You might think twice about this little tale. If you know me and especially Mr. Binger, you will read exactly as you expect… but it’s the melody that keeps a true reader reading, not so the story. Of course, I say that and I’m accused of tricking readers into putting things they don’t want in their heads. There I repeat myself, if you know me and especially Mr. Binger, you will read exactly as you expect! I’m not saying I’m sorry.
A Last Song for Supper
The howls are loud and so constant they change into colored rays split from a prism sat in forgotten sunlight. Truly, all sensations turn into visible hues. The pain in this dungeon and radiant ripples caused by the torture here, torment burned into flesh, they are bright and they overwhelm an all-around bloody glow of hot coals. And after intense days, living prisoners pray for the relief of dark silence. Todd, the King’s warden, the scourge of the Lord, he is driven by another need.
“I’m hungry,” Todd shouts above sobs and wails. “It’s feeding time for this lot, too.”
The large warden talks to his three naked slaves and he is sure he is overheard by everyone who still has ears. “Now, what are we going to do?”
Gazing about the underground prison, Todd lifts a leather apron off and over his head. He wears this medieval garment when he smelts human limbs and skulls into bubbling globs of calcium and fat. Dead prisoners and those who will yet die have witnessed this terrible atrocity.
“Who will sing for our suppers?” chuckles the merry warden. He encourages his slaves to snicker with slaps and fierce pinches to their buttocks and balls.
After no prisoner replies, Todd shouts, “Come now, no one will hurt you when you’re singing. Everyone will relax and listen to your song. Come now. We will all finally eat in peace.”
Nobody laughs now. Todd stands grinning while his bruised slaves let their faces slip back into grimaces. Since the torture has stopped and the anguish has diminished to invisible whimpers and mewls, a famished prisoner wonders aloud, “You will feed us?”
The young man’s Eastern accent makes him sound to have said only “Feet” and “Ut.”
Todd happily rubs his own hirsute belly. He’s worn nothing beneath the apron all week except a soiled loin clothe and tall leather boots. Rubbed then itched, his digestive tract also seems to handle translations. “Yes.”
“Just sing?” asks a young woman very clearly on the floor and in shackles like everyone else.
Todd opens his mouth and smiles. The man has all his teeth and his canines are especially pointed. “Yes.”
“And you’ll feed us?” the starving youth verifies once more.
The warden makes an innocent request. “One pretty song.”
Todd then bats his eyes.
The young woman volunteers. “I’ll sing you a song. If you will feed us and let us go.”
“Go where?” Todd asks astonished. “Back to the Ottoman Empire?”
Nobody is given a chance to express an idea. Todd reminds the prisoners, “No, you are captives of our King Birger Magnusson. Truly, you are infidels.”
“We had no choice,” begs an old man. His Aramaic tongue smothers any comprehension of his words.
Todd starts telling his prisoner, “Shut up,” then stops himself. He believes they do not speak the same language. So instead, the warden knocks his knuckles against the bound man’s forehead. The hard clunk drowns everything else, even the weeping.
Only a sudden memory pulls Todd away from doing anything more grievous to the old fool. No one speaks to Todd unbidden. There is no appeal to the scourge of the Lord. Judgment has been passed and these weak traitors are made examples. This is where life ends and these sorrowful souls discover what language they need to use and please the one, true God.
“I know your name,” Todd tells the woman. “Penelope. You’re the atheist from Crete. You said you will sing us a song, a song for supper.”
“I did,” the girl affirms. She is smart and knows no one here may ask for more than what mercy Todd offers. “I’ll sing a pretty song if you give us a little peace.”
The young woman sings. Her voice cracks, she mumbles and forgets words most everyone else remember only once heard copied from the Book of Psalms. Todd feels offended. His tongue rolls into the back of mouth as he grabs an ax then lops off Penelope’s head.
Stepping away from a pulsing geyser, the warden addresses his surprised audience.“What did you think would happen?”
“It’s the same old song,” he tells this day’s surviving prisoners. “You’re all hear just to listen to the music.”
Todd amuses himself while he hacks off the hands and feet of the decapitated woman. He says aloud, “If King Birger is our Lord, down here I’m Lucifer. I’m never full.”
He lifts the corpse and allows metal cuffs to slip off the stumps at its wrists and ankles. The amputated limbs are left on the floor in heaps of limp chains and wet manacles. “I knew Penelope,” Todd says then proceeds with butchering the bleeding carcass.
“I remember she said she was a vegetarian. She didn’t eat meat. Now, she joins us for supper this eve.”
The devil chuckles more. “I hope for all your sakes, the woman tastes better than she sang.”
The barebacked warden cannot stop orating and end his drama. “There is why you are all hungrier than me. It’s why you are all so thin. You need to store some fat.”
The young man with his mangling accent truly replies for his last time, “I think you still would make us eat her first.”
A squad of four trespassers encroach on foot an undeveloped hill-scape real estate owned by the Paramount of Southern California. Everyday, trespassers trespass properties owned by the Paramount all across North America – indeed, all over the world. The Paramount own everything. Everyone else on the planet have nowhere else to live.
These four people, two men – one distinguishably tall and two women – they risk more this morning than any other person would normally staying alive. They trespass against warnings printed on signs and once broke down a steel fence for the sake of the crime. Nettie, one of the two women, talks to the tall man about how lucky their were and found the help they needed for coming so far.
“You know a lot of people, Rex. No one knows too much about you.”
Rex answers the young woman with the voice of slow rolling stones. “Well, they know as much about me as I know about them, about collectively, I bet.”
“He always knows someone,” says the other woman.
This second lady is older, but not noticeably so much more than Nettie. Her name is Alice. Factually, she is the oldest of three in the squad. Rex is exempt from the comparison. Rumors imply the tall man is older than the total of the ages of all three people with him here in this desert forest. No one speaks about how old he might be. Cory, the younger man, instead inquires about another taboo topic.
“How much is the Paramount paying you?”
“I never said I work for the Paramount,” Rex replies. “You make too many assumptions. I wouldn’t even ask someone if I thought they did.”
Cory tells him, “I’m just guessing.”
Alice scolds the younger man. “Money is hard enough to get without suffering judgment by someone else.”
“It’s not cool,” Nettie contributes.
“Hey, he’s cool if he’s not doing anything illegal,” Cory retorts. His muted disclaimer follows. “You know, nothing that can hurt any of us.”
Nettie sighs, “I’m sure.” Before she has completely exhaled her breath, the youngest woman ponders the Paramount aloud. “What do the rich want they don’t already have?”
Cory answers quickly. “Children, vital organs, sport, science or prostitution.”
“Warachnids,” Rex reports. His answer sounds like cement.
“Do they got them?” Nettie questions without an immediate confirmation. No one knows, not for certain.
Alice presses from the rear of the marching squad, “We’re all looking for them.”
Even so solid a reply, Cory sprays the response with acid. “Why? They are theirs. They belong to them already. The Paramount built the warachnids…”
Cory pauses so he might point for emphasis into a clouded sky and finish his sentence with a loud voice. He says, “They were built to use against us.”
“They don’t exist,” Alice submits. “Not anymore.”
Rex comments. “The Paramount say…”
“Well, that’s what we’re going to find out,” Cory exclaims. “And if we find even one, then it gets important real quick whose side you’re on, who you’re working for – us or the Paramount.”
Rex tells the smaller, young man, “It’s none of your business.”
The big man does not slow down or turn around and look at Cory, but his voice suddenly becomes loud and comes near. “And you won’t stop me… if you get ideas.”
Anxious already about being watched from the crests of the arid landscape, Alice scrambles for peace among their band of especially clandestine malefactors. “It doesn’t matter why any of us are looking for the war machines – money is hard enough.”
Nettie can’t help herself and she tells Cory, “I guess we know who’s paying you – or do we?”
“I’m no double-agent,” he claims red-faced.
“Quiet,” Rex thunders from where sounds far off. Next, his “Shh,” comes from close-by though the man is never more nor nearer than six steps away. The tall man might only swivel his hips and instantly capture one or two of his companions and make no other gesture.
Young, unguarded and never shy, Nettie respectfully admits, “I’m not here for trouble.”
This youngest girl in her squad of spies of fortune comes from Danville, Michigan. She and Alice have lived there in the Midwest all her life. Her home town, the fresh capitol of the bankrupt Wolverine state, that city only wants to know if the Paramount can be trusted. Dozens of unannounced squads throughout the United States secretly seek if obscure and ancient military police robots are not actually hidden.
Alice convinced Nettie to join her when the older woman applied to be a spy at the Danville courthouse. Alice Doogel is a friend of Nettie’s even older sister, Melissa. Between them, the topic of age never comes up. Alice talks about only one thing, ever, and she is right. “Money is hard.” And now Nettie believes, “Cash is going extinct like the warachnids.”
A small doubt in her head vexes both these women more everyday, one much stronger and larger among the vocal majority of the population of Michigan. Warachnids were supposedly non-existent. And history alone testifies the wealthy elite are not telling the truth. Alice explained her theory to Nettie before either signed papers back home at the courthouse. They spoke inside Melissa’s house before walking downtown – for there are no longer other means to travel.
Alice told her, “The Paramount won’t just give money to the people. This isn’t about love, it’s about control. It has nothing to do with the voluntary redistribution of wealth. The Paramount love control.”
“They have it,” Nettie answered naive.
“But they don’t have respect and praise.”
There, Nettie is reminded, are two more commodities the suspicious stranger Cory can add to his list of temptations. Alice went on.
“They had the grudging respect of the people before the machines were retired and lost, but nothing is ever enough if you don’t have everything. So, long ago, the Paramount got fickle and made a deal. They decommissioned the warachnids. Crime went out of control.”
“Poverty was the next step, their next piece of social engineering. Real starvation brings people in line quick enough, especially in the U.S.. Even after the warachnids were lost, the Paramount still suppressed everyone for generations. My parents can’t remember when anybody in our family ever lived a better life.”
Yet dense, Nettie sought confirmation of her understanding of her sister’s friend’s implication. “The Paramount are giving us money to bring back the warachnids?”
“Whose going to complain with a full belly? They’ll use them to start killing and kidnapping our kids again.”
Nettie was and is too young to realize Alice implied the Paramount would rather now commit treason firsthand than pay hungry smugglers. Most of Michigan think vague equivalents – communication is difficult. Local government in this age equates to vague consensus. And as clear, the expensive machinery of the exclusively rich oligarchy are rumored to be here in the Open Space of Southern California.
And the “Open Space” is nothing more than most unpopulated regions of the world. All of these are privately owned wastelands where long ago warachnids of the Paramount wiped whole cities out of existence. These empty pieces of realty are connected on maps where war machines once crawled and destroyed everything in their paths. No trespassing signs have since loomed over the borders.
Few people respect the restrictions without warachnids to enforce them. But there is nothing in the Open Space. Nothing grows here and not a living thing feels comfortable and stays. Everything precious here and everywhere became undesirable, except children. And money, that never changed.
“Rex,” Cory summons after the squad has walked a mile.
Ahead, the narrow entrance of a squat canyon redirects their hapless, straightforward march, but not yet. The young man has opportunity to discuss a less-volatile topic. He asks the leader, the tall man leading the way, “Do you know if warachnids really have eight legs? Or were those the number of armaments, like machine guns; eight machine guns or rocket launchers?”
Rex does not so much try and answer. He tells Cory, “I think they were named after everybody saw how fast they can run.”
The present tense makes Alice anxious. The older woman asks him, “Have you seen one, like a wreck or something?”
“They have those?” Nettie wonders. The young woman has no firmer idea who she speaks about, who that “they” is, than she does the appearance of the infamous automated killing machines.
Rex answers, “No.”
Then he says, “Shh.”
The tall man stops walking and blocks a warm, easterly breeze. Cory halts on the man’s big heels. Nettie and Alice maintain their comfortable distance behind the young man. Counter to instruction, Nettie’s question is expected and so the young woman asks, “What’s the story here?”
Cory makes another assumption. “What is there to be afraid of?”
Nettie seizes the privilege and she lists for him, “Guards, warachnids, spies, competition. There is competitions, you know.”
“What about mutant dogs?” teases Cory.
“They don’t exist,” Nettie replies for certain.
“Shut up,” Rex demands. “Shh, let’s look in that canyon.”
“Why?” Alice objects. The older woman said already earlier today, “We were only going to explore ruins – unless we had a map.”
Rex answers the question. “There might be a cavern, sometimes there are caverns in canyons.”
“I thought so,” Alice replies.
“We might find water,” he explains.
“Or warachnids,” she hopes, but does not so truly.
Cory opines. “I don’t think so. C’mon, we’re almost at San Diego. California is still in that hundreds-s-s years drought. What makes you think we’ll find water out here?”
The tall man is sincere when he claims, “I’ve been here before. I know people.”
Nettie gloats. “I told you.”
“That’s why he’s here,” Alice tells her female friend. She next asks Rex, “You’re from Mexico, right? Albuquerque?”
“Whereabouts,” confirms Rex. He turns away from his three smaller traveling companions. The tall man takes two steps and goes beyond his reach, that is if he really ever was inclined to grab hold of anyone in the squad.
Cory is blunt when he interrupts. “Who are the Paramount of Mexico? The Zee, right? Yeah.”
A tart tone in the tall man’s voice makes his patriotism clear. “I am a citizen of the United States.”
“Good for you,” Cory praises him and follows his footsteps. Sarcasm then becomes pronounced. “Not like any of us had a choice, the Paramount put people where they want.”
Nettie frowns then directly asks the young man, “Where are you from, Cory?”
Alice informs her, “The Gulf.”
“Yeah, but where?” scowls the younger woman. “That sounds Paramount-owned.”
“It’s all owned by the Paramount, the whole world,” Cory guffaws.
Nettie says last, “You know what I mean.”
“Let’s go,” summons Rex. “I’ve got something to show you, if it’s there.”
“Huh?” wonders Nettie. She and Alice follow behind Cory and Rex.
Her curious dismay is infectious. Cory sounds cross when he asks the tall man, “Is there something you haven’t told us about?”
The reply echoes from inside the low canyon. “No… if it’s still there.”
“One of them?” Nettie guesses. The “them” for Nettie is more vague than any other pronoun she has used.
“Broken, I bet,” Cory supposes without specification.
Alice tries to act optimistic and the older woman proposes a practically impossible scenario. “It could be lost treasure, like a Georgia O’Keeffe painting. Does anyone remember her?”
No one replies.
“Does anyone know who she is, or was?” she mutters.
Still, nobody gives the woman even as a glance. Everyone watches their footfalls as they follow an ancient dry stream bed, lead by Rex single file. The squad does in fact arrive at a cavern, one plainly open and visible beneath a thin overhanging ledge of bare rock slabs.
Cory says in accusation, “You’ve been here before, Rex?”
The tall man does not stop and he steps from the dead bed. “Maybe.”
The three other squad member must climb up the steep slow. Cory complains. “Well, I’m getting tired.”
“If you have something to show us, just tell us what it is.”
Rex promises him, “You’ll see.”
Once everyone in the squad is inside the cavern, each one clearly sees what the tall man from Albuquerque, Mexico means. The ceiling has collapsed and overfills an enormous turquoise grotto with stinging white daylight. Huge metal spiders stand comatose in the reflected chromatic radiance below. Their menacing kaleidoscopic shapes are all anyone truly sees.
“You are a terrible liar,” Cory announces directly to Rex. “You knew warachnids were here.”
Rex is not vexed by the accurate remarks. While Alice and Nettie are yet mute in amazement, the tall man reveals, “You’re right, Cory, it’s got important quick. What insurgent groups are paying you?”
The two men stare at the ladies, although Cory knows Rex includes everyone in his interrogation. The young man has nothing to fear. He admits for the women, “You’re right, the Gulf is part of the Paramount, the whole thing. Everybody there is rich.”
Alice ignores him and she speaks only to the tall man. “Who do you work for?”
He tells her, “The Zee, but that has nothing to do with my citizenry.”
She replies, “Well, I’m doing exactly the same as you. I’m paid to hunt for spies, Nettie is too.”
“Who pays you?” Cory demands.
Alice tells him, “The Alliance for the Preservation of Freedom. It’s just one family, the Kotch. You know those big boys.”
“We don’t look for just poor insurgents, either. We’re watch out for other problems, like secular Paramount power-grabbers.”
“But if the Zee have warachnids, they’ve already grabbed power,” Nettie clarifies.
Alice says, “I know. There’s nothing to hide now.”
“It will be murder,” Cory moans.
Trepidation is evident on the young girl’s face. “I know.”
Dismayed by premonitions everyone imagines, Rex asks astonished, “Nobody here looks out for the innocent and the poor?”
Cory shrugs, “Each one of us would report any other if we did. That’s all I was paid to do. The Gulf isn’t grabbing power. They only want to retire from the world in peace.”
“There’s no point,” Alice answers. She gestures at giant waiting robots. “Who will argue with the Zee? There’s the reality.”
Mischievousness suddenly swells Rex with compassion. The tall man admits to the squad of spies, “I know the Zee don’t know about these machines.”
He says honestly, “They don’t know about any machines. These are the only ones anybody has found.”
“Did you find these?” Alice suddenly realizes the response.
Nettie mutters, “Rex took us straight to the warachnids.”
Cory speaks over the young woman. “You found mythical war machines.”
Rex nods his bearded head. The rest of the barefaced squad see his every feature now that he has turned around and the tall man looks back at them. His tiny eyes are sharp and they dart all around.
Rex makes a wild proposition. “I need help, and we can run the world. We can defend the poor with the war machines. We can eat.”
Only his face suddenly darkens when he next addresses potential co-conspirators. “None of you can stop me. If you try, you won’t go home alive.”
The older woman says with certainty, “Prostitution is not a choice.”
“You can trust us,” Alice then vows.
She acts like the most enthusiastic person in the uncovered underground. “Me and Nettie, we’re on your side. What dream is this? We control the only warachnids in existence? Do you know what that makes each of us?”
Nettie answers fast. “Saviors.”
“Might makes right,” Cory states when he pledges his alliance.
Nettie tells the young man right away, “I’m stating to like you.” She knows what side this more handsome young man is on.
“Unanimous,” Rex verifies for himself. “That’s what I thought.”
“Mutiny for the sake of the poor,” Nettie exclaims once she is overcome with the excitement of her older companion from Michigan.
Before anymore nervous happiness passes through this squad of rebels, Rex faces one more uncertainty aloud. He asks the three paid renegades, “Did any of you learn how to drive something like a car or a truck?”
Everyone in the squad shake their heads, Rex, too. The tall man sighs. He thinks it is him, of anyone, he begins the rebellion against the Paramount.
“The discovery of the warachnids does certainly make the overthrow decidedly one-sided,” he tells himself in silence. Rex utters another thought only in his conscious. “Any conflict will be prejudicially short if we get these things running.”
The realization he and anyone among the poor are not ready for the future makes him depressed. The tall man summarizes his dour feelings in his reply concerning who might operate an automobile. “That’s something else we lost.”
- The End, Until the machines get running.
(Hey, dear reader, it would help me much if every once and a while you gave me a buck or two at Smashwords.)
The Extinction of the Little Finger
By Matthew Sawyer
“We live in a society at risk of losing our little fingers.”
“Extinction,” answers the other fellow. He says more to his overweight companion – a man yet comfortably chubby beneath his specialized environment suit. “Evolution. They’re going away all by themselves.”
These two explore Chicago, America. Both come from deep inside Greenland. They seek an answer, a hope, so their beloved, temperate-climate nation never becomes landlocked and it remains an island ‘untouched.’ Their exploration brings them to the Atlantic ruins of a forsaken coastal city.
“I’ve had mine amputated,” declares the plump liberal.
Mister Rankfe, the conservative, would never say the dirty word. Mister Rankfe would never tell Mister Essay the man was a ‘Liberal.’ He would never say such a horrible thing to another person’s face.
Mister Essay does not care. He has never described himself as liberal aloud, but he has indeed expressed sympathies toward social progressiveness. Whereas, Mister Rankfe doesn’t understand the word, progressive. The antiquated gentleman believes in his heart it means naked.
“Look at Mister Essay,” Rankfe shouts inside his head. “He cut off his fingers. The man is practically nude!”
No one sees what either archeologist looks like beneath their purple canvas suits. Mister Essay’s mutilation is completely hidden. His padded gloves even preserve a mirage of all ten fingers. If the man had never confessed, Mister Rankfe would not have known about the mutilation nor made to feel ashamed for now knowing.
“Did you have a doctor do it?” a more timid Rankfe asks through his microphone. He now feels the specific shame of an obvious voyeur.
“Of course,” Essay chortles. His laughter scratches the speaker inside the helmets both professionals wear. “This isn’t the twentieth century. People don’t perform surgeries on themselves anymore, cosmetic or otherwise. There are regulations.”
Mister Rankfe has no answer he could bring himself to repeat aloud. He instead leaves a trace. “If you say…”
Apart from the conversation, the archeologists know where they go. They know what they look for. Their memorized destination directs them down a crumbled road, overgrown with living sand. Inanimate silicon has come alive in the last one hundred years. Living coastlines have since been invaded by a gritty, all-consuming moss. This miraculous stuff destroys the world.
“Why?” Essay asks Mister Rankfe. “Why do have that attitude? Are you religious?”
“I’m spiritual,” Rankfe quickly answers. A long ago girlfriend had described his vague sense of belief, not him. Rankfe only repeats the timeworn definition because it suits most queries.
He pronounces, “It’s primitive.”
For him, the word primitive also means naked.
Mister Rankfe quickly explains, “What you did.”
“It’s evolution,” Essays laughs. “It’s the future.”
Either guilt or enthusiasm prompts him and he says more. “Listen, what do you do with all your free-time? I mean, there have been noticeable, positive changes in how I now live my life.”
Rankfe interrupts. “You sound like a commercial.”
“How are you suppose to say it?” Essays answers. “Me, for instance, I stopped watching television. Worldwide polls show religious people spend all their time watching TV, reruns, usually. Like ninety—nine percent.”
“Well, I’m not,” Rankfe tells Essay. The man is instantly guilty. When he later ever speaks to his friends, he will say the liberal who cut off his small fingers laughs at him again.
In truth, Essay never stopped giggling. Static from the speaker over Rankfe’s scalp makes all his ears and his cheeks itch – only two of each, but one never knows this age.
Angry and impulsive, Rankfe inquests, “Well, what do you now do in all your spacious time, read? Isn’t it harder to turn the page?”
“Easier,” Essay answers smug. Honestly glowers in his speech. “But I actually don’t read so much anymore. It’s not interesting. But that’s me.”
“Aha!” Rankfe declares.
Essay retorts. “Hey, I like the pictures. You religiou… spiritual types do, too. That’s what video is. It’s all a moving picture.”
“I’ll tell you one thing,” teases Essay.
“Table knives are harder to use.”
“I suppose,” Rankfe concludes once more. He was finished speaking before his last, impulsive question. A broken stone church has finally stopped his tongue.
In this true age, all buildings like this one before these two men are called churches. They are not, not so in a historical sense. This place particularly is these two archeologists’ destination. Rumor and evidence claim here Greenland will find what the whole nation seeks. As representatives of that one standing sovereign government, Mister Rankfe and Mister Essay have arrived and will verify its existence.
Uncommon of Mister Rankfe, the man tries joking at Mister Essay’s expense. “What are we waiting for, you to count to eight?”
Mister Essay is justified for his criticism and he answers, “Funny is funnier with practice.”
“Well, I’ll rehearse in front of a prerecorded studio audience.”
Recovered from awe and antagonistic banter, paranoia, training and basic survival instincts all flush the blanched faces of both archeologists. They remember some dangers of a twenty-fourth century wild-land. Mister Essay steps forward and states, “Ground squirrels.”
He says, “They get curious if we stop moving. They get brave.”
“Squirrels.” Despite his scorn, Rankfe scantly hesitates and follows his amputated companion.
They go up a sand dune pierced by crumbled stone horns. The archeologists step on these projections for to climb into the entrance of a tumbling church. The sands below them remain motionless except wherever the living stuff shirks out from cast shadows. Both Rankfe and Essay are sensitive to the strange colonial creature and the two men move and give back as much green daylight as they can.
Yet on the topic of evolved ground squirrels of the future, Rankfe mutters, “The dirty things just puke on everything.”
“It’s how they digest,” Essay informs. “Watch it, their digestive vomit will eat right through the hemp of an environment suit in what? Two seconds.”
“There’s your proof of a positive progression of evolution, Essay. Squirrels have to puke on their food. They suck it up with what that thing is. I don’t know what that is coming out of their scaly mouths. What is that? It looks like four inch clitoris, I tell you, to use the scientific term. The clinical reference.”
“That’s evolution, Rankfe. It’s because the sand. Don’t go back to making your obscene comparisons again.”
“It’s what got you in trouble last time. Settle down and think about why we’re here. Our job. Watch your feet and keep moving.”
Following Essay into shadowed caverns, Rankfe rebuts with, “You’re off-topic and unfocused, Essay. You confessed you surgically removed your fingers. I think your guilt distracted you.”
“Shut up, Rankfe, or I will report your squirrel clitoris fantasy to the government.”
Rankfe says no more and in silence, the man’s face becomes wrinkled and squashed. If no one but Essay spun around and looked, he would see only his sour partner’s raised chin and pursed lips through a transparent plastic mask. The dark inside the church helps little to evaporate the man’s bitterness.
Content that Rankfe sounds like his partner acts like his ordinary, socially functional self, Essay leads their route beneath layers of ash lain over skewered and collapsed tin racks. Not an inch of the metal is corroded, but all of it is weak. Age softens this evidence of a lost alloy. The empty racks fold down upon themselves.
“All right, it’s here somewhere,” Essay surmises. “Do you remember what it looks like, looked like, how it might look?”
Mister Rankfe’s reply is firm. “Sure.”
After the confirmation, the two archeologists search for hours. It is not until they come apart and after both have dug deep into separate mounds of mildew and dust in different, deeper cellars that a discovery appears. Mister Rankfe fulfills the quest. The man completes his mission for Greenland and he perhaps saves all mankind.
Mister Essay joins his associate when he hears the good news. He goes down a floor underground and he congratulates Mister Rankfe. “Thank you, thank you,” he tells him. “We can go home.”
When they together, Mister Essay makes a proposition. “You should read it, Rankfe. That book is by Richard Dawkins. I heard he had something to say three hundred years ago about your spiritualism.”
The pulp publication written by a deceased Mister Dawkins there in Rankfe’s gloved palms, that ancient volume is incredibly preserved. Nowhere outside the convention of literal fiction might a more pristine book exist for all this one’s years suffered within this decay. Mister Rankfe is respectable and gentle with the artifact. Although challenged, he feels compelled to use it for a weapon.
“Did you read it?”
Mister Essay makes a valid point concerning the recovered mystery. “How could I?”
“Well then,” haughty Mister Rankfe replies. The man splits open the book. “How about we read a little together?”
Essay hesitates. After a pause, he tells his partner. “Okay. I’m not so very interesting in reading anymore, not since I lost my little fingers.”
Rankfe holds himself back from declaring another drawback of mutilation in the name of science. His fear of yet one more investigative panel into his personal life dissuades his natural persuasion for righteous confrontation. He would rather the Greenland government not take another measurement of his sperm count. That was not a voluntary question he would never answer on his annual tax assessment. No one did. The print wasted ink.
Somewhat above accusation, Mister Rankfe does wonder, “Oh, have you read anything by Mister Dawkins?”
“Let’s read this,” Essay answers him. “Together.”
The two men stare at pages from behind face shields for an hour. They neither speak while Rankfe turns pages back and forth. More often the time passes and wiles, he skips chapters and closes and reopens the covers.
“I don’t understand any of this,” Rankfe judges. “Do you get it? I swear, half these words weren’t invented before 1986. It’s Greek to me, and every other language I don’t speak.”
“What do you think?” he asks an equally frustrated Essay. His discomfort is plain.
Mister Essay’s answer is suspicious. “We did our job, Greenland can be happy for that. Our experts can now find answers how sand came alive.”
As much as Rankfe was genuinely interested, sand has always been alive. The stuff has moved since before either man present today were born – before the sum of their ages combined.
One thing Essay says stays in mind after the mission ends. After the completion of their adventure, Mister Essay comments about the single picture on the back cover of the long-lost book. He says, “I may not understand, but just looking at the guy… he look like God.”
Mister Rankfe agrees.
I am aware readers are frustrated Pazuzu is not flying about terrifying people throughout the Pazuzu Trilogy. That’s not what the story is about. The trilogy follows the fiend from person to person until it settles on a body to possess. That comes halfway through Emergence. Readers who would rather visualize the demon in its monstrous shape would probably prefer Gaunt Rainbow, an addendum to the Pazuzu Trilogy.
It’s also about Identities, Yeah, the root of the Pazuzu tale is Pazuzu who assumes the shape of a boy and calls himself Davey, but there is is also Ben and the dead priest with the same name, There is Robber, who Ben was supposed to be before a visit to the center of the universe erased his mind. There is the anonymous Pontiff, the rotating priests. Readers jump around, sure, but these are all aspects of the demon, ripples of its manifestation. Emergence is when Pazuzu Emerges. And he is undone, forced to abey and reveal his true image.