Elder Things - Episode Four

When you're old, everything is a reminder that you're old. Even walking down the hall can feel like running a goddamn marathon.

Elder Things - Episode Four

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Some of the old folks were lagging behind.

"What, you want me to carry you?"

Penny looked up into Mickey's eyes with a smirk on her lips, but she was surprised to find her boyfriend staring at Herman.

"I'm sweating like a pig," came Herman's humorless, and disgusting, retort.

But she related entirely.

All of this because of Robert Dawson. The single most humorless man Penny had ever known. How could Herman ever have believed Robert's asinine theories?

The notion that someone was killing residents of the nursing home was a nonstarter with Penny. Death was part of this place, it didn't need a serial killer to get the work done faster. But the theory didn't stop at murder, somehow Robert had gotten it in his head that the killer was some kind of supernatural monster? No, Penny just couldn't entertain that.

It wasn't just that Penny didn't want to entertain the though, her mind literally couldn't dwell on the thought for more than a few seconds. The supernatural was incompatible with Penny's vision of the world. Also incompatible? Exercise.

The nursing home was nothing but long hallways, only differentiated by the way residents decorated their doorsteps. She could see Robert's door near the end of the hall, recognizable by the Captain America shield just below the peephole.

Mirabell and Daisy took the lead, practically speed-walking down the hall without a care in the world for the old folks.

"Funny," Penny thought to herself, watching Mirabell's effortless stride. "I thought we were all supposed to be old folks in here."

The first week Penny spent in the nursing home was by far the most frightening. She never dealt with change well, even when she was a little girl. Her father, a heartless prick, used to mock her every time he dragged his family to yet another town. He was always being chased out for one scheme or another.

"For god's sake, when are you going to get a brain in your head??" He'd say. "New school same kids. What are you so goddamn scared of?"

Eventually, Penny taught herself to see things the way he wanted her to see them. People become archetypes more than individuals.

It was no different in the home. Even that horrible first week was the same as going to a new school: Mirabell was jus the latest in a long line of popular girls. Herman was the latest nerd. Mickey was the latest class clown.

She always gravitated toward the class clown.

"Excuse me folks, can I help you?"

The orderlies were the latest teachers. Or in this case, hall monitors. Derrick Davies was one of the good ones, Penny knew. By and large, everyone who worked at the home meant well, but a job is a job, and sometimes Penny could sense the employees dreaming of being anywhere else.

"Just out for a walk, Davies," replied Mirabell, in a perfectly friendly voice, barely breaking her stride.

"I've been meaning to express my condolences about Robert, by the way. To all of you," offered Davies, authentically.

"Thank you, Derrick, you know we appreciate that," monotoned Harold.

Penny often liked to sit back and watch how people interacted with each other. For one thing, this gave her a chance to catch her breath during the sprint down the hall, but also Penny often felt she heard the real subtext of conversations.

Harold seemed to be responding to Derrick Davies almost politically. Measured.

"By the by, have you seen the groundskeeper lately? I've noticed the rose bushes could use a good pruning."

This too felt measured on Harold's part. Penny knew he was fishing for some sign that Derrick Davies was aware Robert's theory.

"Oh, uh. No, couldn't say I've seen him. I'll, y'know, I'll pass that on."

This was interesting to Penny. For the first time, she had to privately admit she didn't fully understand Derrick Davies' response. He stammered, he qualified. But if you didn't know Herman was fishing for information about a demon, wouldn't you just assume this orderly was making a mental note or surprised to be given a task to do?

She wasn't sure. But she socked the response away for later analysis.

When they were free of Davies, it wasn't long before the group reached Robert Dawson's door.

Mirabell slid the key into the lock while Mickey looked around smirking, almost seeming hopeful that some other old person might spot their break-in.

Inside, Robert's apartment was...depressing.

All his things were right where he left them, but rather than feeling lived in, the place felt like a museum.

In some sense, it was.

Books felt almost theatrically stacked beside Robert's easy chair, which, itself, drew the eye like the fender bender on the freeway.

This was it.

This was where Robert died.

"So what'd you say his journal looked like, again?" asked Daisy?

"Looks a whole lot like a little book," quipped Mickey before Herman answered honestly, "It's a little black book. Too big to fit in a pocket."

They split up to search, but Penny stood frozen by the easy chair.

It was there, jammed between the seat cushion and the arm. She could see it just barely peeking out.

Part of Penny wanted to ask someone else to reach in, but her father's voice asking "What are you so goddamn scared of?" had her locked in place.

She reached out, convincing herself it was reasonable to be frightened of the chair. She wasn't like Herman, she didn't believe in ghosts, but she did believe in the fact that Robert Dawson's lifeless body had been found slumped over in this very chair, not that long ago.

The dead and the living have no business making contact.

The rings on Penny's fingers gleamed in the sun as she gribbed a corner of the notebook between her thumb and index finger, cringing mildly as she brushed her palm across the top of the seat.

"Herman, it's all yours," Penny called out, feeling as if she hadn't spoken in days.

Herman hustled over. He was no where near as quick as Mirabell. He snatched the journal out of Penny's hand with a quickly muttered "thanks," before riffling the page.

"See, now look here, it's just what I told you."

Herman brandished the book, reading off a list of names, ages, and causes of death, his tone deadly serious and slow.

"Milicent Bridger, 78...Heart failure.

Terrence Ferber, 83...Heart failure..."

"Mickey Anderson, 81...boredom."

Reflexively, Penny whapped Mickey on the arm for that one, despite loving the way Mickey effortlessly popped Herman's balloon.

"Okay okay, it goes on an on...The point, Mickey, is that Robert kept track of not only deaths, but look here:

"Groundskeeper working outside rec room when Bernard Maynard died...GK outside Doris' window night of death..."

Nervously, Daisy interrupted. "Okay, we've got the book, lets go."

"No...no...here it is, the last entry," came Herman's response, sounding lost in thought as he read, "I came face to face with GK today..."

The room fell silent.

"He was outside my window, but somehow we were face to face. My old training kicked into gear. He's fast."

The more Herman read, the more Penny's mind swirled, working to resist what, to her, was infectious insanity. But she couldn't help letting it in, bit by bit.

"In the service, one of my men talked about beings like GK. They lurk outside, watching your every move through the windows. Powered by the moonlight. Trap them inside and they're weakened."

Penny looked around, shocked to find even Mickey listening intently. She could see his good eye occasionally dart to the easy chair, and knew he was struck the the same dead energy she was feeling.

Herman continued reading almost like he couldn't help himself. Robert's diary spoke of attempting to press an iron cross into the groundskeeper's skin.

"It hurt him. The first time I ever saw an expression on GK's face: pain. But he's fast. He pulled away almost immediately. I don't know know if it was the cross or the iron itself. Ancient legends speak of creatures trapped in iron and salt, and GK seems to be no different."

Herman paused here, looking out at the assembled group as he closed the book.

"It can be killed," he finally said.

Penny felt a chill go up her spine as she realized the stakes she was playing with. Going after some book was one thing, but Herman was talking about murder now. Still, she felt Robert's easy chair beside her, almost glowing with heat.

She imagined everyone was struggling with the same feeling. Daisy, new to the home, looked as if she was planning to transfer elsewhere asap. Mirabell had her hands clasped as if in prayer, and she lifted them to her lips, staring off into space. Mickey stood locked in a stare with Herman.

She knew he wouldn't turn back.

Would she?

The silence was finally broken when Mirabell lowered her hands to ask, "was that the end of the journal?"

It wasn't.

Herman lifted Robert Dawson's journal again, and opened to the final page, reading the final words of their fallen friend.

"My death may look like a lost battle...but it's truly just the start...of a war."

Elder Things - Episode Five
Mickey preferred to shoulder things alone.