About amcoverston

Emotionally nomadic. Obtuse. Erratic. My own worst enemy. My Daughter, Writing, Music and Mixed Martial Arts keep me within a degree of Sanity, that fabled nation I so long ago left.

The Last Things

These were terribly nefarious times. The world was constantly on the brink of war, despite the fact that the people of the world were mostly oblivious to what was going on around them, and the value of life was at an all time low, undermining all the social progress of decades prior.

Lou had taken his job knowing full well that the job had in reality chosen him, in a manner of speaking. He just happened to have been born with the qualities necessary to undertake the assignment, one that for most donning his mantle before him, his predecessors, was never to end save for when their own lives came to a close. For him, however, in light of all the terrible goings on in the world, the assignment may very well end before his own life was exhausted.

It is not a good thing, the passing of a species, though it is most definitely a necessary one. An integral part of life, intrinsic, indivisible from it. We do not know why, as a people, but we accept it. This is no different for any living thing. Everything will eventually pass. Every living thing passes. Even inert things pass from this world in some way.

The tiny creatures which last were known by a now-extinct tribe as Iflig – roughly translated as the little ones that sing to the forests – were about to transition out of this existence themselves. There was one single specimen left, as whelp of the kind. It had only recently lost its mother in the same way it would soon meet its end. Its mother, like its entire little herd, had been inadvertently been poisoned by well-meaning yet careless explorers who’d come to that remote island to scope out the place for future studies. They had thought they were being careful, but their own supplies, specifically their “vitamin water”, contained a hidden, undisclosed chemical which just so happened to be highly toxic to certain types of organisms. The Iflig were especially vulnerable, having existed for centuries in isolation, without any environmental exposition to such chemicals, and soon their numbers dwindled to but a few groups. In the space of days they had succumbed to their bane, and so the last group, that of the tiny pup soon to expire, had remained as the last of their precious kind.

There it was, this tiny creature, a sweet rodent, from what Lou could ascertain, but having some trace of a creature-type the world had not seen for a long, long time. It was tragic, as were all the cases Lou attended to.

He concentrated on the specimen, picked the half-inch long ball of hair, its miniature legs barely kicking out in a weak fit of panic at being taken by the strange, seemingly gigantic man. He tried to provide the little thing some comfort. It was so cruel, this world. This wonderous little being, its liliputian heart beating to a drum many times the tempo of that of Lou’s, would not know the world, would not experience it as its forefathers had. All it knew was that it had lost the warmth and protection of its mother, and that now it was growing weak and scared. It likely knew finality was the only avenue left to it, Lou mused.

Had it grown to be an adult, it would have reached a maximum of two inches in length and about half that in girth. It would have become a creature integral to the ecosystem that maintained the forest of the island. The great trees, unique to this place, were part of a very complex and delicate system comprised of different forms of fungus, plant and animal life. Once this little guy died, he knew with absolute certainty only one such as he could possess, there would be a chain reaction across the space of the following weeks where most of the species comprising the island’s ecosystem would become extinct themselves. The trees would wither and die, while some minor species might be able to adapt. The foolish explorers who had brought this about unwittingly would realize that, perhaps without ever knowing exactly why, they had been the artificers of this extinction.

Lou felt the little one’s life force leave it, the energy passing on, moving off to where he did not know. It was still in this universe, but where it went and what it became, he could not say.

At that same time another manifestation of his own self, of Lou’s, was witnessing a similar event while making a mental catalog of it. There were many, many other manifestations either arriving, witness currently, or concluding their business in extinction. Lou was a most rare individual, capable of being present physically in countless places in the world at once. He had the unfathomable ability of polylocation, and this allowed him to bear witness to the end of all species without hindrance.

He had been with the Foundation – its name not really known to him despite his decades in employ – since he was nine years old. Approached by the one who would soon after become his mentor, he had been taken from his parents with their consent and sent to what they thought was a most prestigious educational program for gifted children. In a way, it had been exactly that. He had learned to control the abilities he had been recently discovering before his ninth birthday, and was soon put to task. By his fifteenth birthday, Lou had already seen thousands upon thousands of species of living things of all biological kingdoms cease to be as a whole. This had invariably marked his emotional development, burdening the boy that would become a man with a deep sense of sadness only those before him could have understood.

This particular representation of Lou would rejoin the stem shortly, as if it were some organelle dispatched, but he was technically already with the stem, the center of Lou’s being, despite the distance in a sense. There was no distance, everywhere was everywhere at once, forever. Except for the things that would be nevermore.

Lou was possibly the last of the watchers, the last of the catalogers of last things. This too shall end. This will never come again. He put the Iflig down on the ground. Perhaps one of the explorers would chance upon the miniature thing, but it would do little in the scheme of the world’s psyche.

Everywhere. Forever. Nevemore.

Mr. Leeds

Mr. Leeds was a melancholy sort of fellow. Dapper, certainly; courteous and gallant, of course, but ultimately a tenuously sorrowful man. He dressed out of the current of the times, not paying much heed to what passed for fashion these days, but managed not to seem too terribly anachronistic by staying close to rural areas. It was, after all, safer for the likes of him.

He had been the thirteenth child of one Deborah Leeds back in the 1800’s, the devil child, or so had his mother proclaimed upon learning of her being with child for the thirteenth time. She could not have known how right she was when exclaiming in such a fashion, though surely she had not meant it beyond the joke of having to go through labor and child-rearing yet again at her age.

Mr. Leeds had come into the world in the seemingly usual way, midwife assisting his mother through what was now rote for them both, and out had the babe come. Struck to elicit crying and dry breathing, the newborn Mr. Leeds had come brutally awake and aware to the world he had been born into and something in his nature sprung into action defensively. He transformed before the very eyes of his sweat-soaked mother and the wide-eyed midwife. Wings like those of a bat sprung from his infantile back, his hands drew claws and his feet turned like those of a horse. His face elongated in reptilian fashion and a more horrible wail came therefrom.

The midwife screamed, matching the wail’s pitch, which startled young, drake-like Mr. Leeds, who reacted on instinct dealing the terrified midwife a blow to the throat. His mother’s eyes grew wide as the full moon outside and, though her mouth opened wide and worked as if to vomit sound, nothing audible beyond muffled groans exited through her troubled windpipe.

The midwife was fast bleeding to her death out of the gash in her throat, his mother only stared, and the child-think that was Mr. Leeds leapt out the window, crashing through the wood and glass, to be lost to his family forevermore.

One could understand the moroseness that would build the character of Mr. Leeds, how having left his family was never given a formal name. It was only later that he learned of his family name, by piecing together bits of folklore and street rumor, and subsequently spying on his relatives, those descended over the years from his older brothers and sisters.

It was the XXI century, now, and despite now only recently reached what would be the outward appearance of middle age for a common human being, he was none the wiser about what he really was.

He had learned from the recovered diary of his mother, which he had only come by a few months ago, that she had been unfaithful to her husband, and that the man she had lain with had been Native American. However, after having learned the name of the man, he had only been able to gather strange yet ambiguous information about who and what he was.

Skinwalker, some of those he had contacted has said, thereafter refusing to speak more on the subject, those who didn’t hang up the phone right after he mentioned his possible father’s name. Email correspondence was rarely ever possible with those knowledgable enough about the man who went by the Navajo name Ooljee, which apparently was a female name meaning Moon, and when there was some address that could be reached, no replies were forthcoming.

He was beginning to lose a bit of hope. He had not had much of that, to begin with, but he was having too little success with his inquiries.

He would have to leave the Pine Barrens region of New Jersey, which had been his home since his strange birth, when he had fled the mother he had never truly met, his more animal side taking over his infant consciousness and ensuring his survival in the woods for years, allowing his child-mind to mature, taking the world in as a co-pilot in some vehicle.

He had time, however. Yes. Time. And if what he understood about these Skinwalkers was correct, that man – nay, the thing that might be his father, was still somewhere in the world, living, if living is what a Skinwalker did.

The Darnedest Things

(Overheard conversation at a bar)

What do I do? I’m a Gamekeeper.

Yeah, like a Park Ranger, yeah.

No, not government funded, no. It’s private funding, a foundation. I basically get to work with a bunch of weird species.

Weird, you know, weird.

Well, let’s see, what’s a good example…

Ok, I got a good one. You may recall a couple of films by one Steven Spielberg – you may have heard of the guy, pretty big deal in Hollywood – dealing with furry little creatures hailing from Asia with a rather silly set of rules for upkeep.

You do? Good. Well, these were loosely based on a real creature which is, sadly, now next to extinct.

Yeah, yeah, that’s right, I work with endangered species, but not like the WWF, no. Anyway, these gremlins, right? Though that’s not their real name and neither’s it that from the movie.

Yeah, no, they always get that shit wrong, you know. When they make movies about these weird critters from all over the place. For example, these little anthropomorphic beasties were more like lemures than their portrayal in the movies would have you believe, and they acted a little more like animals than smart little apes. None of that imitating human behaviors, that’s just to sell the movie and appeal to the kids.

Yeah, you remember those! Of course, of course; the rules they made up for them were pretty stupid and, honestly, terribly impractical.

No, no, it was no feeding them after midnight… I remember thinking about that after watching the movie and going, buddy, is that Eastern Standard Time or Greenwich? Pffff. And not getting them wet? The damned things are mostly water like us and every other carbonbased thing on this planet, and, coming from Asia, c’mon! The sheer amount of atmospheric humidity would have had them bubbling like nobody’s business.

What? No, yeah, that’s how they were supposed to reproduce. Nah, they do get it on, but that’s not quite how it goes. They’re not exactly mammals… ‘matter of fact, now that I think of it, I don’t think they fit into the usual subsets like oviparous and that crap.

Right, there was that last rule, the sunlight and bright lights thing. Though, that one is true; little buggers are nocturnal and their eyes aren’t good in the day. Light won’t kill them, though. That too would be stupid, seeing as even moonlight is nothing but sunlight reflected.

Yeah, exactly. Mostly, my job entails looking after the last specimens, documenting what I can about them before they pass out of this world, never to be seen again.

Yeah, it’s a little grim, this business, but noble, I think. I mean… I’m the last person to bear witness to many of the world’s species, those forgotten or as yet undocumented. It’s a sweet job in the end, especially by comparison. You should see I have a co-worker, but he’s got the worst part of the gig.

Lou, his names is Lou. He… well, he gets to do the field work. His part of the job consists mostly of getting to the species, both crypto and regular that we simply are unable to “rescue”-

Crypto? That’s short fro Cryptozoological, you know, secret or hidden, species that are not recognized by mainline science and that sort of thing.

Yeah, in any case, he’s got to get to them and get as much of the details as he can right as they exit the world. He’s a regular ray of sunshine, Lou. But who can blame him, I mean, he gets to see some seriously grim stuff.

Well yeah, he is a bit weird. Also, he’s got a talent or something that makes him just right for his job, unlike me.

Yeah, no, I’m just a regular guy who got an interesting gig. Lou, though, he’s touched by something, and can tell when some species is going out.

Yeah, he just seems to know before it happens.

No, I have no idea. Now, I don’t get how he does it, but he seems able to be everywhere, what with so many species hypothetically going extinct all the time according to the world’s pertinent number crunchers.

Yeah, it’s pretty messed up, but I get the good part. I just tag ’em, feed ‘em, record them and then one day they croak naturally.

There’s some really odd ones, like there’s some that were there from way before I got the gig and, if the logs are to be believed, have been there for decades. They probably live as long as turtles or something.

Yeah, yeah.

Yup.

Right… anyways, where is it you say you live?

I was just wondering if you would like me to drop you off since I’m leaving soon.

Yeah, I would like to go in for a drink, ‘matter of fact.

Note: The fourth of the twelve shorts comes in shoddy prose! What the hell did I just write? Maybe even I don’t know…

 

Through the silent neutrino haze

Into the mind of Aleph’s maze

Out of the center of time and space

Straight to the heart of our incipient race

The mistrals carry it from coldest ice

Sweeping across the wastes so wild

Path sinistral, the road there lies

In the sparkling eyes of the feral child

Uptaken by the wily haste

Of newborn thought, the taste

Of stardust in the tongue

The windy blight that would here fall

The same as did before the call

Of demigods with lances long

For us to heed and lay all down

To salt the earth and raze the ground

In dark, convened the throng

To make it once again His place.

Dog Days

He had spent long enough trying to get it right, turning it over in his hands while scrutinizing it under the intensity of the magnifying glass propped on a mechanical arm and accompanying high intensity light, a necessity for the kind of work Mook earned his keep with.

This particular item was not the average piece of history he would often have to appraise for his callers; grave-robbers and unlicensed archaeologists – weren’t they all the same? – were the brunt of his clientele, but now and then he would get genuine requests from respectable establishments and individuals with private collections who would offer a considerable stipend for his services.

This latter was the case of the fine item he was currently inspecting, a strange metallic object that had been unearthed in Göbekli Tepe and procured by its current owner through means better not discussed. Its origin a mystery, for it did not belong to the place of its discovery, the ancient mysterious city which the Turkish government had sealed off from both the public and any researchers for reasons unknown; no one really thought their national security blanket statement held any water.

The object was most confounding. Mook had pored over its every minuscule detail, every millimeter of craftsmanship, analyzing every little hint at what its makers may have intended and who they were by extrapolation, only to come up with the strangest of notions. It would seem that, if he was reading all the information available to him correctly, the item was of alien origin. That is, it could be either extraterrestrial or extradimensional, but it was certainly not from this Earth, not in its actual state.

For one, there was the composition of the metal. It was rare enough, but there was one element he did not recognize from the lab analysis date that had been provided with the object by the person who commissioned his expertise. Second, there was the attention to detail, which was perhaps impossible even with current day’s laser technology; any such details would have had to have been made with either nanotechnology or something other that worked on a level the neither the human eye nor hand could possibly achieve on their own.

Mook understood little about the object, what its purpose might be. It was a simple circular plate, just about 7 centimeters wide, with the finest little lines of inlaid gold etched into its surface in elaborate designs that would put even the finest Celtic knot-work to shame. There was something odd about the designs, though, a pattern, it seemed, that he could not quite identify but intuitively perceived, and so he kept at it, tracing the myriad lines in hope of devising this pattern and thus find an inch of leeway in the mental knot that the object had put in his mind.

Mook thought about the debate surrounding Göbekli Tepe, about what it meant as an archaeological find, whether it was a temple or an observatory, or something else entirely. The much publicized theories of the late Klaus Schmidt, the German archaeologist who’d lead the team that worked there before it had been shut down, and of the strange theories the man had posited. He kept going back to Giuglio Magli’s proposition of it having been built to worship the Dog Star, Sirius. The Italian archaeoastronomer posited that the various structures marked the rising of the luminous body in different years, and as such held a connection to the religion of the area.

Mook wasn’t sure why he kept thinking of Sirius. He certainly didn’t give credence to the wild fringe speculation that had been thrown about in recent years about ancient little green men… er… grey men, that had somehow visited ancient man and taught them how to tie their shoes. Nevertheless, there was the matter of the object in his hands, its singular design a stark contrast to all that could have logically been fashioned in South Turkey around 10,000 B.C.

He was dumbfounded by this, his mind looking for any path leading away from the implications of the object’s possible origins. The dating analyses carried out at various institutions, according to the dossier he had been provided, said that the results of the tests were inconclusive. The reason for such a deliberation on the subject? The fact that the results indicated an absurd age that predated Homo Sapiens Sapiens by several hundreds of thousands of years. Of course the people reporting the results would state their conclusions as “inconclusive”; who would want to stake their reputations on such a wild find and all that it might entail? No one in their right mind would lend credit to such results, never mind that they had been corroborated by five different and unrelated institutions. In the presence of something so fantastic any expert would doubt their own procedures and be done with it, eager to sweep away that which challenged their long-held systems. Such an artefact should not be possible, it should not exist… and yet it did.

One word popped into Mook’s head: Lokabrenna. It was ancient Scandinavian for Loki’s Torch, or the burning that Loki wrought, and it was the name of Sirius for the Vikings. What a curious thought. He certainly didn’t ponder Scandinavian myth often, but the name had clearly stuck from whenever he had read it – he must have read it – and his mind deft enough to associate it with his current line of thought.

It was late enough, now. Mook knew he shouldn’t be burning the midnight oil quite so often any more, not at his age. 67 isn’t terribly old, but he was no spring chicken, certainly. It was now 2 in the morning and the old aches were in attendance. With some regret and not being able to continue his exploration of the artifact for the day, he put it down, back into its metallic box, built to protect it from anything up to a high speed crash. It was certainly invaluable.

 

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

 

Mook woke up sweating profusely, his clothes damp as if he’d had a particularly generous bout of incontinence. It was still dark, so he couldn’t have been asleep for very long. He fumbled for the digital alarm clock on his bedside table; 3:33 read the digital green numbers.

Burning.

It smelled like something was burning.

He shot out of bed clad in nothing but his sleeping gown, like young man and not a creaky old geezer, the urgency of fire driving his body in uncharacteristic intensity.

He ran into the kitchen, nothing. He looked about the living room where he had just passed on his way to the kitchen, nothing. He checked his workshop, there it was.

The disk was propped on the table, balanced, and the table was burning as if being branded. No actual fire, just intense heat producing smoke.

Before he could question the veracity of what his senses informed him, he took his thick welder’s mitts from the wall where many tools, instruments and accoutrements hung and took the disk, quickly placing it inside its protective case once more and shutting it closed.

What the hell had just happened? He didn’t believe his own recollection of what had just taken place, but it had taken place, hadn’t it?

He only now remembered his soaked night gown, which clung uncomfortably to his think, reedy body. He would have to change now, since the sweat was cooling and at his age pneumonia was likely waiting at the turn of any corner.

Walking back to his room to get a different night gown, he almost failed to notice that there was someone now sitting in his couch in front of the television in his living room. He did a double take with his head and, panicked, ran to his room to retrieve a baseball bat he kept next to his bedside table for precisely such instances when an uninvited guest might turn up, though this would be the first time such a thing actually happened.

He returned to the living room and the man had not moved an in, but rather regarded him with a smile that seemed, after a moment, honest enough, jovial. Mook wasn’t sure what to make of it. He still held the bat aloft, his arms cocked like a batter’s at home plate, ready to deliver a blow at the slightest sign of danger.

Then the strange spoke. “Well met, man. Well met,” his voice was odd, like it wasn’t quite the sound a human windpipe was meant to produce; maybe the man had a deformity or accident which caused his voice to sound like that. “I want to thank you for welcoming me into your hold, friend. I did not mean to startle you too much, albeit it is an unavoidable effect for certain means of travel.”

“Wh- Who are you?” Mook was still shaken, but could still muster the right things to ask. “How did you get in here?”

“My name changes considerably depending on whom you inquire to about me, but for now you may call me Low,” there really was something unnerving about the voice’s quality, like a duality of sound in a spectrum that should be impossible for humans to sound, the way it rang within Mook’s head was almost like being drunk on a particularly heady wine. And the eyes, there was something about them, the iris, the shape of it, and the color was golden with a slightly fiery hue.

“Low,” Mook said, trying the name out without having intended to say it out loud. “How did you get in here and what do you want?” he said, regaining control of his own voice.

“I arrived by way of the curious object you have in your possession, for I was summoned through it. As to what the purpose of my visit is, well, that, like my name, is also fluid, mercurial, and if you wield your words with wit and insight, it may very well be beneficial to you.”

 

Old Habits

Note: It’s a hard habit to break, in my case, the having to live outside my writing, involved in real life. Ergo, my publishing schedules is invariably disrupted. Having briefly gone over this short before publishing, I can’t say it’s a great edit, but at least it’s somewhat legible and that’s good enough for me… hope it’s good enough for you. Now, this is the third, and we’re on the fifth day since I began this challenge, so I owe you guys 2 shorts more, 3 if we count tomorrow’s. I can compromise to post another today, and two more tomorrow, and maybe that way I will actually catch up. Now, in regards to this actual short, the story was inspired by a sad situation in my home country of Costa Rica where many elderly persons are being abandoned with nothing but a note stating their state of unwantedness. It’s terrible and I’m sadly sure that it’s something that takes place the world over. It got me thinking and, as my mind is wont to do, I segued from charitable thoughts to what sort of story might lay behind such terrible abandonment. While i may protray things a certain way in the story, I do earnestly believe abandoning your elders is a terrible thing in general, and you should go hug your elders right the f**k now, be they grandparents, parents, or some other manner of sibling or friend. Seriously. Do it!

 

 

He found himself in the street, ambling aimlessly, disoriented and hungry. He couldn’t quite remember why he was there, what his name was, where he was going, and all he felt was fear taking grip of his heart slowly, its cold hand closing harder until chills ran up and down his spine. A strange sadness grew in him and knotted his throat, tears threatening to flow over the dam of his eyelids.

A young woman, perhaps in her mid-twenties, approached him. She was fair-haired and had blue eyes like sapphires. Her smile was kind and warm, the warmest thing he could recall every seeing. It warmed him just so and gave him a strange sense of hope that almost pushed his tears out in relief.

Her soft voice like honey asked “Are you alright? Are you alone?”

“I don’t know,” he spoke in a voice so tremulous and creaky he nearly started at the surprise of hearing it coming out of him. He was… old? He couldn’t remember that, either. “I don’t know!” he repeated, and this time he did break into tears.

The young woman touched him, took him gently by the arms, handling him as though he might break. How he must look, he wondered, oh, how frail and brittle he must seem for her to treat him thus.

“My name is Amanda,” she said, her smile intensifying radiantly, almost obscenely so. “Come, I will take you somewhere safe where we can see to you and find out what your situation is. Come.”

He let her lead him off… to where? He could not guess.

 

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

 

The Wilsons had been good to him, to Aiden – that was his name, as he recalled it after a few days in their household.

They were a benevolent, well-to-do family with some means brought about by a long-running family business that spanned a few generations. They were old money.

When he had come upon Amanda, or rather she upon him, he had been wearing tattered clothes that could have easily been worn for months on end. He had been unwashed for some time but had been thankfully parasite and disease free, so it was unlikely that he had been on his own for more than a few weeks. He’d had no actual possessions save for the near-useless clothes he’d been wearing and a small gold pendant, the kind that would hold a pair of small portraits, but would not budge open when pried. It had been a wonder that he had kept it despite being on the streets and at the mercy of the vultures, as it were.

Aside from the few items on him, there was a note, covered in plastic so it would not deteriorate, where scrawled upon it in block letters it read:

DO WITH HIM AS YOU WILL. HE IS NO LONGER WANTED HERE.

He could only imagine what sweet, kind Amanda Wilson might have made of that terrible note, but he was glad she had made no more of it and taken him in. She and her husband, Roderick, had been a blessing on him. And their children, oh, the children! They had been a boon; instrumental to the slow but steady recovery of his memories or what little may remain of them in his addled brain.

Molly, Adrian, Ernest, Ronald, and little Holly; ages 10, 9, 7, 5 and 3; they were the life of the expansive household, the Wilson Estate, and had been Aiden’s companions since he was first brought in on that hazy, sunny day. Having had no living grandparents to speak of on either side of the family due to illness and old age, the children were immediately taken with him, making him their ad hoc grandfather right out of the gate.

He was sure they had been pivotal in his recovery, he clearly remembered being enfeebled and confused, what bits and pieces of memory he could summon from the time he was lost showed nothing of substance or note, but in the few hours after he was introduced to the little ones his brain seized upon their rambunctious energy and moxie as if feeding off of it, drawing health from them by sheer proximity. He had come to love them, he felt, though he wondered, did he have grandchildren of his own, out there in the wide world, where some family related by blood to him carried on, feeling now free of the burden he had represented?

No matter. He was confident all he needed to remember would eventually come back to him, as he had been able to recall so much in the past weeks. His last name – McDiarmid –, bits of his childhood growing up in a small, rural town that had a railroad being built… he was a little unsure about some of the details, as what he saw in his mind seemed to be far older than any age he could possibly be within reason – that was another thing, darnedest really, that he could not remember how old he was! –, and many situations seemed culturally anachronistic… but he chucked it up to his faulty memory.

He felt he was, somehow, happy, truly, finally. He wasn’t sure why he felt that last adjective, “finally”, weighed heavy, pregnant with significance. Another darned, odd thing…

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

 

Awakenings.

Awakenings are things of wonder, Aiden thought as the sun pierced through the drapes, now drawn so as to allow the sun’s full fulgurous glory into the room. Sometimes beauty, sometimes horror, but always things of wonder, he mused. One has beaten the night, after all, staved off death for one more evening after giving oneself up to the whims and terrors of sleep, bereft of real autonomy and any sense of agency. What a glorious victory we mortals earn every single morning after slumber!

He got up from the bed, his blue, two-piece silk pajamas wrinkled and hanging on his not-so-decrepit frame. His mind was aflame with activity, it was abuzz, it was churning like an ancient engine, digging deep into the recesses of his deepest memory coffers in an attempt to bring back what was hinted at in oneiric reveries during the dark hours of sleep.

It was strange, this mixture of feelings. He was feverish in his elation, his feeling of euphoria at being on the edge of revelation. It was good, was it not? He wondered, musing at the sense of foreboding and resistance, a growing little seed of dread that began to grow inside him as the knowledge lost to the years loomed ever nearer. Why should he feel reservations at recalling, at recovering all that was he from before his good fortune of having happened upon the Wilsons’ generosity and love?

Suddenly he became aware of his surroundings again; he had made his way downstairs to the ground floor as he was lost in his self-reflective avenues of thought without realizing it, his body taking him on instinct to where he could fully recover. He was at the door to the estate’s backyard.

He opened the wide double doors and stepped out into the glaring sunlight, its warmth maná from the heavens themselves, seeping into his being and reviving that which had been dormant, the memories of his former life flooding back into him.

He could still feel his mind divided; there were two persons in him. There was the Aiden who had been taken in by the Wilsons, stricken with fear and confusion, almost childlike and, in many ways, exactly that; and then there was the Aiden who was awakening now, recovering from the ravages of age that he had managed to fight off and delay through means better left unspoken, un-thought of until they were necessary to harness that which kept him longevous, eternal.

He was two persons at once, for the first time in a very long time, almost since the first time when he had still been young, or rather young for the first time, back when he had first split into the man he had been and the man he would become. The dichotomous debate was beginning anew, although the matter of debate, the question of who of the two was the true Aiden, had long been abandoned in favour of the adage that might makes right; that is, who was the real person was no longer an important subject, it was moot. Nevertheless, the simultaneous duality was a strange pleasure, a rare phenomenon that had been long inexperienced. It was welcome, to the Aiden who was now rising from a slumber long and dangerous.

He looked upon his surroundings while the younger Aiden within shrank slowly, filled with ever-growing dread. What a fine turn of events, the rising one thought, that we have turned up at such a bountiful place. The rising one had sequestered himself in one of the buildings under their name, knowing that the frail nature of their human brain was giving in to the ravages of time and he would soon lose full cognition like many times before over the last three centuries, hoping in a way that he could find a method to fully prevent the decay cycle but failing yet again. On that occasion he had gambled on the generally kind nature of humanity in modern times, as they had grown soft over time thanks to the commodities of technological advance, and would not likely just kill a senile old man walking the streets without a clue to what his current situation was, and scribbled the note to draw pity and, perhaps, a helping hand he could eventually leech some energy from.

When envisioning this plan, he had not hoped for such a wonderfully rich bounty! He had seen it happening in increments; a little energy here, a little energy there, and eventually a payload that would allow him to turn back the effects of time on his mortal frame once again. He had hit the motherload, this time. Oh, what fortunate turn of events!

He recalled the locket pendant and realized he’d still had it with him through it all. He fished it from where it hung around his neck, and deftly opened it by placing his fingers in just the right configuration. Ah, there it was, the old formula, and the little device. All was good with the world again, for him.

He looked out at the large yard, at the green, freshly mowed grass, taking in the scent and rejoicing in it, at the sheer pleasure of being alive and sentient. He turned his attention to the children… what were their names again? Ah, yes, Molly, Adrian, Ernest, Ronald, and little Holly. They sure seemed full of life, did they not? The rising one said to the one subdued within. Had the Aiden waning any eyes, they would have been wide with increasing terror at the realization of what would ensue, the poor children. Having control of the only pair of eyes shared between the Aidens, the rising one simply blinked and squinted at the bright little souls. It had to be done, you see, it was necessary.

As the waning one succumbed to the mechanisms of the shared mind, trapped in schemes of distractions devised by the rising one long ago, the echoes of cries of denial rang within the proverbial halls of that mind. The rising one was now effectively risen. He was dominant, as should be.

Now, it was time to do what must be done.

Stranger Waters

Note: Dear Readers. I apologize for the previous story, which is admittedly bad. Perhaps not in the idea department, but in structure. I feel it could be so much better, but then again that’s the beauty of these shorts. I can mess them up, but I can then expand and improve upon them, non? 😀 In any case, here’s installment numero dos of the 12 shorts of Christmas. Also, apologies for any editing errors in this one… it’s late and I’ve been working my day job and this is way past my bedtime.

Bas was tired and a little drunk, though sadly that particular state was already in wane and the promises of a terrible hangover could already be felt just over the mental horizon; a headache was soon to come.

He had been traveling through Asia for some months, doing some back-and-forth commutes to his homeland of Costa Rica whenever he had procured whatever item his most voluminous employer – quite frankly his only employer for the past year, just about – had commissioned him to find and acquire. Mr. Mikoto kept his pockets full and, more importantly, was working on an issue Bas himself needed assistance with in exchange for Bas’ peculiar set of talents.

“Owari,” said the suited Japanese man that stepped through the threshold of an oldschool-style Japanese house – not an original but rather built to resemble a Tokugawa period palace – opening and closing his fists, stretching his fingers. Jin was not tall or particularly intimidating physically, but his presence and demeanor spoke of boundless capacity for efficient violence. He was his employer-appointed backup, and had saved Bas’ derriere on too many occasions. In fact, he had just done so.

“That was quick,” Bas remarked, though not entirely surprised. Not any longer.

“The Oyabun,” said Jin with a noncommittal shrug of the shoulders. “They don’t choose their men like they did in my time.”

Jin had once been a Yakuza assassin, many decades before, who having fallen from grace once his boss, his Oyabun, had died, had roamed masterless into chaos for some time. He was now under the care and benefaction of Mr. Mikoto, better known as the Tattoo Collector, and Bas’ employer, though that last detail was hardly a claim to fame.

Just fifteen minutes before Bas and Jin had been sitting on the floor of the pagoda drinking amicably with a few goons of the Yakuza, trying to pry some information about one of the many mcguffins Mr. Mikoto wanted. There had been plenty of sake, some whiskey, and more bare-breasted women than he had been witness to in forever. Despite the alcoholic haze and the cigarette miasma, Bas had managed to edge into a certain conversational avenue that started to yield success. The Tattoo Collector wanted a bone, a whale bone, but not just any such item, and like every single one of the items on his whimsical wishlist, this one required more than a little elbow grease.

The two goons Bas had been chatting up began to grow somber as it became clear what he was inquiring after. This was not something to trifle with, and they were not happy about the gaijin’s intrusion when it came down to something so instrinsically Japanese.

As is bound to happen when alcohol flows freely among tough men, any old little prick of discord can set off a chain reaction of macho bullshit, and such had been the case then. Within seconds the two men were standing, their bare, tattoo-laden torsos quivering with anger at Bas, speaking in quick, strong Nihon-Go that Bas simply could not follow but which underlying meaning he instinctively understood; they were going to kill him, or mess him up something fierce at the very least. The naked women, seeing the sudden change in the room’s mood and knowing better than to become collateral damage, quickly made off, which couldn’t possibly help make the remaining goons any less aggravated at whatever the hell had set their two colleagues off against Bas.

He wasn’t quite sure what happened, but he thought he could recall a fist flying toward him, unnoticed by his drunken conscious mind, but well perceived by his subconscious, the part of him that was the wolf. The wolf in him had caught the fist and unceremoniously broken the issuer’s arm at the elbow with an effortless thrust from his other hand. He didn’t really know what he had done, but the damage had been caused and all he really understood was that it was time to exit stage right.

Jin had already begun doing his thing by the time the now-broken-armed goon’s fist had flown, and so the scene was one of apparent mayhem to Bas as he exited the scene. Cowardly many may think him, but he knew how to pick his battles, and he sure wasn’t about to stand and get in the way of a far more effective killer than him, that being Jin.

“Got the info?” he asked Jin.

Un,” he grunted, meaning yes. “Don’t know what good you are, if I have to get the info like this every time,” he was joking, of course, but Bas couldn’t help but feel the sting of truth behind the jocular barb. He really hadn’t been that efficient at his job as of late, but then again, he still had the upper hand in certain areas over Jin despite the fact that they hadn’t come in handy lately. Also, what the hell was up with the jokes? That was Bas’ thing, the cracking of the whip of sarcasm and the jab of hazing. He did admit the man’s accent had watered down since he first met him. He figured the man must have been real quiet before getting paired up with him.

“Ha. Ha. Ha. Enjoy that smug smirk, see if I tell you there’s poison in your food next time someone slips you something.” There had been only one time Bas had returned the favor for the many times Jin has saved his ass, a bad episode in Hong Kong a couple of months prior.

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

Par for the course, Bas thought to himself. Just more of the same with the Weirdness. Here he was, alone in a small fishing boat off of the coast of Okino Island in the Shimane prefecture, waiting for something out of a sailor’s nightmare so he could get the job done, while trying not to be noticed by the thousands of water Yokai – spirits, basically, though that’s hardly an approximation to what it really means, Yokai – that inhabited the sea of Japan.

There was something to say about the Japanese and their culture, the rich folklore full of things that go bump in the night. It likely was one of the reasons why the Japanese people were so apparently stoic in the face of hardship, having been bred of cultural fear, a tiny island nation surrounded by fearsome oceanic forces, at the mercy and whim of things beyond their comprehension. This sure was no land of Totoro, despite what any Miyazaki film might try to tell movie-going audiences.

He was there to collect a bone from a Bake-Kujira, a ghost whale, one of the rarest types of Yokai in Japan. Legends about it were few and far between, since this was a spirit creature aloof and rarely sighted near the coast, but what was known was that it was a violent, aggressive creature that did not suffer mortal onlookers lightly.

Bas was prepared. That is, he was as prepared as he could possibly be to tackled the feat of wresting the bone of a cetacean spirit creature that was anywhere from 15 to 20 meters, like a baleen whale, all bones, no flesh, with a penchant for killing sailors.

It was a moonless night but the sky was clear, star-studded, breathtaking. For a moment here and there, in the loneliness of the small wooden boat, he would forget his self-inflicted predicament and lose himself to the majesty of the universe around and beyond him. Then little things that go bump in the night would bring him back to the there-and-then. Meh, he thought, at least he wasn’t getting molested by the Kappa, the pervs. He chuckled at his own shitty joke.

He had been warned about one particular sea Yokai specifically, something that would look like a rogue wave, a wave alone with no actual swell, the Umibouzu, or Sea Monks. Despite the endearing name, there was nothing monk-like about these Yokai. They were likely named thus because they resembled a monk’s shaven head, but black and slick, with eyes that pierce the darkness of the ocean.

Umibouzu were attracted to light, and fire, because they despised it, so Bas’ boat had no light at all. Despite this precaution, he was already seeing the nasty, gigantic creatures rising above the surface, looking out hatefully at the stars, lights they could not snuff out. He remained calm and focused despite noticing one of the terrible things no more than 10 meters away. He stifled a shudder at the idea of just how big the creature might be underneath the subfuscous surface.

A few more minutes passed and he was now, thankfully, deeper out into the open sea. He had three tools; a harpoon made out of the bone of a whale that had been posthumously named under Buddhist tradition during the Great Tenpo Famine of 1837 – the aptly named “Bone of The Great Whale Scholar of the Universe who Brings Health”, the aforementioned Scholar yadda yadda being the posthumous Buddhist title bestowed upon the deceased aquatic mammal is its beached corpse fed a starving village –, the tooth of a Megalodon said to have been blessed by some Buddhist saint, and a small glass jar filled with dirt from the shore.

The first item was to attack the Bake-Kujira, the mystical weapon said to be tailor made for such creatures. The second another aid in attacking such a yokai as sharks in Japanese mythology have some bond with humans since they, well, eat humans. It is considered taboo to eat shark as it is tantamount to cannibalism. Aside from that, the ancient Megalodon used to swallow whales whole and the tooth, being jacked up with all the mystical steroids you could possibly want, should make old boney Moby Dick that much more vulnerable. Finally, the third item should keep Bas grounded, anchored to this his reality, his dimension, as the fearsome creature he hunted was reputed to transition between dimensions, likely not being native to this one.

Bas was losing hope that the night would prove fruitful, having spent hours out and having no luck, until he noticed a glow out of the corner of his eye. Bioluminescence, he immediately thought, and then he recalled the stories of the ghost whale’s entourage of bizarre, glowing fish and birds. He turned his head in the direction of the glow and was met with close to 50 meters of glittering schools of fish that had features unlike any fish he had seen before. Some had faces that could pass for human, some had legs like those of deer, others tentacled and excreting luminous, rainbow-like ink. The sky was filled with gulls of silver and gold, their cries so familiar yet somehow alien, a subfrequency marking their voices as something not from this earth. And amid the panoply of strange animals, the crowning jewel of the menagerie; the Bake-Kujira.

It was larger than he had expected, whatever its actual size was. It was large and he felt his bowels threaten with loosening. But he also felt wonder at the magnificent spirit creature he saw before him. It was a thalassic marvel, a being that may as well be the god of whales, an oceanic proto-deity that predated hominids. The wolf in Bas felt cowed by the majestic image before it, the presence of a true force of nature.

Minutes passed in silence as Bas could do nothing but stare, awed at the seemingly ligament-less bones held in place by a gelatinous transparency, a tenuous tissue hardly noticeable by the human eye, a living ossuary swimming beneath the surface of an otherwise dark sea.

Then he remembered the task at hand.

He braced himself , realizing in the space of seconds that this was likely the last time he drew breath freely, that he might never be reunitied with the daughter he lost what seemed now like so long ago, that he would probably not survive his task but the price was just right for him to risk it all…

… and so he lauched himself out of the boat, diving into the cold, dark waters, holding the bone-fashioned harpoon in one hand, the megashark tooth strapped to his wet suit, the miniature jar of soil hanging underneath the suit and around his waist.

The mythical whale felt his presence the moment he entered the water, and it’s light was noticeable even in the murk of the water. He oriented himself so as to receive the enormous beast and braced himself for impact with the harpoon held at an angle so that it might cause damage and somehow spare him some of the brunt of the hit.

One second.

Two seconds.

Three.

The impact knocked the air he had been holding right out of him, his ribs ached and burned and his head was on fire. He felt the drag of the sea water as the baleen monstrosity pushed him along. He realized he was still holding on to the harpoon, that it had not struck the creature as he had hoped, but he still had it, and that was a most welcome outcome.

He tried to get his bearings and get a notion of his position relative to the creature’s body, and then used the tell-tale map of the skeletal creature’s anatomy to find where the eyes would be. He fought against the inertia keeping him glued to the creature’s head, raised the harpoon, and scored a glancing hit, missing his mark by a few centimeters. He would have cursed but he was already out of oxygen and his body was threatening with shutting down, so he mustered the last of his taxed muscles’ strength and tried again for the eye socket. This time he found his mark.

Blinding light was the last thing he saw before he passed out, bleeding light, right out of the creature’s wound, which for a moment was as clear as day, not a translucent film of tissue but a perfectly pigmented sheet bleeding white light with rivulets of oily color. Then darkness.

He woke up with a start, a hoarse, deep breath, heart pounding. It was a miracle that he hadn’t drowned! He looked about and he was still surrounded by the bioluminescent school of bizarre fish, the sparkling birds still flew overhead, and now there was a carcass of a still-majestic creature floating nearby.

Bas couldn’t help but feel a sense of dismay at the sight of the thing now dead by his own hands. He had killed a wonder, and it would not return. Was this the only one? He did not know. He really hadn’t thought about it before, but now it was all he could think about. He thought he could almost cry, but the tears wouldn’t come despite the tight knot in his throat. It was done. No used crying over spilled salt, was it? Yeah. He could not take it back, whatever it was that he had done.

He swam slowly toward the floating carcass, his muscles still taxed terribly by the scant seconds of oxygen deprivation. He hope he hadn’t sustained any brain damage. It hadn’t been long enough for that, had it? That was something he would have to contend with later. For now, all that mattered was retrieving the bone and getting back to the boat, assuming he could find it, before any of the other lovely yokai that inhabited the waters came to see what the commotion was all about.

He tore open the translucent flesh with the Magalodon tooth, the tissue giving way and the blubber underneath, somehow not transparent at all, yielding bones. They were large. They were heavy.

Bas moved in and up onto the carcass which floated a little above the surface so as to cut into the dorsal area of the creature where the vertebrae would be. He figured it would likely be the least heavy of the bones in its bone structure.

Once done, he swam about 30 meters and found his boat, luckily aided by the luminous fish’s incidental presence. As he rowed back to shore,, which took him a considerable amount of time, he couldn’t help but muse over the fact that the Japanese were so intrinsically tied to whales as a culture, and the sea.

They had been long condemned for whaling in a time in history when this was forbidden, yet they continued under the guise of scientific research when everybody knew it was bullshit. But their country, their coasts, littered with whale shrines and the evidence of whale cults, show a strange symbiotic relationship with the noble creatures on many different levels. Whales have long been a staple of the Japanese pantheon, often equated as avatars of the god Ebisu – the god of plenty –, and yet they are killed wholesale for no good reason. It didn’t escape Bas that he had done one such killing himself, though he justified his own trespass against nature as the means to an end. An end that trumped all moral causes and all ethics. His daughter.

He would deliver this bone and, he thought, it was high time he called in his payment, the real one, from the Tattoo Collector. It was most definitely time.