Taint no sin
The night was uncommonly warm and seemed to hum with an unnatural energy, an electricity which vibrated the ground. It was dark as dark could get. Years of pollution had dulled every star and the night sky was a pitch blanket. But still glowed with a vile orange effulgence that made it almost possible to see the outline of every rock and tree. Just barely.
There was no doubt someone was watching him, Pookie could feel eyes on him. Efron was following him with the little candle from the shack. “Put out that light” he whispered.
“Just do it.”
The little girl blew the candle out and let the darkness take them for a ride. Their eyes adjusting to the radiant glow of the orange night. There was a light, a dim echo of one strangled to a fine point. They passed several dark shacks like the one they awoke in. Pookie was still and quiet and listened for breathing, farting or any movement at all but surmised they were all empty.
As they got closer to the light they could see that it was coming from an opening in a small cave. The cave was little more than a hole in the ground that lead down under a large slab of rock.
“Are we going in there?” Efron whispered.
“It would be a pretty boring plot point if we didn’t” Pookie said.
“You could call it ‘subverting expectations’” Someone behind them said.
They both turned together to see someone grotesquely lit by the dim torch light of the cave and they froze stifling a shriek.
But it was just Canard.
“What are you doing here?” Pookie whispered emphatically.
“I got bored”
“How did you sneak up on me with one leg?”
Canard grinned and let his head loll to one side. “Buddy I could sneak up on you with no legs”
“That would be pretty easy actually, like squirming on the ground like a worm.” Efron chimed in trying to get between them, standing on her tip toes.
Pookie glared at him and Canard glared back.
“You can’t hear that, that humming noise?” Canard broke the brittle silence.
“I thought that was just my ears ringing” Pookie said wiggling his little finger in his ear trying to get the irritating noise out.
“I hear it too” Efron said, her eyes wide and excited by the cool night air.
“We going in or not?” Canard said.
“After you” Pookie said, his eyes locked on the deadly bird.
“Be my guest” Canard retorted returning the icy glare, retreating back into uncomfortable silence.
“Weeeee” Efron said as she ran into the cave waving her arms like an airplane.
They followed her into the cave shushing her as they went.
Inside the cave it was predictably dark but less dark than outside as it was lit by some fire deeper down in the cave.
The followed the glow which had started out a white yellowish colour but was getting more green as they made their way deeper into the cave. The heat too was becoming unbearable and the humming sound was all around them.
They made their through a small alcove which opened onto an outcropping overlooking the main chamber.
The main chamber was a grand irregular dome shaped room lit by a huge bonfire. The bonfire glowed and burned violently with a green flame rising almost to the ceiling. But strangely producing almost no smoke and what smoke it did produce was ventilated through a small hole in the roof of the cave.
Hundreds of cloaked figures knelt around the fire. The strange humming noise was now revealed to be coming from them. They droned in a form of odd ritualistic chanting that was completely unintelligible. But sounded something like a girl in a tentacle porn hentai saying ‘no’ over and over again. And then something that sounded like someone trying to say ‘chicken fingers’ while sneezing.
Pookie et al ducked behind the outcropping of the irregular stone to watch in bemused astonishment.
“What are they doing?” Efron said.
“Err” Pookie said as he stared intently at the shifting throng as they gyrated strangely.
One figure emerged from the crowd dressed almost exactly the same as the others but with his hood down and walking with a long stick. He walked seemingly with some difficulty as if his legs weren’t fit for walking on just the two anymore. He ascended a raised carved stone podium backed by a makeshift fence of some sort made from scrap metal, consisting of road signs and tar.
He turned to his flock, his face seemed to glow green and his grey hair too, what was left of it shone unnaturally in uneven tufts on his head. A big set of moist bug eyes in his head looking everywhere and taking up most of the space on his wet looking face darted around the room.
The crowd hummed with excitement and the torches flickered.
“THE DAY OF PROPHECY HAS COME!”
“That’s what you said last week!” A heckler at the back said.
“WHO SAID THAT?!” The man at the podium said narrowing his bulbous eyes. “I thought as much!” He said as no one came forward to claim their remarks.
“I KNOW SOME OF YOU ARE TIRED, IRRITABLE. WAITING FOR THE ONE THAT WOULD BRING US UP OUT OF THIS EXISTENCE AND ELEVATE US TO OUR RIGHTFUL PLACE AS GODS OF THIS WORLD!”
“TOO LONG WE’VE BEEN DOWN HERE KEPT ALIVE ONLY BY THE GLOWING RIVER OF LIFE THAT RUNS THROUGH OUR VILLAGE. IT’S HEALING POWERS MAKING US STRONG AND EXTENDING OUR LIVES AS THE WATER RUNS THROUGH OUR VEINS.”
“FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS WE’VE WAITED AND WATCHED AS THE ONES ABOVE LAYED WASTE TO THIS WORLD.” He paused and scanned the crowd as if it was them that had done it.
“THE RAIDERS, THE MONGRELS, THE MARAUDERS AND MADMEN AND OF COURSE- THE CLOWNS”
“WHILE THESE GANGS OF WAISTRELS DESTROYED, RAPED AND PILLAGED JOINING FORCES TO TURN THIS WORLD INSIDE OUT. WE WAITED HERE FOR THE ONE WHO WOULD BRING US THE KEY TO OUR SALVATION.”
“AND THAT TIME IS UPON US!”
The crowd cheered uproariously at this as he swept them into a frenzy.
“WITH THIS GIRL, WE WILL MARCH ON THE SURFACE ONCE MORE” The strange man jeered and lifted Efron up as if she was Simba in the lion king.
“Wait what?” Pookie said looking over at the space Efron was just in now vacant.
“Huh?” Canard said also noting her absence.
The strange man lifted the girl and hiked up her skirt. “YOU SEE, ITS THEIR MARK, THE MARK OF THE ELDER ONES, THE CLOCKWORK MEN. THE ONES WHO FOUGHT BACK. THOUGHT DESTROYED BUT EVEN NOW THEY LIVE ON UNDERGROUND LIKE US, WAITING FOR THE DAY THEY TAKE BACK THE WASTELAND FROM THE SICK AND THE MAD!”
Pookie strained his eyes to see a vague birthmark or burn above Efron’s stained strawberry shortcake panties. The shape not looking like any key he’d ever seen, it was bulbous at one end and long at the other looking more like a bottle opener.
“The clockwork men? Are they talking about-?” Canard mused.
Canard and Pookie turned to see that in Efron’s place was now a cloaked cultist with an oddly decorative revolver in his hand. Pointing at no one in particular but at around waist height. The boney figure shrugged and gestured with the gun. A grotesque toothless grin stretching his bone white flat face.
“Oh well that was predictable” Pookie sighed.
“AH IT SEEMS OUR GUESTS OF HONOR HAVE ARRIVED. WE WERE WONDERING HOW LONG IT WOULD TAKE YOUR CURIOSITY TO LEAD YOU HERE.” The man at the stone pulpit bellowed as Pookie and Canard were corralled at gunpoint through the throng of worshipers. Working closer to the pulpit and the makeshift fence he was in front of.
“WE DIDN’T EXPECT YOU SO SOON.” The man bellowed as he was handed a wrapped package by one of the cultists. While another erected a makeshift ladder made from bamboo shoots against the side of the mysterious fence. He turned his attention back on the crowd and said “FIRST IT IS CUSTOMARY TO MAKE AN OFFERING TO OUR ANCESTORS.” He said as he unwrapped the package which contained Canard’s leg.
“Hey that’s mine!” Canard shouted.
Pookie turned to him “It aint much good to you now”.
Canard scowled but couldn’t disagree.
The leader gave the leg to the worshipper who erected the ladder. He turned parting his robe for a second and Pookie could see those familiar glinting eyes and that hideous smile of the laughing sword hilt.
The worshipper took the leg and ascended the ladder with one hand. He reached the top and inelegantly tossed the leg over the fence as if it were another log on a fire.
The cult leader cleared his throat and narrowed his eye brows as he watched him come down off the ladder.
The was a brief silence and then a staccato scratching dragging sound, lots of them. Then a vile slurping gnawing crunching sound.
Still pushing them onward the man with the gun in Canard’s back was distracted by the disgusting noises coming from beyond the fence. In so doing he had failed to notice Canard had stopped hobbling forward. He then seemed even more surprised when the back of Canard’s head met forcibly with his face. The force of it knocking him back and shooting streams of blood from his nose.
“Oops” He said smiling “I didn’t see you there.”
The man with gun wiped his nose and looked at his own blood which had a sickly green glow to it. Angrily, keeping the gun on Canard got up and shoved the gun in his face.
“You got a death wish boy?” He asked.
“Yeah kinda” Canard smirked sadly.
Pookie stood around looking at the cultists as they circled him and he could feel that energy rising, his blood getting hot, his heart pumping.
“I SEE YOU DON’T FEAR DEATH, YOU WELCOME IT, IT STANDS TO REASON, LIFE ON THE SURFACE IS SHORT IN CLOWN WORLD.”
Efron had got down off the podium to join Pookie and Canard. She smileddstaring up at Pookie as if she had no idea what was going on and they were all about to play a big game of mad libs. “Hi” she said smiling.
“VERY WELL, WE WERE GOING TO EAT YOU BUT IT SEEMS THAT YOU WONT GO DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT. HONESTLY LOOKING AT YOU NOW YOU DON’T LOOK VERY APPETISING, TOO TOUGH AND SINEWY, HARDLY ANY GOOD MEAT ON YOU AT ALL.” He grimaced looked at Pookie.
Pookie turned to look at Canard “At least he didn’t say we’d taste funny” He shrugged.
“IT’S THIS YOU WANT?” He said parting his robe revealing the sword and also a crude dirty loin clothe and a set of extremely hairy legs.
Pookie grimaced and covered Efron’s eyes.
“IT’S YOURS” He said as pulled the sword and sheathe from the band of his really gross looking jock strap loin cloth thing.
He held it out mockingly before tossing it over the fence with some effort, swinging it from the bottom “FETCH!”
Pookie narrowed his eyes and kicked the nearest cultist as hard as he could in the balls. Dropping him to his knees and puffing his cheeks out as he tasted his own gonads.
Pookie used the downed cultitst’s face as a step ladder and launched onto the head of the next cultist. Hopping them like river rocks with gross but oddly satisfying cracking noises as he got closer to the cult leader. The leader had inadvertently backed himself into a corner up against the fence.
“Oh crap” He whispered as he saw almost in slow motion Pookie’s sweaty, probably never been washed bare foot heading straight for his face. Time almost stopping as the incredibly smelly foot slotted into his open mouth. Using his lower jaw as a foothold he launched himself over the fence.
Canard looked around as the men who Pookie used as stilts cracked their broken necks back into place. The gesture as throwaway as if they were cracking their knuckles.
A shot rang out as the cultist with the revolver laughed maniacally. He started firing wildly into the crowd hitting one of his buddies right between the eyes missing a shot over Canard’s shoulder.
“Ah crap!” Canard repeated as he dove between the legs of the cultist with a bullet between his eyes. Instead of falling he just stood with a dazed expression on his face, a little green blood trickling from the hole in his head.
“Where’d he go?”
“He’s on the ground somewhere!”
“Who’s touching me?”
“He’s right here!”
Canard wriggled through their legs staying out of their sight in the commotion of the gun shots and shouting. There was a gap and he looked over at the podium and their leader on his knees spitting trying to get the taste of Pookie’s cheesy toes out of his mouth. Canard staff at his side on the ground.
“There’s my girl.”