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Authors: James A. Owen

Mythworld: Invisible Moon

BOOK: Mythworld: Invisible Moon
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James A. Owen

Invisible Moon

James A. Owen

The second volume, Invisible Moon, takes place in a small haven called Silvertown, in upstate New York, where a journalist named Meredith has just received news of the murder of her father – Michael Langbein. But before he died, he sent her a clue to his death and to the strange and terrifying changes taking place all around the world: a page from the mysterious Prime Edda.

With the help of her lover Shingo, and the photographer Weird Harold, Meredith begins to investigate as a terrible winter settles over the world… and everything begins to change. Technology no longer works. Electricity fails. Vehicles are turning into mythological creatures… and so are the people – including Meredith herself, who may be turning into the Russian witch, Baba Yaga…

***

Smashwords Edition – 2014

WordFire Press
wordfirepress.com

ISBN: 978-1-61475-216-5

Copyright © 2012 James A. Owen
Originally published 2012 by Coppervale International, LLC

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the express written permission of the copyright holder, except where permitted by law. This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or, if real, used fictitiously.

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Cover painting by James A. Owen
www.jamesaowen.com

Cover design by James A. Owen
Art Director Kevin J. Anderson

Book Design by RuneWright, LLC
www.RuneWright.com

Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta, Publishers

Published by
WordFire Press, an imprint of
WordFire, Inc.
PO Box 1840
Monument, CO 80132

Electronic Version by Baen Books
www.baen.com

***

Dedication

This book is dedicated to John Van Hassel and Barry Bard, two men who influenced me at the same time in my life, albeit in hugely different ways. It was a surprise to me that they became friends later in life, but I’m glad they did. I wish Barry were still here to read this, but I know he would have loved it, and would have teased John mercilessly for his namesake Hjerald Van Hassel in its pages. I wish he were here for that, too.

***

Indicia

MYTHWORLD Book Two: Invisible Moon
is copyright 2012 by Coppervale International, LLC. All rights reserved.

First electronic edition published in April, 2012. ISBN-13: 978-1-59478-000-4

For additional information, please contact: Coppervale Press, P.O. Box 1459, Taylor, AZ 85939 or on the Web at:
www.coppervaleinternational.com

The author wishes to thank Heidi Berthiaume, Vicky Morris, Daanon DeCock, Sara Gries, and the guys at World Café in Snowflake for the Honey Habanero wings.

***

Introduction

Invisible Moon
was actually my
first
novel, completed prior to
Festival of Bones
. It was quickly written, a bit too short, and very nervy—but it was also pretty good. The scene transitions were very similar to those I’d written in my
StarChild
comics, and some of the dialogue had parallel echoes as well; but what this meant was I was learning and mastering my craft. I was using the tools I’d developed as a graphic novelist to successfully transition to prose, and doing so with just enough wide-eyed innocence to keep the traits that make a beginner’s work interesting.

There are still rough spots (to me), and parts I wish could have been better written. But the earnestness of the story comes though, especially with some of the characters. Where they began and where they ended up are separated by a huge amount of learning on the author’s part—and they could not have been written any other way.

This book is also the origin of Silvertown, which in most of my biographies has been listed as the town I live in, even though there is, in fact, no such place. The place in the book was physically based on my actual hometown in Arizona, even though I set it along the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York. I wrote what I knew—and in the process, ended up including some of my friends and contemporaries as background characters.

The names of most of them have been changed to protect the innocent—or the guilty, as it were—with a few exceptions that I’ve been permitted to keep. Glen and Delna are real and cherished friends—and among those least likely to turn into trolls. And Oly was definitely real, and mean as all-get-out. He was a dog along my paper route, and is the reason I learned how to use Mace. Still, as a character, he was, and is, unforgettable—which is why I included him, even though almost every bit of dialogue he has contains a swear word. But it’s okay—it’s always the same one. Dogs are nothing if not consistent.

A number of the references Hjerald discovers in Chapter 5, which in the story were gleaned from several different books, actually came from one source:

http://theunexplainedmysteries.com/barbarians.html
.

***

Prologue

The Twenty-Ninth and/or
the Thirtieth (possibly)

I killed the paperboy this morning.

This, of all the thoughts marching wantonly through Meredith Strugatski’s head as she stirred lollipop swirls of cream into her third cup of coffee, was the one that chose to stop and stand at attention; which was unusual, because in point of fact, it wasn’t quite correct. The thought which marched more snappishly after a moment’s self-revision expanded to announce that she killed and
ate
the paperboy, which may seem like splitting hairs, but really, when she thought about it, there’s a world of difference between the two statements; if she had simply killed him, well, what’s to be said? That’s just not a very nice thing to do, to put it bluntly. If everyone just went around killing other people, the world wouldn’t be a very hospitable place to live, what with all of those murderers strolling around. That she
did
kill him goes without saying; although he didn’t take to the idea very well; there was much thrashing around and screaming. Meredith guessed kids today must not have the discipline they did when she was young (but to be fair, she mused, sipping at the steaming cup, she couldn’t actually recall any of the neighbors from back then killing any of the local children, much less eating them, so it may have been a broader societal failure rather than any specific educational lapses on the part of Kevin’s parents).

If she had left it at that, well … Meredith couldn’t bear to think of it. Horrible. Monstrous. It’s a terrible thing, to kill a child, if you don’t know how to show him the proper respect; and if there’s anything Kevin McMillan deserved, it’s respect.

When Meredith first moved to Silvertown from her grandparents’ home in Vienna, she had rented a moving van in New York City, and (like a moron, she thought) decided she could handle the whole move by herself—which was proven wrong when she tried to pull out the handtruck ramp in the back while leaving the truck in gear. It shifted from park into reverse, nearly cutting her in two. Fortunately, Kevin McMilllan’s father was raking his yard three houses down (the green house on the corner—the one with the rusted Model A in the drive), heard Meredith screaming bloody murder and came running, Kevin in tow. Kevin called 911 then found a blanket in the back of the truck, while his father shut down the engine and began first aid.

Actually, it hadn’t been a blanket, Meredith recalled with a twinge of remorse, but a priceless shawl that her grandmother had given her—one of the few heirlooms that she had taken with her when Meredith’s great-grandparents left their village in the Ukraine to go to Vienna—but it’s the thought that counted, and for that she was very grateful.

Meredith had spent the next two months, her first in upstate New York, when she should have been sorting through her father’s papers and settling his affairs, not to mention looking for the asshole who killed him, sitting in her living room encased in plaster to her chest; the only contact with the outside world her television, her lousy phone (which still has absolutely dreadful service, she thought, mentally posting a reminder to get a repairman to come look at it), the FedEx guy, who dropped off assignments she kept having to decline because of her busted hip, and the paperboy—Kevin McMillan.

Conscientious boy that he was, Kevin always—
always
—went to the extra trouble to get off his bike, walk around Meredith’s car in the carport to her back door, and slide the paper through an open utility window where it would drop inside onto a table she could reach from her bed. Even after she had recovered, he still took the trouble to come into the carport and deposit papers on a chair, so she wouldn’t have to walk far (she was still using crutches) or bend over to pick them up.

O O O

In hindsight, Meredith decided in a burst of repentance, thinking on all he did, she really should have tipped him more. She resolved within herself to make sure to be more generous to whomever ended up replacing him on the route.

O O O

Meredith was supposed to be meeting Harald Van Hassel, her sometimes-partner at the paper, at Soame’s for coffee, to go over a new assignment he’d ratcheted together about alligators in the sewers or some-such stupid thing, but for some reason she felt compelled to linger over breakfast, contemplating. It must’ve been something about Kevin, personally; Meredith certainly never sat reminiscing about the ham in her Eggs Benedict. It was a shame, she supposed, that there was nothing left for Blaine and Helen McMillan to grieve over (well, nothing that she wouldn’t be needing later, anyway). That sort of tragedy can be devastating to a parent, especially if there’s no closure. Of course, there’s always the possibility that they’ll simply decide he’s gone missing, or run away …

That was it
, thought Meredith with a self-satisfied nod;
that’s the ticket.
She ought to encourage the possibility that he’s merely run away, rather than dead in a ditch somewhere, or contributing bodily to a stew. That would be the kind thing—to give them some hope. After all, everyone should have hope—and anyone in a position to offer it would have to be a pretty lousy neighbor not to do it.

Maybe, Meredith thought as she cleared the cup and saucer into the sink with the other dishes, after her meeting with Harald she could pop over with some of her grandmother’s
kuchen
, and maybe, if she was properly empathic, she’ll be able to help them to understand—even if she can’t really tell them the
truth
, not in so many words—to know that as terrible a thing as it is to lose a child, it would be disrespectful, and far, far worse …

… if the boy had been
wasted
.

***

Chapter One

Moon’s Day

Most murder mysteries begin with four questions: Who, Where, How, and Why.
Where
is the easiest—the location usually being identical to that where the body is found; in the case of Meredith’s father, that was a small stand of trees halfway between Silvertown and Brendan’s Ferry to where a family friend had helped her hobble shortly after her arrival in New York. In her estimation,
How
is probably often the next easiest to answer (based on this, her only actual involvement with a murder); once natural causes and accident are ruled out, the body is then examined for unusual or suspect marks or trauma—and since her father’s head was not atop his neck, and had been, in fact, entirely absent from the Where, murder seemed a lot more likely than a stroke.
Why
is sometimes blindingly obvious, and sometimes bitterly obtuse, though in this case she suspected it was tied rather closely to the
Who
, seeing as her father lived in Silvertown for most of the last twenty years and seldom ventured more than a day’s travel away; thus, the puzzle lay in assembling and sorting through the available Whos, hopefully distilling the question to
Which
.

Then
, Meredith voiced silently,
I swear to God, I’m going to rip out and eat the bastard’s heart.

O O O

Soame’s was the last building on a broad, tree lined street, which would have made it inconspicuous, being just another brownish-gray building in a haven filled with tree lined streets, which it would have been if it wasn’t for the dome.

The proprietors were a polite Japanese couple—Junichi and Fujiko Kawaminami, called June and Fuji for brevity’s sake—who came to Silvertown some twenty years ago, both very much the immigrants they seemed to be. They had rented a small two room studio house that everyone else in town had the good sense to avoid, being as the landlord was Old Lady Watkiss, who hated everyone equally. They spoke little to no English, and had the unfortunate experience of mistakenly purchasing a good dose of American consumerism-slash-marketing as their first meal: while June moved their meager belongings into the house under Old Lady Watkiss’ watchful eye, his smile tightening ever so slightly under her constant barrage of practiced semi-translatable rudeness (
“H’ain’t had many Nips here, not any that I’d rent to, anyhow
 …
Better than if you was wetbacks, I guess
 …
Though wetbacks never blew the hell out of Pearl Harbor
 …
Make good food, though
 
… You like Mexican, or just that fishy rice?”),
Fuji walked the six blocks to the small grocery store they’d passed on the way in. Scanning the aisles for dinner options, she came to the conclusion that now they were in America, they ought to eat American food, and so bought six of the containers she found with the picture of beautifully golden Southern-fried chicken on the front.

When June and Fuji opened up the first package of what was actually vegetable shortening, they assumed there had been some sort of assembly line error at the factory, and opened another, but to the same result. After the fourth can, Fuji tried not to cry.

O O O

The Kawaminami’s, once they discovered things to eat other than shortening, rapidly assimilated into the small New York community. The St. Lawrence River lay just a few miles north, and the St. Lawrence Seaway, which gave passage from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes, allowed for an unusual mixture of both immigration and transient visitors from many diverse cultures. Several of the communities along this region were founded by settlers from the Baltic countries, but pretty much every ethnic group was represented to one degree or another. In Silvertown, though, June and Fuji were the first of Asian descent, which made them a bit more prominent; it helped that they were pleasantly social but also somewhat secretive about their past—no hint was ever offered as to either’s careers or professional interests—and within a short time after their arrival, demonstrated that they were arguably the most interesting eccentrics in a town full of interesting eccentrics.

The massive rectangular stone and stucco building at the end of Solomon street had been derelict for several years; empty, the flora had begun its slow encroachment into what the locals affectionately called “The Pickle Factory” when June and Fuji made an offer to buy it from Ida Webb, the property’s owner. Since no one had ever indicated any interest in the place other than a cluster of kids playing hide and seek, or maybe a couple of teenagers, looking for a dark, quiet place for some affectionate fumbling or a quick grope, Ida sold it for a pittance, and one year later, Soame’s was born.

The Kawaminami’s had two passions, both of which they immersed themselves in during that time, which only became evident to the rest of the town at the grand opening—until that point, secrecy was the rule of the day. First, there was the canopy—a huge, black drape that over the course of a week was stretched over the scaffolding that June and the workers he hired had built up around The Pickle Factory; next came the trucks, in the beginning filled with building materials, then with boxes, and nearing the end of the year, mysterious packages of all assorted shapes and sizes. June and Fuji would only smile and nod politely when queried about the whole endeavor—whereupon many began to question whether their inability to speak English was in fact authentic, or merely a studied facade—but not a hint of what was going on passed their lips, or anyone else’s, for that matter. The workmen all came from Brendan’s Ferry, eleven miles downriver, and kept to themselves when in Silvertown. Once, Meredith’s friend-cum-Zen master-cum-journalist Harald even tried to get on as one of the drywall crew, just to have a peek, but June simply smiled and nodded, and gently pushed him away before closing the door.

Finally, the day of the grand opening arrived, which the entire community took as reason for a holiday—quite understandable, considering that Silvertown is a fairly small place, even as towns go. The Mayor suggested a number of civic events to celebrate the new business in town; there was a barbecue, and a footrace, as well as activities for children and their families. The Jennings Band showed up on the back of a flatbed trailer, and the crew from Brendan’s Ferry brought in some anvils and black powder charges, which normally were reserved for the Fourth of July.

The trick with the anvils was to place one upside down on the other, and a charge in between, which was then lit with a match on a fifteen-foot pole, making a terrific bang and sending the upper anvil high into the air. Unfortunately, the first charge was set off-center, and the anvil’s trajectory took it straight through the front window of Hatch’s General Store. The owner, an even-tempered man named Lloyd Willis, not wanting to disrupt the festivities, offered to call it even if he could keep the anvil. The crew agreed, and good-naturedly asked Lloyd if he’d like to light the next charge. He did so happily—boys do love their explosives—but unfortunately, the second charge was also off center, and the anvil caved in the roof of the Mayor’s Volvo. That was pretty much the end of the anvil firing that day.

When the Kawaminami’s threw open the doors, accompanied by the Jennings’ Band’s rendition of “Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” (having exhausted their Sousa oeuvre), a remarkable transformation came over the town: in building Soame’s, The Pickle Factory had become the local equivalent of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, and suddenly, the citizens of Silvertown realized that they all had golden tickets, good for admission whenever they liked from nine to seven-thirty six days a week, ten to six on Sunday. The truth about June and Fuji also came to light, courtesy of CNN.

It seems that the mildly unobtrusive Junichi was something of an engineering wunderkind in Japan, and had invented a green diode, or a blue diode, or whatever kind of diode it was that no one had ever been able to invent before. Apparently, this particular discovery was one that had been long lusted after by researchers around the world, and June knew it. He founded a company to develop his invention (the work for which was done entirely in graduate school), sold it, waited for his stock options to vest, and cleaned up to the tune of about sixty million dollars. He then moved himself and his bride to America, where he sought to build his particular version of The American Dream: a coffeehouse that could be converted to a showcase for his and Fuji’s shared twin passions—books, and the Italian Renaissance.

No argument to brook: in the interesting and eccentric race, the Kawaminami’s were a full nose ahead of the other wiener dogs in Silvertown.

The decor, layout, and name came from a remarkable museum they had visited in London on the way to the States. It had been built by a world-renowned architect in 1812 as his private residence and as a setting for his collection of antiques and works of art. The many thousands of visitors to the museum each year viewed a very wide variety of objects, ranging from two famous groups of paintings by Hogarth (‘
A Rake’s Progress
’ and the so called ‘
Election’
Series), a superb Canaletto, and three fine Turners—to gems, silver, illuminated manuscripts, excellent sculpture, and some very presentable furniture. There were suits of armor, bejeweled elephant tusks, musical instruments, and, of course, books. The architect, however, always wanted his ‘Academy’ to be of use to the architectural students and scholars who lacked access to many materials which could improve their studies, and to that end, assembled models, casts, and fragments of extraordinary buildings from the six continents able to contribute. He also acquired 30,000 architectural drawings and built up a library of about 10,000 related books including a spectacular collection of 18th and 19th century technical pamphlets. Since his death, the Museum has honored these intentions, and the Research Library is regularly used by scholars and students, five days a week. The museum had also reinstated his Model Room so that the public could now also see the full range of his architectural models, which have been cleaned and repaired. June and Fuji, having spent as much time as was permissible wandering the rooms in fascination, carried the vision of the museum throughout their travels in Europe and America, to where they finally found the place and the building where it could be remade in their image.

Having been schooled at Oxford (through scholarship and the great efforts and gracious expense of her grandparents), Meredith had many occasions to visit the museum, and could well understand the Kawaminami’s fondness for the place. The architect’s name, by the way, was Sir John Soane, and the name of the museum, Soane’s, which differed from the name of the coffeehouse by exactly one letter.

Most patrons would never have connected the two establishments; those that may have, perhaps never noticed, as did Meredith (and never had the heart to mention), that the diminutive couple had spelled it wrong. On the other hand, when June serves the coffee with that tight, polite Japanese smile, she couldn’t help but wonder …

O O O

On the exterior, there was nothing really extraordinary by way of signage or ornamentation save for one thing—which was large enough that it didn’t really need accompaniment, and conversely, would have crushed any competition for attention wherever in town it might have been built: the dome.

For years, June had been somewhat obsessed by the Italian Renaissance, particularly by its luminous sons Leonardo da Vinci, and his younger Florentine contemporary, the sculptor Michelangelo Buonarotti; him most of all.

Underneath the massive canopy which soared some sixty feet into the air, Junichi and his burly crew had duplicated in twelve months and at a cost of several million dollars what Michelangelo had spent the last eighteen years of his life building, and for which he would accept no pay—The Dome of the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome. Like the Roman dome, Junichi’s was a labor of love; springing from sixteen pairs of giant columns atop The Pickle Factory, the dome soared with the line and grace of divinely inspired sculpture, bearing a progressively lowered pitch that presented a slow, generous curve of great beauty, both within and without. Wherever it would have been built, it would have been a remarkable achievement; it was also in violation of about eighty building and zoning codes, which pretty much explained why there had been so much secrecy surrounding it, and why Junichi had refused to lower the canopy until opening day. That it had never occurred to the Mayor or town council that the canopy and scaffolding for The Pickle Factory’s remodeling was approximately three times higher than the original structure was a mercifully avoided embarrassment, set aside in the avoidance of the even bigger potential embarrassment of closing for zoning violations a facility to which the Mayor himself had invited the whole town. (Later, in a secret meeting that had to be the worst-kept secret in St. Lawrence County, the town elders decided that if the plans for the dome happened to be stamped with the date from the original construction—1886—when there were no zoning laws, then they’d have covered their collective Khybers with no adverse publicity; as the town had embraced Soame’s as the best thing to come to the area since the Seaway, no one questioned it. Humanity’s shared fictions, it seems, are the strongest.)

As Michelangelo had believed that all the arts—painting, sculpture, and architecture—emanated from a common inspiration, that of drawing, Junichi had taken to the task of learning draftsmanship with a religious fervor; wherever he went in Silvertown, he could be seen carrying a small black sketchbook in which he seemed to be constantly scumbling in graphite everything he saw. When the doors to Soame’s were thrown open, it was evident what he had done with the acquired learning.

Above the second floor, which was galleried in oak and ran along the walls some twelve feet above the entry level, was another scaffolding which extended far into the interior of the dome, and the beginnings of the project to which Junichi intended to devote many years: his own interpretation of Michelangelo’s ‘
The Last Judgment’
from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

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