I’ve attended two parties last month. Now, I’m not much of a “socializer,” but during these events the topic of my writing usually comes up. And while I could talk all night about storytelling methods and semicolon uses, most people don’t give two poops about that.
“Brad, you need to go to a publisher!” “Brad, some guy sold a million copies of his book on Amazon!”
Stuff like that. “Get famous” stuff. I don’t really care about that, but something did come up that caught my interest: book covers! I need one, and my cover is still terrible! But leave it to Matt’s brother Stephen to give me a lead.
He told me of a place where I could find someone to illustrate a cover for me. Check it out: Deviant Art Job Offer Forum!
Do you see that? People just put up a job and these guys come running! Character design, book covers, logos–they do it all! Some of these guys don’t look that great, but others seem pretty amazing.
But that got me thinking: man, how come there’s no place like that for me!? Why isn’t there some bulletin board for writers!?
JOB WANTED – I require a written tale where multiple characters smash each others’ faces in with gravity powers and massive glass sheets. Also: explosions and giant, hairy monsters wrestling each other.
Does a place like that exist!? Somebody throw me a bone, here!
18 – One Last Experiment
The illuminated cavern was packed with fans: all standing, stomping their feet, or cheering as Beebee belted out the final verse of her song. She took a bow on the stage that was set at the bottom of a natural slope in the rock. The seats before her were carved out of the slope along with aisles lit by tall, oil-based lamps. The stage, made of marble, was lit from no apparent source; along with the walls and the long rows of stalactites that glimmered and flashed from blue to light pink.
“Thank you for coming down to the show!” Beebee exclaimed. “Even though I plagiarized all these songs, it still fills my heart with gladness to sing them!”
A laugh rose out of the audience and Beebee waved as she walked left and behind a passage concealed by a slick, pillar-like formation. She nodded at a stage hand and took the water bottle he offered her. Mackaba was waiting nearby.
“You’re really good at that,” he shouted over the continuing applause.
She smiled at him and they walked down the lamp-lit passage. When the cheers from the fans had dwindled to mere echoes Beebee spoke.
“I told you before: I steal all my songs. I don’t deserve that much praise from them.”
“Didn’t mean that,” Mackaba said. “You’re good at performing–making people happy. Doesn’t matter what you sing.”
“Are you just finding a nice way to say you didn’t like the songs?” Beebee hummed. Mackaba lifted his head with sniff and a grin.
“I don’t go to many concerts,” he admitted. “Although I did like it when you worked in ‘Valiant Palisades’ for the encore.”
“Well I’m happy that there was one song you enjoyed, Alvy!” Beebee laughed. They reached a rusty, metallic door set in the stone. A stout woman tossed Beebee a bottle of juice and opened the way for them.
“Thanks, Marv!” Beebee said.
“Sure,” Marv replied. “Have a nice night, now.”
The door clanked shut behind them; now they were back at the lake. The cavern ceiling was open to the sky and the light from the moon lit the surface of the water. Beebee pried off her cowboy hat and shook out her sweaty hair.
Mackaba chuckled. “I just didn’t expect any of this; I didn’t think I’d be having any fun today. Or ever again, for that matter.” Beebee leaned over and bumped his arm. “I mean it,” Mackaba went on. “I wasn’t in a good situation before I came here.”
“Oh no,” Beebee said. She fanned at her head with her hat as she twisted at the bottle’s lid with her teeth. “Where you in trouble?” she lisped as the cap came free. She spat it out into her hat.
Mackaba kept his eyes ahead as they walked, watching the path that curved around the side of the cavern. “I was,” he admitted. “It was because of something I did.”
Beebee took a long gulp from the juice bottle, swinging her hat in her other arm. “You don’t need to tell me;” she said with a refreshed sigh, “it doesn’t matter to me at all. I was just asking, because, well–“ She planted her hat on her head again. “Maybe you could stay here a while? As my guest?”
“Here?” Mackaba asked. “In this cave world?”
“Either here or in my castle back on Arsiling,” Beebee said. “Marv keeps the gate locked; she only lets the groundkeepers through. You wouldn’t be bothered and you could fish as much as you like.”
Mackaba hummed with approval. Beebee took another drink from the juice bottle.
“Wait,” she said. She halted her steps and Mackaba did the same.
“What is it?” Mackaba asked. Beebee stared off at the house across the lake.
“Someone came through from Arsiling,” she said. “But no one is allowed to come here.” She looked at Mackaba. “Something’s wrong.”
A blurred image appeared on the path before them: Mackaba reared back as a woman’s body snapped into focus.
“You!” he cried out. He pointed at her black, rust-flecked dress. “You were the one at–you kidnapped us!”
“Shirka, you can’t be here,” Beebee said. Shirka folded her arms.
“Well gosh, Beebs, I think I’ll risk it,” she said. “I’m worried about you.” She stared at Mackaba through the ring at her eye. “I heard this man escaped from Clance. I was worried. I’ve been looking everywhere for him.”
“I’m not going back there,” Mackaba stated. “Those people are brainwashed; it’s just a gaudy prison.”
“Speaking of that,” Shirka added, “Did you tell my sister where we picked you up from?”
Beebee stomped her boot. “Shirka, I don’t care about that. I know Alvy. I saw all the good things he’s done.”
Mackaba sniffed. “You knew they found me in prison?” he asked. Beebee gave a nod.
“I saw some memories from there, yes,” she affirmed. “You were pretty proud of yourself when you finally fixed that creaky spring on your bunk.”
Mackaba eased into a smile. “So you really don’t care that I was a criminal?”
“No of course not,” she said.
“No of course not,” Shirka repeated with a mocking whine. “Why would you care? You can’t see what I see. Not yet anyway. You want to know what he did? You want know why someone like him shouldn’t be trusted?”
Beebee held out her palm. “Shirka, don’t you dare–!”
The cavern brightened and Mackaba squinted his eyes. The assembly of Ley Ledge was laid out before them: the sun coming through the glass wall and the Lords Ley sitting still in their seats. Another Mackaba, dressed in a black robe and sash, was staring down from a stage.
“It will encase your bodies completely,” he said. “If you struggle or move it will only thicken. Soon it will be an ordeal just to breathe.”
“I’m just showing your the truth, Beebee,” Shirka said. She stood next to a Lord Ley caught in odd water. His nostrils wheezed with each drawn-out breath. “He held these people hostage. Tortured them. Isn’t that the reason you condemn me? Cougo? Slab?”
Mackaba shook his head, avoiding Beebee’s gaze.
“It’s only because you feel guilty about it, Alvy,” Beebee said. “That means you regret it; that’s a good thing.”
Another version of Mackaba appeared: his wavy hair shaved and a grey uniform on him this time.
“Markie, I know what you did to get this far,” he seethed at a blond woman in curls. “If a trollop like you makes Lord Ley it wouldn’t be due to anything else but your looks.”
The image of Markie sputtered. “I can’t believe you said that! No one’s ever said anything like that to me! I thought we were friends!” She backed away and sulked off past Beebee.
“Shirka, stop showing him these things!” Beebee demanded. Shirka let out a shrug.
“Beebs, I wish I could!” she expressed. Another Mackaba appeared, cursing a woman again. “But he never stopped, so why should I?”
Beebee reached out for the true Mackaba; he pulled away. His eyes were tearing up. He lowered himself down to the ground, hiding himself behind one of the Lord’s Ley desks. His voice was ringing throughout the cavern now, multiplied with the others: echoing words meant to accuse, boast, or deride.
“Shirka!” Beebee cried.
“And I almost forgot this one,” Shirka drawled as she pinched at the rim of her hat. The voices died down as a chandelier lowered into the center of the Lord Ley assembly. A Mackaba wearing a stained uniform marched down the aisle with staggered steps. Beebee put her hands to her mouth, seeing the woman’s body that he dragged along the carpeted floor. Beebee retreated as this Mackaba drew closer: muttering as he eyed the glass fixture above her.
From beneath the desk, Mackaba could see Mean as she was brought: her body limp, arms clasped in handcuffs. He let out a whine when he saw her pallid face. The eyes were half-open, with wet locks of hair sticking to her pale cheeks. She was jerked from view as the other Mackaba hoisted her up.
“And I know–you brought this on yourself!” he said.
Mackaba trembled as he heard his own voice speak those words.
“I mean, the Lords Ley picked me, so I have to do it!” the other Mackaba told himself.
“Oh they did?” Shirka chimed in. “They told you to beat up a woman and hang her up like a hat?” She laughed and gestured past the scene to her sister. “Beebee, can’t you see how delusional he is? How pathetic? How vile?”
Mackaba let out a sob as the water gurgled. He put both hands on his face and wept.
Beebee made a fist and the bottle of juice crinkled into a wad. She looked past the chandelier where Mean’s body hung, at Shirka. She stopped laughing.
“Let’s make this fair, Shirka,” Beebee said. She tossed the plastic away and the desks, assembly, and chandelier flashed: twisting and forming into new shapes. They were now riding on a wide platform settled onto sloping tracks. A tunnel whizzed past, a corridor lit with a bright strip that ran along the top.
“W–What are you doing?” Shirka stammered. “Don’t show him this!”
“Get up, Alvy,” Beebee said. “Get up and look. You aren’t the only one that’s done something bad.”
Mackaba sniffled and wiped at his eyes. There were tall poles set up around the front of the platform.
“This is what happened to me and my siblings,” Beebee said. “This is the day we escaped.”
Shirka began to object; Beebee tapped her boot to the ground. The image of Shirka warped and split into eight different people: all clutching the poles; all save one dressed in simple white clothing.
Beebee was there, with her hair bound in a ponytail. She was watching the others.
Templetine was at her left, his mane of hair pure black. It was whipping about his head as the tram powered up the slope.
Shirka was seated with Calm: they wore nothing on their faces.
Cougo and Clance were next; Clance had one hand on his pocket, gazing at the track behind them.
Pladomir’s luminescent face was set in a frown at his pole: the long hairs from Slaberdashia’s arms were flapping against him. She was at the very front, grasping two poles with her arms stretched wide. Her lips were quivering and her black teeth were bared. Her vertical pupils were thin slits in the bright light of the tunnel, and giant tears flew off her face in the breeze.
Elder Sain, dressed in his maroon armor, spoke.
“I see her; she’s after us,” is all he said.
“No!” Beebee cried. She watched the long stretch of tunnel behind them. Mackaba checked too. He squinted, wiped his eyes again, and gasped.
“What is going on?” he asked.
A woman was running on tracks, yet her body did not show any motion. She would vanish and reappear in short bursts: caught in mid-stride for a moment before blinking forward in a rapid, stuttering manner.
“It’s like a strobe light’s on her,” Mackaba said. He could wonder no more as the woman was standing on the platform now.
“This is not expected,” she stated. Her hair did not move in the wind; each strand was wound tight in crown-like spires and held fast with winged hairpins. Her torso was adorned with rose-colored metal: a breastplate from which layers of silken clothes flowed. Her arms were bare and she indicated the platform with her fingers. “What are you doing? This is not for playing upon.”
Clance called out. “I’m sorry! I didn’t want to go with them!”
“You little traitor,” Shirka said. The woman removed a small wheel from her breastplate. Mackaba walked closer to her, noticing that many tools were attached to her armor: scalpels, hooks, timepieces, and many that he did not recognize. The items were inlaid in the metal, all forming an ornate pattern. The woman looked through the gap in the wheel and replaced it.
“Clance, stop the tram,” she said. “We have work to do today.”
“Don’t do it, Clance,” Beebee shouted. She let go of the pole and walked across the platform toward the woman.
“Beebee, this is uncharacteristic of you,” the woman noticed. “You approve of this deviation?”
“You can’t even see what we’re doing!” Beebee accused. She reached the woman and stared up at her. “We’re not playing–we’re leaving.”
The woman arched an eyebrow. “Leaving? I didn’t tell you to do that.”
“We don’t want to be your experiments anymore,” Shirka said.
“But that is what I made you to be,” the woman replied. “Where else do you think you’ll go? This shaft leads to the upper ceiling; I didn’t put anything up there; you wouldn’t survive. Who put these bizarre ideas in your minds?”
“Beebee, maybe we should go back,” Slaberdashia offered.
Beebee’s ponytail whipped across her cheek. “Elder, you need to do it,” she said. Elder Sain nodded. He brought his hands to his visor and peeled the helmet away from his head.
The woman flinched. “You shouldn’t be able to do that,” she said. “What is going on? Someone did put these ideas in your heads!” She took a step forward; Beebee snatcher her by the arms.
“What are you doing, Elder?” Clance asked.
“I’m sorry,” Beebee said. “We planned this without telling the rest of you.” She looked back as she held tight to the woman. “You all have a chance this way. Do it, hurry!”
The woman struggled. “Elder, we are not in the lab; you are not allowed to use your ability here! You’ll only hurt your siblings; it won’t affect me!”
Beebee braced her legs. The woman jerked her body to no avail. “Did you ever test it?” Beebee asked. “You like to test things. Let’s test. Let’s see if it can cut through your skin.”
A green film appeared in the passage, bisecting the platform and sweeping through it as the tram rushed along the slanted tracks. The film darkened as it went; swallowing up Beebee and passing her. She closed her eyes. There was a snap.
The back of the tram fell away; it had been severed clean through along with the walls, floor, and ceiling of the tunnel. The woman fell, too: her eyes wide with shock as she dropped to the tracks, a thick, creamy substance oozing from the stumps where her arms had been. She bounced on the tracks and the back half of the tram skidded on top of her. The tunnel behind them slid loose along the slice in the walls. The siblings on the tram cried out; Beebee fell backwards with the woman’s arms still clutched in her hands. The platform moved onward, leaving behind a great cloud of dust as the stretch of tunnel they had just passed through began dropping. Mackaba caught a glimpse of a tall structure and stars as the tunnel fell away.
The scene vanished, leaving him and the real Beebee standing by the cavern pond.
“What was–“ Mackaba began, swallowing. “Was that real? Did that happen to you?”
Beebee nodded. “She never came after us, so I guess that killed her. We’ve been living up here ever since–in a world where my brothers and sisters torment people to survive.” She took off her hat again to fan herself with it. She walked along the path toward her home.
“So don’t worry about what I saw you do. It’s like you told me before: someone lead you to that planet. I know what it’s like to be in that situation. I also know what it’s like to put someone in that spot.” She smiled. “I also know that woman on the chandelier is all right–she’s the one that you’re looking for, right?”
Mackaba sniffled. “Yes, she is.”
Beebee twirled her cowboy hat on her finger. “Well what are we moping around here for? Let’s get looking for her!”
Shirka exited the large gate of the castle. Calm was skating across the glass plain to meet her.
“The–the doggies,” she gasped. The veil she wore flitted out with each huff. “I tied up the ones chasing me.” She peered into the castle, bobbing to and fro to peek beyond Shirka’s shoulders. “Where is Beebee?”
Shirka hummed. “She’s more like me than I thought.” Withe a pause she shook her curly-haired head. “I won’t be using her anyway; she can just hide in her world for all I care. It’s the others–they’re the ones that I hate. Now come. We need to make sure they’re all ready for their guests.”
Dark stared up at the vines spilling out from the window. A loud chattering of voices came from above.
“Yeah, they’re talking again,” Dark said.
The jalopy was parked next to the arena. Darrow, Tenny, Jelk, and Trisk loitered about.
“Who is that in there?” Mean asked. She walked over to Dark. “I haven’t been here yet.”
Dark turned to her. “Take hold of my poncho: I’ll show you.”
Mean sputtered out a laugh. “‘Take hold of my poncho?’ You are such a dork.” She shook her head and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. The two lifted off the ground, heading toward the window.
Trisk watched Dark as he hovered past the vines, taking him and Mean inside. “Darrow, how long have they been together?” she asked.
“It was the day everyone came back from Pinada’s virus,” Darrow said. “About a month ago? Oh–! You don’t know how we beat him, do you? Okay, see, he went back in time, right? Except it was just his mind. And he possessed himself so he was really two people. But it was the same person, just one had gone through his timeline twice.”
Trisk buried her face in her hands. “Please, hurry up you guys,” she muttered.
Dark carried Mean across the floor of the arena: a yard which had been trampled upon by foot and paw many times over. He landed at row of cages, where the smell of fur and excrement was thick. The Enpo within had grown quiet as they approached.
“We’re here to let you out; don’t be scared,” Dark announced. He heard a disgusted mutter from behind the bars. Mean dropped off his back.
“Who are you? Are you one of them?” the Enpo behind the bars asked.
“We’re from the world Slaberdashia went to attack,” Dark explained. “She’s been beaten–Chinpo and the rest of your people are on the way here.”
“Chinpo?” the Enpo repeated. “Quickly, then! Let us out! The console is just above our cages.” Dark nodded and pushed off from the ground. As he tinkered with the control mechanism the Enpo rallied the others: “These people met Chinpo; he’s still alive! Our captor has fallen!”
There was a buzz; the cell doors lifted. Five Enpo bounded out.
“Thanks, guys,” one said.
“I can’t believe we’re free,” another remarked.
They gathered together, patting each other with their paws and rearing up on their hind legs.
“Whoa, they’re so happy!” Mean laughed. Dark landed next to her.
“I thought this would make you feel better,” Dark said. He squeezed her close with his arm.
“Yeah,” Mean sighed. “I just wish we could save the rest of them too. I tried before–there was this one woman with glowing skin. She didn’t even act like she deserved to be saved. She couldn’t even breathe the air here so maybe it wasn’t even possible.”
“Yeah, that might not have worked out so well,” Dark said.
Mean watched as one of the Enpo leapt to one of the windows. She heard the utterances of alarm from outside, followed by Trisk’s laughter.
“This worked out, though,” Mean said. She tilted her head up; Dark bent his neck down, kissing her.
“Where do you think we should go now?” he asked after a moment.
Mean’s eyebrows perked up. “Hm? Shouldn’t you know what to do next? You knew someone was coming for these guys, right?”
Dark drew in a long breath. “I did know that,” he said. He looked away, hesitating. “My past self should be with Vornis right now, and he should be on his way through with Tyle Dhaston.”
“Trisk’s old boyfriend?” Mean asked. “Well that’s good, right? Let’s go meet them!”
She started back toward the window they came through. Dark followed.
“But I didn’t come though until later,” he said. “And when I did, I didn’t see any of this.”
“Any of what?” Mean asked.
“I didn’t tell the others, but none of these buildings were here,” he explained. “All I saw was wreckage and ruins. The ground outside wasn’t clear, either. It was opaque. There were people everywhere, too. And there, above everything, was a huge wall.”
“So you’re worried something changed this time?” Mean asked.
“I’m not sure,” Dark admitted. “But every time I think that something has changed, well, it turns out that it hasn’t.”
Super Quick First Draft Notes:
Shirka comes for Beebee and Mackaba –
Remember how I said I’d put more detail into Beebee’s world? Well now it’s suddenly full of people that live in massive caverns! I just can’t get enough of caves!! YES! I also remembered that whenever I visit the caves in Missouri the tour guides always tell me that people used them for giant parties in the past. Isn’t that wild? That sounded perfect for Beebee and her concerts, so I went with it.
I wish I could own a cave. I’d turn it into a casino or something. Those tour people won’t even let me touch the walls of THIER caves. 🙁
Mackaba’s tormenting visions –
This is still kinda sloppy, but I got the general idea down: images of Mackaba are seen doing many guilt-inducing things from his past. I could have just re-used scenes from book one, but this gives me an opportunity to show him at other points in his life. It also helps to explain what motivated Lord Ley Markie to stick him in Hardpan City in the first place.
There is one scene from book one I had to use: the part where he drags Mean across the floor and hangs her from a chandelier.
Beebee counters with her own vision –
Here Beebee shows that not everyone is blameless. I mean, sometimes people command their siblings to use their magical powers to slice off the arms of their creator. It happens.
And who is this creator? This strange woman? I didn’t say her name here and I’m not sure I want to include it. What I DO want to include is the strange way she catches up to the tram. I don’t think I described it very well here, but I had Mackaba outright state how it looks in my mind: a person moving in a dark room with a strobe light flashing. It appears as if they’re stuttering along. I may need to work on my description, though. I also wanted to avoid too much similarity to the “after image” move from Dragon Ball Z, ha,ha.
Dark and Mean’s group free the Enpo from Slaberdashia’s Angle –
This scene occurs partly because I wanted Mean and Dark to have some time alone together. I kind of regret keeping them apart for so long! I mean they get into a relationship at the end of book two and they’re just NOW meeting again? I hope they have enough time to interact in this book; otherwise I might feel as if I were cheated out of some juicy scenes!
And there is the part where Dark opens up to her about his past. I’m not sure how much I want to go into it; that’s why the chapter has that awkward ending. Hm, maybe I should but this part at the beginning of the chapter with Beebee and Mackaba’s section at the end. It might work better since the previous chapter ended with Mean’s group.
Anyway, I’d better stop for now––I have some illustrators to find! Wish me luck! Or even better––LET ME KNOW IF YOU WANT TO DRAW SOMETHING FOR ME. Surely some comic book artists out there are getting bored of drawing Superman every week.