Golem, Interrupted!

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Life Happens. http://www.samsobelman.com/Site/Welcome.html

So--I have an interesting myriad of aquaintances. Some believe profoundly in God others are exploring the facets of skeptism. Not just about God but about everything. Still, viva la thought process, the tool and ability that makes us or is supposed to make us different than the animal species. That is, the ability to reason, to observe, to ponder and to relay. Wanted to recommend this 'friend' to you as readers. Is working on his fifth book, like a jewel waiting to be discovered properly the old fashioned way, by an Agent and musing on life as he does it, sometimes from a little coffeeshop that the rainy holidays saw us through. The following is an excerpt of one of his introductions 'A Very Short Story'--Sam spilled into this world on November the Third, Nineteen Hundred Eighty Six. Since then, his life has been a series of transformations. He morphed from a high school valedictorian to a college slacker to a working-in-the-real-world-oh-my-gosh-when-did-he-grow-up-to-be-twenty-something. And on and on and on until the present and beyond.
Sam likes to write books and stories and songs, sometimes all at once. Sometimes they are pretty great. Other times..(Well, you will have to check out his site and read the rest.)
Here is a bit of Golem, Interrupted!

Submitted: August 09, 2011

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Submitted: August 09, 2011

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**Okay. so not really a short story. First chapter of a Novel. But one that we'd love your comments on.

(Hi Rachel, here's the first chapter of my book, Golem, Interrupted!
I hope you enjoy it!
Sam)

Prologue
On the unkempt psycho-highways of ancient meta-space, a pan-dimensional transport floats at the speed of darkness. That is to say, the ship sort of farts along its merry way, taking its sweet time. The transport will arrive at its destination at the exact moment it arrives, not a meta-second before or after, or the whole cluttered mess of reality will run out of gas and cease to exist.
The psycho-highways of meta-space constitute the transcontinental railway of higher entities, helping them to arrive whenever, wherever, and however they are supposed to be. The routes allow young deities to give the illusion that they are everywhere at once, while they are trying to build up their faith cred. They allow for intrepid time-travelers to cross their own streams any number of times without inspiring paradox. And, when navigated by nearsighted narrators, the psycho-highways allow for a dash of ominous foreboding.
Aboard the vessel, two weary companions stare out into the great abyss of space and time and then some. Terrorpin is a middle-aged Eldritch who has settled into the form of a massive turtle. He is infamous for, among other things, eating a white dwarf star without so much as a burp or fart of indigestion. He also has a lilting baritone and shreds a mean lead guitar, when he has the chance. Terrorpin is traveling on a routine assignment: guarding his ward Kai Kai, a young, Eldritch prince.
"Terrorpin," Kai Kai says, "Tell me about what we're going to do when we make it to Earth."
"I've told you ten million times already. Must you really ask me again? You know exactly what I'm going to tell you. It's the same thing I've told you the last ten million times."
"But I want to hear you say it! With that beak! You've got such a calming voice."
"Really, sir? You don't even have a pair of ears. How can you tell?"
"Oh, but I can feel your sweet vibrations in my molecules!"
"You don't even have those, half the time. You're just a bundle of prepubescent entropy!" Terrorpin grumbles. He has forgotten just how miserable it is to be a teenager, instead wallowing in the misery of his upcoming quarter-life crisis. (It should be noted that these human-life terms are used relatively, to describe the typical lifespan of an Eldritch, which close to the lifespan of the universe.)
Immature Eldritch like Kai Kai are perceived by Euclidean viewers as swirling spheres of chaotic mists. He is a vessel for and generator of entropy, until he grows wise enough to understand his true nature and the shape that comes with it. Once he settles into an adult body, Kai Kai is stuck in that one shape for life, every day until the universe evaporates. This is the only thought that inspires fear in young Kai Kai's mind, though he usually shakes off the fear as if it was a nasty hiccough. He is using all his power to put off the day he must "grows up" as long as inhumanly possible. Until then, Kai Kai will pull any limbs, mouths, or tentacles out of the ether he wishes, as is required to inspire proper horror.
"Terrorpin, let me try again. What are we going to do when this ship sets us down on Earth?"
"With all due respect, Master Kai Kai, we're traveling through the cosmos on a comet made from near-limitless psycho-energy and you can't think of anything better to do than ask me infantile questions? There are so many more interesting quandaries to mull. So many philosophical gardens to till. So many-"
"Say it, TeePee!"
Terrorpin sighs and rubs his scaly forehead with his long, green claws. Only his good friends are supposed to call him TeePee. Those friends are limited to his old band mates, those foolish Eldritch who overdosed on a binge of hyperbolic geometries. The idiots who went and got themselves killed and forced Terrorpin to take this gig as babysitter. Only those four could call Terrorpin that nickname without making him want to split a dozen atoms. Kai Kai knows this, but the bastard entity uses the nickname anyway.
Dealing with royalty never gets any easier. Every generation seems to grow just a hint more entitled to their mastery over the cosmos.
"I swear, if your father weren't the Arbiter of Entropic Decay, I would have beaten you substanceless millenia ago."
"Terrorpin, I believe I asked you a question. Twice times! Don't make me count any higher."
Terrorpin sighs and forces his raging headache down, to a warm pillow-fort deep inside his heart. This trip has already been filled with enough ennui that Terrorpin could write a few albums, if he could just find the right band mates. Not that he's truly ready for a new band, yet. Not while the Dagons are still being disassociated in the hyperbolic void. As soon as their restraint-less molecules are done being shredded to nothingness, most definitely.
"Yes, young Master Kai Kai. And, as usual I have an answer to your liking. We will feast on the succulence of six billion mortal souls."
"And?"
"We will roast all the animals on pyres made from all the worlds forests. We will slake our thirsts by swallowing every drop of water. We will gorge ourselves on pleasure by perverting the finest of arts. Once we have satisfied our every needs, we will toss the empty husk of a planet into the fiery star it orbits."
"And?"
"And then we will return to our astral ship and begin our journey onwards, dancing, singing, and dripping entropy in our wake."
"Oh, gee golly, I can't wait! Just the thought makes me so happy. I hope it all plays out just as I'm imagining. Thank you, Terrorpin. You know just how to make me smile."
"But of course, sir. That's my job, after all. Master Kai Kai, if you would allow it, may I ask you a question?"
"Yes, of course! Terrorpin! You are my very favorite guardian that I haven't devoured! Yet. Shoot!"
"Well, sir. We've consumed many a planet in our journey through the multiverse. All of them crumbled without a whit of a chance to resist. None of those planets seemed to rile you up nearly so much as Earth. What is it about this rock that excites you so very much?"
"Terrorpin, didn't you know? This planet's inhabitants are going to be the tastiest morsels you've ever munched!"
"And why, exactly, is that?"
"Terrorpin, can't you feel it? This planet is one of the richest sources of hope in the multiverse! It's entirely misplaced, since we'll eventually destroy the planet no matter what, but what does that matter? We'll feast on hopeful souls, Terrorpin! When was the last time you tasted pure, unadulterated, foolish hope?"
"Ah, sir, of course. It has been a very long time since I last tasted it, you are correct. Nothing slides down the gullet like a big draught of hope. Why, might I ask, is this planet so hopeful?"
Kaikai forces a mouth into existence, with a smile containing ten trillion, atomsharp needleteeth.
"Well, isn't it obvious, silly? They don't know we exist!"
Chapter 1 - If a Popebear Pukes in the Woods...
"Citizens of Plasterville, lend me your ears! Bless me with your hearts, a moment of your time! The end is nigh, our time is running thinner than an alcoholic's blood! The Gods of Earth are dying, the Gods of the Stars are coming to harvest their bodies for a Galactic Thanksgiving, and we are not invited! Nobody is safe from the tingling tongues of heaven, no city king nor country chicken! The Gods of the Stars are the ultimate arbiters of fate! How can you blind fools let them piss on your parade so easily!"
Juno Umali attempts to skirt the street prophet, urging her pup Stanley to walk faster. The sidewalk is narrow, and she wants to keep the good mood that has been brewing inside her all morning. Her effervescent attitude starts to fizz away when she sees that a collision is going to be unavoidable. For half a second, she considers ditching Stanley and running across the street, through traffic.
Though she moved to Plasterville only a few weeks ago, Juno already knows that all interactions these types of people are painfully awkward. They congregate (and eat, and sleep, and otherwise bodily function) near the entrance to the city, eagerly sitting in the dirt and spouting off their holy messages at any beast with at least one ear. Living along such a highly frequented path, the prophets tend to pick up a special blend of smells from all the comers into and goers out of the city.
Stanley, a connoisseur of foul odors, notices the doomsayer's stench as soon as it floats into his snout and dashes over to investigate. What mad genius had created such a fragrant bouquet? Stanley is a young Newfoundland dog. Despite his youth, he weighs as much as his master and has twice as many legs for traction. Juno puts her heels into the blacktop, but Stanley drags her effortlessly over to the prophet.
"Hello, young miss. Have you heard the Word?" The prophet's breath carries a blend of garbage, cigarettes, and rat poison, with a soupcon of cough syrup hidden at the bottom. "If you would only lend me your ears for a moment, I have important messages from the ether that I must share with your brilliant mind."
"Yes, I'm sure they're truly divine," Juno snaps. "And I'll bet your ether is really top quality, but I have got to go. Right now! See, Stanley and I are late for an important date."
Juno tugs on Stanley's leash, but he is busy sniffing out the multitude of odors emanating from the prophet's crotch and will not leave. Juno is stuck in the trenches, fighting a war between her urge to vomit and run and her love of this stupid puppy.
"Stanley, Stanley!" the prophet yelps. "What a brilliant name for a such a holy creature."
Stanley takes a quick lick of the prophet's holey sock, confused by its blend of odors. He believes that this strange, scraggly man does hold the key to enlightenment, no matter what his master thinks. The intense flavor of the man's socks doesn't help Stanley figure anything out, right away. But, he feels compelled to lick again. And again. Searching for truth.
"Allow me to introduce myself, my dear! My name is Tristan Oldstrom. Thank you kindly for stopping by to listen to me." He extends his hand, begging for a shake. "Miss?"
"Juno," Juno replies. She simply nods, ignoring the palm that must be home to trillions of bacteria. "And I didn't really-"
"We are entering the beginning of the end of times," Tristan interrupts, holding out his hands to stop any interruptions.
Tristan steps out into the sidewalk and begins walking deeper into the city. His grey sweat-shirt is almost entirely stained the color of puke from many nights diving in dumpsters looking for supper, from days sweating out the gospels of the ethers, and from a lot of puke. Street prophets are sold fortified wine at a discount, to help stimulate the floundering, fortified wine economy. Stanley follows at Tristan's heels, sniffing harder to find whichever magic ingredient could make this man smell so fine. Juno is dragged along behind him.
"The Gods of the Earth are dying," Tristan continues, "The Gods of the Heavens are coming to feast upon their bodies. And when they come to eat, they will swallow our souls as appetizers."
"Yes, yes. You already mentioned that," Juno rolls her eyes. "All right, I'll bite. But, let's just skip to the juicy bits. What does it all mean? In one hundred words or less, please."
"You cannot contain messages from on high with such an arbitrary number! Sometimes, an angel may communicate more with one word than a poet can say with ten thousand."
"So, do it in one word?"
"Miss Juno, please. I'm trying to help save your soul!"
"Mister Tristan, I sold my soul for a stick of gum ages ago. Okay. What does 'it all' mean?"
"It means that we are all going to die, you shining thing! Nothing can stand against the Gods of the Stars except, perhaps, the Gods of Earth. And, as I mentioned, the Star Warriors are falling fast upon us! Unless we pray with all our hearts to the Holy Spirits of Earth, to reinvigorate them with the strength of our faith, they will all die. With a dead planet and no warriors to call our own, we stand no chance against the Holy Spirits of Heaven! The Stars and Earth will collide in a fiery boom-shaka-laka! We puny mortals will burn in the immortal pits of Hell, our remains churning in the bellies of the Star Warriors!"
"Uh, yeah, okay. And why is this all happening exactly?" Juno asks, tugging on Stanley's leash. "Why is it just happening now, of all times? Just because that's how things are meant to be, I'm guessing? Because this is a trial of something or other?"
"Ah, so sharp! We need nubile young minds like yours in the fight to keep Earth alive. The Star Warriors are coming just because that's the way things are meant to be! Juno, you get it! This is a trial of our right to exist on this planet! To exist, period! We must put aside our differences, band together as citizens of the universe, and pray to the Gods of Earth for our survival. If we do not believe in Earth, the very dust beneath our feet, accruing between our sweaty toes, then what can we believe in? We cannot believe in anything, right? And if we can't believe in anything, what right do we have to believe at all? Do you believe me now?"
Stanley looks up at Juno, an urgent gleam in his eyes. Something on Tristan's sock is now deep inside him, upsetting his stomach. He dashes toward the arches of the city entrance, dragging Juno away before she can spit out her snide remark.
"I believe you should get a job! And brush your teeth!" she hollers, halfway to the city gates.
In the grassy field immediately outside Plasterville, Stanley pukes up a bit of grass, a candy wrapper, and some soppingly moist doggie kibble. He stares up at Juno with hazel eyes shining under a spiked brow of shaggy black hair. He wags his tail slowly, begging for his master's forgiveness.
"Come on, you dork," Juno says. "You should know by now to trust me to guide you around this place. Some people are not worth the dirt on their socks. And this city is full of those types. I don't know how Alaska can deal with all those monsters."
Stanley whimpers and lowers his head, never breaking eye contact with his master.
"Oh, you! Adorable beast! You want to go out in the woods one more time?"
Stanley gets excited by the tone of his master's voice and wags his tail faster.
"Let's stay out there as long as we can today. Okay, buddy?"
* * * * *
Golem Arron stands outside the crime scene, crossing his thick, clay arms in front of his chest. The afternoon sun bakes his clay to extra dryness, but Arron isn't bothered. Stiff joints and flaky skin are of little concern to the Golem Detective. They won't hamper his deductive abilities. He is just a ghost in a shell, programmed to complete his daily mission without complaint, as efficiently as possible. He is a finely tuned instrument: solving crimes is the only purpose for his existence.
At least, that's what it says in his files.
Officer Alaska Umali, the newest recruit to Arron's squad, stands slightly behind the Golem, hiding in the clay man's gigantic shadow. She has only lived in the city for a few weeks, after having moved across two oceans and one continent with her sister, Juno. Today is her second day as a certified street agent of the Plasterville Police Department. Today is also her first day as a certified street agent working a high-profile murder investigation. Anxiety is only one of many emotions overwhelming her body. She also feels: dehydrated, discombobulated, de-deodorized, and detestably nauseous. She detects the tickle of ennui creeping up the back of her skull. All her heart desires is to go home and have a coffee with her sister, or to play a few rounds of "What's that smell?" with Stanley.
Instead, she is stuck investigating this horrible, no good, very bad development.
The body, if it could still be called such, was found draped over the first four rows of pews at Saint Petyr's Cathedral, in the Southern Orthodox district of Plasterville. Bishop Raspberry, the functional CEO of all remaining Catholics in Plasterville, had called in the murder, sobbing through his double-chins. Though it could have been handled by any officers, Bishop Raspberry requested Arron and his squad, specifically, to investigate.
Arron is unable to say no to a case: he must accept any request, in spite of any misgivings he might have about its nature. His programming demands this impartiality. Otherwise, he wouldn't step anywhere fifty-miles around the Bishop. Or so Alaska gathers from his file. She hasn't worked up the nerve to ask the Golem directly, yet.
"Oh my," says the round-faced Raspberry, his voice as high-pitched as his hat. "I'm so glad you could make it down here so quickly. I was running late this morning, and, oh, when I arrived to let the morning congregation trickle in, oh... dear! It was terrible, Golem!"
"Please, Bishop, calm down," Arron's voice hums like a warm zephyr hurtling through a canyon. "Tell me what happened, exactly."
"I opened the door to let the congregation take their seats, oh my dear! And, they all rushed in blindly, so excited to take their places in the pews and begin the hymnals. They were so excited to begin prayers they hardly noticed the terrible sacrilege lying before them. One poor old woman slipped in a puddle of blood and broke her hip!"
"That's tragic," says the Golem, updating his mental notepad. "The human elderly should wear more protective clothing, especially on brittle hips. How many showed up for congregation today?"
"Oh, the usual amount. A few... dozen. Err, maybe two dozen. But closer to just a dozen."
"Was anyone missing from the crowd? Anyone who might have a beef with you? Anyone who might be stretched out over the first few rows of your church?"
"No, no! Not that I noticed. Ah, Detective, about the old woman-"
"Don't worry, she can't sure you for damages, Bishop. Her faith blinded her to the slippery floor. Her insurance should cover it. What else happened? Anything stick out?"
"Oh my, that's it, but don't you think this is horrible enough? Some poor woman turned into an abomination! Who could possibly do such a thing? This is a blatant attack against everything the Church stands for! This is a house of worship not an idle warship, for... my dear's sake!"
Golem Arron sighs, stagnant air whistling out of his hollow eyes. "Bishop, I needn't remind you what most of the world thinks of organized religion these days. There are many sociopaths who would as soon dump a body in a church as a ditch."
"Not my church! Oh, my dear... my dear... God! Oh, sorry, Golem. It slipped out. My God! Oh, there it is again. No offense."
Golem Arron shrugs. "It's okay, Bishop. Just because I am a creature born of magic doesn't mean I disrespect your beliefs. I was programmed for tolerance."
"Tolerance, but not reverence," Bishop Raspberry sneers for half a second, then coughs and quickly reconstructs his jolly smile. "First thoughts, Detective. Off the top of your head, what kind of person would commit this kind of crime?"
"Someone who was not programmed for tolerance. Or someone who thinks you're a silly goon and really wants to mess with you."
"Goodness, it's unfathomable! When I was your age, there was a certain respect that came with a position like mine! There was respect for the church! There was respect for God, for crying out loud. Some terrible heathen-"
"Bishop, I'll stop you right there," the Golem says, "I'll take on this case. All crimes are created equal, just as all beliefs are valid. Therefore, all crimes are equally solvable, no?"
"Yes, yes, dear," the Bishop squeaks, "I get it. I see how it is. Keep this about the murder, push my beliefs to the side for now. Of course, of course. We must be professional, even though some foolish soul is already plummeting to hell for his acts. Just keep me posted with updates. I'll let you get on with your work, Golem. Give the Wunder-Rabbi my regards, would you?"
Alaska notices the Golem's arm twitch, the result of some deep resentment hidden in his program. Arron himself was probably too busy calculating to notice his fists balling and trembling.
Bishop Raspberry turns to leave, but spins around before he takes a single step.
"You know, you've got yourself a wonderful mentor," Bishop Raspberry nods at Alaska. "The Golem has quite the reputation!"
Alaska shrugs and nods. "Thanks!"
The Bishop smiles. "I know you're new in town. If you haven't already found yourself a place to worship, we do mass a few times a day here at St. Petyr's. You'd be more than welcome to join us, at any time."
Alaska shrugs and nods faster. "Thanks?"
"No, really. If you just show up, there'll be something going on to interest you. Except for right now, of course. I mean, with the body and all that. But, on Wednesday nights, the Bukowskis usually bring freshly baked snickerdoodles! You look like you could handle eating a few more snickerdoodles, eh? Miss?"
Alaska's shiny dark hair is bouncing with her head. "Thanks??"
"Bishop, that's enough for now," Arron says. "Let us get to work?"
As the Bishop scuttles away, Arron turns to his ward. "Alaska, did you take notes on that encounter? That was an example of how to handle a primary witness and a possible suspect, without letting the witness know that you suspect him."
"Uh, yes, of course, sir!" Alaska lies, frightened by her companion's latent power. His arms are as thick as middle-aged trees. They could smash her like she was a bowl of rice pudding. "Err, I'm learning as fast as I can, sir!"
"Excellent! That's why I wanted to hire you. You're a sharp girl. You'll do well."
Arron lumbers inside the cathedral to join the rest of his squad. Alaska follows quickly behind, scavenging through her pockets for a pencil and paper. She knows there will probably be some sort of test later. The Golem is a strict machine.
In the cathedral interior, the only source of illumination is sunlight filtered through stained glass windows. Its rainbow patterns scatter down into the room wildly, making the corpse look like a morbid hallucination. Whoever the victim was, she had taken a very bad trip. Near the body, a boy covered in a coat of thick hair sniffs for clues.
"Leopold, are you the only one here?"
The were-pup snaps to attention, smacking himself in the unibrow. "Sir, yes, sir! I am present! I am the only one present! What can I do for you, sir?"
"Where did the others get themselves off to? I told them to meet me here an hour ago."
"I've no clue, sir! I've been too busy sniffing about, sir! There are so many smells floating about, it's tough to tell what's important! All of them smell soooo good but only certain smells are important, sir! I've got to smell them all!"
"Yes, Leopold, that's true. I understand what you do. I-" the Golem sighs. "Please, continue with your investigation. We'll just wait for the others to return from wherever they've gone."
On cue, a pale, slender woman brushes past Alaska, giving her less notice than a homeowner in foreclosure. Golden, shoulder-length curls bounce in front of Alaska's nose, leaving behind a hint of strawberry sunshine. She is wearing a yellow dress, saturated with unnecessary laces and ribbons but still fitted to show her slender curves. The woman carries her fragile body regally, moving with more momentum than her small mass should allow.
She sweeps over to the victim and stares piercingly at the tarp of skin, following the stretch marks on the body with her eyes.Without saying a word to Arron, she draws one long finger through a pool of blood on the floor. She places her finger onto her long tongue, beneath a pair of glaring fangs. The vampire sucks every trace of blood off her finger, sighing with delight as it disappears. She remains still and quiet for several moments, eyes closed to the world. When her meditation period is over, she speaks.
"Our victim was forty-two years and six months old. Very good immune system and no dangerous diseases are present in her body. She doesn't seem to be involved with any sorts of drugs. She had two kids. One boy, about twenty years, and one girl, about sixteen years. Shit, that's some sweet blood, though. Our girl wasn't a very good role model, eating so much sugar in front of her children. I wouldn't have stood for that, if she had been my mother. I'd have beaten her silly if she tried to make my brix this high. Yuck."
"That's lovely, Krisella. Very professional and objective, as usual. Is there anything that might indicate the cause of death?"
"Well, I'm pretty sure it was the stretching, then the squeezing, with cardiac failure somewhere along the line. Being turned into a large swatch of moist upholstery usually makes people more or less dead."
"I'll take note of that. Death by upholstering. Thank you, Krisella. Any trace of the perpetrator?"
"No way. This blood is pure victim. I can't help there, unless I lap up the whole damn floor. And, Detective, you don't pay me nearly enough to get on my knees for that long."
"Anything else constructive to add?"
"Based on the oxygen content, I'd bet our negligent mother has been torn up for at least half a day."
"Oh, muddy water! Would you go grab Julian from wherever he's gone? We need to get a visual ID on the victim and try to get in contact with her family as soon as possible. I'll give them the news whenever we have an address. Tell him about our victim. I want some theories on motive by the time he gets back here. We're losing daylight."
"As you wish, mine Golem."
"Holy shit," Alaska says, watching Krisella's svelte bottom swish out the door. "I've never seen anything like that."
"Quite the opposite, in fact," Arron says. "That woman is one unholy turd. But she has proven herself more than useful, and is a little bit loyal. At least, to the Department's unlimited access to the Plasterville Bloodbanks."
"No, no, that's not what I meant," the new recruit mutters. "She is damned sexy. Like a plantation princess."
Out of all her future squad mates' profiles, Alaska studied Krisella's the most intimately. She studied the vampire's photos long into the night, steeling her nerves before their eventual meeting. She knows that Krisella looks like a plantation princess because she is a plantation princess. More accurately, she has been a plantation princess for the last two-hundred-fourteen years.
During the initial outbreak of vampirism, a pair of nubile young vamps invited Krisella out to protest the election of the first African-American Hegemon. They promised her a chance to meet others like their kind and the opportunity to throw an egg or two at the Hegemon. She hated minorities almost as much as she loved pale, muscular boys. It seemed like a dream date come true.
Unfortunately, it turned out the boys were only leading Krisella on to get into her jugular. They were the type of sinister people who thrive on unprotected necks, a primary cause of the Human-Into-Vampire disease.
The vamps had left Krisella bleeding on the steps of the Opal Palace, as some sort of statement about the dried husk of the Hegemony. Before anyone noticed, the Hegemony Defense Force had given Krisella basic first aid, wiped the Opal steps clean, and left Krisella to figure out the whole vampirism thing on her own. From that day forward, Krisella had dedicated her life to righting the wrongs done by supernatural freaks. She had mustered the courage change her core values: to hate the undead slightly more than she hates minorites. (Naturally, she loathes blaculas with a passion unfathomable.)
Though Alaska doesn't agree with Krisella's personal politics, the passion of the vampire's hate stirs something in her personal depths.
"Boss, boss!" Leopold yelps. "I found something, oh, yes I did. I found an important clue for us to investigate!
"What is it Leopold?" Arron asks, crossing his arms. "Did you find another bone?"
Leopold rushes over to the Golem, his hairy limbs and uniform caked with blood. "I did! I found another bone! But this one's different! This one's not a human bone, no way. This one's different! Not like any bone I've ever seen before!" He passes over a small white triangle, stained dark by the victim's fluids.
"Wow, Leopold," Arron said, genuinely surprised. "You're right, this looks like a bone, but not like any I've ever come across. It's not human, goblin, or centaur. This must be from some foreign species. Pack this up as evidence, we'll investigate it back at headquarters."
"Yes, sir! Right away, sir!" Leopold grabs the bone and dashes toward his evidence kit. Six leaps later, he slips on a creeping puddle of blood and slips into one of the church pillars. The bone drops and shatters on the floor, evidence irrecoverable.
Alaska looks at Arron for an explanation or reassurance that the case hadn't just been spoiled, but the Golem merely sighs and shakes his head.
Like Krisella, Leopold is a victim of a disease that developed after magic reflux.
As a just-barely pubescent boy, while out hunting with his father, Leopold was bitten by a rogue wolf. His father was torn into a party platter of shredded white and red meats, but Leopold managed to shoot the beast after only receiving a flesh wound. The feral beast was carrying both rabies and the lycanthropy virus. The combination of the two diseases destroyed much of Leopold's functional brain pieces before the werewolf healing abilities took effect. Unfortunately, this left the boy in a slightly-less-than vapid state.
Arron enlisted Leopold into his squad because he thought it might boost morale to have a team mascot. His limited Golem knowledge told him that morons are almost always happy, congenial, and good for a few innocent laughs as long as they are given enough respect and responsibility. He did not understand what happens later, when their constant company starts to make you feel sorry for them. That eventually, you just keep them around because you're not sure what to do with them without hurting their feelings or feeling horribly guilty about accidentally calling them handicapped or special needs or anything at all.
A Golem knows far too much about guilt. Guilt is one of the most powerful sources of magical energy and is the primary fuel used to animate a Golem's shell.
Swishing into the chamber silently, Krisella returns with a crinkled, angry face. "I found him chatting up some incubi at the tavern next door," she says. "He started to try and hit on me, too. Golem, I need to go home and take a shower. In holy water."
Julian struts in wearing his most common appearance, that of a Edwardian dandy fop. He wears a purple, suede jacket with matching top hat. His baby powder yellow, corduroy jeans are the stuff of aristocratic wet dreams. A dark rimmed monocle completes the illusion that Julian is a sophisticated gentlething.
"I was not trying to hit you up, dear. I know better than that. You've got a nasty, sharp tongue hidden away behind those sweet teeth of yours, and I'd rather not have you use it to ruin my palate. But don't blame me if those nubile whelps come over here try and beat you up. We were having a grand old time at the bar. And, they like me a whole lot more than I like you. So, there."
Julian extends his tongue and gives it a waggle.
"Children, please," Arron says, "Once more, I insist we must put a case before your petty quarrel. Krisella, based on your blood sample, concentrate on the original appearance of our victim."
"Yeah, I know how to do it," the vamp mutters. She closes her eyes and furrows her brow.
"And now, my turn!" Julian says. He places his fingers on Krisella's temples and furrows his brow. Julian's clothing and hair begin to flicker, melting into the hallowed air of the cathedral. A skinny, gelatinous figure the color of white flesh forms in Julian's place. It is completely androgenous, a Neutral. Slowly, features appear across its body: a breast here, a freckle there. As it begins to shrink in stature, its putty flesh expands, filling out a voluptuous, barely-overweight frame. Straight raven hair descends from its skull to its waist and its skin takes on a distinctly darker tone, to the order of dark amber. A silk, gray business suit manifests on the simulacrum of the victim. And suddenly, the change is done.
A professional mother of East Asian descent stands quietly where, a moment ago, a dandy fop had been begging for attention. Then it fondles its own breasts and opens its mouth, "Konbanwa, indeed."
Julian's file had been completely bare, stripped clean of any information Alaska could use to prepare for her interactions with him. Nobody really knows anything about Julian or what Julian wants, except for Julian. He claims to be on the team because he likes any excuse to play with disguises.
Alaska watches the entire sequence in silence, only vaguely aware of her dangling jaw. "Damn it all," she whispers, once her thoughts catch up to the present. "She, err, he, err, it is a bit much for me to handle."
Alaska's file would reveal that she was born and raised on Tsi-Tsi-Mao, a small, technologically backward, island nation relatively untouched by the reflux of magic. The national faith was a variant of Hoodoo, so nobody paid much heed when the dead began to rise again. Zombies fit into the Hoodoo belief system seamlessly, and most Tsi-Tsi-Maoans thought it was about time they got to see some undead in the flesh.
Even so, when word reached the island about the rise of magic elsewhere in the world, Alaska and her sister Juno had decided they needed to get out into the world and experience more things, as young women are wont to do. They haphazardly emigrated to Plasterville, with no plans whatsoever. After a few weeks combing the streets for work, Alaska's experience fighting zombies earned her a position on Arron's police squad, the Criminological Supernatural Investigation Unit.
However, her experience wasn't quite enough. There were a lot stranger things than zombies to cope with in Plasterville.
"Don't let him get you down, fresh meat," Krisella whispers in Alaska's ear. "I've known that piece of ectoplasmic shit for years now, and I think about draining him every damn day. Some creatures just make you feel nauseous, right?"
Alaska wants to mumble a reply, something about how just standing next to Krisella makes her stomach spawn a flock of butterflies and then they can share a secret, little laugh. But, she can't get any words past her pounding heart. Krisella rolls her eyes and turns away, leaving Alaska a wheezing, sputtering mess.
"What do you think, Julian?" Arron asks, bringing Alaska back to the present. "What is the profile on our victim?"
"Hmm, well, it looks like I'm a hot, rich mom," Julian says, "Hot moms are usually only involved in a few specific types of murders. Adultery-rage killings are quite common with my type, as are money-based murders. Every now and again, an angry, neglected kid might take his aggression out on mommy."
"But why would they do it like this?" Arron asked. "Why such a violent, extravagant murder?"
"See, this is where things get freaky. The only people who do things like this are the real crazy types, you know what I mean? I'm talking lunatic psychopaths and serial killers."
"You think this is the start of a serial murder spree?"
"It could be, or maybe it's the middle of a spree that we just haven't noticed yet. Or maybe, someone just had it out for the old Bishop, see? We need to uncover the other pieces of the puzzle before we can see the picture."
"Of course. Well done, everybody," Arron Golem says, clapping his hands together with a subterranean rumble. "Let's get back to headquarters and send in the clean-up crew. I need all of you to submit your reports before you go home tonight ."
"Yes, sir! Right away, sir! I'll get on it!" Leopold scampers out the door into the fading light.
"But what if I'm not going home tonight, sir?" Julian asks, popping out her curvy hip.
"Then do it before you go anywhere other than your desk, Officer."
"All right, boss. If you say so," Julian says, quickly shimmering back to his classic, foppish form. "Hey, Alaska, want to grab a few drinks later to celebrate your first murder case? I know some guys at this pub down the street. I think you just might be their type."
"Um, really, I'm okay," Alaska said, gently waving Julian away.
"Ahh, your loss. I'm probably more their type, anyway. I'm everyone's type! See you back at HQ," the Neutral says, slinking out the door.
Alaska shakes her head and looks around. Krisella has vanished, leaving her alone with the Golem Detective.
"Alaska," Arron starts, "We need a positive identification on the victim by the end of the night. We need to figure out why this woman was targeted. Can I count on you to stay late tonight to search the citizen registry and find our girl?"
"Yeah, sure, I can probably do that. It's just, well, I was planning on helping my sister-"
"And I'll need you to search through all the city's violent crimes of the last year, to see if anything matches this murder's style. If this is a serial case, maybe our killer has a signature. You may be able to find something will helps us stop him or her from striking again."
"But, my sister needs help applying for a job and I-"
"And you want to make Detective, isn't that right? You saw the team dynamic today, I hope? I'm sure you've realized that you're the only one I can trust with this task. The others are good at what they do, but I can't rely on them. I can rely on you, can't I?"
Alaska sighs, seeing the truth all too clearly.
"Yes, sir. Of course, uh, sir. I'll try to have it puzzled out by the end of the night."
* * * * *
Popocztal stands on his hind legs, sniffing the crisp air of a burgeoning autumn. The season is turning early this year, and it brings with it a terrible mood. Something awful is going to happen. Something bad is sweeping into town on the wind from far, far away. Popocztal can't put his paws on exactly what is bothering him, but it is giving him some terrible stomach pains, cramps combined with nausea. The sensation is so bad that not even a solid popebear burp alleviates the ills. Considering that he subsists on a diet of lost souls wandering around the countryside, Popocztal takes this as a bad sign.
The popebear goes over a mental list of things that worry him on a day-to-day basis. Breakfast: lost souls. Lunch: lost souls. Afternoon tea: growl at some ruffians harassing innocents, then snack on a few lost souls. Dinner: lost souls.
Nothing Popocztal had eaten could be rotten enough to spoil his stomach. Some humans might claim other humans are bad apples, but when humans are distilled down to simple soul syrup, they all pretty much taste the same.
Popocztal can think of nothing worrying enough to inspire this nagging feeling. There is no sign of drought and no omen of fire. The soil has been telling him that Earth is happy and all is well with the world. Whatever the source of this foul omen, it is not natural.
So, Popocztal moves on to potential unnatural threats. There could not possibly be an invasion from the native, mountain gnomes. The new moon would rob them of any technical advantage. Gnomes without their lunar-powered war-machines are little more than gamey morsels to a popebear. Though he gets no epicurean delight (or nutritional value) from gnome flesh, Popocztal would gladly eat an entire gnomish nation to stop it from harming his ward, Plasterville. The popebear's stomach growls and thrashes at the thought of being filled with solid meat. He dearly hopes that something else is the cause of this unease.
None of the standard, major threats seem likely. A dragon raid might cause some trouble, but there had been no reports of dragon-kind in North America in over a century. Once it was discovered that dragon's venom could remove permanently remove wrinkles from human foreheads, the apes hunted the reptiles to near extinction. The Troll Patroll had stopped hunting humans in the woods and grinding their bones to make bread. Instead, they moved to Hollywood to pitch a reality cooking show: Break Bread, or Bread Break You. The last lich king was securely entombed over a millenium in the past, long before the reflux of magic.
Popocztal snarls with irritation. He doesn't enjoy puzzles that are this difficult to solve. Thinking is not his strong suit, and it only gets more difficult as his tummy hurts worse.
A rustling draws Popocztal's attention. He snaps his jaws toward the source of the sound and utters a growl like a hundred furnaces igniting.
A large, black dog and his master stop and hold still, trying to hide behind a small boulder. The adolescent, human female tries to calm the dog, pulls him close, and begs him to stay silent. Popocztal knows the animal is much too terrified to make so much as a whimper; he knows exactly what the pair sees. Everybody reels in horror at the sight of a popebear.
Popocztal is a particularly terrifying specimen. The third oldest Popebear in the Sierra Nevadas, he has been growing slowly but surely for nearly ten thousand years. He towers above the mightiest human warrior at fifty feet tall on his haunches. He weighs ten tons, adding an extra ton of weight every millenium or so. Epic size is an unfortunate side effect of a diet rich in soul matter.
A dark cramp seizes Popocztal's belly. His stomach sputters from the pain. A terrible force wants out into the world, and it will not be contained by a mere esophageal sphincter. Popocztal braces himself, holding back the sadistic nausea, but his efforts quickly slack. The force is much too powerful.
Popocztal slackens his jaw as molten vomit courses up his esophagus and out his mouth. The spew is a homogenous blend of spirits, a riot of colors. It sparkles with the shine of billions of souls. The magic bile erupts out of the popebear as if he is a prismatic fountain, unable to restrain the rainbow flow.
Popocztal experienced this once before, long, long ago. It has been so long he had forgotten the feeling. He had been young back then. His body was much too old to handle this sort of thing. Slurping for fresh air to cleanse his mouth of the rancid flavor, the Popebear begins to panic. The unstoppable purge of souls can only mean one thing.
Popocztal roars a warning at the young girl and her canine companion. "Run! The Eldritch are returning! Warn the Wizardly League! Tell Giz-" Instead of words, Popocztal's mouth fills with more shimmering vomit. His plea is stifled by the acrid suspension flowing from his gut.
Every spirit that he ever munched is flowing back into the world. The balance of order is being thrown off too far, too fast. The Eldritch would be unable to resist the siren call of so many delicious souls concentrated in one spot on the space-time continuum. They would be maddened into a feeding frenzy. They would come to rape and pillage the mana of this plane until nothing remains.
Popocztal collapses onto his stomach. His muscles have stopped working. He can do nothing but watch as the vomit flows out of him like water out a stormdrain. The dog and his master have disappeared. Popocztal hopes they carry his message, though he is unable to remember exactly what he said. Utter exhaustion has started him on strange hallucinations. He sees himself as a cub, playing with his brothers.
The popebears liked to play rough, tumbling about and biting each other in the back of their mother's cave. Now, Popocztal imagines himself pinned to the floor, taunted by his siblings for being such a weakling. He begs them to listen.
"Popofalz! Popololo! Please! The humans must be warned of the coming days of darkness! They must be retold the Legends of Beauty and Vileness. Brothers! Please, no noogies. Not now! Please, just do this for me!"
With a wet thud, Popocztal closes his mouth for good. This body is totaled, rent beyond repair. The popebear's unsatisfied soul slowly clambers out of his body and briefly weeps, before joining the macabre river flowing down the mountain.

--
-Sam Sobelman

Sooo--what does everyone think? Look 'im up! I am not the author but a friend of whose books I would like to see in an easier and more conveniently placed location, like eventually a bookshelf!

Read on, Reader.


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