Monday, January 25, 2021

Dr. Electro - Episode XIV: Up On The Housetop

 Dr. Electro, Episode XIV: Up On The Housetop

Henry ran and jumped.  The cold iron of the fire escape greeted his determined grip as he hoisted himself up to the ladder, which reacted with an alarmed shudder to this surprise visit.  Up and up went Henry the clock keeper, climbing into familiar territory as the ground grew distant.  Finally, he gained the roof, and peered down into the window opposite.  Lamplight streamed out in an ominous yellow, interrupted occasionally by the cloaked figures as they all jockeyed for position around a great table in the center of the room.  Suddenly, everyone sat down hurriedly, with a frantic rustling, and an eerie still descended.  The creak of a carved oak door made Henry shudder, watching on the ledge across the alley, and even seemed to impress a dread upon the seated Members. 

The Head Man glided in, obvious in his rank by the deference bestowed upon him by his petrified lieutenants.  “So, gentlemen, it has begun!” A slow grin on his face signaled that it was time for jubilation, no matter how forced or grim, and a hurrah was mustered.  “Come, come, gentlemen, although we strive for the Silence, we could at least give ourselves two more cheers.  Things are best in threes.”  As this observance was made, Henry heard a door close behind him. 

Below Street Level, the bohemian room was empty, with incense smoke the only movement in the quiet.  Mabel and The Old One drew their coats tightly, the rain taking on a persistent chill as the hour grew later.  Steps echoing off the slumbering facades of the buildings, they wound their way further into the blackness of the night, and deeper into the mystery.  “I just love a good stroll!” the old woman intoned, her words startling Mabel out of a reverie.  “I see you’re worried, dearie.  I used to worry when I was young.”  “What’s going on, exactly?” Mabel asked her guide.  “Why the power outage?  What’s the League?  Where are we going?”  The steps continued to echo, and the blank faces of the houses offered no helpful small talk to soften the blow of the Old One’s silence.  Eight...thirteen...twenty steps passed, as Mabel began to count, suddenly having time to feel nervous. 

Union Street was growing smoky with Noah’s cigarettes, and Dr. Electro’s pondering. A man of action, Rutherford was growing restless, but it was Murphy who had the good idea (for once.) “Why don’t we take a few of your men here to make a little gang, and we follow where the broken wires go?” he asked.  “Jolly well!” Rutherford sprang up, and even Electro was jolted to earth and to action.  To be continued...

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Victorian Moon

 Victorian Moon

 The Cold Moon loomed up through the forest, as big as a new idea, resplendent in purple robes of dusk.  I saw it looking at me, and so I looked back, gazing upon this last tradition of the waning year before turning to walk inside.  

  The fireside almost kept me there, its warmth persuasive over the hours, but I had already set up a telescope in the yard.   Its namesake was waiting just outside the door.  The chill descended upon my upturned face, crystalizing my breath and the fireplace’s point, inducing a waver in resolve.  But there was the telescope, pale in the moonlight, ready to turn a green glass eye skyward.  

  An ancient landscape awaited in the eyepiece, silent and fixed, like characters frozen at the end scene of a movie, and what a show it must have been, a few billion years ago.  Fire and brimstone were etched in rocky echoes, and lava flows cooled to a peaceful gray of a matured age.  All of it was serene and forgotten now, lunar dust filtering onto an ancient scrapbook.  Does the Man in the Moon have any regrets?  

  Midway through a scientific perusal of satellite geography, the moonbeams did what they often do, and plucked Reason out of my head.  Perhaps you’ve been robbed of your senses by these silent pickpockets filtering through the branches, softly, softly.  Many songs written, a love professed, and summer scenes remembered after the moonbeams steal away those earthly weights we call Logic and Sense.  The clouds turned the sky soupy, and suddenly, the Moon gazed down with the face of a young woman, immortalized in a Victorian painting.  The glow surrounding her visage, the mysterious half smile, emblazoned on the shifting clouds was now greenish, now sepia.  Gone was the harsh reflected sunlight, replaced with a vintage phosperence of yesteryear.  If one could have caught the sparkles of the waves of a hundred summers, and suffused them into the gentle orb floating in the midnight sky, the explanation would give even the most cynical telescope operator pause.  Doubtless he would dismiss the story, but if the owls hooting deep in the forest were to glance over, they might see him reminiscing about something he wasn’t even sure existed.  

  Vignettes of noontime laughter on a beach, filling stations at the dawn of the automobile age, running through verdant fields, great great great grandmother’s oatmeal raisin cookies, and what a child thinks adults must talk about after bedtime almost appeared on the ephemeral light.  The gnarled branches of the oaks reached up to snag a few of these photons, but like hands that try to hold on to memories, the light ran through their grasping fingers, leaving them empty as a locket in a pawnshop.  

  Above all of this, the Vintage Moon gazed down with that enigmatic smile, floating on in the midnight sky.  I waved goodnight to this Victorian lady, and ventured back to the fireside.  Although I had been robbed by the moonbeams, I was richer without so much of that stifling supply of Sensibility.  I still don’t know what to make of it, but perhaps that’s the point the Vintage Moon was making.  Like listening for echoes in a seashell, it’s good to sink one’s hands into the sands of Imagination, if only to build a small castle that gets rinsed away by the sunrise.  I’ll be watching for her next month.  

Dr. Electro, Episode XIII - Suspicious Minds

 Previously on Dr. Electro:  Henry feels the thrill of the hunt, and trails the League on their way to meet Professor Waverly.  Mabel learns a bit about her late uncle, and how the League espoused a great Silence.  

Dr. Electro, Episode XIII - Suspicious Minds 

“I wonder if this is the doing of those chaps we saw in the sewer? The Club of Inquisitive Thinkers or something” Rutherford mused aloud, as Dr. Electro pensively eyed the wiring puzzle, his brain as lit with the electrical impulses as the dormant warehouse power station was dark.  Something was amiss.  “The League of Inquiring Minds?” Noah interjected, a note of alarm in his voice.  “Yes, jolly well, that’s the ticket!”  “Oh no, those guys are bad news.  I’ve only heard snatches, but from what’s told, they’re far more powerful than they used to be. The whispers seem to all mention silence as a motive.” 

“Those piddling geography club members?” Rutherford retorted disbelievingly. “Got a stupid enough name” Murphy added.  The socialite was way out of his depth, and the way he spat the word stupid betrayed his wish to add something pithy and gritty to this conversation among men’s men.  “Oh yes…”  With that, Noah ignited another cigarette, and the flare illuminated a concerned eye. 

Alleyside across town, Henry ducked in, filling most of it.  The procession had come to a sudden halt at an empty storefront.  An idea of a glow, then the feeble gestures of shadows and candlelight on the wall appeared inside, their size and wild motion far outpacing the usefulness of light, not unlike a midnight fear brought about by misreading a bill.  The ancient doorman leaned, wheezed, and opened, the cloaked figures scurried inside, swallowed by a waiting elevator.

The street returned to blackness, and Henry frantically tried the door, to no avail.  Squinting through the dark, he could just make out the fire escape on the neighboring building. Blessed with long arms and a spot of good luck, he decided to employ both.

Below grade, Mabel crunched on a cookie, as her hostess continued.  “The League was always talking about The Great Silence, although we were never precisely sure what they meant.  It just seemed to get worse at every turn.”  Growing increasingly agitated, the old woman abruptly stood up from the table.  “And there was a Frenchman involved somehow.”  Mabel stopped mid-crunch, remembering the telegrams she had been receiving, and the map of France still papering her warehouse table.  “I think we should do something” she said quietly.  “Eh?  Alright then!”  With a tremendous woosh, action crackled in the air, the old woman’s many shawls billowed behind her, and she whisked towards the door.  “Now?”  “Why, yes!  I love a good misty night!  I think I know where to start.”  With that, they were off.  To be continued...

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy New Year! (And Dr. Electro)

Heya, crew!  Happy New Year!  Here's the latest letter I sent to my senior buddies.  I hope you enjoy it, and best wishes for crushin' it in '21!

 Letters from Josh

 A Roaring ‘20 - Letters from Josh                                                                        Letter 38

  Howdy, folks!  Jazz is the spin of the evening as I sit down to write you a review of one roaring ‘20.  Louie weaves his magic through the air, blending with the steam from the teacup, and a nearly-full moon graces the winter sky above the forest.  What a year it’s been, eh?  I saw a note from an acquaintance, saying “good riddance” to 2020, and it gave me pause. 

I know it would sound Pollyanna-ish and the height of denial to chirp merrily about “lessons learned” and leave it at that, so a more nuanced look is needed. If I were to measure the year, I’d have to give it the dimensions of 2x4 inches...of insanity...crashing down on my head.  WHACK!  BOOM!  If 2020 were a geographical feature, a canyon would be appropriate.  Gazing into its depths, I’ve seen death, rebirth, unimaginable strength, quiet everyday fortitude, despair, the danger of the petty tyrant, and the hope of the Individual aiming towards the Good. If 2020 were an animal, the Raven from Poe’s epic would be suitable.  There it perches, but upon a clock this time, croaking a new phrase:  “Fix what’s right in front of you.” 

I turned 35 this year, and feel like about twenty extra candles should have been added to that cake.  The primacy of Responsibility (as opposed to happiness) revealed itself, and a shining example through all of this has all, my dear friends. Your fortitude. Your patience.  Your resolve.  The way we’ve been able to lean on each other has sprinkled a bit of gray in my beard - perhaps they’ll end up seeds of wisdom one day? I resent 2020 the way I glare at a barbell at the shuttered gyms - it’s so heavy, and often crushing.  But man, does it make men out of boys.  For the hardship you’ve had to endure, I’m sorry in my heart.  For the lessons you’ve brought me, I’m grateful in the same.  And, to our friendship I raise a glass!  What will 2021 bring?  The only thing that’s certain is: we’ll be able to handle it.

Here’s best wishes that there’s some fun stuff in with the challenge, too.  And here’s to you! Speaking of fun..

Previously on Dr. Electro: Henry tails a sinister bunch (which is not recommended by the CDC), and Doc figures out the power outage is city-wide, a big deal times ten.

Dr. Electro, Episode XII - Silence and Shadow

  The big man’s eyes gleamed in the dark, the realization of the hunt bringing a new life to his stealthy tread.  If the tingle in his nerves could be packaged as a coffee, the blend surely would be named Call To Adventure, featuring graphics of bears, eagles, men in flannel, etc.  Henry was on the case, his first technically, although millennia of unlikely heroes before him had prepared for this moment. 
These wisps of ancestors seemed to flit like ghosts around his ears, silent encouragement to face what Needed To Be Faced.  Down the opposite side of the street he crept, keeping to the deepest of shadows, although the outage made the boulevard inky overall.  Evil crackled in the hushed tones of the group of cloaked figures he tailed, and among the snatches of conversation, he heard: “ah, won’t the Great Silence be delicious!”  and “let’s hope Professor Waverly knows what he’s doing.”  “Oh sure, don’t doubt Waverly.  To the Tower!”  On they hurried, the Cloaks and their unseen tail, a lumbering, silent piece of wall with gleaming eyes, all drenched in shadow. 

Below street level, Mabel found the conversation starting to simmer as she pressed “So, my Uncle?”  The English basement, cozy with it’s tapestries, took on the gleam of mystery and import as the old woman began to weave her tale.  “Yes, yes.  Many years ago, when people thought the world a safer place, I was a young woman, and your uncle a dashing, handsome man.  We would take long strolls down moonlit avenues on spring nights.  The linden trees would bloom so sweetly, and I so madly in love with him, that I’d wander and listen to his philosophical prattle all night. I think he was nervous around me, and kept talking so he wouldn’t have to kiss me, but I enjoyed his ideas just the same.  Granted, whenever he got too in the weeds or mixed up Jung with Nietzsche, I’d have to set him straight, but gently, dearie, because there’s nothing as fragile as the Male Ego.”  “And the League?  What about them?”  As the clouds snuff out the glow of the moon, a shadow fell over the old woman’s face. 

“Ah yes...They were all about The Silence.  Some believe, falsely, that there’s only one right idea, and conflicting ones are noise.  The League started to advocate for silence, first in the Libraries, but then we realized that was just the start.

To be continued...