May 22nd, 2016
“Statement of Jane Prentiss, regarding… a wasps’ nest in her attic. Original statement given February 23rd, 2014. Audio recording by Jonathan Sims, Head Archivist of the Magnus Institute, London,” Jon paused and breathed in deeply, trying to settle the strange buzz of unease that swarmed beneath his skin. Jane Prentiss. They had finally found her statement, taken two years before, and for some reason, he couldn’t help but hesitate. All the answers to their worm problem could lay in this file. Answers that Jon didn’t want to hear.
His thoughts strayed from that deep-seated fear of the truth to Martin, rushing into his office covered in silver, writing creatures, Martin sleeping in the storage room, Martin glancing about like he expected some horrific worm-ghost to reach out and take him away at any moment. There were answers in this statement, answers that might calm the fear in Martin’s gaze. Jon settled back in his chair and straightened the page.
Jane Prentiss’s statement was a sprawling mess of music and rot. Jon felt himself get swept up into the tale of some poor, mentally ill woman’s state of mind and house and struggled to find a way back to his own academic detachment. It was like staring at all of the horrors through a fisheye lens, unable to turn away. Jon stared down at the statement, let the words written fall from his lips like heavy stones, and shuddered at each depiction of crawling legs and sleepless nights.
At one point, Jon’s eyes flicked to his own wrist, visible beneath the loose cuff of his button-down. The statement continued on, his lips continued to move, but he swore something was crawling somewhere on him. His skin burned. Something was crawling on him, but no matter where he looked he found nothing. The statement went on, about attics and hives and compulsions. She certainly had to be some sick woman— nothing else could explain away her crazed words.
The truth had to be mundane. If anything in this statement were real then that would mean the other statements contained the same truths. Things existed beyond human comprehension, and they were frightening, and Jon couldn’t live soundly with that knowledge, not yet.
Jane Prentiss’s statement ended not with a plea for help, but with contentment at the institute’s inability to. She was afraid. She was crazy. She had to be crazy, right?
“Statement ends…” Jon mumbled and a string of unprofessional confusion tumbled out of him. What could he say about this that they already didn’t know? There were no answers here, just madness and a horrible array of medical accidents and anomalies.
And yet Jon felt as though he were covered in millions of burrowing creatures. He shakily gave his closing remarks and clicked off the tape recorder with his usual farewell. When he stood, the room seemed to swoop beneath him, and he steadied himself on his desk.
The office door opened with a faint creak, and then hands were on Jon’s shoulders, steadying him. The sudden physical contact forced a soft hiss of protest from his warbling lips, but the hands did not flit away. They remained, sure and steady, and when Jon looked up to find Sasha staring back down at him.
“Jon, just what are you doing?” She asked, propping him up on the desktop with relative ease. Jon groaned and rubbed his temples, trying to work around the strange weight in his throat to respond. When it became apparent that such a matter wouldn’t happen so easily, Sasha reached behind him and passed over his mug of cold tea. Jon drank it like a man denied water for decades, and only grimaced in disgust at the temperature once the last drop had slid down his throat. Sasha copied his expression, perhaps out of guilt, though her lips held the gentle smile of a concerned mother, “Should I have Martin set up another pot?”
“No. I’m… I just need to lie down.” Jon said, slow and unsteady. He went to move again but Sasha pressed a hand to his chest, keeping him upright and against the desk.
“What happened? What are you doing?” Sasha repeated, leaning in as if she were trying to check if he had a concussion. Jon pulled away with a huff and scowled.
“No need to mother me. Martin is fussy enough already,” he grumbled. Sasha snorted, then leaned in to loop Jon’s arm around her shoulders. He balked, mouth falling open, and then he said again, shakier, “There’s no need to mother me.”
“Oh, don’t think of it as mothering, Jon, I’m just helping you out.” Sasha hummed, easily gliding from the desk to the door with Jon in tow. He tried not to think too hard about how easily Sasha managed to carry him; but still, was he really that light?
“Well, I don’t–”
“I’m your assistant, Jon, it is literally my job to help you, even for fainting.”
“I am not about to faint I– the statement I read, it was–”
“Weird?” Sasha stopped before the door, her eyes boring into Jon’s. He found, surprisingly, that he felt no anxiety from staring back. Sasha was not scrutinizing him like Elias tended to, she was just looking, watching, understanding. “I tried reading one of the statements a few days ago, after… Well, after running into that Michael creature, and it really… There is something weird about them, Jon, and I don’t know how to just say you’re not alone in feeling that but, well, that’s exactly it. I understand.” Jon felt safer, somehow, standing next to Sasha, and if not safer then just less alone. Helped. He swallowed hard around the lump in his throat and nodded once, putting more of his weight against her.
“They do contain some… Heavy descriptions,” He said idly, trying not to focus on the idea that the statements themselves may be weird in some way because they just couldn’t be. They were just words. Prentiss was just crazy. He was just spooked by her tale. That was it. Sasha’s face twisted into something unreadable, and Jon tilted his head, “What?”
“Nothing… Uhm, Jon, do you… Believe in the statements you read?” She asked as she opened the door and carried Jon over to the cot which had been set up in the rather excessive extra storage room down at the other end of the basement. The room was thick with dust and files and extra fire extinguishers. Everything seemed gray in some capacity, either from old age or general messiness. Martin’s blankets and pillows were piled high on one end, so Jon settled on the other and leaned back against the wall.
“Of course not,” Jon said, easy as breathing, “There are completely reasonable explanations for most of the occurrences in those statements.”
“Ah,” Sasha stared down at him, unknowable suddenly, “That’s right, Martin… Hm.” She glanced back out the door, her fingers working hard at the frayed edge of one of her sleeves. Jon scowled and rubbed at his own wrists, trying to fend away the phantom feelings of legs and pincers and stingers.
“What about Martin?” He asked, voice much calmer than he himself would have expected. Strange, it seemed he couldn’t stand even uttering Martin’s name a few months ago but… Things had changed, Jon supposed.
“Oh! Nothing, he just mentioned you’re still quite the skeptic.” Sasha smiled, obviously not wanting to cause any more strife.
Jon shrugged and said, “I… Suppose so, yes. I’m of a more academic mindset, as you know.”
“Of course,” Sasha sighed and stepped back, “So, I should–”
“Er, wait, Sasha uh, uh…” Jon felt his face heat as he reached out to push some of Martin’s things aside, “I know… Okay, hear me out, could you, could we, I mean, er…”
“Do you want me to stay with you?”
Jon pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed deeply, “If that wouldn’t be any trouble?”
“Of course not, Jon.” Sasha smiled like she had just won a bet. She settled down beside him and pulled out her phone, “You know, I actually wanted to tell you something about the group chat Martin, Tim and I have…” Sasha fell into a practiced routine of showing funny online images, asking Jon’s opinion on certain books or TV shows they both watched, and offering to get him tea or coffee or biscuits. The more Jon sat with her the more he realized Sasha knew how to handle him; she kept the conversation flowing herself and focused either mundanity or obscurity to keep him entertained. Jon couldn’t fight the small, almost uncharacteristically sweet smile spreading across his lips. Prentiss’s statement was almost entirely swallowed by the excited ramblings of Sasha James, and that was okay. That was normal. That was friendship.
“Hey, Sasha… If you wouldn’t mind, er, could you add me to the Archives group chat? I know I said I wanted nothing to do with it before but–”
“Don’t even sweat it.” Sasha grinned and bumped into his shoulder, and the two sat, swathed in comfortable conversation, hidden away from the crawling, creeping sensations that haunted Jane Prentiss’s statement.