After those geese flew North and I said “Bye” I watched two eagles meet, one flew North and West, the Other East and North and when they met they turned to circle each other: a bald eagle and their mate, two eagles turned around an axis only they could track and the two spun south-west and away over the houses and gone.
Ever since I was a very young boy, I’ve been haunted by material success.
My personal demons clutched at me from the corners of my room, in the ceiling. They tore me from my bed scrabbling for the blankets. Yanked from bed and sleep and tossed bodily into the night sky, spinning into forever before I had even seen a picture of the moon.
Or, I thought. It’s possible I had seen a space program that night and my brain made a nightmare where I was tossed into space by the shadow men that whispered from the dark corners of my ceiling.
Years later, I’d find myself in the street outside of my house, somehow curtained with velvet scarlet curtains that stretched impossibly into the night sky above. The street lights lit the curtains, these long wide, but not “curtain” wide strips of soft, red cloth, attached at intervals to the ground forming boundaries that were not walls showing sky and neighborhood around.
There was a pounding from the earth. A slamming sound, from a glowing rectangle in the dirt on the ground.
I looked into it, deep down there was a man tied to a stone table, another man swung a hammer at the writhing man and where the hammer hit, a geyser of gore would erupt like a volcano of the flesh.
The man with the hammer turned and pointed at me, a grin that said “You’ll be here soon!”
Or maybe I saw a Poster for Ozzy Osborne and made a whole scenario up in my head for a nightmare. The guys who tell me stuff in my dreams, they think that’s how it is. I still get uncomfortable when I think about it, I avoided looking at that poster for a decade.
Then one of the guys started showing up in places. He’d be this smiling, silent, mad-eyed Polish Airman. He’d show up every-time I was left alone outside of the house. He wasn’t a threat or something, he just would sorta appear, hang out like “don’t you forget, we’re always here” and then take off.
Or I dunno, I imagined this very detailed idea of a ghost that’s doing some kind of Spiritual Racket on a guy. Who knows.
The Patient Gentleman, he says that it’s never gonna stop being like this until I can pay them off for all they do for me.
There’s these towns that I dream about over and over, their geography is getting to be familiar to me, to the point that when I see the places that the dreams were inspired by, I get a little confused because I thought I dreamed them.
There’s an intersection that my family passed seemingly 100s of times on family trips here and there through my life, it’s not even a major intersection, but we passed it dutifully so many times that whenever I take a long road trip in a dream, I’m sure to pass by it. It marks the boundary between the known and the unknown, the familiar and the exotic. It’s an almost literal HERE and THERE sign in a dream for me.
There are a series of small towns that I dream of with peculiar hidden geographies, side streets and alleys and shopping bazaars. These always seem to involve a street that splits in two directions, in one direction is a familiar stretch with a post office, a carpet shop, a cinema, a chip shop and a toy shop. I’ve drifted down (or rather up) this stretch so often that I can envision the walk passed easily. Inevitably the dream will lead through some side street to “the other bit” where the mystery place will be, the thing the Dream is “about” will be in this other part of the town, a part you can only approach without going there.
The People of these towns don’t exist for the most part, they aren’t even “Dream people” more like “filling” that’s not true, there are these, I don’t know, characters that end up being around town. There’s a Hotel/Hostel/BnB at the far end of town that vacillates wildly from being a 70s Drama and a Turn of the 20th Century Flop House.
There’s a Massive house at the far end of the main strip, it houses the rich old town founders family, they never live there long, they always sort of wander out, leaving a hollowed out mansion full of empty rooms with no ceilings.
There’s a strip of roads that lead out of town in three directions, 2 south, 1 north. or 1 east west and 2 south.
That’s it, it’s always the same otherwise.
Sometimes there’s a curving road that leads up to a highway of sorts, sometimes the whole affair is perched on a cliff with a modern posh hotel slam in the middle.
There’s a Shopping center that services the whole district, it never changes, it’s perpetually under siege by pop singers.
Wind and dust and the smell of desert herb that comes with the only moisture of the day with the meager morning dew whipped by the winds of dawn and riven through the dry bones of the last Ghost Town in the Last Ghost State in the Whole Damned Ghost United States.
It’d been decades since the town had seen a stable visitor. There still came the odd visitor, a curious type looking for some evidence of America here in a park set up for families in a time of peace.
Every day the Cyborg Cowboy would patrol the empty streets, ferreting out animals and repairing the whole facility. It never wanted for parts or power, or even for function, there was a non-stop stream of animals into the compound. Drawn by the noise of the musical machines in the bar and the sounds of gun-fights that played over the loudspeakers.
The Cyborg was freed every night at closing time. A voice will announce: “Good Night, Buckaroos!”
And the Cyborg finds herself free of the yoke of the day, she can wander the empty streets and investigate the fences and decide whether to let the animals in again that night.
For one thing, a Barda-Only Story where Barda gets her hands on the Onyx Sword from Gods and Monsters and jumping universes to meet the somewhat criminal Superman of that earth would make for a cool comic.
The Premise is fun, there was an anomaly at the Source Remnant on New Genesis. The Source Remnant has this sword hilt in it, when grabbed the MotherBox like tech in the sword activates and tells Barda a secret way into this alternate universe. It also tells her that in this alternate Scott Free is a strong and powerful warrior.
You set up that she needs “Scott Free” from Gods and Monsters Universe to donate some blood for Local Mister Miracle because his time on Apokolips robbed him of something from his diet that every child on New Genesis gets. Subsequently an organ is shutting down.
Barda has to get a sample and reading from “Bad Scott Free” to save her husband, strangely the sword “Wants to Go Home”
It was the first thing that Wilf heard from the wild man outside the TV Station.
“God BLESS the Scottish! Andrew Marvin! PLEASEDTAMEETCHA” He pumped Wilf’s hand as if he thought it would push Wilf into speaking like one primes a water pump.
“I’m glad to meet you, Mister Marvin. Wilf Broadericz” Wilf looked the man in the eye and gripped back with as much enthusiasm as he could muster.
“Broadericz, eh? Are you a Commie?”
“No, Sir! I’m a former GI and fought for OUR SIDE in the War!” Wilf nearly shouted. He’d been used to ribbing about his name, but his family had been in America almost as long as Texas. He bristled at any suggestion he was anything less than a Patriot.
“Hold on! Hey!” Mr. Marvin Raised his hands “I was only joshing, you wouldn’t be standing here if there was any question if you loved your Uncle Sam!”
Mr. Marvin gestured to the double doors behind him, up 3 short steps, and began to lead Wilf to the Door. “Son, you are gonna go in there, meet your future and you and I are going to be working together, I tell you what.”
The Foyer of the TV Station was a wide space with a single wide desk in the modern style with a pretty young lady sitting at it. Behind her a single giant Television (nearly 24 inches!) sat on a pedestal behind her showing what was being shown on television at the time.
She looked up as Wilf approached and held out a black rectangle towards him: “Mr. Broadericz! Here’s your pass for the building. You will be photographed and given a printed ID card in the future, hold onto that pass for the time being.”
Mister Marvin nodded to stairs that led up into the dim second floor on either side of the room, Wilf followed and they ascended into the offices of the TV Station. Mr. Marvin lead Wilf to an office at the end of the corridor, opening the door and stepping into the room and opening some blinds.
“Your office, Wilf.” He gestured around the nicely appointed room, with space to entertain and an impressive oak desk with well appointed shelves and cabinets around the room. At the corner between the two windows there was another monster TV facing into the room.
Mr. Marvin pointed to a book on the desk, “right there is your manual for working here at the Station. Read it today, take notes if you need them, it DOES NOT LEAVE this office, nor do you take home notes. You leave your life outside at the door and you leave your time in here at the door when you leave. This is the MOST important rule here at the Station and it’s why I’m telling you it before you read it again on the first page of that Manual.”
Wilf nodded solemnly “I had heard security was tight, but I had no idea it would be opsec tight.”
Mister Marvin stepped close “Look kid, we didn’t recruit you because we were impressed with your KP skills. I need say no more?”
Wilf got the picture, he was referring to his time as an intelligence asset behind enemy lines and his experience with OSI.
There was nothing more to say, Wilf sat at his desk, took in the view and then set to reading the Manual for his new Job.
Being a Public Servant is a Big Job. You are supposed to go out into the world, find what’s broken and fix it within a series of ever-changing rules set alternatively by people who are disinterested and overly concerned. Fred worked as a Bureaucrat at the “pleasure” of a Government Minister, and who his boss is changes from Election to Election (and lately with the wind!) So Fred never knew who he was “Pleasing” these days. He kept his head down and just got on with work. In his current role, he was a Safety Inspector for Public Housing and Private Housing Safety Enforcement.
He spent most days driving out to various places, doing a basic inspection of houses and schools and getting engineers involved if he thought they were needed. The County used Private Engineering firms rather than employing an Engineer full time, so there was never lack of Engineers, but some times the County “got what it paid for” with the Cheaper Services.
Fred strolled from his car, having finally arrived at Hrenville at the far eastern edge of his usual patch. It smelled of apples and wood-smoke when he walked to the school building, an older structure but built of heavy, post-war materials with none of the retrofits that added Air Conditioning or even a Heating Boiler to the building. It was heated with a series of wood-burning fires around the building, the roof was studded with small chimneys. It was a house of horrors for anyone seeking a more modern life, but it was a haven of “old time” life for the people of Hrenville who kept things like this as a kind of Tourist Trap, much to the chagrin of any new Teacher or Doctor who is unfortunate enough to find themselves assigned here.
Funny enough, they never have trouble getting new Priests into town if one passes on. Fred had been visiting the town for years, and knew who the movers and shakers were in town, but he was never greeted with anything more than indifference, not malice. The people of Hrenville went about their lives, keeping their picturesque corner of the county ready for visitors and hosting various festivals and celebrations and historical re-enactors and the like.
The Town was home to only 2 small Motels, with visitors driving into to town from the more Modern cities just down the road. It was in a vast field bound on all sides by forests and rivers, it was uphill from flood plains and downhill in terms of water flow for the aquifer so it has a great water system and never lacks for farmland around it, but not a single part of the massive flat field is tilled, with the town council insisting that it all be kept flat and green for visitors.
Fred walked around the School, looking for signs of damage, or structural issues. He liked to do this alone, without someone from inside to guide him to or from issues. He took out his flashlight and peered into the shadows around the school buildings structure, looking for reflections in standing water where it shouldn’t be, looking for shadows where there should be solid wood, that kind of thing. Satisfied that from a ground level, the building’s exterior looked okay, Fred dusted himself off, straightened himself and walked into the cool, concrete and wood interior of the Hrenville School.
The halls echoed with the hushed noises of a school in session, teachers and students talking everywhere in the large building. Somewhere in the building children sang a song, but Fred couldn’t pick up the tune or the words, only that children were singing. The Main office was to the left of the main entrance and a brass touchplate next to the door with words inscribed in it (long warn) was smooth and polished from 40+ years of students and teachers tapping it as they passed. Fred, a fan of tradition, tapped the plate as he passed and greeted Mrs. Belen, the school administrator and the power behind the office of the Principal Miss. Belen (he daughter).
Fred! It’s so nice to see you! She smiled and stood up from her desk to greet Fred. She wrapped him up in her arms and kissed him warmly on both cheeks. She had been Principal before and had a habit of treating every adult that came through the doors like lost children of her own.
Fred accepted the warmth and hugged Mrs. Belen back, returning her warmth with his own good nature. Mrs. Belen, I’m here for an inspection of the building, I’ll be wandering around the building looking at the structure and the chimney stacks. I’ll need a ladder to get up on top of the building at some point today and expect to be out of your hair before the school day is out. Will you be coming around with me today?
Mrs. Belen released Fred and walked around the office and swept with her arms to some posters on the wall opposite announcing “Saint Anthony’s Days” bearing a Date range starting today.
I’m sorry, Fred. We’re going to be busy today with the Children’s Saint Anthony’s Days activities. Mrs. Belen loved to come on the inspections, mostly because she had been the Principal for so long that she had a deep love for the building and all the kids that had passed through. But Saint Anthony was the town Patron Saint and around Hrenville was big on celebrating, every year they spent more and more time on the big Festival for their Patron Saint, so Fred wasn’t surprised that he would be working alone today.
Fred tapped the touch-plate as Mrs. Belen waved at his back, leaving the office. He wandered the halls, lighting the corners and the cracks, noting where there were some concerns in his notebooks. Classes let out and Fred stood to the side, waving friendly waves to teachers he recognized and enduring the stares and whispers of curious children. The Hrenvile School only served Kindergarten through Grade 6, the children were all uniformly small children to Fred and they blended into a somewhat dirty mass. As they swarmed out of the building into the air and the grassy fields outside.
With the Children out of the way Fred could make a pass of the classrooms looking for obvious issues and trying to find any issues with the fireplaces, thankfully centrally located off the Central Cross of the building. He lingered around the fireplaces, cold in the late spring. He could hear the same singing he heard earlier, the voices sounded bored and distracted now, there was a keening tone under it now that he hadn’t heard at all before.
He played his light along the ceilings as he finished a circuit of the whole cross, looking into each room, listening to the distant sounds of children playing and the singing never seeming to get louder or softer as he went around the building.
The Singing never changed in volume.
He walked the length of the cross two times and never found the singers got closer or further away, nor did the singing stop, it was a constant childish chant of some kind. He strode back into office and found a gaggle of giggling children in the corner of the room, they were pulling ribbons from a sack of some ki…
Mrs Belen was on her back in the corner, he face already slack but stuck with a look of horror and wonder all at once staring up at the ceiling as laughing children with arms streaked in gore pulled at her intestine and slurped from them like mad milkshakes.
Fred dashed right, shouldering the door to Miss Belen’s private office and slamming the door behind him. The Singing had reached new volumes and the keening had become a shrieking that he could feel in his head more than hear anymore, scratching at the inside of his head like a trapped thought with claws.
Miss Belen’s office was empty, she wasn’t in at all. The Children had apparently not even seen Fred dash into the office, consumed as they were with their meal. He could hear children outside, playing some games, he could hear snatches of what was being said now and what he thought was “childish screaming” might have been something much worse. He chanced a look out the window over the grass fields and under a wide banner announcing “Saint Anthony’s Day at Hrenville School” he saw groups of under-12s felling adults in the field and tearing into them, like candy filled Paper models.
The singing had become a somber, atonal drone all around him now, neither rising in volume or pitch. He could feel a hot presence in the school; his back was soaked with sweat from the fear and the blazing heat that had sprung up everywhere. In the distance he could see smoke coming from buildings around town, the chaos in the school field was not just here.
Hrenville was a candy store of gore now. Children skipped trailing lengths of intestine, slurping happily from them as they squeezed every drop from them into their waiting mouths. He watched a small boy, no more than 5 eagerly squeeze a liver and suck at it to drain it into him. He wiped his mouth with a bloody back of his hand and sped off to find a new meal.
Fred couldn’t see his car, he was at the side of the building, away from the entrance. There were kids everywhere and while they hadn’t seen him yet, he had no idea if he could get away without them pulling him down and eating him raw.
Fear pricked him as the wall next to him collapsed and fell away in a cloud of dust and huge arm slid around him and dragged him off his feet and swung him like a ragdoll as he was carried into the rafters of the building to a chapel, hidden between the chimneys, were a group of the older girls circled Miss Belen, who was in a trance of sorts. The large arms let him down and he found himself looking at a massive Man-Shaped thing that was at least 8 feet tall stooped amongst the roof and wood, staring down at him with an amiable look on its face.
Miss Belen looked up, directly into Fred’s eyes and said: ‘Fred. You’re Late this year!”
The Girls tittered to each other and shushed at a gesture from Miss Belen.
Fred, if you had come last week, like you normally would, you’d have missed the whole thing. Miss Belen stood and smoothed her simple back skirt. The Singing and the screaming had all stopped. There was a silence from outside that did nothing to break the tension in the circular chapel.
With a wave, the man-thing was brought to attention and it pinned Fred down between the girls, who looked down at him with undisguised hunger.
It was going to be “Me” as the final “Snack” for today, a final sacrifice for Hrenville to continue, but now, Fred. Fred held up a hand, as if to say “no need to explain”
However, in that hand was a pistol that he had been carrying for years, ever since a helpful mayor had once tried to shake him down.
Fred didn’t even hesitate, he shot the Man-Thing dead between the eyes and shot up, scattering hungry kids and pushing Miss Belen out of the way. He found the stairs the girls and teacher had used and ran at full speed from the school firing into the faces of the cutest kids he had every seen and diving into his car, slamming it into reverse and fully flattening some kindergartners with his car as he rolled over them and peeled out to the highway. He never looked back, or dropped the pistol.
Once he had driven far enough, he put the pistol down on the passenger seat, pulled over and checked over the car, looking for evidence of the kids bodies and finding only bloody marks, he wiped them with wipes from his car and drove as calmly as possible to the nearest police station in Rempton just 10 minutes away.
A torn “Saint Anthony’s Days” banner hung over the road as he came to town and he slowed down only to see a police officer being set upon by teenagers like a pride of lions.
Oh, he thought, Hrenville Teens go to school at Rempton middle school, don’t they.
He saw a bus on fire in the distance and thought better of stopping anywhere he might find a kid from Hrenville.
Investigators were shocked at the sheer number of skulls found in the house of 58-year-old Dallas resident, Henry Waltham. A prominent voice in the online Q movement, Mr. Waltham had been a vocal supporter of the notion that “Democrats” were abducting Children for use in occult practices.
He had escaped notice for years, living alone in a large house in a tawny subdivision. He was finally discovered by a lawn maintenance crew that had mistakenly begun work in his back yard instead of a neighbor and happened to look in the window depicted in this artist concept image.
Merced Ruis was doing a quick circle of the yard checking for things in the grass when he noticed the unusual shapes in the window, looking closer he couldn’t miss the skulls in the darkened room, nor the photos of missing people on every wall. He stepped away from the window and called over his co-workers who all agreed that the room was very disturbing.
It was less than 24 hours later that police investigators opened the hidden door that led to the room and were met with the evidence that Henry “Hank” Waltham, far from being a “God-Fearing Christian” was in fact a deeply evil, child killing “Necromancer” who had been hiding among the members of Q online for years now.
The Local GOP also disavowed him, despite him being the precinct captain for 30 years.
After 10,000 years, the Anchorite was forced to leave the keep for the first time. They strode from the floor of the Tower, mostly fallen. A Siege from outside of the atmosphere led to the fall of every traditional and esoteric defense, not a siege screen remained between the Tower and the rest of the Universe; and the Anchorite was forced to take matters into their own hands.
With a wave of their hands, 10,000 years of ghosts rose around them, spreading like angry smoke with purpose. Their personal guard stood in their shadow, weapons of an age forgotten at the ready to dispose of anything that came within their sight. They two stood in the ruin of a fort that had stood longer than any being had lived. A last bastion on a planet left behind by history when Humankind left the Sol system to join a Galaxy and Universe beyond.
The Anchorites took up the task of “being humanity” on an empty planet left to itself in a corner of the Galaxy that was forgotten by its children. The distances between Earth and the rest of Humanity meant that at random periods Humans who had never heard of Earth and no longer spoke with languages that even resembled earth languages or speech at all would come across “a perfect world” for humans and learn that Earth was no longer “For” humanity.
Now, after a siege that came from points outside of the solar system, the last of Humanity faces destruction at the hands of children who have forgotten that this was their home.