Tag Archives: Nukpana

Report 22: The Morning After

Sir,

As you could no doubt tell, it was a bad time in Pannawau last night. A lot happened, and I’m not sure my Osceola-fueled mind-hopping exploits entirely captured the scope of it. So I thought I’d codify things with a slightly more formal report than is my norm.

SECTION A: The Events of the Evening

  • First, and most obviously, the Black Mirror Brute came out. I discovered that the Sad Man was not, in fact, summoning the Brute, but trying to distract it from leaving the Mountain and wreaking worse havoc. See Section B below for more details on the Sad Man’s plan.
  • Alexandra Melmoth was on the loose, as well, in a Yig-Form transfiguration seemingly triggered by the presence of the Brute in the Gray World. She changed back in the early morning hours, and is currently in custody on the Alo Reservation. Her family is demanding her release, but the Alo are thus far holding firm. I’ll be heading out to speak with her again later.

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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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32: Heads Full of Light

***CONNECTING…CONNECTING…BEGIN TRANSMISSION***

Carried I’m being carried through the dark the night the dark and the Mountain and the door and the light and

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

Edna sits, sobbing, in the beer cooler. Cecil is gone now, gone off into the night, nimble and crazy and cruel. She shouldn’t have done it, he said. Shouldn’t have loved him. Shouldn’t have let him love her. Nothing good can come of love, he said, and as the light shines in and floods the cooler, she knows that he was right. He spoke the truth. The ugly truth. Ugly like her old woman’s body, exposed and cold and shriveled. Bulging in all the wrong places, sagging in the right ones. She feels his old man’s seed leaking out of her, cold and spent and useless, and she knows the truth.

She’d known it before Cecil, of course. Known it for years, on those dark lonely nights when she couldn’t sleep. She ignored it when the sun was out, ignored it and threw herself into her work, keeping this damn store running and running and running and running. Threw her everything into it, and what did it give her back? Never what she needed. And so she’d starved, shrunken down into a nosy old biddy. A busy-body. A character, to be laughed at and never understood.

Oh, how she longed to be understood.

But she’d killed a man with her love, and put it away, and waited too long to find it again. So many years wasted, cold and alone, and now… She despairs that anyone will ever understand her again. And without that, what’s the point?

She sobs again, blinks away the tears, and her eyes fall on a shard of green glass, glinting in that horrible searing light. Piece of a bottle, she thinks. Big piece. Big enough to…

She unwraps one of her arms from around her breasts, reaches out, and

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

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30: Hearts Full of Fire

***CLEARING STATIC…OPENING CHANNEL***

***BEGIN TRANSMISSION***

My eyes are open now. They’re open, and flooded with light. They’re open, and lost in the dark. I’m lying in bed. Denise is beside me. Asleep. Or…

No, she’s asleep. She has to be. She’s just so still. I thought– No. She’s asleep. We must be– Are we in our room at the Fat Beaver? Is that bacon I hear frying? Or…

This isn’t the Fat Beaver Inn. This is the Opa Lodge. Except… Why is it so dark? What’s this pressure I feel? On my chest, my arms, in my ears. My forehead. Why can’t I move? Am I dreaming? Or…

The Door. The Door is open in the Mountain. It’s open, and the light’s pouring out. So bright and so wrong. So exposed. That’s why it’s so dark. All the light’s pouring out, and there’s none left here. Wait. No. That’s not right. I’m outside the Door and I hear bacon and

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

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Report 21: Many Voices

Sir,

I returned today to my room at the Opa Lodge. This decision may be rash. Denise certainly thinks so.

I certainly do. He informed me of this idea by phone, if that tells you anything about how hare-brained even he thinks it is. Talk some sense into the man, Chief. Get him out of there before it’s too late.

But after my conversation yesterday with Heyoka, I believe this to be the best means possible of smoking out the Sad Man. This is the portion of that interrogation I’ve kept hidden from the Somnambulists, for reasons that I believe Denise has already made clear: some of the subjects broached there were things I am sworn not to reveal, even to you. If I thought these things posed some kind of threat, I would break my word in a heartbeat. But in our zeal to know everything, we sometimes delve too deep. Secrets and lies, sir. Secrets and lies. It’s the currency we deal in. But sometimes we must allow ourselves to trust. And unless you intend to bring me up on charges, that’s all I have to say on the matter. Though I’m sure the Somnambulists will have their say, as well.

[Review Complaint #23594-Q, pertaining to violation of Field Code 821: Mental Hygiene and Security Maintenance Code 51: In the Event of Somnambulist Intervention. The Agent has committed an unprecedented breach of protocol, and must be corrected for proper functioning of Agency operations.]

At any rate. One thing struck me particularly in Heyoka’s story about the snakes coming to Pannawau: there was a missing date. He said that they came 40, 60, 200 years ago. Well, 40 years ago was the Yig Incident. And 200 years ago was The Year Without a Summer. But what about 60 years ago? What happened then?

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Somnambulist Transmission 3: Owls and Snakes

Transcript of conversation between Agent X-23 and Alo Cultural Eccentric designate Heyoka. Also in attendance: Alo Ranger Captain John Cheveyo, his lieutenant Luke Pallaton, and a captured Nukpana.

X-23: I should compliment you on the mind reading, I suppose.

Heyoka (shrugs): Just a trick of the trade.

X-23: I suspect it’s a little more than that. The only other person who’s been able to read my mind recently was a man touched by an extra-dimensional snake god.

Heyoka: How do you know I’m not?

X-23: You don’t seem the type.

Heyoka: Huh. Not good enough for your fancy snake gods, am I? Maybe I don’t want to tell you a story after all.

X-23: My apologies.

Heyoka: Apologies won’t fill my belly, White Devil. But they’re a start. Now, sit down.

X-23 (sits)

Heyoka (stands): Good. Now. What do you know about snakes?

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Report 19: The Clown

Sir,

An eventful day today, both enlightening and frustrating. First thing, I got a call from John Cheveyo. They had apprehended the Sad Man, he told me, and invited me to the interrogation. I set out before Tom and Gladys even had breakfast going, so I ran by the Stop n Go on the way, to get that cheese biscuit I’d promised Oscar Melmoth I was going to have. Edna had heard of my hospital stay, and quizzed me quite thoroughly about my cardiac health before selling it to me.

Another recipient of her heart-wise caution this morning was Cecil Murden, the one-eyed, one-footed chainsaw sculptor I’ve heard so much about recently. Quite the character. I think Edna may be sweet on him. She made a great show of checking the Biscuit List (her hand-written weekly tally of how many biscuits her regular customers have consumed in a given week), and made sure that Cecil hadn’t hit his personal limit of two. Cecil had a heart attack a few years ago, it seems, so Edna put him on limited rations.

Cecil took her attention with a sort of mock annoyance. But that’s how he reacts to everything, apparently: mock annoyance, mock interest, mock humor… It’s like he’s having a very personal joke on the world, all the time, no matter the subject. In a less charismatic man, it would be off-putting. But there’s always a twinkle in his eye, and a certain gruff charm to the performance, so you walk away feeling like he’s let you in on the joke. Even though he’s done no such thing.

I’ve met men with that sort of demeanor before. Some carry it better than others, but usually they’ve seen horrible things. If that’s the case with Cecil, he didn’t let on. But considering that he once traveled with Oscar Melmoth, I can only assume the worst.

He confirmed that service, by the way. He was proud of it, in point of fact. Said it was the only honest work he did the whole time he was a Merchant Marine. I told him I’d like to know more, and we made plans to meet for dinner. After that assault on my mind last night, I want to find out everything I can about Oscar Melmoth.

At any rate. Cheveyo met me at the door of Ranger HQ. He didn’t look good. Dark circles under the eyes, a cut up at his hairline, a hard set to his jaw… The Sad Man had obviously put up a fight. I shook his hand and moved to go in, but he shook his head.

“We’ve got him at Wakiza’s.”

“What the hell is Wakiza’s?”

He shook his head again and motioned to his truck. “Let’s go.”

Once we were moving, he opened up a little more. “Sorry for the silent treatment, Clint. We’re dealing with some sensitive stuff here. This guy, your Sad Man… He’s kind of important here on the Mountain.”

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Report 13: Tell Me About the Owls

“Tell me about the owls, Alexandra.”

“I don’t– What? Listen… Do I know you?”

“I was there when you effected your escape from Jase Peterson’s house. Otherwise, no. I don’t think so. But, please. Tell me about the owls.”

“The owls? Well– They’re the ones who– …the ones who killed Chris. Those women. The lesbians.”

“Lesbians?”

“Well… That’s unfair of me. I don’t know that. They were just so… butch.”

“Butch?”

“Masculine. Broad shoulders, hard muscles… I don’t know. They could have just been athletes, I guess. Body builders. Soccer players. I don’t know.”

“But they had the heads of owls?”

“Yes. They were wearing masks, like… some kind of team mascot?”

“So, you were attacked by a group of muscular women wearing owl masks.”

“Yes. Look, I know it sounds strange–”

“It doesn’t sound strange at all, Alexandra. Now. Tell me more. Tell me about the owls.”

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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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