Electric Spec banner
     Home          About Us           Issues          Submissions          Links           Blog           Archive          

    Volume 9, Issue 3, August 31, 2014
    Message from the Editors
 The Bog Man by David Yeh
 The King Must Die by Bo Balder
 Kites and Orchids by George S. Walker
 Sci Fi High by Clint Spivey
 When the Moon is Waning by Larisa Walk
  Special Feature: An Excerpt from Carol Berg's new novel Dust and Light


The Bog Man

David K. Yeh

         Last fall my brother Pete purchased four hundred acres of land in northern Ontario. It lay just inside the Sudbury Basin, a 1.85 billion-year-old asteroid impact crater. He was a hillbilly of sorts, a university dropout who preferred to live off the grid, at least as much as he could. No Facebook account. No cell phone. So when I received an email from him shortly after New Year's Day, remarking on the good weather and inviting me to visit, I went.
         It was a five-hour drive up the 400. I counted the inuksuit along the side of the highway, but lost track by the time I got to Parry Sound. When we were kids cottaging up in Temagami, we'd spend whole afternoons building inuksuit, hauling rocks right out of the lake if we had to. Even though Pete was the youngest, he got to be the biggest and strongest of us. The outdoors was always his element.
         Past the Sudbury airport, outside of Carr's Landing, every pine-curtained side road looked like the other. Half the signs were whited-out with snow. The GPS in my rental was no help at all. It was getting dark and I was getting hungry. I pulled over, and started to scour Ontario maps on my iPhone. Someone rapped on the driver's window. I jumped out of my skin. It was Pete.
         His toothy grin flashed in the gloom. I powered down the window. He was wearing a week's growth of beard, a hand-knit toque and a patched leather coat over a heavy cardigan. He had dark circles under his eyes, but seemed otherwise well. He passed me a roach, but I shook my head. In my side mirror I could see his truck pulled up behind me.
         "I've got a Bordeaux in the decanter and a roast in the oven." He patted the back of my neck and tousled my hair. "Follow me."
         A one-kilometre stretch of private road found us at his cabin site. He called it a cabin, but it was no small feat of architectural engineering. I whistled lowly. "So this is what you've done with your share of Grandpa's inheritance."
         Pete shrugged in his typically nonchalant way. He picked up my one suitcase out of the back of my four-by-four. "It's not Fallingwater, but it works." Still, I could tell he was pleased by my reaction. "You hungry?"
         Inside, he introduced me to Jackson. The thin Golden Retriever rose from beside the fireplace and sniffed my hand. Since we were teenagers, Pete had gone through six rescue dogs. "Lucky number seven," I said, rubbing Jackson's bony brow. His tail wagged tentatively. I made sure not to make any sudden movements.
         Dinner was roast venison in a chocolate haw sauce, sweet potatoes and carrots in brown sugar with caramelized onions. "Come with the land?" I asked, my mouth full of succulent meat. Pete nodded. I glanced at Pépère's Browning 22 on the wall. Pete shook his head and pointed towards the Winchester 94 in the corner. The meal was delicious and I told him as much. When we were done, Pete opened a second bottle of wine. "So where's Pat these days?" he asked, filling my glass.
         "Conducting field work in Haridwar. The Purna Kumbh Mela begins next week. He says to tell you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. How long has it been since we spent the holidays together?"
         "A while," Pete said, getting up. "Reminds me, I have a present for you." My eyebrows rose. We hadn't exchanged gifts in years. "This one's kinda special." He rummaged in the pantry and returned with a cardboard box. "Sorry, no wrapping paper."
         "You could've put a bow on it."
         He stood with a hand on his hip, and drained his glass. "Just open it." I opened the box. Inside, nestled in a large tea towel, was a human head. My eyebrows rose higher. "Tell me when you're ready for dessert," said Pete, clearing the table.
         "Sure." The head was slightly squashed like a deflated football, its features distorted. But while the bone had decalcified, the remaining tissue was in excellent condition, having the color and texture of buffed, worn leather. The details were astonishing. I could discern the subtle creases in the lips, the individual pores of the nose. "This is incredible. Where did you get this?"
         "Found it on the property a week ago. Can you read it?"
         "This is why you invited me up?"
         I shouldn't have been surprised. Pete rarely invited people into his life merely for the sake of company. Still, my feelings were a little bit hurt. I withdrew my handkerchief and gingerly lifted the object out of the box. The black hair was thick and shoulder-length. One side of the head appeared to have been shaved.
         "You have a bog hereabouts?" I asked.
         Pete peered at me from the kitchen. "Actually, I do."
         "Okay. Well, what you've got here is a bog person. I've never heard of any in North America, or outside Europe for that matter. You didn't discover any other body parts, or articles of clothing?"
         "No, just the head. What's a bog person?"
         "Human remains naturally preserved in sphagnum bogs. They're extraordinarily rare. The acidic, anaerobic conditions need to be perfect. They're usually found in Great Britain, Denmark, that part of the world. They're hundreds of years old, sometimes thousands. By the looks of it, I'd say this belonged to an aboriginal adult male. How were you able to dig this up in the middle of winter?"
         "I didn't. I found it under a tree. Are you able to read it?"
         "I didn't think I'd have to sing for my supper."
         He topped off my glass. "Look, dessert's German Chocolate Cake, homemade."
         "Sweet Mother of God. Fine. But tell me first, what's the big interest? It's an amazing find, but I doubt I'll get any reading off this thing. You know I don't do well with artefacts. You should give this to a museum."
         Pete leaned back and folded his arms. "Well, for one thing, that artefact used to be a person. I think his remains should be properly repatriated and reinterred. Secondly, Dan, I invited you up because I wanted to see you. And thirdly, ever since I brought that head into the cabin, odd things have been happening. I think his ghost is possessing me."


         It started when I was about eleven or twelve. I'd have vague impressions and momentary flashes of insight, like tuning across radio frequencies. I could walk through a used-bike shop, run my fingers along the rows of handlebars, and just know which the stolen ones were. Later on, I became preternaturally skilled at medical diagnoses, baffling my instructors. I never let on my secret. I flew through my residency.
         Pete and Pat used to have me do readings just for fun, but after a while I refused. It was like thrusting your hand blindly deep into mud and silt, never knowing if you might cut yourself or close your fingers on something cold and awful. There was enough heartache and suffering in the present without having to search it out in the past. From time to time, I agreed to consult with law enforcement, but the work was nerve-wracking. Pete understood this and wouldn't whimsically impose. He also knew German Chocolate Cake was my favourite.
         I put the head back in its box. "If this is a long story, you'd better make coffee." Pete gave me the thumbs-up sign. I examined a set of snowshoes by the front door and added, "You have any Scotch?"
         As if on cue, Pete set a bottle of Glenfiddich on the counter. "Like I said, I found it a week ago under a tree. It didn't belong there, so I brought it home. That night, I wake up standing on the front deck, holding the head. It's around 3 a.m. I'm barefoot in my underwear, freezing my ass off. You know I don't sleepwalk. Never have."
         "You were sleep-walking?"
         "At least I thought I was. I think the cold woke me up. But that's just the start of it. The next night I go to bed and wake up in the morning. This time I'm wearing my boots and jacket. My shovel and axe, which I normally keep out back in the shed, are lying at the foot of my bed. There's water and dirt on the floor. I must've gotten up in the middle of the night. Except it's been snowing for hours and any tracks I'd left are covered up. Also, the head's in the bed with me."
         The hairs rose up on the backs of my arms. "Whoa. That's creepy."
         "This home is protected. I know any influence is coming from the inside. So of course that day I return the head to where I found it. But the tree's gone, completely. No hole in the ground, nothing. It was a hawthorn, a fairy tree. I couldn't just leave the head there, not out in the open like that. So I bring it back."
         "Not every hawthorn's a fairy tree, Pete."
         "Trust me. This one was. The point is I bring the head back home. But this time I set up my webcam to record overnight."
         "You have a computer?" I asked incredulously.
         Pete glanced at me sidelong, extracting a stainless steel coffeemaker from its plastic and Styrofoam packaging. "How do you think I sent you that e-mail?"
         "Um, some Internet café in town?"
         "I got Wi-Fi installed up here. The reception's good, most of the time. It's not like I live off the grid. Now that would just make me some kind of Luddite hippie hillbilly, wouldn't it? Do you have any idea how to operate this thing?"
         "Sure." I'd forgotten Pete only drank tea. While I worked on getting the coffee brewing, he put on his boots and let Jackson out the back door. I threw more wood onto the fire. I noticed the head resting on the dining room table. This puzzled me, as I was sure I had returned it to its box. Warily, I leaned over it.
         Its brow was high and wide, the left temple scarred from a violent blow. The bone beneath appeared to be fractured. The jaw and full lips were slightly parted, exposing the tip of a blackened tongue. I extended my open palm. I sensed earth, ice and old blood.
         The back door banged open. Pete came back in, accompanied by a freezing gust of wind. Jackson jumped onto the couch and curled up with his nose beneath his tail. Pete stamped the snow from his boots. "Let me show you the video."
         The webcam footage on Pete's laptop was grainy in muted color. He had set up the camera to display a wide-angle view of his bedroom. In the video, he went to bed with a single lamp lit in the corner. At 3:02 a.m., he rose from his sleep. He stood motionless with his arms at his side, eyes closed. "Nice PJs," I said.
         "Thanks. Pat sent them to me from Shigatse. I stand there like that for about an hour. Here, let me fast forward this." I considered this news. Pat had never sent me anything in the mail before. At 3:55 a.m., Pete turned and walked out of the webcam's frame.
         "You don't remember any of this?"
         "Nope. I'm gone until just before dawn. I should warn you, this next part's a little weird." He advanced the time index again. At 7:46 a.m., Pete walked back into the bedroom. He was naked, holding the head. He set the head on the bed and stood over it, slightly hunched, his back to the camera. His left arm moved rhythmically.
         "Are you doing what I think you're doing?"
         "Looks like it. Except I'm right-handed."
         "Dan, I did some research on this. There are ritual applications of semen in aboriginal cultures around the world. It's about imbuing a man's virility, a warrior's strength. It's not documented by historic First Nations people, but I think this head is a lot older than a few centuries." He paused the video. "I ejaculate on the head and massage the semen into it. I go back to bed. I wake up around noon."
         I sat down. Eventually, I spoke as calmly as I could, "Pete, you need to get rid of this thing."
         He stared at me hard, without expression. "He hasn't hurt me, not yet. I don't think he means to. He needs something. I think I can help him."
         "Are you kidding me?"
         "Daniel, be a doctor, be a scientist about this-"
         "No, I'm going to be a big brother about this! You're talking about some entity possessing you at night, getting you to..." I waved my arms, "do crazy shit you can't remember! Who 'hasn't hurt you yet'? This is not normal, Pete. This needs to end."
         "I agree. Daniel, look, that's why you're here." He rested his hand on my shoulder. "I need you to communicate with him, find out what he wants. I think he doesn't know where his body is. I think he's looking for it." He pointed at the laptop. "Aren't you interested in where I went for four hours that night?"
         I opened and closed my mouth. "Where did you go for four hours that night?"
         "He's got me lighting bonfires, out on the property."
         "In and around the bog. Every night since then, he's had me going out lighting fires. Always in different places."
         "Every night. My God. Have you slept at all?"
         "I'm okay, but I am starting to feel a little exhausted. I'm really glad you came."
         I breathed deeply through my nose, studying the flickering shadows across the hardwood floor. I thought of the paintings at Lascaux, the Cave of Swimmers in Egypt. "Are they signaling beacons? A kind of ritual?"
         "No, Dan, it's simpler than that. I think he's trying to thaw out the earth."


         Like anyone, I'd heard of diabolic and angelic possessions, Haitian Vodou rites, basic tenets of nineteenth century Spiritism. Otherwise, my knowledge of possession was poor. I stood over the head on the dining room table. I was a physician, not a medium. I'd never communicated with spirit entities before. This was Pat's area of expertise. He'd been gallivanting across the world chasing miracles and mystics for years.
         "Pete, I'm not sure what you want me to do here."
         "Just do your reading like you do for the police. I know it's not easy."
         "No, it's not," I retorted.
         Once I had been presented with a baby shoe in a case of child abduction. The father was in custody but pleading innocent. When I picked up the shoe, I knew instantly the child was dead. I knew why the mother had framed the father. I knew where she'd buried the remains. I even knew the flavour of the gum she was chewing when she took the butcher knife to the body. Some readings took no effort at all. Sometimes horrors infested the most normal seeming places, the most normal seeming people. Writhing, pale, eyeless monstrosities coiled just beneath the skin of our common lives.
         Carefully, I picked up the head and sat on the couch by the fireplace. Pete sat in the chair opposite me. I squinted at him. "German Chocolate Cake, homemade?"
         Pete nodded.
         "Fine." I weighed the head in my hands. It felt heavy and strangely warm. The grotesque features were reminiscent of the sideshow freaks of the late-nineteenth century, like the severely deformed Elephant Man, rescued from the carnival by the eminent surgeon Dr. Frederick Treves. Joseph Merrick had been a gentleman poet, a wistful, spiritual soul. Resting my elbows on my knees, I leaned forwards and pressed my temple against the head. I squeezed shut my eyes and exhaled, letting myself fall.
         The readings were always a descent. In the falling there was a freedom and release, as well as strangeness and the intimation of terror. There were some who could read ancient artefacts, like the famous Canadian George McMullen. That man claimed he could smell the smoke of fire-pits and overhear the conversations of prehistoric people. My talent only tapped fresh energies, recent echoes of people or events, hours or days old at best. It was cold where I fell, full of darkness and silica light.
         After a while, I lowered the head.
         "What is it?"
         "Sorry, Pete. I'm not getting anything at all."
         The stiff, leathery head spasmed in my hand. Blood spurted from its nostrils. I screamed and jumped to my feet. The head struck the corner of the coffee table and fell to the floor. The mouth moved, twisting in some horrible, agonized rictus. The head began to spin, slowly at first, but increasing in speed.
         Someone knocked at the front door.
         Jackson retreated into the corner, barking furiously. Flecks of blood spattered my cheek. The knocking on the door became a heavy pounding. A sound began to emerge from the head, a buzzing moan like the drone of a bullroarer.
         "Jesus Christ!"
         Pete rose slowly to his feet. His eyes were closed, his mouth slack. He reached down and picked up the iron poker from its stand by the fireplace. He shuffled over to the kitchen and drew a butcher knife from the knife block.
         I grasped at the spinning head, but it was slick with blood and slipped from my hands. When I tried again, I jerked back with a shout, clutching my fist. It had bitten me. The droning became a guttural, bestial chant.
         The blows upon the door took on a rhythmic fury, shaking the portal in its frame. Furniture began to slide away across the room. Snowshoes and a coat rack crashed to the floor. Pete stood before the entrance in a wide stance, head bowed. He'd said the cabin was protected, but the pounding was such that I feared the door might shatter any moment.
         Hurling the coffee table aside, I threw myself onto the head. It gnawed at my limbs and chest, emanating a rancid, overpowering odour. Retching, I flung the head into the fireplace. An explosion of cinders blinded me.
         Pete raised his knife and slit his own throat.
         I watched in stunned horror as my brother crumpled to his knees. At the same time, a black figure corporealized in the fireplace, awash in blood and incandescent flames. It was a living human corpse, crawling forth upon its hands and knees. Atop the shoulders, the head stared with wide, black, lidless eyes. Flesh seethed across its bones. Its tongue writhed inside its gaping jaw. The apparition rose howling and reached for me.
         I punched the creature as hard as I could in the face. It fell backwards. Its bones were brittle, its flesh still weak. It tried to rise but I pummeled it to the floor, howling. I stamped on its body, crushing its throat beneath my heel. It clawed at my leg, but I did not allow it to find purchase to stand.
         With my bare hands I tore it limb from limb. At last I caught the head. It hissed and snapped at me. I gouged a thumb into one wet, gleaming eye and thrust it back into the blazing embers of the fire, pinning it there with all my weight and all my strength.
         Behind me, the front door crashed opened. Cold air and snow poured inside, I felt many presences. I felt myself falling. It was a freedom and a release. This time, like George McMullen, I descended through flashing layers of time, a flickering abyss, plunging deep into a cool and vast place I had never known before.
         Someone was shouting my name, but even that voice faded far above. Everything became silent and utterly still.
         I opened my eyes.


         I stood overlooking a forest beneath a luminous sky. I knew instinctively I was not present in the real, physical sense. I could smell clover and the scent of pine. I felt the breeze and sunlight upon my skin. But I was also a ghost, an observer in this land. Where I walked, the grass did not bend beneath my feet.
         A man was playing with two children in a glade, all three wearing loincloths and fetishes of feathers and bone. I recognized the man, the curve of his high brow, the fullness of his lips. Today, he was running from the children beneath a gnarled crabapple tree. A flock of ptarmigan burst from the underbrush. A woman emerged, burdened beneath a load of firewood, and called out to the man, scolding him.
         The man laughed and threw crabapples at her. The children followed suit, shrieking with delight. In shock and anger, the woman hurried away. The sun swept across the sky, casting totemic shadows. An enormous being moved through the forest, its vast antlers like the boughs of trees. For an instant, it seemed to have the gleaming body of a man, bark-skinned with rooting hands.
         The season turned, an inexorable tide. Snow enshrouded the land. I passed through a blizzard and entered a makeshift shelter of wood and skin. In the stinking interior, the woman wailed, cradling the two dead children in her arms. The man watched with terrified eyes, peering through the smoke, knees drawn up to his chin. His skin was waxen, his cheeks hollow. They were starving to death. Outside, gigantic wolves roamed the hillside. Over the wind, primeval spirits sang.
         The man's lips pulled back from his teeth. He clasped a bone knife. His eyes did not blink once as he drew himself to his feet. He stepped across the smouldering fire-pit, his face a skull. The grieving woman did not notice him at first. He poised, aflame, then descended upon her. She screamed, over and over, falling backwards, flailing out with her heels. He stabbed her many times before she finally fell still.
         He cracked her skull open and cooked her brains. After that, he ate the brains of his children. Methodically, in deep concentration, he dressed and butchered their bodies, then smoked their flesh. During all this time, he wept and could not stop shaking. He consumed his family over the course of the winter.
         The green springtime glimmered. Now the man moved in dappled light, muscular and predatory, covered in filth and leaves. The madness in his face was something more than bestial. Black smoke oozed from the orifices of his body. I shuddered at the sight of this, and one word came unbidden to my mind: wendigo.
         The antlered being poised next to me, his presence like both a bonfire and a waterfall. Yet beneath his skin's vibration, I could sense the slow, immense pulsing of his heart. He smelled of all seasons and ages layered into one. He pointed after the man.
         Two boys were hunting, their bodies painted, their heads ceremonially shaved. Today was their rite of passage, today was the day they were to become men. The wendigo crouched upon a tree branch. They were afraid, smelling his fetid odour. He crashed down through the leaves onto one youth, slitting his belly open with his bone knife. The other boy cast down his spear-thrower and fled. The wendigo ate his victim's liver raw in his fist, his eyes wide and staring into the abyss.
         The next day, warriors found remains of the boy in a cave, and then in a distant ravine. But their best trackers could not find the wendigo. Thousands of streams and lakes criss-crossed the land, carved by ancient glaciers, washed with spring rains. Word spread among the peoples. The wendigo's shadow filled the night. Everywhere, people whispered and fires were lit.
         Summer arrived, moist with honey and pollen. I crouched next to the wendigo, listening to his harsh breathing. He gazed upon an old woman scooping raw clay into a basket with a shell. She did not see him hiding among the reeds. He took her by the riverbank, nails digging into her throat, pinning her with one knee beneath the murky water. Even as she struggled, he tore the flesh from her limbs with his teeth.
         The hunger was a rope twisting, ever tightening about his spine. There were others like the woman, stray children, the infirm and sick. With each passing year, he grew more desperate and more cunning. His body grew deformed, monstrous in size and shape. One frosty evening late in autumn, three warriors tracked him to his lair. But he was waiting for them. The first plunged into a pit snare and was impaled upon wooden stakes. The second he brought down with a single knife-thrust in the back. The third, an old, scar-faced giant of a man, shaman-chieftain of his clan, hurled his tomahawk, striking the wendigo's head a glancing blow.
         The chieftain drew his war club, circling the demon, barring escape. For many seasons he had hunted this creature, human but not human, possessed and corrupted. He uttered one word. The wendigo shrank back, recognizing his name. For this man was his father.
         The knot of hunger tightened about the wendigo's heart, the veins bulging in his neck. With a howl, he sprang upon the chieftain. They struggled beneath a blue sky bristling with stars. For hundreds of thousands of years, men had lived among spirits and the talking beasts, lighting fires against the elements, flushed with wonder and dread. It was all they could to do face demons like this. Never did they think they might one day rule the earth.
         The smell of blood drove the wendigo to a frenzy. He straddled the chieftain, pinning him to the ground. The war club tumbled into the pit. Clutching blindly, the old man's hand fell upon his tomahawk. He buried its flint blade deep into the wendigo's neck. The creature staggered backwards with a bubbling shriek.
         The chieftain rose. When he looked down, he saw the bone knife embedded between his ribs. Then he cast a spell, chanting in a voice like thunder, invoking the spirit of his totem. Descending from the crystalline sky, the antlered being bent and exhaled into his soul. The chieftain charged, grappling with the demon, gripping the handle of his tomahawk. With one last, fell effort, he tore the wendigo's head from its body.
         The shaman-chieftain had loved his child. He stood swaying, clasping his son's face in his hands. One last time, he cried his name. The spirit of the wendigo tried to escape, but he bound its hideous strength, trapping it inside the head. Long ago, he had accepted that his son was dead.
         As the chieftain considered his own death, the first warrior climbed forth from the pit. The second warrior drew himself to his feet. All three companions, mortally wounded, gazed upon each other.
         The chieftain lay the head in a nearby bog, next to his son's body. The men knelt down about it. The icy water soothed their wounds. A great wind struck the forest, surrounding them with a nimbus of golden leaves. Together, they swore an oath to guard the evil forever, to keep it from ever escaping to harm others again. Inexorably, their blood filled the bog. Each man drew his last breath.
         It began to snow.
         All three gazed upwards into the rising night. For an instant, it seemed they perceived my presence, or perhaps it was the antlered being which carried me. One day, humans would rule the earth. But not this day. The darkling world diminished below. Slowly, end over end, I tumbled back upwards into the stars.


         Someone was shouting my name.
         It was Pete. He grasped my shoulder and hauled me back from the blazing fire. The sleeve of my sweater was smouldering, my hands reddened and blistered.
         Three figures stood inside the cottage, their cadaverous bodies wreathed in numinous light. Inside the fireplace, a hideous smoke poured from the skull. The shaman-chieftain strode forward and grasped the smoke in his fists. It writhed, coiling about his wrists, but could not escape. The two other warriors drew close. These were not ghosts. Their scraping, leathery feet tracked snow across the floor. Crusts of ice and clods of peat crumbled from their limbs.
         Almost, the wendigo spirit had achieved a physical form, charged with the bodily energies of my brother. I gripped Pete's face. Blood streamed from a slash in his neck, but he was alive. The wound had just missed his carotid. He still held the iron poker in his fist. He raised it over his shoulder and brought it down onto the head which burst into fiery cinders and fell apart.
         As we struggled to our feet, I clapped my hand over Pete's wound and applied as much pressure as I could. We boys were tough, Grandpa had made sure of that. We faced the three bog men, warriors from a prehistoric age, their ancient faces dark glossy brown, their long black hair tightly bound. The shaman-chieftain stood as tall and broad as Pete himself. Their expressions were wooden, inscrutable.
         "Migwetch," Pete said. "Biwabamishinam Menawah."
         The three warriors turned, one by one, and walked back out into the night, bearing away the spirit of the wendigo. Hissing snow snaked through the door.
         "What did you say?" I gasped. "What did you say to them?"
         "I said thank you, and to drop-in again."
         I hoped to hell they didn't understand. We stared out into the pine forest, but they were gone. Before our eyes, their deep tracks vanished in the blowing wind.
         Pete leaned hard on me. We were both drenched in his blood. "We have to get you to a hospital."
         "Don't be ridiculous. You're a doctor. How are your hands?"
         "My hands are fine. You need stitches."
         "Daniel, it's okay." He pressed his brow against the side of my head. "It's over. It's okay." He showed me where he kept his medical supplies. He barely flinched as I sewed up his wound. Afterwards, while bandaging my own hands, I recounted to him my vision. Shakily, he poured us glasses of Scotch and retrieved a pack of cigarettes.
         "I thought you quit."
         "Special occasions," said Pete. He threw back his drink and winced, touching the dressing on his neck. "Thanks."
         We found Jackson hiding beneath Pete's bed. He wouldn't come out, even when Pete offered him his favourite treat. "Give him time," I said.
         Pete lowered himself onto the bed, his face haggard, his eyes red-rimmed. He took a bite out of the dog biscuit in his hand. "I'm sorry," he mumbled.
         "For what?"
         "I made a mistake. I'm sorry. It tried to kill me. We both could've died. You were right."
         I took his cigarette and butted it out in my glass. "It's not like you, Pete. It's more like something Pat would've done." It was my half-hearted attempt at a joke, but Pete didn't smile. Instead, he closed his eyes. I swallowed hard, studying his face. "I thought you were dead."
         "When it brought that knife up to my throat, I heard the others outside the door, calling out, warning me. If it wasn't for them, I don't think I would've woken up. It was almost too late."
         "You let them in."
         "I did."
         "You knew what they'd come for?"
         "I'd found the head in a secret hoard, Daniel, under a hawthorn tree. This was fairy treasure. It was only a matter of time before someone came to claim it. All I wanted was to give it a home, put it to rest." He crammed the rest of the dog biscuit into his mouth. "But maybe some things can never rest."
         "That's disgusting, Pete."
         "There's German Chocolate Cake."
         "Yep." This time he grinned. He gripped the back of my neck and tousled my hair. "Homemade."

© Electric Spec