Chapter One

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The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of a black sea of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. - The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft

"Ruby! It's him!"

Ruby Parsons peered around her iPad at her roommate Claire, who bounced excitedly on the opposite end of the couch. "And who would he be?"

"Listen to this Daveslist Near Misses ad:

H.P. Lovecraft: Stand-Up Comedian - m4w (Annex Theater) - Seattle

Tuesday night, after the show, you and I flirted while in line for the bathroom. We agreed that even if the staff had to clean up a blood sacrifice, the place was still nicer than the streets below.

You smiled at me as you took off, but there was no chance for me to even get your name.

Buy you a drink sometime? We might as well enjoy ourselves before Cthulhu rises..."

Ruby scrambled across the couch and stuffed herself into the crack between Claire and the couch back for a look at the ad.

"It's Cthulhu! Your Lovecraftian lobster." Claire said, handing over the iPad for her to see.

"God, you have got to quit watching Friends reruns." Ruby read the ad. Her heart hammered in her chest, and she felt a blush of heat cover her face and neck. It was him. Too many exact details not to be. Still. A classified ad? In Near Misses? It was so...seedy. Wasn't it? What kind of people posted ads like that or worse...responded to them? "Listen, I met the guy for like thirty seconds in line for the bathroom."

"And then reread The Call of Cthulhu even though you practically have the thing memorized and went on and on and on about him and his hipster beardness for weeks. Weeks!" Claire snatched her iPad out of Ruby's hands, then launched herself off the couch and into the swinging papasan chair. Her fingers began typing furiously on the tablet.

"What are you doing?" Ruby asked, concerned.

"Answering him, of course."

"No!" Ruby raced across the tiny apartment to try to retrieve the iPad before the damage could be done, but Claire gave the chair a hard spin and kept typing. "Stop! Seriously, what if he's a serial killer?"

"He's not a serial killer. He likes comedians. And reads. Serial killers don't do either of those things."

"You don't know that. Claire-"

"Done!" Claire extended a foot from the Tilt-A-Whirl and anchored herself to the floor. The chair came to an abrupt stop, then twisted around the opposite direction, uncoiling.

Ruby snatched the iPad from her roommate's hands before Claire could get her bearings and read the screen: "Yes! I can't believe you found me. Would LOVE to meet you for coffee, a drink, a show...whatever!"

Ruby sighed. At least Claire had logged in under her own Daveslist account and not Ruby's. Not that it really mattered. This was Seattle. Every other twenty-something guy with a beard in town was a software engineer or a hacker it seemed. Nothing digital was sacred anymore.

God. What if he replied?

"I can't believe you just did that." Ruby handed back the tablet and sank to the floor, half scared but half excited. She'd never have had the guts to reply herself. Growing up in the Midwest, she'd still not shed her childhood lessons, long instilled by her farmer parents.

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