Sunday, 27 October 2013

Blackwater Casefile 'Three' - No. 2: Circles in the Sugar Cane Field

It was bright, early morning on the corner of Tweed Valley Drive and Riverside Drive. Even the roiling grey clouds overhead couldn't hinder the bright, luxurious green of the grass and paddocks everywhere. Along the patch beside Riverside Drive, a man and a woman came walking. Mr Blackwater, wearing the same clothes as the night before, was walking with an umbrella despite the weather. Beside him, Cassandra O'Leary wore a long, black dress, moth-eaten around the hem and a grey, lace cardigan. On her feet, she wore rubber thongs, exposing the long toenails on her feet. The two were in the middle of a heated discussion.
  " . . . I can't believe that," says Mr Blackwater.
  "Why ever not? I'm a witch, you're a paranormal investigator. We've seen monsters beyond belief. What's to say that aliens don't exist?"
  "Horror Investigator. And it's preposterous, if they interfered this drastically, then there would be more evidence of them."
  "There is evidence! Sightings of flying saucers. Even aliens across the world-"
  "Alien sightings are nothing more than changeling sightings. You should know that."
  "What about the Old Ones? They're alien entities."
  "Alien to this plane of existence . . ." mutters Mr Blackwater, looking uncomfortable, "they're not extraterrestrial."
The two stop to look both ways before crossing the road, towards an open field of green sugarcane which had barely grown higher than a metre.
  "Well, this is it," says Cassandra, "I'll let you see and judge for yourself, then. There's a great deal here that would prove me right."
There was no fence, just a slight ditch alongside the road. The two of them cross it and start to wade through the greenery, but it didn't take long for Mr Blackwater to see the first circle.
Less than ten metres from the road, within the field, there was a circle where the sugarcane was not standing upright. Instead, it was all laying down flat on the ground, leaning down in a clockwise spiral, creating a perfectly symmetrical circle that was about six metres across.
  "This is it?" says Mr Blackwater. "First glance, this looks like a hoax to me. Some kids just bent it down."
  "Take a second glance," snaps Cassandra, pointing another accusing fingernail towards him. "This is sugarcane, it doesn't bend down."
Blackwater kneels down to inspect. Sure enough, under the leaves, each plant was woody and thicker than his thumb. Yet, it wasn't snapped. At the base, it grew sideways as though all of the plants had decided to lie down. At the edge of the circle, he also noticed rusty-coloured stains in the dirt.
  "This is blood, isn't it?"
  "Yes," replies Cassandra, "police couldn't identify it. It's human, but they don't know whose. That's all I know about it."
  "It's a small town," mutters, Mr Blackwater, "it's unlikely all the townsfolk would be in the system . . . this is just stupid."
  "What are you thinking, Donnie?"
  "I think this doesn't make any sense . . ." says Mr Blackwater, "It's like a summoning circle, a sigil to call forth a demon. But it's too simple, too small."
  "If it's a demon circle, the blood must be a sacrifice, that would give it more power," suggests the witch.
  "No matter how many sacrifices you make, you need to call a demon by name and you'd need something powerful to puncture the barrier between worlds. Most summoning circles have - at the very least - their demon's signature around the outside, and some kind of sigil in the middle . . . didn't you say there were more circles like this?"
   "Yes, there's one over there," she says, turning and pointing, "And There. And two more I can't quite see, off in the distance, there."
  "They're all in this field?" asks Blackwater, standing up.
  "Yep, five in total." says Cassandra.
  "Do any of them have more markings? This could have just been a practice circle, getting ready for the real thing."
  "They're all identical to this one," says Cassandra, shaking her head. "ring of blood, twisted anti-clockwise . . . I don't know how they did it."
  "Isn't it magic?" says Blackwater.
  "No kind of magic I've ever seen," says Cassandra. "To do this, you'd have to manipulate the way the plants grew. It's dabbling in the very essence of life and nature, changing it at its core, it's way beyond the ability of any magic user I've ever seen."
  "So, not some young satanist practicing his sigils, then?"
  "Definitely not."
Blackwater looks at the circle again, stroking his beard with a hand. As he does, he starts to frown deeply.
  "Oh no . . ."
  "What is it, Donnie?" asks Cassandra, walking over and placing a hand on his shoulder. As she touches him, Blackwater flinches, but she still manages to wrap her fingers around his shoulder, careful so as not to scratch him with her nails.
  "There's only one thing that I can think of that could do something like this." says Blackwater, looking back at the circle, "to affect nature, you surely must be a part of nature. Trolls have the ability to stem the flow of magic through a ley-line. Since ley-lines are natural phenomena - magic flowing through the natural veins of the earth - controlling plants would be simple for them."
  "You think the troll did it?"
  "No, but I think his head did. Whoever stole the troll head used it to cross the bridge, they must have used it to do this as well."
  "Then they'd have to be a very talented magic-user . . . but that doesn't explain why they'd make a useless circle in a field, let alone five of them . . ."
Blackwater walks into the centre of the circle and kneels down, searching for blood or a symbol of some kind.
  "Wait a minute . . . you said there were five circles?"
  "Yes," she replies, "They're all around this field."
  "But six people went missing. One that showed up in the river?"
  "Yes. They found him not too far from here, actually," she says.
  "There might be some other circle somewhere, or a clue to explain them. Where's the body now?"
  "He's in the morgue, of course," says Cassandra, "Why?"
  "Because we need to see it," says Blackwater, determined. At those words, the witch shakes her head.
  "Uh-uh. Oh no we don't!" she says, shaking a finger. "I've been through enough strife with you and dead bodies!"
  "Come now, Cassandra, that was hardly my fault."
  "No way," she says, heading towards the road. "I'm too old for this."
  "Cassandra, there's some kind of powerful sorcerer out there, with control of a troll's head and that body could be the only way to find them."
Cassandra stops walking and stands there for a moment before turning back to look at her old friend, but she looked very scared.
  "I will make sure you're perfectly safe. Now, please, can you break an old friend into a morgue, one more time?"

The Murwillumbah District Hospital was a 20 minute drive away, but it was almost midday before Cassandra and Mr Blackwater managed to get into the morgue.
  "What will we do if we're found in here?" asks Cassandra.
  "I assumed you could just hypnotize them . . ."
  "Donnie," scolds Cassandra, "I can't do that."
  "Which of these is the body we're looking for?" asks Blackwater, ignoring her trepidation. He stood before a silver wall, patterned with little rectangular doors, each containing a drawer for storing cadavers.
  "That one," she says, pointing lazily at one of the lower doors. Without hesitation, Blackwater opens the door and slides the tray out. Covered by only a thin cloth, there lay a man in his late thirties. He looked rather thin and ordinary with a flat chest, but his arms and legs were toned with muscle from years of manual labour. His skin was sun-damaged and weathered and his shoulders were covered in curly, little hairs some of which were going grey. He looked almost peaceful, except for the cut across his neck,
  "Must be a farmer," mutters Blackwater.
  "His name's Harold," says Cassandra, still standing by the door, not daring to come closer. "I've met him at the markets once or twice."
Blackwater peels back the cloth over the man's chest and sighs heavily. The man's chest had four other cuts in it. They were spread wide from the waterlogged the skin, and they were cut unevenly crisscrossing his chest in foot-long gouges. grabbing with the cloth, so as not to touch the dead man's skin, Mr Blackwater peels apart one of the gouges and leans down to peer inside.
  "My goodness . . . this was a curved blade."
Raising his other hand, he mimes holding a knife and slowly moves his hand back and forth over each wound, twisting his wrist around trying to imitate the cut. He gives up with a sigh,
  "No human could do this with a blade. I'm afraid we're dealing with a demon, or some kind of construct with talons, curved and sharp. Almost like a small scythe, or a sickle."
  "Any scars?" asks Cassandra, turning to peak out the door, "any blood?"
  "I'm afraid not," says Blackwater, glancing over the body, "the river must have washed away that evidence . . ."
Cassandra looks back at him, she looked terrified.
  "I can't do it."
  "Cassandra, please," says Mr Blackwater, "we may even get a glimpse of the killer."
  "There's no we," she snaps, angrily. "You won't have to look through a dead man's eyes, and watch the demon that butchered him!"
  "Cassie, I'm sorry," says Blackwater, genuinely, "the troll has possession of my psychometry kit. If I could do this without you, I would. I swear to you."
Cassandra closes her eyes, takes a breath and steps forward. Eyes closed, she walks over to her friend and kneels down on the other side of the body. She sits there for a moment, building courage, before she slowly raises her right hand and holds it a few inches from the dead man's face. She grabs the man's face, her hand covering his eyes with her nails digging into his skin. Suddenly, she gasps and opens her eyes.
She stared into space, blindly.
  "The sky!" she gasps, "my throat! I can't breathe! Bleeding!"
  "Before that, Cassandra. Stay with me!" Mr Blackwater looked concerned, he reached out a hand to comfort her, but he didn't touch her, he wasn't brave enough.
Cassandra blinks slowly, and struggles to swallow a lump in her throat.
  "The river . . . it's dragging me! Blood on the grass!"
  "Can you see it?"
  "Monster! Cut my throat, I see the sky . . . dragging me into the river!"
  "Can you see the monster?"
Tears start to well in Cassandra's eyes, she shakes her head and lets go of the dead man's face. As she does, she gasps for breath, as though she'd been drowning. Blackwater stands up and walks around to her. He kneels down beside her, but he still doesn't touch her. He couldn't bring himself to.
  "I couldn't see his face," says Cassandra, "The creature cut his neck, his head rolled back . . ."
  "I'm sorry, Cassandra," says Blackwater.
  "Don't be," she says, catching her breath. "I saw the bridge. The monster killed him at the bridge . . ."

1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't want to be in Cassandra's shoes. That sort of gift is scary . . .


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