Greater Good Protocol (2)

Greater Good Protocol (2)

Part 1 – “SAFE ATMOSPHERE” – here

Part 2: published here


I’M THAT KIND OF GUY

It’s no fun,  being tied up and dragged behind a vehicle at breakneck speed.

In case you’re wondering, and want to try it yourself – DON’T! Contain your beer-fueled impulses, folks! Don’t kid yourselves, I only make this look easy and enjoyable!

Continue reading “Greater Good Protocol (2)”

blush tally

This is one of my worst ideas.

But I’m gonna do it anyway! I can’t just stand there and do  nothing.

Those men are pros… No mercy. At all. I’ve seen this before. They’ll injure that poor guy badly. What do you think will I get as a reward? A nice beat up. “Know what you’re in for”, that’s what my old man always used to say. Thank God he taught me some lessons, and a bunch of  tricks.

I’ve called for cavalry. Cooper’s on his way. He’s a black belt jiu-jitsu, and can avenge me, if needed… I hope not.

Well, whatever happens, happens!

*

“Dude! Why’d ya do thad foo?! I mean – I mean- thanx!” He muffles, holding his bleeding – most likely broken – nose. “Ah, mah tuuth”, he pickes up a white pebble. It actually is his tooth! He flashes a grin, but stops instantly. Chapped lips. Upper incisor’s missing. At least, he’s okay. What a guy…built like a silverback. But on the inside, he’s soft ‘n fluffy like the tail of a baby bunny rabbit.

“Broke?” His bloody index points at my arm. I think so – pulsing hurt. It did make a sick noise, when the bat crashed down on it. I nod. Cooper steps behind me and harrumphs lightly. Such a polite ass!

„Fucked up, huh?” His smooth voice hums. He’s not even pumped out! Why can he be so … perfectly …annoying! I’d roll my eyes, but one is swollen, and the effect’s lost. Nod instead. He makes a sympathetic face. So I DO look fucked up. Toothless-guy is pulling his belt.

“Wha!” What the hell? “Stop!” Even if he’s grateful… I’d have to decline. He’s not- um, my type?

“He’s right! We need to put your arm in splints. And get you both to a hospital” Cooper states. Gosh! He is also working on his belt. Well, in fact, that’s more like it! Yeah! Normally, that would turn me on, but… This isn’t the right place, or time for that. Since – Cooper doesn’t even know. Now don’t get the wrong idea…

What the hell! Think what you want!

*

“Be a good boy, take your painkillers. You’re a real jerk, ‘specially in the morning.” Cooper snorts.

“Don’t tell me what to do! And yeah. I AM crabby! You’d be too, if you’d have to share a room with a guy, who is snoring so loud, that he could bring a cathedral to collapse.” Plus I’ve been plastered and put in bandages. Not able to move properly. The whole night, I tried  to turn around, pondering if I should suffocate that snoring idiot, or not. This means toothless-guy: 1; sleep: zero.

Maybe I should’ve stayed the night at the hospital. Cooper insisted on babysitting me, or both of us. He’s the motherly type – not only caring, but a doctor too. Convenient, huh? Toothless-guy had nowhere to go and no money left… Yeah, I decided to stumble upon and mix myself into a fucking robbery. You can call me numb skull. So I take them in, isn’t that kind of me? I don’t remember it though, must’ve been those fantastic painkillers making me a damn instant saint.

“Okay, okay. Sorry!” I’m a jerk. Cooper makes me breakfast. I’m not a morning-person. Never will be. More importantly – there is freshly brewed coffee! “Oh my fairy godmother, pass me a mug of that magic black morning bliss. ”

Zib – toothless-guy – is still snoring. I swear, I’ll suffocate him!

“Did you get some sleep?” He wants to know. “No”

“Did your arm hurt?” “No”

“Want an orange?” “No”

“You need help with dressing? Or breakfast? “NO!”

“Will you answer me only with monosyllables?” “…No”

He’s smiling. “Yes, you do.” I’m a nice guy, take my pills, and let Cooper enjoy his instant saint.

*

I want pancakes, with chocolate sirup and blueberries. “How you like yours?” His voice hums again.

“Chocolate, berries.” My fairy godmother works in my kitchen, like it’s his all along.

“Both? That’s decadent…” Cooper turns around and smiles stupidly. As if he knows… Don’t blush, don’t blush, don’t blush! Dammit! I stare at the rug. There isn’t one anymore. I’ve spilled orange juice, Chinese food and coffee in the evening, must’ve been too groggy. Cooper rolls them up, concerned ’bout rug safety. My plastered arm isn’t of any help, I constantly bump into things. I even smash my own face with it. That’s what happens when you’re not used to the weight and inertia of a plastered arm. Zib and Cooper laugh alternately at my clumsiness. I’m a one big-unintentional-slapstick-entertainer… The arm itches like hell. And I blush at the simplest things, always have – but now I’ve got audience!  Lucky me…

A hand on my shoulder. “Ghaaa- I’m going to have a heart attack. Shish!”

“You’re a pussy!” Zib’s throaty voice whispers right into my ear. Oh, those bastards! Can’t believe they do this. They made it a contest… I bet they even have a tally. A blush-tally. On the way home, they’ve been making fun of my blushing on the way home. Cooper drove, next to him Zib made dirty jokes, and I was enjoying myself in the back. Laughing and whimpering at the same time.  …There will be payback!

“Toothless, you still look like a pretty violet! ’Specially in your face. Sit down. Shut up ’n dig in.”

“Ya don’ have to tell me twice, black eye.” Zib is going to keep Cooper working that frying pan. I bet he eats like a horse, he surely snores like one.

*

“Bed’s yours. ’N ya jumped in, to save ma sorry ass… So, you’ve got the hero-points, dude!” He’s built like one shit brick house, but he’s got the commotion, the broken nose and the cracked jaw. For a damsel in distress, he took a lot of beating. I’ve got only a broken right arm and some bruises. Luckily I’m a lefty, so it doesn’t bother me that much. It’s just a royal pain in the ass. So I’ll better settle down on the couch and leave the bed to my guest. Zib’s treating me like a child, bringing me milk, tucking me in. … Wait! Milk?!

“Is that milk? Where did you find it?” I don’t have any, don’t buy any. Allergies.

“Milked the cow in the kitchen.” Zib’s grinning. “Best for bones.”

“No! No thanks. I won’t drink that. Milk is evil, it wants to kill me.” I refuse.

“Oh c’mon, ya big baby!” He sighs and I just shake my head, like a spoiled kid with lips pressed together – I may not look serious, but I am.

“Go easy on him, he’s allergic.” Cooper steps right behind me, put his right heavy palm on my neck. “We’d have to give him CPR, if you force him. And I don’t want to see any shade of that asphyxia-blue… Or would I?” Gasp! Hot face! I think my jaw just dropped. Damn you! Those last words he directs right into my face, that sucker! And he means it not in a let-me-save-your-life-cause-I’m-a-doctor-way, he means it more like in a let-me-wrap-you-up-in-leather-and-gag-you-for-a-bit-fun-way.

Idiots. “IDIOTS!” Both start laughing

“Ya won, jackass! Can’t breathe – that red! Ahahahaha! Imma gonna peeeehheee!” Zib’s laughing so hard, he barely can breathe.

“Choke! Both of you idiots! Choke on your stupid jokes!”

Cooper is already sitting on the floor waving both his hands in the air. I grab the next best thing, which’s my cover Zib tucked me in and throw it at him. It lands on his chest. “Bite me, oh barkin dog!” Zib’s self-control is caving in. I send some pillows flying. Right into his face.

*

frequency

Okay! Don’t look now… but I just busted the lock on 388.

Yeah, yeah. Don’t be so shocked!

As if you never slipped! – With a bolt cutter. On a lock.

I mean, come on… We’re on the same side here, aren’t we? We’re havin’ a little fun! You ’n me… Little snoopin’ round, little snuffin’ out. It’s what I do for livin’. No, I’m a part-time jacker. I know it’s not so reputable, but I ain’t a reputable man. So don’t bother.

I make my living with providing and renting storage units. And doing some stuff round here like fixing, cleaning, changing  some bulbs from time to time. Not overly exhausting. I’m not exactly the janitor here. Well, yeah – that doesn’t sound like I thought it would. So… I hatch the units, till the day they’re abandoned. I crack them open and sell what’s inside. I just have to be on my toes. You know, Jack of all trades device. So I get my hands on anything! Literally anything. You wouldn’t believe what some folks have in storage… I had once an old lady with thousands of porcelain dolls hanging from the walls. Really creepy stuff. Really creepy ancient stuff, and’s brought me a lot of chump change.  Striking lucky – sometimes.

That doesn’t hurt. At least it doesn’t hurt me. A man has to earn his livelihood. And what’s better than sitting on it, like a hen on eggs. You can have an omelette every day…

Which brings us to 388. This room has been rented for five years. Occasionally someone coming by unloading big boxes. Three month ago, the payments stop. I’ve checked all the papers, no one claiming anything. No one to contact, wrong phone number, no address, no post box. No nothing. Suits me. I wait a bit, and get some nice leftovers. I’m the patient kind.

The door of 388 opens smoothly. Consumed air greets me, like a bat greets teeth. Stinks of plastic and paint… I throw the switch, ’n neon lights hum to life. Oh, what a piece of junk! Man, what a shame… What are those? Looks like a bunch of ancient computers. I don’t think anyone will buy such outdated stuff off of me.

A wall like heap of screens flicker on, one after the other. What the- What’s all this gutted electronics, cables jammed into one big Gordian knot. Did it just move? Are rats in here? Maybe I’ve got to call pest-control.

The screens buzz with white noise. Something I’ve imagined to be hearing down the corridors. There is one plastic chair in front of the monitor wall, coated with dust. It seems to be waiting. – Funny…

episode-23-tv-tower

That sound is spine crawling! So annoying, the hair on my neck stands on end. Feels like the skin on my back is too tight… Like… Man, I can’t even turn around properly. It’s like there is a storm brewing in here… Or someone standing behind me. Behind me! Behind-

 *

Ugh, bad taste… Tastes like navel-lint…Tongue dry. Bone dry. Licking the floor? Why do I kip on the ground? What am I doing down here? That sound…

The monitors still vomit that noise on me.  If only the room stopped spinning… I’ll throw up if it doesn’t stop- That damned noise! „Stop it!“ Why the fuck is it so hard to breathe?

„Voice command identified. Analyzing… Command not valid.“ Tinny. Mechanical words vibrated through my skull. Not valid… Where did that come from?  Ah, sponge legs, jello arms. Can’t breathe. I catch my head with both palms. Doesn’t help- Stop it. My head wants to leave. It wants to leave so badly. The room moves. Where are my feet? I need my feet.

„Stop it! Stop it!“ Come on, focus! I have to get out! Stand up! Come on, stand up. Up, I say. Where’s the door? Grab the  floor. Hold on. Push.

„Voice command not valid. Remaining: one try.“ The voice plunges into my ears, pulls my brain out, and stomps on it. So hard… Blood. I taste blood. Stop- I think I’m gonna throw up…

„- Help…“ I need- I… have to move.

„Voice command not valid. Critical state reached. Initializing security protocol. Automated shut-down in all areas in 900 seconds.“ The door. Must- move… Can’t see…

„Shit…“ Words fall out – of my… thing… Stomach. So numb… face.

*

„Morning, Paulsen. What do we have here?“ The tall man asks the uniform taking photos.

„Detective! When did you get back? The body, Harry Brack, forty-two, male, caucasian. Coroner’s been called off, but he says most likely natural cause. Maybe heart attack, maybe stroke. He says that the blood pool origins from an excessive nose bleed due to high blood pressure… He was found by his girlfriend. She’s in his office…“ Officer Paulsen flashes his biggest smile. The detective turns and nods  a little nod. He walks down the corridor. “Hey, detective!” The tall man stops for a moment. “… Good to have you back!”

statics

„WHAT THE-?! DID YOU SEE THAaachkkkrrsshhhh-„

What? Cracking. What did he say? Screeching. A loud bang…

The walkie-talkie falls silent. Tssk. I hate it when he does that. The burnt down cigarette ash falls into the tray. Fingers sweaty. Why does it always has to be me?!

I scan over the surveillance monitors. All cameras working properly. Empty rooms and corridors – Nothing unusual… Except for Benny. Who’s not showing up – anywhere. Where did he go? Did he wander of? On duty? Taking a piss or something? This is just peachy… Here we go. Another night with Captain Bonkers! Hiding in some camera blind spots. I didn’t sign up for this! Isn’t it enough to watch the museum? Do I have to watch him too?

Such a moron! He’ll try to lure me out, and spook me. As he did with poor Bertram. Scared shitless that old geezer nearly had a heart attack… Why does he have to turn my shifts into trouble?  The sip of hot coffee burns my tongue and palate. „Shit!“ I take my feet from the table and shift with the chair, back into normal position. Dammit.

„Benny?“ After a moment, quiet static. I’m too old for this crap. Calm down, just breathe… „What’s up? Over.” No answer. Nothing. …Stupid.

He thinks the whole museum is his prop box… Switching name tags on the exhibits, loosening screws in others chairs, replacing sugar with salt… He seriously thinks he’s funny. Last year, we had a Halloween incident, where he arranged a tea party – with mummies. I didn’t even notice him doing it. Almost cost me my job. That blockhead is not allowed in the Ancient Egypt Section anymore… Neither am I.

„Benny?!“ Nothing. „Where are you hiding?“ I wished he’d cut out that crap.

He has just started his sweep ten minutes ago. Cellar, depot, entrance. That’s his routine. Same time, same order. That’s the deal. I take first to third floor, and the rooftop. “…Benny?!” Nothing. Dammit. “Benny? You copy?“ No answer. Crap. This isn’t funny!  I’ll be damned… If I get fired for some stupid stunt he’s pulling, I swear I- “BENNY! I swear, if you jump at me when I walk out of this room, I’m going to kill you!“ Statics. How can a single person be so annoyingly stupid? Still nothing on the surveillance monitors. My cigarette goes out. I should quit anyway.

Suddenly, the walkie-talkie comes  to live. „John…?” The voice is distorted, as if from far away… Strange – There he is! Second floor? What’s he doing up there?

“Johhhoohhhkanyooooouushhhhhhhzzzshhhme?… John?” Benny’s hysteric voice filters through the statics. Something’s wrong! He sounds – he’s going to freak out any moment.

„JOHN! Stayayaytchstkkksssshhhhhh help me… krrrrchh…saiddd kchshsshhlllp me!” Silence. Over the screen I see him waving and gesturing frantically. What is it? What’s he trying to say?

Something’s moving… A big fuzzy dot appears in the corner of the corridor he came from. What is that? What the devil is that? Dark and blurred. Four legs… Benny stops waving, turns his head, as if he heard something. He looks back at me. That face!

Benny! Never seen him this terrified. This ain’t a joke! Fuck!

In a blink, a huge four legged thing tackles him. Both fly from the view field of the camera.

BENNY!

Mug falls. Coffee’s seeping into my shoes. The camera in the room picks him up thrashing. Fighting. That thing… It – it pulls him into the corner.

My feet know the way. They work like my heart races. What the hell is that creature? Up the stairs. Gut twitching screams of pain and agony. Oh God! Never heard anyone scream like that…

„Benny! BENNY!“

Shit, I’ve got no lamp. Have to hurry. Those screams- they stop abruptly –

Oh fuck.

*

(to be continued…)

boca de morte

It is too damn hot and too damn humid to feel like a decent human being.

Plus, this is my last beer – maybe for months. Lukewarm as piss…

How the hell do people here cool themselves?!

The food is spicy, the liquor nasty. To shower is useless, cause I’m sweating.In. The.Shower! The river looks tempting though. But… I won’t take my chances, to end up with a weird, or nasty disease, or both.

Putting clothes on is utterly pointless, if it wasn’t for leeches, mosquitos, spiders, ants and snakes… So yeah, clothes stay on.

The nights are hot, the days are hot, it rains. Then it rains a lot. In one word: hell! Oh. Forgot. Everything here is GREEN! I’m trapped in a green humid hell. Ugh, my brain needs to be chilled! And now the beer is gone too. Dammit! The local dive has tainted booze and no nice women, or men to look at and play with. Fuck.

My only pleasures are sleeping by day, and surfing the web by night. Killing time in camp, till the equipment picks up something unusual. Waiting for the locals, to bring us some news, or strange animals.

Nicky-boy is delighted, to the roots of his black hair. Cooing and petting everything with fur and feathers, that isn’t fast enough to run for it. He could be petting something else… Fuck! It’s the heat talking.

My favorite cryptozoologist is a nice hetero guy, don’t let me convince you otherwise. All head over heels into his books and myths. He won’t recognize a flirt, even if it sat on his face. He’s so neat, that you could throw up…

The plan is, that Nicky-boy searches for a local legend, a so called „boca de morte“. A mouth of death, some strange giant ghost lizard. Maybe we stumble upon unknown ruins, or undiscovered petroglyphs. My plan is to interfere and annoy as much as I can, doing the climbing, the crawling into caves, the hiking. You know, the daredevil parts- the getting on, getting in, and getting under mystery places. Mainly getting on each other’s nerves, till we both lose it…

Last week, Nicky-boy, Pedro – our guide- and me, we were out in the jungle, exploring some places people are scared of. Places of taboo, places of burial, with strange names, translating to „Devil’s Hole“, „Angry-trees“ and „Ghost-making-River“. Places your hair stays on end. Surprisingly, they are within a three mile radius from each other. We set up some self timer cameras, just in case.

Meanwhile, Nick, that early bird, put together a kind of folklore folder, trying to decipher similarities in different  old tales from the region in question, looking for hints, what that mythical creature may look like.

They all are about some kind of monster, from the belly of the earth. It always appears near a river, or a lake. It is said to be a giant lizard, sometimes a human, sometimes a mix of both. Considered a very bad omen, humans encounter it mostly during wartimes, and in times of famine and pestilence. In some stories it is the hungry god of the jungle, in other a gatekeeper to the realm of the dead, sometimes it has a function as a judge and hangman. The tales also suggest that it is a scavenger and that it hunts smaller mammals, birds. Everything it can catch, I guess. You aren’t picky about your food, if you are the gatekeeper of death, are you?

Yesterday Nick showed me his drawing of what it might look like – a huge lizard like figure, as big as a human, wrinkly, with tiny eyes, huge mouth and whiskers.

„It could be a giant salamander,“ my favorite cryptozoologist says over our breakfast. „I heard something like that lives in Japan and China,“ he adds. Disgusting thing, I hope I get to see one.

Now, that the sun is down, let’s have some fun. Where’s that laptop? Nick has got it again, I bet.

„Nick?“ Typing.

„Nicky?“ And ignoring me.

„Nicky-boy?… Doctor T!… Are you done?“ More typing and ignoring.

„Come on, man! I know you’re the scientist and stuff… But that doesn’t mean I don’t get to have some fun too…“ Nothing.

„Don’t make me sit on your lap!” He doesn’t even look up from the laptop, types on furiously.  I plunk myself across the table and rest my feet on top of it. This is a perfect opportunity to smoke. Now where’s my lighter? I’ll annoy the hell out of him.

“You certainly can wait with your porn, can you? I’m discussing some routes and places of significance with the Professor. Your precious Howard-time can wait, since all your favorite sites do not sleep. And. Next time you ‘borrow’ the laptop, please be kind and clear the history.“ He gives me lectures? Why the disgusted face? I let the smoke billow his direction.

“Pfff. You’re just jealous.” He’s got a clingy girlfriend waiting for him at home. I’m free. Completely! „Don’t blame me! I’m the epitome of sexiness, the king! The lush ladies and gents love my craft!”

“OH! NO! No, no. Don’t wiggle your ass in my general direction. It’s bad enough, that I’m stuck here, with a maniac like you. Maybe for months. Please, hold your crown jewels the other way. I’m going to throw up from so much… Howard-ness. Come on. Don’t blow that smoke into my face, will you?“ Ha. It’s easy to piss him off! It’ll be fun! Maybe I survive without liquor.

“So? Any new routes, we can check out? Or ruins? I’m not mad, if we discover an ancient sunken city. Boredom is poison for me. I’m dying here. You know what happens. Dense ideas and trouble.” He shrugs. I thought so. Nothing. Sigh, I’m bored. Bored. Booooooored. Oh! Wait a minute! I know that look on his face! Something’s up! Hell, yeah!

“Howard! Look! One camera went dead. I just lost signal, like now – now. Another! We’ve got to recover it. Maybe it caught something. Both of them by Devil’s Hole. I just told Professor Henriksen, that it’s the most likely location, we should start with the search. Erm, Howy?” Nick tries to enchant me with his puppy eyes. Finally some action!

„I’m not Helen, Nicky-boy. No use for your puppy-eyes technique… But who knows, if we get lonely… Ahahaha, just kidding- You know, I’m nuts for action, but if I have to climb, I’ll need a second man. Pedro isn’t keen on climbing, or holding a rope, or holding stuff, or just walking… Plus, I saw him half an hour ago barging into Dragon’s Den. He’ll be useless for three days straight.”

“PING-I-love-you”

“What the hell was that? The laptop? A personalized jingle? Hahahahaha. Don’t tell me it’s your chat, with Helen? Or email from her. NICK! She’s got your balls, and painted them pink and spaaaaarkly!“

“Shhh. I call you back, darling.” Bwahahaha. “No, dear. It’s Howard. Yes, him. You don’t say a word! No! There is a mute button!” Nick closes the computer and tries to recollect himself, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Look, Howard. You’re my best friend, whom I owe gratitude. For the money, for the help with the equipment, and for catching me before I ran into that knife… But… God! You’re annoying, disgusting. You’re a drunk, a liar, a gambler and  bully!”

“Thank you!“ I bow graciously, „I do my very best.“

*

Nick  shakes his head in disbelief. „Let’s get prepared, buddy. The equipment doesn’t safe itself, does it? We’ll leave before dawn.“ His surprised look stops me. „What!?“

„I don’t know… It seems funny, that you are now keen on  recovering cameras. The last time we were setting them up, you freaked out. And now you can’t wait to get going to the very same spot? Isn’t that strange?“

Pffff, bullshit! Some old tribesman has managed to sneak up behind me, and played a flute. Chilling tune it was though…

„No jungle man scares me shitless. If I catch Pedro before he’s cold out, he can be our guide. But, I know our luck… And I have to find us a new guide. Lets hope that there are more than I can shake a stick at. I’m off to Alcohol’s Den, then. Wish me luck!“ I stand up, stretch a bit, cigarette still burning and ruffle Nicky-boy’s hair. He hates it.

Dragon’s Den is a one-room-shack with a plank on two boxes as bar, and one table with four chairs. It’s pretty crowded. Everyone’s head flies my direction as I enter. Silence. Peachy!

I wave at the most bartender-like looking person. „Tequila!“ Everyone start to laugh. I get a colorless liquid in a small fish can. A fish can! Blimey, I might even get tetanus from looking at my drink. An „Obrigado“ can’t hurt. Pedro is already snoring, leaning against the wall. I knew it!

Now who looks like willing to be our guide? „Senhores! Necessitar de liter. Selva. Bom negotio. Bom dinheiro.“ I speak slowly and carefully, hoping that I make it clear. My Portuguese is not the best, I know. Good Money, good deal. Jungle guide, where are you? Not one of them reacts. They are eying each other. Fine then, I sip out of my fish can. It is Tequila! Color me surprise.

„Maiz uma vez.“ I hold the can under bartender-persons nose. He refills it. A huge smile reveals his big crooked yellow teeth, which match perfectly with his yellow sclera. What strange blueish gum he has… He really is fat, belly and all, but the left lower arms and hand looks dried up, skinny. Nearly unnatural… Noticing my looks, he smiles even wider. A  slender man comes to sit down beside me.

„Senhor branco. Liter!“ The man points at himself, noding. „Selva selva. Bom liter.“ Jungle guide, there you are! „Maiz uma vez,“ I point at my new friend. Yellow-teeth gives him a small broken glass with some liquid in it. Both smile at me, like a starving man would smile at a steak. I put some coins on the plank, and turn to the slender man. I show him my watch and hold up five fingers. 5 o’clock. He nods violently, holds up five fingers too, and smiles his starving-man-smile. I point at myself, and overarticulate my name: Howard. He nods and smiles. In expectance of his name I point at him. „Nome?“ He nods. No answer. Peachy! Again then. Howard. Pointing… „Pedro“ he says finally. Maybe we have better luck with this Pedro…

At five o’clock I bounce Nicky out of his bed. I’ve been busy the whole night checking and packing the climbing gear, ropes, hammocks, tequila, tarp, food, water, first aid kit, some knifes and what not… And of course I surfed a bit the naughty sites. Pedro-Two stands outside, as ready as he can be. I fill an extra cup with coffee, and give it to him. I brew too much. Nick gets his stuff together, and we show him where we want to go. Pedro looks shocked, shakes his head. „Maldoso. Maldoso. Morte, maldoso,“he keeps stammering. Yes, we know. Evil place. Some Real and two cigarette packs convince him otherwise.

At noon we are in the middle of nowhere, absorbed in the twilight of the huge trees, in the ear piercing sound-sphere of screeching, shouting, singing, snarling of who knows what kind of animals. Nick is thoroughly enjoying himself, stopping every few step to take out his magnifying glass, or taking a photo of whatever crawls across his path, smiling at it stupidly. Pedro-Two is in front of us, making the path visible with his bushwhacker. Every now and then hollering an „Oy,“ so we know that he is still there, or we should keep up. I don’t know. In the evening we should be at Devil’s Hole, camping.

*

Before sundown, we reach a spot, where Pedro-Two starts building a camp. Devil’s Hole is some hundred yards away, but  he refuses to go anywhere near it. Three hammocks hang under a tarp and a cosy little fire nearby, food nearly ready, freshly brewed coffee; feels like home to me. I’m starving!

Nick is satisfied with the findings of the day and tries to tell me about it. His babbling submerges into the background noises. I try to listen, I really do – is there a flute playing somewhere? I could have sworn that just now… No, must’ve imagined it. „Sorry Nicky-boy, you’re far too boring. If you continue, I’ll be snoring before I finish my cig. Better stuff your cake hole. In the morning we’ll see what happened to the cameras.“ Fed up with me, he turns to the fire. Pedro is quiet too, as if listening for something himself.

I smoke in my hammock, swatting some nasty mosquitos. I wonder if mosquitos ever get drunk, from all the boozed people in the village. Or if they keep preferring the drinkers, because they’re drunk too. Hehehe…

„HOWARD! Wake up, for God’s sake! Wake up! HOWARD! WAKE UP!“ Nick’s hysterical voice bulges into my ears. I get slapped and thrown out of my hammock. Ouch, belly flop.

„What’s the fuss? I swear, if it’s not important, I’ll whack you. Why are you screaming?“ I try to sit up, but can’t. „What the fuck?“

„Howard! Up here!“ I try to, but only see the tarp and one hammock strangely pulled upwards. What is he doing up there? „Can you move?“ No I can’t.

„No.“ I can raise my head, but my arms and legs won’t respond. I try to crawl in the direction of the fire.

„Me neither. There is something in the tree. Something big! I can see it’s eyes. I was screaming at you for twenty minutes. You sleep like A STONE. Pedro’s gone! This thing… It’s coming down. You hear me?“

„Who slapped me then?“ –

„Not me. I’m fucking up here, rolled into my hammock, like tobacco into cigarette paper! I can’t feel my feet! Get me down! Howard!“ Nick’s horrified voice pitches.

In the shine of the fire I see Pedro moving slowly towards the camp. He is inching my way. What is he up to? He’s naked. What the hell? Quietly, he comes closer, steps into the ember! He- he must be sleepwalking! Eyes rolled back in his skull, he steps over my back, still live coal between his toes. The fabric of my shirt heats up. Hot! „Aaaaaahhhh!“ It burns between my blade bones. Stinging races up my neck, claws into my left temple. Ah, shit. That hurts. „Shit! That jerk-off will pay for this! I swear.“

„What is it? What happened?“ Pedro shuffles away from my periphery field of view. I try to creep further to the fire. Strange, I move better now, hands still numb and unresponsive, but at least I can roll over, and dig my elbows into the ground.

„Pedro is sleepwalking,“ I huff. „He burnt me with live coal, that fuck tard. I can move better. Try it too.“

„What?! You can move?“ Nick’s hammock swings a bit now. Looks like it is slowly sinking back in its regular position. What the hell is happening?

“Whatever you do, keep doing buddy! It’s working!“ I manage to sit up, hands still useless in my lap. „Hang in there, Nicky-boy.“ I hear him grunt and moan with effort, till he plops out of his hammock. „Buddy, your legs! What happened to them?“ Something black, mold like is all over his legs, patch near patch. „What is that?!“

Nick gapes at me helplessly. „I don’t know… I can’t feel them… Like they are missing! Howard, I can’t feel them at all!“ He tries to sit up, but slumps over trying. Come on, try it buddy! I crawl his direction. There it is again, the flute playing. I stop and listen. It is much nearer now, then in the evening.

„Do you hear that?“ – „Hear what?“

„The flute.“

„No… there is no flute. Howard, are you- just now, your eyes -are you okay? Your face went blank, like you were about to have a -Howard? Howard? HOWARD!“

I only hear the clicking of my teeth, their grinding, stiffening in my jaw and mouth. The rest is a red hot blur, turning into a thick blackness. Far away, bulging warmths rips up my throat and lap. I think my stomach tries to escape my teeth. Why drums? Drums. Who twists my fingers? Stop it! Skin fizzles, blisters. Shaking. Stop shaking! Stop! Hot! HOT! The fire! I’m burning! I can’t breathe! I can’t! Heat! It stings! No… Stop… The blackness lifts me up.

„Howard! Breathe! Breathe, dammit!“ Nick’s pale face fogs up in front of me. Why is he so pale and blurry?

„Are you smoking?“ I mumble. He’s terrified. But why?

„You self-centered bloated egomaniac! Don’t scare me like that ever again!“ What am I doing down here? I don’t sleep on the ground, do I?

„Why do I? …Why are you? …Were we kissing?“

„Howard, you had a seizure! Did you ever have one before? Fever?“ No. „Do you take any medication, or drugs?“ I shake my head. Not this time. „Then it could be poisoning. Did you eat any mushrooms? Or did you drink or eat something unidentified?“ I think of the tequila in the fish can. „Maybe…“

„Did you have dizziness or sleeping problems in the last weeks? Did you see, how Pedro prepared the food, or the coffee?“ Again, I shake my head.

„Me neither“

„Where is he, by the way?“

„Wandered off that way.“ Nick nods into the jungle, away from Devil’s Hole. „I can move somewhat now. Fingers and toes still numb. It is dawning already. Let’s hope the daylight makes things clearer. Tell me, why did you ask about flutes?“

„I heard a flute playing, like the first time we were here.“ Nick gives me the eyebrow.

„What do you mean, like the first time?“

„The old tribesman playing that tune, the one that spooked me.“ Is he dumb or what? Forgot that sneaky old fart?

„What old tribesman? Howard, we were alone. Just the three of us: Pedro, you and me! I thought you were just freaked out, about the jungle and the hole… You said that you saw something, down there. Some bones or so. You didn’t tell me… After all, it is a burial site, so I thought that must’ve been it.“

„I can’t remember. Why can’t I remember? I was in that hole? Down there? By myself?“

„Yes. Pedro was your safeguard. When you climbed up again, you were spooked out, shaking like a leaf. The only thing I could get out of you, was that there are bodies down there, skulls and shattered bones.“

„What?! I can’t imagine! I don’t simply forget stuff like that…“ I sit up and scratch my head. I seriously need to wash up – got puke and scat all over me. Disgusting… If I really got poisoned, or drugged, I’ll teach that fuck tard a lesson never to forget. Either Pedro-Two or Yellow-teeth – I’ll sweep out that shack with fire!

*

The mold like patches from Nick’s legs are nearly gone. I help him stand up, he’s still a bit shaky though.

„I’ve got enough granola bars on me, for a day or two.  We can eat that for breakfast. We should save some for the way back.“

„Thanks. My favorite bird-food: granola. Hmmmm, tasty. What’s next, buddy?“ Nick leans into my hammock and scratches his chin.

„We are here, so why shouldn’t we check the cameras? Don’t you think? Aren’t you curious? Maybe we see a boca de morte!“ I nod. The cameras we set up, are at the edge of the  hole, overlooking the area. One from north, one from southwest- where you can see a small entrance to a cave, or a hole in the wall of the structure.

„Should we check for Pedro?“ Nick shakes his head.

„Yesterday he refused to come near the place. I don’t think he will be bothering us there. But just in case, we should bring the water and the food.“ He’s right. I’d hate to run after him through the jungle. We walk over after packing the most important things. Nick is slightly dragging his right foot. We put down the baggage by the roots of an old tree.

A nearly circular hole gapes open before our feet, forty feet deep, 20 to 25 feet wide. The rocky walls are overgrown with fern and moss, shot through with the roots of the huge trees around. The hole looks drilled into the ground. I can’t see the southwest camera… Only a bent bracket and screw on the ground. That’s strange…

„Look at that! Where do you think the camera went?“ Nick points down into the Hole. I definitely agree. Something has  hit it violently. „Lets check the north camera.“ I bet that one is gone too. And indeed, I’m right. The same bent mounting and screws. „Who will fetch them? With those legs you can’t possibly be my safeguard, Nicky. I will let you down and pull you up. Is that okay with you?“ He nods absent-mindedly.

I help Nick into the climbing gear, and let him slowly down the  wall of the the structure.

Nearly at the bottom he shouts up. „I found Pedro!“ What?! He staggered the other way, didn’t he? „He must’ve fallen down here sleepwalking, I guess. Poor guy, he is pretty banged up and mangled… Definitely dead… Rest in peace!“ Then suddenly, „Touch down. Howard? You were right, these are human skulls and bones scattered all over the place. Cool, these must be ancient trinkets, with jade. Awesome! Howard! Give me more rope! I see something shiny at the mouth of that opening. Might be a camera.“ I let more rope glide down into the hole. The noise Nick is making, moving around at the bottom of the Hole, sounds like breaking of little dry twigs. Somehow it reminds me of ocean waves, coming and going. A sharp pull! So abruptly… nearly sending me off, over the edge. Muffled cracking noises- breaking… Silence.

„Nick? Are you all right? I can’t see you. Nicky?“ I ask leaning a bit over the rim. „Did you trip over your own feet?“ I can’t see him, nor the entrance to the supposed cave. „Nicky? Where are you? Are you okay? Did you find the cameras?“ At the bottom, I see his back pulling intensely out of that small opening, against a force from the inside. What the – Something snaps and Nick falls on his back. His face  immediately shoots up to me, eyes wide with terror, white as a bleached bone. Why is he freaked out?

„…Howard?! I found you, Howard!“ What? What is he mumbling?

„I FOUND YOU! I FOUND YOU! YOU… YOU WERE DOWN HERE, ALL THE TIME!“ He screams frantically. What?! What is he talking about? Is he mad?

„…All the time, down here… WHO THE HELL ARE YOU, HOWARD!? WHAT ARE YOU!?“

I don’t understand… Down there? I start to reel the rope in. That can’t be…

The flute is playing… From down there?

„Howard look at me! Look at me! Come on, focus! Get me out of here!“

He looks… aghast. Nicky is out of his mind. But I can’t help from up here.

„Howard! HOWARD! Pull me up! Pull me up! Come on! Pullmeuppullmeuppullmeup! PULL ME UP! PULL! ME! UP! PULL ME UP!“

sugar fuel

A terriblemind (Chuck Wendig) flash fiction challenge – Superhero plus

„I bite ’n won’t let go! Go ahead! Call me a hard-headed dog!“ The dark haired man flashes his widest grin. Fingers skidding along the keyboard in amazing speed.

„Meh- That’s just a load of bull!“ Next to him, a blue eyed man adjusts his glasses and throws a crumbled up napkin at him. „Chew on this, Black…“

„Don’tcha ´Meh` me, Zeroes! Glue your eyeballs to those Dummy Barriers. Watch me blow’em away… Last one in, buys me beer,“ he laughs.

The left-over sun seeps through the half closed blinds. The hotel room’s a mess. McDonald’s paper bags and cups lie around scattered among other trash. The telly reports some celebrity news to itself. Both men work on their laptops, hammering away line after line into black and white console windows. They are about to pull an all-nighter, snooping around in some nasty corporate networks.  Tonights black-out winner: Strix-Genome Engineering! This company hits jackpot, with a full scale forced shut down.

*

In the lobby of the same hotel, Andy flops into a leather armchair, observing the comings and goings. Near him, neatly folded, tomorrow’s newspaper. The header of a small article, on the upper page informs about a fire on the tenth floor of this hotel. Starting in room 1024. Fifteen injured, five dead.  Among those – two unidentified murder victims. Each of them with a bullet in their skulls. Cause of fire? Unknown. It must be them alright…

He leans back, massaging his temples. Outside, the city’s night shift wakes up. Adds, intersection and street lights flare on, sending screaming signals into his mind, beacons of high-frequency-annoyance. His  head has doubled its size. A clawed and fanged something tries to escape his skull, by gnawing its ways out through the temples.

His notebook rests open in his lap. He has been sketching the last hour like a maniac. The drawn scenario shows two men in a hotel room in front of their laptops. Maybe surfing the net. And they’re both as good as dead. In less than two hours. The skin on his back and shoulders burn, like his eyes. The hole in his stomach sucks down his mind. Bad timing. He needs to eat.

It’s always hard to pinpoint induced continuum errors, costs him so much energy. „Nothing good ever comes from aberrant timelines,“ he hears himself mumble. Not good. Talking to self is just…bad. Hypoglycemia is a bitch. He tucks away the folded newspaper into the book, like a reading sign.

This whole timeline is going to obliterate under his grip. Coincidences will fishtail him across the continuum anyway.

First things first. Two corpses less is a fine way to jump in, isn’t it? BAM! Right into the causal string. Stop those two brain-challenged hackers before it’s too late. It may even suffice to stop the chain reaction. They’re about to dismantle the Strix-Genome Engineering site, to leak information. Those dumbfucks trigger large scale corporate terrorism. A chain reaction leading to war, eventually…

Tenth floor.

The elevator door slides open with a „ding“. Andy walks down the hallway, munching on his third chocolate bar. Sugar’s the best to power up his muscles. The thick carpet feels good under his bare feet.

Room 1024. He knocks. Nothing. „Playing possum?“ He grabs the handle and begins to tense and relax the muscles in his lower arm. He shorts the lock with bare hands. It clicks softly and the door swings open.

The two hackers goggle at him in shock. He enters smoothly and closes the door. Listening intently, only picking up the electricity in the room. It masks all sound distortions that could be caused by a newly branching timeline.

„Wrong room, fucker!“ Black’s the first on his feet, grabs Andy’s jacket, pulling him onto the tip of his toes.

„Not at all.“ Time to deal with this lunkhead his way. Andy stiffens back and arm muscles. The sugar fix pays off, he’s easily building up electricity. His punch stuns the dark haired guy, sweeping  him straight off his feet. Zeroes’ next, he comes at Andy growling, fists swinging like barn doors. No effort dodging those. It isn’t even fun. The logo of Strix-Genome appears on one of the monitors. „Shit!“ He shoves Zeroes out of the way, and palms the nearest socket. He fries the room instantly – the floor, maybe the whole hotel… Lights out, screens black. The headache’s gone.

Zeroes ogles at him dumbstruck. On the floor Black groans, „…what hit me?“

“I suggest, you numb skulls hightail out of here. Try ’n stay alive.“ Andy answers in a flat tone.

Black sits up, wide eyed. With a foot he nudges his dead equipment, then points at Andy’s feet. „Dude? Shoes?!“ Andy looks down at his toes, wiggles them. Yeah. Shoes do not work for him, too much insulation.

„…EMP… Sick! You with Strix-Genome?“ Zeroes finds his mouth again.

„- No. Get going, stupid.“ Both hackers jump up and start to throw things hastily in their bags.

Dimly glowing visions of fire dissolve into the room door. There it is! The timeline shift, finally! Andy starts walking out into the now dark hallway, a bit nauseous. The old continuum’s collapsing, and with it a part of him perishes too. For a moment, his legs almost give out under him… No more chocolate bars in his pocket. “Shit.” Maybe he causes the fire after all. On the way out, he has to pull the fire alarm, and check the newspaper…

„You can’t just take off like that! At least tell us your name!“ The hackers follow him down the hallway, like puppies.

„Leave Strix-Genome alone!“ Andy insists, moving faster.

„What’s it to you?“ Black queries.

„Nothing but a giggle…“ Without looking Andy shrugs and walks off to the staircase. He needs to clear out ASAP.

„Their security system is kaput, and the data is drifting into oblivion… We wanted to blow the whistle. Or at least earn cash. Either way… Looked easy.“ Zeroes explains half running, to catch up.

„Well it’s not! You have no idea, what you’re getting yourselves into!“ Andy snorts annoyed.

He needs to eat.

eloquent baby sitter

The door to the office isn’t closed. My desk is nearby, so I can hear Mr. Ribinsky yelling at someone on the phone.

“What? It’s been now; let me check my… Two hours and forty minutes straight. Well. I can say that you are a persistent little shit. Congratulations on that! You get your assignment alright. But don’t come and complain about the client. I told you – you are not ready. Yet. You are going in anyway? I guess, you do. But if you insist… Don’t expect mercy from me, or anyone else. Got that? Good!”

The noises from the building lot cover the rest of the conversation. The construction workers are making a fuss. All that yelling and whistling… What’s up? I only guess, that Smith finally got his appointment. He is the only one not-ready-cause-still-recovering.

I´ve been doing his job lately. Mine and his, that is.  He’s sloppy, unfriendly, reckless and lavish… Lately, there have been a lot of complains about him, and his little problem.

Smith is one of those guys, who just don’t know when they have enough… Which is not my problem. Mr Ribinsky stands in the door way, smiling at me. “No. Whatever it is. Just no!” I tell him, but I already know it’s too late… “What?!” I ask.

“Dear Wellington, even if you roll your eyes in that eloquent head of yours. It´s already decided. You do such a great job! I think a promotion and a nice raise is going to be in this month. If!” His voice is so sweet.

“If…?”

„If-you-watch-over-Smith-and-he-doesn’t-fuck-up.” His eyebrows -and his chest-shoot up expectantly.

“This is a fucking joke?!” No way I’m going to do that!

„I’ll fire you, if you don’t.” He laughs. “You know you’re good, but-  you want to bet your job on that?” He’s right. “It’s a nice raise. Big money. And a paid holiday. Anywhere you want.”

“Anywhere?”

“Anywhere.” He’s reeling me in.

“Damn you! I swear, I’ll punch Smith so hard, he’s going to need an ambulance, if he annoys me. You know he merits it!” He has a stupid grin on his face. So satisfied with himself.

“Do as you wish. Whatever seems suitable for you. I give you plenty of rope.” With that said, he turns around and goes back into his office.  Babysitting Smith won’t be easy. A hell of a week.

“Look at you, you poor poor Mr Know-it-All. So you are going to watch over Alex, hm?” Estelle, Mr Ribinsky´s secretary, is leaning over her desk to me, with an amused look. “Mr Smartypants, you look so annoyed… Boohoo. Now  listen, you bookworm! If you lay a finger on Alex, or harm him in any way, I swear I´m going to cut you!” Obviously she hates me. But this means that she likes Smith… So, this is how he gets his informations. I’m not impressed. Not at all. Raising an eyebrow to her, she pulls a switchblade knife from her handbag and makes a distinct gesture. From left to the right, across the skin of her own throat, just under the jawline. Then she points it smilingly to me.