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archive:stories:inter

SUBMERGED INTERFACE

by Gay Bost
There was music being blown across the edge of the wood, somewhere 

off to the right. She stopped, closed her eyes and took a deep breath through flared nostrils. Her lungs filled, slowly, cleared more slowly. She knew how to activate heightened senses. She did so, arms raised to the wanning moon. The sliver of luminescence had, this night, a misted corona of upper level moisture, a shroud. "_It is fitting_," she thought, smiling softly.

She stepped away from the road and into the spruce and cypress,

fingers trailing over the rough bark, pausing to listen, head held high, eyes slitted. She smelled the acrid scent of green cypress being burned, heard the hiss, imagined the steamy evaporation of precious fluids released. She followed the scent as well as the sounds of guitar and voice.

The wood was not dense. The hardy trees hoarded what water they 

found deep, long established roots giving that up only to a few newcomers. Dark grey and rough, the bark of the old ones. She passed through, begging pardon with loving finger tips, to find the dancing glow of the fire. At least they had the sense not to set their fire within the wood itself.

She hung back, watching from the shadows. So, and she hadn't realized, 

when she'd come through the wood, that it was The Interface. Here, in a strip of denuded land, nestled secretly in one of the declivities, had settlers buried the miners which had been pulled from numerous cave ins. No Great Gold Rush, here, but a steady Silver Trickle. Why it was called The Interface rather than, at least, The Old Graveyard, escaped her, at the moment. Here, in The Interface, had they made their fire. Here, they sang their songs. Here, a tall thin boy with ragged curls and angelic face strummed, lazily, upon a guitar.

There were five of them, three men and two women. Rather, young men

and women, past childhood but still holding the velvet skin of youth and the rosy flush, at least in four faces, of health. The fifth, a rather smallish man with dark hair and eyes, absorbed the firelight with sallow skin. She shifted position, moved with deft steps through sparse undergrowth and over rocky soil. The women were about something, there. Something between them on the ground. A pumpkin.

"Of course," she said, stepping from the shadows into the outer aurora

of firelight. "A pumpkin at All Hallow's." She bowed with great flourish, a sweep of arm and hand, fingers caught up on her skirts, pulling them into a courtly gesture. "How wearisome. How common."

"Jesus!" Exclaimed one of the girls, jumping away from the sound of

her voice, her appearance. "A witch!"

"How astute," she said, smiling.
"It's not a witch, it's just old Sadie," said one of the boys. "Hey, 

Sadie! Eaten any mushrooms lately?"

"Oh, Wow!" said the guitar player. "Not the mushroom head who 

lives . . ."

"Wait a minute," interrupted the sallow one. "She grows weed, they

say." He stood and moved toward her, his gait steady but labored. "Sadie, you got any weed ON YOU?"

"Moss groweth not on a rolling stone," she answered, coming deeper

into the fire's ring. The girl who had jumped back sidled behind the other girl. "Now, then. Do we ALL have names, or am I the only one?"

"David," said the guitar player, nodding his shaggy head, a bobbing

toy on a long neck. "This is Kathleen and Moonchild." He indicted first the timid one and then the other. Moonchild dimpled sweetly, dropping a tiny curtsy. The twinkle in her eyes said something of games and mischief. What would one named Moonchild have to say with her eyes if not that?

"Ryan," added the sickly one, having reached her and extended a hand.

"That's Bill, but you can call him Nature Boy."

"Nature Boy," she repeated, looking at the third man/boy. "And why is

that so?"

"Cause he likes to run around graveyards naked. Especially on

Halloween!" burst forth the shy Kathleen.

"Well then, by all means," Sadie allowed. "And what are we all doing

under the moon?" She came closer to the fire, inhaled the pungent smoke, "besides carving Jack o' Lanterns and burning the greenwood?"

Nature Boy grinned engagingly, a brave soul in the midst of a

dilapidated grave yard. "We've come to raise the dead."

"Raise them? Or Raze them?"
"God!" Kathleen intoned, clapping her hands together, quite forgetting

her earlier start. "I'll bet you're full of ghost stories!" The girl plopped down on the ground as if her bones had melted.

Sadie frowned, more at the thought of having lost that ability to 

throw herself, without pain, at the ground. She sat, slowly, where she had stood, cross legged as the other and looked across the fire at her. "I'll bet."

They came round then, all, sitting in various attitudes, though most

adopted the crossed legs, Moonchild differing in that she place one atop the other in a Yoga-like attitude. Ryan, less fluid in his movements, seemed as old as she herself, sitting carefully.

"And I suspect not a one of you has a drop of libation to share out?"
"She wants a drink!" Nature Boy crowed. "Mushrooms and weed and wine. 

Don't you know that stuff will kill you?" He brought out the bottle, a fine example of decorum.

"Gallo?" she shrieked, verbal barbs at the ready.
"Have you got anything better?" he asked,haughty with wounded pride.
"Happens I do, but damned if you lot will get it. But," she pulled a

pouch from her skirt pockets, "hand it here and we'll see what we'll see." She wrapped fingers around the neck of the bottle and unscrewed the lid. "Now," she said, settling the thing in her lap, bracing it between her legs, "what did you children have in mind?" She handed the pouch off to David on her left and looked to Moonchild on her right, a pleasant arch of brow inviting an honest answer.

Moonchild waved at the graveyard and continued her gesture to include

the moon. "We had an orgy in mind."

Sadie laughed heartily, thankful she hadn't taken a swig of the wine

just at that moment. "Well, I shall absent myself from your gracious company, in that case. Old skin is fragile, paper thin and dry as the mountain air. Old cypress knees are knobby and fingers ragged."

"A story," Kathleen pleaded, childlike in her attitude.  "Tell us a

story."

"Tell? Tell?" Sadie paused to lift the bottle to her parched lips.
"This," said David, having lit one of the hand rolled cigarettes

within the pouch, "is not marijuana!"

"Of course not, boy. Marijuana is illegal."
"It tastes funny," he continued.
"It's home grown," she explained off handed, and returned her

attention to Kathleen. "What say I *show* you a ghost story?"

The fire flickered, suddenly, as if stirred by an unfelt wind. Sadie 

shifted her legs, stuck her feet out from under her skirts and wiggled her toes. Four pair of eyes went to her feet. She looked into the fifth's, Ryan's. The dark eyes attempted to look through her. She smiled, gently. "Shall I?"

  • * *
"I don't know why I'm doing this! I must be crazy!" David complained,

stepping across the last heavy beam, long fallen, last in a long progression of the same. They'd been coming through the old mine shaft for, he thought, at least an hour. His calves hurt. Moonchild seemed to leap over the stupid things. He knew Ryan would be wearing out, and Kathleen had picked up soot somewhere. Bill was trudging along, heckling the old woman, still trying to get the wine back from her.

She'd tucked it in her skirt at the campfire and it had, effectively,

disappeared. Her damned home grown tobacco had made his head hurt and his vision swim. She probably ground up old pine cones for filler or something.

"Hush!" Moonchild hissed. "I *hear* something."  They all stopped,

waited for the sound of disturbed stones to quiet, the whisper of dust to settle, the last breath held to still.

A drop of water, nearby, struck a puddle of the same. Deep beneath

the insulating sheath of stone sound took different turns, moved with a will of its own, rounded corners and came at them, unaware. A released breath became a zephyr. The beating of hearts; the pulse of night earth, bubbling. David experienced a shivering chill, his sweat damp shirt clinging uncomfortably. Another drop fell.

"It's this way," Ryan said, taking the lead.
"So, what's the story?" Bill asked, hanging back until Sadie caught up

to him. "There a river or something under here?"

"There's always  underground pools and stuff," Kathleen volunteered.
"The trickle of Time," the old woman said. "The story is Eternity's

whisper."

"Aw! Come ON!" Bill grumbled. "Enough!"
Dave laughed, came up behind his friend and slapped him on the back.

"This is what we get for following a crazy old lady into a mine shaft, you know. You been laying down your bred crumbs, Hansel?" He hefted his guitar higher on his back and inched past Bill, by Sadie and followed after Ryan.

"They took a lot of silver out of these mines in the old days,"

Kathleen continued as if no one else had spoken. Her fingers brushed along the walls at intervals, a diviner in blue jeans and tie-dyed t-shirt. "Grandma used to tell stories about the town that was out of The Interface. I remember being scared, sitting on her braided rug, listening and eating popcorn." One of her hands had flattened out on a wall. She drifted off in another direction.

"Whoa, Kath. Stick with us."  Dave took her arm and looked into her

upturned gaze, frowning. "Kath? You still with us?"

She smiled, a vague thing on a pale face. Her cheeks looked too pink, 

her breath was too shallow. He steered her the way the rest of them had gone, taking rear position.

They were following Ryan. Moonchild walked in his footsteps, Sadie 

not far behind. Bill trudged, again, stirring dust with unheeding boots. As Kathleen came up behind him, Bill roared in surprise, echoes slipping through tunnels and caverns never made by man to echo in places they hadn't, yet, come into.

  • * *
"They say it was here from the beginning of Time, a Pool of Infinity,

the Sink of Eternity, hidden until the picks and axes gave it light."

They stood abreast in a line across the threshold just that wide, as

if made for six to stand so. Sadie had lost the need to tease, looking into it, looking at them. The boy knew. He'd felt it calling at the first sound of water dripping onto it's surface. Moonchild lived her name, in this moment, her face a shining reflection of an orb that had never seen this mirrored image of itself.

Sadie looked at each face, in turn, a quiet came upon her. She knew 

how to activate heightened senses. She did so, arms stretched out to the pool. "When the miners broke through they died. There was gas, they say. Others say they flung themselves into it, happily." Her voice was a shadow, dry leaves rustling without the nightwind. "Several hundred, they say, went below the silken surface."

She looked with slitted eyes at it. Water, white and silver with a 

reflective glow that, should the mountains open up, would shine forth as brightly as the sun. It's surface seemed grainy, as if the sands, alien seeming next the rough stone in the tunnels and smaller caverns, had just gone to liquid, a fluid glittering that gave the still water motion.

Ryan crossed the threshold first, stopping with a hand braced on 

the irregular stone wall to remove his shoes and socks. The others followed suit. "Well, Nature Boy," Ryan said in a subdued voice. "Here's you chance to run naked through a graveyard."

"Not tonight, Josephine. I have a headache."
"Several hundred?" Kathleen asked, a tiny voice barely heard.
"I don't think it's quite that hungry tonight." Sadie stepped to the

edge of the pool, daring, as she had on other occasions, to bend and touch a finger to the surface. Light spread in ripples from that touch, perhaps reflecting in tiny waves upon unseen veins of silver or precious stone threaded throughout the rock walls.

The surface flickered, gleamed in an undulating migration toward the

far wall. "'Tis the music of light, this pool." She said, stepping back to watch the transit.

"That's a good idea," Ryan commented. "Maestro?" He looked over his

shoulder at Dave, an eyebrow raised above a wistful face.

The tall young man seemed bent and stooped, clear eyes locked with

those of his friend. Angles of elbows came away from his sides, collecting his guitar, bringing it forward to be cradled in his hands. "Ryan?"

"Whatever you think." The pale yellow of his skin seemed tinged with

the tones of the pool.

"O.K, let's see if this bitch likes Rock and Roll."  His shoulders

squared. His spine went rigid. His fingers, long and thin, as was he, stiffened and poised, so, over the strings.

Sadie's hand flew to Dave's forearm. "Lightly, I would say," she 

begged. "Very lightly." Her eyes implored. She willed him reason, willed him put away the defiance which had come rising through his long frame. "Can this," she tapped softly on the body of the instrument, "possibly know something as archaic as Greensleeves?"

"Oh, yesss," whispered Moonchild. "Please, David?" All eyes looked to 

him, expectantly.

He 'tsked', the bent of an old man come back to his shoulders. He

stood, picking at the strings, finding, Sadie assumed, the proper wording or some such musical phrase. The sound which came, finally, from the hands and mind of the musician, the body of the instrument, filled the cavern with dappled moonlight and fresh growing flowers, a song of another time, another place.

Sadie backed against a wall and leaned there, steadying herself,

breathing in the sound. Her vision flared, as did the far wall of the cavern, the surface of the pool itself, leaping in glittering specters, welcoming the sound. Kathleen and Moonchild gave voice, the first a sweet soprano, the latter a complementing alto. She wondered how many times the two had sung together, and to what ends.

Nature Boy had spread his legs to stand like an ancient guard over 

the two, hands locked behind his back. She saw him, thus, a few years older, a sterner face, doing he same.

Ryan sat in the sand, knees bent, arms and head propped atop them, 

his toes inching toward the surface of the pool. Sadie joined in the song, wordless sounds following the tune when memory failed, a quavering soprano. All watched Dave, watched his hands, his fingers plucking at the strings.

The girls swayed with the rhythm, a gentle nightwind, forgetting 

the trampling of little feet upon porches a few miles away, squealing pleas for candies a silly affair of children. Sadie's eyes closed. Behind lowered lids Ryan's face, a moonstone reflection, wavered The imperceptible sibilance of a passage washed over her in turbulent breakers. The singer's voices crested, peaking on notes she had never been able to reach, falling as the tide into the endless sea. A moment of silence, a last reverberation within the cavern, a hush of people at peace, an then the scream. Her eyes opened.

It was Kathleen, aware, yet unaware, as tears rolled down Moonchild's

face. A sharp and angry glance her way from Nature Boy,the cold line of a jaw that would not quiver from David

"He was dying, Kath," Dave said, tired resignation shallowly inflected. "He was hurting."

"Your All Hallows ghost story," Sadie said, pointing at the center of

the pool.

Ryan's face, or the reflection, looked back at them, superimposed on 

several hundred unknown reflections, treble the size of the others, fresh, smiling softly, the center of a widening circle of ripples.

"He has chosen to go through The Interface," she continued.
                            #  #  #

Copyright 1994 Gay Bost


Gay is a Clinical Lab Tech with experience in Veterinary medicine. From NORTHERN California, she's resided in S.E. Missouri with her husband and an aggressive 6 year old boy, since 1974. Installed her first modem the summer of '92 and has been exploring new worlds since. Her first publication, a short horror story, came when she was 17 years old. The success was so overwhelming she called an end to her writing days and went in search of herself. She's still looking. Find Gay's great stories in the best Electronic Magazines.

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