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  1. #51
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    Chapter 17) Tamas; Hawaii, 1779

    Tama’s lungs burned as he charged down the trail to the village. “It was not more than a couple of hundred paces,” he thought, “but this is taking forever.” He came into the village and there was no one to be seen. The smoke was thick and moving north to south, paralleling the shore. He picked up the pace and soon burst out onto the beach in to brilliant sunshine. All of the village people were on the rocky shoreline. He saw smiles and heard lively chatter, until they saw him then their looks turned into disgust and fear.

    He strode to the water’s edge and commandeered a canoe from a random person who offered no resistance. He leaned into the paddle with three strokes then turned and looked back towards land. He could see several hundred people and behind them and the first row of coconut trees he could see the perfect wall of smoke reaching high into the sky. “Don’t they see the smoke?” he thought as he paddled to the ship. The ship’s crew was in the process of pulling anchor and would soon be under way. He had to paddle harder. There were over 500 other canoes in the water all closed in around the boat. He could see his people being shooed off of the boat by angry looking crew men. Some natives were trying to trade and some were trying to steal while others just wanted to be there.

    Tamas pulled up to the stern of the ship where he had seen the cat fly out of the window into the sea. His people were hanging off the lines and rope ladders and looked like a writhing nest of brown spider babies leaving their nest. Most were scrambling down while he was climbing up. Just as he came adjacent to the window he traversed left and ducked under a heavy wooden beam. He kept creeping left and came to the window and it was open. He leaned in and tossed the leather bag with the box in and it bounced and slid on the floor right up under Cook’s desk. At that moment there was a thunderous explosion that ringed from the heavens! Then another BOOOM! And then a third! The nest of brown spiders was sent into a frenzy of fear and astonishment.

    The majority of the people including Tamas, leapt and dove to the safety of the water. Some unfortunate soul was so badly startled when the cannons fired that he lost his grip in the high rigging and fell to his death on the main deck. There was much screaming and shouting. The sailors quickly tossed the body over board into the blue water. The people who were treading water moved away from the body that was oozing blood from a split skull and the water became pink. Then from nowhere the body was shaken and convulsed from the deep. The people further panicked as a 14 foot tiger shark reared its ugly head while chomping on the torso of the body.

    Tamas had quickly gotten back in his canoe and was paddling back to shore. He noticed that the smoke seemed to have cleared off completely, as he noticed the cries in the water for the first time. He pulled on to shore with a new mission in mind. He took off south along the shoreline aiming for the base of the cliffs where he could find the body of his sacrificed lover.

    An hour later he hoped he was getting close. The shore was very rugged and walking was near impossible. He knew that he was violating another kapa or sacred law but did not know what to do otherwise. “Was it two days ago or five?” He could not remember. He leaned out over the edge of boulder and looked down the shore as far as he could. There was no time for reflection. He traversed down into the small indent in the coast. He moved with both a goal to attain and a fear of being followed.

    “There is no way,” he assured himself, “the Nightwalker is back on the ship.” He still felt at unease. He kept craning his neck and looking for her up in the cliffs. Soon he found a piece of skull and then a leg bone, both polished clean with time. He rounded a bend and came face to face with a rather large pile of decomposing bodies. It seemed as if all the people sacrificed over the generations had ended up right here in this one spot. There were hundreds, with the oldest on the bottom surviving as nothing more than bones squashed under the weight of the less decomposed bodies and the most recent sacrifice on top of everything. He looked up and could see the ravine turned and ran skyward in a funnel shape as it gradually widened and up near the high ridge top where he knew the altar was.

    He clambered and clawed his way up the pile of bodies and tears began to run down his already dirt and salt stained face. All of the horror of the last week had finally caught up with him. “What did life become?” He could not believe the turn of events. From making sweat love in the sunlight not two weeks before to this; climbing up a pile of bodies, kicking up flies. “My love! My love!” He cried when he got to her.

    Her body was completely broken and bloated pink. Her skin was stretched and starting to split. Her skull was split and her long black hair was hanging over her missing eye. “Despite the carnage, she seems rested,” he thought. Her remaining eye was thankfully closed.

    He crawled close and knelt with her and tried to remember happier times. Then he turned to remorse and confusion. He needed a new goal. He needed to unify the people. Things were falling apart and they would need to be rebuilt. He fell asleep in a stupor. He dreamed that he awoke in the pile of bodies and the light was fading. He could see figures emerging from the shadows along the base of the cliffs. Boulders piled high and jumbled down to the waters edge. He could also see small dark humanoids slowly darting in and around the rocks and they moved in his direction. He felt terrified as eight or ten of them began to encircle him and he could see their black faces with pin point red eyes trained on him...

    At that instant he sprang awake and in one smooth motion reached out and grabbed the unsuspecting wild boar by the tusk and an ear and spun it over on to its back as he plunged a bone shard into its throat. It let out a surprised squeal that turned gurgles of blood and then a last dying gasp through the hole in its esophagus. The other boars leapt back in a frenzy and took to the shadows. He ripped the throat open with his hands and put his face into the gushing blood. He felt instantly replenished and he drank until the blood stopped.

    He turned to the girl. He went to her face and bent over her. He swept the hair off of her face and smeared some pig blood on her cheek and eye brow. “What should I do?” he whispered. She opened her one good eye and it was pure red with a large black pupil. She said, “Kill him when he returns.”

    At this point it seemed normal to Tamas that he was talking to dead bodies. She closed her eye and he climbed down the pile of broken limbs and dreams and the wild boars stood back snarling in the shadows. He made his way back down the shoreline with thoughts of death on his mind.

  2. #52
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    Chapter 18) Captain Cook; Hawaii, 1779

    Cook ordered his men to fire the cannon’s so as to “get these blasted people off of my ship!” as he put it to Ledyard. The crew was in the midst of pulling anchor and setting the sails when the people swarmed into the ocean around his boat and into the rigging. It was another beautiful day in paradise but felt that he had endured enough during his stay in the islands and wanted badly to leave. They had been anchored and trading with the natives for a week and on the 7th day the voices finally stopped. It was the day he threw his cat out the window.

    On this, the 10th day at anchor, he called for the cannons to be fired and at the moment of the first shot he felt the staggering weight of the Beast return as if the combustion and trajectory of the cannon ball launched his own soul high on to the dusty hill side above the village. The second shot rang loud but seemed to misfire and the cannon ball hurtled low to the water and skipped once and then smashed into a coconut tree and sent people scattering. The third cannon ball lodged deep into Cook’s mind as he was thrown back to remembering how he came into possession of the ‘gift from the Alaskan’ as he had written in his journal.

    The Alaskan had pressed the gift into his hand and said, “From Chirikov,” before he drifted back into the midst of people and salt in the air.

    Cook did not find time to look into the little leather bag until they were just getting underway, heading due south for the winter in the Hawaiian Islands. He leaned back into his easy chair to light a cigar when he spotted the bag tucked on a shelf with an assortment of other knick knacks he’d collected. He stood up and retrieved the bag and then sat to open it. Inside the leather bag was a small wooden box about 4” cubed. It was ornately carved with heat scarring and multiple colors, red and purple and dark orange. He leaned in close to analyze the glyphs on the side. He could see what looked like white puffy clouds. He leaned in even closer and put a monocle to his eye.

    On the sides of the box he could see clouds raining down on the tableau below. People in chains with devilish creatures all around. On the top of the box he could see angelic beings almost singing as they seemed to move with the clouds. Back on the sides he could see ragged shapes all chained in a line forced to drag large stones. He flipped it to the bottom… He paused and gasped when he saw the large eye ball looking at him.

    “It was only painted on of course.” He reassured himself, but it instantly gave him chills as it seemed to be looking right at him, straight into his core. The iris was made of many colors all mottled into an angry purple-red. At that someone knocked on his cabin door. He stuttered and then put the box down and said, “Enter.”

    Ledyard entered and said, “Heaven and hell are adjacent and identical.”

    Captain Cook was taken aback and sputtered out, “Sorry, come again?”

    Ledyard answered, “The wind and swell are decent, how do you call?”

    “Ahh, oh yes, yes I noticed that. There seems to be a sea change in the works.” Cook played it off. “Lower main to 1/3, stay the jib, maintain the same heading then stand by.”

    “Yes sir,” Ledyard left to delegate the execution of the command.

    Cook returned to the box and mumbled to himself, “Heaven and hell are adjacent and identical.” He ran the phrase in his mind. He looked at the lid and its blue sky and the shining sun in one corner. There were no hinges that he could see. He gingerly pulled to release the top but it seemed a tight fit. He gave it bit more of a pull and then the top blew off in his hand and he fell back in his chair. A spewing stream of black goo that smelled like fecal matter exploded out and sprayed across the room uniformly covering the walls and ceiling. Cook was aghast as he righted himself and removed his monocle so he could see as his other eye was packed in nastiness. He fell into a paused-gagged-moment of staring at the desk with his eyes bugged out of his head, like he was paused in mid-retch.

    He watched as the shit slowly ran down the walls and as it did it seemed to separate into individual beings that grew and as they moved they shaped into arms and legs made out of them-selves. They moved to the floor and came towards Cook as a rancid army and they slithered up his legs and on the desk and up his arms into his gaped open mouth. He could feel the shit move into his body and it started rocking from within. He rocked harder and harder until he was smashing his face into the desk and the box but the box would not break, only his face bones started to crush and deform as he kept pounding and pounding his head into the desk. Blood gushed out and he vomited and it continued for what seemed like an eternity.

    Cook jumped awake sweating all sprawled out on the floor. He had fallen asleep and the ship was rocking violently. There was urgent knocking at his cabin door. His fleeting conscious had been keeping beat with head on the desk and the pace and vibrations slowly transferred into the urgent knocking out side his cabin door.

    “Sir! Sir, are you there?!” panicked voices. Heavy banging. The door smashed open and Ledyard came bursting in the room followed by two other crewmen. “Sir, are you all right?!” They rushed to help him off the floor.

    “I must have fallen and hit my head…” Cook mumbled and trailed off. He glanced and saw the box sitting there, lid in place. He felt his head and teeth and face, it all felt normal. I must have fallen asleep and fallen out of the chair.” He grasped at an explanation. He looked around the room and all appeared to be in order, despite the heavy seas.

    “How do you call, Captain?” Ledyard got straight to business. “Pull all sails and batten the hatches.”

    “Yes sir,” Ledyard took off as the others helped him to his seat.
    The ringing of the 3rd cannon shot stirred his senses back to the present. Despite his suddenly returned overwhelming sense of dread he could not help but smile as he watched the people jump ship and flail in the water. He returned to his cabin and Stavka, his black cat, greeted him with a cheerful meow. He remembered with a shudder at how three days earlier that native fellow had retrieved the cat for him. But he knew it was not a cat when he had tossed it out the window. He remembered at how it had come back on the ship and scampered up the mast to the crow’s nest, its favorite spot. He remembered returning to his cabin and finding the box was gone to his relief. He had been a slave to the voices for too long and he had to remedy the situation for the sake of the expedition.

  3. #53
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    19) Chirikov; Alaska 1741

    Vlad stood up to leave Chirikov’s cabin. Chirikov sprang to his feet in disgust and disbelief at his son’s story. “You say your heart is in this box?!” Chirikov demanded.

    “Yes, I believe so.” Chirikov was further unnerved by his son’s demeanor, juxtaposed with his failing appearance. He tried to open the lid to look inside, to no avail. He shook it and banged it on the desk. He paused and actually looked at it for the first time and was immediately taken in by the intricate carvings. He noticed on one side the image of a ship at sea and as he concentrated on the image he could see more and more detail as he moved in and looked closer at the stern of the ship and there was a lamp going in one of the windows and as he peered in he could see a man hunched over a desk looking intently at something.

    He paused and turned to look out the window and was somewhat relieved to not see a giant eye looking in on him. He looked back and realized his son was gone. How long ago did he leave? He sprang to his feet and started for the door.

    The three crewmen who had abandoned Vlad had been tied sitting back to back around a support post. Each had their left wrist in a shackle and they were all attached to a chain that went around the post and attached to itself. They sat there and dozed and shivered and stared in to the sloshing darkness.

    “Not knowing what was going to happen was the worst part,” Gregor thought to himself. A voice in the darkness immediately responded, “There are a few things that I could think of that might further trouble your sleep.” All three jumped and tried to confirm that one of the other two had said it. A figure came limping out of the shadows. It was Vlad and the two crewmen who sat facing him tried to cower away as the third man was frantically asking,

    “Who is it? Who is it?”

    “You know who it is,” Vlad said as he stepped into the thin grey beam of light that poked weakly in through the deck above. “Oh how you doing Mate, old pal? You looked like you were in a real bind back there. No hard feelings?” Boris stuttered out his case.

    Vlad lifted his hand to hush the pleading. He then extended his hand and opened the palm and a mouth opened up and said, “I am your fear. I move by your intentions.” He stepped forward again and the two crewmen could see that where Vlad should have eyes, the eyelids had been crudely sewn shut. Where his mouth was supposed to be was a single, large, bloodshot eyeball. He held out his other hand and there was a second mouth in the other palm.

    Gregor sputtered out, “Where, wha, what is wrong with you mate? We had to leave you, you know, right? What is with your hands and eyes mate?”

    “By your fears I am multiplied.” At that he moved forward and his entire hands transformed into huge snapping jaws like those of a large wolf or a bear. He then held the jaws to the flesh of his legs and torso and they started ripping sizable chunks out and flinging the flesh in the direction of the terrified captives. The chunks splattered off of their faces and chests and rolled to the floor where they started moving and they too formed teeth and little arms and legs and the chunks started taking bites out of the captives to their concerted howls of dismay.

    As the two captives where now being eaten alive Boris on the other side of the post still cannot see what is going on and is now basically ripping his own hand off in attempt to get out of the shackle. “Don’t worry,” Vlad assured, “You will forever be cursed to remember this day.” And at that he turned and made his way back to the upper deck.

    As he appeared up on deck Chirikov came running up to him with most of the remaining crew now alarmed. Vlad offered out his now normal, though blood soaked arms, out in surrender. “Captain, Father, I need to be locked up for I am not myself, I am an animal. Just then other crewmen came running from below deck and confirmed the men were killed.

    Chirikov ordered, “Arrest that man!” Then Vlad said in a different voice now, “Don’t worry, I will arrest myself.” At that the horrible mouths reappeared on each arm and he lifted his left foot up into the jaws of his right arm and began to literally eat himself from the toes up. He fell to the ground and started in with the right foot in the left arm and Chirikov yelled, “Stop that!” as he rushed forward to do something as his son slashed back with a vicious back hand which sent Chirikov flying.

    The teeth chomped and chewed the feet to the ankles to the knees in a writhing mess. The jaws grew in size and took huge bites of femur up to the hips. The one hand turned and started eating his skull as the other was making quick work of guts and torso. Soon the only thing left was the two arms that appeared to have been ripped off of an unknown body. Then the left arm attacked and devoured the right arm. At that it was finished and it fell dead on the deck, appearing as a normal human hand and arm up to the elbow.

    The whole spectacle took less than two minutes and the entire crew bore witness to the gruesome scene save for the lone crewman still tied to the post in the hold. Some crew turned and retched into the sea and some stood in mute, dumbstruck silence while more than a few pulled out a flask and took a deep swig. Chirikov stepped forward and now felt like he was at a funeral, his son’s funeral. He picked up the hand and held it close to his chest and offered what he could as an on the spot eulogy.

    “That was not my son. He died in the forest back there,” he gestured to the far receded land scape two days off the stern. “We shall never speak of this unholy departure from reality upon our return to Russia. God bless us all.” Two weeks later Chirikov’s ship pulled into the small bay with the sole intent of discarding of the arm and the small wooden box. A crew went to shore and it was said that you could feel the heart still beating in the box when it was placed in its grave.

  4. #54
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    Chapter 20) David; Alaska, 2030

    Avery turned from gazing up at the mountains and was making his way along the high water line. There were huge pile-ups of full sized trees some two feet in diameter. They were all splintered and smashed up. Just then Avery exclaimed, “What the hell is that?!” He leapt back as if he had just disturbed a hornet’s nest.

    Drey and David were both simultaneously on point, “What? What is it?”

    “THAT! What is that?” Avery pointed.

    Then David saw it, “Holy shit! Oh my god it looks like a girl!” The thing they were looking at was lodged and blocked in the tangle of twisted timber. David saw long black hair, “Or is that a horse’s tail?”

    Avery saw a hoof, “Or is that paw?” It was bright pink with purple splotches.

    “It looks like a Rottweiler or a horse or a pig.” No one could tell. They were struck and dumbfounded by the unknown. No one for all of their staring could discern exactly what they were looking at. But no one would get with in twenty foot radius of the thing. Its unfortunate soul was repulsive. In his mind David was running through the scenario of reporting the body to the authorities. “It can’t be a girl.”

    The sun was shining so bright and pure. The day seemed electrified with a crystal quality as if they were inside one of those snow ball ornaments that had not been shaken up in years. The sky was razor sharp blue. The ocean was organic brown water moving by with a barely perceptible burble.

    “Ok, so we don’t know what it is. What should we do?” Drey offered.

    “Let’s keep doing what we were doing and stop by on the way back and decide,” Avery suggested. David felt as if he could not go within twenty feet of the creature. It was like it was in its own crystal sphere and it could not be verified as even being real by the three observers. They continued on and after about ten paces they pulled out of the ‘bad vibe orbit’ of the unknown. They continued and did not talk.

    The tide was still dropping and getting pretty low. They made their way to the very furthest point of exposed grey rock. As they sat there they could see another ripple grow in the water, then a bump would emerge, than a new piece of land would emerge into the light of day.

    Every so often they would move ten or fifteen feet farther out, breathing the rhythm of the sea. The tide was running at a constant rate now, the majority of the water now flowing from the freshwater rivers at the head of the Arm. “This is it,” Drey said, “the low point.”

    They sat for a while and soaked in the amazing view. David was gazing east into the blue sky when he suddenly felt a shift in his perception. It looked like there was a black gash across the sky tipped at a 45 degree angle from right to left. He thought about how the helicopter had arced into the water at a similar angle. He followed his gaze down to the rocks and his hands and it all looked black and white. Like all of the color had been drained out.

    He exclaimed, “What the fuck is going on?!” As the other two noticed and they all in unison said, “What is going on?”

    Then Avery pointed off to the west and they could see a large jet up in the sky. They looked and followed the jet contrail back from the jet to the far eastern horizon and realized that they were sitting perfectly aligned in the shadow of the contrail. For about a minute they sat and on observed the tide make it turn to flow and the contrail dissipated. The top of the lowest rock was soon covered and the others were disappearing quickly.

    David finally said, “Holy shit, that was crazy. Let’s get going.”

    They turned and started thinking about the object lying in wait for them. They got back to its resting place and after some deliberation, still could not agree on a positive identity. They could not, or would not go any closer than before. They left and as they walked they decided that it was probably a sheep that got blown off a mountain in an avalanche. “Yeah, that makes sense.”

    They went back to Avery’s again and David parked in his driveway. They had a couple of beers and Drey started talking about how to get back at the mining company.

    “Get back at them? For what?!” David asked.

    “Everything. The dam, the noise, the helicopter crash. Whatever, fuck em!” Avery chipped in.

    “Well it is not like they are evil. They are people just trying to make a living,” David rationalized.

    “No way, if they are damaging the earth…” Drey trailed off. “I just did not realize it was here. I didn’t realize what it was before. The biggest mine in the world…”

    “Well times change,” David said.

    “What do you mean? Don’t you care about your children?” Drey jabbed.

    “NO they won’t know the difference by the time they are born.” David continued.

    “No fuck that! They did fuck us over in that crash.” Avery shouted, “I swear the engine stalled right before we hit the water, she should have pulled up. But they didn’t believe me. They thought I was being all reckless and stupid.” Avery was actually pissed.

    “Holy shit guys, calm down,” David felt like a parent.

    Drey had a look in his eye. He knew he had them sold on the idea.
    “The dead girl, the jet contrail… they were good touches. The Old Man is feeling creative,” Drey thought.

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    Chapter 21) Captain Cook, Hawaii, 1779

    By the time they had managed to pull away from the island of Hawaii, he was sure the beast was back on the ship. It was probably up in the crow’s nest where it had been since they left Alaska. He could remember the day clearly, though he was loathe to admit that the days had become quite jumbled in his mind of late. He could recall when they left Alaska and how he had just told Ledyard to double reef the topsail. The ship! It was heaving as if being toyed with by a giant lion’s paw in the dark. He went out on deck and could see the cold seas of the northern pacific turned to an angry broth. He looked into the sea. The wind was groaning in the rigging and he could see a dutiful crew man holding his position in the crow’s nest.

    “Someone should tell that lad to come down from there,” he thought. He turned his gaze to the white capped waves. As the water was blown off the tops of the waves by the increasing wind Cook began to see fingers and hands reaching through the waves. He could look deep into the water and see the heads and arms and decapitated torsos rolling in the boiling pot. “They will cook you, Cook.” The voice whispered in his ear.

    He spun around and saw Ledyard was there very close. “What’ll you have them cook for you, Cook? What do you want, Sir? You seem ill.”

    Cook turned and mumbled, “I am feeling a bit under the weather.” Cook forced a smile at the intended pun as the rain had begun to pelt down. “I will take just a bowl of soup. That would be good, thank you.”

    Ledyard slipped into the night apparently unperturbed by the now raging storm. “Perhaps I am getting too old for this,” Cook sighed and returned to his cabin. He slumped in his chair. He could see the box sitting over on the shelf. He could not quite remember why, but felt very uneasy looking at the box. His mind felt fuzzy, distorted. “Heaven and hell are adjacent and identical.”

    The boat pitched wildly. His cat Stavka came over and sat on his lap. “This is nice,” he thought as he began to relax while scratching the top of the cat’s head. He dozed off. The cat’s purr had died away. A few minutes later he was roused from sleep when he felt and then heard a deep guttural sound emitting from the cat’s gut. He opened his eyes and followed where the cat was staring intently. It was still sitting on his left thigh and he could feel its claws dig in. In the corner of the room, back in the shadows there was a being, a creature standing, hovering on the edge of sight. It sensed that Cook was looking and slowly eased deeper into the shadow. The cat let out a more yowly noise and its hackles flicked alive.

    “Who goes there?! State yourself!” Cook shouted as he fumbled in his desk for his pistol. The cat jumped away. Cook knew that he did not have a second to spare so he rang off a shot and as the bullet ripped through the wall behind the creature it moved with lightning speed out the door. A second later he heard an approaching scream and then a thud as the crew man from the nest now lay dead on the deck. Cook ran from his room and out onto the deck and could see the dead man and he looked up to the mast and could see the ominous black cloud of the beast perched atop his ship.

    The other crew ran around unaware of the Beast as it looked like the crew man had simply fallen. They scrambled around the body and Cook ordered that no one go up the mast.

    The storm increased. They were only a day and a half away from Alaska and it was looking bad. Cook was already thinking of retreating back to Alaska when there soon after his lead carpenter came and reported that the mast that they had replaced back in Nootka Sound was starting to crack. They would need to go back to Alaska for repairs.

    Cook was relieved. “The beast must weigh a lot,” he thought.
    A day and a half later they spotted the now familiar coast of the Aleutian Island chain. The ship navigated by land marks back to Ismailov’s fur camp. “They could help us,” Cook thought, “Maybe we can get rid of this blasted box.” It had not occurred to him to just throw it overboard.

    They rounded the point into the little bay and there was no Russian ship. There was no camp. Cook was confused.

    Ledyard spoke up and asked, “Wasn’t Captain Ismailov supposed to be here for another two weeks?”

    “I think so,” Cook responded, “Perhaps they got enough furs and left early?”

    “You would think he would have known three days ago,” Ledyard reasoned.

    “Yes you would think.” They dropped anchor and Ledyard took some men ashore. It looked like the entire camp had left not more than an hour previous. A fire still smoldered.

    Cook thought about what Ismailov had said about Chirikov burying his son here. He thought about the Aleut who gave him the box. After Ledyard’s return to the ship with confirmation that everyone had left, Cook retreated to his cabin while the repairs were made.

    Three days later, they set off for Hawaii again. Every so often he would look up into the crow’s nest and sense the weight of the creature, pulling the ship over. It felt as if they had reached a stalemate, he and the Beast, as he now thought of it. He could not bring about the energy to discard the box back on the island or even just off the side of the boat. It was easier to just sit and stare at it.

    “By your intentions go I. By your fears I multiply.” Cook wrote in his journal. Cook pondered these words briefly and then ripped the page out and ate it.

    “Insane logic proves itself true to itself within its own system.” Rip page out and eat it.

    “Logic and proportion had fallen dead.” Rip page out and eat it.

    He pondered the distance between his face and his hand and moved it back and forth trying to gauge depth.

    Perception.

    For a month Cook remained in his cabin writing on and then eating pages from his diary. He became severely constipated and started drinking castor oil to make bowel movements. No one had been in the crow’s nest for the most part, except for the Beast of course. He smiled and almost felt comforted knowing it was there. One day Cook was sitting and trying to see through the wall of his office. He noticed the balance of the ship change as the Beast descended from the nest and came to his door. There was a sharp rapping. A sharp rap, rap, rapping. A persistent rap, rap, rap that soon increased to a bang, bang, BANG! Cook jumped to his feet and opened the door. His cat Stavka sauntered in and sat at his feet.

    “They have spotted land. If you or any of your crew goes to shore you will die.” His cat stared intently at him as if trying to register if his words were sinking in. Cook thought Stavka was just talking in his mind. Maybe it was in his imagination. He bent over and scratched the cat behind its ear and it seemed appreciative. The ship sailed to within landfall distance of the island of Maui the next day. Upon a restless evening of considering Stavka’s warning, Cook ordered the ship to drop anchor about three miles off the north shore and ordered that no man shall go ashore. Ledyard relayed the order to the crew and played middle man between Cook and the crew for the next 20 days.

    “But sir, after eight months at sea the men were really looking forward to some earned relaxation.” Ledyard had finally taken to pleading with Cook. “The men are appreciative of the generous rum ration you have offered but we are tired of keeping the natives at bay. They want to trade with us. The men are becoming… unhappy.” Ledyard tactfully alluded to mutiny without implicating himself. Cook dismissed him with a wave of his hand and returned to sitting and staring out the window towards land.

    “That is all he is doing in there, staring out the window.” Ledyard would reply to the irate inquiries from the crew. They wanted to get off that ship. A minute later Stavka came from his high perch in the corner and jumped in Cook’s lap. “If you stay on the ship they will kill you.” Cook was flummoxed as he had been terrified to go to shore this whole time. For all of his pondering of his existence within time and space he had failed to pose the question to himself as to “how was Stavka communicating with me?” or “where did the Beast come from? What does it want? How am I under its spell?” These are questions as a fish might ponder the nature of water.

  6. #56
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    On the 21st day Cook ordered Ledyard to set sail for the island of Hawaii. He had seen it in the distance the year before and decided to get back into exploratory mode if he was going to die either way he might as well chart some new territory on the way to his grave. He promised to let the men go ashore.

    When the ship dropped anchor in the bay outside of the village known as Kealakekua, the natives came swarming out to the ship to greet him. As it turned out Cooks ship pulled into the bay on a very auspicious day. Every year on this same day the natives would play out a ceremony to coax the God called Lono to provide a healthy harvest from the land and the sea. The chief would paddle his canoe out into the channel and then return to the island and pretend to be Lono and the other warriors cast spears and stones at him and he would deflect them and prove his true divine spirit and there would be a huge feast and the harvest would be good.

    On this occasion, the chief paddled out to sea and saw Cooks ship coming from a distance and he hurried back to tell the people that the real God known as Lono was returning as foretold in the legends. Cook emerged from his cabin pale and weak. The natives literally swarmed the ship as they had never seen such a vessel before, all the more evidence of Cook’s virtue. Cook was overwhelmed and released his men to shore as he was reluctant to make a move. He felt damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.

    A couple of days later the chief Parea invited Cook to come ashore so he could be part of a ceremony. He was told it was a cleansing ceremony. Koa’a took him and sat Cook by the fire. He slaughtered a pig and captured the blood from its neck into a coconut bowl and then dabbed it on Cook’s wrists and forehead and cheeks. Cook was effectively a zombie. If not before then he was now. He was a slave to his fate and the ideas of others as he made his way to and from the ship over the course of the days. He was not completely released of his Fear as he was apathetic to its results, yet still shy of being confident. If he had a desire it was to hide in his cabin which he did find time to do. He would sit with Stavka and he would watch as the cat grew in size and shrink again with the tides they were anchored in. It would sit on his lap and hold him in a trance, thinking for him.

    A week after landing the chiefs came to Cook again and insisted that he take part in another ceremony. He was reluctant despite not knowing that this was a probative test by the chiefs, a formality to confirm the results of the first ceremony. Stavka shot him a look and said, “Go with them or I will kill you.” Cook appeared happy to oblige.

    At the second ceremony Koa’a took Cook to a different holy site in the village. There was a stack of human skulls in the corner and an assortment of dried leaves and feathers and husks of long dead large spiders. Koa’s sat Cook down and started mumbling into a trance. For almost half an hour Koa’a kept humming and rocking and Cook was too afraid of the repercussions to get up and leave. “This is ridiculous,” he thought and at that second Koa’a snapped out of his trance and thudded Cook on the forehead with the palm of his hand. Cook fell backward and laid there stunned for a moment. He paused and watched the incense smoke wafting through the canopy of palm leaves and the white puffy clouds up in the sky that seemed so close at hand. “Heaven and Hell are adjacent and identical.”

    Oh how Cook simply wanted to come to the islands and relax and let the men relax and prepare for the next leg of this, his 3rd round the world voyage. In all of his travels he had never encountered anything so strange… But in the end he did survive, he did escape the evil vortex that was all around him…

    The moment the 1st cannon fired he knew he would not survive. The beast was back on the boat. It was the same moment Tamas had thrown the box back into his cabin.

    “I should not have gone to the second ceremony.” He ripped out the page and ate it.

    For two days after they left Hawaii Cook spent most of his time anxious and periodically looking up at the crow’s nest. His last ditch effort at maintain his free will was when he threw Stavka out the window. The creature had assured Cook that he could not get rid of him. It. Cook flew into a rage and threw the cat out the window into the sea. He remembered the native had saved the cat but the weight was gone. The box was gone and the beast had gone to shore but on the shot of the cannon the box was back and so was the beast.

    Cook was slowly putting it together as if he was buried in the sand and the waves periodically rolled back and he could see and breathe. He could see the beast sitting up in the nest growing larger and larger until he was convince the mast could not hold. Sure enough, half way through the second day at sea the mast snapped completely sending two crew men to their early death at sea and sending the ship back to Kealekekua Bay for repairs and sending Cook back to face his destiny.

  7. #57
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    Chapter 22) Tamas; Hawaii, 1779

    Tamas climbed about one third of the way up the mountain behind the village. He sat down to wait. He could see Cook’s ship pulling out into the main channel as it started tacking against the wind, heading north. It briefly intrigued Tamas, the concept that there are far off lands that these Haoles come from. But he quickly squashed the notion with thoughts of blood and revenge.

    He stared until his eyes hurt and Cook’s ship was a speck on the horizon. It became dark and he fell into fitful sleep. He dreamed that he rose on his already sore feet and started walking. He walked knowing that he had to get to Pu'uhonua O Honaunau, the The Place of Refuge. He knew that if he could get to the sacred grounds that he would be relieved of his sins against the community and he would be safe.

    He thought that he knew where he was going. He soon lost his way through the rough terrain and vegetation. His feet clicked up to a run and they led him into a hardened lava field. The sharp rock formed in grotesque and sharp clumps that quickly began to destroy his calloused soles. He could not stop. His feet were gushing blood and beginning to shred chunks of skin. Soon he was walking on the actual bones of his heels and toes and they began to chip and crumble and splinter under the abuse. Bones broke and ankles popped and snapped. His right foot fell off and hung by a tether made of tendon as his legs kept churning forward. The foot fell free and then his left foot broke and twisted off. He felt balanced now and changed direction towards the ocean. He stumbled and fell in fits and purges to the writhing sea and through the sharp rocks just under the surface. He got to deep water and tried to start swimming. He was sinking. He looked back up towards the surface and could see hands reaching down trying to save him but he was already too deep.

    He looked under the water and could see the blood flowing out into the shape of a dolphin’s tail around where his feet should be. He could see material precipitating out of the water and he grew a tail before his eyes. He gave one solid kick and glided into the blue.

    When he awoke he saw Cook’s ship returning back from beyond the horizon. He was prepared. “Kill him when he returns.”

    The ship pulled into the familiar anchor spot and the natives, for the most part, were overjoyed. Tamas had hurried down to the beach and launched in a canoe to go greet the ship with at least one thousand other people. No one took notice of him as he slid in under the stern and climbed up on to the huge rudder as he kicked his canoe away. He waited and it became dark. In the pitch black of the new moon it was easy to swim undetected along the hull of the ship to and climb into the twenty man rowboat that was tied off to a line. He cut the line and laid down and let the light breeze carry him down wind some way before he started rowing.

    He put the boat in to the beach at the south end of the bay, off the starboard stern of the ship. From shore Tamas could look to the ship and see the window in which he had seen the cat fly out and where he had thrown the cursed box into. He kept focusing in on the window and he felt like he could move into the room and look around. Cook, with the lights off, sat and looked out the window in Tamas’ direction.

    “Like a spectre haunted by himself,” Koa’a’s voice spoke from the box which was sitting on the table behind Cook. The Nightwalker was up in the crow’s nest watching. Tamas went unmolested and began to noisily break apart the twenty man boat. The light of dawn was still two hours away but some of the villagers who had heard the commotion came out to see what was going on.

    At first they were afraid of Tamas because he had been acting crazy for many days now but then they were overjoyed and started cheering at Tamas’ apparent political move of destroying Cooks boat. Some of people tried to protest the not so subtle act of rebellion but they soon got in on it as people started to hand out shiny metal hardware from the boat as it was smashed in the sand. They lit the wooden slabs on fire right as the sun was coming up. Cook’s men lined the railing as they came to understand what had happened.

    Cook had to issue an order though he sensed the events he was about to trigger.

    “Ledyard! Take ten men and go to shore. I shall come with you. Twelve strong and be at arms!” They readied one of the remaining boats and made for shore within earshot of the wild jeering and hoots and hollers coming from the beach. As the boat touched on the sand the people swarmed around and the men had to threaten the natives back with the butts of their muskets just as the Chief Parea came to the beach and called for silence. Cook spent some time trying to get the Chief to come on the boat with him so that they could discuss the matter on the ship. But the chief sensed the truth of Cooks motive to hold him ransom and objected.

    People pushed and jostled around and just as it looked like things were going to get physical, Tamas stepped into the clearing and confessed. He simply said “Boat!” and slammed his fist on his chest and took two steps forward in confirmation.

    Then he turned his back to Cook as if to walk away as Cook turned his head and yelled to Ledyard, “Arrest that man!” At that Tamas spun around and dipped his right shoulder back towards Cook and then whipped his left arm up from behind and hurled a fist sized chunk of lava rock perfectly into Cook’s face just as he turned his head back from Ledyard.

    Cook went down like a sack of potatoes with his face crushed in. He died almost instantly as all of the people launched into a frenzy and ended up killing six of the twelve men, including Ledyard. The remaining six barely managed to get in the their boat and escape as they looked back to the beach and watched as their fellow crew men’s bodies were torn apart and mutilated and burned on the fire. From the ship the crew watched in horror as the village erupted into violence as the people took to killing and maiming and raping each other. “Bloody savages,” someone muttered. In the chaos Tamas managed to kill Parea and declare himself Chief for life.

    (End of Part 1... whew, shit is getting heavy)

    Any questions, comments or concerns?

  8. #58
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    Late onset artist?

    so was George W Bush:

    Click image for larger version. 

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  9. #59
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    lol awesome, fits the Russian theme Thanks

  10. #60
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    PART 2

    Chapter 23) David; Alaska, 2030

    The three figures moved steadily along the edge of the frozen Raven Lake. They had retraced their route back up the valley, past the dam, crossed the road and back up along the lake shore to where the Raven River flows into the lake. At this point they took the risk of diverting out on to the lake because it was a faster route and the moon was obscured by heavily falling snow. The wind whipped up drifts and the figures would completely disappear with each gust.

    They knew that they had 2-3 hours before the 105’s started blasting. They had left Avery’s house at 10pm, about three hours prior. They had just reached the far northeast corner of the lake directly below Northstar Peak. They had hatched a plan and just completed step one: cross the lake.

    They peeled off a layer and started gaining vertical feet now as they broke through the dense forest and climbed up into widely spaced clumps of low lying hemlocks. After an hour they started pulling right, in a southward direction and then traversed almost level across the slope to gain the broad ridge line. They could see the light of the mine on the next mountain over. David knew the area well and they ended up finding a nice spot to camp for the night. It was now 2:30 in the morning as the crawled into their respective bivy sacks.

    A bivy is basically a sleeping bag-sized tent. It is small and light weight and can protect a person from the elements. They simply dug a hole and made individual cubbies for their feet and bodies while they kept their heads in the center.

    They slept until almost 9am and awoke groggy, everything was muted by a thick pea soup fog. They were about 1000ft above the surface of the lake created by the Winner Creek dam. This is the first dam that was built by the Girdwood Mining Company and it was used to power daily operations at the mine. It stood 500 feet tall and spanned almost 1000 feet. The base of the dam was level with the surface of the much larger Raven Lake, as it was created by the Raven River dam. This dam stood at only 150 feet but it completely spanned the mile wide Girdwood Valley.

    Their objective was to destroy the Winner Creek dam. The night after they had returned from Bird Point, they stayed up late at Avery’s and got drunker and louder and more audacious in their plans to make mischief. It started when Avery suggested “We can put sugar in every mine vehicle they see! We could sneak up the road at night and even get some of those big dump trucks! What you think they’d take, a whole bag of sugar?!” Avery was getting excited but David knew that he was also serious. Drey just seemed along for the ride.

    “Where did he come from again? Why does he care what we do? Doesn’t he have a job or something? When am I going to get a job instead of hanging around these crazy people?” David posed idle questions in his head as he a saw a plan begin to formulate. A plot of revenge and destruction and he could not help but be excited about the adventure if anything.

    “Drey what did you say you were studying again? Linguistic something or other?” David asked. Drey let his history roll off of his tongue, well lubricated with vodka. They had been drinking vodka the last few days in honor of the Russian spirit perhaps, but David was getting a canker sore in his cheek from so much orange juice mixed with the screwdrivers. Drey kept saying, “In Russia we drink straight from the bottle, or sometimes the bottle drinks you!” They would all howl with laughter at the perfectly rolled R’s and cliché Russian mannerisms.

    “I was born and raised in Magedon, Kamchatka which is the sister city of Anchorage, as they both are on the same latitude at 69 degree North.”

    “69?! Heh I’ll drink to that!” Avery interjected.

    “My father was butcher and my mother kept food on the table. We would fish all summer and in the winter the whole town basically hibernates. Skiing is not so much recreational as functional over there. But that is where I learned to do it. I once dreamed about getting into the highest level mountaineer program in the U.S.S.R. but that all fell apart. I ended up getting accepted in the exchange program at the University of Alaska and got a degree in English but part of my Masters is to spend time with some of the ‘old believers’ who live in the villages outside of Homer. I have been going out there on most of my weekends to try and ‘get in with them’ as you would say. I am studying how they manage to hang on to old traditions but maintain life in present day Ameri---“

    David interrupted with an edge in his voice, “But why are you here with us right now? Why do you care so much about this stupid mine. Why risk getting thrown in jail for something so stupid?”

    Drey was quick, “Because I grew up in Russia. We were told stories about American history. We heard how you threw off the old ways and created a new future on your new land. Look what Russia has, a vast cold wasteland with hostile neighbors and a 5000 year history! America is 300 years old! A baby! I feel the spirit of revolution when I am here, even though I have been hanging out with those stuffy ‘old worlders’. He paused and took another shot.

    Avery chipped in, “I used to be on ski patrol.” He said it as if he was already terrified of the implications. “I used to be on patrol, at the ski hill, like 12 years ago.”

    “Yeah so?” Drey asked. Avery answered, “Well, those 105s you hear blasting all day? There are only three of them, they are the originals. Now there are like 15 or 20 Avalaunchers and they work on compressed air. But the howitzers are old school. There are a limited number of shells left to use, Army issue.”

    “What is you point?” David asked.

    “My point is that I still know how to operate the three guns. I know where the ammo caches are and I think I can get a key. The ammo caches were touchy subjects. The Army only let the ski resort purchase and use the munitions under strict guidelines. The caches were established a long time ago and were not likely to have been moved due to the paper work involved,” Avery explained. “If we can get a key, we can get a shell or two or three and we can blow out the mother fucking Winner Creek dam!” Avery laid it on the line.

    Drey, “It’s brilliant! No one gets hurt and you can fuck over the company! It’s a win/win.”

    “Brilliant?! It is fucking insane!” David interjected, “We can’t go around shooting shit up because we are pissed!"

    “Sure we can!” Avery sounded chipper. “They blast all the fucking time. We just need to get up there and shoot the shit out of the thing and get out.”

    “What about the lower lake? Will it make a tsunami or something?” Drey asked.

    “I dunno,” Avery was honest, “I mean, the lower lake is like 100 times bigger, it couldn’t be that bad.” He thought of the ramifications of the lower lake flooding the whole town out to sea.

    “It is way bigger but it is shaped like a big star where the upper lake is a long L-shape as it turns to the north.” David thought out loud, “We should do some volume calculations.”

    “We are not here to do math, David” Avery scolded him, “We are here to fuck shit up, then ski a rad line and get away and we will be heroes! Secret heroes! We can’t tell anyone it was us,” he got all conspiracy like.

    “We need to get a key…” Drey thought aloud.

    “Don’t worry, I know what to do,” Avery said.

    David was worried. “Hey there is a caribou!” echoed in his head.

  11. #61
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    Chapter 24) Captain Cook, Hawaii, 1779

    The natives took the body of Cook and it was the final piece of evidence to show that Cook was in fact not the God known as Lono. The people were mad at themselves for believing such foolishness and they took it out on the body of Cook and his men. They drug the bodies to the center of the village and pummeled them with rocks for a while. Then the more industrious, Tamas included, began to dismember and disembowel the corpses. They threw all of the body parts into a roaring bonfire and purposely mixed them all together.

    The Nightwalker watched from the crow’s nest and approved. Six days later, after much consternation, the newly appointed Captain Clerke managed to negotiate for the remains of Cook and his men. All they returned was a partial skull and one hand and one foot, without positive identification either way.

    Clerke did not fall into his leadership role well. He witnessed Cook’s descent into madness with all of the talk about ‘beast creatures’ and his goddamned talking cat! Cook had always preferred to work directly with Ledyard as he was more of the ‘man’s man’ while Clerke was more of the officer and the gentleman, preferring to not get his hands dirty.

    It was a nightmare enough trying to get to shore to find proper timber for their broken mast. The boat that the natives destroyed was the largest of their small boats and it served well in transporting large pieces of wood from shore. And now with Cook’s death along with the five other men… Clerke was nervous.

    Two days later the repairs were complete. They sailed a day’s distance and buried Captain James Cook at sea with full honors. The ship sailed on. Clerke ended up moving into Cook’s cabin and office space as it was easily three times larger than his own. He sat down in the same large chair that Cook had occupied in his despair. “What did he see? What did he think? Why wouldn’t he let us land on Maui a month earlier and what was with all of the rum? These are questions that he might have asked Ledyard, but he is dead.” Clerke thought and felt more disconnected then before.

    He noticed the box sitting on the shelf. He went to it and opened it up and inside was a small folded piece of paper. He paused and instinctually held his breath a moment. He unfolded the page and it looked to have been crudely torn out of Cook’s journal. He thought of the journal he had found while he was going through Cook’s belonging’s and the last legible entry was dated from way back to when they had to return to Alaska to repair the mast some three months earlier, “Heavy clouds. Back tracking to make repairs.”

    The words on the torn piece of paper said, “By your fears you will be found.”

    His eye caught a movement. A small red colored ant was walking along the perimeter edge of the desk. He leaned over and flicked it off with his finger. He turned his attention to the intricate carvings on the box and was curious about the odd miniature murals. He really started to concentrate on the image of the ship as it appeared to be tossed in heavy seas. He looked at the crow’s nest in the image. It was there but not there. A dark spot. A lack of light. His ideas filled the void. He saw another ant walking in the exact same spot as the first. He watched as it turned and walked directly towards him across the desk.

    He flicked it off. “God damn natives!” He muttered, “Bringing their pests on to our ship. My blasted ship.” He looked again to the ship on the box. The black void looked bigger. Like it was taking up more space in his mind. It looked like the void was pulsing with a heartbeat and in the image he could see a small window and in the window he could see himself sitting at the desk and on the desk was an ant. The man flicked the ant with his finger and it went flying to the floor. The ant instantly turned and went straight to the man’s foot and climbed his leg and then--- Clerke felt a bite on his calf. He jumped to his feet but tripped now as his feet were now ankle deep in a writhing carpet of ants. He fell to his knees and the ants swarmed up his arms and up his neck and Clerke opened up his mouth to scream and the ants swarmed in and he coughed and the ants pressed into his lungs and his lungs burned… and they burned… and they burned…

    He awoke in a start and saw that he had knocked over his oil lamp and the edge of the carpet was on fire. It was a small fire but the room had filled with smoke quickly. He stomped the fire out and went to open the window to let smoke out fresh air in. The man hung his head out the window and Clerke stared at the image on the box.

    They sailed northwest for three weeks in fair conditions. The ship arrived on the Kamchatcha Peninsula and the crew was still mourning the death of Captain Cook. The crew was rattled not only by the loss of Cook but also by the apparent insanity of the replacement Captain Clerke. Over the three week voyage Clerke never even tried to open the box. He would just sit there and navigate through the world through the mosaic he was observing on the side of the 3 x 5 inch cube. He would watch as the ship moved in his hands then he would emerge from his cabin briefly and give written orders to his 1st mate. The Mate would then go and holler the orders to the crew.

    He stopped eating almost all food. He constantly was seeing ants; on the window seal; on the compass; on his spoon the second before he takes a bite of oatmeal. That is all he eats, oatmeal. He is concerned as he has noticed that the void in the crow’s nest on the side of the cube is still there and it does seem to be growing, he thinks. He thought of the giants he had seen in South America fifteen years earlier.

    In the early morning light they swing into a bay and anchor near the town of Petropavlovsk. It is a grimy and grey outpost town on the eastern frontier of Russia. It had been founded by Captain Bering on his expedition eastward 40 years earlier. It is early October and a sideways rain that verged on sleet is slashing through the harbor. The low lying, grass covered hills are obscured by a low grey ceiling of scuzzy clouds.

    Clerke sat in his office and watched the box intently. He had a spontaneous vision of molecular and viral biology flash before his eyes. He saw the pattern, without knowing the words. He understood things that would not be scientifically known until the early 21st century. He saw a vision of London from space and the street pattern and the lights and then he saw a host and a cancerous cell attached to his RNA. A sea-born pathogen. A hitch hiker. The Blackness throbbed. It is multiplying. It has already multiplied. It is I, It is Everyone.

    He became panicked as he saw the blackness begin to descend the mast. It grew and he began to sweat. He launched to the door his cabin door and looked up and could see the looming shadow growing and descending. His legs began to run. He ran back into his cabin and grabbed the box and ran out on to the deck. Many of the crew had not even seen the captain in the last two weeks. Most were shocked and amused as the captain came bursting on the deck stark raving naked and carrying some little box. He mumbled something about “I am the Host” as he turned and dived headfirst into the chilly water. He held the box out with both hands to break the surface of the water cleanly then he arced a perfect half circle under the water and popped up 10 yards out already. He swam like a man possessed by a fear of the devil. 100 yards later he launched up on to the pebbly gravel beach and disappeared into the dense alders. The crew fell to silence from hoots and catcalls to reality.

  12. #62
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    Chapter 25) David; Alaska, 2030

    They descended from the glades and hemlock clustered ridge towards the frozen upper lake. The sky was of pea-soup consistency and the skiers were glad for it. There was a built-up operations platform at the top of the dam and the skiers would have been in plain view, if not for the thick fog. David had preferred to have pushed more east ward, along the length of the lake just for that reason, but luck seemed to be on their side.

    The next leg in their approach to the mine was to turn and ascend straight up the north face of Alyeska Mountain. It had been easier to procure a key to the Howitzer than expected. Avery told of the key a couple of nights earlier in one of their drinking binges.

    He explained, “Back 12 years ago when I was the rookie on the ski patrol, I on occasion would be assigned to work with one of the old timers, the guy went by the name Haggy. He was the crustiest of the crusty. He always wore a pair of yellow safety glasses and a funny little cap with flip-up earflaps and a little brim. And he always, always had a stubby little cigar hanging out of his mouth. It would be pissing down rain and Haggy would have this soggy old thing all falling apart in his mouth. I thought it was disgusting but compared to the tobacco spit stains in the beards of all the other patrollers, maybe it was endearing…” Avery was sounding eloquent.

    “Anyway,” he continued, “Haggy was awesome and he knew everything about everything that ever happened on the mountain or in Girdwood or in Alaska for that matter. All of his stories usually ended with a quick calibration ‘Ah yeah, that was about 1974 or 6’ .”

    “What about the key?” David asked.

    “I am getting there, Fuck face!” Avery retorted somewhat taken aback by his own reverie for the old man. He continued, “So one day I’m working down in the bomb room with Haggy. I am rebuilding old OPEN/CLOSED signs and he is fiddling with some spools of rope. He had been on patrol for thirty years and had taken his job efficiency to higher levels.” Avery explained sarcastically. “He would sit down there and take three hours to roll up the goddamned spool. He was tenured, he was an elder. He could do whatever he wanted. So anyway, we were down in there a couple of hours and he is telling me this story and that story and then he got kind of quiet for a while.

    I kept doing what I was doing, kind of humming to myself when Haggy pipes up with ‘You know if the Russians bombed America, we’d be the first to go?’ I was like ‘Oh yeah?’ trying to not sound too curious thinking he would go back to some crazy party story from the ‘70’s but he continued. ‘Just look on the map! Why do you think the U.S. bought this place up when they could? The Russians were stupid to sell it. For two cents an acre! Hell I’d a bought it!’ He was rambling. ‘So you know they’ll bomb us. Sure as shit. They will take us out and those fucking Canadians will have to pull their dicks outta the oven and come to the rescue and fuck those guys!’” Avery laughed at the memory, “That guy was funny because he would be ranting all serious and you could not help but laugh.”

    “The key!?” both Drey and David asked together.

    “Fuck the both of you two retards! I am getting to it!” Avery yelled and then grabbed a beer and motioned to the others to do the same and they all proceeded to shotgun a Pabst Blue Ribbon.

    “The Russians. The Key. Fuck the Russians. No offense Drey. That is what he said and the Canadians. But the key. So get this, Old Haggy tells me how he made copies of the keys to access the ammo cache and a key that unlocks the trigger mechanism on guns 1,2 and 3. He told me so we can go up there and blast the Russian when they roll up the valley after blowing up Anchorage.

    “All the time I just kind of took it as another wacky story from a crazy old timer. He tells me the keys are in a coffee can buried under the little cement slab outside the door to the Ski Race Training center. So for years I would walk by the 4’ x 4’ x 4” slab and wonder. I ended up quitting patrol and then Haggy died a couple of years later and I hadn’t really thought of it until now.” Avery concluded.

    The next thing they know they are piled into David’s old truck and racing up valley to the door of the Race Training Center. They brought a 4’ chunk of pipe and a shovel and a propane fueled mini flame thrower that many Alaskans keep around in the event of needing to thaw out frozen house pipes or a dead and frozen car battery at -20F.

    They started operating despite the 10 plus drinks they had each consumed. It only took a half an hour of heating and chopping and prying before they were able to get a bite under the edge and wedge the slab up into the air. There in the dirt was the round top of a small coffee can. Avery bent down and easily popped the top right off and found four keys marked “1,2,3 and AMMO”. They tipped the slab back down and went home to pass out.

    Here they were 48 hours later, boot packing in the deep shade of the lower North Face of Mt. Alyeska. This part of the mountain never sees direct sunlight for about eight months out of the year. Vegetation is sparse under the thick canopy of tall ever greens. For the same reason, the snow coverage is thin. It was easy going, relatively speaking, but steep which means quick elevation gain. They would have to time each section perfectly. After one and a half hours they gained the tree line on the ridge that leads up to the main summit ridge. They sat directly across the upper lake from where they had camped the night before.

    As they broke through the tree line they also got up above the fog layer revealing the endless alpine expanse stretching to the horizon. To the south the Kenai Mountains lead to the rest of the Kenai Peninsula. Westward, towards Anchorage, the mountains become rockier with less snow. To the east the successive rows of jagged and blocky peaks lead to another higher ridge and higher all the way to the 13,000ft Mt. Marcus Baker, sitting in the true heart of the mighty Chugach Range.

    The skiers sat at about 1,200 feet and decided to sit and watch the show. Sure enough at 1pm on the dot, they could hear the whoomp! of the Ava-launchers down in the fog as they lobbed a 2lb charge up to the high slopes. BOOM! No snow slide. The next, BOOM! No results. BOOM! No results. The explosives echoed across the valleys and the lakes. “Of course it didn’t slide, they shoot the shit out of those slopes,” David thought out loud, “Every day like clockwork and then more if it actually snows. They could hear the explosives blowing up on the slopes back across the lower lake now. “We should be good for now. We have about three hours to gain that ridge,” he said while pointing up the mountain.

    From where they were the terrain steepened again but this time there was no trees for cover. David could not believe their luck in having the fog sitting down in the valley. They just had to keep an eye out for the helicopter patrol. For that, they each put on a set of authentic Army issued white camo suits they had bought from the Army Surplus store in Anchorage. They went one at a time, aiming for the little clusters of weather beaten hemlocks to wait for the next guy. They went like this for an hour and got through the middle third of the 3000ft slope.

    Avery was strong from years of experience even though he might not have been climbing much in the last few years. Drey was making it but he was beginning to struggle. He was sweating profusely and slipping in the skin track. Then David heard it, the steady whoomp, whoomp, whoomp of the helicopter climbing up out of the valley. They were probably going to check the results of their blasting because they could not see through the fog.

    “Damn it!” David was mad because he had not thought of that and now they were like sitting ducks on the slope. Well, he and Avery were in a good spot but Drey was out in the middle of the snow. “Hurry up!” both David and Avery yelled. Drey looked panicked and attempted to go faster but as he did he somehow managed to trip himself up as he did a slow awkward fall to his downhill side. He toppled and slid 100ft or so head first right into a cluster of trees. It had all happened so quickly. David gave one last “Don’t move!” and then hunkered down as the chopper approached.

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    Chapter 26) Ivan; Kamchatka 1779

    The Nightwalker was pleased as he had been sent to create chaos and death. In his wake floated dead fish on an oily sea. The purple sun sat on the cold tree tops to the west and the Box, his home and catalyst of doom was on fresh ground. The Nightwalker was cast by whichever heart it was observed and by being possessed of evil, it let evil transpire. It was easiest to let the humans eradicate themselves.

    Ivan was sitting on his favorite rock along the beach. He tried to spend time sitting on the rock at least once a day for almost 40 years, ever since Captain Chirikov brought the ship to anchor in the small harbor and granted all of the crew men freedom. At 26, Ivan felt like an old man and did not have the energy to trek back west across the continent so he decided to stay in the very new outpost town of Petropavlovsk.

    The townsite had been selected by Captain Bering as he and Chirikov made final plans for the ill-fated venture eastward two years earlier. Ivan would sit on the rock and sometimes stare for hours out to the vast grey sea. Sometimes he would try to think and sometimes he would try to forget.

    He had become proficient at hunting and trapping as he ended up providing furs for one of the very first general stores in all of the Kamchatka Peninsula. It was evening and he was sitting on his favorite rock when he saw the ship pull in over the horizon from the south east. He noted to himself that it had to be remarkably clear skies to be able to see a ship so far off from his position on the shore. It turned dark and he went home to his tiny shack at the edge of town to find sleep.

    For the first time in years he had the dream again, the one where he was chained in the dark bilge as he could hear his friends being devoured in the darkness. He sprang awake from his sleep and instinctually reached for his wrists. The scars had long faded into tight white rings and he habitually stroked the wounds first with one hand then the other.

    When he was released from service to the ship he was explicitly instructed by Chirikov to never speak of what happened to his son, or anything that happened on the expedition for that matter. Many sailors decided to also stay in Petropavlovsk and many men talked about what happened, but Ivan never did. He never told anyone what he saw.

    He rose from bed and walked back down to the grey beach to find his rock. He felt a queer rise in his gut as the ship from last night was just dropping anchor in the still water. It was very early and the sky was now back to its familiar grey and sleet was pouring sideways. Before Ivan even had a chance to sit on his rock he heard a ruckus from the ship and he could see a man running along the railing naked. The crew men were making funny calls and gestures as the man turned and dove headfirst into the freezing cold water. He could see that the man was struggling to swim as he had something in his hand, a small cube shaped object.

    The thoughts in Ivan's head raced and wandered and then pinpointed to a hazy speck on the horizon of his mind-scape. It reminded him of the way on the rarest of occasions that when the sun was setting over the ocean at the last second there would be a sudden burst of green. He cajoled his mind to work and then when it did, he felt the Fear. The Fear that he had so deeply buried from that day on shore on the little gravel spit with the little tree at the end of it.

    Ivan watched as the man swam quickly enough and soon was clawing up on to the beach about 100 paces down from where he sat. The other men on the ship were thrown into action as they readied a small landing craft and gave chase after the naked man.

    Clerke ran into the forest and he did not stop for nearly 12 hours. He was battered by the scraggly black spruce and his feet and flesh were torn by whatever lay under his feet. Toes broken, lungs bursting. Running west into the endless, endless forest. His men back on the ship were at first stunned by the sudden outburst by the previously recalcitrant captain, but a few hearty seamen decided to give chase with honest intentions. Clerke was moving fast. Too fast to be seen but not too fast to be heard, howling and screeching at his unseen tormentors. The fox, mad with fear as the hounds bayed at every broken branch, every splotch of blood. He left a path through the forest as if driving a bulldozer. Heavy machinery born on the wind and fueled by the dwindling light.

    It was truly a valiant effort on the part of the crew for having maintained motion after Clerke for so long. They started as five then fell to four and then three after 6 hours. After eight hours, two remained and they were haggard. They were driven at first by loyalty to the Crown but that changed and they now moved more so by curiosity. What possessed Clerke to run? Where was he running to? Or more importantly, what was he running from?

    The light was fading as the crew came into a small draw and saw Clerke standing there naked and bleeding. He looked beaten, broken by an over-zealous jockey. The two men were apprehensive now. The thrill of the chase. The fear of discovery.

    They paused, “Sir? Are you alright?” One of them ventured. To their surprise he turned quickly and said, “It stopped following us many hours ago. But I kept running…” he trailed off. “I had to get, to get off of the ship.”

    “Sir, what was following us?” the other asked.

    “I believe it was the Devil himself.” Clerke was somewhat clear eyed and composed considering the circumstance. “I had to do it. I was the carrier. I dropped the box back by the river before turning up into these highlands. I should have left it on the ship! I should have thrown it overboard... It is a vortex that He needs to control, the box is. The beast is there guarding, waiting. He cannot hold in our world for long. He needs us to build power to take back the control of his ship, the box, the vortex...” He trailed off and then regained his next thought, “It is his ship and we need to get back to our ship.”

    “Aye Sir!” The two men responded and appeared pleased that their captain seemed to be somewhat cognizant, despite all of this talk of the Devil.

    One of the crew turned to the other and with a chortle said, “Devil indeed!” As he said that his eyes shifted to red and his pupils shrank to vertical slits, for just a second. The other man yelped in alarm and jumped back as Clerke instantly understood that the beast was now standing before him. With not a second to waste Clerke took off running again. They would have to get back to the ship now deep into the dark starved of food and options as Clerke was still naked and his stamina was worn thin in the damp cool air.

    The possessed crewman just stood there and then started laughing. As he laughed the Nightwalker grew and surged and the crew man’s chest split open and the creature burst forth in the form of 1000 black crows that launched into the grey sky.

    It was late the next day when Clerke managed to make his way back to the ship. Two days of constant running with no food took its toll. He didn’t remember becoming separated from the last crew man. Clerke looked like the walking dead as he emerged onto the beach. He was seen by a spotter from the ship and a boat was sent to pick them up. His skin was grey and eyes wide and shrunken into his skull. Clerke died a week later officially of tuberculosis. He did not utter a word of what he saw or understood.

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    The crows waited in the trees. They waited in the cliffs. They waited on the ship and on the beach. The ship was in the small harbor of Petropavlovsk. There were about 100 people who lived there, mostly Russian indigenous. The Box lay half buried in the mud along the river. Clerke in his haste had turned to throw it in the river but it slipped from his fingers bounced off of a tree and landed in the mud along the bottom of a ten foot embankment. Clerke turned and kept running. Days later the crows all came to congregate in the trees along the river. After Clerke died, the ship and its bewildered crew made its way back to Britain to a somber reception while the Box remained in Asia.

    Ivan had not felt well in the last few days. He watched as the naked man when he ran into the woods and he also saw him when he returned to the shore a couple of days later because Ivan had not left his sitting rock in that time and he felt like the naked mad man looked; grey and ashen and cold.

    In the early morning light of third day of sitting at the beach a white bird came and landed in a low hanging branch along the edge of the cobbles and sand. Ivan looked at it and realized that it looked just like the other crows but it was pure white with pink eyes. Ivan stood and started walking. The white crow took flight and Ivan followed it out of town and into the woods. He was eventually led to the little box which was half covered in mud by the river.
    He already knew where it was. He always did since that strange day in the faraway land with Chirikov's son. The box was like a beacon he could see far over the horizon as he sat on the beach every day.

    And then it came to him. It was meant to be, he thought as he squatted in the mud near the river water. He felt better once he started walking. He had been stagnant in that town for the last forty years. People thought he was crazy. But he knew the truth, now more than ever. He realized as he walked that he had been waiting expectantly the entire time. Or that is how it appeared in retrospect. Making connections out of chaos, as per human tendency.

    Ivan traveled light and fast for several weeks. After a week of aiming north from the southern tip of the Kamchatcha Peninsula he hit Asia Proper and turned west. At night he would take under a tree and gaze at the Box. He could see starlit skies and the barren tree tops silhouetted by the sliver of a moon. At the base of one of the trees he could see a man sleeping by the embers of a dying fire. As the fire smoldered, the forest blinked and surrounded and approached.

    He would wake with a start every morning by the urgent calling of a lone crow, usually seen sitting in a nearby tree. He was not sure if it was the same crow following him or one of the many he occasionally saw dancing in the trees to his left or right as he silently padded through the endless, endless forest.

    One day as the man walked west he noticed more and more crows following him. He had become used to the company of the three or four that he could really discern, but this was different. He walked and they cawed and started dive bombing his head and he fell into a panic and started running and the crows kept pace and intensified their assault and multiplying numbers. They did not actually inflict any pain but he was sure not going to let them.

    He found a rhythm of jogging as the crows seemed to appreciate the pace. He ran for a few moments like a horse whipped on by the coachman, but then suddenly turned in a fit of rage and was about to start throwing rocks and sticks at the incessant calling in his ears when he spun on his heel and looked and saw only silence in the forest. The silence appeared tangible in the endless forest.

    As the days passed he began to feel quicker and livelier. He would sit by the campfire light and look at his hands in wonder as they would appear younger and smoother under the fire light. He walked much faster now in the track that led across Asia. His clothing started to feel baggy. He was losing weight and becoming skinny and smooth. He would run and feel free and powerful.

    He could look back along the faint horse trail lead into the dismal, eastern distance. This would be a good spot to make camp. He got set up and pulled the box out of his bag. He watched the ever changing mural and saw horsemen approaching. They sauntered along all in black and he could see them approach a figure sitting alone under a tree. The figure looked small and weak, like a young boy.

    They stopped and dismounted some distance away and looked to be sneaking up on the figure on foot.
    Ivan watched as the figure on the box appeared to shrink and wither and he could feel his own power slipping away. He dropped the box as it fell to the ground near him. He was swimming in his clothes now and he looked at his hands and feet and they were tiny!

    He caught one more glance at the image on the side of the box and he saw a baby struggling on the ground. A sad emaciated baby rolling on the dirt and he could see the crows in the trees and he knew that he was that baby. It brought a sadness that he found to be vaguely familiar. A deep morose for something lost, something needed. He was hungry and he could feel the tightening in his throat that turned to a whimper and then a cry and then a wail.

    His sad tired infant voice carried out into the hollow grey trees and the crows heard the call and the amassed in the branches and on the ground.

    Ivan had never felt such loneliness and fear and as the emotions poured out he would choke on the salt tears and he knew his face was red and contorted. He kicked and could no longer roll over. The crows approached thoughtfully, thankfully. And then in a flash feathers the mass of birds attacked the baby, drowning the cries under beak and claw.

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    Chapter 27) David; Alaska, 2030

    Drey slid to a stop and did not move a muscle. He was stuck head first with his head down in a tree well and he was probably suffocating and to his credit he remained still. David and Avery were like statues with looks of horror on their faces as the A-Star helicopter spiraled up out of the fog and climbed up to the left of where the three were. It paused over the bomb hole left in the snow pack from that mornings blasting and then to their relief, it kept pulling left to the east and up into the upper Winner Creek drainage. The whoomp, whoomp of the rotor echoed and diminished up the valley into the sun light. The climbers were still in deep shade and that is probably the only thing that saved them, David thought.

    Drey floundered around and got himself untangled as David and Avery basically started running to get up into the rocks. They would be much better camouflaged once they got into the steep patchy snow interspersed with rocks and lichen.

    They got to the rocks and waited until Drey arrived all disheveled.

    “What the fuck are you doing?!” David growled as he hoisted his skis on his shoulder and started climbing straight up. Drey mumbled, “Sorry Uncle, it’ll never happen again.” After he took off his skis Drey started hiking and Avery followed saying, “Mush! Mush, little doggie!”

    Drey took a few steps and then stopped and took his pack off and started tearing through it. The slope was fairly steep, probably pushing 50 degrees. When you stand vertical and stick your arm out onto the slope, your hand reaches perfectly. Drey’s extra wind jacket went blowing off down and across the slope. His water bottle skittered and ricocheted over the steep roll and echoed in the gulley.

    David turned around and yelled, “What the fuck are you doing?!” Drey was cursing and mumbling under his breath as he apparently realized that whatever he was looking for had fallen out down in the tree well.

    “GOD DAMN IT!” Drey swore with a ferocity that gave David shivers and a memory he could not quite place. Drey started stomping down the steep bootpack towards Avery who yelled, “Jesus Chris, Dude. What the fuck?” Drey pushed past and got of the rocks and clicked his skis on. “What’d you lose your tampons?” Avery called as he kept hiking up to David 150 feet ahead. By the time he got there they could look down and see that Drey was digging in the tree well like a crazy person.

    Avery said, “What is he doing?”

    “I dunno, looking for something,” David thought out loud. “Whatever, we gotta get going. Fucking retard!” He cursed. They speed climbed for 15 minutes straight, gaining ground quickly. At some point they could hear Drey exclaim out in joy, suggesting that he had found his lost item. On the ridge top they were in the sun for the first time in three days. David had the feeling that he was a vampire. The Sun’s brilliant horizontal rays sliced through the blowing spindrift. Dancing rainbows reflected in the suspended ice crystals. The Sun seemed to emanate from a black void. It was like you could not see the Sun itself, just its beams. A black wall of clouds marched over the horizon.

    “That is odd,” David thought. “The weather did not call for any storm,” he said when Avery staggered the last few steps to the ridge top. They were exposed to the biting wind and did not want to linger. They turned to look where Drey was. He had made good speed and was less than 100 yards from the ridge top.

    “God damn it,” David cursed again getting even more pissed now that he had to wait. He hated waiting. Avery knew this and that is why he always at least made the appearance of forward progress. Whereas Drey pulled some bullshit manuever on the side of the mountain, David took that stuff seriously. If you act foolish in the mountains, you get yourself killed or get your partner killed.

    As they waited, they could hear the sound of the helicopter approaching as it returned back down the valley. The wind picked up a notch as they yelled at Drey to not move but their small voices were drowned out by the wind. They had climbed about 1500 feet higher since the helicopter’s last pass. Maybe it would pass beneath them now? The spindrift intensified and the visibility instantly fell flat. The sun was obliterated by the wall of black as the helicopter bee lined it out the valley, low and fast.

    “It looks like they were surprised by the weather too,” David said to Avery.

    “We gotta get to that ammo cache!” Avery had to yell over the loud flapping of their wind breakers. “Yeah, it just got all crazy!” David yelled back. They were now about 3000 feet above sea level and about 1000 feet above the old ammo cache which was situated down the ridge near Gun 3. Their plan was to get to the old cache, hope there was ammo still stored in it, hope the key they had worked and then get the shells 100 feet over to the gun platform. Then they would have to use a big crescent wrench to undo four big nuts under the pedestal mount and swing the whole unit around 180 degrees. Normally the gun is aimed in a southerly direction towards the upper head wall area but they would have to redirect and aim towards the north, towards the Winner Creek Dam. The guns are aimed by turning vertical and horizontal alignment bolts to predetermined coordinates. A3 for example would hit one spot while R13 would hit another, with a total scope of about 30 degrees. That is why they have to undo the nuts.

    David and Avery slowly descended the steep ridge. This is the only way to get to the upper mountain undetected, slip in through the back door while the lower access roads are heavily guarded.

    “What time is it?” David wondered as he checked his watch for the first time all day and then yelped, “What the fuck? Is it already 4:30pm?!” He shouted in alarm to Avery, “I thought it was just after noon. Holy shit, it is gonna be dark soon.” They descended to where they could put their skis on. David had a flash back.

    He said to Avery, “This is the spot to where the old Chair 6 used to unload skiers. I remember standing here when I was like 3 or 4 with my mom and dad and sister…” David trailed off.

    “Yeah, Me too, let’s go!” Avery called over his shoulder as he started skiing away. Might as well get some turns in!” David felt a smile leap to his face as he realized he was about to ski the biggest poach of all time. This face stands out and you can see it from town begging to be skied. Needing to be skied. But locked oh so tight under the watchful eye of Dad and his beloved Girdwood Mining Company. David’s thoughts raced.

    Avery led the way in the rapidly fading light as David followed and they made perfect counter turns to each other forming the ubiquitous ‘figure 8’ as the tracks left behind look like a double helix or a series of 8’s. Two balanced bodies of mass spirally around a point of gravity. Turn, turn, turn, weightless. Bottomless falling in perfect control through frozen earth bound clouds. “We are like angels,” David thought.

    A moment later David could hear an odd sound from behind. It sounded like a tarp strapped to the back of a pickup truck going 60 mph down the highway. He stole a glance over his shoulder and saw a black shape bearing down on him directly from behind. He flinched and caught a ski edge and pitched and tumbled over two or three times. He rolled to a stop. He had lost a ski and his hat in the deep snow. He looked up and could see that it was Drey dead straight lining the entire run. Where David and Avery had made 50 or 60 turns thus far, milking every ounce of pleasure out of the slope, Drey dismissed all of the hard work and blew it all in a quick thrill. He came rocketing by basically out of control, but still holding on.

    He passed David with a maniacal grin, his black windbreaker flapping insanely. “I thought he lost his wind breaker,” was David’s first thought as he ducked from the blast of snow off of Drey’s skis. He managed to find his lost ski pretty quickly but could not find his hat.

    He cursed, “Goddamn it! How do you lose your hat?” Drey had caught up to Avery and they now waited at the ammo cache as David came down, all pissed off. They huddled around the steel box as Avery fumbled with the key. First he dropped it and had to find it in the snow then he got it in the lock but the key would not turn because the locked was iced up. Someone procured a lighter and after a few minutes of heating the lock, the key could be turned and the door was opened and they went inside.

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    Chapter 28) Robispierre; France 1790

    Maximillian Robispierre was standing before a full length mirror admiring his outfit. He could look over his shoulder and see the odd little box sitting on the window sill. It had arrived as a gift with a signed note saying ‘Admirer.’ He took it and held it in his hands and it felt warm and smooth like it was many years old. He could see writing on the bottom edge that said, “Virtue without terror is destructive; terror without which virtue is impotent.’

    He pondered the words in his head as his assistant spritzed on the final dabs of perfume and declared him, “Magnificent!”

    “Thank you, you are dismissed,” he said as he turned to the window. He leaned over the sill and looked out over the city. It was a bright day in late July and the day was hot. He felt itchy in his many layers of clothes. He thought that the sun was too bright and could feel a migraine coming on. He rubbed his fingers into his temples. He picked up the box again and turned it over in his hands. He noticed another string of words that he had not seen before. The he noticed the other text was not there, it seemed to be replaced. His heart skipped a beat and then he read, “Speak until they are silent and then know me by lack of words.”

    “What on earth…?” Robispierre was just formulating the thought when his assistant came rushing back into the room, “Sir, I have some great news! Sir?”

    Robispierre was paused and ashen faced in his ashen makeup. “Yes M____, what is it?” he asked.

    “It seems that you have been voted into leading the, what does it say… ‘The Committee of Public Safety.’ I did not know you were even on the ballot?” The assistant was beaming, already imagining the luck of prestige that came with the position, for Robispierre and He alike. “It says here for you to come and give an inaugural speech next week.” Oh we have to get ready!” The assistant left the parchment on the desk and before Robispierre even had a chance to respond his assistant scampered away, giddy with excitement.

    Robispierre took the parchment and examined it closely. Then suddenly he ripped it up into small pieces, opened the box, put the pieces inside and then closed the box and put it on his desk. He then left the room and continued on with his day. In the late afternoon Robispierre returned to his room. He had returned early after canceling a dinner engagement at the Jacobin Club. He felt sweaty, ill. He went to the window and threw it open to let in a cool breeze. The air was dead still. It felt stifling to him. He looked down and saw the box sitting on the window sill. He recalled specifically placing it on his desk when he had left earlier. He was about to call out to his assistant to see who had been in his room when he noticed the inscription on the side. It had changed again.

    It read:
    “To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to forgive them is barbarity.”

    The words echoed in his head. He could feel his heart shrink in his chest and become hard, like it was beating inside a shell inside the shell of his body. He went back to the mirror and looked closely at his face. He examined his eyes and opened his mouth to look at the back of his throat. His pupils were large and it felt like he could reach out and touch the other person on the other side of the mirror.

    He remembered the scraps of paper he had placed in the box. He spun on his heel and went back to the window and opened the box. Inside was a perfectly rolled up miniature scroll tied with a black ribbon. His hands were shaking as he began to unroll the scroll. The words solidified his heart and clarified his future. He spent the rest of the week committing the words from the scroll to his memory. It was easy, as if the words had come from his mind in the first place.

    The night of the inauguration came with much fanfare at the Jacobin Club. Many toasts went up as the Revolutionaries could feel the tide of history turning in their direction. The current elite would be destroyed and the new power set would prosper. It became Robispierre’s turn to speak. He had always been a gifted orator and he had the room wrapped up in the sonorous pull of his voice. The words themselves summoned a gravity from somewhere beyond him. He made the words his own and the dye was set for the French Revolution to roll into bloody motion.

    He made easy strides into his grand finale with words directly from the scoll:
    “It is time that equality bore its scythe above all heads. It is time to horrify the conspirators!”

    He took a breath and looked deep into the audience. Shadows crept in the corners.
    “So legislators, place terror on the order of the day!”

    He could feel the shadow’s darkness begin to smother the audience. His breath tightened but the words fell out smoothly.

    “Let us be in revolution because everywhere counter-revolution is being woven by our enemies.”
    It was dark now, in his mind.

    “The Blade of the Law should hover over all of the guilty….”
    Robispierre awoke in his bed the next morning with all of the same clothes from the night before. He looked at his hands and then down towards his toes and then peered around the room. He did not feel hung over from too much wine. His gaze turned to his bed stand where the box sat, almost innocuous. His eyes fell to the text on the side that faced him, it said:
    “Uncertainty of punishment encourages the guilty.”

    Just then his assistant knocked lightly and came in the room smiling and carrying a breakfast tray. Robispierre sat up stone faced.

    “That was quite the show last night,” the assistant said as he put the tray down in front him. From nowhere, a voice arose in the mind of Robispierre and it said, “The tea is poisoned!”

    In that instant Robispierre lashed the breakfast tray away to the ground and lunged for the assistant and drew a butter knife to his throat while calling “Guards! Guards! Assassin!”

    He had the poor assistant put in prison and executed the very next day on suspicions of counter-revolutionary activity. At that, the bloodshed began did not let up for four years. Robispierre personally called for the execution of 20,000 people while the Committee for Public Safety, as a whole, called for the execution of over 200,000 people using the preferred tool, the guillotine. The streets ran red with the blood of counter-revolutionaries, intellectuals, merchants and children.

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    Robispierre loved to give speeches to whip the uneducated masses into a frenzy of anti-thought action. He had eyes and ears everywhere because he created those eyes and ears out of fear and repetition. But then he went too far. One day he picked up the box to look for a message as he had been all along. There was a message and it read, “You are God.”

    Robispierre was delighted with this info as it did seem as if he was all powerful with the surest command of life and death. Previously Robispierre was not known as an ‘Atheist’ nor was he a ‘Christian’. He preferred the label of a ‘Naturalist’ or ‘Deist’ and The Committee of Public Safety soon adopted this outlook and created a new theology called ‘The Cult of the Supreme Being’. They went so far as to create a new calendar and to celebrate this new vision for France and the World at large, Robispierre threw a lavish festival called “The Festival of the Supreme Being.” It was held under the pretense of an ambiguous supreme being but observers noticed that Robispierre seemed to be acting the roll a little too much. It was decided that he would have to be removed.

    Robispierre visited a known fortune teller to try and seek a new direction. Ever since he was proclaimed God by the mysterious Box, the Box itself, the messenger remained silent. He did not mention the Box to the teller, as he did not let anyone know of its existence. He did tell her that he was the “Herald of the Last Days and a Prophet of a new dawn.” The fortune teller, sensing a way to make quick money, went and repeated the story to the local newspaper, further making his peers uncomfortable.

    There soon after a young woman made an assassination attempt on Robispierre which spurred the parallel group known as the ‘Committee of Public Security’, which he was the leader of, to call for a doubling of the execution quota. The Nightwalker was pleased. The humans just need a little budge and they will do most of the work when it comes to harvesting souls.

    At this point Robispierre, sensing his political doom, decided to make a speech rallying against the excess of the revolutionaries. By now his peers were ready to pounce and they called for his arrest. Robispierre fell speechless. It was like a frog was literally lodged in his throat, preventing words from coming out.

    “Then know me by lack of words,” he thought that meant that if he could silence all the words of the oppressors, the counter-revolutionaries then he would know God. He would know himself. But know standing here before the people, his people, he felt afraid for the first time. The object in his throat throbbed and tickled and he let out a slight chortle and then bolted across the stage and out the side door amidst a rising ruckus. He jumped in his carriage and had himself taken home. He rushed to his room to where he stashed the Box in a vault behind a painting of himself hanging on the wall. Out of the vault he pulled a pistol.

    He went to his desk with suicide on his mind. He set the gun up and pulled the trigger. He somehow misjudged and basically blew his lower jaw off. His face gushed blood and passed out with his head on the desk. He awoke sometime later tied to a table in a jail cell. It was the same cell that held Marie Antoinette oh so long ago. The same cell in which she languished the accusations made by Robispierre and parroted by the masses. She was eventually executed and her dismembered body was thrown in the streets and paraded for all to see. “The masses,” The Nightwalker chuckled, “So easy to impress.”

    A doctor had tended to Robispierre’s jaw and he was able to mumble a weak “Merci.” He was then carted to the town square where so many people used to come to die before him. It was a lifting off place where souls were left deeply unsatisfied. Robispierre climbed the steps and came eye to eye with the executioner. The man struck an imposing figure at almost seven feet tall and his identity unknown to most everyone.

    Robispierre could smell death all around him and feel it permeating his movements. The executioner leaned in close and Robispierre could see two beady red eyes peering out through tiny slits in the black leather hood that he wore. As he prepared the guillotine the executioner asked, “What is the matter, cat got your tongue?” Robispierre was surprised as it was the custom for the executioner to not speak at all. At that he ripped the heavy bandage off of Robispierre’s jaw under the guise of preparing the execution. As he did Robispierre could hear him laugh as he realized that he had met his maker. He let out a blood curdling scream out of fear but more out of frustration for having been duped by the Devil himself. The blade hovered and then came down with a certainty of punishment.
    Last edited by carpathian; 12-25-2019 at 05:14 PM.

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    Chapter 29) David; Alaska, 2030

    Avery was convinced that this ammo cache was a secondary storage space used by the mine. He speculated that there should be a few boxes of ammo here, even though the main cache was located down on the lower mountain. They had figured that the mine would only offer heavy security on the lower mountain, seeing as that is how that is the way that most people would be thought to approach.

    They all stepped into the metal shipping container. It was 8 feet wide by 20 foot long by 8 feet tall. The main utility door was opened by lifting and turning two large metal handle bars simultaneously as the door length hinges turned and unlatched the thick metal hooks from their clasp in the upper and lower edge. There was a padlock on one of the handle bars. Avery was just muttering a “Damn,” when Drey called from the side of the container that he had found a regular man sized door and it was unlocked. The container was lit by a four foot long fluorescent light shop light that hung over a bench right towards the front, where the door was. Avery went in first and pulled the string to turn on the light as David pulled the door closed.

    David was all packed with snow and seemed generally disgruntled as he started to undo his coat and shake the snow out of his collar. Drey appeared happy with his speed run, oblivious to the fact that he kind of made David crash and also oblivious to the stunt that he had pulled earlier. Avery started digging around looking for live ammo. It did not take long as he let out a loud “Ah-Ha!” David and Drey rushed over and looked over his shoulder at the open ammo box. The box was about 3’ long and 1’ wide and 1’ deep. There were four shells, two stacked on two. They were olive green colored with yellow painted band around mid cylinder.

    Drey leaned in and tried to pick one up but David bent in and stopped him with a “Whoa dude! Be careful!! What the heck is your deal anyway? And what were you doing back there?”

    Avery chipped in, “Yeah that was kind of weird. Did you lose your wallet or something?” That seemed logical.

    “Ahh it was nothing… don’t worry about it,” Drey was dismissive.

    “It was nothing? Nothing?! You went charging down the steep boot pack and skied down 300 feet for nothing? That does not make sense!”

    “Make sense?! Does any of this make sense? Look at us! We are standing here on top of a mountain in the growing darkness and this storm came out of nowhere and our plan is to shoot the dam out with those large bullets,” Drey gestured to the ammo box, “out of that large gun over there.” He pointed up in the direction of the 105 on its platform mounted on top of the cache.

    Avery stepped in, “It does make sense! We’re gonna blast the dam out, ski a sweet line on the North Face that we probably won’t be able to ski again and then go home and watch that shit on the evening news.”

    David said, “Yeah we kind of do have a plan here, it is just that you almost got us caught back there. We were lucky this weather came in and the helicopter didn’t see you. But seriously, what did you have to go back for?” David was sounding sincere, trying to diffuse the situation.

    Drey seemed to ponder the question for a moment and then said, “Ok,” as he started digging through his pack. He pulled out a little cube shaped box. He plunked the thing down on the table and dramatically slid it over to David at the far end of the table. Avery came close and peered over David’s shoulder at the very intricate painting adorning the sides. David picked it up and its weight surprised him. It was heavy, maybe ten or twelve pounds.

    “What the heck…” he trailed off as he gazed intently at the wind sweeping over the jagged ridge of the mountain painted on the box. The wind outside intensified as the snow appeared to be actually moving in the painting. David mumbled to Avery, “You see this?” Avery gave a distracted, “Yeah,” as he leaned in trying to get a better view.

    They could see the clouds blowing and the ground scoured by millions of snow crystals being transported. They watched as the clouds seem to darken and personify into a glowering, smothering head of darkness. It pushed in on the ridge top and that is when David saw the three skiers on the ridge. They were in diffuse silver light and they were at once both motionless and moving, linking long smooth turns down the rounded flank. The clouds oppressed and it looked like a wall of snow was rolling down the ridge behind them. It was an avalanche bearing down on them and right as it was about to obliterate the three skiers David wanted to yell out, “Run!”

    Just then the ammo cache was buffeted by a severe gust of wind as Drey snatched the box back. He was standing behind them now as he turned to sit down on an overturned 5 gallon bucket. They were silent. The room was not heated and their breath lingered in the cold air and started to condense and freeze on the cold metal walls of the container. David had lost his hat as he sat there in a warm cotton hoodie that he had luckily packed. He remembered his dad saying, “Cotton is good for warmth as long as it is dry.”

    Drey said, “Doesn’t it sound like there are 1000 demons out there trying to get in?” He said it so nonchalant that it gave David goose bumps.

    Avery said, “Now that you mention it, yeah it does.”

    The weather sounded fierce. “We are going to, how do you say, hunker down, here for the night,” Drey surmised. “This box, I carry for luck,” he explained as he stashed it in his backpack. He then pulled out three granola bars and three beers.

    “What else you got in there?” Avery asked.

    “Yeah no wonder you blew by me so fast, you have like 100 pounds of stuff in there.” David added.

    “You might be surprised,” Drey quipped as he pulled out a 750 ml of cheap ‘WolfSchmidt Vodka’. His face lit up. He popped the lid and went to the door and paused. The wind sounded like a mother mourning for her lost child in the dark. Drey kicked the door open and tossed the cap out into the maelstrom. He closed the door and drew his bucket up to the table and took a swig and then clunked the bottle down in the center of the table.

    Avery and David glanced at each other and then each took a swig. Then Drey picked up his beer and started preparing the can to shotgun. Avery let out a hoot as both he and David prepared their beers and on three they popped the top and raced. Drey won and then slammed the can on the table and let out a huge belch. They all howled with laughter.

    After a few more shots Drey said, “No seriously,” in mock tone of how David had said it earlier. “No seriously, this box is good luck to me. I got it down in Homer when I was hanging out at the end of K-Bay Road.” He was referring to the Kachemak Bay Road that starts in Homer and runs 25 miles due east and end in the small Russian Orthodox town of Razdolna. “I had working with my Russian professor at U.A.A who is this crazy Chinese guy named Chang. He gave me the contact info of an Old Believer living back there who might be interested in talking to me.”

    “A Chinese guy who is a Russian professor?” David asked.

    “Yeah he spent a time working with the Russians a long time ago. I never heard his whole story, but his knowledge of Russian language and history was astounding.” Drey explained.

    “What is an Old Believer?” Avery asked next.

    “The Old Believers set out from Russia in the early 1900’s to avoid persecution back home. Razdolna is one of only four or five villages in Alaska that has managed to stick to their own ways.” Drey continued.

    “Oh yeah, I’ve seen the churches out on the bluff in Ninilchik,” David said.

    Drey said, “Yeah, Ninilchik is overrun by non-Russian tourists with all of the fishing but Razdolna is Russian only. They don’t want strangers around so that is why I jumped at this contact from my professor. So I bought this old truck and make my way out to meet this guy. His name is Alekhin and is this real cool old guy who knows everybody in town. He owns the general store and I would sit in there with him looking, how do you say, all preppy? Compared to these grungy fishermen I stuck out. They all had bushy blond beards or red beards and shaved heads and scowls on their face, especially when they see me. But Alekhin would introduce us and I speak Russian so I got in that way. They were all nice people. They do like their drink.” He lifted the bottle again and it was already half empty.

    “I went down there every weekend all last summer and I would stay with Alekhin or camp on the beach. I loved it. It reminds me of home. Kamchatcha, Kachemak, they almost sound the same. I would sit and stare out the bay towards the open ocean and I could feel how distant lands were connected by the water…” Drey mused.

    “Sounds fun,” Avery said.

    “It was fun until the end of the summer when things got weird.” Drey said, “I went down on a Friday afternoon. You drive down the K-Bay Road about 23 miles and then you turn right and go 2 miles down to the water where Razdolna sits. If you keep going straight on the K-Bay Road you end up in the larger town of Voznesanka. We would always joke about how Voz is the big city with its 200 people while little Raz has less than 100. So I turn the road to Razdolna and it seems real shitty, like maybe it rained really hard I thought. There were trees leaning across the road here and there but I made it slowly. I was starting to get worried for my friends but had not heard anything on the news about disasters or anything. I pulled around the last turn where you should come into view of the Main Street and General Store and what do I see.”

    David and Avery both said, “What did you see?”

    Drey paused and took another swig and said nothing, “No town was there.”

  19. #69
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    Chapter 30) Adolf; France 1917

    Adolf still thought he knew where he was going. He had navigated this route many times over the previous six weeks. Sgt Lutz had sent him out on a mission to reach the front lines with a package. He was carrying a small ruck sack on his shoulders, the same one he had carried on all of his missions. He felt like the pack brought him good luck and at this point in his career as a foot messenger in the trenches of this god awful war, his luck was still holding.

    During most trips he carried explicit instructions from the rear headquarters to the far reaches of the field command. Sometimes he carried mail or even a flask of whisky to help numb the fear of the long dark nights.
    Adolf preferred to move at night. He felt like his eyes were unusually accustomed to the dark. He would deftly maneuver through the knee deep mud and water and blood and feces. He knew all of the bodies along the route. He did not know any of their names so he knew them by their injuries.

    He spent many hours alone and the line began blur between the voice in his head and the voice that spoke out loud.

    “Coming up on the left is old Hamburger Head,” Adolf narrated as he passed a man slung head first over the edge of the trench. His head having been bludgeoned to a pulpy mass in the not too distance past.

    “And on the right we are going to pass Gas Ally,” He could down the length of the trench and see bodies piles high as a mass grave for a whole platoon that had died from mustard gas exposure.

    “Where is the grave digger to come and bury you?” Adolf lamented with a half smile. He trudged on in the very early morning grey. At one point he knew that there were several dead bloated horses piled across the trench. He genuinely found it disturbing to have clamber over the rotting corpses. He knew that if he stepped wrong his foot might punch through into the gooey abdominal cavity of a maggot filled horse.

    He decided to avoid such unpleasantness by taking the risk to climb out of the trench to bypass the horse pile up. He took his job seriously. He knew that he was a vital link between the brains and the brawn of the mighty German Fatherland. Adolf believed that strength was found not in defense but in attack. He was happy to take the role as communicator. He daydreamed about how to more efficiently connect the brains to the brawn.

    His head peered cautiously over the edge of the trench. Silence. His eyes fell on a landscape of utter destruction. It was a bomb shell pocked expanse of mud and bloated horses and dead men. A few scraggly trees stood with limbs broken but roots still intact, the sole surviving witness to the carnage besides Adolf himself.

    A very slight sliver of pink sunrise appeared. It became a glowing smudge and Adolf felt at ease and transfixed by his environment. He had taken to trying to capture the fleeting glimpses of beauty whenever he could, when time and lack of danger permitted. He could see the perfect silhouettes of the trees and he knew he must quickly sketch what he saw. He squatted in the mud and pulled his pack off his shoulder. He rummaged to the bottom where he knew his small leather notebook was.

    He felt the package he was to deliver. It was cube shaped and wrapped in brown paper and tied with a string. He thought no more of it as he turned his attention to the scenery. He felt like had the ability to see beauty anywhere, no matter how bleak as things might first appear. He began by sketching the outline of the grim horizon. He used charcoal and smudged it with his thumb for effect. Next he traced the distinct lines of broken down cluster of trees. He thought it looked like a family.

    His mind wandered to the images in his head of sad German families being ripped out of their homes at night by the Russian dogs where they would be beaten and destroyed. The taller scraggly one tried in vain to comfort the little ones clustered around his feet. Adolf felt a rage grow inside of himself as he drew.

    He balanced his note pad on one knee and knelt the other on a small branch to keep out of the mud. He traced the outline of the trenches he could see in the distance. It was a maze from the horizon to the one near his feet, the one he was traveling in. As he brought his attention to the foreground a slight movement caught his eye. There in the mud he could see a single white eyeball open and the outstretch finger of the not so dead soldier pointed a plea in his direction.

    Adolf's immediate response was anger. By having another observer in his private painting, the art was ruined. He knew that he saw beauty but he could not be so sure that others were not observing a living hell. He scribbled out the family of trees and put his notebook back in his pack. He strode over through the ankle deep mud. He hated it when soldiers who should be dead were still alive because they always tried to talk to him.

    He came to a stop in the mud and asked in German, “Who are you?”

    The man, who was laying completely caked and buried in the mud, let his finger fall and said nothing. Adolf leaned in close and said “Franzosen?”

    The soldier was nearly invisible in the mud except for the whites of his eye. Adolf looked at the soldiers body and quickly deduced that the man's missing torso was the cause of his troubles.

    The man let out a whisper that said, “Oui...” At that Adolf turned and started back for his ruck sack. He had made it a habit to put fellow country men out of their misery when he encountered them in the field. When he came across injured enemy soldiers he left them to suffer to the end.

    He made it three steps before he heard the soldier speak up from the mud in broken German,
    “I do not see why men should not be just as cruel as nature.”

    At that Adolf paused and looked off beyond his pack to the bleak horizon. He could see the trench he needed to follow. Soon he would be into new ground, he had to keep moving. He grabbed his pack and turned to back down into the trench. He made one last glance to the soldier expecting to see him laying motionless, if not dead. Instead he saw the man dragging his torso through the mud, closing the distance to Adolf rather quickly.

    Adolf let out a sincere yelp! of surprise as his inertia carried him backwards into the trench. He looked up just in time to see the desperate fingers claw to the edge. Adolf made several side steps as the French soldier pulled his body straight into a free fall into the filth and dirt at the bottom of the trench. Adolf was sincerely horrified at this point as he stumbled backward while fumbling for his side arm.

    He tripped and fell butt first into the mud just as the creature was upon him. He found his wits and his gun and pulled the trigger three times point blank into the man’s face. His skull was mostly blown apart and as he stopped moving Adolf could keep the fingers dig deeper into his calf where they froze, all clawed up. Adolf sat gasping in the mud. The light was increasing with the day. He felt as if he had suddenly fallen out of grace. He panicked and quickly kicked the man off of his feet as he scrambled up and started moving.

    He thought that if he kept moving he would recognize his surroundings and perhaps tap back into his previous sublime state. He walked and kept his head down for twenty minutes. He felt calmed and he wiped the sweat from his brow. He came to a place in this familiar trench where a new trench took off to his right, the southwest. He took a moment to look back to where he had come from and then he stepped into the unknown.

  20. #70
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    It only took a few steps before he felt a panic begin to rise in his guts. He could no longer pinpoint where he was in the vast maze of man-made trenches full of filth and despair. He looked around and could not summon an appreciation of the beauty. The bloated horses, the mangled corpses, the puddles of mustard gas under the duck boards.

    Then he heard it, the long droning whistle of an incoming shell. He heard a smack and a pop! He understood that to be the calling card of a gas-weaponized shell. His mask??! he dropped to his knees in the goop and furiously dug through the small bag for his mask.

    “Where is it?” he shouted at a disembodied head resting near his knee. At that the eyes turned in the skull in the mud and the mouth said, “Who is to say that I am not under the special protection of God?”

    Adolf looked horrified and then fell back. Then he heard soldiers coming. He did not know if they were friend or foe so he curled up in the mud along the side and tried to appear dead. He could see a line of men double stepping in his direction, away from the sound of the gas shell. They all wore the long sorrowful faces and large black eyes of the ubiquitous gas mask.

    Adolf was motionless, watching. In the dim light and mud it was still hard to tell what uniforms the soldiers were wearing as the filed by. He listened and then heard one of them say in German, “Ach! Why don't these French dogs care for their dead?”

    At that Adolf leapt up to greet his fellow countrymen.
    He blurted out, “Give me a gas mask!” The men kept moving by as if they heard nothing. Adolf's voice rose as he started clambering forward. He pulled at one of the passing soldiers arms and the soldier kept on, unaffected. Adolf stumbled back and then jumped up with vigor as he accosted another soldier as he was saying, “Give me a mask! Give me a mask!” as he climbed on and pulled at the mask but it was as if Adolf was not even there.

    The soldier called ahead to the next man in line, “They have some real stinkers around here don't they?!”

    The other man laughed, “What do you mean? I heard Paris smelled like this long before the war!”

    “Oh yeah...!” The men's laughter faded away as Adolf had fallen in the mud. The last soldier double stepped on by. Adolf watched as the contrails of mist enveloped the last man into silence.
    Adolf sat there staring, opaque. He staggered to his feet and felt his eyes burn. “Oh no!,” he thought as he realized the passing men had stirred up the noxious gas which had settled on the trench floor. He still carried his pack as he scrambled up the edge of the trench into the battlefield above. He could see hundreds of bodies slain in the mud. His eyes burned.

    He saw one of the dead soldiers near his feet open his eye like the other one had. Adolf stepped back, he saw another set of white eyes shine out of the mud in his direction. The dead soldiers started moving and crawling in Adolf's direction as he tried to hide his face from the gas with his arm. He wanted to see the dead soldiers rise and come towards him but his eyes burned too much. His throat and mouth and nose and lungs felt like they were on fire now. He turned and staggered and tried to see. He caught glimpses of dirty hands pulling at his feet as he again staggered and fell. The last thing he saw was a writhing mass of black and grey bodies reaching for him as he fell.

    He heard a voice as he fell, “Go the way that Providence dictates with the assurance of a sleepwalker.”

    Adolf kicked awake in a start. He flailed around in the starched white sheets of his hospital bed. He smelled solvent in the air. And then he heard startled women's voices. He kicked and fell out of the bed and put his hand to his head and felt bandages.

    He heard another nurse come in the room and shout, “Mr. Hitler, please! You have been blinded! You had another nightmare! You were blinded in the trenches! You are safe now. The chlorine gas has blinded you!”

    He could still see the pile of bodies reaching for him in his mind as the nurses reached out to stabilize him. He lashed out, still living the nightmare.

    “Your sight will come back in a few more days,” a woman pleaded to him. She sounded tired, Adolf thought. At that one of the nurses quickly injected a sedative drug into Adolf's neck with a syringe. Adolf arched his back in agony with his face clenched to the sky.

    He could hear one of the nurses voice, more distant now, “Your sight will come back soon...”
    Adolf found himself lost back in the trenches where he started, still confident that he knew where he was.

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    Chapter 31) Rasputin; Russia, 1918

    Sotheby thought about the moon. How on the way to the house it had been hanging low in the pale blue sky. The last whispers of the day and the lunar cycle remained in a sliver of silver light. Faint memories. He had just burst up the stairs from the cellar of the house which sat in a higher class neighborhood in St. Petersburg.

    “He was still alive, I had to shoot him!” Sotheby profused.

    Williams was unimpressed, “This was supposed to go off smooth and silent,” he yell whispered back to Sotheby.
    They were in deep, very deep. They were British agents in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It was 1918 and they were here to kill a man but he was having a hard time dying.

    “The cyanide didn’t work!” Sotheby was flummoxed. He had seen a lot in his time but he had never seen someone not die from a healthy dose of cyanide. He should have been convulsing on the floor and frothing at the mouth an hour ago. “He’s been dosed enough to kill ten men,” Sotheby continued.

    “Well why in fuck you ‘ave to shoot him?” Williams asked.

    “He was just sitting there grinning at me and I just grabbed my gun and shot him through the heart.” Sotheby explained, “Then he went on the ground and I paused. He was laying there face down and I leaned over to check him and he turned and lunged! His eyes were blood red. I could see his eyes as he lunged and I shot him between the eyes!”

    Williams responded, “Well I don’t think anyone heard. No one came by.” Rasputin had been a tricky man to kill, Williams thought. It was deemed of utmost importance that Rasputin be destroyed. Rasputin in the meanwhile was lying on the cold hard frozen dirt. His own blood had oozed into and thawed the dirt then it quickly refroze on his face. His left eye looked out vacant over the horizon of the cellar floor. The Spirit, as he had referred to it, had moved into him some time ago. The Nightwalker remembered it as the day he truly became physical manifest.
    Koa’a had imparted true knowledge to the Nightwalker along their journey even since he had lifted off from Hawaii. After being invited to occupy the vessel by the Nightwalker he came to ask the question, “How should I continue if I become discouraged?”

    The Nightwalker responded with, “If you become discouraged, come to encourage others.” Koa’a took that to mean that the Nightwalker also was a seeker of knowledge. Koa’a told what he knew of the human spirit, how the sum was known to greater than the parts. The Nightwalker increased his power by harvesting the souls of humans through the intentions of his human host. After the French Revolution he was feeling strong and gambled correctly with Napolean. He had a run that was successful but was then confined to the Isla of Elba. While there, Napolean’s will was refined and tempered as he was catalyzed to escape through the prompting of the Box. The Potter and clay. The story and the transition.

    Ultimately Napolean was destroyed like all of the hosts.

    Rasputin gasped back to life.
    Upstairs Williams said, “We need to get the body.” Right then they heard a thump noise come from downstairs and they looked at each other in alarm. This was something far larger then Williams and Sotheby and the undead man downstairs. It was known that Rasputin had some political sway with the Tsar and his wife Alexandria. Russia was at war with Germany and he had convinced the Tsar that Russia would not be successful unless he went to the front lines, much to the consternation of the existing generals already on the front line. The Tsar went and Rasputin was spending more and more time with Alexandria. She believed him to be successfully healing their hemophiliac son but also thought that he was acting as the voice of God in her life. He was the Nightwalker and he was there to convince her that he was God.

    It was also known by British Intelligence that Rasputin had been trying to convince the Russians to pull out of the war altogether. The British were sure that Rasputin was scheduling their demise because if the Russians pulled out of the Eastern Front, the Germans could then relocate all energy to the Western Front and over run Britain and the rest of Europe.

    Williams crouched on point as Sotheby snapped the door open to the cellar. A cold musty draft filled the room. “Maybe he has a window open?” Williams thought.

    He muttered, “He can’t escape,” as he made a line down the steps and into the cellar proper. He could see Rasputin lying on his side and kind of twisted over his face. His long black hair fell tangled and matted in dirt and blood. His left leg was rhythmically kicking a wooden bucket nearby. Thump slosh went the water in the bucket. Thump slosh. Every two or three seconds, thump slosh.

    Williams and Sotheby both became entranced by the thump slosh. As Rasputin kept kicking the bucket with his foot he ever so slowly began to move his hands under his body. Then he pushed off the ground very slowly and rocked to his right knee. His left foot kept kicking the bucket with a thump slosh.

    “There was a rhythm, a beat,” Williams thought. He did not notice Rasputin had meanwhile maneuvered up to standing with his back facing them. Thump slosh. His left foot was like a metronome hypnotizing the two British officers. Somewhere deep in Williams’ psyche he had become aware of a thump slosh and his teeth became pressurized and he felt the need to yawn coming on as the thump slosh stopped.

    The sound was of an air bubble squeezing out of the blood in the dirt under the edge of Rasputins heavy black boot. Just then giant reptilian wings ripped out of the black long coat that Rasputin wore. The wings gave a powerful stroke and pulled up as the Nightwalker disgorged himself of Rasputins mortal coil.

    With a second wing stroke the Creature made a turn and looked at Sotheby and said, ‘The West won’t rest until his vision is manifest.’ And at that it turned and blasted up the flight of stairs and into the night. At that both Williams and Sotheby snapped out of their trance and instinctively aimed at Rasputin and fired off a shot each. His head was shattered and his chest blown out from behind and he fell to the ground. Acting fast the two men rolled the body up into a rug and dragged it outside into the cold night air. They lugged it to the back of their waiting car and made for the bridge.

    “At the bridge,” Sotheby would later recall to the nurses at the insane asylum back in Britain, “Right as we were about to toss him over the railing his hand exploded out of the side of the carpet and grabbed Williams by the throat and took him over the railing too.”

    Sotheby would sit in the solarium all day with a bucket supplied by the men in the white coats. Thump slosh. He would kick it in perfect time all day while drawing hundreds and eventually thousands of variations and renditions of what he saw in the basement. Thump slosh, another detail on the creature’s wings. Thump slosh, a redrawing of the blood bubbles in the dirt. Thump slosh the weight of Rasputins boot on his own neck, crushing him deeper and deeper. The thump slosh would always come to an end when the men in white coats would have to drag Sotheby kicking and screaming to his room as he would always repeat at the top of his lungs, “The West won’t rest until his Vision is manifest!” over and over again until the other inmates would start chanting too.

    The only thing that would really temper and refine Sotheby was his weekly electroshock therapy. By the end of the week he would have the inmates in an uproar again. The final solution, in Sotheby’s case, was a lobotomy of the crudest sort. After that he spent the rest of his days just tapping his finger on his glass of water while watching the birds watch him through the solarium windows.

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    Chapter 32) David; Alaska, 2030

    “What do you mean, ‘no town was there’?” Avery asked.

    “I mean no town, nothing, none of it was there.” Drey’s voice went up in pitch. “I drove down the main street and could see the old ruins of buildings all collapsed and over grown. I just slowly drove through and made my way to the beach at the end of the street. I thought that if I looked at the ocean and turned around, the town would be there,” Drey explained.

    “But you said you were there all summer with these people, Alekhin the storekeeper!?” David implored.

    “I was, I know I was,” Drey continued, “So I stopped and looked at the ocean for a bit and tried to conjure up something tangible and when I turned around, the town was still gone. There was just the street leading back to the dark woods. That is when I really got the creeps.” Drey took a shot of vodka. “I jumped in the truck and started to drive out when I passed the general store site and I slammed on the brakes. I felt compelled to get out and look around. I started ripping foliage aside and tossing pieces of wood out in the street. I was really looking for something, my sanity perhaps, to explain something so unexplainable,” Drey paused for a moment with a faraway look. “I pried open a floor board and that is when I found this.”

    He held the box out with two hands and as he bowed his head a bit he placed it reverently in the center of the table. “I found this thing and then got out of there. When I got back to the main road I decided to turn right and head to Voznesanka as I had never actually been there. I pulled into the main street and it felt very cool there, as in cool reception. The people just stared at me like I was from outer space. I pulled over to the side of the road and asked someone about a gas station or store and the lady just scowled and nodded with her head in the direction down the street. I pulled into the beat up old store and went in and found this crazy old woman sitting behind the counter. There were stacks of newspapers and smoldering cigarettes in the ash tray and the sun beams slanted through the dust and cob webs on the windows. I asked what happened in Razdolna. She looked at me with a crooked eye and said, “The end of days happened at Razdolna.”

    “What does that mean?” I asked.

    “The ocean took the town back to the sea… 1964…” she trailed off.

    “1964!?” Drey mimicked to David and Avery who sat in rapt attention.

    Then Avery remembered, “Oh yeah, the 1964 Earthquake. It fucked a lot of stuff up.”

    “Yeah, apparently,” Drey said sardonically. “So the lady said, ‘Why do you want Razdolna?’ And I said that I wanted to see Alekhin so I could thank him for the good times this summer, but I guess that does not make sense.”

    “The lady’s face went ashen and she asked ‘Alekhin’? And I explained that he was the shop owner who I had been hanging out with and then she said, ‘Alekhin was my father and he died in 1964. My mother and I were in town that day. We felt the earth shake earlier in the day and by the time we made it home the ocean had risen and the streets were full of water. Everyone was dead.”

    Drey said to David and Avery, “At this point it all kind of sank in and I just bolted out the door. None of it made sense. The lady was yelling ‘Wait! Wait, tell me more!’ but I wanted out of there! I jumped in my truck and raced out to the highway and then north to Anchorage. This box was sitting in the passenger seat. I kept glancing at it. I was freaked out. I went straight to the university and straight to Professor Chang’s office. I went down the dark hallway to where his office is but it was locked. I looked in his mail in/out box and there was an envelope addressed to me.
    David and Avery had stopped drinking and were just listening. Drey paused and encouraged them to take a swig, in three pulls they finished the bottle. “Good job,” Drey praised.

    “So I take the envelope to the library and go find a nice quiet corner. I sat for a moment and looked out the windows up towards the front range of the Chugach Mountains. I was nervous, but curious. I opened the envelope and inside there was a letter and it said…” As he said that he pulled the actual envelope out of the side pocket of his coat. It was tattered now after many readings and being hauled around the mountains.

    Drey read,
    'Mr. Dravidovich, you must be very careful, I had to leave and you will not see me again. The object you possess has been the life-long focus of my academic and spiritual career. It saddens me that I will not hold it in my hands.
    You are being pursued and assisted by a shape shifting entity from the stars.

    There is a cave nearby. When you go into this cave you go back and it curves and on the left is a map of the universe all lined out in the quartz crystals in the rock. And behind the mural in the crystals there is a woman positioned facing to her right. You go back past her and there is a fountain that springs up that you drink from and when you do it aligns your frequency to that of the cave, the universe.

    And when you go back to the map and the woman behind it is now facing to her left and a portal opens up and you go into it. The Old Man will be there. He is the one following you and he comes from Orion. And he shows you the prism and you place the Box over the prism and he aligns it and the beam of light shines out of the mountain and points right to the middle star in Orion’s belt, sending the signal for help.

    And outside the cave white wolves with black eyes and black wolves with white eyes circle the entrance.
    I have never been there but I know someone who has. '

    “And he signed it ‘Professor Chang’,” Drey finished.

    It was now barely 9pm and the storm somehow picked up in intensity. “No one is gonna be out here tonight,” Avery pondered as he slammed the door shut after venturing outside to take a piss.

    “What do you mean a portal will open up?” David asked, somewhat incredulous.

    “I don’t know, that is what it says,” Drey answered dryly.

    “So where is this special cave?” Avery asked.
    “Well,” Drey continued, “I was in the library so I started doing some reading. It turns out that the cave is real close to here. Up until very recently the deepest mine in the world was Tau Tona in South Africa. It is 2.4 miles deep. I am of the understanding that the Girdwood Mine Company is working on the new deepest mine in the world. They are trying to push to 2.75. I guess there is pure gold down there.”

    “Where is this secret mine?” David asked, “Everyone in town knows everything that happens on the mountain and I have not heard anything. Did you forget that my dad is a CEO?”

    “I was reading on some of these day trade stock advice websites and I was reading this thread between some random speculators. They were talking about how this new development out on Wolf Mountain was already way ahead of schedule,” Drey explained.

    David retorted, “The Wolf Mountain project has been moving along for some time but I heard they were having troubles, slow progress.”

    Drey continued, “Well these guys were saying that the mine is already so deep and so dense with gold that it became a national security issue. The Feds don’t want employees going around announcing to the world that they are now sitting on the world’s biggest mine in history. I guess the Wolf Mountain Mine is 100 times the potential volume of the Alyeska Mine.”

    The Wolf Mountain Mine was accessed through a back valley to the east of Alyeska mine. It was two ridges back from where they were.

    “I am gonna come in from the backside.” Drey said.

    “What do you mean?” Avery asked.

    “When you guys are distracting everyone with shooting out the dam, I am going to make a move to Wolf Mine and see if I can get in there. I think that is the cave that my professor talked about,” Drey answered.

  23. #73
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    Chapter 33) The Nightwalker; Europe, 1943

    The Nightwalker writhed as larvae under the translucent skin of his most recent host. Then with a bursting split of the eastern appendage, the horror spewed across the continent.

    The Nightwalker had already made an indelible print on the psyche of the Russians via the host Rasputin and the destruction of the Romanovs. The Nightwalkers power increased as his skill developed. He’d learned to manifest in the form of a human but still longed to stretch his leathery wings as Himself, under a smoke filled sky. He learned how to focus his will more effectively through a host and move clearly communicated to the Masses. The Masses will believe anything and he successfully played the people against each other.

    Poland was crushed from both sides with a whimper. Hitler’s Black Eagle and Staling’s Red Bear originally agreed to split the spoils and establish trade connections. The Red Bear then took Finland which inspired The Crown and the French to take that as Stalin being complicit with the Black Eagle.

    The French, in a far off place were able to distill a faint memory of the Fear and the Terror of Robispierre. Someone must have recognized the pattern, the history of influence repeating itself.

    Meanwhile the setting Sun had declared war on the White Eagle in the land of Tamas and Koa'a at Pearl Harbor. At the same time the White Eagle had been called to the aid of the Crown and the French against the Black Eagle. The Black Eagle savagely blitzed across the country towards the Red Bear. It moved like army ants as it devoured all the souls in the path. The Red Bear became tentative in dealing with a beast that had such voracious appetite, as the Black Eagle had become. From the plume of ashes in the sky above countless camps the wings of the Beast took to the wind and rode east and attempted to destroy the Red Bear in his own den. The Red bear was content to retreat and lick his wounds but the Black Eagle lashed out and pressed further east destroying families and crushing dreams. The Nightwalker was pleased with Hitler. He had proven very worthy indeed. But like most hosts he must die and the parasite must move on.

    Unsustainable rates of expansion struck a brick wall in Stalingrad. The Red Bear had righted itself and mounted a full fury defense that morphed into a gruesome offense the moment the Nightwalker again traded sides. As a prime mover of marionettes, the Box and its connective power had moved out of the reach of Hitler and migrated east to the front lines. A German officer, in a final act of heroism in the name of the Black Eagle, launched his tank through a Russian barricade. Unknown to him, the Box had made its way with him in that moment tucked in an ammo box. The act soon turned to suicide as the Russians gunned down the tank and dragged the still live officer into the snow. It was dark and cold and the Russians present on the scene could all feel a darkness and coldness fall over their hearts. They launched into a frenzy of kicking and tearing and biting like mad dogs and the German was destroyed and dismembered.

    The tide had turned in the favor of the Red Bear. Renewed and emboldened subconsciously by the presence of the Beast, the Red Bear launched a counter offensive that was savage as they committed atrocities that made the Black Eagle blush.

    Meanwhile the White Eagle, the Crown and the French laid heavy beatings on the Black Eagle on the western front. The rapid expansion of the Black Eagle was completely reversed and crushed much like Poland was crushed five long years prior. In fact it was the Army of Poland and the Red Bear that rolled into the city of Berlin and the Beast himself crushed the last inkling of spirit out of the Black Eagle. All hosts must be destroyed.

    The Red Bear retreated and watched with interest as the White Eagle issued a severe beat down on the Setting Sun but then surprised the world by decisively and irrevocably destroying the Setting Sun by way of Atomic Bomb. The Nightwalker was impressed with the White Eagle and remembered how his kin had used the same weapon on the humans in India so long ago. He knew the humans had recorded the events in the text of the Mahabharata and he was always surprised at how selective their memory was. How distorted. He opted for patience with time for planning and revenge.

    The Red Bear retreated to his den and began to lick his wounds like he really wanted to four years ago. But the wounds were deep. Infection had set in and he began to decay. In the possession of Stalin, the Box was even more effective than it was with Hitler. The Nightwalker issued a dose of finesse to his repertoire of human possession as it relates to the harvesting of souls. The slow rot, drowned in alcohol and depression. Dissidents and detractors were sent on the long walk east on the Highway of Bones. The Nightwalker himself eventually travelled east by train and retraced the route he had followed out west some 150 years earlier. There was so much he had learned. He had so much more power. The people starved and straggled and were shot on the spot. Feet and hands froze and became rotten on the limb. Suffering prevailed.

    In the desolate work camps the survivors, many of them captured German soldiers, toiled under a blazing white sun that offered no heat. It was if the Nightwalker had flipped a switch here in the barren expanse of endless forest. He loved the endless forest. It reminded him of new beginnings. Head west and chase the setting sun and now head east and strive to meet the new day head on. The land of the White Eagle lay eastward, across the great expanse of ocean. He felt a homecoming and an urge for more genocide coiled and pushing under his own translucent skin.

    But first a detour to the south, to the land of the Red Dragon. A powerful and ancient system begging for revolution. A Nightwalker revolution. He moved into the possession of the Great Mao. The urge was strong with this host, the Nightwalker thought. Appeal to the masses, the ones who were beaten down and then destroy them. The formula was easy. The road to hell was paved with good intentions, if not of the bones of the ones shot along the way.

    It felt like the blink of an eye but soon another 20 million had fallen under his gaze. The streets ran red and toddlers who had been separated from their mothers scavenged in the streets like wild dogs. Such hearty survivors, the Nightwalker lamented. If a soul was not outright captured, it was difficult to completely extinguish the faintest flame of hope.

  24. #74
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    Chapter 34) David; Alaska, 2030

    “You guys ready to do this?” Avery stirred from his slouched position in the corner of the ammo cache. David had found a similarly uncomfortable place to try and get some sleep. They wanted to get to the howitzer and get it repositioned to fire on the upper dam well before daylight. The plan was to pull the trigger at first light and get down into the forest for a clean get away. But now with Drey’s dramatic story and apparent secret plans, they were not sure what was going to happen.

    They all groggily pulled their gear together and prepared to step outside into the elements. It was 4:30am and the snow had left a fresh blanket of snow about 6” deep. It would be dark for several more hours and the air was still.
    They each hoisted a 105 mm shell on to their shoulder for the short traverse over to the gun which only took about a minute. The gun was mounted about 12 feet up in the air in the summer time but now in the winter with all of the snow it was only four steps up the metal rungs of the ladder. The platform was metal grating and their clunky ski boots clattered and skidded as they maneuvered the heavy shells into a good spot. David pulled out a crescent wrench and a pair of channel lock pliers and started fiddling with the base plate mechanism and Avery started working on getting the locks unfrozen on the trigger and chamber device.

    Drey said that he was going to get another shell in case they needed it. David asked “Why would we need four shells?” Drey responded over his shoulder, “But then not be ready when we miss the first three times?” as he bounded back towards the cache. David could see Drey’s headlamp light disappear into the cache as he managed to get the first nut to move. He needed Avery to go under the platform and stand on one of the diagonal struts to hold the other end of the bolt so it would not turn. It was a chore and it took some time. That was when David noticed that Drey had not come back yet. “What is he doing?” he thought out loud. Just then Drey came leaping out of the cache without a heavy shell, but with something else in his hand.

    “Hey guys listen to this!” He sounded breathless as he showed the object to be a small FM radio. “I was digging around in there and found this radio. Too bad we did not find it earlier, we could have been partying!” He turned up the volume but there was no music, just static. “It will play again, it is on a loop. This is the local station.” Just then the familiar computerized voice of the ‘Emergency Broadcast System’ came on the air and said, “This is not a test. This is the Federal Emergency Broadcast System. This is not a test. All military bases are on high alert to a possible threat coming from the west. Please stay indoors. This is not a test.”

    “What the hell does that mean?” Avery asked just as he got the lock open on the trigger mechanism.

    “It means that we need to hurry up! They are all distracted. This is good for us, we have to be quick,” Drey said.
    They still had to take a half hour to get the big gun spun around 180 degrees to face down towards the upper dam. The broad expanse of the lower lake glowed blue in the moonlight. David tried to imagine what it would look like when millions of gallons of water flooded from the upper lake to the lower lake.
    Then in the far distance they could all hear a muffled ‘BOOM! BOOM!’

    “That doesn’t sound like avalanche bombs!” Avery said. ‘BOOM! BOOM!’ sounded through the valley, then a gut wrenching KA-BOOM! echoed through their bodies.

    “That sounds like it is coming from Anchorage! Are you kidding me?!” David said. A moment later the radio came back on with a new message: “Attention! This is the Federal Emergency Broadcast System. As of 0530 the Government of Russia has declared war on the United States of America. Please stay in your homes.”

    The message repeated itself as they all looked at each other. “What the fuck!” Avery burst out as he slugged Drey in the shoulder in a friendly way. “God damn it Drey, why did your people have to bomb us?!” In the scuffle no one noticed the radio fall to the ground and the battery cover broke off and there were no batteries inside.

    Drey seemed quiet, thoughtful, “I think we have to change our plan.”

    “Oh yeah, to what?” David asked.

    Drey answered quick, “David you have to take the Box to the mine at Wolf Mountain. You know the way better than anyone and you are the fastest. I think the Russian are coming for the gold in these mines but I think they are also coming for this.” He thrust the Box now wrapped in a thick chamois towel and implored David to take it.

    Avery asked, “What are we going to do?”

    “We are going to save the town, look,” Drey pointed out to the Seward Highway and they could see a long line of what looked like armored personnel carriers at the mouth of the valley where the clear water of the Raven River meets the muddy silt water of Turnagain Arm.

    “We are going to shoot out the upper dam and then wait for them all to congregate and then hit the lower dam and wash all those fuckers out to sea!” Drey said.

    “Aren’t they your people? Maybe you are a spy?” Avery asked suddenly alarmed at the possibility. “Maybe that Box thing is a tracking device and you are showing them where to go?”

    “A spy!? Would a spy do this?” Drey took the heavy shell and slammed it into the massive chamber of the Howitzer.
    David took that as a sign to get moving with the Box back up the ridge towards Wolf Mountain. He would have to climb for about 45 minutes then follow the steep ridgeline for another half hour before dropping down into the Kern Creek drainage where the access road leads to the mine. The mine entrance itself is perched high up in the alpine near the summit of the peak. The moment he started climbing he felt fear for the first time. It felt like the weight of the whole world had fallen on to his shoulders by some stroke of luck, good or bad.

    He quickly ascended past the point on the ridge where they had climbed the face and dodged the helicopter the day before. With every step he did not feel lighter, like he normally did when he climbed a beautiful ridge. He felt heavier, as if pursued by some unknown dread.

    He made one last glance back before he moved out of sight of the gun platform and the twinkling lights of town far below. Day light was gaining momentum. He could see Avery and Drey scrambling around the platform getting ready to fire. Then he saw it, a quick shadow that seemed to move evasively into the darkness of another shadow.

    “It is nothing,” he thought and kept moving. He descended about 1000 feet into the adjacent back bowl and would not be able to hear any shooting now anyway. He cruised down the long valley for some ways before making a quick 500 foot climb to the top of the next ridge. From there he could now see the light up at Wolf Mine.
    He descended again and actually made some enjoyable turns down to the access road. Once he got to the road he stayed up above the tall snow bank and moved parallel to the road for about twenty minutes before he saw an entrance gate. He paused, not sure what to do.

    He saw truck lights coming up the road. It went by and he could see that it was a mine truck with the wolf-faced logo on the side. One eye was black and one eye was white. He had never noticed that before. In the beam of the passing lights he could see a couple of snowmobiles parked off to the side under the broad branches of some huge Sitka spruce trees.

    The truck stopped at the gate for a minute and the driver leaned out and punched a code. The gate swung open and there did not appear to be any actual guards on duty. “Shouldn’t they be in a panic of some sort?” David thought, “Maybe they have not heard that the Russian are coming?” The truck passed the gate and made its way up valley at a leisurely pace. “This is going to be easy,” David thought as he got to the snowmobiles and saw that the keys were in the ignition. There was a little sled trail that tucked around the edge of the fence and he was glad to see that the trail stayed down low under the road embankment as he made his way up valley. He had his skis attached to the cargo rack. “Quick and easy, get up the hill, chuck this stupid Box off a cliff and then get some sweet powder turns in and then go fight some Russians of something.”

  25. #75
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    Chapter 35) Chang; Pacific Ocean, 1964

    It was late winter in the year 1964 and the Nightwalker was traveling with another group of hearty survivors, as he had made habit to do. Their hope was spread as thin as the weak soup they made over candles as the container box they were in rolled in the heavy seas of the open ocean.

    There were 10 people from the Land of the Red Dragon inside the 8 feet wide by 40 feet long box of metal that was strapped to the deck of a ship that was over 800 feet long and positioned somewhere north of the Hawaiian Islands. The Nightwalker knew these waters well.

    “How ironic,” he thought, “that these people driven to such deprivations in their homeland as direct result of my interference, were now in a floating coffin with the very source of their troubles.” The Nightwalker’s Box itself had been a last minute addition to the meager supplies that the refugees had brought with them. Chang was the group leader and chief liaison between the refugees and the financiers. He was also the harshest enforcer of what could and could not be brought for the journey. He had to be convinced over a week long period to allow his own four year daughter to bring one of her beloved dolls. He had picked up the ornately gold engraved box at a seedy back alley merchants shop the day before embarking east, to America.

    Upon making land fall he hoped to sell the obvious antique to help pay back the debt he owed to provide his small family a chance to live a life of freedom. The journey was supposed to take less than a month and then the refugees would feel the sunlight in the land called California.

    The conditions were squalor. Multiple five gallon buckets were used as toilets. When they were filled every three or four days the lid was sealed but the stink remained. The air vents cut in the side of the metal containers were bare minimum to keep the illegal human cargo alive, let alone comfortable. Meanwhile the Nightwalker took up his familiar position high on the radio towers jutting from the top of the 8 story bridge house. It was two weeks into the crossing when the container ship crossed the original route that Cook’s ship had followed south to Hawaii for the last time.

    Typhoon winds began to blow and the seas grew. The Captain was caught off guard as the radar had shown no disturbances, it should have been smooth sailing. But now it was not smooth as the ship rocked and rolled for three days while the refugees retched and pined for fresh air.

    When the time was right the Nightwalker moved and took possession of the captain as he fought to maintain control of the ship. The Captain moved like a zombie and leaned heavily on the large steering wheel and brought the ship around to starboard. The ship was now rolling in the heavy trough, riding parallel with the width of the waves. In a matter of minutes the deck was awash in the green sea water and there soon after, containers started breaking from their tie downs spilling off the side of the ship into the sea.

    When the Nightwalker saw the container in which his vessel was carried roll into the boiling ocean he released his possession of the Captain and flowed out the side of the smashed bridge window like the sea itself. The Captain was disoriented and confused as to how the ship was taking on water. In a few minutes though, he got the ship back on track running headlong into the oncoming waves. A few minutes later the wind died down as quickly as it had risen and the seas subsided. The ship carried on to California while the container carrying the Box and the refugees floated in the pacific gyre, riding the circumference back to Alaska.

    Inside the Connex it smelled like death. Chang had been knocked unconscious when the container hit the water as it was a solid thirty foot drop from the deck railing to the surface of the water. The ship had been heaving violently for a couple of hours but inside the container it seemed like an eternity. And then suddenly over the whispers and sobbing there was a WHAM! And then a BAM! And then the whole stack of container boxes went toppling over into the boiling ocean. The last thing Chang remembered was the feeling of weightlessness and then a blackness that was more resolute then previously imagined.

    It felt like the world was crushing him into the cold, hard corner. His butt specifically was in the corner as the container was floating with where he sat as the low end. The smell of the toilet buckets was over whelming as he was sitting waist deep in the contents of four spilt five gallon buckets. He was pressed tight by the weight of the nine other people who had been traveling with him. His mind was racing but his body was frozen, paralyzed. Then slowly he began to take note of his other senses, other than smell.

    In his left hand he could feel a small hand. “It must be the hand of my young daughter Xiu,” he thought to himself. Then he became overcome by a wretched sadness that tried to produced heaves and sobs but he was too stifled, too close to suffocating to allow the feeling to blossom and manifest as emotion. He knew that they would not take that first breath of fresh air in California. She was dead, like all the others in the box and all the others back home. “This is my grave and I wish I was dead,” he thought. A half moment later a voice whispered in his ear, “Maybe you are?”

    This jolted his body into action and he tried to thrash around and tried to call out but the bodies were so heavy. He could barely breathe. Then the voice said, “You are here by your thoughts alone.” This calmed Chang briefly before he became aware of the sound in the water, outside in the deep pacific. His ear was pressed right up to the metal and the surface of the sea sloshed on the outside of the container, directly amplified in his ears in the dark.
    He could hear a clean rolling rap, like that of someone rolling their fingers on a table. The Nightwalker was in fact in the water with his own ear pressed on the outside, trying to get close, trying to hear Chang’s thoughts. The Nightwalker sensed the familiar fear and suffocation of someone pushed to the brink. He started to climb up the outside of the container causing it to roll under his weight and causing the contents to also roll, like clothes in a wash machine. The Nightwalker pulled himself to the top and balanced there like a huge lion sitting on a rock, observing his territory. Alaska lay 1500 miles to the north as the Nightwalker spread his now giant leathery wings and caught a breeze just like Captain Cook himself.

    Chang can remember hearing the sound of the claws and flesh pulling the container over as the shit stew shifted over forcing him to hold his breath for real. As the unit righted itself he could sense the weight on the high end of the container come down a few feet and he was able to extricate himself from the mess he was in. He had been pressed up against the end with the standard doors and up above the financiers had installed an air vent looking flap that also functioned as a hatch, to get out in only the most dire of situations.

    He could not fathom a situation any more dire. He started laughing because back in the politically oppressed environment of his home land he could not have imagined a situation any more dire. And yet, here he was. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” he thought and laughed again. He struggled to his feet and staggered in the dark. He needed air. He pulled himself up and felt for the rope ladder that was rolled up near the hatch. He found the clip and the rolled ladder thudded down on his nose and bounced off his chest and splashed in the general wetness at his feet.

    He gained his footing and pulled himself up the three rungs and groped for the hatch latch. He was feeling panicky now. He imagined the horror at his feet trying to follow him. He thankfully found the pin and pulled it. The hatch popped open with a rush of decomposing gases. Chang’s eyes shriveled in terror from the blinding sliver of golden light that assaulted his dark adjusted retinas. He put a hand up and turned his head and glanced back into the container. In the sliver of light he could see the true carnage and he burst up on to the roof with his eyes slammed shut. He rolled to his knees and grabbed his head with his hands and his forehead tucked to his knees. He just breathed the air that did not know could smell so sweet. He slowly now began to open his eyes and he could see his own hands pale and soft. There was bird shit on the roof of the container between his knees and his knees hurt on the hard metal surface.

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