Return To Manitou Island: Part 54
The Lair Of The Liar
CHARMIAN STARED UP at the gigantic manitou who very nearly filled the large cave she and Mani stood in, her eyes as wide as saucers. She'd never seen anything so huge, except perhaps an Uroona, and even they weren't this massive. She had to imagine that if Gitchi Manitou himself looked like anything, then this was it.
The giant manitou's nostrils flared and his blue eyes narrowed. Charmian swallowed and struggled to find her voice before he could speak again.
"I'm...I'm looking for...G-Gl-Glooskap," she stammered in a tiny voice.
The manitou snorted again, the blast making her cringe. "SPEAK UP!"
"I'm l-looking for G-Glooskap!!" Charmian practically shrilled, her voice cracking with fear.
"WHAT BUSINESS HAVE YOU WITH GLOOSKAP?"
"G-Geezhigo-Quae sent me!!" Charmian couldn't help it; she put her arms over her head. "She t-told me to come find him!!"
"GEEZHIGO-QUAE?" She started at a change in the manitou's voice, and lifted her head. Immediately his shape dissolved into a huge mass of sparkles which started drifting toward the floor, making the slight tinkling sounds of bells as they fell. She watched as they drew in toward each other, taking shape again, albeit a much smaller one this time; they swirled and flew up into the air and started coalescing, and she could make out a vague human form before her. She lowered her arms and she and Mani stared at the odd glowing shape in curiosity until the sparkles puffed loose, as if blown off by a breeze, and evaporated, and Charmian found herself staring at...a middle-aged native man in a business suit.
Both Charmian and Mani blinked. The man in the business suit simply dusted himself off and checked his tie. Charmian rubbed at her head in confusion.
"Are..." She faltered when he looked up at her again. "Are...you Glooskap?"
"The one and only," the businessman said, now straightening his cuffs. Charmian looked him up and down and her brow furrowed.
"Are you sure...?"
"What, you don't believe me?" He looked at himself as if he had a stain on his tie. "Is it the suit? I thought you might feel more at ease if I looked like one of your kind. Not working?"
Charmian rubbed her head again. "Not really..."
He shrugged with a "What can you do?" look. "Well, then, how about this..." The sparkles reappeared, surrounding him in a small swirling wind and then blowing away again. Now instead of a middle-aged native man in a business suit, a middle-aged native man dressed in deerskin and fur and feathers stood before her, once more dusting himself off. Charmian perked up immediately.
He gestured at his outfit. "That any better?"
Charmian nodded, feeling relieved for some reason. "A whole lot." He finished dusting a few stray sparkles from his head and she looked him over again. "So, you're really Glooskap?"
"Well, I don't know how I can make it any more believable, unless you want me to start summoning spirits or creating mountains out of grains of sand or something..." He waved dismissively. "And all that gets old after a while. Trust me, it's impressive the first time, then it's, 'What else can you do?' and soon they'll be wanting me to make Niagara Falls disappear or something..."
Charmian frowned. "You know about Niagara Falls?"
He gave her a look. "What, do you think I grew up in a cave?" He waved again at her confused look. "I'm kidding! It's a joke. Cave? Grow up...?" He spread out his arms to indicate the cavern they stood in, then waved once more. "Eh, you young people don't get good humor, wasting your brains on that TV and stuff..."
Charmian glanced at Mani to make sure he was seeing the same thing she was seeing, then approached the man. "If you're Glooskap, then how come you know about TV and Niagara Falls and all that? It doesn't seem like the real Glooskap would know any of that stuff..."
"What, just because I'm this big powerful manitou I'm supposed to be stupid?" He gestured at the cave ceiling. "I know what goes on out there! I can't always say I like it, but I keep up. So the big scary manitou thing didn't convince you, did it? That usually works."
Charmian frowned. "Any manitou can do that."
His mouth twitched. "Eh, what did I say about your generation, completely jaded..." A scurrying sound came from one of the side caves and he turned his head. "Well, hold on, how about this." Marten came scrambling into the room with a huge smile on his face and launched himself at the man, climbing up onto his shoulder.
"Glooskap! Glooskap! These're the people I told you about." He looked over at Charmian and Mani. "Have you paid your respects to Glooskap?"
Charmian's face screwed up. "You are Glooskap?" He sounded more like he should be a comedian rather than a hero.
Marten's jaw dropped. "You don't BELIEVE me?" He hopped down to the floor. "Sure everybody calls him the Liar, but that doesn't mean I'm a liar, and that doesn't really mean he is, either! You said you wanted to meet Glooskap, well, here he is..."
"Liar--?" That made Charmian feel even more ill at ease, and she looked up at Glooskap--or whoever--a suspicious look coming over her face. "How come people call you the Liar?"
Another wave. "Ah, that's just what my name means..."
"But how come people call you that unless it means something?"
"Well, if you're going to be so snoopy about it, I got kind of bored of always doing all these impressive things--'Glooskap, do this, Glooskap, do that'--so I told everybody I'd be back someday and then I left. And just because I haven't gone back yet, everybody just assumes I was lying. When all people really need to do is learn some PATIENCE!" This last word he yelled at the cave ceiling itself, as if to get the attention of the people he was talking about, and the cavern walls shook. Charmian braced herself against Mani and waited for the trembling to subside before speaking again.
"So just because you haven't come back yet, people think you're a liar? How long have you been gone, anyway?"
"Oh, several hundred years."
"Hundred years?" Charmian gawked. "What time IS this, then?" She glared at Marten. "I wanted a shortcut, not a time machine!"
Yet another dismissive wave; Glooskap--or whoever he was--seemed to like the gesture. "Eh, don't worry about it. This cave isn't really in any one time period; it kind of travels around. Quantum physics and stuff--hard to explain. It's a whole lot easier and more impressive to just call it 'magic' or something."
Something sparked in Charmian's head and she stood upright. "You mean--like the Island?" she blurted out.
He gave her a curious look. "Which island do you mean, in particular?"
"Manitou Island." She found herself growing excited now; if he knew about the odd time distortions of the Island, then he had to be Glooskap. Who else would know about such a thing?
"Oh, that place." He made a face. "I guess so, only humans aren't apt to want to move into a dingy old cave and start businesses and make fudge and such, so I much prefer it here."
Charmian's face lit up and she clasped her hands together. "You really ARE Glooskap, aren't you?" she exclaimed.
Marten's lip started sticking out and Glooskap rubbed at his head with a perplexed look. "What, do I have to drain the ocean to prove it? It just keeps getting harder and harder to convince you people..."
"Geezhigo-Quae sent me," Charmian went on. "She said I should try to find you!"
"Geezhigo-Quae!" Glooskap's face lit up now and he moved to stand beside her, putting his hand on her shoulder as if taking her into confidence. "It's been absolutely ages since I've heard from her! So tell me, how's the old girl doing, anyway? Getting out of that Tree at all?"
"'Old girl'...?" Charmian's enthusiasm dimmed and her brow furrowed again. "You know Geezhigo-Quae? Personally?"
"Of course! We used to be good pals back in the day...but she was a little too stuffy for my tastes...always hangs out in that Tree of hers, and takes everything so seriously. Trust me, you can't really live if you don't ever leave your Tree, just once."
"But--you live in a cave."
"At least I get out now and then!" He leaned toward her again. "But seriously, how is she? Hooked up with anyone yet? You'll be sure to tell her she can give me a call any time she likes, and I'll get her out of that Tree. Don't you people have a song that goes something like that? 'Get out of your Tree, get into my cave.'" He started chuckling.
Charmian's jaw would have dropped, had not her face already screwed up in every direction possible. She carefully removed Glooskap's hand from her shoulder. "She's not that kind of manitou!" she found herself protesting, and couldn't believe she'd even had to say such a thing. "Besides, I didn't come here to talk about Geezhigo-Quae--I came here to talk about something a lot more important..."
Glooskap shrugged indifferently. "Eh, there's plenty of other fish in the sea. Literally. I mean, I practically live in it." He laughed and gestured at the cave walls. "Fish? Sea...? Ocean...? Eh, your people watch too much TV."
Charmian made herself take a breath before trying again, Glooskap turning away toward the other side of the cave. "She said I should ask you about Malsum!"
Glooskap paused where he was, then turned to look at her over his shoulder. He frowned. Charmian stayed where she was and held his stare until he turned to face her again. He fingered one of the beads dangling from his outfit and his brow furrowed.
"Malsum...? It's been ages since I've heard about him..."
"Something's been happening on the Island," Charmian said, "and Geezhigo thought I should ask you if it had anything to do with Malsum. That's why I came here."
Glooskap gave her an odd look. "You do know that he's been imprisoned for years now, don't you?" Then he glanced down at Marten. "Don't you tell people these things...?"
"I know that already," Charmian interrupted. "But could you just hear me out?"
Glooskap gave a resigned sigh but waved his hand, sitting down on a rock which suddenly sprang up from the ground behind him. Charmian almost jumped when another one appeared behind her, then climbed up to sit on it; Marten hopped up onto Glooskap's shoulder. "A long time ago a woman named Wenonah gave birth to two boys," she said, "Manabozho and Chakenapok."
"Manabozho I've heard of," Glooskap said. "This Chakenapok though is somebody new."
"That's because he didn't live long. Their grandmother--Noko--she thought he was evil, and so she killed him. She did this because he killed Wenonah when he was born--by tearing his way out of her. She said that when he looked at her, he grinned, and had sharp teeth and yellow eyes."
The more she talked, the more troubled Glooskap's face grew. "Geezhigo said this same thing happened an even longer time ago," Charmian went on, "and she said I should come here to see you. Noko thought Chakenapok was evil, but I know he wasn't--at least, not all of him. I think something's controlling him. I even talked with him before it took him over again. I was thinking maybe this thing could be Malsum."
Glooskap waited until she was finished before slowly shaking his head. "I hate to tell you this, young lady, but Malsum has been imprisoned far longer than even the Island has been around. It's strange what happened there, but I don't see how he could have been involved."
"Are you sure he's still imprisoned? Maybe he broke out or something...?"
"Positive, young lady. I check on him every twelve moons. He has yet to move an inch from where I placed him."
"I've seen the place myself!" Marten verified. "Nobody could ever break free!"
"That's what people on the Island thought about somebody they imprisoned," Charmian insisted. "And they were proven wrong BOTH times! There isn't any little way you might have missed him?"
Glooskap stood up and waved at her. "Come on, since you need everybody to prove everything. I'll show you myself."
Charmian tilted her head in puzzlement, but rose and obeyed. They went to the far side of the cave and Glooskap touched his hand against the wall. What had been solid rock slowly shifted into a doorway and he glanced at her.
"I'm sure Geezhigo-Quae went through her whole spiel about the Weaver medicine, didn't she?"
Charmian nodded. "I kind of figured this place was like that, once I saw the glowing cobwebs."
Glooskap raised his eyebrows, then turned and stepped through the opening. "I should consider hiring a housekeeper..."
They walked along a short while, and Charmian had just started settling her pack more comfortably on her shoulders when they abruptly stopped and Glooskap said, "We're here." She blinked in surprise and looked around her to see that the cave walls had changed their appearance drastically, from worn light gray rock to rough mottled stone. She turned in a confused circle.
"But...don't tell me you locked him up right next door!"
"What? Of course not. 'Not in my backyard,' isn't that what your people say?" He waved at the wall they'd just entered from. "We just traveled about...oh...I'd say about a few miles, your people's measurement, under the Earth's crust."
Charmian's eyes bulged. "MILES?"
Marten and Glooskap both peered at her oddly. Charmian could only stare up at the cave ceiling and cringe as if expecting it to come crashing down.
"Ah, don't worry about it," Glooskap finally said. "It's safe. See?" He started kicking the cave wall hard enough to make it shake and Charmian grabbed onto the rough stone, her teeth chattering. "This thing'll hold forever. Unless a volcano pops up, who knows; it happens in the movies."
"Okay! I get it!!" Charmian hissed between her clenched teeth. Glooskap turned back to the wall which had been facing them on their entrance, and held up both hands so his thumbs and forefingers formed an upside-down heart shape. The rock wall started growing misty, and Charmian overcame her anxiety enough to lean forward, squinting into the dimness. After a moment or two she at last made out what she was looking at--it had been there almost from the start--and she gasped and scrambled back, clinging to the cave wall and shaking hard.
A dark hazy shape appeared to be superimposed upon the wall before them, though she could tell that what she was seeing was in fact hidden well behind the rock, perhaps even encased within it. It was so large that it was difficult to make out distinct features, unless one raised their eyes past the ceiling and lowered them beyond the floor. Then the dark hazy mass took on the vague shape of some sort of massive animal, partly curled in on itself, its head drooping forward, great pricked ears looking ready to flick at any moment. Charmian could tell it was alive only by the faint way in which its sides moved...and where the face would be, she saw two very thin yellow slits.
Glooskap turned his head to look at her. "He sleeps. All the time." He looked back at the apparition upon the cave wall and added under his breath, "The only way I could get him to shut up..."
"Th..." Charmian struggled to find her voice. "Th-that's M...Malsum...?"
Marten nodded, clambering over Glooskap's shoulders. "Isn't he CREEPY? Glooskap said how he did all sorts of awful things, and made all sorts of awful monsters, and he was so powerful that nobody could kill him--not even Glooskap--so he trapped him way down here, and this is where he's been ever since! Always sleeping!" He stuck his tongue out at the giant hazy form, then scuttled down Glooskap's back as if expecting to be eaten.
Charmian shivered. He looks just like the wolf in my dream! EXACTLY like it! Could that have been him sending me dreams all this time? But...how could he do that...?
She took a few tentative steps toward the vision. Glooskap and Marten watched her with some curiosity as she paused before the image, staring up at it. The yellow-slitted eyes didn't flicker, not even once, that she could see; nor did the ears or the tail--or at least what she assumed to be the tail. It only breathed, and even that made no sound. It looked to be just as they had said; Malsum slept.
She bit her lip. This didn't make sense. "Does he have dream powers?" she asked; when they gave her a questioning look she clarified. "Can he bring people dreams, or influence their dreams, or their thoughts, or anything like that--?"
"Not that I'm aware of," Glooskap said. "At least he couldn't do that back when he was awake. Oh, thoughts, yes, but not dreams or visions. Not unless somebody opened themselves to that."
Opened themselves...? I couldn't have opened myself...I didn't even know about him yet... "You're sure he's been here all this time?" she asked, still confused. "He couldn't have slipped out, and then come back...?"
Glooskap raised an eyebrow again and crossed his arms. "You doubt my abilities, young lady? Trust me, if I ever had to double-check any lock, it's this one. He has no way out, anywhere. And even if he did, I have my own alarm system set to go right off--better than anything put out by your Brinks people."
All Charmian could do was stare at the large wolflike shape. Everything pointed in this one direction--yet if what Glooskap said was true, then there was no way Malsum could be responsible. But she couldn't think of anything else.
I KNOW that wasn't Chakenapok who hurt me...Chakenapok talked right to me...and he was nothing like that. It's almost like there's...two of him or something...
Something she had seen during her confrontation with him popped into her mind, and she sucked in a breath. "Does Malsum have a spirit stone?" she asked; again they looked puzzled, and she said, "It looks something like this."
She held her hand up in front of herself and her spirit stone started glowing. Glooskap and Marten leaned forward to peer at it curiously.
"Ooo!" Marten exclaimed. "I want one of those, too!"
Glooskap stood back with a puzzled frown. "Every living creature has one of those. Without one, most beings can't live for very long, or at least can't function."
"So Malsum has one too, even though he's asleep."
He nodded and seemed even more perplexed by her questions. "And that's really his body in there, or is it part of his spirit?" Charmian asked.
"Well, I certainly had to trap his body if I wanted to imprison him, young lady. That's how it's done, after all. And I didn't have any reason to take out his spirit, if that's what you're suggesting. The spirit is what powers the body; it needed to be trapped just as much as he did."
"Do you mind if I look at it--? At his spirit stone? Just to see it for myself?"
Glooskap's brow furrowed now and he looked as if he wanted to ask her what she wanted to do that for, but he shrugged and stepped aside, crossing his arms. Charmian moved closer to the cave wall and held up her hand. She wasn't sure how far away Malsum even was from here, nor if she would be able to sense his spirit stone from a distance, but she had to give it a try.
Just because his body's sleeping doesn't mean his spirit is...
She bit her lip and concentrated. A long while passed, much longer than it would have taken her to display someone else's spirit stone, but she waited, taking the distance into account. At last a very faint shimmering appeared in the heart of the dark shape, and Glooskap and Marten stepped forward to get a better look. It grew brighter, and Charmian could finally make out its color, a strange muddled grayish color streaked with bolts of black and lightning white.
Her brow furrowed. That's not the same color--!
The glowing grew even brighter. Before she even had a chance to think, Glooskap surged forward and shoved her so violently that she flew sideways. She heard him yell, "Look out!"--before the light burst from the wall, sending shards of rock flying every which way. Charmian hit the ground and Marten rolled into the corner in a tiny heap, and even Glooskap had to shield his eyes. Charmian pushed herself up, shaking her head in confusion.
What was that? Did I do that again--?
She lifted her head to see what might have happened, only to see a great hole smashed in the cave wall. The image of Malsum's body was gone, but something else had entered the room. Charmian's eyes grew when she saw a dark massive shape rear up in front of the hole, its eyes blazing and teeth gnashing, its great heavy forepaws spiked with giant claws. It turned its head, snorting and rolling its eyes wildly--then its stare fixed right on her. With a snarl it dropped to all fours and started bounding toward her in an awkward but fast shuffling gait, and its mouth opened so wide that she was certain it could swallow her whole.
Charmian just put up her arms over her head, the hot stink of its breath wafting forward, and screamed as it bore down on her with a bellow.