Miskatonic #1. The New Professor
The Miskatonic is a visual novel by Rapscallion that gives a unique spin on the Cthulhu Mythos. Treating the cosmic horror of that setting with equal parts terrifying reverence and casual joy, the game provides a small glimpse into a much wider setting with which I just fell in love.
This story is set about a year before the events of the game, and focuses on an OC based on my character from Age of Decay. If you wish to see my full playthrough of The Miskatonic, you can do so here.
Warning: This story contains gore and many topics that some readers may find disturbing.
Thumbnail art by Eli.
The New Professor
Grey rain pounded the hard granite of the courtyard outside the Occult Science building of the Miskatonic University. The omnipresent fog clung to the tall lamps like jealous, grasping hands, and the occasional lightning strike resonated out from the Engineering Department. Despite the late hour, the tall arched doors stood open, as they always did, ready to welcome any pilgrims out of the grim wet and into the grim dry. Some intrusive light filtered through the spiral-pattern murky glass of the front wall, but the hanging bulbs had all but given up attempting to brighten the silent lobby.
A lone figure lingered near the doorway, adjusting his tie and craning his neck a little to peer out into the impenetrable haze. A flash of lightning suddenly shot into the sky, sparking and glancing off the thick clouds, briefly illuminating the figure. Atop his neck, in place of normal human features like hair, a nose, proper skin, or an appropriately proportioned mouth, the figure’s head was entirely composed of a gigantic set of teeth and their accompanying gums. Two small eyes, black as the shadows around him, peered out of the mass of flesh; one atop his head, and the other where one would typically have a chin. It was the Head of the Miskatonic University.
“Evening, Bob,” greeted a woman with white hair, wearing a long coat. From the base of her coat gently waved six tentacles, each a pinkish fleshy tone with patches of shiny brown.
“Good evening, Manys,” Bob replied, his grotesque mouth forming the words with a dignity equally impossible to visualise and deny.
“What’s got you waiting by the front door?” Manys asked, shoving her hands in her coat pockets and glaring idly at the cold air coming in.
“The new professor should arrive soon,” Bob stated proudly, straightening his pinstriped jacket.
Manys cocked her head and raised an eyebrow.
“You actually seem excited,” she remarked. “…I think.”
“I am! He will be heading up a new subject. He’s practically the inventor of Modern Haemomancy. He’s English, too.”
Manys’ expression slipped into a mild scowl.
“Oh, another one of those cannibals?”
“Actually I was……away when all that kicked off,” stated a voice from the fog.
Emerging into the dim light stepped a dour-looking man in a pale blue sweater vest and loose shirt. Ignoring his short brown hair and messy goatee, it was his eyes that caught one’s attention; their deep red irises and their flat, unemotional quality. Behind him he pulled a suitcase and a large, leather-bound case, the lock of which appeared to be melted shut.
“That’s an…ominous way to say that,” observed Manys, giving him a glance up and down. Her eyes fell upon the leather case, and one of her tentacles twitched subconsciously.
“Occupational hazard,” the newcomer said, his flat eyes unblinking as he silently challenged Manys to pursue the topic. Clenching a fist, hidden in her large pocket, she chose to meet the challenge.
“Where were you then?” she asked, studying his face for any reaction or yielding.
Before he could speak, however, whether he intended to or not, Bob hurriedly stepped forward to stand slightly between them.
“I’m afraid that’s above your paygrade, Manys,” Bob stated with a forced chuckle.
After a brief tense second, Manys blinked, shrugged, and unclenched her fist.
“Should have known not to ask, really,” she admitted. “See you round.”
Away she strode, her tentacles shifting so not to catch the doorway as she headed further into the Occult Science building. Once she had gone, and the sound of her footsteps on the thin carpet had faded away, Bob turned to the man, extending a hand.
“Good to see you, Gariath,” he said, the giant corners of his mouth seemingly turning up.
“You too,” the new professor replied, shaking the hand, before looking around the dark room.
Bob glanced in the direction Manys had gone.
“You should do your best not to…invite questions,” he suggested in a low voice.
Gariath gave him a sidelong look.
“I appreciate the advice, Bob, but I know how to hide illicit activities.”
He took hold of the handle of the leather case again.
“Hmm,” Bob muttered, his large gums vibrating slightly. “I’ll believe it when I don’t see it.” He indicated a different doorway to where Manys went. “Your office is this way.”
Further from the cold entrance, the hallways of the Occult Science building thrummed with activity. To best cater for all lifestyles, races, and environmental requirements, classes were available at all hours of the day and night. Students hurried to and fro, greeting or nodding politely at Bob, who resolutely ignored them all. He did so because he was engrossed in a walking lecture about the history of the Miskatonic University, and his tenure as its Head. A single step behind him, still pulling his two cases, Gariath followed.
“…meaning the addition of the New Modern Haemomancy course should make 1935 our best year yet,” Bob concluded, taking a turn off the busier corridors and ascending a set of switchback stone stairs. He politely waited as Gariath’s suitcase thudded unceremoniously against each step up which it was dragged, observing how the leather-bound case was instead lifted. Once they had reached the next floor, he pointed to the right and returned to leading the way.
“Your office used to be occupied by Vensel Manse, the paracryptozoologist, but I’m sure you’ll be relieved to hear that the adjoining room has been thoroughly harvested, cleaned, and disinfected.”
“Harvested?” Gariath asked half-heartedly, looking out the large window they were passing, seeing the upper floors of the other campus buildings rising out of the colourless sea of fog.
“Oh, yes. The particular…I suppose you’d call it a creature…that he kept in there had a peculiar trait of causing spontaneous fungal growths on any flat surface. Horrendously toxic spores – hence the sudden office vacation – but a truly fascinating discovery,” Bob rambled on.
He had just begun to describe the uses for the spores when he spotted a figure ahead; the only person they’d encountered since ascending to the next floor.
“Ah, Therst,” Bob greeted as the pair of them came level with the figure.
Therst turned in their direction and opened his mouth; as the only visible feature on his otherwise smooth, blank head, the rows of long, needle-like teeth drew the eye. A tall, slender figure, Therst had no discernible arms. Instead his long black coat, adorned with jangling chains where other, more fortunate creatures have shoulders, fell to the smooth stones and almost seemed to…melt into the floor. To Gariath’s eye it was very difficult to be sure exactly where the cloth ended and the stone began.
Bob gestured from the new professor to the shadowy-faced entity before them.
“Professor Gariath Swann, meet Dr Therst Valentine. Therst, Professor Swann will be establishing our Blood Magic course.”
For the first time since entering the building, Gariath’s eyes glinted with real interest.
“Dr Valentine,” he said. “Discoverer of residual evil. I’ve followed your work.”
Therst adjusted his flexible stance, his body curving like a rearing snake. He tilted his blank face down to ‘look’ at Gariath, his wide mouth grinning with vicious teeth.
“And as you are a blood mage, I couldn’t care less about yours.” His voice crackled as if the air was loathe to carry it, or the ear was loathe to hear it.
Gariath gave Therst a long look, his flat stare meeting Therst’s…lack of eyes.
“Y’know,” Gariath said at last. “I’m not even sure whether you have blood.”
“That sounds about right for someone of your…well. I hesitate to call it a ‘profession’. Blood magic is barely a step up from witchcraft,” Therst trilled.
“That’s what makes Modern Haemomancy so interesting,” Bob interjected. “You see…”
“I have work to do. Ta ta,” Therst stated, moving away. Although he clearly had some body beneath the coat, the way he glided across the stone brought to mind some kind of haunted tent.
“What a jolly fellow,” Gariath commented when Therst had ghosted off out of sight.
“I apologise,” Bob said, continuing to lead the way. “Therst is really quite nice when you get to know him, I assure you.”
“Y’know,” Gariath muttered, glancing out the window once more. “Something rather makes me doubt that.”
A few mornings later, Gariath stood in the courtyard in front of the Occult Science building, taking in the sights of the unusually fog-free day. Groups of students clustered near the less gnarled trees, or relaxed in the shadow of the ornamental fountain of Dagon. As he lounged against a large stone planter containing some kind of bright orange fruit tree, signs stating ‘Do Not Eat The Fruit’ plastered across each side, his eyes fell upon a large dog-like creature.
Bounding across the courtyard, its spine covered in spikes, and almost reptilian eyes in its head, the creature paused about ten feet in front of Gariath to scratch the paving stones with grasper-like paws. It lifted its stubby face and sniffed, glancing in Gariath’s direction before continuing past. Pushing himself up from his relaxed position, Gariath stepped up to where the creature had stopped. He watched it leap erratically around a patch of grass before darting around the side of a building.
“Excuse me, sir?” said an anxious voice behind him.
Gariath turned to see a young man wearing a jacket with the Miskatonic University logo on each shoulder. From his nervous expression and the slightly uncomfortable way he held the very large shotgun in his hands, Gariath came to the assumption that he was a student.
“Have you seen a juvenile Chupacabra come past here?” the student asked, awkwardly shifting how he carried the weapon as big as his arm.
Stepping to the side, Gariath lifted his left arm to point in the direction the dog-like beast had gone.
“I think it went that-” he began to say, before the student looked past him and immediately saw the creature.
With absolutely no hesitation, and with a steadiness unexpected from his seeming uneasiness, the student raised the large gun and aimed it squarely at the young monster. He loosed a deafening blast right there in the courtyard, causing the Chupacabra to fall to the ground and lie still. It was only then did the student realise that Gariath’s hand was still directly in the line of fire.
Where seconds before had been a hand, helpfully pointing the direction to the student’s quarry, all that remained was a shredded, mangled mess of flesh, bone, and blood. Gariath stared at it, his arm still stretched out, and slowly turned it over to see the gaping holes in what was his hand.
“Oh, shit! I’m so sorry, sir!” the student blurted out, horror filling his face. “I just took the shot, I-”
“Do they not teach you basic gun safety?” Gariath demanded, recovering from the shock and quickly wrapping his mangled left hand in the pale sleeveless sweater he was wearing. The blood almost immediately saturated the woollen jumper.
“No, sir. They don’t,” the student stated with infuriating bluntness.
Gariath grimaced, and blinked very deliberately.
“Which way is the medical office?” he asked, exhaling slowly.
As he sat in the large, empty waiting room, listening to the wails of pain radiating from one of the three occupied, yet unattended, patient’s rooms, Gariath concluded that the Miskatonic medical office was worryingly understaffed. Had had seen only three people working there since he had arrived almost half an hour earlier, and one had been a technician there only to replace a blunt circular saw. The chief medical officer’s personal assistant, Miss Delia Fontaine, had assured him that he would be seen shortly, as well as her wedding ring being there ‘for sentimental reasons only’, but Gariath could not help but doubt. Every so often the chief medical officer himself would peek through the small, curtained window on his office door, look at Gariath, then vanish again.
After perhaps forty minutes of waiting, Bob hurried into the waiting room from the busy corridor. Almost immediately the chief medical officer emerged from his office, making a determined effort to pretend that he hadn’t been waiting for Bob’s arrival.
“Professor Swann,” he said with a smile. “I’m Roger Cavendish.”
A respectable looking man, he had long mutton chops down the sides of his face, a delicate string tie to go with his vest and jacket, and four thin tentacles reaching out from the depths of his clothing to daintily carry a pen and clipboard. He extended a hand to shake Gariath’s, but this was met with an unimpressed look.
“Nice to meet you, Dr Cavendish,” Gariath said flatly.
“Nope. Just Roger Cavendish,” he corrected cheerfully.
There was a pause.
“But you are the chief medical officer?” Gariath asked.
“Correct!” Cavendish smiled again, then turned to the other person in the room. “Bob! What brings you here?”
“I heard about Gariath’s injury and hurried over!” Bob stated, his beady eyes glancing in the direction of Miss Fontaine’s reception window. “I had to ensure my newest faculty member was taken care of!”
With some deliberate slowness, Gariath looked down at the blood-soaked garment that was once his sweater.
“Quite,” he said simply.
“Shall we step into an examination room?” Cavendish suggested with a smile and a glance at Bob.
“Good idea!” the man of teeth declared immediately, following closely behind as Cavendish showed Gariath into an empty side room. Once the three of them were inside, Bob purposefully shut the door.
Some time later, sporting a newly bandaged arm strapped up in a sling, Gariath trudged back into the Occult Science building and towards his office in order to prepare his first class of the term. He had passed through only a few darkly decorated corridors when something dropped from the ceiling in front of him, landing with a muted thud.
“I ‘eard someone ‘ad their arm blown off,” said a rough English accent with barely concealed anticipation. “Was it you? ‘Ow much is there to eat?”
Stood before Gariath was an excited-looking woman in a Miskatonic-branded beanie, a threadbare top, and perhaps the shortest shorts he’d ever seen. Her skin bore the tell-tale purple tint of an English cannibal, and her dark hair was tied in a ponytail hanging almost all the way down her six foot frame. She smiled as if she was remarking about the weather, but the keen glint in her eyes gave away her motives…as did her words.
Briefly glancing at his restrained left arm, Gariath looked her in the face.
“None. Cavendish saved it,” he stated simply.
“None at all?” the woman moaned, cocking her head. “Can I at least ‘ave a look? A little taste of the fresh juicy wounds?”
Subconsciously or not, she licked her licks.
“No cannibal food from me today.”
The woman’s eyes, a bloody orange colour, took in the sight of Gariath in his injured state.
“Looks like you only got the one working arm,” she pointed out, tilting her head the other direction in an oddly disarming way, no pun intended. “What’s gonna stop me from ‘aving a cheeky nibble?”
Without moving a muscle, Gariath took a breath.
“What about patriotic respect?”
“Nope. Most of the people I ate back ‘ome was English,” she stated casually.
“How about professional courtesy?”
“I’m barely a professional.” She gave a little smile, one pointed tooth visible.
“How about…” Gariath paused. “…I can do enough blood magic with one hand to blow you clean into another dimension?”
His words hung between them. Then her smiled widened.
“Yeah, that sounds fair.” The building tension in the air evaporated as if it had never been there. “So if we’ve got that shared love for King ‘n’ Country and all that, why doesn’t your skin ‘ave that ‘ealthy purple tint?”
Without a backwards glance, the woman strode to one of the large ‘leather’ sofas that sat outside whosever office was nearby. With the dignity and grace of someone who would happily eat her co-workers, she threw herself into a sitting position.
“I’m not a cannibal,” Gariath stated bluntly.
“Cor!” she exclaimed, her face taking an exaggerated expression of surprise. “Non-cannibal English! What will they think of next. I’m Annie, by the way. People call me Nutty Annie.”
“Gariath Swann,” he nodded in respond. “I’d offer to shake your hand, but I suspect you’d try to take advantage of the situation.”
“You’re a quick one!”
Successfully escaping the attention of Annie with all his remaining extremities intact, Gariath made it to his office, changed out of his bloodstained clothes and gathered the materials he needed for his first class. Carrying them with one arm wasn’t an easy task, but emptying his suitcase and repurposing it as a ‘Papers & Blood Vials Receptacle’ proved helpful. Dragging it to the classroom, careful not to jostle the contents when descending the stone stairs, he found that a surly enough expression parted the usually oblivious crowds of students.
The laboratory in which his class was held – with tables for holding blood vials and notes, dummies for practising aim, and emergency blood infusion kits for…obvious reasons – had a large chalkboard dominating one end wall. After setting up the equipment his class would require, and briefly reviewing his materials, he began writing esoteric incantations around the edges of the board… Mostly for the look of them. By the time the bell rang, and his first class of students arrived, countless tiny blood curses provided a suitably ominous frame for the lesson ahead.
“Welcome to New Modern Haemomancy. I am Professor Swann,” he greeted them, looking out at the twenty or so faces whose expressions ranged between eager and inhuman. “Although many consider this subject one of utility and convenience, it has been put on the curriculum for the Monster Hunting track. That is for which you are here.”
One of the students, a young woman with massive eyes and hair that appeared to be made of fibrous plant matter, raised her hand. Gariath’s recalled notes indicated her to be named Sharine Istan. He gave her a pointed look.
“What happened to your arm, professor?” she asked.
“I was shot. This morning.” Sharine blinked. “The reason for which blood magic – as that is its colloquial name – is on the Monster Hunting curriculum is I developed the technique, first and foremost, for combat.”
He moved his right hand over an open jar of blood in front of him. Clenching his fist, half the contents of the jar seemed to vanish, only to reappear floating in the air around his hand. He lifted his fist to show the class, and opened it; the floating blood burst into a crimson, spectral fire, engulfing his hand. That caught the attention of even the less interested onlookers.
“Blood does not exist only in humans,” Gariath went on, walking to stand in front of his desk, the scarlet flame dancing between his fingers. “Blood exists in animals, and something approximating blood exists in most things you’d consider ‘monsters’.”
He twisted his palm around, the fire tightening into a blazing column.
“The truth of blood magic, however much I like the term, is that it is something of a misnomer. New Modern Haemomancy is not restricted to liquids typically considered ‘blood’… The techniques I will teach you are possible, and even effective, with almost any non-solid material that serves a function within a vital creature.”
Tightening his fist again, gripping the column of red flame, it immediately condensed into a razor-thin blade edge. He lowered his arm, suddenly clutching a sword so sharp that it cut through the enraptured tension in the room.
“And what you can’t debilitate with well-planned blood curses, you can eviscerate with weapons conjured from the lifeforce of yourself, your allies, and your enemies.”
With a sudden motion, Gariath threw the sword into the air. The moment he released it, it burst back into flame, spun through the air, and settled back around his right forearm. The theatrics had been worth it; he had his class’s undivided attention. He strode back around to stand in front of the chalkboard.
“Let’s start with haemoalignment,” he said.
Three hours later he dragged his suitcase back into his office, closed and locked the door behind him, and flopped into the uneven armchair beside the little coffee table. He closed his eyes, gave a deep sigh, and slowly opened them again. His first class had gone well, but he hadn’t expected it to be so exhausting. The sun had gone down, and the only light in the room was from a standing lamp that he left on at all hours. With a slight grunt of effort, he pulled his arm sling over his head and tossed it onto the coffee table.
‘Get used to it,’ Bob had said when the pair of them had left the medical centre. ‘You’ll be wearing it for several weeks, yet.’
Gariath looked across his office at the door leading to the former fungal-breeding room. True to Bob’s word, there was no trace of its old purpose left. Aside from some new, spore-free tables, the room was entirely bare. During his time occupying the office, Vensel had redecorated it with stone on every surface…stone floor, stone walls, even the ceiling was reinforced with it. All the better to contain something unpleasant, but Gariath had no qualms.
Stretching his back a little, he stood up and made his way towards the adjoining door. As he went, he carefully unwrapped the bandages covering his left arm. By the time he reached the door – which was made of stone, naturally – his hand was uncovered fully. He extended his fingers, enjoying the free air on them, and looked it over. There were no holes, no cuts, no marks of any kind. Pristine and uninjured once more.
He gripped the stone handle of the door and it scraped open. He walked in and looked towards the source of a threatening glow that permeated the chamber. In a corner of the room, in a circular recess in the stone that had probably served as a feeding tray for the former bestial prisoner, swirled a deep, undulating mass of red. Like storm clouds on the brink of deluge, or a whirlpool enveloping a helpless fleet, the churning crimson radiated malice…undirected, unyielding, and utterly insatiable.
To be continued…