Hollow Moon Part 5
- 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
Esk stood before the Council and gave his report. He told them of Jean Bandersnatch’s examination and reprogramming, along with the same for Deacon Pritchard. He attempted to continue his report, but the Council interrupted.
“Why did they need examination and reprogramming?” they asked in their collective essence.
Esk was hesitant to tell them the reason for his decision.
“Council, it was necessary to examine and reprogram the Bandersnatch woman because she was a danger to my identity’s secrecy. She is the Chief Gossip.” Esk fidgeted uncomfortably.
“The Chief Gossip must be preserved in her native form if you are to discover how the Gossips communicate with their dead. Did you remove this ability from the Chief Gossip during reprogramming?”
“No, I did not. I left the abilities of Chief Gossip Bandersnatch alone except for her sociopathy. The sociopathy was the danger to our race,” Esk said.
Esk knew that altering her sociopathy could well have ended her communication with the dead. Esk would soon find out, though. First, he had to convince the Council that his mission had not been compromised.
“Very well,” said the Council, satisfied, “and what of the Deacon Pritchard?”
“He was also examined and reprogrammed. He was interfering with the Chief Gossip’s communication with the dead through what they call ‘prayer’ and had to be deterred from being in her presence.”
Their sordid affair disgusted Esk, but that was none of the Council’s concern.
“Continue your mission, Esk. Well done. Make sure that the Chief Gossip Bandersnatch and Deacon Pritchard do not alarm the rest of the humans with whatever memories they may have of their visit here.”
Esk bowed before the Council in his armor and walked to a different chamber, contemplating his next move. Sam would be home from work by now and cooking supper for the two of them. He must return and find out from Sam what the local Gossips were saying about Bandersnatch and Deacon Pritchard. Esk needed to assess how much damage control he must carry out.
Deacon Pritchard was taken to the emergency department at the local hospital. The catatonic man gazed off into space, as if trying to speak with his eyes. No one could hear his internal screaming or feel the pressure moving through his body as the DNA masses examined and fixed things inside him. He relived the memories in real time as the trauma ate away at his mind. When Esk heard the news of Deacon Pritchard, he was both pleased and saddened. The Eskerektu had done irreparable damage to this human, which was against their nature and their creed. They had caused him trauma. For this, Esk was angry with his collective Council’s mind. How could they not know that this human was more vulnerable than others were? One peek inside his brain should have alerted the collective Council to this fact. Esk would take the matter up before the Council later during his next report. He felt he must.
The Chief Gossip Bandersnatch was a different situation to be dealt with—a different monster, if you will. That woman could not keep her mouth shut and seemed to have what Sam called “a memory like an elephant” regarding what she could recall about the entire affair.
“Oh, ma’ Lawd, ya’ shoulda’ seen what I seen!” Bandersnatch exclaimed to the other old women at the luncheon the following Saturday afternoon. “There was these piles of stringy goo balls a’slitherin’ towards me, an’ then they, well, they went in ta’ places that nothin’ ought rightly t’be a’goin’ and I could feeeel ‘em movin’ all through ma’ body like them blood clots that cause them strokes that’cha see on T-V, an’—” on and on she prattled like a little kid with all the goods on everyone in the class.
The Gossips’ intense attention proved to Jean Bandersnatch that she was weaving a tale worth telling and retelling all over town.
“What did the stroke balls feel like, Jean?” one of the oldest of the parishioners asked, clutching her aluminum cane with both hands.
“Well, there ain’t nothin’ ta’ worry ‘bout less’n one of ‘em gets ahold a’ ya’,” came the reply.
Oohs and aahs echoed through the stale air of the stuffy church hall. Chitter-chatter and jibber-jabber of all kinds started up amongst the ladies as the Reverend came in to announce that their fundraiser should not be overlooked during the meeting later that night. His wife gave him a dirty look—clear evidence that he had interrupted her banter about something important, or important to her.
“We’ll get to it when we gets to it,” the Chief Gossip snapped.
The Reverend retreated to his study as if it were a bomb shelter before he could be berated any further by the horrid creature—his one true love in life.
“We missed the Saturday luncheon, Esk,” Sam said, fixing himself a piece of burnt toast. “How do ya’ figure you’ll do if we go back ta’ church t’morrow? Ya’ wanna try it? Be honest, now.”
“Yes, Sam, I would like to go to church with you. Will the Gossips be there as well?”
Sam guffawed and slapped Esk on the back of his upper torso armor.
“Ya’ just can’t get over them ole biddies, can ya’, Esk? They ain’t no problem for me. “They been talkin’ ‘bout me like they do fer years now. Yer awful protective a’ me, ya’ know that? I like you, Esk. I like ya’ a whole lot.”
Esk dressed in the gray suit that Sam had given him and felt strange in actual clothing—constricted, as he had before. Am I claustrophobic? I live in space, not in a suit of clothing. How do I handle this anxiety? Esk turned to alert Sam to his plight, but found Sam smiling at him in his own Sunday best, ready to go to church. Sam had not attended church regularly since his mother died three years earlier. Esk overheard the Gossips talking about his mother last time they were in the chapel together. He was curious to find out how this prayer and communing with the dead worked, even if he did have to do it in restrictive clothing.
Sam and Esk proceeded to the church, where the Gossips were all standing, huddled together in groups of three and four waiting to get in and shed their coats. I wonder why Sam and I never shed our coats? I must ask him later. Esk made a mental note. He had infinite space in his collective mind to do so.
The old biddies—the Gossips—were at it the moment they spotted Sam and Esk approaching the building. The two of them passed by the Chief Gossip on their way to the front pew as they had the first time Esk attended church. Esk had his acoustic membranes finely tuned to the sound of Bandersnatch’s vocal sound waves and he could make out her voice at extraordinarily low levels of sound production.
“That’s him!” Jean Bandersnatch pointed at Esk as he turned his head to glance at the Gossips. “That-that…thing. It’s him. It’s Sam’s new friend!”
Esk buried his veiled cerebral cortex in his tendril bases and tapped his tendrils against his temples, wondering how he could have done such an awful job of patching the Chief Gossip’s conscience together. He would have to try again at his first opportunity. That night, perhaps, would be a good time. Esk was restless in his seat as he squeezed his thumb, where the emotion was pounding.
The service began with The Reverend glaring at Esk and Sam in a covert manner and then welcoming everyone to the event with a fake smile. The Gossips could not be silenced, as before, and continued their whisperings as the preacher began his message. The first hymn was to be sung momentarily. Esk realized that he did not know how to sing and panicked.
“Sam, I cannot sing,” Esk said in an urgent hushed tone.
“That’s okay, Esk. Ya’ just mouth the words and act like yer singin’. That’s what I do. Don’t worry ‘bout it.”
Esk did as Sam told him and tried to imitate the oral patterns of others around him that were actually singing. As a linguist, this was intriguing to him and he enjoyed it.
“When can we sing again, Sam?” Esk asked.
“We git ta’ sing sev’ral more times. Don’t worry, like I said—you’ll get the hang of it,” Sam said, beaming.
The Gossips’ volume was at a high chirp now and Esk noticed that Bandersnatch was mouthing something to the Reverend and pointing in Esk’s direction. Esk had managed to avoid the meet-and-greet portion of the session and had endured a hellfire-and-brimstone sermon. Then, the unthinkable happened.
“We wish to welcome a stranger to our fold today,” said the Reverend, “and he is causing quite a stir amidst the ladies of the membership. Would you please stand and introduce yourself, young man?”
The Reverend held out his hand toward Esk, beckoning him to rise and state his name and history. Esk remained glued to his seat and refused to move.
“I think the young man to be shy. Maybe he would grace us with the benediction at the end of the service. That would be wonderful. Thank you for volunteering, young man.” The Reverend was sly—as sly as his wife. The next thing the preacher said shocked Esk. “Let us pray…”
Pray?! Commune with their dead? Why, Esk did not know how to pray. That was, in fact, the reason he was at church to begin with—to learn how prayer worked. Sam came to Esk’s rescue, though, and began to pray, seeing that Esk was about to pass out from hyperventilation and fear.
“Dear Lawd, we praise Thee for this day…”
Esk, shocked, slipped out the back of the sanctuary while Sam was communing with the dead. He had to catch his breath. Sam communing with the dead? I don’t understand. I thought only the Gossips could do such a thing. My friend Sam can do it?! I can learn from him. Church adjourned and Esk was nowhere to be found. Sam felt sorry for his friend and incensed at the Reverend Bandersnatch, who accosted him on the way out.
“So, Sam, your new friend,” the Reverend began, clapping Sam on the shoulder, “seems shy. What’s his name, again?”
“Why don’t’cha all stop pickin’ on him? Huh? Why ya’ gotta be so hateful all the time? I’ve had it with this church. My momma put up with an awful lot, I can see, an’ I’m not a’ goin’ t’put up with it. Just leave us alone, Reverend.”
Sam kept walking toward the door mumbling at The Reverend. Once outside, he noticed a teary-eyed Esk sitting at the bottom of the steps. Sam helped Esk up and the two of them walked home. Esk now had enough evidence to convince the Council to allow him to reprogram the Bandersnatches—both of them.
Image by Chouaib Saoud via Pixabay