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Fermius Firefly

A Dream Log, whenever I remember the dreams I've had.

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Location: San Marcos, United States

Fermius is a pen name drawn from a series of short fiction I wrote when I published the small press magazine Stellanova (on paper.) I play RPG games to escape from my daily grind as a technology wage slave for the state of California. I eat out a lot in order to do my part in supporting our increasingly service level economy. I am butler to 2 feline masters. If you ask them they will tell you I'm not very good at it, late with dinner, don't have enough hands with brushes in them, and sometimes I even lock them out of their office.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Messenger for the Undead, (Warning: Long)

       I dreamed a long convoluted dream that started in some sort of broken down shrine on top of a lush green hill. There was a storm raging across the valley below, but myself and about half a dozen couples and their children were huddled in the ruins. There were heavy winds, but the rain clouds were dumping their liquid ordinance before stranding themselves along the mountainside. The winds were damp and chill as well as fierce. I watched the lightning play about the tops of the rainclouds that thundered by at nearly eye level. After a fairly short time, the rainclouds dissipated and the smell of wet earth in the sunshine rose from the valley.
       “Perhaps we can find a place to stay in the village,” said an older woman, pointing to what looked more like ruins than a living village.
       “OK, someplace with a roof and a working bath would be nice.”
       We all drove down the hill. I in my little electric car, and the rest in SUV hybrids and solar powered vans. The village was not as ramshackle as it looked from the shrine. There were people about, they spoke Japanese and very limited English. All of the families found either a place to rent, or someone to take them in. One family and myself found ourselves saying we would take an old house that stood in a state of mild disrepair on the outskirts of town. I chose it because it was empty, and quite a bit upslope from where it looked like flood waters had risen in the past.
       A woman showed us up to the house and turned over some keys to the father of the family I was with. She took me aside and warned me that the house was haunted, and that I should try to keep the children out of the basement. I looked into her eyes as I thanked her and noticed they were a deep violet rather than the ubiquitous brown of the local population.
       “You have lovely eyes, very unusual.”
       I thought I saw them shimmer and shift a little bit.
       “Th-Thank you,” the woman blushed.
       I bowed as she stuck out her hand. She bowed as I stuck out my hand. We laughed, and shook hands.
       “By the way, you speak excellent English.”
       “Silly, mister, she's speaking Japanese,” one of the children giggled.
       “Ah, right. Origato,” I turned to thank the woman but she was all ready far down the path.
       “Let me drive you back to the village.” I shouted to her.
       “I'll be fine. Thank you.” The woman called back up the hill and then broke into a sort of hopping jog down the rest of the steep hill. The wind was picking up again, and it smelled like rain. The woman's skirts were tossed about by the wind, revealing her shapely calves and an occasional flash of thigh. For a moment her skirts looked like a tail as she entered the forest and vanished from sight.
       “Oh! She's a fox lady.” The child stood watching her go with her mouth open.
       “That's a foxy lady,” I corrected her, “and yes, yes she is.”
       I went inside to help the family unpack. My unpacking consisted of rolling out a futon and some blankets and plopping my travel case next to my pillow, it could wait. The son wandered into the kitchen and was trying to open up the cellar door.
       “No children in the basement. Our landlady insisted.”
       “Did she say why?” The mother looked worried.
       “No, but I will check it out when we have you settled in. It's probably just mold or dangerous junk piled up. No telling how long since someone lived here.”
       “Someone lived here...” I heard echo in the moans of the wind around the eaves.
       “Did you hear that?” the little boy asked.
       “The wind in the eaves made an echo.” I explained, even knowing that it wasn't really an explanation.
       “Please, have dinner with us, a thank you for helping us unpack.”
       “Domo origato,”
       “Yes, and after dinner you can check out the basement.”
       I felt that I couldn't wait for dinner, though, so opened up the door. There was a musty damp smell, but not overtly moldy. “I'll be right up.”
       Light filtered dimly through the dusty brown glass along the west wall of the basement. I could see very little in the room, but my first impression was of piles of bones and three old women sipping tea at a short round table, its intricate inlay covered with a dirty brown lace table cloth. I pulled my wind up flashlight out of my jacket pocket and cranked it up to full brightness. Outside the beam of the flashlight the basement seemed even dimmer and more full of debris.
       In the direct light of the flashlight, the basement was empty, except for the dust covered table and a triangle of flattened cushions about it. As the beam of the flashlight passed over things, they vanished, only to reappear populated in the fading daylight on either side of the beam. Voices, whispers, indistinct sprung up on either side of the beam.
       “You OK down there?”
       “Yeah, but I don't think anyone should come down here.”
       “No, it's haunted.”
       All conversation stopped in the basement. All conversation stopped at the top of the stairs.
       “What!?” the mother's voice shrieked down at me.
       “Bones, voices, three old ladies having tea. I'm going to try to make peace with them so we can stay until the pass is clear.”
       I turned off the flashlight. It took a couple of moments for the voices to come back, and then I could see men and women milling about. “It's freaking party down here.” I muttered.
       There was laughter from the vicinity of the table.
       I gingerly walked over trying not to knock over any piles of bones, and knelt at the table, greeting the old women with a deep bow.
       “Oh! He is so polite.”
       “Oh! He is so scared.”
       “Oh! He is so brave.”
       “Oh, he is right here and can hear you perfectly.” I said, feeling a little angry at being talked about like I wasn't even there. I let it pass, not really knowing how long it had been since the old women had talked to anyone but themselves.
       The conversation at this point was complex, a mishmash of English and Japanese, none of us seeming to hear one another in anything but our own language as long as we spoke directly to one another. Otherwise, all of the side chatter, and there was a lot of it, was in Japanese. Even I could tell that the accents and dialects were slightly different. During the course of our conversation I somehow managed to agree to take their petition to a fellow named Erukai, or some such. The three old women brewed up a special tea, and told me I had 24 hours, and to be careful, time wasn't the same “over there on the other side.”
       “Slower, or faster?”
       “Yes,” the three of them answered in unison.
       “Be careful,” said one ghostly man
       “Don't eat or drink over there,” advised a woman.
       “Our Samurai should have a sword,” said another.
       “I have this flashlight,” I offered, hopefully.
       “He's delivering a petition and bringing back an answer, for good or ill. He doesn't need a sword.” One of the old women handed me a rolled up parchment, another a case for it, and after I put the parchment in the case the third capped the case and sealed it with wax from a ghostly candle.
       “Take the road up to the shrine, then across the bridge.”
       “Leave your cart at the bridge, though,” added the most modern looking of the ghostly women. She smiled at me, a smile that was wider than I thought possible, and possessed of more teeth than I thought was strictly human. Still I couldn't help offer “Would you like to ride with me?”
       This made her blush, I didn't know that spirits even did. “Perhaps later, when you return with our freedom.”
       As I made my way up the stairs a male ghost stopped me “She will remember your offer, just don't let your attention wander from her.”
       The family all met me at the top of the stairs. Their eyes were all wide with barely controlled terror. “You'll be fine here, just stay out of the basement. I have an errand to run, so I will have to share dinner with you on another evening.”
       “Hai, yes, of course.”
       As I stepped out of the house I could hear them blocking the cellar door with several heavy objects.
       I found myself walking across a bridge that spanned the valley. It hadn't been here before, and while it was certainly wide enough to drive across, I left my car at the shrine as instructed. The bridge was long and shrouded in mist, about halfway across I lost sight of the valley below, and as I approached the far end, I could see others stepping off of the bridge. It was a light crowd. After I stepped off of the bridge I looked back and could see the bridge full of people, people I hadn't seen when I'd walked across alone. I thought I could make out my little red car parked outside the shrine in the distance. Odd that the mist didn't seem to cover the bridge. It was good to know that I would be able to find my way back.
       I found a traffic officer, he was wearing shades, even though night was falling. I asked after Erukai, and the officer directed me to the tallest tower in the distance. “Take a cab, it will get you there in much faster time.”
       I thanked him and as I walked away, realized that there were no frames for his shades, the grew right out of his eyebrows, and into his cheeks. His eye sockets behind the lenses were nothing but black pits in his head. I shuddered and ran to catch a cab.
       The cab was old, like early 50's era. The driver was a skeleton. We made the trip in silence, and I couldn't even convince him to take a fare.
       The building was large and modern. I entered the slightly over chilled lobby. I had my flashlight in one hand, in my pocket and the scroll case in the other. I asked the information officer, a tall slender blond woman with a gaping wound in her neck, for directions to Erukai's office. She handed me a paper map with some circled locations on it, and pointed me to the elevators.
       “Since it is only on the third floor wouldn't the stairs be faster.”
       “Wait for the elevator, and wait to arrive. Time never moves slower than when you are waiting. I think you want the time here to move slowly, given what you are.”
       “Ah! Ok, then I will wait for the elevator.”
       I waited.
       And waited.
       And glanced at my cellphone clock. No time had passed, though it seemed like minutes.
       I rode to the third floor and found it entirely dedicated to Erukai-san's enterprise, what ever that was. I found my way to his receptionist and she called in to him immediately.
       “You swordsman is here.”
       “Um, excuse me, I'm not a swordsman.”
       “You have the messenger case.”
       “Yes, I've volunteered to be a messenger, no one said anything about swords.” Which as soon as I said it I realized wasn't exactly true, one of the spirits had suggested that I needed a sword.
       “Only a Samurai can carry that case. Mister Erukai will see you now.”
       “Thank you,” I bowed, and she stood and bowed as well.
       I entered a large plush office, rich reds and browns in the carpet, the furniture was all burgundy leather and dark woods. Built in bookcases and scroll cases lined three walls. A large window took up the fourth wall. I was actually entering behind the desk and the chair was turned back to me.
       “Hello, Mister Erukai.”
       “You have something for me?”
       “A petition, I believe.”
       “You believe?” The chair turned around and I found myself facing a large man in a suit. He stood, I bowed. He nodded . He towered over me by at least three feet.
       I offered the scroll case to him.
       “You don't know what you are delivering?”
       “I was told it was a petition.”
       “You didn't read it?”
       “No, sir. I presumed I was to deliver it to you, seal intact.”
       “So you are not my swordsman, not a Samurai.”
       “No, sir.”
       He grunted. “You might be surprised. Still. I will look over this.”
       “I have been asked to bring back your reply, sir.”
       “Ah, I think I see now. Please, wait in my lobby.”
       “Yes, sir.”
       I saw the giant's clawed hand deftly cut the was seal and open the scroll as I backed out of the room. I gave a last look at all of the books trying to recognize a title or binding even. I bowed and Erukai nodded.
       “That was faster than I expected,” the receptionist spoke.
       “I am to wait for a reply.”
       “Please, take any seat you wish.”
       I chose a seat where I could see the receptionist, the office doors and the entrance to the lobby.
       “Would you like some refreshments?”
       I remembered the advice I'd been given, and what I'd learned from Greek myths of the underworld. I was thirsty, but declined.
       “Thank you I will just wait here.”
       “Suit yourself,” the blond looked at me for some time, I thought I caught her sniffing the air.
       I checked, I wasn't sweating, and didn't think I was too smelly. She went back to work, clacking away on her keyboard. I couldn't be sure, but found myself convinced that she wasn't actually breathing except when she inhaled to speak. I began to realize that I was into something much deeper than I thought, or understood.
       I checked my phone, over eight hours had elapsed since I'd called the cab! I resolved to wait, and nothing more, just wait.
       I waited.
       I waited some more.
       I waited while thirsty.
       I waited even more.
       Yep, still waited.
       Erukai entered the lobby. My time on my cell phone had not changed. The receptionist and I stood and bowed as one. Erukai smiled a great toothy smile at me. “I have your response. You will have to work hard to deliver it before your time runs out.”
       “Thank you, sir.” I bowed and without thinking offered my hand.
       He laughed and shook my hand. His hand was cold to the touch, but dry and strong. His claws were mostly folded under and I could feel their smooth backs on the back of my hand.
       “Have you any advice?”
       It was obvious my question caught him off guard.
       “Run or walk, and do nothing else while you run or walk. Touch no one. When the spell fades, you will take the state of the last being you have touched.”
       A young woman entered, she looked much like the woman who'd showed us the house. She skipped over to me and clutched my arm.
       “Oh, is this my swordsman, daddy?”
       “No, dear, this Samurai has a message to deliver for me.”
       Erukai's daughter let go of me with a little pout. “He was kind of soft, anyway.”
       I bowed. Choosing to ignore the girl's comment.
       “Thank you.” I left, hoping their next swordsman was better than the last. I had the impression that they might go through a lot of them.
       In the lobby I checked the clock on my phone. Another two hours had passed during what I thought was our short conversation. I ran down the stairs and out into the main street. It was crowded. I concentrated on walking, and avoiding the dead men and women crowding the street. I didn't want to be dead when the spell wore off. When I reached a park like across from which was the bridge, I broke into a run.
       Erukai's daughter jogged effortlessly up next to me.
       “Hi there, miss.”
       “I want to see if you really can make it.”
       “Almost no one ever does. But you, you are different. I think you are not what you seem on the outside.”
       “It's an enchantment.”
       “Ah ha! I thought so. I knew you felt different. Just keep running. I will be quiet and run with you.”
       “Thank you, miss.”
       She ran next to me, trying not to be distracting, which was, a bit, distracting. We reached a street overlooking the street that lead out onto the bridge. Where I wanted to be was at least twenty feet below. I looked for a way down, I couldn't see any in either direction. The street I was on was above a retaining wall and parallel to the street leading to the bridge. I decided to jump to the top of a vendor cart, and then down to a mailbox. I landed on the roof of the cart with a bang, then the mailbox, then the curb. I heard the bangs of following hoof falls; the daughter of Erukai behind me.
       “I wish you were my next swordsman. I've never had a Samurai before.”
       It unnerved me a bit, because it sounded like she was talking about dinner. I walked to the bridge.
       “Oh! Brave, walking like this when time is running out.”
       I didn't want to run into anyone, and found that when I was walking or running, un-distracted, time on the cellphone stopped. So it didn't really matter.
       I turned to look at the daughter and bumped into a man. He said nothing and continued on his way. I was not too happy about that. I could feel his deadness, and it lingered. I turned up to the bridge. There were hundreds of folks, young and old, though mostly older, soldiers, women, thin, fat. Some in hospital gowns, some in uniforms, some naked. I realized I was looking at the recently dead, and they were all streaming off of the bridge. I would be walking upstream. I tried to avoid any further touches, but realized it was futile in the crowd. A couple of people tried to tell me I was headed the wrong way. I looked for another walkway, perhaps lower down, but didn't see one.
       I'd also lost the daughter in the crowd.
       “Pardon me, coming through here, stay to your right!” I shouted. Not really expecting anything to happen. Curiously, the dead began to shift to the right and I lunged through the opening. I was resolved to dying, but hoping to make my delivery before doing so. “Stay to your right!” I shouted again, opening up more space.
       I reached the foot of the bridge, and as I shifted left and right, the people on the bridge shifted. I was looking for an empty bridge, with a little red car on the other end.
       I felt a touch on my shoulder. It was Erukai's daughter. “I thought I lost you.”
       “Thank you for cheering me on.”
       “Cheering you on. You're getting me out of here. Why have you stopped, you don't have much time!”
       “I'm looking for my car. I have to deliver this before the enchantment fades.” I indicated the scroll case.
       “I wonder what's in there.” She grabbed the case.
       I held on to it. “We'll know when it is delivered.”
       “You're no fun! What if it says to kill you?”
       “If I don't get out of here before the enchantment fades, I'm dead anyway.”
       I spotted my car across a nearly empty bridge. There was a woman standing on the bridge. I stepped onto the bridge, focused on holding onto the scroll case and making it to my car. The daughter stopped. “Please, stay with me.”
       “Another time, perhaps, you have been delightful company.”
       She leaned in and kissed me. “Run, Samurai, you can make it.” The lingering feeling of deadness was replaced by another feeling, lively but in a pent up sort of way.
       So I ran. As I reached the middle of the bridge, I recognized the foxy woman, and saw that she had a tail and foxes ears. The kid had been right.
       “Who or what touched you last?” she demanded.
       I kept running, forcing her to turn and run to catch up.
       “Erukai's daughter.”
       “Daughter? What daughter?”
       “We weren't properly introduced.”
       “What was she?”
       I wasn't sure about that, but I knew she didn't feel dead like the people I'd bumped into in the crowd. “Not dead, that's good enough for me.”
       “She didn't follow you onto the bridge, did she?'
       “No, I don't think she could.”
       The fox lady said something in Japanese. It sounded almost like swearing. “Slow down a little bit!”
       “I have to deliver this before the enchantment wears off.”
       “I know, but you need to give me a lift back to town.”
       As I reached the car, she was still several feet behind. I clicked the doors open, including the passenger side. “Door's open.”
       I raced around and just got the car in gear as the woman dropped awkwardly into the seat next to me. The acceleration of the car pulled her door shut. She pulled at her tail, more unhappy Japanese again.
       “Sorry, I hope we missed the bone.” I apologised as the front wheels grabbed the ancient tiles and we lurched forward again.
       “No damage.” She peeled her left glove off and grabbed my hand on the gearshift with hers. She was still struggling to get settled around her white bushy tail with its shock of reddish blond on the tip..
       He hand bounded mine around, there was a grinding noise. I struggled to get the right gear. We shot down the hillside, skidding a bit and becoming airborne for a few feet on the steeper parts of the hill. She squealed, neither of us were belted in. She would not let go of my hand.
       “If we get into the house before the spell is gone, hug one of the kids.”
       “What happens if we don't?”
       “Tough to explain.”
       We arrived at the house. Everything was dark and quiet. I jumped out of the car. Fox woman clambered out right behind me, not letting go of my hand the whole time. I had to pull her up to her feet, she weighed next to nothing. We raced up the stairs together and into the kitchen. Every bit of furniture on the lower floor but the futons was pile against the door.
       “Nooo!” the Fox lady shouted, “The cellar doors, outside.” She seemed to have forgotten about kid hugging.
       She yanked my arm pulling me back out the door and around the side of the house. She kicked the lock on the door handles and ripped them from the doors.
       More unhappy Japanese noises.
       I balled up my fist and aimed for a mossy looking board. I punched through it and pulled the door open. We tumbled down inside together. Pinkish red light filled the basement. It was nearly sunset again. I heard the spirits hissing around us, not at me but at the Foxy woman, this I judged because all of the comments were in Japanese.
       “Don't let go of me, no matter what!”
       “Ok.” I changed my grip so our fingers were interlaced. I got it. I didn't want to end up a spirit.
       Big Smile girl stepped in front of us. “I thought you promised me a ride to the bridge.”
       “After the scroll, and some dinner, and then, may be, a nap.”
       “A nap, with me?” she smiled a wholly frightening tooth filled smile.
       “No, he's not yours.” Fox woman shouted at her. “He's never yours.”
       “We'll see, we'll see. His car only seats two, and he'll keep his promise, I can tell. He will.” Big Smile Woman licked her lips with an impossibly long tongue. Then spat out some high pitched whining Japanese aimed at the Fox woman.
       Fox Woman raised our hands to her mouth, and bit both our thumbs. I pulled my hand away, she barely keeping hold of me. “Don't let go! You promised not to let go!”
       “Before you bit me!” I sucked on the bite, tasting my blood and hers. Her blood was hot, very hot, and tasted quite unlike my own while still essentially blood.
       More Japanese shouting between Fox woman and the Big Smile woman. I let my hand and its bleeding thumb be pulled away from me as I stepped up to the three old women at the tea table. I handed them the scroll. I wanted this to be over, I was hungry, thirsty and oddly, feeling horny.
       “We knew you would make it. No matter Erukai-san's reply, we are in your debt.”
       “You might want to take her out of here before we read this.” The oldest said.
       “Is it dangerous to us.”
       “I doubt it, but if the answer is not what all the spirits here want, it could get ugly.”
       “I've seen it through this far.” I pulled Fox woman in close.
       Wrapping both our arms around her in a sort of dance turn. “Get ready to run.” I whispered in her fox-like ear.
       The bloodied thumbs came into view of the old women, one of them pointed, and they all laughed. “Well now, you're going to have an interesting life, no matter what happens here.” She reached up and pinched my cheek.
       The oldest opened up the scroll and read it aloud, in Japanese. There was a commotion and the spirits began to fade one by one until only the oldest woman the Big Smile Woman were left.
       “This was my home, I'm not ready to leave it yet, and there's a new family to get settled in. I'll go when everything is peaceful again.”
       “You owe me a ride to the bridge.” Big Smile woman glared at Fox woman.
       Fox woman in answer, pulled her lips to my thumb and kissed me, tasting my blood.
       I felt a warmness and a tingle go through me. This was also some sort of enchantment, I could tell. I don't know when the other one had faded, sometime during the tumble into the celler, I guessed.
       I wasn't sure what my new 'state' was, but I could feel that it wasn't completely normal. I was hungry but no longer really tired.
       “We need to get some supper.”
       “I'll be waiting for you, in your car.” Big Smile woman turned to exit up the stairs, hunching over to blow me a kiss. Her robe fell open to reveal he small but nearly perfect breasts.
       Fox woman huffed, and blocked my view by pulling herself up to my mouth for a kiss; the kiss tasted of her incredible sweetness, tinged with hers and my blood. It seemed just the perfect nightcap for the preceding weirdness.
       Big Smile woman laughed all the way up the stairs and out to my car.
       “You are not going any where alone with that monster she'll eat you the moment you stop paying attention to her.”

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