Oct 3, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 24

Oak moved silently around the table. Setting it up the perfect configuration was not only necessary, it was important too. He wanted to make his guests feel as comfortable and at home as he could. There was a tray of burgers placed in the middle of the table and a faucet in the middle of the table for guests to fill their glasses with the fizzy drinks of their choice.

Once he felt everything was as good as he could make it, he flipped open the cover of the computer he wore on his forearm. It took only moments to press a few buttons and the room filled up with bright yellow light and a smell of brimstone and sulfur.

The fat man was the first to arrive. He moved his bulk through the portal and looked around the room.

"Not too shabby, Oak," he nodded at Oak, dragged his chair out and took his place the table. "I hope these burgers are fresh," he laughed at Oak and Oak simply smiled in return. The fat man picked up a burger and chomped down on it. He said something more with his mouth filled with the burger, but it was lost in the chomping and smacking sounds that his mouth made. Oak looked away and wrinkled his nose in disgust. Two more to arrive.

The old woman was the second to arrive. As gracious as ever, she wore a dark blure sari that was embellished with jewels that even Oak did not know the names of. She stepped out of the portal and took Oak's offered hand. He lead her out and kissed the back of her hand. A smile flickered on her face and then it was gone. Oak pulled her chair and she slithered into her seat. A glass of fizzy Coke appeared in front of her. She looked at the drink with distaste and sighed.

Oak waited for the third man to appear. No one came out of the portal. He waited some more. And then, as if from a faulty phone line, the strange disjoined voice spoke. "Oak. Old buddy. Do I have a trick for you?"

Oak peered into the portal at a vaguely humanoid figure. It seemed to be coming closer, floating on waves of light. "Think of a card, Oak. Any card. But wait, don't tell me what that card is. Choose your card and think of it in your mind."

There was nothing to do, if he needed these three in one place, he'd have to play along with their tricks. Oak closed his eyes and thought of a card. It seemed to float in front of his eyes and it vanished with an audible poof as he opened his eyes.

"Will you please take your seat at the table?"

The Jester slid out of the portal like a man slipping on a banana peel. Oak could feel a headache building behind his eyes. Behind him, the fat man made a strangulated sound. He got up from the table so fast that his chair went shooting past behind him and struck the wall with a flat bang. The fat man's hands were locked around his own throat. His eyes watered and he grunted like an animal trapped in a vice. The lady in the sari looked at the choking man with an amused expression on her face. She had not touched her drink till now, but now she picked up the glass and took a sip.

The jester grabbed the fat man's shoulder and bent him over the back of the third chair. He then slapped his back with an open hand. Once, twice, and the third time the fat man hawked something out of his mouth. It was something small and covered in bits of burger. The fat man picked it up with shaking fingers. He unfolded the small package.

It was a playing card. The Joker.

The headache burned behind Oak's eyes like an unrelenting desire to murder. He quashed down the desire to burn everything and everyone in the room there and then.

"Wondering how your card got in fatty's mouth?" the Jester asked Oak.

"There will be time for such questions later, why don't you all take your seats so that we can go ahead with the things we want to discuss in this meeting."

The fat man was sweating and he wiped his face with his sleeve as he picked up his fallen chair and put it in its place. He looked at the small mountain of burgers and picked another one that he chomped down.

"I have convinced Otrahun to stay here. It was difficult, but it's done. Now, I need you all to tell me how the hell are we going to activate his powers to their full potential?"

"Oh," Jester picked up a burger and bit into it. "I guess we'll have to kill him to do that."

The headache behind Oak's eyes amplified with the rage of a thousand suns.

-/-

Oct 2, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 23

Reality hiccuped, burped and belched at the same time for Otrahun. He was back in the white room. It looked as pristine as ever. On the wide screen in the middle of the room, the old man looked even frailer and closer to death.

"Ah, you. You will just not die an easy death."

"I was ready to die, until you showed me that place. You should have never sent me there."

"Hindsight is always 20-20, Otrahun. You of all people should know that."

Otrahun sat down cross-legged on the ground. He looked up at the screen with a mixture of sadness and pity.

"Did you get your files?" he asked.

"Of course, we did. All the records are in place. Every sin ever committed on this planet. Every mark, every tally of it all, recorded and cataloged."

"Good, good. That's great. My name might be there in a few places, too," he paused and wiped his face with his hand. "What do you plan to do with the information in these files?"

"The same that we have done all these years. Maintain the balance in the corridors of power in this world. When we have leverage, we use it to control those who make decisions and propel the world towards a better future."

"Ah," Otrahun sighed. "I should have known."

"You should send Lisa back. I need her here."

"No can do, old man. She fucked with the wrong kind of creatures by meddling too much in the other place. They are going to keep her there."

The old man frowned. "I will not have my most valuable lieutenant rotting in the jails of that place. I demand you return her here."

"She won't rot anywhere. She is a guest of Oak and others. But if you come for us there, we will make sure she rots."

"We? And you dare threaten me?"

"Yes, we. Because now that I know you have dirt on me, I am not staying here. And I can threaten you because I am going back to where you can't touch me."

"Otrahun, you are right. And you will be fine. But watch your back, because I promise you, one day, I will send someone to put a knife in there."

"Oh, won't that be exciting. Goodbye old man. I hope your circuits fail and your boot order is corrupted."

Otrahun looked at the table once more. Same steel where his body once laid strapped. Now empty and cold. He waved a middle finger salute at the old man and bit by bit, started to disappear.

-0-



Oct 1, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 22

When he was a little child, Otrahun's father took him to a pool to teach him swimming. The older man told the boy to get up on the ramp and jump in the water. I will catch you, the old man had lied but the little boy knew nothing of the lies of elders. He had jumped and once he had drunk enough pool water and tried his best to yell out half-cries for help, his father had jumped in and helped him out. The first lesson had nothing to do with swimming, but everything to do with life.

Trust no one.

As Otrahun lay strapped to the table with a scalpel hovering above his face, he remembered nothing of what his father had told him. He could only feel the crunch of a wrapper in his pocket. He inched his fingers toward his pocket while Lisa touched the blade of the scalpel to his face, deciding where to make the first cut.

"Do you really have to cut my face?" he asked Lisa. "Just kill me if you want and let it be."

"We still don't know how you pulled it off. And we need to know that in case this fuckery repeats itself."

"You want to know how I found your files? Why didn't you just ask? I'd gladly tell you everything."

"You might be leading us the wrong way. That's why I need to torture you first. To make sure you tell the truth."

"Please put away the scalpel. I like my face too much to lie about the process of getting your stupid files. I'll tell you, just untie me first."

"No can do, Otrahun. You are going to get cut and it will hurt a lot. Just ride through the pain and be truthful when I start asking the question."

His fingers found the wrapper of the burger he'd taken from Oak's restaurant. With the wrapper clenched tight in his fist, he closed his eyes and thought of the drum performance Oak had given. The beat of the drums was like the heartbeat of a giant creature powering through something grand. It was chaotic and melodious. Like listening to music that opens up your mind to the possibilities that the universe might present to you. The drum solo reached its crescendo, with Oak going mad on the drums, the sticks in his hands a blur, the large horns on his head swaying to an internal beat that was too much in control when this beat was a maniac tsunami of death and destruction.

And when Otrahun's heart also started to beat in time with the drums, he let go of the wrapper. The piece of oiled paper fell to the ground and in a blink, the atmosphere around him changed. He was back in the world he had left and Lisa also stood there with him, still holding the scalpel in her hand which chose the exact moment to fall.

"Oh, boy. I am so fucked." she muttered.

Oak appeared like a ghost by Otrahun's side. "Good to see you back here, Mr. Yaway."

At Oak's signal, two burly demons broke away from the throng and grabbed Lisa by the arms and lead her away.

"What are you going to do with her, Oak?"

"To be frank," the giant murmured, "nothing." He sighed. "We will just keep her in a cell"

"Understandable. She's been poisoning this place for quite some time. Oh, and thanks for the beat. I'd have never found my way back here if I did not have that in my mind."

"Always a pleasure to show a way through music. I believe you are going to make one more trip back there?"

Otrahun nodded. There were still some T's that needing crossing and i's that needed dotting.

"I'll be back before you notice that I was gone."

He closed his eyes again and then, he waited.


Sep 25, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 21

The surreality of the situation was not lost on Otrahun. Here he was, stuck in a place that had no name or meaning, carrying his own head through a dusty landscape. Hunted by demons who wanted to switch him for no other reason than that he was in this place. He wasn't even there out of his own choice.

He carried his head in the crook of his arm and walked towards the next building in the row. He had a feeling that they were all connected and if he could access the mainframe from the previous building, he might be able to patch in through any of these buildings. It was a long shot, but it was the only shot he had got.

The next building's outer wall was smooth as polished glass and there was not even a single mark or indention anywhere. He grabbed his head and touched it to the surface of the building. And nothing happened. He did not fall through, the building's doors did not open, he did not even get shocked to death.

Damnation, he whispered and punched the wall. The change was immediate. The wall suddenly became transparent. Behind the transparent pane of glass, he saw a screen just like the one he had left in the previous building. It was even on the same page of the program he was using.

Otrahun sighed. Everything was connected. He just needed some more time to make it work. So far, this building had been nothing but a big tease. His hand curled itself into a fist and punched the wall again. The glass cracked like a spiderweb. A thin trickle of blood smeared Otrahun's fingers. He sighed and punched the wall again. And again. And again.

The glass shattered under the force of his punches and he kicked away the rest to make a small opening for him to get into the building. The insides were cold like places that have been left locked up for far too long.

He walked to the computer and put his head down on the table looking at the screen. He started to type, picking up the work from where he had left.

Something shuddered in his left arm and the hand went limp. He'd been disconnected from his body for too long now. But he was close now and quitting was not an option. Not at this stage. He kept typing with just one hand, hoping against hope that the right hand would not give up on him.

A wave of nausea washed over him. Drawing the next breath became a challenge for Otrahun, while some disconnected part of his mind wondered how he was able to breathe if his head was not connected to the body. With spots swimming in his vision, he looked at the screen. Squeezed on eye and hit Enter on the keyboard.

The screen went blank and nothing else happened.

Fuck, he thought as he lost consciousness for the nth time.

---
It was the smell of industry standard disinfectant that woke up him. For a moment, he thought he was in a hospital. The woman's face swam into view. The smile on her face looked like as awkward as an ill-fitting wedding dress on a rotting corpse.

"My name is Lisa." she said. "We want to congratulate you on the behalf of our company for bringing to us what belonged to us."

Otrahun tried to get up. He could not. He was strapped in place with too many straps.

"Lisa, go fuck yourself with your congratulations."

Lisa smiled her corpse smile at him.

"I promise I will make it hurt as much as possible."

She took out a small scalpel from the box on the desk and put a new blade on it.

"No hard feelings, Otrahun. We can't really let you move out there with all that you know now. It just won't be right."

Otrahun said nothing.

----
Reaching the end, soon. 

Sep 20, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 20

The dirt felt alive under his fingers and he could feel the wetness of the mud seep in through his shirt. He was lying down on the ground and the cacophony of the world around him meant nothing to him for now.

Otrahun focused and his body on the other end of the field put a palm on the ground. Another hand in position and he forced his blood and bones to get into motion and get up. His headless body staggered like a child learning to walk for the first time. Another demon kicked his head up and he spun like a ragdoll. His focus wavered and his body stumbled a step.

This time, he closed his eyes and went deep in his own mind. There was an old memory of a rainy day somewhere in his headspace. When the rain fell like jewels on the pavement and the world was as blurred as a watercolor painting that will never go dry. Gears in his head whirred and clicked. Like a key slipping into a slot, something clicked and his body on the other end straightened up like a rod.

It took one step and then another.

It ran for him.

Toothy saw what was happening and yelled a command to his troop of demons. There was a sudden shift in the game. The addition of a new player put both teams in a new wave of motion.

They rushed him. Otrahun took a stock of the crowd of demons heading his body's way and everything slowed down in his mind. There were gaps in the mass of bodies. There were weak points in the huddle. There was a path of least resistance and he could make his body reach him if he only followed it through.

The mass of claws, teeth, and sharp appendages reached for his body. He kicked, punched, clawed, jumped, crawled, and slithered his way through the two teams. Time flexed back to its usual speed and they were all beating up one of their own.

With only a few feet between him and his body, Otrahun put a burst of speed in legs. If only he could pick up his head and get out of this place.

Then Toothy tackled him.

They rolled and tumbled in the red dirt. Toothy punched his body and he punched back with double the force. After all, he did not have to protect his head anymore. They tangled with each other like angry lovers. But there was one way Otrahun had an edge over Toothy. He was fucking angry.

As they fought, Otrahun's hands found Toothy's throat and in a flip second, the demon was in a headlock. Otrahun locked his arms and squeezed the air out of Toothy's lungs. Seconds passed and the demon started to thrash. His thrashings got weaker and then his body went limp in Otrahun's arms.

Otrahun's tired body then walked over and picked up his head. It was the first time he was looking at himself without the aid of a mirror or a camera. He looked worse than he thought himself to look. The signs of his age and the weariness of the struggle were all taking its toll on him. He was hungry but he was not sure if eating anything would help if his head was not connected to his body.

He grabbed the head like a trophy and walked over to one of the walls. There was only one way to find out if the wall will let him through. With his forehead against the wall, he said a little prayer for the first time in years.

The wall flickered and he fell outside.

The red dirt and forever sunset mode made him feel a deep sense of depression. He had two tasks on his mind now. Get his head back in place and find those fucking files.

He chose a building at random and headed towards it.

Two observers watched him walk.

Feisty little shit, isn't he?

He's got what it takes, I'd give him that.

Can he do it?

Only he can.

Would you bet on it?

Of course. I'm sure I'd win.