Saturday, September 29, 2018
It’s another “Revealing” Straightlaced Saturday. The first blogger I got acquainted with — back in November of 2012, for National Novel Writing Month, was Mary J McCoy-Dressel. In 2015 she provided the “things/ingredients” for Wednesday’s episode and for this one. Mary made an off-handed, fanciful comment about destiny… and as you saw in episode 8, I ran with it. You’ll also find “Destiny” in her collection of cowboy romance novels.
Today I’m giving a shout-out for Mary’s cover reveal of Hooked by Sundown. Keep an eye on her blog for details. At this writing, I know the book is almost ready. It might even be available by the time this post goes live.
This episode brings us to the third of the three things from Mary J McCoy-Dressel. Let’s see how “ceramic statue” came into the story.
Previously with Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
The bobbing lights of torches in the night told us that multiple parties were moving toward the Hixon estate. Our heroes had to hurry. Copper over-burdened herself with a heavy bag of “necessities,” but the mindful moppet actually had chosen important things. Felicity and Copper headed back to Cornelis, where the alchemist was trying to get (the still missing) Calvin Hixon’s road locomotive in working order. And then…
Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
9 — Ceramic Statue
A simian scream split the air. It came from the far end of the lawn, in the direction of the shade tree where I had tied my borrowed horse when I arrived at the Hixon estate. At that moment I could have wished for a fast horse, but Ignatius Belle had taken his dapple mare back into town with him. I heard simian screeching in the distance, growing closer and ever wilder. It made my skin crawl.
Two pinpoints of light seemed to stare at me from the high branches of the tree. I shuddered when I realized it was one of the chimpanzees. It must have come ahead of the others, like some kind of advance guard. I was amazed at how well the creatures were trained. Who could possibly train and control animals in such a remarkable way?
The chimp must have seen me looking back at him. It started wreaking havoc in the branches of the tree, jumping up and down and screeching bloody murder. His fellows in the distance screamed back excitedly. It sounded like there were a lot of them. I remembered nervously how strong they were. I hoisted the carpet bag, putting its strap over my shoulder so I could take Copper’s hand. I had to make sure we weren’t separated.
An earsplitting screech made me look over my shoulder. However, the noise was not simian, rather it was a metallic sound. Then I heard the shrill whistle of escaping steam. The doors of the outbuilding where Cornelis was working burst open. The road locomotive moved toward us with a loud clickity-clack, clickity-clack. As it increased speed, the clicks and clacks blurred together into a continuous noise.
Copper squeezed my hand. I followed her gaze. The chimpanzees had amassed at the shade tree. They milled curiously as they watched the road locomotive. One and then another would chatter to the others. I had a bad feeling that they were working themselves up for an attack.
One very large chimp moved far ahead of the rest. Standing alone, he gesticulated wildly. He paused, screeched and repeated what seemed to be the same set of motions. It did seem a little odd to me, but the antics of angry apes were not something I had time to consider, not in those circumstances.
“Daddy…” Copper murmured.
Poor Copper, I thought, pleading for her missing father. “Everything’s going to be fine,” I shouted to be heard above the chimpanzees and the noise of the approaching road locomotive.
Cornelis built up speed with the engine and charged directly into the group of chimps. The apes scattered with wild complaints. The accident of alchemy that left him in his strange state, also gave him some otherworldly powers. When he blew the locomotive’s whistle, it belched a long gout of green flame with a sound so shrill and loud my ears rang long after the noise was gone.
“Don’t hurt them!” Copper shrieked, and I supposed she hadn’t grasped how strong and dangerous a pack of attacking and very large adult chimpanzees actually were.
“Those are no organ grinder’s monkeys!” I cried.
“Chimpanzees!” Cornelis reminded me.
Yes, he corrected me at a time like that. The alchemist could be absolutely insufferable with that kind of thing.
The Dutchman blew the locomotive’s whistle a second time and it went to an escalating pitch that climbed until I could no longer hear it. However, I could feel that the awful sound was still there. The chimpanzees screamed in pain. The group of them scattered and ran away. Or I thought they did.
The alchemist brought the road locomotive back around to where Copper and I stood. He jumped down from the engine, grinning ear to ear. He was quite pleased with himself.
“Isn’t it an amazing machine!” Cornelis exclaimed.
“How did you do that? With the green flame and the sound,” I asked as I rubbed my fingers inside my ears.
“You liked?” he said with bobbing eyebrows. “I could have done more if I’d thought to bring the harmonic tuner.”
At that comment, Copper retrieved the device that looked like a decorative silver bell and handed it to the Dutchman. He bowed and thanked her effusively. I saw that she also held the monkey bell her father had given her.
Cornelis lithely climbed back onto the locomotive. He held out his hand for Copper but she couldn’t quite reach, so I gave her a boost from behind as I climbed. Then I saw the apes. Three of them remained, undeterred from whatever their mission was. I had to assume they meant to capture Copper.
A very human-like, extremely strong hand grabbed my ankle before I could get onto the engine. When I looked down, all I could see were the big chimpanzee’s bared teeth.
I struggled to hang onto the locomotive. Copper grabbed my arm to try and help, but then I feared that if the chimp pulled me free, that she would be dragged down with me. I was relieved to notice that Cornelis still had her other hand.
“Cornelis! Go!” I yelled and he saw the three chimps.
The locomotive jolted back to life. I was afraid I would lose my grip if I moved, but I kicked backward with my other foot. My boot heel thudded softly against something and the chimp’s hold on my ankle loosened enough for me to dislodge him.
In the commotion our lantern fell to the grassy ground. A small fire spilled around the torch, but it was slow to spread, as the weather had been damp throughout the week.
The three chimps looked at one another and chattered. One of them motioned with his simian hands. I recognized him for the same chimp who had gestured so insistently before. He fiercely looked right into my eyes. Was that really the same set of motions he made earlier? I saw their muscles bunch as the trio of adult chimpanzees readied to jump onto the locomotive. I knew we could not fight off all three of them.
The alchemist began muttering odd sounding words that I quickly recognized for the strange language he used when he was about to do something that would either end horribly or be extraordinary.
He held the harmonic tuner in one hand, but still held protectively onto Copper with his other hand. The “bell” began to make that strange multi-level sound it had generated before. I could see an aura vibrate around it. The sound and sensation doubled. I realized half of it was coming from a second source.
That was when I saw that Copper held the cherished “mystic monkeys” bell her father had given her. It was the second source of the harmonic sound. A tri-colored aura made a rainbow around the bell and the girl. The sound seemed to vibrate through the entire world. Then I felt it inside my throat, and wondered if my voice would take on that dual harmonic sound when I spoke.
“Dear God,” I said in a strangely pulsating voice that sounded odd to my own ears.
Cornelis only glanced at me, so focused was he on his task.
“It’s another harmonic tuner!” I said just as the alchemist finished the magic he was working.
He looked at me with a wide-eyed expression of shock at my words. I was jolted and nearly fell from the engine as an aura that matched the one surrounding Copper quickly engulfed the three of us and the road locomotive too. I felt more than saw something radiate out from the aura. It stretched, expanded, and then contracted abruptly.
The harmonic sounds staggered as they dwindled. The auras vanished. The world was incredibly quiet after the bombardment of sounds. Nature did not stir. The noises of night were silent. As I looked down from the engine the first thing that caught my eye was a shining spot of celadon green. It was our lantern, it lay where it had fallen with flickers of what once had been flames in the grass around it. The little fires were cold and unmoving.
I started to climb down from the road locomotive. Cornelis reminded me to use caution. I scanned the area, but I didn’t see the chimps anywhere.
Then I saw it.
I jumped down from the engine. A large celadon green ceramic statue rested on the ground. Three wise monkeys, see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil stood transformed.
“Are they still alive in there?” Copper wanted to know of the transmuted chimpanzees as she looked over my shoulder.
Cornelis and I exchanged a knowing glance. Copper looked inexplicably dismayed, considering how the creatures had been attacking us.
“Possibly so,” the Dutchman told the girl and she looked less upset. “Quite possibly so.”
She brushed a tear from her cheek.
“Daddy!” Copper cried. “He was saying ‘daddy’ when he waved his arms around,” she said to my astonishment.
“Do you mean sign language?” I asked incredulous, but Copper nodded.
“I think so,” Copper said. “He wasn’t doing it right, but it looked like he was trying to say daddy.”
The idea of an ape communicating through sign language was preposterous. I thought it was wishful thinking on Copper’s part. I could have thrown something at Cornelis when he made a comment that basically encouraged the fantasy. I frowned and made a face when my next thought was that the Dutchman would just use one of his tricks to let anything I threw pass right through him.
“He likely wanted you to believe he could lead you to your father,” Cornelis said. “But you know they were naughty monkeys, and you could not trust them,” he added and Copper nodded her reluctant agreement.
“Chimpanzees,” I said because I couldn’t resist turning the Dutchman’s correction on him.
His eyes narrowed but he didn’t respond to my taunt. Instead, he looked past me.
“We’ve no time to doddle,” Cornelis reminded us. “The other two groups are mere minutes away.”
When I turned to look I saw the torches again. There were two groups, one larger than the other. They still approached from different directions, but they were indeed much closer.
To be continued…
Real World Notes
Chimpanzee Sign Language. Washoe was a female chimpanzee, the first non-human to learn to communicate using American Sign Language (ASL). It was part of an experiment on animal language acquisition. Washoe learned approximately 350 signs of ASL. She also taught her adopted son Loulis some signs.
The question remains — who controls the chimpanzees? Was it Copper’s fertile imagination, or did the chimp really try to use sign language to say something about her father? Who are the other two groups of pursuers?
I’m not sure whether Cornelis Drebbel meant to turn the chimpanzees into statues, or if it was one of his accidents of alchemy. Our trio narrowly avoided capture by those naughty chimps, but two more groups of what must surely be villains are almost there.
The next set of things are Muff Pistol, Sourdough Pancakes, and Airtights. Tune in for Hidebound Hump Day to see where those take Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers. I’ll be looking for you at the station.
Now some shameless self-promotion.
This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 and 2018 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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