Kock, knock, knock!
The sound of my fist hitting the hard, oak door echoed through the town’s main square, pulling peoples gaze to me. I waited a moment before again giving the door several firm hits.
Knock, knock, knock.
It took the better part of the morning, but after some well-placed questions, I managed to locate a man who used to be part of the same tribe as Inola. From what I could gather, his name was Ahuli.
“Hang on a minute!” an irritated voice demanded from inside. I tensed up, preparing for an angry response once the door swung open.
With a lock unlatched, the door opened and out stepped a young, Native looking man with long black hair and concerned eyes. “Yes, yes, what do you need?” he barked at me, his arms crossed and stance a tad confrontational.
“Hi, uhm, yes, sorry to bother you good sir. I was hoping to ask you about something.” The man’s energy was downright loud. I am no coward, but I was not enjoying the unspoken hostility.
Shrugging his broad shoulders, he asked, “What question?”
“Uhm, well Mister Ahuli, it’s about a topic you may be knowledgeable in and, well no offense but because of your current status you may be able to, er might be able to assist me in…learning about it?”
Oof, that could have been more eloquently put…
Scowling, he replied, “Look, if you could cut to the chase, I would appreciate it. I have a lot to do today and don’t have time to listen to your blabbering.”
Gathering my composure, I said, “I want to know if you could tell me more about Tsul’ Kalu.”
He almost started to speak, his lips parting and throat tensing. With his facial expression growing somber, he looked me over and sighed. Waving his hand at me, he said, “Come on in…we can talk more inside.”
I followed him in and watched him look both ways before closing the door. Latching the lock, he asked, “How do you know that name?”
Swallowing a lump, I answered, “Inola told me.”
He nodded, a surprised huff escaping from between his teeth. “That seems quite out of character for Inola. However, seeing as how you are familiar with his name and out culture, I don’t have much reason to doubt you.”
“He saved me from a bear. That’s how we met.”
“Ah,” he exclaimed while pulling out a pipe and shoving a lump of tobacco inside. “So, what do you want with me?”
“I asked Inola to tell me more about the Forest Wa — erm, I mean Tsul’ Kalu. He said he wouldn’t. I thought perhaps someone who left the tribe would be more open to discussion.”
He chuckled, a puff of smoke wafting out from under his breath. “It’s true, I left the tribe. Despite that fact, I still have great respect for their laws and customs. Why do you assume I would be any more willing to disclose that information to you than they would?”
Shaking my head, I replied, “I don’t know that. It’s a gamble I was hoping would pay off.”
He studied me once more, his piercing eyes scanning my face, clothing, and gear. “And what do you intend to do with the information I have? Do you wish to kill the beast?”
“Kill it? Absolutely not! I merely wish to capture it.”
He squinted at me; it appears he was taken aback by my reply. “Capture it? And do what? Keep it as a pet?”
“Aha, well no, it is my intention to study the creature. It’s simply my nature as a man of science. The drive to understand the world around me is the fuel that moves me onwards.”
Letting out another puff of smoke into the room, he said, “Look, Mister –
“Taylor,” I answered, “Benjamin Taylor.”
“Look Mister Taylor, I’m going to be honest with you. I don’t buy into the ideology that this creature is anything more than some unusual animal from a different time. However, you would be mistaken for thinking it could be captured using any conventional means.”
“Conventional means?” I repeated back to him, “what do you mean?”
“I mean bullets, arrows, cages, poisons…those things will slow it down but won’t be enough on their own. According to legend, something more is needed to overpower this animal.”
And there it was, that burning desire to know more. The ever-growing appetite for forbidden knowledge. My heart began to thump, my fist tightened, and my jaw clenched. Moving closer, I said, “Please, tell me what is needed.”
Ahuli smirked and donned a sinister gaze. “I’ll tell you in exchange for a favor.”
“Just name it.”
Standing up, he said, “If you do catch this beast, don’t let my people find out.”
Is that all? I thought you were about to ask for your weight in gold!
“I give you my word that I shan’t. Although…do you mind if I ask why not?”
“It’s like I said, I don’t ascribe to my people’s beliefs but that hardly means I want them to be pained any further than they already have. We lost our land, our homes, or loved ones, they don’t need to lose part of their culture too.”
Just like that, he had my respect. “I promise on all that I am, that I will not betray the favor you have asked of me. Now, please, tell me what I need to know!” By now I was practically shaking from excitement.
“Well, according to some legends, Tsul’ Kalu can only be harmed by the wrath of a Thunderer.”
I tilted my head in confusion. This was a myth I had yet to learn of. “Thunderer” What’s a Thunderer?”
“Much like with Tsul’ Kalu, the meaning of what a Thunderer is changes from tribe to tribe. In ours, a Thunderer is a powerful sky bird that commands the powers of lightening. Every bolt cast is directed by its might and every thunderous boom is a testament to its power.”
My face scrunched up from detection. This was hardly helpful. “So, in order to overpower Tsul’ Kalu, I need to find a mythical sky-bird?”
Nodding vehemently, he replied, “No, but if you have some lightening in a bottle it wouldn’t hurt.”
Lightning in a bottle…Wait a minute!
“Oh wow! You just gave me an amazing idea Ahuli!”
He began to smile as he watched me pull out a notepad from my pack and sketch like a madman. Leaning forward in his chair, he asked, “And what is that? Some kind of gizmo?”
“Uhm, you could say that. While I don’t have lightening in a bottle, I could have lightening in a cage.”
Waved of old lectures raced through my mind, adding to the growing number of noted added to the margins of the page. Edison, Tesla, Faraday, all the books I had ever read about their theories, experiments, and accomplishments guided my hand as I concocted the most intricate design yet.
I had been completely unaware of just how much time had passed as I drew up my plans. Ahuli had been sitting there the entire time, eating, cleaning, and watching as I delved ever further into a science induced mania. He didn’t seem to mind the company.
Only when the light of day began to dim did I realize just how long I had been sitting there.
“Wow, what time is it?” I asked while running my hands through my unkempt, curly hair.
“About 7 o’clock.” Ahuli informed.
“I thought you said you would be busy all day when we first met?”
“Oh that? That’s just something I say when I don’t feel like talking.”
His reasoning made me snicker. “Fair enough.” Gathering my papers, I stuffed them in my pack and made for the door. “Thank you for all your help, Ahuli. Sorry if I overstayed my welcome.”
He waved his hand at me as if to say no problem. “It was my pleasure. Truthfully, I don’t get many guests. The locals aren’t too fond of my kind.”
As I walked down the dark, cobblestone walkway that led into the town square, Ahuli called out, “Good luck Mister Taylor. I hope you survive.”
Me too my friend…me too.
As days turned into weeks and weeks into a month, I began to feel like I truly had a goal, a higher calling. After having perfected the design of my monster containment apparatus, I looked to the only person I could for funding, Miss Diana. Now that she was back at the helm of her families’ finances, it was just a hop skip into getting her to invest. True to form, I had to convince her it would be not only advantageous from a humanitarian standpoint, but also a wise business decision. It was a hard sell, but I got her on board after promising that aside from me, she would have sole rights over any scientific advances made from the creature’s capture.
For my contraption to work, I needed several components, some of which didn’t technically exists outside of my own imagination. Leave it to Miss Diana to find a way to custom manufacture the parts to my exact specifications. There was no way to lug all the metal parts through the forest to the site the doctor specified in his journal, so I had it set up right outside the lab. I even had an audience at times as the locals would come out to ogle my invention. Most where just intrigued while others came to ridicule.
“So, we lose one mad man and gain another?” An aged woman shouted out from the crowd.
“What a loon!”
Only when Miss Diana would show up would they disperse. Somehow, she had an authority over the masses. Her presence was not all that unpleasant. Miss Fontaine would usually accompany her, allowing us to spend time together and enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery.
“How’s the rust bucket coming along?” She asked with a hint of skepticism.
“Its…coming…along!” I managed to grumble out in between bolt tightening motions.
The wrench I was holding clanged against the other tools in the box as I threw it inside. Wiping the sweat from my forehead, I walked up to meet them.
Miss Fontaine rushed over and through a scarf around my neck. “Goodness! It’s a wonder you haven’t caught the plague being out in this cold with no hat!” Smacking my arm, she popped a cap on my head. “There, much better!”
“She had been working on that for a week,” Miss Diana informed, her mysterious eyes scrutinizing my machine. “I hope like her, your work functions as intended.”
“I told you Miss Diana; it will work. I checked the math and checked again. Outside of the end of the world, nothing will get in the way of my success.”
“For your sake I should hope so. If this fails, I will force you into my employ until you work off the losses incurred on this stunt.”
I let out a confident chuckle. “Thank you for reminding me of that possibility my good lady. It really speaks of the confidence you place in my abilities.”
“Faith is useless to me.” She coldly quipped. “The only thing that matters are results, be they good or bad.”
“I’ll get you results; don’t you worry. Come the next full moon, that beast will be as good as ours.”
“Right, right, let’s hope.” Returning to the buggy, she said, “Come along Miss Fontaine! We have several more stops to make before the day is over.”
Giving me a quick peck on the cheek, she replied, “Yes madam, I’m coming!”
Her kiss somehow managed to warm my frozen face.
As soon as I capture this monster and rocket to fame, I’m taking you with me Miss Fontaine, don’t you doubt it for a moment.
Waving as their carriage left, I resumed construction. Having gotten most of the main components in place, it was mostly a matter of wiring them together. Massive coils of copper cable sat lined against the side of the lab. It took several more days, but I managed to cut, weld, and fasten them in their designated slots. When all was said and done, it looked a bit odd.
The platform of the devise was a solid iron plate that had five arms curving upwards. Connecting to each arm in sets of three was thick copper cabling. Once the motor is activated, a secondary arm would begin to spin rapidly, causing an electromagnetic charge to course through the wires. Flowing down to the metal plate, all amperage would converge and electrocute whatever was unfortunate to be caught inside. The only thing left now would be to test it!
Hooking into the labs steam system, I turned a nozzle and let out an excited shout as I watched the contraption spring to life. Whirring and clanking, the moving parts began to awaken from their static sate, joining together in a symphony of mechanical brilliance!
Pshhh thump, pshhh thump.
The arm now began to spin, starting off slow but gaining speed which each rotation. Little arcs of electricity began to leap out from within the enclosure, some small and some large. Faster and faster the arms spun, until a steady stream of electrical energy was bouncing about between the wires.
“Yes!” I shouted as I watched my creation come to life. “Rise my beautiful creation! Rise!”
An explosion emanating from the lab sent a shockwave out, knocking the hat off my head and sending a wave of snow gliding through the yard. Large amounts of steam could be seen escaping through a burst pipe in the lab’s foundation.
“Come on! Are you kidding me?”
It didn’t look good. Without enough steam, there would be no way to build enough pressure to power the machine. Rolling up my sleeves, I got down into the cold waters and inspected the layout of the pipes. All was not lost. There was a system of flaps and seals that would allow me to bypass the damaged section and reroute the pressure back into my device.
Gripping the rusted wheels, I grunted as I turned with all my might.
“Ah! Why is this so tight!”
It took a moment, but I was able to seal off the damaged section of the piping. Once more, I activated the device and watched it power up. This time everything went off without a hitch.
The rest of the day was spent obtaining another deer leg. The one I had previously gathered turned into a rotten bag of festering flesh. Three times I had to chase away a posse of raccoons before giving in and letting them abscond with it. Before sunset, I gathered another chuck of bait and double checked my device.
Looking on at its complex system of switches, levers, and columns of rotating gears, I sense of academic pride grew into a raging inferno. I began to fantasize giving lectures and classes on how I came up with the brilliant idea for such a machine. I saw rows of eager students, all of them fawning over my intellectual prowess.
How did you capture the monster? they would ask.
Oh, it was nothing. Just an invention formed in one of my passing thoughts. I would respond. Oh, Mister Tesla, I didn’t see you there. What’s that? You want to study under me? I would be honored! I just hope you can keep up!
The full moon was two days off and I spent the remainder of that time tweaking, refining, and setting up a series of traps, tripwires, and countermeasures should all else fail and I need to make an escape.
With everything ready, I stepped out into the cold winter night and gazed upon the pale moon.
Its showtime. ns188.8.131.52da2