The Forbidden Territory
a work in progress...
by John Mundt, Esq. 2007
all rights reserved

Erl hunches over his locker as he fumbles the combination.  Around him, the noise and excitement of other high school kids heading home for the weekend crowds him as he tries to be inconspicuous.  "Please," he thinks, "let me get out of here just once without being seen by..."  Right on cue, the door to his locker suddenly slams shut, nearly catching his fingers. 

"Yo, Nerd-man.  Where you think you're going?" 

Erl doesn't even look up at the brutish pig-face now mere inches from his own.  "My last name is Nerdman, Butch.  Both syllables share equal emphasis." 

A sadistic sneer creases Butch's fat face.  "You talking back to me, Nerd-man?  What, are you tired of breathing?" 

"Ha-ha, Butch.  Very amusing." 

Annoyed, Butch shoves Erl's face against the lockers, causing a loud "bang" and the half-hushed giggles of passersby.  In Erl's heart, a fist is forming, but in the school hallway, all that forms is a mask of beleaguered acceptance.  He's been through this before, nearly every day since his Freshman year began.  "What do you want, Butch?  I don't have any money." 

"No?  Then you better get some, Nerd-man...or you don't get this back!"  With that, Butch snags the cellphone from Erl's backpack. 

"Come on, Butch!  Give it back!  I need that."  And he does, but really just to find out his weekend work schedule at the library.

"Then you better come back Monday with, uh...fifty bucks."  Glaring at Erl with malicious glee, Butch kisses the cell, then puts it in his back pocket, just as Algebra teacher Mr. Gilbertson rounds the corner.

"Is there a problem here, boys?  Erlingston?  Richard?"

Erl smirks to himself upon hearing Butch's real name, then quickly looks away as he catches Butch's eye.  Butch smiles broadly, and says "No sir, G-Man!  We're just making plans for the weekend.  We're gonna raise some money for our favorite charity, aren't we, Erl?"

"R-right.  Right...Richard."  Erl couldn't resist, even though he knows he'll pay for it.

"Alright, boys.  Alright"  As he continues on his way, Mr. Gilbertson casts a wary eye on the grinning Butch, adding "Carry on."

Watching carefully for Mr. Gilbertson to be just out of earshot, Butch replies "Oh, we'll carry on, G-Man...won't we, Erl?"

Sensing an opportunity to make good his escape, Erl has already moved several feet away as he says "I'll get your money for you, Butch.  Just don't hurt my phone." 

"I'll hurt more than that if you don't come up with the cash,"  With that, Butch turns and lumps off, leaving Erl to slink away though the closest exit, heading for the library.  He has no idea how he'll ever be able to come up with fifty dollars, no idea whether he'll ever be out from under Butch's thumb, and absolutely no idea whatsoever that having had his cellphone stolen will soon lead him to the greatest adventure of all time...
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Erl quickens his pace as he begins to walk across town.  His mind is racing as well as it replays what has just happened.  "Of all the things Butch could have taken," he thinks, "why did he have to take that?"  Without his cellphone, he has no means to check on his part-time job at the public library without stopping by in person.  Well, that's not exactly true.  He could wait in a line to use the school's one payphone, or, worse, ask a fellow student to borrow another cell for a minute, but that would entail the risk of interaction, and that may be Erl's greatest fear.  With good reason. 

For as long as he can remember, Erl has been the target of ridicule and physical attacks, "...and for what?"  Again, Erl returns to memories of grade school.  "What can I do about my name?  I'm just a kid.  Being a 'Nerdman' is bad enough, but being Erlingston Codstric Nerdman, the Third?  That's more than any kid should have to..."  His thoughts are interrupted as he finds himself at the circulation desk of the library.  "Um, hi.  It's me, Erl.  Is Randall here?"

From behind the oversize desk, Michel, a thin, surly graduate student from France, silently points to the office area.  Erl likes his job at the library, but it is by no means a comfortable environment for him.  Most of the small staff seems disdainful of him, and the constant flow of people passing through often makes him uneasy.  Still, the books offer his only respite from the troubles of his life.  In the stacks, he can quietly escape into his own thoughts, away from the worries that beset him everywhere else.  Now at the head librarian's door, Erl notices that it is ajar.

"Hello?  Randall?"  Opening the door wider, Erl can barely see the top of his boss' head above the piles of paperwork and books.  "It's me, Erl.  I came to see if you needed me this afternoon."  Something tips over, making a fluttery, handful-of-papers sound, as a little bespectacled man peers above the mess.

"Erl?  What are you doing here?  I don't think that I have you on the schedule until, umm..."  The befuddled Randall noisily searches stacks of notes near him, then continues "...uh, I don't have you scheduled again until next week.  Didn't you get my message?  I'm sure that I sent one to you.  Didn't I?"

Too embarrassed to explain what happened earlier, Erl simply says "Uh, I lost my phone.  Sorry."

"There's nothing to be 'sorry' about.  I'm happy to see you!  If you've got a minute or two, I do have a little job for you.  I have tons of book work, as per usual, or I'd do it myself."  Erl nods.  For others, reshelving books is a bothersome task, but Erl finds it very relaxing.  That's just what he needs; a couple hours of escape.  "Oh, thank you, Erl.  You have no idea how much this means to me!  Now, here's what I need.  The library is accepting a donation of a local man's book collection.  Very interesting and rare stuff.  I was supposed to meet him to arrange pick up and so forth, but, well...that's why I'm glad you came! is his address.  He lives nearby, on the east side.  I think he's a shut-in, you know?  No phones, and so forth.  If you could just let him know that we are still interested?  Maybe set up a time for me to reschedule?   Just, you know, talk to him for me, won't you?  That would be great!"

Taken aback, Erl can only muster "O-okay.  Sure."  This is not what he had expected, but it doesn't seem too hard.  Looking at the address, though, his mind changes...and his face goes blank.  "One-sixteen Territory Road?  That's Meriwether Manor!"

"Yes it is.  Have you heard of it before, Erl?" 

Has he heard of it?  What kid hasn't?  Meriwether Manor, a dilapidated old gothic revival on top of a barren hill, is the most famous "haunted" house in the area.  Behind it's black iron gates is the stuff of childhood nightmares.  Erl gulps as he asks "Who...who lives there?  I thought it was abandoned."

"No, the last Meriwether descendant - Russell, I think...or Rufus...or is it Orfus? - is an elderly man who can no longer afford to maintain such a large estate.  A shame, but that's life, I suppose.  Now, you'd better scoot.  I have to get back to, ugh, this.  Thanks again, Erl."

So, armed only with a note from Randall, Erl wanders out of the office.  As he passes the circulation desk, he turns to Michel, hoping that he might somehow convince him, instead, to...but, no.  Michel scowls as he holds his palm in front of Erl's face, silently conveying his desire to be left alone.  Erl trudges out.  Looking to the east, he can just make out the gray form of Meriwether Manor through the..."Hey?  Where did all of this fog come from?"  A great sense of unease comes over him as he continues on into the settling mist.
Meriwether Manor looms larger and darker as Erl walks toward it.  Even through the fog, he can see shuttered windows,  falling balconies, and weathered clapboards.  Now at the foreboding iron gate in front, he can think of nothing except the many stories of ghosts and other strange occurrences for which the manor has become something of a Halloween legend.  The gate is open slightly, so Erl sneaks in to the enclosure.  Although it is clear that no-one has used the imposing front door for sometime, he can see that a little worn path leads through the barren yard, directly to what appears to be a service entrance near the rear of the building.  Following it, he begins to hear the faint sounds of..."Wh-what is that?"  Erl wonders, " A struggle?  Did someone just yell?"  Opening the door quickly, Erl sees down a long, narrow hallway to a dimly lit room.  "I...I think there's a fight going on down there."  He is drawn by the sounds to enter the house, carefully staying in the shadows - just in case.  As he inches toward the noises, he can hear bits and pieces of an argument.

"I won't ask you again, old man," a growly male voice threatens, "tell me where we can find The Third Tome."  Erl sees a small lamp fly past the doorway, landing with a crash.  He knows that he should run away, but his curiosity is clouding his common sense.  The growly man shouts "Ah, this is pointless!  Let's just 'off' this old man and tear the house apart!"  Erl is now frozen with fear.  He's come too far to leave without a good chance of being noticed, but he can't go anywhere else.  Crouching breathlessly behind a small hall table, Erl is shocked to hear a female voice sternly take command of the situation.

"No," she flatly intones in a thick accent, "that is not how this game is to be played.   Professor, out of my respect for you, I am giving you until tomorrow to turn over The Third Tome."

A trembly voice asks "And if I don't?  I'm an old man.  You can not threaten me with anything.  I am not afraid to die."

"Perhaps," the woman continues, "perhaps.  You are a decent man, Meriwether.  In fact, I truly believe that you will hand over The Third Tome if I told you that a random stranger off the street will die mysteriously each day that you do not."

Erl has to keep himself from gasping as a cold rush comes over him.  "She's pure evil," he thinks as he shivers.

Hi!  This story is, at this point, still being written.  Because it's based on characters that I years-ago created, then abandoned (most with good reason), you might want to learn more about the source material.  Click on the little file icon to read October's WOMP-Blog entries about these characters.  I plan to work on this story as time allows, so check back every once-in-awhile to see what has been updated!
Last updated: December 4, 2007