"You have violated the pact, Steven."
"What pact?" I asked. "I don't know no steenking pact."
"I made a pact to protect you and your mother," the stern voice told me, "The pact was intended to keep you from ever discovering .... Well, never mind. By entering my office, you have violated the terms."
"If I'm expected to keep a pact, it would have been prudent to let me in on it."
"The encloudment was supposed to keep you out! How did you find the basement?"
"I don't know. I just came home and noticed the door."
"After I escaped from the hoodoo."
"A sort of black-mercury blob that can shoot out tentacles. You know: a hoodoo."
"Some sort of monster attacked you?"
"Well, if a black-mercury blob that can shoot out tentacles counts as a monster, then yes, a monster attacked me. I called it a hoodoo because that's what the tattoo guy called it."
"The tattoo guy? Did you get a tattoo, Steven?"
"Tattoos are a lot more common these days, Dad. It's not just ex-cons and sailors..."
"Is the tattoo surprisingly life-like? Did you pass out while you wre getting it done? And did you feel different after you got it?"
"Yes, yes, and ... yes, now that I think about it. I started getting intuitions. I knew that something was following me before I ever saw the blob. And I knew to run from the blob even though it didn't seem very fast."
"And then you came home and saw the door."
"OK, I know what happened now. Some mystic quack managed to invest you with a minor charm of some sort. He probably bought the ink from a fey and then got lucky in applying the tattoo. But it wasn't lucky for you because it broke the encloudment that enforced the pact."
"The old guy said I was going to be attacked if I didn't get the tattoo. It probably saved my life."
"No. You wouldn't have been attacked at all if you hadn't broken the encloudment."
"So ... the tattoo that protected me from the danger is what drew the danger in the first place? That's rather ironic, isn't it?"
"It doesn't matter now," my father said in a resigned tone, "What's done is done. You and your mother have to get out of that house immediately. In fact, you should get out of California. Don't even pack. Go to the East Coast. Don't tell anyone where you are going. Don't ..."
"Just who am I supposed to be running from, Dad?"
"It doesn't matter! Just do as I say!" he sounded angry. Angry or frightened.
"You expect me to spend the rest of my life hiding from some mysterious unknown menace? That's not very realistic."
"No," he admitted, "I guess it's not." Dad sounded calmer now, resigned. "Look, Steven. I don't have time to explain it all to you because you have to get out of the house, but please take my word for it that you and your mother are in grave danger."
"OK," I said. "I believe you." After all, I had barely escaped from a monster only a few hours ago.
"Good. Good." he paused again. "There is a book on the bookshelves. Third shelf down, second shelf in from the left as you face the books, near the middle of the shelf. The title says 'Tables of Physical Properties of Materials' but it is really my journal. Grab it and get the hell out of there. Right now. Don't pack, just get to an airport and get out of the state. Please, Steven."
"OK, Dad, I believe you, but how am I supposed to talk mother into this?"
"There is a letter in the top desk drawer addressed to your mother. Give it to her to read." I opened the drawer as he spoke and saw the letter. "When your mother reads the letter it will lift the encloudment on her as well. It will also tell her that I was kidnapped and that you two are in danger."
"You will do it?"
"I said, 'OK'".
"OK. Go right now, Steven. I can't express how urgent this is."
There was a click and then dead silence on the phone. No buzz like you used to get on these phones after someone hung up on you.
For the last couple of minutes I had been feeling that same odd certainty that I was being stalked; the one I had felt before the first time I saw the hoodoo. But after the freaky conversation I'd just had with my missing father about pacts and feys and encloudments, I figured that I was just generally creeped out so I didn't pay as much attention to the feeling as I should have.
That's why I didn't even bother to look back at the staircase. If I had looked back, I would have seen the streams of black mercury coursing down the basement steps, but it would have been too late anyway. I was trapped.
I picked up the nail gun again but the extension chord didn't have any more room. Since I was in a hurry, I set it back down on the desk so that I could go over to the bookcase and look for my father's journal. As I stood there looking at titles, the mercury streams must have been crossing the floor behind me, because I began to feel near panic but I firmly pushed it way, telling myself that it was only a sense of urgency.
Then, genius that I am, I set down my last weapon. I leaned the two by four against the bookcase to pull out the journal and check that I had the right book. As I was scanning through the book, I felt something brushing at my pants cuffs and I looked down to see my feet encased in that black mercury.