Ever since Tori Goodbee was eight years old, she'd had a singular dream: to be, as she put it, the best Gosh Darn Roadside Ad Sign Distributor Ever. It was a goal she pursued mercilessly; family, friends, romance all took a back seat because, in Tori's mind, no relationship could ever be as satisfying as repeatedly driving the stakes of plastic signage into the soft grass on the side of a busy surface street.
Tori's dream was not without detractors, of course, and her parents were counted among them. Her father was a well-known executive in the burgeoning billboard industry. Any time he caught sight of Tori with an alderman's campaign sign or a hastily scrawled pitch for some silly snake oil, he'd snatch it away from her and declare "No daughter of mine is going to put signs in ditches for a living. These," he'd shout, angrily shaking whatever sign he'd plucked from his daughter's happy hands that day, "These are the signage of the poor! People of substance such as we only use billboards and that's that!"
Tori's mother, a housewife stuck in an unhappy marriage with a terrible man and increasingly sick from what she did not yet know was the cancer that would claim her life, had turned to laudanum to soothe her aching body and broken heart. Mrs. Goodbee's concern over Tori's diminutive ad aspirations was a more genuine concern for her daughter's safety. She'd imagine Tori being hit by a runaway carriage or being stabbed to death by highwaymen after her paltry purse. Most of all, her concern was for Tori placing signs near the storm drains on Howell Boulevard, for she knew the dark and ancient evil which lurked in the sewers on that cursed road.
Mrs. Goodbee's fears came to a head one day when Tori came in to her mother's room covered in dirt, a set of signs for Dr. Fizzenbaum's Curative Elixer strapped to her back. "Mother, mother!" Tori called, nearly ecstatic, and began to tell her all about the wonderful patch of unclaimed real estate up north she'd managed to secure for advertising the good doctor's medicines. Mrs. Goodbee's eyes, now almost always half-closed from the swimming pool's worth of laudanum she swam in each day (for the cancer had advanced and claimed much of her insides), shot wide open as she grabbed forcefully her daughter's slender arms. "Where is this place you speak of?" Tori's mother demanded. Tori, terrified and bewildered at her mother's sudden fury, was only able to squeak out "Howell-" before her mother began to shake her violently. "You've no idea what eldritch horror slumbers 'neath the streets of Howell! You are never again to place small but effective signage on the side of that boulevard!!!" shouted Mrs. Goodbee. Her body, too weak from the sickness to endure the strain of her outburst, collapsed back into the bed, and with that, Tori's mother had given her final motherly advice.
Years later, Tori had successfully sprung her own roadside advertisement placement company. Her widower father, furious, had cut Tori off from the family billboard fortune and ceased all communication. Times were hard and the recession had wormed its way into every corner of the street ad industry. Tori had trouble standing out from her competition. Ever in the back her mind was the beautiful empty lot on the side of much-travelled Howell Boulevard, and as business dwindled and hunger set in, Mrs. Goodbee's final warning faded from Tori's mind. She'd place signs there, mother's last wish or no.
So, finally, one night Tori staked out to Howell with a huge load of signed packed neatly on to her mule Sir Haulsalot. A horrid torrential rain let loose from the skies as if God himself was trying to dissuade her, but Tori would not be turned. Her trusty black umbrella would keep her dry enough for roadside work, and the softening of the mud from the rain would make for excellent and efficient sign-staking. Tori went happily along the side of the boulevard, placing signs every few feet- a buggy whip ad here, a bit of Prohibitionist propaganda nonsense there.
As Tori neared the end of the boulevard, she heard a terrifying shriek. "Best Rat Removal in Town, Call for Rates!" It proclaimed.
"Hello?" Tori inquired, sure another sign man had come to steal her claim. She heard the shriek again.
"Dr. Simble's Wonder Juice! Cures All Ailments and Maladies!" the unseen claimed, growing louder.
Tori looked around and was perplexed to find the voice seemed to be coming from the nearby storm drain. "Who's there?" Tori demanded as she stomped in a huff towards the drain, umbrella in one hand, sign in the other.
"John Sutherland Wants Your Vote for Parish President! Together We can Solve the Problem of the Irish Infestation!" the voice hawked in response.
Tori, now beyond vexed, knelt before the storm drain. "Come out of there, you rascal!" she shouted after the voice, and as she leaned in close to get a good look at the unseen rapscallion, a giant green tentacle shot out of the drain and wrapped itself around her, squeezing her chest tightly.
"Reliable Carriage Mechanics! Free Estimate!" the shapeless horror shouted in triumph.
Tori tried to call out for help, but her ribs were crushed and her lungs collapsed; she could move no air over her vocal chords. A dark and hideous laughter began to bellow from deep within the storm drain as Tori was pulled underground.
As the heels of Tori's boots disappeared into the sewer, the monster declared its final victory before dragging Tori back to whatever terrible subterranean realm that spawned it. "It's Not Your Fault Your Horse Let You Ride It While You Were Drunk! Call Barrister Jimmy Prentiss Today and Get the Prentiss Promise! We'll Win Your Case Or Your Next Round of Ale is on Usssssss...." And as the putrid creature stole Tori into the underground, Howell Boulevard was quiet once again.