The crew of The Benthic Horizon fearfully looked skyward as another trumpet blast sounded from the heavens. Cavindish looked out over the crew’s faces and smiled just a little. How little time separated him from where they were. He had learned so much and had been given such a glorious purpose that fear had dropped out of him long ago. “Does that make me a fanatic?” he asked himself. An answer was not forthcoming.
He turned to Landrin, the ship’s first mate. “How is our wind and bearing?” he asked the man. Landrin jumped just a bit for he had been held in fugue by the trumpets heralding a crescendo to the apocalypse. Landrin fumbled for a bit, his words broken up by rum and fear, but then came back with “Right as rain, Mr. Cavindish.” With his voice raising in a crescendo of another kind he yells out over the deck, “Oy you lazy lot! Shut your gapin’ holes and get back to work!” The crew, stunned out of their skyward trance, returned to their labors like sleepwalkers. “It’s the light I don’t like, Mr. Cavindish, sir. Damn peculiar it is.” Arthur looked around and knew what the man was referring to but felt it best not to tell him they were no longer on Earth. Best not to scare the horses if it isn’t necessary. “It is the new light, Mr. Landrin, the one we will bring to the rest of the world.” Landrin remained silent for the words were beyond his scope of understanding. “Yes sir, Mr. Cavindish. That we will.” Arthur smiled at the man’s attempt to remain in the conversation. He had been a valuable assistant thus far and Arthur saw no reason it shouldn’t continue. He made a note to keep an eye on Landrin in case the Captain lost his nerve.
“May I ask you a question, Landrin?” Arthur posited.
“Of course, Mr. Cavindish, sir.”
“What did the worm show you in the cabin on the side of the hill?” He saw Landrin stiffen. Arthur saw it as clear as a puppeteer jerking strings. It was something private and intimate but duty required Landrin to answer. But he didn’t want to.
“It was my daughter, Mr. Cavindish, sir. She were alive and well and in my arms. We was so happy that…” he trailed off as his voice began to crack with emotion, “We was so happy that we was crying and I could feel her little warm tears on my arm.” Landrin turned away toward the sea and Arthur let him.
“What did ze worm show to you, Monsieur Cavindish?” asked a voice, distinctly belonging to a French man.
“Why Marcel, I didn’t see you standing there,” Cavindish replied, keeping his voice steady. The damn Frenchman had managed to sneak up on him again. Turning to face Marcel Claron Cavindish was struck with how disturbing the man’s visage was when he wanted it to be. It reminded him, surprisingly, of his father.
“It is a gift for a spook to move unseen. Don’t you agree?” Marcel continued. “Do you not wish to say what ze worm showed to you, Monsieur Cavindish?”
“Don’t be silly,” Cavindish replied, turning away. Even Landrin had regained his composure now and was raptly listening. Cavindish breathed in deeply and could feel the soft stirring of the Dreamer they had down in the hold like a warm bed enveloping him and making him feel safe. He closed his eyes and could see the vision. It wasn’t as clear as when he was on the hillside in that glorious sunshine but he could still see it. As he spoke his words evoked such an ecstasy within him it made him shudder. “Freedom,” Cavindish replied, “Freedom for all mankind.”
- * *
The sun beat down, a golden haze of heat and light as the small black man walked slowly along the road with a broad smile upon his face. He was completely besotted with his sweat but was enjoying the heat after so being so long in London. His joints were greatly appreciating the warm weather and he hadn’t felt so young in years. He walked with only a small bag over his shoulder into which he reached for a tin of dwindling tobacco. It was almost empty and was the last of what remained of Nasseau’s finest blend. The many, many years that Hanli had been walking this Earth had taught him over and over again to not get caught up in the moment for it will always move on but he did find himself snagged on some things periodically that refused to let him move down the river of time without drawing a little blood. Nasseau’s tobacco was one of these. Hanli hadn’t much cared for Nasseau himself being a bit of a shut in. It is never healthy to neglect life for any one thing (a problem of growing concern as of late), thought Hanli with a smile. He lit up a small cigarette and inhaled deeply. He replaced the almost empty tin back in his sack which rustled as if it contained something alive. Hanli stroked the bag gently as if to reassure it. “Now, now,” he cooed, “settle down there, little ‘n. We gots a long way to go before we settle down.”
Hanli Barber walked on the road, occasionally squinting up at the sun happily from under his wide brimmed hat. They had been following him for an hour before they made themselves known. They spoke in Arabic and he answered them without accent.
“You walk a lonely road, old man,” said one of the brigands, barely a man.
“I have walked it longer than you could know,” replied Hanli, smiling warmly.
“You looking to get somewhere?” asked the other, “We could show you. We know all the hidden places in Cairo.” Hanli started a bit at the city name.
“Have I walked so very far, then? Is Cairo close?” The men met each other’s eyes knowingly. They were sharks and they smelled blood.
“Cairo is just over the hill, old man. We can show you.”
“I think I would rather make my own way, if it please you,” Hanli replied warmly as he stepped to move around them. The men moved with him and blocked his way.
“I think you need a guide,” said the young one again. “Maybe you should just give us your bag and we will leave you in peace.” Hanli lowered his head to the ground, his eyes travelling to the worn satchel on his side (a gift from an Incan princess). When he raised his head his smile was warm but his eyes were sad.
“I thinks you men might want to go pick some other fella’s satchel.” He was careful to call them men and not boys. It was hard for him to remember to do as even the old men were boys in his eyes. Men. They barely had a chance to grow up before the Lord took them from this earth forever. He was pulled out of his reverie by the young man drawing a wicked looking knife and stepping in closer. Hanli sighed deeply and wiped the sweat from his brow. He nodded and reached slowly into his satchel to retrieve what was there. There was a moment when a hush came over the group on the desert road where everything seemed to hold its breath. Removing his hand from the satchel Hanli held a small, crude wooden puppet. The puppet was so old it was worn smooth and shiny. He looked at the small puppet lovingly. “I’m afraid I can’t let you boys have this,” Hanli continued, his words slow and heavy like the heat that pressed down on them all. The young boy hesitated just a moment before lunging forward with his knife. The small wood puppet laying limp in Hanli’s arms flashed into action and…
Hanli Barber walked up the road with a small wooden puppet cradled in his arms. He was careful to keep the puppet in the shade of his body like he would do with a baby. The puppet turned its small head to look up at him.
“Why are people mean, Mr. Barber?”
“Please call me Hanli, little one.” He paused a bit before he continued. “Most folks ain’t rightly mean, they just a little confused. Ignorance is something that can turn folks mean at the drop of a hat. They just don’t know no better.”
“Was I mean? I mean, was what I did to them mean?”
“Dear Heavens, child, no!” exclaimed Hanli. “You did the best you could same as the rest of us. You are a good boy and I’m proud to be responsible for you.” They walked in silence for a little longer before the puppet spoke again.
“Will I get to become a real person this time?” The question from the little one made Hanli smile broadly. It was a smile of warmth and laughter and of the scent of dandelions carried on the wind.
“God willing, little Rupert,” he replied, softly stroking the puppet’s small wooden head. “God willing.”
- * *
The Courier flitted through the shadows of the alley behind St. James Square. The Club, almost a monument to timelessness, stood in ruins before him. He placed his cold fingers upon the door handle and pulled. The door opened with a creak and he stepped inside. Pale moonlight filtered in through the windows turning everything to grayscale. Furniture was overturned and broken china was spread over the floor like sharp autumn leaves. Toward the middle of the hall there was a black patch of blood (it may have been coffee) upon the floor. It was likely that Rupert knew he was here but he had one more message to deliver. The Courier moved like a ghost (because he was one, at least in part). Past the blue door that led to the Island room and up the soft, carpeted stairs he was careful to avoid the third step from the top and it’s telling creak. He went down the hall, his ears scanning for any sound knowing that if a sound occurred it would likely be the end of him.
The third door on the left was slightly ajar and he stepped into the office closing the door silently behind him. Oblivious to the man buried half into the floor, his face in a horrific grimace of pain, The Courier approached the desk and was relieved to find what he was looking for. There was a stack of letters, six to be sure, upon the desk each scrawled with a name. The script used upon the letters indicated immediately that they were sent from Management. The names upon the letters read: Father Souisse, Yada, Devlin, Dr. Cavindish, Joseph Smithson and Mearcair. He was about to turn and go when he spotted one last letter tucked into the side of the desk mat. This last letter, also obviously from Management, was addressed to “The Courier”. He plucked that letter up. It felt heavier than the other letters. He borrowed a letter opener that had stapled a dead man’s hand to the desk top and the letter opened with a crisp, ripping sound. He scanned it quickly trying to determine if it contained orders for him. A tortured scream from downstairs ripped through the club and, having read the letter, the Courier moves quickly to the study door the letter falling from his hand upon the floor. He moves quickly up the hallway toward an exit few know about. He pauses for a moment and, feeling a presence, looks behind him. At the far end of the hall is the butler, Rupert. But it is not the butler. It is the Other. The Courier turns and breaks into a dead run so fast that it overturns the small table and chairs in the hallway and swings the chandelier up into the ceiling to shatter with a tinkling of a thousand crystals. He pulls over a heavy oak book shelf behind him despite knowing the futility of the action. Behind him an eerie whispering voice says, “Lem-Mo-Nade?” The Courier rushes to the statue of a political figure who has yet to be born (he has just a moment to ponder who is Winston Churchill?) and ducks behind to release the latch of the secret door. The lock pops open and, waiting there in the darkness is Rupert smiling, his teeth like little white daggers. The Courier whirls on his heels but a cold hand reaches out and grasps him around the neck and pulls him into the darkness. The letters fall from his pocket upon the floor splattered with his blood. Or maybe it is coffee…
In the office a ray of moonlight moved slowly across the floor of the office to finally rest upon the letter addressed to the Courier. The letter was written in perfectly shaped calligraphy:
Management sends it salutations for the good work that you have done for us. One more task remains before you to complete. The letters upon this desk are addressed to Charter members of the club who are to become the temporary Inheritors of the Club’s keeping. You are to extend to them all services you extend to us. They are to be given access to all Charter Club Houses and all remaining Club assets are to be placed at their disposal. These letters are to be delivered to these Charter Members as soon as time permits to allow them to begin the tasks ahead of them:
- Find the Keeper, Hanli Barber, and keep him safe until another Club may be established. It has come to our attention that our enemies are aware of Mr. Barber and his purpose and will move to intercept him in his cause.
- Recruit new members to bolster the ranks of the newly established Kerberos Club wherever the Charter members decide it shall be to fight against the rising tide of our enemies.
- Dispatch any and all demons summoned forth as a result of the decanting of the Phylactery. Their appearance heralds events most dire.
Use all possible speed to deliver these letters as time is of the utmost import. Godspeed to us all.
As the moonlight shines across the surface of the letter the paper seem to drink the silvery light into each crease an pore. Parts of the page begin to softly glow with a light identical to the moonlight and begin to form letters. These are not the finely crafted letters of Management but the jagged, frantic alphabet of fear. The words glow for forty minutes until the moonlight continues on its journey across the study floor leaving the letter in darkness. If anyone were there to read them the words would have said:
“HELP US! WE CANNOT GET OUT! WE CANNOT ESCAPE!”