“Choking on Blood” by Brian McCaskill


"You sorry little punk. Get out of here before I call your parents," the bald old man screeched. "Stay outta my yard you hooligan. Damn little punk, I'll teach you to egg my house."

Cole slid down the opposite side of the fence and stumbled a few paces through Miss Higgen's flower garden. Sprinting across the yard and hurtling another fence, he began to laugh. Youth had its advantages, namely energy, and Cole took full advantage of his. Finally, he collapsed in his front yard, flopping onto the grass like a rag doll. God I love life, he thought.

Cole was only fifteen but he was more intelligent then most adults. He was a computer wizard, a capable athlete, and a creative artist. He had been the perfect child, until he had decided to act like a kid. Intelligence and creativity were wielded well in him, planning of the havoc he oh so dearly loved, to cause around town. Not only had he egged Mr. Franks house, he had put a battery powered heater on the doorknob to burn the old man's hand.


He heard the scream carry over the hot Saturday afternoon. Laughing softly he rolled over and pushed himself off the ground. Lazily he strode inside his two story house, and went to the computer where he sat until late that night.

Cole had been chatting in his favorite chat room, Judice's Tree, under his favorite call name Scratch.

Chapter 1 - The Find

<Raven> "Hey Scratch, I found this really cool old paper in my neighbor's basement the other day."

<Scratch> "Really? What's in it?"

<Raven> "Well... I'm not really sure, it isn't written in English. I can't tell what language it is :(."

<Scratch> "Scan me a copy and I will take a look at it."

<Raven> "Ok, talk tomorrow same time same place."

Exit chat room.

Omega hithh orios
oinio katk kaut
jiomn ajfkla kjii nini
Nfklaj Jkafj kimk
kimt iono prat issis
lumas untro part

Chapter 2 - The Decryption

After long hours of hard labor working on deciphering the garbled message on the sheet, Cole was about to scream. No method of search nor manner of decoding that he knew could shed even the slightest spark of light on the content of the scanned page. Tapping on a few keys he printed off a copy of the page, determined to find the secret hidden within these unfamiliar words.

It was two o'clock when Cole strode out of his house and started jogging toward town. He wanted to get to the Smithsonian so he could talk with his friend, Professor Ray Poxel, before he had to start work at three thirty. Cole arrived with an hour to spare and found Ray cleaning off his desk and getting ready to go home.

Ray was a tall man, about six foot three, with sandy blond hair that had a tendency of falling in this eyes. He wore a green sweater that was about two shades darker than his eyes. Khaki's and Nike sneakers rounded out his wardrobe. Ray looked up as Cole came into his office and said, "Afternoon, Cole, what's on your mind?"

Cole replied with a smirk, "I was wondering if you could help me with something. A friend of mine, who lives in Scotland, sent me a copy of an old paper he found in the basement of a castle that is being rebuilt near his home. I was wondering if you could help me find out what it says."

Ray took the paper and glanced over it quickly. Raising his eyebrows slightly he said, "It looks similar to something we decoded a couple of years ago. It is thought to be a druidic text, the ones we read before were poems about the Earth's beauty that contained information on the healing properties of local plants. I'll run this through the computer and see what it says."

Chapter 3 - Reading

Cole worked as a file clerk during the summer at the Smithsonian for a little extra spending cash. He knew the museum better after a month than many people who worked there full time, and he could run a faster more accurate search for materials than any other part time worker there. This gave Cole a unique insight into the innermost conflict between the departments, mostly of which was the battle for funds. The genealogy department of which Ray was a part was being squeezed to death by the financial comity, and Ray had been fighting tooth and nail to collect every penny of extra money he could to keep his department afloat.

Ray had most recently allied himself with and independent study group that was looking for evidence in extraordinary tendencies in any family trees. With little success, the group was in danger of being dissolved. That would put his job in serious danger. The Smithsonian wanted productive workers with sound ideas, not an imaginative one that found little results.

The stress was building and Ray wasn't taking it to well.

Ray was hunched over his laptop when Cole strode into the room and found his normal seat in front of Ray's desk. It was several minuets before Ray even realized someone was in the room, and almost jumped when he saw a figure sitting only a few feet away.

"How long have you been sitting there, you little hooligan?" Ray chided.

"Just a few moments, have you decoded the message yet?" Cole said in a rush, knowing it would annoy Ray.

Ray glared back and said:

"Whoever reads the word of blood
will ever remain
the prisoner of evil
the darkness follows this page
you are next
may the mother save you."

Cole was astonished, to say the least, "I thought you said these were nice poems. Let me see the print-off." He reached out his arm to take the paper offered to him. Reading it once more he said, "Man, won't Raven think this is weird."

"Probably so," Ray said laughing, "maybe you should warn him."

"Right," Cole replied with a grin, and left the museum for the evening.

Chapter 4 - Guest

Cole burst through the front door of his home and headed straight for the office computer. He was stopped half way there by his mother's shrill voice.

"Cole, honey, we have a visitor."

I don't care about another of your blue-haired pals, I don't want to meet anybody. Why can't....... Cole's thoughts were cut short by the young man standing in the middle of the living room. He was about six-two with sandy brown hair. He wore glasses, and gave the impression of a knowledgeable person. But what stunned Cole most was the other boy's T-shirt, it said in bold red RAVEN, and under that was an icon that was very familiar to him.

"It's nice to meat you at last Cole, I have been looking forward to this for a long time. Did you translate the message yet?"

Cole stammered stupidly, "Raven, the message, how did you find me... and when did you get here. Weren't you in Scotland, like, yesterday?"

"Yea I was, wanna go to your room?" That was a command, even if it was phrased as a question.

Cole turned and walked slowly to his room, his mind was spinning with all that was going on. They reached Cole's room, and literally tripped inside over all of the junk on the floor. Raven took the initiative.

"The druids are an interesting people. You see they take on the personas of minor aspects of life and nature, such as justice, life, or even wind....." Raven was cut off by Cole's sharp voice.

"Or evil."

Raven's eyes turned red, "So you did decode the letter. I'm sorry." Raven's hand slashed out like lightning and grasped Cole's neck. Cole fought back with all of his strength, but to no avail. Finally he was able to stammer.

"I'm not....... knows."

"What was that my friend? You really should work on enunciation."

"I'm not the only one who knows."

This seemed to rattle Raven, because he lightened his grip slightly. Cole could almost see the wheels spinning in Raven's head as his eyes flashed from one imaginary point to another along the floor. Then he turned his full attention, and fury, back on Cole. Cole's face was suddenly pressed against the soft earth outside his window, which was in pieces around him.

Raven's voice was an animal hiss when it came to him. "Who? Tell me now!!"

Chapter 5 - Help

Ray was walking to his car when he was blind-sided by a sledgehammer blow to the back. Nearly coughing up blood, he rolled to see his attacker. Before him stood a tall man in a black shirt that said RAVEN in bold red, with... Cole thrown over his shoulder like a leather bag.

"You Ray?" the man asked in a quiet but very forceful voice. The man tossed Cole down beside Ray, and said, "Are you the only two that know?"

"Yes" came a muffled reply from Cole's broken and bleeding face.

The man merely nodded and stomped on Cole's chest. The man then picked Ray up and threw him into the side of a van, dislocating his hip. Only later, through tears of pain, would Ray remember seeing Cole slip a piece of paper out of the man's back pocket.

The man suddenly stopped, dropped to his knees and passed out.

One month later...

Ray sat back in his comfy chair in his new office, Scottish Artifacts. He had not only saved his job, but was promoted for a find in the basement of a castle in Scotland of about three dozen druidic documents, outlining everything from history to theology of early Scotland. He had never been happier in his life.

Cole sauntered in and took a seat.

"How may I help you today Cole?" Ray asked his friend half-heartedly.

Cole only smiled back and held out a paper with odd writing on it.