The Soulsplicer Secret (The Barrowman Remix #7, End Of The Barrowman Remix)
I come online like the operative-system of an old computer– that is to say slowly and with great effort. I find myself lying on one of the loveseats on the upper floor, naked except for my underwear. I have got written symbols on me in something that better be dried red paint…. and I am wearing a tie. A pink tie– like something out of the Village People.
Greyscale and Hermann are sleeping in respective loveseats next to me. Greyscale opens one green eye, and glances at me. He nudges Hermann. “He’s awake.” Hermann gets up and puts one hand on my forehead. Concern is stamped on his face.”Are you alright-” And Nature makes its call known in the most embarassing way possible. I put a hand in front of Hermann’s face and I launch myself from the loveseat.
I breeze through the upper plane of the villa–
—I fling open the door to the bathroom
— I throw away the toilet-seat and pull down my boxers—“Dear God in heaven…..!”
Ten minutes later, relieved of some of my worries, not to mention some other things, I enter the kitchen. I note that there are three glasses and one tea-cup on the table, and yet only Greyscale and Hermann are here. Did they have visitors? And what’s that… that perfume? Where did I smell it?
Elena? No. Nevena? No, this perfume is more mature…. and as said soon as I have thought that very word, I know who the owner is. Perenelle Flamel. My French teacher. Now that’s interesting.
I sit down at the kitchen table. Greyscale and Hermann plonks down next to each other. Nobody says anything. For a moment I want to offer a clever quip, one to Greyscale, along the lines that ‘you owe me some answers’, but a part of me, a small part, don’t want to know. I don’t like this. It feels…. it feels like things are changing, changing too fast. Like someone has slipped the rug from beneath my feet. I don’t like change– I don’t like it at all, but I like being in the dark even less– does that make sense?
Hermann breaks the armistice first. “I am sure that you have questions, indeed, you always have been a nosey child. But I have-”
Pling. Hermann smiles, smiles carefully. “That would be the pizzas I ordered from Charlie’s.” He nods to Greyscale, who gets the hint and brings back three steaming pizzas.
He puts one the pizzas in front of me. “You were saying?”, I interject. ” Questions. There are a couple of questions you need to answer, and after that we will tell you everything. But first–tell us everything that happened from the moment when you lost consciousness.”
So I do that. I tell them about my time spent in Limbo, about the fight against the dragon. I confess to what happened when Jacob Tregaro’s killer attacked me– how his hand healed, how I accidently got some of his blood… in me. If Greyscale and Hermann are surprised about a man’s hand healing instantly then they are the world’s best actors. But when I mention the blood they both react; Hermann with something like hurt, hurt perhaps over the fact that I lied to him, and Greyscale with the calculation and sadness of someone who knows he is right, I think. The pedantic focus of Aspergers allows me to notice subtle ques about people, but at the same time I am socially blind, so I can’t interprete those very ques. It’s like being deaf in a world of opera-singers.
Hermann looks at Greyscale. “Do you want to start, or shall I?” “You do it. I know how to set stuff on fire and kill people. Explaining all this arcane stuff, that’s your forte.” Hermann looks at me. I have known Hermann my entire life, and in those fifteen years, I have never seen the expression on his face. It holds depths and untold things.
And then he starts to speak. I begin to eat. I am so focused on Hermann’s retelling of the last twenty-four hours that I don’t even notice finishing my pizza. I couldn’t even tell you what kind it was– if it had chicken, or taco-shells on it, or whatnot. And just like that, Hermann’s Twilight-Zone-esque story is over. I think about it.
“So… you’re telling me that I became sick by ingesting the blood of a ‘barrowman’– a human-weapon, artifically made like…. like something out of a Japanese anime involving crazy alchemists. And in order to cure the poison, you had to call my French and Swedish teachers, the school-nurse, who all by the way, are definitely not who they appear to be… in order splice Greyscale’s soul, using an ancient Norse ritual which was originally used to create berserkers, and I will have to carry this-” I hold up the pink tie”- for the rest of my life lest something really bad will happen and now… now you’re not quite certain what I am?” I try to keep the incredulity of my face, and out of my voice, but it’s hard.
They both nod.
But then I remember; clean slate, clean slate. And you know what? After the last day, after fighting something that shouldn’t exist, inside my soul, and being poisoned by something out of a Viking-legend, I am thinking I actually believe them. Almost. “Alright. Show me.” Greyscale looks surprised at me. “Show you what?” “Magic– show magic. All of the things that happened, except the barrowman healing and my blue lips, took place in either my dreams, or… ” I am not going to say soul “- elsewhere.”
Hermann gives Greyscale an permissive nod.
He extends his arm–
— and it transforms between heartbeats.
Plated skin now covers his arm, interlocked in small squares like armor. His skin is grey like an overcast sky, rather than Nidar’s usual pale skin. I look him in the face and I shy away without meaning to. Greyscale’s pupils have warped, becoming slitted portals to an alien mind– like the dragon in my soul. I touch the scaled arm with an hand. From biology-courses in junior-high, I expect his arm to feel cold like that of a fish, but it’s warm, like an mammal’s hand.
His skin… “My eye-patch– it’s made from your skin, isn’t it?”
Greyscale blinks in the affirmative, and his pupils become normal, and his hand is covered in hair and normal pale skin once more. Hermann takes a kitchen knife and makes an incision on his hand. The wound heals rapidly, before my eyes, like an time-lapse speeded up. Greyscale grabs a sanitary wipe and throws it in the air. He opens his mouth and a stream of fire later, the wipe is ash on the wind.The heat from the resulting blast fire actually stings my face.
I hold one hand up. “Okay, enough, enough. I believe you.” I actually say the words. “Magic is real.” Which leads me to– ” Question number two, what exactly is magic?”
Hermann chuckles. “That is an excellent question– and to actually answer it, not an easy one.” He pauses, with an consterned, thinking expression. “Every celestial body out there, be they planet, moon or small asteroid have their own gravity, right?” I nod. ” Magic is like the gravity field which all of those things have. To employ an analogy; a normal human is an asteroid; unaware and unknowing of his of hers nascent power; someone like me or Greyscale is a moon; we have our own magic, a small piece of it; a magic-user, a shaman, a witch, a onmyouji is more like a full-sized planet.”
“So… magic is a force, a force which everyone has,but it lies dormant. And supernaturals have access to this.. field?” Hermann and Greyscale both nod with emphasis. “It didn’t used to be like that”, Hermann adds with a look at Greyscale, who adds his fifty scent. “A long time ago, I have heard it told from someone who lived in those very ancient times, before Man built cities of wood, brick or stone, magic was much more common. The era of Enlightment did many great and wonderful things to mankind, but it was the final nail as far as the mystical tradition goes. There are few people left who have magic, and even fewer who can teach man to awaken that potential.”
My brain makes one of those jumps, and something strikes me. “That thing I fought inside my soul– the dragon, it was a piece of your soul, right?” Greyscale nods. “Does that mean that you’re a dragon?” I can’t believe I missed that connection.” Can you shapeshift? And that ritual…. what… will happen to me now? Will I have magic?”
Greyscale holds up one finger. “One; my kind, the First Flight, we don’t really like the D-Word. I have a name you can use, you know. Otherwise you can call me wyrm, but try not to use ‘dragon’. Two; yes, this shape is one I use to blend in. I don’t know what you saw in the Ritual, but let’s just say the original is much, much more frightening, and people have exchanged pitchforks for nukes these days. Third; you’re becoming a berserker, we think. But don’t worry– I am going to help you get your powers under control. And fourth?”
He pauses for air.
“I don’t actually know. The abilities you will gain and develop are the result of my soul and your soul uniting. Other than that?” He shrugs. “Who knows.”
I think furiously. “If Greyscale is a d-, is a wyrm, then what are you, Hermann?” The subject of my query looks bit troubled by the question . “I am a man who was not born of woman, and that’s all I am going to say. Suffice to know that I am mostly human, unlike our serpentine friend here.” I think about asking him more question, but he used that stubborn tone, and there’s no changing that.
“You said magic-users, like witches and the like. What more is out there?” “Oh, you’d be surprised”, Hermann says with laughter in his eyes.
Taking that as a challenge I sprout the names of various supernatural groups I have heard about.
“Vampires.” “Real– but not like the movies or the books. In the old days we refered to them as soulless. The modern term is sociopath, I believe.”
With a sudden hopefulness I ask, “Ghosts?” Hermann just looks at me. “Yes– and before you ask, no. There are ways to communicate with the dead, but bringing someone back, truly bringing someone back, not like the half-life that a reanimator or even worse, a necromancer can gift, is something reserved for gods.”Still…..
“Werewolves? “Real. We got one larger pack in Northern Sweden, and another in Värmland, which is close enough, mind you. Werewolves come in all kinds and shapes, but the problem with them is that they’re always testing the limits, how far they can push it, which makes their company tiresome to say the least.”
I put a finger on the tie–
–and it turns into pink quicksilver, before reforming into a equally pink necklace. “Tell me again; what would happen if I were to take this… what did you call it?” “Gleipnir, it’s a gleipnir. It’s a prison, a connecting tape, a bridge all at the same tme, and as to what would happen if you were to take it off?” Hermann pricks Greyscale with a finger. “Ouch!” He gives Hermann a hurt look. ” Don’t take it off. Take it off– and well, you know that scene in Aliens?” I wince. “Got it. No taking of the pink necklace thingy. One more question though.” “Yeah?” “Why pink?” Greyscale throws up his hand in a bereft movement. “Why do you all ask that?! Pink is the traditional colour, dammit.
I wonder what that’s about…
“Fae?” ” A good chunk of them live in a place that you can’t exactly reach by train, and the part that live here… if you ever encounter one, then smile, distrust them from the bottom of your heart, and never, ever thank them. For anything. They’re the Annie Wilkes’ of the supernatural world.”
“You said gods??” “Now that’s a tricky part of our world. There are beings out there, beings of immense power and while they can be…called upon with the right incentive, they can also be violent and capricious. The good part is that they’re limited by rules, rules they may never break, but within in those.. rules, well, they’re gods.”
I mull on that for a while. “Gigantic beings that will crush mankind?” “I know that there is a vulcanic spirit sleeping below Etna, and that somewhere in the South Pacific lies a city which was inhabitated by something that makes Greyscale look cuddly.” “Hey!”
“I-” I yawn. “Is there-” I yawn again. Suddenly I am tired. Deadbeat. “You know what– all of this will take some time for me to absorb.” If I can ever reconcile my world-view.” In the meanwhile I think I am going to take a nap.” “Do so.”
I walk down to the lower level, and my room, my bed. Before I know it, I am out cold.
Greyscale and Hermann sit in the kitchen, both a bit shaken after the events of the day. Greyscale blanches suddenly. “What?” “There is one thing that struck me… regarding the Ritual.” Hermann looks inquisitively at him. “The berserkers of old lived human lives, human lifetimes, because their souls were melded to the souls of ordinary beasts. But in Rune’s case… Rune’s soul is united with a soul that is essentially immortal. So how will he age?”
Hermann groans. “I had not thought about that.” Greyscale calms him down, even if he himself is haunted by the same anxiety. “Well– no idea to worry now. When the issue arise, we will deal with it.”
Greyscale leans back in the chair, slowly sipping on a beer.
Tiresias, you better be right. Dead or not, I will find you and hurt you if you’ve played me for a fool. I have done things now, terrible things, things I cannot take back.