Tag Archives: tiny bird-faced man

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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Report 17: A Brief Encounter

Sir,

It’s dark, and I cannot sleep. Earlier, I heard a noise like a door opening, and started awake. I rose quietly, so as not to disturb Denise, and crossed to the window. The Mountain seemed quiet and dark, so I went back to bed. But I couldn’t sleep. So I got up, dressed, helped myself to a glass of water, and went outside.

Pannawau is very peaceful at night. Nothing but crickets, and the wind in the trees. Relaxing. Tom and Gladys keep a bench out in front of the inn, next to the beaver. It’s a chainsaw statue, Tom tells me. The beaver, that is. Made by a local artist named Cecil Murden. Quite a character, apparently. Traveled all over the world as a merchant marine, then settled down here in Pannawau to make art. He wears an eyepatch, I’m told, and has a wooden foot.

At any rate. I was sitting on the bench, sipping on a glass of water, meditating on the silence. Then I looked up, and there he was. The tiny bird-faced man. Standing perched on the beaver’s belly.

He looked at me.

He looked at the water.

He looked at me again.

So I sat my drink down on the bench beside me, and suddenly he was there. Wrapping his arms around the glass, he stabbed his beak down into the water repeatedly. Then he threw his head back and swallowed. Stab, back, swallow. Stab, back, swallow. Over and over, with a mesmerizing rhythm. Once he’d had his fill, he stepped back, wiped a drip away from his beak, and bowed slightly. Then he looked up. His gaze took mine, and once again I was plunging down into the black depths of his eyes, up into the night sky, soaring. Seeing as birds see.

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Report 7: Touched by the White Mirror World

Sir,

I am sitting in the waiting room of the Alvin Melmoth Memorial Hospital, named for the twin brother of Oscar. Alvin was a philanthropist and international adventurer of some repute, lost and believed killed in 1970 while on a Himalayan expedition. Amazing the things you can learn from lobby plaques.

It’s been an eventful day, and I believe that it will soon become more eventful yet. Possum Reynolds has yet to fully awaken from his coma, but I’m told that the swelling in his brain is going down, and he may yet make a recovery. In the meantime, I’ll be interviewing Alexandra Melmoth on the events of her disappearance and kidnapping. She’s somewhere in the building getting an examination, but once that’s done I’ll have an hour with her, uninterrupted by her family or the hospital staff. I’m looking forward to it. Not because of her beauty, or even because I’m all that curious about what she has to say. After today, I have a pretty good idea of what she’s going to tell me. It remains to be seen how much of it she chooses to share, however, and that is something I’m very interested to discover, indeed.

I’ve come by this newfound knowledge after spending a day immersed in the world of the Alo. John Cheveyo seems to have decided that I’m at least partially trustworthy, based apparently on our investigation of the kitchen at the Opa Lodge. They were busy preparing the Continental Breakfast when we entered, and there was no sign that I had shot the owl-headed man there only an hour or two earlier.

But the layout was exactly as I remembered it from my dream. Slightly dazed, I went over to the counter the Horrible Thing had been lying on. Put my hand on it. The surface was cool and smooth and utterly clean. No stains, and no scratches from where that hoary blade had bitten through the flesh and into the wood. The thing’s awful screams filled my ears again, and I felt the gorge rise in my throat.

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Report 1: A Late Arrival

Sir,

I have arrived in Pannawau after a slight delay, which I record here because it may be of interest to you. Having packed a tuna fish sandwich for the car ride, I decided to stop for lunch at the picnic area of the Colorado Mystery Spot (whose physics, I am pleased to report, remain as ineffable as ever). I hadn’t taken even one bite, however, when I found myself visited by a tiny bird-faced man.

His approach was completely silent. I looked down to unwrap my sandwich, and when I looked up, he was there, standing on the table, his head tilted curiously to one side.

He looked at me.

He looked at my sandwich.

Then back at me again.

I pinched off a corner of the sandwich and he took it eagerly, his tiny hands clutching the offering tight as his beak peck-peck-pecked at the morsel of bread and fish. He bowed slightly when he finished, and then his black avian gaze met mine. Slowly, I sank into that birdy void, and knew the world as he knew it, as the birds knew it, the glory of the air and the updraft, the view from atop the pines. And the owls. Oh dear god the owls…

Birdseye

I blinked, and the tiny man was gone. The sun was setting, and my sandwich had gone stiff and stale in my nerveless hands.

But on to business.

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