Of Monster and Mushrooms
Chapter 3, Coprinopsis
By Lesley Herron
Sirens wailed in the background, a haunting forlorn melody amidst the cacophony of destruction. Fire rolled over and around him in waves of crimson and gold. The heat was intolerable, as it radiated around him in thick pulses. Just beneath the eerie siren song were screams. God the screams. Terrified and lost souls screaming into the merciless void of the night. The sound of which penetrated his very being.
In the middle of all the chaos, sat Errik. Hot tears were streaming down his soot smeared face, as he closed his arms tighter around a limp and broken form. People rushed around him, like frightened animals in a stampede. No one was going to stop. No one was going to help. No one even gave him a second glance as they fled the fires, disappearing into the night.
There was a sudden and sharp slap to Errik’s face, catching him off guard. Had someone been trying to grab his attention to offer aid? He looked around, and saw nothing but fire illuminating the night. He looked down to the figure of his mangled brother, laying broken in his arms.
“Hey, get up.” Vel reached out with a blood stained hand and slapped him again.
“What the hell? You’re supposed to be dying!,” Errik retorted, dropping his brother to the ground with an indignant huff.
“What?,” Vel replied, his voice unhindered by his burns and the ash, falling like snow, around them. “I’m not dying. Wake up, you moron.”
Errik sat bolt upright, his face still stinging. It took him a few moments to realize he wasn’t in hell, or his home. It wasn’t even his bed. He glanced around, trying to figure out exactly where he was. Homemade electric lights were buzzing happily as they bathed the room and walls in a dim glow. They illuminated schematics and mathematical scribbles that had been plastered to the brickwork like wallpaper. A ceiling fan above him swung lazily, as if it lacked the energy to do anything more. A grimy and old, red duster hung next to the hastily welded mask. The only ‘normal’ decoration in the room was a tiny, but filthy, picture frame that had been nailed to the wall. It was crooked.
“What were you dreaming about?”
“Vel?,” Errik mumbled, looking around. He was still rubbing the sore out of the right side of his face when he caught sight of his brother. He was standing next to the bed, no longer broken and bloody. His brow was raised in concern, but hidden in the corner of his mouth was a smirk. Errik groaned, trying to blinked away the fading remnants of a horrifying nightmare. “How long have I been out?”
Vel shrugged. “ A couple of hours. Off and on…” He scratched behind his ear with a mechanical hand.
Errik’s feet hit the floorboards, and he became suddenly aware of the intense stabbing pains in his sides. He winced, and collapsed back into the bed.
“Right, uh. Your ribs are broken.,” Vel mentioned, with the air of someone merely commenting on the weather. The dim light of the room did little to hide the growing concern on his face. He leaned in a little closer, as if to gauge his comfort levels. The light glinted off the rest of his cybernetic enhancements. Plates of metal, in varying degrees of oxidation, lined the sides of his neck, the underside of his jaw, and disappeared down into the v of his shirt. His left eye had also been replaced, the light of which glowed red.
Errik made to wave him off, smirking at the unnecessary concern, but stopped when his hand slid off the bed, and hauled him to the floor like an anchor. “Oof.,” he coughed, as he crumpled into a heap at his brother’s feet.
“And your hand.”
Errik stared at the massive cast, his face falling in dismay. It looked like someone, who had only the faintest idea of how the procedure was done, had used a full roll of gauze dipped in cement and slapped it together so haphazardly, that his hand looked like it was encased in a boxing glove of concrete. Errik’s eyebrows knit together, as he looked up at his brother.
“Your idiot friend stepped on it back in the forest. He felt bad, and insisted that he could fix it.,” Vel began. He tossed his brother his clothes, fresh from the laundry, and put his hands on his hips. “Consider yourself lucky, though. He started talking about -upgrades- and was halfway to the hacksaw before I caught him.” Vel shook his head. “Not the sharpest tool in the shed, that one.”
Alarm set in on Errik’s face, as he used his non plastered hand to quickly took inventory of the rest of his body parts. He sighed in relief to see that they were all there, undamaged, and unchanged.
“Speaking of which, what the hell were -you- thinking, going into the forest without any safeguards?” Vel’s face bore a scowl and an excess of judgment.
Errik sighed. Then he remembered that breathing hurt, and winced. He tried standing, and was delighted to find he didn’t black out. He tugged on his clothes as quickly as he could. “Believe me, being turned into jelly by a Quarranthium was not part of the plan. But, uh, thanks for saving me.”
“Plan?,” Vel repeated, his eyebrow lifting as he sat down on the edge of the bed. He could hardly recall the last time Errik had made the trip to see him, and was barely surprised that this visit came with strings. They usually did.
Errik didn’t reply at first. He tried to think of a plausible lie as he struggled to force his concrete fist through his shirt sleeve. He decided that lying would only make him angrier, and breathed out slowly before he said, “ I need to get through the Gate. And you’re the only person I know who can help me.”
“What!?,” Vel snapped.
Errik put his hand up, attempting to calm the wrath he knew was coming. “ I know what you’re going to say, but-”
“What about what you’re -supposed- to be working on?”
Errik scoffed. “Unbelievable. I knew it. I knew that you’d behave this way.”
“Let me guess. That guy you brought with you -needs- your help, right? Well you’re supposed to be working on a way for -us- to get home! Not getting distracted by every vagrant and orphan that wanders in through your doors.” Vel was back on his feet, pacing in front of the bed angrily.
“You expect me to forgo my own life, and spend every waking moment researching these damned gateways. Which, by the way, I am no closer to figuring out. And all the while, you just wander around the forest, collecting junk and building crap! I deserve a life too!” Errik sighed, willing himself to calm down. “I’d take him myself, but like I said. You’re the only one that can help.”
“What does getting into the Otherworld have to do with getting us home?” Vel thrust a finger towards the window. “What do you owe him?”
Errik didn’t respond, and avoided his brother’s angry glare by staring at the hardwood floor.
“Nothing. You owe him -nothing-!,” Vel sneered, his tone was dangerous but he managed to keep his voice level and calm.
“Look. I have my-”
“What about what you owe me?” Vel closed the distance between him and his brother in just a few short steps. The floorboards groaned under his angry footfalls. His mechanical eye whirred noisily and his cybernetic parts began bristling, metal shifting against metal to drive home his meaning.
Errik winced at the insinuation. If that night had left him with horrifying nightmares and terrible memories , he couldn’t even begin to imagine how his brother felt. That fire had left him damaged, broken, and severely burned. It took everything he had to get Vel to what could pass for a doctor. But as Errik watched his brother’s life ebb away, he was given a choice. Use technology to save him, or lose him.
Errik chose the former before the doctor could finish his sentence. He would figure out the finer details later, right? However, he never thought of the price that Vel would have to pay. But he’d be alive. It was with that thought that Errik strengthened his resolve and replied, “ I saved your life.”
Vel slammed his right fist into the brick wall, where it left a crater. “Is that what you think you did?”
Errik had opened his mouth to respond, but seeing the damage the mechanical hand had done suddenly reminded him of something. “…upgrades…”
“What? Wait, you think that I actually wanted-”
“No! No no. Of course not! It’s just…where -is- Attila?”
“The scrawny kid?” Vel blinked. “He asked if he could look around the scrapyard.”
“And you let him?!”
“What’s the problem?”
Errik looked out of the window at a few decades worth of prospecting his brother had amassed. Piles upon piles of old-world tech filled an otherwise barren plot of land out back. Errik’s face sank, the color draining away, “Oh crap.”
Right on cue the window exploded, showering the room with glass. Errik covered his head and waited, his eyes clenched shut, for the inevitable white light at the end of a tunnel or at the very least the accompanying pain of death. But when nothing happened, he moved his hands from around his head and peeked open his eyes.
Vel had moved in front of his brother, shielding him from the worst of the blast. He shook shards of glass and debris from his metal arm as he stepped back. He studied Errik for a moment, checking for damage, before asking, “What the hell was that?”
Attila poked his head in through the broken window. “It’s okay! I didn’t get hurt.”
Errik rolled his eyes, as he let out a long and exasperated “Yaaaaay….” The tone of his voice dry with disappointment.
Vel looked from Attila to his brother and then back, confusion creeping over his face. Then it hit him. It wasn’t because Attila had interrupted them, but because of how he had done it. “We’re on the second floor…”
Errik rolled his eyes again, and scoffed.
Vel leaned over, and set his eyes upon the most absurd mechanical…mess was a good word for it… that he had ever seen. It was a fifteen foot single occupant mech suit. The entire thing had been slapped together with random items Attila had managed to scavenge from the junkyard below. It had two wobbly legs, made from struts and axles of broken farm equipment, and backwards bending knees. Pistons hissed at every joint, and the monstrosity sent smoke into the air every time the suit rumbled. Which was constantly. The body of the mech was almost consumed by a monstrous engine pulled from an old semi-truck. Unnecessary additions peppered it from head to tow, some serving a purpose and others decorative. From a green garden hose used as a fuel line to the spinning rims connected to the leg joints on the frame of the body, which itself appeared to be an old refrigerator.
Attila was using an old gaming joystick to make the mech’s tiny hands wave at them. “Sorry about the window. I added a few extra fuel injectors, and it maaaay have been to many.” Attila gestured with the mech arm at the scattered mess of flaming components strewn about the property. “Oh well. Live and learn I guess.”
Vel gazed down on the junkyard below, or what was left of it. It looked like the smoldering remains of a war zone. “What did you do?!”
Attila caught sight of Vel’s mechanical arm gripping what was left of the window sill. “Oooooo.” He wrenched himself free from the mech and clambered in through the gaping hole in the wall, latching onto Vel’s arm. “Is this a Kubuki 7000? Holy crap! Look at how refined the plating is!” He reached under his hat and removed a small spanner and began to pry open the panels. “And look at the way the servos interlock, and the streamlining of the output connectors!”
Vel glared at his brother, as if this entire ordeal was his fault. And in a way, it was. He lifted his arm up, pulling Attila up with it. He stared at him for a moment, a tremor rippling under his right eye and his left eye glowing a dangerous red. “Get. Off.”
“Oh man! I haven’t seen a working System-i ocular implant in -years-!” Attila reached up to his own face, and flipped up his eye patch to reveal his own cybernetic eye. “I’ve got a modified Ocularis-2 with optimal zoom! It’s operating code is based off yours.” Attila chuckled. “We’re like…eye buddies!” He used his free hand to gesture between the two of them, as if Vel needed help with the connection.
Vel stared passed Attila, who was still latched on and lavishing his robotic arm with attention, to return his death glare to his brother. He had never been a very warm person, but this lunatic was about to push him over the edge. His body rippled in anger, as his hands clenched into fists.
“Attila, hey. Uh…” Errik looked around trying to find someway to distract Attila before his brother killed him out of spite. He chuckled a little, as a devious idea finally came to him. “Why don’t you go get our gear ready. Vel says he’s gonna help us get to the Gate, but we’ve got a bit of a hike to make. Just, check and make sure we’re good to go.”
Attila launched himself off Vel’s arm and landed clumsily to his feet. He missed the death glare Vel was giving Errik, as he jumped back into his suit from the window hole. He seemed to notice the missing glass for the first time. “Oh. Did I do this? Oops.” He and the mech disappeared out of sight.
“He already apologized for the window? ”
Errik shrugged. “He breaks a lot of stuff.”
Before Vel could say anything else, there was a horrible sound, of metal crunching metal, that filled the air. He stared at the window, expecting another mechanical monstrosity to tumble in.
CRASH! Attila slammed a car door into the open space where the window used to be. The entire door was wedged between the wooden frame and brick. It had successfully closed the gap, but it looked, just. Awful.
There was a tap on the window, and Errik, avoiding his brother’s continued and unceasing glare, moved towards the door. He gripped the handle and began to slowly crank the window down.
“No need to thank me.,” Attila announced, puffing out his chest in delight. “Oh, hey,” he began, lowering his voice a little so that Errik had to lean out of the window to hear him. “Can I put your specimen collection inside? The bag is getting really heavy.”
Errik didn’t even need to turn around. Like Medusa herself was standing behind him, he knew if he looked back he’d be dead. He could actually feel the intense hatred and loathing filling the room. He gave Attila a curt nod, and slowly, awkwardly, began to roll the window back up. He took a moment to compose himself, trying to wipe the smirk off his face, before turning to face his brother at last.
“You know. He demolished my home, ruined a decade of my research, and destroyed my car. I’m going to have to stay here until at least one of those things gets fixed.,” Errik began, pushing down the locking mechanism of the car door. It didn’t achieve actual security, but he was hoping this small action would underline his need to rid himself of Attila. “And if you don’t help me get him back to his friend, he’s going to have to stay here. With me. Every. Second. Of. Every. Day.” Errik could hardly contain the smile forming on his lips at the sight of his brother’s twitching eye. “And I’m pretty sure he doesn’t sleep.”
Vel clenched his jaw, his face contorted in rage. He lifted a finger in protest, perhaps even to say something. Or perhaps to argue the case for -either- one of them staying here. You’re an adult. Find your own damn place to live. Or perhaps it was simply to point out the millions of ways this could all go wrong. But stubbornness ran in the family, and he knew his brother wouldn’t relent. He let out a loud and angry sight before grumbling, “Dammit.”
This was part three of a piece written by Lesley Herron. It’s part of a crossover fan fiction for a book series in the works by Author J.D. Wiley. It’s her subtle way to encourage him to hurry it up, dammit. She tossed together this piece using a couple of his characters with some of her own.
Lesley Herron would prefer to remain unlisted. If you wish to contact her you can do so through me. Simply leave a comment down below or send me a message.
J.D. Wiley can be found at http://www.TheJDWiley.com
If you liked this piece, keep an eye out for the next chapter coming soon!