Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Back on Line!!!

To any of my regular readers I may have left, I am now back on line. After weeks of nightmarish computer problems I have finally managed to get things fixed. Ok, not fixed, replaced. After my Toshiba died I tried to use my netbook, but if you own one of these wonderful little machines you know that they are not really suited for use as a full time work station. It was time consuming and left little time for writing. After two weeks of falling further and further behind I gave up and dug an older desktop out of the basement and set it up. It was an original Windows XP machine. I love XP but I have to admit that this machine was not working either. I had to install Service Pack 3 on it (it was still running SP2), clean off the hard drive run a defrag and several virus scans before I realized that I was beating a dead horse.

So broke into our emergency fund and stole $400 from it and purchased a new desktop.

It is about one rung up the ladder from a bare bones entry level machine, but it has a 500Gb hard drive and 3Gb of DDR3 memory.

I just hope the wheels don't fall of the van before our insurance settlement comes through on that, because, oh yeah, some idiot made an illegal left turn in front of us and wrecked our van. The perfect topper to this little chain of events is that while trying to repair a leaking carburetor my riding mower it decided to kick over all on its own. She while gasoline was spraying out of it like a fountain I was trying to get it to shut off. The spark plug set the fuel on fire. Foosh. I am back pushing a damn mower.

I should be able to resume regular story posts soon.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Land of Shadows: Chapter XII - Deek

It took more time than Allison really felt they could spare, but Dee insisted that they bury Jewels. The corpse was pitifully lightweight, little more than a collection of bones with a thin leathery skin stretched loosely over it. It probably weighed less than seventy pounds. Neither one of them could bring themselves to look at the pitiful waste he had become. They laid him out on a sheet and wrapped him up. The grave was shallow but concrete paving stones borrowed from the patio laid over the grave insured that Jewels would rest undisturbed by scavengers, For a moment they both stood over the grave in silence. Neither had the words to express how they felt. So without a word they turned the tear streaked faces away to continue their mission.

They managed to track the little Ford to this house, where they found it parked in the front lawn crushing a Lilac bush. The little van was filthy inside and deep gouges in the plastic flooring and interior panels showed that he had been travelling in the company of at least two lesser wraiths. But the van was finished. It really should not have even been able to make it this far.

It was clear that the monster had another host, probably the "big white boy" Ally said Jewels had mentioned. A narrow set of tire tracks leading out of the garage indicated that he liberated a bicycle. He had obviously fallen a couple of times in the street and a double set of wraith tracks trailed alongside the tire tracks. A good mountain bike actually had an advantage over even the Volvo. It could cut directly through woods, taking game trails that a car or truck could never hope to navigate. It would also be far harder to track. If they only knew where the Hell it was going.

* * *
He had no idea where he was going.

He was lost. The boy formerly known as Deek had never been more than twenty miles from home and had in fact been wandering around lost when he had fallen into a nest of wraith bugs.

Bitten several dozen times he had been nearly comatose when the wraiths had found him.

He remembered being prodded and poked by one, its drooling maw hovering over his face, Tendrils that felt like wriggling hacksaw blades probing at his belly. He was sure death was not far off. He was not able to speak, but began praying silently. Suddenly another wraith, much larger than the first swatted it aside. The smaller one crouched and began circling as if it wanted to challenge the larger one but it abruptly changed its mind. He had been carried off to their nest and thrown into an empty tool shed. Half rotten meat was thrown in a couple of times a day and a water bowl was provided.

The possibility of being killed frightened him enough, but the unknown reason they were keeping him alive scared him even more. He knew he was not smart. He never had been. Everybody was always telling him how slow or stupid he was. But he knew that there could be no good reason for them to be keeping him alive.

When the door to the shed was suddenly thrown open and he saw an old black man standing before him with a lantern, he thought he had been rescued. Then he saw the three wraiths standing beside him. He then thought the man had been captured and he would have someone to talk to for a while until his fate was decided. But something about the way the wraiths were standing by the old man caused a little voice to speak up in his mind, telling him to keep his mouth shut and his eyes and ears open.

The old man just stood there for a moment looking in at Deek. He felt like a cow being appraised just before slaughter. The old man started to say something, but never got a chance. An explosion thundered out of the darkness, man and wraith all looked to see what had happened. Deek thought his opportunity to escape had come, but the old man turned his attention back on him before he had take three steps towards the door. He just barely saw the stinger of the near wraith lash out at him. The world fell out from under him but not before he saw the old man pull a gun and shoot the wraith that had stung him. The other wraiths just stared at the suddenly dead wraith, their tiny minds mulling this situation over. For a moment he felt a compassion for them, for they were obviously as confused as he was.

He did not awaken again for several hours. At least he thought he was awake, but he could not move or see. There was a sound more heard really than felt of gnawing. It scared him more than anything else for some reason. But then a voice spoke out to him from the darkness. It was a kind but firm voice and he knew he could trust it.

"Follow me boy, if you want to live." He wanted to tell the voice that he could not move or speak, but he was already moving. Without arms or legs he moved across a rapidly brightening dreamscape of sea and forest valleys he recognized from a storybook his mother had read to him when he was a little boy. He came to a clearing where monstrous wild things happily frolicked. A black man, thin as a sapling but not at all frail, stood in the center of the clearing where Deek landed. His age was impossible to discern for it seemed to change constantly as he stood there.

"Did you make this?" he asked timidly.

"No," said the now old man laughing, "you made this boy, you're God here, not me. I'm just an unwilling intruder."

The sun blazed down bright and hot, beginning to sear the landscape, but a thick bank of clouds billowed up bringing relief. "You got strength you don't even realize boy," but even as the flush of youth swept across his face, he looked worried, "We gotta hurry boy, there ain't much time."
Much had to be abandoned for the enemy to use, but the old black man assured him that it could not be helped.

* * *

He was slowly finding what he needed and the bike was getting easier to handle. He was furious that the boy had had never learned to read. Interpreting the maps he had found at the local library was difficult. So much was always lost in transition. He knew what he was looking for, but not where it was. The boy had seemed to completely surrender, which had its advantages and disadvantages. Everything was there for the taking, but there were no reference points. The struggle for control always led him to the best bits, but this was like breaking into vacant house filled with unfamiliar relics. If you don't see what the owner rushes to defend, you don't know what is worth stealing. So much was always lost in transition. He knew what he was looking for, but not where it was.

He would have to find someone to read the journals to him. He would once again dig out the location of the of the miraculous machine these creatures had built and use it. It was just a matter of time. He would remake this world in the image of his own. But with food!

© 2010 R. Keith McBride