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Subject: DG: [Fiction] Without Intent
Date: Sun, 10 Dec 2000 01:42:44 +0100
From: Davide Mana <ti.orebil|eed.rotcod#ti.orebil|eed.rotcod>
The dog-faced creature seeped through into the Wakeworld on the side of the mountain, a smaller moon than the one to which it was used to hanging in the sky.
It took it some time to ascertain its position, but the familiar profile of Mount Koma to the south told it most of the distance had been covered on the Other Side. It had been a long time since it had last stood under those distant stars, and yet it was good being in a place its ancestors had called home.
The throb in his left side brought it back to the present juncture.
Its muscular leg propelling it forward through the undergrowth, it marched towards the old stone temple on the north face of Mount Iwate.
Soon, the white and red lights running on the gray stone strip to the east, and the hazy shine of Morioka were gone beyond the shoulder of the mountain, and the squat shape of the monks house was crouching in front of the lone traveller.
It remembered a darker Morioka, when the famines struck and people prayed for relief.
Its people had been there, then.
The monks understood back then.
It inhaled deeply, savoring the smell of the humans.
They would understand still.
Anything alive fears death.
And if the ones in the temple were still keeping the faith, they would help it, and its god.
The monk they called Simple Mamoru had never been the sharper knife in the drawer.
He was childish, and tended the garden of the temple out of the childish good natured way of his that the monks greeted with a smile and a nod.
The day's chores having settled down with the sun, he sat under the porch, watching the stars and following the blinking lights of an outbound airplane.
The late autumn night was crisp but not unpleasant yet.
A movement finally brought it back to earth.
Standing and bowing, he wondered how long the dark stranger had been standing by the gate.
The fact that the man had been able to enter despite the gates being firmly closed did not bother Simple Mamoru. Much more was the worry that the uninvited guest might have manhandled somehow the Brother Nyogen's scooter, that sat by the entrance, all reds and chrome.
But then he saw the Vespa was all right, and he smiled at the stranger, wishing him good night.
"The head of your house," the stranger growled.
His voice was low and gravelly.
Simple Mamoru scratched his head, wondering what the man needed.
His nostrils caught a weird smell he had never smelled before.
"The master, the leader," the stranger continued, taking another step forward.
He kept one hand pressed by its side.
"The older monk," he tried.
"The older monk is certainly brother Tetsuro, the apothecary." he nodded. Then he saw the problem. "But you can't see him this late at night, revered guest, as he usually goes to sleep with the chickens, as soon as the sun sets."
The stranger had an impatient gesture. "The one that gives orders!"
So it was that Simple Mamoru saw the light.
The one they called Nyogen caught the smell before everything else.
So it was that when Simple Mamoru came to him, introducing a "strange gentleman", he was ready for the thing that made its way into the empty room.
The old man dismissed the boy with a gesture and a nod, and concentrated his sight on the uninvited.
"I ask for hospitality and refuge," the thing said. "And help."
It had a face of a dog, or a large baboon.
A mane of dark hair crowned its elongated head, and the hands were frightfully human-like, but clawed, the thick nails yellow and broken.
It was old, and wise in its own ways.
Nyogen stared into the yellow eyes, knowing that no blink of human warmth would be found there, but hunger.
"I am Nyogen, of the Tainihodo," he said.
He was not going to forsake etiquette.
Time was of no import.
The creature nodded, shifting its position into a more human posture of polite sitting.
"Pardon my rudeness," it said, bowing its head. "I am called the Mortar of the Namahage, by those of the Taininhodo that still remember me."
Nyogen nodded, one more piece falling in its place.
Mortar, Wasp and Baked Chestnut, whoever had been that named the members of that ancient Namahage embassy had been fond of old tales.
"A distinguished guest," he said. "I welcome you, Mortar."
The baboon faced contracted in an unpleasant grin.
"You should not, human," it said, yellow teeth barely parting.
"I come with bad news, and a request of help on behalf of my people and my god."
Nyogen smiled, considering.
"We never refused…."
Urgent, now. "Cut the polite crap, human. My clan is blasted, our House in flames, our god desecrated, our land on the Other Side at war. We have no time to reminisce past favours or talk polite. We need help, so help yourselves and help us."
The monk was not surprised.
That was the way of the dog-faced.
They were young and without faith.
Many, many of them were half-breeds or turned humans, and all were crazy.
They refused the old ways and wanted fresh meat for their feeding.
"They are going to kill the living, and eat them."
There was a strange undertone in the creature's growling voice.
Scandal, Nyogen realized.
Hurt faith in the ancient ways.
"Not today," the thing continued "and maybe not tomorrow, but they are gonna seep through and start feasting on the living, desecrating the Holy testaments."
A steamy explosion of foul breath emanated from its snout.
"The elders confided in our god, prayed and fasted to appease him, so that his wrath at the wayward would not smite the faithful, too, but it was too late. They came and parleyed, and after the parley they struck and killed."
A violent shudder shook the crouching form.
A line of thick spittle dribbled from its drawn black lips.
"They called us 'meat'."
The yellow eyes fixed on the old man's impassible face.
The ghoul prostrated, hitting the floor with its head.
"As I am talking to you, those abominations are eating my brothers," it whispered.
It lifted its head and there were thick black tears in its eyes, flowing and staining the floor.
"Help yourself and help us," it said. "Send someone that can wield the Sword…."
Black smoke drifted from its mouth and the monk straightened, stretching forward.
"Taia," the thing said, and let out a yelp, as the word itself scorched its mouth.
It bowed its ugly head once again.
The monk nodded.
And so it was that they came to young Tosui where he sat meditating, as he had been doing twenty years since.
He perceived their coming, and the presence of One of the Foul, and slowly docked back and opened his eyes, taking it all in.
He knew that he was needed as the old monk explained.
Namahage feeding off the living.
Madness and destruction.
"This will be seen to," he said.
The Foul One growled in appreciation.
It was like in the old tales, and the irony was not missed on the young turks taking their time in the Zoog's wood.
The one they called Snapper, who had been a fairly successful broker till the day his hunger for human meat had not led him down the path of self-inflicted but even more successful ghoul-dom, spat out a mouthful of kid's finger bones and turned upwind, sniffing theatrically.
"By the pricking of my thumbs…." he started.
The idea of "pricking" brought about much cheerfulness from Tinkerbell, the only female present, laying with her back against a large flat standing stone, tripping out on a killer crack/ice cocktail.
She had been a changeling in a well to do Kingsport family before the turn on. She loved meat just as much as she loved the extended highs and rough sex the transition from Human Joy Popepr to Ghoul Geek affected, and the fresh whiff of human coming to her was making her hornier than usual.
The leader of the pack stood, tossing away a femur.
They called him Tetsuro even if it was not his true name and he loved every moment of it.
"Just imagine," he said in his too-neat English "us poor monsters meeting a monk by the roadside."
Tosui stood at the margin of the clearing, straw hat and black travelling clothes.
He had staff for support and a cold light in his eyes.
"Mite mi," the leader grinned, swaggering forward.
He offered a chunk of ribcage. "Moo kutta ke?"
A pair of his companions howled.
The monk took in the whole scene.
A dozen of the creatures, most of them young.
Fear disappeared between an inhalation and an exhalation.
This was what the training had been for.
"I am here…" he began.
The leader popped away and something heavy and spiked hit the monk between the shoulder blades.
He stepped forward, stumbled, fell flat on his face.
He was surrounded.
He was bleeding.
As he lifted his head, a blonde gaijin woman was standing in front of him.
Offering a hand in help.
He reached out….
The twist cracked his shoulder and sent him slamming against a rock as the ghouls howled and got in closer.
The female was phazing in and out of human shape, trying weird hybrids and assuming obscene poses.
The leader stood by her, one hand firmly gripping a buttock, claws drawing blood.
"Is this all they sent against us?" he asked mockingly.
Breath came in ragged bursts.
all lost, all useless.
"We imagined a detachment of samurai, right?"
The ghouls cheered.
"Kagemusha-style, you know?"
Tosui tried to bring back the simple centering balance of his early training.
Something scratched his throat.
He felt the foul breath on his face.
The voice was female and seductive. "What is gonna stop me from ripping your lungs out of your mouth right now, meat?"
There was a single snapping sound, a twang.
The ghoul female was standing in front of him, a weirdly surprised expression on her contracted, rapidly shifting features, the feathered end of a quarrel protruding from the left eye.
The man sitting on the standing stone handled his crossbow with casual ease.
"My, oh, my…" he said."Nisei bone suckers, pickmanned dopeheads and reverted yuppies!"
The wounded female collapsed. He chuckled. "Is this all Eibon the Black's been able to pull together for this party?"
The ghoul leader growled.
"Who are you?"
The man stood.
He was wearing a codpiece and it was damn unnerving being so scared of someone dressing like an amateur rendition of the Twelfth Night, but he was scary as hell.
Much more than the monk.
"He is your karma catching up with you, bakatare," a voice said behind them.
An auburn-haired woman in green brocade stood in the middle of the highway, one hand on her hip, the other toying with a tear-shaped bauble at her neck.
Snapper grinned, coming forward.
"Come give me a blow job, meat doll" he bayed.
She let the pendant drop.
Thumb and middle finger touching on the left, right hand extended, palms upward.
She pushed and unraveled him, pulling each strand of meaning from him, one at a time, undoing him like he was a scarecrow and she was taking the straw filling out with chopsticks, one at a time, as he howled like an increasingly weaker wind and then was silent.
It took forever and it reverberated through them all like Mordiggian's hell opening under their feet.
Tosui was finding his center again, ignoring it all.
The man in black codpiece fell besides him and brushed shoulder with shoulder.
The monk's eyes snapped open again.
"You all right, kid?" the stranger asked.
"Then I guess it's time you stop doing it and start being it, right?"
And Tosui understood.
It was things as they were and not as they were meant to be.
The bare facts, without embellishment, bias or interpretation, empty of meaning and bereft of harmonics.
Truth at its most simple and self-evident.
It was a sword and an uncompromising sun that cast no shadow.
It was breathing, in and out without effort.
Eternity without entropy.
They all saw it and for some of them it was simply too much.
In his last conscious thought, Tetsuro the Ghoul realized that the monk had been the scarier of them all.
When the blaze abated there were just black shadows imprinted on the ground and standing stones, where the ghouls had been.
For the rest, the forest was untouched, the day was as it had been before.
No zoogs were to be seen around.
No birds flew between the branches.
Holding the crossbow in the crook of his arm, the man in black codpiece patted his doublet in the few points in which it was smoking.
The woman with him was disheveled and her face had some traces of sunburn.
She grinned. "Far out!"
The man scratched his jaw and looked around.
"Nice and smooth," he nodded.
They watched as the monk slowly seeped back, his effortless concentration bringing him back to the Wakeside.
Soon they were alone.
He sat heavily on a chunk of rock, ignoring the silhouette stamped on it.
He picked up a handful of dirt and essayed it between his fingers.
"Are these ones on our side?" he asked.
She arched an eyebrow.
"At least we share enemies," she said.
Alarm clocks ringing somewhere on the Wakeworld, they started feeling the pull.
She started fading. "Be seeing you," she whispered.
He nodded and let her go.
Then stood, watched the blasted clearing, sighed.
And was gone.
(C) Davide Mana