“We're Fletcher's spirit,” the cowboy said. “We know the Jaff's purpose.”
Thursday, October 28, 2010
TG&SS Part VI Chapters 9 to 11 Synopsis 56
Part VI Chapter 9
Howie and Jo-Beth slept in the Grove after making love. The sun went down and they remained asleep. Jo-Beth awoke to a balmy night but there was motion in the leaves. There was a strange glow in the trees. There were odd glowing lights all around them.
She awoke Howie and fumbled around to find his glasses for him. He thought they were ghosts. He got dressed and noticed that the two of them were surrounded by lights. A small figure appeared before them. It was Benny Patterson. Howie last saw him in the street outside Lois Knapp's house, calling him. Benny's face was blurred, his features fuzzy and jittery. Benny greeted Howie.
Howie wanted the hallucinogenic creatures to show themselves. They walked out of the woods towards him. They were all getting fuzzy an indistinct.
“I know what you ant from me,” Howie said. “But I can't supply it. This isn't my war.”
One of the creatures, a woman, stepped forward. “Your father's spirit's in all of us. If you turn your back on us you turn your back on him.”
Howie told her it wasn't that simple. He had others to consider, especially Jo-Beth, daughter of the Jaff but the love of his life. He told them he put her above Fletcher and the spirit war.
The cowboy stepped forward and apologized for what he'd said. No one argued with the apology. “So you'll lead us?” the cowboy asked.
“The Jaff's on the hill. About to use the Art,” said the woman.
“How do you know?” Howie asked.
“We're Fletcher's spirit,” the cowboy said. “We know the Jaff's purpose.”
“And you know how to stop him?”
“No,” the woman returned. “But we have to try. Quiddity must be preserved.”
Howie demurred. He said he was no tactician.
Benny declared that the spirits were decaying, getting dreamy. They needed someone to keep us to their purpose. “He's right,” said the woman. “We're not here long. Many of us won't make it through to morning. We have to do what we can. Quickly.”
Howie turned to Jo-Beth for advice. “You do what feels right,” she advised.
Howie thought that maybe by facing this confrontation he'd be free of Fletcher. And Jo-Beth had paid for her freedom by losing her family. Maybe it was his turn to pay.
“All right,” he said to the assembly. “We'll go up the Hill” to the mansion.
He put his arms around Jo-Beth and hugged her to him. I suppose I'm ready to die, he thought. Or as ready as I'll ever be.
Part VI chapter 10
Back at the mansion, Eve left the top floor room breathless and terrified. She waited long enough to hear Lamar's death-cough. Then she hurried down the flight to raise the alarm.
Eve ran to Sam Sagansky to tell him of the horror she saw. But Sam was neutral and passive. There were about twenty other listless guests in the area, all of them looking up to the ceiling. She descended another staircase to the main floor, where the piano was still playing amid a party of a half-dozen people. They were all leaving the party and saying good-bye to Rochelle. They didn't have time for Eve. When the guests left, Rochelle herself looked slack and stared upstairs, so Eve knew there was no help there.
Eve tried to convince a young group to help her confront the Jaff on the third floor, but they wanted to leave and thought her drunk. Sam Sagansky was walking toward them, telling the young stars that he would look after Eve. Eve wandered around the main floor, looking in vain for help. She concentrated on the piano player, Doug Frankl. She asked him to play something loud and fast.
He wanted a drink. Eve said the two of them could go to the third floor for a drink. She lifted his hands from the keyboard and began to escort him. But Sagansky caught up with them. Sam ordered him back to the piano so he could dance with Eve. But, magically, Doug had a quarrel with Sagansky over the entertainment business. As the two fought, Eve moved toward the door but fell. Some guests caught her and thought her drunk. The party of young people was recruited to take her out and back to her home. They did so, placing her in their limo and ignoring Eve's babbling about Grillo and needing help and a catastrophe.
= = = = = = = = = =
The remaining limo drivers were circling the area and talking to each other on radios. One reported that a huge dust storm was approaching. He abandoned the job and left the area.
= = = = = = = = = =
In the town below, Tommy-Ray slowed his car to get a look at a wrecked limo. The ghosts in his train had simply picked it up and thrown it over. Now they were dragging the driver from his seat. The ghosts violently reduced his uniform to tatters and the body inside it as well.
Tommy had led the ghosts away from the house so he could plan what to do next.
Tommy wanted to set this up so that his father saw him as the incarnation of the Death-Boy. Tommy wanted to be in charge of the conversation. But hope for that was fading fast. The longer he delayed his return the more unruly the ghosts were becoming. They'd already demolished a church. The part of Tommy that hated the Grove wanted to let them loose, but he knew that if he did that he'd lose control of them completely, and there was one life he wanted to preserve, Jo-Beth's.
Knowing that time was short, he drove to his mother's house to see if Jo-Beth was there.
= = = = = = = = = =
Tommy arrived home and told the ghosts to back off and be patient. They laughed and mocked, but backed off away from the house.
Tommy went to the door and asked for Momma. He promised not to hurt her. He needed to talk.
“What do you want?” a voice said on the other side of the door.
“You shouldn't have come back, Tommy-Ray,” she said after unbolting the door.
Tommy asked for Jo-Beth and refused to believe Joyce when she said the girl was gone. He pushed past her into the house and called her name. But there was no answer. He went upstairs, but she wasn't there, either. Tommy felt his life had fallen apart in a couple of days. He needed someone to comfort him, someone to save him. “Where is she?” he demanded. “Where is she, Momma? I Have to see her.”
“She's not yours,” Momma said.
“Katz!” Tommy yelled. “Katz has got her!”
Momma began praying. “Why did it have to be this way?” she asked.
“I didn't mean it to be,” Tommy answered.
“You were so beautiful, son. I thought sometimes that'd save you.”
“I'm still beautiful.”
She shook her head. Tears ran down her cheeks. Tommy looked back toward the door and said, “Stay out.”
“What's out there? Is it your father?”
“You don't want to know,” Tommy answered.
But the door swung open and dust poured in. Fixtures and lights swayed. The door flew off its hinges. Momma screamed and the ghosts heard and turned themselves in her direction. Tommy, showered with glass shards, stumbled outside and saw the house falling apart. He looked for his car, which was still intact. He got into the car, sobbing and then praying. In the rear-view mirror he saw the house give up entirely, as the vortex in its guts threw it outwards. Bricks, slate, seams and dirt burst in all directions. Tommy drove like a madman, racing through the town on a circuitous route to lose the cloud of ghosts. As he drove frantically, he saw a familiar face. He slowed the car.
It was William Witt. Witt was lost, he was looking for his dreams. They had all left him. His visitors left without a word.
“Sorry,” Tommy-Ray said. “You want a ride?”
Witt accepted. As he got in and slammed the door, Tommy saw a familiar sight in the mirror. The storm was following him. It was gaining. Tommy reluctantly drove the car back uphill toward the mansion.
Part VI Chapter 11
On the mansion's third floor, the Jaff said to Grillo, “The party's over. Time we went down.”
Little had been said between them sine Eve left in a panic. Jaff had sunk back into his thrown and waited while the party thinned. Grillo made no attempt to slip away since Lamar's slumped body blocked the door and the terata dominated the room. Besides, he didn't want to leave. In the room with him was the Jaff, the first cause of all the trouble in the Grove. If he turned his back on the Jaff he committed a crime worse than any he know: he failed to be a witness.
Whatever insane or lethal or monstrous man the Jaff was, he was not a fake, as were so many people Grillo had interviewed. He was in the company of a power with the capacity to change the world. He dared not turn his back on such power. He would go wherever it went, and hope to understand its workings better.
The Jaff stood up and said, “Make no attempt to intervene.”
“I won't,” Grillo said. “But let me come with you.”
The Jaff gave him a piercing gaze in the darkness. Then he said, “Move the body.” Grillo did so. The body was hot, sticky, and wet with blood.
Grillo was then commanded to open the door and did so.
Grillo walked down the staircase first. The house was quiet and only a few remained from the party. He was afraid these worshipers would tear him apart, but they were looking up and let him pass. At the ground floor, he looked up and saw the first of the terata leave the upper room. They had changed into less frightening creatures but darker than ever because of added, transforming power. After a few more terata came the Jaff, looking worn and skeletal. Further terata followed in train as the upper room was emptied. Coming down to the main floor, Rochelle could be seen, her absolute devotion to the Jaff taking away and stripping her beauty and leaving emptiness. The Jaff's face, which at first had shown tremors of apprehension, had become an immobile mask. All the Jaff's forces were concentrated in his left hand. Beads of bright corruption were dripping from that hand and breaking up into dark blooms on the stairs. The hand was hypnotic to Grillo. Grillo tried to watch the Jaff's face but kept being drawn back to the hand.
The terata remained on the stairs as the Jaff moved through the lounge.
“Turn on the lights,” the Jaff told Grillo. His voice was as expressionless as his face had become. “Turn them full on. No mystery now. I want to see clearly.”
Grillo located the switches and flied them all on. The bright light made some of the slumberers stir, but they didn't move sensing their jeopardy. Grillo's gaze returned to the Jaff's hand. It wasn't dripping power now. It had ripened. It was ready.
= = = = = = = = = =
At the entrance gates, the guard saw the lights go on, signaling an end to the party. He put out a call to the circling drivers to return and pick up their emerging passengers.
= = = = = = = = = = =
Coming off the freeway at the Palomo Grove exit, with four miles to cover to the outskirts of the town, a shudder ran through Tesla. The kind her mother had said meant someone was walking over your grave. Tonight, she knew better. The news was worse than that.
She realized that she was missing the main event. It was as if the flat-earthers were right and the earth had shifted a few degrees. Everything was sliding towards one end. She felt sure that people were waking in a cold sweat, around the world, or thinking of their loved ones and fearing for them. Children crying without knowing why. Old people believing their last moment was upon them.
She heart the din of a collision on the freeway she'd just left, followed by another and another, as cars – their drivers distracted by a moment of terror-- piled up. Horns began to blare in the night.
The world's round, she told herself, like the wheel I'm holding. I can't fall off. I can't fall off. Gripping that thought and the wheel with equal desperation, she drove on towards the town.
= = = = = = = = = =
The guard at the Vance mansion was watching for returning cars. He also saw lights coming up the hill. These lights were advancing too slowly to be headlamps from automobiles. Curious, he left his post and started down the incline a little way. He got maybe twenty yards before the bend in the road revealed the source of light. It was human. A mob of fifty, maybe morel climbing towards the summit, their bodies and faces blurred, but all glowing in the dark like Hallowe'en masks. The group was headed by two kids who looked normal enough. The guard moved back up the hill to put some distance between this mob and himself.
Another guard ran away, jumping the fence on the far side of the house and sliding down a steep include. He'd been hired to guard, not to confront walking torches or to stop whirlwinds.
= = = = = = = = = =
Grillo had seen strange things in his life, but he'd been able to pigeon hole them and accommodate to them. This made his mind reel. He said no and no to himself over and over.
Denial didn't work. The sight refused to pack its bag and leave. It stayed and demanded to be seen.
The Jaff's fingers had entered the solid wall and clutched it. Now he took a step back and a second step, pulling the substance of reality towards him as though it were made of sun-softened candy. The carnival pictures hanging on the wall began to twist out of true; the intersection of wall and ceiling and wall and floor eased in towards the Artist's fist, losing their rigor.
It was as if the whole room were projected on a cinema screen and the Jaff had simply snatched hold of the fabric, dragging it towards him. The projected image, which moments before had seemed so life-like was revealed for the sham it was.
It's a movie, Grillo thought. The whole world's a movie.
And the Art was the calling of that bluff. A snatching away of the sheet, the shroud, the screen.
Grillo wasn't alone in being astounded. Several of the stupefied mourners had opened their eyes to see a sight their worst bad trips had never proffered. Even the Jaff seemed to be shocked.
A tremor ran through his body, which had never been so frail, so vulnerable, so human, as now. This was an art in defiance of the condition of flesh. All the profoundest certainties of being were forfeit in the face of it. From somewhere behind the screen, Grillo heard a rising sound, which filled his skull like the thud of his heart. IT summoned the terata. He glanced around to see them coming through the door to lend their make aid in whatever was imminent. They were uninterested in Grillo; he knew he could leave at any moment and not be challenged. But he could not turn his back on this, however it wrenched his gut. Whatever played behind the screen of the world was about to be seen, and his eyes w3uldn't be coaxed from the sight. If he fled now, what would he do? Run to the gate and watch from a safe distance? There was no safe distance, knowing what he mow knew. He'd spend the rest of his life touching the solid world and knowing that had he the Art at his fingertips, it would melt.
Some of the guests were trying to leave, but the walls and half the floor had become slippery with uncertainty. Grillo himself sought out some solid place, finding a chair which slipped from his grasp. He fell to his knees, the impact re-starting the flow of the blood from his nose. He let it run.
The Jaff had pulled so hard on the far end of the room that it was distorted out of all recognition. The sound grew louder, almost inevitable, as though it had always been there, just out of hearing range.
Pulling again, the Jaff tore the screen in several places, tipping the room. Grillo clung to the heaving floor as bodies rolled past him. He glimpsed the Jaff, who seemed to regret all he'd done, struggling with the raw substance of reality he'd gathered up as if attempting to throw it away. A look of wild terror crossed his face, and he wscr4eamed a su8mmons to his legions. They started towards him, their anatomies finding some purchase in this shifting chaos. Grillo was pressed to the ground as they clambered over him. No sooner had they begun their advance, however, than something brought them to a halt. Grillo hauled himself upright and looked back toward the door. That end of the room was still more or less intact. Only a subtle twisting of the architecture gave any clue to what was happening behind him. He could see through to the hall, and beyond to the front door. It was open. In it stood Fletcher's son.
= = = = = = = = = =
There were calls greater than that of maskers and masters, Howie understood. There was the call of a thing to its opposite, to its natural enemy. That was what fuelled the terata now, as they turned back towards the door, leaving whatever chaos was unleashed inside the house to the Jaff's control.
“They're coming!” he yelled to Fletcher's army, backing off as the tide of terata approached the door. Jo-Beth, who'd stepped inside with him, lingered o the threshold. He took hold of her arm and pulled her away.
“It's too late,” she said. “You see what he's doing? My God You see.”
Lost cause or not, the dream creatures were ready to face the terata, pouncing as soon as the flood emerged from the house. Climbing the hill, Howie had expected the fight ahead to be somehow refined; a battle of wills or wits. But the violence that erupted all around him now was purely physical. The melancholy souls gathered at the woods, the civil folk at the Knapp house, were fierce and ruthless against the terata. It was Fletcher's light against the Jaff's dark. Both sought the destruction of the other.
He had led them up the hill, calling the stragglers when they forgot themselves and began to dissolve. Some he lost. But for the rest, the sight of the terata was stimulus enough – they would fight until torn apart. Neither side bled or showed pain. Only when more than half a spirit was torn did it start to weaken. The air around them buzzed and shook as if the war was continuing on a sub-atomic level. Equally matched, they were simply eradicating each other, countering harm with harm, their numbers dwindling.
The battle raged down to the entrance gate by the time Tesla drove up to the scene. She saw two bodies fight and destroy each other right in front of her, their limbs locked around and apparently through each other. She was appalled. Was this what the Art had released? Is this how they escaped Quiddity?
She looked up. Howie was in sight. His explanation was quick and breathless.
“It's started,” he said. “The Jaff's using the Art.”
“In the house.”
“And these?” she said, referring to the dying spirits.
“The last defense,” he replied. “We were too late.”
Tesla thought. “We should all get the hell out of here,” she told Howie.
She looked up towards the house. Grillo had told her it was a folly, but she hadn't expected architecture as wild as this. The angels all subtly off, no upright that wasn't askew by a few degrees. Then she understood. It wasn't some post-modernist joke. It was something inside the house, pulling it out of shape.
“My God,” she said, “Grillo's still in there.” As she spoke the facade bent a little more. She spoke with Howie and said that he should get a hold o Jo-Beth and she would find a way to get Grillo out of the house. Without waiting for a reply she headed on towards the door.
= = = = = = = = = =
Witt realized that no matter how profound his grief at losing his dreams, he didn't want to die. And he was being driven by a madman, Tommy Ray, which a dust cloud of spirits surrounding them. He looked across the seat to Tommy-Ray. The boy's face had never sung out intelligence, but its slackness now was shocking. He looked almost moronic. Spittle ran from his lower lip, his face was glossy with sweat. But he managed a name as he drove. “Jo-Beth,” he said.
= = = = = = = = = =
Jo-Beth didn't hear the call from her brother. But she heard another, one of terror, coming from the man who had made her. She crossed to the twisted entrance to the house. The scene inside was worse than the fight on the lawn. The whole softening world was moving toward the center. The Jaff was there at the core. In front of him a hole in the very substance of reality was exercising this claim on living and non-living alike. She could not see what was on the other side of the hole, but she could guess: Quiddity, the dream sea, and on it an island both Howie and her father had told her about, where time and space were laughable laws, and spirits walked.
If so, the Jaff had succeeded in his ambition – why was he so afraid? Why was he trying to retreat from the sight, tearing at his own hands with his teeth to make them let go the matter his fingers had penetrated?
All her reason said: go back. Go back while you can. The pull of whatever lay beyond the hold already had a hold of her. She could resist it for a short time, but that window was getting smaller. What she couldn't' resist, however was the hunger that brought her into the house in the first place: she wanted to see her father's pain. This was not a comely, daughterly desire, but he'd cause her pain, and Howie too. He'd corrupted Tommy-Ray out of all recognition. He'd broken Momma's heart and life. Now she wanted to see him suffer, and she couldn't take her eyes off the sight. His self-mutilation was increasingly manic. He spat out pieces of his fingers, shaking his head back and forth in an attempt to deny whatever he saw beyond the hole the Art had made.
She heard a voice behind her ay her name, and looked around to see a woman she'd never met. But Howie had described her. She was beckoning her back to the safety of the threshold. She ignored the summons. She wanted to see the Jaff undo himself completely; or be dragged away and destroyed by his own mischief. She hadn't realized until this moment how much she hated him.
Grillo also heard Tesla's call. He was able to turn, against the call of Quiddity – to look her way. His face felt fat with blood, as the hole pulled his fluids up through his body. His head pounded as if ready to burst. The tears were being sucked from his eyes, his eyelashes plucked out. His nose poured two bloody streams, which ran straight from his face towards the hole.
He'd already seen most of the room snatched away into Quiddity. Rochelle had been one of the first to go relinquishing that little hold her addicted body had on the solid world. Sagansky and the pianist had gone. The party-goers had followed, despite their attempts to get to the door. Grillow would have joined them, had it not been for the fact that the Jaff's shadow offered a tenuous solidity in this chaotic sea. He'd seen through the hole to the sea of Quiddity, to, and it shamed every other image of the world. He'd come too close to its shore to turn away. It would soon take him.
But seeing Tesla he suddenly dared hope he might survive to tell the tale. He'd have to be quick. Seeing Tesla reach for him, he reached back, but the distance was too great. She couldn't stretch any further into the room without losing her hold on the relative solidity beyond the door.
She gave up the attempt, and stepped away from the opening.
Don't desert me now, he thought. Don't give me hope and then desert me.
He should have known better. She'd simply withdrawn in order to pull her belt from the loops of her trousers, then she was back at the door, letting Quiddity's pull unroll the belt and put it within his grasp. He snatched hold.
= = = = = = = = = = =
On the battlefield, Howie was paying his last respects to Benny's remains, which were fading fast. Then he saw Tommy-Ray coming up the walk with a man he didn't know. Behind them was a huge cloud of dust. Howie suddenly wondered where Jo-Beth had gone. He'd neglected her for a few moments. He was sure she was Tommy-Ray's target.
Howie stood up to confront Tommy, formerly tanned and gleaming and now blood-spattered with sunken eyes. Tommy threw back his head and shouted, “Father!”
The dust intervened and swatted Howie aside, prohibiting him from getting close to Tommy-Ray.
Tommy shouted again, “Jo-Beth!” Howie suddenly realized that she was in the house, and he'd better get to her first before this monster took her.
Howie made it to the door and saw chaos inside as well as the Jaff standing by. Then her heard Tesla yell for his help. She was clinging to the inner door, its geometry gone to hell, her other hand holding on to somebody who was about to be claimed by the maelstrom. He was with her in three strikes, and seized her hand. As he did so he recognized the figure standing a yard beyond Tesla, and closer to the maw the Jaff had opened – Jo-Beth!
He uttered a cry. Jo-Beth turned in his direction, half-blinded by the assault of debris. As their eyes met he saw Tommy-Ray move towards her. The machine of Howie's body had taken a beating of late but it still had power. He pulled on Tesla, dragging her and the man she'd been struggling to save out of the most chaotic zone into the hall It was the moment Tommy-Ray needed to reach Jo-Beth, flinging himself at her with sufficient force to throw her off her feet.
He saw the terror in her eyes and she lost her balance. Saw Tommy-Ray's arms close around her, in the tightest of embraces. Then the Quiddity claimed them both, sweeping them across the room past their father and away, into the mystery.
Behind him Tesla was yelling his name. He ignored the call. His eyes were on the place where Jo-Beth had gone. He took a step towards the door. The power egged him on. He took another step, vaguely aware that Tesla was yelling for him to stop, to turn balk before it was too late.
Didn't she know ti had been too ate the moment after he'd seen Jo-Beth? Everything had been lost, way back then.
A third step, and the whirlwind snatched him up. The room turned over and over. He aw his father's enemy for an instant, gaping, followed by the hole, gaping wide still.
Then he was gone, where his beautiful Jo-Beth had gone, into Quiddity.
= = = = = = = = = =
Tesla helped Grillo get up. The facade of the mansion was like something from the great silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the door sucked in, the windows going the same way, and inside, who knew?
As they stumbled down to the car a figure emerged from the chaos and stumbled out into the moonlight. It was the Jaff. The fact that he'd stood on Quiddity's shore and resisted its waves was testament to his power, but resistance had taken its toll. His hands were reduced to gnawed flesh the remains of the left hanging down from the bones of his wrist in strips. His face was as brutally devoured, not by teeth but by what he'd seen. Blank-eyed and broken, he staggered down to the gate. Wisps of darkness, the last of the terata, followed him.
Tesla badly wanted to ask Grillo what glimpse he'd had of Quiddity, but this wasn't the moment. It was enough to now that he was alive to tell. Flesh in a world where flesh was forfeit every moment. Alive, when life ended with each exhalation and began again with every snatched breath.
In the trough between, there was such jeopardy. And now, as never before. She didn't doubt that the worst had come to pass, and that somewhere on Quiddity's furthest shore the Iad Uroboros were sharpening their envy and starting across the dream-sea.