COMING OCTOBER 1, 2023
Summer’s End IV Story Synopsis:
In “Graveyard Minds” from THE SCARLET NEMESIS (2022), a mad scientist named Dr. Adam Quantamaker discovers the secret to physical immortality. He invents a process that irreversibly “quantum-locks” the cells in a person’s body, making them exist “outside of time” as we understand it. Quantamaker’s unwilling test subjects cease to age, are completely impervious to any pain or injury, and do not require any sleep, food, or nourishment. They also develop superhuman strength and have no memory of their former human identities.
Unfortunately, Quantamaker’s process also robs his patients of their very souls. With neither needs nor desires nor fears, they take little interest in the world around them and become catatonic, staring off into space for eternity. The entire planet could blow up, and these “quantum zombies” or “Neverdead” would not only survive the destruction fully intact; they would simply float through outer space for the rest of time, staring blankly into the darkness.
Dr. Quantamaker’s research is funded by the Warlock or Disciple of the Worm, who is a veteran necromancer, and who helps Quantamaker learn how to control the Neverdead. He succeeds at making the Neverdead completely obedient to his will. The Warlock then zombifies Quantamaker himself, turning him into one of his own creations.
While impersonating Quantamaker (since he seldom likes to reveal his true identity), the Warlock orders the Neverdead to kidnap their surviving mortal families and murder them on live national television, for all the world to see. He extorts every world government, threatening to convert the entire global population into Neverdead if they do not answer his demands. But the Warlock fully intends on zombifying the world even if his demands ARE met, since this entire scheme is really just another of his attempts at starting the apocalypse.
Just when all seems lost, the younger Shieldmaiden of Set appears and pursues the Warlock into another universe, foiling his plan. With him gone, the Neverdead become catatonic once again; the spell has been broken. This makes it very easy for Dr. Quantamaker’s private research company, the Quantamaker Group, to round up most of the Neverdead and lock them away (including the real Quantamaker himself), where no one will know to look.
Most of the Neverdead, that is, except for one. For when the Warlock’s spell breaks, one of the Neverdead happens to remember his former human identity. He remembers he is Sawyer Wynn, a loving husband and father. He remembers dying in a hospital emergency room from being in a car accident. He remembers Quantamaker resurrecting and transforming him into a Neverdead. Worst of all, he remembers murdering his wife Patricia and his 11-year-old son Logan at Quantamaker/the Warlock’s command, and not being able to stop himself.
Remembering all of this, and becoming aware of his existence as a Neverdead, drives Sawyer Wynn completely insane. He roams the wilderness, hiding from human beings for decades. When he finally comes back to his senses, he vows to hunt down and destroy the Quantamaker Group for revenge. He systematically stalks the entire cult, chapter by chapter, butchering their personnel and destroying their bizarre experiments. But in time, Sawyer learns the Group has even more chapters established across multiple versions of Earth, and that the key to stopping this interdimensional conspiracy lies in a town called Wyrdham, Pennsylvania.
Dr. Logan Westlake is a world-renowned psychiatrist who specializes in working with the elderly. She works hard to improve her patients’ quality of life, and she has made her career implementing better programs in nursing home facilities across the world. So when Logan is personally invited by the Quantamaker Group to help improve the work culture at Full Circle Sanitarium in Wyrdham, Pennsylvania, she jumps at the chance.
Full Circle is one of several Pennsylvania mental hospitals that were closed down during the 1980s due to the medical staff abusing or neglecting their patients. The property has now been purchased and re-opened by the Quantamaker Group, which tells Logan they are committed to providing the best possible environment for their incoming patients.
Logan witnessed her father, Sawyer, and her mother, Patricia, die in a car accident when she was only 11 years old. She was then raised by her grandmother in Wyrdham, until she went to Temple University in Philadelphia. While there, Logan married, divorced, and had a baby named Hunter. The divorce was amicable, and she chose to keep her ex-husband’s surname. Logan and Hunter now live at Grandma Wynn’s old farmhouse in Wyrdham, which Logan hopes to fix up and put on the market some day.
Dr. Westlake’s first day at Full Circle is very bizarre. She is first asked to sign a confidentiality form, prohibiting her from sharing anything about the hospital’s activities with non-Quantamaker Group personnel. She is then surprised to see that the sanitarium’s patients never seem to move, eat, speak, or even sleep; they just sit upon chairs in their cells, staring in silence. The staff never take any of the patients’ vitals; they are unable to draw any blood or even puncture their patients’ skins with needles. The patients do not even seem to have names, but are only identified with serial numbers. Logan is especially spooked when she realizes none of the patients has a heartbeat, even though they are clearly alive.
Logan has all kinds of questions for her new supervisor, Dr. Quantamaker. He laughs and answers none of them, telling her this is exactly why she is here. He wants her to conduct her own study on the patients and see whether she might find a way of reaching them and communicating with them. “We don’t know any of their names, or what happened to any of them,” Quantamaker says. “We hope maybe you can make some kind of breakthrough; if we can just get them to speak.”
Logan isn’t sure what she thinks about this; the patients are really creepy, and something about Quantamaker spooks her even more. But the pay alone will help her put Hunter through college when he grows up, and she can’t deny she is very curious to learn more about Full Circle’s patients; so she agrees to take the job.
On Halloween Eve in Philadelphia, Officers Blake and Childs receive a call for backup from police dispatch. A 911 caller reports that a man in a Halloween costume is murdering people and destroying property at a Quantamaker Group research facility on the outskirts of town. Blake and Childs arrive at the scene, which is crawling with police officers.
Blake and Childs are told not to enter the research building; the SWAT Team is currently on its way. But when they hear a woman scream bloody murder from within, the officers decide they can no longer wait. So Blake, Childs, and a few other cops sneak into the building, firing tear gas canisters into every room. They find mutilated bodies strewn across the floor – scientists in lab coats, a couple of security guards, etc. It looks like the facility has been hit by a tornado or an earthquake.
Soon enough, the police officers locate their suspect. They are surprised to see he is a seven-foot-tall man in a scarecrow costume, with a jack-o’lantern face and a straw hat. Blake and Childs order the suspect to freeze, put his hands in the air and get down on the floor. The scarecrow doesn’t listen; he is too busy destroying a machine that is currently emitting an eerie green glow. When they look into the glow, Blake and Childs see what looks like another laboratory on the other side; there is also a man who looks exactly like Blake in that other laboratory, running toward the two cops.
“Don’t let him close the portal!” the other Blake yells from across the green glow. But just as he steps into the light, the scarecrow finishes destroying the machine, and the portal vanishes. The other Blake disappears, with only his right leg remaining, falling to the floor in a puddle of blood. The Blake here in this universe pisses himself, because he has just watched himself die.
Childs decides to ignore the bizarre thing that just happened and focus on arresting their suspect instead. He orders the scarecrow to surrender once more, but the scarecrow just grabs him and throws him through a wall. Blake fires his gun at the scarecrow repeatedly, with no effect. He is soon thrown through a wall for his trouble, as well.
About an hour later, Blake and Childs are found and treated for their injuries by the paramedics. No one believes their story about a seven-foot-tall bulletproof scarecrow, except for one Quantamaker Group employee who happens to be listening.
“Something Has Their Attention”
While the police situation in Philadelphia is still happening, Logan is working a late shift at Full Circle Sanitarium. She is fixing her fifth cup of coffee for the evening when she receives a message from security. Something has happened with the patients, and they think she should come see.
When Logan gets to security, the guards show her their closed circuit TV cameras. There is a camera set up in each patient’s room, and every single patient in the hospital is now standing up. They appear to be “reacting” to something. What’s more, they all stood up at the exact same time. The security guards replay this footage so Logan can see, and it scares her to watch all the patients in their separate rooms, moving together as one like that.
“Seems like something has their attention,” one of the security guard remarks.
Every year on Halloween, the town of Wyrdham, Pennsylvania is visited by Stingy Jack and his fearless companion, Noobie. Jack is a benevolent Lord of the Fae, one of several preternatural races with whom we share this Earth. Noobie is a Barghest or “phantom hound” who follows Jack wherever he goes. Jack has a magic lantern he uses to light his way through the darkness, and he is a psychopomp, guiding recently deceased souls to safety in the Otherworld.
It is Jack’s custom to find any ghosts or Fae who might be lost on Halloween, helping them find their way. But something is very different in Wyrdham this year. Jack senses there are well over a hundred lost souls in Wyrdham who need desperate help, and they all seem to be trapped at Full Circle Sanitarium. But neither he nor Noobie can enter the property, since it has been rebuilt with plenty of wrought iron embedded into its foundation. This prevents any Fae from stepping foot in the sanitarium without experiencing unbearable pain.
But Jack receives an answer to his prayers when he feels another presence in Wyrdham that might be able to help. He and Noobie track the presence down to the Seven Sleepers Cemetery in Wyrdham, where they meet the seven-foot tall scarecrow that has just raised some hell in Philadelphia.
Jack learns the scarecrow is named Sawyer Wynn, and that he is one of the Neverdead – the same lost souls who are trapped at Full Circle. When Sawyer explains he is here to destroy the Quantamaker Group and release the rest of the Neverdead, Jack offers to help. “I can make each of them remember who they were before they died,” he explains, “and I can take each of them to wherever they might want to go. But I have to be able to interact with them, and I can’t do that unless I can get inside the building.” Sawyer agrees to do whatever he can to provide access to Full Circle for Jack, as he does not know what he will be able to do with the Neverdead once they are free.
Before they part ways, Sawyer asks Jack if there might be any way for a Neverdead to be destroyed; he hates living forever, and would like very much to die when he is finished with the Quantamaker Group. Jack frowns and says, “You’re an impossible thing that isn’t supposed to exist, Sawyer. I’m not even sure that a God could destroy you.”
“Adventures in Babysitting”
Little Hunter Westlake loves Halloween. It makes him sad that his mom, Logan, has to work for the evening; but he is happy to at least have the company of his favorite babysitter, Rachel Cornell.
Rachel takes Hunter trick-or-treating, and they collect lots of candy. But something makes Hunter feel uneasy while they are walking the streets of Wyrdham that evening. Every now and then, he catches sight of a man in a scarecrow costume, staring at him with cold malice.
Rachel tells Hunter not to worry; it’s Halloween, it’s just somebody in a scary costume. She never actually sees the scarecrow herself; if she did, she might agree with the boy that something seems very wrong.
The child and his babysitter return home just in time to catch the monster movie marathon on TV. They laugh and eat candy while Godzilla destroys Tokyo on the TV screen.
Then, a little after 10:00 pm, there is a knock at the front door.
“Somebody’s trick-or-treating LATE,” Rachel mutters as she goes to answer the door. It is the last thing she will ever speak.
Hunter waits by the glow of the TV, but he hears nothing after the front door opens. He waits a bit longer, thinking Rachel must be talking with a friend. When he realizes he can’t hear any voices, he goes to the front door himself.
Rachel is in the living room, sliced open from ear to ear and bleeding on the floor. The scarecrow – the one that was following them around during trick-or-treat – is in the kitchen doorway, holding a bloody butcher knife. It stares at Hunter for what seems like forever.
“The Wrath of Sawyer Wynn”
Logan is working another late shift at Full Circle Sanitarium when everything suddenly goes sideways. The patients start to move again, walking toward the windows of their cells in sync. Logan wants to run another check on each of them, so she goes to find the head nurse. That is when she learns all the night shift nurses are dead in the staff lounge. She pulls an emergency alarm, and the hospital security guards start to mobilize.
The guards run a sweep through the building, encountering Sawyer Wynn in the process. Nothing they do even phases him; bullets bounce right off his body, knifes shatter when they try to stab him, etc. It isn’t long before every security guard in the building is carved up like a human jack-o’lantern.
While this unfolds, Logan goes to call the police from her office. When she gets there, she finds her son Hunter waiting for her. He is being held hostage by a man in a scarecrow costume. Dr. Quantamaker is also there, sitting on her desk with his arms crossed, grinning.
Once Sawyer finishes with the security guards, he goes to take care of anyone else who might still be alive in the building and who isn’t a Neverdead. He comes across Dr. Westlake’s office, where he encounters Logan, Hunter, Dr. Quantamaker, and the other man dressed as a scarecrow.
“Before you take any further action,” Dr. Quantamaker says to Sawyer with that sinister grin of his, “I’d like you to meet your daughter, Logan, and your grandson, Hunter.”
Sawyer, Logan and Hunter all look at each other, bewildered and confused. The other scarecrow removes his jack-o’lantern mask, revealing it is just another one of Full Circle’s security guards in disguise.
“You’ll have to forgive my friend wearing your costume,” Quantamaker says. “We wanted to arrange this little family reunion for you, and we thought using your costume would be best, in case of witnesses.”
Sawyer moves to stab Quantamaker, but the security guard tightens his grip on little Hunter. “You try that again, Sawyer, and my friend here will snap your grandson’s neck,” Quantamaker laughs.
“Daddy?” Logan asks, staring at Sawyer.
“In a way,” Quantamaker explains. “You see, Sawyer here is a different version of your father, from a different universe. And you’re a different version of his son. In HIS reality, you were a boy. And you murdered that version of Logan, didn’t you Sawyer? In cold blood, no less.”
“YOU killed him,” Sawyer replies. “And Patricia. YOU made me do it.”
“Mom,” Logan whimpers quietly.
“Yes, yes,” Quantamaker agrees. “And unless you’d like to watch the whole thing happen all over again, my boy, I suggest you stand down and listen to what I have to say.”
Sawyer isn’t sure he believes Hunter is really his grandson or not, but he does not wish for any child to be harmed; so he decides to humor Quantamaker and wait for an opportunity to kill the guard.
“A Good Magician Never Explains”
Quantamaker leads Sawyer, Logan, and Hunter downstairs, where they find a secret facility within the sanitarium’s basement. There are far more people working in this building than Logan ever realized. Scientists in lab coats are feverishly working on all manner of bizarre projects. One team seems to be working with audio equipment in a room marked “PROJECT: STONEHENGE TAPE.” Another team is reviewing footage of a scary-looking woman in a room marked “PROJECT: BANSHEE.” And another team is doing something with a massive computer console in a room marked “PROJECT: CROM 9000.”
“What is all of this?” Logan asks, bewildered.
“A good magician never explains,” Quantamaker chuckles in response.
Quantamaker leads his party past all of these bizarre sights and into a room marked “PROJECT: GRAVEYARD MINDS.” The room is filled with images of all the Neverdead, projected on to the walls. The largest projected image is of Sawyer Wynn, and it is captioned with various data about him. It looks like the Quantamaker Group has been tracking Sawyer just as much as he has been tracking them.
Laughing, Quantamaker says he is very proud of Sawyer, for Sawyer is exactly what the “Graveyard Minds” project was intended to produce. “You see, my friend, I have a presence in every reality across the multiverse. I also have many enemies. Most are too weak and insignificant to pose any threat to my operations. But there is one enemy I just can’t seem to get rid of. You might remember her.”
“The Woman in Black?” Sawyer asks, remembering the younger Shieldmaiden of Set.
“Yes. She’s caused me all kinds of trouble, and she stubbornly refuses to die. That’s where you come in, my boy. I want you to work for me, be my bodyguard. And I think you might have a way with the rest of my Neverdead, as well. They seem to like you; they all stood up for the first time in years when you arrived in Philadelphia. I haven’t been able to get any reactions out of them since that bitch first came along and broke my spell, back in your universe. But you have what it takes to lead the Neverdead, my boy. Be my right hand, lead the Neverdead, and help me destroy my enemy once and for all. I will ensure that you and your family are handsomely rewarded for your loyalty and obedience.”
“And if I refuse?” Sawyer replies.
“Well let’s not forget, son; you yourself might be immortal. But your family in this universe? They most certainly are not. I’d hate to see anything happen to these versions of Logan and Hunter…but, needs must as the devil drives.”
“The Quantamaker Paradox”
As if on cue, Hunter bites down on the hand of the security guard who is holding him. The guard hollers and steps back, and Hunter runs over to embrace his mother. Logan and Hunter both flee from the “PROJECT: GRAVEYARD MINDS” room.
As his family escapes, Sawyer swoops over to the guard, snaps his neck, and pushes his corpse to the ground. Then he turns and stabs Dr. Quantamaker with his butcher knife, right in the chest.
Quantamaker just smiles and laughs at this. He doesn’t bleed or register any pain at all. “I’m afraid I’m even harder to kill than you are,” he says. Sawyer angrily punches the mad doctor right in his face with unbelievable force. It appears to have no effect on Quantamaker, aside from making his face fall off. Even Sawyer is surprised to see the face is just some kind of mask, and that Quantamaker’s REAL face glows like some phosphorescent deep sea creature.
The real Quantamaker – or this particular version of him, at least – is long gone. Whomever it is Sawyer is now fighting is far older, far more evil, and far less human.
The beacon-faced wizard raises a hand, and Sawyer flies backward, smashing through a wall. Sawyer rises back to his feet immediately, and the two titans face off for several minutes, with neither gaining an advantage over the other.
Meanwhile, Logan and Hunter make it to the ground floor of the sanitarium. As they flee, they notice a strange-looking man and a big black dog walking through the front entrance with an eerie lantern. It’s Jack and Noobie; they are now able to enter Full Circle thanks to the giant hole Sawyer left in the building upon his arrival. As Sawyer and Quantamaker continue fighting in the basement below, Jack releases all of the Neverdead and explains what is happening to them.
Quantamaker uses his telekinesis to pin Sawyer against a wall; the lone Neverdead is now unable to move. “It’s too bad you wouldn’t listen to reason,” the wizard says. “I might not be able to harm you directly; but rest assured, dear boy, your family will pay for your insolence!”
Suddenly, the door to the “PROJECT: GRAVEYARD MINDS” room bursts open, with all of the Neverdead walking through. They are led by Jack and Noobie, and they all seem cognizant and self-aware. Through the doorway, Sawyer sees that his fellow Neverdead have incapacitated all the rest of Full Circle’s basement floor personnel.
This interruption breaks Quantamaker’s concentration long enough to free Sawyer from his telekinetic hold. The scarecrow lurches toward the wizard, grabs him, and bashes his glowing head against a computer console. This causes the machinery to activate, opening another portal like the one Sawyer used to enter this world in Philadelphia. On the other side of this portal, Sawyer sees what looks like another version of Full Circle Sanitarium in some other universe.
Quantamaker laughs, spitting a horrid black pus from his mouth. He shows neither pain nor fear, and he doesn’t seem at all concerned that his number might be up. “Thank you, Sawyer,” he chuckles. “Somehow, I can always count on you to do just the right thing.” The wizard then levitates and floats into the portal, vanishing into thin air.
“You better pray your enemy finds you before I do,” Sawyer mumbles after him, as the portal dissipates.
“My Grandpa Hates Bullies”
One year later, Hunter Westlake is at school. It’s Halloween again, and Hunter is dressed as a scarecrow. He is an unusual child, with very few friends. The other kids think he is creepy because he likes to play over at the Seven Sleepers Cemetery. If anyone thought to ask him about this, Hunter would say he likes it there because he feels safer around the dead than he does around the living.
The other kids also look sideways at Hunter because they know his mother runs the All Souls Nursing Home, and that his grandfather is a tenant there. Everyone knows All Souls is really just Full Circle Sanitarium under a different name. The Quantamaker Group disappeared, Logan Westlake purchased the property, and it has long since become a safe and happy home for the elderly.
But there is still a sense that something about All Souls isn’t quite “right,” especially among the children of Wyrdham. No one has ever seen any of the tenants sleep or eat. They must be the most agreeable caregiving patients ever, since they never appear to die or even get sick. They never go outside, they never have visitors, and they never speak. They never seem to do anything at all, really, but sit and stare out their windows, watching. Waiting.
The kids at Colonel Bruce Middle School are having lunch in the cafeteria now, and Hunter is sitting by himself. He is soon joined by Hank, the toughest bully at the school, who is dressed as a skeleton. Hank thinks it’s funny to taunt Hunter about his mother and grandfather; he thinks it’s a total riot. But he doesn’t laugh for very long. He suddenly feels a presence behind him, cold and dark. He turns around to see a seven-foot tall scarecrow standing right behind him.
“That’s my Grandpa,” Hunter says, smiling at Hank. “And he really hates bullies.”