It was too late to get to Lady Cthulhu's gig tonight, the times on the flyer said that doors opened at six and the band would be on by nine. It was ten to nine now, and the hospital was twenty minutes away from the venue, the Bierkeller. I went home instead, sitting on the bus by myself, yawning miserably as we lurched from one stop to another. I went to bed when I got in, leaving my keys on the kitchen table.
I dreamt of the Ilmatu again.
We were three days north of Ivalo and just above the strange subterranean construction we'd found. It was too small to be a city, and we weren't certain it was man-made, but it had been dug into the ground and there were signs that people had lived there. Raininen had been ecstatic at first, convincing himself that the Sampo was surely buried somewhere inside here. We went inside, following dark corridors down, and slowly realised that it was some kind of mockery of a town built entirely underground. Long damp corridors replaced streets; wide, low-ceilinged rooms replaced public squares, and smaller rooms with staircases seemed to be dwellings. The walls were frozen at the top, glistening with ice, yet the ice became some kind of gel at the bottom and squelched underfoot. As we explored further, we needed our torches less as light seemed to be seep in from strange directions. Guldtronen whispered to me at the back of our little party that at first he thought it was light filtered through the ice above us, but when he checked, the ice was covering stone. He shivered as he said that he thought the ice itself might be the source of the light, and something about the way he said it made it sound like it was a bad thing.
Then the Ilmatu got him; she stepped out from some hidden passage or crevasse and laid her hands over his eyes, crooning some soft song that made my skin crawl when I heard it. I turned and saw her: a smooth oval head with no face or hair atop a slender, conservatively dressed body, her soft, misshapen hands gently pressing on Guldtronen's eyes. He looked as though he were caught in bliss, his mouth slack and his body relaxed, swaying very slightly as though ready to fall. I shouted, warning the others and ran to him, trying to pull her off. I flinched away as soon as I touched her; her clothes were part of her, some trick of colour and light; it felt like I'd grabbed a rotten tomato. Things had moved beneath her skin, threatening to burst out, and I couldn't bring myself to touch it again. She let go of Guldtronen then, and approached me, her hands held out in front of her, Guldtronen's eyes now embedded in her palms and blinking at me.
I woke up screaming.
I went downstairs to the kitchen and sure enough, my keys had been moved to the hook by the back door and my empty cup was now sat on the table. The sugar had been spilled out, and written in it in my own handwriting were the first words of the Unbinding. I licked my finger; it tasted sweet.
I swept the sugar away and made fresh coffee. I dreamed of the Ilmatu almost every night, and every night she made another attempt to get free. I never woke up refreshed, I always woke up feeling as though I'd spent the night fighting for my life. The evidence I left behind suggested that it might be true.
The coffee helped a little, washing away the tiredness for now, and I decided to do a little research on Lady Cthulhu before I dragged myself down to their gig this evening. I was hoping that they were a pop or rockband, something where I might look a little out of place, but I could always pretend that I was escorting a niece or nephew too ashamed to be seen with me. The last band I'd see with DeeDee had been performing something called screamcore and I'd wrongly assumed for half of the gig that they had serious feedback issues with their instruments. After I realised they didn't the rest of the gig had been fairly miserable.