Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Deepest Darkest Thoughts"

This is a tale of Chicago's Arcane Threat Division (the ATD). If you haven't read the other Officer Spurgeon tales, you might want to read those first.

"Spurgeon and the Rookie"

"Ugh. Tell me why we're down here, again?"

Ryan Segal, rookie and newest member of the Arcane Threat Division of Chicago's Finest, tried to pull the cobwebs he had just stepped through from his hair. He only partially succeeded.

"We're tracking down a lead on Il Monsignor," Detective Carter said, ducking to avoid another set of cobwebs.

"And who is this Ill-Mon-Seenyor character exactly?" Segal asked.

Carter turned to look at him. Light from Segal's flashlight cast strange shadows over the detective's face. "Don't you ever read briefs?"

"Uhm...I must have missed that one?"

Carter snorted. "Sure." He started back down the passage, his pace faster this time. Segal had to jog a bit to catch up.

"Il Monsignor is the ATD's largest pain in the arse. Most of the calls we get are either fakes or the result of some nut job who stumbles across some minor mojo. Most of those either can't control what they find, or the mojo is of such minor significance that we can shut it down pretty easily. Il Monsignor is different. He's the real deal - a true sorcerer. Sources claim he has his hands in most of the illicit activities involving magic in the Chicago area. I think he's probably responsible for the nut jobs, too. He makes sure the wackos find the magic and they cause enough trouble to keep us out of his hair."

"Mini magical distractions?"


"So why haven't we brought this guy in yet?"

"Il Monsignor is smart. He knows that the use of magic isn't in and of itself illegal. So he uses magical means to get others to do his dirty work. There's no physical trace, nothing we can put into evidence. And the worst thing? We don't even know who he really is. All we have is a code name and a long list of ills."

Carter paused as the brick tunnel ended at a T. He flashed his light down both passages, and then chose the one on the right. Segal followed, still picking cobwebs from his hair.

"So what's all this got to do with an old prohibition era tunnel?" Segal asked.

"Spurgeon and Doyle arrested a deranged witch this morning. She'd been passing out candy tainted by dark magic to the neighborhood children. Totally out of character for this lady; she's usually the one offering to help people with their problems, not add to them. Neighbors say she starting acting strange yesterday afternoon. Spurgeon and Doyle traced her activities back to the building we came in by. Spurgeon found the tunnels and called us in."

Spurgeon. Just the mention of the guy's name ticked Segal off. As a result of a recent "partner exchange" with Spurgeon, Segal had spent a week under investigation by internal affairs for shooting a guy on Navy Pier. The shooting was legit. Everything should have been routine, but Spurgeon had mentioned the lack of a weapon on the part of the perp. ATD routinely covered for each other when it came to such situations - how did you explain the need to protect yourself from fireballs and lightning bolts when magic was not accepted as a realistic threat? But Spurgeon was the department's "Official Doubter." He didn't believe in magic and hadn't covered for Segal where anyone else in the department would have. Even after a few weeks it still made Segal's blood boil. Spurgeon might have saved Segal's neck a couple of times, but the guy was a Class-A jerk.

"So? Why didn't they check this out? Didn't want to get their clothes dirty?" Segal flicked his fingers to get rid of another cobweb.

"You're not thinking this through," Carter replied. "This incident practically reeks of Il Monsignor. The guy is smart; there won't be any physical evidence. Our best shot is to hope that there are traces of magic left from whatever he did to the witch, something we can use to track him down. If Spurgeon walked the area...."

"The traces would disappear."

"Exactly. Wouldn't be the first time Spurgeon inadvertently destroyed evidence. Protocol requires him and Doyle to call things like this in just in case."

So the mighty Spurgeon wasn't always the knight in shining armor. He messed things up as often as he helped out. The thought brought a smile to Segal's face. It wasn't the noblest of thoughts, but Segal felt better, nonetheless. Until the radio squawked.

"*Yous guys find anything yet? 'Cause we's gettin' hungry up here.*"

Segal grumbled. Carter pulled out his radio. "Not yet, Spurgeon. Give us another ten and we're out of here."

"*Ten? My gramma can move faster than you two. Tell the rookie to pick up the pace, Carter. You're killin' me, here.*"

"Maybe he should have called his grandma, then," Segal said. He pulled more cobwebs from his clothes. "Would've saved me the hassle of listening to him complain."

Carter chuckled, then paused. "What's that?" He trained his flashlight on a bundle sitting in the middle of the passage ahead.

"Looks like a basket covered with a cloth of some kind," Segal said.

"Yes. Odd place for a basket. And look, there's no dust on the cloth."

"Meaning it hasn't been here very long."

Carter nodded. "Very good." There was a note of approval in his tone. Segal smiled in spite of himself.

"This could be what we're looking for. Stand back a bit, I want to check for

Segal stepped back as Carter made a few complicated gestures while muttering strange words under his breath. The hairs on Segal's arms rose a bit, something he had learned to expect when in the presence of active magic. Carter said that sensitivity had been one of the reasons ATD had requested Segal be assigned to the division. Carter ended the spell, his hands spread out before him. There was a moment of silence, and then the cloth began to glow with a soft blue light.

"Yes!" Carter said. "We've got something...."

There was an explosion of absolute darkness. Sounds ranging across octaves struck Segal's ears with the force of a thousand mini sledgehammers. The sensation lasted but an instant, then became something more, transcending the physical to drive talons of agony directly into his soul. The pain was so exquisite Segal lost touch with his senses. The blackness consumed him.

He was floating in a sea of despair, tossed about on waves of terror. Images flitted through his view, horrors not seen by the eye, but conjured directly by the mind. Abominations of unimaginable evil committed heinous acts, abhorrent to his Segal's very essence. Works of vilest sorcery ripped and tore at him, laying waste to the innocence of his soul.

"And you are powerless to stop it," a familiar voice whispered through the darkness. "If only you were worth the badge on your chest."

Spurgeon's face, distorted into a demonic caricature of the man, yet eminently recognizable, blossomed into his view above it all. It threw back its head and laughed.

No! Not Spurgeon. I will not be laughed at by the likes of you!

The laughter rose in volume.


The psychic scream lanced through the image, rending it to shreds. It reverberated in Segal's mind, gaining force as it rebounded through his psyche. The darkness roiled, it pulsed....

It burst.

Segal came to on the floor of the passage. His head was pounding, but he struggled to sit up. He grabbed at his flashlight. Where was Carter?

Carter lay on the floor a few feet away. His eyes were rolled up in his head and he shook from what looked like a seizure. The spell - and Segal was sure that's what it was - still had his partner in its grasp. Somehow he had been able to get free.

Segal scooted over to Carter and tried to wake him to no avail. Carter was shaking more violently now. He wouldn't be able to manage the strain much longer. There was only one way out, and Segal hated himself for having to use it.

"Officer down, I repeat, officer down. Spurgeon, we need you here on the double!"


Five minutes later the situation was over. Spurgeon's arrival had done the trick - the spell had been unable to survive in his doubting presence. While Spurgeon and Doyle took the basket, which had been filled with some kind of psychotropic mushroom, back to the cars Segal sat with Carter, making sure he was all right.

"What happened, Carter? What was that?"

"That was a mindtrap spell, and a nasty one at that." Segal raised an eyebrow and Carter continued. "Mindtrap spells are designed to cut the recipient off from the physical world and trap them in the confines of their own psyche. This particular spell had a rider, a glamor that dug up the deepest, darkest thoughts from the mind and used them to overwhelm the victim's soul."

"You were having a seizure."

Carter nodded. "The human mind is not designed to handle such things. The body goes into shock, then eventually shuts down completely. A very tidy little spell."

"We're lucky Spurgeon was here to save the day, again."

Carter placed a hand on Segal's shoulder. "Spurgeon does a job in the unit, and he does it well. But today it was you who saved the day, Segal."

"But it was Spurgeon who stopped the spell."

"Spurgeon would never have gotten here in time if you hadn't found a way out of it first. You're the hero today, Segal. I owe you my life."

Segal felt himself blushing. Dammit.

"Now then," Carter said, getting to his feet, "Let's check out that basket. The spells will be gone, but there may be a physical clue we can use to help us get to Il Monsignor."

"You still think it was him behind this?"

"A mindtrap spell that complex? Anchored to a basket left here for no other reason than to attract the ATD? Set to go off when other magic was activated? This has Il Monsignor written all over it."

There was more discussion as they headed back to the cars, but Segal would be hard-pressed to remember much of it later. His mind was too full of pride to fit much of anything else.

"Return to Summer"

This was an immediate response challenge to "End of Summer." The "Return to Summer" challenge required the use of the following words: Sunshine, Watermelon, Ants, Warmth, Hamburgers, Hotdogs, Grill, Fris-bee, Grassy Field, Checkered Table Cloth, Fireworks, Cold Beer, A Hungry Dog. Of course, I couldn't help but modify them in my own special way.

"Hello, everyone, and welcome to the 2009 Fantasy Writing Group Summer Talent Show. With Ima Sidekick, I'm your host, Needa Betterjob. This year's show is sponsored by Tony R. 'Tony R., Someone's Choice for Pun-Filled Entertainment.'

"What's new at this year's show, Ima?"

"The choice of venues this year was a little surprising, Needa. Seems the Hungary Dogs had their MLB license revoked last week after publicly mocking the Commissioner by burning him in effigy in the dugout. It didn't help that the entire pitching staff got trapped behind the blaze and is now in intensive care."

"Ouch! Those are some hot Dogs, Ima."

"True, Needa. Turns out the team owner did it intentionally in order to win a bet."

"Did he win?"

"So I'm told, Needa."

"Well, there you have it folks. If you need to win a bet, fire works."

"Anyway, with the Dogs out, Grassy Field became an open venue and the Fantasy Writing Group snapped it up."

"It looks like the festivities are ready to start, Ima. What's this year's theme?"

"Warmth. People need to display some sort of talent involving things that make them warm and fuzzy."

"Sounds like an easy theme."

"Could be, but the Fantasy Group prefers for things to be outside the traditional box. It should prove interesting."

"Give us an idea of what we can look forward to."

"Well, scanning the entry list there are several that seem promising. The pigs should be entertaining."


"Yes, these particular pigs are legal residents of a borough."

"What does that make them?"

"Ham burghers."

"I see."

"It gets better Needa. There's a soldier bee from the hive down the road that's managed to grow quite an afro."

"What's his name?"

"Frizz Bee. And he's not alone. Hundreds of his aunts have shown up to watch him compete. And its rumored the Queen Bee herself will make an appearance to watch her son shine."

"That would be exciting. What else stands out for you?"

"There are some naiads on the list."

"What are those?"

"River spirits. There is some controversy over having them on the program, though, Needa."

"How's that?"

"Well, naiads don't wear clothes and these are rumored to be very well endowed."

"You mean they have large water melons?"

"Ahem. I wouldn't have put it that way, but...."

"Perhaps a safer entry?"

"How about a sculpture? One enterprising young fellow crafted a chrome golem entirely out of grills from '57 Chevys."

"That should be interesting."

"Then there's America's answer to the flying carpet."

"What's that, Ima? A jet powered Hoover?"

"Nothing so mechanical. We've already got Hot Dogs, baseball and Chevrolet. Outside of those, what could be more American than the flying checkered table cloth?"

"Apple pie."

"Hah. Got me there, Needa."

"Well, it looks like they're ready to start down on the field. Count Dracula is our MC this year and I'm told he's getting into the American theme, too. Foregoing his traditional coffin this year, the Count is entering the field in...some kind of stone box trailing wisps of some kind of mist. What is that, Ima?"

"I believe it's an iced cold bier."

"And you CAN'T get more American than that."

"End of Summer"

This was in response to a challenge for "End of Summer." I admit it's a bit dark.

The photographer snapped another picture.


"I love this time of year," he said, "don't you?"

His companion didn't answer, too overcome by the moment to speak.

"Parents are happy for vacation to be over."


"The children mourn the loss of their freedom as they head back to school."


"It's a time of transition, from one stage of existence to another." He snapped another picture.



The camera indicated the memory card was full, so he popped open the cover, pulled out the old card, and slotted in a new one. He took a moment to check the light settings and made a few minor adjustments. His companion was patient through the process. He appreciated this about her. An artist should never be rushed.

"I was never too attached to any one season as a child," he continued.


"Each one held something unique to look forward too."


"Think about it: Autumn had a new school year, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. Winter included Valentine's Day and snowball fights, not to mention Christmas. Spring meant shedding winter clothes, Easter egg hunts and kite flying. And then there was Summer - the coveted break from school, picnics and beach trips."


"If you had asked me back then, I probably would have said that Summer was the best of the bunch. After all, the good times lasted for three whole months, while the other seasons only had certain times to look forward to."


"Ask about specific memories, though, and I'd have had equally good memories about each season. That's part of the reason I became a photographer."


"You see, as time goes on I find I remember less and less details about things. I have a general memory of feelings and such, but the visuals - the visuals never seem to stay with me unless I record them."


"Seasons come and go, you see, and after awhile, they begin to blur into each other, making it hard to separate them in memory. With pictures, I can remember each one as if it were yesterday."


He checked the scene once more. Had he captured it all? Yes, that should do it. He set down the camera and addressed his companion once more.

"I have to thank you for being with me on this journey. Yours is a Summer I will recall fondly years to come. Sadly, our time together is coming to a close."

She spoke then, or tried to, but all that escaped was a muffled sob. A tear rolled down a cheek that was already wet and red.

"Yes, it saddens me, too," he said, catching the tear on the edge of his blade. "But time moves on. It is time for Summer to end."

One quick motion of the blade and it was over.

He pocketed the knife and retrieved the camera. His heart ached a bit as it always did at the passing of a season. It hurt when one was gone. Still - he patted the camera - he had his memories. There was no use crying over what was spilt. Not when another season awaited.

He closed the door behind him as he moved to the next room. His companion was already there.

"Hello, dearest Autumn," he said, readying the camera. "Let's get acquainted, shall we? Our time is so short. Fall will be gone before we know it."

I'm Back!

Hey, I'm back. Long break, needed time, had a baby (well, wife had a baby) 3 weeks early, got sick, etc. Bad excuses. I'm back. New Posts will commence momentarily!