Sunday, August 13, 2017

DAY OF THE MOON part 2

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



By R. Peterson

I returned to Cloverdale after seven years abroad to view a total eclipse of the sun and stepped in some trouble … now I was rolling in it. The special tinted glasses I bought from Ted Burlap at his second hand store somehow were allowing me to see what I called Negatives … a nice name for ghosts. The lingering dead  seemed to be everywhere. Although invisible without the glasses, yet somehow they caused physical things to happen in our world. Two sinister looking weapon-wielding Negatives, who looked like they might have come from China or another Asian country before they died, had slipped into the backseat of Susan Demotte’s car. She and her seven-year old boy, who was probably my son, looked to be in grave danger. Susan was the reason I’d left. At the time, I didn’t even know she was pregnant.
It was two blocks to where I’d left the rental car. I ran all the way. I passed two cars and a truck on Townsend before I turned the Nissan Altima south on Wallace and flew over the river bridge in the direction I’d seen Susan go. This was the section of Cloverdale people called the Aluminum farm, five acres of dilapidated single-wide trailer houses, crammed together with fences made of used tires, broken stoves, refrigerators or any other bulky appliance left to rust in someone’s front yard. A chronically drunk Fred Hicks owned the former landfill and his only rule was your Pit Bull had better be tied-up when he came to collect the rent.

-------2-------

I finally spied the rusted maroon 1974 Chevy Malibu parked in front of a tiny trailer next to the river. There was one of those white foam balls you get from Jack-In-the-box attached to the radio antenna. There was no tire fence or broken appliance in the front yard and it looked like she’d been mowing the grass. A neighbor’s caged Shitsu dog was warning everyone about strangers. There were red and yellow tulips growing alongside tomatoes in a bed bordered with river rock next to the wooden steps. I couldn’t see a weed anywhere. The doorbell was hanging from a broken wire so I knocked … but not as loud as I could have. My heart was thumping in my chest. Was I hoping she wouldn’t be home? I saw the curtains move slightly as someone looked out. I could hear doors opening and slamming shut about every thirty seconds. I heard a crash followed by a female cursing.
Two minutes later Susan flung open the door. I could see a few loose strands on her shoulder where she’d brushed her hair and her face was still damp in places. She was wearing a low-cut white lacey sweater that showed off her green eyes and she was still tugging it down. My nose stung from the Versace Bright Crystal perfume, but she still took my breath away. She must have spilled some. “What do you want?” She was glaring and looked ready to punch me. I didn’t blame her; that man-enslaving mist is over ten dollars an ounce.
I hadn’t really thought about what I was going to say and I struggled to come up with some kind of an explanation. People always insist truth is the best option, but in this case they were wrong … they would think I was crazy. Hell! I thought I was crazy! I settled for a half-truth. “I saw two bad people following you … I thought you might be in danger!” I tried to look past her into her house and then realized I wasn’t wearing the eclipse glasses. I quickly put them on.
“Are you stoned?” her hands were on her hips and I could see a faint trace of a smile becoming a smirk on her lips as she stared. “It’s not that bright out and my house is actually pretty dark inside.” She put her foot out as if she expected me to dive for the couch and then leaned forward and sniffed probably to see if I’d been smoking anything. I’m sure I didn’t smell as good as she did.
“I’ve got something going on with my eyes,” I explained, trying to look over her shoulder. Holes in an old stuffed couch had been covered with a blanket. A round glass table held fresh-cut flowers in an empty Pepsi bottle.
“Bad people? Following me?” She looked up and down the street and then smiled. “It looks like you’re alone!”
The sarcasm wasn’t lost on me. I was trying to think of what to say when she turned and yelled. “Jackie come here. Someone wants to see you!” Her eyes looked like yellow stop- lights about to go red as she turned back to me. It was a warning without words. “Is this why you came?” A quiet boy with blonde hair and brown eyes the color of my own scampered up and stood partly behind her.
            “Hi,” I said as the kid stared at me. I felt suddenly uncomfortable and turned to Susan. “He looks like you!”
            “Hi,” the boy said and then tugged at his mother. “Can I play out back if I promise not to go by the water?’
            “Sure,” she told him. “But be careful …and no throwing rocks at Mrs. Brown’s cats!”
Her eyes followed him as he turned and ran. I heard another door open and slam and then she was looking at me again. “He also looks like you, but you’re not his father, Jack. At least not in the right way. It takes more than ten minutes in the back seat of a car to make a person a parent!”
            “I’m sorry Susan,” I said. “If I’d known … I’d never have left.”
            “It’s just as well.” Susan sighed. Her eyes were suddenly sad. “I left my dreams in my pants’ pocket and they went through the wash.”
I saw the look of determination come into her eyes that I remembered from years before. “Jackie is all I have,” she said. “I hope you haven’t come here to try to take him away from me!”
            “No I haven’t,” I stammered. “I didn’t know … I was just worried about you.”
She shrugged her shoulders as if she wanted to believe me. “What did these bad people look like?”
            “Orientals,” I told her. “They looked like they might have come from China!”
This time her smile was toothpaste commercial bright. “There’s a new Tai restaurant in town … perhaps they had the wrong take-out address.”
She slammed the door in my face. The neighbor’s Shitsu was still yapping. I saw at least a dozen cats race across the grass as I walked to my car. “I get the message!’ I said. “I’m going!”

-------3-------

            Susan didn’t believe me, but I knew she was in danger. Ted Burlap said he’d bought the glasses from Joseph Callahan’s estate sale. The old man was dead but his son Egbert ran the local mortuary. I hoped he could tell me what was going on. On A Cloud Garden occupies an entire block on the south east corner of Meghan Way and Garlow streets. The outside of the massive stucco building is spectacular, with exotic flora imported from all over the world. The interior is even more impressive.
There was no doorbell and the huge intricately carved black walnut door was unlocked so I went inside. On the far side of an elegant sitting room with walls, furniture and carpeting all a glistening white, round top mahogany doors opened into a two-acre indoor garden that took your breath away. A magnificent waterfall cascaded from a clear domed ceiling more than thirty feet high into a pool surrounded by a forest of rare Moth orchids. The fragrance was like synthesized euphoria. Dark rock expertly mixed with lush green foliage made you feel like you were walking in a high mountain meadow. A white mist rose everywhere from the ground and made you feel like you were walking on clouds. The vapors were strangely cold and seemed to stimulate the senses. I was suddenly alert and ravenously hungry as I crossed a fairytale bridge, spanning a gurgling stream filled with jumping Arowana fish, and saw a Japanese woman cutting black roses with a knife. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to intrude,” I said. “I’m looking for Mr. Callahan. Is he here today?” The kimono wearing gardener gestured toward an elevator door hidden behind a grove of  Yucca Rostrata palm trees, without looking at me, and then she pointed down. There were just two buttons on the inside of the elevator one with an arrow pointing up and one pointing down … I pushed down.
            I heard the tiny steam-whistle blast as soon as the elevator door opened. A miniature HO scale locomotive with the number 419 printed in white below the cab window and pulling a tinder car and several passenger cars roared out of a tunnel built into a wall that looked like the side of a mountain. The tiny train rumbled past miniature farm ground expertly detailed with tiny barns, trees and farm animals. I thought I recognized Porter’s Pig farm complete with a rusted ‘48 flatbed  Ford truck that had set in a patch of weeds for years and was bent over the table top layout studying the intricately detailed buildings behind it when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I nearly jumped out of my skin. Egbert Callahan smiled. “Looks almost real doesn’t it?”
            “Yes,” I gasped. “I worked on the Porter farm one summer and that dented tin pail hanging on the rail fence is the same one I used to feed chickens with!”
            “There was a tiny hole in the bottom of the bucket and you used to leave a little trail of grain wherever you walked,” Egbert pointed.
            “Wow!” I had to put my nose almost on the fake ground but I could see tiny lines of spilled grain in the fake dust.”
            “When it comes to modeling detail is everything,” Egbert told me.
We watched as the tiny train rushed past several farms and then entered another tunnel hole in the wall. “Excuse me,” Egbert said. “But whenever the 419 is running I have to keep a close watch.” I followed him through a doorway down a long hallway and into a much larger room. A minute or so later the train roared through a miniature replica of Cloverdale so detailed I could see sheets hanging on the clothesline behind Mrs. Dern’s house.
            “This is incredible!” I gushed. “How long did it take you to build this?”
            “My father Joseph began the layout in 1919,” Egbert said.  “Almost every spot in Comanche County is shown in intricate detail. But the work is never done. Old building fall down or are burned … and new ones are built.” Egbert put his hands behind his back and turned his head to one side. “But enough about me and my pleasures. What can I help you with?”
I took the strange spectacles from my pocket and showed them to him. “I just got back in town,” I said, “and I bought these eclipse viewing glasses from Ted Burlap. He said they came from your father’s estate sale!” Egbert took the glasses from me and turned the lenses at angles to the light. “They look like they’ll block about 99% of the sun’s harmful rays … what’s your problem?”
            “When I put them on outside I can see what looks like dead people walking around making bad things happen to the living! I’ve been calling them negatives.”
            “Oh that,” Egbert said. “I seem to remember my father had a certain morbid fascination with the Lingerlings.”
            “Is that what you call these ghost like creatures I’ve been seeing?”
            “That was my father’s name for them but I like yours better … Negatives … that name
 seems more appropriate doesn’t it?”
            “What are they? And how can I stop them from harming people?”
            “Lingerlings … or Negatives are the remnants of the deceased that linger long after their souls should have departed for other worlds. They are powered by sunlight and can only operate outdoors during daytime. They often follow someone for weeks before they attack. My father had the glasses special made to locate a Negative who was especially troubling to him. One of my father’s enemies who continued to attack him, his friends, and his business ventures, even after death.”
            “Was your father successful … did he force the Negative to move on?”
            “I believe he did,” Egbert said. “But it wasn’t easy. The conditions have to be just right and you must use ethereal salts to dissolve the lingering spirit.”
            “I’ve never heard of ethereal salts. What are they?”
            “They are what remains when the life force the Chinese call Chi leaves a dead person or animal’s body. They are very difficult to gather and must be used correctly.”
            “Is there anyone in Cloverdale who could help me get some?”
            “You seem especially worried. Are you afraid that a Negative is planning to do you harm?’
            “Not me … an old girlfriend … actually the mother of my child. I saw two very sinister looking Negatives climb into the back seat of her car.”  
“That is troubling,” Egbert said. “But you must remember not all Negatives are bad … some actually are here to help the living.”
“I’m sure,” I told him. “One was carrying a butcher knife and the other an ice pick.”
“I believe Mayor Otter’s young daughter and her friends have acquired some ethereal salts from rotting corpses,” Egbert said, “although I don’t know exactly what they use it for.”
“I saw Joanie when I first got into town,” I told him. “Do you know where I can find her?”
Egbert turned and I followed him into another room. On the other side of a miniature four story building that had to be State Hospital North lay Black Rose Cemetery exhaustingly recreated to show every tree, bush and tombstone. A group of miniature teens all wearing black stood next to what looked like an open grave.  “Joanie and her Cloverbone Goth group are in Black Rose Cemetery until a little after midnight,” Egbert said. “If you hurry you might still catch them there!”
Suddenly the tiny train chugged to a stop at a tiny house just outside of town. Egbert and I watched as a wraithlike figure leaped from the train and ran toward the hose. Moments later we watched the dark figure drag an old woman toward the train. “Mrs. Evans!” Egbert gasped. “I knew when the train started up someone was about to die. I never dreamed it would be her. She’s only seventy-eight I believe. But I guess we all have to go sometime.” He pulled a small appointment book from his coat pocket and began to thumb through the pages. “We can probably have her funeral on Wednesday. I’d better notify the cemetery sexton.”
            I thought it was strange that Egbert said I should hurry until I looked at my watch. It was eleven thirty PM. I’d been in On A Cloud Garden for almost nine hours. “You said that in order for the ethereal salts to work conditions have to be just right!” I called to Egbert as I ran toward the elevator. “What are these conditions?”
            “Why a total eclipse of the sun,” Egbert said putting his appointment book back in his pocket. “It’s the only time Negatives are inactive long enough to salt them.”
Ten minutes later, I had the rental car flying down Vineyard Road. The eclipse was in two days … I had one chance to save Susan.

-------4-------

The moon was almost full and hovered like a huge red ball in the night sky. People in the know say it’s because of smoke in the air. A massive forest fire or two must be burning somewhere. The cast iron gates were open at Black Rose Cemetery, but I turned off my headlights and parked outside.  If Joanie and her friends were in there I didn’t want to scare them away. I walked past rows of tombstones glowing white under the light from the moon and the reddish tint made the night breeze blowing the withered grass look like they were floating in a sea of blood. I stopped several times and put on the eclipse glasses sure I would see hundreds of spirits crowding the cemetery. There was nothing. Then I remembered Egbert saying the Negatives were powered by the sun and only came out in daylight. I tried to laugh but it was hard. As a kid we had it all wrong. We were always afraid to walk through a cemetery at night … but it was daytime we should have been wary of.
I was nearing the back of the graveyard when I heard what sounded like low chanting. I fell to the ground and began to crawl … not sure if Cloverbone would welcome an intrusion.
Dooba Nanbean … go ra sin.
Open Hell and let us in.
We’ve been bad … you must agree.
Let us seek our destiny.

Dooba Gonwat … bla da guy.
Let the angels pass us by.
We wait for shadows … come at night.
Wait for pleasures … of your bite.

 Under the dim light I could just make out a group of dark clad figures crouching next to the ground. Several of the figures raised what looked like hammers high in the air. I heard a girl’s terrified scream that caused my blood to run cold quickly followed by three more. I watched horror-stricken as the dark figures raised a huge wooden-beam X from the ground and braced it with large rocks. The only sound was low moans of agony and the sound of something dripping into the grass.
A naked Joanie Otter hung upside down, high in the air, crucified with her bleeding arms and legs nailed to the center of the structure.

TO BE CONTINUED …






Sunday, August 6, 2017

DAY OF THE MOON

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.


DAY OF
THE MOON
By R. Peterson

I hadn’t been back to Cloverdale in seven years. It wasn’t that I had anything against the small town in western Montana; I get along with almost everyone. I left because I was falling in love with someone who deserved more than I could give. I’d been all over the world. I hitchhiked across Europe, got mugged in a London tube station and spent two weeks in jail in Bangkok for sleeping in a public park. Thailand police let me go because I had no money and refused to haul bags of rice on my back. I ended up working on a sheep ranch in New Zealand for four years because I liked the family I was living with and saved every dollar I made. There was nothing there that I wanted to buy and it seemed like I’d reached the edge of the world.
I spent my nights cleaning a rusted Purdey shotgun, listening for a pack of hungry dogs and studying the stars. One night when I was dragging a lamb to a birthing shed with a bawling mother tailing behind, Oliver Anderson showed me a newspaper map of America with the route of a solar eclipse drawn on it. Cloverdale was right smack in the middle of the path. The accompanying article said the eclipse only returns to a certain spot on Earth every three-hundred and seventy-five years. After thinking about it for several nights while I stared at the constellation Pyxis – (the Compass) I finally decided it had to be an omen of sorts … and it was time to go back.

-------2-------

            There is no public airport in Comanche County so when I landed in Missoula, at 6 AM, I rented a car. I took the Vineyard Road exit off from highway thirteen and then turned left on Townsend Avenue. The town looked pretty much as I remembered; some things never change. Three boys, being chased by a rabid looking dog, raced each other down the sidewalk on rusty bicycles. Two young men dressed in Goth attire followed four lost-looking teenage girls wearing black lipstick as they walked out of the alley behind the Royal Theatre. The boys followed exactly nine steps behind; Corpse Bride was displayed on the show-house marquee. A girl who looked like Joanie Otter, only older than I remember, pulled what looked like a severed hand attached to a string out of a black bag and gave it a spin. When a bony extended finger stopped pointing north toward Black Rose Cemetery the group set off in that direction.
An orange VACANCY flashed in the dirty window of the Jagger Hotel and I thought I’d probably have to book a room there later. The old four story building still gave me the creeps but as far as I knew it was still the only place to rent a room in town.
Even with a total eclipse of the sun due to happen in three days there wasn’t a lot of traffic. A graphic banner stretched across the street from the Comanche County Library to the Rifleman Barber Shop at Wallace Street read DAY OF THE MOON August 21st.  Someone had drawn the moon so that it looked like it was on fire … and I knew I was home.

-------3-------

The Spare-A-Time Café sits on the North West corner of Townsend Avenue and Main Street and if you want to know anything about the city or who is in town it’s the place to go. The place was packed, noisy and boisterous. Lucky for me four lumber mill workers just vacated a booth next to the window and I grabbed it. I slid the pile of quarters they left for a tip toward the edge of the table and had just turned my cup over waiting for coffee when I caught a glimpse of strawberry blonde trusses bouncing out of the kitchen. The face under the hair was hidden behind four steaming plates of hamburger and fries but I knew it had to be Susan Demotte. No other girl on Earth moves the way she does. I felt a sharp pain in the left side of my chest like I’d been kicked by a balking mule … or perhaps shot by a baby’s bow and arrow. Just before I left town she was engaged to marry Frank Olsen and was set live the rich life. What the hell was she doing working in a place like this, and why did I have to run into her my first day back in town? Lucky for me she was working another section of tables and I turned my head to look out at the street when she hurried past.
Mary Lee rushed over with a pot of coffee and almost dropped it when she went to pour my cup. “Jack Taylor!” she gasped. “I thought you were dead!”
“There were a few times when I thought so too,” I grinned. “But here I am.”
She sat the pot on the table and gave me a hug. “So many people will want to see you,” she said. “Perhaps I should move you to a larger table. Those two families in the center are just about to leave.” I looked around to see familiar faces smiling … some were gesturing for me to join them.
            “That’s okay,” I told her. “I just got back in town and I need some time to catch my breath.” She noticed me staring past her as Susan set the burgers in front of four truck drivers.
            “She’s not married now,” Mary whispered. “She was, but that Olsen boy liked to knock her around. You’d think someone with that much money would have better manners!”
Susan turned just as Mary walked away and for an instant her eyes were locked on mine. The shimmering green color reminded me of leisurely moonlight walks and illegal night fishing along the banks of the Cottonmouth River and the reflected ripples in the water as we made wishes on falling stars. A forgotten melody from an old rock song echoed back from the dusty corners of my mind. I don't hardly know her. But I think I could love her. The dark areas under her eyes reminded me of the places where the best memories hide and the secrets that made her so interesting. I thought I saw a tear roll down her cheek just before she turned away.
Someone slapped me on the back and then sat down across from me grinning. “I usually know when any ne’er-do-wells roll into town, but it looks like you’ve taken me by surprise!” My old pal Gary Manning looked almost the same, except that he was now wearing the uniform of a Comanche County Sheriff’s Deputy.
            “I didn’t know they allowed criminals to work off their fines posing as police officers!” I shot back.
            “I’ve cleaned up my act some since you ran out on us,” Gary said. “Sheriff Walker is getting too old to chase down cow thieves and drug smugglers and John Walker the fifth is still at the law enforcement academy.” Mary was suddenly at our booth and filled Gary’s cup.
            “I know police work often runs in families,” I mused. “But why does each one have to be named John?”
            “Tradition,” Gary said. “Besides this is Cloverdale … we make our own rules.” He noticed me watching Susan as she hurried into the kitchen. “She had a bad time after you left,” he said. “I don’t think she really wanted to marry Frank but I think she felt trapped.”
            “How so?”
Gary shook his head. “She was two month’s pregnant and just starting to show. That Baptist preacher father of hers would have disowned her for sure.”
            “Pregnant?” I gasped. “How could that be?”
            “All this time I thought you knew.” Gary rose from the table as excited shouts in Spanish erupted from the back of the café. A group of pipe moving, Mexicans had formed a circle and set two angry roosters on the floor and were exchanging money as they watched the bloody fight. “Dios maldito... no en aquí!” Gary thundered as he pushed his way through the crowd.
            I happened to glance toward the door just as Susan pushed her way out the door. A large group was waiting for tables. I watched as she ran across the street and tossed her apron into the back seat of a rusted 1974 Chevy Malibu and then rushed into a day care center. She came out a minute later dragging what looked like a seven year old boy. “Susan said she was sick and left on our busiest morning all year,” Mary said as she tried to refill my cup. I covered it with my hand. “I hope you didn’t bring some strange disease with you from your travels!” She winked.
            “So do I,” I told her as I got up from the booth.
The Chevy was just a distant puff of smoke when I got out on the sidewalk. Susan turned south on Wallace Street. Across the river bridge was the poor section of town, A hundred crummy trailer houses jammed together on five acres. I hoped that was not where she lived.

-------4-------

            “You here to watch the eclipse?” I turned. Digging Bear was leaning against the café like a grinning cigar-store Indian. I went to shake his hand but he hugged me instead and then we wrestled on the sidewalk in a mock fight. “I’m glad you’re back,” he said. “It’s been pretty dull around here!”
            “Cloverdale?” I laughed. “I find that hard to believe! Are you still breaking into the liquor store every Saturday night?”
            “No,” Digging Bear said. “That’s what I mean about dull … now I own the store!”
I guess he noticed my mouth hanging open. “The feds finally paid the tribe for what they did to us at Wounded Knee.” He smiled sheepishly. “I’ve also got a brand new Aztec gold Ford pickup painted with big white spots on the back fenders to look like an Appaloosa!”
            “You damn Injuns just ain’t no fun anymore!” I laughed and he joined me.
            “If you don’t have your glasses yet for viewing the eclipse you’d better get them now,” Digging Bear said. “They’re selling out all over town!”
Digging Bear was right, every store I went into was sold out of the special dark glasses. Suddenly I remembered the second hand store and I wondered if Ted Burlap still ran the place.

-------5--------

I shook my head at the yellowed porcelain marionette hanging in the dirty window of the junk store; it looked at least five hundred years old and something about the glass eyes embedded in the skull filled with hair-line cracks gave me the creeps. A tiny bell rang when I opened the door. Ted Burlap, not his real unpronounceable last name and the oldest Jewish citizen of Cloverdale, appeared from a back room an eager smile twisting his rat-like face. “Hello,” he said looking at my clothing. I knew he was trying to determine how much money I had. “What can I do you for?” I smiled inwardly at his words … he was trying to put himself on my level.
            “I just got into town,” I told him. “I need a pair of eclipse glasses, but they seem to be sold out everywhere.”
I could see the disappointment wash over him like a cold shower. Eclipse viewing glasses were notoriously cheap made of flimsy cardboard and only sold for a buck or two. There wasn’t going to be much profit in my request … unless. I could almost hear the gears rolling in his head like an old fashioned Vegas slot machine ready to dump a pound of nickels. Suddenly he snapped his fingers and a light went on in both his eyes. “I might have something for you,” he said. He turned and I followed him, “in the back.”
            He rummaged through a wooden box filled with old magazines and rabbit-ear TV antennas. Near the bottom under a pile of old radio tubes he pulled out a pair of what looked like the darkest sunglasses I’d ever seen. The frames were made of what appeared to be bent welding rod and the lenses appeared to be coated glass. “I got these from Joseph Callahan’s estate sale,” Ted explained. “I think the man had them made special for counting sun spots. If these will work I can let you have them for say … twenty bucks!”
            “I don’t know,” I said as he handed me the glasses. “They look kind of old, like something Heinrich Himmler would wear to an execution on the beach.”
Ted squirmed like a rabbit with his foot caught in a trap. “Eighteen bucks,” he said, “and I’ll even clean the lenses.”
I knew the man expected me to bargain with him … it was part of the ritual.”
            “Anything more than five dollars,” I said, “and I’ll walk out to that Conoco station by Highway 13. Someone said they had a whole rack full!”
            “Eight dollars and I’ll throw in a hat,” Ted said. He dug through a different box and pulled out something that looked like the kind of bucket-hat Henry Winkler wore in one of his movies. I almost laughed but then I figured with the hat and dark glasses I might be able to get close enough to Susan without having her running off.
            “I’ll take them if they work,” I told him. Ted followed me outside.

-------6-------

It was almost 10 AM and the sun was about a forty-five degree angle in the sky. When I put the glasses on I couldn’t see anything but when I turned east, the sun appeared like a fifteen-watt light-bulb glowing inside a frosted glass ball. Joseph Callahan obviously knew what he was doing. I could see distinct features on the sun with dark and light areas. I turned around and started to take them off when something caught my eye. It looked like a negative being projected from a high contrast black and white film. A sinister and very white human figure appeared to be moving away from me with both hands stretched in front … perhaps reaching for something. I pulled the glasses off to see what it was. Two women were walking down the sidewalk. One of them held a wrapped baby that was crying. “I hope Doctor Descombey can find out what’s wrong with Bobbie,” the first woman gasped. “It’s like he keeps getting weaker and weaker!”
            “Amazing aren’t they?” Ted gestured toward the glasses, took my money and walked back inside his shop.
I put the glasses back on. The negative man appeared to be choking something! I pulled the glasses off again and this time both gals were bent over the infant. They gasped and began to run down the sidewalk. I chased after the women to see what would happen but I lost them when they went inside the doctor’s office. I wandered around town seeing lots of things I wish I hadn’t.
            I stopped on the corner of Townsend and Main Street and put the eclipse glasses back on. The street was filled with negative men, women and even animals from all time periods. I watched a team of negative horses go galloping past pulling a wagon being driven by a terrified negative man. A negative Indian warrior wearing a war bonnet thundered behind on a horse and appeared to shoot something with a bow. When I took the glasses off, I saw an elderly man crumple on the sidewalk clutching his chest … no one was around him. A crowd gathered. Someone said he was having a heart attack.
It was as if when I put the glasses on I was looking at another world which is around us all the time but that you can’t see. A world filled with the dead where they can make things happen to the living. I was amazed … and also more than a little terrified.
I was thinking about going back to Ted’s junk store to tell him that I’ve changed my mind and get my money back, and probably get the hell out of town, when I saw Susan Demotte coming out a Spare-A-Dime with her child in tow. She must have forgotten something. I instinctively put the eclipse lasses back on and pulled down the Henry Winkler hat so she wouldn’t recognize me. I quickly pulled the glasses off trying to catch my breath.
Two negative Chinese with pointed coolie-hats were following Susan and her son. Both her pursuers looked skeletal and walked with jerky lurching movements. A long butcher knife gleamed from a boney man’s hand. A woman held an ice pick. I watched as Susan took forever to strap my son into the passenger seat and then move around to the driver’s side.
            I had to find out what the negative people were doing. When I put the glasses back on at first I couldn’t see them, then I caught a glimpse of them moving quickly away. I took the eclipse glasses off and stared. They were both flashing oriental grins from the back-seat of Susan’s battered car!

TO BE CONTINUED …



Sunday, July 30, 2017

TO SAVE TEUTH part 5

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.


By R. Peterson


Like a dark stain moving across the vast fabric of space time, the Swarm advanced. So great was the volume of dark-matter powering their enormous ship engines, light from a billion stars was bent temporarily inward, visually turning the telescopic images of thousands of galaxies into massive black holes. Forgotten for the moment were the millions of worlds in the midst of being ravaged and consumed. A subliminal message delivered without the constraints and laws of physics had spread throughout the universe.
It was not unusual for the egg-layer to be alone. After thousands of compliant workers had constructed the hive, Derhaka had leisurely eaten them. The Vabalas’s enormous matriarch always removed herself to a remote and secret location to lay her millions of planter-eggs; otherwise the insatiable appetite of the Swarm would consume their own future generations. These millions of eggs in turn would quickly hatch and mature to lay trillions more on un-ravaged but defenseless worlds carefully set aside for that purpose. The Swarm was not one mass migration but an endless series of waves each one hundreds of thousands of years apart.
Derhaka could inexplicably feel the end of her own wave approaching or some new threat perhaps this was the last laying … surely no more than a hundred more hatchings and a host of new royals would emerge. Each would then fight their sibling to the death to become godlike. The safety of this small hive had now been breached and she was furious. Her senses told her of an intruder and she began to search. Derhaka would have laughed, had she been capable of such a non-insectile emotion, if she had focused any one of her twenty six eyes on the by-form half-Porosities female creeping into her chamber. Such a tiny spark to ignite a firestorm.
The royal guards would arrive in minutes to fight to the death to protect the eggs from the hungry hordes that would follow. The eggs would eventually be consumed, so great were the numbers of Swarm responding, but the egg-layer would be saved from whatever danger threatened … for as long as this wave lasted.
The terrified crew of the Centurion orbiting an iridium gas cloud many light years from Aquaduna was hurtled into a cataclysm as a thousand Vabalas ships streaked past blocking all starlight, bending gravity and ignoring them completely. There was no time for the Swarm to destroy a pitifully insignificant vessel of little value … the royal egg-layer Queen Derhaka had called.

-------2-------

 Keeper, Jeff Bland and all those closest to the opening were blown backward tumbling end over end in clouds of debris and water vapor when the anti-mater charges detonated under the shelf entrance. ‘Let’s not do that again shall we?” Jeff groaned struggling into an upright position, thankful for the containment bubbles that had protected them from the worst of the horrific explosion.
“It worked,” Keeper said pointing toward the entrance where hundreds of house sized boulders had buried the advancing cigar ships. “But it looks like we sealed off our only way out!”
The Aquadunans searched through the wreckage looking for lost family members. Jeff watched as a mother and father joined tentacles with at least seven offspring forming a kind of circle. Soon other groups were joining, sometimes attaching all eight appendages until the cluster numbered more than a thousand. “This is the way Cephalopod societies communicate and exchange information. If one member is missing or is injured or harmed in any way the entire group knows it.” Keeper said.
After a few minutes the clusters began to break up and Gogt swam over. “How bad is it?” Keeper asked knowing there had to be fatalities.
“About a third of our species are dead or are missing,” Gogt said. “It could have been worse. If Garwon’s ships had not been stopped we would have all been suctioned to our doom.”
“I blame myself,” Keeper said. “I didn’t believe the Vabalas would share such advanced technology with a race of amphibians.”
“The Swarm is driven by hunger,” Gogt said. “They will do anything to satisfy their enormous appetites.”
A pulsing ring of light surrounded Keeper’s head and he tapped it with his finger. The light ring instantly became a hologram of Second Officer Squem, a gaseous life form who had been left in charge of the Centurion. The swirling cloud of vapor took the shape of a humanoid as it communicated. “We have tracked 1,243 Vabalas ships hurtling past us at close range,” Squem reported. “At least a hundred times that many are moving toward your location from this part of the universe.” The swirling vapor that formed his face transformed into a smile that looked like an exaggerated version of Jeff Bland’s infamous expression of sarcasm. “I don’t know what you guys did … but you made a bunch of warrior insects very mad!”
“A pile of rock is not going to keep the Swarm from getting to us,” Jeff waved his arms in the air.
“There is nothing we can do now except wait,” Keeper did not seem to be stressed.
“As long as the wait is not too long,” Gogt said. “Our species relies on ocean currents flowing through the shelf opening to supply nutrients and oxygen. With the entrance now blocked off, we’re like fish drowning in a pool of stagnant water.”
“How long?” Keeper asked him.
Gogt looked around at the clusters of Aquadunans several members already seemed to be in distress and were moving their gills at an accelerated pace. “I’d say no more than two hours,” he said, “then things are going to get very ugly!”
            “I don’t think we have to worry about that,” Jeff said. “The Swarm will be here in less than an hour and then none of us are going to have to worry about breathing!”
            “Actually, by my calculations the first wave of Vabalas should reach the surface of Aquaduna in roughly eighteen minutes and twenty-three seconds,” Squem reported.
            “Thank you!” Jeff sneered. “I think we all feel better now!”

-------3-------

            Leika listened intently to the rapid breathing of the young student; Yanadax who had once again taken humanoid form was obviously terrified. “Try to keep away from her if you can,” she whispered.
            “It’s not easy,” Yanadax gasped. “This place is like a maze with thousands of rooms filled with eggs; every passageway seems to lead to the Queen’s chamber!”
Leika closed her eyes and tried to remember everything she could about insects especially those who lived in colonies. “The queen is probably almost blind,” she said. “Her sole function is to lay eggs and direct the swarm from a dark and warm place. She seldom leaves the hive and probably relies on perception, instinct and telepathy rather than physical senses.”
            “You’re right about it being warm!” Yanadax said. “It feels like I’m inside some kind of womb. It must be a hundred degrees in here … with at least 60% humidity. The box that I keep my friends in is bulging … I think they want out!”
            “You brought the Ledos inside the hive with you!” Leika was almost shouting.
            “Sometimes they feel like my only friends!”
Leika noticed the orb shaped objects with spikes protruding from the outside had reached the ocean floor and were racing toward the base of the pyramid. Their searchlights swept the ruins of the Aquadunan city. “I think the Swarm has started to arrive and I need to find a place to hide! Will you be okay?”
Yanadax sounded out of breath. “I can’t talk now … she’s coming … and I can’t hold the box lid closed!”
Leika swam away from the base of the pyramid looking for a place to hide. She spied a partially collapsed tunnel that had once formed part of an underwater building. Seconds after she dropped into it the first ship arrived. Whoever was inside the vessel was feeling bloody, highly concentrated laser beams swept the area obviously searching for any life forms left in the ruins. A school of sickly sun-flower fish swam past and was instantly vaporized along with three skeletal looking crab like creatures and a group of battered Cetacea.
Suddenly from inside the pyramid there came the sound of singing. Yanadax said the Legos were happy where it was warm and from the way she described the inside of the hive they must have now thought they were in heaven. The voices grew louder and more plentiful as if the tiny creatures were doubling in number every second.
“Through countless ages long we search.
For mother’s warm embrace!
Through frozen planets want of sun.
To perpetuate our race.

At last this world we seek and find.
 We finally do arrive.
To make our home in ruins of
A torn Vabalas hive.”


The Swarm’s guard ships were now tearing down the outside of the pyramid. “Derhaka! Derhaka!” Stone blocks some weighing as much as five tons were flung in all directions along with piles of eggs. The singing of the Legos had now reached insane levels exceeding 200 decibels and rising beyond 20,000 Hz. Leika had both hands covering her ears when the last black was flung away and the Queen’s chamber lay exposed. Yanadax stood in the center of a large platform separated from the water by some kind of pressure field. The box that had held the Legos lay open at her feet. The monstrous Queen of the Vabalas loomed over her like a giant sized wasp trembling with unconstrained fury. Laser beams erupted from the Swarm ships and began to sweep toward the terrified girl. “Derhaka! Derhaka!” Only Yanadax’s close proximity to the matriarch kept her from being instantly vaporized. Suddenly the Queen stood erect the two sets of fronts legs becoming arms that spread outward. “No! She is mine!” the alien words seemed to explode inside Leika’s head and she fought to remain conscious.
From a massive insectile abdomen as large as a shuttlecraft a barbed stinger appeared more than ten meters long. Tapering to a needle sized point the spear-like projectile hovered in the air above Yanadax. A vile yellow liquid dripped from the stinger’s end.
Leika screamed a second after Yanadax did. There was a corresponding echo that seemed to rise in pitch and volume coming from the chamber and then Leika watched horrified as the Swarm’s Queen joyfully plunged the massive stinger through Yanadax’s chest and stomach and out the other side.

-------4-------

The Swarm ships were removing the rocks and debris that covered the shelf entrance. One of the cigar ships was now free and it began to fire on the Aquadunans huddled in one corner of the shelf. Keeper and Bland resolved that they would protect the one hundred students they were transporting at all costs. Two more of the cigar ships were almost uncovered. Keeper, Jeff and Gogt dodged one blast that vaporized hundreds of terrified Cephalopods. Jeff Bland tried to return fire with a laser as a wall behind him disintegrated but the hand held weapon had no effect on the enemy vessel.
“It’s no use,” Keeper said. “Gorwat must have also acquired shielding technology from the Swarm.”
The Aquadunans were being killed in mass all around them.
“So what do we do?’ Jeff always looked to Keeper for answers.
Ionized bolts of dark matter leaped from Keepers outstretched fingers and slammed into the front of the advancing cigar ships. For a moment the ship appeared to be knocked backward but then it advanced again seemingly without damage.
“We fight anyway,” Keeper told him.

-------5-------

Leika was barely aware that the sound coming from the hive was made by the Legos. The volume and frequency rose to such extreme levels she could no longer hear but the vibrations were beginning to shatter the rock structures in the ruined city. A stone wall rose from the ocean floor and then shattered into millions of fragments as a sound wave of earthquake purport ions swept outward in all directions. Leika instinctively dove into the muddy bottom of the trench she was in hoping the bubble she was encased in would offer some protection. Still the volume and the frequency of the Legos song increased even with both of her ears covered.
Leika was aware of the mud being blown from around her and with her eyes partially open she could see eggs begin to roll away from the massive piles inside the former hive. Suddenly the sound frequency spiraled upward far beyond humanoid hearing range and there was an eerie silence like the calm just before a lightning strike.
Then the explosion came, a monstrous detonation like a thousand eon cannons being fired inside a tiny glass ball. Bits of eggs shell turned to vapor spread outward like shrapnel and the Queen of the Swarm was sliced into a thousand pieces. And everywhere the Swarm’s ships were grinding to a stop.

-------6-------

Jeff Bland watched as the light beams flowing from Keeper’s fingers began to tear large pieces of metal off from the cigar ships. “I don’t believe it,” he gasped. “Garwon has lost his shields!” He once again pointed his own weapon and began to fire this time with more than satisfactory results. In a matter of minutes the cigar ships withdrew and were headed for the surface.
Squem once again made contact with Keeper. His holographic image appeared to be dancing. “It’s unbelievable!” he said. “Everywhere we look Swarm ships are floating dead in space. We just watched an entire fleet being pulled into the gravitational grip of a red giant star and igniting like a box of matches!”
“Do you think it’s safe to rescue us?” Keeper asked.
“The Centurion is on its way,” Squem said.

-------7-------

Keeper and First Officer Jeff Bland found Leika wandering through the ruins of the hive. The students now all safely aboard the Centurion insisted that they be allowed to perform a vigil for their fallen classmate. They gathered in a circle around the ruins of the hive and sang songs that probably meant more to them than they would have to Yanadax. “She was so young,” Leika moaned, “and she reminded me so much of myself!”
“No one lives one life forever,” Keeper told her. “Death must always come before life … and life before death.” He noticed a large crack in the floor showing non-hive levels beyond and sent a team down to recover the antidote that would restore Teuth from the buried lab.
“I know Yanadax is gone,” Leika said. “I was looking for some sign of the Legos. Unbelievable as it seems, I believe it was they who destroyed the Swarm. They seemed agitated at anyone who caused Yanadax any discomfort. Her death must have driven them over the edge.”
“In the closed structure of infinity,” Keeper said. “The smallest of things and the largest become the same. I’d say the Vabalas met their match in the smallest and most insignificant things in the universe!”
With the antidote that would save Teuth safely in their hands there was nothing more to do than to leave this watery world at one edge of the universe.

-------8-------

Within days, Teuth made a full recovery and was once more navigating the Centurion toward the Cationic Galaxy and the student’s Deep Space Exams. A handful of cadets crowded around Keeper. “Who can tell me how the first sixteen elements of dark matter were named, who named them, and why,” Keeper asked.
“Alvin Sullinger discovered the first sixteen elements of dark matter and named them after women!” A bright member of a reptilian species named Denz was the first to raise his hand. “He said he did it because no matter how much he studied them he was never sure how they were going to react!” Most of the class members giggled. A girl named Nora asked Keeper a question about how the fabric of space time was woven.

Leika left the control room and headed for the solitude of Biosphere 3. She rode a recreational platform to the middle of a hundred-mile wide ocean and stopped at a rocky island. It took almost two hours for her to climb to the top of a granite mountain without ropes or other gear. She sat on the edge of a cliff and watched the waves roll beneath her and the stars streak past above the clear overhead dome. The universe was an infinitely large place.
A cool breeze blew across her face and felt somehow soothing. The engineers who simulated Earth and Earth-like environments were fastidious about detail. She was beginning to accept that Yanadax was gone but she wondered what had become of the Legos. Keeper said they were believed by many to be magical … Leika wasn’t sure.
Suddenly it began to snow. Large flakes much larger than normal floated from the clear domed ceiling miles above her. Leika decided to climb down before the rock ledges became too slippery. Halfway to the bottom she took shelter in a small cave to rest. Damn those environmental engineers and their realism. A pool of water in one corner looked inviting, Leika was thirsty, but the water was already frozen. It was getting colder. Leika could already see her breath. She used a rock to break the ice and took a step back as a frozen mist seemed to rise from the water. Her breath began to melt the vapor and in the stillness of the cave she could hear tiny voices … happy voices … they appeared to be singing.

Onward and forever … to the end of time.
Nothing is lost … that you can’t find.
Where matter dark … arrives on beams.
And all new things … appear in dreams.

Onward and forever … we journey on.
Meeting again … that so lost gone.
Magic is knowledge … captured by few.
And love gives meaning … to all we do.

Leika was feeling warmer and she really didn’t mind the cold. In fact a smile broke across her face for the first time in weeks. She didn’t understand all the words the Legos were singing but she recognized a new voice among them. “I’m glad you’re with friends,” she whispered.

THE END ???