Update: edited for consistency.
And now ...
A Short Story by
Louis Charles Lohman
He found himself standing alone and naked under a gaslight. His hair was long and shaggy, dripping water as the wild wind and rain blew it about and soaked it through. His beard, also long, also shaggy, dripped water that ran down his chest.
He felt none of it. Not the wind. Not the rain. Not the chill in the air or the nakedness of his body.
All he could feel was the pull of the Symbol. The pull, and the excruciating burn in the palm of his hand, where the form of the Symbol was impressed in his flesh.
The Cask was broken. The Symbol had separated from the Cask and was lost. It was here. In this world.
It seemed vaguely familiar to him. This world. This place. But the pull of the Symbol, close as it was, drove all other thought from his mind. He must retrieve the Symbol and restore it to its rightful place atop the Cask of Infinity.
He raised his hand, palm out, and slowly turned completely around, sensing through his palm, the direction in which the Symbol lay.
There. That building, across this .... street. The word was slow coming to his mind. He stepped into the the street and slowly crossed over the cobblestones, across the sidewalk that bordered them, and up the short flight of stairs that led to the first floor of the building. The building where the Symbol lay hidden.
He paused before the door. He was puzzled, briefly, that this ... thing obstructed his path. He held up his hand and felt the power surge through his palm and he walked through the door, and then the inner door, only to find himself in a hallway with doors on either side.
There. That first door. That door hides the Symbol. It drew him to itself and in his mind, he could sense the glow, the power, of the Symbol. He walked to, and then through, that door, too. As though it wasn't even there.
She woke to see a man in her room. Naked and pale, with long shaggy hair and beard. His hand came slowly up from his side, palm toward her. She could see in his palm, an angry red glow. A figure eight. And she knew he had come for the golden figure she'd found in her tenant's room, all those many months ago.
Her hand slid under her pillow. She felt it there. It was hers now. Her treasure. No one or nothing could take it from her. Her fingers closed around it as the naked apparition seemed to float toward her, the glow in his palm growing stronger, more intense and she felt compelled to rise from her bed and offer her treasure to this apparition, this pale and naked man now in her room. She fought the impulse, now growing more and more urgent, to hand it to him. He came close, both arms now outstretched, until she was encircled by his arms and ready to hand it over to this man. Ready to hand over the treasure that she had claimed for her own, but at the last moment, in a spasm of rage, she held it back and away from his grasp. The Symbol glowed and his palm was as if it were fire. The glow of the symbol seemed to reach out to his palm and the fire in his palm reached out toward the Symbol and they connected and just as he was to grasp it in his hand she threw it on the bed and they both disappeared from this world in a blinding flash of white-orange light.
The police were called.
The landlady had disappeared. No one knew why or where she might have gone. Her nightgown was found laying on the floor in the middle of her room. And there was a strange sign burned into the sheet which covered her bed. A figure eight was scorched there. No one had any idea why. Except for the Constable who first came to the scene. Normally a forthright and honest man, he found himself strangely compelled to pick up the golden figure eight he saw on the bed, and put it in his pocket.
He thought it his treasure. Almost, as if it were payment.