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Captain Jack with the Flying Tigers

6 Oct

or
How Jack Harris Learned to Fly the Curtiss P-40B,
Why Twan Saw the Inside of a Powder Room, and
How They Found A Map

February 1941, Aerodrome Mingaladon, 12 km north of Rangoon

“Hand me that wrench, will you?” Jack gestured to the RAF flight mechanic.

“Do you mean the Spaniard?” asked the mechanic.

“What the hell?” Jack looked up from the 12-cylinder rotary 600 hp Curtiss engine he had nearly finished tuning up.

“Spaniard. You know, the bloody wrench,” asked the mechanic, annoyed.

“You mean spanner.”

“Spanner then, Yank. Whatever you say.”

“So the three-quarter inch ratchet, then?” Jack asked.

“Here ‘tis. Fresh from the box. Shiny as a new bride.” The mechanic handed over the wrench.

Jack peered up into the guts of the engine. All 12 cylinders needed fresh matching sparkplugs. Anything less, and the high compression aviation engine might just start to misfire in the middle of a dogfight. That could cost a man’s life. The margin between the P-40B and the Japanese Zero fighter was too thin for joking around, and the superior climbing rate of the Zero meant Jack’s P-40 needed every rpm it could muster.

Finally satisfied after fitting the last of the new spark plugs, Jack bolted down the engine cowling, jumped into the cockpit, and had the mechanic turn the propeller. The engine sputtered on the first try, then caught on the second and blazed to a throaty roar. Jack’s P-40 strained at its chocks, almost as if it wanted to jump into the air on its own.

Jack gestured thumbs up. The RAF mechanic pulled the chocks, and Jack’s P-40 shuddered forward onto the close-cropped grass runway. Jack turned her into the wind, got the go-ahead from the tower, and thundered off into the sun rising over the eastern mountains.

After adjusting to the sun low on the eastern horizon, Jack spoke to his trainer. “Okay, Tiger One, I’m airborne and heading due north climbing to 5,000 feet, bearing 210.”

The flight commander, radio ID Tiger One, responded immediately. “Tiger Four, you’re trailing white smoke. Abort flight, return to aerodrome.”

Jack looked into his rear view mirror. Blast! New spark plugs, and now an oil leak.

“Roger willco, Tiger One.”  Jack banked around carefully. In two minutes he would circle the aerodrome and set her down. Gently.

Jack set his course for a straight upwind landing. He was maybe 100 feet aloft, about to set down, when his radio crackled again. “If you don’t get those wheels down, Harris, I won’t even write your mother to explain how you ended up strawberry jam!”

Realizing he’d neglected to lower his landing gear, Jack, deeply embarrassed, tugged the lever and the wheels cooperated immediately. He brought his smoke-spewing P-40 to the ground, then taxied to a gentle stop in front of the maintenance hangar. Just as he was unhooking his safety belt, his radio crackled again.

“Report to the CO immediately, Harris.”

Well, there was always the saloon to fall back on, thought Jack as he made his way to the CO’s office.

Ex-RAF squadron chief trainer James L. “Jaimie” Harter, assistant to Col. Claire Chennault, commandant of the Flying Tigers, was standing behind his desk when Harris knocked, then entered the CO’s office.

“Harris?”

“Sir. Jack Harris, CAMCO trainee 2nd class.”

“Harris, you nearly pranged your kite this morning. Didn’t they teach you to check the undercarriage before final approach?”

“Yes, sir. No excuse sir.” Jack ignored the sweat dripping off his nose.

Harter said nothing for long seconds, puffing on an unfiltered Player, looked out the window at the line of Flying Tiger P-40s next to the hangar.

At last. “You’re a bloody fine natural pilot, Harris. See to it you don’t end up cracking up one of our P-40’s next time, what?”

“Yes, sir. Is that all sir?”  Jack couldn’t believe his luck.

“No. There’s something else.” Harter buzzed his assistant. “Send him in, Corporal.”

Jack, still standing at attention, broke his stance to look over his shoulder as the door swung open. It was Twan!

Harter puffed once more on his cigarette, then stubbed it out.

“I understand you two know each other, Twan?”

Nonchalant response. “Yeah, boss, I know Harris.”

“So you two think you can find this map?”

Twan smiled. “Yeah, boss.”

“So take Harris with you and go find that damned map.”

“Yeah, boss.”

And Harris?  This is strictly top secret. You understand?”

“Yes, sir.” Jack responded automatically, despite being mystified.

“My assistant will fix up your travel arrangements. Dismissed, Harris.”

“Yes sir.” Jack turned mechanically and followed Twan out of Harter’s office.

They drove away in Twan’s jeep. Jack, sitting in the left passenger seat of the right-hand drive jeep, sat silently as long as he could stand.

“So what’s this damned map he’s talking about, Twan?”

“Map somewhere in Singapore, Boss. We fly there tonight.”

“What’s on the map, Twan?”

“Don’t know, Boss. Hush hush.”

Jack grimaced. “So how the hell are we supposed to know when we find it?”

“Yank Navy Intel thinks Leilani might know something. That’s why they hired me. Leilani told them about me. She told them about you too.”

Jack thought about Sweet Leilani. That girl seemed to think of everything.

“So how do we get around in Singapore?”

“Jeep flies with us, Jack. Just like coming here.”

Jack said nothing. He reached for the cigarettes in his breast pocket. Pack empty. Damn. Now he’d have to bum one from the pilot of the C-46 Commando.

Ten hours later, the Commando cargo plane’s engines still ringing in their ears, Twan and Jack watched as the C-46 ground crew deplaned Twan’s jeep onto the Singapore airport runway.

An hour later, they stood outside the bar. It had a new sign above the door, the one that had been repaired after the Japanese shore patrol broke it down. The “Forbidden Island.” Jack made a mental note to compliment Leilani on another good move.

Twan took a last drag on his Camel, stubbed it and grinned at Jack. “Okay, Boss. Let’s see if Leilani remembers you.”

Jack pushed open the door. Leilani’s brother labored behind the bar. The place was jammed with Japanese sailors, soldiers and airmen, chumming with the working girls and drinking like fish. Someone was plunking out “It Had to Be You” on the piano. Cigarette smoke and the combined reek of whiskey and cheap perfume cut the air.

Jack made his way through the crowd of laughing, drinking, sweating and swearing Japanese to the back table. Leilani sat there, suffused with calm, with her leather book of accounts. She was dressed in a new purple gown. Looking somehow more in charge, than in the old red one.

Leilani looked up at Jack, smiled, and closed her book. “Captain Jack, it’s so good to see you. I have so much to tell you.” Not a word about “Where the hell have you been.” This girl was definitely a keeper, thought Jack.

“Leilani, my girl, how HAVE you been?” Jack sat down across from Leilani, mustering his most charming smile. Leilani leaned forward and spoke quietly.

“Jack, the bar is a fine business for you. You have thousands of Hong Kong dollars in the safe. But I’m worried the Japanese might still be looking for you. And there’s the German. Lederhosen.”  Her mouth twisted downward when she uttered Lederhosen’s name.

“I told you not to let that bastard into this bar with his men. What’s happened?”

“You remember he was here with his men and beat up my brother. They went away and didn’t come back for three months. I heard the German was overseas. Then a week ago, they came back. They arrived with ten men, natives and Japanese, no shore patrol around. They held a gun on me and asked me for a map. There was an old map in a frame behind the bar. I tried to tell them that was the only map I knew about. Lederhosen struck me. Then they broke the frame and took the map. Then they left.”

Twan, standing behind Jack and watching the door, listened impassively. He looked up at the faded spot on the wall behind the bar, where the map had previously hung.

Jack said nothing, confused.

Twan broke the silence. “Was it the map of the Straits? The one with Krakatoa in the middle? That had been here for years?”

“Yes, Twan.”

Twan lit another cigarette. “Leilani, is there still a silk tapestry in the Powder Room on the second floor.”

Leilani’s eyes narrowed as she stared at Twan.

“How would you know about that, sir?”

“Never mind. Is it still there?”

“Yes. But I don’t see what that has to do with . . . .”

Twan turned and ran up the stairs. Jack watched as Twan burst through the door of the second floor powder room. Squeals of laughter and screams accompanied Twan’s disappearance into that female sanctum sanctorum.

Leilani stood up, said nothing, and marched up the stairs. Jack just watched.

Twan emerged with a piece of silk cloth under his arm, and a pair of white silk panties on his left shoulder. Taking a moment to brush off the panties, and oblivious to the flutter of female voices behind him, Twan strode down the stairs two at a time, and back to Jack’s side. Leilani had disappeared without a word into the powder room.

“Boss, we have to talk. Private. Now.” Twan’s voice was urgent. Jack looked around. Nobody in the bar had noticed anything.. More likely, the regulars were used to pretending not to notice.

Jack motioned Twan into the office, and closed the door behind them once inside.

“Twan, what the hell was that all about?”

“Boss, that map has been hanging behind the bar of this club for years. The story on the docks is that it was left here by a crazy Englishman 20 years ago. Something about he’d traded it in Rangoon for his houseboy. That it carried a secret. Something about a Rangoon Ruby. Boss, this silk tapestry is an embroidered copy of the map.”

Jack opened his mouth. He couldn’t think what to say. “But how did you know . . .”

Twan was dead earnest now. “Boss, I’ve been working out of this club for five years. I know who made this copy. It was my mother.”

“Damn, Twan, this is great. Do you think the embroidered map has anything to do with what we were sent here to find.”

“Jack, the embroidered map IS what we were sent here to find. I had to play like I didn’t know about it with boss man, to get you out of there and to get air transport back here.”

Jack thought fast. It all added up. The only thing that didn’t fit was . . . what the hell was on the map?

“Okay, Twan, let’s keep that thing in the safe.”

“No, Boss. Too dangerous.”

“So what do you suggest we do with it?”

“First we make sure the place is calm and the girls get a bonus for keeping their mouths shut. Leilani can take care of that. Then we’ve got to get moving. That German is a week ahead of us, Boss.”

“What do you know about this map that you’re not telling, Twan?”

“Just that it had to be the map Harter was talking about, that we were sent to find. And that the German wanted it enough to come back for it. And that the crazy Englishman told wild stories about the Rangoon Ruby.”

The Rangoon Ruby. Captain Jack though a moment. This war stuff had made a big change in his life, but he was still Trader Jack, buyer and seller of anything of value. “Look, Twan, we’re supposed to be helping the war effort here. The US isn’t at war with Japan yet, but everybody thinks something’s going to happen to change that soon. And we know what the Germans are doing in Europe. We can’t mess around with chasing this Rangoon Ruby.”

“Doesn’t change anything, Boss. We’ve got to get moving and follow the map.”

“Why?”

“Boss, we were sent to find that map. The Flying Tigers can wait. If the German wants it, we need to beat him to it.”

Jack thought a moment. There could be lots of reasons why Harter had sent him after the map. With war coming, it could be crucial intelligence. “Okay, Twan, let’s move out.”

Just then Leilani appeared, unflappable as ever, standing behind Jack’s seat. Funny, Jack thought. I didn’t hear her come into the office.

“Captain Jack, the girls will be fine. They’re all getting double pay tonight. And they know how to keep silent.”

Jack looked straight at Leilani, again. “Okay, Leilani, we’ll need some of that operating capital.”  Leilani swiftly dialed the combination on the safe, and handed Jack a bundle of bills at least an inch thick.”

“Here, Captain. From your earnings. If you need more, just let me know.”

Jack’s eyes moved from the pile of money to Leilani’s face, then back to the pile of money.

“Leilani, I, uh . . .”

“Captain, there is no time. Take it and do what must be done.”

“Yes.” There seemed little else to be said.

Twan hissed with urgency. “Boss, let’s go! The shore patrol is coming down the dockside.”

Jack grabbed his hat and bag, and headed out into the bar, Twan right beside him.

And just as he reached the bar, Jack stopped dead in his tracks. Sitting at the bar, coolly sipping a Mai Tai, was an extremely familiar face. An extremely familiar female shape. Extremely familiar long black hair. Extremely familiar long legs, silk blouse, black jodhpurs, black leather riding boots, and red scarf. And those lips.

And, oh my God, thought Jack. That unforgettably-familiar jasmine perfume.

Pupuli looked Jack dead in the eyes, and smiled like the princess she was, had been all her life. Then she spoke in a low, languid voice.

“Hello, Jack. Long time no see.”

Twan and Leilani simply looked at each other.

Finis

Created by Robin Enos

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The World is a Retro

25 Sep

by Robin Enos
– Alameda, California, September 24, 2010

The Tiki gods were smiling last night, as suburban Alameda, less than three miles but a world away from the mean streets of Oakland, was the scene for wild bikinis, Island how-to’s, Las Vegas showgirls and musical shorts from the Swinging Sixties.

Amid the thump of pre-drug rock and roll (the kind made by clean-shaven guys in coat and tie), a crowd of mostly 50- and 60-something beachcombers made the scene, while the 16mm projector flickered and the musical shorts ran end to end at the Tiki-Tronic Film Festival.

The filmography reflected as much of Hollywood’s propensity for making cheesy musical shorts as footage of the Islands. Featured aspects of Tiki culture includes bikini sunbathing lessons, smiling dancers and (for some reason) a golfing number at a Las Vegas country club.

The crowd, mostly dressed in bluejeans with the occasional woven beach hat, sipped their Mai Tais, clapped at the end of each short subject, and hooted when the jiggling seemed nearly to turn into, well, wardrobe malfunctions.

Watching all that twisting, frug-ing, ska-ing and swimming, and consuming all that fruit juice — well, we all got our Vitamin C. Dissolved in ethanol.

Meet Michael Ahn, TWF’s Official Grognard!

2 Sep

In a bit of serendipitous collaboration, today saw two new developments in Tiki Wiki Fiki: the tapping of the official TWF Chief Grognard, Michael Ahn, and the creation of a drink named in his honor (The Bloody Grognard). There’s still some debate over the ingredients and proper method for serving the Grognard, but we’ll post it here when the details are finalized.

In the mean time, to learn what a grognard is and how the whole thing unfolded, here’s a snippet from Flint’s Facebook Wall (and once, again, welcome to TWF, Michael!):

“Captain Jack and the Suffering Bastard”

2 Sep

Some men are lucky, even in their bad luck. Though he was known as the Suffering Bastard, Reich captain Johann Lederhosen knew he was lucky. All of the men he had dined with last night on the sub were dead at the bottom of the ocean and he was breathing the spiced tropical air.

It was only a detail that he was tied to a piece of flotsam and drifting ever so slowly towards a small island somewhere in the South Pacific. In short order, he would have demonstrated his god-like Aryan powers and the natives would be bowing down to him. He was sure of it.

The Suffering Bastard’s sub, the U-2613, had surfaced at dawn to communicate with the Reich. The Suffering Bastard had wanted to take his radio conversation to the conning tower because he intended to lie to his Kreigsmarine commanders about his position and did not want any of the officers to overhear it. They might get greedy. The war was lost, he figured, so he might as well keep the gold rather than have it slip into the hands of the damn Americans after the war. He had heard that his shiny cargo could buy him a small country in South America.

It turned out he didn’t lie to anybody. He was puffing his third Rothhandle Blitzkreig cigarette, when he realized that he was out of radio range. It was marginally better not to have to lie to them. He had four things that he must accomplish before the war would be over for him: 1) offload the gold; 2) get it to a safe place; 3) kill his crew; and 4) acquire a new identity. He couldn’t figure out what order to do them in. If he killed his crew first, how would he offload the gold. If he acquired a new identity first, his men would not follow him. It seemed like it should be an easy puzzle, but it wasn’t.

He was weighing the disadvantages of killing the crew right after the gold was in a safe place, when his reverie was disturbed by machine gun fire tearing through the sub, causing his monocle to pop out of his eye.

Even without his charmed eyepiece, he could see the plane was an American P-40, but a clear view of the pilot still eluded him. It wasn’t until he’d reinserted his monocle, as the plane made a third pass, that all became as clear as the several shots of vodka he’d swallowed earlier.

“Damn it!” Lederhosen muttered. “Vat in Hell ees he doingk here?”

Captain Jack Harris of USAF, his nemesis was on his trail again.

“Vas eez it vith zees American?” he wondered, as he thought back four years to that hellish day in North Africa; when the Suffering Bastard was stationed there as an Afrika Corps commander. It was 103 degrees and the German, energized with schnapps and some local fruit juice, in a drink he called a Vixen Valkyrie, tried to relieve the boredom of the desert by shelling a nearby oasis settlement.

The Arabs had it coming. He was sick of haggling with them, it was better to negotiate in the universal language, so he lobbed in a few shells, singing in his best operatic tenor, as the Bedouin and their camels took to flight.

He was hoping they were going to charge his Panzers but they fled into the desert instead.

“Cowards!” he cursed.

What he didn’t know was that an American reconnaissance unit was also on station. In what seemed like moments, a squad of silver streaks appeared on the horizon. He stared into the drink and thought for a second that it had actually summoned Valkyries, but no luck. They were American fighter planes. Much to his chagrin, he realized that his recreational bombing had alerted the enemy. Most embarrassing.

How was he going to explain this to Rommel? He couldn’t. It would be a career ending injury for the Suffering Bastard. So, his plan was simple. He would have to kill everyone, including his own men. He couldn’t trust any of them not to report his snafu to Rommel for their own personal gain.

First things first, he shot his #2 officer in the head. Next, he ordered a full assault of the oasis. While his men were attacking, he had one of his Lieutenants, who spoke flawless American English, radio the American Air Base to tell them of the attack.

The Americans dispatched their elite Jeep Gunners, the Rodent Patrol, into the town as planned and wiped out his troops.

He then shot the Lieutenant point-blank in the face and fired upon the American planes using an 88mm. Having destroyed all of them—or so he thought—The Suffering B fled the camp in his multi axel Mercedes Staff car to report his heroic tale of survival to Rommel himself. The problem was, he had left one man alive.

An American pilot witnessed his treacherous behavior from his plane. He’d flown several flyovers trying to kill the Suffering Bastard, but the Bastard’s lucky Skull’s Head had saved him, or at least that’s what he believed. He thought it lucky, because it had been given to him by the Fuhrer himself, by accident, while he was impersonating another officer who was too drunk to make it to the medal ceremony.

Captain Jack, great pilot though he was, couldn’t disable the staff car across twenty miles of desert but both men had gotten a good look at each other; Captain Jack through his plane binoculars and the Suffering Bastard through his monocle. Both men swore to themselves that one day they would kill the other.

Three long years and thousands of miles later, the two carried on their vendetta.

After the debacle in North Africa, The Suffering Bastard had followed Rommel back to Europe, where he got wind of the plot against Hitler. He parlayed the information through his Chain of Command, earning him a promotion to a top secret project in the South Pacific. It seems that the Germans had found a huge source of gold off South America and the High Command, suspecting that the war was going to end very soon, planned to buy themselves cushy lives after the war in various greedy dictatorships around the world.

It seems too, that the Americans in the form of their damned OSS, which Captain Jack had volunteered for, had followed him all the way to South America and then followed the gold all the way to an obscure Sub Base located somewhere off South America. Then, Captain Jack ordered a strike on the base.

The Suffering B commandeered a submarine loaded with Gold and another ominous cargo, in the form of an ancient artifact, and had hastily abandoned the Island, narrowly escaping both the allied bombs, the gunfire of his own forces and something even more sinister that he was, as of yet, unaware of.

At the end of the day, he surfaced the sub to look back at the island. He could see the smoke in the distance. The American Bombers had pounded the hell out of it. He opened the last of his Reichandle cigarette packs and enjoyed the nicotine thinking that, once and for all, he had escaped Captain Jack.

Until he saw the lone parachute descend from the sky to the island. Somehow, he knew it was Jack. Somehow, he knew Jack would find a German prisoner, interrogate him and learn that The Suffering Bastard had escaped. But how was he to find a submarine in the entire Pacific Ocean?

Damn the American.

He ordered the Sub to dive with the idea that he would escape to some deserted island. At that moment, his plan became clear. He would have his crew move the gold onto a freighter and with the help of a hand picked crew, find his way into a safe port. There, he would unload the gold, ditch the crew and have a happy and healthy retirement. He wasn’t clear on how the ‘ditch the crew’ portion of the plan would work but it didn’t matter.

That hope was gone. As the Flying Tiger turned towards him, he saw the lone bomb on the bottom of the plane drop and he jumped off the conning tower into the pacific blue waves.

The water flashed orange as the bomb hit. The sub split in half, spilling its crew, gold and miscellaneous contents out as the two halves dropped into the depths.

Miraculously, one of the crew members floated to the top, hanging on to a life jacket. Lederhosen heard him praise the lord for salvation, and fortunately, he did not hear Lederhosen as he swam up behind him, knife drawn, ready to slash his throat. Then, Lederhosen remembered that the blood would draw sharks and decided that it would be easier to garrote him, even though he personally found garroting disgusting.

Lederhosen quickly went under water as Captain Jack’s Flying Tiger passed over once again and then took off into the distance. Afterwards, he strangled the submariner with his own life jacket cord and slipped it off him. Not wanting to suffer the same fate if there should be another survivor in the flotsam, he did not put on his life jacket but rather held it close to his chest as he kicked his way to shore, with the smooth graceful strokes he had learned in the water ballet before the war.

Indeed, the Suffering Bastard was, once again, lucky in his bad luck. He had been fortunate to escape certain death but unfortunate to lose his gold and his submarine, due to the vengeful attack of the mad American pilot. He had been unluckily deposited in the Pacific Ocean but quite lucky to be well within reach of an Idyllic tropical island, complete with a volcano and several huts, which indicated that there was a primitive tribe that would worship him. And, with any luck, it would also contain some of those magnificent pearl divers who might be able to go down and retrieve his gold.

Created by Flint Dille

“Caspar Nine”

3 Aug

Chapter One: The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

His left hand had only four fingers, and he had no idea why.

Caspar sat on the beach, gingerly touching his pained head. He had awakened there, aching from scalp to toenail, with only the haziest of memories and no clue how he had gotten there. In fact, everything else was a messy blur.

I know my name is Caspar, he thought. Caspar… what?

He remembered being called, “Nine,” and grunted a brief note of self-amusement, concluding that it made an unlikely surname.

He did remember New York. Happy memories of Christmas trees and summer baseball and running through streets and alleys and abandoned lots. I’m from there, he concluded.

He looked around the beach for any further clue. It was idyllic, right off a postcard – palm trees, a strong breeze, white sands and conch shells, a dense tropical jungle just beyond the trees. Paradise, before the arrival of Adam, it seemed. From his aches and pains, and the unnerving sensation of awakening, face-half-submerged in murky sand by the water’s edge, Caspar was fairly certain he had washed ashore. But he saw nothing on the horizon offshore, and the beach offered no washed-up flotsam to suggest an escape from a sinking ship.

But there was driftwood.

He flashed, for a moment, on grabbing something wooden in dark waters on a starless night. Was that last night? He looked down at his arms and legs and saw some developing sunburn, sure to be worse tomorrow. He had been on that beach for the entire day, apparently. He looked up at the sun and guessed it was the afternoon.

He tried to shake his head to clear out the confusion, and found it only worsened things. He couldn’t see a thing out of his left eye. It itched. The back of his head throbbed; touching it revealed enough eggs to make a king’s omelet.

He sighed. There’s the memory problem, he thought. His clothes were rags, wet, torn, blood-stained shreds of khaki and white that might have once been dirty work clothes. His stubble suggested he hadn’t run into the right side of a blade in a long time; a multitude of scars on his left side suggested he had run into the wrong side many times in the past.

He stood up, took a deep breath, and was relieved to find that despite the pain, his body seemed to work.

Concluding he would find no further clues in this spot, Caspar picked a direction along the beach and started walking. He was dehydrated, hungry, and a doctor’s visit would do him a world of good. The beach didn’t reveal much sign of civilization, but he had to keep walking. There might be something around the bend.

He took a mental inventory. Name’s Caspar. From New York. I’m in the South Pacific somewhere.  He looked down where his left pinky was missing, the nub covered with scar tissue. Rough night last night. Probably been through a couple years’ worth of rough nights.

He rubbed his left eye again. Then, about a half mile from where he had awakened, he heard a distant engine, growing louder, and for some reason it sent a chill of fear straight from the base of his neck to his nether regions. He scanned around, and finally saw something in the faraway sky getting closer: a seaplane.

They’re looking for me, he thought instantly.

But as soon as the thought came, the flash of recognition of fear, everything about it faded as if waking from a dream.
Wait, who’s looking for me? Why? Caspar wondered in frustration.

The seaplane, meanwhile, was approaching the island but didn’t seem to be headed towards his location. It steadily descended and disappeared around the bend, seemingly ready to land.

Caspar watched it until he could no longer hear it. He rubbed his eye again, trying to consciously force the neurons in his head to connect. Every once-in a while, he saw something, or a fuzzy memory of something, like a vivid dream from years ago.

A hangar.

An older man, crafty. American, or maybe English. Caspar’s feeling towards the man was clearer than his face, a combination of respect and fear, admiration without trust, a suspicion that this man’s motives were noble but his methods were suspicious and unnerving. He concluded the man was too young to be his father.

The word “wizard” kept coming back when he thought of this man, but it didn’t make much sense. Was he a scientist? Some mad keeper of secrets?

A picture of an emerald, old, etched, kept in some unspeakably old tome. Something about it was important, something beyond wealth or its radiant shine. People wanted it, and not just for jewelry, Caspar knew. How it connected to him, though, remained a blank slate.

Harbors. Lots of harbors, he began to realize. He couldn’t tell if they were many different ones, or he just remembered lots of parts of one large one. He realized most harbors look the same after a while.

The most pleasant memory fragment – as frustrating as a tasty shot served too small – was of a beautiful woman, but Caspar remembered there was something wrong about her. For some reason, despite her sumptuous curves and the softness of her Eurasian face, he was reminded of a coiled snake. Desire her all you want, but don’t trust her, he seemed to recall telling himself.

Walking a little further, rubbing his eye every few minutes, he tried to figure out what tied all of these images and sounds and glimpses together…

And then he somehow felt a chill in the tropical heat. One face jumped out of his subconscious, and he stopped walking, as if somehow frozen in fear just by the memory: Russian, probably in his 60s, thinning white hair combed back, a sharp, angular face with tiny glasses hiding beady eyes. The face was smiling in a cold, disturbing way. The Russian wasn’t particularly big or strong, but there was something about his gait and expression and posture that suggested the cruelest of characters, a rather warm comfort with all forms of man’s inhumanity to man. Caspar knew the Russian had put him here, wherever here was, and was responsible for his current aches and pains, his lost circumstances, and his jigsaw puzzle of a memory.

And a suddenly-ignited rage within Caspar caught fire as the cruel goddess within his shattered mind mercifully tossed him a single name to launch his journey, a name that he could only bring himself to whisper.

“Volosov,” he said, so quietly not even the gulls heard him.

Volosov.

Beyond the face and the smile, Caspar couldn’t remember much about Volosov, but he didn’t need to. His gut and his instincts and those split-second fragments of his memories made clear that, for all extents and purposes, Volosov was the devil himself. His crimes and sins ranged from vast to small, from ingeniously strategic to petty, both deeply personal to Caspar and heinous on a grand scale to many, many lives, he knew.

Caspar strode more quickly now, barefoot in the sand, approaching around the bend. The seaplane had a destination in mind. A destination meant people. People meant water, food, maybe medicine, and if he was really lucky, answers.

Caspar wasn’t wandering on that beach any more. The beautiful cruel mistress of his subconscious had revealed a glimpse of a wondrous prize before him. Caspar was going to find Volosov and make the man pay the price for his wickedness, many times over.

Gunter Kraus was a surly, angry bully when he was sober, and the half-dozen drinks at Haap’s Grotto had only brought out more of his worst instincts and impulses. One too many shoves of patrons, one too many slaps on the behind of the waitress, and one too many crude comments in all directions convinced management that the German needed to make an early exit from the establishment.

He had merely snarled at the warning and first demand to leave from the fat bartender, Toe Toe. He actually enjoyed the thought of knocking around someone, but then that hundin hostess Arikiri had grabbed him, stuck a finger in his face and told Kraus that if he didn’t take a hike, Jack Harris would be in later, ready to give him another serving. Even half-drunk, or more than half-drunk, Kraus remembered the worst bar fight of his life, and he knew that Harris had seemed to take particular relish in pummeling the German within an inch of painful death. The brawl had been nearly a year ago, but everyone in the Pacific seemed to know about it, and the name was enough to get Kraus scrambling for the door. The fact that he tried to look like he wasn’t scrambling for the door looked even worse; by the time he reached the precipice, he knew the patrons were laughing at him.

So Kraus was in a particularly foul and angry mood when he walked on the outskirts of the village that day, full of rage and humiliation and desperately needing to find somebody soft and weak and pound the hell out of whoever was unlucky enough to cross his path. As he came to the path from the beach, the seas kindly offered him easy prey. A pathetic-looking ragged man approached.

“Hey, what happened to you, did the Kraken vomit you back?” Kraus laughed, taking in the man’s awful sight. His clothes were almost falling off him, he was a kaleidoscope of bruises of varying hue, and he stared around at the village in confusion.

“I can’t blame it for thinking you’re too disgusting to consider, but you should take your ugly heap of bones back and try again – I’m sure there’s some scavenger low enough who might be willing to gnaw at your pathetic, rotting flesh!”

Caspar had no idea why the goon was giving him such grief.

He’s speaking German. I understand that, realized Caspar. But Caspar knew he wasn’t German – he remembered the streets of New York City, and stickball, and running through alleys, and the Polo Grounds. Those were the memories of a child, he was certain.

Meanwhile, the big burly German was still heaping abuse upon him.

“No one here wants to look at your ugly face – what, did a stingray pierce your eye?”

Caspar blinked. He glanced at a puddle nearby, and looked at his reflection as if for the first time.

I have one eye, he realized.

He was trying to process this bizarre, disturbing and fascinating bit of information when the fist of the German knocked him on the side of his already-throbbing head, knocking him to the ground and celebrating with a heartily, drunken roar of laughter.

Nine fingers. One eye. I’m a fraction of a man, and this guy’s looking for an easy fight, fumed Caspar. He felt an easily ignited rage come aflame, as simple and quick as turning the knob on a gas stove.

Caspar blinked hard, felt a rush of adrenaline, and then felt a slew of old instincts kick in. He grabbed a handful of sand and dirt and as Kraus stepped closer to kick him, hurled the handful right at his face.

Kraus yelped and went to wipe his eyes, and Caspar sat up and leaped to his feet. The big German’s instincts were slowed by the booze, and Caspar ducked a wild swinging punch and instead put his right fist deep into the Kraus’ nose cartilage, triggering a symphony of awful crunching and squishing noises. Blood ran down his nose, mouth, and chin like the Rhine.

Caspar held up his fists like a boxer but instead kicked twice, once connecting with a foolishly unguarded groin and the second high with Kraus’ chin. More blood.

For the first time since awakening, Caspar felt good. He inhaled deeply, eyes wide, limbs quivering slightly from the sudden burst of adrenaline. He was better with nine fingers than this goon was with ten.

“Sollten Sie eine andere Straße entlang gelaufen,” Caspar snarled, telling Kraus he had picked the wrong street to walk down.

Kraus was pained and stunned all over, but hearing his foe speak German may have struck him for the biggest loop.

“Kamerad,” Kraus wheezed. “My friend, my countryman… Mitleid! Mercy!” he begged.

Caspar – thinking of his aches and pains, his missing finger, his missing eye, and his deep unexplained rage at the name Volosov – wasn’t in a merciful mood. Where was this brute’s mercy when he threw the first punch?

“I’m not your friend, and I’m not your countryman,” Caspar growled. “But I’ll ask you to lend me your ear anyway!” And with that, he grabbed the German’s noggin and bit down hard on the top of his ear! Kraus howled in pain, a scream that only ended with stunned silence when Caspar spat out the tip of his ear onto the sand.

Moments later, Caspar had liberated Kraus’ shirt, pants, belt, boots, and a bit of money he found hidden on an inside pocket. He crafted a bit of string and a torn piece of Kraus’ handkerchief into a makeshift eyepatch – the brute had an uncomfortable point that no one wanted to look at his missing eye.  He used the rest of the handkerchief to try himself and look more presentable, and he now looked about a third less like a drowned rat than before.

He gave one last quick look at the groaning, now-nearly-naked foe lying sprawled on the sand.

“Danke shen, Kamerad,” Caspar said with a bit of a mean smile. “I guess running into you made today my lucky day.”

He turned towards the village, trying to figure out where to go next. The sign for “Haap’s Grotto” looked promising…

Created by Jim Geraghty

Theories, Conspiracies, and Mysteries

1 Aug

The world of Tiki Wiki Fiki is filled with heroes and heroines, villains and minions, and lots and lots of action. But not everything is as straight-forward as it first appears, and more than a few experiences defy both logic and science. As Jim Geraghty notes below, sometimes, even in a world as modern as ours, remnants of an older era still cling to beliefs as old as the mountains.

Consider the following spicy ingredients as you begin to concoct your next tiki narrative.

“The way I see it, the South Seas of this time period are heaven and hell to those of us in the modern age, working on computers in air-conditioned offices and driving through traffic to get to office buildings.

The heroes of this time fight for what’s right, win fistfights (and gunfights and swordfights) with thugs, make daring escapes, spend every day around exotic, beautiful locations people spend small fortunes just to visit, drink like fishes with a seemingly eternal variety of bizarrely-named drinks, and sleep, flirt, banter and bicker with a seemingly-endless supply of sexy women, femme fatales, and bashful native girls lost treasure, ghosts real and imagined, monsters and anomalies of all descriptions. No cell phones, no mortgages, no Roth IRAs – all you need are quick wits, strong fists, and maybe a revolver or machete or other signature weapon.

That’s the heaven part.

The hell is that by many standards, the Far East is the Wild West; whatever “good” authorities there are to appeal to are far away and for most of the Pacific Rim, the schoolyard bully now wears a uniform and has absolute authority. I imagine our heroes are rarely more than a few steps away from being outlaws to the Japanese, and outside of their reach is an ever-changing menacing rogues’ gallery: Nazi spies, their Soviet counterparts, pirates, garden-variety criminal gangs and thugs, natives who still practice human sacrifice, blood magic, cannibalism, etc.

And that’s just the two-legged predators. The jungles and coves and are filled with crocodiles, snakes, rats, poisonous toads, hammerhead sharks, jellyfish, octopi, giant spiders, scorpions, riptides, and monkeys, feces-flinging and worse.

One element I’d like to introduce is the idea that the supernatural exists in the world of Tiki Wiki Fiki, as well as legends and mysterious occurrences. I’ve been digging around in the mythology of the cultures around here, and found a slew of ideas:

  • Abassy: evil supernatural beings Yakut people of Siberia (live in the underworld, described as having one One eye, iron teeth)
  • Basuki: giant serpent Balinese mythology
  • Kappa: race of monkey demons that live in ponds and rivers (have shells like tortoises)
  • Kunlun: Xi Wang Mu peaches of immortality
  • Ling zhi: plant of immortality (grass or mushroom)
  • Nagas: supernatural beings who take the form of serpents
  • Oni: giant horned demons (Buddhists expel them)
  • Polong: Malayan and Indonesian tradition about a flying demon made from the blood of a murdered man (can be ordered to attack enemies and feeds on blood of owner); victims tear their clothes, go blind”

As communicated by Jim Geraghty

“Tiki Wiki Fiki”

29 Jul

Composer Yang Zhang kindly offered to lend a song to the Tiki Wiki Fiki world!

Delicious, divine, and dangerous. Enjoy!

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