Fic Prompts: Ruining Lovecraft Part 1
The weather has been nicer lately. Not so much of that wretched heat gluing the air to us with sweat. In fact, if it weren't for that heavy fog drifting over from Innsmouth, I'd be tempted to conduct my case review with the window open tonight.
Fortunately for me, tonight's case is not another wild tale by Mr. Randolph Carter.
(In fact, Mr. Carter has been banned from the premises after the events of [REDACTED]. I need to update Mrs. Heald and Mr. Jones, should he try to enter through the museum.)
No, this case is that of...let's see...an undertaker who had a bit of a misadventure inside a tomb? Or a mausoleum? It's not particularly clear, the file is simply called In the Vault.
Now, it seems our anonymous doctor- If Randolph wrote this, I swear- is only telling this tale because the undertaker in question has passed on and presumably can't come and raise a stink about his business being spread around. Dead or not, this still smacks of a patient confidentiality violation. (Has anyone got the name of that doctor? Hm. Mrs. Heald might. I'd like to make a note of it and ensure that I do not make any appointments with him.)
The late George Birch, it seems, had a very sensible career change and avoided talking about the case in this file.
Well, that's just the disclaimer, and already this Mr. Birch seems to have more common sense than dear old Randolph. Terrible uncanny thing happens that causes you bodily injury? Go somewhere else! Don't keep looking for more terrible uncanny things that will cause bodily injury, Randolph! And for heavens' sakes, if you don't know how to describe the terrible uncanny things just say so, don't call everything you can't describe gelatinous, Randolph you ridiculous-
Ahem. Sorry about that, I got a little off-topic.
Where was I?
Ah, yes. Mr. Birch apparently got -- oh. Got locked by accident in a cemetery's receiving tomb for nine hours in the spring of 1880. I'm sorry, nine hours? In early April? Good heavens to murgatroyd, that is unpleasant. And certainly warrants a subsequent career change! But it hardly seems like the sort of case we deal with here at the Museum. Best to read further.
Mr. George Birch was the Peck Valley undertaker, and I use that term very loosely. He put bodies in boxes and buried them, but I'm really not at all sure the man was in the least bit qualified for the job. Our anonymous doctor reports that he was...unenthusiastic, shall we say, about the usual amount of effort put into the preservation and burial of people's loved ones. Seems Mr. Birch was in the habit of building flimsy coffins out of cheap wood, without measuring the intended occupant much, if at all. I think he assumed that he could shuttle the coffins into the dirt quickly enough that the Peck Valley folk wouldn't have time to realize grandpappy got packed away in the wrong grave.
Well if he was shorting his customers out of quality coffins and funeral services, where was the money going? It certainly wasn't going to the upkeep of the cemetery or his facility -- Birch let the mausoleum lock rust so badly the door needed some "persuasion" to open and close.
Once spring arrived, he started putting the corpses in the caskets, and the caskets in the designated graves. More or less. Apparently it was more along the lines of "bury the one whose grave is right in front of the tomb door, then take a break for three days because the horse didn't like the rain." When he did get around to going back to work, he was supposed to bury a Mr. Matthew Fenner. Allegedly somewhat inebriated at the time, Birch made the decision to put Fenner in the wrong coffin.
Yes, on purpose.
Mr. Fenner was apparently very nice to Mr. Birch, and Mr. Birch decided to repay the old man by burying him in his very nicest coffin, which happened to be a bit too large for him. It was, after all, intended for one Asaph Sawyer -- a notably foul-tempered and unpopular fellow. Only, Mr. Fenner died before Mr. Sawyer did, and Birch must have figured Sawyer would never find out that the coffin he'd paid in advance for was housing somebody else.
Of course, being April 15th during a week of rain, conditions weren't ideal for a burial. An entirely too convenient gust of wind slammed the tomb door shut. (Unless storms were afoot, in which case it wasn't too convenient after all.) The lock, of course, was stuck with rust.
Well, at least that solves the mystery of how he got locked in the tomb, I daresay. I-
Wh- Jones! Jones, why is there a rusty lock in the file?
Blast the man, we don't take souvenirs from the interviewees! I'm going to have to quarantine this whole wing- Jones, where are you?!
I'm going to have to have a word with him later. In the meantime, I'll just...move the lock...somewhere. Not the Pickman portrait, no use taking unnecessary risks. The hearth will do for now. I'll have to burn this glove as it is. A pity, this pair came all the way from Dunwich.
We'll have to go through the rest of the file a little more carefully, I think. I'm sorry, I'll need to put the review on hold for the evening. I've got to take some precautionary measures before we proceed. And I'd better find Jones. It's not like him not to answer...
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