Friday, August 31, 2007

Mist Magic part 30

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
I knew it was over when I saw that fourth police car arrive. The narrow gravel road would not even let two cars pass each other, much less leave room to hide in the fog. Before, I had been a man with an unbelievable story; now I was a man with an unbelievable story caught trying to get away. Close to losing control of the car in the dense murk, I closed the door and reached for the handbrake. A pothole sent the car bouncing, slamming my head hard against the roof. Dazed by the blow, I could not find the handbrake in the dark, and my feet seemed all tangled up and unable to get to the foot brake. The car rattled and shook down the road, barely under control. Ahead of me, the pulsing lights came slowly up the main road and ... right past the turnoff. The cop had missed the gravel road in the fog.

The front of the car scraped alarmingly as I hit the pavement and the car drifted as I jerked the wheel around to take me in the opposite direction from the police car. I corrected by turning into the drift and straightened out to head in the direction that I thought the road led. The cop's backup lights came on and I coasted down the main road, watching to see what he would do. He tuned onto the gravel road and a few second later, I braked to a stop, started my engine, turned on my lights and began the slow drive home.

Later that evening, I answered a firm knock at the door. Two policemen greeted me sternly. When I made my call to 911 my voice had been tight, so I relaxed my throat as much as I could and lowered my voice an octave from my usual tone. I also added a slight Texas accent. "Yes, officers, how can I help you?"

"May we come in?"

I stepped out and closed the door behind me. "I'd rather talk out here. What is the problem?"

"You don't want your neighbors overhearing this, we should probably go inside."

"Why? What is it about?"

"Is this your jacket, sir?"

"Well, I have a jacket like that but I think mine is in my closet. Do you want me to go check?"

"We'll go check if you don't mind."

"I'll go check. No offense, but I anyone who watches NYPD Blue knows not to let a police man in the house." The cop looked annoyed, but he let me go into my house and come out a few seconds later. "The jacket isn't in my closet where I usually put it so that could be mine. I also can't find my cell phone. Is it in the jacket pocket?"

"Any idea how you lost the jacket?"

"Well, I was wearing it this morning, so I probably took it off somewhere and left it. Did you find my cell phone too?"

"Any idea where you might have left it?"

I told them where I had eaten lunch and where I had stopped for coffee that day.

"Your cell phone," one of the them told me dramatically, "was used to lure police to a location where they were ambushed."

"Oh, crap. Was anyone killed?"

"Did you call 911 earlier today?"

"Sorry, if I'm suspected of a homicide, I'm not going to answer any more questions without a lawyer."

"No officers were injured. We are just investigating how this call was made."

"I'm sorry. I know you are just doing your job, but I'm suddenly at a huge risk and I have to protect myself. No more answers without my lawyer."

I must have put on a convincing show because they didn't detain me. They just said that detectives would be in touch with me, but no one ever called.

A few weeks later, I decided to tell the story on my blog, and you pretty much know the rest. It's a fanciful tale, of course. Alternative worlds, ancient gods, sea monsters and mythology. But who was that guy and why did he pause in his murder to tell me the story? I'll leave it to you to wonder.
the end

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mist Magic part 29

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
As I approached the open gate, police lights flashed and glowed through the thick fog like pulsing alien monsters from an old science fiction movie. I had parked further up the road so the cops probably had not seen my small white car. I crept in to the driver seat and pulled the door closed without latching it. The ignition switch clicked loudly as I turned the key just far enough to unlock the steering wheel. Red brake lights flashed briefly as I pressed the pedal to shift out of park and I held my breath, listening for a sign that I had been seen. The shift clicked smoothly from reverse into neutral and the car drifted down the gravel road, a white ghost in the fog except for the gravel crunching like corn flakes under its tires.

But now there were three alien monsters ahead of me; there had been just two when I passed through the gate. When had the third cop arrived? Was he still in his car or standing by the gate? I had no choice but to drift close past the two police cars because there was no room on the road. And in the murk, it was only the police cars that told me where the road was. I heard a man speaking somewhere ahead of me and pulled my parking break to stop suddenly. The gravel bunching up under my tires sounded like a gunshot to me, but the voice wandered off into the night.

I released the hand break and the car started to roll again. Once past the police cars, I realized that I had another problem: there was no light to show me the road. From memory, I knew that there were trees to the left and a sharp drop off to the right and this whole plan was starting to seem ill-considered. How was I going to get down this hill without light? Then I heard the zing of a branch against my car and the problem was solved. The left side of the road was crowded with thick brush. All I had to do was hold my door half open and guide myself by the thickness of the brush it was hitting. Too much resistance and I would be in danger of a tree, too little and I would be in danger of the cliff.

This strategy worked for a few moments, but when I started picking up speed, another flaw in my plan came to light. With one hand on the wheel an another on the door, how was I going to use the handbrake? A steepening slope sent my car careening downward at an ever faster pace, faster than I would normally have driven even in daylight in clear weather. With the road invisible beneath me, this speed would wreck me in seconds. I was about to take a chance and use my foot brake when the fourth of those pulsing alien monsters appeared ahead of me.


The new Storyblogging Carnival is up.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mist Magic part 28

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
The footsteps echoed in my mind like visions. In this peculiar state of concentration, I fancied that I could see the visitors through the vale of fog --shadowy figures waking forward with purposeful steps, one large and the other medium size. Was my mind playing tricks on me or had I really entered into a state of heightened awareness, able to judge a man's size and pace just from the faint crunching on gravel? I will never know.

Timing was everything. My life hung in the balance. I focused my eyes in the direction of the approaching footfalls. When I saw the light, I screamed. I am not much of a screamer, or even a shouter, but I did my best to give a convincing scream of pain and terror. I fear that my performance was lackluster, but good enough for the effect that I was looking for. The man was so hidden in fog that I could not see his reaction, but I heard a voice shout out, "Police! Get down on the ground!"

The shout was what I wanted. The man would be startled, distracted, but only for a moment. I waited half a heartbeat for the man to refocus his attention in the direction of the shout and then I rolled away from the spotlight into the darkness, leaving my dark jacket behind. Gunshots sounded just feet away from me, two shots, close together. They left my ears ringing.


"Drop your weapon!"

"Shots fired!"

"Drop your weapon and get down on the ground!"

"Subject is fleeing!"

Footsteps pounded past as I lay still on the ground. I rolled back to my jacket, and out of a morbid curiosity, felt over the chest area. There were two holes in the jacket, near where the man would have seen my heart as he looked down on the dark form of my jacket in the fog. I rolled to my back and forced myself to breath deep and evenly for a moment. How would I explain this to the police? "Well, officer, I broke into this area to watch the sunset and this strange guy came over and said he was going to kill me and then jumped off the tower, so I called 911 and then when I climbed to the bottom of the latter, he knocked me down and started telling me stories until you showed up and then he tried to shoot me before he ran away."

Ri-i-i-ight. They would never catch the skeleton man --I was certain of that. The police would think that I had fired the shots myself, and then threw the gun away as some sort of prank. They had already identified my phone from the call to 911, but they hadn't yet identified me as the caller. After a moment of thought, I took the cell phone from my pocket, quickly wiped it across my pants to remove most of the finger prints and then put it in the pocket of the jacket. I crept away through the fog.

Residential Aliens

I should have mentioned this a long time ago: Lyn Perry has started a webzine for speculative fiction called Residential Aliens. One of my stories is in the second edition. On sampling one of the other entries, A Ship of Heaven?, which is very good, I'm thinking that I should have made a couple of more passes over Trancendence to clean it up.

Also, Sheya and one or two other people will be glad to know that I've finished Mist Magic. Now it's just a matter of posting the three remaining sections. We will see if I have time to do that...

Mist Magic part 27

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
As I listened to the droning of the assassin, a tremor shook me; the damp cold had seeped from the ground into my body. The faint sound of tires on a gravel road seeped through the fog and the odd story, which had temporarily engrossed me, fled to the background of my thoughts. I confess that I recall no more of it from this point. Intently I listened until my ears caught the resonant thunk of a car door closing ... and then another ... and was that the sound of distant voices?

As I concentrated on the sounds of rescue, the strange man ignored them; either engrossed in his own story or hard of hearing. I rather suspected that his hearing was not good, or he should have heard me call 911 from the top of the tower. Or was he really so unconcerned about the arrival of the police?

A chain rattled and a latch clicked. Somewhere, invisible in the fog, the interlopers were approaching. Were they here to rescue me from the crazy man or here to help the crazy man hide the body? For it suddenly occurred to me that the man could have been calling his friends while I was calling 911. And what if they were police? Would the man fight? I worried that he had a gun, and that as soon as he saw the police he would shoot me to keep his story a secret.

How can I describe the odd sensation of that moment? Not fear, really; I should call it focus. The cold ground had numbed my body. The fog obscured my vision as the spotlight dazzled it. Only sound existed, and not even all sounds. The droning of the story teller passed through my ears like a ghost, leaving no impression. All of my concentration focused on that small patch of ground between where I lay and where the gate stood, newly open.

I must have lay in that mode for a minute or two, but it seemed timeless. Suddenly I heard it --the crunch of shoes on gravel. The visitors had arrived.