Dexter Poindexter: Combat Etymologist
A. A. Roberts
Dexter Poindexter was not a but the MOST renowned etymologist in the world. Be forewarned that this particular branch of study is not to be confused with entomology. You would be sure to draw Dexter’s ire by confusing the two, and he was known to respond with, “I’m not a bloody bug hunter!” Etymology, you see, is the study of words.
Dexter loved words. He loved the way they felt rolling off his tongue or dancing around in his mind. He loved their poise, their innate beauty, their ability to elicit magnificence or horror, pleasure or pain, any emotion, any illusion, and of course, any story.
Dexter was a college professor and was thus tasked with teaching ten classes a week in cavernous classrooms, which believe it or not, were filled with students. In this age of Ipods, Ipads, Laptops, Smart phones, 3D-DVDs and so on, one would think the dry subject of word history would be less than stimulating. Not with Dexter teaching.
“Words (!)… my fine young friends have power (!)… and if you do not believe that, I’ll suggest an interesting experiment. Go downtown to a packed movie theater and at the climax of said event scream FIRE! Not only will you see a couple hundred hysterical human beings flee your very presence, but you will almost instantaneously, and not of your own accord, be whisked away to the nearest jail!”
This, of course, always elicited a guffaw from the freshman class and was demonstrative (an interesting word which originates circa 1374, from the Latin root demonstrationem, from demonstrare, from de- "entirely" + monstrare "to point out, show," from monstrum "divine omen, wonder”) of how Dexter turned what could be a dreary subject into the stuff of popular entertainment.
It might also be pointed out that his class was filled with a fair number of attractive young ladies who, despite Dexter’s inability to foster anything that approached fashion sense, were drawn to his natural good looks and well hewn muscular body.
On the surface, Dexter’s physical attributes versus his vocation might seem to be a contradiction in terms, but his well built frame was owed to the fact that he was not a world renowned martial artist but surely a world class one. This in turn was due to the poor choice of forename given him by his father (the entire family was stuck with the surname).
For the first few years of his life everyone thought the sobriquet Dexter Poindexter was unbearably cute. That was until he began to attend public school where he became everyone’s chew toy. Even the geeks beat him up! Dexter’s father may have been clueless when it came to naming his son, but he would be damned if he was going to let the boy grow up afraid of leaving the house. Thus, he enrolled him in Master Chuck Graham’s School of American Tae Kwon Do, and over the years Dexter Poindexter went from a name to be ridiculed to one that inspired respect.
It was during these formative years that Dexter developed his passion for words. That passion could be traced back to one singular event...
Mr. Poindexter had made it a family tradition each summer to trek off to the wilderness of Maine. There, on a rather large pond named Thomas, in a quaint little cottage, the Poindexter’s would spend two weeks wrapped in the warm embrace of nature sequestered away from the drudgery of career and day to day living.
One morning during his eighth summer ("hot season of the year," Old English. sumor, from Proto-Germanic), Dexter decided to cross the dirt road that wound around the lake and trek into the deep dark woods to do a little exploring as only an eight year old could do. This was to be high adventure! His parents were still asleep, and he would be on his own.
He packed a sensible breakfast, and the necessary adventuring equipment into an old canvas knapsack. Once fully equipped, he headed off to the woods with high spirits and even higher hopes of possibly spying a deer or maybe even a bear (from a distance of course!).
Being a bright young lad, he’d brought a white crayon with him to mark his way, and it wasn’t long before he was deep in the forest that surrounded Thomas pond.
One thing Dexter had not counted on was how quickly the woods could turn from a place of wonder and enchantment into the cradle of primeval fear. It was a subtle thing that happened over the course of a few hundred yards.
The trees closed tightly overhead and little of the morning sun broke through. The early birds held back their song except for the crows who seemed to mock him with their semi human sounding caw, caw, caw. The broken, moss covered limestone jutted out from the earth like jagged teeth. Thick brown vines, the circumference of his arm, fell from the branch entangled ceiling like the wispy strands of a monstrous witch’s hair. The forest began to close in on him.
He came into a small clearing of swampy ground covered with skunk cabbage. The suspicious sounds that came from the underbrush seemed to creep around him... circle him… watch him. He heard crashing through the woods behind him and spun in terror.
A man of medium height, dressed in a white jumpsuit of some strange material and wearing a sword strapped across his back broke through the underbrush and came straight at him. Dexter screamed. The man ignored his cries, and with one fluid movement grabbed him on the run, and threw him over one shoulder.
Dexter’s instinctive fear of being snatched up was nothing compared to his terror when he saw what was chasing the man in white. They ran on all fours like a gorilla but had no fur. Warty, slimy, greenish, grey skin covered immense frames sheathed in an impossible configuration of muscles. On their large egg shaped, reptilian heads, where a mouth should have been, there was none. A nest of tentacles writhed around a gnashing, serrated, bone white, razor sharp beak.
But it was their eyes that froze young Dexter’s heart. Multifaceted constructs of thirteen, crimson orbs the size of small grapes stared out from underneath large leathery lids. Each had its own pupil and every one stared at Dexter with a black hatred that he felt down to his very soul.
Dexter’s screams ceased, realization replaced fear, and he yelled to his bipedal beast of burden, “RUN FASTER WHITE MAN!!!!”
After a few seconds of crashing through the woods, they broke through to a small grassy clearing of knee high grass. The man in white ran to the center of the clearing and put Dexter on the ground.
The monsters followed them into the clearing, and formed a circle around them. The creatures slowly stalked man and boy in a counter-clockwise circle, hissing and gnashing their beaks all the while.
Dexter looked up at his saviour who smiled back down at him, “Don’t worry about it kid. I’ve fought much worse than this.”
He stood just below six feet and was of medium build. Despite his bulky, loose fitting jumpsuit, one could tell there was a frame under there covered with muscle born of many battles. His smooth good looks, dark hair and smiling eyes all hinted at a wry sense of humor.
The man in white reached into a pocket sewn into the upper arm of his suit and pulled out a cigar and a lighter. He bit off the end of the cigar, spit it out, lit it and took a long cool drag from the aromatic tobacco.
Dexter eyed the creatures circling them and wondered if this was really the time for a smoke. “My mom says smoking is bad for you.”
“You’re mom’s a smart woman. She’s right. Smoking is bad… for humans.”
One of the creatures screamed a cry that sounded somewhere between a baby’s scream of terror and a dying dog’s cry of pain. Dexter yelped and jumped backwards into the man in white.
“Pretty ugly, aren’t they kid?”
Dexter nodded vigorously.
“They’re the 13 sons of Asag, a minor but butt ugly Sumerian demon. They were supposed to be removed back during the Great Purge, but seeing as they’re shape shifting pieces of shit, they slipped away… excuse my Sumerian.”
Dexter began to shake uncontrollably. The glare of the demon sons washed him with fear. The man in white put a gentle hand on his shoulder and the fear was cleansed away by the glow of the man’s personal power. Dexter had never felt anything like this before.
“Don’t be afraid kid. You and I are the only two leaving this clearing. You see, normally these pricks are pretty much untouchable. That thick hide of theirs will turn even old DustMaker here,” he jerked a thumb back over his shoulder to indicate his sword, “But I’ve been researching a word of power for the past month that’s going to take care of that situation…”
Obviously having heard and understood what the man in white had just said the sons of Asag stopped circling and began to back away
The man in white smiled, “That’s right boys. Time for the light show.”
Dexter watched in awe as the man weaved a set of gestures in the air. The tip of his cigar glowed from the effort and he finished with palms facing down and next to his hips. The demonkin started to flee, but the man screamed the word of power, and Dexter covered his ears in pain.
The word rocked the heavens, and a deep bass boom exploded from the ground below. The sons of Asag screamed in pain as bolts of crystal blue energy exploded up from the ground and coursed through their writhing bodies. It was done in a second.
The man smiled as the demon’s sons picked themselves up off the ground. The thirteen turned back to face their enemy and hissed in absolute rage at their tormentor.
“You like Hendrix kid?”
Dexter had no idea what the man was talking about, but nodded yes anyway.
“Me too,” he replied and snapped his fingers. The wail of Jimmy Hendrix’s guitar echoed about the clearing. Dexter recognized the song from the radio. It seemed to originate from all around them as if by magic… well it was magic.
The man in white slid DustMaker from its scabbard, “I like a little theme music when I work. Ok, I need you to watch my back boy. Any time you see one of them try to jump me from behind I want you to scream “attack” as loud as you can.”
“Good man… Alright, let’s have a little fun.”
“Alright, now listen, baby. You don't care for me, I don'-a care about that.”
Dexter watched in awe as the man danced a martial ballet that looked to be humanly impossible. To that point in his life he thought Master Charles Graham was the fastest and most dangerous man alive. This man in white could have eaten him up.
“Gotta new fool, ha! I like it like that. I have only one burning desire.”
He leapt with the grace of a gazelle, but with the power of a lion. Demonkin split into bloody green bits, tentacles flew in the air, limbs parted from their owners and the man in white danced on.
“Let me stand next to your fire.”
The demonkin tried to surround the man but he slid out from under their claws to line them up single file. Dustmaker kissed them from ear to ear, brain to beak, tail to torso.
“I have only one burning desire, Let me stand next to your fire.”
After a few minutes the song ended and only three remained. The man in white finally seemed out of breath. A smile creased his blood spattered face as he eyed the two in front of him.
“ATTACK!!!!!!” Dexter screamed as a crafty one came from behind. The man spun with DustMaker in a wide arc cleaving the creatures in two from head to torso. Another son of Asag crashed into him from behind, and the man went down under its bulk.
He spun on the ground in one fluid movement as the demon attempted to bring its razor sharp beak to bear. The white man tucked his legs under the creature, and kicked out in fury. The creature sailed across the clearing, and was impaled on a limb jutting from a fallen tree. It screamed, twitched spasmodically and then was still.
The Man in white stood to appraise his handiwork, “Look at that. Demon on a stick. Betcha it tastes like chicken.” The man looked at Dexter and smiled, “Pretty damn impressive, huh kid?”
Dexter nodded vigorously, and the man made his way over to him, “Thanks kid. You did an awesome job watching my back.”
“Who are you?”
The man held out his hand in response to Dexter’s query and the boy took it, “Gabriel. What’s your name?”
“Well that’s kind of apropos, don’t you think?
Being a little dazed by the whole affair Dexter wasn’t entirely sure what he was talking about, but nodded yes anyway. The man in white came over to him and knelt.
“Now here’s the deal kid. No one can know what happened here today. I’m supposed to blank you… erase your memory, but to be perfectly honest I’m too tired and out of magic. You heard that word of power?”
Dexter nodded again.
“That’s not the most powerful word. Do you know what the most powerful word is?”
Dexter shook his head no.
“Your word of honor. I want you to give me your word of honor that you’ll never tell anyone what you saw here today.”
Dexter placed his hand over his heart, “I give you my word of honor.”
Gabriel smiled and rose, “Alright then. Let’s get you home. I think we’re good for now.”
“There are only twelve bodies,” Dexter pointed out, “You said there were 13 sons of Asag.”
“I know. We’re missing one. No problem… We’ll get him eventually… more importantly… have you seen my cigar?”
Dexter pointed and Gabriel spun to attend to a smoking patch of grass halfway across the field. While Gabriel was otherwise engaged, Dexter noticed the sun glint off something in one of the dead demons claws. Dexter went over to inspect the beast and discovered it was holding a knife with a black blade made of a kind of rock he’d never seen before. It was set in a golden hilt that was sculpted to look like serpents entangled with each other ending in a ferocious looking head for a pommel.
Dexter threw the knife in his knapsack and turned to find his new friend stamping out a grass fire. Once the fire was out he took a long drag off his cigar, pointed a finger at Dexter and said with a smile, “You see kid… only you can prevent forest fires.”
Over the course of the years on the journey into adulthood Dexter convinced himself that most of that adventure had been a dream. This was the only way he could rationalize what had happened to him in a world that had no room for magic or demons. To say the least, the entire affair had left him conflicted right through to his adult life… dream or reality?
Yet the word of power he’d heard haunted him. The word Gabriel shouted was so familiar that it ate at him that he could not remember it. Because of this and soon after that battle he began eating up words, consuming dictionaries, encyclopedias and ultimately etymological tomes. Sadly, he could never tell anyone why he was so passionate about this issue for he would never break his promise to Gabriel… even though he wasn’t even sure if he was real or not.
During his studies Dexter stumbled upon an ancient Egyptian adage “He who reveals (circa 1375, from old French reveler, 14th century, from Latin revelare "reveal, uncover, disclose," lit. "unveil," from re- "opposite of" + velare "to cover, veil," from velum "a veil") the truth reveals the word of God.” This only gave him further fire and inspired a penchant for world travel in the course of his studies.
Because of his single minded pursuits Dexter ultimately became entangled in many unbelievable adventures, but it is the one that brought him back to the woods of Maine thirty years later that is most relavent.
Shaukat Khan was the stereotype for Jihadis and Al-Qaeda. He was a Pakistani born to a poor family in the Dir district and was swept up into the struggle at the vulnerable age of 13. His family held no particular hatred for the West but they sent their son to a Madrassah because it was free. Unbeknownst to them their son was taught a creed of hatred for the infidel by the fanatics there.
Unfortunately, Shaukat was predisposed to this kind of hatred. Had he been born in the west he would have been a Klansman. In Germany he would have been a Nazi. The boy was a bad seed and lived for one thing only… evil. This is what drew his “mentor” to him.
Shaukat’s mentor came to him in the middle of the night on a cold wind. He explained that he was the boy’s guardian angel and that he would teach him how to be cunning and how to bring the vengeance of Islam down upon the heads of all of Shaukat’s enemies. Shaukat’s only requirement was that he keep the existence of his mentor secret. Shaukat was good at keeping secrets.
Shaukat excelled at the Madrassah and was so successful that he gained entrance into Hajvery University in Lahore where he studied English and computer science. He graduated with honors and, unbeknownst to any authorities, he traveled to Afghanistan to undertake an entirely different course of study with Al-Qaeda. He was of the opinion that summer camp had never been more fun.
After his education in violence he slipped back into Pakistan where he was hired by a large information technology consulting firm. They shipped him off to the west, and he slipped into American society as a consultant working at a large insurance company in Hartford, Connecticut. Once ensconced in the heart of corporate America he watched and waited…
Godfrey of Clarmont came late to the First Crusade in 1098, primarily because he got lost. He’d set off with his band of twenty knights from his small barony in the south of France with high hopes and little experience. It wasn’t until the end of that year that he actually made it to Constantinople due to several unplanned detours. How he lamented not having his wife along for directions.
To his credit, and despite rogues, bandits, Saracens, and the like he managed to make it to the deserts of Syria without losing a single man. That was until they ran into a Saracen lord named Malik and his fifty knights. Outnumbered more than two to one Godfrey’s men managed to represent themselves with no mean skill on the field of battle… but the outcome was inevitable.
In the end two of the enemy forced Godfrey to his knees in the sand before Malik and his eight remaining Saracen knights. His great helm had been removed and the Baron’s long blond hair and blue eyes confounded the Saracen lord.
“How can such fair men fight so viciously,” he thought to himself.
Malik pulled an ornate black obsidian blade mounted on a gold hilt from his waistband, “This knife was passed down to me by my father and his father before him. It is said to hold great power. I’m told it came from ancient Sumeria and once belonged to a king. They called it Portal, although I know not why. I have killed 49 men with this knife. You will be number 50 crusading dog.”
Godfrey bowed his weary head and clasped his hands in prayer. Malik smiled the predator’s smirk and advanced on the baron.
Malik looked down on his captive, “They say our God is the same. I find that hard to –“
Malik’s observation was cut short as Godfrey drove his clasped hands into the man’s groin. He swept back with two fists into the groins of both men holding him down thus folding them over. He grabbed their necks, yanked and flipped them down into the sand. He came up with a blade from his boots in either hand and drove it into their throats.
Malik fell back as the Baron jumped to his feet and snatched the swords of the two fallen Saracens.
“It would seem, Saracen, that our God prefers me this day!”
And with that Godfrey wove a web of steel with the two Saracen swords that over the course of the next five minutes eviscerated his temporary captors. Malik was the last to die and in Godfrey’s opinion, the easiest to kill.
Before he mounted his horse and left the carnage, he saw the black blade named “Portal” glint in the sun and he took it as a souvenir of the day. He would carry it with him to Jerusalem and eventually all the way back to France where he arrived three years later than anticipated due to his total lack of navigational ability. He was very happy to see his wife when he finally got home and never went on another excursion without her.
Bartholomew James Baxter was Dexter’s best friend and associate. They met early on when Dexter first started his position at the university. Bart was a professor of ancient religions and mythology, and the two met when Dexter tapped him as a resource for his pursuit of the word.
They hit it off right away since both shared a passion for the martial arts and physical fitness. Of course both were intellectuals of note and they spent many a night over too many beers discussing man, myth and religion.
It was no surprise then, when Dexter invited Bart to come with him on a fishing expedition to Maine to the very same cabin he stayed in as a youth.
“I really appreciate your tipping me off to Professor Almont, Bart. It’s so hard to find any true authorities on ancient Sumeria.”
smiled, “How could I not tell you with this deep dark secret of yours?”
Dexter stowed their equipment into the back of a rented minivan, “I’m so mysterious aren’t I? What luck that he’s staying so close to my parents’ cottage. You said he was an ex-curator at the Louvre?”
“That’s what our departmental newsletter said. Turns out he’s visiting with a friend of mine from the University of Maine. Don’t worry. I’ve made all the arrangements. You’ll get to interview your Sumerian specialist”
Dexter slammed the rear hatch shut and exclaimed, “All packed up and ready for adventure!”
Bartholomew shed a weak grin, “Not too much adventure… it upsets my stomach.”
Dexter laughed at that and jumped into the driver’s side of the minivan. Bartholomew eased himself into the passenger seat and they were off to the woods of Maine.
It had been a year since 9/11 and Shaukat chaffed at the fact that he had not been able to participate in this jihad against the great Satan. He became even more sullen than usual, but his mentor flatly forbade him to take any action.
He lay down on his lumpy mattress in a cheap apartment in the north end of Hartford. He turned out the light and scowled at the ceiling.
Shaukat felt his presence before seeing the shadow in the night. It was like a wash of static energy that electrified every pore on his slight, dark body. Shaukat pulled himself up to his knees and touched his head to the mattress he knelt upon.
“Yes, my lord?”
The voice of the shadow was oily, but powerful… a bass rumble of portent and dark storms, “It is time my beloved son… time for you to take action against the infidel.”
Shaukat snapped up bearing a grin that defined happiness, “Truly, my lord! I may strike now!?”
A notebook landed in front of the young man who picked it up like some sacred tome, “No, not now, but soon. Your instructions are in there. Take care to follow them explicitly. They may seem strange to you, but they ensure not only extreme carnage, but that the souls of your enemies will rot in hell. You will be remembered forever for this…”
Tears rolled down Shaukat’s face, “Oh my lord, you are too good to me. How can I ever repay you?”
“Just follow the plan and execute it flawlessly. That will be payment enough.”
A breath of wind whispered through the room, and the shadow was gone. Shaukat stroked the cover of the notebook like a lover’s fair skin. He opened it carefully, and consumed it over the course of the next evening memorizing every word.
Henri Clarmont was a peaceful man. He desired (circa1230, from old French desirer, from Latin desiderare "long for, wish for," original sense perhaps "await what the stars will bring," from the phrase de sidere "from the stars,") nothing more than to bang out his horseshoes and tend to the pigs, the chickens, one cow for milking and the small garden behind his house. His wife had died several years earlier of pneumonia which left him alone in the world, but content never-the-less. Jacqueline the cow, it turned out, was better company.
His father, when he was still alive, used to admonish Henri about his simple pleasures regaling him with tales of his ancestors’ storied past. Henri would then point out that despite a lineage of royal note they barely had two francs to rub together. The old man would go off grumbling and Henri would return to his blacksmithing which provided at least two francs and then some.
Then the Germans came. Like the rest of his countrymen he wept when Paris fell and the goose-stepping Nazi murderers marched into the City of Light. Petain set up his Vichy government which brought only the illusion of security. The Germans did as they wanted so it was no small amount of fear that gripped Henri when he heard the bang at the door of his modest cottage.
“Henri Clairmont!!! Open up in the name of the German High Command!”
Henri cringed in horror at the tone of that voice and fell to the floor in abject terror when they kicked the door in. They flooded into his home, and began to ransack it like a pack of berserker thieves.
“Monsieur! Monsieur! I have done nothing! I am a loyal citizen!”
The Nazi Col. sneered what approximated a smile, “You stand accused of aiding the partisans.”
“Non, monsieur! Non! I am but a humble blacksmith! I am not a violent man!”
“Here it is, Arag.” One of the German lieutenants pulled a knife out of an old dusty chest placed up against one wall. He held up the artifact and the obsidian blade set in a hilt of golden serpents glinted against the light that spilled in from the broken door. Arag took it from his comrade and almost lovingly caressed it.
“It has been in my family for generations! It is only a bauble from the crusades! What has this to do with the partisans? Take it if you want it, just don’t hurt me.”
“It is far more then a bauble, Henri. It is our escape and now I give you yours,” With this the Col drove the blade into the poor Frenchman’s heart. Had Henri been of such a mind he would have counted thirteen Germans that invaded his home that day.
Gabriel crashed through the roof of the lake cottage in a spray of roofing, plywood and insulation. He fell several feet to land straddling the prone form of a thirteen-year-old girl. She lay tied up and gagged on a circular table surround by thirteen men dressed in long black robes. Just seconds before one of them had held a knife named Portal over her heart.
“Hi boys. Mind if I join the party?” With this Gabriel grabbed the girl by the ropes that encircled her waist and threw her up through the hole in the roof he’d just made. He heard her bounce once… twice… three times… and fall over the rear eaves. He cringed.
“Actually I was hoping she’d stay on the roof,” he said to himself.
The man holding the knife screamed in rage at Gabriel, “What is your issue!!! We were trying to leave this world! We’ve been trying for millennia, and every time we get close you Administration screw heads stop us! Do you want us to leave or not?!!”
“I guess it’s the whole human sacrifice thing.”
“What’s a couple of mortals?! You’ve ruined everything!!! Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a virgin these days!?”
“My heart bleeds for you.”
“Oh it will, Archangel, it will. You’re going back to the Administration the hard way… In pieces!!!!”
Arag took a swipe at Gabriel’s shins with his obsidian blade and the archangel leapt over the strike, drawing his own blade at the same time. The other twelve sons of Asag screamed in rage and shed their human form. While they mutated Gabriel took the opportunity to leap over Arag and crash out the cottage door. He ran across the street into the woods.
He looked back to see his enemies pour out of the cottage and give chase. He also saw something they didn’t see… a badly bruised, somewhat bound, thirteen year old girl hobbling down the street. His pitching arm wasn’t that bad after all.
Shaukat finished the words and the last inscription with a flourish. His mentor had written in his notes that this was Sumerian nomenclature (1610, "a name," from French nomenclature, from Latin nomenclatura "calling of names," from nomenclator "namer," from nomen "name" + calator "caller, crier," from calare "call out"”), but he had no idea what it meant.
Shaukat took another quick look around but no one was there. He hung suspended by a harness under the Buckley Bridge which spanned the Connecticut River into Hartford from East Hartford.
Over the course of the past four nights he had fixed 500 pounds of ANFO to the undercarriage of the center piling. This was done at two during a moonless black night. He would not make the same mistakes as some of his fellow, but less talented Jihadis. He had No intention of being caught.
He admired the ancient symbols his mentor had taught him to inscribe on the detonator. It was a wireless affair of his own design and could only be ignited with an encoded signal. When he removed his night vision gear he fancied that the symbols glowed of their own accord. This was silly, of course, since he had only used goat’s blood as prescribed in his master’s book.
“A trick of the goggles,” he thought.
He lowered himself down to his raft and was soon off into the night. He felt a great sense of accomplishment. This night had been the culmination of two years worth of work. This was the last of 13 bombs Shaukat had placed across the city. From the capital building, to Mark Twain’s homestead and the bridge he had just left, death and destruction would rain down on the infidel like all the fires of hell.
He would send out his signal from the top of the tower building at the Hartford Insurance Group where he now worked. He would glory in his victory from a vantage that would allow him to watch the entire spectacle. All he needed now was the word from his mentor.
Dexter joined his friend out on the screened in porch of the cottage and settled into the seat next to him. A breathtaking view of Thomas Pond stretched out before them with the forlorn cry of a loon as counterpoint to this scene of natural splendor.
“It’s hard to believe it’s a pond. In Connecticut this would be a lake,” Bartholomew pointed out.
“A rose by any other name…” Dexter responded.
“I can only imagine the idyllic days of your youth spent at this glorious place… carefree… dreamlike.”
Dexter frowned, “Interesting choice of words. There was one summer I seem to have confused with a dream.”
Bartholomew grinned, “Let me guess. It was the summer you lost your virginity.”
“Oh please, Bartholomew, don’t be so adolescent. No it was something much more stranger than that. There was a man in the woods being chased by these things…”
Bartholomew’s expression changed from prankster to professorial, “Things? Like bears or wolves.”
Dexter squirmed in his chair, “I can’t tell you any more than that. I gave my word.”
“To the man being chased?”
“Who may have been a dream.”
Dexter shifted uncomfortably, “I don’t know… maybe… it all seemed so real.”
“You obviously had some kind of interaction with this man. What did he give you in return for your word?”
“He didn’t give me anything. Well, he probably saved my… wait!” Dexter leapt out of his seat.
“What is it Dexter?”
“I had almost forgotten! I took something from one of the dead beasts. A knife! I hid it as a child. It was my own special secret. Come on!”
Dexter rushed back into the house from the porch and a bemused Bartholomew followed. He found Dexter in his childhood bedroom. Dexter was moving an old desk out of one corner of the room. Once out of the way he got his fingers behind the baseboard where wall met floor. He worried the board loose and pulled it away from the wall. There was a cavity in the corner. Dexter reached in, and pulled out the shiny object that was hidden there.
Dexter held up the blade called Portal, and Bartholomew’s eyes went wide.
“Not so much a dream after all! May I see it?”
Dexter handed the blade over to his friend. He put the room back together while Bart marveled at the intricate craftsmanship.
“It’s probably worth a fortune, Dexter. The handle is solid gold. It’s definitely Sumerian. I’m not nearly the expert as my friend’s friend is, but this cuneiform script here means door or portal.”
Dexter turned to address Bartholomew after pushing the desk back into place, “We should bring it to this professor tonight. Maybe he knows what it is.”
Bartholomew handed the blade back to Dexter, “Splendid idea. You are always full of surprises aren’t you Dexter?”
Dexter chuckled, “Let’s just hope it’s the good kind. Of course now I’m more confused than before. I spent my whole life believing my little adventure was the product of a fertile mind. Now I find evidence to the contrary.”
Dexter threw the knife on the bed and returned to the porch with his friend. Dexter hoped against hope that Bartholomew’s connection could tell him about the knife and that is (Old English is, Proto-Indo-European *es-ti) all it really was… just a knife
Shaukat knelt on his mattress head bowed down before his mentor.
The shadow figure smiled down upon his student and purred, “Tonight is the night, my son. Tonight you go to paradise.”
Tears rolled down Shaukat’s face, “How can I ever thank you my master? I have waited so long. I have worked so hard.”
“Just follow the directions exactly. You must not detonate the bombs until you have performed the ritual and I have given you the word.”
“Yes my master.”
“Tonight Shaukat, tonight, won’t be just any night…”
Dexter brought the minivan to a stop in front of a dilapidated, broken down cottage only half a mile from where he and Bartholomew were staying. Firelight played through the cracks of the boarded up windows.
“Are you sure this is the right place, Bartholomew? It looks as though it hasn’t been used in years.”
Bartholomew double checked the paper with his directions scrawled on it, “No question. This is very strange… well he is French.”
Dexter looked askew at his friend and they both chuckled. He reached into the backseat and grabbed the artifact they hoped to identify. A full moon lit their way up the overgrown path to the weather-beaten door and Dexter knocked. It was a muffled, spongy sound, but audible. No one answered.
“You’re sure, Bart?”
“He said to go in if he didn’t answer. The old fellow must be hard of hearing.”
Dexter turned the knob and pushed the door open. The interior was mostly comprised of one large room. Overhead, in the center of the room, a hole almost five feet in diameter lay open to the night sky. Underneath was a large round table covered with an inch of moss, mold and mildew. Vegetation had sprung up in some corners of the room and the only testament to recent occupation were the torches set in the walls.
“This doesn’t see right, Bart, unless your friend really likes roughing it.”
“Dex! Look!” Bartholomew pointed to one end of the room as the air began to shimmer and coalesce.
The two men approached the spot hesitantly and watched in wonder as a perfect seven by three foot rectangle formed in the air. A scene formed on what appeared to be a rooftop in a city. A man knelt before them in the image mumbling strange words.
The door behind the two men slammed shut causing them to jump. Bartholomew ran to the door and began yanking it in terror.
“It won’t open, Dex!!!! It won’t open!”
“Calm down, Bart! We’ll find another way out.”
“No! No! We can’t! You’re trapped!”
Bartholomew turned back to his friend bearing an evil grin, “Noooooo… you’re trapped… old friend.”
Willy ran up Dexter’s spine and the reluctant protagonist (1671, "principal character in a story, drama, etc.," from Greek. protagonistes "actor who plays the chief or first part,") hesitantly asked his friend, “What are you talking about, Bart?”
“Actually the name’s Arag. We first met thirty years ago this very day although I was wearing a very different suit.”
Dexter stumbled back in a mixture of terror and realization, “You’re the last of those demons! The ones that chased Gabriel.”
Arag scowled, “That blasted Archangel is a cosmic pain in the ass! Do you have any idea how long it took me and my brothers to track down that artifact?!”
Bartholomew pointed at the blade clutched in Dexter’s right hand, “Centuries! We finally get it, wait for the bloody stars to align, grab ourselves a human sacrifice and who comes crashing through the roof in this very room!?”
“Archangel?” Dexter replied incredulously.
“Punk is more like it! The Administration decreed no supernatural entities on this world! Fine! We wanted to leave, all my brothers and me, but would they let us leave through the back door? Noooooooooooooo.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about Bart… Arag… whatever your name is.”
“You mortals are so oblivious to the true nature of the universe. It’s embarrassing.”
Dexter jerked his thumb back at the floating rectangle behind him, “What’s this for?”
Arag smiled, “That’s my own special genius. Since Gabriel blew my only window to escape this world thirty years ago I had to come up with my own ritual to leave this cursed world. That door leads to Hartford.”
“You want to go to Hartford? Why no just take a bus? In fact why don’t you just open a door like this one to leave our world?”
Arag frowned in disgust, “Opening a door from one point to another on the same world is child’s play. Opening a door between planes requires more effort.”
“So what’s this one to Hartford for?”
Arag’s smile returned, “It’s a funnel. That young man on the other side is my little puppet. He’s set up thirteen bombs around the city and when they go off hundreds of lives will be taken. Those will provide the soul energy I need to power up Portal. That would be the blade you’re holding. I saw you pick it up that day… how convinient eh?”
Dexter held the knife up, “This? What does it do?”
“I just told you it’s called Portal. What do you think it does dipshit? It opens up a door to wherever I wish to go. I’ve picked out a nice little plot in the shadowlands.”
“You’ve been dogging me my whole life, haven’t you?”
“I’ve been keeping tabs since I knew you had the artifact. It was just a matter of figuring out the right recipe… full moon, death and destruction and of course… human sacrifice.”
Dexter gripped the hilt of his weapon more tightly, “I’m not just going to lie down and die for you.”
Arag laughed out loud and began to shake, “Didn’t you learn anything from Gabriel? My tough magically delicious skin has grown back since that day all those years ago. Even Portal cannot wound me!”
Arag screamed in pain and pleasure as he mutated into his demonic form. Dexter watched in horror as the tentacles ripped out of his human face and a razor sharp beak clacked within that nest. His clothes shred off of him as his true bulk replaced the smaller human form.
Dexter dove to the other side of the round table so that it was between him and the son of Asag. He took a deep breath to drive away the terror clawing at his mind. All his life words had provided for him and he knew he needed one now more than ever. Gabriel had screamed it all those years ago and all he could remember was that it was a name (Old English nama, from Proto Germanic *namon from Proto-Indo-European *nomnm meaning "one's reputation" is from circa 1300).
“Of course!” Dexter exclaimed in a flash of childhood memory, “How could I be so stupid all these years!?”
Arag tilted his head to one side in bemusement and clacked his beak. He jumped onto the round table and stalked forward toward Dexter. Dexter backed away to the rear of the room. He pulled on his childhood memory to that day thirty years ago and began to weave the gestures he saw Gabriel make so long ago.
Arag was obviously confused by Dexter’s bizarre activity and realized too late what he was up to.
Dexter bellowed the word of power.
Arag screamed in agony and flipped on to his back as the pillars of heaven shook and lightening slammed up through the ground through his demonic form. He writhed in agony as his magical skin was made mortal.
Silence replaced the demons screams and Arag rolled over on all fours. He turned to face Dexter. The hate in those multifaceted eyes was undeniable. Dexter looked at his blade. He looked at the size of his opponent and decided that discretion was indeed the better part of valor. He ran across the room and leapt through the mystical door to Hartford.
Shaukat’s eyes went wide in amazement as the portal formed from the words he spoke. He was frozen with a mixture of wonder and terror as he looked into another room that floated a foot above the rooftop he stood on.
He watched two men walk into this other place. He watched them talk although he could not hear their words. He watched as one of them turned into a monster and then as the other called upon great power to smite the beast. Then he watched as the man came rushing toward the portal into him.
Dexter slammed into Shaukat and the two men went flying across the rooftop. Arag bound through the portal and screamed that demonic cry that would cause lesser men to fold up and die. Arag leapt on Dexter.
Dexter feinted left, but dove right slicing at Arag’s fore shins as he did so. The beast screamed in agony and stumbled past his enemy. The son of Asag spun, bleeding at the shins and radiating hate. He dove again on Dexter. Dexter fell to his back, drawing his knees up to his chest to keep the beast off him.
Shaukat had taken no chances this night and had brought a pair of 9mm handguns with him in case he was interrupted during his ritual. He never dreamed he’d be using them on a demon. He pulled the guns and emptied both clips into the back of the monster.
Arag screamed in agony and spun on his student. Blinded by rage the demon charged the would be terrorist. Shaukat threw his guns in the creature’s face and pedaled backward as the juggernaut came on. Arag crashed into his protégé realizing too late that they were at the edge of the rooftop.
Man and beast screamed all the way down to finish with a resounding… splat.
Dexter picked himself up and went over to the edge to see what crushed demon looked like. Arag burst into flame a few feet away from the still form of Shaukat.
“Pretty damned impressive...”
Dexter turned and went over to what he expected was the control device for the thirteen bombs scattered around the city. He decided to leave it alone since he didn’t see any timers and didn’t want to be responsible for blowing up Hartford.
He stepped back through the Portal and into the cottage in Maine where all this had started so long ago.
The news was abuzz the next day about an attempted terrorist attack on the Jihadi to fall off the building and thus never get to detonate the charges. There was a mysterious burn spot near him, but other than that, as far as the authorities were concerned, there were no loose ends. They had found Shaukat’s notebook, and it took them a few days to entirely dismantle all of the bombs he had constructed.
The portal between Maine and Hartford disappeared that night with the full moon’s setting. Dexter left an anonymous tip to the police from a payphone in Portland and then headed home. Before doing so he returned a knife called portal into its secret hiding place.
A few weeks later the police came knocking to ask him a few questions about the disappearance of his friend, but Dexter was politely unhelpful. The truth he figured was more trouble then it was worth.
Dexter returned to teaching and study, but he now possessed a profound sense of fulfillment. He had discovered the word he’d been searching for his entire life and it turned out to be one held dear to him all the time. He, above all mortals, had come to learn that words truly did hold power and he had one he could call his very own.
Author’s Note: If you’re like my wife you’re probably burning to know what Dexter’s word of power was. I’ve left multiple clues throughout the story. If you string all of the words that are referenced etymologically together you will get a very easy riddle that spells it out. If you would still like confirmation of your word sleuthing please visit the page on the internet for my novel “The Sorcerer’s Song and the Cat’s Meow” at Amazon.com. Look for a review by me and there you will find the word.