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The Swimmer and the Demon Worshipper
Summoning my readers! @Bookworm @CellarDweller

So, I haven't posted a story or a poem in a while, mainly because I first got consumed with this story, and then I got consumed with another. Anyway, as of right now, my next week is going to be pretty busy for me. So I figured I'd start posting what I already got done so far with this story. As of right now (27-June-2021), this story isn't "finished," so I'll let you decide if you'd like it to go on. I think it might be a good challenge for me, because it'd remove my power to go back and edit the earlier chapters if I decide to make any serious changes. Hey, if the pulp fiction writers could do it, so can I.

I don't think this story needs a content warning, there's some bullying if you find that triggering, although I'd say so far, it's only been PG-13. I do need a disclaimer though, so I don't, you know, get sued  Rolleyes

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Please do not quote parts of this story when replying to this thread.

Okay, with that out of the way . . .




The Swimmer and the Demon Worshipper
By Chase TheQueerXX
Chapter 1
They say dark and mysterious things happen in the Dormcourt Triangle. Boaters go missing on the lake, hikers get chased out of the woods by monsters, cars get stalked by UFOs on the road. For me, I got outed on the first day I moved there. I made the mistake of not being careful at my new school. I thought I could finally be myself. I mean, my family just moved up north, they’re supposed to be more accepting and tolerant up here than the folks down south. It looks like people are just the same wherever you go.
            In math class, Mrs. DeMinci was rambling something about dimensions. A crumpled-up piece of paper pecked me in the back of my head and fell into my hood. I reached over my shoulder, fished it out, put it on my desk, and uncrumpled it. The message was written in all caps: UR A QUEER.
            I turned my head around. Scott was two seats behind me smirking and making some expression that said: Yep, damn right I wrote it. What are you gonna do about it, huh? Nothing.
            I turned back to the board and went back to copying whatever Mrs. DeMinci wrote. Scott was such an asshole. I so wanted to kick his ass. He’d probably beat me in a fight though. I mean, he’s not that much bigger than me, but he is on the wrestling team. I could get my teammates on the swim team to help, but I could never gang up on someone like that, even if they deserved it. I’m just glad the guys in swimming still support me. They don’t let me change with them in the locker room, but they know they’d never make it to nationals or even state without me.
            Class ended and I went to my locker. A short freshman I didn’t even know jumped in my way, yelled “Queer!” in my face, and ran away. Down the hall, he high fived a senior. This was getting absurd. I miss my old school where I was still closeted and popular. My friends back there would hate me if they knew, but there was a comfort in staying hidden like I did.
            I went to swim practice. I swam up and down the pool as fast as I could. The guys couldn’t even come close to my timing. I set a new record that I hoped to God I could replicate at the next match. “Thank God you moved here, Noah,” said my coach. “I don’t think our team ever stood a chance of making it to nationals like this. Keep it up, and you’ll be winning gold medals in the Olympics and be able to retire at the ripe age of thirty.”
            I sighed. Becoming an Olympian sounded awesome, but this school was getting so tough, I sometimes didn’t know how I could make it. I just can’t let them break me. Coach was right, I just need to hold on, keep playing my cards right, and this will all be over. I’m a senior, after all.
            I dried off in front of the pool and put my clothes back on, right over my jammers. If my teammates didn’t want me in the locker room, then I’ll just live in my swimsuits. At this point, swimming was all I had left.
            “Hey Noah.” Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around. It was my teammate, Jake. He looked like more of a nerd than a jock, but he had a hell of a backstroke. “Me and the guys are going to hang out at the reservoir. Why don’t you come?”
            “What’s the reservoir?” I asked.
            “Lake Dormcourt,” said Jake. “It’s a reservoir. You know, a lake that was made by damming up a river.”
            “Oh, duh. Sure. I’ll follow you in my Jeep.”
            “Um, maybe you should ride with me,” said Jake. “Since my car has four-wheel drive.”
            “So does my Jeep.”
            “Yeah, but my car has all-wheel drive. It’s better.”
            “I don’t think so,” I said, “my Jeep is … uh, sure, fine, whatever. I’ll ride with you.” This was weird. Usually the guys acted like my gayness was somehow contagious, as if that would be terrible if it were true, and now Jake wanted me to ride with him. Maybe Jake is different, I don’t know.
            I followed him to his car, a ten-year-old Volvo. We rolled down the windows and cruised through hills that were sliced open long ago by dynamite. We came to a road where on one side was a cliff wall and on the other side was the calm black waters of the lake. Jake asked, “Do you believe any of the stories about this place?”
            “Which ones?” I asked. “I don’t understand why a lake would be haunted.”
            “It’s supposed to be because of all the people they flooded when they built the dam,” said Jake. “They didn’t want to move.”
            “I don’t know much about history,” I said, “but that doesn’t make much sense. I mean, I’m sure they had time to move as the water was filling up.”
            “True,” said Jake. He turned down a road that ran across the dam. A large, grassy, manmade steep hill taller than a football field sloped down the outside, with one concrete section that fed a river. “But people were pretty messed up back then. The town of Dormcourt used to be part of some strange cult that some people said worshipped demons.”
            I shrugged. “People are still messed up, if you ask me. Have you ever seen anything weird?”
            “Not so much saw,” said Jake, “as I did experience it. I was on the lake with my dad one time. We went fishing on our boat. It was foggy that day, at least, that day for us. It felt like we were only out for a few hours, but when we came to the shore, there were search parties for us. My dad’s watch didn’t change much at all, and I don’t think I was even out there long enough to go to the bathroom, but everyone said we were gone for days.”
            We came to a non-paved parking area. There was just Jake’s car, our teammate Gary’s car, and a pickup truck with an empty boat-carrying wagon. There were tall trees that shaded the entire area. Nailed to one tree was a sign that said the parking area was courtesy of the power company, on another tree was a sign promising heavy fines for littering and warning not to pick any of the protected swamp pinks, and another that showed how to identify invasive zebra mussels. Gary and three more of my teammates, Joe, Nick, and Ken, got out of the car. Gary was a senior like me, while Joe was a junior, Nick a sophomore, and Ken a freshman. Jake and I got out and joined them.
            Between the dirt parking lot and the wooden docks were picnic tables and charcoal grills. No one else but us was there. All of the picnic tables were vandalized with knife carved penises and swastikas. We left the park and walked along a trail that snaked through the woods along the lake. You couldn’t walk the shore for much of the lake because it was either too rocky or too swampish. We walked out of the woods where the trail broke from the land and ran onto a rickety wooden pier that floated just off the shore.
            My muddied reflection in the water stared back at me. I had only swum in the reservoir once, in August just before I started my new school. I knew the water was going to be cold, at least by Southern standards, but the cold water never bothered me. What did bother me was the mud. My mom had dropped me off at a sandy beach the day after we finished moving. It had me thinking the entire lake was going to be just as sandy, but as soon as I swum out, I nearly got stuck in the mud of the lake floor. Apparently, that entire beach was as manmade as the lake, with the sand imported from some place much nicer than the Dormcourt Triangle.
            The guys were being awfully quiet. From time to time, they’d talk about funny things they’ve seen on social media or our history teacher’s quacked conspiracy theories, but for the most part they were quiet. It wasn’t much fun, but at least we were hanging out. Floating out on the water was a boat. There was no one on it. It was driverless, bobbing by itself on the dark water. I pointed to it and said, “It doesn’t look like anybody is on it.”
            Ken waved his hands and shouted “Hello!” but nobody answered.
            “This is bad,” said Jake, “it looks like the lake took another victim.”
            I pulled out my cellphone. It still had service. “I got some bars. I can call the cops.”
            “No,” said Nick. “Let’s not get involved.”
            “I don’t want to do this anymore,” said Jake.
            “What are we doing?” I asked.
            “Nothing,” said Nick. He shivered and zipped up his sweatshirt. “Just, don’t worry about it. Maybe they’re in the cabin or someone didn’t tie it up to the docks right. Let’s just keep going.”
            They continued walking and I followed them. The boat didn’t look big enough to have a cabin. I thought we were just hanging out. Where were we going? The wooden pier section of the trail ended and we walked on land again into the woods. No-see-ums were everywhere, eating every square centimeter of exposed skin.
            We came out of the woods to a cleared, steep, grassy area. It was another section that was damned off by a manmade hill, an earth dam, as our science teacher Mrs. O’Connell called it. There were no-trespassing signs everywhere. A sign read:
“Are we supposed to be here?” I asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Nick. “Your dad and my dad both work for the power company. We won’t get in trouble.”
            “Um, if you say so.”
            We walked down the steep hill towards the bottom where there was a tunnel entrance that was cut out. The tunnel looked ten feet tall and made of concrete. The wall was square while the tunnel was circular, but flatter at the bottom. A stream of water poured out into a gentle flowing rocky creak. The tunnel was dark, and the sun was setting, making it even harder to see inside it. A rusty, metal door that looked in-between prison bars and a castle gate blocked off the tunnel. Rocky ledges almost as tall as me jutted out from both sides. Cold air gushed out of the tunnel and blew into us.
            “Okay boys,” said Nick, “time to earn your place on the team.”
            “What are you talking about?” I asked.
            “We all had to do it,” said Nick. “This tunnel is supposed to, I don’t know, prevent the lake from flooding or something. There’s no blades for power or whatever, it just opens up to the lake. To earn your place on the team, all new members must swim from it to the lake surface. Noah, you just transferred, and Ken’s our freshie, so time to earn your place.”
            I scratched my head. “Um, uhh, back at my old school, we just shaved our heads for initiation.”
            “It sounds fun,” said Ken. “Come on Noah, let’s do it.”
            I looked at the tunnel. It looked like a pain in the ass to get to. We’d either have to climb down the rock ledge or walk around through the stream. The gate didn’t look like it was locked, but the water didn’t look deep enough to swim in. “The water doesn’t look deep enough,” I said. “It looks less than two feet deep.
            “Um, it’s deeper inside,” said Ken.
            I looked at Ken. He had a dumbfounded, guilt-ridden look on his face. “How would you know?” I asked. “Isn’t this your first time too?”
            Gary punched Ken in the shoulder. Ken whimpered and rubbed his arm where Gary punched him. Gary said “His dad used to work for the power company too. Come on, let’s just go. It’ll be fun.”
            We walked down the hill and into the creek. The creek was inches deep, but in-between the ledges, the water was up to our necks. It got shallower in front of the gate, where Gary lifted a latch. The gate swung open with a creak that echoed into the tunnel. I walked inside. The water was up to my knees, but only up to my ankles near the walls. It was freezing inside of it. God knows how cold it’ll be once I have to strip down to my jammers.
            “How long is this tunnel?” I asked.
            There was another echoing creak. I spun around and saw my teammates had slammed the gate shut. All of them, including Ken, were outside and quickly wrapping a chain around the door handle. Gary clicked a padlock onto the chain, locking me in. I grabbed the gate door and tried to pull it open. It only made the chain rattle. I yelled, “What the fuck!”
            “I’m sorry,” said Jake. He had a somber look on his face. “I didn’t want to do this. It wasn’t my idea.”
            “Sorry Noah,” said Gary. He said sorry, but his voice wasn’t sad like Jake’s was, it was layered with anger. “We just can’t have a fag on the team.”
            I pulled at the door. With the locked chain, it wouldn’t open more than an inch. My soaked shoes splashed as I kicked at the gate. “You fucking psycho! Get over yourself. I’m not even attracted to you.”
            “Look Noah,” said Joe, “I don’t care that you’re gay, honest. But you’re making us unpopular at school. People are spreading rumors, saying we’re all gay like you.”
            “So fucking what! They’re just jealous we’re the only team making it to nationals. Which none of y’all would’ve made it if it wasn’t for me.”
            Gary pointed at me. Through the metal bars of the gate, he poked me hard in the chest. “Exactly. You’re overshadowing all of us. You just had to move here at my last year and overshadow me. How the fuck am I supposed to get scouted when you’re next to me?”
            “Are you fucking kidding me? Is that what this is about? That’s chicken shit. I hate to break it to you, Gary, but the more tournaments we make it to, the more opportunities you have to get scouted. Thanks to me y’all have more opportunities to swim and get scouted.”
            “This isn’t up for debate,” said Gary. “You’re lucky we’re being nice to you and not beating you up.”
            I kicked my foot towards Gary’s crotch but my foot was too big to make it through the bars. I stomped in the water. “How the hell is locking me up to rot in here nicer than beating me up?”
            “We’re just going to leave you in here until you agree to quit the team,” said Gary.
            “That’s not happening.”
            “Noah,” said Ken, “can’t you maybe, I don’t know, ask your parents to transfer you to some other school?”
            “No! We’re the only school in the area that’s making it to nationals. Do you want to win or not?”
            Gary growled in anger. “Alright Noah, that’s it. We’re going to leave you here for the night. We’ll be back tomorrow morning. You better agree to quit by then. Come on guys, let’s leave the fag before he butt-rapes us through the bars.”
            I kicked the bars again and again as they left. They walked into the neck deep section between the ledges and swam to the shallow stream. Jake was the last to swim away. He backstroked sloppily from having his clothes on into the pool, looked at me regretfully, and then waddled away into the stream before walking back up the banks of the earth dam.
            I pulled my phone out of my pocket. Shit, I got it wet. I wasn’t even thinking about it when I swam through the deep section of the stream. It was still working. The phone case did its job. The battery was still half full, but it had no bars. Fuck, the stupid tunnel was blocking the signal. I stuck my phone out through the metal bars of the gate and waved it around, but it was still not getting any signal. I dialed 9-1-1. The screen flashed red for a second before saying it was out of service. The sun was setting outside. It grew darker and darker until becoming total nightfall.
            I turned away from the moonlit outside and stared down the pitch black tunnel. On my phone screen, I scrolled through the apps until I found the flashlight app. The light that was normally for taking pictures came on. I walked down the tunnel into the darker recesses.
            The tunnel curved and bended, and before I knew it, the light of the moon and the sounds of the crickets outside were long gone. The only light came from my phone. The splashing of my feet echoed with every step. On the walls, water seeped in through the cracks. The tunnel came to a fork. I didn’t know where either one went. I did eeny, meeny, miny, moe, and went down moe, which happened to be the right tunnel. The water got deeper as I walked, going from my knees to my waist in the center. I huddled closer to the walls where it was still only up to my knees. There, chiseled into the walls, were strange markings.
            The markings were mysterious looking hieroglyphics. They didn’t look Ancient Egyptian or any other language I knew of. They looked alien, straight out of a sci-fi movie. Scary-looking monsters and horned demons were drawn all over. Then I finally found something chiseled into the walls in English:
            I backed away. My phone slipped out of my hands and I juggled it like a hot potato until finally getting a grip of it again. I had to be more careful. The case might be waterproof, but if I lost it in the water I’d be screwed. I walked deeper down the tunnel.
            There was an eerie, phantom wail that flowed through the stiff air. It sounded almost like the call of a humpback whale. There was no way there could be any whales nearby, not even in the lake, so only God knows what it was. There was an occasional echo of another splash that wasn’t from me. My ears popped, and a low frequency humming entered them.
            The tunnel came to an end at a cavernous chamber with a deep, dark pool in the center. There was a concrete platform along the edges. I climbed onto it and stood out of the water for the first time in what felt like hours. Higher up, my phone lit up more of the cavern. There was another tunnel pouring water into the pool at the back. A drift blew into me from the ceiling.
            I looked up and saw a small concrete tube on the ceiling. It was unreachable. It was probably just built for air flow. I raised my phone up towards it, and a single bar appeared. My phone vibrated in my hand as it exploded with text messages:
Mom: Noah, where are you? Are you staying at a friend’s house tonight?
Dad: Your mother is worried sick. Come home now.
Jake: Where R U? R U in the tunnel? We lied about us swimming out through the other end. UR gonna die come to gate now
Gary: Noah WTF this isn’t funny where RU?
Mom: that’s it I’m calling the cops please be safe
Joe: Oh God Noah the police are investigating I was interrogated I don’t want to go to prison plz come out
Gary: Fine U win OK just come out and tell the cops U got lost. We won’t kick U off the team I promise
Jake: Noah, you have to come out. Please, I am sorry. You are going to miss nationals. You worked so hard for it. Please come out, I’m begging you. We’ve been taking turns waiting outside the gate every day for you.
            Miss nationals? Waiting every day? What was going on? I’ve only been down here a few hours. I checked the date on my phone. I couldn’t believe it. A whole week had passed. My battery was down to one percent. Even if I spaced out, there was no way the battery could have lasted for a week without needing to be recharged. I scrolled through more messages:
Jake: Noah! I told the cops you were in the tunnel. I hope they find you.
Dad: Noah, I hope this message finds you. Your friend told me you were in the South Spillway Tunnel. I went to the police station, but the cops told me the FBI came as soon as they filed the search warrant and stopped them from searching it. The government is now claiming you are dead. I tried to go down there myself, but they wouldn’t let me, even when I told them I work for the power company. Please know that I love you.
Jake: Noah, they’re sealing off the tunnel! This creepy guy who said he was a detective told me you weren’t –”
            My phone died. Pitch black darkness took me. The draft from above chilled my face while water from the tunnel at the back continued pouring in. I don’t know what to do. Do I go back where I came? I don’t know if I can believe they would seal off the tunnel, but even if they didn’t how would I go back there with no light? There were different tunnels I could get lost in.
            I walked towards the tunnel that poured water into the pool. I know the guys were lying, but what if I really could swim up through it and to the surface of the lake? It sounded like a suicide mission, but I was one hell of a swimmer. That does it then. I’m doing it. The guys are going to know I had to do it, and then they’ll be so blown away by how good I am for the team, they’ll be sorry they ever locked me in here.
            I stripped down to nothing but my jammers. I climbed into the tunnel. The cold water was like needles poking into my skin. My head bumped into the roof of the tunnel, it was only four feet tall, with water two feet deep. I crawled through it. Something scaly brushed past my shoulder. I continued crawling. At least I still had air, as stale as it was.
            My hands slipped off the concrete tube I was crawling on. I fell face first into a deep pool of water. I swam to the surface and found there was only two feet of air space between the surface and roof. In the darkness, I swam back and forth and found it was half the length of an Olympic swimming pool. My hands ran along the rocky and concrete ledges of the outer rim but I couldn’t find any exit. I swam towards the bottom.
            I swam deeper and deeper and still couldn’t touch the bottom. I could hold my breath really long. I don’t know how long, because no one timed it, and adults were always too scared to let me test it to the limits, but it was definitely a gift. One of the reasons I was such an unbeatable swimmer. I gave up and swam to the surface at top speed. On the surface I swam in an aimless direction through the darkness until I touched a wall. I held onto to the cracks and caught my breath. As I rested, my foot kicked through the wall.
            I bobbed down and with my hands and legs, found there was a water filled tunnel beneath the surface. Maybe it led to the lake. It’d be way too dangerous to swim through it, but fuck it, it might be my only way out. I swam through the tunnel. Swam as fast as I could.
            The tunnel seemed like it never ended. I kept swimming and swimming in total darkness. Most people can’t hold their breath for more than two minutes, and the world record is some mutant who can hold it for over twenty-four minutes. I can only hope I’m just as gifted as him. I grew tired as I swam. I’m not sure how long I had been swimming through the tunnel, because when you hold your breath and swim for as fast as you can, it feels like forever. I’m probably more than half way past my ability, which means there’s no going back now. It looks like I’m going to die down here.
            The darkness was ending. A tunnel of light appeared before me. I swam towards the light. The bright light became blinding until all I saw was a white void. My body was sucked into a tight tunnel that squeezed my skin.
An eternity passed by.
Time felt like it was never ending. I opened my mouth to give up, but water didn’t fill into my mouth.
            Finally, I was ejected from the invisible tight tube. The blinding white glare disappeared. I was underwater again. I was almost out of breath. Above me, I saw threads of sunshine. I swam to the surface and gasped for breath.
            All I could do was breathe. Breathe in and breathe out. Huff and puff. I blinked to spread my eye goo around so I could see more clearly where I was. I was on the surface in daytime, but it didn’t look like Dormcourt Reservoir at all.
            The lake was much smaller. I wasn’t far from the shore. All of the forested, northern mountains that made up the Dormcourt Triangle were replaced with strange, desert-like cliffs and rock formations like you’d find in a state like Utah, but unlike Utah, the rock was green. I swam to a beach made of soft, green sand.
            On land finally, I collapsed on my back. I closed my eyes and panted on the ground. It was a lot sunnier and warmer than it was where the guys left me. I didn’t know where the heck I was or what was going on. My heart started to return to normal. At least I made it out of there. Thank God. Phew. My breathing finally returned to normal. I opened my eyes.
            Standing over me was a scary masked figure. The face was completely hidden behind the mask, including the eyes. I couldn’t tell his sex at first because of his mask and unisex haircut, but I noticed he had a flat chest and an Adam’s apple so I guessed male. He was wearing an old fashioned, Medieval looking type of dress that stopped above his knees. A leather belt was tightened around his waist and carried a small leather purse with leather strings. He wore pants that were the same color as his draped shirt and had shoes that looked more like sacks pulled over his feet.
The mask was scary and creepy looking. It had no mouth. It was mostly white with large, black, glass eyes that had no transparency or even a reflection. Red rune-like lines were painted on the cheeks as whiskers outside an asymmetrical dot where the nose should be. A runic symbol dotted the center of the forehead. Fox or cat ears of the mask jutted out from his crop of dark hair.
            My fear quickly ended. He didn’t look scary or creepy at all. In fact, he looked like a total dork.
            The dorkiest, nerdiest, cringiest dork I had ever seen.
            He walked away from me. I sat up and saw him walk to a tarped wooden wagon that was attached to a single horse. The horse was huge, probably the largest breed there was, while the wagon looked lightweight and simply made. He climbed in and grabbed the reins. He was going to drive away. I jumped to my feet.
            “Hey you! Get back here! I want to talk to you.”
Chapter 2
The masked person let go of the reins and climbed back out of the wagon. He approached me and stood a few inches shorter than me. In a soft-spoken voice, he asked “Why are you wearing that tight breechcloth? It is most queer.”
            “Queer? Fuck off, I’m on the swim team. I just swam out of the lake through this tunnel spillway thing. You’re the one with that stupid cosplay outfit.”
            “You talk very queer too,” he said. “Most queer. What village are you from?”
            “Will you stop saying the word queer like that? I don’t mind that word, but the way you use it is offensive to gay people.”
            “Well stranger, I am sorry to say that I have not been gay for a very long time. Not since my mother was murdered and my father taken by the wraiths.”
            “Uhh, sorry.”
            “Your apology is accepted. If that will be all, I must be going now.” He turned around. Wrapped around the back of his head was a white cloth band that held his mask. His hair was unevenly cut.
            “Wait,” I said. “Hold on. Don’t leave. Who are you?”
            He turned back around. “Voskoboynikov is my family name. I find many people, particularly the blessed ones of Thulthdignagon, often have problems pronouncing it, as I am sure it is very queer to them. So if it does not trouble you, you may call me by my Christian name, Pasha. It’s supposed to be pronounced Paw-sha, but some say Pash-sha. I do not mind either.”
            Maybe English wasn’t his first language, but he didn’t have an accent. “Are you from Russia?”
            “Do you mean to ask if my ancestors were? Yes. Something the townspeople of New Dormcourt won’t let me ever forget. And yours?”
            “The south,” I said. “I grew up mostly in South Carolina.”
            “Ugh,” he gasped in disgust. “The southerners were barbarians. I am so glad we learned of their defeat before this canyon was flooded.”
            “Look,” I said, “I don’t have time for this. I’m sorry, but I just don’t understand most of what you are saying. Can I please just use your phone to call my parents?”
            “Well I am sorry to you too, but I also do not understand most of what you are saying. I have cargo I need to trade. You are welcome to ride with me on my wagon back to the Valley of Thulthdignagon.”
            I rolled my eyes. “Sure. That sounds … fun.” I climbed into the wagon with him. He grabbed the reins and clicked his tongue, and the horse pulled us. Maybe this old-timey thing would make sense if he was Amish, but he obviously wasn’t, especially with that mask. This kid was a total freaking weirdo. It was hard to tell with his face covered, but if I had to guess, I’d say he was my age. “So, um, Pasha … oh, I forgot to tell you my name, it’s Noah. That’s um, I guess you called it a Christian name. I’m not Christian, so it’s just my first name. Well, I guess it is a Christian name, but you know what I mean.”
            “Of course you are not Christian,” said Pasha. “Nobody alive today still worships the old god. The new gods guide and protect us all. From great Krstgudgn to the exulted Bszldenumrtu.”
            I rubbed my hands on my forehead. Getting locked in that spillway was way too horrifying for any of this to be a joke, but Pasha was being such a joke it wasn’t even funny. Whoever was enabling this by letting him use this horse should be arrested. “Ugh. Pasha, how old are you? Are you still in high school? Look, I have it bad being outed as gay as it is, but guys like you get their heads flushed down the toilet.”
            “Are you a child of Jruckthokpk?” asked Pasha. He moved his head closer to my face. His mask had black dots above the large black eyes, making it look even more alien. “No, I apologize. You lack the horny hands of a wild man and look well groomed. Perhaps you are a blessed child of Thulthdignagon?”
            “Jesus Christ,” I said. “I take it you’re not popular around here?”
            “Was it the mask that gave it away?” Pasha’s voice was riddled with sarcasm. He sounded serious with everything else he said up to this point.
“About that,” I asked, “why are you wearing it?”
            The dirt road ahead of us was blocked off by a boulder that had fallen off from one of the tower canyon formations. Pasha yanked the right side of the reins and the horse pulled us around it through a brook and back on the road. “Please stop ridiculing me by pretending to be a fool. It is not my fault that I am cursed by Stkullontm. I didn’t choose to have those who see my face be taken by the wraiths.”
            This time I couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic or not. If he wasn’t, he was clearly delusional. Given how he was dressed, it wouldn’t be hard to believe. He stared away from me towards the smooth, striped, green canyon walls that surrounded us. I asked, “Is there something wrong with your face?”
            “Obviously,” he said, “I just told you I’m cursed.”
            “Like, do you have a scar, or a birth mark, or –”
            “No,” he said. “Please stop pretending to be a fool. I have deep appreciation for being allowed to live despite the fact that I should have been left tied up in the night for the wraiths.”
            “Jeez, looks like someone needs to see counseling.”
            He pulled the reins back and clicked his tongue. The horse stopped. The lake I had swum out of was gone. Around us were plants I had never seen before. There were trees that looked like giant mushrooms and cactuses that were covered in wiggling tentacle-like stems instead of needles. He asked, “Where are you from?”
            “I already told you I grew up in the south. I just moved to Dormcourt.”
            “Then I will take you to New Dormcourt. Perhaps you are a fool or drank too much of the Crossing Waters. Or both, since every sane man knows not to drink from that wretched waste.”
            “What do you mean?” I asked. So, I’m the fool? Who even still calls someone a fool and not stupid or an idiot? That’s it Pasha, I can’t take this anymore.” I grabbed him by the front of his stupid outfit.
            “What are you doing?”
            “I can’t take any of this stupid Dungeons and Dragons crap!” I shook him. The horse neighed and the wagon rocked. Just as I expected, Pasha was a lot weaker than I was. “You’re going to drop this dorky cosplaying anime comic book bullshit and tell me where I am and what’s going on.”
            “Please. I’ll give you all of my coin and trading goods. Just don’t take the horse because she isn’t mine. In the name of Jruckthokpk, spare me.”
            I growled and shook him again. “No! No Jerk-throckle-pock whatever the fuck. My God, did you have your head shoved into a locker so hard it made you believe your stupid dorky fantasy world is real? Take that stupid mask off.”
            “No! You’ll be cursed by Urukon and get taken by the wraiths.”
            I shoved him into the back of the wagon. The horse stood on its hind legs, neighed, and took off. The wagon soared up and down as the horse ran.  I jumped in the back of the wagon and sat on top of him. “That’s it, Pasha, that mask is coming off.” I put my hands on the stupid cat or fox ears of the mask and pulled it.
            “Please no! Please!”
            Beneath the mask, I heard Pasha start crying. I let go. His crying got louder. I crawled off him. There wasn’t much room in the wagon, so I crouched down on a sack that felt like it was filled with clothes. “I’m sorry Pasha.”
            Pasha stayed crying on the floor of the wagon. It went over a bump and I fell over, back on him. “Hey, um, Pasha, the horse is going pretty fast. Could you maybe slow her down?”
            He stayed laying down, crying. Tears dripped from beneath his mask and down his neck.
Great. Just great. I crawled to the front seat of the wagon and grabbed the reins. What the heck was I supposed to do? “Um, horse, slow.” The horse still kept running. I clicked my tongue like Pasha did and it didn’t change anything. The wagon went over another bump and I heard a crack. Crap, the wagon is probably not supposed to be going this fast. I pulled the reins back and the horse slowed down.
            The horse pulled us out of the green rock canyon and into a strange forest. Pasha stayed crying in the back while I stayed in the front in nothing but my jammers. I wondered if I could ask Pasha for some clothes. Even if they’re his stupid Renaissance fair clothes it’d be better than none at all. If it wasn’t for the tarped roof, I’d probably be sunburned by now.
            The landscape around us was so weird, it was like I was on an alien planet. Some of the plants looked normal – spruce trees, birches, maples, ferns, a few swamp pinks here and there. But a lot of the vegetation were plants I had never seen before.
            Then I remembered:
And the monsters and monstrosities stay forever sealed in their cursed realm
The town of Dormcourt used to be part of some strange cult that some people said worshipped demons.
The new gods guide and protect us all. From great Krstgudgn to the exulted Bszldenumrtu
            My heart thudded. I looked around the woods. There was the sound of twigs snapping. A bush that looked like a coral reef wiggled in the distance. A call horned through the canyon that sounded like the dinosaur calls from the movies.
            A chill dripped down my spine. “Um, Pasha, could you please come up front and drive this thing? I’m really sorry I tried to pull your mask off. I won’t ever do it again, I promise.”
            I looked back. Pasha sat up and grabbed a handkerchief. He turned his back to me, wiped the snot that was probably dripping behind his mask, and then turned back to me and crawled up front. He grabbed the reins and we wheeled through the alien woodland.
            We both sat quiet. I didn’t say anything, and Pasha would only occasionally click his tongue for the horse. I didn’t want to say anything that’d make me question reality any more than I already was. There was no way any of this could be some elaborate prank.
            I glanced at Pasha. He was staring at my stomach. “What is it?” I asked.
            Pasha glanced away. “Oh, nothing. My apology. I was just staring at your abdominal muscles. I don’t think I’ve seen lumberjacks who were as toned. You are most attractive.”
            “Um, thanks. I swim a lot.” I looked away and blushed. Great. He’s attracted to me and he’s either a delusional dweeb or a cursed demon worshipper. I wonder which one would be better. Hopefully it’s not the latter. Then again, if I’m still on Earth and he’s both gay and like this, he’s a goner. “Hey, um, do you have any clothes I could wear?”
            “In the back,” he said. “The grey sacks are mine and the tan sacks are the merchandise. You can borrow some of mine.”
            “Thanks.” I crawled to the back of the wagon. I found an outfit that was like his except it was tan in color instead of grey. It looked like something Davey Crocket or Daniel Boone would wear. I put it on. The pants were a bit tight on me but it still fit. It wasn’t the comfiest thing I ever wore but it was better than being in just jammers. I crawled to the front seat. “What’s with this frontier outfit? What’s it called?”
            “It’s a pullover frock. There’s no point in wearing a suit out in the wild. It would be hard to outrun the wraiths.”
            “Do I have to ask what the wraiths are?”
            Pasha pointed ahead of us. “Ah, New Dormcourt approaches. I’ll drop you off. I’m sure your family misses you dearly. Hopefully with their help, you’ll be cured from whatever it is the Crossing Waters have done to you.”
            Our horse-drawn wagon went down the hill. In the valley below us, there was a massive dome of coral that encased the ruins of a large city. Alien birds that looked like flying fish flew in and out of the dome through the countless holes in between the branches. Under the coral bars were multilevel stone structures that had fallen into disarray. Within the ruins of the large city was a large town of human-built wooden houses. The human houses were all Victorian in architecture.
We approached the entrance gate. It was an ugly dam of stones and wooden planks that clogged up what must have been a large gap in the dome, and was definitely built by humans and not whoever built the original city. A guard stood at the gate holding a rifle. He held his hand out and said, “Halt! What business do you bring to New Dormcourt?”
            “I have rescued one of your people,” said Pasha. “He calls himself Noah. I found him scantily clad near the Crossing Waters. He talks very queerly and I fear he may be demented. He must have drank too much of that fowl water. He needs to be returned to his family and nursed back to sanity.”
            “Pasha,” I said, “what the fuck?”
            “Watch your language,” said the guard. “Young man, is that true?”
            “Ugh,” I groaned. “No. You see, I’m on the swim team, that’s why I was just in my jammers. My teammates, um, well, they locked me in the spillway, I think that’s what it’s called, yeah the south spillway of Dormcourt Reservoir. I went through the end and I actually swam all the way to the surface through the tunnel. I know, impressive, what can I say? That’s where Pasha found me, and he acted like he was a demon worshipper from the legends, and –”
            “Stop,” said the guard. He held his hand up, “Please, stop.” He turned to Pasha. “Well, I do admit, he does have the look of someone who has been blessed by Thulthdignagon. You’re lucky he’s really daff or I would have you flogged for mockery. I’ll let him in and see if any of the families will own up to him. If not, I’m sure he could at least make a good dung scooper for the stable keeper. Is there anything else?”
            “Yes,” said Pasha, “I bring goods from the ancient peoples.”
            “Sell it at the trading post,” said the guard, “outside of the dome. I don’t want your mask slipping. We try to keep the wraiths out.”
            “Isn’t that what the dome is for?” asked Pasha, his voice inflected with sarcasm.
            The guard smacked him in the back of the head. Pasha yelped and rubbed the back where he was hit. The guard scowled at him and said “Don’t get wise with me. Go back to the other side of the hills where you belong before I have you tied to a post for the night.” The guard turned to me. “You boy, come inside. You might be our newest simpleton but at least you’re not cursed.”
            The gate opened. Inside I could see people dressed in suits and dresses that still looked old fashioned but different from the tunics Pasha and I were wearing. “No,” I said. “I’m, I’m staying with Pasha.”
            “Noah,” said Pasha, “go inside. You’ll be safer from the wraiths under the dome.”
            “Stop it with this wraith crap. Just, just take me to your place.”
            “If you want to stay with this cursed boy you’re more than welcome to,” said the guard. “Krstgudgn knows we don’t need another village idiot.”
            “Noah,” said Pasha, “please. Just go inside.”
            “No,” I said, “I’m already wearing your clothes.”
            “You can pay me back later,” said Pasha, “or not pay me back at all.”
            “Pasha! I made up my mind.”
            “Fine then,” said Pasha. “So be it. If you want to live in the hills with the cursed folk then you shall have it.” He whistled, and the horse pulled us away from the gate and towards mountain slopes covered in alien vegetation.

This is a continuation of a story, please read previous post before this one.

The Swimmer and the Demon Worshipper, chapters 3 - 4, by Chase TheQueerXX

Chapter 3
The horse pulled us around the walled town and up a mountain that was parallel to the hill we came down. The trail went up at an angle from the mountain being too steep.  I don’t think cars could have gone straight up it, never mind a horse-drawn cart. We reached the top where Pasha stopped to let the horse rest. He helped the horse drink by scooping water from a spring with a bowl while I gazed at the hills before us.
            There were homes that dotted the canyons and valleys below but they were too far to make out any details. Vegetation, both normal and alien, covered the slopes but some of the mountains were too rocky to support life. Giant creatures were flying in the sky that looked more like sea creatures than birds. A megalithic statue of a demonic gargoyle sat atop one of the lifeless stone mountains.
            We got back in the wagon and the horse pulled us down into the lower hills. Pasha stayed quiet. I didn’t bother trying to make small talk with him. I already made him cry. I mean, I guess he wasn’t delusional after all. Still, thinking of him as a loser in an alien costume made him more … I wasn’t quite sure. Approachable, maybe. Maybe I just thought it was cute.
            Something poked me in the cheek. It was the right fox ear of Pasha’s mask.  I flinched and moved my head over. Pasha’s head fell on my shoulder. He was leaning on me.
            What the heck, was he snuggling with me? I know he said he was attracted to me when I caught him checking me out, but he called me a demented fool so many times I didn’t think he actually wanted me. This was so sudden. Oh God, well, I guess I could –
            Phlegm filled snoring snorted out of his mask and into my ears. Nope, he wasn’t snuggling with me, at least not on purpose. He just fell asleep. And he looked cute asleep.
            I yawned. I was tired too. It was nighttime when my teammates left me locked in that tunnel, and I didn’t have any sleep since then. Well, supposedly weeks went by, but it only felt like a day to me. Still, it was long enough. It was still too sunny outside though. I patted Pasha on his shoulder. “Pasha, Pasha, wake up. Pasha, Pasha are you okay?” He still kept sleeping. “Pasha? Posh Posh? Poshey Washy? Earth to Pasha? Pasha!”
            Pasha stopped snoring and sat up. “Huh? What?” He grabbed the reigns. “Are we under attack?”
            “No. You just fell asleep.”
            “Was that a problem?” he asked. “I’ve been up since the second half of last nightfall.”
            “No no no. No problem. You looked … like you needed it. You can go back to sleep. I need sleep too. I was just wondering if you could tell me the time and date.”
            “Sure,” said Pasha. “It’s the sixty-seventh day of Reznudkulu, I think. One of the upper sixties. Pretty sure it’s a Mnthglu. Let me check my watch.” He pulled out a pocket watch. It had alien runes for numbers. The hour hand was pointed slightly above the three o’clock position. “Uh oh, it’s already the closing hour of the first half day. We need to get to bed if we’re going to get any work done in the last half.”
            My jaw dropped. Oh God. I miss dismissing everything he said as nonsense. Please just let me return to Earth already. I’ll even quit the swim team if I have to. Just let me return. I’ll do anything. Is it because I’m gay? Do I seriously have to give that up? How is that even possible?
            Pasha waved his hand in front of my face. “Noah? Are you alright?”
            “Huh? Oh, sorry, I spaced out for a second. I just, um … well, you know, I don’t know anything about … about this world, or planet, or dimension, or, whatever.” I rubbed my eyes and sighed. “I uh –”
            “It’s alright Noah. You don’t have to be ashamed. Some people are just kissed by Urukon. I’ll go to church and ask the benevolent demons to bless you.”
            “Thanks Pasha.” I hugged him.
            “Noah! What are you doing?”
            “I’m hugging you, silly.”
            “But why are you hugging me?”
            “Because –”
            Over Pasha’s shoulder, I saw a masked woman lying in the shade beneath the tentacles of an alien tree that looked like a giant sea anemone. Her mask was different than Pasha’s. It had blue and red tones with a fish design to it. Gills stuck out from the outside and alien runes were painted in a scaly pattern. It was still mouthless like Pasha’s, but unlike the solid black eyes on his, hers had large, tired blue eyes painted on it.
            “Pasha, who’s that?”
            I unwrapped my arms and pointed behind us. “Oh,” said Pasha, “that’s Mrs. Washington. She’s a blind beggar. Normally I’d stop to give her a coin, but it’s late so she’s probably sleeping. Bszldenumrtu bless her.”
We passed by farms and houses. Some of the houses looked like cozy log cabins, but most of them looked like shacks. All of the windows were boarded up. Cows, pigs and goats slept under shaded huts. The pastures cleared and we were back in an alien woodland.
The wagon came to a stop. We were at a thatched roof house that was hidden in a grove of leafy coral trees. Alien runes and hieroglyphs were painted on the door and walls. “Is this your house?” I asked. “It looks … cute. Where do we put the horse?”
Pasha put his hands on his masked. “Oh no.”
The door of the house opened. A girl our age in the female version of what I was wearing came out. She had an angry look on her face. Her brown braided pigtails swayed back and forth as she stomped towards us. “Poshey! Who in Vlhundrekon is this?”
            Pasha twiddled his fingers. The girl went to my side of the wagon and glared straight into my eyes. Pasha looked away from both of us while he twiddled his fingers and said, “Oh, um, uh, Orla, this is Noah. Noah, this is my, um, friend, Orla.”
            “You’re his friend?” I asked. Pasha didn’t strike me as the type to have friends.
            Orla grimaced and hissed through her teeth, “At this point, I’m more like his nanny. Why are you here?”
            “Uh, well, um …”
            “I found him,” said Pasha.
            “Oh! You found him!” Orla stretched a fake smile across her face. “So that’s why you were late and had me worried sick about you.”
            “Orla, please. Noah didn’t slow me down. Something, something happened on the second half of yesternight. It steered me off course. That’s why I’m late.”
            Orla’s anger disappeared. Worry overtook her. “What happened?”
            “I, I didn’t sleep at all since the second half of yesternight. I really need to go to sleep so I can prep for the nightfall. Please just take Betsy back to your farm and send your parents my regards.”
            “You’re telling me what happened first.”
            “Fine. I’ll tell you inside. Noah, please carry everything in the wagon inside the house. Just, put it near the fireplace.”
            Pasha hopped off the wagon and went inside with Orla. In the back there was just a few bags. I grabbed all of them in one hand and carried them inside.
            Inside, there wasn’t a hint of electricity. Pasha and Orla were in a room on the other side that had nothing but a fur blanket bed. Pasha was sitting on it with his head down like Orla was his mom scolding him. Orla slammed the bedroom door shut as soon as I entered.
            There were two metal fireplaces in the house. I went to one but noticed it was actually a wood stove for cooking. I turned around and a sack of garlic that hung from a ceiling joist hit me in the face. I walked across the small house to the fireplace and dropped the bag down. I tiptoed to the outside of the bedroom and put my ear to the door.
            “Anyone can pretend to be a demented fool,” said the voice of Orla. “Ooh, look at me, I like to swim in vile water. And I’m a pig’s wife too! See, I can do it better than him. He’s up to no good.”
            “But he was wet when I found him,” said the voice of Pasha. “He was in nothing but this queer breechcloth. Oh Bszldenumrtu mercy! You should have seen him.”
            “Wow, are you sure you’re not the fool? Hmm, if I wanted to set up a trap for a cursed boy who fancies the lads, how should I bait him?”
            “But why would anyone care for that? The new gods command tolerance.”
            “Look at what anyone has already done to you.”
            “Orla, please, I just want to go to bed. I’m tired and we both need to prep for nightfall. If you truly do not trust this queer outsider, you may rest at my house.”
            “I’m not sharing a single blanket with the fool and I doubt a dandy lad with hands as smooth as his would be content sleeping on the floor.”
            “You may sleep on the bed of my parents.”
            “But Poshey, you don’t even sleep in it.”
            Pasha made a loud groan that made it through the door. “I’ll make an exception.”
            Floorboards creaked. I ran as fast as I could on my tiptoes to the fireplace. The bedroom door opened. I faced them and said “All inside!”
            “Thanks,” said Pasha. “Could you please unhook Betsy from the wagon and tie her up in the shade with food and water?”
            I rubbed the back of my head and gave a soft laugh of embarrassment. “Sorry Poshey, I think you already know I’m not good with horses.”
            Orla growled. “I’ll do it.” She marched towards the door. “I trust a fool can at least board the windows.”
            Pasha pointed to the bedroom he and Orla had just talked in. “Noah, that’s my parents’ room. Well, it was my parents’ room. Orla is going to sleep there tonight.” He pointed to a latter that led to a small boarded area over the ceiling joists. From being at the eaves of the ceiling, there wasn’t even room to stand. “That’s where I normally sleep. I’m told I snore, so I apologize in advance.” He climbed up the ladder and crawled into the crawlspace. He poked his masked head out. “Noah, I hope it doesn’t bother you if I take my mask off tonight. I sleep more comfortably with it off.”
            I smiled. Thank God he was finally going to take it off. “Not a problem at all.”
            “Thanks. It’s really dark up here, but I won’t hang up my mask until you finish boarding up, just in case. It’s easier when you do the window by the fireplace last. It’s the easiest to get to the ladder in the dark. And lock them too, thanks.”
            You’ve got to be kidding me.
I went to the windowsills. They each had wooden boards that needed to be closed, with metal latches to securely hold them in place. There weren’t many, and it got darker with each one shut. Orla came in by the time I had already boarded the window in Pasha’s parent’s room. She left the door open, sat down on the bed, and glared at me. I was starting to wish she had to wear a mask to cover that scowl of hers.
            I went to the last window by the fireplace. I boarded it and it became pitch black. I felt around with my hands for the locks and snapped them in place. Now I just need to find the latter.
            I windmilled my arms around in the dark until I found the ladder. Pretty sure Orla was still exactly where I last saw her, glaring into the darkness as if she could still see me. I climbed up the ladder. I came to the top and felt unsteady. A hand I couldn’t see grabbed my wrist and pulled me forward. I fell on top of Pasha.
            It might be too dark to see what was under the mask, but for the first time, I felt his breath on my face. My hands felt his naked arms. He must have stripped his pullover frock off. I moved my hands and they brushed into a thin linen undershirt. I was feeling his body, but I should feel his face. Feel to see what it was he was hiding. Not the curse, but everything else. I hovered my hands over his breath, and stopped. Maybe I should get his permission first.
            Pasha yawned. “Goodnight Noah. May the Great Krstgudgn bless your dreams.”
            I rolled off him. “Goodnight Poshey. Um, may the great curst guh – um, sweet dreams.”
            Pasha let out a snore. He must be a fast sleeper. He did say he didn’t sleep since a gobbity guck long time ago. I’m not sure why he snores though, is that even healthy? I yawned. My hand touched a pillow as it stretched back. I ran my hand around Pasha’s head, it was on a blanket but not a pillow. I slipped a pillow under his head. The snoring stopped.
            Did I wake him up? He stayed quiet. I guess that did the trick. I closed my eyes.
Chapter 4
I woke up on my side with my foot pressed against the edge of the ceiling. Pasha was still asleep next to me. I couldn’t believe I actually slept next to a guy who’s gay. Or is he bi or something? I don’t know. Orla definitely wasn’t his girlfriend, at least I hoped not.
            Pasha rolled over. His nose poked me in the armpit. He moved his arms over me. I can’t take this anymore. I have to at least feel what’s been under that mask. I turned him over and slapped my hands onto his face.
            “Huh? Noah? What are you doing?”
            I moved my hands up and down his face. My hands passed over zits and pimples, but no deep scars or missing nose. The shape of his jawline, cheekbones, and nose all felt normal. I put my fingers in his mouth. He had no missing teeth.
Pasha bit my fingers.
“Owe!” I pulled my fingers out of his mouth as soon as he unclamped his teeth. Oh God, I hope he doesn’t get mad or cries again, especially with Orla downstairs.
            “Good Jruckthokpk Noah, you are most queer. The queerest fellow I have ever met. What were you doing?”
            “Sorry Pasha.” I sat up and my head hit the ceiling. “Owe!” I laid back down. “I just wanted to feel your face because you don’t let me see it. Please don’t be upset. I’ll do anything to make it up to you.”
            “Anything?” said Pasha. “Could I, maybe, because you touched my face, could I … touch the muscles on your stomach?”
            I laughed. “Sure Poshey, you can touch my abs anytime you want.”
            “Oh Urukon take me no!” rang the voice of Orla. The bristles of a broom pricked into me. Was she seriously poking me with a broom? What the fuck. “They’ll be no hanky panky after you two slept in. I reckon it’s already the middle of the last half day.”
            “Stop poking me with that thing!”
            “Orla,” said Pasha, “you might damage my mask. Please stop.”
            I heard Orla sigh, followed by a knock from her dropping the broomstick. The ladder creaked as she climbed down. “I’m at a window now,” she yelled, “tell me when you have your mask on.”
            Pasha crawled away from me. Knocking came from his side of the ceiling, followed by a knock from his mask. My ears tuned in and picked up the brushing of his hair as he strapped it on. “It’s on!”
            There was a creak as Orla opened a window. The loft grew from pitch black to dim as Orla opened the windows down stairs. Pasha’s silly cat eared figure came into focus. I followed him down the ladder.
            I did my morning stretches. Orla gave me a funny look. Pasha stared at me. I stretched my back and said, “So, do we have any food in this cottage or what?”
            “We have eggs,” said Orla, “from my farm. That I gave to Pasha.”
            “Awww,” I said in a baby voice, “come on now Orla. Can I have some pleeezzz?”
            “Fine,” said Orla, “but you better earn them.”
            I laughed. “I’ll earn them.”
            Pasha made breakfast while Orla went outside to take care of Betsy. I sat on a rocking chair that was at a table and rocked. This wasn’t so bad. I don’t know how I’m going to get the hell out of this crazy place, but I can kind of see myself living in a cottage with an adorkable nerd. Once I can get Poshey to take off his mask and get crabby Orla to calm down, maybe it’ll be like living in the good old days.
            Pasha set a plate of eggs in front of me. “Eat up,” he said, “you will need the nutrition. I am sure Orla’s father will have much work for you on the farm.”
            I stopped rocking. “Wait, what? I’m going to be working on a farm? Orla’s farm?”
“See,” said Orla. She marched back inside and sat down at the table. “I knew his hands were too pretty for farm work. I reckon he came from a rich family in New Dormcourt. They must have disowned him for being a fool.”
            “Orla,” said Pasha, “please, that was most cruel of you. I am sure your father will find many uses from him thanks to his muscles. He can wear gloves to protect his hands.”
            I waved my hands. “Woe woe woe! Hold up. Why do I need to work on a farm?”
            “Noah,” said Pasha, “I’m sorry, but I haven’t been making much money ever since … I’m just not making much money trading right now. If I can rebuild my family’s business back to what it once was, I promise I’ll support you better, but until then –”
            Orla banged her fist on the table. “Pasha Voskoboynikov! You do not owe this fool anything.”
            “It’s fine,” I said. “I’ll, I’ll work on the farm today, okay?”
            “Farm work is not a fool’s work!” hollered Orla.
Pasha moaned. “Orla, please, just, please …” He sounded like he was about to cry.
            “Alright!” said Orla. “I suppose he is more queer than fool. Bszldenumrtu knows there’s plenty of queer farmers.”
            Pasha brought a plate for him and Orla over. He sat down, forked a piece from his plate, slightly lifted his mask, then pulled it back down. He took his plate into his parent’s bedroom and shut the door. Orla and I ate together in awkward silence.
After we finished eating, Pasha had me load the bags back on the wagon. He offered to teach me how to strap Betsy in, but I told him no. I mean, that horse was so huge it could crack heads with a single step from its hooves! As Pasha and Orla strapped the horse in, I bit my lip every time Pasha got in a position he could get trampled in, and got my hopes up every time it was Orla.
            The two demon worshippers walked out of the grove that hid Pasha’s house, clapping their hands, clicking their tongues, and yelling typical horse commands like “yah” and “ho.” Betsy followed them with nobody in the wagon.
            “Woe,” I said, “why aren’t we riding in the wagon?”
            “Don’t be both a fool and lazy,” said Orla.
            “Noah,” said Pasha, “horses can die if overworked.”
“I know that.” I ran after them. Maybe I was sent here to show these people technology. They won’t be calling me a fool when I invent the truck and put Betsy in retirement.
            We left the woods. There were a lot more houses and farms that were visible from afar. Mountain high buttes towered into the sky. The ledges of the buttes were mostly green with stripes of purple and blue in them. In-between the buttes and mesas were open fields of lemon colored grass.
            A flying fish thing swooped down at my head. It was two feet long and slender. It didn’t make any noise other than the swooshing of its long gliding gills. I ran circles around the wagon trying to get away from it but it kept aiming its six-eyed suction cup mouthed face at me. Orla laughed.
            “It’s not funny!” I said. “Get it away from me!” I kicked up green sand from the road.  The sand got in its eyes and it flew off.
            “Noah,” said Pasha, “it’s just a flying catfish. If you ignore them, they’ll fly away.”
            “That thing was going for my head.”
            Orla laughed. “Oh, this is rich. Maybe we did need a fool to spice things up around here.”
            “Oh fuck off. Flying catfish? Why can’t you guys have an easy name for everything else? How am I supposed to remember these stupid demon names like kuh err stu something and buh stuh zull gobbity guck? They can all suck my balls.”
            Pasha came to a halt. Betsy and Orla did right after.
Pasha stared at me. Both Orla and even Betsy stared at me with wide eyes. “Noah,” said Pasha, “it is alright if you cannot pronounce the sacred names of the benevolent demons. It is even alright if have doubt and disbelief, but please do not insult them like that.” Pasha put his hands in a triangle and chanted, “Klhanu jrtanu habgutr wurrah. Klhanu jrtanu habgutr wurrah. Klhanu …”
Orla stomped on my foot. She whispered in my ear, “Watch it! He’s very religious.”
Pasha continued chanting, “Klhanu jrtanu habgutr wurrah …”
“I, um, see that.” I waved my hands at Pasha. “Okay Pasha! I get it! I’m sorry! Um, I’ll just call them demons for now on, okay? Uh, all hail the demons, yay!”
            We went back to walking down the road. Farmers were busy working as we walked by. Some of them put their hands in a triangle as we walked by them, which Pasha and Orla were quick to flash back. Others stuck their thumb at Pasha between their index and middle finger and then made a downward devil-horn gesture, which Pasha and Orla ignored.
            We came to a building that looked like it was jumbled together from multiple log cabins, stone houses, and cottages. A sign above the front entrance read: THE GREEN ROCK SPIRE TRADING POST
             “Noah,” said Pasha, “maybe you should stay inside. I think Orla and I can carry the goods inside. Just keep Betsy from wondering off.”
            “Poshey, what part about I’m not good with horses –”
            “Ugh,” grunted Orla, “just carry his bags and keep your mouth shut, then.”
            Pasha climbed in the wagon and struggled with pulling the bags out. It was cute watching him struggle. With one fell swoop, I picked all of them up. Pasha blushed. “Thanks Noah.”
            Orla rolled her eyes. “For the love of Jruckthokpk.”
            I followed Pasha inside the store and set the bags on the front counter. He waited at the desk and I explored the aisles. There were shelves filled with candles, lanterns, torches, and small pieces of burn-ready sticks. Pickled vegetables in glass jars were plenty. The meat hung from a wooden beam, unrefrigerated and dripping blood on saw dust. Some of the meat was chicken and red meat, while some of the carcasses came from slimy or scaly alien creatures. I went to get a closer look at a pig-sized carcass. It had the body of an eel, the legs of a frog, and the face of a spider.
            There wasn’t a single piece of clothing on the shelves I’d wear in high school. Most of the men’s clothes were effeminate Medieval looking tunics, rugged frontier pullovers, or dorky Victorian era suits.
The jewelry counter had crystals, orbs, and chunks of a rock that had a circuit board pattern to them. There was a tiara with a black crystal that had the same dotted rune that Pasha’s mask had on the forehead. I touched it.
            My whole body vibrated. I was being shocked. I was being shocked but I couldn’t let go. It was painful, my fingers were burning. A squealing gargling voice filled my head: “Hrzgut jhtar urtegm bkraka klhanu jrtanu habgutr wurrah thulthdignagon–”
            My fingers slipped off the tiara. I put my fingers in my mouth and licked them. They were so hot. I looked around me. Nobody noticed I had gotten shocked or acted like they heard what I just heard. Pasha was still at the counter, not facing me. What the heck just happened? Was that a demon voice? Something else? I went to Pasha and tapped him on the shoulders. “Poshey! I just touched this crown thing and –”
            An Asian man came to counter. “Welcome back Mr. Voskoboynikov.” He put his hands in a triangle.
Pasha triangled back. “Good half day, Mr. Yang.”
            “Wow,” I said, “I didn’t know there were Asians living in Dormcourt back then.”
            Mr. Yang gave me a funny look and asked, “Who is this Thulthdignagon child with a dandy haircut and why does he speak so queerly?”
            “I apologize,” said Pasha. “He was a companion I found on the road. He has been disowned by his people. He is not a threat.”
            “We should still discuss business without him,” said Mr. Yang.
            “I wasn’t planning on troubling him with it,” said Pasha. “Noah, me and Mr. Yang are going to have a private business meeting. You can wait here and pick out a treat if you like.”
            My jaw dropped in embarrassment. Pick out a treat? That’s something parents’ say to their kids when they try to get them to behave in the supermarket.
            Pasha struggled with carrying the bags I brought in. Mr. Yang took them from him with no struggle and led him to a private room. Well, at least Poshey needs my muscles, and wants them.
            I went to the candy counter. None of it looked tasty, and in a world with flying six-eyed fish things, I don’t think I want to know what any of it was made of. There was still no one else in the shop. I needed more answers. I snuck to the door Pasha and Mr. Yang went in and put my ear to the door.
            “I can’t believe you didn’t lose this to the highwaymen,” said the voice of Mr. Yang.
            “Hiding these kinds of things in unsuspecting places was the first thing my mama and papa taught me,” said the voice of Pasha.
            There was a clunk. Mr. Yang’s voice said “I’ll give you all of these.”
            “There are four less than last time.”
            “These things have gone up in price ever since the wraiths took the Blankenhorns.”
            “They only took one of the sons,” said Pasha.
            “Blankenhorn only had one son, and that son only had daughters. Them blessed folk ain’t like us. They don’t teach their girls the family trade. Now old man Blankenhorn has finally gone senile, leaving the Cronisters as the only gunsmiths left. I’m sure your mama and papa taught you the concept of a monopoly.”
            “This complicates things,” said Pasha, “these here are beautifully crafted, but I am sure the Cronisters will go down in quality.”
            “Not with them wraiths out there they won’t. Maybe they’ll be less fancy, but I reckon as long as they’d rather keep us … I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be morbid. Pasha, you know I believe in what we’re doing. How about I –”
            Something whacked me in the head. I bit my tongue trying to stop myself from screaming. I turned around. There was a mustached old man behind me with a cane. “Being nosey are we?”
            “Owe,” I groaned through my teeth. “It’s just my friend in there. It’s not like –”
            The old man whacked me with his cane again. I ran away from him and got a few more whacks from the cane. I ran out of the trading post and went to the wagon.
            Orla was sitting on the wagon resting her head on her hands. “What’s up with you?”
            I didn’t answer her. I sat in the back and waited for Pasha to come out. He came out a few minutes later with Mr. Yang carrying what looked like a heavy sack. “Noah,” said Pasha, “we could use your help.”
            I helped Mr. Yang carry the heavy sack into the wagon. The outside of the bag felt like it was filled with the same clothes I had carried in. However, there were was the unmistakable stiffness of guns that were felt when I squeezed through the clothes hard enough. I ran my hands up and down the bag making out the shapes of the guns. From behind me, Mr. Yang said, “Are you sure you can trust this fellow?”
            “Nope,” said Orla.
            “I think he will be a good friend,” said Pasha.
            I turned around and gave a fake laugh. “Ha ha! Yep! Forget will! I already am!” I ran to Pasha, slung my arm around his neck, and tousled his hair. “Yep! Friends friends!” I stretched a wide, fake smile across my face.
            Mr. Yang raised his eyebrow. “Uhh, I … see that.” He walked back inside his shop.
            I kept tousling Pasha’s hair while faking a smile. It was all I could do to hold back my shock. I’ve seen guns before, but some kid who was still just a teenager trading them sounded sketchy as hell. Orla just kept staring at me with a perplexed look while Pasha stayed choked in my arm.
            “Well looky here,” said a male voice, “looks like my kitty found himself a new owner.”
            I stopped rubbing my hand on Pasha’s hair and unhooked his neck. I turned around. There was a guy our age in a raccoon-tailed hat.
“Oh, let me guess,” I said, “you’re one of Pasha’s bullies?”
            “Noah,” said Pasha, “please, we have work to do.”
            The guy with the raccoon hat laughed. He had missing teeth and looked like such a redneck it wasn’t even funny. “What in cursed stuck-ull-ont-um do you mean by bullies? I suppose it is a bully day today, a bully day to play with a cursed cat.”
            “I meant you must be one of his tormenters who beats him up.”
            He laughed again. “How’d you know?”
            “Noah,” said Pasha, “I never told you about Mr. Samuelson.”
I put one hand on Pasha’s shoulder and pointed at Samuelson with my other hand. “Fuck no Poshey! He’s our age. Don’t call him mister anything.”
            “Cursed cats should show respect for their betters,” said Samuelson.
            “How about Mr. toothless fuckface?” I said.
            “Noah,” said Orla, “we have work to do. Now’s not the time for wake snakes.”
            “Too late,” said Samuelson. He came marching towards me. I pushed Pasha back and walked towards Samuelson. He pushed me in the chest. I punched him straight in the face. “That’s it,” he growled. His fist came towards my face. I whacked it out of the way. He jumped on me and we fell to the ground. We rolled around in the green sand trying to punch each other. His breath was rancid. At least he wasn’t a trained wrestler like Scott. Strength wise, we were evenly matched.
            There was a loud gun shot. We jumped off each other and stood up. In the doorway of the trading post was Mr. Yang with a shotgun. He fired another warning shot in the air. It popped my ears. “They’ll be no scuffles in front of my store,” he said. “You boys go do your work before nightfall. Go on, get.”
            Samuelson dusted himself off and walked backwards away from me. He pointed at me. “You’re lucky it’s the last half day or I’d have given you a whoopin! I hope his mask slips and curses you.”
            “Fuck off loser. Why do you even pick on Pasha if you think all it takes for him to kill you is showing you his face?”
            “Oh buzzle-dennem-ert-tooz balls, he’d never do that cuz he knows he’d be sentenced to death.”
            “Oh yeah,” I said, “well what if I show you his face.” I grabbed Pasha, held him in front of me, and put my hand to his mask.
            “Noah!” screamed Orla, “no!”
            “Good demons you’re a mad man!” said Samuelson. He pointed his thumb through his fingers and made a downward devil horn sign. He ran away from us. “A mad man!”
            “I sure showed him,” I said.
            Pasha and Orla were both quiet. An awkward moment of silence passed by. Orla pulled out a pocket watch, checked the time, and said “We need to get moving. Pasha, are you okay?”
            Pasha didn’t say anything. I patted him on the shoulder. “Pasha? Are you okay?” He stayed quiet.
            “Pasha,” said Orla, “why don’t you ride in the back of the wagon to protect your inventory.” Pasha climbed into the back of the shaded wagon and laid down, out of sight. Orla walked down the road and Betsy followed her.
            I followed the wagon at the rear. I couldn’t see him. He staid lying down. I couldn’t hear any sounds he might be making because of the rattling of the wagon. We came to a wooden fence. Orla swung the door open, let the wagon pass through, and swung it shut before I could enter. I climbed over the wooden posts and kept following her, pretending it didn’t happen.
            Orla’s farmhouse was a lot larger than Pasha’s cottage, but it certainly wasn’t fancy like the Victorians under the dome back in the Valley of Thulthdignagon. It was two stories plus a small lookout in the middle of the roof. The walls were unpainted wood.
            The wooden fencing wrapped around the fields of yellow grass and hooked into the ledges of a green mesa. There was a large barn that was wide open. Horses grazed outside – and there was nothing stopping them from stepping on me. A horse galloped towards me. I ran around to the other side of the wagon.
            “Um, hey, Orla, why are your horses so big?”
            “We just breed draft horses,” said Orla. “We never had any luck with smaller riding ones. Jruckthokpk blessed us, because ours are the only drafts that can live off the Vlhundrekon brush. In fact, it’s even hard to come by riding horses that can live off the brush in the wild. We carefully guard our blessing, and only sell geldings and the ones that can only eat oats and hay.”
            “What’s a gelding?”
            “A castrated horse.”
            “Jesus Christ! You cut horses balls off?”
            “Great demons you talk so queerly. What does Jesus Christ mean?”
            “Um, I don’t know either.”
            “Maybe you are more fool than queer.”
            A stalky brown-haired man with sideburns came out of the house and signaled a triangle from the front porch. I triangled back. Hopefully it won’t be yet another thing that I get wrong. Orla’s father, great, this’ll be fun.
            “Da,” said Orla, “we have returned. I apologize if I worried you. I spent the sleeping hours in Pasha’s cottage. This fellow here calls himself Noah. He’s a queer talking fool who speaks in sheer nonsense, but Pasha thinks he may be fit for farm work.”
            Orla’s father came over to me and looked me up and down. He grabbed my arm and measured my biceps with his fingers. “Very well. We’ll see what he can do. Lad, you may call me Mr. O’Connor.”
            Pasha crawled out of the wagon and triangled Mr. O’Connor. “Uncle,” said Pasha, “I apologize for my lateness. We should discuss some recent developments in our partnership. I will need your help carrying the inventory inside.”
            “I’ll carry it myself. Go inside and eat.”
Pasha pulled out a pair of leather gloves from his purse and handed them to me. “Here Noah. I got these from the trading post. They’ll protect your hands.” He walked inside the house.
Mr. O’Connor grabbed the bag of concealed guns and went to the door. “Orla, I’ll leave you in charge of Noah. I trust you can handle him. We have much work to do.” He went inside and shut the door.
            Orla’s in charge of me? Fuck my life. “Did Pasha call your dad ‘uncle?’ So are you two cousins?”
            “Not by blood, we’re just close. Now come with me.”
            I followed her to the barn. Thankfully none of the horses were inside it. The air from all of the straw and hay was suffocating. She opened one of the stalls. It was covered in horse crap. “Let me guess,” I said, “you want me to clean out the horse shit?”
            Orla put her hands to her lips and made a fake gasp. “Oh no! Are the dandies in New Dormcourt too clean for that? I’ve been shoveling manure my whole life, that must be why I could never be a lady.”
            “Are there any other jobs I can do?”
            “Can you give the horses a bath?”
            “Fuck no!”
            “Then become a beggar,” said Orla. She grabbed a shovel that hung from the nails of a wooden beam. She waved it in front of my face and then spiked it into the pile of horse manure. “Become a beggar, and beg everyone else except Pasha. So help me Bszldenumrtu, I’ll scowl all of Vlhundrekon to find a better man-fancying lad than you.”
            “Why are you so jealous? Does your cult have arranged marriages and you’re arranged to marry him or something? Is that why your family has been helping him out so much?”
            “We’re not betrothed and it’s none of your business why we help him.”
            “Forget it,” I said. “Just, just leave me alone and I’ll shovel this fucking horse shit. Where do I put it?”
            Orla pointed to a wagon that was parked in front of an opening. I put on the gloves Pasha gave me, took a shovel full, and carried it to the wagon. When I cam back to the stall, Orla had moved a wheelbarrow in front of it and left me. I went to work.

To be continued

This is a continuation of a story, please read previous post before this one.

The Swimmer and the Demon Worshipper, chapter 5, by Chase TheQueerXX




Chapter 5
I had never seen so much shit in my life. What felt like hours went by of me just shoveling manure out of the stables. The wagon was filling up to the brim. I started to feel some sense of pride in the stalls I cleared out, but every time a little speck of the manure spilled on me, I felt like vomiting, especially when a clump somehow managed to get in my mouth. It was great that the horses at least had a shit-free stall, but I shouldn’t be doing it. I mean, I was destined to be an Olympic swimmer.
            Orla came in. “Well it looks like the fool can shovel manure, impressive.”
            “Will you stop calling me that! I know stuff that would blow your mind.”
            A horse whinny filled the barn. I jumped back. Orla laughed. “It blows my mind that you’re afraid of horses.” She stepped aside. “Come on Dash. Go see the lad who cleaned your bed up.” A horse walked into the barn. I ran into a stall and shut the door.
            Orla laughed. She called the horse over to the wagon and strapped him in. “Noah, get in the wagon before I call the next horse over.”
            I went to the wagon and sat in the front seat. Orla called another horse over and I watched carefully as she strapped it in. There was more to it than what they showed in the movies, and I’m sure it was even harder than it looked. She got in the wagon and the two horses pulled us and the manure forward.
            “What are we doing with the manure?” I asked.
            “Taking it to the trading post,” said Orla. “Normally we’d just spread it around our fields to keep it fertile, but Mr. Yang offered us a quick buck to make before nightfall. We’ll need to buy extra supplies now that you’ll be boarded up with us.”
            “Who’ll buy the manure?”
            “Probably any vegetable farmer who would rather lose money to a middle man than have to deal with us.”
            We came back to the trading post. It was amazing how those two horses were able to pull so much weight. Mr. Yang had us go to the side of the building to dump it. There was a lot more people coming in and out of the store and up and down the road.
            Orla lowered the back of the wagon and growled. “You only brought one shovel?”
            “I didn’t think we’d need it. Can’t you just tip the wagon over and drive forward?”
            Orla smacked her own face with the palms of her hands and slowly dragged them down. “You have got to be joking me. Noah, how much of the Crossing water did you drink? You know what, just, forget it. You do the shoveling then unless you want to be the one who has to do the laundry.”
            “Actually,” I said, “I’d rather do the laundry, if you don’t mind.”
            “That’s not happening,” said Orla.
            “Why not? Because I’m a man?”
            “You’re far from a man, and no, you’re not doing the laundry because I’d rather wash your undergarments than you wash mine.”
            “Why can’t we just wash it separately?”
            “Because that’d waste water! Just stop arguing with me Noah and start shoveling. My father offered you a place on the farm so just do as you’re told to earn your dinner.”
            Sweat dripped across my eyebrows as I shoveled it out. It was a lot easier than shoveling it in, but I was in a shaded barn then, not outside in the sun. “Noah,” said Orla, “I need to use the outhouse. Don’t get in trouble while I’m gone.”
            Orla left me and I continued shoveling. Samuelson and three goonish hillbillies passed by carrying stakes of animals they must have hunted. One was the carcass of a boar and the other an alien creature that was equal in size but had the body of a toad and legs of a caterpillar.
Samuelson stopped and pointed at me. “There, shoveling. That’s him! That’s the mad man!”
            “Well I say,” said one of them in mock posh accent, “a Thulthie with the dandiest haircut shoveling manure. That’s the queerest thing I ever saw.”
            “Oh for fuck’s sake,” I said. “Get lost before I fling this shit right at you.”
            Samuelson laughed. “When I first saw you I thought for sure you were a swindling partner to that cursed wuss.” He snorted. “Nope! You’re a dung shoveler!”
            “I swear to God if Mr. Yang didn’t want us fighting in front of his shop, I’d fling this shit right at you. You’re laughing now, but I know a bunch of shit that’d have you people worshipping me like a god.”
            Samuelson and his companions laughed. A middle-age redheaded woman and her bald, curly mustached husband walked by. Despite it being sunny, the woman was carrying an umbrella in a typical classy, Victorian manner. She pointed it at me and said, “Young man, that is most blasphemous. Only Lord Thulthdignagon can bestow godhood onto mortals.”
            I climbed up on the wagon and stood high. “It’s true! Everyone here is working way harder than they should. I mean, look at this horse drawn wagon? We could be using cars and trucks instead.”
            The middle-aged man with a curly mustache shook his head. “Don’t be a fool. My great grandmother was born right around when the Crossing Waters flooded, and nobody’s reinvented the train since then. As far as I’m concerned it was a myth.”
            “I’m not talking about trains,” I said. “I mean it’d be like driving a wagon like what I’m standing on with no horses. And there’s more. We could have lightbulbs in our home instead of candles, where with a flick of a switch, your entire house will light up.”
            Samuelson laughed. “Oh great demons this queer boy is mad! Please let him keep talking!”
            “Well,” said the woman with the umbrella, “tell us then. How do we light up our homes with these so-called lightbulbs?”
            “You just need this thing called electricity,” I said.
            “And where,” said the man with the curly mustache, “are we supposed to get electricity?”
            “Um, well …” I took the glove off my right hand and scratched my head. “Uhh, you could build a windmill.”
            One of Samuelson’s goons chuckled and said, “The Flanigans have a windmill! All it does is grind grain. They ain’t got no electrity.”
            “Well it has to be a special windmill,” I said.
            The man rolled his eyes. “Ohh, a magical windmill. Of course. How do we make a magical windmill, eh?”
            “Well, um, you … uhhh, I think there’s something to do with, um, well … I don’t know.”
            The middle-aged couple shook their heads while Samuelson and his friends laughed hysterically. “All right,” grumbled the man, “shows over. Back to work. You too Samuelson. You can be entertained by the fool’s ramblings on the first half days, not the seconds.”
            Samuelson and his friends walked away from me snickering and making fun of me. I couldn’t believe it. Shit, how do you make electricity? Fuck, I guess I can’t just invent a bunch of modern stuff and get rich in this world. There goes my theory about being sent here to save these people. Then that can only mean I’m here by … I don’t know, some accident or punishment. An accident sounded just as worse. I was going to be an Olympic swimmer, have a body everyone would worship, win medals and get rich – and now I’m trapped in this crazy place.
            “Noah.” It was Pasha’s voice. I turned around. He was staring up at me as I stood on the wagon like an idiot. “Noah, I’m going to church to pray. A monk is letting me ride with him in his chaise. Please stay with the O’Connors. Can you promise me this?”
            “Uhh, sure Poshey. I won’t leave their sight.”
            “Good.” He put his hands in a triangle. “May the demons watch over you.” He walked towards a small carriage that had two large wheels and was drawn by one horse. A robed monk was sitting in it and held the reigns. As he scooted over for Pasha, he gave me a strange, distrustful look. He turned his head back towards the road and gave the reins a whip. The carriage took off, shrinking into the distance.
            I shoveled the rest of the manure out. Orla returned and set a bag in the front seat. “Can’t I leave you alone for just one second without you making a fool of yourself to the whole town?”
            “Just shut up Orla. Why were you so long, anyway? Did you fall into the outhouse or something?”
            “No, I was picking out clothes for you in the trading post. You can’t just wear Pasha’s. Some of these might be a little big for you but I’m sure you’re still growing.”
            “Gee, thanks mom. Why are you being so generous to me all of a sudden?”
            Orla sat in the front seat and clicked her tongue. The wagon sprang forward and I fell down in the bed of the wagon. I crawled into the front seat. “Just don’t hurt Pasha,” said Orla. “Vlhundrekon is already tough and cruel as it is. And be a hard worker on the O’Connor farm – we have a lot of work to do so our animals will be safe by nightfall. Time is running out.”
Hours went by of hard farm work. Orla’s mother gave me a meat-filled biscuit and a glass of berry-flavored tea, but I didn’t take any other breaks unless I caught Orla taking one too. Her crabbiness and snotty jabs started to go down as I got us caught up on schedule. I don’t want to think about it, but I’m pretty sure she started checking me out once I took my frock off to not overheat as I carried the hay into the barn.
            The blue sky turned orange and the sun began to set. It grew chilly and I put the frock back on after all the hay was loaded in the barn. Mr. O’Connor came into the barn as me and Orla were prepping the stables.
            “You can put the pitchfork down now lad,” said Mr. O’Connor. “Thanks to you we’re all caught up for the long night. Orla, do you know where Pasha is?”
            Orla stopped raking straw and said, “No, I don’t. You mean he’s not with you or Mr. Yang?”
            “He’s not at his family’s cottage, is he? I’ve told him more than once I don’t want him spending the nights there.”
            “Oh,” I said, “at the trading post he told me he was going to church.”
            Mr. O’Connor growled. “Oh for the love of Jruckthokpk! Why would he go to church at such a late hour of the last half day?”
It’s alright Noah. You don’t have to be ashamed. Some people are just kissed by Urukon. I’ll go to church and ask the benevolent demons to bless you.
            I took my gloves off and bit my fingernails. Orla glanced at me. I glanced away. I ran my hand through the back of my hair. God damn it Pasha.
            Mr. O’Connor stomped his foot on the dirt floor. “I swear I’d paint his bottom red if he were my boy. His folks were always religious, but they were never that religious. Ugh, no time. Orla?”
            Orla was pulling her pigtails. She looked horrified. “Yes da?”
            “Get Skedaddle and Boots ready. Noah, help me wheel out the carriage.”
            I followed Mr. O’Connor to a carriage. It was different from the wagons I had rode in so far. It was finely handcrafted, with a painted finish and cushioned seats. We each grabbed a pole and dragged it outside. “Noah,” said Mr. O’Connor, “take down the roof top. Tell my daughter I’ll be back.”
            The sun was still setting. It sank slowly into the horizon. I folded up the roof so all the seats were exposed. It looked like there should be enough room for both me, Mr. O’Connor, Orla, and Pasha, although with Mr. O’Connor’s stalkiness we might be a bit cramped.
            Orla came over with two horses. She had me hold one of them by a leash while she strapped the first one in. Thankfully they didn’t step on me. Mr. & Mrs. O’Connor both came to us carrying supplies. Misses O’Connor was carrying lanterns that were already lit. Mr. O’Connor was carrying guns. He threw the guns in the carriage and said, “Are you good with guns, lad?”
            “Um, I fired a BB gun before.”
            Mr. O’Connor handed me rifle. It looked expensive, with silver engravings of demons and alien runes on it. He pointed to a tree. “Shoot that tree down yonder. The Vlhundrekon one, not the pine.”
            I aimed the gun at an alien tree and pulled the trigger. Bang! The gun kicked back and my ears rang. The bullet missed the tree and hit the ledge of the mesa behind it.
            “Close enough,” said Mr. O’Connor. “Take good care of it. It’s a Blankenhorn, there won’t be any more of those anymore.”
            “Are you coming with us?” asked Orla.
            “You know your mother doesn’t have the best eyesight,” said Mr. O’Connor. “One of us needs to guard the farm. If you go, you can take refuge if you run out of time.”
            I asked, “Why can’t Pasha stay overnight at this church place?”
            “I don’t know how they do it in New Dormcourt,” said Mr. O’Connor, “but at the Hidden Gorge Temple, only women, girls, and young boys can take refuge. Once your balls drop the priests don’t want you no more. Now get in, don’t waste any more time. Orla, go at a trot and only gallop them when you have to.”
            Orla got in the driver seat and I sat in the backseat. Orla waved the reins and the horses took off at a steady pace. The sun had set and it was now dusk. In the early dusk, the alien landscape twinkled in the soft glowing light. We rolled off the O’Connor farm, past the trading post and village square, and onto the open road.
            The lemon-colored grass grew sparser. The farther down the road we went, the sandier the ground became. Orla checked her pocket watch. “Well I hope you’re happy Noah. I can’t do the kind of math Pasha’s parents taught him, but I reckon we’ll get caught in the dark on the way home. Thanks a lot.”
            “It’s not like I told him to go pray for me past his curfew.”
            Orla spun her head around almost as good as an owl. She had a sarcastic, forced smile on her face. “Oh, so you do know that’s why he went to church on such a late last half day. You’re smarter than you pretend to be, aren’t you?”
            A tall needle of rocks came up ahead. The horses rode around it with no command. Orla’s pigtails swayed in the wind as she stared back at me. The carriage rocked and I grabbed onto the seat to stop myself from falling over. “I’m not pretending to be anything.”
            “Then what are you up to Noah? Who are you really? Why in Urukon’s lair did you just decide to show up and pry into our lives?”
            “I’m a swimmer, okay? That’s all I am. I was on my high school swim team and my psycho teammates didn’t like that I liked guys and was better than them, so they locked me in a fucking tunnel underneath a dam. I tried to swim out through it, and now I’m on this crazy alien planet.”
            “Ugh! Why couldn’t you have just taken your madness someplace else?”
            “How about Earth? Can I go back to Earth please?” I punched my fists into my seat and closed my eyes. “Please just take me back to Earth! I want to go back to Earth! I can’t stand this place anymore. I want to go back to Earth! I don’t care where, just anywhere but this place! I’m tired of being called a queer fool by you people. I miss getting called faggot and cock sucker, and even getting called queer where it meant I was a faggot and not just whatever you people mean by it. I’ll do anything, just get me out of this world!”
            I opened my eyes. Orla was staring at me with a disturbed look on her face. Boots and Skedaddle pulled us into the ruins of a temple complex that was built in-between the two parallel mesas. There were sophisticated buildings carved into the cliff sides. In the gorge, columns held up arches of now roofless buildings. Shafts of pillars laid broken off their pedestals and leaned against the cliffs. A stone ramp extended from one of the buildings that was carved into the cliffsides. Torches were lit along the ramp, casting fiery orange light in the waning dusk glow.
            Orla took a deep inhale through her nose. She looked up the ramp and exhaled. “Noah, just, go inside and get Pasha before nightfall. He’ll be in the men’s chambers, I’m not allowed in. Hurry.”
            I climbed out of the carriage. The sparkling glow of dusk was being replaced by shadows. I stepped on the stone ramp and looked at Orla. She was still staring at me. I turned back towards the ancient building ran up the ramp.




To be continued

this is quite the story!

[Image: 51806835273_f5b3daba19_t.jpg]  <<< It's mine!
[-] The following 1 member Likes CellarDweller's post:
  • Chase

Finished chapter 1, just started chapter 2. Looking forward to what's going to happen next  Smile
<<<<I'm just consciousness having a human experience>>>>

Well, Noah has certainly ended up in the twilight zone, hasn't he!  Big Grin

I have a horrible feeling that bad things are about to happen when night actually falls. I'm getting that vibe...

I still haven't figured out Pasha's mask thing either.

Great story so far  Smile
<<<<I'm just consciousness having a human experience>>>>

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