Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Resqueth Revolution Chapters 2 & 3

Tomorrow we head back on tour. We have a fun week planned starting with an interview at Popsyndicate followed by three days of controversy about including violence in fiction and film.

Hope to see you there.

Today, however, is a day to kick back, put your feet up, relax and read. Sit a spell and enjoy chapters 2 and 3 of The Resqueth Revolution. Chapter 1 is posted here.


Chapter Two

“Welcome. My name is David Cople.” The small office was on the same floor as Kyla’s bedroom but at the opposite end of the building. I shook hands with the man behind the desk. His hand was moist and it shook with a slight palsy. Cople was short, going bald, and looked as if he had once been portly, but had lost weight recently because of some illness. His sports jacket hung loose about him, and his belt was on its innermost hole. His weak pale eyes made him look as if he was ready to cry. I judged him to be in his late forties. He had a four o’clock shadow at 10:30 in the morning. I put the heavy pile of files and books that Krim had given me as homework on the floor and sat in the comfortable leather chair in front of Cople’s desk.

“Have you ever been subjected to psychoanalysis before, Mr. Marks?”

“I went to Dr. Freeborn for two years. I’ll give you his number. I was suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts about a year after the scandal.”

“Were you on any medications during that time?”

“Some were prescribed. I forget which—I didn’t take any of them.”

“Why not?”

I fidgeted in my chair. “I thought depression and suicidal thoughts were entirely appropriate reactions to my situation. I needed help in figuring out how to deal with those reactions and work through them. Medicating them away didn’t seem like it would be dealing with reality.”

“And dealing with reality, as it is, is very important to you.”

“Yes. May I ask you some questions before we get much farther?”

Cople leaned back and put his feet on the desk. “Of course. What would you like to know?”

“Was that ... thing real?”

“Yinqueth? Oh yes, it’s real enough. Donald’s little pet. By the way, we’re all on a first name basis around here. Dr. Krim is Donald. Kyla Malkovich you’ve met. Please call me David. Is it all right if I call you Steven?”

“Steve is fine. She called me Stevie.” I shuddered violently. “I heard her voice in my head. She knew my name.”

“We prefer to call Yinqueth ‘it’ rather than ‘she.’ Kyla experiences Yinqueth as a male persona. Gender is completely irrelevant to something like that.”

“It wasn’t another trick?”

“Yinqueth is full of tricks, but no, it wasn’t a hoax or a fake. It is a genuine paranormal phenomenon.”

“I spent most of the night thinking of ways Dr. Krim, Donald, could’ve pulled it off. I think I could duplicate it with some rather simple special effects, maybe some hallucinogens. In some ways it might be easier to pull off than the first stunt.”

“Did you like that first one?” he asked, obviously pleased. “I directed that. I minored in film as an undergraduate. My niece, Stephanie, played the girl. She got to wear false teeth and all sorts of makeup. We did it on Halloween so that her mother would be less suspicious. Stephanie has a gift for acting, although evil comes quite naturally to her. I’ve kept a copy to show at her wedding someday—a little payback.”

“I suppose I’m going to need a shrink if I’m going to be exposed to creatures like Yinqueth. I must confess to not believing much in psychotherapy. What particular brand do you practice?”

“None really. I’m not a trained psychiatrist or psychologist. I used to be a writer. If I may say so, I have a particular gift for sorting out people’s motivations. I get insights into their weaknesses and self-deceptions.” David took his feet from the desk and leaned forward. “I am a particularly sympathetic listener. Tell me what happened when it was inside your head.”

I told him exactly what I thought had happened.

“Interesting. You’re going to make something for it? Did you get a sense of what it meant?”

“No.”

“Donald told me that Yinqueth went through your entire resume, just absorbed it from his mind. You might have noticed Donald shaking just after he summoned it. That’s what happens when one of those things takes you over, rummaging about at will. You shook too, by the way, when it was flipping through your memories. It’s unconscionable for Donald to have let that happen, especially to someone who was neither prepared nor had given his permission. Donald shouldn’t be allowing that thing inside anyone’s head. And that last part where you think it might have put some thought into your mind, I’m sorry but Donald is making the same mistakes, ...”

“Mistakes? How many mistakes has Donald made?”

“Yinqueth hasn’t harmed anyone, yet. It’s been inside my head and I came away none the worse for wear. Having things in my mind, things like that, is kind of a button with me. I cherish my privacy and I can’t imagine having my privacy violated in any more profound way than having someone rummaging through my mind. Kind of ironic considering what I do around here. But that’s what buttons are like, not necessarily rational, but very visceral. Do you have any buttons?”

“I have a phobia about fire. My dad was a fireman and I had nightmares about fire all through my childhood, still do occasionally.”

“Yes, that’s a button. That’s why you’re talking to me. Letting someone, or something, push your buttons can be very dangerous, both for you and for the rest of us. We’re going to work on focusing your attention away from potentially dangerous automatic reactions. You must always be aware that things may be trying to manipulate you. You must be on guard. I also noted that you got an erection during the encounter.”

“How do you know that?”

“The whole incident was taped and recorded.”

I leaned forward and gripped the arms of the chair so hard my knuckles turned white. “You mean you have that thing on tape? What does it look like? I need to see it.”

“Ah, burning curiosity. All of us on the team have it. But you have to realize that uncontrolled curiosity is even more dangerous than those buttons. Anyway, here’s the video.”

David swiveled a computer monitor around then hit a few buttons. The camera must have been located in the ceiling somewhere. I saw myself in that bizarre gloom, frozen in fear. I could see my breath. The cold had been real, not just in my head. There was something wrong with the picture, an area about the size of a small cat was out of focus just behind my head. It moved. I could see myself shaking for a bit. I saw my own erection tenting my pants. I saw my earlobe move as the out-of-focus area touched it. My ear ripped itself and started to bleed. The blood disappeared into the blurred area, which seemed to swell or pulse. The blurred area disappeared. I saw myself fall forward, then turn. The light returned quickly to normal. Then it was just over. Krim bandaged my ear while I shook like a leaf.

“Disappointing, isn’t it?” David asked. “There’s no way to make the image clearer in any wavelength we’ve tried. The scientist in you craves more physical evidence. There was no saliva or residue on your ear. Donald took a swab when he bandaged it. He always does, though he never finds anything. The paralysis and the sexual arousal are typical tricks of Yinqueth. So far it can only, or chooses to only, read and affect certain parts of the mind. I’m still trying to figure out its limitations. It always takes just a little taste of blood. It’s like a payment.

“Donald thinks he can control it; he thinks it isn’t truly dangerous. It’s important that you realize that Donald has his blind spots, his weaknesses too. We all have them. Each team member needs to gain insight into each other’s psychic attack points. We need to be able to say or do the right thing to keep each other from making mistakes. I’m not a licensed therapist and there is no patient confidentiality here. Although you can rely on me to be discrete about purely personal information, when necessary I will share my analyses with other team members. You will also be given access to my analyses of the others. They are in one of those bulky files that are on your assigned reading list.”

I caught his watery eyes. “Including your own? Who analyzes you?”

Cople shrugged. “Including mine. I’m also gifted in self-awareness.”

“So why are you here? What’s your motivation?”

“I’ll leave you to read the details. I’m here because I lost someone very dear to me to something much worse than Yinqueth. I sometimes pretend to myself that wanting to help save others is more important to me than my desire to destroy all such things. But my pretending does not distort the analyses in that file. We need you to help us find a way to hurt them, to defend against them. What’s your motivation? Why did you come back?”

It was my turn to shrug. “Burning curiosity?”

“Not the potential wealth and fame, perhaps even the professional redemption that would come with a major scientific breakthrough?”

“I gave up on all that a long time ago. I think. I’m not particularly gifted in self-awareness.”

“Lucky you have me then. We’ll talk again. You had better get on with your studies. We have a team meeting scheduled for two this afternoon. I will see you there.”


Chapter Three

We all sat around the cleared lab table in Donald’s office. The table was a bit higher than a normal table, while the folding metal chairs were not. Kyla, without any apparent embarrassment, went over to Donald’s desk and got out a fat phone book to sit on. David and Kyla looked with obvious distaste at the digital projector and screen that had been set up. David turned pale and his palsy became more pronounced.

Donald opened the meeting. “You’ve both met Steve. I’ve given him quite a bit of material to get caught up on. He’s already met with David for a session.” He turned to Kyla. “You will see him later this afternoon to arrange some training. Steve was scheduled to fly back to Atlanta to tie up loose ends and transfer his personal life. Unfortunately that will now have to wait. We have a potential job. Sorry to throw you into the deep end so soon, Steve.”

“No trouble. I’m anxious to make a contribution.”

“What’s the job?” Kyla sounded more anxious than I did.

Donald handed out folders. I opened mine and looked at a photocopied picture of a house. I actually backed away from it, instinctively. Kyla gave me one of those lip twitch smiles.

David, of course, noted my reaction as well. “Ugly thing, isn’t it? Don’t dismiss your reaction. Most people try to suppress it, argue it away, but it’s important information. What was your initial feeling?”

“It’s evil. It was like seeing a live scorpion where I expected to see just a picture.”

Donald smiled in approval. “Couldn’t have put it better myself. Analyze the picture. Can you see anything that would cause such a reaction?”

I forced myself to look again. It was an excellent photocopy of a color photograph. The house was a three story Victorian, the kind that are often subdivided into apartments in university towns. A wildly overgrown yard surrounded the house and merged with the woods behind it. The house was in serious disrepair—roof sagging, windows broken, porch rails missing. Its once green paint had faded and, in many places, had peeled down to the wood. There was something wrong in one of the windows in the gabled third floor. I forced myself to look harder. It was too indistinct, blurred, although everything around it was in perfect focus.

“There’s something alive, staring out of this third story window. It’s blurred just like the film I saw of Yinqueth, only larger. I can’t see any face or eyes, but I know it’s staring at whoever took the picture. And I can feel that it wants to hurt whoever it was.”

I looked up. All three of them were staring at me. David was nodding.

Donald pointed back at the picture. “Our client, the Falcone Real Estate Group, has put together a reasonable amount of background data. The research was for an attempt to turn the property into one of those spook house tourist stops. Whatever that thing is in the window, it has been in the house since at least the 1920s.”

Donald started the slide show with maps and pictures of the surrounding area. “The house is in the countryside outside Baltimore, although urban sprawl has brought it dangerously close to more heavily populated areas. The house was apparently benign for its first twenty years. Then there began the typical haunted house phenomena: noises, whispered voices, unusual accidents, indistinct spectral apparitions, inexplicable darkness, temperatures precipitously falling for no apparent reason.

Donald pulled up an image of a police file. “The first death, a suicide, occurred in 1935, and then another in ‘37. The government used the place during the war to house recuperating sailors. The death toll mounted until the house was quarantined in ‘44. They thought there was an infectious disease involved. There were attempts after the war to tear it down, but accidents always stopped the proceedings. One worker was ground up in the treads of his own bulldozer. The house remained abandoned until the corporation that now owns it decided to cash in on its reputation by arranging tours. The entity bided its time.”

Donald projected a copy of a deposition. “Then a six-year-old girl tore away from her mother during a tour, ran down the third story hall, and crashed headfirst through a window to her death. We’ve been commissioned to remove the entity.”

“Do we have permission to destroy the house?” Kyla looked excited.

“Yes. We have complete freedom of action.” Donald turned to me. “Kyla likes to blow things up. That’s our usual method in these haunted house scenarios. We destroy the house, which seems to temporarily disorient the entities, and then we locate the focal crystal. If we can get the crystal into a shielded container before the entity recovers, we win. It doesn’t always work.”

Donald went to one of the large filing cabinets and unlocked it. A false front came away to reveal a safe. He entered the combination on a keypad, opened the safe, and removed a heavy metal box, which he brought over and set before me on the table. I pulled it a little closer. It was a lead box with a thick leaded window set into the top. Inside, seven small irregular shaped jewels of various colors sat on black velvet. As I looked at them they began to glow with internal fires. Something reached out of the box and touched my mind. I suddenly had the overwhelming desire to break the glass. I actually felt around for something heavy to smash it with, then I felt David’s hand on my shoulder. I wrenched my eyes away from the crystals and the desire collapsed. I sagged back in my chair. An intense headache, like the kind you get from eating ice cream too fast, came and then rapidly faded. Donald put another crystal beside the case, a dark green jewel that did not glow.

“The green one is what I used to call and then dismiss Yinqueth,” Donald said. “It is not active at present. The crystals in the case are all active, and we have no idea how to shut them down.” He returned to the safe and brought back a simple postcard in a sealed clear plastic envelope. It was postmarked from New York. I examined the writing—some form of tiny hieroglyphics. Fingerprints had been brought out with some sort of reagent that made them appear purple.

“This was sent to me anonymously, along with the green crystal about twenty years ago. It contains the words necessary to activate and deactivate the crystal. It is similar in form to other spells that I have seen on papyrus scrolls nearly three thousand years old. I believe an individual or organization has access to more crystals and more spells. I believe that they plant the crystals and activate them using spells particular to each one, leaving them switched on. We have no idea why.”

I reached out to touch the green crystal, hesitating until I got Donald’s nod of permission. The jewel was smooth but irregular, about the size of a large kidney bean, darker than an emerald, translucent.

“It feels like amber.”

“An excellent observation,” Donald said. “Frank, your unfortunate predecessor, believed that they are actually some sort of chitin or other hardened secretion from the entities’ real bodies.”

I put the crystal back rather quickly onto the table. Donald looked at Kyla and David. David blanched and then sat up straighter in his chair. Donald moved over to his desk and brought back the little trash bin to sit next to my chair. Then he went back to the safe and brought out a smaller lead box. This one had no glass in the lid.

“The crystal in this box we managed to activate. Frank managed to activate it. There is a pattern to the spells we have, and Frank and I put together a long list of potential combinations using names from an ancient Minoan fragment listing a purported lineage of demons. Frank had gone through about four hours of attempts before the section of film you are about to see.” Donald fiddled with the projector. Even Kyla was beginning to show signs of distress.

“I don’t know what you’re about to show me, but I get the impression that it’s not going to be pleasant.” I looked over at David who was sweating profusely. He gave me a weak smile. “I had better see it, but these guys have obviously already seen it. Maybe they could leave until it’s over?”

Kyla answered. “David thinks that we need to constantly practice facing up to what you’re about to see. These things use fear, disgust, and other viscerally powerful emotions against us. Steeling ourselves to face it is part of the preparation.”

I looked over at David. He put a hand on my arm. “She’s right. The fact that I have so much trouble watching it makes it a vulnerable psychic attack point. I should insist that we all watch this tape every night until it has no effect on us. None of us is quite up for that, yet. Small steps.”

Donald dimmed the room by polarizing the skylight, then started the projector. The scene was from the same high perspective from which I had been filmed. A chair rested on a raised platform. The man who sat in the chair was largeboned and muscular with ruggedly handsome features. He was stripped to the waist and had electrical leads attached to his chest in the standard pattern for an electrocardiograph. Similar wires were attached to his scalp to monitor brain waves. I recognized most of the monitoring devices surrounding the platform: high-speed digital video recorders set for a wide variety of wavelengths, spectrographic image analyzers, high-performance sound recording devices, a Geiger counter, devices for measuring electromagnetic field strength, and a host of other equipment. At the edge of the picture David sat at a station, probably monitoring Frank’s vitals. Donald walked on screen with a filmmaker’s clapboard.

“Attempt number 401 at 3:35 PM.” That info was also written on the clapboard. Donald moved out of the frame. Frank picked up a red crystal from the table and closed his left fist around it.

“Gezreel, M’Bothi, Jazfail, Jazfail, Jazfail!” Frank read from the top card in a stack on a little stand to his left. The last word was screamed, and I heard that bizarre deep garbled glass-breaking sound at the end. The instruments in front of Frank became blurred. I could see them, distorted, through something large and amorphous. And then things happened very fast. The amorphous blurring reached out to Frank, touched his leg. The leg twisted and snapped, a jagged section of bone coming through the flesh and the fabric of his jeans. Frank screamed. More of the blur covered him now, and he began to break and twist all across his body. A rib tore through skin and then twisted itself into a knot before shattering and falling to the floor. His head deformed and an eye fell out. His bottom jaw wrenched itself out of shape with so much force that teeth exploded like shrapnel to skitter across the floor.

David had reached his side by then and was flailing at the amorphous thing. Then David gasped and reeled back, clutching at his lower abdomen. David fell to the floor writhing in pain. Donald was at Frank’s other side trying to pry the crystal out of Frank’s hand, trying not to touch the blurred area now covering most of Frank’s body. Kyla came into the frame and pushed Donald aside. He tripped over a cable and smashed his head against a stand of machinery that promptly fell on him. Kyla had the small lead box in one hand. With the other she pulled a large knife from a sheath strapped to her leg. She began to cut open Frank’s hand. A tendril of blur reached out and wrapped itself around her arm. Her arm snapped midway down, twisting at a right angle. The knife went flying. Kyla wrenched away, then dove for the knife. She crawled back and, using her left arm, sliced through the fingers of Frank’s hand. One handed, she opened the box on the floor beside her and thrust the brightly glowing crystal, along with a few of Frank’s fingers, into the box. She snapped it closed. The blurred area surrounding Frank dissipated.

I barely resisted throwing up. Frank’s body was twisted beyond imagination, turned almost inside out. Blood was everywhere, spewing from severed arteries. His bowels snaked down around his twisted legs. Parts of his brain were visible through gaping fissures in his skull, which was deformed and flattened on the left side. He twitched and mewled, yet was still horribly alive. Kyla struggled to her feet. She gripped her knife and stepped closer to Frank. Donald stopped the projector at that point.

David, white as a sheet, got up and quickly left the room. Kyla had her arms wrapped around herself and was rocking back and forth ever so slightly. She stared down into her lap. Donald depolarized the skylight and sat down quietly. I stared at the little lead box. Eventually David came back and Kyla stopped rocking, though she avoided meeting anyone’s eyes. Her blood colored gaze stared at a spot on the table.

Donald cleared his throat and continued. “The crystals emit low levels of X-rays and a variety of other radiations when active. The lead box is an effective barrier, but the crystal is still active inside. I could, theoretically, shut it down. The closure phrase is, I believe, a short variation of the opening phrase. But I would have to be holding the crystal while saying the phrase. I have been reluctant to make the attempt.”

I looked at Donald and then back at the box.

“Kyla’s arm required two surgeries.” Donald continued. “The bone had been deformed as well as broken. David had his internal organs ... altered. He required extensive reconstructive surgery. Sometimes the things we encounter attack through our minds. Others attack more directly. The seven crystals in the large box were acquired on assignments similar to our new one. We will take about a week to prepare and then fly out to Baltimore. Steve, I would suggest that you familiarize yourself with all the experimental data, look over our detectors, and make any suggestions as soon as possible. I think we’re through here for now.”

The others had left and I was near the door when Donald called to me. “Oh, Steve. Ms. Rutt says you forgot to put down a beneficiary on your insurance forms. Please take care of that on your way out.”

-------------------------

Readers - do you think the idea for this came from a real job? Have you ever had a job like Steve's?

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

LOL - can't say I ever had a job quite that bad!

This is a great book. When will the next chapter be available?

Mark Phillips said...

Take our quiz from day five and try to win a free copy. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.
Mark

Marvin D. Wilson said...

Nope. None like THAT (smile). See you tomorrow on the tour.

Marvin D Wilson
http://tiedyedtirades.blogspot.com/

Autumn Storm said...

How do I sign up to be Steve's beneficiary? That has to be the worst joy out there. Can't wait to read more.

Cynde L. Hammond said...

Totally amazing! I was captured from the start, and that takes some doing.

Cynde
http://cyndes-got-the-write-stuff.blogspot.com/

Mark Phillips said...

Thanks again, Cynde. As always, you are kind.
Mark