I do not own anything relating to the Teen Titans.
Opening the Closet Door a Crack – Chapter 1
Mankind is a young creature. Even on earth, there are countless other creatures that predate him. Being young, he has the foolish fantasy that he is the master of the universe, the lord of his dominion, the pinnacle of existence.
As with the young everywhere, he will be disabused of this foolishness. There are entities outside human ken that would look on this foolishness and put him into his proper place. Beyond time and space dwell a myriad of beings and concepts that would shatter man's fragile psyche, both individually and collectively.
Oh yes, man has met many races beyond his own, kryptonians, martians, tamareans, thanagarians, among many others. And most of these races are older and, if not wiser, at least more aware of the dangers that the universe holds. Even those beings termed 'Gods', the lords of New Genesis, Apokolypse and OA, are aware of the…fragile…nature of existence, that beyond the walls of reality within the universe, there are older beings.
Being young, both as a race and individually, man has not yet built up the ability to...accept?...yes, that term will do for the moment…that there are forces beyond their abilities to handle, to understand, to tolerate, and still maintain some semblance of sanity.
Imagine if you will, a small child, asleep, in a dark bedroom. The child awakens in the middle of the night. There are sounds, creaking, quietly shifting place, while the child lies in bed. Looking around the previously familiar room, the child realizes that there are shadows, images that, if the child only allowed himself to see, would reveal the world as it is at that moment. But he keeps his eyes shut tight against the sounds of the night.
Mankind is that child, willfully keeping his eyes shut against the terror of the night.
Let's, if you will, open the child's eyes so that he may see the room. It is not a full moon, so there is little moonlight and, how unfortunate, the child's night light has been extinguished. There is nothing but the dark and the shadows, and the creaking sounds of the room around him.
The child looks around, desperately trying to restore some semblance of order, of understanding to the shadows of the room. His dresser is there, the chair with his clothes draped over them looks scary, but he convinces himself that the clothes are just what he was wearing earlier; it is not a monster waiting to grab him once he shuts his eyes. Over in the corner is the closet.
The door is shut. Did he leave it open last night? He doesn't remember. All that could be in there are his clothes, some of his toys, some school papers. That's all he hopes is in there. Did he leave the door open or not? The closet is dark, darker than the room, darker than under the bed. He hears a creak. When he was just a little kid, he believed a monster lived in the closet. But he was just a little kid then. There are no creatures, creatures beyond human comprehension, in the closet.
Did he leave the door open last night?
Perhaps, perhaps, it wouldn't hurt to check, just make sure that the door is really shut. Of course, there are no beings from being time and space lying in wait, but we really should check to make sure the door is shut tight. Rising from the bed, the child slowly makes his way to the closet, it's shut.
Did he leave the door open last night?
Maybe he should check. What could it hurt? There are no entities unimaginable waiting for him, ready to take advantage of his momentary exposure. He listens carefully at the door. Is that a shifting inside, a creak? No, he's imagining it. Still, perhaps he should check. Perhaps,
It wouldn't hurt to open the closet door just the smallest crack, would it?
Excursions into the darkness should begin in the earlier hours of the morning, in the depths of decrepit, ichor draped mansions as foolish explorers tempt the fates, wondering if they hadn't pushed those three hags one time too many.
This excursion began on a bright sunny day, however, in a tower of shining steel and glass. As to whether these same residents have pushed the three hags one time too many, that has yet to be determined. The events that will play out over the coming weeks will reveal whether this is the case. Until then, we must let the strands of life play out as the hags decide.
Said tower was the home to five young adventurers, heroes to many, adversaries to some. Together, they had faced many challenges, ordinary villainy, monumental, world threatening evil. Yet, this coming challenge would test each in a different way. Whether they would survive, whole, unfazed, sane, would be the test.
And, as with many life changing events, it began with the simplest of actions. There was a knock at the door. Or rather, the doorbell rang, as this was not the aforementioned decrepit mansion, but a modern tower. An orange girl, warrior from the far distant stars, flew to the door. Thus, actions are set in motion. Let us see where they lead.
Opening the door, Starfire looked out to see who had rung the doorbell. Before her stood a middle aged man of average height. A bit of a haughty, aristocratic look was on his face, although he showed the beginning pattern of baldness. His eyes were a dark, dark brown. There was an intelligence there, unfortunately, there was little joy in those eyes, simply an awareness of things that needed to be done. He was carrying a rather large, battered, leather briefcase that he clutched tightly.
"May I help you?" asked the princess from the stars. It wasn't often that the Titans received visitors, at least ordinary visitors. Villains and pizza delivery boys didn't count.
"Good morning," the gentleman replied in a rather dead sounding voice. "My name is Dr. Howard Phillips, I'm the president of Jump City University. If it would be possible, might I speak with you and the other Titans?"
"You are speaking to me now," answered Starfire in a rather puzzled voice. Why did this man need to ask to speak to her if he was already speaking to her? Sometimes, human habits were strange beyond belief.
"Miss, might I speak with you collectively at the same time? I have a matter of some urgency that I was hoping the Titans could assist me with. Might I come in?"
"Certainly, if there is something we can do to help you, I am certain that we will do whatever we can."
"That is my most fervent hope." With that, Starfire led Dr. Phillips into the tower and they made their way to the common room. At the moment, only Beast Boy and Raven were there, he watching a rather mindless cartoon, she reading a thick book and periodically telling him to turn the volume down so she could concentrate. It was part of the game. Certainly, if she REALLY wanted to concentrate, she would go to her room. But both were enjoying each other's company, even if they refused to admit it, so they bickered back and forth.
"Friends, we have a visitor that would like to speak with us all. Where are Robin and Cyborg?"
In her familiar monotone, Raven replied, "I'm sure Robin is either in his workroom or the gym, and Cyborg"
"Dude's in the garage working on his 'baby'," interrupted Beast Boy. "I'll call him. If he spends any more time on that thing, they'll be off on their honeymoon together." Opening up his communicator, Beast Boy called, "Hey, Tin Man, come on up to the common room, we have a visitor."
Meanwhile, after shooting the shapeshifter a dirty look for interrupting her, Raven had called Robin to request his presence as well. She then asked the gentleman, "Can we get you anything, tea, coffee, a soda?"
"If I might have a cup of tea, that would be appreciated. The story and request I have is quite complex and it might take a while to discuss."
Her interest peaked, Raven went over to the kitchen to prepare two cups of tea, two cups of coffee (one each for Cyborg and Robin) and a cup of mustard (guess who). Beast Boy could fend for himself, besides, he wasn't allowed caffeine. The hyperactive hero was always in a caffeinated state as far as she was concerned. Raven brought the tray of refreshments over to the common room and put it on the table in front of where Dr. Phillips was sitting. She handed him a cup of tea and took one herself. As she neared the doctor, she felt the smallest trace of something out of place. It wasn't an emotion precisely, just an uneasiness surrounding the area. It didn't even seem to come from him. It reminded her of something, but she couldn't place it.
Robin and Cyborg entered the room and came over to the couch. Dr. Phillips rose. "Ah, excellent, now that everyone is present, my name is Dr. Howard Phillips and I'm the president of Jump City University and I'm here on a matter of some importance."
"Certainly, won't you please sit down?" Robin responded with some respect. Everyone sat down again. "What can we do for you?"
"Well, Robin," began Dr. Phillips, "I'm concerned with the disappearance of the head of our head of anthropology department, Randolph Carter."
"So, we're looking for a guy who's digging up a bunch of old bones?" interjected Beast Boy.
Slapping him alongside the head, Raven said, "That's archeology. Anthropology is the study of human cultural and societal roots."
Chuckling, Dr. Phillips responded, "Actually, as far as Dr. Carter is concerned, Beast Boy isn't too far off. You could always find him in various graveyards and ancient sites. His specialty is religious and cultural legends. He has a number of theories regarding pre-historic religious and cult influences on modern societal behavior. But I digress. Dr. Carter, as is his wont, went off this summer on one of his searches. For several weeks, he would phone into me to keep me apprised of his activities."
While Dr. Phillips was speaking, Beast Boy got up. This was not unusual, sitting still (unless in front of his gamestation) was difficult for him. This seemed different however. Instead of the aimless wandering that generally characterized his roaming, Beast Boy paced back and forth behind the couch. Walking from one end to the other and back. Looking at him, you were reminded of tigers in a cage, stalking back and forth.
"Roughly two weeks ago, all communication with Dr. Carter ceased. Now, it isn't unusual that we wouldn't hear from him for a week or so, but two weeks is a little long. And there is a second factor.."
Robin interrupted him at this point, "Excuse me professor. BEAST BOY, SIT DOWN!"
Beast Boy suddenly came to himself and looked at Robin, then wordlessly moved back in front of the couch and sat down.
"Sorry, professor, would you continue" Robin said.
"Yes, well, the second factor is that the academic season is ready to start in five days. Dr. Carter has not returned to prepare for the season and his duties. No matter where he is, he always is back one week prior to classes and begins to prepare. He's highly responsible."
Beast Boy got up and resumed his pacing. This time, however, every so often, in the middle of his pacing, he would stop and stand perfectly still, as if listening for something, reminiscent of a deer or rabbit that is listening for a predator.
"The fact that we lost contact with him, he's overdue for the season, and that he's left his original destination and has traveled somewhere else."
"Excuse me, sir," interrupted Cyborg. "How do you know he's moved somewhere else?"
"Well, several weeks ago, during one of his phone calls to me, he mentioned that he was on the trail of an ancient cult of water god worshippers. He was extremely excited, even for him. At the time, he didn't know exactly how the evidence would turn out, but it sounded promising. I'm assuming that something caused him to actively pursue this lead as when I called his hotel, I was told he checked out several weeks ago, shortly after he spoke to me. That was our last communication, by the way."
"I assume he left no message or forwarding address….BEAST BOY SIT DOWN!" shouted Robin.
Beast Boy sat down, fidgeting, again. Raven leaned over to him and whispered, "What is with you? Even for you, you're hyper."
The shapeshifter looked around and whispered back hesitatingly, "I don't know, something's weird. All my animal senses are going nuts. I keep getting the feeling that there's danger here, something…." And his voice trailed off.
Raven looked at him thoughtfully. Remembering the odd feeling she had earlier, she began to take greater notice of her surroundings. Beast Boy was irritating, juvenile and foolish. But he had been a hero longer than any of them, with the possible exception of Robin. If he sensed something, it was worth paying attention. She would never tell him that, though. Sending out her senses, she got that curious feeling of familiarity, just a hint of unease, of something upsetting the ley lines of the earth. She still couldn't pin it down. Returning to the conversation, she picked up the thread again.
"Dr. Carter left a number of notes and papers, most of which I can't understand, not being an expert in his field. Actually, there are very few experts in his field, he IS the expert."
Beast Boy got up again and resumed his pacing. You could almost see Robin's blood pressure rise at this. "BEAST BOY"
Raven interrupted him, "Leave him be. Something's setting off his animal senses. We'll get to the bottom of that after we finish here." Startled that Raven was defending him, Robin stopped in mid rebuke. He nodded to Raven, he also realized that if BB's senses were going off, there was little the teen could do until they figured out what the issue was.
Dr. Phillips looked puzzled at the team. "I'm sorry, is there a problem?"
"No," answered Robin wearily, "Because of Beast Boy's, ah, unusual situation, sometimes things happen that take a while to explain. I apologize for the interruption."
Shrugging, Dr. Phillips continued, "Very well. To resume, Dr. Carter left a number of notes and papers, many of which I've brought with me if you agree to help as well as one of the last works he was examining, a very rare book that the university recently acquired, one of our great treasures."
Robin looked around at the other titans, things had been quiet recently and if it seemed they would be gone for more than a day or so, they could always call for backup, just like they did with the Brotherhood of Evil. Cyborg, Raven and Starfire all nodded their affirmation. Beast Boy, distracted, continued his pacing.
"Certainly, we'll be glad to help you locate Dr. Carter. In that case, may we begin examining his notes so that we can get started?" Robin replied.
Dr. Phillips gave a small, relieved smile, "Thank you. Although Dr. Carter is a very valued colleague, he's also a friend. His disappearance has been quite disturbing. As I said, I have a number of papers and notes that he left behind. In addition, I've received permission from the board of regents to remove this book from our library. Please take care of it, there are only six known copies in the world. It is in extremely poor condition, unlike some of the others. However, we are the only university on the west coast to have this book." Dr. Phillips smiled proudly and began to remove the papers and an encased book, sealed in multiple plastic wrappings.
"I personally know very little about it, however, Princeton University has a copy, a small university in New England has a copy, there is one in the British Museum, one in the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris and the final copy is in the University of Buenos Aires. It's rumored that the Vatican has one as well, but, that's never been confirmed. So, for Jump City U to have a copy puts us on the historical map. The mere fact that this unknown sixth copy even became known to the world is a matter of historical luck. Apparently, it was hidden in a private collection for many years."
All the while, Dr. Phillips had been carefully and slowly unwrapping the tome. It had been sealed in layers of plastic casings and bags to preserve it as well as possible. The book looked extremely old and battered, the cover half burned away. Finally, the last covering was revealed. As Dr. Phillips opened the final cover, two things happened.
With the opening of the cover, Raven gave a small gasp and a look of terror came upon her face. She got up from her seat and RAN from the room. This was hardly noticed.
What was noticed was upon the opening of the final seal, Beast Boy gave a loud snarl and, without changing, leaped for the professor, hands extended, teeth bared, a wild, feral look in his eyes.
And so begins our decent into the dark. For those of you who know, the clues are there. For those who don't, the decent will be long and deep. Whether any will survive, only the three hags (and your dutiful storyteller) know for sure.
Until next time my friends.