Report 9: The Wambli Waste

Sir,

It’s been a couple of days since my last report, I’m told, and considering that I haven’t heard from you in the meantime, I can only assume that the Manhattan Protocols have been enacted. I hope that you and Denise are well, and look forward to hearing from you soon. And if the worst has happened… God rest your souls, wherever they may have been flung.

Much has happened since I last reported in from Melmoth Memorial. I’m writing to you from there once again, however, this time from my own hospital bed. They tell me, in fact, that I never left, though the evidence of my senses suggests otherwise. I’m not sure how much I can trust those at this moment, however; I’m afraid that events are a bit of a jumble in my head, and I’m not yet entirely clear on what’s been happening outside it in the meantime. The Sheriff tells me “not much,” but I’ll want to speak with John Cheveyo to ensure the same is true on the Mountain.

But now I’m speaking in riddles. Let me back up to before the hospital experience, and bring you up-to-date. I believe I left the story off with John Cheveyo and myself in the kitchen of the Opa Lodge, where he determined that I had faced and shot a Nukpana in my dreams. From there, we continued up the Mountain to investigate a second murder, this one a double homicide. We went as far as we could in the jeep, and continued on foot. The new murder victims were very near where Chris Phillips’ body had been found, up pretty high, but not so high that we needed climbing gear. The paths were steep, but they were there. I looked down and saw Lake Mammedaty shimmering below us, just like in my dream. I looked up, however, and saw no door in the mountain.

I chose not to mention it, and our talk turned to the victims. They were Alo, Cheveyo told me, a couple of teenagers who hadn’t yet been identified. Normally, anyone on the Mountain would know them on sight, but apparently that wasn’t an option with the shape the bodies were in. The best his men had been able to do was tell him that, once again, one of the bodies was male, the other female. And that the female had taken the brunt of the violence.

When we arrived at the scene, we were met by the two Rangers who’d discovered the victims. One was a very serious new recruit named Luke Pallaton, and the other was Mark Hototo, a cheerful round-faced man who serves as Cheveyo’s second-in-command. He was singing when we arrived, a jaunty tune with something of a martial beat. Pallaton solemnly beat out accompaniment on a metal bucket.

Cheveyo called up the hill to him. “Hototo! You singing them off before our dowser gets a crack at them?”

Hototo stopped and looked down at our approach. “They already gone, Pappy. I’m just providing a little rhythm for their walk.”

“Go ahead,” I said. “The bodies are just meat. If their spirits left a mark, it’ll be on the land.”

Hototo raised an eyebrow. “Damn, Pappy. You didn’t tell me you found a shaman out there.”

I smiled. “Hardly that. Just a man who knows how to use the proper tools.”

“That’s a shaman around here,” Cheveyo put in. He gestured to two nearby figures covered with sheets. “Coroner’s gonna be pissed off at you covering the bodies.”

Hototo shrugged. “Let him. It’s my mountain, not his.”

“Hototo…”

“C’mon, Pappy. I’m joking. The buzzards were circling. And you know as well as I do that there’s worse things than buzzards on the Wambli Waste.”

That piqued my interest. “Wambli Waste?”

“It means ‘Good Eagle.’” Pallaton stood up from his vigil over the bucket. Dark-eyed and taciturn, he gestured up the hill. “Because only an eagle could mount the peak, and only a good one could survive what he found there.”

Hototo smirked. “Of course, these days we call it that because nothing will grow on this side of the Mountain.” He deepened his voice. “Heap big joke on white man’s words.”

I ignored him, looking instead at Pallaton. “And what might the eagle find at the peak?”

Pallaton looked to Cheveyo with one eyebrow raised. Cheveyo nodded. “Go ahead.”

“He’d find Ahtunowhiho to assault his spirit. He’d find Chepi to assault his body. He’d find horror and helplessness, madness and grief. And unless he was a very good eagle indeed, he’d find his death.”

I turned and pointed down at the lake. “And what would he find down there?”

Pallaton’s eyes narrowed. “On a good day? If he was very lucky, and the wind was blowing his way? He might find salvation.”

“The Wanageeska are whimsical, at best,” Cheveyo said.

I nodded. “Then if I see my tiny bird-faced man again, I’ll have to thank him for taking an interest.”

Hototo threw back his head and laughed, like something out of myth. “A shaman, and touched by the White Mirror World! Who the hell are you?”

I extended a hand. “Clint Matthews,” I said. “Secret Agent X-23. Pleased to meet you.”

A terrible breach of protocol to reveal my call letters, I realize. But I was caught up in the moment.

And I’m afraid we’ll have to pick it up from there next time, sir. The doctor has arrived for one final check of my motor functions before he releases me. It seems I had a seizure in Alexandra Melmoth’s room two nights back, and they’re concerned that there may have been neural damage.

– Agent X-23, signing off.

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About Mark Brett

Shaved Yeti. Alien. Writer of stuff. Read my fiction at https://reportsfromthefieldblog.wordpress.com/. Read my thoughts on comic books and other dork culture ephemera at http://dorkforty.wordpress.com/. View all posts by Mark Brett

2 responses to “Report 9: The Wambli Waste

  • Mark Brett

    Clint, this is the Chief.

    As I would assume you’ve guessed by now, we’re back. As Manhattans go, this one went pretty smooth. No fatalities, nobody stuck in a wall, only a few people under psychiatric care. And Denise is not one of those. She wanted me to tell you, she’s OK. A little shaken up. Never did take to extra-dimensional incursion. I gave her a few days off, so soon she should be right as rain.

    Same with HQ. Everything’s still congealing around us, of course. Kind of soft going. But it looks hunky-dory so far. The Black Library seems to have lost a room, but I’m sure it’ll turn up. More importantly, the egress networks weren’t compromised. So the Hedge Doors should all be in the same place when you come back. They just point somewhere different now. I did have to close the one in the Great Dismal Swamp, though. That’s how it got in, and– Well, hell, Clint! I suddenly realize I never finished telling you that story! Here. Let me do that now.

    As I recall, I left off just after Billy the Psychic Fetus opened his eyes. Kinda caught me with my pants down. I’d just put two and two together about Jackson Curry– more on him in a minute– and when I looked up, the store had gone crazy. Whatever was eating the light in there had suddenly gobbled up a bunch more of it. I couldn’t see Euclid over by the door even though the sun was still shining on the other side of it, bright as you want. Up close, though, I could see a little better. Ernie was at the counter staring all blank-eyed at Billy. And Billy was staring at something I couldn’t see in the gloom behind me.

    Turns out it was Pop. I heard a clink, and all of a sudden, there he was. Slack-jawed. Head kinda hung to one side. Eyes rolled back in their sockets. What really caught my attention, though, was the crowbar he had in his hand. He lurched forward out of the dark, all herky-jerky style, swinging that thing over his head. Now, I may be too old for field work, Clint, but even I can dodge a retired octogenarian swamp farmer.

    But that’s when I realized Pop wasn’t intended to be the real threat. I ducked his first arthritic swing, and while I was distracted, pain exploded from behind my right temple. I fell to one knee, and a glance at the counter showed me Billy. Nothing but Billy. Floating there all emaciated in his jar. Eyes glowing in the blackness, zoomed right in at me and burrowing deeper into my skull by the second.

    Then Pop took another swing with that crowbar, and I had to dodge again. This time, though, I was a little too slow. He missed my head, but landed a glancing blow in the thigh. Hurt like hell. Then Billy was back at me again. He couldn’t worm all the way in because of my Agency training, but he could make me hurt. Then it was Pop again. Then Billy. Then Pop. Then Billy. And every time, Billy got a little bit deeper. It wasn’t something I could keep up for long, and eventually he found the right switch to throw. I felt a pinch somewhere inside my head, and dropped to the floor like a rag doll.

    Pop dropped the crowbar, and Euclid got a roll of twine off the shelf. And together, without saying a word, they started tying me to one of the wooden chairs the old men sit around in while they’re eating their cheese and telling their lies. They were both moving weird, too, like… epileptic puppets. And the longer they worked, the darker it got. Once I was good and hog-tied, though, I got control of my muscles again and things lightened up to the point that it was just kinda dusk-dim in there.

    Then they cleared off a folding table W A’s uses for displaying Ernie’s home-made baked goods. You remember that cherry pie I brought to the Christmas party last year? I bought it off that table. Anyway, once the boys had it cleared off, Ernie came around the counter, hiked her shirt up over her belly, and laid down in place of her pies. But she never once took her eyes off Billy the whole time.

    Once Ernie was up on her perch, Pop picked his crowbar back up and went over to the counter. Euclid tilted the bell jar, and Pop brought that bar right down on it. The bottom of the thing shattered, and formaldehyde went pouring out everywhere. God, Clint, the stench of it! I mean, the smell was already in the air, but now… There was this rotten fish odor on top of everything else. And when I looked over at Billy, I saw why.

    Now that he was out of the liquid, the fleshy parts of him had sort of a putty-like consistency. That one flipper arm of his looked like it was ready to slide off the bone. The skin on his neck moved in and out as he struggled to breathe, and he coughed up tiny lungfuls of this gelatinous black goo. He was struggling, alright, and it was disgusting.

    But then Euclid picked up the whole sorry mess, his fingers leaving impressions in Billy’s flesh. But he carried him over to the table and laid him out on Ernie’s exposed belly. Now, Ernie was pregnant, if you’ll remember, and laid out on her back like that, her navel was poking out at the peak like the nozzle on a beach ball.

    So there’s Billy, perched up on that round stomach, and he starts crawling up toward her belly button. It wasn’t far to go, understand, but in his condition it might as well have been Everest. Anyway, he finally gets there, shaking and weak. And then, swear to God, Clint, he latches his mouth onto her navel and starts sucking, his gooey lips moving intently over that little nub of flesh.

    Then something weird happened. Billy’s body started to… well, implode, kinda. It was like everything inside of him was being sucked out. His skin even started looking less wet, and by the time it was over, Ernie was left with the dried up husk of a fetus laying on her belly. The dried up husk of a fetus that, thankfully, had stopped moving. And of course, that was when everything went back to normal. It slowly started getting lighter in there, and Pop and Euclid kind of stumbled, like they were waking up from a dream.

    Then Ernie came to and started screaming.

    And I’m going to have to leave off there for now, Clint. I’ve still got a few things to supervise coming off the Manhattan, and they’re calling for my attention. Continue your case notes as soon as possible, though. That seizure worries me. I’m sure the Somnambulists would have let us know if there was anything wrong, but considering the forces we deal with, you can’t be too careful with your brain.

    – Chief Bill Roberts, signing off.

  • Gede Prama

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