Prologue: Another Time in Another Place
There are all kinds of evil places.
Some of them can be found on Earth. But these are ranked rather low on the scale because they are mostly run by the most primitive of beings. The Black Hole of Calcutta, The Tower of London, Auschwitz and Dachau, Phnom Penh and the Hanoi Hilton -- all were considered horrible, but most evil beings thought them to be middling at best. Though demons do their best to make “Hell on Earth” a reality, the truth is they consider most of Earth far too primitive to make it possible.
The real evil places are other dimensions. There are few evil dimensions ----however few is a relative term considering that there are millions of other dimensions but there are a vast number of dimensions that contain evil entities. The trick is reaching them. Some --like Quortoth--- can only be opened by dark magic. Others can only be opened with some kind of mystical item -- like a Key. And others can only be reached through alignments of the stars. In almost every case it takes a great deal of skill and luck for any man to do it. Unless, of course, you specialize in getting around these kind of obstacles.
When he had been alive, Holland Manners would have left the task of locating these other dimensions to subordinates, people who did this for a -- an unfortunate choice of words -- living. Since his departure from the mortal coil, however, and given the nature of the beings that employed him-- he had found that he had to visit places that would have not have caught dead in (another unfortunate phrase) for the purpose of work.
As evil places went, however, this wasn’t so bad. Granted he had to walk through what appeared to be acres of red curtains, and the light had a tendency to start flashing at random but still the overall effect was one of strangeness rather than direct evil. Under normal circumstances, Manners might have even been comfortable here
Of course considering that the major source of the evil was not currently residing at this location, it was not surprising that the place seemed less malevolent than usual. And since it was his job to make sure that this remained the case, he had to handle the situation with care.
He sat on the black leather sofa that finally appeared after much traveling. He knew he wouldn’t have to wait very long for them to come.
And they did.
“Who are you?” said the man who was now sitting in the chair nearby. He was dressed well in a red jacket, white shirt, and leather shoes -- all of which distracted from his being less than half the size of an average man. His voice seemed distorted somehow.
“My name is Holland Manners. I’ve come to see Windom Earle,” Manners said calmly.
“What gives you the right to see him?” asked the little man.
“I represent an association that requires his services. Here is my card.” Manners handed the card to the little man. The little man examined it and handed it to a giant who had appeared next to him.
“What business is this of yours?” the giant asked in that same distorted tone. “We have no business with people like you.” He handed the card back to Manners, who noted with only nominal surprise that his card had become a Jack of Hearts.
“I am an associate of a colleague of yours. I believe his name is…Robert.”
That got the two men’s attention. “How do you know him?” the giant asked.
“Some associates of mine -- let us call them ‘lodge brothers’ -- are familiar with his work. They would like to see it continue.”
Neither man said anything. But the lights again flickered. When it returned to normal the two men were gone. In their place was a normal-sized man.
The man wore a torn black suit, his hair had gone shock white, and his expression was completely devoid of sanity. One might think that this place had done it to him, but, as several men could testify, that particular aspect of his makeup had been driven out years before he had come here.
“Mr. Earle, I presume?” Manners said cordially. Earle turned towards Manners with an expression of what might have been surprise. It was hard to tell because his face was frozen in an expression of pain.
“You are someone new.” Earle spoke in the same distorted as the earlier individuals.
“My name is Holland Manners. I represent a business that requires your assistance.”
“No one comes here for help,” Earle said. “All that you will find is despair and anguish.”
“By a happy coincidence, that is one of the things our firm specializes in.” Manners smiled perfunctorily.
“Anyway, how can I help? I can never leave this place.”
“What if I were to tell you that someone has arranged things so that you can walk out of here with me?”
Earle’s expression did not change but Manners could tell that something had changed in the mans body language.. “How…who has arranged this?”
“Well I’d say a higher power is aiding us, but we both know that ‘higher’ is not an accurate description of where these things come from, right?”
Earle smiled. It was a ghastly expression that would have caused a lesser man to run away in terror.
“Has…has He forgiven me? It’s been ages since I’ve seen him…”
“Mr. Earle that’s the reason that I have arranged your release.” Earle seemed a little confused. Manners wasn’t surprised. It had probably been ages since he’d had a coherent conversation. “It’s a kind of trade: we let you out and you help us let him out.”
“But… He has been free for…a while. He left just after I arrived.”
“I’m sorry to say that your ex-partner has managed to neutralize him for almost all the time that he has been out.”
Earle seemed puzzled for a moment, then his eyes cleared. “Of course. Cooper always had that energy. So he has…”
“Buried him pretty effectively. That’s why we need your help. It will take a certain style to free the genie from the bottle, and we think that you can provide it”
A new expression was forming on Earle’s face. On a normal man, it might have appeared hopeful -- on Earle it looked even more terrible.
“What do you want me to do?”
Manners smiled again. They would have to work out the plans, but the deal had just been closed. He got to his feet. “We can discuss that on the way. I’m sure that you would be more comfortable some place where the…lighting is better?”
“Y-you mean, we can just leave?” It was hard to tell with the distortion, but Manners thought that he could sense joy in Earle’s voice.
“Right out, Windom… may I call you that? Mr. Earle is so formal for a man of your talents.”
Earle barely nodded as he got to his feet. They were heading out, when Earle stopped. “You… you do know that he took my soul?”
Manners put an arm around him. “Well Windom, in my line of work I find that the lack of a soul is advantageous.” He smiled. “It’s one of the reasons I sold mine.”
The two men walked toward the curtains. A moment later they were gone…as if they had never been there.
SPRING GROVE DIAGNOSTIC CENTER
One week later
He had a plan.
Admittedly it wasn’t a great one -- not like Columbus’ one about finding another route to India, or George Marshall’s on how to rebuild Europe -- but when faced with overwhelming odds against the forces of darkness, any port in a storm was required.
Granted after nearly a year he was somewhat foggy about the details of why a plan was required, and just about everything else, but he knew the basics.
His name was Cooper. He had fought the forces of darkness...and lost. Something horrible (whose name flickered in and out of his consciousness) had somehow joined with him. The only way to make sure that it stayed buried was to bury himself. So he had. He had instructed them to keep this side of him from coming out -- by any means necessary.
So they straitjacketed him. And drugged him. And, when they thought he was near the surface, shocked him with 200 volts of electricity.
He had all but forgotten how to measure the passage of time. He could barely manage activities more complicated than reading a simple book or watching television. And, by his own request, he rarely saw anyone who wasn’t a doctor. No one was sure what triggered the other’s emergence, but he would be damned if he was going to risk the lives of the few people who were close to him.
Of course if you believed the voices, he was damned already.
He hated the voices. He hated what they wanted and all that they stood for. But given that he had deprived himself of almost everything else, he had little choice but to listen to them.
Before he had managed to convince the doctors of the voices and of all that raged within him, they had tried to treat him as though he was a normal man. Once a doctor had invited him into his office. Alone. Oh a security guard was there, but they had reduced the Thorazine dosage to a normal level. So they could have a coherent conversation about what was really bothering him.
He had tried to ignore the voice. The rage. The force within him screaming. And he had been doing all right -- until he had looked into the mirror.
And saw him.
The dark stringy hair. Those horrible eyes. That maniacal grin that showed not merely insanity and rage, but cleverness. The pure, unbridled evil that he was.
The doctor had been talking to him, but suddenly he could no longer hear him. All Cooper could hear was the maniacal laughter of the other.
Without realizing it, he had picked up a pencil resting on the doctor’s desks. Then, in a motion so swift that the security guard had no time to react, he had brought it down through the back of the doctors hand.. The guard managed to grab him but not before he had managed to hit him twice in the chest. He had been dragged back to his room, alternately screaming and giggling the entire way.
They didn’t allow him pencils anymore. Or mirrors. And they always came to him in groups. Safer for everybody.
Since then he had existed in a daze. He would sit in a semi-conscious state, and try to take himself mentally away from this place. It wasn’t that difficult; before he had come here he had actively studied the Buddhist meditation. He managed to find himself a peaceful, safe location. It was one of his last peaceful moments. Sometimes he was in Sheriff Truman’s office. Sometimes it was the Great Northern, but mostly it was at the Double R. In his mind he would sit at the counter, have some strong coffee and a damn fine doughnut and talk with Annie. They talked about simple things: the weather, the upcoming beauty pageant, whether Norma and Hank were finally going to get hitched. Pleasant things. Unimportant things. In this he had managed to find something close to peace.
But now something was going wrong. Horribly wrong.
Over the past year there had been frequent gaps in his memory. He knew that even with everything that he had done, occasionally The Other would take control. The overall sensation was as if he was looking at himself from outside. It was like he wasn’t in control of himself. Over the past two weeks, however, these periods had been getting longer and more frequent. He thought that perhaps they might have reduced the amount of medication that he was taking. He hoped that was the reason, and not that he was getting stronger.
Then there were the doctors. He had been here so long they had stopped visiting him on a daily basis. The only people he saw regularly were the orderlies and the guards who came with them. But now the doctors had again started coming by his room with the orderlies. It might not have been so unnerving if the doctors had wanted to talk to him. But they never came into his room. Rather they stood outside and talked with the nurses and orderlies. He tried to calm himself by thinking that maybe all they wanted was to reevaluate him. But he was troubled that he never saw them. He wanted to get a good look at their faces. He had always been good at reading people even in his current condition, and he thought that it would reassure him.
These factors, combined with a gut feeling that something was off, convinced him that he had to remain on guard. But it was so damn difficult. If he hadn’t been dormant for such a long time he might have been better equipped. But then his dormancy was the only reason he was still alive, so it was paradoxical. Or was it ironic? He wasn’t sure of the exact terminology anymore He needed to concentrate. If he could just…
A loud ringing interrupted his thinking. It took him a minute to place the noise. Fire alarm. Probably one of the schizophrenics nearby had pulled it. Just another distraction to stop him from--
Distraction. He pondered the word for a minute. Why had he focused on that word? He didn’t need to go off on some tangent but…
Maybe it wasn’t a tangent. Maybe it was a warning. Maybe whatever gut instincts he possessed, no matter how deluded by drugs, was trying to warn him that there was something rotten in Denmark.
“Doctor, you really should proceed to the exits. There are other patients….”
“Look boy, I know that you’re just trying to do your job, but I have to see this man.”
Two voices. One of them was Clifford, one of the few orderlies that was permitted to see him. The other voice was familiar, but he couldn’t recognize which doctor
It’s not a doctor. Whose voice was that? Not the others, but it wasn’t his own either. Maybe it was the last shred of his detective insight begging to be heard.
“Dr. Lear, I still need to see some kind of papers.” They were walking into his room now.
“All right, I believe I have what your looking for right here.”
He lifted his head.
In time to see the ‘doctor’ slash Clifford’s throat. The attack was dealt with such precision that Clifford had no time to scream. He just fell to the floor.
He felt a cold terror spread like ice water through his veins as the ‘doctor’ turned towards him. His memories had been battered by the year of drug-induced solitude, but he recognized the face instantly. It was one that he had prayed he would never see again.
“How’s that jacket feel on you, Cooper?” Windom Earle said. “I must say I never thought that you and I would have our positions reversed so completely. But then sanity’s a funny thing.”
“H-how did you get here…” Cooper feebly asked the man who he had stopped twice before but who had still come away master of the situation.
“Oh you know, high friends in low places. Or maybe I’ve got that backwards. Anyway it doesn’t make a difference. I’m here now and ready to act.”
“Have…have you come to kill me?”
Earle smiled that terrible smile that had haunted Cooper in his dreams. “As much as I would like to, I have other plans. Better plans actually. Why settle for one death when you can have a slaughter?” Earle reached into his pocket. “And you, my friend, are going to help me.”
“I’m…not your friend.”
Earle took out a syringe. “I wasn’t talking about you.”
And suddenly, it was clear. The haze that had hung over him faded into the ether as the horror of what Earle had come here for dawned on him.
“No. No! I won’t let you! You can’t do this!” He began to weakly struggle.
“I can. And I will.” In a swift motion, he pressed the needle into his temple.
Cooper fought -- it was what he had done for so long -- but the drugs rushed through him like gasoline .He had a moment of coherence, and then… he was gone.
Earle waited for a moment. He knew the effects of this drug from past experience. In a short while the required results would be achieved. In the meantime he thought that it was best that he made sure Cooper was no longer in the building when he woke up.
“Come on, old friend. We’re about to have a great adventure. We’re hitting the big time. No more killing in the boondocks,. We’re headed south.”
He helped Cooper to his feet. He knew that the fire he had set in the lounge distract for some time, but it was best not to dawdle.
By the time they realized what had happened, former Not-So-Special Agent Dale Cooper would be long gone.
More importantly, so would Bob.