The Strange Tales of Thomas Novack is a flash-fiction serial story. Thomas Novack, our unfortunate hero, is one part private eye, two parts irritable cephalopod and a dash of magic. He runs his P.I. business out of a shop called The Emerald Eye, which rests inside the space station, The Flying Spade. He may not always be successful, but he’ll try his best to keep the paychecks coming.
“Do you always find it necessary to get shot at?” Bob, Novack’s secretary asked.
“What ever do you mean?” Novack said as a bullet slammed into a wall where he had been a moment before. “It’s not my fault they worship an eldritch being and they’re trying to summon it.”
“Sir, you are an Eldritch entity,” Bob said back.
Novack paused. “Fair, but they’re not always as friendly as I am.”
Just moments before he had been sneaking down a hallway, following clues that led him here: a dingy corner of the station. The right questions, the right people. His secretary did make a good point, which helped him in the door of the temple. When you look like what someone worships, they’re quick to accommodate.
However, it didn’t take long for someone to recognize him and realize he wasn’t there to join in the worship. The station has its quota for beings from other realities. Novack may joke about it, but most of his kind hoodwinks nice cultists like these into sacrifices just to arrive and kill them all. He may not like the zealots, but the other people on this station paid his bills.
He turned a corner of the temple to see a throng of cultists setting up a block in his path. Novack knew that the main chamber was just past the five of them. His left arm lifted and he focused. A hazy green shield of shifting smoke appeared in front of him. His right hand pulled the trigger on his pistol, shots blasting out.
Novack’s arm and mind shuddered, the sharp metal shards slamming into his shield, flinging away. The fletchettes from his own weapon hit their targets. The cultists dropped to the ground clutching their legs or sides, their voices ringing out in pain. Novack launched himself over the cultists on the ground, his duster fluttering behind him like ethereal wings.
With another thought, the green haze barreled forward, slamming open the door. He slid to a stop overlooking a large amphitheater. The walls were covered in shifting bone, grinding and thrashing. Waves radiated downward, a sea of bleached skeletons. Red strands of cloth fell from the ceiling in a pattern indecipherable to any sane individual.
In the middle of the room was a bowl, its bottom filled with a roiling and contouring liquid. The center held a small platform supporting a green sphere that casted lights about the room, dancing across the cultists. They stood and chanted, Novack barely able to make out individual words as each member sang without tune and out of sync.
“I’m too late,” Novack whispered in horror.
The events in the room reached a crescendo marking the finality of what was occurring. Novack readied himself for the inevitable. Some monster was going to come through the gateway the cultists were opening. A hole in reality leading to a strange and alien dimension. He was scared, but fear hadn’t stopped him before and it wouldn’t stop him now. A green flash blinded the amphitheater’s occupants.
When Novack could see again, he saw a figure standing where the sphere had been. A hush settled in the room as a collective breath was held. The figure’s hood dropped back and Novack looked into the being’s eyes. First he gasped. Then he laughed.
It wasn’t a chuckle. No, not even a chortle or a giggle. But a laugh from the bottom of his stomach that echoed throughout the room. He knew that the cultists worshiped an Eldritch being of death and destruction. But what they got was No’veaza’da. Or Derek, an old roommate of Novack’s.
“Sup dudes? Anyone bring beer?” Derek asked with a grin.
The next hour consisted of disgruntled cultists shuffling out of the temple back to their homes. The book that they had used as a bible had actually been a phonebook in Deep Speech. One page over and they might have summoned him instead. The rest of the time was getting Derek back on his way. Sure they had been roommates, but they certainly weren’t friends.
Now, Novack finds himself exhausted in his office, slowly spinning in his chair. Bob made a good point. He calls himself a private eye, it’s what’s on the sign for his shop, but he spends most of his time getting shot at. He got into this line of work to help people. Not to trade blows with misled and confused people.
He was pulled from his thoughts as a man stood in a suit at his door. He was more goliath than human, he must have barely fit in through the door.
“The Duke sends his regards,” the hitman said, pulling out a gun from within his coat.
A cough from behind the man made him pause. The hitman may have been large, but Novack’s assistant Bob was massive. Bob is a Centurion Model IV, a robot of war, but he had escaped from the frontlines on some rimworld when he found out he liked the finer things in life. Like poetry.
“I’m going to go,” said the hitman quickly, before he sprinted out the door.
Novack sat in his chair and continued spinning, a faint squeaking emanating.
Joshua Rettew is a third-year student majoring in Microbiology with a minor in creative writing. JR868511@wcupa.edu.