Hollow Moon Part 34
- Hollow Moon Part 1
- Hollow Moon Part 2
- Hollow Moon Part 3
- Hollow Moon Part 4
- Hollow Moon Part 5
- Hollow Moon Part 6
- Hollow Moon Part 7
- Hollow Moon Part 8
- Hollow Moon Part 9
- Hollow Moon Part 10
- Hollow Moon Part 11
- Hollow Moon Part 12
- Hollow Moon Part 13
- Hollow Moon Part 14
- Hollow Moon Part 15
- Hollow Moon Part 16
- Hollow Moon Part 17
- Hollow Moon Part 18
- Hollow Moon Part 19
- Hollow Moon Part 20
- Hollow Moon Part 21
- Hollow Moon Part 22
- Hollow Moon Part 23
- Hollow Moon Part 24
- Hollow Moon Part 25
- Hollow Moon Part 26
- Hollow Moon Part 27
- Hollow Moon Part 28
- Hollow Moon Part 29
- Hollow Moon Part 30
- Hollow Moon Part 31
- Hollow Moon Part 32
- Hollow Moon Part 33
- Hollow Moon Part 34
- Hollow Moon Part 35
Esk jumped at the thought waves being broadcasted by the collective consciousness. Slithering out of the glucose bath, he made his way to the Eskerektul Council’s chamber. As he traveled, a thought of his own occurred to him. The Reverend would have to be keeping the King Axolotl in a safe body of water somewhere. I wonder what color the King Axolotl is—grayish-brown or pinkish-white? He was free before they took him into captivity, so he would have to be more of a natural color. What do they feed him as they feed on him? Has he run out of food? I know he can eat small fish. Axolotls, for all their wonderful qualities, are still carnivores, after all…
“Esk, it is good to see you well. You looked quite rough when we saw you last,” the Council said as Esk entered their chamber.
“Yes, I was feeling quite ill and fatigued. I am better now. What can I do for the collective consciousness?” Esk asked.
“We have taken the liberty of reprogramming the memories of both of your captives while you were recuperating. The clones found large quantities of memories we would not want to be released among the rest of the species on Earth within their thought organs.”
Esk contracted in anger. He had specified that he and he alone wanted to perform the examinations and reprogramming of these two specimens. The clones?! Esk was sure they did such a hack job as to leave nothing of value remaining for him to work with. He was snapped out of his own spiraling thoughts by the Council.
“You seem displeased. We thought it best to have the humans examined and reprogrammed for you after a few days due to the degree of degradation in your DNA. You have had a rough time. What troubles you?”
“Those two captives’ memories were my only sure opportunity to find out where the King Axolotl may be, and by now it may well be too late to find him alive. The King Axolotl is the key to their ability to commune with the dead.”
“Do the Gossips know where this King Axolotl is?”
“I highly doubt that.”
“Then you must infiltrate their ranks and find the source of information you seek quickly, Esk. Take the ‘Communion’ and find the King Axolotl. Free him. You have your orders.”
Esk backed out in silence, still fuming about the collective consciousness’ irresponsible and irreparable acts. He went to find the clones who had worked on Lod and the Reverend. They could not remember. They were not designed to, as a matter of fact. To Esk’s further chagrin, they had already returned Lod and the Reverend to Fletcher.
Esk donned his armor easily and retracted it again to make sure he could do it. The baths had repaired the damage and cleaned his strands of the poison Lod had injected him with. Now he had to do damage control amongst the rest of the Fletcher’s population. What a nightmare… Esk forgot to ask the Council how long he had been in the baths. No matter. I must get back to Earth!
The Reverend made his way home from the outskirts of town. He found himself in his wife’s arms being kissed with such passion that he pushed her away in amazement.
“Jean! What… what’re ya’ doin’?” he asked, stunned.
“Well, I’m a’ welcomin’ ma’ lovin’ husband back home. Ain’t that clear ‘nough?” She approached him again.
The Reverend held out an arm to stay her advance. “Jean, what’s got inta’ ya’? I thought ‘cha hated me.”
“That Deacon Pritchard’s a’ tryin’ ta’ take over yer church an’ oust ya’. Yer not gonna let ‘im do that, are ya’?”
“Then let’s get ta’ that church, Honey!” Jean grabbed him by the arm in a death grip and dragged him down the street to the meeting taking place at that very moment.
“Where have ya’ been, Severius?” the warden asked. His tone was one of angst and frustration with a hint of concern.
“I… I don’t know, Warden. Really don’t know.”
“You drunk, Doc?”
“No, Sir, I most certainly am not drunk. My stupor of thought is not drug-induced, either, for your information. No. I’m just having trouble thinking at the moment.”
“Too much work with them psychopaths, if ya’ ask me. Look, Severius, I know we don’t get along, but I’m worried ‘bout ‘cha. Ya’ ain’t been showin’ up fer work, ya’ been in at odd times, and Esk ain’t been around neither. Ya’ do somethin’ ta’ that boy, Severius? ‘Cause if’n ya’ hurt that Esk fella, I’m gonna make sure you end up in this prison under my personal watch, ya’ hear?”
“How long was I gone?”
“I stopped keepin’ track a while ago.”
Esk translated himself directly into his recliner in Sam’s cabin. Sam woke with a start.
“Esk!” Sam leaped out of his chair and fell on Esk, squishing him into the plush piece of furniture. “Buddy! Yer alive! I been so worried ‘bout ‘cha!” A muffled voice spoke from beneath his body and he realized Esk was talking to him. Sam let him up and squeezed him so tightly that Esk thought he would burst his armor.
“Yes, Sam, I am okay.”
“Where ya’ been?”
“I have been recovering.”
“Did somethin’ bad happen?”
“No, just, um… regular maintenance.”
“Oh, like angel maint’nance. I get it. Gotta go see the Almighty once in a while, right?”
“Right. I have missed you. I have missed my recliner.”
“Aw, I thought somethin’ God-awful’d happened ta’ ya’. They’re havin’ a meetin’ ‘bout that preacher at the church t’night, seein’ if’n they can get rid a’ him. I think that’d be the best thing, don’t you?”
Esk’s eyes opened wide. “Take me to the church, Sam! Hurry!”
Sam and Esk piled into Sam’s pickup, and Sam fired it up. Grinding the gears, they spun out, getting up to speed toward town. Sam knew better than to ask questions right now. Esk had to get to that church for some reason. That was all Sam needed to know.
The Deacon Pritchard was enumerating the reasons why the Reverend Bandersnatch was no longer fit to lead the congregation at the pulpit when the doors at the back of the chapel flew open. There, panting, stood the Reverend, the Chief Gossip, Sam Wilkins, and Esk.
“Stop!” yelled all four at once.
The Gossips began their frenzied chittering and the Deacon Pritchard fell silent. He moved to the side as the four interlopers made their way down the center aisle to the front. The minister’s wife took her seat in the left front pew alone. Esk and Sam split off and sat in the front right pew. The Reverend Bandersnatch ascended the steps to the stand and settled himself in front of the microphone.
“Please. I’d like ta’ speak a few words, then I’ll let ‘cha all make yer decisions here. I’ve been outta my mind lately. That, I’ll admit. I ain’t been doin’ the work a’ the Lawd. Ain’t been servin’ like I should. I been worried ‘bout things that ain’t none a’ my bus’ness and actin’ a fool, and I’m sorry ‘bout all that. If’n ya’ can give me one more chance, I can do better. I promise. If’n ya’ can’t, then I hope the new preacher, whoever he ends up bein’, can preach forgiveness fer me.” The Reverend tearfully looked around and then bowed his head, stepping away from the pulpit.
Esk, to everyone’s surprise, stood and took the stand. He took the Reverend by the shoulder and led him back up in front of the congregation. A hush fell over the flock of Gossips.
“This man deserves another opportunity to lead you. I need him to teach me the ways of your religion. If he can teach me your ways so that I can become one of you, then I ask that you keep him as your leader for the duration of time it takes him to do so. After that, you may do as you wish with him. Please consider this. Thank you.” Esk stepped away from the Reverend and left him at the edge of the stand as the Deacon Pritchard inched toward the pulpit again.
“We were jist about ta’ vote, Reverend. That okay with you?” Pritchard asked.
The Reverend nodded and stood looking at the floor with his hands clasped in front of his body. No one moved.
“All in favor of keepin’ the Reverend Bandersnatch as our pastor, please stand.”
The Reverend closed his eyes. Esk, from his position in the front, stood first, then looked around. Sam stood up beside him, then the Chief Gossip stood. One by one, slowly yet confidently, each member of the congregation stood until everyone except the Deacon Pritchard was standing. He looked up and saw that the minister still had his eyes closed. The Deacon Pritchard stood and surveyed the crowd. Not one soul was sitting down.
“Open yer eyes, Reverend, fer yer eyes’ve been opened,” said Pritchard, stepping down from the stand.