Previous installment is here.
Okay, ladies and gents, I know this is awfully confusing, but the title of this little gem is… Behind the Moon Door. I promise not to change the name of my projects too often. It has been previously titled “The Visitor” which is great for an enigmatic short story, but not sufficient for the novel this is becoming. Please note that I have decided that this should be published, so it is copyrighted to me. I will point out that UNLESS the picture I use here is public domain (from now on they will be) I will not be distributing the images with the text in it’s next iteration. I will probably use one of the public domain images as fodder for a cover.
Thus we begin.
I awoke to a blaze of light. The crescent shaped windows had faceted crystal or glass, with little rounds of color gleaming like cabochons nested in swags of diamonds. More window cascaded down from the crescents, like rays of light, the glass somewhat frosted, thus paler than the crescents themselves, even during the day. The narrow vertical panes also played into the imagery, as difficult as they were to clean and dust.
My wall of windows faced North, and collected an incredible amount of morning light. The spider plants and ferns only shielded sleepy eyes so much.
I remembered belatedly that the windows were punched out from the wall. Pulling the curitains shut would get rid of most light but block off the plants from the room.
I was mighty tempted. Until a loud trumpet blast that resolved into a cockrel crow, a chorus of clucking, canine howls, even scratches and yowls from the closed door. I was being summoned by the brood.
I heard a couple of loud thunks from an outbuilding. Were the goats expressing their displeasure, or did Phil acquire cows or horses and fail to tell me? I yawned, and reflected on the disasterous year when Phil tried sheltering horses. There wasn’t a thing wrong with horses in general, but she was so trusting, and her helpmate so wasn’t… Val (a cousin) and Frank wound up in the hospital, and a vet had to lay down the law and explain some facts of life to Phil and the nature of horses— and show her what illegal hemp looked like.
Strangely, she’d done fine with other ruminants, even a deer and a few cows from time to time. But she swore, possibly near her sainted mothers grave, that she would not take another horse on again. Sarah down the way had a horse farm, and didn’t really need the competition, though you can bet she missed the charity. But she still gets free graze on the Wainwright field, and Phils best alfalfa free of charge. Don’t tell the co-op, who pays top dollar for the fruits of East field, which Sarah’s chargers fertilize readily.
If worse came to worse, I could call Kendra. She was a phone call away, working in a clinical massage parlor, slash metaphysical bookstore in Royal Oak. She knew everything. But she is a witch. A compulsively happy, long haired hippy witch. I guess it’s okay to have long hair if you are female, but… she’s a trip, and I’d rather not deal with her. We go together like bitter chocolate and marshmallow fluff— with butter cream frosting , and sprinkles.
I can’t deal with someone that trippy-competent. I think I might kill her before the day was done— if I didn’t die of humility first.
Then I heard a tink tink tink. I glared at the window, and noticed a crow gleefully spitting rocks at the window. ‘I don’t feers before a forest of baby trees sprung up to give class to the place.
I struggled into my robe, chilled and unused to country living. Drafts are a part of life. Too bad it wasn’t the fermented kind. THAT I could live with.
As I found the acudraments to make coffee… which amounted to a ginormous percolator sitting on the stove next to a cotton bag full of… beans. Green beans. Not the canned kind. I know what to do with those. They are long and are supposed to be green, and come in tin cans where you can use them to make casserole or weight down your turkey breast for thawing under ice water.
This was a whole new realm entirely. These beans were a light olive green and roughly the right shape, but matte textured instead of black and shiny and blood-cell shaped. They didn’t smell much like coffee, except just spicy enough for you to feel whiny, and to miss coffee even more.
There was also a box… a wooden box, with a big shiny black steel crank at the top, that smelled like freshly roasted coffee. It had a slot in the front like the gumball machines from my childhood. It still had some grounds in it, so I tossed those into the percolator, and let her sit on the stove, hoping I’d guessed the temp right. Well, I’d find out soon.
Then I found a sugar bowl that had some more grounds in it. They smelled like the same stuff from the big grinder thing, so I went with it.
Mysteriously there were some eggshells inside the pot, yet it was otherwise clean. The eggshells themselves looked clean, too. I muttered to myself and vowed to ignore their existence.
I let the water run for a bit before pouring the clear cold cold water into the perc. I wondered if you could possibly have a glacier fed well this far south. I mean, Monroe was rock throwing distance away from where I was standing. That’s not the sort of area you think of as having glaciers, unless you are a geologist. And even then you are thinking in past tense. I wondered if Kendra would know. Wikipedia would know if nothing else, and had no good reason to lie.
So a kind of watery coffee that tasted better than it should eventually happened. But it was hot, and it had caffeine in it, and was much improved by the hefty scoop of swiss miss I found in the Cupboard.
It was a mite chalky, having dated from my childhood most likely. Waking up did happen. I also fried some eggs from the fridge, but noted I’d probably have to gather them before long. That would be less of a hustle with a mostly confined rooster, but these hens had a tendency to hide them around the yard rather than lay them in the chicken loft, otherwise known as the pseudo-barn. On the plus side, there was only one level that really needed cleaning. They roosted at night on poles. They had spills once in a while, but you could just pull out the paper and replace it every day, and sanitize it every other day. For a home farm, that’s fine. Don’t ask me about food production. Those people are insane.
That was the major disadvantage of this first tier free range gig that Phil favored for the chickens. But I won’t bore you with the details. The present for your labors are the richest most velvety eggs you’ve ever had, with vivid orange yolks with real flavor of their own. Store bought become pale and tasteless by comparison. Aunt Phil’s custard pie looks like it’s made form neon pumpkins, and thats all the egg.
One of mine had a red splorch on it. So the rooster must have had his day. I sighed and pulled it off and dumped the thing in the trash.
Well, at least it didn’t have a beak.
So I ate, cleaned up, then cleaned and watered all the stations, fed all four critter stations, said hi to the fish and watered the plants. Then I finally, finally worked myself up to start searching the outbuildings, starting with the garage. Sure, I’d been in there earlier to put The Chariot away after the trip to the airport, but that’s only the parking area. Garages out here are detached and complex entities with multiple sections set out for different uses.
There’s a reasonably large metal shop, big enough to park the chariot in, a walk in closet sized storage area for auto tools, plus a bit for oil and spare fuel. The second floor has a fully apportioned two bedroom apartment, plus a wide open storage area (called “the deck”— it is twice the size of the apartment, has it’s own haymow complete with boom. This opens above the garage and lets in the afternoon light. That can be used for a number of things. Where the chariot is parked, you could park two other vehicles comfortably. Often there is a second vehicle there, plus a tractor. Last I checked it was a candy apple ’71 soft top El Dorado that belonged to Gran. Frank took it to town every so often, looking ridiculous in his aeronautically themed Hawaiian shirts, aviator glasses and cheeky grin.
But I needed to check the outbuildings and the rest of the property before I neglected anything else living, or… whatever. At this point, vampires golems and revanants weren’t out of the question.
This led to a question. I pulled out my cellphone and cursed. No signal. None. Not even one bar to let you know that there might be something nearby. I could have been on the moon as far as my cheap data-phone was concerned. I shoved it into my pocket and swore I’d do spot checks around the property. If I couldn’t call out on the cell, that could have security implications I didn’t want to think about.
So I made my way outside. There were two gnomes under the tree. TWO, out of at least six. The fishing gnome was still nowhere to be found. Was this some form of communication? I wondered when I’d hear back from the gnomes again. For being full of spit and vinegar, they were sure quiet— and scarce.
There was supposed to be one by the door, I remembered, too. Nobody there, but there was moss covered the concrete square he stood on. A bare divot pointed to where he was supposed to be. I took a sip of my third mug of double mocha half cap and thought longingly of Starbucks— or better still, the Daily Grind, my favorite urban hangout in the University neighborhood back in Detroit. If that wasn’t available I went to American Coney Island, with the plasticy primary colored interior and superior chilli-dog chili, where the coffee was okay, but always strong, hot and ready. I’m sure the other guys will get after me for my partisanship, but you either have an opinion about chilli-dogs in Detroit, or you don’t have a pulse.
I went to the garage, first— making a beeline for the apartment. After all, Wilshires got hired at GOOGLE. They *must* have rigged the apartment with internet to spare. They weren’t here anymore, but at least getting it turned on again wouldn’t be an insurmountable technical challenge. Then I could find out just how much of a connection I could afford.
Then I remembered that Phil told me special that I had to ring the bell before I entered the garage. I sighed and rang the buzzer, even though no one (to my knowledge) lived there anymore. I listened. Not a noise, so I continued my pursuits.
To stretch out my excitement, I checked the garage first. I twas the same as ever, with tools dating back to the last century… maybe even further. Some of them were coated with a uniform layer of brownish black rust was tougher than paint. The whole place had the grit of fine black powder that hinted back to a time when the property was heated with coal, or maybe just the rich powdery silt that lay as soil in these parts.
I smiled at touched the horseshoe aunt Phil hung up, looking for the favor of some unnamed saint. Also, she said, as a reminder that having horses brought ill luck to her house. I sighed and entered the shop, looking to see evidence that Frank bought more gadgets or was working on another project.
I found a forge. A big long forge that was about 4 feet long, maybe three feet on the interior. It was beyond strange… the last place I’d seen the like was a recent episode of Mythbusters. I sighed, and noticed slivers of metal here and there, glinting from recent shedding. I twitched my lips. All the tongs were out and sitting in an iron pot sitting on the floor. Then there were several buckets set on the floor, some rags sitting out, and… the bansaw and the big old grinder was set up. LOTS of grinding had been done, as evinced by piles of metallic dandruff everywhere around it. The place still smelled a bit scorched. The chasing hammers were out, too.
And wood slivers. Someone was using a little wood and a fine chain, but not so fine you’d use it for jewelry. Besides it was steel, or looked like it. I shook my head, unable to solve the mystery. I went around to the apartment. Though most of it was on the second floor, It’s door was on the first, and at the end of the hallway that also led to the metal shop. The tools were in a little alcove next to the garage area which opened up on the way inside. Then there was the door, and a little stand for shoes and coats and umbrellas, with the stairs going up past and behind it. I knocked on the little lion knocker, and rang the bell again, not knowing why. I waited. Silence.
I went upstairs, closing the door behind me. The bells jangled as I closed the door, though I hadn’t remembered them ringing when I opened it.
At the end of the stairs is another door. I opened it, and peered in. Nothing. So I went into the cosy but anciently outdated living-room, rust colored carpet, orange chairs, and… the big console TV that had been my childhood love. Afgans on the couch. A long coffee table, longer than the couch. The goldenrod wing chairs, the woven natural fiber wallpaper and a wall covered with art from a hundred different eras. Here a Casa Blanca poster, there a framed painted and beaded feather in a shadowbox frame.
A bell pull made from a snake-skin with a diamond back pattern. A Japanese wash painting of frogs, water lilies and gestural koi fish. A miniature painting of flowers that turned out to be embroidery.
It was as clean as a hotel room, but as personal as grandma’s house.
Except there was a sweater pitched along the back of the coutch. I’d missed it because it blended rather well with the layer of afgan on the back of this one. I went over and slowly picked it up. It was not gnome sized, the limbs were too long and willowy, but not really human proportioned. It was made of an emerald green free-form crochet. Someone crazy about Celtic notwork went to town on it, all without any visible contrast. Even the buttons were exquisitely knotted– out of yarn, but as smooth and plenty firm enough to do a button’s job. The frog opposite was also a miniature work of art. I had done a bit as a child, but this was even fancier than what Phil’s grandmother did back in the day— and she made those fine lace table cloths, even after shed’ mostly gone blind. Aunt Phil said she was even better when she couldn’t see. I thought it had been a bad joke until she displayed her work.
I couldn’t help touching the little sweater. It smelled like dew and lillies, fresher and more primal than any perfume I’d ever smelled. Well, new tech was coming along every day, maybe… Then I heard a small cry. Something glinted, flying at me, moving so fast I could not resolve what it was supposed to be.
I ducked and tumbled, falling on my ass. That saved my life, because a mean bright blade sunk into the floor right by my head. A young angry childlike creature glared at me. She was not human. As beautiful as she was, the proportions of her lovely inhumanly violet eyes were just…wrong. Her nose was barely there, so elegant it was somewhat disturbing on a primal level. He thin eyebrows so much the ideal that I felt like a shaggy fat hag around her. I swear her body didn’t have to worry much about gravity at all.
Her chest and waist were sculpted, like someone had an abstract idea bout breasts but didn’t know the mechanics involved. Even her long slender arms and hand were beautiful, and all that beauty was aiming burning fury at me.
I could see it pulsing off of her, and she kept… tugging at the handle of the bright silver sword that was stuck in the floor. She glared, and tugged. Glared, and tugged. Then she howled with renewed fury and charged me with her bare hands. I was terrified, and not much of a fighter. Turns out I know the room like the back of my hand, and I fled out of it, weaving between pieces of furniture, irrationally heading toward the bedroom.
By the time I reached my destination, I slammed the door, locked it (all three locks) sat down and waited. Yes, there was a phone next to the bed.
I ran to it to call 911. Wait…did they have 911 out this far?
It didn’t really matter. The phone was dead. I pulled out my cell phone and noticed… two bars. That means there might be a signal, may as well try.
I hit 911 and dialed.
Then there was a swirl of wind, like a dust devil had been imported out of Youtube and ploped down on the center of the bed. In a flury of sheets and blankets, emerged the creature again. She was robed in a full elaborate dress sculpted of leaves. Each had swirling patterns that hypnotized the eye. She stood and glared at me, stepping forward.
She spoke some language that I’d…heard before, but I couldn’t name. I looked at her. “What?!” I shouted. You have to realize, the noise of this wind was incredible, even as it did very little damage to the room. It was very..atmospheric. I was a little less afraid of her now that I hadn’t seen her attack…
But I couldn’t move. At all.
I could sort of breathe, enough to get by. But it wasn’t comfortable, and she was getting closer, and she had that blade that she’d been attacking me with earlier. She held it up to me threateningly. I tried to object. A pathetic croak is all that came out. At least she was letting me emote, I guess.
She hissed something else at me, and I realized then that this was actual communication. It still sounded familiar, like I should know it, but… it was still pretty noises to me. I looked at her dumbly. Her face was very hard to read. I couldnt’ tell if she was irritated, fascinated, or a mixture of all three. The panes of her face went in where they should go out, and… her beauty was very distracting. So I waited.
Finally, something sunk in.
“What are you?” she asked finally.
“Why didn’t you ask that before? I have no idea what you were saying.”
Her eyebrows raised, and her eyes narrowed, and her lips pursed. THAT was annoyance. Check.
She licked a finger. She touched me on the forehead. Suddenly I felt less distracted by her beauty, but… I was still stuck.
She licked her finger again, and her brows came closer together. Her eyes glinted and went unfocused. She licked her lips.
“You taste human. You act human. But you do not…react human.” She declared.
“I’m sorry?” I said.
“You should be. This is all much more difficult than… it should be. And it’s all your fault.”
I did my wide eyed innocent act. “Well, I can’t do anything the easy way, so I guess it makes sense.”
Her eyes widened, her lips loosened, mouth gaped. “You… are a devotee of Murphy?” she gasped.
I couldn’t help it. I laughed out loud. Lots. I’m sure I sounded insane, but the situation was just too much. First gnomes, now this?
It suddenly occured to me that there were three possibilities. Either she was the missing Queen, she kidnapped the missing Queen, or… there was yet more intrigue going on here than I had a shine to. I really hoped those blasted gnomes would get back to me soon… or better yet, called in the cavalry. Whatever goat mounted cavalry should be called, anyway.Should I let her know that I knew about the Queen, or let her think I’m ignorant? Well, I’ve been pretty good at ignorant my whole life, so… why not? That means there wasn’t much left to say.
“So what are you doing here?” I demanded. Still locked into place and unable to do a thing against her.
Holy crap. She took me seriously.
Her face contorted and her eyes glowed green while maintaing their errie violet haze. Oh yes, and her hair was either white or black depending on the light. The sunlight, it looked white. In the yellow lamp light it was that shiny black my %80 Cherokee roomate had, that was so black it had a purplish sheen. This creature was…trippy. Maybe the witch was what was needed after all. NO. NO. No. Not her… and this.
I managed to maintain composure as she got close to me. Her floral scent held a trace of frost, like an alpine spring. She smiled sweetly.
“What, you do not know death when it greets you?”
Bad guy. Check. Next question.
I looked down. There was something weird about the blade she was handling. It was not… wait! Was it the same blade she had on the other side? It was the same shape, it was close to the same color. Except… in the shadows it looked almost transparent. I really wished I could rub my eyes, because looking to closely made my eyes itch, then water. I blinked repeatedly and let the tears slowly trickle down my cheeks. Except they stopped and went sideways, against gravity. I shook my head and looked back at the blade, drawn to it like I was drawn to coffee. That black shocking harsh coffee at American Coney Island— just thinking about it gave me a jolt of energy. I squinted, blinked away more tears, then continued to notice.
She seemed uncomfortable with me looking at the blade, and glared at me.
It hadn’t had that purple glow before, either. The longer I looked at it, the more it looked like cheap special effects. I grinned at her. “You gotta go back to the prop room, sister, and get you a new blade.”
Her jaw dropped as she pulled it out to threaten me with it… and it faded into nothing. A stream of profanity so thick salty and alien assaulted my ears like acapella ‘new music’. It was a cacophony of multiple conflicting discords, as if multiple voices were coming out of her mouth, all with the same vocal range. They echoed, a thunderclap. The whole building shook.
I winced and braced as best I could.
I blinked. “You must have learned that from Phil’s old work buddies. They could swear pretty powerfully, too.” I said.
“Trickster!” she howled at me, like the most foul oath she could manage.
Then I heard it. The rusty laughter of that crow who woke me this morning. She turned and heard it, too.
“You must have her.” She said. ‘I will take you along as ransom.”
She reached over, and tried to pick me up. She pulled out of the air a rod of silver, an elegant thorny branch tipped with ice crystals, or maybe just crystals cut to look like ice. They did something funny with the light, and I could tell this thing was more real than my arm. It had a surface coated with stardust. The leaves were silver matte, almost translucent, but the veins were like fine silver. A single cluster of berries at the end were also carved of crystal and had a red glow. I swallowed. This inspired fear. I could feel it’s cold, it’s weight, it’s intent indifferent to all I represented in the world and beyond.
I stared at it as it got closer. And closer. The cold was so intense it was starting to snow around me. The wind picked up, and then…it hit some kind of barrier, that glowed like a rainbow soap bubble. It nudged the surface, which then parted like the same, but, as it entered, it met with more resistance, until it burned a cold burn into my flesh. I twitched but could not move much more than that. The pain was so intense I could only bite my lip bloody. Then… the cut at my throat started to get warm. Warmer and warmer, until I could feel the blood trickling down my front. The blood was hotter than it should have been, nearly scalding my flesh.
EDIT 3/28: Ooops! There was a pasting accident I did not catch until later. As I said before, these snippets get posted BEFORE editing, so… thanks! Please make comments below.