Monday, September 5, 2011

The Skeleton Key Chapter 14

I have really enjoyed reading everyone’s chapters in the Blogvel:
The Skeleton Key.  This blogvel was a creation of Michelle Simkins from GreenWoman.  A lot of talented writers have gotten to join in on the fun and write a chapter.  This week happens to be my turn.  I hope that this chapter is as entertaining as all the others.  Next week will be Cherie’s turn to write a chapter.  You will find her blog here.

And now…………..  Chapter 14

My body was no longer searching for the elusive breath of the living.  The meta essence had performed its task and allowed my shape shifting abilities to mimic death.  I glanced around expecting to see Ax in the corner of the room being tortured by Angelica’s psychic attacks, but instead I found my vision clouded.  I wasn’t in the embassy anymore.  I was floating on my back in a milky way of fog.

 “So this is what an ‘astral river of transformation’ looks like,” I mumbled to myself.

Ax had said I would find a guide to help me navigate through the river and find the murdered gatekeeper.  So far I hadn’t seen anyone else floating through the fog with me.  It was quiet and I was alone.  I started to worry that Ax was mistaken when I began to drift more quickly.  I rolled over onto my stomach so I could look forward and see what was coming.

The mist looked thicker up ahead.  My river was heading toward a large swirling pool.  If I squinted I could see other streams like mine leading toward the same location.  This must be where the dead souls collected before entering the current that transported them to their rebirths.  I laughed at the ease with which I seemed able to accept this new turn of events.  You try spending a couple of days with a hot, sexy dragon and you’ll believe the unbelievable too.

The current I floated in started to churn as I got closer to the pool.  I was dumped unceremoniously into the spiraling whiteness and found myself sinking deeply.  At some point in my fall the mist dissipated and I landed on my ass at the bottom of the large cavern that I’d mistaken for a pool.

 “Here, let me help you up,” said a jovial voice behind me.

I looked around and found myself looking at the hem of a multi-colored cloak.  My eyes slowly crept up the garish robe until I was looking into the eyes of tall, slightly chubby man with white hair that stuck out in all directions.  He had his hand extended to me, and I let him help me up.

“Are you my guide?” I asked.

“Guide, tracker, best buddy.  Whatever you need I can do it!” he said happily.

“You’re not quite what I was expecting.  I guess I thought my guide would be the grim reaper or something.”

The monster chuckled, “Oh, Mark never greets the newbies.  Plus, he was busy.  There was a big hullabaloo over in the 3rd quadrant.  You know.  Some monsters just aren’t ready to die.  They make a big fuss and then Mark has to get all grim on them, ya know?”

 “My name is Greg, and I’m an Ankou.  Jump into my cart and I’ll explain on the way to the check-in point.”  I hadn’t noticed the cart behind Greg until he mentioned it, but I couldn’t believe I had missed it.  It was similar to a golf cart except it had a large wicker basket tied on to the back.  It was also painted bright orange and purple with a red bicycle flag flying from the top. It was hideous.  I quickly looked around and noticed that no one was looking at us.  In fact, it was obvious that those souls that were entering my quadrant of the cavern were trying very hard not to look at us.  Good thing I was already dead, or I would have died of embarrassment.  I was going to kill Ax when I got back.

Thinking of Ax made me remember my mission and how I needed to track down the gatekeeper.  Once I was owner of the gate I could get back to Ax and we could get my sister.  I jumped in the cart and fastened my seatbelt.  Looking at my crazy guide, I figured the seatbelt was there for a reason, even though I was dead.

“So, an Ankou is a little like a grim reaper, but just for the parishes in Brittany.  I had a great little gig going for awhile.  Drive around in this little cart and collect the souls of the dead.  It was sweet!  I was good at my job, but Mark said the recently dead don’t seem to like my colorful cart.  I never understood it, but they complained all the time.  I ask you; why not go out in style?” 

My mind immediately played the Monty Python “Bring out yer Dead!” scene.  I could just imagine how unpopular cheery Greg and his colorful cart would be when collecting souls.

Greg started the cart and pressed the horn, and Oingo Boingo’s It’s a dead man’s party blared from a hidden speaker. I hunched down in my seat hoping no one else could see me.

“Anyway, Mark gave me a job to usher monsters to the check-in point.  That’s where we’re headed now.  Once you’re checked in, you can catch the current to the rebirth center.”

“Wait,” I said as I finally managed to interrupt his monologue.  “I don’t know that I need to go to there just yet.  I really need to find a recently expired gatekeeper and talk with him for a few minutes.  Have you seen a gatekeeper?”

“Hmm.  Well, normally everyone’s at the check-in.  Most folks are ready for rebirth right away.  But, there are always a few who don’t want to go quickly; they want to rest up a bit first.  They always hang out at Starbucks.”

“Starbucks?  They really ARE everywhere.”

Greg tooted his horn and sped up as he turned a corner.  I hadn’t been looking around before this but the bottom of the cavern was actually a small town.  Greg turned into the coffee house parking lot.  I noticed that all the other carts in the lot were somber grey or black.

We went into the Starbucks and stepped in line to order our drinks.  There were three people in line before us: Two gnomes standing together chatting and one tall guy at the front of the line.  When his order was ready he grabbed the cup with only three fingers and his thumb.  That was my guy!  He walked to a corner of the store and grabbed a book from his back pocket before he sat in a comfy chair.  It looked like he planned to stay awhile.

We ordered our drinks and waited for them to arrive.  Greg was talking the whole time but I had tuned him out in favor of focusing my energy on the gatekeeper.  I needed to figure out a way to introduce myself to him without scaring him off.

Greg and I got our drinks and I walked toward the area the gatekeeper was sitting.  Greg followed behind me still talking.  The gatekeeper glanced up as I started to walk past and I knew it was my only chance.

“What are you reading?” I asked the gatekeeper.

The Metamorphosis.  It’s one of my favorites,” the gatekeeper said glancing from me to Greg.  Fortunately Greg had shut up to hear the gatekeeper answer my question.

“Oh, I liked it too,” I said and quickly sat down before he could dismiss me.  The gatekeeper looked a little irritated but shut his book to be polite.

The gatekeeper placed his book on the table and sipped his coffee.  “I’m hoping my rebirth will be as exciting as the book.  I don’t want to be a gatekeeper this next go-around.  It was a dangerous job as you can tell since I’m here.  Murdered!  Angelica totally surprised me when she killed me.  That’s why I’m hanging around.  Not really in any hurry to get back into it again.”

“Don’t you care that the person who murdered you is now in charge of your gate?” I asked.  I told them all about Angelica’s schemes for revenge on her brother’s behalf.

“Well, since my essence is still on the gate, I can tell that the monster is not really in charge yet.  There’s a second monster that has gained partial control.  They can just duke it out as far as I’m concerned.”

“But there are people that are at risk, they’re dying.  They are cut off from their other dimensions and stuck inside their embassy.  Wouldn’t you want to help if you could?” I asked.

“Well, I guess so.   But what can I do?  Since there are two people controlling the gate, there is no benefit for me to move on quickly.  Neither can own the gate, so why rush?”

“How would one of the people become the owner of the gate?  There’s got to be a way.” I mumbled.

“Oh, there’s a way alright,” said Greg.  “But it’s pretty impossible.  One of the owners would have to come to the gatekeeper here in the Astral Lake and ask for the old gatekeepers blessing.  He would transfer his blessing to the owner and remove his essence from the gate.  I don’t think it’s ever been done though.  How could someone die and then go back to living?  I guess you could enter the current in the Astral River of Transformation and go to the rebirthing center but the likelihood of getting birthed into a gatekeeper again is extremely unlikely.”

“But what if you weren’t really dead?” I asked.

The gatekeeper and Greg looked at me like I was crazy.

“What do you mean?” the gatekeeper asked.

“Look, this is really serious.  Your gate is being controlled by someone who wants to change the monster world forever.  Between the three of us, we could stop her.”  I realized that I was laying it on a little thick, but Greg seemed to love the idea of being a hero.

Greg agreed, “It could be so fun!  But what could we do?  We need the good monster to meet the gatekeeper.”

“What if I said that I am the good gatekeeper?” I asked. 

The gatekeeper and Greg began to laugh.  

“I’m serious!  And I can prove it!” I reached into my pocket and pulled out the skeleton key.  The laughter stopped abruptly. 

“How are you doing this?  How are you here?” the gatekeeper asked.  “Are you dead?”

“Yes and no.  But I need your blessing and I need you to banish your essence from the gate.  I need to take over the gate so we can catch your murderer and put the dimensional embassies back to order.  Will you do it?”

The gatekeeper looked at me and then at Greg.  He looked down at his book and sighed.  He picked up his coffee cup and drank the last swallow. 

“Let’s do it.  I can always finish my book once I’m reborn.  Let’s go get this bitch.”

I thought the gatekeeper was going to change his mind when he saw Greg’s cart.  But he impressed me by quickly glancing around and climbing in.  I sat next to him and Greg started the cart and honked the horn.

“How do you give me your blessing?” I asked the gatekeeper.

“It’s pretty simple.  I just need to do a toast while we take a drink.  Greg is taking us to the local bar.”

Apparently the local bar was just down the street.  If I’d have known that I would have walked instead of ridden in the hideous cart, but it was too late.  We were here.

The three of us walked into the bar and it was a scene right out of Star Wars.  There were all these different types of monsters at the bar and at the card tables.  The smoke in the air was heavy and the music was blues.  I felt like saying, “these are not the droids you are looking for” but I figured no one else would think it was funny.

We approached the bar and the gatekeeper ordered three shots of some awful green sludge.  I sniffed the shot glass and it smelled like a mix between moss and mint.  I was not sure that I’d be able to keep the drink down, but the gatekeeper wasn’t worried about my sensitivities.

I sniffed it again and sneezed.

“Bless you,” said the gatekeeper in an automatic response to my sneeze.  Greg and I tipped back our shots and drank.  The gatekeeper’s eyes widened in surprise, he shrugged his shoulders and chugged back his shot.

“That was easy,” said Greg.


cherie said...

Wahahaha! Your version of the underworld is hilarious! I liked the nod to Star Wars (since I'm a fan). It's my turn next week...EEEKKK!

You did well, my young Padawan, er, Master Kellie!

KellieM said...

Thanks Cherie! It was fun to write. I know you're going to rock next weeks chapter!

Jennifer Merritt said...

Fabulous you are! This was funny and so much fun. "Not dead yet!"

J. Lea Lopez said...

Death's name is Mark?! And there's Starbucks in the underworld! Hahaha brilliant!

Riley Redgate said...


This is AWESOME, Kellie. I hope I can see more non-children's writing from you in the future (as well as children's, of course)! =]

KellieM said...

Thanks Jen, I mean Yoda. I hoped some would enjoy my Monty Python reference.

JLea - Ah death, where is thy sting? Hard to be scared when deaths name is Mark, I guess. And of course there is a Starbucks in the underworld. They're everywhere!

Thanks Riley. I was really curious about what you'd think of the chapter. I hope it met everyone's expectations. I just couldn't be serious when writing it. I had to go for humor.

Delisa said...

I totally got the Monty Python reference. Love it!

A.M.Supinger said...

I've never watched Monty Python, but I thought the ugly cart and the ever-present Starbucks was hilarious! Great job :D

Jenny Phresh said...

hahah! I loved the pop culture references scattered throughout. Totally brilliant and fresh!

KellieM said...

Thanks Delisa and Jenny. Glad you enjoyed my Monty Python and Star Wars references. Jenny, I know if I can make you laugh, then it was good because you're always so funny.

AM - you've got to watch Monty Python. Start with the Holy Grail. So classic.

Anonymous said...

LOL! Your underworld doesn't sound hideous at all! My Dear Hubby will thoroughly enjoy knowing golf carts make it to hell!

Hugs and great job!