And now, for your reading pleasure, the next chapters in the ongoing, serial novel, Ageless!
by James R. Colbert, Jr., David R. Smith
Book One: Lazarus
A large, rugged-looking man, known as “Bugs,” scanned the area ahead. He was part of a larger group that was about 2 hours behind him. He was scouting the way ahead for any obstacles that might delay their passage. So far the way had been relatively clear. This area of the countryside was much more stabilized than some of the wildlands they traveled, so he really didn’t expect to see any serious issues. He saw none. He was part of the Holy Rollers, a band of rogues, entertainers, and providers of what people always wanted; escape from the drudgery of their day to day life. The Rollers were a nomadic, independent-minded, tribe currently being led by the One and Only, Most Reverend and Dapper, Dan the Man. They were on their way to the sleepy, largely agricultural community of NewGreen for their annual show and sale. It would be another two days before they would reach their destination and set up camp for the week-long “revival.” There, they would provide a mix of exotic entertainments; feats of prestidigitation, wild musical and dance performances, fortune telling, sales of the many tonics and other remedies the Rollers made to “cure what ails ya” and, of course, the highlight of the week, the “sermon” of the Most Reverend and Dapper, Dan the Man. Much in the style of an old tent revival, the Holy Rollers did put on one helluva show!
The road ahead was regularly traveled and the risk to the group meeting any kind of highwaymen along this stretch was improbable. Even if they did, few outlaws would dare tangle with the whole strength of the Holy Rollers. It would be hard to mistake them for some band of innocent travelers. Their distinctive leather vests with the Holy Rollers back patch prominently displayed was hard to miss. The Rollers were not afraid to fight if need be and over the years, many foolhardy, wannabe bad guys learned the hard way that the Holy Rollers were not to be trifled with. The big man satisfied the way forward was clear, turned and walked back to his transportation, a small wagon pulled by an aged, but still powerful draft-type horse. This particular breed had proven itself to be a survivor in a harsh world and was widely used by the populations outside the large city regions. The wagon creaked as the man climbed aboard and seated himself in the driver position. He took a hold of the reigns and encouraged the beast to move forward. He saw no reason why he would not be able to rendezvous with the main body of the group by sunset and give his report.
The Most Reverend and Dapper, Dan the Man was busy. He wanted to ensure the supply of tonics, potions, and other remedies were ample for the next show. The Holy Rollers were known for the quality of their “cures” and Dan the Man wanted to keep that reputation. The caravan had stopped until the Scouts all reported back on the way ahead. So far, all had returned with an “all clear” report and the group was just waiting for the last Scout to return. This was an ideal time to count inventory and, if needed, bottle more of the doctor goods that was the Rollers stock and trade. All the distillation equipment was in fine working order and producing nicely. Dan picked out one of the small sample flasks the Hawkers used to entice the crowds to buy as they watched the wide variety of entertainment shows that went on day and night at the Holy Rollers Lifeforce Emporium and Huge Revival Show, and poured himself a generous portion into his goblet. He took a draught from the vessel and judged it to be, excellent.
“Ah, now this will have a fine effect, the folks of NewGreen will gladly make trades for such a fine tonic,” Dan said to himself.
Dan continued to enjoy the fine tonic and was considering to pour himself another sample from a different flask when he heard footsteps coming from behind. He turned to see a small, svelte, attractive, young woman, dressed in the almost sheer, flowing dress of the Dancers. He quickly recognized her as Skye, one of several young people that had joined the Holy Rollers last year when they came through NewGreen. He’d hoped the good folks of NewGreen would still not be too upset about that.
“And what brings the lovely Skye here this afternoon?” Dan asked, smiling charmingly.
The girl returned the smile. “I did not wish to intrude on your important work, Most Reverend, and Dapper, Dan. I come to you because Bugs, the last Scout seeing the way, has returned and is ready to give his report.”
“Oh, my dear, Skye, your presence is never an intrusion! I will never grow weary of seeing you, a delight to the eye and soul, my sweet girl. The news you bring me is welcome!” Dan drained what was left in his goblet, set it down on a shelf and took the young woman’s hands in his. His penetrating blue-gray eyes looked deeply into her own. “Come, my sweet Skye, and we will go the evening feast together if you wish to be by my side tonight. As always, it is your will. I will hear what Bugs has to say while we take delight in the efforts of the Chefs and Brewers. Afterward, it would please me to no end to watch you perform the Dance of Desire…if it be your will.”
The girl beamed with delight. “I always enjoy performing for you, my Most Reverend and Dapper Dan. I choose to do these things for you.”
“My girl, you have made my life better for your choice! Come now, we must attend to the business at hand.” Dan embraced the Dancer and kissed her warmly, then hand-in-hand they walked to the center of the encampment where everyone would gather to hear the final report of the scouting mission and enjoy another pleasure filled night before the final drive toward NewGreen.
*Copyright 2016, House of Darkness Publishing, All Rights Reserved
by James R. Colbert, Jr., David R. Smith
Book One: Lazarus
“Good Morning, Darin!” Lyle said as his friend walked in the door.
Darin carefully removed the bright red fedora he always wore. “Yes, a good morning it is. Still a bit of a chill in the air but the sun is full and the warm times ‘bout ta begin any day.”
Lyle smiled at his friend. “I hope you are right, Darin. I’m ready for the warmth. Would you like some tea? I was just about to pour myself a cup when you arrived, will you join me?”
“I believe I will, Doc.”
“Very good! Two cups of my finest blend coming right up!”
As Lyle moved toward the kitchen area to get the tea ready for him and his guest, he thought about breaching the subject of Darin’s diagnosis. He was certain the formula would cure Darin’s cancer but could not guarantee the same curse of unnatural life extension would not happen to him. He remembered the pain in Darin’s face when is wife Mary had passed. He remembered his own pain of losing everyone you ever cared about while you continued, he did not wish that to befall his friend.
“Two teaspoons of honey, Darin?”
“Yes, sir, Doc Lyle. Jus’ the way I like it.”
Lyle prepared the cup to Darin’s liking and fixed his own as well. He brought the steaming cups out to his small table.
“Please, sit down, Darin.”
The two men took seats and settled in. A moment of quiet was just starting to become rather noticeable when Darin broke the silence.
“Doc, now I’ve been thinkin’ ‘bout what you told me, you know, ‘bout the cancer. Now you say this cure you made is a sure thing, the sickness will not come, that’s what you said, right?”
Lyle paused for a moment. “Yes, Darin. I am absolutely confident that my treatment will cure your cancer. As I told you, my concern is this, what other effects this treatment might bring about; mainly I fear that it may cause in you the condition I am cursed with. I can’t be certain what will happen with regard to that. Despite all my years of researching the cause, I have not been able to form any concrete conclusion one way or the other.”
“So, if you cure me, I might end up livin’ forever? A younger man might find that appealin’ but an old man like me, I’m not sure I’d want that. Without my Mary I…,I don’t think I’d be likin’ that too much. How come you didn’t use it on my Mary, Doc? Would it have cured her?” Darin’s eye began to mist just a bit with teary moisture.
“Well, no, I’m afraid it would not have, my friend. You see, Mary had a mutated form of the plague, not cancer.” Lyle reached over to place his hand on Darin’s shoulder. “I’m so close to a treatment for the plague, a real viable treatment but I wasn’t in time for Mary, I’m so, so sorry, Darin. I most certainly know the pain of your loss.”
Darin nodded his head sadly. He knew Doc Lyle had done all he could, the man barely slept for three days as he tended to his Mary. He did not want this cancer but he feared being without his star forever.
“Thank you, Doc. I know ya’ did all ya’ could for her, Mary knowed it too. I just don’t know if I want to continue for long without her. Maybe this cancer is meant for me?”
Even after 150 years away from his life as a cancer warrior, Lyle found himself wanting to beat this scourge of humanity. He never wanted to see anyone simply give in, to become defeated, especially when he had the cure, a real honest cure, right in front of them. “The fact is, Darin my treatment for your disease will cure you and it may not have the same effect on you that it did with me. I did not have cancer. I was not ill. Just that fact alone makes tremendous changes on how substances affect the body. I also injected a full, multi-day treatment dosage over the period of a few hours, a foolish risk, but one I felt I had to do to prove my serum was not the cause of the plague. You are the only person alive, other than myself, that knows my whole story, knows what really happened to me.” Lyle paused a moment. “Given the proper timeframe for treatment, this life extension effect may well not occur. I am both loath to encourage you to take the treatment because I would not wish this life of mine to happen to anyone else, and yet I would not wish this damned disease on anyone either. I just want you to be fully aware that while the serum will beat your cancer, there is an unknown risk factor that carries too high a price, in my opinion. Ultimately, the decision is yours.”
Darin thought for a moment. “I will have to give this more thinkin’ and try to work out what I should do. Oh, I actually jus’ thought of something I wanted to tell ya’ ‘bout. One of the Lone Wolves that come in from the wilderness now and again to do some tradin’ tole’ Cagney the Weaver that he spotted the Holy Rollers makin’ their way back to NewGreen. Said he reckoned they be ‘bout two or three days away. I know you was interested in talkin’ to them all when they showed up again. They do trade some fine tonic. I jus’ hope there ain’t no trouble with the Taggart Clan this year. I know one of the daughters run off with them Rollers last year. She was supposed to get married off to one of the other families over in the muck lands but she wasn’t too keen on that, Mary told me that, she kept up with all those kinda’ goings-on ya’ know. Anyway, I think the girl did it to avoid that situation. But anyway, the Rollers are comin’ soon.” Darin smiled and sipped his tea.
This development interested Lyle very much. Ever since last year when he purchased a small quantity of a supposedly very special elixir from the head man of the Holy Rollers, who was billed as the Most Reverend and Dapper, Dan the Man, the progress on his plague treatment had been incredible. Dan the Man had told Lyle that this special elixir was something they rarely sold to anyone but he had heard that Lyle was a healer and this potion was the Holy Rollers most potent medicine. He had told Lyle that he wanted to help a fellow healer and for the right price he would part with a small quantity. At first, Lyle was not really interested. The Holy Rollers seemed a lot like the old traveling carnivals Lyle remembered from before the war, back when he was a kid, a combination of an old-time tent revival, an exotic (and sometimes risqué) stage show selling dubious “cures” (which were really mostly grain alcohol and various flavorings), and a bohemian lifestyle that revolved around having a good time.
As he spoke with the Most Reverend and Dapper, Dan, it was revealed that the members of the Rollers used this potion on a regular basis and were almost never ill, despite regularly traveling through regions of the wilderness where the plague was still active. Some careful questioning of Dan the Man regarding the overall health of his charges convinced Lyle that there may be actually something to this super-special formula that he could use in his research. The “price” turned out to be two bottles of Lyle’s dandelion wine and five laying hens from his small flock. His initial analysis of the tonic opened up more mysteries than answers until he’d gone back into his original research for formula sample X567. The tonic had several shared properties with the sample. It also had a unique ingredient. One he could not identify. Something he’d never seen before. He used the last of the vial just last night trying to combine the two into what promised to be a powerful weapon against the plague, quite possible even a permanent cure, but he would need more. And now the opportunity presented itself to do just that.
“Well, that is some good news, Darin. You know the new formula we’ve been experimenting with? I will need more of the “special” tonic I obtained last year to continue our work and the timing couldn’t be better.”
Darin nodded. “I jus’ hope there’s no trouble, Doc. Taggart was mighty hot last year, you know, ‘bout that daughter of his. One other thing I wanted to check with you ‘bout anything you may be needin’ while I’m gone up ta’ the port city. I got a load a taters going up ta’ Rochester, leavin’ bout noon today. Still got some room on the wagons for your order if there be anything you’d be wantin’.” Darin finished the rest of his tea and set the cup down on the table.
“No, I don’t really need anything from there, not now. So, you’ll be gone for about a week then?”
“That should be ‘bout right. This gives me some time to think , you know, think ’bout what you said, ‘bout the cancer and all.” Darin stood up and reached for his beloved hat.
“Well, my friend, may your trip be pleasant and without troubles. Whatever you decide, that’s what we will do.” Lyle watched Darin place the hat on his head as he prepared to leave. “You sure won’t get lost in the crowd with that hat, Darin. I’ll bet I could pick you out a mile away!”
“I could bring you one just like it, ‘cept for it wouldn’t look quite so dashin’ as it does on me. Maybe I’ll get ya’ a nice plain gray one.” Darin smiled widely. The two had a long-standing, joking banter between them regarding Darin’s prized fedora.
Lyle chuckled. “You do cut a dashing figure, my friend! Take care and be safe.”
“I always try, Doc. I should be back in time for the Holy Rollers last night in NewGreen, that’s usually the best night anyway and, well, they do make some fine tonic.”
“That they do, Darin.” Lyle contemplated a thought and reached a decision. “You know what, actually, I think I’ll walk with you into NewGreen today. I haven’t been there in a good while plus I’d like to see if the barns have some laying hens available. My birds are getting old and not laying many eggs anymore. I think it’s getting time to replace them. I can see you off then visit the barns on the way back home.”
Darin was standing by the door. “Gonna’ be a fine day for a walk, Doc. Might turn out warmer than I first thought. Gonna’ be a fine day indeed!”
*Copyright 2016, House of Darkness Publishing, All Rights Reserved