29 December 2006
I have the same exact name (and a slight resemblance) to the weatherman in my parent's hometown. I think we may even be related-I'm not sure.
So what does one do at the store when the cash register girl goes, "o' my God! You're the weatherman! I see you on TV!"
Why give her the weather forecast, of course.
And if it isn't entirely accurate. . .well I've never pretended to be a prophet.
26 December 2006
On the way there via the Robert C. Byrd Appalachian Highway, I passed by, or was near, the Robert C. Byrd Auditorium at the National Conservation Training Center, the Robert C. Byrd Cancer Research Laboratory of Morgantown, the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies, the Robert C. Byrd Clinic at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, Robert C. Byrd Drive from Beckley to Sophia, the Robert C. Byrd Federal Building & Courthouse at Beckley, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope at Green Bank, the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center of Morgantown, Robert C. Byrd High School, the Robert C. Byrd Industrial Park, the Robert C. Byrd Library & Robert C. Byrd Learning Resource Center, the Robert C. Byrd National Aerospace Education Center, and the Robert C. Byrd Science and Technology Center.
And I thought to myself,
'I must be in. . .West Virginia'
19 December 2006
In middle school I played in the band-a trombone. One day, in May, we played a concert at a local festival. Afterwards, some four of us had some free time, and so we wandered around this large mall parking lot looking at all the displays. At one end of the parking lot we found a small circus tent with ropes around it. Definately not part of the festival tents, but we were curious, and bored, and 13-years-old, and without adult supervision. We walked around the tent and discovered, tied to a stake, a baby elephant. . .nibbling grass.
It was the size of a pony. . .and it looked lonely.
And so, because one does not often discover baby elephants in North-central West Virginia, especially in May, we decided after some discussion to investigate this curious phenomenon of nature.
It seemed a good idea at the time.
We looked around, saw no adults, and Jimmy, who had ADD before it even existed, ran over, smacked the baby pachyderm, and ran back.
My turn. Unfortunately, a clown emerged from the tent and told us to go away. We asked if we could pet the baby elephant, but he kept yelling at us.
I thought, being a clown and all, he was going to say something funny. (Because isn't that what clowns do? Say something funny?)
Then Mr. Clown started cussing, which can be tramatic when you're 13-years-old. As hard as I might, I simply could not reconcile what he said with anything approaching humor. I just stared at him and thought, "I just don't get it. This clown isn't funny at all."
Needless to say, we left the little guy. . .nibbling grass. . .because of a mean ole clown.
16 December 2006
13 December 2006
-You see an attractive girl
-You get her dad's phone #
-You call him up and tell him your intentions
-He says OK, but it'll cost you ten cows
-Guy says fine
-Lover Boy proceeds to Wal-Mart, buys ten cows, some chap stick, and a roll of duct tape...because just as women need tenderness and affection, guys need duct tape. It's one of the more profounder mysteries of the Universe.
-Guy loads pick-up truck with cattle and drops them off.
-Guy picks up the rings, girl gets the dress, they meet at the church and become husband and wife until death do they part.
-Dad is happy and ten cows richer, mom is crying, and the cats got enough milk to last a full nine lifetimes.It's a win-win-win-win situation. And if the newly-weds don't get along at first, well, I suspect that after about ten years they'll come around and start to see the small things in one another that will bring draw them closer. Intimacy is a process you know. I could write about this kind of stuff until my fingers fell off, but since I like my fingers, I'll stop here...I'm really attached to them, that, and I have to go to work tonight.
-The Wiggle Has Spoken
11 December 2006
This is the frosty little gentleman that my sister made this afternoon in the same exact oven that I cooked the nightmare-giving pizza I ate the other day. She's in the process of starting up a specialty cake company, so, because I'll be nice-as soon as I have more time, I will scan some of the cakes she's made so far and post pics of them here.
09 December 2006
My dream: I dreamed last night that I was leaving a church service and I went to an enormous house where a party was going on. I distinctly remember finding a dark corner and deciding to take a quick nap in a chair because I was tired. Beside me was an animal pen. As I was looking at this animal pen (inside the house) two animals raised their heads and looked at me. . .one was a horse, the other a dinosaur, a small sauropod. The horse started talking to me (I saw his lips move) and the 1st thing he said was:
"You're probably not used to horses talking to you, are you."
I said, "No, You're the first horse I've ever talked to." He sounded somewhat British and had very good articulation. We chatted for a while. Then the sauropod spoke. The dinosaur had a squeaky feminine-type voice that irritated me. After some time, I grabbed the horse's neck in my right hand and the sauropod's neck in my left hand and said, "Listen, you guys shouldn't be talking. You're animals. What if somebody sees you."
The animals got a little angry and so I squeezed their necks to get my point across. Then their heads began to shrink until they became snakes. The horse was a big brown constrictor thing, the dinosaur turned into a rattlesnake or a copperhead (I forget which). I threw the horse/snake down into the pen and just stared at the dino/rattlesnake. Then the thing latched onto my arm and hung there for a few seconds. I tried shaking it off gently but the creature bit me, then it fell into the pen. I turned my head and saw two baby vipers near me stuck to some furniture. I flicked on away with my finger and the other one dropped to the ground.
I got up, left the room, and laid down in a bed still in my dark-brown wool suit and overheard a Portugese man in the next room (through the wall) reading. . .and stumbling over half the words. . .my blog aloud to a group of people, while they laughed.
I woke up being dreadfully thirsty.
Does anybody out there know what this means???
08 December 2006
Let's see. I went to CostCo today and purchased $350 worth of stuff. I only go there once a year around Christmas time. Now, every other thing in my cabinets says 'Kirkland' on it. It's like I've been to Kirk Cameron's house or something.
05 December 2006
I need to know this.
If true, that will explain a lot of frustration in my life dealing with people. I like people. . .they're amusing to look at. Especially the old men at the mall sitting on the couches at JC Pennys whilst their wives look at the same exact thing for 25 minutes, try it on 3 times, look at themselves in the mirror, and proceed to the checkout counter only to not buy it.
People, in general, are cool. On Thanksgiving I watched 4 little boys beat up on one another for 6 hours straight, film it, then put it on YouTube.
Cause they could.
I still have the headache.
I am one of those rare people who finds it almost impossible to forget anything. I can recall almost every event that took place in my life on a certain day 3 years ago. Which is scary, but useful.
The thing is, where I work, (a chemistry lab), some of the things we do require you to never-forget-how-to-do-them. Because if you forget to do them, like clean up the broken bottle of Hydrochloric Acid on the floor, you could really um. . .irritate them.
Now, I leave you with the following. . .
(Mr. Jason will resume speaking the English language tommorow. Until then, simply regard his ravings as inherent madness that will soon pass. Thank you and have a nice day.)
04 December 2006
On CNN.com: A naked man was attacked by an alligator. Apparently, the naked man was snorting crack cocaine, took off his clothes, and then proceeded to let an alligator eat him.
This is just another reason why you should never take off your clothes in the Everglades and smoke crack and pet hungry wild alligators.
Bad things may happen.
Racism Alive and well in the Land of the Brave
02 December 2006
It is addictive. At first it is just a convenience. You say to yourself, “OK. I’m only gonna use this for emergencies. As in when I get a flat tire in the middle of the Central Arizona desert in August and run out of water.” Soon, emergencies evolve to such catastrophic events as calling your next door neighbor to see what time the game starts.
When you first acquire a cell phone, you tell yourself that you will “never use it while driving.” But as anyone knows who has been sideswiped by a cell phone-talking-while driving-SUV-owner, this is not the case. You join their ranks.
Soon it consumes you. All your free time at work is on the Motorola. There, in your little cubicle…always checking your e-mail, and surfing the net, and texting, and filming.
Never talking or speaking with others. Just you and the phone.
The years go by. Cell phones get smaller. Friends leave. You forget how to carry on a normal conversation with people. You take the night shift and refer to the cubicle as your ‘cave.’ All your time is busy for you and the magic phone. This little shiny thing you got for your birthday.
You love working nights. You shun the day. Become introverted. Anti-social. Buy nothing but fast food. Never eat food from an actual grocery store anymore. Too many people.
Soon, the sight and smell of McDonalds, Wendys, and Burger King disgusts you. All you can stand now is Long John Silvers…and fish. You love the taste of fish. Lovely little fish. Dainty little fish. Precious fishes.
“Never thirsty, ever drinking,
All in mail, never clinking.”
More years go by. The cell obsession continues. You haven’t seen a dentist in years. You don’t want to. You are a fish-eating carnivore now.
And you grow fangs.
The cold clammy nights in your cave cause your hair to fall out and make your eyes bigger. Big eyes that see well in the dark and pica 3 font. Now you are a nocturnal creature. It is just you and your Motorola. Your birthday present. It consumes you. Always fondling and caressing your little silver toy. Only now you forget that this magical toy once was designed for talking.
Since nobody calls you anymore you simply play games and surf the net. Friendless, you hold your precious cell in the palms of your grubby little hands and repeat your private mantra.
“Ring! Ring! Ring!”
But nobody calls. Not even VISA. (You are on the no call list).
It is a mystery why nobody calls. It is a riddle you cannot solve. This bothers you since you’ve become rather adept at solving riddles.
Yet Life goes on. You eat more fish…and weep.
The ring tones and its eerie blue light amuse you till you’re mad. It’s got a new name now. Yes, yes…it’s your birthday present. It’s “My Precious.” Gollum…Gollum.
01 December 2006
30 November 2006
In today's news: Wrigley Field has been shrunk to the size of a small turkey-been converted to sugar and flour-and is now sitting in my fridge in anticipation of some former Chicagoites opinion and stomachs. Pics coming soon.
I read today how global warming will be causing a dramatic increase in female crocodiles. The theory being that increased global temperatures, (0.5 degrees celsius), trigger croc eggs to produce females. This seems strange to me since crocs cover their eggs in such manner that the ambient air temperature varies very little.
29 November 2006
24 November 2006
As I drove to work tonight, I saw the reflection of Norfolk’s lights on the clouds. Lights of the Big City. . .OK, moderately large city. . .and I thought about Nightlife. Bars. People are attracted to bars and clubs. Why are people attracted to these dark stinky places? They have their reasons to be sure, and to them they go. Like birds to worms on a sidewalk after a rain. They go to the bars and they drink and they lust. Sometimes they smoke. Blow smoke from their noses. Like fire-breathing dragons.
And they drink and they lust. The women show cleavage and attract other fire-breathing dragons. The fire-breathing dragons, the reptiles, drink more. Soon, the cave is full of smoke and reptiles. Then they hallucinate. See visions. They see the scantily-clad lizards with smoky snouts and lust. And they drink, and rub their red eyes, and eat worms.
Many of the reptiles are obese. They discuss government and politics and the difficulty in obtaining a job with a college degree in Women and Gender Studies. They get mad at the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and fume, and blow more smoke from their noses. One of the more nosy obese smoke-breathers is married. We know this because she suffers from hyphenated-woman-syndrome. She wants higher taxes so there will be more government programs for the underprivileged. People such as herself, that feel the evils of poverty.
She gets her wish.
Now she works for the government writing studies about gender inequality. She calls unborn babies-fetuses. Her scaly skin itches. She has dandruff, but refuses to use lotion since she is a liberated lizardess. Freed from the bonds of tyranny. She couldn’t find a mate if she had to, which is a mystery to her. She wants mandatory euthanasia for old people. She says ‘Everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others.’
Just like the Pigs.
Another curvy pig snorts smoke, winks at a boar in the corner, and giggles. She eats another worm. The bore in the corner blows smoke from his nose and scratches a strand of barbed wire around his arm. The Mating of the Wildebeest comes on TV.
More drinks, more smokes, more giggles.
Another worm. Bonding occurs. Next morning, the two dragons have headaches and amnesia. Phlegm drips from their snouts. They go to work. Later they return to the bar.
And drink, and smoke, and lust.
A hairy creature with large chest struts in. He grunts and scratches himself. It’s a gorilla.
In walks a herd of creatures with fat stubby legs and numbers on their chests. They look alike, walk alike, talk alike, smell alike, and grunt alike. They’re looking for females and grass. The Hippos have arrived. Now the zoo is complete.
20 November 2006
Now that 'the game' is over, we can all get back to our regularly scheduled lives.
--West Virginia (my alma mater) will most likely play Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
--I may be one of the only people left in this country who does not have a tattoo, nor has any desire to get one.
--People think it's weird when you eat popcorn with chop-sticks because you hate greasy fingers.
--Jalapeno-flavored pretzels and espresso do not make a good pre-3-mile-run breakfast.
--Armani cologne smells like watermelon
16 November 2006
Blogs are here to stay. Why? They provide an important outlet for man to express what goes on in their soul. Men must reveal what is inside them--it is intrinsic to their nature to confess. Impossible to do otherwise. I saw earlier that O.J. Simpson is confessing--a scenario perhaps--but nevertheless, he is confessing.
Something else I have seen in life. A man works hard all his life, spends years in college studying 16 hours a day, and then undergoes something that causes him to lose it all. This makes no sense. It has no meaning.
15 November 2006
Rotisserie chicken. I'm mad about it. Absolutely mad. It's 4 A.M. I'm finishing up at the lab. I'm alone. I'm hungry. I'm single. This is normal, you ask? I pull into the local Farm Fresh grocery store at 530 A.M. Saunter casually to the entrance, and bump my head into the magical glass doors I expect to open. Closed. I weep silently. They don't open till 600 A.M. There's people inside. I can see them. People in white lab coats and gloves, just like me. Except these people are cooking rotisserie chickens, not petrochemicals. I press my nose to the glass like a small lost puppy looking for table scraps. I change my countenance to resemble Oliver Twist. Nothing. The women in white stare at me...and mock. A little old grandma picks up a large fork and stabs a roasting chicken. Holds it aloft and waves. No mercy. A dark shadow crosses my path. Security guard.
"You not loitering here, are you son?"
"No Sir, I'm waiting," I reply. "I just want a chicken, rotisserie chicken that is."
He looks confused, squints his eyes, and says "It's 530 in the morning, No one wants rotisserie chicken this time of the day. Be gone!"
I take the man's advice, since he appears wise...and carries a gun. SuperWalmart. 545 A.M. Open 24 hours. I love this country. I walk through the magic doors. This time they open and my nostrils immediately pick up the scent of hot, spicy, dead foul. I perk up my nose like a bloodhound and walk past an old man born during WWI, that asks me if I want a cart. I make no response. He tells me I'm rude. I tell him I'm just a New Yorker. He understands...calm. I pick up the scent of rotisserie chicken again. I'm in a trance. The siren call of the spice beckons. I heed. I heed to aisle 3, past the endless boxes of cereal, past the 13 rows of ketchup, past the display of cantaloupes from Costa Rica. I pause.
"Hmm, not yet. Later."
I continue on to the deli section and stop. When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a row of rotisserie chickens, that fills my heart with cheer. My hands tremble, I salivate like Pavlov's dog. I fight giggling out loud lest the stock boys think I've escaped from the institute again. Sale. Transaction. Debit Card. 605 A.M. Back at the apartment. Shutters are closed, door is locked. The deed is done. The hot spicy aroma stokes my olfactory furnaces to the breaking point. With a fork in my right, and BBQ sauce in my left, I indulge for the next thirty minutes. I turn into a human tyrannosaur, a carnivorous sapien, and then...calm.
13 November 2006
Petra: Apparently, they're actually retiring.
My new washing machine decided to be wicked this week-end. For some reason, unknown to biological life forms, this mechanical monster. . .hereafter referred to as HAL. . decided to spew every millimeter of water from it's bowels. Leaving it's human keeper (me) to clean up after it.
10 November 2006
At exactly 4:37 AM, yesterday morning, I heard the first Christmas song on the radio. The song: Walking in a Winter Wonderland-which was fitting since it only snows about once every three years here in VA Beach.
-The Democrats will be running the Senate and the House
-Rutgers just beat the number 3 football team in the country
-Miracles still happen
09 November 2006
Malchius had not seen any of the others for quite a while. The afternoon was getting late and it was high time he got back to the others. He saw off a little ways a smoke or haze, that seemed to be coming from the very rocks themselves. The haze was perhaps half a mile from where he was standing and he really should have returned to the meeting stone, but as it was, his curiosity got the best of him. Presently he reached the spot and sure enough, smoke was rising from a mound of orange-red colored rocks. He stepped closer for a better view. Suddenly, Malchius felt the ground give way beneath his feet. He grasped vainly but everything he touched fell down with him. Fortunately, except for a few bruises, he was unhurt. He scrambled to his feet and dusted himself off. He had meant to climb up and out of the hole he had fallen into, but something held him back. It was not a hole he had fallen into but rather a sort of tunnel. Not a very long one for he could see a golden-colored light coming through the other end.
‘It’s fairly safe,’ he thought. ‘Perhaps climb up at the other end.’
So, to the other end of the tunnel he went. What Malchius saw the moment he stepped into the golden light nearly took his breath away. He found himself standing at the base of a natural amphitheater. The place was rocky as the rest of the mountain but, unlike the areas lying outside the tunnel, none of these rocks were ice-covered. Mounds of smoking rocks and a faint hint of sulfur met his nostrils. But the most exciting thing about the place was the large tree that grew in the middle. He had never seen anything like it his entire life but he knew that the search was now ended and that the old legends were true.
The first thing he did was to take a drink from the spring that rippled from the base of the tree. It was the coldest and most refreshing water he had ever tasted. The tree itself resembled an enormous fern. The bark was thin and papery and gave off an agreeable odor. The Sephirotic Tree was laden down with large copper-colored fruits that looked like apples, but on closer inspection, he found that they were more rounded like oranges only much bigger. Malchius remembered Merops’ warning about the Guardian. He walked up to the great leafy fronds and plucked a single branch of leaves. He secured them in his small leather pouch. Gradually, the desire increased until almost without his realizing it he plucked one of the great copper fruits off a limb. He had to wrench and twist it fairly hard to do so.
‘What harm could there be if I take just one fruit?’ It’s very selfish for any Guardian to have such a wonderful tree all to himself. Why think of all the people one could help if a wise and benevolent ruler, an immortal.’
"Oh!" he said aloud. He was startled at how loud his voice sounded in that lonely and desolate place. He felt an urgent need to make for the tunnel. He turned and made quickly for it. Now, what happened next Malchius could never quite explain. Halfway there he seemed to hit a brick wall. It seemed to him that the very air became thicker. At the time, he said later, it felt like he was swimming against some invisible current. Very slowly Malchius made his way back to the tunnel. When he was just in reach of the entrance, the temptation to turn back to the Sephirotic Tree reached a peak. He slowly turned to catch one more glimpse of it before returning.
"I’ll just sit here for a spell. Surely that’s not forbidden." But deep inside himself he knew that this was the one thing he must not do.
Now it is a curious fact of nature that the longer one goes about trying to justify an act that is itself not wrong, but, will almost inevitably lead to a wrong, one generally succeeds. That is exactly what Malchius was doing. He convinced himself that he wanted one more look at the fruit. He stood up and took a step toward the Sephirotic Tree. At once, the invisible wall seemed thinner. He took another step. The boundary lessened even more. He took three more steps and the wall pretty much vanished altogether. Malchius sat down. His mind was clearer than it had been a moment ago.
"No. I’d better simply return. I’m sure to be late now as it is."
He stood up again and made for the tunnel. Immediately, the air thickened as before only this time it was stronger. Malchius knew he was in trouble. He had already wasted precious time tarrying here and now was caught. Resolutely, he set himself, tightened his belt, and ran for the tunnel. The barrier was stronger than ever yet he made it. He stumbled to the ground in exhaustion. After a few minutes a deafening boom! aroused him to his feet. He felt the ground tremble and shake and he had trouble with his footing. Malchius ran through the tunnel blindly with last remaining strength he had. Half a minute later he came out the other side safe and sound albeit extremely dusty.
He easily climbed out and soon was on his way back to camp. Soon, he saw the familiar dark blue of Myridon sitting hunched over a fire. Myridon was intensely interested in the description of the Sephirotic Tree and the sight of the leaves made him even more frantic with excitement. At this time the others began arriving.
"Some kind of invisible wall of resistance, eh?" remarked Basnu. "Now I wonder if that was the Guardian?"
"Couldn’t be," replied Aidin.
"Why not?" asked Atma.
"Invisible walls and great invisible beings aren’t the same," said Aidin. "What’s your opinion Myridon?"
"I have no opinions," said the wizard. "However, I will venture a possible explanation. The Guardian was not there at Malchius’ arrival. In his absence he contrived this spell to keep out trespassers. There is another possible explanation as well. The invisible wall was the Guardian. At any rate we can’t go back and look."
"Why not?" queried Basnu.
"Did not you just hear Malchius? Only by a great will was he able to muster the needed strength to leave the domain of the Sephirotic Tree and if it were not for the earthquake that may not have happened."
"It seems our quest is finished."
06 November 2006
The events as you read them here take place around 4,500 B.C. on Earth. What Jason is trying to do is pull a Ted Dekker stunt (author of the Red, Black, and White trilogy). Dr. Michael Perez is now Malchius in chapter one. The goal, see, is to take Dr. MP back to the future Earth sort of like Dr. Ransom in Perelandra and That Hideous Strength. Actually, this is me trying to merge Perelandra and THS into one book with different charcters and a somewhat different plot.
I can keep the same plot (more or less) can't I? Ayn Rand did it all the time.
Malchius stopped and wiped the sweat from his brow. He glanced at his father to reassure himself that Corus was still there. He felt somewhat the fool for doing so, but the village talk about strangers waylaying people had set his nerves on edge.
Generally speaking, one could walk the Shady from the King’s fields to the sturdy wooden gates surrounding the village of Ambia in half an hours time. The path meandered somewhat. At first, it led through a large field with many small hills, dotted here and there with farms. Next, one had to climb a steep hill through a small wood. At the bottom of the hill, on the other side, the path crossed a stream. A small bridge, faithfully painted white each summer, led one to another, larger, adjoining lane. From there, it was but a short jaunt downhill to the sleepy little town, nestled deep in the heart of the Ambian Forest; the Forest, as the inhabitants called it. No one knew how big the Forest was, except that it comprised the entire kingdom of Selidorn, a small country now since passed out of time and remembrance.
"I tell you the truth son," began his father. A man of large build, closely-cropped hair, and a large-grizzled beard. "I don’t know if we can hold out much longer. Mizraims just raised taxes again, for the second time this year. We already work twice as much in his fields as we did ten years ago. Time was when a man could work two days out of seven for Mizraim, and still have time for his own fields. This working four days cannot go on for long. I don’t know how much longer we can make it." Once, Corus was a strong man, but now walked with drooped shoulders and bent back. Many long years toiling in the hot summer sun and cold windy winters from daylight to dusk had wrinkled his skin and whitened his beard prematurely. Still, Corus had a zest for life. He was plump, well-fed, and had large, deep, glossy eyes, with a big wart on his chin. He was not a talkative man, but smiled a lot, and for this reason people thought him wise. He made his living, as did nearly everyone else in the land, by farming. Every day, from dawn till dusk, he toiled and labored in the fields; four days for King Mizraim and three days in his own. Taxes were high and Mizraim demanded more from the crop than did other kings, yet Corus rarely complained. He always managed to have enough for himself, his wife Adeth, and their only son.
"Surely, Mizraim knows of our labors and the hours we work out here," Malchius said. "It’s only a matter of time before he relents. He can’t turn a blind eye towards us forever."
Malchius stood a full six feet, tall for his age and still growing. He was not very broad chested, but was well muscled. His face was hard and angular, yet supple. A curious feature about his face was his eyebrows. They were fairly pointed and gave him, others said, a sinister look. His skin was a touch lighter in hue than the others in Ambia. Not noticeable at first, but one gleaned something different about him.
"I tell you he can. He’s practically a divine being and can do what he so desires. Something has to break sooner or later, and the sooner, the better."
They continued on and were just in sight of the village walls, when in the distance they heard the neighing of a horse and the gallop of hooves. An instant later the madly-driven creature appeared pulling a rickety old cart. Within seconds it was upon them. The driver, a pale man, black-cloaked and wearing a tall, dark, and shapeless hat, appeared not to see them.
"That fool has a mind to trample us to death!" Malchius shouted. "Look out!"
A split second before the hooves were upon them, Malchius grabbed his father and pushed him out of the way. The rear-left foot of the horse just clipped Malchius’ thigh so that later a large bruise was left. Corus and Malchius tumbled hard to the ground and rolled into a briar patch.
"Ho! Whoa Darkmere!" came the rider’s voice. It sounded cold and cracked and foreign. The horse, frightened at coming on Malchius and Corus on a sudden, reared upon its hind legs. The driver nimbly jumped off, just as the cart overturned.
"You crazed halfwit...," Malchius trailed off into a stream of obscenities and grabbed the reigns. Strewn about the roadside were parcels and bags. Corus ran over and looked around frantically for the driver, but he was gone. Hastily, he righted the trap and piled the packages together. Malchius finally succeeded in calming the horse down.
"Go to the house and get a torch son. I don’t see as well as I used, but that tramp is laying around here somewhere. Most likely unconscious, curse him!" Malchius rubbed his legs gingerly and jogged off to Old Farmer Wint’s house, the first house in the village. Corus brushed himself off and looked about him. With a worried look, he peered up and down the road, then into the surrounding forest. His skin felt prickly and his mouth was dry. He wondered if he had somehow wandered off into the village in the general confusion of the wreck, but something told him otherwise. Malchius had been gone sometime and Corus was just about to follow after when a dark figure crossed his path. He turned to see a bedraggled, unkempt man of nearly his own age staring at him. Pale and thin-faced, he had a predatory look, that reminded him of a vulture.
"Hi! Stranger. Where might you be going on an evening such as this?" asked Corus quickly. The stranger startled him made him a nervous. He was not one to enjoy surprises, and it made him talkative. "Are you hurt?"
"No, quite all right. My horse here took fright at you." Corus noticed the tramp had a foreign accent. He meant to ask where in all Ambia he had been hiding, and why, but simply asked "Who are you?"
"A stranger, far from home, and alone. I’m on my way to Berithia." "Berithia? Why that’s an hour’s drive away. You could have spent the night at the Silver Spring Inn. Why the hurry?"
"Business. If you must know, I’m a trader."
Corus pointed to the village. "Well, come inside trader and have a drink at my house. There’s no hurry tonight."
"I must make Berithia soon. I cannot be late."
"Oh, com’n. Don’t be a stranger. Is fifteen minutes too long? Come. We rarely get visitors in these parts. News of elsewhere would be welcome. I’ve righted your trap and secured your goods. Now, ain’t that worth something?" The stranger started.
"Were any of the packages opened?"
"Nay, not a one," Corus replied. "Some were a might bit damaged and nearly all were muddy, but none were opened." A grin crept up in the tramp’s cold, pallid face. He removed his hat and scratched a mass of long wiry hair.
"I’ll visit for a brief spell."
Corus helped the tramp pile the packages into his wagon. Soon, Malchius returned carrying three torches. He eyed the tramp suspiciously when Corus told him that he would be visiting for a spell. They walked to the village in silence, through the tall, wooden gates to their home. They were met by Corus’ wife at the door.
Adeth was a rather lumpy, red-cheeked peasant with an apt to talk at great length about everything in general and nothing in particular. She was homely, plain, superstitious, and had a tendency for her imagination to run wild, (which is partly the reason why Corus often responded to her with that trite but popular phrase, uh-huh). She always expected the worse. Her hair was dark brown, frizzy, and very long. Although her legs were short and stubby, they were well-muscled from ceaseless walking.
"Corus, is that you? Oh…" She had just noticed the man. Her spine tingled. She was not a learned woman by any means yet she divined something ill with him. Something she could have never explained, she simply knew.
"Welcome," she said curtly.
The stranger bowed and entered.
"Meet my wife, Adeth. Malchius, here, whom you’ve already met, is our only son." He put his hand on his son’s head.
"So," Adeth said. "I don’t suppose you’ve a name. How about it."
"Graul," his voice spoke, "Graul of Ettrune."
"Ettrune, eh? Where might that be? I’ve never heard of it."
Graul pointed his long bony hand eastward and replied, "I come from the province of Ettrune. One of the smaller provinces of the land we call Turul. It lies many days in the East, near the borders of the Great Sea. My road has been long and weary, for I seek no specific destination. Turul has become a place of desolation. We are overcrowded, water is scarce, and famines rage across the land. Among the more adventuresome of our people, the Emperor has sent us into the far quarters of the world in search of new dwelling places. We seek new lands and peace."
"Are there many of you...um...traders about?" asked Corus.
"Not many. Soon, however, our numbers will increase."
An uncomfortable silence ensued. Corus asked another question. "You’ve an emperor?"
"Yes. The Emperor Melchizadar. The Venerable, as he is sometimes called. He is the Giver of Life to our peoples in our present time of trouble. He exacts no taxes upon us and allows us to work our own lands. His own servants till his soil, unlike of course, a certain Mizraim, if the stories are true."
Corus smirked, "Yes, what you’ve heard is true." And for the next fifteen minutes he recanted the unjust doings of King Mizraim. Graul listened attentively, without moving, then said.
"I am beginning to see Ambia through your eyes kind man. Perhaps in the future, Melchizadar will extend his dominions to Ambia, and then.... Well, I make no promises, but perhaps your King Mizraim will have no more abusive powers and the land will become free as Turul."
"Well, Graul of Ettrune, they’ve sure have a funny way of speaking in your country, but what I say is this. If this Emperor of yours, Melchizadar, is half as good as you say he is. Well, the change’ll be most welcome." said Adeth.
"Yes, it would be different," came his flat reply.
"Say now, being a traveling man and all, has anything newsworthy been happening in the other parts of Selidorn. We’re rather secluded here in the forest."
Graul paused for such a time that Corus almost asked the question again when he replied. "Nothing new under the sun. Is there anything remarkably different that ever happens? People come, people go, civilizations rise, empires collapse. The faces change, nothing more."
He placed his hand into his pocket, as he did so, a small gold medallion fell to the floor. Malchius picked it up and held it aloft. In the light of the candle he could see etched in great detail intricate letters and a black hand.
"I’ll have that," said the man quickly as he took it from Malchius and placed it in an inner pocket. Malchius started to say something, but a strange fear gripped his heart.
"I see. The time is running short and I must be off. I thank you for your kindness. Furthermore, I should feel amiss if I did not return the favor. Wait here. I’ll return."
Before they had a chance to reply, he went outside. No sooner had he disappeared then Adeth looked at her husband and said,
"Well, now. He certainly is an odd creature. Why he..."
"He’s just different, that’s all," interrupted Corus. "And probably not feeling too well from traveling all day and falling on his head. That’s all." He told Adeth about the wreck.
Soon, the stranger returned carrying a small wooden chest. Carved into its top and sides were complicated designs of flowers and letters. The flowers and words were inlaid with thin strips of a gold-colored metal. The Ambians had never seen anything like it. It was very beautiful. Graul placed it on the table and said. "A gift for you and your family. Again, I thank you for helping me."
"Oh, you don’t have to..." said Adeth.
"Please," the stranger insisted, "It’s no trouble for me at all. It’s the least that I could do." He bowed, and with that, left as quickly as he had the first time. Corus and Adeth watched him from the door as he made off to his wagon. He jumped aboard, gave one brief look at his wares, and then took off without so much as looking their direction. They watched him drive off into the night. When he was out of sight and sound, Corus immediately made to open the tramp’s present.
"Without doubt, that was the strangest customer I’ve ever met in my life!" said Adeth. "Did you notice how he never blinked his eyes? Just like a snake he was. And dressed all in black. Black! He was evil clean through, he was. Now don’t you reckon..."
"Now, now dear," replied Corus. "He’s just from other parts. That’s all." He was looking carefully at the box and trying to figure out what was inside.
"And just what was that medal he dropped on the floor? Here, I’ll have that," she said in mock imitation of his voice. "Did you see what it was?"
"No," he replied.
"It had a black hand on it. A black hand! Black tis an evil color and I know it."
Corus rattled up the box. "Oh, drat that little present he left us!" said Adeth. "Can’t it wait til’ morning to be opened Dear? I’m tired." She sat down and looked blankly at her husband.
"Hmm, I can’t seem to make out how to open it."
"Probably needs a witch to open it most likely. Com’n Cor. It can wait till later. Matilda is coming over first thing in the morrow and I must be ready to go with her. Marcella is due any day now and we need be with her."
Corus sighed. He knew his wife had enough excitement for one evening and the quicker she got to sleep, the quicker she would stop talking. Besides, she would never forgive him if she wasn’t ready to leave with Matilda when she arrived. Marcella, his wife’s sister, was pregnant with her first child, and Adeth insisted she be there at the birth. Matilda, his sister, was also of the same disposition. In fact, both women insisted on being at the birth of every baby in the village. "Ah well," he thought. "She needs the rest and I’m tired also. Besides, I’ll have plenty of time to open the strange present in the morning."
Early the next day, Matilda arrived. After a quick breakfast and many words, they were gone. Corus spent a good hour trying to pry the tramp’s gift open. Whether by some trick of the gods or just very bad luck, he simply couldn’t find any way to open it. In frustration he threw it on the floor. He started out the door when he looked to see that a plank of wood on the corner of the box was slightly ajar. He walked back over and looked closer.
"Aha!" he said, and pulled the plank away. For to open the cunningly designed box he only had to slide a certain panel of wood. "A most crafty bit of work it is." He peered inside and with a puzzled look, took out the greenish-red contents one by one. It was a dried fruit of some kind, powdery and very sticky. He held one to his nose and sniffed. It held no odor. He plopped one into his mouth. It was very sweet and the soft fleshy center tasted like a date. He ate another piece. This time it tasted different, but only slightly so. The second had a slight chalkiness to it. He ate a third. It was crunchy and bland. Corus picked up the box and shook. His eyes spied a solid white one. At once he reached for it, but thought the better. "No, I’ll save it for Adeth. Perhaps she’ll think the better of old Graul." He slid the panel shut, put on his hat, and met Malchius outside. Together they walked the two miles to King Mizraim’s fields.
Corus arrived home late that night to find his wife in tears. At the first sight of her husband she ran to embrace him.
"Oh, it’s terrible!" she said. "It’s here."
"The Plague. It’s here!" she wailed.
"Now, now dear. Don’t be silly. Why, what makes you say such a thing?"
"It’s true. This morning, Ramy, he’s the little red-head who is always hanging around the Silver Spring, well...he said two members of the merchant guild just died. Later, Marcella told me the old beggar passed away too, black sores all over them as well. That can only be one thing...the Plague. That’s not all. That dark creature who visited us last night was seen talking to the same merchants late last night. Now what do you think of that?"
Corus rubbed his stomach and fancied he was coming down with something. "Another coincidence probably," he mumbled.
Adeth crossed her great hands and looked at him. "I do hope he didn’t poison them. Why I ate one of his fruits today myself."
"Yes, I couldn’t help myself. It was a white one you know. But I threw the rest out. Oh, you’ll do something Corus, won’t you?"
"Yes dear, I will, but first things first. Tomorrow we’ll see."
At daybreak, Corus could be seen scouring the countryside for traces of Graul. All that morning he looked for signs and tracks but found nothing. The other villagers couldn’t shed any light on the matter either. No one else they knew or heard of had seen the mysterious stranger. They expressed astonishment over the incident. Most of the superstitious villagers believed it was an apparition sent by one of the gods. Others said that it was an evil omen and that no good would come of it.
That night Adeth was visibly tired. Corus felt concerned. "Is there anything the matter?"
"Oh, I’ve just had a beastly day, dear. I’m simply exhausted. If you don’t mind, would you be so kind as to finish up the washing. I’m going to rest a bit."
Corus nodded in assent. Presently, he finished up and went to look on his wife. He found her sound asleep. Quietly, he sat down beside her and placed his hand upon her shoulder. It felt cold. He placed a wool blanket over her, kissed her for the night, and climbed wearily to bed.
Well before dawn, Corus and Malchius left for the day’s work. Adeth, who usually rose before them, was still asleep. Corus let her rest.
Their work in the fields that particular day was hotter and dustier than usual. Mizraim had invited one of his chief lords to overlook his fields and expected him to arrive in three days. So, the men were set to pulling weeds, extra hoeing, and in general, making his lands more presentable. The hours wore on. Finally, the men were given the sign to depart. When Corus and Malchius arrived at home, it was well after dark. Malchius immediately decided to sleep for the night. Corus found his wife in tears once again and more tired than ever. He decided to stay with her at home the next day. Typically, this wasn’t allowed under the lawcodes, but Corus was such a good worker that the overseers overlooked it.
When Malchius came home the next day, he found his mother asleep and very ill. Corus, holding her hand and with tears in his eyes, turned to look at Malchius. As he entered the door he asked "What is it? How is mother?"
"Don’t know, son. Somethings gotten hold of her, that’s for certain."
For the second day in a row, Malchius walked to Mizraim’s fields alone. Mid-morning, an overseer approached him. "Malchius, I’ve a message for you. Your father has sent for you."
"Is something wrong?"
"I don’t know. You’ve been given permission to leave."
Malchius jogged homeward. Something queer in the man’s voice distressed him. Apprehension grew in his heart the closer he got to home. When he arrived, his fears were realized. The dark purple blotches and pale skin of his mother told him everything.
"I’m afraid she has the Plague my son." said Corus.
"The Plague!...," his words faltered as his aged father placed his head in his hands. "Get the priest, boy. Run! And be quick. Perhaps he can do something."
Malchius turned and ran as fast as his legs could carry him to Nakon, the village priest. If he hurried, perhaps Nakon could invoke the help of the goddess Naedrus before it was too late. Malchius didn’t know what caused Naedrus to become ill at ease with his mother, but perhaps she would change her mind. He didn’t understand the ways of Naedrus. No one really did, except Nakon, and he felt sure that even the priest didn’t fully comprehend her, though he said otherwise. Naedrus lived in the wooden temple in the central square of Ambia. The temple itself was on top of a small pyramid-shaped hill with seven steps. Two statues, one on either side of each step, greeted worshipers as they approached the temple. The statues, stained red with blood and smoke, were said to be the different faces of the goddess. Once, when he was very young, Malchius asked Nakon why she had so many different faces. Nakon got cross and merely said, "You’re too young to understand such things boy. Naedrus is dark and mysterious. Few can know her ways." The priest was the only one allowed in her temple, so, he figured, he knew best.
Nakon sat in the shade of an almond tree at the temple’s base. His eyes were closed and he was chanting some ancient rhyme.
"Ah, Malchius. May the light of Naedrus shine bright on you this fine day."
"Yes, yes!" said Malchius. "Come. Mother is dying!"
Malchius and Nakon hurried back, but they were too late. An ashen-faced Corus met them by the door, and emptiness was in his face.
"You’re too late your Holiness. The Black Death has come upon her." His blood went cold. Nakon made to put his arm around Malchius, but abruptly swept the priest’s arm aside.
"Why? Why? Why?" shrieked Malchius. "Where is Naedrus now? Where? Tell me! Have we not sacrificed at her altars enough this year? Hasn’t enough blood been spilt for Her Holiness?"
Nakon looked at the ground, but had no response. Malchius’ eyes filled with tears. He turned and fled.
"Wait Malchius!" yelled Corus, but the words fell on deaf ears.
Malchius ran blindly through the forest, not caring where he went. Tears streamed down his face, and he stumbled on. He felt weariness creep into his legs, but the numbness in his heart pushed him along. After a time, he found himself walking up a narrow valley. A small stream bubbled swiftly past on his left. Slowly now, he ambled along on the bit of a path, occasionally tripping over tree roots. Spider webs kept getting in his eyes and hair, which added to his irritation. He kept on with bowed head. Suddenly, he came upon a man hurrying towards him. He cast a quick look at the surrounding valley and so didn’t see Malchius until they practically ran into one another. The man, noticed Malchius, wore a dark black overcoat splattered with bits of mud. Over his shoulder hung a large yew bow. It was Graul.
They recognized one another at once. Graul coughed a quick little cough and said. "Oh,...Malchius of Ambia...I believe."
"Yes, Graul. It’s me." He glared fiercely at the thin-faced man from Ettrune.
"I, uh...hadn’t expected any company today,...welcome though it may be." He chose his words carefully. "What brings you out here?"
"Never mind what I’m doing here. I’m just here. Alone and with you. Oh, and thanks for the little gift you gave us," he sneered.
Gaul grimaced. "Gift?"
"A little brown box, if you remember."
"Ohh, yes...yes. I do seem to remember something of the sort. I picked it up a few weeks ago in some small village I passed through."
"You don’t say," Malchius didn’t believe the dark man for an instant. "You know where my mother is now? She’s dead. She’s never coming back. Just dead. I’ll never...ever...speak with her again. You know how that feels?" Malchius’ eyes welled up with tears and he continued. "Do you know how it feels to have your mother suffer from the Black Death...the cold numbness that seeps into your heart and drains the life force right out of your body? To have your one and only mother...murdered!"
Graul drew further and further away from him. At the word ‘murdered,’ he recoiled as a snake as Malchius jumped for him. Malchius snatched Graul’s cloak, but the man from Ettrune slipped neatly out. He whipped out his bow , notched an arrow, and stared blankly at Malchius.
"Now look here boy. How was I to know that she would die? Surely, you can’t expect me to keep track of every little thing in my wagon."
Malchius didn’t believe him. He lunged at Graul’s bow and fell headlong to the ground. Graul leapt away, but not before a well-aimed kick at Malchius’ head. The blow knocked him unconscious. Sometime later he awoke with a throbbing head. His vision was slightly blurry, but he could plainly see Graul’s tracks. He followed his trail to a stream bordered with scrubby briars. In vain, he looked for signs. He stopped. Someone or something was approaching. A moment later an animal crashed through the underbrush and stumbled to the ground nearby. He turned to see a young deer, with something black sticking in it’s side. It was a black arrow. He bent down to look at it more closely and saw that it was obviously not one of the townsmen arrows, for they were dull and blunt, as they were used only for sport. This was a meticulously handcrafted piece of work. He marveled at it. Suddenly, he heard voices and the sound of footsteps. He turned slowly around to see three Gwawriddurs, rapidly approaching, dressed in the typical black and red uniform of the kings guard. Malchius stood still as a statue, but too late. He was seen.
"Well, well, well. Look at what I found," smirked the smallest of the three. "Doing a little hunting today are we?"
"No," Malchius replied. "I merely stumbled across this creature not five minutes ago."
The short pig-faced soldier, whose name was Drohne, walked over to the deer.
"Oh really, then how do you explain this!"
He showed the long black shaft to the other two soldiers. The three eyed it suspiciously.
"Hunting in the Kings forest is a criminal act you know," said another guard. "A crime punishable by death."
"I didn’t kill this beast," said Malchius in a stern voice. "I tell you, just five minutes ago I was walking along and I just happened to come upon it."
"More likely it just happened on you or should I say, happened upon your arrow," said the short man again in a voice that rather resembled a pig’s squeal.
"All peasants know the rules set down in the Lawcode by Our Lordship the King," said the second guard again.
"Yes, you must come with us!"
"I’m telling you I didn’t kill it. Look at me. I’ve nothing to shoot the arrow, and if I did, where would I have hid it!"
"Doubtless in a good place, but we’ve no time for that now," said the talkative little guard.
"Ormen, bind him!"
The third of the guards, a tall imposing figure who had not spoken at all, took out a yard or so of rope from his pack and bound Malchius’s hands behind his back. They then began the long march southward to King Mizraim’s castle. The rough rope which was tied none too tightly began to cut into young Malchius’s skin. A few times he stumbled to the ground only to be kicked by one of the guards. Sweat poured off their skin, and their saturated clothes clung to their bodies. In the hot and muggy weather, the insects seemed especially active. Clouds of gnats followed the four along the forest path. After about two hours of nonstop marching they began to hear buzzing noises.
"Say," said Drohne, "What’s that? It sounds as if ........ow!" In that moment a very large hornet latched itself to his arm. Soon, another one landed, and then another until an entire swarm was flying and buzzing around him. The other two guards and Malchius were also being stung and chased by the hornets. Malchius realized his chance and took it. In the confusion, he left the road, and ran into the forest. It took a few moments for the others to realize what was happening. They were busy running to and fro looking for a stream to jump in, and by the time they found one, it was too late. The hornets had their share and Malchius had a good five minute head start. Frantically, they looked around, but decided to give it up and look for him later. After all, they figured, he couldn’t go very far with multiple stings and arms all tied up. They tended to their wounds and presently began to look for Malchius again.
Malchius, meanwhile, was about a mile away. He stopped, turned around and saw no one pursuing. He panted and wiped the sweat away from his eyes with his shoulder. He wasn’t in as bad a shape as the king’s soldiers, however, the stings made him feel pretty weak. He began to jog, slowly. His goal was to put as much distance between himself and them as possible. He was a fugitive now--a wanted man. Malchius knew that the penalty for escaping as he did was death. The thought grew in his mind until it filled all his thoughts. They probably expected him to go back to his family and friends for help. So, he made up his mind not to do exactly just that. He resolved a plan in his mind to escape to the foothills of the Kablam Mountains. There he would be safe, at least for a while. Malchius’s jogging eventually slowed to a walk. He trudged along for what seemed like days but was in fact only a few hours. At length he stopped by a stream and sat down upon a large moss-covered rock. He was glad to see and hear no one in the distance following him. The air was still, only the sound of the wind in the leaves could be heard. He looked for a sharp rock to cut the cords that still bound his hands. At length he found a suitable rock and with not any small amount of difficulty he managed to pick it up and slowly rubbed it back and forth over the rope. His attempts at wearing through the rope were pretty much useless; however, it did seem a little less tight. Progress was painfully slow, yet in the end he finally got loose by using the stone to pry the ropes apart rather than actually cutting through them. He attention turned to his pursuers and how close they were. A twig snapped in the distance. Malchius jumped up and looked around warily but saw nothing but a small deer. It’s watery eyes stared at him for a moment before it fled. He hurried through the forest in a roughly north-east direction. After a time, he found that the ground leveled out. The trees were less numerous, but larger, and the undergrowth nearly absent. In fact, he could see for quite a way. Here there were huge, gnarled trees of enormous girth, with great shaggy beards of moss. Some were bigger than the house he grew up in. Were there sounds coming from inside the trees? No, that had to be nonsense, or was it? Now that he was alone in this trackless woodland, fears he thought long forgotten woke in his mind. Magicians in the forest, mysterious old men flitting to and fro in the shadows. It was no secret that it was a refuge for outlaws of all sorts. Malchius knew the lands circling Ambia well enough for twenty square miles and that was a much as anybody. Why didn’t they explore much further? He continued on into the ever-darkening gloom.
He tried to relax, but the pounding of his heart merely increased his tense nerves. Many times his heart jumped into his throat when he heard noises in the wood. The wind in the leaves and the snap of the branches made him more vigilant than ever. Now that his arms were free, he could now manage to move much faster in a much more direct path towards the foothills. As he ambled along, he formulated a plan in his mind. He would venture to Lun-Amlaith, or Oloris’ Mound as it is now called. Oloris’ Mound was a high, relatively treeless, mound that marked the beginning of the foothills. From its top, it afforded one a fairly good view of the surrounding land. It was the ancient residence of an old hermit named Oloris, but he had died many years before and most traces of his dwelling were gone. This also marked the unofficial end of King Mizraims’ dominion. Officially, it extended many more leagues East, but the fact remained that other Lords, dark and mysterious, unknown to anyone but the most brave and daring travelers, held sway here and were not apt to leave anytime soon. Dusk was approaching, and he still had many more miles to go until he reached Oloris’ Mound. Malchius marched along looking for it somewhere in the distance. It was obvious now he would not be able to make it before night, so he looked for a good place to camp. A place well-hidden from the eyes of pursuers. He searched and found a tall oak tree in the middle of a thick patch of brambles. He climbed up in the tree and gazed about him.
"Gwawriddurs...Ha! Anyone would simply have to make a racket of a noise if they came in here after me."
He laid himself lengthwise in one of the highest limbs and watched the red circle of the setting sun. The forest seemed quiet now. The chirp chirp of crickets and the gentle rustling of leaves were the only sounds he heard. He watched and waited, and still no one came. The blue sky became darker and darker. Night arrived. Soon stars appeared. Malchius looked at the constellations he was taught as a youngster. Lightfoot the unicorn, Muna in his eternal chase of the white stag, and Archon the brightest star were directly above him. Finally, the great orb of the moon made his appearance.
He maneuvered himself into a more comfortable position. It was the first time he had ever slept in a tree and swore to himself it would be the last. He fell asleep. He dreamt he was running around a forest filled with kingsmen. Whenever they saw him, they would shoot arrows at him. The arrows never hit, but always struck a tree near his head. He could never run very fast either. His feet seemed to be laden down with heavy weights. Malchius awoke the next morning just before sunrise. He slept rather uncomfortably, as may be imagined, in the tree. Quickly, he scrambled down to the ground but not without first taking a brief view to see if he was still alone. He was.
He wanted to make Oloris’ Mound as soon as possible, hopefully before noon. So, off he marched through the forest silently, stealthily, and speedily. A few minutes went by and the trees began to get farther apart. This made him more wary and nervous.
"All the better for the Gwawriddurs to see me," he thought.
Out of the corner of his eye, off in the distance, a hundred feet away, he saw someone or something move. Something like a human but not quite. He stiffened but kept on going. He stole a glance in that direction. Yes, there it was again, or was it? He stopped dead in his tracks and pretended to look at something on the ground. He cast a furtive glance, but this time saw nothing but the furrowed, light ash-gray trunk of an oak tree. Malchius rubbed his eyes.
"Why, I’m starting to see things--I am. Surely I just saw someone. Maybe it’s just my imagination."
Onward he trudged. Moments later, the trunk of a tree began to sway, then it began to move and even walk. The trunk, of course, was a carefully concealed man. Not just any man but one of the Rodamines. They were not a common folk and lived primarily in the thickly wooded forests in the outskirts of Eastern Ambia in the area known in their tongue as the Aeldorland. They were a shy race with little ties to any of the other villages in the Ambian forest. They lived a simple life of peace and tranquility. The Rodamines were masters of herb and shrub, tree and flower. From early childhood they were taught the name and uses of every plant in the forest.
Their reclusiveness led most other people to doubt their very existence. Many wild rumors were told of the mysterious forest wanderers, and it became a common fireside custom to tell tales of their deeds.
In physical appearance they differed markedly as well. Their skin was darker in hue then the fair-skinned villagers of Ambia. They were much taller as well. Some thought they were descended from the bowels of the earth. The Rodamines, however, were merely the last remnants of an ancient race of men who were noted for their cunning ability to disguise themselves to look like their environment. It was always a deep secret of theirs about how this was done, but magic was believed to be involved.
Malchius continued on, keeping a sharp eye out. About noon he saw his destination. Oloris’ Mound lie directly in front of him now. He walked towards the top of the high hill taking somewhat of a circuitous route. At length he reached the top, wiped his brow, and sat down.
Directly below him, perhaps about a quarter of a mile away, lie the edge of the Ambian forest. On and on it stretched as far as he could see. He thought he could just get a glimpse of his own small village miles and miles away but he wasn’t sure. He gazed long and sorrowfully towards his own village, Melodigone, the only place he had truly ever known. Where he learned all about the ways of the forest. He recalled the dark nights when he used to lie under the stars with the other boys years ago. They would tell one another stories of brave knights going off to fight in the Dragon Wars and recant legends of famous heroes. At last he turned his eyes and looked behind him. A few miles away the land grew higher and higher. This wild hill country was the foothills of the Kablam Mountains. Behind them rose their tall, jagged peaks eternally white with snow. There he stood, silently meditating about his future. He couldn’t go back except as a fugitive. Inevitably, they would catch him. His only recourse was to be an outcast for life. He turned and stared in the direction of his beloved village in the Forest of Ambia, slowly becoming enshrouded in a cloud of mist. The fog rolled over the trees like waves upon the shore. Suddenly, he saw a man steadily approaching from the edge of the forest just below, looking intently at the ground. He stopped and motioned towards someone out of Malchius’s sight. A cold chill ran down his spine. Fear gripped him as he fell flat to the ground.
"The Gwawriddurs!" he cried. "They’ve come."
Steadily, the man continued marching upward towards Malchius. Quickly, he scrambled down the other side of Oloris’ Mound towards the foothills. He jumped behind a thick grove of oak trees and looked. One of the king’s men had arrived at Oloris’ Mound and was looking his direction. Malchius froze, but the man but the man didn’t seem to see him. The oaks were still, the only sound was the buzzing of a bee. Malchius watched him nervously. A breath of wind stirred the leaves above him, and a thrush sang nearby. The Gwawriddur turned and looked in the opposite direction. Malchius watched uneasily. A bead of sweat gathered on his forehead and slid down his nose. It tickled. "Animals smell fear. Does this Gwawriddur sense me?" Obviously, the king’s men used this site as a lookout point also. He edged towards a clump of rhododendron, out of the Gwawriddur’s sight. He turned and fled. Gwawriddurs had an uncanny ability to find people. ‘How did they know where to look? Was asked by more than one captured man. At times, he thought he heard voices, but was never certain. On and on he ran, jumping logs, fighting cobwebs that caught his eye, and ducking low hanging tree branches. Then, almost too suddenly to be felt, he ran smack dab into a tree, fell down, and knew no more.
When he came to himself, he sensed was lying in a firelit cabin with a throbbing headache. The air felt thick and heavy with wood smoke, and strange voices were speaking near.
"We should have left him alone," said a gruff voice.
"How could we have done that," said another in a voice not quite as gruff. "We couldn’t just leave him lying there. The Gwawriddurs could have found us."
"No Gwawriddurs have ever found any of us; they’re afraid to travel this far in the foothills. Don’t you remember?" said the first voice.
"They used to be," said the second voice again. Perhaps they’ve become less frightened. I hear King Mizraim is anxious to expand his borders, and you know how Kings get when there is land to be conquered. Their soldiers become more frightened of them than of the unknown."
"Well, the less he knows about us the better," said voice number one again.
"This man is a Jemdat Nasir," a third voice echoed. The sound seem to linger for a few moments then an eery stillness filled the room. "I repeat. He is a Jemdat Nasir. His coming to us is no accident. Furthermore, I want you two to keep this a secret. Tell no one."
"A Jemdat Nasir?"
"Yes, you heard me. I said a Jemdat Nasir. Perhaps even the Jemdat Nasir," he continued. "Haven’t you learned anything from the Sayings of Mamre or must I repeat myself---again?"
"It’s just that it doesn’t seem possible or real. I’ve always wondered what one would look like. I never expected him to look, so, well, and normal."
"Does that come as a surprise to you? What did you think one would look like?" Neither answered. "Later, perhaps, he will be put to the test. Until then he should remain here."
"Now look here Myridon. Even if he is a Jemdat Nasir, he..." but he was interrupted.
"Quiet now! Look! He’s coming to."
Malchius coughed. Very slowly the room came into focus. He tried to move his head but found with shock that he could not. Indeed, he could hardly feel his body at all. Wherever he was, it was comfortable. Though whether in the presence of friend or foe, it remained to be seen. For some time the sound of the voices, indistinct, but quite close had been speaking. He heard footsteps approaching.
"Strangers," Malchius said in a feeble voice, "spare my life. I trust I am no friend of King Mizraim or his men. I was wrongly accused of killing one of his deer in the forest but fortunately escaped."
"He speaks with a sincere voice that’s for certain." Malchius looked and saw the first speaker for the first time. It was a tall, dark skinned man dressed from head to toe in black that met his gaze. He had broad shoulders and was muscular. His large wide mouth had a fine set of teeth which seemed to be set in a permanent grin. This trait made it hard for some people to take him seriously at times. The hair, jet black, was tied in a ponytail behind his head.
"Aye, that’s for certain. Perhaps, he’s one of the Gwawriddurs himself," said voice number three.
"Do not be hasty in your judgment, Aidin and Jorlath. Think about it. Now why would a treacherous Gwawriddur be running throughout our lands like a madman and dressed as he is?" said the second voice.
"Well, I don’t know, you’re probably right again as always," said the third voice, presumably Jorlath’s
Except for a sharp pointed beard and brown outfit, he looked almost exactly as the first speaker. Both Aidin and Jorlath had a neatness and orderliness about them. Their clean cut and well-chiseled features contrasted with the untidiness and generally scraggly look of Mizraim’s troops.
"Where am I and who are you?" said Malchius.
"My name is Myridon and these are two of my friends, Aidin and Jorlath."
Before him stood a older-looking man with a flowing white beard. His face was covered with thick wrinkles. And his nose, which was larger than most, was straight. His dark black eyes were the most distinctive feature of his face. Set farther apart than usual, they gave him a remarkable field of vision. His deep penetrating gaze at Malchius seemed to slice to his very inner being. One could tell at once that before him stood a man that perceived much more than most. Malchius felt drawn to him immediately. "You are in the land of the Rodamines. You’ll have to excuse them for being so inquisitive. These are dangerous times nowadays. You would trust no one unless you knew them as well as your brother in these parts."
"I see," exclaimed Malchius, "I’ve always been told that the Rodamines were a mythical tribe of savages."
"You’ve probably heard a lot of other lies too," said Myridon. "The truth is King Mizraim doesn’t want his subjects, people such as yourself, to leave his kingdom. It makes it easier for him to collect taxes. As a result, he encourages rumors like these to scare his folk into staying."
"So the Rodamines aren’t savages?"
"No, far from it. They are a gentle peace-loving folk, renowned for their knowledge and love of the land. They are the last of a dying breed of the great lore-masters of old. Descendants of the RÚdan when the world was young."
Wonder appeared in Malchius’s eyes as he viewed them. The two Rodamines walked over to the bed where Malchius lay and bowed.
"My name is Aidin and this is Jorlath my brother. It’s not everyday we meet with strangers.’
"I’m honored to meet you and thankful for my life as well," replied Malchius.
"As Myridon says, these are in the news indeed perilous times. And you are not the first stranger to be seen in these parts lately. Only yesterday morning I was following a stranger when you came bumbling through and scared him off."
"My apologies," replied Malchius.
"Don’t worry some of the others will track him later. It was the three following you that concerns us most."
"What ever happened to them."
"After you went through I decided to follow them. It was no hard task either. The short one was talking so much that a blind man could have followed him. Afterwards, at dark, they made camp. A tall man was standing guard. I crept closer and closer. But, alas, he must have heard me for he shouted to the others to wake. I saw that they had weapons so I returned back here as quick as I could to roust Jorlath. When we returned this morning, we saw from their tracks that they made for Oloris’ Mound.
"Yes," exclaimed Malchius. "I saw one approaching me while I was up there."
"Seems everyone is using that old hermit’s hill nowadays," muttered Jorlath.
"As I was saying, Jorlath and I found the three Gwawriddurs walking around the old orchard. We decided it best to dispatch of them as quick as we could. Two we shot with arrows, but the tall one escaped. We think he went back to Mizraim but we’re not sure."
"From the way he was running, I’d say he’ll not be back here for a good long time," smirked Jorlath, "still, one couldn’t help but notice that he was more noble-looking than the other two."
There was a good deal more of talk that night but excited as he was, Malchius simply couldn’t keep his eyes and ears open to hear the end of it. He was safe now and that’s what really mattered.
30 October 2006
I came home from work last night at 230 AM and found a donkey in my living room. More later.
The above photo should give non-Va residents some idea of how many people how many people live in Tidewater, Virginia. Which reminds me, this apartment has a working fireplace. Hmm, perhaps I'll have a book burning.
Fire attracts guys. I don't know why. When you go camping, and it gets dark, you can always tell who the guys are. They're the ones poking the embers, tossing crickets in the flames, and burning marshmellows. Women, except tomboys, never actually eat burnt marshmellows. This is, (pay attention ladies), this is because burning marshmellows make great torches to look for crickets and fire-poking sticks.
The men, of course, always eat meat. Hot dogs, hamburgers, shish kabobs, etc. . .again-it's a hunter/gatherer thing.
Hmm. What else?
The cold has left VA Beach. That's all for now folks.
26 October 2006
25 October 2006
24 October 2006
23 October 2006
Again, I'm copying and pasting from Word, so the formatting won't be the same.
Duncan MacKenzie and Michael Perez saw no more Rhino-riders the rest of the day. For two hours they rode the dusty road in silence. Michael, like most people in Macrobia, had never been outside the city’s gates. There was never a need to, and besides, it was nothing but a vast trackless wasteland decimated from the War of All Nations.
Since the Rhino encounter, the land was mostly flat. Thousands upon thousands of craters pock-marked the land, and great crevices as if giants had dragged their fingers through the earth, decorated the landscape. On top of it all, boulders lay strewn, with no definite shape or form. Huge and gnarled, as if blasted from the bowels of the planet.
MacKenzie abruptly veered off the road and parked in the shadow of an enormous slab of rock.
“Now you’ll see something worth seeing,” he said. There was a sound like a small explosion or gas seeping from a pipe and Michael saw a crack appear in the desert floor-perfectly straight. The crack widened until it was the width of a door. A ramp led into the ground and he saw reflective tags on either side. Duncan wheeled the bike down the ramp until his form became hazy.
“Are you coming?” Mac asked.
“Is it safe?”
Michael, who still didn’t completely trust this stranger, hesitated.
“I think we’ll be safe here. There’s nobody else around here for miles. No sign of sweep patrols.”
“Have you forgotten satellites. . . and the drones?”
“We’re in the desert. They work by detecting heat.”
“And when the sun goes down. . .”
“They’ll still work by heat.”
“Right. But the desert loses a lot of heat at night. Animals don’t. We would be sitting ducks out here.”
A thumping sound appeared in the distance. Helicopter? Rhino? This wasn’t a helicopter and it didn’t sound like a Rhino.
“Quick! Michael. A Plower’s coming.”
“Plower? Like a Rhino-car?”
“More like a three-story Rhino with snowblades. Come on!”
The thumping intensified. Michael saw a large swirling pillar of dust, like a small tornado, approaching. Through the haze, he could make out bits and pieces of yellow and tan-coloured metal. The thing was enormous and dwarfed the Rhino. He turned, and with a great deal of hesitancy, followed Mac into the hole in the desert. Mac pulled a lever by the opening. There was a creaking and groaning of old chains as the door slowly creaked shut. It was pitch black. Mac flicked on the BMW’s headlight. “Welcome to the Underground,” he said. The Plower could just be heard.
* * *
Julia Tanya Fairchild was tired. She had planned on a quiet lunch with a fellow co-worker yesterday when the PM’s call sounded. She was waiting on Michael at the Blue Moose Café. . .
Julia was tall, athletic, blue-eyed, and sported shoulder length wavy red hair. She worked as a chemist in the QA/QC department at Z-Tec. Although she spent 8 years in college studying genetics, she never actually did any laboratory work. Originally, she did, but after her manager discovered she was the best chemist in the lab, they made her a supervisor and hadn’t pressed so much as a button on any lab equipment since. That was three years ago. Most of her time was spent in her office reviewing test results of the various new products Z-Tec analysed.
Z-Tec spent millions of dollars on field research looking for novel drugs. One chemical, called resveratrol, seemed to suppress cancer and increase telomerase production. Nobody knew exactly how it worked, but in all Z-Tec’s experiments, it increased life-span remarkably.
[make more interesting and add field exped/Malaysia/llama/Tibet and old men stuff here]
Julia Fairchild and Michael Perez were close friends. On Tuesday, as she walked into her office, she was surprised to see an official of the NSA waiting for her.
“Dr. Fairchild?” the man stood and stretched his hand towards her. “Lt. Jones from the NSA. How do you do?”
”Fine, thank you.” She didn’t offer to shake his hand. “Can I help you?”
“I’m looking for one of your co-workers. Perez. A Michael Perez. We are having some difficulty locating him and thought you might shed some light on his location.”
“Yes. Mr. Perez works here. He’s not in my department, but I know him. Is he in any trouble?”
“Ohh, no. Nothing of the sort,” he said. “It’s just that yesterday he didn’t come to the castle when the call went out. Perhaps he is ill?”
“Not that I know of,” Julia replied. She thought the little man from the NSA a little square and just a little cute. “Did you check his apartment?”
“He’s not there and wasn’t seen last night returning. Does Mr. Perez have a girlfriend?”
“Not to my immediate knowledge. I’m sure he’d tell me if he did.”
“You are sure?”
“Quite sure.” Julia felt it quite silly that her heart skipped a beat at this last question.
“Mr. Perez and you are quite close, are you not?”
“We’re a bit more than casual acquaintances. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“Is he supposed to be in today?”
“Should be. You’re asking the wrong person.” And a lot of them, she thought to herself. “Why don’t you just stick around and wait for him yourself,” she smiled.
The little man from the NSA stared at her blankly.
“Why does the NSA want to see Mr. Perez?”
“Mr. Perez is very important right now. The Velkladdeur himself desires to see him, and I have reasons of my own.”
“Ohh, in that case. . .”
* * *
Richard Jones inserted the mini-tele-com device into his ear canal. Instantly, the sounds of Macrobia ceased. He wouldn’t hear a thing (unless Candy called) until he took them out.
With a population of 45 million (exactly 45,347,653 according to that morning’s Macro-news-comcast ), Macrobia was one of the largest cities on the planet-and very loud. Most people wore the mini-tele-com devices, or comtels, for this very reason. They blocked all sound except incoming tele-calls and voice messages.
He took the 0920 train back to the NSA’s headquarters and arrived exactly twenty minutes later. He knew his chances of Michael Perez ever returning to Z-Tec were slim at best. Fortunately, the hidden microphone he stuck under Julia’s desk might reveal otherwise.
[how does he know MP if he doesn’t have chip???]
‘Where would I go if I were this guy?’ he asked himself. ‘Into the desert. Where else?’ The desert was where all the unchippers lived. How they managed to survive out there in the wild, craggy, rocks oozing radiation, was beyond his imagination. Somehow they survived. Occasionally, he saw an unchipper, an outsider-one of ‘those people.’ They always had weather-beaten skin like tanned leather. Not the smooth features of a city-dweller.
[all Macrobites are 1984 dumb]
Jones figured they got food by smuggling it out of the city since no drone ever detected any significant vegetation in the Scarred Lands. True, the drones wee very unstable due to radioactivity in the SL, and were notorious for breaking down. But it seemed miraculous how people survived out there.
At 9:42, Jones was back in his office. He made plans to scour the desert himself. By 10:00 AM, he reserved a helicopter and planned to leave the next day before dawn.
* * *
‘They’re searching. Looking. They know I’m here. They can’t find me. I’m hidden.’
Michael clawed at the metal band around his ankle. It would not come off, not without the security code-which he didn’t have. Only the NSA knew the code.
The clouds, unnaturally close in the night sky, looked like great puffy goblins streaking across the full moon. Earlier, a thunderstorm washed the land, giving the forest a rich, earthy smell. Up the hill and through the trees, he scrambled scurrying from tree to tree. Rarely looking up, but sensing his presence.
‘Velkladdeur’s near,’ he thought. And Velkladdeur knew this. Above him. In the clouds. He was coming. One cloud in particular floated slower than the others. One end pointy, the other a vague amorphous blob of white and grey. Sky-Hoverer. Velkladdeur is in the Sky-Hoverer. This Michael knew beyond all doubt. The dirigible was sending low frequency signals in all directions, like probing tentacles, lurking in the night sky. Silent. Creeping. Like some phantom creature of the deep seas.
[mention how the voice reverberates in his belly]
The Sky-Hoverer wafted soundlessly nearer. Mac promised him that even with the ankle bracelet, Velkladdeur could not find him. He was elusive on the details, but kept insisting that he would be ‘hidden.’
“Hidden in what?” he asked. He had to trust his red-headed friend.
The Sky-Hoverer was now so close its engines could be heard. A thrumming sound meant to resemble a flock of birds. A search light turned on. It traced a large circle around Michael.
Michael dropped to the ground and covered himself with leaves. Despite what Mac told him about the bracelet, he knew Velkladdeur had a link to it.
‘Curse that traitor Julia! Why did I allow her to give me that bracelet as a parting gift? I should have known better. Now I’m trapped!’
The light beam described an ever decreasing circle and Michael was in the middle.
“We know you’re here!” boomed a mechanical voice from above. “Show yourself!”
Michael ignored the command and remained motionless. If Mac said he was hidden, he was hidden. Something told him to be as quiet as possible though every fiber of his being shouted ‘run.’
For one full second, the beam lit up Michael. He didn’t blink. Couldn’t have because his eyes were shut. The light moved on.
‘How could the Sky-Hoverer not detect the bracelet? It was common knowledge that once the aircraft sensors passed over, they automatically triggered the bracelets and gave away ones coordinates. Apparently, this didn’t happen for the voice said, “Surrender! Yield to us!” in the same overpowering bass.
‘Perhaps,’ he grinned, ‘I just need an update.’
The Sky-Hoverer and Velkladdeur drifted North.
* * *
“Okay. Let me get this straight,” said Michael. “You are telling me that simply being underground and spending time with the Undergrounders, I acquire some magical ‘essence’ that shields me from the Velk, satellites, Sky-Hoverers, hunter probes, Prowlers, etc, etc, etc. . .and renders any Macrobian machine useless when one using it to find me has evil intentions?”
“That’s not how I would describe it,” said Mac, “but for the time-yes, that’s essentially what happens.”
Michael was back in the Underground at a de-radiation room. Earlier, he had found a safe house, (or safe cave in this instance), and spent the last half-hour listening, bewildered, at Mac’s explanation.
“And what precisely is this ‘essence’ composed of? Six years of college, and I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
“I’m not surprised. You’re educators, by their very worldview, cannot believe in such phenomenon. Underworlders have the ability to bond to nature in a way Macrobites do not. It’s more natural (an easier). [explain much better] Everything about Macrobia is artificial. It, this artificiality, doesn’t allow them to change their nature to conform with matter like us. It’s rather like a surgeon implanting a new organ into a patient. The new organ may work, but requires prodigious quantities of drugs to do so, lest the body reject it. Macrobia is a foreign particle. An invader. And as such, their machines cannot truly detect us-unless we so desire, or use their system-which we reject.
[explain. . . ]
* * *
Someone once said I will is the longest sentence. Wonder what they were talking about?
Once upon a time on the 5th day of the 5th month of the 5th year of the century, there lived a man called Joey Cee. His nickname was Joe, after his favorite drink, iced mocha frappachino made by Nestle.
Joey Cee, which wasn't his real name, preferred to call himself another sea-faring name, Nemo...latin for 'No Man.' Joey Cee was in a bit of a pickle, and like Puff who lived by the sea, was hungry due to a strange new illness, called by some Nemo's Revenge, and by others, the 7 year itch, a most strange malady. Now in his castle, a dark grim fortress, down next by the sea. Joey had a very old parchment purchased from the local merchants who sold their goods and wares at market every 5th day, using letters corresponding to numbers, as counting wasn't their specialty. (In this case the letter E'). Later, they decided to simply call the market 'E' and in due time it became popular among the traders to call the entire sea coast town, by the bay, 'E.' Although some maps still refer to it as E Bay, see. On the 5th line of the parchment, Joey Cee found a cure for Nemo's Revenge. But the cure called for a magical herb, a mystical plant unknown to any of his friends. After consulting the village elders, he decided to undertake a long journey to the Land of Nod. Day and night he traveled, toiling madly through swamps, crossing raging streams, torrid deserts, and high mountains. At long last, he arrived in the Land of Nod. And there, in a cave, atop a lonely mountain peak, stood a princess gazing into a large black cauldron. Joey Cee cleared his throat. He'd heard about this wily princess and was on his guard, all defenses up. He asked "Can you help me?"
The princess looked up from her boiling cauldron, wiped the sweat off her brow, and said ever so subtly. "I know what you are looking for. The plant...it's called Four Star Bane. I keep a store in my satchel, just picked some this morning, see?"
"Why...why...thank you!...But I have one more question, you creature of mystery."
She nodded and said "one more."
"What is your name, if I may be so bold as to ask?"
"Well......my friends call me crazy, but you can call me Esther, see?"
by Puddle E. Glum
22 October 2006
Numbers 21:9 (King James Version)
(How it really happened)
“Moses. We have a problem.”
“What is it this time, Aaron? Moabites, Ammonites, Canaanites, Parasites?”
“How much worse?”
“Well tell me brother. What in the Plains of Moab is it?”
“Reptiles, my lord. The long wrong oblong dry sly slinky cold-blooded kind.”
“Surely thou jesteth, my brother?”
“I jesteth not. We have adders in the attics, boas in the bedrooms, cobras in the closets, and vipers in the garage. Serpents in the synagogues, serpents in the Sanhedrin, and serpents in the sand.”
(Aaron nodding) “In the cribs.”
“So we’ve got problems with. . .snakes?”
“That’s right. You guessed it. We have . . .snakes on the plain.”
“Latest estimates show 10,000 score and ten.”
(Later that day in the Tabernacle)
Moses: Dear God, What do we do???
God: Do this. Take a snake, put it on a stake, and set it in the plain.
Moses: That’s insane!
God: Snakes on the plain, Moses. . .snakes on the plain.
Moses: But it seems so lame, and inhumane, and. . .and. . .
God: Silence! Moses, cut the flak! And don’t talk back no more no more no more no more.
Just make a snake, take the snake, stake the snake, forsake your ache, and stop this outbreak.
Quoth the Lord, forevermore.
And lo, Moses did as he was told and the rest is history.
by Puddle E. Glum
19 October 2006
Life in the early days of the Bionomics Division, was not always popular. For years a large segment of the Amexicada, or the USA as it was then called, fought against the perceived invasion of privacy the V-chips conferred. In time, like the now defunct credit card that preceded them, it evolved into a practical necessity. 15 years later, the Amexicadan Parliament passed the V-chip amendment, which required all citizens to have the microchip inserted into their body by the year 2015. Now, while it was not a criminal offense to be unchipped, it was so necessary to day-to-day life, that one was held to be a criminal if found without it. (It was criminal to be unchipped in some regions of Amexicada.)
Lt. Jones puzzled over how the man escaped. ‘What kind of electrical disturbance could cause the drone to break down?’ He wondered if the Velkladdaur knew he hadn’t quite told the truth in the matter. Truthfully, it had to be an electrical disturbance. There was no other explanation. 30 days.
* * *
“A.J. old boy, how are you?”
Michael wanted to crawl away and die. He rolled to his side and saw the face of a tall, thin, red-haired man with a beak of a nose staring at him.
“I thought you would be here. Helloooo A.J.” the red-head kicked Michael’s foot. “You awake or not?” He smiled and continued, “sleeping your life away?”
‘He doesn’t look like a sweep patroller,’ thought Michael. He crawled from under the jeep and looked at a man his own age that he had never seen before. ‘It would good to know knew in the world he was.’
“Come on. We’ve got to run,” said Red. “Are you ready to run?”
“Believe me. I’m more than ready to.” Michael crawled from under the jeep and shook his hand. A prickly sensation ran up Michael’s arm. ‘Did I go to high school with this guy?’ he thought.
Red said, ”You wouldn’t believe the trouble I went through to get here. Thankfully, I caught you before you went to the hives.”
“Yeah,” he pointed to the dome-shaped buildings. “Sure you are all right?”
“Sure. A little light-headed. Why don’t you go on ahead without me. I’ll catch up in a bit.”
”You might find that more difficult than you think.” He looked to the sweep patrollers-now placing their hand-cuffed prisoner into a dark sedan. “Come on now. My ride is by the hives. We’ll take it.”
They joined the parade of people walking to the hives. The dusty path was nearly a mile from the parking lot to the first of the hive buildings. With each step, Michael found the presence of evil growing stronger. A half-mile away and his breathing increased notably. His head hurt and his palms became sweaty. He looked to his unknown traveler friend, whistling away as if he hadn’t a care in the world.
“Who is this guy?” thought Michael. “And why is he going toward the hives?”
“Where am I going?” said the stranger. “You’ll see.” Michael’s nerves, stressed all morning nearly burst at this last comment. They continued in silence.
The first building loomed directly in front of them. People were entering the glass doors that encircled the building at ground level. Nobody was leaving-just entering like a gigantic mouth. Swallowing people. Devouring people. His head throbbed.
“Look here, man. I hate to break the news to you buddy, but A.J. here is feeling a little sick. How about I catch up with you tomorrow?”
“Can you promise you have a tomorrow? What do you think you’ll find when you get back to 331 Newport Street?”
“Michael stopped and looked at the red-head. “How do you know where I live?” The moment the words came out of his mouth, he realized his mistake.
“I know about you than you think,” said the stranger. “Perhaps even more than you know about yourself,” and in a barely audible voice added, “Mr. Perez.”
They arrived at the front of the building and walked around it. Michael felt like walking through jelly. He felt compelled to run into the nearest glass door and scream, “Let me in!”
“Don’t do it,” said the stranger in a calm but stern voice. “Keep walking. Look straight ahead.”
They came to a short grassy hill with steps leading down to a paved lot with half a dozen white vehicles stenciled with the letters TGC on their sides. In addition to a few motorcycles. “Trans-Genic Center. That’s what the letters stand for. You wanted to know.”
This was indeed what Michael wanted to know. He said nothing. They stopped by a TGC- stenciled BMW motorcycle.
“By the way, you can call me Duncan Mackenzie. Better yet, just call me Mac.”
Mac undid a clasp on the bike and produced two helmets. He pressed a switch inside them and gave one to Michael. “This trip might be a little rough. Put this in your ear.” He gave him an earpiece with a transparent wire attached to it. “You’ll have to twist it a little to get it in there.”
Michael inserted it into his hear with the end of the wire in front of his mouth. “It feels like a pencil eraser stuck in my ear.”
“You’ll get used to it. Won’t even know it’s there after awhile.”
Mac pressed a switch on his watch and talked. Michael heard his voice, loud and clear, and faintly metallic, in his ear. “Works by infrared. Useful when you don’t want people listening in on random radio-linked voices.” Michael got the idea.
Mac and Michael jumped on the BMW and headed to the front of the first hive. They made a sharp right and drove leisurely past four more identical hive buildings on the same road. Michael found that the evil presence seemed muted with the helmet. Soon, they passed the fifth hive.
The road continued on past some abandoned warehouses. Then it led through a massive junkyard of scrapped cars, office machines, and old airplanes. The road became worse and pockmarked with holes. At times, great sections of the road were completely eroded. Mac carefully threaded his way down the eroded banks and up the other sides. After a time, the junk disappeared until all he saw was a desolate wasteland. No trees, plants, and no farms. Simply an enormous wasteland of rocks and sand.
“We’re going to my place,” said Mac suddenly.
“A little dusty, isn’t it? Why so much dust?”
“Can’t see much.”
“Exactly. Dust covers hidden cameras, and is hard on equipment. Makes it easy to hide from prying eyes. Useful when you want to hide.”
“You can hide for only so long before the satellites find you.”
“Not if you’re underground.”
“You live in a hole in the ground. . .like a hobbit?”
“Err, not quite.”
Michael heard a throaty, thumping sound-like a helicopter. Ahead of them, and to their left, another road joined theirs. A cloud of dust was moving along it caused by a large boxy vehicle with large squares sticking out the sides. Mac gunned the BMW’s engine hoping to arrive at the intersection before the other car. They arrived the same time, but as the road widened at this point, the two vehicles didn’t collide.
The boxy car, now only a few feet from them and parallel, had an open cockpit and looked to be made of concrete. The two side squares were fairly curved, and swept back. The driver, wearing a helmet and goggles, didn’t look at them. The noise was deafening.
“What is it?” asked Michael.
Michael looked at the large, lumbering, sand-colored square upon wheels. Black smoke belched from its rear. It smelled like sulfur. The two wings moved slightly and extended outward. At once Mac shot forward ahead of the Rhino.
They’re nuclear-powered,” came Mac’s tinny voice over the sound. “Those two wings are boosters. You don’t want to be behind a Rhino when those things fire up. It’s like being stuck behind a jet engine-and very loud.” Michael wondered if anything could get louder. “They also fire rockets from the wings. Very useful.”
Mac increased his speed and soon the Rhino was merely another lumbering dust cloud.
“Friends of yours?”
“Hardly. Rhino operators are usually unchippers and not overly friendly. They’re rough people. I call the drivers Ruff and Gruff. Those guys only shave about three times a month and you can never understand what they’re saying.
Ruff and Gruff were shaggy old souls,
and shaggy old souls were they.
They smoked, and choked, and lived on coke,
And used up mom’s DNA.
Stay out in the sun too long,
And soon you’ll be as old as they.”
“I’m confused,” said Michael.
“I’ll explain later.”
* * *
“Good morning Mr. Jones,” came the cheery voice of Candy Skipper.
“Any messages?” asked Jones.
Candy Skipper, fond of chewing gum, mini-skirts, different hair styles, and Celtic pewter jewelry was the secretary of Lt. Richard Jones. She was his complete opposite, yet for obscure reasons unfathomable to her creative mind, she had developed a crush on the Lt. Whether he knew this is a matter of some debate, but Candy, due to her unique mindset, felt it would be a serious social faux pas to come out and tell him.
In celebration of pay day, Candy wore green hair, gold shirt, and silver skirt.
“The techies have been calling all morning. They’re down in room 312. . .
The drone lay on a white table. It’s insides spread out like a bad car wreck.
“What have you found?” asked Jones.
“Nothing to speak of. All the systems are working properly, at least until we completely disassembled everything.”
“I want a test run.”
“We’ve done that.”
“It went perfectly. Killed all our test rats in one fell swoop. Even Smart Sparky got zapped.”
“Tragic, I know boss. . .but science is science.”
“We downloaded the video and see the unchipper in the plaza. The best we can figure out is the tramp stood directly in the line of sight between the drone and Mr. No-chip while the video was running. Sort of like the moon during a solar eclipse. See right here at 17’00”35.6. And then as we go to 17’00”42.7.” Here the technician fast-forwarded the downloaded video. “Here we see the plaza empty except for these two.”
“You didn’t get a video of the unchipper’s face?”
“Nope. Strangest thing too. All the video shows is the back of his head. When he turned around facing a camera, there either was somebody directly in front of him, or in once instance, the video just went blank. It’s probably just an electrical surge in the wiring induced by the Prime Minister’s call.”
Jones put his face in his hands, and then said. “Get me a picture of the unchipper anyways. The best you can come up with. A close-up. I want to see what the guy was wearing. The Velkladdeur seems to think it important to find this guy.”
The technician whistled. “What for?”
“Not certain. But know this. When the Velkladdeur wants his man, that man has something worth taking.”
* * *
“Here you go Lt.” The technician laid a digitally-enhanced photo on Rick’s desk. “Abercrombie and Fitch khaki pants and looks like size 32-34 waist. Light blue long-sleeved shirt with partially rolled-up sleeves. The shoes appear to be size 11 black Adidas hiking boots.”
“Thank you. That only narrows it down to about. . .3,000 different people in this city.”
* * *
The Velkladdeur sat alone in his office brooding over the fact that an unchipped man escaped with his life intact and his identity unknown. He knew that Lt. Jones most likely would never find the man within 30 days- if ever, but he felt it was good practice for the NSA employees to see a man killing himself to get a job done. Every once in a while the agency needed a good shake down. And if he had to sacrifice a man-so be it. He knew fear or threat bred loyalty to an organization. He had seen this countless numbers of times in his life.
The Velkladdeur was old, much older than anybody knew. True, his 157-year-old body had been artificially lengthened by gene therapy, but the fact remained that although his body was in excellent condition, his mind was subject to unexplainable fits of anger and increasingly, for the past decade, he made choices solely by instinct rather than through conscious thought. His formidable mind gave him the ability to make logical inferences about events rivaling that of any supercomputer.
Whoever this unknown man was, Velkladdeur knew he divined his presence. The world is a cohesive whole. Everything is linked to everything else. When a man talks at 11:00 AM, the words affect the very fabric of space so that one well in tune, one whose mind is in-phase with the space-time continuum, will detect the waves or ripples generated from the speech and discern his location.
“I must find this man!”
The Velkladdeur viewed all the possible outcomes from each decision he made. Ina great many future outcomes, he saw his body lying in state in a large auditorium. This did not frighten him. Throughout his life, he had met others like this unchipped man and eliminated them.
An hour past sunset, the Velkladdeur made his way to the roof of the NSA. He had a room, surprisingly small, that he entered on a weekly basis. Once inside, he closed and locked the doors, lie down on a table, and shut his eyes. The room, sound-proof and always kept at 98.6 F and 0% humidity, was a key component for his longevity. He pressed a button on the wall, placed a visor over his eyes, and waited.
A series of images flashed off and on at such a rate it seemed to be mere pulses of light. The images were discrete pictures of daily events in his life. A daily photographic record of his last 67 years. It was found out that viewing these clips reinforced the neural network in his genetically-enhanced brain. It also forced his brain into a default-type setting. When humans first started undergoing gene therapy trials, the neurons had trouble adapting to the increased life span. As a result, people went insane, which defeated the purpose of gene enhancement. In 1999, Dr. Abram Nasglow, a cognitive scientist at MIT, discovered that if you stimulated neurons, new and more connections would form between them, so that thinking became clearer. One of the drawbacks was the Velkladdeur was unable to dream.