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Sometimes a small pneumatic combustion cannon is the right tool for the job. At least when the job is spraying blood and gore into a fine mist, anyways.

FUNK brs @FUNKbrs

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Grass in the Roses: Chapter 1

Posted by FUNKbrs - August 25th, 2008


Grass in the Roses

Chapter 1

High in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado is a tower, far from the light of civilization. On top of this tower is a giant dish, large enough to hold the secrets of the universe in its monumental concave eye.

In the center of this eye is an antenna, and from this projection into the infinite runs a single coaxial wire. This wire connects to a maze of other wires and complex electrical equipment, each piece stripping away some opaque mystery of the universe, leaving a refined core of electromagnetic information. The same wire leaves this labyrinth and connects to of all things, a cathode ray tube and a magnetic coil attached to a thin, stiff membrane.

Sitting in front of this electrified viewing screen is a man, his ears pricked to the crackle and sizzle of supernovas bursting like popcorn throughout the ages as the rarified radiation filters slowly through the void surrounding his milky blue planet. On the screen in front of him are seemingly random patterns of light, pinpricks the man has been studying with limited success for the past twenty years.

Ironically, the answers to his decades old questions lay not in the diligently searched sky, but in a small cottage-like church in a quiet Southern city, the home of a girl one-third his age who had no idea what to do with them.

The house never did feel quite like home, not to Caroline Parker, who'd been living in the converted church house going on two years now. This was in no way the fault of her surroundings, which a forty-year-old bourgeoisie housewife would kill for.

The cottage itself was shingle-sided wood beam, each plank lovingly hand crafted by devout Christian workmen in the early 1800's. Age and wax had long ago turned the tongue-and-groove floorboards a beautiful sunburst amber. The large main room was dominated by a birds-eye maple table with the words "As oft as ye do it..." carved in the edge, and covered with a dark red table cloth.

An old-fashioned cast iron cook stove that had been converted to gas in the early 1920's protruded from the wall on the west side of the room, next to a dated Frigidaire with an old fashioned chrome pull-latch. This combination was paired with a small functioning sink and a waist-high cutting table with a dish drainer under a modest cupboard.

The very juxtaposition of this was unnatural, as though the building were naturally opposed to the existence of living people, having originally been constructed to feed souls, not bodies. The living arrangements were forced and contrived, the once Pastor's study still lined with books now home to Caroline's frame-less mattress. She'd had Mrs. Black's, the now deceased previous occupant whom she'd inherited it from, old cotton mattress burned at the welcoming party the Black family had thrown for her when she had inherited the place from the closet witch. The idea of sleeping on that surreal woman's deathbed was just too much for her to bear.

In fact, the only homey thing about the place was the old Sunday-school room, now a tiled masterpiece with a large shower and tub. Luckily for her Mrs. Black had believed cleanliness was next to godliness, despite that being a completely heretical and unscriptural saying. Maybe that was the problem in the first place, Caroline thought. After all, who determined when tradition ends and heresy begins?

Pedro sat in the easy chair of his mobile home watching English language news with is baby cousin Angelia, although "baby" was normally used to describe her voluptuous young South American body in a complete different manner. He'd gotten the basic phraseology of the thick, guttural English language, but he still needed her to help explain words and sayings he couldn't figure out on his own.

Things had been hard since Senora Maya was murdered, and he'd done things that were now safely locked away in the back of his head. Necessary things, that was all that mattered. The "who's" and "why's" were all over now, and whether he'd wanted it or not, Senora Maya's position as head of the Maya family had fallen to him by de facto. Not having Pedro's trust had proven to be a lethal disease, and even the more capable of his female relatives, women being the normal and traditional leaders of such witch dynasties, were smart enough to realize that it wasn't wise to put themselves forward however capable.

There hadn't been many deaths last year, but one was enough. They'd had more than enough.

Angelia was the only one he trusted any more, but only because he'd watched her grow up. She was the baby girl, incorruptible in his eyes, and these days Pedro's trust was worth more than a kilogram of fine Caribbean cocaine.

In fact, just last week it was worth twenty.

Pedro hadn't been groomed for the role as head of the Maya family of South American brujeria. When he'd seen his grandmother's murder, he'd only been a day laboring painter, glad to be able to use family connections to get north of the border and away from the more ruthless cocaine syndicates from his home country.

Since what he'd since been thinking of as "La Retribucion," everything had changed. Aunts he'd looked up to for years, matronly old-fashioned family orientated mothers, had turned out to be blood-thirsty Satan worshippers, willing to do anything to protect their drug running sons from border patrols, regardless of the morality of the situation.

He'd discovered it all in hindsight, having just dropped in to Senora Maya's warm little home to see an overdressed middle-eastern man jam a sharply manicured forefinger though the woman who had saved him from a life of ruthless violence and drug based insanity's throat. Pedro's jaw clenched as his mind flashed back, just the thought of it was enough to trigger an involuntary visualization.

He'd opened the door without knocking, Senora Maya was impossible to catch unawares, and she loved company as long as it was social only. The house smelled deliciously of garlic, hot spices, and freshly fried flatbread, a clear sign she had once again anticipated his arrival. She had an army of grown grand daughters, his sisters and cousins that kept her kitchen well stocked for just such a family re-affirming occasion.

Only instead of responding to his hearty "Hola! Estoy aqui!" as usual, there was an eerie silence in the house that should have been filled with ladies babbling about their children's misadventures. He tried not to think of the missing women's names, the betrayers that had deserted the woman that made their lives in this new country possible. He'd learned not to think about such past things, not to fall down that slippery slope, and Angelia had taught him in the turbulent months afterward.

He'd followed his nose towards the savory smells, to the place where Senora Maya should have yelled her happy greeting to him from. That was the first time he met Satan, who called himself Nathan Task, an olive-skinned man, like a Puerto Rican only taller and broader, with a hooked middle-eastern nose betraying his true origin. His hand had been on her shoulder, but in a stiff way at arm's length, not in the close way of family.

A sharp, toothy smile graced the man's face, and in Senora Maya's eyes, Pedro saw something he'd never seen there before:

FEAR.

Before he could open his mouth, before he could do anything, the man who stood a full head and shoulders above the tiny south American native swiveled at the hips and shoulders, every bone in his finely tuned body making a single line from his heel to the deadly point of his finger. The details were so distinct, it was almost as if it had happened in slow motion, although the image had burned onto his retinas in less than a second.

The blood gushed out of her in great systolic thumps as the stranger pulled his finger out of the neat dime-sized hole in Senora Maya's homely, wizened throat. It was then that Nathan Task turned and smiled that same toothy grin at Pedro, his left hand sliding up Senora Maya's shoulder into her gray speckled waist length hair behind his back If there was any doubt of his true nature, it dissipated as the left hand picked her little squat body at arm's length up from her hair, lazily swinging it around in a demonstration of strength. Still smiling, the bastard Nathan, the devil above all demons, pulled her gushing throat to his lips and drank the thick, savory blood with every sign of pleasure as it pumped all over his expensive suit.

Pedro's hand snatched for his utility knife, the knife at his hip he used for turning screws, cutting tape, cleaning his nails, and sometimes for slicing clean chunks of apple for his lunch. Before it was even clear of its sheath, Nate cracked Senora Maya's body like a whip, slinging the bloody soon-to-be corpse into her would be avenger, escaping in the gory confusion...

"PEDRO! PEDRO!! DESPERTASE!!!"

Pedro's hand was wrapped around his knife, just milliseconds from whipping it loose and attacking the imaginary murderer, the from hacking up...

Angelia...

Something had to give.

Starburst hustled his younger cousins out of Mama Agnes's expanded lower middle class home, situated just inside the city limits, a stone's through from the suburbs. Mama had asked for quiet, and it was his job to make sure she got what she wanted.

"Go on! Outside, all of you!" he hollered at the children, ranging in age from toddlers just old enough to be left alone to near-adults in their surly post-pubescent mid-teens, barely young enough to not have cars and jobs of their own.

He herded them like chickens out of the door, grabbing one angst-riddled thirteen year old and hoisting his skinny light-weight body up by his low slung belt, pulling up the youngster's pants to a more socially acceptable height as he carried the boy bodily away from his video games and into the bright mid-afternoon sun.

"Uncle Star..." the boy whined, disgruntled by this call to unsolicited activity and crime against his personal fashion sense.
"Shut up." Starburst cut him off, his effeminate voice taking on a fatherly edge from inside the house. "Mama says quiet, so you noisy little hoodlums have to get out."
"But it's BO-ORING out here," the boy whined continuously, this week going by the misleading name of Big X, a name his friends or "crew" from school had given him because of his love of X-Box games and the fact he shared Starburst's tall, lanky, track-star build.
"Go mow the yard then. Maybe that'll build you some character so you don't end up like your jailbird-ass cousins," Starburst retorted, rays of bright sun reflecting off of his perfectly pedicured toenails in the doorway, belying his weekend night life as a drag queen.
"This yard doesn't even need mowing!" Big X whined, unabated.

Starburst deftly pulled a bright orange basketball from its usual resting place behind the door, palming it expertly in one hand and bouncing it off the whiny little bastard's head, cutting his excuses short to the raucous laughter of his previously ejected peers and siblings.
"I hate you!" the boy shouted, just in time to have the door slammed in his pouty, mean mugging face.

Mama Agnes lit seven colored candles mounted in a rough circle in whatever crooks and cul-de-sacs she could find in her formal entertaining room, reserved for only the most important guests, a no-entry point for her countless grandchildren. Once candle was on a bookcase, one on an old Sylvania TV, two in tall decorative wrought-iron candlesticks, one in the windowsill, one mounted over the doorframe, and a final candle resting in a saucer on the end table next to the television.

She sat at the glossy mahogany table at the center of the room, an old-fashioned charcoal pencil in her left hand and a short stack of parchment paper in front of her. She wrote out the English alphabet in distinct blocky letters, numbering them to form a numerological code key. Twenty-six letters containing every imaginable concept in the universe spread out before her, ready to be used like a chemist's periodic table.

The lessons they had drilled into her as a girl rested in the background of her mind, the secret meanings of the ancient Arabic numerals having been memorized for so long remembering them was as easy as remembering to breathe. One was unity, invincibility and eternity. Two was beginnings, love, and progress. Three was strength and organization, reminiscent of the holy trinity. Four was the number of the seasons and natural cycles. Five was the number of humanity, the five fingered hand, the four limbs and head. Six was the number of the arcane, just one step above human capability. Seven was the number of purity and holiness. Eight was the number of mystery, of the unknown. Finally, there was number nine, the number of barriers and endings.

She wrote a name slowly with her left hand. P-E-D-R-O. The numbers she had assigned to the letters translated the name into 16,5,4,18, and15. She added them, trying to summate them into a functional core. She added them in her head, writing the sum of 58 under the name. Fifty-eight meant a man, a man of mystery. She separated the five and eight, adding them once more for an even deeper level of meaning. Thirteen was the answer, a one for unity, and three for organization, the sum of the two numbers making four, rendering the complex but well known translation that for by great strength something will be made at unity with nature for eternity, more simply as death and decomposition. Unlucky thirteen, the number of funeral processions a man must walk down in his life. Six pallbearers to a coffin, with no women allowed as pallbearers means a total of twelve turns of duty to bury both parents, the final thirteenth when a man rides inside the coffin himself.

Pedro, then, finally simplified, was a man of mystery with death at his core, roaming the earth. Mama Agnes couldn't suppress her shudder. It was uncanny the way numbers reinforced what her own people had already told her of the man.

There was another person of interest, another family head just recently come into power, the second anniversary of Mrs. Black's death now come and gone: Caroline.

Again she wrote out the name with her left hand, again translating the letters back into numbers. She couldn't help but register the number of letters in each name, Pedro the Man, with five letters, and Caroline the Mystery with eight. Getting back on track she translated Caroline's name into numbers: 3,1,18,15,12,9,14, and 5. She added these, resulting in sixty-seven, a mixture of the arcane and holy, the yin and the yang, both the negative and positive of the super natural. She added the six and seven:

Thirteen.

Just like Pedro.

Nothing could shake Mama's calm; her brazen acceptance of raw truth had been beaten into her as an apprentice witch with a cane switch. She'd been named with a knowledge of these meanings, 'Agnes" having five letters for her humanity, and breaking down to forty-six, meaning a woman of arcane earth magic. The final reduction rendered ten, which again reduced to one, meaning she was the unified eternal extension of the tradition of arcane earth magic.

Two years, though, since Mrs. Black's death, her first name Lillith rendering down to eighty-two: the spreader of mystery. Now dead, that added another thirteen to the mix, resulting in ninety-five, the end of humanity. Those numbers had bothered her for quite some time, but now that she saw the conjunction of Caroline and Pedro, she did a quick calculation.

Sixty-seven plus fifty eight yielded one hundred and twenty-five, a unified couple that would spread humanity to a mysterious new level.

Mama Agnes ceremoniously rose from her seat and methodically put out all seven candles with a pewter snuffer. She left the room in a quiet, gentle glide to the living room where Starburst sat industriously buffing his fingernails to a mirror shine.

"So what did you find out?" he prompted, not wanting to over play his curiosity.
"I think Pedro and may be planning a meeting with Caroline soon, now that both of them have had time to establish a chain of command. Get Caroline's assistant Mike on the line and see if he knows anything," Mama ordered, her husky Caribbean accent adding a warm feminine edge to her words.
"Ha, Caroline's scared shitless of Pedro. There's no way those two are going to establish contact. Besides, Pedro's a man; he's got no right heading the Maya family. Shouldn't we just wait until a female relative takes over?" Starburst was carefully playful in his tone, trying not to offend the witch-queen of the All-Saints family, the largest arcane bloodline in the area and his female ancestor. Mama Agnes smiled at his attempts to understand the game without knowing the rules.

"You wanna bet?"

This is the world as it is, everything broken down to numbers, ruled by invisible principles that when mastered can predict all things. There are no mysterious lights, no gaudy manifestations of power, no magicians engaged in epic battles of fire and summoned beasts from the astral plane. This is a world where the true magic, the magic of pregnant women, of family, magic of the blood so reliable it no longer seems magical reigns. This is the magic taken for granted every day by people too immature to understand that compared to the real world, the world of the imagination is a stark, simple and boring place.

The real magic, the real power, is hidden, disguised in the mundane to resist the understanding of the ignorant. The powerful understand the core nature of their strength is knowledge. By making wisdom seem boring and stupid to the ignorant, the rulers of this world cement themselves in power. Only those capable of seeing past these intentional distractions to the basic core of reality have the power to escape these traps of the mind.

Disillusionment is only unpleasurable to the willfully ignorant egotist, and the comfort of denial is the comfort of the firing squad's blindfold, the comfort of the coffin-pillow.


Comments

Youre so awesome.

If you keep stroking my ego, it's going to shoot all over my keyboard.

Very well-written. I look forward to chapter 2

Just finished typing it today. Have you read book 1 yet? It's every bit as good, although I'm getting better at this whole "novelist" thing with practice. However, I HIGHLY suggest you dropping me your email address so I can give you the semifinal version, as opposed to the rough ass drafts I post on NG.