Monday, December 6, 2010

A little creative writing interlude



Wilson Dam, Alabama, 1977, August.

The light of the rising sun broke over the surface of the Tennessee River, sending sparkles across the water.  The muggy heat of an August morning in Alabama was already apparent and it was clear to the good folk in the area that it was going to be another scorcher.  Robert Winslow opened his gas station for the morning, cursing “that fool-headed boy” he’d hired for the summer months.  If Robert Winslow had known how close he was to death at that moment perhaps he would have felt differently, but he did not know, could not know that high above him, atop the Wilson Dam, stood the worst threat to freedom, liberty and the American way of life the world had ever known.

Elvis Presley did know it.  He had received the intelligence report on the activities of his old nemesis days before and had spent the time tracking his foe, always one step behind, it seemed.  He knew it was critical that he catch the villain.  It had been critical for some years now.  The result of this double life, rock and roll star and hero, had taken its toll on him spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  His marriage was over, but he accepted that it was necessary to make sacrifices.  A series of body doubles, vaguely resembling him, had been drafted to appear in his place when a distant view was all that was needed.  This had freed him up considerably.  That once or twice a double had been required to take the stage for him was unfortunate, but again, necessary.  Elvis had long ago accepted that his commitments to American security and freedom were more important than his public image.  This commitment was why, after three days of ceaseless travel, chasing his enemy, with no sleep and little food to sustain him, Elvis Aaron Presley, special agent reporting directly to the office of the President of the United States of America, stepped out of the shadows of an arch atop Wilson Dam and into the early morning sunlight. 

“It’s all over, Totenfaust,” Elvis said to the back of a cloaked figure standing hunched over a mass of wires and machinery. 

“I think not, Herr Presley, in mere moments my bomb will go off, flooding the valley below and robbing the area of vital hydroelectric power,” said a voice from within the cloak.  Without looking up Totenfaust, former Nazi agent and current menace to society continued his work.

“You know I can’t let you do that,” Elvis’s signature drawl replied.

“Und yet you cannot stop me, Capitalist dog,” Totenfaust replied with a laugh.

“I’ve done it before.  In fact, I’ve done it many times before, man.  Let’s face it, I always do.  What I can never figure out is how a Nazi ended up working for the Commies?  You boys were enemies in the big one.  What changed?”

Totenfaust stood up from his work and turned to face his enemy.  The scar that marked the entire left side of his face was a sickly, corpse color compared with the rest of his face.  Despise him, though Elvis did, he was always impressed that the villain maintained a sense of style.  Underneath his deep purple cloak was the impeccable uniform of a colonel in the Soviet Army.  In accordance with the nature of the man it was accented by trinkets from his service to the Fuehrer and his own noble heritage. 

America lacks nobility, Herr Presley, certainly you realize this.  The Reich was a socialist institution in name only.  Herr Hitler preserved the nobility, for he respected the power of our blood.  After the shameful occupation of my homeland, of which you are fully aware, being one of the pathetic American soldiers sent to do so, the greatest of us fled to bide our time and strike back.  The Soviet Union is no different.  That dummkopf Brezhnev is no man of the people.  He follows the same philosophy as Stalin before him.  The nobility may be gone but the class lives on.  These Russians are but tools that I will use to bring down the inefficient American machine and replace it with the glorious Reichsmodel!”

“Surely you know that a free-market economy with unrestricted trade is the most efficient of all economic systems, man.  Efficiency is created by means of market forces which guide the process with minimal governmental interference.  The practical upshot being that competition drives prices down while simultaneously forcing improved efficiency to increase profit margins (a-huh).”

“Surely you speak of the ‘invisible hand’ guiding the market, Herr Presley, but you fail to take into consideration that folk are, at heart, foolish and easily misled.  This is why the nobility have always existed from the beginning of time.  A totally free-market system fails to serve all men when the foolish are allowed to compete within it.  Only by creating a pure race, led by a born nobility, such as myself, can we ever hope to achieve solvency within the market.”

“And freedom for the people,” Elvis asked.

“Of no importance; it pales compared to the strength of the race, the species itself.  Not that you would know with your mixed-race music and decadent American culture,” Totenfaust said, spitting on the dam’s surface beneath them.  “You are like mongrel dogs in this so-called culture.”

“Ain’t nothing can fight like a mutt, Totenstein.  We showed you boys that during the War!”

“Enough, schweinhund; you have distracted me long enough with your Adam Smith and economics discussion.  It is time we ended this, my old enemy, for good and all, ja?”

“Abso-damn-lutely, son.”

Elvis launched himself at his foe but Totenfaust was quick, despite his age.  Elvis knew that the older man had enhanced his failing muscles with mechanical augmentation and had suspected that some Nazi black magic had been involved as well.  It was apparent as they locked hands, struggling with one another that the Nazi had upgraded his powers.  Elvis, weakened by lack of sleep and nourishment, struggled to overcome his foe.

“What do you hope to accomplish, Totenfaust?” Elvis asked through gritted teeth.

“I will destroy this dam, Herr Presley; I should have thought that was obvious.  The valley will flood, wiping the schmutziger miscegenation from the land.”

Totenfaust brought his right knee up sharply into Elvis’s stomach, doubling the King over in pain.  A kick to the face sent Elvis sprawling onto his back.

“You are no doubt thinking this is ‘small potatoes’, nicht wahr?”

“The loss of human life ain’t never small potatoes, Totenfaust,” Elvis said as he rose to his feet, preparing to launch himself at his enemy again.

“Oh, but such sacrifices are a small thing in the grand scheme, I assure you.  My plan is so much greater, Herr Presley.  This bomb is but one of many all set to go off within seconds of each other.  My operatives will, upon my signal, set off charges at dams across the nation, including Hoover Dam.”

“Vegas?  Damn you, Totenstein!”  Elvis leapt forward and put his shoulder squarely into the center of Totenstein’s torso.  He realized that the Nazi was wearing some sort of body armor as a great pain stabbed into his shoulder.  Totenstein was staggered by the blow.  Elvis went down on one knee, as did his foe.

“Yes, Herr Presley, and you will not distract me with your famous Battle Banter!”

“How about with a flash from my belt buckle?” Elvis asked.

Despite such an obvious telegraphing of the move, Herr Totenfaust gave in to the all too human compulsion to look.  A flash from the massive gold belt buckled strapped about the King’s waist momentarily blinded the villain, giving Elvis the advantage he needed.  With great speed Elvis was again upon his foe, hammering him with a series of punches and kicks.  Totenfaust met the bulk of these attacks with blocks and counterstrikes.  Each man fought with all the fury and determination he possessed, and each felt the blows of the other.  A glancing blow to his temple knocked the King’s sunglasses off.  The blue glow of his eyes startled Totenfaust.

“So it is true, Herr Presley, there is more to you than flashy costumes and gadgets,” Totenfaust said.

“You know it, you Ratzi bastard,” Elvis replied.  A corona of crackling blue energy surrounded his fist as he drew back his arm readying it for an opening.  Totenfaust did not intend to give the hero such an opportunity.  He reached up to his shoulder with his right hand and pressed a series of studs hidden under his cloak.  It was Elvis’s turn to be surprised as Totenfaust’s left hand underwent a visible change, revealing small nozzles or barrels through the knuckles of the glove he wore.

Elvis had less than a second to react as a stream of flaming liquid came spraying out of the nozzles.  He twisted his torso to avoid the worst of the jets of flame.  His cape was burning and the rhinestones on his suit had begun to crack.  Thinking quickly Elvis dropped into a roll, releasing his cape from his suit as he came up while sweeping Totenfaust’s legs from beneath him.  Now together on the ground the men grappled.  Totenfaust’s glove had burned away revealing an entirely mechanical hand where his organic left hand should have been.  Elvis struggled to pin Totenfaust to the dam while his foe rained a series of glancing blows onto the King’s back with his mechanical hand.  Realizing that wrestling his foe was pointless Elvis began to hammer the villain with his fists.  Totenfaust caved under the assault, finally going still.  He was conscious, but beaten.  Elvis stood and staggered toward Totenfaust’s machine.  It was overly complex for a bomb, he thought.  Elvis would have to be sure Totenfaust could do no harm with the device.  Again his fist crackled with a corona of energy.  Elvis placed his hand near the machine and sent an arc of electrical power into it, intending to fry the internal workings.

Behind him Totenfaust laughed.

“What?” Elvis roared, spinning around to face his beaten foe.

“The machine was inactive until you charged it, my old nemesis.  After so many clashes did you think I would not learn?  I expected you to try to destroy my bomb with your electrical powers.  You have activated the device and it cannot be stopped.  Only I can stop it.  The control is attached to my mechanical enhancements.  Only by shorting out my mechanics can you hope to override the control mechanism, and I have long since shielded them from your damned electrical attacks.  It would take full immersion in water to destroy them in time!”

“Can you figure out which part of that little monologue you probably shouldn’t have mentioned?” Elvis said and leapt toward Totenstein. 

They struggled.  Elvis pushed his foe toward the edge of the dam.  Totenstein realized what was to come.

“You fool; we cannot survive such a fall.  You will be destroyed!”

“Bad choice of last words, man,” Elvis said, tripping Totenfaust and throwing his weight into the Nazi.  Totenfaust gripped Elvis by the wrist and the pair tumbled down off the dam and into the river below.  They hit the water in pain, feeling bones break and organs crush.  Death was not instantaneous, and Elvis struggled to reach the surface.  Totenstein reached up from beneath hero to drag him under again.  It was him or the Nazi, Elvis knew this.  He brought his heel into Totenstein’s face strongly.  The bones of the villain’s face gave way with a crunch and with them the strength of his grip.  Totenstein slipped to the bottom of the river and Elvis kicked for the surface.  Exhausted he was able only to float, letting the river carry him away from the damn and his drowned foe.

After some time, and how long he could not say, Elvis washed up on the bank of the river.  He reached into his belt and retrieved a small device; a micro transmitter he used to communicate with his base of operations under Graceland.  Elvis’s main communicator had been destroyed during the fight, or after being plunged into the waters of the Tennessee River.  The micro transmitter was a one-way device and limited to Morse code.  Painfully Elvis sent his message to headquarters:  “downriver from Wilson Dam…northern Alabama…dying…initiate E-mergency protocol regicide…TCB boys…God bless”.

With that, Elvis lay back in grass by the riverbank and felt the heat of August in Alabama warm his body.  He knew he wouldn’t last much longer and there was much to do.  Reaching inside he found the hidden reserves of fortitude that separate heroes from regular people.

Elvis crawled, painfully, away from the bank and into the woods nearby.  Internal bleeding from his injuries coupled with his previous exhaustion could do him in, certainly, but he hadn’t taken that much damage, had he?  Totenstein must have done something to him during the battle to weaken him enough to kill him.  It was, truly, out of his hands now.  He lay back against a large pine tree, ready to collapse into oblivion.  There he stayed; perhaps for an hour, perhaps longer.  As the darkness threatened to overtake him for the last time he heard a noise.  Raising his head he looked into the distance, trying to focus his vision.  It looked as though a small child were approaching. 

A small child was indeed approaching.  Five year old Rook Wilder was playing in the woods behind his house that morning and had wandered too far.  In danger of becoming lost, the boy wandered aimlessly, paying little heed to his developing predicament. 

“Hey, kid, c’mere,” Elvis managed to say.

Young Rook, with the boundless curiosity and trust of youth, approached the charred and broken form of the King of Rock and Roll.

“What’s your name, kid?” Elvis asked, coughing quietly with the effort.

“My name is Rook Wilder and I am this many,” the child said, holding up a grubby hand showing his five fingers spread wide.

“That’s good, son, very good.  I need to give you something, okay?  Good, now come here.”  On his right middle finger was a large ring depicting a stylized lightning bolt surmounted by the letters TCB and encrusted with diamonds.  Elvis took the ring from his finger and pressed it into the boy’s hand.  “Keep this safe.  Hide it somewhere where nobody can find it.  It’s very important.  Can you do that, kid?”

Rook nodded his head. 

“Now don’t tell anyone about it, ever.  Okay?  This is very, very important.”

Rook nodded again.

“Now git on home, son; you don’t want to be around in the next few minutes.”

Rook turned and ran into the woods, but stopped just out of sight.  He crouched behind a bush and watched.  The body of Elvis began to glow as the last breath rattled from his lungs.  In fear and amazement the boy saw the body consumed in a golden fire until nothing was left but a scorch mark on ground where once had lain the King of Rock and Roll.

Rook turned and fled toward home.

End of Prologue