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Authors: Brent Michael Kelley

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Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater

BOOK: Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater
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Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater
by

 

Brent Michael Kelley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Omnium Gatherum
Los Angeles CA
Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater
Ebook Edition 1.0  
Copyright © 2011 Brent Michael Kelley
Cover Illustration Copyright © 2011 Matthew Baker

 

 

 

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the author and publisher.
omniumgatherumedia.com
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
This is for my beautiful wife Keri, who toils in the mines all day so I can sit at home typing with a dog on my lap. Your patience, support, and feedback have made this book possible.
Thanks to my publisher, Kate Jonez, for liking my story enough to print it and for helping me hammer it into something others might like to read.
Thanks to my friends and family for their encouragement and inspiration. To the chums who critiqued my story early on, thank you for your honest thoughts about my work. You’ll be hearing from me again on the next one.
And thanks to Jeremy C. Shipp. Without your writing workshop, this story would still be a pile of confusing gibberish collecting digital dust on my hard drive.
Chapter 1

 

 

 

The Darkness Sleeps.
The flame shrinks as a widow weeps.
Shadows planted long ago find rich soil in which to grow.
A travel'r comes from days long gone. Troubles dark are soon to dawn.
Heads shout to make their voices heard, but cannot comprehend the word.

 

Chuggie stood beneath the dead tree, glaring up at the chain tangled in its branches. He swayed on the bare hilltop, travel-weary and intoxicated. He hollered with his gravelly voice. He kicked the tree with his road-worn boots. He pulled the chain with all his might and wished he had someone else's luck.

In The Mag's remote Mid-North, Stagwater nestled in the elbow of the Staghorn River. A protective wall wrapped around the city like a horseshoe, meeting the rushing river at two points on Stagwater's east side. A grand bridge stretched over the water, a thick-timbered testament to the city's ambition. Smoke rose from tall stacks throughout the city. The stink of it spread far and wide.

Just west of Stagwater, Chuggie paced angrily beneath the tree. "Listen here, deadwood. You're gonna give it on back, or I'll chop you into kindling, set your ass on fire, and piss on your ashes!" Chuggie's voice slurred a bit, as usual. He swayed, drunkenly, and kicked the tree.

His kick did no good, however. Above him, just beyond jumping range, his anchor hung at the end of a chain. The branches held the chain like knotty talons. The other end of the chain linked directly into his rib cage, leaving both Chuggie and the anchor bound to the tree.

He'd tried everything he could think of by this point. He'd pulled on the chain, sworn at the tree, poked the anchor with a stick, even pulled on the chain some more. Nothing had worked. The way the chain twisted in the branches made Chuggie think of torture, made him feel claustrophobic. He smoked and glared at the tree, as he paced back and forth on his chain like a dog.

 Shaped like a woman, the anchor was the only lady in Chuggie's life. He would not stand for her captivity. "You let her go, nobody gets hurt, tree."

The breeze lifted some branches in a shrug of indifference.

As anchors went, she possessed a singular beauty. Years of use had left her pitted and scarred. Any original detail was long lost, but not her smooth curves. In water, her arms would dig into the seabed to better anchor a boat. On land, it seemed, their only function was to make noise at all the wrong moments. And they damn sure weren't helping her climb out of the tree.

Chuggie's upturned face was built for scowling, and it did so effortlessly no matter his mood. His elongated skull curved back from his face as if blown by some angry wind. Five horns protruded from it: one from his forehead, two more on each side. He wore a skull cap with horn-holes cut into it. He appeared to have an odd-shaped hat, not an odd-shaped skull with horns growing from it. As a whole, Chuggie's image was more of a drunken drifter than the primordial embodiment of drought. This he preferred.

A bee was to blame for this heinous tangling of the chain. Oh, how Chuggie hated the vile sting of a bee. The tiny brutes had no qualms about invading one's flesh. Bees, hornets, and wasps all hated Chuggie as much as he did them. As if sensing what he was, they seemed compelled to sting. If Chuggie had his way, all bees and their kin would be arrested, tried as bees, and executed for their crimes. Depending on his mood, he could be persuaded to show mercy and allow them to live out their lives in prison.

But there could be no leniency for this day's offender. Chuggie had been violated and victimized by some cowardly monster wearing yellow and black. He'd been stung — nay,
raped
— directly between his shoulder blades. The tiny villain, attempting to escape justice, then flew up to a branch in the tree. There on the branch, the bee taunted Chuggie,
laughed
at his misfortune. In a rage, Chuggie had sought vengeance on his attacker. Disinclined to let the bee die on its own terms, he'd thrown the anchor.

Whether the anchor had hit or missed the bee was unclear, but the chain had gotten tangled. The tangle worsened the more Chuggie pulled. The bee, by then most likely dead, was all but forgotten.

With his eyes glued to the anchor, Chuggie paced faster.

"Lemme tell you this, tree. I'm about two seconds away from —."

THWAP!

Chuggie stopped speaking abruptly as he fell on his face. His own luggage had tripped him, although it could scarcely be called 'luggage.' A better description would be 'used burlap feed sack stuffed with junk.' Dolls, knife handles, keys to buildings that didn't exist anymore. Junk. He hoped in his travels he might be able to trade some of it for something useful. Maybe even money. Sooner or later, he'd need some of that.

He had his junk, his anchor with chain, and his pair of worn out boots. Not much else. He was just a stumbling, mumbling drunk in a world full of monsters that looked the way regular people used to.

Chuggie looked heavenward. The gray skies wounded him. Sunshine in any season filled him with hope, and he would dance under a thunderstorm as long as it lasted. But when the sky went that uniform, miserable gray, it got hard to imagine a place in the world where the sun could be shining.

The gloom made him remember who he was: Brother Drought. As old as the world, he had no function but destruction. In that respect, Chuggie wasn't alone, but he wished he was. His ancient siblings — Disease, Fire, and Flood — were out there somewhere, no doubt compounding the melancholy.

As the walking incarnation of Drought, he could drain entire bodies of water, suck the clouds from the sky, even tear the moisture from the body of a living creature. Chuggie had great power inside. Power that could devastate entire regions. Power that, once unleashed, he could not control.

On this gray autumn day he stood on a hill just west of Stagwater, and he was very, very drunk.

 

 

◊ ◊ ◊

 

 

In the center of Stagwater, below the Municipal Building, in sub-basement B-3, a convict spasmed on a stainless steel table. His shaved, shivering body wriggled uselessly against his restraints, and his breath came in short, panicked gasps. A wooden block, wrenched tightly into his mouth, muffled his pleas and screams. His eyes, wide and wild, darted about in frenzied panic beneath the buzzing lights. A trickle of blood ran from his right ear.

Screws, pins, and tubes entered his flesh at dozens of points, all chosen to maximize suffering. Conduits snaked off his body and into clicking and humming machines about the room. The conduits all fed into a coffin-shaped box in the corner — the collector. Out of the collector, a yellow hose ran up into the ceiling.

"Are all the implements in place?" a deep voice boomed from the speaker box on the wall.

"Nearly," answered Kagen Kale, the torturgist. He raised the table to accommodate his height by pumping the foot lever. As he applied the last attachments, a tiny spurt of blood splashed onto his all-white surgical garb. "There we are. Commencing the torturgy of offender ten-six-three. This torturgy is performed solely in the interest of the city-state, as mandated by civil law." Kale recited the required words without thinking about them. His mouth went dry with the familiar thrill of torturgy.

"Proceed," said the voice from the speaker.

The convict bucked against his restraints as pain blasted into his body at every pressure point and nerve center. He was no longer able to move, as every muscle and tendon in his body tightened. His skin flushed deep red. Horrible, hoggish squeals came from behind the wood block in his mouth.

It was starting to get
good
, but the convict should have been a bit further along. Checking gauges, Kale found the reason. A needle on the blue gauge teetered between three and four. Kale wanted it to be at least a seven.

 "The levels are low." Kale locked eyes with the convict. "Advancing chemical options to threshold."

The convict's eyes grew wide as though he was begging for mercy.

Kale licked his grinning lips beneath his surgical mask.

"Carefully," advised the speaker. "Keep him there as long as possible."

As if Kale needed to be told! His throat tightened. "I know what I'm doing." He made sure Haste could hear the annoyance in his voice. The fat bastard's interruptions were as useless as Haste himself.

A new breed of squeal, hoarse and desperate, escaped from the convict as gears tightened, bones cracked, and chemicals pumped into his veins. Waves of suffering cascaded into the coffin-shaped collector. Inside, burning opium pine combined with the harnessed agony. The yellow hose sucked up the resulting vapor like a straw stabbed into a man's soul.

Kale finished preparations on the condemned man and turned the operation over to his assistants. His own surgical clothes he pulled off as he walked, revealing a suit of brown and gray with brass buttons and self-awarded insignia pins. He marched out of the room and up the stairs to the third floor.

Kale pushed open a door with stags in water carved into its polished surface, and entered the office. His eyes fell on the yellow hose emerging from the baseboard, then followed it across the floor. It fed into an object resembling a candy machine with pressure gauges. Inside the machine's glass bubble, a purple cloud gave off purple light like paint swirling in water.

A portly man — Haste or
the
Haste, depending on his audience — lay back on a sofa, the position reserved for the leader. Another yellow hose ran out of the object that was not a candy machine and connected with a small mask. Haste took tentative sample breaths of vapor through it as he reclined on the couch. The mask covered only his nose and mouth and pressed into the jiggling fat of his face. Satin straps hung from the mask like limp spider legs.

Ronymous Fitch sat on a stool next to Haste's sofa. His black robe marked him as a religious devotee, but the satin fabric with gold piping indicated he had more wealth than the average religious idiot. Around his neck hung a senfen, a pendant depicting the stylized head of a nana-glef. The nana-glef's gold form with onyx eyes indicated that Fitch belonged to the Grella Fentin church. He held the senfen gently, stroking it with his thumb.

Kale sat in a metal chair directly below a taxidermied river stag. He gazed up at the big-antlered beast. It was an admirable stag, and it deserved better than to hang in the office of a doughy slob like Haste. The man had never hunted a wild animal in his life.

Haste spoke into his voice recorder. "Punishment of offender ten-six-three grants access to the Pheonal trance on this day, the Eighth of
Autumnok
. The Pheonal trance is deemed necessary to ensure the ongoing safety of Stagwater as stated by municipal law. Today, a convict sentenced to death is utilized for the good of the city-state. His crimes will be absolved in the eyes of the law at session's end."

Haste strapped the mask to his face, sat back, and breathed deeply. Down below, the convict gave his dying soul-shriek, catapulting Haste's mind into the depths of the trance. As he closed his eyes, the purple cloud in the glass next to him turned to black.

Long moments passed. The sound of Haste's deep breathing filled the room.

Haste's arms stretched out, and his fingers clutched at nothing. Ever so quietly, Haste began to mumble. "Chained… bad days… not many live… cave… bringing destruction… never more lost."

BOOK: Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater
4.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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