The basement was little more than a cement floor with cinderblock walls. It was large but mostly occupied by boxes piled seemingly at random. What light there was came from the few lightbulbs suspended here and there from the beams above. The only space that didn’t have boxes strewn about was one corner occupied by a washer and dryer. There weren’t any places to hide that he could see; if there was a monster, it couldn’t be that large.
David slowly made his way through the area. The woman who had come into the shop, Jennifer, said that she had seen it on the side of the basement opposite from the laundry. He was skeptical that there was a monster, but she had been on the verge of tears all the way back to her house. Something had clearly terrified her, so he wanted to be thorough. He moved boxes aside to look behind them and even opened a few to look inside.
He had made it over halfway through the basement when he saw something out of the corner of his eye. As soon as he turned his head, it disappeared. The light in that part of the room wasn’t good, but it looked like a large white mouse or maybe a small rat. Had she mistaken a mouse for a monster? Not wanting to jump to any conclusions, he decided to investigate more closely.
With all the boxes around, even a small flame could quickly turn into an inferno. So he bent down to touch the floor and sent a wave of ice toward the place he had seen the mouse. He hoped it might trap it in the ice, but at least it might make it harder for the thing to run away. A squeal from a box suggested the ice had had the desired effect. He carefully picked his way over the ice and lifted the box. There was nothing there.
Putting the box back down, he began looking around to find where it had run off to. When the box touched the ice again, the squeal came back. Out of the top of the box, between the flaps concealing the contents, the head of a white mouse poked out. David quickly grabbed at it and somehow managed to catch hold of it.
He tried pulling it out, but it resisted him as though something were pulling in back inside the box. Surprised, David let the mouse slip out of his grasp. He hurriedly pulled back the flaps to look in the box. Upon seeing inside, he involuntarily took a step back.
There was a white, amorphous blob, roughly one foot across at the widest point. Several tentacles extended from the mass; each of them ending in the shape of the front two-thirds of a mouse’s body. He had the impression the thing was staring at him with the mouse eyes.
Samuel had told him about horrors, but David never expected to see one. His training protected him from the madness that usually emanated from such beings, and it was small enough that it didn’t pose much of a threat in other ways. Not yet. Had Jennifer gotten a good look at it, she very well might have been driven insane. He covered it in ice, abruptly silencing it. Then he wrapped it in a blanket to keep anyone else from seeing it. The real question was where it had come from.
“Julia?” he called out tentatively.
Her response was nearly immediate. “Did you find your monster?” It sounded like she was chuckling.
“Yes, as a matter of fact. Already have it contained. But I need your help.”
“It’s a horror.”
He paused, expecting her to react, but she didn’t say anything.
“I need you to locate the portal it came through and close it.”
“A horror? You’re joking, right?” Any hint of amusement was gone from her voice.
“Unfortunately, no. It’s small, and I froze it. Luckily, it was vulnerable to cold rather than heat. But I don’t think I can find it’s portal on my own.”
“Why do you sound sane? Are you sure it’s a horror?”
“Quite sure. My guide, Samuel, trained me, prepared me to deal with these things. He has had to deal with them before, so he wanted to make sure I was equipped to deal with them, too.”
“That’s good, I guess. I’m going to come through. Please keep the thing out of sight. I don’t think I can deal with it.”
“Don’t worry. I have it wrapped up.”
A portal appeared in front of David. He assumed it had been there all along, allowing Julia to keep tabs on him. Julia stepped through holding a green crystal. It looked like the same crystal she had been holding in the coffee shop when they had been looking for Rebecca.
“Where did you find it?”
“That box over there.” He pointed it out.
Julia took a few steps toward the box and looked at it while holding the crystal up to it. She was being careful not to touch the box. “Yeah. The box itself is a portal. I’m not finding any others.”
“Can you close it?”
“Not here, but I should be able to stop anything else from coming through until I can deal with it properly.”
“Good. Can you open a portal to the shop? I want to secure this thing elsewhere before talking with Jennifer again.”
“Sure. Better your shop than the house. Just be careful.”