Warning: This chapter contains some coarse langauge, and has a glancing mention of a naked boobie (not the bird kind).
So far Untitled - Chapter 3: Transformation
A lone, thin figure in the dark sipped her bottled orange soda from a straw at the corner of her mouth. She was looking over a strange and ratty brown paperback book called, "The Art of Taoist Poetry." She shook her head, and put it back in a leather backpack. Her folding lawn chair creaked and cracked as she moved.
Lady Sarcastia was short, thin, and had a head that could almost be described as a cube. Her short, raven-black hair hung just below her ears and curled inwards just slightly. Two greased curls pasted to her temples accented the corner of her eyes, which themselves were outlined with the shape of an ankh. Her wrinkled, yet angular face, almost pure while, was stark in contrast to her deep blue eyes and shiny black lips. In one thin, bony hand she had a lit cigarette on the end of a long holder, and the other went back to her bottle of orange soda. She was wearing a black 1920s flapper-era outfit that was both elegant and fun, but her white skin was mostly covered with a lace shawl that was so large, it bordered on being a cape.
Around her were stone statues of various angels and devils, with a motif the suggested both medieval and renaissance in its mood. Around her were various alcoves in which each one lone man stood, pale faced and in a peasant's shirt, gripping their swords to their chests, pointed downwards. Each chiseled chin of these men had seen countless eras come and go, for these old guardians were older than civilization itself. The peasant garb was the former owner's idea, a motif that Lady Sarcastia kept for familiarity's sake.
A cold wind howled through the cracks mausoleum, bring with them smells of morning in the cemetery; mildew, fallen leaves, moist stone, and car exhaust, because she was only a few hundred feet away from a freeway. The white noise that made the morning commute seemed to wash out any lingering sounds of the night, and did nothing to improve Lady Sarcastia's mood.
People were late.
She was done pacing. Her feet ached, and she rubbed her boots in a vain attempt to soothe her feet.
"The tell you when you turn, you no longer feel pain," she said to one of the guardians, "they LIE!"
"Lady Sarcastia?" asked a voice coming in through the only entrance to the stone room.
"Yes, what is it? Have they returned?"
"No ma'am," said the young woman. "But I have a package for you."
Package. The term meant so much more to the Gate Keepers. A package was something you protected, whether you could carry it or not. It could be a jewel-encrusted dagger, priceless and rare. It could be a gateway to unknown lands, or it could be a parchment with foretold the secrets if one were to boil certain herbs under the full moon at a certain obelisk. Or, it could be a plastic soda bottle with a black feather in it. Such things had different value in a Gate Keeper's world.
But this package came in a wooden box. The decorations were Norse, and had medieval carvings of lions and bears fighting holy Christian knights.
"Thank you, Meggar. Who delivered it?"
"I... I do not know. I know it wasn't M..." Meggar paused and bit her lip.
"Do not speak that name in my presence," said Lady Sarcastia. "If she returns... ever... she will not come in a small wooden box. No. She will come in a cyclone of holy terror and destruction. No, I think this package comes from Lord Hoarfrost from Vistiby."
She opened the box, and inside were a series of thick cards which moved slightly as if under their own power. She rapidly closed it and smiled. "Yes..." she said, "Yes, this will do quite nicely. Go and tell Master Jason the twin has arrived.
"Why must I be questioned as if I speak through a bushy mustache, YES, the TWIN." The placed the box on a folding card table next to her. "He will know what it means. Now be off. And if you see any stray... children... wandering around... send them trick or treating to me..."
"Yes, milady..." said Meggar, who bowed repeatedly as she walked backwards through the entrance and out of sight.
"I ask for so little," she said to another still guardian, "and I get even less."
She waited for a while, kicking her leg over the armrest of the lawn chair. It was covered with a bed sheet, but you could still tell her throne was a lawn chair quite easily. Her leg rocked back and forth, almost making it appear as if her knee was creaking. She sighed several times, very impatiently, and was about to stomp around the room in disgust, when she heard what sounded like to her ears a braying donkey.
"We can't ALL fit in there, surely?" said the voice.
Lady Sarcastic was pleased once she recognized the voice, but still angry that it was not early enough in the morning to not hear rush hour outside. It was the young lady from the coffee shop.
"Just go in. It's bigger on the inside than the outside. You'll see."
"Donnabel's voice," Lady Sarcastia thought. "Eleanor Snoozivelt." She briefly thought back to the older days, when radio was king, and Donnabel's nosy mannerisms and constant yip-yapping that got her into so much trouble. "Still," she said, "better on my side than another." She fell silent when she realized she was talking to herself again, but turned to face a guardian
"Just GO!" said the urgent voice of Sad Fairy, which made Lady Sarcastia sigh in pity as she remembered a poor girl, beaten to death on Halloween, right before her eighth birthday. "Harona, watch your aprons, you nearly opened up the bag! OH, see? What a mess..."
The bag. Lady Sarcastia knew what had delayed them.
"I take it that the Ceremony of Crossing is less important than donuts and coffee...?" she said as the four of them entered the chamber.
Harona still had crumbs around her mouth. Sad Fairy was holding a spilling plastic bag of donuts behind her back, while the tall figure of Donnabel was drinking the dribbling remnants of a 3 gallon pitcher box of coffee like a thirsty hunter gulps from a canteen. Jean was staring, slightly confused, right at Lady Sarcastia, as she tried to wipe away the wet stain of coffee that had dribbled from a hole across her collarbone.
That would not do.
"BOW YOUR HEAD!" she hollered in a voice that sucked the air from the room and wrapped around her like a vortex, swirling her shawl around her head.
All of the girls collapsed to the floor in respect, except Jean, who burped and giggled. "YOU are Lady Sarcastia?"
"Young lady... I advise..." she started in stern tones, and then paused in realization, "... you're drunk!"
"All... all I had was coffee, honest!" Jean burped again. "See? Look!" she showed off the scar across her neck, which was now sewed together with fishing wire. "Harona... she... she sewed it all up! An' that's the TRUTH!"
"You girls gave her coffee? She... the women's got no blood! What little brain juice she has is pickled with caffeine and sugar!" Lady Sarcastia was amazed, and wasn't sure whether to turn her shock into anger or laughter.
Jean continued, even though her eyes were closed and she was weaving. "I died today! No, it was sooo cool. Like Pat, he's my dumpster boyfriend... no... wait [giggle]... I mean, he's my boyfriend now in a dumpster, not that I found him there, but Donnabwe... Donna bwe... man, I can't say her name. Anyway, DONNA... she kicking him like THIS!" and kicked a shoe far into the air, which landed on a guardian who brushed away the china flat like stray leaf.
Lady Sarcastia always wondered, at times like this, if she should have just died of old age. It seemed that ever since the ... recent incident... that everything was falling apart. First the move, then all her assistants started finding elsewhere to be. She wrinkled her mouth in indecision, but managed to make it look like a scowl. "Child... bow... your... head..." She pressed the top of Jean's head down to the floor, forcing her in a kneeling position, which did not frighten her. In fact, she seemed oblivious.
"You're much meaner in p-person. I thought you were one of those crazy cat ladies when I read your tarot, b-but I was wrong! Don't be mean to me, I have had a hard day..."
Lady Sarcastia kept Jean's head down and forced her into a kneeling bow. "As Lady Sarcastia of Alexandria, Keeper of the Gates of the Chesapeake and Beyond, I now start this most holy of ceremonies, despite your condition, for if this is not done by sundown... you will return to your mortal coil, as dead as any girl who has no blood."
The air turned dark. Lady Sarcastia tipped her cigarette holder on it's end, and blew onto the red embers until it turned a bright blue. The air grew cold, and the stone columns in the room creaked under the sudden temperature change. What little light there was left in the room turned blue, and glowing symbols started to appear on the floor.
"As you were once mortal... and mortals can die... you shall be neither in the realm of the Gate Keepers."
The symbols began to issue a cold mist, and fine silver treads began to weave behind Lady Sarcastia. They were straight threads, but at a slightly different angle, and they all intersected in such a way, they formed a circle like a dreamweaver. The air started to turn hazy, and small symbols floated about the room, obscuring the walls and enveloping everyone in a bluish white fog.
"For eons, our kind have walked this dimension to keep the Crossers at bay, to prevent the Walkers from bringing things back with them, and to keep the balance of the living and the dead in perfect keel. The air is thick with the spirits of those Gate Keepers that have passed before you."
No one noticed Sad Fairy has raised her head, and was peering in the mist among the many faces that floated and intermixed with one another. Maybe... no. No, the face she was looking for was not there. The face she was looking for was not dead, but lost. A betrayer, she was.
Harona reached put and rubbed Sad fairy's lower back. She knew what Sad Fairy was looking for, but this gently reminded Sad Fairy to lower her head before Lady Sarcastia snapped at them again.
Jean stopped giggling for the moment, as she felt sleepy. She wondered if her kind sleeps? She wondered if she'd get a manual or something. Maybe a series of pamphlets. The only thing that kept her from giggling at that thought was the fear of breaking ceremony. Even though her brain was withering in her skull from all the sugar and caffeine, it knew this was serious business.
Lady Sarcastia reached into her backpack and pulled out a chalice, a book, and a plastic water bottle that contained a black feather.
"You must know that you still have the option to die. You must, but sheer will and loyalty--"
That's what went wrong, Donnabel thought, the Half-Breed did not pledge loyalty.
Yes... she did... said a voice in her ear, which scared Donnabel so bad, she forced herself to believe she was hearing thing and she bowed even deeper to the floor so her knees and back hurt.
"Gone is you name... what was your full name during life?" asked Lady Sarcastia.
"I was..." Jean paused. What was it? "I... I think I was called... Package. Something. Package McLazy?"
Lady Sarcastia smiled. "Thank you, Sad Fairy..." she said with enough subtle praise that reassured the trio Lady Sarcastia would take no further punishments for being late... stopping for food.... or killing Pat... or turning the guy's face at the techno place upside down, forcing him to the emergency room and disfiguring him for life.
The air began to crackle and sing like high voltage wires. The woven circle behind Lady Sarcastia's back opened to another dimension, where a figure in shimmering blue light projected its consciousness into their world. Lady Sarcastia stepped aside, and pulled the Package up. She handed her the bottle with the black feather and said, "By offering this gift to the collected souls of the Gate Keeper consciousness, you will hereby renounce your mortal status, and become the servant of the Gate Keepers. Do you offer this gift?"
"I do," the Package said, and handed the shimmering force the bottle, which turned into a scroll made of deep blue paper.
"Do you offer your soul to the Gate Keeper consciousness, to become one with it, for all eternity?"
"I do," the Package said.
"Do you renounce all former connections with all things, living, dead, or otherwise... from this world to become one of the unspoken guardians?"
"I do," the Package said.
"Do you promise to uphold the secrets in exchange to the collected knowledge of all Gate Keepers?"
"I do," the Package said.
"Choose your name..."
"I... I..." the Package looked at Lady Sarcastia.
"I cannot choose your name. You must do so. Apparently SOMEBODY forgot to mention that fact. I don't think she chose HER name wisely, either."
Sad Fairy flinched, and her stomach twisted slightly. There was a time when she was at this gate... a time when... the white room... the hospital... the fatal blows... "she's dead... we have a murder case now if we can find the father." No regrets. No turning back. Sad Fairy closed her eyes tightly. Her name was not poorly chosen because it was hard to say, or seemed slightly childish... it was... just... too close to another name from her past... No regrets. No turning back...
"I want to be known as... Marideath," and with that, she grabbed the cigarette in its holder as offered by Lady Sarcastia, and Marideath signed her new name on the blue parchment, which was surprisingly soft and more cloth-like than she expected.
"Marideath has been born!" announced Lady Sarcastia. She rubbed the edge of the chalice with the tip of her finger, causing it to ring and vibrate. "Now, drink of the Cup of Knowledge, and peer at your new face."
Marideath picked up the bowl, which was filled with a sweet blue syrup, and drank from it. She was going to take a ceremonial sip, but once the taste touched her tongue, she could not stop herself from taking greedy gulps. The chalice refilled itself, but not fast enough as Marideath inhaled the liquid, filling her veins with her new blood. Her pallid skin puffed out as she slurped and licked the bowl of the chalice, greedily whining for more like a starving puppy. The cigarette fell from her hand, and as Lady Sarcastia picked it up, she watched the voracious feeding with a little surprise.
"Dear Lord..." she said out of an old habit.
The trio that was kneeled looked up in surprise. Harona's tongueless mouth opened in surprise, exposing the bright red gills inside. She, too, was feeling the thirst in sympathy. Donnabel looked at the empty coffee carton on the floor and winced as her mouth went dry.
"Mmmm... mm... more. MORE! WHY ISN'T THE CHALICE GIVING ME MORE?????" Marideath whined. Her mouth felt bone dry, and she just kept licking at the moist bowl, hoping for a mouthful of liquid.
"Marideath, that's the Cup of Knowledge. You can't take it in one gulp!"
"I HAVE TO FEED!!!" she screamed, and everyone turned to the Gate Keeper consciousness for advice. The mist formed a huge breast, and Marideath dropped the chalice on the floor with a loud clatter attached herself to the nipple almost before it was finished forming. Blue liquid dribbled from her mouth and she greedily sucked, making childlike cooing noises.
"Okay... THAT'S new!" said Sad Fairy.
"I have never seen the Gate Keeper consciousness do that..." Donnabel whispered, for she had a feeling she was witnessing a powerful sacrament.
Lady Sarcastia smiled. "Only a few are offered. Many become... Ladies."
"She's going to be a Lady... like you?"
Lady Sarcastia smiled. "Maybe. Someday, after a loooong journey. I suspect it's because of her ability with the tarot that she needs so much."
How much liquid can her body take? asked Harona. She noticed that Marideath was starting to burst at the seams. She was dripping blue liquid from her mouth and neck wound alike.
Soon, Marideath grew sleepy, and although she angrily tried to keep feeding, she quickly fell into a deep slumber, and was slowly lowered to the floor by the Gate Keeper consciousness. There she lay, her blue-soaked lips still reflexively suckling, her clothes soaked and glistening in the blue mist.
"While it seems redundant to say this," Lady Sarcastia said, tapping a book with her cigarette, "you have been accepted by Gate Keeper consciousness... and we have four witnesses... et cetera, et cetera... by the power granted to me, I pronounce you Gate Keeper Acolyte."
The mist parted, the Gate Keeper consciousness faded back into the gate, the gate faded, and within a few minutes, the distant sounds of the morning rush hour filled the mausoleum.
"Girls," Lady Sarcastia asked, "help me get M... Marideath, was it? Yes, Marideath. Help me get Marideath to her new home. Afterwards, I have a new Package for you to guard..."
All text copyright 2005 Grig Larson, all rights reserved. No reprinting without permission