Previously in RESUME GOD: Stuck at a job interview, Carl wasn’t able to respond to Gisae’s summoning. Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem, except that Kaerbani demons of a like never seen before massacred Gisae’s village and turned her father into an permanent icon of corruption.
Part Eight (of Nine)
“It was terrific,” Carl said into the hands-free phone mic. “I mean, I was worried from the android waiting room that it was going to be all corporate and unfriendly, but once I got in to see Dom… that’s what Mr. Herrick said to call him, it was… well, just terrific.”
“I’m so glad,” Mindy’s voice came from the earpiece. “I had a good feeling about this one.”
“Well, your feeling was right. This would be so great if I got it. The art department there is this huge round room with everyone in a big circle so you can look around and get inspired from watching what everyone else is doing. And they want me to create a unified style for the whole book line from the ground up.”
“See? I told you this would eventually come together. You just had to put in the time.”
At the mention, Carl glanced at his watch. It was 4:51, which explained the traffic that was making the trip home interminable. No, Carl corrected himself, it was the lack of any further sense from Gisae that was making time creep so slowly. He wanted to get home, to get to the chair, to get to Nataal… to make sure everything was okay. The traffic was just making it worse, like a long Christmas Eve service when all you wanted was to get home and get to sleep so Santa could bring morning presents.
“Still there, hon?” Mindy asked.
“Huh? Yeah, still here.”
“Well, I was going to ask if you could maybe make dinner when you got home. We can celebrate our good news.”
“I… can’t we just order something? Maybe pizza?”
Mindy sighed. “I’d really like to do something nice… maybe we could go out.”
Going out meant no time for Nataal, and Carl needed to make sure the panic he had felt earlier wasn’t still an issue.
“No, no, I’ll make something.”
“Great. We can even eat at the dining room table if you clean it off… maybe candles?”
“Sure,” Carl agreed to whatever Mindy had said. A jerk in a black BMW had just pulled in front of Carl from the shoulder, assuming that he was the most important person on the road. Carl flipped him off with the Nataalian finger.
“Great! I’ll see you when I get home, hon!”
“See you then…” Carl clicked the headset off and started weaving in and out of the traffic himself.
It took thirty-three more minutes to get home. Mindy usually arrived between six and six-fifteen, so that gave Carl about half an hour to get things together.
Carl put on a pot of water to boil, shaking too much salt into it. He grabbed two bags of pasta out of the cabinet and set them on the counter next to the stove. By the time the water was boiling, he’d be back from Nataal.
Running into the office, he leapt into the chair like he was trying to avoid getting his leg grabbed by a monster living underneath it. Usually dropping into Nataal was a relaxing, sinking feeling. Today he dove.
As soon as his head broke the metaphoric water, he could see that things were worse than he had thought. Much worse.
There were a dozen hot points of Kaerbani incursion. None of them were as large as a usual attack, but from his first person omniscient viewpoint, Carl could see that they had been. It was as if the open Kaerbani wounds were surrounded with scar tissue, the very fabric of the microverse hardened and scabrous around them.
Carl had meant to descend and incarnate directly to Gisae, but he paused in the over-verse for a moment to try to fully understand what had happened to his world. When Kaerbanus attacked Nataal, they brought with them new laws of physics, new rules. Fortunately, once the assault was driven back, Nataal reasserted itself, healed itself, became Nataal again.
What Carl was seeing now was different.
Whatever had happened while he was interviewing for, oh, such a great job, had left tiny holes in his universe. Like a surgical drain tube kept a wound from fully closing, these new Kaerbani rifts prevented Nataal from recovering.
Carl needed to see one close up, to get a mortal view. He also needed to find Gisae to learn exactly what had happened. Unfortunately, he was in luck, because her light and the hot needle pain of a Kaerbani taint were both at the same place. The stonewave village of her tribe.
Carl forced out the cosmic awareness and compressed his consciousness down, down into the microscopic universe. The Kaerbani threat still present, Carl collected around himself an armor of strangelets. The heavy particles would decay rapidly in a reality state, but Carl didn’t know what he would find. He also brought more potency than he usually felt comfortable wielding. He wouldn’t be able to manifest for as long like this, probably no more than a half an hour. Carl hoped it would be enough.
Nataal rose around him and it was horrible.
The perfect circles of the village had changed. Once the bones of the earth swept beautifully in wave-like arcs to shelter her people. Now the stone was a porous and pustulent material, ichorous filth dripping from it. The circles themselves were wrong, too. Symmetry and the transcendental perfection of pi had been replaced with something decidedly non-Euclidean that Carl couldn’t even look at without his mind rejecting it.
The air had the acrid taste of Kaerbanus and it refracted light irregularly, making it hard to see. It didn’t matter. Carl didn’t need to see to sense the offense against the universe that was before him.
He stepped forward, his feet crunching in the porous earth.
It was at the center of the village… or whatever the equivalent of “center” was for the uncircles of Kaerbanus. A seething knot of corruption tied around the laws of nature floated several feet above the burned earth, a twisted blasphemy of life.
What had once been a man was now a living banner, stabbed into the universe to claim this place for the Invader Realm. Carl could feel Kaerbanus flowing out of the abomination like a foul breeze, sizzling against the strangelets that protected him.
The voice came from behind him, the words pure Nataalian free of taint but no less full of hate.
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.