Wednesday, June 24, 2015

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 5 - Paroxysms

This may be the final dispatch for a short while as I work on another article and prepare to move. The armored gentleman below, The Tormenter, does appear in this installment, albeit as a child. More on him soon. Enjoy!

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 5 – Paroxysms

I. Sheba Rising

Among the more horrid attributes of the already proven thief/ rapist/ assassin Ewen Cromwell the Carnifex was his virulent racism, which surfaced with a vengeance when one of his many illegitimate daughters, Sheba Cheshire (born 1900), had a passionate affair with an African man – and not just any African man – but Abassi M'Nali Mathabane AKA Kith. Ewen had an affair with Sheba's mother, Morrigan, during a mission in Ireland in 1899. Unlike the vast majority of women Carnifex had sexual congress with, this was not a rape. He actually had genuine feelings for Morrigan. Hence his psychotic over-protective attitude towards their daughter. He would visit Morrigan and Sheba periodically through the years, though World War I was a challenging time for a mercenary. Sheba shocked her mother when she informed her that not only did she know her father's profession, she wished to become a professional killer as well. Morrigan thought her daughter was insane, but Sheba had inherited his father's leonine grace, raw strength, athleticism, and rapid healing process. She insisted in training with any kind of weapon she could get her hand on.

In 1919, Ewen gave in to his daughter's burning curiosity and thirst for blood. When they left Ireland for Asia, Morrigan killed herself. The Carnifex never looked back. But his daughter was his obsession for a time – the only person he'd cared for since he was a boy. Hence he entrusted her with the one woman he knew could mentor her, care for her, and temper her increasing excesses. This was the woman called Shun Ti, with whom Cromwell had trained from 1872-1887. Shun Ti had needed a challenge then after giving up her twin sons, the Omegan-raised Ursulin and the Piscean-reared Anaximander-Zayan. Calming the raging beast Carnifex was beyond anyone's capabilities as an instructor, it seemed. Beyond Shun Ti, however, of all the Naodai AKA the Tamerlane Overlords, one man commanded Carnifex's respect – the man called Kith. There was only one problem; Ewen would never yield to a black man, even in training. But perhaps, 22 years later, Ewen could muster the patience to let his daughter train under Kith and to contain and direct her dark impulses. Shun Ti favored this scenario. But she foresaw what could happen even before it did, such was her Omegan intuition.

For Kith's part, he had not been with a woman in decades, instead honing his chi energy at Feng Qi with the Naodai, who he hoped to lead should anything happen to Shun Ti. But still, he loved Shun Ti as a mother. She even revealed her true nature as Ish the Omegan to her pupil. Kith forged of Sheba a formidable force in all too few years. Inevitably, an attraction grew, and Sheba gave herself to Kith as she had to no man before. Ere long, Sheba was with child, and it was only a matter of time before the baleful Ewen learned all. When he did, he challenged Kith, and the two dueled – it was a close match – one called off by Shun Ti. “The child to be deserves a family – and the dawn of a new reasoning between us all”. Ewen contained himself. Sheba chose not to wed Kith, though he offered, but Sheba did recall her mistress' words, and called her daughter Dawn Lee Cheshire (born 1927).

Shun Ti offered to raise Dawn at Feng Qi. Sheba, now a mother, was more uncertain than ever as to how to channel her destructive tendencies. During a walk by the ocean when Dawn was one, Sheba resolved to smash the infant's skull open upon the rocks. But Kith had been following her, and saved his daughter. Sheba declared them finished, though he deeply professed his love for her. She was leaving Feng Qi to train alongside her father and become the deadliest killer the world had ever known. And leave she did, and with Ewen, who could barely contain his rage at the ebon-skinned man he felt had tainted his sacrosanct offspring. He vowed Kith would die an exquisitely painful death. But for now, Kith had an infant to raise – just when he was making connections that would further his projected rise to power.

In the 1930s Sheba Cheshire became a first rate femme fatale and distaff assassin. With her father becoming embroiled in ever more conflicts, Sheba learned how to handle herself, to recruit, to train – but always with “daddy”'s ultimate approval. She clashed, at one time or another, with all of the Silent Seven, excepting Gadgeteer V and Captain Caliban. The Saturnine nearly killed her, but this, oddly, turned her on, and for a time she bedeviled him to no avail. Sheba was bi-sexual and was drawn to Crimson Velvet (Felicia McGee). The two finally consummated their affair but Crimson tried to strangle her afterwards. Sheba got away and vowed never to bed a mystery woman again.

In 1938, Sheba was finally caught and sent to prison by Eryk Stenrau, the Kraken, a man she was both attracted to for his intellect and his superior martial arts prowess. She was sentenced to death, though the Kraken himself plead her case. By this time, her father was ensconced in the jungles of Libania, lording it over a cannibal tribe and awaiting the Orlison-Vossius expedition to the Holy Ziggurat. This has been much discussed previously. Suffice to say, the government watchdog group REACT took away Carnifex where, at least for a time, he could harm no one else. In his healing agony, though, his heart rent over his daughter's passing.

II. Then Came Dawn....

Dawn Lee Cheshire was 11 years old when her mother was finally apprehended and punished. Shun Ti and Kith began training Dawn at a young age, though not to be a killer. Shun Ti taught Dawn the co-mingled Omegan and Piscean disciplines that she and her great love Friedrich Einnhauser (Asenath-Zayan) learned together in the preparation for their mission to Earth in 1823. Throughout World War II, Dawn was kept safe with Shun Ti and Kith at Feng Qi, mastering all that she was taught. In 1946, she wished to go to America. Kith, in disguise, took her to Hallmark, drawn as he was (and so many were) to Mt. Mosaic. Kith had had brushes with the Silent Seven in the 1930s but took a perverse pleasure in walking unaccosted in their city. He also wondered if their views on race were any more advanced than that of barbarians such as Carnifex, or, indeed, most of the Caucasian world. In Asia during the war jingoism was the standard, but in America, blacks still seemed to instill the most fear in whites. Kith's resentment over his tenure as a slave had hardly dimmed with time. But with Sheba... it seemed, for a brief moment, that things could be different. He wanted this for Dawn as well.

Dawn was a stunning mixture of racial characteristics. Even hardcore racists gasped when she walked by. But the man who caught the shy 18 year old's eye was Gerhardt Vossius, characterized in those days as “the most eligible bachelor in Hallmark MA”. His legal brother Andreas was gay, and assumed Gerhardt was as well. Gerhardt had had a kinky affair with Felicia McGee in the 1930s but soon discarded her. Now she made a living as a stripper. His secretary Kirsten Roeg was infatuated with him, but he hardly noticed her. In general, the sullen millionaire/ ex-adventurer was by nature a loner... until Dawn's soft dark eyes fell upon him. Kith, a master of disguise, posed as (what else?) her father and called himself by his real name (unknown to all his enemies). He called Dawn Lee Cheshire Dawn Mathabane. Kith did not want to be the cracked mirror image of Ewen Cromwell when it came to his daughter and so allowed her to date Gerhardt – chaperoned until she turned 19. Vossius offered Mathabane a lucrative job at Vossius, a pencil pusher job, insulting to his intellect, but the pay was spectacular. He took this guise for a few months, evading recognition by those of the Silent Seven that might drop by, such as Doc Vance; and contending with patronizing jabs by his co-workers, who called him “coffee boy”. He was ready to leave America after all this, until Dawn announced her engagement to Vossius!

Kith saw this as a good subversive move though. He would return to Feng Qi after the wedding (scheduled for July 1947) and Dawn could be his spy. She was already vastly trained in subterfuge, self-defense, and arts and sciences far beyond the cretins who called him “coffee boy”, beyond even Gerhardt Vossius. She cared deeply for Gerhardt but was admittedly seduced by the “high life”, regardless of the racism she endured. She agreed to use Gerhardt for what she could and report all to her father. His infiltration of Vossius Metalwerks would play right into his existing plans as the Machine developed.

III. Kanabal Unveiled

At the wedding all was going well, with all of Vossius' partners in the Silent Seven in attendance, as well as Isaak Vossius and luminaries such as the De Ruyters, the ver Dorns, the Van Hokes, the Renovas, the Paiges, the Darbys, the Palmers, and other prominent Hallmark families. Some members of each family opted not to attend, mortified by the interracial wedding. But this was to be expected in blue blood 1947. Kith gave away his daughter, and as it seemed no one would speak now or forever hold their peace (and dozens almost did), Dawn and Gerhardt were declared husband and wife. Always one to be late, but always one to make a grand entrance, into the church came crashing – Carnifex! Doc Vance, though hopelessly outclassed, stepped forward, though his former group had few if any weapons on them – save for Ian McGregor. “Let me finish what should've been done eight years ago!” he spat at Cromwell, who unsheathed his own fearsome blade, which he'd somehow regained since the Libanian debacle. He deflected Ian's thrusts, knocking him back and turning to address Dawn. “You! I can tell you already bear the seed of this bastard of Jerissen – do you even know your child won't be human? Mixed race all around...”

Kith's eyes flared with power. Ewen admonished him: “Simmer down, African. Worry not; I disavow this granddaughter borne of miscegenist folly, but more – I part with a wedding gift. The truth. I've spent the last seven years trying to learn just what happened that day in 1939, and what Deomond's words meant. The human monster we sought wasn't quite human after all – not quite many things – a hero, a philanthropist, an Exodesian bastard. He's what Exodesians call hasslichen – what Native Americans call wendigo. Their power is sustained by eating the flesh of their own kind. So, “Doc”, your precious brother, your mystery man Captain Caliban.... how obvious did it need be!??” Ewen laughed heartily, then spun once more towards his granddaughter, “your husband, you dirty black whore, Gerhardt Vossius – is Kanabal!!”

Gerhardt was already fleeing the church, as it seemed all but fainting society wives and a crumpled heart-shattered girl called Dawn were left behind. Gerhardt was fast – faster than his half-brother realized. He must've eaten already, thought Doc, and the image repulsed him. Carnifex smashed through the church windows to see Gerhardt already in his car, and taking off. Save he wasn't alone. He'd grabbed a woman, Olivia Palmer de Ruyter, wife of the criminal Anon., now incarcerated for life. She felt she shouldn't be judgmental about the wedding as many were. She was regretting her decision, as, while he drove, Kanabal was literally ripping her apart and devouring her alive to gain strength. As she expired, so did Gerhardt's windshield – beneath the weight of Carnifex.

With his sword he smashed the hood into a shrieking metal pulp. The car upended, penning Vossius beneath. But Kanabal flung the car's debris far down the street and charged at Cromwell. Cromwell sliced off Gerhardt's right leg with one smooth stroke, and spat on him, exclaiming, “ See if you can do what I did.... but... just in case... you have three more limbs to practice with....”
Cromwell! Enough!!” cried Kith from about a foot behind him. “this has gone on enough. You'll never atone for your barbarism no matter how many Vossiuses you bring down.”
Careful, Mathabane – your daughter is one now – and is carrying its vile turpitude.”

With that, Carnifex sprang for the nearest darkened alley. None could find him, though the police certainly tried. None tried harder than Doc Vance – whose brother, all along, had been his greatest, most mysterious foe. Even Bram Vallard, who was as one with shadow, had no luck. Gerhardt Vossius was imprisoned for life but never regrew his leg. But then, he never had much chance to consume human flesh either.

Vance invited Dawn into the family, and she agreed to remain in Hallmark and have her child – she hoped it'd be a son so she could call him Solomon. She prayed he'd have the wisdom that eluded three generations of Cheshire women. Vance bade farewell to Kith but mentioned that he had hired a brilliant black lab technician, Zachariah Clancy, at ORDER Enterprises, who he would nurture despite rampant racism, and, hopefully, if all went well, perhaps Dawn would be open to a date with the young man. Kith was pleased, as much as he could be, and he and Doc shook hands uncomfortably.

A bizarre but key wrinkle in the tale of Gerhardt Vossius should be noted here. Vossius' long-time secretary Kirsten Roeg began visiting Vossius in prison and writing him daily. It seems she had been silently pining away for him for years but never made her feelings for him known. She tried everything to get his case appealed, working with a famed criminal lawyer Hephel Kryle, whose father had also been an attorney of note (and a criminal). But it was no use. It was enough that an insanity plea kept the erstwhile Captain Caliban off of death row and in prison for life. But Vossius did have an incredibly liberal warden during this period, one that could also be bribed for the right amount by Miss Roeg. This led to a brief series of conjugal visits between Vossius and Kirsten. Kirsten wanted nothing more than Vossius' child, if she couldn't secure his freedom.

And so, on September 15, 1949, Jennifer Roeg entered the world. Her birth certificate read father: Gerhardt Vossius. Kirsten stayed in touch with the baby's father throughout the 1950s, though he stopped writing her and refused her visits once it was clear she couldn't get him released. The final fate of this branch of the Vossius clan shall be revealed further along in this narrative.

IV. The Earth Mother

Solomon Vossius was born in November 1947 and, indeed, it was only a matter of time before Dawn wed Zachariah Clancy, and their first born daughter, Artemis Morrigan Clancy, was born in late 1948. Both of the brothers Stenbrau were a bit crushed by the whirlwind romance between Zachariah and the recently divorced Dawn Vossius. Anton Gamble was becoming a cult writer of moderate success, mainly penning science fiction but on occasion texts on existentialism and mysticism. His 1948 book, “The Piscean Myth?”, recounting his views on what he saw in Libania in 1939, sold poorly but immediately placed him under lifelong scrutiny by REACT.

Gamble and his brother Eryk Stenbrau were both enchanted by Dawn Lee Cheshire Vossius Clancy, and she considered them dear friends, but her heart belonged to her new husband. Neither Eryk nor Anton ever broached the subject of their feelings with anyone but each other, nor, though Dawn suspected, did she ever confront them. But Clancy suspected. But he remained civil, if aloof, with the brothers.

In 1950, the Clancys' second daughter Maya Marie Clancy was born. Doc Vance was true to his word that Zachariah would advance at ORDER Enterprises, despite much jealousy and backbiting hurled Clancy's way. In 1953, the Clancys had their first son, Oswin Juan Clancy, and in 1955, Hannibal Orrin Clancy was born. Solomon never got along with his younger half-siblings. He constantly bullied and tormented them. He had inherited his father's sadistic streak, no doubt; though no one then could foresee how far that vicious streak would extend.

Despite the time and environment in which they raised their family, the Clancys managed to prosper. They became Hallmark's first truly affluent African-American family. But two things marred their happiness, and it wasn't the racism directed at them that caused these traumas. First of all, as noted, Solomon Vossius was a true problem child, and he began acting out at home and at school at an extremely young age. In 1960, Solomon nearly beat a white boy to death, claiming the boy was a racist bully. In truth, Solomon learned how to handle himself with racist children when he was a small child, never letting them get over on him or win a fight. But now he had taken things to a horrid extreme, as the attack was unprovoked in any way. Vance recommended several child psychologists for the boy, but none could crack his steely veneer, which only grew worse as he entered his pre-teens.

The greatest threat to the Clancys however was from without, not within, and it came from a man called Phileas Caleb. Caleb had noted Clancy's scientific genius for some time; Caleb was a “headhunter” of sorts for SkullCorp. He and his partner, the somewhat misanthropic Donal Rykards, scoured the world for budding scientific talent. Age, race, nationality – all mattered naught to the pair, as Skull was eager to harvest genius wherever it presented itself. So many young people were able to gain scholarships to study with and work for SkullCorp that would normally never have such opportunity. Skull was seen a progressive leader in education and prosperity, and President John F Kennedy even awarded a special congressional medal to the company, as accepted by CEO Bromley Chamberlain.

Zachariah Clancy and Vance Orlison had become close friends over the years, and Clancy wished to remain loyal to Vance. But Orlison desired what was best ultimately for the family, and encouraged Zachariah to take a coveted position at SkullCorp – one where Zachariah could, under Caleb's aegis, oversee and train a host of young lab technicians in cutting edge areas of technology. The Clancys' own children, with the exception of Solomon, were performing at very high levels in school, and Zachariah didn't want any of them held back by issues of their race or gender. Before Clancy could take the position, however, he was given unsolicited advice from Anton Gamble. By this time (1961), Gamble's work was being hailed as visionary in some circles; in others he was debunked as a paranoid crank. Zachariah held little stock in Gamble's theories, though if Clancy did make it to SkullCorp, he would see that much of what Gamble professed was true.

Gamble warned Clancy that SkullCorp was a sham, a pernicious entity whose sole goal was power – that the young talent being mined by Skull were going to be exploited and discarded. Clancy felt Gamble was indeed paranoid, and more, jealous of Clancy's success. And of his wife. Clancy pushed Gamble physically back and informed him he'd known for years that the Stenbraus wanted Dawn – but they lost out. Zachariah pointed out that Gamble's most recent book “The Earth Mother” was an ode to Gamble's unrequited lust for Dawn. Gamble admitted Clancy was right but that didn't justify ignoring warnings about Skull. He encouraged Zachariah to talk to Eryk, but also others who knew far more than he did about the things he was trying to make Clancy aware of.

Who?”, spat Clancy, “Your 'alien informant' “Captain Omega”? Your friend Bradcroft who peddles occult curios on Flicker Street?? What a joke!”
Do you mean to tell me Vance Orlison doesn't ever wonder about Skull?” asked Anton.
Vance is a great man, a great hero – unlike you and your pathetic brother – and he's seen a lot of strange things. But he's pragmatic, a sound thinker. You're just a lunatic – a beatnik hack with a thing for sisters. Go peddle it somewhere else, “Jakob Stenbrau” - I'm not buying”.
But you're selling, man – a piece of your soul – and your family's.”
Zachariah was by nature a pacifist and so he contained his indignation at this remark and merely walked away.

What he was walking into will concern us shortly...

Welcome to Flicker Street!

Henry Covert
June 24, 2015

Flicker Street, all images, characters, and story elements are Copyright 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.

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