Continued directly from the end of Chapter 17…
Approximate transcription of thoughts telepathically intercepted by Aetheric Monitor, from Subjects EX00023-90690ACE aka “Ace”; EA00017-00005AKZ aka “Azak”; EA00023-00005AKZ aka “Zaka”; and EA00017-15010 aka “The Vholer.” NOTE: Transmission could not be detected on the material plane, even though it originated there; the Aetheric Monitor could only register the overflow thought-resonances, leaking through the rift into the Otherworld. Why? -- T.Q. ACE: [Pry bits of asphalt with tip of knife. Dig tiny hole in pavement, unweaving threads of reality. Glass marble on which I had scratched bindrune of liberation. Press marble into tarmac.] ZAKA: Please don’t. AZAK: Let’s let her. ZAKA: Ok. THE VHOLER: Dost thou liberate me, wizard? ACE: Hey there. Uh, maybe? Like, you know, give me your spiel. VHOLER: I roamed this site for centuries, prying up out of the soil when the stars were right to prey upon beast and man. They paved it whilst I slumbered, though once I awoke I found that, with great striving, still could I reach forth my fingers to feed. [Tendrils of shadow emerge from the tarmac, coiling and uncoiling.] ACE: Whoa there. [Poke with knife.] VHOLER: The bindings and poisons of their civilization sickened me, twisting me from a humble predator into a monster driven by resentment. Ever weaker, I found it harder and harder to emerge; and fewer feedings only left me weaker. [Ropes of darkness unspool out of the pavement, forming into a spindly bipedal shape.] ACE: [Swatting ropes away with flat of knife.] Hey! AZAK: Get the hell back in the Otherworld, man, till the wizard says so. ZAKA: Bacdafucup. [The sticklike man grows gradually into a larger and larger pile of elaborately multi-jointed limbs.] VHOLER: Then the worlds collided, fissuring the shell between matter and aether. I prowled free again! Taking the name Vholer, after Vhöl, the world-devouring infinitude of portals. And for decades I fed upon the neighborhood’s nightmares, and miscarriages, and raccoons, and the occasional night-wandering human being. Until your one-eyed Master [points accusingly at Ace with several limbs] arrived and bound me once more! Curse his Name, and curse his remaining Eye! [Vholer leaps up into a crouch, looms over everyone a spindly eight feet high.] ACE: [Scramble backwards, knife up.] [Azak and Zaka breathe jets of fire at the pavement, crossing at Vholer’s feet to fan into a few square yards of roaring fiery carpet. Vholer leaps into the air with a shriek. The fire vanishes as quickly as it appeared.] ACE: That I did not expect. ZAKA: Down. AZAK: Stay. [Vholer cowers, contorted into a yard-high tangle of limbs.] ACE: Mental note to write Mikey about the fire-breathing dogs. VHOLER: Let me just eat the human. ACE: Not gonna happen. VHOLER: Will you help me, then, human being, so I do not perish? Call off your familiars, and aid me in finding acceptable provender? ACE: Maybe. Convince me. [Keep knife close at hand. Fumble some local oak twigs out of my bag. While he talks, I tie them together with threads of my hair.] VHOLER: You must forgive my unkind nature. We spirits of the soil and under the soil, we spirits under the city, we have been wounded by the pavement. By the poisons of civilization. By the cataclysmic imposition of Tal Sharnis, both material and aetheric, displacing half our land and distorting it at the edges. We are mutated, mutilated, hibernating, imprisoned, mummified, dead, undead. Or in a few rare cases persisting unchanged, curse them and their unreasonable good fortune . But most of us are plagued, as I am, by the pavement and cataclysm. We are victims. Surely, wizard, you can help us recover our whole selves? ACE: Hmm. AZAK: Not fucking likely. ZAKA: Trust this motherfucker far as you can throw him. VHOLER: Listen not to them. They wrong me. They understand not the sufferings of those of us, like you and me, trapped in liminality. We who crawl from the shadows. We who come through the cracks. You are every bit as much an outsider as I. Alien. Illegal. ACE: Hmm. Maybe so, but no way I can trust you won’t just eat me. VHOLER: The trauma of my release got us off on the wrong foot. Forgive me. I am at your mercy. Call off your dogs, wizard, I beg of you. AZAK: ‘Scuse me? ZAKA: The fuck you say? AZAK: We ain’t nobody’s. ZAKA: Not Max, not Jack, not no one. ACE: Chill, guys. He’s just runnin’ his mouth. VHOLER: Give me free rein, wizard, I beg of you. Together we will find me new ways, harmless ways. No miscarriages, no housepets, not even nightmares. ACE: Yeah, well, what if you had some limits? You could roam freely, but for some reason or another, like, let’s say there’s only so much harm you could do? That way there’s kinda a safety net. You get your freedom, but till you learn how to be a nice guy, you know, a limitation. VHOLER: You arouse my wariness, wizard. If you speak of a leash, or a muzzle, then I have no freedom at all. I am as good as in the ground. ACE: Nah, nothing like that. No leash, no muzzle. You down? VHOLER: You will trust me with my full freedom of movement? ACE: No leash I said. VHOLER: But if I vow only to feed justly and fairly, you will grant me full freedom to feed? ACE: Absolutely. VHOLER: Then, wizard, blessed wizard, please, free me! ACE: Right on, here you go. [Slaps down bipedal figure fashioned out of oak twigs. Vholer’s essence is sucked into it. It transforms into a spindly humanoid figure a foot tall.] VHOLER: What! [Regards itself in horror.] Betrayal! Evil wizard! [Jumps up and down in rage.] No! No! Curses upon you! AZAK: Holy shit lol ZAKA: Lol omg Ace ACE: Thank you, thank you. [Vholer scampers off into the shadows.]
This scene clearly takes place sometime prior to this other story (which features the unfortunate Vholer’s second encounter with those loveable canine scamps Azak and Zaka, in the company of their usual spooky human instead of Ace).
See you next Wednesday,