Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Fallen (A Novel Excerpt)

©2010 Johnny Domawa (Independent Writer)

“The Japanese are in motion” the fat balding man took a long draught out of his glass. He was in his forties, heavy set, his soft face lined with jowls of fat that dribbled down to cover his neck. He studied his glass with mild amusement, as if he saw something astonishing there, his owlish eyes glittering with unbridled delight.

“Our sources indicate that samurais are being organized in the capital, and that the clans are arming many of their reserves.” He turned to face his audience, placing the glass gingerly on the table.

The others seated around the table looked at him in silence, their faces shrouded by the low light. The fat man wondered why his brethren still insisted on this lighting mode. To himself, he hated squinting to see the faces of his cohorts.

But, perhaps there is something to the shadowed effect, at least for the moment. These men were afraid, and being powerful, they have no desire of letting others see their weakness. They wanted to hide.

Not that it mattered. The fat man secretly stifled an amused laughter.

He licked his lips and his eyes settled once more on his glass, wondered if anyone would have the decency to pour him another drink, and once again stifled a giggle. No, the men gathered here are used to having themselves the ones being served, not serving.

Sighing, he slowly pulled his gargantuan body out of his chair, exerting at the effort. No underling was permitted into the meeting and since no one would serve him, he would. The effort would be compensated by the taste of bourbon burning in his mouth.

To his relief, another man stood up and pushed the drinks tray towards him. He smiled, studying the man.

Theodore Johnson. The man did not do him the service out of the goodness of his soul. He did it because in his perfect logical mind, it would be less of a hassle if he was served. For Theodore was a man of logic. Everything came to him in neat little heaps of data.

The fat man often wondered what the group would be if Johnson was the one in charge.

He winked at the man as the cart came to rest on his side, but the smaller man simply stared at him with a hint of contempt.

He laughed and proceeded to pour his drink.

He felt impatience building up around him but he ignored it and instead lazily swirled his whisky around, savoring in his mind the explosion it would create in his senses when he drank it down.

The men around him were afraid for good reason.

They are the ones left over from the powerful business elite that once ruled the shadows behind governments back when the world was yet, he mulled the thought over on his mind his eyes settling on Johnson, logical. Yes, that was the word.

When the world operated on the rules of finance, fiscal jurisprudence, audit reports, banking and holidays.

Yes, holidays. He once read that the old world had hundreds of holidays crammed over a year. Perfect money generating days, those were.

A pity the world now forgot many of them.

He glanced around him at the shadowed visages.

These were the men who shaped them and benefited from them.

But that world is gone.

A pity, really, if he was asked.

And these same men, he hid his amusement at the thought, are attempting to regain that past.

As if it can ever be regained.

In time perhaps, who can tell, but not on the immediate future.

He would not say that on their faces, however, for like them, he was also a businessman. And for the moment, they were his costumers. And no businessman on his right mind would go against his customers while they bought his goods.

He gulped down his drink, savoring once more the fire it created. He made a mental note to expand into the liquor business. For the moment, however…

“Southern China is likewise building up fortifications along the Yangtze and repairing the great wall. Elsewhere, the Celtic Council are continuing to draw out huge holdings in Europe and word is that the Nordic nations are planning to combine into a Viking alliance.”

“Various ethnic groups are continuing to rediscover their old customs and genetic anomalies, bordering on the paranormal are on the rise among human populations.” He paused.

They call them genetic anomalies. People who somehow exhibit powers that were once considered to be in the realms of mythology and magic. People like the druids of the Celts who are capable of altering nature, or the shamans of the African continent who are capable of manifesting bizarre powers that border upon the paranormal, and lately humans who are able to conjure weapons out of thin air that mimic those weapons of ancient non – industrial cultures.

Once, they would have been scoffed upon, looked down with contempt and labeled as freaks. But as the years passed and their numbers and feats grew beyond refute, they have been accepted until even science or rather men of science could not deny their existence.

“In short, friends” He emphasized the last words. “The sociopolitical reality is shifting towards feudal, authoritarian systems, systems which would resist, I’m afraid to say modern business practices.”

“And, “he poured himself another drink, draining the last drop from the bottle, emphasizing the action which would not be lost to his audience “should trends continue, our traditional”

Our. He had actually diversified his goods in anticipation of the changes but he would not say that out loud. “means of income generation would be at risk.”

He glanced around. Every man knew that, of course, had known it all along, but this would be the first time they would be told of it in their faces.

“Is it salvageable?” a man interrupted him.

He hated interruptions but managed to smile.

“The probability is high.” His smile vanished. This is the part which they paid him for. “Investigations of ground Zero indicate that the rise of genetic abnormalities and other mutations may have been caused by a biological contaminant that may have been released into the atmosphere during the Rapture phenomena.”

“As everyone knows, the former government of the United States have many secret researches that border upon the fringes of science, experiments which may have been inadvertently released that would have caused the phenomena that had led to these present times.”

There had been a time he believed that. For the Rapture was something that defied common sense and a religious, mystical explanation went beyond all things that human civilization stood for. It was easy to attribute it to some artificially induced agent, created by man.

There are no demons except those which men create.

But he knew better. Perhaps everything is indeed created by a genetic plague. Perhaps it is reversible. But he was a pragmatist and his instinct told him that it was not the answer.

But not his friends. They still pine for the days when goods and money flowed freely. When people were all consumers and when markets ruled. But not him. He recognized that those times were gone, perhaps for good.

“Excursions into Ground Zero have always been met with failure.” He grimaced at the thought. He had lost a lot of money financing expeditions to the blighted land that was once the center of the US. And he had not gleaned anything. But his friends did not know that.

“Intelligence indicate that there are a series of subterranean caverns in the land, and that there are a huge concentration of biological mutations in the vicinity which would indicate that it is indeed the source of their population.” Demons, the general population called them, bizarre creatures that resisted bullets and other weapons created by science, creatures which can only be damaged and killed by human genetic abnormalities. Their numbers are also rising and threatens to destroy the bastions of consumerism that dot the American continent, the last bulwarks of the business elite.

“We have reason to believe that a well timed application of the Janus countermeasure and the Rapture Antidote would normalize the source. Hopefully,” he added wistfully knowing in his gut that it was not meant to be “that would be enough.”




MANARA

Jerrold Manara is a tired man, a very tired man. And at the moment, he was sorely in need of rest. His lanky six foot frame, stooped by hard labor sagged under the hot Nevada sun and his arm ached from the bitter pull of rope that anchored him to the cart behind him.

Yet he dared not stop.

To stop now would be folly. Even if the promise of a brief languorous respite was heavenly, it was a false feeling designed to dull the senses from the danger posed by the desert.

And even if he was tired of his life, he was not one to throw it away easily.

He wiped his brow, the thick mixture of grime and sweat stained the cloth into a deeper color of brown. He could smell the stench of days old filth that coated it. He smirked. It reminded him sorely of his need for a bath.

The Barrens.

He glanced around him.

People in the cities called this desolate land, the Barrens, the endless desert of stone and dirt that stretched as far as the eye can see. Once, if his memory served him right, it was once called the Nevada Desert and it is even rumored that somewhere in the middle of this desolation is a city called Las Vegas, a city of untold riches and splendor.

And that was his destination.

For Jerrold Manara thought of himself as a treasure hunter, an adventurer in the mold of Indiana Jones from the movies of old. He was destined, he believed, to be the discoverer of the lost, the seeker of ancient artifacts and the champion of the forgotten.

He smiled at the thought.

Everyone who knew of his plan told him that he was insane. They had laughed at him, mocked him.

They will see who will be laughing soon.

He smirked.

He had packed all his belongings in his cart and had made for the Barrens. They laughed when they saw him lugging his possessions at the outskirts, thought him mad.

No one enters and returns from the Barrens, they said.

People disappear there.

Demons reside there.

But Jerrold knew better.

He had an ace in his pocket. True, no one can survive the Barrens but only if they did not know it. He knows it. Many years living in the outskirts and various secret excursions he made in the Barrens for many years had given him a feel of the deserts many moods.

He knows where the demons live, knew the paths they moved in. he even knew which ones were harmless and those that had to be avoided. For unlike his fellows who consider all demons to be dangerous, he knows that they were like the wild animals of old. They only desire survival and lived on instinct.

As long as one knew how to respect their territories, one is assured of safety. It is simply a matter of understanding one another and giving space.

And he had a ‘friend’.

He smiled at the thought.

He was an odd friend, a man yet not a man. Jerrold often wonders if he was even human like him.

One would say he was the tamer of demons.

And he had taught him a lot of tricks.

He squinted his eyes.

His friend was an odd one. He wondered if he would appear to him now. Adam, he wondered if that was his name, would appear to him from anywhere. Sometimes, he would walk with him, then as suddenly as he would appear, he would disappear.

Adam never talked but Jerrold can hear him just fine. It was confusing for Jerrold sometimes for if he stared at Adam when Adam talked, Adam’s lips did not move. But he could hear the words. And most of the time, he could not even remember what they talked about.

Not that it mattered.

What mattered was that Adam was his friend.

A friend who did not laugh at him.

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