Tag Archives: Jim Geraghty

“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

Advertisements

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

%d bloggers like this: