Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Eye of the Beholder

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Love and War - 16


It was night upon falling night, in the 13th arrondissment of Paris. At the time it was a bric-a-brac, filled with people who had been cast out all the inner splendors that most people thought of as “Paris” - for all of what could be thought all as all of the great attractions Paris were there. Remember there was no La Defense flowers to the West, and these buildings were not yet towers of erect buildings built in the 1960s, and called the Quartere Asiatique, which they would be known by the end of the 20th century. Instead there were two which roughly from West to East divided outer from the inner. The children had never been, and they see why now. Along the river branches of railroad were waiting to be managed – this was down by the aptly named Boulevard de de la Gare, as it went over the Pont de Bercy, the bridge that divided East from West – following the d'Austerlitz Quai which snaked along the La Rive Gauche (hence the name of the Boulevard). In these earlier times, the mainly Vietnamese population had not grown – instead it was the place which housed the bowels of the workings of the vast train station, and the various things that went along with that. It was also called the place d'Italie, which was inwards from La Seine, and a bustle of activity.

But even in this time it was referred to as the Gobelins, and was regarded as a place of questionable people. Even the Cat was not, though she was behind them and looking onwards, in despair if nothing else.

Now the children saw what was meant as questionable people, because in their short existence, they thought they knew, but did not. In their minds questionable people were pickpockets - which they knew of – and the like. But now they knew better, and even though they did not actually see any individuals at hand – just the suggestion was enough to set their minds aflutter. Actually, it wasn't their minds, but there spines which desiccated their imagination. The boy looked around him, because he thought he could see someone, or some group of someone's, just at the edge of their vision.
The girl, however, just curled inside the hood of her boy, and started to dream a waking dream, and simply imagined what would go on. In her mind she imagined things with human bodies and the skulls of wolves, with the holes cut out and glaring with their eye socket out – in a ghoulish display which in the real world would be dismissed by her parents. But of course, this was not the world of the living, but the world of the dead. So no one could say what was seen and what was unseen, because no one really knew the rules.

They were wandering along the Rue du Chateau des Rentiers, a squalid little place, where many of the famous, amissed many of the not so famous, lived in the real world. They were not recognized, and thus made the sort of living that barely kept their nose of a water, if that. Picasso, for example, would spend one night with nothing in his pockets, trying to decide whether he would or would not kill himself, until at last the sun broke in East, and so he decided to live instead. The Rue bent, for it was not designed for left and right coming together at right angles. And with every step, it gave way to an unearthly silence, that had no sign of which way was North and which way was West. One could not see any of the plans for the center of the city there, it was all a jumble. Such is the way of Paris.

But then out of the corner of his eye, he saw something, at least he thought he saw something. It – for that was what he thought of – was creeping around a shadow of a narrow side street. He did not actually recognize a face – but it seemed obviously human, or at least humanoid, in countenance. Though he could not exactly see it's garments, they seemed brownish gray and generally disheveled, though he did not know why this was so. But still he reached down to the girl, and quietly whispered that they had been noticed by something. He peered deeply to see if he could catch a glance of the thing, and once more he thought he had. But he wasn't sure. At this point, the girl had awoken from her waking dream, and stood at attention – and she to was peering out in two the darkness. At this time, the streetlights were lit by lamplighter's, not machines, and thus with blackness it was truly nights domain. However, as you got used to it, there were shades of blackness which could be determined as one got use to it. There were different shades of blackness, until a welter of minute, almost incandescent – though that seems strange – could be determined.

They looked around, and thought they could see at any moment some suggestion of the form that he saw. They moved looking forwards and backwards, quite different from the forward facing that they had done. The first floor, already distorted by their size, was dizzying until it ceased to have right angles, but was bent – to them – in odd shapes. But he knew that there was some other presence. A missed all of the windows, doors, and railings, he sensed something which was an animate form, that was hunting them. She, for her part, did not know what it was, but was feeding off his animus – and while she was scared, kept her eyes and ears forwards. Unlike her brother, she did not know exactly what was out there. But she could imagine many stranger things because of this. While he imagined a man with some defects, her imagination ran wild. She saw different things, at different times, 
sometimes she saw a wolf, or at any rate a wolfman, other times she saw a bear, or again a bear man. Each time she actually looked at what she saw, it turned out to be a complex of doors, windows, and other assorted stuff, which resembled a vision but when looked at directly was inanimate. But still she kept on looking. Really what it was was her terror on the inside, seeking escape by taking clues and distorting them. So every gesture became a vision, that was meant to be a destruction. All among the white buildings of the 13th. Even in this area, white was the color of Paris. Though there were no trees, or other things, to beautify the erect buildings.

But then they were entering in to a doorway, and behind them came a vision that was most decidedly real. While it was a man, it had the right side of the face blown off, as if by a grenade. The uniform he was wearing was blue, that is he was French, but it was modeled and generally dirty, as if he had been abused in some manner. It was not a clean, correct, and crisp uniform – but one which had gashes and bullet-holes. In actuality, he had been wounded in the region of Belgium and France – and had been making his way back to Paris, the city of his birth. Since half of his brain was completely disabled, he was not truly there as most people were, but he was there enough to know the regions of home. He was also neither human nor animal, but a strange mixture of the two – in some way still awake and thinking, and in other parts, barely thinking at all. In some parts, one could see rationality, especially in his left eye, which was undamaged. But in other parts, of their was no soul left at all, only the trace of a human machine, knowing not what it was doing – only to feed himself, even if this was the land of the dead, and it was not clear that feeding had any value.

The girl simply startled, and sashayed to the left, to get herself out of trouble. Which left the boy in the grip of terror - for that is the state he was in – and it seemed for the moment he was to be consumed by this terror which used to be a man. But, in the nick of time, he managed to dive aside to the right, and trust his left hand in to his pockets and picked a round stone, which he had seen shining while there was light. Then he drew it out, and side armed it, quite hard, into the face of the terror.
Then in an instant, the shambling hoard was dead, all of the half-life was completely drained from the body, whether limbs or life. It was truly dead, and it slouched to the ground. Once it was down on the ground, face forward, and therefore with its back to them, they could see how it had been shot several times. They could also see that it had gotten up, time and again, to reach Paris, though they could not see why it would view Paris as an objective. With presence of mind, the girl looked up and down the street, as if there might be others of similar design. It did not seem so, but she looked again just to be sure. Then as her brother looked at her surveying the area, he too look from side to side. The problem was, that after this encounter, everything seemed to be alive, and visible. Such was the way of ghostly Paris.

So they stopped in the doorway, and crouched down, hoping to be unrecognized, but realizing this was not going to be the place for that to work. So they model along the street, quietly. And after they tread past, the Cat weaves silently behind them, though no one notices its presence.

After a short time they worked there way through a tangle of streets, and then reached the Rue de Tolbiac, which at this time was being considered for demolition and conversion to a place where armament would be assembled, because while each party to the family of nations denied it, each was planning a war, though the exact coalition was not known. France was one of the two scheming parties, the other one being Germany, and in the bowels of the department of war, various pieces of the assemblage were already being fingered upon as ready, for some point or other, of war. Thus many of the buildings were condemned, though the citizenry did not know what the cause was. It is always this way – governments build up in secret, and the citizenry is the last to find out.

Tolbiac was a wide avenue, though not quite a boulevard - these things in France are very particular about what is a Boulevard and what is merely an Avenue. But already the few trees were labeled for demolition. It began a turn to the northeast, and gathered together all of the rail stations going to the south and east. Now that they were on an grand Street, they could see behind them that their were many such horrors. They were alive, and their tormentors knew this, and hated them because of this. That is why, they had grown a collection that followed them along, and was determined to obliterate them. They had not seen these in the daylight, but as twilight, and more darkness, approached, they came out of the woodwork – mainly uniformed – to destroy and demolish the living things among them.

So the two of them ran for their life, down along the street towards the river, not knowing if they had a chance to reach it. On their right, as they approached it, were spurs of rail, and on the left were dozens of emptying buildings. First there was forms like the horror behind them, but as they approached the river, the forms came from left and right, until there were two dozen of them, at least. In the dim streets, they soon realized they were surrounded, and closed in on. Of course, both were scared, more scared than they had ever imagined – which was not hard, because both of them were young and impressionable. As they passed groups of the horrors, she had noticed that they were slow, perhaps because they were damaged in some way. She looked to her companion, and gestured with her hands.

“I do not know what it is, but I think they are not quick in their motions. Could that be an escape?” The tone was plaintive, but real in its way of describing what she saw. The Cat was not impressed but looked at her face.

Looking around him, he noticed what she was saying. “I think you have hit upon something important.” He then looked left and right, trying to find some way of wounding their aggressors. Then he found what he was looking for: on a flagpole, placed in the main floor, very low down, was a two meter long tricolour – the flag of the French people. He wrestled it from its holster, and begin to wield it, planning to engage the mob of what were once French people.

But as he hauled down the tricolour, an amazing thing happened – all of the shambling forms retreated away from them, as if the symbol of the flag itself was a potent sign. None of them came any closer than that, and all of them moved away from the pair of them. They quickly ran up Tolbiac, along the Pont National. The Seine flowed from right to left, on its way to the “English” Channel. It was one of the few concessions to the otherwise hostile kingdom across the waterways. Though England and France were allies, this was still not be default position, and their were still a few of them who did not respond very well to the intimation that it would always be this way, and for under their time breath that “English” was a word for “enemy” - and not all of them were old.

But running down the avenue were a boy and a girl who had at last seen relief from soldiers of France. And it was found in the tricolour. At last, over on the right bank of the Seine, they rested in the Bois de Vicennes, a deep woods further down the 12th arrondissement. It was in the branches of an old oak tree that they finally settled down, and were asleep until the sun struck their eyes. It was the first time since the troubles begin that they could finally sleep. And it felt as if there was nothing better than sleep to be had in this instance. What they could not know, is they had found a way between lands of the living and the lands of the dead, only they were not dead yet, but had a mission that they did not know of, as yet. But we will get to that in due course, at the time we will leave them to blissful rest, and turn our attention instead to the captain of a Zeppelin, who has evil aforethought, and is beginning to meet the makers of that evil. Because remember, it is only man who drives the evil in this world. Though it may seem that evil comes from another place, this is an illusion.

It is human beings, and most especially those that want something specific from the world, that commands evil. While many of them belie themselves, and think there is a good reason for this, it is only a lie that they tell themselves. But as one goes higher up, or perhaps lower down, the thin veneer cracks in two, and the boiling lava of hatred spills beneath the ground. But the Cat wasn't impressed.

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