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Brothers & Sisters – Chapter Twenty-Two: The Plan

Brothers & Sisters
A Tale of The Weirdo
By Brett N. Lashuay

Chapter Twenty-Two

 

The Plan

 

April 11th, 2003

4:01 p.m.

 

            Charon had been the ferryman for a very long time, since the creation of the post actually. The obols had been his idea, so that he could by himself a few things now and then. He had never been greedy about it, and had often let nice people who didn’t have a coin on the boat from time to time. He had been so successful and the world had become so populated he’d been able to expand, and was now the leader of a fleet of ten. He hadn’t ever really given credence to the rumors of an end. They’d been talking about an end to everything, well since the beginning really. Now though, it was looking like it could all end. Everything could be taken away, in just a moment, just like that. He looked at the two men who he was now ferrying across the river to what he’d always referred to as the live side. He listened to what they were saying and it worried him.

 

            “How many?” The one in gray asked.

 

            “Maybe one hundred thousand.” The one all in blue answered. “Maybe five, I’m not sure. It’s like cattle, every time we’d pass a group, a few would stick. Some times we’d pass by and there’s be no one left when we were gone. They’ve been waiting for someone to lead them out of there, some of them have been waiting a long time.”

 

            “Now tell me the other part.” The gray coated one said.

 

            “Other part?”

 

            “The part that’s worrying you Tommy.”

 

            Charon lifted his staff from the water, bits of the Styx dribbling over his weather beaten hands. They had done this for ages, the water dribbling over the rod and across his hands. That was how his immortal hands had become so weather-beaten. He looked at the dark water as he pushed the long rod back down into it. People thought he operated on a river within Tartus, at least some people did. Either that or they thought Styx was inside Tartus. He’d always been amazed at how stupid mortals were, they would argue that their not supposed to be here, that he wasn’t supposed to be here, that none of this was real. These two didn’t even seem to care, they seemed to just accept all of it, or ignore it.

 

            “They’re not soldiers Weirdo.”

 


            “I know.” The gray on said.

 

            “You know what we’re sending them up against.”

 

            “I know.” The other one said nodding. “I’m not particularly happy about it, but what choice do we have?”

 

            There seemed to be a special kind of weariness resting on his face. It hadn’t been able to etch lines yet, but neither did it look unaccustomed there. In the years to come, Charon thought, he would have a heavily wrinkled face, and he would wonder how it got that way. He wasn’t made for this, Charon could tell. He wasn’t meant to worry or feel this torn. He might have been made for war, but not worry.

 

            “What’s the plan then?” The one in blue asked.

 

            “They’re not expecting any resistance at all,” The gray one said, “Even amateurs are going to surprise them.”

 

            “Surprise doesn’t last very long.”

 

            “Which is where those Vikings come in. The amateurs are just back up, I doubt they’ll get past the professionals to the amateurs. I’m hoping for intimidation to do a great amount of the work for us.”

 

            “Will that work?”

 

            “About as well as it has so far.”
           

            “Mike really did die, didn’t he?” Tommy asked.

 

            “Yes.” The Weirdo said. “We fucked that one up.”

 

            “Yeah.”

 

            “So we get over it, and we learn how to avoid it.”

 

            “We should have seen it.”

 

            “Why?” The Weirdo said. “He never showed any signs that we saw. If he had, we’d have shot him.”

 

            “Why’d he do it?”

 

            “Don’t know.” The Weirdo said. “And we never will, and I don’t care.”

 

            “No?” Tommy asked.

 

            “No.”

 

            Charon had to look over his shoulder, and when he looked, he noticed the one in gray turned his dark eyes up to meet Charon’s. His eyes flicked up for a second and flicked back. He had in a very small way acknowledged that Charon had looked, and there might have been a warning there, or there might not. He might have just noticed some movement and his eyes investigated it like a tired lion might. The eyes had simply flicked, and then flicked back. Or he could have been signaling that the next turn would cost Charon a favored body part.

 

            Charon felt glad either way when the boat slid up onto the pebbled shore of the river. He always felt better when he heard the scraping of the small round stones against the bottom of the boat. Now it had a bonus as it meant this particular ride was over and they would leave him alone. He then realized the fallacy in that, after all, he’d agreed to come with them. They got out of the boat and their feet made that pleasant shooshing noise that people walking on pebbles always make.

 

            “When will you be ready?” Charon asked, looking at his pole.

 

            “Soon.” The Gray one said. “Just wait a few minuets, we’ll be back.”

 

            They walked away, the pebbles shooshing softly with each step they made. They walked past the withered tree and it seemed to shudder as the two passed it. He looked at the stick and then at the dead animal that the other men had killed only a few hours ago. There were already large black crows feasting on the carcass. You could rule the sea for a thousand years, but once dead there was no statute that would keep the scavengers away.

 

            “Crows.” The one in gray said.

 

            “Crows.” The one in blue said.

 

           

April 11th, 2003

4:12 p.m.

 

            “Where did the crows come from?” The Weirdo asked

 

            “Ghosts?” Tommy supposed, “They came from beneath with us maybe?”

 

            “I guess.”

 

            “You brought The Lady of Death back with you.” Tommy said.

 

            “Yes.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Something going on between you two?” Tommy said leaning against a single post that had been set up many years ago for a now long forgotten purpose.

 

            Eight feet off the ground a ring had been set in a u of metal that had been hammered into the wood. It made Tommy think of a hitching post, or maybe a sacrificial spot, he looked at the ring hanging and moving gently in the breeze. Who ever had set it up was probably dead by now, or they had been taken. Tommy was beginning to think that being taken was being dead. They had seen so many that seemed bewildered, that they must have just been delivered into the hands of these monsters. He looked at The Weirdo and it took his friend a moment to answer.

 

            “Yes, I think there is.” The Weirdo said finally. “I think there has been for some time.”

 

            “What do you mean?”

 

            “She loves me.” The Weirdo said simply. “She loves me and I resented her because she took Shannon when it was her time. It broke her heart to do it, but she didn’t want anyone else to be there.”

 

            “You saw her?”

 

            “Yeah.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “You never said.”

 

            “No.” He said. “She’s been trying to make things as easy as she can. She was trying to minimize pain and suffering. She killed herself for me. She was supposed to take me and she took herself instead.”

 

            “Some one might not like that you’ve brought her out of there.”

 

            “I don’t care.” He said. “Let them not like it.”

 

            “Do you love her?”

 

            Tommy had expected a long pregnant pause where The Weirdo would ruminate about that. Instead The Weirdo turned to him and spoke almost immediately. He had already thought about it, or knew the answer without thinking.

 

            “No.” The Weirdo said. “That’s not to say I can’t grow to love her.”

 

            “You like her?”

 

            “Yes.” The Weirdo said. “Yes I do.”

 

            “Is it because she likes you so much?”

 

            “I don’t know.” The Weirdo said shaking his head. “I’m not sure it matters right now. She likes me, and she could help us. I could love her very easily, she’s honest and beautiful.”

 

            “She has that going for her.” Tommy said. “She is very beautiful. She have a mind?”

 

            “She does.” The Weirdo nodded, and smiled a bit. “I was talking to her for a while, she has quite a mind.”

 

            “Good.” Tommy said. “Then I’ve only got one other question?”

 

            “Just one?”

 

            “Does it change anything?” Tommy asked. “This thing between the two of you?”

           

            The Weirdo looked at him for a long time, his eyes squinting ever so slightly. Then The Weirdo’s eyes flicked away, and he raised his head. He turned his head very, very slowly, and seemed to be listening intently. He still hadn’t answered when he began to walk away, he had simply strode off.

 

            Tommy watched as he walked over a rise in the pile of pebbles and then crouched down just on the other side. Tommy walked after him and found The Weirdo sitting on the pile of pebbles and his hand seemed to be stroking something. As he walked closer he thought that the silvery gray cat he was gently petting must be resting on her side until he saw The Weirdo’s face. The face was sorrowful, and  he looked like he wanted to punch something. The cat’s eyes barely looked at Tommy, her head shifted but couldn’t actually raise at this point. The breathing looked shallow and labored, her eyes glanced at The Weirdo as best she could as he gently stroked her fur.

 

            “She’s dying.” The Weirdo said. “She has exhausted her every reserve and in a few minuets or so she’ll die, no matter what we do.”

 

            “Oh.” Tommy said.

 

            “She was carrying her last surviving child and just collapsed here.”

 

            “Last child?”

 

            The Weirdo showed his left hand in which a tiny black and white kitten sat. She was white, very fluffy and her face looked like she had gotten into some mischief with a bottle of ink. The nose and a bit of the chin were black, there was a patch of black on the top of the head and a patch of black on the left side. She leapt from The Weirdo’s hand and landed on the soft pebbles. Her tiny mew was pathetic and hopeful. He thought that she was probably starving. Tommy could see the ribs of the tiny thing sticking out of her side. Something must have happened to her tail because the tip of it hung over looking like a shepherd’s crook. The tiny creature made the pathetic mew again which broke Tommy’s heart.

 

            “Do you have anything?” Tommy asked.

 

            “Nope.” The Weirdo said as the tiny kitten nudged her mother’s head.

 

            The mother’s dry tongue stuck out and with great effort she made an attempt to lick the kitten’s head. The Weirdo’s face twisted in a sorrowful expression and he picked the dying cat up gently. He looked at Tommy, as a sort of light seemed to emit from The Weirdo’s palms. Tommy could see it shine around the fingers and glow through the skin. He swallowed as The Weirdo closed his eyes and set the cat down gently on the pebbles, stroking her gently as he could. He stroked the now dead cat and looked at the kitten.

 

            “We can’t just leave her here.” Tommy said. “She’ll die.”

 

            “I have no intention of leavening her here. I’m not leaving anyone behind. Not this time.” The Weirdo said picking the tiny white kitten up again. “I’ll bet The Other keeps a foil pack bag or two of tuna in her bag on the off chance that she’ll see a kitten to give it to.”

 

            “Yeah?”

 

            “Yes.” The Weirdo said. “She’ll come with us.”

 

            “Okay.” Tommy said looking back at the mother. It was odd not to even see a single fly, she could have lifted her head at any moment and meowed at them. She didn’t of course she was dead.

 

            “Of course it doesn’t change anything.” The Weirdo said. “But it might help.”

 

            “The kitten?”

 

            “No.” The Weirdo said. “The kitten changes everything. The kitten proves that there is something in this world worth fighting for. The kitten is a symbol for everything we fight for. The fact that memories long suppressed are now flooding back and their not all happy ones doesn’t change that the people who are in those memories are now helping us. In many ways it explains why Odin is going to the lengths he’s going to.”

 

            “Oh yes?”

 

            “He’s trying to make reparations.”

 

            “Is it working?”

 

            “It’ll do.” The Weirdo said, stroking the kitten’s head gently.

 

            “You sure?” Tommy asked

 

            “No,” He said, looking at the boat as they approached. “But I’m sure that it will work by the end.”

 

 

April 11th, 2003

4:20 p.m.

 

            “I can keep her?” The Other asked.

 

            “Yes dear.” The Weirdo said.

 

            There was now only the main of the family in the throne room now, all the others had gone. Kestrel and Max were crouched down with The Other admiring the fancy little kitten. Athena and Jack were talking softly to Cassimano and Lucifer about where they were going to go next. Tommy, Judy and Sheila were discussing with Darrian and Persephone the differences between the forms of immortality each of them had managed. Nike and the Gray man were discussing with Aphrodite and Eoster the best way to take care of a pregnant goddess.

 

            It was odd that these sorts of conversations would have suddenly cropped up, but there it was. The Weirdo watched as The Other petted the fuzzy kitten’s head. The kitten was intent upon the pile before her and didn’t notice any of this.

 

            The kitten was eating the third bag of tuna that The Other had placed in her backpack for just such an occasion. There are people in the world who keep packs of tuna or cans of cat food on their person, just in case they find a stray cat. It’s not really that odd a thing, it just strikes people as odd when that person revels that yes, they have tuna.

 

            The Other was petting the kitten who was purring loudly and rubbing against the tiny cleric’s hand as much as she was eating. When she finished the last of the tuna and had licked the plate until she had stripped away the top layer of the ceramic glaze’s molecules, she stuck one of her back legs out and began to clean it diligently. The Other kept petting and the kitten licked her hand. The little child laughed as the rough tongue tickled her palm.

 

            “She’s very cute.” The Lady said, stroking the kitten side.

 

            “Yeah.” The Other said, turning her face up to The Lady death.

 

            The Weirdo noticed eye colors, the heart shape of faces and something clicked in his head. He could be wrong, there were a lot of women with crystal blue eyes and heart shaped faces in the world. Well, no, not anymore. There were less than a million people in the world now, even in New York that was hardly anyone. It was the paleness of the hair that caught him and made his heart freeze for a moment.

 

            “I think maybe we need a few minuets alone.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Should we go?” Tommy asked.

 

            “I think we can go outside.” The Weirdo said.

 

            He led The Lady out of the throne room and out of the entrance of the cave, which was an opening to the underworld. A small stone bench sat at the mouth and he sat down on it. She looked a little confused and slightly worried. She had thought it would be all right to talk to the child, who had been only too ready to talk to her. She wondered what he was going to say to her, but he stayed silent for a long time. He looked out at the river and then back at her.

 

            “I ah, I don’t even…” He looked lost for a moment and then back at her. “Do you have a name besides The Lady Death?”

 

            “Have I done something wrong?” She asked, tears welling up.

           

            He sat down on the bench next to her taking her hand and wanting desperately to kiss her. He wanted to tell her everything he’d ever thought or felt, but there wasn’t time. He had to tell her something though, before he screwed everything up.

 

            “She looks just like you.” The Weirdo said. “The Other could be your daughter.”

 

            “Oh?” She asked.

 

            “She’s not supposed to be born for nearly a year yet. According to what I’ve been told, she hasn’t been conceived. Do you get what I’m saying?”

 

            “You and I are going to make love and I’m going to give birth to the little girl?”

 

            “It’s a possibility that we might have to deal with.” He said. “If you’re going to be the mother of my daughter, I think I should know your name.”

 

            “Elise.” She said. “I was born Elise Darby in London, around eighteen seventy-two. I died in ninety-three and they recruited me for the Death corps.”

 

            “Okay.” He said.

 

            “Do you have a name?”

 

            “I’m just The Weirdo.” He said, his dark eyes staring into hers.

 

            “Okay.” She said.

 

            “There is one thing that makes me worry though.”

 

            “What?”

 

            “The Other’s mother dies in childbirth. I don’t want to loose you if we’re going to be in love.” He said, “That sounded really bad.”

 

            “I understood it though.” She said. “I’ll be ready to die though, if that’s what is required.”

 

            “I won’t let that happen.” The Other whispered to the kitten. “We’re not going to allow that, will we Fancy?”

 

            “Mew.” The kitten answered.

 

            “No.” she said. “I didn’t think so.”

 

            She had named the kitten Fancy you see? She named hr than because the kitten moved and sat in such a fancy position. The kitten had taken an instant likening to food and The Other and had an abject fear of just about everything else. Thus as she had taken a fancy to The Other, that was what the child called her.

 

           

April 11th, 2003

4:30 p.m.

 

            “Are we ready?” Cassimano asked as The Weirdo came back into the cave.

 

            “We are.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Are you sure this is going to work?” Tommy asked.

 

            “You’re option is to dress like Lord Byron.”

 

            “Can’t I be Percy Shelly?” Tommy asked.

 

            “No.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “And why not?”

 

            “Because if I’m Lord Byron, and you’re Percy Shelly, what is that going to entail?”

 

            Tommy looked up for a moment and then historical rumor came back to him and his eyes widened for a moment. He looked at The Weirdo whose face was as inscrutable and ineffable as a block of wood. It was clear though that Tommy and The Weirdo had communicated in that secret way between them.

 

            “And I don’t like you that way.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “No.” Tommy said. “Nor I.”

 

            “So we’ve got to do this.”

 

            “Fine.” He said. “Do we carry the ferries overland?”

 

            “Nope.” The Weirdo said. “If my maps are correct they’re all connected.”

 

            “Grand.” Tommy said.

 

            “How long is this going to take?” Kestrel asked.

 

            “A little while.” The Weirdo said. “I think we’re going up stream the whole way so that will defiantly add to our time.”

 

            “Can we get everyone in the boats?” Darrian asked.

 

            “That’s the beauty of it.” The Weirdo said. “Only those you see here are going by boat, Odin went ahead. He’ll meet us there.”

 

            “And we’re pretty sure this isn’t going to work?” Nike asked.

 

            “That’s right.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “But our only option is to dress up like Lord Byron.” Eoster asked.

 

            “That’s right.”

 

            “Shit.” Kestrel muttered.

 

            “Oh come on.” The Weirdo said. “It’s not that bad.”

 

            “No?” Kestrel asked,

 

            “No, it’s much worse.” He said with a broad and honest smile.

 

            He looked like the weight of the world had crushed him, had squeezed him until there was nothing left. He looked like he had come to the conclusion that if things were going to be this desperate, then he would give them something to aspire to as they went down. He was going to be the one mad bastard who leapt on the atom bomb and rode it like a bucking bronco the whole way down.

 

            “This is madness.” Kaala said.

 

            “Okay.” He said, stepping forward still smiling. “All who have a better plan raise your hands. I’m waiting.”

 

            He looked around him looking for just one hand, just one. The right side of his mouth was still raised in a smirk. He thought about the problem he was likely causing himself, but he also noticed no one raised a hand. He looked around, and no one raised a hand. He nodded, and looked at Cassimano, who simply smiled.

 

            “There is no other plan.” Cassimano said. “I think we have to go with this one.”

 

            “Okay.” The Weirdo said. “Besides, what have you got to loose really? We know the worlds going to end no matter what. If we fail who will ever know?”

 

 

April 13th, 2003

2:21 a.m.

 

            The river had picked up considerably, but the boats were still making better time than they had any right to. The Weirdo stood up and walked around Elise and The Other to the end of the boat where Charon was working. He looked down at the sleeping forms of Nike and Athena at the old god’s feet.

 

            “You seem to making pretty good time.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Can I ask you something?” Charon asked.

 

            “Because I made a promise.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “You’ve been asked a few times already.” Charon said.

 

            “I have.”

 

            “All of this for one promise?”

 

            “One promise.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “What do you expect to find there?”

 

            “I need an army, even more than the few thousand we’ve already gathered.”

 

            “Of people who aren’t soldiers?”

 

            “Of people who have been bullied for longer than they deserve.” He said. “People who would like to strike back, people who deserve just one chance.”

 

            “You know there’s a dragon down there.”

 

            “No, there isn’t.” The Weirdo said. “I killed it, a long time ago.”

 

            “Is that why you went?”

 

            “That’s how I got out.”

 

            “We’ll be there before noon.” Charon said. “You should get sleep.”

 

            “I haven’t slept in so long.” The Weirdo said. “I’m not going to start now.”

 

            “But if you don’t sleep, how will you fight?”

 

            “If I sleep now, I won’t wake up for a month.” He said. “I rested, I just didn’t sleep.”

 

 

April 13th, 2003

10:43 a.m.

 

            The realm of Nefelheim was not the sort of place you wanted to go on a summer holiday. There was a treacherous river that would sweep any who even waded into it to the palace of Eljundir on Helheim. Across the river were a few of those who had died of sickness or old age. They leapt into the river, trying to swim across. Because of the odd way the river ran, it was actually like a whirlpool, you were always drawn to the island where Helheim was situated. The swimmers were quickly swept back to the shore, where they were dragged back into the dark palace by trolls. The lamentations of those within could be heard over the rushing water.

 

            The Weirdo looked at the length and then at the boats that were all tied up on the living side of the river. The then looked at the faces of those who had come with him. He looked back at the grand palace with its sprawling towers and poor architecture, which Jack had unironicly referred to as hellish.

 

            “We cannot cross that river.” Odin wisped.

 

            “Why not?” Karl asked.

 

            “Even gods cannot wade in those waters and return.”

 

            “Ah.” The Weirdo said. “But we won’t be wading.”

 

            “I don’t understand.” Odin said.

 

            “Charon.” The Weirdo said. “Begin the bridge.”

 

            If you’ve never seen a pontoon bridge, you might not understand the concept. The ten boats each dropped anchor in the river and let themselves be dragged to the end of their chains. After a few minuets of fine-tuning the boats were all aligned so an active man could walk across them if he did it carefully. The river was fairly swift, but surprisingly free of rapids, the Greek boats hardly moved in the swift flowing current. They lashed the boats together to make it even sturdier. Then boards were then brought, and set across the boats. In less than an hour a bridge existed were there was no bridge before.

 

            “Amazing.” Odin said. “Why did no one ever try it before?”

 

            “Maybe they did.” The Weirdo said. “I wasn’t sure it was going to work, others might have failed.”

 

            “But you didn’t.” Odin said.

 

            “Well.” The Weirdo said. “I also planned a head.”

 

            “Oh?”

 

            “I know of another dragon I can call if needs be.”

 

            “Yeah.” Tommy said. “Isn’t there supposed to be the Nidhogg or something.”

 

            “Killed it.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Killed it?” Max asked.

 

            “Killed it.” The Weirdo said. “Sort of how I got out the last time.”

 

            “Were you intent on killing me then?” The wind lord asked.

 

            “No.” The Weirdo said. “I was going to ask you politely.”

 

            “So are we ready?” Jack asked.

 

            “Yes.” The Weirdo said. “For starters, thought only a few of us will go. Tommy, Jack, Max, Kestrel, D’var and Mike.”

 

            “Why only you?” Judy asked.

 

            “I’m going to try reason first.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “He’s not sure about the bridge.” Tommy said.

 

            “Shut up.” The Weirdo retorted. “Though if this bridge does break, we will need the dragon then.”

 

            “I shall do what I can.”

            “What about us?” The old man asked.

 

            “Not now Karl.” The Weirdo said. “You’ve been tossed out by gods before.”

 

            “Oh sure, use that against me.”

 

            “Shall we then?” The Weirdo asked as he stepped on the first board.

 

            This isn’t going to work, he thought to himself. That little voice of doubt spoke up and he tried to push it down. The boats are going to fly apart, the river will eat you whole, and you’re so fucked. No one’s going to follow you, they’re going to let you go on your own, and then abandon you, so spoke the voice. He stepped down on the boards though and had to consider that he was helping nail the boards in place along with all the guys who were currently standing on the boats, keeping things steady.

 

            He looked at the boards as he walked across them and heard the foot falls behind him and he had to stop and turn around. They were actually following him, which was odd because he hadn’t expected them to. He looked at Max who had stopped when The Weirdo stopped.

 

            “What?” Max asked,

 

            “You’re gonna laugh.” The Weirdo said tugging the lapels of his gray coat. “I was convinced you guys weren’t actually gonna come.”

 

            “Not gonna laugh.” Max said. “Let’s go do what we came to do.”

 

            Max and The Weirdo stepped onto the island at almost the same moment, and the first of the people who wanted to escape came the other way. He was scraggily in appearance, as if he had been waiting a thousand years for such an opportunity. He looked at them, and then scuttled down the bridge. Max turned to say something but The Weirdo took his shoulder. Max looked at him and The Weirdo simply shook his head.

 

            “Let him go.” The Weirdo said.

 

            They walked towards the massive black gates, and Kestrel felt that she was about to throw up. The gates were made up of a series of bars with long hooks sticking out of them. The long hooks had people hung on them who reached their hands out imploringly. Many of them groaned and one was actually able to whisper for help. They weren’t alive, but neither were they dying. They had simply been placed on these torturous hooks as a set decoration to show how bad this place was.

 

            “Let’s get started.” Nike said and she began to fly up.

 

            Athena began to climb the bars and Judy and Sheila did like wise. They began to pick people off the hooks as The Weirdo watched and they lowered them down to Eoster, Aphrodite and the gray man.

 

            “I thought.” The Weirdo said.           

 

            “No.” Aphrodite said. “You didn’t think, you tried to be noble, but you neglected to think.”

 

            “We all came here together.” The gray man said. “We’re going to do this as a full team.”

 

            The Weirdo turned around and saw that they had all come. There were more than two million of them now, and they were either filling across the river, or caring for those who had already escaped. The Weirdo wasn’t much for tears, but he felt some sort of emotion well up from deep with in him. He thought it must be some stronger form of gratitude. The Other stood at the huge gates and she and Fancy looked in. Then Fancy turned and ran, and The Other did the same.

 

            Garm was a huge dog with four eyes and a chest covered in blood. He was supposed to chew those who tired to enter or leave illegally. If one has given bread to the poor one is supposed to be able to appease the massive dog. The Weirdo had given bread to the poor but if that would have worked to appease the animal is anyone’s guess. As the dog ran towards the large group, barking and roaring, Cassimano shot it. It was one quick blast between the eyes, and the beast fell to one side and slid an impressive twenty three and one-half feet. Cassimano blew a wisp of imaginary smoke from his barrel and twirled the gun before holstering it.

 

            “You know what you just did?” The Weirdo asked, “You shot a dog.”

 

            “Yeah?”

 

            “People are going to hate us now.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “It’s not like a kicked a puppy, this was an evil dog.”

 

            “People don’t know evil and dog can be spoken in the same sentence.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “I still say it was an evil dog.”

 

            “No one’s going to care.”

            “Well just excise this from any record of the events.”

 

            “I just might.”

 

            As it can be seen though, this was not expunged from the record as this is a full and complete history.

 

            There were no locks on the gates and they swung open easily. The Weirdo felt somehow wrong with everyone following him like this. This was why he’d asked for the small group, he felt uncomfortable leading the large one. He was glad of the large group when the entered the hall of Helheim though.

 

            There were trolls, lots of them. There were also giants, yes, lots of them too. There was also torment, the sort meted out on the poor by the bored. It wasn’t for any reason anymore, now it was just something to do. They were throwing knives at women, getting new ones when heads were spilt open. There were hot brands placed on people, there was cutting and raping.

 

            In the middle of it all, sitting on a large throne of silver, sat Hel herself. Goddesses are often and rightly renowned for their great beauty. If you had the grace that they possessed you’d be attractive too. What would happen if you had the power but no grace? Hel’s face was a hideous thing to look at, one eye seemed to be swollen shut from an infection. Her nose had been broken so many times that it leaned distinctly to the left. She sat in the great silver throne stark naked. Her breasts had long scars running down them, and they were withered. Worst of all perhaps was that at about the place where her waist started, the body began to end. The feet had rotted away to nothing but bone and a few ragged bits of flesh. The rot got better as one went up the body, but nothing but decent clothing could disguise the fact that she was a rotting corpse from the waist down.

 

            “Why does the mighty Odin come to visit me in Eljundir?” Hel asked.

 

            “Particularly when he knows he can’t leave.” Ganglot the maidservant asked.

 

            Ganglati, her manservant and Ganglot came shuffling around the throne. They too were naked, but they were complete in their rotting corpsehood, they didn’t stop half way up. They looked like a pair of evil children, and they also looked very lazy and ready to put the blame on someone else.

 

            Off to one side a solitary figure was chained to the wall. His helmet lay some feet away from him, his belt was strung just inches from his hand and his glove and hammer were just out of reach of his toes. His horses were kept in a cage where he could see them but could call no commands to him. He didn’t look at any of this now, simply hanging his long red hair over his face to hide in his shame.

 

            “You’re talking to me actually.” The Weirdo said waving at the naked creatures before him.

 

            “And why should we consider you?” Ganglati asked.

 

            “Max?” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Yes Weirdo?” Max asked.

 

            “Do you think that you and Kestrel could get rid of Heckle and Jeckel here?”

 

            “Oh I think we can manage that.” Kestrel said drawing out the automatic pistol and firing at Ganglati’s feet.

 

            Unfortunately for Ganglati, not getting his feet shot would have required quick and sudden movement, and he just wasn’t up to that. His feet were hit and he screamed and fell. Ganglot looked down and laughed at his misfortune, so Max shot her in the head. She went down and Ganglati began to laugh at her misfortune, so Kestrel shot him.

 

            “So that takes care of them.” Hel said, standing up.

 

            The Weirdo was quite disturbed to see how much of herself she had left when she stood and that pieces of her fell off as she stood up. She didn’t seem to notice that her kneecap had dropped off, she kept walking with out it. She looked at the Weirdo and leapt down from her platform. She landed and more bits of her shambling flesh fell off.

 

            “I would advise you to stay back.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Oh?” Hel asked. “And why might you do that?”

 

            The Weirdo drew the sword he had been told was actually called Terintass from its sheath and held it up for her to see it. It glowed in the dim light, as if light with its own internal fire that was just waiting to get out. She looked at the blade with a moment’s hesitation that turned into two moments of fear.

 

            “This is Excalibur.” The Weirdo said. “It helped me kill you father.”

 

            “You killed him?” Hel asked.

 

            “I did.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “You murdered my father?”

 

            “Murder is hardly the word.” The Weirdo said, changing his tone to a hurt and slightly offended one. “I mean he was trying to kill me at the time. He killed the woman I loved, and he was trying to destroy the world.”

 

            “I know you.” She said, as if they had met under social terms. “You were here before.”

 

            “Um.” He said, the wind oddly taken from his sails. “Yeah.”

 

            “Od!” She said pointing. “Of course you’re the only one who was ever able to leave.”

 

            “Well I.”

            “And you killed dad?” She asked, almost pleased at knowing him.

 

            “Yeah.” He said.

 

            “Good.” She said. “He was a bastard. So what are you back here for?”

 

            This was not the way The Weirdo had planned this. He had been expecting a battle, or something like that. This was friendly, this was like meeting a girl you used to date and finding that she didn’t think you broke up on that bad of terms. He sheathed the sword.

 

            “We need Thor.” The Weirdo said pointing.

 

            “Oh?” She asked. “Sure take him.”

 

            “And whatever people or troops you can supply.”

 

            “We can’t exactly leave here you know.” She said.

 

            “We’ve made a temporary bridge.” He said. “So long as we keep traffic fairly light, we can all leave.”

 

            “I can leave this place?” The tears poured suddenly from her eyes. “I can go out there?’

 

            “Well yeah.” He said. “If you want to, I don’t see why not.”

 

            “Thank you.” She said, and fell down in grateful tears.

 

            “This wasn’t what you expected is it?” Jack asked.

 

            “No.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “If no god could leave I guess she couldn’t ever leave either.” Jack said.

 

            “I guess.”

 

            “No big battle then?”

            “Nope.”

 

            “I’ll go play traffic warden on the bridge then.”

 

           

April 13th, 2003

11:00 a.m.

 

            “I cannot leave this place.” Thor said, his voice soft and cracked somehow. “No one can leave Helheim.”

 

            His voice was that of a defeated child, one who had seen everything they’d ever loved destroyed. He had accepted the chains being taken off him, but he wouldn’t touch the hammer or the long belt. He rubbed gently at his wrists gently, and wouldn’t even look up. Tears had long stopped being able to drip from his eyes, or they would have been falling again. They had explained that they were free to go, that the world needed him, and that it was the time they’d always talked of.

 

            “The ice giants are out there.” Elise said.

 

            “The betrayer has shown his colors and the world is coming to an end.” Odin said.

 

            “Can I have a moment with him?” The Other asked.

 

            “Sure.” Odin said standing, “Why not?”

 

            He stalked away, his feet actually shaking the ground as he walked. Elise watched as he walked, his frustration nearly coming off his head light lightning. She looked at The Weirdo who was watching the tiny cleric as she approached. He then looked at Kestrel who looked back at him. She shrugged to signify she didn’t know what the little girl was planning. The Weirdo watched as the little girl walked towards the massive red bearded god. She approached and bent down to look up at his face. She smiled at him and waved at him.

 

            “Hi.” She said,

 

            “Hello.” He said.

 

            “You wanna come out?”

 

            “There’s no point.” He said his head shaking.

 

            He might have wanted to say more but then the shock of what happened next stopped him. In fact it stopped much of the world, and caused people who weren’t in the vicinity of Nefelheim to stop what they were doing in shock. The Other raised up her little hand and struck Thor across the cheek with what should have been a feeble slap. The sound reverberated though, and The Weirdo could feel the sound through his shoes.

 

            “Stop moping you darn Wendy!” She yelled, the sound causing The Weirdo’s lungs to vibrate in his chest. The roar of the tiny child’s voice grew until there was no other sound in the universe. “You can’t give up just because you got beat once. You never, ever, ever, ever give up! Now you get your butt up and you grab that stupid hammer and you do what you’re cock a doddie supposed to do!”

 

            Thor was, in the depths of his heart, a military man. There is something hard wired into every soldiers brain. It wasn’t exactly the words, it was the tone. All one had to do was shout in the perfect way so that it vibrated the tuned strings in his head. When he was being addressed by a superior, his body sort of took over. He stood straight up and as one hand took hold of the hammer, the other grabbed the belt. He wrapped the mighty belt around his waist, had shoved the hammer into it and was snapping to a smart salute before his mind knew that it was being talked to.

 

            “Sir!” Thor said, his heels snapping together.

 

            “You’ve just got to know how to talk to people.” The Other said passing The Weirdo who still hadn’t moved.

 

            Kestrel watched at The Other walked, Thor scrambling to get his boots on and follow her. He nodded to her as he went past, following the small cleric as she walked towards the main doors. He slid his helmet on as he went after her, following like a fresh private might follow after a grizzled sergeant.

 

            The Weirdo watched as the two of them walked by, and found they were followed by the trolls and giants. The Weirdo leaned back as the large legs moved past him with their massive feet setting down without the thumping that one expects. When watching large animals in movies always have thumping sounds whenever they move. Large animals rarely thump like that though, they tend not to make those kinds of thumps that cause ripples in glasses of water.

 

            He watched as they went by, not passing much in the way of comments to anyone but his own mind. She was already leading, yelling at a thunder god to get his stuff together because she wouldn’t say shit. She was already a force to be reckoned with, she was already something. He watched as she marched out the doors, a small figure at the head of a marching column. She had her own army that would follow her where ever she lead and would perform in either peace or war, whatever she asked of them.

 

            He looked at Max who was helping him in holding up the wall. It was an activity the two of them seem to have taken up together without realizing the other was doing it. Max looked back at The Weirdo and a worried look crossed his face.

 

            “Will this actually work?” Max asked.

 

            “I don’t see why it shouldn’t.” The Weirdo said. “After all, we know what needs to be done. These guys are to ensure that we can do it. I didn’t actually expect to get the help of the giants and the trolls, I expected to have to kill them.”

 

            “Why?’

 

            “I had to kill them last time.”

 

            “You remember?”

 

            “Some of it.” The Weirdo said. “Flashes now and then. Like I knew we’d want an army, except we were wrong about that.”

 

            “We needed and army.” Max said. “It won’t be a waste.”

 

            “No.” The Weirdo said. “But I didn’t even consider that we could just talk to them.”

 

            “Shit happens.” Max said. “You try not to let it get you down.”

 

            “Yeah.” The Weirdo nodded. “I guess so.”

 

            “One question.”

 

            “Yeah?”

 

            “How do we get all these people back to New York?”

 

            “This is the underworld.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Yeah?”

 

            “We have a massive Bat Cave like shelter under our house.”

 

            “Are you telling me we can get there through The Hole?”

 

            “How the hell do you think we got here?”

 

            “I hadn’t considered it.”

 

            “Well, next time you should.”

 

 

April 13th, 2003

10:15 p.m.

 

            The army of the damned and dead was waiting below in The Hole. They knew the battle would be soon, and so they were simply waiting. It was a place for them to get some rest, to sleep a bit. It was also a time for our group to think.

 

            The Weirdo leaned against the doorframe, watching The Other playing with a small wind up toy. She had taken the cover off and was looking at the inner workings of the device. She was trying to see how the spring made it run forward when she pulled it back. It wasn’t the old variety that had a key, rather it was the sort where you rolled the small car back on its wheels to wind the spring and let it go. She drew the car’s wheels back against her hand and watched diligently as they spun after she drew them back.

 

            The little kitten, Fancy, stuck a paw out gently to touch the car as The Other played with it. She lowered it and the kitten sniffed it for a moment and then rubber her head against The Other’s hand. The small black and white kitten then walked around The Other’s legs, never actually sitting but watching intently as she moved the toy car to avoid getting the kitten’s long hair stuck in the gears.

 

            She looked at the small plastic shell that held the spring in place and then at the wheels. She set it down on the floor and drew it back, letting it zip forward again. She watched it, with careful concentration, as if trying to figure it out. She looked, for all the world, like a four year old child trying to figure out how a spring works for the first time. She popped the small plastic shell off the car and tossed it aside. She then watched the small spring roll back and snap back when she let the wheel go. Her tiny eyes watched the spring, as if examining the molecular structure of the metal of the small spring. She rolled the wheels back, watching the metal react to the forces that she was exerting. Fancy watched this a few times and then got bored, and began to bat at The Other’s hair.

 

            After a moment of watching this, her face changed, and she nodded slowly. She picked the shell that made the mini vehicle look like a car and snapped it back in place. She looked at the small plastic shell that covered the spring and then set it back down on the low coffee table before her. She wound the car back and let it roll forward again until it smacked into the wainscoting on the wall. She then looked at the small white plastic shell and got up looking at the door.

 

            “Hello Weirdo.” She said.

 

            “You missed a part.” He said.

 

            “Yeah.” She agreed. “But why take the thing apart again for just that one piece?”

 

            Fancy’s paws were set up on the edge of the table and she was batting at the white piece of plastic. She over extended herself and fell over on the floor. She looked up at the table and leapt up onto it, smacking the bit of plastic around the small table. Her tail swung strait up, but the end of it refused to stand strait. The end of her little back tail kept hanging over like a crook. It was, The Weirdo thought, the cat version of a stray forelock.

 

            “Somewhat cavalier.” He said.

 

            “I haven’t hurt anything.” She said. “Rutherford never plays with that car anymore.”

 

            “You sure?”

 

            “That’s what he said.” She said, and then her tone changed completely. “He’s going to come back right?”

 

            “I hope so.” He said.

 

            “They’ve got to come back.” She demanded, ever so slightly.

 

            The Weirdo looked at the little kitten, sitting in what he always thought of as a pretty kitty stance. She was sitting up sitting but standing on her forepaws, her green eyes wide and young. Her massive green eyes stared at him, the fluffy crest of hair on her chest standing strait out, hairs on her ears that curled around the side of the ear. She looked like she would one day be the sort of cat a wizard might have. Right now though, she looked like she had gotten into mischief with a jar of paint.

 

            “I honestly don’t know sweet heart.” He said.

 

            He hadn’t noticed, or maybe she had simply changed like the weather, but tears were bright in her eyes now. Her tiny face was a red as a tomato and she looked completely and totally furious. He felt ever so slightly freighted of her at that moment, and The Weirdo was scared of nothing.

 

            “Not good enough.” She said, each syllable bitten in half. “Not good enough by half.”

 

            “I don’t know that I can guarantee anything.” He said.

 

            “I have a kitten.” She said, and it was an odd pronouncement to make.

 

            He knew she had a kitten, he had given the fuzzy little skiver to her.

 

            “I have a kitten and I intend to show it to my friends.” She said, very slowly, as tears began to trickle. “I want to have a kitten to show everyone.”

 

            “Sweetie.”

 

            “No!” She shouted. “No! You’re going to make everything alright for me and my kitten.”

 

            He looked at the kitten who simply licked her chops, she then looked at a small fur covered plastic mouse with a bit of something in it to make it rattle. Fancy attacked the red fur covered thing with a vim and vigor most would give to their worst enemy. She shook it, tossed it and caught it in the air. She was going to make that red mouse her bitch, that much was clear. She tackled the small mouse, held it in her paws and began to lick it with the deliberate pace of a mother cleaning a dirty child.

 

            “You’ve got to.” She said. “If you don’t, who’s going to?”

 

            “Sweetie.” He said crouching down to be at her height.

 

            He looked at her tiny face and then at the kitten, and then at her again. He had promised not to let the world end, and now he was going to make a harder promise. He was going to have to word this carefully. He held her hands and looked her in the eye, trying to figure out how to make this one stick.

 

            “I’ll get Marla and the kids back.” He said. “I’ll make sure we get them back.”

 

            “Okay.” She said.

 

            “I don’t know what else I can do.” He said. “But I’ll do that much.”

 

            “Okay.” She said, her eyes still shinning.

 

            He walked towards Fancy who looked suddenly shocked and ready to bolt. He looked down at her and stuck his hand out. She sniffed tentatively at his hand and then ran away, bolting down the hall. He watched her run and then looked for The Other, who had already walked away.

 

            There was an article of clothing at his feet and he cocked his head as he looked down at it. He reached down and lifted what he was surprised to see that it was a beret since, to his knowledge, no one in the house had ever been seen wearing one. He switched on a light next to him and looked around.

 

            This had to be a joke, it just had to be. A slightly purple beret? In fact, had he had the balls to say it, he would have almost insisted that it was raspberry colored. Thus, he was wondering if this was some cosmic joke. He looked at the object and shook his head, wondering if he was doomed or if this was the sing that everything was going to be alright.

 

 

April 13th, 2003

10:31 p.m.

 

            Max was looking at the grass on the lawn, and marveling at how blue it was. It wasn’t like it was a sort of bluish if you held it next to other grass. It was blue if you held it up against something blue. It was just a few shades lighter than navy blue in fact. There were clouds overhead and a few drops of rain fell. He turned and walked back to the side of the garage where he would be out of the rain. He saw something odd as he walked to it.

 

            Had he listened to more folk music, and less of the mindless pop of his day, the fact that it was a hand painted bicycle might have impressed him. The fact that it had heaven written across it, and that it was blue, had no effect on him though. He looked at the bike though, feeling that there was something odd about it. He then turned and looked at the puddle of rain that was forming near his feet. His eyes grew wide and he ran into the house to find a glass.

 

            “Weirdo!” Max yelled. “Come outside.”

 

            “What?” The Weirdo asked, looking up from the purplish headgear.

 

            “The rain.” Max said.

 

            “You want to know if I’ve ever seen it? Falling down on a sunny day and such?”

 

            “No.” Max said, “But I might want to see you laughing in it.”

 

            “Oh shit.” The Weirdo muttered.

 

            “Just one time.”

 

            The rain was indeed a color, and yes it had to be called purple. They looked as the glass filled up with the barely tinted water as it filled the vessel. The Weirdo held his hands out in the falling rain and could clearly see the tint of the water as it struck his hands. It was purple, he swore under his breath. He had also sworn when he’d seen the bike, and explained it to Max.

 

            “Blue grass.” The Weirdo said softly. “Purple rain, a bicycle named heaven, and a raspberry beret.”

 

            “Can anyone tell me what the hell is going on here?” Kestrel said stomping towards them,.

 

            “What?” The Weirdo asked turning towards her.

 

            “The Kitchen is full of these things.” She held up a particular baked good.

 

            It took a moment for The Weirdo’s eyes to focus on the object in her hand, held in the wax paper it had come wrapped it. He realized what it was and realized that the universe no longer worked. It was the first time he noticed the crack in reality, but it was an unmistakable break. The Weirdo laughed, and continued to laugh for a good long time. He fell against the wall and had to grab hold of the bike to keep himself from falling over. He looked at the object in held out in her hand and fell down screaming with laughter again.

 

            “What?” She demanded.

 

            “That is a jelly roll.” The Weirdo managed.

 

            “What the hell is it doing here?”

 

            “I expect Morton left it.” He then exploded into peels of laughter again.

 

            “How did you know they came from a bakery called Morton’s? There’s dozens of boxes of these things.”

 

            “Can I have one then?” Max asked.

 

            “Sure.” The Weirdo said, trying to catch his breath. “Hell take five.”

 

            He then exploded into laughter again. He fell over and wondered what was going to come next. Maybe Jack would approach with a large jar labeled stardust, or Cassimano would come to them with announcing that the rear view mirror now said that objects would appear closer than farther away. After a moment he muttered “Take five” again as if this was somehow very funny. He got up and danced, laughing, in the purple rain. He walked to a car’s side mirror and pointed.

 

            “It’s true.” He said pointing. “It now says that the objects may appear closer, not further.”

 

            “What?” Kestrel asked.

 

            “This should say that objects in this mirror are closer than they appear. Instead it says objects in this mirror may appear closer than they are.”

 

            “I don’t get it.” Max said, finding he was having to yell over the sound of the rain.

 

            “Of course not.” The Weirdo said. “You never listened to Meatloaf.”

 

            “Can we go in now?” Kestrel asked. “I’m getting soaked.”

 

            “Sure.” The Weirdo said laughing. “Why not? Let’s see what else we can find inside.”

 

            They walked in and found Jack sitting in one of the chairs, a jar in his hand. He looked at The Weirdo as he came in an slid the glass mason jar across the floor at him. The Weirdo stopped it with his foot and picked it up. It was full of some sort of gray powder and he began to laugh. He hadn’t even looked at the label which had been place on the jar on an angle and written in beautiful script.

 

            “Stardust.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “There are about six hundred jars in my room.” Jack said. “And four thousand more behind those six hundred. I can’t get through the door, the windows are blocked.”

 

            “Of course there are.”

 

            “Weirdo.” Mrs. Pendleton said walking towards The Weirdo.

 

            “Yes?” He said turning. “What can I do for you?”

 

            “Do you know what these are?” She asked holding a collection of items on a tray. “I can’t get into my room for these things.”

 

            “That is a prosthetic forehead,” He said pointing, “That is a shoe horn with teeth, that is a piece of string and that is a rock to wrap a piece of string around.”

 

            “And this is a ticket to ride, it doesn’t say what you are meant to ride, just that you don’t care. You don’t care is printed as if it’s the company motto.” The gray man said holding up an airline ticket. “The bathroom is floor to ceiling in places.”

            “I have no doubt.” The Weirdo said, noticing the form of D’var coming down the stairs. “Yes Cassimano? Have a knife with Mack written on it do you?”

 

            There was a slightly chilly pause as Cassimano looked at the object in his hand. It was a long thin dagger, the word Mack etched in beautiful script. Cassimano looked at the knife and then at The Weirdo and held the knife up for inspection.

 

            “How did you know that?”

 

            “Lucky guess.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “What the blistering fuck is going on then?” Tommy asked coming down the stairs with his objects in hand.

 

            “What have you brought us Thomas?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            “Oh I got the eighties up in my room.” He said setting the collection down. “A sledge hammer, from Peter Gabriel. I’ve got a few masks, some are silk and some are leather, I assume these to be the faces of the stranger. A pair of wax lips, which are clearly marked ‘Venomous Poison’ no less. And for the final, we’ve got this.”

 

            “Is that a chameleon?” Kestrel asked, looking at the small lizard.

 

            “Yes.” Tommy said. “Yes it is, got a lot of karma too.”

 

            “I can take a lot,” Michael Darrian said descending from the stairs. “But some guys all claiming to be the commissar? They’re all up in my room, arguing with each other.”

 

            “You know what disturbs me the most?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            “The works of H. P. Lovecraft?” Max asked.

 

            “No.” The Weirdo said. “These are all puns. I mean come on, a Morton’s Jellyrolls? Mack, the knife? There’s a bicycle named heaven out there.”

 

            “And purple rain.” Judy said coming down the stairs.

 

            “I hate puns.” The Weirdo said. “They are wrong.”

           

            “But we’ve got a lot of them.” Kestrel said.

 

            “Yet do I see a pun about Hook or Run-around? Do we see any jokes pertaining to any Blues Traveler songs at all?” The Weirdo asked

 

            It was at that moment that Bagheera walked in, Fancy strutting behind him. He turned and gave her a smack across the head and then turned to look at the assembled group. He looked up around the others with the sort of embarrassed exasperation of a person who has a kid sister following him everywhere. He knew he couldn’t really do anything to her, but he didn’t have to like it.

 

            “I always thought…” Max said, “You know, cause of Kipling.”

 

            “I don’t like Kipling.” The Weirdo said, “I was listening to that song when I named him, I was looking for a name and I was playing this song.”

 

            “Good thing you we’re listening to Gina.” Jack said.

 

            “I would have kept looking for a name.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Sure you would.” Jack said.

 

            “Yeah.” Tommy said, barely holding back a laugh. “It could have either been Wolfgang Amadeus Penguin or Linus and Lucy.”

 

            “Shut up.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Um.” Athena asked as she came into the room. “There are roses and daisies and all manner of flowers in our room.”

 

            Nike came out into the room, shaking her head and brushing her self. She was coated from head to toe with yellowish dust that had to be pollen. She brushed some off her arms and looked through watering eyes at the group. Her face looked puffy, from sleep and allergens. There was going to be a sneeze, a massive sneeze.

 

            “I woke up and I was covered in flowers.” She said and then sneezed.

 

            “How many songs can you think of about flowers?” The Weirdo asked Tommy, a huge smile on his face.

 

            “At least a dozen come to mind.” Tommy said.

 

            “Yes.” The Weirdo said. “Dozens.”

 

            “Dozen’s upon dozens.” Max said.

 

            “What?” Nike asked and sneezed again.

 

There were then three rapid fire sneezes and she nearly fell over. A spike of pain had run down her arms from the sneezing. She couldn’t explain it, but she sneeze again the spike was there again. She sneezed twice more and her hands clenched into fists and her legs wanted to give way. Her eyes were beginning to swell now and she looked as though she needed a shot of anti-histamine quite quickly.

 

            “I should just go take a shower if I were you.” Jack said. “This is going to go on all night anyway.”

 

            “She won’t be able to get into one.” The Weirdo said. “All the rooms are stuffed and…”

 

            He trailed off and the manic smile faded from his face. He then looked at the rest of them. He knew what was in each of their rooms, but his. He looked up at the ceiling and bit his lip for a moment. He worried and wondered, almost fearing to go and see.

 

            “Could be anything up there.” He said.

 

            “Where?”

 

            “My room.” He said. “I’ve listened to every kind of music you can come up with.”

 

            “Oh goodness.” Sheila said.

 

            “Any?” Nike asked.

 

            “Yeah.” He said, his head shaking gently. “I can recite all of the Ballad of the Green Berets verbatim and then break into Don Giovanni if you like.”

 

            “Would you rather just take the A train?” Jack asked.

 

            “Shut up Jack.” The Weirdo said warningly.

 

            “Could be anything.” The gray man said.

 

            “Anything?” Mrs. Pendleton asked.

 

            “Only one way to find out.” The Weirdo said walking up the stairs.

 

            It was a little disconcerting that everyone chose to wait on the ground floor while he climbed the stairs. He saw a small brown and yellow basket on the stairs as he walked. There was a letter missing from the basket, he knew it. Something about that basket froze his blood. This had all seemed to funny a very little while ago, and now it was worrying him. Why would some one be doing this to  him? Why would some one be recreating old Jazz standards on his stairwell?

 

            “Hello.” A woman said as he passed her. “I’m Sara.”

 

            “Hi Sara.” He said. “What can I do for you?”

 

 “You ever kiss Catalina style?”

 

            “No.” He said. “I’ve got a girl down there though.”

 

            “A silent partner?” She asked.

 

            “Stop it.” He said closing his eyes, unable to miss the red dust on the Spanish lace she was wearing. “Just stop it.”

 

            “We can’t.” She said. “This is what we do.” 

 

            “What are you?”

 

            “I’m only a reflection.” She said. “Does it scare you?”

 

            “A little.” He said. “Mostly it gets me angry.”

 

            “How do you think I feel?” She asked. “I’ve got to find a way to mention Casino, Last Summer Song and Ballad for Kay still.”

 

            “I’ve got to see what’s up there.” He said.

 

            “I know.” She said. “Just have a dream of fair women.”

 

            “You can’t help it huh?”

 

            “No.” She said.

 

            “See ya later Sara Victoria.”

 

            “It was nice meeting you, if only by chance.”

 

            “A chance meeting.” He said, and walked up the stairs further.

 

            A small bat lay on the banister, panting with exhaustion. The singed hairs on his backside made it pretty obvious where he had flown from. That hadn’t put him at any further ease. He felt a shiver as he walked further up the stairs towards his room. What would be the thing that would describe him? What musical joke awaited him on the other side of that door. He thought of all the music he’d heard and felt certain it would be a man sodimizing a cake.

 

            No, that couldn’t be it, because that made him want to laugh and all he felt as he went towards the door was dread. He stopped on the top floor, where his room was and felt his hand actually tremble as he let go of the banister. He wondered if maybe it was just his nerves giving him a jangle. Could be he was starting to crack up. It happened sometimes to the old timers, after too long. They would begin to loose their cool, begin to falter at the gates.

 

            It might be that there would just be autumn leaves or something. He’d listened to a lot of music that was sold in sections called new age. It might be that all he had waiting for him was some title from a Nightnoise album. Could just be some wee niece waiting on the other side. There might be nothing more threatening than a green room, filled with childhood memories.

 

            No, he knew that was wrong. There was going to be some great truth about him on the other side of the door. His hand touched the knob and he felt another wave of cold dread ripple through him. What was on the other side of this door? He almost wanted to walk away and not find out. He twisted the knob and held the door closed for a moment. He opened the door and held his hand go to his side as the door swung open. He didn’t touch a gun though, or any weapon at all really.

 

            The room was filled from the floor to the expansively high ceiling, with cookies. He reached out gingerly and grabbed one. It was a chocolate chip cookie, nothing odd about it. Tentatively he took a bite, and was surprised to find it was very good. He chewed thoughtfully, looking at the room and realizing that indeed a truth had been told. The problem was, it was so suffuse and idiotic that you almost wanted to slam the door and ignore it. He looked at the stacks and bit his cookie again. Did the universe really work this way? Surely not, but there was the proof, in cookie form.

 

            “Can I have one?” The Other asked.

 

            “Sure.” He said munching on the cookie in his hand. He drew one out and handed it to her. “What was in your room sweetie?”

 

            “A big pot smoking dragon and his friend Johnny. They were munching on a big mountain made of candy and talking to picnicking teddy bears.”

 

            “Really?”

 

            “No.” she said. “But it sounded good didn’t it?”

 

            He looked at her for a long time, chewing thoughtfully. He was trying to figure out where that comment might have come from. He then reconginzed the little smirk as one he’d seen in the mirror, this child had to be his daughter, of that there was no doubt.

 

            “What’s really in your room?”

 

            “I dunno.” She said. “I was too scared to look.”

 

            “Well let’s go check it out.”

 

            The Other’s room was actually filled with leaves. They went from green to brown and then crumbled in their hands. The Weirdo looked around at a big device that was painted green and pleasure seemed to be pumping from it. Parked next to it was a large golden taxicab.  He shook his head and wondered where the world was headed.

 

 

April 13th, 2003

11:41 p.m.

 

            “A room full of cookies?” Elise asked.

 

            “A room full of cookies.” The Weirdo confirmed.

 

            They were sitting outside, Minga stretched out at their feet. She was on her back, and her paws would occasionally bat sleepily at the air. Fancy was wandering from one part of the blue lawn to another. The Other was teasing her with a long piece of string which had a feather attached to the end of it. They watched her playing with the black and white kitten, which was bright enough in the dim light to tell them where the child was.

 

            “Why?” She asked.

 

            “Who cares?” He said. “There was a big yellow taxi in her room. I’m not sure she’s ever heard the song.”

 

            “But why any of this?” She asked, keeping one eye on the little girl.

 

            “Who knows?” He said, dismissively. “Why anything?”

 

            He touched the back of her hand with the tips of his fingers, brushing gently. He looked at the back of the hand the entire time and then up at her. She was looking down at his fingers before she looked at him. She had the most beautiful eyes, a crystalline blue. He felt something tearing in his chest when she looked at him.

 

            “If we make love, I’ll die.” She said. “Is that the deal?

 

            “I don’t know that.” He said. “It’s just one of the risks.”

 

            “Life is full of risk.” She said. “I’ve died twice now.”

 

            “I would hate for the third time to be a charm.”

 

            “Might not be a way to avoid it.” She said. “You might as well toss up my skirts and do me now. What would it change?”

 

            “My modus operandi for a start.” He said. “I don’t simply flip skirts up.”

 

            “Oh.” She said, with a laugh.

 

            He closed his eyes and opened them again, his breath coming in a slow ragged draw. He looked into her pale eyes and wanted to weep. He wanted to tear his heart out, but he simply took her hand in his. She felt real, more real than anything else. The rest of the world felt unreal compared to her. He wanted her to be real so badly.

 

            “I want to be able to give us a fair chance.” He said. “But I’ve got to sort this other thing out first. I’ve got to make sure I’ve given us the best chance we can have.”

 

            “Okay.” She said nodding.

 

            “Okay?”

 

            “Yeah.” She said. “If you’ll kiss me, I’ll believe anything you say.”

 

 

April 14th, 2003

12:04 a.m.

 

            The Weirdo put The Other down in her bed and looked at the Taxi and the pleasure machine and then at her. She pushed a few strands of golden silk from her face and smiled up at him. She was such an adorable little child, he felt enchanted.

 

            “Are you sure you can sleep with these things?” The Weirdo asked,

 

            “Sure.” She said. “They won’t hurt me.”

 

            “I can’t even get into my room you know.”

 

            “I know.” She said, “That’s your tough luck.”

 

            Fancy leapt from the floor and looked up at the two of them as she made a place for herself at the corner of the bed. She lay down and curled herself up into a small ball, and in a moment you couldn’t tell where one part of her started and the other ended. The Weirdo reached out and rubbed the kitten’s ears gently, letting her rub her hand against him.

 

            “She likes you.” The Other says. “She likes me and you.”

 

            “She’s friendly.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “No.” The Other’s voice had fallen to a whisper. “She’s scared of everybody else. She won’t come near anyone but us.”

 

            “Really?” The Weirdo asked. “I thought she was pretty friendly.”

 

            “She’s a scardey cat.” The Other whispered as she lay down.

 

            “You not gonna cuddle her?”

 

            “She won’t cuddle.” The Other said. “She’ll sit there though. It’s like we have an understanding.”

 

            “Oh.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Yeah.” The Other said, her head drifting into her pillow. “Night, love you.”

 

            “Love you too munchkin.” He said brushing her hair and kissing her on the forehead.

 

He switched the light off and left the room quietly. He left the door just open a bit so that if the kitten wanted to roam she could. He watched her as her head lay down and realized that he did love her. If there was a person he could honestly say he loved, it was her. She was the single most important thing to him right now. He looked at her and then began to walk away.

 

            He walked down stairs to find everyone else sitting around the main living room. They were looking at each other, eating jellyrolls, examining stardust, and doing other such things.

 

            “Can’t get into your rooms?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            “Yup.” Kestrel said, playing cards with Max and Cassimano.

 

            “What’s in your room?” He asked.

 

            “Christmas crap.” She said.

 

            “Like?”

 

            “A lot of holly and ivy.” She said annoyed. “Christmas cookies, fur trees, coats with green sleeves, all that shit. Oh and a large melting snow man who kept imploring me to help him. I walked away quickly.”

 

            “I see.”

 

            “What is going on if you please?” Sheila asked.

 

            “I have no idea.” He said. “I hate to admit that, but it’s true.”

 

            “Well it doesn’t matter.” Tommy said. “What matters is that we need to find a place to sleep.”

 

            “It’ll be tomorrow,” Jack said. “At noon.”

 

            “I know that.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “How?” Kestrel asked.

 

            “Well,” The Weirdo trailed off.

 

            “They’re right though.” Tommy said. “Tomorrow at noon it’s going to go down.”

 

            “We haven’t figured out who the knight is yet.” Nike implored. “We haven’t found the destroyer.”

 

            “Doesn’t matter.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Doesn’t matter?” She asked.

 

            “No.” He said.

 

            “Why not?”

 

            “I’m not playing their game anymore.” He said. “They’re going to do their thing at high noon on the day of the new moon. We’ve got to stop them. I don’t much care about their prophecy.”

 

            “We could use a place to sleep then.” Kaala said.

 

            “The Hole has ample places.” He said. “Or you could do what I’m going to do.”

 

            “What’s that?” Angel asked.

 

            “I’m going to get those cookies out of my room, because I am going to sleep in my bed. I’ll probably spend all the allotted time for sleep doing that, but I am not going to retreat at this point.”

 

            “Sensible.” Kestrel said.

 

            “No.” He said. “Stubborn.”

 

           

April 14th, 2003

12:31 a.m.

 

            Tanteroy sat up, his head spinning so bad he had to lay back down. It didn’t help the spinning sensation, but it gave him a place to say was solid. He remembered as a child, he would spin himself around until he fell over and then he’d bask in the feeling that he was on a ship at sea. He had discovered it one day and couldn’t get around the interesting feeling of spinning and then having the room tilt back and forth.

 

            That was the feeling he had now, like the floor was tilting first foreword, then back ward. He waited for the feeling to pass, for it to subside, before trying to get up again. He expected to find his head open and pieces of brain trickling out, but that hadn’t happened. There wasn’t even a spot of wet in his hair now, he had become whole again. He stoop up slowly and surveyed what was around him.

 

They had all been killed, all of them. He stood almost knee deep in the bodies of dead demons. He looked around at them all and sat down on a fixture of rock, reaching into his pocket. He drew out a now crumpled pack of cigarettes and marveled at the fact that none of them had been smashed. He pulled his lighter from his pocket and found to his great delight that it still worked. He looked at the flame for a moment before placing it to the end of the cigarette. He in hailed deeply and blew a plume of smoke out.

 

This would normally be the place where one would say they were in deep shit, but he knew he wasn’t. They had tried to kill him, considered him dead, and it hadn’t worked. He was still alive, smoking cigarettes and wondering what to do next. The gambit had failed, but that was all right. He had gotten out of it and everyone else was dead.

 

You live, you learn, as his father had always said. He wondered what his father would say to see him like this. He took in another drag and held it a moment before letting it go. He supposed it didn’t matter, because his father was dead. His father was dead and there fore it didn’t matter what he would think. That helped ease his mind a bit. He took another drag and wondered what now, exactly, he was going to do. He supposed he should make his way out of here, get to Switzerland and open one of those safe deposit boxes. There was always an extra bit of money hanging around for him, he would just have to go and get it. He sucked on the cigarette and blew the plume of smoke out.

 

He hadn’t died, he wondered if he could. He knew that they were supposed to be immortal, but surely if a god killed him. He knew that some of them had killed others, he was going to have to work out what it took to kill him, and avoid it. He sucked on the cigarette, the edge coming off, he let the smoke out. He would just have to steer clear of everyone for a while, and for that he’d need the money.

 

He dropped the cigarette drop and crushed it under his toe. He twisted his foot for a moment and wondered exactly why. It wasn’t like anything down here was going to catch fire, and if it did so what? He looked around and stuck his hands in  his pockets and began walking.

 

 

April 14th, 2003

1:21 a.m.

 

            Tommy’s room hadn’t actually been so bad, every available surface had been covered, but it could be pushed a side. There was just a large pile of masks, hammers, and other such parafanlilia. Although there was this group of stray cats, which kept strutting back and forth cross his bed. Bagherra had seen them off though, with a few swiftly swung paws. Tommy had managed to get his room to where they could at least sleep in the bed. The Weirdo’s room and Jack’s room were beginning to look like lost causes. The obstructions in each room were not just a few deep to make it seem as if the rooms were loaded, they were loaded.

 

            The Weirdo had gone outside and was yanking arm fulls of cookies from the room and throwing them from the balcony. He was yanking them armful-by-armful, and there was still more cookies. He had torn his way into three feet, and was realizing that this was going to take longer than he had anticipated. He formed a sort of seat out of cookies, and sat down for just a moment. He was feeling old and beaten, and he wanted to see the moon.

 

            He knew, with an innate sense that the moon was hanging in the sky. He also knew that it was in the wrong cycle of the moon. It was almost the new moon, and there wasn’t really any sign of the moon. He looked at the space in the sky and if he could have wept out of desperation he would have. No tears would come though they hadn’t ever come. He walked out onto the balcony and sat again on his stool of cookies. He so wanted to see the moon; it would somehow make all of this worthwhile. He couldn’t explain it.

 

            In her room, The Other looked up at the balcony. She had been woken by the sounds of baked goods falling past her window with the muttered cruses of The Weirdo. She could just see him as he sat, unable to cry. He wanted to cry, to feel a release, she knew he wanted that so much.

 

            She walked down stairs and nudged the sleeping old man in a chair across from his servants. His eyes popped open and he looked at her, suddenly and completely aware. He had gone from a dead sleep to being completely awake. He sat up and looked at his pocket watch and then at the little girl.

 

            “It’s still late.” He whispered.

 

            “I need help.” She said.         

 

            The looked up from her window at The Weirdo, whose trembling hand could clearly be seen from there.

 

            “He needs the moon to be full.”

 

            “So we make the king turn it on.” He said. “I’m sure we can get him to get the fire burning early.”

 

            “The moon doesn’t produce it’s own light.” She said. “It’s reflected from the sun.”

 

            “So we re-angel it.” The old man said. “Turn it towards the sun.”

 

            “It’s an orb.” She said. “It’s in the wrong position.”

 

            “So we can lasso it and move it.”

 

            “It’s a million miles away.” She said.

 

            He placed his face in his hand and sighed deeply, they had done it to another small child. This time he simply raised a hand and told her to get something. She looked at him as if he might be insane and then considered the options. If she was going to explain that it wouldn’t work, he might ask her to prove it and she’d still have to get the device anyway. She got it and before putting this plan into action she looked at him.

 

            “I don’t think it’s strong enough.”    

 

            “Don’t you believe in anything?” he asked. “Is it all science with you? Is there any unproven thing you believe?”

 

            “Yes.” She said. “I believe in love.”

 

            “Then you take all that belief, and you tighten it up into a ball, and you use it to make the impossible happen. If you think it can happen, then you can do wonders.”

 

            She looked at the small pink plastic device in her hand and pressed the switch, aiming it at the moon. Nothing happened, the bulb was simply not strong enough. It didn’t even cast much light on the trees beyond. She looked at him and was going to suggest that perhaps a small Energizer flashlight wasn’t strong enough.

 

            “You’ve got to believe.” He said and placed his hands over her’s.

 

            The Weirdo’s eyes saw something odd happen, and for a moment dismissed it. He must be cracking up, that was all. He was having that breakdown that he’d always expected. One too many things had happened and now he was going insane. The moon was a slightly more defined than it was before. It began to grow more defined and then it began to glow. After a few moments, the moon was a singularly beautiful full thing.

 

            He hadn’t noticed, but his eyes had become more moist than they had in years. He looked up at the moon as it’s light became more powerful than he’d remembered before. He had to turn away from the light of the moon, which was causing the cookies to dissolve. His seat was gone and as he watched, they room was becoming more and more visible. He looked at the now full moon, and noticed a beam.

 

            There shouldn’t be a single cone coming from the window below his, yet there it was. He looked and saw a small bright light shinning from The Other’s window. He found he suddenly couldn’t see clearly. It took him a moment to understand why he couldn’t see, and then he blinked. The tears, two of them fell from his eyes and he could see again until the next few built up and began to fall. He looked down at the bright point of light. He leapt from the edge of the balcony and landed on The Other’s balcony, looking at her from the window.

 

            “It’s another song.” She said, tears dripping down her face. “See, I’m shinning my flashlight on the moon.”

 

            “Yeah.” He said, the tears trickling down his face. “I see.”

 

            She ran to him and the both of them had to sit down on the balcony and have a good cry, just the daughter and the father. She cried into his chest and he let his tears drip down onto her fine golden hair. He held onto her tight, and just let everything slide out at it’s own speed. He wasn’t going to force anything, he would just let it all go out slowly.

© 2014 Autumn Knight Productions

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May 16, 2014 - Posted by | Fiction | , , ,

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