Christmas Knights: A Tale of The Forgotten, Week 3

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Wordsmiths and Talespinners

Coincidences continue to bring the tribe of the Forgotten together. The shadows keep a close watch on Wu the scientist, but their efforts to smoke out the Forgotten with the Thomas Fire have, so far, failed. A young, non-binary teen hangs on for life after a car accident kills his foster family - will they make it?

Christmas Knights: A Tale of The Forgotten

Week Three, 12/02 through 12/08/2017

By Catfish Waterdancer

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Tinker

(Ventura, California)

Tinker was remembering the movie "The Whales of August," in which Bette Davis' character says, "Life fools you. It always does."  Damned if she wasn't right.  Tim had been with them for over 2 weeks, and he still hadn't spoken a word.

It was young Fries-Girl (sometimes she got work at McDonalds when she was clean) who solved the problem yesterday, by giving him a cell phone she'd found that someone had thrown away.  "Here," she said, "If he don' know how to text then he's not from this planet."  She'd been right on the money.  As soon as Tim held the phone, he was typing.

He learned a lot about the kid, and most of what he'd assumed had been dead wrong.  He didn't mind bein' called Tim, as his real name was Tom.  He could talk, he had written, but he wasn't s'posed to, 'cause he had somethin' real important to say and do when the time came. The last thing he typed afore the phone went dead was a "thank you" to everyone.  Bunion got all teary-eyed and even Hairy Katey gave him a big squeeze.  He'd had to give Tim credit, he didn't back away like most o' the tribe, but hugged her right back.

It was getting dark, and they'd managed to find a bunch of sandwiches that had passed their expiration date in the Vons trash bins, along with some sodas that one of the night delivery guys had given them.   That night, Tinker had everyone talk about themselves and their talents, or gifts, or 'knacks' as some called 'em.  All o' them shared a little bit, or a lot, o' the same blood.  He wanted to tell Tim about The Forgotten and their history, but when he saw the kid starting to nod off, he decided to let it go for another day.

Bunion sat down next to him, and wiped a tear from his eye.  "I'm sorry," he said, "but I don't know why you keep sayin' I'm one o' the tribe.  I'm not anythin' special-like, jes'..." "Stop it, stop that now!" Tinker said gently,"Jes' cause I canna see it proper don' mean it ain't there.  Every time I dream you, it runs from me, like it don' wanna be found.  Never seen the likes o' it before."

It was true.  Bunion wasn't ready to 'member it himself, so it didn't want anyone else to, either.  But the change is coming, thought Tinker.  He looked at the stars.  Maybe closer to Christmas.  Then again, 'Life fools ya!'  And Tinker laughed, sending Bette a kiss into the stars.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Wu

(Washington, D.C.)

Wu wanted so badly to wipe the self-satisfied grin from his grandmother's face, but he'd already tried that and his hand passed right through her.  He brought the thick red-bean broth with a few saealsim to his mouth, and ate it.  It was a dish Jane had mastered, and he chewed on the little rice cake balls with relish, all the while enduring Halmuhnee's chuckling.  "Wife make good patjuk, I remember.  Now, why she make patjuk? Hmmm?  It drive away bad spirits, but you no believe in them. It okay, it good for you."

Wu banged the table with his fist.  Once again, a few co-workers looked his way, and he caught their eyes.  "Fly," he said grumpily and went back to eating his lunch.  Ben had told him they'd started calling him Grumpy Gorogochi.  Yesterday, he'd sat in the airport lobby, opposite the Singapore Airlines ticket counter.  He'd chosen the location carefully.  At 11 a.m. his contact had arrived, and they'd greeted each other as businessmen.

He had taken the manila envelope, put the man into a cab, and watched him leave.  He knew that the taxi would circle back, and the man would vanish into the airport.  As he made his way to his car, he began to sweat.  It seemed as if everyone was looking at him.  He checked for cameras in the parking garage, and changed his walking pattern.  By the time he'd gotten to the floor where his car was parked, he was practically running.  He looked at the envelope.  It felt colder than the winter air outside.  Death was in that envelope.

"Finish patjuk, grandson. It already helping.  Bad spirits cannot touch you."  "Enough with your nonsense," said Wu, "Go away, Halmuhnee. There's nothing you can do." He watched as she frowned. "Maybe, maybe not. But, fool of a grandson, there are bad spirits and good spirits.  Always they fight.  One wins, one loses.  It old, old story.  And you, me, we part of it. Which side you choose, hmm?"  And she vanished.

Wu shook his head, and left the lunchroom. As he made his way back to the research lab, he again had the feeling that he was being followed.  He was, but couldn't see the shadows gathering behind him.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Sally

(Podunk & Bowling Green, Kentucky)

She passed, of course.  She wasn't certain if it was entirely on the merits of her performance, which Jerk-son had called 'profound and inspiring' (gag me with a spoon, she thought) or the fact that the mystery man that had attended her performance turned out to be Chance L. Dorado, the country's foremost classical music booking agent.

It turned out he was a childhood friend of Ms. Green, and when she told him about her (!), he'd all but invited himself to her end-of-semester jury.  He'd adored her outfit, was blown away by her playing, and wanted to book her for a live production on Christmas eve for WKYU-TV!  Ms. Green might be namby-pamby, but she was full of surprises!  Sally had a 'business brunch' with Mr. Dorado at the Wild Eggs Restaurant in Bowling Green; it was quite a distance from the college but Mr. Dorado raved that its Mr. Potato Head Casserole and their Bananas Foster Cappucino were worth it. He was so right!

"Sally? I can call you Sally, can't I?  Now isn't this place just divine - almost as heavenly as your performance today! We're going to call you...let's see...how about the Pachelbel Punk Belle?  You'll be fab-u-lous!" It hadn't taken her long to guess which team her new friend played on.  It didn't phase her one bit, but this was Kentucky, and their fellow diners were giving them pretty disapproving looks.

"Now, here's a prepaid Visa card, so find something outrageously punk and holiday pretty to wear for the show.  Rehearsals are on Dec. 21, 22 and 23 at the University and the show's on Christmas Eve.  Oh, and here's the first half of your fee, my dear."  And he wrote her a check for $1,000.

Later that day she'd phoned her Mom with her news, and told her that she was moving to the college dorms.  It was time for her to get some space of her own.  But her mom had surprised her, and asked if she could rent out her room to her new library assistant, Mattie.  When she'd moved out a few days later, she'd met the young woman, and strangely enough they'd hit it off.  "I'd love to hear you play some time," she'd said, so Sally had told her about the show.

Moving day finally came.  Sally went back into the house to check for anything she'd forgotten, and stopped.  She'd been thinking about how to punk-ify Pachelbel's Canon - but had hit a roadblock.   Wafting through the house she'd heard the melody of the Canon, but more playful than the original.  She'd been making her way into the living room when she almost ran into her mother.

"That's the Canon, isn't it?" she asked.

"Yes,” her mother replied, “It's played by George Winston.  He called it 'Variations on the Kanon.' You've never heard it?"

No, Sally thought.  She'd never really heard it until today.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Mykell

(Ventura/The Thomas Fire and Malibu, California)

"Is she the last one?" asked Mykell. "Because I don't think I can stay awake much longer!"

"That's the last one," said the deer named Rhonda, who slowly knelt and let the child off her back.  The smoke was not as thick here along Thompson Avenue.

"Thanks, Officer Rhonda.  You say my mommy is over there?' And the child pointed to a building not far away, surrounded by television station vans.  "Yeah, that's right," Mykell said encouragingly, "Now you go find her.  And don't forget to tell her that you love her very much."

"Okay! Aren't you a little young to be a policeman?"

"I'm a cadet in training," he said, and winked.  Away she ran, toward the shelter at the Ventura County fairgrounds.  Mykell collapsed onto the bus stop bench, and brushed off the constantly falling ash from the fires raging close by.  He was covered in it, as was Rhonda.

"I don't know how you do it," he said, "all this crazy hocus-pocus.  It still feels weird talking to a deer."

"Reindeer," she corrected him. "Does this mean you're used to my flying like Superman?"

He laughed, and then coughed. "I'll never get used to that.  But your illusion magic?" Seems reindeer could create an illusion that would hide them from humans, even in plain sight.  But it couldn't work on big groups - just a few people.

They'd been flying into Ventura County when they saw the smoke.  They'd set down near a camera crew and listened to a reporter talk about something they were calling the Thomas fire.   So, for the next 4 hours Rhonda & Mykell had scoured the area and rescued people who'd gotten lost, or trapped.  Sometimes they rescued pets.  Rhonda was fearless and ferocious, but finally the heat and the smoke were getting to her too - Mykell somehow sensed it.

"Can you take me back now?  Did you sense him?"

"Yeah, he's here.  But I'm too tired to look for the geezer.  Grandma's still got some time left, so we'll come back here tomorrow."

"Okay," he said, and thought back to six days ago.

Her name was Rhonda.  She was the granddaughter of Dasher, who was dying.  And Dasher's dying wish was to see her old pal, William Laughead, who had disappeared from the North Pole almost 200 years ago.  And so she’d sent Rhonda to find him.  Rhonda had gotten a faint whiff of his 'scent' and followed it to find Mykell.  And that's when things got really weird.

It seems the paper he'd found had belonged to Mr. Laughead, but somehow it didn't smell of him anymore.  According to Rhonda, he - Mykell - now smelled of him, if only a little bit.  At that point, Mykell's head hurt - a lot!  He'd asked Rhonda for a minute, so she went to the other room, barely squeezing through the doorway.  "Next time I see something golden flying at me, I'm gonna duck!" he said out loud.  It was a lot to take in.  "This is some crazy-ass psycho Christmas story shit. First off - if I buy into this, it means Santa is REAL, creepy he-sees-you-when-you're-doin'-your-thing REAL.  And reindeer. Wait!" He'd run back out to the living room, where Rhonda had been waiting.

"Yes, kid, I fly."

"Next you'll be telling me about elves and crap!"  Rhonda had shaken her head. "Now, I need your help to find this guy," she said, "And no more disrespect from you, okay?"

He'd gone back home, and his mom had all but crushed the life out of him when she saw him.  Over the next few days that he'd gone out with Rhonda, looking for this Mr. Laughead, but with no success.  Until today, when Rhonda had nearly stopped mid-flight.  The sense had gotten very, very strong and they'd headed north, where they would - if the fires allowed - return tomorrow.  Rhonda set him down in front of his home in Malibu.  She turned to go, and stopped.

"What is it?" he asked.

Still facing away from him, she said, very gently, "You did good today, Mykell. Even though your Mom would be proud, don't tell her anything about today, okay?"

"Okay," Mykell replied.

"One more thing," said Rhonda, "Everybody knows there's no such thing as elves!"  And with that, away she flew.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

David

(Malibu, California)

David was pacing back and forth.  Peter at the vet clinic had not had the time.  In fact, it had taken 8 days to get the hair sample analyzed.  Reindeer hair, Peter had said, and given him the test results (after he had paid an exorbitant fee.)  The closest reindeer were, strangely enough, in the Santa Barbara Zoo.  The Zoo had them flown in from Tehachapi for the season, two males named Holiday and Lightning.  He'd made plans to drive to Santa Barbara, but those plans were foiled by the damn wildfires when they jumped to the other side of Highway 101.

If there was one thing David was afraid of, it was fire.  He'd lost his first lover in a fire - the apartment complex they'd been living in had caught fire, and by the time they'd become aware of it the fire spread to theirs.  Hank had been right behind him when he'd tripped and David watched in horror as the ceiling above Hank collapsed on top of him.  He'd managed to escape, but Hank did not.

He looked outside the window of the cottage at the Malibu Country Inn, and looked north.  The raging fires had created a dark grey, roiling mass; above it was what looked for all the world like a mushroom cloud.  David shuddered.

"Damn you, Paul!" he cursed.  "Why California?  Couldn't you want to live in someplace sane?"

I am, thought David, 67 years old and on a wild goose chase to find my lover who left me just as we were about to celebrate our 18-year anniversary, who disappeared 15 years ago leaving his bills and estate to be run by his lawyer, who calls me out of the blue to tell me Paul's run out of money and would I be so kind as to either pack his things or pick up his tab?  The fact that I'm here is enough to make me certifiable.

"And the only thing I have as a clue to his disappearance," he shouted to the soot-filled air, " is a clump of goddamned reindeer hair!"

David walked along the beach.  He missed Warrenton, Virginia.  He loved his job, teaching American Literature and Dialects at NVCC.  He'd met Paul in 1984 at a bar in DC and they'd hit if off, both having a love of early American legends and folklore.  Paul got a job as a counselor at Fauquier High School, and they were happy for 17 years.  Then Paul changed - not physically, since he never seemed a day older than the day they first met.  His attention wandered, he became short-tempered and at the end of 2002, he became unbearable.  Then, on December 24th, Christmas Eve, their 18th anniversary, he didn't come home.  And that was it.  A year later came a very short letter, Paul telling him how sorry he was, but they couldn't be together. Ever.

He stopped and checked his watch.  The watch had been a gift from Paul, who didn't trust cell phones to tell the time.  It was 6:00 p.m. - he'd been walking for 30 minutes.  Looking up, he saw Paul's former apartment.  As he was nearing it, he heard someone whistling "Es Ist Ein Rose Entsprungen."  The hair on David's neck stood up.  That was an old German carol, one that Paul loved.  He heard someone come down the stairs, so David hid in the shadows.

The stranger, still whistling, was wearing a large and dirty overcoat, at least two bulky sweaters and a pair of jeans that were most likely 3 sizes too big.  David emerged from his hiding place, and he stepped on a twig underfoot.  He lost his balance and fell, face first, into the sand.  By the time he'd stood up, the stranger - who may or may not have been Paul - had vanished.  He turned around and was summarily knocked flat.  He heard a young man's voice say, "We're sorry mister.  I hope Rhonda didn't hurt you."  He opened his eyes and saw antlers.

Dammit, he thought, if I didn't just get run over by a reindeer.

December 7, 2017

Marie

(Denver & Longmont, Colorado)

Some New York gallery had seen her work and had wanted to show the entire collection.  After having gotten permission from buyers of the pieces that she'd sold, she'd shipped the last of them today.  It was her first showing in NYC, and she'd promised to attend the opening, which they'd scheduled on the first week of January.  They'd told her they had three days of interviews and photo shoots before opening day, January 5th.

Marie had cautioned them that her personal life was off-limits: she'd only talk about her art.  And they'd agreed.  She was nervous as hell about leaving Emily for a week, and although the hospital had assured her that they'd call her if anything changed, she was feeling guilty about the whole thing.  Today, she could have sworn that Emily had squeezed her hand, if only for a second or two.  At least they'd be together on Christmas.

She went to the front desk, and was about to ask the attendant if anyone on Emily's floor was allergic to poinsettias when there was a commotion down the hallway, coming from the Emergency Room.  Against her better judgement, Marie went to see what was going on.

She walked into mayhem - nurses and doctors were rushing alongside 5 gurneys that sped down the hallways like getaway cars.  Vitals were read off, codes called, and operating rooms set aside.  Her attention was caught by four drunk college students, bloodied and handcuffed as they were forcibly made to sit down by a pair of attending police officers.

"What the fuck did you hafta do that for, Drake?' said one.

"Jesus, man, I think you killed him!" said another.

"Fuckin' queer ass faggot deserved to die," Drake growled, "That asshole winked at me! I ain't no faggot!"

"Will you SHUT UP!" said a dark-haired kid in a "Jesus Loves You" t-shirt.

"Good Christ, man, you didn't have to run them off the road," said the brown-haired one.

"Don't you guys know we could be up for multiple murders?" cried the dark-haired one.

One of the policemen grabbed Drake by the shirt and lifted him out of his chair.  "My son is gay, and he's a quarterback at Ole Miss.  You beat that kid - who was already seriously injured from the car crash YOU caused - into unconsciousness. The guys in prison are going to have a field day with you. You'll be lucky to last two days."

Drake spat at the cop's foot. "He deserved it.”

It happened so fast that it took Marie's breath away.  The officer hit Drake square in the face, breaking the kid's nose, spat at him, and said: "Two of that kid's family are dead, two may not last the night, and the kid - his name is Morales, not that you give a shit - is in God's hands now.  All because he winked at your sorry-ass pretty face.  I'm going to make sure you never see the light of day."  And he walked down to the middle of the hallway.

On the waiting room TV, CBS4 news anchor Jim Benemann talked about Colorado sending 50 firemen to help with the California wildfires.  The world is going to hell, thought Marie. She walked back to the front desk, where the attendant then told her that no, no one was allergic to poinsettias that she knew of.

Marie left the hospital, and drove to Dicken's Tavern, where she ordered a coffee and banana bread pudding.  She was no longer certain about using wrecked car parts for her work.  She'd seen photos of Emily when she'd been hurt, and now she'd seen the human carnage up close.  She tried to imagine the horror her daughter must have felt...and if she was still conscious, trapped in that motionless (mostly motionless, she corrected herself) body, with only the memories of the crash to keep her company?

Then she thought about what those college kids had said.  One of them had beaten up a kid who had just been in an accident, one that he'd caused.  And the whole family might die before morning.  While "White Christmas" played in the background, Marie put her head in her hands and cried.

Date: unknown.

Morris/Maureen/Morales

(?Denver, Colorado?)

Mo remembered noise.  At least he thought that's what it was.  Screeching, screaming, tearing and ripping, shouting, cries that sounded like someone asking for help.  He was asking for help.  He was trying, but he couldn't move his mouth.  Because of the fist that kept hitting him.  Hitting his already broken and bleeding body.  There were other bodies...his foster sister's bloody teddy bear...his foster father's lifeless stare...and that angry, angry face shouting at him.  His fist.  And blackness.

He heard bleeping sounds, and light began to take shape, filling his sight.  He was looking down at his body.  How was that possible?  There were tubes and bags everywhere, like something out of a crazy hospital drama.  Then he looked around the room he was in (?) and knew it was a hospital.  "I look like shit," he said.  The nurse checking his monitors didn't hear him, and left the room, scribbling something onto a clipboard she carried.  He was bandaged from head to toe.  Only he had slits where his eyes should be.  His other eyes weren't open.  Did this floating Mo even have eyes?  He didn't know.  He was tired, so tired...

The next thing he remembers is the moonlight coming through the window.  He sees, from above, he's still out, lying on the hospital bed.  He hasn't moved at all.  That's bad, he thinks.  No, she thinks.  The part of Mo that cares too much, the she part, is the one that thinks this.  Now, thinks Morales, I'm Maureen. 

Mo goes away, leaving Maureen to watch.  There are two others in the room, a nurse and another woman - middle-aged but young-looking.  Funky clothes, she thinks, like an artist would wear.  The nurse is telling her something, and the artist-woman listens intently.  Maureen strains to hear, and suddenly it becomes crisp and distinct.  The nurse is telling the story of what happened to Morales.

 And it brings it all back, all the memories, all the pain.  That asshole in the car, Drake Hansen the jock, had mouthed the word 'faggot' as their car had passed his, and Morales had done something both brave and stupid.  They'd looked Drake in the eye and blown him a kiss.  That's when it all happened.

"So this kid has nobody?" asked the woman. "No one to give medical permission, to make decisions on his behalf?"

"'Fraid not," said the nurse, "Childhood Services is backlogged through the New Year."

"And he needs this operation now?  How much will it cost?"

"He'll hang on for three, four days tops.  But without it, he'll die for certain.  It will require that we find a match first.  And we may not find one in time."

"The cost, please?"

"Around 125,000 dollars.  They won't even begin the search without the money guaranteed."

"I'll guarantee the money.  Tell me where to go and what to sign.  Start your search."

"But ma'am..." began the nurse, but the woman stopped her.

"It's Marie, Marie Niamu."

"Why...why would you do that, lady?  You don't even know me!" Maureen/Morris/Morales cried out.

"Don't flatter yourself, kid.  She's not doing it for you.  She's doing it out of guilt.  She's doing it because of me."

If they could tremble, they'd be trembling right now.  Morales turned and saw a beautiful young woman, floating in the air beside him.  "Who are you?"

"I'm her daughter, Emily.  Pleased to meet you. Um, all of you."

 


Submitted: November 22, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Catfish Waterdancer. All rights reserved.

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