The Book of Water, Prologue

Jun 30th, 2016
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  1. It was a dark and stormy night. There were none outside that could help it, and so no eyes to observe the swaying of the trees in the wind, the bombardment of the raindrops on the lake and the rivers and the puddles, none were there to appreciate the cacophony of nature. They heard it all, of course, and the noise comforted them in their houses. They knew they were not outside in the elements, but safe and sound, warm and dry, and some slept more easily thanks to this knowledge, others made themselves tea and wrote all the night away, and others still made love. None looked outside, for it was a dark and stormy night, and there was nothing to be seen. Not with human eyes.
  3. The waters of the lake were bombarded on the surface, and the fish swam deeper, where the waters were calmer and stiller. Stiller, but not stagnant, for there were springs in the deep, if it could be called that, being only fourteen meters at the deepest, though as it was all the fish had ever known, it was the greatest depth they could know, and from these springs rose cold water. There were currents down there, though they were weak and did not interfere with the fish, merely making the plants that grew from the mud and sand sway gently. It was a blue and grey world for the most part, and quite bleak now that the Sun did not shine. Crabs scuttled about here and there. There were clams, some even with pearls in them, though none had ever been found by men in this lake. They hadn’t really been looking. Yet there they were, and their shaping was not entirely unknown to intelligences that could appreciate their beauty, even if no human eyes could see them.
  5. Rain fell on the trees, running down their branches and leaves, seeping into them or getting sprayed elsewhere when the wind shook them. The water was soaked up by the earth, by the roots of the trees, by the bushes and shrubs, by the mushrooms and the moss. It was all soggy and soaked now, but by morning, when the storm had abated and the Sun was up, it would all look fresh and alive, the greens now obscured and turned black and grey would be deeper than before, the plant life rejuvenated and revitalised. The world looked so much more real after a rain, as battered as it might have appeared now. Though there were no human eyes around to look at it.
  7. It was a small town, and only a few thousand people lived there all-year. Many more showed up during the summer months, and among them there were those who got bored of it, while others enjoyed the peace and quiet of the wilderness in tandem with the services the town could provide. Among these were those seeking their muses, writers and artists who yearned for picturesque landscapes and rains like this, the smells of wet dirt and wild flowers. Now the rain drummed on the roofs of the houses, poured down the gutters, formed pools over the manholes that lacked the capacity to drink it all up at once, and by the morrow many poor earthworms would be on the sidewalks and roads, and they would not survive without someone who looked upon them with pity. There was no such pity in human eyes.
  9. Water dwelt everywhere, within the realm of nature as well as within the houses the people hid within, in the deep, cold wells of the country houses as well as in the pipes of the more modern buildings in town. As close to humans as all this water was, they paid it little heed outside their immediate needs. This water, running along in dark places few if any humans ever saw, was the nourishment of countless small plants and microbes the people by and large knew nothing about. A world utterly removed from theirs, present within their very homes, alive and vibrant, though no human eyes ever could spy it.
  11. All these things that humans were ignorant of did not go unnoticed, though. There was something in that town, within the waters of that town, in the lake and the pipes and the streams and puddles, something unhuman, but not animal or plant or mushroom or any other that the taxonomical categories recognize. Nothing conscious, not quite. An intelligence capable of acknowledging all these things that the waters touched, though not a mind capable of thought. A presence with no being, or a being with no presence. Something that was there in a sort of potential way, more so than it would be in another place. It was not quite there yet, but it would be. The time was approaching. Why this time, then, and not some other? Perhaps it had to do with the phases of the Moon or the movements of the celestial bodies in accordance with something or other. None of the WHY is known, or even quite how, and none of it really matters. Not in the end. What mattered was that the time was approaching that what had up until now been a mere potential would soon be an actuality. Does all this sound confusing? It should. It’s not something within human experience. It’s nigh impossible for a human mind, bound to the experiences of the flesh, to understand the birth of a being that is first and foremost a spirit. Human reproduction is simple enough, half the stuff comes from the mother and the other half from the father and then there’s nature and nurture and a human being at the end of it all. But a spirit? Why does a spirit appear where they do? Something to do with the leylines and the Moon, and the celestial bod
  13. ***
  15. With an angry, frustrated movement Delano tore the piece of paper out of the typewriter and crumbled it, hesitating a moment before throwing it in the trash. Then he walked over to the fireplace, set the damn thing on fire and used it to light a cigarette. He’d quit tomorrow.
  16. The phone rang. It was Elijah.
  17. “Hrmph” Delano said as he answered the call.
  18. “I didn’t wake you up, did I?” the amused voice of the man on the other end of the line said.
  19. “You know you didn’t” Delano grumbled.
  20. “Well?”
  21. “It’s harder than I thought. Think you can fix me up any more of that, uhh, potion?”
  22. Elijah sighed.
  23. “Didn’t think so”
  24. “You know, when we hired you, we expected your past history to be of some actual use in this channelling business” Elijah chided, in a very irritated tone. Delano didn’t blame him. The potion was expensive. If it wasn’t, all the goddamn hippies would use it to become one with the universe, and all the damn writers in the world would use it to find their muses. His muse was the one that mattered, though. He puffed some smoke while waiting for Elijah to get on with threatening to fire him.
  25. “My team is starting work tomorrow. Is SUPPOSED to be starting work tomorrow. And we don’t know where to go or what to look for”
  26. Delano let the ash fall on the faded old carpet. It wasn’t his and he wasn’t paying for this room.
  27. “It’s a water spirit” he blurted out.
  28. “Water?”
  29. “Yeah. It’s coming on pretty strong. Water”
  30. Elijah said something under his breath, something obviously not meant for Delano’s ears to hear.
  31. “Water. Maybe the lake? You have a map, don’t you?”
  32. Delano grunted his agreement. The map was on the wall above his desk, and he’d been keeping a pen on standby in case something directed his hand to find the correct location. It hadn’t happened so far.
  33. “So, around the lake? How do you feel about the… let’s see here, there are three rivers…”
  34. “I don’t feel any way towards any of them you know” Delano pointed out.
  35. Elijah let out a sharp sigh.
  36. “You really expect me to dish out more of that stuff, don’t you?” he asked in a tone that he most likely intended to sound confident and condescending. It came off as forced. He must’ve been spending some sleepless nights thinking about this problem too. Which of course meant that if it really came to that, he might let some of the good stuff slip his way… so Delano decided to play hardball.
  37. “Well we are dealing with a water spirit right when the weather forecast predicts heavy rain for the next five days, with some thunder here and there. Now you wouldn’t want a deluge on your hands, would you?”
  38. Delano grinned at this. It seemed an utterly absurd notion to him that a deluge of any kind could be born within five days in such an area as this, it was simply not possible according to the rules of nature. Then again, neither were spirits, and he knew what happened at St. Helen’s, and of course at San Francisco. He’d been there to witness that one. Who knows?
  39. “Two decilitres” Elijah said.
  40. “Five”
  41. “Two and a half”
  42. “Three”
  43. “Done. You’ll get it tomorrow morning. At eight, sharp. You know where to be. Don’t take it with an empty stomach, and if this doesn’t pay off…”
  44. “Yeah, yeah. And you tell your crew to…” Delano drifted off, staring at the map.
  45. “D?”
  46. “You tell your crew to go south-east of the river that’s called Planck. There’s a pond there, and a stretch of land that’s caught between that, the river and the lake”
  47. “You were holding out on me” Elijah said, icily.
  48. “Nope, only noticed it just now” Delano replied, quite honestly.
  49. “Just shooting in the dark, then?”
  50. “You’re going to have to send those guys somewhere. Might as well be there. Three large sources of water, all of them connected”
  51. “Which of course raises the question of why I should give you any more Aqua Sidhe” Elijah pointed out.
  52. Dammit. Maybe he’d oversold it. Delano noticed his cigarette was no longer lit. He threw it in the fireplace and tried to salvage the situation.
  53. “And if we’re wrong, you’ll be left without a backup plan” he threw in the last trick he had left.
  54. Elijah seemed to consider this for a moment, in silence. Delano listened to the crackling of the fire and felt butterflies in his stomach. At last, the silence was broken.
  55. “Eight o’clock. Two decilitres”
  56. Feeling an immense wave of relief pass over him, Delano for a moment entertained the idea of asking for the three they’d haggled on previously, but decided not to press his luck. He thanked his favourite drug provider, closed the phone and relaxed. He had no pressure to work any more tonight, and the promise of some of the best stuff he’d ever had the next morning was reason enough to go to sleep ASAP.
  58. Delano stretched and yawned. His back ached from all the sitting he’d been doing. This whole line of work had been strange and tiresome from the get go. The typewriter was necessary because a computer’s electronic components might interfere with the channelling. This was also the reason he was in a cabin with no electricity whatsoever. Damn fireplace had taken him a good twenty minutes to get started, and he had a bloody oil lamp for illumination. He’d cooked all his meals, consisting of sausages, by sticking them on the poker and burning them to a crisp in the fireplace. There was a stove, but he hadn’t bothered with it.
  59. To wrap up his day, Delano marked with a circle the part of the map he’d indicated to Elijah. Of course he didn’t feel anything from the map, and any feelings towards this particular spot on it originated with his noticing the vicinity of the three water sources in relation to each other. It had been just chance. Was chance all that different from the inspiration drawn by channelling, though?
  60. Well, yes. Of course it was. That’s why he had been hired for this stuff. Not just anyone could do it. You needed certain talents. Like being an artist of some kind. Which Delano wasn’t. Or you had to have obtained a kind of connection to the spirits before. Which he had. Kind of.
  61. Remembering that, he took out another cigarette as he turned off the lamp. He smoked in the gloom of the fireplace. He’d quit tomorrow.
  63. ***
  65. Dmitri had been walking for a couple of hours now. He’d gotten the call from Willem early in the morning, at around six, and after marking his map for where he should go, he checked out of the motel. Dmitri didn’t have a car or a cell phone, and he didn’t want a taxi driver knowing where he was going, so he walked.
  66. The world was so… alive. He’d gotten used to spending time outside and in the wilderness, and he’d well learned how a good downpour of rain worked wonders on the scenery, but you really had to get out in the countryside to be able to properly appreciate the full effects of it. Out here the roadsides weren’t as sterile as in the big towns, everything was so lush and full of undergrowth and everything smelled of wet dirt. Nature was here in full force, with every bush and shrub reminding him of a jungle of some kind. He’d never been to the tropic, but this is definitely how he imagined it; impenetrable green all around, with no paths to walk on, everything living existing for its own sake rather than being cultivated by humans for humans. Dmitri was certainly an aficionado of beauty in the myriad forms it took.
  68. Taking in the sights slowed his pace, so it took Dmitri a bit longer than he’d anticipated to finally locate the area that had been indicated by Willem. The map he had handy under a nice, protective plastic wrap was old and faded, and the little drizzle had almost wiped the circle his marker had made, but eventually he managed to find a road that led somewhere in the vicinity of the pond that marked the edge of the area of interest. With some wandering around he ascertained the presence of the pond, and after circling around he found the river and the lake easily enough. The stretch of land that was situated betwixt these was not a large one. It was possible to stand there without seeing any of the bodies of water though, but one could not wander far into any direction from the centre without coming within viewing distance of any one of them. Towards the river there was a steep slope of clay, which marked it as a rather unpleasant direction, one Dmitri would gladly avoid. Towards the lake there were thickets of close-growing and small trees and a lot of water, making the shoreline hereabouts boggy and quite intraversable. The banks of the pond seemed pleasant enough though.
  69. Dmitri measured that from the end of the road to the centre of the indicated piece of land it was more than fifty metres. It would be a pain to lug gear from a car and through the thicket, but it wasn’t an impossible task that he was looking at, especially considering he wouldn’t be doing it alone. Remembering this, he checked his watch. Nine thirty. It would still be a while before the proper rain storm would kick up again, and when it did, it wouldn’t let up. Apropos, water, water everywhere. It would also be something like fifteen minutes before the local asset would show up here, at least. Dmitri shrugged. He might as well busy himself with something while he waited, right?
  71. The rough centre of the piece of land between the three bodies of water, or the isle as Willem had called it on the phone, was actually quite level. This mean it would work fine as a campsite, which was ideal. Or so Willem had told him. Dmitri understood very little of these matters, he wasn’t an expert in matters spiritual. He just went through the motions that he’d been thought over his service. In this case, he dropped his backpack under a nice spruce where it didn’t get soaked, dug a length of rope from within it, and got to work.
  72. ‘Work’ in this instance meant tying the rope three times around a tree, walking to the next appropriate one, looping it three times there, and rinsing and repeating until a rough perimeter had been completed around the future campsite. With this finished, Dmitri went looking for stones. They didn’t have to be big or pretty stones, or made of any particular type of rock. They just had to stack well. Luckily, there was no shortage of such things out in the wild. There never was, was there? The whole point was that they were a common, trivial thing. This is what made them so useful in performing the spell. Or so he’d been told. Dmitri couldn’t actually say if the spell was real and worked, he’d never witnessed it succeeding or failing, as he’d never witnessed anything truly supernatural with his own eyes. He’d seen… consequences. If this simple spell prevented those, had any chance of preventing those, then he’d take the precaution.
  74. The spell wasn’t really anything too impressive. A pyramid-like shape of small stones was piled in every opening between the trees that had the perimeter rope around them. After that Dmitri let the drizzle fill up a paper cup with rainwater, which he then poured on the pile. He said nothing, since he didn’t know any fancy words. It was just a ritual, and as long as he believed, why wouldn’t it work? It took a while to repeat the process eight times, but once every pile had had their shower – which felt a little gratuitous since they were already wet from the rain anyway – Dmitri thought he’d done everything that was necessary to make campsite secure. It certainly looked all spiritual and mystical, didn’t it? He checked his watch. The local guy should be coming around now. He might have trouble finding this place too. It was out of the way. The damn road was overgrown with weeds.
  76. ***
  78. Tyrone was feeling conflicted. On one hand he’d gotten himself some work for once, a novelty that had eluded him longer than he felt comfortable with. On the other hand the pay was shitty and the actual job description seemed iffy. Some out-of-towner Suit had been at the bar asking around for someone who’d be willing to do some busywork for their little project. They’d needed someone who had his own car and trailer, who could do a little bit of construction work and was willing to camp out in the wild. Shit, he’d been all over that guy’s case, saying he was their man; that he’d help them build a damn mansion in the middle of the forest if that was what they wanted. The Suit had asked him if he knew how to use a video camera. Oh yes sir, he knew how to use a video camera. Well then did he mind staying up late or working night shifts? In this economy? Not at all, sir! Well did he have trouble keeping secrets? This job would have to be handled without rumours about it spreading into town. You needed something built in the woods and filmed at night, discreetly? Say no more sir!
  79. And that’s how Tyrone got himself this gig. He’d been given rough instructions on the materials he’d need to get, and to his surprise it wasn’t all that much lumber. Hell, you couldn’t build anything bigger than those watchtowers hunters used with this much. At least it hadn’t cost him much, which was good. The budget for shopping that the Suit had given him had been miniscule at best, and the pay that they promised was below minimum wage. Tax free though, and wasn’t that just as good then? Maybe even better? He hadn’t counted it out. These guys wanted discretion, which could mean something illegal. They didn’t have permits for whatever they were going to build, was that it? Oh, they definitely didn’t have building permits, but that wasn’t all of it, was it? In this town? They were making a movie. Some kind of art film. Cheaply. So many artists and writers came here during the summer months, it was like something here attracted them. Something let their creativity flow here. Tyrone had no doubts that the people he was working for now fit right in with that lot. Artists with no money to go around, trying to create their magnum opus. The Suit was probably the actual artist’s agent or something. Now if only there was some reasonable explanation on why it was that he’d been called at six in the morning and told to get all the gear together, set his shit in order and get to this very particular spot in the woods by a quarter to ten. It had almost broken his navigator to get here, and the damn road was overgrown with weeds and shit!
  81. ***
  83. Dmitri leaned against a tree and watched the broken down piece of junk pull to a halt at the end of the road. With the trailer attached, it was unlikely that it could actually turn around here; the place just didn’t have that kind of space after years and years of being overtaken by the wild. Dmitri shook his head and walked to meet the man who would help him set up camp. The man was tall and lanky, and the immediate thought that his skin-colour elicited in Dmitri was that the poor guy had been dragged out of the warmth of his native savannah. The thick jacket and woollen cap may have had something to do with this. He was dressed as if it was snowing outside. Poor bastard.
  84. The local man walked up to meet Dmitri a little uncertainly, minding his feet on the muddy excuse for a road. His sneakers weren’t built for this kind of terrain. Sneakers? The only articles of clothing not meant for sub-zero temperatures were his shoes, then.
  85. The two men exchanged half-assed greetings, after which the newcomer introduced himself as Tyrone. Dmitri mumbled his name and walked right past the other man, to the trailer.
  86. “You got the stuff?” he asked with little ceremony and even less politeness.
  87. “All bought and paid for, yeah. Tools too, since you cheap bastards aren’t bringing any” came the reply with an exaggerated grin clearly intended to show that this had been a humorous statement not to be taken seriously, in case that hadn’t been quite obvious enough. Dmitri grunted.
  88. “Let’s start moving it in” he said, starting to undo the latches of the trailer.
  89. “We in a hurry?” asked Tyrone, puffing up the collar of his jacket. He was not comfortable in the rain.
  90. “We are if you want to keep dry” Dmitri said, grabbing as many planks as he could carry at once. “Follow me, and don’t mess with the rope or the rocks”
  91. “Mess with the what?”
  92. “You’ll know it when you see it. Don’t mess with it”
  93. Tyrone shrugged and picked up his sizable toolbox, which was made of metal and for whatever reason had been painted red.
  95. It took several trips to empty the trailer out into the campsite, and once it was all done, they lugged a container full of water, a tent, and some foodstuffs from the car out there as well. Tyrone slipped back to cover his car with a tarp, apparently fearing it would rust. While he did so, Dmitri got to work on the watchtower that Willem had said they’d need. He had only a rough idea on how to build it, and to avoid the harder bits he started off by nailing together the ladder that would be used to move from the ground to the second floor, and the other ladder that would be used to go from the second floor to the third. Why did the damn thing need to be that tall when there wasn’t anything to be seen in this damn forest anyway? The trees covered everything up anyway. Of course it wasn’t his place to question orders, so cobble away he did.
  96. Once Tyrone returned and understood what it was they were building, the work became more professional and a lot faster, even if he constantly whined about how they should pitch their tent first in case it started to rain. Dmitri replied by telling him that the sooner they finished the tower, the sooner they could pitch their tent, and if they worked fast it wouldn’t matter anyway. Work away they did, and in the end the tower stood there, not very impressive-looking but it was of a decent height and sturdy enough. The roof was made slanted so rainwater would slide off nicely, the ladder leading up to the second floor ran on the outside and the ladder on the second floor that ran up was on the inside, so it was also protected from rain. A sort of room was built at the top with a small window overlooking into the four winds, and with the addition of some drapes on the inside of these windows the room at the top became quite safe from the elements.
  97. “What the hell is that thing for, anyway?” Tyrone asked when they were pitching their tent.
  98. “I have no idea” Dmitri replied, annoyed at his whining companion. Was it so hard to find labour that didn’t waste time on idle chatter?
  99. “I mean, that tower, the ropes, the little stones you’ve got piled up here, it’s all just, I mean, I never went to college or nothing so if it’s like, art, then I’m sorry for asking, but…”
  100. “I’m just doing what I’m told. They won’t pay me any more for asking questions, and they probably won’t pay you any more either, so don’t bother. We need to know something, they tell us”
  101. The tent was now pitched, with the stove inside. Dmitri had noticed it was army surplus, but hadn’t said anything. No point in pointing out the obvious just to break the silence.
  102. “So… what do we do now?” asked Tyrone.
  103. “We lug our shit inside, try to get some firewood. Everything’s all wet now though. Shit.”
  104. Tyrone grinned his ape-like grin. It really got on Dmitri’s nerves.
  105. “We’ve got planks left over; let’s just chop them up, yeah?”
  106. Dmitri nodded. The idea was perfectly sound. The leftover lumber had been in the drizzle, of course, but wasn’t wet all the way through, and it wasn’t like they really, absolutely, needed a fire until sometime during the night. While Tyrone applied himself towards making firewood out of the leftover lumber, Dmitri wandered around the nearby trees, looking for dryish branches, ripping them off. Most of the trees here were spruces, so it would mean a fire that smelled of resin. That was nice, he’d always enjoyed the smell of resin.
  108. They’d managed to move their gear in the tent and pile up a decent amount of things to burn when the sound of a car caught their attention.
  109. “Who’d you think that is?” Tyrone asked.
  110. “Our bosses” Dmitri replied, walking off at a brisk pace to greet them.
  111. “Bosses, huh?” Tyrone asked, his dwindled interest piquing again. Maybe now everything would start making sense. There’d be a film crew, and there’d be a script, and actors, or more likely a bunch of college kids who were doing some kinda art project.
  112. They came to the end of the road, and found the car that had been making the noise. Compared to Tyrone’s, the second car was rather nice. It was all sleek and black and had darkened windows, but despite all that it seemed to be having some trouble. The driver appeared to be trying to move past Tyrone’s wreck, but there was simply no room, so it kind of drove into the shrubs, then backed away, tried to do the same damn thing again, backed away again, and finally settled down behind the trailer.
  113. Dmitri had watched this whole affair with a stony expression, but Tyrone couldn’t help but smirk. The car looked pretty nice and it was clear that whoever was in it didn’t want to get themselves wet and dirty. He was eager to see who’d emerge. Maybe it was some cute artsy-chick who wore flowers in her hair and stuff…
  115. To Tyrone’s disappointment, the driver’s door opened and out stepped the Suit who had hired him in the first place. It now occurred to him he hadn’t asked the man’s name back at the bar. He’d been drunker than he’d thought, in retrospect. Would he have agreed to all this nonsense otherwise? Yes. Definitely. This wasn’t the weirdest shit he’d been involved with, not with these artist-types that kept coming into town.
  116. The Suit was wearing black sunglasses, he noted. What the hell, the Sun hadn’t showed up in a long while! It was probably drugs. Or maybe a fashion statement? Tyrone didn’t have much time to worry about that though, as the Suit rushed over to open the door to the backseat and picking up a bag that was thrust at him before a second man climbed out. This, Tyrone surmised, was the Head Honcho, the big boss running everything. He certainly seemed weird enough to be some avant-garde indie film director. His hair was a matted mess and there was a stubble on his chin, he seemed quite overweight and while Tyrone knew his own clothing was a little too warm for the season this guy topped even that with a scarf and thick leather gloves. He seemed extremely bundled up. This boss-man made no eye-contact with either of the workers, merely advancing at a rapid speed – and with quite fumbling, uncertain steps – into the woods, homing in on the watchtower and navigating the rope-rock obstacles with surprising dexterity. He scaled the tower and disappeared in the room at the top right away, and the Suit ran in after him, carrying the bag up there, then immediately coming back down and returning to the dumb-struck workers.
  117. “We’ll grab a bunch of stuff from the trunk and bring them up to him, then head into the tent and have a little tactical meeting, alright?”
  118. Dmitri nodded, and following his lead Tyrone grabbed the indicated bags to carry up to the watchtower. The Suit didn’t let either of the workers scale up to the top though, delivering the bags up himself. Once this was done the two workers returned into their tent to wait while the Suit grabbed his own things from the car. At last the Suit squeezed into the tent and left his bag at the back wall, between the two previous occupants. He was out of breath and groaned as he went, letting out a satisfied sigh as he finally had unrolled his sleeping bag and fallen on top of it. Tyrone waited with baited breath for what was to happen next. This guy seemed to be the one who’d tell him what he’d actually be doing for his money.
  119. “Got anything to say, chief?” Dmitri asked.
  120. “Uhh, yeah. Sure. Uhh, we’ve got no clue what we’re actually doing. I mean the best our channeler could do is say it’s going to be water – surprise, surprise – and this general area was the only real pointer he gave us. Fucker made us give him two more dl of Aqua Sidhe, can you believe that?”
  121. The Suit was talking absolute nonsense, but Tyrone didn’t mind. The town was always getting visits from artists and hippies and they all did a lot of drugs and talked about becoming one with nature, this wasn’t all that different. Also explained why he was wearing sunglasses in the dark.
  122. “Alrighty then, alrighty then” muttered the Suit, and coughed a little. “Aahh, I don’t think I’ve introduced myself yet. Willem” he said, offering his hand to Tyrone.
  123. “Tyrone” he replied.
  124. “Yes, I know. Umm, right. Now that we’re here, I think we need to discuss what exactly we’ll be doing here. That is to say, uhh, did you tell him anything Dmitri?”
  125. Willem was obviously not very comfortable with this situation. He most likely had no clear idea about what he was doing himself, and he’d said as much. Of course he couldn’t tell Tyrone what they would be doing.
  126. “I didn’t have anything to say” Dmitri shrugged it off.
  127. “Right, right. Of course. Tyrone… do you believe in the supernatural?”
  128. The question came from the left field, and all he could do was shrug.
  129. “I guess I believe in God”
  130. “That’s, well, not, I mean I guess… the point is, do you believe in Spirits?”
  131. “What, like souls? Angels and demons?”
  132. “I suppose you could call them that”
  133. “Well yeah, I guess I do”
  134. Willem nodded.
  135. “Good, good. Right. Have you ever seen one?”
  136. Tyrone snorted.
  137. “Hell no, you can’t see spirits!”
  138. “Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong! We think…”
  139. Willem dug out a video camera from his bag, along with a big pile of tapes. Why tapes? That thing must’ve been ancient.
  140. “Since we’re still uncertain about everything, for now we’ll just make our rounds within the circle and we’ll film the perimeter. It might amount to just pointless busywork, but we really have no other course of action to take right now, and Elijah hates the idea of just waiting around, doing nothing. The channeler will try again later today, but he needs to prepare. He said he needs to meditate and stuff like that, so until then…” Willem tossed up his arms to encompass the situation.
  141. “Fine by me” Dmitri said.
  142. “Good, good. We’ll go over the details and then you can fill Tyrone in on them when he gets back, I need to catch some shut-eye”
  143. “Wait, when Tyrone gets back from what?” asked Tyrone, indignant.
  144. “Oh, from seeing Elijah. He hasn’t met you yet, so you’ll get a briefing from him.
  145. “Alright” Tyrone said, getting up, hoping things would finally start making sense.
  146. “Hey” Willem said, grabbing Tyrone’s sleeve.
  147. “Yeah?”
  148. “Elijah’s a bit… quirky”
  149. Tyrone thought back on the brief glimpse he’d seen of the guy, and the phrase ‘quirky’ didn’t even begin to do it justice.
  150. “So keep in mind a couple of things. First is that there should be no names used. He doesn’t like names, thinks that familiarity compromises effectiveness and whatnot. Just forget about using names, okay?”
  151. Tyrone shrugged.
  152. “Yeah, whatever”
  153. Leaving the tent, he saw a veritable wall of water greeting him. He made a mad dash to the watchtower’s ladder and scaled it to the safety of the second floor at record speed. He hesitated a little before entering the room at the top, wondering at what awaited him.
  155. Elijah, the big boss, was seated on his rolled up sleeping bag, surrounded by several laptops. They were all turned on, but they didn’t appear to be doing anything at the moment. Just as well, he was probably going to be watching porn up here anyway.
  156. “Uh, hi” Tyrone said, with a wave of his hand.
  157. “Hello” replied Elijah, staring at him intently. The man was pale and had bags under his eyes.
  158. “So, uhh, you wanted to see me?” Tyrone tried to get this ‘briefing’ over with.
  159. “Indeed. Are you aware of who has offered to pay you tax-free for your services?”
  160. Tyrone shrugged.
  161. “A bunch of weirdos who want to make an art film?” he replied. At this point he couldn’t really summon up the caring to protect his job.
  162. To his surprise, Elijah laughed.
  163. “An art film is hardly what we’re after, Asset. We are an organization, an agency, that deals with the paranormal. The supernatural. The spiritual” he explained.
  164. Uh-uh. Crackpot.
  165. “So you work for the government?” Tyrone asked, feigning interest.
  166. “No, we are primarily a private group, but we have affiliations. We do receive a budget”
  167. “Really?” Tyrone asked, with both scepticism and a faint hope. If these nutjobs got actual money from the government, he’d put up with looking for spirits in the wilderness.
  168. “Yes, thought our budget is only 70k a year. We have to handle our office and salaries out of that. I’m the only actual agent the entire agency has” Elijah explained.
  169. “70k a year? Shit!”
  170. “Yes. Not much, is it? This is why I live on the road. W is enjoying unemployment benefits while working 24/7, all year around. We might get his salary fitted into our budget for next year, but until then…”
  171. Tyrone rubbed his neck and grimaced. This line of work wasn’t going to get him a big house and a boat, no sir.
  172. “So what about that Dmitri guy?” he asked.
  173. Elijah visibly cringed at such an unnecessary use of a name.
  174. “He is a volunteer, but all his expenses are paid for. When he’s working, that is. And he’s always working. Just like W and myself. You join us, Tyrone my man, and you’ll work the same way”
  175. Tyrone wasn’t having any of that.
  176. “Think I’ll pass on that offer” he said. Elijah smiled.
  177. “I figured as much, Asset. But now that you’re helping us out here, you might as well keep us in mind. Here’s my card, call us if you ever want to cooperate again” Elijah said, handing him a slip of cardboard. Without bothering to read the business card, Tyrone slipped it in his pocket. Oh yeah, he’d be sure to call THEM again.
  178. “Of course there are certain perks. Our research has already located a number of sites all over the country where we could build a permanent HQ, and a man with skills in construction could make himself useful building it. Once it’s finished, it would of course house the agency’s employees, and…”
  179. “Yeah, thanks a lot there man, but I think I’ll pass. Did you need me for something?”
  180. Elijah looked confused for a moment.
  181. “Oh. Yes. You’re local, yes?”
  182. “Been for sixteen years” Tyrone admitted with less pride than most ‘locals’ may have had in making such a statement., maybe with less pride than he’d have had in a normal conversation.
  183. “Then tell me, do the locals have any… legends?”
  184. There was still a smile on Elijah’s face, but somehow it seemed – most likely in light of recent conversation – off, like, a little deranged? Tyrone was beginning to have his doubts as to whether or not he was getting paid enough to associate with people like this.
  185. “Whaddya mean ‘legends’?” he asked, discreetly positioning himself a little closer to the doorway in case a quick escape would became necessary.
  186. Elijah shrugged and waved his hand as if to say ‘oh, you know’.
  187. “Oh you know. Legends. Folklore. Tales told by old folks to children to scare them straight or to teach them moral lessons, explanations of natural phenomenon or parts of the landscape that fall outside the bounds of science for whatever primitive, superstitious reason. Old stories. That type of thing”
  188. Tyrone shook his head. This guy had all the annoying qualities of an eccentric millionaire without any of the benefits of actually being a millionaire.
  189. “I wasn’t born here, never grew up hearing old folk tell any stories” he explained.
  190. Elijah nodded.
  191. “Then you may take your leave, Asset”
  192. “Stop calling me that. It’s annoying. You know my name”
  193. “And I do not use it for a reason. There’s no knowing who might be listening to us” Elijah replied, smiling with a gleam in his eye, a finger raised to his lips as if to shush him up.
  194. “Wi- uhh, W told me you were going to brief me on something?” Tyrone tried.
  195. Elijah stared at him.
  196. “Brief you? But you already know everything you need to know. You were hired by a group affiliated with your government. You get paid to do what you’re told, and you’ll be properly instructed in each task you are to undertake. Knowledge beyond what is absolutely necessary can be dangerous. Go!”
  197. With that Tyrone got up and climbed out. He’d had no idea what he was getting into here, but he was starting to understand it now. Government affiliated my ass! Crazy fuckers were probably some anti-government conspiracy nuts, looking for bloody Bigfoot out in the boons. Assets and agents? Total whackjobs. And didn’t he say something about them building a secret base or something? And then there was all that about them looking for spirits? What the hell were these people trying to accomplish?
  199. ***
  201. After he finally escaped the downpour into the relative safety of the porch, Delano picked out his pack of cigarettes and lit one. He became immediately aware of the fact that he’d decided to quit yesterday. That is to say, yesterday he’d said he’d quit tomorrow. Which was today, so he should of course quit today. He had, however, not decided to quit in the morning, or even at noon, and therefore he had every right to enjoy his one, final smoke before quitting. Or maybe two, it was a long day after all, and as long as he quit sometime during it, his decision would hold. Yeah. He was fine. He could puff in peace, with a clear conscience, yes.
  202. While putting his lighter back inside his breast pocket, he happened to brush by the vials he had in there. So fragile, these glass vials, with the precious content so easily lost should they break… best not dwell on it. Two vials, each one containing a single decilitre of Aqua Sidhe. One vial he’d keep for himself. For later. He sucked greedily on his cigarette as he thought of the greatest high a human being could hope to experience, getting carried off by the Fairies and Muses and into the great oneness with the realm of Spirits and Elemental forces, of dreams and imagination, of being free of the constraints of human sensory experience and… and why shouldn’t he keep both? He could do his job easily with that kind of high. To channel the truth, the correct location and the Spirit’s true nature and all that stuff, he could do it, he had gotten close last time, hadn’t he? He…
  204. Delano shook ashes on the porch and puffed out the smoke through his nostrils. He wasn’t going to keep it all to himself. If he had been as in tune with the Spirit world as he had initially believed he was, he’d have solved this damn thing already. Aqua Sidhe didn’t give him more potential than he already had; it only made what was already there work at full steam. He’d done his best, and it hadn’t been enough. There was a reason he’d come to this place. He needed help, he needed someone who could do his job for him so Elijah wouldn’t figure out he was wasting their time and money. Delano liked Aqua Sidhe. Delano wanted more of it. He couldn’t afford it though, not without ruining his life. What little of it there was left, anyway. After San Francisco, he’d… never mind that now. The point was that his only reasonable supply of the Good Stuff was Elijah’s little organization, and they would only keep supplying him if they thought he was someone whose spiritual skills were of use to them. He was, as far as they knew, the best shot they had of predicting what was going to happen. Delano had been the one to lead them into this town in the first place, hadn’t he? Shit, almost anyone could have led them here. This place was an intersection of leylines. This place, this town, it drew spiritually sensitive people to it. Creative people. Artists. People who drew inspiration from the Spirit world. It wasn’t enough to really stand out to the general population, but it was there for anyone to see if they knew to look for it. Delano had found this town, and he’d figured out that they were dealing with a Water Spirit here. He’d figured out, maybe, that little spot for Elijah’s crew to stake out. But was that enough? It could be, if they were able to prevent a disaster on the scale of San Francisco or St. Helen’s with it. But what if they couldn’t? There would be a great loss of life, property damage beyond any reasonable natural explanation. The disaster could perhaps be covered up if the government seriously wanted to, for a while at least, but this was the Age of the Internet. It simply wouldn’t be possible to cover this up for good. And at the end of the day, Elijah would find his channeler elsewhere, and that would be the end of Delano’s Aqua Sidhe supply. That’s why he’d come here. He needed the help of someone who could get in tune with the Spirits on a whole other level, someone who, with just one decilitre of Aqua Sidhe could do what he had so far been unable to do, someone who could give them a specific time and place and maybe a little advice on how to handle it, maybe. That’s why Delano had come to this atelier, to meet with Meryl.
  205. Meryl was an artist. She was an artiste? An Artiste? Yeah, that’s the one. She was an Artiste, with a capital A, and she was in tune with all kinds of things Delano didn’t even know existed. Things he didn’t believe in, even after the things he’d experienced himself. If there was anyone who could solve his problems for him, it was her; the girl who got famous for drawing all kinds of monstrous women with animal bits having all kinds of crazy sex with men, the girl who’d told it all just came to her and that it wasn’t meant as a metaphor for anything, it just was, or would be. She should lay off drugs. Most drugs, anyway. Not this one though. Not creation. Certainly not Aqua Sidhe. She’d never even tried it, as far as Delano knew. That was extremely promising. He dropped his cigarette and ground it under his heel. Time to make a pitch, then.
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