I was editing the latest manuscript from the publisher I worked for from my home in Milton late one night as Opie and Strahinja were playing a game they made up on the floor in the living room by my feet. I had asked what they game was about, and what were the rules, but neither seemed to or even care.
“Well then, how do you know who wins?” I asked.
“If we are both laughing and having fun, we both are winning,” said Strahinja, “We double the victory and the celebration afterward. I do not know why those scummy humans haven’t come up with such a brilliant idea.”
“That’s so true,” agreed Opie, “People are always trying to win something so that other people have to lose.”
“Gods do that, too,” I reminded them, “And when that happens, I have to audit them, and often take away their powers; so the end up losing everything even if they win a false victory.”
“But mostly scummy humans,” said Strahinja, “They are so dumb. I wish I could audit them, and then give them a few lessons in learning to share winning with others.”
“Remember the Wood Kicker?” asked Opie as Strahinja nodded. “That was one of the strangest audit’s Mommy ever had to do.”
“I do, remember because it did involve a scummy human. The level of arrogance of that person who thought they were more powerful than a god, but then kicks wood, injuring innocents and then blaming them was enough to get one of the victims to plea for you to audit the kicker in question.”
I sighed. “She was right to call me to audit the Wood Kicker, who then tried to kick wood at me, then blamed me.”
“Boy, were Love and Truth angry,” said Opie.
Strahinja nodded. “So enraged that they made gratuitous wood kicking forbidden among anyone who wishes to be a god or equivalent.”
“They also made it up to the last victim with unprecedented good fortune and few other gifts of consolation. Standing up for your rights even when you’re limping is always the best action to take.” I looked at the clock. “It’s a school day, Opie. It is time to go to bed, and you two can play your winning game tomorrow. I am sure by then you’ll think of a few new twists and turns. As for me, I have had a long day, and I need to sleep.”
“You don’t usually sleep, Mommy.”
“I know, but some reason I feel the need to do it, and that may be some sort of way for Hypnos or Morpheus to come to me with something I need to see.”
Not all who are in the Otherworldly sleep or need their slumber. I was one who need not usually need rest, but on the rare occasions that I felt the need to sleep, there was either a god in distress in need of my assistance, or one that had tried to distract me. In either case, I would listen to my instincts and rest.
As soon as I closed my eyes, I began to sleep, but though I was aware that I was lying in bed in the darkness, no dreams came to me.
I moved in my bed and heard a creek, and then a voice whispering something.
“Strahinja? Are you in here?” I asked, but there was no reply. I could feel my feet on the ground, became disoriented. “Strahinja? Opie? What’s going…”
I tripped on something hard that began to vibrate and yell, jolting me awake.
I opened my eyes and looked around my room, and gasped when I saw a familiar figure standing forlornly holding a book in my room. He was no enemy, but an ally who had fallen on hard times, but his presence signaled what I had experienced was a dream, and one of the utmost importance.
It was Doros, once known to the Otherworldly as the Keeper of the Seeds, but was now the current Dream Detective.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“You summoned me.”
“I did? I don’t remember doing so.”
“Dream Detectives always know.”
“You’re right. I don’t usually dream, but I had a compulsion to do so, thinking it was either a trap or a deity asking for my assistance, but tonight something else, and I couldn’t put my finger on it.”
“What happened?” he asked as he sat down at the foot of my bed holding his book of bed time stories.
“I wouldn’t even say I was dreaming, just sleeping, but then I heard a whisper, and then bumped into something that felt like a stone that yelped as it vibrated. Then I woke up.”
“I have never heard of such a thing, and I know I never heard Lexy mention anything like it…” He trailed off looking devastated. It was not that long ago when he was dating Lexine Lark, known as the Sparrow who was the original Dream Detective. Just as he proposed to her on the Ninth Cloud, they were torn apart, and he had become the current Dream Detective as she had other new duties to occupy her time. While she remained in Eden, he was banished to live in the Dangerous Realm until he was summoned to solve dreams. I could see this case was most likely over his head, but he was the only one who could be of any assistance to me. Yet his sorrow came from losing his true love and not the treacherous nature of his latest case. Usually, he dealt with mortals in the waking world and not powerful entities from the Otherworldly.
“Well, we might as well face it tonight. If I can get myself back to sleep you can enter my dreams with me.”
He nodded. “All right. Do you need a bedtime story to get back to sleep, Cinnamon?”
“No, but do you sing? Lexine also sang lullabies besides telling bedtime stories. Somehow I think a story might take me away from whatever is hidden in my dreams.”
He sighed. “I never tried. Here goes something.” He began to sing a forlorn song about lost love, though seemed surprised at his own deep and rich melodic voice that betrayed his every pain and sorrow.
I fell asleep quickly and within moments, I was still standing in the dark until I heard Doros speak.
“This is very interesting. I cannot believe this.”
“What is it?”
“This is the Place Below Hell. I’ve never been, but I know it. It speaks to me.”
“But I have been here because Strahinja used to live here. We barely got out alive with all the souls buried here.”
“There is no soul in here left.”
“What do you sense?”
“We have gone back in time to this place’s beginnings.”
“I wish I were. This is the foundation of Hell, Cinnamon.”
“I don’t sense anything.”
“Because you can sense gods. I sense fortune.”
“I used to plant seeds of good fortune before my afterlife was torn to shreds in the Otherworldly. I was struck on the Ninth Cloud at the happiest point of my existence, and I now I am wondering if something here was summoning me.”
“But why did I end up here?”
“I don’t know, but it is time for us to find out.”
“So how do we see anything in here?”
“I don’t know because God had his fiat lux everywhere else.”
“We are that far back in time?”
“If I am not mistaken, we are at the point where Lu peeked and saw the original Eve, and snuck away…”
“And then she flew the coop when she saw Adam, left Eden to become Belle Eve right before the understudy took over, and then the floor above all broke loose.”
“This place exists, but doesn’t.”
“That yelping stone exists; so if we can hear each other, there must be a way to see each other.”
“Sound came here already. So did touch.”
I crouched down and felt the rough ground beneath us, touching the stones that yelped as I ran my fingers over them. “You’re right. I can’t smell anything. Taste I am not willing to try.”
“You must have some powers, Cinnamon that can be of use. They do call you Motherlight.”
“That’s right,” I smirked, “They do. Here goes something.” I sprang up, steeled myself and willed myself to be true to my name. After all, whatever was hiding here at the beginning of time could harm my son and the reason that I became the Goditor in the first.
My form became of light, and I could immediately see an impressed Doros, and a place that looked like a cave with the most peculiar bumps around us wiggling.
Doros ran to one and touched it as it yelped. “This is serious business.”
“Do you know what it is?”
“I can feel its thoughts and intents. They are crude and unsophisticated, and, and…they are seeds of some sort.”
“You used to plant seeds of good fortune in people’s dreams.”
“These are not those kinds of seeds. Mine always giggled and were happy to thrive in the hearts of kind dreamers, chattering about all their hopes and dreams for the world and those in it. These are angry and hateful seeds that want to cause harm to the waking world, the Otherworldly, and just about any place they can find. These have a mission. They’re soldier seeds!”
“General Rem’s doing?”
“No, but they have his essence. He must have begun as one of these things. They are made to be planted and then grow like weeds with one specific purpose.”
“You can tell all that by touching it?”
“I know my seeds, Cinnamon. When I was a young man alive in the waking world, I was the son of a farmer.”
“I never knew that.”
“My father was cruel and callous man, and my only refuge were the animals and plants that loved me as he hated me. I looked after them all until the day I died, and it was their kindness that brought me wisdom about the beauty of flora and fauna, and both come from very different kinds of seeds. These are some sort of hybrid of it.”
“And you said they had a single purpose?”
“They are meant to infect the mind of an Otherworldly to rig a place for evil without the sleeper agent being aware of it so that no matter how strong or powerful the goodness is, somehow, evil takes those good intentions and brings its defeat by any cheat possible.”
“Are you serious? Are you saying I am a carrier?”
“Yes. These can only survive in the soul of an Otherworldly, but is meant to infest the waking world.”
“That explains everything about General Rem. He has been trying to break through to the waking world.”
“And Lexy always stops him, but until now, I would have never known his origins. I wish she was here.” He paused sadly before he had look of determination and reached into his satchel opening it as what seemed like countless glittering grains of gold touched everything around us, causing the stones to scream before they vanished, leaving a tiny creek of clear water amid the ground.
“Good thinking, Doros. That has to take care of all the bad seeds here.”
“In you, Cinnamon. These were the chords of this time and place that were meant to infect you.”
“I am free of this disease?”
“What about my son and Strahinja?”
“If they dream, I can enter their dreams and do the same thing for them, but for what it’s worth, I don’t think these are in everyone’s dreams. Just the most powerful of beings.”
“I won’t be spreading things rigged to harm goodness?”
“No, these Hellrigs are gone from your system.”
“Hellrigs? That’s what they call themselves?”
“Yes. They are meant to rig the universe in order for evil to win over good.”
“One infestation gone, and by the looks of things, it was a serious one. Who knows how long I have been a carrier, and how many more of these there are to clean.”
“That’s another mission. You are coming out of your dream. My job for now is done, and I can honestly say this has been the happiest case of my career. It gives me hope.”
After I thanked Doros, he vanished as I got up and opened the door to my bedroom to see Opie in his pajamas looking at me as wide-eyed as Strahinja who was wagging his tail and wiggling his ears and whiskers.
“So, what is it, Mommy?” asked Opie.
“Yes,” said Strahinja, “We heard a voice from your room.”
“Do you mean to tell me you two were eavesdropping this whole time?”
“Of course,” said Strahinja, “As you never sleep, the services of a demon Dachshund and an Otherworldly boy may be needed at any moment; so, we were readying for any deific or demonic emergency.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Really,” said Opie with an air of an emperor, “We’re always ready for any adventure.”
“Well, it was a strange adventure. I just found out why so many bad things happen to good people. There are Hellrigs hidden in the dreams of those who are in the Otherworldly.”
“I have never heard of them, and I lived Below Hell,” said Strahinja.
“They exist in the dreams in those of the Otherworldly. There is no way to see them when you are awake.”
“Sounds like a very horrific cheat.”
“That’s the reason they were set up that way.”
“What does it mean?” asked Opie.
“That every person in the Otherworldly may be a carrier of Hellrigs.”
“How do we get rid of them, Cinnamon?”
“The Keeper of the Seeds can find them and replace them with seeds of good fortune. I don’t want to take any chances with the two of you. Both of you will have to dream for him to be able to get rid of them if you are carriers.”
“He cannot do all of it alone. He is the only one.”
“There is the original Dream Detective Lexine Lark.”
“But I thought they broke up,” said Opie.
“And maybe it is time they found a mutual reason to get back together, first as friends working toward a common good.”
Strahinja looked excited. “I bet that’s how they got torn apart in the first place! Hellrigs!”
“We’ll explain it to her,” I said, “Right now, she is away on a mission. At least Doros has finally found a way to heal his broken heart, and he can gain some experience before we find Lexy. Once that happens, we just might change the essence of not just reality of the waking world – but of the Otherworldly itself.”
“It may be a dangerous mission,” said Strahinja, “But well worth the risk.”
“But not for tonight. Get back to bed, the both of you. When the time comes, we’ll all be ready.”
From the Case Files of the Goditor:
Deity Name: Wood Kicker.
Status: Removed from Deific Power with a single kick to the backside.
Initial Cause for Audit: Wood Kicker is an unnamed person who believed they were more powerful and intelligent than gods, though they had caused many problems and were unrepentant for their harmful actions, particularly kicking heavy pieces of wood that often resulted in serious injury to innocent parties, whom the Wood Kicker not only refused to apologize, but would find convoluted reasons why it was the victim who was at fault.
Facts of the Case: The Wood Kicker kicked a thick piece of wood toward an unsuspecting individual, and the air born plank landed on their foot, causing bruising and pain. When the injured party was blamed for the incident because “they moved their foot”, the individual summoned the Goditor to audit the Wood Kicker as they suspected Wood Kicker saw themselves as beyond reproach, and hence, a “god.”
Respondent’s Account: Blamed others for being injured by flying wood that was gratuitously kicked, and kicked a piece of wood in defiance, narrowly missing the Goditor, and then blaming the Goditor for the incident, infuriating both Love and Truth who made their decision an unprecedented one: that all gratuitous wood kicking would be reason enough for severe punishment.
Results: Removed from both the deific power and forbidden from kicking wood for eternity.