“So,” Julian sat down opposite Adelaide, “are you sure about this?”
They were in the large warehouse space of Julian’s offices. The place was swarming with people, including builders bricking up the smashed wall and a line of rough looking individuals lining up to receive briefings from Peter. Julian had set aside a small corner from which he’d been watching proceedings. He’d greeted Lee and Adelaide warmly and found some more chairs for them.
“I think so,” Adelaide was nervous and apprehensive and she tried to steel herself, Lee gave her an encouraging nod, “I mean, if it’s not an inconvenience for you.”
“Of course it isn’t,” Julian spread his arms wide, “anything for the two people who helped get me out of jail.”
“Well… it wasn’t really us,” Adelaide frowned.
“Shh,” Julian’s voice echoed in her head, “I’m feeling generous, don’t knock it. Business is booming, Peter is no longer hassling me about financial stability and the Department for Extra-Normal Relations agreed to pay for my wall. As a result I am in a decidedly good mood. So, long lost memory you say? Well, if it’s there I can find it. Unfortunately though I’ll need to be closer than this to do so. You don’t mind?”
“What, you mean…” she mimed tentacles coming out of her face, “like what you did to Lee?”
“Yeah,” Julian said, “don’t worry, it’s harmless.”
Lee pointed to himself.
“Didn’t feel a thing,” he murmured.
Her heart sinking, Adelaide nodded reluctantly. Julian leaned forward and held either side of her face with his hands. Close up his face tentacles were disgusting, covered in a thin film of viscous goo. Adelaide felt her stomach churn.
“Just say when,” Julian said, trying to sound encouraging.
“Just do it,” Adelaide replied.
Julian’s tentacles swarmed forward, oozing into Adelaide’s ears, nose and mouth. For a moment she seemed to struggle, then they both went still.
“Yeah,” Lee said to himself, “I can see why that creeped them out now.”
Adelaide opened her eyes to find herself seated in her chair opposite Julian. The room had changed, though. Lee had gone and, save for a single glaring spotlight that illuminated a small circled around them, everything was pitch black.
“Welcome to your mind,” Julian said, standing up and cracking his knuckles, “let’s get on shall we?”
His appearance had changed. A halo of electric blue light floated around his head and fluorescent dots traced down each of his tentacles, which seemed thicker and more sinuous. He was strangely beautiful, in a disturbing tentacle-y way.
“Different, yes,” Julian nodded, “you should see yourself.”
“I feel like I don’t want to,”
Julian laughed. His voice seemed to come from all around them.
“It’s not so bad,” he chuckled, “better than most.”
Adelaide looked around them. The darkness was entirely impenetrable: a cloak of blackness seemingly without end.
“What’s in there?” She pointed.
“Your thoughts and memories,” Julian said, “we’re going to have to go in if we’re going to find that memory of yours. Don’t worry, I can light the way.”
Adelaide nodded and moved to head into the darkness. Julian reached out and put a hand on her shoulder. For the first time his voice sounded uncertain.
“Before we go,” he said, “I should maybe warn you about something.”
Julian twiddled his thumbs. His tentacles writhed and shivered.
“I’ve not always been the good upstanding citizen that you see before you,” he said, his voice quieter, “when I was younger I was more… unrestrained. I did some bad things. I’ve served my sentence for them, of course, and I’d never do anything like that again, but I feel it would be good if you knew that.”
Adelaide felt her insides freeze. She took a step back, not realising she was moving into the darkness. It was ice cold and it made her jump back into the reassuring circle of the light.
“What sort of things did you do?” She asked warily.
“I used to eat memories,” Julian said. Seeing her expression he added hurriedly, “I don’t have any senses, you see. I can’t taste or smell anything. I can’t see apart from the use of my psychic senses and I can’t hear apart from what people are thinking. Drinking memories allowed me to experience those things, to be able to be human, even for a short time. It’s an ecstatic feeling and highly addictive. Of course it leaves my victims with gaps in their memories, but what did I care? I loved the thrill of it, the taste of minds. I don’t expect you to feel sorry for me, just thought you should know, is all.”
“Okay,” she said, “Um… actually… thanks. Thanks for telling me that.”
Julian’s tentacles swayed in what Adelaide hoped was an appreciative fashion.
“That’s nice of you to say,” he said, “now shall we go?”
“Lead on,” Adelaide swept her hand out.
Julian moved into the darkness, the lights of his tentacles illuminating a small and feeble globe around him. Adelaide followed, keeping close behind him. The darkness seemed ready to engulf Julian’s feeble light at any time. In its depths Adelaide saw shapes moving, half-seen and half-familiar things. Her gut clenched.
“Don’t be worried by anything here,” Julian’s voice was hushed, “nothing can hurt you in your own mind unless you allow it to. Sure the nightmares and bad memories may seem scary, but there’s nothing in here that can really do you any harm.”
Something came out of the blackness and hit Julian in the face. He fell backwards into Adelaide’s arms, his halo suddenly flickering on and off. Whatever it was was gone before Adelaide could get a good look at it, but the suggestion of rough, scratchy contours and huge, wild eyes imprinted themselves into her mind. She helped Julian to his feet.
“What the hell was that?” She whispered.
“That was the memory we’re looking for if I’m not much mistaken,” Julian said, “whatever it is it’s not a good one. You can’t remember it because you don’t want to, or at least not the full details. It makes it dangerous.”
“So what are we going to do? Hunt it?”
“I’m rather worried it just started hunting us,” Julian said.