|Thaumaturjekyll: Book One chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7||Overview||Book Two chapter 8 9 10 11|
Thaumaturjekyll: Book Two
The Gang's A-gley Again
by Jeffrey M. Mahr
©2000 Jeffrey M. Mahr -- all rights reserved
A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognized, and robed as destinies.
-- Philip Larkin
"Nice costume lady." The shout came from a passing car and this time, Herbert simply ignored it as she and her wife Emily trotted up one block and down and other searching for the missing wizard. She had been routinely ignoring the date requests, but for the previous baker's dozen of critiques of her costume, her breasts, and her face, she had been vacillating. Initially, she had responded with "Thank you," but the most insistent suitors had been the ones she had been polite to initially. Then, she had tried to brush them off with an immediate "Don't bother. I'm not interested." But then there were the folks who seemed to take her attempts to brush them off as a challenge, showing remarkable persistence until finally convinced she meant it and then getting ugly and rude.
On several occasions, Emily tried to offer suggestions, but Herbert would listen intently as usual, then insist that there was little he expected from this world, but that politeness was one of them. Once Emily even found it necessary to step between his husband and the rudest and most persistent suitor. In the end they just cantered away and left the angry young man cursing from the stoop of his brownstone while his friends ribbed him unmercifully for his lack of prowess with the opposite sex.
"I'm getting a bit tired, dear. Let's find a quiet place to rest."
"Good idea Emily. This pavement is killing my hooves," Dr. Lanyon sighed as they slowed to a walk and stopped on the grass by a church.
"Ah, much better," Emily rumbled contentedly. "Cool, soft, comfortable grass. Almost makes you want to nibble a bit and see what it tastes like."
"Emily! You're not going feral on me, are you?"
"Of course not," she bent at the waist to pluck a long flat blade and hold it up to the glow of the streetlight. "But it does look so green, so moist, so..."
"Emily!" Herbert Lanyon was shocked.
"Oh relax Herbert, I'm joking." With that, Emily placed the flat of the blade between his thumbs, pushed his thumbs against his lips, and played Yankee Doodle on his home-grown kazoo. Herbert shook her head, sighed and pulled out her cell phone to check on how the others were doing.
"So Nancy, tell me about this uncle of yours." Tim was trying to be a gentleman.
"Not much to tell," Hastie squirmed uncomfortably, unsure what she could safely say. "He's got flowing white hair, a white beard and he's only been with us for a day."
"So? What is he, some kind a foreigner or something?"
"You could say that." Tim's arm had moved onto the car's bench seat behind Hastie, not touching her, but getting closer.
Ignoring the arm, Hastie touched Tim gently on the thigh, letting her hand linger there for a moment, like his girlfriend Connie would do to him. "Turn here and we can check out Broadhurst -- and use two hands on the wheel so you don't kill us both." Hastie smiled to herself as the encroaching hand disappeared. She was getting better at this 'girl thing'. Connie had been a better teacher than she had thought.
"Yes ma'am," Tim laughed and made the turn. After the turn, his arm returned to the back of the bench seat and Hastie sighed to herself ruefully, recognizing that she would have done the same thing with Connie.
"So tell me about yourself. You obviously know the town. Why haven't I seen a beautiful babe, I mean girl, like you in our school before?"
"I've been around," Hastie didn't want to tell him that until a couple of days ago Tim had been catching footballs thrown by her. "It's probably just the costume that caught your eye. Let's loop up to Hechlinger next."
"Whoa up here girl! You don't really expect me to believe that I would have missed a beautiful babe like you at our school, do you?"
"Well," Hastie frantically searched for a prevarication that would allow her to answer without actually lying. For some reason, despite her insistence to Sonja that she wanted nothing to do with boys or dating, she felt it important to be truthful to Tim. Deciding, not too confidently, that it was his normal desire to be honest, Hastie continued. "I've been at Orbit High for the last four years. I guess you could say I had a growth spurt recently."
"That's one 'humongous' growth spurt Nancy," he took his eyes off the road yet again to ogle her breasts appreciatively. "I can tell you from first hand experience that you are the most beautiful girl I've ever seen."
"I'm a twin, remember?" That should be safer, get him talking about Sonja instead of me, Hastie thought.
"True. But you've got blonde hair and Sonja is a redhead."
"So the only reason you want to be with me is my hair color? Or is it because I'm a twin, or because I have an uncle -- with white hair?" Hastie wasn't sure, but for some reason, it annoyed her that his reason for liking her was as inconsequential as her hair color.
"What can I say. I'm a blonde man, and yours is my favorite shade of blonde."
"I sure hope you've got a better reason than that for liking me mister," Hastie growled as her left hand moved to the dagger in her waist belt and began slowly sliding it in and out of the hilt.
"No, babe. Stop being such a feminist. It's you. I think you're beautiful. I want to know everything I can about you. I want to hold you..."
The dagger against his Adam's Apple felt sharper than Tim cared to admit as he slowly moved the hand that he had been edging around Hastie back onto the steering wheel. "I suggest that you slowly pull to the side of the road and park," Hastie growled through gritted teeth. The dagger remained at Tim's neck as he complied.
"Now, I've known you for almost four years and I've always thought you were a bit slow, but trainable, so I'm going to give you one last chance. You will do all of the following to the letter, or you will step out of the car and this 'date' is over.
"First, you will speak to me rather than my chest." She waited for his almost imperceptible nod. As a reward she move the dagger a fraction of an inch away from his throat.
"Second, you will not even think of making another pass." Another nod.
"Third, you will not call me 'babe' or any other name but Hastie." Hastie wondered why Tim's eyes grew wide, but he nodded yet again and Hastie continued.
"Fourth, and finally, you will act as if I'm a friend rather than as if I was some broad to be bedded. Is that clear?"
Tim remained unmoving, staring straight ahead, but said nothing. "I said, 'Is that clear?'"
Slowly, very slowly, Tim lifted his left hand off the steering wheel and pointed to the knife near his throat. "Oh." The knife was suddenly nowhere to be seen.
"Wha..? Why did you call me Hastie?"
"Th... that's what you asked me to call you."
"Oh shit." Hastie dropped her head to her hands and began to cry. Afraid to touch her, Tim squirmed uncomfortably as he waited for her to take the handkerchief he offered.
In the other car, Phil and Sonja had a much friendlier, but equally bizarre, conversation. "So you're trying to tell me that you're Jack Utterson? That you played center to Hastie Lanyon's quarterback, who is apparently now your blonde twin? That your parents are now centaurs and the guy we're looking for is really a wizard from another dimension?" Skepticism dripped from Phil's voice.
"Right," the red-headed barbarian woman responded as she turned towards her passenger.
"Why don't you let me out here, please?" Phil shook his head in disbelief. "I think I'll walk home."
"If that's what you want." Sonja pulled the car to the side of the street and turned off the engine. No words were spoken, but sad eyes bore deeper and deeper into Phil's soul. He stared defensively at the floor mat, but refusing to look back into her eyes did nothing to relieve the growing tension.
"Damn it Sonja, how the hell do you expect me to believe that line of bull?"
"Why would you tell me that obviously ridiculous tale?"
"First, because it's true. Second, because you asked."
Phil gaped open mouthed at the beautiful redheaded woman sitting beside him, unsure what to do. True, there was something about her, an air of familiarity that made him feel like he'd known her for years. Then there was that tone of absolute certainty in her voice, not like other people he'd met who seemed to try too hard when they were lying. Besides, she was the foxiest chick he'd ever met, and if she was mad, it was a beautiful madness. Taking his hand off the car door, Phil turned and forced himself to look into her eyes, stopping briefly to examine her glorious breasts on the way up. "Explain please. How can an obviously impossible tale be true?"
"I should make you use Aristotlian logic like Mr. Brekinridge did in tenth grade math," she smiled as his brow furrowed, no doubt trying to guess how she could possibly had known about that, especially since he had been the butt of Brekinridge's "guidance" enough times to have reconsidered his plans for a technical career until Jack had convinced him to reconsider by helping him through the final exam with a grade in the low nineties. "But I won't. The answer is obvious. I'm telling the truth, regardless of how bizarre it sounds."
"Stop talking," Sonja gently touched his lips with her finger. "I only told you because you asked. I don't care if you believe me." Sonja stopped and thought for a moment. Her eyes gazed unseeing into the distance and her words seem disconnected, as if she were quietly debating with her self rather than answering Phil.
"No that's not true. I hadn't realized it until just now, but I guess I wanted to be honest on the off chance that there could be something more than just raw sex. I was looking for a -- a relationship," she stumbled over the words. A moment later she shook herself and turned back to Phil.
"Wow. That was strange. I was planning a family there for a moment." She smiled as Phil squirmed at her words. "Relax bud. Self-examination can be fascinating, but not necessarily the whole story. While those thoughts were there in the back of my mind, I guarantee you that they're well in the background. I am much more interested in finding Akcuanrut followed by some joint sexual experimentation sans commitments. So how about a quick kiss and we get on with our search?"
The kiss took much longer than either of them expected.
"Yes dear?" he interrupted his driving and scanning for the old wizard long enough to glance over at his wife. She was chewing absently on a fingernail and George silently groaned to himself. It was time for another "deep discussion."
"Do you really believe the story Emily and Herbert just told us?"
"You don't think it's another of their elaborate pranks? Remember last year when they built a UFO in the backyard?"
"I remember." He turned down Oxford Drive and slowed so they could examine a crowd gathered around "Werther's Olde Fashioned Soda Shoppe."
"Why don't you think it's a joke?"
"Mostly an analysis of the musculature of their hind legs, Lucille."
"Now George," Lucille wagged a finger at him, "don't you go giving me some boring scientific explanation."
"Of course not dear. But they were real horse's feet. Too thin at the hoof for a human leg to fit and each joint moved independently. Also, you could see the ripple of muscles on their backs. Then there was the way each had information that only the other should have had..."
"Enough dear. I get the idea. So are we really going to help them go back to that other dimension?"
"I'm afraid we don't really have any choice. I don't think our world is ready for a pair of living, breathing, talking centaurs. Worse, there's the magic," George scowled for a moment as they drove past a couple of teenaged trick-or-treaters throwing toilet paper over a tree on someone's front lawn.
"What do you mean? The magic is in that other dimension, assuming it exists. How can that effect us, George?"
"It's like Pandora's box, my dear. Once people on this world know it's there, you don't forget. It will niggle at them until they find out how to use it here. Look at Nobel and nitroglycerine. He was so appalled by what he'd invented, he tried to take back the knowledge. After realizing he couldn't uninvent it, he created a trust to honor those who worked towards peace and creation instead of the war and destruction created by his invention. It was the closest he could come to putting the genie back into the bottle, but as you know from history, his noble effort, no pun intended, has done little to prevent wholesale death and destruction."
"I guess so dear, but when you put it that way, it sounds so hopeless. Isn't there something we can do?"
"I don't think so, Lucille. Although I suppose a couple of well placed prayers wouldn't hurt."
"You're scaring me George. Please stop."
"Yes dear," George sighed and changed the subject. "Why don't you call Herbert and Emily and see how they're doing?"
"Yah!" Sonja slapped the dashboard in joy. "They found him. They found him."
"Who? Who found him?"
"Hastie's parents, the centaurs, they found Akcuanrut," Sonja lunged across the seat before Phil could even flinch and gave him a huge hug and kiss. "They were by that old gothic church on Winthrup, across from the park. He just walked up to them. Would you believe the old coot had gone trick or treating?"
"Great Sonja," Phil's enthusiasm was much more reserved than her's as he sat unmoving, waiting for Sonja to untangle herself from him. "What now?"
"Oh..." Sonja realized Phil's meaning and sobered up. "Oh." They were silent, each thinking furiously about what should be next. Finally, Sonja broke the silence asking coyly, "What would you like to do Phil?"
"Now you're going to dump the decision on me?" Phil grumped and was silent again.
Sonja nodded timidly and held her breath as she waited, hoping he'd give her the answer she wanted. Her hands went behind her back, she crossed her fingers and her lips moved almost imperceptibly as she silently mouthed "Please, please, please, please."
"How about we finish this date?"
Sonja was back on the other side of the car, sitting on his lap, hugging and kissing Phil again. They almost decided that the car seat was the perfect place to finish their date when the cell phone rang again.
"Murfph." Sonja's face never left his neck.
"Maybe we should answer it?"
Despite his suggestion, Phil sighed in disappointment when Sonja slowly slid off his lap. "Damn. I was hoping you'd ignore me."
"I almost did. Being responsible can be a real pain sometimes," Sonja whined as she answered the phone and listened with growing intensity.
Turning off the cell phone, a somber Sonja turned to her date. "I'd better drop you off. Would you like me to leave you at the dance or at home," she asked wistfully. "Where would you prefer?"
"Wha? What happened to our date now?"
"Something's come up. I need to get to that church as quickly as I can. There's going to be trouble."
"So. Why do you keep thinking I'm only here to get into your pants? I'm going with you."
"Are you sure, Phil? You don't know what you're walking into. I'm talking dangerous with a capital 'D'."
"Phil. Please think carefully here. We're up against an enemy here that almost beat us last time and apparently can come back from the dead."
"More of that magic you were talking about?"
Sonja just nodded.
"And you think that's going to keep me away?"
"Phil. I lo -- like you very much. I don't want to be the cause of your death."
"I'm going." He crossed his arms and sat staring straight ahead, daring her to kick him out of the car.
No-Nac was getting hungry again. Many people had passed and a few had even sat on nearby benches, but none had approached him, and worse, no one had attempted to enter the castle yet. He was considering changing his position to get closer to the hard white path, when a lone adult in a black costume and a small white collar approached.
"I see our neighborhood hooligans have been rearranging the lawn furniture again," the man muttered, but with a smile on his face. Reaching No-Nac, he grasped the bench and began to lift it, completing his turn back to the street before realizing that some sort of soft gooey material had flowed over his hands.
Befuddled, the man watched as whatever it was flowed rapidly up his arms, reaching the elbow before he could react sufficiently to attempt to drop the bench. Unfortunately, by then it was too late. The ooze made it to his shoulders and the pain began. He managed the beginnings of a loud scream before it was aborted as his mouth was covered.
Standing beside a row of tall hedges in the park across from the church, Herbert glanced up in time to see No-Nac tilt a pair of legs into the air and use gravity to finish his feast. Without taking her eyes off the blob, rapidly reforming into a bench again, she tapped Emily on his rump and pointed. Emily glanced over his shoulder just in time to see the ooze reform into a nondescript park bench.
"Wha..?" Emily's voice was a low whisper.
"I guess we know what happened to No-Nac now." Herbert's voice too was hushed. "Better tell the others."
Emily nodded without taking his eyes off the bench and Herbert reached into her purse for the cell phone.
"So what's the story?" Sonja asked as she dropped to the grass next to the others. She and Phil were the last to arrive. As they approached the others, Phil lagged behind. Instead of dropping to the ground beside Sonja, or even standing beside her, he slowly circled around the two centaurs with his eyes bugging out more and more as he approached them.
"What's the problem Phil? Grab a seat," Sonja called over to him. "Where's Tim?"
"He's at the dance." Sonja couldn't decide whether there was sorrow or happiness in Hastie's voice.
"Oh. Too bad. Are you alright?"
"I don't want to talk about it," Hastie turned away and flinched when Sonja placed a hand on her shoulder to comfort her. With a whispered," We need to talk later," Sonja forced herself to smile. "Phil's decided to help us," Sonja beamed as she explained to the others why he was here before she could be asked.
"Ouch." Herbert flicked her tail at the offending spot on her rump and turned to see what had bit her, only to discover that Phil had pinched her.
"Oh my god." Phil staggered back. Tripping in his hurry, he fell into the hedges and slid down onto his backside still staring at the two centaurs.
"What's the problem Phil? I know you've seen Hastie's parents before."
"They... they're centaurs," he pointed.
"Yea, so? I told you they were."
"Just a moment Sonja," Herbert interrupted. "There seems to be a problem here. "You did just pinch me on my rump, didn't you young man?"
"Uh, yes ma'am."
"On my horse's rump?"
"Yes ma'am." Phil's voice still quavered, but he seemed a bit more certain of himself.
"Akcuanrut?" Herbert kept his eyes on the young man still sitting on the grass. "Isn't our magic working?"
A quick gesture and a squint of the left eye and Akcuanrut answered. "Yes. It is, yes. The strongest I've seen it since we arrived on this world, it is. Because of proximity to yon power source, it probably be."
"Then why can he see us as centaurs?" Herbert folded her arms under her breasts and finally turned away from Phil.
Another gesture, another squint and Akcuanrut responded again. "Because a first-rate wizard's apprentice this young man has the makings of." The others turned in mass to stare at Phil, almost missing Akcuanrut's next words. "To develop his skills, too bad he'll never have the opportunity on this world."
"Folks." Herbert Lanyon raised her hand. "Maybe we should figure out what we're going to do about No-Nac?"
"Whatever do you mean Emily?" Mrs. Utterson asked the female centaur.
"Emily is over there Lucille." Herbert pointed to the male centaur beside her. "I'm Herbert, remember? And what I mean is, about two hundred yards away we have a known agent of the Dark Gods, a shape-changing creature that eats human beings and just ate some clergyman, pretending to be a park bench with only this line of shrubs between it and us. We tried to kill the damned thing once and failed. He, or rather it, will not rest until it has recovered the Heart of Virtue and destroyed the people who took it from him -- us."
"An excellent recap dear," Emily patted his husband's rump supportively. "Any ideas?"
The silence was deafening. Finally, Akcuanrut spoke. "His reason for being here, explain I think I can. The power, here it be. To use it, hope to do, he must."
"I think we better come up with a plan of action here," Herbert suggested.
"I don't think there's much choice," George Utterson observed. "That -- thing, cannot be permitted to remain in this world." He then reiterated his discussions with Lucille regarding the impact of the discovery that there was real magic in the world and concluded with, "...so while no one could put Pandora back into her box, we have to at least try."
The others agreed and Herbert again repeated her recommendation for the development of a plan when Phil interrupted. "Uh, folks?"
"You have an idea?"
"No, I need to point out a problem." Phil pointed towards the hedge and everyone turned. No-Nac was changing again. As they watched the bench morphed into a gelatinous blob. The blob quivered and began to assume a vaguely human form, but with the head of a cockroach. It quivered again, and the insect head disappeared, only to be replaced by the head of D'lon-ra, the Emperor's Champion who had fought and died in the battle to recover the Heart of Virtue. D'lon-ra's head was quickly replaced by several others, before the head, and then the entire body settled into the form of the clergyman No-Nac had recently consumed. As the group watched, the minister brushed himself off and walked into church.