Friday, May 1, 2009


Thelonius climbed the ladder through the open hatch in the roof of the chamber. Caleb stood by, watching the door at the bottom of the stairwell nervously.

He emerged onto the roof of the building and into thick fog. Like aural beacons, the grunting, motor-like vocalizations of loopers punctuated the sound-smothering blanket of fog. Immediately in front of him, protruding from the roof, was a wooden platform, and attached to that a pulley, which in turn was connected by a loop of rope to another pulley fixed on the cliff side, some yards above the roof. The upper pulley was not connected to anything else – it jutted out of the bare cliff face like a useless appendage. As he lifted his face to inspect the tools, a breeze wiped across Thel's cheeks, across his lips. He caught scent of something sweet and rotting, like blackened bananas or pipe tobacco.

Thelonius peered outward. Caleb had indicated that there was a stony beach just beyond the building, and beyond that water, but Thelonius could detect nothing of this in the fog. He could see no black bugs, and no loopers – only their calls he could hear, which sounded as though they were coming closer and closer to the shore. He looked hard, tried to discern shapes in the mist, but could only make out shadows and wisps of fog.

He snapped as many photographs as he could.

Click-snap -
click-snap -
click-snap -
click-snap -

In a breath, the fog roared. Raspy and omnipresent, the call seemed to issue from everywhere. It blared like a horn, but there were irregularities - like phlegm, like breath - all around the long, deep note, so low and resonant that it shook the men's bones and made the ladder clatter against the hatch's frame. Such huge lungs. The sound rattled the reporter's soul.

"Down here, pardner!" Caleb said.
"I'm coming back down."
The loopers' calls resumed. Thelonius put a foot on the topmost rung of the ladder and started to lower himself down.
The chorus broke - no longer howling, barking at one another like strange dogs, now the loopers were coughing.
"What didja see up there?" Caleb was already asking before Thelonius had even really stopped looking.

Impelled by the gunman's question, Thelonius did cast his attention once again in the direction of the shore. Fog, only fog – in the distance, water lapped.

And it rose. The loopers were coughing and farting ferociously now, and Thelonius could see, ever so vaguely, forms writhing in the mists. Below him, something shrieked. Some thing on the ground writhed and sputtered, scraping rocks beneath it. It was the size of a boar and its elongating-and-contracting body flipped on the stones like a fish dragged from water. But, God! There it was! Moving below him, in a window in the fog. A looper! Like a fish from water indeed; more like a giant black leech, it squirmed on the dark surface of the beach. From both ends of its many-segmented body pink antennae or tendrils or tongues lashed about in the air. It was absurd to think, but it seemed to be flagellating itself in the fog, which was mercifully moving to engulf the thing once again.

Thelonius understood now what was happening, or a part of it at least. Half-perched on the ladder, he turned his attention back to the water and watched the tide rising. But now he knew that it was not water that was rising in the wake of the fog's roar, but a moving mass of fine, black bodies.

(Thelonius failed against the foghorn call, -2 sanity, but was able bear with the terrors of the self-flagellating looper, and the oncoming tide. The latter is still pretty terrible: -1 sanity. Caleb was unshaken by the bellow from the sea.)


  1. Thelonius ducked back down the ladder, his eyes wide with disbelief.

    "We have trouble coming...a lot of it." He ran quickly down the stairs, motioning to Caleb to follow.

    "Is there anything in the other rooms...?" He asked, moving quickly into them to explore them himself.

    He looked around for...something. something that perhaps the previous occupant used to fend off the 'loopers' when the tide of hideous squirming bodies rose as it was currently doing.

    "The loopers are coming. How did the old man keep them at bay?"He asked Caleb, hoping that the gunslinger had an answer.

  2. "The loo- what? Uh, he said he burnt their flesh . . ." Caleb looked over his shoulder, to where he had tossed the old man's stew. The strands of the looper guts were stuck to the wall like half-dry snot. A glob of looper fat was still burning on the floor beneath the pot in which Caleb had boiled water to treat his wound.

    He turned back to the photographer. "Just hol' on." Stepping over the old man's body once again, he quickly popped up the ladder. In a flash, the expression on his face fell. "Sumbitch! The black things are eatin' the loopers!" He dropped off the ladder and into the room again.

    He landed nimbly, and stood before Thelonius. He just gaped.

    "Caleb? The rooms?" Thelonius reminded him.

    "It's a . . . goddamn sea of bugs!"

    "The rooms!"

    "Uh - The old man said that the black bugs can't getcha if yer sleepin' high enough up. An', uh, downstairs the front room's full'a doohickeys and metal crystal. An' there's the cave. Shit - that cave go anywhere?"

    Thelonius wondered if the old man had ever heard a call like that bellow; it seemed obvious that there was a connection between the foghorn call and the surge of black insects from the shore. Had they been summoned by it . . . or was the black mass fleeing from it?

    A gasp, a girlish little gasp, issued from the cowboy's throat. "Get a move on!" he cried. Caleb lifted the old man's body by the shoulders and dragged it halfway onto the steps. With a kick, he knocked the corpse down the stairwell, and into the room below. Thelonius's eyes followed it as it rolled and folded its way down the steps, into the room below. At the bottom of the stairs, he could see the closed door that presumably led into the room with the "doohickeys" and "metal crystal" - down there, Thelonius could see what had made the cowboy gasp. The black bugs were already streaming in.

    With another kick, Caleb launched the burning looper fat down the stairwell and directly onto the corpse. "That oughta hold 'em for a minute."

    From Thelonius's perspective, it did not seem that it would, for through the flame some of the fat little bugs were already upon the stairs, even as their compatriots sat burning and feeding at the same time upon the old man's cadaver.

    "Pardner, maybe now is the time to say the magic words? Aw, shit, was it: Ka-Shi-Raa-Saa-Gaar Ba-Da-Len-Pa-Honch Lo-Pa-Mu-Dra."

    The cowboy stood there. Nothing had happened.

  3. The reporter grabbed Caleb, "C'mon..let's get into the cave before the bugs finish their dinner."He didn't think it would be long before the stream of bugs caught up with them, but maybe dashing into the cave would give them just the time they needed.

    He led the gunslinger into the cave, pausing just inside.

    "Okay....close your eyes, hold my hand and repeat after me. And concentrate on getting back home."Thelonius didn't know if this was going to work, but he closed his eyes and willed himself to return to his body.


  4. Caleb's hand was rough. It squeezed Thelonius's tightly. "I never been ta New York . . ."

    The magic words came out of Thel's mouth, he willed himself to return to his own body -

    Ocean of Milk
    Changing, Arriving
    Lost Faces

    - he opened his eyes, and there he was.

    Sitting on his bed in his ramshackle bedroom. It was night - how much time had passed?

    Where was Caleb Black?

    Thelonius was hungry, thirsty, light-headed. He fell backwards onto his bed.

    (In returning, Thelonius has expended -2 magic points.)