And they could, you know, blink.
"Uh," said Ray, possessed briefly of the urge to back through the nearest door. Alas, it was the door to the freezer case, so that wasn't going to help him much. He swallowed and said instead, "I'm sorry, I didn't- um- wow, are those gills?"
"Yeah," said the taller of the two, who had a distinctly cyanotic cast to his skin but didn't seem to be the least bit bothered by it. "I take it you're a fan of a certain gentleman from Providence?"
Not even the wily jungle eggplant could've gotten out of this situation unscathed; Ray just nodded. The shorter of the two rolled his eyes, a distressingly impressive display. "Dude was such a racist," he muttered, or rather croaked. His voice wasn't properly human at all.
"Ex... cuse me?"
The shorter one facepalmed (his fingers, Ray noticed, were slightly webbed- about halfway to the first joint) and shook his head. "Lovecraft," he said. "Racist. Big-time."
"Yeah, I got that part, but-"
"Look," said the taller one, "the guy couldn't write a complimentary line about Eskimos, Africans, or Italians to save his life. You think he's gonna go easy on non-humans?"
"I'm trying to get my brain around the fact that you guys even exist, actually," Ray said. "Defense mechanism. I'm really sorry."
"Salright." The taller one shrugged. "My name's Ost-h'ryth, call me Oscar and I punch you in the face-"
"One trip to Petland Discounts' tropical fish section and he flips out-"
"-and this is my buddy Laken-Makai."
"Yo," said Laken-Makai. "You gonna freak out on us now?"
"I think I can hold it together for a little while longer," said Ray. "I'm sorry, I was expecting someone a lot more antisocial by human standards."
"Yeah, well." Ost-h'ryth shrugged again. "That's what you get with an unreliable source. Lovecraft was a first-class jerk."
"Exactly how unreliable are we talking here?" said Ray. "And are you guys- well, I'm assuming you're at least partly human, considering-"
"What, that we're not a couple of gray-skinned blasphemous fishfrogs?"
"I was gonna say that you were going to college on land, but that too."
Laken-Makai laughed, a wet, squishy sort of sound. "Okay, you got us there," he said. "Yeah, we are. All the Gilmans are."
"... that would explain the size of that part of the phone book," Ray said.
"You looked us up?"
"Just out of curiosity, after I ran across the ice cream place. Was there ever really an Innsmouth?"
"Well, not the way he wrote it," said Laken-Makai. "It was there, all right. But that plague? The one he said was really us, killing half the town? That was for real. Cholera. Half the town died. Most of the rest gave up and left."
"And you moved in," Ray said. "Or was that a lie, too?"
"Pssh, no," said Ost-h'ryth."Total coincidence. Coupla sea captains outta Newburyport had really buoyant daughters-"
"Nothing catches a guy's eye like serious streamlining and a good clean backstroke," Laken-Makai chimed in.
"-and, you know, great-grandpa George figured he and his buddies'd try and get friendly, right?"
Ray held up a hand. "George?" he said.
"Changed his name so he wouldn't sound like a landsman sneezing every time he introduced himself," said Ost-h'ryth. "It used to be V'sha-rashe'a. Anyway, he and a couple of his buddies wanted to get in good with the girls, and that meant getting in good with their dads. It was working out pretty well up until friggin' Human Poikilotherm Lovecraft heard about it."
"Friggin' Dagon," said Laken-Makai, rolling his eyes again. "That was a big heaping pile of slanderguts. Human sacrifice this, blasphemous that, we're in your harbortowns, screwing your daughters... Grandma P. won't friggin' shut up about it and the guy's been dead for years."
"Don't get me wrong. We're not happy happy sweetness and light or anything," said Ost-h'ryth. "But neither are you guys, you know? And we'd be a lot less pissy if you gys didn't, you know, dump all your crud in the oceans."
"You do not want to see what bio-magnification of you guys' pharmaceutical wastes does to somebody who's been inhaling the same water supply and eating the same fish since the dawn of modern medicine," Laken-Makai added. "Two words. Synthetic. Hormones."
"Um," said Ray. "Does it help at all if I mention I'm actually a member of the Cousteau Society and Greenpeace?"
"Some, yeah," Laken-Makai admitted. "And the part where you're not freaking out trying to draw Elder Signs."
"Considering that a couple of months ago I had to give directions to a Hound of Tindalos who'd gone off course, I don't think I really have the same freak-out thresholds as the rest of Homo sapiens sapiens any more," Ray said. "Uh, look. I'm really sorry about the bad rap you guys got, but I'd kind of like to get a little bit in the way of confirmation beyond just talking to the two of you."
Laken-Makai and Ost-h'ryth exchanged glances, a feat made considerably easier by the fact that neither of them had to turn sideways to look the other in the eye. "I think we can arrange something," said Ost-h'ryth. "Might take us a while, though."
"We've got exams coming up. Do not get me started on that little cueball bastard Ocasio."
"Cueball?' said Ray.
"Bald as a friggin' beluga," said Laken-Makai, running one hand backwards over his head. "I mean, we don't have a lot of hair ourselves, but his head friggin' shines. Chemistry professor. Doesn't reschedule his exams for anything short of Hurricane Glenda."
"ANYway," said Ost-h'ryth, "I think we might be able to manage something after Doc Oc's done with us. You got a card or anything?"
Ray nodded and dug into his wallet. As he handed over the Ghostbusters business card, he caught sight of a motion outside- Winston, waving both arms over his head frantically. The other Ghostbuster had a cell phone in one hand. "Uh, guys?" said Ray. "I gotta run-"
"Yeah, no problem," said Ost-h'ryth. "We'll call you. See you around, Dr. Stantz."