“Why should I drink this? Why should I be frightened?”
Here’s a tricky etiquette problem, if you’re in the mood for one: You’re spending time with friends in a relaxed social setting, and then, when they step out of the room for a moment, you suddenly and without warning transform yourself into a person to whom none of your friends have been properly introduced. Personally, I don’t have a contingency plan for that particular contingency; I figure if it ever happens, I’ll just report it to my commanding officer and wait for instructions.
But here’s Dr. Cyrus Longworth, pseudoscientist and dabbler in the unknown, relaxing after a hectic evening of corpse-related felonies, as his friend Quentin goes upstairs to invite the woman that everyone thinks is Alexis to join them for a drink. As Cyrus paces the floor, he suddenly doubles over in pain, and engages in an unintentional full-body metamorphosis.
What we end up with is John Yaeger, the yin to Cyrus’ yang, a more explicitly evil twin who’s lactose-intolerant in regards to the milk of human kindness. Cyrus has been bringing out his bad side lately by drinking a home-brewed chemical synthesis, but now he’s so hooked on the stuff that Yaeger comes out just because Cyrus is tired of waiting for cocktails.
With his host on the way back to the drawing room, Yaeger considers jumping out the window, but stops. “No,” he thinks, “it must look as if I left under ordinary circumstances!”
Except obviously people turning into monsters is an ordinary circumstance for Collinwood. Several people currently in the house have done this, up to and including both of the people you’re planning to have a drink with. This is what Collinwood is for.
I’m going to include Quentin in that tally of monsters, even though this Quentin isn’t supposed to be the same Quentin afflicted with lycanthropy, because we’re just kidding ourselves if we think these are two separate stories. They’re not. They merge together, along with House of Dark Shadows and the Paperback Library novels and the View-Master reels, and all the other Tales of Hoffman.
This incident proves that the Concurrent Collinwood of Parallel Time is what it always was — a house-shaped hole carved out of time and space that exists in order to facilitate transformations. And now you get to go home, John Yaeger, and figure out what you’re going to do about it.