Elder Things - Episode Seven

Everyone has pride. It's never tested more than when someone sees you at your worst.

Elder Things - Episode Seven

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Herman woke with a start. He'd had the strangest nightmare, starting with some sort of ghost flying through trees, and ending with Penny's voice warning him "he'll be there soon."

Truthfully, it had scared him awake. He had the feeling someone had just been in the room with him. Penny herself bellowing in his ear.

Herman squinted in his darkened living room, attempting to read the time on his side table.

Old people have special clocks, sometimes, which Herman remembered as enormous white LED lights blared the time "11:49 - NIGHT" directly into his narrowed eyes.

He forgot that the staff had given him this embarrassingly huge clock after he complained he couldn't see his watch anymore.

People had a habit of becoming unstuck from time, in places like this.

A little button on top of the clock would literally vocalize the time when hit, but Herman's vision wasn't that bad.


Reaching out to pull the cord for his lamp, Herman spotted a red light blinking on his phone. Just after the lights came on, he pushed it. A robotic man's voice came through the speakers: "You have THREE new messages."

After a beep, a message from Penny began, calm but insistent, "Herman, it's Penny, pick up. Come on Herman, I know you can hear me. Is Mickey over there?"

An additional impatience and frustration entered her voice.

"Just...Call me back."

Another beep.

"Herman, me again, I'm over at Mirabell's now, in case you try to call me. I think Mickey got all worked up with that nonsense about the book and the groundskeeper. I can't find him."

Herman clutched onto the journal as if Penny could take it through the phone lines.

The book had suggested that groundskeeper was a killer with a mythological weakness: iron. He'd scoured his apartment looking for anything that might fit the bill, coming up with a few old keys, a handful of nails from the bottom of his old toolbox, and a handful of cutlery. The forks were the sharpest. He'd lined his doorway and windowsills with salt until he eventually passed out from exhaustion.

"We're just waiting for Daisy to get here, call me back at Mirabell's if you can."

Guarding his home from evil had given Herman his biggest workout in years.

Outside, the wind whipped into a frenzy. A tree outside his window started tapping on the glass like a long-fingered, skeletal hand.

Another beep brough Herman's attention back to the phone, but this time, Penny's voice sounded urgent and frightened, though no less angry at him.

"Herman, Penny again. Daisy told me that Mickey went out to talk to the groundskeeper and never came back. They're sending someone out to look for him."

That noise at the window was getting louder. Tapping. Scraping.

"I don't know why you won't call me back, so we're coming over. I don't know if you're in your skivvies our your sleeping, but I don't care. Get up and get dressed. We'll be there soon."

Herman felt as if he was having deja vu. Suddenly he felt outside himself, as if he knew what was going to happen next.

He dropped the journal and clutched one of his forks just as his window opened.

The groundskeeper was there, staring in at him.

Herman had never actually seen the man up close before. It was as if he had just walked by and decided to have a friendly chat. But of course, that didn't make much sense when Herman's room was on the third floor.

The groundskeeper looked wholly unremarkable. Someone you'd walk past without giving a second glance.

Herman, frozen to the spot, worked quickly to remember the man's every feature, as if he'd need to explain the groundskeeper's appearance to a police sketch artist.

He had no idea he'd be dead within the next few minutes.

The man was white, middle-aged perhaps, or at least his hair had gone grey early. His eyes were hard to make out in the night, instead seeming to be black holes that might even extend through his deep eye sockets and straight out the back of his head. He wore a blue plaid shirt with denim overalls, and each arm ended in a hand clad with yellow leather gloves.

Herman finally tore his eyes away from the groundskeeper's emotionless face, glancing down to ensure his line of salt remained intact.


The groundskeeper's voice entered Herman's mind, though the man's lips never moved a millimeter.

Lifting his right hand, the groundskeeper gripped the windowsill, pulling himself inside as salt gently wafted to the ground.

"But the book," Herman thought to himself, staring in shock at the useless protection he'd put in place, "the book said he's weaker indoors..."

Herman had never been in a battle. He'd never so much as gotten into a fight in school. But he had been bullied his whole life, whether it was for his size or his glasses...He'd carried his feelings of inadequacy with him to the nursing home as well. He hated his curved spine, and as much as he insisted he didn't, he hated seeming like a lunatic when Penny and his friends didn't believe everything he'd said about the groundskeeper.

So he may not be able to defend himself, but he had proof. Seeing the inhuman groundskeeper float in through his window was pushing the limits of Herman's sanity, but at least it confirmed what he had come to believe.

He gripped onto his stainless steel fork as if it were a wooden stake, destined to be forced through a vampire's ribcage. It's handle had read "stainless steel," and the internet had told him stainless steel was at least partially iron.

He swung his arm with certainty that it would work. He willed himself to believe the journal. Every word written by his dead friend Robert Dawson, who himself believed the groundskeeper was a killer.

Just as the fork plunged into the Groundskeeper's neck, Herman heard a knock at the door behind him.

Herman's blood thudded in his ears. His heart pounded in his chest.

The groundskeeper stood in front of him, with shiny metal jutting out of his neck. He slumped against the wall and slid down to the ground in a pile.

For a moment, Herman thought maybe he had killed the man.

Was that a good thing?

How could he possibly explain this to anyone?

Would he be arrested for murder?

The knocking at the door grew more insistent. His friends called his name.

His friends. The ones who doubted him. But now he had actually killed the killer!

Herman turned to the door and found himself more out of breath than he expected to be. He slowly made his way to the door, sliding the chain lock open and unlocking the deadbolt. His hand rested on the doorknob as the voice crept back into his mind.


Looking over his shoulder, Herman watched the groundskeeper rose back to his feet, pulling the fork out of his neck.


Herman stared from the monster in front of him to the journal by his chair. The rules had been very clear.

Robert's rules.

The groundskeeper's long fingers gripped around Herman's shoulders, and the voice in his head almost seemed to be laughing, as he placed the fork into a pocket of his overalls.

The last thing Herman saw before the groundskeeper pulled him through the window was his door opening. Penny, Mirabell, and Daisy stood in the doorframe, just in time to see Herman disappear from view.

Fingernails pried into Herman's scalp, peeling and pulling as they fell. The groundskeeper lived hours of joy in the few seconds it took to fall. He gouged, dug, and wrenched at Herman's skin. In the morning he might chastise himself for being so reckless, but he hadn't enjoyed a physical kill in so long.

Pathetically, Herman took solace that his friends would have no choice but to believe him. He hoped they'd pick up the journal and find out how to kill the groundskeeper for good.

And then the groundskeeper's words came back to him again: "I like it when you feel safe."

The salt hadn't kept him out.

The iron didn't leave a mark. What's more, he pocketed it as if he could use it later.

YES, screamed the groundskeeper inside Herman's head.


Herman realized the horrifying truth: the book wasn't written to hurt the groundskeeper.

It was all a trick. A trick to make Herman think he was safe. But really, he'd not only left a door open for the groundskeeper, he'd maybe even helped him.

Herman thudded to the ground, not even fully aware of what he'd been up against. Unable to share his epiphany with his clueless friends.

On any other day, the groundskeeper would make sure this looked like just another hapless elderly accident, but his anger was too enjoyable.

He wrenched Herman's arms in impossible directions, enjoying each pop and tear. Lost in thought, he pictured that one-eyed man on the floor of his shed.

The groundskeeper couldn't stand the thought of someone seeing infiltrating his home base...seeing the undesirable living conditions he'd been forced to endure.

There was a lot of punishment to exact, but it could wait a few minutes.

The groundskeeper could take out his frustration on Herman's corpse a tiny bit longer...

Forward to Episode Eight