Darkness Rising

Friday, March 18

It was too early to knock on Blavatsky’s door. She could be irritable early in the morning. Her irritation was formidable. Sully went to the Eagle Café. 

The Eagle opened early to feed fishermen and dock workers. The food was simple but sturdy, like the building itself. Since 1905, the year of the Chicago Teamsters strike, it had accumulated a think rind of white paint, layer after layer, one shade or another, but always white.

He sat in his favorite booth, the red Naugahyde patched with duct tape and molded to the shape of his buttocks, the classified section of the Peninsula Daily News spread on the table.

Hattie Malept arrived to take his order. She was attractive in an uncomplicated way, fair hair and sun browned skin and a ready smile. Sully was enamored.

“Looking for work?” Hattie said.

“Thinking about it. Not a lot of growth potential in my job.”

Hattie laughed. Her laughter sounded like wind chimes to Sully. She brushed aside a strand of hair that had strayed. “Did you read about the boy kidnapped from Forks? Stolen from his bedroom in the middle of the night. Someone jimmied the back door. Parents didn’t know he was gone until the morning. I’d die if someone took Aurora.”

Aurora was Hattie’s daughter. Sully was generally uncomfortable around kids but Aurora specifically. She spooked him. He had the feeling she knew a lot but wasn’t telling, at least not to him.

He ordered his usual breakfast of poached eggs and dry wheat toast. He couldn’t concentrate on the classified ads. He couldn’t taste his meal. He couldn’t even manage to flirt with Hattie. He kept seeing motion flitting at the edge of his vision and remembering the inkwell darkness clutching his heart. When he had finished he paid the check and left a tip he couldn’t afford, then went to call on Blavatsky.

There were no street names or house numbers in Shantytown. Like English cottages, each residence was named individually. Blavatsky lived in Riddlepit, a place designed in Swedish modern—stainless steel, mahogany, and glass. Blavatsky had chosen the design but Sprout Lebowski named it Riddlepit out of spite.

Sprout was H.P. Blavatsky’s roommate. He stood 4’ tall in stockinged feet. Sully found him hiding behind a dock box with a slingshot and a cache of water balloons.

“Something happened to me last night,” Sully said. “Something I can’t explain. I need to talk to Blavatsky.”

“Go away,” Sprout said.

“Why?”

“Can’t you see I’m waiting in ambush?”

“Who are you ambushing?”

“That damned tour truck.”

Qwackers?”

Qwackers was a war surplus amphibious truck Sandy Crab used to haul tourists around the bay. A headless duck was painted on the side of the truck followed by a string of headless ducklings. Through an error in perspective, the tourists’ heads looked grafted on the ducks’ bodies.

“Yes. Now, will you go away? You’re blowing my cover.”

“Sandy Crab won’t be here for another 45 minutes. I saw the truck driving up Hill Street to gawk at the rich folk. He always follows the same route. Predictable little pissant. Why do you want to water bomb Qwackers? Never mind. That’s obvious.”

Life was lived visibly at Riddlepit. Sandy Crab liked to point out to tourists the dwarf behind the glass in various stages of undress. Sprout took offense being pointed at by rubes from Idaho in an amphibious truck.

“I need to talk to H.P.,” Sully said again.

Sprout relaxed and hoisted himself onto the dock box. “Why?”

Sully described his night.

“Were you high?” Sprout asked.

“Stone cold sober.”

“Stoned, I believe.”

“Maybe H.P. can make sense of it. It’s driving me crazy.”

“Not going to happen,” Sprout said. “She’s still pissed. The dead crow.”

The dead crow remained a mystery in Shantytown. One morning it appeared perched on the wind vane atop Riddlepit, stiffened by death, its claws welded to the metal vane by rigor mortis. Some claimed it was a fluke, a natural death, but death rarely imitated art as a sculpture rigidly poised, pivoting to face the wind. Strangers thought it part of the design until the corpse began shedding feathers and white patches of bone became visible beneath black feathers.

Blavatsky blamed Sully. Sully protested his innocence. Blavatsky was psychic. That settled the matter for most of Shantytown.

“That wasn’t me,” Sully protested again.

“She thinks it was,” Sprout said. “That’s all that matters. I wouldn’t ask her any favors for a while. Anyway, it sounds like you need a shaman.”

“Why a shaman?”

“The animals, the Indian graveyard? That shit’s mythic.”

“You know any?”

“Myths?”

“Shaman.”

“What am I, a job board? Ask Umber Schist. It’s her sort of shtick. She’s been banging on about the dead rising from Tse-whit-zen and spectral emanations. Why can’t she just call them ghosts?”

“Pompous dike,” Sully said.

“See, it’s that sort of comment gets you kicked out of the sandbox. You need to learn to play well with others.”

Sully didn’t need life coaching from a former midget wrestler in the Lucha Libre. “What ghosts?”

“I don’t know. Ask Umber.”

“I don’t suppose shamans advertise in the Peninsula Daily News,” Sully said.

“None worth a damn, I should think. Why do you care anyway? People see stuff that’s not there all the time.”

“This is different. Acid, peyote, mescaline…I always knew I’d wake up and it would be the same shit, different day. This wasn’t like that. This was real. I need to know what it means.”

“The game is fixed. That’s all you need to know. The rules don’t matter.”

“You’re a dour little man,” Sully said.

Sprout shrugged. “I’m a dwarf. We have a history. Now go away. I have an ambush to execute.”

It took Sully several hours to scrounge the courage to approach Witchfold Cottage and only after he had exhausted every other source. No one knew of a local shaman. People were happy to refer shamans in the Amazon rainforest or Himalayan foothills but none in Port Angeles.

Witchfold was a calculated effort to accurately reproduce something that likely never existed, something plucked from the imagination of the Brothers Grimm and floated on salt water, a low roof of artificial thatch and a chimney that belched foul smelling smoke and small creatures that scurried in the rafters. Umber called them her familiars. Most people called them pests.

A wicker pentacle hung on the front door. The door opened before Sully could knock. His fist hung suspended inches from Umber’s nose. She was broad and dense and dark and filled the doorway.

“Umber,” Sully said. She didn’t reply, just stared at him. He swallowed. “I’ve come to ask your advice. Something happened last night, something I can’t explain. At Tse-whit-zen.”

Umber’s expression softened. “Spectral emanations?”

“I suppose so. Animals, mostly. Cougar, coyote, wolves. But they were ghostly.”

Umber snorted. It sounded like a buffalo in a dust wallow. “Everyone else sees the ghosts of dead Klallam. You see the ghosts of dead dogs.”

“I need the name of a good shaman.”

“Why a shaman? We have plenty of talented psychics locally. Why do you always choose the more difficult path?”

“It’s my nature.”

“I’ve heard of a shaman among the Makah. A man named Winsome Clapanhoo. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly so he probably won’t speak to you.”

“How do I find him?”

“Take Highway 22 and drive to the end of the world, then ask anyone on the side of the road. They can give you directions if they’re inclined. I’m told he lives in a cave.” She closed the door in his face.

Sully left immediately for Neah Bay.

His old Dodge van, a 1978 Tradesman, trailed a cloud of smoke and burnt a quart of oil in the 60 miles between Port Angeles and the Makah Reservation at Neah Bay. There was a line of cars stacked at the entrance to the reservation and a crowd of protesters with signs. They were passing out leaflets to drivers in the queue. The exhaust fumes dissuaded them from approaching the Dodge.

At the checkpoint a tribal policeman asked his business on the reservation. The cop looked more closely when Sully said he was visiting Winsome Clapanhoo but waved him past.

He pulled alongside the first pedestrian he saw walking on Bayview Avenue and stuck his head out the passenger window. A cloud of unburnt hydrocarbons enveloped them.

“Where can I find Winsome Clapanhoo?”

She was a young woman with braided black hair. She looked at Sully, at the Dodge, and turned away without a word. The next two attempts were less successful. An old woman flipped him the finger and a burly man with work boots kicked the door panel. “Hey,” Sully shouted. “That’s going to leave a mark.”

He tried a fourth time, a kid with dirty hair and a Thrasher Magazine t-shirt. He offered a joint in exchange. The kid gave explicit instructions. “Take the Cape Loop Road, then left on Ginger Bill. If you get to the Cape trailhead you’ve gone too far. Park at the bend in the road beside the big cedar. There’s a path that leads uphill from the tree. He lives at the top of the hill. It doesn’t sound like he’s expecting you. I’d be damned careful. He’s not someone you want to mess with.”

Ginger Bill was a dirt road passing through an old growth forest of yellow cedar and Douglas-fir. The Dodge groaned and bucked across the ruts. There was barely enough room to park beside the big cedar tree without blocking the road. At the top of the hill he found an old man sitting in a camp chair whittling a stick. There was a pile of wood shavings at his feet and what looked like a pedestrian underpass covered with graffiti at his back.

The old man looked up from his whittling and smiled. His white teeth were brilliant. “Good. You’re here. We can begin.”

Whistlepig

In mythology, the hero descends to the underworld. What happens when the underworld ascends? Whistlepig, a serialized fiction. Table of contents.

@ 2018 Charles Thrasher All rights reserved.

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