Bear and Mouse: The Case of The Occult Vessels

Bear and Mouse: The Case of The Occult Vessels

A Story by M.A.Alexander
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The paranormal investigation duo of Jacqueline Mouse and her partner Bear are hired by a dodgy scientist to translate some ancient texts

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September 2059

Monday, 12:15

Somewhere in New York City


In an alley down another alley along a smoky street between an overgrowth of concrete buildings was a tiny workshop through an old and rusty door. Outside it people, some unsavoury and some downright bitter, rambled about their daytime business, their feet dragging on the dark gray pavement, crackling over piles of trash and clanging over manhole covers. The neon and electric signs hanging from every ramshackle wall were silent, lightless, listless much like the throngs below them; their time would come once the sun had set when they would spring to nauseatingly garish life.

Behind the old and rusty door inside a room that was all kitchen, bed and living room at once, stood Bear and Mouse forgoing their host’s offer of spindly, grime covered chairs. They stood out in this place like marble sculptures on a rubbish heap; Bear clad in his enormous, classic suit and Jacqueline Mouse adorned, rather than simply dressed, in a deep burgundy frock and matching bell-shaped hat.

“‘Bear and Mouse Investigations: knowledgeable and professional.’ That’s what your advertisement says.” said Doctor Klein, though here now in his dishevelled little home, talking to the dishevelled little man of mousy disposition, it wasn’t hard to call his doctorate into question.

“‘Knowledgeable and professional.’ ” He repeated as he shook out his matted, ash grey hair. Dust fell from it like powder snow off of a slanted roof.

“I know a few things about being both those, eh, things. It’s hard to find good help these days though.” The doctor grinned a grin which stretched his already long face into a harlequin shape, there was a sort of dopey mischief to that smile, a school child's sort of impishness.

“We’re always happy to help.” Chimed Jacqueline pleasantly, not at all put out by her surroundings. Bear grunted in approval, though he was less circumspect about eying the mold covered dishes in an equally cultured sink across the room.

“Ah, an experiment of sorts. Cataloguing how distracted a man working alone can get.” Said Klein noticing Bear’s line of sight. Bear grunted again, a general dismissive sound.

The doctor wrung his hands, sitting on his stained couch as if unsure on how to proceed, eying Mouse cautiously, watching her watch the place with amiable nonchalance.

“I have writings that need translating.” He said, “Sumerian I think? Or ‘Toan? I’m not sure, some ancient tribal.”

“Bear is a talented linguist.” said Mouse eagerly.

“I love words.” Said Bear.

“Uh-huh,” Doctor Klein nodded, “that’s good to hear.”

He jumped to his feet, suddenly catalyzed, and beckoned his visitors towards a shabby looking door at the back of his room. From inside his stained lab coat he produced a heavy keyring bearing at least a dozen keys and proceeded to insert each into the door in a seemingly random pattern. Each time he did so there was a faint stream of blue light from inside the keyhole followed by a pleasant chime, until with the last key the door swung open by itself revealing a stairwell behind it.

“Scanning lock, twelve keys, I made it myself.” He said proudly once the ritual was done. His houseguests smiled back reassuringly.

As the doctor led Bear and Mouse down a winding metal staircase, deeper and deeper below the city streets, he chattered half to himself about his situation.

“It’s not that I can’t get any number of post-grads, even with the Mars situation and all the sub-stellar drive rigmarole, but how many of them would be as understanding of supernatural matters as you?” He shrugged at the thought. “It’s all one hundred percent science with people these days, with me too if I am being honest, but you can’t deny there are some forces yet unmeasured going entirely ignored by the greater scientific community.” He had lingered on the word “forces,” imbuing it with a gravity Mouse found amusing.

“I’ve hit a wall.” He said when he reached the bottom of the stairs in a musty, web choked basement. Crates of long decaying wood took up the space under the stairwell and Bear had time to note a gloopy dampness on the floor while his host repeated the key-to-door ritual on a doorway ahead.

Behind it was a workshop entirely unique, a sort of shrine embroidered with machinery. There were workbenches here strewn with all manner of tools and engineering implements, consoles ripe with dials and blinking lights, and wiring so dense it hung like vines from the ceiling. The air however, the atmosphere, the cadence of the feeling of the place was not unlike an oratory. Dotted around the room were brass and silver censers exuding heady purple incense which pooled above the rafters in a cloying mist, its odour flowery and juicy like a broth of boiling daffodils. There was a feathered orb on a rickety pedestal at the centre of the room and several wheeled worktables surrounded it, each covered with robotic body parts. Half assembled, almost dissected, mechanical skeletons hung from the walls, their innards exposed and wired into computers of mysterious design.

A tear shaped skull with a solid plate where its mouth should be stared silently from one of the tables, its pinprick ice blue eyes rolling quietly to greet its guests.

The doctor hurried across the room, a place at least three times as large as his actual living space, to a bookshelf packed with data-tablets and loose parchment. With scroll in hand he shuffled back to Bear and Mouse who still stood near the doorway, trying to make sense of this fragrant laboratory.

“Here it is,” Klein said as he stuffed the scroll into Bear’s grasp, “a treatise on a universal, frictionless lubricant. I have another on the electrical potential of the human soul but I think this one is a good place to start.” The doctor was excited, animated, a different man now that he was at work.

Bear looked from the man to the paper in his hands, several times, to be sure, then looked to Mouse for help. The scroll was blank, save for a few scribbled notes presumably the work of Doctor Klein himself. He turned it over several times then said as much to his benefactor.

“Ah yes,” Klein rushed once again to his bookshelf and then returned with a hefty tome bound in soot black scales.

“Read this first.” He said excitedly. “As a sort of primer.”

This time Bear looked to Mouse before taking the offered reading material. Jacqueline reached out to touch the book, caressing it with her mind as well as her hands. There was a swirl of rose and navy energy around the thing, a languid, lingering fragment of intelligence tangled up in a confusing void.

“It’s vague.” She said, shrugging. Bear nodded and took the book, opening it on a random page. He held it open on his palms so as to give Mouse a chance to read it too, leaning curiously over his broad arm as she did so. The script was wholly pictographic, full of curved and pointed shapes unlike any written language the six foot three linguist had ever seen.

“It’s not Sumerian.” Began Bear, and trailed off as he noticed his partner, one hand on the pages, mumbling to herself as her eyes flew across the script.

Jackie was in there now, in the guts of the thing, her mind using the peculiar, eldritch shapes as signposts on a journey through a wider plane of knowledge. There were secrets here made up entirely of occult gibberish; there were instructions, guidelines...recipes? Along with notes on perpetual telepathy were step by step directions on how to make some delicious chocolate buns. Knowledge both esoteric and practical danced on the canvas of the tome’s pages, some of it benign and some of it drenched in blood and terror, and all of it rushing by faster and faster like a carousel of madness.

“What the f**k.” Jackie mumbled.

“Exactly!” Exclaimed Doctor Klein. “There is so much!”

Jacqueline’s eyes brushed against some handmade notes, English letters crammed into the otherworldly script like grains of salt inside a bowl of sugar. “Automaton.” “Receptacles.”

“Here we go.” Thought Jackie. She separated her hand from the book with somewhat of a struggle and looked to the orb at the centre of the room. It was pure glass, entirely transparent except for a small swirl of marble like colour at its centre, the same hues she had sensed from the book.

“He wants to download the book into his machines.” Said Jackie to her partner. “With that.” she added pointing to the orb.

“Precisely!” Cried the scientist. “There is too much for a man’s brain to handle in there. Too much to parse. But if a machine could do the parsing for us…” He waved his hand at the laboratory behind him, at the blinking, lifeless heads of a half a dozen alabaster coloured robots.

“I don’t think that’s a great idea.” Said Mouse.

“And why not?” Asked Klein.

“Most of the things in here are vile, pagan voodoo, seventeenth century mysticism, who knows how it’ll interact with your machines.”

“I know, I know.” Said Klein matter of factly, some of his enthusiasm deflated as he began pacing across the room.

“But think of the things in there that do not require ‘virgin blood’ or ‘fresh placenta.’ Think of all the notes that I have taken already from my brief exposure,” he gestured at his bookshelf, “the scientific marvels potentially locked within.”

“You heard my partner, we’re not helping you with that.” Said Bear.

“No no no,” the doctor replied turning on his heel to face his visitors, “you were here to translate. Translate the writings I was compelled to make at the insistence of the book. The download I have already begun.”

The doctor whispered words, words that were not words for no human tongue had ever given sound to these words before, and a putrid neon green filled the eyeballs of every robot in the room. The machine bodies hanging on the walls clambered down of their own volition, metal frames in close approximation to those of a man with the exception of their elongated, mouthless faces and dangling, literally wiry arms. Even before the things advanced a clunky step Bear had, with a deft twist of thumb and forefinger, undone the buttons of his suit jacket revealing a crisscrossed harness of four pistol holsters hanging from his shoulders. He pulled two of the weapons from their leather sheathes fluidly and took a step back, the speed of the act flaring his jacket loosely against the motion.

“No!” Cried Klein as the towering investigator fired. The muzzle flash of the handguns tore bright chunks of white and yellow into the inside the gloomy, lime green lighting of the room and the percussive bark of their discharge penetrated the doctor’s frenzied monologue.

“Idiots! I was going to show you, to invite you in!” The madman chanted. “To show you the wonders of my work. I did as the book bade me: made glass from the sand of a stormy beach, and spun it in an iron kiln stoked by the ashes of the dead.”

The gunfire popped loudly against the steel and ceramic shells of the possessed machines. They moved slow at first, some of them so perforated by the gunfire that they collapsed, the fell light drained from inside their mechanisms, but as their number dwindled so too did they become more agitated until only a few remained.

“I plucked the feathers from a nursing falcon and fused them to the glass, and spent three days and five nights standing vigil over it!” Shouted Klein, the orb on the pedestal pulsing wildly with the same light as the machines. “And then I worked, like no man had worked before. I built by hand a race of machine receptacles and they have become the vessels for the occult, harbingers and soothsayers of the future!”

A robot lunged, its gangly arm topped with a three pronged, double jointed claw which opened towards Bear as it flew towards him. He stood his ground and fired both his guns into the oncoming monstrosity, the bullets piercing its pallid head in a burst of debris and smoke, robbing it of animation in the process. From behind the robot’s falling skeleton came another, in the same way, with the same aggression, and Bear was caught by surprise and out of ammunition. The thing bowled into him, its claw pierced deep into his shoulder, though he still stood his ground, bleeding as he dropped a pistol and grabbed the machine by the face and began to twist.

“My future!” Doctor Klein continued, his beady eyes bulged out as far as they could go. “The future of a master craftsman, a scholar and a prophet!”

As his diatribe continued Klein’s robots stalked predatorily about Bear, who was still locked in a bloody grapple.

“And when the time comes I too will become a vessel, the once and future king of all the knowledge these machines have gathered.” The doctor rasped. A sickening crunch filled the air as Bear succeeded in wrenching his assailant's neck apart, dark oily fluid flowing from where the conduit snapped.

“You had a choice,” Klein whispered, “I didn’t ask you here to fire guns and threaten me.”

Two more machines charged Bear this time, he went for the pistol in the holsters lower on his torso and found one missing in the right one. The surprise caught him unprepared and both the robots slammed into him and forced his bulky frame onto the floor. There was a thud, as the tangle of man and machine hit the floor and the doctor cheered triumphantly.

“I AM AS UNTO A GO-” He wailed, then choked on the ending syllable of his proclamation, the sentiment drowned in a sticky flow of his own blood. Jackie Mouse stood spread legged, braced against the recoil of the smoking gun inside her hands, her hat askew, her short curled hair matted with sweat, a clear trajectory from the barrel of her weapon drawn to the now pierced throat of Doctor Klein.

Bear grunted on the floor, two robots worth of metal had grown limp quite suddenly and pinned him to the ground. He heaved them off his body and rose to his feet, panting.

“I couldn’t get a clear shot.” Mouse said, straightening her hat.

“You need to get a dress with pockets.” Replied Bear, retrieving his pistol from her hands.

On the floor, below the crumpled form of the late doctor lay the tome that was the architect of all the madness, soaking in its former master’s blood.

‘The Book of Many Things’” Said Jacqueline.

“I don’t think you get to name it.” Said Bear.

“I don’t think you understand how much was in it.” Said Jackie, moving to retrieve the thing.

“I have a good idea.” He replied, looking at the laboratory around him.


Somewhere in New York City deep below a smoky street was a laboratory clogged with musty incense, a bleeding man on its floor, an investigator duo collecting the fruits of his deranged experiments into piles, making sure no dangerous trinket remained to be forgotten and rediscovered by some poor soul. Later that day they would return with black bags marked “biohazard” and a “cleaner” friend of theirs would dispose of the body. Those bags were then consecrated and sealed within the catacombs beneath a church somewhere in Europe that wasn’t marked on any maps.


The End



© 2017 M.A.Alexander


Author's Note

M.A.Alexander
This one came about because I wanted "something with robots" for the setting. It's not my favorite but I guess it exists and that is a good thing. Unless you think its not. Tell me in the comments what you think.

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Added on July 22, 2017
Last Updated on July 27, 2017
Tags: Horror, Eldritch, Mad Science

Author

M.A.Alexander
M.A.Alexander

Dublin, Ireland



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M. A. Alexander is a struggling writer of zero renown and probably negative talent. Follow his page to witness his newest failures and inevitable break down more..

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