[AC] Wayward Son:"Et Sic de Similibus" By Matthew J. Pierce

Artifice Comics artificecomics at yahoo.co.uk
Thu Jun 3 18:57:57 PDT 2004

Artifice Comics - http://www.artificecomics.com

Wayward Son:
"Et Sic de Similibus"
By Matthew J. Pierce

"I'm sorry. Did you say they took Niklaus Dietz's brain?" 

I trusted Gerhard Kepler and his ancestors before him with the
contents of the mausoleum we three now stood in. This sleepy graveyard
in Emden was one of many closets, wherein I hid more than a few of my
life's skeletons. I never met Gerhard before today; just took it for
granted that his father raised him to be weary of the gray,
cracked-cement box and its rusted old gate. It was that weariness that
called me to return to Emden, only to find I was too late. Someone had
made off with the goods, leaving gold and silk behind in favor of the
contents in this old corpse's dirty skull.

"Yes, that's right. His brain." I released the worthless body, letting
gravity carry it back into its eternal resting place. It might as well
have been any of the corpses out in the lot behind me at this point.
Suffice it to say, I wouldn't be needing the Kepler family's services
anymore. To hell with the other V.I.P.'s in the mausoleum, Dietz was
the king of all corpses but not anymore.

"So this Nikolaus Dietz, a 17th century alchemist that dabbled with
the occult. You had him placed here and now someone's made off with
his brain?" This was Fraulein Schlosser, a detective placed on my
heels by a 'friend' in the German Polizei. Of the three of us, I
suppose you could call her the 'smart one.'

"Yeah that's right, so if the two of you are done with our little
recap and remember that it's only been seven seconds since I said all
that and not seven months, we might start making some progress." In
retrospect I suppose I could have been kindler. Gentler. Someone other
than Caleb Wayward. Fuck 'em.

"You might, Herr Wayward. As far as the Polizei are concerned, no
crime was committed here." Schlosser returned a notebook to a black
leather pouch on her belt and clasped it shut with a metal snap.

I hadn't seen her take the notebook out and so had no idea what she
wrote in it. I wanted to consider whether it was a good idea or bad
that she might have taken too detailed of notes but that would have to
wait. I knew her boss so if necessary, I could make sure the notes
disappeared. It was making stuff un-disappear that was going to be the
true testament of my skills, however. "You couldn't be more wrong,
Fraulein. A crime was committed here, just not one modern police are
interested in."

"And as you stated so kindly earlier, the whole purpose for your
bringing along a member of the Polizei was for me to verify nothing of
value was taken or vandalized. It looks like you got your wish. I
doubt, despite its obvious sentimental value to you, the brain had any
true monetary value. Guten tag, Herren." If she saluted and clicked
her heels I wouldn't have been surprised but in truth, I was doing my
best to ignore Schlosser.

Her being the good officer, she'd report to her supervisors that no
crime had been committed at das Mausoleum tiefes Geheimnis and that
meant no more police. Whatever investigation had to be done would have
to be done by me, my way. Just the way I preferred it. Schlosser must
have been gone by the time Gerhard Kepler spoke up somewhere near my

"What do we do now, Herr Wayward?" 

I think the surprised look in my eyes must have, in turn, surprised
him right back. I was partly angered by the theft, partly frustrated
that I didn't know what to do now. Being asked what was next implied
Kepler expected an answer. What could I tell him? The best option
ahead of me was to think out loud, make it sound as if I was answering
him while increasing the likelihood of a good idea coming to pass.

"Cipherids are worms, for a lack of a better description. Some say
they spawn inside the rotting mind of the truly evil. Wherever they
come from, I've only seen them on shelves. Jarred. Sometimes for sale,
most times not. Over time the 'book worms' consume a brain, ingesting
it, internalizing the gray matter and all its locked memories and

"For what purpose?" Kepler was less than appreciative of the
explanation, looking like he might forego his next meal or welcome
back his last one.

"Oh well that's the best part. You see, if extracted from the skull
before they die, the cipherids can be drained of their internal
fluids. Those fluids are said to contain everything they learned by
eating the dead brain. You can probably guess what happens next."

"Y-yes. That's all well and good, Herr Wayward, but you still haven't
answered my question."

"I don't know what you're doing next, Herr Keplar but save for a
generous severance, our business is done. You can maintain the rest of
these bodies like you would the rest, I doubt anyone will look for
them. The one that mattered got away."

"And what of you, sir?" 

I wish I could say the question took some thought. Unfortunately, the
worms were my only lead. "I get to pay a visit to all those nice folk
who keep book worms in their collection and then try to guess who has
the most to gain from four hundred year old memor---."

If I remember everything correctly, it was about that time that we
heard the scream. Should have known better, really. Making off with
the contents of Nikolaus' noggin and leaving behind dead cipherids in
the crypt was sloppy. Whoever knew Dietz lied in Emden, had to know
I'd be watching after the mausoleum. They'd have to do something to
throw me off course and that scream from outside was probably it.

Kepler froze but not for very long. He looked over his shoulder, back
out of the mausoleum and then to me. "That must be Fraulien

"No, that's someone's buying themselves time." 

Kepler was a noble sort. Either that or he was obsessively curious,
even to the point he was willing to look past the fact it was a
woman's spine quivering scream that won his curiosity in the first
place. He was out of the door and through the gate and since he wasn't
there to help me replace the lid on Nikolaus' crypt, I figured I'd
follow along.

On the way out of the mausoleum, and down the cobble-stoned path, I
couldn't shake off the bothersome truth that we were in a
necromancer's playground. Not that any of us were necromancers, but
should we have ran into one, we might have been screwed. Fortunately,
for us, there wasn't any in sight. Just a Bonefreak and you know how
terribly vicious they can be.

Or maybe you don't. 

"Herr Wayward what... what's... Mein Gott." 

"Not even close." Kepler vanished somewhere behind me. Probably
watering the weeds between the cobble stones while Detective Schlosser
hung from the bony grip of the freak.

Bonefreaks meant well, they were just a bit lost. Souls adrift, forced
into the hollowed bones of the dead. Problem was, someone had to put
them there and that usually meant communing with the soul first,
stringing it along with false hopes of an end to its wanderings in
purgatory. So shove a soul off-course into a cell of bones that it
ping-pongs in and what you get is a very animated, pissed off entity.

For all of her volume, it seemed Schlosser got a hold of herself after
the initial surprise. She had taken to relying on her Polizei issue
sidearm which did little more than punch holes through the freak's
rotten husk. Even the headshot, while remarkably impressive
considering how she was being jolted around, was pointless.

"Zombies, Herr Wayward!" Cried the voice behind me. 

"You're in Germany, Herr Kepler, not Hollywood." There was no way in
hell I could manage a gateway in the middle of a graveyard but that's
exactly what the freak wanted. A free ticket to either Heaven or Hell.
It didn't matter so long as it wasn't in-between anymore; or stuck
buzzing about in the shell of a dead man for that matter. "Not

Another crack of air drew my concentration to Schlosser again. She was
shooting in a panic I was the idiot standing in one place. Without
time to summon an 'out' for the soul, I'd need to help it find one.
"Schlosser, you'd be better off bashing it with your gun than shooting
at it!" In reply, Schlosser turned the gun around, gripping the barrel
-which had to have been hot- and started hitting the Bonefreak in the
skull with the gun's grip.

"That wasn't a suggestion!" 

"Would you do something to help?!" The freak took to waving Schlosser
around, his skeletal fingers clasped around the good detective's
jacket. Dried flesh peeled from its bones like remnants of old clothes
and dirty cobweb hair clung to its sharp angled shoulders. Its mouth,
pasted with dead skin, hung forever agape as if shocked by its own

I'm anything if not a man of opportunity, of resources. In this
instance I had none save for what I had about my person. So of course
I had to rely on the gift or curse that was my birthright. The
DemonArc expunged the infernal from our plane of life but the freak
wasn't a creature of hell, it was a befuddled spirit. Against its
prison of marrow and anything else, the arcane energies I commanded
would have less spectacular results. It would be like smacking it with
a dummied down lightning bolt, like Zeus' own fart I suppose.

I slowed my breath and reached inward, the whole process a lot like
trying to convince myself to pee in the cold. The Bonefreak had grown
tired of Schlosser, apparently getting the message that she couldn't
free it. The dull thud nearby would be her but my eyes were closed so
I wasn't sure where she landed.

I can imagine how I must have looked, the energies seemingly summoned
from below ground, coursing around me, dancing around my fingers and
shoulders. Like black light, it was probably enough to get the
Bonefreak's attention too. I can't imagine how I must have sounded,
though, when I cried out for Kepler to stop. "NO!"

The spade shovel in his hands tore through the midsection of the
Bonefreak much like a baseball bat would through a set of ten pins.
Pieces of the dead man's ribs shout out along the shovel's path and
dried carcass and clothing snagged by it, pulled free even more of its

There was no ghastly movie howl and no over pronounced spasm as the
creature's life seemingly came to an abrupt, second end. The entire
structure of bone and dead meat collapsed in on itself and sat messily
on the long bladed grass.

"Verdammt! Why didn't you just do that sooner?!" Schlosser was
apparently not too hurt to be bitter. Her being presumptuous was a
sure way to file down my patience, however.

When the grass broke open and small mounds of dirt began to rise from
the seam of earth I was the first to notice it. "What, you mean
that?!" I admit, what I had planned for the Bonefreak's unwilling
spirit, wasn't any more humane than locking it up in a stranger's
body. Shattering its bone cage open and letting the soul free would
return it right back to where it came from in the first place. Its
wandering would continue and I wouldn't wish that fate upon anyone.

A new body rose, no more or less decomposed than the first but this
time it had a little better grip on what it could do to a person. The
pieces of its former prison were at this command and he whisked them
at us like jagged edged knives with a simple wave of his hand. I
leaped at Kepler, suspecting the storm of bone would have sliced him
to shreds. In the fall he dropped his spade shovel but the tackle
forced his elbow beneath my jaw and for a few moments I was seeing

"Why is it still after us?!" Schlosser cried. 

I would have liked to explain that letting the body fall to the ground
with the soul inside meant that it would be returned to the earth,
forcing the spirit into a new prison. Since we were in a cemetery,
there were cages of bone all around us. That also meant, for the
Bonefreak, a field of weaponry since marrow was at a freak's beckon
call. A shame they never quite figured out they had it within
themselves to destroy their own bonds.

Determined to lash out at Kepler, in a primitive eye for any eye
sense, the Bonefreak held outs its hands and drew back its carrion
wrapped fingers. In response, Herr Kepler's femurs split in half. He
had barely stood back up from my knocking him down when his legs were
rendered useless.

The situation was quickly deteriorating from worse to completely
fucked. Schlosser resorted to reloading her gun, thinking bullets
would have better luck the second time around. Maybe she was just
trying to focus past Gerhard's screams as he writhed on the ground,
stains of blood growing on each pant leg. If desperation was the order
of the day then maybe that's what drew my sights to Gerhard's shovel
but I had to catch glimpse of the small chapel across the field first.
It appeared as old as everything else, save for maybe the Bonefreak's
adopted body, but the white marble cross on the roof's peak was

Following the trail of shots, the freak was approaching Detective
Schlosser and the young fraulein continued to fire away. Behind her,
bones of the dead broke through the ground and stretched in bent
angles, meaning to puncture her skull through each ear. That was the
least of my worries.

How the hell was I going to get a reckless spirit into a chapel before
it killed us? I should have known I wasn't going to like the answer
but it wasn't like I could stuff the thing into a jar and call it a
night. No, I just had to pick up the shovel and swing it home. The
skull snapped off the bone donor's neck and toppled end over end until
it landed off in a brush somewhere. The rest of the body wobbled and
began to fall forward. I had one chance at this. If I screwed it up,
the cadaver would collapse on the ground and the soul would be locked
in a new body beneath the ground.

Stuffing my hands into worm gored skin, I tore a hole open in the
falling body's back and grabbed the first thing that felt solid. Its
spine broke into pieces in my hand and behind it was a pulsing soft
blue that had to have been what I was looking for. The rest of the
body began to crumble and I did what came naturally.

I inhaled. 

Thinking about it now, the whole moment seemed transplanted from an
old Millennium Man cartoon. I stood there and inhaled as deeply as I
could, watching the misty blue come closer to my face until I could
feel it touch my lips. I didn't stop, even when my lips went numb from
the cold or when a taste like dust overwhelmed my mouth. It felt old
and stale and thick with grainy texture though it appeared to be
nothing more than light. It tasted like chicken.

"Wait a second. you mean to tell me, you carried a person's soul in
your mouth?"

Well yeah, Kate. That's right. 

"You kissed me with that mouth!" 

Among other things. Now let me finish. 

I ran as fast as my legs would carry me. Whenever I fell, and I did
fall, I covered my mouth and got back up, each time feeling as my body
would convulse and force the captured soul, with a part of my own, all
over the German grass. My legs shot forward in hurtful strides,
pulling the rest of me along, my arms pulling at air like ropes, every
effort focused on getting me into that chapel. When I reached the door
I fell against it, knocking it open and sprawling uncontrollably on
the floor. It was then I finally let go and my body squeezed and
spewed out of my mouth that unclean thing. The light appeared amidst a
shower of bile and splashed across the floor. It sat there on a broken
wood slat, blinking at me before all faded to black. Later, when I
regained consciousness, I found myself in the chapel alone.

Best I could figure, taxiing the soul into the chapel was as good as
carrying it straight into heaven first class. If Christians were
correct and every house of worship was a house of God then I imagine I
spat the thing right on the Big Guy's front doorstep. Nice of him to
take it over from there. Of course, for all I know the soul is still
out there. Wandering around and waiting for a chance to rest but at
least it wasn't locked inside the bone tubing of someone else's long
dead body.

"That's really something, Caleb. Remind me never to ask you for a
bedtime story again."

You don't think I actually wanted you asleep yet, did you? 

"So what about the other two? Schlosser and Kepler." 

No no, Kate. The question you really should be asking is the one
Gerhard asked me before I left Emden.

"Begging your pardon, Herr Wayward but... just who was Nikolaus Dietz

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