Part of me, the part that seeks quantifiable connections between all things, had imagined that whatever was behind the forbidden door in the basement had to be related in some way to the disembodied Giant Hand From The Cloud as illustrated in the Ace cards of the Minor Arcana and Negligible Arcana. For example:
- Clue #1 We found the late Michel Nolastname flattened as if he were a mosquito smashed down by the hand of an annoyed giant.
- Clue #2 Anais Herschel was plucked into the air by fingerlike things that were monolithic in size.
- Clue #3 The note for Anais Herschel’s ransom was a photograph of skywriting, in other words, with clouds.
- Clue #4 We thought that the ransom note was signed Lace but it may have been L Ace, as in Left Ace. The Giant Hand From The Cloud on the Ace cards are all of the right hand.
- Clue #5 Elsie Cabret has been guarding the mysterious door in the basement night and day for weeks, terrified, as if keeping a monster at bay.
Of course the other part of me thought this was a load of hamster dung. The Hand From The Cloud is merely a symbol, a vehicle that serves to tell us the meaning of each of the Ace cards.
The first thing we saw when we breached the door into the secret room beyond was not what either part of me expected. It was the width and perhaps length of a footbridge, though it curled like a banner that had fallen at the end of a festival. It looked as though it were made of solid ivory. The beam from Julen Ibarra’s pocket flashlight was too weak to properly illuminate the rest of the space.
Ms. Cabret told us, “Don’t go any further! I’ll be right back,” before hurrying upstairs. The hard ivory banner moved towards us with a loud scraping noise against the floor. Mr. Ibarra let out a squeak. Ms. Balque stumbled backwards and landed on her posterior.
Only Ms. Delaire was able to speak. “Who are you and where is Anais?”
Given Ms. Cabret’s recent behavior, I did not expect her to return. She did, and brought two lanterns with her. The first was an antique of unknown origin, its light emanating from a candle. This she gave to me. The second had three LED bulbs and a thirty day battery capacity, from Mountain Equipment Co-op. She handed this one to Danny Delaire. Ms. Cabret brought out a Taser from her purse and kept it for herself.
Creeping through the forbidden door into the forbidden room (which could more accurately be called the forbidden unthinkably wide cavern) reminded me of certain animated classics in which a semiverbal Great Dane is repeatedly lured into such spaces with four meddling youths. Of course we had no semiverbal Great Dane, nor were we likely to encounter a masked ne’er do well intent on frightening the populace for the purposes of petty fraud. Instead, we found ourselves in the presence of something I have not the vocabulary to fully describe.
It was the size of a drive-in hamburger dispensary, but emaciated like one who has no experience whatsoever with drive-in hamburger dispensaries. It was shaped like a headless spider missing three of its legs. Its fingernails grew as described above, curled, and as wide and long as foot bridges.
Gold coins the size of dinner plates littered the floor. There were buckets and buckets of jumbo-sized hand cream, the creature’s food.
Ms. Delaire’s eyes went almost as wide as the coins. She her voice now broke with fright, but this did not deter her. “I said, who are you and where is Anais?”
The Hand kneeled onto its knuckles and shook as if sobbing.
She continued. “We’re not here to hurt you. I don’t know how you got here but I think that your mate wants you back. We also want someone back. What can we do?”
“Nothing,” said Elsie Cabret, her voice deadened from exhaustion. “It came down for Michel Nolastname forty years ago, but it fell. We couldn’t have it feeling its way around the city, crushing everything under its fingers!”
Crystal Balque mimed something that the rest of us interpreted as “What did it want with Michel Nolastname?”
“To take the fool home.”
We gasped. Michel Nolastname was not only our friend and colleague, he was by far our wisest, most inscrutable mystic! How dare she!
“You’re not hearing me right,” she said. “The Ace hand is a living being and it tried to take THE FOOL.”
We are silent. The only sound is my pen as I write this in a stunned daze, hardly able to breathe. I will send further updates when we determine how best to proceed.
Mr. Nolastname and Ms. Herschel.