Witches of Rascar Pablo: Part III

By Kristopher Lawrence
Edited by Gao Rong

Chapter 10: Katatòn

Y en cuanto a los que se encuentran
bajo la luna de Kataton,
Evadan la exaltación,
y tengan cuidado con el quetzlcoatlus.

And concerning those who find themselves
beneath the Katatonian moon,
Evade the exaltation,
and beware the quetzalcoatlus.

∞ : ∞ @# ijđæ, ĦǮ ∞, ЊҨ (ӢἏ)
??, ЌΆȚǢŦŐŇ

Almost immediately after falling asleep, Lucas awoke clinging desperately to the flimsy branches of an old oak tree. He looked down, could see the same murky waters he’d seen many times before, overtaken by moss and lily pads, running like a moat about the craggy hill on which the church sat. He looked up at the purple, holomorphic sky, could see the red sun suspended there, covered in black lesions like a kind of splendid carcinoma. Howling winds blew the moat’s rank stench into his face and curled his nose as he panned the horizon for whatever was making that sound – it was like the soft whinny of a pony. Using his hand as a visor against the glare he squinted and watched a small incoming fleck gradually take the shape of bird as its whinny warped to the sound of a wrenching, gyrating ignition that refused to turn over. It came nearer. He could make out its terrible beak and its wicked wings stretching to the furthest corners of his peripherals. Its sharp talons opened. Its booming, ratcheting squeal paralyzed him.

He pondered letting go of the already splitting branch on which he stood and looked down. The putrid moat was right below him – as it always was. Just as the giant bird-like creature came screaming by, a sudden pain – seemingly out of nowhere – twisted though his left calf, and he let go. He entered into a long, prolonged free fall that lasted for several minutes before plunging into the moat. The splash resulted in a standing mist in which brilliant fractal-like rainbows glittered where it met the rays of the soon-to-be setting sun. He started swimming for shore. The burning pain in his leg combined with the confused contrast between the moat’s surface and the rank atmosphere was terrifying, and he began to sink. As he sank, he could feel something moving along his left arm. He could see the small lump running slowly along his vein toward his hand and he suddenly remembered… A cold tingle ran up his spine and, for a split second, he could see Harmony’s face hovering over him. He could see the flickering candlelight, and the Child of God tattoo on her throat. He could feel the guitar strings at his finger tips. Then it was gone, and all he could see were the algae-covered pebbles at the bottom of the moat. He made one more futile attempt at reaching the surface before the water – if indeed that’s what it was – went from stationary to moving in a circular current. A drain opened up beneath him and a whirlpool spiraled about him. He was sucked in, whisked through a series of slimy tunnels, spat out into a shallow, slimy gutter laid with brittle, algae-covered bricks. He had been here before, hadn’t he? He carefully lowered himself over the seemingly less steep edge of the shelf. The pain in his calf still throbbed and burned. Little fragments of obsidian dug into his leg as he slid down, and drew blood that evaporated into miniature mushroom clouds of candy-apple red as it touched the putrid air. He looked up and was struck by a kind of déjà vu at the sight of the giant mastiff. Its body was a mosaic of tortured souls, twisted and mangled, that writhed and cried out in distress as it sniffed about the gutter. Its eyes were orbs of pure black, its jowls wet malleable humanoids, flanks like grand pianos, and haunches as big as tractor engines. Lucas slid into a crevice beneath the ledge as the huge beast tried to root him out. Its snout came out over the edge and was right above him. A wart on its nose was the caved-in head of Deezer. It opened its eyes and screamed. Lucas screamed back, alerting the beast to his hiding place. It growled, peered down the crevice, forced its paw through, trying to get at him. It growled and frothed and barked. The sudden low bellow of a horn sounded, it recoiled, left the enclave.

Lucas dislodged himself from the crevice, walked upward along the side of the ditch. The molten red sun faded as he watched it set behind a file of buttes off to his left. Its mean glare gradually was replaced by the seductive ward of the pink moon, filling him with a kind of fraudulent warmth. Rats trickled out of cracks in the cobblestone and stampeded downward, opposite his direction. Some of them started up his pant leg and he swatted at them frantically while climbing up a ledge to get out of their path. Then he heard that sound again, like the ratcheting squeal of a broken transmission, and up ahead of him appeared the giant black winged creature he’d seen on his way in, with wings spread and fury in its eyes. He turned and ran. He ran alongside the rats. He peered over his shoulder. It was right behind him, gliding right at him. He crouched, curled up into a ball. It flew right by him and dove into the rush of rats. Lucas watched in awe as it scooped up rats by the dozens into its gaping pelican-like beak. He could hear their bones snap and crunch as it chewed them. When its wings were folded it had the shape of a giraffe with talons and a six-foot beak.

“What are you doing here, boy?” it said in a low growl. It stood motionless, watching him with its black orbs, waiting for an answer.

Lucas stood paralyzed, unable even to look up at the creature, or believe it was him that the monster was addressing. He was forgetting something. Then he remembered. Breathe! He inhaled the vile atmosphere. The colors brightened, and some courage followed. “I was sent here,” he said, trembling as the creature stalked up to him.

“By whom?”

Lucas tried to remember who’d sent him there, and why, but to no avail. “I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t remember.”

The creature, with one swift motion of its talon, pinned Lucas to the ground, held its razor-sharp claw to his neck – the slightest twitch meant a fatal penetration to his jugular.

“Maybe you are one of Maximilian’s,” growled the creature. “Why shouldn’t I devour you here and now?”

A tingly itch built up in Lucas’s sinuses and he sneezed.

“Why didn’t you say so,” said the creature. It removed its talon from his jugular. “I am quite fond of the
young shaman.”

Lucas picked himself up. The creature looked down at him with its big black orbs. “Chank,” it said before spreading its massive wings and lifting itself into a hover above him. “I am called Chank.”

“The church,” cried Lucas, “where is it?”

“Follow this path to its end, and you will see it.” The creature’s voice echoed around him, “and do not listen to the pink moon.” It flapped its wings, broke off from its circular hover and headed for the horizon. “That was the folly of Francisco.”

* * *

9:23 pm Friday, May 19, 1984 (PDT)
Grants Pass, Oregon

Jon’s dad, with Jon and Paul, drove in the dark with their headlights turned off. No other cars were on the road. They followed the scattered flocks of pedestrians – all of whom wore sunglasses and had makeshift items jammed in their ears – to the bottom of the mountain that sat behind the high school. After skidding to a halt at the bottom of the BLM road, Jon’s dad pulled a pair of sunglasses from his glove box, put them on, wadded up some tissue paper, jammed it into his ears.

“Wait in the car,” he said, “and lock the doors. Be right back.”

He joined a man and a woman that had just started up the gravel BLM road on foot. He walked with them without saying a word.

“He goes to the boy in the place on the hill and… and…” said the man. He was tall, wore grease-stained coveralls, and wielded a huge crescent wrench.

“Goes to the… the… she goes to the forest with the mountain… to the… to the boy… to the forest…” said the woman, an attractive debutant in a skirt and high heels. She turned to Jon’s dad. “He’s up there,” she whispered. Her breathing was labored, bordering on sexual, “Huuuh… huuuhhhh… how do you think of doing it?”

Jon’s dad hesitated, not knowing what she meant, “Oh… me?… um… There are so many possibilities of how to do it,” he improvised. “Hard to decide… how about you?”

She lowered her tortoise shell sunglasses, looked at him with her bloodshot eyes. “With her bare hands,” she said, passionately, and with heightened pleasure she strangled an imaginary person in front of her.

“Oh… y-yes,” stuttered Jon’s dad. “That’s a good way of doing it.”

“She wants to pop his head off!” Her eyes bulged out of her skull, the muscles in her arms went taught as she strangled the imaginary person.

“Okay… sounds good.” Jon’s dad started back to the car. The woman turned and hissed at him.

“Oh shit,” yelled Jon. He and Paul watched from the car as the debutant and the mechanic stalked his dad. The mechanic chucked the giant wrench at his dad and missed. Paul ducked behind the seat as it twirled into the side mirror, breaking it clean off.

“The brights,” shouted Jon’s dad. “Switch the flip!”

Jon hit the switch to turn on the high beams. The woman and the mechanic fell to the gravel, writhed and squirmed.

Jon’s dad jumped into the driver’s seat, shoved Jon aside, hit the gas, and peeled out, leaving the woman and the mechanic in the dust.

Chapter 11: The Mace

Pero al final,
a través del medium o del brujo,
la secuencia puede ser forzada a someterse,
e incluso aliados se pueden encontrar en él.

But in the end,
through the medium of the warlock,
the sequence can be brought to submission,
and even allies can be found therein.

10:50 pm Friday, May 19, 1984 (PDT)
Grants Pass, Oregon

Benny and Rachel offered to go to town to get first-aid for Lucas’s wound, and a power converter for the mace. They bounded down the mountain in the old Volkswagen bus. Neither spoke a word for the first several minutes. Benny was taking sharp turns at fifty, and going seventy in-between.

“Please slow down,” said Rachel.

Benny huffed, glared, up-shifted, increased his speed.

“You can’t help Lucas if you’re dead,” she said.

Benny nearly collided head on with a black sedan speeding up the mountain with it’s brights on. They both hit the brakes and skidded right by each other.

“That was Paul,” exclaimed Rachel.

“In that car?” said Benny. “Are you sure?”

Benny went into reverse. So did Jon’s dad. They backed up until they were alongside each other.

Rachel got out of the van and stomped over to the black sedan to where Paul was sitting. “Where were you,” she shouted. She tried to open the door but Paul locked it just before she could. She pounded on the window, glared at him. He scooted back from the door, stared at her through his coke bottle lenses.

“Everyone is looking for you,” she shouted.

“Go talk to your sister so she stops banging on my car!” said Jon’s dad.

Paul got out. “Don’t ever do that!” she said, “If you’re not going to tell Mom or Dad where you are, at least tell me.” She hugged him.

“Did you find Lucas?” asked Jon.

“Yes,” said Benny. “About two-hundred feet to the left of the five-mile marker you’ll see an old A-frame. Lucas is there with Orion. He’s hurt. He got shot.”

“Many psychos coming up this mountain right now,” said Jon’s dad. “Be careful.”

“Yeah,” said Rachel, “we know.”

“We’re going to get some first-aid stuff for Lucas,” said Benny as he and Rachel climbed back into the van. “Wait for us at the A-frame, will you?”

Benny and Rachel continued down the mountain. They rounded another corner and slowed down when an elegantly dressed woman, and a man in dingy blue coveralls, came into view.

Rachel squinted, trying to get a better look at the approaching duo. “They both have sunglasses on,” she said. “And earplugs!”

Benny floored it. Dust and gravel kicked up behind them and they launched down the small stretch of road and smashed into the two. The woman was mangled under the chassis. The mechanic blasted off of the windshield and went into a series of backward airborne somersaults.

Rachel looked back at them. They both lay bloody and motionless in their tracks. “They aren’t moving,” she said.

The BLM road came to an end, and Benny turned onto the highway. There were small parties of sunglass-wearing, stick and stone-wielding pedestrians all over the place.

“Jesus Christ,” said Benny, “they’re everywhere!”

A shovel twirled out of one of the cliques and banged into the windshield, and hairline faults spider-webbed across it.

Benny handed Rachel the Glock he’d taken from Deezer. “If someone else throws something, shoot ’em.”

Rachel took the plastic handgun. “I’ve never shot a gun before,” she said. “How do I do it?”

Benny screwed up his face at her. “Just aim and pull the trigger!”

Rachel sat ready with the pistol. The deranged zealots continued wandering up the highway. No one else threw anything or gave them any trouble.

The hospital was desolate. There were few cars in the parking lot, and not a soul stirred.

“It looks closed,” said Benny.

“Hospitals don’t close,” said Rachel, stepping out of the bus.

“No. Wait in the car. And if any more lunatics in sunglasses come, shoot ’em.”

“No. We should stay together.”

“No.” Benny started toward the front entrance. “Stay here. Stay in the car.”

Almost immediately after he went in, a pair of giggling nurses, one blonde and the other black-haired, both looking in their twenties, walked out from the hospital onto the parking lot. They tripped a doctor who was on his way in. He fell to the ground, and they teased him by mimicking him. They weren’t wearing sunglasses, but they did seem bothered by the light – even though that part of the parking lot was well shaded. Rachel reluctantly got out of the van and went up to them from behind. Their giggles grew more wicked.

The man seemed ill. He crawled on all fours, permeating the stench of human feces.

“Oh, did the poor doctor shit his pants?” asked the blonde nurse.

“That’s okay, doc, we like when you shit your pants,” said the brunette.

“Like… totally,” said the blonde, “poop is the shit.”

They continued giggling, and the giggles warped into omnificent hackles that echoed around them. Rachel felt a stabbing sensation, lost her balance and dropped the pistol. It made a noise when it hit the ground and drew the nurses’ attention. Both nurses dashed toward it. Rachel dove and scooped it up just before they could get to it. The nurses started toward her. The blonde was smiling ecstatically.

“Stop!” said Rachel, backing away, and keeping the pistol trained.

They continued toward her.

Rachel took a deep breath. Pop! Pop! Two head shots. She looked down at the two twitching bodies, and the pools of blood expanding about their heads like crimson halos. She tried helping the doctor up but he swatted her hand away.

“Leave me alone,” he said. “When the police see what you did, you will be in big trouble!”

Translucent and violently vibrating tentacles protruded from the opened skull of one of the fallen nurses and began crawling toward the doctor, dragging the nurse’s twitching body along with it. It attached itself to the doctor’s leg, climbed all the way up his body toward his face. Rachel put the Glock to it and blew it clean out of the nurse’s skull, ripping it in two, and killing it. The two halves writhed and shriveled for a second on the pavement before going motionless.

The doctor looked dumbfounded at the partially transparent, squid-like tentacles.

Rachel’s hands and one of her legs shook uncontrollably for a few seconds as she processed what she’d just done. “You’re a doctor?” she asked, hyperventilating, and trying not to look at the huge hairy mole on his chin.

“I’m a cardiologist,” he said, standing in such a way that made it obvious he’d just soiled himself.

“My friend’s been shot in the leg. Can you help him?”

He was unable to take his eyes off the strange tentacled creature. “Not my problem,” he said.

“I just helped you.”

“I never asked you for help.” He glared at her. “I don’t owe you anything.” Carefully, so as to not worsen the mess in his drawers, he knelt down beside one of the halves of the tentacled creature, set his briefcase down, pulled a camera from it, and started taking pictures. Then he felt something hard press up against the back of his head.

“Get up,” said Rachel.

He stood up, looked at her. She banged him over the head with the plastic grip of the Glock. “Don’t look at me, dumbass,” she shouted. “Just walk!”

Her hands shook uncontrollably as she guided him at gunpoint to the van and opened the door to the passenger seat. “Get in.” He began to climb in. “Wait!” she said, covering her nose. “You stink like shit.” Without taking the pistol’s aim from him, she opened the side door, pulled some newspaper from the back seat and threw it at him. “Put this down first.” She climbed into the back passenger seat, not taking her eyes nor the pistol’s aim from him.

“You are making a mistake,” he said.

“I helped you,” she said. “Now you’re going to help me.”

Benny returned with gauze, a stitch kit, and a bottle of rubbing alcohol. He climbed into the driver’s seat and screwed up his face on noticing the smell. “Is that shit?” he asked.

“I found a doctor,” said Rachel. “I think he can help Lucas.”

Benny looked at Rachel, and then at the man she had at gunpoint; he recognized him from the day before.

The doctor, huffed, and looked away.

Benny turned to Rachel, “I knew there was something special about you.”

“Well,” said Rachel, “I do think he shit his pants. Should we take him somewhere and let him get cleaned up? I mean… so we don’t have to drive all the way back with this smell?”

* * *

10:24 pm Friday, May 19, 1984 (PDT)
Grants Pass, Oregon

Carlos, resting his head in Harmony’s lap, strummed the tune to Midnight Rider on the now powerless Stratocaster while she sang the lyrics. Orion sat next to the shattered window, pacing, watching and smoking.

“Eh, señor brujo,” said Carlos, “this kid’s leg is… not looking so good – casi todo es negro.”

On examining the tourniquet Orion noticed that the remaining tadpole started jumping up and down in the dish. It jumped clear out of the dish onto the table. He took a large, rolled-up piece of canvas from a drawer, cleared off the coffee table, and unrolled it there. It was a map – maze-like – extremely detailed, deep and colorful, with labels and markers in Romance, and topographical denotations in burnt ink.

“It’s beautiful,” gushed Harmony. “What is it?”

“Map,” said Orion.

The only writing on the entire map which she could read was the signature in the corner. “Who’s Francisco? Is he like… an artist?”

Orion lifted the polliwog from the dish by the horse hair he’d threaded through its tail and flung it onto the map. He pulled more of the small mushrooms from his necklace pouch, chewed them, took of swig of water, swished it around his mouth, then spat it onto the polliwog, drenching the map along with it. The Polliwog slowly began to inch its way through the topographical maze and Orion watched it with great intensity.

Harmony heard voices coming from outside and she peered out through the broken window. A dirty flannel-wearing figure approached with a Molotov cocktail tied to a piece of rope. He swung it above his head like a lasso, about to loose it. Orion came to the window, saw the man, drew the revolver and shot him, dropping him in an instant. The Molotov cocktail burst open all over him as he fell, engulfing him in flames. Harmony saw the bodies of the eight-year-old girl and Deezer strewn out not too far from where he burned. She looked up at the sky and cried, “Oh God! Please help us!”

Strange voices, stones and other projectiles flew out from the brambles and bombarded the shack. Orion tried firing more rounds, but there were no more, and pulling the trigger just made a clicking sound as more deranged zealots wearing sunglasses approached. He released the bat and it flew right into the head of one oncomer’s swinging shovel, injuring it, and felling it to the ground where it remained motionless.

A black sedan suddenly roared into the enclave and skidded to a halt in front of the shack. When its brights went on the approaching rabble screamed in heinous mind-throttling synchrony. A hammer and a shovel and other projectiles twirled into the sedan. Jon’s dad stepped out, opened the trunk, pulled out a long rectangular case, and took cover behind the sedan. He emerged a moment later armed with a huge homemade nail gun. He blasted off dozens of nails, mowing down half the flock of oncomers within seconds – the rest flew back into the woods.

* * *

∞ : ∞ @# ijđæ, ĦǮ ∞, ЊҨ (ӢἏ)
??, ЌΆȚǢŦŐŇ

Lucas continued his ascent. The walkway narrowed and darkened. The pink moon loomed over his shoulder, whispering universal truths of lunacy and trigonometry. He came to a tunnel that gaped and yawned and he entered it on all fours. It narrowed further forcing him to slither. He slithered nearly a hundred feet in the pitch black before coming to what felt like a junction. There he heard what sounded like the scuttle of something approaching from behind. Before he could make a decision regarding the junction, a train of rats came from behind forcing him into the left tunnel as they squeezed by him on all sides. They went by him for about another fifteen feet down the tunnel before surpassing him completely and disappearing into the darkness ahead.

He continued forward through several twists and turns before he could see light. The tunnel opened up onto the floor of a chasm where, as far as the eye could see, captives in chains and shackles banged on rocks with hammers and chisels. Strange, he thought. The tunnel must have bypassed the church. Some slaves were nude, some wore tattered rags – they all looked malnourished, and mumbled in intervals set by periodic nods to the pink moon. Guards with cleft palates, Habsburg jaws and other facial deformities, elegantly clad in linens and leathers walked among them carrying whips, accompanied by hounds on leashes. The walls of the chasm had been carved into a complex system of rooms with balconies and walkways running between them where finely dressed aristocrats observed the epic labor from above.

Lucas’s attention went to a majestic white-marble sculpture that sat a hundred feet tall in the middle of the gorge. Its head and torso were those of a bare-breasted woman, its arms and lower body were those of a lioness. It sat on its haunches with regal posture, amidst the clanking of hammers and chisels. He felt a sneeze coming on just as one of the huge hounds with a whip-wielding female in toe rounded a nearby corner and stalked in his direction. She was pale-skinned and wore a nun’s dress. Her face was horrendous – her nose seemed to spiral inward, and the left side of her face was lip-less and cheek-less, all the way back to her molars.

He ducked into a nearby cluster of granite boulders and tried to keep from sneezing. He could still see the marble gargoyle and, as he looked at it, felt something burning in his hand. A lump on the back of his right hand moved clockwise in a circle, blue strands of light suddenly crossed his vision, and his leg burned with pain. His palms emitted light, and as soon as he looked at them, he let out a sneeze. It immediately drew the hound’s attention and the huge canine led the female guard to the granite cluster where Lucas was hiding.

* * *

11:45 pm Friday, May 19, 1984 (PDT)
Grants Pass, Oregon

The bodies piled up and began to form a semi-circular ridge of carnage about the face of the shack where Jon’s dad was now running out of ammo. Jon and Paul entered the old A-frame. After gaping at the arcane herbal pharmacy for a second, and the coat-hanger-brandy-snifter contraption, they saw Lucas resting in the lap of some woman, strumming a powerless Stratocaster, singing “La Cucaracha” with an accent, and with his black-and-blue leg in a tourniquet.

“Hey… little homies,” said Carlos. “Bienvenidos a la fiesta!”

“Lucas?” came Jon.

“Lucas not here,” sang Carlos, deliriously, “Lucas went bye bye… la cucaracha, la cucaracha, ya no puedo cambiar!”

Paul whispered to Jon, “Something’s… like… wrong with him.”

Jon watched Orion, who was concentrating on a tadpole inching its way through an incredibly detailed maze drawn onto an old piece of canvas.

“What’s he doing?” asked Jon.

Paul was already distracted by the many jars containing insects on the shelf. He stood in front of it, nibbling at his finger nail, gazing into one in particular. “Sphex lucae! That’s my wasp!” He pulled the jar from the shelf, turned it over in his hands, and watched as the wicked red and black insect crawled up a twig toward the hole-punched lid. Then he noticed the label written onto masking tape. “Sphex lucae ungido?” he read out loud. He brought the jar to his face and squinted, trying to get a better look. He tapped his index finger against the glass.

“No!”’ said Orion, not wanting to turn his attention from the map. “No toques eso! Don’t touch that!”

Two Molotov cocktails broke onto the roof of the A-frame. Jon’s dad burst in. “Everyone in the car, now,” he shouted. A stone soared through the doorway and banged into the back of his head and he fell unconscious.

“Dad,” yelled Jon. He knelt over his motionless father.

Paul dropped the jar and it shattered onto the floor. The wasp took off from under a shard of glass and landed on his sleeve, and he wigged and flailed and it bit him on the hand and flew out the window. “Ouch!” He gripped his hand and winced at the mark it left between his thumb and index finger. A wave of warmth and euphoria rolled over him. He looked around the room. Everything moved in slow motion. Jon shouted something at him, but it was too slow and distorted to make out. His muscles burned and flexed involuntarily. He looked at Orion.

Orion looked up from the map, shot him a devious smile, and said in profoundly clear speech, “Don’t waste it.”

An arachnid whose thorax was the split-open head of some zealot, and whose abdomen was their twitching body being drug behind it, entered the shack and climbed onto Jon. It’s mostly transparent spider-like legs sent jarring electricity through Jon and he screamed and struggled to escape its grip. He managed to break free from it, but it latched onto his foot, causing him to fall down.

Orion was unfazed by all of the commotion and refused to divert his attention from the tadpole.

Paul pried the massive nail gun from the hands of Jon’s unconscious father. Harmony came to help him lift it, but he already had it off the ground and was taking aim, and she watched in awe as the lanky kid with seemingly unreal strength unloaded the remaining rounds into the arachnid, nailing it to the floor.

As flames further engulfed the shack’s exterior, some of the oddly-dispersed cliques of deranged zealots became excited and broke into spontaneous orgies and spats of bestial behavior.

Jon picked himself up. A final surge of remaining electricity arced and crackled audibly over his body and he coughed and wheezed. He looked around him, suddenly acutely aware of the environment and all that was in it. He saw every object, every organism, every event – how each was related to the next, like a terrifying causal web of cosmic energy.

More of the arachnid-dead-body hybrids approached the shack just as the old Volkswagen bus smashed through one of the cliques of zealots and crushed them under its tires where it skidded to halt. Benny and Rachel exploded out of it.

“Jesus,” cried Benny, when he saw the state of the A-frame and the number of oncomers attacking it. He pulled the cardiologist by the arm, led him into the burning shack while trying to avoid incoming stones and other airborne projectiles.

The doctor’s attention first went to Jon’s father who was strewn out motionless on the floor. He checked his vitals and, on discovering he was simply unconscious, went over to Lucas.

“Hey doc,” said Carlos, deliriously, “remember me?”

The doctor huffed and proceeded to remove the tourniquet as cinders and little pieces of flaming ceiling began to flutter down from overhead.

“Remember?… The defibrillator?”

“No, I don’t remember,” said the doctor, sarcastically.

“No?” Carlos laughed deliriously. “Not by the hairs on your chinny chin chin?” he said, jesting at the hairs on the man’s mole.

Jon and Paul stared in wonder at Lucas’s Mexican-accented, strange dialog with the doctor, and then they both began to cough as the room filled with smoke.

Benny burst out the door of the shack and looked around for something – anything – to smother the fire with. He took the leather jacket off a nearby corpse – some middle-aged woman – and threw it onto the flaming roof of the A-frame. It seemed to work and so he picked it up again repeated the action several times. The fire seemed to die down. He reentered the shack and was almost struck by an incoming metal pipe.

“Did you bring the converter?” asked Carlos.

“Shit!” cursed Benny. “I forgot.”

“Puta madre. We’re all going to die here!”

Jon picked up the broken converter. Still feeling slight tingles of electricity, he inspected the hole and embedded bullet, and he saw the entire chain of events that led to it – even the trajectory of the bullet seemed to manifest when he concentrated on it. “This thing can still work,” he said, not knowing himself how he knew. “Anyone have a key? Something sharp?”

Benny handed Harmony’s key ring to Jon. Jon used one of the keys to pry the bullet from the converter. He removed the plastic casing and looked at the muddle of wires and circuits. He understood, with inexplicable clarity, what needed to be done. Moving at incredible speed, he began crossing wires and messing with the exposed innards. He came to an impasse when he realized that the bullet had severed contact between two of the main conductors.

“Can you really fix it?” said Benny, excitedly, as a rock flew through the already broken window and struck the opposite wall.

“Crap,” said Jon, “maybe not.”

Paul had a ringing in his head and his hand throbbed where the wasp had stung him. He felt something burning in his pocket and he reached in to see what it was. It was one of his paperclips. He pulled it out and examined it.

Paul snatched it from his hand. “That’s perfect!”

“We can’t stay here,” cried Rachel.

Benny lifted Jon’s unconscious father over his shoulder. “Come on,” he shouted. “Get in the car!”

Two snarling, retching zealots climbed through the window and pounced on Rachel. Benny dropped Jon’s father to come to her aid. Harmony beat one of them with the butt end of the nail gun. Another came through the door and tackled Benny. Its eyes were clouded over by blood and cataracts and it growled out of its chewed-off lips and bloody gums.

Meanwhile Jon was working away. “I got it,” he shouted. He re-attached the mended converter to the amp and ran out the door with the extension cord.

“Wait,” cried Rachel.

The lights on the amp flashed and the crystal brandy-snifters began to hum. Carlos picked the strings with his surrogate fingers and fusion exploded from the amp and quaked through the enclave surrounding the shack. Cries of suffering, dying zealots sounded from all directions. The two grappling with Benny ceased and ran out screaming.

Orion went out to the front. Benny and Rachel followed. Zealots scattered in all directions. Each time Carlos strummed the mace, some of them fell, contributing to the ever-growing blanket of carnage. Orion, seemingly unbothered by the heinous commotion, walked over to where the bat lay black and motionless. He knelt down, took it into his hands, looked up to the sky and shouted, “Dios mio!” A gust of wind screamed through the enclave and created a window through which hundreds of warriors on standing horseback could be seen wherever they collided with the vibrations and the strums of the mace.

Benny and Rachel held onto each other in fright at the sudden transformation of the surroundings. Orion inhaled as much of the wind as he could and then blew it out onto the bat. It turned bright orange and flapped its wings. “Rascar Pablo, he shouted. “Ride! Warriors, ride! Ride to Katatòn!”

The bat took fight and the riders thundered away behind it, following it to the horizon, and to Katatòn.

Chapter 12: Wrath of Rascar Pablo

Para que podamos quedarnos asombrados
por los efectos curativos de la venganza
y la sabiduría de la deidad.

That we may stand in awe

at the healing effects of vengeance,
and the wisdom of the deity.


∞ : ∞ @# ijđæ, ĦǮ ∞, ЊҨ (ӢἏ)
??, ЌΆȚǢŦŐŇ

It took only seconds for the hound to sniff out Lucas and, before he could make a run for it, had him by the foot and was dragging him out from the pile of granite. The nun cracked her whip at him. “No descansar! No descansar!” she said.

The hound’s gnawing teeth sank into Lucas’s foot and he wailed. When the nun noticed his clothes and that he wore no shackles, her eyes bulged with shock, and she too screamed. “Intruso!”

Several guards broke from their posts and gathered about him. One of the bigger ones shooed off the hound and, with his foot, drove Lucas’s face into the cold, wet floor then and chained his hands together from behind.

A war-cry sounded. Sudden ululations and thunderous clop of hooves drew the attention of the guards. An axe-wielding warrior on horseback smashed into them and after a flick of his wrist the severed head of one of the guards came rolling down the causeway. A score of riders entered the gorge from all sides. They came out from adjacent tunnels and from eroded veins in the coarse rock with hooves hammering. They wielded bows, spears and rifles.

The guards dispersed in hysteria.

“Es Rascar Paolo,” shouted the one who had Lucas. “A las armas!” He slung Lucas over his shoulder and bolted for cover toward the entrance of one of the artificial tunnels.
A tomahawk glided right past Lucas’s face and sunk into the back of the guard, severing his spine. The warrior to whom the it belonged swooped in on horseback and, without slowing, took Lucas by the arm, threw him over his saddle, and rode away from the chaos.

With his head violently bobbing up and down to the gallop of the horse, Lucas watched hundreds of pale-skinned men in white shirts and wide-brimmed hats flood into the gorge with rifles and hounds and clash with the warriors in the center before the massive marble relic. Shamans wearing nothing but loin cloths, covered from head to toe in mud and devil’s root, leapt from the backs of horses and spit fire onto the minions. Arrows soared onto the balconies and walkways above, piercing the flesh of the aristocrats. Slaves launched hammers at guards. One group of slaves had their chains around the neck of a giant hound, suffocating it. Lucas heard the fevered whispers of the Katatonian moon calling his name, “Lucas… Lucas…” could feel its soft manic light on his neck. The smooth boundary of the marble relic’s surface morphed into the smudgy graphite edges of a rough illustration. The pink moon deformed into a single fluorescent light bulb humming over him in the classroom. The voice calling his name was that of his trigonometry teacher, Mrs. Davis. “Lucas,” she shouted, “this is math time, not nap time!”

Lucas looked around. The entire class stared at him. There was whispering and snickering. His stomach churned and a sudden wave of nausea left him pale.

“Are you alright?” asked Mrs. Davis with concern. “You don’t look so good. And it seemed like you were having a bad dream.”

Laughter sounded throughout the class.

“Shush!” said Mrs. Davis.

Lucas looked over his shoulder. There was Orion, snapping his fingers, grunting and groaning, as usual. His stomach churned again, and he felt like vomiting. “Can I go to the bathroom?” he asked.

“Go,” said Mrs. Davis.

With one hand over his stomach, Lucas charged down the corridor and into the restroom. Deezer was there smoking a cigarette, relieving himself at the urinal.

Deezer glanced over his shoulder at Lucas, smoke rolling out of his nostrils. “You okay?” he asked.

Lucas smashed through the door of the closest stall and blew his lunch all over the porcelain bowl.

It was all a dream, he told himself – it was something he’d gotten used to telling himself. He slouched over the toilet panting, hands on his knees.

“Damn!” said Deezer, ogling at the mess from over his shoulder.

Lucas was hyperventilating. Something in the bowl moved.

“What the… what is that?” asked Deezer with a curious look. A single tadpole swam amid the floating chunks. Lucas’s legs wobbled as he leaned over the bowl again. “You’ve been eatin’ tadpoles? Sick, dude!”

A commotion in the hallway drew their attention. Deezer exited the bathroom. Lucas pulled himself together and followed. They stood and watched as the entire special needs classroom emptied into the hallway. Students who’d been diagnosed with Samos disease who, for years, could neither speak nor function, and had been deemed mentally ill, now paraded down the halls talking amongst themselves ecstatically as if they’d all been cured. The special needs staff called after them to come back to the classroom, but were universally ignored.

“Wow… they can talk again,” said Deezer. “That’s some trippy shit.”

After school, when Benny, Lucas, Deezer and Paul got off the bus at their stop on Demoray, the Channel Seven News van was parked next to the tennis courts of St. Anne’s where a news crew was interviewing a girl and her parents.

“So,” said the news anchor, a blonde woman in a pantsuit, “how does it feel to be reunited with your daughter who, for the past year, has been in a state of… in a state where she was unable to walk, or even to speak?”

“It’s a miracle,” said the teary-eyed mother, sniveling. “We don’t know what or who is responsible for it, but we’re thanking God every moment.”

“We’ve had multiple, matching reports from the sudden Samos recoverees of being forced to do labor in some kind of underground caves. Many of the recoverees reporting these experiences are doing so without any knowledge of others reporting the same. We were wondering if your daughter might have something to say about that?”

The parking lot of St. Anne’s was empty save a single black sedan. “That’s your sister, right?” Deezer asked Paul.

Chapter 13: The Slaves Freed

Que los esclavos sean libres
y que los recuerdos latentes se perpetúen
de acuerdo con el arquetipo.

That the bondsmen may be free,
and that the latent memories may perpetuate
in accordance with the archetype.


3:27 pm Thursday, May 18, 1984 (PDT)
Grants Pass, Oregon

Rachel wiped away the remaining tears and composed herself. She climbed out of her sedan and stormed across the parking lot of St. Anne’s toward the side entrance. She entered and went down the hall to Mr. Frederick’s classroom, where she had just seen Jessica fooling around with Mr. Fredericks. She tried peering through the window in the doorway, but the curtains had been drawn. She looked around. The halls were empty, silent. Her attention went to one of the doors down the hall that read ‘Photography’ above it. It was unlocked. She went in. The room was a mess of film, lenses, chemicals, and other equipment. She noticed a Polaroid camera sitting on a desk. She opened it up – it had film. She returned to Mr. Fredericks’s classroom and, very quietly, tried to open the door. It was locked. She looked around. A red fire extinguisher was mounted on the wall opposite her. She pulled it from its rungs and smashed it through the window of Mr. Fredericks’s door. She quickly swatted the curtain aside and snapped off two Polaroids of Jessica dismounting Mr. Fredericks. Jessica screamed. Mr. Fredericks’s started toward the door, zipping up his jeans. Rachel dropped the camera and bolted for the parking lot with the two Polaroid photos. When she was almost back to her sedan she felt Mr. Fredericks’s grip on her arm. He tore the photos from her hand.

“What were you going to do with these?” he asked, threateningly.

A hand came out of nowhere and snatched the photos from his hand. It was Benny. Deezer, Lucas and Paul stood behind him. Mr. Fredericks looked stupefied. Benny looked at the photos and gave the teacher a smirk before handing them to Rachel.

“Hi,” he said to her. “I’m Benny.”

“Rachel,” she said. She gave a slight smile, at first, and then looked at him with intrigue.

As Benny looked at her, images of a strange memory of being with her in a desert canyon flashed before his eyes. He knew her. He’d driven with her somewhere in a… in a Volkswagen bus?

Rachel returned his gaze. She too remembered him. It was like a strange kind of déjà vu involving a cataclysm in the woods, and an earth-shaking electric guitar. She asked, “Do I… know you?”

He went up to her and kissed her.

She kissed him back. They embraced and kissed, and the air around them was electric.

Mr. Fredericks scurried off when he saw the Channel Seven News crew.

* * *

7:39 pm Lunes, Mayo 15, 1954 (CDT)
Rascar Pablo, Jalisco

Carlos awoke on the arid turf of the Jalisco wasteland with sand in his mouth. His head ached and pounded with the scorching sun beating down on him.

“Ay… cabrón,” he wheezed, barely able to open his eyes. Using his hand against the glare, he tried looking at his surroundings. He found his canteen hanging by its leather thong from a mezcal not fifty feet away. It was empty. He found his guitar leaning up against the ribcage of a horse that had long since expired. He started toward the two distant mountains between which Rascar Pablo was seated. He walked, picking the strings of his guitar, singing, “La cucaracha, la cucaracha, ya no puedo cambiar…”

After walking about a mile in the scorching heat he could walk no further. He pulled the one remaining button from his pocket, examined it, and considered wetting his dry mouth with it. Then he heard someone calling his name. He looked toward the mountains, saw a woman in a white dress running toward him.

“Caaaaaarlooooos,” she called.

He knew the voice. She drew nearer and he could see her face. It was his sister, Rocío. She was free. He threw the button to the ground, exploded off on his heels, ran to her and embraced her. “Rocío!” he cried.

She took him by his hand and they walked together back into the village. The sound of music heightened as they neared Las Estrellas, and they made out the crowd building up about the bonfire. A file of warriors approached the gathering, and the leader held a spear with a severed head resting on its tip. The massive underbite and cleft lip were unmistakably those of Maximilian – the Katatonian king. She took him up to where three warriors stood facing the fire. “Papá,” she called.

Their father and two brothers, Juan and Tomás, turned and faced them. They were battle worn, their garments rent, covered in blood and dust.

“Mi hija,” cried their father. He put his arms around Rocío. After a few moments, he freed one of his hands and offered it to Carlos. “Mi hijo.”

Carlos took his hand and his father pulled him into the embrace. Some of the elders began singing, and dancing erupted about the fire. Carlos looked up and watched the other families be reunited with their sons and daughters.

“Hola, Carlos,” came the voice of a woman.

Carlos turned and regarded her. She was exceeding beautiful and wore tight, heavily beaded buckskin. “Hola, chica.” He beamed, taking in her irresistibly – yet oddly familiar – feminine shape.

“I think this belongs to you.” She held out her hand and revealed the bat perched thereon. It flashed with bright neon pink and blue and launched itself into a playful flutter about the two.

Epilogue

Everyone had gone and Lucas walked alone up Demoray. Orion passed him going in the opposite direction, spasming, twitching, clicking his tongue, snapping his fingers, “click… snap… click… snap…

He turned and watched Orion walk away in the opposite direction. When he turned back he found himself face-to-face with Lucy, his neighbor’s – Mr. Johnson’s – mastiff. She flashed her teeth and barked and lunged at him. His heart dropped into his stomach and he took an involuntary step backward. His heart beat so fast he thought it would burst. Lucy’s growl lowered, her eyes bulged and her pupils shrank to little black specks. Maybe it was the fact that this wasn’t any more real than the nightmare he’d just endured. Maybe it was the memory of how his father had dealt with the beast a year earlier flashing before him. Whatever it was, it was sufficient. His spine straightened and his chest expanded as he inhaled all of that power. He could almost taste the rank Katatonian atmosphere as he did so. His eyes took the form of cold black stones that looked straight through her, blasting the confidence right out of her. He raised his right foot and got ready to stomp on her head, but before he could, she whimpered and ran off.

Now he knew it wasn’t all a dream. It couldn’t be. He thought of what he’d just heard the Channel Seven News anchor say about the Samos victims being cured, and then it hit him, and he took off running toward home. “Dad!”

* * *

Jon’s dad drove with Jon toward the hardware store on Jenkins Avenue. A teal Volkswagen bus parked on the shoulder came into view as they rounded a corner and he saw a woman pulling a tire iron from the trunk. He slowed and pulled up alongside her. “Flat tire?”

She turned and hunched over the passenger window where Jon sat.”Afraid so.” Her hair wisped in the wind as she spoke and she looked up toward the cloud-covered sky, revealing the crucifix and the words ‘Child of God’ tattooed over her throat. “When it rains…”

Thunder clapped. The sight of the woman’s tattoo sent what felt like a jolt of electricity through Jon, and frantic images of the same woman caught in a fray beside him and Paul in some mildew-ridden shack surged up.

Jon’s dad pulled off the road ahead of her and got out. Jon followed.

“Do you have a spare?” asked Jon’s dad.

Jon caught the scent of illegal herbs coming from the Volkswagen.

“I think so.” She walked him to her trunk, impulsively panning the horizons every few seconds as if expecting someone – or something.

“Everything okay?” he asked her.

“Maybe not,” she said worriedly, looking up the road.

Jon and his dad shot each other confused glances.

A police car emerged from around the corner and it slowed and eased its way up to them. The tattooed woman bolted and hopped the wire fence into the adjacent pasture, and ran toward the trees at the opposite end. The police car then sped up and skidded to a halt behind the Volkswagen, and a bald, thickset cop erupted from it and chased after her.

Jon’s dad watched curiously as the cop, already out of breath, hefted himself over the fence to come crashing down on the other side, and then pick himself up and bound toward the trees with his belly undulating to his gallop.

The wind blew harder and the clouds darkened. The sight of the cop’s face brought more frantic images searing through Jon, like strangely suppressed, electric fragments of memories. He looked around and saw that everything was different. He looked at the Volkswagen. It was not as it was before. He saw it not only as it was at that moment, but how it was at other moments, and how it came to be as it was at that moment. The chain of events that led to the aroma emanating from it was plain when he focused on it. Some slight scratch marks and smudges on the hood of the cop’s car then caught his attention. He examined them closer and could make out the precise angles at which the struggling woman’s manicured nails gouged through the white paint. He could imagine the exact pressure required for her lipstick and mascara to rub off as it did when she was held facedown against it.

A terrible scream rang out from the pasture and Jon and his dad peered out over the fence and saw that the cop had stumbled and caught his leg in something.

“Help,” screamed the cop.

Lightning flashed and illuminated a massive, blackening thunderhead moving in over them.

“Zhang Tao!” said Jon’s dad as he climbed the fence. “I’m going to help him. Wait here!”

Jon looked back at the cop’s car and noticed more of the scratch marks near the trunk. The low voltage spell seemed to be wearing off, and he made one last effort to deduce the antecedent event. As he glanced over the slight dent and chips in the paint on the edge of the trunk’s lid, for a split second, he could see how they got there – he could imagine how it was slammed down onto the no-longer-struggling woman’s wrist, colliding with her wrist watch with enough force to chip the paint as it did. He blinked and the spell was gone. He looked around and saw that everything was back to normal – everything except for the possibility of there being a body it the trunk of the cop’s car. Then he remembered. He looked back over the fence and saw that his dad was already half way to where the injured cop laid bellowing and twisting and turning. “Dad!”

Thunder pounded and echoed about them, and it began to rain. His dad stopped midfield and looked back. “What is it?!”

“Dad! You should see this!”

“Just wait!”

“No! I mean… you should see it now!”

“Don’t even think about going back over there,” shrieked the cop.

Jon’s dad turned toward the cop and saw that he had his pistol drawn and aimed at him.

“Now come over here and get this thing off my leg.”

Jon’s dad slowly put his hands up, took a few steps toward the cop, and then turned back and looked at Jon, who was now watching from half way up a fence post he’d climbed.

* * *

Paul and Rachel sat opposite each other at the dinner table. Rachel beamed and hummed a tune as she ate. Paul’s appetite seemed to have doubled overnight. Their mother smiled as she watched them eat. Neither Paul nor Rachel could remember the last time they’d seen her smile. Their dad looked at them with suspicion. “What’re you so happy about?” he huffed at Rachel.

“I know why she’s so happy,” said Paul, teasingly, with a ridiculous smile.

Rachel stuck her tongue out at Paul. “Shut-up, geek.”

Their dad glared at them. “Well… would you please stop that incessant humming!” he said to Rachel.

Rachel looked at him. Something was different. She wasn’t afraid of him. Not anymore.

“What’re you staring at?” he said to her.

She kept staring. A vaguely familiar image of two slain nurses bleeding out in a parking lot flashed before her eyes and she flinched.

“I said, what are you staring at?!”

Paul, too, felt different. Instead of feeling afraid, he just felt angry. Something stung on his left hand and a red lump – which he could have sworn he’d seen before – suddenly flared up between his thumb and index finger. His muscles twitched and burned and his ears rang as he became intensely aware of his surroundings.

Their dad got up and went over to Rachel. She didn’t take her eyes from him. He grabbed her by her hair, pulled back on it, and shouted into her face. “I said, what the fuck are you staring at?!”

Paul stood and glared defiantly at his dad, who still had Rachel’s hair in his grip.

“Now you’re gonna get it, too!” said his dad.

Paul couldn’t make out what he was saying. The ringing in his head was too jarring. It seemed to be coming from the empty wine bottle on the table, like it were a missing puzzle piece to the puzzle that was the situation. The demand grew louder and fiercer until there was no refusing it, and Paul picked it up by its neck and loosed it into his dad’s forehead. His dad stumbled backward into the wall. Their mother exploded out of her chair screaming, and launched herself into their dad, kicking and punching him until he was barely moving.

She grabbed him by his arms and tried pulling him toward the front door, but he was too heavy. Paul and Rachel came to her aid, each taking an arm, and dragged him out the front door onto the driveway. Paul’s strength suddenly gave out and he collapsed. When he picked himself up he noticed that the ringing in his ears was gone, and so was the burning red lump on his hand.

The sound of thunder boomed in the distance, and they looked and could see the massive dark thunderhead looming over the country.

Their dad moaned and turned beneath them, and they watched him in awkward silence.

More Sci-Fi Stories…

Kristopher Lawrence

The author, who goes by the pseudonym Kristopher Lawrence, is a mathematician and linguist. After a decade-long tenure in China, he returned to his home in Oregon where he now writes and indulges other such strangeness. Follow this link for a copy of his book! Witches of Rascar Pablo

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CWTJPVSL

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