The first part of Mystères élémentaires posted a few months ago, yet this work has grown in TimeShadow’s shadow (!!!). I wasn’t sure if I’d integrate this into TimeShadow’s arc or let it stand alone. Matter of fact, I’m still not sure, so make of this what you will. This may yet be a part of TimeShadow, or maybe a hint of something else. Or both.
Confused? Good. So am I.
Mystères élémentaires, if you’ve forgotten, involved the pilot, Rob Jeffries, taking off from a rustic airport El Salvador, headed for Florida and an eventual UFO encounter. This fragment is a prequel to that part of the story.
About ten pages for now, and I’m working on this next chapter for the rest of this week. Happy reading.
Mystères élémentaires 2
Courir de la lune pendant que la terre brûle
The cat came in the night – that first time.
Into the village, from the trees – then among the houses.
In silence, searching the night with keen eyes and nose.
A baby’s cries and people tense, then screams split the night – and then, nothing.
In the morning, in the light of day, one house found torn apart. The baby gone, her mother mauled, dying first – then dead.
Two night later, the same. A mother talking to her children, trying to get them quiet, to get them to sleep. Then the screaming began.
In the morning the mother found, her throat a ruptured mess, her two children – gone. Only a blood trail that led to a dead end at the river.
Men went out looking after that attack, found remains beyond the rive, a mile beyond, and they came back in silence. Thinking. Planning.
“Perhaps we should move on now,” one of the elders said. “If it is one of the black cats we will never see it, let alone kill it.”
There were murmurs of assent. No one had killed one of the black cats before, and the only tracks they’d found looked to be from one of them.
“We should pray to the Cat Gods,” another elder told the assembled council knowingly. “We have offended Him somehow. We must atone.”
More knowing nods this time, and as this option seemed most agreeable to his own clan, and entailed the least effort on his part, the chief agreed. “This we will do. Prepare the ceremony, we will make the sacrifice when the moon is full, tomorrow night.”
A girl was chosen, a disagreeable girl no one wanted to marry, and the site – though miles away – prepared. Brush was cleared from the sacred rock, implements carried to the altar, torches readied, knives sharpened.
The ceremony began, prayers offered. The writhing girl, now apostate, cried out to friends and family, begging for her life. Tied down, her screams pierced the night before the silence came, then her organs were laid out in the proscribed pattern, her blood consumed be every member of the village. When it was over the people of the village went back to their homes and everyone sat in silent awe, not sure what had just happened, or why.
The cat came back the next night. Came to another noisome house, and more screams pierced the night. A young girl this time, gone. No trace found once the light returned.
The chief gathered several men in a clearing away from the village, told them the village would begin preparations to move away from this valley, but that they had been tasked with trying to find the cat, and killing the beast.
The men looked at one another, shook their heads – but they could not refuse. To do so would put them in open rebellion, and the old conflict would resume. This had happened before, of course, but not against a chief so strong. And no, there was truth in his choice. Why run? Why not make a stand, kill this cat and let life resume?
One of the men, an older man named Tak, asked if his son could join in the hunt. Rah was, he argued, the fastest boy in the village, and he was the best tracker any had ever seen. The chief considered this but refused; he wanted Rah for his own daughter, and to lose the boy now would be to forfeit the next generation of his clan.
So the five men gathered their bows and arrows and their spears and they set off into the forest. Two returned a week later, badly mauled.
“It is a black cat,” one of the survivors said. A great cat, bigger than any had seen before, and Rah saw that his father was not among the survivors and he was angered by the chief’s foolish waste. He knew he could kill the cat on his own, and quickly, too.
When the survivors had been taken away he went to his house and gathered the two things he knew he would need – rope and a knife – and he took off into the forest, alone. And almost from the moment he left the village he felt her eyes on him.
He led her away from the village, far away and high into the mountains, and he would stop from time to time and feel her eyes, then he would smile before he led her deeper into his trap.
He came upon a large snake eating a small animal, but the snake was exposed, defenseless. He tied a noose and slipped it around the snake’s head, towed it through the forest to a spot that looked like what he wanted, and with the gorged snake as bait he set his trap. He waited high in a tree, and the cat came for him but found the snake. Not wanting to be eaten, the snake managed to get around the cat’s neck and the two fought and fought, and when both were exhausted the boy came down from the tree and killed the cat, then the snake, with his knife.
He was about to set out for the village when he looked up at the hillside across the valley.
Like a shimmering gold veil above the trees. That was his first thought.
‘Something that does not belong here,’ was his second.
“I must know more,” he said, and he took off across the valley floor.
Hours later he came to the shimmering thing and he reached out tentatively, touched it gently – and the moment he did the thing simply vanished. It was getting dark and he smelled a fire close by, but he felt more eyes following his every movement now, and he wanted to get to the safety of firelight – so he followed his nose into the forest. A few minutes later he came to the fire – a small fire, set inside a ring of small rocks – so he knew someone had built the fire. But he saw no one…
Then another thought came to him, but too late.
This is a trap.
And I am caught.
Rob Jeffries was in the mountains west of Los Alamos, New Mexico, stalking a puma one summer morning, a cat that had been bothering his father’s cattle for weeks. With two calves taken in the last week, his father had started the hunt to the ridge line north of the pasture, and his older brother was working the rough hills just to the south. He was making his way up a rocky creek on the west side of their property, much closer to their house, and had just come upon a steep walled, rocky enclave of red rock and tightly packed juniper when he heard the cat’s low growl.
It was close, he knew, and he was exposed. He readied his rifle, his senses on high alert.
He heard a twig snap, yet he knew that was all the warning he’d have. He turned to the right and saw the cat arcing in for the kill, slipping through tall grass and low trees, headed his way. He raised the Model 94 to his shoulder and fired once, just as the cat leapt, and he jumped back as her dead body sailed through the air, coming to a rest in a tangled heap of twisted limbs a few feet away. He walked over, saw his one shot had caught her in the face, and he was happy, in a way, because she hadn’t suffered.
He felt another presence then, a force at once welcome and unwanted.
He turned, saw the Other and smiled, waved, but the other just looked at the cat and shook it’s head.
He was resigned to what would come next. He’d disappear for hours, maybe even days, then they’d leave him by the house in the middle of the night. That’s what they always did.
He turned and walked up to the Other, and the being looked at the Winchester and shrugged.
Come. That’s all he heard, for the Other’s was a voice inside his mind. We must talk.
We must go far away.
“In distance, or time?”
You will not be gone long. We promise.
“I know. I’m not complaining.”
Yes. We know.
“So, let’s go.”
It wasn’t far off this time, the shimmering gold wall that hid their ship. As it had the few times he’d gone with them, when he touched the ‘wall’ it disappeared – and the ship, a small one this time – lay a few meters away, in a small clearing deep in a thick part of the forest. He paused, went to a tree and got rid of some excess water, as the Other called it, then had to get low, crawl inside through the small hatch. Then he had to ignore the foul odor that permeated the interior of the craft; like vinegar and stale urine, he thought, but he was expecting it this time and tried to think of something else.
Within moments he felt the subtle motion envelope him, nothing really discernible but it was there. The ceiling height in this ship was not quite five feet, and he found it difficult to get comfortable, but he found a place out of their way and settled-in. Unlike the larger ships he’d been on before, this one felt cramped, like he imagined a submarine might feel, only this ship appeared to be made of the flimsiest alloys imaginable. He saw five, maybe six of them looking at screens, making adjustments.
‘They’ didn’t have names, either. Talking to one was talking to all of them, everything he said was ‘received’ instantly by everyone inside this craft, and yet ‘thinking out loud’ was talk too. If he thought ‘this place stinks’ everyone ‘heard’ that – instantly. There was no privacy here, and he had considered years ago that the term was meaningless to them.
Just then one came over and faced him:
We have found someone of interest to us, but he is alone now. His villagers have all been killed by nearby rivals, and he is far from home and unaware of what has happened. Without food and water, he is in danger from things he does not see yet.
“What do you want me to do?”
We will try to make him to come with you.
Back to your home, to live with you.
“Father won’t like that. Not again.”
He will be safe with you. His language is unknown to us yet, so we haven’t made contact, but we think he may be useful.
He may be go beyond.
“Where and when are we going?”
You would name a place in Central America, El Salvador. 1,625 years before your time. He is outside now, 34 meters from where we are now. You will see the fire.
“You spoke of a danger?”
A large group of nomads from the north, they will be Mayans soon. They are aggressive, killing all they come upon. They are close.
You must move quickly.
He had listened to their clumsy approach and climbed high into a tree, and one of them came into the firelight – then left – but he knew he was surrounded now. The warrior had skin much like his own – deep red – but the man’s face was painted with what looked like dried blood and white mud. Weird, intricate designs, images of dark things, dark like death.
He felt a crackling presence, almost like lightning struck far away, then an unnatural stillness came over the forest. The normal stirrings of night creatures, even birdsong, had just – stopped – like something new and very dangerous slipped from closed shadows and had just made itself known. Strange smells followed, then he saw a boy, a boy about his age, walking through the woods, walking to the fire.
And his skin was white, his hair blazing red!
He wanted to laugh…what kind of freak was this?
But it was the boy’s clothes that stunned him. Brown and green, like the forest, and he held a stick in one hand, and a small thing that emitted light in the other. The boy walked to a stump by the fire and sat, rubbed his hands before the fire, and he looked at the red painted warriors watching this odd new boy, then he saw several run in towards the fire. They stopped, and one strung his bow, took aim at the boy, then let slip the arrow…
It crossed the space before the action registered, before he could warn the boy, and he watched, feeling somehow sad – yet in an instant the gold veil surrounded the boy and when the arrow hit the veil it turned to dust and fell to the ground. The red warriors saw this and, suddenly enraged, the entire group stormed the boy sitting by the fire.
Dozens were running now, running towards the boy, and all had knives drawn or spears at the ready as they closed.
Then the boy stood, and by his side were dozens of huge black cats. As the warriors approached the cats stood and roared as one, the sound causing him to lose his grasp and fall from the limb he was hiding on. By the time he arrested his fall and had flattened himself to a new limb things had changed.
The boy sat by the fire once again, and the cats had disappeared.
One red warrior approached warily, and circled in front of the boy, a long knife in hand, a knife made of bone. He took a step closer, then moved back. Closer still next time, then falling back, testing the limits of the boy’s strength.
Then the boy put his lips together and strange sounds starting coming from his mouth. He had never heard music before, not even singing, so had no idea the boy was whistling George Strait’s The Cowboy Rides Away, but the effect the sound had on the red warrior was instantaneous.
With his knife high overhead, the man screamed and rushed towards the boy by the fire. Then the gold veil reappeared – and when the warrior hit the wall he simply disappeared in a puff of dust.
He was frightened now, as frightened as the other warriors in the forest, but they turned now and ran into the night…and they did not stop running…leaving him suddenly more alone than before.
He looked at the boy for a long time, and lay on the limb barely breathing. It was getting cold out now, and the fire was burning down – and the boy walked over and put more wood on it, then sat again, still making the peculiar noise that had enraged the warrior.
“Damn, wish I had some hot dogs right about now…” the boy said, then he reached inside the garment on his chest and pulled something shiny out. He pulled the shiny thing apart with his teeth, then took something out and began eating it.
He had not eaten in two days and was very hungry now, and the sight was too much. He slipped down from his perch and walked over to the boy and held out his hand. Without saying a word the boy handed the food to Rah.
‘He didn’t even look up!’
‘Like he was expecting me!’
And the boy kept making that strange noise with his lips, but the boy turned and looked at him now.
Then the boy said more meaningless words now: “Well, y’all think we should hit the road now?”
And then the Other came out of the forest and sat down by the fire, and he wanted to scream when he saw the creature, to scream and run away.
This Other was half as tall as he was, and it’s skin a cool solid gray. Smooth and gray. It’s body slight, weak looking, it’s head huge. Eyes black, solid black, and too big. Two tiny nostrils on a too flat face, and something that was too small to be a mouth, too close to the nostrils, resided just below those. Fingers too long, feet more like a frog’s, toes too long. Nothing else…nothing at all…just smooth skin where other things ought to be.
The Other ignored him, so he looked at it once then looked away too, tried not to appear as frightened as he felt.
Then he felt something like fingers inside his mind, trying to speak by forming images – and he jumped up as new fears emerged. His village – gone. And now, his mother too. He could see it all so clearly. Certain knowledge, not a simple feeling. He turned around and around in panic, blind now as knowledge replaced feeling, then he was aware of the boy, standing by his side now. Like he was seeing the same knowledge, was sharing his feelings.
Then the boys arms were around his shoulders and he felt something like the feeling he had for his mother and father wrap itself around his being, and he felt at ease for the first time in weeks, since the big cat’s first attack. He saw images of the boy’s home, images of a place to go, a new home in his mind, and he turned, looked at the boy. The boy smiled and pointed to the woods.
He saw an image of his village in his mind.
“A-keelee-menjay,” he said.
“Home,” the boy said.
An image of the boy in his home appeared in his mind. “Home,” the boy said, pointing first at his own body, then at him.
“Home,” Rah said, the unfamiliar now utterly familiar.
The Other was gone now, but the boy stood and turned, began walking into the woods, and there was nothing else to do now, so he followed the boy.
They walked from the craft, walked through a different kind of forest, came upon another cat. Smaller, a different color, but though it’s face was ruined he could see it’s teeth were as deadly. Then he heard a strange buzzing sound, saw two men on strange red beasts headed their way.
No legs…black round things. Not animals. Smell…bad, farting smoke like they were fed rotten bananas. Then the men stopped and got off their beasts. The older man was looking at him, then at the dead cat.
“I see you got him,” the old man said.
“Barely. She almost got me.”
“I shouldn’t have sent you up here alone…kind of figured it’d be hanging around in these rocks.”
And Rah felt words as images in his mind now, and he could almost understand what was being said.
“She was in the rocks. She charged, and I got her when she was about ten feet out.”
“Careless. Who’s your friend?”
“Don’t know his name yet…”
“Rah,” he said, not quite knowing why he said that.
“Rah?” the boy asked, pointing at him.
He nodded his head. “Rah.”
“He don’t exactly look like he’s from around these parts, Rob.”
“He’s not, Dad.”
“Your friends again?”
“What does it look like we’re doing around here? Running a home for wayward aliens?”
Then the other stepped from the forest, stepped into the clearing.
Hello, old friend.
“Well, speak of the devil…how’s it hangin’, Paco?”
Why do you still call me that?
“Sounds better than Shithead, don’t you think?”
“So, what have you brought us now?”
A boy, in trouble.
“No, Shithead, I ain’t buyin’ it.”
And I am not selling.
“Sure you are. You’re fucking with the timeline again.”
No, we are not. This boy is in need. We thought you could help.
“Uh-huh, sure. Look, you leave him with us, he stays. Simple as that. Got it?”
That is all we wished.
“Okay. So, what do you want us to do with him?”
Raise him as your own.
“Uh, yeah. Right. You remember those things we have? Chromosomes and all that nonsense? You think that’ll work?”
Tell them you found him on your property.
“Yeah…we do that and the Indian Affairs people will be on us like stink on shit.”
We remember when you used to say ‘white on rice.’
“Things change, Paco. Why do I feel like you’re changing things again?”
We do not know.
“Where’s he from?”
“Dad, I think El Salvador, like maybe sixteen hundred or so years ago.”
“Oh, that’s nice.” The old man turned and looked at him, then turned to the Other again. “So, you’re fucking with the timeline again, aren’t you? Tell me the truth, or it’s no deal.”
No, an academic team found the boy. Looking at your distant ancestors.
“Sixteen hundred years ain’t distant, Paco. What the fuck are you up to…?”
“You do know I don’t trust you, I reckon?”
“Rob, take him on up to the house, but you better take him by the barn first, hose him down before you take him in to meet your mother. She’ll throw a hissy-fit if he goes in there on her new carpet – looking like something you just drug in from a dumpster.”
“Were you in their ship?”
“Smells like a buncha cats had a pissin’ party. You might rinse off yourself.”
When the two youngsters were gone, Dan Jeffries turned to his oldest, Robert. “Better get this carcass out of here, somewhere Fish and Game won’t get wind of it.”
Dan turned to the Other once again. “Anything else I can do for you this morning?” he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
No. We will remain nearby, to complete the bridge for the you. Until he can communicate without us.
“How long will he be here with us?”
Two years, maybe three. Until he is sufficiently aware.
“And you’re not taking him back?”
Dan Jeffries shook his head, because he knew what that meant. He turned, could just see his boy and the strange new one walking across the pasture, and he didn’t know whether to be afraid for him, or envious.
No, this new boy wouldn’t be going home. Back to the where he came from.
This boy, like the others who’d come before, was destined for the stars.
This fragment © April 2017 | Adrian Leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkuhnwrites.com