Archive for October, 2013

These Whimsicalites or Whimsians or whatever you call them are really killing me with their names for places. Tinkertown? And guess what people do there? You guessed it, anything mechanical.

We are going to see someone named Pin, Koufax says that he has anything we could possibly need to fix The Dodger, and if he doesn’t have it he can make it.

“And it will be high time to get you some fashionable clothes…or at least some that match.” Quips Koufax.

I do have agree, my ensemble of soccer shorts, loggers boots, and a woolen checkered shirt make quite an odd scene; but then again we have Johnny in our party. He WEARS a pie-pan on his head (which he COOKS WITH as well, but only for himself thank goodness), and he has a whole John the Baptist/hippie thing going on with his long hair, beard, and he uses coffee sacks for clothing; it always smells like morning around Johnny. Oh yeah, he walks around barefoot…definitely hippie; at least he doesn’t talk like he’s been smoking something for too many years, although he did use his hair as tinder to start a fire once or twice.

So I really shouldn’t be worried too much about how I look, as long as Johnny is within the eyesight of others; besides it’s not like he didn’t save our bacon by coming to our aid, with apple trees of all things!

Babe pulls the cart gently as always, come to find out he bolted to get Johnny and Grim, not because he panicked (or so we think, hard to tell, oxen don’t talk…not yet at least).

I’m just glad I’m still alive and that Grim is no longer with us…uh not in that way, he’s gone, not dead, still at his house; although come to think of it, could death die? Anyways…I’m just glad I won’t have deal with ‘I can see your soul’ gaze anymore.

The smell of factory smoke tinges the air, it has grown stronger as the miles have gone by. I hope the town isn’t like stepping into Charles Dickens story, wouldn’t surprise me though. I really just want the ride to be over, it’s too quiet.

None of the crew are talking, scarce a pun or bought of flatulence among them. Even I miss Pete’s clattering wooden teeth…slightly.

Koufax wanted the crew to be sober and gallant in front of the ‘landlubbers’, but he didn’t want Pete’s death to be the reason why.

I remember thinking once upon a time that this was all a dream…ha…such days are long gone. Now I just hope that I myself won’t die. Here’s to Tinkertown (however bad the name may be) and a little bit of safety…although everything here feels as safe as a gasoline-drenched tree in the middle of a forest fire.

Fwwwweeeeeeeeeeeeeet!

Argh! The noise! This tea better be worth it.

“Cider and Chamomile, soothes the nerves.” Johnny proceeds to pour cups for the whole crew.

“Oh my whiskers and toes could use some calming in a fierce way.” Offrey frets. If only it would stop his nose to boot.

“Only thang that will soothe my nerves will be given’ Pete a decent burial.” Dreary Ann drawls.

“And he will get one!” Koufax seems awfully short tempered, but who can blame him, he just lost one of his crew. “I put no dishonor on Pete’s memory for not having buried him yet; but he is dead, and the concerns of the living outweigh those of the dead.”

“Don’t worry Koufax…you and your crew are safe here; the Raven will not bother you here.” Johnny yelps, hot oil bubbling on his hand. “The fritters are almost done. You want one Bob?”

“Hmmm.” Bob’s red eyes keep staring…at me.

“Don’t worry Al, Bob is a friend; it’s a play on words: the Grim Reaper (why humans have such an indescribable affinity for puns and other low-brow humor I do not know…but who am I to judge?). If Bob had sense of humor he may never have been called ‘grim’ but there is very little he can do about being an albino or a farmer (quite mean-spirited if you ask me, but then again no one ever asks me).” Still, Offrey’s words aren’t very encouraging; I get goosebumps every time ‘Bob’ looks at me.

“So this is the one who will lift the curse?” His voice is dark and heavy…like how you would think the Grim Reaper would sound like; except maybe there aren’t any maniacal or sadistic tones to it. Still it doesn’t do much to reassure me.

I am drinking tea across from death.

“Alright! Bring out your plates, time to eat up!” Johnny cries.

Steaming hot apple fritters plop on our plates. Despite the morose setting, sounds of smacking lips and slavering bites fill the room. Bursts of sweet, sticky apple flow over my tongue, I have never tasted anything so good.

“What makes you so sure he is the one to break the curse?” The Grim Reaper didn’t even touch his fritter.

Offrey wipes his paws, chuckling nervously. “It’s not so much that I am sure he is the curse-lifter, but he is the only Earthling to enter our world since the shadow has fallen. Who else could he be but the curse-lifter?”

Grim rises from his chair. Is it the hood or is he really as tall as Shaquille O’Neal? “He could be an imposter; sent by the Raven to ferret us out.”

“Now, now, Bob.” Wiping his hand a kerchief, Koufax rises as well…significantly smaller than Grim. “If that were true, why would the Raven send his shadow slaves? He can’t just make more appear with the snap of a finger, he’s not that powerful.”

“Not yet. But he is growing stronger, his shadow grow across the land. Now he can control the weather…or so you say; and never have his shadows been seen this far south. Perhaps you are right, maybe he is the curse-lifter, but all I see is a frightened boy…a boy mind you, the Prophecy never said what kind of Earthling would rescue us; just that one would come. Has he done anything heroic? Has he been selfless and honest to a fault? Has he stared fear in the eye and not blinked? If he is of the Prophecy, he will do these things.”

Koufax’s hand is reassuring…or is the tea? His grasp is firm upon my shoulder.

“I believe in the boy, he has the makings of greatness in him, I can feel it and it will happen, mark my words. If belief is not enough for you Bob, so be it. But I hope you would still aid us on our quest.” 

“Hmmm. It is a fool’s errand, this is. I will help repair the oxcart and burry your friend; but I will not cast my life away on this venture…I will wait for the true curse-lifter.”

My blood turns to ice in my veins as he gives me one last soul-piercing look.

The blade vaporizes into wisps of black smoke that quickly dissolves into the air…so does the head of the sword’s bearer as well.

Now I owe my life to Beauregard on two separate occasions, although I don’t really mind right now.

But any joy I may have at the prospect of continued breathing vanishes will the gleaming of Koufax’s sword. If I wasn’t so terrified I might tell you about how the steel blade shines, like as if it cuts through the light. Or perhaps would speak of its fine gold hand-guard, the outline of Ebbets Field cut into it. Or the pristine leather grip, that squeaks as Koufax’s gloved hands grasp it; swinging the sword left and right, cutting and slashing at the shadow-creatures.

Oh wait, I just did…oh well.

So where was I? Awesome sword…Beauregard’s smoking blunderbuss…shadows all around…we’re going to die…we’re going to die…we’re going to die…oh yes!

The shadows keep closing in, like a great black wave surging towards us.

Forgotten are the guns, swords and daggers are pulled out, ready to repel all boarders…from the massive ox cart. What I would do for a cannon right now.

A scream breaks my terror, replacing it with horror.

Wooden Pete, one of Koufax’s crew, has just found out that the shadow-blades cut as true as any steel blade.

I’ve never seen a person die before. I hope I never have to again.

Everything goes numb as I watch Pete die before my eyes, I think I’m going into shock.

I can see the spindly dark fingers grasp the railing as they climb up the sides of the oxcart. Koufax’s crew swing their swords, but the effort is fruitless; no matter how many shadows are “killed,” another one takes it place.

“Nevermore! Nevermore! Die! Die! Die!” The chorus of screeching ravens overhead digs into my skull, like nails being hammered into my head.

“Back you foul beings!” Koufax’s sword flourishes, a light dancing among the darkness.

Baawoooo! Baawoooo!

Limbs creak, leaves shudder at the horn blast echoing through the forest; even the shadow-creatures pause.

An apple hits Bojangles square on the nose. “Curses on those scalawags! I think my nose’s been broke!”

“Take cover!” Koufax shouts.

“But the creatures!” My head is shoved back down; at least I don’t get a mouthful of fur this time.

A massive stampede of horses gallop on both sides of the cart, such is the onslaught of apples, decimating the enemy.

We poke our heads up as the torrent dies down to a pitter-patter. Most of the shadow-creatures are gone, in their stead the ground is littered with apples and massive pinecones.

A blur of dark mass bursts from the bushes, twirling and spinning. The scythe the hooded figure bears spins as fast as he does; dispatching the last remaining monsters that survived the apple/pinecone massacre.

“He’s like Bruce Lee.” What can I say? I like old kung-fu movies.

Koufax smiles, “he was the best. Saw him once in China, way back…before anyone in the States knew who he was. You know that thumb to his nose thing he would do? Got that from me.”

Scythe twirling, the hooded man points a pale hand at the quarking and cawing ravens high above in the branches. “Tell your master what happened, we will be ready for him, his time is at an end.”

The ravens screech terribly, why must everything bother my head? The flapping of hundreds of wings fills the sky, the light returning to the forest.

The battle has been won, but not without its losses. This fantastical war that I am somehow at the center of is not over. Nausea rolls over me thinking of Wooden Pete, thinking of how real this is, thinking of how much more shadows will be faced.

How can this be happening!?

Explosions fill the air; pistols, long-rifles, and blunderbusses all going off in rapid succession. Everything happened so fast, I don’t even know how I got to be behind the seat, I think Koufax may have shoved me in there.

Puffs of smoke are scattered all around, gunpowder clings to the air, turning this patch of the forest into a fog-laden battlefield. It all feels very dangerous and wicked.

Those things make everything feel wicked, shivers crawl up and down my spine, it’s like there are a thousand pinpricks on my skin; goosebumps.

Deformed and monstrous, sleek and sharp, all have eyes of glimmering white like crystal. Black as death, shifty as a shadow, they disappear in plumes of black smoke as soon as a bullet rips through them.

But still they come, surrounding us; there are hundreds more, and they are getting closer.

Koufax reloads his gun like a madman, most of the crew are, there aren’t enough guns to keep the shadows back.

If only they lumbered like zombies in the movies, we might have a fighting chance; but they move as fast as any man I have ever seen. Our one saving grace is that they don’t appear to have a ranged way of attacking us, seeming intent on attacking us in melee; not that I’m too willing to see the theory tried.

Babe is going berserk, the sounds of splintering wood rise above the crack of gunfire; Babe charges forward, tearing free of the harness, plowing a path through the shadow-creatures.

“NOOOOOOO!” Yells Squirrel, straining to reach the reins, flopping out of his reach; our last hope of escape has left us.

The thundering of Babe’s hooves knocks down the shadows, but that only gives Koufax and the others a moment of respite, the shadows will soon be on us.

“How does the Raven know all this?”Shouts Koufax.

“He has spies everywhere.” Offrey continues to fire his snub-nosed revolver. “He has been waiting for this moment for a very long time (I wish he would have waited longer truth be told). He will squelch any threat to his reign as soon as he can.”

I just noticed something from my oh-so-comfortable spot behind the seat; I’m the only one without a weapon. “How am I supposed to defend myself?” The shadows are getting closer.

“Your job is to stay safe!” Yells Offrey. I gag as his paw fills my mouth, an unfortunate miscalculation on Offrey’s part. “Ehhhh, last time I do that again.”

Offrey doesn’t bother keeping my head down, I’m too busy getting rid of the fur and gunpowder taste out of my mouth.

The goosebumps return. The throbbing in my head disappears, a strange pulling taking hold of me.

One of creatures stands above me, sword raised, an instant away from striking. Its crystal eyes bore into my soul, what sort of devilry is this?

My head shatters into a thousand pieces, each piece filled with the screaming of the creature. A voice, deep and wicked, ethereal and hissing, rises above the pain; You cannot defeat the Raven, you will only die, you and all your friends. 

The pain stops in time for me to see a dark blade plunge at my chest.