Thursday, September 23, 2010

PART SIX: Tricksters Anonymous

Recap: Thoki and Lor have gone their separate ways. Thoki has run across the Greek Trickster, Hermes.  Hermes has "kidnapped" Thoki and his intentions are unknown. Lor has forgotten by now that Thoki has said goodbye and left. He currently thinks Thoki's in the loo.



          Thoki opened his eyes and peeled himself off the concrete floor. He found himself in a darkened restaurant kitchen. Dusty range stoves lined the musty walls. The air smelled of rust and mildew and made Thoki sneeze.  He squinted in the gloom as he rose to his feet.

          A bare lightbulb flicked on above him, and Hermes was standing over him. Thoki shivered and wrapped his arms around his body for warmth, his hands touched cold wet fabric.

            “Why am I soaking wet?” he asked between chattering teeth.
            “It rained on the way,” shrugged Hermes, who was bone dry.
            “Where am I?”
            “You’ll see.

          A door burst open on the left and Thoki recoiled instantly from a figure entering the room. He looked dangerous. He wasn’t a tall lad, but he was tightly packed with condensed muscle. His shaven head made his steel grey eyes all the more prominent in his pale face. There was nothing but dead earnest in the set of his jaw and his determined stride. A jean jacket covered in faded paint marker flapped heavily around an ancient Sex Pistols tee-shirt. His heavy work boots clomped on the flagstone floors as he rushed towards the pair.

            He stopped short of Hermes, and stared at the purple-lipped Thoki. His face suddenly became benign, and even bemused.
            “Wotcher,” he said. His face broke into a lopsided grin, revealing several chipped teeth as he offered a hand to help Thoki to his feet. “So you couldn’t talk him out of it?” he asked Hermes in a thick cockney accent.
            “I would have brought him anyway, Goodfellow,” said the Greek with a sneer.
            “Sure you woulda,” shrugged Goodfellow, and clapped a hand on Thoki’s shoulder. “Come wif us, sunshine,” he said a little more harshly. “You need to know summat.”
            Thoki shook off the hand.
            “About what?”
            Goodfellow hesitated and glanced at Hermes before answering, “About your Dad.”
            “Don’t–” began Thoki.
            “I’m sorry if it’s hard to hear but–”
            “Why the hell does everyone think that I give a damn about Loki?” cried Thoki.
            Goodfellow was struck dumb for a moment. “Wh-…What, didn’t you get on?”
            “Why the hell would I?”
            “Well…” Goodfellow shrugged. “I dunno…he was just so…charming, y’know? Seemed like a real nice guy.”
            “That’s what Baldur said,” was Thoki’s answer.
            Goodfellow coughed nervously and motioned to the doorway he’d just gone through. Thoki’s eyes darted from side to side, looking for an exit.
            “I wouldn’t,” warned Hermes, flanking him.
            “You wouldn’t want to miss the party, anyways,” said Goodfellow’s grainy voice as he marched forward, steering Thoki ahead of him.
            “Party?” asked Thoki, uncertainly. He was pretty sure it wouldn’t involve balloon animals and a pi├▒ata.
            “More like a convention,” came Hermes’s drawl behind him.
            “Yeah. Tricksters anonymous,” added Goodfellow with a dry chuckle.
            Thoki had the sudden mental image of the skin-head standing up in a circle of animal gods and saying ‘Hello, my name is Puck and I’m a dick,’ (hello, Puck).
            They marched up a steep step and into the restaurant’s dining room. Most of the tables were cleared, except for one set up near a rustic stone fireplace. A cluster of several men, who seemed to represent all ages, races, and cultures, occupied a set of mismatched chairs. If it was a party it was more depressing than quarterly sales pizza-fests at INDTco.

            There was an anemic-looking Frenchman hunched up in a cardigan and coveralls. He sported a shock of red hair, a long nose and scraggly sideburns. He sniffed dolefully at Thoki, by way of acknowledgement, before muttering a string of profanity under his breath. Thoki recognized him as Reynard the Fox.

             Next to Reynard sat two men, shoulder to shoulder, in adjoining chairs. To Thoki, it seemed they could have been brothers. Both had russet skin and aquiline noses between high cheekbones. Both had dark black hair, which was so black it was almost blue. There the similarities ended. The one on the left had left his hair long, while the one on the right had his cut down to the “high and tight” regulations of the armed forces. The long haired man wore a plaid shirt with a white vest underneath, he was wearing a hemp necklace that was nearly rotten with wear. It had bone beads and in the middle was a carved hematite raven. The short-haired man was sporting military camouflage and dog tags. His skin was tanned darker than his brother’s and had a line-art tattoo on his inner wrist. It was of a howling coyote.

               A young American boy, probably in his early twenties, had his expensive athletic shoes on the table as he leaned back in his chair. He seemed to be made of all arms and legs, as his bright “Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets” jersey kept attacking Thoki’s eyes in the dim room. He was eating a sponge cake (there were a plate of them) and had another poised in his hand, waiting to be devoured.  He seemed familiar, but Thoki was uncertain.
            “Hare?” he asked.
            “Nah, I moved to America,” he said, “’M called Brer Rabbit now.”
            “Oh,” said Thoki, blankly. “How’s that working out for you?”
            Brer Rabbit snorted. Coyote and Raven exchanged grimaces.

           A Chinese man in his forties, whose face seemed to be constantly creased with suppressed laughter, sat at the far end of the table. The button holes on his yellow Nehru jacket bounced and fluttered as he bobbed his head. It seemed he was waiting for everyone else to get “the joke” and laugh first. He looked like an amiable man without a shred of malice in him, which made Thoki instantly distrustful of him and wonder who he was.

           An African man in his seventies was sitting away from the low table. He had grabbed the most comfortable armchair by the fireplace, and insinuated himself in it. He was dressed in a handsome three-piece suit. He held a cane between his gloved hands. The handle was a shiny gunmetal orb with the shape of an hourglass picked out in tiny rubies.  His eyes twinkled merrily and his smile revealed a set of teeth that were astonishingly white and straight. They seemed to radiate light, in contrast to his dark cheeks.
            “Anansi,” gasped Thoki in awe. He flinched when the old man nodded at him.

          In the far corner was an incongruous character: a small child, about seven or eight, with skin the colour of caramel, wearing an Iron Man 2 tee-shirt and jeans.  He was seated on a barstool swinging his legs with pent up energy. He was playing with a Nintendo DSI and chomping ferociously on a wad of gum the size of a grapefruit. He glanced up briefly at Thoki and gave him a precocious smile.

         “Who the hell are you?” asked Thoki; he fidgeted. Kids made him nervous.
         “I’m Eleggua,” said the boy happily, in a voice tinged with a Creole French accent. “Who the fuck are you?”
         “I’m Thoki Lokisson,” said Thoki, arching an eyebrow.
         “Good for you,” said the kid, before turning up the volume on his game system and ignoring him.

           “Good grief,” spat Thoki turning back to the other men. “What the hell is this?” he asked them.

            The other men, glanced at the Chinese man in yellow who had suddenly gained some gravity. His eyes were still smiling, but his face was set in a serious expression.

            “Who–?” began Thoki.
            “I am Wu-Kong, the Monkey King,” he said in a musical voice. “I, and the men you see here before you, are avatars of chaos: the tricksters. We represent eternal change and flux in the human condition. We act as everymen who challenge and provoke powerful gods on behalf of the mortals. We are cautionary tales to encourage mankind to be merciful to each other. We even entertain the world with our failures. Our offices make us the bridge between life and death and back again. Messengers, creators, fire-bringers, ferrymen, voice of the downtrodden: that is what we are. That is what your father was, except in one aspect…”

            Thoki took in Wu-Kong’s grave expression and steeled himself.

            The monkey god continued: “Trickster gods are the officers of mischief and luck. We embody both good and bad, but we are never evil. Loki broke that trust with mankind when he killed Baldur.”

            “Twice,” said Thoki acidly.
            “Just so,” nodded Wu-Kong. “That malice came from a different source of Chaos, unlike that of a trickster–an ancient evil force. It is called ISFAT.”

TO BE CONTINUED...