Last Stand

I hadn't believed him when he said he could freeze the St. Lawrence. But I didn't believe any of the other crazy stuff he said either, and I had solid enough proof of that.

However, neither of us had counted on Rodriguez. The Stranger never said a word to me about it, but I got the impression that he had an enemy, and his tic got much stronger in Rodriguez's presence. We did manage to get to the Gaspé Peninsula, sure, but by then it was starting to thaw.

"Got any bright ideas?" I said to him as he glared at Anticosti Island over the rupturing ice. I'd asked him once why we couldn't just use a goddamned boat. He'd looked at me as if I were insane, and I never said another word about it. Obviously a boat couldn't get through that now, so I decided not to mention it now either.

"Give it up," Rodriguez said from behind us. Beside him was the man in the grey trenchcoat that I'd seen with him in Ciudad Juarez.

The Stranger bared his teeth. "Never!"

The man in the trenchcoat took a bell out from beneath it. It was a little thing, copper turning green like the rooftops of Quebec City. Then he held out his hand towards the Stranger.

The Stranger flinched, and then stood immobile as a small green rod emerged from his forehead and floated into the hand of Rodriguez's companion. With a tiny flourish of the wrist, he rang the bell with it.

The note that emerged was strikingly pure, belying the apparent decrepitude of the device that had generated it. It ate at the edge of my eardrum like a note just a few Hertz off of its resonant frequency. The Stranger, still immobile, started to shimmer, and then vibrated into dust.

Rodriguez turned to me. "Better luck next time," he said.

I shrugged and nodded, turning back to gaze at the ice on the river.

[I got the words

Gaspee rang Rodriguez thaw

from the Keywords: line of one of Mark-Jason Dominus's posts.]

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The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey / alfvaen@gmail.com