Somnambulist Transmission 1: The Conversation

—Transcript of conversation between Agent X-23 and Captain John Cheveyo—

Italicized impressions of emotional response are the Agent’s. Bold impressions are ours.—

X-23: Good morning, John.

Cheveyo: Morning, Clint. You ready to hit the mountain again?

X-23: Not quite yet. You mind stepping in for a minute?

Cheveyo (uncertain): I don’t mind, but… We got a body to look at.

X-23: I know, and we’ll get to it. I just need to ask you about something first.

Cheveyo (understanding dawns): This is about the note, isn’t it?

X-23: (pause) Just step inside, will you?

Cheveyo: Sure, sure. No problem.

(Agent is anxious. Looks up and down hallway, then closes hotel room door.)

Cheveyo: Clint, you look like hell.

X-23 (relaxes somewhat): I had a hell of a night. Why’d you think it was important to tell me that opa means owl?

Cheveyo: I was hoping it would convince you to find different accommodations.

X-23: So you think the Opa Lodge is tied up in this?

Cheveyo (hesitant): I don’t know anything for sure, but anytime owls come up in relation to a case… I don’t want to tell you, “this is the rez, white man,” but… Things really are different on the Mountain. How much do you know about the Alo?

X-23: The tribe has a file, mostly filled with speculation. Why don’t you tell me about it?

Cheveyo: Fair enough. The Alo are the oldest tribe in North America. When the first primitives came across from Asia, we were here waiting for them, with a thriving civilization that spanned the continent. Is that in your file?

X-23: That tribal belief is recorded, yes.

Cheveyo: But you don’t believe it.

X-23: Don’t see how I could. Archeological evidence would seem to point to an African origin for human life.

Cheveyo: We were already here when the first apes walked upright. When they arrived, they met us. And we changed them. There are Alo words in every other Native American language, because we taught them to speak. There are Alo images, teachings, and customs in every other Native American culture, because we gave them what we had. And like all proud parents, we let them go their own way when it was time, while we dwindled.

X-23: The other tribes see things differently.

Cheveyo: That’s their right. But if you dig down into their genes, you’ll find us there, too.

X-23: I’ve seen the studies. But this is ancient history. What does it have to do with the case?

Cheveyo: Maybe a lot. Whether you believe me or not, your file must have told you that the Alo are an ancient people, and I’m here to tell you that we have ancient ways. Sometimes, those ways seem jarring to outsiders.

X-23: Do those ways include ritual sacrifice and the summoning of demons?

Cheveyo: Not anymore. But there are old men on the tribal council. Very old men with very old ways. They know things I don’t, and I work for them. Sometimes I have to accept their laws.

X-23: Even if their laws allow murder?

Cheveyo: I have my limits. Part of my job is to balance those limits against the needs of the tribe.

X-23: Are you saying that you compromise your ideals, or that you serve as a conscience for men who don’t have one?

Cheveyo: The Council has a conscience, and normally it guides them well. When it doesn’t, I step in. I was hoping to figure out if this was one of those times while you worked off-Mountain with the Sheriff. This sort of thing is delicate. I have to be certain of my resolve.

X-23 (uncertainty giving way to decision): What if I were to tell you that I shot an owl-headed man in the kitchen of the Opa Lodge last night?

Cheveyo (does nothing surprise this man?): I’d say we need to secure another crime scene.

X-23: I may have done it in a dream.

Cheveyo: Never secured one of those before. But let’s have a look, anyway.

(The two men proceed downstairs. In the elevator, the conversation resumes.)

Cheveyo: So who do you work for, anyway? I know you’re not FBI.

X-23 (paranoid): And how do you know that?

Cheveyo: I’m not an idiot. I watched you dowse residual spirit energy out of a car, and channel it. That’s not exactly Bureau standard practice. So who are you with? Project Blue Book?

X-23 (alarmed): I’m not at liberty to say. But, no. I’m not with the FBI. And Project Blue Book was shut down in the 1960s.

Cheveyo (cynical): Heh. Sure it was.

X-23: Believe what you like. But I’m not with Blue Book, either. We go a bit… deeper than that.

Cheveyo: Okay.

X-23: Okay?

Cheveyo: Okay.

X-23: Alright. Why do you think the Opa Lodge, specifically, is tied up in the killings?

Cheveyo: The owls, like I said. If owls come up in relation to a case, the Council is usually involved. The Council owns the Lodge, it’s the Opa Lodge, Opa means owl, you’re staying here. Why are you staying here, by the way?

X-23: It’s the accommodations my people set up for me.

Cheveyo: You weren’t worried that we were going to serve you the long pig?

X-23 (hides surprise): Of course not. No one believes those rumors.

Cheveyo (shrugs): We’ve eaten stranger things. What was the owl-headed man doing in the kitchen?

X-23: Chopping meat. Then he threw the knife at me.

Cheveyo: Huh. I’d have shot the son of a bitch, too.

—End transcript.—


About Mark Brett

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One response to “Somnambulist Transmission 1: The Conversation

  • Mark Brett

    Careful how much you trust Cheveyo, Clint. I’ll defer to your judgment on him for now, but remember: the Alo are a nation unto themselves. So treat him the same way you’d treat agents of any foreign power.

    Interesting that he thought you worked for Bluebook, too. Their work in the Pannawau area is the basis for a lot of our info on the Alo. That work’s older than me, though, and it needs updating. If you can manage Cheveyo as a source, you might be able to add your own chapter to the Blue Book.

    I might be adding a few pages to the Ultra-Violet Book, myself. I’m waiting for some lab results on my own case right now. So as long as I’m here, I figure I’ll tell you a little bit more about what happened down in the Great Dismal. If I remember correctly, I left off in the middle of Pops’ story about old Joe Keeshan and his grand-daughter Ernie. They’d just dug up a steamer trunk containing a clown suit and a bell jar with a mummified baby inside.

    I thought about that for a second. “Sounds like some kinda freak show attraction to me, Pop. If the old boy ran off with circus assets back in the Thirties, he might have taken that, too.”

    “That’s what Ernie figured, too,” Pop said. “She got real curious about that baby. Started readin’ up on it, tryin’ to find out what it was, where it come from, and how her granddaddy mighta come about havin’ it.”

    “Which, there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that,” Euclid interjected. “Joe was family, even if he never much paid her any mind. I’d want to know, too. I mean, he mighta killed that baby, you know? Wouldn’ta surprised nobody if she found that out.”

    “But she got in too deep is the problem. Findin’ out about it’s just fine, but she keeps that thing with her all the time now. It’s in the store right now, under the counter. If you catch her when she thinks nobody’s around, you’ll find her just sittin’ there lookin’ at it.” Pop shook his head. “Somethin’ ain’t right.”

    I agreed that it sounded a little strange. Ernie’s like a little ball of energy most of the time, Clint. Always moving around. Doing stuff even when there’s nothing to be done. So I told Pop and Euclid I’d go in there and have a word with her, as long as they came with me. That way, if it was nothing, they’d see it was nothing. And if it was something… Well, even octogenarian backup’s better than no backup at all.

    But I knew something was wrong the minute I walked through the door. The sun was shining in the windows, but it was like something was eating the light. Might as well have been twilight inside. Felt like there was too much air in the room, too, and instead of smelling like fertilizer and hoop cheese, the place stunk of formaldehyde. Almost choked on it. I motioned to Euclid to prop open the door, but nothing changed.

    The counter’s at the back, opposite the entrance, and behind it sat Ernie, expression slack, eyes sunk deep in her head. Just dark circles under her brow. But I could tell that her gaze was fixed on that bell jar, which wasn’t under the counter anymore, but right out on top. There was this horrible little shriveled-up thing floating inside. Giant misshapen head, with the skin stretched thin and tight over the skull. The body was tiny, and not completely developed. Between the light and the formaldehyde, it was hard to tell, but I kinda got the sense it might have been deformed, too. One of the arms looked a little like a flipper.

    I had to say hello twice before Ernie heard. But when she did, it was with a start, like she was coming out of a trance.

    “Oh! Oh hello, Bill! I didn’t hear you come in!” That’s when I realized the bell hadn’t made a sound when we opened the door. I reached up to give it a nudge, and it tinkled like it always does. Which was a bad sign, but I wasn’t telling Ernie that.

    Instead, I pointed at the jar. “Well, that’s a peculiar thing you got there.”

    “Isn’t it? We found it buried out in the yard. I think Granddaddy must have put it out there when he came home from the circus. Did you know my granddaddy was in the circus?”

    “I didn’t! That’s swell. What’d he do?”

    “Well, I didn’t really know til just recent. But little Billy here made me curious, so–”

    “Little Billy?”

    “Oh, yes! That’s my friend here. When we found him, I started doin’ some research? Lookin’ through Granddaddy’s things, and goin’ on-line? I even went up to Raleigh to visit the library, up at State?”

    “They got a good library up there?”

    “Oh my, yes. And do you know what I found?”

    “I can’t begin to imagine.”

    “I found that my granddaddy, Crazy Joe Keeshan, the meanest man in the county, was a damn clown!”

    “No kiddin’?”

    “No kiddin’! He performed under the name a Doodle. Doodle the Clown!”

    “Well, I’ll be! Pop, did you know that?”

    “First I heard tell of it.” I think the old man was actually hurt that she hadn’t said anything.

    “So he was Doodle,” I said, “and this thing here was…?”

    “Billy! Billy the Psychic Fetus!”

    “Huh. Imagine that. Some kind of a freak show thing, then?”

    “I think so. The man up at State? He told me they rigged some kind of show up, with lights and a speaker, made it look like little Billy here could move and talk? You know, and folks paid a nickel to have their fortunes told? That man, he was real curious about Billy. Offered to buy him. But, I don’t know. I just can’t part him. He’s… all I got left a Granddaddy. Him, and that musty old clown suit.”

    Her eyes went back to Billy, and she faded out on us again. I had to prompt her to continue. “Uh… Man up at State?”

    She snapped out of it again. “Oh, yeah! The man I talked to at the library! He’s some kinda history professor or somethin’? He’s writin’ a book? On the freak shows? He give me his card, said to call him if I changed my mind. It’s around here somewhere…” Ernie pulled a folder out from under the counter, full of xeroxes and some old flyers. “Yeah! Here we go! ‘Professor Jackson Curry, Esquire!’ He was a odd duck. Had a real theatrical way of talkin’? Said it comes natural, ’cause his family was in the carnival business? In fact, my granddaddy worked for his granddaddy! Now, can you beat that?”

    “Not today, I can’t. That a flyer for that carnival I see in there?”

    “Yeah! You wanna see it? Here, Bill, just take the folder!”

    I did, and boy did I get an eye full. “Curry’s World of Wonder” is what the outfit was called. Traveling freak show, back in the 1920s and 30s. The flyer didn’t mention Doodle the Clown, but Billy the Psychic Fetus was on there. So were a couple of other names that might sound familiar to you: Deep Joe, and the Spawn of Yig! That last one sent a jolt up my spine, I’ll tell you that. I dug in a little deeper, found a couple of old newspaper articles on the carnival, and that’s when I almost hit the floor.

    One of them had a picture of Curry himself, and he was dead ringer for the guy who sucked that possessing entity out of Leroy last weekend! Right down to the damn ringmaster get-up!

    I looked up from the folder to find Ernie staring at the bell jar again. And that was when Billy’s head swiveled around. His eyes lit up, and


    X-23, this is Denise.

    The Chief got called away. Some kind of emergency down in Lab C. He asked me to wrap this up, and let you know he’ll get back to you as soon as he can. In the meantime, he wants you to stay on Cheveyo. And get that Melmoth girl debriefed ASAP.

    Just be careful around her for me, though, okay? I don’t trust that little bitch.

    Denise, signing off.

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