Tuesday, June 30, 2015

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 7 - Interstice

This treatment was quite an undertaking. Juggling dozens of characters and plot threads from prior installments led to a rather larger than intended interstice. Still, I think it's successfully wrapped up a first phase, if you will, and subsequent installments should find the world of Flicker Street much easier to digest after these seven initial segments. At least, that's my intention. Enjoy!   

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 7 – Interstice
I. Kanabal Reborn

Gerhardt Vossius had used Kirsten Roeg in 1949 to attempt freedom and for his own amorous needs. He soon rejected her and their daughter Jennifer however. In 1959 the one-legged unrepentant cannibal killer began corresponding with a former teammate from the Silent Seven who'd also fallen far down on her luck – Felicia McGee. The once stunning, kick ass crimefighter Crimson Velvet had become a stripper, then a prostitute, and, at the age of 40, a stag film actress. She formed a sick attachment to the erstwhile Captain Caliban.

At this point, Gerhardt had had years to formulate a plan to gain revenge on his many enemies. Gerhardt once again took advantage of his extremely liberal warden, Mallard, as he had when he engaged in conjugal visits with Kirsten. He and Felicia conjugated several times while Vossius was incarcerated. This led to the 1961 birth of twins Gareb and Luana Vossius.

The final straw was when Kanabal escaped from prison in 1962. This was engineered by Kong, who wished to play Vossius and Ewen Cromwell against each other and eliminate several of their common enemies at once. Kong put up Vossius in a filthy hotel, where he began murdering whores and vagrants and consuming their flesh. His leg grew back, and he grew incredibly strong and youthful looking for his age (then 58).

Kanabal and Carnifex, under Kong's direction, put together a plan to wipe out the Silent Seven (all still alive, save honorary member Sorrow), as well as Dawn, Zachariah, and all of her Clancy children (Gerhardt insisted he get to know his son Solomon). Felicia feared for her life, and that of her babies. She resolved to go to Vance Orlison and Gadgeteer V for help. Before she could act, Carnifex broke into the Clancys' home at night and butchered Zachariah in front of Dawn and their five children – though he flashed a large smile at 15 year old Solomon Vossius. Solomon smiled back shockingly by all accounts. And then Cromwell took the eldest boy with him. “Your hate can take a most wondrous shape, tainted blood of my blood”. As per Kong's orders, Solomon was reunited with his father.

After Felicia's justifiably hysterical warning, Vance conferred with Cary Bradcroft AKA The Shadow Baron, while Richter, Sword, and Bradcroft's young charge Brandon ver Dorn (b, 1937), also known as the Snow Archer (for reasons that will be made clear in a future treatment), teamed to rescue Solomon. Months went by, and in 1963, the reluctant allies Carnifex and Kanabal drew further blood. Vance had been on their trail for some time and one night the two rogues smashed into his stately manor. Before Vance could react, Carnifex had dug his blade deeply into Doc's heart and out the other side. Solomon was again an accomplice; the sanguinary partners were encouraging the younger Vossius to follow in their blood-caked footsteps. By this point, Solomon was already imploring Ewen to train him in all his fighting skills.

II. The Gauntlet Passed

Dr. Vance Ewen Orlison was given a heroic funeral; it was densely attended and an extremely emotional event. “Doc Vance” was considered America's greatest hero and he was showered in accolades and tears. One man that attended, the Brit Cary Ashton Bradcroft, the Shadow Baron, owner of an extremely eccentric curio shoppe on Flicker Street, decided that enough was indeed enough. SkullCorp had to be destroyed. Cary and his undead twin Ashton Cary Bradcroft, now known only as Nocturno, took their long fulminating plans into fruition. As Cary made his way to their manor to map out the brothers' plans, he was accosted by a stocky sideburned man in a bomber jacket. He introduced himself as Captain Thomas Christopher Ledge, a Korean War veteran recently recruited by the government group REACT. After a fog of doubletalk emanated from the cocky Capt. Ledge, Cary broke in and pointed out that the funeral of such a venerated figure as Vance Orlison might not be the right place or time for “official business”. Ledge answered, “I was hoping for something more casual myself... maybe I'm outta line. But lemme share two things, Mr. Bradcroft... first, not everyone in the upper echelons believed “Doc Vance” was the good little soldier boy you do... an' two: you're on our list. High. Good day... we'll be meeting again soon I'm sure”.

A brief digression: Thomas Christopher Ledge was born on April 13, 1929, and was the first-born son of the man born Kaosong Qua and variously known as Caine Ledge, Bromley Chamberlaine, Mr. Drang, and others... but self-identified as ... Kong the Claimer. Thomas Ledge is a key player in our account as future segments will make clear.

In March 1964 (under the sign of Pisces interestingly), the Aggregate was formed. It was funded by the Bradcroft Foundation (established 1960) and was composed at first of surviving, active members of the Silent Seven, as well as the Shadow Baron, his semi-undead brother Nocturno, Ursulin, the Snow Archer, and the mysterious Dr. E. who was clad head to toe in a gold metallic form-fitting armor of sorts. Sword, Richter, Gadgeteer V, the Kraken, Anton Gamble and Bram Vallard in his Saturnine ID (he claimed madly that the Apparition was busy on missions in the Far East) rounded out the team. Sidonie Vossius, retired as the Duellist, ran Vossius Metalwerks with Andreas, and they had made the shift in the company's emphasis from munitions to appliances since their father's death in 1953. The Korean War was the last war Vossius supplied hardware to.

The Aggregate was the Bradcroft brothers' attempt to consolidate and expand Vance's basic concept for the Silent Seven but instead of a small unit of loose-knit vigilantes, the Aggregate was conceived as a larger umbrella outfit, a haven of sorts, for any specially-talented individuals who could be coerced into attacking Skull's power-mad agenda. The eleven founding members were in accord with this objective. While imprisoned by the Obscuros sect and tortured in Exodesia, Cary Bradcroft had an epiphany about such a group.

III. Prodigies

Before any further discussion of the Aggregate, we must trip a small bit back in time to the heyday of Phileas Caleb's vaunted “Operation: Outreach” program for SkullCorp. We have briefly lit on this brightly-monikered operation previously, but three key individuals “discovered” by Caleb as part of this program figure extensively in the early Aggregate saga.

The foremost of these was Evan Eloy Queeg, pegged by Caleb as the “first known Native-American physicist”. Under the direction of Caleb and Donal Rykards, Queeg was immediately put to work on the new Omegan tech brought by Ursulin. Queeg's personal philosophies and theories, which tended to meld quantum physics and Native spirituality, were right in tune with Omegan (and Piscean) transcendental philosophies. He had the strongest grasp of Omegan tech of any human outside of Caleb. Rykards' interest in Queeg's genius marked him as the first human trial of trans-morphic somatics. Rykards engineered a secret test, unknown to Kong, to bombard Queeg's mind (even more brilliant than his own) with the energies later dubbed TSD. This was in 1956, before the trials were perfected such as the 1963 trial undergone by Orphee deLander. The result? “Dr. E” as his students called him, died in a tremendous explosion at the SkullCorp Advanced Sciences Institute building in Augensburg MA. The entire institute was destroyed, costing Skull valuable research and employee's lives (though the latter mattered less to them).

Rykards was sent away to study the alien tech in Asia as his “punishment”. Kong hated him, but felt him too valuable to sanction. Rykards returned in 1963. In Hallmark, the Bradcroft twins' cousin Paige Bradcroft was reeling. She had become emotionally involved with Queeg, and was pregnant with his child, but this didn't deter Skull's Artemus Thorne, who lusted for her himself but who magnanimously “gave” her to Smith Fabricand's son John Paul Fabricand. Paige and John Paul were wed under duress. Nocturno, an avowed foe of the late Smith Fabricand, swore John Paul would pay for sullying his cousin.

Ursulin, often derisively called “Captain Omega”, returned to Earth in late 1954 and found his mother Shun Ti at Feng Qi in China (His father Friedrich Einnhauser was deceased by this time). He stayed with her for a time in secrecy, unknown to the likes of Kith and Carnifex. In 1955, she sent him to find his twin brother, whom he'd never met, Anaximander-Zayan. Zayan was a drifter, who took a variety of human disguises throughout his long life. Posing as a beatnik named Joel E. Moss, he was overjoyed to meet his brother. The two became very close, and Ursulin managed to find work and infiltrate human life in the American South.

The problem Kong and co. had in 1956 was that they needed Ursulin's help in figuring out what really happened at the Institute to Dr. E. Paige's child was born late in the year and was named Kyle Fabricand. Artemus Thorne murdered John Paul soon thereafter and declared Paige his. He raped her, and she shamefully married him. Their son Calvin Artemus “Cal” Thorne was born in 1957.

The brothers Thorne attempted, with Caleb's help, to find the “rabbit hole” Ursulin's Pod had vanished into to seek his help. They found a brilliant young scientist, a prodigy, named Emerson Trent (born in 1937) – who possessed Dr. E's brilliance at assimilating Ursulin's tech with Caleb's help. Trent grew up in a shantytown in Kingston, Jamaica; he was a brilliant scientist, kidnapped and forced to work for SkullCorp before being “rescued” (i.e. kidnapped again, as he saw it) by the Aggregate in 1965. Trent had been told his family was dead, and resigned to toil for good with the Bradcroft Foundation. Trent's family had also been told that Emerson had perished. Phileas Caleb orchestrated these deceptions. Trent's half-brother Euphrates Aquinas Straw was born in 1940, and was brought from Jamaica as assistant to Trent. Straw was not only brilliant scientifically (though not on the level of Trent), he possessed many skills, especially in the martial arts. He was a true polymath. He was captured and tested (and tortured) by SkullCorp in the mid-60s. It was hoped by SkullCorp that Straw not survive his ordeal, but it actually enhanced his already formidable skills. He joined the Aggregate officially after this, and became a key member for years, as was his brother.

Trent, Straw, Ursulin, and Nocturno sought out the vigilante, Snow Archer, in 1961, and soon discovered he was the well-off and highly intelligent Brandon ver Dorn. Archer was the first to encounter a reconstituted Queeg, now composed entirely of explosive plasma energy, who was saved by Trent. Trent would do all he could for the explosive being that had been Evan Eloy Queeg. Ver Dorn, in helping Queeg cope with his lost humanity, made a lifelong friend of the man called Dr. E.

Though the Aggregate was a secret and closed group from its 1964 foundation, Orphee deLander aka The Absurd Tentacle learned of it and often was invited to join but refused unless he could be the leader. The Bradcroft's group then acquired the brawler, genetically enhanced by his relations to Kong, named Thomas Ledge, in 1967. Ledge, as stated previously, was a Korean War veteran and an agent of REACT. He was “assigned” to the Aggregate, and the Bradcrofts tolerated his presence, feeding Ledge reams of mis- and disinformation.

In future treatments members inducted in the late 1960s who do not figure in the mission detailed in Part V such as recombinants Wurm (Benjamin “Ben” Renova), Princesa Verde, Heironymous (Dahlia Mueller), and Gullivar (Enos McClegg) will be covered at length.

IV. The Earth Mother Revisited

Zachariah Clancy's hatred and jealousy of the brothers Stenbrau (Anton Gamble and the Kraken) had lead to his downfall. He had gone to work for SkullCorp where he felt he could make a real difference, but he inadvertently learned that Anton Gamble's warnings were not in vain. He vowed to go public with his discoveries. Kong brought in Carnifex to assassinate Clancy, which was Ewen's plan all along anyway. Ewen hardly minded taking the rap as his hatred of the Vossiuses was legend by now. After Cromwell slew Clancy, Dawn was threatened by her grandsire that she was next and should live in fear til the day came. And then Carnifex and Kanabal took the 15 (going on 16) year old Solomon Vossius and fled, leaving Dawn, trained from birth to take care of herself, feeling more helpless than ever. At least her other four children were unharmed – physically anyway. They all vowed that night that Cromwell, Vossius, and their own brother would pay.

The Kraken, Sword, and the recent Hallmark-based vigilante Snow Archer (to be explored in future segments) combined forces to protect Dawn and her family, at Anton Gamble's and Cary Bradcroft's behest. This was part of an effort on the Shadow Baron's part to forge a new, stronger team in the wake of the Silent Seven – a team which he called the Aggregate .

One of Cary's team took a drastic step in protecting Dawn – Eryk Stenbrau. The Kraken had been falling deeper and deeper in love with her over the years, and, placing the Clancy children under the care of Andreas and Sidonie, he kidnapped Dawn. He was indeed doing this for her ultimate protection, but no doubt hoped he could mend her broken heart. She thought him a fool, and by defeating him in combat, proved she could take care of herself.”But I'm taking care of your whole family. Vance and Cary will get Solomon back.” Dawn thought Eryk naïve; she knew that Solomon was simply wishing to follow in his father's reprobate footsteps. “He belongs with his father; he always has. A mother knows these things”.

But true to form in such fantastic situations, Dawn grew more attracted to Eryk, and she made love with him in order to escape. But she had never really loved one man – she used Gerhardt, used Clancy for status (though she deeply cared for her family with them), and was now using Eryk's love for her to escape. And it worked. But, she realized, there was one man she had come to have genuine feelings for – Eryk's brother, Anton Gamble.

Dawn escaped, and Kraken followed. She found shelter with an old friend of the Clancys – Antoine Grimadi, a bi-racial Italian businessman. She knew she was pregnant with the Kraken's child and when she gave bith, she left the child with Antoine and his wife Chloe. They raised him as their own, Germaine Grimaldi, though Dawn had initially named him Luther Stenbrau. The Kraken tearfully searched for the pregnant Dawn, rendezvousing with his partner Ian Rhys McGregor. But Ewen Cromwell had found them first, and swiftly dispatched them both. He fed their grisly remains to Gerhardt Vossius, who allowed his now 17 year old son to look on as he feasted on his well-cooked repast.

Dawn found Anton Gamble in France in 1965 and suggest they begin a romance. She took him completely off-guard. He was the man she's been looking for all these years, she finally realized. Or was she deluding herself, and becoming ever the amoral opportunist? Did Ewen Cromwell's blood run a bit thicker in her veins than she would've liked? Regardless, she still deserved none of the horrific incidences visited upon her by her grandfather and by her first husband.

Anton and Dawn moved to Germany, where Anton reverted to his natal name Jakob Stenbrau,and the two were soon married in Berlin in 1967. They moved into Chateau Noir (“which they nicknamed Chateau Stenbrau”) , formerly Richter's German HQ but now considered abandoned,a ruin. Richter promised the Stenbraus that he would keep them informed of their enemies – and friends' – whereabouts though they were technically on the lam. On June 23, 1968, their son, Deric, was born . Gamble/ Stenbrau quit the Aggregate, and was overjoyed, feeling that nothing and no one could shatter their happiness. He was deluded.

In 1970, Kanabal and Carnifex, under Kong's direction, ferreted out the Stenbraus. It seems that Cary Bradcroft did indeed learn where they were (from Richter) and he and Nocturno cast a protective spell so they'd not be found. The Avrils and the Fabricands, supervised by Kong himself, broke the spell. By this time the 23 year old Solomon Vossius was undertaking missions with Cromwell and Gerhardt and, encased in a bizarre S & M outfit – an armor/ latex combo, now called himself the Tormenter and had acquired a penchant not just for cannibalism, but rape, torture, and necrophilia. Gerhardt was proud.

V. Noir Holocaust

The three perverse banes of the Stenbraus' existence arrived in May 1970 at the Chateau Noir. Unfortunately for them, the Bradcrofts sent in a contingent of Aggregate agents to put a permanent stop to the aforementioned banes. Carnifex and the Vossiuses planned a swift bloody strike but unfortunately for them, the Aggregate planned the same.

Carnifex and co. carved their way into the chateau, but the Stenbraus stood their ground. They'd been warned mystically by Nocturno, and so gave their child to their friends the Grimaldis to take care of. The Tormenter jumped the gun on the raid and leapt onto Dawn, who sent him hurling into a wall. Kanabal approached Jakob, who he tossed out the first floor window brutally. That was to be the last anyone saw of Anton Gamble. Suddenly the roof caved in, courtesy of Thomas Ledge. Ledge pounced onto Kanabal and then pitched the cannibal through a nearby window, bellowing, “And you pansies gave the Silent Seven so much trouble? Whatta joke!”

A volley of arrows penetrated Carnifex's armor but caused him little pain. Ursulin and Richter appeared on two sides of the hallway. Both fired their weapons; Ursulin's maser causing Ewen far more pain. He blindingly hacked Ursulin's right arm off, ceasing his fire. Saturnine appeared beside his brother and fired several rounds at Cromwell, who simply leapt forward and skewered the madman on his blade. Or so it appeared. “James!!” screamed Richter, who hefted a grenade at Carnifex point blank and ducked for cover. The explosion rattled Cromwell, who was then dealt a harsh blow to the kidney by Thomas Ledge.

The Tormenter picked up Cromwell's heavy blade and hacked at Gadgeteer V. Euphrates Straw disarmed the young sadist and then knocked Solomon down with several kung fu moves. Straw helped up Andreas, who was bleeding profusely. Kanabal came up behind the two like some feral beast, ripped off Andreas' right arm, and began savagely beating Straw with it. Poised above a prostrate Straw, Kanabal prepared to do in the young polymath. But Straw leapt up and kicked him into a back snapping punch from Ledge. Their personal politics aside, Ledge and Straw made a superlative fighting team.

When Kanabal rose, Dr. E was standing before him. While Solomon skewered Andreas Vossius to death with his own electro-rod, Kanabal clawed at Dr. E's sleek protective armor, getting closer to its inner layers until E finally cocked his fist back and planted it square inside Vossius' mouth – snapping off his teeth (fangs really at this point), rupturing his jaw, and, with an explosive plasma burst, blasting Gerhardt's skull apart into so many discreet fragments. Dawn, lying in the corner, smiled, and tried to get up and over to E for protection when Cromwell sidestepped her, sword in hand. She attempted to fight him but he snapped her neck in one stroke. Ewen's lovely, vivacious granddaughter fell to the ground, her life snuffed by Carnifex.

Where was Anton Gamble in all this? Several wondered. Saturnine was missing as well, and Richter raced off to find them. Snow Archer faced down Tormenter, with Ledge behind him. Straw was mending Ursulin's arm. Brandon ver Dorn and Solomon Vossius faced off in a brief but tense martial arts exchange. Ver Dorn clearly had the fighting advantage as Solomon was still in training. Ledge grabbed Vossius, and screamed, “Hey rough trade … you think you got what it takes? Fuck YOU!!” and slammed his spike-helmeted head so hard into the nearest wall Vossius went out cold. Ledge was then pummeled into the next room by the far stronger Carnifex.

Cromwell turned, and the wounded Tressilian brothers bombarded him with gunfire. Suddenly an exploding titanium arrow hit Cromwell square in the mid-spine. As it exploded, it crunched fragments of Cromwell's spine along with his armor, mail, muscle and flesh. A fine spray of blood arched through the air. Dr. E walked up to the faltering Cromwell, and, touching him on the shoulder, ignited a propulsive explosion that sent Carnifex into a fit of finest agony as he caught fire, exploded, and went sailing through the front door, his left leg and right arm snapping off from the force of the detonation.

He crawled away, bathed in flame, and Ledge said, “I know he can heal an' all... so where do you put these creeps when you're done playin' footsie with 'em? If they survive that is....”
We're... working on that”, said Ursulin. “Let's take the two with us... I've an idea you'll quite like, Thomas”.
What about you, buddy? That arm...”
It's... painful, but it will soon regenerate. All of the regenerative powers found in those such as Cromwell can be traced, via Exodesia, to Omegan and Piscean sciences. We are natural regeneraters.
What about Gamble?” asked Straw. “Did you find him, Richter?”
Non”, said Richter, “He's completely disappeared. I can't imagine what could have happened”.
Tell you what happened”, interjected Thomas, “Fuckin' coward's what he was. His wife and gay buddy are over here dead – where's he?? Hell, his frickin' arch-enemy got his head blown clean apart – good work, E – an' “Mister Existentialism” is nowhere - “
Enough, you foul bastard,” came the icy tones of Saturnine, who emerged from the shadows as if from limbo. “Jakob Stenbrau is – was? - more of a man than you'll ever be with your ludicrous posturing”.
Head case chimes in. Duly noted”, tossed off Ledge as he lit a cigar.
Straw said, “You are one cold motherfucker, Ledge – but in a fight you got my grudging respect”.
Cause I had your back, boy - “
- an' you mine. Seen a little combat, you'd know whereof I speak. But you're A-OK with me Straw.”
I'm so fucking honored, bigshot – os should I say 'bigot'?”.

Ver Dorn, weary of the exchange, said, “With real leadership – no offense Richter – this could've been a win-win for us. But we took casualtie. Hard. Just like when Ian and Eryk bought it. Andreas Gerhardt and this poor, poor woman, Dawn – they didn't deserve to die. So let's get their bodies – and these two prisoners – outside. Trent is rendezvousing in the jet with us – any minute.”
Richter said, “I'm staying behind, as is my brother. Effective now, we're out of the Aggregate. For our own reasons. And we would appreciate it if you'd let the world think Anton Gamble perished today.”
In a way, with Dawn's death, I'm sure he did”, said ver Dorn.
I think we can all relate”, said Ursulin. “Even Thomas Ledge”, he smiled.

Trent's jet soon touched down. The deceased and the still unconscious prisoners were all strapped down. “Been thinkin'” said Ledge as they took off on the long flight to Hallmark.
Yeah”, laughed Euphrates, “ That must've been a hell of a struggle”.
It was, “mon”. I was thinkin' we should have a set of permanent holding cells for these assholes when we bag 'em. “
Hardly a new idea among this group”, Straw cynically replied.
Yeah – but we should call it – the Compound”.
Ver Dorn said, “I like it.”

Back at the chateau, the brothers Tressilian tended to an old friend, badly wounded, and awaited medical aid. Their friend began sobbing uncontrollably, “Dawn – Dawn – I couldn't even save her..”
Richter leaned over his uncontrollably lachrymose friend, “It's alright, mon ami. The struggles of Jakob Stenbrau and of Anton Gamble are over. But though you will soon be a new man, the wounds of past lives will pain you for some time”, said Richter tenderly to his old comrade.
We're going to invent a whole new ID for you old friend”, said James, “I came up with the the name Jason Barlowe. Thoughts?”
I like it”, sobbed Gamble, “I think I'd like to be a chef. That I haven' done - “
And just think”, declared a very animated Saturnine : “'Dead at 52: Anton Gamble, visionary author of “Distortion”, “Terminus”, “Sacred Mirrors”, and “The Earth Mother” - a legend in our time taken far too soon'. Hahahahaha....”

VI. The Map to Our Sorrows

Madness is what we thrive on in these times/ Stretching tendrils to the stars/
From nearer suns and distant climes/ It is the map to our sorrows, writ large/
A holocaust of our soul/ It feeds us and it drains us/
A divine madness lovingly wrought/ It always will sustain us/
A broken id/ A carnivale of illumination
But in the dark in the pale/ In this twisted shadow nation/
We merge as we dissolve/ A voice in mercurial pain/
Asks us once/ how much of what we are yet remains?

Excerpted from The Sacred Mirrors, “The Map to Our Sorrows” from the LP “The Palest Carnivale”; music: Richard Dannish Bacon/ Zane Whiteside D'Azai; lyrics: Anton Gamble (Jakob Stenbrau)

Welcome to Flicker Street!

Henry Covert
July 1, 2015

Special thanx to my wife Sarah L. Covert. She is my dawn.
Extra special thanx to Thomas S. Davis, whose childhood imagination inspired me to attempt my own original comix stories. 
RIP Christopher Andrew Pack, 1968-2013, a great editor and a great companion. 

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

Thursday, June 25, 2015

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 6 - Tentacles

This piece was conceived as the 7th treatment in the series, but can fit just as easily here. What may not congeal for the reader should do so with the next installment, "Interstice", due in early July. In the meantime, enjoy!

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 6 - Tentacles
I. The Heir to Richter

In 1955, Kong, posing as Mr. Drang, a Eurasian businessman, approached a brilliant young artist and poet living in France called Orphee deLander. Born Orpheus deLander “Orphee” Rojiczek on July 9, 1929, Orphee was parented by a ½ Polish, ½ Greek father (Mikos Rojiczek, born 1900) and a French mother (Collette Bertrand, b. 1911). Orphee's mother Collette was a Bohemian whose mother Cybelle Bertrand (birthdate unknown) was a stunning model and a groundbreaking painter in her own right. Cybelle met Jean Aumont Tressilian, La Comte de Marangais, in 1910 and they had a brief and intense affair. She was deeply impressed with his many admirable traits – his keen intellect, his passion for justice, his steadfastness, his love of art and of animals (he was a vegetarian who raised a wolf pack as pets) and his formidable physical prowess. Unfortunately he was too impassioned for the cool platinum-haired Cybelle, eternally lost in her own reverie.

Jean was heartbroken; this was his first real love. He had spent his childhood and teens tending to a mentally ill mother, La Comtesse, who demanded he and his brother James Vallard Tressilian (popularly known as Bramwell "Bram" Vallard) be molded into instruments of vengeance against their father's killer Luc-Pierre Montreux. In 1912 Jean launched his vendetta against Montreux as the mystery man Richter, and finally brought down the unscrupulous banker, even winning the heart of Montreux's daughter Hermione.

Richter wasn't aware he had a daughter by Cybelle for many years. For Cybelle's part, she raised her daughter to be the classic free spirit, pursuing art, music, and love wherever she found these things. The roving businessman Rojiczek was perhaps a poor tonic for these needs but he gave her a life of comfort, where she could explore her passions. Their son, Orpheus, was a peculiar child, even by his mother's jaded standards. He took the name Orphee deLander at a tender age to record his endless reams of poetry and sign his crude but expressive artworks. Mikos was less impressed by his son's “arrested development” than was Collette, and pressured his son into sports, travel, and business. Orphee scoffed at all three – his sport was art, his travel inward, his business simply being. Mikos died of a massive aneurysm when he was only 40 shortly after a raging attack at his son, whose presence he could bear no more. His last known words were screeched at a fever pitch to his son: “Get outside more!!!”
Then his thoroughly narrow mind just burst, as his son answered, mumbling, “Go inside more...”, as he shed a single opaque tear. This became his mantra it seemed.

II. Distortion

Fifteen years later, Collette Bertrand Rojiczek was still her son's most ardent fan and patron, and was excited when Mr. Drang offered Orphee a job – to head a publishing/ filmmaking arm of Drang's co. Democorp (a subsidiary of SkullCorp). Orphee leapt at the chance to create avant-garde art and get paid for what he was worth (he was in dire financial shape, as Collette had donated most of Mikos' modest fortune to charities and used the rest for her and Orphee to travel Europe and Asia).

But before he even began his ostensible new career with Democorp, his initiation, as it was, into the company was via SkullCorp. He came to SkullCorp's main offices in Hallmark MA in 1955, and began being debriefed on Omega, Pisces, the Terminus, the Pod, Exodesia... all the secrets Skull was hiding and that only a handful (Anton Gamble and Cary Bradcroft, to name two) outside of the Machine knew anything of. At Kong's behest, Orphee was being tested. DeLander had read Anton Gamble's mind-blowing recent books and wished to explore Gamble's theories. As a result, he became, as Gamble before him, a lifelong target of REACT surveillance. After being debriefed by Drang, Orphee wished to investigate the legendary ship Terminus. The truth is that “Mr. Drang” was recruiting for far more than a publishing position while in France in the mid-1950s. Kong didn't want an artist; he wanted a first rate spy and a test subject for a whole new platform of human test trials utilizing Ursulin's purloined Omegan tech.

For eight years Orphee toiled for Kong/ Drang's company, called the Democorp Artists Refuge while still based in France, and tried not to let the money and the secrets sway his work and artistic integrity. Just as Skull wished to corner the market on cutting edge science and employed headhunters to seek such talent, so too did they wish to corner the market on progressive and alternative artforms – be it visual art, film, literature, or music.

In 1963, Orphee moved to the US to work in a special SkullCorp division. The pay was wonderful, and Orphee sent his mother money to support her penchant for traveling and remaining unemployed. To be near the hub of Skull activities, Orphee settled in Hallmark (the Flicker Street area proper) with his longtime lover Eugenie Heurtebise, b. 1937, whose brother, Cloquet, died in 1959, killed by the cops after being informed on by his American lover, Anne Francesca. A New Wave film director friend of Orphee's made a fictionalized film about the case called Asphyxiation.

Orphee was intrigued by the hard sciences divisions of Skull – he was placed under the auspices of Donal Rykards – brilliant scientist, hideous human being. Rykards made it clear to deLander that he was essentially going from being a publishing magnate to a less-than-human guinea pig in the eyes of Skull. Orphee was ready, at that point, to transcend his current existence so why not? After reading Anton Gamble's 1962 dice-up of existentialism and radical physics, “Distortion” (not a novel about electric guitars as many now assume), he was game. He asked exactly what he'd be undergoing and even begged the question if it involved the type of distortion Gamble elucidated on. Rykards conferred with Phileas Caleb, overseer of all Skull science and tech (and in the vaunted inner circle that began as the Machine). Caleb found it amusing and said to Orphee, “There's a drug. LSD. Trial experiments have been conducted on prisoners and college volunteers with it. Let's call what we're giving you – TSD. Trans-Somatic Distortion. Congratulations on your perception. Carry on, Donal.”

And so Orphee gained access to (and helped name) TSD – a Skull-funded operation dealing in genetic experimentation extrapolated from Omegan tech in Hallmark first in 1956 (when it was called trans-morphic somatics). This was from the tech Ursulin of Omega Ceti I (derisively called “Captain Omega”) brought with him in 1951 when his Pod entered Mt. Mosaic through extradimensional space at a landing now called Terminal Pointe. It was made clear that the experimentation on deLander could go on for a few years if Orphee was willing to deal with the results. What Skull really wanted was a home-grown mutant – they called them “recombinants” - that was a creation of Omegan science. Orphee was a perfect genetic subject (there were others lined up; some argued more perfect) in that genetically, he carried Exodesian blood – his great-great-great-great-grandfather was the Exodesian priest Urias, and his eighth great-grandmother was the Exodesian priestess Alluu, Ewen Cromwell's grandmother. Orphee's grandmother Cybelle Bertrand surely carried some Exodesian genes to account for her mysterious longevity. Based on the exploits of his grandfather, Richter and great-uncle, Bram Vallard, Skull was convinced Orphee had an enormous genetic destiny. And then there was the seemingly natural causes his father passed away from. Were they so natural?

While in Hallmark, Orphee had an affair and the woman, Darby Poole (descendant of the Cromwell party's cabin boy Cullen Darby) became pregnant. Shortly before this, Orphee became the earliest test subject of a TSD experiment. He felt guilt, not knowing what would happen to the child, who was born Lars Poole in 1964. Darby died in the early 1970s and Lars began the long shuttling between foster homes and orphanages that scarred his young life. The boy eventually was named a ward of the occultist Cary Bradcroft, who raised the teen as his own son. But Orphee's experiment had had a distinct effect on his son's genetic structure.

Orpheus and Eugenie remained in Hallmark ostensibly because Orphee's brother, Bertrand Rojiczek (b. 1937) lived there. Bertrand was a keyboardist in an up-and-coming doomy psychedelic band, The Sacred Mirrors, formed in 1966, whose lineup was: Richard “Dannish” Bacon, on vocals; Locke (Juve Dugas), Belgian bassist and agent of Phileas Caleb; Zane D'Azai, guitarist/ hippie burnout; and redneck drummer Butch Blanton (born 1949 in Hallmark's “mill town”, Augensburg MA). The couple hung out with the band and met their friends: the man who called himself Graven Idyll (Arliss Gordon Cope), a radical black militant who inspired Orpheus; Hyacinthe (Cynthia Gauvin; Orphee became very attracted to her [she called him “My Land”]); and Fiora Charme (Emily Duncan), who came on the scene as the childhood sweetheart of Dannish but, after he brutally dumped her she wed Bertrand, though she is also in love with Cope. In 1970 Richard Dannish “RD” Rojiczek was born to Bertrand and Fiora.

III. Tendrils

Orphee opted to remain in Hallmark not solely because of his brother, but also he was “drafted” by SkullCorp to be a full-time agent in MA. This brought him full circle back in contact with TSD. He finally obtained clearance in 1969 to undergo a much more intense TSD experiment than he had taken part in six years earlier. He decided to split with Eugenie at this point lest something else happen to a child of his. Impulsively, however, the amative deLander bedded the seductive Hyacinthe. Their child, Etienne Rojiczek, was to be born in 1970. He married her shortly thereafter.

Orphee's second TSD experiment was conducted by Rykards and Caleb together. After this experiment Orphee began to explore the extent of the physical and psychokinetic abilities he acquired via TSD. He became one of the most powerful products of Skull's riffs on Omegan technology. The TSD-induced transformation changed him physically – he became stronger, leaner, hairless, with dark translucent skin. One could see hints of his musculature and nervous system writhing under his flesh, and his eyes became blackened opaque pools. When he cried his tears were red. He could discharge and manipulate undulating waves of psychokinetic (or “PK”) energy. He called these his tentacles, and soon Rykards was referring to him disparagingly as the “Absurd Tentacle”. The name stuck, despite Orphee's distaste of it. Finally, one other ability he gained was the ability to take on any physical form for lengthy periods of time – a technique of disguise inherent in Omegans and Pisceans alike.

Orphee visited Terminal Pointe MA at Mt Mosaic, where the Pod was drawn into our world in 1951. At Terminal Pointe, he met with the Pod's pilot Ursulin, who agreed to help him master his abilities, and swore to bring in someone far more powerful to help as well – Nocturno, the undead man formerly known as Ashton Bradcroft. Despite his disdain for corporations, Orphee accepted some help from Renova, Inc., who Cary Bradcroft accused of trying to exploit the Tentacle. DeLander quit SkullCorp for good upon learning of their true nature and plans from the Bradcrofts – things he'd suspected for years but was biding his time (a true Cancerian), using Skull for power as they used him as a guinea pig.

IV. Honor

By 1971, the Absurd Tentacle's dominating personality was overpowering Hyacinthe. He became drawn to Nocturno's homonculi daughter Silent Indigo, whose origins will be chronicled in an upcoming treatment. They had a passion beyond human erotic experience, resulting in an offspring named Honor, b. 1973. Hyacinthe filed for divorce from the Tentacle, and afterward he and Silent Indigo continued their affair and decided to raise their child together. Nocturno had other plans. Indigo had betrayed Nocturno to Kong, and so he “unmade” her alchemically. Orphee swore revenge and left hallmark for a time, deciding that the “so-called forces of good (Nocturno) and evil (Kong) are more alike than they they pretend”. Orphee turned young Honor over to Hyacinthe (now going by her natal name, Cynthia Gauvin) to raise. She had remarried one Phillip Parlington, whose name Honor took. For years Phil was the only father Honor knew, though Phil and Cynthia Parlington divorced when Honor was still young. Hyacinthe was also raising her son Etienne Rojiczek, and he saw Honor as a little sister. She was hypersensitive, sharing her father's birthday, and Etienne was always there to protect her – or tried to be.

After the 1980 divorce from Phil, Cynthia took Honor and Etienne away to a new house and became paranoid and besieged by LSD flashbacks. She had many emotional problems and she sheltered Honor to an unhealthy degree. Honor's 1st attempt to break free was when she grew infatuated with Jesputh Avril (grandson of SkullCorp co-founder and dark occultist Keegan Avril) in 1984. She had gone by Honor Parlington for years, but at Jesputh's urging, took the name Honor Bradcroft, after Ashton Bradcroft (Nocturno), her grandfather. Part of Jesputh's interest in Honor was in her latent magickal energy – and the Bradcroft fortune.

Cynthia remarried again, in 1985, to Brandon ver Dorn aka Snow Archer (b. 1937), an ally of Nocturno's; his ID was known to his wife but not her children. Brandon was the great-grandson of ambrosius ver Dorn, the chief bankroller of the Cromwell party of 1886. Brandon and Cynthia had a daughter, Quill, b. 1988. By this time, Honor was a mess. Brandon and Etienne both tried to help her, but she detached herself. She trusted Phil Parlington, her adopted father – a huge mistake as he raped her in 1990. Jesputh was her idealized dream man who would take her away from all this, but he merely wanted sex and prestige from her, and let their friendship dissolve when it looked like she was no easy lay.
Neither Etienne nor Honor saw their father for a long time.

V. Apocrypha

The Absurd Tentacle appeared in Hallmark throughout the 1970s, helping spark a new counter-cultural revolution (sometimes derisively called “Terminal Culture” after the ship that brought the knowledge that started it all). In the mid-70s he reunited with Heurtebise and they finally wed, spawning a daughter, Cejour deLander, in 1975. By this time, Bertrand and Fiora had a daughter, Collette, and had separated. Fiora roamed free for a while, having an intermittent love affair with Arliss Gordon Cope that spawned Collias Cope. Bertrand raised his two children, RD and Collette, alone. We shall revisit this branch of the Rojiczeks (and Etienne) further along in our treatment.

The deLanders decamped to England at the end of the 1970s and the Absurd Tentacle and his family basked in a younger crowd's attention. Cejour grew up much like her grandmother and great-grandmother – a true willful free spirit. Orphee wondered if his daughter would bear the marks of his post-human transformation in any way. DeLander became friends with a small cadre of telepathic recombinants – hardcore punks Kelvin Mallory, his sister Fallon Mallory AKA “Mal Black”, and Mal's best friend, a pre-teen Japanese girl Miya saito, whose nom de plume was “Mia Zero”. Orphee also became close friends with Oblidiah Trent, AKA Ras Free Man (b. 1957), a young Jamaican reggae musician who was spending a few years in England touring and recording but mostly just plotting vengeance for Phileas Caleb's murder of Trent's brilliant father Emerson Trent, who Caleb used as surely as he had Zachariah Clancy in Phileas' "outreach" program. 

Orphee also befriended the African-American detective Cotton Suede (b. Pauline Cutler, 1954), who'd been sent by mysterious parties to ferret out the Tentacle and return him to America. She ran afoul of his “bodyguard” who looked out for his extended family when he couldn't – a deadly martial artist called Luna Sumatra. Orphee's charm and charisma soon had them all getting along and sharing a commune with his grandmother, Cybelle, who was as youthful as when Richter first lost his heart to her 70 years earlier.

In an odd set of circumstances, Orphee deLander simply disappeared in 1980. Some say the parties that sent Cotton to trail the Tentacle eventually assured his demise; some pointed to suicide; some say he faked his death and assumed a brand new ID (things he could easily do). Some say his power finally overwhelmed him and he simply dissolved away, a soul too fragile for this world. That last scenario is the one he likely would've found the most amusing.

He left behind a thriving organization, Coventry Expeditions (originally deLander Unltd), to an inscrutable young man known only as Randell Coventry, who became the Absurd Tentacle's final disciple. Eugenie and Cejour returned to Hallmark in 1981 and Cejour and her cousin Collette became best friends and drifted into the goth and punk scene at a very young age in the late 1980s. By this time the secrets of Randell Coventry if not the ultimate fate of Orphee deLander had unraveled. These secrets will be explored in depth further along in this narrative.

Welcome to Flicker Street!

Henry Covert

June 25, 2015

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

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.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 4 - Apogee & Perigee

Continuing the convoluted FLICKER STREET backstory. Prepare for a savage pulp holocaust, as our beleagured heroes (and villains) face certain death in a South American jungle where life as we know it began for some .... and may end for all! The entrancing beauty pictured here doesn't appear in the story, alas... well, obliquely she does.... Enjoy!

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 4 – Apogee & Perigee

I. Gleaning the Ziggurat

With basically all of Vossius Metalwerks as collateral, and generous contributions from ORDER Enterprises, Renova Inc., and the Paige Foundation, the Silent Seven (plus their eighth “silent partner”, Captain Caliban, who also brought back Sword and Richter for this mission of missions) embarked on their massive expedition to Libania in 1939. This was no horse and buggy poor mans' army as was the case in 1818 and 1868. The Libanian government gave their full cooperation, though the Serafinians did not.

The Serafinians had a long cultural memory. They knew the cover story for the real founding of Hallmark: Dutch and South Africans (with Jerissen posing as one) led by the Cromwell Party supposedly struck riches at Mt. Mosaic . This they did, but it was not their true purpose. The Serafinians were a deeply spiritual people, primitive by Libanian standards. Some ghoulish pundits even speculated that Serafinians still practiced tribal cannibalism.

Thus the Serafinians disputed the ostensible purpose for the Ziggurat expedition: that it was simply an archaeological exploration and unearthing of riches and natural resources (And indeed Vance was, among many other things, an archaeologist, and Gerhardt a metallurgist and anthropologist). The Seven enlisted two guides: the Libanian who colorfully called himself “Felix Tequila” (born Jorge Maroto Jr), and a Serafinian, Mokae. Feliz was the grandson of the legendary couple Carmelita Rodriquez and her husband the master gunfighter Sorrow (grandson of Urias and great-grandson of Carnifex). Vance Orlison felt guilt at deceiving their guides and the Libanians that followed them, but he had to be sure who he could trust with the Piscean secrets. He dreaded that his father Jerissen or Urias would make an appearance at such a well-publicized expedition.

What the party did not know is that they were being stalked – predictably – by Carnifex, who, months early in anticipation, had set himself up as a godlike chieftain to a primitive tribe that neighbored the Serafinians. This tribe, the Yashaharo, did indeed practice cannibalism and other brutal rites. Carnifex was fascinated by artifacts he found with the Yashaharo. After mastering somewhat their language Cromwell discerned that the objects had belonged to another white man they adopted and who also became their leader - Kanabal.

Chastened by the loyalty of his tribe, and feeling he was closer to Kanabal's roots than Vance ever was, Carnifex planned an elaborate attack – to strafe and raze to the ground Serafinia and attack the Seven head on, alone. Perhaps he was a bit mad by this time. But Cromwell had no notion that he himself was the prey this time. The Yashaharo betrayed him, and their real leader revealed himself – a tall, impossibly muscled golden skinned man with long dreaded copper hair and emerald green eyes. As he sank beneath the weight of Yashaharo bodies, he cried, “Kanabal???”. The imposing figure, silhouetted in the flame of Cromwell's throne of human bones, merely shook his head and smiled. And then was gone. For a few moments at least. As he turned, Ewen recognized an Exodesian symbol on the cloak of the golden man. Carnifex passed out then, the first time in centuries.

When he awoke, Cromwell was in a narrow and deep pit. He could almost leap to the aperture above with his formidable strength but … not quite. The golden man, crouched at the pit's orifice, taunted Carnifex. He knew far too much about Ewen for Ewen's liking. Finally, Carnifex dug his bleeding hands into the stony walls and crawled out. He rolled over, prepared to battle, though his weapons had been confiscated. He knew he was a match for this Exodesian cur. But in one blinding swoop, the “cur” caught Cromwell in a half nelson, and snapped Cromwell's back so loudly the Yashaharo stilled their tribal drumming for a few seconds, then resumed their war dirge.

Ewen's body was hurled away like useless flotsam; he landed atop a huge felled tree and lay paralyzed,spitting up mass amounts of blood and gore. “You've never felt what your victims feel... I hope you're taking all this in,” smirked Ewen's conqueror. “Shall I call over some of the tribe to gang sodomize you so you'll feel an inkling of the anguish you've plied on the victims of your lust over the centuries??” He laughed. “Even I haven't the stomach for that I'm afraid but you do – if I let you keep your stomach...”
You're as much monster as I – a cannibal that devours their victims while they yet live... I know all about you Kanabal..”
You think me Kanabal? You are amusing... cur. Kanabal is a rogue, a transgressor... he has no more place among the Yashaharo than among Exodesians.”
So you are an – Exodesian?” Ewen could scarcely breath and his throat was filled with coagulating plasma.
Of course – Deomond, the most powerful but who remains wisely in shadow save when needed. My brother is High Priest of the Obscuros – Alataris; my father Priest Lord Praven of Exodesia.”
So Jer- Jer-”
No need to struggle with the math as you heal, poor human. Jerissen and Urias are my nephews, yes, hence the two leaders of this expedition are my great-nephews. You might even have encountered Urias' long-lived grandson Alexei Corvo – had you made it that far.”

Without ceremony, Deomond hefted Ewen's massive frame off the tree and to the ground, then stated, “I know you Carnifex. Once I was - almost – like you. But I know you are no Exodesian. Your father was half-Exodesian; you are mostly human. But extremely long lived and with amazing regenerative abilities – even beyond some Exodesians. That is your gift. This - “, he tore Ewen's right hand from the socket and discarded it. “ - mine. My strength cannot be equaled, not that I don't crave the challenge. Perhaps the Yashaharo will enjoy a snack. What next? An eye? Your endlessly bragging tongue?”

Deomond stood to his full eight feet. “Now go, I weary of you. You're a hard conquest but not hard enough”.
Ewen spat blood at Deomond, and curses as well. “I'll – I'll -”
I know. A familiar mantra. I think you're in shock. Now – GO”.
I can't – walk, you... steaming pile of excrement”.
Then …. and let me say this no more – lest that sodomy threat becomes all too real – then CRAWL!!”
And for the first time in centuries, Ewen Cromwell crawled, his body slowly, agonizingly knitting itself back together. He crawled through the woods of Serafina, making sure to avoid the sounds of the people of the village. He feared the cannibals he'd lorded it over devouring him in his current state.

II. Pulp Apocalypse

Over the next weeks the Seven (or ten) toiled to finish their expedition. Deep in the caverns, at last, they found him – the legendary Piscean pilot PH'NATH. He was buried, as if a king, with animals sacred to the Serafinians and the Yashaharo. The furthest the 1868 expedition got was a chamber above the antechamber adjoining PH'NATH's burial palace. When Orlison and Vossius smashed into the antechamber, Felix Tequila hugged tightly Mokae. These two supposed enemies began crying and, in Felix's case, swigging back his namesake beverage. “What's going on here?' Richter demanded. Mokae answered, “I'm not Mokae, fellas. Matter of fact, I'm family. Your cousin as a matter of fact. And this mystery's been rattlin' me for some 60 years.” The middle aged man pulled off his long grey wig and hat and scarf. “Name's Sorrow... when it needs to be”.

After all the fantastic adventures of the twenties and thirties, in a world on the brink of war, seemingly all of the Silent Seven (number be damned) felt a sense of wonder, of true discovery. They were the fruit of another race, but now they confronted those who planted the seeds. Even in death, this tableaux held immense awe for these very special individuals.

Suddenly, from above, gunshots were heard. The group scrambled to the top. Crimson Velvet and Felix, the lookouts, claimed a huge man was shambling towards them, crushing Libanian soldiers and resisting bullets due to a heavy armor. “Cromwell!” cried Sword. The group swiftly made their way topside, which was exhausting but just as well as Cromwell was barely standing when they set eyes on him. Delusional, he screamed, “You want to eat me... sodomize me.... what? Here's my other hand... oh, it's full at the moment.” He was holding Felix Tequila by the throat. He'd also managed to strap on a gun belt and two daggers prior to the Libanians firing on him.

Sorrow spoke loudly over the chaos, “Let's do this right, great-grandpa... me an' you, a duel at dawn... near PH'NATH's grave... Ain't it perfect?”
You... idiot”, mumbled Ewen Cromwell as he crushed Felix Tequila's windpipe. The once always animated Libanian fell to the ground, another pile of rubbish beneath Carnifex's bloodstained boots. Ewen yammered, as shock rippled through the Seven, “Look at this.... a stub!! How can I be a proper-like gunfighter with this??”

Sorrow answered, “One on one, Cromwell...me and you. Now.”
Ian Rhys McGregor shouted, “I can take him now; don't do this Corvo!”
"Grandfather!" implored Richter.
Sorrow”, said Alexei as he easily outdrew and pumped six bullets into the already gore-soaked Carnifex. They were exploding bullets as well, so Cromwell was bit twice by the same vermin as Sorrow was fond of saying.

Before anyone could react, the one-handed Carnifex drew and shot Sorrow in the heart three times. As his blood painted the air, he gasped, “98 years... not.. tooo.. bad a … ru...”

By this time McGregor was on Cromwell with his blades, further carving the already ravaged man whose blood he wished he'd not share. But he'd spill as much as he could this day. Cromwell punched Sword once in the gut and Ian flew into a nearby jeep. Crimson Velvet caught his legs with her whip while Richter emptied several rounds into him. Cromwell toppled and didn't move. Gerhardt oddly held back but Vance grabbed Cromwell by the face and punched him so hard his own hand broke. But Cromwell fell.

Anyone for torture”, joked a misty-eyed Gadgeteer V as Sidonie screamed, “Get Up... get up!!!!” To all's amazement, Ewen stirred. Andreas stabbed him in the side with a very long needle that emitted a very deadly electrical display. Everything was foggy for Ewen Cromwell then. His body was struggling to heal . He began to stagger towards the jeep where Ian was out cold. “NOOOO!!” Screamed Sidonie, and she never screamed in vain or for cheap histrionics. She leaped in the way of Ewen and his sword-swinging descendant and recalled for a brief second when Ian first called her the Duellist and gave her the cutlas carved from a meteorite.

Off came Cromwell's “good” arm. He dove face down to the mud, his blood pooling around him. Felicia was deeply shaken, as were they all to varying degrees. “What do we do now?”
Vance answered, “we bury our dead, we make arrangements to take the burial chamber back, and we wow the world... at what cost though. Lord...”
And him?”
We leave him here. The Serafinians are coming. The Yashaharo have been roused. Maybe they'll eat him... what's left anyway.”

A clean cut lad of perhaps 25 whose only evidence he'd made his way to the Libanian holy village was a drop or two of mud on his pristine slacks appeared. “We've got it chief. This was a REACT sanctioned operation – not the private expedition you blue bloods thought. You can bury your friends; they're natives, but the Ziggurat and everything inside – and what's left of this man here – are ours. Any resistance will be seen as an act of treason against Allied forces – and we are on the cusp of war from the swords – pardon – I hear rattling”.

It took all Doc had to not splatter this dandy's face across the tundra. He had to contain the throbbing in his temples. Almost as an aside, Gerhardt caught the man's eye. “Mr. Vossius – you do great work for our troops. Keep grindin' 'em out. By the way, I love that little necklace you have on. Familiar somehow.”
Hmm. Don't see how. It's older than your grandfather I'm sure”. And that was about as animated as the “new reformed Captain Caliban” behaved from the time Cromwell appeared, much to Vance's chagrin. Perhaps his brother hadn't changed...

The chaos resolved itself, the REACT team took it all and two heroic men – Felix Tequila, and his grandfather, the seemingly immortal Sorrow, were given funerals worthy of the greatest Libanian heroes. And so, the Seven had been stalked after all, not by Jerissen or Urias, but by Carnifex and (fortunately) Deomond, and, with incredible stealth, by a nascent US government organization that we will revisit many a time in this narrative – REACT.


REACT (originally “Reaction Enforcement Alliance for Counter-Threats”; as of 1968 “REactionary Agency for Counter-Terrorism”) was created, originally, as a high alert intelligence gathering/ information clearing house in anticipation of the Allied forces' entry into WWII. The events in Libania completely altered the scope of the organization. While an organization such as OSS was a wartime intelligence apparatus that morphed after World War II into the CIA, REACT's goals crystallized rather quickly. Intelligence on the alleged presence of non-human races and tech on Earth had been gathered for several years, however crudely. But the very publicly reported Libanian expedition forced facts into the light that begged corroboration. And the most perplexing item was that FDR himself ordered the Seven to retire their vigilantism and concentrate on the domestic war effort, or, were they so inclined, to enlist in the armed forces. As any such organization with a shred of integrity and who espoused the freedoms the war was ostensibly being fought for, they nearly all retired their masked personae.

Sword and Richter returned to their native countries. Isaak Vossius formally adopted Sidonie, and she and her half-brother Andreas bonded. She knew the torment he was going through being a closeted gay man in the macho US political clime. Gerhardt saw the losses he suffered as a result of the expedition easily reverse themselves. War is big business, and someone's blood is always pumping those iron cannon shells that Vossius made its millions off of in the first war. Felicia McGee retired; she ended up as an “exotic dancer”. Anton Gamble became a controversial author and his brother Eryk Stenbrau enlisted in the military, where he endured much anti-German sentiment.

Only “Doc Vance” and the man born James Vallard Tressilian remained engaged in the war effort but on their own terms. REACT “deputized” Vance Orlison, and he fought saboteurs and axis madmen all through the war. The mysterious Tressilian embarked on black ops missions for the Allies, though occasionally would find himself working the other team, as it were. Much more mercurial than his brother, who was a tremendous aid to the French resistance, the Apparition was his own man, first and foremost, and took orders from no one. Only occasionally did the Saturnine emerge and dispense his sense of justice, though usually in urban settings and not so much in America. Bram Vallard, as he most preferred to be called, may've been insane, so he jested, but he was no fool...

To close on REACT for now, it will become apparent that REACT and its most denounced foes after the war were inextricably linked; ostensibly enemies but deeply in bed together. This echoes the OSS' use of Nazi fugitives to help build the CIA, or Werner von Braun being the head honcho of American rocket technology. But not all heroes subscribed to this “necessary evil”, and fought to cease the pandemic of duelling ideologies being really just a Janus coin...

Welcome to Flicker Street!

Henry Covert
June 23, 2015

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