A sneak peek at the next thrilling Lore of the Underlings episode,
which I’m writing as we speak (Episode 4 ~ Preview 1)
There, in midair, a pair of disembodied orbs.
He seemed at home here alone in the silent night, back to the wall with true blue eyes standing watch as his two friends slept. But he knew where they were more by sense than by sight, for the gloom that engulfed them morphed all to vague shapes.
The knotwood against his shoulder blades was rough and sticky with fetid tar, leaving him nowhere to lean. Beneath his feet a crooked floor made standing straight a struggle. And yet he had no mind to sit, no quit in his tirelessness.
Of a sudden from somewhere there came a voice.
“Ee`aye ee ~ Ss`noop pa`boofii J`onncapp na-kynd^”
“Morio?” he half-whispered, turning an ear.
“Ss`noop pa`boofii na-kynd ~ J`onncapp^”
“Hold on… no comprende, mi amigo. I don’t have Oglet on me here.”
John Cap looked up through the black and called out. “Oglet, I need you. Come on little guy.” Then he raised his right arm, his fist thrust high.
Something small like a moonbat whipped about overhead, too quick of wing to let a good look. It glanced off the walls around the room, making impossible loops.
So swift to follow what else could it be but some sort of fairy or pixie? A sprite of the lowlight that glowed from above, a fleeting glimpse into the indigo. No chance a man could catch it. But then it slowed and spiraled down.
Just a simple strip of flesh. A frisky, hand-size flap. It hovered then wrapped around his wrist.
John Cap’s head snapped back. “Okay, now, you were asking…”
“Are you awake, John Cap?”
The young man paused and held back a sigh. “Um, that’s a pretty dumb question.”
Morio smiled toward John Cap’s voice but barely saw his tall, fair friend in the dark of this foul-smelling place. “Why, yes… I guess it is!”
John Cap slowly shook his head and patted the skin round his forearm.
“When did you last doze off, dear chum?” wondered Morio, now sitting up. “How long has it been since you’ve slept? Since you’ve dreamt?”
“I never have… slept, I mean.”
“Not even as a child?”
“No.” The standing man shifted his feet.
“Nor as a babe wrapped warm and snug by a blanket of love in your mother’s arms?”
“That’s what they always said. Worried my folks that I wouldn’t nap when they put me down with the other kids. But that they got used to and kept it quiet…”
“Ah. Oh! So this is not normal with your people?”
The question made John Cap grin. “Heck no.”
“Well, all along I’d just assumed…” said Morio sounding sheepish. “But never mind and please go on!”
“There’s not much more to say.”
The rounder man would hear none of this. “But surely there is, much more,” he urged. “It’s not good to hold such stories in. To keep tales secret till the end. Tell me my friend how you grew up, reared in a state like that.”
“It’s not something that I usually…”
“Say — for instance, suppose, I just had to ask: Were all of those waking hours kind to that boy, to you, the young John Cap?”
For a moment nothing but silence came from John Cap’s side of the night-shade room. So Morio Yoop leaned forward more, pressing his palms into the floor. He felt worn boards and bits of straw mashed into the rotting wood.
“Maybe it could have been okay. But my eyes gave me away.”
“I see.” Morio pawed at the fragrant fibers underneath his fingertips. Those flaxen strands lent a fruity note to the stench that filled his nose.
“Our Aunt Louise, who was visiting, found me wandering in the night. She ran out screaming, ‘Devil child!’ Said I had a haunted look. It was all downhill after that…”
The older man nodded in sympathy, though his mop-top nob was but a blur from John Cap’s spot across the way.
“My brother’s gang, they called me Spooks. That or Johnny Owl Eyes.”
“And those were not fine names to have?” asked Morio just to be sure. A hint of puzzlement tuned his tone and his eyebrows arched in mild surprise.
John Cap let out a muffled laugh. “Oh yeah, they were the best.”
“Sure, a dream come true.”
“Well yes, that’s what I would have guessed.”
“So maybe you’d like a nickname yourself.”
“I would be honored to be so known. Do you have such a name in mind?”
John Cap thought for a minute or two, happy to turn the talk from himself. “How about Morio Pork-Yoop-Pie?”
“Ooo, that does make me sound quite yummy!” squealed Morio, rubbing his belly. “But a creature not to be trifled with either. Thank you my true and fowl friend. A hoot-out to you from this pig pen…”
The night owl answered with, “Who…” then stopped. It seemed that he knew not how to respond. But Morio, hogging the floor, carried on.
“I do note one small flaw in this appellation, otherwise sweet though it may well be. It reminds me, so sadly, how hungry I am — and how very empty is my growling tummy. Oh, for a slice of porkling pie! I think I’d give an eye. Even a bite would do.”
John Cap fought to hold back a smile. “Man, sometimes you just kill me ‘O. Where I come from they’d call you a weirdo.”
Somehow Morio got what that meant. And it made him upset.
“A lifetime ago I heard words like those…” he said in a mumble, aslump toward the floor, “in an age and place long gone, my young guest.” His round, sweet face lost its usual mirth. “When I too knew something of being uncommon…”
Morio raised a soft, hammy fist and rubbed at his puffy eyes with it. They were watery now and bloodshot, their pure tan stained in rills of red. And he made a sniffly sound with his nose like someone ready to cry a river.
“Aw… damn, Morio. It’s alright. I didn’t mean anything by it guy. That’s the same thing they said about me.”
Morio perked up. “Is this true?”
John Cap nodded, “Yup, I swear,” and tapped his heart with his palm. “Promise you.”
“Why then we’re practically brothers in harms! Or cousins of some kind, I suppose. But I’m sure we are something near, dear friend.”
And Morio made a funny salute that no one but he could see through the dim. It appeared to matter not to him. Morio Yoop was happy again.
… to be continued. Stay tuned!