25 August 2011

Page 30...approximately

There’s a certain exhilaration people feel when they walk off the job knowing that, in the next room over, sits a man whose sole purpose in life (for the next 28 days) is to find you and drag you screaming, or kicking, or both, to the Velkladdeur—the second most mysterious man on the planet. The most mysterious man on the planet is so mysterious nobody knows anything about him, hence does not appear (as far as I know) in this book.

Once outside, Maurice felt able to breathe comfortably.

Two women and a little boy walked past. He followed them.

Another person stepped in line. Then another. Soon, a small crowd of people were making their way towards a complex of dome-shaped buildings a mile away…the Hives. Maurice felt compelled to investigate. The closer the buildings, the greater the sense of evil grew on him.

The air seemed heavier, thicker. And, “are my eyes getting blurry?” He wondered.

The crowd walked by a gravel parking lot. “Now is my chance. I’ll act like I’m going to my car, then duck out of site until everybody is gone.”

Maurice scrambled three feet down a dusty path and surveyed the lot.

“Let’s see now. What kind of a car would Mr. Perez, ex-lab technician at Z-Tech drive? The white Mustang? Nope. Too flashy. The black Ford SUV? It would be easy to hide under, but too hot in the April sun. And in this corner we have a green Jeep. Ahh, just right.”

Maurice walked to a dirty Wrangler and peered inside. “Whoever drives this thing must have stock in McDonalds and Marlboro.” The floor was littered with cigarette butts and Big Mac wrappers. It was an older model Jeep, one that required you to punch in a numeric password to open. Unlike the newer versions that only required one to pass your arm over a dash-mounted scanner. The scanner detected the microchip in your arm or ID bracelet, and presto. . .the door unlocked itself. In the decade since Government Motors began building cars with the scanners, automobile thefts dropped to virtually zero. Still, some people refused to purchase new cars and relied on pre-2015 models.

“Ow! Let me go!” shouted a voice. Maurice heard scuffling at the end of the parking lot. Two men wearing identical clothing; black pants, black shirt, and black shoes, were arresting somebody. The Sweep Patrol.

In a matter of seconds, the Sweep Patrollers subdued the man, scanned him, and subjected him to a breath test on their portable GC-MS systems that monitored volatile organic compounds, or VOC’s, that were considered markers for various disease. They also told you what food you ate, how much, and where you purchased it.

A crowd gathered around the scene like a pack of hyenas. And like hyenas, they laughed and stared at the prisoner.

Maurice threw himself to the ground and rolled under the Jeep. He didn’t hear or see the man in black watching him. So when a face appeared some time after the mass of people had passed by, he thought for certain he was caught.

Maurice wanted to crawl away and die. He rolled to his side and saw the face of a tall, thin, grey-haired man with a beak of a nose staring at him. It was Jakob Warder.

“I thought you would be here. He kicked Maurice’s foot. “You awake or not?” He smiled and continued, “sleeping your life away?”

He crawled from under the jeep and looked at Jakob like he had never seen him before.

“Come on. We’ve got to get away from this place,” said Jakob. “Are you ready to for an adventure?”

“Believe me. I’m more than ready.” Maurice crawled from under the jeep and shook his hand. A prickly sensation ran up his arm.

Jakob 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?”

“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, Maurice 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 traveler friend, whistling away as if he hadn’t a care in the world.

“Who is this guy?” thought Maurice. “And why is he going toward the Hives?”

“Where am I going?” said Jakob. “You’ll see.”

Maurice’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, Mr. Warder. I hate to break the news to you, but I’m 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?”

“Maurice stopped and looked at Jakob. “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 Jakob. “Perhaps even more than you know about yourself,” and in a barely audible voice added, “Mr. Blue.”

They arrived at the front of the building and walked around it. Maurice 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 Jakob in a calm but stern voice. “Keep walking. Look straight ahead. The Hives have a hypnotic music that draws people.”

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 Maurice wanted to know. He said nothing. They stopped by a TGC-stenciled BMW motorcycle.

Jakob undid a clasp on the bike and produced two helmets. He pressed a switch inside them and gave one to Maurice. “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.”

Maurice 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.”

Jakob pressed a switch on his watch and talked. Maurice 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.” Maurice got the idea.

Jakob and Maurice 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. Maurice 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. Jakob 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 near Canaan Valley,” said Jakob suddenly.

“A little dusty, isn’t it? Why so much dust?”

“Can’t see much. Dust covers hidden cameras, and is hard on equipment. Makes it easy to hide from prying eyes. Useful when you want to be hidden and sometimes you just need peace and quiet.”

“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.”

Maurice 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. Jakob 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 yellow 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 Maurice.


Maurice 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 Jakob shot forward ahead of the Rhino.

They’re hydrogen powered,” came Jakob’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.” Maurice wondered if anything could get louder. “They also fire rockets from the wings.”

Jakob increased his speed and soon the Rhino was merely another lumbering dust cloud.

“Friend of yours?”

“Hardly. Rhino operators are 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. Russell and Buck drive them for a living in between chess matches.

“I’m confused,” said Maurice.

“I’ll explain later.”

“Please do.”

21 August 2011

Page 29.75

Candy took out a pen and scribbled furiously on a notepad that, curiously enough, had the words Today's Novel Idea printed at the top. She wrote the following.

Lt. Jones and the Velkladdeur are looking for you. Asking lots of questions. Not safe here. Knows you mised The Call yesterday and didn't go to Hives. Lt. Jones is here-now in waiting room. Must leave!!

"Here you go Mr. Blue," and she handed Maurice the note.

"I see," Maurice replied. He stared thoughfully for a moment then whispered. "I'll keep in touch-somehow. Goodbye Candy."

Candy could only nod and whispered a barely audible, "Goodbye Maurice."

15 August 2011

Page 29.5

The next day when Maurice went to work, his I.D. would not immediately scan. After consulting with the electronic guard, he was finally allowed to enter the building.

Candy eyed him suspiciously. She was also dressed auspiciously-for her anyways. She wore a classy dark blue pinstripe pants suit with a Celtic necklace inscribed with the words anam cara on the outer rim and with the English translation soul friend on the inner rim, and to all appearances seemed like a normal secretary with her serious demeanor.

“Good morning, Mr. Blue.”

“Morning, Candy.”

“We’ve had a visitor this morning and the visitor is still visiting.”

It was apparent Candy was nervous and overly business-like. Maurice knew something was wrong when she pointed with her eyes and shoulder towards the waiting room and whispered.

“Mr. Rumple Steelskin is here…from the MOB.”


“Yes, Mr. Blue.”

“Mr. Rumple…er…Mr. Wolf.”


“Mr. Wolf was asking for directions to Grandma’s house.”

“Grandma’s house?”

“Er…yes….and since Mr. Lumberjack wasn’t around to …you know, ax Mr. Wolf properly himself…I sent him to the visitor’s lounge.” She then nodded vigorously and opened her eyes wider than he thought possible. Maurice was thoroughly confused by this time, and Candy…he thought was more than thoroughly confused. He blamed it on an overdose of Lifequility.



“What in the world are you talking about?”

10 August 2011

Page 28

“How did you come about to work at Z-Tech in the first place,” asked Polly.

“Once upon a time, I believe it was around 15 B.G. (Before Google), a fellow asked me,

“Do you want a job in Z-Tech’s Culinary Department?”

“I don’t recall exactly what the job entailed but it had something to do with determining the edibleness of wild mushrooms and clinical trials in the first stage of FDA approval. The amount offered was prodigious and my main thought was, ‘hopefully I get into the placebo group.’ But due to a deep-seated aversion to gambling and a very religious upbringing forbidding drugs and alcoholic beverages, apart from Vanilla flavoring, declined the offer.

That’s not to say I didn’t think about it. With the extra money I could start a side business raising emus on a ranch with salmon and trout streams. Emus lay the world’s second largest egg and one can make Faberge-like egg-purses for the rich and fragile. The omelets would be huge…something like 14 regular chicken eggs equals one emu egg with the only danger being a really bad case of Salmonella.

I could quit the part-time gig as an Elmo mascot at the local kid’s museum and tell people I’m an Anthromycologist at parties serving expensive hors d’oeurves consisting of rare fish, goat cheese, and the non-lethal mushrooms. Mrs. Perez, the beautiful, charming, and witty Mrs. Perez…we met at the university cafeteria and knew we were made for each other when we discovered a mutual interest in big birds, trash-can dwelling life forms, and snuffleupagus sightings…would be at my side. The rich people would come bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and $25 Starbucks gift certificates and sing praises to my name call me blessed one and a really fun guy. I would wax eloquent and give my opinion on alternatives to an NCAA D1 football playoff system called Stimulus II. And when they ask me deep philosophical questions such as,

“How do they punish a Siamese twin if one commits murder?”

I’ll say, “Bring me a sword!” and stall for time until I think of something profound and mutter obscure Latin phrases until…until I direct them to my Emu-Faberge purse web site on the new and improved Max iPad much to the chagrin of the wonderful Mrs. Perez, Proctor and Gamble, and those seeking enlightenment.

“Lesser Sensory Perception (LSP) is the path to true happiness…still stalling…if one hears no evil, sees no evil, or feels no evil, it is only a matter of time until one disbelieves in evil. So when evil comes, one calls it ‘ungoodness.’ Which, technically speaking, is not an actual English word so one might as well re-arrange the letters to make ‘goosed nuns.’ And everybody knows a goosed nun is a rare nun albeit a definite evil.”

Fortunately, the same fellow offered me another job at Z-Tech in the Pharmaceutical Department.”

“This sounds a bit like Jakob’s Predestination.”

“Or Fate,” said Maurice. “I’m still up in the air on the whole Predestination thing. How about yourself? How did you become the lifestyle editor of the Shenandoah Valley Times?”

“Well, my story isn’t quite like yours, but here goes.

Once upon a time not long ago for people with long memories, nor far away for people with access to paved roads, I was in English class studying things that modify other things. I don't know what the things getting modified were, but I couldn’t help but think what a shallow and hollow existence the modifiers must lead knowing their sole purpose was to constantly assure nouns of their true qualities. Dangling participles, hanging gerunds, or uptight adverbs arguing over objects, both directly or indirectly, was a complete mystery such that I felt deeply disturbed by the whole situation and felt compelled to ponder it. After a particularly lonesome noun spent fifteen grueling minutes getting told how wonderful, great, shiny, tall, and querulous it was, I seriously doubted if there was any hope for the little fellow and wondered if guidance counselors felt the same way about kids with consonant-heavy surnames.

After much ponder a sort of melancholy set in. This, coupled to the fact I sat in the back of the class...on a warm sunny day...by an open window...next to a large fan...and behind a rather large classmate led me into deeper thoughts until a mild depression struck. The sort of depression one feels when you discover Santa Claus isn't quite the jolly old Scandinavian you thought and Milo and Otis aren't truly talking animals. Soon, the depression merged into a cat-nap, which in turn merged onto a human nap. And that’s when I discovered the Law of the Conservation of Entropy.”

“Which is?”

“Brains in motion tend to stay in motion, and brains at rest tend to watch hours upon hours of television.”

“And you want your brain to be…?”

“In a constant state of flux. I decided to become a writer, and rest is rapidly becoming a historically significant event in the Book of Life.”

* * *
Candy Skipper was tired. She had planned on a quiet day at work and wanted nothing dramatic, like yesterday’s Call, to impinge upon her daily plans. When she walked into her office, she was surprised to see an official of Z-Tech’s Monitoring Other’s Business section (MOB) waiting for her.

“Candy Skipper?” the man stood and stretched his hand towards her. “Lieutenant Jones from the MOB. 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-Maurice Perez. We are having some difficulty locating him and thought you might shed some light on his location.”

“Yes. Mr. Perez works here. Is he in any trouble?”

“Oh, no. Nothing of the sort,” he said. “It’s just that yesterday he didn’t go to the Hives when The Call sounded. Is he ill?”

“Not that I know of,” Candy replied. She thought the little man from the MOB 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.” Candy 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. I’m his secretary, nothing more, nothing less.”

“Is he supposed to be in today?”

“You’re asking the wrong person.” And a lot of them, she thought. “Why don’t you just stick around and wait for him yourself,” she smiled.

The little man from the MOB stared at her blankly.

“Why does the MOB 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. . .”