Ack! Long time no blog. Pushing through to the end of the working year drained me to the point where I was running on fumes with just enough energy to make it through each day without complete mental and emotional collapse, so writing witty blog posts was completely beyond me. But I’ve rested up for a couple of days, eaten some turkey and banished all thought of work to the land of wind and ghosts, so should be right for a while now.
Anyway, as my previous post suggested I have fallen deeply into the Stand Still Stay Silent fan community. Well, deeply for me, which means I lurk on the fan forum and occasionally pop up to make inane comments. A couple of these inane comments (and too much turkey) have led me to perpetrate an awful crime against the noble art of fan fiction, which I have decided to present here so the world may judge it and decide on an appropriate punishment.
(It goes without saying that it will not make much sense unless you’re familiar with the comic. Frankly it may not make much sense even if you are familiar with the comic, but at least you’ll know who the characters are. Also in SSSS the new year is in Autumn, which is why August comes after October.)
So here we go. I have no title for it, but then it probably doesn’t deserve one…
SAIMAA – OCTOBER, YEAR 78
The door flew open, letting in a gust of cold wind and a swirl of snow. Lalli, who had been practicing some simple spells by the hearth, leapt up as his grandmother staggered in, grabbing at the doorpost for support.
“Grandma..?” he started uncertainly.
“Lalli! Oh Gods Lalli! Where are your cousins?” Grandma staggered across the cabin towards him but collapsed onto the table halfway. Lalli ran to her and helped her to her feet. “Where are your cousins child? Quickly!”
He hesitated “I.. I don’t know Grandma. Onni said he was going hunting…”
“You have to find him. And Tuuri! It’s not safe!”
Lalli helped Grandma into a chair. She sagged forwards, burying her face in her hands as he ran across the room and pushed the door closed, jumping up to pull the latch firmly shut. He ran back to the chair and knelt by her side.
“What’s wrong Grandma? What happened?”
“I… I thought maybe I could teach them!” she moaned “There were books I read, as a child…”
“Teach who? What did you try to do?”
“…they seem so much like us in so many ways. I didn’t think the illness had changed them as much as the others…”
Lalli was frightened now. No matter the problem, no matter what went wrong, Grandma always knew what to do. Seeing her so confused, so frightened shook his world to its core. He threw his arms around her legs and buried his face in her lap.
“Grandma, what should we do?”
He felt her take a deep, shuddering breath and shift upright. When Lalli looked up, the calm, strong Grandma he’d always known had returned. She pulled him to his feet and looked him in the eyes with a sad smile.
“It was a mistake. I should never have tried it. It was a terrible mistake and now we have to make it right.”
She took Lalli’s hands in hers.
“I need you to go and find your cousins. We’re going to have to leave this place. But before we do, there’s something I need to teach you…”
NORTH SAIMAA – AUGUST, YEAR 78
There was a space under the jetty just big enough to hide in and stay dry.
It was Lalli’s favourite place. He’d found it not long after they’d arrived at the village, three months back, and he retreated there regularly – particularly when Onni wanted him to do chores.
Today he was using it as a hideout after stealing a fresh bread roll from the village bakery. He knew that Grandma wouldn’t approve, but…
He paused, his thoughts halted by a pang of sorrow. Grandma wouldn’t have approved. It was Onni who was in charge now. Grandma’s plan to lure away and then outrun the… the thing, had worked, but at a dreadful cost.
But things were slowly getting better. Almost a year of running from village to village had ended. They’d found a home. Onni was working hard to earn them a place here, Tuuri was learning weird foreign languages at the school and Lalli – Lalli was training as a scout, stealing rolls and hiding under a jetty where he could eavesdrop on his fellow villagers with little chance of discovery.
Two of those villagers, both fishermen, were walking up the boards from their newly landed boat. Lalli tuned in to their conversation as he chewed.
“Did you hear that racket last night?”
“Out in the woods past the south wall, you seriously didn’t hear it?”
“You know I’m a deep sleeper”
“You’d have to be. Weirdest damn noise I’ve ever heard, and it went on forever.”
Lalli stopped eating as a wave of foreboding swept over him.
“Probably just some troll”
“Not like any troll I’ve ever heard”
“Well, what’d it sound like?”
“Well first of all there was this deep humming sound, like standing next to a hive of giant bees…”
“There you go, it was just a hive of giant bees!”
“Shut up! Then over the hum there was this horrible, high pitched wail, like someone was strangling a pine marten.”
“Well, maybe that’s what giant bees do for fun!”
“Are you taking this at all seriously?”
“You’re an idiot.”
The two walked away, continuing their banter as Lalli cowered under the jetty.
It had found them again.
KEURUU – YEAR 84
Lalli had been sitting, staring at the blank report ever since he’d made it back through the east gate just before dawn. What could he write? Onni had been clear when they’d first arrived at the base – if the authorities found out just what had followed their family halfway across Finland they’d be out of Keuruu faster than a Grade A feline pouncing on a rat-beast. He could probably make something up, but what would prompt an appropriate level of caution without giving away exactly what…
“Lalli!” his thoughts were interrupted by Tuuri, scurrying across the compound and waving vigorously despite juggling two steaming wooden bowls.
“Welcome back!” she exclaimed, plonking onto the bench opposite and setting down the porridge. “I bought you some breakfast since I thought you wouldn’t have…” she saw the look on his face and paused. “It’s not…” she began.
“Yes” he replied.
Tuuri paled and pushed the bowls aside.
“But we’ve come so far!” she whimpered “You’re sure it wasn’t…”
“Yes” he interrupted.
She buried her face in her hands for a full minute as Lalli sat in silence.
“We have to tell Onni” she finally whispered “But if we do he’ll only want to move us again, and there’s nowhere else to go!” She took a deep breath and looked up at her cousin. “The spell. The one that Grandma taught you, will it keep it away?”
Lalli thought for a few seconds. “Yes”.
“And the walls here are strong. If you can force it to keep its distance, Onni might never hear it. He’ll think it lost our trail after all. Could that work?”
“Good!” She jumped to her feet. “I’ll go remind him how terrible the outside is and how he should never leave the base! He already mostly thinks that, so it won’t be very hard.” She turned to go, then turned back “And don’t tell anyone about this! Ever! Understand?”
Filled with determination, Tuuri strode rapidly away in the direction of their quarters.
The sun rose slightly higher. Lalli was just finishing his bowl of porridge when he spotted the Scout Sergeant striding across the compound.
“All night scout summaries are due now! Don’t make me ask again, people!”
Lalli scribbled down the first thing that entered his head and ran off to submit the report, pausing only to grab the second porridge bowl as he did so.
THE DREAM REALM – YEAR 90
“No” said Onni “I’m ordering you to not step outside your perimeters again until I say you can. It’s not safe.”
“I – ” began Lalli
“Don’t argue…” Onni paused, closed his eyes and turned away. “It’s looking for us again”
COPENHAGEN – YEAR 90
This was it. No more running. It was going to end tonight in the ruins of this weird, scary, foreign city.
He’d known it was coming, ever since Onni had warned him. It might seem impossible that the creature could follow he and Tuuri across the entire world, but it had tracked them for over ten years and across most of Finland, so whatever strange force linked them was clearly not hindered by distance.
It had been lurking at the edges of his dreamscape for at least a week, getting stronger each time he spotted it from the corner of his eye. So tonight, under the cover of scouting a route for the morning, Lalli was on the hunt.
It would be near the water of course. Fresh water. And to intrude on his dreams so strongly it couldn’t be far away. He’d examined the map that the crazy Norwegian lady was always waving around and decided the most likely place for the beast to be lurking was the weird, star shaped lake in the north of the ruins.
He’d carefully made his way to the southern point of the star and had sat quietly in wait for several hours. But it was getting late, and there was no sign of the beast. If this was going to be over tonight, he had to take a chance.
With a whispered prayer to the Gods, he picked up a rounded stone and stepped out into the open.
With one swift motion he hurled the stone. It skipped across the water, bouncing several times before sinking into the depths with an echoing plunk.
Lalli’s shoulders fell.
But then, a stream of bubbles rose from the depths of the lake. The stream elongated, heading across the water towards the shore where Lalli stood. He stepped back, drawing his blade.
As the bubbles drew close the dark bulk of the creature rose up from the murk. It had grown since Lalli had seen it last outside the walls of Keuruu. Its black skin glistened in the moonlight and it wheezed as it hauled itself onto the land.
The drone began. The deep thrumming buzz that had driven so many to madness since the day twelve years ago when Grandma had made her terrible mistake. Then the high pitched, piercing, demon-wail. Lalli resisted the seductive urge to block his ears and flee and instead summoned his internal strength. Raising his hands he intoned the last spell Grandma ever taught him,
Musiikki on kamala,
Mennä kotiin norppa,
The beast paused, its infernal cacophony dying away as it pulled its head back and upwards – almost as if it was offended by the words of power. Taking his chance, Lalli lept forwards, stabbing his knife upwards into the creature’s bloated air-sack.
The beast let out a high pitched squeal and fell back towards the water, trying to shake Lalli off. But he kept hold with an iron grip born of twelve long years of fear and rage. The creature’s flippers beat at him, but he refused to let go, tearing at the cursed thing that had started all the madness. As the first glimmer of light crept into the pre-dawn sky he tore it loose, and the beast let out a wail of defeat, falling back into the black water with a great splash and rapidly swimming away.
Lalli collapsed onto the snowy ground, gripping his prize. It was over. The long nightmare was over. He pulled himself to his feet and began the walk back to the tank.
Never again. Never again would the Hotakainen family – or anyone else – have to fear the sound of a beastified seal playing Pomppufiilis on Grandma’s old bagpipes.
I am most dreadfully sorry!