Archive for September, 2013

So much for rest.

Koufax leans close to me, “don’t worry Al, the ride will be smooth as The Dodger on a clear day. Babe is as gentle as a rabbit…no offence Offrey.”

“None taken.” His nose twitches, his black beady eyes poking out from underneath his fedora. Still can’t quite take the whole ensemble, but he pulls it off in some strange way.

The oxcart is huge, just like Babe, and Bunyan, and his house. One would expect every bump in the road to be magnified by this monstrous contraption; but it’s like Koufax said, Babe’s movements barely rock the cart.

So now I can look forward to the eon-long trip through the Not-So-Enchanted Forest. Where do they come up with the names for these places? We are going to some village on the other side of the forest, to get steel plating and cooper tubing to replace the damaged parts of The Dodger. All in all, the ship made it out of the storm fairly well but if she’s going to fly like Koufax wants and expects, we need those parts.

With my insanely amazing luck (not), the whole crew is going on this very boring adventure, even Beauregard, who despite saving me (reputedly), still looks like he wants to eat me. The other crew of The Dodger are playing some dice game at present, made all the more interesting by the rocking of the oxcart. Their hooting and howling hurt my ears, but it’s better than when they tried telling their lame jokes and had a farting contest. I am dead serious; lovely aroma too.

Offrey’s fur took a green hue when that wonderful escapade was going on, but Koufax only laughed.

“Some things never change, eh Captain?” Our guide is a swarthy, skinny man who barely looks older than me. He goes by Squirrel, once upon a time crew member of The Dodger till he decided to join Bunyan.

“Yes indeed Squirrel,” Koufax’s chuckle is quite contagious, but I don’t feel much like laughing. “Just hope they get it out of their system before we reach the village, it’s one thing to act like this amongst crew and friends, but we have to show the groundlubbers that sky pirates have honor; and are dignified to boot…at least amongst company.”

“Sure miss flying amongst the clouds, and Bunyan is nowhere near as funny as you Captain; but it’s a good life I got here, and I like it.”

“That’s all that matters Squirrel.” Slapping Squirrel on the back, Koufax chuckles, “that’s all that matters.”

Babe stops suddenly, the forest is eerily quiet. My ears strain for any sound.

Click. My eyes grow as wide as saucers, Koufax just pulled out a gun. But it’s not just any gun; there are gears and springs and shafts, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. As golden as the sun, it hurts my eyes to look at it.

Click. Click. Click. Clank. Cler-Clock, Clunk.

A chorus of cocking weapons rises from the back of the cart. I hope whatever is out in the forest likes lead, because it’s about to get a mouthful of it.

“You shouldn’t have put him to sleep!”
“I had to, you saw how much pain he was in. Besides what’s the point of people calling me ‘the Sandman’ if I don’t use my powers once in awhile. Haven’t really been able to use them that often ever since the Shadow fell between the two worlds. The people of Whimsy never need me as much as the earth-folk did.”
“And what will happen if he doesn’t wake up? Who will lift the curse then?”
“Of course he’ll wake up…don’t worry so much Offrey, good ol’ Koufax hasn’t let you down yet.”
“True…true…but if he doesn’t wake up…”
“ENOUGH!” The voice shakes the entire house, or what I assume to be a house; sorry, my mind is still a little foggy, although whoever is speaking is doing a good job of trying to make sure I’m fully awake.
“The only thing you two have done since you got here is bicker over this boy.” I have the feeling this is his indoor voice. “Your crew eats to their heart’s content; they have done an especially viscous number on my flapjacks. My crew and I already push Big Joe’s wrist to the limit, and now with that Beauregard of yours…”
“My apologies, you have been a most gracious host.”
My vision is blurred, but I can still see enough, Koufax does his sweeping bow; at least judging from the navy blue splotch, his overcoat, now if I could only get my vision to clear up.
“Not much choice I have, ever since the Raven came to power, individuals who adhere to the old ways have grown harder to find…and if this boy is who you say he is; well then I’m more than obliging, BUT NOT TO YOUR BICKERING!”
My head rattles, how could any one person be so loud? It feels as though my head got bashed in all over again.
“Look! He moved! He’s coming to!” I hear the muted thump-thump-thumping and the twitching of a rabbit-nose.
“Do rabbits always do that?” I gurgle.
“Oh no! He’s delirious! Fetch him some water!”
Sweet, soothing, liquid touches my lips and goes down rather nicely, alleviating the rough sandpaper that has become my throat. It’s just water, but it feels heavenly.
“Thank you.” I sound like a toad that has swallowed a marble, and that was after a swig or two of water; no wonder Offrey reacted like he did. Goodness! How long have I been unconscious?
“It’s good to have you back mate.” Even with my vision as it is, Koufax’s radiant smile shines. I swear the man’s teeth glow.
“I never doubted for an instant!” Offrey’s nose happily twitches.
“You sure worried, friend, we all heard it.”
I hear rumbling, check that, more like feel rumbling; Koufax and Offrey do as well and quiet down. I crane my neck slowly, hoping to catch a glimpse of this thunderous man, but it only sets the room to spinning.
“Easy there mate, you took another good smack to your head when Beauregard saved you from meeting a messy end.” Reassuring hands guide me as I struggle to sit up. “You might notice your ankle or leg to be a might sore too, that’s where he grabbed you.”
Great, another concussion, or just severely aggravating the old one. Wait did he said Beauregard saved me? Now do I have to be forever in his debt? I’m not cleaning up after him.
“I’ll say it again, he doesn’t look like the one to lift the curse, too skinny! HAH! We’ll beef him up in no time.”
I almost fall back to the bed, the man’s voice makes my head ring.
“Easy there Mr. Cooper,” Offrey’s paws are soft, is that because he rarely uses them to walk on? “Our friend is at a fragile state, Mr. Bunyan (something of which I am sure you have never experienced), and needs some time to heal. Your voice is doing a number on his trauma.”
“MY VOICE!” Another spike of pain surges, but I’m still coherent enough to feel the ground tremble as ‘Mr.
Bunyan’ makes his way towards us. “You haven’t heard me shout yet! When I shout, the boulders shatter, the trees lose their leaves, bears and cougars run away like rats; this is not shouting!”
My feet dangle as carried out of the house; I’m like a child in this behemoth’s hands.
“I can’t help how I’m built, I was born to be larger than life.” He exclaims. “If you want your curse-lifter to recover…” The door to the house is pushed open, my nose struck by the smell of freshly milled wood. “Then put him where a man is meant to be, OUTSIDE!”
Wait a minute. I turn my head, the overalls, the checkered shirt, the great big beard, Mr. Bunyan. I can’t believe it, I’m being dangled like a limp fish by Paul Bunyan, the most ridiculous and larger than life fairytale ever invented; except he’s not a fairytale…Ugh, how many more “fairytales” are actually a reality?
The world spins again, the stump he placed me on is not very comfortable.
Paul Bunyan takes a great breath in and exhales, a gust of wind that makes the grass wave a greeting and the leaves shake in fright. “A man needs to have the sun shining on his back and the wind blowing in his face. A bed of pine needles is his abode and the stream is where he slakes his thirst. These things will get your curse-lifter better in no time, mark my words.”
I do want to get better, and if sleeping underneath a tree and taking a splash in some creek will do that, great; but with all this talk of lifting curses, I don’t think any of Bunyan’s remedies will get rid of the growing pit in my stomach.

I just had to open the hatch, I just had to see for myself, I was too stupid not to believe.

WELL I BELIEVE IT NOW!

Why are things so much easier to believe when you almost die?

I’ve only been out here a minute and my clothes stick to me like I took a dive in the ocean. Stinging drops pelt my face, everything almost looks like it’s underwater, no amount of rubbing my eyes can clear my vision.

It’s cold, very cold, I can’t believe I didn’t notice it before, with the wind and the rain; but it’s touch is soothing on my aching head.

But not the lighting. It’s still daylight, but the clouds are as dark as death, the lightning the wicked, crackling smile of the Grim Reaper; oh no, he’s not here too is he?

I’m not fooling myself anymore, I may be in some sort of nightmarish world, but this is no dream; and the banister is the only thing keeping me alive.

The others have lifelines around their waists, I could’ve sworn I saw someone fall over the side; but all the ropes seem to be intact.

The Dodger shudders at every lighting strike, as if knowing that a direct hit on one of her propellers will spell the doom for us all. Heck, with all the copper and steel pipes, the only saving grace is that the ship is made mostly out of wood; otherwise we all would have been cooked by now.

“The sails must be secure.” Shouts Koufax, Brooklyn B flapping on his hat. How is that hat staying on his head?

I look up as best I can, dag-blasted rain, but I don’t need to see it; I can hear the flapping of the sails. In all the movies I’ve watched, they always pull up the sails when a storm comes, so why are theirs still unfurled?

“This is the Raven’s doing,” Offrey squeaks. “Perfectly fine weather when we let off, and I know you well enough not to set sail if there is even a whiff of a storm.”

“Don’t worry Offrey,” a confident grin sets on Koufax’s face, “we’ll ride out this storm. Haven’t had a good storm to ride out in a while. ALL HANDS READY!”

A chorus of readies fly back, brazen against the storm.

Lowering some ancient-looking goggles over his eyes, Koufax grips the helm and jerks on a lever. The propellers go silent. “Hold on tight Offrey, things are about to get…exciting!”

“Oh dea-ahhhhhhhhhhh!” Offrey’s scream fades as a rush of air greets all aboard as The Dodger plummets downward.

It feels like the coasters at Six Flags, but I was strapped down securely then; now I only have my grip to keep me from falling into endless sky. I think I’m going to be sick, the thought of falling…oh never mind, at least the rain will wash the mess out.

I heave multiple times as the ship barrel rolls, but I guess my body’s on empty. Barrel rolls! A ship is doing barrel rolls! If I wasn’t so scared I would be impressed.

Fire licks at my arms, I won’t be able to hold on much longer. Make it stop! Make it all stop!

And surprisingly it does.

Every drop of rain looks perfect, shimmering like diamonds from the lightning. Koufax still has a grin on his face, he really must enjoy this; wish I could say the same. Offrey is clutching some railing, his furry paws holding on for dear life; but his eyes grow big as he sees me. Is he reaching for me? He’s definitely yelling something. In all honesty I’m surprised it took this long for anyone to notice me, but I guess being on a flying ship in the middle of a thunderstorm will do that to you.

Figures. No one notices me until it’s too late. Oh, did I forget to mention that I’m falling?

So much for mystery and intrigue. Yep, I’m falling, nothing too special in that; except that it’s the ‘plummet thousands of feet to your death and there is nothing you can do except scream and think about all the regrets you’ve had in your short, pathetic life until you go splat’ kind of falling.

So let’s see where do I begin…

I choke as my whole body jerks back towards the ship. My F.C. Dallas jersey tears clear off from the force of the snag. Hey what did you know? I guess there was still something left in my stomach after all.

Somersaulting through the air I catch a glimpse of Beauregard, my torn jersey in his hand. Never have I been so glad to see that burping pile of disgustingness. Of course he falls out of view as quickly as he came in…I’m somersaulting remember? Well at least I’ll look like a twirling gymnast during my fall with fate.

Fire. Ice. Darkness.

I can’t do it. There’s no way I’m going to make it to the stairs. Too much shaking, too much motion.

Never has wood felt so good before, nails dig into the beam I hold onto; the only solid thing in this accursed ship. I don’t even notice the splinters burrowing into my hands, but I will once the adrenaline stops pumping.

I’m flying in a wooden ship, how is that possible? Ach…it doesn’t matter how, only that it is flying and we’re caught in a thunderstorm. “I’m gonna’ die, I’m gonna’ die.” I barely hear myself against the howling wind. The hole blasted into The Dodger isn’t helping either; it sounds as if a banshee is wailing right next to me. Oh no…they don’t have those here do they? I hope not.

There you go again Al, getting yourself all worked up. This is all a dream…then why do I feel like I’m not going to survive?

I don’t want to die; despite the fact that living is pretty cool, what really worries me is that if I die I won’t be able to play against the archrival Crossway Falcons. I can’t stand the thought of Rory Stevens and his hoodlums (okay they’re not really hoodlums, they’re just jerks) winning again on our home field. We’re the Matadors, we don’t lose to scum like them.

I see Rory’s smirk float across the darkness that is my eyelids slammed shut…so that nothing flies into my eyes. Maybe I’m a little frightened…no…unnerved, yes that’s the word. Who wouldn’t be? But I’m a Matador! Fear doesn’t hold me! And there is no stinking way Rory is going to get past me and score the game winning goal! Not that that ever happens.

“Matador, Matador, Matador.” All the great athletes psych themselves out, that’s all I’m doing, walking in the steps of greatness.

I open my eyes and position myself in the prime spot for making my break to the stairs. I wish I was a long jumper, or maybe a hurdler, then I wouldn’t have to worry about the shifting crates and barrels in my way. But I’m not, so…

Pieces of a barrel fly past me, I could feel it shattering against the beam I’m leaning on. The sour wine covers me a split second later.

What? It’s not like I drank it on purpose! Seriously, I was covered in a wave of wine, I wasn’t expecting it and my mouth was open; what do you think was going to happen!?

“How did you know it was wine?” You might ask.

My grandmother is Catholic, you know how Catholics are, and she gave me some wine once for communion when I was ten. I know what it tastes like…bad.

Don’t worry I’m a H2O and Gatorade type of guy.

I fall to the floor, head swimming, but all I feel is the terrible taste and burn of wine in my mouth. Spitting and gagging, I turn groggily to the left…BARREL!

Never have I moved so fast in my life, I really need to learn how to do that in a game. I push myself up and barely clear the oncoming barrel, tumbling and flopping all over the place as I continue to play this game of dodge-crate.

I clunk my head into the stairs…more splinters, tailspins, etc…I feel the nausea roll over me like a wave. I retch all over the floor; wonderful stuff, these concussions.

Can’t…worry…about…that now. My thoughts come in sputtered gasps, it’s so hard to think with all this pain.

I slowly pull myself up every step, burning fills my muscles, but my legs are as sturdy as over-cooked noodles. The pounding in my chest overrides any other sensation, I must get away, but I’m starting to think I was safer back in my cell.

Gasping for breath after making the epic climb to the next floor, I give myself a second of respite. Things are more tied down here, I guess. I still hear clattering of pots and pans and all other sorts of things, like an unruly giant wind-chime; but at least there is nothing trying to crush me.

I can hear Koufax and the others better now, but the wind’s wailing and screaming grows louder as well; although the wicked whistling of the hole in the hull has finally dissipated.

 
 

Strength slowly returns to my body, the pulsating pain starts to diminish, the splinters in my hands start to burn, and the nausea stops rolling over me but the ship won’t stop rollicking.

Desperate shouts, deep reverberations echo forth from above deck. Is it bodies hitting the floor?

A strange urge grabs me. I shouldn’t go up, but I have to; I have to know what is going on.