Friday, November 17, 2017

When You Hear Music, Run

44.

"This will be my sixth time up in them woods, on my previous five trips, I only found one person, and that one was," Gilbert paused for a moment, "Well he came back wrong best I can say it, he's still alive last I heard, and his parents are doing their best, but what's in them woods isn't a normal creature, it takes things from you." The two exterminators were on a ferry at the moment, the sun was going down. Gilbert had informed Clarissa they wouldn't be going into the woods till the morning, he didn't dare start out at night.

"Is it some kind of ancient spirit, like something native american?" Gilbert smiled.

"You went the same place I did on my first trip up there, I checked a local reservation figuring someone had cursed the place, maybe I could get it removed? They knew the place, knew the evil there, but it was there before their people had ever come from wherever they came from. They put me in touch with the only person to ever come back from them woods. He was old, up over the age of 98, didn't speak, when I ran across him he'd moved to just outside of the woods, lived in a small cabin his grand daughter helped maintain. She told me he hadn't talked to anyone in over five years, spent most of his time sitting on the porch in a rocking chair just staring into the woods. I asked my questions, he didn't say anything, I was about to leave when I told him I was going into those woods, and that's when he snatched my arm strength like a taught cable, he stared me right in the eyes and said 'When you hear music, run.'" Gilbert fell silent for a bit. Clarissa felt a chill run up her spine at the story, she could tell Gilbert was bothered by it. He himself was staring at the mountains, she could tell he was probably going back to those woods in his mind.

"For my first trip I wasn't alone, authorities hadn't learned to avoid the woods, we had search and rescue, sheriffs, even some fire fighters had joined the effort. I was just hired at the time because I'd worked for the sheriff once to kill a werewolf, so he knew that the woods could harbor things normal people didn't believe in. We had no idea what we were walking into. Lost five people in two days, never found a trace of them, they were just up and gone, including the sheriff who hired me. The second time out it was just me and Charlie, no one else would go. Charlie saw something in the woods I didn't, he wouldn't tell me what it was, but he never went back to them. Hell he didn't come back to the peninsula for any regular job, I never blamed him, I don't take jobs in wyoming either." Gilbert didn't say anything again. Clarissa was beginning to regret coming on this job.

"That third job though, it was just me, so I was already high strung. Those woods are deep and you start seeing things, hearing things, and you know you're hearing things, because those woods are quiet like the grave. Its the first thing you notice about when you get deep in, past the normal woods areas, past the birds, and squirrels and other shit, when you get in deep it gets quiet, real quiet," Gilbert considered his next words carefully, Clarissa had goose bumps all over her arm, "When I heard it at first I thought I was just hearing more shit, I swear I'd heard my mothers voice earlier in the day, but that music was unmistakeable, faint at first, just drifting on the wind and then it was all around me. You know carnival music? Loud and bombastic? It's what I heard, my father used to take me to carnivals as a young man, I loved it, loved seeing clowns and high wire acts, it was a grand ole time. This music put the chill into my spine. I'd forgotten about the old native american's warning up till then, and then it came flooding back and I was chilled to my core." A bird made a loud cawing sound from somewhere on the sound and both Clarissa and Gilbert got startled and laughed at the situation.

"Out of nowhere amidst this music was a carnival barker. He even had a little booth, I couldn't believe my eyes at first. I was dumb then, just a stupid fool who didn't run when he should have. 'Step right up, step right up, we have rides, we have thrills, we have stuff you ain't never seen, step right up sir' I was paralyzed, unable to move, unable to talk, and that barker had a look to him, something was off, I mean obviously because it was a carnival barker in the middle of the woods, but there was something else, something insidious about how he was looking at me. While I was staring at him his outfit changed, started small, fabric getting frayed, skin looking off. Soon enough his clothes were made from skin and bone, his own body that of a corpse. And I was being strangely drawn to him, I could feel my desire to go with him," Gilbert shuddered again and gathered his thoughts, "I probably would have gone with him if not for Tyler Smith, the young boy I was out there to find, he screamed at me no and I woke up like from a dream, I snatched him up and ran, I could hear the barker behind me making demented requests cursing my family but I paid him no mind. I just ran."

"When I got Tyler back home to his family he wasn't speaking, his hair was all white, all the boy would say is 'when you hear music, run' I heard that's all he does say now, though he hardly speaks. Just sits on the porch looking back to the woods, his family moved away, but he knows which direction to look, knows where to stare." Gilbert looked to the woods again, shivered and walked back to the van, the ferry ride was almost over.

"So what's the plan?"

"I booked some hotel rooms, we will set out in the morning, check in with the sheriff just to let her know we're going up there, she'll probably give me a song and dance like Doris did, and then we'll find Ms Hansen, or not, either way we will leave those woods by night time, but remember what I did not."

"When you hear music run."

"When you hear music run, good Clarissa you may outlive me yet." Clarissa didn't feel that, and couldn't help shake the feeling Gilbert had mentioned he'd been up there five times but only told her of three of them.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Into the Woods

43.

The front doors bell toned and Gilbert looked up from the exterminator catalog. He was all by himself. Doris and Clarissa had taken a personal day together to do something Gilbert didn't care to hear about and he'd been the one to hold down the fort. He had been flipping through the catalog for a few hours, deciding if he really wanted to order anything or just look.

"Excuse me?" The man had thick dark rimmed glasses, he was wearing a wrinkled suit the type you throw on for an unexpected funeral.

"Help you? We're running a discount on goblins and lesser demons, only lesser demons though, full blown exorcisms are still full price, hands are tied on that one catholic church rates, you understand." Gilbert didn't even really look up, he'd already been pestered by a couple people looking for a regular exterminator and he was tired of it already.

"Seriously?"

"Yeah catholic exorcisms are a damned racket, though I haven't found anything that works better, lesser demons I can get rid of easily enough, sanctify burn the little bastards with some holy water, but full blown demon stuff needs the big guns and big guns aren't cheap." Gilbert had tried to get Father Clarence to do an exorcism, but he said it wasn't his area of expertise.

"I'm not, I'm not here for an exorcism sir." Gilbert looked up from his catalog and gave the man a more serious appraisal. He looked sad more than anything, and that told Gilbert it wasn't a normal job he was calling about.

"How long have they been missing?" The man seemed taken back.

"What?"

"Had to have been the Jefferson County Sheriffs who told you to come to me, your suit looks like a long drive without a change of clothes and your face is red from crying, so someone is missing in the Olympic forest." The man didn't know how Gilbert had guessed all that but he felt a sense of relief.

"I just didn't know what an exterminator in eastern Washington could do, my sister, she went missing yesterday we were supposed to have dinner last night, I fear the worse."

"Hiking?"

"Ornithology its..."

"Study of birds I know, though no one studies birds in those woods, no one studies nothing."

"She thought people were just being superstitious." The man started to cry, and Gilbert came over and hugged him, he'd been in this position before, and everytime it broke his heart.

"Ain't no superstition about those woods, but I understand, and I can help you, but I want you to know I've been up there five times, I've only ever gotten one person out and even then there were changes."

"Anything you can do, anything." The man started deeply sobbing and Gilbert let him. It was a good hour before he left. He made sure to give Gilbert a picture of his sister even though Gilbert knew in his heart he wouldn't need one, he knew the woman was dead and he was wasting his time.

****

"No Gilbert you stubborn old man you will not go into the woods." Doris had never liked Gilbert going into the olympics, in the past she couched it in just a bad feeling, now with her elf heritage out she spoke from a position of the fae, it was an evil place.

"Got a job to do Doris, and its a job that needs done end of discussion."

"You are a fool Gilbert, a damned fool, that wood almost killed you a couple times and here you are. Do you even have a picture of this dead woman? You know she's dead, they all have to be." Gilbert showed her a picture Kathy Henson was written on the back.

"We all have jobs in life Doris, this one is mine."

"Then you do it alone, leave Clarissa here, she can continue the business when whatever is up there kills you."

"I can make my own decisions." Doris looked at Clarissa with anger, and then pulled out a photo album from underneath the counter. She flipped through pictures that looked as old as civil war photography to more recent modern day shots.

"Over a hundred people that we know of have gone into those woods and never came back Clarissa, what's there is not meant to be disturbed, its not meant to be bothered, it just is, leave it where it is."

"You make your own choices Clarissa, I'm going, you don't have to." Clarissa looked over the pictures, most of them were adults, but some were children young looking children at that.

"I'm going."

"Screw both of you, I will not mourn you." Doris slammed the album shut and stomped back into the office.

"Let her go Clarissa, we got a long drive ahead of us."

"Don't we need to get gear or anything?"

"We'll get some warm coats from the house, everything else ain't worth a damn in them woods."

Friday, November 3, 2017

Courting Disaster

42.

"I think we're done here." It had been hours, Gilbert was tired, the man in the suit was tired, and they were getting no where.

"Is that to say I can leave?" The man stared for a minute and then the door opened.

"Free man, but do please try and avoid future wars with the god damn fae courts." Gilbert stood up his legs creaking from sitting.

"No promises." Outside the door Clarissa was waiting, she had there stuff from when they'd been arrested. Gilbert didn't say anything though clearly Clarissa wanted to talk, he waited until they'd gotten into the van and were down the road from the military base before he said anything.

"So you want to know what happened?"

"Yeah I'm so confused, I mean I told them everything I know and I don't know anything, how did we start a war with the autumn court?"

"Well we didn't, summer and autumn are already at war, as are winter and spring, we just kind of stepped in one through deception."

"Who deceived us?"

"Pretty sure it was god damn everyone on this one."

****

Arrows were stuck near the ground. The autumn ambush had been almost picture perfect, most of the escort was dead, Gilbert, Rolo, and Clarissa were crouched behind the shields of the fallen hoping to survive. Rolo was more than a little upset.

"YOU SET THIS UP!"

"Yes Rolo I arranged for you to carry us through this specific passage in the fae on the way to my office so I could die to your enemies, it was my brilliant plan to die to the court of autumn." The arrows stopped, that scared Gilbert more than anything, when your enemies aren't showing you where they are, they become unpredictable.

"Man, you can leave, we only want Rolo." It was some kind of gutteral creature, the word barely intelligible.

"Nice knowing you Rolo." Rolo grabbed Gilbert by the arm his eyes desperate.

"You can't leave me here, you don't know what they'll do to me."

"Kill you probably, but I don't know what you want me to do about it, I'm unarmed, Clarissa is unarmed, and we aren't anywhere near the office, we're in the fae."

"I can rip us out of the fae, I don't know where we'll be, but it'll be a far sight better than here." Gilbert smiled, he figured Rolo had a way out he wasn't using.

"Do it."

****

"And so as you know we wound up in a military base and may have inadvertently caused a minor scuffle with the court of autumn and the US government."

"No I got that, I'm still confused how Doris fits into this."

"We're about to find out."

It took Gilbert a few hours to drive from the military base back to his office. All told they'd been gone over a day and a half from when they were supposed to be back in a few hours. Gilbert was expecting to find his office in disarray or at the very least Doris upset. He was mildly perturbed when he came in to find her watching tv at her desk.

"Oh Janice you can do so much better than Jerome."

"Doris! We've been gone over a god damned day and this is where I find you just watching tv at your desk which I told you to specifically not to do." Doris just rolled her eyes.

"You guys are always over due or late, I swear Gilbert I'm not going to get the national guard every time you get lost in the woods." Gilbert was beyond angry but Clarissa couldn't help but laugh.

"Doris we were kidnapped by elves of the summer court who told me quite a tale about you! Are you an elf?"

"Yeah? I listed other on race when I submitted my job application, you never asked I figured you knew."

"This whole time?"

"Why do you think I wear my hair like I do? have to cover my ears, people always making jokes, it gets very tiresome." Gilbert had to sit down in one of the chairs in the lobby, he was just so overwhelmed by the situation in general.

"I think it's cool you're an elf Doris," Clarissa spoke up while Gilbert collected his thoughts.

"Thank you dear, so what did the Summer Court want anyway?"

"They accused you of being a traitor, that you sold them out to the autumn court." Clarissa had stepped up while Gilbert just held his head in his hands.

"Probably Queen Lustria right? She's the real traitor, probably arranged the whole thing to kill Rolo my half brother."

"Yeah he almost got killed in an ambush!"

"Well there you go, need to talk to Rolo, guy always was a headstrong fool, well I'm glad you guys are ok, well mostly Gilbert looks a little green under the gills, might want to take him home."

"That's an excellent idea, I need to rest, take some time, stop watching god damn tv though Doris I mean it." Doris rolled her eyes again, waited till Gilbert and Clarissa had gotten back into the van and then went back to her program.

"Janice! Don't you tell me you are having Jeromes baby!"

Friday, October 27, 2017

Prison of Summer Court

41.

"What is the prison of the Summer Court like?" Gilbert inhaled deeply, he hated debriefs, hated them even more when he was potentially facing charges by the government. He knew Clarissa was talking, told her it would be fine to do so, but it meant the government man probably knew more than Gilbert would like them to know. Especially about Doris and her royal connections.

"Summer Court doesn't believe in prison ordinarily, so it wasn't like bars and stuff."

"How progressive."

"They ordinarily torture and then execute people." The government man frowned.

"Decidedly less progressive, so they tortured you."

"Extensively." The man noted something on his pad.

"You don't look like you were physically assaulted?"

"Mental torture is what the elves excell at."

"Loud music? Games with your food? Help me out here Mr. Dunkley."

"Mostly they talk at you until you want to kill yourself."

****

"We can probably just visit the office and get him there." Rolo had followed Clarissa and Gilbert to their "Cell" a very nice looking sitting room. If not for the guards with weapons Gilbert felt it would be pretty comfortable. They had been talking for hours, Gilbert's voice felt hoarse from all the talking, Rolo invigorated by it

"Her she goes by Doris now and I'd appreciate you recognizing that." Rolo sneered.

"Humans are so temperamental, still what's to stop us from going there right now?"

"What's stopping you? Probably fear, you know how long I been doing what I do, you know the kind of things I'd put to keep you out to keep myself safe, yeah you could just walk right in there, but you wouldn't be walking right back out and you know that." Rolo smiled now.

"Or your bluffing us now."

"One way to find out."

"And that would be?"

"Take us to the office." Clarissa didn't want to interrupt, she could sense the tension in the air.

"So then you can spring your trap instead of us just walking into it." Gilbert leaned back and threw his hands up.

"Or don't man, leave us here annoyed for all eternity."

****

"So you negotiated your release with the summer court to set up an ambush with the fall court?"

"No."

"Than your secretary Doris set up the ambush with the autumn court?"

"No."

"Well how did the ambush happen?"

"Mistakes were made."

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Court of Summer

40.

Gilbert and Clarissa were lead through fire and into a room of glass. Clarissa hesitated at the portal of flame, but the sharp end of a spear from their captors pushed her through. The court of Summer was so beautiful it defied description. The glass was alive it seemed, pulsing with an inner flame. There were all sorts of creatures that Clarissa didn't have names for, noted among them were the elves though, they seemed to be in charge based on clothing and position relative to others. They were lead from the opening area to a throne room, seated at the front was a large elven lady. She was oppulently lounging her rolls of fat on open display. Almost naked aside from strategic clothing.

"My Liege I present to you Gilbert Dunkley and hmm don't think I got your name miss."

"Clarissa Shipley my liege." When she said my liege Rolo choked on a laugh. the Queen herself smiled at her stammering reply.

"So eager to serve Ms Shipley? In due time, in due time, but for now you can call me Queen Lustria." Gilbert said something under his breath and got a sharp rebuke from the spearman behind him.

"Something to add Gilbert?" Rolo had a smile on his face.

"Yeah I said bullshit, I'll call no elven lady from the summer court or any court my queen." This brought another strike from the spearman behind him, but the queen held up her hand.

"So proud Gilbert, so proud and strong, you worked for us once now you hold us with such contempt?"

"Not contempt, I bow for no one, honor no royalty."

"And isn't very polite either." Rolo added with a smirk.

"Brave strong Gilbert Dunkley last of his line, you do not have to kneel to me, or honor me," Lustria rose up off her thrown, her gluttonous body gleamed in the fire glass. "But you will respect me in my court or I'll have you flayed alive for my amusement, now to your association with a traitor to this court." Gilbert looked to Clarissa and Clarissa back at him.

"We just took a job from the dragon to kill a troll it wasn't like a long term association." Clarissa assumed it had to be the dragon that had offended the queen, but instead she laughed, she just laughed and laughed.

"Dragon? On my court? That would be the day, no my dear not your association with one of the low creatures of earth that is a dragon, I'm talking of Gilbert continuing to employ Prince Ilon."

"Doris? You are telling me Doris is a prince of your court?"

"Not just a prince, but a traitor to this court!" Gilbert steeled himself, Clarissa saw him stand straight and stare at the Queen.

"I hope your fires are hot, I'm not turning on Doris."

Friday, October 13, 2017

Fairly Warfare

39.

"Did you knowingly or unknowingly start a war with the court of autumn?" The man was in a suit, he had a piece of paper in front of him that had all sorts of scary words about treason and aiding the enemy of the united states. Gilbert just sighed, he'd been in this room before, been in this kind of interview before, he'd been on both sides of the table, but now seeing the man in his suit and the military MP's behind him with rifles he felt very old and tired.

"Well with unknowingly in there I can't really answer that now can I?" Now it was the man in the suits turn to sigh.

***

"I don't know, I didn't know then, and I don't know now, am I being detained?" For Clarissa this was all new, the man in the suit, the men with guns. She didn't know what to feel, ever since they'd been marched out of Gilbert's office in shackles with armed guards she'd felt things had taken a decided turn for the worse.

"Ms. Shipley do you understand the kind of trouble you're in?"

"I have no idea."

"Ok, lets just take it from the top, you said you and Gilbert were being chased by a 'Gravoboom' is that correct?"

"Well that's what Gilbert called it, I really don't know if that's correct or not." The man sighed again.

"Ok why don't you just take it back to the encounter with the fire creature..."

****
"I'm just confused."

"Yeah me too I thought Lord of the Rings was just a movie." The Gravoboom had pursued them through most of the forest, never attacking, just menacing and seemingly pushing them away from the van and deeper into the charred forest. They were currently hiding out in a small grove of trees that had managed to avoid being burnt down.

"No not that, only time I've run across one of these when I did some work for the court of summer, and it was just a kept creature not something out and about."

"Court of summer?" Clarissa felt more confused than normal.

"One of the Courts in the fae, they are broken up by season, made up of elves, fairies the whole bit."

"Its like all the things I dreamed about as a little girl come to life."

"Except you don't want anything to do with the courts, believe me the one time I dealt with the court of summer it was.... shit." Gilbert turned around and noticed they had been surrounded. It was mainly an elven force, armed with spears and bows.

"You don't write, you don't call, Gilbert I'm beginning to think you don't like us very much." The lead elf who spoke looked like a fashion model to Clarissa, like he'd been plucked straight from a romance cover.

"Forgive me Rolo, I thought we were more of a fling." Clarissa was even more lost than usual, and that only got worse when they entered the Fae realms.

****

"So Gilbert willingly admitted to knowing the summer court and even worked for them?" The man in the suit seemed very excited by this Clarissa didn't think it was hidden knowledge.

"We work for anyone who pays is what I always assumed."

"Noted, now please continue and tell us about your time in the fae."

"Ok well see it was like the care bears..."

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Importance of Being Right

38.

"I couldn't tell you what was in it, tasted all right going down, burned like a fire coming out, but oddly enough it worked. When I came out of the bathroom I was a changed man." Gilbert and Clarissa were walking through the remains of a burnt forest. They were wearing respirators because the wild fire was close enough a bad change of the winds would potentially be dangerous with the smoke, but Gilbert had been assured by the fireman that was a rare possibility.

"So did you thank the good reverend for curing you?"

"Oh god no I threatened to kill him the next time he showed up at home."

"That's not very nice."

"Trust me after what he put me threw, killing him would have been a mercy, how did your time with Sylvia play out?"

"It was fineish, we killed some werechickens and then a gargoyle." They were picking through the embers looking for fire sprites, when Gilbert had told Clarissa about the job she kept laughing at the idea of fire sprites despite him telling her they weren't a laughing matter.

"Gargoyle? So did you use stone poison."

"Nope."

"Heart of a harpy?"

"No."

"Crush it in a car crusher? Did that once it was horrific and yet oddly satisfying." Clarissa sighed.

"No, I shot it through the eyes and then the mouth, Sylvia had basically left me to die beforehand."

"Ahh so that's why you were so quiet about it, see you assumed my dislike of Sylvia was related to her reminding me of my wife or just general orneriness and you wouldn't be wrong to an extent, but its also that woman only look out for herself, always has, always will."

"So you told me so."

"If you want to hear it that way, yes I told you so." Clarissa stomped off and Gilbert didn't follow, he knew she couldn't get into too much trouble against fire sprites, and she eventually would calm down. Gilbert started to wonder if the fire jumpers who had reported the sprites were merely suffering from smoke induced hallucinations. He hadn't seen any of the normal indicators of the little buggers, and the longer he stayed in the charred forest he worried about what he was breathing in even with the mask.

"GILBERT!"

"Yeah?"

"What do Fire Sprites look like?"

"Small like a keebler elf."

"So not the size of a tree and bathed in flame?" Gilbert felt the hairs stand up the back of his neck.

"No that's not a fire sprite."

"Then I think we should run Gilbert."

"I like that plan, I like that plan a lot." And so the exterminators fled in the charred forest, and the Gravoboom followed shortly thereafter.