The Dark Night

This is not in any way related to World of Warcraft. Some time ago I jotted down an “as is”-thing, a rather poorly written opening to something … and then I buried it, because honestly? It was just bad. The idea didn’t leave me entirely. Since I’m not well versed in contemporary stuff – I find a lot more freedom in making up my own facts! – the story below sort of transformed … into something else, than that first very bad draft.

I’m actually rather pleased with how it turned out. Should you be so inclined, please take fifteen minutes or something and read it.

Oh.

Don’t mention O’Leary.

(Seriously. Don’t.)

I think this is the beginning of a grand adventure … it’s one of those ideas that traveled through space, like narativium do, and lodged itself in this scared piece of fatty tissue of mine.

The Dark Night.

(Yeah, it’s a working title, but I had to call it something!)

– – –

Deliah have never seen the dark night.

She’s right though. Nights come slow in these parts. Every night, as if it was shy, sorry to trespass on another day, even if it was grim or rainy or dry or hot. Sure, there’s plenty of different days – but there’s just one night in these parts.

The dark night.

It rolls down the mountainside like an avalanche of darkness. The daylight struggles, of course it does, but this is a battle the Light will lose. The burning brightness of day turns golden in that first frantic battle. Then it turns red, blood red. Then the night comes. Far, far away the glare of big cities paint an everlasting sunset against the horizon, but here … yes, here there’s just the night.

The night is the blanket of the world. It’s a quilt, sewn by hands who know nothing of the day. It’s rolls down across our little town. ”That’s how it’s always been” people in these parts say. Some people say ”It’ll be morning soon …”. They know what it means, you see. It means another day.

With a bit of luck, it’s a new day for everyone.

It’s curious how people, who knows that the night is dark and dreary as they dream of O’leary, whisper ”nevermore”.
That’s a secret! Don’t tell anyone! O’Leary … we don’t speak of O’Leary. They say, in these parts, that if you say his name three ti–

Oops.

Yet some people like the night. Some people are a bit weird (or so the other people claim, the people of the day). The temperature drops, sometimes it rains even though the day was clear and sunny. The smell of daylight shifts to the smell of night, as if nature herself did some housecleaning. The night smell better than the day. The night smells clean.
The streetlights come on at nine o’clock. It’s always been that way. The first streetlight was installed in 1781, it was an iron basket filled with firewood. A ”mr Pryttchard” was responsible for lighting it. It was supposed to keep the indians out.
It didn’t.

There’s quite a nice display made out of tin soldiers and styrofoam in the library if you want to know more about the massacre of 1786.

These days, and for a long time back, it’s been eletricity. The first electrical streetlight was installed in 1928 and since then there’s been thousands of them. All of them light up at exactly 2100 hours. It used to be that our little town bathed in light but people complained. These days, the streetlights are perfect. They shine upon the pavement in circles of light and the darkness reigns between them.

The system works, so there’s no reason to change the rules (even though night comes earlier in winter than in summer). When night falls, the display windows of the stores, those who got it, turn on their night lights. It used to be that all stores had spotlights in their windows. It used to be that Main Street looked like christmas shopping season, all year around. These days most of the storefronts have aluminum shutters. No more lights, sir, oh no. Just flood lights that come one if someone moves past a motion detector. Like everyone else, we’re scared of terrorists and thieves. Some people blame ”the kids”, others the Hollands (they’re from Away, and they’re black, and in these parts old habits die hard), but such people always find someone to blame and hate.

Pritchards Autos is resplendant with it’s lights, all through the night. Red and green and blue and yellow. Neon signs. Hanging wires so heavy with lightbulbs they sag a good two feet between the chromed steel poles. Lee Pritchard – he can trace his family back to the Light Keeper, Oliver Pryttchard – says it’s a customer support thing. People don’t know this because Pritchard have never told anyone but his husband, now deceased.

He’s afraid of the dark.

His lot is brightly lit. Someone might be passing by and glance at the cars. Maybe they’re walking the dog. Maybe they’re coming back from Pat Malloy’s, walking slowly like people with too much beer and not enough brains usually do. Maybe they spot a car, right then and there in the night. Maybe they want that car.

Well. They can’t have it, not right away.

There’s a chainlink fence around the parking lot. The two story red brick building, with ”PRITCHARD MOTORS & REPAIRS” painted on the wall between the first and second floor windows, have floodlights mounted on it’s slanted roof. Pritchard lives on the second floor. His lights go out around midnight. People think he’sa bit ”quirky”, or ”mad”, because he never remarried even though he’s only fortyfive. Still, someone undoubtedly comes back the next morning – Pritchards is doing good business, even for a small town such as this.

What town, you ask? Ah …

Welcome to Blackwood.

The night rolls in. The streetlights come on. Prichards, Malloy’s, Karpovs Fishing Supplies and a handful of other stores light up their windows. It’s automatic. It used to be the owner or some staff had to turn a switch but you know, that was way back in the 1940’s.

The stores that’s still lit? Those are the stores that trust people in this part of the world. Their buildings sit there, on the edge of the concrete sidewalk, all through the night with the windows lit. Rectangles and squares of multi colored light shimmer upon the sidewalk. When it rains, it’s like looking down a rainbow. In winter, when it snows (it used to snow a lot more), you just wait for Father Christmas to come by. Bells ringing, reindeers and all. It never happens, of course. Father Cee never comes around in his sledge. Even if he does, no one has ever seen him. Here’s a bit of local news for you: In 1963, mr Tim Labroux (he was from New Orleans originally) had his head caved in with a sledgehammer. Labs, as he was called, used to dress up as Santa. It was his wife who did him in. Let’s leave it at that.

Blackwood is otherwise a sleepy little town. Most of the houses goes dark after eleven. The only light you might see is if someone forgot to turn off their computer. There’s not many lights in the windows after midnight. People go to bed early in these parts. Everyone has at least one computer and several other devices but people like the dark in Blackwood. You won’t find much of the blue shadows, not in this town..

Those who are awake, those with the household lamps still on, well … Let’s just say that some people like to talk about those people. Funny that. A hundred miles south you can see the sky ablaze with light from New York Citys arcs, the self-contained small towns in the big city. The largest one, The Trump Arc, is exactly nineteen kilometers high.
Blackwood is rural country though. Time forgot to bring the town into the late twentyfirst century. Look over there, across Main Street. The sign above the doors to Love’s Food is a neon calendar. It spells out the time and date. Right now?
00:26:42. 03 25. 2042. The ”42” after the time is changing of course. 43. 44. 45. 46 …

However, this is an unusual night.

At 00:26:46, the clock on Love’s Food stops.

There’s a light on at 244 Birch Street. It’s an old light. Not many people use that kind of stuff, not these days. The light is glaring. It’s pristine white fluorescents. It spills out through the windows covered with plastic lace curtains and paints rectangles of light on the darkened ground. Tiny pebbles speckled with fool’s gold glimmer on the walkway. The grass appears to be tinged with wite and gold. It’s plastic grass. It’s a bit tacky, sure, but what can you do, eh? Water is expensive these days. Even on the East Coast.

Nathan Rumford lives here. He’s seventysix years old, a retired computer salesman (he started out with Apple). He usually goes to bed at ten thirty, like any decent person in these parts of the world.

Not this night.

He sort of went to sleep two hours ago. He still sits hunched in front of a half eaten bowl of spagetti in tomato sauce, his eyes staring at nothing. That’s why the Rumford House will be available for rent, to ”a woman who is honest, clean and calm. Pets are allowed (no dogs!), good internet connections!”. There will be a telephone number attached to the ad but the ad won’t show up in Weekdays in Blackwood for another three weeks (it’s still a paper newspaper even though they have a site as well). Mr Ferguson, he’s the lawyer in town, will place the ad.

Deliah will call that number.

A damsel in distress

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“She looked like something that might have occured to Ibsen in one of his less frivolous moments.”
― P.G. Wodehouse, Summer Lightning

“Would you please stop that infernal music!” For almost a minute, the band played on. Horns blared, violins squeaked. No one heard the haggard voice over the din of dirges, suited for a recently reanimated slightly fragrant mage. Then: “Stop that infernal din! I haven’t got all day!”

There was a “ploink” as one of the violinists stopped. Then there was a “oomph” as a tuba player sucked his mastiscated lips from a somewhat grimy mouthpiece and stared at the apparition with big, suprised glowing eyes.

“I say,” a flutist said, once the screeching notes came to an end. “Someone doesn’t appreciate the fine a– ouwww!”

Dorry smacked him over the head with her cain. Then she glared at all of them, one after another.

“I am not someone to be trifled with,” she said. “A lady can’t even get some decent sleep around here! Oh no, I just wanted to rest my legs a bit, found a nice hole to do it in, the next thing I know? You! Is this what the world is coming to? Dirges? When I was a girl we used to send our elders off with polka and brandy!”

She shook her cain and took a step into the midst of the band. Several minutes later, most of them rolled around on the ground clutching their aching, seeping heads. Dorry looked around across the fallen, content with a good nights work, and then set off.

“I do hope miss Harrowgate knows that I’m coming,” she muttered. “I’m not going to let Death stop me from her tea party, oh no, you mark my words you little wench … Stealing my betrothed, right under my nose, with those long legs of hers. There’s a name for people like you, young lady! It starts with Ssss …” She stopped, sniffing the air. There was a tang of life somewhere, aha! Over there, hiding in a bush. A night elf, busy with winding up a mechanical construct of some sort. It looked like a harvest golem, a small one. A very scared rat bared it’s teeth at the herald of mechanised doom.

“You there!” Dorry cried out. “Leave that rat alone!”

The night elf startled – and then, in an instant, vanished in a puff of smoke. The tiny harvester scuttled around for a bit before it came to a screeching halt in a cloud of smoke and sparks.

“Beware the living … ” Dorry said. Then she made a “tcch! tchh!”-sound with her lips. The rat thought it over for a few seconds but then realised that the world is a dangerous place. Might as well have a mage as a bodyguard.

“I’m going to call you … Rattus!” Dorry nodded. Rattus said “squeak!”. Dorry made a pleased sound, half a grunt, half a chuckle. Then she hitched up her dress, an heirloom, and set off for the putrescent lights and big underworld of former Lordaeron. “Dark Lady have mercy on your soul, miss Harrowgate. For I certainly wont!”

Full metal rogue

“I am Sergeant Caliss, your senior drill instructor. From now on you will speak only when spoken to, and the first and last words out of your filthy sewers will be “Ma’am”. Do you maggots understand!?”

Kick ’em hard, right from the start. That’s what my ol’ sarge used to say. I couldn’t believe my luck a couple of weeks ago. SI:7 pulled me out of Shat and sent me on some R&R in Darnassus. There’s a compound there for people like me, for Temporal Operatives. I thought I was done working backwards in time. I thought I was done working, period. Girls like me, with frayed sanity and too many citations in the books, we don’t get second chances. Outland came close to breaking me, you know. Sent back to do this or that, back to a world that died a long time ago … and then they pull me out.

I knew I couldn’t be that lucky. Not for long.

I slept for fortyeight hours upon my return, barely woke up for nature’s call. Everything was a haze. I hardly even knew where I were. Then things cleared up a bit. I’ll tell you later about the compound, but first there’s the matter of Junior.

Andrea Rawls, everyone called her Junior. Fourteen years old, ’cause the army has lowered the enlistment age for years now. First Deathwing took a toll out of the body, then Garrosh got his sacrifice. By the time the Iron Horde stormed through the portal, both the Alliance and the Horde was scraping the bottom of the barrel. Over here, the blue and gold, we got it down to science. Twenty years of age became eighteen, then sixteen, then fifteen. Then – fourteen (we call them “boosters”). There’s a rumor that press gangs enlist the aid of mercenaries and rip the kids out of the arms of screaming mothers. Ugly business, for sure. If it’s true or not, well you know, no one fucking cares. Let’s just say that the Goldshire marshall recently bought himself a new house. A big one.

Meat. We need meat. Some live, some die. In the end they’re all meat. We know it. They know it. I saw it in Juniors eyes. Blue eyes, a bit on the watery side like she was about to cry but had forgotten how. Her face was already old, lips clasped together so tight her mouth was but a stripe across her cheeks. White lips. The humans say you can spot a virgin in their eyes. They’re wrong. It’s in the face. Those who smile, those who breathe through slightly moist lips – those are the one’s who dream of fucking. Trust me. So many recruits grabbed their tiny pole that first night, thinking of me. I know it. I heard them. Then again … it doesn’t matter if you got laid or not, because here in Tanaan, well if you don’t know how to kill?

Everyone is fucked.

I’m well trained. I look for that particular face. The killer face. The solemn, already dead, face. The “I have no dreams of a future miss pinkie with my fingertips on the button”-face. I want dead people. That’s the face of someone who will survive. Life have fucked them already. They know they’re dead, time just haven’t caught up with them. Andrea was one of them. You know what we call them?

We call them the Black Guard.

That’s why your first duty is to make them fear you more than they fear Gul’Dans berserkers. Because trust me – no one wants to be the Black Guard. That greeting up there? That’s my tag line. Those young faces with beards that look like black or blonde pinstripes on their pimpled cheeks lose their luster once I’m done with them. Those young meatshields, some of them have never been kissed. Some of them barely have breasts. Meat, all of them. Boys, girls. It doesn’t matter. Andrea bled for the first time right there, grimacing from cramps but still standing. I punched two guys out, one on her left, one on her right, when they snickered. She knew why she was here. I dare say no one else did. She knew …

They were here to die.

Meat. Smiles fade, exitement turns to embarassment or fear. I don’t care about the one’s who get embarassed. They’ll be dead soon. I single out the one’s who grit their teeth. They’ll be dead later – and later is better than soon. They’re here to make my job easier. They’re meat. I’m the knife.

Junior didn’t flinch.

She didn’t smile, or blush. She didn’t step back, not even when blood spread, not even when the cramps turned her face white. She just stared at me with eyes too old for her young face. For some reason that small detail bothered me. A “One Four”, as we call them. She shouldn’t have that kind of eyes … truth be told she scared me. I was like her, once. A long, long time ago …

She had a scar running down the left cheek, from the ear to the chin. It was an old scar, neatly healed, just a white line down her face. I wondered, when I saw her, what could have caused such a scar. You know the grapewine of Lunarfall, I’m sure. Someone heard something, told it to someone and eventually I heard it. Was it true? Nah. A couple of days later during chow I asked Junior about the scar.

“So, you got cut by an orc death knight stealing your farm chickens, huh?”
“Uh-uh.” She never talked much.
“No?”
“Dad gave it to me.” She looked up from the plate of grits and stew and stared at me with those pale, watery blue eyes that was too old for a kid. Then she just shrugged, lowered her eyes and kept on eating. Hammering her knife into the grits.

I found her a couple of weeks later, out in the field. Gul’Dan hit us hard at the Iron Front. If not for the meat those damned green animals would have bumrushed all of us, straight into Talador. Less than a dozen vindicators and a couple of hundred infantry dug in right at the broken gates and held the line. It was enough time for “the specialists” to arrive. Junior was still standing, smack out in the middle of the battlefield. Just a kid, she couldn’t even hold a sword right. I walked up to her, walked straight across the still smoking remains of thousands of dead orcs.

“You alright there, private?” I said.
“I’m in a world of shit,” she said, without looking at me. Then she turned her hollow stare at me and whispered: “Seven, six two inches … “She actually hissed as she raised the sword. “Full. Metal. Jacket.”

Her body armor, simple ghost iron because True Iron was too expensive or the grunts, was covered with blood, soot and chunks of orc meat.

“I live.” She said. “Fuck it.”

Then she dropped her sword and clung to my neck, screaming. I tried not to cry. In the end, I didn’t. I held her, staring into her eyes. Ten thousand yards of staring eyes. She grinned at me, it wasn’t a smile. It was facial muscles, too hard to let go. you know what?

I had the same grin.

This is no war for children. When they grow up, what will they be? The question lingered with me for days on end. They sent Junior back to Karabor, the field hospital there is one of a kind. I put in some paperwork and eventually I heard, through the grapewine, she had been “pulled out”. SI:7 caught her.

Two days later I was pulled out as well. Maybe it was that last thing I did that got the attention of SI:7. Maybe someone just knew I was fed up. I broke the siege of Zeth’Gor. 0430 hours I just stood up behind a barricade and said “fuck it!”. then I walked into that monster of a town and carved, cut and danced. Eyes wide. Lips bared. Grinning.

I Vanished and ambushed. I shed my armor, painted myself with blood and ash. Two hundred, eighty nine dead. Men, women, children. Even their pet beasts. I never caught sight of Kilrogg, the bastard was already holed up in the Citadel. I didn’t even know I wanted to kill him. I just … I just wanted to kill.

I painted my face with ash. I smeared charcoal around my eyes. I danced the dance of death with Kilroggs orcs – naked. You want to know what fear is?

Fear is the smell of sweat, beads of stink on the body of an orc as I gutted him, from the pelvis to the ribs, and then disemboweled him with my bare hands. I force fed brutes with their innards. If anyone tells you night elves are kind … they’re wrong. Hate drove me, rode me, the best lover you can have is the smell of blood, feces and fear. I came as I killed.

They pulled me out. I was “losing it”, as the commander said. They sent me back to Darnassus, the Compound.

The first thing you should know about the Compound is this: On the heavy cloth walls in the house carved out of a tree trunk, someone has adorned the environment with “pleasant thoughts”. It’s wooden boards, filled with sentences like “Time Is A Stream: Swim With It!”. Or “History Is Here And Now!”. Or “Temporal Operatives Saved the World of Today Yesterday!”. Or “No One Ever Dies If you Know What Timeline You Are Sent To!”. Or “Chromie Wants it!”.

Fuck Chromie.

Most of us in the Compound are crazy. Most of us fall back on the simple things in life. Sleep. Food. Sex. Pain. We’re time whores, all of us. Temporal Operatives … I’m pretty sure I fucked myself once, going back in time, taking out a wizard with a quick stab in the back, then laying low … I went to a brothel in Dolanaar. I grew up there, you know. Was it me? I don’t know. She was young, she was scared, I had to hold her down and force her to lick. She did a lousy job and I slapped her.

That was me. Once. Crying as I did it but the sentinel who slapped me … never mind. That was ages ago. I grew up. Two years ago I found her, in Astranaar. I fed her with her ovaries (they never caught me). I told you we’re crazy. just like Junior said, I know this now:

I’m in a world of shit. But I am alive.

Casualty List

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(naval mission losses, including missing from action – MIA – and/or presumed dead):

Ambershine, Sun (passenger)
Blackpaw, Lin (surgeon)
Blixby, Dixx (engineer)
Boltcutter, Dorbin (sailor)
Boltcutter, Corbin (sailor)
Boltcutter, Orbin (2nd grade petty officer)
Brown, Rufus (sailor)
Derek, Dirk (sailor)
Glllgmmrl (Assault diver 1st grade)
Hamaa (sailor)
Hyte, Emma “Lassie” (sailor)
Iramaa (sailor)
Jerome, Carevin (sailor)
Linkgrease, Trinkle (2nd grade engineer)
Mark, Anthony (sailor)
Mordregar, Geralt (petty officer 1st grade)
Nightshadow, Luna (sailor)
Pinkerbosom, Tinky (2nd grade engineer)
Redridge, Jerome “the Mountain” (sailor)
Rinkley, Algar (sailor)
Romley, Gerhardt (sailor)
Scaffold, Urik (sailor)
Shadowhaven, Tyranne (marine)
Serion, Theodore “Laddie” (captains cabin boy)

*****

Failed naval missions comes with a price.

Remember that.