To Never Again See The Light Of Day
rating: +39+x

To Never Again See The Light Of Day
The Department of Abnormalities


Prologue

A dark, rolling sky coiled above the shoreline as a summer storm marched furiously towards the coast. Rain clouds, full to burst but yet untapped hung low overhead, and the wind off the lake pushed the waters further up the beaches. The temperature dropped, and in the distance thunder groaned across the great expanse with an almost malicious intent. Beneath this, on a narrow, winding road across the cliffside, drove a single long, black car. The sound of its rumbling engine joined with the thunder, and the two argued their grievances with each other and the world around them as the vehicle pressed into the last narrow beams of twilight.

At the end of the road was a manor house; a sprawling estate surrounded by a tall, wrought-iron fence and protected by a single gate at its entrance. The grounds were simple and well-maintained. The stonework on the main structure was overgrown with black and green vines, with small purple flowers tucked away from the impending deluge. A bolt of lightning arced across the sky overhead, illuminating for a moment the word within an ornate metal design welded to the gate - “DARK”. The skies opened up.

The black car pulled up to the gate and flashed its lights. One of the darkened windows of the manor house illuminated, and a curtain was pulled aside by a single figure now occupying its space. The car flashed its lights again, and the figure disappeared. The light in the house went out. More thunder crashed across the lake, and after a moment more the gate before them inched open, as if pulled with considerable effort.

The car followed the drive up towards the house, where it came to rest beneath a covered walkway leading up to the front door of the estate. A thin fellow with a narrow mustache and slicked, black hair waited for them there - the butler. The driver stepped out of the car and came around to get the back door, his jacket doing little to protect him from the storm. The butler, unfazed, bowed slightly as a man stepped out of the car.

This man was tall, his features hidden by the shroud of rain and twilight. He wore two black gloves, their backs marked with a symbol stitched in silver thread. His coat was dark grey, with neat, ornate buttons cast from bright gold. On his head was a tall, black top hat, emblazoned with a bright violet “W” set in gold trim. He nodded curtly at the butler, and as he did flecks of rust fell onto his coat from the place his face should’ve been. The man paused, brushed the metal away, and then reached up to wipe at his face. When he pulled the glove away it returned slick and oily. The butler gestured behind him, and the two walked into the manor.

The main room was vast and empty, larger even than it seemed on the exterior. It was nearly entirely devoid of light, save for a single torch hung near a roaring hearth, which provided some small measure of comfort against the suffocating darkness. The butler guided the man in the tall hat towards the hearth, where another man sat in a high backed chair opposite an empty one. As they drew close, the butler gestured towards the open chair. When the man in the tall hat looked again, the butler had vanished.

Before the man in the tall hat could take his seat, the other man stood. He was of average height, young, maybe in his early forties. Clean shaven. His brown hair was greying on the sides and his skin creased slightly under his eyes, but his gaze was fierce and his smile resolute. He stepped towards the man in the tall hat, hand extended in greeting.

“Bertrand,” he said, his eyes squinting against the dark to look past the man’s tall collar, “I’m so glad you could-”

The other man recoiled slightly. “I wouldn’t, Skitter.”

Skitter Marshall frowned and pulled away. “How bad is it?”

Bertrand Dupont La Fontaine Morgrave Wondertainment stepped into the light of the hearth, and pulled his hat from his head. Thick tendrils of grease pulled away with it. He unbuttoned his jacket, his hands shaking slightly, and Skitter thought he could hear the man’s teeth grinding. Bertrand pulled the jacket off and hung it over the back of his chair. It was smoking, and the interior was caked in orange iron oxide dust. He did not remove his gloves.

Bertrand appeared to be in his sixties and tall, with a robust white beard and neatly trimmed hair. His suit was immaculately tailored, each piece a complement to each other. Grey slacks, a sharp white shirt, and a purple vest with the same gold trim as his hat. Skitter had often thought that Dr. Wondertainment was among the most well dressed individuals he had ever met, and this iteration was no different. The difference in this instance, however, was that every perfectly placed piece of his apparel was soaked through with blood and oil, and stained with the reds and greys of rust and iron.

His body was a living horror. One half of his face was nearly entirely caved in, his skin covered in flaking metal and seeping chemicals. One eye was missing entirely, and whenever he opened his mouth more of his cheek collapsed and fell to the ground. His hair was matted and clumped together, red with blood amidst his usual white. Huge rusted sores covered his neck, running with industrial fluid like a mechanical pustule. When he spoke, his voice was tinny and far away, as if played from a blown speaker.

“Christ,” Skitter said, taking a step forward towards him. “You’re worse off than I imagined." He leaned in closely. "We see corpses, you know, that look like you. This same-” he gestured up and down Bertrand’s body, “-state of affairs, as it were. But never anything like this that was still breathing.” He stepped back, surveying Bertrand’s condition. “I imagine it has to be excruciating.”

Bertrand grunted. Skitter nodded sympathetically. “I know you don’t want to hear it Bertrand, but I did tell you this would happen. People just don’t walk into the Factory and then walk back out. Nobody does that. It’s never happened. It’s wild that you thought you could be the first.”

“I had business there.” Bertrand’s words were coated in smoke. An ember burned in the corner of his eye.

“Yes, as have we all at times in our lives. But the rest of us had the good sense to suppress the urge to pursue that business. Once something goes into the Factory, Bertrand, it’s lost.”

“I got out,” Bertrand said. “It can be done.”

“Yes, you certainly got out.” Skitters voice was soaked through with sarcasm. “Whether or not you remain out is still to be seen.”

Bertrand’s single remaining eye blinked rapidly. “Can you fix this?”

Skitter furrowed his brow. “I’m certainly not as adept a hand as Mr. Dark, but his absence has left available the use of his facilities, which may be enough to compensate for my lack of craftsmanship.” He reached down and picked up his own coat and a glass of liquor with a strong herbal smell. As they began walking towards a door off the main hall, Skitter took a drink of the beverage. “This is going to hurt, you know.”

Bertrand nodded.

“And you’re going to have to give something up for it, Bertrand.”

“Anything.”

“It has to be one of your own.”

Bertrand hesitated. “Why? I have resources. Plenty of resources.”

Skitter shook his head. “No, Bertrand, I’m afraid that won’t do. See, you and I live in a world where money has value. We can purchase a cure for cancer, Bertrand, because fortunes buy miracles here. But the Factory doesn’t care about money. Its payment for your intrusion was you, and it won’t accept anything less.” He stopped and turned back towards Bertrand, who now appeared to be struggling to stay upright.

“I don’t know if this is going to work, Bertrand. There are dark places in this world and you found yourself digging around in one of the very darkest. Their rules are different - their perception of life and death, is different. There’s no undoing this thing you’ve done, but their magic isn’t infallible. We’re going to need to convince this thing it still has you, Bertrand, and we can’t do that without one of yours.”

He turned and kept walking. Behind him, he heard the faintest hint of a choked sob, and then the shuffling of feet as Bertrand fell in behind him.


They wandered the quiet hallways of the Dark Estate for an uncertain amount of time - each step taking them deeper and deeper into the the encroaching unease that almost seemed manifest around them, pushing in on them. Eventually, they exited into a room lit dimly by overhead lights, with a black stone table set into the floor in the middle of the room. Runes were carved into the ground, so deep that neither man could tell if they ended at all. Around the exterior of the chamber were tall, stained glass windows depicting scenes of horror, rapes and massacres and genocides and blasphemies, and in the middle of each image the same figure of a short man with a black bowler cap and too many eyes.

Skitter motioned towards the table, and Bertrand laid down on it, his flaking skin crawling against the ice cold stone beneath him. Skitter rolled up his sleeves, and clapped twice. The butler appeared from the darkness.

“Deeds,” Skitter said, “I need you to bring down the pine box in my car. There’s a man inside it we’re going to need for this.” He paused. “And while you’re up there, if you wouldn’t mind topping me off, I’d appreciate it.” He handed his empty glass to the butler, who nodded quickly and then disappeared again.

“Which of them-” Bertrand struggled to choke out the words as his throat filled with fluid. “Which of them will it be?” He coughed. “Redd?”

Skitter laughed. “No, Betrand. Even if we could find Redd, he’s been accounted for.” He walked over to a stone basin in the corner of the room, where he began to wash his hands under a tap. “This is what happens when you try to create life, Bertrand. So much of yourself ends up in the things you create - they’re like a distillation of you. Your ambitions, your lusts. Your failings. Your faults. As much as you have to sacrifice to cover their mistakes, sometimes they have to make the sacrifice for you.” He shrugged. “Willingly or otherwise.”

He finished washing up. “I don’t mean to sound crass about all this, Bertrand. I really do feel sorry for you. I know how horrible it was for you after you lost Redd, and I assure you, this is going to be just as horrible. But this is the way of things. Suffering is inherent to the pursuit of perfection.”

Skitter wheeled a small metal cart towards the table, upon which rested bladed instruments, syringes, and a variety of small stone figures and ornaments that hurt to look at. Skitter pulled a single long rubber glove up nearly to his elbow, and reached for a syringe. He moved towards Bertrand as if to begin, and then hesitated.

“You’re a good man, Bertrand. You don’t deserve what you’re about to experience.” He moved, and then paused again. “Actually, considering what this is going to do to Mr. Smiles, I think maybe you do deserve it.”

The needle sunk into Bertrand’s eye, and the man on the table screamed.


He was adrift in the dark, tumbling through an ocean of smoke and oil that extended outwards without end. He could not rise or sink, he could not move his arms. His eyes burned and his lungs begged for a single breath of wretched air. Each motion was impeded by the sea, which bound him like an insect in amber, forcing itself deeper within his every orifice.

In the darkness before him, he saw another figure - one he recognized, not by sight or sound, but by the feeling in his heart as it drew near to him. The figure studied him for a moment, and then moved close to him, painfully close. The figure brought its hands to his face, and drew its own near to his. It pulled him in, its mouth closing around his own. One of its hands ran down the back of his head, cradling him in the still, dark, ocean of death.

And then - in a moment - air. The fluid in his lungs was gone, his skin was clean, and his eyes were open. He took one breath, then another, and felt a warmth fill his body that seemed like an eternity gone. He shouted, not out of pain or anger, but to hear a sound - his own voice. He smiled, and then turned to look back at the figure in front of him with gratitude in his heart.

But the figure he had known was gone. In its place was another figure, choking on oil and flaking apart from the decay on its skin. The figure scratched at its face, clawed at its eyes, and opened its mouth to scream. No sound came out - nothing but a faint metallic hum and the sound of grinding iron. As he began to float upwards and away from the figure, it turned to look up at him, smiling, its eyes full of bloody tears and streaks of rust and decay streaking across its body. He reflexively pulled away as the figured reached up a hand towards him, and as it disappeared into the blackness he saw it mouth a single word.

”Daddy.”


Bertrand awoke in a room warmed by a small fire that danced a few feet from his face. He was laying on a soft, thick rug, covered by a warm blanket. Nearby he could smell alcohol and mint. He rolled over slightly, careful not to disturb the bandages covering his body. Sitting behind him, rocking a glass back and forth on a side table with one finger, was Skitter.

“You’re awake,” Skitter said, smiling. “I’m glad. It’s been hours.”

Bertrand tried to sit up, but his body adamantly refused, and he slunk back down, gasping. Skitter laughed. “It’s going to be a while before you can do anything like that. Just relax, and enjoy the fire.”

From a nearby window, Bertrand could make out lightning streaking across the sky, followed by the dulled crow of a thunderclap. Rain spat against the recessed window, and he could hear the pane shaking slightly from the wind.

“Tell me-” he said, his voice coming back to him slowly, “-what happened. Tell me how it was.”

Skitter’s eyes grew dark, and his jaw tightened. “It took, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Bertrand shook his head. “No. Tell me what you saw.”

Skitter sighed. “I saw what you went in there for.” He paused. “How long has she been gone?”

Bertrand didn’t respond, and Skitter sighed. “I’d wondered, you know. I’ve known nearly a hundred of you, but not a single repeat. Not until you.” He tapped his finger on the edge of the glass. “Do you know why she left?”

“No.”

Skitter nodded. “You’re lying.”

From somewhere below them, something metallic shrieked and squealed. Beyond the sound of grinding steel, a distinctly human voice was audible, something tormented and howling. Bertrand’s one good eye grew wide. Skitter coughed.

“I know you’re lying,” Skitter continued, “because the rust showed me that, too. It’s very sour about it, you know. It wants what it’s due. Services rendered.” Skitter cackled. “Another failed attempt to play god, Bertrand. Had you thought I’d forgotten? I’ll admit the theatrics with Redd were more dramatic, but I wouldn’t ever forget your firstborn.”

He leaned back in his chair. “I expect you hadn’t told her. It was you, too, wasn’t it? Not one of the other incarnations?” Silence. “That’s what I’d thought. You were always the most ambitious, in your own way. The other little people you made, they lacked pizazz. But you - you know how to steal the show. You aimed big. I like that about you, Bertrand. I like the lengths you were willing to go to. You had gall.”

“See, I imagine when the Factory came calling, she didn’t even hesitate to respond. She’s proud like that, you know. Doesn’t want to ever owe anything to anyone. And headstrong, too - I bet she marched down there just as boldly as you did. But you never told her, of course. Didn’t tell her what sort of things crawl on their hollow bellies in the dark.”

“No,” Bertrand said, pulling himself up. He struggled to one elbow, and with no less than a Herculean effort, pushed himself up against the hearth, facing Skitter. “I didn’t tell her. I didn’t tell anyone. The only people who know are the people who were there - you and me.”

Skitter barked out a laugh again. “Yeah. Younger men back then, I think. Younger men making deals with the devil. You with yours, and me with mine.” His hand idly found a spot on his forearm, under his sleeve, and he began to rub it instinctively. “Only difference is, mine can be reasoned with.” Another scream, and another thunderclap. The house shook.

Bertrand stared down into his hands, each wrapped in thick linen bandages. “I need it back, Skitter. They want it back and they won’t give me Isabel until I give it back.”

Skitter grimaced. “Isabel is gone, Bertrand. You were in there three days, Isabel has been gone for what - three months? And look at how you came out. Half alive, missing several important parts. There’s nothing of her left in there, Bertrand.”

The older man’s jaw clenched so hard it could’ve snapped. “No. No - she might not have been able to get out, but she was still in there. I could feel it. If I could just get-”

Skitter dismissed him with a wave. “Feelings aren’t going to pull another human soul out of the Factory, Bertrand. Besides, what you want is something that can’t be returned. You want to talk about deals with devils? The pact we made with it was simple, Bertrand. To never again see the light of day. Those are unbreakable bonds. A thing that cannot be undone.” He paused. “I’m sorry. Today has been hard enough on you as is. But we both agreed when you handed it over to me that I would put it somewhere that it couldn’t be found. That it wouldn’t ever be found. I promised you.”

Bertrand grunted as he tried to stand, but his body failed him again and he collapsed in a heap. “Tell me where it’s at. I don’t care if it’s at the end of the world, I need to get it back.”

Skitter stood up quickly. His eyes were fierce and something approaching terror was visible, faintly, in their corners. “It cannot be done. I told you Bertrand; I wasn’t lying to you. It cannot be done.” He rubbed his face slightly, and as he did Bertrand could see something moving just below the skin. “It wasn’t the only thing I buried, you know. There were others, three others, that I valued very dearly. Things that meant more to me than my life, but some innate part of me recognized that they could not be allowed to breathe free air. So I buried them, and have lusted after them ever since.” He sighed. “If it was possible, I would have done it already. But it is not possible. Not for you, not for me, not for anyone.”

Bertrand slumped over. “Then I am lost.”

Skitter nodded. “Yes. Now, go back to sleep. In the morning, Deeds will see you returned to your car, and you can recover properly at home. I’ll-” he paused, “-I’ll speak to Mr. Dark about Isabel. I will make you no promises, Bertrand, but Mr. Dark does have history with the Factory. If there is some small part of her left in there, we may be able to retrieve it.”

Skitter stood, dusting off his pants and straightening his tie. “Your son, though, Bertrand. Mr. Smiles. Do you want to take him home with you?”

Bertrand’s skin began to crawl. Something primal awoke in his heart, and he was full of fear. “No,” he said. “No, I can’t. I can’t see him-” he hesitated, “-I can’t see it again. I’m sorry.”

Skitter shrugged. “Don’t apologize to me. I know a place where we can keep him for now. Somewhere the Factory won’t be able to find him.” He nodded. “Sleep well.”

Bertrand nodded and sunk back down onto the thick carpet and was asleep before his head hit the floor. Skitter stood motionless for another moment, finishing his drink and staring out the window towards the storm raging outside.


1967

It was raining, but not heavily. The skies were overcast and the low rumble of thunder echoed from somewhere far away. A long black car sat on the side of a long black road that stretched out in either direction without sign of a single other vehicle. Its motor was running, though, and one of the occupants was smoking a cigarette.

After some time, an armored car pulled up next to it. They sat idling next to each other for a moment, until the door of the armored car swung open and a man stepped out. He was wearing a heavy coat with brass buttons, and had a mess of sandy blonde hair. His eyes were green, and in front of them sat a pair of thick rimmed glasses. He smiled a half-smile as a man stepped out of the other car. He was also young, maybe in his late twenties, but his eyes betrayed his age. His eyes were fierce and his smile resolute.

“Skitter Marshall,” the younger man said, extending a hand. “A pleasure, I’m sure.”

The blonde man grabbed it and shook it. “It is. You have it with you?”

Skitter nodded. They walked towards the rear of his car and opened the trunk. Inside, barely visible but by the dim light of a bulb affixed to the underside of the trunk was a long, black box bound in chains. On its front, emblazoned in violent ink and gold trim, was a shining letter “W”. Skitter grimaced when he looked at it. “What are you going to do with this?” he said.

The other man looked it over. Skitter couldn’t see his eyes, but he could tell the man was studying it intensely.

“We have a place for these things,” he said carefully, “somewhere no one will ever be able to retrieve them from. We’ll take care of it.”

Skitter took a step back. “You know what this is, don’t you?”

The man nodded. “I do.”

The blonde man gestured, and three more men emerged from the rear of the armored vehicle. They carefully pulled the box out of the back of Skitter’s car, and deftly carried it into the back of their own. The blonde man turned around to follow them.

“Say there,” Skitter said, catching the man’s attention. “I don’t think I got your name.”

The man smiled again, and reached into his pocket and pulled out a plain white business card and handed it to Skitter, who took it with confused half-acceptance. As the armored car pulled away, Skitter looked down at the card to see that text had appeared.

Dr. Adam Bright
Department of Abnormalities

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License