Lords of Being
Chapter 34: If He Only Had A Brain
Hellgrammite’s phone chimes. He has mail from Rene. “I am at your disposal. May I join you?” He replies, “Yes,” and a text box appears on one of the big displays as soon as he hits the ‘Send’ key. The box has a picture of Rene, and the text, “Good day. How may I assist you?”
Hellgramite types, “We’ve met another ghost who we’re having trouble communicating with, and were wondering if you could help us.”
“May I manifest?”
A very translucent human steps out of the screen. A young man, possibly with dark hair. He’s clothed, but you can’t tell what he’s wearing. The figure says, “Thank you for having me.” Peri’s eyes get VERY large.
Neville replies, “Thank you for helping us.”
“I will see what I can do.” The figure looks at Charlie, then asks, “I assume that this is the gentleman you have spoken of?” Hellgrammite confirms that it is. Rene walks around Charlie, looking at him. “He has chosen an… interesting anchor.” Charlie looks nervous and slouches in his seat. Rene tries to reassure him, “Do not be alarmed. I will not harm you.” After a few more moments, Rene looks up. “There are portions… missing. I myself have not met many other ghosts, but he does not look… complete.” Charlie looks unhappy.
Neville asks, “Is there anything we can do to heal him?”
“From one point of view he has already suffered the greatest possible injury. It would seem that you are looking for a Cure of Souls, as they called it in the 19th century?”
Neville shrugs. “I don’t know. He’s afraid to move on.”
Rene replies, “I sympathize with the poor fellow’s plight. What are you doing for him now?”
Peri pipes up for the first time since Rene appeared: “I give him all my spare chi every night.”
Rene frowns, “Chi? Like in karate class?” Peri explains. Rene shrugs in response. “I can research this. He obviously is wounded in ways more than the physical.”
Glass softly asks if Rene would walk with him and walks to the back of the plane. “I haven’t really paid any attention to discorporated humans, so I don’t know much about ghosts. But my first impression was that he reminded me of a scarecrow.”
Rene cocks an eyebrow. “He’s haunting a scarecrow.”
Glass tries again. “I was struggling to understand the incompleteness.”
Rene tries to explain what’s missing. “When I look at him… have you ever seen one of the anatomical models done in plastic where all of the organs light up? Not all of his organs light up. Or not very bright.”
Glass looks at Rene with his metaphysical senses, trying to understand what’s missing from Charlie. He then looks at Charlie. To Glass’ metaphysical senses, Rene shows a human outline filled with a relatively symmetrical constellation of colored “lights” The brightest lights run from the head to the spine. The lights look like they might reflect a human nervous system, not that Glass has any idea what that would look like. Inside the head is something more intense. Beyond the human outline is a nimbus, or aura in shifting colors. Strands drift back through the plane to the terminal Rene entered through. Realizing that Glass is examining him, Rene spreads his arms and spins around to let Glass get a good look.
Simon now looks at Charlie. The organization is basically the same, but it’s much duller and more ragged, and the nimbus extending beyond the human form is missing.
Glass explains a bit of Charlie’s history. The little we know.
“You must understand. Like any ghost, I struggle to remain in the world of the living. I have not studied other ghosts. All ghosts have something holding them here. It may be their own desire, or their own fear. Mr. Charlie looks like he is confused. Some ghosts don’t see where to go from here. I’m staying because it’s so much fun haunting the net. Miss Edna is staying because she feels she has not had her time here yet.
Glass looks disapprovingly at the mention of Edna.
Rene tries to explain, “I have not seen Edna recently. She is in a certain amount of confusion. Edna regards Clisk as her benefactor. But she was affected by the low trick he played on the dog.”
Glass mutters, “I was not surprised that he played the low trick on the dog, since I feel he played a low trick on her. To persuade someone not to continue on the path strikes me as unfair. That you choose to hold back is your affair. To persuade someone else is another matter. My job is to help humanity on its path.”
Rene cocks his head. “This is very interesting. Perhaps we can find a notice board where we can talk more.”
Glass tries to explain again, “You appear to be content with your existence. He does not seem to be happy with his.”
“It would be good if he could find a place where he could be content.”
“I felt it would be rude to talk about him in front of his face.”
“He’s unlikely to remember much. I will be on my way.” Rene’s form vanishes. Through his metaphysical senses, Glass watches as the nervous system “unravels,” and a string of brightly colored lights goes whipping into the terminal and away. Rene is gone.
Hellgrammite posts contact information for Rene to the server he used to contact him before.
Peri exclaims, “That was the most… definite… clear-cut apparition I’ve ever seen!”
Glass shrugs. “He’s very... together.”
Hellgrammite expands on this: “He’s very focused in his purpose.”
Glass continues, “I believe you said you’d heard of him. He’s Rene. ‘The Ghost in the Machine’.”
Peri grins. “I thought that might be him. You called him on behalf of Charlie?”
“Yes, the hope was that another ghost could help us figure out what ails him.”
“That’s very nice of you. Is there anything I can do for Charlie? I can’t make him stop following me around and I can’t do anything about the geas on him. I’ve tried telling him to go away and he got really scared.”
Glass sighs. “Until he’s ready to move on, he has to associate “go away” with dissipating.”
Charlie’s looking puzzled and scared.
Peri asks cautiously, “Would you like me to research this? How to help ghosts?”
Glass shrugs again, “Sure.”
Neville asks, surprised, “You didn’t look earlier?”
“I didn’t think Dad would like it. But I sort of think I’m in a whole new league now.”
“I’m sure he’d be proud if you helped someone.”
Peri smiles faintly.
Glass picks up a bit of spare optical fiber and plays with it for a while and makes a glass badge with the inscription “Deputy VII” on it. Then he looks up and asks Peri to walk with him a bit. Charlie rises to join them. When Peri gestures for him to stay, Charlie sinks reluctantly back into his seat.
Once they’re away from Charlie, Glass asks, “Your father charged him with protecting you. He does this out of what?”
“Fear, I think. If he doesn’t protect me, he gets moved on.”
“Is there anything he reacts positively to? Happily?”
“It’s a little hard to say. It seems that it’s best for him when I’m hanging around doing nothing exciting so he thinks I’m safe. Then he fades away and doesn’t manifest.”
Glass mutters, “A Buddhist ghost.” At Peri’s confused look he explains, “They’re always talking about getting off the path. I was looking for something positive to see if we could arrange for there to be more. It would be a clue.”
“Maybe I should try focusing the chi to see if I could improve his memory. It would be good practice for me.”
Glass nods, then adds, “Be sure to watch to see if it makes him happy.”
“He may remember something.”
Glass cautions, “And what he remembers may scare him.”
Peri changes the subject. “Are we waiting for them to return or am I free to go?” she asks, referring to Rosamund and Mona.
Neville asks, “Do you need an escort back to Chopper?”
Peri scoffs, “I didn’t see any more Tyndale Hounds out there.”
Glass cautions, “It’s not Tyndale Hounds. There are monkey gods, courtiers, pages, minions, lackeys.”
Peri grins. “Any mooks?”
Hellgrammite replies, “Possibly. But there are definitely demons and angels.”
Peri looks disbelieving. “Here and now?”
Glass says, “When we’re talking about missions, I will often use the phrase, ‘The Powers That Be.’ I mean it literally. And if you see any monkeys in anomalous situations, avoid them, and report. In that order. The first rule is don’t get hurt.”
Peri replies, “Sounds like a good rule.”
Glass turns to Charlie “You’re correct, Charlie. There’s a good chance that you have more work to. You’ve always done a good job in the past, and you should keep it up.”
Charlie looks pleased at the praise and unsure what he did to earn it. “OK.”
Peri considers what’s been said, and allows, “I guess I’d like an escort back to Chopper.”
Glass and Mabel accompany her. Glass is accompanied by his railgun. Mabel is accompanied by Roper and Hookie. Peri is accompanied by Charlie. On the walk, Mabel points out that the life of a 19th century farm hand was not pleasant. Glass expounds on earlier times, when it was even worse. Peri is clearly recording all of this, and promises to keep that in mind. They arrive at the clearing where Chopper is waiting without incident. Chopper does not appear to have been riled by Ragnison’s probing. Peri thanks them for the escort and boards, and Chopper takes off and heads south.
After Glass, Mabel and the dogs return, Ragnison says, “Now that we are alone again, can you tell me a little more about your adventures with this girl and her purple bowling ball?”
Neville relates the tale of meeting Peri.
“And she followed you up here when you came to deal with this anomaly. Tell me about the macro anomaly.”
Glass describes the anomaly and how it erupted from underground and contained smaller anomalies that turned out to be the Tyndale Hounds.
Ragnison points out, “You said the sun turned blood red. And colors of other objects changed.”
Glass replies, “It was anomalous.”
Ragnison continues, “Although the sun changed color, objects illuminated by the sun did not? It sounds to me as if the macro anomaly changed the relationship between mind and matter, in a small way. It eliminated one of the ‘qualia’. There was no orange. Maybe it did something to the light. But it seems more likely that the way the light related to the mind changed. The anomaly in York where people were obsessed with creating little dolls also involved the mind.”
Glass shrugs, “I was concerned that the chaos was making it possible for the Maskim to broach the walls between worlds and was thinking that blood red skies were never a good sign.”
Neville points out, “The first anomaly involved frogs falling from the sky.”
Glass nods, “Apparently a broaching of this world and… a place with frogs.”
Hellgrammite notes, “The frog one was an Order blockage, as was the circle in the ocean. The incident in York was a Chaos side blockage. This most recent one was a blockage of both the Chaos and Order sides.”
Glass notes, “In some sense, they’ve been getting larger.”
Ragnison nods. “I was noticing that. A few frogs, then things scattered around York, then a ring in the ocean large enough to see from space, and now this.”
Mabel suggests to Neville, “You might want to have one of you interior dialogs with Asiras and mention that these anomalies that have been occurring since his… situation changed… have been getting larger.”
Neville goes off and thinks to Asiras that things are getting worse and perhaps he can help put them right. There’s no clear response.
While Neville is naval gazing, Ragnison says, “I would like to take a little time and tell you about what I know about the Kerdeans, now that you’ve joined them.”
Rosamund notes brightly, “I’ve also got a subscription to their newsletter and the back issues!”
Ragnison nods. “Excellent. The Kerdeans are an organization of paranormal investigators. What makes them different from other is that the Kerdeans themselves are paranormal. They are not trying to prove the paranormal exists; they know that. They are after particulars.
“They are a very old and very widespread organization. They were in existence at least by the time of Ptolemaic Egypt, and they may have originated there, in Alexandria. They are no longer sure about this, themselves.
“The majority of them are human or human-derived, but there's a sizable minority of non-humans, mostly fays. The Kerdeans also overlap with, infiltrate, and are infiltrated by other esoteric groups. The Kerdeans themselves know all this and even study it.
“The Kerdeans have encountered spiricules, some of them Pages, but I don't believe they have any knowledge of the Courts, so far. I would be surprised if they knew of the Knights.
“As you know, the Kerdean membership geas is very simple. But you must be carrying it in order to find any of their safe houses. Just having the list of locations is insufficient. Also, almost all human Kerdeans carry an additional geas, binding them to avoid showing anything "esoteric," "paranormal," "magical," or "supernatural" to ordinary, "prosaic" people. (Kerdeans habitually divide the world into two populations, "esoteric" and "prosaic" in English.) Kerdeans do not bother with this geas for non-human members or human members who are sufficiently -- uh -- weird. They say such people are already "sundered" from the prosaic world. They say that violating the "Sundering" is very bad luck -- or brings down the wrath of higher powers -- different Kerdeans say different things.
“Kerdeans have no particular custom or obligation to be truthful to each other, but the general availability of geas-casters and truth-seers means that they are, in fact, generally honest in their reports.
“Those reports, in the libraries of the safe-houses and in Acta Kerdeana, are those findings they are pleased to share with each other. They have no particular obligation to deliver complete reports or tell all they know, though it is a matter of status among them to produce a lot of information.
“Please note that, although they are diligent and careful, they are by no means infallible.
“Also note that, outside the safe houses, they need not be especially cooperative with each other. They may be, of course, but they may also be competitors within the Kerdean circle, or they may have other reasons for conflict that have nothing to do with their both being Kerdean.
“But, even with all those caveats, it is certainly useful to have a Courtier as a member and have a, uh, "born Kerdean" on hire.”
Rosamund notes, “Her mother isn’t a Kerdean.”
Ragnison muses, “I suppose she must know.”
Rosamund agrees, “Yes. I think he needed a keeper who would give him regular meals.” Mr. Hengist struck her as the absent-minded professor type.
Ragnison continues, “In any case, you now have an interesting resource. You found him at the Field Museum after hours? I wonder if he is an Onion Docent?”
“What is an onion docent?”
“The word ‘Chicago’ comes from an Indian word meaning ‘Little Onion’. They are a small wizard college in Chicago, sort of like the Kerdeans. They’d make a good match.”
Glass tries to bring the conversation back to what he considers a more relevant topic. “What do you know about the Maskim?”
Ragnison replies, “They are The Powers That Were. They used to be among the Dominations and fell. There used to be ten of them. Three are no more. The other seven are among the infernal powers. That is all that I know.”
“All of this discussion about barriers between worlds and things weakening. It makes me think about things I dealt with a long time ago. All sorts of things are uncanny and act as barriers and gateways between worlds. Including… mirrors.” He’s looking into the head.
Neville observes, “Mirrors don’t have to be glass.”
“No, but they are uncanny. And if you start seeing things in them that aren’t here, it’s more often not good than the other way around. I’m getting annoyed with being reactive. We wait for anomalies so we can push them. And then we wait for Hanuman and his apes to pull their next caper. And then we wait for Clisk and his gang to pull his next scheme.”
Lady Diamond asks, “So do you intend to go on a monkey hunt?”
Glass shakes his head, “I’m just not happy with waiting for his purple majesty to pull itself together and waiting for the universe to stick its tongue out at us. I go around shaping the path of humanity and motivating them, not being motivated.”
Ragnison notes, “Being proactive about fixing the problem must be a good idea, if you can think of some way to do it. I don’t know if Clisk’s two Pages know anything worth knowing. I haven’t tried a telepathic interrogation of them yet.”
“Is there any chance that there are other segments of Asiras that are loose and in the hands of those two?”
All of the Courtiers look at Neville.
Neville looks back. The Courtiers’ metaphysical senses can see that there’s definitely more of Asiras there than there used to be, but it’s not all of him.
Glass muses, “If one wanted to be constructive and active, one might look for segments.”
Neville asks, not certain he wants to know the answer, “And how would you… detect segments?”
Ragnison jokes, “You find them in cornfields full of frogs, don’t you?”
Glass reaches a hand into Neville to try to connect with Asiras. Asiras had been spread out through Neville’s body, circulating in a random patter. Asiras shrinks away from Glass’ hand, concentrating into a knot in Neville’s midsection. Glass takes his hand out of Neville.
Neville frowns. “Could you warn me next time you do that?”
Glass shrugs. “It didn’t seem it would be appropriate.”
Hellgrammite says, “Neville, hold still please.” Hellgrammite pokes Neville. Asiras doesn’t react. Perhaps because Hellgrammite is a Courtier. Perhaps because he’s a Chaos Lord. Perhaps because he physically poked Neville.
Rosamund reaches puts a hand on Neville’s arm and attempts to heal Asiras. She sense that she’s being stared at coldly. “Asiras, the world isn’t getting any better. If we can, we’ll help you sort this out, but we’re only guessing. You’re still a Chaos Lord, and we’re only Courtiers.” The feeling of a cold stare fades away, and Asiras expands and resumes his ‘normal’ circulation pattern.
Barron interrupts from the cockpit. “Would you folks like to go somewhere? And if so, where?” He looks at Hellgrammite. “Are we welcome back at your friend Longhorn’s?”
“I guess so.”
Rosamund looks at Mabel, “Do you want to keep both dogs with you?”
“Do we need to go back to England?”
Mabel shrugs. “It’s a useful place to be from.”
Barron tries for a destination again. “Have you guys thought about acquiring a headquarters?”
Zabeth has been toying with her palmtop since Barron mentioned Longhorn and mentions that a friend of Hellgrammite’s friend Longhorn has some real estate to sell. It doesn’t have any access roads, but it’s about 100 acres of desert with lots of pinion pine right up against the Navajo reservation near Gallup, New Mexico.
Neville asks, “And how would we get supplies in?”
Barron laughs. “We do have a plane.”
Glass notes, “On the other hand, south of here in Marquette, Michigan, Marquette County seems to have forgotten about their old county airport. They closed the old one when they took over the airbase. With a little bit of work, we can make sure that they forget about it permanently. County governments are so well organized that you can buy something without anyone even noticing.
Rosamund grins. “Let’s take off for it and see what happens,” says the Lady of Chaos.
Captain Barron enters the cockpit and we hear the sound of the electoballast deploying as Barron starts for Michigan.
Simon sends Sylvester to negotiate for the purchase of the airport. There will be computer records of the negotiations for the airport going back months. He gets a better deal on the airbase in Raco, Michigan, about 10 miles from the Canadian border. There’s some question about whether the federal government gave it to the county, and if they accepted it. He modifies the records to show that the feds did give it to the county, and that a company called ‘Smithson Scientific Services’ has been renting space at the airport for years.
Last Updated: Dec 11, 2009
©2009 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved