372: Field Of Dreams

on April 16, 2009 in Book 14

In Which Assistance Is Offered

I was at the farm… the farm in the labyrinth, only it wasn’t in the labyrinth. The barn was the same and there was the haystack and the field of corn, but it wasn’t bounded by maze walls… the field of corn stretched on, and a little ways away on the other side of the little road there was some gently rolling pasture land.

I was a little disappointed. I might have hoped, after so much love and affection from Amaranth, to have had a dream that reflected that in some fashion. I also could have dreamed of my mother, after digging up some buried feelings and memories.

I was also disappointed to see that my pitchfork wasn’t in the haystack… I would have liked to feel it in my hands again, if only in a dream.

There was no pitchfork, but there was something bright and orange and round resting near the base of it, like a child’s ball. There was nothing more interesting than that around me… no scarecrow hanging on the pole over the rows of corn and no crows, monstrous or otherwise… so I went over to get a closer look.

It was some kind of big melon or something, and there was a bug crawling on its rind… a little wiggly one, like the tiniest kinds of ants. Actually, there was more than one… another joined it, and two more. A lot more were crawling around from the other side of it. The bugs were swarming all over it. It was practically covered before long.

“Remind you of anyone?” somebody asked.

I looked up to see a man there, sitting on top of the haystack. I thought at first he might have been the scarecrow, out of the shadow at last… he was skinny and lithe looking, and he had a hat with a wide brim, but it wasn’t the right kind of hat. The scarecrow had been wearing something more like a floppy straw hat, a farmer’s hat. This guy was wearing a suit, kind of retro-fashionable, in a turn of the century kind of way, and the hat was straight-up cavalier chic. It was only missing the feather.

He got to his feet and began a graceful shuffle down the side of the stack, sending bits of hay tumbling down in tiny avalanches but keeping his feet.

“A bunch of insects crawling around on the skin of a fruit,” he said when he reached the ground next to me. He shook his head. “Who’s that remind you of?”

“Um… other insects?” I said, and he laughed.

He looked about my age, maybe a little older. His eyes were dark under the brim of his hat. His face was smooth, very smooth… almost elven smooth. I didn’t know him, but I thought I recognized him somehow. He was a bit specific to have come from some kind of central casting office in my head. He might have been any of the dozens of guys I’d seen in classes and not paid any attention to, I supposed.

“You were expecting the fox girl, weren’t you?” he asked.

“I don’t dream about her that much any more,” I said.

“Don’t you?”

“No,” I said. “I don’t think so.”

“You know… when humans from your part of the world first landed on their island, they didn’t know what to make of the people,” he said. “There are ‘beastmen‘ all over, but the foreigners expected beasts to be beastly, not to build beautiful shrines and write poetry and drink tea. The locals didn’t know what to make of them, either… so after a brief spell, they mostly made corpses of each other. The invaders decided they were just another type of monster, but one that mocked humanity’s culture and achievements. There was a serious debate among the temples as to whether they were infernal, or just, you know… wicked that way. There was more than one lexicon written where their word for themselves, for ‘being‘ or ‘person‘, was translated as ‘demon’.”

“That’s interesting,” I said. “Really. It’s fascinating the nonsense I can come up with when I’m asleep.”

He knocked the melon with the toe of his boot and it rolled over, barely disturbing the swarm.

“That really doesn’t remind you of anyone?” he asked.

“No,” I said.

“Huh,” he said. “What if they started building cities? Laying roads? Think that might jog your memory a little?”

“Oh, I get it,” I said. “Very clever. Very allegorical. We’re like a bunch of tiny bugs crawling around on a piece of fruit.”

“We?” the man said, cocking an eyebrow.

“Okay, I am,” I said. “You’re just some dream guy giving me a random, generic piece of insight. You know, this isn’t at all like my normal dreams… this standing around and talking and stuff. I usually get more like flashes of emotion and movement that I don’t really make sense of until I wake up.”

“Yeah, that’s a dream, alright,” the man said. “If you want insight, what you need to realize is that none of this,” he said, pausing as though for dramatic effect, “is real.”

“Yeah, thanks,” I said. “I kind of worked that out for myself, though. I mean, that’s what dreams are, mostly. Not real.”

“I’m not talking about this in here,” he said. “I’m talking about all that out there.”

“All of what out where?”

“Everything you’ve got going on when you’re awake,” he said. “Your little girlfriend with your picnic lunches. Your little boyfriend. The other one. Your academic career. Your little fight for equality. Your hopes. Your dreams.”

“I thought you weren’t talking about dreams,” I said.

“I’m not talking about this dream,” he said. “I’m talking about your plans for the future.”

“What makes you think I’ve got any?” I asked. “Plans, or future.”

“Oh, I know you’ve got a future,” he said. “It’s going to be a piece of glory.”

“You’ve seen it, I suppose,” I said.

“I’m seeing to it.”

“I suppose you’re going to tell me you’re my guardian angel,” I said sarcastically.

“You’re not as sharp as she is,” he said, and he turned and started walking away down the road.

“As who is?”

“Who do you think?” he asked without stopping or turning around.

“I don’t know, tell me,” I said.

“Sharpest woman I ever met,” he said. “Hard to believe you came from her.”

I didn’t take the bait, though the hook it was dangling on might as well have been shoved into my guts and yanked around a bit for good measure. He was talking about my mother.

“This isn’t a normal dream, is it?” I asked.

The man stopped and turned around, grinning a way-too-broad grin.

“If it makes you more comfortable, we could take off our clothes,” he said. “Or I could belt you one… throw you to the ground, kick you in the face. Would that be a normal dream?”

“Who are you?” I asked him. “Did… did my mother send you?”

“Nobody sent me,” he said.

“You’re real, though,” I said. “I mean, you’re not somebody I dreamed up… you’re doing something, magic or something.”

“You’re getting sharper,” he said, tipping his hat a bit. “Keep it up and we just might not be here all night. What makes you think it’s magic?”

“Because if this were a divine visitation… which I wouldn’t believe it was anyway… I’d be in a lot more pain and if you were using telepathy, you would.”

“Sharp as a tack,” he said.

“You knew my mother,” I said.

“Once upon a time.”

“Is that why you’re here?” I asked.

“I’m not here because of your mother, Mackenzie,” he said. “I’m here because of you.”

“What, are you supposed to set me on the right path or something?”

“No,” he said. “Nothing like that.”

“What, then?”

“I guess I felt like stopping by and seeing you,” he said. “It seemed like it was about time we got acquainted, you know?”

“I don’t know,” I said, a little irritated at the seeming assumption that I’d know what he was talking about. “Who are you?”

“An old friend of your mother’s,” he said. “I guess you might say I was her teacher.”

“You look kind of young to have taught her anything,” I said.

“Well, I can’t do anything about that,” he said. “It’s your dream.”

“Fine, let’s get acquainted,” I said. “Tell me about yourself.”

“Isn’t much to tell,” he said. “I thought maybe we could talk about you for a spell.”

“What about me?”

“I saw you out on that field today,” he said. “You didn’t do so hot.”

“That’s because I didn’t feel so hot,” I said. “I felt cold.”

“That was a big problem until you decided to throw a little power at it,” he said. “You know, that’s one of your biggest weaknesses, Mackenzie.”

“Cold,” I said. “Yeah. I know.”

“No, not the cold,” he said. “The cold is an inconvenience. The cold is something you can overcome. Your weakness is accepting it, not fighting it, not pushing back… and not just against the cold. You cowed the mermaid once, when you thought to dig in your heels and give her a good hard shove back.”

“You were watching me then?” I asked, creeped out.

“No, but I can see it now,” he said. “We’re in your head, after all. Cold or no cold, you should have been able to lay that elfblood out flat. Do you know why you didn’t?”

“Because she’s a better fighter than me?”

“Better, nothing… you could have swung that stick like a dwarf with a hammer and anybody who was in its path would have no choice but to get out of the way quick. But you let it take control, you let it guide you, and it didn’t want to do anything but defend, defend, defend. It didn’t have anything to say about attacking.”

“It’s a defensive weapon,” I said.

“So you should have took charge on the attack,” he said. “You wield a weapon, you don’t let it wield you… that’s where things went wrong with the pitchfork.”

“What do you know about my pitchfork?”

“Yours?” he said. He laughed. “Maybe if you show me you can handle it.”

“Does that mean you have it?” I asked.

“Maybe I do,” he said. “And maybe I’ll think about letting you have it back, if you can give me some kind of indication that things won’t just turn out the same way they did the last time you got a hold of it.”

I started to ask what I had to do, but then I stopped… I was being way too calm and accepting of some guy I didn’t know standing inside my head, looking at my memories, and trying to get me to sit up and beg like a damned puppy. Didn’t I have enough people doing that already? And then there was the claimed connection to my mother… my mother had never mentioned anybody like this guy. I didn’t remember seeing any pictures of him.

In fact, I couldn’t remember my mother ever talking about guys.

“Look… just how stupid do you think I am?” I asked.

“Well, now,” the man said, scratching his chin. “I don’t normally like to lie without a powerfully compelling reason to…”

“There’s only one man I know of who would have been a part of my mother’s life,” I said.

“Right, only one you know about,” he said. “So I could be one of any number of other men who passed through her life.”

“But you aren’t, are you?” I said. “Because that explains why you’re so young, and how you could come into my mind without frying your own brain, and why you look so familiar…”

“Say it,” he said, leaning towards me and grinning a great jack o’ lantern leer of a grin. There was a fire behind his dark eyes. “Say it out loud.”

“Deny it,” I said. “Tell me I’m wrong.”

He held out his hand, two fingers up in a V sign, and lit them on fire.

My mouth went dry.

“The question is, what are you going to do about it?” he asked.

“Wake up now,” I said.

“Yeah, good luck with that,” he said. He extinguished his hand. “I’m your family, baby girl… the only real family you’ve got. Maybe I haven’t always been there for you, but then, how could I be when you were living in that woman’s house? As soon as I found out you were out on your own, I came looking for you and now here I am… well, not exactly here, really. But I can still keep an eye on you. I can still watch out for you.”

“I don’t need watching out for,” I said.

“No?” he asked, raising an eyebrow again. “Listen, baby girl… I know about your deal on Saturday, and you don’t have to worry. If things go badly for you, I’ll take care of it. A man like me can’t do much in a world like this without attracting too much of the wrong kind of attention, but a person like ‘Tender’ Mercy… well, no matter how legal her operation is, nobody’s going to look twice if she ends up a bloody smear.”

“I don’t need your help,” I said.

“Not yet,” he said. “I’m just telling you that if you do, you’ll have it… unconditionally, unquestionably. That’s what families do. That’s what family’s for.” He tipped his hat again, then turned and started walking down the road. “I’ll be seeing you. We’ll talk about your pitchfork some more.”

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22 Responses to “372: Field Of Dreams”

  1. Christy says:

    Er, by any chance, would the spike in infernal energy Dee detected in the forest where Amaranth took the pitchfork… Was that spike her dad? If so, dang…

    On another note, I’m surprised Mack didn’t try to kill him, considering how much she hates his guts…

    Current score: 0
    • Adam Barnes says:

      Yes, a suprise that the tiny little half-demon, terrified of her own pwoer, wouldn’t try to take on a full demon, who probably, magically speaking, outweighs her by a metric fuck ton

      Current score: 8
      • Jackie says:

        I not a hundred percent sure but considering how mack didn’t fall into her normal bad temper, I figure daddy there was keeping her calm somehow.

        On another note, I sorta disapprove of the whole pushing her towards glory but love his promise of unconditional, unquestionable help. I love the papa wolf vibe in stories.
        I just wonder how altruistic he is. I wouldn’t jump to assumption that he’s a perfectly helpful demon who’s only looking out for his daughters best interests.

        Current score: 3
    • MackSffrs says:

      I’m not sure the story ever made it clear that she unconditionally hated her father, whoever and whatever she thought he was. Seeing him in this more human like appearance, with his brief explanation of his relationship with her mother, teacher or friend, well I think that would disarm any sort of immediate hate.
      Also, while I thought Mercy might act as a dues ex machina to save Mack from physical harm if she went on a rampage or something, it seems now that Mack’s father will act as dues ex machina against Mercy’s own machinations.

      Current score: 4
      • Arakano says:

        Little note: it’s not a “more human like appearance”, it’s his natural form. Demons of MUniverse were created to look just like humans so they could hunt them better…

        Deus ex Mackina, eh? 😉

        Current score: 6
    • zeel says:

      To point A, probably.

      To point B, it’s in her head. She can’t kill him.

      Current score: 0
  2. pedestrian says:

    Nothing good ever came from being Stalin’s son.

    Current score: 3
  3. nemka says:

    It could also just be the weirdness of the dream, in general. In my experience, calm and trying to understand can be a default reaction when you don’t know what’s going on in a situation that seems so ridiculous on the face of it, because if you haven’t even bought into it fully yet, it’s hard to get mad.

    Also, I’m pretty sure altruism has nothing to do with it. In the structure of the MU world, demons literally have no souls. I don’t know that that would make a being intrinsically evil, possibly just intrinsically ambivalent, but I think it does rule out true, pure good.

    Current score: 4
  4. pedestrian says:

    Evil people are capable of committing ‘good’ acts/actions.

    So long as it is convenient/profitable/acting a public script.

    And no matter how many or less ‘good’ acts a person with evil intentions is seen doing, that will not excuse the evil they do commit.

    The intrinsic difference between a ‘good’ person and an ‘evil’ person is that the former will commit good acts in private as well as public, without calculating the profit for themselves.

    Current score: 2
    • Arakano says:

      I disagree. That would be more between “good” and “neutral”; evil has to include doing some evil, IMO, not just “failing to do enough good”, or else 99,9999999% of humanity would qualify as evil, at least.

      Current score: 1
      • zeel says:

        Do you recall what he did to Laurel Ann? Evil. He is a classic case of the manipulative bastard – seems so nice, so sincere, but evil to the core.

        Current score: 4
    • Kat says:

      The word evil in itself is kind of stupid. There is no evil. Just selfishness, disregard, arrogance, desperation, hate, revenge, an extremely questionable sense of humor, urges that are harmful or not accepted widely and different sets of morals.
      I’m pretty sure that a chicken in a small cage that has to lay eggs all her life only to be slaughtered eventually would see humans as evil. Just like the egyptians saw the jews as a convenient labor force and the vikings in england and sweden enslaved each other and everyone around them.
      There are peoples that don’t get the concept of possesion at all and every thing that’s lying around can be taken by anyone (except small children who might break it), but nothing may be removed from the village. So while the tourists camping there thought they were robbed constantly and then they weren’t even allowed to drive their car out of there because it was in the village and thus couldn’t be removed without breaking the laws. The tourists had to walk all the way back to civilisation with only the clothes on their back because the villagers kept all their things and got aggressive when the tourists tried to take their stuff and leave. Who was the evil one there? Both only followed their rules and neither did anything bad.

      Current score: 2
  5. Cedjuct MacMan says:

    Mercy maybe a deus ex machina but the father of Mackenzie who is infernal wouldn’t have anything to do with the divine.

    The only reason infernals seem to show up is to be a detriment to everyone for their own benefit. If Mackenzie by some calculation about to be redeemed by her human side, then he is there to try and stop that because evil loves evil and honestly does not want to see her infernal side disappear.

    Current score: 0
    • Tark says:

      I’m not sure we’ve seen enough of infernals (speaking as one not read further than this, admittedly) to make that judgement–but I’d doubt that “evil loves evil” is some intrinsic thing, all evil is very rarely a friend to all evil?
      I’d guess daddy demon wants all kinds of things Mack would hate, and from what I can tell the equation is more soulless = inherently amoral. I’d doubt he’s altruistic, but he might value Mack.

      Current score: 1
      • zeel says:

        I would say that he is a chess master, he has an over all plan, and suducing little girls and producing half demon’s is merely a small part. His plans are probably not so much ‘evil’ as ‘selfish’ it’s all about him, and what furthers his plan. If helping Mackenzie furthers his plan then he will do it.

        Current score: 2
  6. fragzilla says:

    So what you are saying is that if Mack dad helps her out, instead of duex ex machina its…. diablos ex machina?

    Current score: 2
  7. holodrum says:

    Has no-one else caught that he said “not as sharp as she is.” In the present tense when talking about Mack’s mum?

    Current score: 5
  8. jarsin says:

    Mack’s mum isn’t the only Blaise to have met demons.

    Current score: 2
  9. JerK says:

    I’m just glad she figured out it was her father so quick because let’s face it Mack can be pretty good about ignoring the obvious.

    Current score: 1
  10. lunchbox says:

    I almost squeaked at my bus stop when I realized that Mack Daddy was on the scene.

    Current score: 3
  11. Jechtael says:

    “I know what you are.”
    “Say it.”
    “You’re a vam- DEMON.”

    Kat: You. You I like.

    Hm. I wonder if the pitchfork may contain a fragment of The Man, and not just Some Demon(TM Infernal Industries, est.1176 B.Kh.E.).

    Current score: 2