Sunday, July 05, 2015
Chapter Two - RANDOM VIOLENCE - my Work-in-Play
RANDOM VIOLENCE - book#6 in my Bloodscreams Series = Writing as Geoffrey Caine
Dr. Abraham Stroud felt a disturbance in the universe here in the Canadian Badlands in Alberta near the Drumheller area. He pinched himself to determine if he was back where he was in charge of a new archeological dig. Of course, he had felt such disturbances before—in fact, ever since the first time that he was called on to combat supernatural forces, ever since the meatball surgeons at a field hospital had saved him from death when they’d plucked him from a pile of dead bodies cast into a common grave in Vietnam. And ever since surgeons in a German hospital equipped with the wherewithal to slap a steel plate in his head had done so. An archeologist now, one who had discovered and vanquished vampire and werewolf covens, zombies, and gargantuan cemetery worms, Abe knew the stirrings in his head and soul amounted to a new call for his services and likely his fortune, along with his mercenary squad.
However, this time the disturbance was somehow larger and more demanding than any he had ever felt. He was busy, of course, in the midst of the most important Canadian archeological find of prehistoric beasts ever uncovered. He and his students had been busily categorizing what seemed to be a limitless number of creatures from the Sabre-toothed Tiger to the Woolly Mammoth roaming eons ago in what was on the map today as The Badlands of Alberta, Canada. Everyone associated with the dig, Stroud’s backers at the university in Florida, and the Canadian Archeological Society—major contributors in both money and influence—were all ecstatic at the reports coming from Stroud that in part read:
Some species never before seen or known to have existed have been uncovered here. This is a major, major find, gentlemen and ladies. Some of the evidence suggests a number of strange and odd creatures without a name or classification save that they appear to belong in the reptile family.
Stroud lifted the skull of a creature no one had ever seen before. At least not in modern times. It appeared to be part reptile, sure, but it also appeared to be part hominoid – human. Could there have once been a race of reptilian-like homo-sapiens? Stroud recalled his brief brush with a kind of were-creature that inhabited the bayous of Louisiana that amounted to a were-gator, an alligator that walked upright like a man. At the time, he’d had his hands full with an entire coven of Bayou Wulves, werewolves of an evolved nature in that same vicinity, and as a result, he had not pursued the were-gator to uncover any others of its kind. Now this.
The skull was a far, far cry from a human skull, and yet there were marked similarities about the forehead and the crown. While the jawbone and what few teeth had been found still attached appeared more reptilian—crock-like. It might well be evidence of a creature that lived and died off without anyone’s ever knowing about it until now.
The skull was ugly and horribly misshapen, reminding Abe of the old joke about a camel being a horse designed by a committee. Whatever forces of nature had designed this beast, said forces had to have been interested in a thinking man’s reptile most assuredly. Close to the raptor dinosaur in design but not quite, Abe thought this creature might well have had wings too. Larger, more ferocious, more cunning than the raptor, this thing walked like a man.
The ugliness of the brown, dirt-encrusted skull stood at the opposite end of the spectrum of skulls found in other parts of the dig. Known skull types, even those of the Woolly Mammoth and the Sabre-toothed Tiger were sleeker, smoother, and more compact. This thing, Abe thought as he held it up to the light in his tent, this is pock marked with huge bony bubbles, and atop the head, sticking out like tree stumps, were two broken off horns. Whatever this creature was, it must have been a brutal beast and a terrible foe, and a brainy one at that. The size of the cranium had to house a sizable brain. The real question that likely would never be answered was whether or not this creature used its brain in ways that were human-like. Whether its kind hunted in packs or individually—and how successful were they? Had they died out from catastrophic events, pestilence, meteors, climate change, or had they cannibalized themselves to their own end?
Stroud was unsure how he could ever know the full truth about the creature he had no name for. He wanted to give it a name that might reflect on himself. After all, it was his diligence in locating the dig here and in its game-changing discovery. Humanoid Stroudius, he quipped and laughed. Maybe he’d leave the naming for the students; make a game of it, a lottery. Student with the best name gets a day off and a jet ride to the playground of his or her choice, a ride on Stroud’s private jet.
Stroud’s financial situation had only gotten better and better with each of his triumphs over the years. Stroud Foundation funds—funds to combat all manner of evil in the world—had catapulted since the very public and out in the open battles he had done with the Bayou Wulf clan in Louisiana and more recently the war he had waged against the giant fluke works of New York City that had come to be called the Subterraneans.
Stroud took his precious oddly shaped, once horned skull to his workbench where he pulled a lamp on a swivel arm over it. He studied it in its every detail as he picked at the final layer of encrusted dirt and debris about the hills and valleys around the cheek bones, the mouth, nose, and eye sockets. Once done with these areas, Abe worked off a large chunk of earth, fused to the area between the stumps of two horns—the forehead and the crown. This was a stubborn patch of glued-together earth and grass, a clay-based earth.
Abe, impatient to finish clearing off every speck of earth from the ancient skull while thinking about the Greek and Roman depictions of the Minotaur—half man, half bull—got the idea that perhaps—just perhaps—he was holding the skull of a Minotaur in his hands, or at least what passed for one in ancient Canada. There had to be more like him, Stroud thought. “There has to be. What would a lone ‘minotaur’ be doing in a land not on any maps of the day?” Stroud also wondered if this creature walked on two legs or four…or if it crawled on its belly snakelike. A snake with a humanoid head and horns. It sounded damned biblical, but they would not know anymore until or unless the dig provided a lot more bones belonging to the nameless species. Until then, all was pure speculation.
Then again, Stroud cautioned himself, “If you start talking out loud like you are doing inside here, you risk being called a fraud. He knew that every step of the way.” He knew one thing for certain: the dig here in Alberta must be recorded and religiously preserved.
His thoughts were interrupted by a ping on his Mac, and a glance at his watch told him it was Jessie, his wife now of a year and thirty odd days. She called Abe every night at this ungodly hour, unable to sleep as it were. She was pregnant with their son, and as much as she would have loved to see Canada—“No thanks! Not on a dig”. For this reason, she’d remained at home in Andover, Illinois in the safe confines of Stroud Manse.
She came on screen, and he worked up his best cheerfulness and smile, putting away any of the dark thoughts that he’d been juggling in his mind. She had enough to do seeing that their son was healthy and being cared for in the womb.
“I miss you terribly, Abe. When can you come home even for a weekend?” she asked, a radiant glow surrounding her.
Abe saw her aura as a bright yellow with orange splashes here and there, like the sun itself, he had told her. “I am hoping to get back soon, sweetheart, but we’re looking at something here that may be a breakthrough.”
“Ahhhhh, yes, breaking news!” she teased. “Can you share? I am bored and going out of my mind. There is one art gallery and one museum in Andover, and they are in the same room!”
“I know, I know. You have access to the chopper, so go shopping in Chicago, or go visit your folks in NYC.”
“I have done both, Abe, but I am freakin’ eight months along, so I’m going nowhere. Just staying close to home and sticking close to my doctor!”
“Tell me what your last visit with Dr. Shelby was like. All’s well, I pray.”
She frowned but began telling him of the waiting room gossip and politics.
Stroud half-listened as his mind wandered back to the strange find uncovered here in Canada. In his mind’s eye, he saw the Arctic land bridge and whole tribes of people coming across from Asia and with them something ugly and evil following, chasing, a wickedness that had come this way eons ago. How old is evil, he wondered to the beat of Jessie’s voice, and a strange, unfamiliar fear began to seep into his consciousness like nothing he’d felt before—not even when he thought himself dead in a stack of bodies in Vietnam. No…this was something new…or was it? Was it something ancient yet knew only to Dr. Abraham Stroud in 2015?
“Are you listening to me, Abe Stroud?” shouted Jessie. “You know very well I will not be ignored.”
“Oh, sorry…sorry dear. My mind wandered a bit but I am here. You know there is nothing more precious to me than you and our child, Jess.”
“If that’s true, then why are you there and we are here?” The conversation had taken a sudden tone of gloom.
“It’s my work, honey; it’s what I do.”
“No, Abe, it’s who you are, and I knew that when we signed the pre-nup, I did, but I am not sure I can live this way—with you gone so often.”
“Hold on, Jess! Don’t go. I need you and Gideon.”
“You certainly need something,” she countered. “This work-a-holic behavior is wearing on me, Abe.”
“I promise, I’ll be at your side soon, darling. There’s important work going on here, and I suspect an incredible discovery.”
“What sort of discovery?”
“Not sure I should say what it is over the internet, babe.”
“The hell you say! Just tell me.”
“A new species of humanoid, we suspect.”
“New? How new?”
“OK, not new—old! Ancient and extinct, newly discovered.”
“Wow, sounds like a huge deal. What? Like the bloody missing link or something?”
“Possibly…or something.” Abe found this completely foreign, having to explain such things and their importance to a wife.
Jessie waved her hands and said, “Show me.”
He frowned now. “No duplicating. This has to remain our secret until we publish our findings, hon, understood?”
“Abe, I no longer work for any government agency. No more undercover work to elicit information from you. Do you get that?”
He laughed lightly. “Understood.”
“Well then? Show me what is so damnably important.”
Stroud went to the horned skull with its huge jaw bone. He had to hold the two parts together, and they precariously fit like two ends of a shredded napkin where he held it up to the Skype screen. “This is crazy. Anyone might rob this information, so have a quick look and that’s that.” Abe was saying as Jessie stared aghast at the skull.
“Abe…what the hell is that thing?”
“We don’t know; fact is, we need to come up with a name for it. I was thinking Gideon, you know, after the boy, but then—”
“No! No, no, no. Do not name that thing after your son, Abe, after our son. Name it Tom, Dick, or Harry but not Gideon, ever! Banish that thought from your mind.”
“Sure, sure!” Abe picked up on her fear. He could see it in her eyes. “I was only joking, baby. It’s OK.”
“I don’t like the look of that thing, Abe. Not one bit. I think I’m not feeling well. Going to lie down now.”
“Sure, sure! I didn’t mean to upset you, Jess.”
“I know…I know. Say goodbye and remember, we want to see you this weekend if at all possible. Love you, miss you, and goodbye for now.”
Abe was speaking over her with words of endearment when she went off. He still had the unknown in his hands—the two parts of the skull: gorilla like snout and jawbone against the rest of the skull. His students were in a fever to find more like it; they’d be in a race to find another come sunup.
He wondered if Jessie had been able to make out the two broken off horns on the skull. She may well have not seen them or if so, perhaps she had no notion of what they were. Skype did not always get every detail. Still her sudden onset of illness worried him some; then again, she was well along and anything might set off a bout with nausea. He brushed it off.
Unable to sleep, he laid down and stared at the top of his tent where phantoms played within the fabric.