Journal entry #1
It's been years since I slept after the sun goes down. Nobody knows where they came from but they feed on sleepers at night. You sleep during the day. You work at night. Farmers have the worst of it, but a lot can be done by the headlights of a tractor. I'm Karl. Karl Green. I've always been good with mechanical things and I capitalized on it. I'm a machinist, and I've a fair hand at MIG welding too.
I live in Sidney, Iowa. It's in the far south west corner of the state. It's a small town among small towns, but Omaha is less than an hour away due north. It's been hard to keep the fabrication plant running the last few years. The electricity keeps guttering out or surging like hell. We've transitioned from using 440-Volt 3-phase power to high-pressure air lines and turbines to drive our equipment. With one huge LP gas-fed motor and a pair of high-pressure compressors we stay in business, but the big twenty-ton stamping presses are nothing but scrap metal because the power irregularities destroyed their bearings.
I've mostly gone back to torch welding, too. I had to go to the hospital to have pieces of my welder pried out of my back the last time a big voltage surge hit. If I can't do it with batteries and a voltage divider I'm not gonna do any arc welding ever again.
The churches all have capacity crowds. I have no idea why people go. All the cross-waving, icons and holy water in the world means nothing to the little invisible flying bastards that kill people in their sleep. The only thing that seems to do any good is U. V. light. They can't stand the stuff. It blisters their skin and they fall. Easy prey. The trouble is there's no reliable method of generating U. V. light anymore.
A guy at the coffee shop said that he had it figured out.
Magic had come back to the world.
Is he right? The facts seem to fit. Hell, I've had dreams of flying for the past few months. It's not really like flying, though--I'm being carried along by things that live in the air.
I've been preparing to find out if Magic is truly out there. I feel that I have to do something. Our small town is dying of attrition. Nobody is forcing me and nobody elected me. I just feel that there are answers out there. I'm not prepared to rest until I learn them.
I prepared in accordance with the old legends.
I hand made a coin silver dagger that was quenched in my own blood. I learned to spin and weave flax into linen. I wove enough material to make a long hooded robe. I sewed it together with brass needles and my waxed linen thread.
Making Scottish ghillies to cover my feet wasn't hard once I found a pattern.
It's the summer solstice tonight. The moon's going to be full, too. I'm going out into the woods to see what's out there. Wish me luck.
I have a feeling that I'm gonna need it.
Journal entry #2
It all happened. I still can't believe it, but nothing else can explain away the swirling blue and green tattoos that are gradually covering my arms, chest and back.
I'd prepared a few things to take with me in an oilskin haversack--a long braided leather cord that I'd worked with beeswax, a home-made piece of oilskin with loops sewn into the edges, a bronze hatchet I'd fashioned and a strong bronze knife. I carried a canteen made from a thick-necked gourd wrapped in jute twine with a woven carry strap over the same shoulder. I had a block of fat wood with me along with all the parts for a fire-bow. I'd practiced with it until I knew what I was doing.
I wore no synthetics. I carried no iron. I had made by hand all that I took with me except for four Morgan silver dollars and a little ten dollar gold piece.
I walked deep into the woods. Soon I saw trees thicker than I was tall, and they weren't redwoods either. I found a ring of stones in a clearing. The moonlight made them shine like opals. They were perfect. I carefully stepped over the stones to sit in the middle. After a time I heard a voice out of the dark. Nothing human could make a sound like that.
"Man, this is no longer a place for your kind."
I bowed my head. "I must."
I carefully marshaled my arguments "The world has changed. We don't know what brought it all about, but we have been carried along with everything else to a place that terrifies us. Nobody can sleep at night without dying. The things we have long depended on have become undependable. We are at the mercy of whatever is out there, and it HAS no mercy. I come seeking understanding. I come seeking wisdom."
The silence was a living thing. Then the voice spoke once again. "Man, you know not what you ask for."
I took a deep breath and slowly let it out. It was crunch time. "Do or die."
"What you ask for requires repayment. What do you offer?"
I had to think a moment. Then I hit on it. "What is the most valuable to you? Silver, gold or blood?"
Again, silence ruled the night. "Though blood has its appeal, and gold holds value among us for trade, silver is most avidly sought."
I slowly reached into my haversack and brought out the four Morgans that I'd packed along.
I raised them before me on my palm. "I offer these. Ninety percent silver coins."
A scaly figure with backward knees came out of the dark. It delicately picked the Morgans off of my palm with long clawed fingers--six fingers and two thumbs's worth of hand. It tasted each coin, then nodded.
"Start a fire within the circle, man."
I carefully inspected the circle for a previously charred spot. I nodded when I found one. Using my bronze blade I split out five thin sheets of fatwoods. Two I laid down as a floor. One I broke into toothpicks. One I broke in half long the long way and then the short way. One I delicately slivered into bits. This was my kindling. I lay it on the platform, then brought out my fire bow pieces. I assembled the bow with the last sheet of fat wood under the hearth piece, then began spinning the axle with my bow, whispering "come, need-fire" with each stroke. Soon I had a glowing coal which I delicately tapped from the hearth block onto the sheet of wood below it. This I carefully transferred to my kindling and gently blew it into life. Once I had flames I quickly split the rest of my block of fat wood into finger-thick pieces, establishing the fire. I whispered, "My thanks, need-fire." as I sat back on my heels.
I looked over to my host. He had squatted down to observe me. His eyes were narrowed and his head was cocked. "Why did you call the need-fire?"
"It seemed appropriate."
He slowly nodded. "You have the beginnings already, man. You surprise me." After a bit he instructed me to cast a measure of my blood into the fire. I made a small incision across the base of my thumb with my silver dagger. When my palm was full I let it pour out into the flame. The roar and blue-white flame that followed caused me to throw myself back across the ring.
"No, man. This fire will not harm you. Bathe the hand you cut into the fire and say your full birth name. Quickly now, before the fire gutters."
I'd gone this far and lived through it. I threw caution to the winds and thrust my open hand into the ravening column of fire. It felt cool and pleasant! I spoke out my name, "I am Karl Gregoriy Green and I greet you."
The fire rose from its bed, followed my arm back and covered me in flames from head to toe before flashing out. Not a hair remained, not even on my head, in my ears or up my nose!
I looked down at my fire lay. It was empty--as if I'd never made a fire there.
"You have been evaluated and found worthy, man. Slowly, over a month's time, you will be given knowledge as water poured from a thimble slowly fills a bucket. At the same time you will also gain the marks of a cunning man--a sorcerer. Touch no iron until the next full moon or the process will stop, and nothing will restart it." He gazed at me for a long time, as if he were evaluating whether to kill me now to remove the chance of my causing harm. He suddenly retreated into the forest, out of my sight.
I sighed, in part out of relief, in part out of regret over his leaving. Shoulders bent, I collected my possessions and once more carefully stepped over the perfect ring of stones. I looked up. The moon had moved further across the sky than I thought it should. Perhaps three hours had passed. I made my way out of the woods, deep in thought. I couldn't touch my truck, so I walked.
Now what? If I couldn't touch iron, I couldn't work as a machinist. I would have to wear gloves just to move about my house! The goddamned door knob was steel! So was the toilet's flushing lever, as were all of the water taps. I'd have to wear gloves, and find some pants with no steel rivets or zippers to keep from brushing my legs against anything ferrous.
I realized that my best chance of not screwing up was to set up a tent in the back yard. I did have a two-car garage. Maybe I could go half-way and move into that. The weather was warm, it being July, I walked the thirteen miles home, making plans of how to bootstrap myself into a new lifestyle. Maybe into a new life.
I used the hem of my robe to protect my hand as I opened the door. The kitchen provided rubber gloves, a couple of copper bowls, a plastic drinking cup, an old pottery coffee cup and some titanium flatware that came from my old camping kit. I took a corelle plate and a couple corelle bowls as well. It all went into a dishpan.
.... There is more of this story ...