Tag Archives: Mount Pannawau

Report 23: Hot Dog Heart

Sir,

I am currently sitting in a back office of the Alo Ranger headquarters, awaiting my chance to speak with Alexandra Melmoth following her transformation into a marauding snake monster.

It helps, I think, to state the facts of the situation bluntly. Alexandra’s magnetism can be quite over-powering, as our past encounters have shown. And considering what I’m going to attempt when I go into that room… I think it’s best to be clear-headed.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. On my way here, I experienced another Wanageeska manifestation. This time, I had stopped for an early lunch at a local establishment known as Dick’s Dogs. They do hot dogs at Dick’s. Hot dogs, and chips, and nothing else. They’re on one side of what I’m given to understand is a bit of a Hot Dog War here in Pannawau. Something to do with a stolen chili recipe. But I’ll delve into that another time.

What’s important right now is that, once I’d gotten my lunch, I pulled the car over to eat it, and— Dick’s is a drive-in, you understand— so I pulled the car into a parking place and proceeded to eat, eager to try this chili over which there’s been so much strife. I can’t recommend the stuff, by the way. How to describe it? It’s… clear. Or white-ish, perhaps. Not sure there’s actually any chili powder in it. It’s spicy, though. Absolutely sinus-clearing. Tastes like horseradish and black pepper. I don’t know. I’m told it’s an acquired taste.

At any rate. I had just unwrapped my first hot dog when I looked up and saw the Tiny Bird-Faced Man, perched on my side mirror. I reached for the crank to roll the window down, and when I looked up again, he was sitting on the steering wheel.

He looked at me.

He looked at my hot dog.

Then back at me again.

Same old song and dance.

I pinched a piece off one end of the dog, and held it out to him. He took it in his tiny hands and pecked at it once with his beak before stopping in what I presume was shock. That chili will take your breath away if you’re not ready for it. At first, I thought he would refuse the offering. But tentatively, he pecked again, decided he liked it, and continued to eat with that mechanical bird-like swiftness I’d come to know. When he was done, he turned his deep black eyes back to me, and I sank, soared, once again into the birdy void.

We flew up over the treetops, drawn to the Mountain, always the Mountain. Only now it wasn’t a mountain. Or it was. Or it had been. But the rocks were cracked and broken, revealed as nothing more than a shell, or a shroud perhaps, and beneath… Beneath, it was shining and golden and alive, alive the way the Alo writing was alive, writhing under our gaze, exposed and ashamed, beautiful and proud.

We dove in close, following a crack in the stone, down the mountain, down and on, the crack running all the way to the base and into the forest, where it split, spidery, in several directions we followed all at once. To the hunting cabin where Jase Peterson tried to claim his birthright, to a clearing with a small puddle of jet black mud in its center, to a rock jutting up at a suggestive angle from the surrounding earth. An unmarked spot overlooking Lake Mammedaty. A field of violently green grass. A cave in a hillside. And finally, all the way out to Melmoth House itself, where the golden glow tarnished to green and radiated out in tendrils too numerous to count, down the hill and on into town.

And we were there all at once, too, in offices and houses and sheds, garages and restaurants, the hospital. The hospital, where green and gold flowed and pulsed against each other in an obscene dance, clinging wetly where they touched, bellies slick with liquid black. We rose above it all on a hot, foetid breath of wind, the tangles and loops and cracks taking on some dreadful, incomprehensible meaning with distance, cohering into a pattern that refused to register in full, writhing, always changing, eluding my grasp, and dotted here and there across the landscape with great splotches of blood.

And then we turned and went back again, back to the Mountain, always the Mountain, and now the Door at its peak gaped open, light pouring out bright as ever, threatening to overshadow the Mountain’s own glow, and we dove down again, into the beam, burning and cleansing and glorious. And down we went, down, caught in the flow of the light, the light, the terrible light, the hideous light, the wonderful welcoming light, faster and faster, lower and lower, the Lake Door looming ahead. The Lake Door. Something was caught in the Lake Door. Something red and wet and flapping in the light. Something beautiful. If I’d had hands, I could have reached out and grabbed it as we passed. But alas, I had only wings.

And so we shot past, into the door and through it, faster than light, heavier, for an eternity. Muscle and tendon strained and stretched, nearly torn asunder by the pressure. And still the light, so much light, filling my eyes and spilling over, burning, into my nostrils, my ears, my mouth.

It tasted like chili. And then…

And then I awoke in the car. The Tiny Bird-Faced Man was gone, and I found my mouth stuffed full of hot dog. And chili. That awful clear-white burning chili. In front of me on the dash sat a second hot dog. Not the one I’d bought. Or, if it was, it was a hot dog transformed. Transfigured into something… Other. It glowed slightly, and radiated a warmth I can still feel now, as it sits in my pocket. There’s something beautiful about it, a beauty similar to that of the red flapping thing in the Lake Door, that thing Alexandra left behind.

And that’s how I know what I need to do when I speak to her. I’m going to offer her that hot dog. Share it, if she wants. And we’ll see where it takes us. I know the ingestion of foodstuffs from beyond is strictly prohibited by regulations. But I’ve already eaten Osceola and Spirit Sausage on this trip. What’s one more magic hot dog, more or less?

At any rate. Alexandra’s in with an Alo doctor right now, getting a general physical. Cheveyo wants to see if she’s got any marks left on her from the battle on the Mountain last night. I’m kind of curious, myself. She took a Nukpana spear to the shoulder, he says, and doesn’t seem to be showing any ill effects. But as soon as they’re done with her, I’ll be able to

Sorry, Chief. Cheveyo just stuck his head in the door. He went to see what was taking the doctor so long with Alexandra, and found the man unconscious in a chair, pants down around his ankles, and his genitals covered in blood. Of Alexandra, there was no sign. More as I know it.

–Agent X-23, signing off.

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34: Harsh Truths

***BEGIN TRANSMISSION***

The Sad Man is talking.

I am talking.

So hard to stay focused and

*************

Hank sighs as he gets out of bed. “Time to make the doughnuts,” he mutters. The joke isn’t funny anymore, but it’s all he’s got left. He kisses his fingers and presses them to Allison’s picture. She looks strange this morning. Harsh. Cold. Dead. Must be the light. Awfully bright. Awfully clean. Awful. It’s making everything in the house more… stark. Real. Hank blinks once, twice. Then he makes up his mind. Takes a shower. Shaves. Gets dressed. Then he picks up the pistol and

*************

The Sad Man keeps talking. “I’m sure you’re feeling disoriented, Agent Matthews. It’s the Osceola. If you’re not used to its effects, it can be overwhelming. For a man of your capacities, especially. Different minds, different places. Even time distorts. Sometimes I think that riding is harder than being ridden. Depending on which of the Ahtunowhiho is doing the riding, of course.”

I look at myself dumbly, and look back with sympathy in my ancient eyes.

“I’m speaking in riddles. My apologies. It’s just so refreshing to speak with someone who shares the gift. Someone who’s not a snake, at least. Poor Oscar. It’s unfortunate what we’re going to have to do to him. But again, I’m speaking in riddles. We should start at the beginning.”

I blink, look around. Pause politely as I get my bearings. “Liar’s Path,” I hear myself say. My voice sounds strange, thick. Clumsy. “Can’t believe you.”

I smile sympathetically at myself. Already, I’m annoying myself. “I’m afraid you’re going to have to believe me. I know the urge to lie here is strong. But I’ve long since learned to fight it. Besides, it’s…” I trail off, give myself a measuring look and

*************

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EMERGENCY REPORT: On Patrol

***SECURITYBREACH*** Unauthorized Intra-Blog Access ***SECURITYBREACH***

[burst of static]

Testing…

[static]

Test–

[crackle]

[hum]

Testing… There. That’s got it. Here ya go, Pappy.

[rustling]

Hello. This is John Cheveyo. I don’t know who’s on the other end of this thing, but we found your transmitter here on the ground outside the Opa Lodge. Little beat up, but we got it working again. Figure it belongs to either Matthews or Denise. Definitely not commercial-grade kit. And not something we built on the rez, either. Not enough owls on it.

Ah, hell. Let’s stop pretending here, alright? I don’t know exactly what agency Matthews works for, but I know the kinds of things you investigate. You investigate things like us. And that’s fine. We’ve got our secrets, you’ve got yours. Neither of us likes it too much. But right now, I’ve got more important things to worry about, and I need your help with it.

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Report 12: The Liar’s Path

Sir,

Denise is in the shower, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to send you one more report before breakfast. If you’ll recall, I had just come out of an intense dowsing trance, and pulled a Nukpana out of the dream. I was disoriented and a bit light-headed, so it took me a moment to realize that something about the creature had changed in the transition: he no longer had the head of an owl. Instead, he was wearing an owl mask, crudely formed out of some sort of cocoon-like substance, and decorated with paint and feathers.

But this is the way of the Nukpana. They’re half-spirit creatures, with one foot in the dream and the other in the waking world. Are they an early human off-shoot, shaped by an affinity to the World Beneath the World? Or are they spirit creatures, anchored to the waking world by human blood? I couldn’t say for sure, and the Alo, if they know, have not been forthcoming on the subject.

Cheveyo does tell me that they seem to come and go like ghosts. Many in the tribe hold them sacred, as well, because of all the service they’ve offered. In the past, they kept the Alo alive through many a harsh winter, providing food when there was none to be had. But they’re also a nuisance. They frighten people, and his men are called out a few times a year to remove pairs of Nukpana rutting in someone’s back yard.

“Plus, they shit everywhere,” Hototo added. There’s not an Alo alive, it seems, who hasn’t cleaned up piles of Nukpana dung in their life. They’re called “The Holy Burden” by some, and Cheveyo made it clear that we had to keep our captive a secret. If the wrong people found out we were holding him, we’d be forced to let him go.

We had a more immediate concern in the short term, however: when caught, the Nukpana had been trying to escape into a cave. That cave sat gaping before us now, and none of Cheveyo’s men, in spite of their familiarity with every inch of the Alo reservation, knew it existed. It’s all a matter of angles, I think. It’s hard to see from above, and is fronted by a large rocky outcropping, making it impossible to see from below. That makes it an ideal hiding place, if you know it’s there, and if you’re capable of landing flat-footed after a 30-foot leap straight down. That’s something the Nukpana are tough enough to do, and I’d imagine that the Black Mirror Brute wouldn’t even blink. How I did it, I still don’t know. But what’s life without a little mystery, eh?

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Report 11: Confronter of Enemies

Sir,

I’m glad to see that the Somnambulists have transmitted my dowsing experience on the mountain. It saves me some time, and I fear that I’ve fallen too far behind on my reporting.

I must express some disappointment that you felt the need to hide things from me, however. Because, yes, I can see the report on Denise’s “mission,” and your response. I’ve been through some things in the last few days that have apparently put me a bit beyond Somnambulist manipulation. I don’t begrudge them trying, understand. It’s their job, just as it’s your job to ensure that your agents are not overwhelmed by the forces they deal with in the field. But I can assure you that’s not the case here. Not anymore. So please, Chief. Trust in my ability to assess the case properly, and just tell me what happened at HQ.

Alright. Enough of that. It’s very early morning, Denise is still asleep, and I’m awaiting the arrival of Tom and Gladys and the spectacular breakfast I hear they serve here at the Fat Beaver Inn. So I think it’s time to tell you how I earned my Mountain Name. That story starts with the dowsing incident.

(Speaking of which… I think I may know how the memory was made psychically invisible, but that will have to wait until I return to my experiences in the hospital the night Possum Reynolds was possessed).

Reading the account the Somnambulists found was interesting, but it’s not accurate. The bulk of it is fine, exactly as I remember the experience. The description of the Black Mirror Brute is especially detailed, including things I might not have brought out of the dowser’s trance with me.

But the ending is not at all correct. I did not witness the slow demise of the Tahki boy. I did, however, see the arrival of Ruth Omusa’s corpse at the crime scene. She was borne between two Nukpana, accompanied by a very thin, very bent old man in a shimmering silver robe. At his direction, the Nukpana placed Omusa carefully next to her boyfriend and arranged her body in the posture I described to you yesterday. The old man made some gestures over both the victims. He seemed very sad. I’ll be meeting with John Cheveyo later today to give my description of him. Normally, I’d have done that immediately after coming out of the trance. But events conspired against that.

Because just after Omusa was laid to rest, something happened. The dowsing wand jerked suddenly in my hands, and the old man disappeared. But the two Nukpana remained, still looking down at the bodies, as if in mourning. Slowly, ever so slowly, they swiveled their heads up and backwards, until their faces were turned downhill, looking directly at me. My eyes locked with the taller of the two, and it let out a mouthless shriek. The other pounced.

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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.

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Report 6: The Door in the Mountain

The mountain door is open again, and I cannot sleep.

How do they stand it? The locals, I mean. How can they bear lying in bed, night after night, that obscene white light flooding their windows, keeping them awake? They must see it. They have to see it. How could they not see it? Are they blind? Are they cowards? Are they its acolytes?

No. No, that’s not it. They must be mad. Driven out of their minds by the endless light and lack of sleep. Edna with her deadly biscuits, the snake-kissed Melmoths, bold gruff kind Sheriff Patton, John Cheveyo with his bland acceptance of the strange and his cryptic owl notes. Mad, all of them, mad, and I’ll soon be mad, too, if I don’t do something about that door.

So out again, out into the dark of the Opa Lodge, where the horrible low squeal screeches in my ears, and the kitchen door fairly vibrates with the noise. There’s a chopping, too, the chopping of a monstrous blade severing bone and flesh, thunk thunk thunk into the wood of the cutting board, that carnivorous evergreen altar. The Continental Breakfast is in progress, and suddenly I am filled with a desire to see how the sausages are made.

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**subjectnotdefined**

There is a door in the mountain. There is a door, and someone has left it open.

The light from it shines in my window, keeping me awake. I get up to close the curtains. That’s when I see it. It’s a white door. Old, indescribably old, but still white. New coat of paint, I suppose. New coat of paint to cover the blood. Someone should close it. No telling what might get in.

And that’s how I find myself padding through the Opa Lodge in the dark. A low, screeching squeal escapes the kitchen, though whatever makes it does not. The sound seeps in at the edge of my hearing, sneaks up on me in the dark. I’m not sure that I’m really hearing it, then I am. I stop, staring long and hard at the kitchen door, wanting to go in, not daring to go in, wondering what manner of thing could be making that horrible noise, wondering if I’ve already eaten it. Slowly, it subsides, trailing off in a terrible croak before fading away completely, and I’m left staring at a door that suddenly is just a door.

But it’s the wrong door. The door in the mountain is still open. I can’t see it, but I can feel its light pouring out into my head, and it seems more imperative now that I close it. So out. Out the front door into the cold Pannawau night. And there it is again, standing out stark white on the mountain, indecent in its exposure, embarrassing and uncomfortable. I feel a swelling in my head as I look at it, so far away and so high. So high up on the mountain.

How will I reach it? The face of Mount Pannawau is hoary and perilous, and I am small and weak. Helplessness washes over me, and panic, and the light. Always the light. My head pounds with the pressure of it, each heartbeat echoing painfully through my brain, and the phone is ringing. The phone is ringing. The phone is ringing.

It’s the Sheriff, telling me that the Melmoth family has received a ransom demand for the return of Alexandra, and asking me to meet him at Melmoth House asap. I put down the receiver, and pray to wake in time.