Bird’s Eye View of the Back of Your Head – by George Saoulidis

Tony saw his dead wife. He wasn’t crazy, and she wasn’t a ghost. But he saw her, and she couldn’t see him.

He went on with his day, same as every day before she decided she hated everyone and rammed their car into a bus.

“Die, stupid children,” the on-board nav device recorded as her last words.

So they didn’t get life insurance.

And people hated them.

More specifically, him, cause his wife was dead. Vilified, for killing all those kids.

And to top it all off, she had recorded herself with the holoselfie gadget he’d bought her for Christmas.

It was a device for every narcissist. Not only could you see yourself doing whatever it was that you did all day, but you could see yourself from any angle, holoprojected in your own space.

Oh, sure, it was marketed as, “Posture Straightening Gadget,” or as, “Personal Development Gadget.” Tony’s favourite excuse was the, “External Personal Evaluator.”

That was the version his wife wanted, so she could see herself and what she did all day, and make sure she became more interesting. Or work out more. Or dress up nicer while doing chores.

It made sense at the time, or at least it made sense how she phrased it.

How was he to know it would push her over the edge?

Because she wasn’t a perfect narcissist, you see. No, a perfect narcissist would watch himself all day and feel great. He’d think he was hot shit, the best ever. A lesser narcissist saw imperfections, flaws, things he should improve upon to look better.

A smidge lower than that and you had Alex, his wife. She was narcissistic enough to want to watch herself all day, but not so much as to feel complete.

The days started getting darker since he got her that damned gadget. But darkness creeps in, luminosity fades slowly and your eyes adjust and you don’t realise you’re in the shadows until it’s too late.

He saw the signs. He spoke out, but not enough. She was obsessed with herself. Always fixing her posture. Always slapping herself for biting her nails. Always angry at Tony for not noticing her biting her nails and helping her stop the bad habit.

The imperfections kept going on and on, in a long list.

But the problem was, that Tony had never seen imperfections in her. He loved her, and to him, she was perfect.

“You stupid man. Can’t you see my nail polish is chipped? Why didn’t you tell me that? How could you let me go outside like this? Aghh!” The hologhost of Alex grabbed her hair and stormed into the bathroom.

She wasn’t really there. Recorded from one of the dark days, it was replayed so that the user could see himself and improve. But the gadget was smart enough to stop recording, since she had set it to record only her, and dumb enough to keep replaying the projections, never noticing that the user was dead and gone.

“Good morning, love,” Tony said, loud enough to be heard inside the bathroom. He put on his tie. It felt weird around his neck after not wearing it for so long. Like a noose. He got dressed.

Then he went to work. It had been months since her death and things were crazy, but he had used up his paid-leave and he really needed to get back there. It was insane how much funerals cost, and his wife wasn’t really good with budgeting her credit cards. So he readied himself for the big coming back and stepped foot into work.

It was a boring type of job, corporate, not even central offices, just the offshoot offices they send people who do inane work for inane hours and nobody wants to see their miserable faces around. The building was grey and ageing, bought from some public use so it was practically condemned. They were inhaling asbestos and rat feces in there, but nobody cared and nothing ever got fixed.

He got a lukewarm welcome at work. Some people said their condolences, others just nodded and said hi. Some patted his back. His boss called him in, spoke in platitudes, we’re here for you, this is your family, yada yada.

Then he got back to his cubicle and started working. The specifics of his job are not important. For while he worked, he couldn’t help but see himself in bird’s eye view, like the holoselfie would if he used it in here.

What would it see?

A guy–with a patch of baldness on the back of his head that everyone could see but which he ignored because he couldn’t notice it in the mirror–hunched over a keyboard, sipping his coffee. And the coffee wasn’t even that good, but the holoselfie wasn’t yet advanced enough to have taste, but you could see it. The surroundings in which you experience some food or drink matter as much as the cooking. It was impossible to taste anything other than miserable coffee in this miserable place.

He did do something: he went to pee a couple of times. He spoke to the man in the next cubicle, stretched his legs a bit.

That was all.

An entire 8-hour work day, seen from a bird’s-eye view.

Pathetic, he thought, and it was his wife’s voice.

How had it all changed like that? Tony used to be fun. Nah, he was never cool, but he was fun. Fun to be around, fun with his friends, fun with Alex. That’s why she fell in love with him. They had so much fun.

Now, it was all bland and grey and pathetic.

Tony clocked off work and went home, to find a wet bag of shit on his doorstep.

A usual occurrence, after what Alex did. He got inside, took off his jacket, took some absorbing paper and a trash bag and threw the stinky thing away.

It was hard for him to hate people. Losing eighteen kids is a good excuse to be mean to people.

Tony kicked off his shoes.

“Don’t track mud inside! I told you so many times, scratch them there by the door,” Alex yelled at him before turning back to wash dishes.

“Yes, babe.” He obeyed his dead wife and then started a microwave meal.

As the microwave spun, he watched his wife prepare dinner for him. He remembered what she didn’t like about that particular recording. “Ugh, those sandals, terrible. And that hair bun. Tsk, tsk, my posture, again. I keep forgetting to stand straight over the kitchen sink, that’s why my back hurts. And look at that, I scratched my butt without thinking. I told you, Tony, you need to notice these things so that I can stop doing them!”

The microwave dinged.

He pulled out the meal and sat in front of the smart TV. It noticed him sitting there so it turned itself open and played his favourite show.

Tony caught himself thinking about the holoselfie. What would it record now? Misery. Yes, the surroundings were slightly better than the depressing office, but now it was the cooking itself that ruined the taste buds.

He scratched his chin; there was stubble. He laughed at himself. This morning, when he was about to get in the bathroom and get shaved, his wife got in before him. He had forgotten she wasn’t really there and just skipped it and went to work. He was still stuck thinking about her as if she was more than a recording.

He had an idea. He went to the holoselfie gadget, it was the newest thing in the house, and pushed the display. It showed a menu. “New user detected, keep recording and render last 24 hours?”

He tapped “yes.”

He didn’t look back at the gadget, ever again. He just left it there to do its job. Tony went about his daily rituals: shave, shower, fix the bed, read a book, sleep, wake up, get ready for work.

His wife didn’t greet him. When the gadget recorded, it didn’t show anything until the next day. It needed to process the data or something like that. Tony never read the manual.

He got ready for work, cleaned the new bag of shit from his porch and went to his 9 to 5.

The work was the same. Even blander, if that was possible, because the novelty of him coming back had worn off. This time only a couple of co-workers greeted him, and he spoke only with one.

Those were people he’d spent fifteen years of his life next to. He knew stuff about them, overheard conversations, saw their profiles and their photos. But did he even know them? Did they even know him?

Did they show up at his wife’s funeral?

No.

Only the reporters did, and they got their news.

Thankfully, they quickly forgot about him. Some other man might have put on a better show, been more dramatic, more newsworthy. Even the vultures knew that Tony was boring.

Tony finished his eight-hour shift and went home.

No bag. That was an improvement.

He got inside, and started a microwave meal.

He glanced at the gadget, it recorded religiously.

He watched his favourite show, then cleaned up after himself and went to bed.

He hit the snooze button. He checked the time. Twenty-four hours of holoselfie time. Twenty-four hours of his life, indicative of the entirety of his existence. Inane. Pathetic.

The holoselfie showed himself on the bed, transparent, bluish, like his soul standing up and going out of his body. Even his bed placement was aligned, his life was that predictable.

His holoselfie stood up and yawned, then started getting ready for work. His wife appeared, walking around the room.

“You stupid man, can’t you see my nail polish is chipped?” his wife said.

His holoselfie said, “Good morning, love.”

Tony said nothing. He hooked his tie on the top of the door and hanged himself.

His wife stormed into the bathroom, and his holoselfie forgot to get shaved for work.

# # #

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George Saoulidis writes sci-fi shorts. Sometimes, he throws in a bit of mythology. It’s always very dramatic and someone always dies. Or it’s funny. Or both.

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SLM Meets Oasis – Part 3 – Liam, Noel, Kate, Jamie, Gee, Melissa Libbey!, and me.

The Writers and the Gallaghers visit….1973?!

“Aaahh!!! Wait! Am I the ginger girl?!” asked Jamie.

“Are you daft? Or have you gone completely mad?”  I answered.

Silence. Crickets.

“Jamie, what has gotten into you?” asked Kate.

“I just really, really hate Blockbuster. You’ve no idea.  Those stores give me chills – and nightmares. I can’t take it! We have to get back to 2016! And not to Texas again! No offense, Kell, nice digs, but I’ve got a lot of shit to do,” he pleaded.

I shot a puzzled look to Kate, who patted Jamie on the back solidly before turning to Gee. “What year is it, love? Would you be a dear and grab frazzled Jamie’s phone and take a gander?”

She fumbled around with it for a moment. “Not really sure…”

“Oh no!”

“We can’t have…?”

“Where are we?”

“Shag carpets!!!”

“We’re back in the Gallagher house – see?” Kate reasoned, pointing to the layout. Then she glanced to the refrigerator calendar. “1973?! Oh, this is bad. Bad, bad, bad…”

“We’re back home – thank fuck!” shouted Noel.

“Bloody hell; that’s right,” Liam agreed.

Giggling and the thwacking sound of bare feet on tile and linoleum sounded in the background.

“Sh,” Gee said, “Listen. What is that?”

“Oh no! It’s them – Liam and Noel –as kids! We’ve got to get out of here now or we’ll break the space-time continuum! All of us! Now Go!” I shouted.

“What’s she say?” asked Liam.

“Dunno. House looks the same to me,” said Noel.

“Did you see the date on the fridge, mates?” asked Jamie. Noel furrowed his pronounced brow at Jamie in reply.

“I don’t like you very much, Jaaamie,” he said, drawing out the first syllable of his name and standing close to his face.

“I don’t like you very much either!” Jamie huffed back as we all pushed and shoved our way out of the Gallagher house.

Brothers Gallagher in tow (begrudgingly), we walked over to my house. It was vacant in the ‘70s, but owned by my great aunt Lacey. I thought we would try and put things together again once we got to a safe place.

“Who are you lot, really?” asked Liam.

“We’re writers,” answered Kate.

“Writers? A band of time-traveling writers? Now that is right funny. Write for the papers? Books? Poets? Come on then, what?” Asked Noel, eyeing each one of us skeptically.

I scratched my head. Gee, Kate, and Jamie all mimicked the motion. “Well, uh, see, I own a magazine and, um, Gee, Kate, and Jamie write for it.”

“Magazine, you say? Hmph. What’s it called? How do you print your copies?”

I bit my lip and stared over to my friends who were now a puzzled trio, shrugging up their shoulders and mouthing, I don’t know!!

Damn it.

“Uhh—it’s called ‘Fifteen’ and it’s for young ladies. These are my…columnists! We print monthly.” I gulped.

Noel and Liam nodded.

Jamie and Gee glared at me.

“Why don’t you try and explain to them what ‘onine’ means and give them the definition of the internet, eh?” I whispered to them angrily.

“Oh, fuck—if we’re stuck here, we are going to be so bloody old when it really is 2016 again,” Kate groaned.

“Don’t remind me,” I groaned back. “Let’s go to my – er – my aunt Lacey’s house – and try to figure out what to do.”

“Oh my god! Liam and Noel – you’re from 1990, right?” asked Gee.

They looked at each other before looking back at Gee in silence.

“Yes, you are. Right. The point is, you have British pounds!! Because all we’ve got are Euros and those won’t do a bloody thing! We are going to need food and whatnot.”

“Haven’t got any on us, but what the fuck are you talking about? Euros?”

“Listen, Lacey’s got about a million nooks and crannies stuffed full of money – she was a major pill and booze hound, too, from what I remember.”

A roar of approval erupted behind me as we walked on. They cheered, high-fived, and I think I saw Jamie and Liam hug one another? Pills and booze make people THAT happy? I shook my head.

We walked on, scattered conversation making its way through our awkward gaggle, before I looked around me and saw that everything had begun to look the same. And it was getting dark.

“Shit. Must’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere…” I said, furrowing my brow, hands on my hips. “Not going to lie – we are lost…we’re officially lost.”

“Anyone’s phone working? Let’s get google maps up and running!” Jamie shouted. “Ohhhh, riiiight, it’s fucking 1973 and none of that shit works. Amazing! Let’s all of us city folk spend a night out here, with these two fuck heads – ” he glanced to Liam and Noel respectively, “and catch amoebic dysentery. Sound about right to the lot of you?”

“Yeah, basically.”

“We’re fucked.”

“Totally and utterly fucked.”

“Quick! It’s an emergency! Has anyone got a flask?” I asked.

“Kell, again, this is your story. Who’s the most likely among us to have a flask?” Jamie asked me.

“Hmm…Liam!”

“Yea, I got one. Yer not gonna like it though, Ginger…” he muttered, handing it over to me reluctantly.

I took more than a generous swig from it before saying, “Don’t call me ginger.” I handed it back to him. “Now I have to pee. Excuse me.”

*

An Hour and a Half Later

*

“Swear I’ve just seen C.C. O’Hanlon back there, swear on my life,” Jamie sputtered as he joined us around our tiny makeshift campfire.

“What—really? Did you ask him for help? Is he coming?!” I asked, hope gleaming in my eyes.

“Fuck no. I’m not daft, even though you called me that earlier today, Kell. He didn’t look too happy, either. Didn’t want to talk to the man while I was takin a piss – y’get?”

“Jamie….” Kate began, sitting close to the fire, warming her hands and rubbing them together while sharing Liam’s flask with the rest of the group. “You’ve got no pants on, am I going insane or is that right?”

“Got to find a blanket somewhere. Need a nap.”

“Bloody great – Jamie’s in his underwear, sleeping under the crotch of his pants – rolling around in the leaves and shit, and I can’t get drunk no matter how much of this shit I drink,” Gee said, pointing to Jamie’s inane behavior, rolling himself over and over again, covering himself in leaves, underwear nearly glowing in the moonlight.

Just as I was about to yell at everyone, a shadowy figure emerged from the brush, holding a flashlight.

“It’s a miracle!” Noel yelled.

“Mum?” asked Liam.

As the shadowy figure moved in closer, murmurs arose from the group.

First, Kate, “Wait, oh my god! It can’t be! Is it…?”

Then, Jamie, “Melissa…? No!”

Then, Gee, “Libbey?! Impossible!”

Then, me, “Melissa Libbey?! Is it you?! Melissa Libbey!”

“Kell, I dunno if it’s her – be careful!” Kate said as I stood up to greet this shadowy person.

The shadow stepped into the glow of the campfire, and then splashed the light from her own flashlight so that it bathed her facial features in light.

“Um, yeah, hey guys. I am here. Hey!” said Melissa, her voice chipper and even. “You guys look like hell.”

“Oh, sweet Jesus! How the bloody ‘ell did you travel back in time with us?!” Jamie asked, his voice coming from underneath his pants. He still hadn’t bothered to move.

“I dunno. It’s Kelly’s story.” She scratched her head. “I think maybe I’m supposed to have been following you or watching out for you this whole time? Maybe? Ask Kelly. She knows.”

“Melissa – I’ve got so much on my bloody mind right now! I can’t think!” I shouted.

“Why…why are you speaking in that god-awful fake British accent?” she asked, crinkling up her nose.

“Shit. Well, I couldn’t go back in time to meet the Gallagher brothers unless the story was set in Manchester, Mel,” I reasoned.

“God, you all look like hell. Except for you two – the young men – the rest of you look like you’ve been in some sort of natural disaster and then bathed in dirt! Gross! They don’t have showers in the 1970s in England?” she asked.

“Kell, you can still be in Manchester for the story to happen – but you don’t have to write yourself as being British, you know.”

“English,” I corrected. She didn’t respond so I continued, “And you can’t critique my own story while you’re in it!”

She rolled her eyes, her enviably clean, curled, shiny blonde locks falling into perfect ringlets around her collarbone.

“Okay – I’ll drop the accent, but my aunt Lacey’s house is still closeby—you coming to help us get there?”

“What the hell else am I doing in Manchester in 1973? Plus, I love Oasis. And I’ve been working six days a week – I need a fucking break!! I’m exhausted!”

“Why’s everyone keep saying the word oasis like it means something?” asked Noel.

“Oh, Noel – we’ve got a lot to talk about,” Melissa said, patting him on the shoulder.

“How are we going to get there?” asked Kate, chin in hands, face placid, words calm.

“I brought a compass. And a map,” Melissa said matter-of-factly.

“Shit, she is good,” Jamie said, “I dunno how you ran SLM without her, really.”

“What’s SLM?” asked Liam.

“Fuck. Nothing, nothing,” I said, shaking my head, glaring in Jamie’s general direction.

“Oh, and I didn’t forget about all of you – I brought a flashlight for each one of you.”

“Aww!”

“So sweet!”

“Melissa’s bloody amazing!”

“I like this one.”

“Hell yeah!”

Grumble.

The group had now grown to the seven of us, walking along, Melissa and Gee leading the way, talking shop about compasses and maps and lines and such and how we had just missed the proper turn a mile or so back.

“Knew the ginger was an American,” Liam muttered, taking another swig from his flask.

“I can hear you!” I shouted from the back.

“Don’t ca-are!” he shouted back at me.

“See? Told you. Pricks. Not even bloody famous yet and, still, they somehow manage to be absolute pricks.”

“Jamie! Shut up!” Melissa shouted back into the crowd.

“Really hope Kell was right about Lacey’s house having loads of booze and whatever else…” Kate said.

“Shit. Me too,” Noel said.

After what felt like minutes, the house was visible, finally, and only by our flashlights, as we made our way downhill.

“Nice digs!” Kate said to me, giving me a wink. “Good to be back.”

“Kate’s hair looks amazing,” Jamie whispered.

“I know—it always does,” Melissa whispered back. “Kell—one question—are there enough bedrooms, bathrooms, that sort of thing here?”

“8 total. Two living rooms. Lots of bathrooms. That good enough?”

“Yeah….can we say bitchy?” she sing-song-ed to Jamie, who let out a snort of a laugh in response.

“Worried you and Liam might have to share a bed, now?” Gee asked, evil grin on her face.

“Ugh, no! I’ve got a boyfriend, thank you.”

But she was flushing bright red.

“Okay…Lacey always had a peculiar hiding place for things. Had a bit of a knack for it…Especially with keys…hmm…” I said as I poked about the shriveling garden. I turned over stones like a madwoman, to no avail. Sweaty,  breathless and tired, I sat on the crunchy grass.

It was then that I saw it. The evil garden gnome.

“Aha!” I emerged triumphant, keys in hand.

“That garden elf looks like Gary Busey,” Gee said, giving it the stink eye.

“Christ, you’re right! It really does!” I laughed, before making the move to unlock the door and step into the known—that was now the unknown.

The door creaked.

We all clung to one another in a seven-person-hug, squinted our eyes, praying for an empty, safe house.

“’Ello?”Gee asked gently and weakly into the house.

Liam stepped to the front of the group, flashlight in each hand, and yelled, “Hey, motherfuckers!”

He turned around to us and smiled a sweet, boyish grin. “See? All clear.”

Then we all began to file in and turn on the lights.

“Nice,” Melissa mused, milling about.

“Not total crap,” said Jamie, heading straight for the kitchen in search of alcohol. “Wine! Ladies and gentlemen – er – Gallaghers, we have like a hundred fuckin bottles of wine!” He squealed.

“Whatcha into, Jamie?” asked Gee, joining him in the kitchen, all but commanding him to pour her a full glass of red.

Noel and Liam had found Lacey’s sitting room and went straight to the record player, poring over her record collection, whispering lowly and excitedly.

Melissa joined the brothers Gallagher, suggesting records here and there, turning on all of the lamps and dusting off the tabletops, placing vases where they ought to go, rearranging knick-knacks and twirling around as the Rolling stones began to play.

Meanwhile Kate and I had been able to slip away to the upstairs to freshen ourselves the hell up. We felt like death. And were also a little bit relieved to break away from the group and get a moment’s peace as we poked in around in Aunt Lacey’s knick-knacks.

I ran the hottest bath I could stand as Kate was just grateful to sit in a room filled with steam. “It’s a makeshift sauna. I’ll take it.” She sat, back flattened against the wall, closing her eyes, drifting off into the air with the steam.

Once we emerged, refreshed, from Lacey’s cozy upstairs, we found ourselves quite amused at the goings on of downstairs.

“D’ya know yer aunt Lacey was a bit of a stockpiler?” Jamie asked us as we presented ourselves, announced by us each wearing a set of Lacey’s silk pants-and-button-down pajamas. I was in pink, Kate was in blue. We were just so bloody relieved to be out of our other clothes. Filthy, time traveling, woodsy, rotten clothes.

“Lacey’s a full-on, organized hoarder, she is!” Jamie said, presenting cans upon cans of food, endless bottles of booze, and enough Quaaludes for a village.

“No shit,” I said.

“I mean, just look! I’m bloody cooking spaghetti!” Jamie said, proudly gesturing to an oversized pot full of noodles and sauce. And other things, too, probably.  I wasn’t a good cook.

“So, let’s see…” I mused. “We can have spaghetti, wine, and a couple of Quaaludes all in the same sitting?”

“Fuck yeah!” shouted Liam from the front living room.

“I quite like it here,” Gee said from the back living room, where she’d turned on the tele and was happily watching gameshows, cuddling up on the hideous velvet, flowery couch.

“I love it here!” Melissa shouted from the front, where she and Liam were doing a weird salsa-type dance to the Rolling Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter.’

“Come on then, Kell, let’s get in on this!” Kate said, shoving me into the room with the three of them.

We laughed as we spun each other around and giggled, singing our hearts out, our shadows bobbing beneath the prisms on the wall made by the chandelier. The smell of spaghetti was thick in the air and the wine flowed like it would never end.

“Hey, Ginger,” Liam said. “Can I call ya Pink Pajamas instead?”

“Any time,” I said with a wink.

“This might be, like, the perfect night,” Melissa said.

“YOU SHOULD TRY IT WITH A QUAALUDE!” Jamie said, wild-eyed, coming in from the kitchen.

“Gee! Get your arse in here!” Kate shouted, wine glass in hand, blue pajamas bringing out her eyes.

“Yeah!” Liam shouted. “Ass! Here!”

“Come dip your hand into the bucket of Quaaludes!” I shouted, giggling.

Gee ran in and plopped right there on top of all of us, spilling our spaghetti.

“Hey!”

“Damn it!”

“Gee!”

“I was only doing as I was told,” she said. “Let’s stay here forever!”

Kate banged her fork on her wine glass. “A toast – to – the writers. The song makers, the dreamers. But most of all, to us. Noel, you turn out to be a huge wanker in 2016; Liam, let’s be honest, you do too.  All of us are wonderful people in 2016 – truly, beautiful, spirited, talented people. Sorry boys. I got off track there for a moment. But we shouldn’t lose sight of what’s right in front of us – each other. And pills and booze. But, mostly, each other.”

“Here, here!”

“Y’know what sounds craaazy?” Jamie asked. “Quackludes.”

“Oh bugger. Give me one of those already!” Gee shouted, laughing.

“Me too!” Melissa yelled.

Liam and Noel just both raised their hands.

I stepped out of the room a moment just to wonder into the master bedroom and poke around while the Quaalude settled in my stomach.

I switched on a few lamps and tiptoed in; and then I saw it.

“Guys! Guys!” I shouted. “Come! Come see! Quick!”

All six of them, Gee, Jamie, Kate, Melissa, Liam, and Noel, piled up behind me.

“What’s it is, then?” asked Liam.

“What’s are YOU, then?” asked Jamie.

“Look, it’s a WARDROBE!” I squealed.

“Shall we?”  asked Gee.

“We shall.”

And just like that, we became overzealous children on Christmas morning and shoved and grunted our way into the wardrobe, elbowing one another and giggling as we walked through it. We walked past Lacey’s wedding gown, fur coats, and other such heavy things, before we were hurled outward and onto the cold, hard floor.

“What happened?”

“Ouch.”

“Ah, my head!”

“Liam, your foot is in my armpit!”

“Noel’s bloody hand is stuck up my sleeve.”

“Fuck.”

Then we all jumped with a start.

“Watch your mouths!” said my mum.

“Mum!” I shouted. “What? How? Why?”

“Will the seven of you be joining me for dinner?” she asked sweetly, batting her eyes.

“What happened? What year is it?” Gee asked.

“Don’t you worry. Everything’s right where you left it, girls. It’s October 4th, 2016. And it’s dinner time. I’ll bet we have quite a lively conversation! Oh, and hello, Liam and Noel. Good to see you again, Melissa, Kate, and Jamie. And, of course, lovely Gee. Come on now! It’ll be getting cold!”

We all followed her, dumbfounded.

“Are you still high as a kite, Jamie?” asked Kate.

“QUACKlude,” Jamie said.

Melissa and Gee let out hiccups.

“I want to go back to Lacey’s house,” Liam said.

“And what makes you think we can’t?” my mum asked, holding up her iPhone, which began flashing bright colors.

“Oh bugger. Here we go again,” said Gee.

The room spun, shook and rattled. And we all braced ourselves.

To be continued….

***

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Stay tuned for more installments on our wacky adventure time traveling with the brothers Gallagher!!!

 

 

 

 

Son of the Daemon – Star – by DANIEL RUMANOS

SON OF THE DAEMON-STAR

by Daniel Rumanos

I

Flavia Fosforus felt a bit lonely. It was an odd sensation for her. Sure, she had always been rather an outsider during her early childhood on one of the outer planets of those orbiting the star Algol in the constellation Perseus. But she had not really even noticed, always busying herself with her passion for knowledge — knowledge of the history, traditions, and lore of that mighty and incredibly advanced race of which she was a member: the mysterious and enigmatic Watchers of the Daemon-Star.

It was not until becoming a student at Daemonia Academy, there on the glorious central planet of Algolite Civilisation, that young Flavia had begun to feel the pangs of loneliness. It was a curious sensation indeed. Flavia, who in addition to her considerable intelligence was exceedingly beautiful — already tall for her age and very slender, blonde with sapphire eyes and a wonderful smile — had to admit, if only to herself, that she did not really understand it.

Surely, she thought, there was much here in the capital city of the planet Daemonia to occupy her time between classes. The fantastic locations, relics, and monuments of uncountable myriads of accomplishments and records of the unspeakable aeons and aeons of Time and vast reaches of Space of which her people were the supreme and most highly-evolved masters. Things that up until now she, with her “provincial” upbringing, had, for the most part, been only able to read about.

You see, despite their immense power and godlike abilities, the Watchers of Algol are extreme isolationists, never becoming involved in the concerns of the many other species of the universe. It is just something that they would consider improper. Moreover, the great philosophers of Daemonia reasoned, why would one care to be involved with others in the cosmos? It was certainly enough — more than enough, more than anyone else could ever hope to achieve — to be an Algolite. Indeed, the other species of the many galaxies of Space and ages of Time should just be thankful that the Watchers actually care so little that they even exist. Otherwise, well, they could be so easily conquered if the Algolites were so inclined.

However, Flavia had, in her reading, occasionally encountered rumors — only rumors, if indeed tantalizing ones — that there were some Algolites, indeed a very few, who had transgressed the traditions of their people and had sought to become rulers of other planets. To counter these, there were said to be secret organisations deep within Daemonian society itself which did more than watch. These organisations were said to help and assist the “lesser” species of the universe — to aid them in the fight against those others — rebel Algolites or not — that would attempt to conquer or suppress those civilisations and even individuals weaker than themselves.

Why, Flavia had even read, in some obscure but nevertheless quite scholarly volumes, that there were certain Watchers who lived on other planets, officially outside of Algolite society, and from there worked to use their astonishingly potent powers and abilities to help the downtrodden.

Sadly, young Flavia Fosforus had to admit she found this all rather difficult to believe as she stood on the causeway high above the Academy in the very centre of the capital city of Daemonia. There, under the seemingly-eternal blue light of Algol and its two companion stars — a sublime, blessed light that is the origin of the “Holy Trinity” beliefs found in so many cultures, everything just seemed forever and unchangeable. Certainly, she thought, it was all only myth and legend. The glorious Watchers of Algol had always been as they were and would be forevermore, outside of the concerns of any others among the uncountable, teeming life of the unnamable reaches of the cosmos.

And, for some reason she did not yet fully comprehend, this now made Flavia feel very lonely.

A group of other students had just passed her, on the way to some lecture or other. She particularly noticed one of them — a boy perhaps a couple of years older than Flavia. He was very tall and regal-looking even for an Algolite, she thought. There was indeed something rather different about him. Flavia blushed slightly as he turned and glanced at her as the group passed by. Another new sensation for her!

Then, after the group of other students had moved along, Flavia realised she was alone on the causeway. She still had a while to wait before her next class, but was not worried. After all, this was Daemonia, a place of complete safety even for a lone young girl.

One can only begin to imagine the shock that Flavia received when she was then suddenly surrounded by three mysterious figures in black robes, their heads and faces hideously covered with hoods, who seized her and activated a molecular transport device, immediately taking her away from the safety of the Academy to an undisclosed secret location!!

 

II

Flavia and her three abductors materialised in the shimmer of the molecular transport device in what was evidently a large, remote desert wilderness. The soil was orange in colour and in the distance could be seen the beginning of a forest of tall devol trees with their silver bark and golden leaves. From her geography studies, Flavia was able to recognise this area as part of the outer wastelands of Daemonia, far from the capital city.

But for what purpose had she been brought here, and by whom? Abduction, like most crimes, was unheard of in the society of the Watchers. Young Flavia looked up at her towering, black-clad captors. Before she could speak to them, she heard the click of a communications mechanism from underneath the shelter of their hoods.

“The subject has been obtained,” said the figure in black. “We await your conveyance ship, O King Urygos.”

“King Urygos“? thought Flavia, who could that be? There had not been a crowned king in Algolite civilisation for countless ages, since the Republic had been formed, governed by the Absolute Convention and the duly-elected Universal Overseer.

Suddenly, the three mysterious, darkly-robed abductors were hit by a blast of orange and black energy, an energy definitely Algolite, yet subtly different from the powers which Flavia had seen exhibited by others of the Watchers. It had a somewhat more flame-like substance to it, and was tinged with highlights of a wonderful vermillion and violet colour.

Indeed, Flavia immediately recognised the wielder of this power, who then alighted before her, as if guarding her from any further touch of her hideous would-be captors. It was the tall, regal-looking boy whom she had briefly seen among the group of students back at the now-distant Academy.

The three bizarre abductors regrouped and they, along with the stalwart young man who now so bravely faced them, levitated upwards into the air over that wild wasteland of the planet Daemonia.

A battle both astounding and horrifying then erupted over the head of young Flavia Fosforus. The three in black robes were certainly Algolites as well, she could see, and brandished their own bursts of energy back at the boy. The combatants whirled around in seemingly endless circles of amazing conflict as Flavia looked on in astonishment. Her own Algolitish abilities had not yet appeared — not an uncommon thing among Watchers who had not yet reached adulthood.

Despite being outnumbered, it soon became obvious that the boy from the Academy was more powerful by far than his three opponents. He darted back and forth with such incredible speed that he occasionally seemed to disappear from one location and appear in another. The ability to psychically transport from one location to another was one used by some adult Algolites, but Flavia had never seen it before, or even heard of it being evident in one so young as her defender.

Then, as if they just could no longer endure the continued assaults of the young man’s awesomely marvelous abilities, the three black-robed kidnappers suddenly turned and flew off towards the far horizon. They soon disappeared from view.

The boy then descended to the ground and stood before Flavia. He was so very tall, and the black and orange uniform of Daemonia Academy could not hide his lean muscle-tone. His hair was shiny black, and his skin as snowy-white as anything Flavia had ever seen. His eyes were the colour of azure-blue, and seemed to flash wondrously as he looked at the girl.

“Are you all right?” said the boy, his voice firm and reassuring, his accent not quite like any other heard in the planet Daemonia. “I had sensed some psychic disturbance right after I passed you on the causeway, and so I followed the energy trace of their transport device.”

“Yes,” answered Flavia, “I am fine — now! Thank you so much for saving me. My name is Flavia. You are a student at the Academy, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am,” he replied. “My name is Rumanos. Ehrich Rumanos.”

III

“Rumanos?” stammered Flavia in amazement. “Are you related to the Rumanos I have read so much about? The one who lives on the planet called Earth?”

“Yes,” answered Ehrich with obvious pride, “Dr. Daniel Rumanos is my father.”

“Oh, my!” said the girl. “There are so many stories about him! About how he left Algolite society so very long ago because he wanted to help people of other species when they were threatened or oppressed. There are even rumours of how the Absolute Convention has sometimes secretly employed him as an agent when Daemonia itself was threatened. Some even say that he has actually saved the Universe itself several times over!

“Oh, and his wife,” Flavia continued. “She who is called Heaven’s Hell and who was created by a strange scientist from some genetic material that gave her the incredible ability to create and control a certain flame that…”

Flavia’s voice trailed off, as she remembered the unusually beautiful vermillion and violet fire which highlighted the boy’s otherwise obviously Algolitish powers.

“You are indeed correct,” spoke Ehrich with a smile. “My mother is Mrs. Katrina Rumanos, also known as the Wonderful Heaven’s Hell.”

“But tell me, do you know if it is also true that there are also evil Algolites? Some that would criminally use the powers of our people to rule over other worlds, or to perform hideous experiments upon innocent creatures?”

“Yes, Flavia. Unfortunately, there have been known to be such renegades.”

“And what about that other legend,” she went on. “The one about the Watchers fighting a tremendous battle at the end of Time itself against some horridly powerful enemy — and of how their Algolitish spirits — psychologically scarred by the war — are then sent back through the ages to become the various ‘demons’ and ‘devils’ found in the mythologies of so many planets?”

“Oy, if you ever meet my father,” said Ehrich Rumanos, “you may not want to bring that particular legendry up right away. It annoys him a bit.”

Flavia laughed. It was difficult for her to picture the celebrated hero known as Daniel Rumanos being bothered by anything!

By now, Ehrich was looking at the sky. “We need to get back to the city,” he said suddenly. “I feel we are being…”

Just then, as from out of nowhere, came a large, circular airship that flew into a hovering position above Flavia and Ehrich. Before they could react, they found themselves caught in a transit ray from the vessel, and being pulled upwards towards it!

Ehrich Rumanos and Flavia Fosforus soon re-materialised upon the deck of the ship.

Before them, guarded by the three erstwhile kidnappers, was a man sitting upon what resembled a royal throne. He was arrayed in aristocratic blue and black robes and had narrow, wickedly black eyes, a cruel, determined mouth, and a full, iron-grey beard.

“I am His Majesty King Urygos,” the man stated arrogantly, “the soon-to-be supreme ruler of the Watchers of the Daemon-Star. I am the last of the line of one of the three ancient royal families of our civilisation. You, Flavia, are of the descendants of another of the three. I have accordingly brought you here, and you will now become my bride, that I may thereby strengthen my claim when I shall overthrow the authority of the Absolute Convention, and become the one absolute sovereign monarch of Daemonia and of all the vast systems of Algol — and then, of all the Universe!!”

IV

Elsewhere, through the swirling mists of that preternatural vortex known as the Time and Space Current, a strange travel vehicle was hurtling at a literally otherworldly speed. It appeared to be an ancient stone column of the style known upon the planet Earth as Greco-Roman, but that was only a disguise in which the vehicle had at one time become caught. Because this was not a thing manufactured by the people of the planet Earth. No, this was a DiTraS — pronounced “DYE-tress” and standing for Dimensional Transport Sphere — an incredibly, extraordinarily-advanced means of conveyance available only to the Watchers of the Daemon-Star Algol. Indeed, this is an astounding and amazing vehicle by which the members of that mysterious, godlike species can facilitate the ability to travel through the unutterably-vast reaches of infinity itself.

The interior of the vehicle existed in another dimension entirely, and its size and shape had no relation to the outer form of the DiTraS. Incongruously, the interior resembled what human beings would recognise as a café or coffee-shop. At the apparent counter of the coffee bar stood a man — a tall, powerfully built man wearing an elegant (if rather quaint) suit of clothes over which was a black leathern trench-coat. He wore a large, wide-brimmed hat of the “Outback” style pulled forward to shade his face as an aid to concentration. His piercing eyes stared with intense deliberation at the glowing controls of the Time and Space ship; controls that appeared as a glowing collection of constantly-moving images upon the counter before him. He was checking the readings on the psyche-genetic trace that his ship was following — a faint, barely-perceptible vestige upon which the man was placing his hopes, his expectations, and all the appeals of the desperate cosmic quest with which he was occupied. …

Back in the wastelands of the planet Daemonia, upon the transport vessel of the self-proclaimed “King” Urygos, young Flavia Fosforus and Ehrich Rumanos stood as prisoners. The mad Urygos had only just finished elucidating to them his absolutely insane and unscrupulous scheme — his scheme to force the innocent Flavia to marry him, so that his declaration would be strengthened to reclaim the birthright of the ancient dynasties and to become supreme ruler of all the Algolite star systems; and then to use the power therein gained to conquer all of creation!

“Remove this boy from my sight,” said the false King. “His presence is in no way required or wanted.”

The three guards moved with deep trepidation towards Ehrich. They had previously tasted the punishing effects of the powers he wielded, and did not wish to do so again.

Ehrich Rumanos stood tall, and faced his three opponents fearlessly. He lifted his hands and let them begin to glow with the inner energies that he commanded — the orange and black Algolitish force highlighted with vermillion and violet flame.

The three hooded guards backed away quickly, not wanting to again experience the powers of young Ehrich Rumanos. Like bullies the Universe over, they were, when unflinchingly confronted, proven to be abject cowards at heart.

Still unafraid, Ehrich strode forward several steps and stood close before the madman who sat upon the grotesque throne.

“One who has named himself King of Daemonia,” said the young man in awesomely regal anger, “I am Ehrich Rumanos. As Fosforus and Urygos are the second and third royal dynasties of ancient Algol, so is Rumanos the first. I do thereby challenge you, by my very own right of nobility, to combat. You shall not violate the chastity of this innocent young girl. You shall not become ruler of our glorious worlds. I do declare the summons to battle — a contest which will only end with one of our spirits being torn from its body — and scattered in uncountable shreds to the very farthest reaches of the cosmos!”

Urygos stood up and chuckled with a tone of absolute, unmitigated evil. “So be it, young scion of the Dynasty Rumanos,” he spat. “So be it.”

And then, the astonishing, mind-boggling powers of both combatants leapt forth as they met in hideously dangerous battle — a horrible confrontation that could only end in one of them receiving a terrifying fate which is quite literally far worse than death!!

V

The “soul” or spiritual essence of a Watcher of the Daemon-Star Algol is indeed truly immortal, and their bodies are nearly so. It is only some particularly powerful Algolites — such as those of the ancient royal lineages — that are able to effectively remove the spirit from the body of another Algolite and, in so doing, to dissolve the body. The now-homeless soul can then be psychically scattered across the cosmos (while still, hideous to relate, retaining its consciousness) or can be imprisoned inside certain types of rock or in other material.

It is of great consequence to note that both Ehrich Rumanos and “King” Urygos were gifted with this profoundly potent ability — thereby making their combat truly more deeply terrible in its projected outcome than any mere “fight to the death” could ever be!

The remarkably-beautiful Algolite girl Flavia Fosforus looked on in horror as the two mighty combatants were locked together in what would be truly the final melee for one of them. She found herself overcome with a complete and overwhelming sadness at the heart-rending thought of the possibility of losing Ehrich. Indeed, in the very short time they had known each other, a certain wondrous psychic bonding had occurred, and it was clear to Flavia that the young nobleman Ehrich Rumanos was to be — if he survived! — an immeasurably important part of her life forevermore.

The cacophonous sparking sound of the staggering, extraordinary, and incredibly tremendous blasts of horrifying Algolitish energy that Ehrich and Urygos were throwing at each other was truly deafening. The searing flashes of horrendous, phantasmal light darted and rebounded hazardously around the chamber on board that strange airship.

“You will suffer, you young fool!” shouted the insane King Urygos at Ehrich. “I shall scatter your soul, your consciousness, your very being, to the furthermost reaches of the cosmos! You shall shortly feel pain beyond anything that you can even begin to imagine! You shall indeed greatly rue the day that you challenged my rule — my mightiest and eternal reign over all of the Watchers of Algol the Daemon-Star!!”

“Your presumption shall soon bring your end, false and bloody king!” countered Ehrich Rumanos. “I will not allow you to bring unholy tyranny over the exalted civilisation of the Watchers! The Absolute Convention has now stood over our people in peace for so many countless millennia, and though I claim no perfection for even them, they shall not be overthrown for or by you, most-foul pretender to the glories of majesty! By the mighty name RUMANOS, which is feared and hated by villains, megalomaniacs, and satanic criminals throughout Space and Time, I do now declare the imminence of your destruction!”

“You are wrong, youthfully-irrational Ehrich of the blood Rumanos! Most fully and terribly wrong!! I am the great and powerful King Urygos, and I have rightfully made the declaration of my majestic rule over our people and indeed over the entire Universe itself! It is you who shall be remembered in the annals of Daemonia as a renegade, a rebel, a revolutionary — indeed, just like your damnably accursed father!!”

The insult of Ehrich’s father served to make Ehrich even angrier. Indeed, to speak such of the family of another Algolite is considered one of the lowest, most despicable and outrageous affronts in Daemonian society. Therefore, with this, the battle greatly intensified, as Ehrich and Urygos continued to send awesomely, frightfully puissant, and quite unmentionably ghastly blasts of Algolitish magical energy at each other!

Nevertheless, there was even more peril for the heroic, courageous, and valiant young Watcher known as Ehrich Rumanos. For by this time the three hooded minions had secretly crept around behind him, their sagging bravery now fortified by the fact of his being much too occupied with his fight against their master Urygos to take notice of their presence. They all three raised their iniquitous hands in preparation to sending out blasts of their own energies — in order to aid the would-be king in his plan to bring about Ehrich’s defeat and destruction!!!

VI

As the three black-robed, hooded myrmidons of the false “King” Urygos prepared to blast Ehrich Rumanos with their combined forces — an assault which would doubtlessly result in his being disabled long enough for the execrable Urygos to deliver a final assault that could bring about the result of removing Ehrich’s spirit and dissolving his body — Flavia looked on in what can only be described as psychic anguish. She knew now that she loved the courageous, handsome young Algolite Ehrich Rumanos, and that she must not — just absolutely must not — lose him.

Without even consciously considering the import of her actions, Flavia Fosforus raised her youthful hands and, with all the fervent passion of her emotions behind it, sent forth a fantastic stream of orange and black Algolitish mystical power directly at the three cowardly attackers!

The three fell heavily to the floor, temporarily stunned by the young woman’s first ever successful use of her latent powers as a member of that mysterious, enigmatic, and incredibly-advanced race known as the Watchers of the Daemon-Star ALGOL!!

The villainous Urygos had observed this out of the corner of his eye as his duel with Ehrich continued. The shock of it stopped him for only an infinitesimal amount of time; indeed, far, far less than a second according to human temporal reckoning; but it was long enough. Long enough indeed for Ehrich Rumanos, noble scion of the oldest Royal Dynasty of Daemonia and proud son of the most famous hero in all of Time and Space, to use his own considerable power to reach into the very centre of Urygos’s being, and to remove the full psychical essence — the eternal soul — from the mad pretender’s body.

The physical form of “King” Urygos trembled hideously and then simply dissolved away into total and complete nothingness. As for the soul, Ehrich did not let go of it immediately, but held it before him. Ehrich let loose the fury of his outrage of this horrid, unhallowed creature known as Urygos; this criminal miscreant who would have not only made himself tyrant over the people of Algol and perhaps of all the Universe, but would have ravished the pure virginity of an innocent girl to further his immoral scheme — and indeed, no ordinary girl, but Flavia, lovely flower of the noble family Fosforus. The girl whom Ehrich Rumanos now truly loved.

The time was brief yet poignant that young Ehrich Rumanos spent torturing the spirit of Urygos. The mad tyrant’s spirit felt an unspeakable agony as a certain vermillion and violet flame enhanced the boy’s Algolitish energies in ways unknown even to others among the Watchers of Algol.

Then, Ehrich banished the soul of the tyrant Urygos, would-be King of the Cosmos, rending it into innumerable shreds and scattering it to countless locations throughout the unspeakably vast continuum of Space and Time. Indeed, a mere side-effect of Ehrich’s burst of power sent also the spirits of the three servants into infinite exile, their bodies dissolving like that of their insane master.

“Ehrich!” said Flavia in relief as they then embraced for the first time. Their affection for each other required no other words.

But then, Flavia and Ehrich almost lost their footing upon the deck of that strange “airship” as it suddenly lurched into motion. They turned to look at the view screen. The ship had moved into Space above the orbit of Daemonia, and was quickly hurtling directly towards the star Algol itself!

“I… I just realised what type of ship this is!” exclaimed Ehrich. “It is a STraDi, a…”

“Yes,” said Flavia, “I have read about them. A STraDi is an earlier, less-advanced form of DiTraS, in use now only by a few ultra-traditionalist Algolites. It only has rather limited abilities in Time and Space travel.”

“Right,” continued Ehrich. “The ship is controlled by a psychic link to its owner — in this case, the now departed Urygos! They are pre-programmed to self-destruct in such a situation, in order to halt the possibility of Algolite technology falling under control of lesser species!”

“So we are falling!” cried the girl. “Falling directly into the very heart of the star!!”

VII

Flavia held tightly onto Ehrich as the antiquated STraDi hurtled towards its hideous doom. It is an unanswered question what exactly would happen to an Algolite who so plunged into the heart of a star. Most likely, it would cause them to boomerang uncontrollably through Space and Time to an unknown location which could be anywhere in the immeasurably vast reaches of eternity.

Ehrich’s powers of teleportation were still somewhat limited. He had not yet practiced and developed them enough to cover long distances, and it is also doubtful if he could use them to breach the hull of the ship, which was built to be impenetrable while in motion.

However, just as both Ehrich Rumanos and Flavia Fosforus had decided that, whatever their fate might be, the most important thing was that they would be facing it together, they heard a sound that filled them with hope. It was a strange hissing, moaning noise — the sound of a DiTraS materialising!!

The shape as of a tall stone column appeared before the two young Algolites. A round portal opened in it and a man quickly emerged. He looked very much like an older version of Ehrich, but his features were sharper, his eyes dark and piercing, and his clothing was certainly not the standard wear of Daemonia.

“Oy vey, I had some trouble finding you, didn’t I? The Academy contacted me forthwith concerning your disappearance, but psyche-genetic emanations are difficult to trace through the Current. Especially when they are inside another ship,” said the man with his strong and mellifluous voice. “Well, come along, then.”

The man was, of course, me: Dr. Daniel Rumanos. My son and his pretty friend entered the DiTraS and we managed to dematerialise just seconds before the ship of the evil Urygos, deplorable pretender to the Throne of Daemonia, was destroyed in the immense blue fires of the star Algol.

Safe in the control room, Ehrich and Flavia filled me in on all that had occurred. I knew I would have to make a complete report of all this to the Absolute Convention of the Watchers, who would then get to work in covering up any evidence that it had ever even happened. Such is the way of well-nigh omnipotent sorts.

The affection and attachment that the girl and my son felt for each other was more than obvious. I had a definite feeling that there would be a wedding to attend on Daemonia shortly after their graduation.

“So, I will have to get you two young people back to the Academy soon,” I stated. “But first, son, you need to visit someone else, you know.”

“Mother!” said Ehrich. “Oh, she must be so worried!”

“Oh, indeed. Indeed.” I replied. “She wanted to accompany me in the DiTraS to search for you, but I feared that her anxieties would burn out the circuitry! She only stayed when I absolutely promised on the honour of the Daemon-Star to bring you home first thing.”

We materialised and exited the DiTraS. Flavia was amazed to discover that we were now in a large, high-ceiled chamber of a style she had only read about in chronicles of alien cultures. The walls were lined with books and artefacts collected from innumerable adventures of the past — and the future. It was indeed the room known as the study of the Temple of the Starry Wisdom, our headquarters in the Roland Park neighbourhood to the north of the city called Baltimore on the planet known as Earth.

Across the room, Flavia then saw the most breathtakingly-beautiful woman she had ever encountered — tall, slender, eternally-youthful, with gorgeous red hair and flashing, azure-coloured eyes, her complexion the fairest shade of white. The woman jumped up from the chair in which she had been huddled, and literally flew across the room, propelled by the wonderful lambent glow of a vermillion and violet flame that briefly surrounded her perfect form like a halo.

The woman hugged Ehrich lovingly. “Ehrie!” she said with tears of joy running down her lovely face. “Oh Ehrie, my little boy!!”

“Our son has come home to visit us, Katrina,” I said to my wife. “He has become a man, and it appears he has also found a Princess.”

Flavia, she who is indeed a hereditary Princess of the Noble House of Fosforus, smiled delightfully at this profoundly touching scene. She knew then in her heart as an absolute certainty that she would never, ever feel lonely again.

***

dr

DANIEL RUMANOS is a professional stage magician/illusionist and author of the Weird Adventures paranormal detective mystery series. He resides in Baltimore, Maryland (the city that killed Edgar Allan Poe), and online at: http://rumanosmagic.blogspot.com/