Hey, gang! Super excited that another one of my short stories will appear in Murder They Wrote Volume 2 from Serial Sikk Publishing! It’s coming out in the Fall of 2020.
I’m writing a new book. Here’s a screen test, unedited…
A Thief at the EV-Library
“Well, let me tell you about the way she looked
The way she acted, the color of her hair
Her voice was soft and cool, her eyes were clear and bright
But she’s not there”
The Zombies, Marquis Songs USA
When the screen went from black to white, Erendylae right-sized herself to sit in the human chair and started clicking away at the keys. The words flitted onto the screen in black characters probably faster than she was typing them. She was sending an encoded message to her partner, Farkas, over in Wyddrum. Wyddrum meant the other side of this world, Deasil… “Earth” or “Reality” as the humans called it. Wyddrum of course was completely unknown to them. Well, nearly completely unknown.
“Excuse me?” An unfriendly voice came from behind her. “That terminal is out of order.”
She turned and flashed her blue eyes at the grim man in the uncomfortable-looking gray uniform of an EV-librarian, his yellow pocket badge identified him as Lawrence Hambold: EV-Archivist.
“Umm, no it isn’t. See?” She turned her half shaved head and her earrings jingled under her pink hair.
“My lord, what are you writing?”
What she had been putting out was baldly raunchy. “Er, not for you!”
He didn’t look away, his eyes darted down the screen.
“Are you really doing that kind of writing? Aren’t you a bit… how old are you?”
“Age is all in your mind sir.” This was annoying. She had to think of a way to get him to move on. She wished she wasn’t such a major talent at cornball steam scenes. She could tell he was hooked. She grimaced at him, tried to wave him away with both hands. In her fuss, the glamour she’d cast over the monitor failed and the formerly veiled message to her partner blazed in bright green against a black screen.
100% TERMINALS WEBBED | KEY 7434 | KEY 5RYT | KEY 9VVX
A nine minute countdown clock appeared and rushed at its dimunition.
“What?” Lawrence Hambold instantly recognized the passcodes to the central information vaults. She was transmitting them! What does “webbed” mean? What’s the countdown for? He yelped and fumbled around in his pants for his library issued mini-com – it stopped fitting his finger after the holidays – his eyes screwed around wild with panic.
She split. He loped after her.
In his hand now, Lawrence’s decades outmoded library issued mini-com sprang up a lattice-work of green icons on a grid. When the 999 emergency button finally flickered to life, he mashed it repeatedly with his thumb. Algae-green lights blinked on the corners of the room and a klaxon wailed and warbled.
“State the nature of the emergency.” A hollow voice came.
Lawrence cracked his knee on the edge of a metal desk. That stopped him. He wheezed, “I’ve got an EV pirate at Bowerston’s Archive. In broad, bloody daylight!”
“Do you have an image of the perp?”
Lawrence tottered again in Erendylae’s direction. The elevator. Her back was to him just as the old-style doors were closing. Mostly functional, the antique elevator was one of the more homely attractions of the Bowerston Branch Library.
He surprised even himself with a massive lunge for the doors, smacking at the button just in time. The doors dinged opened.
The elevator was empty.
“I don’t? What the? I don’t. Agh! Can’t you upload the security cams or something? She must’ve…”
“With your permission, archivist. Can you send your Employment ID?”
“Oh, piss!” Lawrence jammed his index finger around on the floating number pad.
The voice of the 999 AI was far too perky. “Great! Is this your perpetrator?”
A picture of the pink-haired girl sitting at the computer appeared in fuzzy three-dee.
Lawrence stepped into the old-style elevator looking in the corners and on the ceiling. “She sent all of our data keys to someone. There’s a countdown.”
“Security footage recorded her moving onto the elevator, but the camera malfunctioned once she was inside. We are unable to bring it back online.”
“Oh, yes, of course. Convenient. She’s not in here. There’s no way out.”
In fact, Erendylae was on the elevator with Lawrence, but he couldn’t see, hear, or feel her. Deep in concentration with her glamour, she had become nothing more than a slight change in the temperature of the air to Lawrence’s senses.
“She may have exited through the maintenance door in the ceiling of the elevator,” the emergency unit advised.
“There’s no way to open that.”
“She may have had time to go up and through and close it behind.”
“No. It doesn’t open anymore. It needed a physical key and one of our employees broke the key off in the lock two years ago… we haven’t repaired it just yet. And the hinges were frozen anyway.”
Lawrence went quiet, feeling a bit embarrassed and resentful at having to admit to authority the incompetency of his colleagues and the restraints of the library’s budget. The elevator felt uncharacteristically warm. Hot even. He smelled something. It smelled like lemons and match smoke.
“I smell lemons,” he said. “Why do I smell lemons? It smells like someone set a lemon on fire.”
Leaning back too far in a chair, his dirty running shoes on the console of the 999 emergency office, Chief Antiquary Detective Rykus Twyler chomped on the metal tube of his empty vape-stick. His left eye covered by an rectangular ocular implant. Made of dark strenium, the cyber-eye glittered like a hematite eye-patch in the 999 control room. He’d been dozing, until the wonky librarian reported the scent of lemons.
“You’re sure it’s lemons?” He said without moving.
Lawrence was surprised by the grim and human-sounding voice that suddenly rasped on the line. “Who’s that?”
“CAD Rykus Twyler. Is it just a citrus scent or is there more?”
“There is something more. Like someone lit a match and blew it out. Oh, no! Am I being poisoned?”
Erendylae was straining her glamour now, running out of energy. She was going to have to make a break for it, but this doofus was clogging the door.
“No poison, friend. Just find a safe place and stay there. We’re coming.” The mumbly mouthed CAD ended the call.
“Oh, piss!” Lawrence Hambold stared at the red words “CALL ENDED”.
Rykus Twyler? Erendylae was positive she’d heard the name before. Where had she heard that name?
She was about to be made. Her glamour was all but run out. The elevator doors were closed and mister library man was in there with her sniffing around. If she appeared now, in her weakened state, he could easily restrain her in the tiny space. She had to get him to open the doors so she could get out. With just one or two little pops of energy left in her, she could feel herself flickering into resolution.
Think fast! Think fast! She needed minimum effort, maximum results. She had it! An eruption of sound shook the elevator. The thundering roar of a lion as blood-curdling as any you would hear on the savannah blasted Lawrence. She was even able to add the wet-hot sensation of carcass-laden breath to the back of Lawrence’s neck.
Lawrence flailed against the door, shrieking in primal terror. He banged on all the buttons until the door swished open. Lawrence tumbled into the aisles of blinky-winky databanks and fled into their maze of safety.
The doors closed and D appeared fully in the elevator. She hit the starred “G”, but the security alarm had locked the elevator on this floor. She darted for a green door on the outside corner of the room which showed an evacuation map. There were no windows, so it was to be the stairs.
She popped open the door to the stairwell and bounded down and down and down. Finally on the ground floor, she could feel her energy flow returning. It happened so fast in Deasil. Being so close to the source was a thrill. She had enough to fly again.
The common area of the EV-library was an atrium. It was dusk and a row of the top panels were open to the evening breeze and the sounds of traffic. She was about to flit through – out into the skyline – find Farkas and get through the portal back to Wyddrum, but Chief Antiquary Detective Rykus Twyler’s lift meandered through the air and came to an awkward float just outside her open windows. The lift was an old model; boxy, gray and its over-sized props chopped at the air. THWOP THWOP THWOP
The door flung open and he peered out, with a whimsical look on his face, a near smile as he grabbed a bag of gear and took a sip of whatever was in his company travel mug. He rolled down the boarding plank and stomped down to the entrance. He gave a pronounced thumbs up to his lift. The plank retracted and the hover car THWOPPED up and away to sky level parking somewhere.
She remembered where she’d heard his name. The Sidhe had booked a profile on him some years ago. He was on the list. He’d been exposed – to them.
Detective Twyler came in the front door sniffing the air and Erendylae, thanking her stars her energy was refilled so quickly in Deasil, turned invisible and started to float toward the ceiling. Was he smelling for her?
Rykus was containedly ecstatic. His tight, tough guy face was betrayed by a twinkle in his real eye. Also, he was feeling sentimental from whiskey and limber because of the pills. He paused at the threshold and grabbed around in his beat up satchel. He produced a black box. Finding an empty counter he set the box down and clicked it open. He gazed around the room and squinted with his good eye and then removed the mirrored plate that covered the place where his left eye used to be. Underneath the silver plate was a dark, mottled hole with round scars all around. There was a white data cable sticking out of the cavity where his eye should be. The receptor on the end blinked alternately green and blue.
Poor schlub. Erendylae thought.
Then he put a new patch on with a wet click. This one was silver bright, but the metal had a darkish swirl in it as though it was once a liquid in motion. The surface was a flat oval and looked… like a mercury mirror!
He put the other patch in the case and put in his his bag and took another sip from his mug.
“Fee fey fohfum.” He said and took a deep, calm breath in through his nose.
Erendylae found herself ruminating on the phrase, distracted, her mind working it out. Fee fey fohfuhm? A folktale giant? Jack and Beanstalk?
His left eye glittered in the silver and glass atrium of the Bowerston Electronic Virtuality Library entrance. “It’s not exactly matches is it? It’s more like lemons and… “ he sniffed a few times, “Yes. Lemons and gunpowder.”
His eyes flicked in her direction and, even though she was tect, invisible to humans, she dived to hide behind a spiral rack of data towers. E ransacked her memory trying to recall what she’d been taught about mercury mirrors and what they could and could not reveal. They were so rare, outlawed 500 years ago. E paid zero attention to those details in class. Could it reflect a tect pixin? She couldn’t remember if the answer was yes or no or sometimes or most often not or only in a moon beam or only for children whose mentras were wide open. She shot down to the floor and making herself into a foldable mass, crammed herself into a corner with a dustball and a the hollow leavings of long-legged spider that had outgrown her carapace. She was using energy faster than it was filling up, but this guy was making her nervous. Even though she was tect, she still felt he might see her with this weird mirror-eye.
The detective made some notes in an old fashioned journal and yes, with a crudely sharpened, lead pencil. This guy was definitely an intense antiquarian. She recalled now more of his profile and why he was a worry. He was an autodidact fairy scholar who’d become consumed with researching fairy folklore after his daughter died. She recalled this was some ten years ago or more in earth years. He was also an alcoholic and an addict. Daedahlia Iskriit had been involved. She waited.
Rykus made these notes:
October 11th, 4022|313 Capitol Ave. Bwrstn EV arhives / scent lemon gunpowder – no visual at 6:46PM. Don’t buy hotdogs at Gerry’s |
Rykus closed his little book and glanced around with his custom built, quicksilver, occipital Hermes artifice and his normal right eye. His real, organic right eye had always the worst vision from when he was a boy. It was rife with floaters and had zero depth perception. On a good day he could read big font at 11 inches away. The Hermes was preferable and showed him stunning, graphic detail and had all the bells and whistles of augmented reality, military grade navigation, night, heat, kirlian, really just about everything that his precinct could legally install. Of course, he’d tricked it out the some features on his own. Namely the mercury lens. It was experimental. His theory had never been proven and there was a major risk to wearing it.
No matter how clean the connection or what kind of screens he fitted it with,the live mercury found its way into his blood stream. There was a micro-molecular transfer, a quantum, skittering detritus of the fluid – it got past the magnetic filters and through the micro-mesh.
He crunched numbers and took blood samples and discovered the math that would prevent his madness. He couldn’t utilize the Hermes for more than 66 minutes every 6 days. He feared erethism, what was once called “Mad Hatter Syndrome”, would bring the final blows of dementia and insanity to his already shattering reputation.
Of course, the drinking and the pills were what was currently crumbling his career and scraping away at his sanity. It didn’t help that he’d taken a decade long dive into studying fairies.
However, he might say, there is so much that a man of his station has to process mentally, emotionally, spiritually possibly – not to mention the anomolous cranial pain, most likely caused by trigeminal neuralgia, what they called tic de la reu, or nervous tic he’d acquired upon the horrible loss of his eye from an antique shotgun blast. Just the thought of the weapon caused the areas in his left cheek and around his empty occipital orb to radiate with a sensitive expectation. It was neuropathic pain that gave him the need for the opioid analgesics and not to mention the stultifying pressure of being who he was, Detective Rykus Twyler. The responsibility of being such a prodigy as he saw in the mirror, the crown of the unique genius heavy upon on his head and the looming shadow of mute grief cast on his heart that came from knowing the depravement of humanity. These burdensome terrors of his brilliance could only be relieved by the black vacuum of drink.
He sipped cheap whiskey again from his mug and wandered in the direction of Erendylae. The erethism countdown pulsed away in mint numbers inside the HUD of his Hermes. If there was a fairy here, he’d the full 66 minutes at his disposal. This could be a momentous night. Not like those others. Today could be the day that…
Erendylae saw him coming but was far too sharp at this game for his kind. Erendylae was a pixy of the Nyrvaehn tribe. Nyrvaehns were gifted with prescience, among many other glamors and skills common to fairy-kind. Prescience meant she could see the vape-sticks he would buy a week from now even though he’d quit that seven years ago. If she peered hard enough she could see into the murk of the future and then deduct the most probable line of action down to the his menu order at Gerry Dogs. She could see the orange glow of his future footprints coming her way a full 15 seconds before he even thought to take a step. But she had to concentrate and concentration in this world, earth, Deasil, was hard. Though the planet restored her energy quickly, it bled her power away hungrily when she used any of her glamors. The world her kind called Deasil, Earth, this reality where the humans resided, it was a loud and too bright obstacle course; braggadocious technologies, rude tourists, and garish architectures jabbed, cursed, zig-zagged in blaring, artificial grandiosity. The natural world had been exploited and obfuscated by their zealous fascination with there own creations. Her years were many, but she’d never had to before and didn’t plan to spend any of her days in Deasil. The past five days on this damned data-mining assignment had been overwhelming for her.
The detective stopped.
She looked right at his face and she was sure he could see her there folded like a pretzel in baseboards.
His face went slack and she saw his fingers twitching on the old-fashioned ink pen he held. He pressed it to the paper in the little book and wrote something or drew something. She realized that the detective was in awe.
She tapped her com, “I think he can see me!” she whisper-shouted to Farkas, who couldn’t hear her anymore only a high-pitched static. There was some kind of interference on the com-link. What had happened?
She remembered her training. Immediately, she used all her energy to morph into a furry rolling object. This made her fully visible, but very, very odd looking and small – like the strands of hair from a purple wig being blown across the floor by a puff of air. She rolled fast as a lightning bolt through the space under the nearest door. It was a bathroom. Once inside, she shot up into the vent as she heard the door burst open beneath her, “Fee fey fohfuhm!” The words mixed her mind again and she found herself fully unraveled, and right-sized, panting in a duct. Luckily her actual size of just over two-feet tall, kept her from being stuck in the air duct. She started a crawl. Those damn words! Somehow they were distracting her, ruining her concentration. Those damn words from Jack in the Beanstalk! Really?
She wriggled up into a crawlspace and another and through a maze of vents and cables and then, covered in gray dust, she emerged from the rooftop, her eyes and teeth shining out from her grimy face. She sighed and then coughed. She was away from detective Twyler and his mirror eye and word powers.
And there was Farkas was standing at the edge of the roof, pointing his dowsing wands towards the portal, “It’s over on Brighton.”
“In the park?”
“Yeah.” He nodded and vanished.
“Let me guess… the graveyard fountain?”
“Saint Francis of Assisi feeding the fish, yep. We go down the drain.”
He could tell by the shock on her face that something bad had happened.
“He saw you?” Farkas asked floating in her direction and making her disappear too.
She swallowed, “Pretty sure.”
“Well, pretty sure’s not enough to report to the Sidhe in my opinion.” He started away, but then said, “Besides. It’s Rykus Twyler. Humans don’t believe what crazy drunks like Rykus Twyler say. Especially when they say things about fairies. How did you get away?”
“I used the rolling purple fur disguise.”
Farkas Aerynkn laughed aloud his pointy fangs looking unusually bright white in the earth sun. He grinned with a proud chin forward and tweaked her nose. “Nicely done, sugarbun. I love it! Who would ever believe that in a statement? ‘I saw a fairy and it turned into purple hair and rolled away!’”
She smirked and shrugged, clearly flattered by his praise. The two of them floated away to the park and through the portal back home to Wyddrum.