Lords of Being
Chapter 8: In Bermuda, No One Can Hear You Scream
Rosamund turns to Loois, “We need to somehow get Draffo here. He’s the one who can deal with Asiras this way, and he won’t get all Separatist on us.”
“That would be quite the journey. I’ll get to work on that. I’ll send an emissary.”
She then turns to the human who’s still retching, “Neville.”
“Blurg. Where are we? This isn't the hotel.”
“We’re in Bermuda.”
“We’re in Bermuda?”
“You might have gathered that we’re not the same as you.”
Loois steps up and introduces himself to his guest, “How do you do. My name is Loois. I’m the one who brought you here. I’m sorry it affected you like that.”
Rosamund adds, “And I apologize for knocking you out.”
“You knocked me out?” Neville seems to be stuck in a repetitious phase.
“Yes.” Rosamund puts her hand on her shoulder. Suddenly Neville feels much better.
“You said you’re not from around here?”
Loois replies, “Some of us have been here quite a long time.” Now that Neville isn’t feeling so wretched, he notices that Loois is tall and gangly, with a swirling mass of platinum blonde hair and beard covering most of his head. He’s dressed in a baggy shirt, shorts and sandals. Looking beyond Loois, he sees that he’s in an airy, very cluttered apartment. There are piles of things everywhere. Much of the bric-a-brac is technological toys of various flavors and vintages.
Rosamund decides to restart the conversation, “Let me introduce myself. I am Lady Rosamund of Chaos and I am a gardener.”
Neville looks at her for a moment, and then turns to Loois, “And you?”
“Loois of Chaos. I’m a geek. And this is Sir Silvester Glass of...”
Glass interrupts, “Si is good enough.”
Loois continues, “Of the Elemental Knights.”
Neville looks from one to the other, his mouth hanging open. With a shake, he pulls himself together and remembers his manners. “I am Neville Carols, late of Ames, Iowa.” Rosamund extends her hand. When Neville shakes it, he notices that her hand is room temperature, unlike a human’s. And the texture is not right. More like moss than flesh. “You said you were both ‘of Chaos’?”
Loois replies, “Nobody from Order is here at the moment. But the way things are going today, they might drop by.”
Rosamund adds, “Or ask to drop.”
Loois carries on, “Mona was just here. She’s a Lady of Order. She had a candle?”
Neville shakes his head, “No, I didn’t notice. I was being sick at the time.”
Loois turns to Rosamund, “By the way, she left you this.” He hands her a torn piece of cardboard.
The message is incomplete, but there a sigil in the corner that is from Hanuman, one of the Lords of Chaos. He usually manifests as a monkey in India. After puzzling over the message fragment for a moment, Rosamund returns to the more immediate problem. “Much of this you probably don’t understand yet.”
Neville snorts, “That’s understatement.”
“Why don’t you start by asking questions?”
“You’re ‘of Chaos.’” Rosamund and Loois nod. “And there are others who are ‘of Order’.” They nod again. “How are they different?”
Loois laughs, “They’re neater.”
Rosamund adds, “They do things by rules more than we do. And of course we’re here to do slightly different jobs. But mostly we’re here to keep the world together.”
Glass chimes in, “You’d really hate it if you weren’t here anymore.”
Rosamund forges ahead, “We keep shape and order and balance together.”
Neville pauses a moment to absorb this, then asks, “How long have you been here?”
Loois mutters, “For bloody ever.”
Rosamund expands, “Billions and Billions of years, as one of your astronomers was fond of saying. Of course we do get reassigned from time to time. There are lots of worlds out there that we need to keep an eye on.”
“So what happened in Iowa?”
“Frogs fell out of the sky.”
“Well, yes. But why?”
Rosamund says, “The courts broadcast morphic fields and energy. Every so often there’s a blockage in the broadcast, and we have to clear it. Recently these blockages have been taking interesting forms and keeping things in balance has become more challenging. Your frog fall was one of the more interesting ones.”
“What is that thing I found?” Neville asks.
“That…” Rosamund pauses, deciding how much to reveal, “is a fragment of Asiras. There was a big meeting between the Lords of Chaos and Order recently. Unfortunately it…” Again she pauses, searching for the right way to phrase it, “got out of hand. Asiras was damaged in the process.”
Glass adds, “Billions of years old and they can’t get along with each other very well. We here are not the top of the pile, we are just doing the job.”
“But I thought that you said that you keep things in balance?”
Glass replies, “Think of Felix and Oscar – they don’t always work well together.”
“So the thing I found was a… piece of Asiras. Why does it seem to disappear sometimes?”
Rosamund replies, “Its manifestation is wobbling.” Seeing that this didn’t clear up much, she continues, “Going in and out of existence. For some reason it’s become attached to you.”
“So I have a pet?”
“Or you are a pet.”
With this disquieting thought, Neville decides to change the subject. He turns to Glass. “You are not the same as them. I think Loois referred to you as an ‘Elemental Knight’. What is your job?”
“Just call me Si.” When this doesn’t get much of a reaction, he expands. “Si. S. I.” Still no response. “Silicon.”
Loois adds, “He’s the tutelary of silicon. I bet you can guess where he hangs out.”
Neville says with dread, “Silicon Valley?”
Loois grins, “Got it in one. Do you know how much of the Earth’s crust is his?”
“Are you the only Elemental Knight here?”
Glass replies, “No, there are others. I believe you’ve seen Claude Neon.” When Neville continues to look blank he adds, “He was the red thing you saw flying around the place the frogs were falling from. He’s… flamboyant.”
Rosamund adds, “He is so much fun!”
Neville looks from Loois, to Rosamund, to Glass. “So you two are ‘Lords of Chaos.’” They nod. He looks at Glass, “And you’re an ‘Elemental Knight.’” He nods. “Are there others than the two of your groups hanging out on Earth?”
Loois replies, “Just the guardian angels, tempters from hell, the powers that be etc. You know.”
Rosamond adds, “The hierarchy gets complicated. Really, we are not here to give you religious instructions. We’re just here to keep the force flowing. Honestly, there are a lot of forms for the force to flow into.”
Nevile postulates, “So you are deities?”
“NO!” they answer in chorus. “Who would want that job!”
Rosamund expands, “You can into really big trouble that way,”
“Do something paranormal," Neville demands.
Rosamund grows a few leaves from her hand. Glass puts his hand through a window as if it wasn’t there. The glass is unharmed in his wake. Neville reaches over and touches the window. It’s solid, unblemished. If anything, it’s cleaner where his hand passed through.
Neville asks, “Where is that sample… Asiras, or whatever you called it?”
Rosamund replies, “He appears to have become really… attached to you. There is some coincidence of location…”
“Coincidence of… location?”
Rosamund nods. “It’s inside you.”
Glass suggests, “I recommend that you refrain from thinking about it any harder.”
Neville mutters “I have the purple goo inside of me… Is this thing going to burst out of my chest like in that movie?” They assure him that it won’t. “Then how will it get out?”
Glass says, “The same way it got in.” He puts his hand through the wall to demonstrate.
Neville resolutely changes the subject. “So how long should it take to contact the higher ups?”
Loois responds, “It will take a while for our message to get to them. Then it depends on how interested they are in your request. You can never tell with Draffo. Even if he wants to come, he’ll need to get visiting privileges.”
Rosmund is considering the piece of cardboard that Loois gave her. She takes out a set of dice and rolls them and considers the result, then asks Loois, “Did Mona say anything about others she was visiting?”
“Nope. She just dropped the message and left. I don’t think she was in a good mood.”
“I can understand why. We shared Mabel’s message from Cadmus with her. He wants to have that fragment of Asiras. I wonder if she gave other pieces of this message to the others in York?”
“We can certainly find out.” Loomis joins all the Courtiers in York in a conference call and asks if Mona has contacted them with anything of interest. Mabel tells of the carefully folded message she received from Cadmus, which Loois already knew of. Zabeth and Hellgrammite explain that they’ve received torn pieces of cardboard. Loois has them point their cameras at the two fragments. They, along with Rosamund’s fragment, appear on a screen on his wall. The fragments rotate and then and merge together, nearly seamlessly. The message reads
This is terrific! And you outnumber her! Grab the chunk of A and get it to me. You have all the luck but here’s 9 more turns to help.
Now that they’re looking, the Courtiers can sense that each of the cardboard fragments has three turns of luck bound to it.
Rosamund mutters, “So Hanuman is a Separatist.”
Loois replies, “It looks like he’s decided to be one. Mabel, you’ll be glad to know that we’ve called for Draffo. We don’t intend to dump you in the Thames.”
Mabel glances at Zabeth and says, “I’m certain that you and Hookie can keep me safe.”
Neville suggests “Perhaps we should get my Tupperware bowl. It seemed to like it.”
Loois goes off and rummages in the piles. And comes back with a Tupperware container. It’s the same style and color as the one Neville had in York. He goes back and rummages in a different pile and comes back with the lid, and hands them to Neville. “Good luck.”
“Thanks… I think.” He holds the bowl under his chin hopefully.
Rosamund asks, “Do you have any other questions?”
Neville pauses, and Loois interjects, “Absorbing it all?” Then he grins. “Look what he’s absorbed already.”
Zabeth asks, “Where are you all?”
Glass replies, “We’re all here with Loois, but it would be best not to spread that too widely.”
Rosamund adds, “If they’re going to be arguing, we don’t want them here.”
Suddenly Claude pipes up, “Has anybody else noticed that the remaining anomalies are moving around?”
Neville asks, “What kind of anomalies?”
Loois gestures at Glass and Rosamund, saying, “I think they should explain. They were on the scene and all.”
Glass explains, “Ever since there was this falling out, the fabric of reality occasionally rips.” He points at the Courtiers. “And these people are supposed to put it right. They don’t seem to handle locality. We more elemental folks are better at localizing these things, so we help them locate them to put them right.”
“So what are the anomalies?”
“Nut-Walters. Or at least people who are compelled to make Nut-Walters.”
“What’s a Nut-Walter?”
“Damned if I know.”
Hellgrammite mentions that they have a web-page, and relays to URL to Loois, who puts the page on the screen. Neville considers the images for a moment, and observes, “They’re tacky, but I wouldn’t call them anomalous.”
“The people who make them all believed they invented them, and were frantically spreading them.”
“Does this explain graffiti?”
Rosamund replies, “No graffiti is more demonic.”
That explains so much. Neville tries again. “So back to the Nut-Walters… you’re looking to wipe out the Nut-Walters?”
“It’s not so much the Nut-Walters, it’s the fact that those who could be doing so much more are somehow compelled to make them. Sort of like oak galls.” (This is Rosamund's kind of analogy.)
Zabeth comments that the map on her phone isn’t tracking the anomalies. In fact, it’s not showing any anomalies at all. After a bit of reflections, Glass realizes that he’s in Bermuda and can’t sense the anomalies in York. Since the maps are driving off of what he senses, they’re not showing the anomalies.
“You wouldn’t happen to have any nixie tubes or neon tubes? They have to have neon.”
Loois wanders off considering the various piles, and eventually comes back with a vintage Wang calculator. Its display has a lineup of nixie tubes. He hands the device to Glass, who takes out his pen and starts making adjustments. After a few moments, there’s a fiber optic link between the calculator and his phone. A few modifications to his phone, and he can now sense the anomalies through Claude, and relay them to the others through their phones.
Once the map on her phone starts displaying the locations of the anomalies again, Zabeth thanks Glass and asks, “Shall we go together or split up?”
Mabel replies, “Let’s stay together. I’m still feeling rather tuckered.”
The group in York takes a taxi to the nearest anomaly. Their phones show that it’s at the Farnum’s house. After being dropped at the corner, they walk down the street to the address. The house is surrounded by a nice walled garden. They can’t see any Nut-Walters, either in the garden or in the windows. They can hear a TV faintly in the distance.
Mabel unhooks Hookie’s lead and tells him to dash into the backyard and do some digging. Wait about 1 minute after they come to the door and then bark. He looks at her with a doggie grin and then dashes away. Almost immediately there’s serious barking. And caterwauling.
The group goes to the door and rings the bell. After a bit, a voice calls out, “Who’s there?” Mabel smiles and asks, “Hello. I’m mislaid my small Jack Russell terrier. Can I look in your yard?”
A woman opens the door fully, “Oh yes. Come in.” As the door opens, they can see that there are Nut-Walters EVERYWHERE. The woman leads them through the house to towards the back. Neon can feel the anomaly. It’s in the basement. Why, that should be the staircase. Neon and Zabeth go down. Hellgrammite stays upstairs as a lookout.
Coming down the stairs, they see that the basement has a major model train set. There’s a guy with an engineer hat, at the train table. But he's not working on the train set; he's making more Nut Walters. Zabeth pushes, and the anomaly is gone. The guy making Nut-Walters blinks up at them, “Can I ‘elp you? ‘Oo are you?”
Zabeth grins, “Hello. My friend’s dog is running about, and I was afraid he’d come down here.”
“No, no dog down here.”
“That’s a lovely train set.”
“Thank you! Gotta do something with one’s retirement. I’d better go see what’s going on upstairs. Come with me please.”
They all go up and into the back yard. The wife and Mabel are chasing a cat and Hookie around the back yard. Mabel signals Hookie, who pauses under a trellis with the cat on it, hissing furiously. Mabel hooks the lead on him. “You bad doggie.” Hookie grins.
Mabel turns to the homeowners, “So sorry to have disturbed you.” They make thank the homeowners and walk through the garden to the front gate, and let themselves out. Three anomalies to go.
Consulting their maps, they see that the next anomaly is a short hike away. Hookie certainly doesn’t mind. About a block away from their destination, they notice the garden they’re passing has a Nut-Walter with its arm draped lovingly over the garden gnome. This becomes a theme. They’re in EVERYBODY’s garden. Up in the trellises, playing with gnomes, crouching between the daffodils, and perched on top of walls. They get thicker as they get closer to the Norris household.
As they walk, Zabeth asks, “What’s our line for this one?”
Mabel replies, “Last one worked great.” Hookie’s tail wags vigorously
They arrive at the corner of Norris property; Claude can feel the anomaly. It’s in the house. The garden is festooned with Nut-Walters, in every possible costume and pose.
Mabel looks down at her dog, “Hookie, I don’t suppose that you see a Nut-Walter that you especially despise?”
Hookie trots into the yard, sniffing at the figurines. After a bit of deliberation, he selects one and proceeds to terrierize it, growling and shaking his head with it in his mouth, as if it was a rat he was trying to kill.
Zabeth cries out, “Oh dear, oh dear, Hookie, stop that!”
Dropping the “dead” Nut-Walter, Hookie grabs three more and runs into the back yard.
Mabel goes to the door and rings the bell. Another woman answers the door, “Yes?”
“I’m so sorry, my friend's dog is savaging your lawn ornaments.” She can sense that the anomaly is in the woman in front of her. She pushes, and the anomaly is gone.
The woman shakes her head as if to clear it, then asks, “The Nut-Walters? They don’t matter.”
Hookie comes running from around the house with a mouth full of Nut-Walters. He growls and shakes his head. Walnuts fly everywhere.
Zabeth calls, “Hookie stop that!” The dog glances at Mabel and sees her signal. He drops the “dead” figurines and trots over to Zabeth, looking remorseful. She reattaches his lead.
Mabel turns back to the woman at the door, “I’m so very sorry for this.”
“It’s OK, they don’t matter. In fact, your dog can have a few more if he’d like to play with them.” There’s a ding from the house. “That’s the cooker. I must be going.” The door closes.
Mabel returns to the group, where Zabeth is scratching Hookie behind his ears, “You’re a very good doggie.” He clearly knows it.
Two anomalies down, two left to dispatch.
Last Updated: Mar 28, 2009
©2009 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved