Monday, May 1, 2017

Incunabula Doctrinae

     After minutes of pacing between Preston’s desk and the door, the novice cook thought she’d lose her mind. Sitting down in the chair next to the couch where the Messenger lay sprawled, the young woman took time to really observe her unconscious charge. The Messenger’s wavy blond hair covered half of her sickly face which currently matched her pale tunic and contrasted sharply with her partially unbuttoned black jerkin. On the ground next to the couch lay a dingy old knapsack, its seams stretched, a couple unraveled. What is in that thing? the girl wondered. She reached toward the bag, then stopped herself, you can’t. That’s the Messenger’s. Sitting back in the rickety chair, she could barely hear it creak with the noise from the kitchen. How can she sleep through all that? At that last thought the cook leaned over again, flipped up the top of the bag, and stared at the contents. Of course she has a shit ton of notebooks, the cook chuckled. First, she glanced from the door to the Messenger. Then, after holding her breath for a count of three, she repeated the action. When she couldn’t stand it any more, she knelt down before the bag and gave the middle notebook a solid tug which caused her to rock back. Inhaling, she pushed herself off the ground, weaved, and then eased into the chair. Flipping open to a random page, the nosy little cook read:

[38th year of the false griffin, Edward Imler, 8 ex Kalends O’Ianuarius, 23:17]
The old bastard won’t die. The monks tell me that it is only a matter of time. Their rancid recipe has never failed. It needs to happen soon or Rudolpho will come of age and it’ll be too late. They already think the little shit can do no wrong. I told father that we should have done this years ago. I still don’t understand why he made us wait. We could have controlled the throne from Rudolpho’s infancy. It puts a nasty taste in my mouth, knowing all that time was wasted because Typhon wasn’t ready. Always waiting for Typhon. He’s not even here. He’s on the other side of Iphi! Breathe Fraunx. It’s fine.
I spent a good deal of time in the Library today. Still couldn’t find it. I swear I’m getting closer. I can feel it. If only that pompous historian would quit following me around. He talks to me like I care about dates. I don’t. Can’t scream at him, though. Don’t want to draw attention. Have to remember what I’m there for: killing the Phoenix Rose to Unify the Poterits.

Chief Justice Fraunx Adonis

She couldn’t take her eyes off the scratch. One part of her longed to slam the book shut, another to fling it away, and yet another longed to shove it back into the Messenger’s bag and pretend she’d never caved to curiosity. Those are not the parts of her that won out as she turned the page. However, before she could focus in on the writing, she got the unmistakable feeling that she was being watched. Hesitantly, she raised her eyes to find the Messenger staring in silent horror. “I-I-I didn’t mean anything. I ju-just was bored. An-and you had those books...”
     “Give it to me,” Cassie ordered, her voice devoid of feeling, her body and mind numb from passing out. Her weak, wavering arm extended out from the couch. She willed it to stop moving, which may have caused it to sway harder. When the log book was in her hand, she yanked the book to her chest, and thankfully exhaled as the weight was no longer straining her arm. “What,” Cassie growled, “were you doing?”
     “Uh. Well. Reading,” the cook answered, her eyes cast down, toward the door.
     “I don’t—I don’t understand.”
     “And, what did you read?” Cassie whispered.

     In the middle of the misty street a large tuxedo cat sat panting. Red taillights disappeared and he yowled in frustration. How far had he been able to follow them, roofs you ass, before the distance was too great to catch up? With everything covered in fog, he couldn’t recognize the roads, much less the one he was on. He sat there looking up and down the haze-covered street. He got up, walked to the corner, and then silently lambasted the city for not putting up a street sign. He mentally repeated his disdainful mantra, shitty city, walk on kitty over four more blocks. When he finally saw a street name, he smiled his toothy cat-grin with flat eyes. Good old Industrial Drive, he thought cheerfully of Risal, his first of many firsts. He closed his eyes, rubbed his head against the sign pole, and purred. No time for this, gotta find them before that psycho...what? he chastised himself, WHAT! Quit playing cat and mouse. That was Adonis negotiating with them. Turning west he entered the warehouse district, ran up the crumbled wall of an old office, under the teetering roof of the abandoned clothing store, across a rusty pipe into a relatively stable edifice branded: ValuMax Sales. Mercury, father of all things, please let them still be here. It hasn’t been that long. Okay. It might have been that long. But, do me this one. Milton. I just need Milton. Come on, Merc. You know, what this means. I need an all-points. Please. Please. Please. Deep into his prayer, he felt eyes upon him. The feeling was powerful enough that he stopped walking to look left and right, which is when he saw the petite calico’s face sticking around the building’s Roof Access hut. Astra, Second of the S’More Cats, mother of the Kits, and one of his favorite female felines. On any given day, she could bat her lashes lovingly while still being unforgiving and absolutely ferocious. While he watched, she abruptly turned away from him, and then disappeared behind the brick access hut.

     “Did she tell you what was in the muffins?” Machine whispered to Locos, while Ola Mae was out of the kitchen.
     The soldiers stared at each other. With a shit-eating grin, Locos said, “what goes on DET, stays on DET.”
     “Don’t be talking about Ola Mae, now!” the old lady ordered as she sidled into the kitchen carrying a box of fruits.
     Though in shock at being drugged, Machine shot across the room to take the fruit box. He stepped back out of her way, and then stood there lumpesque, waiting for instruction. She snapped twice and pointed at the counter nearest her old gas burner stove. He hopped to, slid the box on the counter, and then jumped back out of her way. Swaying there, he watched her dump the box into a giant pot. After her little porch disclosure, Machine decided not to take his eyes off her while she cooked.
     “How ya getting there?” she asked.
     “Pardon?” Locos asked while wondering, she talking to me?
     “North,” she reminded.
     “Oh. Uh. Working on that,” Locos answered.
     “Oh?” she murmured sweetly, banging a spoonful of lime-green colored butter into the pot.
     “Well,” Locos fought back the grin, managing to refrain his amusement a hair, “have you heard the good word? You see, Iphigenia provides for our every desire. Why, we wouldn’t be standing here today, if not for her blessings. She led us to this very moment. Just the three of us. Well, five counting your cats.” He chuckled. Though her back was turned, he leaned toward her, “we never know where she’ll lead us. Nor why.”
     “Oh, don’t play, boyo,” Ola Mae chided. “She’s a teaser, just as like to help as to slap ya face with the cold reality of faded dreams. I am too old for games.”
     “Madam, games keep one’s mind nimble,” Locos replied.
     “Nimble. Nimble. Jack. Listen, I’ve heard enough of Life’s jokes to know her humor escapes me,” Ola Mae sighed, “best intentions...” She vigorously stirred the pot, and then said, “was a day, I’d tell ya the walk to Avalona ain’t bad. Cain’t now. Might be able to catch a ride in Markt or Morley. Two days by foot. Ecirava’s four or five days.” She didn’t mention the dilapidated hulk sitting in the neighbor’s garage, though she fondly recalled taking it on trips ‘up north’ with her neighbors, Saul and Kurt. For a split second, she could hear the guys laughing as they took the curves a little too fast. She always knew it’d be the curves…
     After punching Machine in the arm, Locos slurred, “did you feel that?”
     “Nope. I’m telling you, Maser, I can’t feel my arms.”
     Metal struck metal as Ola Mae slammed the lid on her pot, she spun from the stove in a flash, yelling, “what did you call him?”
     “Uh? Huh?” Machine’s face dropped as he silently repeated his last words over and over.
     “I won’t have any of that language in my house!”
     “What? What?” Machine squawked.
     “I thought you trained him,” Ola Mae Thompson’s crackling granny’s voice disappeared, replaced with a lecturer’s stern chastisement.
     “I never said that,” Locos replied.
     They stared at each other as if Machine was merely a clock-face counting seconds. Machine stood there watching, caught in the bewilderment, one foot ready to vacate the establishment, the other tapping with growing intensity. Half of Private Richard Machine wanted desperately to be back on the right side of the mountains, back on base, back in Geedunk flirting with Samantha, back before he knew you could find your friend’s head in a bush in the fucking desert. More than anything he wanted to parade the head of that piece of shit pothole all the way back to Camp Polkner. His blisters had blisters. A few more days wouldn’t do much, save give his feet a chance to even out the blisters. But, here, all of a sudden, everything had changed. Maser, flashed in his mind like a neon ‘nudes’ sign. “Excuse me?” he asked meekly.
     “I’ll let you know, Oma,” Locos shrugged, shaking his head with a small, sad smile.
     “Oma?” Machine asked Locos, his head bent, chin to his chest, his arms extended, palms up. “What the fuck is going on?”
     “Langauge!” Ola Mae warned.
     “Welcome to Ola Mae’s Last Stop Cafe,” Locos said with a flourish.
     “What?” Machine asked again.
     “You’re not at home. Every word out of your mouth. Every thought. Every syllable you utter can be damning!” Ola Mae stated. “You don’t leave here, until you sound right.”
     “What?” Machine repeated.
     “I’ll scout ahead,” Locos said, “see if I can pick up a trail. Soon as I know something, I’ll be back. That’ll give you time to work it out with Ola Mae.”
     “What is this?” Machine’s eyes were bulging out. “What is this?”
     “This is assimilation training,” Ola Mae answered.

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