Ray #11

XI.

Awake and Alive

Ray had been thinking. He wasn’t sure for how long, he just noticed he was doing it. Not so much thinking, really, as watching random thoughts skitter through. He wondered if he had fallen asleep during meditation. It was either pitch black or his eyes were closed, he wasn’t certain. It was silent, save for the low, steady pulse in his ears. He couldn’t determine whether the buzzing was in his head or in the rhythmic oscillations of a starship drive. He settled into the comforting idea that he was aboard a Parthi vessel that had finally come to retrieve him. He stretched his neck and discovered the focs of the dull ache throbbing through his forehead. He wanted to rub the pain, but found his arm unable to move. He jerked his arm again to confirm it wasn’t sleep paralysis lingering long after its welcome. He decided his arm was working fine, and the pressure against his wrist suggested he was restrained. He tried his other arm, then his legs to no avail. There was no doubt he was restrained. He cracked his eyes and blackness gave way to a grey cloud, like he was trying to peer through fog. Multicolored hues began flooding the fog, now obscuring, swirling, blinking, creating a garish scene. His breath quickened and his fists clenched. Dagon had found him; Ray was a captive.

“Abby?” he said, but no words came out, just an undefined moan.

He gazed into the florid lights as he struggled against his restraints. Shapes began to emerge from the vivid technicolor blobs. A face began to resolve. An ecstatic face, crowned by wild hair gushing from his top chakra like a raging fountain of thick black water curling over on itself in discrete waves.

“Yaldabaoth,” he squeaked out in an inaudible wheeze.

He bore into his enemy’s visage with his narrowed eyes. But the face wasn’t Yalda’s, it was human. And it was static, just an image. An image of unnatural brightness. Ray surmised that the colors were being stimulated by a nearby, electromagnetic radiation in the low ultraviolet range. Stabbing hot yellows and reds, deep greens and blues he wasn’t sure he could even see. The face belonged to a man who appeared to be a monk in the throws of nirvana, standing before a vibrating mandala. He was holding what appeared to be an elaborate boat oar. He was gazing down at the oar as if it was his direct connection to his Dharmic ecstasy. There was script at the bottom, but it was difficult read, in bulbous, exaggerated lettering that bent and swelled. It was dripping with ornamentation that favored aesthetic joy over comprehensibility.

“Jigh my hen dry x?” he mouthed as he read.

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Ray #10

Some Other Time

A stagecoach ambled over the muddy ruts of a drenched country road. The horses stepped high in the puddles and twitched the rain from their manes. A small, grey figure led the coach, hunched over, rain pouring from the gutter formed by the rolled up brim of his hat.

Inside, Bart took up one seat and Pietro sat in his lap. Ray sat in the middle opposite him with Abby and Cletus on either side. They jerked in unison to the jostling of the coach.

“I can’t wait to go somewhere it isn’t raining,” Abby said, half her head soaked by the leaking door.

Pietro gave Bart some lazy gestures.

“Not much further,” Bart said as he signed back.

“It isn’t?” Ray perked out his despondent gaze.

Bart shook his head and mouthed, “No idea.”

Ray’s eyes rolled back, as did his head. “I can’t take this coach anymore.”

The rhythm of the rocking coach slowed to halt.

“Doesn’t mean I wanted to stop,” Ray shouted.

Cletus slid open a wooden panel on the top half of the door and stuck his head out. He withdrew, snapped the panel shut and shriveled into his seat.

“Papal guard,” he wheezed.

A knock came at the panel. They all exchanged glances. Bart gestured to Cletus to answer and Cletus responded with a vigorous shake of his head. Bart puffed, pressed his finger against the panel and slid it back, like he expected to reveal the Grim Reaper on the other side.

There stood Cardinal Martell, crimson and black, supporting his dragon-headed hammer on his shoulder.

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Ray #9

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He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Wizard

 

The ground rumbled low as a twisting water funnel rose and grew from the Thames. A multitude of tentacles began poking out of the mouth of the strobing tornado and probing their surroundings, looking for a foothold.

“Maybe if we can keep it from getting out in the first place?” Abby offered.

“Worth a try,” Ray said as he flitted on air currents toward the funnel. He began pulling the air around him into a whirlwind which spun in the opposite direction of Dagon’s waterspout. He led his typhoon into the funnel and merged with it. The waterspout slowed and began to fall back toward the water as the tentacles retracted.

“Good thinking, Abigayle,” Cletus cheered. He looked around at the gathered crowd, smiling. “My granddaughter.”

Abby looked on with concern as the waterspout collapsed into the river. The choppy surface became calm and Ray had yet to emerge.

“How long can he hold his breath?” Bart asked Abby.

Abby shook her head. Pietro scaled the side of the tavern and squinted into the water. Under the surface writhed a frenetic light show of deep colors in rapid, evolving geometric patterns. Ray breached the surface at furious speed and arced through the air. He was followed by a mass of flailing tentacles attached to a snapping maw and vast legion of wild, swiveling eyes. The rest of the pulpy, bulbous form of Dagan sloshed from river and slammed to the ground, crushing several blocks of buildings and houses.

Abby, Cletus, and Bart fled from the miniature tsunami that Dagon’s impact had aroused. Bart grabbed Cletus and Abby, pulled them close and huddled over them as the wave broke onto them.

“”Pietro?” Bart’s frantic shouts were drowned out by the din of the Dagon’s chaos. Dagon was shoveling tentacles full of squirming bodies into his dripping, convulsing gullet. Dagon broke open structures like nuts and consumed the wailing meat within.

“Bart,” Abby pointed to Pietro clinging to the back of Dagon, jabbing him with the dagger.

“That’s my boy,” Bart applauded.

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Ray #8

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We Gotta Get Out Of This Place

 

Hugh brought Ray, Abby, Bart, and Cletus to Father Victor’s audience chamber. Despite the high flown designation, the audience chamber was just another dreary, masonry-walled affair. Much like any other room in the cold, stone catacombs where Father Victor and his zealots took up residence save for that fact that it was much larger and was split in half by a round, black pool of still water. Even the copious torches lining room could reveal nothing beneath the surface. A wooden walkway extended the diameter, connecting the two sides of the room. Father Victor sat in a wooden chair that was set upon a raised dias. A line of white robed priests stood below him. More priests were lined along the walls.

Bart was the first to enter, leading the bound Hugh by the neck. Ray followed. His features looked sharp in the glaring torchlight. The reflected fire made his black, saucer-shaped eyes look as if they had flames roaring inside and his claws like burning embers. Even the staunchest Pollyanna would be hard pressed not to take him for a demon. The smirky scowl didn’t help. Abby followed next, making Ray’s scowl look like a delighted child. Cletus shuffled in behind.

Father Victor looked at them askance, then broke his silence, “Hey, that’s my dagger.”

“Where is my boy?” Bart growled. He kicked Hugh on the back of his legs, forcing him to his knees and poked the dagger toward Hugh’s eye.

“Your boy?”

“You heard me.”

“About that tall?” Victor held his hand out, “Brown hair, can’t get him to shut up?

Bart grunted and jostled Hugh.

“Yeah, we have one of those,” Victor snapped and a priest snapped into a jog out the side of the room.

The priest returned a moment later leading Pietro.

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Ray #7

 

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Journey to the Center of Your Mind

 

Pietro dashed from alley to street to alley, avoiding the puddles of water and lamplight. He kept his tricorn hat pulled low over his eyes and the tails of his coat flapped and snapped as he darted from one shadow to another.

Pietro was accustomed to the role of the nocturnal hunter, but tonight he he couldn’t shake the feeling he was the one being hunted. He had seen several cloaked shadows and figures that seemed to appear around every corner he turned. He would turn down an alley and one would appear at the other end. He would climb the jutting stones of a nearby wall and a hooded head would peer down from the roof. He began to eschew his normal grace in favor of panic driven sprints down wide thoroughfares, anywhere at least a handful of people were still out and about. At this hour they were mostly drunks, whores, and stickup artists, no different than his old friends from the circus and they seemed to keep the shadows at bay.

At least, for a bit they did. The shadows seemed to be getting bolder in their pursuit. There were now two behind him following in a slow, steady gait. And now there were two more ahead. Another slipped out from an alcove and another from the opposite side of the street. Pietro ran toward a shop and began to scale the timber frame. Two more hooded men began descending from the roof. Pietro dropped to the ground and was grabbed by the collar. He slipped out of his coat and sped toward a narrow street, but he was cut off by a grim man with dead eyes who grabbed Pietro by the arms. Pietro recognized the Fleet Street demon.

“Ay,” yelled a woman in a gravely voice as she stomped toward the demon, shaking her finger. “Leave the boy alone, he’s just a kid.”

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