A Nurse in the Fog

(Not sure how to introduce this one.  It’s not my usual stuff.  Let’s just call it something weird I threw together over the last couple of days)

The room is strangely but thankfully quiet.  The old man next to me, on the other side of a thin curtain, must have settled.  In my mind, he is a thousand miles away.  The regular bustle of the room and the hall outside has passed into a distant drone, like a dream fading from memory after waking.  Passively, I feel like calmness has transcended the world.

I lay in a bed, fatigued but unable to sleep.  My thoughts are sluggish and without focus; a break from the boredom I am unable to appreciate.  It feels almost like time has slowed to keep pace with me.

I am not sure when she arrived or how long she has been there, but a young nurse stands at the end of my bed.  I cannot make out her features, as if she were backlit.  She is young with shoulder length hair, though I cannot make out the colour.  She stands very still and silent.

I blink.  She is gone.  It is the mildest shock, more like confusion.

The moment passes.  The bubble of tranquility breaks.  The sounds, smells and motion of reality surge back in.  There is not much space in the room, and a quick looks confirms the nurse is gone.  A moment later, I feel strangely self-conscious about the encounter; as though fragments of that calm, peaceful moment linger about me.

This nurse visits me several times during my stay.  Sometimes, she holds my hand or feels my forehead.  Each time, she disappears moments after I become aware of her.  She always takes the calm with her; though I am too overwhelmed in those moments to realise it.  The echoes of recollection are surreal despite the simplicity of the encounters.

The nurse is not real.  She is a concoction of my mind, distilled from a mix of insomnia, drugs and suffering; a nearly comforting hallucination.  Still, she was quite real in those brief moments.

I return home.  The nurse no longer visits.  I am glad to leave her behind. Perhaps she will visit others there.

Another Update

I gave a March update on my substantial drop in posting. My health has been all over the map since that posting; and the last two months have been especially trying. I am pretty much on track to full recovery, looking forward to more frequent writing and posting soon. Being mortal kind of sucks.

The Chase: Part Four

(…and more…)

Part Four: The Chase

The plan had gone well, though I had wanted to be a bit closer before being seen.  Every stride helped.  Now, only the chase remained.  The being fell into the trap, cutting back for the high place.

There was no holding back.  I moved as fast as I could.  The being was agile, but I was faster.  It needed to reach the trees and brush to have any chance.  I needed to catch it before that or the chase would be difficult, though not ended.

The open space was good for running.  I could use my full stride to keep up speed without working as hard; and the target remained visible the entire time.  The being started with excellent speed, but experience suggested it would tire quickly.  As the gap between me and the being closed, the angles, speeds and distances helped me see where I might overtake it.  This always came with some uncertainty, yet helped in making a final approach.

The final approach, give or take a few strides, would be just before the trees and brush, where the ground rose up.  It was to my advantage, as the being would need to exert itself slightly more to get to higher ground.  The only danger was making the final approach too quickly; as missing at high speed would give the being a chance to double back, with its superior agility, and costing me the straight line speed advantage.  Slowing just before reaching the being was imperative.  Uncertainties remained.  Beings like this typically fell into two groups, and the fact they reacted entirely differently was a better defense the actual reactions.

The first group fell into a wild panic, staying fixated on their intended escape point and running with all speed; even when the effort itself killed them.  Their only hope was that I would be too slow or make some error in my approach.

The second group were not panicked and making plans of their own.  They had options.  Most commonly, they would make a sudden change in speed or directions immediately before contact.  It only had to be enough to evade once; then they could change direction, with enough time to find shelter or, at worst, extend the chase.

The distance closed quickly.  All that remained was to execute.  All the planning, approaching and chasing would come down to skill, timing, and reflexes.

The ground rose and the being made a sudden great leap, as though it intended to reach the bushes in a final motion.  It made little sense.  Even if it was blind panic, the motion only served to make my task easier.  Often, these things were beyond explanation; though a small part of me regretted the ease of it.  Completing a successful chase, when it was challenging, gave feelings of satisfaction and dominance.  Proving able to chase down a target was a purpose in its own right; more nourishing than the actual meal it yielded.

The leap was too high, and not nearly long enough to escape me.  I slowed until my path matched the beings descent.  In motion through the air, it was lost.

I noticed too late that something pointed, perhaps a tooth, claw or horn, appeared from the upper part of the being.  It had not being there when the being left the ground, but now it was.  I turned late, and was stung with a great pain in my neck.  I twisted away, feeling the point leave my neck.  I lost my footing and fell, tumbling for a moment.  The being stood before me as I regained my feet, and I smelled no fear.  The pointed thing was gone, though I feared it still.  Such a being might make it appear again.  My neck flashed cold before a growing heat began to spread, encompassing me.  I bared my teeth for a moment, only to realize I was falling down.  I was about to sleep without wanting to.

The Chase: Part Three

(Even more of the weird story)

Part Three: The Approach

I moved with slow, deliberate steps along the high point, until the trees and bushes were too thin to hide me.  The approach would be wide enough to work.  I took a quick look around to review the ground from this new place.  It was important to review the terrain and distances.  The being was in the same vicinity as before, eating and showing no sign of concern.  I determined there was no reason to delay.

I stayed low as I departed the bushes and moved down to the low, open space.  Only thin grass, not higher than my knees, covered the open space.  Staying low would only give me a few extra moments to stay undetected.  I would be seen once it looked in my direction.

Just as I reached the flat, open space, the being raised its head up.  I might have made a noise in my movements or just fallen into sight early; though it did not matter any longer.  The approach was nearly over.  All that remained was for the being to make a choice and act on it.  If it ran back to the boundary of trees it was taking a chance of being faster in a longer run.  If it tried to run through the gap I had left it, between me and the water, my chances were better; I knew that ground.

I held back on my speed.  It would not do to waste energy until the being committed itself to a direction.  The other advantage of holding back early was to trick the target into misjudging your full speed.  The creature saw me and froze in place, probably hoping it had not been seen.  This was good.  The longer it froze, the closer I got and the more rushed its decision became.  Still, I began to accelerate, just enough to keep closing the distance.  The being took quick glances in the directions it might go and darted into action.

The Chase: Part Two

(More of this weird story)

Part Two: The Plan

A chase is a simple process while it is happening.  What makes success more likely is the plan.  Any being can run fast, hoping to outrun a target; though it is inefficient and usually ineffective.  The approach is the biggest factor in a chase, and planning it well is what counted.

The being was not moving much from where I first observed it.  Assuming it remained near that spot, I could plan.  My options were limited mostly by my starting point.  The high space with brushes and trees hid me.  The ground between me and the being descended quickly before flattening out into open space; offering no places to hide along the way.  Getting very close and lunging out would not happen.  The plan would have to be about using the ground and tricking the being.

The patch of water was a good start.  It did not look like a water being, so that was a boundary.  The open space went on for a long distance, directly away from the water.  On the other side of the being, the open space was also long; but there was a boundary of trees and bushes that could offer an escape, if reached.  In a straight run, it was unlikely I could get close enough, fast enough to outrun it before it reached those trees.

If I moved far enough along my current cover and approached from a wide angle, leaving a gap to escape back to the cover I was in, the being might run for it.  This cover was a good screen, but not enough for hiding or evasion; if the being panicked or misjudged this, it might run that way.  I looked for another moment to see if there were other options before deciding on the wide approach.

The Chase: Part One

(Not sure quite what to call this. Natural science fiction would be as close as I could say without overthinking it. Nothing horrific, gross or deep, though it feels very much like a weird bit of writing. It just kind of came to me and was easy to write. It needs some TLC, but considering how the last month or so has treated me I will call it good enough for now. I include a map at the end of this because I was not completely satisfied with the visual I describe. I am also a sucker for maps, and apologize for the crude rending here; visual arts are not my forte. If you believe this is very short, then you are correct by any meaningful standard. More parts to come soon.)

Part One: Finding

It was a day like so many others.  The air was warm and calm, even before the sun rose.  It was a good day for many things.

It was not long after sunrise when I found a being worth catching.  It was unusual, but looked like so much like the other beings I was accustomed to catching that I hardly concerned myself.  Trying to identify each, specific type and remember them with detail was more effort than it was worth.  All that mattered were the details regarding how it behaved when chased, and then caught.  Everything else was not worth remembering.

This being was eating in an open space bordering a patch of water.  It was alone and unaware of my presence.  I also had the advantage of being concealed by trees and bushes on a ridge slightly higher than the ground the being was on.  The sun was off to the side, but high enough not to throw especially long shadows.  The still air would conceal my presence.  It was a good find.

A look at the terrain and positions at the start of the story

Update

My writing schedule has been run through a blender in recent weeks due to some health issues. Nothing overly serious, as far as I know, but enough to derail my creative side. Although the cause of the issues remains a mystery I have recovered enough for my writing to resume. Stay tuned.

A Tiny Light To See By, Part 9

(Psychic horror)

When I returned to the hotel, I was burnt out.

               Forensics was crowded and busy, not to mention unfriendly.  I was half expecting the maelstrom to have followed the corpses, but it did not.  Still, places like that still manage to overwhelm me.  I fought through it.  What I came away with was helpful, sort of.

               The bodies did not give me anything, in particular, other than the slightest feeling of resigned calm; a strange sensation for me to pick up, considering.  It was not universal, but highly prevalent.  I managed to confirm from overtired forensics staff that the bodies had not, as far as they could tell, been touched by scavenging animals.  The cuts had not been precise, but what did the cutting had been incredibly sharp.  The details were so unusual that most of the staff felt the RCMP would be involved soon.  After too long getting all of this, I called a cab and returned to the hotel.  I had taken enough cruisers for the day.

               Adam had not responded to my earlier text but I sent another update, anyway.

               I was still in over my head, yet I had a nagging feeling there was something familiar about it.  I might manage to find myself above water if I could pin it down.  The hotel room kept giving me a feeling of drunken joy, a strange and welcome distraction.

               Sleep beckoned.  It had been a second rough day in a row.  The forensics area was loaded with psychic energy, above and beyond the mess of recent corpses, which automatically burnt me out.

               The dream was remarkably similar to the last.  I walked into the clearing, which was empty and devoid of the overwhelming energy I first encountered.  Then, the figures appeared, the same as before.  I was surrounded before I thought to run, only having enough time to brace myself before they held me as before.  Their hands were cold and felt like they were biting into my skin.  I strained against them, trying to force my way out, but they were too strong and too many.

               “Last warning,” one of them said, more sinister than before.  The same bladed object appeared, stabbing me in the same spot, only this time the pain was much more intense; and I was not able to awaken quickly.  They were holding me for a moment, just long enough to prove they could.

               I woke with the same shock as before.  Only this time the pain in my leg was agonizing.  It was as though a hot poker had been driven in and electrified.  It felt numb from the knee down.  It was barely four in the morning, but there would be no more sleep for me.

               The pain left me slowly, certainly slower than the day before.  Sensation below the knee also returned in a similar fashion.  I shook like a leaf for a good hour before my nerves returned.  Only one positive came from nightmare number two: I remembered why the maelstrom and void from the crime scene seemed familiar to me.  It was a tainted positive, really, but better than the dead end I had been facing.

               It wasn’t until nine that I felt halfway normal.  I searched my phone contacts for what I needed.  Gary Tellmann, luckily, was still on my list.  Gaetan Boucanne was not there, but Gary would likely connect me, if we got that far.  I was getting ahead of myself, and knew it.  Adam needed to approve anyone or anything I might bring in that was out of the ordinary.  The media would be involved, and I did not need to be psychic to know that police scrutiny would be high for some time.

               I sent a quick text to Adam, stating I needed to discuss something fairly urgent.  I made a handful of internet searches on Tellmann and Boucanne to make sure no recent activity of theirs was especially odd.  Breaking anything like this to Adam meant due diligence; and I was proposing to introduce a pair who were unusual, even by my standard.

               It took me a nearly an hour to jog my memory on Tellmann.  How long ago was our last communication of any kind?  I knew it had been several years since we visited in person.  It was my best guess that our last, meaning exchange was nearly two years before.  We exchanged a few professional emails in a debate over subtleties related to language interpretation during psychic events.  Tellmann was psychic, for certain, but his real strength was academic.  He had studied all things psychic to a nearly ridiculous level.  I mostly used my abilities by feel, like an art more than science.  It could be studied, I was sure, and rules found that could be applied and honed; where I fell off with Tellmann was the degree of personal interpretation involved made that study dizzyingly complex.  He believed that over time, with enough scientific research, the human psychic nature could be fully understood and explored.

               I remember, in one of our earlier exchanges, explaining how I saw the positive application of psychic ability.  The vast majority of the world was living completely blind to an entire sense, and probably the poorer for it.  Most of those who could sense it either lived in denial, thought they were crazy or explained it away with some rational nonsense that in no way applied.  Those who could see it could only catch a glimpse, looking through a tiny keyhole into a large, cluttered, shadowy space; but we could see, at least.  I told Tellman that psychics were tiny lights to see by.  The light we caste was small, but better than nothing.

               Tellman, being on an academic mission, disagreed.

               Boucanne was the one I really wanted to get on board.  Tellman had psychic skills, but certainly weaker than mine.  Boucanne was on another level.  His abilities were extraordinary, much greater than anyone else I had ever encountered.  Unlike Tellman, Boucanne had gone in the opposite direction of science, embracing all kinds of supernatural, paranormal, mystic and occult practices.  The weirder the better was how I saw his approach to adopting new approaches and practices.  He was a brilliant psychic, through all the other nonsense, and wrote prolifically about all of it.  Even as a I skimmed his most recent blog entries (oh yes, he had a blog) it boggled my mind at the volume of information he churned out.

               Adam would be fine with Tellman, even though he was unaware of his worst quirks.  Boucanne would be harder to sell, but I needed him more.

A Tiny Light to See By, Part 8

(Psychic horror. And on we go.)

There are times when you feel like you are in over your head.  My return to the crime scene convinced me the water line was well above me.

               I had braced for a repeat experience of my previous visits.  I ate light and was well hydrated, expecting to brave the maelstrom.  It was a tense ride in another cruiser, driven by another unwilling young cop.  I kept my head clear and actively forced myself to keep from clenching my jaw or squeezing my fists.

               Before I stepped into the clearing I knew something had changed.  There was nothing.  It was almost the opposite of before.  The mad rush that had overwhelmed me was replaced by an almost equally mad void; and it had the opposite effect on me: peaceful tranquility.

               It felt as though every speck of psychic energy had been sucked out of the area.  I walked to the middle of the clearing and it felt like there was nothing there.  Only the faintest, distant traces of anything could be felt from the nearby officers.  As disconcerting as it was for my sixth sense to fade out like that, it was also joyous, peaceful.  It was like walking out of a rock concert and into a sensory deprivation tank.  I lost track of time as I simply enjoyed the moment, unprofessional or not.

               The moment was disrupted by the approach of more officers, and the void did not resist the intrusion of energy.  The canine unit arrived with two German shepherds, almost frantically sniffing at the ground.  They were as unbothered as I was.  What had changed?

               I made some notes and began moving to the perimeter I had mapped out.  The void felt like it was unstable, probably collapsing under the weight of surrounding energies, yet I managed to determine it mirrored the earlier maelstrom.  It was new territory for me, and left me feeling awkward and uncomfortable.  I was in over my head.

               I had been in over my head before, just not that far.  It was like sitting down to an exam after attending only half the lectures, doing none of the reading and no studying.  All I could think to do was walk through the area as systematically as possible, maybe to catch a trace of something.  I refocused as I trudged through the brush and cleared areas, enough to stay open to whatever I might pick up.  It was nearly supper time when I had finished, and nothing came through.  The police presence was easily discernible from the nothingness of the scene, which was eroding rapidly.  The center of the clearing remained calm, when I returned, but not as much as before.  It was slowly and surely losing ground to the surroundings, a psychic equilibrium wearing it down.

               Still, I took the time to enjoy the relative peace of the moment.  It was almost therapeutic after the earlier scorching.  As I basked, my mind started to go over the case.  The details, even factoring out my psychic observations, were going to be a challenge.  If forensics failed to get any traction with the physical evidence the investigation faced huge challenges.  Who were these victims?  How did they get here?  Who were the perpetrators and where did they go?  It meant a lot of uncheck boxes if the science came up empty.

               Adding to this, I had come up with nothing.  This was nothing new for me; sometimes there was just nothing, frustrating as it was.  The wrinkle, this time, lay in the strange, unprecedented experiences I had faced; the overwhelming sensations of the raw crime scene, the matching void that followed, and the threatening message from the dream.  I needed more time and more access to the physical evidence, even though it would be hell.  Forensics labs, cemeteries and morgues are all nightmare scenarios for me.

               I sent a quick text to Adam, whose cell number I had managed to acquire, then asked the officer in charge for a lift downtown.  I made notes while I waited for the ride, which got me to thinking about the situation and how strange it was.  The more I thought about it, the more it jogged my memory.  The experience of the void, especially, seemed to ring familiar.  The ride arrived, breaking my train of thought; doubly so because it was the same cop who had given me my initial ride to the crime scene.

               “Hey,” he greeted me.  “How are you doing?”

*steep, wooden stairs-clover-bright lights*

               “Been better,” I admitted.  “How about you?”

               “Busy,” he said with a smile.  “Things have been buzzing with all this going on, so they are running us steady.  Overtime is going to be mandatory for a while, I think.”

               I checked his name, which I had deliberately avoided before.  Melvin Farthington.  “I suppose that won’t hurt, then?”

               “I am always good for more hours,” he said, putting the car in gear and driving out.  “Have you cracked this case, yet?”

*poker chips-a poorly played violin-a paper cup-a box from a cheap chemistry set*

               I nearly laughed out loud.  “A stand still, really,” I answered.  “This has been a unique experience.  I need to cover more ground before I draw any conclusions, though.”

               He frowned at that.  “Really?”

               “Yes, really,” I said.  “Something about all this is heavily charged on a spiritual, psychic level.  Until I cover my bases, there is not much more I can determine.”

               “Well, that makes sense considering the scale of what happened,” he reasoned.  “I mean, that’s more murders than we’ve had in the last ten years.  Nothing normal about that.”

               We rode in silence for a bit, my mind rolling over things.  Awkward silence gave me time to process.

*blue paint on a wall-a feel of rough fabric-a stained coffee mug*

               “Did anything ever come from that missing person?  The kid from Timberton?” I asked.

               “I haven’t heard anything,” he said.  “You think there’s a connection?”

               “Awfully long shot,” I replied, “but I hate ruling anything out, especially when the timing is so close.”

               “Fair enough,” he said.  “I’m sure they are considering that, too.”

               “I hope so,” I said, letting the ride return to awkward silence the rest of the way.

*walking on hot pavement-a wine cork-smoke*

A Tiny Light to See By, Part 7

(Psychic horror. A long delay from the last one. Combination of factors, but mostly holiday season related. I expect to post more regularly.)

The meeting was longer than I expected, based on past experience.  Then again, I had never been involved with a mass homicide investigation before.  I took notes with as much detail as I could; there was a lot to absorb and too much to risk forgetting.  It also helped me block out the volume of sensation from the gathering.  In my seat at the back of the room, it was easy to be ignored.

               There are times when hearing the case details make me feel like my input is negligible, if not a complete waste.  This was not one of those times.

               The scene had been discovered by a game warden, looking for poachers, and locked down within hours.  Apparently, I was on the scene the next day.

               What was known, or highly likely, boiled down to a few, limited details; all of which I noted.

-The victims were a mix of adult, Caucasian males and females who had been killed at the scene roughly three days before discovery.  The exact count was somewhere between fifty-four and fifty-seven people.  (the pieces were literally being matched up by forensics)

-The majority cause of death was blood loss from dismemberment, though there was evidence some were killed by decapitation.

-The bodies were dismembered with extremely sharp, almost surgical quality blades of some kind.

-There were no signs of bruising, forceful restraint or other trauma usually associated with victims like this.  Additionally, forensics had not yet found any signs of drugging.

-No traces of clothing, jewellery, eye glasses or contacts, tattoos or anything were found.

-A few traces of footprints were found, in poor condition, but likely belonged to the victims.  Tire tracks in the area were being examined.

-No other materials were found in the way of weapons, restraints, drug paraphernalia, gang symbols, serial killer trademarks or anything suspicious.

-Finally, though some of the faces and finger prints were in reasonable condition, none of the victims had been identified.

               As they went over the details, I just kept rolling things over and over in my mind.  I scratched down a few point form questions as they started wrapping up the exposition.  If the floor opened to questions, I was dying to ask.  When they finally did open the floor, I decided to leave the opening round to the police, hoping they would ask the same questions.  A number of questions were asked regarding the condition of the bodies, foot and vehicle traffic in the area, and so forth.  The general sense I had was that they really had nothing to work with, and the prospects for more were poor.

*Ravens-gasoline-tadpoles*

               Nothing really hit on the points I wanted addressed, anyway.  I managed to catch Adam’s gaze as the questions wound down; I cocked my head, silently asking if I was good to ask anything.  He glanced up at Sergeant-Major Guranovich, the Provincial cop in charge of the overall investigation, who was running the Q and A.  He shrugged and reluctantly nodded.  Not a vote of confidence, yet better than a hard no.

               I stood amidst the early mumblings of the group, feeling self-conscious and awkward for no good reason.  A moment of instant regret passed over me.

*smell of cut grass-apple sauce-dragons-Christmas lights-the sound of a flute*

               “Sergeant-Major,” I asked as politely and confidently as I could, “I have a few questions that have not been addressed here.  Apologies if they are already under review.”

               “Go ahead, then, mister…” the Sergeant-Major said; fishing for my name and, probably, my rank or position; he clearly did not know who I was.

               “Norman Garrickson,” I said.  “The victims were killed three days before discovery.  Were there any sign the bodies had been scavenged on by animals after death?”

               Guranovich raised an eyebrow, looking to the head of the forensics team.  A shoulder shrug was his reply.  “Nothing of that nature was reported to me,” the Sergeant-Major declared.  “The area is rural, but the nearby road is reasonably busy.  We would have to look into that.”

*stacks of money-butter melting on waffles-a broken necklace*

               I decided that went well enough to keep on asking.  “Will a canine unit be sent to the site?”

               That one earned me a furrowed brow from him.  “We have made arrangements for a provincial canine unit to come in today,” he said, sounding touchy.  “The local unit has been occupied on another case.”

               “Okay,” I said, preparing to wrap up with one more.  “Who owns that land?”

               “It is crown land,” he said, “but within a few yards of a farm.  We are looking into that, too.”

               “Thank-you,” I said, taking my seat and ignoring the unmistakably derogatory muttering from the group.

*a strong, warm wind-a freckled child-a damaged, cardboard box*

               “If that is all,” Guranovich said, returning to his rigid, confident form, “I want to suggest that we have very little to go on.  Normally, we would have far more evidence at this point in an investigation, so we need some traction very soon.  We have approval for as much overtime as we need.  I am overseeing things, but expect a fair bit of time dealing with the media.  For now, Chief Carter will be heading the investigation and reporting to me.”

               There was a bit of wrap up as specific duties were assigned, none of it directly pertinent to the case.  It was a big case getting a lot of attention.  The bureaucratic machinery of the investigation was engaging.  If I was going to help, I needed to get moving before that machinery pushed me out.