From The Unspeakable Oath 23, coming July 2013.
Written by Paul Stefko, © 2013. Illustrated by Matt Hansen, © 2013.
Late at night, modern Investigators are at a big-box store of the sort that offers low-cost, low-quality goods 24 hours a day. Perhaps they are investigating another mystery, or maybe they find themselves there on mundane business. Play up the purposeful dissociation of this kind of store: endless aisles of half-empty shelves or rows of clothes racks; the high warehouse ceiling with hanging fluorescent lights that buzz at the edge of hearing; tired customers shuffling along, pushing their squeaking carts.
Once the scene is set, there is a crackle of static from the store’s PA system. A woman frantically reads the following message:
“Code Adam. White female, seven years old. Brown hair in a ponytail, green eyes. Wearing a denim skirt and purple t-shirt with a unicorn. Last seen in the home entertainment section. Code Adam.”
There is a moment as everyone in the store freezes. Customers look around, confused or worried. The few employees around then spring into action. Investigators near an exit see security lock the doors and stand in front of them, arms crossed in front of their bodies. Other employees go aisle by aisle, searching the store.
If asked, the staff explain that Code Adam is a security procedure to locate a missing child. The Investigators may want to help. Employees politely but firmly ask them to remain where they are. However, they are too few to watch everyone, and the characters will soon be left alone.
An Investigator glimpses movement in a far corner of the store. A girl matching the missing child’s description stands there, a sad look on her face. When she sees the investigators, she puts a finger to her lips and whispers, “Don’t let it get me.” She seems fine, but an Investigator looking closely can see drops of blood on the floor behind her. Anyone who gets behind the girl can see two bloody holes in her t-shirt and the flesh of her back, below the shoulder blades.
If startled, the girl runs. She is agile and quick but cannot hope to outrun an adult. If an Investigator grabs her, they feel pulp under her clothes. She quickly wriggles free, leaving only a handful of blood and flesh.
If the Investigators play it cool and don’t startle her, the girl quietly turns and walks away. The wounds on her back are clear to everyone then. The characters are free to follow her.
The girl leads the Investigators to a closed fitting room in the men’s apparel section. The girl touches the door and her body folds itself through the wooden slots, leaving a smear of blood behind.
Inside the fitting room, Investigators find the little girl curled under the changing bench, asleep, with no sign of injury. Any previous blood or viscera has also disappeared.
A saleswoman arrives quickly and sees the girl. She rushes to a phone and cancels the Code Adam alert. The girl’s mother, in tears, thanks the Investigators before bundling the girl up and going home. Store security takes the Investigators aside and questions them about what happened, but they are content to accept whatever story they are given.
Option 1: Premonition
If the Investigators are watchful as the girl and her mother leave the store, they notice a man getting into an SUV with a bike rack mounted low on its rear—at the level of the young girl’s back, perhaps. If the Investigators do not see or say nothing, the SUV backs into the girl at high speed, impaling her and leaving the wounds they saw earlier.
Option 2: Propagation
Combine a child’s nightmares with latent telepathic ability and the result is a sentient meme capable of spreading itself to others whose mental defenses are compromised by panic or lack of sleep. Perhaps because of their past exposure to the Mythos, the Investigators are the only ones aware of the experience.
Option 3: Apparition
The girl has telepathic powers, but there is no independent meme at work. Her ability to read minds has warped her, and she happily uses her gifts to terrorize others. She has found her newest targets in the Investigators and may return to plague them in the future.