Mike Sterling presents The Phantasmagorical Four — the Fantastic Four, as if they came from the pen of H.P. Lovecraft:
Professor Richards leaned forward at his desk, studying intently the papers laid out before him. After a few minutes of this quiet contemplation, he sat up, his wooden chair creaking at the movement. He looked over his shoulder at me, as if just now remembering that he had an assistant, one that had been waiting patiently for the good professor to finally turn his attentions to him. “My apologies,” Richards said, though his tone did not sound apologetic at all. “I am currently attempting to unwrap a particular historical puzzle, and have need of my volume of Egyptology.”
I inferred from this statement that he intended for me to fetch this book for him. Though I have spent little time in Richards’ personal study, I had no trouble spotting it amongst the many shelves burdened with books of science and history, both well-studied and obscure. It was a thick tome, discolored by age and resting on a shelf just barely out of my reach. I turned away from the professor to find the stepping stool or ladder that he must have somewhere nearby to facilitate the retrieval of books stored at such an inconvenient height. However, oddly enough I found none immediately evident, but my curiosity regarding this discovery was interrupted by….
What could I call it? A sense? A “feeling,” like the sort one would have when another person is peering intently at you, and you know for certain that you are being so rudely stared at even without directly confirming it yourself. This, however, was not the weight of another’s intense observation I felt upon me. This was the feeling that something was behind me, not approaching me, but passing by, twisting and serpentine, splitting through the air with haste. I saw nothing of what it was, frozen briefly by the sensation, staring blankly at a crowded row of books only a foot or two away. I heard nothing, save for what sounded for all the world like the hard cover of a book briefly scraping along a high and distant shelf.
Just as suddenly as the feeling had come upon me, it was gone; and, the spell broken, I spun around to try to determine what had just occurred unseen behind my back while I had vainly looked for a ladder that wasn’t there. Professor Richards was still seated in his chair, as if he’d never left it, and it creaked again lightly now as he once more leaned forward over his desk. It was not to study his papers, I saw to my surprise, but rather to read the book of Egyptology, the very one that had been sitting on the shelf moments before. I thought perhaps it was simply a twin of the volume, maybe one that Richards had stored in a desk drawer and removed unheard, but a quick glance upward revealed that the book that was once there, was no longer.
I tried to form the words, to ask the professor how he had done it, but as I was even drawing the breath to speak, Richards turned away from his studies only long enough for a terse “That will be all.” I found my need to question wither away, replaced by a relief at having reason to depart.