I can’t say that my uncle and I weren’t nervous on that rainy night of watching. That would be ridiculous. We were not, as I’ve said, in any sense childishly superstitious, but this house had taught us that that there were mysteries in the world. In this case an overwhelming preponderance of evidence from numerous authentic sources pointed to the tenacious existence of certain forces of great power and, so far as the human point of view is concerned, exceptional evil. To say that we actually believed in vampires or werewolves would be a carelessly inclusive statement. Rather we were good Methodists, and, as such believed that the Devil could work with circumstances to make it seem so. We were also, though, educated men and believed, no matter what we found, there would be a rational explanation, even if the Supremely irrational Player was behind it.
In short, it seemed to my uncle and me that an incontrovertible array of facts pointed to some lingering influence in Allendale, traceable to one or another of the ill-favored French settlers of two centuries before, and still operative through some malignant will. Perhaps the trauma of the massacre at Lachine set moving certain kinetic patterns in the morbid brain of one or more of them—notably the sinister coffin-sleeping Michel Deraque—which somehow survived their bodies and continued to function in some way, perhaps some kind of contagious, inheritable post-traumatic stress disorder?
Such a thing was surely not a physical or biochemical impossibility in light of recent scientific discoveries—photons which appear to be two places at once or active human stem cells found in 17-day-old corpses. One might easily imagine certain genetic mutations or even foreign bodies kept alive by imperceptible or almost immaterial subtractions from the bodily tissues and fluids of other and more palpably living things into which it penetrates and with whose genetic fabric it sometimes completely merges itself. It might be actively hostile, or it might be dictated merely by blind motives of self-preservation. In any case such a monster must be by definition an anomaly and an intruder, which must be eradicated for humanity’s own safety.
What troubled us was that we had almost no idea what we were looking for. No sane person had ever seen it, and few had ever felt it definitely. It might be pure energy, or perhaps purely a soul—a form ethereal and outside the realm of substance—or it might be partly material, some unknown and equivocal mass capable of changing at will into any form it desired—solid, liquid, gas, or some tenuously in-between state. The anthropomorphic patch of mold on the floor argued at least a remote and reminiscent connection with the human shape, but how representative or permanent that similarity might be, we couldn’t say with any kind of certainty.
We had procured two weapons to fight it, a large and still-classified electromagnetic energy weapon operated by powerful storage batteries that we hypothesized would disrupt the energy necessary for anything—living, dead, or undead to function, and a pair of military flame-throwers in case it proved partly material and susceptible to mechanical destruction—for like those more superstitious, we were prepared to burn the thing to a crisp if there was anything that could be burnt. All this aggressive weaponry we set in the cellar in positions carefully arranged with reference to the cot and chairs, and to the spot before the fireplace where the mold had taken strange shapes. That suggestive patch, by the way, was only faintly visible when we placed our furniture and instruments, and when we returned that evening for the actual vigil. For a moment I half-doubted that I had ever seen it in the more definitely limned form—but then I thought of the legends.