Oh God. Oh, God. Lovecraft was right. Things that are seen, cannot be unseen.
So I thought I’d have a private cabin on this flying death-trap Howard Andrew Jones has poetically named The Harold Lamb, but no. That’s reserved for important bloggers, like Sue “Goth Chick” Granquist, and our fancy pilot, Bill Ward. During our trip to Atlanta, I’m stuck down here in engineering, sharing a tiny cabin with Jason Waltz and John Woolley. They’re good guys, but for the past two days they’ve been laughing about some private joke. This morning, when I was finally done shoveling coal into the engines, I asked them to let me in on it.
They share a glance, and then Woolley moves a little closer, his voice lowered. “Okay,” he says. “You know how naive editor John O’Neill is, right?”
Well, yeah. He’s a Canadian, he trusts everyone. I nod, and Woolley continues: “He’s never been to Dragon*Con before. Yesterday he asks me and Jason about it. What he should expect, stuff like that. So I tell him, it’s tradition to dress up as Princess Leia — that wins everyone over. And he totally falls for it.”
I chuckle. That sounds like John. Right now he’s probably in the stores, cutting up sheets to make a white princess dress. But before I can comment, Jason adds: “That’s not the worst part. Yesterday I heard him asking Howard about those illegal genetic samples we picked up when we raided Dr. Zarius’ polar labs. He took two back to his room.”
“Wait,” I say, with mounting horror. “O’Neill’s not crazy enough to experiment with those…. is he? They can change you, in ways you’d never imagine.” I can see in John’s and Jason’s faces that they’ve suddenly come to the same dread conclusion I have. In moments, the three of us are pounding on the door to O’Neill’s cabin.
“Go away!” he shouts from inside. But his voice…. it’s changed. Changed in indescribable ways.
“We’ve got to break down this door,” Woolley says fervently, grabbing a crow bar. Jason helps him, but I start to back away. I know, with absolute mounting horror, what we’ll find when we open that door. It can’t be… it can’t be… but I know that it will be. And I can feel my very sanity slipping away… just as I hear the door crash open, and the screaming begins, as John and Jason look upon the horror within…
They’ve locked me away now. For my own safety, they say. And it’s true that I feel safer. John R.Fultz and Ryan Harvey were able to cook up an antidote back at headquarters, once Howard described what had happened. O’Neill has returned to normal, and will be journeying on to Dragon*con.
But not me. Not unless I can somehow erase the horrible image planted in my mind of Black Gate editor John O’Neill horribly, hideously transformed into Princess Leia in slave garb. Until then, I know I’ll be trapped here, with only the lonely roar of a zeppelin’s engines to let me know that the world carries on outside.
But that’s not all… in that final instant, as the lock on that fateful door gave way, I know — I know — I saw a flash, from what looked like a camera in Jason Waltz’s hands. Which means that there’s a photograph out there, a photo that preserved the inhuman vision of what awaited us within that fateful room.
Don’t look at the photograph. I beseech you, no matter the cost, don’t look at the photograph of what we found.
And if it’s too late… then God help you.
I’ll make room for you here in my tiny cell.