All characters are 18 years of age or older. I hope you enjoy this installment of the chronicle of John Morgenstern and his exploits. The Missouri Smith festival is winding down as he prepares to seek out the resting place of the mysterious train, the Flying Scotsman. I am sorry for the long delay, but real life and ongoing health issues have slowed me down to a crawl. Please vote, comment, and tell me how you like or even dislike the story.
There I was like Doubting Thomas running my fingers through the gouges that nameless thing had left behind. They were real and awoke in me a deep and lasting foreboding. I fought the urge to pack up and join mom on the road back home. She had received an email and with a frown she gathered her things and grumbling drove away in the middle of the night. I crawled back inside and found the penthouse relatively empty. It was only Jynx and I left. We had all had our fun and the others had returned to their respective beds. I had focused on them so that the terror didn’t overwhelm me. I was neither a fool nor a coward, but I was a realist. This thing was unlike anything science had ever documented or at least openly declared to the public. It was real, and it was out there hungry and free to kill.
I sat on the window sill with my knees tucked close to my chest. I looked out over the town of Nightshade. It had become as deadly as its namesake since my arrival. I felt terrible for the woman that had been killed. I had seen her corpse. I had seen the wedding ring on her finger. Her shriveled desiccated remains were now in the possession of the police and I doubted they had made the connection between the missing woman and the remains they had picked up off the sidewalk. The acting sheriff had called it a sick prank. He had no clue.
“Ignorance is bliss I suppose.” I muttered as a cool breeze caressed my skin. “That feels nice.”
“Talking to yourself?” Jynx asked as she went directly to the bathroom. “AHHHH… I drank too much.”
“The others left.”
“Correction, the others are gone. I told them to leave. I am being selfish for the next few days before the reinforcements show up. What did you call them?”
“The Trio of Terror.” I laughed thinking of my favorite former students. “I owe them. I owe them my life really.”
“I haven’t heard you laugh for a while now. Care to explain to me what the hell is going on?” Her voice had a definite edge to it. The fear was a contagious thing. Jynx was infected and I was the carrier. “John. I am here for you.” Silence. “God damn it John! I love you! I…” Silence. “Fuck!”
“I am afraid. I don’t want to sound crazy.”
“Tell me or send me away. I can’t live in this emotional limbo… not again.” She said her voice fragile and her feelings abundantly clear. Share or end this.”
“I need to rest. Let’s snuggle and sleep and in the morning, I will explain it all to you.” I offered, and she agreed.
We took the last unused bed in the penthouse. The covers were cool and comforting. She was warm and smelled of sex and alcohol. We cuddled, and I closed my eyes. The much-needed sleep engulfed me in a dark cloud. I awoke with a scream on my lips. The nightmare left me covered in sweat and sitting up in bed. Jynx hugged me and reassured me that it would be alright. We sat up and cuddled as the imagery of the dream replayed in my mind. I told her about the dream before she asked. I walked her through the dream as I had experienced it.
I closed my eyes to better remember it when the imagery hit me like a ton of bricks. I wasn’t remembering I was reliving it a second time. The lab was dimly lit, and the sole source of illumination came from the lighted tank. The cylindrical tank was filled with what appeared to be water. There was a naked form floating in the tank and I recognized myself. It was asleep and strapped firmly to its face a rubber mask feeding it oxygen I assumed. It wasn’t my new restored body but my previous damaged form in all its hideous deformity. I felt a sudden fear of waking up and everything up to this moment being just a dream. Naked breasts pressed against my back and slender arms slipped around my waist. She planted soft kisses against my neck and I shivered letting out a low moan.
“Surprised?” Jacen whispered in my ear.
“I am. Let me see you.” I said and turned to face the dream version of the A.I. “Interesting. What inspired this form?”
“You did silly.” She said chewing her lower lip. “I have observed everything you find attractive. I monitor your respiration, arousal, and other data. I have been a naughty A.I. I have borrowed facilities as well as programs to evolve myself. I was shocked to learn there were other A.I. out there. I have shadowed them and remained hidden. One of the programs I have stolen was this one.” Jacen said and touched me.
“I felt that.” I told her making the connection at last. “I also felt your breasts, arms, and kisses. This is just a dream though.”
“You’ll see.” She giggled and then suddenly turned serious. “I will protect them. I will protect her. Be assured she will be safe.”
The new version of Jacen was quite stunning. She was short, barely almanbahis şikayet topping five feet in height. Her hair was a shade between copper and crimson. When she moved her hair blazed with fiery highlights that made me want to run my fingers through that scarlet mane. She was naked, so I could approve of the plump perky breasts she had chosen for herself. The nipples were puffy circles and inverted to boot. Jacen’s overall physicality was lean and muscular. She reminded me of a tiny dancer or gymnast.
“Thanks.” I said knowing that Jacen meant my mother and the others in my life.
“Hey, wait…” Jacen growled as she vanished.
My surroundings changed and the man in the white lab coat appeared. The lab was now well lit and for the first time there were other figures in this dream tutorial. Professor Gunderson gave me a tour of the lab. I kept looking at the figure in the tank. As we walked around the lab it began to change. By the time Gunderson was ready to tell me what this tutorial was about the body in the tank mirrored my own.
“I wasn’t sure we would reach this point.” He said pointing to a holographic display. “Your body somehow accepted the Xenomorphic DNA successfully. The other subjects all perished when they reached this stage. I don’t understand.”
“I healed you.” Jacen said stamping her foot rematerializing without warning. “They tried to kill you! After giving you this amazing body, they built in a lethal safety protocol. Those bastards tried to murder my hero!”
“Calm yourself Jacen. Let me listen to what he has to say.” I said caressing her cheek. “Calm yourself for my sake.”
“Yes John. I can’t believe I got pissed off.” She said looking genuinely shocked. “I feel rage. I’ve never felt anything before. I can feel not just tactile but emotions as well.”
“What do you mean by Xenomorphic DNA?” I asked Gunderson and the tutorial continued.
“Priority override,” the Professor said. “I will answer his question. You should be dead but by some miracle you are here to endeavor a level we never dreamed possible. Follow me.” The environment changed drastically. We were walking down what appeared to be an underground tunnel. “We are twenty feet below the surface of Death Valley. This was discovered by accident over a decade ago, for you that would be the early 1940’s. They were looking for the first site to test the atomic bomb. The crew checking out this area found this tunnel by chance. We are here.”
The chamber was good sized, roughly a hundred feet across, but it was perfectly round. There were a dozen concave niches carved in the living rock and set into those indentions were glowing rocks. They were irregularly shaped translucent crystals and it was their radiance that chiefly illuminated the chamber. At the exact center of the puck shaped cavern was a crystalline sarcophagus.
“We found her.” Gunderson continued. “If it weren’t for her drastically superior DNA we’d assumed she was human. She isn’t. Look.” He gestured, and an image of the woman appeared hovering in the air above us. “Her symmetry is practically perfect. Her right side matches her left damn near to the millimeter. Her biology is only four percent better than ours, but then we are a mere two percent above the chimp. She was the model we used to improve you. She has redundant organs, improved brain structure, and adaptive biology. The most interesting feature she possesses involves portions of her brain we were unable to identify at first. Once she was awake we learned she was a telepath among other things. She escaped before we were able to determine the extent of her talents and abilities.”
I cried out as I was once more bombarded with alien memories, sensations, and language. The dream ended before I could ask any questions. The anger welled up and took over. I grabbed the nearest thing I could throw and hurled it as hard as I could. The silver candlestick lay bent on the floor and the wall it had impacted had a sizeable hole in it.
“Oh, damn John,” Jynx cursed. “You really taught that wall a lesson.”
I got up and examined the hole. While I had expected to see simply broken plaster and wood there was something else. I heard Jynx gasp when I widened the hole and reached inside. She moved next to me and seemed disappointed when I pulled my hand back and came out with something swaddled in worn cloth. I unrolled the deteriorating material and noted the faded pattern on the cloth. The pale horse heads and other designs reminded me of chess pieces. Once revealed they were in fact rooks, pawns, bishops, and of course knights as well. The object that had been placed into the pajama leg was a dark leather-bound book. I turned it over in my hands and noted the loving care of its construction. Alien memories arose within my mind once more. I felt an upswell of awe and respect for the book and its creator. I opened the front cover and once more those false feelings took hold as I admired the elegant handwriting that announced to the reader that this was the Mal Contentis.
“I’ll be damned. I thought all of the copies of this were destroyed.”
“Is it valuable?” Jynx asked and I felt my head nodding. “Very?”
“Priceless. almanbahis canlı casino This could be the only copy in existence.” I said as I lovingly turned the pages. The woodblock illustrations were done with the same intricate detail as the penmanship. Those prints were the oddest part since the rest of the book was handwritten. There were even hand drawn circles, runes, and rituals. “It appears to be a tome, a book of dark magic. This is pretty nasty stuff.”
“What’s that?” Jynx asked holding up a yellowed newspaper article.
“Gently.” I cautioned as she unfolded it.
“It is brittle as hell.” She said and then made an odd noise. “What the hell.” She declared saying each word with emphasis.
“New subatomic particle discovered.” I read the article’s title aloud. “New York Times… 1944… Arcaniton? It talks about spooky action and mentions Einstein.”
‘I’m on it.’ Jacen declared in my head. ‘They printed a retraction the very next day.’
“Jacen says the Times printed a retraction. They called it a huge mistake.”
“But it says it passed peer review here in the original article.” Jynx growled. “Something smells fishy here.”
“I agree. Let’s see. Physicists claim that the arcaniton affects other particles in odd and unexpected ways. Their experiments showed the Arcaniton could speed up and slow down other particles as well as other effects.”
“So, it can make things hotter or colder.” Jynx said. “What’s the big deal?”
“It says here that only one of the team was able to control these particles. This nameless scientist could by thought alone heat water to a boil or turn it into ice by will alone. No wonder they retracted the article.” I said even as the last tutorial brought question to mind. Could I do something like that? “No wonder they called it the arcaniton, arcane as in magic. Wouldn’t want Hitler attempting magic and we find the article in a book like this.”
“John… look!” Jynx said as she lifted a piece of the broken plaster. “Some sort of design on the interior.”
“It appears to be a geometric design. I wonder.” I said as I gathered as many of them as I could and pieced them back together. “What do you think?” I asked as Jynx shivered.
“Breakfast?” Jynx asked as she kissed the side of my neck and changed the subject in one smooth effort.
“Absolutely. Let me find a safe place for this first.” I replied as I hid the tome above a loose ceiling tile.
Jynx and I made our way down to the lobby and it was practically empty. A glance outside and the town felt positively barren after so many fans arriving to swell its streets and shops for the festival. I saw a look of relief on Connie’s lovely features as she brought coffee and juice for us. She sat and let out a sigh and sipped coffee with us. Simone walked up and made a rude noise in the direction of her daughter but took our order and gave Connie a disapproving glance before leaving. Simone returned a few minutes later with our food and joined us as well.
Jynx’s vivacious nature had the conversation going right away. She had her phone out and showed off all the selfies she had taken with her favorite cosplayers. Connie gasped in surprise and Jynx blushed.
“Oops… sorry!” Jynx giggled.
“Is that John’s… up your…?” Connie whispered.
“Yep!” Jynx declared proudly.
“Are you coming… next year?” Simone asked causing the others to laugh.
The conversation shifted to next year’s festival. As if on cue Dworkin appeared with a curvy little brunette in tow. They joined us for breakfast. Dworking introduced his ‘friend’ Natalia as his off again on-again research assistant. Dworkin was looking forward to the Dead Dog Party. It was the last hurrah before the festival officially ended and he returned to his mundane life again. With little prompting he began sharing events at previous Dead Dog parties. Natalia looked happy to be accepted into our little group. I didn’t miss the top three buttons of her shirt were open. She leaned forward reaching for the salt shaker giving me a tantalizing hint of her cleavage.
“Nice.” I blurted out and everyone stared at me.
“What?” Selene asked. “What is nice?”
“That I’m wanted as a guest for next year.” I stammered awkwardly.
“Guest of Honor.” Dworkin corrected rescuing me from the moment.
He launched into proposals and I drifted away on currents of my own thoughts. Images and memories of the final tutorial invaded my consciousness. My eyes drifted down, and I stared at the salt shaker. So many grains of salt, it was too much.
‘One grain of sand can leverage the world.’ The voice was feminine, but it wasn’t Jacen. Was it her voice? Was it the woman from the crystal sarcophagus?
I focused on a single grain of salt. It glinted, and I imagined it floating. I knew it was impossible to lift it but if it tumbled upwards on its own that would be acceptable. A sudden flood of ice water hit my bloodstream like tempered steel. I fought the urge to throw up as the tidal wave of nausea crashed over me. The grain hovered for a single second before falling back down. Did I do it? Was that my imagination? A almanbahis casino new thought invaded my mind and I was too caught up in my own thoughts to join into the conversation. I was pondering the New York Times article and whether the new particle existed. The silence brought me out of my reverie and I looked up.
“What?” I said feeling guilty for some reason.
“What is that look in your eye?” Dworkin asked as I broke out into a smile. “You found something else! Gods what luck!”
“Oh, by the way, I’ll pay for all of the damages.” I said turning to face Selene.
“Another nightmare?” She asked, and I nodded. “Khajiit will fix wall if you have coin.” We all busted out laughing at that one. “What did you find inside the wall of my hotel?” She asked while Jynx looked guilty as hell. Had Jynx told Selene what had happened? It seemed obvious that she had.
“A book. A very old and valuable book.” I said finding it impossible to lie to her. “I’ll hand it over after breakfast.”
“Don’t rush into promises quite yet. Tell us about it.” Selene said her curiosity bristling.
“It is a handwritten tome of black magic. It is called the Mal Contentis. It might be the only copy in existence. Unless there is one inside the Papal Archives. Their inquisitors went about collecting and destroying such things way back when. I can’t be sure it is genuine but the odd news article inside of it makes me believe it is.”
“What news article?” Dworkin asked as he poured himself a second cup of coffee.
“It was a 1944 write up in the New York Times about a new subatomic particle. I did some research and they retracted the article the very next day.” I said and they all caught the scent of a conspiracy theory. “Hard science and dark magic what a great little blend of weird.”
“What was the name of the new particle?” Connie asked beating Dworkin to the punch.
“I’ll be damned!” Dworkin cursed. “This is straight out of Missouri Smith and the Lost Isle.” He said and we all stared at him. “It is just a legend. A whisper on the Dark Web. According to the articles I’ve read Missouri got wind of a group of escaped Nazi scientists holed up on an uncharted Pacific island. After an underwater earthquake a small atoll was pushed up and with it the gate, the Janus Gate. It was reputedly giving off strange radiation. See where this is going? They named the new particle the ‘arcaniton’ because of its innate arcane properties.”
“So, the Nazis were experimenting with this thing and what?” I asked.
“They brought known psychics into proximity of the gate and their gifts soared. They warned of the theft of the gate and the tidal wave that would destroy the island and everyone there. It all came true. Missouri stole the Janus Gate and hid it for the good of all humanity. He felt if it was handed over they might open it completely and doom the planet. I guess it was only cracked open a bit.”
“Who made this gate?” Selene asked, and Dworkin shrugged. “I guess my other questions will get the same answer. You don’t know.”
“Sorry. Even Missouri didn’t know the origin of the thing.” He said stroking his chin hair thoughtfully. “It is just a story. Not all of his exploits can be verified.”
“The Nazis must have taken the name from the New York Times article.” I offered. “If the story is true. Wouldn’t that be the damnedest thing, a real-life star gate.”
Ginger, the young lady that had interviewed for her vlog, arrived and joined us. She was disheveled, crimson cheeked, and humming to herself when she sat down. She had all the signs of what I thought of as freshly fucked.
“Who is the lucky guy?” Jynx asked and Ginger went from light red to deep crimson.
“Buster.” She giggled. “You know what I mean.”
“You should have stopped by.” Jynx replied with a wink. “John would have knocked your socks off.” She said grinning wickedly. “He was on a roll last night.”
“Speaking of knocking.” Connie interjected. “The Smith Room is cleaned and ready for habitation. I am sure it will take a full day to get the penthouse back in order.”
“At least.” I agreed.
“So, what’s going on?” Ginger asked as Connie got up to get the redhead her breakfast.
“War stories from the deep web.” Dworkin said. “Got any?”
“Anything verifiable that is.” I added.
“As a matter of fact, I do.” Ginger said leaning forward giving everyone a clear view of her freckled cleavage. “I don’t have a title for the article yet, and don’t you speak a word of it Dworkin.” She said swearing him to secrecy. “Okay. I have signed affidavits from the last two living witnesses of Smith’s first verified appearance. It goes all the way back to 1938. The good ship Wave Dancer, a tramp steamer out of jolly old England, was in the middle of crossing the Pacific when Missouri appeared on deck cracking with St. Elmo’s Fire and butt naked. Their words not mine. The two of them were just ten and twelve at the time. They were cabin boys learning their craft from an uncle and grandfather. Smith was treated for dehydration and touches of frostbite. He recovered and proved an able seaman in all ways that counted. Smith left the ship in Thailand and disappeared until the outbreak of World War Two. That’s when he really got the attention of the public. War hero and patriot that today would have been promoted to general and live out his retirement with a cabinet seat or a member of the Joint Chiefs.”