May 4, 1920
To Whom It May Concern
For the past few days, I had to keep a terrible secret. I did something I’m not proud of, but I did my best to act innocent of what has happened only not too long ago. I’m surprised that even though it was the talk of the town, no one had put two and two together, but I fear it will be a matter of time before anyone finds out. The crime I have done was I turned an innocent human into a roach.
I was glad nobody around here had found out that an idiot apprentice of a werewolf named Kristoff Novak had anything to do with this “metamorphosis” incident, but if they ever find out, they might think I was some sort of twisted criminal that meant to wreak havoc on the material world and vanish into the spirit world at the last minute, but please, let me explain!
This started when I became an apprentice for Mister Martinek, a master magician and pharmacist, only a week or so ago. Sadly, I was only transferred to him when my former master, Sir Ruzicka, died in a horrific accident when he was sent to capture and kill an exotic but dangerous spirit, and in his will he wrote if anything was to happen to him, I was to be sent to his long time friend, Martinek, who in my opinion was rather shady. Martinek was something of a smoke spirit who wore a fedora, trenchcoat, and similar clothing, and he didn’t seem to like it when people get too curious, especially if his new intern was the one asking questions. The house he lived in was also dark and dreary, a two-storey type made of black wood and furnished with animal skin chairs, bookshelves, and mahogany tables.
The first night I got there, by horse-drawn cart at first, then by train as I got closer to this metropolis, was spent learning different addresses for my first job was to make deliveries to different apartment blocks and houses. Martinek gave me a map and explained what to do with certain packages in a voice that sounded much like wind, and he kept on reminding me to,
“Never open the packages, for some of my products are extremely dangerous shall they be used at the wrong time.”
I remember what had happened when I asked him this question,
“Used as in released, sir?”
Sir Martinek didn’t said anything, but the air around us simply got colder.
The next morning, I almost forgot everything that had happened and panicked after finding myself in an almost empty room. Since this room had only a dusty bed and a cobweb covered desk, I guessed Mr. Martinek never expected visitors to come often, let alone an apprentice that was to stay with him for the next few years. The kitchen was especially small, perfect for a loner, and just when I finished my breakfast of bacon and eggs (made by a ghostly maid), Martinek immediately told me that I was to deliver a few powder boxes and potions to some customers not far from his house.
“They’re in the suitcase on the table in the living room.”
“Which table, sir?”
“The one closest to the biggest bookshelf.” Martinek said as he grabbed his suitcase and walked past a taxidermied wolpertinger. The little light in the house and the effect of shadows (just when I thought this place was too dark to have shadows) seemed to give the creature a sorry look on its face even though it was supposed to look like it was taking off like an angel.
I realized the great difference between my shady master and the bright light outside, and worried about what could happen if my master were to walk into it without anything protective.
“Wait, sir! I think you need an umbrella.”
“Kid, I don’t need one. Now goodbye.” Martinek closed the door and walked out of the shade from the roof over the porch into the sunny world. He looked the same and didn’t seem affected. That’s when I set out to do my part of the job.
It wasn’t too hard, for the addresses he gave me didn’t span farther out than two or three neighborhoods, and the packages weren’t too cumbersome and the weather was just plain perfect, with asphodel flowers in full bloom, light breezes that blew through the streets, a sky covered with clouds, so I was okay with delivering magical merchandise for most of the day, and I learned how Martinek was able to afford plenty of the stuff in his greatly (but gloomily) embellished house. The thing I wasn’t sure of what to think of, however, were some of the customers. Some of them belonged to species I’ve only read about. For example, before I came to the city to spend the rest of my apprenticeship with Martinek, I’ve heard of a terrible kind of shapeshifter called a fuath, a bizarre creature with a humanoid build, slimy green skin, and a weird blonde mane that covers their spine as well as their heads, not to mention their noseless faces and webbed hands and feet and their reputation for being lascivious and evil, so you could say I felt unnerved from seeing one for the first time...as a buyer.
In fact, I wondered if she ordered something from Martinek’s business for a different reason other than for getting a little flask of scarlet-colored powder. She lived in a house surrounded with rose bushes that produced enough perfume to make you come close to passing out. She also wore a red dress with plenty of ruffles so luckily, she didn’t seem too dangerous.
“Here’s the powder case you asked for, Madam.”
“Why thank you sir, now would you like to stay here for a little while?”
She gave me this look that made me feel a little hypnotized, but I managed to snap myself out of it.
“Sorry, Ma’am, but I have other houses to go to.”
With a rather mischievous smile, she purred, “Oh you don’t look too busy. I’m sure you can afford to lose a few minutes.”
I said, “Sorry, but perhaps later.” and continued on my way to meet other, even stranger residents of this metropolis.
It was sunset by the time I got back. I couldn’t believe how diverse the populace around here was. Plenty of the visitors and residents here were from many different places, some from Japan, others from Africa perhaps, and some were possibly from one of the “lost” continents, which were extant in my world. Was the industrialized town that famous? Anyway, when I came back from my tour and put my case down, the mansion was magnificently lit with candles, and the candles showed off some of this house’s real beauty. Chandeliers sprouted from the ceilings, intricate paintings hung from the walls, the rugs sported beautiful designs, and a polished wooden carving can be spotted here and there. I stood there in wonder at the whole place and asked, Did the maid do this?
The door opened and a hushed voice answered my question,
I panicked and turned around to see Martinek who had just returned from work.
A glow started at the top of the staircase and a rather nasal sounding voice said “Mow” or “Mau”, whichever you prefer over and over as if humming a song. The glow got more intense as the source of the voice floated down the stairs. You think it was a cat made of fire? Not quite. Instead, I had to be introduced to a ghostly floating cat head with eerie glowing eyes followed by a giant candle-flame trailing behind the head only a foot away. “Martinek, did you go to Japan, because if not, then I have no idea where you got this bizarre lantern from.”
The monster immediately got offended, but before it could start a hissing fit, Martin jumped in with an explanation. “I’m sorry Kristoff, but I didn’t know he was coming. I’d like you to meet Kerze, a Malaysian fire cat. You might not ever heard of such a monster, for they were able to keep themselves away from the curious humans and those humans would have known about his species had I not intervened.”
Like I said before, Martinek was not the kind of fellow to readily answer inquiries, but this was the first time I had seen him in a clearly good mood. “Intervene in what, sir?”
“Oh, one fateful day during one of my travels, I came across a band of professional hantu (Malaysian monster) hunters who managed to capture him in a glass lantern and planned to show their fellow humans and maybe find a way to abuse him if I hadn’t taken their jar and let him loose somewhere at the western Chinese coast. We were great friends and had many adventures together but one day, I wanted to check on my relatives in Europe and Kerze was happy with his volcanic habitat so he let me go back to my beloved city and promised to visit me one day,” and as he turned to Kerze, Martinek said, “but even though I missed him, I never expected that day to be today.”
The two went over to the kitchen and I guessed in his language, Kerze babbled a boisterous “What have you been doing for all these years, bucko?” while Martinek explained why a wolfish-looking teen was living with him. They talked and talked for about a half-hour and I could barely tell what exactly they were talking about, so I decided to go back to my room, and after I read an old and dusty book I got from the bookshelf, I fell asleep.
It was somewhere around three in the morning when someone shook me and caused me to wake with a start. The person who gave me such a rude awakening was my master Martinek and Kerze, who made the room I was in warmer and brighter. I was very annoyed and confused on why they were waking me up in the middle of the night, but I didn’t dare show it.
“Come on,” ordered Martinek, “Sorry, but I should have told you earlier. We have one last package and it’s supposed to be delivered in dark and foggy weather like now. Now get up.”
I looked to the window to my left and noticed that I could barely see anything. Next to Martinek, who was a foot away from my bed, was a square wooden crate painted dark green. It had a lid crossed with the word FRAGILE on top and was about one foot on all sides. Martinek then handed me an address and the map and directions to get there. He also held a small square bottle that contained a rose-colored juice.
“This,” he said as he gestured toward the crate, “contains some of the most dangerous potions I’m allowed to brew. If you ever get any on yourself from being too curious and assuming you don’t come into a coma, you need to get at least a drop of this antidote on yourself to neutralize the effects.” After Martin said that, he handed me the flask and warned me that I was about to set out for a long walk and that I might find the crate quite heavy. He also handed me a necklace with a single green beryl crystal attached to it, in order to warn me if I was anywhere near a dangerous area. Then Martinek started to drill Kerze.
“And since you’ve mastered the fiery arts, I’m assuming you can guide and protect Kristoff and at the same time, keep the potions from reacting?”
Kerze confidently answered, “Mow.” and caused his tail to grow brighter for a moment. Martinek jumped from seeing that flame intensify and calmed at the same time it lessened back to normal.
I immediately got dressed and put on the thick belt that contained a small flask of holy water, stuck the antidote in one of the empty pockets in the belt, and put on my brown coat in case the weather got colder or started to rain. Kerze followed me down the stairs, past the shelf with the wolpertinger on top, and through the maze of furniture in the living room, with me carrying the crate the whole way. I had to put it down when I finally got to the door. Kerze looked like he wanted to help, but seemed afraid to. I memorized the map before I got back to carefully moving the box out of the door and onto the porch. The sky was very dark and showed no light, not even a single star, and there was plenty of fog obscuring the streets. A lantern with a small candle inside sat on a small table on the porch, and even though it was late, some spirits were out minding their own business. I picked up the heavy package, walked down the sides of streets, had to go through the alleys of houses and other buildings, and headed straight for the southern edge of town, as I avoided rowdy wish dogs and other spooks on the way.
It was around an hour or so later when Kerze and I were among the dark and empty streets of an unusually quiet neighborhood. I was very exhausted from having to walk the whole way and since Martinek wasn’t with me, I could then peacefully think how stupid it was of him for not giving me a ticket for riding the train instead of having to carry this crate and plod during the whole trip. Considering the number of spirits that were still out at this time of the night, I figured the station wasn't closed. I put the crate down and sat down with my back against the wall of an apartment building, while Kerze set himself on the ground a short distance from me.
After I rested for ten minutes, I looked at the crate for a moment and wondered what exactly is in that box. I pulled off the lid and saw that the crate is lined with a heavy black cloth and inside that were these olive green glass bottles. I admit, I felt uneasy when I picked one of them up, but I was curious and wanted to read the label, which I couldn’t do since Kerze’s light was too dim and that the label was written in runes. The bottle felt weird in my hands, the glass was slick and cold and something about that bottle made my hands feel numb, and then the numbness started to creep up to my wrists. That was what made me consider putting the bottle back in and go back to fulfilling my master’s orders.
But just when I was about to put the bottle back in the crate, I heard a cackling sound and the gem on my necklace started to glow, and at the same time, I saw a blur fly out and hit Kerze in the face. Then the source of the laughter came out from across the street, and I thought the noise was coming from a closer source! A fuath in a bolwer’s hat and suspenders charged from behind a vacant store and threatened to take the potion in my hands. His hand shot up for mine and in a panic, I thrust the potion away from my attacker and punched him with my other hand. The second he jumped away to cover his face, I blindly grabbed the holy water flask in my belt, uncorked the bottle and splashed the water in his face. The noxious gangster’s skin blistered and he screamed in pain. With the flask in my hand, I threatened him and watched as he scurried off to parts unknown. I turned to see Kerze on the ground and he looked dazed, which explained why he didn’t come to my rescue, and he got up and looked around in a panic, and he was meowing in distress.
“Kerze, it’s okay. He’s gone now.” I held up my hand to signal him to calm down.
That was when I realized that the potion I was defending wasn’t in my hand anymore, and as I remembered what I had done with my left hand, I turned to see a window about five feet off the ground but it wasn’t broken. I knew that bottle wasn’t normal so I wondered if it went through the window like a ghost and that’s where I saw it. The small bedroom I looked in was obscured by a strange unnatural black smoke and it came from the pile of broken glass on the floor. The sound of an alarm clock going off made us fear whoever was in there was going to get us for what we did, but I guessed either that person was a heavy sleeper, or the sound of the contents dispersing muffled the incessant ringing. I thought for sure the occupant was awake, for I saw what looked like an arm that split into two skinny appendages, and a pair of long thin antennae that shot out of that person's head. Kerze panicked and slipped through an invisible membrane that created weird glowing folds or lines as he went through and somehow shut off the clock. That was when I realized how the bottle went through the window without breaking it; we were at the interdimensional veil, where realities warped and where the human world meets with my world.
Apparently, these bottles were engineered as some type of grenade, because in the midst of the confusion, I watched in disbelief as the dark green bottle reassembled itself and rolled under the bed. We thought for sure our situation couldn’t get any worse when we saw some, some THING stir under the bedsheets as more of the smoke vanished. It was enough to scare us into finishing our duty, and for the fear of getting caught, I packed the crate, Kerze zipped out of the building, and the both of us fled to Southern Street like mad. This time, we didn’t dare to take any breaks.
At the house of a presumed witch, we finally got a ticking time bomb off our backs, and the young woman with strangely pale skin and eerie hawk-like eyes paid us plenty for our job. She didn’t open the crate to make sure that all of the potions were still inside and she didn’t ask what had happened to us or why it took so long. I was relieved and so was Kerze, and along the same exact route despite what had happened earlier, we came back to Martinek’s house and while we trekked back home, the sky started to pale. Fog still clouded the streets and alleys, and the diurnal citizens of the metropolis were soon up and about. It was just when we passed the exact same flat that I lost that potion my crystal started to glow and I heard a confused voice say, What happened to me?
I wondered where that came from when Kerze floated up to the window. He let out a startled “Mow!” and I turned to the window he was peering through. “Kerze what are you looking a--”
That’s when I realized what I had really done. To my horror, in the bed in the room lay a big ugly roach. Once again, the beryl on my necklace produced an eerie glow and I heard the same voice. How about I go back to sleep and forget this nonsense?
At the same time I heard that, the ghastly creature tried to shift onto its side and did this about ten times and fell back to its former position each time. The monster also had a freakish and humanoid face, so I could tell what that thing might be thinking. It turned out the crystal Martinek gave me was a type that enabled its wearer to read minds.
I don’t know why, but we both stuck to the window and stayed there, and spied on that creature. I'd admit, his thoughts were pretty sad.
Oh dear. What a terrible job I’ve chosen, being a traveling salesman. Working for a boss that talks down to his employees, meeting new people but never getting to have friendships with them, worrying about train schedules, awful food, why it can ALL GO TO--
“What the heck are you mavericks doing?” Someone shoved us out of their way. They were a noxious werewolf in a leather outfit and a nasty nekomata (short two-tailed cat) in European street clothes. They both were shocked at the sight.
The werewolf grunted, “That’s disgusting!”
The nekomata (not all female spirits wore dresses) laughed and yelled, “I feel sorry for that sucker! Looks like he’s a were-roach!” and got into a laughing fit.
The werewolf told his companion as he pointed to the window, “I’ve heard of were-tigers and were-snakes, but this is getting ridiculous!”
Another local joined in, this one was a blonde elf with a beryl charm similar to mine, took a gander and asked, “If this is the first time this happened, then why is he blabbing about his job instead of screaming? Whoever pranked this workaholic obviously chose the wrong victim.”
I couldn’t let these people call him an idiot for what had happened to him, after all, that idiot was me. It was bad enough I probably ruined his life and I don’t want him to be ridiculed for what I did. “The poor chap’s probably thinking he’s losing his mind! Humans don’t think stuff like this can happen to them anymore, so leave the poor fellow alone!”
Apparently, I was ignored, but no one suspected I had anything to do with this.
“Seriously?” scoffed the elf, “That imbecile thinks he can go to work looking like THAT?”
The werewolf muttered, “And judging from the fact that he can’t lie on his side, I don’t think he can get himself out of bed.”
More and more curious pedestrians stopped where we were at to see what we were talking about, and most of the reactions were shrieks and curses, or from the less sympathetic, an explosion of laughter. It made everyone’s hair stand on end when they heard this monster’s voice.
“Yes, yes, Mother, thank you, I’ll be out in a minute!”
It sounded something like nails on a chalkboard, but more animalistic, and it made me decide I’d rather not stick around to see what was going to happen next, so I reminded Kerze that Martinek was expecting us to return any minute now. I sped-walked the whole way home, past dreary houses and flats, skirted packs of filthy wish dogs that raided garbage cans, and nearly bumped into some pedestrians, if you can call some of the floating creatures pedestrians. Kerze looked a little more carefree, since he slid in waves and did a few loops, probably to not look too tense. Me and Kerze finally reached the house at around eight in the morning. Luckily Martinek never bothered to ask us any questions.
My next letter will tell what happened afterward.