Saturday, December 3, 2016

Mongrel: Callum's Passing

The monster enables/forces Tardi to experience Callum's last actions ...

Tardi sat in the mud. Wither-wondering. Hope Shad can think of a way to take some mud with us. Wonder if the monster is entertaining Callum and or Trinnet with my doings? 
Errant thoughts. 
The black-haired brow overhung his own, or in other words, he looked through Callum’s eyes. He heard Trinnet excusing himself by way of Callum’s ears.
“Don’t need to look at me so blackly, young one. I did it for the best. A load shared is a load halved, is what we Stormies say. Ace halved Tardi’s load. An elder halving a youth’s load, there’s a topsy turvy in there somewhere, if you get my meaning?”
Trinnet stopped, maybe expecting an answer. 
Callum said nothing but continued to stare. 
Trinnet continued. “Topsy-turves are my favourite corrections. The Great Bastard is a heavy load to bear and youths are famously the stronger. You’re a youth and I’m the one that were put upon with the load. Bastard rarely sleeps and I aim to kip the dark of the night away. Hence.”
Tardi-in-the-monster-in-Callum watched Trinnet get ready for the night. Keeping hold of the pillow-end of his blanket roll he flung the rest free. Laid it next to his side of the fire. 
Trinnet lay down on a narrow half of his blanket, facing the fire, and pulled the other half of his blanket over himself. “Keep the fire fresh, there’s a good lad. All that fuel you gathered.”
Silence but for the crackling of the fire. 
Was Trinnet really so dumb that suddenly he couldn’t feel any danger in his situation? Stupid question, Tar-boy. If Trinnet felt the danger he wouldn’t be so stupid. 
Was it that the monster decided Trinnet was supernumerary? More to Callum than meets the eye, then. 
Stupid again. Stupid cliche. Callum reminded you of one of the Huddle, or at least the life-sized poster in the foyer at SoHAB. Trinnet suddenly was nothing because the monster recognised Callum. 
Tardi swore, short and severe. 
All those goodbyes. The young person had already decided. Don’t stand in his way. Steve all over again. He cried, couldn’t help his tears joining the mud. The little hands stroked and stroked. 

Callum hummed a lullaby, at first only in his mind. 
Tardi hummed with him. Trinnet in a light sleep might feel the fire dying, he thought at Callum. Would his hint cross the virtual monster-membrane between them? Or, in other words, would the monster allow the message to cross?  
Callum fed the fire. He aimed to have it snapping and crackling with small flames licking the firewood without interruption. 
A kind of confirmation. Tardi sweated in the mud bath and the little hands stroked him calm. This was where Callum learned his cool? 
Tardi’s eyesight dizzied with patches of fire-lit forest, now here, now there,  against the glistening underlay of the neck-deep mud he sat in. Callum was on the move. 
Now Tardi saw bare ground. Now the blanket roll in Callum’s hands. Now a close up of Trinnet on his back, snoring. 
Callum straddled his blanket roll over Trinnet’s face. Pressed down on the ends.
Trinnet woke kicking and flailing. His screams were high pitched groans. 
Too much for the boy. He slid his hand to Trinnet’s throat, dug in a thumb. 
Trinnet slumped. The foul rotting vegetable stink of his loosened bowels made him a rotting corpse instantly.
The monster in Tardi exulted. 
Callum whimpered. “I don’t want to be so ugly. So stinking. What if Gran comes to find me?”
Tardi crooned the lullaby. The little hands helped soothe him, soothe the monster, soothe the boy. He’s a nine the younger than Shad. A nine the younger than me. The same age as Steve was. 
“I won’t go back,” Callum said at the world. “All the goodbyes I said. I don’t want to unsay them.” His voice trembled. “Got to find a better way, that’s all.”
Tardi thought clear water at the monster.  A spring. Would the monster fall for a new thing? Clear, strong, blue-green spring water. In the mountains. He wondered now whether everything that happened to him back home was due to the monster’s insatiable curiosity? 
He would’ve added, somewhere to lie in peace for the rest of time. But he couldn’t be sure that the thought would reach Callum, or that it wouldn’t galvanise the monster, and so galvanise Callum.  
How far would it be? How many hours? Should he leave the tank, go to bed? Or stay? Quite comfy if he rested against the tank’s wall. Sleep. 

Callum tasted the water. Strong and oily, it seemed to slide down his throat all of a piece, like a long sausage. He drank more, he needed to fill his stomach. The sandy spring bottom looked as blue as a coral shore. Neither vegetation nor fish marred the clarity of the water. Beautiful.
Just as well Zebe could never teach him to swim. 
He thought again of Gran finding him so didn’t take off his clothes. Just the clumsy boots. He set them side by side. 
Slid into the water down a rock. 

Tardi slid from the bathing stool onto his knees. His nose just above the surface. 

Oh! Callum startled. Water was deeper than he’d thought. Can’t breathe! He struggled to keep his head above the water. He was too short. Feet down. He stood on tip-toes. Still too short. 

Tardi sat back. His green hair floating on the surface of the mud breathed for him. Help me to help him … he stopped thinking as Callum’s lungs filled and they wheezed in distress. His own lungs squeaked in sympathy.

Callum’s heart out-paced Tardi’s. Faster faster. 

It’s fear. He’ll burst. Stop him hurting!  

The monster sank down in Tardi. Twice as heavy. Three times as heavy, with Trinnet’s portion as well. His insides stretched where its boundaries tried to slide past. No go. 

Callum spread his arms and legs, dumpled over like a doughnut. Turned face-up.  Surprise in his eyes as bubbles rose from his mouth and nose.

Tardi swallowed those same bubbles, in reverse, with difficulty. His gullet felt stretched out of proportion as the monster tried for freedom within its confines. My body. A football-sized tumour trying for freedom. How would he walk? 

A hand grasped his shirt collar. Jerked him up. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Mongrel: Tardi living Callum

Bit of chopping and changing among stories happening due to time constraints. 

Tardi walked around while Shad cut up vegetables. The monster was doing a time lapse thing in him, it felt like. Trinnet and Callum sat opposite sides of a camp fire the monster showed Tardi, first looking from one set of eyes then the other. 

Trinnet talked a kilometre a minute. Tardi shut his mind to Trinnet. The man burbled out everything Tardi already heard.

The monster apparently also heard it all before. It transferred its own and Tardi’s awareness to the calm in Callum. The silence in the young one’s head. 

“If only we’d known,” Tardi said. 

“Known what?” Shad said. He filled a pan with water, set that to boil. He smiled at the stove. “Who’d have thought Ionic Exchange is just another name for a battery operated cooking thingie.”
“Young one being so calm, so resolved. He’s made his mind up to do something and he’s going to carry it through. I don’t know what,” Tardi said. 

“That’s good, isn’t it?” Shad said. “That you don’t know?”

Tardi circled the whole restaurant, thinking it through. Back to Shad. “The Great Bastard seems to have learned to make himself transparent. He can have me believing he isn’t in with me, when he is. Wonder if Callum is aware of that?”

Funny how when he talked about the entity with Shad or Trinnet, he got used to thinking of the alien monster as the Great Bastard. Partly because there hadn’t been much going on. He’d exulted, thinking he’d got rid of the bastard’s input into his life. Got used, in fact, to not having it. 

Shad added soy noodles to the water. 

Tardi stayed to watch the pot with him. Better they could feed Cele on al dente, not the soggy mess they ate on the road when they tossed their findings in and made a starchy stew. 

With the steam rising, he got an eyeful of Trinnet’s hands preparing a similar meal. Seen through flames and smoke, Callum was like a watchful buddha on the other side of the fire. 
The young buddha turned his head and watched the light leaching from the day. His mouth made a series of shapes, over and over, the same words, as he scanned the surrounding countryside. 

What was he saying? 

Callum’s mouth funnelled slightly while the muscles beneath his jaw drew together and lengthened. His lips pressed together in a plosive sound, p or b. His mouth opened with rounding lips and dropping jaw. Three separate sounds. 

Tardi experimented making the same shapes with his mouth.  Goo … p … eye. Not that. Goo … b … eye. Oh no. 

Callum said good-bye. Under his breath and over and over. To everything in the landscape he knew. In between he glanced at Trinnet, always noting the same place. 

All Callum’s repeated glances went to Trinnet’s neck, Tardi discovered. He blinked on green tears. Saw the steam again, the pot he and Shad watched. 

“I can’t be here for dinner,” he said thickly. “I can’t look Cele in her face and make conversation. I’m going for a swim.”

“Salt to salt, brother?” Shad said. “Is just a saying. Truly, I will manage the women better with you out of my aura.”

But instead of finding a jump-off point outside, for swim in the ocean, Tardi ghosted through the corridors looking for Cele and Zebe. Not to talk with them, but to know where they were. 

Floor-plan of the Reefarium, he thought at the entity, though he had plenty of nous to vision up a floor-plan from his own memories. A trick he practised while he still drove and jockeyed. 

A multi-colour floor-plan strengthened from nothing on the virtual interface in his mind. The colours were the proof it wasn’t his own. Monster in him, invisible. Fuck. Two turns from where he was, were the basement guest quarters where Cele and Callum lived. Where also Cele kept the tank of mud. Could he get in, with everything locked up like fort nix? 

He tried them and the doors were unlocked. Meaning the sea-doors were to be opened imminently? Good thing he swam. But anyway his wood would float. 

Worth a grin? 

He wanted another turn in the grey mud before it was flushed away on the outgoing tide. After his bath the other day, he’d felt renewed and flexible for the first time since the tree-bug infected him.

Last time also, the monster had felt stupefied after the first ten minutes despite that Tardi had felt invigorated. 

Though he couldn’t know whether when the monster was stupefied in him, it was also stupefied in Callum and Trinnet? He could only hope. The alien support system managed the alien with that mud, and presumably with that stupefaction. 

He had to hope the mud was like a drug to the monster, and that that stupor might be the thing that would help Callum achieve his plan. Otherwise Tardi would have to find Trinnet and … Fuck Trinnet, he were a loose cannon. Kick yourself for thinking like that of Callum’s intention. 


From the direction of the sea-doors. Perhaps the women had been visiting the dolphinate. Tardi hid behind the tank. 

Cele shut the doors behind her.

“Do you need to lock?” Zebe said. 

Cele murmured but then did not lock the doors. Tardi frowned. Did Zebe know Tardi was in the tank room? Didn’t matter. They hadn’t met. 

He waited, listening for their further intentions. Finally he heard the gnarling metal over metal sound of the elevator rising to the cafeteria’s level.

He clambered over the tank wall, and finding the bathing stool with his feet, hunkered down onto it, shoulder deep in the warmed mud. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

This is Not a Werewolf Story: 3. Maliced Genes

The reins slap down onto the oxen. They lurch into motion. The traffic stops entirely to allow them their way. 

“Don’t let that surprise you, “ says the accountant. “It’s that nobody wants a contact-incident. The beasts and the wagon are the only solid transport around.”

I wish the man would tell us his call name. I’m not a fan of titling a person ad infinitum. 
At the end of the street the wagon rolls onto a track slithering up a slope. A stunted forest takes us onto a remnant of the plateau. 

“About my business,” says Esse. “Will you tell me your secret name?”

Will he or won’t he when he’s doubtful already about his call name?

The accountant whispers near the Esse’s ear. 

He doesn’t allow any part of himself to touch her. He is well informed. 

The young chief frowns. “So it is to be a secret business,” she says. “I expected action. Fireworks. Fighting.” 

The accountant rolls his eyes. 

The girl, for that is what she still is, faces forward abruptly. Her face and neck flame red. She pulls at the harness bridling the oxen.   
She feels shame? She should. How things have changed since last I was a man, that such youngsters are chosen to rule. Or is that one of the mysteries about this action that I should study? Her particularly, or all three? 

My Esse ignores my wavelength. She nods the conversation along. “So Monk said. He organised the details with you?”

The accountant nods. “With Tim at the same time.” He nods into the back. 

“Tim,” the techie says, reaching out his hand for shaking. 

I do the honours. Touch is one of my roles. An ordinary mortal will flare and burn should the Esse touch him. 

 “I have a laptop and a mobile phone with me,” Esse says. “They contain an accounting of my years so far, numbers and words both. I need them both under the protection of a dependable House?” 
She waits. 

I have time to notice the labour of the oxen, the backward slant of the load in the wagon, the trainees walking now to lighten the strain on the animals. 

“The lady asks about the why-and-wherefore of Bec,” Blaze says. “If I’m not mistaken.” He bows. Toward the Esse. Toward me. “Hail to you, Esse and to you, oh Warrigal.” 

He names me Warrigal with an honorific? “Loup is my call name,” I say. 

Perhaps this is the hangup with the accountant? I did not tell him my call name therefore he won’t tell us his? I can’t believe it’s a power play. He seems an educated man. 

While I cogitate, the accountant sags as if overcome with emotion. “Blaze. Please relieve Bec,” he says. 

Rope is Bec. There is a mystery about her. 

Bec walks to her father’s side, speaks across him. “My mother is the real chief,” she says. “She lies broken. Her a woman of honour with two husbands. The other and two of my brothers are dead. All four killed by the fucking Naif miners.”

She punches the side of the wagon. 

I take back what I thought about Bec, my Esse. My inner face is red. 

We share our thoughts, both of us having been implanted with one of Shaman Jeb’s chips, in our case liaised only to each other. One of the blessed Silver Ship’s innovations.

Bec resumes her accounting. “This husband-my-father fights with words. He brought you and your red-eyed wonder to burn the fuckers, I hope. The daughter tries to fill her mother’s shoes. They try to pretend it’s business as usual.”

Tears want to slide down her face and I want that for her. I spit over the side despite that Monk warned me that this epoch frowns upon such spitting. 

“Or are you just some Ancient itinerants,” the girl says choosing to hide her grief in a tantrum. “The same as we must feed and send on their way without expecting their help in any kind of detrimental event?”

The Esse glimmer-grins, showing her power sparking and blue behind her teeth. 

More than a tenth of a second and the two electronic devices she still holds will be fried. But even Blaze at the head of the oxen sees. He straightens. The accountant breathes the warrior way. In out. In out.

The Esse continues. “As I said, I need them both in the protection of a dependable house. You are Monk’s recommendation.”

“Why Tim, though?” the accountant says. “You’ll return from the action, we hand over your machines untouched.”

“Next time I sleep the long sleep,” she says. “It must be to merge with the red mountain. I want our stories told but wrote them encoded, to not fall into Naif hands. Hence your Tim.” 

I hear the tremble in her voice. Way oh way, my Esse. I swear I’ll not send you walking into the mountain alone. 

Maybe I gave her hope for she continues. 

“Our maliced genes are not the only influence on our actions. The ways that the Silver Ship rehabilitated us for our people’s benefit and for the benefit of this, our ancient home planet, should be known too.” 

She finishes with a sob. Hides her face in her scarves. She’s afraid. She is younger already than I expected, and must eat her Numen. 

Her fear sets our hosts blushing or freezing. The youngsters don’t know where to look. They grin embarrassedly at each other. Their elder becomes a pale statue. 

What did they think? That we live magically and forever? 

The accountant wakes from his stupor. “I swear you my secrecy.”

“I swear you my skills and talents,” Tim says. 

These two save themselves, in my opinion. 

My Esse wipes her tears. She hands over her laptop and her mobile. “Both are dormant.” She grins at Tim. “Your first test will be the password.” Then she warns him. “Not before you hear that we …” she hesitates, needing my confirmation. 

I squeeze her hand. 

“… That we have joined with the red mountain.”

The accountant slips the machines into a box under the bench. “Lead-lined,” he says. “According to instructions?”

He still doubts? Way oh way, my Esse mought not be doubted. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

This is Not a Werewolf Story: The Wherefores

Still the Ordinary Moon
Even a seat-of-the-pants writer such as I am, needs every so often to fix a few landmarks in her story-world. This tale (of ten or so instalments) is my attempt to explain the origin of the jinkers, a strange wizard-kind, at the heart of both The Half Shaman and the Monster-Moored Series. 

The Esse and I don’t hug. I may not even hold her hand lest I set her magic free before it can be known. Way oh way, my Esse. My heart mought burst into my belly I am so warm that you picked me. 
Ancients walk fore and aft of us, but untidily, to portray a friend-group out welcoming their oldest lady, though, in fact, under her scarves she looks quite young, I’m disturbed to see. She chatters, as I predicted. She’ll make a friend of anyone.
Local grandpa waves till-we-meet-again. 
I wave tell-you-then.
Rope might’ve said a negative thing had she known our acquaintance, Rope’s expression says. 
“Be easy, young woman,” says the Esse. 
“Why would Monk ask us to bring our accountant?” Rope says, attempting to counter the Esse’s attitude with some of her own. 
Good luck with that, youngster. 
“Glad you asked,” Esse says. “May we settle somewhere, carry out a few odds of business?”
We pass the long horizontal cafe-window. People at the bench look out on us with interest. 
“Not the cafe,” Esse tells the chief.
I see with her the table with nine chairs surrounding it, coffees steaming or variously consumed, with ninety-nine or some such Naifs encircling. They resemble naked-neck vultures waiting for a kill. Some, when they look to see us walking past, start to get up. Some get their mobiles out. At least one already presses a particular digit three times.  
They remind me to con the scene like a hunter. Who do these vultures await? Whom are they trusting to deliver their prey? 
“Not the park opposite the police station,” I say, foreseeing the possibility of a nasty flickering-in-and-out-of-character scene should I need to use energy to maintain my cool. 
Neither Esse nor I are in our steady-state. My heart and my head buzz as if fat golden bees zip in and out. My wolf-hair reluctantly allows itself to be transformed, hair by hair. 
The lack of a shaman in the other-lands means we must perform the appropriate rites ourselves, on each other and soon, if the transformation is to ‘take’.
“The wagon?” the accountant says. 
“That’ll work,” Esse says. 
We stop by a wagon-and-pair parked parallel to the pavement, taking the place of two electronic vehicles. 
“Monk said no electronics,” the accountant says. “Lucky we use oxen for carrying up and down the stone road. We borrowed the wagon from the museum in return to bring them a load of sandstone for repairs.” 
The wagon sits nearly as low as a foundering sea-ship. The sandstone on board already. 
Esse slides onto the seat beside the accountant and motions for me to join her. 
The wagon dips some on my side. Despite my looks, I am no lightweight. It’s the accretion of stone in my old old bones. 
My Esse smiles out of the corner of her mouth near me. She’s having trouble not sliding into me. She is a lightweight. I’ll need to feed her up. Wonder if this country has rabbits? 
We somehow have forced the young chief to walk at the heads of the animals. I don’t see anything other than pride going before a fall. The warrior and the techie cross-leg on the load. Win a friend and gain an enemy might-and-ought also sum the situation so far. 
“Where to?” says the accountant, holding the reins up off the backs of the oxen. 
“I have in my mind a ridgeway,” I say. “A track running along the top of the ranges. Do you know it?” 
I also have in mind a cave of golden sandstone warmed by the westering sun. Private. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

This is Not a Werewolf Story: Loup

The Ordinary Moon
Part 1: Loup

I am a ramshackle man, old and grey and barely holding it together, is what I read on the Naif faces surrounding us. 
I’m sitting at a table in the fucking middle of the only cafe in a town where Naifs outnumber everyone else three to one. Three Naifs to one Local or one African or one Ancient. Even when the Ancients are us.
My minders don’t notice the staring. They’re agog in their own way for being lumped with me, a figure from their ancient mythologies. 
I do resemble a wolf somewhat. 
Or I did when I looked into a window at the jail, at my reflection. I’m long, lean and rangy. I lope no matter how I adjust my pace. My eyes, beetling under my grey man-brow, are wide-spaced and often red-sparking. I dress to cover the fringing on my heels and elbows. 
Be on the fucking bus, Esse. I do not want to be a wolf in a shooters’ paradise and my living days gone before the work.
“Fucking Monk,” says Rope. “What does he think we can do with you?”
I call her Rope due to the way she wears her hair. She is our Chief, apparently.
“I’m not here for you to do anything with,” I say. “You’re keeping me company till the bus gets here. Monk said to pretend you are my daughter. You always bring warriors to meet your old father?”
We speak in the ancient, it-is-to-be-hoped generally unknown tongue.
“My-old-father is the laugh,” Rope says. “Bring your accountant, says Monk. This is him, my not so old father.”
“Not a warrior,” says the man firmly. 
I see now how he lightly carries his years. 
“Our trainees,” the accountant says. “A warrior. A tech. All of us as suggested by himself. Monk’s wish, our command.”
The young people are so riveted I’m not sure they’ll do. 
A waiter comes. A Naif. “Five coffees,” she says. “Drink up and out of here. The old fucker is scaring people.” She speaks the english of this region.
Rope hisses. “Must I put start a cafe myself and take your customers?”
The waiter looks confused. I almost laugh, Rope is a lateral thinker. 
The techie takes out his mobile and messages people. The warrior fetches willow-back chairs from where they can be got. 
I missed the signal for their actions, nor which of the leaders grimaced it. 
“Four more coffees,” Rope says, smugly laughing so no Naif will see it. 
Oh way oh way, my Esse. Nor can I live out my days without you in them in these new times. Or would I want to. 
“Bus ETA in seven minutes,” the techie says. 
I rise, shaking off a wait-a-while hand. I’m out of there. “I need her to see me. Why would she alight in this dim place otherwise?”
The warrior joins me in my standing-and-waiting. A youngster, he stares out front as if he is on parade. 
My heels still hurt with me upright. 
“Hey Blaze,” says a young tenor. “You waiting to travel on the bus?” 
A Local, if I’m not mistaken. He has set himself beside the young warrior. 
The warrior tips his head to me. “Waiting along of this guest we have. Keeping him company. Stranger in a strange land.”
“You out of school totally then?”
Blaze nods.
“Times a-coming, our grandpa asks? He’s across the road, not wanting to formalise.”
The warrior looks to me. 
For my input? The kid is out of school totally to help deal with the times a-coming? Local Grandpa is across the road not wanting to alert the Naif if the action is still a secret? 

I smile a glimmer. “Seems to me the Locals has the ball.” A good feeling warms my belly. “I’m waiting for a garrulous old woman. She’ll tell us.”