Plugs

More On The Mallard Guardian of Martin Sussex

Your Foul Eminence, we have uncovered more information on the Grade XXVII Entity that is currently guarding Martin Sussex.

a) When Martin Sussex (infant homosapiens, suspected host of the Masticator of Worlds) was first identified as a potential god-skin, a consortium of extra-dimensional nay-sayers sent a team of assassins into the child’s nursery. They consisted of a crow, a pair of greyhounds, and a King Brown snake. While they succeeded in devouring Martin in the first instance, the duck made his first appearance in the wake of this bloody feast. By means unknown this self-appointed guardian not only destroyed the assassins, but negated their existence by three generations. This not only saved the child, but changed the course of the Jharbeth XIV dynasty and caused the collapse of the New Zealand economy.
b) The parents of Martin Sussex were no longer dead, but were very concerned at the continual appearance of a Greenland Mallard in their child’s nursery. It would reappear in the room whenever removed, despite all of their efforts to exclude the creature. Apart from cleaning up its excrement, the parents have given up and carefully avoid discussion of “that goddamned duck”.
c) The guardian has been extremely vigilant, devouring all of our spies and fouling our instruments beyond repair. It appears to be operating on several planes of existence simultaneously, and has firmly repelled attempts to place time stasis on Martin, attempts to harm his parents, and one attempt to destroy the Earth itself. It does seem partial to licorice all-sorts, but has rejected the poisoned ones. We are considering placing a Keaurtian Snaffler in the toilet cistern, as the duck frequently drinks from it.

More as we learn it,

Field Agents X and Y.

This is the final piece in the Hollow Men series. Although this could be appreciated alone, three others have appeared (now revised):  part I, part II and part III.

The way to the land leviathan half-submerged in sand was dry and empty.  At dawn I dug a shallow trench and draped a cloth over the top to bury myself under.  At dusk I cut succulents for their amassed water, gathered my gear, and marched on.  Ahead the glowing eyes of the leviathan winked sleepily beneath the lamplight of the moon.

My heart panged slightly as the memory of a breeze rustled distant poppies, of the glorious waxing-moon colloquies on the probability of existence, the purpose of purpose, and the electability of those electing to use nonexistent words.  Yet I could no longer lay with my hands pillowing my head and chew the stems of bittersweet clover, much as I longed to sense the heat of a companion’s elbow seeping into mine.  The world swelled with too much.

As the hours waned into morning, details of the leviathan’s general features spread apart: no longer a lounging leviathan but a ramble of crumbling buildings left to ruin.  When light pooled at the horizon, what had been eyebrows raised into an archway of tiny wedding bells weakly, brokenly tinkling their march.  The leviathan’s eyes became nothing more than mundane dimension portals.  The images that the portals cast drew me closer.

The scenes were vaguely familiar, changing each time as the eyelid of one screen slid over another:  me as a child I’d dreamed of was laughing and log-rolling all the way down to the bottom of the screw, the giant man my imagined self had assembled crossed deserts and mountains in a few strides, and me again as a man attaching pipes to construct a bridge spanning the screws.  One corner of my mouth drew up.  I touched the portal screen to visit these alternate realities, but a tough if thin, milky film separated me from penetrating this eye.  It further hardened and clouded over under my palm while I pondered the dwarf’s warning, the silliness of dreams, and the water leaking from my eyes.

They closed, and I dreamed of piecing together a giant to help me build bridges.  The screen softened, my hand slid through, and I toppled.

Something was trying to crawl out of the pool. Cele turned on the light. The carpet was wet all the way to the couch. A lobefin squeezed its eyes shut against the glare, then opened them again and dragged itself past the TV towards her.

“Urrk,” it croaked, and pushed up on its forelimbs. A low wave ran up behind it from the dark, quiet sea that had replaced the wall. The wave ran under the couch, and presumably was soaked up by the remaining dry part of the carpet.

“Tim,” Cele called over her shoulder, “Fish!”

Her husband came in from the kitchen. “Kelly’s pool’s a bit full. I’ll drive ‘em down to the river in the morning.”

“I think they taste good.”

“Cook ‘em then.” But Tim was such a good cook anything she made would be a disappointment. She sighed.

“Tell you what. In the morning I’ll drop them off at St. Mark’s, instead. They can cook some coelacanth steaks for the clients and it won’t go to waste.”

Cele smiled and got to her feet. “You are so good to me! I don’t deserve it.” She patted him as he staggered by with the lobefin in his arms.

In the shower she had to shut her eyes. Sunlight shone in from where the ceiling used to be with blinding intensity. Her thoughts drifted to Tim. Immersed in an erotic daydream, Cele took a while to realize she wasn’t imagining her body shaking. Her eyes shot open. The shower stall shook to a heavy beat. It reminded her of that scene in “Jurassic Park;” with the ponderous but swift footsteps of an approaching tyrannosaur. She looked up.

–.

Tim dashed up the stairs. Cele was standing in the hall, shrieking and trembling. He encircled her with his arms and stroked her, making calming noises. Eventually he got her to tell him what was wrong.

“You’re shivering,” he said. “Go put something on. I’ll check the shower.” He opened the bathroom door and strode inside. A few moments later he came back out. “I don’t see any…. Cele?”

A wet area on the carpet marked where she had stood. He hunted all through the apartment and found no more trace of her than that. Unless you count a two-inch placoderm, flopping on the bedroom floor in front of her open closet.

End

Maleek knew the safe thing to do was to turn himself into a cobra and get out of there before the Chinese soldiers arrived. The Pasha was dead and the Red Army soldiers had taken over the sook and probably all of Marrakech. It was only a matter of time before they found their way into the Pasha’s riad.

The Pasha’s panda sat against the sea blue courtyard wall nestled between two giant potted bamboo plants, chewing the elegant green stems uncaring or unknowing of the turmoil happening not very far away. All of the animals, even the parrots and monkeys, were calm. Maleek wondered if they were real. It mattered not. The Panda was non-synthetic, the cobra in him told him so. Never mind the squads of soldiers tearing the city up looking for it.

The Pasha bought his armaments from the Chinese. Patrol-bots. All the flavors of smart-side arms for his guards. A few tanks and vehicles for parades and affairs of state. The Pasha, or more accurately his primary wife (a newer series Cleopatra consort he acquired in the aftermath of the fall of Egypt), fancied herself an enlightened zookeeper. Her head was full of all sorts of autonomous mods and thus the medina was full of all sorts of exotic animals both caged and free roaming. Maleek had once seen a family of raccoons and gray ground squirrels from the Americas. On hungry days, the cobra in him lusted for them.

The Pasha’s mistake was giving into his wife’s whimsy to acquire the real panda. He should have returned the crate as soon as the arms dealer offered it. China needed panda parts, real panda parts- they always needed real panda parts and this one hadn’t escaped their notice for long.

Maleek looked at it. A study of black and white resting peacefully and chewing softly in the afternoon sun. How long until it ended up in a Beijing vat farm? Animals deserved to be wild. Or kept in comfort and style as was the custom of the Pasha’s wife. Except for the cobra in him. He had fought so hard to keep it locked down.

Boot stomps echoed in the labyrinthine maze of passages leading to the Pasha’s riad. Maleek let himself go. He felt the skin on his neck transform into black scale. Even now the panda chewed blissfully unaware of what was to come. He hated becoming the cobra. But he hated what the Red’s did with the vats even more.

Maleek’s teeth became fangs coursing with poison. He knew the cobra would not be caged again so easily. Still, he sunk his teeth deep into the Panda’s soft skin. The soldiers were upon them. The sook was in chaos. Perhaps he would not have to cage the snake so soon.

- END -

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by Rudi Dornemann

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by Rudi Dornemann