Sunday, December 10, 2017

THE PROJECTOR part 5

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.


By R. Peterson


            Kurt started to sprint towards the sound of Sarah’s scream. “We can’t help her until we find a way to cross the stream,” Jesse said pulling him back. “Melania’s old lover is our only hope.” Kurt listened carefully to the noises in the distance; he thought he could hear triumphant voices shouting as if some powerful hunting pack had brought down prey … abrasive, beast-like voices. “I think she’s been caught by those Hodemedod creatures … or worse!”
            “Let’s hope it’s the first.” Jesse dragged his best friend toward the old textile mill. “Look! There’s a light on upstairs … I hope its Joseph Callahan.” When no one answered after they’d pounded on the rotted-wood, they kicked-open the door and went inside.
            Melania’s flashlights showed they were in a small office where bent and broken file-cabinets leaned drunkenly against each other. The floor was carpeted with shredded paper. Kurt picked up a handful.  Pages from a yellowed scientific magazine had been chewed into rodent nesting material. A wall-mounted shelf hung by one bent nail. Jesse pulled a moldy book from the pile and wiped off the cover:  The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences by William Whewell. “Wow! This book was published in eighteen-forty,” he said. “I’ve got a feeling that even if we find the old man alive; he’s going to have a lot more wrinkles than Melania Descombey.”
Kurt agreed. “Cloverdale’s resident witch uses magic to keep herself young … I don’t think even Joseph Callahan’s brilliance can compete with that!”
 A doorway in the back led into a large manufacturing area. Obsolete nineteenth-century textile machinery had been pushed against a wall. Gurney like tables covered with thousands of tiny weights, gears and other parts in various stages of assembly gathered dust the center of the room. When they were almost across the large working area, Jesse shone his light on a tiny mechanical object with silk wings and blew off the dust. “Now we know where Melania got her flying cuckoos,” he said.
An empty elevator dangling from a frayed cable had stopped a foot above floor level; Kurt and Jesse decided to use the stairs.

-------2-------

When they’d shoved open a heavy stainless steel door, Kurt and Jesse were almost blinded by the lights on the second floor. Blinking, they switched off their borrowed flashlights.
 While the ground level of the building had been dark, dingy and highly antiquated, this level was the exact opposite. The room was spotlessly clean with walls so brilliantly white that they appeared to glow.  Spinning, blue-red globes orbited a strange light-absorbing sphere just below the ceiling with no apparent electrical attachments. Laboratory test-tubes ranging from a few inches to over twelve feet tall and other scientific instruments filled the room producing radiant chromatic gases that reflected off highly polished floors as they were collected and transferred to other areas by an elaborate snowflake-like maze of clear glass piping. There was a buzzing sound at such a high frequency that at times it pitched to inaudible, but they both knew it remained in play: it tickled their skin and turned caution into involuntary smiles. Both boys felt like children lost in a scientist’s dream-forest, giggling as they wandered across the enormous work area.
Kurt was the first to notice the only other person in the room. He was floating peacefully inside a liquid filled chamber with tubing and wires running from a metallic band attached to his ankles. He looked to be in his early twenties, although from an earlier century. Most of the hoses and electrical connections coming from the vessel disappeared into a room-sized operations console with hundreds of digital readouts and a flashing red-light near the floor. Jesse was the first to notice the electrical plug pulled out of an outlet near the base of the device. It dangled in the air just above what looked like the skeletal remains of a feline and food and water bowls labeled F-7.
Kurt looked at Jesse shrugged his shoulders and then plugged in the cord. The buzzing stopped and was replaced by bubbling and splashing sounds as the human inside was lifted from the tank by a hydraulic device. The man opened his eyes shortly after the robot arm passed him through a hoop that appeared to suck all the moisture off his body leaving him dry. “How long was I asleep?” he groaned as the arm deposited him on the floor.
“We have no idea,” Kurt said pointing toward the plug. “You were pulled from the tank when I plugged this in.”
 The man shook his head when he saw the remains of the cat. “I thought I had genetically removed all curiosity from Felix with this new model but I was obviously wrong. Looks like he played with the timer power-cord until he dislodged it from the receptacle. I was planning on a fifteen-minute nap…” He stared at some of the digital numbers. “It looks like I accidentally slept for over twenty months!”
“What were you doing floating in that thing?” Jesse had his own curiosity.
“Being emerged three times a day in body-temperature Amniotic fluid mixed with a few ounces of water from the Stream of Youth is so very relaxing,” the man opened a door on one side of the console that turned out to be a closet. As he got dressed he continued to explain. “A fifteen minute nap can leave you as refreshed and alert as an athlete who has slept soundly for eight hours … and it does wonders for the body’s’ natural aging process. Although now I’m saturated to the point where I literally can’t live without several naps and at least twelve hours at night!”
“You never asked us who we are or why we’re here!” Kurt was astonished.
The man stooped and calmly tied his shoelaces. “I make a point of never introducing myself to strangers when I’m naked,” he said just before he held out his hand. “I’m Joseph Callahan and this is my workshop.”

-------3-------

            Kurt and Jesse had just finished telling Mr. Callahan about the projector in the Royal Theater and how it was bringing things on the film to life … literally.
            “Amazing!” Joseph said. “I utilize advance planning on all of my endeavors … right down to the smallest detail. I had the projector finished and waiting on the loading ramp for the delivery man along with notes and a suggested price. I had planned to accompany the equipment into Cloverdale and I thought I would have several weeks to test it out along with Mr. Cranston before it was put into use!”
            “How can a projector bring things on film to life?” Jesse was astonished. “It has to be magic!”
            “Magic is only advanced technology that we don’t understand,” Joseph told him. “Years ago I discovered several pieces of equipment at the bottom of Palisade’s Lake in South East Idaho that I believe were left by a UFO. I’ve been doing experiments on the alien equipment for some time. The projector that Mr. Cranston is using in his theater uses a piece of alien technology that I call an Aremac. A camera captures something that is real into and converts it into an image … this device does just the opposite. The Aremac attached to the projector captures an image and converts it into something that is real.”
            “Then you knew what the projector was going to do?” Jesse stammered, “And you didn’t care?”
            “Any inventor has to place profits before ethics or he is soon out of business,” Callahan said. “But I am sorry.”
            “I was nearly raped in the city park … and you’re sorry?” Kurt’s outrage held the hint of a smile.
            “I had only planned on the image being flashed on the screen for one-twenty-fourth of a second,” Callahan explained. “Just long enough to give a sense of realism. I didn’t plan on the film breaking and getting caught in the lens …. I’m afraid this over-exposure is what brought your attacker, Miss Bardot, to life.”
            “You’ve got to help us,” Jesse said. “Cranston plans on showing The Exorcist this Friday night. If that demon possessing Linda Blair gets loose in Cloverdale who knows what will happen?”
            “And you think there’s a chance the film will break again?” Callahan looked thoughtful.
            “This is Coverdale we’re talking about,” Kurt said. “We’ll be lucky if the projector doesn’t catch fire and create a legion of demons … one for every bedroom closet in the city!”
            “Can you come with us and help us remove this Aremac from the projector so that the town is no longer in danger?” Jesse was feeling hopeful; he thought there was at least a good chance that the strange inventor would help them.
            “I’m afraid removing the alien device might prove to be difficult,” Callahan said. “The alien technology was obviously built to withstand tampering by other life forms. I had to create tiny robots to work on the device. Whenever I tried to make adjustments with my own hands I received what felt like a large electrical current that made my hair stand on end and my tongue turn yellow for several days … along with even more dreadful maladies related to certain necessary bodily functions.”
            “Robots like the tiny flying birds on the floor below us?” Jesse said. “We saw similar flying contraptions come out of a clock in Melania Descombey’s house just before we came here.”
            “I created that cuckoo for Melania on her eightieth birthday,” Callahan said. “She was delighted and for a while I considered manufacturing them for sale to others on a large scale … I’m afraid I got caught up in other things and never finished that project.”
            “But you will come with us?”
            “I’m afraid I can never leave Motha Forest again,” Callahan said. “Since I’ve started emerging myself thrice daily in Amniotic fluid and water from The Stream of Life my body has adjusted to the effects and now I can’t live without it. Even a couple of hours without a bath and I turn into a flopping fish out of water.”
            “Then there’s no way we can stop the film from running?”
            “Oh, I can allow you to borrow one of my robots,” Callahan said, “and I can show you how to use it to remove the Aremac. But you must be very careful. I’ve only skimmed the surface of this alien technology; who knows what lies in the depths of their strange and exotic knowledge?”
            “One other thing,” Kurt told him. “On the way here we met a girl who her head covered by a hood. Her name was Sarah and we think she might have been captured by some kind of ferocious beasts … she called them Hodemedod. Do you know a way we can safely cross the Stream of Youth?”
            “The Momett,” Callahan said. “I’ve been hearing reports of escalating violence in their part of Motha Forest for years … but I’m afraid I cannot help you. I made an agreement with the Momett leaders and with the forest trust administered by Sean O’Brian many years ago never to interfere in their affairs under any circumstances. To do so would banish me from these lands forever and as I’ve told you … I can no longer live without my frequent baths … or the legendary water that makes them work.”

-------4-------

            Kurt and Jesse left the old mill with a tiny mechanical rodent in Jesse’s coat pocket and a promise to be careful when the removed the Aremac from the film projector. “We have to hurry,” Kurt said starting to run.
            “It’s only Wednesday,” Jesse said. “We have a couple of days.”
            “The sooner we remove that alien device the sooner we can get back here to help Sarah,” Kurt told him.
            “We still haven’t figured out a way to cross the Stream of Youth,” Jesse argued.
            “We need to stop at the library after we fix the projector and use the copy machine,” Kurt said. “Callahan told us the Aremac could bring any image to life … like a bridge or guns … things we can use to free Sarah!”
Jesse chased after his friend … and he knew their troubles were just beginning …

TO BE CONTINUED …


Sunday, December 3, 2017

THE PROJECTOR part 4

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.




By R. Peterson

Kurt and Jesse were carried away by an unknown number of abductors. Muffled female whispers barely penetrated the strange fabric clinging to them as the group swept like a breeze through the forest.  A few drops of water soaked through the material as they crossed a gurgling stream.
“Perhaps we should submerge them for a few minutes … infants are much easier to carry.”
“No,” another voice said. “Not until we talk to Eve!”
“You mean Borgo don’t you?”
Jesse was able to turn his head to the side just enough so that his lips could move. “Why did you have to yell?” he moaned. Kurt took more than a minute to reply. Jesse could feel his best friend’s arms and legs trashing about as he tried to free himself from the cloth that covered them both like black paint.
“A snake,” Kurt finally gasped, “I touched it!”
“We can’t breathe,” Jesse managed to cry out. He ignored his friend and instead pleaded with their abductors. “Let us out of this bag!”

A few moments later the heavy bundle was dropped onto the ground; this time it was Jesse who was kicked. “I’ll loosen the ties to the seran, but you both must remain absolutely silent,” a voice warned. “We are passing the cave of a Sakowat. If the beast hears a noise it might decide to be hungry and we might decide we can run faster without your added burden!” They felt the clinging material loosen and they were once again lifted off the ground.
           
Kurt tried to remain silent but as always he found it nearly impossible. “What’s a Sakowat?”
            “Shut up!” Jesse hissed. “I’m sure we don’t want to find out!”

Although the material they were wrapped in had felt wet they were actually dry and warm. Jesse began to feel sleepy and so did Kurt. They weren’t even aware they’d been sleeping until the bag opened and they were dropped onto the ground.

“Put these on,” a voice commanded. “You can walk on your own into our village but we will not allow you to be indecent.” Two white hoods with cutout eye and mouth openings were tossed onto the ground just as Kurt and Jesse stood up in the morning light.


A half-dozen women armed with bows and arrows stood respectfully with their faces turned away. Blonde hair spilled out from under the backs of their head-coverings and glistened in the first rays of sunlight peering over mountains to the east.

The fabric was soft and smelled fresh laundered with a hint of lavender. Jesse laughed at his grumbling friend after he put on his own hood. “You look so much better,” he taunted.

The women led them to a bridge spanning a deep trench that had obviously been dry for some time. The dwellings beyond were surrounded by a stockade made of sharpened stakes driven into the ground. Dozens of children, with their faces covered by similar bags, ran from woven grass huts across the bridge to meet them.

“We are the Momett and this is our sacred land of Lorenia,” The woman leading the group turned. Kurt glimpsed a flash of Carillion blue from the dangerous eyes peering at him. “Those who trespass Motha Forest are required to forfeit their lives. How soon you die and how … will depend on why you have come.”

“Sounds perfectly reasonable,” Kurt told her. The excited children surrounded the group as they crossed the bridge most of the youngsters and a few of the adults began to sing …

Oh joy to greet another day … where winter winds are warm.
To greet each season gleefully … without the fear of harm.
Spun from grain stalks years ago … our beating hearts are straw.
Our maker lives in the city … and we all call her Maw.


-------2-------



Kurt and Jesse were tossed into an empty hut with a female guard posted outside. They couldn’t wait to remove the hoods which appeared to be made of the same type of clinging material. “I wasn’t expecting this,” Kurt said ripping off his head covering and scratching his head. “I always thought the stories about albino scarecrows living in the forest were all made up!”
“Not albino,” Jesse said. “They have some pigmentation … didn’t you see the blue color of the tall one’s eyes?”
“They were all tall and their eyes might have all been blue,” Kurt said. “I just didn’t believe they were real.”
“My father told me about seeing a horse-drawn wagon filled with Momett outside a store when he was a child,” Jesse said. “They were buying canned food. I believed him. I just didn’t think we would ever see any.”
Just then a female Momett pulled open the cloth door, looked both ways and then stepped inside.  Even though her clothes were obviously home-made, she managed to make them appear elegant; even before she spoke something told the boys that this woman was younger than their captors. She turned her head away quickly. “I didn’t know you were naked,” she gasped.
“No one covers their face in Cloverdale,” Kurt said, “unless they plan to rob someone.”
“We’re not robbers!”
Kurt caught a flash of angry eyes … and they were blue, a dreamy light color like ocean surf, although her voice remained harsh.  “You boys are the ones who invaded our sanctuary without permission.”
“Melania said when we were captured to show you this …” Jesse remove the crumpled black rose from his coat pocket.
“Melania!” In her excitement the girl forgot to turn her head away and stared openly at the flower. “Why didn’t you say so?”
“We were told to keep quiet or a Sakowat would get us.” Jesse told her. “I’m Jesse, and this is my friend, Kurt.”
“My name is Sarah … but a Sakowat! Where?” The girl was obviously astonished.
“We passed by its cave on the way here. We both fell asleep so I don’t know how far away it is.” Kurt told her.
“A Saran is a bag that makes you sleep,” Sarah said. “They wrapped you in it so you wouldn’t know where you were being taken. The Sakowat is a beast kept by the Hodemedod to spy on us … I wasn’t aware that any were close by.”
“Looks like your elders don’t tell you everything,” Jesse said. “What’s a Hodemedod?”
“They are creatures like us only much larger and very violent,” Sarah told them. “Melania created the Momett in 1931 as workers to help make farmers more productive but a wicked man named Hicks stole her magic and created the Hodmedod for his own evil ends. We have been at war with each other for almost four decades.”
“You seem to know a lot about everything for one so young,” Kurt said.
“I’m not so young … I’m almost thirteen.” Sarah was now looking directly at them. “And I can’t help it if I’m curious. I found a collection of school books in an old building where people used to make cloth not far from here when I was eight and I taught myself how to read … I’ve always wanted to visit a major city like Cloverdale, listen to music, and go dancing but since we’ve chosen our new leader, no one here is allowed to leave.”
“Major city … Cloverdale?” Kurt snorted.
“That must be the textile mill!” Jesse blurted. “That’s where we need to go! A man named Callahan who lives in the mill invented a new movie projector that brings things to life and we have to fix it!”
“Movies?” Sarah gasped audibly. “What are they like?”
“They’re like dreams without sleeping,” Kurt said, “anything can happen and usually does.”
There was a sound of voices approaching from a distance. “I’m not supposed to be in here,” Sarah gasped as she turned to the door. “Show the old ones the rose, but please don’t tell anyone I was here!”
            “Wait!” Kurt pointed to his face. “We showed you ours, Sarah … now show us yours … and we have a deal!”
Sarah hesitated for a long moment before she quickly pulled the bag over her head. Long platinum-blonde hair framed an extremely pale face that quickly turned crimson as the girl blushed. She jerked the bag over her head again before fleeing out of the dwelling.
            “See she wasn’t that ugly was she?” Jesse laughed at his friend as they replaced their own head coverings.
            “She was the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen,” Kurt moaned.

-------3-------

            A short time later both boys were yanked out of the hut and dragged into a large common area with a blazing fire. It looked like the entire village had gathered; there were Mommet men as well as women staring at the intruders. Silence fell over the village as an extra-large male towering over the others pushed his way through the crowd. “I am Borgo,” he thundered, “War Lord of the Momett. You have violated our sacred laws and shall be put to death!”
Jesse caught sight of Sarah in the crowd and she slyly mimicked holding a flower and then pointed at Borgo. Jesse’s fingers were trembling so bad he almost dropped the black rose as he pulled it from his coat. “Melania Descombey gave us this when she showed us the way into the forest,” he stammered.
There was a gasp of excitement in the crowd at the mention of her name. Borgo was furious at the disturbance. “Silence!” he roared. He stomped toward Jesse and grabbed the flower. The blossom crumbled to powder as he crushed it in his huge hand. “The old woman who you call mother is weak and addled in the brain! She no longer has any power in this forest. You chose me as your leader to protect you from enemies outside the forest and from the Hodmedod within. This I will do, but my words have to be law! Not some old woman hardly able to leave her bed!”
There was a murmur of agreement from the crowd.
            “I am and will forever be a daughter of Melania!” a voice hardly more than a whisper but with a strange power to be heard everywhere came as a tall woman made her way to the center of the circle, “as many of you still are. I say we need to question why these humans are here … perhaps they mean us no harm.”
            “Eve is no longer strong enough to be leader … I am!” Borgo thundered. “There will be no questions. The intruders shall burn at first light!”
Kurt watched as Sarah ran toward the woman who had spoken and hugged her. “Oh mother, we can’t let them die,” she sobbed.
            “The people no longer listen to me … and I have no power,” she said as she led her daughter away.
Kurt and Jesse were dragged to a cage fastened to the stockade wall and locked inside. “I told you to be quiet,” Jesse moaned.
            “I have a feeling we’re both going to be yelling come morning!” Kurt said.

-------4-------

It took a long time for the boys to fall asleep. The dirt floor of the cage was covered with what looked like two mangy wolf pelts. “You’re hard to wake up,” Sarah whispered. Kurt opened his eyes and then nudged Jesse. The Momett girl was poking him with a stick through the bars. “Get ready to move when I say and I’ll lead you out of the village.”
Kurt and Jesse both dressed quickly and put on their coats. “Where’s the guard?” Jesse whispered.
            “I’m the guard,” Sarah said, “for another hour. My mother volunteered me … she still has some power in the village.”
            “Won’t you be in trouble for helping us escape?” Kurt and Jesse followed her as she crept through moon shadows to the compound entrance.
            “Borgo will probably want me burned too,” Sarah said. “But I’m not going to be where he can catch me.”
            “Where are you going to be?” Kurt couldn’t help remembering how pretty she looked when she wasn’t wearing her head covering.
            “With you,” Sarah said. “My mother and some of the others knew nothing of a Sakowat cave this close to our village. They wanted me to free you but also to find out exactly where the cave is and what the thing is doing here. You said the cave was close by the mill didn’t you?”
            “We didn’t see it,” Kurt told her. “One of your sisters warned us to keep quiet so it wouldn’t come after us … we were wrapped in that bag you call … a seran.”
            “They don’t trust Borgo,” Sarah said. “I don’t either. Some of the Momett are afraid that he might betray us to our enemies.”
            “How did a brute like him become the leader of your people?” Kurt watched her as she alternately observed a guard moving back and forth over the bridge and gazed up at the partially clouded moon.
            “We are at war with the Hodemedod,” Sarah whispered. “We have been ever since we moved into Motha. Our enemies have grown very strong this last year. Many Momett have been captured or killed while gathering things in the forest that used to be so friendly to us. Borgo came along and blamed my mother’s weak leadership for the deaths … people are scared and when they are scared they can be made to do stupid things.”
            “How will we get past this guard?” The narrow bridge looked like the only way out and the guard didn’t look like he was going to leave.
            “That’s Jasper,” Sarah pointed. “He loves to fish for Lungers but the spiny creatures can only be caught under direct moonlight. I’m hoping that if the moon comes out he will be tempted.”
They watched in silence for several minutes and then slowly the moon began to move from the clouds. Sarah smiled “I knew he couldn’t resist!”
They watched as the guard retrieved a fishing pole from some bushes and then walked to a pond almost at the corner of the stockade. “Go now,” Sarah commanded, “but keep down.”
Kurt and Jesse followed her as she made her way across the bridge crouched low and moving from one shadow to the next. A minute later they reached the edge of the trees. A giant splashing noise made them look back. A gigantic fish as large as a flounder but with catfish-like spines spread out in all directions and rows of flashing teeth behind enormous flapping lips leaped from the water. Jasper struggled with a fishing-pole bent nearly double trying to reel the monster in on taunt line. At the last moment the line broke and they heard Jasper’s low moan. “Too bad,” Kurt whispered … that thing had to be a state record.”
            “No, actually a lucky break for everyone.” Sarah smiled as they turned and started into the dark woods. “If he had caught that monster the entire village would have had to help clean and eat it … and they taste just like mud.”

-------5-------

            “I know of only one cave between our village and the old mill,” Sarah told them as they carefully wove their way through the forest, “but I don’t know why any Sakowat would want to live in it … this all seems so wrong. 
A little farther down a trail they all heard the frightening sound of other creatures coming fast up the trail behind them. “Do you think the Momett have discovered us missing already?” Jesse moaned.
            “I don’t think so but … we’d better get off the trail and hide!” Sarah pushed both boys into the center of a large bush just off the trail and then seemed to somehow dissolve into a cluster of leaves.
Less than a minute later three Momett came running down the train; the large male was as large as Borgo. They heard him cursing his companions as they passed and knew it was him. “Faster you wretches we’re to meet the others at the height of the moon!”
            “A meeting with whom?” Sarah wondered.
They followed the group down the trail careful to stay far enough behind to not be seen. Suddenly they heard the sound of many voices some were little more than deep growling sounds. “Hodemedod!” Sarah gasped as they peered at the entrance to a cave. Borgo and the two other Momett stood talking to a group of at least twenty dark skinned and hairy creatures also with their heads covered.
            “A hundred more will join us at first light.” One of the large monsters growled. “You will make sure the village is unguarded and the villagers unarmed?”
            “Yes,” Borgo said. “Yesterday was a lucky day. Two human boys were captured in the forest. Their execution is set for dawn! I will make sure everyone in the village attends the burning and no weapons will be allowed!”
            “You and your friends will be left unharmed,” The huge Hodemedod growled, “and you shall have first choice of the slaves.”
Sarah pulled both boys out of the brush and almost dragged them as she ran wide around the cave. “What are you going to do?” Kurt whispered.
            “I’ll get you safely across the Stream of Youth,” Sarah said. “It has to be the same stream you said you remembered crossing. The Momett cover their legs with a special material to keep out the effects of the magical water.”
            “What happens if we get our feet wet?” Kurt seemed amused at her concern.
            “Without the water being diluted you’d turn into babies in the blink of an eye,” Sarah said. “Before you could reach the bank on the other side … you wouldn’t even be born yet!”
Kurt thought she must be joking but one look in her eyes told him that she was deadly serious. Within minutes they came to the stream. The bubbling water seemed to glow blue-green in the moonlight. Dozens of species of moss and lichen as well as grass appeared to thrive on the carpeted banks.
Kurt and Jesse helped Sarah pull a twelve foot long log from a hiding place just off the trail and after standing it upright they allowed it to fall across the stream. “Don’t look down and keep moving!” Sarah almost shoved the boys across. When they were safely on the other side Sarah pulled the log back. Kurt looked at her legs; she was wearing nothing special. “How are you going to get across?”
            “I’m not,” Sarah said. “I’ve got to go back and warn the village if I can. I pulled away the log so you wouldn’t try to follow me!”’
            “But Borgo and the Hodemedod have already started back,” Kurt was astonished. “How will you get past them?”
            “I’ll have to find a way … or die trying,” Sarah told them. They watched her as she started back down the train at a run. Suddenly she stopped. “Are movies places that people go to on dates?” she was looking directly at Kurt.
            “Yes,” he told her. “They are very popular in Cloverdale.”
            “I wish I could have gone on a date,” she whispered. She took off her hood for just a moment and smiled … then she was gone.
No more than two hundred yards down the trail they saw the old mill once again silhouetted against stars; a light was glowing in an upstairs room. “When we find Joseph Callahan I’m going to ask him if he knows another way to cross the Stream of Youth!” Kurt was running.
            “Why would you want to do that?” Jesse could tell his friend was upset and was struggling to keep up with him.
            “I’m worried about her,” Kurt said looking over his shoulder. “Sarah’s much too young to be fighting those horrible monsters alone … I’m going back to help!”
They were almost to the door of the mill when they heard a scream in the distance. The sound was both terrifying and heartbreaking.  
It was Sarah …

TO BE CONTINUED …



            

Sunday, November 26, 2017

THE PROJECTOR part 3

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



By R. Peterson

A sudden gust of wind blew leaves and a scattering of twigs from a giant maple tree in the old woman’s yard. Kurt and Jesse watched in awe as the leaves merged with the twigs and transformed into a flock of what looked like sparrows and then flew northwest. “I’m out of tea,” Melania explained as she led them through the door. “The young Asian lady who works at Hunter’s grocery will send some when she gets my message.” She noticed the boys staring after the birds. “It’s much faster than starting my old Buick and making the drive. Petrol is so expensive these days – ninety-six cents a gallon last I looked. What can a few tea bags weigh? The sparrows will be fine!”
“How did you do that?” Kurt gasped as he pointed to the tree and the tiny specks in the sky.
“The branches and leaves on the trees are all living things and thus are interchangeable with man-made creations.” Melania noticed Jesse staring at her gnarled and twisted hands. “The secret is in science and nature … not in my boney fingers!”

-------2-------

Jesse had imagined the heavy wooden entrance door would creak when she opened it, because doors as old as this one always creaked in the movies, but even though its hinges were rusted, it rolled without a whisper. “I wasn’t exaggerating about waking the dead,” Melania said brushing her fingers across the cast iron gargoyle. “There’s more nonliving things in this house than living, especially in the basement, and an enchantment on a door knocker is much better than a burglar alarm.”
Melania led them through an old fashioned parlor or sitting room and into what looked like a freshly-painted canary yellow kitchen. She motioned for them to sit at a large round table with a glass top as she filled an ancient looking  Dallah Bedouin tea pot with water and placed it on a burner.
Kurt cleared his throat. “I guess you’re wondering why we’re here?”
            “I know why you’re here,” Melania said with a smile. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have invited you in.” Kurt was amazed at how beautiful the old woman was … her eyes were like dark garden pools lit from below, with shimmering moonlight dancing on the surface.  He found it nearly impossible to guess her age although reason and stories from his parents and grandparents told him she had to be ancient.
Both Jesse and Kurt could feel a slight breeze that was somehow intoxicating … like a mother’s tender caress after an infant’s injury. Lights on a spinning fan above the table rotated along with the blades and created ever changing shadows and angles of light. One second Melania looked like a school girl no older than sixteen the next instant she was a twisted hag lurching well past a hundred.
            “You know about the Royal Theater’s new projector?”
            “No,” Melania said. “But I know Joseph Callahan. He used to throw-off bravura sparks when we were together … nineteen thirty-one to thirty-three I believe it was … and I would catch them like glowing embers while we danced. People didn’t have a lot of money back then so we were forced to fall in love with all the simple things in life. Then something terrible happened between us and the raging fire inside that I felt for him was extinguished. But that’s a miserable story better suited for those who seek out and adore gloom. It’s a pity; in some ways he and I are still very much alike. We both dabble in magic … although his is of a more practical almost you could say scientific type.”
            “How did you know we needed to see him?” Jesse was astonished that Melania took their arrival so matter-of-factly.
            “All non-physical things such as dreams, thoughts and emotions can be found riding a dark energy wind called fatoma,” Melania told them. “Especially whispers from the obsoletes … as it is the poor lingering souls only way of communicating.”
            “That’s amazing! How do you receive this information?” Jesse was staring through an arched doorway into the living room where a large porcelain jar sitting on an upright piano had just fallen on its side. Hundreds of glass balls rained down onto the keyboard playing an exuberant rendition of Tchaikovsky’s - Piano Concerto No. 3 in E flat major.
            “Sorry for the noise,” Melania said. “I do need to have that piano tuned.” Just then there was a tapping from outside a large stained-glass panel hanging over the sink. The colored glass depicted a ragged medieval-city rat perched atop a mountain of bones. Melania put on a pair of thick gardening gloves and opened the window “Thank the gods the dark and horrible plagues that ravaged the world six centuries ago are now imprisoned in this masterful glass … I just hope the more mischievous children in Cloverdale never decide to start throwing stones!”
A dozen sparrows flew inside. Each one held a bag of Da-Hong Pao tea in their tiny talons. The boys noticed that the birds appeared to be constructed of tiny whirling gears and with wings made of silk. “I do hope you like this blend of Wuyi rock tea,” Melania said looking at a tiny bill attached to one sparrow’s leg. She had to take her gloves off to remove it. “The price has been rather dear as of late.” She noticed Kurt and Jesse both looking at her oddly and shook her head. “You must excuse me; how rude not to have answered your question, Jesse. There have been so many distractions as of late and my dimly lit brain flutters about like a cluster of Fuoco-flies caught in a bottle. I know what you want because you both left this house not an hour ago!”
            Both boys were now gaping open-mouthed.
“Sometimes reversing Fatoma winds can be as easy as flipping a switch!” They watched as she walked to a wall plate and turned off the ceiling-fan. The exuberant feeling of having their faces caressed by a loving mother slowly faded. A moment later Melania once again pressed the switch this time downward. The fan began to turn slowly at first and then picking up speed everything was moving in reverse. Both boys now seemed to be in a dark theater watching as the film stopped and then began to run backward at high speed. The flock of sparrows flew backward out the stained-glass window and Melania closed it behind them. Tchaikovsky’s - Piano Concerto sounded like Indian music as it played in reverse. They watched themselves leave the room with Melania … all three walking backwards. After they watched the door close before it was opened there was a lull of almost thirty seconds before they once again left the kitchen. This time Jesse had a cut above his left cheek and Kurt had two black eyes. Melania stopped the fan once again and started it moving forward. “Those in need who bend the dark wonders into useful tools call it magic,” she said. “Joseph Callahan would call it Quantum Physics.”
Just then the antique tea-pot began to sing Credence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising in Arabic.  “Many people think the Genie from the Arabian Nights comes from a lamp,” Melania said. “They’re wrong … he’s always lived in this brass container … turn over your cups the tea is almost ready.”

-------3-------



Kurt and Jesse turned over tiny porcelain cups on the glass table and dangled in tiny woven bags filled with tea leaves as Melania poured the steaming water. She now looked well over a hundred. “Let the tea seep for a few moments,” she said. “It doesn’t strengthen the flavor … but the cups are quite delicate. They were crafted in China in 1419 and like my old bones they tend to get brittle when exposed to sudden heat or cold.”
Jesse watched as a mist from the tea swirled upward creating prisms of light that danced on the walls of the room. “If you knew that we were trying to find Joseph Callahan then you must know that we’re looking for a way into Motha Forest … that is if the projector’s inventor still resides in the old textile mill.”
“He does,” Melania said sitting down. “And you’re right about the forest. The domain of the Mommet is a dark and dangerous place for the unwary traveler.” Melania took a sip of her tea and she was suddenly young again darkly ravaging and dangerously beautiful.
“This Wuyi stuff is so very very … cool!” Jesse and Kurt both gazed at the old woman with dreamy eyes.
“Oh that’s not the rock tea,” Melania confessed with a blush. “It’s the blended Ginseng … so much better for avaricious things … and I must say a great deal cheaper! But enough of that. Don’t worry about getting into that dark forest … I’ll drive you myself, my old Buick needs a good run.  Although I will not go inside the mill …. spiders! Too large for a broom and I never took a fancy to them. But right now while we enjoy ourselves with this intoxicating brew perhaps you’ll tell me about Bridget Bardot … I’ve often wondered what enchantments she uses on men in general.  Did you notice if her eyes changed color under the moonlight?  Were her lips as soft as rose petals or as firm as teenage anticipation? Was she dripping with Ein Gedi from Israel or just splashed with a bit of Chanel No. 5? I’m sure she must be a witch. Come now … don’t be stingy with the details!”

-------4-------

The front seat of the 1949 Roadmaster was huge – easily big enough to seat both Jesse and Kurt in comfort. With what looked like flames shooting out of the port holes on each side of the classic Buick, they felt like they were in a Word War II fighter plane. Melania tore down unpaved roads catching-air on every bridge they crossed, taking corners at more than 90 MPH and burying the speedometer on the straight sections. “I don’t know how much being a witch pays,” Kurt said gripping the armrests with white knuckles. “But if you ever decide to change professions I’m sure NASCAR would create an opening.”
Jesse was startled when the old woman tuned the radio to KRNR, a local Rock and Roll radio station, and then cranked the volume almost all the way up. Deep Purple was playing Smoke on the Water. “I keep hearing imaginary noises every time I drive this piece of junk,” Melania said. “Tires about to blow, leaking radiators and loose push rods … extra-loud music helps me to relax.”
Before the song ended Melania was careening sideways into the gravel yard of an old farm house on River Road that seemed built next to a wall of trees. The boys didn’t know whether to be thankful or not when the car finally skidded to a stop; they were alive but the old farm house looked like something that might soon change that. Black windows like the empty eye-sockets of a corpse stared as Melania opened her door and they slowly did the same. “There’s a tunnel entrance in the basement covered by about an inch of old cotton fibers. It’s about a mile long and comes out a few hundred yards from the old mill. Joseph’s place and most of the rest of Motha Forest is guarded by a group of colorless women who call themselves my daughters.” Melania snapped her fingers and a black rose in full bloom appeared in her hand as if by magic. She gave it to Jesse. Show this to the most aggressive one when you’re caught … and make no mistake you will be. They usually follow my advice and there’s a good chance they’ll let you live … at least long enough to talk to Joseph Callahan.”
Both boys stood frozen as they watched Melania drive away. Then slowly they turned and entered the old house.

-------5-------

“There’s a good chance they’ll let you live …” Kurt mimicked Melania’s words as he and Jesse crept through the old tunnel with flashlights supplied by Melania. “I don’t know about you but I don’t plan on getting caught. Especially not by a bunch of women who cover their faces with white cloth bags.”
“This is kind of disturbing,” Jesse said. “We both saw ourselves entering Melania’s house in reverse even though to the best of my knowledge neither of us has ever been there before. I had a cut above my left cheek and you had two black eyes; we didn’t get those by not tangling with anyone.”
Kurt rubbed his eyes as if to make certain they weren’t swollen. “I just hope that when we find Callahan he has the means and the will to fix the projector! What if he knows exactly what it does and just doesn’t care?”
“Melania said they were alike … let’s hope he’s as helpful as she has been!”
At the end of the tunnel, they found an old wooden ladder fastened to the wall … its upper rungs disappeared into the darkness. “Looks like we’re almost there,” Jesse said as he started to climb. “Perhaps we can sneak into the mill without getting caught!”
            “If you fall, try not to make any noise … screaming, or that sort of thing,” Kurt suggested as he followed. Within a couple of minutes they had clambered up more than one-hundred rungs. “It really won’t do any good … and it makes it hard for those of us that are always careful with everything we do.”
            “Watch that last rung,” Jesse warned as he lifted open the top hatch. He heard Kurt scream and was just quick enough to turn and catch his friend before he fell. “My God! A snake!” Kurt wailed as he scrambled to get his feet back on the ladder. “I put my hand right on it!”
            “So much for being quiet,” Jesse said as he pulled Kurt out of the shaft. The Moonlit forest looked almost as bright as day after being in the dark tunnel. They could see the old mill in the distance, silhouetted against a background of stars.
            Kurt brushed himself off and began to laugh. “Were almost there and I don’t see any sign of Melania’s so-ugly-they-bag-their-faces daughters!”
The stars were suddenly extinguished as a large black tarp or blanket was thrown over them. The fabric was dry but clung to them as if it were wet. They couldn’t move and could barely breathe. Kurt heard a female voice speaking right above him. “What makes you think we’re ugly just because we wear sacks on our faces?” she said. And then she kicked him.

TO BE CONTINUED …


Sunday, November 19, 2017

THE PROJECTOR part 2

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



By R. Peterson


Jesse tried everything to get Chloe O’Brian’s attention. She wouldn’t even turn her head in his direction, not even when he tripped Ruben Butterfield, and caused hysterical laughter from the boys in the classroom as the beefy teen returned from the pencil sharpener and ripped the back of his pants exposing yellow polka dot underwear. “I owe you double, Paco!” Ruben promised.
 Mrs. Dern stopped reading mid-sentence. Several girls were crying as the English Literature teacher slammed the almost finished An Episode of Sparrows onto her desk. “Jesse Paco! To the principal’s office. Now!”
Kurt Smith covered his mouth and whispered words of encouragement as Jesse shuffled past. “Moss broke a yard-stick over my butt last week … The janitor has a whole pile of broken ones by that clanking furnace in the basement along with a pile of rags he uses to wipe up blood. Bernie burns them to start the coal on fire and of course to destroy criminal assault evidence against the principal.” Kurt began to giggle. “I hear Porky buys them by the truckload.”

Jesse turned to look just once before he closed the classroom door. Chloe O’Brian’s dangerous green eyes flashed at him for the briefest of moments, but it was enough. It had to be … he was in love.

 Louise Porter, the Junior High Principal’s part-time secretary, was compiling absentee reports when Jesse approached her desk. She was a high school senior and five years older. Jesse had had a huge crush on her before Chloe O’Brian stole his heart. “Is Por … mmm I mean Principal Moss in? I need to get a re-admittance slip for Mrs. Dern’s English class.”
            “Mr. Moss is in conference with the girls’ volleyball coach.” Louise looked up from her pages and smiled when she saw him. Her dark brown hair framed her face perfectly and her blue eyes danced. “What have you done now Jesse?”
            “Ruben Butterfield tripped over my foot in the classroom,” Jesse explained. “Mrs. Dern thinks I did it on purpose.”
            “Yeah, as if you wanted a black eye from that brute during lunch break.” Louise pulled out a pad of re-admittance slips and began filling one out.
            “Don’t you have to get Porky’s signature on that?” Jesse realized his error almost as the words flew out of his mouth but there was no coaxing them back in.
            “I sign the principal’s name on almost everything,” Louise grinned. “It’s really my signature not his. But I don’t write Porky … it’s always just J. Peter Moss.”
            “Thanks,” Jesse told her.
            “Try not to get detention,” Louise said as she handed him the slip. “Ruben Butterfield got two weeks for beating up two High School seniors. Spending an hour after school with him in Mr. Larsen’s unsupervised classroom would be like being locked in a zoo-cage with a gorilla.”
            “I’ll try to be good.”
Louise laughed. “I’m sure you will try Jesse … just don’t get caught.”
The bell rang when Jesse was halfway down the hall. He didn’t want to meet up with an enraged Ruben Butterfield so he took the long way to his locker … His face was already starting to hurt … lunch time would come soon enough.

-------2-------

            Kurt Smith looked at the re-admittance slip Jesse showed him at lunch. They were sitting on a table outside watching the cheerleaders practice on the lawn next to the sprinklers. “I know you’ve had a thing for Louise Porter for years … looks like you finally consummated things huh?”
            “Nothing like that,” Jesse snorted. “She’s like my big sister.”
            “And your family was so poor you had to shower together to save water …” Kurt was shaking his head.
            “She’s not as old as Brigitte Bardot … you two was like wet minks wrapped around each other!”
            “What happened Friday night still freaks me out. Do you think Cranston knows what his new projector is capable of doing?”
            “I’ve been thinking about that,” Jesse said. “I think we’d better have a talk with him before the weekend.”
            “Friday night wasn’t so bad.” Kurt’s eyes were half closed as he stared at the sky above the school entrance.
            “Having Brigitte Bardot to make out with on a city park picnic table is one thing,” Jesse said. “Having that demon thing that possesses Linda Blair spider-walking across the theater ceiling looking for trouble is an entirely different situation.”
            “If that thing would only hook-up with Ruben Butterfield we might have had a better chance of graduating High School without being in wheel-chairs …” Kurt pointed.
Ruben thundered across the lawn like a three-hundred pound freight train wearing a cowboy hat and with a full roll of masking tape covering the seat of his pants. “Today is my lucky day,” he bellowed. Jesse half expected steam to come out of his ears. “I owe both you chicken bastards a payback and it looks like I get to kill two stones with one bird!”
            “That’s two birds and one stone … you dimwit cowpuncher!” Kurt taunted.
            “Birds? I really wish we had wings!” Jesse was on his feet trying to pull Kurt after him.
            “Chickens don’t fly from dogs, they run around in crazy circles,” Kurt said.
Jesse didn’t like the wild look in his friend’s eyes. “Whatever you’re thinking … it won’t work!”
            “No one has ever accused me of thinking …” Kurt was on his feet sprinting toward Ruben flapping his arms and making rooster crowing noises before Jesse could stop him.
Ruben skidded to a stop and drew back his beefy right arm as Kurt ran directly at him. Just as he swung his fist Kurt veered sharply to the left and Ruben’s knockout punch went wild. “You clumsy, lumbering ox!” Kurt chanted just before he slipped on the grass.
            For a very large teen Ruben was remarkably fast. He kicked Kurt as he tried to stand and had already punched him once in the face before Jesse could get to his floundering friend. Jesse pummeled the schoolyard monster from behind without effect and an instant later Ruben had his beefy arms wrapped around both boys’ necks dragging them across the grass. He stopped long enough to punch Jesse in the face and pull out a clump of his hair.
Chloe O’Brian and the rest of the cheerleaders stared open mouthed as Ruben plopped each boy down on a running sprinkler. “Look the little babies have wet their pants!” Ruben chuckled at his own joke just as the school-bell rang.
Chloe turned and smiled as she and the rest of the girl’s strolled past. “If only that whore Bardot could see you now,” she snickered.

-------3-------

Ruben rode the same school-bus as Kurt so he decided to stay in town with Jesse and have his mom pick him up later. Coach Evans had allowed them to put their wet clothes in the dryer during gym class. Mr. Cranston was mopping the floor in the theatre entrance when Jesse knocked on the door and he let both boys in.
“What’s the matter … you don’t like the free tickets for next Friday’s show?”
“The tickets are fine,” Kurt told him. “We just don’t think you should be showing a film like The Exorcist until you get the bugs out of your new projector.”
“What bugs?” Cranston was animate. “Everyone said it was the most real movie experience they’d ever seen!”
“Maybe a little too real,” Jesse told him. “We ran into Brigitte Bardot in the park after the movie. When you said it looked like she jumped right off the screen … well it was because she did!”
“It’s true,” Kurt said. “I’ve got the sucking marks on my neck to prove it.
“Why didn’t you mention this before?”
“At first we thought it was kind of cool,” Kurt said. “Bring our fantasies to life that sort of thing. But if you show the Exorcist this Friday night this town could be in real trouble.”
“But it’s out of my hands,” Cranston threw both arms in the air. “I’ve given out almost two hundred free tickets … if I cancel the show now … no one will ever trust me again.”
“We’ve got to do something. You just can’t let a little girl with a demon inside her run loose in town just to save face.”
“That’s how you two knew when I’d fixed the film and finished running it. Brigitte Bardot disappeared when the film ended … right?”
“Yes, I guess she did,” Jesse and Kurt both reluctantly agreed.
“Then there is no problem,” Cranston told them. “I told you I installed a high powered fan to keep the film cool … what could go wrong this time?”
“Mr. Cranston, we’re talking about Cloverdale,” Jesse pleaded.
The theatre owner was quiet for a moment … then he nodded.  The truth about the small town was hard to argue with. “I’m not cancelling the show and I don’t have any answers. Perhaps you two better talk to the projector’s inventor … explain what’s going on. If anyone can fix this … problem … old Joe can.”
            “I haven’t seen Joseph Callahan for years,” Jesse said. “I didn’t know he was still alive. Does he still live in that old textile mill just inside Motha Forest?”
            “As far as I know,” Cranston said. “He called me on a radio phone that he invented and had the projector delivered by a local driver.”

            “This keeps getting better and better,” Kurt said as they walked back to Jesse’s house. “Not only is it illegal for anyone to go into Motha Forest, but Chloe’s father is the administrator of a special land trust set up for that strange Mommet cult. We’ll be lucky if we don’t get shot. Airplanes are not even allowed to fly over the forest. No one knows the way in. It’s like the trees bunch up and create a wall whenever anyone gets too close.”
            “There’s one person in town who knows almost all of Cloverdale’s secrets,” Jesse said. “All we have to do is ask an old lady to help us!”
            “Dr. Descombey’s witch sister!” Kurt gasped. “I’d rather call Ruben Butterfield and ask him if he’d like to dance with me by the river!”
            “It may come to that,” Jesse said. “If we don’t stop that movie from showing … that might seem like an easy way out.”

-------4-------

            All the windows in the Victorian mansion on the south west corner of Galbraith and Main Street in Cloverdale appeared to be blind. The enormous house was even scarier than Kurt remembered from October nights half a dozen years earlier. It was scarier now because he knew this time they would have to face whoever or whatever answered the door instead of shrieking and running like howling banshees after they banged on the heavy carved door during a Halloween dare.
            A pathway made of flat stones, mortised with blackened green moss and crawling with worms, led up three levels, each intersected with six stone steps. A flock of shadowy ravens rose into the sky with only a slight whooshing sound and settled on the numerous gables. Dark eyes followed them like cameras. Snowball bushes, clipped in the shape of funeral attendants and weeks past the blooming stage, lined both sides of the sunken entryway. Something dark with a spiked tail vanished into the shadows ahead.     
“There’s no law that says we have to go to the movies every Friday night,” Kurt said with a shiver.  “Plenty of kids go roller-skating or God forbid bowling on the weekends.”
            “While we’re at it, let’s pull our pants up to our armpits, tie them in place with twine and see if we can get ourselves library cards,” Jesse told him. “We’ll both end up writing books about flowers and dancing horses with yellow bows in their manes instead of being astronauts or helicopter pilots.”
Kurt was forced to laugh in spite of his fear. “Don’t you have to have some kind of a certificate from a vocational college to do that?”
Both boys were aware that they were being watched; by who or what they knew not … and the thought sobered them.
Rows of dust-caked arched-top windows set deep in the stone walls loomed above them like tombstones expecting still limber tenants. The entryway was inset at least three feet from the exterior walls. A cast-iron knocker in the shape of a horrible gargoyle rested against a tarnished striker plate.
Kurt stretched his hand and slowly lifted the heavy iron. A sound like breathless words falling into a rusty bucket from the bushes behind them almost made the ring slip from his trembling fingers. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you!”
A figure seemingly made of darkness stepped from the foliage. “That’s a thumping sure to wake the dead … and we wouldn’t want that … no, we wouldn’t want that!”

TO BE CONTINUED …