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.
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.”
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.”
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 …