-mask. The design on the mask was crudely humanoid, in that it had eye-holes, a nose and a mouth, but two deer-horns protruded in the correct places. The overall effect was of something sinister and evil, and the glinting of malevolent eyes from inside the mask was just a courtesy detail.
Breaking the grip of Mr Milgram, the apparition seized Miss Lewisham by both hands and hauled her upright. Swinging her against the wall, it laughed, the echoes of the laughter bouncing around inside the mask as he hauled her hands up over her head. As Mr Milgram tried to intervene, the creature gestured, and unseen force slammed him against the other wall.
Ghostly cords appeared, binding themselves around Ethylene Lewisham's wrists and tugging her further up, until her feet were barely touching the floor.
"Free! And out of the Netherworld! Come, brothers. The two men here are yours! Take them!"
As Misqamacus turned his attention to Mrs Cookham, binding her to the wall in the same way he'd bound Miss Lewisham, the two men stiffened and convulsed. Mr Pettigrew had almost made it to the door; but a force pulled him back. The two tied women watched in horror as Mr Pettigrew and Mr Milgram changed. Their features flowed and altered. Their chests expanded and became absurdly wide for their bodies. Their legs bowed slightly. Their faces became wide and flat and copper-coloured and their hair long lank and black. Their clothes changed to a motley of buckskin and homespun. Both carried cruel knives in their waist-sashes.
"Welcome, Golathlé! Welcome, Dasoda-hae! Together we will fight and overcome the pinda-lickoyhe and return to our ancestral lands!"
"It is good, Misquamacus. Good to be in flesh again and out of the netherworld!" said the one called Golathlé. The one called Dasoda-hae merely nodded. He was an Apache of few words.
The two women bound by magic to the wall started screaming. The sixth in the room, who had escaped detection, hid under the draped table and patted his axe, waiting for the moment…
Dasoda-hae drew his knife, leered, and moved over to the bound women. He tickled mrs Cookham under the chin with it. Terrified, she registered real steel. Sharp steel. With nothing ectoplasmic or ephemeral about it.
"Mangas Coloradas. I know you want to test your old skills and enjoy yourself. Soon, my friend. But not here. These two are part of the price for our crossing over. Our elder brothers and sisters, the Wendigo, require a sacrifice as their payment for holding the door open for them."
Misqamacus turned to the women, his eyes glittering manically.
"Your... Daphne... was a useful tool. She had some small power, and it served to open the doorway from this world, just as I was opening it from the Netherworld. I find it amusing she considered we of the People to be pacifist and spiritually advanced and keen to serve mankind. Her naivity served us well. "
He waved a hand towards the two grinning Apaches.
"I promised to show her Indian chiefs. I kept my word. The Yawner here, and Mangas Coloradas, were in life great chiefs of the People. Did you know how Mangas got his name? No? Many years ago, explorers from your lands of Toledo and Brindisi were, ah, guests of the Apache nation. Almost the last words of your Ponce de Toleda, before he unfortunately expired, were a remark on the way Dasoda-hae's sleeves were coloured up to the shoulder. Mangas Coloradas, you see. Coloured Sleeves found he liked the sound of the name. The colour in question was quite a bright roja. To the shoulders."
The women continued screaming, eyes wide in terror. The invisible drums continued to pound and the chanting was now quite audible.
T'kela la! T'kela la! Cthulu F'tha'gn! Tkela la!
"The Wendigo (2) are coming, lady. Do you not hear them? They gave me the power, if I would make them a doorway. And they require placating once they arrive in this world. No, I did not save you from Red Sleeves out of kindness..."
(1) Misquamacus appears as a character in British supernatural fiction writer Graham Masterton's novels. Look up The Manitou and The return of the Manitou in which this Indian shaman is a central character.
(2) the Wendigo is a cruel and misshapen Indian spirit, hostile and inimical to mankind. H.P. Lovecraft incorporated them into the Cthulu mythos, but did not invent them. Their description is suspiciously close to the way terry Pratchett describes the Things of the Dungeon Dimensions. Yes, this is a plot giveaway.