Lil’ Tommy

Idle hands, goes the saying, are the devil’s playground. Playgrounds are full of children, normally. Children, it might be argued, are the very definition of idle. So it should be no surprise to us, though it is rather peculiar, that a child should be the cause of great trouble.

The town of Pleasant Springs, idyllic and picturesque – quaint, even – could not have foreseen its doom when the nights bore sweet dreams and the flowers of spring were in bloom.

But the nights, they’ve grown eerie and never-quite-cheery, for the town hall’s with corpses festooned. The nightly rubenesques in their dresses paraded, dancing their bloated arabesques, to the tune of the call of the loon.

Lil Tommy, just seven, was toying outside, in the plaza near the town’s center. Through the air came the smell of the pies and the cakes, and the shops signed with ‘do not enter’.

To this Tommy thought ‘Bah!’, let them keep all their sweets, I will find my own way to be king. And swiftly he strode to the field’s very middle, the place of the old witches’ ring.

In the firefly-glow of the old field’s lawn Lil’ Tommy set down a few trinkets. Of the farmers he took token of promise, innocuous they’d thought Tommy’s game. In a circle, arranged, in a curious array lay the old buttons of old man Rickets, and the buttons of Pie Lady Donna, and the buttons of his teach Ms. Lane, everybody in town have given Tommy a button, a token, a promise thought tame. Even Mayor Hopstocket the man with the lockets of golden hair some called insane.

And the buttons had blood of pigeons and rabbits and foxes and ducks and dogs. And of cats and of lizards that lived through a blizzard only to be squashed like frogs (the blood of which also covered the buttons).

It was all quite singular, most peculiar indeed, that the smell of rot and sulphur should invade the sweet breeze.

And the darkness took form and it stood there ‘fore Tommy, who dwarfish did look in its shadow. But he called for a reason and called well he did, for the Devil ‘fore Tommy would do all he bid, but for only the souls of the people in town. The souls of the mild-mannered wicked and foul. All humans, said Satan, are tainted in truth. All women and men, even dogs, forsooth!

So there Lil’ Tommy did pledge to old scratch the souls of the women and men of Pleasant Springs. And pleasant no longer were any o’ the springs, for what ran through them after you’d rather not swim in.

For pies and for cakes and for candies galore,

For toys and for summer-like days evermore,

Did sell, Lil’ Tommy, the souls of the town

And now and forever he sits on that ground

On that very field, chubby and round

Without friends, without, cheer, but with nothing to fear,

Yet content with the sweets that he holds so dear.

Dichotomous

Zombie apocalypses aren’t as cut and dry as some would think. Ng wasn’t sure what to make of the situation himself. The movies and books and all the media that milked the Zombie genre for a century or so was hardly preparation for the actual end of the world… or the civilized world, at least.

 

There’s something to be said about dying: it’s easy to do. He had been taking care of his garden when he had been taken by surprise, and bitten, by Manuel, his Mexican neighbor. It hadn’t been pleasant, the bite, but he didn’t take more than a few seconds to die. It was a blessing, Ng thought, that the virus or whatever the hell it was that caused the state of undeath was so fast-acting, so effective, that people died and turned in the space of a minute, if that much.

 

Ng hadn’t heard about anything amiss on the news, certainly no mention whatsoever of an outbreak of any sort, and so he didn’t have much to go on when his body rose up on its own and his body – corpse, rather – shambled on and out of his front yard. This is where it all struck him as being singularly odd; he was watching his reanimated corpse from outside himself. That is, he was disembodied, existing extraneously independent from his recently-deceased body.

 

He tried looking at himself, at his own feet – not those of his corpse but, out of habit, at the place where, from his solipsistic vantage point, his feet would have been – and saw nothing but the grass beneath him. He was a… ghost?

 

Funny, he never did wonder what happened to the soul, assuming then, before this, that there was one, when a character in a film or book was zombified. Come to think of it, now that he thought about the word “soul”, he couldn’t be sure that there was a soul. Wasn’t that a bitch? Here he was, clearly an incorporeal entity, floating – he thought “floating” was the only appropriate term – in the air, and he couldn’t tell if there was a soul. That was just like the universe, after all; answer one question – is there an afterlife? Apparently, yes – and get a combo of a thousand more – is there a soul? Can’t tell, what about God? Dunno, what does one do for fun after one dies? Too soon to tell…

 

One question he was considering was answered quickly enough; Manuel’s ghost was floating over from his house to Ng’s and it was smiling at him. It was thinking at him, too, not talking, but thinking. Telephathy, huh? Who’d have thought…

 

Manuel was apparently enjoying the afterlife for the time being, he said as much after apologizing for his undead corpse’s actions, deeply ashamed, he said telepathically. No need to apologize, said Ng earnestly, there wasn’t much an incorporeal being could do to stop the shambling corpse that formerly housed it, after all.

 

So who turned you? He asked Manuel. Maid, he said. What about the children, Ng asked with genuine worry. Out of town with the wife, said Manuel, with some relief, though they both knew it might be a toss-up whether anyone would survive this, the proverbial hitting of the fans by the world’s vast reserves of fecal matter.

 

What do you say we go over and enjoy the Hendersons’ getting eaten, Manuel suggested with a peevish smile under the thick, black mustache. Sounds like fun! With a disembodied chuckle, Ng and Manuel made their way down the street to the uptight Hendersons’ ostentatious house. Ng thought it would be something to see what the posh family made of the afterlife. Manuel quipped something which Ng didn’t quite catch until the end – yeah, apparently telepathy can be misheard, er, misreceived? He said it’ll be fun to watch those gringos running for a change.

Them’s the Breaks

It’s a funny world, this one. Things humans subject themselves to under the guise of civilization, strife born of the terrible prevalence of ego and desire, the subscription to concepts and norms set to perpetrate the status quo that keeps the mighty on top and the commoner down in the mud. Great injustices start with small ones, quite often, and that is one of the many tragedies of this world. So many injustices start out cruelly only to become blessings in disguise… but then, well, what does anyone know about anything at all?

***********************************************************************

There was something wrong, Jonas knew. For years he’d felt this oppressive sense that all he ever did would fall to pieces. His life up until his fifties offered no evidence to counter this assessment of his own accomplishments, or lack thereof. He was washed up, a failed architect who at one point in his life had been poised to make something truly great of himself. Projects of magnitudes colossal lined up, sudden connections to influential circles, visions of abundance and wealth… they had all come to nothing.

He would often blame himself, for who else was there to blame? God? Ha! No, it was nothing from fanciful fabrications of the human collective – he would think often; nothing but his own folly. He had been foolish often, and had committed the same mistakes over and over, as if he couldn’t help it. He often wondered what was wrong with him, what made him be that way, why, when it came to defining moments, he always made the wrong choice.

But now there was this, this… this new piece of the puzzle, one that had never before been considered in seriousness…

His fourth wife was next to him, Clara, mother of his three youngest daughters. They were there with him, as well, in the living room of their home of twenty years. With were his children from the previous three marriages, three more daughters, one for each failed partnership. The only one that was missing was his firstborn child, his only son, Robert.

It was fine, however, he was busy with his own family, his own failed marriage, his daughter, his job… he was very diligent and had to take care of a lot of things and couldn’t make it, but it was not necessary for him to be there.

The parish priest sat at a tall chair opposite the large sofa where Jonas, his wife and his progeny sat. It was time to begin the cleansing. Another woman, a purported witch, was next to the priest. She held a felt pouch within which was rock salt, spices, and another component which she had been rather taciturn about discussing.

No matter, Jonas thought, there was a time to question and a time to follow blindly. This was the latter.

It had come to his attention, and that of his immediate family, that he had acquired, through his years of philandering and terrible decisions, a curse. An erstwhile lover, jilted, bitter, had threatened him once, wanting him to divorce from his then first wife. He had, like many men before him and since him, held onto his marriage and deflected his mistress’ please to marry her by saying, falsely, that his wife would not accede to a divorce no matter how much he asked. This created a long episode of harassment against his then-wife on behalf of his mistress. He had been a coward, he knew, but he didn’t help one woman or the other.

Somehow, despite the duress in those days, his wife eventually was with child, that which would become his son Robert. At the news of this, his mistress had gone positively berserk, the threats escalating to a maddening degree, eventually forcing Jonas to act and cut her off. But his mistress would not leave without the last word, and she said she would curse him and his descendants. His lineage would come to dust, it would be nothing, and all his efforts and creations would also come to nothing.

He had lent this no ear, no mind, as would any reasonable person. But the years had been unkind in great part with Jonas and his children. Perhaps, it really was a curse. He knew he himself deserved it, certainly, but not his children.

In church just a few days earlier he had become distraught, racked with paroxysmal convulsions that would not relent. This was the culmination of a long period of depression, of finding no avail or succor in anything or anyone. He had been looking down a dark tunnel with no light at either end, and that apparent attack during mass had been the beginning of an end.

The priest that presided over the parish was an old, knowledgeable and experienced missionary who at one time dealt with the darker, more hushed subjects that the Holy See was expected to contend with, despite the efforts to change the public’s perception of it as an organization. He had immediately recognized the forces at work, or so he had told Jonas.

And that was why they were here: To rid Jonas, and in turn his children, of the undue consequences of his own folly.

***********************************************************************

Robert was tired. He was only thirty years old, but he felt a hundred at heart. He was jovial, often enough, and a kind person, but he felt a terrifying vacuous darkness inside. He often wondered, for good reason, if he might be a bad person.

He was, after all, his father’s son, wasn’t he?

He had not been the level of philanderer his pops had once been, but his evils lay somewhere darker, at times. These were not known to most, and he had certain impulses that could irrevocably change his life and that of those close to him beyond any point of redemption.

And now there was this thing, with his pops, the witchery, the church… he didn’t know what to make of it. This was not what he had ever considered to be the cause of his misfortunes… no, he had always blamed himself, and maybe his father and mother, naturally, but mostly himself.

At night, for the past twenty years or so, he would always lie there in bed, unable to summon the sandman, unable to turn off his mind. He would review his motivations, his wrong turns, and rights-turned-sour, and wonder at the horrible person that was his innermost soul. He was astounded, always, at how corrupt he could be, and how his corruption could spread despite his honest efforts at being a good person. But then, he would also question his own honesty, his own desire to be good… how could he possibly be sure? Did he really know himself? Could he, ever?

He had done regrettable things… to people… to persons who had at some point confided in him. He had taken liberties with affections, with trust, and for that he was now alone. He had chosen to be alone, knowing that he was, in some integral part of his being, broken. He forsook building a new family – he had bungled that one up, already, once – and donned the mantle of solitude… solitude with the sometimes bitter drink of loneliness.

All that was left to him was his daughter. That he hadn’t fucked that up, that was his miracle. She still looked at him with eyes of love, like he was the hero that could never possibly fall. That was all the light in the world, and it was all the light Robert needed. If only he could find a way to have more time to spend with her…

In the end, that’s all life is… regrets and struggle, struggle and regrets, and a few ephemeral moments of respite.

Who knows, maybe this cleansing or whatever it is they were doing at his pops’ place would yield something good for him, too.

**********************************************************************

The cleansing had been frightful. Jonas had felt his heart nearly give up on him and the toll the ritual had taken on his body had been dear. But he was now free.

He felt liberated, light, like a feather floating idly in the wind. He was, for the first time he could remember in decades, happy, at peace.

He hugged his wife and children, all his daughters, and was keenly aware that Robert’s absence was all that wasn’t right at that moment. No matter, his son, his pride – had he told him he was proud of him despite it all? – would eventually come.

He thanked the old priest, who was sporting a lukewarm smile, and shook his hand. He went to the witch-woman, who had been a boon in the ritual, and embraced her. Her look, however, the expression on her face, was sad. This puzzled him for a moment, but he wasn’t ready to dwell on it. He was hungry, famished! He would cook for his family. They were all together! This, he mused, was a good day.

**********************************************************************

Robert had been driving, going down the lane to the parking lot of his workplace, when the heart attack struck. By the time his car crashed against the wall of the building he was already dead. In a freak explosion his remains were burned to ashes. It was merciful that he wasn’t there to feel the fire destroy his body.

**********************************************************************

No matter what we do, in this life, in our dreams, in our hearts, we will all be dust. It’s quite pointless, to follow these accepted norms, this social contract, this net to keep us all down and docile.

And our mistakes, how do they take form? Do they become tulpas somewhere in our psyche? Do they become egregorial manifestations in the physical plane?

The sins of the father. The sins of the son.

Three-in-a-Day and Tweeting Away

Can A.M. Coverston (i.e. Me) write and publish three – that’s right, THREE – short stories in one day? We are about to find out!

On top of that, a Tweet Novella is launching today as well. I will write a few lines every day for a year and see where that takes me. Improv? Kind of. Crazy? You bet!

You can follow me on Twitter @brokenclavicle

Let’s see where this idiotic idea takes us!

That’s Nice

Jeb thought the new stranger who’d rented out the old Spencer cabin out by Oak Road was… unsettling. Yeah, that was the word: unsettling.

Not only was he not at all bothered by Jeb’s grotesque facial deformity, which he took pride in and wielded like a Da Vinci wielded a paintbrush, but he didn’t seem fazed in the slightest by the smattering of rude swearing and insults he directed at the well-dressed man in lieu of cordial exchanges. ‘Do you want to die, city boy? ‘ Jeb would gander, to which he got a smile and ‘Nice weather ‘round these parts, isn’t it?‘ in response. ‘How ‘bout I rape that pretty face of yours and take a shit in your mouth? ‘ Jeb would stab with, only to receive a friendly chuckle, a conspiratorial look – the nerve! –, and ‘I bet you see all sorts of folks coming down this road, eh? ‘.

Jeb still did his job – he always did! –, because it was part of the way things were in this neck of the woods. You made sure the new strangers renting out the cabin got their gas fill so as that they would arrive without too much trouble at said cabin, while also making sure that they got riled up and creeped out. But it just wasn’t working with this one. That was another odd thing; this was just the one person, rather than the usual group of horny college students.

No longer glaring at the weird stranger – that unassuming smirk on the man’s face was making Jeb real uncomfortable – he finished pumping gas into the Oldsmobile and handed the keys back to the clean-shaven man with the neatly combed hair, keeping his head down lest he catch another flash of that perfect set of teeth smiling right at him.

Yer goin’ to that there cabin by the Oak Road, aintcha, boy? Yer gonna get fucked, alright.‘ Jeb ventured weakly, a last ditch effort, no conviction in his mild vitriolic jab. ‘I’m sure it’ll be a great time, thanks for the pump. ‘ said the stranger, still smiling, as he handed Jeb a twenty note and patted him on the back before getting into the driver’s seat and driving away, at a respectable forty miles per hour.

******************************************************************

Madame Lupescu only managed to hear the roar of the Oldsmobile’s engine in time to sprint into the middle of the road. How the hell did the car get to be so quiet? No matter, she was in place on cue for “the cursing” as she liked to call her part of the scheme. She loved being the crone, the old gypsy witch. She had come to relish the role and was quite likely the best at it, never mind that she was really the only one that ever played the role round these parts.

She braced herself for the inevitable hit from the vehicle as it came around the curve, closing her eyes, and heard the classic screeching of the tires and the driver hit the brakes – futilely, of course – as he was assaulted by the appearance of the old lady lost in the middle of the road. She was always good at the dying curse part, when the occupants would at times get down and out of the car to look that the dying woman, who would spit out the damning Romani verse that would mark them for certain, horrible death. Sometimes they didn’t get down, so she would have to reappear several times down the road, pointing her crooked, gnarled fingers at them, her face bloody and misshapen. She preferred the former, though.

The screeching stopped and she realized she was still standing in the middle of the road. She opened one eye and looked sheepishly in the direction from where the car had been approaching and saw no car. She turned around with a jerking motion in the opposite direction and saw the Oldsmobile stopped on the side of the road, then, to her surprise and confusion, the car backed up slowly.

There was only one person in the car, a nice looking man in his thirties, who asked her if she was ok and that he would like to offer her a ride to wherever it was that she was going. She simply stared at the man as her mind chugged and churned, her mental gears jammed with the sudden change in the norm of how these things were supposed to go. This just never happened.

He insisted after a few seconds and, before she knew it, she had somehow opened the passenger door and taken a seat. The man smiled as he might to a kindly grandmother and said ‘Where to, ma’am? ‘. It took her a few more seconds to gather her bearings enough to blurt out a staggered ‘J- Just a mile down the road is fine, s- s- sonny‘. Sonny… Sonny! What the hell is wrong with me? She thought to herself as sat there, brooding, glaring now and then at the stranger who never stopped smiling and would look at her kindly without flinching at what she knew were terrifying milk-white eyes and spittle-rimmed lips.

She was scared stupid, taken out of her element, and she simply didn’t know what to do. The stranger would ask all manner of pleasant questions, small talk, though he seemed genuinely concerned for her, which was, of course, most unsettling.

What was worse was that she would reply as if her mouth had a mind of its own, stuttering out the appropriate replies to the harmless questions. She wanted to wash her mouth out with brimstone!

A mile later down the road, which took too damn long given how slow the stranger drove, she got off and walked sullenly toward the entrance to her cave. She would be the laughing stock of the town, she was sure.

******************************************************************

Tommy, dressed in a mechanic’s jumper, a ski mask, and wielding a large wrench with a screwdriver tip soldered on the bottom end, watched as the Oldsmobile parked a few meters away from the old Spencer cabin. Odd choice of vehicle, he thought for a moment. Not much he could do with the spare parts there as his resale clientele was more particular to the off-road vehicles and gas-guzzlers preppy college students usually drove. His second surprise was that only the one person got out of the vehicle, the driver, and it wasn’t a college-age person but a man in his early thirties – or so it appeared to him.

The stranger went into the cabin with a small duffle bag he took from the back seat, then he return three more times for larger duffle bags from the trunk, which were clearly heavy given that the man grunted in effort every time he had to pick one up out of the trunk, which he then dragged into the cabin. Once the third and last of the large bags was in the cabin and the stranger did not return from inside, Tommy set about his business.

He inspected the car quickly, finding it odd that there was no sign of impact from where the stranger hit Madame Lupescu. Must be tough tin, this car, he thought. He pried open the hood of the car and was hit by a few juddering bolts of electricity from two sharp prongs that shot up from the engine and lodged themselves into his chest. He had little time to experience the jolt as he blacked out.

When he came to he was being given water from a cup by the stranger. With a start which nearly knocked the cup out of the man’s hand he jumped to his feet and slowly back away, eyes wide. He couldn’t understand what was happening. The stranger was smiling! Tommy had just tried to sabotage his car and the man was just smiling… after giving him freakin’ water for crying out loud!

He bolted. He couldn’t have done anything else at the moment. He wasn’t scheduled to kill anyone until after midnight, but, well, there was only the one person, right? He didn’t have to stick around. Surely one of the others would get him. Yeah, that’s right. Another of the crew would get him…

 

******************************************************************

 

Cooner was eager to get the party started, but he had nothing but bad feelings about this caper. First of all, he had only heard the footsteps of one person. One! And then there was all that dragging he’d heard, heavy stuff, like sacks or something, and no loud music or merrymaking of any sort! What sort of frat did these guys belong to?

Well, it was time to make an appearance, so he got up from his little hole under the basement stairs and proceeded to climb them. As he put his hands up to push the trapdoor open he found he could not budge it at all. He tried a few more times, pushing up with all his strength – which was considerable, taking into consideration that he was short in stature but dwarf-like and heavily muscled – to no success whatsoever. The hell…?

Fuck! He was trapped down here. Fuuuuuuck.

 

******************************************************************

 

Abboleth was deeply troubled. Incorporeal as he was, he appeared to be unable to get out of the damnable cabin. The current tenant had done something, but he couldn’t quite tell what. Salt, surely, but something else… this smacked of holy water and sacred geometry.

Well, he hadn’t been able to take his usual flight through the forested mountains and missed out on possessing the hillbillies – so he didn’t get his buzz on from their drunkenness and the sweet smoke of tobacco – and he was angry, to say the least. He was going to enjoy desecrating the flesh of this person, the defilement of his soul.

There he was, lying down to sleep… wait, was that a sleeping bag? Damnit! He wasn’t going to be able to do the bed thing! Brimstone and damnation! He liked the shaky levitating bed bit. It was his favourite. Very well, no matter, there were other ways to get business done.

He swooped down to break into the man’s body and found himself paralyzed, feeling a burning… how could he feel without any body? What the hell?! At that moment Abboleth noticed, for the first time, that there were chalk marks on the wooden boards of the floor. Shit! It was Solomon’s key… and was that the Roman Rite the man was reciting? Oh no… noooooooooo

Was the last he could muster to express as he was sent back straight to Hell. Great. Getting out again was not going to be easy.

 

******************************************************************

 

Morning had come, the dawn had proceeded with no screams or howls or bloodshed, and the sun had risen quite brightly. Around the Spencer cabin could be seen all manner of dismayed zombies, semi-visible spirits, and a few dejected lycanthropes. Inside the house the smiling stranger yawned, stretched out of his sleeping bag, and then poured himself a cup of coffee from the thermos he’d brought with him. He finished his cup as he read the psalms from a leather bound bible, a family heirloom, and nonchalantly prepared incense to burn. He was pleased with how things had taken place. Add another one to the count, one more notch on his bedpost, another place cleansed.

He changed without bothering to shower – there would be a motel down the road where he could do so –, hopped into the trusty Oldsmobile his father had bequeathed him, and drove off sedately down the road.

The spooks could only look on as he drove away. They avoided one another’s eyes – where there were eyes – and shifted away from the place, to find refuge somewhere deeper into the forests and mountains.

In her cave Madame Lupescu tried desperately to pry the image of the nice young man from her mind, that damnably bright smile burning her mind’s eye, and continued to fail. She couldn’t focus on anything else!

At the gas station Jeb felt the urge to travel, maybe see new places. The thought crept into his mind that he might be able to get some surgery done, some corrective procedure for his congenital deformities which, he thought with newfound kindness toward himself, were not so appalling if he smiled rather than frowned and glowered as he normally did.

Somewhere, a few miles down the road, Tommy was still running. He didn’t know when he would stop, or if he would stop. He just wanted to be as far away from that man as he could.

In hell, Abboleth was relegated to a menial task, corralling the souls of the newly damned. It really would be an eternity before he could get out of there again. With a sigh, he got back to poking fat corporate bastards in the butt-cheeks with a pitchfork. How quaint, he thought.

 

It’s a Good Life

It’s a good life… life is good…

The man was walking through mostly empty, windy streets. Loose sheets of newspaper were being whipped around by miniature tornadoes, invisible but recognized by their tell-tale small-scale destruction. The city was bitter. The city was cold. The city was as it always had been.

It’s a good life… life is good…

There were so many things left in the past, so many beautiful memories… sometimes, it was enough that they were there – testimony that those events had taken place – to nourish the soul in light of abject poverty and abandonment.

Onan had been a family man, once. He’d had three beautiful daughters and a loving wife. That was in the distant past now. They had died, and he had lived, left with the crippling choice of ending his own life or moving along in an inertial course toward eventual death. HE had wanted it so bad, to die, to go with them… but he was left there, on his own, by himself, to wander and perchance speak with some other human being, the nourishment of dialogue, of empathy and compassion, of comraderie in the human condition.

It’s a good life… life is good…

He walked, dark beard, frizzled and dirty, face grimed, hair matted and more akin to a bird’s nest than human hair, he was a mess. Now and then he found those willing to help, though he never asked, no… it wasn’t pride, but rather a strange sense of honor, that one should not plead while being able to stand, that one should not beg while able to perform a task… so he worked as he could, where he could, when he could. Life could be tough, eking it out of nothing, ex nihilo nihil fit… but he was not nothing, was he?

It’s a good life… life is good…

They had died in an accident, and everything in his life had come tumbling down. His job, his friends, everything…

It’s a good life… life is good…

He knew he was to be patient… he knew he needed to be strong… but God, how much strength was required? How much longer?

He kept on walking, crumbling under the weight of tragedy and faith. Crumbling under the ravages of age…

It’s a good life… life is good…

Dusty Abodes

Author’s Note: This story is related to one I had published earlier this year. While not necessary reading to understand this one – I think -, it might be worth the few minutes of your time… it might even be enjoyable! So, if you guys are game, hit the Dusty Light up.

 

 

And you turn the screwdriver just… so…

Decker felt that now-familiar sense of satisfaction and peace, that which he had come to recognize as the sign that he had completed a burrow. Dusty Abodes they called them, the Vagrants, given to the Dusty-Light trail, and those like Decker, who built the places-within-places, the houses where the Eloquent Silence could be heard-seen, and where the weary Vagrants could rest and, with any luck, find themselves closer to that siren that beckoned them roam.

He had just finished installing a carefully balanced trapdoor in the relatively small art museum of a sizeable town in the Midwest, right in the section housing post-modern sculptures, hiding in plain sight. None but another Burrow-Maker , like himself, or a Vagrant possessing the instructions or the knack for the burrow, would be able to tell that there was a Dusty Abode. It was curious, how little common folk would notice of the world around them. Most curious, indeed!

Dekker sat down on a wooden box, screwdriver still in hand, just a couple of feet away from the trapdoor. Dusty-Abodes were rudimentary affairs, though they were works of careful and studied craftsmanship, possessing all the amenities necessary for one given to the road to rest and recoup before hitting the dusty trail anew. Much of the materials used for the interior of these ingenious hideouts were salvaged, recycled from things discarded, and brought under the guise of darkness and the Dusty-Light’s gifts, which were the sole realm of the makers. Vagrants possessed no such gifts.

He blew out the lone candle stub that shone its amplified light from within a miniature torch case, and then waited in complete darkness for what he knew would come.

At first, he only felt the stir of dust particles, not truly sensing this physically but rather instinctively, his subconscious mental processes and senses recognizing within a thousandth of a second, that the manifestation of habitation had begun.

Seconds later the air currents grew stronger, now identifiable at a more conscious level by Dekker’s skin and body hair. He was a dwarfish man, short and built like barrel, though he didn’t have quite as much facial hair as some people might expect from a veritable vagabond.

Then he heard-saw the Silence, it’s eloquence in the darkness of the Dusty Abode. It was always joyous, to know that the Mistress found the result of his work acceptable, habitable, worthy of holding a part of its essence. Sometimes, Dekker fancied he could sense his Mistress’ joy, some childlike giddiness that appeared to seep through its presence. He realized it was a privilege of the ‘makers, for it was only they who saw the virginal side of this entity, this deity for lack of a better word, that called to them all.

The Eloquent Silence was a manifestation or aspect of the Siren, which in turn were part of the Dusty-Light, something only glimpsed within one’s mind as a ball of light, the bulb of not-so-distant star, view through the gusts of dust and dark mists, like the desert sun through a dust storm. Some speculated that there were bound to be more aspects of this entity, but so far neither Vagrants nor ‘makers had come across any other type of follower or an experience that would hint at this, but there were stories, rumours …

He braced himself as the dark silence collected itself, he felt the air before him grow more solid and heavy, he imagined it alike the gathering of cosmic dust into a gravitational well, gathering to produce a celestial body that exerted gravity in turn. It then began to speak in earnest to him.

Dekker recalled when he first found the Siren, his Mistress. He was still a child, only seven, and wandered off into an abandoned house, an old colonial, abandoned and in disrepair, yet somehow sturdy. He had climbed up stairs that, while looking like they would crack under his weight, held strong and bore his body to the top, where he saw the retractable door to the house’s attic open, the wooden stairs leading there pivoting as if they had just been brought down, the door just recently opened seconds before.

He climbed, strangely unafraid, as if drawn to the dark therein, and found himself amidst old boxes and furniture, lost to the unkindness of the elements and time. Dust covered it all, and inside he recognized something alive in the darkness, like the foetus in the womb, waiting for him. It spoke to him for the first time, then, and it bestowed its gifts upon him, granting him the abilities to carve out holy places anywhere, just like it had carved out a home inside his soul. He had run from home that very day, forty nice years ago, never to see his family again.

And like that day long ago, again It spoke to him now. The Siren told him of the next place to eke out a Dusty Abode, the next route to take, and what materials to use. This was a multi-part set of instructions, multiple commissions rather than just one simple. This was special, even more so than all those times, because this tasted of coming to a head, of a wave cresting, just about to break, and he was to carry out a significant role in the coming of that tide.

With each Dusty Abode the Dusty Light’s influence grew, It inhabited others who came to dwell there, It travelled with them, It gave them the joy of perpetual flow. Now, Dekker bore witness and testimony to the plan, to the design, at least a portion of it. This was the beginning, and he was to spearhead the first movement of the grand symphony of silence.