An Explanation and Another Twin
April 2nd, 1997
Getting in hadn’t been a problem. It was getting through the glass that was going to be the problem. There were security cameras, but they couldn’t see her, not now. She was still in her bird form, which was just too small to take a hammer. She looked at the place where a bench sat. Her wings fluttered and she landed on the bench, her body growing suddenly. She stood up, naked in the dark museum. She looked at the bench and lifted it up. It came down on the glass of the case, breaking it. She aimed the bench and threw it with all her strength. The bench smacked the camera knocking the lens off before it could be aimed at her.
She reached into the case and took up the ruby and emerald necklace, and shifted again. The problem with being a sparrow hawk is that being very small it can’t lift a lot. She could just manage the necklace as she began to fly up towards the broken window. The cacophony of sound didn’t bother her too much and she didn’t need a very big window. The good thing about being the size of a robin is that a large opening isn’t necessary for escape. The ease of escape more than made up for the lightness of her load.
Her wings fluttered through the dark night as she wondered what she would do with the amount of money she would gain from this few moment’s work.
October 26th, 2002
Kestrel woke up slowly, and noted that she had slept better in her life. She had curled up on the side of the road when she couldn’t walk any more. She had shrunk down to the little bird and slept in a tree. The problem with sleeping in the tree was that she was terrified a hawk or owl would come upon her little sleeping form and gobble her up. Being the smallest falcon also made you a decent sized snack for larger falcons. It had meant that most of the time she spent trying to sleep was actually spent with one eye open and looking for danger.
She felt a little better having slept though, her eyes noted the location of the red gold rays of sunlight as she shifted and began to cover her nakedness. She looked at the watch as she slipped it on her wrist to get the correct time. It was getting dark rather than growing light. She should have guessed that as she had slept for a while. She hadn’t known how long she had been asleep though, but that was all right. She drew the wallet from her pocket and wondered if she had enough money to get a burger at a roadside stand.
She looked out at the woods on her left, knowing there was another set on the right. There were a few birds looking at her before flying with their compatriots to the southeast. She noted that it was the gathering time as a large number of birds began to fly towards the group that had just moved off, another small group followed it. There were about five groups, of no more than ten, following each other in succession. They fluttered overhead and she couldn’t help but watch them with a hungry wish to go and get one. She had just gotten back into her clothes though, and eating bird guts wasn’t a good enough reason to change back into a bird
She pulled the wallet out and looked at the contents. There was enough to get a few hamburgers and a side order of fries. She looked up at the red and gold sky, a few stars beginning to wink on. A few clouds slipping slowly across the sky, slowly like, like, well like clouds really. She wasn’t much on poetry or simile. It just wasn’t in her somehow. She sighed, looking around the grass and dirt of the make shift road.
She had to take a momentary stock of her situation, the soft grass, slightly muddy road, the trees of the forest, the man in the trench coat, the clouds, the stars, and the red strips of light. She had to stop for a second and think about the list again. The man in the gray clothes was the bit that didn’t normally fit. Not that anything fit with her usual lifestyle, but the man in the coat was unusual to say the least.
“Hi.” He said, and she noticed how he wasn’t exactly gray.
The Gray man looked as though there had once been color to his eyes and his clothing, but the color had been slapped out them. She remembered hearing about a man’s hair turning white, all in one night from a fright. He had a head of black hair and after one night his hair had all turned white. This man reminded her of that sort of thing. He looked like something had completely scared the color out of him.
“Hello.” She wondered what had happened to do that to him.
“You’ve got to go to sleep for a little while.” He said.
“I’ve been asleep.” She said.
“Yes but The Weirdo is going to come to get you and I don’t want you tearing his face off when he gets here.”
“Yes, so you’ve got to go see the old man.”
“The old man?” She asked.
“Yes.” The Gray man said. “I can’t think of any other way to explain it so I think only he can.”
“And what if I don’t want to go see the old man?”
“Oh sorry.” He said walking towards her. “There isn’t much choice I’m afraid.” His hand reached up slowly, but too fast for her to react, and covered her eyes.
There was a moment of unreality, when she felt like she was floating on a cushion of air or perhaps just a really great mattress. Her body told her that there was nothing under or around her but her feet said they were on solid ground. She wanted to scream, but by the time she got air into her lungs, it was over…
The world came back and things were different, for one thing she was alone. She looked around her, the car was gone, the clearing was gone, the road was gone. In its place was a barely made path covered with moss like a carpet. There was nothing but thick forest on three sides, which left the path. The forest didn’t look forbidding or unwelcoming. It was a very nice, well-lit forest in fact, but the path seemed easier. She wondered for a moment how she’d managed to get on this dead end path then, but only for a moment. After all, if you stood around asking silly questions like that you would have to ask a lot of other silly questions that probably didn’t have good answers just now.
The feeling of unreality had oddly passed, even though she was now standing on a path that would have given any player of text adventures the jollies. It was moss covered, soft and warm on her bare feet. She looked at her toes and thought that she could have sworn she was wearing shoes earlier. Keep on the path just for now, or you could be eaten by a Grue she told herself. She walked down the green inviting path of moss, the greenery tickling her oddly unshod feet. She saw what she was coming toward in less than five minutes of walking.
The walking kept up in halted steps, walking ten or twelve steps and stopping again. She would look around to survey her surroundings and then start walking west again. She kept thinking every time she started that she was just hitting the W button and then looking around at the next place she stopped. If she was lucky she would find a lantern soon, or maybe a little old man. After a moment she did indeed see what she had been brought to see.
It was a forest garden she was walking toward, with badly made rows of bushes and flowers. As if the person doing the planting had a vague idea of where things should go but didn’t bother much with the placement. The bushes caught her attention immediately, as they had strawberries and raspberries on the same branch. She reached out and took one of the enormous strawberries.
The strawberry was about the size of a kiwi fruit and should have been flavorless. Anyone who actually knows about fruits and vegetables will tell you this. Small fruits and vegetables actually have more flavor than the large ones. Big strawberries have almost no taste while small ones have a wealth of flavor. She bit the berry anyway, expecting the refreshing and empty flavor. It exploded in her mouth, it was tart and sweet all at once, almost over flavored. It was as if the fruit had peaked to perfect ripeness simply for her visit. She looked around at the other fruit trees in the garden. Everything looked at the edge of over ripeness.
This was all wrong though, she knew the seasons, had known them since she was a child. Something you learn in an agrarian society is the seasons of fruits. Many of these things didn’t share the same season yet they all tasted perfectly ripe. They didn’t share the same season, but then they didn’t usually share the same bush either, so perhaps she shouldn’t worry about it.
The path was overgrown, there was a small dirt strip leading into a short stonewall. It came to her waist and a squirrel looked up at her. The squirrel gnawed at a nut and watched as another squirrel ran up. The first squirrel handed the nut over and the second squirrel looked at the nut and seemed to kiss the first squirrel on the cheek before running off with the nut. Kestrel looked at the house, which was kept in the stonewall. It was like a miniature castle. A short wall with a one-room keep. Both house and wall used the same sort of stones.
The builder had used both peat and mud for mortar. As a result, grass and vines had grown in the side of the wall, which should have been weakening it, but made it look stronger somehow. The light wood door was covered with arms of ivy. The roof was thatched and had many bird’s nests in it. A pair of squirrels sat on the roof. One squirrel leaned back and seemed to laugh at something another squirrel had said.
All in all, it looked like something that Jim Henson’s troupe would have made to house some sort of ancient wizard or storyteller. It would have been the sort of place where a retired wizard would have lived in the aforementioned text adventure, a retired wizard who, incidentally, would invite any traveler into the house. Not only would there be an invitation inside, but also there would be tea and some useful object that he was thinking of throwing out anyway. It would have been a great time for a traveling adventurer to pass by and need something. As she looked around though, all the adventurers seemed to have been eaten by Grues, or grees, she was never sure of the plural of Grue. She thought after all the years of Zork she would have seen it at least once.
The worn door opened and a gray haired man walked out of it and smelled the air. He was wearing a long gray robe and in his hand he carried a small burlap bag. He opened the bag and reached into it producing a hand full of looked like millet seed. He looked at the roof where a small cadre of birds sat and discussed the importance of wind speed in an apparently godless and random universe. He tossed the seed into the air and most of it landed about the birds’ heads. They chirped at him with the sort of happy cheer that one might give the waitress who has given you an extra cup of coffee. He then looked at the semi rows of vegetation and tossed the rest of the seed into the garden.
She wondered why he was throwing seed into his own garden. She looked at him as he turned the bag over into the long green grass. He looked at the squirrel as it sat at the edge of his wall, where a small opening allowed for a short wood door to be affixed to the wall. It looked nice to have some sort of gate on a wall. The squirrel sat at the edge and looked at him as he produced a peanut out of thin air.
Kestrel thought he must have palmed it, but why palm a peanut for no audience or at least no audience but a squirrel? He extended the hand with the peanut and the squirrel took it. The first squirrel ran up as the second squirrel broke the shell open. From what she knew of squirrels, a fight was coming, but the second squirrel simply offered half the nut to the first squirrel. They both took a piece in their mouths and ran into the long grass.
“What in hell?” She asked.
“Welcome to my retirement.” He said.
His face was wrinkled, a few scars had been added to it, but it was his face, the man who had stopped the red man. He smiled at her as he pulled a raspberry off the bush and popped it into his mouth. The Weirdo wiped a bit of juice from his lip.
“You.” She said suddenly. Her jaw dropped and she gaped at him.
“If you don’t close your mouth,” He said, “Flies will buzz in and land on your tongue.”
“You’re, so…” She hesitated, sailing though the shock, “Old.”
“Yes. Thank you for noticing. Been gaining a little weight have you?” He said picking some seed from the bag and tossing it at the roof. “I am far older than you know.”
“So, what did he send you for?” He asked.
“Don’t you know?” she asked.
“Well,” He said, “It was a long time ago. I… I don’t remember everything. My mind’s funny like that, I can’t remember why I sent for someone to get you just now. I am a very old man, after all.”
“Do you know me?”
“Yes, I do.” This elder man said. “I know quite a bit about you.”
“Where are we?”
“Very to the point.” He said. “This is Retirement.”
“What does that mean?”
“You’ll find out.” he put his hand to his head and rubbed his brow. It was as if he was trying to remember something, which was just at the edge of thought. “Right now, you think you’re just called Kestrel, but your birth name was Heather McLeary.”
“How did you know? I mean when did you?” She was beginning to feel as though she wasn’t making any sense.
“When I told myself,” he answered with a smile. “How else would I know that if I hadn’t told me?”
“You’re not making much sense.”
“No, I guess I’m not. It doesn’t matter how I found out. All that matters is that you believe in this place and that it’s a retreat.”
“I thought you didn’t remember very well.” She said. “Who are you?”
“I am myself.” The old man answered. “I am me, further on down the road than you are. I am what will be, while I am still what was. It’s all to do with time travel and quantum thingies. I understood it once but I’m afraid that I don’t really get it anymore, something about observing the observed.”
“What?” She asked.
“Quantum Mechanics.” He said popping another raspberry into his mouth. “If something is observed, it affects both the observer and the observed, and the thing that is observed may not exists if no one is there to observe it. If no one hears it, not only does the tree not make a sound, but it doesn’t even fall. Basically it means that if no one’s watching, I can get away with lots of shit.”
She shook her head.
“What are you…?” She said trying to sort out why he was telling her this.
“Such as I can tell you all about Loki.” He pulled out a leather bound book from apparently thin air and began to read from it. He squinted and then snatched a pair of glasses from the air, which was apparently rather thick with objects. He looked at the book and then up at her.
“Why would I be interested in him?”
“He tried to kill you several times. You and The Weirdo both.”
“Yeah.” She said nodding.
“And forewarned is forearmed.”
“If you say so.”
“I rarely say such things.”
“Forewarned is forearmed.” He said. “I rarely say things like that.”
“Oh.” She said and he ran his finger along the book, glancing up at her once as he did so.
“Ah yes, here we are. See a group made Loki and let him loose, for reasons of their own. He got away from his keepers or something and went on a bit of a rampage, and he’s still on one. See they cloned The Weirdo but also turned up his aggressive behavior and strength.”
“They can’t do that.” She said in disbelief. “They can’t even clone a sheep or a cat properly.”
“You’d think that now of course.” The Old man said pulling a ripe peach off a tree, which sat between a fir tree and a palm tree. “You must understand something.”
“There’s a lot of gaps in the story I’m telling you, mostly because I’m trying not to affect the observed too much. If I affect you too much I’ll let the whole general thing slip and then we’ll all be in trouble. These little quantum bastards do get in the way sometimes and it’s hard to keep the bastards from seeping over.”
“Okay.” She said, slowly, and carefully. “If you don’t mind my asking, when was it exactly that you went completely insane?”
“June second, twenty thirty-six. About four thirty in the afternoon.”
She did a quick mental tally and came up with an interesting answer for that.
“But isn’t that thirty three years from now?”
“Nope. Twenty five years ago.” He said, “Time’s not what you think it is. You’ve got to remember that while you are here it isn’t the same date as it is when you’re at home. You’ve traveled through time, and that helps it loose its meaning. In the end, time might as well be a freeway outside Columbus, Ohio.”
“Oh?” She asked, finding nothing else cogent to say.
He took a bite from the peach and walking down the path, Kestrel noted that he didn’t wear any shoes and that his toenails looked like they had never been stubbed or cut. They simply looked like they retained their well-kept length out of laziness. He chewed the peach gently brushing the juice away with the back of his hand, trying to keep his face clean. Suddenly he slammed the book shut, putting it back from where ever it came from in the first place.
“You don’t understand.” He said.
“Oh I think I do.” She muttered under her breath.
“No you don’t.” The Old man instated. “The Weirdo has some important work to do, and you’ve got to be involved and I can’t have you trying to kill him when you’re meant to be helping him. I mean you’ve got to help him see. To that end I have brought you here to the end of my life, my retirement. You are incredibly far flung into the future, I brought you here to explain things.”
“And who are you then?”
The old man touched the low wall with his fingertips, looking down at them, examining the rough wall as if it had the answer scrawled on it. There was no such answer scrawled though, unless it was in a writing so subtle she couldn’t even tell it was one. He then looked up at her, his face looking disconcerted. He looked as though he was pained to be going over something he should have left far back in the past. This was all supposed to be over, he shouldn’t have to walk that ground again.
“Just one of the people who helped put this all together.” He said. “One of the soldiers who fought hard and now has full understanding. I’ve been working with some of the others to try and tap things a little into place, but without revealing who we are. I’ve been helping for a while, just I tend to advise from here now. I brought you here to explain about Loki though.”
“So tell me about Loki.” She said folding her arm and leaning against the wall.
The Old man looked as if he might start crying for a moment. Not the weeping of someone who didn’t care anymore, rather a noble single tear. He didn’t cry though, his face just grew graver looking. He took in a deep breath and again she got the sense that he was carrying the weight of the world and the idea that this cup should have passed him by.
“There was a brilliant scientist who created a pair of Weirdoes, if you will. He could only make the two of them though because there wasn’t enough material for more. See cloning isn’t like they make it in the sci-fi novels, at least not where you are. It’s more like using a genetic photocopier. I don’t mean one of those digital copiers either. I mean one of those old dinosaurs from the seventies, the black and white, where the white looks as dark as the black. It’s messy work. Also, you can’t make many copies of a copy of a copy. The gene degradation gets too bad and you get a pile of goo. I didn’t tell you that for your sake, it’ll become a plot element later, I’m sure.”
“Just ask your next question.”
“What’s that got to do with this Loki being so bad?” She asked.
“I believe it was you who said that The Weirdo has a tendency to be like the little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead.” He said. “Or you will say. Perhaps I just caused it, quantums and all that. I told you they were tricky little sub-atomic bastards. Quarks and quantums and qwertys, don’t trust any sub-atomic particle that starts with a Q young lady, that’s my advice. Anyway, one of the clones he gave the tendencies to be good, so he was very, very good. The other he gave the bad tendencies, so he was horrid. He named them Virgil and Loki. Now this is as far as Loki knows, you understand. I’m telling you what Loki thinks is the truth. It’s not the truth, but it’ll do for now.
“So this doctor, well, he never actually touched them; they lived in a synthesized amniotic fluid, and were fed brain wave transmissions. He fed Loki memories of a dysfunctional family, a lot of pain, a mother who beat him, a father who molested him, and a sister who was equally abusive. Testing the threshold, you might say, seeing how far it would be until he cracked. While Virgil had been fed the images that poets dream about- flowers and rainbows and sunsets. He had been taught about Jesus and God and all that good, wholesome family shit.”
“Making extremes of them.”
“Well, yes.” He said nodding with approval. “Anyway, Loki got out. The doctors were playing when he should have been watching. For some reason or another, Loki got out and ran away. So the good doctor sent Virgil out to hunt down his evil brother. Virgil and Loki have both been given a series of sort of post-hypnotic suggestions. This is the truth, not what Loki thinks by the way, important to get that out. Virgil knows how to kill and has The Weirdo’s violent tendencies or at least the edges of them. If pushed he’ll explode. Which is where the real trouble starts. Virgil doesn’t actually know what Loki looks like or how he should be dressed.
“You see there were good copies of The Weirdo, only stronger, faster, more brain capacity, things like that. They were made to have just that much of an advantage over the original. They either fixed bugs, or ruined facets and took away those perfect imperfections. If you favor my idea that nature shouldn’t be fucked with, then you would agree that they are pale imitations.” He looked up at the sky and then down at the animals that ran about. His brow creased and he hummed. “I think maybe it’s all just a bad novel sometimes, written by a waffle obsessed lunatic.”
The old man sat at a stone bench, which looked as if it had simply grown out of the earth. The stone wall seemed to be the same way, so did the house, and the old man for that matter. A black and beige cat came prancing along the wall to the old man. The elder twisted his fingers, which seemed to make a sardine appear from his hand. Not that there is such a fish, sardine is just a group name for small fish.
“Hello, Bagheera.” He said rolling the ‘R’ only slightly.
“You have a lot of pets.” She said noting the cat.
“I haven’t a single pet.” He said scratching behind the cat’s ears. “A pet is there because you want it there, a friend is there because they want to be there.”
“Very poetic.” She said.
“I understand, believe me.” He said.
“What are you hiding?” She asked him.
“Here, I hide nothing. There is nothing to be hidden in this place.” He stood and walked down the path some more. “When I was younger, I hid a lot. I hid things from my best friends. I hid all the pain and sorrow. I even hid joy when there was call for it. Now I let it all hang out, just let things be as they will be. Well except those damn little quantums, those you’ve got to keep in check.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“There is much to be learned little Kestrel.” He said cutting her off. “But you shan’t learn it tonight. I’d best send you back, wouldn’t want the connection to get too weak. Could you remember something for me though?”
“I guess I can try.”
“There were two ravens up in a tree. And they were as black as they could be.”
“Is that is?”
“Why do you want me to remember that?”
“You’ll know why when the time comes.”
“So remember two lines from the English version of Twa Corbies?”
“You’re still not making any sense.”
“Blame the quantums.”
“Aren’t you using that word wrong?” She asked, trying to remember what she had read in that book by the guy in the motorized wheelchair.
“Probably.” He said.
“Quanta, they’re light packets.” She said.
“Maybe.” He conceded. “Quarks are particles and quantums are particles and qwerties are particles.”
“No, you’re defiantly using the wrong word, or using it wrong.”
“We’re done having our discussion now.” He said and his eyes twinkled.
The twinkling effect grew around more than just his eyes and after a moment the entire world seemed to be twinkling. Then someone was rattling a string filled with little jingle bells that made their rattling sound as everything began to fade away. She couldn’t help but think the sound was to make an auditory version of the twinkling she was seeing. She was also sure that it was being made artificially by someone who thought there should be a sound there. It was an unnecessary thing, this sound, and it was being made on purpose. She couldn’t help but feel that this was not the way a universe should be run.
October 26th, 2002
When she came to she could still see a flickering. It wasn’t the kind of flicker a person saw when another person was vanishing before them and it was the sort of flicker you got from a fire. She could see the light flickering through the car window and for a moment wondered if the car was on fire. It took her a long time of staring before she realized that the car wasn’t in fact on fire, the fire was on the other side of the vehicle. As she began to look around though, she remembered that the car was gone. The El Camino had quit on her some time ago, and this wasn’t an El Camino either.
This car looked like the sort of car a cartoonist might make of a car from the thirties. It looked strangely stylized to her, and then it didn’t. As she stood the car seemed to grow more and more mundane. It was just a piece of machinery, built by men in a plant somewhere. She looked over the car and then down at it again and it seemed to have changed again. I looked like some sort of relaxed predator that was watching her under sleepy lids. She knew the vehicle hadn’t changed at all, just her perception of it, which shifted like a snake under the sand.
She blinked and shook her head and there was just a car again. She couldn’t help but feel though that she might wish to give the car a wide birth. She moved slowly around it and found that a fallen tree she had seen earlier was gone. It had fallen off to the side of the path, but she had seen it. Apparently someone else had seen it and decided it was fuel for a fire.
There was nothing remaining of the tree, but a single log, which a man was sitting on. He had set the log onto the ground so that he might sit on it like a single legged stool, which she couldn’t help but think wasn’t as comfortable as it could be. He didn’t seem to mind, or even move. It wasn’t the gray man she had seen before; this was someone else. She thought she knew who it was too.
She had seen his picture on TV enough times, and he had been fighting with the man in red. Her knee twitched a little at the sight of him in fact. They had both looked the same to her, and she had felt afraid of them both. It wasn’t a vague fear either- someone with that face had done something to her once. He wore a coat of gray fabric, but a different shade and a different fabric. He had draped his coat over the back of the stump so that he wasn’t sitting on it. His coat was the near canvas looking material of trench coats the world over, while the other man’s had bee a coat of gray silk.
His head turned as she approached, though she would swear that she hadn’t made any noise. He must have simply known she was approaching. She saw the dark eyes, and saw the spark of annoyance in them. Not anger or resentment, just annoyance. He hadn’t liked being dragged out here, and then to find her asleep against a tree had probably made it worse. She wondered why he didn’t move her, or just throw her over one shoulder and go regardless of any danger or confusion.
“You’re up then.” He said.
“Yes.” She said approaching the fire.
It was a blazing fire, the heat radiating outwards from it a good ten feet away. She moved close and held her hands out to the flames. She hadn’t noticed before, but she felt that she must be half frozen. The contrast of the heat had made her notice how cold she had been. This late in October it got cold at night, it wasn’t all that warm in the day for that matter.
“Where were you headed?” He asked.
“I’m going to Maine.” She said.
“Not now.” He said his voice crackling with restrained annoyance.
“If you’re going to a cabin in southern Maine, you’re out of luck. They found and raided the cabin already.” He looked at her as she began to crouch down near the fire. “I’ve got a blanket in the car.”
“I’m okay.” She said.
“They were a bit surprised by the safe.” He said. “No one was hurt but they were surprised. Your papers were destroyed and a clip of ammunition went off.”
Kestrel had learned how to keep a safe-drop years ago, but hadn’t had the guts to fully do it. The right way so she had been told, was to set up hand grenades in the safe so that if someone just opened the door, it would burst. She hadn’t had the guts to put up explosives, so she had used flash grenades. She had figured, rightly it appeared, that the magnesium flash would set the papers on fire and truly burn the sight.
“No one was hurt though?” She asked.
“No.” He said. “Just surprised as hell.”
“Okay.” She said.
“We should probably get going.” He said.
“Where to?” She asked, looking up at her.
“Back to the city.” He said standing and brushing the seat of his pants off. “I’ll take you to my house for the moment. We can figure out what to do with you after that.”
“Do you mean turn me in?” She asked.
“No.” He said shaking his head. “I came out here to get you, a long way, and I was asked not to disturb you, so I didn’t. I didn’t go through all that just to turn you into the police.”
“Why did you come get me then?” She asked.
“Because you’re supposed to be a part of it.”
“Does it have to do with that red bastard who tired to kill me?”
“Loki.” He said. “The man who attacked you last night and who killed your family is called Loki.”
“Okay, does it involve killing Loki?” She asked watching him closely.
“I don’t know.” He said, his eyes turning towards her.
She could see the fire reflected in the dark orbs. It almost seemed as if there was a fire in each of those two dark spots. He looked tired, worn out in fact, like he had something he was supposed to do and wanted to get it over with. There wasn’t just that, but weariness as well.
“So there is something that I’ve got to be part of but you don’t know what it is?” She asked. “And it might or might not involve killing that son of a bitch?”
“That’s right.” He said. “There is some big thing I’m supposed to do, but no one will tell me what it is. I don’t know what it is, and it looks like I’m not meant to know.”
“And I’m part of it?” she asked, unable to keep incredulity out of her voice.
“That’s what they tell me.”
“Who?” she asked as a log collapsed and a shower of sparks danced into the fire.
He didn’t say anything, and she thought maybe he didn’t hear her over the snap and cracks of the fire. She was about to repeat it when he began to speak again. He started slowly by taking in a deep breath and closing his eyes as if steeling himself. It was an amazingly short comment to make though, for all that effort.
“There is some small group, trying to do something, and I’ve got to do something for them. You’re apparently supposed to be part of it, so until you’ve done it I guess I’ve got to keep you safe.”
“You sure this isn’t about me insulting you the other day?”
“If I had known then, I’d have never let you get away like I did.”
“You let me get away?” She asked. “You got too distracted to stop me.”
“I could have put a bullet through your side or broken your leg. If I wanted to keep you from running I could have stopped you.” He said turning away from her to watch something that had made some kind of noise.
She couldn’t tell if he was kidding or not, he had an odd look on his face and it could go either way. A statement like that wasn’t to be taken lightly though, because if nothing else it meant he had at least considered it, if only for a second. Someone who thought like that you have to be careful about.
She had seen a movie once, half awake late at night in an apartment she had held in Zurich. It had been playing on the television, which she had turned on to have a bit of sound before she went to sleep. The movie had involved a knight playing chess with the grim reaper, and she hadn’t remembered much from it. The movie itself had been a very odd thing, but she remembered the two of the playing chess. She couldn’t even remember the name of the movie, but it stuck with her. She wondered if he was the knight or the reaper. Could she get away by trying to tempt him with a game of chess?
“The Seventh Seal.” He said suddenly aloud.
“The movie is called The Seventh Seal.” He said sounding slightly annoyed. “It’s probably the most widely recognized of Bergman’s films.”
“Oh.” She wondered for a moment if she’d said all of that out loud, she was sure she hadn’t.
“I don’t play much chess.” He said turning back to her. “We should go.”
“Okay.” She said getting a glance at the car he’d come in.
She got a better look at the car now that there was the fire light on it, which made the surface of the vehicle look like liquid. It was a midnight blue sedan, the like of which she had never seen. He didn’t seem to be in a mood for talking any more, so she just slid into the front seat of the car as he started the motor. There was almost no sound as the car started, and she wondered if it might be electric or something. She looked at him, as the gentle light from the instrument panel glowed on his face. He didn’t seem inclined to talk, so she let it go.
The drive was quiet, with the exception of the soft music he played so quietly it was almost inaudible. She couldn’t quite place the band, but it was a soft music being played so low it was just on the edge of hearing. It sounded like a pair of guitar players doing a sort of mix between Spanish music and jazz. It was a pleasant sound, and kept turned down so low that it was just on the edge of hearing. She felt a little dreamy still and sat low in the seat.
She didn’t really pay much attention as they drove, noticing that the streets seemed to be a lot easier for him to navigate that they were when she’d had to drive in the city. They went to a more upscale part of the island system known as New York City. She thought again that the car was ghostly quiet, it didn’t sound like it was even running, but they were moving.
She had a wild moment where she thought that it might actually be dead or something like that. That this might be Charon, driving across the Stix motorway. He didn’t look like her impression of the ferryman though. After all he wasn’t even a ferryman. This was a car, and he was a driver. She thought that she’d be able to spot a carrier of the dead though, whatever vehicle he used. Besides, she hadn’t given him a coin from under her tongue, and there was no one left to bury her. You had to have been given proper burial rights and someone had to put a coin under your tongue. If you didn’t have these things, you were forced to wander. She hadn’t had an obol, so she couldn’t have paid him, so he wasn’t Charon.
She must be alive then, how nice.
Or, said a paranoid part of her brain, he’s just not Charon. There are lots of carriers for the dead.
They drove across what she thought must have been the fiftieth bridge in just a few hours, but this one felt different. She sat up and saw that it was a fairly long bridge and it was extremely narrow. It was only four lanes wide, two for each direction, and it stretched to a small island. As they landed from the bridge to the island, she saw the house. It rose from the landscape as they approached. It was a huge place making other houses look small and insignificant. Even in the darkening sky she could see this fact clearly. In fact, she had noticed that all the other houses had slunk away from the house, which had an almost imposing look to it.
She was a little surprised to find a great black fence surrounding the grounds as they drove next to it. They seemed to stretch along for a great length, hardly curling inward at all. A brick wall, about three foot high, stood just before the ten-foot high fence, hiding part of it away from view. There were trees and green bushes to obscure the black metal a bit, but it still showed. After all, it was a ten-foot high fence of black bars, it’s a bit high to conceal from sight. It did seem a bit traditional to her though, a turn of the century addition to a house.
The huge black gate hung open, which seemed to be incongruous to the high fence. A huge gate should be closed and guards should be posted. The house looked old as they approached, so the fence might be old as well. It probably was, she thought, it was the sort of thing guilty millionaires of the early 1900’s would make. She wondered if it was just that he had no need of physical gates, that if he didn’t want someone in, the fence was the least of there problems.
They stopped the car in on a curving driveway that was more like a road or parking lot than driveway. It was long and made of long compacted gravel, which somehow was smoother than the roads they had been driving on. It probably wouldn’t be great for little kids who had roller skates, but it was nice for a car to slowly drift across.
She looked at the house and noted the high climbing roses and ivy, which had attached itself to the brickwork of the house. There was something odd about the house. It didn’t seem to be welcoming so much as expecting. It gave her the impression that it hadn’t so much been built, as uncovered. It was as if when people came to this island, they simply found this house. She remembered a book she had read years ago, about a hotel. The house somehow gave her the impression she thought the hotel had. Like it had always been here, and was waiting for you.
It looked old, ancient as the hills, and made of the same stuff as the hills. It almost looked like it had been grown from the ground, rather than set in it. There was something, old, unused and disheveled feeling about it. She couldn’t explain it, but it felt like something that wasn’t part of this mortal earth.
The Weirdo opened the door and she found that the disheveled appearance from outside was a great facade. The inside of the house was a marvel of dark blue cobalt and brown hardwood. There were rooms which were fashioned after French mansions and palaces, and some which were English and there were even rooms which just seemed to be there. She ran up the stairs and then back down them, again.
“I take it you’ve never been in something like this before.” He said to her wide-eyed expression.
“It’s beautiful.” She said. “Nothing overdone, nothing gaudy, everything’s perfect.”
“I know,” He said tossing his keys on an antique end table. “I live here.”
“What does that mean?” She asked
“I am often amazed at the fact that human beings feel the necessity to tell me things that I already know. Such as, my home is very nice. One would think I know this.”
“Well I…I need a bath,” she decided, feeling suddenly shabby against the splendor of the beautiful house.
“Okay.” He said turning. “Follow me.”
They walked through the house to a room with a single oak door. He turned the brass handle and pushed the door open. The room seemed to open around and envelop Kestrel. She entered a huge white and pearl colored room with an enormous bath set into the floor. She turned to the door but it was closed and The Weirdo was gone. She walked to the bath. It was about four feet deep and seven feet from end to end. The bath was built in a giant octagon with steps leading into it and a seat built into the sides. She looked down near the steps and saw a small panel set into the floor, next to the rim of the tub. The sealed control panel was waterproof and divided into sections. She examined it for a moment and then pressed a button marked “Mouth.”
A brass dragon’s head at each end of the pool suddenly began to breathe hot water. There was a small rocker switch for temperature, which indicated a hundred and twelve point four degrees; the F next to the temperature made her assume it must be the Fahrenheit reading. Without another hesitation, she peeled her clothing off and slid into the rapidly filling hot water. She leaned back and closed her eyes, letting the bath fill to her neck. At that point the twin dragons suddenly stopped the flow of water and their mouths snapped closed. Kestrel looked at the control panel and noted that a small light had brightened beneath the word full. She noticed a pair of small tubes beneath each brass piece which she thought must have some sort of water sensor to tell the heads when the tub was full to prevent it overflowing. A keypad built into the control panel controlled the settings for the television and stereo system. She looked at a small numbered readout, which had the water temperature and had a thermostat under it.
“Well,” she commented aloud, “he’s gone and thought of everything, hasn’t he?”
November 5th, 1864
“You know what I think?” The Weirdo asked as looked at the two railroad tracks.
“No idea captain.” The sergeant said.
“I think it would please Uncle Billy to no end if we yanked up these rails and gave them a good heating, maybe twist them out of shape.”
“I reckon he might at that.” The Sergeant said. “Shall I order the men?”
“Yeah, get the fires started.”
They worked for about three hours, waiting for the rest of the column to catch up to them. By that time they had ripped up six rails and had turned them into six wide arches, like parenthesis. When the General came, his face looked confused until he saw the last bar being twisted into shape.
“What do you think Cump?” The Weirdo asked as he took the reigns of the general’s horse, patting its nose gently.
“Magnificent.” The general said.
Even on horseback the general wore shoes, not the military boots. The Weirdo also wore shoes, finding them more comfortable. The two of them understood each other to an extent, as much as one genius can understand another. The sergeant, still a little nervous decided to call out to the two of them.
“Does Uncle Billy like it?” The sergeant asked.
The general smiled, pretending he didn’t hear the nickname his soldiers had given him. The Weirdo didn’t really want to pretend though. He wanted to needle the slow poke. Make him pay for taking so long.
“Does Uncle Billy like it?” The Weirdo asked up to him.
“How long did this take?”
“A few hours.” The Weirdo said. “We’d decided to wait for you to catch up, and we thought, what would be a fun way to spend the time?”
“Wonderful.” The General said.
“It was the sergeant’s idea.” The Weirdo said. “I’d put him up to sergeant major if I was you. He could use the promotion.”
“Sure.” Cump said. “Let’s do that.”
October 26th, 2002
Outside the bathroom, The Weirdo walked through the hallways of his home and stripped his coat off and tossed it over the back of a chair as he walked down the hall. He entered his personal study and turned the computer on, waiting for the small light at the bottom of the monitor to stop blinking and show him the screen. There had been a time, he could remember clearly, when you had to wait for the screen to slowly fade up from blackness. Now there was a small light that blinked a few times and the screen just blinked into life. He looked at the screen and then leaned back and looked at the large globe in the corner of the office. He had bought it at the estate sale of an eccentric gentleman, on who rarely left his own office. The Weirdo rarely entered this office, which made it a nice contrast for the globe and red leather chair at least.
“Hello, Baggy.” He said rolling the cat ever so slightly I his arms.
The cat walked about on his lap for a moment pushing down what felt like fifty pounds per square inch on each of his paws. He began to knead at The Weirdo’s thigh and then walked around in a circle before beginning to knead the flesh again. The cat looked up at him and then walked around in the circle again.
“Will you get comfy and lie down already?” He asked the cat who meowed at him and finally bedded down in his lap.
The Weirdo scratched at the cat’s head for a while then leaned his own head back against the chair and closed his eyes. There was a moment when everything seems to be quiet and simple. In that moment, if you can hold it, you can actually relax. The Weirdo had a knack for finding and holding the moment, it wasn’t always a good thing, but it helped him relax this time. They hit that moment, both creatures purring in their sleep in a matter of minutes.
October 26th, 2002
The man in the light beige coat sat alone on the park bench, which as good a place to bring him into this tale as any other. He had been in the city for about three days but hadn’t seen much, though it was like nothing he’d seen before. This world looked like the color had been washed out. His eyes had only ever seen the computer screens that were strapped over them in the VR goggles. He’d never really had solid food. He had never felt real wind over his face; he had always had the electrical impulses feed into his brain. The neural connections were kept up through a series of impulses sent through the nerve fibers, but they were just signals. There were machines that massaged his gums and jaw to simulate him having to eat so that his teeth wouldn’t rip out of his gums the first time he bit into solid food, but it wasn’t eating. His muscles had been stimulated and set into false motion to build muscles so he wouldn’t collapse with his first steps, but he’d never really walked.
The real world was a lot grayer, colder, and smelled worse than the computer world did. His world was a techni-colored paradise, a world filled with warmth, color, rich constant sound, and vibrant feeling. His world was always pleasant, and even when there was conflict or strife, he knew he’d achieve. He’d always been floating in that fluid, and nothing here was like the fluid. This world was not his world. Or was it? It was almost void of color and there were no assurances.
Something inside his brain said, and not for the first time, that there had been no fluid. There had been no VR goggles and there had been no tube. He had been born and raised like any other lad. He had received drugs to help enhance the memories they were implanting in his head, that’s all it was.
However, there was something undeniably real about the place. There were shades in this world of muted color that he’d never dreamed existed, and sounds that could never be reproduced in the chamber. He felt reality with every step, the solid feeling of the ground complete and undeniable. The simple fact that he didn’t somehow feel like he was floating all the time was amazing to him.
This place was real.
The gun he’d gotten off the young drug distributor was digging into his ribs. He recognized the weapon as a nineteen ninety-one Glock nine millimeter, he had learned about all the weapons he might need to use before he left. They had taught him everything he would need to know. He had a feeling that he had arrived after his brother had. He had a distinct feeling that his brother had been here a while. He watched a streak of red fly across the sky and pulled his small teddy bear from his coat. There was no streak actually, but he had seen it all the same. There had really been a quick moving speck of red flying across the sky at great speed. He saw bits of red everywhere, and wondered if his brother might not change to hide from him. What if he took up a new color?
“That might have been him, Marty.” The man said running his fingers through his blonde hair, then he began to talk to himself. “I’ll have to do something about him.”
“Awe, look at dis boys.” A member of the Funkiness Five said walking up from behind. “Lil’ man needs a fucking teddy bear.”
He snatched Marty from the man’s hands, causing a trigger to fall in his mind. Marty was a sacred object, and only the man could hold him. Marty’s importance was a hypnotic suggestion of course, but that didn’t diminish it. Even if he had known about the small tracking device sunk deep in Marty’s cotton stuffing, it wouldn’t have mattered. Marty was the single most important thing to him, and it should not be molested by these people.
“Now you give him back.” The man said standing.
He was shorter than all the men around him were, but he was built in ways they could only dream. He had muscle under those slouched shoulders and power in what looked like weak knees. There was also something in his eyes, but they couldn’t see it. You would have to have been much smarter than these fellows were to see death in a man’s eyes.
“Right, man.” One of the four said, drawing out a pistol. “Soon as you give us all your money.”
“You shouldn’t do that.” He said.
He was trying to repress the anger which was swelling inside of him. He wanted his bear back and he wanted it now and he wanted these men to leave him alone. He didn’t have time for the deep breathing exercise that he had to learn to keep his temper down, but he was holding back well. All he wanted was his bear back.
“Hey, fuck you, man!” another one said grabbing his coat and tearing it. “Give us your fucking money.”
“Please just give me my bear back.” The man said. “I don’t want to hurt you, just give me Marty.”
His heart rate was increasing and he could feel the bits of anger swarming up. He knew that there were certain things down at the base of his genetic structure that he couldn’t repress forever. Somewhere, deep down, violence was welling up. It was going to happen, it was all going to explode.
“Fuck you.” A fist hit him, and a small spurt of blood danced from his lip.
He closed his blue eyes and tried not to get angry, tried so hard. Marty was his bear. There was reasons why they acted like this, bad parenting or no parenting. His alone to hold. Sometimes it was social, sometimes genetic, extra chromosomes and the like. No one else can hold Marty. Yes, there were a lot of reasons, but he didn’t really care. All he wanted was his fucking bear back. He so loved his bear and he wanted it back, and those damn bastards wouldn’t give it too him! He begged God for forgiveness.
He was going to get his bear back.
His left hand grabbed quickly under the bad man’s jaw, taking hold of a pair of tendons and the Adam’s apple. He cut all three off causing incredible pain and then squeezing suddenly to crush the trachea. It sounded not unlike someone crushing a plastic cup under a pillow.
He reached out and grabbed the head of the one that had told him to give them his money. Pushing it forward as his fingers rushed forward, he forced the man’s eyes back into his brain, causing death instantly. It had happened in only a few seconds, but it had happened. There had been no time to react; they had just died. Of course he had been made to move faster than any other human being on the earth, even his brother.
The man who had his bear was holding it out, screaming for mercy. The man snatched Marty from the other man’s unresisting hands and kicked him hard. He sent him into the ground and with a sharp kick snapped his spine and pelvic bone. The last member stood terrified, he dropped his gun and pulled out a wad of money. He was holding it out as if he could some how buy this man off.
“Here man, you can take it, take my watch too, man.”
“Why, thank you.” He said taking the money and looking at the watch. “I have a watch, though. You can see my Mickey Mouse timepiece. You may go now.”
“Okay man.” The young man walked away slowly, and then turned and began to run.
“That was very nice of him, Marty.” He said to the teddy bear. “Very nice indeed.”
He noticed that one of the brutes had hurt Marty, and his blood froze. There were two tears where stitching had given way, fluff was coming from the seams. He pulled out the Glock and gave the running man two rounds in the back, knocking the man down. He looked at the one who was groaning on the ground.
“You hurt Marty.” He said placing the barrel against the man’s forehead.
“Fuck.” The man said in weak response. “Fucking hurts.”
He had the presence of mind to remember that if he shot the man this close there would be a considerable blow back of blood. He had no desire to get whatever passed for this person’s brains on his coat. He stood up, taking a few steps back while the man moaned. He fired a round through the punk’s forehead, causing the concrete path behind him to snap in half as the bullet drove itself into the ground. Then the rage passed, and he was his amiable self again.
“We shall certainly have to get you fixed, Marty.” He said sliding the gun away.
He began prodding, trying to push the stuffing back in. It was clear that this was a job for a professional though, and he thought maybe he should just push Marty back into his coat until that time. He wondered where a person found a professional who could repair this kind of damage. He looked up at the city skyline and thought that probably, in a city this size, it wouldn’t be hard.
October 26th, 2002
Wrapped in a fluffy bathrobe, Kestrel stepped timidly out of the bathroom and wandered down the hall. This house was so large that she couldn’t remember where anything was. She had been looking for the front door where she had left her bag with all her clothes. The problem was she actually turned the wrong way and began to move deeper into the house. She wandered down the halls, which she noted were wide enough to install a bowling alley in.
Max was standing in the billiards room with Tommy, who was beating him by four balls. He was biting his lip a lot because while he wasn’t bad at the game, Tommy had apparently been born with a cue stick in his hand. As Max ran the chalk over the cue, he looked out the open door and watched the short blonde walking through the house. He noticed with some delight how her semi wet hair flipped around as her head turned.
“Hi there.” Max said, looking out the door.
Startled, Kestrel jumped and incredibly, found herself blushing. She clutched the robe to her neck, even though it had been tightly closed there already. It was a reaction, mostly from knowing that all that stood between her naked body and the outside world was this robe. She looked at the two men and felt like shrinking into nothing as she did.
“I didn’t know there was anyone else here,” she said, embarrassed to be discovered wandering through someone else’s house wearing nothing but a borrowed bathrobe. “Have you seen The Weirdo? I thought he might be able to lend me something clean to wear. I can’t seem to find the front door where we left my bag.”
“Do you know where he is?” Max said, turning towards Tommy.
“No idea.” Tommy said. “I do know where the front door is, however.”
“I’ll show her.” Max said putting the stick on the table.
“Thanks,” she murmured her face still pink.
“Okay.” Tommy said as the woman followed Max down the hall.
He took the cue stick from the table and put it back on the rack. He then lowered his own stick, looked at the table for a moment, and looked at the balls for a long moment. He looked from one ball to another and finally let his arm snap forward. The stick struck the white ball, which began to smack the other balls into each other. When it all done, only the white cue, the six and the eight ball where left.
“House guest?” Jack said walking in from the other adjoining room, he pulled a stick off the rack and moved towards the table.
“Someone The Weirdo picked up.” Tommy said. “Max has gotten eyes for her already.”
“She is female.” Jack said hitting the white cue towards the six ball.
Tommy looked at the door as if they were still there, and could still be seen. He looked at Jack and shook his head from side to side.
“Too smart for him.” Tommy said grabbing the six ball and sending it across the table.
“Probably.” Jack said picking the cue ball up and tossing it between his hands.
Tommy took the cue ball from Jack and set it down in its place.
“Where is the man, anyway?” Tommy asked aiming at the cue ball.
“No idea.” Jack said. “Might be sacked out somewhere, he’s been having little naps in chairs lately.”
“Which one though?” Tommy asked. “We have a fair number of chairs that would be good for sleeping.”
“If you’re that interested, go looking.” Jack answered.
Tommy sent the stick forward again and the six ball and eight ball went rolling, the six landed in a pocket, then the eight and then the cue. He was really quite glad that Max wasn’t here to see this as he’d have been desperately embarrassed to learn that Tommy had been going easy on him.
“That’s alright, he’ll find us.”
October 26th, 2002
The bag had been easy to find once they’d found the front door and they had gone to one of the guest rooms. Max had often thought he should count the number of rooms in the house, but always gave up after five. He didn’t really care about the rooms anyway. He did find it interesting that there always seemed to be another guest room available, no matter how many rooms they filled.
Kestrel came from the bathroom, now dressed and tossed the bag onto the bed for the moment. Max watched her looking through the bag and made a note to see if she was armed. He thought she was, but felt it might be important to get some kind of confirmation about it. She knew how to use a gun, he could tell that somehow, but he didn’t know if she had one right now.
“How did you get to be mixed up in all this?” Max asked her. “Having to come here and all that?”
Kestrel shrugged, she had chosen a pair of jeans and a blue t-shirt the logo for the Windhurst Company on it. She seemed to be much more comfortable now, and he thought he realized why. She was a few years older than him, maybe five, which meant she should have gotten more or less over the body image problem. This should prove what Max knew about women at that time. It was just strange to him for a woman as old as she was to be so shy about her body.
“I barely know myself,” she answered, running her fingers through her hair. “I am a burglar by trade. I have stolen mainly jewels from all over the world, and rarely have I been caught, even on camera. I was caught a little while ago and had to leave Europe, so I came home. When I did I found the police more or less had been waiting for me. I got away, met The Weirdo, and went home to get a few things. Then that thing, Loki they said he’s called, tried to kill me. I get away, and I ran out of gas, and then.”
She stopped and looked around for a moment trying to figure out how to put what had happened next. Why had she explained everything to him like that? She never explained things to anyone, explaining always caused more trouble than not explaining. She had told him this much though, so she might as well finish. How would she explain so this young man might understand? She decided to skip over that and lead right to the end of it.
“Then The Weirdo came and told me that I was supposed to go with him.”
“Oh.” Max said, trying to mull it over in his head. “Okay then.”
“He said this Loki person might be part of the reason he was supposed to save me. He didn’t actually give me any details, I’m not sure he knows them.”
“You’re being very open about all this.” Max said.
“You get caught, you can either lie completely or tell the truth. Lying only works if the person who can confirm or deny your story is somehow unavailable. You’re going to go talk this over with The Weirdo. Best if I just tell you everything I know.”
“Yes.” She said. “Contrary to what some believe I have been caught before. A few diamonds I was able to talk my way out of.”
“Is it true you’re one of Loki’s victims?”
“I have no idea.” She said, marveling at how much she was telling him. “I can’t actually remember anything from before I was twenty or so. Him trying to kill me last night could be the first time I’ve ever seen him. I’ll find out if I am though, and then I’ll kill him.”
“If he did it you’ll kill him?”
“No.” She said. “I saw a raw personified evil, I’ll kill him.”
“Even if he didn’t hurt you?”
“He’s hurt people, he needs to be put down.” Her eyes raised up to his. “I don’t think he’s innocent of any crime attributed to him.”
He looked into the cold golden eyes and found himself wanting to shrink. He didn’t because he was such a tough guy; but he wanted to which says a lot. He found himself nodding though, in order to agree to anything, if only those golden eyes would look elsewhere. She wasn’t a very big person, but there was a lot of rage locked away in that little frame.
October 27th, 2002
Mrs. Pendleton walked into one of the studies and found The Weirdo sitting in the chair, and it was clear to her that he was asleep. She watched him sleeping for a long time before moving into the room. She debated whether or not to disturb him, thinking about whether or not he could get back to sleep if she woke him. She worried about him, not that she’d ever let him know it.
It would take a long time and a lot of technical terms to define their relationship. It has been suggested that while The Weirdo was traveling through time and space they met when she was a young woman. The further suggestions have been that they had some sort of relationship, either an affair or a friendship. There was something between them, that much was obvious. If there was nothing else, he respected her. She wasn’t a housekeeper so much as she was a mother figure.
This wasn’t a house filled with amazing men to her, it was the lost boys camp. She thought that if Peter Pan had grown up and then had something terribly tragic happen to him, he would be The Weirdo. The Weirdo had been as happy and joyous as a child, until that day in March. He had not so much grown up, she reflected, as the child had died. There had always been a childishly happy Weirdo, and an incredibly intense grown up. The two forces worked together and seemed to balance each other out fairly well. With Shannon falling onto the floor, the child had simply left, and there was only the intense adult left.
He was having a dream, about a pair of pistols. Old colt peacemakers, sitting in the holsters on the gun belt where their previous owner had left them. They had been hung up, not forever, just for the night. The owner of the guns had been killed, and there was no one to claim them. The silver pistols had been allowed to tarnish quite badly and they looked nearly black in the light his dream was allowing. Someone would have to claim the guns, with their pearl or ivory handles. Some one would have to strap those guns on, and do what was right. They were guns that spoke of duty that wanted to be used for what was right.
She walked up to him took his left fingers in her hand and began to shake them. His eyes opened barely to look at her, his mind flashing into activity with a speed she thought she’s never had. He might as well have never been asleep.
“Up, mister Veirdo, sir.” She said shaking his fingers. “Come on, I’ve gots to clean the room now.”
“I thought you were from Manchester.” The Weirdo said opening his eyes.
“Well, yes sir,” She said to him. “But no one ever wakes up to a polite English voice.”
“Why did you wake me up?” He asked the old woman.
“Your lady friend is looking for you.”
“She’s not my girlfriend.” The Weirdo said rubbing his eyes. “I’m just taking care of her for a few days.”
“Well Maximilian has found her and I believe has installed her in the south wing. The green room if I remember.”
“I see, giving her the tour of the house, as well?”
“Most likely.” She said.
“Are you sure you didn’t wake me up just to irritate me?” The Weirdo asked.
“Now if I did that I’d be fired.” She said quiet innocently, throwing on something almost East End to her accent. “I could loose me position, sir. Then I’d have to be out on the streets. And I’m not as pretty as I once was, sir. Couldn’t make no living as a street walker, if you catch me meaning, sir?”
“Go polish the silver or something.” He said walking out of the room, and that made him think of the guns again.
He felt tired as he walked into the hall, his heart thumping heavily in his chest. There was a determination in him though, he knew why he was tired and he thought that probably he should do something about it. They had thrown that woman into his lap, and told him to do something about it. Now he had slept but a few moments, and the dream about the guns had made him think.
He’d had three tussles with Loki so far, and he wasn’t too keen on the thoughts of a fourth. The fight in Rockefeller had been a defeat for him, the houseboat had been more or less a draw and the battle of their two minds had been a victory for him. He was keen to keep this building victory record up, and he thought he knew how. They would have to form a cohesive formula, but he thought they could do it.
He walked through the hallway and tapped on the door of another dark colored door, which swung gently on its hinges. Tommy sat up in the chair he was sitting in and walked to the door. He held a small copy of a Victorian book of morals in one hand, a glass of ginger ale in the other. Tommy always liked reading comedy while drinking ginger ale
“Yeah?” Tommy said.
“I think we should have a meeting. In the main library.”
“Okay.” He said. “I’ll get Mrs. Pendleton and Jack.”
Tommy slipped a bookmark in and closed the book, suddenly excited. If he wanted a meeting, then they were going to do something. Tommy knew well enough not to attempt to try and get The Weirdo to do the job. He had to wait. Once The Weirdo was ready to work though, the world could end before he’d quit. He got Jack and Mrs. Pendleton and they walked down to the great library.
“Maximilian.” The Weirdo said walking into the room that Max and Kestrel were standing in.
“Yes sir.” Max said quickly in an almost mocking tone.
“Library. We’ve gotta do some more war room junk, by the small yet perky breasts of Athena.”
“Right. See ya later,” he said waving.
“What’s going on?” Kestrel asked.
“War room.” The Weirdo said. “We cut up work, decide how we’re going to fight.”
“Can I come?” She asked.
“I don’t care.” He said. “It probably won’t matter much if you do.”
He didn’t mean to be so gruff, he’d wanted to be nice, but he didn’t have time for that now. He didn’t really have that much time for anything, within twenty hours he would be dead and the fate of the city would be in the grip of a lunatic.
He didn’t know that he was thus doomed, but the future was as set down before him as if it were printed in a book, a book that was being read by a person who would never ruin the surprise of what happened after he died by looking ahead to the ninth or tenth chapter to see what happened after he’d died. Collapsing waveforms of probability had predicted the outcome of the near future and until new wave forms opened and expanded, the future was set down.
He looked at his wrist, where there was no watch, and wondered what time it was. He thought he should also get Judy and Sheila and began to look for them. It would be important for everyone to be a part of this particular meeting. He thought that they might be asleep though, and he thought that if they were he should wake them. After all, if he couldn’t sleep why should anyone else? He felt so tired, and yet he could feel his blood pumping through his ears from the excitement. He figured he would let the children sleep but if anyone else was sleeping they should be woken up for this meeting. It was going to be important, this meeting, and everyone should be there.
© 2012 Autumn Knight Productions
It’s odd to find a song when you no longer need it.
There was a time, I won’t say when, I would have listened to this on a loop. I would have been screaming the chorus with tears flowing down my eyes. Case in point, Somebody That I Used to Know…
That is, without a doubt, the bitterest break-up song I have ever heard. Considering that her friends did come up to pick up her records… it struck me. Yes, I only just heard that song like this week. Yes, I have heard about that Rock N Roll thing, but it won’t last!
But here’s the thing, I don’t need that song anymore. I don’t even need Alesana’s “Apology”, which really is a song you can scream along to…
*sigh* In my day you could understand every profane word Prince was screeching.
That’s sort of what has assured me it’s okay to start to do things. When all I think is “Catchy tune, struck some scars, but doesn’t dig in.”
“Over It” is a term that I think gets used too much. Besides, do any of us really Get Over Macho Grande? Particularly when we all still have to settle up over what happened in Sweden? Of course there is regret, of course there are things we remember, and of course old wounds still give us pain.
Frankly, these days I’m as likely to listen to Keeping the Faith as anything.
Writers! You need to sell ebooks right? But you also need to make convention appearances, right?
OKAY! Check this out, you print some postcards of your book’s cover (or even as big as 8×10 photos) and on the back of the card is a download code. The person uses the code at your website and they get your ebook. You sell the card with the code for $10 or whatever, and offer to sign the card. So they get the signature, and they get the book, but in a format that isn’t going to be a problem for them if they use ereaders.
Beginning of Endings
August 15th, 1901
“This place is lovely.” The Weirdo said as the old man sat watching the short Tibetan summer already slipping away.
“But nothing ever changes.” The old man said,
“No?” The Weirdo asked.
“Let me ask you something.”
“In your place, how would you get a loaf bread?”
“When exactly do you mean.” The Weirdo said. “We’ve discussed the time traveling.”
“Whenever you like, tell me step by step how you might go about it.”
“I’d go down to Rusterman’s Bakery and grab a loaf.”
“Before that.” The old man said. “If you had to make it yourself.”
“Well I guess I’d buy a bag of flour and some yeast.” The Weirdo began. “If I was going to make it myself.”
“Before that.” The old man said.
“How does one get the things to make the bread?”
“Ah.” The Weirdo said. “You want to start at the absolute beginning.”
“The wheat would be grown, probably in Kansas or something.”
“Not locally grown?” The old man asked.
“No.” The Weirdo said. “Grown in Kansas and then ground.”
“How would you grind the wheat in Kansas?”
“Well I’m not sure you would.” The Weirdo said. “I think you’d take it to a place to be ground. Like if I can talk about corn for a moment. I’m pretty sure they send the corn, cobs and all, to Battle Creek, Michigan. Once there they strip the corn of kernels dry the corn and then grind it there to make those flakes we were talking about.”
“So Mister Kellogg grinds the corn himself?” The old man said,
“No.” The Weirdo said shaking his head. “He’s the boss, he wanders around giving people enemas and then engaging in self flagellation for enjoying it as far as I know.”
“I do not understand some of those words.”
“It’s for the best, trust me.” The Weirdo said with a sigh. “Back to grinding wheat though. I know how they did it in England a while ago. They don’t do it like this any more though. They would get two big flat stones, shaped like wheels. They’d then place on atop the other with the wheat in between and rotate the top stone to grind the wheat up. They’d be powered with either a water wheel or a windmill. You remember me talking about those?”
“I remember everything.” The old man said. “And that is my point. If we wanted flour, someone would take the wheat and crush it by hand. They do not advance any more. They have no reason. Each person is so enclosed in their position by the bureaucracy that they feel no need to try to advance. Why make an effort when you’ll always be stuck in the same place?”
“I suppose.” The Weirdo said, noticing the many holes in that argument.
“We will be forced to run from this place you know.” The old man said. “We came here in the first place because we were running. We will have to run again soon, when the new threat comes.”
“How long will that be?” The Weirdo asked.
“After I have passed to my next body.” The old man said. “It will be sometime. Until then, we will work on your readings. You must improve your focus, you must be able to control the single bird, not the entire flock.”
“Shall we work now then?”
“Yes.” The old man said.
“Do you want me to do anything particular? Or would simply getting one to break formation be enough?”
“Don’t kill anything.” The Old man said. “I sometimes wonder if those accidents you have aren’t to get to eat the results.”
“No.” The Weirdo said shaking his head. “I just screw up sometimes.”
“I hope so.” The old man said. “I wonder if you don’t kill too easily.”
“I don’t enjoy it.” I said.
“But you don’t mind it.” The aged wonder said.
“No.” He admitted.
“You could be just a sword, a weapon in the hands of a skilled warrior.” The old man said. “You are just educated enough to know what death means and callous enough not to mind. You know the philosophy of life, and that of death. I worry that you could be pushed from the path you are on and onto a worse one.”
“It would take only a nudge to push you from the light.” The old man said, “You walk a very fine line now, in the shadowy gray area in between.”
“I’ll stay like that for a while.” The Weirdo said. “And we shall see what must be.”
October 25th, 2002
Consciousness came to him suddenly and caused everything to hurt all at once. The waking hadn’t just been mental. His body had been shocked awake as well, which caused a great deal of pain. He could tell that just a little better than three hours had gone by then when he had fallen asleep. The Weirdo was sure that there were tiny little fairies inside his head at that moment. Not only were there tiny little fairies, but tiny little fairies that carried tiny little sledgehammers. They were apparently trapped within his skull and were trying to use their tiny little hammers to get out. They might have had a tiny little jackhammer in there as well, but he couldn’t be sure. He was certain though that they were wearing tiny little yellow hard hats and tiny little leather gloves. This was a union town after all and the unions didn’t take kindly to workers not having proper safety equipment. He did, however, begin to question if they were in fact union workers, as they never seemed to go to lunch or have a coffee break. The unions were protective about that kind of thing too. Maybe they were trying to get some extra overtime, or maybe they just loved their work too much to stop. That last idea had some prospect to it; everyone who hurt him seemed to like hurting him.
It took him a long time to move, and when he did it was labored and it hurt. His muscles were stiff, sore and seemed to be working against him. They didn’t want to move, not after such a short respite. No matter which way he tried to get anything to move, the muscles seemed to be pulling in the opposite direction. With great labor and force of will he managed to get out of bed and stand up. He walked to his desk where a bottle of an unnamed sports drink was standing. The sports drink actually had a name you understand, it’s just that we’re not allowed to say it because of endorsement deals. He opened it and looked around for a cup.
He held his temples as he poured the liquid into a cup, a mug actually. Well to be perfectly frank a plastic child’s GI JOE mug that featured Grunt and some badly drawn explosions. He lifted the bottle of Excedrin and poured out a few of the white pills into his hand, looking at them as they sat there. These weren’t coated pills, and thus like swallowing pebbles. He popped them into his mouth and with a drink, swallowed them all. Yes, just like pebbles, only they tasted worse on his tongue than pebbles did. He wanted to go back to sleep at that moment, he wanted it so badly.
He looked at his clock and calculated that he had actually gotten a little more than two hours of sleep. The fact that not one second of it was any good was not discussed, as the tiny amount of it was a more prevalent complaint at the moment. He knew he needed to sleep more, but that wasn’t going to be possible. He could go back to bed but he wouldn’t sleep. He could already feel it himself, he was awake and no arguments accepted there.
He sat down at his desk and switched on the computer terminal at his desk, which comprised of a monitor, keyboard and mouse. He looked at the monitor as it flipped on and scratched the back of his head for a moment. He picked up his mug and wished for a moment that he had put his robe on before sitting down. He would have liked to wrap the thick bathrobe around him and sip at his mug of drink. There were a few e-mails for him, mainly explaining how he could get an enlarged sexual organ and how he could relieve his debt through the power of Jesus. He had doubts about both claims, for various reasons.
He played a game of solitaire on the computer and after a few minuets realized he didn’t care about solitaire. He had lost interest almost upon opening the game, he had only soldiered it out this far to convince himself he wasn’t just wasting his time. He was wasting his time, but he didn’t want to admit it just now. He felt a sudden overwhelming urge to punch the screen as hard as he could. It was such a strong wish to smash the computer, to hurt his hand. He wanted to cut his hand on the bits of plastic, possibly he would get an infection from the liquid crystals that formed the flat screen. He wanted to really hurt himself something terrible, and he wanted it to last.
He wanted to feel physically what he felt inside. He wanted to know that it wasn’t something that he was imagining, that there could be this much pain in the world. It wasn’t even that there was any one thing particularly attacking him, rather it was the maelstrom. The cyclone of guilt and recrimination was spiraling so fast that all he felt was pain, without any single thing hurting him. He felt all the pain and guilt crushing him, without being able to find any one source. He was drowning and could no longer identify the single drops.
He wanted to smash the stupid monitor, to destroy things. He wanted to lift his hand and punch as hard as he could. He would smash the screen, destroy the frame, hurl the whole thing against the floor and jump on it. He wanted to put his fist right through the damn smug machine, to prove that there was certain superiority left to him.
What stopped him was that his hand had other ideas, because it wasn’t going anywhere. No matter how much he wanted to lash out, his body was ignoring the clearly idiotic command. So he didn’t smash the screen, yet he thought somewhere else he did. In some version of the multiverse, some version of him did hit the screen. He could almost feel that person co-existing in the same space but on a different plane of existence. In some alternate world, laid on top of his like badly matted animation, he did hit the screen. There were alternate dimensions and worlds, all layered a top each other. He could just about feel the lack of satisfaction felt by the other him when the screen flew off the desk instead of holding its ground and getting smashed. Just a small cut on the edge of his hand was all the other him got. The flat screen, a sandwich of plastic and liquid, didn’t even break. Whatever it was that kept the crystal in place cracked and spider webbed, but the monitor itself didn’t leak. The monitor was now useless because it was a series of lines and dead patches, but it didn’t break.
He looked at his monitor, unblemished as it was, and he sighed. He looked again and noticed that one pixel, in the lower right hand side of the screen, was black. It was just one dead pixel in what had to be half a million or so dots on the screen, but he saw it. He looked at the single black, dead pixel for a moment and then leaned back. He shook his head with exhaustion and thought about how the other him wouldn’t notice the single dead pixel now, and even if he did he would discredit it to being part of the damage of him smashing it.
October 25th, 2002
“You went looking for him and you found her?” The gray man asked.
“Why bother with her?”
“I don’t like unfinished business.” Loki said. “She’s unfinished business.”
“Alright, I know where she’s going to be tonight. She’s going to go back to her house.” The Gray man said, trying not to actually touch anything in the apartment. It made him sick to be here.
“Is she?” Loki asked looking out the window at the other tenement building across the street.
“Yes, she is.” He said. “You get there around eight thirty and you’ll find her.”
“How do you know this?” Loki asked, turning back.
He was alone though the Gray man was nowhere to be seen. He got up and looked at the table, where the address had been written on a piece of paper. He picked the paper up and stuffed it into the front pocket of his leather pants. Under the paper was a small metal container that had once held a few mints. It was the very small container that most people only bought because they were cute. He opened the container and found four capsules and two pills. He picked one of the green and blue pills up and placed it on his tongue, swallowing with only his salvia. It would take a little while for the pill to be effective, he knew that, but it would come. He slid the other pills into his pocket, and waited for the gentle opening of his mind to begin.
About twenty minuets later the feeling of being honed began, like the razor across the strap. He could feel his mind drawing up one side of the strap and down the other. He was becoming sharper, and more dangerous. He could feel his senses extend out into the other apartments. He could sense the thoughts of each and every person on the block. He tried to focus in on one mind, finding it very difficult. All those thoughts whizzing round made it very hard to center in on one voice in the fugue. He caught a voice and held on to it. He held it so tight that he actually squeezed too hard and felt something pop.
An elderly man, sitting at a table, suddenly announced “Spoon!” and collapsed into the table he was sitting at. The stroke had been quite bad, paralyzing half his body. It hadn’t killed him, but he had wished it had. He had felt something grab onto his brain, in those last moments, like a hand squeezing it right in his skull. He was unable to tell anyone this, he never did regain his powers of speech, but he had felt it.
Loki stood up, feeling the blood running back into his nose, and looked at his watch. He hadn’t been wearing a watch before, but now he seemed to be. It was time to go, he had to get going. There was unfinished business and he was now a sharp sword looking for flesh to cut into.
October 25th, 2002
The dagger fell from the talons of the tiny sparrow hawk into a stuffed lawn chair, the bird wearily landed on a black iron railing. She cursed her poor, sore knee, which throbbed deeply. More over, she cursed the son of a bitch who had made it sore. Her eyes noted a brown car, which was supposed to look like every other car on the street. This car however had monitoring equipment on the dashboard, and was sitting in such a way that both occupants could see the house. Why did they do that? Why take the effort to be inconspicuous and then screw it up like that. The car also had two men nursing coffee from Styrofoam cups, which was as clear a sign as painting it on the side of the car. She looked at the house and realized they would be watching the whole house. The little bird landed on the dagger she had dropped and picked a piece of dead skin on the left talon with her beak.
Odd that she could do this as a bird, she’d never dream it as a human. There were just certain things a person could do when they were in the form of a small falcon that they couldn’t do when in the form of a small human. The golden eyes looked up and looked at the roof, thinking about the window she had left through.
After resting for a moment, she took off again, flying up to the bathroom window. The cops had left it open, to her relief, and annoyance. They could have at least had some respect for the fact that it could have rained. She flew inside and landed next to the still-full tub. She noted that everything else had been left, right down to her clothes, which were still in a heap on the floor. The integrity of a crime scene must have really meant something to these guys. Either that or they were too lazy to actually clean up after themselves.
Shifting to human form, Kestrel bent to pick up her faded blue jeans. She rifled through the pockets, coming up with a couple of wadded up dollars. She looked at them, noticing a Euro in the mix. The sight of those pieces of paper, along with the ten-euro note made her suddenly want to burst into tears. It wasn’t fair that she should have to go through this all again. It just wasn’t fair.
She opened the bathroom door and stepped cautiously into the bedroom. There was a window almost the length of the entire wall behind her bed, and two windows in the front room that extended far enough upward that she could look outside from the loft-like second story. She decided that it was late enough in the evening that the cops outside wouldn’t be able to see anything unless she turned on a light. Besides, she thought ruefully, they’ve got their coffee.
Her purse was on the nightstand next to her bed, and she grabbed it, dumping the contents out on the bed. She gathered all of the loose change and odd bills and stuffed them in her wallet, leaving the rest with the empty purse. She wasn’t going to need anything from the purse anymore anyway. She would just make her way to the cabin in the woods where the old safe sat. She would go to the safe, collect her extra passports and move along to someplace else. She had been trying out the shifting of her face temporarily, and she could almost make herself look just different enough. The problem was that she couldn’t hold it very long and feathers kept sprouting from her face when she tried it. She couldn’t help but think Customs might have more questions, rather than less if that happened.
She rose slowly keeping away from the window and walked to the closet, closing the door behind her before turning on the light. There were no windows in the closet, and the walls were lined with clothing racks, shelves, and stacks of boxes. Pulling a duffel bag from a shelf above her head, Kestrel dropped her wallet inside it, as well as a pair of jeans and a couple sweatshirts. Then she grabbed a bra and several pairs of socks and panties. Must plan for the future and when was she going to be near a Laundromat again? The fleece-lined hiking boots she took camping followed. Lastly, she went to a corner and unburied from a pile of shoeboxes a similar box.
Opening it revealed a few pieces of the best jewelry she had ever stolen. What she had thought of as her scrapbook or at least scrap box. The emerald ring she had gotten in Paris, during the day, with guards in place. She had taken it right from under their noses and it took hours for them to notice. There was a blue stone set in a necklace that she had gotten in Nuremberg, and had just liked it. The box was full of things that called to her somehow, either of very good heists or at least she had liked enough to keep. They would most likely have to be sold, to keep body and soul together. She had been burned after all and the police would be after her. Interpol would have the head shot already, though she had given up on Europe after being burned there four years ago.
She placed the box inside the bag, wondering for a moment where the hell her gun was. She then realized it had been left on the coffee table, as she had been convinced of a shoot out to end her life. They would have at least taken the gun, they couldn’t have been that lost in thought. They had managed to miss just about everything else but the openly displayed nine-millimeter would have aroused suspicion in even the greenest recruit, no question.
She didn’t have a spare gun, well that wasn’t exactly true. That had been the spare gun, and now it was gone. There was another gun, but it was miles away in the safe in the cabin, in the woods with the passports. She would easily find someone in the city who would trade an ugly but priceless ring for a half way decent gun. She turned off the light and opened the door, stepping back through the bedroom into the bathroom. She was wondering how a person would even go about stealing themselves out of a house, as she wanted to. Getting in hadn’t been a problem but a little bird like her couldn’t carry this great big bag. It was no use arguing the airspeed of an unlaiden Kestrel, since she wasn’t one. She was a heavily laiden Kestrel, who was having to abandon everything in the world again.
How many times has she been forced to do this? To leave the house she knew and the things she loved? She sort of knew the answer and didn’t know. That is she could easily tell you the number of times, but the exact details of each exodus were closed books to her. She couldn’t tell exactly why she had left Germany, but a man had been involved, sort of. A man and his wife had been involved, but she couldn’t come up with much more than it was an effort to get the two of them back together that caused her to put Germany on the list of countries she shouldn’t go back to anytime soon.
She thought about the two men and for a moment wondered if there was anyone on the south side of the house. There was probably just these two, and so if she went out the other side, they’d never know. Kestrel tossed the duffel bag out the window to the ground below, wincing at the sound of the bag hitting the ground. It sounded impossibly loud to her ears, but the police hadn’t moved. She checked up on them one last time, picked up the old knife and slipped it into her back pocket. She leaned out the window, and lowered herself as far as she could, holding onto the window frame. She looked down at the ground below her and let the frame go.
She landed on the grass and rolled away from the house, spreading herself out on the ground waiting for something to happen. She strained her ears and for all the effort heard a dog a few yards away bark. Had she known the dog was barking because a man in a red coat was approaching, she might have had more interest. She thought it was just the Fuderman’s goddamn cocker spaniel trying to be a guard dog again. That stupid animal would bark at anything.
Satisfied that no one had noticed anything out of the ordinary, Kestrel slung the duffel bag over her shoulder and walked through her backyard to the fence separating her yard from her neighbor’s. The fence was a simple chain link and she scaled it with little problem, wincing only slightly as her sore knee twanged. She made her way to her neighbor’s house, opened the gate to the driveway, and began to step out. She jumped back into the shadows at the sight of a familiar black and white car parked by the side of the road. The officer inside didn’t appear to have seen her, but he would.
“Sucks, don’t it?”
Her head whipped around at the sound of the voice, the eyes were so familiar. The attack took no thought at all. She had to kill. She pulled the dagger from her pocket and swung it at him in one fluid movement. She didn’t have time to think, but even if she had, she wouldn’t remember why she wanted this man dead. The problem was she had struck in a wide curving arc, which was ever so easy to avoid. The red glove appeared and grasped her hand, holding it in a vice like grip. He swung her around and threw her into the ground. He laughed and the sound making her flesh crawl. He was going to kill her, and he was going to enjoy it.
She tried to rise, her eyes blurry and her head swimming. His red boot caught her under the chin, and she flew into the neighbor’s birdbath, hitting her head on the concrete stem. She could feel something crack, which she was afraid was her skull. She also felt something tear, which she feared was her scalp. Dazed, she found herself thinking irrelevantly about how she had always hated plastic birdbaths. They were always so tacky, and so many people had them. And why did she have to pick the one real concrete birdbath in the neighborhood to bash into?
The crack on the pillar became a break and then the heavy bowl came down on her midsection. She was unable to scream as the weight hit her and would have crushed her bones if it had hit any. She was suddenly awash with blood and water, with the icy feeling robbing heat from her as it splashed her midsection and lapped up to her face. She pushed the bowl away from her, trying to get to her feet. The grass was slippery, and she fell back to the ground. She tried to get up again. It was no good; she slipped and fell on the wet grass. The blade flashed through the darkness, it was shiny, new, and well polished.
She kicked wildly, catching something sharp on her ankle for her troubles. It was a hot spike of pain that went across the ankle, and heat began to pour from it immediately. She felt warmth pooling into her shoes as she scattered herself back, the spreading heat had to be blood. She heard him moved forward toward her. She grabbed at something she thought was a concrete squirrel and swung it forward. The heavy concrete rodent struck something and there was a cracking sound, which was accompanied by a grunt.
Kestrel stood up, pain lancing up her body, and tried to steady herself. She held the broken concrete animal, which had actually turned out to be a rabbit. She couldn’t see her knife; it was dull and unpolished. She tried to find the gem in the hilt, it might reflect in the darkness of the backyard. Not only that but pigs might take wing and the Detroit Lions might win the Super Bowl this year.
Loki stood slowly, his face covered with blood. It looked black in the dim right, like chocolate syrup had inexplicably been poured across his head. He might have been a bizarre new form of sundae soda, or perhaps part of a kinky group of sex fiends with a food fetish and an exhibitionist streak. It seemed reminiscent though. A memory flashed before her eyes. She had done this before, and run into the woods, and he hadn’t gotten his hands on her. He’d wanted to, but the blood and the pain had stopped him.
He stepped into an invisible field of infrared sensors, which triggered a switch in a small circuit board. Suddenly, her neighbor’s back yard lights lit up. The twin halogen lanterns washed out the back yard in a white world of pain. Kestrel had a sudden thought, which was nothing short of insanity. As she was cold from the water and heated to sweating from the fight, numb from cold and stinging with pain from her wounds, the light glared and wiped everything from her world. As this all happened, the thought came to her, and made no sense. The twins do this, just before they eat the world. No shadow, just light, pain and light. It was a lunatic thought, signifying nothing, yet there it was.
Loki raised his hands to his face and let out a short cry, pain lancing his brain. Her knife was in plain view now so she threw the concrete animal and struck him in the head again. His body flopped back and Kestrel jumped for the blade and took it in her fingers. She stood and gripped the knife tightly in her hand. She walked around the man in the red as he waved his blades around erratically.
“Come on bitch.” He growled like some sort of animal.
His hands swung about and struck out. The blade struck her in the chest and cut into the flesh. She looked at the cut about four inches below her neck. She let her knife strike, hitting him in the stomach, turning the handle and pulled the dagger to the left. The explosion of blood was magnificent, and the smell was really something. He fell to the ground holding his stomach, his guts should have been spilling over his hands, but they weren’t. He didn’t appear very happy about the situation tough.
“You fucking bitch!” He yelled.
“Police!” A voice barked suddenly. “Freeze!”
Loki turned around and looked at the officer, the young man’s gun drawn and waiting. Loki tossed the razor away and picked up the concrete stand of the fallen birdbath. He hurled it towards the officer, who actually managed to fire two shots wildly before the concrete column felled him. One bullet struck a tree and one flew off to Never Never Land as far as this story is concerned. The column struck him in the face, producing a thudding sound as it connected. Not a very loud sound, which made it all the worse. You can imagine a loud cracking sound, but a soft thud is real. A thud signifies that there wasn’t much for the concrete to do once it hit. The cop fell to the ground, carried a bit by the momentum. He didn’t die right away, not from just that. The resulting brain hemorrhage that came as a result of the injury though, that did kill him.
Kestrel scooped up her bag and ran as fast as she could. She leapt over a fence and darted away into the night. Loki watched them and thought about if he should catch her. In the fatal moment, some sort of trigger snapped a circuit closed. He knew there were police officers around, and he was supposed to approach police officers. He didn’t know where this compulsion came from, but he had to fulfill it. He knew nothing of post hypnotic suggestion or subliminal conditioning, so he didn’t know the commands he had been given. The problem was that the second part about surrendering somehow didn’t make it through his psyche.
Loki threw back his coat and reached for the two guns he had shoved down the back of his pants. They were small automatics, the square barreled Glocks that were all the rage in gun fashion these days. He pulled them from the place where he had them wedged into place, glad that they hadn’t fallen out in the struggle. He turned to where the police cars had parked. There were more police officers approaching, he charged them all.
He leapt onto the hood of the first car and shot the already fallen officer once, leaping in a balletic twisting move to the ground and shooting his partner still in the car. The other officers drove up and ran forth. He shot and shot and jumped and spun and did things that even John Woo wouldn’t have someone do. He was quickly out of bullets but then that didn’t matter much. He got other guns from the fallen and had his fun whipping out all they’d sent.
He thought himself quite the heroic figure, bravely slaying officers who were trying to uphold the laws and tyranny of the land. He was striking back against big brother, and the tyranny of good speak. He was a great man in his own mind, killing the soldiers of the great conspiracy of Zionist Nazis or something like that. He couldn’t keep the conspiracies straight. The point was he was the hero here, not them. He was sticking a blow against the Matrix or some such rot.
As one officer, Amy Zhang, pressed her hand into the gaping hole in her partner’s side and another bullet caught her in the chest, one should consider her daughter. Her fifteen year old daughter, who was at that moment on her way to the homecoming dance with the young boy she intended to give herself to. She would never get the chance because the principal was going to come to her during the slow dance and ruin ‘I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You’ for her forever. She could never listen to that song again without thinking of her mother. Nor could she avoid thinking of the body armor that would have saved her life had the city not been forced to make cutbacks since they received so little funding in order to come up to the Homeland Security requirements.
We might think of the officer that girl’s mother collapsed over after the bullet tore through her chest. Of his own wife, and how she was going to get along now. She had been saving up to buy him a bulletproof vest of his own, and couldn’t bear to even think about that money now. She donated the amount because it made her physically ill to think about what she had been saving for. The insurance wouldn’t help his wife much, not after the bills began to pile up without his income. There was also the psychologist and the pills they gave her to make life even bearable. She would be forced to sell the house and move in with her parents for two years. It was seven years before she could even admit that Steve wasn’t coming home.
Fifteen officers in all were slain, leaving twelve spouses and twenty-three children to morn. There would be a large group funeral where the nine men and six women who lost their lives that night would be memorialized. Unfortunately they were not the last officers of the law who gave their lives in the defense of city against this lunatic, but they would be the best remembered. In the years to come, one of the twenty-three children would write a book about the officers that were slain in those eighty seconds of violence. It would go on to win the Pulitzer prize and gain notoriety after spending forty-three weeks on the New York Times best sellers list. The proceeds of the book went to a fund set up for the families of the Long Island 15, as they were known.
These facts may not lend themselves to the story as it stands, but it’s important to note that these officers were more than some modern version of The Keystone Cops put together for some gory version of a silent comedy. That when they fell on top of each other, slipping on their fallen comrades blood, something other than a laugh should be inspired, that they were more than a group of walking targets, to be shot down by hero or foe. Rather that they were people, that they had families who would miss them forever, and that killing people has consequences.
October 25th, 2002
Kestrel ran through the backyards with her dagger still in hand, sheer terror propelling her onward through the darkness. The gunshots echoing through the street as she ran, fearing for what she was leaving behind her. She had seen the police, and knew what was going to happen to them. If she hadn’t been able to kill him, she didn’t think they would either. She couldn’t stop running, she knew next time he would not play with her. Next time he would kill her, and he would probably take his time about it.
Her feet pounded loudly on the concrete of a neighbor’s patio as she ran. She hopped the chain link fence into the front yard. Her legs began to burn slightly from the running, her lungs clutching in her chest. More lights flashed on as she passed their motion sensors and half a dozen silent alarms went off. She found a large rock on the ground and hurled into the window of a house as she ran. The glass shattered and landed on the empty floor. A house alarm wailed as she continued to run, scooping up a handful of small stones. The bag was beginning to weigh more than it should. Her hand let another stone fly, another house and then two more house alarms screamed out their warnings.
She ran to a car, parked on the street, quite and alone. It was one of those truck-cars, an El Camino Conquistador. It was most likely the prize possession of a teenager who thought the seventies were just neat. She slammed the butt of her knife into the passenger window, breaking it into a spider web of laminated glass and plastic. She tossed the knife into her other hand and shook her hand out. It looked so easy in the movies, you just gave it a good smack and the window came open. She hadn’t been prepared for the fact that it might hurt to do this. The shock of smacking the window had really hurt. She looked at the cracked window and looked at her bag. There wasn’t anything really breakable in there. She lifted the bag and smacked the window with it. This time there was a sound of glass giving way and she saw a hole just big enough to reach inside and unlock the door. She jumped inside brushing some glass away, climbing over to the driver’s seat.
She looked at the knife and plunged it into the key lock, hoping that it was a strong as she thought it was. The first time someone tried to show her this trick the knife blade had snapped off. She took hold of the hilt, and closed her eyes as she turned the knife, hoping the blade wouldn’t snap. You should really have a screwdriver or pliers for something like this. The knife twisted and the car started with a well-oiled rumble. She drew the knife out and sighed as she looked at the unbroken knife, which had made it through the abuse. The car rumbled as she pressed down on the accelerator. The car had been taken care of at least, and of that she could also be glad. She put the car into gear and drove it away, it would be a while to get to the cabin, which was in Maine, but she thought she could manage.
October 25th, 2002
The eleven o’clock news was playing on the television; a story about the slaughter of fifteen police officers was the top story. The Weirdo looked at the screen and knew what it was about. He had thought about going to the house to try and find Loki’s one functioning victim and talk to her. He had been trying to figure out a way to broach the subject to her though. It looked like Loki hadn’t had that problem though.
He felt dull at that moment, like a blade that had been purposely dulled or locked into a sheath at least. He was still tired and he felt sleepy, but sleep wasn’t going to come. He watched as the news cameras panned around the badly lit remains of police cars and the blood splattered streets. It was another bit of insanity that he wondered should he even be involved with.
Loki was clearly coming for him, but that didn’t mean he had to go after Loki did it? Probably, had to be proactive these days didn’t he? That’s what heroes were supposed to do and all that. The problem was, he had never wanted to be a hero. He was a gangbuster, and the gangs had been busted. The Syndicate had been smashed and he had explained to the whole of the mafia they could leave his city or they could have him kill them all. They had decided that discretion was the better part of valor and leaving was the wiser of the two options.
He wasn’t one of these masked crime fighters, wasn’t a soldier in the army of truth and justice. He wasn’t one of the people who was going to save the world and make everything okay. He was just a guy who was trying to slow the flow a little till the real solution showed up. He felt like a paramedic, just trying to keep the patient alive until they got to the hospital.
But if all that’s true, the voice in his head asked, why do you want to go and find him so badly? The voice wouldn’t let him just turn away and declare it wasn’t his problem. If he didn’t want to get involved, why was he itching to start something? Wasn’t there something inside that made him want to go out and stop all of this? Within his chest there might very well be the heart of a knight errant.
He looked at the screen and then looked away, his eyes falling on the gray coat and hat resting on the coat rack. He wanted to put the coat on, cover his head with the hat and charge into the night. He felt the wish to go out, in his uniform and do some damage to the monsters under society’s bed. He wanted to go get the big red one, and show him what an army of one really was. He stood up, and reached for the coat.
October 25th, 2002
Something, Grandma probably, was leading The Weirdo through New York’s lower east side. He was near the place where the five points one stood. The five points had once been where many immigrants first settled when they came to the city. It was a place of deprivation and crime. Over the years many of the streets were removed and the place where the five streets had met vanished as the years went by. There was no longer a five points district, but the deprivation had stayed. The Dead Rabbits were gone but the area was still rife with criminal activity.
That The Weirdo should feel he was being drawn there wasn’t so odd, that he should feel the need for stealth was. He came around a corner with great care, looking at the prey he was going to watch for a while. He saw a figure in red watching the young man, but decided not to do anything about it just yet. He still felt he didn’t really want a part of this, but was being forced to partake anyway. If he was going to be forced though, he was going to resist being part of the game as long as he could.
Billy was a member of the Kaiju Tailors, a gang who had just become incorporated into Loki’s larger group. They had been allowed to keep their gang colors and emblems though. Godzilla eating Tokyo on the back of his jacket hadn’t needed to be replaced. Everything had remained the same, save for the fact that they now reported to Loki and no longer killed other gangs for being on their turf.
He was also a seller of drugs that he could press into tablets or slip into capsules. He was counting some bills that he had stuffed into a baggie earlier in the night. He didn’t have anything on him now; he had sold even his personal stash to a very desperate cokehead that needed something. He finished counting and shoved the money back in. He stood up and was about to get himself something when he felt a cold chill run down his back.
“Hi, Billy.” The voice made the chilling effect of the night air bite into him all the more.
The blood in his body froze; he felt his body chill and his skin break into sweat. He turned slowly and looked at the man who was behind him. Loki hung on a catwalk about ten feet over Billy. He was upside down and clutching the railing with his hands like some demented form of bat. A large red bat, that’s what he looked like.
“Hi Loki.” Billy’s voice was that of someone who had possibly just wet himself.
Billy thought he might be able to run, but felt that the later consequences of running might be worse if Loki caught up with him again. He didn’t think he could run that fast or that long. Besides the Tailors had officially joined the new red army, and he had a swatch of cloth tied onto one of his belt loops. Loki might be insane, but he was apparently a god. It was hard to run from a god, and even if Loki didn’t find him everyone else would.
“I gave you a list one week ago.” the red bat like creature seemed to say. “Yours is the last of my pick ups, and I require what I asked you for.”
“Yeah.” Billy said. “I’ve got it. Just not on me. It’s back at the place.”
“Where?” Loki’s voice was a growl.
“Uh.” Billy said. “At my place, man.”
The already cold air of the alley was made even colder by another presence that came into the alley. Loki’s eyes fixed on The Weirdo, and he froze. He had too much of value to risk damaging it, all his pockets but one were full of the stuff. A fight with The Weirdo at this time would be too risky. He wasn’t ready for that yet. He couldn’t risk the pills and powders in his pockets getting damaged.
“Fuck.” Loki’s voice snapped. “I’ll get back to you on this.”
He moved like a cat and was gone into the shadows too quickly to follow. Billy felt the cold presence of The Weirdo approach him and heard the soft rasp of the man’s voice in his ear. There was a white plume when The Weirdo breathed, reminding Billy that it was indeed cold enough for it. Billy’s own breath produced only a small cloud of vapor while The Weirdo produced a large plume of thick mist.
“What was that about?” The Weirdo asked.
“Nothing.” Billy was actually taller than The Weirdo, who was only about five foot six, maybe seven. The Weirdo dwarfed Billy though, he stood taller than a person twice his size might did, and he filled the alley.
“Nothing?” The Weirdo crossed his arms.
If this were seen by a camera, or if painted, there would be nothing very impressive about The Weirdo. He was just a short guy trying to look tough, just another punk on the street with no fashion sense. If you were there though, he was a force of nature. He was about twenty feet tall, a creature unlike any other, with no fashion sense. There was something about being in his presence that made you want to flee.
“Yeah. Nothing.” Billy tried to bolt.
He moved with what he thought was swift movement, and then he was on the ground. He had to take a moment to figure out how he got there. A big hint was that fact that The Weirdo was standing over him with a small pistol in his hand, a silencer fixed to the end. The Weirdo pulled the trigger once and let the bullet shatter the brown brick next to Billy’s head.
“I’m having a horrendously bad day, Billy.” The Weirdo said. “I’ve got a terrible headache, I’ve only slept a couple of hours, and I’m really kinda hungry. The means exhaustion and low blood sugar, not a great combination. Plus if we are to believe the current evidence, I’m probably unbalanced as is. Now, I’d be willing to believe that you’ve had a scare and that you’re going to behave from now on.”
“Yeah, no prob man.” Billy said.
“But you gotta tell me what he wanted.”
“He had a list of drugs man. I got the list right here.” He handed the list over.
“Thank you.” The Weirdo said. “See how easy that was.”
“Yeah, it’s cool man.” The Weirdo released him and Billy was off and running.
He took his leather jacket off and looked at the Kaiju Tailor’s emblem on the back, he threw it down. Something like that would only mark him now, and he needed to not be seen. He was going to have to run, and he’d have to get away from everyone he’d ever known. He hadn’t realized he was being watched, or that the small swatch of red cloth was still tied into his belt loop.
He had no idea where he was going, but he had a very strong feeling that maybe now was a good time to visit his sister in San Francisco. Yes, San Fran, beautiful this time of year. Actually he didn’t know if it was or not but it had to be better than the psychos he was finding in New York. He had a hope that he could make it before anyone knew where he was.
October 25th, 2002
The Weirdo began to walk back to his car, as he did he happened to glance down an alleyway. A man in a bad suit was slapping the hell out of a woman, yelling that she’d better never try and hold out on him. His fist struck her face again and three big-jeweled rings cut her cheek. She screamed, her hands rose to try and protect herself. Blood trickled down her face slowly as she touched the injured spot. Her left eye was already swelling up quite badly and she already couldn’t see out of it very well. The fist raised again, she looked up as nothing happened. This was a dumb thing to do and had already gotten her socked in the eye twice. The pimp flew backwards, the alley was slim and there wasn’t much room for him to fly. Ah, but they always find a way, don’t they?
“You shouldn’t hit.” The Weirdo said, a cool mist gathering around him. “It’s not nice. There’s a difference between a good touch and a bad touch.”
His foot suddenly swung out and struck the pimp in the chest. Something snapped, or felt like it did. The pimp flew back and fell onto the sidewalk, his ribs burning and a sensations rising up his body. The pain had frozen him more than the cold ground. He looked up as The Weirdo was coming out of the alley. His hands curled into fists, he looked like a predatory animal.
“Now, that was a bad touch,” he said, “but a hug’s a good touch.”
His arms wrapped around the pimp and he squeezed harshly, the pimp’s trapped arms couldn’t move at all. He could feel his ribs squeeze in on his lungs, and swore that they began to crack under the strain. The Weirdo figured he wasn’t worth it and let him fall to the ground. The pimp let out a short scream as he fell to the ground and struck his backside.
“Get to a hospital. Your ribs are cracked, not broken though.” His hand took the pimp’s cheeks. “Next time, I’ll erase your ass. Am I making myself understood?”
“My fucking side.” The pimp complained
“Why do people always tell me about pieces of them that hurt when I ask if I’m understood?” The Weirdo asked giving him another slap across the head. “Did I make myself clear?”
“Yeah.” The pimp whined.
“Then we have an accord.” The Weirdo said. “And that’s just bully.”
“What?” The pimp asked, clearly confused.
“It means don’t fuck up again.” The Weirdo said as he let the man go.
The pimp’s head hit the pavement when The Weirdo let him drop. The pimp looked up and around him, but he was alone on the street. He wanted to jump up and run, but his ribs wouldn’t let him. He looked at the woman at the other end of the alley, trying to work out what she was watching. She turned and ran from him, the fear clear on her face.
October 25th, 2002
As the El Camino began to sputter, Kestrel glanced at the fuel gauge. It had sunk well below E. The valiant vehicle tried to carry her for a few more feet, but the engine died, and the car rolled to a stop. The car was stopped along a back road, which ran though a forest. It was one of the back roads that the landowners used. It was two thin foot wide strips, which had green grass separating them.
She got out of the car, glanced back at it and shrugged. She knew where this road led, so she could walk it in the dark. There wouldn’t or at least shouldn’t be anyone else on the road and she should be able to see them before they saw her. She slung the pack onto her back and began to walk. The road was quiet at this time of year, nearly silent in fact. It was so very dark that it was like walking in a dream, and she didn’t like to dream.
The dreams that came when she was under stress like she was now were always some memory she had forgotten. She sometimes wondered if she would ever want to remember the things she had forgotten about. She had once tried, with a therapist while she was in Oregon for that year. The two of them had pieced together the events of one dream, and then she had found details of the event in the old papers at the library. Once she had learned a bit, she had no desire to learn more. The events that she had managed to put together were bad enough. It wasn’t even that she actually remembered the event, but she remembered the bits of dream and stories she had read.
They had ordered pizza, so when her father opened the door she had thought it was food. The door swung open, and the pain began, and her life ended. The straight razor had cut one of her father’s fingers off, and cut into his stomach. Her father’s stomach had been torn open and his guts spilt out onto the floor. The man had forced her mother on the floor, smashing her face against the carpet, tearing away skin as she cried for her daughter to run. She hadn’t been able to run though. She had just frozen up when the moment came.
He had killed both parents, molested their corpses, and then came for her. He had tried to kill her, but he hadn’t tried very hard. He had just slashed at her. The blade caught her arms and hands, causing the long white scars on her arms. She picked up a knife though, and had stabbed him in the stomach. There had been the sudden flush of fear, knowing she had hurt him, and then she ripped the knife through his guts.
He’d screamed, he fell to his knees and she smacked the blade into his forehead, thinking she could cut through his skull somehow. The blood had exploded from that wound and she fled from him. She hid in the bushes, watched him drag himself from the house, and only came out when the police cars showed up.
She had thought she might bleed to death, but the quick work with the remains of her t-shirt saved her life. She managed to tear the shirt into strips and wrapped her damaged limbs up enough not to bleed to death until the paramedics came.
She had to spend several months in the hospital, and come to terms with the fact that she had lost her parents again. They had been adoptive of course, but she had known somehow that she had been an orphan because her parents and a grandmother of sorts had all died. Now she was an orphan again, and trying to learn to walk again. Her leg had been broken, and a lot of damage had been done in the groin area. She had actually become an adult while in the hospital, and the bills had begun to arrive.
The house had been sold, the business sold, all to pay for her bills and the burial of her parents. There had been no one else, so she had to be the adult who made the decisions. Her father had sold jewelry, but that avenue had closed when she had sold everything to pay off her debts. It was an easy step from selling to stealing though, and thus her career in jewel theft had begun.
Of course then there were other patches of missing time in her memories, pieces of time that she had no desire to revisit or to try to open. She figured that she must have forgotten them for a reason, so it was probably best to keep them away. It was the sort of discipline certain children show for not picking at scabs. It was a terrible wound that was in the process of healing itself over, best not to mess with it until it was nothing more than a thin white scar on her memory.
October 25th, 2002
Kestrel was still lost in the backlog of memories when the sound tore her away from her thoughts. It was a loud cracking sound, a tree falling. She flung herself forward, diving into the leave covered ground. Her body was covered in sweat, and her heart felt like it wanted to break her ribs. She didn’t try to move for the first few seconds, just looked at the dead tree that had fallen behind her. It was relativity small, but it had sounded like the world ending.
The thoughts were already receding back into the corners of her mind, hiding away so she couldn’t remember it. She felt the memory she had been playing with slip through her fingers. She placed her hands to her head and sank to the ground, trying to catch a piece of it. She spread her body out as much as she could, lying spread-eagled on the damp earth. The energy was running through her body as it ran through the ground, she could feel it coursing through her, clearing her thoughts and calming her wildly beating heart.
A dry leaf crunched next to her, the sound as loud as a firecracker in her ear. She spun around, her hand drawing the knife, just in time to watch a rabbit scurry beneath the fallen tree. She laughed shakily, looking at the knife she had drawn out in her reaction. She sat in the front seat of the car, and looked at the tree. She closed her eyes again and tried to relax herself, breathing deeply. She should hear anyone coming from here. She sat in the car and rested for a moment.
It was a long way to Maine yet, and she had no car to finish the trip in. She hadn’t thought about it, rather she had just started walking. She wondered what she should do and decided that perhaps she should just keep moving, and think about it on the way. It would be difficult for them to track her at night, and she could pick up a few rides to get to the cabin. It wouldn’t be too hard to get there, even walking it would only be maybe a week’s worth of hiking. She could manage it she thought, particularly if she started now. After all she had managed two weeks in the countryside of Russia with the whole of the Soviet army after her, or so it seemed. They weren’t actually Soviets any more she thought, but there were a lot of them. Bronski had paid plenty for the stone though, which had made the whole thing more than worth the effort. She began to drift away and she wondered where Bronski was now. Probably dead no doubt, he was too reckless. She began to walk again, towards the cabin and false identification.
October 26th, 2002
Loki waked into his room, his body still racked with the pleasurable pain. He had cut himself several times and he was enjoying the feeling of the wounds closing up again. Billy had gone back to his apartment, and found Loki waiting for him. He was going to run out on Loki, leave him with nothing. Loki had paid in advance, and this little piece of shit was going to try and leave without giving Loki what was his.
He had beat Billy, raped him, and then vivisected him like the others. He stretched the skin with hooks and wires, so that it looked like the pictures from the old books. He had ripped Billy’s jaw out of joint, which didn’t stop him from screaming but did leave him unable to form real words. It had taken Billy a surprisingly long time to die actually. He must have had quite a spirit, which would no longer do him or anyone else any good.
He took everything of value from Billy’s home, which turned out to be the drugs he’d been promised as well as a few others. One might find a pathetic statement in the fact that Billy really had nothing of value besides a few drugs, but Loki ignored it. He brought them all home, along with Billy’s left kidney. He’d no intention of eating it, but it was fun to make them wonder why he might take it away with him. He had called the rest of the Kaiju Tailors and instructed them to go to see Billy for a lesson about trying to run out on him.
Loki stripped off his clothes and placed his hands to his temples, as if he were trying to force his finger through his head. He tensed his face muscles as well as most of the others he could, his entire body becoming tense and hard. He stretched his mind out, concentrating on the bag. The bag’s zipper pulled itself open and one of the plastic freezer bags lifted from the nylon duffel bag. It floated over to him as he closed his eyes tightly and concentrated. He began to reach his hand out as the bag began to falter.
He caught the bag before it fell, his fingers wrapping around it as gravity reasserted itself. The capsules in the bag were far too valuable to let fall. He took one of the capsules out and looked at it, and then swallowed it quickly. He watched as several of the pills lifted from the bag. He closed his eyes and thought about them. He placed his hands at his temples and the capsules flew into his mouth. He swallowed as they slid down his throat, the coating coming off them as they rolled down and delivering their payload into his stomach.
They would make his powers increase by tenfold, that’s what he had read. His psychic powers would be stronger than The Weirdo’s after he processed the pills in his system. He was the perfected copy after all, that was what he had come to learn. He felt the pills begin to take effect, and could see everything more clearly. The pills had been laced with LSD as he had instructed them to when they were making up the capsules. He could hear the colors around him, he had to remember to work through the false hallucinations and find the truth. He could hear goblins laughing as he fell back into the chair as the sounds out of the radio tickled him. The walls began to melt and his perception began to process so much information that it was working through things that didn’t exist.
October 26th, 2002
The Weirdo’s bed was left in its terribly unmade state. He had tried to sleep, but had failed again. He wanted to go to sleep; he desperately wanted to go to sleep. He felt as if he couldn’t remember what sleep felt like. His mind was still showing him reruns of his day, which he longed to escape from. A slow motion view of a small child’s head exploding from a high-powered bullet. The way the body pulled the same way as her head, even though the head was suddenly gone. The way the mother seemed to think she was just wanting to show her something the way she screamed when she saw her. How the blood kept pumping, spraying onto the mother’s face.
She had been thinking about Nemo, and then there was nothing but silence. When the minds of all people are like radio transmitters, you get used to the constant buzz of sound. The little girl’s thoughts had been exuberant and hard to ignore though, which made the suddenness of the silence from her all the more obscene. It wasn’t even that there had been a fast wind down of thought or an explosion of a single word. There had been the thought that she would like an aquarium to keep a clown fish in, and then silence.
Then of course there was the whale. For some reason, he kept seeing an image of a blue whale, swallowing a massive cloud of krill. He had seen the image about two years ago on a documentary about the great whales. It was the rarest of the rare, a blue whale, feeding no less. He had tried to calculate in his head how many krill must have died in one mouthful when they said that the whale could take in nearly a ton of the animals in a single great gulp. It seemed to him that it must be millions of animals, all being taken at once.
He wondered if the whale was some sort of god to the krill. Where they big enough to have religion? He supposed they must be. He couldn’t tell if being eaten up by god was a good thing or bad thing to the krill. They might think it a good thing because they would be warm and protected. Besides it must be nice, no one ever comes back to complain.
There were giants out there in the oceans, huge leviathans that were the product a billion plus years of evolution that had formed the biggest thing on earth. They silently or nearly silently, drifted through the ocean going about whatever business they went about. There were huge mammals slipping through the water, drifting past canons and ice flows that existed before mankind had even evolved far enough as to walk. There were squid that could possibly be longer than the whales, with beaks big enough to bite a submarine in half. There were giants out there, beyond the depths, and he knew about them.
He looked at the bottle of whiskey, which sat at the other end of the room. He watched as the bottle’s cap unscrewed from its place. He didn’t close his eyes; he didn’t hold his hands to his temple, he didn’t have to. He watched as a bubble of the golden liquid raised from the bottle and floated towards him. He watched as the cue ball sized bubble flew through the air. The bubble came to rest in a crystal glass next to him. He grabbed the glass slowly, running his fingers over the carved crystal.
He looked up and his eyes happened upon Shannon’s picture. The glass stopped in mid raise, he didn’t want to drink the whiskey. Yet, he raised it to his face and kissed the lip of the crystal. He let the whiskey roll around his mouth before swallowing. It was old, and it was good, and he didn’t want it.
The image of that child still haunted him, the thought of a clown fish and then nothing. He tapped his fingers against the dark oak table, which sat next to him. He stood and walked to the window. He closed his eyes as the wind blew into his room, taking the warmth from his body in small handfuls. It felt as if the wind itself were trying to embrace him. He could feel the arms of the wind wrap around him. He felt the wind’s kiss and remembered the kiss of flesh. The way that Shannon’s lips felt against his, how her body felt against his. He wanted to weep, he wanted to scream and cry at that moment. He wanted to tear at his hair and scream out against the world, he didn’t though and he wouldn’t, because he refused to be broken by the wind or a memory. He thought about the child again and thought about another small child, a child that had changed everything.
“Please Mister Weirdo, please save my mommy.”
The small child who had come to his door, and simply asked him to do a simple thing. She had stood, and asked him to save her mother. She had simply stood there, tears in her eyes and made a simple statement. She had reminded him, what he was supposed to be here for. That tiny child with her simple words had broken his selfishness.
“That’s what heroes do.” She had told him. “They save mommies and daddies and people who can’t help themselves.”
It was what heroes do. There had been no question in her mind that heroes saved the day. It can’t even be said to be a belief, it was more like an unquestionable fact. The sun rises in the east, water freezes at thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit, and heroes save mommies and daddies. He hadn’t been able to fight that truth, and had allowed her version of reality to overtake him.
He tried to steer his mind away from these jagged rocks of thought and found he couldn’t do it. His mind might have been a powerful instrument, but it wasn’t exactly under control. The constant boiling and churning meant that things kept coming to the surface whether he liked it or not. He thought that maybe he needed to occupy himself with something for a while.
He walked out of his bedroom and walked down the stairs. He entered the front room and found Max reading a book. He sat down across from him and Max looked at him from over his book. Max hadn’t been terribly enthused by the book really. The author wasn’t as good as forming a story as he had been at forming an interesting idea. It was a problem for Max if he didn’t care about the heroes of the book.
“What’s up?” Max said.
“I was going to go down and work out.” The Weirdo said looking distracted. “You wanna come?”
“Sure.” Max said.
October 26th, 2002
The Weirdo was thrown to the padded floor once again, Max standing over him. He lay on the padding and looked up at the cold fluorescent lights that shone down on them. He hated fluorescents, never mind if they’re more efficient, he didn’t like the way they looked. They always made his eyes hurt when he was around them. Max had beaten him six times now and it was becoming a tad monotonous. The Weirdo stood up again and looked at the young man. He wasn’t really a boy anymore. In fact he was nearly twenty years old now. He wasn’t the skinny seventeen-year-old they had taken in three years ago. He had become a man in such time.
“You’re doing pretty badly there, old man.” Max said.
The Weirdo could almost see the concern in Max’s voice, there was that much of it. The Weirdo wasn’t using all the strength he could, but he had taught Max about how to augment his speed. The priest of the temples had a lot of tricks, and he had learned them. He had taught them to Max and knew that one day Max would probably pass him in speed. He may not surpass his strength, but defiantly his speed. He looked at him and shook his head.
“I’m fine.” The Weirdo said. “I need the practice. It’s obvious.”
“I think you need sleep.” Max said. “You look worn out.”
“I’m fine.” The Weirdo said. “Got to be better than him, that’s all.”
“You’re going to exhaust yourself.” Max said, walking to a table where a folded towel sat, “Go to bed or I’ll shoot you.”
Max leveled an air pistol at The Weirdo, and his face went stony. It was loaded with a tranquilizer dart, meant for taking down angry circus animals. Max was still sure though that it would have enough power to knock The Weirdo out though. It was always hard to tell what might or might not have an effect on The Weirdo. Concentration was a big part of his power, and it depended on how much of his attention he was giving something. If he paid attention, Max thought, he could probably hold the sun in his hand without getting scorched. Max waved the gun towards the door, hoping that would be enough to convince him.
“You’re not really going to…” This sentence has always been a silly thing to say to people.
There was a sound like someone popping a seal on a pressure cooker. The Weirdo looked down at his arm where a small blue dart was stuck. He looked up at Max and pinched the dart between his fingers, pulling it out. He looked at the blue bits of duparoh fabric, which made the fletching. Max cocked the pistol and slid another dart in quickly, and shot him again. A second blue fletched dart struck The Weirdo’s chest, vibrating in place.
“Did I need a second one?” The Weirdo asked, pulling that one out. “Couldn’t you wait for this stuff to take effect??”
“No.” Max said raising his eyes brows.
“You little shiii…” The Weirdo’s eyes rolled up and he collapsed to the padded floor.
The darkness greeted him like a new lover in the night. Like Shannon would greet him at the end of those long nights. Before she died, before the darkness, and before Shannon there was his mother. A most beautiful woman, she had the nicest smile, but she was gone now, they were all gone. He was only six when it happened, when they were all taken. How long ago that now seemed. How horrible.
Max looked at the fallen man, whose breathing was already coming in long measured gusts. He hated himself for using the tranquilizers, but he had to make a decision about this. Either The Weirdo was going to kill himself through lack of sleep, or he was going to be knocked out. Max tossed the gun on the table and picked up the communicator.
“Jack?” Max said lifting a small pen like device to his lips.
“Yes, Max?” Jack’s voice said through the device.
“I had to shoot him with the dart gun.”
There was a pause, which might have lasted roughly ten thousand years. Max could see Jack, licking his lips and opening his mouth, looking for the right thing to say. What could you say when you heard that someone who defiantly needed to be knocked out, had just been knocked out? Not too much if it’s a normal person; but if it’s someone who’s going to shoot you as soon as he gets up, you might want to start getting some of your things together and take off.
Sleep aids and The Weirdo had a habit of not getting on well together, and he had habit of being cranky later. The Weirdo, in fact, might be famous for his bad moods when wakening if he had done nothing else. He might not achieve worldwide fame for this, but he would be something of a local legend told on dark nights.
“I’ll be down in a minute.” He said finally.
October 26th, 2002
“He wouldn’t go to bed willingly?” Jack asked.
“Nope.” Max said.
“No, he wouldn’t. Can’t do anything the easy way.” He lifted The Weirdo up and carried him to his bedroom.
It was a long task, carrying him up to the house, and up the stairs. The Weirdo was drugged enough that he didn’t thrash around, which was a mercy, but it was still three flights. Jack and Max would have never been able to get him up the stairs if he had been sleeping like he normally did. Jack had watched him a few times, when he had come to wake him. He had seen how The Weirdo would sometimes thrash around in the bed. There were times when he would half sit up and bring a fist down into the pillow before planting his head into it again. Shannon had said many times that it was only the fact that she could get to the edge of the large king sized bed that kept her from waking up bruised. They did finally get him to his room, and Jack set him down on the bed and pulled the blanket over him.
“You think he’ll be pissed?” Max asked.
“I don’t think so.” Jack said.
“Really?” Max asked.
“He’ll be bloody furious is what he’ll be.” Jack said. “I mean I do hope you’ve written a will and all that.”
“You’re a constant source of comfort and wisdom to me Jack, you know that?”
“That’s what I’m here for.” Jack said.
October 26th, 2002
There had been a dream, in which there had been dragons, and a man in a red cloak, a friend instead of an enemy. He held a great sword that was covered in an aura of flames, which surrounded and protected the man. He was a great swordsman, and a great friend to all that were his friends. He was the lover of a woman he didn’t quite recognize, even though he knew her very well in the dream. He had his hood up so that The Weirdo couldn’t see his face, but he had a familiar voice.
The thunder woke The Weirdo from his sleep, and he felt his skin and was surprised at how cold it was. His skin felt not unlike the cold skin of a corpse, cold and dry. His entire body shook, as if from the cold. He knew the reason was because of the drugs Max had hit him with. They were still going to be rattling around inside him weather he slept or not. He then looked at the clock and thought maybe the fact that he felt shaky was because he had hardly slept at all.
His sheets had been thrown to the floor in his sleep. He looked at the bare bed that had been stripped even of its bedspread. He had even lost his shirt and now was only in his pants. He looked at the clock again, noticing that it was three in the morning according to this clock. A light dabbling of sweat had built over his body in the ten seconds that he had been up. His body suddenly feeling hot as an iron plucked from the fire. It was like a fever that had suddenly started and he wondered if this was from the drugs.
His head felt like it was full of wool, his brain wrapped up in a big fluffy blanket, and his mouth seemed to be stuff with cotton as well. He couldn’t manage to think about much of anything except how he couldn’t manage to think. The dryness in his throat seemed to choke him slightly. He could manage thinking about not managing to think, but couldn’t manage anything else. He rubbed his eyes and thought it had helped a little.
He picked up a bottle of water next to his bed and drank the entire thing in one long series of gulps. That helped the feeling in his mouth a little, but he wanted to have more to drink. He walked to the bathroom and refilled the bottle at the sink, emptying it again. He couldn’t really say he felt better as a result, but he had washed some of the cotton feeling out of his mouth.
He walked from the bathroom across the floor to the window and looked out at the city through the curtains. The clouds were forming heavily over the city, he could smell the water in the air, that was how he knew it was going to rain. His hands rested on the iron bars, which made the guardrail for the balcony. He had been in bed a moment ago, so how he had gotten here he didn’t know.
He thought he must have walked but couldn’t remember anything about the trip. He looked behind him and rested his hands on the ladder, which ran from his balcony to the observation deck. There was a stairway, but a previous owner who had wanted a direct route from deck to room had put this ladder in place. He began to climb slowly up the rungs to the roof of the mansion. He could feel the cool wind brush against his bareback. The hairs on his back moved slightly to one side with the breeze. They didn’t move much, they weren’t very long and there weren’t many of them. They moved just enough to tell him his back was feeling a breeze and that a shirt would have been wise before his climbing expedition.
He continued to climb until he had reached the top. His eyes looked down on the far drop he’d have if his hand let go. It didn’t bother him though and it never had, in all his years. His hands took the black rungs and hoisted himself to the roof. He gripped the bars and pulled himself up. This was not a service ladder though. This ladder was for those who were going to the observation deck just above his room.
He felt like he was being drawn up to the iron railed circle with the copper dome for a roof. It had been built as a spot to put a telescope and view the stars, or possibly as a high spot to look out for attacks. Whatever reason it was first built it was the highest point on the house, which explained the stone path to nowhere being so close to it.
There was a stone tongue, like a plank jutting out from the observation deck. He stood on the observation deck for a while and looked at the stone plank. He walked down along the long stone plank. It was about a foot and a half wide plank made of granite and didn’t seem to have any particular purpose, unless you knew the family history. He walked all the way to the edge of the plank, looking down at the ground below him. From there he’d have a straight drop, like that one relative they had told him about. He had built this part of the house for that purpose. He had run down the granite plank and went for distance. That had been the whole idea of this place, which is why it wasn’t initially obvious why a long plank of granite should be jutting out from the highest part of the house.
The Weirdo sat down and crossed his legs and began to slowly clear his mind, as he had been taught. He concentrated and managed to calm the voices and slow the constant churning. He could feel the world begin to drop away as he did, the sounds and sensations fading away. The world began to slip into nothingness, and there was only him. He concentrated on nothing but the sound of his own heart beating in his chest.
He could feel each blood cell stop and then move with the movement of the organic pump. His lungs took in and let out each breath with an inhuman silence. He in fact quit breathing all together. The air began to simply defuse through his skin, like the yogis had taught him so long ago. His heart stopped moving and the blood began to course through his veins faster like they had taught. He began to reach out and attempt to touch his enemy. He could feel every living thing in the city, and in his head there was a little name over each of their heads like an online video game. Most census polls would say there’s about eight million people living in New York. The Weirdo’s own probes would have to add a full two million more, yet they say eight million souls in New York. The Weirdo had to deal with the fact that pretty much each living thing has some sort of soul. Even if the average American doesn’t do the sort of work that causes a soul to come into existence and develop, they do enough. His own numbers range higher than the trillions of souls in his city.
As his mind sought out that one he was touched by each different aspect of each life he was near. He could feel the presence of each single soul in the area of his city, and filtered them through his mind. He narrowed down the one he wanted, the worst killer in the city. He was alone, that much was good, but it caused him pain to come close to him. Blood began to pour from both nostrils, and his head pounded with stress. He could feel Loki trying to get into his head, as he was trying to get into Loki’s. The Weirdo was the more powerful of the two though, he had to be, or he was going to lose. His mind pushed, and pulled and twisted like a cyclone.
He was coming to the conclusion though that Loki might actually be the stronger of the two of them. Loki’s mind tore through like a man wielding a fifty pound piece of teak, which was powerful but had no control. The one thing that The Weirdo had over his adversary was he knew how to do this, he had learned and had practiced. Being strong is one thing, knowing how is another. He could bend things better, twist and escape. There are times when nothing can beat practiced skill. The battle was really something that if it had been played out on the physical world, the city would have fallen down.
Oddly, when it came right down to it, all Loki had was strength. There was no savagery in his attack to match The Weirdo’s, no skill, no drive. All he had was raw power, but no idea how to use it, or even what it was good for. He was simply trying to throw everything he had at The Weirdo, which while problematic, was easy to get around one he knew what Loki was doing.
He was able to get a good deal of hits in, but dodging was more difficult as he came closer. He was more at risk as he moved in to deliver the blows, and he was getting tired of the dodging. He decided to try and make a break for it. As he disengaged, he gave one last hit, powerful enough, he hoped, to break Loki’s neck. He spun away and did the equivalent of throwing a firebomb down behind him so that Loki couldn’t peruse him. He had to escape, because while skill can take someone far, it isn’t everything.
October 26th, 2002
In a dark apartment, Loki sat in near convulsions. He shook forward and back, his mouth spitting up volumes of blood. He was trying to keep hold of the grasp he got on The Weirdo’s mind. Blood was dripping down the side of his neck from his ears. Pouring over his lips and chin from his nose and mouth. He could even feel a warm wetness in his pants. He opened his eyes to let go a stream of blood from his tear ducks, and fell to the floor. He sucked in a desperate gulp of air, and fell into epileptic seizures. He watched the blood trickle on the floor, and then his eyes began to turn upwards as the last strands of his consciousness fell away from him.
October 26th, 2002
The Weirdo stood up slowly, and still the rush of blood to his head was intense. He told himself not to look down but did anyway, which is foolish. The ground looked very close from here, he might make it in one or maybe two steps. He watched as the world began to spin. Suddenly the stars were in front of him, and then all the air went out of his lungs. He stopped breathing for a moment and then his lungs recompressed. He took a deep breath as his head turned.
He was suddenly very glad for the fact that he fell backwards and not forwards. He could have made it though, he was sure of that. It was just as well he didn’t have to though. His tongue reached out and touched the small trickle of blood that ran next to his lips. He began to sit up, and shook his head back and forth. He looked around and stood up again. He walked to the edge again and stepped off, concentrating his power. He fell down at a slower than normal pace, and touched gently down on the ground. He looked around. Nobody was about, that meant he could pull tricks like this. With a bright electrical burst he was gone.
He reappeared in his bedroom, and looked at his bed. It was quite the comfy bed, he was sure it would be. He fell into it just to be sure, and the gentle hand of sleep took him suddenly. Eventually sleep took over him and he was able to leave the conscious world for a while. He felt like the hand of some ancient and loving god had swept him away from the worries of the world, if only for a short moment.
If he had looked up he would have noticed what could possibly have been the most beautiful woman anyone has ever laid eyes on watching over him. She must have been a Goddess, for beauty like that is rarely seen on earth. Also humans wear more clothing in October. She watched over him as another Goddess came through the window.
“Aphrodite.” Eoster said as she entered The Weirdo’s room.
“I come to watch over him from time to time.” Aphrodite said. “I am greatly concerned about his welfare.”
“I try to comfort him, but he rejects me.” Eoster said.
“I know.” The passion Goddess said. “I’ve seen him.”
Aphrodite walked towards The Weirdo and wiped the blood from his face with her finger. The beautifying touch meant that she needed no cloth, simply to touch. His face was clear of blood and dirt. She stroked his hair and ran a finger along his cheek.
“I got quite used to watching them together you know.” Aphrodite said. “They were so happy. I had blessed their union, and their child was to be mine. The child of this union was to be the one who would fulfill my plan.”
“I know.” Eoster said. “I’m sorry.”
“You and I agreed to the child.” Aphrodite said. “I know why you’re trying to comfort him in the way you are.”
“You’re thinking that my child could still be conceived.”
“Oh the child can still be conceived.” Aphrodite said. “I will have my child. The only question that we need answered is who struck out against me?”
“I don’t know.” Eoster said.
“I know you don’t.” Aphrodite said kindly. “I do intend to find out though.”
The Goddess lay down next to The Weirdo and stroked his coal black hair. Eoster turned slowly and left through the open balcony door. Aphrodite stroked The Weirdo’s hair and watched over him, soothing his mind and calming his dreams. She worried about her plan, the plan that had been laid out so carefully. She wasn’t about to let it be screwed up now. Not when things were so near the goal, not now that things were almost done.
October 26th, 2002
The room was dark, so very, very dark. The shades had been drawn; the curtains on his bed had also been closed. The sheets were covering the dark head as his lips took in and ejected air from the body. At that moment he wished that he’d never wake up. He could feel Shannon’s soft skin on his check. Her breast pressed up against his hand, their lips touching. He had that bliss yanked from him as the real world came back. He could feel her hands on his heart and then it was torn from his chest. He watched as they dragged her away, his beating heart dripping blood, still clutched in her fingers. She screamed for him, his hand reached out. He couldn’t move. He was helpless.
The Weirdo woke up suddenly, pain smacking him once again. His head still spinning, he wished idly for death. You must remember to jump. He knew that he had upset death in some way and that death wouldn’t take him. You’ll have to jump when she comes. He had cheated her once too often, and now she wouldn’t take him. Jump. He looked at the drawn curtains and stretched. He fell back into the bed, wondering what was meant by jump. His eyes closed and his mind began to let go again.
“I need you to go get someone.” The voice came and he opened his eyes again.
“What?” He asked sitting up.
The Gray man stood in the middle of the room, looking more comfortable than he did in Loki’s room. He didn’t look ill at ease here, like he was trying to minimize contact with anything in the room. He just looked like a man trying to get someone to do something for him.
“I need you to go pick someone up.” The Gray man said again. “I’ll tell you right where she is, you’ve just got to go get her.”
October 26th, 2002
Loki woke slowly, and he knew something had gone wrong. His head was spinning, and it hurt a lot. He looked down at his legs, at the dried blood that had encrusted his crotch. He noted that his face felt the same way, like his skin had gone hard and solid. He pulled at a piece of the blood and watched as it flaked to the floor. He began to pull the pants off, which caused sudden pain. He stopped when he discovered the blood had bonded his pubic hairs and his penis to the pants. He stopped and stood as carefully as he could and began to walk towards the bathroom.
His bloody hand touched the handle of the shower, leaving it streaked with the browning sludge. He watched as the warm water began to pour out of the showerhead, like a shower from the heavens. It began to strike him and work away the dried blood from his face. He sat down in the tub and let the water soak into him.
His blood was supposed to reenter his body, what had happened? Something had gone terribly wrong, no matter how you sliced it. He had clearly won the fight, but The Weirdo had managed to hit him harder than Loki knew you could be hit. Or had he won the fight? He had proved which of them was stronger, so why was he covered in blood? Something had gone haywire, and he had to find out what.
The Weirdo had done this to him, and he had done everything to him. He had learned some of The Weirdo’s tricks, but not enough of them. He had been forced to learn quick and harsh, always go for blood. He wanted to kill The Weirdo, had to kill him. That was his only purpose in life was to kill this man. He wanted only The Weirdo’s death. He almost couldn’t remember why though, or rather the reasons didn’t seem to make any logical sense sometimes.
He looked at the reddish water as it spun counterclockwise down the drain. He would kill The Weirdo, but that wouldn’t be enough would it? Of course not, he would have to destroy him as well. He’d have to tear his heart out. He would have to make him pay for this pain. Oh yes, he would have to make him scream.
December 17th, 800
“Should I start with the goose or the lamb do you think?” the old king asked.
“Well Charles.” The Weirdo said. “I would start with the lamb.”
“Very well.” The king said. “Cut me a joint then please.”
“Certainly.” He said and cut the king the joint. “Are you going to be at the Christmas celebration?”
“You know that I’m not much for that.” The Weirdo said apologetically
“Oh I know that.” The old man smiled. “You should come though, I think you will find it interesting.”
“You know something I don’t know?”
“The Pope himself will be there.”
“Does this have anything to do with that crown the priests are talking about?” The Weirdo asked.
“I am personally shocked and surprised by the whole thing.” Charles said quietly so that only the two of them might hear. “Had I known his holiness was planning to do such a thing I would have never entered the church.”
“I see.” The Weirdo said
“Do make sure you remember that.” Charles said. “Modesty is very important at a time like this.”
“Certainly.” The Weirdo said smiling. “I can clearly see that.”
© 2013 Autumn Knight Productions