Genius Loci
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Agent Sherman walked the length of the covered bridge, like every night. Maybe the haunt would show up. Or not. Such a sad little specter. With no reason to hate humanity other than having been brought into existence by them. The specter most likely didn't even know, anyway. Even the egg heads didn't agree on that. What they agreed on was the patrols and blocking off the road when needed. No-one wanted to clean up another panic-induced car crash on that bridge.

Agent Leroux jogged on the path circling the lake. Tourists picnicked, and laughed, and kayaked over the still, round mirror nested in the crater. Children sat on the ominous rocks the local peasantry had named the Devil's Throne. The bustling, joyful atmosphere left no clue as to why it had been the lacus pavens, "Terror Lake", to Roman invaders. Decades earlier, skeptic scientists had proven its waters no more poisonous than they were bottomless. And that was for the best; such dangerous legends were unneeded.
Leroux took a less trodden path off the circular trail. The dark, round hole at the end was his last stop for the day. Not the gate to Hell the locals once thought it was. It only was an opening in a long cooled lava flow, hiding another lake that sat quietly underground, far from the eyes of curious visitors.

Agent Meyer watched the barges lazily going up and down the river. He lit a cigarette. Listened intently for a while. Nothing out of the ordinary. Wind and traffic and the muffled voices of tourists carried on the wind. Too cold to dive today, he thought. But he didn't decide the maintenance schedule. He crossed his equipment checklist: noise-canceling earphones in a waterproof bag, security card, oxygen bottles… And one five grams ingot of fine gold. Who knew why? He didn't write the containment procedures either.

Louise de Chavialle tamped the bowl of her meerschaum pipe. Rubbed the smooth, yellowing back of an ivory cat. Flipped through a box of records and pulled an old 78-RPM from a crumbling sleeve. Amidst crackles and pops, the dark notes of Alkan's music filled the laboratory. Her laboratory… When her colleagues had moved on to pristine, high-tech whiteness, the place still had the charm of a forgotten wunderkammer. The dust of one, too… Few ever came knocking at her door.

The Department of Ethnography once had its heyday. Now it was only her. The boys at Memetics, they didn't understand the patterns they were weaving. The anomalies that grew out of peoples' belief, like delicate crystals, were prone to shatter and fade like dust in the wind. Modernity had crushed legends under the jackboot of hard science. Post-modernity had made what remained ironic. And either way, the monsters the fears and dreams of humanity had bred were decaying. All of them languished, just waiting to be reclassified as Neutralized, like Tartary lambs to the slaughter.

Her eyes stopped on a faded postcard of the Loreley rock and her mind wandered. She wished she could have seen her in her glory days. Before minds turned away from her, and before the Rhine turned red. Was she always a whale? Was she always dead? She wanted to believe the siren once was beautiful. Even legends grow old and fade away, some faster than others. And so many, so many that were gone forever, before the Foundation could even learn about their existence.

The Genius Loci protocol was her idea, a flawed idea. It was so easy to contain anomalies in situ, to keep the people close to them, to bring more, as tourists. The department hid horrors in plain sight through vulgarization and bastardization. The Foundation filed fear away until only quaint folklore remained. Gone were the incidents, but so were the legends. And the material life collective imagination had borne them into was ebbing.
Slowly but surely, the Foundation ended up doing no better than the Global Occult Coalition. Anomalous reality, erased. Unless… The department wasn't dead yet; she wasn't. What she needed, first and foremost, were more ears and eyes.

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