Wednesday, August 17, 2011
LIKE A THIEF IN THE NIGHT
The city was a battlefield of death and terror. A place of living and dead nightmares.
Images of nightmare flashed through the sleeping mind of Israel Chandler. A ruined city street strewn with wrecked and burned cars and other debris, splitting sidewalks, an explosion of concrete showing the street in fragments, a rush of red steam. In an alley four white faced hawkish vampires shred the flesh of a young man. A store front exploded in a ball of fire. Jasper Maxwell, the mad puppet master of Darktowne, howled and cackled with madness.
More than any other image of the dying city, Jasper Maxwell’s cackling madness returned again and again. Inwardly and subconsciously, Chandler laughed at Maxwell. Outwardly Chandler was quiet and resolved. The madman Maxwell boasted immortality, boasted himself King of Darktowne, boasted that he was the Giver of Death. If anything, on Death the madman was mistaken. He did not truly know Death.
Chandler sat up and opened his eyes. The images of nightmare faded from his mind. The reality of Darktowne’s nightmare extended into the surrounding dark of night. There were cries of pain and terror and death. There were explosions and fire. Smoke and sulfur drifted on a night breeze. A shadow approached, cast by a crackling campfire. Chandler turned.
“You were having a nightmare,” Ting said.
Ting was beautiful, oriental; a shape shifter, human and Bengal Tiger. She was an Angel of Death, one of four; all were shape shifters, Angel’s of Death, companions of Israel Chandler.
“I don’t have nightmares,” Chandler said flatly. He rose to his feet.
Chandler walked to the campfire and stared into the flames. Lithe and silent, drifting in shadow, Ting joined him and stood at his shoulder. The orange firelight played softly on their faces. Chandler reached down and ran a hand over the tattoo on his forearm, a crescent moon and star.
“The others,” Chandler said.
“There,” Ting replied with a nod toward the destruction, fires, cries of pain and anguish. Toward the city center.
Ting and Chandler had made camp in the outer neighborhoods of Darktowne, an abandoned rail yard just inside the interstate northwest of the city center. Chandler took his eyes from the fire and peered into the dark. Out there was Maxwell, plying the streets, gathering converts, pulling the puppet strings.
“Jasper Maxwell,” Chandler said softly.
Ting turned to him, but remained silent. He stood for a moment, looking into the dark, and then sat next to the fire and took out a book. Turning the pigeon folded pages, he quietly began to read as Ting watched shadows moving in the night.
Then the strange clock struck the hour, twelve times, midnight; a low discordant tone that echoed across Darktowne. Everyone stopped to listen. Fear ran through the people of the city. They knew there was no clock that produced such a discordant tone. A ghost clock, some had whispered. No no, it’s a death clock, others had said.
“…there strikes the ebony clock which stands in the hall of the velvet,” Chandler said, his eyes vacant and staring as the tone faded, “And then, for a moment, all is still…” There was a moment of silence. A disquieting silence. Chandler seemed to be lost in his thoughts. Then he looked up at Ting. “Poe,” he said with a smile.