Janey was sat on a bench deep in thought when the explosions erupted around the park.
She refused to believe Mojo was dead, yet with him gone there seemed little point in carrying on. She had set out to uncover the truth behind the jibb-jabba but without her friend and companion the reward would be hollow. Mojo had been certain she would find out the identity of the clacker jacker. But what difference did it make now? Together they had fulfilled the Task, although Janey didn’t know what exactly they had released from beneath the dirt.
After their last slip through the Grind they were no longer bound to its forces. Janey was alone in a world that resembled her own in every way except it wasn’t hers. How she knew this she couldn’t say. It was a park but not her park. How was she going to get back home? She hated Mojo’s riddles. And she hated herself for feeling so weak and frightened.
She was grateful for the distraction when the dust and smoke belched into the air. She knew something was going to happen but it shocked her when it did. The Cog had his reasons for needing to cause untold death and chaos but never shared them with Janey and Mojo. Whatever happened she was determined to bring the Cog to justice. It didn’t seem right that any person, entity, god…whatever, had that much power to throw around like a child’s plaything. And she hated that free will was a mere illusion.
Janey watched the crowds running in blind fear. She felt detached from the panic. She told herself that she was just an observer. Sooner or later she would find the clacker jacker and put an end to her quest to find the truth. Nevertheless she was scared and needed to know what was going on.
The dust and smoke cleared as quickly as it had arrived. It had the same deep rich earthen smell as that which escaped from the hole they made in the bushes.
Janey wandered through the park, careful to avoid making eye contact. She didn’t want any part of the destruction visited upon this place by the Cog. Where the footpath had been a deep trench ran through the centre of the park. Janey didn’t get too close because she could see clumps of earth tipping over the edge. All along its length people gathered to peer into the strange crevice.
“What’s going on? Are we under attack?”
Janey shrugged at a bald-headed man nearby.
“It’s gone,” said another man.
Janey was shocked and relieved to see Lee, Tom’s Dad, stood a few feet away.
“It’s an earthquake.”
Janey wanted to tell the not so wise teenagers that he was wrong.
The bald man shook his head. “We don’t get earthquakes in this country.”
“Yeah we do, up north anyway, sometimes,” the teenager said with roll of his eyes. Lee held out his hand to stop him when he got too close to the edge. “It’s okay mate, I’m not going to fall – “
Janey almost reached out to grab the teenage lad when a sheet of turf slipped forward over the edge. Lee pulled him back and the teenager stared with wide eyes at the dirt where he had stood. He looked like he was going to burst into tears
“You were saying?”
“Get away from me, man.” The teenager shoved Lee’s hand away and ran off.
“Maybe it’s one of them sink-holes,” said the bald man. “I’ve seen them on Google. The rain erodes the substructure until there’s nothing left but holes then the ground just gives way.”
Lee frowned. “It’s not a hole. Geology doesn’t do nice neat lines.”
Janey nodded in agreement. You got that right. If only you knew what was coming. She left the chasm and returned to her bench. Alone with her thoughts she watched Lee and the bald man race to a small shed. They appeared moments later with sets of ladders. Her interest piqued she strolled after them and watched the rescue of people stranded on an island in the middle of where the roads had been.
Janey realised with horror that it wasn’t just the park that had been stripped of its paths but the roads too. That must mean every road in the city was gone. She toured the perimeter of the park. Every road was gone. Replaced with deep dark ravines.
Why would the Cog want to create a load of holes?
If he wanted to ruin mankind there must be better solutions than removing roads. Did he want to ruin mankind? At any given moment there were only so many people using roads. Maybe the Cog wanted people to just fall in. Janey gazed at a street lamp on the other side of the road. It tottered on the edge, ropes of cable protruded from the wall of the crevice. Clods of earth and concrete around the base of the lamp crumbled away and dropped into the darkness below.
The buildings surrounding the park remained intact, standing tall above the non-existent roads like tips of dormant aquatic volcano’s. Janey imagined a torrent of water washing through the city. It could look quite pretty, a futuristic city built out of the sea with bridges spanning the crystal clear blue water. Maybe the Cog wasn’t as evil as she thought.
There was a plus side to the sudden destruction. Without roads pollution would be reduced in next to no time. Janey wanted to think this was the Cog’s intention but it didn’t fit. There had to be another motive. The holes were there for a reason and they would need to be filled in sooner or later.
Then it struck her. The Cog hadn’t created the chasms to eradicate pollution and protect the planet from mankind addiction to oil. It had made them to let something out. Something buried deep beneath the surface.
What could be down there in the darkness?
In Janey’s experience darkness usually implied something bad.
21. Heebie Jeebies.
Janey had seen the violent dust cloud rear up and tower over Tom from her hiding place in branches of the big oak tree. When the boy told his story to the crowd she knew he was telling the truth. She saw the looks of disbelief in the crowd and didn’t blame them. Who would believe a ten-year old kid telling a story about a dust monster talking to him without speaking? Sane people needed answers not fairy tales. They wanted to know when rescue was coming and who was responsible. They needed someone to blame.
The bald man, Colin, put everyone to work. By keeping them occupied they had less time to worry. Janey helped move the elderly and injured into the shade. She figured the only way she was going to learn the identity of the clacker jacker was to mingle with the survivors. She kept herself on the periphery, rarely spoke to anyone and tried to blend in.
Colin had found a medical kit in the kiosk and handed out bandages to those with more serious injuries. Janey took a bandage over to an elderly man propped up against the trunk of a fallen Elm. He had a deep cut on his right forearm and a distant look in his eyes.
Janey knelt beside him and bathed his cut with water. She had learnt basic First Aid in summer break the year before but never put her skills to use in a real emergency.
“Sorry if it hurts,” she said. “I’ll try to be careful.”
The old man glanced down at his arm. “Hmm? Oh. The cut. It’s quite nasty isn’t it?”
Janey nodded. She dabbed away dirt and rinsed it again.
“Did you see what happened?”
“The holes?” asked Janey.
“And the smoke. Nasty business all told.”
“Does anyone know what caused it?”
Janey shook her head. She concentrated on cleaning his wound. Anything to keep her occupied. The questions never stopping piling up. Ever since she crept out of her apartment in search of Mojo the questions had yet to connect with honest answers.
“You’re a quiet one. What’s your name, lass?”
“Janey. Pretty name. My name’s Fred.”
“Nice to meet you Fred, hold still, this might sting a bit.”
Janey applied a smidgen of disinfectant to Fred’s wound. Fred didn’t even flinch.
“Where you with anyone when it happened?” he asked.
“Yes. Well, not really. Not like everyone else.”
Too much. He didn’t need to know about her.
“You don’t seem too sure, Janey.”
“No need for apologies,” Fred said . He wasn’t interested in the cut on his arm. He gazed at the crowds milling around in the shade. “My wife, Vera, she was going to meet me for lunch. Doubt she’s still coming.”
“What does she look like?”
“Long silver hair. She ties it back with a red ribbon when we go out. Makes her look young she says.”
“I’ve not seen anyone like that.”
“Nor likely to either, one could say,” Fred said. “The heebie jeebies have her now, I’ll be sure of that much. May she rest in peace if that’s the case.”
Janey glanced up at him. “Heebie jeebies?”
“I’ve seen this before.” Fred touched a scar on his neck. “Back in Africa. Second world war. Giant holes swallowing up the ground, taking down unwary souls. First time we saw them we figured the Nazis had a new super weapon. Funny how jumping to conclusions can be deadly.” Fred chuckled. “Things that go bump in the night and all that. Or in this case, the day.”
“I don’t get what you mean.”
“Folk nowadays think only about terrorists and bombs,” Fred said. “They don’t have the good sense God gave them to question what else may have caused this mess.”
“You’re saying things in the darkness caused it?” Janey asked him. She carefully wound the bandage around his arm. “What things?”
“The heebie jeebies. I saw them once. Gets mighty cold in the desert at night. Mostly we kept watch but always some fell asleep at their posts. One night we saw them. Creeping out of the big holes in the ground.
“In the desert? How could you tell with sand dunes and things?”
“That’s a sink hole, less,” Fred replied. “No. These were in a township, burnt out and savaged by tanks and mines. We’d sent the Gerry’s packing but had orders to hold out for reinforcements. In the dark of night a great many wondered why we had to guard a dead town.”
“There’s always a reason.”
“I expect there is. Anyhow, we saw them come out of the ground. Like inky black imps, all shrouded in black fog they were. They climbed up and snatched people away. Those lost to fatigue never knew what was happening until it was too late. I lost good friends to those creatures.”
“Couldn’t you stop them?”
“Not a chance.” Fred waved a hand. “We tried. Cripes, we fought hard but we may as well be shooting at fog. Me and the lads never spoke of it. Never reported it neither. But we knew what we saw.”
This strange news worried Janey. If the Cog had caused this then what relationship did he have with these things?
“Have you seen them here? Today?”
Fred gave her a quick look of alarm.
“When?” Janey asked him. “Where?”
“All around. They’re hungry critters, Janey. You be mindful where you step. Stick to the green, steer clear of the dirt.”
“Where do they come from?”
Fred shrugged. “Who knows? I never dared find out, nor did I want to know such answers. Deep down is my guess. Where darkness breeds evil. Where God finds no favour nor welcome. A place of nightmares.”
Janey shuddered at the thought. She taped the bandage in place and tapped his hand. “All done.”
Fred examined his bandage. “Well done, lass. A proper field dressing. We could have used someone like you back in the war.”
“You probably had way better medics than me,” Janey replied.
“Not for wounds from the heebie jeebies.”
Janey gaped at him. “This wasn’t caused by a trip or something?”
“I might be old, lass, but I have good balance. I haven’t tripped up since I was in first school.”
What had her and Mojo unleashed? “Did you really see things like that?”
Fred turned to her. “The truth?”
Janey gathered her things together. Somehow Fred knew what was coming up out of the deep. She thought she was the only one to learn of such terrible things. It could only mean that the Cog was always watching and waiting to let the nightmares free.
“You be careful there, little Janey,” Fred said.
Little Janey. No one called her that except…
She stared at Fred.
“The eyes,” Fred told her. “I know an Oath taker when I see one.”
To be continued…
This short story was inspired by Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press – a challenge to write a 1500 word piece of fiction using one of 4 photos as a prompt.
This section took about 2 hours to write, and is a shade under 2,100 words. I’ve been trying to work out how this will all end. I have a vague idea of the last scene but not how to get there. It seems that like Janey, my path is unclear, covered by a web of yet unrealised plots and twists.
Again there’s more overlapping here with Ground Fall. I won’t keep Janey tied into that story for much longer. She has a different destiny to those trapped in the park by the Maw. I’d like to know who Fred is, and why he seems so detached from the chaos, and maybe learn more about the heebie jeebies he saw in the war. I do know that Janey is very close to her final battle and uncovering the truth behind the jibba-jabba.
Soon everything will be revealed, dear blog reader, and then we can let Janey relax, right?
Well, maybe for a while.
There are still some surprised left to come.
It is my hope that the final 2 parts of Arcane Insane will be written before NaNoWriMo starts on November 1st. So check back on the 24th and 31st of October and we’ll see what happens. Keep an eye on those tracks.
A quick word about stories and fictional adventures, a moment of your time I beg. In November I’ll be joining the masses in National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo – and have joined a special support group set up by Indigo Spider to help us on our journey through the writing frenzy.